Monday, December 29, 2008

Daring Bakers December Challenge

At the mild coaxing of a fellow High Park stroller mom, Tina, I joined the Daring Bakers. It's a worldwide group of people with a keen interest in baking, their skill levels range from amateur enthusiast to professional. I'm definitely on the amateur enthusiast end. I haven't even been the biggest baking fan because I feel like baking takes too long and has too many steps most of the time. I think this will be a great way to learn a lot more about the art and stretch my whisking muscles. 

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. And it was a whopper. 

I had my hands on this thing 4 different days - between baby naps and holiday obligations and all the work involved. It was a ton of work, mainly because of the individual elements, of which there were 6 - but divided into teeny tiny portions that feel like a lot of work for not a lot of result. I was glad to be visiting my parents and have my mom and sister's help or I may have abandoned the thing all together. 

The individual layers: creme brulee, mousse, ganache, praline feuillettes, and dacquoise didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but they weren't a complete disaster either. It was my first experience with a creme brulee and a pate a bombe and I think I did a respectable job of it. 

Thinking about how to decorate the cake was the most fun. I shaved some milk and dark chocolate to spread around the cake and bought a few decorative pieces at Bernard Callebaut, and finally added a touch of icing sugar to finish them off.

I'm really happy with the final result and it feels really, really good to be finished. I am looking forward to January's challenge with less trepidation than I did December's.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

First Date

My mom generously offered to babysit for us while my husband and I went out for our first-date-since-baby tonight. If any of you mommas haven't been out as a couple without your baby, I highly recommend it. 

We met some great friends at the Keg for a delicious steak. It was a reunion and a celebration of their engagement and it was great. And, amazingly, we didn't spend the whole night talking about the baby.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Name Wars

Someone once told me to wait until your baby is born before you reveal their name; if you tell people ahead of time, you're opening yourself up to needless scrutiny and potential in-law negotiating. Once the papers are filed, it's done. 

I always thought that people who didn't want to share their baby names had picked something wacky - like Apple. I realize that some people believe by keeping names secret, they're protecting their choice. I think by revealing your picks, you're actually calling 'dibs'. I don't believe that you can call 'dibs' years ahead though, you can't call a name before you're pregnant. 

Lately, I've been hearing about name stealers. Stealing even odd names complete with their odd spelling when their baby was born first. That's not cool. When can you legitimately feel like you own a name? You can't. But you can be upset if your sister or someone related by blood uses the same name within 3-5 years. Otherwise, it's unlikely that two kids will go to the same school or run in the same circles. And if they do, having the same name is not the end of the world.

Something I find really annoying is the people who think they own a name and are perfectly willing to fight you over it. For example, I named my first born Melissa so you can't use Larisa or Alyssa because it's too close. 

I understand that we get really worked up about names because names are so important but that's why you choose back-up names. A baby name, like a teenage boyfriend, is not worth losing your girlfriend over. just released their list of 'The Best and Worst Celebrity Baby Names'. Harlow is the top girl's name and Caleb tops the boys list.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joyeux Noel

The baby and I are at my parent's house for Christmas. Our first night here, I was on the phone with my husband and the doorbell rang. My mom answered the door and I could hear "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" being sung. I went to the door with the phone and my sister followed. On the porch there were 20 or so Junior High-aged girls signing.

When they finished they told us they had one more and sang, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". Caroling is almost a lost art. How often is your doorbell rung by a stranger that isn't asking for money for a cause? 

The girls were from the Edmonton Strathcona choir and they were very talented. My husband asked if the singing was coming from the television. It's the first time I've had carolers at the door. The only other time I've seen carolers is along Bloor Street during the holidays. I'm not saying I'll be knocking on doors next year singing but it was very cool.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Birth Control

After you have a baby, the last thing you want to think about is sex but eventually you do. Then you realize you have to think about birth control again because the Sixth Month Itch will strike and you probably don't really want another right away. 

I used to take the pill but when you're breastfeeding, it's a different story. Your options are more limited. If you want to take the pill, your only choice is the low dosage version which you have to remember to take at the same time every day. So what other options does a momma have?

1. IUD - while it's not your mother's IUD, it's not the first choice for very many women. It can be uncomfortable at insertion, you may lose your period, it can 'migrate' and it could take a while for you to get pregnant after removal. This option was my doctor's recommendation but she is a resident and I think she wanted to do a 'procedure'.
2. Diaphram - okay this was your mother's birth control and it will completely negate any spontaneity. It also seems to involve some mucking about that I'm not into and it's not highly effective.
3. The Patch - this one seems weird. I don't know anything about it or know anyone who's tried it. If any of you have and want to comment, please do.
4. The Ring - new and interesting but I like to take my hormones by proven methods thank you. And again, it's hormone based so breastfeeding mommas can't use it.
5. The Shot - no thank you, even if I wasn't breastfeeding I wouldn't mess with my hormones that much.
6. Condoms - gross. Who would have ever expected to use a condom with their husband.
7. Natural family planning - the method where you learn about your body and how it works to make it work for you. While this sounds like a utopian solution, I think it could be tricky and not highly reliable.

I don't think there are really great options out there. How are you tackling the issue?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'll Never Tell

Last night we, my stroller moms and I, had our first Ladies Night. I feel old just saying 'Ladies Night', I'd rather call it Hot Mommas Night but that's not right either. I'm open to suggestions if any of you have one. Calling it ladies night makes me feel like a cliche, a bunch of moms all dressed up and acting wild since they are free from their children. That's not quite what it was like but it felt really good to be out without the baby.

It's great to get out with your regular friends too but you realize pretty quickly that all you have to talk about is the baby. I don't know about current music anymore, I haven't seen any movies and I haven't been to any great restaurants either. I can't even complain about work. 

At the beginning of the night, we were all baby talk but slowly we started to talk about other stuff too. It's nice that we're all getting to know each other better because it's a small community and our kids will grow up together. 

Oh, and what happens at ladies night, stays at ladies night. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

If my parents have a favourite among my siblings, they're very good at hiding it. I've always thought we were favourites for different reasons, none of which make us better than another. I'm the striver. My sister who is just a year younger than me is beautiful, caring and the most thoughtful of us. My baby sister is... well... the baby which is always a shoe-in for favs. She's also very creative, pretty, smart, determined and loving. Together we are our parent's pride. 

There are definitely families that play favourites though. This month's Today's Parent has an article about the topic. It says that playing favourites can be detrimental to your children's relationships with each other. It also touches on the effects on the children as they're growing up and as adults, some of it is pretty interesting. 

While I like the article, it becomes fairly patronizing when it gives tips for being more equitable. I think it's important for children to feel loved. It's our job to do that. I don't think any child will grow up scarred if they know there are qualities their parents adore in a sibling.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


One of the first things I learned in my high school beauty culture class was: never bring up religion or politics. Well I'm not here to cut your hair and I guess we've already covered politics so let's talk. 

This is probably the most important subject for parents to address. Especially today, and in Canada, with so many mixed marriages. What are your core values? How will you raise your children? These are big questions and everyone faces them.  

For Emil and I it was pretty simple, neither of us is a church person, neither of us is particularly spiritual but we have the same fundamental values. We both believe in family first, love, and helping others. We try to lead honourable, respectable lives and make important decisions that way. 

Do I want my children exposed to religion? Certainly. Religion is fundamental to how our world works and should be a part of a child's education. I also think it's important to learn about community-building. Some of the best examples are churches. Not only that, children grow into adults who have to make their own decisions about how they will live in the world.

I know a lot of couples struggle with this. How did you handle the Big Guy/Girl talk? Is it evolving as your children get older? If you hope to have children in the future, how do you think you'll handle it with your partner?

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I just made my first flourless chocolate cake, famously named for its missing ingredient. It's very simple and absolutely delicious. Components are semi-sweet chocolate, eggs, and butter. It's baked in a water bath, which is the most intimidating baking technique I've ever used. 

The completed cake is firming in my fridge. I hope it's delicious because I'm taking it to friends for dinner tonight. If you want to give it a try, the recipe is in Cook's Illustrated: Holiday Baking.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Surviving a Recession

I can't help but feel a bit anxious about the economy. My employer announced last month they would be laying off 5% of the workforce. Since I'm on maternity leave, I'm technically protected, they are forced to keep a spot for my return. Here's where it gets sticky. I think they can lay me off the day I get back though. 

So now I need to look for a new job before I'm due to go back. Hedging my bets I guess. How crappy would it be to return to work and be told you're laid off? And hey, if things improve at my employer and I feel safe to go back, I will. I do really like my job.

To get a jump start on networking, I've created a profile on LinkedIn and started adding everyone I know. The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can see your contacts' contacts. I've been taking note of who to hit up in a couple months. I also started Tweeting on Twitter because I work in Communications and I like to know how stuff works. Other than that, I've started brainstorming potential jobs and emailing old friends to research ideas. 

The good thing about a tricky economy is that I'll be more open to options. I'll be more willing to accept something that pays less but may be more satisfying. All my money will be going to childcare anyway so I should just do what I want.

What's going to be most important for surviving tough times will be my relationship with my husband. We have always been, annoyingly so, careful savers/spenders. We have regular chats about what we can and can't afford. Our regular financial evaluations help me, a complete worry wart stay calm. Anytime I'm feeling anxious he asks me why and I relax a little when I realize we don't have much to worry about. I also remember what my mom says "things will get better, they just will".

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Top Baby Toys and Gear 2008

My picks for top baby toys and gear for babies 6 months and younger.

1. Sophie La Girafe by Vulli. Rubber teething giraffe. Perfect gift for babies 4 months and older. Give this gift with a stroller tether because Sophie is easily lost. 

2. Winkel by Manhattan Toys. It's a teether that rattles and the loops are rally easy to grasp. Suitable for babies 3 months or older.

3. Oeuf Bouncy Chair. Great for babies up to 18 lbs. Baby's movements cause the chair to gently bounce.

4. Stacking Cups by Bruin. Stack the tower and watch your baby knock it down. Nest the cups and watch your baby pull them apart, knock them together, and suck on them.

5. Discovery Gym/Activity Centre. The brand doesn't matter. These are great for very young babies. It keeps them entertained for 5 or more minutes while you enjoy some peace and maybe a coffee.

What's your favourite baby toy of 2008?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The State of the Union

We are experiencing the most exciting time in Canadian politics ever. Last week the opposition parties reached an agreement to form a coalition government in a direct attempt to oust Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. 

The opposition parties are calling it democratic and saying the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the house. While the government is saying the opposition is effectively giving the balance of power over to separatists. 

This opposition coalition is part of the beauty and horror of our constitution. In a way the 'majority' will be heard because more people did vote for these MPs as a whole than voted for the Conservatives. But it's also disturbing that a separatist party like the Bloc Quebecois will hold so much power (the power to have their demands met or topple the government) or that a leader can be hoisted to the position of Prime Minister without a general vote. 

It's a legal coup and I didn't think I would ever see one in my lifetime. My take is that it's an unjustified power grab and we need to trash the way our electoral system works. 

The subject is ridiculously complicated and I haven't done it justice but I look forward to your comments.