View From The Glen

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lunch Box

In my dreams, I pack my kids off to school with nutritious lunches and snacks - whole wheat pitas they can fill with individually wrapped (to keep the pitas from getting soggy) turkey couscous; fruit kabobs with honey dip; layered sandwiches with lean chicken, lettuce and tomato – perhaps cut into shapes to enhance that coolness factor.

I gaze at glossy magazines featuring Back To School recipes – all of which feature snazzily dressed kids in coordinating outfits happily spooning up such fare as three-bean soup and looking ecstatic about the chickpea salad that awaits them.

Here in the real world, where I am sad to say life is not colour coordinated, things are a little bit different. We started out last year with the best of intentions, but somehow by October this had degenerated, and by Christmas, I was sending ham sandwiches, yogurt, fruit and a cookie every day because that’s all we could agree on.

This year, knowing the parameters for the kids (nothing that looks like, contains, or has the word beans or chickpeas in the title can be served), and my own parameters (no, you can’t have potato chips for your snack), I thought we’d try for some acceptable lunch box compromises. And after a little chat around the kitchen table we came up with the following.

Cheese, tuna and ham sandwiches – on bread, or in wraps are all okay.

They want yogurt. Every day.

Carrot sticks are acceptable. They agree to try celery sticks again.

All fruit is acceptable. Cherries and green grapes top the list as something all three enjoy.

Homemade muffins or cookies are nice – especially if they’re made with oatmeal – the perennial favourite around our house.

And the big coup – they agree to try something new (not beans or chickpeas) every week as long as I remember to put Friday jokes in their lunch boxes.

I can live with that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Garden Bounty's Miracle

Gardeners talk about the miracle of growth and the satisfaction of growing your own food.

I’m there with that. But there is more to it for me.

You see, every day now, the kids and I venture into the garden to pick vegetables. They like to dig up potatoes and pick tomatoes and beans, while I get to harvest the chard and spinach and later turn them into freezer bags of produce for the winter.

We bring it all in and we clean it, splashing in the sink and fighting over whose turn it is to use the rinse hose. Some of it gets put away for winter, and some of it goes directly to the table.

And here’s the miracle. The kids who wouldn’t touch a green bean for their life, or allow spinach to touch their plate, let alone a vegetable with a name like chard get near their mouth are suddenly piling veggies on their plates and enjoying them with gusto. Or – in the case of chard – at least trying it before making faces and declaring it inedible (That’s okay – I’ll add it to tomato sauce later and they’ll never even know!)

The kids helped plant the seeds, water the seeds, weed the garden, pick the veggies and now, like an inside-out version of The Little Red Hen, they want to have their share of eating the food.

Works for me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sharpened Pencils

The real new year for me starts in September. I am not alone in this – whether a hold over from so many years of school, or just the change of season this time of year, many of us see September and not January as the month for new starts and open possibilities.

Even before my children were in school, I liked September, and found myself out buying new notebooks and pens to herald in the fall season. September is a month of getting organized, of sharpened pencils and the smell of new leather shoes. A month to think about trading in the summer uniform of crop pants, t-shirts and sandals for something crisp and elegant. I always get my hair cut in September: it is the perfect time to go trade in summer’s casual ponytails for something with a little more style.

Now I have three school aged children, there is a real purpose to September. A transition that is both good and bad. Good because the kids thrive on routine. Bad because – well, let’s face it, summer is a good time.

Seasons change, and while I don’t mind winter, like spring, and enjoy summer, I love and have always loved fall in the northern hemisphere. The leaves. Wearing gaily-patterned knits. Tidying up the gardens after the harvest. The smell of hay being put away.

We change our eating habits in the fall too. Goodbye for now to everyday barbecue and salads. Hello heartier fare. Nothing says fall to me more than an afternoon walk on a cool bright afternoon, and coming home to a simmering bowl of fresh broccoli and cheddar soup with crusty rolls warm from the oven.

So as September approaches, we are buying our books and pencils, our new corduroys and sweaters. We are planning ahead – what badges does the oldest want to work towards in cubs? Do the girls want to take dancing or not? What new things are on the horizon that we want to try? September is a new start.

And anything seems possible.

Monday, August 11, 2008


The kids got to spend a few days with their cousins from BC who flew in for my sister’s wedding, and it was great to see them all getting along so well and having fun together. We haven’t seen them for 3 years, and that is a long time when you are 6 and 4 (their ages) and 8, 7 and 5 (our ages).

Yeah – it was also nice seeing my brother and his wife again. They got married the same summer we did 10 years ago, but because they live in BC we don’t get many chances to really get together, so this was great. The kids played on the trampoline; Barry and I drank red wine together; Sarah and I discussed books – she was reading The Time Traveller’s Wife, which I loved too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Medieval Wedding

My sister had her medieval wedding this past weekend and it was amazing. Perhaps I told her too many knight stories when she was younger, but she has always said she’d have a medieval theme, and she pulled it off beautifully, right down to the minister in monk’s cowl, medieval vows, and the inclusion of a handfasting ceremony. It was busy for our whole family – my two daughters were medieval flower girls, my son was a knight who had to guard the rings with his sword, I was Matron of Honour, and even my husband was dragged in to MC the whole event – looking splendid and rugged in his kilt I might add.

All the guests managed to show up in some sort of period costume, the rain held off, and the reception went without a hitch. I thought we were in for some trouble when my youngest daughter started scowling after dinner, but the music began and the band played her favourite song – Fly Me To the Moon – and the next thing you know she and her sister were up on the dance floor (dragging any unsuspecting uncles, as well as their dad and grandfather with them) for the rest of the night.

According to my sister, my hairdo made me look like Princess Leia. At least she didn't say Chewbacca.

Congratulations Lord Stephen and Lady Michelle! (The adorable little boy is their son, who along with his two cousins and a toy dragon, came down the aisle in a wagon pulled by two of his cousins, and insisted on sitting on his mom's knee for dinner.)