I killed my blog. It happened without me noticing, a direct result of being a near computer illiterate. I mentioned in my last blog post that I could no longer upload pictures to WordPress. I had recently reached the storage limit of my media library so I started deleting pictures. The error message changed from “You have reached the limit of your storage capacity” to the cryptic “HTTP Error”. A quick search on support forums revealed that an overgrown media library could bring this message about so I set out to delete even more pictures.
Before I started deleting pictures, I checked to see if deleting pictures from the library would also delete them from the blog itself. That’s where I made a mistake, wasn’t sufficiently thorough, or maybe just didn’t have a clue. When I checked my blog, the deleted pictures still appeared on the page. I went ahead and deleted my entire media library. Today I found out that the pictures I saw on my blog pages were probably a “cached” version, or some mystery to that effect. In reality, the pictures are gone. Gone from the library, gone from the blog, my posts eviscerated, some of them no longer making any sense.
I poured a lot of my blood, sweat and tears on these pages since July 2011. I shared the early months of my twins, the birth of my ninth baby, our moves, homeschooling and my recent miscarriage. Some posts were wildly popular, others just touched a few hearts but touched them deeply, some were like a tree fell in the forest. Some readers shared their stories back with me and as my community of readers grew, I felt less isolated, more connected. This blog, the writing and the friendships that were born from it, has kept me firmly grounded as I sailed through some of the most intense and beautiful moments of my life.
After coming to the realization that my blog was irreversibly damaged, I spent some time exploring my options. I came to the conclusion that Vie de cirque had outgrown the basic WordPress platform I was using and it was time to ditch the training wheels and to move this wonderful community to a platform better suited for its growing potential.
Some things will change along with the hosting service. Most importantly, the name will change to “Fearless Family Life”. I know that many of you like “Vie de cirque” but it doesn’t lend itself well to search engines. I get many hits and messages from people looking for a French language blog on life in a circus. I need a title that is more evocative and easier to communicate.
Our family is at a juncture where it needs to diversify its sources of income: you know what they say about eggs and baskets. My husband, our only support, has a lot of very precious eggs in a basket-line that is expected to take a beating under the new Canadian government. My blogging is the most likely way to juggle my vocation and our need for diversification. As a result, I decided to take my focus off my writing for the next little while as I work on launching Fearless Family. I will find a way to archive my Vie de Cirque posts so that they are still easily accessible, I’m also planning to re-publish the most popular ones. I will still keep in touch via my YouTube Channel, my personal Facebook page and Instagram.
This is not an “Adieu!’ but an “au revoir” until we launch something that has the ability to grow with our family. In the mean time, please indulge me as I share one of my favorite musical pieces of all time, from Mozart’s Requiem. But don’t cry: we’ll be back soon.
* WordPress won’t let me upload pictures anymore (HTTP error). I did look into WordPress support but I can’t even understand the language they speak so we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way and imagine things in our heads. Failing that, you know that I am on Instagram as @happy_chaos_ right? That will work too.
This week I decided that the pain of disorganization wasn’t worth the reward of not having to live by a schedule. You know what I mean if schedules give you hives, as they do to me. Routines and I repulse each other. We’re the opposite of velcro. For a long time, I considered routines limiting. I’m a “target of opportunity” kind of person: strike while the iron is hot, create when the creating vibe hits you, make supper when everyone is about to eat their shoes. Over the years, as children outnumbered me by a factor of 9, I learned that I can accomplish much more by being somewhat organized and this — sadly — involves routines. Nowadays, routines annoy the heck out of me because nothing guarantees more interruptions that trying to get something done. The children have a sixth sense, and infortunately it’s not seeing dead people.
The first thing on my list of Things to Improve is getting supper on the table early. Someone was asking me how I dealt with the witching hour and in theory it’s quite simple: I feed the kids. In practice, I often end-up like most of you, trying to make supper while the children are raiding the pantry, the baby is crying and the teenagers are making grilled-cheese “to wait for supper.” Having supper ready for 5:15 pm is a huge improvement to my quality of life. It means that the children can be fed before they turn into gremlins, we can clean-up the kitchen before starting bedtime routines and once all the littles are asleep, there is time left for writing, reading and trying to launch a new venture (add: reading WordPress Support posts).
How to get supper ready on time? Well, that’s always the challenge isn’t it? The best way I found is to make supper and lunch at the same time. This way, I deconstruct the kitchen once and clean it up once. To make this possible, I have to “reverse-engineer” my day starting with supper, making sure that our homeschooling is done by noon. To add an extra level of motivation, I was alone with the littles 3 evenings last week. So it had to work.
Monday I thawed a whole wad of Costco ground beef and made hamburgers with half of it and meat balls with the other half. Then we learned that red meat is now a class 1 carcinogen, make that 1+ if you BBQ it. Wonderful.
On Tuesday, we ate some beef (again?) curry from the freezer with white rice and broccoli.
Wednesday we went to Value Village to get some Halloween costumes before music classes. It was a rainy, miserable day to run errands. When we came home, I made chicken fried rice with wild rice, celery, carrots, chicken and ham (cured meat, another class 1 carcinogen). At least it was wild rice, no?
On Thursday, I made pumpkin black bean soup from Smitten Kitchen. This soup is just delicious. I made enough to share with a friend who is having a tough time health-wise.
On Friday we had meatballs (from Monday) in tomato sauce with spaghetti and zucchini noodles.
SATURDAY WAS HALLOWEEN!
Saturday was Halloween and I made some soul cakes for the children. I used this recipe from Food.com, which was adequate but next year I’ll try this yeasted version from CatholicCulture.org. We trick-or-treated with friends in the suburbs where the houses are not so few and far between. We had Aero bars and rockets for diner with Coffee Crisps for dessert. The twins barfed it all back between Midnight and 1 am the following night. But it was fine because we gained an hour overnight… **YAWN**
In other news, I am pursuing my clean-eating journey (speaking of rockets…), eliminating gluten, almost all grains, most dairy and a whole lot of sugar . I’m not sure yet if it’s helping anything but Holy Cow, two mini Coffee Crisps and some Skittles are not a nice way to break your clean eating streak: my gut may never forgive me.
Along the way I discovered the gluten-free products by Purest and they are excellent (this is not a sponsored post and no-one is footing my significant grocery budget to say nice things about them). Purest is a local (to me!) company based in Perth (ON). I use their products to make this gluten-free flour mix, with great results (for instance, I made this cranberry orange loaf ). I also use their Artisan Bread mix, which is excellent. The recipe for the bread mix is on the bag and has to be followed scrupulously:use a hand mixer or the paddle attachment to your stand mixer, mix it for at least 3 minutes (more won’t hurt it, less will.) I tried it using butter instead of oil for a more “brioche-ey” version. It worked but didn’t rise as high.
On Sunday I had my 9 children under my roof for the day and it was a great joy. I made chili from the Whole30 cookbook, gluten-free corn bread and Savoy cabbage slaw.
Have a good week everyone and wish me luck to keep-up my winning early supper streak.
Come visit me on my new You Tube channel! Today I introduce myself and answer everyone’s burning question: how do you match socks when you have 18 feet?
You know, routines are against nature for me so telling you over and over again what we ate this week already feels weird. On the other hand, you the readers seem to really enjoy this so let’s try to reach a mutually agreeable agreement: I’ll keep telling you what we ate but I’ll try to give it a new twist every week. Just so no one gets bored.
This week, I decided to share how we do breakfast. The important thing you need to know about breakfast is that there is never anything good to eat in the house. Namely, we do not buy breakfast cereals, yummy spreads or juice. Yeah, you read that right. These things do not exist in our house. They render our children completely psycho and prevents them from eating anything else. I’m sure you know the drill: teen gets up, teen eats cereals and milk. One hour later, teen is still hungry, teen snacks on cereals and milk. At lunch time, teen is not hungry, teen nibbles some lunch food. One hour later, teen is hungry, teen lunches on cereals and milk. Teen comes home from school and snacks on cereals and milk. Half-an-hour later, teen is not-so-hungry for supper anymore. After supper, teen sneaks in the kitchen for a bowl or cereals and milk. Teen watches TV and eats cereals and milk before going to bed. You can imagine the same day and replace “cereals and milk” by “Nutella and toast” and you have my family. It’s not so bad when they are little and you control the means of production (or, in my case, the they keys to the pantry). But it’s a lot harder to enforce a strict snack routine on teenagers. If you don’t believe me, just wait a few years. I’ll be the one laughing at you in my corner saying “Told you so…”
(It always amazes me how easy raising teenagers is to people who don’t have them. I just read through an entire Facebook convo about teens dating where most of the comments and suggestions came from people who were, by their own admission, “years away from that stuff, Thank God!”)
My point in all this is: cheap carbs and my kids don’t go well together. Or rather, it’s like a bad relationship: can’t be together, can’t stay apart.
So we tried saying “just for the weekend”. But that made it worst. As long as the food was in the house, as long as there was even the faintest hope of getting the food, they would just hold off eating until they could eat the food. And they got hangrier and hangrier, and threw bigger and bigger fits, in the hope of wearing us down. Others just got sneaky. Cheap carbs really bring out the best in my kids. Not.
So we just stopped buying the stuff. And they got hungry, and eventually they got over it. So what do we eat for breakfast?
Overnight slow-cooker oatmeal. About once a week I make slow-cooker oatmeal with apples and cinnamon. I know that you would love to have the recipe but I eyeball the whole thing and I can’t tell you. I tried to give the recipe to a friend off the top of my head, she made it and it was a bust. In other words, just go foraging on the Internet for slow-cooker oatmeal and you should come across something that will suit your fancy. A little tip: don’t cook it all night, it makes the clean-up really difficult. It’s much better to grease the slow-cooker generously and cook it for 2-3h on the timer. It will keep warm in the crock-pot until morning.
Bagels and cream cheese. I don’t think too much description is required here, is there? We love Kettleman bagels in Ottawa. That’s about as close to a bagel as Ottawa gets.
Peanut butter toast. Once again, self-explanatory. My family loves PBJ, honestly, I don’t get it. I think that my French genes prevent me from developing any appreciation whatsoever for PBJ. I can’t even use PB in my house for all the J stuck around the rim. These people are animals.
Smoothies. We keep it simple: frozen fruits, a drop of maple syrup and milk. Some people like to add peanut butter too. Some people are weird.
Bacon and eggs. Three times are week — or more if we run out of bagels — we make bacon and eggs for breakfast. The children have much better concentration and sustained energy when they start the day with a good wad of protein.
Yogourt and maple syrup. Just plain yogourt with maple syrup.
Sometimes the children will have all of the above in one breakfast. Often two.
Last week’s post was all about our favorite Thanksgiving Recipes and this week’s post will not be too much different: we literally ate leftovers all week. Instead of showing you the warmed-over version of what I cooked, I’m giving you the pictures from the day it was served. It looks a lot better that way.
I am still blown-away by how generous people were to our family after my miscarriage a month ago. I’m emphasising it because we’ve had meals prepared for our family for a month now and… How can I say this… It’s been eye-opening and humbling. I have never brought a meal to someone who has miscarried. I remember once dropping something off at the house of an acquaintance who had recently miscarried. It was on recycling day and her curb was covered,I mean covered, with empty pizza boxes. It was as if my family had kept all the pizza boxes for two years in the garage and suddenly put them out to the curb. I remember thinking (yes, I am that aweful of a person) “Really?” It just seemed so extreme to me. In the back of my head, the thought that maybe someone was taking advantage of the situation might have reared it’s ugly head. Now I can tell you: yes, really. A dear friend who sent us a gift card for M&M wrote in her card to expect a complicated miscarriage to have the same footprint as a full term pregnancy. I’m starting to believe it. Long story to say: people have been feeding us, people are absolutely amazing, it is as appreciated as it is needed.
Thanksgiving has marked the end of my post-traumatic love fest with comfort foods. Now is the time to get serious with health and wellness, starting with cleaning-up my eating. My eating is pretty clean already and I am researching to what extent claims that gluten and dairy can worsten a thyroid condition may be trusted. Separting the wheat (ha!) from the pseudo-science is an extreme sport, let me tell you. I’d love to read your experiences with food elimination and if you were successful in turning-off the little voice in your head telling you that there is no medical basis to gluten sensitivity. I’m so eager to feel good again and I’ve received such confusing and inappropriate care from my doctor that I feel like any twerp on Facebook with a made-up degree could sign me up for a kool-aid retreat if it promised results.
I made Artisan Bread. I’m not very good at it, especially at getting the crust just right. I love how the kids all made turkey sandwiches right off the bat. As they say, leftovers are the best part.
For veggies we had lettuce, cranberry apple orange sauce and boozy squash. Oh and sinful Brussel Sprouts, with cheese, bacon and onions. My husband made mashed potatoes and we researched on Google why mashed potatoes get gluey. Answer: overcooked and overworked. Turns out potatoes are fragile little things. You need to gently coax the starch out lest it comes out galloping and turn your mash to glue.
Once we were all turkeyed out, we went for a walk. You know the nice thing about being completely wiped-out-of-shape? You can take a 4km slow walk and you’ll feel like you just run 12km.
Isn’t my country road absolutely stunning?
When it comes to traditional meals, I’m of the school of “If in ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Every year in September or October, Canadian lifestyle and cooking magazines release their Thanksgiving issues where re-inventing the wheel seems to be the key concept. Here’s some inconvenient truth for you: if you can’t stand your mother-in-law’s turkey and fixin’ , chances are that her cooking talents are lacking. Next year, don’t try to stuff guinea fowl with some fusion South Asian mixture. Just get a good cookbook and give MIL a break. Here, tradition is Queen.
I am not a naturally good cook. My husband and I were laughing at our early days as a couple because we had a rotation of two meals: tortellinis with tomato sauce (from a can) and tuna sandwiches. I grew-up surrounded by my mother’s excellent cuisine so it didn’t take long for me to put on my try-hard pants and broaden my horizons. My mother-in-law (who is a good cook, wave!) gave me a subscription to Canadian Living Magazine, my mother gave me a few good cookbooks and I learned by trial and error. I don’t consider myself a good cook yet — I’m way to distracted and rushed to do a good job of anything — but I can follow a recipe. Here are a few of our family favorite Thanksgiving recipes (with pictures from 2 years ago because Thanksgiving lunch is tomorrow in this family. But hey, a turkey’s a turkey…)
THE TURKEY AND THE STUFFING: Sage Butter Turkey with Shallot Sausage Stuffing. We need to breed turkeys with bigger cavities because there is never enough of that stuffing. I usually double the stuffing recipe, stuff the turkey, beat a few eggs into the leftover stuffing, pour it into a loaf pan and bake it into a “stuffing loaf”. I usually make a whole pound of sage butter and keep some for the bread. Food poisoning tip: take the butter you will need for the bread out before you start playing with the turkey so you don’t cross contaminate your butter by repeatedly putting your raw-meated hands in it. Buttering the turkey is a highlight of Thanksgiving and the children fight for it. We cook the bird on the BBQ (you’re welcome, neighbourhood). I don’t have a recipe for roasting a turkey on the BBQ. All you need to remember is: indirect heat for a long time. If you can use an aluminum pan to catch the drippings, you can baste away but not until the turkey is somewhat cooked: you don’t want too much heat variations by opening and closing the BBQ repeatedly.
THE CRANBERRY SAUCE: I always make the cranberry apple sauce from Canadian Living.
THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS: Where I manage to make Brussels Sprouts (a) totally edible, and (b) bad for you (sorry, can’t have one without the other). Here’s how: first I pare the sprouts and blanch them for 4 minutes (maybe?); then I cut them in two (because surface matters for what is about to follow); then I fry some bacon and set it aside; I pour out most of the fat but leave what is coating the pan; then I add some butter (yes!!! I absolutely do); then I add some finely sliced onions and cook them until golden but not too much yet; then I add the sprouts and brown them in the butter; wait, we’re not done here; then I put them in a baking dish, add the bacon and — believe it or not — COVER IT WITH CHEESE. Then I bake the whole sinful thing. Then I pray that my kids won’t want to eat any.
THE SQUASH: My favorite squash recipe comes from a tattered printed email I received after after a youth group pot luck where it was served. You take dried fruits (I like to use a mix of cranberries and currant but anything goes, even raisins) and throw them in a pot with booze. Yes you do. Cover the berries in booze (Sherry comes to mind) and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer until the fruits are plump and the booze is mostly evaporated. I can’t remember if I cover it or not but you’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, roast the butternut squash according to your favorite method. Scoop the flesh into a bowl, add the booze-soaked berries, a generous serving of butter, salt and pepper, et voila.
THE GRAVY: by now, I am totally exhausted and my mother-in-law, who is a pearl, remembers the gravy which I have completely overlooked. She makes it using the turkey drippings, some chicken broth and a thickening agent such as flour, cornstarch or Bisto stuff, depending on what I have on hand.
THE DESSERTS: My mother-in-law usually brings the desserts and the selection is Thanksgiving themed. If you want a good pumpkin pie recipe, check this one out from Smitten Kitchen.
That’s the Thanksgiving Dinner with the English side of the family. On the French side, we celebrate everything with my favorite dish of all time, the traditional “tourtiere-that-is-not-a-meat-pie”. I promise to write a post about it but I need to find some pictures and a recipe that corresponds more-or-less to what my mother makes to share with you. Just to tell you how much I adore this traditional French Canadian dish, when I was pregnant with my first child and very sick, my mother made a tourtiere for my birthday and I remember throwing-up and coming back to the table to start again. Now that’s commitment.
Tomorrow I might get adventurous and try some kind of scalloped sweet potatoes. Anyone knows of a good recipe?
Leaving you with my favorite quote this Thanksgiving, in memory of Paul Prud’homme:
Anderson: So how to you cut the turkey to be able to stuff it with a duck stuffed with a chicken?
Paul Prud’homme: Very carefully so you don’t hurt yourself!