chai, cuppow & chairs

This is something I've been making for several months now, and I can't even tell you how much I enjoy it. It is so simple, so delicious, and so quick - and it improves my day by about 21%. The original recipe is here; I've significantly altered the amounts and omitted the sugar, so you might prefer to start with the original, which is a bit sweeter and a bit less spiced. I prefer it super-spiced and find that the sweetness from the milk is enough. Perhaps my favourite thing about it is the speed at which I can get my tea out the door and in the car with me in the morning. Just brew my jar of tea (more on that below), stir in a blob, and off I go. (Well, that part is kind of in theory - I have to get Phillip out of the door with me, too. And that can be challenging, some days.)

Chai Concentrate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1-2 tsp ground cardamom
A sprinkle of ground cloves, if you like

Stir together well (unlike I did in the picture - you can tell I was hurrying to  get a picture taken) and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Add 1-2 tbsp to a mug of black tea, and enjoy!
 Now. On to my other, related, new-favourite thing.
I've seen the Cuppow (say it out loud!) out and about on the internets for a little while now, but didn't realize how much I needed one. When we were in New Brunswick over March Break, I saw them at The Feel Good Store and snatched a couple up (I hope you're enjoying yours, Jen)! I had been using an open-topped ceramic travel mug for my morning matcha in the car (I do the chai thing, above, at lunch) which was okay, but it didn't fit my cupholder well and it was work to avoid spills. I also don't like drinking tea from metal thermal mugs (fussy, I know.) With the Cuppow, you screw the band over it on a wide-mouth jar (I wonder if they'll make the regular sized ones?) and proceed with your tea. It is shaped perfectly, functions beautifully, and is BPA-free. I also love it for drinking water, as there's no need to unscrew and screw in a lid (like on my Siggs) which can be a bit tricky when driving. I drive a lot for work, from school to school and to home visits all over my end of the province, so this is kind of big deal. The only tricky thing left about drinking tea from a jar is the heat. But I have a hunch (because she told me) that someone has knit me a cozy for my birthday on Friday! Yipee!
And lastly, I am so excited about these chairs. Our dining room chairs had gotten to the point of literally being dangerous. I rested my foot on one of the dowel-like things on one of them, and it snapped off. They were wobbly, rickety, and not terribly comfortable. We'd like to have them refinished, since they go with our table and are beautiful, but we haven't been able to find anyone to do that, and since we have potlucks regularly and don't have enough chairs, we thought it would be a lovely idea to buy six matching chairs and have extras when we do get the others done. Here's the best part: I had my eye on these ones awhile ago, since they were only $40 each, which is really reasonable. I went to pick up some last-minute birthday supplies for the cake on Friday, and there they were, 50% off, and there was a tax-free sale. So I got the six chairs for under $120. Bonus: they're much easier too sweep and vacuum under, too.

So now you need to come over, and we'll sit on them and have chai tea!


birthday boy

Here he is - Thomas the two-year-old with supper on his shirt! We had a lovely quiet supper with my parents to celebrate.

Thomas talks a LOT. As in, nonstop. He repeats everything, and uses complete sentences regularly. "I have some more more cake, please!" "Mama, pick!" is a common one of his little expressions, and means that he wants to be picked up.

When he blows his nose, or, like tonight, when I say "There's something in your nose. Let me get it out," he says "Junebugs! Blow out junebugs!" None of us know where this came from. Also, any piece of dust, fuzz, crumb, or lint is pointed at and declared a junebug. 

"Cake!" "Cookie!" "Chip!" and "Watch TV!" are his preferred vices (the latter two he only gets to do at my parents' house) and he will repeatedly yell the word until he gets a satisfactory response. (A detailed explanation of why he can't have cake at every meal and snacktimes often suffices.)

He sings lullabies. "Lulla-BYE! Go to SEEP!" as he's tucking in inanimate objects, sometimes food leftovers on his tray, usually with his napkin after a meal. Speaking of singing, he LOVES it. ("Moosic. Song! Pay moosic song!") and he's quite a dancer. He loves to grab Phillip around the waist from behind and hold on as long as he can keep up. "Phil-UP!" is often the first word we hear in the morning, and he loves his brother.  If Phillip is upset in any way, Thomas is very concerned. "You okay, Phil-UP? You okay, Phil-UP?" He also loves to tell him what to do. "Phil-UP. Hop on seat. Eat bek-fast."

He's giggly. He loves raspberries on his belly and tickly neck kisses, especially from Adam's beard. He asks Phillip to tickle his feet. "Phil-UP. Take off socks. Tickle feet." He lays on the floor, puts his arms up and waits to be tickled. He loves to show things to people and is genuinely in love with the world. "Oh, look! Oh, look!"

I know that I keep saying how goofy and what a ham he is, and of course it's difficult to convey that in pictures and words. So today is your lucky day - Adam took a video of T receiving his piece of birthday cake. Unfortunately, you may have trouble with the audio, but you'll get the idea - just wait for the faces he makes at the end. Happy birthday, Mr. T!

Thanks to my wonderful husband for the photo and video!


maple syrup - the reveal!

Do you remember last month when I posted about the beautiful sight that is maple trees just as the seasons are changing into spring? And I mentioned that I gave my Dad a few taps for his woodlot? He was totally into it, and has made about a cup of syrup so far. (I had nothing to do with it - he just took right over.)

The funny thing about my Dad (well, one of them) is that he grows cucumbers, just because he can. He doesn't like cucumbers. He's making maple syrup, even though he doesn't like maple syrup, just because he can. I know. Who on earth doesn't like maple syrup? The upside to the cucumbers and the maple syrup is that they end up at my house. (He also brings me things like lobsters and trout.)

This maple syrup is delicious - it definitely tastes different than others that we've had; it's darker, but kind of tastes lighter, if that makes sense. Adam thinks it's because Dad used empty Pepsi bottles (plausible). I like to think that the syrup is tastier the closer the trees are to the ocean.
And with some perfect fluffy pancakes, it's even better.

Lastly - a very very happy second birthday to my goofy, sweet, and wonderful Thomas! Adam took all of the pictures of our celebrations this weekend, so I need to wait for him to get them sorted out and then I'll ask if I can share some. I think he'll agree. Have a great week!


the cake

Thomas called it a dog when he saw it, so I'm happy. The strange licorice halo was supposed to somehow delineate his ears, but it looks more like a headband. And he also looks more confused and cross-eyed than the happy and relaxed dog I imagined, but he's a dog nonetheless. And a delicious one, at that. Made with over TWO POUNDS of butter.

In case the sound of arteries clogging appeals to you, I used Martha's White Cake recipe and her Basic Buttercream icing (with a bit of cocoa added for the brown part.) I'm sure there will be a birthday boy post coming up soon.

(PS - His cheek is looking much better already - I think it will be cleared up soon!)


more flowers

I think it's hard to go wrong with sharing some more flowers, picked just for me.

Big plans for the weekend: a second birthday for a very special boy! Thomas will be turning two on Sunday. We're just having a little family supper, but Phillip is so excited to decorate for Thomas. And I'm apparently going to make a cake that will resemble a dog. I'm not sure yet exactly how that's all going to pan out, but I'll keep you posted. (I don't think I've ever really decorated a fancy cake that's supposed to look like something other than delicious. At least T will forgive me.)

Wish me luck on the cake front, and have a wonderful weekend.



Some sweet little hands picked these for me.

On a completely related note, I read this post today, and loved it. It fit perfectly with my day.

We have another house showing tomorrow. I generally get grumblier in the hours leading up to it, and then there's a great sense of relief when things are tidy but don't need to remain perfectly so. It's at an awkward time in the afternoon tomorrow and both boys will be home all day, so please cross your fingers that a) we're able to get the house showable on time, and b) that these people will buy it!

We took T to the dermatologist today. I don't think I've written about it here, but he's had some skin issues and a very strange spot on his cheek for awhile which nothing has seemed to work for, including a variety of recommendations from three other doctors. Turns out that it's nummular eczema, according to the dermatologist. We have it pretty much under control on the rest of his body, thanks to Spectro Kids Eczema Care wash and lotion. If we could avoid bathing him every day, that would probably help. But if you've ever seen an almost-two-year-old eat, you probably know that they need a daily bath. Thomas does, anyway. I'm kind of disappointed that my soap and olive oil lotion don't seem to hold the moisture in like it needs. But you know what? We found something that works, and it's fine. He should grow out of it, and we'll get back to my wonderful soap. We have a very mild prescription cream that should clear up that last spot on his sweet little cheek. I am so thankful that he's otherwise healthy and happy.

May your skin be happy, and may you be enjoying this AMAZING weather.

*Edited to add: Absolutely no one has paid me anything for this post, just to be clear. Re-reading it, it kind of sounds like a sneaky ad. It's not, I promise.*


on the first day of spring

Another picture I took at Jen's house last week. I miss you guys already, Jen!

For some reason, I'm awake at 3:30am, with a tickle in my throat and a headache that just won't let me get back to sleep. I've posted in this sleepless condition before. Rather than trying to share anything profound tonight, here's what's been in my head for the past few days:

On the first day of spring Mrs. Nelly McNosh
Went out to her garden and planted a squash.
She pushed the seed in with the tip of her toe
And the minute she did it, it started to grow.

From Mrs. McNosh and the Great Big Squash, a super-cute kids book that was one of the first ones that I bought at Frenchy's before Phillip was born.

Happy spring!


rested up

I'm back!

We've been in beautiful New Brunswick for the past week (March Break, yipee!) visiting family and friends, and generally having a fine time. This is a shelf at my dear, sweet, wonderful & lovely friend Jen's house; can you see why we get along? Before we knew each other, we were married a month apart, had both custom ordered the *exact* same rings and registered for pretty much exactly the same assortment of dishes. We met just after their wedding (ten years ago!), and have been splendid friends since. Incidentally, we left a watermelon on their step once, during that first summer that we knew them. And now our kids can play together while we visit. When we're all old and grey, I imagine that we'll be sitting around playing board games with them. What a happy thought!

And now, I must get things put back together for the regular routine tomorrow. Good night!


the new winner

I have some happy news for a Saturday - I didn't hear back from the first winner of last week's giveaway, so I asked the friendly random number generator to choose a new number, and Kristin (VoofaVoofa) is the new winner! Yipee!


honey pot

 I found this at Frenchy's a week or two ago for $1.00. I looooove it. It's not a real honey pot, since it doesn't have the little notch in the lid, but those are the words that pop into my head every time I see it.

"Honey pot!"

I don't know who made it, but it does have a little marking on the bottom. It just has such a pleasing shape.

Two work days to go until March Break!



Every winter, I bring in quince branches to force. (That sounds so harsh - I like to think of it as coaxing.) This winter was so mild that it was only after pruning some by necessity just over a week ago that I realized I hadn't done it yet. Since it's usually out of desperation for something hopeful and spring-like, this was a nice change. Speaking of change, the time change is this coming weekend. Won't that be lovely?


the winner!

The winner of last week's draw is SaMMieS! Phillip had a great time cutting out and folding the numbers and drawing one from his hat, and it was yours that he drew. Send me an e-mail at grahamsherrie [at] yahoo [dot] ca with your address before Friday, and I'll send your soaps out to you! If I don't hear from you by Friday, Phillip will choose another winner. Congratulations!


march 2

What's better than branches? More branches! These ones were pruned from our quince last weekend, and are about to burst open. The daffodils were forced, of course.

I haven't moved the birch branches yet. Actually, I think I will right now.

There. Done. Out with the old, and all of that.

We do have a snow day here, thanks to a pile of snow that fell overnight. Phillip's feeling much better today and has been up and around (he's laying down now) and Thomas is napping while Adam shovels the driveway.

A few things I've come across recently:
I just borrowed this book from the library about Tasha Tudor. I love it. I looked her up on Wikipedia after I finished reading it, and it turns out (if Wikipedia is correct) that she was divorced twice and disinherited three of her children. As much as I love her lifestyle and all of the beauty in it (oh, the beeswax candle making outdoors looks so great!), it makes me a little bit sad that that is how those relationships turned out. Obviously, I don't know anything about the circumstances; that's just what I thought.

Oh, and speaking of children...

I put out the word that I was looking for a typewriter for one of my students to work on some fine motor skills. A custodian at my former high school came up with this electric one that the boys have been playing with. It has no ribbon and several keys don't work, so it won't stay around for long, but Phillip has been enjoying it. I also bought an old portable manual one (just like this one) in excellent condition that I'm waiting for a ribbon for. I didn't realize how hard the keys are to strike - I don't know if my student will have much success with it. But since I bought it myself, I'll get to play with it! More pictures once the ribbon arrives. I took these ones last week, when P was himself.

I also borrowed this book, and am loving it, too. It's so detailed and matter-of-fact in how the Nearings built and set up their farm, and they were certainly sure of their convictions. I'm reading about the building of their stone house right now. Fascinating.

I am in love with this simple kitchen.

Aren't these eggs beautiful?

I hope that you make a point to find something beautiful to appreciate around you today.


post #1667

Shelves sparsely stacked with soap, as seen through our gorgeous front door; this was taken before I added several batches this week. Let me know if you'd like a custom order. I have quite a few varieties on hand, and am having fun with wrapping them up. I've been thinking for ages about how to change up my packaging, and I have a few ideas to try, too!

In other news:
Phillip has another ear infection. Do any of you have any information about garlic mullein ear oil? I just ordered some thanks to Teresa's recommendation and am interested to learn more. Funnily enough, I saw a tutorial on how to make it about 3 days ago, not knowing that P had an infection brewing, and called our natural foods store to see if they had any small dropper bottles in stock. They didn't, so I didn't make any. I would like to try it as a first step, before it gets to the point it was at all night last night (with P wailing and sobbing 'Ooooooouuuuuuccccchhhhhhh!' over, and over, and over, and probably being in the most pain he's been in in his life. It was pitiful).

I'm going to wake him up to have a bite to eat and so he will hopefully go to bed at his usual time and have a good night's rest. He's snoring away up there.

We are in the midst of a proper winter storm, finally! 30 cm of snow should be enough to cancel school tomorrow and give me a quiet day at home with my boys. It's beautiful, and makes the light in the kitchen fantastic.

Don't forget to comment on my last post! You could win a couple of bars of my wonderful soap.

Happy Thursday; I hope yours remains infection-free. Oh, and cross your fingers for a snow day tomorrow!