Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I've always wanted to live in a house with a fireplace and large mantel and then go all out and decorate it to the nines for the Christmas season.

We moved into this house last summer and by the time Christmas came around I felt like I was just getting my feet back under me five months into Jude's life. So needless to say, I didn't go all out.

This year, however, I have found a gusto for decorating with style {and thrift} and scoured the internet looking for ideas and inspiration.
I finally found some inspiration when I stumbled upon a mantel decorated with a large sign that said, "Peace" and had a picture of a dove.
I was all set out to copy it and put it on my mantel, except life just doesn't work that way. {I couldn't find the materials I needed and then was inspired to use the word "peace" in another, simpler way that fits my lifestyle of having two very busy, active boys - who currently cannot stop pushing each others buttons - but I digress. That is a post for another day.}
So I took that idea and turned it into my own.

 This was last weekend when my in-laws came and helped us put up our tree. Note the mantel with our family pictures.

Bare mantel. All nekkid.


I love it. I have to admit, this is one honkin' huge mantel and I found the space somewhat difficult to fill up, but I think it works. {I may alter the final product, we'll see.} 
Don't you LOVE the golden tree/cones? I love. They were .... FREE! My sister is kindly lending them to me as they were part of her February wedding decor. {Thanks, Bean!} Gorg.

So here it is, broken down:

I love this piece. "Peace" With the nativity in the "A". Love, love, love it. This was what inspired me to drop my other idea, or at least to let it evolve into this one. I found this {and the "JOY" piece} at Michaels and they were both 40% off. Score!

Ah. I love this. This is a hand-carved nativity scene that I picked up during one of my trips in Tanzania. I love it. I love the dark wood and I love that it is centered in the middle of my mantel, causing me to remember what it is that I have to be thankful for, to anticipate and to take joy in.

And speaking of joy...again with the nativity scene in the "O". Love. and joy. 
The rest of the things {tinsel, small ornaments, pinecones} I either already had or bought cheaply from the dollar store or borrowed {from my lovely sister}. 

But in case you think {as it seems to happen in the blogosphere where you can show only the pretty parts of your house/life} that the rest of my house is gorgeous and clean and fully decorated, check out what I still have to clean up:

Booyah. I'm normal. {and so are you.}

Monday, November 29, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday: on the road

For some reason it's become increasingly difficult to be on top of this whole "Muffin Tin Monday" thing, but today I managed to remember, despite the fact that we were at my Mom's house today {waiting for Jamie to come home! Woo!}.
So I present to you, Muffin Tin Monday: on the road!

Top row: 3 "sticks" of cheddar cheese {which Noah dipped in the strawberry yogurt and ate. Um...okay.}, multigrain cheerios, some Ikea letter cookies, a Clementine orange
Bottom row: a few nuts and raisins, strawberry yogurt, some raspberries, dried fruit

By the end of the day most of this had disappeared, but due to the fact that this was an 8 muffin tin, instead of our usual 6 and that Noah {and I} just finished a rather nasty bout of a stomach bug, I give him credit for eating what he did. {A double dairy dip? No thanks.}

Thursday, November 25, 2010


i love a busy house.

when my house is full of people, laughter, food, noise

when it's full of love, warmth, little hands and feet, toys

these are the days i want to remember.

Jen's daughter Naomi, Bekki & her daughter Calli and Jude playing in the living room (Jen, her other 2 kids and Noah were also there, but not in this picture)

the little friendships that have started between these precious little boys and girls

i hope they last for a long, long time.

someone once said

never be ashamed of your home and never let your circumstances stop you from offering hospitality 

i think those are very wise words. i want to live by those words. 

what are you doing this Christmas season to show hospitality?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The war against pasta

When Noah was little and I was introducing solids and textures, I was cautious. I wasn't adventurous. I didn't give him lots of variety. Mostly because I didn't really know what to do. And I felt the need to not overwhelm Noah. And I'm totally reaping the consequences of that now. Noah tends to be quite picky and textures {like pasta} that are wobbly or wiggly he gags at or just plain out refuses to try it.

I've definitely learned my lesson. I've introduced and re-introduced foods to Jude until he tries it and eats it. Namely, pasta. Noah will NOT eat pasta. Not even alphaghetti. Or kraft dinner. {I'm so serious.} Pasta has got to be the easiest meal to make for kids so I was determined to have at least one child who will eat pasta.
And we're finally there.
{And he's using a spoon!}
Check it:

He's messy, but um...he's eating PASTA! I am happy. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Easy Cranberry Yogurt Muffins

Ah, I love a simple, fast recipe. Muffins by nature are a quick bread, but the quicker it takes {in my mind}, the better! This is one I could have on the table by the time Jude is freaking out in his booster, ready for breakfast {this happens every.single.morning. I have never let the kid starve so I'm not sure where this is coming from, but um,  it makes Mama go crazy}.
Oh my gosh, you guys. These muffins are SO delicious. Make them. Today.

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can sub for applesauce, but I didn't have any)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries

Mix the oats with the yogurt. Add in the oil/applesauce, sugar, egg. Make sure to beat well. Sift in flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. BEFORE stirring, sprinkle the cranberries on top. Stir until just blended. Fill muffin cups and bake at 400F for about 15 minutes {or longer, my oven is on the hot side}.
I got 18 muffins out of this one.
{Did ya catch that? You only use ONE BOWL. What up!?}

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Apple Cranberry Yogurt Coffee Cake

I love baking and cooking. I really do! But often it's the clean up that deters me from actually doing it aside from the usual breakfast/lunch/dinner clean up that already exists.
But not today.
For some reason I was highly motivated to try new recipes and use up some old yogurt and fresh cranberries I had in my fridge {um, yeah. my poor fridge totally needed a clean out. and it got one. and now you're getting this recipe as a result. win!}.
So among other recipes {yes, I did try Joy the Baker's Salted Cocoa Roasted Hazelnuts...and oh. I died. and I had to put them away so I wouldn't eat THE ENTIRE BATCH.} I present to you my take on the apple cranberry yogurt coffee cake:

1 1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple sauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 apples {but I only had one}, cored and roughly chopped to 1/2 inch pieces

Preheat your oven to 325F. Lightly grease and flour a 9x13 pan {or you can use smaller pans - I used two 8 inch cake pans and a loaf pan because I wanted smaller cakes to freeze}.
In a small sauce pan, simmer the water, sugar and cranberries on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries just begin to pop {I learned something new! I never knew they did that until today!}, about 5 minutes. Remove the berries with a slotted spoon and reserve.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Once creamed, add in the apple sauce. Lightly beat the eggs with vanilla and stir to combine.
Into another bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the apple pieces and toss to coat.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine.
Fold in the yogurt and gently add the cranberries, being careful not to break them apart.
Pour the batter into your chosen pan(s) and bake for 35-45 minutes (depending on your pan size - a tooth pick should come out clean when poked into the middle.).
Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.
And enjoy!

Adapted from The Dannon Kitchen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cheese Stars

On Tuesday I went over to my friend Chantel's house to attempt what some might consider "crazy";
a Christmas baking day.
with 5 children.
that's right.

It was an incredible feat and a lot of fun! And...we made a double batch of my Cheese Stars.

I've blogged about these Christmas favourites for several years now {I've made them every year since I've been married!} but never published the recipe. So here it is for your baking {and eating} pleasure.

Cheese Stars

1/2 cup butter
2 cups grated old cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper {don't skimp on the cayenne!}
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 F.
With an electric mixer, cream butter. Stir in grated cheeses.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, cayenne and salt. Add the cheese mixture and mix well.
Knead the mixture a few times on a lightly floured board. Divide in four. Roll one piece out to about 1/8 inch thick, be sure there is enough flour to release dough from your working surface.
Cut out star shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet. {Or whatever shape you want, but then they won't be cheese stars if you make moons. Or trees. Or motorcycles.} When the cookie sheet is full, brush each shape with egg, then sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
Bake for about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Warm in a moderate oven before serving.
Makes about 8 dozen 2 inch shapes.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2 blessings

I'm so blessed.

Even though Jude is in a hitting phase {wherein he hits only his brother and as hard as he can!} and Noah often screams this ear-piercing scream whenever Jude approaches his beloved puzzles.
Even though Jude hangs off my pant leg when I'm trying to make dinner and Noah is sometimes whiney and asks to watch tv many, many times a day.

I'm blessed to have these two children in my life. They make me laugh and smile. They teach me to wonder and take joy in the little things.
They make me strive to be more creative, to really SEE the beauty in things, to love and pray more.
When I see them hug, when I watch Noah share his favourite toy with Jude and teaches Jude to say "truck" or "book"...

My heart.

it goes.


Monday, November 15, 2010

He did it his way

This morning after breakfast I was playing with Jude in the kitchen and I got him to let go of the table while he was standing. He was free standing! Then he sat down and stood up by himself without holding onto anyone or anything! I clapped and cheered like only a mother can over such a small accomplishment.
He smiled so proudly and continued to do it over and over again.
Jamie eventually came downstairs to find out what the commotion was all about.
Jude had another cheerleader and was as proud as a peacock!
Later that morning we went to the Y and I dropped the boys off in the playcare center. After my workout I went to pick them up and I walked in to see Jude standing, bopping up and down and clapping along with the song the staff were singing. I just about died. It was seriously the cutest thing ever.
Of course he refused to do it for either of our friends when I tried to get him to do it later today. So classic.
Oh Jude. You make me smile.
He wants to do things his way and in his own time. He won't walk, but I'm convinced he totally could right now if he wanted to. So maybe he'll walk next week, maybe next month. When he wants to, it'll happen.

{In the meantime, I need to get his standing skills on video!}

Muffin Tin Monday for the win!

After a couple weeks of missing it, we're back at it again; Muffin Tin Monday!

Meals {it really doesn't matter which one these days} have been a bit of a battle lately with Noah. Even today we had a minor meltdown, but overall, I count this as a success because ALL the food got eaten. By Noah.

So we have:
Top row: slices of green pepper, half a banana {the source of the meltdown}, "sticks" of cucumbers
Bottom row: vanilla yogurt {his favourite part of this particular Muffin Tin Monday}, leftover sausage, chunks of granola bar.

I think the reason Muffin Tin Monday works so well is because it's small amounts of food. The food is all separated from each other. And the food is usually presented in a fun/cute way. Usually that spells success for any toddler/preschooler {heck, I'd like someone to make ME a muffin tin meal!}. 
So we keep on!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


November isn't always the most pleasant of months.
November 2010 has been downright delightful.
I am so thankful for sun and warmth, for friends and friends for my kids and being outside.

On Friday, the boys and I went for a walk with my friend Chantel {who becomes more and more dear to me the more we hang out which is making me more and more sad to be leaving next year} and her two girls and the little boy she looks after. Her daughter, Hannah, was born 2 days after Noah and they are seriously two peas in a pod.

{I remembered to bring my camera on our walk.}


The start of our walk. It was so cool to walk down this made-for-a-movie path lined with tall, old trees.


Hannah & Noah have a blast telling us "red light" and "green light". A friend told me she thought it looked like they were singing "Stop in the name of love.". Maybe they were....



A snack break in the sun.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Get ready to die a sweet, sweet death {from diabetes or heart failure}

The first time I heard about The Pioneer Woman it was in direct relation to her to-die-for Cinnamon Rolls. That was months (and months?) ago and I finally got around to making them yesterday.
They were so worth it. Noah and I split one pan. I gave the other two away {and still have 1/2 the dough sitting in the fridge waiting for more butter and cinnamon before I start round 2}.
I got The Pioneer Woman Cooks for my birthday and decided to follow the recipe from a real live cookbook rather than the internet.
I got to step 3 before I realized I had already screwed it up {or at least I thought I had}. Unfortunately, due to the slightly overwhelming layout of pictures accompanying each direction {which works amazingly on her website, but in her book...well, lets just say I learned my lesson} I read the directions from Left to Right instead of going up and down the columns, following the numbers posted below each picture.
So I didn't add the yeast when I was supposed to.
I quickly realized my error and hastily added in the yeast and hoped for the best.
Then I realized I also forgot the salt.
So I added that in too. {And again, hoped for the best.}

Then I facebooked my woes and had many lovely people give me virtual back pats and I felt much better afterward. {And hoped for the best.}

Let's be honest, friends. It was a rookie mistake. But {get ready for this}...I've never made bread before. Or any kind of bread {other than quick breads like cakes or muffins}. So I had no idea what to do with the yeast.
But...check out these beauties:

Before icing amazingness.

After icing amazingness.

I think it's safe to say that my rookie mistake did not hurt the outcome too badly.
Seriously. YUM.

Psst...stay tuned for my {gasp} modifications on her recipe!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Remembrance Day.

Over the past few years Remembrance Day has been more poignant and emotional for me.
This year was even more.
This year my brother Keven is serving in Afghanistan. He's been there since this spring and we are praying for a safe return before Christmas.
I am so thankful for him and for those who have gone before him both in this war and in wars past.

Hurry home, Kev. We're thankful for what you're doing but we miss you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blanket Time Version 2.0

Oh this one is going to be interesting.

So I started blanket time with Jude and so I set out our "ducky" blanket and put Jude on it with some cars and a ball.
I told him he had to stay on the blanket until the timer went off.
Then I went into the kitchen. He sat there and was so enthralled by the ducks on the blanket that he didn't even seem to notice. Then the timer went off.

And he seemed to like it.

So I set the timer for another 5 minutes.

I was just about to take a picture of him when he crawled right off the blanket.
So I stood up so he could see me and said, "Jude. Get back on the blanket."
And then I almost died laughing as he crawled backwards onto the blanket.

He's a smart cookie and definitely understands what "blanket time" is all about! Or at least he understands the boundaries of a blanket.

So the last minute or two I had to tell him to get back on the blanket multiple times, but it went really well! We'll try blanket time every day now and hopefully be able to increase the time.
Seriously. This kid cracks me up.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

the joy of learning

I think one of the best things about being a parent is watching your child learn. Whether it's learning to roll over or crawl or walk or eat with utensils or cut with scissors or create art or read, it really doesn't matter; it's just a lot of fun to watch your kid learn.

Lately Noah has been drawing people. Requirements for a drawn person by Noah:
1. a large, somewhat round head.
2. eyes - often more than 2
3. legs {i was surprised that legs came before arms for him - no reason, really. it's just interesting to see the progression}
4. hair {sometimes - but i love his drawn hair - lots of vertical lines. love.}

Today Noah made a person out of Play-Doh. It had eyes and a mouth {!} and two toothpicks sticking out of the head {i'm not sure if they were arms or legs}.

"Cheese". Noah & Play-Doh Guy.

Hannah & Noah - BFFs.

I'm sure it seems uninteresting to you because he is not your child, but I am amazed and joyfully anticipate his drawings now that they are actually taking some sort of decipherable shapes/objects.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Miracle Blanket Giveaway

Do you remember this?

Well it's that time again! Giveaway time! {Who doesn't love a giveaway - aka free stuff?}

I have already blogged about how much I love the Miracle Blanket. After I had Noah {aka Baby Houdini} I didn't find out about the Miracle Blanket until he was about 3.5 months old. But it worked. For the remaining month he fit into it/I stuffed him into it. Seriously.
The kid couldn't get out of it. I loved it. He loved it. Win!
We used it with Jude as well and it worked just as well. I have raved about it to most of my friends and most women I know who are expecting babies. It's a no-fail swaddle and you can't go wrong with it.
For reals.

So how cool is it that you get to enter in an awesome {& my very first} giveaway to receive a Miracle Blanket of your choice to use on your own baby or give away to someone who is expecting a child?!? {Answer: very cool.}

Here's what you have to do {I tried to make it simple for those of you like me who have mushy/fuzzy brains}:

1. Leave a comment with your name, location {just a state/province or city will do} and which Miracle Blanket you'd pick.
2. "Like" the Miracle Blanket on Facebook and/or follow Miracle Blanket on Twitter. The reason why is because on Tuesday, November 9th at 3pm(EST), Miracle Blanket will announce the winner on Facebook and Twitter.

I'll randomly generate the winner from those who leave comments and then Miracle Blanket will announce who won.
All you have to do is check on Facebook or Twitter on November 9th to see if you've won!

Contest closes Monday, November 8th at midnight.

** Contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered and congrats to Christy W! You won! **

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday: on Tuesday

Whoops. This is a bit late.
We did Muffin Tin Tuesday as Monday we were at a friend's house for lunch.

Top row: yogurt, red grapes, juice box
Bottom row: red peppers, left over taco rice casserole and swiss cheese crackers (bring on the sodium!)

He ate it all - I just didn't let him have his juice until he had eaten all the casserole and peppers (he's a chugger - he'll just chug his ENTIRE juice box all in one go if I let him).

I love Muffin Tin Mondays...even if it happens on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I'm not sure what it is lately, but my heart is softening. {and I'm glad.}

Yesterday in the car I was explaining to the boys {mostly Noah since Jude was making weird breathy noises while rooting around for wayward Cheerios} about Operation Christmas Child and how we were going to fill up a shoe box with wonderful toys and gifts for a little boy who wouldn't be getting anything for Christmas this year.
I had to pause as I told Noah that he sometimes might not have enough money for food and his tummy gets hungry more than his (Noah's) does because I was gulping back sobs at the thought of this child and what situation he might be living in.

Today at the gym I cried watching a Canadian Tire commercial of a family surprising their elderly mother with outdoor Christmas decorations. {Okay so I'm a sucker for commercials...}

I'm looking into and for more worthy causes to give toward and to inspire others to give to as well. Companies like 31bits enabling women in Northern Uganda to make a living by making jewellery. And TOMs Shoes giving away a pair of shoes for every shoe that is bought. There's Samaritan's Purse, Living Water and World Vision. The list goes on and on! {If you know of any websites, organizations, companies that are doing amazing things and offer ways to partner with them, please leave a comment!}

My heart is softening.
It is hard. It is painful. But it's so much better than being cold and uncaring. Because I was there. I still am, sometimes. But I want to feel love and compassion. I want to show my boys how much greater it truly is to give than it is to receive. I want to lead by example.

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