Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Rule of Three

You know the saying "bad things always happen in threes" - well that certainly applies to our family this week.  It has been a tough one. 

Over the weekend Dean's Uncle Ken passed away.  I remember him as such a jolly person who loved kids. Here he is pictured with Dustin last Fall.  He was able to spend his last days surrounded by the love of family and friends - isn't that all anyone could ask for?  You will be missed Uncle Ken. 

On Sunday night Dean and I had our first trip to the emergency room with Dustin.  His fever had spiked sometime after he went to bed and he started having convulsions.  It was so scary watching his little body go through that.  I was amazingly calm as was Dean.  We rushed to the hospital (and I can laugh about this now but when we arrived at the hospital I did a beautiful dismount from the truck - landing on my knees as I rushed to follow Dean and Dustin into triage.  Not too graceful am I).  Anyway, they soon got Dustin's fever down but kept us overnight just to be sure he was OK as he continued to have convulsions.  It turned out he had a viral infection in his lungs so he was also treated for that.  For anyone who has experienced this (convulsions/seizures are quite common in children with very high fevers) you know how hopeless it leaves you feeling.  Dustin is pretty much 100% now-keeping us smiling and laughing.

The outcome of the third event is still unknown.  Any dog-lovers out there know that it's almost as hard to watch your beloved pet go through pain as it is a human loved one.  Our 9 year old beagle dog Rusty displaced a disc in his back over the weekend.   Dean took him to the vet and Emma and I said good-bye not knowing if we would see him again.  Our vet and the staff at her office gave Rusty excellent care and sent him home with some medication that will hopefully help resolve the problem.  It's so hard to watch your dog not be able to walk.  We won't know for a few days if the medication is working and if it doesn't we'll be saying good-bye to Rusty for real this time.  He's such an amazing dog-man's best friend and protector of our children.

And all this happened three days before the kids and I were to leave for an Easter holiday in Nova Scotia.  Our vacation has proceeded as planned and I'm looking forward to the feeling of renewal and blessings that Spring and the Easter season brings.

I thank all our friends and family for their support this week.  We don't know what we would do without you!


Friday, March 22, 2013

March Book Club

As mentioned in an earlier post, I've recently joined a book club.  We call ourselves Mommies Who Read.

This week I hosted our March get together.  Our selection this month was Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo by Sandy Bucholtz.   It is a collection of letters written by Sandy for her children to remind them of her unyielding love and their inner strengths should she ever be absent from their lives.

So as our book club meetings tend to go we started off with a few questions about the book to generate some discussion.  And discuss we did.

We could all relate to the book in one way or another.  And not just as if we were sharing this with our children, but how the letters related to all aspects of our lives (work, personal, friendships, etc.).   We each had a few letters that really stood out for us.  Mine was the letter about Being Grateful.  Here is a part of that letter:

"One of the main ingredients in the recipe of true happiness is a sense of gratitude.  Beginning each day with expressions of gratitude lays the foundation of a great day.....Ask yourself, what am I grateful for today?....The more things you are grateful for, the better you will feel...automatically." pg. 53, Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo by Sandy Bucholtz.

I really do try to practice this in my everyday life.  Even on the worst days (which are not really that bad) when your children are driving you crazy, your husband didn't take out the garbage again, and you've had a bad day at work.  Just be grateful for the sound of your children crying (so many moms would do anything to once again hear their children cry), be grateful you have a husband who loves you, and be grateful for that job.  It may sound so simple, but in the midst of all the chaos, just repeating what you are grateful for over and over can help calm the spirit and get you through the day.

Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo is a thoughtful, inspiring read.  It's a book you can read over and over and have a new or different message resonate with you depending on your mood and what kind of day you've had.  It's not only lessons moms can pass onto their children, it's lessons we could all practice in our lives!  Thank you Sandy for sharing it with us!

April's book club selection is Away by Jane Urquhart. It was a CBC Canada Reads contender this year.
Oh and I should mention food plays a big part in our book club meetings.  I made this delicious apple dip (recipe below):

Apple Dip

1 pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup brown sugar
Skor bar (I used Skor bits because I had them from another recipe)
Caramel sauce
5-6 Granny Smith apples

1. Mix brown sugar and cream cheese until smooth.  Spread on bottom of pie plate. 
2. Sprinkle crushed Skor bar on top and drizzle with caramel sauce.  Serve with apples.  (I tossed my apples in lemon juice to keep them from browning.)

This recipe was hand written by my great aunt in our family cookbook which she gave me for a wedding shower gift.  One of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.  She had written notes all through the book, adding her own recipes and sharing which ones she'd tried and liked.  It is my most used recipe book to this day. 

Well folks I've been writing this blog for just over a month. I've been posting three times a week but I know I'm not going to be able to keep that up.  I've got one month left of my maternity leave and want to enjoy every moment possible with the kiddies-so if you don't hear from me for a bit-that's why-I'm off making memories to blog about :)  Thank you all for your loving support and kindness.  Thanks for reading and hopefully I'll continue to provide you with a little something to brighten your day.

~ Elizabeth

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Has Arrived...Not Really

Little late with my blog post tonight.  I was hosting Mommies Who Read Book Club.  I'll share more about that in another post.  

I know everyone is talking about the weather.  Today was the first day of Spring but not really.  I clearly remember the weather this time last year because I was pregnant with Dustin.  On March 21st, 2012, I posted this picture to Facebook with this comment: 

Really??? March 21st??? And it's this hot? All I have to say is thank goodness for Crocs (only shoes that fit me) and I'm glad this baby is due in May!

 Yesterday (March 19th) I woke up to this:

Hard to believe today was the first day of Spring.  It's true-we are ready for the real Spring to arrive.  For awhile now Emma has been asking to go on her swing.  It finally cleared the snow so we were able to get out for a swing the other day.  Dustin enjoyed it too. I had to borrow Emma's Tinkerbell sunglasses for him. 

While Emma can't wait for Spring so she can have full access to her playhouse and swing set I'm looking forward to Spring so I can get out and tend to my flower gardens.  For a little inspiration and to get me through till the real thing I thought I would share a few pics.  I enjoy gardening and have a vision of what my gardens will look like someday.  And while they may never look like that, I have certainly enjoyed creating them since we built our house in 2006.  

I do believe there are some weeds in the first picture but I just love our barn in the background.  I spray painted an old bike and leaned it up against a tree in our front yard.  I love using old items in my garden.  And Pinterest is full of this one...

So as I wait for Spring to really arrive I'm just going to sit here and come up with some plans for my garden (and what I really mean by that is Pin things on Pinterest and never do them).  *sigh*  One can dream.

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.  ~May Sarton


Monday, March 18, 2013

A Wee Bit of Irish For Ya'

Happy Monday everyone!  So what did you all do to celebrate St. Patrick's Day? We celebrated Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!  Whew!

Friday we ventured into the small Ottawa Valley Irish town of Douglas for their St. Patrick's Day parade.  What an event.  The effort that goes into some of the floats is amazing.  The kids really enjoyed it and we already agreed it was colder watching the St. Patrick's Day parade in March than it was watching the Santa Claus parade in December!

My sister and I enjoying the parade.

Saturday we had some friends in for supper.  We enjoyed some Irish stew and green dessert (recipe below) and green Kool-Aid for the kids. 

And of course I had to decorate with a few shamrocks.  Emma and I made name cards with thumbprint shamrocks and I attached  a Dollarstore shamrock to my wooden napkin rings.  It looked nice and festive.

And here is my tip for making stew.  Well it's not actually my tip.  I did a quick Google search and this isn't a secret but I'm going to share it anyway.  For those of you who have a Pampered Chef Crinkle Cutter-use it to cut turnip!  It's so easy!

Sunday was an "adult" day.  We ventured back into Douglas for some St. Patrick's Day celebrations.  The music was fabulous and included the Ryan Brothers and Bang On The Ear.  Good times for a couple of girls from Nova Scotia!

And I guess some of you are wondering about the dessert we had so here is the recipe.  (This is a combination of chocolate trifle recipes I've tried over the years).

St. Patrick's Day Chocolate Pistachio Trifle

1 Chocolate Cake Mix
1 package Two-Bite Brownies
Skor Bits
2 pkgs Pistachio Pudding
1 tub of Cool-Whip
Green food coloring

1.  Bake chocolate cake according to package directions.  Let cool.  
2.  Mix pudding according to package directions.  
3.  Add green food coloring to Cool-Whip, mix well.  
4.  Mix some Cool-Whip with the pudding.  

Assembling the trifle:  Break up chocolate cake and brownies.  Layer on bottom of clear bowl.  Add  Skor bits.  Add layer of pudding/cool-whip mixture.  Continue layers, ending with a layer of pudding/cool-whip (or just cool-whip).  Sprinkle Skor bits on top.  Enjoy!

I always enjoy St. Patrick's Day festivities, especially the music.  It was nice this year to celebrate with the kids as well.  Would love to hear how you celebrated!

May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home. ~ Irish Blessing



Friday, March 15, 2013

Meeting Emma and Time For Tea

In a previous post I talked about how my maternity leave is ending and I'm frantically trying to cross things off my to-do list.  This week I accomplished at least one major item-clean out my china cabinet.

The very top shelf houses my collection of tea cups, something I only collected for a few years when I was a kid-but my grandmother really helped facilitate the collection so I have not been able to part with them.  Even this time I had a few selected to downsize the collection but just could not do it.  So I  thought if I'm going to keep them I better use them.
So I planned a tea party for my three year old daughter Emma and myself.  I had a pretty high expectation of what the tea party was going to be like, but reality of course was much different.  I pictured us both dressed up as princesses, reality was Emma had an Elmo t-shirt on and I was still in my pajamas.  I thought it would be a nice, leisurely cup of tea and freshly baked blueberry muffins, reality was Emma spilled her tea cup full of orange juice three times.  I was so looking forward to just even 15 minutes with my daughter, reality was Dustin woke up from his nap about 5 minutes into the tea party.  But do you think any of that mattered to Emma, no way.  She loved every minute of it.
So I'm going to keep the tea cups for now.  I'm sure they'll help make many more memories with Miss Emma.

TNT Pin (Tried N' True Pin)

Skinny Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

Thought it was time to share another TNT Pin.  When I saw this Pin, I couldn't wait to try these brownies and they did not disappoint.   I didn't have Greek yoghurt, so I just used regular plain yoghurt.  The Greek yoghurt would probably make them even more delicious!

Click here for the recipe.   Enjoy!

Wishing everyone a safe and fun weekend.  Hope you and your loved ones can enjoy some St. Patrick's Day festivities-I know we will be!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meeting Dustin and Flipping Pancakes

Well I've decided that I can't write a blog about Raising Two and Everything Else I Do without actually showing you pics of the kiddos that inspire me every day.  So today you'll meet Dustin, my 10 month old son.

When Dustin was 6 months old we started the fun stage of solid foods.  I actually loved this stage with both my children.  It was so much fun making their food and trying new things.  Obviously, with my daughter I had a little more time to commit to this.  With Dustin I needed something quick and nutritious for those moments when I was trying to get everyone's supper on the table.

So someone suggested pancakes.  I found this recipe for Sweet Potato Pancakes.  It was actually published by Health Canada.  The recipe originally called for salt and margarine but I did not add these ingredients.  

Sweet Potato Pancakes

3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1.  In a large bowl combine sweet potato and egg whites.  Stir in milk.  
2.  In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Stir into the sweet potato mixture.  
3.  Heat a non-stick skillet to medium/high heat.  Pour on batter to desired size of pancake.  Once pancake starts to bubble, flip.  

OPTIONS:  Pancakes are so versatile.  I made 4 different kinds.  Blueberry, plain sweet potato, fish and pork.   For the fish and pork I still had some "pureed" cubes leftover from when Dustin had just started solid foods.  I separated some of the batter and just stirred in the fish and pork (previously cooked) and cooked the pancakes as I did the others.  You could also add other pureed/mashed vegetables like cauliflower or butternut squash-whatever your little one likes. 

STORAGE: Lay the cooked pancakes out on baking sheets and put in freezer overnight.  Store in freezer in glass or plastic containers and just throw in the toaster when ready to serve. 

Dustin just ate these up.  They were great for when he was demanding supper at 5:00 but I hadn't even started cooking yet.  

And here he is-Dustin Graham. Going in for a handful of freshly made pancakes!
Dustin is pretty much eating everything we are now (with a few exceptions) and boy can he eat.  I guess it's an indication of what it's going to be like to feed him as a teenager!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Whew...What A Weekend!

I swear, last weekend I did not leave my house.  This weekend that just past we made up for it.  I was lucky-the kids stayed healthy and relatively happy for the entire weekend!  Oh, and I ate dessert three times on Saturday night!  Yikes!

On Saturday I got together with some of my girlfriends for a lovely dinner.  We just ate and visited all afternoon.  It was a beautiful day so we went outside to walk around my friend's property and captured these shots.  She has a beautiful place in the country. I also got an old wooden window from her and am so excited to use it in a DIY project!

I rushed back home to attend two birthday parties (I had a piece of cake at both)!  Our daughter was a dancing machine with her friends-it was so cute.  One party was a 60th for a good family friend.  Our gift was a beer can cake.  I can't take credit for this...there are lots of ideas on Pinterest for beer can cakes but this is how mine turned out.

Sunday was a warm-up to St. Patrick's Day celebrations at the Douglas Tavern, an Ottawa Valley landmark.  Sunday afternoon they open up the Tavern to host local, young talent.  The step dancing, fiddle, and singing performances were amazing.  So much talent from such a little place!  My daughter loved it and it has inspired me to look into step dancing lessons for her.   Then we rushed home for another birthday party and more cake! 

It was a fantastic weekend surrounded by family and friends - I was feeling the love! 

It has been a few weeks now since I've started writing my blog and I feel this is the first post I've not had very much time to put some thought into (usually I have two or three "draft" posts written).  I know I'm going to have to revamp my posting schedule when I return to work because as I learned this weekend - there sometimes just isn't enough time!  But I'm still enjoying this experience and thank everyone for their comments and support.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Mommies Who Read

I love the new book club I've joined.  We're a small group of relatively new moms.  Before book club we knew each other either through mutual friends or a local play group that our kids go to. Our first meeting was in November and we read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  In January we read Dancing on Broken Glass by Ka Hancock and February's book was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  So far, we've all agreed that our selections have been an excellent read and created some great discussions. 

I think what I love most about our Mommies Who Read book club is the fact that we probably stay on topic about the book we read 20% of the time-the remainder of the time we're sharing birth stories and the trial and tribulations of raising our children.  There is always lots to share, no judgements, and we have yummy snacks too!

This month we are reading Letters From Heaven Love Mom xo by Sandy Bucholtz who is a local, Ottawa Valley author.  Click here to learn more about Sandy and her book. I'm hosting this month's meeting and really looking forward to the discussion since the book is a collection of letters to Sandy's children written by her.  I think us moms will have a lot to talk about!

Before I close for the week I want to share a new feature on my blog I'm going to call TNT Pin (or Tried N' True Pin). As mentioned in my earlier "bio" post - I'm a huge Pinterest fan. (You can follow Raising Two on Pinterest now.)  I've posted a lot of things on my personal Pinterest page but who knows if they ever work - and believe me, I've had a lot of Pinterest fails.  So here is a TNT Pin:

TNT Pin (Tried N' True Pin)

Freezing Tomato Paste 

I'm always trying new recipes (a lot of them fail) which tend to require either new ingredients or small amounts of specific items and the rest usually goes to waste.  One of those items is tomato paste.  I'm forever buying a can of tomato paste to use just a few tablespoons.  Until I found this pin.  (Leave it to Martha).  You just open both ends of the can, wrap in plastic wrap and throw it in the freezer.  Then use the metal end to push the frozen tomato paste out.  Wrap in plastic wrap and use only what you need.  I found mine didn't come out easily so I ran it under hot water for about 20 seconds and then it slid right out.  

Hope everyone has a safe and fun filled weekend.  We have a busy one so I'm hoping the kids are healthy and happy for the entire weekend!  Cheers!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Speed Cleaning

Fellow mom blogger, Melanie (check out her blog at S(Thomp)ing Ground) recently shared a post on speed cleaning.  Check out the full post here.  Melanie and I are clearly going through the same process.  Our sons are the same age and we are both getting ready to return to work very soon (insert sobbing face here).   I've had a pretty good year of maternity leave but as it comes to an end my list of things I'd like to get done is growing!   So I'm borrowing Melanie's excellent idea of speed cleaning or making a list of little jobs you want to get done and doing them during nap time. 

Since it's rare both my children are napping at the same time, I'm going to try and complete my speed cleaning tasks after the kids are in bed for the night.  It's that time of day when the house is “tidy”, supper dishes are cleaned up, and the kids are finally in bed asleep. For me there is a short window of time where I would like to eke out just 10 or 15 minutes more of my day.  Enter speed cleaning.  I’m kind of keeping a list of things (in my head) I’d like to get done.  
Last night it was under the kitchen sink.   So at 8:37 I sat down and reorganized all my cleaning supplies, battery container, boxes and paper bags (that I save for my organics green cart).  At 8:46 I was done.  Granted I didn’t clear everything out and scrub down the cupboard like I should have but it feels much more organized now.  Here is a before and after picture.  And yes the curtain rod to store squirt bottles was something I found on Pinterest (although it doesn’t take the weight of lot of full bottles.)   I next want to tackle our family bathroom.  Maybe one drawer a night.   And hopefully in the next few weeks I can have a more organized and clean house...before the chaos of going back to work full-time begins.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Remembering Newfoundland

When you recall places you’ve visited are there some that you think “I can’t wait to bring my kids there”.   For me, that place is Newfoundland.   Even being from Nova Scotia, both times I've visited NFLD I was amazed at the laid back, simple lifestyle and friendly people.  I first visited Newfoundland in 2005 to attend a conference for work.  During that visit I experienced St. John’s and George Street.  In 2008, I returned with my mother, grandfather, and aunt for a family reunion where we visited Corner Brook, Gros  Morne, Silverdale, Springdale and Little Bay Islands (LBI).  The trip to LBI was a highlight for me.  A recent article I read in the National Post regarding LBI had me thinking about this unique part of the province and our visit there. 

The National Post article described how LBI residents are applying to the government for resettlement.   If approved by 90% of the residents, each household would receive a resettlement payment.  Ferry service would be suspended and residents would basically leave the island behind.  Read the complete article here. 

Now I don’t want to debate the merits of doing this.  If you read the comment section of the National Post article there is enough debate about the subject. However, it did have me reminiscing about the amazing visit we had to this unique island. 

My great grandfather was actually born on Little Bay Islands.  So there was that extra "connection", especially since we were traveling with my grandfather.   Even 5 years ago there was no store to buy any food or drinks.  A couple who travelled on the ferry with us were unaware of this and did not pack a lunch.  So we invited them to share in our large family gathering so they would at least have something to eat.  A true testiment to the laid back, friendly atmosphere of the Island. 

I've included a few pictures I took while we there and they are some of my favorites from the entire trip.    

I know some day we will take the kids to NFLD and it's uncertain if we will be able to return to Little Bay Islands.  But if we do, one thing is for sure, it won't look the same as the first time I visited.  I am so grateful that I had a chance to visit LBI and experience the community as it was at the time.   I hope that one day, when my children are old enough to understand and appreciate it, that I will be able to share with them the special connection our family has to this beautiful part of Newfoundland. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Separation Anxiety and My Weekend Away

Recently my son started exhibiting some traits of separation anxiety. So I took it as a cue that it was time for a weekend away.  I headed to Kingston, ON with my sister to visit a friend and attend the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.  Turns out my son does not have separation anxiety as he was completely fine while I was away.  So since I was going to blog about how that was for me and my son, and it was a non-issue, I’m going talk about my weekend away, AKA, FREEDOM!!!!

My sister and I left Saturday morning, and headed down to meet our friends to attend a playoff game for this premiere ladies sporting event.  Some of Canada’s best female curlers, join together to compete for the title of Team Canada.   We attended two games and it was so much fun! 
My sister and I at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts!
From what I can tell, curling is a sporting event you either love or don’t.  I never loved it until I learned the strategy and rules behind it.  So every year, for a week in February and another week in March for the men’s tournament, my TV is tuned to the sports channel and my housework falls to the way side.  

Now since writing about a sporting event is likely not meeting the needs of my readers, I want to talk about the ladies that are competing.  They literally become rock stars for a week.  This is the best women’s sporting event in Canada based on TV ratings and attendance figures.  At one game we attended, a player was out in the audience participating in a sponsor giveaway, and people were getting her autograph as she walked by.  

But what stands out for me as we watched these ladies compete all week on TV and then live on the weekend was that many of the players are moms or even moms to be! (Imagine sweeping a curling rock down the ice at 7 months pregnant??? I could barely sweep my kitchen floor when I was pregnant!).  These ladies are making huge sacrifices to represent their province and I really admire that.  I can’t imagine doing everything we do as moms plus being a championship curler (and most of these women have full-time jobs).  It was empowering to watch these ladies work hard all week to try and achieve something many of them have been training for their whole lives.

So while I was all concerned about separation anxiety, it was clearly not a problem for my son.  I am however having separation anxiety from curling, I miss watching it on TV.  Good thing the men's curling starts this weekend.   You’ll know where to find me.  Have a great weekend everyone!