Friday, November 28, 2014

Foodie Friday - Pumpkin Muffins

Sorry about the lack of Foodie Friday post last week. I totally forgot about it until late that night and by that point, I figured I would just wait a week. Plus, it gave you a small break between two muffin recipes. I usually try and vary my Foodie Friday posts but I've been on a muffin kick lately and these ones were just too good to pass up sharing with you.

This is for sure my new go to pumpkin muffin recipe. I was blown away by how tasty, moist and not crumbly they are!

Plus, for those of you who care, they can easily be vegan.

I also love how simple they are to make. Not too many ingredients and they mix together beautifully.

As my Facebook followers saw last week, I just finished chopping up my big pumpkin and had a lot of pumpkin puree afterwards. So these muffins came at the perfect time. And having this great recipe will also help me work my way through the pumpkin stash in the freezer now.

When we visited my family back at the beginning of November, my sister Stacey made me a pumpkin cake in a bundt pan and she used this recipe. This is actually where I got hooked on the flavour and texture and kindly asked her to share the recipe with me. She did so now I am sharing it with you.

Pumpkin Muffins 
2/3 c. canola oil
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. pumpkin puree
2/3 c. milk (or non-dairy alternative)
3 1/3 c. flour
3 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix oil, sugar and vanilla together, then add in pumpkin. Add in milk until just mixed. 

Mix drys together in separate bowl, add to wets and stir until just moistened. 

Bake in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until done. Cool on wire rack. Makes 18 muffins.

Once they are cool enough to taste, dig in! They are the best fresh, so enjoy liberally that first day. Although I would recommend showing some self control and not eating four like I did.

What is your favourite thing to cook or bake with pumpkin? Mine is definitely muffins or cake.


Foodie Friday Mini Series, Take 2

Week 1: Banana Bread
Week 2: Butternut Squash Soup & Flat Bread 
Week 3: Nutty Chocolate Bark
Week 4: Lazy Sunday Casserole 
Week 5: Teriyaki Meatball Bowls
Week 6: Rosemary Garlic Beef Stew
Week 7: Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
Week 8: Pumpkin Muffins

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Hen Update

It's been two and a half months since I shared a post on our new hens. Back at the beginning of September, we purchased seven new laying hens to bring our flock numbers back up over twelve in the hopes of getting a decent number of eggs again. They were still young though, so we knew we'd have to wait at least two months before seeing any eggs from them.

Well for the last two months, they've been steadily growing and fitting in with the old hens a little better.

Matilda The Second

Bertha, Ellie, Sandra, Camilla and Matilda The Second have all grown into lovely hens. Nice sizes and at least two of them are already laying. We are very proud of our girls.



Fuzzy Butt and Minnie though? Not quite as proud. Turns out they aren't girls. We've got ourselves two handsome roosters though!

Minnie Mike

Fuzzy Butt
Fuzzy Butt is really hard to photograph, but you can sort of see the beautiful turquoise earlobes he has. There is also a little teal in the tips of his wing feathers, which adds a nice touch to the rest of his fuzzy body.

Minnie Mike (as we now call him), is getting better looking by the day. He has gorgeous colouring on his neck and his tail feathers are getting more fountain like each day.

We are keeping them both for now but we aren't sure if it will be a permanent thing. I'm kind of liking the idea of having cute little chicks running around next year though, so that might affect my decision making.

So there is an update on our small flock of birds. Everyone is doing well and their coop is nice and ready for winter now. Here's to hoping that the rest of the hens start laying soon and maybe some of the eggs will be a different colour than just brown!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Master Bedroom Inspiration!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have seen the picture of paint chips that I posted on Sunday. I am trying to pick a colour for our master bedroom and I am getting no where fast. I am horrible at picking paint colours. What I am good at though, is pinning ideas on Pinterest!

The whole master bedroom makeover is pretty much entirely in my head right now so I am still pushing around ideas of what I want and I am perfectly aware that the finished product will probably look very different from what I think it will. But it's just so much fun to plan! And because I assume that others also take pleasure in looking at ideas, I thought it would be fun to show you guys some pictures of what I am currently loving for a master bedroom makeover right now.

First of all, paint. I am in love with the idea of a nice rich bright blue on one wall and a light grey on the remaining three walls. These are the pins that I am using for inspiration.



I don't want to paint all the walls blue because I'm worried it will make our small bedroom feel even smaller and that it will feel too dark. Currently we have three white walls and one baby blue wall so I am pretty used to a "light" feel in the room.

Once the walls are painted, we will be adding in new furniture. Our current set was given to us for free and it has worked well for us these past six years. But I am ready for something new, with more of an "us" feel to it. And the best way to give us that feel is to make it ourselves! I found plans for a bed and Dan jumped on board. So we are currently in the process of making ourselves a new bed frame, inspired from this.

It will look similar, with some of our own tweaks and adjustments to it. Oh and we won't be painting it white. The plan is to do it in a nice dark stain.

While looking for bed plans, I also came across plans to make our own side tables and dressers. Dan isn't quite on board with the idea of making our entire bedroom set so we'll see if that actually happens. Either way, I'm loving the looks of these side tables. The first picture is the size we'd go with and the second picture is how I'd want to paint/stain them.

Aren't they pretty? Dreaming about these things is half the fun. Even if we go with something entirely different, I'm having a blast looking up stuff.

We would probably need two dressers to hold all of our clothes, and I like the idea of one longer one and one taller one. Once again, probably wouldn't be painted white but I love the looks of these two.


Once all the furniture is in, we would be able to start decorating! I don't have any huge plans for this, since I don't like a cluttered room, but I have a few thoughts up my sleeve. We currently have a wedding photo and our vows above our bed and I am thinking about upgrading them to something a little more like this.

And of course we'd need a mirror above the longer dresser. I need to be sure I look good before leaving the house and I use our current dresser mirror often. We have one of those old flat mirrors from our basement bathroom that we took out when we did that room makeover, but I hate the looks of it. So I have been researching ways to make it more visually appealing. The current winner, adding a nice white frame to it.

Obviously it would look different than the above photo, mostly because it wouldn't be in a bathroom, but you get the general idea.

That's it for my ideas so far. I still haven't decided on what style of curtain I want but that's next on my list of things to research.

I'm having so much fun planning and hope that you enjoyed my little share on what's going on inside my head these last few days. Anyone else doing any room makeovers? Or just dreaming about them like myself?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Simple Pleasures - November 2014

November has been a good month for us. We've been enjoying life in general and just feeling good, so finding some things that brought me joy wasn't that hard to do.

A walk in the sunshine before it turned cold

My new slippers I made myself

Dan's been playing guitar a lot more lately
Blooming Christmas cactus

Snow and frost on the window

Chomper soaking up the light
Your turn! What is bringing a smile to your face lately?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Indoor Camping

Remember back in January when I wrote a blog post about our plan to date? You don't remember? Oh well, I forgive you.

Basically, Dan and I wrote out a list of fun things we could do together and we wanted to try and do one thing off the list each week. Which we did really well with for two months and then kind of fell off the bandwagon.

Well we decided to pick it up again! We've done a few dates off the list such as candlelit dinner, playing pool, etc. and this past week we were supposed to go a museum together. But Dan surprised me with a different date instead! Last Wednesday I came home to find my basement transformed.

Dan planned a night of indoor camping. Since the weather outside isn't our ideal camping weather, we opted to stay in. Plus, this kind of camping has its perks. Real pillows and indoor plumbing to name a few.

We made pancakes on the wood stove and ate by the fire.

It was pretty fun. Especially since it was cozy warm, unlike our last camping trip. We even got to test out our new camping cutlery.

Dan even thought of playing a "gurgling brook" soundtrack in the background, so we could imagine ourselves out in the woods somewhere. It was a great touch.

After our pancake dinner by the fire, we played Yahtzee and Boggle. Dan sure does love me, since he's not a big fan of either of those games.

P.S. Jackie, I posted a picture of the Boggle board so you could try and spot some words. ;)

We then got distracted by old yearbooks and flipped through those for a while before moving on to guitar playing and knitting.

We finally decided to turn in, after grabbing our real pillows from our bed of course, and slept quite soundly by the fire. We did turn off the background noise though, since we both prefer silence when sleeping.

It was the perfect date and Dan was super sweet to surprise me with it. Needless to say, the museum trip got bumped to another week.

Anyone else ever camped out inside? It was a first for me. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Guest Post: Adopting from China

Good morning readers! As some of you know, November is national adoption month and I am helping spread awareness for adoption by sharing a story that is near and dear to my heart. I have been following Joel and Laure's story since May of 2013 when I bought something from their Etsy shop to help with their adoption fundraiser. I also ran the 5k for 6k, another one of their fundraisers, and have been reading every single one of their Facebook updates. I asked Laure to write a bit about their story and she very kindly agreed, even though November was a crazy month for her (read on to find out why).


I think I always knew that I wanted to adopt a child someday. I think of it as a calling because, like my decision to become a graphic designer, it just felt like it was part of me. I didn’t have to mull it over or lay out all of my options. I didn’t have to make a pros and cons list. I just knew that I wanted to do it.

Within months of my giving birth to our “Little One”, Evangeline, people began to ask me about our future children.

“Will you be having any more children?” they would ask curiously. “Are you going to be making Evie a big sister any time soon? How many children are you planning to have?”

I found myself telling people that we would be adopting our next child. Don’t get me wrong; my pregnancy was uneventful and healthy. It was a huge blessing, but I simply wasn’t interested in doing it again on purpose.

My husband Joel had never really thought much about adoption. When we were dating and in our early years of marriage, we talked about it, but I think he thought my adoption talk was a bit like when you talk about your dream job or your dream home—something you might do someday, maybe, if everything lines up.

After Evie was born and I started talking about adoption more intensely, Joel started to take a serious look at our finances, our debt from school loans, our mortgage, and our savings. He takes a very logical approach to decisions, doing hours and hours of research before making his best recommendation. He said no a few times. I kept telling him that it wasn’t that I wanted to adopt; I needed to adopt.

So, he researched some more. He prayed a lot. He listened to my impassioned speeches and came with me to orphan care seminars. Then one day, he said, “Okay, let’s do it.” And that was it. He was in.

Within a few weeks, we had submitted our application. We first applied to a transracial domestic infant adoption (DIA) program because, several years prior, I remembered that an adoption agency rep had told me that they didn’t have enough families that were willing to adopt a child of a minority race. That didn’t sit right with me, so I knew that was the program we needed to be in.

We started with $750 in our adoption fund in March 2012 and began working hard to raise the funds we needed. The estimated $15,000-20,000 we would need looked like an insurmountable number, but we started chipping away at it. We started with selling homemade peanut butter eggs and raised $350. Then we did an online auction of donated items and raised $800. I started two Etsy shops and began selling handmade nursery linens and microwave heating pads online, which brought in $2,000.

After a few months and a few hundred dollars spent, Joel and I both felt unsettled about the DIA program. The issue was that they didn’t need families after all; there were hundreds, even thousands of families waiting for an expectant mother to select them to raise her child. There was heavy competition between families to have the best profile book or website to show expectant moms who were considering adoption. That wasn’t what we had meant to sign up for; it wasn’t what we had been called to do. (It’s the best or only option for a lot of people; it just wasn’t for us.)

We started researching international adoption programs, which we had originally ruled out due to their cost. We both felt drawn to the China special needs program, but, with $35,000 in estimated fees and expenses, we didn’t think it would be possible for us to do it. We resisted, citing to each other all kinds of potential obstacles, but The Lord didn’t give up on His call on our hearts.

In the end, we gave in, threw our concerns at the foot of the cross, and dove into the China adoption program. It was October 29, 2012.

Once we had switched officially to the China program, we knew we would need more help than our peanut butter eggs could cover. People kept asking us how they could help, so we wrote a letter to all of our friends and family members, explaining what we were doing, why, and how they could help us bring our child home.

It was intimidating to write and send out that letter, because it put our adoption process out in front of everyone. I took my private adoption blog public, switched from pseudonyms to our real names, and included the blog URL in the letter. Our mostly quiet journey to our “Little Two” became everyone’s journey to our Little Two.

Responses were overwhelmingly positive, but we did receive some negativity from people who did not understand our call or felt it was inappropriate to “ask people to foot the bill.” That was hard to handle, but it wasn’t the last or the harshest negativity we would face along the way.

Within a few months, people began to send us money for our adoption fund. We watched our little fundraising thermometer skyrocket past $10,000 within three months. We sent in our application to the China program as soon as we met the minimum age requirement in May 2013.

We trudged through our home study, gathered all of our documentation, attended hours of online adoption training seminars, read books about adoptive parenting, and continued raising funds.

We started collecting donations of children’s clothing to have a small sale and ended up with a giant sale that raised $1,800. Follow-up garage and consignment sales brought the total raised past $3,000 from the clothing.

In October 2013, we were finally home study approved and officially waiting to be matched with our new son or daughter in China.

I continued selling my handmade items on Etsy and at local craft shows, which brought in $4,000 in 2013. We sold off anything from our house that we could spare using Craigslist and flea markets on Facebook. We added up the interest paid by our adoption savings account every month and added it to the total. By the end of 2013, we’d raised up more than half of what we needed.

After a very fundraising-heavy 2013, I needed a break. If you haven’t ever tried to raise money, allow me to let you in on a secret—it’s emotionally exhausting. You spend hours upon hours strategizing the best way to spend your money to turn it into more. You are constantly updating people on your financial situation, constantly feeling judged for stopping at Starbucks once in six months because, shouldn’t I be saving money to bring my child home and not buying a $4 coffee? Is it okay for me to get a haircut? Or should I grow my hair out and save the $30? What about new socks? If I buy this fabric on clearance, I could increase the ROI of my Etsy shop, but will people want to buy this color? I could take this extra web design job, but that means that I will be up every night for a week until 3 am. The barrage of judgment from my internal critic was incessant and increasingly difficult to ignore.

I resolved to do only one large fundraiser in 2014, rather than many separate little ones. It seemed that those around us were a bit fatigued from all the nickel-and-diming as well.

On January 10, 2014, we got word from Show Hope, an adoption and orphan care ministry, that our application for an adoption grant had been approved and we had been awarded $5,000! It was an amazing blessing to fill in $5,000 of our remaining need so unexpectedly.

On February 21, 2014, our completed dossier was sent to China. An adoption dossier is a packet of official papers that tell the story of your family in legal documents and notarized interviews. Our dossier was logged into the Chinese government’s computer system (LID) a week later. Though we’d been officially waiting for a match since the previous October, being LID was a whole new level of “ready.” It meant that it was even more likely that our match would come soon.

With nothing left for us to do but wait, I turned my attention back to planning our fundraiser, a virtual 5K event run through Pure Charity. We called it 5K for 6k for the 6,000 miles between the US and China. The event allowed for people all over the country to participate without needing to attend a specific local event; they could run, walk, jog, bike, skate, row, etc. whatever distance they chose, from wherever they were. As I planned the event, I was able to keep myself from wondering too much about when we would be sent a child’s file to review.

In April, we got a call. An 18-month-old boy named Xin needed a family like ours. Would we agree to adopt him as our son?

You’d better believe it!

Within a month, we were officially matched with our future son, Theodore Xin, and waiting to receive our Letter of Approval from China (LOA). The typical wait at the time was 60-90 days. Our wait ended on July 28, 2014, after 82 looooong days.

Our 5K fundraiser came together in early August. We had 20 participants all over the eastern US, and, together, we raised $2,500 toward our adoption fund! It was the most successful ask-only fundraiser of our entire fundraising campaign.

As we closed in on the end of our process, we received several anonymous gifts of $500 or more. One was $1,500! It was truly a blessing to watch the Lord work through our friends, family members, our church, and members of our local community.

We received our Travel Approval (TA) and confirmation of our Consulate Appointment (CA) at the end of September and were bumped from an expected travel date of November 7 up to October 17.

I’m writing this on October 7, one week from boarding the plane to go get our Little Two, our Theo. We are 96% funded, our plane tickets are in my email inbox, and my dining room table is covered with things that we will be packing into our suitcases in just a few short days.

By the time you read this, it will be November, and, Lord willing, I’ll be at home on my couch with my son next to me. 

Meeting Theo for the first time

I’ve always felt that God uses little things in our lives to show us how He’s working in the big things. Our appointment at the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China, is set for October 29, 2014. If that date looks vaguely familiar, it’s because it was on October 29, 2012 that we laid it all in the hands of the Lord and agreed to follow His leading into this call to adopt a son from China. Two years to the day since I wrote this:

When the Lord calls, it’s no suggestion. It’s not up for debate or discussion. He has a reason, whether it makes sense in our small-time, one dimensional frame of mind or not. Our job is to follow His leading wherever it takes us. We thought the financial roadblocks would keep us off this path, but we’ve realized that it’s not up to us to get through the roadblocks. We just stay on the path, following the Lord’s leading, and He’ll get us there.”

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!


To read about the rest of our process and our trip to China in October 2014, visit