Thursday, June 30, 2011

When do you write?

I have entered the incredibly-insane-busy-time at work. I have no time to think during the day and have deadlines creeping up way too quickly. It also happens to be the most frustrating time - dealing with others that don't pull their weight and feeling like I have no support. Days where the pressure sometimes gets to me and I feel like just throwing my hands up and walking out the door. But I don't and I won't, because others are counting on me and I would hate to be that person and not to mention, I like getting my pay cheques.

I have spent the last few nights working once E is in bed, to wake up and do it all over again and exhaustion is hitting me. This night time is usually set aside to catch-up on writing and reading. I don't know how some people do it with really demanding jobs. This only happens to me a few weeks out of the summer and it's all I can handle.

I have a pretty huge deadline today and was up late last night getting ready. This morning I was out of the house at 5:00am to drop Hubby off at the airport for a business and then pleasure trip (Side note: Pleasure? When is it my turn? Bitter? Yes. Rant over), dropped E off at day care and then into work to try my best to meet today's deadline.

It's a good thing I had time to think and write some stuff out on some evenings while I was in Calgary, otherwise my blog would also be suffering from my schedule.

I read an article a while ago (and I wished I had saved it) about writing when you feel most inspired. I am guilty of spitting posts out when I finally get the time and this hasn't been the best outcome for me. I love writing and I do it for myself so that's part of the problem.  I rarely ever take time for myself.  All of my most meaningful posts were written or drafted when I was suddenly inspired on the topic and when I make the time for myself to just run with it.

So, when do I take time for myself?
  • First thing in the morning when my alarm goes off and I have a few minutes to myself before the house starts bopping.
  • Nap time for E on the weekends when I should be napping or cleaning.
  • Once E goes to bed at night and I should be cleaning up the house and doing the dishes.
  • Once Hubby goes to bed and I should be sleeping too.
So to sum it up I write when I know I won't be interrupted and when I should be sleeping, I need to sleep more and my house is a mess 90% of the time.
 
When am I most inspired?
  • My car rides to and from work - which leads to me to make quick notes when I get to my destination to avoid distractions in the car.
  • Early morning and late at night when I am by myself.
  • Airplane or train rides by myself when I have nothing "better" to do than think.
I have a lot going on right now and therefore I think a lot.  It's just finding the time to get it all out that I am struggling with.
 
So, tell me - when are you most inspired to write and when do you actually write?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Where I'm from

I'm from the family of 13; from the farm with the long orange barn and the two silos and the perfectly planted fields; and from the old farm house down the really long drive way - sprinted every morning to catch the bus.

I'm from the house with a veranda lined with peonies and tiger lilies that would stain my hands orange; a weeping willow in the middle of the yard that was a perfect hiding place and flower beds of beautiful and bright marigolds and tulips.

I'm from trips to the little sandy beach, chanting "Are we there yet?" from the back seat of a station wagon, watching the dust of the dirt roads fly behind us. I'm from a place where you need to take a ferry to get to the mainland. A close-knit community.

I'm from 4-H courses and winning ribbons and plaques for confirmation and sportsmanship. I'm from pink and blue suspenders that kept my jeans up over my work boots at my first show.

I'm from church every Sunday morning, children's liturgy, sacraments and choir.

I'm from a home office filled with photo albums of my childhood and binders filled with every single milestone; a shoebox filled with sports ribbons, a pin collection and pictures taken with my very own Polaroid camera.

I'm from the smell of manure during spreading season that stays on your clothes when you go to school; from milk, meat, potatoes and vegetables for dinner; and from stockings filled with nuts and Dutch chocolate, licorice and candies and from a long line of sweet teeth.

I'm from TGIF TV shows and Saturday night Disney movies. I'm from listening to Sheryl Crow in my big sister's room and looking through her high school yearbooks; from loading a tape in my hand-me-down boom box and waiting for my favourite songs to come on the radio to hit record.

I'm from Backstreet Boys blaring in the gym at our Grade 8 basketball championship; from recess soccer games against visiting classes; from Moonboots and NKOTB dolls for Christmas. I'm from watching Now and Then at every sleepover and from meet-up points on dirt roads with friends for bikes rides with t-shirts wrapped around our heads just like the movie.

I'm from brother's chasing me with gardener snakes. I'm from fishing for tadpoles and catching frogs in the pond; from building snow forts and GT-Racer tracks and tunnels in mountains of snow created by my father's tractor. I'm from frozen pond hockey with cousins. I'm from eating rhubarb in the yard, husking corn on the back step and lining tomatoes on the kitchen window sill to finish ripening.

This post was written from inspiration from Adventures in Babywearing and many others that followed suit. Where are you from?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DIY Sushi

If you love sushi, you'll love how easy it is to make at home.  Hubby has been loving sushi lately and so I decided for Father's Day I would try my hand at making some myself.

DIY Sushi

What you need:
Bamboo rolling mat (I used a cheap bamboo looking place mat that rolls - worked just fine)
Plastic wrap
Sharp knife
Small bowl 
Plate or platter

Ingredients:
Sushi rice (I made mine using sticky rice and rice vinegar with sugar and salt)
Nori (dried toasted seaweed)
Vegetables and Fruits (I used avocado, cucumber, carrots and steamed asparagus)
Meats or Seafood (I used smoked salmon and imitation crab meat)
Tempura sauce or soy sauce



I searched through a number of recipes and instructions online and found this recipe and these instructions on how to roll the sushi to be the best. It sounds complicated, but it was actually quite easy. I made mine all within an hour (I was a bit rushed before dinner), but if you take the time you could make them much more neat looking than mine. My rolls didn't turn out perfectly and I ended up cutting the ends off, and well , they look a little sloppy.



I picked up some Tempura dipping sauce, which was a huge hit, but soy sauce on the side is great too.  Hubby loved them and said they tasted like the real deal. I prefer the vegetarian ones and don't think I'll use the imitation crab meat again. Not that it didn't taste great, but that it wasn't the healthiest option (1. it's imitation and 2. the list of ingredients takes up the back of the package).  The best part was that everything cost me under $20.00 and will last me atleast two more batches. Now that is some affordable sushi!

Enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Packed bags
Sad goodbyes
Where mommy go? questions
Leg room, headphones, movies
Seatbelt fastened

Funny stories, cute pictures
Missed phone calls
I love you and miss you messages
Late night tossing and turning
Laptop on cozy hotel bed, writing

Long, busy days
Paperwork, emails, meetings
Missed meals, headaches
Inspiring sport heroes
Old friends, new friends

Shuttles, security
Cotton candy clouds
Crashing hugs
Forehead kisses
Happy tears

Dinner, bath
Bed time stories
Restless dog, waking child
Zombie parents
Home sweet home

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I don't get this couponing fad

Am I the only one that thinks the current extreme couponing fad is incredibly stupid, not to mention a waste of time and money? You know how to save money? Don't buy crap you don't need just because you have a coupon for it!

These couponing people should be putting more time and effort into buying wholesome foods and reusable products to save money in the long run rather than getting their thrills from discounted processed and disposable junk.

I'm not against using coupons and use them when they are available, but funny thing is - there aren't many coupons for the things I buy. I buy real food and don't waste money on crap I don't need. When I walk into my local grocery store I usually skim over the coupon board. Perhaps I may find a different toilet paper brand that I may purchase to take advantage of a coupon or find that the dog food I usually buy is on sale for 2 for 1, but other than that they are completely useless to me.

I haven't seen an episode of the extreme couponing shows everyone is talking about and I don't really have a desire to. However, I do realize that there are people out there that coupon for good reasons; like to stockpile and donate to shelters and food banks.

How hard is it to see through these companies antics?! Yes, a $5 off coupon for a $10 product is a pretty sweet deal, but is it even a product you would buy if you didn't have the coupon?  Have you noticed that most coupons are for products you don't even need?

Perhaps I would be singing a different tune if there were more coupons for heads of broccoli or bags of apples, but for now I'll stick to saving my money a smarter way thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Potty Training: He is SO ready

I've been sitting back and watching E's signs of readiness for potty training ever since I noticed his interest at 18 months. He is now very interested in the potty and is starting to initiate sitting on it on his own. He grabs at his diaper when he is going to pee and announces what is happening in his pants. He loves reading books about potty training (I picked up a bag of books on the topic for cheap from a consignment sale a few months ago). He has gone both pee and poo on the potty on command.  He has gone both pee and poo on the potty after telling us he is about to in his diaper.  He is SO ready for this new adventure.

Sunday night Hubby and I asked him to go pee before his bath. We helped him sit down and sure enough he did his deed, shut the lid to his potty and then marched over to the bath tub like it was his job.  We were so proud and cheered and gave him high fives and sang the "we did it" song from Dora.  

Last night, as I was filling up the bath, E pulled his potty out himself and had a seat. Then, when nothing was coming out he did something that made me laugh so hard I could barely hold my phone straight enough to snap a picture (sorry no posting of picture here - for the baby album only).  

Here was my toddler leaning over his potty with his hands gripping the back of the seat, spreading his legs, with his knees slightly bent he was almost perfecting what I call the "Leaning Tower of Pee".  

Surely, you know this position? The one that your Hubby assumes over the toilet in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. The one that leaves fingerprints on the wall about 6 1/2 feet up behind the toilet. No, not your Hubby? Oh, I am so lucky.

I called Hubby immediately to tell him how E must be watching him lately and we had a good laugh.  Just another example of like father, like son.

Other than my laughing in the background, I didn't interrupt E while he stepped a little closer here and adjusted a little there and sure enough he got the job done! I am so proud.  My little baby has taken his first big step towards becoming a big boy.

When I get home from Calgary next week we are SO going shopping for little underwears!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Listening

I'm joining Capital Mom today by blogging about a moment from my life based on a theme she has provided. This week’s Monday Moment theme is LISTENING.

For the next five days I will be listening to his sweet voice on the other end of the phone.

I'm heading out tomorrow morning to Calgary for work. I will be away for five whole days. I've never been away from E for that long. The last time was when I left for work for three days in November. Before I left for that trip I cleaned the house, set out clothes, prepared meals and made lists. Not this time.

Hubby is on his own this week, with perhaps some help from Grandma if work calls on him. I tested his listening skills last night while I was rhyming off daily reminders. Things like to make sure an extra set of clothes is packed in E's back pack every day for day care and reminding him of favourite bed time snacks. These are things Hubby rarely is involved with. When I finished blabbing, Hubby asked, "You're going to write all this down, right?".

"Nope, sorry dude. You're on your own. I hope you were listening."

I know they will be just fine without me. Last time I left for a few days, I was stressed. This time, I don't know if I'm just lazy or if I find it thrilling that I am leaving everything up to Hubby to see how it all pans out. One thing is for sure, if Hubby wasn't listening...he is going to have to listen pretty closely to E's wants, needs and demands to get through the week.

I already miss E. I sat him down and gave him a little pep talk tonight. I told him I was going to Calgary and he cried and said he wanted to come to "Cowgary" too. I told him he was going to have so much fun with Daddy and I listed all of the activities that they could do. He asked, "Mommy, come too?"

I can't wait to hear about what they get up to all week. Have fun (and good luck) boys!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What do you do?

What do you do when things don't go your way?
When you are looking forward to something so much and then are let down?
When schedules change and last minute things come up and ruin your day?

What do you do?

Do you sit on the coach and loathe in self-pity?
Do you hold your face in your hands and cry?
Do you curse the universe?
Do you take it out on the person you love?

What do you do?

Do you take advantage of the time for something new?
Do you use the time for yourself?
Do you take advice from your best friend and run a bubble bath, pop some popcorn and watch a SITC marathon?
Do you call up some friends for a night out?
Do you fill your face with junk food?
Do you clean your house?

It's hard to jump from one extreme to another. It's hard to overcome the pain inside. It's hard looking beyond. It's hard to see the bright side.  It's hard dealing with disappointments time and time again.  It's just hard.

What do you do?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Barefoot and hormonal

We told ourselves we would enjoy being a newlywed couple for a couple years and wait until we held secure jobs. We would plan it out perfectly.  People told us there was no perfect time to plan for a family, but we wanted to plan it as best as we could.

Three years passed and we decided it was time. Time to finally give in to something that was nagging at me for years. We were ready, right? Of course we were. It was a perfect time.

I kept a journal throughout my pregnancy with E. Nothing fancy, just a notebook that I used to scribble down some notes.  It was such an exciting time - the notebook filled with Doctor appointments and little milestones - full of optimism and happiness. Reading it through two years later makes me smile and tear up at the same time. Nothing could get this young, pregnant woman down!  Until, that is, Nov 24, 2008's entry.

***

We were almost half way there, with our first real ultrasound scheduled for the next day. The day started off great. Instead of having to take the bus to work, Hubby gave me a ride in on his way to an important meeting.

In his crisp shirt and tie, he drove nervously.
It's nothing, I said. You must be getting that promotion. (After all, he was exceeding quotas and his bossed loved him.)
I don't know, he said, it sounded serious. He dropped me off and promised to call when his meeting was out.

I picked the phone up after the first ring. 

How was your meeting? I asked quietly, while sitting in my cubicle.
I just got laid off, he said.
Haha ya right - so did you get the promotion?
No, I'm serious. I got laid off. 
He proceeded to tell me about the disintegration of his department due to the recession.  That the company couldn't afford to keep him and four others on staff.  That his boss had tears in his eyes because he knew he had a pregnant wife at home. 

Hubby was in shock and was driving home to pack up his home office. I decided to take the rest of the day off and join him. Panic set in.

It could be worse, I said. Both trying to reassure him and myself.  You could have lost it right when the baby is born.  This way you have time to find something new before the baby comes.


All the while, I was in shock myself.  What were we going to do? It was horrifying.  We had a baby on the way and our income was just cut in half. We had a nursery to furnish and to top it off, had just spent a bunch of our savings to pay for a trip to Cuba to attend my brother's wedding.

***

We pinched our pennies.  We contemplated cancelling our trip because we could have really used the money, but I knew we would regret it.  We tried to use the trip to relax, but we couldn't.  When we got back, Hubby was in a mad rush again to find a new position. 

Thankfully it all worked out in the end. Hubby found something rather quickly and we managed to scrape by, even if we fell behind a little.

Now my entry on that day really makes me laugh. We couldn't have planned starting our family any better and sure enough a huge curve ball was thrown our way.  It really does go to show that there is no "right" time to start a family or do anything for that matter. 

On November 24, 2008 I wrote: Ultrasound tomorrow! "Hubby" got laid off today.

Horrifying at the time, hilarious today.


This post has been written for Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writers Workshop. Writing Prompt #5 - Barefoot and hormonal...describe an incident that upset you when you were pregnant, but now looking back makes you laugh.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When he covers his eyes

I pride myself on being a mindful parent.  I try to think of E's feelings before my own and to approach situations through his eyes. I've been paying close attention to his body language since the day he was born. I've come from learning hunger cues and sleepy signs to learning his social and emotional body language as he grows older.  His body language especially intrigues me these days. I often wonder what he is thinking or feeling.

When I bring him with me to meet up with friends, he always lowers his head in shyness.  His ball cap just covering his face enough for his comfort level and if you look closely he has a sort of scowl on his face.  I've been conscious not to label him as "shy" and I tell my friends that it simply takes him a few minutes to warm-up. My close friends understand his routine and we go about our conversation.  Sure enough he will peak his head up and is laughing and talking in no time.  I often wish this was an acceptable practice as an adult - to bow my head until I was ready to jump into conversation.  I have bad memories when I was younger of being called shy and going red in the face or being called out for my uncomfortableness.  Clearly, this doesn't help the situation and I am confident that if I don't pressure E into it, that he will come around at his own pace and comfort level.

When I drop him off at Mrs. X's house in the morning, we go through the same routine.  He is chatting away to me as we approach and then knock on the door.  As soon as Mrs. X answers in her usual cherry and welcoming way, he lowers his head. He hides his face, but if you look closely his mouth is forming a smile.  He loves Mrs. X and all of his friends.  I can tell by the way he tells me about his day. I sit him down on the bench and take off his shoes and hang his hat.  She tells him what she is making for breakfast and what their plans are for the day and it isn't until I give him a kiss and say my goodbyes that he is confident enough to raise his head and run off into the house.  I almost think in this case, he is demonstrating bashfulness.  Mrs. X. certainly dotes over him, as she does with all her little boys.  Maybe it's because she calls him the apple of her eye or because she calls him a cutie and he is thinking, Aw, gee thanks!

There are other examples too. Like when I read The Potty Book and Henry cheers and says Hooray! I did it! when he pees on the potty. E looks away or slightly lowers his head when he sees Henry's parents with open arms congratulating him.  Or when Franklin's Mother says, Franklin, in a way that let's the reader know that Franklin has done something wrong, E tips his head in shame, too.

It could be perfectly normal, but some of the reactions are starting to worry me.  The best example is when he watches Finding Nemo.  It is the only Disney movie I own and I don't even know where I got it. I think it was an extra copy my parents had and I brought it home with me when watching my nieces years ago. Anyhow, there are scary moments in it that I like to skip through because I think he is too young for them. I'm not a fan of him watching Disney at this age - seriously does every mother in their movies have to die? But I do think Finding Nemo has some really cute scenes and E is fascinated with the fish and sharks.

I've tried a few times to get a picture of E's reaction to some scenes and I finally captured it this past week.  Here is a sequence of three positions E took while watching, what I considered a happy moment on the movie.

The first picture is taken when Nemo is swimming around calling for his dad at the end of the movie.


The second photo is when Nemo and his dad see each other.




The third photo is when Nemo and his dad start swimming quickly towards each other to reunite.




As you can tell my the pictures, this scene is just too much for E. He can't bare to watch.

I know he is very sensitive, but could it be more than that? Is he himself, mindful? Is he viewing the situation through another’s eyes? Is he empathic? Does he have a deep understanding of another’s feelings?Is he sympathetic? Does he share the same feelings? Is he bashful? Is he embarrassed? Does he feel flustered or self-conscious? Or is he just “shy”?

These are questions I've been asking myself lately.  It's something that I am fascinated with and I have been thinking about a lot, even though I may just be thinking too much.  Is there something that I can do to ease him? I always explain the situations to him to help him understand.  I can't help but think that something is upsetting him and that perhaps there is something, anything I can do to help. I can almost feel his pain and uncomfortableness inside of me and it makes me a little sad.  He almost seems way too young to show these deep feelings and connections, doesn't he?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toddler Wearing at WestFest

I decided to take in WestFest this year with E and because I knew parking would be hard to come by, I decided to take the bus. I knew E would love it - he hadn't been on a bus since he was 10 months old, so to his memory he had never experienced such an amazing adventure! 

At 10 months old we didn't have a second vehicle and I had enrolled us in a Kindermusik class about 10 minutes away.  It was winter and I didn't want to deal with a stroller on the bus, so I would bundle him up in his snowsuit and strap him in his Baby Bjorn carrier. 

This morning I remembered how convenient it was to wear him and thought - hey! why can't I carry a toddler?  I read a blog post a couple months about toddler wearing and have been thinking about re-introducing it for a while now.  I immediately dug out my Hotslings baby wrap and put the instructional dvd in to see how a toddler is supposed to be worn. I hadn't used the sling since he was probably 8 months old. With a quick refresher we tried it out and I was relieved to read that it can handle up to 30 pounds.  E just weighed in at 28.5 pounds at his Dr's. appointment last week.

I was worried it might be hard to get him in, but it was actually easier since he could follow my directions and help me out a little (put your feet in here, no this way!). And E loved it. He kept saying, "Mommy, walk me!"

Here we are testing out the hip carry. (I wasn't comfortable with the back carry.)

He looks like such a big boy!
 I packed the sling in my back pack for later, along with drinks, snacks (and extra diapers and clothes of course) and we were set to go.  After slathering on our sunscreen, we headed out the door to purchase some bus tickets at the corner store and catch the bus.

We had to wait for a few minutes for the first bus,



and then a few more minutes for our connecting bus,



but E was in heaven the whole time; asking me questions and commenting on the bus' speed and just taking in the sights.

When we arrived at WestFest we walked the street, received a balloon sword made by a clown, waited in a long well-worth-the-wait-line for the bouncy castle, got a sponge-on tattoo, watched the dogs splash around in the dog pond, watching the gymnastics demonstrations, sat on the curb to eat a hamburger, watched balloons float into the air, played on some children's play structures, listened to some great music and then finally packed up to head home for a nap. E was tired by this time so I carried him in the sling on the way to the bus station.

It was a great morning and I'm looking forward to wearing my toddler again. I'm kicking myself for not buying a quality toddler carrier to back carry him - I may just have to invest in one now!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Moments: Talking

I'm joining Capital Mom today by blogging about a moment from my life based on a theme she has provided. This week’s Monday Moment theme is Talking.

He's talking our ears off, but we are all ears.
We are so amazed with the way he can voice his likes, his wants, his demands, his fears.

When asked what his name is he proudly announces his first, middle and last.
We can't believe he picked that up so fast!


I embrace his soft and angelic voice because I know it won't stay for long.
He can be loud too, especially when he is upset or when he suddenly breaks into song.

All by myself! he yells while walking down the street.
We try to keep up; he's already quite the little athlete.

I want a pickle, please, he says as soon as we get home.
See ya later, he says when he is given space to freely roam.

Oh, okay! or Oh, I guess so! he says as he agrees.
Look, big broccoli, he says as he giggles and points to the trees.

I like to move it, move it, he sings as he dances about the house.
I sleeping, he says as he pretends to sleep - quiet as a mouse.

Almost 26 months now, he is a big boy right before our eyes.
Much of it has been a roller coaster with some lows, but mostly highs.

Listening to him talk makes me laugh everyday.
I wish he could stay this age forever; I wish there was a way.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The best of both worlds

Instead of turning the air conditioning on, I opened my car windows tonight on the way home from work. There was a slight breeze and since I didn't get out for my run at lunch I needed the fresh air.  As I drove past the fields of the experimental farm, the temperature suddenly dropped and a cool breeze waved through the car.  I instantly got goosebumps and I'm not sure if they were because I was cold or if I was caught off guard by a sudden memory of growing up on the farm.

We never had (and they still don't have) air conditioning on the farm. We didn't even have fans growing up.  We propped our old wooden windows open with a piece of wood and let the cool breeze from the land cool us off.  That sudden breeze today reminded me of my curtains blowing in the wind on peaceful summer nights. So refreshing. So natural.

Other than the sound of crickets or an occasional cat fight, we slept in peace.  Now I sleep to the hum of an air conditioner and am startled by fire trucks zooming by or car alarms going off. This isn't new, I've been away from the farm for almost 10 years now, but now I am seeing it through my child's eyes now.  So far, this is the world E will grow up in.  The city life. My little city boy, just like his Dad.

I want the farm to be a big part of E's life and we try to visit as much as possible. He didn't really have a choice with a farm themed nursery, toys, books, music classes - this kid was going to be part city boy, part farm boy.  I feel fortunate and like to think that some of my best qualities stem from growing up as a farmer's daughter.

There are so many things that I want E to experience or learn that we can't easily do or see in our neighbourhood.  These are things that I am thankful for, learned from and treasure from my childhood. I want him to learn how to unload a wagon of hay bales and to stack and store them in a hot, hazy loft. I want him go fishing for tad poles in the culvert or the pond on a raft made out of scrap wood. I want him to learn to hand-milk a cow and to see or even help a cow give birth. I want him to learn how to drive a tractor. I want him to build forts in the bushes and play hide n' seek in the corn fields. I want him to learn to care for an abandoned kitten. I want him to learn to lead a calf. I want him to go on bike riding adventures throughout the acres of farm land. I want him to learn that on a farm there is no such thing as being "bored".

Even though I want him to experience the farm life I am happy to give my child the city life. Hubby grew up in the city so we are always looking for a happy medium. I want to give E the opportunity to enroll in after-school programs and sports. I want to give him the opportunity to join competitive teams, go to the park to meet neighbourhood friends, or whatever his little heart desires.  Because we are so lucky to have access to this living in a city.

So while I putter around my tiny air conditioned home I need to remind myself that it's not all that bad. It could almost be better. We can give him the best of both worlds. How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Battle of the Bean Brownies

There are all kinds of bean recipes popping up lately so I've naturally had to try some.  Who knew that you could bake beans in all kinds of yummy treats?!

One treat that I was intrigued with was the bean brownie.  Within a matter of a week I was surrounded with four different recipes. The first I heard of it was when Mrs. X presented me with a tasty brownie fresh out of the oven when I was picking E up from day care.  I immediately asked for a copy of the recipe.  Two days later, Liisa posted this recipe on Fit for a Kid. I then came across this recipe on Dinner with Julie and then finally, the following weekend I visited my parents and my Mom told me she had a recipe to share too.  My Mom's recipe was very similar to Mrs. X's (so I only tried one version).

So with three new recipes (with rave reviews) of a healthy bean brownies, what is a gal to do?  Make them all of course!

Exhibit A: Mrs. X's Bean Brownies

Ingredients:
1 cup cooked kidney or romano beans, pureed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these)

Instructions:
Grease 13 x 9 inch baking pan. In mixing bowl, combine beans, sugar, flour, cocoa and salt.  Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed or by hand, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth. Stir in walnuts.  Pour batter in prepared pan; spread into corners and smooth top. Bake at 350 F for 20-30 min or until tester inserted comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Cut into squares. Makes 24 brownies (a lot!).

Notes:
Mrs. X used romano beans and instead of sugar used Sucanat.  Her brownies turned out to be a little dry.  I used kidney beans and replaced half of the sugar and half of the oil with applesauce.  My brownies turned out to be a little too soft and squishy. 

Results:
An overall yummy snack that I would try again (while altering some of the ingredients). Even though my version was a little soft and dense, it tasted great along side a scoop of Rice Dream ice cream. 

Exhibit B: Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies from Dinner With Julie

Notes:
I didn't add nuts and I used Earth Balance Soy Free buttery spread instead of butter.

Results:
These tasted almost like fudge and I would only have a sliver of it at a time (many times) because it was so rich. The chocolate chips are my favourite part. We poured fresh pureed strawberries over top and enjoyed it as a decadent dessert.  I loved that they were gluten-free.

Exhibit C: Vegan Black Bean Brownies from Fit for a Kid

Notes:
I used agave nectar and brown sugar in my version. I added flax meal for some added nutritional punch.

Results:
These tasted more like a yummy snack bar than a brownie.  The cocoa taste is masked by the bananas and cinnamon. I would still make them again. I had to bake mine about 10 minutes longer to bake all the way through.  I love that they are vegan and I didn't have to make an substitutions.

So there you have it - three very different bean brownie recipes broken down for you to pick from depending on your mood. 

Enjoy!

P.S. No, I did not make and eat these all in one day! It has taken me several months to put this together and it was a lot of work doing all of this taste testing so I hope you are thankful! Now, on to a new post about weight loss after a brownie bake-off...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DIY Gallery Wall & More Small Projects

I've been lusting over gallery walls for what seems like ages now. Especially the one that the folks over at Young House Love recently completed.  When we decided to repaint our place in January I knew I wanted to create a gallery of pictures on the large wall in our living room.  Well, it's June and I have finally completed my project (well kinda)!  I'd like to think of this as an ongoing project - something that I will constantly be changing and adding too.  I'd like to eventually add some DIY art pieces to it too. Here it is as we are today:


As you can tell, I need to straighten some pictures out, but for the most part I am happy with the somewhat finished product.  I used 15 mixed-matched frames to start. Some were ones we've had for years and a couple were from consignment stores around the city.  Since they were all different colours, I picked up a can of Rustoleum in Heirloom White - Satin finish and sprayed them all the same colour.  Some frames also had mats in them so I picked up some pretty scrapbook paper at Michael's and mod podged it on.


This total project cost me a whopping $25.00 which included the printing of some of the pictures. Some of the pictures I already had printed and others, like our Fall family ones (that were done by the lovely Claire Ross) were finally printed and proudly displayed.

Below the gallery is a couple more DIY projects I've completed over the last few months.  The cheap console table used to be a honey brown wood finish and was purchased to use as telephone table at Hubby and I's first apartment.  I sprayed it with the same spray paint and I'm very happy with how it turned out. I'm not exactly sure what I want to display on the table yet, but for now it holds my hurricane vase filled with wine corks and a pillar candle (hint: if your candle isn't tall enough, I used an upside down shot glass to prop it up).  I first saw this centrepiece featured on Young House Love and soon after my sister gave me a bag of wine corks she collected while waitressing in a bar. Another frugal project!


So that's my little update on the stolen inspiration "projects" (as Hubby likes to call them) I've been working on around the house. 

What have you been working on?  Do you have a gallery wall in your house?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Moments: Change

I'm joining Capital Mom today by blogging about a moment from my life based on a theme she has provided. This week’s Monday Moment theme is Change.

I've been thinking about defining moments lately and how situations and events in my life have shaped and/or changed me.

While I know that negative influences and hardships are important to learn from and I know that I have certainly grown from them, I prefer to focus on the positives.

There was the time that my Mother sat with me night after night helping me write and rehearse my Grade 8 speech. That speech gave me the highest mark in the class and awarded me the Valedictorian Award and privilege. Again, she helped me prepare and gave me the confidence to speak my most heartfelt words in a gymnasium full of my peers, their families and our teachers. It was a tough year for me, my family and for others in my class. My words brought laughter and tears and helped conquer my fear of public speaking. That day, that experience, that dedication from my Mother - it changed my quiet, introverted self into a confident and passionate writer. That's where it all started.

Then there was my wedding day. Not the part where I married my best friend (although that was awesome and life changing too), but the time that came to dance with my Father. It was the first time we talked that eventful day and our conversation will stay with me forever.  "You look like a movie star", he said. I laughed. Ya right, I thought. "No really, that's what everybody's saying. Its true". I took his strong lead and we floated across the dance floor. My Father, a man of very few words and someone who struggles with expressing his feelings, told me in his own way that he was proud of me that day. To a young woman that struggled with self esteem, it changed my view in the mirror going forward.

And then came the day my son was born. The day I found my calling as a mother. That day lead me to my passions and changed my whole outlook on life.

These are some of the moments that helped define me, shape me and change me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

Or monkey see, monkey do.
Or the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
Or LORD HELP ME.


Hubby: What's for dinner, hun?
E: What you makin', Mommy?
Me: *grumble*


Me: Come on, wake up, let's go!
Hubby: Just 20 more minutes, I promise.
E: I sleepin', Mommy. I cuddle Daddy.


Me: What's up for today?
Hubby: (something along these lines) I have a hockey game at this time, then another game at this time (and so on)
E: I Sydney Crosby. I skate fast! I shoot de puck! I score on the goaler!


Last Year - Olympics 2010

Me: We have to do this or go here (insert activity that they don't want to do)
Hubby: Ah really, why don't you just go/do. I neep a nap.
E: No way, Mommy! (lies down) I sleeping.


Me: Time for dinner. Come home/come inside.
Hubby (on his cell from the golf course): I JUST finished my round, having and beer and I'll be home in a bit.
E (from the yard): No, I wanna play golf. I wanna shoot the ball.


Last Summer - 2010


Me: What do you want to eat for dinner?
E: I want Lonestar. I want chips and dip. I want rice. I want steak.
Hubby: Let's go out for dinner.  How about Lonestar?
(We went to Lonestar when my sister was visiting a month ago and E has requested it ever since.)


Hubby: Where's my baseball glove, dress shirt, swim suit (insert anything here, really)
E: Where's my ball, Mommy? Where's my toys, Mommy?
Me: Right where you left them, my dears.

Last weekend - May 2011

Hubby: I love my boy. He's my best friend.
Me: Who's your best friend, buddy?
E: Daddy!


Last weekend - May 2011