Wednesday 28 November 2012

Saying 'thank you' with cookies something I like to do. Nothing says 'thank you' like taking the time out of your busy day to bake up some pure loving goodness for someone! The best part of these cookies is they're not all that 'bad' for you, in that the only refined ingredient comes in the form of chocolate. But really, I think that's something most people look past when it comes to chocolate. On Sunday morning I was up before the boys [gasp! It does happen on occasion] and decided to get the day started with some baking. So cookies were whipped up for a special family whom is more giving that most, and deserves the world in return but will have to settle for cookies as I don't know how to give the world yet so I wanted to do something to say 'thank you for being awesome!' I took out my Mom's perfect cookie recipe, looked over the ingredients and figured out what could be substituted to make them less aggravating to a sugar sensitive tummy. The boys determined these cookies were good enough to eat all of them in one sitting [Darius tried to convince me to give the family one cookie to share. Um, not happening dude!] and my Hottie Husband tried to convince me that they were no good and he should just take them to work and 'dispose of them.' So, if you want cookies that are amazing enough to turn your generous four year old, and giving husband, into a Scrooge this is your recipe! Ha ha, but seriously, make these - you won't regret it.

Mom's Chocolate Chunk Cookies
slightly revised by me

1 c. vegan butter
1 c. palm sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 bag of your favourite chocolate [approx. 1 1/2 c.]*

Preheat your oven to 375* and in a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar. Once light white and fluffy, add in the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well incorporated. Stir in dry ingredients, then chocolate. Spoon onto parchment or silpat lined pans with cookie scoop [about 1 rounded tbsp], and pop into the oven! My lighter baking pans took 9 minutes to bake the cookies perfectly, and the darker pans were 8 minutes, so gauge your baking time accordingly. Let cool for a couple of minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I used tiny little peanut butter cups for the chocolate both Sunday, and today, when I baked these bad boys and let me tell you Oh. My. Chocolaty. Heaven. Try it. You'll eat more cookies than you mean to. Or don't try it. Either way, this was a hit!

Monday 26 November 2012

When your babe goes missing...'s hard not to panic. When Darius' teacher at church poked her head into my class [where I spend two hours with a bundle of sweet little ones!] and told me that Darius was missing my heart skipped a beat. I scooped up Eli, and bolted out the door. She had already been searching for him, and the only information she could give me was "he just walked out the door." So, we began with the bathrooms, classrooms, where his Daddy usually is [but wasn't yesterday due to work], then headed out to where we had parked, and checked the rest of the parking lot for good measure. Eli yelled "DE!" the entire time, while I yelled an echoing "DARIUS COME OUT NOW!" but still no luck. After about 15 minutes and ten others joining in the hunt, my emotions got the best of me and the tears became a cascading waterfall down both cheeks. A dear friend and neighbour seeing me, running the halls searching for Darius while holding Eli, took Eli, gave me a hug, and assured me Darius would be okay. After about 20 minutes he was found when the pianist when to sit down at the piano and found him lying at the pedals. He had been in the same room THE ENTIRE TIME.

When we got home from church, after me trying to be focused [and failing miserably] through the rest of my class and choir practise, Daddy and I sat Darius down and had a serious talk about the appropriate times to play hide and seek, and the importance of asking Mom and Dad if he can play hide and seek before starting the game. My eyes were still sore and swollen by the time I was crawling into bed, having again cried as I yet again had thanked the Lord for keeping Darius safe and sound.

I talked to my favourite Police Officer and asked for advice in case there is a 'next time' [which I don't know if I could physically handle, but at least I'm mentally prepared for now.] His tips were right in line with my thoughts after the event had settled and are great, so I thought I would share them with all the other Mama's out there in case you have to endure this experience - which I hope you NEVER DO!

1) Always start your search where the child was seen last. No matter who has started searching already, and no matter how long the search has been going, always begin at last point of contact [if I had done this, man alive would yesterday been far less emotional!]

2)Fan out from this central point, if for some reason your child has not yet been found. Check behind curtains, under furniture etc, as children can fit where we can't. And, like Darius, some children can lay very still for long periods of time if playing hide and seek.

3) Stay calm, and ask yourself questions about this child. Do they like to play games? Do they ask for permission? Would they go outside? Would they go with strangers? It is important to stay calm while asking yourself these questions so your imagination isn't answering them, but rather the child's previous behaviour is. Also, staying calm will allow your senses to focus on the search instead of being caught up in your own 'worst case senario' thoughts. Trust me, don't go there.

My sweet boys is safe and sound, and I am so very grateful for that today and everyday - but especially today after yesterday's panic.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Vegan Fare

       Someone out there must have decided that to be vegan, or to eat a plant based diet, must mean you have no taste buds. Most restaurants don't even touch 'vegan' food, because "who would buy that??? We need to make money!" The fact of the matter is, food has become more flavorful, more satisfying, more everything since taking on a plant based diet. Instead of looking at dinner prep as a meat, side of vegetables, salad, and maybe a bread, you look at what vegetables, grains/seeds/nuts, beans, legumes would pair nicely together and how to prepare them to bring out the medley of flavors. Should coconut oil, olive oil, canola oil be used? Maybe a balsamic reduction or vinaigrette? Fresh pressed garlic, or grated ginger anyone? Flavor has definitely taken more of a shining role on the dinner plate since nixing the meat. So why again are vegan meals a rare breed once you've left your abode? Why are there burger joints on every corner, but not one offers a quiona, black bean, or millet pattie?
        As I mulled this over the other night, I flipped through some blogs I love and landed squarely in salivation station with this, this, and this post from the Vegan Project [have you heard of these girls? They're from Vancouver, and their blog is lively and fun to read - and full of great recipes if you're looking for new ones!] Through the three posts the lovely ladies over at the Vegan Project take you through a culinary journey at the Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas, NV. The menus read like poetry, and the pictures are divine. While some of the dishes use vegan 'meats' many are strictly plant based, with embellishments like cashew cream, micro basil, and balsamic reduction. Be.Still.My.Heart. I laid awake in bed after this [never read tantalising menus after 9:30pm while waiting for your husband to come home. Especially when getting the food on said menus is out of the question] thinking of how and when I could get myself to Las Vegas long after my husband arrived home, climbed into bed and promptly fell asleep. I of course told him about all the amazing food offerings at the Wynn and Encore before he passed out, which he thought was a bizarre fixation for 10pm. Once his breathing settled into snores [yep, my hottie husband snores] I slipped silently out of bed and downstairs to eat [whats a girl to do when a menu makes her salivate so much shes starving??] and took my phone so I could text with my Mom and figure out how we could create these dishes ourselves, or better yet, how we could escape on a culinary vacation! My Mom being the kind and understanding woman that she is [shes eaten out with me enough to see the dejected look on my face when I realise that said restaurant only offers a iceberg lettuce littered green salad that satisfies my plant based ways; seriously guys, I eat more than salad! And I like dark leafy greens!!!] agreed to help me recreate these dishes, which is a great thing as she's attended culinary school, cooked her way through raising seven children, and has an eye for stellar food ingredients and flavor pairings. When we come up with some knock off recipes I'll be sure and share, but in the mean time, check out the menu choices and drool away![for pictures, check out the blog posts mentioned above, or head over to this page on the Wynn's website for a sampling.]
      If anyone feels so inclined to send me to the Wynn or Encore for my full in person analysis of the gorgeous vegan fare offered at their restaurants, please do :) I am critical, with an eye for detail, and my feedback may well improve the offerings at all seven restaurants, so really it would be a favour to all vegans and non-vegans alike. Maybe vegan fare would catch on and become as mainstream as McDonald's! If it tasted as good as the food at the Wynn and Encore restaurants, instead of the sawdust that I've been served to date, I think anyone would try it. Wouldn't that be a wonderful[creulty free] world?

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Photography Giveaway [linked]

Beautiful photography is not something I take lightly. Having been blessed with an amazing wedding photographer, and gorgeous family photos since, my walls are adorned with smiling faces of people I love. The details caught in that one moment held forever to cherish and share with others.
  When I saw this newborn photography giveaway mentioned on facebook this morning, I seriously jumped at the chance to win. There is always SOMEONE in need of adorable pictures of their fresh and precious new babe, and that is why I am sharing this giveaway with you - so you can enter too! But hurry, you only have until the 22nd to enter, so hop on over to Laura Taylor Photography and enter for your chance to spoil someone you love [including yourself!] Here's the link to the post about the giveaway to make it super simple for you!

Friday 16 November 2012

Cookies worth drooling over

  For most pumpkin seems to be a gourd enjoyed most in the fall and winter months. While I see nothing wrong with this, pumpkin is bursting with flavor and nutrients and my family and I enjoy it year round in cookies, pancakes, soups, chili, and more. Wednesday being the chilly day it was called for comforting warm food - and pumpkin naturally. As Eli napped, Darius and I headed down to the kitchen and whipped up a new recipe featuring pumpkin of course, then again for dinner. Dinner was not an original recipe, but seeing as it was a truly nourishing and delicious [and vegan!] chili, here's the link to the recipe I found courtesy of pinterest [does anyone else thing pinterest is fabulous when they find a golden pin like this one??]
  After some taste testing on these cookies by many, it has been declared that they are amazing, and a recipe worth sharing. So, without further ado, here's the cookie creation Darius and I pulled together this week. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Protein Cookies
an original recipe created by me

1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 c. vegan butter, at room temperature
7 medjool dates, pitted
1/3 c. vanilla egg protein powder
1 lrg egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. pumpkin puree [not pumpkin pie filling]
3 1/4 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 c. dark chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 375* and line two baking sheets with a silicone baking mat, or parchment paper, and set aside.
2. in a blender, combine pitted dates, pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla. Pulse blender, scraping down sides as needed, until dates are fully incorporated into the mixture.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy, then add pumpkin mixture and continue to beat. With beaters running, slowly add protein powder.
4. Stop mixer and add all dry ingredients, except chocolate chips. Mix until fully incorporated. Add chocolate chips and blend until evenly distributed.
5. Spoon mixture onto cookie sheets by the rounded tablespoon [a cookie scoop is great for this!] and pop in over. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield 3-4 dozen

These cookies are slightly crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside fresh out of the oven. While these cookies are not vegan, I was trying to find something to replace the sugar content, and the protein powder my husband bought currently seemed like a good fit as it is sweet without being filled with sugar or additives.

Wednesday 14 November 2012


       No matter what is going on in my life - big battles, small mole hills, or days of sun shine - fitting in a workout is always a must. The stress relief and feeling strong and healthy go such a long way to brighten even the dimmest of days! As I mentioned last week, lately I've been leaning on the good trainers over at  Body Rock to make sure that I get a sweat session each day, even if its simply 12 minutes. 12 minutes doesn't sound like a lot, but for those of you that have tried their work outs, you can attest to the 5 minute "I'm not even half way!" panic that can happen at times. These work outs are intense! But the beauty is that each workout is customizable to your fitness level. The amazing trainers even walk you through all the different variations that can be preformed to accomodate lower, or higher, fitness levels.
         Today as I headed over to check out the work out, I was so inspried by what one of the trainers wrote that I needed to share it here too. It's such a simple, yet profound, concept that can change your training, your life, and your outlook in general.

"Where are you right now?
How close to your goals are you? Miles off or just across the street? Take a minute and focus on 3 things that you want to be, achieve or change. In a moment of no bull-shit honesty with yourself ask yourself if you find a way of directing 5% more time, energy or effort towards what you want. Can you?
You can find 5% under your fingernails. It’s getting up 10 minutes earlier, walking an extra block, taking a minute to call instead of email, saying something kind to someone out of the blue – giving anything from the heart. This 5% compounded day by day, rep by rep and smile by smile will move the landscape of your life to a place where the sun shines a little bit brighter, your clothes fit a little bit better and your heart feels a whole lot lighter.
Start looking for that 5% in your BodyRocking today. Whatever you give you will get back – and that feel good sensation is your body smiling :)"[source]

          It's a simply thought, but really what would you do with 5% more time? Would you use it to rock your way to your goals that much faster? Do yourself a favor and think of the three things you want to do, be, or achieve - and then find your 5% to get you going!

Monday 12 November 2012

Sweet Cinnamon

Being the day after Remembrance Day our Christmas tree is up, and waiting to be decorated tonight as a family! Darius has been begging to decorate for Christmas since I took down the Halloween decor eleven days ago, so needless to say today is a pretty spectacular day for a sweet four year old.
In preparation for this long desired and awaited day, Darius and I made cinnamon ornaments last week to hang on our tree. These fragrant little gems will be the first thing I hang on my tree, deep in the branch's, to fill our home with Christmas cheer! Honestly I love the smell of cinnamon, and smelling this beauties on my craft table as they have waited to be strung has brought me such joy already - can't wait to share the wealth with all that walk through our door.
If you'd like to make your own, hop on over to katy elliott for the tutorial found here. Somethings I learnt along the way is that this recipe is not quite as simple as she makes it sound - or at least it wasn't for us. Getting the perfect ratio of applesauce to cinnamon proved tricky, and I think it is because my applesauce was too runny. I also turned the oven up to 300* to cook dinner after 2 hours of drying the ornaments, and then put them back in after dinner was done, turned off the oven and let them sit till morning. In the morning they were perfect! If you put a little cinnamon on your cookie cutter before cutting out your ornament the shape comes loose easier, and the simpler the design of the cutter the easier it will be to get a good clean cut. Either way, these were definitely worth the effort, and I will be making many more!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Indoor Awesomeness!

Seasons seem to blur, over lapping and confusing everyone with what weather to expect in the next 20 minutes, let alone week, here in Calgary. After building a fort and having a snow ball fight under over cast on Friday, today the grass is green and fully bared, and the sun is shining. It is one of those things about Calgary that I love - you know the snow will not last for ever, even if winter can make an appearance in August.

While stuck in doors during the swift change of seasons to the cold, snowy, blowing winds that are starting to settle in for the winter, it can become a TV marathon watching session - not the best habit to fall into. I've fallen into this trap enough to pay extra attention and be prepared with a list of fun indoor activities when my routine is still entrenched firmly on the beach. Because I assume I am not the only Mama who falls prey to 'can I just watch a show?" requests, here is my list of beat the boredom activities that are great for Mama and wee men [and ladies] alike!

Break out the play dough! Check out this recipe for homemade play dough, or pull out your name brand stash! I like to use colouring paste for the colour so its bright and vibrant like the store bought variety.

Seasonal Crafts - Christmas here we come! For lots of ideas for Christmas, check out my pinterest board devoted to it, and above is one of the crafts I already have on my creating list! When its a sewing project like this, I let Darius [my four and a half year old] help with the pinning, and stuffing, but he plays with toys during the other steps. We tackle these activities while the wee man sleeps :)

Indoor playground in your basement - a.k.a obstacle course. Darius set one of these up today as I was sewing up a little project. I stopped every couple of steps to go through it with him, and filmed him as well - but he set the entire thing up HIMSELF! It was a mess, and yes I ended up cutting the yarn as we cleaned it up, but if you want to reuse your yarn all you would need to do is be involved in the construction phase, then let your kiddos play!

Read, read, read! Books are a fabulous way to encourage language skills, teach, and strengthen the imagination. We read everyday, and my boys will often bring me a book if I happen to find a moment to sit.

Work up a sweat. Whether baby is rockin' it out beside you to the exercise video, or is the wee little weight you are lifting, working out with your children is setting a fabulous example for them. Let them see you sweat! Let them see the daily commitment to fitness, and make sure your language is positive and reinforces the fitness habit. If you are entrenched in negative self talk before, during, or after a sweat session you will be sending your sweet ones the wrong message. Physical activity is about being healthy and happy!

Start a gratitude journal! Not only is it a great thing for you to do, but for your children also. Darius draws a picture in his journal, then I write in the header what he is grateful for as he dictates it to me. Helping your children focus on the good from an early age with develop healthy patterns that will pay forward long after they have moved out and ventured on to others things.

Dance it out! Have you ever tried to frown while dancing? Its impossible I swear! So if the cold weather has driven you inside the house, and inside your shell, turn up the tunes and dance it out with your kiddos!

Bubble baths are a great way to entertain and warm up sweet little toes! Eli will ask for a bubble bath at any time of day, and really I'm good with it! It makes him happy, its sensory play, and he gets clean - win, win, win!

Colouring pages, and free hand drawing are great ways to strengthen hand eye coordination without breaking a vase - or picture frames in our case.

Painting projects, and pictures keep us busy, as washable paints keep me happy. Our latest painting project landed just before Halloween, and was a simple enough project but with great gains! Darius was thrilled with his end result, and Eli only ate paint once - huge success!


Dress up as superheros, mummies, princes [or princesses], knights, ninjas - anything! Simply changing clothes into something different can change the game completely!

Bake a cake! or cookies....or muffins...or whatever strikes your fancy! Getting your and your kiddos hands dirty, teaching them math skills, life skills, and spending time together while making something delicious - definitely worth the potential mess! If you are looking for a recipe, I've got a bunch on here that are all kid tested and approved!

Make cards with your sweet ones to send to others and brighten their day. Personalised art and a sweet message from the heart can go a long way to lift another; and creating this gift goes a long way in teaching about the joys of service.

School Work is something Darius and I do daily during Eli's nap time. He will be entering Kindergarten in the fall, and I want him to feel confident and comfortable in the classroom setting - and a big part of that comes from having somewhat of a clue about what the teacher is talking. It needn't be a long lesson, we spend anywhere from 10-30 minutes working in the work books [most often 15 minutes] and yet I am seeing a vast improvement in only two months! The compound effect holds true in everything - exercise and learning included.

So there you have it - a round up of some of our favourite activities that don't include a screen! If you and your kiddos enjoy activities not listed I'd love to hear them! We're always looking to broaden our activity list!

*******UPDATE: Submitted in the comments were a couple of ideas I needed to add to the list! Thanks Jenn for the wonderful additions!

"Not sure if Darius is into Lego yet, but that is something that can occupy Spenser for quite a while. We also got him a skipping rope that counts the number of times he skips. He does that in the basement and it keeps him active when it is too cold to go outside."

Tuesday 6 November 2012

two months...

Wow, it has been almost two months since I was last typing out a post. It's crazy to me how time can slip by, even when you have the best of intentions of keeping current and up to date. To make up for the lack of posting, here's a little round up of what has caught my eye, my appetite, and my time over the past months!
This garland is on the top of my holiday prep list! I love the idea of something simple that conveys such joy - perfect in every way. I have all the supplies downstairs on the crafting table, and just need to find a moment to start...and it won't take two months to get to, cause really I don't have that sort of time left before Christmas!
These bars are A-MA-ZING!! I took a batch to a church function over the weekend and they were some of the first things to go off the treat table. Despite the deliciously sweet taste, the sugar content comes from all natural sources, and they have a hit of fibre - what more could you ask for in a dessert?
While jumping around on Pinterest I found the site the twix bars come from, a snazzy site that you might have heard of before called Oh She Glows. A vegan blog dedicated to healthy vegan recipes, it is a goldmine for all those whom are looking for a little healthy pick me up.If you are searching for a new site to add to your blog reads, or a source of delicious recipes you don't need to feel guilty for making, then this is a must see!
My Mom just finished walking across Spain, over 1000km in five weeks. That sentence in and of itself always makes me pause in amazement! She blogged as she went, and documented the journey with pictures and stories worth checking out. This is one of the things I have been doing instead of blogging myself - but really, I needed to make sure she was still walking, alive, and well.

The workouts I have been rocking have been short and sweet - and oh so effective! I have been seeing gains, despite the 12 minute daily commitment [Monday to Friday] due to the high intensity of the training. Check out Body Rock and enjoy the burn!

I'm off to get the boys and I moving and the crafting begun! Only 50 days till Christmas and I have yet to turn on my sewing machine - eek!