Breakdown of the Mommy

I’ve been gone an embarrassingly long time. Drowning and ebbing between bouts of depression and handling a house and kids (sometimes I feel I should never have gotten kids) I am barely staying afloat and breathing.

So I stopped blogging. Partly because I can’t handle the pressure of another to-do. But mainly because in my whirlpool of self-pity I’m torturing and punishing myself by avoiding things that make me happy.

Anyway, I will be back – but in awhile… I need some me time desperately. And obviously my life as it is now is not really working – you can tell by the screaming, unkempt maniac I’ve become. So, I’m seriously and aggressively looking for a day care for Jo. For him as well as me. He needs structured play and a person who is happy to spend time with him. Not a depressed mommy who just wants to be left alone. And that will hopefully give me the down time I need to be me and do things I want, after which I’ll be happy to see my kids and husband. Happy to spend time with them. Happy to smile in their faces.

So once I get that in place, I’ll be back to this blog. I’ll also be doing some major changes around here. I’ll be keeping this blog for writing, thoughts and personal photography and I’ll be starting a new baking, cooking and crafts blog – with an Middle Eastern & Islamic festivities and celebrations vibe (at least that’s what I hope – keep those fingers crossed).

So until then (which I pray to God is close), sallam (Arabic for a casual good bye that is not for long) and may the force be with you.

Luigi’s Fresh Start

Luigi looked up at the fluffy cotton clouds and the powder blue sky. “Is this all there is to life?” A despodancy was filling him, maybe helped on by the sound of a bubbly Princess Peach and Mario, who he had rescued, again. He could hear their voices coming closer, Peach with her annyoingly sweet sugary attitude and her  charactersitically appreciative and ledwdly suggestive flirtations and Mario with the heavily accented Italian slurs..

He looked up at the sky one last time and jumped down off the tree-high mushroom he was standing on. As they came closer he wiped off the distaste and pasted on a fake smile.

“Hey Luigi, my man” boomed Mario twitching his mustache “How ya doing? Me and Peachy here, well, we’re gonna go grab a few beers before I go help her with her plumbing. Wanna join? For the beer of course.” Mario laughed and his big beer belly rolled with each snort and snorkel.

Luigi cringed as Mario gave him a suggestive wink. He didn’t know which was more repulsive; Mario’s idea of fun, which involved getting shit-faced drunk, or what he and Peach would be doing back home. Which was as close to plumbing as stomping kompaa’s was.

“Uh, no thanks” he hurriedly back-tracked “I have a number of things to get done.” And then he practically ran in the other direction before Mario could suggest anything more disgusting.

“Hey Luigi!” It was too late. Luigi slowed down and turned to look at Mario just as he and Peach were getting on the back of Yoshi.

“Can you finish all those actual plumbing jobs for us? That’s great. You’re awesome, man.” And off they went.

That was it. Anger was rushing like a hurricane through Luigi. He was sick and tired of all of this. Helping rescue Peach every week, single-handedly handling their plumbing business, running errands for Mario and what for? Nothing! No acknowledgement, no rewards, no fancy castle on a hill. While Mario had all the glory and the fun. Well, that’s it! He was done playing second fiddle.

He knew a deserted, forgotten pipe on the outskirts of the Mushroom Kingdom that flushed him straight out of this world. He had never told anyone about it because that was the responsible, brotherly thing to do. But now he was going to use this pipe to transport himself to somewhere, far, far away from here. Somewhere where there was no Mario, Peach, Bowser or anyone else who he would play have to answer to. Somewhere we he could start over and be the one and only hero. A place that would sing his praises and construct statues of him. Creatures that would appreciate his intelligence, jumping skills. muscular body and thick must ache.

Luigi was decided. He hurried excitedly to the pipe, wondering why he had never taken this chance at a new beginning before. Practically skipping, he reached a rusty, leaning pipe hidden behind acres of thorny bush and started hacking his way through, oblivious to the scratches and cuts on his arms.

He could almost smell the freedom, the success as he climbed to the top of the pipe, grinning from ear to ear. Standing on top, he took a deep breath, crouched down and got sucked through the vortex.

This was his time. He was on his way to greatness. The whooshing and spinning stopped. He had arrived. What was this new world like? Endless beaches and azure oceans? Forests of lush berries? Or unimaginable wonders? He opened his eyes to the colour metal. Gadgets, steel and a dreary towering structure and realised he was probably in a transport vehicle of some sort. Not only that, someone else was with him, slowly circling the perimeter. He looked at the huge, muscularly built man in combat greens, space helmet and a large, futuristic looking machine gun and slowly swallowed.

Right above his head he could see a small plaque with the words ‘Forward Unto Dawn’. Luigi looked over at the solider/space man and tentatively smiled as he tried to quell the rising fear and bile and came to the conclusion that new beginnings were over-rated.

Written in response to Writing Challenge: Starting Over

Making a new start is never as simple as it seems on paper. It’s easy to talk about losing a few pounds or giving up the job you hate to weave animal-shaped baskets on a tropical island, but less so to make it happen, and keep at it.

In this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to write a short piece of creative writing (fiction/poetry/prose poetry/freeform mindjazz/whatever floats your boat) on the theme of Starting Over.

Portfolios & Skinny Cows Go Hand in Hand

This weekend was just plain crazy! On top of all the errands I had to run, I also needed to finalise my letter of intent and portfolio for the grad school application deadline which is tomorrow.

Now I knew that I was going to be really crammed for time with two kids, a house to run and a portfolio to do. So I sent a scanned copy of my printed portfolio to a friend in Egypt and asked if he could do me a huge favour and make a new Photoshop one for me. My friend said yes, I was indebted one huge favour, but I could rest easier knowing that it was going to be done by someone else and I could focus on writing a killer ‘Letter of intent’. Then Friday afternoon I got my portfolio back and I cringed with horror. I could tell that my friend had put in a lot of effort to help me out, and I was appreciative, but I was also devastated. It was so not me. And now I had only two days to start from scratch and put together a hastily constructed portfolio.

01

My friend’s well meaning design

Thankfully with some help from my awesome husband I was able to finish it at 1am last night and get it uploaded on the admissions site. It meant a sleepless and stress-racking weekend. But at least I was done. And the effects of that weekend have finally caught up with me today; I’m moping around the house trying to get anything done but failing miserably. I could barely get myself to write this blog. I have chicken thawing in the sink taunting me, my house is upside down due to the post weekend antics of two boys (Monday is my house cleaning day) and I’m eating like a pig.

Portfolio - first page copy

Right now I’m contemplating pulling out my Skinny Cow ice cream from the fridge and plonking down in front of the TV with Jo and an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and I realised what exactly I was signing up for. One weekend of stress-filled deadlines and I’m already acting cuckoo. How in the hell am I going to survive two years of grad school – that is if I get accepted of course.

Oh well – what’s done is done – now where is my Skinny Cow ice-cream?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Life Readings & Cupcakes

I’ve been making these babies for years, ever since Adam’s first birthday when I first tried the recipe out. I have hardly done any alterations to the original recipe yet have been requested to make these for various occasions over and over. I even very good family friends of ours who would, without fail, have me make this every single time we had a potluck.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Life Readings & Cupcakes

What I like to play with though, is the crushed topping these beauties are rolled in. Every time I try something different; nuts, Reese’s pieces, candy canes, powdered sugar, cocoa, biscuits…. you get the idea.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Life Readings & Cupcakes

So when I was trying to come up with baked goodies to include in a gift basket for a friend, these were a no-brainer. They are yummy, look good, can be packed in an impressive display and are super easy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles from Life Readings & Cupcakes

Without further ado, my Chocolate Peanut Butter truffles:

Ingredients:

250gm dark chocolate chopped

250gm milk chocolate chopped

500gm creamy peanut butter jar

340gm sweetened condensed milk

Toppings of choice; coconut, powdered sugar, cocoa, crushed nuts, crushed Reese’s pieces, miniature chocolate chips, crushed candy canes, crushed cookies….

Directions:

1. Bring a saucepan half filled with water to a simmer. Place a stainless steel bowl over the simmering water.

2. Add the chocolate and peanut butter to the stainless steel bowl and stir occasionally until  both are fully melted.

3. Add the condensed milk and whisk together. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly

4. Spread the fudge evenly on a tray. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour to chill and set.

5. Remove fudge from fridge. Take a spoonful and roll in your hands into a ball shape.

6. Roll the balls in the assorted toppings. Place in a candy foil cup.

7. Store in fridge or freezer covered until ready to serve

Enjoy!

We Are All Just a Bunch of Crazies

I was browsing the Freshly Pressed section the other day and came across this lady. Her blog is called High, High, Higher and it – was – awesome!

What really impressed me were her blogging challenges. Tons of other bloggers have weekly challenges or games or activities where they invite the readers to take part. Much like the Daily Posts, they help out with inspiration and writer’s block. Sometimes I join, sometimes not. Depends on whether I’m in the mood or not.

But I couldn’t let this particular challenge pass me by without contributing – twice! The idea is she started a fictional story which is continued on by the blog-sphere community. Each person picks up where the previous commenter left off by including one or two paragraphs and the imagination takes it where it wants to go.

And let me say, this story has gone to some amazing places. The collective imagination of everyone who joined is mind boggling. The whole story reminds me of something Terry Pratchett or Tom Holt would write (it took me half an hour of brain-racking and searching Goodreads to remember Tom Holt’s name – oh why, oh why did I leave my awesome library in Cairo?). The story has become crazy, bizarre, out-of-this-world and completely fun and imaginative.

To check it out or contribute, click here….

DIY Gifts: Baking Mixes in Jars

Baking Mixes in Jars.jpg

I’m being a good girl and starting to upload all my back logged projects. Yesterday it was the Gingerbread Cookies in a Jar. So since I’m in the ‘jar’ing mood, I thought I’d carry it on by posting these DIY Foodie Gifts in a Jar.

As you all may or may not know, I was staying with a friend in Vancouver a few weeks ago. And since she was going to put up with me, my husband and my rowdy boys for a full week I had to find an exceptional hostess gift.

I could have gone and gotten her something for the house or a gift card, but I didn’t know what her house looked like (it was my first visit) and I wanted to show her in advance how much I appreciate the mess she would be dealing with by having us over.

So, I made two personalised food baskets full of random goodies and treats. I’ll share the full baskets with you later but for now I’ll start with four of the baking ‘mixes in jars’.

My friend is not a big baker but she has two girls and I know she likes the idea of doing baking activities with them. So I thought ready-packed baking mixes would be perfect for them. And subsequently I spent a week on the net and Pintrest trying to find the perfect recipes. I settled on the following:

Bakeralla’s Cowboy Cookies

Peppermint Stick Cocoa from My Recipes

Quick Bread in a Bottle from Sunset

– Gingerbread Cookies – my own recipe

I didn’t have time to create and print professional labels so I settled for the hand-written variety. But once I added ribbons and assorted decorations they turned out pretty great. They are also extremely easy to make, are quiet impressive and can be easily customised to a favourite recipe or ingredients.

Just keep in mind that a multi-ingredient recipe with a variety of colours and textures usually looks best.

And needless to say, my friend loved them.

DIY Baking Mix in Jar.jpg

 

Peppermint Stick Cocoa in a Jar.jpg

 

M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar.jpg

 

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Quick Bread in a Jar.jpg

Road Trip

20130110-125711.jpg

Picture this; a scenic drive along the Mediterranean. Lush, green mountains on your left and a breathtaking drop to a sapphire blue ocean on your right. Passing through quaint Italian, Spanish and French villages. Absorbing the countryside and getting charmed by the cultures. Driving for hours on end and stopping for a picnic on the grass under the radiant sun. Finding a storybook B&B to stay the night in and then waking up refreshed the next morning, ready to do it all again.

20130110-125651.jpg

Now imagine this with two, screaming and fighting boys in the backseat.

Me and the husband have been planning for our dream vacation; two weeks of driving through Europe. Stopping wherever we fancied and taking up the architecture, sights, scents and tastes of the historic cities and villages. Start in Spain, and end up in Germany or Belgium or Denmark or anywhere, it doesn’t matter as long as we enjoy the ride in-between. It has been on our minds for so long that we can almost taste it.

But then we had two wonderful, boisterous, driving-us-insane boys and the trip keeps getting postponed. First it was when Adam turns 6. Now it’s when Jo turns at least 8 (he’s a joy to have in the car). And that’s six and a half years from now. The thing is, even though I know it will be a highly educational, once-in-a-lifetime experience for the boys, I just realised I don’t want to do it with kids at all.

What brought on this realisation? Well, on Christmas break we drove over to Vancouver. It’s a 12 hour trip one-way that cut through the Rockies and not much else. Whenever we told anyone we were driving they looked at us as if we were crazy. But we were unfazed. After all, we love driving. Come on, our drive vacation is to drive for two weeks. Right? Wrong. Try driving 12 hours with two bored kids.

20130110-125658.jpg

Adam began asking ‘When will we get there?’ 15 minutes after we left Calgary. Jo had finished all his snacks 30 minutes into the ride and was on a sugar high. The boys started fighting and I was going crazy. Thankfully we were prepared. Cars 2, Ice Age 3 and three repeat performances of Toy Story 2 (most of them running at the same time), plus multiple stories read, snacks that turned the car into a travelling garbage can, a Galaxy Tab, an iPod, Adam pretending that he’s a news reporter with Jo screaming the accompanying sound track, four children’s song albums played, one stop at McDonalds and we were thankfully at the halfway point. After that it was smooth sailing, me and my husband switched places (I was driving the rest of the way since my husband is notorious for falling asleep at the wheel), and the kids went to bed. And I drove the remaining 6 hours in peace and quiet.

20130110-125705.jpg

I still want to do my Europe road trip but now I’m thinking of ditching the kids before I do it or waiting until I ship them off to college before I can start living again. It also makes me sympathetic with my husband who freaks out at the idea of a third kid. All he can think of when I say baby #3 is,

‘Oh my God, that’s an extra three years added on to my life sentence. Please don’t do that to me. I want to be free.’

 

Gingerbread Cookie Mix Gifts

Gingerbread Cookie Mix.jpg

This is super late. But we’ve already established that I’m a lazy, procrastinating, ADD, disoriented mom, right?

Anyway, here are the gifts Adam gave to his teachers for Christmas. It took me awhile to figure out what to get them because I’ve never done this before. Do I get just gift cards? Or a gift basket? Something personal? Something practical? Bake them something? It was a huge stressful dilemma, which annoyed my husband to no end because everything to me is a huge stressful dilemma.

Gingerbread Cookie Mix Jar Gifts.jpg

Anyway I decided to combine a little of everything. I wasn’t too comfortable with providing something %100 baked. What happens if they think it tastes awful? I also felt gift cards on their own were way too impersonal. So I did a little of both.

I made gingerbread cookie mix jars with really cool copper cookie cutters from Chapters. I also included a $15 gift card from Starbucks in case they hate cookies. Because which teacher doesn’t need gallons of coffee? I know I would, if I had to deal with 22 7-year old kids day in and day out.

20130109-155512.jpg

And yesterday we got these thank you cards back. I know they’re standard etiquette and all, but it still warmed my heart when adam proudly read them to me.

20130109-155506.jpg

Back to School

I’m finally taking the plunge!

I’m collecting my scattered wits, my dried-out intelligence, my non-existent attention span and I’m going back to school.

Or at least I’m attempting to go back to school. I don’t know if they’ll have me or not.

I’m applying for the Masters of Architecture at UofC and the deadline is in one week. I have to bring my portfolio up to par, craft a killer letter of intent and then get off my procrastinating butt and submit everything before the deadline.

Ya, good luck with that.

If you know me, you’ll know I have quite a challenge ahead of me. Why? You ask. Well, let me list them for you:

1. My GPA is below the required minimum. By quite a bit. Don’t look at me like that. You try going to a university in Cairo and studying in Arabic which sounds like gibberish most of the time while trying to handle the tsunami of culture shock without it affecting your GPA.

2. I don’t have a lot of professional experience as an Architect. Technically I have none. But I’m versatile. I have tons of experience at other things, like wiping snotty noses and baking burnt cookies. And in today’s global arena, isn’t that a good thing?

3. I’m old. I mean really old. Way past my prime. At 33, that’s like what in dog years? Dead, I think.

4. While I do have a portfolio of sorts, I took a look at the ones they had for examples online and practically had a heart attack from the awesomeness and creativity of their work. My stuff in comparison looks like Adam’s crayon drawings. And believe me that’s bad because Adam has no artistic talent. We actually use colouring and drawing as punishment.

5…… Need I go on?

My husband says I’m needlessly putting myself down. I tell him, ‘I’m just realistic. But I will do my part and apply. Then see where it takes me.’

So here I am, persistently plodding on and preparing all my stuff. Trying to be the best I can. Now if only I can drag myself back to that letter of intent and convince myself to actually write it. I’ve done all my research, everything is right there in my head, but I just can’t bring myself to commit. After all, rejection is a bitch. And even though I’m mentally prepping myself for it, I still really, really want this. So my subconscious, crazy, doped out brain is trying to defend me from that hurtful rejection by encouraging above-mentioned procrastination. After all, if I never apply, I’ll never get turned down, right?

Well I’m off to reason with my crazy brain. If anyone is out there, wish me luck, and keep your fingers crossed.