Family Visit!

Mom and Dad came to visit!  Although it seemed too short, it was lovely hosting them out here. Thanks for the chats, coffee times, walks, and all the activities you did with the kids. And that particularly hilarious game of Quiddler!   We love and miss you!  Thank you for visiting us!
 Preparing a welcome banner to hang in their room.
 Playing dominoes!
 Gramma brought some craft supplies.  They made their own foam visors.
 Making use of the packaging materials from our new daybed/pullout double bed.  Tracing figures.
 Hanging out in the warm sun!
 Gramma's turn!
 C-note hanging out with Grampa and reading.
 The nightly story ritual.
 Campfire and s'mores!
 Lots of visits to the local park.
 Swimming at the pool in a nearby town.
Of course we had to stop by the school to check out the new renovations.  This is C-note's new classroom!
 Beach day at Long Island Lake!

 Helping re-shingle our sad, sad shed.
Stopped by our new church building to see how it was getting along.
Bye Gwampa!  See you next year!


Two Years

On Sunday we celebrated two years of having little Strawberry in our lives!  Her birth seems so long ago!  She arrived in quite a tumultuous time in our lives as a family.  Stu had just been diagnosed with skin cancer two months before her birth.  In May of 2013 we learned that he had melanoma, and required surgery twice.  They took so much skin from his arm they had to bend it back a bit and put a cast on, which made it hard to help out and hold the baby when she arrived!  Lots of meetings with a dermatologist, surgeon and oncologist followed.

After his second surgery, the surgeon told us that the depth of the spot indicated there may be a chance it had moved into his lymphatic system, so a biopsy of several lymph nodes. which included injecting radioactive dye, which was quite painful, and full body scan.  The cancer was present in one of them, so a right radical auxiliary dissection was ordered for him, which removed all of the lymph nodes from his ribs to his neck, including his arm.  Thankfully this surgery was scheduled right when Stu's parents had come to visit so we had extra help, as Strawberry was only a few weeks old, and it required an overnight stay in the city, and I was still recovering from a cesarean section.  He had to wear a drainage tube for a couple of weeks to get rid of fluid buildup, which was awkward and became infected after a while.

So, although it was a frightening and uncertain time for us, we put our trust in God to carry us through yet another trial, because we know, whatever happens, He hold us in His hand.  We were blessed with helping hands in our community as we were both recovering.  There's always a chance of it returning, but our dermatologist sees us every four months to check his spots and watch for any changes, and every year he needs a full body PET scan.  He also needs to be careful lifting heavy things with his right arm, and watch for swelling, as it could lead to lymphedema.

So, yes, this is not only a post about Strawberry's birthday, but also a little about what was going on in our lives as well during her arrival!  Because whenever I think about when she was born, I can't help but think of that entire summer our lives were turned upside down again.  I've always meant to write the story, I just haven't yet!
Loves to swing!
Loves to read!

Loves playing with her big brother, and inseperable from her pink bunny.
Loves to dance

It was too hot to bake a cake for her birthday, so we had ice cream!
All three kiddies
Dear Strawberry, you're a bright light in our lives.  You are an intelligent, goofy-but-mostly-serious, snuggly, and sometimes quite demanding little girl, and we love you so much!  Keep singing your little ditties and dancing your crazy dances!  And we don't mind that you save your smiles and giggles for us (and one close friend!)


Salted Honey Caramels

Ever since I began making my own chocolates, truffles, and candy I have found store bought stuff to be pretty bland and...cardboardish tasting.  I have discovered that nothing compares to freshly made confectionery cooked up in your kitchen and made with real ingredients.  Whenever whipping cream is on sale, you can be sure I'll be cooking up a batch of these mouth-watering morsels!

These caramels are buttery smooth and delicious, it's hard to eat just one!  They are also super easy to make, you just need some time.  I recommend using a candy thermometer for accurate results. You can pick one up at a department or hardware store in the kitchen supply section for about $5.

I started with a basic caramel recipe from Joy of Baking.  I don't buy corn syrup and after a bit of research discovered honey can be an acceptable substitute, which is perfect for a gal who has plenty of local unpasturized honey at her disposal.  Have fun trying it out!

Salted Honey Caramels

1 1/2 cups heavy 'whipping' cream (cream with a 35-40% butterfat content)
1 cup granulated white sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4  teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup butter, diced
Extra salt for sprinkling

Line an 8 inch (20 cm) square baking pan parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, stir together the cream, sugars, honey and salt. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula.  Once it is boiling, stop stirring and clamp a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.  Make sure the bottom of the thermometer isn't touching the bottom of the pan.    

Every few minutes I take my rubber spatula and run it around the edge of the pan and give the works a stir.  Keep checking your thermometer once it nears the 240 degree mark, because the hotter it gets, the quicker the temperature rises...aka don't try doing something else while you are making caramels or you will end up with rock hard candies that still taste amazing but are really hard to cut.  Not that I've ever done that.  Ahem.  

Boil the mixture over medium high heat until the temperature reaches 250 degrees F.  Once you've reached that sweet spot - I stop juuuust before the 250 degree mark - take it off the stove and stir in your butter and vanilla, mixing until all the butter has melted.  Pour into your prepared pan.  If you so desire, sprinkle a little kosher or flake salt on top right now.  It looks pretty and if you like sweet/salty combinations, you'll love a bit of salt on top.  If not, they are great as is.  Then you can just call them "Honey Caramels." ;)

Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, then pop it out by lifting the edges of the paper.  Cut into pieces with a large knife.  I like to wrap mine in wax paper and give as gifts in a beribboned treat bag. Another option is cutting them a bit smaller and dipping them in chocolate.  Mmm. Share and enjoy! 



A-team turned five this past Sunday!  He was, as all little boys are, very excited the last few weeks up until his birthday. We love our goofy guy, full of adventure and derring-do.  He loves to be a super hero, fire fighter or knight and save people from harm.  Often he will come up to me and proclaim in a serious, deep hero voice, "What do you want me to do?"  Then I have to tell him about my cat in the tree, or a fire in the kitchen, or enemies attacking the castle.

Dad and big bro building his firetruck for him
Lately he has become a deeper thinker and is asking questions about life and faith.  Or he will make a comment about spiritual things - and that's when we as parents realize that what we talk about is taking hold, and we rejoice in that and pray he will continue to grow in the knowledge of his Saviour.
This fall he will be going to Kindergarten!  Right now I am teaching him his letter sounds in preparation.  Right now he can read simple words with made with the letters a, s, d, t, e, r, and m.  I did that with C-note too and I think it really helped him get a head start and interested in reading as he reads all the time!
Attack of the balloons!
Fun with static!
Friends came for supper and cake!


Play Dough!

Once a year, or every other year, depending on how long our last batch lasted, we make play dough.  It's super easy to make, and a lot of fun to play with!  I can't remember which recipe we used last time, but this year we found Instructibles.  They have all steps listed and pictured so it's really easy to follow.  All cooked dough recipes out there are basically the same, this one made a bit more than the last one because it filled my dough containers and we had some left over!
 The cooked and kneaded dough, ready for colour and scent!
 Blue and a couple of drops each of peppermint, wintergreen and spearmint.  This is A-team's favourite.

Refilled containers of freshly made dough!  Yellow has lemon and lemongrass oil, green is lime, and orange has mandarin and sweet orange essential oils.

So fun!


One and a Half

Playing outside after going for a walk.  The tears are from the chilly wind!
Eighteen months already.  Where does the time go?  
Playing with homemade play dough.  It's hard to keep her off the table!
Strawberry enjoys playing with play dough, colouring, reading books, climbing and getting into anything her brothers are doing, even Lego!  Loves to read and dance to music.
Giving her upset big brother a hug 
She is very observant and continues to surprise us with her ever-expanding vocabulary.  Even things you don't think someone that little would remember or pay attention to.  Like picking up C-note's Flat Stanley and saying, "Stanee!  Stanee!"  Or hearing me tell her brother that some friends are coming over and she runs over and repeats the names and gets excited!
Newest phrases are "Catch you!"  "Where going?"  "What doing?"  "Go walk?  Boots?  Hat?"  She thinks it's funny when she sits in someone else's chair or takes a bite of someone else's food.  She gives a grin and says "Hey!"
Peanut butter monster
She likes to help and likes to be involved with everything going on around the house.  She'll hand me every piece of cutlery from the basket when emptying the dishwasher, and "help" fold laundry.  "Daddy shirt," "Cammum sock," while handing me the clothes!  Lately she's been trying to put on her pants and shirt herself and refuses my help until she gives up.  And she'll find random articles of clothing laying around and try them on.  She's had everyone else's slippers in at one time or another and clomp, clomp, clomps around with them on, grinning all the way.
Big brothers are hilarious!  C-note gets the best giggles when he's goofing around to make her laugh.
Having a chat at (on) the table.  Maybe a lecture about her always climbing onto it??



Yesterday school was cancelled because of frozen pipes.  So the boys and I did some experimenting with crayon stubs that we've been hanging on to for a long time.  I found this ice mold on clearance at Ikea last year, and the crayons were free from school.  They were going to be thrown away so we took the poor lil' guys in.  After much peeling, sorting, snapping, and melting, we poured them into the tray, along with a fish-shaped mold as well.

 They turned out ok, but some broke easily whilst trying to get them out.  The mold was pretty thick so it was a little hard to bend, but also the crayons themselves seemed brittle.  I think maybe using only one brand might make it work better.  Maybe paraffin and soy waxes don't amalgamate well.
They're kind of chalky looking for some reason.  Maybe because they're old.  And of course they're not as shiny as new crayons because they came from a rubber mold that has a bit of texture, but hey, they still work.
 The fish shaped ones are perfect for little hands.
Fun and cute!