Happy Birthday, Baby

I hear the sound of the stepstool being scraped and shoved across the tiled bathroom floor. I'm in another room helping your big sister with her homework. Your dad is somewhere else in the house, trying to tackle a science fair project with your brother. 

I don't stand up. I don't go to you. 

I'm a different parent than I used to be. Maybe you've benefited from that or maybe you were always this way and we both got lucky because I was ready for you.

Read More

New Year, New Traditions: Family Fondue

It's a new year and our family is a year older. When you are parenting young children, this growing up business can be really exciting. Moving past the cumbersome, workhorse days of babies and toddlers can feel like a liberation of sorts. For me, there's a mix of satisfaction (at getting through it) and sadness (at saying goodbye).

I can feel the magic of this time of year inching closer to an end. Sleepy faces wearing footed pajamas and poking us awake when it's still dark. Plates of cookies for Santa and wide-eyed wonder at the gifts he has left for us. The six of us rumbling around the house together in that quiet space between Christmas and the new year. I will miss all of it.

But having older kids means we can bring in new traditions. This year, I decided we would bravely and boldly try fondue for our new year's eve meal (I really know how to let my hair down these days). It hasn't been on my radar until now, because I couldn't imagine a meal made up of repeated safety warnings about boiling cheese and hot pots would feel very festive or relaxing. 

family-fondue-night

Most of the recipes I found for the cheese sauce had ingredients like dry mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce (which would probably be delicious, unless you're a kid), but I opted to keep it simple and plain-tasting and added a flavourful cheese to the cheddar instead.

  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • pinch of salt to flavour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk (or to desired thickness)

Pre-mix the two cheeses and toss with the flour and salt, then set aside. Heat the milk on the stove until it's bubbling at the edges and then slowly add cheese while whisking constantly. Once all the cheese has melted, transfer to the fondue pot.

  • boiled mini potatoes
  • cubed ham
  • cured sausage chunks
  • sirloin steak cubes (pre-cooked)
  • steamed broccoli
  • red pepper strips
  • apple slices
  • pear slices
  • chunks of fresh bread
family-fondue

Anyone who feeds kids knows it's hit-and-miss when you try new food, but not this time — everyone liked it! Being able to choose which items to eat and which ones to dip was a big part of the enjoyment. 

And we didn't stop with cheese. I had a smaller, ceramic and candlelit fondue set for dessert. I melted a block of semi-sweet baker's chocolate in a pot on the stove and slowly added evaporated milk until it was a nice consistency. We dipped pineapple, strawberries, gigantic marshmallows and chunks of pound cake. A friend of mine has since suggested melting a giant Toblerone bar: brilliant. 

family-fondue

It ended up being a fantastic way for us to ring in the new year as a family. It was interactive, silly and different from the usual meals we have around the table. I only delivered warnings about the hot pot about 10 times before JB's sideways look told me I had reached maximum safety nut levels. 

Family rating for family fondue night: FIVE STARS. 

 

 

 

 

 

Games Night: 5 Games Guaranteed To Make Your Family Laugh

family-games

When I was a kid, there was a shelf in our family's spare bedroom that was filled with board games. My sister and I made a lot of trips in and out of that room to grab games that would have us spending hours at our kitchen table with bottomless bowls of chips. We played them with each other, with neighbourhood friends and with our cousins during epic sleepovers.

I knew I wanted a board game shelf when I had my own kids and we have built a pretty impressive collection, stocked with a lot of the classics from my childhood (Sorry, Monopoly, Twister, Trouble, Boggle, Scrabble). But, thanks to the creativity and genius of today's game designers, we also have several lesser-known games that are fantastic. 

Here are my family's top five favourites (for now, because we're always looking for more). They are games that suit the number (four) and ages of our kids (six to fourteen).

BOUNCE OFF

You flip a card and both players try to recreate the pattern by bouncing their balls into the grid. Whoever does it first, wins the card. Truth be told, this is a great game when my youngest is out of sorts and needs a good redirect and a way to let off some steam or spend some one-on-one time with me. It's also a great playdate game because you don't have to spend a lot of time explaining rules. 

APPLES TO APPLES (and APPLES TO APPLES JUNIOR)

Photo from mattel.com

Photo from mattel.com

This is a hilarious card game that actually works on descriptive language and writing skills the sneaky way (by making it fun!). One player acts as the judge and chooses a descriptive card for each round (with adjectives). Each player has a hand of cards from which they choose a thing they feel best fits with the descriptive card. The judge chooses the best combination (and some of them are pretty hilarious) and that player then wins the card. Everyone gets a chance to be judge. This game was so popular that several versions have since come out, including Apples to Apples Junior (age 3+) which we added to our collection so our youngest could play, too. 

TELESTRATIONS

Okay, so the video above shows a pretty tame round of this family favourite. When it's played at my house, there is a LOT of whooping and hollering and laughing until we have to dry our eyes and blow our noses. My kids LOVE this game (and so do the grown ups). It's become our go-to game when we have friends over, too, because it's the perfect icebreaker. It's easy to teach and so fun to play.

**We recently bought the Telestrations After Dark version (ages 18+) and brought it a holiday gathering — I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. 

SLEEPING QUEENS

Photo from gamewright.com

Photo from gamewright.com

This card game was recommended to us by another family with four kids. We managed to find it in an educational store (for teacher supplies) and it's been a game that goes everywhere with us since. The best part about this game is that it was dreamt up by a real life six-year-old, when she couldn't fall asleep one night. And because of that, the game makes perfect sense to its pint-sized players. It strengthens math, memory and strategy (you've got to wake those sleeping queens!) skills without your kids even realizing it. Two parenting thumbs up!

EXPLODING KITTENS

This hilarious card game made its way to us via the business section of the weekend newspaper. JB read an article about the Kickstarter campaign and how wildly successful it had been for the creators of this game. When he read more about how the game was played, he decided to would be a good gift to put under the tree last year — he shares a really good sense of humour with our kids. From the moment they opened the box and heard the "meeeeeoooooooowwwww" they've been hooked. This is also a highly portable game that always comes camping with us and always ends up being tons of rowdy fun.  
 

We've got a few more days to come up with this year's under-the-tree family board game idea, and I would love to hear your suggestions. I hope this post has given you some good ideas. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Happy gaming, everyone!