Friday, September 26, 2014

Tis' Almost the Season

Can you  believe that Christmas is almost around the corner?  It's hard to want to believe that given Summer only just ended, Fall has just begun, and the days here are still in the 20's.  But before we know it, Christmas carols will be on the radio!

I like to start shopping early for my family, especially since there are 7 birthdays all celebrated in December and January!  So far I've already picked up my sons 5th (holy cats!) birthday gift, and yesterday out at Costco picked up some stocking stuffers.

As a crafty person I like to make as many of the gifts as I can.  But am also realistic about the amount of time I have, and that frankly, some things are just cheaper bought.

I've had fabric since my eldest was 2, along with a pattern to make her a housecoat.  I pulled out the pattern, measured her now at the age of 7, and was determined to finally make it for her.  Until I realized yesterday the pattern is only appropriate for a toddler.  Hmmmm.  No problem, I'll make it for my littlest and get more fabric for the eldest and the right pattern, but at the back of my mind realizing that the original fabric and pattern cost me close to $50.  That's alot for a housecoat.  And you know what I found yesterday afternoon at Costco?  A purple housecoat, in size 7/8 for $15.  I may be crafty, but I'm also not dumb!  That $15 housecoat entered my cart.

There are a few handmade items on my list though that won't be bumped off.  I have:

A hat for one of my sons teachers
A capelet for my Mom that was meant for her birthday 2 years ago (wow this shows I should not commit to making things as gifts).
The housecoat for my littlest (might as well use up what I have!)
And I'm working on a Lego idea for my son

That list is pretty short, but I know at least the second item will take me quite a while to complete.  My Dad loves handmade socks so if I have time those might be added to the list as well (for either his December birthday OR Christmas!).

How about you?  Have you started planning/plotting/snooping for ideas?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sugar Free Pizza Sauce

One of the items I was surprised to find sugar in, was our go to pizza sauce.  Thankfully, the web turned out this great recipe that was quick to make, and the kids loved too!
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (optional or sub more olive oil if you're being healthier)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, (i think the gourmet gardens tube from the produce department tastes better in this sauce) chopped *3/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped *1/2 dried
  • 2- 8oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. in a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter and heat until almost shimmering. add the garlic, stirring a few times around the pot and then quickly add the onion powder, red pepper flakes, basil and oregano. stir a few times and allow the herbs to bloom.
  2. add parmesan cheese, and brown sugar and then quickly dump in the tomato sauce, tomato paste and water. stir to combine and bring to a light boil. turn down to low, season to taste and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours for ultimate flavor or use immediately if needed.

The only changes I made to the recipe was substituting a carrot from our garden for the brown sugar.  I read on another pizza recipe site that carrots can help add sweetness (not to mention sneaking extra veggies into the kids).  All three of mine devoured the pizza, the littlest two knowing no difference, and the eldest who knew I had made the sauce and said it was even better than what we had had before!  Win!  Next time I may even add a red pepper.  Sneaky sneaky.

This recipe made up 3 portions worth of sauce.  I portioned out the remainder (we made one pizza to eat) and froze the extra in ziploc bags.  When I know we are having pizza night again, I'll just pull one out the night before to defrost.  (Hint - if you freeze it flat it will defrost quicker!).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Running with the Dinosaurs

September 13th my family and I hit the road and headed to Drumheller, AB, a short hour and a half away.  Drumheller is known for its' Dinosaurs and Hoodoos. I had signed up to run the half marathon distance of the Dinosaur Run and have been excited for months about the opportunity to run in such a different and stunning landscape.  It was also the inagural year of the marathon, and I wanted to check it out and see what it was like for future possibilities.  Drumheller did not disappoint.

Race package pick up was small but easy to find. Lots of goodies included but non that stick out as WOW that's great I received that.  I am a big fan of the shirt though.  Fun athletic design, and also women specific sizing.

The race was started off by the mayor of Drumheller (!) and they had a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11 prior to the race start.

The entire race was on pathways - but I had no idea how extensive the pathway system was in Drumheller! All you need to do is follow Mile-a-saurus ha ha.

We ran a bit through town, over the bridge, then out towards the museum.  I was concerned the night before we would end up running the highway, but we took a turn off of it and ended up running along the pathway system.  The Tyrell museum was about at the halfway point.

The volunteers on this course were amazing.  Especially since we heard that the Tough Mudder race was out just the weekend before and these same volunteers had helped out with that as well.  For each turn of the course there were volunteers there to make sure we all stayed enroute.  Water stations were every 3K and at one near the finish they were all even dressed up as pirates!

This course is the first I have said I will do every single year.  Everything about it was that great.  And check out the medal!

I shaved an amazing 5 minutes off of my time from my half in July.  So super pumped about that.  Finished in 2:04 and change.

If you are looking for a race not far from Calgary, I would highly recommend you give this one a go.  And with all the dinosaurs around, it was just as much fun for the kids too :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Where I stand with sugar

I'm writing this on the eve of my fifth day without sugar.  I've been keeping a daily commentary going on Facebook with how each day has felt.  Looking back, and I knew it at the time, the second day was the worst.  I craved EVERYTHING.  Thankfully I have a strong will power and avoided our treat cupboard, but it was surprising how much I craved sugar.  And I didn't think I had that much sugar to begin with in my diet.  But I've learned, it's in EVERYTHING.

It is recommended that a woman not consume more than 25g of added sugars per day, and men 37g.  It adds up fast.  Here are a few examples:

A medium slurpee has 15g of sugar
A caramel macchiato from Starbucks has 37! (Keep in mind part of that is the sugar in the milk, so you can take off about 12 from that total).

Now the extra kick for me, is I started substituting with honey.  It's nautral right?  It is, but your body still sees it as sugar and treats it that way.  Any benefit that honey offers over sugar is so minimal (about 2% I read) that it truly is no different.  The only difference is you can use less honey when cooking, than what is needed for sugar, so it reduces it a bit.  But honey is still counted as an add.  Boo!

So needless to say, I've been doing some refining (ha!) around here with how I prepare our food, and I will start to share those recipes with you here on this blog from time to time.

What I can tell you on Day 5, is that fruit and vegetables have SO much more flavour and I find myself reaching for grapes or cherry tomatoes as a snack.  And (shock), that morning latte?  I think I've come to realize I loved the sugar, not the latte.  It's just not as appealing anymore.  I make one every morning and only drink half the cup.  What I do miss is a good chai, so I'm working on coming up with a good (sugar free!) substitution.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sweet Sugar

My older brother is a vegetarian turned vegan.  He is also an ultra runner and triathlete.  He's hardcore about his body and his health, and as he has made these amazing changes, I've been turning to him for nutritional advice when stuck with a question for the kids, and now, myself.

He texted me yesterday saying he wanted to "talk about sugar".  I responded that I knew it wasn't good for us (refined), but that I had to pick my battles and sugar wasn't one of them.  We chatted a bit more back and forth, and I went about doing tasks in the house.  As I picked up toys and put away laundry I got to thinking.  Why was I so quick to say I couldn't do without sugar?  And perhaps, if it was my first instinct to say no, I really should say yes.

So I said yes.  And committed it to Facebook (heck, share the accountability and get some others on this band wagon).  So I'm going 30 days sugar free.  Yesterday at 4pm when I decided to do this, I was taking the easy sugarless train.  I was saying no to obvious sugars - candy, syrups in my lattes, things of that sort.  And I wasn't going to check labels.  But I got curious.  I was told no more than 24g of sugar a day, fruit not being counted as it is natural and has fiber.

I started looking at labels.  Curry paste last night had 1g.  Today looking at our Peanut Butter it had ICING SUGAR in it.  Seriously.  Icing sugar.  The soy version had CANE SUGAR.

And the more I delve, the more I see a real change is needed.  I could list here all the scary things about sugar, but you can quickly dig them up with a simple Google search.  I'll get you started with this link my cousin posted yesterday.

I truly thought the kids and I didn't consume much sugar.  But it appears we consume more than we even realize.  I'm not going all crazy, but I am going to start looking for alternatives in our baking, and in the products we use.  Something so prevalent in our diet that can cause heart disease and cancer?  Why would I say yes to that???

Today I've eaten a kiwi and a nectarine I know yesterday I would have passed up.  I'm already grabbing more whole food, and plan tonight to pull out my yogourt maker and get a batch started.

What are your thoughts?  Would you ever think about going sugar free?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Skipping Fall

Fall is my most favorite time of year.  Warm sweaters, chilly mornings but warm afternoons, the warm glow of the sun.  Last Sunday morning was HOT.  Summer was still in full swing, and as the afternoon moved along, cold wind swept in, and the kids had to bundle up in blankets outside.

We knew there was snow coming, and I spent Sunday cleaning toys out of the backyard, and pulling plants from our garden.  I pulled everything but the carrots knowing they were snug under the dirt.  We were ready.  Or so I thought.
Some carrots from earlier this Summer.  We've had a great crop this year!
We woke to SNOW Monday morning.  More came by Tuesday.  I don't think we were really ready, nor were the trees.

Full snow gear was pulled out - hats, mitts, snowpants, boots.  We have an interesting mix at our front door of winter apparel mixed with crocs and bike gear.  Our city doesn't normally shut down due to snow, but the falling tree branches took out power to many areas of the city and the roads were a mess.  We had a snow day in September this past Tuesday!

The mornings are still chilly (3C this am), but the weather is supposed to warm up again (expecting 22C by Sunday).
Some trees near where my eldest goes to school.  Such devastation from the weight of the snow.
I hope Fall appears and we haven't skipped right over it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Playground Snacks

It's back to school again, and with it comes the struggle for my eldest of getting enough time to eat.  She's a grazer, and (rightly so) she also wants time to play.  Recess is only 15 minutes to do both, so over the past couple of years, we have tried to come up with quick snacks that can fill her up, but are also portable.  Here is one of our favorites.


  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl, mixing gently so the crispy rice cereal doesn't get crushed. Mix until well-combined.
  2. Using a cookie scoop (or roll small amounts in your hands), drop rounded tablespoonful-sized portions onto a parchment or wax paper lined cooking sheeet. I used my cookie scoop and then rolled the scooped portion out between my palms.
  3. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. At this point you can serve them or combine the chilled granola bites in a large tupperware-type container or ziploc bags to freeze or refrigerate. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week or for a few months in the freezer.

I'm not a big fan of pre-packaged granola bars, especially the no nut ones as they seem loaded with sugar.  I will say that this one is also quite sweet, but I prefer it as it is made from scratch.  I minimize some of the sweetness by cutting the chocolate chips in half, and I add in raisins or craisins.

The whole batch makes a cookie sheet full that I immediately toss in the freezer.  When they are all frozen I transfer them to sandwich bags, and back into the freezer they go.  While I'm making lunch in the morning I'll put a couple into her lunchkit for snacktime, and by the time snack rolls around they are good to eat (I have eaten them frozen though and they are just as tasty).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Turning 35

There were alot of good things about 34, but it was also a really growing/stretching year for me.  I'm ok to see it behind me, and honestly shocked that I sit here today at 35.

I was thoroughly loved on this past weekend.  There was a fondue dinner with my closest friends, lavished on with gifts and laughter.  There was dinner the following night at a friends house while our kids played.  Brunch on Monday (my actual birthday), with cinnamon buns made by my brother.  Naptime saw me doing some school prep, but also winding yarn for a project just for me.  Playground and river visits, home for more cake made by a friend and decorated by my kids.  It was a full rich day and left me with a full and grateful heart.

We are two days in to the new school year, and if the past two days are any indication, this year is going to be really great.  I'm happy to leave the challenges of 34 behind me, and embrace a year of new ahead.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Goldilocks Tunic

For my daughters second birthday, I dug deep into my yarn stash, and found some Shibui Knits Kiwi yarn.  It was originally destined to be a shawl (to be honest half is knit into a shawl), but that project was never going to see completion.  So I took the remaning skeins, and though bright, thought they would look great on her.

The Goldilocks pattern has just under a medium difficulty rating on Ravelry, and I would agree.  The pattern is quite confusing at the beginning, and only offers initial help in getting started.  After a little bit, I soon started to figure it out and find a rhthym, but I wouldn't recommend it to a knitter just starting out on garments, or on faux cabling.  There is still one section under the arm I'm not convinced is done properly, but noyone knows that but me (and maybe you if you can tell from the photos!).

Mods I made:

I knit the dress to 10.5” before doing the mock cables on the bottom.  
After the increase rows on the back I did a row of mock cables. I love the way it turned out.
I also added mock cables on the sleeves. I picked up a total of 50 stitches for each arm.

I'm a love gifter.  As most craft people would say (I assume), that one way they show love is by giving of their handicrafts.  I would never have thought that one of my kids would end up potentially (because I'm not giving up hope!), not being knit-worthy.  

I finished up that knit, lovingly tucked it into a gift bag, and waited for the moment she would open it, envisioning her asking to wear it right then.  And it sort of worked like that.  She opened it, tried to put it back in the bag, I encouraged her to put it on, she did.  For a mere second or two.  Then tried to rip it off.

Oh the craft heart broke a bit.  My eldest tried to reason with her.  We went on a bike ride instead in the clothes the little actually wanted to wear.  I tried the next day.  She would throw the tunic across the room.  I'm as stubborn as she is.  So I emptied all her drawers leaving only the tunic, and a choice of leggings.  (Crazy, perhaps, but determined).

She went to her dresser, opened the drawer.  Closed it.  Opened the next "nothin there!" she said.  Open, close, open close.  Then the tears started.  She left the room diaper clad.  Tried to put on her sisters clothes.  I put that tunic on her.  Showed her how nice it was.  We praised her all day long about that dress.

I got some good photos.  Not sure if she will ever wear it again.  But it was worn for one glorious day.

I had plans to knit her sweaters for the Fall, but I think I might need to stick to hats.  Hats seem safe.