When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Birds, frogs, and some other stuff

This week has been insanely busy in both predictable and unpredictable ways, and while I had planned to write something here before the Easter weekend arrived, I am now realizing that it is already Thursday evening, and my brain has half gone to sleep from fatigue, and the other half of it is reluctantly trying to decide whether or not I should go and intervene in whatever wild and crazy game it is that the boys are playing in the basement before some kind of "incident" happens, and I just know that there will be nothing particularly intelligent or useful spilling out of my mind onto the screen in front of me anytime soon.  So just in case you're having a week like I am and could use a little lighthearted reading, I'm simply going to "empty my pockets", so to speak, and share with you some happy things that made me smile in the midst of all the madness this week.

The birds are back.  I spotted a cheery little robin in our front yard one recent morning, and our walk to school has been made more lovely all this week by the sounds of the summer birds who have been returning one by one to our neighbourhood.  Today I even had to stop my car on our street to let a pair of mourning doves finish crossing in front of me, and though I was in a hurry, I didn't at all mind waiting for them.  These little feathered friends are such a welcome sight after the cold and quiet winter months; their songs make my heart feel light and free.

Losing the winter boots.  Speaking of light and free, I decided this week that I didn't really care how cold it was outside, as long as it wasn't snowing, I was ditching my winter boots and donning some less cumbersome footwear.  To walk in shoes after so many days and weeks of clomping about in heavy boots feels like cloud walking.  Heavenly.

Frogs.  Will came home from school one day this week with a backpack full of frogs.  Not the living kind, thankfully (although I wouldn't put that past him!), but an origami kind that his teacher taught him to make out of colourful paper and that actually jumps when you press on its back.  It was a fun surprise to see all of those frogs come spilling out of Will's school bag, along with his excited stories about how much he had enjoyed making them.  And because Will is such a great little teacher himself and showed me step by step how to do the folds, I now have a bright paper frog of my very own, too!

Sleep talking.  Last night when I peeked in on Noah just before I went to bed, he suddenly bolted up in bed with his eyes still closed and told me he was looking for something.  I played along (because Noah has a habit of talking in his sleep and the resulting conversations are usually pretty hilarious).

"What are you looking for?" I gently asked him.

"I'm looking for those things...."  he muttered.

"What kind of things?"

"The things that go on your hands."


"No.... those things for your hands... um...."

"Gloves?  Are you looking for your gloves?"

"No, the things you put on your hands to make them go faster.  Oh, you know, those things.... why can't I think of the word right now?"

"It's okay, Noah -- I don't think you need anything for your hands right now.  Why don't you lay back down and go to sleep, okay?


These late night chats give a pretty fascinating peek at some of the stuff going on in Noah's brain (is he working on an invention to make his hands somehow work faster?!), and I always make a point of remembering them and telling Noah about them in the morning, because he thinks what he says is funny.  As usual, this morning he did remember having bits of this conversation with me as part of some dream he was having that completely made sense to him at the time, and we all had a good chuckle over it at breakfast.

Easter bread.   I received a surprise package in the mail yesterday.  As soon as I pulled the parcel out of the mailbox I could smell the wonderfully familiar scent of anisette wafting towards my nose, and sure enough, when I gently opened the lid, inside I found a loaf of my Grandma Deresti's special homemade Easter bread, and several of her delicious genettis.  I could feel my Grandma's love pouring out of this very thoughtful gift she sent us all the way from Sault Ste. Marie, and thinking of her and of "home" made me feel warm and happy.

Tulips.  There may still be snow on the ground and gray clouds in the sky, but a fresh bunch of brightly coloured tulips on the kitchen table has me seeing sunshine and spring everywhere.

Looking ahead.  It's Easter weekend.  All of the running around is done for now, the boys are off school for four days, and we are happily awaiting family (Matt's sister Rebecca and her family) who are coming to visit for the holiday.  There will be lots of talk and laughter, good food, egg hunts and a trip to a local conservation area to see some baby animals and some maple syrup being made.  The best thing about a crazy busy week is how much you appreciate the slowing down that eventually follows.

Here's wishing all of you an Easter weekend filled with moments that make you smile.  :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lemon and Raspberry Cheesecake Blossoms (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and no baking required!)

Our neighbourhood bunnies have been making an appearance in the backyard more often in these last few days, a sure sign that spring weather must be on its way sometime soon.  I think the little critters are happy to have a few blades of grass to munch on after a long, snowy winter, and if past spring seasons are any indication, I bet they can't wait until our early flowers bloom so that they can eagerly mow those down, too!

The bunnies aren't the only ones who can enjoy eating sweet spring flowers in the coming weeks, though.  Today I created some pretty and wonderful tasting cheesecake blossoms for people to savour.  Made with the fresh flavours of lemon and raspberry, these bite-sized delights are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and simply made using a food processor, a silicone mold (or mini-muffin tin), and the freezer.

Lemon and Raspberry Cheesecake Blossoms
(inspired by this raw cashew dreamcake recipe from My New Roots)

For the crust:

1/2 cup raw nuts  (I used half walnuts and half almonds)
1/2 cup soft Medjool dates
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight in water in the fridge and then drained
the juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup partially thawed frozen raspberries

plus fresh raspberries and blueberries for garnish

Prepare the crust mixture by adding the raw nuts, Medjool dates, coconut, vanilla, and sea salt to the bowl of a food processor and processing everything at high speed until the nuts are coarsely ground and all ingredients are well mixed together.  You may need to stop the food processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.  When it is ready, the crust mixture should stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Spoon a little of the crust mixture into the bottom of each flower in a silicone baking mold.  (I found the one I used at Bulk Barn.)  Press the mixture down firmly with your fingers to form a well stuck together base that is about half an inch thick.

Next prepare the cheesecake filling.  Add the soaked cashews, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and vanilla to the bowl of your food processor.  In a small saucepan over low heat, gently warm the coconut oil and honey until the oil is melted.  Whisk these two ingredients together and then add them to the other ingredients in the food processor bowl.  Process everything at high speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  (You may need to be patient -- it took several minutes for this mixture to reach a nice smooth consistency in my food processor.)

Once the cashew mixture is ready, scoop out about two-thirds of it into a separate bowl, and stir the lemon zest into this larger portion. 

Add the partially thawed raspberries to the remaining cashew mixture in the food processor bowl and process again at high speed until the raspberries are completely blended in. 

Gently spoon the lemon cashew mixture into half of the flower molds, taking care to fill in all of the available space in each flower, and smooth out the top as well as you can with the back of a spoon or an icing spreader.   Repeat this process using the raspberry cashew filling for the remaining flower molds.

Place the filled molds into the freezer for a couple of hours, or until the cheesecake blossoms are very firm.  Carefully pop the cheesecake blossoms out of the molds, and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.  To serve, garnish each cheesecake flower with a fresh berry centre.

It has been years since I've eaten cheesecake, and I was thrilled with how delicious these relatively healthy little cashew-based blossoms are.  I think they'll make a lovely Easter dessert to share with family this coming weekend.  Maybe now I won't mind so much when the bunnies eat our other flowers!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Welcome, little one

My brother Frank and his finacee Meg joyfully welcomed their first child (a sweet baby girl!) into the world earlier this week.  They named her Helen, after our Grandma Deresti, and we're all so excited to have a new little family member to love.  I can't wait to head up to the Soo after Easter to meet her and to spend some time enjoying the company of my own first family.  It's times like these when I feel most deeply how much I miss being near them all.

I love how the birth of a new baby seems to knit everyone in the family yet closer together.  We smile enamoredly at a tiny, precious Helen and we are reminded warmly of how much our lives have been touched by the wonderful woman she is named after, a Helen who has already led an inspiring life of over eighty years and is still living each day fully.  There is a comforting sense of continuity in the connection between young and old, a feeling that even though time passes and growing families branch out, we are all still happily rooted in one place, held securely by the familiar values and relationships that we all hold dear.

Some of my favourite memories are of moments spent in my Grandma Helen's kitchen, listening to her stories and her laughter, feeling her happiness at having the family together to share in the delicious food she so often makes for all of us with love.  I think about how wonderful it still feels to be wrapped in my Grandma's big, affectionate hug whenever I see her, how her twinkling blue eyes and the way she still calls me "Dolly" make me feel so special, and I know that as little Helen grows to be her own unique and remarkable self day by day, we will all make sure that she's surrounded by those same feelings of belonging.  It is what we know from our own childhoods that were filled with loving relatives, and what we so gladly share with each new baby who joins his or her heart with ours.

Welcome to the world, sweet little Helen.  Your parents are two amazing people who have so many beautiful things to teach you and will always love you for who you are.  You have wonderful grandparents on both sides of your family who will delight in making you feel special, and many aunts, uncles, and cousins who are so excited to be a part of your life.  You may not know it yet, but you have come into a world of many blessings and much love, and we're so happy you're here.

Congratulations, Frank and Meg!  xoxo

Monday, March 18, 2013

Homemade Easter Treats: Chocolate Coconut Creme Eggs (gluten-free, vegan)

It's hard to believe when I see the gray skies and snow-crusted ground outside my windows that Easter is just around the corner, but it's already less than two weeks away!  When I was little, one of the sure signs that Easter was coming was the appearance of a certain cute little clucking bunny in television ads who left chocolate creme-filled eggs everywhere he went.  I loved that bunny (he made me laugh!), and even more, I loved those sweet, melt-in-your-mouth eggs that often showed up in our childhood Easter baskets.   They were such a yummy spring holiday indulgence!

These days I like to make homemade treats on special occasions, so this past weekend I decided to see if I could come up with a better-for-you, gluten-free and vegan version of a chocolate creme egg for Easter.  It took a few attempts to get the method just right, but eventually I ended up with a tray full of pretty and oh-so-good eggs made with dark chocolate, coconut butter, and pure maple syrup.  It seems it's not just the clucking bunny who can work some Easter magic!  ;)

Chocolate Coconut Creme Eggs

2 cups chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
1 tsp coconut oil

1/4 cup coconut butter (I use Artisana brand)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp coconut flour

a small egg candy mold (I found one at Bulk Barn that makes six 2 1/2 inch eggs)
dessert sprinkles for decorating (I use Let's Do Sprinklez brand, which are vegan. gluten-free, and made with natural colours)

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chopped dark chocolate and 1 tsp of coconut oil, stirring often.  Once melted, spoon about a teaspoonful of the chocolate into the bottom of each egg mold.  Using the back of the spoon or a small, clean paintbrush, smooth the chocolate up the sides of each egg until it comes right up to the top of the mold, making sure that each egg is completely covered with no thin spots. 

Once all egg molds are coated in chocolate, place them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chocolate shells are firm.

Meanwhile, make the egg filling by combining the coconut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a mixing bowl and beating with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle in the coconut flour and stir well to thicken the mixture.

When the shells and the filling are ready, place a small spoonful of the filling into the centre of each chocolate shell and press it down a little. 

Note:  It is very important not to overfill the eggs with the coconut mixture.  I tried filling almost the whole shell on my first attempt, but ended up with a small disaster on my hands when I tried to get the eggs out of the molds afterwards.  

Place the filled eggs in the freezer for about five minutes to firm up the filling. Remove the eggs from the freezer and spoon another layer of melted chocolate into each egg, so that the filling is completely covered and each egg mold is filled to the top. 

Place the egg molds back into the freezer for another 15 minutes or so.

Once the eggs are firm, remove the molds from the freezer and carefully pop the eggs out onto a piece of parchment paper.  Drizzle a little melted dark chocolate over the top of each egg with a spoon, and scatter some candy sprinkles over the drizzled chocolate.  Keep the finished eggs in the refrigerator until just before serving.  (This recipe makes approximately 12 eggs, depending on the size of your mold.)

My two tough little food critics declared these eggs to be "ah-mazing!" and "a 10 out of 10!".  What more needs to be said?

This sweet Easter treat recipe can also be used to create delicious nut butter eggs (another one of my childhood favourites!).  Simply follow the same directions, but instead of the coconut creme filling, use the filling from my chocolate cashew butter balls recipe, with any natural nut butter of your choice.  I hope your family, like ours, will enjoy both of these Easter goodies! 

If you're looking for other gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free Easter treats, you might also enjoy these almond and honey hot cross buns, or these crispy nest treats with jelly bean eggs.  :)  

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Friday, March 15, 2013

No plans, big plans

I've loved having the boys home with me all this week for March Break.  Not because we had any really big or exciting plans together -- other than a fun-filled first weekend that involved my brother Jamie and his two children coming to visit, and celebrating Will's birthday with his friends at a rock-climbing gym, our week off has been pretty low-key -- but because it is exactly when Noah and Will don't have much planned to do at all that they come up with the most creative and entertaining plans of their own.

One afternoon this week the boys were headed outside to play some sports in the driveway.  There were still snowbanks everywhere in the yard, but the asphalt was clear and dry, and the boys were itching to feel the freedom of running shoes on their feet after a long winter of heavy boots.  I agreed that they could wear their shoes, on the condition that they did not step foot in the snow while they were wearing them.  If they were going to go in the snow, they had to come back in to get their boots.

Now I know as well as you do that there is no way two boys can really stay out of the snow when they are playing with tennis balls, basketballs, and hockey balls that are obviously going to fly out of the driveway at some point during their games.  But I didn't hear from Noah or Will for well over an hour, so I figured maybe they had somehow found a way to contain the balls effectively.  When the boys finally came back inside, they were both looking at me with sheepish grins on their faces, and Will quickly said, with a little too much enthusiasm, "We didn't step in the snow!".  I inspected their feet and the bottoms of their jeans, which all still seemed dry, and I would have just left things there, except that the boys couldn't bear not to tell me about their accomplishments outside.

Their tennis ball had gone over the roof into the mounds of snow in the backyard.  Instead of coming inside to get a pair of boots on, Noah decided he could avoid stepping in the white stuff by using his snowboard to hop laboriously across the drifts.  This initially worked really well; Noah was able to get over to the tennis ball and pick it up, but then suddenly he found himself with no way to get back, because he couldn't turn his snowboard around without stepping on the ground.  He called to his accomplice, Will, who was eagerly watching this whole scene unfold from the garage door, and Will tried to throw his own snowboard over where Noah could reach it.  His throw was unsuccessful, so Noah told him to get a hockey stick next.  Will did, and then hooked the hockey stick through his snowboard to drag it back towards himself so he could chuck it towards his brother again.  The second throw made it to the target, and Noah was then able to use what he called his "bridge technique": he walked across Will's snowboard, then grabbed his own from behind and placed it in front of Will's to walk on next, and continued this pattern until he made it back to the garage.  They used this process repeatedly for all of the other balls that flew over the roof that afternoon, too.  The boys were pretty proud of their creative solution that allowed them to go in the snowy yard AND still keep their shoes on!

Our week has been full of innovative ideas and projects of various sorts, and the happiness I've felt being able to observe and take part in the boys' fun has made me not mind the copious amounts of household supplies they've used up in the process.  One day Noah kindly made a house out of Kleenex on the bathroom counter for a ladybug he found wandering aimlessly on the floor:

With their cousins, the boys used up every saved shoe box and roll of painting tape in the house to fashion armour for themselves before they strategically launched foam darts and arrows at each other:

Noah and Will used wads of Scotch tape this morning to attach a Lego man to a flying fan so they could blast him "to new heights" using a Snap Circuit set that they had rigged with every battery pack they own:

And one evening, Noah used string and his remote control car in an ingenious plan to get our portly guinea pig to exercise a little more. 

(Yes, that is the piggie's vegetable bowl attached to the car.  I would write more about how the pig kept following the car around, but the little video below is far more hilarious than any description I could write.  We laughed so hard over the results of this idea!)

The four of us really enjoy travelling to new places and participating in activities away from home sometimes; these things are fun and exciting and provide us all with wonderful learning opportunities. But our quiet week at home together has reminded me once again that there is something so important about children having significant periods of unstructured free time to think, dream, create, and play as they wish, too. This week, Noah and Will's imaginations took all of us to delightful places we never knew existed, sometimes before we were even out of our pjs.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lemony chickpeas, two ways

Today I was in the mood for something different for lunch.  I realized that I am suddenly feeling weary of the heavier comfort foods that I was craving throughout the winter months, and that these days, I'm wishing instead for something lighter and fresher to enjoy.   Because I would also really like to incorporate more legumes into my diet on a regular basis (and rely less on meat for protein), I decided this afternoon that I would start with some chickpeas and see where they took me.

The chickpeas led me to the fridge, where there were some lovely yellow lemons, some Canadian garlic, and a fresh bunch of green parsley.   I made a simple and quick lemon vinaigrette that I tossed with the chickpeas, and then this flavourful mixture became the star of two different lunch options: one a wrap, one a salad, both of them healthy and really delicious.  Which one will you enjoy most?

Chickpeas with a Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette

1 540mL can of chickpeas

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
the juice and zest of half a lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste

Pour chickpeas from the can into a sieve and rinse them under cold running water.  Drain them well, and then place them into a medium-sized bowl.

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake vigorously to combine.   Pour the vinaigrette over the chickpeas. (I only used about 2/3 of the dressing, and reserved some for a later use.)  Toss until the chickpeas are well-coated with the vinaigrette.

Lemony Chickpea Wrap with Fresh Veggies (can be made gluten-free)

1 whole grain tortilla (I used a Food for Life gluten-free brown rice one)
a few large spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture above
a handful of mixed salad greens
some grated carrot
some cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
some thinly sliced sweet red pepper
(and/or any other veggies you might like!)

If you're using a gluten-free tortilla, I would recommend warming it first to make it easier to work with.  I wrap mine in aluminum foil and place it in a preheated 375F oven for about five minutes, and then I remove it and use it immediately.

Place a few large spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture in a separate bowl and mash it with a fork.  Lay the tortilla on a flat work surface, and spread the chickpea mixture down the centre of the tortilla.  Top with mixed greens, carrot, cucumber, red pepper, and/or any other veggies you like.  Take the bottom of the tortilla and fold it one third of the way up over the fillings, then fold each side over towards the centre and place a toothpick through the whole thing to hold it in place.  Serve and enjoy.

Lemony Chickpea and Spinach Salad
(instructions are for a single-sized serving)

a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
a few large spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture above
some diced sweet red pepper
a sprinkling of thinly sliced red onion
extra lemon vinaigrette and some lemon zest, to taste

Gently toss together all of the salad ingredients with a little of the extra lemon vinaigrette you reserved earlier.  Serve with a bit of extra lemon zest sprinkled on top. 

Winter may still be hanging around for a bit longer outside, but these zingy lemon and garlic chickpeas served either of these two ways, with crisp greens and fresh veggies, will make your tastebuds sing as if it's spring.  :)  I hope those of you who are on March Break this week are having a wonderful time!

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

For Will: Nine

Tonight I will tuck you into bed as an eight year old for the very last time.  I know later this evening when I peek in on you once more after you've drifted off to sleep that I will be amazed, as I often am in the dark evening hours, at how calm and still you are when you're deep in slumber, how you don't even stir when I gently draw your blankets up around your ears the way you like them.  Your arms will be thrown wide across your bed, open in sleep (as your whole self is in your waking hours) to catching every bit of goodness you can from each experience.  I'll look at you and smile in wonder at how very much you've grown.

When you were little, you often had a hard time sleeping on your own.  Your dad and I spent many hours up with you in the middle of the night in your first few years, holding you, sitting with you, walking with you while your eyes resisted closing and your little fingers worked fervently to find a soothing grip around ours, or around the little black nose of your beloved Bear.  Your mind was busy even then, and mine, as a result of losing so much sleep, was often in a hazy fog.  I walked around for months on end with my eyes half-closed, wondering many times how I would make it through each day.

Those difficult midnight hours and tired afternoons seem so long ago now.  In the years since you found a way to sleep at night, you've also discovered how to fill your waking daylight hours with as much life as they can possibly hold, and because your passions so often spill over and touch those around you, too, you've allowed me to experience the same kind of wide-eyed amazement you seem to have for the world.  You view every moment as an opportunity to discover something new and fascinating in your environment or in your own thoughts.  An icicle glimmering in the winter sun, a news story that stirs your interest and emotion, the scent of something sweet baking in the kitchen, an intriguing word you've heard for the first time, a cute critter in the backyard, a challenging math concept, a brilliant idea for creating something new, a powerful song that moves you:  all of these things you experience with keen senses, a curious mind, and an open heart, using them as inspiration to grow even more within.  You live big, with boundless energy and enthusiasm; you get excited even about little things many other people wouldn't notice.  You believe that the ideas you value are worth fighting dearly for.  You ask questions (oh so many questions!) and you often delight us with the wonderful answers you come up with yourself.  It's hard sometimes to believe that you're only turning nine when you are already so full of rich experiences, insights, and emotions.

I will admit that some days now I still feel tired as your mom; your ability to live, to think, to feel so deeply makes it hard to keep up with you sometimes, or to know how to interact with you in the ways that you need most.  But this kind of tired is different from how I felt when you were small.  It's more often the deeply satisfying kind of tired that comes from an exhilarating experience that pushes me (in a good way) to move beyond what I already know.  I am really happy to be your mom, Will; watching you embrace life in your own vibrant way has given me so many opportunities to see more, to feel more, to understand more, and has often made me feel more alive than ever.

Happy 9th Birthday, Will.  I wish you a wonderful year of new and exciting experiences, ones that will further encourage your lively mind and spirit and allow you to grow in ever more amazing ways.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A bookworm's breakfast -- 17

I don't know if you've noticed it where you are, but in our little corner of the world there have been clues more subtle than flipping over to a new calendar page recently that change is in the air.  I've been waking up to a hint of daylight rather than pitch blackness in the morning, and our dinner table in the evenings is now lit once again with natural rays coming through our kitchen window rather than from a lamp overhead.   The afternooon sun feels warm on my face and the wind has a kinder, gentler quality to it; one morning this week Will noticed that the air even smelled differently, more fresh, like spring.  Despite the newly fallen, fluffy snow that delicately covers the branches in our neighbourhood once again today, there are birds a-plenty in the trees, and they are singing cheerfully as we begin our day.  It is a sound that I hadn't realized I was missing until it reappeared recently, and one that brings hope and anticipation for renewal as the seasons slowly shift.

The boys and I are looking forward to having some down time to enjoy these subtle changes a little more with the March Break being next week.  We are starting to plan some outings we'd like to experience together on our free days, but we're also leaving good amounts of down-time to provide opportunities for relaxing, thinking, playing, creating, and reading.  Today seemed like a good moment to share here a few book titles that Noah and Will have recently enjoyed as well as ones that we're planning to read next week -- maybe you'll find a title or two here that your own children might enjoy in their time off.

Noah's recent favourites:
(You'll find a description of each book by clicking on the highlighted titles.)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Will's recent favourites:

Melonhead and the Undercover Operation by Katy Kelly

Trivial Pursuit for Kids Crossword Puzzles by Trip Payne

And these are the books we're looking forward to reading next:

The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

If you're looking to add a few new books to your children's collections, keep an eye on Chapters/Indigo book stores in the next week or so.  Memory tells me that they often have a sale on children's books around the time of the March Break.  Happy reading! 

Monday, March 4, 2013


The jellybeans have been calling me for a week now.  I am not talking about the sugary sweet ones that have recently made their appearance on store shelves for the Easter season, but rather the cardboard variety, jellybeans that jeer mockingly from the cover of a puzzle box and rest in 1000 scattered rainbow-coloured pieces within.  I cannot get them out of my head.

You may remember that last year for Easter I planned an egg hunt for the boys, and rather than filling the plastic eggs I was hiding with candy, I decided to fill them with the pieces of this mind-boggling jellybean jigsaw puzzle. 

I thought that once Noah and Will had found all of the eggs, our family would then have a fun activity to work on together in our free time.  My plan started out well; Matt and I and the boys started assembling the puzzle shortly after the egg hunt and at first we were pleased with our progress, as we watched the outer border of the puzzle take shape on our family room table.  After a few days, though, it became obvious that we had reached an impasse.  We had sorted through the contents of the puzzle box, piece by piece, several times, and were forced to accept that two of the outer edge pieces were actually missing.

I was certain that I had been very careful in placing all of the puzzle pieces into the plastic eggs before the hunt, and I was also certain that I had counted the eggs I had hidden and that the boys had retrieved each and every one of them.  After searching everywhere we thought the missing pieces could possibly be, we sadly dismantled the work we had already completed and stored the remaining pieces back in the puzzle box, figuring we would email the company at some point to tell them that the puzzle didn't come with all of the necessary parts, and maybe have them send us a replacement.

A month later I was out in the gardens doing some spring cleaning when I noticed a small object whose bright colour seemed out of place in its surroundings.  (You can probably guess where this story is going now.)  Sure enough, it was a plastic Easter egg filled with jellybean puzzle pieces, and later on in my yard work, I uncovered yet one more.  We all had a good laugh over the missing eggs, and I returned the puzzle pieces to their proper home in the box on the shelf.  That was the last we thought of it for a long while, since summer was on its way and we were spending lots of time outdoors.

Then last weekend, we had the typical winter Saturday experience of Will complaining that he was bored and showing zero interest in the 107 suggestions we gave him for things that he might do.  I finally remembered the jellybean puzzle and thought I would pull it out and challenge the family to finish it before Easter this year.  Unfortunately, the puzzle didn't work to capture Will's attention (he suddenly figured out something else interesting he could do instead and wandered off), but Matt and Noah and I are now hooked.  At almost any time of the day when people are home, you can find at least one of us hovered over that puzzle, working determinedly to fit just one more piece in and cheering triumphantly when we complete yet another jellybean.  Those colourful cardboard beans have a certain kind of magical pull that is stronger than the kind their real, sweet cousins ever held for me.

I had planned to be out of the house running errands and such most of the day today, and thought I would get a break from feeling compelled to work on that puzzle every time I walk by it.  But shortly after the school day started, I got a call telling me that Will had a headache and wanted to come home.  The jellybeans win again.  I am now sitting on my family room floor, with Will surrounded by books and tucked in with blankets on the couch behind me, trying to prove once again that my puzzle solving skills are far better than my plastic egg counting ones.