Netflix and Chills: Gran Hotel


Today I am reclaiming the concept of Netflix & Chill because someone has to and because there has to be a voice for people watching a period drama while knitting. Edgy. In Canada good TV shows are few and far between. Regional licensing *yawn* agreements — or lack thereof — mean that the Netflix Canada catalogue accounts for about half of what is available in the U.S. I don’t fancy myself a TV critic, even less a TV writer, but I do fancy myself demanding when it comes to how I waste my time. As such, I decided to share with you my favorite series and movies from the very limited selection available on Netflix Canada, starting with my latest infatuation  obsession, Gran Hotel. (The trailer below is in Spanish only but the Netflix offering has subtitles.)

After Downton Abbey was wrapped-up with a bow and a cherry on top — I like my endings happy and this beautiful series was tied-up with the same flawless class that characterized all 6 seasons – I found myself suffering from a severe case of hangover, which may have been due to my unapologetic crush on everything Matthew Goode . I started scouring Netflix for something, anything, to scratch that itch. Netflix kept suggesting “Grand Hotel” but from the cover pictures I could see that the production — including the costumes, writing and verisimilitude — would not be as tightly spun as my beloved Downton. Well, was I ever right in a wrong way!

 

Cast as the “Spanish Downton Abbey” Gran Hotel — titled “Grand Hotel” on Netflix — is set with the same “upstairs-downstairs” dynamics as Downton Abbey, and that’s about where any possible comparison stops. Where Downton Abbey sought to be a reflection of the era it portrayed, Gran Hotel is using the period as an accessory to its storytelling.

 

The popular series, which ran from 2011 to 2013 in Spain, is offered by Netflix in 3 seasons totaling 65 episodes of about an hour each (so that’s about 100 hours when you factor-in re-watching all the hottest kissing scenes, *coughs* *loosens collar*). The series is in Castilian (European) Spanish with English subtitles. The subtitles are easy to follow — and entertaining for the third season where typos, missing words and the original Spanish sneak-in, suggesting that the translator got as carried away as I did — and the repetitive nature of the plots, roving and twisting around each other, may even allow you to pick-up a few words of Spanish such as disculpe, lo siento and perdon (excuse me, I’m sorry and pardon me). It turns out that Spaniards apologize as much as Canadians do.

 

Each one the three seasons is wrapped around a main plot and a few simple subplots. But unlike American series who like their plots and subplots to go on forever and finish abruptly, Gran Hotel’s writers wound and unwound each plot with satisfying regularity. Questions are answered in ways that are not always believable but consistent once you accept to suspend just enough disbelief to enter into this lavish parallel universe. Gran Hotel is light and satisfying entertainment. There are no zombies, no gore, except for some obvious cinematic blood, and your favorite characters will not be killed willy-nilly. If this is how you like your entertainment, read on as I share — without spoilers except for one that should be obvious from the series’ cover picture — my 7 (plus one)  favorite things about Gran Hotel.

 

1. The romance. Here comes the obvious spoiler: the series is spun around the star-crossed romance between Julio (Yon Gonzalez) and Alicia (Amaia Salamanca). Now, I am a very demanding consumer when it comes to fictional romance and let me tell you, this is one of the most contagious TV romance I’ve seen since Colin Firth longingly beheld Jennifer Ehle in the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice. Gonzalez and Salamanca have incredible chemistry, they burn right through the screen. Pacing is the key to a good romance and this romance is perfectly ordered. It always leaves you yearning for more but never frustrated. Their first kiss — deservedly — won TV awards in Spain and each subsequent one is equally deserving, not to mention the hotter stuff. I’d watch the series just for the kissing, seriously. Add two beautiful actors speaking Spanish to each other with the slow-burning emotionality we’ve come to associate with everything Spaniard and you have a love story playing out without a false note over 60 hours.

2. The pacing. One thing that seriously annoys me in American TV entertainment is the tendency to take viewers within a hairsbreadth of a plot resolution, only to be taken on another round of near discoveries, near deaths and missteps. I heard Gran Hotel aptly described in The Protagonist Podcast — listen here, it takes about 10 minutes to get in gear but it does justice to the first 2 episodes and doesn’t contain any spoilers — as “Downton Abbey meets 24” and it’s a true description. Of course — as with 24 — viewers need to overlook how quickly characters get from one place to the next, get changed and read letters. But I was happy to oblige in exchange for not being taken down some obscure plot rabbit-hole.

 

3.The physicality. Spaniards sure like their face slaps and Gran Hotel actors really know how to put their backs into it. When Julio fights, he fights. At first I found it a little ridiculous, over the top maybe. But I came to appreciate the unrestrained physicality because it carried over to…

 

4. The men-hugs, men-tears and men generally being very expressive with each other. The friendship between Julio and Andrès is real and meaningful and nothing else would explain how Julio can keep his job by so rarely doing it. My British period drama habit had me used to very restrained displays of manly emotions. The spectrum of British male emoting oscillates between angry, outraged and “I’ll go speak to your father…” Julio and Andrès hug, kiss, confide in each other and cry in each other’s arms, while remaining perfectly attractive — and attracted — to the female kind. Fancy that.

 

5. The smoking. The series is a 60 hour long shameless and unrestrained cigarette advertisement. The smoking=sex pipeline is not even thinly veiled. To this Canadian viewer this is entertainment anathema and I love the Spanish for their unapologetic want for political correctness.

 

6. The beauty. This series is visually enchanting. The outdoor scenes were filmed at the historic Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The men are good looking but the women are stunning in a non-Hollywood kind of way. The make-up was purposely kept to a very natural look, allowing us to truly appreciate the beauty of the ladies. Except for a few shots of bare backs throughout the 3 seasons, everyone keeps their clothes mostly on, even the few sex scenes are tasteful and understated. The beauty and romanticism are wrought through acting only and this is a feat that should be attempted by American entertainment sometimes.

Women of Gran Hotel

 

7. The cheese. There is some seriously awesome cheese in Gran Hotel. From oodles of fake blood, to a Laurel & Hardy-like policemen duet, to Julio digging his own grave with his shirt off, fighting with his shirt off, looking for a lost button with his shirt off, to babies being born completely clean and as chubby as 3 month-olds, to weird twists and turns in unlikely plot lines, Gran Hotel has a soap-operatic quality that would be overwhelming if it wasn’t for how honestly it comes by it. Embrace the cheese, don’t fight it.

(Plus one) * A word of warning to my Catholic readers. I know that many Catholics are sick and tired of the perpetually negative portrayal of the Catholic Church in entertainment. The third season of Gran Hotel features a plot line involving an affair with a Catholic priest. If you can’t stand the sight of a Catholic priest behaving badly, you might need to give the Padre Grau story-line a pass. I found it tolerable myself because unlike in American entertainment where he would have been portrayed as a cruel or sick pervert, Padre Grau comes across as just another sinner, which most priests of my knowledge would admit to be. Every single character in Gran Hotel has a morally questionable dimension. Everyone has a secret, everyone hides something, protects someone, makes poor decisions. The Catholic priest is just as sinful as the rest of the cast, no more, no less. Otherwise, Catholic ceremonies and Sacraments are portrayed tastefully and many a thing are left “en las manos de Nuestro Señor” (in the hands of Our Lord).

Et voilà! Gran Hotel is the stuff cult followings are made of and considering how much fun I had looking-up links and information for this post, I am in grave danger of booking a themed tour of Spain’s Mediterranean coastline soon. This is a series that remains true to itself from start to finish and consistently treats its viewership with respect. If you have a taste for pure escapism entertainment, book at night — or 20 — at the Gran Hotel.

Julio y Alicia

 

 

 

A miscarriage debrief Part II


 

I wrote the first part of this debrief about 6 weeks after my miscarriage last September. Now that my due date has come and gone, I find myself dealing with a new range of emotions as I move past the shock of the miscarriage itself and into the realization of the broader ramifications of recovering from a significant health crisis.

 

I started showing signs of peri-menopause after the twins were born when I was 37. Low progesterone, erratic cycles, just the usual. When my husband and I decided to have another child in 2015, we knew that I was walking into a growing chance of miscarriage. I had never miscarried before but I knew enough women who had been through this ordeal not to expect to be spared forever. Through the years, pregnancy after pregnancy, I had always been acutely aware of my luck and of the increasing likelihood that it would eventually run out.

 

We conceived in May of 2015. I took a pregnancy test as soon as my periods were late and it came back negative. As my periods got later and later and pregnancy tests kept showing a negative result, I knew that this pregnancy was probably precarious. I took a third test, this one positive and my periods started the next day. It was a non-event. We celebrated the tiny flicker of life that had dwelled in me privately, without informing our children or our families. We were thankful that we had “tried” for this one. That we had known from day 1 that it was a possibility. The next cycle, I got pregnant again. This time, a strong positive test informed us of the existence of our baby number 10. We told our families right away and started informing friends and acquaintances as we saw them in person. It was an ideal pregnancy. For once I didn’t have any nausea. I started wearing maternity clothes in August and I met with my new midwife in early September. When I met my midwife, she offered to listen to the baby’s heartbeat adding: “I don’t like searching for a heartbeat at 10 weeks because we often don’t hear it and it really makes parents nervous.” I assured her that I knew what was in the realm of possibilities and we searched, in vain, for a heartbeat. I kept a brave face because I knew that 10 weeks was too early but in previous pregnancies I had always been able to hear a heartbeat at my first appointment. In other words, “normal” wasn’t normal for me.

 

The next day, I started seeing some spotting. “Bleeding is not normal but it’s common” my midwife told me, “you don’t need to do anything unless the bleeding becomes a concern.” And so I waited. I relied on the encouraging words of friends who had gone through episodes of bleeding and visualized myself at an ultrasound being showed a healthy beating heart and a pesky hematoma.

 

Two days shy of completing my 12th week of pregnancy, I was in the basement with my husband sorting through all the newborn clothes when I started bleeding heavily. I was not feeling any cramping or contractions, it was like my body was trying to flush the fetus by opening the faucet. I headed for the hospital wearing three menstrual pads and sitting on a towel.

 

I soaked through everything during the 20-minute drive to the hospital. I immediately went to the bathroom as I felt a giant blood clot coming through. It was so big that it fell in the toilet with a splash and splattered blood all over the walls and the floor. I called the nurse for help and she casually walked-in, flushed the toilet and helped me back to my gurney. Was it my fetus? I will never know. A few hours later when the gynecologist was able to remove the retained tissue causing the hemorrhage there was only parts of a tiny placenta, a tiny cord and a tiny, ripped-up, sac left. I told my husband to take pictures of whatever came out. That’s all I have, along with my unshakable belief in my fetus’ unique, eternal soul.

 

I eventually passed out from the blood loss a few minutes after joking: “I can bleed like this for *days* with no side effect!!” — loosely quoting Meet the Robinsons because what else are you going to do while everyone is watching you miscarry but quote Disney movies? I fought it hard until a nurse told me: “You’re in a hospital, we’re here, you’re lying down, you can go.” Suddenly, there was no more pain and no more worry. I was completely comfortable even as I felt and heard people rushing around me, insert an IV into each of my arm and push a bolus of saltwater into my body. I knew that there was nothing I could do but pray and let people do their work. I remembered a friend who was in labor and thought that I could offer-up my loss for her son’s healthy birth. So I prayed and I floated. There was nothing else I could do but rest in the arms of God and trust. I still remember the supernatural calm and clarity of the time I spent “under” with a smile.

 

I’m telling you all this because before my miscarriage I thought that I would handle miscarriage with sadness but also an understanding that pregnancy loss was an integral part of the experience of motherhood. When I lost the first pregnancy in May, I knew that my low progesterone would make it difficult to carry a pregnancy past the first few weeks and I thought that I would keep trying. Now, I must come to terms with the fact that even trying to conceive in the current circumstances would be unhealthy. Walking into repeated miscarriages is more than an exercise in accepting God’s will, as I have read in some forums, it’s a gamble with your health. A miscarriage can be as straightforward as a heavy period or it may cause a hemorrhage, require surgery, a blood transfusion or even a hysterectomy. We simply don’t know how and when our bodies will pull the plug on a pregnancy and this has been, for me, a very painful realization. Can I sacrifice my health — a health that is not only my own but that of the family who depends on me — to have the child that I so painfully desire?

 

Lately, I have been struggling with the notion of sacrificial love. The Catholic Church — to which I belong — is all about sacrificial love. In the Catholic Church, nothing should be held back from God. Our lives are not our own. We know that Heaven is opened to those who are “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” This self-sacrificing perfection is acquired in this world or in the next through purgatory — but it must be acquired before we can rise to eternal life. Saints’ stories are rife with men and women who have sacrificed their health and even their lives in the pursuit of holiness. But it is equally rife with stories of ordinary people seeking holiness through quiet, ordinary lives, in their work, their families and their communities. Is the desire for another child a sign that I am called to offer-up my health in the pursuit of self-sacrificial love? Or, if we believe as the Evangelist Matthew tells us, that where our treasure is, there our heart is also, is the desire for another child the earthly attachment that needs to be offered-up, sacrificed?

 

This is the discernment that has been gripping my heart and my soul since the due date that wasn’t. While I was still supposed to be pregnant, I was struggling with the loss of what should have been. But when the friends and acquaintances who were due at the same time I was started welcoming their babies earthside, the bellies lost their anonymity and their babies were obviously not mine. I shed the feeling of present loss like a snakeskin and moved into foreboding, a realization that the future would look very different from what I thought it would be. In discerning whether I am called to sacrifice my health or my desire for another child, this fear is telling. Fear is never from God. When I start comparing myself to others and feeling like I “only” have 9 children, when I start feeling inadequate because I didn’t have a certain number of children, when the desire for another child overshadows my gratitude for my existing 9 amazing children, when I start feeling less, when I see a mother of 10, 11, 12 as more worthy than I am, I know that I am idolizing a larger family, that I am beholding a golden calf. Sacrifices should not be easy. When getting pregnant despite the health implications appears easier than accepting the end of my reproductive years as it is, I know where I need to direct my spiritual gaze.

 

And thus I will give until it hurts, a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, as I know that it will be returned to me in eternity where I will finally meet the children I never had.

Canada Parachute edit

Des nouvelles de la famille, Volume III


Bonjour à tous de la part du clan! Il y a longtemps que je vous dois des nouvelles fraîches et des photos récentes.  Les journées sont longues mais les semaines sont courtes : soudainement nous sommes aux portes du printemps – le printemps ontarien, il faut le préciser, encore à plusieurs pas des fleurs et des sandales – et il y a 3 mois que je n’ai rien publié.

L’hiver s’est poursuivi tel qu’il avait commencé, au ralenti, toujours au rythme de ma récupération. Je suis passée sous le scalpel du dentiste juste avant Noël, ça m’a fait un beau trou dans la bouche, complet avec greffe osseuse, points de sutures et antibiotiques. J’ai trinqué la nouvelle année aux substituts de repas liquides, bien loin du champagne. Éventuellement, j’ai récupéré, repris du poil de la bête. Nous avons célébré Noël en compagnie de nos enfants et de nos familles respectives et la simplification forcée n’a en aucune manière tempérée notre joie de revoir nos parents, frères, sœurs, neveux et nièces.

Décembre 2015
Décembre 2015
Décembre en shorts
Décembre en shorts

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25 décembre versus 1 janvier
25 décembre versus 1 janvier

 

L’hiver était doux et la neige s’est fait attendre. Nous avons passé un joli Noël presque vert, ou plutôt brunâtre le froid ayant jauni l’herbe et dénudé les arbres. Les enfants ont fait du vélo en shorts à l’aube de la nouvelle année, précédant la toute première bordée par quelques minutes, comme l’auraient fait des cyclistes de compétition essayant de battre le nuage aux joues gonflées de tempête. Nous avons rapidement troqué les pédales pour les skis et saisi avec enthousiasme  le bras du bonhomme hiver.

Janvier, février, mars et avril se sont égrenés au rythme des semaines. Colin, qui étudie l’administration des affaires au Collège militaire royal, vient souvent nous visiter de Kingston pour la fin de semaine, Clara a terminé son entraînement militaire de base et poursuit ses études en biologie à l’Université d’Ottawa. Éloïse et Marie continuent leur programme d’études à domicile. Éloïse travaille comme coach de gymnastique en ville et le rythme de ses quarts de travail ponctue la logistique de notre famille : nous profitons de ces sorties en ville pour y faire l’épicerie, rencontrer des amis ou aller voir un film en l’attendant. Marie et Éloïse poursuivent leur entraînement de gymnastique mais ont cessé la compétition. Nous semblons avoir trouvé un point d’équilibre et notre vie familiale, quoique toujours mouvementée, en tire tout le bénéfice.

Paul travaille, Véronique gère, les enfants remuent et le dindon dîne… Ça n’empêche pas que dans les mois d’été, les mitaines se mitent. 

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Cabane à sucre Fortune près de la maison
Cabane à sucre Fortune près de la maison

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Le printemps devrait approcher mais alors que j’écris ces lignes un lourd manteau de neige mouillée recouvre la région d’Ottawa. Les enfants refusent pourtant d’accepter ce revers de Dame Nature et s’entêtent à chevaucher leurs vélos. David et Sarah se sont entichés d’ornithologie et armés de leurs nouvelles jumelles sortent tous les jours observer les canards qui ont élu un domicile temporaire dans nos champs détrempés. Damien meurt de les accompagner et  ne comprend pas pourquoi un bambin de 23 mois n’est pas le bienvenu auprès des férus d’observation tranquille. Sa patte de velours est encore en développement.

Les fêtes de Pâques ont succédées à celles de Noël, parsemées d’anniversaires. Marie avec la nouvelle année, puis Éloïse, Sarah, Paul et David. Les Pâques hâtives de 2016 ont laissé les anniversaires de Clara et Damien, généralement célébrés au cours de la semaine Pascale, pour plus tard. Cette année, la fin de semaine de Pâques a été marquée par le décès de notre amie Sylvie, la belle-mère de ma sœur Sophie. Le cancer métastatique a emporté le corps de Sylvie mais nous savons que son âme est toujours à nos côtés. La fin de semaine dernière, j’ai eu le privilège de me rendre à Sherbrooke pour les funérailles de Sylvie. C’est aux côtés de mon père que j’ai eu l’occasion de réfléchir sur les traces que nous laissons en ce monde avant de rejoindre le prochain. J’ai eu l’occasion de voir ma sœur réconforter son mari, mon beau-frère, qui a perdu sa maman à l’aube de sa vie de papa. J’ai eu le plaisir d’entendre mon frère et son épouse partager leur talent immense et chanter, permettant à nos sens de saisir la beauté qui transcende la vie et la mort, de toucher l’éternel. Je n’ai pas choisi mes parents, mes frères et sœurs, ou les gens avec lesquels ils ont décidé de bâtir leur vie, mon beau-frère et ma belle-sœur. Ces gens qui m’ont été donnés comme un cadeau que je n’ai pas mérité mais que je reçois avec une reconnaissance empreinte d’humilité.

À la fin de la messe funéraire, un moment d’une grande beauté m’a saisi par les tripes, qu’il n’a toujours pas relâchées. La famille de Sylvie a déposé des grains d’encens dans une coupe en étain. Le prêtre, vêtu de sa chasuble blanche, tenait la coupe à bout de bras, vers le ciel, alors que l’encens brûlait, montant en volutes vers la coupole de l’église. Par cette journée de grisaille printanière, le soleil s’est découvert juste à temps pour percer les vitraux de ses rayons et rencontrer la fumée qui s’élevait  en tourbillons de plus en plus épais et de plus en plus rapides. Le prêtre a tenu la pose pour la durée de la pièce Spiegel im Spiegel, dans un moment d’une beauté imposante dans son intensité et sa signifiance. Je suis partie des funérailles de Sylvie plus vivante que je n’y était entrée, avec un sens d’avoir reçu un flambeau, une mission. On m’a remercié d’être venue d’Ottawa mais j’ai en réalité reçu beaucoup plus que je n’ai donné. Merci.

Nous continuons notre petit bout de chemin accompagnés de nos enfants. J’ai commencé à poser les assises d’un roman que j’espère pouvoir mener à terme malgré le doute qui m’assaille à chaque tournant. J’ai encore plusieurs projets de publication sur l’art de ne pas laisser les enfants mourir de faim ainsi que le dévelopment de ma chaîne YouTube et de mon blogue. Ces projets évoluent encore au ralenti, empiégés par l’inexorabilité du temps qui passe, des enfants qui grandissent, des repas et de l’enseignement à domicile. Si vous trouvez une recette infaillible pour la maison qui se range seule et pour ajouter 6 heures à mes journées, je suis toute oreilles.

Requiem for a blog


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.

 

 

 

Large Family Eating: Without pictures, sadly


* 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

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.

TUESDAY

On Tuesday, we ate some beef (again?) curry from the freezer with white rice and broccoli.

WEDNESDAY

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?

THURSDAY

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.

FRIDAY

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.

SUNDAY

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.

Large family eating: the breakfast edition


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?

Collage_Bacon

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.

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