Monday, December 10, 2012

Mashed Potato Pancakes (recipe)

Ever wonder what to do with piles of mashed potatoes left over after a big meal? This makes a great snack or lunch!
 
Mashed Potato Pancakes

1 egg
2 cups mashed potatoes
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp water

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup grated cheese (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped chives or parsley (optional)

Whisk the first four ingredients together until combined. Add in flour and baking powder and mix well. Stir in cheese and herbs.

Heat a griddle or pan to medium-hot and brush with butter. Pour 4" circles of batter onto the pan and cook until the edges begin to dry (the middle won't bubble and dry the way crepes or pancakes do). Flip and cook until the cake puffs, check for golden brown goodness on each side and they're done!

Serve with sour cream (or ketchup, if your toddler insists)! Makes about 20 pancakes.

Sorry for the crappy picture! I was too lazy to pull out the proper camera and just used my laptop.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Try Finish Quantum for Free! *This weekend!*

You may recall I was part of the Finish Revolution a while ago where I got to test out Finish Quantum. I have to say, it worked WAY better than the brand I had been using, what a difference! I'm still using it and am happy to say it still gets my dishes sparkling clean (and those tabs are so convenient!).

Now you have the chance to try out a box of Finish Quantum for FREE*! Simply bring an empty box of your current dishwasher detergent in to a Trade-In Event at a participating WalMart store this weekend, December 7-9, and the Finish Team will give you a specially-marked box of Finish Quantum. *Each special box has a mail-in rebate coupon on it, so you'll get a full refund on the purchase price! How awesome is that?!

The Finish teams at the stores can answer any questions you might have about dish washing with Finish Quantum, too. Like, why does plastic never come out of the dishwasher dry? Can you put non-stick pans in the dishwasher? And why are certain foods so tricky to clean? Go ahead and ask them.

Find the participating WalMart stores at Finish Canada's Facebook page. It's easy to find a participating location near you; here in Calgary, there are 9 different locations including two near me, the one in Shawnessy and the one at 130th Avenue.

Disclosure – I am participating in the Finish Quantum Trade In Event Blog Tour by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Finish. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Milk Unleashed! (Giveaway)

Hello! It's been a while! Our whole family was pretty much out of commission with that nasty cold. Thank goodness we are almost all better.

Today I want to share Milk Unleashed with you! If you have a little one, you're probably like me and have a stash of snacks ready for even the shortest excursion. Of course, little ones get thirsty, too! I'm not a huge fan of giving straight juice (Mia does get half water, half juice from time to time) like in juice boxes, but it's not always ideal to take a sippy cup with water. Leaky sippies and no nutritional value.

That's where Milk Unleashed comes in! Single serving packs that don't need to be refrigerated combine the nutrition of milk with convenience. They are great for lunch boxes, diaper bags, or, if you're like me, the big giant catch-all purse that stands in for a diaper bag.

Milk Unleashed has a cute little app with fun activities, tips and a fun quiz too!

Take the quiz, it's cute - apparently we are a "Free-Wheelin' Family", ha ha!

So all this fun goodness leads me to a giveaway! Milk Unleashed has a prize pack for one of my lucky readers! The prize pack includes:
  • One liter of Shelf Safe Milk (Grand Pre or Baboo)
  • Three single serving shelf safe milks (white and chocolate) from: Chokeo Chocolate Milk, Grand Pre or Baboo 
  • A calendar and brochure with information about Shelf Safe Milk
  • Cool stickers and Tattoos
  • Plus, one bonus prize! 
Wow! Enter in the Rafflecopter form below (click "Read More" if you don't see it!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received products to try for this blog post, but was not paid to write it. My opinions are my own.

Friday, November 16, 2012

For what ails you... (recipe)

Mia and I got our flu shots on Wednesday, and I'm not saying there's a causal effect, exactly, but we're both sick now. Granted, Mia had a cold before she got the shot. But she's been downright miserable since - waking on Wednesday night every two hours, and last night every hour.

I caught her cold, I guess, and I've been nauseous, with a killer headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, and so, so darn tired. If only I could catch a decent night's sleep! And if she would only sleep more than an hour during the day... Oh, Mia.

Anyway, I'm not into medicating, so here's my alternative cold treatment. Good enough for any time, but especially good when you're feeling off.

What Ails You Tea

3 slices lemon
1-2 slices fresh ginger root (or 1/8 tsp ground ginger if you don't have fresh, but fresh is best)
2 tsp honey (or maple syrup, or brown sugar to sweeten, but honey has antibacterial properties)
a pinch cayenne pepper

Steep in 2 cups of boiling water for 3-5 minutes.

This can be served hot and steamy, or chilled.

Toddlers (past 1 year of age, if you're using honey) can drink it, too. Don't add too much (or any, if you worry) cayenne for children under 2 years old. I feel that the tiny pinch within 2 cups is okay for my 21 month old, but use your judgment.

Why does it work?

Lemons help with throat infections (it is an antibacterial), respiratory ailments, and reducing the body temperature. They are full of Vitamin C, B, and flavonoids (antioxidants).

Ginger is helpful for nausea. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural painkiller.

Honey is a natural antibacterial, antioxidant and antiseptic.

Cayenne - the capsaicin in cayenne helps relieve pain and may help with heartburn and blood circulation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

iShine Electronic Cleaning Wipes by Clorox - Review

One toddler with sticky fingers + about a zillion gadgets = a lot of messy screens to clean. My daughter has watched us use the tablet and our phones, and believes every screen is a touch screen that she must immediately touch - including the tv and our laptops.

Luckily for me, I got to try out the new Clorox Electronic Cleaning Wipes featuring Clorox Electronics Cleaning Spray.

It's bleach-free and ammonia-free, and it works really well to get rid of tiny fingerprints, dirt and smudges. We just use a wipe to clean the surface, and a microfiber cloth to give it a quick polish after. Voila!

We've put it to the test on our phones, tablet, tv, laptop screens and the display of a digital camera, and it's kept our screens shiny and clear... until the next time Mia happens by.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quick and Easy Quinoa Salad

This is so super easy and delicious, I think I'll be making it a lot more often.

Quick and Easy Quinoa

1 cup quinoa (about 2 cups cooked)
1 can black beans, drained
1 large tomato, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 can corn, drained (or use frozen, or leave out)
1/2 cup cubed cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa (as mild or hot, chunky or smooth as you like it)
1/2 cup sour cream (go on, use the 14% stuff... it tastes so much better!)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika (if you feel like it)

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package (I use my rice cooker, one of my favourite kitchen tools! 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water).

Mix the remaining ingredients in a big bowl. Add the quinoa when it's cooked. Serve warm.

That's it!

Variations:
  • Great as a meal on its own (a big bowl), or 
  • as a hearty dip for corn chips, or 
  • add some broth and a can of diced tomatoes and heat it up in a pot for soup (leave out the sour cream for that - and add it as a dollop garnish to each bowl)! 
  • Serve it in iceberg lettuce "bowls" for a nice presentation.
Additions:
  • Chopped cilantro (if you like it), or parsley
  • chipotle sauce or chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for some heat
  • lime juice
  • different beans (I like those red mexican beans!)

It is packed with protein, fiber and iron, and suitable for vegetarians, vegans (use soy cheese and leave out the sour cream or substitute whipped silken tofu),

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowe'en!

Mia has been running around shouting, "Hallowe'en!" and "Ticky-Teet!" for the last week. I don't think she really gets the concept of it, but the words are fun to say.

As I mentioned before, I decided to make her costume: an owl. This is her first Hallowe'en (last year she was just 8 months old). I seem to remember my mum always making, or helping me with, my costumes (one of the more memorable ones was the amazing ladybug costume she made for me when I was about 2). I like the idea of homemade costumes rather than the ubiquitous polyester costumes. I definitely need more practice, though!

 Here's the costume from the front. I made the tunic out of linen (an old curtain), the mask of felt and cloth, and the wings are linen on the inside, with feathers cut from a feathery shirt I found at Value Village.
 Here's the back - lots of feathers on the wings! They took a while to cut out. The wings button on, so if they get too annoying for her I can take them off.
 Here she is spreading her wings - this is a rare moment between the loud, "All done!" when I try to put it on her, and the crying and screaming "All DONE!" about the wings being attached to her wrists. Sigh.

She did tolerate it for several hours at a Hallowe'en party last week, so I'm hoping she can manage to stand it for today as well, for the Big Night. Tomorrow is Hallowe'en again at the community centre play group we go to. Fingers crossed for no costume meltdowns!
This is what happens when I try to get her to wear the mask... She cries, runs away and shouts "ALL DONE!!". She really doesn't like the mask. At all. Which is a surprise, as we already have a felt mask that she does like to wear - I expected her to like this one, too. There's no point even trying it, though - it's just not worth the misery. I might pin it to her hat tonight, if she'll let me.

So overall, the costume is not the biggest hit.

And I should have made it bigger, to fit over a sweater or jacket. There's about 4" of snow on the ground here, and it's snowing more today. She'll have to wear a jacket tonight as I take her around.

I think we'll just do the 7 or 8 houses on our little street and that's it, more to say hi to the neighbours than anything. She's pretty shy, and she certainly doesn't need the candy. 

Do you have a toddler going out for Hallowe'en? Did you make, or buy the costume? And what are they going as?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Earning money online

I'm no expert at this, but I do make a few bucks here and there by doing things online. Here are some of the ways I do it (all of these are Canadian-friendly!)

Get paid for your opinion - do surveys for money

Survey Savvy*. Paid surveys, usually a couple bucks for 10-15 minutes of your time. It's not even minimum wage, but if you're a good multi-tasker, you can watch a tv program and make a few dollars at the same time. Surveys are emailed to you, and payment is by cheque request.

Pinecone Research. This one is pretty exclusive - they only open it up to new members once in a while, so if you see an invitation (usually a banner ad: "The web sites that our banner ads may appear on are constantly changing during the course of the campaign.'), jump on it! I love Pinecone Research. It's $5 per survey (paid into your PayPal account or via cheque), and occasionally send out products as additional survey material (as in, you do an initial $5 survey, they may send you a product to try, and then you get another $5 for a follow up survey). I've received random things to test out and that's always pretty fun. I've been a member for over 10 years.

Survey Lion. Very similar to Survey Savvy, only a bit more frequent survey invitationss emailed to you. Amounts between $1 and $10 (rare) per survey. Payment is by cheque. They do have a referral program that is currently disabled - aw! But I can still recommend the site.

Product Promotion

BzzAgent. Honestly, I haven't been invited to a BzzCampaign in ages - but a few years ago I was in campaigns regularly and it was fabulous. I'm not sure if they got too big or I got too lax in keeping up with their surveys and such.  If you want to leave me your email address, I can send you an email to join - or just head to the site and sign up. They send out products and you are meant to "bzz" about them - sharing your experience via pretty much any method you can. I have received some really great products such as a high-end electric toothbrush, an epilator, teeth whitening kits and so on. There's no payment per se, other than the products you may be invited to try and promote.

Sponsored Tweets*. If you have a Twitter account and you don't mind posting the occasional ad, you can earn a few bucks with this one. You can set the amount you can charge per tweet (they will recommend an amount, but you can set it to whatever you like). You will receive opportunities and you can pick and choose what you would like to promote, or not. You also write the tweets (based on recommended information they provide). I find it a slow earner (over about two years I earned $56), but that will vary for everyone. Payment is via PayPal.

Swagbucks*. This one's relatively new (compared to the others I've mentioned - it's a few years old), and I know I've mentioned it here on my blog before. They used to be more fabulous, but it is still easy to earn and redeem. The reason I say "used to be" is that I could previously redeem for Starbucks cards which they would mail to me. Now they will only apply money to an existing, American Starbucks card. Last time I was in the States, I couldn't find a Starbucks that sold gift cards (?!) so I don't have an American one. I'm just hanging on to my Swagbucks until I finally get one. Anyway, that was my favourite redemption, but there are loads of other things you can redeem for including online coupons, PayPal cash and gift certificates as well as products they'll ship to you.  The good thing is that Swagbucks are easy to earn and seem to add up fast. I think the easiest way is using their search engine for random rewards, but you can also find codes, do surveys, polls, and more.

Do you have favourite sites for earning money online? Have you tried any of these ones? Or is it something you have never, or wouldn't consider?

* indicates a referral link. I'd be honoured (and grateful too!) if you decide to sign up using my link.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vegas, renovation and an unhappy owl.

I've been super busy the last little bit - no blog posts! Here's what I've been up to.

I spent a weekend in Las Vegas with some of my girlfriends. What a great place to go to get away!

It was my first time away from Mia, and I was pretty apprehensive about leaving her. She still nurses many times a day, so the first thing that happened to me was - a day of traveling and only hand-expressing in washrooms when I could catch a few minutes (I took my pump but couldn't use it the first day) - combined with wearing an actual bra rather than a nursing bra - and I came down with a FIERCE case of mastitis 12 hours into the trip. Wow, does that ever hurt.

So I headed to a clinic to get that sorted and lost a day of vacation and $200 in doctor's fees (how on earth do Americans afford health care???). One needle, a bottle of antibiotics, a long nap and lots of Tylenol later, I was about 80% better by the second night there.

I ended up having a great time, catching two (!) Cirque du Soleil shows (Ka and Zumanity) and losing ALL the money I gambled - all two dollars of it!

And I missed Mia like crazy, but it was so liberating to be off on my own.

The renovations are going as renovations go - one step forward, one step back. They are supposed to be done by November 1st, but that will never happen. They sanded down the hardwood floor, stained and varnished it - and did such a crap job that they are going to come back and redo the entire thing. That was two weeks of work right there, wasted. The varnish has such bad fumes that we had to go to a hotel once already. The only nearby hotel that accepts dogs is about $185 a night...

The tile that went into the bathroom was done with the wrong colour grout... that will need to come out and be redone as well. ARGH! It's so frustrating. The contractors are complete jerks about all this, too. They're never on site to supervise the trades, and when we tell them something has been done wrong (which has happened every single step of the way), they get mad at us.

The one guy has actually gotten into shouting matches with my husband and refused to speak with him for a few months. On Saturday he told me that "dealing with people is the worst part of his job". As far as I can see, as a construction site manager, that IS his job - dealing with the trades and being the liaison between the construction and the homeowners! And he doesn't even do it...! I can't tell you how frustrating the whole situation has been.

And, I decided, like a crazy woman, to make Mia's Hallowe'en costume. I did a tunic with feathers, and wings, and a mask - she's going to be an owl. It turned out really well! Only, she hates it. "All done! All done!" and crying. She won't even wear the mask and she usually loves masks. I must have spent 30+ hours on it and seriously was nearly in tears when she started throwing a fit about trying it on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Toddler Fun: Bubble Wrap Print

Here's a fun project from The Toddler's Busy Book. Very simple!

Paint on some bubble wrap (taped to a table), and press paper onto it to make a print!


We used cheap acrylic (acrylics are non-toxic) craft paint. It's easy, but definitely can be messy. I only had BIG bubble wrap, so that's what we used. I think it would work better with smaller bubbles. But the result was pretty neat:


This lasted about 10 minutes with my 19.5 month old before she told me she was "all done". She had very little interest in the result (beyond wanting to paint on it more... she will paint on a paper until it is a sopping wad of mud-coloured fibre if given the opportunity). There was probably almost an equivalent time in prep and cleanup. But it was fun!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Cheerios!

One of the big milestones in any baby's life is starting on solid foods. I know everyone has their favourite methods and recipes for baby's first foods, whether it's homemade organic or store-bought, but I think just about every parent I know included Cheerios in with the first finger foods.

With their high fiber, low sugar, and low fat content, Cheerios are a winner for both parents and tots. The size and shape make them easy to pick up for little fingers (and great for practicing the "pincer grasp", improving fine motor control), and once baby is able to chew, they love them.

I still like Cheerios for breakfast myself - Mia and I often share a bowl. One of her favourite things is to drop Cheerios one at a time into yogourt and eat a bite with both on the spoon. Maybe a little weird, but she likes it!

General Mills (the makers of Cheerios) has a fabulous campaign again this year to celebrate First Cheerios moments. You can join them on their Life Made Delicious Facebook page, and share a photo of your little one enjoying Cheerios - and it may even be included on the special edition 400g Cheerios box, in stores in Spring 2013! What a neat way to commemorate a fun moment in your child's life.

The first 1000 participants receive a coupon for a free box of Cheerios (one per household), and after that everyone gets a $1 off coupon towards your next box (one per calendar year)!

I added my photo to the group and loved seeing the photos other proud parents have submitted. How fun! When I was going through my photos, I realized just how many pictures I have of Mia having Cheerios. Of course, those can't just sit in my files - here's my own little mosaic of her Cheerios moments!


I hope you take advantage of this fun opportunity to share your baby's First Cheerios moment - and get a great coupon as well!

Disclosure – I am participating in the First Cheerios Blog Tour by Mom Central Canada on behalf of General Mills. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hey, Anonymous -

- go bug someone else.

I've been getting about 30 comments a day from anonymous spammers lately, so have disabled anonymous comments on the blog. I'm pretty sure my real readers won't mind. Just letting you know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Need business cards or playdate cards?

one of my playdate cards
Last year, I ordered some fabulous playdate cards from moo.com. They were half-size business cards ("Minicards"), and had a picture of my daughter on the front, with our names on the back with "contact my mum to set up a playdate", my number and email address. Super cute!

Of course, then we moved shortly after and my number changed... now they are fun toys for my daughter.

I should really order some more. They're a fun way for mums to connect. Sometimes you run into someone you kind of click with (or your child clicks with theirs) at a park, play group or at a friend's house, and it would be nice to meet up again.

Just now, I ordered some business cards to promote my Facebook page for my business - again from moo.com. I was really happy with the quality of the playdate cards, so I was comfortable applying that to my business as well.

Another great thing is how easy the interface is to design cards. They really do make it simple. It took me less than 5 minutes from start to finish to design and place my order. 

Both offers I received were free, just pay shipping - but I can see myself ordering from them in the future as well, now that I have seen samples of their work. If you are interested in ordering cards, I can recommend moo.com. Order through this link, and you'll receive 10% off your first purchase!

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post, but the link is an affiliate link. If you're thinking of ordering, I honestly think you'll be happy with the results, which is why I'm recommending the site. And if you do place an order through my link, thank you for supporting my blog in a small but meaningful way. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rumplesauce

 It's apple season. Our new house has a little apple tree. It hasn't been taken care of (we'll do a heavy prune once it goes dormant), but it still produced 35 little apples this year. I have no idea what variety they are. They were only about 3" diameter, but were sweet, ripe and edible, so we harvested them. Mia helped.

What to do with 35 tiny apples? Applesauce, of course. It took a while to chop them up, but we love homemade applesauce, so it's worth it! (It's much easier with regular size apples :) )

Applesauce is so easy, everyone should do it. Here's how I make it:

Rumplesauce
  • 2.5 quarts of chopped apples. I leave the skins on - that's where all the nutrients are, and I hate peeling. Bonus: if the skins are red, they will turn your applesauce a lovely pink colour!
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or to taste). Dark brown is yummiest, but you can use golden or regular granulated white, or honey, or agave... or none, if you don't like it sweet.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla. Use real vanilla, not simulated flavour. I love Mexican vanilla and am dreading the day when the big bottle we got last time we were down there runs out. I guess that'll mean we're due for another Mexican holiday :)
  • 1 Tablespoon rum (optional. But it's just "applesauce" without it). Use the good stuff. We like Appleton Estates.
Chop the apples finely - about 1/2", especially if you're leaving the skins on. I suppose you could do this in a food processor, or with a grater. I did it the old-fashioned way with a knife.

Add the apples to a 5qt (medium size) pot and add water to about halfway up the apples. Stir in the cinnamon. Pop that on the stove, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for a while until the apples get mushy. Check every 10 minutes or so, give it a stir, and add a little more water if you feel like it. These ones took about 30 minutes.

Smash them with a potato masher, if you like lumpy applesauce. I usually do, but these apples were a little grainy - in that case, use a stick hand blender to puree. Add water if the consistency is too thick.

Add in the vanilla, brown sugar and rum, stir.

**If you want to make Rumple Butter, leave the pot on low, uncovered, until the mixture reduces to a spreadable consistency.

Ladle into jars. Freeze what won't be eaten in the next week (leave about 1/2" head space for freezing).
Makes about 8 cups of Rumplesauce. This recipe is easily adjusted for different amounts of apples. Add or use other fruit, if you like! Pears make great sauce or butter (reduce the water as needed, or add berries or even sweet potato (add more water as needed) for a different flavour, whatevs! If you're adding sweet potato, try using orange juice for a bit of the liquid! So yummy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Firmoo: Fabulous Glasses!

I was delighted to try out a pair of sunglasses from the international company Firmoo.

Firmoo provides prescription and non-prescription glasses to the discerning customer. I wore glasses for many years, until finally getting LASIK surgery. So I know how hard it can be to find a nice pair - and how expensive they can be!

At Firmoo, your first pair of glasses as a new customer is free (just pay shipping)! And, they ship all over the place: read the list of countries they ship to here!

With over 300 pairs to choose from (and at extremely reasonable prices), I'm sure you will find something you like. I sure did: I chose these awesome sunglasses:


I love the turquoise colour and the fun silver detail. The lenses are not too dark, and graded so that they're lighter on the bottom. They are very lightweight and comfortable - I like that I can wear them for a long time without any pinching or pressure points.


The glasses came with a soft pouch as well as a hard case and a soft polishing cloth. I appreciate the extra details! I always seem to have fingerprints on my glasses, from myself or my sticky-fingered toddler, so a cloth is great to have handy. The cases will keep them from getting scratched, as I tend to leave sunglasses in the drink holder of the car or in my purse.

Shipping was fast and by registered mail.

Another nice feature of the Firmoo site is the Virtual Try-On System. Upload your photo and you can virtually test-drive glasses - and even share it on Facebook to get your friends' opinions on your choice(s)!

I don't know how many of you are thinking about Christmas shopping yet, but this would be a fantastic gift for anyone - and so inexpensive, especially if you're a new customer! Just pay the shipping for a lovely pair of new glasses or sunglasses for someone you love.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shoppers Drug Mart Spin to Win!

Have you entered the 50th Anniversary Contest at Shoppers Drug Mart yet? It's a fun spin to win contest with instant win prizes and grand prizes like cars, trips and shopping sprees!

Monday, September 17, 2012

My go-to easy dinner: Quiche

If you've been reading for a while, you may recall that for 2010 I went eggless. (Why stop eating eggs? click to find out my reasons).

Well, that was an interesting year in the kitchen. I discovered that baking without eggs is really not that hard (check out some of my favourite recipes: Eggless Lemon Loaf, Eggless Chocolate Bundt Cake (so, so good), The World's Best Cookies, Eggless Orange Muffins, and Eggless Cheesecake.) - and the only thing I really, really missed was quiche.

I am back to eating eggs now - I'm still not comfortable with the whole egg production situation, but for now I am guiltily eating free-range eggs. They cost at least twice as much (and still are not kind - read more information about free-run, free-range etc eggs). I would love to find a local farmer who will sell me eggs by the dozen or flat from truly free-range chickens - the picturesque, ideal farmyard with chickens on the loose. Have you seen one lately? I haven't.

Anyway, the point is, I'm back to making one of my favourite dinners: quiche. It's on regular rotation at our house, and I love that it's so versatile. It's the kind of thing you can make for dinner when you're due for a grocery shop and there's not much in the fridge.

Here's my quick and easy recipe, if you feel like giving it a go. Does it look long and complicated? It's not. I just talk a lot.

Yummy Go-To Super Simple Quiche 

Crust:

  • 1 Tenderflake All Vegetable Shortening Deep Dish Pie Shell. 
Maybe some of you have the time to make your own pie crust (it's not that hard), but I'm lazy and want to spend the rare minutes that Mia is sleeping NOT making pie crust. They come in boxes of two, so if you're feeling virtuous, you could make two quiches at once and freeze one (they freeze well). Don't get the regular kind in the yellow box, unless you are okay with lard in your diet (ick). Look for the all-vegetable one in a blue box.

Filling:

  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup grated cheese. I like old cheddar, but any version of cheddar, mozzarella, mexican or italian blend (if you're into the pre-shredded bagged cheeses) will do. Or go funky and use chevre or feta (lovely with a spinach and sun-dried tomato version).
  • 3 eggs. You can't do quiche without these. 
  • 1 cup of milk.  Don't use less. The milk makes it nice and fluffy.
  • 1 cup chopped cooked vegetables. Here's where it gets interesting. I love any variation of mushrooms, onions, asparagus, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach (yes, you can use frozen chopped, just thaw and drain it first), something leftover you have in the fridge (bruschetta topping? why not!). 
  • a handful of fresh vegetables or herbs (optional), for example: green onions, chives, parsley and so on.
  • dried herbs, if you like. I love using the Herbes de Provence that we got in (ahem) Nice. 1/2 tsp does nicely. But feel free to toss in some dried oregano (don't go crazy, that's strong stuff), basil, paprika, whatever floats your boat.
  • a couple pinches of salt. Not quite 1/8 tsp. 
  • Pepper if you like it.
Cook the crust according to package directions. That is, thaw it, poke it with a fork all over, stick it in the oven at 400F for 8 minutes. Near the end, take a look and if it's puffing up, poke it again.

Meanwhile, cook the vegetables if they're not already cooked. I don't care how you do it: steam, saute, microwave, whatever. And, grate the cheese, and chop your herbs if using.

Beat the eggs, and mix in your milk, herbs (dried or fresh) and salt and pepper if using. 

Take out the crust and decrease the oven temperature to 375F, put half the cheese in the bottom, then your veg, then the rest of the cheese, then pour on the egg mixture. Here's an extra yummy tip: drape some of your grated cheese all along the rim of the pie crust. It makes the crust taste like cheese straws. Nobody leaves the crust behind when it tastes like cheese straws.

Pop that back in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Put an old cookie sheet underneath if you're worried about it leaking over the edges. I hate cleaning my oven, don't you?

Check for doneness by poking a sharp knife in the center. If you see milky fluid, it's not done. If you see clear, it's done!

Serve that puppy up warm or cold with some steamed vegetables or a nice salad. Yum!

(Like all my cooking, this is a vegetarian recipe - but if you're into it, you can always add some chopped cooked ham or chicken to replace part of the 1 cup of cooked veg). Another note: yes, I do know cheddar has rennet in it and so is not actually a vegetarian product. Use a soy cheese if you're not okay with rennet. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's been a little quiet...

...because we've just come back from a family camping trip to Yellowstone National Park!

It was our first time RV camping (we rented one for the week) and what a great experience that was. SO much easier and more convenient than tent camping, especially with a toddler!

After all those geysers, mud pots, fumaroles and springs, we are a little "geo-thermaled out", as my husband puts it. I think a week was about right.

Mia had a fantastic time spotting "animohs" like bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, wolves and bears (at a rehab centre for those - we only saw two black bears in the wild), coyotes, bald eagles, hawks, grouse, mountain bluebirds, and ravens (everywhere). There were NO bugs at all and the weather was just about perfect - sunny and 22 degrees or thereabouts each day, but for one cloudy day. The nights were cold, but the RV kept us fairly snug.

I definitely recommend RV camping for families. It was so nice to be able to come back from a hike and cook a hot meal right there in the parking lot if we wanted - or stop at a pull-out beside a beautiful outlook for a snack.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from our trip: 

There is never a bad place to nurse, according to bison.
This was a common sight. It looks like a postcard, doesn't it?!

We hiked, Mia rode in the carrier. I loved the contrast of her sparkly shoes to our dusty hiking boots!

Having a meal by the lake - watching Daddy feed the dog after our dinner.

A beautiful spot for me to breastfeed - watching Old Faithful erupt!

Our family at one of the most beautiful of the geysers, Imperial Geyser. Worth the 6 mile (9.7 km) round trip hike!

While we were away, the contractors have nearly completed the drywall sanding, and installed hardwood in the office, living and dining rooms, feathering it into the existing hardwood in the rest of the main floor. There is still much to be done, but it's starting to seem possible that we will be able to live in a real house again rather than a construction site. They've threatened me with the prospect of moving the fridge onto the back upstairs deck (even more inconvenient than now, upstairs in the office while our kitchen and eating area are in the basement), and the washer and dryer into the garage, where they will be unuseable. I sure hope we can work around that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Walmart Mom of the Year - Finalists Announced! #MOTY

You may recall me mentioning the new Walmart Mom of the Year program back in May, where we could all nominate our favourite amazing moms. One of these moms will receive $10,000 and have the opportunity to donate $100,000 to the charity of her choice! The other seven finalists each receive $10,000 for their own use and $10,000 to donate to charity as well! A gala at the end of September will celebrate the announcement of this year's Mom of the Year.


16,909 moms were nominated (WOW!), and of those, eight have been selected as finalists. I have no idea how they managed to choose as there were so many truly amazing women nominated. You can read the stories of the finalists on the Mom of the Year website.

I love reading the stories and love the idea. What a great way to support the strength, generosity and ability of moms. Some of their stories brought me to tears. With moms like Tammy MacKinnon, who has fostered over 30 children and done some amazing charitable work to support children around the world. Many of the other finalists are either living with or supporting family members with special needs, diseases, or even donating organs like Karen Whitford did for her aunt, it will be a very tough choice. Luckily each one of these moms benefits from the Mom of the Year program and so does her favourite charity.

This is only the first year of this ongoing campaign - we can look forward to doing it again next year!

Disclosure: I’m part of the Walmart program by Mom Central. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own. Mom of the Year Award: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY Internet access and valid email account required. Nominations open May 10, 2012 to July 8, 2012 for legal residents of Canada over the age of majority.  Entrants cannot nominate themselves. One (1) grand prize available to be won consisting of $10,000 cash, a $100,000 donation by Wal-mart Canada Corp. to charity/cause and a trip to Toronto (ARV $22,000). Seven (7) runner-up prizes available to be won consisting of $10,000 cash, a $10,000 donation to charity/cause and a trip to Toronto (ARV $22,000).  Charity/cause subject to verification and final approval by Wal-mart Canada Corp., at its sole discretion. Odds of winning depend on how the judging panel evaluates each entry according to the criteria. For Official Contest Rules and to nominate an entrant, visit [www.momoftheyear.ca].

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toes

I needed a re-do on my toes, and was busy during her nap, so it happened while she was awake. Of course, my toddler was fascinated.

"Mummy! Toes!" she said.

and then, much louder:

"MIA! TOES! PEASE!!!"

So I did.

Never thought I'd be painting an 18 month old's toes - it just happened. And yes, it's very cute! She loves it and keeps talking about her toes.

I'm not sure about it, though.

Why? Well...

- am I setting some kind of precedent here? Some kind of image/beauty thing? I don't even want to get into that. I mean, she's seen me apply makeup before and obviously has seen my painted toenails before... but to do it to/for her, that's different.
.
- I didn't have kiddie paint so used regular... what about toxins?

Hmm.




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Playtex Twist 'N Click Snacker and Bowl Review

As any toddler's parent knows, snacking is suddenly extremely important. A hungry toddler is a CRAZY toddler, if mine is anything to go by. She gets whiny, cranky, and wild if she does not have snacks!

Some days it feels like all I do all day is prepare food, with three meals and three snacks each day (okay, the last snack is just my hubby and I after Mia's gone to bed! ha ha!). And on days when we have errands to run or anything that takes us out of the house for any length of time, it can be a challenge to make sure Mia gets a healthy snack before the meltdowns begin.


So anything that makes it easier gets my attention! Playtex has a couple new products that do just that.
Mia knew these were for her and could not keep her hands off even for a moment!

The Twist 'N Click Bowl comes in a set of two (suggested retail of $7.99 in Canada). It has an audible click when the lid is properly sealed, and is guaranteed leak-proof! It has a spot for a name on the bottom in case you are sending it to day care or school, for example. It's just the right size for a child. Mia is not a big eater and would probably not finish a whole bowl at this point, but it's a great size for taking along to the beach, errand run, hike, long drive, or any time you might want a bit of snack for everyone (I confess, I like to share Mia's snack most times!). I think in future it will be a perfect size for packing in her lunch for school as well. 

The Twist 'N Click Snacker (suggested retail of $5.49 in Canada) is a great design for a snack container. It has a snap-on lid that twists around to the base, so food stays fresh when it's closed and it acts as an extended handle and a sturdy base when it's open. The lid that stays screwed onto the cup has a flexible opening that little hands can easily reach through for grabbable snacks. And the screw top has a nice feature of an arrow that points to where you want to tighten it to for the best seal. It's nice and light, easy for Mia to hold with the handle, and it is tough.



 Here is the Twist 'N Click Snacker in action. Mia can open the snap lid herself and twist it around to the base. She quickly got the hang of reaching in and pulling out the cereal I'd put in there for her. And the lid of the Twist 'N Click Bowl makes a great plate, apparently! I just hope the cereal all made it into her mouth and not down between the couch cushions...

 Here's the arrow that indicates the area for the best seal. You can't see too clearly, but it's really obvious where you need to close it to on the bowl.

Mm, perfect for strawberries!
 My favourite bits? I love that these are durable, portable, leakproof, and dishwasher safe. I love the fun colours they come in, too! We got the lime green and hot pink combination - nice and bright.

I also like that the Snacker doesn't spill the goods even when tipped over... My daughter can't remember to keep things upright at this age. 

Overall, great products. I'm torn between which I like best. I think the Snacker has fun functionality, but the Bowls might be more practical in the long run.

Mia's current favourite snacks are: berries, fish-shaped cheese crackers (or any kind of cracker, really), dry cereal, pudding (bad mum!), those squeezy applesauce pouches, hard-boiled eggs, olives, buttered toast fingers, and baked marinated tofu cubes.

 I could use some more inspiration. Mia's diet is pretty varied, but I tend to head for the same easy snacks time after time... What are (or were) your toddler's favourite snacks?

Toddler fun: Acrylic paint

If you're not afraid of a little mess, acrylics are fun with toddlers. I had some on hand so we brought them out to play. They are non-toxic and clean up with water and soap - off skin or plastic (or hair...), but do NOT come off many surfaces such as clothing. So wear a smock! We use an old, rather large t-shirt and cover the table with brown paper.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Toddler Fun: Rigatoni

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately about keeping toddlers busy. The blog I've been enjoying the most is I'm going to make it (after all) - whose author is in the middle of a series of 100 ways to keep a toddler busy. Some are awesome and some have failed - she gives them grades on how well they worked for her little one.

I'm not sure if I got this idea there or somewhere else (Pinterest?), but it kept my 18-month old occupied for a good 20 minutes one day. And it's so simple... all you need is:
  • rigatoni
  • a couple of containers
  • a ribbon 
  • some masking tape
Wrap tape around one end of the ribbon to make a "needle".  Put some rigatoni in one container, and give the whole deal to your toddler.

 It's fun to transfer them from one container to the other, one by one.
 I had to show her what the ribbon was for at first, and she insisted I hold the tape needle for a while. Okay!
 But soon she had it figured out and did not want any help at all threading noodles onto her ribbon!
 It's also fun to shake them in the container, then pour them and make a big clattery noise!
They can be stood on their ends! I did a few to show her, then she did some, then had a great time knocking them all over. 

I tried putting them on her fingers, but she didn't like it much. She would allow one on her index finger. She tried putting them on my fingers and LOVED that my fingers were too big. "BEEG!" she kept yelling as she tried to jam them on my fingers and laughing like crazy!

 Of course, it was all abandoned after a while. You may want to count the rigatoni so you don't find dusty ones under the furniture months from now.
On to the next fun toy... the paint roller. It's great fun to roll the back of the couch.

The noodles haven't been as big a hit in days since, but I think if I put them away for a while it will be fun again.

Mia, and I, and my husband, have been terribly sick for the last few days. We had her at the Children's Hospital emergency ward two nights ago with a fever of 104. Up all night with a feverish, sick baby who can't breathe, when you're sick yourself, and then contractors coming in at 8:00 am to bang all day in the house is not fun. We had that one really terrible night and I think things are slowly getting better.

Poor little tot is miserable with this virus, but despite that she is in such good spirits. What a little trooper! I can't say the same for my husband or myself, we are both just miserable sick people!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thank you

I really love doing reviews - honest, real reviews. Certainly, there are products I haven't written about because they failed to perform or I just couldn't wholeheartedly recommend them, and then, sometimes when I have come across a product or service that spectacularly sucked, I'm telling you all about it.

Mainly, blogging for me has been a chance to share a bit of my life, a chance to try new things, a chance to connect with you guys (yeah, you!) - even if it's very one-sided at times (hey, leave a comment, would ya? :) ). Fun stuff, and when I don't have much time for it, I miss it.

Like lately, I've started work part time again, and so my days - and nights, with a consistent four wakings per night still, at 18 months... - are filled with toddler craziness and the evenings that aren't spent trying to rehab the yard or house are spent working. Not as much time for the fun stuff as I'd like.

Anyway, the whole point of this post (which rambled in a direction I wasn't expecting there) is to say thank you to you. Because I received a mystery cheque in the mail today. And after a little research, I realized - it's my very first, for-real, honest-to-goodness affiliate cheque.

A little further delving, and I discovered what it's for. You, my fabulous readers, have actually ordered some of the products from one of the companies I've reviewed products for. You did it by linking there from my reviews of this company, over the last two years. I am honoured that you trust my opinions enough to try these products out for yourself. I really hope you like them, and I also hope that you get amazing, life-changing (or at the very least, life-enhancing) results - the kind of results I have come to expect from this particular company.

It's not a big cheque (it wouldn't buy a week's groceries), but it really means a lot to me. Not as much for the money, which of course is nice, but for what it represents.

Thank you.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Barbie, the ever-evolving doll! #SaveWithBarbie

When I was a little girl, my parents were very cautious about the toys I had. Encouraging creative play and avoiding gender stereotypes were priorities for them. And, honestly, Barbie was on the "caution" list - mostly because of her unrealistic figure and the emphasis on fashion. Through the eighties, Barbie became more and more of a "yes" with her diverse career choices and emphasis on imagination!

I do think the price was a factor, too - I seem to recall them being fairly pricey for the boxed ones with all the great accessories. Funny how a lot of extra box and an extra few bits of plastic made all the difference between the fashion dolls (with only one outfit) and the MUST HAVE theme dolls (my favourite was the one that had a little kisses stamp). Remember the earrings and rings that plugged in to the holes in her ears and hand? Do they still do that?

Just like pretty much every little girl ever, I loved Barbie from the start. The combination of glamour, smarts, and all those fabulous clothes and accessories (I am not immune to fashion myself, despite the current mom wardrobe!) drew me in like a moth to a flame. Between garage sales and Christmas gifts, I ended up with a couple of fabulous Barbies of my own (and a really awesome camper van, and even a horse, too!).

Despite my love for teeny plastic shoes and jewelery, my absolute favourite thing to do with Barbie was to create a world for her to play in. I made ski rental shops out of shoe boxes and ski hills from blankets and Barbie became an Olympic skier. My paddling pool or bathtub was the ocean, and Barbie was a deep sea diver, collecting specimens for scientific research. Barbie was a teacher, instructing my stuffed bunnies. Dr. Barbie gave medical advice to my other dolls.

And while I appreciate my parents' initial reservations about Barbie, as a parent of a little girl now myself, I also appreciate that Barbie provides an entry to a lot of different roles that girls can try out. I'm not a big fan of the 'princess' type dolls, but the veterinarian, doctor, astronaut, pilot, computer engineer (yes, really - that's her on the left), and so on, I think are inspiring to little girls, and reinforce that a girl can be anything she wants to be (did you know there is even a Katniss - from the Hunger Games - Barbie doll?).

See What Happens When You Save With Barbie! There are going to be some fabulous coupon savings for Barbie products available on WebSaver.ca starting August 7th! I'll be sharing the coupons on my Facebook page and on Twitter every week! You can also keep in touch with all things Barbie on the Barbie Facebook page.

Disclosure: I am participating in a Mom Central Consulting campaign for Barbie and receive compensation for my post. All opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Toddler busy bags!

Lately I have two new obsessions: Pinterest, and busy bags.

Pinterest... well, I'm a late adopter on that one. Everyone and their mother is already on it. I managed to keep it off my radar for a while, knowing that once on there was no going back... and that is exactly so. So, feel free to follow me on Pinterest if you're into it (see top right for button).

Busy bags! Oh! I am loving this idea. Busy bags are contained activities to keep toddlers (or even older kids) busy. Each bag has a different project or activity. How fun!

There are LOADS of ideas out there for busy bags, and I really want my local mums' group to do a busy bag swap playdate, if I can convince a few mums. Then each mum can make a bunch of the same bag, and go home from the playdate with a selection of different ones. Great idea, right?! They don't even have to be crafty.

Here are some ideas (and you can find a lot more by searching for them)
  • crayons and a small blank book or notepad... a classic
  • felt board (cardstock covered in felt) and felt shapes to stick on. That can be a puzzle or a scene, colours, animals, whatever! Or, bits of yarn to "draw" with on the felt.
  • lacing cards (as simple as bristol board cut into shapes and gone at with a hole punch), or pasta shapes, or big beads (supervised play of course - gotta watch those choking hazards) and a shoelace (great for fine motor control)
  • small coloured objects and containers (for sorting, learning colours, fine motor control, and also good for shaking to make noise!)
  • paint chips for sorting colours (bonus - free at your local hardware store!)
  • matching tops and bottoms of those hollow plastic easter eggs (fine motor control, colours) - for an added bonus mark them with upper and lower case letters.
  • an "I-Spy" box or bag or bottle - make with a box with a clear lid, filled with rice and small toys - or a ziploc taped shut - or a clear plastic water bottle - whatever you do, make sure it is,  taped or hot glued securely shut!
Okay, I could do this for hours (and pin them all on Pinterest)... but I think I'll just go play with my toddler :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Renovations suck.

I've not been posting as much as usual, because between a toddler and a very major house renovation, I'm just about as busy as can be.

Our main floor is completely ripped out down to the studs, as is our master bathroom, powder room and laundry room. We're living in the basement (with a teeny 4x8' kitchen - while our fridge is still on the main floor; take a second to imagine that hassle every meal) and the guest bedroom. Luckily, our daughter's room is untouched - but with all the demolition and construction noise, naps are sporadic.

It's a real pain.

Three more months until the "optimistic" completion date, which I'm certain will be delayed, as getting the kitchen and bathroom layout done with the cabinet company has been a debacle.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to living in a real, complete and functional house again. It's already been six months since we moved from our house in Ontario to Calgary. Three months of ghetto rental house, half-unpacked, and now three months of this construction site, still not unpacked...

It will be nice to see our stuff again, and to put pictures on the walls, and call it our home.

A few "before" pictures, just for fun:

The kitchen, with cracked plastic "glass" blocks, a pantry, and a peninsula - now it is down to studs, no cabinets and the glass blocks have been taken out and filled in with wall.

The golden oak bookshelf - we'll have this made symmetrical and painted white. The ceiling in this room and the attached kitchen has come down as well for installation of pot lights and removal of old fixtures.

The master bathroom with a gross old jacuzzi tub. And hey, no door between bedroom and bathroom.

More master bathroom with a shower insert (now gone). Note carpet throughout (ugh!) and also no door between toilet and bathroom!

From the closet, looking through the bathroom to the bedroom. Everything in here is gone.
The whole house is also painted the colour of mud, I hate the colour. So much to do - don't even get me started on the horrible yard!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bambino Miosolo Cloth Diaper Giveaway!

Following up on my review of the new Bambino Mio Miosolo cloth diaper, Childish Notions has generously offered to give away one of these great cloth diapers to one of my lucky Canadian readers!! The colour will be a surprise (they have a lovely selection, so it will be nice!).

Entering is easy with the Rafflecopter form below (click "Read More" if you don't see it).

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bambino MioSolo Cloth Diaper Review!


I was honoured to be chosen to review the Bambino Mio MioSolo cloth diaper with Mia from Childish Notions!

Childish Notions is an importer of unique and brilliant baby products - products with innovative and thoughtful design that these two moms have discovered in other countries and brought to Canada! I've been browsing their site and can see a number of products that look like they'd make parenting so much easier. One that just caught my eye is the KiddyLoo - a combination step-stool/potty seat for the toilet that I can totally see making toilet training easier. (I'll be embarking on that adventure soonish with Mia...!).

The MioSolo is a one-size all-in-one diaper, new in Canada from the UK. There are different kinds of AIO, and this one has an attached insert and a pocket (as opposed to the type where the absorbent core is sewn right into the diaper). I prefer this type, as it dries faster both in a dryer if you choose to go that route, or on the line.

The Bambino Mio Miosolo in Flying Saucer.
With insert in. Super soft lining!
The MioSolo has features that set it apart from your typical AIO diaper and make it a much better choice, in my opinion.

Let's begin with the regular features:
  • The PUL cover is brightly coloured and ours has not faded at all over a bunch of washes. Perhaps it will fade over time, but so far, so good.
  • The microfleece liner is so, super soft. No pilling to date, and it remains soft when hung to dry.
  • The insert is also soft and stays soft when hung to dry. I hate when inserts get crunchy on the line, so I appreciate this! The insert is very absorbent for my heavy wetter. 
  • No leaks to date! 
  • The cross-over velcro tabs are pretty much standard good quality velcro. Mia has recently discovered how to undo velcro, so for us this is definitely a diaper for under clothing, not to be worn on its own beneath a dress or on a hot day! 
  • The laundry tabs have not failed in the wash. 
  • It has snaps for different rises. My toddler at 17 months is on the biggest rise setting, but this would also fit a much smaller baby. 
  • As for fit, on my little one who is about 25 lbs with a smallish waist and ridiculously chubby thighs, it fits well. 
It looks super tight, but it's not - she's just chubby. No red welts and no leaks either!
 Now, what makes it special?
  • The insert has loops to tug it out before washing. I have to be honest, I usually just let inserts come out in the wash on their own. I don't like touching wet inserts (and definitely not soiled ones), and most of the time they will self-unstuff in the wash. But with the loops it's simple to tug it out without getting icky fingers.
Easy unstuffing loops!
  • The insert also has a handy pocket at the end that makes stuffing it back in easier. I really like this feature! 
  • See the pocket at the end? The loops can be seen here, too. Mia added her toes to the picture :)

  • It is a remarkably trim diaper
Look how trim! Hardly any bubble bum at all.

And, it goes with her favourite shirt... the one with the DAWWWW! on it!
Overall, this is a good one - if I were starting out with cloth diapers, the MioSolo would absolutely be a brand I'd choose for my stash. It will fit long-term, has great unique features, and is a quality diaper.

Disclosure: I received a Bambino MioSolo diaper to review, but was not obligated to write a positive review or paid for this post. I honestly like it! Thanks, Childish Notions!