Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2010

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Years ago, when I was in elementary school, my mother made hot milk cake in individual heart-shaped cake molds for my brother & I, topped with cream cheese icing and cinnamon hearts.   This is a tradition I’ve kept up with my own kids, although since Olivia’s food allergy diagnosis a couple of years ago, it’s been individual heart-shaped peanut-treenut-egg-soy-and-dairy-free cake with icing made from palm oil, icing sugar & rice milk.  She is allergic to cinnamon and you can’t find those cinnamon hearts that aren’t packaged in a factory without peanuts & treenuts, so decorations have been Enjoy Life’s peanut-treenut-egg-soy-dairy-free chocolate chips.  (AKA the “golden chocolate chips” because of their cost!)

You do what you have to do.

This year is Olivia’s first since passing her dairy challenge, so I’ll make peanut-treenut-egg-soy-free yogurt cakes in a heart shape, topped with cream cheese icing.  I might even go wild and decorate them with pink & red Smarties, made in a peanut-free factory!

I got an idea from Chris & Gwen’s blog for exchanging Valentines among the family.  They give out five color-coded post-it notes per person.  Each member of the family has to write an array of “I love you because…” messages for their family members on the color-coded notes and they get hidden around the house to find.  I’m totally stealing this idea this year!  (this is a step up from my normal cut-out construction paper hearts with loving sentiments…)

We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day here on the 15th because the kids will be at my parents’ for a sleepover while we host our annual Chef’s Dinner at the B&B.  One of the things we learned early on when working in the hospitality industry is that you have to make your own holidays!  After all, shouldn’t we appreciate our Valentines each day of the year?!


Her bubble has burst!

November 13, 2009

Yesterday, we all passed a new milestone – Olivia went to her library program which includes stories & crafts without any of her regular caregivers with her.  Since her birthday, she is now eligible to go to the 3-5 year old programs, which parents (or grandmothers in our case) do not attend.  We asked Sarah if she was ready to help Olivia out and to remind her not to put anything – including her hands – in her mouth!  Sarah said she was.  My mother took her downstairs at the Library and asked the librarian, in front of the other parents, if she was comfortable with the epi-pens and when she said she was, she said good-bye and went upstairs.

It was somewhat nerve-wracking for both Ginna & Mom, who was at home.

It was fun for Sarah to have her sister in her program.

I can only imagine that it was liberating & exciting for Olivia to have some independence.

My mother told me that she did peek in and Olivia was watching Sarah and doing everything that she did.  She was listening nicely and made a whimsical paper mask that the girls had a great time with when they were finished.

Two years ago, we were so afraid to take Olivia anywhere because she was having allergic reactions to so much.  The library was especially scary because who knows what kids are eating or have on their hands while they read library books!!  When I expressed this concern to the allergist when she was a baby, he said, “Yes, you’re right.  She does have a chance of having an anaphylactic reaction when you take her places like the library, but she can’t live in a bubble either.”

I’m so glad that in only two years, with the exception of having to wear a medic-alert bracelet, take a bag full of epi-pens and antihistamines with her everywhere, and ask “is this safe for me” before she puts anything in her mouth, she is now living as normal a life as her siblings did which includes weekly trips to the library!

That’s one bubble I’m glad has burst!

What were we thinking?!

September 6, 2009

Evan turned 11 yesterday and we gave him a drum set.

We have four children and live in a bed & breakfast.

Need I say more?

Actually, he (and we) all had a really loud great day.

The usual birthday tradition around here is that when you come down to breakfast in the morning, your gifts are waiting for you on the table at your place, but we had stashed the drum set in the guest living room and told him he could only go into certain rooms until the guests left.  We had planned to send him on a scavenger hunt to find them, but Olivia went upstairs and told him, “Evan – your drums – SURPRISE!!”  Then Alex, who was bursting to tell him, confirmed that yes, we had gotten him a drum set!  So we gave it to him without the planned fanfare.


Did I mention I have four children, a husband, and live in a B&B?


Oh yes, and my father is around a lot as well…


Luckily, the birthday boy was willing to share, and I did note that he definitely had the steadiest beat!!

When asked what he would like to do for his birthday, earlier in the month, he had two suggestions:  a sleepover with his friend Alexander, and go-karting.  We picked Alexander up shortly after lunch and headed to Halifax.  As it turned out, it was the same price for six people as it was for five, so Evan suggested that we invite his cousin Mike.  It turned out he was keen, so they met us there.

We hadn’t thought to book ahead, so when we arrived, there were no less than 50 frat boys swarming around the place.  We reserved a spot for an hour’s time and headed to East Side Mario’s for some nachos & a drink.

Cousin Mike will get his pay-back when Phinn gets a little older…


By the time we got back to the go-kart place it was just us and two other teenagers in the group.  What a blast we had!!  Mike won and lets just say, I won’t be letting Evan drive with his friend Alexander when they turn 16 – he must have crashed ten times!!  (Thanks Emily, for waiting patiently and playing photographer – next time you & I are going head-to-head!!)


On your mark... get set...

On your mark... get set...

The birthday boy

The birthday boy

We said goodbye to Mike, Em & Phinn, and headed back home to join the girls and my parents at our place for pizza & cake.  We had arranged to have it delivered at 6:00.  Evan was born at 6:11 p.m., so we got this photo as he “officially” became an 11 year old!


When I have the energy, I try to make each of the kids a birthday cake that somewhat matches the theme of their birthday.  I really wasn’t sure how to go about making a go-kart, so I set to work making a drum set instead.  I told D’Arcy what I had in mind and he built & painted the stand for it.

Evan was surprised, to say the least – and it tasted great!!  (It was an egg-free vanilla cake made with butter and yogurt, had lemon filling between the layers and cream cheese frosting!)



After supper, the girls went to my parents’ for a sleepover, the boys played the wii while we cleaned up, then we played Canada-opoly.

And laughed.


We packed it in about 10:30 and sent the boys up to bed while we set the table and got ready for 6:30 breakfast for the guests.

The boys had decided that they were going to try to stay awake at least until midnight.  When I went to bed, they were giggling quietly wile talking about school, sports & girls.  D’Arcy came up shortly after me, and reported that as he listened from the bottom of the stairs, he could hear Alexander saying, “Evan, are you fading on me?”

They reported this morning that Evan fell asleep at midnight and Alexander at 12:01!

I’d say it was a very Happy Birthday!!

Hawt Dawg!

July 23, 2009

Olivia will be three in November and has never had a hot dog.  If she were the eldest, this wouldn’t be such a big deal; I’m not sure Evan ever had a hot dog until he was close to five…   In fact, up until we found out about Olivia’s allergies, the other kids always ate veggie dogs as hot dogs; I’m not sure we’ve had hot dogs of any type in the house since then.  The older kids have had them at birthday parties or other family gatherings, of course.  I did find some safe sausages recently, so I’d been buying those and when we went to our nephew’s party a couple of weeks ago, I took the sausage along for her while the others ate hot dogs.

I had a tourism meeting in Halifax this week and took advantage to go shopping at Costco.  While there, I was walking down the refrigerator section, where the words, “all beef” and “no fillers” caught my eye.  It’s totally a case of wanting what you can’t have (or wanting your daughter to have what she can’t have) because as soon as I realized the ingredients looked safe, I bought three packages, thinking I could store one at home, and one at each grandparents’ house.

Yesterday, I boiled a bunch for dinner (more awake time to watch for reactions) and we all sat down together.  Here’s a video of her first bite (in a “safe” flat-bread hot dog bun):

She liked it so much, she ate two.  (Not recommended for a food trial:  you’re supposed to just eat a few bites and increase the amount the next day…)

She loved them (obviously).

She did great the rest of the day, but we ended up being up in the night with her:  she peed the bed shortly after midnight which is unusual; she’s been dry at night for awhile now.

She started throwing up around 1:30 a.m.

Hot dogs.

In our bed.

I’m not sure if it was just too much of a gross good thing too soon, but I’m not ready to say that hot dogs are a fail just yet.  Next time we try them, we’ll make sure to only give her one and see what happens.

In the meantime, dinner tonight consisted of grilled chicken breast, roasted potatoes, grilled zucchini and braised arugula that had been marinated in olive oil & raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, with steamed broccoli, cauliflower & sugar snap peas.

Hopefully she’ll have a settled belly full of good food and sleep through the night tonight.

We will try the hot dogs again though!

Everything in moderation…

We’ve been making strawberry jam this week.  Olivia found this strawberry and her father helped her turn it into a person:


She ate him up pretty quickly!!

The girls and I made cookies on Sunday while the boys and D’Arcy took my father out golfing.  I’m a good cook, but I can’t make a decent cookie to save my life.  I don’t know what it is I do wrong?!  Here is our end result – at least they tasted good!  (And yes, even before we went dairy, egg, peanut, tree-nut & soy free, my cookies were a disaster…)



... and see-through!

... and see-through!

Let’s hope the jam turned out better!!

I found some vegan rice cheese at the grocery store last week, and was so excited to give it a try.  Sarah would live off of grilled cheese sandwiches if we let her, so I thought it was time for Olivia to have one of her own!

I used her homemade oatmeal brown bread, and spread it with olive oil before putting it in the oven on her own baking sheet, to keep it separate from the rest of ours.

We (of course) had to record a short video for posterity:

She did like it, but only ate about a quarter…  I’ll post another video when the time comes and she can have a sandwich made with butter and “real” processed cheese – now that will be something to celebrate!

Busy Weekend

May 30, 2009

I got back yesterday afternoon from my night away to attend the TIANS AGM in Pictou.  I had a great time.  Every time I attend one of these meetings, I come home energized about Tourism!

I was quickly thrown back into reality and have a birthday party, our nephew’s First Communion, Sarah’s Dance Recital & a celebratory dinner here this weekend.  I have to do some baking to make sure we have safe cupcakes for Olivia at our nephew’s gathering tonight since my SIL told me she made cupcakes, but they aren’t safe.  I’m glad she let me know (this morning!) because cupcakes are one thing Olivia is going to want that the other kids have.

D’Arcy & I cleaned out our linen closet and our own clothes closet this morning, so we are slowly-but-surely getting organized after the winter.  I have a whole bag of things to send along to our great-nephew; fun stuff like a potty seat and crib sheets, some clothes that are too big for him…  We’ve thrown a few toys in too, so it’s not all boring!  D’Arcy’s parents will take it all home with them tonight after Mass and make sure they get it.

Sarah has requested ham, broccoli & carrots for dinner tomorrow night, so that takes some of the pressure off to do anything too fancy.  The boys & I are going to make cut-out ballerina cookies this afternoon to have for dessert and D’Arcy will pick up the groceries while the van is getting an alignment.

I can’t wait to see Sarah in her first dance recital – I have a feeling I had better wear waterproof mascara!!