Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Traditions Make the Holidays Bright

The holidays often feel overwhelming, and that can make it difficult to stay positive and enjoy the festive season with our friends and family. Between fighting off the mobs in the malls to buy gifts, booking flights or rental cars, putting up all the decorations and doing your baking, plus maybe hosting a Christmas dinner or party there seems to be little time left to REALLY enjoy the holiday season and Grinch-like tendencies start to set in.

This is my first year celebrating Christmas with my own family unit (hubby and the boy-o) and we've already committed to a few traditions that we hope to continue throughout the years, as well as build new ones as the boy-o gets older. It's up to you what kinds of traditions you want to set with your own family, but even now that I have my own family, the "yearly stuff" that happened each Christmas are some of my fondest memories!

Here's a few of my favourite holiday traditions from when I was a kid:

1. Music Boxes. I don't know how old I was when this tradition got started, but I know that for as long as I can remember it was always something I looked forward to! Every year one of females in the family got a new Christmas themed music box (me, my sister, or my mom) and we would line them all up across the fireplace mantel. Then each night before we went to bed we would each select one to wind up and play. Music boxes began to fade in popularity after a while though, so it became really hard to find them and sadly the acquiring of new ones ended, although they still get displayed each year.


2. Christmas Pins. Another yearly tradition we had was getting a new Christmas themed pin on our stockings. It was always a lot of fun to try and guess which one was the new one, and as the years went on it became harder and harder to tell since there were so many! We still carry on this tradition today, except that now that my sister and I are grown up we take turns buying the pins too so my mum gets a surprise as well. We've extended this tradition to our partners too, so that since their first Christmas celebrating with my family they've gotten pins on their stockings too.


3. Boxing Day Lunch. One of my Dad's best buddies is affectionately referred to as "Uncle" Randy, and since we were quite little we've had the tradition of getting together with him (and before she passed away, with his mom "Grandma" Hadash) for a delicious lunch every boxing day! The lunch is always roughly the same, and it's awesome! He has his own sausage made at the butchers, there's perogies, cheese, crackers, pickles, and all sorts of relishes and canned experiments to test out. This one has been harder to maintain since we've moved away from home, but whenever we are home for Christmas proper (rather than an early/late celebration), we make sure to make a lunch date for Boxing Day!

4. New Year's Day Soup Kitchen. This wasn't a "family" tradition, but it was a yearly activity that some friends and I started when we were in high school. Every year on New Years Day we would volunteer with the Inn of the Good Shepherd (a local soup kitchen) to serve meals to anyone looking for something hot to eat. It made us feel good to know that we were helping people who were less fortunate than we were, and it helped us to develop a better awareness of others. This was an excellent way to end the holiday season, and it helped to set us in the right mind frame for the coming year!

So, now fast forward to my own family and what holiday traditions will we have?

1. Advent Calendar. We have bought a wooden re-useable advent calendar that will be brought out every year. Rather than simply filling it with chocolates however, I plan to make the calendar a little more creative as the boy-o gets older. Some days might just be a chocolate, but other days will contain riddles like a treasure hunt to find the prize, or instructions for activities that require family interaction like making paper snowflakes or building a snow fort. Since I'll be the one putting the item in each day I can make sure the weather is co-operating for snow related activities etc. I think the calendar will be a great way to promote some family bonding and provide us with some silly memories.


2. Rudolf Gift. I really hate the commercialism of the holidays, and I think it's quite silly to spend a small fortune on gifts at Christmas, so rather than go crazy buying everyone big gifts we'll have the Rudolf tradition instead. Everyone will of course have their stocking and a few small things to open, but each year ONE person will receive the "Rudolf" gift. An extra gift that Rudolph has left which will be something beyond what we would normally get for each other. The recipient of the Rudolph gift will change each year so everyone has a turn.

3. Christmas Morning at Home. Travelling at Christmastime can be rough... and my parents and hubby's parents don't even live in the same province! So we've decided that Christmas morning will be spent at our own house. We will wake up Christmas morning at home, and after we've done our own family gifts and what-not then we can take on the task of travelling We think it's important to make sure that we take time to strengthen our own family traditions and celebrations, and thankfully the Grandparents were all supportive of this decision!

4. Mass on Christmas Eve. Tis the Reason for the Season after all! I always liked going to mass Christmas Eve as a kid to the "Family Service" when they had the pageant re-enactment, and I hope to continue that tradition with my own family. I think it's a pretty crucial part of Christmas to keep CHRIST in it, and the boy-o (as well as any future siblings) will grow up understanding why we celebrate Christmas, and why that little baby boy changed the world.

Your Turn!
So what are some of your favourite holiday traditions, either from when you were a kid, or ones that you've started with your own family?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Dreaded "Santa Claus" Photo

I'm sure that at one time or another you've all been in a mall over the Christmas season and seen the *insane* line-up of parents/caregivers with their children in tow to get their Christmas photo with Santa taken.

I've actually got my photo taken with Santa several times as an adult (it was for my mom, ok!) so I'm no stranger to the scenario--kids wailing, clinging to their parents, planking on the floor, destroying their nice outfits and refusing to go anywhere near the old bearded man.

There seems to be various "windows of opportunity" where Santa photos tend to go over ok. Very young babies or toddlers 2 and over seem the most likely to tolerate the holiday tradition without too much of a fuss. Since this is the boy-o's first Christmas, it will obviously be our first attempt at the iconic Santa Photo. He's a pretty chill baby so I don't think it will be any trouble at all on his part--Santa better watch his beard and glasses though!

We're debating about whether we should make it a "family" photo and all get in there, or just get one with the boy-o alone while he's young enough that it's possible. (Because in all likelihood next years photo will have to be family affair in order to get him anywhere near St. Nick.) Hubby really wants to be there for the boy-o's first Santa photo, so we'll have to brave the line-up on the weekend, and I'm actually dreading that MORE than the photo itself. Yikes!

Have you had any Santa horror stories?? What are some of your wisdom infused tips for a FTM facing her first encounter with the holiday photo?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pureed Chickpea Soup- For You AND Baby

I've had some chickpea's sitting around for a while, and I kept meaning to try making "baby hummus" with them, but it never happened. Then today I found a recipe for making a pureed Chickpea Soup and thought that was the perfect idea--I can totally alter this to make it baby friendly for the boy-o! But I wanted to try it out too, so after making the soup base I split it into two and added some extra things to both.

Pureed Chickpea Soup


- TBS oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 can, rinsed chick-peas
- 1 box sodium reduced chicken stock (900ml)
- 2 cups water


1. Heat saucepan with oil, and add onion, carrots and celery to sauté for a few minutes.
2. Pour chicken stock, water, and rinsed chick peas into large pot. Add in sautéed veggies.
3. Cover and boil for about an hour. Remove from heat and let cool.
4. Pour soup into blender/food processor and blend till smooth.

NOW... for the baby version I left it at that and simply added a little Rice Cereal to it before serving to make it a little thicker.

For the adult version I returned the soup to the saucepan to heat it back up and added some red chili flakes and some garlic powder, letting it simmer for about 10 more minutes. Removed for heat and served!

It was super easy to make and both the boy-o and I both really liked it! It's nice to finally eat the same thing for once. After I finished making the soup I simply portioned his half out into an ice-cube tray to freeze into cubes for future use!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"My Baby is Better Than Your Baby" Syndrome

As a FTM I get overly excited when the boy-o has learned a new skill, because not only is it new to  him, it's new for me too! I think it's part of our job as parents to encourage our children as they grow and develop. BUT, I cannot stress this enough, it is NOT our job as parents to pressure our children to do things before they are ready or to compare/belittle/judge other children on what milestones they have or haven't hit yet.

I honestly don't get it. I don't understand why some people feel the need to look down on other people's babies because they weren't sitting by 6 months, or crawling by 8 months, or walking by a year or WHATEVER! Those kids will figure it out eventually in their own time, so what's your problem?! It literally has nothing, at all, to do with you and your child. As if parents don't worry enough on their own about whether their child is "meeting their milestones," they certainly don't need you to chime in about how "ahead" your baby was.

Desperately Trying to Go Forward

Thankfully I haven't been the recipient of this sort of crap (at least not to my face, anyway) but I have friends who have--and makes me angry. It makes me really angry. What kind of sad adult feels the need to pick on a baby? Why do we need to make life a race right from the very beginning?!

I'm not saying that you should feel shy or ashamed to be proud of your babies accomplishments--or that you shouldn't share those new exciting thing with your family and friends--because you should totally share them! It's important to celebrate the little things. But there's no excuse, ever, for the "My baby is better than your baby" syndrome. I absolutely love hearing about the new things my friends little's have accomplished... it's so exciting to see them grow and change as they get older but I try really hard not to compare our babies or push Peter into things before he's ready because someone else's kid has already done it. Sometimes it can be a tough line to walk and we don't even realize we're doing it.

So I encourage you to pay closer attention to the ways you talk about your baby to others, and the way you react to the news of other people's littles. Is it supportive? If not, keep your mouth shut because no one needs to hear it--especially a baby.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Would Like Exactly ONE Cookie

I'm sure you've been there... some days you really want a cookie, and I mean REALLY, but you don't want to make a whole batch because you know you'll end up eating them all yourself!

Well, today I present you with the solution! A recipe for making exactly ONE chocolate chip cookie! These "mini" cookie recipes are floating around all over the internet right now, and as much as I support the traditional way of baking cookies--these are just too damn good to ignore!

Single Chocolate Chip Cookie


- 1 tbsp butter melted
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 drops of vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tbsp chocolate chips


1. Combine melted butter with brown and white sugar. Add in vanilla drops and egg yolk. Combine well.
2. Add in salt, flour and chocolate chips, mix well.
3. Scoop out dough into microwavable safe bowl or container and microwave for 30-45 seconds. Do not overcook otherwise cookie with be hard and dry! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What's in Your Closet: Having Hard Conversations

There's a really awesome video going around right now of a TED talk that happened in Boulder, Colorado by a woman named Ash Beckham. She talks about how important it is to have "hard conversations" with people, and that no matter what your "hard conversation" is, hard is hard. There's no comparing my hard against your hard--it's just hard. Her talk is about encouraging people to leave their closets behind and have those hard talks, because a closet is no place for a person to live.

Ash is a lesbian and part of her talk was about her coming out of her own closet, which she describes as having rainbow walls--but walls that no one could see, because it was dark inside. She talks about how difficult it was for her to have that hard conversation with people, and she shares how some of those conversations went. One of the stories she shares is about having that hard conversation with a 4 year old girl in a restaurant and the life lessons learned from pancakes. I'd like to share her video with you now.

Not having those hard conversations is like a holding onto a grenade, but that doesn't make it any easier to say what needs to be said and leave our closets behind. There's a website called Post Secret that's been around for quite some time now, and essentially they help people take the first step in coming out of their closets by offering a way to anonymously share their hard conversation with the world. You send them a postcard with your "secret" on it and they upload them to their website to
display for all to see.

What makes it so difficult to have these hard conversations with one another? Fear of rejection or disappointment? Fear of causing pain or suffering to others? Or a fear of being open and vulnerable? The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what your hard conversation is about--it's hard, and it needs to happen...because the longer you wait, the more time you give that grenade to explode.

I've seen first hand how hard those conversations can be, and I've seen how beautiful life can become once they've been had. The boy-o has the lucky fortune of having a pair of Aunties on one side instead of an Aunt and Uncle, and I hope that he grows up inspired by their courage to have had their hard conversation.

But like Ash tells us, stepping out of a rainbow closet isn't the only hard conversation people have. No matter what your hard conversation is about--step out of your closet into the sunshine, because a closet is no place for a person to live.

Friday, November 8, 2013

MOVE-ember Update: Week One

Well, week one of MOVE-ember is over and it's time to report on how I've made out so far.

It wasn't a very successful start because this week has been rather stressful. My mom was here to visit the first few days which was great fun, but we were crazy busy running all over the city, and then the boy-o got an ear ache and is now back on antibiotics (after having just come OFF antibiotics last week from Strep Throat!). So he's been a seriously grumpy fussy-butt and has spent a lot of the last three days screaming at me if I even *think* of setting him down.

Ok, so enough of the excuses and back to the report:

Veggies/Fruit: I did much better at eating more veggies and more fruit. I could certainly stand to eat even more though, so that's a work in progress. Even with the stress, I managed to keep the bad snacks to minimum. Small victories, right?

Exercise: Besides the real workout on Saturday (which I was seriously sore from for DAYS!) all we've managed is some long power-walks in the stroller, and even some of those have ended in the boy-o erupting at not being held.

Water: Fail. I need to get my water bottle back out and start using that rather than glasses. Must. Drink. More. Water!

Weight loss: Even with the shaky start to MOVE-ember I managed to lose 3 pounds this week! Hurray! Also, to go with my new pants I finally bought I'm wearing a belt again. I'm currently on the second hole from the end. This will help me keep track of inches in a very practical way.
So week one may have kicked my butt a little bit--but week two is all mine!
In fact, I think I'll go refill my water bottle right now!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Product Review: Sinchies Reusable Food Pouches

As I've mentioned before I like to make my own baby foods, and so far the boy-o has loved everything we've tried! He's a real food machine and his introduction to solids has gone incredibly well. We're up to two meals a day now and they are by far his favourite part of the day. He's not a very messy eater but we still hadn't attempted to have a "solids" meal while we were out before, even if it was his usual meal time--we would just bring a bottle instead because that seemed easier.

Recently I received some Sinchies food storage pouches in the mail to review, and on Monday we were out of the house all day at the new Ripleys Aquarium (which is AWESOME by the way), so that seemed like the perfect opportunity to test them out!

I decided to test out the two smaller pouches which hold 80ml and 140ml. I added two ice-cube sized servings to the smaller bag, and three ice-cube sized servings to the larger bag. Both bags still had room to add more if needed, but that's all the boy-o eats so far at a meal! The smallest one was a little difficult to fill because the opening isn't very big, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly and the medium sized one was no difficulty at all. Once the bags were filled I closed the double ziplock seal at the top and popped them into the lunch bag. There was no leaking!

When it was time to feed the boy-o it was super easy! I just removed the cap and squeezed the puree out onto a spoon. It was mess free and really easy to get the puree out. Older children can even skip the spoon phase and simply suck out the food from the pouch via the spout.

When it started to get down to the last little bit I rolled the bag like you would a toothpaste tube to make sure we got it all out, and we managed to squeeze it pretty clean.

The Sinchies meant we didn't need to bring a bulky glass jar or tupperware container, and we had the double benefit of bringing our own puree as well as the container being washable and re-useable for less waste. It was really convenient and easy to use, and it washes out really easily too with a quick swish of a bottle brush. According to the website they are dishwasher safe as well, which we sadly don't have. Anyone want to send me a dishwasher to review?!

Another important feature of the Sinchies for me is that besides being dishwasher and freezer safe is that they don't contain any BPA, Phthalate and PVC--because if you're going to take the time to make your own baby food you don't want to then stick it in a BPA filled container!
The Sinchies made our first "solids on the go" meal a total success, and now I'm not so nervous about feeding the boy-o while we're out and about. I'll definitely be recommending these things to all my mom friends who make their own baby food, and even to those who use pre-jarred stuff because they are way easier to carry around than a bunch of glass jars! They're eco-friendly, convenient and mom-friendly! They're also quite reasonably priced and you can mix and match which sizes you want to order.
Overall I give the Sinchies a 9/10, and look forward to reusing them for many meals to come!
How do you manage meals on the run with your infant?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Coffee Without a Coffee Maker?

My mom was here visiting the last few days and she is a coffee-a-holic! She'll drink 4 or more cups a day sometimes and I always feel bad when she comes to visit because we don't drink coffee, and don't even own a coffee maker! In the past we've tried to remember to have some VIA singles on hand, but those things aren't cheap. When it comes to coffee she's not overly picky when circumstances are looking dire--and she'll happily take instant over tea. But this time we didn't even have any instant coffee on hand and I knew the tea in the morning just wasn't cutting it for her.

We actually had a tin of regular coffee left over from the boy-o's baptism and I was trying to think of a way to make my mum some coffee with it--then it hit me, a perfect way to make regular coffee without a coffee maker.

My husband likes to drink a lot of tea so we have a bunch of those metal tea balls, but I figured the holes in the mesh would be too big and that some of the coffee grounds would escape... BUT we also have some of those little "make your own tea bag" pouches which I figured would work perfectly!

I simply scooped a tablespoon or two of coffee into the pouch (the same as you would tea in the photo above!) and closed it, then put it inside a second one to make sure no grounds escaped. I poured my boiling water into the mug and then put the "tea bag" into the water to steep just like tea does--because after all, what's coffee besides hot water running through the grounds?
When it looked like it was dark enough I called my mom over to test it out, and the smile on her face after just smelling it told me this was a hit! She used the same "tea bag" of grounds to make two more cups later in the day and said that even the third one was still delicious with a robust flavour, and that no grounds managed to escape!
So now when she comes to visit next time, I'll be able to make her a nice hot coffee without having to worry about buying instant, and without having a coffee maker!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

MOVE-ember : The exercising begins!

I finally did it. After 16 months or so, I finally exercised again! REAL exercise, not just a power walk with the stroller. I did a 30 minute workout to Jillian Michael's Yoga Meltdown this morning before heading to work. I managed to finish it, but I certainly had to "cheat" a few times. At the end of it I was not a pretty sight--but I did it! The boy-o was getting pretty cranky by the end with watching mommy for that long without getting any cuddles, but I'm hoping it's something we can make a regular habit of doing.

I have such a love-hate relationship with exercise... I enjoy the extra energy it ends up providing in the long run, but I get so defeated looking at the scales because I have always lost weight veeeeery slowly. I have a pretty muscular build so I tend to tone up fairly quickly but the number on the scale never seems to change much. I know it's better to watch inches than pounds, but it's losing the pounds that provides me with the most satisfaction. I've joined several gyms in the past and after 3-4 months I tend to lose interest because despite making a regular habit of going, I don't get the results to keep me motivated. The same thing goes for exercising at home--I have several intense work-out videos and I'll stick to them really well for a few months, and then lose inspiration because the pounds still aren't shifting!

I've done the body fat percentage test that some gyms offer so I know that it's much higher than it needs to be/should be, but it seems like no matter what I do I can't get it to budge. (and yes I've had my thyroid tested!)

I'm now currently the heaviest I've ever been thanks to the extra baby weight, and I just pray that I'll be able to at least get back down to where I was before--which is still too heavy, but at least I'd be able to wear my regular clothes again and see what I can do from there. But it's a daunting task because I've tried so many times in the past without success.

I'd like to try and convince myself that whether the pounds come off or not it's more important to live a healthier lifestyle in general, which includes more exercise and better eating habits--but I know that as a results driven person, that if I don't get the results I'll end up giving up again.

How do you stay focused and committed to living a healthier lifestyle??
What are some of your exercising tips for a busy mum on the go?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Battling the Post Baby Bulge: MOVE-ember

Yep. I said it. BULGE.

The boy-o was delivered via an unplanned C-section and although the first few weeks were really horrible, we got through it and moved on into a good routine and things were great. I even lost almost all of my baby weight by 3 weeks post-partum.
And then all the help left and my husband was back at work, and all the freezer meals we had made ahead of time ran out, and the boy-o stopped sleeping for approx. 20 hours a day, and I ended up eating crap. All the time. Quick crap. Carb crab. Anything I could eat in 20 seconds, and if it didn't need to be hot, even better. And all the baby weight essentially came back!

I 'm a big fan of gently reminding myself that it took 9 months to gain it all, that I need to be gentle with myself taking it back off. And I really do believe that's true... the crazy-annoying thing though is that it was already ALL GONE and then because of bad lifestyle choices, it all came back!

I keep telling myself that I'm going to eat more veggies and fruit, that I'm going to make better food choices... I also keep telling myself that I'm going to start exercising again and drinking more water. The boy-o and I go for walks almost every day, and that's certainly something, but I need something a little more intense than that. I know I've toned up a little bit (lifting a 17lb baby all day will do that!), but the fat needs to go. And I keep telling myself I'm going to do it. And then I don't.

Why? Because LIFE happens.

I know from previous experience that once I start exercising and get over that hurdle I'll feel better, I'll have more energy, I'll sleep better etc. and yet I still can't motivate myself to start. But the reality of it is that it's been over 6 months since the boy-o was born, I still don't fit into my regular pants and I need to step up and do something about it!



So dearest Interweb, you are what is going to hold me accountable to this. The month of November is going to become MOVE-ember in this household. I've just announced it to the whole world--so now I have to stick to it, right? I'll be posting updates about how I'm making out and I welcome whole-heartedly your tips and tricks for sticking to it and how a busy mum can realistically lose the baby fat.

So please--share your tips, and your experiences... It's nice to know we're not in this alone!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remember--It's Everyone's Halloween!

If you've ever given out candy on Halloween night before, there are probably some things that drive you a little crazy: the kids who don't say Thank-You, the kids who don't bother wearing a costume, and the kids who are definitely way too old to be going Trick or Treating. Then you get kids that are the total opposite: they're incredibly polite, have excellent (and often home-made costumes), and are still really excited about "Halloween" and not just getting free candy.

Inside Looking Out- Halloween 2013

I'll admit it, I used to be one of those people. And sometimes I'm still one of those people, especially if I get a bunch of kids in a row who don't say Thank-You, until I catch myself and remind myself that it's "Everyone's Halloween." So what am I talking about? I'm talking about a little meme that was circulating a few years ago around Facebook and the blog-o-sphere that received some very mixed responses. Some people argued that this was taking "political correctness" too far and was just an excuse for rude children with no manners. Others applauded the reminder and agreed that it was important to be accepting to everyone, and that sometimes there are reasons we can't see that affect the behaviour of the children visiting our door.

This is the message that was circulating:

You can make up your own mind on whether or not you think it's a helpful reminder or a cop-out, but this Halloween I'll be reminding myself "It's Everyone's Halloween" if I find myself getting frustrated--because when it comes down to it, Halloween is about having fun, and who am I to judge the quality of someone else's fun?

This Halloween is an extra special one for us since it is the boy-o's first Halloween! He'll be dressed up as a Frog and I have no doubts that he'll be smothered in kisses to test for a Prince! We also decided that we should stick him in a pumpkin--and it was a great success!

Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ghost Walking in Edinburgh

Today's blog post can be found here over at Funny Life Stories. Since it was a Halloween themed guest blog post it's a little different in content then the sorts of things I usually talk about here, but it's definitely worth a read if you like Ghost Walks! I recount my experience of doing a Ghost Walk in Edinburgh with hubby while we were there on our honeymoon.

So give it a read and share the love!

The Witches and Cadies Tour

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Peter Meets the Rocket Man

Today was a pretty exciting day--and although the boy-o isn't old enough to remember it years down the road, we captured the moment in a photo so I can tell him all about it when he gets older.

Chris Hadfield has a new book coming out called "An Astronaut's Guide to Life," and he's kicking off a promotional tour for it today. Although I don't personally know Chris at all, we're from the same small town and I take extra pride in knowing that someone from small-time life has become pretty much the coolest Canadian. EVER!

But today, today was a special day for us. He was giving a private talk at KOBO (the on-line book people) and we were able to tag along to the talk. It was an excellent, honest discussion about what it's like being in Space and what some of the life experiences were that led him to that path. After the talk was over there were some audience questions, and then people had the opportunity to go and meet him and get things signed etc.

Well my parent's old next door neighbour apparently grew up with Hadfield (told ya, small town!), and when the boy-o was born she gave him a "Space" shirt in honor of Hadfield who was on his mission at the time. And because Fate is awesome, that shirt just happened to be the right size for him to wear today--the day he got to meet Chris Hadfield!

We were able to go up on stage to say hello, and get our photo taken with him. That's Chris Hadfield holding my baby!! He had a whole little conversation with the boy-o about his adorable shirt and about how he was fascinated with Chris' moustache! It was really awesome to see how good he was with the boy-o, and it was really really awesome to meet such an awesome guy!

He's touring around to various Indigo book stores and such to promote his new book--and I highly recommend you check him out if you can! Because really, how many chances are you really going to get to meet a Rocket Man?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Spooktacular Treats Part II: Healthy Pumpkins, Ghosts, and More!

So everyone knows that Halloween is full of CANDY and things that are generally terrible for teeth. If you're a parent holding a Halloween party for your kids and you're looking for some healthy(er) snacks to serve here's some of my top suggestions! If you'd like to add some roasted pumpkin seeds into the mix you can check out my previous post Spooktacular Treats Part I.

One of my cousins threw her little boy a Halloween themed birthday party (Yeah October babies!), and so the inspiration for some of these treats comes from the goodies she made for them.


Spooky Ghosts and Tangerine Pumpkins!

Spooky Ghosts: to make these delicious ghosts take a bunch of bananas, peel them, and halve them. On the "pointy" end place two mini chocolate chips to make eyes, and one regular sized chocolate chip to make the mouth!

Tangerine Pumpkin: to make these cute little pumpkins, take a bunch of tangerines, and peel them. To make the "stem" take some celery sticks and cut them in half lengthwise and then cut small little bits off the end to stick in the top of the tangerine!

Not only are these snacks awesomely festive, they're also a great healthy alternative to bowls of candy! They are also free of most major allergens, so you're safe on that one too!

Monster Mouths:

Monster Mouths: to make these take an apple (any colour) and cut into slices. Spread Peanut Butter on one side of each of apple. Then take some mini marshmallows and place them in a line along one edge of an apple slice. Take a second apple slice and place it ontop, Peanut Butter side facing the marshmallows. Pair up all your apples slices with marshmallows in the middle and you're all set.
These make a fun snack anytime, but are especially ideal around Halloween! These contain Peanut Butter though, so be aware of any potential allergies if serving at a party. Soy butter could be used in place of the Peanut Butter too if necessary.

Mummy Pizzas:

Mummy Pizzas: to make these yummy and simple mummy pizzas start with some English Muffins. Spread on your pizza sauce and add some peperoni. Rather than adding grated cheese, cut your mozzarella into thing strips and lay them across the pizza overlapping a little bit but showing some pizza sauce through. Leave a strip empty near the top and place a piece of sliced olive (green or black) and try to keep the pimento if you can. Bake as you normally would! (350 degrees for 8-10 minutes outta do it!)
You can certainly get creative with these and add other toppings underneath the cheese as desired. Just make sure not to put too much or it will show through the cheese!

Goblin Grins:

Goblin Grins: to make these freakish treats all you need is some peas, a red bell pepper and a few slivered almonds! Simply make a small slit lengthwise in the pea pod, place a small chunk of red pepper sticking out, and add some slivered almonds to look like teeth!
Goblin Grins
Again this one uses nuts, so please be careful if using for a children's party that their are no nut allergies! These don't do well with a lot of moving around either, so make sure once you make them you're setting them down on the tray they'll be served on so you don't need to try and move them afterwards.
And now you're all set to create a tasty, and healthy, Halloween party that your kids are sure to love! Making food fun is always a great way to get kids interested in eating healthy. If you have older children you can even get them to help make some of these delicious treats--especially the monster mouths!! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spooktacular Treats Part I: Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

So now that you know how to carve your pumpkin using a stencil, and you've got some helpful websites to visit to find that perfect carving pattern it's time to do something delicious with those pumpkin seeds!

I don't like very many seeds, and I really can't explain why I like pumpkin seeds so much... but I do! And the best part is, you can season them however you want. You can make them salty, spicy, or use any of the powdered popcorn shaker powders like Dill Pickle or Salt and Vinegar.

So when you're scooping out your pumpkin, try to separate the seeds into a different bowl than the rest of the pumpkin goop, and that way you don't need to go digging for them later!

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds:



- 2 cups of pumpkin seeds
- 1 TBSP of melted butter
- 1/4 TSP of salt
- Seasonings to taste


- Pre-heat oven to 300F.
- Wash pumpkin seeds by rinsing well to remove any fibers
- Drain water and lay seeds on paper towel to pat dry
- In large bowl, toss seeds with melted butter and salt until fully coated
- Add in any other seasonings as desired
- Spread seeds in single layer on lined baking pan and bake for 45 minutes, stirring seeds every 15 minutes
- Seeds are ready when golden brown. Cool and serve!



Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Part of what I love about being a mom and being at home with the boy-o is that we've gotten to explore around our neighbourhood. Before I had the boy-o I didn't really consider where I lived "home," it was just somewhere I happened to be living. And although I'm not sure I'll ever really consider Toronto *my* home, this is where the boy-o is from and since he's arrived our neighbourhood really has become our neighbourhood. I never used to spend any time here and so I  had never visited all the little cafés and stores and shops. But now when we're out and about we see other moms and babies we know, we have our favourite cafes for coffee dates, our favourite places to go and play, and we spend a lot more time just being where we live.

These are my Top 5 Favourite Neighbourhood Haunts:

Coco-Latte: This is a great little family owned café on St. Clair. They have all kinds of vegan and gluten free options, delicious gelato, and of course the full run of fancy coffee beverages! (Can you tell I don't drink coffee?) They have a nice wooden patio out back as well if you're craving some fresh air to go along with your Americano. The staff there are part of the reason I love this place so much. I discovered this place through one of my mom groups that meets up there once a week, and they are incredibly accommodating to our gang of strollers. We love you!

World Class Bakery: This place seems to be a huge hit or miss with people, and so far I've only had great experiences there! I've only ever stopped in for the goodies, which let's face it, look AND taste amazing! Never have I been anywhere else before where I feel like the size of the piece of cheesecake/cake I just got is actually worth the $6 I'm being charged for it! Hubby and I have gone there for date evenings before and had to bring home some of our dessert because we just couldn't finish it. The place has a nice atmosphere, and lots of room to accommodate a stroller.

Dutch Dreams: This place is probably my favourite Ice Cream store. EVER. The amount of themed kitch on the walls and ceiling is unbelievable and the Dutch versions of pop-songs playing on the speakers will certainly get your toes tapping to a song you swear you know... but can't possibly actually know. They make their cones and ice cream by hand and their menu is quite extensive including shakes, waffles, splits and tons of delicious ice cream flavours! To top it all off they add whip-cream and fresh fruit to the top of their cones. No matter what the weather is like outside there always seems to be a line up at this neighbourhood treasure. So show up early and be prepared to sit on one of the milk cans outside because the limited seating inside is usually full!

Oakwood Library: This isn't the closest library to where we live, but it's our favourite! The staff are great, they don't make you leave your stroller outside, and the librarian that does the Friday morning story time for the babies is excellent! The staff in generally are all pretty relaxed and there's always a bunch of kids running around in there. It's a great spot to go and hang out, and this summer the boy-o and I spent a lot of time there enjoying their air conditioning! They have a large children's section too with a bunch of adult sized comfy chair to sit in. (Which are also great for nursing in!)

Ceadervale Park: Hubby and I discovered this park a little while ago and have gone running and cycling there, as well as played tennis! It's a beautiful long park that is about 2 km from one end to the other. Most of it is a gravelly walking path, but there's also a fenced in dog park, some open fields, tennis courts, and an arena. There are lots of lovely big trees to provide some shade for taking the boy-o there to enjoy the fresh air, and the park is always full of people so there's lots of opportunity to do some people watching. It's also really refreshing to have such a large green space near us in the "Concrete Jungle"!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Today is Brought to You by the Letter P

As I've mentioned before in some of my other posts, I really enjoy making the boy-o his purees at home rather than buying pre-jarred stuff, and today was a baby food making day!

Although it happened purely coincidentally, all the foods I made up for the boy-o today start with the letter P! We have some Peas, Peaches and Plums! MMMmmmmm.....

We've also started adding some more spices to his foods. So now he's tried apples with cinnamon, carrots with ginger, and broccoli with garlic. He's loved them all and I can't wait to introduce him to some other spices and tastes too. Of course I only add a little tiny bit since everything is totally new to his taste buds, but it's a great way to start training him to enjoy foods without adding salt and sugar to things. We're always on the look-out for baby friendly ideas for new food combos and I really hope the boy-o will keep his open mind on eating new foods as he gets older!
What are some of your little's favourite food and spice combinations?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Life in the Whirlwind: 6 Month Catch-Up

I was doing so well at keeping up with my blog writing, and making sure that I set aside a little time for myself each day to write--and then as so often happens, LIFE happened. I've certainly missed my little escape time but the reality is that I'm a mom who blogs, not a blogger who happens to be a mom, and my time has been needed elsewhere the last few weeks.

The boy-o has been battling one hell of an epic cold the last week or so, which has so far included a temp of 38.6, an emergency room trip, a visit to a walk-in clinic and very, very little sleep. For him or me. He's been fussy and clingy, he's stuffed up and wheezy, and sounds like he's been smoking 60 a day for 40 years. We've been making frequent use of the Nose Frida and have his humidifier running full tilt. We've been alternating with Baby Tylenol and Baby Advil, and spending many sleepless hours rocking, bouncing, and singing.

To make things even less pleasant for the poor boy, he cut his THIRD tooth on the weekend. That's right, for his six month birthday on Sunday he had three teeth! Teething happens early in my family apparently, and the boy-o seems intent of having a full set of them by the time he turns one!

Despite feeling generally miserable, I managed to catch him a good mood for a little bit yesterday to get a "6 Month" photo, and that adorable little face is what keeps me going when I wish I could just lay in the middle of the floor and pass out.

We were planning to start introducing a second meal of solids starting this weekend, but because our schedule is so messed up right now we've decided to hold off on that until the boy-o is feeling better and is back into a better routine.

Looking back it's soooo hard to believe that 6 months have passed since we brought our beautiful baby home from the hospital. Our lives have changed so much and we've all grown immensely. It also surprises me when I think about all the amazing things that the boy-o has accomplished already in these six months.

Some of the bigger milestones include:

- Sleeping through the night (when not sick!)
- Rolling back to front
- Rolling front to back
- He has 3 teeth
- Sitting unsupported
- Standing holding onto the couch
- Eating solids
- Feeding himself finger foods
- Learning how to give kisses
- Drinking from a cup
- Kicking his feet while swimming

And so many other things! It's amazing to watch them learn new things all the time, the wheels are always going! I can't wait to see what the next 6 months will bring and I look forward to watching many more "firsts" as he grows.

Now... if we could just get rid of this stupid cold so my little snot monkey can get back to the serious of business of childhood: playing!

What are your tried and true methods for helping relieve cold symptoms for your little?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Adventures in Solids Part III: Introduction of Finger Foods

The list of foods that the boy-o has tried is ever increasing and it's certainly one of his favourite times of the day! He gets awfully excited for his food--but then again, so do I! At the moment he's still on only one meal a day, but starting this weekend once he turns 6 Months (WHAT?!) I'm going to start introducing breakfast as well.

We've also started to introduce some "finger foods" on top of the purees and he's actually quite good at getting the food from his tray to his mouth! So far all we've tried is toast fingers and some cooked carrot, and he devoured the toast in no time and was quite upset to discover there wasn't anymore...the carrots he didn't seem too fussed on eating, but he did enjoy squishing them! It's so cute watching him push the food around in his mouth with his tongue to chomp on it. I think he chews his food better than I do half the time.

 When we start on breakfast this weekend we're going to introduce Greek Yoghurt. It's pretty confusing as a parent to try and sift through all the recommendations from various places about what to feed your baby and when, and although cow's milk should wait till between 9-12 months, yoghurt has the go-ahead from 6 months onwards. I choose Greek Yoghurt over regular because it has less sugar and more protein. So we'll see how the boy-o likes that with a little peach puree added in! Peach yoghurt is one of my favourites. :)
He also sure loves that Sippy Cup!
What's your little's favourite food?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Giving Thanks: A Cornucopia of Blessings

So here in Canada-land we just had our Thanksgiving holiday, and for us, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival. (Not about pilgrims) A big part of the celebrations for my family, like many others, is to have a huge dinner together as a family and to give thanks for our many blessings--especially the food that we have available to eat. My Dad's grew up on a farm and was the youngest of 11 siblings, and we still celebrate Thanksgiving every year out at the farm house. This year there was only 22 of us, and that's a SMALL group! (We can hit upwards of 40 on a good year, with an entire branch of the family not attending because they total almost 40 on their own!) Celebrating Thanksgiving on a farm helps to drive home the message that Farmers supply us with our food, and without their hard work we wouldn't have any.

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite days of the year, partly because my birthday tends to fall on Thanksgiving weekend quite frequently, so as a kid I got to celebrate my birthday with my WHOLE family, and would often get a birthday candle in a piece of pumpkin pie..... MMmmmm pie.

This year Thanksgiving was even more special because it was the first one I've been a Mama for and this year I turned 30. (GASP!) So these two events have really got me thinking about life and all of the things that I'm incredibly grateful for. The biggest thing is of course my family--the boy-o, my hubby, my parents and in-laws, my sister, and my grandmother who is one of my favourite people on the planet.
GiGi (Great Gram) and the Boy-o, Thanksgiving 2013
Really, when I think about it, I have more blessings than I can count and I hope that I can pass on awareness of those blessings to the boy-o as he gets older. I hope I can instill in him the appreciation and thanksgiving of knowing where his food comes from and who cares for it while it's growing, and who spends the long late hours harvesting it so that it can end up on our family table.

I also hope, maybe more than anything, that I can be the kind of mama that my boy-o will grow up to be thankful for, and that he will know above all else, that his family loves him.

What are you really thankful for?
Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meatloaf Lasagna Roll Ups: A New Take on Leftovers

Yes, you read that correctly.... Meatloaf Lasagna Roll Ups. I was really hungry the other night for something tasty, and all I really had kicking around for dinner was random bits of leftovers. So I decided to get creative, and the result was a delicious and easy dinner!

I had some lasagna noodles, but not enough to make a whole lasagna, and not enough of anything else to make a whole one either for that matter! So I decided to try making some "Lasagna Rolls Ups." I had some leftover pasta sauce in the fridge and a little bit of cottage cheese, so I was set for that much. But then I was stumped about what meat to put in since I didn't have any ground meat at home. Then I remembered I had some of my Turkey Zucchini Meatloaf left, and decided to get creative!

Essentially I took two slices of meatloaf and crumbled them up, and then mixed it in with the pasta sauce to form a meat sauce for the lasagna roll ups. Since the meatloaf already had zucchini and onions as well as some seasonings, I didn't need to add anything else to the sauce.

I boiled the lasagna noodles, spread some cottage cheese, meat sauce, and a little grated cheese on each one, rolled them up and placed them in a baking dish, topped them with more sauce and cheese and then baked them till bubbly! They were super flavourful and were a great way to use up some of the smaller bits of stuff I had kicking around the house. Here's an "official" recipe guideline. I only had enough bits of stuff to make 6 rolls up, and I've guessed at how much cottage cheese and pasta sauce I had left. I've tried to over estimate so you're likely to have extra rather than run out. You can also easily increase the amount of all items to make a larger batch!

Meatloaf Lasagna Roll Ups:


- 6 cooked lasagna noodles
- 2 slices of meatloaf
- 1 1/2 cups of sauce
- 3/4 cup cottage cheese
- grated cheese


1. Pre-heat over to 400 degrees.
2. Break meatloaf up into small pieces and combine with pasta sauce. Heat mixture in small saucepan.
3. Spread pre-cooked lasagna noodles out on flat surface. Spread a spoonful of cottage cheese across each noodle, followed by a spoonful of sauce and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Don't add to much stuff or it will all fall out when you try to roll them!

 4. Gently roll up each noodle and place in baking dish with the seam facing down.

5. Add more sauce to the top of the noodles and sprinkle with more cheese.

6. Cover baking dish with tin-foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Enjoy!

Your Turn!
How do you eat your leftover meatloaf?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Jack 'O Lantern Fun Part II: Pumpkin Patterns

The first step of the pumpkin carving process is really to pick out what pattern you want first, and then select a pumpkin that is an appropriate shape and size to match your pattern. There are lots of free pattern websites online where you can browse possible options and these are usually rated by skill level. As a general rule, the higher the skill rating the longer it will take you to carve the pumpkin.

2012 Carving- Witch and Black Cat

If you're looking for some awesome websites to find pumpkin patterns, I would suggest trying these three sites out. I've used them all before and they offer a range of skill levels. You can also use the premise of how the patterns are made to create your own pattern too if you're feeling adventurous!

Top 3 Pattern Websites:

Zombie Pumpkins: This website groups their patterns by category. They have a (very) small selection of free patterns and an extensive list of patterns you can buy. I would recommend getting the "Whole Harvest" package which allows you access to ALL of their regular patterns...which at the moment is 305. I have bought this package in the past and then printed off every single one that I think I might ever carve so that I have a stash of them ready to go. You have 9 months to access the patterns, so you don't need to print them all right away. If you're feeling generous and have the extra money, consider the "Monster Harvest" package and contribute to the charity of the year--this year it's the National Brain Tumour Society.
2010 Carving- The Tooth Fairy
Pumpkin Masters: They have a few free patterns to download, but they also have some that you can buy and then print as well. Pumpkin Masters is also very well known for their paper pattern books that you can buy at most department and drug stores. These pattern books come with the carving tools depicted above! You can also pay to download some of their patterns to print from the website as well.

Carving 2012- Bone Xylophone
Stoneykins Pumpkin Carving: They have 100 free patterns to get you started, but you won't want to stop there! This site has both fully carved-out patterns, as well as the shaded patterns (where you only cut part way through in places). Similar to Zombie Pumpkins they have various sized packages that you can purchase depending on how many patterns you want. You then simply download and print your patterns.
2009 Carving- Where the Wild Things Are
TIP: When ever you use a stencil to carve your pumpkin, either from a book or one that you've downloaded, always make extra copies!! This way you have a clean one for reference after you've transferred it to your pumpkin, and you have an extra copy for future years if someone else wants to use it. (And then make copies of it again etc. so you always have a copy of it!)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jack 'O Lantern Fun Part I: Carving Utensils

I'm the kind of pumpkin carver that no one else wants to carve with. People complain I take too long--and I'm willing to agree that some years, yes, it has taken a really long time. But what those people don't understand is that I wait all year for Halloween to come around so that I can revel in my favourite day of the year and all its pumpkin glory!

Carving 2012

If your new to the world of pumpkin carving, you don't really need anything hi-tech to carve your pumpkin, but you might want to pick up one of the Pumpkin Masters sets that include a few patterns and some basic carving tools.

The scoop is really helpful for scraping the side of your pumpkin to try and get rid of as many of the little strings as you can. These strings can become really annoying when they hang down preventing the light from properly shinning through any small cut-out sections.
The little poker/punch is really helpful for punching out your pattern to transfer it to your pumpkin. Because the punch is so small your hand might get quite cramped up if your pattern has a lot of detail, so make sure to stop every few minutes to stretch it out!
The carving knives that are included in most pumpkin carving sets are a simple jig-saw blade style edge, and because these are so small they allow you to carve very intricate areas that you wouldn't be able to manage with your standard kitchen knives.
Some extra items that you're going to want on hand include scotch-tape to attach your pattern to your pumpkin, some paper towels to dry it off as necessary to make seeing your pattern easier, a permanent marker or pen to "connect the dots" of your pattern transfer, and 2 bowls to empty your pumpkin contents into--one for the goop and one for the seeds! I also like to put some newspaper down on the table before I begin to make clean-up at the end that much easier!
Now... the kid friendly part! Older kids might be interested in helping you to draw a pattern on the pumpkin with a marker, and even older kids might be able to do some basic carving with close adult supervision. But what about the wee ones? They get the most fun job! They can help you scoop out all the pumpkin goop with a large spoon. Kids love the feel of the cold and slimy pumpkin innards and it's a great way to get them involved.
Do you use patterns when carving your pumpkins?
Or do you stick with the traditional Jack 'O Lantern faces?