It's Starting to Feel a Bit Like Christmas... Already.



Photo by Brenna from the "Christmas Love for Fort McMurray" facebook group.

A few months ago I was approached on my Etsy shop to donate a few ornaments to families who lost everything in the Fort McMurray fires this past spring.

To be honest I was a bit hesitant at first, as my ornaments are "wood-burned". This felt mildly inappropriate considering how much of the North was consumed by fires this year. But, I chose to see it as more of a "rising of the phoenix" as opposed to potentially offensive. Hopefully, others can see that.

I started making this design, shining star, for the donations. I fell in love with making ornaments all over again. There is something so satisfying about creating, and creating with a purpose.

Crockpot Freezer Meals: Tried and True





One of the things I hate about searching for new recipes, is the reliability of "good" meals. What I have found is that some people don't cook with spice... at all. Which for me is not our way of cooking. But alas, I am learning. So here are some of my favourite crockpot freezer meals... and where they come from:

COCONUT CHICKPEA CURRY

Not too spicy, not too bland, and a nice vegetarian option for friends. We like to serve it with plain yoghurt and over rice. 
We found the recipe here.




HONEY SESAME CHICKEN
This one is a good one, and in a pinch we have cooked it on the stove top too!
We found the recipe here.




GROUND TURKEY BLACKBEAN CHILI
A great one for cold fall days.
We found the recipe here.


One of the things with freezer meals that is extremely important to me is the prep time. I don't have the patience to cook everything beforehand if I am going to be cooking it later... these ones are all "dump and freeze". As said, these meals are all tried and true. Be warned though, the chickpea curry can be a bit spicy for those with lower spice tolerance!

Germs & Slow Days



As predicted, the daycare bugs came home.

An ear infection, a sinus infection, conjunctivitis, and basically downright misery started on Friday night. But the funny thing is, of course, they aligned with two eye teeth cutting in, so we thought that the fever was simply associated to the new gems. But then Saturday afternoon the cough started. By Sunday morning, we had croup-like coughing which had me running to the bathroom to turn the shower on full blast to get some moisture.

While I am so blessed to be surrounded by a wonderfully supportive community, as many moms know, when sickness sneaks into the house, and your little one naps throughout the day from sheer exhaustion, somehow sleep in the nights is sporadic and of poor quality.

I took part of the day off on Monday, but was lucky enough that my parents had the day off from work, so they took babe for the morning. By the time I came to get him my throat was throbbing, my head was aching, and my eyes were drooping... so I arrived to relieve my supportive helpers and was instead sent to bed for a nap. God bless them. After waking, I felt worse than I had all weekend- it is funny how that happens. And as I sat at the table attempting to rehydrate my mother invi-told (semi-invited, semi-told) us to stay during supper time and she would make dinner. God bless her.

But as I took the full day off yesterday (and again half the day today) while I desperately want the illness to leave our house, and for our regular energy to return, I couldn't help myself from feeling a bit of satisfaction in a slow day. A day spent holding my (droopy, sad) sweet toddler as he slept for hours on end, but refused to be put down. A day spent finding happiness in moments of feeling good, swingsets, booster juices, and cartoons on the television. A day full of mess and gross kleenex, but a day full of snuggles and understanding. It slow enough to savor the moments.

In my new position, the days are not slow... and savoring moments have been few and far between. I feel energized and invigorated throughout the day and then come home either exhausted or overwhelmed.

Neither the slow days nor the hectic days are good or bad, they are just so different. I am not sure what I prefer. I am not sure what I am better at. But I desperately wish there was a way to strike a balance between the two. To feel as though my mind has been exercised to its full capacity and had a chance to stand in awe of the simplest, but most splendid things like a sleeping baby or the discovery of water in a watering can.

Life Transitions



My "stay-at-home mom" career lasted a total of 3 weeks. This Tuesday I am starting a 3-month contract as an intern. While I am extremely excited about taking this position, I am overwhelmed by changes in my life and the thought of being away from baby boy full-time.



In order to mitigate the anxiety and the stress of huge life changes I have chosen to do a few things to organize ourselves:

1. I bought ALL the snacks at Costco.

One of the things I notice as I start new positions is that I eat way more food. This is always surprising to me since being a student I was home a lot, but for some reason sitting at a desk, working and using my brain in a different way I find myself famished and snacky. So I bought hummus, vegetable stick chips, and when I went to the granola bar aisle I couldn't bring myself to purchase granola bars... because my homemade ones are so much tastier.

2. I planned out ALL the meals.

I have been doing this for a while now, planning out the meals for the entire month ahead of time. It works fairly well and it is a budget saver. But this change allows little room for mind-changing, but I have developed it so that we have most of our "easy" meals at the beginning so we have the time to transition easily. Our "easy" meals consist of crockpot meals, premade shepherds pie meals, BBQ ideas, and so on. Next week we have: pulled pork (crockpot), eating at my parents (wahoo!), shepherd's pie (frozen), and pizza night (we'll order in). While I know that to an extent we substitute the "freshness" for ease, these meals (aside from the pizza!) are relatively healthy still, and should make great leftovers!

3. I pre-visited the new daycare for 30 minutes.

This one isn't innovation in any way. Because babe is starting a new daycare (so close to home!) we spent just under an hour hanging out in his new classroom last week. While I know from intuition and experience that dropping him off and leaving him for eight hours will be tough, I take comfort in knowing that within ten minutes of our visit he was off exploring the room and hanging out with the other kiddos.

4. I made a list of the reasons why I was taking the job.

Taking this position was not an easy thing to do. I had it in my mind that we were going to stay at home this summer and enjoy the "maternity leave" that I never took. While I am not resentful of these choices, I am sad that I am missing out on the best months (we live in a winter city and warm summer days and spray parks are few and far between). Both options of taking the job were tough: neither one was right nor wrong, each choice had its own merits and disadvantages, but overall we decided that taking the term position was worthwhile in the bigger picture of my career, our financials, and our goals. There will be hard days, anyone who says otherwise is just wrong, but there will be great days too.

While I am at peace with my decision, I am working hard to remember what it is like starting a new position, and remember how I have dealt with it in the past. Though we have the new challenge of a toddler in the mix. We will see how this all goes...


Choices



Working or staying home?

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to take on a contract position in a very interesting office. But while the opportunities that were laid out for me were extremely interesting and something I was unlikely to experience again, I couldn't get it out of my head, "he will only be this little once". 

After birthing my son, I leapt back into school work the following week. I was back in some classes three or four weeks later (I had a cesarean so my recovery was not quite what we expected... along with an earlier than expected baby). I was permitted extra time to finish my courses, and two days before the beginning of the next semester I handed in my assignments. After spring semester I "took time off", meaning we had family vacations planned and I had my gall bladder removed, shortly before that I enrolled in distance courses to continue plugging at my degree. 

This April when I finished my courses for the final part of my degree I realized that this was my turn to take maternity leave! And then I was offered the amazing opportunity...

Daycare is expensive. 
The position will cover that, and then some.

I am so anxious when I am away from him for more than five hours. 
He has to grow up sometime.

He is going to be sick constantly from daycare like he was at the last daycare.
This will happen at some point: either now at daycare or later in kindergarten.

Full-time work is going to be exhausting.
It is only for three months.

He will only be little once. 
This opportunity will only be here once.

I have no idea what is the harder choice: to take the job or to stay at home. Both will have hard days, both will have days that hurt. I was secretly hoping by writing this all out that I would have a better idea as to what I needed/wanted/should do regarding this, but I am just as confused as ever. There is no wrong choice, but I am not sure there is a right one.

Pinsperation: Vegetarian Meal Edition



When I first met my husband he was a vegetarian, not the strict kind, but the "eats bacon" kind. He grew up on a chicken farm, ate meat his whole life until he took a course called Philosophy of the Environment. Through this experience, he had to write a paper in favour of becoming a vegetarian, and with that, he took the assignment to heart and gave up eating meat.

I have never gotten a clear answer regarding his decision to continue on a vegetarian lifestyle, but he will say things like, "I liked the variety of meals"... or things along those lines. And then we met. On our first date, I ordered a BBQ chicken pizza from our server only to follow it up seconds later with the realisation that he didn't eat meat. He, being far too kind, insisted we order my choice, and the rest is history.

Scroll ahead 4 years, I have now completed the same course. We have prioritized eating local, small-scale meat for the entirety of our  marriage, after reading the wonderful book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, I took a different perspective on the matter. The choices we have made are good for us, and we recognize the same choices are not necessarily the best choices for the rest of our friends or extended family. That being said, any food put in front of me is wonderful; I eat what is served. But when I am planning the meals or buying the meat I might do it a bit differently than you, and that is okay.

Through this course I did not become vegetarian, but I decided to limit the amount of meat we eat every week. This is an environmental choice, a financial choice, and to an extent a moral/ethical choice. But one of the things I have been struggling with is finding meals to try for the 4-5 days per week that we eat vegetarian.

So here is my meal wish list for the next few weeks:

1. Grilled Mushroom Cheesesteaks:



2. Spaghetti with Herb and Garlic Ricotta:


3. One Pan Caprese Pasta:



4. Black Pepper Stir Fried Noodles:



5. Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Omelet Sandwich:



Sooo... if anyone has vegetarian meals that are to die for, send them my way!

The Burning House Project: support and relief



With the events of the Fort McMurray fires I am reminded of the site of "The Burning House"; the artistic response to the question of what would you bring with you if you had to leave your house? I cannot even begin to imagine how devastating an evacuation would be, so as I am thinking hard about what I would grab with only 30 minutes... or 10 minutes... or 5 minutes notice.


theburninghouse.com

In Alberta, we have had our share of natural disasters over the past years, it is terrifying to see communities face such devastation. When I think of leaving my house with the basics, probably my diaper bag, and maybe a backup drive, a passport, and all the people, the panic of wipes and diapers sets in. There are a predicted 80,000 people who are going to need relief and many who will need to rebuild. But the first thing that they all need is relief: safety, food, water, basics... and then together we can look forward to figuring out how to reestablish the community.

I hope many will join me in contributing to the Canadian Red Cross as a first step.