Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Fudge Day!

Its not really Fudge Day, but its kind of an inside joke with  Little A and I.

Last June her JK teacher sent an email to parents that was supposed to be titled "Happy Father's Day" but autocorrect changed it to "Happy Fudge Day".  For some reason, we both find this hilarious.  Every time we say it, we giggle like crazy.  Recently I googled it and found that there actually IS a fudge day - June 16th - which is around Father's Day.  Both of us found that even more hysterical.

I love that we have the same silly sense of humour.  Laughing is so important.  Its good for the body, mind and soul.  Its one of the ultimate stress relievers.

One way Adam and I have been getting a good laugh lately is watching Brooklyn 99, a very funny and silly sitcom.  There have been a few scenes that have had me in absolute hysterics. 

We have a busy weekend coming up. I work tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow evening we have dinner plans with our friends, Holly and Graham, and their kids, and these dinners always involve a lot of laughter.

Have a healthy, happy, funny weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is Modern Parenting Killing Marriage?

Its Thursday!  Know what that means?  Its almost Friday!

No recipe today, just a little food for thought.

If you have children, than you likely already know that they can be a real buzzkill to romance and intimacy in your marriage.

I know the pain and anguish of experiencing miscarriage and infertility, and I see others in my counselling practice grappling with it every day.  The irony is, raising children is one of the most difficult things to do.  Believe me, it comes with its own set of challenges, even for the strongest of couples.  Fortunately, our innate drive to reproduce causes most of us to disregard this reality...otherwise human beings would have died off centuries ago!

A recent article in Psychology Today, raises the question of whether modern parenting styles are creating even greater marital discord than existed in the past.  A study by researchers John and Judy Gottman found that two-thirds of parents in their study were very unhappy after the birth of their first child.  Many studies have found that marital satisfaction drops precipitously after the birth of the first child and only improves significantly after the last child leaves for school.

The article suggests that our increased focus on our children is having a negative impact on marital relationships. One study found that 9-in-10 new parents report serious sexual problems soon after having children.  The Gottmans' research has found that the couples who are most likely to transition well to parenthood, are those that are least child-centered!  They claim that most of us expect more from our marriage and relationship but we actually devote less time and attention to it.

Now, as a parent of young children, I know the idea that we are devoting too much time to our children sounds shocking.  After all, we have been told it is impossible to spoil a baby, and socialized to go to whatever lengths necessary to get our children a leg up.  That's what being a good parent is, right?

Author of the article, John Gartner, however, argues that children nowadays are overly coddled and it would do them some good to not have us hovering around all the time, giving them an audience for everything they do.  He also points out that if you devote some of that time to nurturing your relationship with your spouse, which leads to a stronger marriage, than this is beneficial for your children as well.

What do you think? Should parents spend more time on the marital relationship and less time obsessing over their offspring?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maple 'Bacon' Granola (Vegan + Gluten-Free)

Oh yes, I did.  I dreamed up this tasty little granola treat that is beyond belief. I knew it would be magnificent so I munched up the rest of my Gingerbread Granola so I could cook up a new batch.  All I have to say is OMG!!

This was my first time making coconut bacon and it was as easy as it is delicious. 

And is there any flavour more fall-like than maple?  Perfect for the gorgeous autumn weather we're very favorite (18 Celsius and sunny).

The girls, unfortunately, are not fans.  I don't blame them though, as a kid I hated anything that tasted remotely 'smokey'.  But the good news is, I get all this granola to myself...unless the husband dares to share.

Maple 'Bacon' Granola

1.5 cups coconut bacon (homemade like this or purchased)

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (the darker the better!)
2 tbls coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt

6 cups unsweetened, puffed brown rice or millet cereal
4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1 cup uncooked millet

Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup raisins, chopped dates or figs, dried apricots, etc.

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dry ingredients into bowl and mix well until completely coated.  Spread onto 2 large baking sheets.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, switching position of pans and stirring half way through.  Let cool and then toss with coconut bacon and 1/2 cup of desired dried fruit.

Keep in air tight container for up to 3 months.

This recipe was brought to Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Quebec, Je T'aime

So I guess Quebec City is a pretty cool place after all.  He he!

The weekend could have started out better.  I was still feeling yucky and my flight was delayed 45 minutes after we boarded.  But I was the only one on the whole flight with an empty seat beside me :)  I wonder if it was because it was seat 13 and some people avoid sitting in a seat of that number?

After getting to my hotel, I discovered my room wasn't ready yet, which really got me steamed as I really wanted to drop my stuff and get to the conference.  Fortunately, there was a very nice staff person there who hurried things along and got me checked in.

The room was large, clean and lovely!  Check out this cool goldfish sink that was in the bathroom:

I headed over to the conference and joined the seminar in session.  Fabulous as always!  I love the CFAS conference.  Its so nice to connect with others working in the field of infertility.

I presented my poster presentation at the reception and hobnobbed with the industry folks.  It was from a bartender at this event that I experienced the only snootiness, which I had dreaded, due to being an Anglophone.  I ordered a Quebec beer and apparently it must be pronounced as if you are a cat horking up a hairball.  He grumpily corrected me both times I ordered (I just drank 2, I swear!).

That night all the infertility counsellors went out to dinner together.  There are such nice folks from around the country that do what I do.  Such a pleasure!  Unfortunately, I thought the food at the place we went was meh.  But it was very reasonably priced- and I had requested they choose a budget-friendly place- and the restaurant was very close to my hotel.

I was exhausted so I left a bit early and went back to the hotel.  I was asleep by 10:30pm and had the most amazing sleep.  I usually hate hotel beds, but this one was great, as was the pillow, the room was dark and quiet, and I had the a/c blasting to keep me comfortable.  I woke up utterly shocked at 9:30am on Saturday morning.  Pretty insane for someone usually up by 5am!  I felt a bit better but took the morning to walk around and explore, then headed back to the conference for the rest of the day.

In Quebec City, the small independent book store industry appears alive and well.  There are lots of them housed in cosy, little historic buildings.  Lots of tourist trap places too, however, selling the usual cheesy souvenirs.

Afterwards, I went back to my hotel and called Adam and the girls, and then headed out in the rain to a Greek restaurant, Le Mezze that got rave reviews online.  It deserves it!  Amazing service, fantastic food and great prices.  Cosy little spot too.  Since I was a party of one, even though it was totally booked (make reservations!),  I was able to sit at the bar.  Its too dark to really see, but here is my gorgeous plate of grilled calamari and ratatouille.  I also had a plate of grilled beets and beet greens on the side that is not in the picture.

Sunday morning I checked out the city's 7-day-a-week farmer's market and picked up some apples I've never seen before (Lobo), and maple syrup lollipops for the girls.  Then I explored another area of the city and took some scenic shots, before heading back to get my stuff from the hotel and grab a cab back to the airport.

Its kind of hard not to fall in love with such a beautiful, historical city.  Its so old, compared to Toronto.  It blew my mind that there are people who live in homes and apartments in structures that are like 200 years old!  In Toronto, the oldest homes most people live in are 90 years old or so.  And the cobblestone streets are so cool...but not good for high heels!

I also didn't realize just how English the city is.  I wanted to practice my French, but the minute the locals figure out you're English, they switch to English.  As my mom pointed out, its probably too painful for them to listen to us struggle through our French.  But I guess its a necessity for most of them to be fully bilingual given what a popular tourist destination it is.  There were tourists everywhere!

So there you have it, I eat my words, Quebec City is a pretty great place!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lunchbox-Friendly Chocolate Chip Toffee Oatmeal Squares (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

Good morning!

How was your weekend?

I am eating my beret right now because I had an amazing time in Quebec!  Guess I shouldn't have been so grumpy.  I'll recap the whole thing for you tomorrow.

For now, I'll share a tasty little recipe.  I was trying to come up with a new treat for the girls' lunch boxes and was stuck on the idea of something oaty and chocolatey, but hadn't much gotten beyond that.  Then this recipe was published on Oh She Glows, and it was like Angela had read my mind.  Only problem was her recipe uses almond flour and nuts are not allowed at school.  So I tinkered a bit and came up with a nut-free version that is safe for school and got all thumbs up from the fact, they LOVE these!!!  I am sure you will too.

I replaced the almond flour with gluten-free buckwheat flour, which also binds better compared with most gluten-free flours.  I doubled the original recipe, but also lightened it up by using a bit less coconut oil and adding a mashed banana.

Admittedly, these were such a big hit, they disappeared before they could make it into any lunch boxes...guess I have to whip up another batch sometime soon!

Lunchbox-Friendly Chocolate Chip Toffee Oatmeal Squares (Adapted from this one)

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp boiling water)
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1.5 cups coconut sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats, ground into a flour (Or use 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon oat flour)
1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

Whisk together flax eggs, oil, sugar, banana and vanilla (hot flax eggs will help melt coconut oil).  Stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed.  Divide between 2 square parchment-lined 8x8 pans and press down, smoothing top to even out surface.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.  Makes 32 squares.  Keep in air-tight container in fridge for up to 1 week or freeze.

This recipe was entered into Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green Blog Hop.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oh Mon Dieu!

Hey there. I'm a bit grumpy today.

Today is my 40th birthday.  Happy birthday to me!!

That's not why I'm grumpy.

I'm grumpy because all week I've been fighting some stomach bug that has left me nauseous and with a very upset tummy.  Oh, and tomorrow I leave for the CFAS conference which is being held in Quebec City.  I don't want to go to Quebec City.  I've been there before when I was 11 years old.  I don't care if its historic and picturesque. I don't like French food. I don't feel like being humiliated by how poor my French skills are after not using them for so long (at one time I was basically bilingual). 

If I have to go to La Belle Provence, I would rather go to Montreal. 

On the bright side, I usually have a good time at this conference.  I'm presenting a poster again based on the research we presented last year, which at that time was incomplete.  I'm also staying at a very nice hotel, and as any parent knows, a few nights alone in a hotel can be a very good thing.

So wish me luck...on finding some good NOT French restaurants...and on not sulking too much on my 40th BIRTHDAY WEEKEND...and I'll be back on Monday.

40th birthday gag gifts caution sign

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Black and White Cheesecake

My dad-a big cheesecake lover- nearly wept when I told him about making this cheesecake with the girls and then giving most of it to the neighbours.  Adam just didn't want the temptation in the house and the girls realized it wasn't their thing.  I am not usually a big cheesecake fan, but I have to admit this turned out pretty awesome.  Probably a good idea we gave it away...

Black and White Cheesecake

2 cups cookie crumbs, regular or gluten-free (I used whole grain oat biscuits)
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup agave syrup

2 lbs light cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract

350g unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened plain, vanilla or chocolate almond milk

Combine crumbs, oil and agave in food processor.  Press into parchment lined 9 inch springform pan.

Combine cream cheese with eggs, stevia (or other sweetener) and vanilla in blender or processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into crust.  Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes, until centre is set and top starts to turn golden. 

Melt chocolate with agave and milk in saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until smooth.  Pour over cheesecake.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Keep refrigerated up to 5 days or freeze.