Thursday, April 24

Crossing Paths

 Do not go where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There's a wild and wooded area not far from our house.  A series of paths loop and crisscross like shoelaces through the trees.  The kids love to run ahead, looking for smaller paths that intersect with the main ones.  They know these narrow paths are sure to lead to something amazing.  Isn't that always the case?  Some of the best opportunities are found only when you leave the smooth, straight path and venture deep into the forest. 

The path I was on runs parallel to another larger path, however the two rarely connect.  Occasionally, through the tree branches (still bare from winter) and the dense undergrowth (just beginning to turn green), I would see a jogger or a mother pushing a stroller.  Perhaps they saw me too, headed the same direction, on a different path, though we never met.  Our paths never crossed.  If I were to get to the larger path I must step off my well worn trail and navigate one of those rocky footpaths through brambles and wild bushes.  This is exactly what I did, without even knowing it, when I boarded a plane to Las Vegas last November to speak at the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference.

Friday, April 18

Apple Trees and Asparagus

The apple tree is beginning to bloom and that means I'm craving asparagus.

When I was a child, my favourite story began like this: Once upon a time there was a little house way out in the country . . . There's a reason why The Little House has always fascinated me.  You see, as a girl my aunt and uncle owned an apple orchard way out in the country and I thought this story was about them.

We used to visit every Sunday when the weather was warm.  If you've ever read this story you can envision exactly how the place looked.  The house was up on a hill and out back stretched row upon row of trees fanning out from the house like the tail of a peacock.  In the springtime the trees were covered in pearly white blossoms and the orchard buzzed with a million bees.  When the weather got warmer we'd watch as the tiny green apples swelled and turned as rosy as our cheeks in the summer sun.  In the fall, when the leaves began to change and a cool breeze rustled the heavy branches, the kids would each be handed a paper sack into which we'd gather the fruit that had fallen to the ground.  The best apples were sold at the fruit stand down the road, but the ones on the ground were ours for the keeping, as long as we could wrestle them away from the wasps.  My grandmother would carefully select the apples that were salvageable and cook them down into apple jelly, and jam, and butter, and sauce to eat all winter long.

Along the back fence meandered a tiny stream.  An irrigation ditch, really, but to a city girl like me it was a wonderland, full of adventure and magic.  Bullfrogs hid in the tall, cool grass and garter snakes basked in the sunshine by the water.  Iridescent dragonflies swooped in and out of the cattails as I walked along the edge.  Here and there were placed rickety old boards to act as makeshift bridges.  A parent's nightmare; a kid's dream come true!  They would wobble, creak and crack as my brother and I raced across those boards into patches of white dandelion fluff on the other side.  More than a few times the bridges would tip us into the muddy water below.  I used to daydream under those apple trees, and I promised myself that someday I would live in the country.

But here's the best part.  The part that's not in the story book.  Along with the tall grass, the dandelions, the bullfrogs and snakes grew the most tender, sweetest, most delectable wild asparagus!  In spring, when the trees were in full bloom, the entire family would comb through the grass looking for the thick green spears.  You had to really search, like finding a needle in a haystack, they were well hidden.  But when we found one we'd cut it at the base and stash it in our bag.  We spent hours searching the orchard floor.  "I found one!"  my mother would yell from a few rows away.  "Here are three!" exclaimed my brother near the water where the grass was moist. . .  Like a treasure hunt, we'd filled up bags and bags of wild asparagus to eat throughout the week, and every Sunday there was more to be found.

Thursday, April 10

A Million Flowers, Sugar Glass, and an Improvised Cake

"There are a million flowers in here!" Eve exclaimed when she woke up Saturday morning.  Her sleepy eyes began to sparkle as she took in the sea of flowers that covered the kitchen table.  She was right, maybe not a million, but that morning the table was buried in flowers.  Why?  Because in just a few short hours 8 five-year-olds would head through our door to celebrate Eve's birthday.

Last month, when asked what type of party she wanted, she looked up at me with those big brown eyes and said, in her most persuasive voice, "A Frozen party, of course....with lots of pink roses."  I know you're saying "Not another Frozen party!" because if you have children between the ages of 3 and 16 you've probably had enough of talking snowmen and that song you just can't get out of your head.  And you most certainly know that the store shelves are bare when it comes to Frozen merchandise, whether it's birthday decorations, books, or toys.  So I won't bore you with yet another Frozen birthday party post, because there are about 8,000 of them out there.  (I know, I Googled it.)

No, this post is about a party that didn't exactly happen the way I planned, and it turned out better than I could have ever imagined.  You see, when your daughter gazes up at you with a wisp of bangs in her chocolate eyes, and says "Please, Mommy, can I have a Frozen party?  Pretty please??"  Well, at least you try.  I scrolled through Pinterest and began envisioning a grand, three-tiered cake decorated like Elsa's ice castle and adorned with the Frozen characters.  I think I was more excited about that cake than Eve was.  I ordered the over-priced Frozen play set that is so popular right now (this one) at the beginning of March and congratulated myself for actually planning ahead for once.  Then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  With the day of the party closing in and the cake decorations glaringly absent, I began to panic.