Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 5 - Going for Clean

Yesterday we spent much of the day at my in-laws, celebrating with almost 30 people. It was lovely. Today, we're up early (it's getting to be a habit for me now!) and getting ready to go to church, then out to my parents' for more Eastering.

The Easter Bunny stopped by our house, and left some healthy treats (and some not so much) for the kids.
Thanks, EB!

Jakob had so much fun with the Linzer cookie cutters yesterday, that he requested Chick and Butterfly mini sandwiches.

Almond Butter Cut-out Sandwiches
We made marbled hard-boiled eggs, to bring as an appetizer this evening. I did the boiling, Jakob did the smashing. It was a fun team effort. I am down to the last of my "all natural" food colours from the UK, which makes me sad. But, happy to put them to good use!
Eggs soaking in diluted food colouring
Pretty egg shells!

Marbled Eggs!
Today, on Day 5, I'm going to run the dishwasher before bed, so it's clean in the morning, ready for unloading!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 4 - Going for Clean

Today was a baking heavy kind of a day! I started with the intention of freezing a few dozen cupcakes in preparation for Ellie's birthday celebration, but changed my mind an assigned two dozen to bring with us for Easter dinner at my parents'.

Day 4's - Going for Clean addition is something to do with being in the kitchen. I know a lot of people do this already, but it is new to me. Clean as you go! It seems so simple, but it makes a tremendous difference. It is what allowed me to bake a lot of cupcakes, then switch to cookies, and not feel like I was drowning in dishes. After using each ingredient, I would put it away in its proper place. I would rinse out the mixing bowls, and set them to dry on a clean towel on the counter. Made clean up a lot easier!!

 I have been playing (A LOT) with gluten-free recipes, and this strawberry one is really good. 
Strawberry Batter. Doesn't it look like ice cream??
Fresh from the oven. LOVE the paper cups!

Chocolate Batter

Attack of the Huggy Monster <3
I also baked some lovely Linzer cookies, which tasted, rather incredibly, exactly like their non-gluten-free counterparts!
Easter Cookies!

So, to recap the changes thus far:
- get up early, and have a shower
- make the bed
- do a load of laundry in the morning
- clean the kitchen as you're baking/cooking.
- lay out your clothes for the next day, before you go to bed

What do you think so far? I'm already noticing a change!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 3 - Going for Clean

Today was different in schedule for us, because we weren't home for most of the day! We had to be in town for 10am, which meant leaving the house around 9:15am. Normally, getting ready, and out of the house is a HUGE debacle, and I usually arrive late, and exhausted.

This morning, I woke up early, made the bed, had a shower (all before the kids were up), got dressed in the clothes I had laid out the night before, got the kids up and fed, then dressed and out the door. Get this, even with taking the dog for a walk around the block before we left, we arrived twenty minutes early!!! EARLY!
Trying to catch a Rainbow

Day 3's Going for Clean addition is to do a load of laundry in the morning, and make sure it's dried, folded and put away before bed. One load of laundry every day.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 2 - Going for Clean

Alright, I survived the first morning of my new routine. So far so good! One thing I wish I had done differently was lay out my clothes the night before, so that getting dressed while half-asleep wasn't such a big deal.

Making the bed was a good idea, even though I had to kick Jakob out to be able to do it. He moved himself to the couch, where he fell back asleep long enough for me to have my shower and breakfast in peace!
The desire to crawl back in disappears when there's pillow removing work involved!
Thanks to this guy, I have been getting out every morning into the fresh air, and I love it. Our plum trees are in absolute bloom, and the smell is incredible. I love his worried, little face, and big puppydog eyes. I can't believe how quickly puppies grow!
Sitting pretty
 You might have noticed, I bake a lot. It would seem our nurses have noticed, because two have commented on it. I'm always happy to share, and happy to have feedback. This morning, while Ellie had a morning nap, and Jakob coloured in an activity book, I decided to do some quick baking. Seeing as I started the day with a clean kitchen, it was easy to bake and be done before anyone noticed what I was up to.

The cupcake du jour is a Devil's Food Cupcake, gluten free. I'm waiting on DH to wake up in a bit, so I can run to the store for more eggs, to make a Marshmallow frosting. Yum!
I overfilled the cups, so that was a learning lesson. I am thrilled with how they turned out, however, and they're most definitely going on the Ellie's Tea Party menu.

Devil's (Gluten-Free) Food Cupcake
 Devil's (Gluten-Free) Food Cupcakes:
These are easy. Actually, everything I've been making lately has been easy. I think they're easy, because they're just modified cake-mix.
You need:
-Package of GF Cake Mix. My go to right now, is a locally made mix by Gluten Free Addicts. It's inexpensive ($3.99 vs $6.99 name brand), and scrumptious.
-3 tbsps cocoa powder
-1/2 cup buttermilk (I make my own with milk and a splash of lemon juice)
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-3 eggs
-a pinch of cinnamon

Mix everything in a bowl, I used a whisk and mixed by hand, channeling my grandmothers :) I made the mistake of overfilling the paper, and these rise rather substantially. Next time, I will put less than 1/4 cup of batter in each cupcake spot. Bake at 350F for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
I'll update with the Marshmallow Frosting recipe later in the day!
*Update* I tried not once, but twice to make this bleeping frosting. I rarely fail in the kitchen. THIS WAS A COMPLETE FAILURE. I have a feeling it's because I cheated and tried to use Simply Eggwhites, instead of using actual eggwhites fresh from the egg. I could not for the life of me get the stuff to form stiff peaks, and if I had taken photos of the distaster, it's possible I would have ended up on a Fail blog. The results were that bad! So... hmmm, I need a new frosting to go with these. I'm thinking White Chocolate Cream Cheese. For another day, another batch of cupcakes. My husband is asking me to please stop baking!

Back to the Going for Clean challenge... Today, on DAY 2 I'm going to add laying out the clothes I want us to wear tomorrow, before I go to bed, and I'm going to set the breakfast table when I shine my sink. I'm also conscious of taking the extra few seconds to put our clothes in the hamper instead of leaving them anywhere but there!

Three Easters

Hard to remember that she was once so very little

The beginning of our journey <3

2012 - just before her readmission to the ICU

2013 - Thriving!

Can't forget the proud Big Brother. He's pretty adorable, too!

All photos by Bella Photography in Ladner, BC!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'm a month out from Ellie's birthday, and I'm on to planning my desserts. I am trying out various gluten-free baking mixes in search of the right AP Flour blend, and the best cake mix. Can't have cake without FROSTING, so I'm also working out the perfect recipe to go on my little cakes.

My options so far are:
Plain buttercream
Italian Meringue buttercream
Marshmallow frosting

The first is easy, peasy. The other two require cooking, and boiling sugar, and fear. But, they're also likely to be incredibly delicious, and that's how I like to roll.

 I want something that's going to pipe well, and I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be the Meringue that wins out. Going to try all three, though, and let my taste buds do the talking.

I've also decided to make chocolate meringues, because they're delicious, and fill them with my favourite (new) chocolate cream cheese frosting. .5c chocolate cream cheese .5c butter, 2 c icing sugar!

Today we tried the plain buttercream on a fresh strawberry, gluten free cupcake. My apologies for the crappy cell phone photo! My guest liked the icing, as did the minions, but I think it was a little too sweet. My recipe called for .5c softened butter, 3 and a bit cups icing sugar, two teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream.

Marshmallow Frosting Attempt #1: complete failure. BIG mess.

Marshmallow Frosting Attempt #2: less of a mess, still a failure. I give up!

Day 1 - Going for Clean

The internet is chock-full of tips for organizing your life, and making cleaning less of a chore. Once upon a time, I subscribed to FLYlady, but I gave it up when they started giving me more work to do (like dealing with a kajillion emails a day). I did implement their suggestion of shining the kitchen sink before bed, so that you're greeted every morning with a sparkling sink. I love that idea, it's easy, although I don't always get to benefit from the effort, especially if DH comes home from work in the middle of the night and leaves his late-night snack dishes on the counter. I try!

I figure that this journey for me is going to start at the beginning of the day, and work through to the end of the day. I figure if I make a change at the beginning of my day, I will think about things I can change throughout the day. Who knows how it will work, but here it goes!

For Day 1, the first thing I'm going to start doing is setting my alarm clock to go off half an hour before I know the kids will be up. I'm incredibly blessed to have solid sleepers, and they don't like getting up early. I feel for those of you who have early risers! Ellie's nurses leave sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am.

My goal is to get out of bed between 6:00-6:30am (depending on the day), immediately make the bed, and hop into the shower. The goal is to start the day feeling clean, unhurried, and refreshed; without wanting to get back into bed!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Weekend!

On Friday, my mom and I took the kids to the ski hill, and Jakob had his second ski lesson. It's amazing how quickly they learn when they're young! I can't wait for next season, when my healed (hopefully) ankle lets me hit the slopes again! It will be amazing being able to ski with my boy!!

On Saturday, DH and I had an awesome date night. I wanted to try something different than just going to the movies, and he was game to do whatever I wanted. We went pottery painting! Remember those paint studios from when we were growing up? I hadn't been to one in ages, and we spent two hours chatting and painting away. DH painted a Batman mug, which is sure to impress Jakob when we pick it up on Friday. I painted this teacup and saucer set:

Can't wait to see it fired!

Today was *spectacular*. We took the whole family up to one of our local mountains, so that Jakob could go to his third ski lesson.

Seriously, the perfect day to be up on the slopes!
 DH and I took Ellie and the dog for a long, long walk in the snow.
Phoenix LOVED the snow!

It was beautiful outside, the weather was perfect, and we just had the greatest time.

Ellie loved being in the backpack, and stopping for a snack :)

I feel so much better about myself when I'm outside, and when I'm active, so I'm making a pledge to myself to get outside every single day, rain or shine, to enjoy the great outdoors!

Since I will soon have a lot more time on my hands, I am also planning on embarking on a 31 day cleaning challenge, to make cleaning a habit, instead of a chore that I dread. I've read a lot of blogs, and haven't found anything that fits our house the way I'd like, so I'll be making it up as I go. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mornings in our Home

For some reason, my friends seem to be under the impression that I do a lot. I'm crafty, and I love being in the kitchen, but I think when it all boils down, I'm just pretty good at multi-tasking.

Here's an example of a typical morning in our household (typical being a day where DH is either at work, or sleeping). This was March 20th.
Good Morning, Sleepyhead!

Make Oatmeal

Make coffee

Give the kids a quiet activity

Have coffee!

Maybe bake something yummy, like gluten-free scones!

Plan an evening activity, like messy bath

Decorate the scones with a mix of clotted cream and jam. Piping is fun!

Scold the dog for being up on the counter...
Have Jakob help with messy bath prep
 Clean the kitchen, get dressed, and on with the day!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19th

I was going through my Family Management Binder, and came across some sheets I printed off a long time ago from for Blog Planning! I've written out what I want to write about this week, and it looks like I can get myself organized a lot more easily if I can just find the time to sit down and actually write!

Today was busy. Ellie had an endocrine appointment in the city, and I was on my own with the kids. We left a little early, so that we could stop at Michael's to buy the things we needed for some crafting.

Ellie's appointment went really well. She's 8.79kg and 75.4cm, or about 19lbs and 29.75". I need to update the Flash plug-in on my computer, but she's around 0.1%ile for length, and 3rd for weight. Baby girl is finally in the right bracket weight-for-length, but they're concerned that she SHOT up from 1st to 30th percentile w-f-l in three months. So, no more whole milk, and less bananas :(

We came home and made a Rainbow Sensory Box!

Star confetti (BIG mistake), felt, ribbon, feathers, construction and tissue paper!

While Jakob was playing with glass beads and homemade playdough, and Ellie was ignoring her sensory box in favour of a nap on the kitchen floor, I started making Yarn Dryer Balls. I'd heard of these before, and recently almost fell off my chair at the price they cost to buy! OMG. They're like $10 EACH, and you need about four of them! Not cool. So, I bought some wool yarn, wound it into balls, threw the balls into pantyhose, washed, dried, POOF, my own laundry balls at a fraction of their normal retail price.


Yarn Ball in Progress


Dinner wasn't particularly exciting. I was tired at the end of the day, and we have no nurses this whole WEEK, so I found something unlabelled in the freezer. Turned out to be leftover yam casserole soup from Christmas, to which I added some Jasmine rice. The kids loved it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Times are changing

Times are changing in our household. My work contract is up at the end of this month, and while I thought it would be renewed, a government hiring freeze is in effect leading up to the Provincial election in May, so they're not renewing anyone.

I've been debating what to do. I LOVE working. I really like working outside of the home. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great for all the moms who like being SAHM, and WAHM, but it's just not for me. When I was running SusieCues, I barely had a moment to myself. I would design, shop, wash, iron, sew, package, send, every free minute I had away from Jakob. I barely slept, all I thought about was sewing. It totally took over every aspect of my life that didn't involve childrearing! When I got this job, it brought me back into the business world, and I didn't realize how much I'd missed it! I adore getting dressed in the morning, putting on my heels, doing my hair and makeup, and leaving the house to get work done. I work hard throughout the day, enjoy my adult conversations, and come home completely renewed and ready to spend quality time with my kids.

In this economy, finding another position equivalent to what I do now, that is as flexible to my complicated availability is difficult. There are times where Ellie gets sick, and I have to take time off to be with her. DH works rotating shifts, and we would rather not have to hire a nanny. The position I have now is completely my dream job. But, all good things come to an end.

So, for the next couple of months it seems I'm going to be unemployed. I'm nervous. Nervous, not about the lack of money, but that I might burn out as a SAHM. I'm trying to focus on the fact that Ellie NEEDS more socialization, and she needs more stimulation. She's been holed up in our house for the past year, while we've tried to keep her out of hospital. We rarely do play dates (although she loves them) because of my schedule. Jakob could do with more socialization, too.

I'm hoping that as soon as the hiring freeze is lifted, I will be rehired into a similar position, so really this is only a temporary situation. A couple months to plan a lot of play dates, take Ellie to playgroup, to recreate all the fun sensory games I played with Jakob when he was little, to live in the moment and work on building up my patience.

I can do this.

Ellie's physiotherapist is leaving our early intervention practice. I have mixed emotions about this. For the past several months he's done nothing to push Ellie to do anything. No new exercises, no suggestions other than letting her figure out walking on her own. She still won't stand on her own. She can, but she flat out refuses. She will happily cruise all around, practically run with her walker, and can walk holding on to one hand. The millisecond you let go of her tiny hand, she sits down. She doesn't plop down, her descent is very controlled. But, argh! I know she can do this, and I'm desperate to see her achieve this humungous milestone. Everyone said that she would be "for sure" walking by March. Well, Hello there, it's March 15th, and we are no where close.

So, perhaps we'll get a new therapist, with a new outlook, who will get Ellie to push the boundaries of what she's comfortable with. I can only hope! The practice hasn't hired a new PT yet, so I think there is a bit of waiting still left...

Ellie turns two next month. Two. I can't believe that this time last year two years ago, I was well into the throes of bedrest, praying daily to make it a few more days, a few more days.

We are coasting now with her PWS. Every day I have a reminder that it's there, with her daily growth hormone injections. Jakob is a great little helper, fetching the supplies I need, while I work with Ellie on pulling the cap off her injection pen. One day, some day, she'll be able to do the injection process all herself. That boggles my mind. We sing, we clap, we distract, and then it's over for the day, back into the fridge for tomorrow.

We all had the flu. It was rough, and Ellie lost a considerable amount of weight. I'm trying, TRYING to get her to gain it back, because I don't want a lecture at our next endocrine appointment that I'm not feeding her enough. I'm not sure, but it seems that she's becoming more and more picky about the things she wants to eat. She's almost, hmmm... selectively hungry? It's frustrating being in the stage where she can communicate some, but not enough to get her message across. We have family rules around food, specifically with regards to what is offered. If it's on the table you can have it, if it isn't, don't even ask. I don't believe in fostering pickiness around food. All Ellie seems to want are bananas, which she would gladly eat by the bunch, if allowed, and cookies. Cookie? No. Cookie? No. Cookie? No. Cookie? No. Cookie? No! Cookie? Nooo! Coooooookiiiiiiieeeeeeee?!?! No! Banana? Sigh. No, you cannot have another banana. Here, have some chicken. *Spits it out*. Have some veggies *throws them on the floor*. Rice? Pasta? Cheese? *throws plate over the edge of her highchair, which I catch before it hits the floor.
Frustrated, because the rest of us have finished eating, I clear the table. I start cleaning up, and Ellie starts again. Banana? No. Cookie? No. Banana? No. *Points at her bowl on the table*. I put it back in front of her. She eats it all up. It is so hard at times not to give in, but I will not give in. I have to stay strong!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sugar, Baby.

When I'm feeling down, I love to surround myself with my besties, and I love to bake. Yesterday,  Jakob and I baked and ate a tray of scones, complete with jam and clotted cream. (No pictures, we ate them too quickly!)

Today, I baked a trial (ish) version of the mini tiered cakes I want to do for Ellie's birthday, only instead of doing white cake, I went for chocolate, with chocolate cream cheese frosting. If you Google "mini ombre cakes" you'll find a bunch of photos that I used for my inspiration. I read a blog post this morning about linking to other people's blog photos and it freaked me out, so I'm just using my own not-so-great cellphone photos :)

They were YUM! And, gluten free. The test run made me see that less is more and I think a two tiered version works better than three, especially in terms of cake-to-frosting ratio.
I really like the rose piping!

Must make sure the batter is level before baking!

After the kids went to bed, I decided to try my hand at making shaped sugar. I stumbled across the idea in Pippa Middleton's book, Celebrate. Easy, peasy, and feels very much like playing with sand! I had molds left from when I bought the molds for Jake's birthday cake last year, and they worked perfectly.

1/2 c normal sugar, 1tsp water, 1 drop food colouring.  Mixed til the consistency of wet sand. Then pressed into the molds using a teaspoon, and pressed onto parchment paper. Can't wait to do some other shapes, and have them out for Ellie's tea party!
Half a cup doesn't seem like a lot, until you work through it a half tsp at a time!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Don't let her serious face fool you, Ellie's doing so well these days. She giggles, she squeals, she bugs the dog, and she chases her brother. I can't quite believe how far she's come <3