Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Granola Bars?

Mmmmm ... granola bars. I love them, my kids love them and we go through them quickly.  I had always thought about making them, but the recipes I saw either seemed way to chunky and almondy (don't love almonds) or not enough surprises (I like chocolate and marshmallow bits what can I say?).

My friend Katie - mother of FOUR! by the way - slipped me this recipe (click link or see below) for home made granola bars while visiting last winter.

My homemade creations entering le oven

Mmmmm ... golden, toasted heaven!

These granola bars are so good. Just by tasting them you can tell they are much more healthy than the store-boughts, not to mention there is a sense of pride when you pull out home made bars for your kids ... and even better on a play date ;)


P.S. "Katie" also mentioned that she triples the recipe when she makes it and freezes what she doesn't need.

(Canadian Family Winter 2012)


2½ cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup chopped raw almonds, pecans or pistachios
½ cup chopped dried cranberries
½ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
⅓ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¾ cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
½ cup liquid honey
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

1.Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting the paper overhang on two opposite sides (so you can use it as a sling to pick up the granola bars after baking).

2.Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, honey, butter and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients. Mix using a wooden spoon until dry ingredients are coated with pumpkin mixture. Make sure there aren’t any dry oats in the bottom of the bowl! Stir, stir, stir!

3.Pour the wet granola mixture into the prepared pan and spread it evenly to the edges. Using your hand, press down firmly on the granola so that it’s tightly packed in the pan.

4.Bake on middle oven rack for about 25 minutes, until top turns a light golden brown and feels dry to touch. Remove pan from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Lift cooled slab of granola from pan by holding on to parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the granola into 16 bars, about 1½ x 4 inches each. (Tip: Press down with the knife to cut the bars and avoid a sawing motion.) Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container, either at room temperature or in the fridge.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wow! That Was Easy.

Seriously couscous, where have you been all of my life?


Now before y'all think that I have been living under a rock and have never heard of couscous before, let me clarify. I have had couscous, enjoyed couscous, see couscous in cook books and on menus at restaurants, but it was never somethign that was prepared for me growing up, nor that I have, up until tonight, cooked for myself.

I think my one couscous memory that sort of stereotyped the food for me was that of my older sister coming home from Trent University and being all proud to cook the fam a couscous/parsley/ something salad. Being that my tastebuds were not what they are today (it was 20 years ago) and given the type of salad it was I sort of pidgeon holed it.

Well, I have met my miracle food and greatest gift to time-crunched dinners. Add couscous to boiling water, wait five minutes and voila. Seriously? That's it? No waiting for thirty plus minutes like rice?

MMmmmm.... I added mint, feta, pomegranate, vinegar, OJ, pistachios and it was delicious.

Do you have any great ways to serve couscous that you enjoy? or better yet that your kids enjoy?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

From A Mother To A Child

Thought I would share this ... I read it on my friend Kate's Facebook page recently and was really touched by it. I don't know who wrote it or where it came from.

Letter from a Mother to her child: 

"My dear child, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. 

If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep. 

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a child? 

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, sweetheart, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day.

The day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If I occasionaly lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. 

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. 

When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my wonderful child. "

Happy Mother's Day!

Having had a parent who was ill and slowed down sooner than they would have liked, I can tell you that having patience and perspective with ageing parents makes a world of difference and transforms those frustrating moments into tender bonding moments.

(it was originally a letter from Mother to daughter but I changed it to be to a child as I have two boys and thought it applied equally to both genders.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Nice Mother's Day Gift

I was recently enjoying a rare and peaceful moment to myself while at an indoor play park was looking through a recent Today's Parent issue. The page I turned to included stories from readers of their best mother's day gifts.  This one caught my eye so I thought I would share because it was so different, but sounded just great:

"On Saturday I check into my Jacuzzi suite at a hotel for a night alone.  I take books and bubble bath and leave my cellphone, worries and stress behind. I get 19 hours of uninterrupted quiet me-time. On Mother's Day, I meet my hubby, kids and mom for a wonderful brunch where I get homemade cards - and someone else does the dishes! Buffy LaBonte-Sias, Whitehorse"

It's sometimes hard to ask for or find the time just for us as individuals. Or we get the time and then, much to our own fault, fill it with laundry, other chores or things that "can't wait."  Kind of a nice idea to have the tradition built into Mother's Day.

My birthday is the same week as Mother's Day so I get the royal treatment two weekends in a row! I've had my birthday waffles and homemade birthday card so this weekend can only get better and better.

What are your Mother's Day traditions?

Enjoy ladies!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Laundry Injuries

Is it possible to pull a muscle while folding laundry?

Last night while folding the third of three baskets of laundry, something went awry and I'm having some rotator cuff issues today. This is pathetic!

Another question for my readers:  

It's probably not a good sign if I feel like I somewhat got an arm workout while unloading the dishwasher right? Time to up the intensity of my fitness routine ? :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shower Curtain Love

As a follow up to last week's post pleading for help in picking picture frames for my master bedroom, I would like to report that I think I found (bought) a solution on the weekend when I visited West Elm in Toronto for the first time. I really liked this store! 

Thank you to the many people that wrote me emails suggesting various options - they were all helpful and the end result will encompass many parts of your suggestions.

I am not going to reveal the picture frames hung and in place just yet (mainly because they are sitting in a heap on my bedroom floor and only white sheets of paper are hung in their place on the wall right now).
BUT, I wanted to report one other home purchase that I was really happy with.  

Before I went to West Elm, I hit up their website prior to arriving, and had my mind set on this shower curtain of all things:

Stripe Shower Curtain

I have two bathrooms that require a shower curtain in my home and only one stylish curtain - the others are very dated, boring or juvenile. I loved this when I saw it and thought it would be perfect for my main/kids' bathroom. Goodbye juvenile, hello clean, modern and still fun.

This is how it looks:

(I was sure to crop the photo from the bottom
so you couldn't see the kids stools x2 plus potty
chair ... sort of changes the look if you know
what I mean).
I am really happy with the result. It is exactly what I was looking for.

I know I usually don't post much design stuff on this blog, but just for fun, shown below some before pictures of the same bathroom prior to the major reno my husband and I did a few years back. The shape is overall the same, but if you look close there are some really "special" parts that are now gone (hint: shower curtain, door with gold knob, carved out toilet paper holder and the linoleum flooring.

Bathroom at time of purchase

During Reno

This is where I was slightly freaking out and
hoping that one day I would have a bathroom again.

Post Reno 

Post Reno2

Post Reno3
Have a great weekend!  Maybe hit up West Elm if you are looking for a fun hour to yourself!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Picture Frames for the Master: Help Needed

So instead of committing to some colourful or crazy, super designerish decor for the master bedroom, my husband and I cleaned things up, went with white and neutrals and embraced the clean and simple look.  Overall, I'm happy with it.

However, the empty spaces on the walls throughout the bedroom, I am not so happy with.

These spaces are empty because, well, we're not sure what to fill them with.  I think we have decided on picture frames with our own black and white photographs (cheaper and more sweet and personal for a bedroom than art).

The spaces I am looking to fill are directly above the headboard (pictures #1 and 2 below) and to the left of the window (picture #3 below).  Now the question is:  how big are the picture frames, how numerous and what do they look like (colour, width, style).  So here are a few pics of the "empty spaces" in my bedroom .... would love to hear what you think I should do.

(Yes, my bedside table is the messy one!)

(The light fixture is next on the list)

Apologies on the pictures, it's really tough to get far enough back to get the whole room in (and I was too lazy to clean up the entire room so didn't want to show the whole thing :))

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Whitney Houston and her music provided the soundtrack to so many amazing memories for me.

In the eighties, my Mom and I cruised around in our brown Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon blaring Whitney's cassette tapes (me reading the lyrics on the insert - remember those?). We loved her and she was a part of every road trip.

As a part of a grade five class performance, we had to learn "The Greatest Love of All." Looking back I am quite confident we did not do it justice, but my obsession with Whitney was fuelled.

I remember going to see the BodyGuard with two of my good friends in grade eight and the domination of "I Will Always Love You" over the air waves.

Her duet "When You Believe" with Mariah Carey on her new album in late nineties - loved it too!

If you have never seen her sing her star spangled performance in 1991, it's worth the two+ minutes of your time... goosebumps.

I loved Whitney and her music. This week has been non-stop Whitney on the ipod. I don't think there will ever be a voice like hers - so effortless, so raw, so full of emotion with so little effort or "try."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Experiments with the Kids

My eldest son brought home a wonderful book last week from school that included all sorts of awesome experiments that can be done at home.

As you probably know first hand, usually such experiments or activities can require a lot of time, effort, ingredients and patience and they are tough for a wide range of ages. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and would recommend as a gift or library item in the future if you are looking for some fun and educational stuff to do (especially with March break coming).

Here is just a few of the things we did:

Change-A-Colour Celery

Simply add some celery to a glass of
water with some food colouring and wait for
it to change colour

Create-Your-Own Mould Ranch

Take some old, moist food and put it in a jar...

seal it up and wait for the mould to grow!

Green Goo

1 cup of corn starch and 1/2 cup of water
and a few drops of food colouring

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wearing White

As females (apologies to the random male that may be reading this i.e. Dad), we are trained from a very young age, the dangers of wearing white.  The impracticality and potential embarrassment of white is ingrained at a young age - no white ski coats, pass on the white canvas sneakers, white shorts can be see through and anything white worn on the bottom half of your body at certain times of the month is a no no.  But what about the top half of your body?

I have a white, winter vest that I love to wear when it is mild. This week, it was mild and I threw it on for some errands around town. Halfway through my adventures, I caught my reflection in a full length mirror and all of the above-mentioned lessons came flashing back to me: first off, my vest was filthy as white always is (Mom, you were right!), but if I looked closer, glaring out from my inside "hidden" chest pocket in my vest were, very clearly, three very visible "items" that us females stow away to keep private but to have on hand at certain times when you need them. I'm not going to come out and spell it out for all of you, you know what I'm talking about and there's no mistaking what they are if you see these items. Needles to say I was mortified that I had dropped my kids off at school that week and been in public multiple times with my "hidden" items on display for all to see.


I had obviously forgotten this all important lesson when filling my pockets ... now I have been reminded and the pocket will be reserved for loose change, cell phone and other neutral, non-mortifying items.

If you have white coats ladies - be warned:  white on the top can be just as dangerous as on the bottom :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can I Come In?

My best line from yesterday:

"If you can play on the iPad for 30 minutes ... 
... you can play outside for 30 minutes!"

I then promptly replaced a wet pair of mitts with dry ones, said "have fun" and closed the sliding glass door to outside.

Get those kids outside, whether they like it or not :)

After the tough-mom pep talk, my kids lasted for about 30 minutes more!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Grout=0, Me=1

Nothing beats those beautiful new tiles when they are first laid ... and let's not forget about that gorgeous grout keeping everything together and still in its original and intended colour.

Fast forward a year (or five) and a few spills later and it's hard to remember what shade the grout used to be. At least that is the case in my house. Perhaps you are all perfect, scouring cleaners and have impeccable floors and sparkling grout.

It starts out with a simple observation of how much darker a certain area of the grout is than another i.e. around the sink in the kitchen or with a realization that you can't keep kidding yourself that the white grout in your shower is not yellowing slightly (A LOT!!) and then it starts to really bug you, and then one day you decide to do something about it. This means war!

Before you run out and get some commercial-grade cleaner like I did with so many warnings, it's amazing it doesn't just eat right through the plastic bottle its packaged in, let me share with you a little secret .....

Yup, that's it. Way better results, way safer (i.e. did not have to evacuate my house and fear for exposed skin and lungs) and you can involve your wee ones.
No Treehouse for this kid, only scrubbing the kitchen floor

These pictures are not taken with the best quality camera but I think you'll get the idea. This is a picture of some of the tiles beforehand:

 And here are the same tiles after some minor scrubbing and not much time at all.

My son lost interest after about 20 minutes so I didn't quite finish so here are some more results showing my 1/2 cleaned and 1/2 still dirty grout.

I was so excited to share this because I really couldn't believe how effective these natural, non-toxic products were. If they work so well, why does the other stuff even exist?

Do yourself a favour, if you've got some filthy grout issues - go natural!! (and let me know what you think)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sure To Buy You A Few Extra "You" Minutes

I have been scheming about this activity for awhile now knowing that it would be received well by the boys and definitely occupy their energetic needs for at least five WHOLE minutes.

Simply send your kids outside when there is snow on the ground (could be a challenge this winter) and tell them if they play really well you have a surprise for them in 10 minutes.

At the 10 minute mark, give them each a water gun filled with food-coloured water and send them away from the house and patio furniture.  The will love it!

Caution: kids may come inside asking for multiple colour changes! Assure them that they must use all of their current water supply up before the colour gets switched. Dark or older snow suits would be best as I'm not sure how or if the food colouring would wash out of lighter colours.

Have fun!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Outdoor Adventures and Bathroom Breaks

This is the first year that my boys are both old enough, mitten compatible enough and able to go outside in the winter by themselves (yahoo!).

I wanted to build our routine so that most days they would have some outdoor time on their own. We started with a few tantrums, but I held my ground that they had to go out on their own and "have some fun," the alternative being completing their tantrum, fully clothed in their snow suits in our sun room. A few cracker bribes and a weak soother moment pre-Christmas were also a part of our journey.

We are doing better and what I have learned this week sort of reminds me of the classic Robert Munsch book, "I Have To Go," where a young boy gets all dressed up in multiple layers only to confess his bladder needs relief.

Yesterday, it was my fault, no visit to the facilities before going outside, but today, I was going to outsmart their bladders with a mandatory trip to the washroom before we even approached the snow pants. Feeling confident and wiser, I sent them on their way.

For the first 10 minutes we were okay, but then there was the "I have to go poo" lip reading through the window and the "... pee ... snow" from my two-year-old. (Frustrated yesterday and not wanting to get them undressed for the third time in five minutes, I assisted an outdoor snow pee - much more difficult than a summer tree pee.)

I thoroughly enjoying a few minutes inside while watching my little ones through the window in spite of our many potty breaks.  Today was a record breaker - 45 minutes on their own. I swear, they should forget The Bachelor and just film a stay-at-home Mom all day with all of their shenanigans (no, they don't already have a show like this ... I mean a REAL real "housewife").
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