Friday, May 29, 2009

Recipes: Apple-Berry Grunt

As mentioned in my previous post, this recipe is loosely based on a Blueberry Grunt featured in Inspired (by Compliments), which I picked up in Sobeys. My version, however, has way more flavour, and is packed with nutritiousness (is that a word??). For the sake of the uninitiated, "Grunt" is a more biscuity variety of fruit cobbler, traditionally steamed, but in this case baked.

Apple-Berry Grunt

1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 pint blueberries
2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cold butter
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease a square 8" baking dish. In this dish, combine berries, first amount of sugar, and lemon juice. Pack down well. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, second amount of sugar, and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture forms crumbs. Gently mix in milk to make a sticky dough. Drop dough in 6 portions onto prepared fruit base. Bake for 25 mins at 400°, then reduce heat to 350° and bake for 10 more mins. Let cool slightly before serving with a scoop of vanilla or butterscotch ripple ice cream.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Stayin' Alive!

Just thought I'd better let everyone know - I'm not dead yet! I know it's been well over a week since I last posted, and not much has happened in the mean time. It's difficult to get in the mood to share your positive and encouraging thoughts, when your thoughts have been rather less than positive and encouraging, largely due to depressing weather, teething cranky children, and insurmountable housework! There have, however, been a few bright spots.

1. We have our whole house to ourselves, for the first time since being married! When I married Prince Charming in 2005 we first lived with my in-laws (because our first house fell through), and then rented an apartment in the upstairs of a nice older couple's century home. We bought this house in November of 2007 (when Boo - my oldest daughter - was born), and have had tenants in our basement since we moved in. Our latest tenants are now completely moved out, and it feels like we just got a new house! It's pretty exciting.

2. "Cutes" (my youngest daughter) now has five teeth, has more than doubled her birth weight, and is getting to be so cute I can hardly stand to look at her. She makes me laugh. And FINALLY she is sleeping through the night, regularly! She sleeps in the playpen, down in the play room, which is kind of like her own room now. Sounds funny, I know, but don't knock it because it works.

3. After a bit of a culinary drought there, I created an amazing and original dessert last night. I call it Apple-Berry Grunt. Loosely based on an idea from Sobeys' Inspired magazine, but mine-all-mine and a big hit with Prince Charming and Boo. I think Cutes wanted some too.

So, here's to getting back into the swing of things!
P.S. If you have some free time and want to help me with some housework, CALL ME. ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Bit Of Musical Nostalgia

Joel Wright is a talented, if somewhat retiring, songwriter from the suburbs of southern Ontario, but his music sounds like it was born in open fields near a quiet stream, in some other more peaceful time. It carries the weight of great hopes and dreams longing for expression, the whimsy of Once upon a time, and echoes of lighthearted laughter with good friends. I had the privilege of hearing a compilation of his songs lately, and it made me nostalgic. It also made me want to hear more.

Joel is now on and if you haven't heard of him or heard his music yet, go have a listen. It will soothe your soul.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A House, a Hole and a Hassle

We live in my dream house. Our small town life suits me just fine, and even the trains that creep by blowing their whistles incessantly can't change my feeling that this is the best place to live. Small town though it may be, the traffic on our street has been getting busier this year thanks to an awesome country furniture / decor / gifts / grocery / candy store that opened up next door.

Someone on town council must have had the bright idea to redo our road with new pavement and sidewalks, perhaps to make it safer. While they're at it, all our water mains and sewers are being upgraded as well. I can't complain about that, especially since they've hooked us into city water and shut off our water meters while they do construction - yay, smaller bills! But the gaping hole at the end of our driveway, now that I could do without.

For the last few days we have been unable to use our driveway, or indeed most of the street on this block. Now if we were retired and had nothing to do but garden all day, this might not be a problem. But my husband works 5 days a week, and I am a stay-at-home mom! I usually take care of the grocery shopping during the week, take the girls out for walks daily, and have company over a couple times a week. These things get kind of hard to do when you have to park half a block away and walk across lawns to get to our house, especially when carrying 2 kids, diaper bags, and groceries.

There is dirt everywhere, noise of machinery from 7 AM to 6 PM, and a constant (and dangerous) lure to my curious toddler. I can't wait until they have finished with our little stretch of road! And I am sure looking forward to them repaving the missing quarter of our driveway.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning To Let Go

The last several months have found me losing patience and developing a growing need for control - over my children, my husband, our finances, my weight... it seems like the harder I try to control things, the more out of control I feel. Which makes me wonder, if everything was much more manageable before this crazy cycle, why did I start going down this path?

Don't get me wrong, taking charge of our nutrition is a good thing. Organizing our lives really does improve how smoothly our home life runs. And getting a grip on our finances is a step towards responsibility and good stewardship. But obsessing about things I can't control is detrimental to my health and our happiness. The global economy, the weather and the clock are all out of my control, but not out of God's control. My husband and toddler are autonomous people who make their own decisions - I can only influence them, not control them.

So, this week, I'm learning to let go. Starting yesterday morning, I resolved to let my kids be kids, let the weather and the economy be what they are without my concern, and let my husband go through the day without my micromanagement. I did not get worked up about the slow traffic on the way to my morning appointment with the chiropractor. I did not obsess about food a million times a day. I did not get worked up about a bunch of housework needing to be done before my sister-in-law came over. I took lots of time to play with my kids and be outside. I drank water. I made fresh juice. I spent some time in prayer and meditation. And to my surprise, my house got cleaned, my laundry got done, my kids actually slept for 2 1/2 hours, and I felt well rested.

By letting go of my irritations and burdens for one day to focus on being content and close to my family and God, I found peace and productivity resulted. Now, I am sure that intellectually I knew this already, so why haven't I been living this way lately? Maybe one bad mood, indulged for too long, turned into a bad habit. If that's the case, here's to setting new habits! I think I'd better go watch Pollyanna (starring Hayley Mills). It's time to start being glad.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Ounce Of Prevention...Spring Cleaning

I had a revelation a few days ago, as I was scrambling to reorganize the disaster zone that was my living room. Toys littered the floor, kids' clothing piled up on chairs, blankets hung from playthings or sat in little heaps in corners. Books, papers, and other random objects were strewn across the room by my enterprising toddler. The chaos was overwhelming, and I thought, how can one small child create such bedlam in one afternoon?

It seems that this has been a daily (and worsening) occurrence for the last few weeks, and slowly more items have been finding their way into the mess. I started seriously considering calling a maid service and using my grocery money to pay for domestic help to help overcome the madness. It took me two hours to finish sorting, folding, organizing and putting away everything in its proper place. We have too much stuff!

That observation got me thinking, maybe I can outsmart the mess by getting rid of some stuff. Turns out, more than half the clutter was things that didn't belong in the living room at all. In fact some it was totally unnecessary for any reason. So now I am in full-on spring cleaning mode. There are probably hundreds of things in our house that we don't use, can't use, rarely use... some of which are garbage, and some of which are yardsale material. Even a few things that are casually giftable.

The amazing thing is, having removed everything from the living room that didn't belong there, the biggest mess my toddler has managed to muster up has been a no more than 3-5 minute tidy-up. The old saying, "A place for everything and everything in its place," sure does work. Can you guess what my next project is? I need to do the same for all the other rooms in this great big house - sort, trash, and de-clutter. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Drink Your Veggies

Lately I have been more conscious of the fact that my eldest daughter eats more bread and starchy foods than anything else. Sure, she likes fruit, mainly banana, loves dairy products (like her mom), and is starting to tolerate a bit of meat, but she really needs more vitamins and minerals. I am not a big fan of supplements, because I don't believe the body makes very good use of them, and besides they are expensive. I do give her peas, green beans and carrots regularly, but leafy greens are not something she will swallow... knowingly.

I read about green smoothies on a few different food blogs that I follow, and was intrigued. The concept is simple: purée greens with flavourful fruit and other yummy ingredients, and you get a very drinkable version of all your nutrients. And unlike juice, it has lots of fibre too! Sounds healthy, but trust me, it doesn't taste like health food.

Now my husband and I and my daughter have a smoothie every morning (actually, she often has two because she CHUGS them!) and we're all feeling healthier. Getting all your vitamins not only gives you more energy, it helps your mental balance too. Yay for veggies! You can experiment with whatever favourite ingredients you want to try, but be forewarned, mixing red, purple or blue / black fruit with greens makes for an ugly looking (though still yummy) drink. Here's my recipe that we have found to be the smoothest and tastiest (while still looking appetizing).

Recipes: Green Smoothies

You may think that drinking spinach sounds pretty gross, but you absolutely will not taste spinach - I promise! These smoothies are a cool shade of green that looks appealing to kids, and they taste like Yogen Fruz (fruit flavoured frozen yogourt) in milkshake form.

Green Smoothies

1 banana, peeled and broken into chunks
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, packed
1 seedless orange, peeled and divided into quarters
1/2 cup plain yogourt
1 scoop vanilla flavoured whey protein powder (optional)
3/4 cup water

Put all ingredients in blender (in this order to facilitate smooth blending). Blend on highest speed for 30 seconds. Drink and enjoy!

Serves 2.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

"Help Me If You Can..."

This was me just a few sweet days ago. Like, before my adventures in hairdressing. At the time I took this picture I was saying to myself, Ooh, this is shaggy... do I ever need a haircut! In retrospect, it really was nothing to complain about. A little shaggy around the ears, maybe. In my last post I shared with you my reasons for going punk, but after a couple of days the look was getting old and I thought I had better get my hubby to help me cut the top to even things out.

I'm posting the "after" shot so that, when you see me on the street or in the store, you will be able to suppress the shock and "Whoa!" factor and I won't feel so self conscious. No, actually I'm posting this so that my mother can get all her freaking out over with before I come over to visit. Don't worry, I keep telling myself, it will grow back in a few weeks.

When you're going to extreme lengths (no pun intended) to be a frugal housewife, you're bound to have your share of uncomfortable moments along the way. It's part of the learning process. And I guess this is mine. So, Mom, here's to learning from mistakes! :)