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.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

31 weeks pregnant daily pics

If everything goes as planned Nuno and I plan to only have 2 kids, which means I have 2 months left in my life pregnant and dressing in maternity. In my last pregnancy my biggest regret was not taking more photos of myself. I can remember getting larger so fast was a real surprise - almost shocking watching all the changes that were happening. However, I had lots of fun getting ready for work daily while expecting Owen. And then -BANG – baby arrives and I'm living in my Lulu Lemons, slightly nostalgic for the days where I had a reason to shower first thing in the morning, style my hair and put on make-up. In anticipation for another frump phase, I’m having fun rooting through my closet attempting to put together pieces that maybe still fit and blend with my few maternity items. 

Every morning, amongst the rush, I quickly tried to snap a 31 weeks photo. But every pic I took had lousy resolution, so my solution was to try again the next day and then the next. Eventually I decided I’m not in a position to have any sort of pro maternity photo shoot, so I’ll just be happy with what I have and share them all.





Friday was a PA Day so I felt a little more liberated to wear a couple items I hesitate to be seen in the school yard dropping off my son in. I sometimes get a kick dressing like a biker chick / ex-wife of rock. When I left the house I had a denim jacket, skinny dark denim jeans (prego Canadian tuxedo!), black sunglasses and my black leather ankle booties. I paired it with my hologram Mickey Mouse Animal Kingdom black fitted T.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

one-pan pasta

Have you seen this One-Pan Pasta recipe online? I’m going to assume by now its somehow crept into one of your feeds because if I’m aware of it, you know it’s gone viral. From the June issue of Martha Stewart Living, this recipe has appeared everywhere from the Huffington Post to Yahoo Shine to a friend’s Facebook share (by that time the recipe met a next generation user’s pin on Pinterest). But the image is always the same.
All the ingredients placed in a pot, covered in water and cooked till absorbed.
I just had to try it... but it certainly came with hesitation. I had a concern about the done-ness of the pasta since it never gets drained (I’m nuts over al dente texture on pasta) so I followed this recipe to every last detail in skepticism. And it worked, this pasta recipe is kinda too good to be true!
I found we needed to be pretty generous with salt because your 2 main ingredients of pasta and tomatoes are notorious for requiring generous helpings of salt. A final topping of freshly grated parmesan and you are rockin’. This is a total new way of putting a fresh pasta dinner on the table and it kinda makes you wonder why we haven’t been making pasta like this for years. Well, it’s here to stay in our family. This is the ultimate in effortless cooking and is something you must try to believe. And believe it – it works! And also believe it’s delicious. So good that once complete my son walked into the kitchen and proclaimed, “Smells delicious in here mommy!” Moments later nothing was stopping him from gobbling up every last noodle.

Monday, October 7, 2013

baked banana-pecan oatmeal

This past weekend I decided to try something totally new for us, Steel Cut Oats. I think my initial trepidation on these was the long cook time, but then when the Everyday Food Blog shared this Banana Pecan Oatmeal breakfast (published in their final December 2013 issue) I jumped right on board. The technique used is to soak the oats overnight so they are ready to use in the morning and it worked like a charm. The next morning it was simple enough to reheat, flavour, top with brown sugar & bananas, torch and scatter with pralines. Yes, there’s nothing like firing up your kitchen blow torch before 8am on a Sunday, is there?

The finished breakfast looks like a dessert and tastes like one as well but a healthy one at that. I’m pretty sold on steel cut oats. They are definitely a step up from the standard rolled oats we are probably all familiar with in oatmeal. They have quite a bit more texture (I’d say similar to risotto). This recipe is total a winner and made enough for us to enjoy for the next several breakfasts.

Friday, October 4, 2013

dining at disney

As promised, I wanted to share a bit about our food & dining experiences at Disney. Across the board, whenever “we’re going to Disney World” came into a conversation before our trip, I’d always have the same unanimous comment, “The food is great! Wasn’t the case a few years ago though.” So I’m not sure what happened, but I can chime in and say we all loved everything we tried everywhere.

We were part of a dining plan which allowed one quick service, one snack and one sit down dining per day. They can be used and spread out however you wish during your stay. Part of our stay we used our quick service at breakfast and then snacked in the middle of the day but found if you used your quick service for lunch your portion also included dessert. Since we stayed in Animal Kingdom, the majority of the dining on site was African-inspired. We just loved everything we tried as we ate at Boma (one night for a dinner buffet) and Mara for all of our breakfast services.

Owen enjoying Mickey waffles at Mara. One neat perk of staying at Kidani Village was our refillable cups for fountain beverages. I’m always really thirsty in pregnancy so I was constantly refilling.

Inside Animal Kingdom park we tried Tusker House (another dinner buffet) and Yak & Yeti Food Cafe for quick service. Both were great. A couple stand-out snacks I’m thinking might be exclusive to Animal Kingdom were Mickey Shaped Jalapeno Pretzels with Cheese and their Flavoured Nuts. We tried the sweet pecans and they are the most delish pralines I’ve ever tried! I brought them home and are planning on using them in Everyday Food’s Baked Banana-Pecan Oatmeal this weekend.

We ate at Wolfgang Puck's in Downtown Disney which was good, but I don't think I'd make an effort to go again. We also ate at Via Napoli at the Italy pavilion in Epcot. You'll find your standard Italian dining menu and the food was pretty decent. I had a pizza made in the wood burning oven and it wasn't bad. 

But the desserts were great. Here is some of the assortment that arrived at our table including Ricotta Fritters, Tirimisu and...

Ugly But Good - that's the name of this dessert.

Owen was thrilled to pieces over his chocolate sundae.
Here is one of Disney’s most infamous desserts, the Dole Whip! So famous you can buy a souvenir T-Shirt about this particular novelty, I found mine at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom (but it is also available at the Polynesian Resort and at Disneyland in California).
I tried an Orange Dole Whip with Pineapple Juice and loved it. It was very refreshing, light and thirst quenching. Little did I know until arriving back home that it’s vegan, gluten-free and fat-free.

But all of these dining experiences mentioned above don’t come close to several very memorable spots. First is the Sci-Fi Drive-In located at Hollywood Studios.
Upon entering the dining room you are seated at a 50’s style car converted dining table overlooking a giant drive-in movie screen where you watch projected collections of 50’s science fiction movies. Considering my sister and her boyfriend (who runs) attend Trash Palace weekly and are huge retro movie fans, you can only imagine what a hit this place was. For me, it brought back memories of my years watching Off-Beat Cinema.

Here’s Owen watching my favourite 50’s cult hit Cat-Women on the Moon. Honestly, Owen was too transfixed with the movie screen to eat, I had to coax bites from him.
We all loved our dinners, as indulgent as they were. Some of us started off with milkshakes (the Coconut Cream Pie was to die for!) I ordered New York Strip Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Blue Cheese Butter and Crispy Onion Rings and a dessert of their homemade candy bar.

The other outstanding dinner experience was at Citricos. This high end restaurant is located inside the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa near the Magic Kingdom. I ordered the Madeira-Braised Short Rib entree and it was the best dinner I had on the vacation.

The dessert I ordered coincidentally is the most photographed dessert at Disney, the Warm Banana Chocolate Tart with a Belgian Chocolate Tiara. Short of eating in the castle, I felt like a princess dining here. I so highly recommended eating here if you ever have the chance.

All in all, when choosing options for dining at Disney, for us the dining plan was a huge success. However, you have the chance to completely squander the credits if you order quick service for every meal and don’t attempt to book your sit down dinners (which you need to do months ahead of time). Some of the best places to dine in Disney are booked years in advance and unless sitting around for no less than an hour waiting is part of your itinerary, it really is a good idea to book ahead.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Disney World

Last week we had our family vacation to Disney World. And boy oh boy, does Disney know how to do a family vacation! Disney does not disappoint, in fact they far exceeded our expectations on every level. It’s been close to 22 years since I was there last and a whole lot has changed in two decades. It was nice to have such a large break between visits because between my husband and son who’ve never been before, we were in awe over every little detail of our vacation. Not only that, we didn’t really do a whole lot of research before our trip. We had a travel agent book everything (including dining) and my recently retired parents did a lot of planning as well. So every little experience was exciting and new for us - a true vacation without spoilers. 

Probably one of the most awe inspiring sights were the night time shows. Fantastmic! at Hollywood Studios features sorcerer Mickey battling the Disney villains and uses projectors on water and smoke to create amazing effects.

There is also the traditional Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom which I completely adored.

Afterward was the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular over the castle featuring animated projections on the castle along with a fireworks display. Seriously, my mind was blown.

We stayed in the Animal Kingdom at Kidani Village which was a wonderful stay featuring our balcony which ran the length of the suite so every morning Owen could go out and look at animals which included giraffes and zebras.

Our suite was really great, it even had 3 bathrooms so we could get up and out the door first thing in the mornings.

The other thing we really enjoyed at this resort was the splash pad and pool.

Owen first conquered the kiddie slide and eventually made his way to the big twisty water slide. He was so super proud of himself.

We took advantage of a park hopper style pass which allowed us to bus between all Disney parks at our leisure during the week. And, yes, it takes a week to take in Disney. It was just enough time to see and do everything we wanted and go home completely exhausted and with aching feet to boot.

We used a Disney app to know when performances and parades were happening, a super useful tool when organizing your day. One parade we really enjoyed (which happens quite frequently) is the Move It Shake It Parade at the Magic Kingdom.
Owen had a great spot and Mickey & Minnie Mouse stopped right in front of him.

The characters get off the floats and dance with everyone in the crowd which was super fun. I have this thing about dancing pregnant – went to a wedding a couple weeks ago and just couldn’t bring myself to shake my bump, silly, I know. But I got up and got into the groove with Owen – and Nuno has footage of it all, which I won’t be sharing on this blog!

Here we are at all four of the major parks.

Owen is at a great age for Disney and I’m glad we didn’t try to take him any time before this. Naturally, he was totally into the vacation but luckily he was also totally agreeable about every ride we took him on (and we took him on tons). I have a certain nostalgia for the rides I rode on as a kid at the Magic Kingdom, so we enjoyed It’s a Small World, The Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Country Bears Jamboree and my absolute favourite ride of all time – The Haunted Mansion. The traditional rides are fun but the 3D experiences are unbelievably creative. Our two favourite were “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” at the Animal Kingdom and “The Muppets” at Hollywood Studios.

One of the coolest little details at Epcot which suited our family completely was the resurrected Captain Eo 3D show, featuring Michael Jackson in his heyday. Owen got so into it, he came out of the theatre dancing and striking poses.

Of course, we had lots of character meet-ups and visiting in September had its perk of manageable wait times. I don’t think we waited any longer than 15 minutes to meet a character.

There was also Downtown Disney, which is open to the public and is the ultimate Disney shopping experience. Oh, the shopping at Disney – you’d really have to see it to believe it. We didn’t buy much, but you are in trouble if you’re a huge Disney fan. We only visited for a dinner reservation but for us, the highlight of Downtown Disney was the Lego store and their amazing Lego creations. Owen’s favourite toy is building with Duplo, so this was totally up his alley.

I know in my late teens and early 20’s I felt ‘over’ the whole Disney thing. This vacation was my 5th visit and now going as a parent and seeing the joy and happiness on Owen’s face during the week was totally priceless. Just to give you an idea, here’s a thrilled Owen meeting his favourites – Chip and Dale!

This past week pretty much blows every previous family vacation we’ve taken completely out of the water. My next entry will be exclusively about eating at Disney.