What’s In My Bag?

It’s not a diary. It’s a journal. I ‘journal’.

IMG_2376Could there be a better feeling than writing on the first page of new journal? The spine cracking open and the first page staring blankly at you. I always feel a slight bit of intimidation. Like the first sentence needs to be greatly profound or insightful.  And I’ll tell you a secret. I always leave the first few pages completely blank thinking that perhaps later I’ll come up with something great. But rarely do I ever go back to those first few pages… because here’s the thing. The whole journal is the unraveling of life, and what could be more beautiful or profound?

I went out to buy a new journal the other day. I stood in front of the journal and paper section at Chapters Indigo for probably close to 35 minutes. This is not an exaggeration. I literally picked up each journal off the shelf. Opened it up. Closed it. Weighed it in my hand. When I finally narrowed down my decision to 3, I actually just stood there staring at them trying to make my decision.

I’m sure if anyone was watching me, they’d probably think I was on the crazy train. In fact, a sales clerk came up to me and asked if I was having a hard time picking a diary. I couldn’t help but smile as I corrected her, ‘Oh no, it’s not a diary. It’s a journal. I ‘journal’.

Somehow there is a really big difference to me…😉

You see, it’s my side kick. My book full of inspiration. Quotes. Thoughts. Life events. Aspirations. Fears. Excitement. Prayers. The mundane. The extraordinary.

I keep all of my journals and I love to flip through them from time to time. To see life unfolding and reminding me of the path I’m on. Lopsided and darty writing from a bumpy car ride. Little grains of sand sliding down the page after being hidden in the spine, telling its own story of beach days. Pages that have stuck together from a spilt coffee or an escaped tear.

It’s my life in the pages. And while I don’t have time to write everyday, I write when I can. My earthly sojourn.

Sojourn

My ‘Get Ready for Christmas in November’ Bucket List

I have decided that I will NOT let Christmas sneak up on me this year. Too many times I’ve found the Christmas season swoop right in, twirl me around in a frenzy, glitter and pizzaz, sparkle and twinkle, and before you know it the season has passed and you are left with gingerbread cookie crumbs and pine needles strewn over your living room floor.

Part of why I feel the whirlwind is because we often leave everything about the season to December. This year is different.

I figure if I can start things ahead of time, I’ll be able to devote the entire month of December to enjoying the get-togethers and savouring the real meaning of Christmas. My evenings can be spent under the glow of the Christmas tree lights, sipping on tea… or ummm….. maybe THIS.

😀

That Jamie Oliver. He knows where it’s at.

My ‘Get Ready for Christmas in November’ Bucket List

1) Set up Christmas Tree. I have NEVER ever done this before in November. But guess what we are doing this weekend?! I’m actually pretty giddy about it… I’m thinking a whole lotta’ ribbon this year, burlap ornaments, gold and silver branches, red berries and some sparkly balls…

2) Homemade Ornaments and Decorations. Oh, Pinterest, you are my friend. I love this simple idea for pinecone ornaments.

And I love this wreath idea…

3) Write and address our Christmas Cards, ready for mail the first week of December. This one is pretty self explanatory…

4) Pick out a good devotional or advent readings for the season. I’ve really enjoyed this book in the past, and most likely will read it again, however it may be nice to try something new.

5) Make a lot of cookie dough and freeze batches. Random thought, but this was featured on Dragon’s Den, and I was smitten with the idea for around the holidays. I like that you could make a huge batch of cookie dough and then have cookies shaped and ready to pop in the oven in the blink of an eye. Whether I buy it or not, I’m not sure, but I do plan to pre-make a ton of cookie dough.

6) Go to the One-of-a-Kind Christmas Show. This is a favourite tradition that the ladies in my family do every year, and there’s something magical and exciting about it every time. It’s inspiring to see so many artisans in one spot showcasing their creativity, plus you can buy some pretty unique gifts!

As you can see, my list isn’t exhaustive, but I have a feeling these little things are going to help me savour the season this year.

And just to be clear, I’m not listening to Christmas carols…. yet.

The Name of the Game & Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Opps! Not sure how that happened.

It has been a month since I posted and I honestly feel like it was just yesterday. Between working and new commitments this fall, each day seems to blur by and time management is the name of the game.

I’m having to come up with convenient tricks to get breakfast and dinner on the table, actually creating grocery lists instead of shopping on the fly (…boo…), cleaning a little each day instead of my usual blitz on the weekend, and get myself ready in the morning in under 5 minutes. I’m not kidding. Who would have thought THAT was possible? It is. I’m not saying I look amazing after 5 minutes… but we’ll go with the term ‘socially acceptable’.

In the next little while, I’ll be posting about what I’ve found helpful and little tricks that are keeping me sane.

TODAY?! My beloved baked oatmeal is back but with new fall flava’!  I have decided we will eat some version of baked oatmeal every week until December because it’s that good. No exaggeration. Everyone in my household is on board too!…I think. Haven’t quite talked about that with my man or the lil’ miss. But let’s just go ahead and say we’re all on board. Okee?

Apple, Cinnamon, Raisin Baked Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Raisin Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 3 cups large flake oatmeal (or quick cooking oats work well too)
  • 2 apples (grated/shredded with peel on)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1Tbsp maple syrup (Depending on your tastebuds feel free to increase to 2 Tbsp, substitute with brown sugar, honey, or simply omit altogether)
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

(Notice no eggs this time around? I didn’t have any on hand, and so I just increased the water content, knowing that oats always absorb a great amount, and it ended up setting nicely.)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  • Bake for roughly 50 minutes. (Edges should begin to looks slightly golden)
  • Store in fridge for up to a week

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Easy to make, convenient in the mornings, healthy, and filling. That’s a recipe I don’t mess with.

Finding the beauty of life in simplicity

Sometimes you’re journeying through life and certain seasons of life seem overwhelming. On a global perspective there is a lot of sadness and scary things happening all over the world. Sometimes you also face individual challenges and daunting days and it takes everything in you to put in motion your mind and body to get through the day, only to begin again the next day. Then there’s also a lot of good happening everywhere too, and a lot of beauty that inspires.

Along the way, with our busy days, I’ve been stopped in my tracks by the beauty in simplicity I’ve seen around me and I wanted to share some pictures that have meant something to me. These images put life into perspective or made me smile. Made me realize that while we are journeying through this life, we are really a small part of a big picture, and the small parts of life are never forgotten by God. Dew Jewels on an early morning walk Dew jewels Goodbye moon, hello day Coffee= goodbye night, hello day Big and small Big and small God’s blankie

God's blankie

Soaring

Soaring

Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

I’m a fairly self-disciplined person but I cannot even contain myself when these donuts come out of the oven. This is my ultimate dessert. Sure, I love chocolate desserts, fruit pies, and lemony this & that, but put a plate of sugar donuts in front of me, and you might as well say adios to my face for the day.

IMG_3168

Ina Garten  from The Barefood Contessa knows a thing or two about delicious baking and her sugar donuts are no exception. Simple recipe, downright delicious, and very professional looking.

She uses a donut pan but I don’t have one. And since buying one would be a very dangerous and reckless thing for me to do, I decided to use my mini muffin pan to make donut holes. Mmm oh mamma. Now we’re talking.

I didn’t tweak a thing with the ingredients (and, word of wisdom in case you didn’t know: you never tweak an Ina Garten recipe EVER) so here’s a direct link for the recipe. You can thank me later.

Homemade Baked Sugar Donuts

And don’t be fooled, just because they are smaller doesn’t mean that I had any form of portion control.

Adios my friends.

Putting an end to the epidemic of dying herbs

Oh fresh herbs. You are a delight.

Potted Herb Gardens

I love having an herb pot but inevitably I need to pick up more herbs at the grocery store because I use a LOT of herbs when cooking.

Here’s the sad truth. I have thrown away more bunches of unused herbs than I’d like to admit. I’m always thrilled when I’m at the grocery store picking out different herbs for weekly recipes, thinking to myself, ‘Won’t this be great! Fresh herbs for every meal!’.

Alas.

You know the rest of the story. You pop them in the fridge and somehow through the chaos of the week, they slowly get trampled by other produce and pushed to the back of the fridge and they have wilted by the time you remember to use them. <Tear> Well, I’m on a mission to stop the epidemic of dying herbs in my household. Enough of this.

Here’s a trick I learned about for either large batches of home-grown herbs or herbs purchased at the grocery store.

Trim the ends of the herbs and place the bunch in a small glass of water in the fridge.

Herbs

Tips: Change the water every few days. If you notice the leaves darkening or drying out, loosely place a plastic bag over the top of the herbs. Cilantro, parsley and basil will respond very well to this method and should last up to 2 weeks. (Other herbs, like thyme, rosemary and chives, require a slightly different method. First loosely wrap in the herbs with one layer of paper towel then place in a plastic bag in the fridge).

Herbs are happy. I am happy. Problem solved.

As a side note, this is a false impression of what my fridge normally looks like. I cleaned it just before taking this picture. I also don’t really store my eggs in a bowl. That’s highly impractical.

But it looks pretty.

😉

Through your eyes, my daughter…

IMG_4360Through your eyes, my daughter, I see the world in a new way.

I see the bits of life. A pebble on the ground. Droplets of water zipping down the side of the tub. The petals of a flower. An ant. Leaves twirling in the wind. A nub on my wool sweater. A cheerio in the corner of the room.

I see people as people. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth. No prejudice. No judgement. Just a smile from you to them that now binds us together as humans.

I see my beauty through your eyes. My hair shining as it’s twisted around your little finger. My eyelashes dark and full as you try to touch them. My smile bigger and brighter because of your smile. My body strong and powerful as it carried you 9 months inside, many months outside, and forever in my heart.

I hear the world. A tree branch snapping. A dog barking. A garbage truck clamoring down the road. A door opening. A cupboard closing. A coat zipping up. A person crying. A person laughing.

I feel life. The cold wind. The hot sun. The soft carpet. The cuddly blanket. The hard table. The sharp corner. The prickly grass. The scratchy sidewalk. Your warm embrace. Your chubby legs. Your soft skin. Your hot tears. Your beating heart.

Through your eyes, my daughter, I see the world in a new way. And I am forever grateful.

 

Beauty in a Bottle: Herb-Infused Olive Oil

I love olive oil and this herb-infused version takes it to a whole new level. Just look at it.

Herb Infused Olive OIl

That’s purty.

It can be used as a dressing, on grilled veggies, or in a marinade. Pretty versatile and rather exciting if you ask me. I always love discovering homemade hostess gifts since they come in handy throughout the year or during holiday seasons. Like gourmet herb salt or coasters, you can add this to the stockpile.

I found the recipe for this in one of my favourite do-it-yourself books, ‘Do It Gorgeously’ by Sophie Uliano.

Herb-Infused Oils

  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme
  • 3 lemon slices
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 12 to 17 oz glass bottle with swing or cork top (sterilized)
  • 1 large bottle of the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can find

1) Wash the rosemary, thyme and lemon slices in cold water and steep them in the vinegar and water overnight.

IMG_3864

2) Rinse off your herbs and lemon and leave them to air dry for at least 8 hours on a paper towel. (THIS IS IMPORTANT. Whenever you are mixing ingredients into oil, it is absolutely important to ensure there is no water content mixing with the oil, since it can become an environment for bacteria to grow. This is also why it is key to do the vinegar rinse as well.)

3) Put the herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns, and lemon into the bottle and pour in the olive oil.

4) You could add a label if you like and be sure to put the ‘best used before’ date on it as well. The oil should be good for up to 6 months when stored in a cool, dark spot.

I made a few batches to be gifts… apparently to myself. It was weird. Every time I was cooking in the kitchen, my hand would involuntarily reach for it and would accidentally pour it over every salad I made.

😉

 

It’s National Chocolate Pudding Day?!

… at least in the States. But I say we jump on board too. Good idea, eh?

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Packed with protein, healthy omega-3 fats and fibre, this is a great post-workout snack or just enjoy as a dessert to satisfy that sweet tooth!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp of cocoa powder
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • splash of pure maple syrup

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a small jar, shake it up, then let set in the fridge for a few hours or at least until you can’t wait any longer. The longer it sits, the more creamier it’ll become! You will see the chia seeds separate at first, so just give it another shake or stir at some point.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Small fact: it’s actually been chocolate chia pudding day every day for me this week.

Chocolate Chia Pudding

But with this recipe, you can’t blame me. Enjoy!