It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Christmas Baking

Today’s post is a recipe.The only holiday baking I do every year: Double Chocolate Brandy Balls.

Taken from the Ottawa Citizen years ago, it goes like this:


1 c chocolate chips, melted
3 T corn syrup
1/2 c brandy
2 1/4 c crushed chocolate wafer cookies (I use Oreo cookie crumbs)
1 c finely chopped nuts
1/2 c icing sugar
1/2 c finely chopped candied fruit
granulated sugar


In small bowl, combine melted chips, corn syrup, and brandy.

In large bowl, combine crumbs, nuts, icing sugar, and fruit.

Add melted chocolate mix to dry mix. Stir till blended.

Cover with plastic wrap, wax paper, or a damp tea towel in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container. These are best left for a couple of days before eating, to let the flavours blend and mellow.

Makes 4 – 5 dozen.


The mixing is easy, but the forming into balls is fiddly and messy. By the time you’re done, the palms of your hands look like you’ve been playing in something much nastier than chocolate — but those little round rich taste sensations are so worth it.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, food, holidays | 7 Comments

When is a cookie not a cookie?

I’ve lost my salt dough recipe! Fortunately, I have a computer and I have Mr. Google. In .0006 seconds, I have 47 gazillion salt dough recipes. They are all the same:

4 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 1/4 cups hot tap water
(2 t oil, optional)

We count range around the big metal bowl on the kitchen floor. “One!……Twooooo…… threeee…. fooooour!”

“We makin’ cookies, Mary?”

“No, we’re making dough. We will make pretty things for your Christmas tree with the dough.”

Then the salt. I hold up the pyrex container and the box of salt. “We need one cup of salt, guys. I’m going to pour up to this line. You tell me to stop when it’s up to the line, okay?” I pour, and pour, and stop.

“It’s not up to the line, Mary! You needa keep goin’!”

Except I can’t. One-third a cup is all that’s in the box. Nuts.

“Why are you puttin’ the flour away?”
“Isn’t we going to make cookies?”

“Yes, we are. No, not cookies, but yes. I just don’t need so much flour any more. We need exactly one-third as much as we needed before.”

“Okay!” Their famous contrariness notwithstanding, toddlers take a lot of adult inexplicability without any hesitation whatsoever. We’re making cookies but not? Mary needs a one-third of before? Okay, then, Mary! You go!

In goes one-third the flour, one-third the salt. We take turns stirring the powders. Emily swooshes the spoon gently side to side, Timmy dabs cautiously at the bottom of the bowl, Anna stirs the wooden spoon in tiny circles, Nigel (it was inevitable) manages to flip a spoon of flour and salt skyward. Malli, contrary Malli, holds the spoon upright and completely still for 90 seconds, staring at the rest of us, daring us to argue.

We don’t. Which ticks her right off, so that when I say, “My turn, Malli!”, she attempts to hang on to the spoon. Her immovable force meets my irresistable object. “It’s my turn, Malli. You can give me the spoon, or I can take it, but it is my turn now.” I’m calm but resolute. This is not a negotiating ploy; it is fact. She considers for a second, then hands it over. If reason and fairness don’t succeed, and succeed promptly, and I must take the spoon from her, I’m perfectly willing to do so. She knows this.

I reward her with a warm smile. “Thank you, hon.” And with a little extra responsibility. “Would you like to pour the water in?” She does.

The resultant ball of dough is much smaller than normal. Two-thirds smaller, in fact. A little kneading, it’s nice and glossy. Grouped round the dining table, they watch me roll it out. Then we hand out the cookie cutters.

“We going to cut out the cookies, now?”

“We going to cut shapes from the dough. But these aren’t cookies, lovie. They are going to be for your Christmas tree.”

So we cut shapes, using cookie cutters. And we put the shapes on a cookie tray. But they are not cookies!

Then I incise a hole where the ribbon will go by pressing the end of a straw into the dough and lifting it out. The end of the straw is sealed witha plug of dough, but that’s easily remedied. Pfft! A salt-dough plug bounces on the table in front of Timmy. Anna and Timmy screech with laughter. After that, each plug is eagerly anticipated. My pea-shooting days were long behind me, but this is fun. I bounce them off each child in turn, much to their delight. Timmy carefully gathers up each tiny bit of dough.

Anna tries to eat one. “Anna, don’t eat that. It tastes yukky.”

“It’s a cookie!”

“No, love, it’s not a cookie.” It’s dough, we rolled it out, we cut it with cookie cutters, we put it on a cookie sheet, and now we’re putting them in the over, but THEY’RE NOT COOKIES. ??? Yes, adults are truly inexplicable.

Anna looks at the tiny piece of dough in her hand, then gives me a suspicious glare. Yeah, right, lady. Another glance at the dough, and then – pop! – into her mouth it goes.

Her eyes squinch, her chin draws back, and she erupts in a spray of saliva and slimy salt dough.

“Those cookies is yukky!”

“That’s because they’re not cookies, love. I did warn you.”

She glares at me, scrubbing her tongue on her sleeve. Warned her, forsooth! Like that’s any excuse.

They are now cooling on the stove. After nap, we will paint them. Because they are not cookies. At all.

December 6, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, crafts, food, Malli, power struggle | 6 Comments

Ups and downs

I’m weary. It’s been too long without a day off, and I need some time and space. The last few weekends, instead of being the respite that I generally ensure them to be, have been filled with activity from one end to the other. Christmas doings, mostly.

The children are fine, doing their toddler stuff. Most of it cute, some of it exasperating, but all in all, things are muddling along just fine. But I find it harder to take a lot of fun and satisfaction from their doings. Mostly, I’m bored.

Which is okay. Every mother gets bored from time to time. Adorable as they may be, they’re not adults. They’re not mentally stimulating. Well, deciding on a strategy to deal with the food-hurling at meals certainly involves the brain. Helping to enrich their vocabulary, training them in good manners and showing them how to be kind — all those take a certain type of brain work. No doubt about it.

But it doesn’t involve all the brain, and it is very, very repetitious. Even when I see progress, it gets boring. When the progress comes too slowly, it is boring. But the problem is not with them; it is with me. I know it. I am just weary.

I’m ready for that holiday! A little time off, a little time to get ahead on other projects, time to go for long walks with my sweetie, time to read, read, read. Between now and then there will be a party or two for the social stuff. I long to be away from all this, and into something else, just for a while.

Anna and Emily are sitting across the table from me as I type, eating their lunches. Suddenly Emily throws an arm around Anna’s neck.

“Kiss?” Emily asks. They kiss. “Hug?” They hug.

“You are my best friend, Anna? You are my best friend?”


They hug again.

Then again, maybe it’s not so bad.

December 5, 2007 Posted by | Anna, daycare, Emily, manners, the cuteness! | 5 Comments

Potty Time, or, Good thing I have hardwood…

Timmy is being potty-trained. Nigel is not. Timmy turned two about three months ago. Nigel will be three next month.

Timmy? Timmy is interested! Timmy is motivated! Timmy does the potty dance whenever he pees successfully!!! Now, it is not my habit to train children this young. They have to show interest, and, frankly, most of the time the “interest” their parents assure me the child is showing is the parent’s interest, not the tot’s. But Timmy? Timmy is INTO this. Totally.

Nigel? Potty-training just makes him nervous. He cries to have pants on, then forgets he’s not in a diaper and soaks them. Then he cries when you take the wet pants off. He doesn’t do the potty dance, because he never gets it in the potty. He does dance when he pees, though — except when it’s in his pants– he dances when he pees on the tiles in the front hall, he cheers when he pees on the hardwood in the living room, he declares “I PEED!” in tones rich with pride when he floods the vinyl floor in the kitchen.

In short, the boy is a walking flood zone. Which is why Nigel is back in diapers until the New Year, and Timmy is still doing the potty dance.

Timmy, however, does not drink enough. Not nearly enough. I always knew the boy was a bit of a cactus, having to be coaxed to drink at every snack and meal break, but I thought he would be making up for it at home, where he’s still breast-feeding.

Nuh-uh. Now that I’m seeing that pee? Even first thing in the morning, when you’d expect him to arrive tanked up and ready to pour, the pee is dark yellow and strong-smelling. Nothing like Nigel’s healthfully barely-yellow product.

So, once an hour he sits up at the table and has a couple of ounces, and over the day his pee gets lighter and paler. (Mental note: I need to talk to his mother about this.)

But the peeing? Now that he’s getting all that fluid, he’s peeing a lot more. And he takes HIMSELF to the potty. And then he pees. And hollers and cheers and screeches his pride.

“I PEED, Mary, I PEED!!!”

Now, his success rate is only about 50%. Distract the boy in the slightest, with a game, a craft, a snack, any kind of a happening at all, and he forgets. Pee squirts, puddles grow, the other children holler. “Timmy peein’, Mary! Timmy peed onna floor!” And Mary’s house? Is one happening place. So the ratio of potty vs floor piddling? Not so great.

But when he is sitting on the potty? Oh, the Festivities! I clap and cheer. “Yay, Timmy! You PEED.” And we have a little celebratory love-in, me and Timmy. And the love-in grows as the other children, drawn by the joyful noises, gather round. “You knew it was coming, and you went right to the potty! What a smart boy!” And all the little children dance and sing. And there is Great Rejoicing. And Timmy puffs his wee chest and proudly declares,

“I Peed innuh POTTY, Mary!”

And the dancing and singing stops, the rejoicing ceases, a pall drops over the festivities. Because this, my friends, Is A Lie. A falsehood. We would like it to be true, but, sadly, it is not.

Not once in these two days of happy potty times has the boy gotten the pee INTO the potty. He feels it coming, he races for the potty, he sits down, and … he squirts that stuff in a glistening arc ten cm up and thirty out. Well, I assume this trajectory based on the liquid evidence on the hardwood floor. I have yet to actually see it happen.

Why do I not accompany him, you might reasonably ask? Timing. It’s all in the timing. I take the boy, he sits, nothing happens. Performance anxiety? Could be! We’re very relaxed about it all, of course, but it still could be the freezing effect of having someone watching. I understand it happens to the adult version, too. As I would be with the adult version, I am kind, relaxed and reassuring. “That’s okay, Timmy. You can play some more. It will come later.”

And it does. It comes when Mary is up to her armpits in a craft, or preparing lunch, or sweeping under the dining table, or reading to the tots. It comes when Mary is busy, occupied, her attention distracted, until such time as she hears those fateful words,

“I PEED, Mary!!!”

I have tried trailing the boy. Keeping a deceptively casual eye on his comings and goings. Perking up when he heads to the living room, where the potty sits in a cosy nook between music cabinet and wall. I don’t know how he’s managed to avoid my experienced eagle eye for two solid days, but he has. Lightning-fast, that boy. Could be because he’s so slim? Stand the boy sideways, he disappears… But I do watch him, coming and going. I listen for the thud-thud-thud of his constantly pounding feet. And I hear…

“I PEED, Mary!”

With a 50% potty-sitting success rate and a 0% aim, I’m not sure if I’ll continue past this week. I’ll give it to the end of the week to try to train the boy to aim the apparatus south, but if we haven’t managed it by then, I’m quitting till after the Christmas break. He’s enthused and willing, but, invaluable as it is, I need a little more than Good Attitude.

And besides, I’m running out of paper towels.

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Nigel, potty tales, Timmy | 15 Comments

Which Harry Potter Character are YOU?

From Florinda, who finds the best quizzes, I tells ya! This one is a Myers-Brigg type test, and guess what? When I took the Myers-Brigg test — offically, formally, with a trained psychologist — I came out exactly the same: INTJ. I could’ve saved myself a chunk of money and just gone to this website, couldn’t I?

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

But Severus Snape? Yeesh…

December 3, 2007 Posted by | books, memes and quizzes, random and odd | 10 Comments