Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sarah Mavro Photography Couples Session Giveaway

This time last year I met Sarah for the first time when she did our maternity photos. I was thrilled with the results: our photos were beautiful and she had the images delivered to us really quickly - plus she is super fun to work with! Now she's become our unofficial family photographer, helping us out with Wesley's newborn photos, his 6 month photos, and our family portraits.

Now it's your chance to have your photos taken by Sarah FOR FREE with her super generous couples session giveaway!

All you have to do is head on over to Facebook and "like" the Sarah Mavro Photography page then post about the giveaway (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...). Finally, let Sarah know you've entered by leaving a comment on her blog (link here). Easy-peasy! This would make a fun Valentines Day gift or, if you're a planner and really thinking ahead, it would be a super sweet Mother's Day gift.

Good luck to you all!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chili Cook-Off

I love traditions, especially when those traditions are based around food. The last couple of years, on Super Bowl Sunday, we've made chili and watched the game together (or rather, Kevin has watched the game and I join in for the halftime show). I have two favourite recipes that we alternate between: one meaty and one vegetable-y. Each brings it's own flavour to the table (or couch) so it's hard to choose between them. I've decided to share both.

Moe's Easy Chili con Carne
This is the recipe we grew up with as kids so it takes me back to a happy place whenever we eat it now. It's crazy easy to prepare, it just needs a few hours to stew (so to speak).

1 pound lean ground beef, browned & drained (we use 1 package of Yves Veggie Ground Round)
2 cans tomato soup
1 cup water
2 chopped onions
1 chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup chopped celery
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 can white beans, rinsed
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp pepper

In a large saucepan, mix together all ingredients and simmer several hours.

 {also makes great chili dogs!}

Vegetarian Mixed Bean Chili
This recipe includes half a bottle of beer so if anyone is turned off by the "vegetarian" in the title, coerce them with the other half of the beer.

olive oil                                                                     2 tsp salt
1 onion, diced                                                           2 cans mixed beans, rinsed
3 carrots, peeled & diced                                          1 cup frozen corn kernels
3 celery stalks, diced                                                 1 - 28 fl oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 zucchini, diced                                                        1/2 bottle of beer
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & minced                         water or vegetable stock
3 cloves garlic, minced                                               1 lime
1/8 cup chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf

In a large pot saute onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, jalapeno, & garlic in olive oil until tender. Add chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, salt, & bay leaf. Saute 2-3 more minutes then add beans, corn, tomatoes, & beer. Drink the rest of the beer. Add water or stock to cover and let simmer for an hour, stirring often. Squeeze in the juice from the lime right before serving.

We typically serve the meaty chili with French bread and the vegetable chili with focaccia bread but both are good served over mashed potatoes or rice as well.

Who are you cheering for this weekend?
 {team emblems borrowed from Google images, copyright NFL}

Friday, January 25, 2013

January Blooms

I've found that one of the easiest ways of adding a little life to my home decor is with fresh cut flowers. I love the little pops of colour here and there or the elegance of a neutral bouquet centerpiece. Spring and summer are obviously more suitable seasons for finding flowers, often just a few snips in the garden will fill your home with sweet fragrance, but I find I need that liveliness more so in the colder, darker months of winter.

My favourite flowers are the round, puffy types with small petals: peonies, hydrangea, dahlia. Of course, to buy any of these in a flower store at this time of year is either impossible or expensive so instead I've substituted for more affordable blooms like carnations and chrysanthemums. They come in a variety of colours and are usually pretty cheap. I picked up two small bunches of dark pink carnations and a few stems of mums at the grocery store for $10 this week.

I find fluffier flowers are best arranged in short vases. My favourite container is a globe fishbowl but it requires about two dozen carnations or two full hydrangea stems to fill so instead I chose two Mason jars for my first arrangement.

I trimmed off about half the stem and all the leaves so that the mouth of the vases would be filled with petals only. Carnations are pretty hardy so it's ok if their petals rest against each other and the vase. The petals of the mums are more delicate so I wanted to keep them lifted away from the mouth of the vase. I also liked the look of their green leaves so I opted for a tall, narrow vase.

I decided to use the crisp white chrysanthemums to brighten up a darker corner in our living room.

I arranged the pink carnations on our dining room table and I love how the colour pops against the whites and greys.

The arrangement is small and low enough that it doesn't have to be moved for meals and the Mason jars are informal enough to suit a kitchen space. The carnations should last two weeks if you change the water every 3 or 4 days but the mums will likely peter out after about a week. Still, for $10 it's a pretty cheap investment if it lifts your spirits the way is does mine. 

What are your favourite flowers for your home? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lipstick Lovin'

I've always been a lipgloss kind of girl, usually in a clear or very barely pink tinge. I felt like lipstick was too fancy, too mature. Every time I would attempt it, it didn't look right to me - the colour was too bold or my lips looked cakey. Curious to give it another shot, I asked the make-up artists at MAC for assistance and ended up with the perfect shade of pink loveliness.

It's called "Snob" and it's a satin finish so it's creamy but not smudgy.

It's subtle enough to wear during the day but you can also glam it up a bit by adding a quick swipe of gloss over top for some added shine. The girl who was helping me described it as a "vintage-looking, not too Barbie doll pink" and told me it looked good with my eyeliner - SOLD! Haha!

I may even prefer lipstick over lipgloss now, I love how my hair doesn't stick to my mouth anymore and I'm not worried about it spilling in my bag. Oh, and did I mention that it was free? Yep. For those of you who didn't know: MAC will trade in any 6 plastic MAC cosmetic containers for a lipstick, lipgloss, or eyeshadow (at free-standing MAC stores only). So go stock up!

What is your favourite lipstick shade?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cover Up

My husband and I have lived in our current house for over two years now and have only recently started upgrading some of our "starter" furniture. I have a pretty specific aesthetic which {unfortunately} doesn't always correspond with my budget. Case in point, the ugly micro-suede sofa & loveseat in our living room.

The edges are worn and it's impossible to keep clean with a baby and a shedding dog, plus it just doesn't suit my taste. A lot of the sofas & chairs in my favourite decorating books are slip-covered, which is a cheap and easy way of giving your tired seats a little make-over. I looked around online and found some lightweight, relaxed-fit covers in a shade of white very near the colour of our sofas (important so that you cannot see another colour through the fabric) but I was still unsure. Then, one afternoon when I was leafing through a home decor magazine, I found a coupon code for the same online store that had my slipcovers sitting in the virtual shopping cart. I copied it down (because I hadn't bought the $10 magazine yet) and ended up saving over $100 on my order! Just like that my loveseat went from cheesy:


to shabby chic & romantic:

The best part is that I can just throw them in the washer & dryer when they get a little dirty. The other best part is they hide my tacky off-white micro-suede. With a throw blanket and a whimsical pillow it looks a lot more like the slouchy, pretty sofas I covet from pricier shops.

I also keep our upholstered dining chairs covered to keep them tidy during everyday use. I'm still longing for something a little classier but in the realistic future these slip covers are keeping me {and my wallet} pretty happy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fruit & Veggie Baby Muffins

Now that Wesley is finger-feeding I've been looking for some creative ways to get him to eat his vegetables. I decided to bake him some mini muffins to help make them a little more appealing - and they were a hit! They're a great high-protein, vitamin-rich snack for adults too so I thought I would share the recipe.

2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup frozen blueberries (alternative: 1 cup chopped, peeled apple)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, & baking soda.
2. In a separate bowl combine eggs, yogurt, & vanilla. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture until just moistened.
3. Fold in zucchini, carrots, & berries (or apples).
4. Spoon in to lightly greased muffin tins.
5. Bake at 375F for:
                              9-11 minutes for mini muffins
                              20-22 minutes for regular muffins
6. Remove from oven and let cool in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Yields 24 mini muffins or 18 regular muffins.

I keep a bag of these in our freezer and pull out a couple muffins an hour before snack time to let them thaw then tear them in to bite-size pieces for Wesley to feed himself. The protein comes from the Greek yogurt and the carrots, zucchini, & blueberries provide a dose of Vitamins A & C.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Feeding a Vegetarian Baby

Since before he was born, the topic of Wesley's diet has been discussed thoroughly. My husband and I follow different diets: I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning that I do not eat meat but I will eat eggs & dairy, and Kevin is pretty open to anything. I've always just imagined that my child would also be a vegetarian, being that he was born to a non-meat-eating mother, but that seems naive and a little unfair. When I was growing up, my parents were very supportive of my dietary choices, even when they didn't understand or necessarily agree with them. This afforded me the opportunity to discover what was right for me. I've been a vegetarian, a vegan, a meat-eater, and a picky eater before settling on where I am now. I had to go through that process for myself. The tricky part for us was deciding how we would feed Wesley until he was capable of making those decisions on his own.

The first six months were easy - he was breastfed and thereby a vegetarian by association. The closer we got to the age when he would start on solid foods the more certain I felt I would prefer he not be introduced to meat until he was old enough to choose it for himself. It's hard to define what age that will be, whether he will verbalize that he would like to try it or just point & whine at whatever Kevin is eating, but I trust that we will know in the moment. There is also the chance that he'll never want to try meat (I'm hopeful). In the meantime, we're very mindful that he eats a well-balanced diet that fulfills all the nutritional requirements for a vegetarian baby.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about how much protein a baby needs. Generally, a person needs to eat more protein during periods of rapid growth & development (like puberty). Infants 6-12 months old need about 0.75 grams of protein per pound per day (eg a 20lb baby would need 15g/day). That amount decreases to about 0.6g/lb/day between 1-6 years. Babies get most of their protein from breastmilk &/or infant formula but as they start to wean they need to make up for it in solid foods. 
 {avocado, whole grain toast with hummus; shelled edamame; cooked quinoa (which I mix in to his pureed veggies)}
Complete proteins, which provides all amino-acids, include: eggs, dairy, soy, & quinoa.
Incomplete proteins, which need to be combined to provide all amino-acids, include: lentils, beans, chickpeas, oats, rice, and wheat.

Iron-fortified infant formula continues to provide bottle-fed babies with all the iron they need for their first year but after about 6 months breastfed babies will need to supplement with iron-rich foods. The most typical source for iron is iron-fortified infant cereals, which provides 100% of the DNV of iron for babies. In addition, dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and beet greens are also a good source of iron, as well as beans & tofu. Iron is best absorbed from raw foods and better still if accompanied by foods rich in Vitamin C. 
{infant rice cereal with orange segments; oat cereal with banana slices}

Vitamin B12
Also known as cobalamin, Vitamin B12 is the most difficult nutrient to get through a vegetarian diet. Of the top ten foods rich in Vitamin B12, numbers 9 & 10 were eggs & dairy, respectively, and the rest were meats. The best source of Vitamin B12 as a vegetarian is fortified cereals. Fortunately, most (not all) of the iron-fortified infant cereals are also high in Vitamin B12, but be sure to check the labels.  
 {broccoli & cubed cheese}

I've done a lot of reading about vegetarian diets for babies and breastfeeding mothers, I've also sought advice from our family physician and dietician. All the information I've provided is based on that research along with my own personal opinion. I believe it's important to always do what feels right for you and your family so please know that this post is only to satisfy inquiring minds and not meant to be preachy in the least. 


Sunday, January 13, 2013

What I Wore This Week

Monday morning I woke up eager to tackle two Happiness Project goals: get dressed and clean as I go. I'm working on an update for the latter but today I'll just fill you in on what I wore this week.

{shades of grey}
 {favourite leggings from American Apparel}
{Free People top, American Eagle jeggings}
{braving the cold in layers}
{a hat & glasses kind of day}
{coral denim from J.Crew}

I've been struggling with my wardrobe lately (stay tuned for that story) but I'm finding it less tempting to reach for the lounge wear in the mornings. I really like picking outfits and looking presentable, even when I end up staying in all day. I'm still a sucker for easy and comfortable, as you probably gathered from all the cotton and spandex, perhaps next week I'll kick it up a notch. Or not. Baby steps.

What are your go-to outfits?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Favourite Five: Blogs I Love

I don't read newspapers and I rarely ever read magazines but there are few things I enjoy more than snuggling-up on the sofa with a warm mug of tea and blog-browsing. If permitted I would do it for hours. I've been able to connect with so many inspiring women from all over the world by reading their blogs, which has really influenced the way I've approached my own. There are very specific blogs that focus on things like food, photography, fashion, or books while others incorporate a variety of interests while maintaining a central theme. I have added shortcuts on my computer to dozens of these blogs over the past couple of years but there are a few I check daily (sometimes twice daily) and enjoy re-reading older posts as well. Here are my (current) top five:

Oh Happy Day
This is my go-to site for party and craft inspiration. Jordan includes lots and lots of how-to's with helpful photos as well as tons of free printables for your projects. What first captured my attention when I discovered her blog was that she lives in San Francisco, a city that my husband and I fell in love with when we visited in October 2010. Then I found out that she also lived in Paris and instantly became fascinated. Never have I been more excited about crepe paper and glue guns.

Cupcakes and Cashmere
This is my all time favourite blog ever! I love everything about this LA lady. Great style, beautiful home decor, easy recipes - all documented with beautiful photography and witty writing. She also has a book (with the same title) for even more eye-candy. I follow Emily on Instagram and Pinterest for all my C&C fixes.

Dreamy Whites
This is my favourite interior decorating blog. French farmhouse chic with lots of vintage and simple decor. Maria is a mother of five who home-schools her kids but also finds the time to run an online shop and blog about her beautiful home and family. I have yet to buy anything from her but I often peruse her store for ideas for my own home. Also great IG eye candy.

Crappy Pictures
The funniest (and most realistic) parenting blog I've come across. Amber describes the everyday situations that moms experience and then illustrates them to drive the point home. So often I'll read her posts and laugh so hard that tears stream down my face because, not only is it hilarious, it's SO TRUE! One of my favourites is this post about Netflix, to which my husband & I can completely relate. She also does a whole category called "While Mama Was In The Bathroom" - priceless.

adventures in pinksugarland
The insanely talented photographer, Andrea, is based right here in Edmonton and has committed to doing a 'photo a day' blog of her stunning family. She has two of the most beautiful kids I have ever seen and she captures them in a way that makes your heart melt. This is a great place to visit if you're a parent or if you just love lovely photography. She also occasionally includes clips of what music she's listening to and products that she's really in to at the moment. Lots and lots of fun here.

So, now you know where to find me during nap times and NFL season. What blogs are you loving these days?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happiness Project: Cleaning Schedule

Happy New Year! I recognize that I'm a few days late on the proclamation but the sentiment is sincere all the same. I've taken an unexpected vacation from blogging over the holidays as we have been busy, busy, busy with preparations, celebrations, and recuperation but I am back in the saddle now and looking forward to sharing some things with you.

The beginning of January is always marked with the promise of a fresh start and in that vein there is always a lot of talk of 'New Year's Resolutions'. I'm in the same boat as the other people who swear that this year they are going to eat better, exercise more, and get organized, only to end up falling in to the same old habits and routines two or three weeks in.

2013, though, will be different.

Considering my Happiness Project goal to 'be more organized & less negligent' (mentioned here) I've been focusing on my immediate surroundings, specifically house-cleaning. I love a clean house. I'm the most energized and inspired when my home is dirt-free and tidy. The problem for me is that it never stays that way for very long and I find it difficult to get motivated to clean in the first place. I've never been very good at cleaning as I go - I'm guilty of leaving coffee mugs in the living room or piles of clean clothes in the laundry basket - instead, I procrastinate until I can binge-clean for an entire day (or two). This worked well for me when I worked part-time and had lots of days off but when I started working full-time I found housework hard to stay on-top-of. Now add to the mix a child to take care of and I'm pretty sure I won't have anytime to binge-clean when I go back to my position after maternity leave. The solution? Clean as I go.

I've come up with a cleaning schedule that I think I'll be able to follow now and when I'm working full-time out of the house. I've seen some other examples of cleaning charts on Pinterest, I've simply adapted them to suit my circumstance, resulting in this:

Cleaning Schedule

Make beds
One load of laundry
Sweep floors
Empty dishwasher

Wash dishes & load dishwasher
Wipe counters
Sweep floors
Pick-up clutter

Master Bedroom – change linens, vacuum, dust, clean bathroom (except shower)
Living Room/Foyer – dust, vacuum area rugs, clean main bathroom, clean mirrors
Bonus Room/Stairs – vacuum, dust, tidy desk
Kitchen/Laundry Room – wipe cupboards & appliances, wash floors
Wesley’s/Guest Rooms – vacuum, dust, clean bathroom (except shower)
Clean showers & Swing Day*

*Swing Day
Week 1 – wipe baseboards/walls downstairs
Week 2 – wipe baseboards/walls upstairs
Week 3 – wash slipcovers & area rugs, dust light fixtures
Week 4 – wash windows

I'm going to give this my best effort beginning tomorrow and will modify it as need be. I'm really excited about getting organized and having a perpetually clean house in 2013 - wish me luck!