Friday, April 20, 2012

Catching Up

I know, it's been awhile.

That's because my life has been a little crazy the past couple weeks. My beloved husband had to spend a week in Ontario training for his new job, so spending a week as a single parent occupied most of my waking hours! He returned on Sunday, when I greeted him enthusiastically and... promptly threw up. Flu.

I've spend the week recovering, but today both boys came down with it pretty bad. So this is sort of how my day went:

  • Wake up. Do some laundry. Make smoothies for breakfast.
  • Scrub diarrhea off the couch. 
  • Make biscuits for poor sick tummies. 
  • Scrub diarrhea off the carpet. 
  • Play soft music. Do laundry.
  • Make lunch. 
  • Laundry. Work on supper prep. 
  • Make snacks for Awana (even though we most definitely weren't going!)
  • Go to get Theo up from his nap - find him rolling in vomit. 
  • Baths. 
  • Laundry.
  • Theo pukes again: clean vomit off the rug.
  • Try to work on supper. Call Cory to come home in desperation. 
  • Just as Cory walks in the door - Theo vomits on the floor.
  • Clean vomit off floor and baby. 
  • Alternate making supper and cleaning vomit as Theo proceeds to puke numerous times. 
  • Laundry.
  • Put Theo back to bed, sit down for supper. 
  • Eli pukes all over the table. 
  • Baths. Clean vomit off floor/table/chairs. 
  • Cry because Cory has to leave for youth group. 
  • Get kids into bed. Don't brush their teeth because I am a terrible mother. 
  • Laundry.
  • Collapse. 
SOMEDAY... I will blog again. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Asian [Inspired] Noodle Soup

I insert the "inspired" into the recipe title to acknowledge that there is probably nothing whatsoever authentic about this soup recipe - I completely made it up out of Asian-type ingredients in my cupboard.

However, it was one of those meals that turns out so well you just have to write it down so you can remember what you did and repeat it!

We've all got colds in the Vail house, even Theo finally succumbed. I was hoping he would avoid it but nope, the symptoms showed up yesterday almost a full week after Eli started. When we're sick I try to watch our diet even more carefully. We don't want to be feeding those bugs! Lots of bone broth, garlic, mushrooms, spices and veggies. This soup is all that and more, plus it was delicious!

Normally Eli won't touch mushrooms. He's not really a picky eater, but if he notices mushrooms in something he says "Yuck!" and picks them all out. Tonight though, in the different context of the soup - plus I had diced them smaller than usual - he didn't recognize them. He fished one out of his bowl and held it up to me. "Wass diss Mom?"

I stuttered for a second for an answer - "It's... uh... fungus. It's yummy! Try some."

It worked! He popped it in his mouth, said "Mmmm, fuggus!" and ate all of them. This probably won't work forever but for tonight I was thrilled that my ever-so-slight deception was so effective.

Asian [Inspired] Noodle Soup

5-6 green onions, sliced thinly
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob fresh ginger, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
2 carrots, grated
1/2 pkg. noodles [I used whole wheat spaghettini, rice noodles would be divine!]
2 eggs, beaten
5 oz. baby spinach
2 cups bean sprouts
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Asian chili sauce [I used Sriracha]
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prep all the veggies. Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the green onion, garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for another minute. Add the stock and bring the soup to a boil. While it's coming to a boil, season with the fish sauce, soy sauce, chili sauce, vinegar, honey and pepper. When it's boiling rapidly, add the grated carrots and the noodles. Make sure it's back up to a good rapid boil and then drizzle the beaten eggs over the soup. The eggs cook when they hit the boiling stock so drizzle them around so you don't end up with one big lump of egg! Add the baby spinach and the bean sprouts. Stir until the spinach is wilted. Taste for seasoning - if it needs more salt add more soy sauce, or if you like things spicy more Sriracha - and then serve it up! You'll need a spoon and a fork for this soup, to get the long noodles out.

Not only was this DELICIOUS, it also came together incredibly fast. My mouth is watering thinking of the leftovers in the fridge. I'm not sure they'll still be there come morning...


Friday, February 24, 2012

Bedtime Blessings

It was a "pulling my hair out" kind of day today.

What can I say. Eli's two. I don't really believe in the "terrible twos," and he's not obnoxious or anything, he's just a very active little boy. He runs. He jumps. He shoots things. He's impetuous, and acts without thinking - like any two year old.

Ready for church

We got off to a rough start when I discovered that he'd finished off the bottle of children's vitamins while he was supposed to be putting silverware in the drawer. Thankfully there were only a few left in the bottle so nothing to worry about, but still exasperating.

Then a couple hours later he had an accident and wet his undies. He very rarely has accidents anymore, but they do still happen when he forgets to take the time to go. It wouldn't have been such a big deal except that he just so happened to be standing over his little brother at the time.

A happier moment

I came running to find Theo's hair soaked in urine. It was dripping down his face. One eye was bloodshot, and it was in his mouth. He wasn't upset about it, just a bit confused - I was fuming.

The day continued as it often does, with multiple "time outs" and other disciplining. We headed off to Awana after supper and the small break from my sweet little boy gave me a little perspective. The past few weeks he's been praised for his good behaviour in his class and this week was the same. I brought him home and got him ready for bed thankful that he's as relatively well behaved as he is.

As I tucked him in we prayed together. We thanked God for the day and for Awana, and prayed that Eli would be better able to listen to Mommy and Daddy so he wouldn't have so many time outs. When I finished, he spoke up. "Eli pway, Mommy?"

Of course I told him to go right ahead!

"Deah Gott. Fank you [another little boy at Awana]. Pwease him lisen, no have time outs. Jesus, Amen."

One of his friends at Awana had apparently had to have a time out this evening and Eli was concerned for him.

Cue my heart melting.

It was a rough day, but bedtime blessings make it all worthwhile. Remind me I said that when I'm pulling my hair out again tomorrow!

Two sweetest boys in the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Bring My Husband Breakfast in Bed

And I'm not going to apologize for it! 

As I was mentally crafting this post in my head I found myself coming up with excuses and explanations as to why I bring my husband his breakfast in bed five days a week so that he wouldn't come across as controlling or egotistical and I wouldn't come across as weak or a pushover.

It looks like this, every morning! [not]

But then I realized that feminism was infecting my mind again.

There's no need to apologize or make excuses for serving our husbands. If my husband brought me breakfast in bed five days a week everyone would think he was the most wonderful man ever born.

But when a woman does it, people assume that her husband forces her too. They would say things like "Make him get his own breakfast!" or "You're not his servant, stand up to him!"

Well no, I'm not his servant. But I am his helper, and breakfast in bed is something that works for our family.

I'm the morning person around here. My alarm goes off at six, and after the initial staggering across the room to turn it off and shaking the fuzz out of my brain, I get excited. From six to seven the dark quiet house is all mine. I snuggle into my housecoat, put on a pot of coffee, curl up in the cozy recliner and it's just me and God for a little while. Then I check my e-mails and/or Facebook, and Eli gets up around seven. He gets to watch Sesame Street when he first gets up, so while he's occupied with Elmo and Big Bird I can unload the dishwasher and make our breakfast smoothies.

Then I can go into our room, turn on the lamp, wake my husband with a kiss and a snuggle and we sit in bed and drink our smoothies together, chatting about the day. Theo usually wakes up around this time and then Eli's show ends and he joins us too. The four of us snuggled in bed together is one of my favourite times of the day. It usually disintegrates into a wrestling match because Eli is incapable of sitting still for very long, but that's fun too!

This works for our family. Cory's not a morning person and struggles to get out of bed in the morning. Bringing him his smoothie in bed has ironed out the huge wrinkle in our lives that was wake-up time. Instead of sitting around the table seething because I told him 20 minutes ago that it was breakfast time!! we have peace and enjoyment.

Obviously this wouldn't work for everybody. But for us, for this season - I bring my husband breakfast in bed. And it's great.

Recipe time!

Cory and I have slightly different tastes, and I'm trying to keep my smoothie dairy free, so here's what we each have every morning. Eli and Theo have Cory's recipe too.

Cory's Banana-Berry Smoothie

1 cup raw cows or goats milk
1/3 cup plain homemade yogurt
2 big handfuls organic baby spinach
1/2 organic banana
1 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup organic frozen raspberries
1/2 cup organic frozen blueberries

Emily's Nut-Berry Smoothies

1 cup organic almond milk
2 big handfuls organic baby spinach
1 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup organic frozen raspberries
1/2 cup organic frozen blueberries

You might notice some flaked almonds and half an avacado in the pictures above. I add the almonds if I don't have pumpkin seeds because I love the crunch. I'll throw in half an avacado into my smoothie if I have one, but not all the time. Cory hates avacado, but I hate banana!

What about you? How does breakfast work in your family? Do YOU have a favourite smoothie recipe? Please share!


Linking up to: Growing Home, Far Above Rubies, Raising Homemakers, Homemakers Challenge, Raising Mighty Arrows, Time-Warp Wife, An Original Belle

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Skirt-Wearing Secrets

I'm really getting into this skirt-wearing thing.

Now don't worry, I'm not going to go all "churn my own butter" on you.

Except wait... I do churn my own butter sometimes.


I call skirt-wearing my "Little House on the Prairie Syndrome." When I wear a skirt, I work harder at my housework. I know it's all in my head, but it still happens. There's something so domestic about it. So ladylike. So comfy.

At least it is now that I've discovered my favourite trick for winter skirt wearing! More about that later...

skirt - Smart Set

Just wanted to show you my "outfit of the day." We're going to the museum later today (free for the month of February!), but this is also something I would just wear around the house. Minus the shoes - I'm usually barefoot whenever possible.

I feel like the glasses and the nose ring keep me from descending into frumpy mommy-fashion. The nose piercing was a slightly rebellious eighteen-year-old decision. I say slightly rebellious because while I may not have had my parent's approval, I did have their permission. Lucky for me Cory LOVES it, so it stays for the time being.

Oxfords - Ardene ($3)
I love these cheapo shoes.

But I promised I would share my favourite winter skirt-wearing tip. Men-folks: I'm about to talk about ladies undergarments. Go away.

My problem with skirts in the winter has never been the skirts themselves, but the tights underneath. I'm not exactly a tall woman (5' 6"), and I'm definitely not a large woman, so why - for goodness sake - won't tights stay up on me? They slip! They slide! I'm constantly hitching (which is far from ladylike). Honestly this is probably the main reason I only tolerate a skirt or dress for a few short hours on Sunday morning and then pull my jeans back on as soon as I get home from church. I can't stand the constant feeling of losing my tights!

But I've found a solution! A pair of those high-waisted, "slimming" underwear pulled on over the tights. I just bought a cheap pair and don't really find that they're very slimming, but they sure hold my tights up! I love them. I feel like a whole new world of wardrobe choices has opened up to me now that I don't have to worry about hiking up my tights constantly.

So that's what I've been wearing lately. I feel comfy, feminine, and still a little funky. I am only 22, after all.

Check out my Style pinboard for more outfits that I love and/or am inspired by.

What's your style? Do you have any favourite tips for making your clothes comfier? Do you have a style board on Pinterest for me to check out? Leave a comment!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Finding Balance

I recently read a blog post over at Crunchy Betty about finding your moderation.

Her post, and others that I've read recently in the blog world, got me thinking. 

Where is my limit?

What is my balance?

Where should I draw a line and where should I be flexible?

Obviously these are questions that must be asked of every area of your life, but I'm talking about nutrition here. The stuff we put into our mouths. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, every day. 

Sometimes it can become overwhelming. The more I learn, the more I sometimes want to throw my hands up in despair and buy store-bought bread and fruit-roll-ups. I'll be honest, I miss granola bars in convenient packages. I miss canned soup, I miss packaged cereal, and I miss our weekly date with a frozen pizza. 

A lot of my heath decisions have been based on money just as much as nutrition - DIY-ing is a heck of a lot cheaper sometimes. But sometimes it's not. 

Let's take the humble tomato.


It's so simple and easy to crack open a can of diced tomatoes and dump it into your meal, and it's certainly cheap. But canned tomatoes, because of their acidity, are one of the WORST foods for containing BPA. So this fall I canned my own. It was a lot of work, kind of expensive, and I ran out after just a few short months. So I went back to the store-bought cans. Lately I've been experimenting with just buying fresh tomatoes and blanching, peeling, chopping, and adding those to recipes that call for a can of tomatoes. It's about twice as expensive as a can and is way more work, but at least I know I'm not filling my sweet little boys with BPA. 

But here's one of my main issues (I have many): What about when we go out? What about at friend's houses, at church, when we're in town and need lunch... what about those times? What am I going to compromise on and what do we avoid at all costs?

I've been pretty laid back about it up until this point. Since we have almost no "compromise foods" actually in the house, I've relaxed and let that be licence to eat whatever we went when we're not at home. But you're looking at at least two or three times a week in that case.

White flour. White sugar. Processed meats, fake cheese, soy products, unhealthy fats like margarine and vegetable oil. Hydrogenated... trans fats... artificial sweeteners... *shudder*.

But at the same time I don't want to be "That Mom." The one who brings her own snacks for her children, turns her nose up at what's offered her and won't let her kids sample the birthday cake.

At some point, you have to let kids be kids.

BUT at the same time, it's also our job as parents to protect our children from dangerous things. As hard as Theo tries, I don't let him suck on the power bar. Physical dangers have more immediate and visible consequences, but the dangers of a poor diet are far reaching.

I've been very lenient thus far, but even I have my limits. There are certain things that drive me CRAZY and I'm willing to make a stand about.

Beverages are a constant source of irritation for me. All I can think of when I see a tall glass of pop or "juice" is the incredible amount of sugar (and other chemicals) contained therein. Even juice made from 100% fruit contains a LOT of sugar, and is stripped of the fibre that fruit would naturally contain. I almost always say no to pop, kool-aid, sports drinks, and juice - even the "real" juice.

There's really only one thing that's an ABSOLUTE NO on my list of "naughty" foods.

Artificial Sweeteners. Mostly in the form of diet foods. Anything labeled "sugar-free" or "no added sugar" needs to be checked out. Powdered drink mixes, jello, diet yogurts, gum, candy, etc.

I don't want them crossing my children's lips. Diet sodas are an absolute no-way-never kind of thing. I would FAR rather they drink a regular soda than a diet.

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship recently posted a great article talking about different artificial sweeteners. You should definitely check it out if you have more questions, she has great links to her sources all through.

There are a few other things that, although they aren't on the "totally banned" list, I reeeeally don't want my family consuming and want to get better at avoiding.

  • Margarine. If there's no butter, eat your bread/vegetables plain. It's not worth it. 
  • Hotdogs and other highly processed meats. There are usually burgers or chicken at a summer BBQ - we'll go for those instead. 
  • Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip and equivalents. I make my own mayo with healthy olive oil, and sunflower oil is another good option, but store bought mayo - even if it says olive oil on the package - is still mostly vegetable oil. 
  • Salad dressings. I'm not good at this one, I love dressing on my salad. I even think that a good dressing is important because the combination of fat and acid helps your body more readily digest all those raw veggies. But again, number one ingredient on most store bought salad dressings? Soybean oil. 
  • All fast food. This one goes without saying, but it's hard when we're in town running errands and hunger strikes. I either need to get better at planning ahead and bringing food with us, or we need to compromise on some place that does not have golden arches. Subway can be ok... (but all that bread and dressing?). I hear we have a Pita Pit opening up soon, thinking that may become our new go-to place. 

So there's my list. My thoughts. I'm not nailed down on all this yet, and I don't want to become the diet Nazi, but these are just a few things I've been thinking about lately.

Now, I want to hear from you!

How do you find balance when it comes to yours and your children's diets? Do you let them eat what they want when you go out? Are there any "ABSOLUTE NO" foods? Let me know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Family Purpose Statement

I've been reading through Tsh Oxenreider's organizational e-book One Bite at a Time - 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler. It's a great read.

And ok, I haven't really done very many of the projects yet. A few I already did, but mostly I think to myself What a great idea! That would really make life so much simpler! 

And there it stays. 

BUT, Cory and I did sit down together one night and hammer out our family purpose statement. Maybe it's a little corny, but I agree with Tsh that it's important. Sure we might have the same broad goals, but it was really good for us to sit down and ask what those broad goals will look like as they are accomplished through our family. Nobody's family is the same, so no two families will have the same purpose statement. 

We used this website to get us started, then tweaked and changed things around. Here's what we came up with.

Vail Family Purpose Statement

As a family we are at our best when each member of the family is striving to live by grace through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
We will try to prevent times when we attempt to live by our own strength – allowing selfish desires to wage war in our flesh. 
We will find more time with each other to intentionally serve God by serving others. 
We will help each family member by listening, being patient, spurring one another on towards love and good deeds, and by reminding one another of the Gospel. 
 We will help others by giving to and serving in the church, and by practicing hospitality. 
 We will stop procrastinating and start working on: sharing the Gospel with others, fulfilling our God-given roles and "reverse-engineering" our lives. 
 We will be viewed as a family that is tightly knit, compassionate, hospitable, gracious and loving. 
We will constantly renew ourselves by focusing on: worship, exercise, nutrition, learning, and fellowship. 
We will make choices and decisions based on: God’s word, the Holy Spirit’s leading, and wise council. 
We will remember that it is all about Jesus.

That's our statement. It's in a Word document on our computer, but now I need a way to display it

We want it to be visible in our home so that we can point to it regularly. When we want to eat chips and watch TV, we can point to item number eight. When we discipline our children, we can point to the second item. When we have a tough decision to make, we can remind ourselves of the tenth item. 

But I'm NOT creative. I have no idea how to put this up, except maybe to type it up in a pretty font and frame it. That may be what I end up doing, but I would love to find something even prettier. 

If your family has a purpose statement, leave me a link. I'd love to read it! And if you have a good idea for a way to display it, let me know. 

Linking up to: Raising Homemakers, Homemaker's Challenge, Raising Mighty Arrows, Our Simple Country Life

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Roast Chicken - The Lazy Way

Warning: You are about to see the not-so-gourmet side of the Gourmet Mommy. Food snobs beware.

There are so many recipes and techniques for roasting a chicken out there it's overwhelming. When you start looking at the advice given, the rules, the "don't do this" and "never do that" and "always to this" you can start to get dizzy.

At least I can.

See, we buy our chicken in bulk. Our neighbours raise chickens and slaughter them, so we buy 20 or so large, whole birds in the fall to last us the year. It's healthy, economical, and delicious! I love that I can use the leftover carcass to make homemade chicken stock.

But here's the problem - I could never remember to thaw the bird ahead of time.

Besides, all these complicated processes? I kept thinking that there must be an easier way.

Turns out, there is.

This, friends, is a whole, raw, completely frozen chicken. All I did was pull it out of the freezer, peel off the plastic bag and plunk it into my roaster. Grody, I know.

Now, we roast it

ALL you have to do is splash a little water into the bottom of the pan. You don't even have to do that except that it means more gravy (and who doesn't love more gravy!). Put the lid on tight, put it in your oven set to 350 degrees, and forget about it for five or six hours. I usually put it in at lunch time to be ready for supper.

Of course if you've got a smaller bird it won't take as long, but you get the general idea. Just cook the dang thing.

Here's the best part - the chicken comes out of the oven moist, tender, and completely falling off the bone. The skin on the top even crisps up nicely!

Six hours later, the lighting is crummy. But you get the idea.

See the bones bursting through the skin? That means it's falling-apart tender and delicious. 

A few things:
  • You see I used a rack. You don't have to. I don't really find it makes any difference, the rack just happens to be in the roaster so I don't take it out. I'm lazy when it comes to chicken, in case you hadn't noticed. 
  • You see I put the chicken breast side down. You don't have to. I'm just not a huge fan of white meat anyway, and roasting it breast side down makes it a little more moist. 
  • You see that it's ugly. It doesn't matter, it tastes good, it was no work, and that's what's really important in life. 
After the chicken is done I take it out and set it on a platter, pull it apart and we dig in. I make gravy with the drippings in the bottom, adding lots of salt and pepper and using a mixture of three parts brown rice flour and one part arrowroot to thicken it (gluten free, and healthier than white flour). 

Enjoy your roast chicken dinner! We usually have ours with mashed potatoes OR cauliflower, carrots, peas, coleslaw, and homemade Lady Ashburnham pickles (Eli's favourite). 

The next day you can pick off the leftover meat and make a soup or a casserole, then use the bones to make homemade chicken stock

Congratulations. You just did virtually no work, and you have a roast chicken dinner to show for it. That's my kind of gourmet!

Linking up to The Purposed Heart, Like a Bubbling Brook and these other blog hops:

Growing HomeA-Wise-Woman-Builds-Her-HomePhotobucket

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blog Design on a Dime WINNER

*Drumroll please*

And the winner of the Blog Design on a Dime e-book IS...

Entry #43, Naomi.

Thanks to all who entered to win. If you didn't win, you can grab your own copy of the book by clicking on the link below. Happy blog designing!


Friday, January 20, 2012

My Favourite Pizza

I think pizza is underrated. It seems that everyone demonizes pizza - blaming it on their inability to loose weight or their poor health. To be sure, pizza from your favourite fast food place or the food court in the mall is terrible stuff. It's loaded with processed ingredients, chemicals, and unhealthy fats. But pizza that you make yourself at home can actually be a great option for several reasons.

  • It's frugal. You don't have to use a lot of meat (which can be pricey). 
  • It's healthy. Make your own crust, top with loads of veggies, and drizzle with healthy olive oil. 
  • It's easy. It comes together fast, cooks quickly and can use whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. 
  • It's popular. I don't know about your family, but when I announce that it's pizza night at our house everybody celebrates! 

My family's favourite is a simple tomato and asparagus pizza that I invented out of the leftovers in our fridge one night. It's become an often-requested favourite!

Read the rest over at Growing Home.

Growing Home

Linking up to Plan to Eat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pesky Little Brother

When Theo was first born, it seemed like it would be forever before my boys would be able to start playing together. My helpless infant went, for the most part, completely ignored by my toddler. Only the occasional bout of the hiccups would spark some interest - "Mum, a Fee hiccuppin?" - or loud crying if we were confined to the car would produce "NO Fee! Dop ky-ing! [stop crying]"

But for the most part, Eli went on his merry way in life oblivious to the new addition.

Slowly but surely, that's changing.

Exhibit A:

This sort of thing happens regularly now. Eli loves to make his little brother laugh. I missed it because I didn't get the camera out in time - but Theo was giggling hysterically. Other favourite laugh-inducers are growling, dancing, and belly-kissing.

Of course, Theo is not just a passive spectator. He too attempts to engage his brother, and already I can see the "annoying little brother" syndrome starting.

My apologies for the continuous lack of pants. It's a daily battle - I usually lose. 

Eli asked me to strap his sword to his side, and then was so proud of himself he wanted a picture taken. Theo didn't want to be left out of the excitement.

A short battle ensued. Rather than intervene, I snapped pictures. They are too cute!

Eli's exasperated look here just kills me.

For the most part, these boys get along famously. But of course there will be some conflict. They're human, and they're brothers.

My hope is that they grow up to be close friends. It might take a long time, but I'm going to do my best to teach them to love and forgive each other.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins - 1 Peter 4:8

For those of you that have children, what is your best strategy for helping them get along? I'm going to need all the advice I can get!

PS: Don't forget about the Blog Design on a Dime GIVEAWAY happening now!

Linking up:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blog Design on a Dime E-book GIVEAWAY

I'm so excited to be hosting my first real giveaway here at Gourmet Mommy, especially when I'm so excited about the prize - a copy of Blog Design on a Dime, a new e-book by Jacinda Vandenberg.

Jacinda blogs over at Growing Home, and I've greatly enjoyed reading her posts for months. I was drawn to her from the beginning when I noticed our similarities - we're Canadian girls, the same age, married within a month of each other and each with two children, again born within a couple months of each other. We're both second-generation homeschoolers who love blogging, delicious food and learning about homemaking. 

But here's where the similarities end because Jacinda is a much more prolific blogger than I, and she's fabulously talented at blog design. She does all her own design work and her blog is lovely. Here's the kicker - in her own words:

  • I am not a blog designer
  • I don’t own or know how to use any photo editing software (Photoshop? Adobe? What’s that?!)
  • I don’t have a clue about HTML coding, CSS, or any other funny term
  • I have never spent a dime on my own blog design

Jacinda taught herself how to design, and to help the rest of us not so talented folk out, she wrote this e-book. It's a simple instruction manual for how to use the free online program Picnik to design lovely and creative headers, buttons, and social media icons, and how to install them on your blog.

I snapped up a copy as soon as she published and read the whole thing. I knew I was going to be giving a copy away, so I figured I should probably give some of the projects a shot. With Jacinda's help, I was able to design the social media buttons you now see to the right of the screen. I think they look pretty good, if I do say so myself, and they even work! Her installation instructions were clear and easy to follow, though I did have to wait until my kids were napping so I could concentrate!

I also designed the profile picture and Welcome design for my new Facebook Page. Head on over and check them out - I'm so pleased with how they turned out!

In fact, I was having so much fun with my new-found skill, I went ahead and designed a blog header to surprise a friend of mine. Holly blogs over at Ruby Red Shoes. The best part of that design, though, is not my layout but the painting on the right, because she did it! And she only started painting a year ago. (I know this is off topic but I feel the need to brag about my more talented friends.)

Now to the fun part, a copy of Blog Design on a Dime for one lucky Gourmet Mommy reader! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Giveaway ends Friday. Of course if you simply cannot wait to start reading, feel free to grab your own copy by clicking on the link in the sidebar or at the bottom of this post.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lesson Learned

Some lessons are only learned the hard way. See that innocent looking pajama-clad two year old sitting on the couch there? For some reason, when I tell him things, he doesn't believe me.

For some reason, he has to experience it on his own.

Last week I was mopping our dining room floor. Eli was in the kitchen, and to walk to the living room you can either go through the dining room, or through the hallway. I warned him repeatedly to stay out of the dining room, since it was slippery. I used that word repeatedly. "Eli, do not step on the floor. Go around. It's slippery."

I could see the gleam in his eye. The stubborn, "I'm going to do it my way" look on his face.

Several times he tried to step out onto the floor only to be confronted with his equally stubborn mommy insisting that he not walk. So he waited until I was mopping on the other side of the room and had my back turned.

He saw his chance and took it.

He bolted across the room as fast as he could. Of course, his bare little feet quickly lost their footing on the slick damp floor and he slid and fell, giving his head a good whack.

I ran to him and scooped him up, half concerned for his well being and half laughing at his obstinacy. He wasn't hurt at all and didn't cry. I held him in my arms and he rubbed his little head, looking shocked.

"I told you not to step on the floor or you would fall Eli!"

Understanding spread across his face. I could see the revelation happening. "Mommy... SLIPPY!" 

That's one way to learn a new word. 

Don't forget about the Blog Design on a Dime e-book giveaway, coming Monday!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Something New

I'm so excited to be announcing the launch of my newest endeavour - the Gourmet Mommy Facebook fan page!

See my fancy-schmancy splash page? I made that. All my myself! Nevermind that it took me half the day, I'm still super proud of myself. And I could not have done it without help.

Which brings me to my next announcement! To celebrate the launch of the Facebook page, Gourmet Mommy is having our first ever giveaway! I'm going to be giving away one free copy of my new favourite e-book, Blog Design on a Dime.

BUT... you have to wait until Monday. Check back then for your chance(s) to win! If you just can't wait, you can click on the banner below to get your own copy for just $4.99.

See you on Monday!

Blog Design on a Dime

Affiliate link

Monday, January 9, 2012

So Blessed

Yesterday we had 15 people over for lunch, not including us. This isn't an unusual occurrence, there's a group of us at church that take turns having everyone else over for lunch. This week was our turn to host again.

We had a wonderful afternoon of food and fellowship, but by the time everybody left I had a roaring headache. I looked around at the piles of dirty dishes and the chaos, and then told my husband that I had to lie down. He graciously told me to go ahead, he would watch the boys.

I woke up half an hour later with the headache slightly diminished. I stumbled out into the living room to find that my beloved had changed and fed the baby, cleaned up the dishes, loaded and run the dishwasher, and was currently wearing Theo in the Ergo while wiping down the table and counters.

I have the best husband in the world.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Coleslaw Fairy

This was what my Mom got me for Christmas.

Isn't she beautiful? To be honest, when I first got married I had no idea what to do with a food processor. I really didn't have much use for one. Mom had a little mini one that we used every once in a blue moon, but it just wasn't a kitchen gadget I grew up using. Fast forward a few years and a lot of learning about cooking later, and I found myself drooling over food processors. Perfect pesto evaded me. Hummus was always too runny in the blender. Coleslaw was a pain to chop. 

So I was very excited to get this lovely machine this Christmas. I brought it home and unpacked it, figured out all the moving parts (and there are a LOT), and decided to make some coleslaw. I'm embarrassed when I look back at my coleslaw recipe in my original recipe binder I first started putting together when I got married. It calls for a package of pre-shredded coleslaw mix, and a quarter cup of white sugar, among other things. No way this health nut is going to be using those ingredients now!

Did I mention my wonderful husband bought me a set of Cuisinart knives for Christmas too? See that big beautiful shiny chef's knife there? I'm in culinary heaven. 

Anyway, all you need for coleslaw is cabbage and a carrot. I didn't use a whole cabbage, I was trying to be temperate. I used close to half of it. I used the grater attachment to grate the carrot and then the thin slicer to do the cabbage. It was so fast and easy, I may have gotten a little carried away. More about that later. 

I don't have measurements for dressing the coleslaw because of course that's all going to depend on how much cabbage and carrot you prepared. Who needs measurements anyway, we all know how coleslaw is supposed to look. Just dump and stir until it looks right! For mine, I used homemade mayonnaise, lots of grainy dijon, a splash of white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper until it tasted right. If you like things a little sweeter add some honey, but I find the carrot does wonders for making it sweet enough already. 

It was delicious. 

However, there was also several pounds of it. As much as we love coleslaw (and OK, Cory doesn't even really love it that much), there was no way. So I did what I usually do when I have too much food, send it over to our neighbours. They have four kids, two of whom are teenage boys, so I'm usually pretty sure they can polish off my leftovers. And if they can't, at least it will be them throwing it out, not me, so I don't have to feel guilty. 

So I piled some into a bowl and asked my husband to take it over. He left and returned, but it wasn't until several hours later that he mentioned to me that they actually hadn't been home, so he had just left it in their fridge. I made a mental note to tell her but... I forgot. I remembered later that night and wrote her on Facebook, but apparently she didn't get the note until morning and had spent the night... well, in her own words: "I knew it!!!!!! I drove my family crazy last night (and even frightened some) with my conspiracy theories."

So Holly, I'm sorry for totally weirding you out. I'm sure I would find it strange if a bowl of food from an unknown source appeared in my fridge while I was gone too. Next time the coleslaw mood strikes, I will do my best to warn you in advance.

Linking up to Recipe Swap Friday and these other blog hops:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year's Resolve

My New Year's resolution started just over a week early this year. I decided to try eating gluten free for a while.

See, my Mom discovered a few years ago that she is sensitive to gluten and can't have any. And these things do tend to run in the family. I decided to give it a go and see if it can't help my eczema at all. I've had eczema to varying degrees of severity for most of my life and I'm just getting very, very tired of it all. Especially since I started having children and it spread to my hands and (worst of all) the tips of my fingers. When the pads of your fingers are cracked and bleeding and your nail is starting to lift off the nail bed, you are ready to try anything.

So, as we packed the car and settled in for the five hour drive to my parent's house for Christmas, I mentioned to Cory that I thought I would try eating gluten free while we were there, since I knew my Mom would be cooking most things GF already.

It wasn't that bad. Since it was the holidays my Mom kept the house stocked with delicious GF treats - blueberry cobbler, pumpkin pudding, rhubarb custard cake - and lots of ice cream to top it with! The hardest part was actually being surrounded by all the Christmas chocolate and not being able to partake.

But I got through. Mom had cooked a wonderful Christmas goose, which was fantastic. Gravy was thickened with brown rice flour, the stuffing was made with gluten-free bread, and there were lots of desserts I could eat.

Now that we're home, it's not very difficult when I'm cooking. When I planned my menu for the week I barely even thought about choosing gluten free foods. Since so much is naturally GF already, a few very small substitutions will suffice. Use brown rice pasta instead of wheat, thicken sauces with brown rice flour or arrowroot instead of wheat flour, and check the labels on any bottled sauces to make sure they haven't snuck any wheat into them (soy sauce and worchestershire you have to watch for).

HOWEVER, today was my first real challenge. I made our breakfast at home, "breakfast bowls" (just sausage, onion, diced tomato, basil, and beaten eggs all tossed into a bowl, topped with cheese and baked - YUM), and then like every Sunday we went to lunch at a friend's house. She had made a beautiful chicken pot pie. Of course pie is very much out of the question, so for lunch I ate some green beans and a very large helping of salad. It was delicious, and no doubt very healthy, but it was difficult smelling that pie. Dessert came out - platters of cookies and squares and an elegant trifle. I thought about nabbing a rice crispy square to munch on since I was feeling a bit left out, but I reminded myself that I really don't even like rice crispy squares and I refrained.

We left lunch and went to another friend's house for supper (this isn't a usual occurrence, just so happened to be a busy day!). She had made a lovely roast beef dinner with potatoes and peas and carrots. I was happy to be able to eat everything, though I gazed rather longingly at the gravy that I couldn't have.

Dessert was the most difficult moment of the day. A large, homemade, chocolate swirl cheesecake. Cheesecake is my favourite. It was even gluten free! Oh the humanity! I had to steel myself internally and remind myself of why I gave up chocolate in the first place. I remembered how awful the migraine headaches are, and how I'm completely unable to function when one has hit me hard. I tasted a tiny corner of Eli's piece that didn't have any chocolate swirled into it, and let that be enough.

And now? I'm home and devouring corn chips and homemade black bean dip with a relish. I sort of felt like I had earned it after having to hold back all day. And I didn't even mention the New Year's Eve party at the church! Thank God for corn chips.

It's been nine whole days since I ate any gluten. My eczema has not improved, exactly, but it stopped getting worse. Part of me wants this to work so that I don't have to deal with cracked fingers anymore. Another part of me wants it to not work so I can go back to eating yummy gluten!

I will keep you updated...