January 31, 2011

Weekend Baking - Made Healthier

I love sweets. Cookies, cakes, pastries, you name it, I love it. I’d take sweet over salty any day. Seriously, a bag of potato chips could spend weeks in my cupboard before I’d be tempted enough to dig in. Chocolate or cookies barely survive the week. I swear they call to me from the kitchen. So, with my goal to eat healthily most of the time (and appreciating my own lack of willpower), I try to limit temptation by keeping only dark chocolate that I can enjoy in moderation in my house.

However, I also love to bake. And sometimes the desire to bake something, anything, is stronger than my desire to avoid temptation. On a snowy Saturday, that was the case. After sussing out the ingredients on hand, I settled on making peanut butter oatmeal cookies using this recipe from marthastewart.com as a base. As usual, I did alter a few ingredients to make the cookies a little healthier and allow me to enjoy them somewhat guilt-lessly (I’m telling ya, willpower and me, we’re not friends).

I started with these ingredients:

I won`t bore you with the full recipe here, as you can get that from Martha Stewart`s website. I will, however, share my alterations. First of all, I cut the whole recipe in half ... 6 dozen cookies is way too many to have in my house. Way. Too. Many. I used quick oats instead of old-fashioned, as that`s what I had on hand. And while you do see the white sugar bag in the pic. I didn`t use it. I substituted in Splenda instead. I substituted applesauce for half the butter (next time, I think I`d try using all applesauce). I also didn`t have peanuts or chocolate chips, so I used raisins and coconut as add-ins instead. I actually think these are tastier, healthier additions and make these cookies totally viable as a breakfast choice. (what can I say, willpower+me=bad breakfast decisions!). Moving on:

Dry ingredients, less sugars, mixed together.

Sugars, butters and other wet ingredients creamed together.

Dry and wet ingredients get together, with raisins and coconut, to hang out.

Cookies ready to feel the heat. 
I didn`t have the ice cream scoop the recipe calls for to measure out the dough, so I just used a table spoon. Worked just fine. Also note that I first sprayed the cookie sheet with cooking spray and then opted to use parchment paper instead. Parchment paper is the bomb. I just forgot I had some. Blaming the baby brain.

The recipe calls for 13-15 minutes in the oven. In my pre-heated oven, 13 minutes was perfect. Any longer and I fear I`d have black-bottomed bitties instead of tasty goodness.

Tasty goodness, cooling off.
I skipped the step of allowing the cookies to cool on the sheet for five minutes before moving to wire racks. I needed to get more cookies on the sheets and into the oven. Patience and I also have our differences.

I ended up with 27 cookies and I`d say you could get 28-30 if you don`t eat the dough in between batches (I have a serious problem with willpower). I`d also guess if you made the full recipe you`d probably end up with 5 dozen cookies instead of 6 dozen, unless you made them super-small. And who wants a super small cookie?

mmmm, enjoy.
After my alterations an adjustments, my cookies work out to be about 92 calories and 3.8 grams of fat a piece (calculated using Calorie Count Recipe Analysis), as compared to about 148 calories and 9.1 grams of fat using the original recipe and assuming 5 dozen cookies (of course if you made the super-small size cookies, the cals and fat would be less than that).

The verdict: Very tasty and somewhat healthy. A success indeed. Now if you`ll excuse me, there`s a plate of peanut butter oatmeal cookies calling my name in harmony from the kitchen.

January 30, 2011

The Simple Things

Not wonderful photo, no, but it makes me smile all the same. We officially began work on the nursery this weekend! As D taped off moldings and edges, getting ready to paint, I snapped a few 'before' pics so we can see the difference once it's all done.

Getting ready for the wee one's arrival, now that's wonderful.

January 28, 2011

Weekend Breakfast Routines

I find it interesting how routines change. One day we're entrenched in them, can't imagine doing things any other way. Life works perfectly just as it is and, as the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it. Yet somehow at sometime, those routines change. Sometimes it's a sudden change, brought on by a big trigger (oh let's say, something like having a baby, or at least that's what I've heard) and other times, it happens so gradually you're completely unaware of it until what used to be no longer is.

That latter is where weekend breakfasts fall in our house. When we were first together, Des and I started going to Auntie Crae's on Saturday mornings for breakfast. Like clockwork, we'd head downtown for coffee, scones and the Saturday papers. If we happened to sleep in closer to lunchtime (I know, I know, those times are soon to be long gone, thank you growing-baby-in-my-belly), it might've been sandwiches instead of scones. But, for the most part, the routine was the same. We got to know one of the cashiers, Christine, by name. We knew what goodies were likely to be in the display case and which special treats were worth changing up the norm for. We went to Auntie Crae's almost every Saturday morning for several years. And it was perfect. It was us.

patridgeberry scone for me, blueberry for des, fruit and cheese to share. mmm.
Auntie Crae's is no longer (insert sad face here), but that wasn't what caused a change in our weekend routine. I can't even recall what did. All I know is that somewhere along the way, we began staying home on Saturday mornings. We began brewing coffee using this coffee pot and whole beans from Coffee & Co. We began making homemade versions of Tims-style breakfast sandwiches, only healthier and tastier. We switched from reading the newspaper to readings news websites and surfing the web, while some cooking or car show ran in the background. While the core elements remained the same - enjoying each other's company, coffee, tasty treats and catching up on the news - the where and how had changed. Yet, it too was perfect. It too was us.

Now I'm noticing it is changing again, albeit only ever so slightly. While coffee and news at home is the same, we've started to introduce blueberry pancakes into the mix. Having seen a recipe on TV one morning (ironically, it was probably some Saturday morning while eating breakfast sandwiches) I tested it out one weekend. They were not only healthy, but hearty and delicious and have been edging their way onto the weekend breakfast menu more and more. So much so that I've nearly depleted my frozen stash of berries months earlier than usual ... thank goodness mom has more!
so tasty! I'll share 'the making of a blueberry pancake' soon
Certainly far from a significant change in routine, it is just blueberry pancakes after all, it did trigger a moment of reflection. I wonder what Saturday morning's will look like 3 months from now, with a newborn in our lives. What about 3 years from now, with a toddler? Or even 13 years from now with a teenager? Somehow I think I can safely say that sleeping-in will no longer be on the schedule, nor will the leisurely simultaneous web surfing. I'm also going to bet that coffee will increase in prominence (and value!). Otherwise, it's anyone's guess what routine will shape Saturday morning in the Ryan household. But one thing I do know is that it will be like the routines that preceded it. It will be perfect. And it will be us.

January 27, 2011

Thursday Gratitude

Like most people, I often fall in the rut of complaining. The car in front of me is driving too slow. The cashier isn't checking in groceries quick enough. The work day seems to be dragging on. And so on it goes. So, knowing this about myself, one of things I make a conscious effort to focus on instead is being thankful and appreciative of what is good in my life. It certainly takes more effort than complaining, but also has better results.

In reading this post by Kelly Willette yesterday, I was once again reminded to keep gratitude in mind. Perhaps it's because I have a baby on the way and know I will experience her night someday too soon and, honestly, I'm not sure I'd have her perspective at 3 am! Or perhaps it's because I read this story yesterday about a mom who is being penalized for wanting a better, safer life for her children. Regardless, I want to take a moment today to reflect on just a few of the blessings I am thankful for this Thursday:

1. A husband who loves his preggo wife enough to clean off the car, warm it up and shuttle me about, so I don't have to drive and park and walk too far in my current condition ;) Especially on slippery, snowy days like today.

2. Enjoying a healthy, relatively easy pregnancy up to 31 weeks (and now counting down!)

3. Having a good job where I can be productive and feel valued for the work I do.

4. Seeing my photo featured in the Simple Things round-up over at Rebecca Cooper's blog. Her Simple Things challenge is another way I try focus on appreciating the simple things in life. 

What are you thankful for today?

January 25, 2011

Weeks 25-27

On the weekend, I completed another layout for my pregnancy scrapbook album (which you can read about and see more from here and here). I love seeing this album come together, knowing how much it will mean years from now.

This layout captures the first few growing belly photos and fun happenings from weeks 25-27. I still have a few layouts to do from before now, but order-shmorder, these pics were printed and ready, so I decided to go with it.

I'm really hoping to get the album almost all done before the wee one arrives, minus the last couple of weeks, but we'll see. If I do another few layouts like this one with a few weeks in one, that'll certainly help speed things along!

January 24, 2011

Handmade Accessories

Get ready. It's time to get your craft on.

I've spied trendy big flowery accessories all over the place online. I'm particularly smitten with the flower bib-style necklaces. They can dress up a plain ol' tee in no time. Statement pieces I think they call 'em in the fashion world. I was inspired by this lovely one at Anthropologie:

Dewed Rainbow Necklace at Anthropologie
However, at $278 CDN, I thought I'd look for one I didn't need a bank loan to buy. Forever 21 had this one, which made me realize I could probably make one similar myself. I'm crafty like that. Sure enough, a quick peek around Etsy.com and I discovered these pom-pom beauties and thought, if she can do it, so can I.  Seriously, isn't this one lovely:

this one by LilliePieAccessories on etsy.com
After another quick search around the world wide interweb,  I found a plethora of tutorials for making my very own flowery fabric bib necklace and I was off to the races. Some scraps of fabric and felt, a few fake pearls and a chain, a little hot glue, a pair of scissors and 45 minutes later, I had created this:

I didn't capture the step-by-step process as Little Miss Momma did that very well here on her blog, which I used as a guide. I think mine turned out pretty darn good. Perhaps my next fabric adventure will be something more elaborate like this one or this one, or maybe simpler like this cute little shoe clip. Or maybe just more of the same, one to match every outfit.

The possibilities are endless when you get your craft on.

January 23, 2011

Simple Things - @ 7 Months

Self-Timer Pic :)
This week, I reached the 30-weeks pregnanct milestone. {Smile}. I wrote more about being 7 months along in this post

January 21, 2011

Moose Stew & A Life List

Moose stew and a life list, not exactly a combination I planned in advance. But there it is. Well, sort of. My life list doesn't actually include moose stew, but it does include a goal of trying at least one new recipe every month for a year. I love cooking, regularly clip, dogear and bookmark recipes to try, and somehow never get around to making them. Given I whipped up moose stew last night for the first time, I thought this is as good a time as any to give the recipe adventure a go. 

On to the stew. Moose isn't a common ingredient in my house, but I happened to have some in the freezer courtesy of my in-laws. I also happened to have a half dozen men coming by the house this evening giving me good reason to cook it up (cause I ain't gonna eat, moose and I aren't exactly best friends!). Now to get all factual on ya, I didn't actually cook the stew last night. I just assembled the ingredients in the slow cooker and switched it on this morning before work (allow me an aside: if you've never used a slow cooker, I highly recommend it - life-saving cooking tool for the busy working girl!) When we got home this evening, we were greeted by the delicious aroma of a hearty stew simmering away, ready for the burly men to dig into when they arrive for the car-party.

I used this recipe as a guide, but modified it to suit my needs (as I usually do with recipes). A couple of the changes I made:
  • used moose instead of beef (obviously, its moose stew)
  • didn't brown the beef, but seasoned it with S-n-P and tossed with some flour
  • replaced sweet potato & celery with carrots & turnip
  • used mini potatoes instead of average sized ones
  • added in worcestershire sauce and garlic...garlic makes everything better.
Hmmm, as I type I realize that perhaps this is more of a complete change in recipe than a modification. Oh well, all part of having fun in the kitchen ;) Here are the 'before and after' pics - and I do apologize for the photo quality, lighting at 8pm in January leaves much to be desired. I promise it looks much more appetizing in person.

Moose, veg, and broth all hanging out and getting to know each other in the slow cooker.

And the finished stew. Everyone came together and made friends.
 And the hungry-man reviews are in: The stew is almost completely gone, several second helpings were had and not one bowl was left uncleaned.

All in all, a good start to a year-long recipe adventure.

January 20, 2011

A Love Letter

Watching Oprah earlier this evening, I was brought to tears. And not because I`m 7+ months pregnant and my hormones are off the charts (well maybe that had something to do with it). I was moved by a love letter.

In her Australian adventure, Oprah included a heart-wrenching story about a young family, where the 34 year old husband and father, Kristian Anderson, has been diagnosed with liver and bowel cancer. He`s fighting it hard and his wife has been doing so much just to keep the family going during this unimaginably difficult time. They both know he may not make it, but it doesn`t stop their desire to fight or their need to hope. (And of course, in true Oprah-style, she gives them a wonderful gift to make life a little easier for this deserving couple).

All that is emotional enough, but it was the love letter that did me in. Throughout the ordeal, Kristian made a video love letter for his wife, Rachel, and posted it to youtube on her birthday. He wanted her to know how much she means to him and show his appreciation for her standing by him through it all.

It is inspiring, romantic, sad and wonderfully loving all at once. Watch it and tell me you didn`t tear up just a little.

Kristian Anderson`s Video Love Letter

January 19, 2011

@ 7 months

@ 7 months I am very grateful for a so-far happy, healthy and easy pregnancy.

@ 7 months I am excited about setting up the nursery, having a baby shower, and getting things in order for the little one's arrival.  

@ 7 months I love hanging out with my hands on my belly feeling this baby get its groove on.

@ 7 months I am wanting to hit pause so I can enjoy being pregnant like this for a while longer.

@ 7 months I am looking forward to meeting this little one and finding out if its a wee-me or a wee-he.

@ 7 months I pee way too often, sleep way too little and get bigger with every passing day.

@ 7 months I am wanting to hit fast forward so I can enjoy holding, snuggling and loving my first baby.

@ 7 months I'm balancing being in the moment and awaiting all that lies ahead. Such a good place to be.

January 18, 2011

Gratitude for those who serve

Today, a wife buried her husband, a son buried his father, a nation buried one of its best. Sergeant Ryan Russell, 35, was killed after being struck by a man driving a stolen snowplough in Toronto. It was an unfortunate, unexpected tragedy that reminded so many of the risks our police officers take every day when they walk on the job.

Today, an estimated 12,000 people showed up to honour this fallen officer, including thousands of his comrades from across North America. RCMP officers, Canadian military, Canadian border services officers, and Canadian and American police officers donned their uniforms and joined the funeral procession for one of their own. As a friend of mine noted on Facebook, there was something both profoundly sad and inspiring about watching this.

Photo: Roger Hallett/The Globe and Mail
Today, my heart and prayers go to Sgt Russell’s wife and son, to his family and friends, and to his colleagues. As someone who has police officers in my family, I cannot begin to fathom the grief they are feeling.

And today, I thank every uniformed public servant, from policy and military to fire fighters and paramedics. For all you do. Thank you.

January 17, 2011


Today marked the return to the gym. Not that I've not been exercising, quite the opposite. The weather has just been unusually nice here through the fall and well into early January, making outdoor activity enjoyable. I much prefer the scenery and fresh air to the monotony of the gym and happily made the most of it as long as I could. But now that the temps have turned frosty and ice has built up on the roads (ice+diminished centre of gravity=danger), it's back to the gym for this mama-to-be.

Making matters worse in today's inevitable transition indoors were the newbies. Anyone who's been at a gym in January knows exactly what I'm talking about. At this time of year, they come out in droves with their shiny new sneakers and their sparkly New Year's resolutions. They jam up the parking lot, clog up the locker room and take over every piece of equipment in the gym. *Sigh*

As I took my preggo-self out to the gym floor and searched for free treadmill or elliptical or bike or whatever I could find, I reminded myself to be patient. I reminded myself that its only a few more weeks til they start to drop like flies and, with that, I spied a free treadmill, hopped on and starting moving. As I walked I reflected on the situation a little more (hey, my iShuffle battery died one minute in, I had only my own thoughts to entertain myself!) and realized that here I was, 7+ months pregnant at the gym enjoying a brisk walk, feeling fit and healthy. All because I was once a newbie too (albeit not in January with the masses, but a newbie all the same).

Years later, I'm one the 'regulars' whose at the gym year-round (and who feels like I kinda own the place cause I've been there for years, so get off my treadmill new guy). I stuck it out and it paid off for me. I still don't love running or exercise, but appreciate the benefits it has for my health and now that of my baby. I appreciate what it does for my self-image, my confidence, my energy and general well-being. I even credit my so-far easy-peasy pregnancy to being fit and healthy pre-pregnancy and keeping active throughout.

So, there on the treadmill amidst all the 2011 newbies, I realized that if only one of them dirties up their sneaks and is still around after the lustre has faded on their resolutions, it will pay off for them too. And that thought makes the gym in January much more bearable.

Thank goodness for patience. And a dead iShuffle battery.

January 16, 2011

Simple Things

Almond Biscotti Candle from Anthropologie
We picked up this candle at Anthropologie while on our mini-American road trip this summer. It has this delicious, soft scent - just like a warm piece of almond biscotti. The scent is really quite mild, so you don't smell it all the time. But every so often, like one evening this week, I catch this toasty sweet smell and it always makes me think 'mmmm, what is that?'

When I remember its from the candle sitting on a side table in our living room, I smile. The smell alone is worth a smile, but it is also about the memories of a hot July afternoon in Chicago with my husband at one of my favourite stores (I do wish we had an Anthro near me in Canada!).

It is the simple things that make us smile. For more simple things:

January 13, 2011

Target {Love}

Oh my word. How happy was I when I saw this news story today? I looove Target and have regularly lamented the lack of the Target-goodness in Canada. Anytime I find myself in the US I try to locate me a Target and indulge in all its glory. The displays, the colour, the style, the price. I get happy just thinking about it.

So reading today that Target has purchased Zellers stores in Canada and plans to convert about 150 of the 220 locations to Target stores over the next couple of years had me doing my happy dance in my office chair. I seriously hope that at least one of the two Zellers in St. John's gets the Target-treatment.

Until then, let me spread some Target {Love} by sharing a some of the Target-goodness I hankering for today:

Oh so stylish, yet perfectly functional, and the right price. With a new babe on the way, this super cute diaper bag would be just marvelous:
Baby Essentials Embroidered Large Satchel Diaper Bag with Brag Book - Black Dot
And how about these shoes?!? Neutral enough to go with almost any outfit, yet with just enough panache to stand-out and kick your style up a notch. At just $29.99, these are a STEAL!
Women's Mossimo® Versie Pumps - Faux Snakeskin
This pillow is the perfect shade of green to complement my living room curtains:

Poise Decorative Pillow - Green
Valentine's Day is just around the corner - wouldn't breakfast taste sweeter in these lovely bowls?

Multi Heart 12-pc. Dinnerware Set

Speaking of red, how about this dress? It looks chic enough to wear to work with a great pair of heels (see above!) or comfy enough to pair with flats and run errands with a babe in tow - my more likely scenario over the next year ;) 

Merona® Collection Women's Julias Dress - Flamenco Red
Oh, how I hope to see a Target near me soon!

January 12, 2011

I read this post by the lovely Tina last evening and it made me stop and think. Not about the beach, the feeling of sand between your toes, and ocean breeze (though all those would have been lovely thoughts!), but about the little things that make up our days. She's so right. Our days are marked by sights and sounds and smells that come together to make up our most treasured memories.

So, today, I too stopped to appreciate the little sights and sounds of my day:

  • A toasty decaf Americano in a simple green and white cup.
  • The frosty January wind nipping against my face as I scurried to pick up printed photos during lunch.
  • The stacks of colourful papers and inks and ribbons at the Paperie (I found some papers for my OLW project).
  • The fluttering of a wiggly, active baby-to-be inside.
  • The afternoon sunshine glinting off mirrors in the car parking lot at work.
  • Hot, spicy chicken chili in a simple white bowl - the perfect supper for a crisp winter evening.
  • The warmth of my husband's skin.
It's not that today was extraordinary or necessarily memorable. In fact, it was the opposite. It was an ordinary day of work, errands, usual foods, and routine. But I know that in one year, five years or ten years, an everyday day will look and feel and smell different. Making it important that I appreciate this one today. I know I will want to remember it.

January 10, 2011

A couple more weeks...

Thankfully, my cold is finally starting to move on. Its about time. I've been a very good hostess for a week, feeding it, giving it plenty to drink, not drugging it, and all in all being patient. However, it has overstayed its welcome and I am more than happy to bid it adieu :)

How about a few more pages from my pregnancy scrapbook album:

Weeks 7 & 8

Week 9

Week 9 Journaling
More to come sometime soon :)

40 Weeks

After the reality and excitement of finding out I was pregnant had settled in, I knew I wanted to capture the story of our first baby's journey to life. I started journaling on my computer, writing down a few details from each week so I wouldn't forget those key moments that mark every pregnancy. Finding outSharing the news. The first heartbeat. The growing belly. As much as all those moments mean now, I know over time they'll become a distant memory in contrast to the joys of life in the present.

Shortly after that, I began to put those words with photos in a scrapbook album about my pregnancy. I know over the years it will be treasured not only by me, but by my child. Through these pages, this sweet baby will know how we felt during those wonderful pregnancy milestones, how their family came to know about them and love them, and the details that marked their first 40 weeks of life.

So far, only the first trimester is scrapped and ready for the album, but my journaling is up-to-date and more pages await.  As I recover from my cold on the sofa {six days and counting - ugh, even had to cancel our dinner plans on the weekend :( } I thought I'd share a few of the completed pages. 

Note: As I was trying to 'catch up' on this album before the holidays kicked into full gear, most of the pages completed are scraplifts from the Two Peas member gallery. I didn't capture the inspiration for each layout as I went, but do offer full credit, and appreciation, to the talented scrapbookers who did the original designs :)
4 Weeks

5 weeks

6 weeks
I do apologize for the photo quality - a) I'm a very amateur photographer, though I have aspirations to improve, and b) the lighting on a grey, foggy January day in Newfoundland leaves much to be desired. Otherwise, enjoy. More will follow.

January 9, 2011

The {Simple} Things

I'm joining Rebecca Cooper again to celebrate the simple things in life. This week its about surprise deals.

I found these chipboard books in the $1.50 bin at Micheals this weekend. A deal in and of itself, but the part that made me really smile: They were 70% off AND I had  '20% off entire purchase' coupon, making them only 36 cents each. With my first baby on the way, I'm sure I'll put them to good use soon enough!

Check out Rebecca Cooper's blog for more simple things.

January 7, 2011

Hello Friday. So Glad You're Here.

While its been a short week, I'm glad Friday is here. Getting back into the work routine after the holidays is challenging enough, throw a head cold into the mix and its extra blah. It started with a tickle in my throat on Wednesday, blossomed into a sore throat by yesterday afternoon and into full on sniffles by this morning. Ugh. At least I was able to work from home today, sparing my colleagues from having Sneezy for an office-mate and allowing me to work productively (and comfortably) in my PJs on the sofa.

Fortunately, I'm feeling a little better and am hopeful a good night's rest will see me on the rebound. It better, we're having friends in for dinner tomorrow and I'm very much looking forward to cooking up a feast. The menu will include lasagna, some combination of this recipe and this recipe and my own tweaks (as I'm ever apt to do!), and the ever complementary Caesar salad and garlic bread. Dessert is TBD, maybe this or this?

Stay tuned for more details and, in the meantime, let your tastebuds bubble over this.

Mama's Lasagna - photo from the Food Network
What are you cooking this weekend?

January 5, 2011

Daily Inspirations

I love bloghopping and discovering little bits of inspiration. It comes in so many wonderful forms from scrapbooking and crafts to words and images, recipes and homey-goodness to music and the ponderings of others. Here are a few things I'm lovin' today:
One Little Word
Photo: Ali Edwards @ aliedwards.com
I've been a regular reader of Ali Edwards' blog for several years and have always loved her One Little Word concept. I've decided to go with it this year. To pick a word that will help shape my year and guide me in living life more intentionally. It totally meshes with my views on New Year's resolutions. More on my One Little Word to come...in the meantime, hop on over to Ali's blog to read more. Maybe you'll be inspired to discover your own word for 2011.

Word Chains

hammered names around pearl necklace from noisycricket's etsy shop.

I can just see this with my one little word and the year on it. Or perhaps with our sweet baby-to-be's name. Etsy has oodles of such jewellery, just search hammered necklaces to find them. What I love about this one from noisycricket's shop is the rustic texture, the cupped shape, and the lovely pearl nestled just so. A perfect gift for that someone special.

Lovely Red Wreath
heart wreath from eighteen25
I know Christmas has barely passed us by, but doesn't handmade felt wreath just get you in the mood for all things red and lovely? Not sure I have the patience for cutting out those circles, but the end result would be so worth it!

Words to the Wise

The Real Life – Poems for Wise Living by Tara Sophia Mohr.

A lovely compilation of poetry free for the downloading with pretty artwork to boot. As Tara notes on her Wise Living blog "If you think you aren’t a poetry fan, try these any way. They are accessible. They talk like people talk (ish). And they are about the things we are all grappling with." There's one in particular I enjoy and I'm sure you'll find the same.

I hope something in my mix inspires you today too.