Sunday, December 09, 2012

ooga Mealtime Set makes Eating Fun for Little Ones!


I was very fortunate to recently receive an ooga®Mealtime Set from the kind folks at distributor, 2 Blue Ducks.

The cute silicone set comes with a bowl and two spoons. What makes this product unique?  It is microwave safe, dishwasher safe, freezer safe and, get this, oven safe.  Not to mention that when your toddler inevitably throws his or her bowl on the floor it will not break!  Of course they are also BPA free and not made with any harsh chemicals.

The Mealtime Set comes in an array of colours and one spoon is fashioned as an airplane while the other is a train.  Who hasn't done the old `open up the hangar, here comes the airplane` trick or `chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo!` in an effort to get their little one to open up?  I know I have and my son eagerly opened his mouth for these super-cute spoons. 

 If you`re not sold yet, here is some additional information about the set from the ooga website:

 About silicone:
  • Will not corrode or deteriorate like plastic products
  • Silicone will not support the growth of fungus, mold or bacteria
  • Silicone is odourless and tasteless
  • Silicone is heat resistant, microwave safe & dishwasher safe
Cleaning and care:
  • Safe for dishwasher, microwave, oven, freezer & electric sterilizers
  • Stains may be removed by washing with hot soapy water
  • Dry products with a towel to avoid water-marks
  • Store products in a dry place
  • Do not store the products in direct sunlight
 You can also click on Where to Buy on the ooga website if you would like to pick one up for your special little one.  Great gift idea for Christmas too, don't you think?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Must-Read for Everyone: With the [Stroke] of a Pen, Claim Your Life by Jane Blaufaus

Back in October I attended a fabulous conference for women bloggers called She’s Connected.  I met all kinds of amazing women, some of whom I’d gotten to know online (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and some I was fortunate enough to meet by chance. 

Jane Blaufaus, author of With the [Stroke] of a Pen, Claim Your Life, was one of those women I was fortunate enough to be sitting at a table with during a couple of sessions at the conference.  Along with her publicist and friend, Rania Walker, Jane was not only attending the conference but she was also there to share her story and her book.

Jane’s story is one of tragedy and triumph.  She lost her husband in a plane crash when she was just 39 years old.  Suddenly a single mother and head of the household, Jane soon found that she had a lot to learn and a lot of hurdles to overcome. 

With the [Stroke] of a Pen is a real, no-holds-barred story about what it’s like to lose your spouse and the aftermath that ensues. Jane tells it like it is.  It’s full of emotion but also full of practical advice.  If you’ve never lost someone close to you it is impossible to know or to imagine all of the details and everything you must do in the days, months, and even years following a death. 

Having recently lost my Dad, I can tell you that there are decisions you’ll be making and details you’ll be taking care of that you won’t want to think about.  Things happen fast and you need to be prepared.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to educate yourself about your spouse or parent’s final wishes, finances and personal matters, but also to ensure that all of these things are in order for yourself.  There is nothing more difficult than having to make decisions in the midst of grief.  I know this first-hand. 

With the [Stroke] of a Pen also provides a summary of key take-aways following each chapter and comprehensive checklists at the end of the book.  Everything from what you need to talk to your life insurance advisor about to pre-arranging your funeral is covered in these checklists.  It truly is food for thought.

Nobody wants to talk about dying or about losing someone they love, but it does and will happen to all of us.  Have those conversations and pick up this book to help you.  You will be glad that you did.

Note:  I was provided with a complimentary copy of Jane’s book at the conference – thank you!  All opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated to write this blog post.  This subject matter is important and these conversations necessary! 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Chatelaine Magazine is my Go-To Resource for Easy Weeknight Meals

Meal planning is a top priority for me and makes life so much easier on busy weeknights.  While I love to experiment and try new recipes, I also like to ensure that what I choose to cook for my family has familiar ingredients and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
Time and again the recipes I try from Chatelaine magazine are winners on all counts: quick, easy, familiar ingredients and, most importantly, delicious. The food editor of this Canadian icon has really got it right by providing fantastic recipes and meal ideas.
I’ve been known to rip out recipe pages from Chatelaine at the doctor’s office (shhhh, don’t tell!) but absolutely love the online food and recipe section of their website.  With features like meal plans, grocery lists and 30-minute meals the site makes it easy to find what you’re looking for and help you to plan ahead. 
Screenshot from
Here are some of my favourites, with my notes, that have become regulars in our dinner rotation.  Click on the titles to be redirected to the recipes.

Pork and Pepper Stroganoff
So fast, so easy, so tasty.  I omit the jalapeno (for my toddler’s sake) and serve it over egg noodles. 

Hong Kong Chicken Curry 
A great recipe to use up carrots and potatoes.  Adjust the spice to your taste.  I double it!   The recipe calls for chicken thighs, but boneless, skinless breasts would work too.

Spicy Garlic Noodles with Pork 
This is the most requested meal in my house.  Extremely fast to prepare and full of flavour, I serve it over rice stick noodles (which cook in 3 minutes!) instead of pasta.  

Singapore Noodles 
I’ve added broccoli to this one too, and I always omit the shrimp (personal preference).  I add extra curry powder too.  We like curry, in case you couldn’t tell…
This is a nice alternative to the usual ground meat chili.  I have used canned chipotle chilis in adobo sauce.  Be careful though, they are spicy!
Juicy and tasty, indeed.  Serve it with some roasted potatoes, homemade tzatziki sauce (SUPER easy to make) and a green veggie.  A simple but flavourful dinner.

If you’re looking for inspiration for dinner (or any meal, really) make sure you stop by or pick up this month’s issue.  You won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

30 Days into my 90-Day Weight-Loss Challenge and a Challenge it is…

I’ve been taking Green Coffee Bean Extract for a full thirty days now so I thought it was time for an update.  I was excited to receive the product and get started because I want (and need) to lose a significant amount of weight. 

As mentioned in my first post about this challenge there was one notable clinical study completed with green coffee bean extract in which the study subjects did not change their eating or exercise habits at all while taking the supplement and lost weight.  That sounded simple to me so I decided to do the same thing – not change anything else, just carry on as usual while taking green coffee bean extract. 
Image courtesy of Keattikorn at
The first week the scale moved to the tune of a loss of five pounds!  I was in disbelief and very excited.  I carried on as I was, anticipating more weight loss and hopefully at the same rate.  Unfortunately, however, the scale started to creep up during week two ending up right back where I started.  
Over the next two weeks or so my weight fluctuated by a pound more or less but it is hovering around pretty much exactly the number I started at.  How disappointing. 

I will continue to take Green Coffee Bean Extract but my intelligent, rational self knows that the only way to really lose weight and keep it off is to change my eating habits and exercise.  Wish me luck as I tackle this challenge head on.   Do you have any weight loss tips to share with me?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

When it Comes to Eggs, I'm a Tough One to Crack

I don't like eggs.  I don't like the way they smell when they're cooking or how they taste, or their texture - especially scrambled.  Yuck. There, I said it. Think I'm nuts?  I am, a little, I know.  I also don't like hot dogs and have never eaten one. I vividly remember being at birthday parties as a child and feeling ashamed of not wanting to eat the hot dog placed before me but being too shy or scared to speak up.  I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches at those parties back in the day.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, EGGS.  

I know that eggs are good for you, in moderation, and pack a lot of protein; something I feel I need more of, especially in the morning.  So, in an effort to start my day with more protein and less carbs (after all, my 90 day weight loss challenge is underway) I made some egg "muffins" today.  

In order for said muffins to be edible the "other stuff" to egg ratio must be very high.  So, I chopped up some purple onion, Black Forest ham, celery, mushrooms and red pepper and sauteed it all.  Now that looks good. 

 Meanwhile, I whisked together 6 eggs, some milk and some grated sharp cheddar in a bowl.

I added the sauteed veggies and ham to the egg mixture, then using a ladle, filled 6 muffin cups (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray first). 

I baked them at 325F for about 20 minutes.  You may need to adjust the cooking time. I took them out when they looked ready.  

Much to my delight, they are actually pretty good!  They don't have a strong egg taste at all - nothing that a bit of ketchup won't mask anyway ;) 

If you have any tips on cooking eggs so that they don't taste like eggs, I'd love to hear them! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Happy National Guacamole Day!

It's no secret that I like to enter contests online.  I figure the few minutes of typing in a form are worth it if I happen to win something and lately it seems I've had a bit of a horseshoe up my you-know-what.  I've won four contests in the last few weeks, the first one being some free guacamole, a Diary of a Wimpy Kid DVD and some guac swag from Wholly Guacamole.  You may have seen their products in grocery stores lately - guacamole, salsa and avocado chopped and ready to use.  Yum! 

After winning this awesome prize I joined Wholly Guacamole's blogger group, the Guac Squad (see the I Heart Guac button over there <---- and down a bit?), and was so excited when I learned that September 16th was National Guacamole Day!  In case you haven't heard, I have a serious love of avocados and could eat guacamole every day!  

Although I have those awesome coupons for free guac, in honour of this day I am going to make my own.  I don`t follow a recipe, really, but the key is fresh ingredients.  Here`s what my guacamole is made of:

2 ripe (but not too ripe) Hass Avocados
Lime juice (a tablespoon, maybe two)
1 tomato, seeds removed and diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
A handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (leaves only)
Sea salt

I advise to err on the side of caution with the lime juice, garlic and salt.  You can always add more to taste.  
The Guac and chips I made today! Chips are simply corn tortillas brushed with olive oil,
salted and baked on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.

If you aren`t up to making your own guacamole, Wholly Guacamole has a coupon for you (there's a link below the scissors for Canadians!).  Just click HERE

Happy National Guacamole Day!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My 90-Day Weight Loss Challenge with Green Coffee Bean Extract

I never paid the Dr. Oz show much mind, but while on maternity leave, I found myself watching it on occasion simply out of curiosity and sometimes as a simple mindless distraction.  It really amazed me how almost every day he was touting the benefits of this supplement or the other, this food or that one and more often than not his show is about weight loss.  It is dizzying trying to keep up with everything he says you should or should not eat, take, or do!

The day that Dr. Oz talked about Green Coffee Bean Extract was no different than any other day.  I watched, didn’t pay much attention and forgot about it.  But then I started hearing more about this purported miracle weight loss extract.  I came across Creative BioScience’s website through other bloggers and decided to check their site out and see what they had to offer.  Turns out they have a lot to offer and are willing to sponsor bloggers to try their products, including Green Coffee Bean Extract.  You can apply to the program too by contacting them here

There isn’t a lot of information out there about Green Coffee Bean Extract but there was one clinical study done and the results were quite remarkable.  Significant reductions were observed in body weight, body mass index and body fat.  There was also a small decrease in heart rate.  The best part for this foodie was that the test subjects made no significant changes to their diet over the course of the study.

The “magic” ingredient found only in raw coffee beans is called chlorogenic acid.  Studies have shown that it stops blood sugar spikes, inhibits fat absorption and also stimulates fat metabolism in the liver.  Sounds good to me, so I think I’ll give it a try.

I am anxiously awaiting my 90-day supply of Green Coffee Bean Extract from Creative Bioscience and can’t wait to get started on this journey.  I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my progress.  Wish me luck! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Patience is a Virtue and I'm not very Virtuous...

This is going to be short but probably not sweet!  I'm typing with only my left hand while my right is in a cast. Long story short - had a small ganglion cyst on right wrist that was causing me grief surgically removed last week, put in cast for a week as cyst was on joint and important it is immobilized while healing.  Casts are NO FUN!  I can't imagine having one for 6 weeks or longer.  I have new found sympathy for cast wearers and I can't wait to get this thing off.  I feel utterly useless and helpless.  My brain moves much faster than my left hand can type which I find super frustrating!  I can't wait till Wednesday!!

So with the surgery, recovery and an incredibly busy time at work, my poor blog is being neglected.  I do have some posts planned in the pipeline and more guest posts slotted for the upcoming weeks like a book review (can't WAIT to start reading it), a review of an exciting new treat available at DQ as well as becoming a contributor to the DQ Blog (my first post will be in early October).

I'm heading to Orlando, Florida next week for the annual Children's Miracle Network Celebration and I can hardly wait.  Last time I went I met and had my photo taken with one of CMN's founders, BO DUKE, um, I mean, John Schneider. He'll be there again this year along with his co-founder, Marie Osmond.  Cool! 

Me and John Schneider in 2010 (yes, he's freakishly tall and yes, I'm freakishly short!)

I'm also getting super excited to attend the She's Connected Conference in October. There is so much to learn and so many great people to meet, I am overwhelmed, in a good way, thinking about it! It's not too late to register if you haven't already.

On the home front, B seems to be off to a good start in Grade 11 (OMG) and will be part of the Crew for the school's musical production of Little Shop of Horrors. Can't wait to see it!  O starts a FREE Suzuki Music program in October that I am very excited about.  The children are going to be studied by a group of McMaster University researchers as well.  It should be fun, O loves music and loves to dance!

OK, that's enough of typing with one hand!  Over and out!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Avocado Fries. Yes.

In my constant search for new things to do with avocados I found this recipe for avocado fries.  Avocado – good.  Fries – good.  Together – sounds heavenly!  I rarely, actually never, deep fry anything, but these sounded too good not to try.   And besides, all of the wonderful nutritious health benefits of avocados must outweigh the fat and calories of deep frying, right?  RIGHT?  ;)

The avocados I used were perfect; soft enough to easily cut open and scoop out wedges but firm enough that they didn’t fall apart.  I’m getting good at this avocado selection thing.  Lucky for me I posted the recipe on Facebook saying I was going to make these fries and a friend commented that she had just made them but had added parmesan cheese to the bread crumbs.  Not one to turn my nose up at adding cheese to anything, I followed her advice and added the parm.  GREAT addition to the coating – thanks Alison! 

I just couldn’t bring myself to put three to four inches of oil in a pan (fear of grease fire, fear of arteries closing up, fear of using a whole bottle of canola oil!), so I poured maybe half an inch in the pan and heated it up.  The fries cooked up nicely and once they were golden on one side I flipped them over.  Letting them drain on paper towels on a plate is essential to avoid said arterial closures (and soggy fries).  

A cilantro lemon dipping sauce recipe was also included with the avocado fries, but we don’t regularly stock mayo in our fridge, so I had to improvise with something else.  I thought a spicy dip would be a nice accompaniment so I simply mixed sour cream with Sriracha sauce (you know, rooster sauce).  Perfect.  The slightly tangy and hot sauce complimented the creamy avocado and crispy coating.  

Although they were delicious, I am not sure I’ll make these again because of the frying in oil element.  However, I have also found a recipe for baked avocado fries so I think I’ll try those next.  I’ll be sure to let you know how they turned out. 

Do you have any avocado recipes you can share with me? 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Love DQ: a Sweet Gift Card Giveaway!

As you may know, I work for Dairy Queen Canada in the Marketing department and I. LOVE. MY. JOB.  I happened upon it almost four years ago and although I had no marketing or QSR (quick-service restaurant) experience, my wonderful boss was willing to take a chance on me and hired me.  It's been great ever since!

This is the first job in my adult life that I truly love and enjoy going to every day.  Sure, I've worked places before where I liked the environment, the people, the company, but I never loved the actual work.  Until now!  My job runs the gamut from administrative responsibilities (calendar management, travel arrangements, etc.) to communications (weekly e-news to our franchisees and managing our corporate Facebook page).  I also plan meetings (next stop: Disney World in September - I kid you not!) and assist with public relations and events (I was part of the team that broke the Guinness World Record for World's Largest Ice Cream Cake in 2011!!).  Pretty sweet job if you ask me - pun intended.

Before I even started working for DQ, I loved it.  It conjures up nostalgic feelings and brings me to a really happy place.  Growing up in a small town in Ontario, DQ was one of the only options for burgers, fries and ice cream.  It was such a special treat to go to DQ for a meal followed by a dipped cone, a sundae or a Mr. Misty slushy (now called Arctic Rush).  I remember when Blizzards debuted and there were only a few flavours (Smarties, Reese's Pieces, OREO) and how delicious and innovative they were.  As a teen and young adult one of my best friends and I would hit DQ for Peanut Buster Parfaits while we gossiped or lamented about our latest heartbreak.  Today, I love to indulge in a Blizzard treat when I'm happy, sad, or just anytime, really!  While I was on maternity leave I treated myself to the Blizzard of the Month without missing a single one.  There were some fabulous new flavours over the course of the year!  

The giveaway is now closed and a winner has been selected.  Thank you to everyone who participated! 
DQ has been so good to me and they'd like to be good to you - my readers - too!  You can enter to win a $25 Dairy Queen gift card* by following the simple instructions below.

Each option below is worth 1 entry into the draw.  Winners will be selected using  Draw will take place on September 12th and the winner will be notified by email and announced on Twitter by me, @pennesthoughts.  All options below are not required, however, they will increase your chances of winning by giving you multiple entries! 

1) Leave a comment on this post letting me know what your favourite DQ treat or food item is (don't forget to leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win).

2) Follow me on Twitter: @pennesthoughts and leave a comment on this post with your Twitter name.

3) Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment on this post with a link to your tweet. See instructions below on how to find your tweet link. Suggested tweet copy: Sweet @DQCanada gift card giveaway by @pennesthoughts! Enter here:

4) Follow @DQCanada on Twitter (leave a comment on this post that you have done so along with your Twitter name). 

Good luck! 

To find your tweet link, go to your Twitter profile page, hover over the time in the right hand corner of your tweet, click on it, then copy and paste the URL from the page where that tweet resides. See image below.

*The gift card is valid at Canadian Dairy Queen and Orange Julius stores only.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Baby Photography

I would normally take the camera away from Oliver pretty fast when he gets his wet/sticky/grimy 1-year-old hands on it, but today I was impressed that he figured out how to turn it on and then took multiple photographs.  Of course, the photos aren't of anything in particular, but way to go O!  :)  

Here are some of his photos:

I have no idea what this is, we were watching the Food Network!

Yes, we have cream coloured furniture.  Purchased before baby, obviously...

cute little foot

Nice fern

another foot shot

So artistic...

looking over his shoulder

Avocado Berry Smoothie

I absolutely love avocados for many reasons, not the least of which is how nutritious they are. I have a board dedicated to my avocado love on Pinterest and have recently found myself pinning all kinds of avocado smoothies, so I decided to try one for breakfast this morning!

I didn't follow a recipe, per se, but I did have ingredients in mind based on recipes I had seen. This is basically what I included:

1/4 cup (approx) plain Greek yogurt
Half a ripe avocado, sliced
A handful of blueberries
5 strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup (approx) milk 
1 teaspoon (approx) vanilla extract

I threw everything into the Baby Bullet (love this little blender!) and mixed it up.  The verdict:  very thick, but very tasty!  I would add a few ice cubes and maybe a bit more milk next time.  I ended up eating it with a spoon out of a glass.  It was super filling and Baby O kept coming back for more too.  

I will definitely try this again and experiment with the ingredients. I bet a little honey and some raspberries would make yummy additions!

Have you ever made an avocado smoothie?  How did it turn out?  I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If a Writer Writes then am I a Writer?

I've always had aspirations of being a writer and I dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book or my byline in a magazine.  Throughout my school career - from primary to post-secondary - I loved to write and was pretty good at it (or so teachers and others told me).  I wrote a lot of short stories in my younger days and even had one of my plays turned into a live production at the school Christmas pageant.  In high school I could write an essay like it was nobody's business, no matter what the topic, and have always been an avid reader. 

So why, you may ask, didn't I choose to study English at university and hone my craft? Your guess is as good as mine.  Who knows at 17 or 18 years YOUNG what they're really good at and what they'd like to spend their life doing?  Not me.  I think there are those rare exceptions who knew from a young age that they wanted to be a teacher/doctor/plumber, but I surely didn't.  I wish that a teacher or guidance counsellor had pointed me in a direction towards something I was good at, but I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. 

Although I don't have any related post-secondary credentials, I am very fortunate to have a job that I love in the marketing department at Dairy Queen Canada.  My job is challenging, busy, ever-changing and fun.  We don't have a 'slow time'; we're always working on the next project and planning a year ahead.  My responsibilities include communications, assisting with public relations, planning meetings and events, and the best part - working closely with Children's Miracle Network - a partnership that Dairy Queen has had for over 28 years.

So what does my job have to do with writing? Being in my late 30's (ouch) I know myself better and what I like to do and what I'm good at.  My current job has helped me to understand that.  I've decided to use any "spare time" (ha-ha) that I have to practice and build a portfolio of writing.  To that end, I contacted a few great, reputable Mom Bloggers and asked if I could guest post for them.  I am so excited to say that my first guest post was published yesterday on Multi-Testing Mommy!  I've been offered guest spots on two other blogs and can't wait to get started.  Ideas are swirling around in my head and I'm trying to find my groove and my niche where writing is concerned.  

If you're looking for a guest-poster for your blog, please contact me!  I like to write about food and cooking (I am a hardcore meal planner who tries at least 2-3 new recipes per week), life with a teen and a baby (yes, I have 2 sons born 15 years apart), health and beauty products (I LOVE makeup and lip gloss and will try ANY anti-aging products), books (I'll read just about anything) and baby/toddler products.

For now, I'm off to get those ideas that are swirling around in my head onto paper... well, electronic paper that is! 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gastropost - Food Missions for Food Lovers

As I mentioned in my July update, about a month ago I came across Gastropost, a special weekend feature in the National Post.  I was intrigued when I read the tagline, "food missions for food lovers" and decided to become a member. 

I signed up, set up a Tumblr account and anxiously awaited my first mission (delivered by e-mail on Thursdays).  Missions are simple to complete.  You just need to eat, buy, bake or cook the subject food mission, take a photo and write a short blurb about it.  Easy peasy.  It was so exciting to see my byline in the National Post for the first time on July 21st. 

The posts are abbreviated for the newspaper and include your mission photo and your very own Gastrosketch (a drawing based on a head shot you send in). You also get your own page on Gastropost's site with your bio and all of your completed missions.  How cool is that?  

I'm excited to say that I've now been in the National Post four times!  The missions are fun and inspire me to get creative in the kitchen.  This week's mission is food on a stick and I can't wait to get started on it! 

If you love food, like to take photos of it and write about it, then you can join too. New members are always welcome!  Join today at:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fifty Shades of Boring...

I admit, I fell prey to all the hype surrounding the Fifty Shades of Grey series and eagerly and excitedly ordered the trilogy post-haste.  I was keyed up to dig into this naughty piece of fiction that promised to tantalize and delight.

A few chapters in, I was already disappointed.  Maybe it’s my “advanced” age of 38 but a story about a couple of twenty-somethings didn’t appeal to me.  At the tender age of 27, Christian Grey is barely what I would call a man.  I was hoping for characters with more depth and life experience.  A somewhat older man in his late 30’s or early 40’s, sexy in that rugged Matthew McConaghey way with the charm and talent of Hugh Jackman mixed with the bad boy in Colin Farrell would have really piqued my interest.  While I was reading I kept picturing Christian Grey as a “pretty boy”, almost child-like, too perfect.  Just not my type. 

I don’t profess to be a great writer nor do I have any editorial qualifications, but even more disappointing than the characters was the sub-standard writing.  By book three I was begging for the story to end so that I didn’t have to read the same things over and over and over again.  Anastasia’s sub-conscious and inner goddess grated on my nerves and added nothing to the story.  The glaring editing mistakes really irked me and it was all I could do not to get out my red pen and mark up the books and mail them to the publisher! 

I won’t ruin the story and if these books got your motor running then good for you!  Maybe it’s my age and where I’m at in my life, but I found these books to be trashy, and not in a good way. 

What other steamy reads do you recommend?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Dad and Oliver - the last time we saw him.
I've been feeling really sad and missing my Dad this week and I'm not sure what's prompted it. Maybe this is normal.  What's making me the saddest is thinking of how unfair it is that he died so young and all of the things that he's missing. 

It wouldn't have been unusual not to see him for a couple of months so now that he's been gone almost four months maybe I'm finally realizing that I'm NOT going to see him again.  He's NOT there whenever I want to invite him for a visit or send him an email.  He's NOT going to comment on the pictures I post on Facebook.  EVER again.

He really would have gotten a kick out of the little character Oliver is becoming.  I bounced him on my knee doing Dad's signature "boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-chicka-whoops!" move the other day and Oliver laughed and squealed.  Dad would have loved to see that and do it himself.  Whenever I pick up a Dr. Seuss book to read to Oliver I think about how much Dad would have loved to read them to Oliver.


Brayden is so tall and would have towered over Dad by about four inches now.  That would have been funny to see.  I can imagine Dad's witty comments about Brayden's height and his own lack of.  He would have been so proud of Brayden for being part of the crew on Les Miserables this past spring and if and when Brayden is in the school musical this year, Dad would have loved to see it.  He really liked theatre and was fiercely proud of his kids and grandkids.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - losing your parent is weird.  Just plain weird.  There are things that I never thought I'd feel or do or be OK with before this.  I kissed him goodbye and wanted to just hug him and stay with him as he lay there cold and empty.  I couldn't even approach the open caskets when my Grandmothers died.  I carried Dad's ashes on my lap from Hamilton to North Bay when we travelled for his funeral.  That would have freaked me out before, but it was my Dad.  I was comforted having him on my lap.  I have a small urn of his ashes that I still keep in my bedroom.  I'm not quite ready to scatter them yet, because having them there keeps him close to me.  If you had said I'd be comfortable with that 6 months ago, I would have said you're nuts.

Once in awhile one of Oliver's toys will go off all on its own.  Toys that need to be turned on, or a button pushed to make noise.  Whenever this happens (which has ONLY started happening since Dad died), I say "Hi Dad!".  I think he comes by to check in once in awhile.  Call me crazy, but this also comforts me. I really believe it to be true.  

There isn't really a "point" to this post other than getting these things out of my heart and head.  Bear with me as I continue to grieve.  It's new to me and I'm muddling my way through.  

Father's Day 2011 - Bev, Brayden, Dad and Me (with Oliver in my belly!)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What do Jelly Rolls and Daytime TV have in Common? Read on!

After spending a year on maternity leave I’ve come to the conclusion that daytime TV generally sucks.  I know, a real shocker, huh?  There are so many garbage “reality” shows and a plethora of sub-standard talk shows that I have to wonder what the network execs are thinking when they give the go-ahead to producers.  Anyway, there is one show I really like – The Chew.  It’s probably my crush on Clinton Kelly from TLC’s What Not to Wear (I know, he’s gay, but I can still crush on him) and my love of food and cooking that make this show not just tolerable but enjoyable.  So, I was watching it the other day while Baby O napped and saw this seemingly super easy summer dessert recipe, Carla Hall’s Summer Berry Pudding, and decided to give it a go for our inaugural dinner on Sunday at my Mom’s new place (which is just 450 metres away from our house, I might add.  Yay!). 

The ingredients are simple – berries (or any summer fruit), lemon juice, sugar, white bread and jam.  I tend to experiment and put my own twists on recipes, so instead of white bread and jam I grabbed a jelly roll while at the grocery store today. 
The method is simple too but you need to use a glass bowl.  Gulp.  Glass bowls are for grown ups and serious bakers, aren’t they?  I have a set of stainless steel bowls and a really cute set of pink plastic mixing bowls (and matching measuring spoons!), but a good glass bowl?  Nope.  

I’m… ahem… 38-years-young, but there are times when I feel like I’m not completely grown up.  When I go to my Mom’s or to my mother-in-law’s house they just seem more grown up than me, for lack of a better term.  Of course they are, you say, they are 25 or 30 years older than me, but it’s a funny feeling that as I’m staring 40 down the nose, I still feel like a kid.  I’m just not quite there in the house furnishing and kitchen equipment department.  Don’t get me wrong, our house is lovely, we are very comfortable and have everything we need, but I don’t have a gravy boat (why would I?  I’ve never cooked a turkey dinner for a crowd), I don’t have proper serving bowls and utensils and if I can find 4 forks and knives that match, I’m lucky.  

Anyway, back to the dessert.  I do have a glass dish that has a lid (that my Mom gave to me out of her kitchen, of course!) so I used that. I combined blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and two very ripe peaches in a saucepan with the required two tablespoons each of lemon juice and sugar and let it cook down.  While that was happening I lined the bowl with slices of jelly roll, careful to fill in all the holes.  Once the berries and peaches were ready, I poured the mixture into the jelly roll lined dish and then covered it with more slices.  The dish then went into the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, where it will sit overnight. 

Fast forward to the next day…

It’s looking good.  The berry juice has seeped into the jelly roll like I had hoped it would – at least on the bottom.  I think my bowl was too wide.  But when I flipped it over it did look great.  

Gravity did its magic and it plopped out of the bowl onto the plate.  Still looking good.  I removed the bowl and it started to flatten and spread.  Boo hoo.  It was not a perfectly shaped dome like I had seen on TV.  Ah well, I bet it tastes good.  

I whipped up some real cream with my bad wrist, which is now aching (note to self: purchase another ten dollar mixer next time I’m at Walmart), to go on top.  Man, I’ll be glad to have this cyst removed from my wrist in September.  I feel like my right hand is 100 years old with the lack of strength and grip I have in it.  Sheesh.  

After Baby O went to bed tonight (before 7:00 p.m. because after four failed nap attempts today he fell asleep in his high chair at dinner!) the hubs and I gave the dessert a try.  Yum!  Berries and peaches and real whipped cream, what’s not to love?  Combine it with a jelly roll and I’d say you have a dessert fit to serve…your own family.  It’s not pretty but it’s tasty!  Next time I’ll splurge for a better glass bowl (I bet the “buck store” – that’s for you Mom – has some) and will use white bread as per the recipe.  Don’t let my experience discourage you from trying this, it was really yummy and easy!

P.S. I know at the beginning I said this was to take to my Mom's for dinner tonight, but she came down with a stomach bug, so we'll be supping there tomorrow instead - with leftover berry dessert in tow!  Feel better, Mama!

P.P.S. I hope to migrate my blog over to WordPress very soon so that I can have more control over formatting, etc.  Blogger stinks, so excuse any wonky spacing or what-not.

P.P.P.S.  This pic of Baby O asleep in his high chair is too cute not to include. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 2012 Update!

Dear Blog,
I’m sorry you’ve been neglected lately.  I’m just not that into you. 

Just kidding.  I am into you, but I have struggled with feeling inspired to write since my Dad died in April, although I have continued to meal plan, create in the kitchen and experiment with recipes.  Have no fear, my family is still eating well!

Now on to the update!  It has come time for me to go back to work.  Maternity leave is over as of July 23 – boo hoo.  I know, I know, I should feel extremely lucky to live in a country that allows a year off for new moms (and dads!), and I do, but I am still having mixed feelings about going back to work. I love being home with Oliver and will miss him terribly.  I am very fortunate, however, that my one-in-a-million boss and employer have agreed to part-time to start.  I’ll be working three days a week to ease back into things.  Oliver will be in the capable and extremely loving hands of my Mom for the first three months as well.  I’m so very grateful that she was willing to take the plunge and move to Hamilton after living her whole life in North Bay.  I’m not ready to put Oliver in daycare yet, and there are a zillion other reasons why having your mom 450 metres away from you (according to Google Maps!)  is a good thing.  Thank you, Mom!

In other news, Oliver is walking now, and will turn one on July 29th.  We’re having a “small” (22 guests…) party with family and a couple of our closest friends at our house to mark the occasion.  It should be fun to see O dig into a cupcake for the first time. I’ll be sure to post pics!

We also took a much-needed vacation to Nassau, Bahamas the first week of July.  Yes, strange time to go to the Caribbean, but it was really great. My three boys (hubs and 2 sons) and I, my sister and brother-in-law and my Mom all spent a week hanging out by the pool and beach, having wonderful dinners together and relaxing.  You can see my Facebook photo album of pics here.  

As you know by now, I love food and cooking, and since one of the items on my bucket list is to be published, I’ve found a way to combine them both and have become a member of Gastropost.  Each week they send out a food “mission” for members to complete.  You blog your mission on Tumblr and if your post is selected it will appear in the print version of the National Post that week.  How cool is that?  I’m excited to say that my byline will appear in the paper this Saturday, July 21st

I still owe a post about my Dad.  Something more positive and reflective than my previous posts.  I am not quite ready to write it though.  Soon.

That’s it for now.  Happy summer! 

Mom, Brayden, Me, Jason & Oliver
Nassau, Bahamas, July 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Hiring a Cleaning Lady has made ME a Better Housekeeper!

I know there are SuperMoms out there who manage to keep a sparkling clean house while working full time and also while on maternity leave – kudos to all of you!  Sadly, I am not one of those moms.  Call me lazy or what-have-you, but I don’t like cleaning, period.  I love the end result, but I certainly don’t love scrubbing floors or putting my hands in dirty toilet bowls – GAG. 

It seems ridiculous, even to me, that now that I’m home all day I have even LESS time to clean the house than I did when I was working full time.  Babies are demanding!  And I want to be able to answer his every demand and sit on the floor and play with him and take him for walks and swimming lessons and all kinds of other fun stuff.  When he does take a nap (which are rarely more than an hour), the last thing I want to do is clean the house.  I want to relax, surf the net, watch a little Corrie or another show that is filling up the PVR or just BE.  Is that selfish?  Probably, but there aren’t very many selfish moments for a mom and we all need them.  I also don’t want to spend those precious weekends with my family cleaning the house or have my husband spend his weekends doing it.

So when we decided to hire a cleaning lady (that sounds so old fashioned, I’m sorry, April), I heard fireworks go off in my head and felt this great sense of relief.  I stress about the state of the house all the time, so much so that it will prevent me from having anyone over.  When guests are coming I am a frantic, bitchy mess (sorry hubs…). 

Speaking of hubs, he does most of the cleaning around here (I can hear those jealous “tsks” right now, ladies).  I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cleaned the bathrooms (other than just a spot clean with a Lysol wipe…).  He is also on fur patrol every week and vacuums the entire house to get up those cat fur tumbleweeds that accumulate in what seems a matter of minutes after said vacuuming has occurred.  Yes, I married the world’s perfect husband.  Amen. 

We’ve only had a cleaning person come a few times now, but it has made me much more  conscious of keeping the house tidy.  Not only do you not want your cleaning lady to think you are a complete slob, you want her to be able to clean without stuff everywhere.  I’ve heard others joke about cleaning before the cleaning lady comes, and it is so true!  Before she comes it forces me to pick things up and put them away, to make the bed (I am guilty of NEVER making the bed), make sure there are no dirty dishes in the kitchen, and maybe take a Lysol wipe or two to the bathroom to spare myself the embarrassment of a dirty bathroom. 

After she has been here, I am much more conscious of keeping the house clean.  I wipe the counters with more vigour, I clean out the kitchen sink after the dishes are done (yah, I know, most of you do this all the time), I wipe any splatters off the stove top (again, yah, yah, I know…), and keep things tidier so it’s not as big of a job the day before she comes again. 

If you are contemplating hiring a cleaning lady, do it.  It’s the best money you can spend.  It gives you time to spend with your family that is so precious (babies are only babies once and as a mom with a teen as well, I know how fast they grow up), and there’s no shame in it!  If you’re in the Hamilton area and are looking for a recommendation, let me know and I’ll hook you up! 

For now, I sign off while I admire my house that was cleaned by someone else today which has given me the time to write this post!  

Me in the bathroom I would rather someone else clean!