Tuesday, December 31, 2013

meet Clea

She's here and she's wonderful!
This is Clea Jeanne who arrived one week overdue at 7lbs 8oz. Her name up until 2 days before her birth was Cleo. We loved the name Cleo and it first came into consideration back when we were expecting Owen after the Built To Spill song. Then over the years when BTS became an even more important band to us as a family and the song Cleo (about an unborn baby) firmed up our feelings on the name. But after waiting for her to arrive past due, Nuno and I got talking in depth about the name and found the variation, Clea and it felt right.

See how much hair this newborn has? She could have worn barrettes right after birth! Can you believe I didn't endure heartburn during pregnancy?
We came home in time for my birthday and Christmas making both those days so happy and special for all of us. Now she's been home for just over a week and things are coming along nicely. I struggled for three months to get breastfeeding to work for Owen and I. A huge challenge and commitment that I just didn't think I could bare endure a second time. But to my astonishment Clea and I are sailing right along with nursing. Not to say there hasn't been any challenges, I'm recovering from the first stages of mastitis I had over the weekend.
Owen is a wonderful big brother to his sister. He thinks she's the cutest baby he's ever seen and luckily not showing any of those regressive signs you are told to expect of an older sibling. Our only challenge is trying to keep Owen back from kissing her and tickling her feet when she's sleeping. 

Check back soon and I'll hopefully be able to share footage of Owen meeting Clea for the first time.

Monday, December 9, 2013

due in five days

We'll be at 40 weeks this coming Saturday December 14th which is our baby's official due date. Not that I expect to have this baby right on her due date but we'd be more than happy to welcome her on time. I went into labour with Owen at 5am the day after his due date and was so pleased with the timing because he was 'officially due' on Friday the 13th which seemed even just a little unnerving for someone as logical & scientific-minded as myself. The funny thing is, this coming Friday also falls on the 13th, and our baby is due exactly four years and one month after Owen. But the OB has no plans of inducing me early since the baby is doing well and I'm reasonably comfortable. He said if it comes down to it and an induction is necessary we can expect a "Christmas baby". Now, myself, I'm born December 23rd, so I know all about being born before the holidays. I'm thinking I'd like this baby to be more on time than late. But as long as she arrives healthy and happy I don't think we could ask for any greater gift.

We had our official last date night before the baby to Nuno's work Christmas party this past Saturday. Because we were dressed up, Nuno snapped a 39 weeks photo after the party. We somehow never take the time to get photos when we are looking our best, I always regret it after the fact. I'm wearing a black party dress from RW & Co. that I've been wearing ever since the first trimester to weddings and events. It's not a maternity item but loose fitting so it's crazy comfortable and with the sheer draped fabric down the front it's so super-flattering for an expectant mom.
We came home from the office party with a prize of a Keurig Platinum. Not sure if anyone reading this has one of these machines. It wasn't high on my wish list until our Cuisinart Coffee Maker broke 2 weeks ago. Since then we've been using our single cup cone filter. But even after only a couple days I've been really enjoying this machine. I like the option of having the My K-cup reusable filter so I can continue to grind my favourite beans for my morning coffee.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2 weeks to go

Well, as of yesterday we are 2 weeks from our due date. You'd think I'd have posted "we're close to the finish line" by now, but the end sure has crept up on me. Not to say we're not ready to bring this baby into the world. More like, there are still a million things to do which would be ideally done before she arrives. I'm thinking the most pressing issue is to get my bags packed. We will be delivering in a brand new hospital and after taking a tour I'm really looking forward to the big day. We're also attempting to figure out details of how Owen will continue along to school while dealing with the prospect of Nuno not being able to take much time off. And did I mention I'm working up till the day before my due date? I might have to rethink that one.
Things (as far as comfort) have changed drastically since my 35 week post of desperation. The discomfort I was dealing with subsided after only a few days. I think I needed to learn that this is a time to stay off my feet and put the heels away. I'm feeling great and this baby feels quite huge managing to kick parts of my body I didn't know existed.

Anyhow, one photo to share with you all now at 38 weeks. We're entering the not so flattering/freak show size territory of pregnancy here. But I was pretty excited to get a chance to wear this grey knit sweater dress I bought for a couple bucks at Target 5 years ago. It was always too big, but now that I'm big, it fits! I promise, I'll do one more photo and update one week before my due date if I don't go sooner.
And one last thing, this post marks my 1,000th! It feels like quite a blog landmark pressing 'publish' today. Thanks for reading and sticking with me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

making sculpted cakes

Since our first sculpted cake (for my 30th birthday party), we’ve come a long way and have learned a whole lot. All the credit needs to go to Nuno who can take anything his imagination comes up with and bring it to life. I’ve also discovered a couple cake recipes that hold up to stacking, sculpting and resist crumbling when coated. 

Now we have Owen helping us. He helped a whole lot with his birthday cake this year in particular by baking all the cakes with me (5 for the ground and 4 for Michelangelo’s head). When baking together I have Owen add all the measured ingredients calling them by name with each addition and then stirring. This time around I added an extra task for him - he got to turn the stand-up mixer on and change the speeds. Boy, was he ever thrilled!

And who could forget licking the bowl and spatula? That’s a very important job as well.

For Owen’s Ninja Turtle cake we had two different cakes. The sewer was 2 layers of vegan chocolate cake with the centre cut out. The brickwork border were broken graham crackers covered in a layer of melted modeling chocolate set over crumpled parchment paper (to give a uneven texture). The idea worked out pretty well and tasted pretty good.

Mikey’s head was 4 layers of 8” Versatile Vanilla Cake.

This was one of Nuno’s easier sculpting jobs because the general shape just needed to be cut away from the cake tower.

One thing that has made cakes a lot easier is to have some non-edible elements. This helps by saving time because sculpted elements made from foam can be made weeks in advance. Last year Owen’s Rex cake had a long tail that was made of foam and then covered with fondant.

This year Nuno made the sewer plate was sculpted from a foam disc. It was then painted and the underside (which actually touched the cake) was covered in paraffin wax to keep it safe for everyone. The really great thing about having these elements means Owen gets a keepsake from his cake to play with. This is important to Nuno because he also hand made his birthday candles but had to abandon that effort. Wiser choice for sure!

Although at times in the past things get a little hairy with these cakes, problems and issues are now down to a minimum. And the cakes are coming together quicker and with more ease. Best of all they are making for memorable birthdays for our kids.

Monday, November 18, 2013

owen's 4th teenage mutant ninja turtle birthday party

This Sunday Owen celebrated his fourth birthday party and asked the theme be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It’s really funny when your kids are interested in some of the same toys and cartoons you grew up with. Case in point being Ninja Turtles.

My husband was a huge fan as a kid so it didn’t take much arm twisting to have him get on board with this theme.

Nuno came up with an idea on how to make the cake and we all loved how it turned out! (my next blog entry will detail the cake construction). 

Owen’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all came down to celebrate with us and what a blast it was!

Nuno came up with an idea of how to turn our punch container into a lemonade dispensing Mutagen Tank.

Yes, Owen LOVES lemonade, but no surprise because he actually sucks on lemons and claims to love the flavour.

Many of the elements of this party glowed. The mutagen splatters on both table cloths were Martha Stewart’s Glow-In-The-Dark paint and the interior of the Lemonade Mutagen Tank glowed (courtesy of glow sticks adhered to the top of the tank).

I baked the platter of cookies with the recipe for soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies from Martha Stewart’s Cookies book but with mini M&M’s substituted for chocolate chips.

Being in the last month of pregnancy and holding events (as I learned with hosting Thanksgiving at the exact same time in my pregnancy with Owen) can be exhausting, so this was the year of scaling back. The main way we scaled back was to not make as many handmade decorations and ordering in food. What Ninja Turtle party would be complete without pizza?

We also ordered Dim Sum from Asian Legends. It really made such a difference. I think we’ll end up doing this from now on simply because the cake construction is a huge undertaking in itself.

This really looks like a junk food & sweets overloaded party, doesn’t it? We make exceptions for special occasions in our family. But there were a few healthy options including a veggie tray and fruit skewers on watermelon turtle shells.

We had a Michelangelo piñata smash for the kids which was wild, luckily no one got hurt. And after being showered in taffy and lollypops from the piñata we had cake!

Hopefully the sight of a mutilated Michelangelo didn’t scar any of the kids for life. Thanks to our families for sharing in Owen's special day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

35 weeks pregnant daily pics

It's time for another week of daily pics. And we're getting bigger by the week here folks. Now, something unexpected happened in the middle of the week this week, the baby dropped into my pelvis. Anyone who's been pregnant before awaits this time because it means the baby's head is getting into place for birth and you can suddenly breathe again - ah! As great as this turn of events was bringing us one step closer to meeting our girl, it also brought uncomfortable nights sleep and well, to be honest, a lot of pain. I'm feeling a lot of pressure in my lower back and pain down my legs. I can't seem to even lift one leg at a time and by the end of the day I need assistance walking. So, I'm looking forward to seeing the obstetrician next week and finding out if this should be of any concern or at the very least if there is a possible plan for relief that doesn't mean having to wait 5 weeks (or more) until after delivery.

Monday - my semi-sheer Micheal Jackson glove top!

Tuesday - navy tube dress - love these!

Wednesday - peplum shirt is cute and flattering with jeans

Thursday - grey tube dress

Smiling extra big because it's Friday!

Everything I wore this week was about comfort. I'm decidedly packing away all the heels now which is unfortunate because I was wearing heels up until the day before Owen was born. I guess you can't expect to have the same sort of pregnancy you had when you were younger.

I'm also trying something new starting this week, Raspberry Leaf Tea. I heard about it on The Social (love this show!) last week and I guess it helps strengthen your uterus to make your contractions more effective. I really like the idea behind this if it in fact works. One issue I ran into when in labour with Owen was that my contractions weren't effective enough and they needed to place me on a pitocin drip. If I can somehow help speed things up when it's time that's a great bonus, right?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween Thor-sday

How was everyone Halloween last Thursday? Spooky? Soaking? Laced with Sugar? Ours was all the above. We started Halloween with Owen finally deciding on a costume. I’m thinking we might have taken the fun out of dressing up by having a tickle trunk filled with costumes for play year round. So Owen kept changing his mind from Willie the Giant, to a Clown, to a Swamp Creature, to Super Mario and finally to Thor!

The weekend before the holiday Owen attended his first kids Halloween dance party at the Niagara Artist’s Company which he enjoyed. Then on the day his school had a costume parade and party. I was shocked at the amount of loot he came home with from school alone! Not only were the school parents generous, a co-worker of mine organized a little desk-to-desk trick or treat for him after school.

When it came time for the evening neighbourhood trick-or-treat the kid was almost out of his mind from the sugar and exhaustion of the day. Eventually as he saw the kids coming to the door he got raring to get out and get ‘em.

I couldn’t let a pregnant Halloween dress-up opportunity pass by. When several of my coworkers told me they were dressing up to the office I quickly put together this 50’s Housewife Costume. Unfortunately heels this high don’t work this far along in pregnancy. By the end of the day I was aching and had to opt to hand out candy instead of joining Owen on his trek through the neighbourhood.

At least I got to see all the adorable kids in costume and enjoy our pumpkin sitting on the porch.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

33 weeks pregnant daily pics

This past week marks 33 and I managed to get a daily pic again! Still mostly regular clothes with a few maternity items. Monday's grey jeans are not maternity, but every other day are a mix of ASOS leggings and Tuesday, Thursday & Friday are H&M mama maternity pants (definitely the most comfortable and flattering maternity pants). All tops are my regular clothes.

I find that wearing tube dresses makes that baby belly POP! On Thursday I was shopping in Zehrs and I had a lady come over and tell me how she "just loves how this generation of girls are willing to let the baby hang out! Have fun and enjoy it." Kinda weird, but I'm thinking it's a good message. It's not very long any of us who choose to have children can walk around with round tummies, it's worth it to make the most of it especially if we're feeling good. 

We had an ultrasound not too long ago and the baby is developing right on target. I'm having lots of movement which Owen enjoys feeling. He's also snuggling and speaking to the baby in the evenings cuddling on the couch. Not a day goes by where Owen doesn't take the opportunity to blow raspberries on my tummy. He's got one great little attitude about the baby, we couldn't really ask for a more agreeable kid.

Friday, October 25, 2013

trader joe's opens in WNY

A couple weeks ago Trader Joe’s opened their first WNY location. They are located on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, New York not far from the Boulevard Mall.

I’m super thrilled with this expansion because I’ve been known to set my suitcases overweight and load my car up anytime I’ve tripped to a city which has a T.J.’s location. Now it’s nice to be able to include a Trader Joe’s stop around my usual cross-border shopping.
Right now they have an expansive fall pumpkin selection which my sister Katie and I could not resist grabbing several of their seasonal items.

Among my load I picked up these pumpkin items and hope to make the pancakes tomorrow morning. I’m also looking forward to trying Joe's O’s since we just happened to finish a box of Cherrios one day before our visit.

My goodness this place is inexpensive. My grocery total was only $16 and I came out with what I thought was quite a loot.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

slowcooker garlic chicken with couscous

Anyone taken their slow cookers out yet? I know I usually first pull mine out in the winter, but this recipe for Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken with Couscous from Everyday Food December 2011 left me interested enough to take it out a bit early. I have friends who say chicken in the slow cooker is one of their family staple meals. I never understood how they did it with boneless skinless chicken breasts because mine always turn out tough and dry. I’m at the point I’d never venture that route again, but this recipe used bone-in chicken pieces so I felt maybe it was worth trying on the chance they might not be quite so dry.

And they turned out pretty good, just a little tough, but nothing that was too difficult to deal with. The meat falls right off the bone. The flavour was quite nice, similar to a pared down croq au vin. I loved how simple this dinner was to prepare and that, coupled with how economical all the ingredients are, I'd say we'd definitely try this one again.

Monday, October 21, 2013

jamie oliver's money saving meals - veggie korma

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last weekend. Since the previous Saturday I’ve been fighting this flu bug that’s making the rounds and missed out on both of our family Thanksgivings. Eating was pretty much the last thing on my mind. Dealing with a fever in pregnancy at the same time is no treat because you don’t have many options as far as relief. After a couple days I arose from the bedroom and tried to recuperate on the couch. It was no treat to be bombarded with TV commercials for all the OTC cold & flu medications you can’t take while pregnant. But while relaxing I did get a chance to watch Jamie Oliver’s new show, Jamie’s Money Saving Meals (this guy does not slow down, does he?). I really loved the concept behind this new show. Jamie shares budget and nutrition conscious family meals along with loads of helpful kitchen/cooking tips. It only took one episode before I was convinced we needed to try his Vegetarian Korma recipe. Because I couldn’t find the recipe online, I jotted cooking notes and decided to make it on Saturday night. Below is my reinterpretation of Jamie’s recipe.

Jamie's Veggie Korma Curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1 inch chunks
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 thumb-size knob of ginger, grated
1 small chili, finely chopped
Curry leaves, small handful
Korma paste, 1 heaping tbsp
1 can of chickpeas, with liquid
50 grams feta
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 c plain yogurt
Slivered almonds, handful
Coriander leaves, handful

Heat vegetable oil over medium. Sautée onion, garlic & sweet potato till soft and sweet potato is golden on all sides. Season with salt & pepper. Add ginger, chili and curry leaves and cook until incorporated. Add korma paste, chickpeas can and full can of water. Bring to a simmer, cook for half an hour or until thickened. Taste for seasoning. Once finished add juice of half a lemon. Garnish with feta, dollop yogurt, coriander leaves and slivered almonds.

Instead of water and the chickpea liquid, you can always substitute coconut milk or even plain yogurt for a little more body and flavour.

Jamie suggested serving this curry over cauliflower ‘couscous’ instead of rice. It’s one way of adding a veggie to the meal and the idea behind this really intrigued me. You’ll love how easy this is to do. Simply blitz cauliflower florets in the food processor until small crumbs (resembling couscous) form. Be careful to not go overboard or you might risk turning it into cauliflower paste. From there, season with salt & pepper and microwave your cauliflower with a couple tablespoonfuls of water until heated through. This is a surprisingly nice option as the cauliflower really does work as a nice substitute to the standard carb you’d associate serving a curry over.

Overall, this recipe is not the most full-flavoured or delicious curry I’ve ever tasted, but for something healthy and easy this was a great option.