Wednesday, October 12, 2011

::new blog address::

It's time to start fresh.

Please join me at my new blog: http://megbaxter.wordpress.com/.

xo Meg


Saturday, September 24, 2011

::Love is...::

Sharing a fantastic post from SheLoves Magazine today: a parent's take on the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13.



Though I have all the right words, but have not love, I might as well be talking to the back of your head.
Though I have all the answers to your every question and have read every parenting book and have all the resources to pave the way for your perfect future but don’t have love, I have nothing.
Though I give you everything I have and sacrifice every ounce of my energy to keep your every-growing body in clothes that fit and feed you square meals and ensure your teeth are brushed and your emotions are vented and your friendships maintained and oh, maybe even eventually send you off to college – but have not love, it’s useless.
Love is patient as it paces back and forth across the living room late into the night, rocking you to sleep. It endures as you talk my ear off in the car after school. It smiles as you ask for another bedtime story. It drives you to karate and to birthday parties and to the mall to hang with your friends. It sits at the table and encourages you as you try to solve math equations I can’t understand. It is full of grace as you accidently knock the Rice Krispies out of the pantry and across the kitchen floor. Again.
Love isn’t jealous when you would rather trade your homemade sandwich for a friend’s twinkie at recess. Love doesn’t need to prove that I know more than you do, that I’m the boss of you, that I have it all figured out.
Love doesn’t rub your nose in your mistakes but extends its arms with grace. It doesn’t keep a mental list of how many times you’ve messed up. It doesn’t whine about how much it has to do and how little thanks it gets. Love doesn’t lose its cool over silly things that will be forgotten tomorrow.
Love is crazy for Truth, and celebrates when you discover it.
Love can deal with the tantrums and the mood swings. It trusts God in every season, and it carries on and on into grandparenthood. It’s the screaming cheerleader at your game, the beaming face in the crowd at your recital, and the basketcase on the night before your wedding. It’s the voice on the phone checking in… the porch light on, waiting, at the end of the day.
Love won’t quit. 
Colourful toys and baby blankets will eventually be packed up and put away. Field trips, sports days and school dances will come and go.
One day, in the light of eternity, we’ll better understand the depth and complexity of this heartbreaking, beautiful life we share…
But for now we have three tasks to keep us on track: Put all our faith in God, hope wholeheartedly, and love lavishly. And the very best thing we can do is love.
-Written by Angela Doell 

Monday, September 19, 2011

::Fall::


Fall is my favourite season. It used to be for the fashion. Now that I'm a mom and live in the Prairies, it's admittedly mostly for the food. (Ha!) All things pumpkin BEG me to consume them, and anything warm and savoury is pretty much guaranteed to make me want to snuggle in with the family and enjoy a quiet night at home, wearing socks and sweaters, playing a good ol' game of cards.

Earlier this week, I went into my well-loved recipe file and pulled out the list of yummy soups I'll be making in the next month or two. They include beef barley vegetable, French onion, butternut squash, cheater chicken noodle (made with a store-bought rotisserie bird), and, of course, Jamie Oliver's Spanish Chickpea & Chorizo soups.

But I must say, while French onion soup is one of my classic all-time faves, The Pioneer Woman's Sherried Tomato Soup offers a delicious grown-up twist on a childhood staple. Heavy cream, fresh herbs and an entire cup of cooking sherry give Ree's version an extra warmth that is unrivaled. (Well, I'll bet most of the "warmth" comes from the sherry!) Paired with her buttery thyme bread, you can't go wrong. This is definitely tonight's supper. I needed to use up the last of our garden-fresh tomatoes, anyway!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

::stopping the cycle of mom guilt::


This summer, I welcomed a friend and her young family to their first posting: Shilo! They arrived in sunny Manitoba from B.C. in June and quickly adapted to Army life: dealing with the unknown, sporadic work schedule; getting to know the neighbours; keeping the kids occupied while trying to settle into their house. I have to say, they have adapted like champs and have been so positive in their integration – it makes me love Manitoba even more to see their enthusiasm about their new home.

Of course, arriving in the summer is wonderful because of the beautiful weather, but for a four-year-old and a two-year-old who don’t know anyone, it can get quite lonely. I have heard siblings close in age often play well together (fingers crossed for when my little guy learns to actually “play” with his big sis), and these two little girls are best friends. But I also know siblings (especially sisters) can get sick of each other quickly. So my poor girlfriend finds herself refereeing the girls all day while hubby is working, because they have yet to really meet other kids of the same age.

I had them over recently to play with Heidi and over the course of a couple of hours, the youngest went from happy and energetic to sullen and clingy, and the oldest got a little bossy and forgot her manners once or twice, interrupting the grown-up conversation to tell her mom something.

Of course, this exasperated my friend and resulted in a few tears between all the little girls at certain points, but it was nothing we couldn’t move past with some soft-spoken explanation and encouragement from the moms.

Later that evening, I got an email from my girlfriend, in which she apologized for her kids’ behaviour. I knew she felt tired and overwhelmed, and would probably have liked some alone time, just like any other mom. But I realized that feeling the need to apologize for a two- and four-year-old’s behaviour is quite silly, and didn’t help her confidence. I certainly don’t expect perfection from little kids. They are, after all, just kids, and our job as mothers is to teach them, and correct them when they forget how to apply what they’ve learned.

I suggested to her in my reply that she and I should simply stop apologizing for our kids and their little outbursts, attitudes, and silly comments; we are both doing the best we can and learning as we go. So we agreed to just go forward with the knowledge that kids will be kids and we will be there to help them learn, no apologies.

This got me thinking about being out in public with little kids and dreading the inevitable grocery-store tantrum. While most of society has been a parent to a toddler at some point, why does it seem most people have parental amnesia in the public, sending annoyed glares in a frustrated parent’s direction when their child makes a fuss? Can’t we have some sympathy on the parents, instead of reminding them with a stern, annoyed look and heaving sigh that our shopping trip has been ruined by the shrieks of a strong-willed child?

So my suggestion is this: band together with the parents of your children’s friends and decide to be on the same team. Don’t expect perfection from your friends or their kids; don’t feel the need to apologize for tired, cranky, or otherwise “normally”-behaved bambinos (unless, of course, it’s warranted!); and please, offer a frazzled mom or dad a smile of reassurance next time you see them at the mall. Let’s stop perpetuating the guilt we heap on ourselves and work together to grow strong, sensible children.

Written for The Carberry News Express, published every Monday in Carberry, Manitoba

::monster cookies::

Cookies so big they require a plate? Yes, please!



Came upon this recipe on allrecipes.com the other day and was stoked to try it. It has a 4.5/5 star rating and the reviews are awesome.

I love chewy cookies, but mine always seem to come out crispy. These really are the huge kind you find at Starbucks or other coffee shops. Honestly, the recipe only makes 18 cookies (!), but one is all you need.  With 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, they are super rich. I think what makes these so amazing is melting your butter, bringing your eggs up to room temperature, and the extra yolk (don't miss that step!).

Here is the recipe, with my tweaks!


Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Ingredients: 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used 1/4 cup peanut butter chips and 3/4 cup semi-sweet - yum!)


Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a medium bowl with beaters), cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets (the Pampered Chef's large scoop worked great!). Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. I fit 9 per sheet, in a chevron pattern.

Bake for 19-21 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Eat up! 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

::running::

I have been running for two months now (since July 11). I can't believe that in the span of eight weeks, I've gone from a completely unfit, post-baby, "I-eat-whatever-I-want-and-don't-care" body to officially considering myself a "runner."

I started running to:


-get out of the house,
-work up a sweat,
-gain some endurance and energy,
-take some time for myself, and, of course,
-lose my baby weight.

I found an app on the iPhone called LogYourRun that calculates EVERYTHING for me, and even has a host of running programs to choose from, based on your end goal. (At first, when I didn't know how to properly navigate the site, all I could see were the marathon and half marathon programs. They scared me silly.) When I finally realized I could choose a different goal, I chose the "Complete Beginners 10 k run" program, which helps you work up to 10 kms over eight weeks.

With the 10 km deadline being next Friday's Terry Fox Run here on base, I have successfully worked my way (so far) from the first training session of running 1 minute, walking 2 minutes, eight times (which took me a grand total of 2.9 kms - haha!), to today's run of running 30 minutes, walking 2 minutes, twice (8.4 kms - yeah!).

Dora and I running along the ATV trail on base.

In 2004, I came home from a 2.5 month trip to Europe 22 lbs heavier than when I left (France has the best bread, wine and cheese, ok?), and decided to try running to lose that weight. I joined a 13-week InTraining running clinic put on by the Vancouver Sun Run and realized that even though I had only run sprints in track & field when I was younger, long-distance running was indeed a possibility for me. I learned that I simply needed to start slow and work my way up to my goal. The best part was that it was all laid out for me - all I had to do was go down the list each week and complete the sessions one by one (without looking too far ahead and becoming discouraged!). I did it and ran the 10 km Vancouver Sun Run in 64 minutes.

Being that I ran 64 mins yesterday and only travelled 8.4 kms, I obviously have some time to make up in the next week. But I think it can be done. Even if I'm a few minutes behind, it will certainly feel good to know that I am more fit, healthier, and have more energy than 8 weeks ago. So far, I have lost 8 lbs and have 12 lbs to go to get to my pre-Heidi weight.

But let me be the first to clarify I am not on a diet. We eat pretty healthy already, but I do love me some chocolate. I have stopped baking so much but I don't deny myself something yummy if it's around. (Chocolate fondue night with the girls? Heck yes! Cheesecake at Gullivers? You bet! Ice cream in Minnedosa? Uh-huh!) I mean, it's summertime, so I'm not going to get down on myself about enjoying food. I just make better choices. For example, a Twix Bar will taste great, but homemade cookies would taste better. And instead of a sugary, fatty Timmy's Ice Cap, I'll head to Starbucks for a Vivanno smoothie or skinny latte. I guess I just figure that if I'm going to eat something that's not so great for me, it had better be worth it! There is something so much more motivating about knowing that you're only cheating yourself by making poor dietary choices. I want to be in good shape to keep up with my kids, too, so my level of determination is much higher than it would be to simply want to fit into a certain dress or my favourite jeans.

So that's been my life for the past two months and I plan to keep it up. It feels good to have that time away from the house, and push myself a little farther each day. I am sure the routine will change when the snow arrives and I'll be relegated to the gym instead of the great outdoors. But until then, I am really enjoying this new part of my life.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

::the love letter above all love letters::


Below is the letter of Major Sullivan Ballou of the Union Army's Second Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, to his wife Sarah days before he was killed in the Battle of Bull Run. Ballou wrote the letter on July 14, 1861 while awaiting orders that would take him down to Manassas, Virginia where he was killed on July 28.  Ballou, 32, was a lawyer and father of two small boys, Edgar and Willie, who volunteered to fight for the Union Army. 

My very dear Sarah: 
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. 
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure -- and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. 
If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. 
I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt. 
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country? 
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee. 
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles I have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed. 
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield. 
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. 
I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me -- perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. 
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! 
How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more. 
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. 
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again. 
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. 
Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. 
Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. 
O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children. 
Sullivan


Taken from FOX News 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

::DIY dry erase board::

I think I have figured out how Wayne's and my relationship works:

Wayne has cool ideas & I make them pretty.

So simple!

For months now, this giant whiteboard has dominated our kitchen. It was originally purchased to be a weekly meal planner (Wayne's idea), but quickly turned into a weekly planner of all things Baxter. And while we were neat and tidy at first, our penmanship and care has gone down the toilet, making this great idea a total eyesore, in my opinion.


I recently came upon this tutorial for a DIY dry erase board on the SAS Interiors blog and thought how easy it looked, not to mention how much more decorative this functional item could be!

So off I went to Michaels craft store last night and boy did I score BIG. These two 11 x 17 frames were on sale for $5.99 each (yup!) and I took my chances with a coupon, which reduced them even further to $3.99 each! I couldn't believe my luck. I found some scrapbooking paper I thought would be nice (but not too feminine) in our kitchen, and it was on sale, too (5 sheets for $2). Together with the goodies in my craft box, I knew I could make this work.


After only an hour or so, this was the result! I made two small boards instead of one large one, and it remains a weekly board, not monthly.


I pretty much love it.


Now there's something pretty to look at in the kitchen! The old whiteboard is sitting in the basement, waiting for a new task. :)


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

::Darling capelet::

A friend commissioned me to make a gift for a little girl's upcoming third birthday. When contemplating my options, I came across Prudent Baby's adorable reversible capelet. I thought this looked like a fun wardrobe addition a little girl could wear to feel "fancy," in addition to being practical for cool fall/spring evenings.

I love that once you understand the pattern/idea, you can alter it to your heart's content. The ties can be done with ribbon, straps, Velcro, etc. I stuck with the tutorial for my first one and it turned out pretty well, I think! I'll definitely be making one of these for Miss H for next summer. I'd love to make a longer, super hero-type version for a little boy!




Tip Junkie handmade projects

Saturday, July 23, 2011

::Stay-at-home-parent::

The following article will be published in the next issue of the Carberry News Express, a paper in the neighbouring town of Carberry (about 25 mins east of Shilo - and supposedly Canada's second largest potato-producing community!). I have been writing two articles per month aimed at reaching the military members and their families who choose to live there and commute to Shilo.

*   *  *

I never have considered myself particularly maternal. I played house when I was a little girl, but only if I could be the Mommy (I like control). I heaved great sighs of exasperation each time my parents asked me to take care of my little brother while they worked (we’re nine years apart). I have never liked children; I only babysat for the money (I got a job at McDonald’s as soon as I turned 15 to avoid this frustrating task!). And when I met and married Wayne at 24, I was working full-time as a writer and editor, while serving at restaurants and pubs on the weekends. This provided the extra spending money we used to fund our fantastic D-I-N-K lifestyle (DINK = Double Income, No Kids). It was great!

Then, I began to see babies as the expression of a couple’s love and intimacy; as a reason to grow and learn together; and as a tiny bundle to call our own, to nurture and teach and love and raise. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay home 24/7 to raise one. But I knew it was the next step in our marriage; we just had to figure out how to make it work for us.

The dream became a reality only once we decided to become a military family. Living in Metro Vancouver, our two-bedroom townhouse was not only too small for more than one child, but it was far too expensive to afford on one income. I would have had to go back to work and pay for daycare, which is hard to come by in that area. We would have been near family, but both our sets of parents were years away from retirement at the time and would not have been able to provide regular childcare. Our yard was also roughly the size of a postage stamp – no fun for a kid.

So when the opportunity to join the Canadian Forces presented itself, it seemed to be the logical answer. Wayne would have a contract that would guarantee his position; we’d rent on base so he could work close to home; and I could stay home with the kids while they are little. It seemed almost too good to be true!

Of course, it was. Wayne left to complete his training for a total of 16 months, and then the Army moved us to the middle of the Prairies. This wasn’t exactly what I had imagined.

But after the initial shock, I began to appreciate this crazy life for what it is, and I can say now that I have enjoyed the position of CEO of the Baxter home more than any other title I’ve held in my career, even if it is in the middle of nowhere! I now officially consider myself a stay-at-home-parent, instead of just a mom who doesn’t have time to work. And I am not only okay with that, but I am delighted to have the opportunity to be home; not everyone who wants to do this, can.

I admit, sometimes I ask myself how my life went from high heels, boardroom meetings, and after-work cocktails to flip flops, naptime, and Sesame Street. Sometimes I grumble at the fact that I have to drive 25 minutes into Brandon just to buy groceries. And I totally add menial tasks to my morning to-do list, just so I have something to cross off (today’s list included "make coffee," "read flyers," and "lunch," just to avoid "fold laundry," "empty dishwasher," and "wash diapers"). But I know that being home with my kids is my primary role right now, and I know myself well enough to know that I don’t have the energy reserve to pour into them and a job outside the home. But it’s okay. It won’t be like this forever. It’s just another stage of life, and I am blessed to have a husband who supports it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

::Upcycled diaper bag::

Another sewing project! I'm on a roll...

Heidi has a pair of corduroy overall she never wore. I loved them so much - the print is so happy and fun - that I carefully hung them in her closet and waited and waited until she would grow big enough to wear them. Of course, they were given to me when she was newborn, and I had no reference point for how fast she would grow, especially as the product of two tall parents.

Alas, twelve months came and went and I thought surely, they would still be too big. But by the time I thought to bring them out of the closet, they were too short! (I wasn't sewing at the time, or I would have thought to cut them off into a romper.) They have been sitting all this time in Heidi's closet, and eventually made their way into the "to sell" pile of Heidi's massive wardrobe.


Then I found this tutorial, which shows you how to make a diaper bag alternative with a pair of children's overalls! I loved this idea, especially because my diaper bag, which I also use as a purse, has been slowly accumulating more and more stuff now that I have two children! (I'm a "just in case" type of person, ok?) It's intended to enable Mommy to use her own purse and have detachable diaper bag, so she doesn't have to constantly switch her wallet, keys, makeup, etc. from the diaper to her purse when she does go out without her kids (rare, I know).

But what a perfect way to continue to show off this fun print and make it functional, too. And once I'm done with diaper bags (when will that be???), Heidi can use it. (They were her overalls, after all.)

My only problem was that the straps on these overalls weren't adjustable; the overalls did up in the back with a zipper. This wouldn't allow me to attach the bag to the straps of my purse. So, when I cut off the legs just at the crotch to sew up the bottom of the bag, I reserved the snaps that followed the length of the insides of the legs and created my own adjustable straps! I cut on the seam of the original straps, folded them down and zigzag stitched the new snaps on.

(Yes, that's crooked stitching below that snap, but I'm no perfectionist when it comes to projects for myself). 

This could not have been an easier project. It's the perfect way to preserve some of your favourite kids' clothing!

The finished bag, full of goodies!

The essentials.

My current purse...

My current purse with the diaper bag attached. Fun!

If you live in the area and would like me to convert your child's overalls into a detachable bag, use my contact form at www.facebook.com/GingerRootCreations

::Spring chicken::

When I saw this easy tutorial for a stuffed chicken from the sewing blog Sew, Mama, Sew, I knew I had to make it! Thankfully, Heidi's friend Michael is about to turn 2, and this seemed to be the perfect little friend to make for him. It took me only a couple of hours, and other than the body fabric, I used scraps to make the rest of the pieces! I love projects that use scraps. The best part about stuffies is that you can really create a personality with the fabrics you choose. In the tutorial, the chicken is quite whimsical with the orange body, whereas mine came out a little more "country," with the traditional colours.

Here is the finished product. Happy birthday, Michael!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

::Sunshine Muffins::

Today, I baked. I haven't done that in a while, being that Wayne and I are trying to make healthier food choices (and nachos, cookies, and cake pops don't exactly fall into the "healthy" category, do they?).

I made a recipe my mom has been making for years, from The Best of Bridge cookbooks. They're called Sunshine Muffins, and they are so moist and refreshing, I could eat them every day. They are an orange-based muffin, and lend themselves to all sorts of fruit/nut/chocolate mix-ins. While I always include semisweet chocolate chips (because chocolate and orange is my most favourite food combination in the world!), I decided today to include chopped fresh cherries. No joke, the cherries from Superstore for the past couple of weeks have been to die for. Just like picking them off the tree! Amazing.

I also decided to tweak the recipe a bit, to make it a tad healthier by reducing the sugar. With the chocolate chips and cherries, I would never have noticed the sugar was reduced (and my waistline probably didn't either). Bonus: this recipe is quick and easy.

Suffice it to say, these are not the *healthiest* version of these muffins that I could make. I could substitute some of the flour for whole wheat, throw in some wheat germ or bran, include nuts instead of chocolate, and use applesauce instead of oil. Alas, I threw caution to the wind and whipped them up the way they were meant to be made. Mostly. Recipe below.





Sunshine Muffins

whole orange (pref. organic), cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup orange juice (or just another orange if you don't have O.J.)
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed) --> or substitute applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cherries
1/4-1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:
Combine cut-up orange (that’s right – the whole orange), orange juice, egg and oil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. 

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add your mix-ins and combine to coat them with the flour mixture. 

Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir by hand until just combined. Pour batter into 12 muffin tins (I use silicone) and bake at 375 deg.F (190 deg.C) for 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Book Reference – The Best of the Best – Vol. 1

Sunday, July 17, 2011

::motherhood::

"I was reared in the generation of women who were told we could be anything we wished, and succeed. Our expectation, our greatest achievement in life was no longer wife and mother — we had evolved! Our focus was on career, success in business, making a name for ourselves. Our mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers had fought hard for the opportunity to be something outside the home. And I appreciated that, so much so that I assumed my purpose in life was simply me…what can I do, who can I be? I was of the evolved generation, a product of women’s rights! What I didn’t count on was that motherhood, something that is supposed to be biological and natural, would be the most challenging."


Read the rest of this oh-so-true article here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

::cake pops::

I thought I'd consider making cake pops for Heidi's 2nd birthday party, but in my years of baking and cooking, I have (finally) learned to never try something new when guests are coming. So, when my friend Liz asked me to host an Arbonne party for her, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at creating these delicious, super-sweet, cake-icing-chocolate balls on sticks.

Good thing, too.

Dang, these things are more work than they look! The redeeming quality is, of course, that no matter how bad they look, they taste the same: yummy!

Either way, I started by watching Youtube tutorials, and thought surely, baking blogger Bakerella would have something to say. And she did. I watched her tutorial and thought, "That looks easy!" Well, let's just say I'm glad I started this process two days ahead of time!

First, I had to bake the cake. (Don't be silly and think I made one from scratch. no name helped me out with this part.) I baked them, let them cool, and cut them into quarters, like Bakerella said. I started by picking up two cake quarters and rubbing them together over a large mixing bowl to create crumbs.

If I had continued this way, I'd still be making cake crumbs. That did NOT work.

So I said, "Screw that," and started manhandling that cake! I broke, smooshed, tossed and stirred those cakes until they were nothing but a pile of lumpy crumbs. I thought the lumps gave it character. You know, rustic, like something Bobby Flay would do.

Then I had to mix in the icing (again with the no name brand). The entire container. I thought this may be too much but I was wrong, very wrong. In fact, I still have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't enough.

I dumped it in and began to stir with a wooden spoon, as per Bakerella's tutorial, thinking it would come together evenly and quickly. And again, that did NOT work. And so, channeling my best meatloaf-making skills, I squished and mashed the icing and cake crumbs by hand like nobody's business. It felt good!

By this time, it was late at night and Wayne could barely keep his eyes open on the couch, waiting for me to finish up in the kitchen. I thought to myself, "I'll just roll them into balls now, leave them on the baking sheet in the fridge and pick up where I left off in the morning." So I pulled out my 2 Tbsp. scooper and began "rolling" cake balls.

However, each time I tried to roll the cake and icing mixture, it would break apart in my hands! Either there wasn't enough icing, or it was too hot/humid in our house to get the mixture to stick together. So I had to knead and squish each cake ball individually. After 36 scoops, this gets boring and tiring. Ugh, it was a late night. But I did it.

The next morning, my first attempt to melt the coloured chocolate wafers left me with a Pyrex measuring cup full of burnt pink discs, with a core of brown and black crust that stunk up my kitchen. FAIL. (Why did I think I could melt coloured chocolate in the microwave? I dunno!)

So out came the double boiler, and my plans for pink cake pops changed to blue ones. Ok, ok, this mistake was entirely my own and I take full responsibility for it.


The remnants of the pink chocolate.

Ewwww. It stunk.

So with the blue chocolate safely melting in a homemade double boiler on the stove, I prepped my lollipop sticks, my dipping cup, and my styrofoam block that Wayne so kindly drilled holes into for me to let the pops dry in before packaging. 

I figured the cake balls would be cold enough having been in the fridge all night that I wouldn't need to freeze them for the 15 mins Bakerella suggests before inserting the sticks and dipping them. Again, I was wrong. They were still barely holding together. Into the freezer they went.

A couple of hours later, I re-melted the chocolate and took the pops out of the freezer. They were much harder and actually stayed together as I inserted the sticks and dipped them into the chocolate.


But as time went on, the once-frozen pops began to thaw, and the crumbs would come off in the blue goop. I then tried to reshape the cake balls as I worked with them, but that left my hands brown and sticky, which stained the lollipop sticks! Ugh, I just couldn't win!

Finally, I got 20 of them dipped before running out of chocolate (the last one had to be slathered with a spatula!), and decided that would have to do. I sprinkled coloured sugar on them (which also looked very awkward and childish in its application - how do you do that evenly? Dipping them in the sugar looked silly, too.). I put them in the fridge to harden up, and then covered them with clear candy bags and wrapped the bases with blue ribbon.



If you think this post was long and boring to read, imagine being the one MAKING the bloody things! Haha. As I said, though, they taste awesome (and that's with from-the-box mix and icing!) and even though they are sloppy and kind of look like homemade gumballs on sticks, I vow to dip and wrap the remaining cake balls (which are in a Ziploc in the freezer) in my leftover purple chocolate wafers for another event so I don't waste the ingredients.

Now I just need to find an event worthy of so much time and effort. :oS

Thursday, June 30, 2011

::sausage rolls::


Well, yes, Oren has his own sausage rolls. But actually, I made my own - edible - sausage rolls for the first time today and they are SO GOOD! I had some unseasoned sausages (the kind from a butcher, not packaged) in the fridge that needed to be cooked up. But Wayne is on a little road trip in his putt-putt (the Metro) and there's no way Heidi and I can eat 2 lbs of ground pork between us in his absence! So I dug out my President's Choice puff pastry from the freezer (always good to have on hand - they go on special for $2/box and I stock up) and away I went!

The recipe is from Canadianliving.com and it's a winner - easy, too. I did change it a little, so here is my version. Served hot with President's Choice Memories of Tuscany Balsamic Fig sauce - DELISH!

Puff Pastry Sausage Rolls
(adapted from Canadian Living magazine)

Ingredients

2 eggs, divided
1.5 to 2 lbs. pork sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup boxed stovetop stuffing for chicken, dry
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package frozen all-butter puffpastry, thawed and chilled
3 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preparation

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In bowl, beat one of the eggs until frothy; blend in sausage, stuffing mix, parsley, onion and garlic. Get dirty; take off your rings and use your hands! Set aside.

On lightly floured surface, unroll pastry; place both sheets lengthwise end to end, slightly overlapping. Roll out and roll over the seam to seal the two pieces. Cut lengthwise into three even strips. Brush each with mustard lengthwise down the centre; spoon about one-third of the sausage mixture lengthwise down centre of each.


In small bowl, whisk remaining egg with 1 Tbsp water; brush along one long side of each piece of puff pastry (on the inside of what will become the roll). Fold the un-brushed long sides over to cover filling and onto the egg-brushed pastry on the opposite side; press firmly to seal.

Cut each roll in half and arrange rolls, seam side down, on one of the prepared pans (you should have six half-rolls). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut each half-roll crosswise into four pieces; space about one inch apart on two prepared pans.

Brush remaining egg-water wash over individual rolls. Bake in 425°F (220°C) oven until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.

Yum! Remember: these are best reheated in the oven or toaster oven, not a microwave.






Saturday, June 25, 2011

::May::


Wayne’s sister, Jennifer, and her husband, Keith, arrived mid-May in their new trailer! It was pretty snazzy. And so roomy that they brought their two cats, Buzz & Muffin, and two dogs, Beagles Taboo & Koda, along for the ride. We had nice weather, and I learned to make some yummy gluten-free recipes for Keith.  

I wish we could have visitors every month.

In May, I also started volunteering to write for the Carberry News Express, a little newspaper in a small town just east of Shilo. Quite a few military members live there and make the commute into the base every day, and the community centre here does its best to make them feel included by running ads in their papers, as well as running a bi-weekly column highlighting local Army life. So that is what I am writing and I’m finding it fun and therapeutic, actually. It’s nice to have an outlet and to know I’m reaching people who live the same lifestyle. Hopefully, the themes I write on can open conversations and encourage camaraderie among military families in that town.

Then, after May long weekend, we packed up the family – Dora, too! – and hit the road heading west, toward Vancouver. We travelled for three days by car, stopping in Swift Current, SK, and Revelstoke, BC, for the nights. It was a really enjoyable drive. I must say: portable DVD players are a MUST for toddlers. ;)

The drive through the national parks and the mountains were stunning, and I love it every time. But I can’t imagine doing it in the winter with a packed vehicle and ice/snow/avalanches. I feel like it would make me an irresponsible parent to put my kids at risk by driving through the mountains in such conditions. So we are seriously reevaluating going to BC for Christmas this year. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have more visitors here, anyway? (hint, hint)

Here are some pics from our trip:

 Nana B. snuggles with Oren

Nana Wood hangs with Heidi, Gigi and Wayne's wallet. ;) 

Catherine Lake on the Sunshine Coast: heaven. 

 Giant prawns we ate for supper, straight from he dock below Wayne's parents' vacation home in Secret Cove. Mmmm....

 Granville Island!

 Wayne sweet new ride: 1996 Geo Metro. It made it all the way back to Manitoba - no problems!

 Tanning together. ;)



Coming home to Shilo was so nice. We really missed it here. The flooding is not gone, but it seems stabilized, and the weather has turned to summer.

I went for my first post-pregnancy run tonight and we’re feeling the need to BBQ every night. I am so happy summer is here. It’s much more motivating than winter.

So that’s been my life in a nutshell. Having two kids under two really doesn’t allow for much brain function, which is why I haven’t blogged lately. But I have great ideas and thoughts I want to write about! It’s just a matter of sitting at the computer uninterrupted to get them out on the screen. Ah, life. Everything is a season.

Ciao!


::April::

Getting to know Oren was a pure joy. All parents know the first six weeks of parenthood are pure survival, and it’s no different the second time around. You just have to factor in a toddler! Heidi was (and still is) so sweet with Oren – we couldn’t ask for a better big sis for our little guy. Of course, he hasn’t started trying to play with “her” toys yet, either. ;) We made the mistake of introducing him to her as “your brother, Oren,” instead of just “Oren,” so she calls him “brudder.” And when she does try to say his name, it still comes out as “Onion.” Here is some footage of Oren's first day, and their first meeting, the day after he was born:


Wayne was quite apprehensive with Oren at first. When Heidi was born, he left less than 24 hours later to go back to Gagetown, NB, to complete his training. So he never lived life with a newborn, and this was all new to him. I admit, Oren reminded me just how small babies come, and they do seem fragile. So we learned together and gradually, Wayne and Oren have become good pals. Wayne even changes his diapers now!

My girlfriends on base, Laura and Amanda L., threw me a surprise baby shower for Oren. It was so nice! Poor Wayne was on the hook for getting me there, and is not the best liar (which is a good thing!), so I had a hunch. But I acted dumb and let him fumble his way through his excuses without calling him out. J Laura hosted and did such a great job. She even handmade wooden blocks with Oren’s name and some boy imagery burned on the sides. She is SUCH a talent! And Amanda made a stunning cake. It was so nice, I didn’t want to cut it! We had a blast and I was beyond blessed by the girlfriends I have made here.



Amanda and Becca 

More visitors came to see us in April: BFF Danielle and her daughter, Georgia. Georgia was 14 months old at the time and Danielle decided she would learn to walk while she was here. And sure enough, it worked! Heidi was ripping around Gigi all week until Gigi decided she needed to keep up, and that walking would help her cause. I caught it on video but for some reason, it won't load.  :(

They were here for Easter, and they wore matching dresses, made for them by Danielle’s mother-in-law, Joanne, who is an unbelievable seamstress!


 Gigi and Heidi went to an Easter egg hunt at the community centre on base and Gigi introduced Heidi to the glorious world of chocolate.



We really enjoyed having them here. We watched snippets of the Royal Wedding, drank a lot of coffee, and had lunch at Lady of the Lake. We even shaved Oren’s head, as all his hair on top fell out, leaving a cul-de-sac ‘do. He looked like George Costanza from Seinfeld, it was so ridiculous. Thanks to Danielle for the idea. It grew back quickly and much more evenly!

We miss you guys!




Friday, June 24, 2011

::March::

Wayne went to England for 10 days with his battery from the regiment to visit some British bases and learn more about the origins of his trade (Surveillance and Target Acquisition). He left two weeks before my due date and returned safely and before Oren was born (because my children arrive fashionably late, of course). He brought me a BEAUTIFUL wool shawl from Scotland, and of course, a commemorative magnet depicting Wills & Kate for the royal wedding!

Here he is at Edinburgh castle…

A lot of people were wide-eyed in shock when they realized I was “letting” Wayne take this trip to England so far along in my pregnancy. But I didn’t “let” him do anything. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity (how many people get a free trip to England?), and I knew he really wanted to go. Honestly, I would have felt horribly guilty if I’d asked him to stay home, and then the baby arrived past due anyway (which he did). I knew I would have been well cared for in Shilo in his absence if Oren had decided to arrive early. But he didn’t. I used to be much more cautious in these kinds of situations. But being an Army wife really makes you reevaluate your “need” for your husband’s presence at all times. Granted, I would have been terribly disappointed if he missed Oren’s birth! But I also understand that women around here do this ALL. THE. TIME., and that going to England was a great break for Wayne. It’s all about perspective.

The week of Oren’s due date (which was March 22), my cousin Sarah travelled with her hubby and four kiddos by car to Shilo from Surrey. They got to see our crazy spring snow and even delayed their trip home to meet Oren, who was born a week late. It was so good to have family here, and Stu cooked us an amazing roast beef dinner – we had leftovers for a week! Heidi had a blast with her (2nd? 3rd?) cousins!


video
Here is Heidi learning how to “play the drums” with her cousin, Oliver.

And then, OREN WAS BORN! March 29 was a good day. We met our son after an AMAZING birth at Brandon’s hospital with our midwife, Kari. I couldn’t have asked for a more attentive, caring, and witty lady to share our experience and welcome Oren into the world. The amazing Amanda Lazarski photographed his arrival and the birth went so smoothly, I would do it again in a second! It was relatively short labour – had irregular contractions while Sarah & Stu were here, then again in the night, and went into the midwives’ office for 10 am. Leah swept my membranes, and we were at the hospital by noon. Kari broke my water and Oren was born that afternoon at 3:30! I wish my labour with Heidi had been so controlled. I really panicked with her. But with this one, I felt every little thing, and even though the pain was, well, painful, it was incredible to know exactly what was happening and what to do! If you’d like to see the photos (they are really not gory at all!), let me know and I’ll send you the link. Here are a few…