Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Leaving the House is The WORST

Ok. Upon reading the title of this post, you may assume it is because of my recent struggles with anxiety. But it's not. It's because of these 2 little angels: 


Sweet, right? Yep. They generally are. Until we have to leave the house. As if my sanity wasn't fragile enough, I also have to wage fullscale WAR in order to walk out the door. No matter how much strategy I employ, no matter how clever I think I am being in preparing hours in advance, I am always outwitted, outlasted and outplayed. I am the weakest link, there can ONLY BE ONE!!!! and it's not me. 

Let me explain.
 
Sometimes, we just have to leave the house. Maybe we have an appointment, maybe I'm crazy enough to think an outing would be nice, who knows. In any case, I have to be somewhere at some time. I try and start at least an hour before we have to leave, but this has proven to not be sufficient. I get them changed, which is like trying to wrangle an octopus into a ziplock bag, but twice. I eventually succeed, and then it is my turn to try and make myself presentable for the outside world. 

This is impossible. The oldest is running around and throwing toys and dumping puzzles and pushing his brother and chasing the cat and evil laughing while dumping a glass of milk on the carpet. The youngest is screaming and crying like I have abandoned him in the wilderness despite the fact that he is 2 feet away from me. If I have to go to the closet to get a sweater, he crawls after me with his head up screaming and wailing at the ceiling. The 10 minutes it takes me to get dressed and run a comb through my hair is the loudest and most chaotic 10 minutes that has ever existed in space and time. It never fails either. I can have a ton of well-timed activities planned, I can even resort to putting Thomas the Tank Engine on...it doesn't matter. None of this holds any power compared to the innate instinct to make mommy lose her ever-loving mind. 

This is usually the point where I start to really lose my composure. I shut down into a resigned zombie with no feelings on auto-pilot. I think it's a coping mechanism. "No Finn, don't hit your brother, Q, you are ok sweetheart, Mommy still loves you even though I am not physically touching you" while I smear eyeliner on and pull my greasy hair into a "messy bun" (understatement of the year). 

After this, the hunt for the boots/coats/hats/no-not-the-green-ones-the-blue-ones-mommy-mittens begins. This is where my adrenaline starts to kick in and I wake up out of the zombie-state and start to get into a state of panic. I have usually noticed that if we don't leave the house in exactly 5 minutes, we will once again be late. But of course this one boot cannot be found. How can it not be there?! It's always in the box with all of the stuff. Could it be in the closet? I have checked absolutely everywhere, including the places that is doesn't even make sense to look. Maybe it's behind the toilet in the bathroom?! Any attempt at recruiting help from the toddler is just enlisting him to run around yelling "where's my boot mom?"about 30 times. Eventually, with one minute until we have to leave I unearth the missing boot from underneath the couch in the basement (I have no blooming idea how it could have gotten there) and get it on. 

I put Q in his bucket seat and begin to buckle him in. Maybe I'm actually going to make it this time!! I can't even believe my luck...my hair is in disarray and I have non-matching socks on, but we may have actually done it. Just as I clip the last buckle, I hear the tell-tale rumble and know that it is not to be. Somehow the diaper which is designed for the specific purpose of not allowing everything to explode everywhere has failed, and it requires an entire change of wardrobe for the babe. Any chance we had at being semi-punctual is out the door (unlike us). 

Once we get that settled, we all head into the car, and I strap the toddler in, while he tries to escape so he can drive Francesco Bernoulli. Why my toddler thinks our tiny little Honda Fit is a Formula One Racecar from Cars 2, I have no idea. 

I finally sit in the car and heave a sigh of exhaustion. We haven't even pulled out of the garage and I am ready to go home. 

And this happens every.single.time. 

So THAT, my friends, is why leaving the house is the WORST (and also why I will be late every time we arrange to get together...sorry). 

#momlife

~Amy

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Few of my Favourite Things

It's almost time for Christmas, so I thought I might share with you a couple of my favourite things, just in case you are still looking for something to put on your lists (or to snag in some great Boxing Day (week...month...??)  deals!)

The Nexus 7 Tablet

Up until very recently I had never owned a tablet. In fact, I had only used an iPad very briefly. I LOVE this tablet. It's nice and small, and the screen is incredible. It looks better than my TV! The sound is also pretty amazing. I don't even need to plug it into my speakers when I am listening to Songza (another one of my favourite things!). I also liked how easily it synced to my phone and automatically downloaded all my apps. Pretty slick. It would make a great e-reader due to it's size, but I still prefer reading on my non-backlit Kobo, as it's easier on the eyes. The only thing I'm not that crazy about on the tablet is the camera, but that's fine. I always think it looks funny when people take photos with their tablets anyway. ;) I always thought that tablets were sort of redundant for me, since I have a laptop and a phone, but it changed my mind. 




My moccasin slippers

I loooooove these slippers. I don't even know where they are from, as I got them as a gift from Hubby last Christmas. They are so warm and comfy, and I love that when I wear them I don't get cheerios and crumbs and all the other little treasures my boys leave all over the floor for me stuck to my feet. They take a beating and keep on cozying my feet. 










The Sodastream

I wasn't sure about the Sodastream. I hemmed and hawed about it for a long time. I mean, it seems like an awesome idea, but I'm a bit of a soda snob, especially when it comes to Cola. So I knew I wasn't going to use it much for making pop like Cola or Rootbeer. I didn't use it too much at first, but then I branched out and tried the other syrups they have, and the Kool-Aid syrup is my absolute favourite! I loooove bubbles, and that is the reason I drink so much pop. It's awesome to be able to control the level of syrup I use, as well as to add some bubbles to things like orange juice so I get that fizz fix but without adding calories or sugar. I also picked up some Torani syrup and make myself Italian Sodas as a treat every now and then. For those who like carbonated water, this is a must. It's so handy, and it was definitely something that grew on me. 



Dogeared Jewelry

If you haven't heard about Dogeared, please don't Google it, since you will probably fall in love. I adore their designs; so clean and simple and beautiful. I have coveted the Karma necklace for a few years now and finally decided to buy myself a little present and picked it up, as well as a bracelet. I love them and wear them every single day. I am pretty sure I want one of everything...hint hint Hubby!! ;) 





*Please note: I have received some items listed in this post for the purpose of review, however all opinions (as always!) are my own. 
~Amy

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

THE most delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding

This recipe is the devil. It's basically the most delicious thing ever, and it's really easy to make. 


I was recently obsessed with the Sticky Toffee Pudding from President's Choice. Hubby got real sick of me thinking of things we needed from Superstore just so I could get my hands on more. It's seriously amazing. But I always think homemade is way better than store-bought. So if this stuff was so good, what would homemade sticky toffee pudding be like? It would have to be mind-blowing. 

As fate would have it, a friend of mine just so happened to post on Facebook that she thought that sticky toffee pudding was perhaps the most perfect dessert ever created. I shared with Sarah my love for the gooey stuff and I started on the lookout for a good recipe. There are many out there, but they all seemed a little intimidating, or missing the gooey factor (which is the best part). I wanted something that was easy to make and preferably not using ramekins, as I don't own any (gasp!). 

A few days later, Sarah says her mother-in-law is visiting from Scotland, and happens to have a recipe for sticky toffee pudding which is both easy and scrumptious. And let me tell you...that is an understatement. This is literally heaven in a bowl (or straight from the pan if you have no self-restraint like me). 

Many thanks to Ann and Sarah for bringing this into my life, although I'm not sure my waistline thanks you as much. Ha! 

So without further ado, I bring you

Oh mannnn...that sauce! Drool.

THE most delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding 

Sponge (cake)

1 cup sliced, chopped dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups of boiling water
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs at room temperature, beaten
1 1/2 cups of flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Toffee Sauce

1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 vanilla bean

Place dates and baking soda into a medium saucepan and pour the boiling water over them (mixture will foam up). Set the pan over medium heat and simmer for one minute. Take off the hear and leave to cool for 15 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350F, and grease a 8" square baking dish. 

Place butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, beating well after each addition. Mix flour, baking powder and salt together, and gently stir into bowl with a spoon, followed by date mixture and vanilla extract. Stir until combined. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 35 minutes until springy to the touch. 

While cake is baking, make the sauce. Place sugar, butter and cream into a medium saucepan and add a split vanilla bean. Heat gently until butter is melted, then bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened and a rich toffee colour. Try not to eat the whole pan. 

When cake is done, spoon a little sauce over the sponge to coat the surface and return to the oven for 5 minutes. 

Remove from oven, cut into squares and pour hot sauce all over the sponge. Lick the plate. 


~Amy

Sunday, December 8, 2013

We Day 2013

I've been lucky enough to be a part of We Day for the last 2 years. This year when Telus asked me to be a guest to attend the event, I jumped at the chance. I was so excited to attend the actual event, and as I was able to bring a youth guest, I began trying to think of someone I knew in that age range. It turns out I don't know that many people between the ages of 8 and 18...who knew?! So when my husband suggested the daughter of his coworker, I thought it would be an awesome experience. After all, while I feel I am sort of hip and know a bit about pop culture, I have to be honest in saying I had to google a couple of the celebrity guests at We Day this year...shhhh...don't tell! 

Anyway, my hope was that in bringing Emily along I would be able to get a better idea of how We Day effects someone still in the prime of their young years. When I was Emily's age I was a true idealist, looking to change the world by buying tshirts to save the otters (remember There Otter Be A Law? NO? Just me?! Ahhhh well...). Sadly, I have lost a little bit of that shine since I've become older and a bit more jaded with life. So I was looking forward to catching the enthusiasm and really enjoying We Day in the way it was intended. 


I knew I was going to be very moved, and I was. But what really was inspirational for me was to see the entire stadium filled with young people, all inspired to make changes, no matter how small, in this world for the better. I know that if even 10 of those whom attended carry that forward into their life that this world is a better place. 

On the red carpet with Emily 
If you haven't heard of We Day, it's an event put on by Free the Children. Thanks to generous sponsors like Telus, the event is free for the youth to attend, but they have to earn their way through volunteering in the community and in the world at large. It's a full day of speakers, music, celebrity guests and inspiration. And one of the cool things they have introduced is an app called We365. It's a completely safe digital social space for youth to inspire each other, and bring the spirit of We Day with them into their lives. They can choose causes they identify with and complete challenges from small things like using a reusable coffee cup to larger ones like fundraising. And it can also track your volunteer hours for school projects, etc. It's basically the Facebook of Doing Good. My favourite part about it is that it is totally moderated and it is safe (i.e. you can only "friend" people you know in real life, no geo-tagging of posts for youth, etc). It's a great way to make these ideas real, and to have a tangible way of making changes in your everyday life. It may seem small, but you can see that hundreds of users are doing the same thing, and you can know that you are indeed making a difference. Love it! 

I can write a summary of the event for you, but I think I would rather have Emily tell you in her own words, as they are so perfect. It was such a pleasure tospend the day with such an amazing young woman, and I hope that the experience will remain with her for some time. Thanks Emily for helping me to get a little bit of that old shine back and for inspiring me. 

My experience at We Day is one that I will never forget; from all the inspirational speakers to getting to meet part of one of my favorite bands! When we first arrived at the Saddledome I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect since it was my first time going. All I knew was that I was excited to have the chance to get to see all the amazing people speak. My junior high had always been a big supporter of We Day so I had a general idea of what it was all about but I never imagined the impact it would have on me. 
We got to watch from one of Telus' private suites which was amazing and when we went to our seats there were swag bags waiting for us. Inside were many things including a bracelet that lit up every time you clapped. The idea behind it was that the light was a spark, and a single spark can grow to be so much more. They would get everyone to begin clapping together so that it would demonstrate how everything starts with an idea and eventually that idea can grow to be big and can change the world, like We Day itself. I loved the whole concept of the bracelets and it really got me thinking about how I too can change the world. 
There were many speakers including Spencer West, Martin Luther King the third, Magic Johnson and more! However I was really inspired by Amanda Lindhout. Her story had stood out to me. She was a lady who had always dreamed of travelling the world and going to see exotic places and when she became a journalist she got the opportunity. However her trip to Somalia had gone terribly wrong when she was kidnapped. She had been held captive for almost a year and was treated horribly. She was kept in a dark room and was only allowed to lay on her side. I had heard part of her story already as my mom had read her book she wrote, but I didn’t expect to be as affected by her speech as I was. I think she is an amazing person to go through that, manage to escape, then come back home and get back to living a normal life where she doesn’t always have to fear everything. I can’t imagine how hard the whole thing must have been for her. I think it is incredible that she can take her story and use it to inspire people like she did me. 
Meeting Nelly Furtado. She's even more gorgeous in person, and she is so passionate about Free the Children. Amazing. 
I also really liked the Kenyan boy’s choir! Not only did we get to see them perform with Nelly Furtado and Shawn Desman on stage, but we got to see them perform at the press conference too! They were really fun to listen to and each performance was really energetic! The press conference was also a really neat experience. Nelly Furtado and Craig Kielburger also spoke at the press conference and it was cool how we got to get a kind of inside look into the show before it had started. 
One of my favorite parts of We Day aside from the inspirational parts was the red carpet. We got to meet Shawn Desman, Kardinal Offishal and Down With Webster! I have to admit I was pretty star struck especially when Down With Webster came. I am a huge fan of Down With Webster and it was crazy that I got to meet them! Anyway, each group got to ask each of them questions and I was pretty impressed with many of the answers especially Kardinal Offishal. In one of his answers he had compared his view of the world to glasses. He had said that it was like when you have a pair of glasses and you think you see everything perfectly well but then you go and get your vision checked and realize you need new glasses and when you get those new glasses then you truly see the world clearly. I thought that was a really good analogy and it really got me thinking about what I’m missing in the world that I could help with. 
At the end of the day I was sad that it was over but grateful to have gotten the experience. I decided I would download the app “We Day 365” so that I could make a difference. It is an app that gives you little challenges that can help make a difference in the world. You get to choose what causes you want to support and from there they give you tasks that can help with that issue. They aren’t big tasks but they can be little things that help. For example, if you follow the cause of bullying, then maybe it’ll tell you to give random people compliments or something like that. I think the app is a great idea and I think that the tasks no matter small do make a difference in the world whether it’s helping just one person or many. 
Emily with Down With Webster. Pretty epic. 
We Day was an incredible experience that I will never forget and I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful to have gotten the experience to go and it definitely had an impact on me. Since We Day I have been looking for more things I can do to help with anything and everything! If you ever get the chance to go to We Day I suggest you take it because you won’t regret it and you will leave with the experience of a lifetime and the want to go and change the world. 
If I look through my “We Day glasses” I can see acts of kindness everywhere just like the act of kindness Amy showed by inviting a stranger –me--  to experience the life changing event filled with the energy of many great people all joined together to celebrate the changes that WE can make in the world. 
Ok, I fan-girled a little meeting Kardinal Offishall. 

Thank you soooooooo much once again for the opportunity Amy! I can’t thank you enough times for the experience it truly was amazing and I will never forget it!

~Amy

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes & Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins


It's fall, which means it's that time of year to PUMPKIN ALL THE THINGS!!!!!


I have to admit I'm a late convert to the pumpkin craze. I actually don't like pumpkin pie (gasp!!) so I was pretty reluctant to think I would enjoy pumpkiny goodness in every single incarnation. Turns out it's actually really yummy! 

If you know me at all, you know I am pretty addicted to Starbucks; I love their Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I have tried for a few years now to recreate a similar coffee at home, and have tried everything from syrup to creamer recipes. None have ever really made the cut. Most of the time they are either really sweet, or they have a pretty gritty texture which I'm not a fan of. But I have finally found it! This latte tastes pumpkin-y and spicy and coffee-y...just right. 

And because you can't have a cup of coffee without a treat, I also whipped up some pumpkin zucchini muffins to go with them. I don't like zucchini at all, actually, but for some reason it tastes delicious in baked goods. So it seemed natural to toss some pumpkin in there too and make a fall pumpkin explosion. They are super moist and tender, and since they have 2 types of veggies in them, I feel like they are basically a health food. It would be easy to "healthify" this recipe a bit by subbing some whole wheat flour for the white, and reducing the sugar a bit, but I like em just like this. 

Enjoy!

 

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Lattes


Place 2 1/4 cups of milk in a saucepan. Whisk in 3 Tbsps of pumpkin puree, 3 Tbsps of white sugar, 1 Tbsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a simmer. Add in 2 shots of espresso (I use my Tassimo for that) or 1/2 cup of strong coffee (to your taste). Pour into a mug and top with whipped cream and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. 

I didn't find the texture too gritty, but run it through a fine sieve or some cheesecloth first if desired. 

If you have a bit leftover, but it's not enough for a full cup, it's also delicious if you add a little bit to your regular latte or coffee. Yum yum!

adapted from Food Network Magazine


Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins

2 cups of flour
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
1 1/2 tsps ground nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup zucchini, grated
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in bowl. Set aside. Cream butter and sugars for about 5 minutes until creamy and well incorporated. Add in eggs and combine well. Add vanilla, ginger and pumpkin and combine. Add zucchini and stir until mixed. Slowly add flour mix and stir until combined. 

Scoop batter into muffin pan (I use a silicone one so they just pop right out...they are amazing!) until almost full. Top with some cinnamon sugar if desired. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20-25 mins until toothpick comes out clean. 

~Amy

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