Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 Goals: Progress Report #1

Time to check in and see how I'm doing with my goals so far this year. I like to do a quarterly update, so my plan is to have 3-4 goals crossed off at the end of each new three month period. Although I'm feeling like this might get trickier as time progresses.

1. Learn to parallel park
2. Get a will made up
3. Make a roman shade for the laundry room
4. Have a successful herb garden
5. Visit Seattle Tickets are bought!
6. Gain 5 pounds This must be my year to reach my goal weight, because I've already gained 5 since January. :::does a little happy dance:::
7. Volunteer with a local charity/group Just attended my first training day last Thursday at our local Alzheimer Society.
8. Learn to knit socks I finished my very first pair the beginning of March! To see pictures, click here.
9. Plant a new shade tree
10. Run another 5k
11. Read 20 books I've read 8 so far this year, so decent progress.
12. Put an extra $5,000 on the mortgage
13. Join a local knitting group I have only gone a handful of times so far but plan to continue to attend throughout the year.
14. Take a Zumba class I participated in a Zumba class with my friend Vicky on March 6th and didn't die!

Five items crossed off and a couple more being worked on isn't bad, if I dare say so myself. Now to figure out which ones I want to be done by the end of June...

How are you all doing with your goals? Anyone else keep track of their progress?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Foodie Friday - Irish Cottage Pie

Today is a bittersweet day, because it will be the last post in my Foodie Friday series. Before you get too sad and distraught over this fact, I promise to continue to share recipes and meals that I try. I always have and I always will, they just won't be under the heading of "Foodie Friday". It's time for me to move on to a new weekly series and can I just say, I'm really excited about this next one! But take heart my dear readers, Foodie Friday will probably make a comeback in the future. You just can't go wrong with food posts.

Now enough talk, time to share some good ol' comfort food! Since we are officially in the never ending winter and continue to battle cold temperatures (it was -9 Celsius here on Wednesday), I thought I would make one of my favourite winter meals of all time, shepherd's pie. Seriously, I can never ever get sick of shepherd's pie. Okay, so maybe I could if I ate it enough times, but so far I haven't. My trick, find different recipes and keep it varied! For example, this recipe for Irish Cottage Pie from The Gluten Free Goddess is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.


The first time I had this recipe was when we visited Jeff and Tory back in November and I immediately fell in love. The addition of tomatoes and balsamic vinegar to the meat base added the perfect flavour and made me want to eat the whole pan. I didn't, but Dan did. Kidding! Well, sort of. He did make a significant dent in it though.

Back to the present. I made it again a couple weeks back but didn't photograph any of the process, we were just too excited to eat it. So when I was trying to think of the perfect meal to end off my Foodie Friday series, Tory (yes the same Tory that I always talk about) suggested this cottage pie. I was immediately on board, because it's so good I don't mind eating it multiple times in one month. Seriously, you have to believe me on this. The flavours are to die for.


This is also the meal that introduced me to leeks. Now that I've tried them, I am hooked and continue to buy them for other recipes. How did I not discover them before now?


Leeks and garlic, what a perfect way to start any recipe.


Oh and meat. In my opinion, every meal is better with meat. At least this meal is. No offense to the vegetarians out there.

Another thing I discovered with this recipe is fire roasted tomatoes. Seriously, this meal has taught me so much about foods I never used before. I've been missing out!


I get so excited while cooking this meal, with the aroma of balsamic vinegar and herbs drifting up to me. The mixture of meat and veggies make the perfect colour combination and I just feel healthy by looking at it. Wouldn't you agree?


I almost feel bad adding the potatoes to the top of it. But not that bad, since mashed potatoes are the bomb. Although these are special mashed potatoes, calling only for olive oil, salt and pepper and you mash them up with a fork. I admit though, I may have added a drizzle of garlic oil into them as well. I couldn't resist.


Another awesome thing about this recipe, is that it produces a ton of leftovers. Well, if you only feed two people to start with that is. I know not everyone loves leftovers but I sure do, so I'm happy. I also totally overeat when it comes to this meal which is good for my weight gain goals.


So the moral of this story is to make this meal yourself. You won't regret it one bit, I promise. And if you are gluten-free and need inspiration for recipes, check out the rest of The Gluten Free Goddess blog, she has some mad talent. She also has a ton of tips for going gluten-free, baking, etc.

So there you have it folks, the awesome finale to my Foodie Friday series. But stay tuned for my next series starting up on Monday, April 7th. Anyone care to take any guesses to what I will be talking about? Monday is your hint.

****************************************************************

Foodie Friday Mini Series

Week 1: Roast Chicken
Week 2: Gluten Free Bread
Week 3: Carrot Pineapple Muffins
Week 4: Homemade Larabars
Week 5: Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Week 6: Brazilian Rice & Beans 
Week 7: Sweet Potato Quinoa Stir Fry 
Week 8: Chocolate Quinoa Cake
Week 9: Vegan Alfredo Pasta
Week 10: Spaghetti Sauce
Week 11: Black Bean Brownie Cookies 
Week 12: Irish Cottage Pie

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday - March 27, 2014

The Red Wheelbarrow
So much depends upon
A red wheel barrow
Glazed with rain water
Beside the white chickens.
- William Carlos Williams

Headboard Makeover

I still owe you guys a great guestroom reveal and I plan on doing so sometime in April. In the meantime though, we worked on a project earlier this week that I just couldn't resist sharing with you guys. So here is a little sneak peek into the guestroom.


We bought the bed frame a couple years back at a yard sale for $20 and while it was functional, it just wasn't pretty. See picture below to get an idea of what I mean.


Like I said, it worked but was lacking any flare and I found the headboard to be too short once the pillows were on the bed.


Fortunately for us, it was super easy to just take off the old headboard and still have something to attach a new one to.

We bought our supplies and then got to work. First, Dan measured the plywood and made sure we were happy with the height we had chosen before getting too far into the project.


Can you tell by his face that he was super excited to be in the picture? He refused to smile so we went with the scowl. Once he was finished scowling and I approved the height, he worked on framing the back of the plywood to give it some extra support.


Good thing I've got a smart man who can do stuff like this. If I was on my own, there would have been one big piece of plywood and that's it. Or then again, I probably wouldn't have tackled this project at all.

Once the frame was ready, we stapled the loft batting to it. To make sure it was nice and squishy, we put three layers of the loft batting and we are really happy we did, since it's the perfect squish.


After this step, we took a break and played some Settlers of Catan. But we did eventually get back to the headboard with the next step being to iron the fabric.


I totally did this step, since Dan had done everything else up to this point. He's just better with the drill and staple gun than I am. Not that I'm good at ironing, but I thought I should do something to contribute.

Dan then stapled the fabric onto the the headboard. We checked multiple times as we went along to make sure the fabric wasn't rumpled or pulled funny as we were stapling.


The finished product looked so good, I just had to hug it.


Once this part was complete, we headed back to the bedroom to mount it to the bed. Like I said above, the old one just unscrewed so it left a nice spot to just slide in a new headboard.


Four screws later and the whole bed was transformed! Doesn't it look so much better?


Although seeing the bed with the new headboard makes me realize that the bedspread is super wrinkly and the picture above it doesn't match.


Oh well. The headboard makes up for all that. And I have time to iron and switch out some art before doing my big reveal post.

Anyone else ever made their own headboard? There are so many different methods and styles you can use, but I'm pleased with our fabric one we chose.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kitchen Appliances

The other day, as I was using my food processor for a recipe, I realized that I sure do use it a lot. It got me thinking about the other kitchen appliances that I use regularly and which ones I couldn't live without. I was inspired to write up a blog post and share with you my favourite gadgets in the kitchen and then see what you guys use regularly.

So let's start off with the basics. I use my stove/oven every single day. No matter what I'm making, it pretty much is guaranteed to either go in the oven or on a burner. I could not live without the stove. Or at least it would be very hard to live without.


Next on the useful list is the microwave. While I'm pretty sure I would survive without one and get pretty used to heating up my food in other ways, I use my microwave pretty much daily as well. It's just so convenient for heating up leftovers, thawing meat or fruit and making popcorn. The popcorn thing is no longer but it was awesome while it lasted.


The dishwasher is the appliance that I never thought I would need but now that I have one, I love it! It's so nice to be able to just throw all the dishes in there after company comes and not have to worry about washing them all by hand. I still do a lot of dishes by hand but the dishwasher helps minimize the amount.


While this may come as a surprise to some of you, I make Dan homemade bread. I know I know, what am I thinking torturing myself in that way? But when I make it myself, I know what ingredients are in it, it's cheaper and it tastes better. I do admit though, some days it's really hard to smell it cooking and then slice it for him. But I love him and this is one of the ways I show it. I do cheat a bit and start off by using my bread machine. I don't like how the bread comes out when it's cooked in it though so I always use the dough setting and then knead, rise and bake in the oven. It's half the work but tastes so much better.


Since this whole post was inspired by the food processor, I better show you a picture of my beautiful one. It's a heavy duty Cuisinart that works like a dream and weighs 10 pounds. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating on the weight but it is heavy. Dan bought it for me a couple Christmas's ago and spent way too much on it. But his reason was "it's a kitchen tool and I never cheap out on tools". So I gladly accepted it and love the quality that comes with the higher price tag.


Another common appliance used by me is my toaster. While I have found an amazing gluten-free bread recipe, it still needs to be toasted to make it tasty after the first day or two. I usually eat as much as I can fresh and then freeze the rest. When I want some bread, I take it out of the freezer and toast it until crispy. Yummy!


And last but not least, the radio. Okay, so I realize this isn't exactly an appliance and I'm a little behind in times but I totally have my old stereo set up in the corner of the kitchen so I can listen to tunes while cooking. I usually listen to the radio but occasionally I put on a CD if I want something more specific. The stereo gets used on a daily basis, almost as much as the oven, if not more, so I felt bad leaving it out of this line up.


Oh, and after writing this post up, I realized I forgot the fridge. Oops. I do use my fridge all the time so it should have been included in this list.

I have other random things in my kitchen that I use on occasion but this was my top list of items I use and love. Is your list similar? Anything that I'm missing that you couldn't live without? I'd love to hear what your "must haves" are when it comes to being in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Mom Came to Visit

As most of you know by now, I took a little break from blogging last week because my Mom was visiting. She was here for a week, from last Monday until yesterday and we squished in a lot of fun together. I realized a little too late that we weren't that great at taking pictures of all our fun but we did do our best and I am here to show you what we did through photos.

We did four puzzles through out the week, since we made a pretty awesome team and puzzles are fun.

500 pieces

1,000 pieces

500 pieces

750 pieces
We had quite the set up going for some of them, since we had to spread out all the pieces. I thought it was a little funny how many tables we had going.


We also went shopping and bought a total of 23 books. Most of them were mine, I'm ashamed to say.


But really, I scored some awesome deals. And Mom bought some for me, so I didn't spend THAT much. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

We played cribbage and Settlers of Catan. Although we played Settlers like eight times and cribbage only once.


I won multiple times.

We also went to a ladies event at our church where the theme was backwards night. I went as Dan. Don't you think I looked awesome?


Okay, awesome and a little creepy. But it was tons of fun.

We went to the Farmer's Market and bought super delicious apples that were called Mutsu (I think) and we ate a bunch of them.


We ate yummy food, including stir fry twice, and mom reminded me that I owned chopsticks. I have lost my touch with them though and took forever to finish my bowl.


But don't you worry, now that I know I have some, I will work on my skills.

Other things we did were go for walks, watch movies, and some miscellaneous shopping. It was a really good week and I'm super happy that she came to visit me.

Thanks for understanding my need to take a bit of a break while she was here, but I am back now!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sunshine Award

I'm not sure if you remember how last January I was nominated for the Liebster Award so in case you don't, I'm linking to it for you. I have been nominated again for another blog award, but this time it is called the Sunshine Award.

While I know not everyone thinks these sort of awards are cool, I like them and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside that someone likes my blog enough to nominate me. Plus, it also gives me something to blog about today. My mom is still here (leaving today) and I am seriously lacking in blog material.

So without further ado, here is my Sunshine Award post! Stasy over on Dancing My Way Through Life, Loss and Books was nominated and then nominated me.


The Sunshine Award is given to those bloggers who brighten your day. Here's how it works:

  • Include the Sunshine Award icon in your post.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer ten questions about yourself.
  • Nominate ten bloggers to receive the award.
  • Link your nominees and let them know they've been nominated.
Here are Stasy's questions for me:
  1. If you could have any super/magical power, what would it be?
    Teleporting. I think it would be pretty cool to be able to just show up somewhere else without having the hassle of traveling. I could go visit all my friends and family who live too far away, much more easily than I can now.
  2. What is your worst vice?
    This is a hard one because I'm really not sure...
  3. What is your favorite thing about yourself?
    Physically, my lips. Personality-wise, how caring I have become since my losses. I am much more sensitive to others going through loss.
  4. What is your favorite book?
    This is a really hard one! I love Francine Rivers and her Mark of the Lion series.
  5. If you had to choose between losing your cell phone or losing your car (with no way to replace either), which would you choose?
    My cell phone. While it would be sad, at least I could still leave my house and visit friends in my car!

  6. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
    I don't eat ice cream anymore due to being dairy-free... but it used to be Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Yum!

  7. M/F/K the guys from Friends: Ross, Chandler, and Joey.
    I don't like these questions and I don't want to answer.

  8. If you had to choose between chocolate and alcohol (wine/beer/liquor) for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
    CHOCOLATE!!!
  9. What is your favorite thing about your significant other?
    I have to pick a favourite? I love how romantic he is. He loves surprising me and thinking of sweet and caring dates/gifts. He's a sweetheart.
  10. Why did you start blogging?
    I started blogging on the due date of our twins. We had experienced two losses by this point and I was bitter and angry and needed an outlet. So I started blogging so that I could write out how I was feeling. And so that my family could get a glimpse into what I was going through. Over time and as I healed, this blog evolved into what it is today.
Now here is where I am going to cheat a bit and not nominate 10 people. Honestly, I don't have that many blogs that I read regularly so I find it kind of hard. And some of these have probably already been nominated but I don't care. This way, you can click on the links and check out some of my friends blogs!
 These four blogs are on my daily read list and I love every single one of them. They are all so different but all capture my attention in some way. You should totally check them out.

Now for my questions for these ladies.
  1. What is your favourite colour?
  2. What country are you from and what country are you currently living in?
  3. What is the #1 destination on your bucket list?
  4. Favourite movie?
  5. Most embarrassing moment?
  6. Least favourite actor and why?
  7. Food that you couldn't live without?
  8. What is your worst habit?
  9. What time do you normally go to bed?
  10. Why did you start blogging?
I know I know, those questions were pretty silly. But I'm not very good at thinking up deep philosophical questions so you'll just have to deal. These questions aren't just for my nominations. My other readers are more than welcome to answer them as well.

I'll be back tomorrow with a quick recap on my mom's visit so be sure to check back in then. I hope you all had a good weekend!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Foodie Friday - Black Bean Brownie Cookies

Doesn't the name of these cookies just make you want to eat them all? Not so much? How about the picture of these cookies?


I was a little hesitant to make them, since the main ingredient was black beans, but I had heard good things about them and they were a healthier option than my Betty Crocker mix. So I pulled up the recipe and got to work.


It was a simple recipe with just a few ingredients and you mix them all in the food processor. Jackie, it would probably work in the blender. ;)

Since the original recipe isn't gluten/dairy free, I just altered it a bit by using almond milk and my own GF flour mix.


Oh, and to make it a teensy bit healthier, I used coconut sugar instead of normal white sugar. It worked well and made me feel better about my sugar intake.

Once everything was nicely mixed together, I added in the chocolate chips and then scooped out 16 small cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.



My finished product cookie didn't look anything like the original picture, but they still tasted pretty awesome. Although I did discover that they are much better chilled than warm. In fact, don't even bother eating them warm.


These cookies keep well in the fridge for up to a week and they have a nice fudge like texture to them. While I probably won't be making them too often, I consider them a success!

Anyone else ever made any "special ingredient" desserts? I usually don't tell people what is in them in case it will turn them off from trying them. Is that bad of me?

****************************************************************

Foodie Friday Mini Series

Week 1: Roast Chicken
Week 2: Gluten Free Bread
Week 3: Carrot Pineapple Muffins
Week 4: Homemade Larabars
Week 5: Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Week 6: Brazilian Rice & Beans 
Week 7: Sweet Potato Quinoa Stir Fry 
Week 8: Chocolate Quinoa Cake
Week 9: Vegan Alfredo Pasta
Week 10: Spaghetti Sauce
Week 11: Black Bean Brownie Cookies

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pinterest Party!

Last Saturday, I hosted my very first Pinterest party. What exactly is a Pinterest party you ask? Let me tell you, by mostly using pictures.

Basically it's just an excuse to get together with friends and eat good food and make fun crafts. The only thing is, everyone needs to bring a snack that they found on Pinterest and we make crafts found on Pinterest.


The food looked totally amazing, even if I couldn't eat most of it. Thankfully, my sister-in-law Trish brought fruit kabobs for which I was eternally thankful.


Speaking of Trish, she is the one who took all the pictures for this post so all photo credit goes to her. If you want to see more of her work, check out her website www.trisheastonphotography.com.


There were eight of us girls in total, so there was plenty of food to go around. It didn't help that half of them had just come from a potluck, so not too many were actually hungry.


But don't you worry, a significant chunk of food was eaten. Dan even got to help with some of the leftovers.


Once we were all full of food, we moved on to the craft portion of the evening. We had two crafts to do, both of which I had tried out ahead of time to make sure they weren't going to be epic Pinterest fails.


We loaded down our kitchen table with supplies and we all laughed and talked while we worked. It was a ton of fun and the time just flew by.


We made small white boards out of picture frames inspired by this pin.


Then we made cute feather hair clips, using feathers, a button and a bobby pin, inspired by this pin.


Once we all finished our hair clips, we thought it best to model them. Good idea, right?


I love our smiles in the above picture, since we all felt pretty silly turning our heads to the camera. We also thought we should probably actually turn and look at the camera for at least one picture.


It was such a fun group and we had a blast together. I am already trying to find more craft ideas for our next one, since I'm thinking this has to be a semi-annual event.

Anyone else ever hosted or attended a Pinterest party before?