It’s Not All Mary Poppins

From Shelf to Seating

Our old couch had had it. It was old, and it was grubby. Not that those two things would have provided sufficient motivation to turf it without the advent of Daisy, who viewed the wooden armrests and the World’s Best Chew-Toys. She could lie on the couch, see, rest her face on the padded part, and gnaw to her puppy’s heart’s content. Convenient, no?

Despite my diligent conscientious consistent careful oh, all right! half-assed and distracted attention, the arms looked like day-old toothpicks. Even relaxed me knew that thing had come to the end of its useful life.

Too bad we have NO money to replace a couch. Lordy, those things are expensive.

However. What we do have is the biggest honkin’ IKEA in Canada (possibly in the known universe) right here in Ottawa! And Ikea sells these lovely shelving units for a mere $69.99!!!

I have foam cushions. (Well, actually, I have foam sleeping mats, but I also have cots, and I like the cots better. The foam mats were expendable, perfect for this project!) I have fabric. (I sew. I have A Stash.) I have duct tape. (Why? Because EVERY project needs duct tape!) So, with a little time and ingenuity, I could create:

Bench seating!! Half-finished, that is. The tots like it. (That’s Grace, gazing out the window.)

I sawed the foam mats to fit using a bread knife. (No special saws required. That tip came from my father-in-law, who was an upholsterer before he retired.) Stuck the bits together with spray-on adhesive and reinforced it with the duct tape. Made a cover for it from material left over from the blinds on the window at the other end of the room. The underside is not fully covered, so the cover is held on by three strips of elastic which run from side to side. (I knew I was going to have to be able to remove it to wash. Oh, and I didn’t have enough fabric to cover it entirely.)

It slid around a lot, so I bought a couple of metres of that rubbery stuff you put in cutlery drawers to stop things from sliding around. It helps a lot, but I’m not done yet. Next up: half a dozen round drawer pulls, three along each long edge of the bench, and then some elastic loops on the cushion. Put the loop around the knob, and, with the non-stick underlay, I think that sucker will stay in place!

The dogs like it, too.

Next, I am using more of the foam to make and cover a cushion which I’ll affix directly to the wall under the window, running the length of the bench. Toss on a few soft bolsters, and, ta-dah! Funky, functional, sturdy seating! I’ve already had that cover off the cushion to wash, so I know it comes on and off easily, and the fabric cleans up well.

Fun, huh?

April 27, 2012 Posted by | crafts, random and odd | , , | 4 Comments

“Catch” by any other name

Jazz has found a beanbag! Not one of the ones I made eons ago. (Where did those go, anyway? Huh. Vanished, completely and utterly. I wonder how long they’ve been gone?)

The beanbag Jazz discovered came from Daisy’s bin of doggie toys. It is not a doggy toy. It is not one of the beanbags I made. I do not recall ever having seen this beanbag before in my life, but here it is. In my home. A dog-toy. Now being played with by toddlers.

One of life’s little mysteries.

So Jazz and Grace decide that they are going to play catch. A respectable beanbag game. Now, I am quite aware of the ways this can go wrong. (We used to have beanbags, you know. I made some. No idea what happened to them.) If I allow this game, I am letting uncoordinated and enthusiastic small people hurl a projectile around my home. It is not a thought I consider without some consternation.

Still, I am a sensible woman, a clutter-phobe, and a daycare provider. My home is not awash in knick-knacks and pretty little mementos. Even so, there are things that could be broken by a renegade beanbag. Things that could be knocked askew, tipped over, spilled. I cast a leery eye over the pictures on the mantle and (more alarmingly) the two hurricane lamps, each prettily half-filled with green oil.

So of course, I let them play catch. It’s a very small beanbag, maybe half the size of the ones I made years ago. (Where did they go, anyway?)

“Okay, Jazz! Here it comes! Catch!” Grace swings her arm in an uber-girly overhand thrust, and the beanbag flies…

straight onto her left foot. Grace’s left foot, that is. Not Jazz’s.

Jazz looks at it, uncertain. Grace clarifies the situation.

“There it is! I frowed it for you, Jazz!”

Jazz’s confusion is replaced by delighted enthusiasm. She runs over and picks it up, steps back three paces and tosses the beanbag. She swings underhand, but launches miles too soon. The beanbag trickles over her fingertips and…

lands maybe six inches in front of her.

Grace runs forward, picks it up, backs up three paces.

And so the game continues.



Run, run, run.

Pick up.

Back up.



My mantlepiece is safe. None of these beanbags are achieving more than a foot of altitude. The game goes on for quite a while.





And in all the time they play, it each girl remains blissfully oblivious to the fact that they are not playing catch. That neither one of them has even attempted to actually catch the beanbag. That what in fact they are playing is “fetch“.





Mind you, they play that a whole lot better than either of my dogs. (Indie is disinclined; Daisy’s a bit intellectually challenged for something that sophisticated.)

The game continues until Daisy, belatedly aware that that is her beanbag they’re playing with, decides to switch it up a bit and turn catch fetch into Keep-Away. Now there’s a game she can really sink her teeth into!

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Grace, Jazz | , , , , | Leave a comment

The ick continues…

Who’s next, I asked?


Happily for me, though not so much for her parents, her big explosive mess happened at home. Like Poppy, she was fine, gave no indication of anything amiss whatsoever, until The Big Event. She was home yesterday. Will she be back today? It seems to be a 2 – 5 day virus, so I’m guessing not.

If I wash my hands any more often, they’re going to shrivel up and fall right off.

April 25, 2012 Posted by | health and safety | | 1 Comment

Poppy’s Poonami


We have the ick. Rory went home early yesterday, complaining of a sore tummy. A sore tummy which eventually, and energetically, emptied itself. Repeatedly. All night long. Poor Rory. (Poor Rory’s poor parents…)

Today was Poppy’s turn.

No vomitting for Poppy, though. No, in Poppy the bug manifest itself a little lower down the digestive tract. Now, bear in mind that I have years and years of dealing with poopy diapers. If you start with my own children, I have over a quarter-century of dealing with shit. (And as I type that I wonder: should I be proud of my staying power, or just depressed?) In 25+ years, I’ve seen some doozies.

But today? A record. Today Poppy produced the vilest poo I have ever seen.

Not that I had any idea there was anything wrong. She was cheery, she was energetic, she was pink-cheeked (her face, I mean), she had a good appetite. There was absolutely nothing external to warn me of the tsunami within. Until it happened. Until Poppy, standing by a bench in the living room, filled her diaper.

Audibly. Audibly from across the room. And by the sound, I knew that sucker wasn’t normal. Normal poos don’t … gurgle. But I had no idea how very not normal it was until I lay the girl down on the floor in front of the diaper shelves, and opened her diaper.


It was not a matter of stench nor of quantity. The stench was vile, yes, but no worse than many I’ve suffered in my years in this job. The quantity was indeed vast, but again, no more bountiful than many I’ve scraped off a tiny butt in my time. Anyway, sheer quantity, in and of itself, does not qualify a poop as “vile”. (Though I always wonder, when faced with a truckload of poo under a tiny pink bottom, just how something so small could produce so very, very much. It’s a Wonder of Science, I tell you.)

(Warning for the squeamish: If you’re not already gagging, you may want to avert your eyes from the following paragraph.)

Nope. Neither stench nor abundance made it vile, though lord only knows it excelled at both. No, what put it into the category of “Diaper things Mary has never seen before” — a very small category — was the consistency. This stuff was the consistency of cream. The cream you’d put in your coffee, I mean, not the stuff you’d put on your skin. There was a splooshing, sloshing cup or two of very, very pale beige cream in that diaper. The colour you’d get if you put a tablespoon of coffee in a cup of cream.

Only it smelled much, much, much worse.

And the question was, how to get this liquid — there was not a speck of solid in it — from the child to the garbage without sloshing it all over me, all over her, all over my house? I peered in astonishment for a second, considering my options. Diaper wipes were not going to cut it. The diaper could clearly not absorb this amount with anything like the necessary speed.

I closed the diaper back on the child. “Poppy? Don’t move. Understand? DON’T. MOVE. I’ll be right back.”

She gazes at me solemnly, but doesn’t shift an inch. Good girl! I race into the back porch and grab one of the shabby, ragged towels we use to dry the dogs after their wet and muddy walks by the river. Grab the towel and rip it in half. Race back to the living room, where Poppy, bless her noisome self, is still lying right where I put her.

I lift her butt, put the towel on the floor under both girl and diaper. Open the diaper. Lift her butt by the ankles, give it a quick wipe. (Quick, because really? NOTHING is stuck there. NOTHING. Because it’s LIQUID, people, pure liquid. Her butt only glistens a bit with the wet.) I drop the wipe into the pool inside her diaper and pivot Poppy so that her bare bottom now lies on the hardwood floor. I’ll finish with her when I’ve finished with this ghastly diaper.

Then close the diaper. But not too tight! Heaven knows I don’t want to squeeze it and have it squirt liquid manure around my living room. Close it up, wrap the towel around it all.

“Poppy? Don’t move again. Understand, lovie? DON’T.MOVE.” Because the child who just produced liquid manure is now lying bare and totally diaper-free on my living room floor. Is there more where that came from? Is there?

I run to the kitchen. Drop towel, diaper, and poo-cream in the garbage, and immediately lift out the garbage bag, tie it securely, and toss it into the back porch.

I really, really, reeeeallllly want to wash my hands now, but butt-naked Poppy’s naked butt still needs my attention. We clean her up, tuck her securely into a fresh diaper, and then I scrub my hands. For the full 30 seconds. Rinse. And do it again. Because, bleah.

Poppy’s mother came to collect her shortly after. Because, bleah. (And also, because it’s in my contract: can’t come to daycare for 24 hours following vomitting or diarrhea.)

It was not the worst shit story ever. But it was close.

First Rory, then Poppy. Who’s next?

Tick, tick, tick…

April 24, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, health and safety, Poppy, potty tales | , , | 9 Comments

Tofu-spinach curry

In fact, the original recipe calls for fish, not tofu. I use tofu to accommodate my vegetarian child.


400g fish (a scant pound)
or 340-gram package of extra-firm tofu

1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
3T mild curry paste (My curry paste is fierce hot; I use 1T.)
4T minced ginger
(1/2 jalapeno, minced; I skip this with the daycare.)
2 t coriander
1/2 t turmeric
700g spinach (fresh, coarsely chopped)
or 1 pkg frozen spinach (If using frozen, no need to thaw first. Just toss it in!)
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (I usually toss in the whole can.)
2 – 4 cups of water
2T lemon juice

(In my recipes, T = tablespoon, t = teaspoon, c = cup.)


Cut fish into 2 cm (1″) cubes. If using tofu, you can prep it by cutting into cubes and frying first, or you can just crumble the whole block to the consistency of cottage cheese. I usually do the latter.

In wok or largish pot, cook onion in oil till soft, 5 – 7 minutes. Add garlic, curry paste, ginger, (jalapeno), and spices. Cook another minute, stirring.

Add spinach and cook 2 minutes till wilted.

Add tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. (How much water you add depends entirely on the consistency you like.)

Add fish/tofu. Reduce heat and simmer till fish is done (about 8 minutes), or until tofu heated through. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

If you’ve used less water, it’s nice served over rice; if you’ve added more water to make a soup, serve it in a bowl with a side of naan.

Yum! I love, love, love this stuff.

April 23, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 5 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Ratatouille with ground walnuts over noodles

Tuesday: Tofu-spinach curry on rice

Wednesday: Rice-lentil patties. Cabbage-beet salad.

Thursday: Chicken tortilla soup, biscuits

Friday: Spaghetti and meatballs (with a non-meat version for the vegetarian), salad

As ever, if you want a recipe, just ask!

April 23, 2012 Posted by | food | , , , | 4 Comments

Meatloaf Recipe

Meatloaf is a fabulous use-up-the-leftovers recipe. My meatloaf has five (sometimes six) components:

1. 500 g (a generous pound) of ground meat. Doesn’t matter what kind at all. Can be a mixture of types.

2. About a cup of grated or finely chopped vegetables. Doesn’t matter what kind at all.

3. About a cup of starch — rice, oatmeal, bread crumbs, crumbled stale bread, or a mix of everything. Doesn’t matter at all.

4. Two eggs

5. Spaghetti sauce (or sometimes crushed tomatoes, or sometimes salsa, doesn’t matter at all.)

(6. Grated cheese.)

There are a couple of ways to assemble this. The easy way:

Glop it all in a bowl and thoroughly moosh it all together with your hands. Hands work better than a spoon. Drop it into an ungreased loaf pan, smear a couple of tablespoons of spaghetti sauce over top. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for an hour. You can remove the foil for the last 15 minutes to crisp up the top a bit if you like.

The pretty way:

1. Combine meat, eggs, and starch.

2. Layer half the meat mixture in the pan. Cover with the veggies, a sprinkling of grated cheese, and a dollop of spaghetti sauce. Top with remaining meat mixture, then smear on the sauce and maybe another sprinkle of cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for an hour. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes to crisp up the top if you like.

This week’s meatloaf used up a cup of leftover Cuban black beans and rice (the starch), and a cup of leftover beet-and-carrot salad (the veggies).

Nom. Comfort food.

April 17, 2012 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

How’d it get to be Wednesday already?

Wednesday? Already? What happened to Tuesday? Seriously. I just lost an entire day. How did that happen? For Wednesday I am going to do a Menu Monday post, and back-date it till Tuesday. Heh. How’s that for the wonders of technology?

Monday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, cucumber slices

Tuesday: Meatloaf, braised collard greens, cooked carrots

Wednesday: Singapore noodles

Thursday: Chickpea-spinach soup and baking powder biscuits

Friday: Lentil-beet salad, spinach pie

April 17, 2012 Posted by | food | Leave a comment

Where have I been?

Hello! I’m still alive! Sorry about my vanishment, for those of you who have been so kind as to express concern. The rest of you who have wandered off, never to return, well, that’s my own fault, isn’t it?

What’s been going on with me? Well, nothing precisely, but it’s really good! You know my personal Happiness Project? You can blame it. Yup. Gretchen may have been able to blog through hers, but I’m finding that mine is so damned successful, it’s taking away my inclination to blog.

It’s going like this:

Week one: I was having trouble remembering my project. I’d get to the end of the day, and I’d be entering all these rotten exes, because I just plain old forgot I was supposed to be doing it. Boooo. I hate exes in my chart. All those exes were not contributing to my happiness! When it comes to charts and assignments, I am a keener. Always have been. My charts always have rows of checkmarks. My assignments always have gold stars. Even self-assigned assignments. Actually, as I get older and need external validation less and less especially self-assigned assignments. They mean more.

I had to make this thing less forgettable. I mounted the chart on a wall where it would be hard to miss.

Week two: I’m doing better, but I’m still forgetting! It’s getting better, but still, I’ll be halfway through a day and suddenly remember that the story-time, which is supposed to happen before naps, didn’t. Or I’ll be waving the last one out the door and remember I forgot to sing with them. Damnit, anyway. I want to do this stuff! I like doing this stuff! When it’s happening — which is more and more frequently — I’m really enjoying it. But I’m still forgetting too much. (Absent-mindedness. It’s a curse.) It’s also interfering with my rows of checkmarks.

Wait. Maybe that’s the problem. The chart, though in an obvious spot, is pretty low-key. Tidy little inked notations on a pale blue grid. It needs to call attention to itself. It needs to be gaudy.

Two sharpies later, my chart no longer sports neatly subdued checks and exes. Now it is resplendent in red and green boxes. THERE ARE TOO MANY RED BOXES ON MY CHART.

Week three: I’m hitting my stride. There’s only one red box under ‘outing’, but that’s because we had ice rain/hail that day. That day, there is a green box under ‘craft’, which we only do twice a week. Mwah-ha. I am winning at Chart!

I’m also winning in the daycare. The whole tenor of the place is improving, day by day. By doing all these things, I’m feeling more professional and competent, I’m feeling more nurturing, more organized, more loving. Am I happier?

Damned straight I am. By a mile.

It’s not that we were all wallowing in misery before. We did crafts (you’ve seen them!), we played games, we read stories. It’s just that now I’m being more focussed and intentional about it all. Less drifting. When you drift, it’s too easy to say “Ah, I’m tired today. I’ll just throw some crayons and paper down, instead of organizing something more labour-intensive.”

And that’s okay, some days. But in the winters, I do that sort of thing more often, and eventually, I find myself wandering around in a bit of a grey malaise. A child does something cute, I smile. Now? A child does something cute, I laugh. I’m laughing a lot these days.


We’re into week five now, and red squares are few and far between. More importantly, I’m laughing a lot these days. And because I am the emotional centre of this place, they are laughing a lot more these days. And their happiness feeds mine. It’s a virtuous circle, people, and I’m loving it.

When I started, I didn’t foresee this level of satisfaction. I thought it would be satisfying, sure; I thought it would likely work, or I wouldn’t have bothered. I thought the process of improving, tidying up, tweaking my professional behaviour would make me feel better about myself.

But I had no idea how the joy would explode around me.

We are not running around in bliss 100% of the time. These are toddlers. They are still cranky, petulant and demanding at times. They still clobber each other once in a while. I get annoyed once in a while.

But, in general terms? It’s so good. Joy is not too strong a term for the spikes of happiness that occur, often several times a day. Certainly you could call it ‘glee’.

So why have I not been blogging about all this wonderfulness?

Well, because I’ve been busy living it.

However, sitting down this morning and pounding out this post has been fun, too, so I think you’ll be seeing more of me. Thanks for hanging in!

April 16, 2012 Posted by | daycare, health and safety | , , | 13 Comments