Thursday, April 26, 2012

Missing in Action - Filipino Adventures: Part 1

This is my second trip to the Philippines, and once again, it's not a pleasure trip.  I wish circumstances were different.  This time, we're here because my grandmother (Lola) is in Intensive Care.

I packed up my three year old for her first international trip, and off we went.  The flight was long, but Little One fared well.  She was such a great traveler.

As soon as we got to the airport in Manila, we went straight to the hospital in Lipa City. It was so good to see my grandmother and to hold her hand, but it was heartbreaking to see her intubated and with an NG tube.

We've been in the Philippines for a week now.  Little One has adjusted well despite the jet lag, extreme heat, and stress.  She loves Filipino food and has made friends with the neighbour's grandchildren. She is bonding with her relatives and learning about our culture.

My grandmother's maids are amazing. They are so good to our family. They really love my grandmother so much. One of her 'helpers' even sleeps in the hospital waiting room every night!
I have to say that it is really weird to not have to cook, clean, do dishes, laundry, or take care of my child all the time!

I'll try to post some photos soon. In the meantime, please keep my grandmother in  your thoughts and prayers. Healing vibes and positive thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring Into Facebook $50 PayPal Cash #Giveaway

Spring Into Cash Facebook
 Spring is in the air!  Spring makes me very happy.  The warmer weather, the sunshine, blue skies, birds chirping, flowers blooming...It's a natural high. I get really excited to start my garden, wear sandals, and maybe buy something new to wear that really makes me feel like it's Springtime!

Every year, I dream of getting a new patio set or finishing our deck.  Then I think, "Oh, there's always next year." There always seems to be other things that we need more than a new patio set, deck, or BBQ! 

If this sounds familiar, why not enter a fabulous Spring Into Facebook $50 PayPal Cash #Giveaway? Who doesn't want a bit of extra $?  :) 

I am happy to welcome you to the Spring Into Facebook Cash Giveaway!

33 blogs have gotten together to give you the chance to win $50 in PayPal Cash! Anyone worldwide who is 18+ and has a PayPal account is eligible to win.

  • Please take some time to read the Terms and Conditions at the end of the Rafflecopter Widget before entering. Entering the giveaway means you accept them. We made it very easy for you, only THREE types of entries!
  • If you aren't familiar with Rafflecopter,  please let the widget fully load and then sign in with Facebook or your name and email. Click "DO IT" to find out more information on what you need to do. Once you've completed the task, add any extra information it asks for and click "ENTER" Only the facebook likes are mandatory, but the other two will give you more chances to win.  If you have any questions or issues with entering or liking the pages, please email the host Kathleen at callista83 AT cogeco DOT ca

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chocolate: From Bean to Bar

Image from via Google Images
No one knows chocolate like my friend, Ultimately Chocolate does.  I've learned so much about what "good" chocolate is because of her. We met a few years ago in passing at a Farmers' Market, where she was selling her sumptuous, decadent cupcakes.  I remember her because she told me she was new to the Island (as was I) and that she was from Ottawa. Being from Toronto/Montreal, I was excited to meet someone my age and who was from my neck of the woods (sort of).

I didn't see her again until a few years after that (we live on opposite ends of the Island). She was doing a chocolate tasting session at Loco Beanz, a local coffee house.  My husband and one of my students attended the chocolate and coffee tasting session with me. It was so fascinating to hear the history of chocolate and to see what coffees and chocolates paired with certain meals.

Thus began my friendship with the lovely Ultimately Chocolate owner.  It also helps that we have daughters who are the same age.

She taught me about the quality of cacao beans, the aroma, taste, appearance, "snap", and how to know how well chocolate has been tempered.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know Ultimately Chocolate as the creator of The TOFFLE.

When I was asked to come over and make chocolate from bean to bar, of course I said yes! She ordered a kit with Hawaiian cacao beans from Madre Chocolate. She explained that the chocolate we were going to make was going to be more of a minimally processed one. Exciting!

The kit came with Hawaiian cacao beans, cacao nibs, 70% Dark Hamakua Hawai’i Chocolate, and a recipe (vegan & soy-free).

Interesting to note: chocolate from Madre Chocolate 
is carefully made bean-to-bar in Honolulu, Hawaii from lightly processed cacao that preserve many healthy antioxidants while still providing a rich, deep flavor you can enjoy while feeling good. In most other chocolate, fermenting and roasting the cacao destroys many of the antioxidants.
 I have to tell you that we had a hard time converting all the measurements.  Math is clearly not our forte!

We had to roast the cacao beans in the oven.

 Cacao beans above and cacao nibs below. Hey, lady! Cacao nibs? Cacao bean? What? Don't know what they are? Here, you can do some homework over here. Sorry. I just didn't want this to be an excruciatingly lengthy blog post full of definitions and such. :)
 This is the lovely Madre chocolate bar that ours was supposed to taste/look/smell/feel/be like.
"Because it's minimally processed, it will have a slightly gritty, sandy texture in your mouth. It won't be like that silky overly processed stuff everyone is used to." I was warned.

To be honest, I actually really loved the texture!
 See the trusty calculator in the background? It came in handy with all the conversions!
 Another important gadget? A coffee grinder.  We ground the sugar, vanilla, cacao butter in that baby.  We tried to get it as finely ground as possible.

 You can't see it in this photo, but we're winnowing the cacao beans with a hairdryer! That's what the instructions told us to do! Wind winnowing is an ancient agricultural method of separating grain from chaff.  If we had to stand outside and winnow our cacao beans in the wind, we'd still be there today! Ha!

The hairdryer was very efficient, although we were a bit clumsy and kept blowing debris all over the kitchen.
 For the most part, the papery skin came off easily after the beans were roasted and "winnowed".
 Next step: Grinding the cacao beans in the trusty coffee grinder.
 Into the blender with some other ingredients.  Then into the double boiler. Let me tell you, I had no idea chocolate making was such an exact process! It's clearly a science and an art!
 The Madre Chocolate that ours was supposed to be a replica of.
 Tempering is the final stage of chocolate making, and probably one of the most important. I was so impressed when my friend was teaching me about tempering and how to tell if chocolate is properly tempered.  I cannot stress enough how awesome she is! She never ceases to impress!

 Et voila! The finished product!  Finest Hawaiian 70% dark chocolate.
 Pretty cool, yes?

**Thank you to Ultimately Chocolate for including me in this really fun and educational experience!

#FinishRevolution Saves The Day

I love cooking for my friends and family, but I'm not a fan of doing dishes.  I am really not a fan, especially if they're those caked on, baked on, hard-to-clean dishes!

Of course, one of my family's favourite recipes just has to be one that requires a lot of soaking and elbow grease to clean the pan/dishes/pots afterward.  You guessed it! My three year old and husband requested Chicken Parmigiana!  Love it, but hate the clean-up afterward!

 This is what Little One wanted for supper - Chicken Parmigiana, steamed veggies, a bit of mashed potatoes, a glass of milk, and a side salad with some homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. She even had an orange to finish off her meal.

 I made my own tomato sauce, and noticed that this time it wasn't as caked-on as when I used canned tomato sauce. Interesting!

Being too tired to wash everything by hand (Ha! You know I hate washing/scrubbing/scraping gunk off of dishes!), I stuck everything in the dishwasher and used  Finish® Quantum® (Automatic Dishwasher Detergent). 
Isn't it amazing?! ALL the stains and gunk came right off!  I'm not kidding you, folks! The photo is proof that I only claim what is true when it comes to the efficiency of this product.

See the results for yourself!
Mama loves clean dishes!

I have to say that in the past, I've had problems with other detergents not getting everything off my dishes. It used to frustrate me, because I'd take the dishes out of the dishwasher and see that there was caked on food or residue.  I'd end up having to re-wash everything.  That just get me upset because it totally defeats the purpose of having a dishwasher!  

Not to sound like a TV commercial or anything, but I'm really pleased with how clean my dishes are with Finish® Quantum®. They certainly work the best out of all the detergents I've used in the past.

Psssst! Make sure to check out the Finish Canada Facebook page!

“Disclosure: I am part of the Finish Blogger Program by Mom Central. I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group.  The opinions on this blog are my own.”
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a tweet from my dear friend, Tina from BitsNBitesWithTina saying that she had given me a blog award.  It's been a while since I received a blog award. Now I can add this one to my collection.

Tina is an honest, genuine, fun, intelligent, strong woman and I got to know her through Twitter, the blog, and other social media platforms.  We finally got the chance to meet up at the ShesConnected Conference in Toronto last Fall. Boy, was it one crazy fun time!  It was so much fun and hanging out with Tina and the rest of our SCCTO pals was an experience I'll never forget.  How fun was it? Just ask Tina about her Chicken Wing Dance. Second thought, don't ask her!!!

Tina's got such great energy, loves Coach purses and good wine, and is just so great to be around!

Anyway, the fact that she thought of me and passed the Versatile Blogger Award onto me really touched me.

This award comes with a few rules.  First, the recipient must pass this award onto 15 favourite blogs.  What a difficult task! There are so many blogs I love to read!

Then the recipient must post 7 things readers may not already know (I have to tell you things about me that you don't already know?!).

I am awarding the following bloggers with the Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. I try to be in bed at a decent hour every night. However, I usually don't end up falling asleep until 1 or 2 AM. I know. Very bad! I get laundry, cleaning, and work done when everyone in the house is asleep. Oh, and I tweet in between all of those things! I have been trying to get to bed before 10 PM though. I'd love to be asleep before 10!
  2. My husband and I met on a blind date.  Friends of ours thought we'd be a good match. They were right! Ha! 
  3. I'm addicted to Recipe to Riches! Can't wait for Season 2 to air! I think Dana McCauley, Tony Chapman, and Laura Calder are such a great group of judges!
  4. I had Dim Sum with Melaney Leeson-Lyall and had a latte with Melissa the weekend we attended the filming of the Recipe to Riches Season Finale.
  5. On days when my 3 year old drives me absolutely nuts, I have to remind myself that I prayed to have our baby healthy and happy (after a long 70 days in the NICU).
  6. I like the crust trimmed off of my toast and sandwiches.
  7. I'm allergic to dust, mold, smoke, animal dander, pollen...and I live on a farm! Go figure!
 That's it! :)  Looking forward to checking out the other blog recipients' posts!

Wordless Wednesday - Surprise!

Imagine the shock, horror, and surprise when I opened up this container and saw this!

Link up your Wordless Wednesday posts!  I'd love to check them out!
Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Earth Day with Kids #FisherPriceMoms

It is very important for me to teach Little One about the environment and the world she lives in.  At only 3 years of age, she already knows that life is fragile and we need to take care of our planet. 
 From the garden to our table
 Enjoying hours outside in the fresh air - as all kids should!
 Recognizing where our food comes from

Little One recently learned that plants are very sensitive and need TLC so they can grow.  I have to say that she learned the difficult way and she will never forget it!  When Little One was at her grandparents' house, Grampy told her not to touch the seedlings he was growing.  He said they were fragile and if they were pulled out, they would suffer and not be able to grow into beautiful plants.  Of course, what would any 3 year old do when told not to touch something?  She yanked the plants out of their starter pots, unearthed everything, and then sobbed, "Grampy's not going to love me anymore!!!"

She knows now why she isn't supposed to pull plants out (unless they're weeds!).  She can even explain to others why plants are important for humans.  Yes, Grampy explained how the plants produce oxygen and we in turn breathe it to live.  Not bad for a 3 year old! She even talks about pollen and knows that flowers have stamens!

We try to teach Little One about conservation of energy and water. We teach her that we need to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.  She even comes out with us to plant trees on our property, and Hubby teaches her about plants and edible wilds in our wood lot.  She also takes part in the growing and cultivating of our fruits and vegetables.  She sees them grow from seed, to seeding, and then fruit or vegetable-yielding plants.

For us on our farm, every day is Earth Day.  We try our best to do little things to tread lighter on the Earth.
  • We use reusable shopping bags
  • We use reusable water bottles (stainless steel)
  • We try to purchase items that don't have too much packaging
  • We only buy the necessities
  • We carpool to meetings, events, social gatherings
  • We hang our laundry instead of use the dryer
  • We compost all our vegetable/fruit scraps and other compost material
  • Most of Little One's clothing comes from friends who have children older than Little One. We are firm believers in hand-me-downs. In turn, Little One's clothes and shoes get passed down to all our friends with children younger than Little One.
  • We use recycled material for kids crafts (cardboard, paper, etc)
  • We use both sides of paper to conserve paper
In other exciting Fisher-Price news: 
For all the Little People fans out there, Little People is coming to Treehouse!  Weekend mornings at 9am ET! The Little People series is about big discoveries as seen through the eyes of five little pre-schoolers with personalities as distinct as real children. It’s a world of wish fulfillment and wonder, where steam trains can fly off into the night sky. For more information on the Fisher-Price Little People TV show, check out:
Also, towards the end of the month, Fisher-Price will be attending the Babytime show from April 27-29 at the International Centre in Toronto. If you are in town, why not stop by and say “hi!”. They will be giving out Fisher-Price catalogues with coupons enclosed. Also, the adult size baby bouncer will be there for you all to try out and take a picture ;) Click here for more information:

Disclosure: I am a Fisher-Price Mom and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Excited to be a Kellogger!

 In our house, we go through cereal like it's going out of fashion.  I'm not kidding!  Our family eats a lot of cereal. Hubby and Little One start their day off with a bowl of cereal, milk, and fruit every morning.  I alternate. Sometimes I have steel-cut oats with flax seed and sometimes a bowl of Raisin Bran. 

Hubby and I have had disagreements over cereal.  He LOVES cereal.  I try to keep away from carbs.  It wasn't until two years ago that I started eating cereal regularly again.  Our doctor was telling me how a serving of cereal in the morning is actually healthy for you.  I was pretty bad in my teens and early 20s and used to skip breakfast.  Now I realize the value of eating a healthy breakfast in the morning.

Facts I learned about cereal:
  • Cereal can provide good nutrition. Cereals rank as one of the best choices available as part of a nutritious breakfast.
  • Cereal is typically a low fat, nutrient dense food with many essential vitamins and minerals.
  • In addition to delivering important nutrients and essential vitamins such as iron, B vitamins, and zinc, cereal also delivers the important benefits of grains, including fibre.
Since our family is a cereal family, being part of the Kelloggers Network is very exciting for us! 
Check out some of the cool Kellogg's items we were sent today!
 We were sent a very cool Kellogg's Froot Loops t-shirt, two cereal bowls, All-Bran Orange Cranberry Bars, Rice Krispies Brown Rice Gluten Free Cereal, Cinnamon Pops, Mini-Wheats Centres (mixed berry), Rice Krispies Granola (2 flavours: Cocoa and Strawberry).
 Everyone wanted to taste test the goods!
 My favourite is the All-Bran Orange Cranberry bars.
 I was explaining to Little One that these tasted like orange and cranberry - two of her favourite things!
 Little One appoved.

Cool Kellogg's Facts:
  •  Kellogg Company was founded in 1906 as the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company by W.K. Kellogg.  His signature remains the Kellogg's logo to this day!
  • Kellogg's Vector meal replacement is available exclusively in Canada! I had no idea! Vector is my sister-in-law's favourite cereal! It's pretty much the only cereal she eats!
  • Kellogg's was one of the first to print detailed nutritional information on packaging!
  • In 1915, with the invention of Kellogg's Bran Flakes, the world's first high-fibre breakfast cereal, the company began its 100-plus year commitment to fibre.
There are so many interesting things I've been learning about Kellogg's. I'm in awe! My brothers and I grew up eating Kellogg's Rice Krispies and Frosted Flakes! As kids brought up in the 1980s, we were very aware of TV commercials.  We used to love to pour milk on our Rice Krispies and make them go "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" like on the commercials!

Corn Pops continues to be my mom's favourite cereal.  I remember growing up that Corn Pops was Mom's cereal!  Just thinking of Kellogg's cereal makes me think of my childhood!

I have to say that I'm an All-Bran fan.  Please, don't laugh!  Now that I'm in my 30s, I'm keenly aware of what I eat and want to make sure I have a lot of fibre in my diet. Fibre is a good thing, people!

What cereal was YOUR favourite as a kid? What cereals do you enjoy today?

Disclosure - As a member of the Kelloggers Network, we received a variety of Kellogg's products, plus some branded items.  This is a personal blog. All the opinions on this blog are honest and my own.
Sunday, April 08, 2012

Make Your Own Popsicles! #PresidentsChoice

 One of my favourite President's Choice Blue Menu items is their popsicles.  I feel good about giving them to Little One as a treat once in a while because I trust the ingredients and they don't contain as much sugar as many other frozen treats do.

This said, I also love making homemade popsicles for Little One. Whenever Little One isn't feeling so well, I give her a popsicle so she doesn't get dehydrated.  I remember when I was pregnant, I used to find that popsicles helped quell the nausea too.

There are so many different flavours you can make and the variations and options are limitless!  I love using fresh ingredients and making all kinds of different concoctions.  Little One loves my frozen creamy avocado treats and strawberry yogurt pops.

I've found that the popsicle molds that we had were a bit on the cheap side.  They were a bit flimsy and would crack after being in the freezer for a while.  I also thought they were a bit too small.  I won't say where I purchased them, but I will say that I just got the President's Choice popsicle molds and LOVE them!
 They even include two popsicle recipes on the side of the box!
 Little One getting ready to help Mommy make her popsicles.  I let her choose the fruit she wanted to include.  I make some apple juice for the popsicles in advance.  Yes, I made the apple juice.  I figured it was far too long since I took out my juicer and thought it would be nice to have some freshly juiced apple juice. Little One doesn't normally get to drink juice. It's water and milk most of the time.
She chose kiwi, grapes, and mandarin slices for her treat.  I cut them and she placed them into the popsicle molds after I poured the apple juice into them.

The verdict? 

Little One loves her fruit popsicles!

Another great President's Choice product!

Disclosure - This particular post is not a sponsored post.  This is just my honest opinion and I posted this blog post because I genuinely love this product.
Friday, April 06, 2012

Easter Cupcakes!

When I was a kid, we celebrated every Easter with my entire family.  We'd go to church for Easter service, we'd have a giant Easter egg hunt at my aunt's house, and then we'd have a huge Easter meal.  The holidays with my family were always joyous events.  Growing up in a close-knit family, we really enjoyed spending lots of time together.  My cousins were all like siblings to me, and my aunts, uncles and extended family were like second parents to me.  Of course, my grandparents were the patriarch and matriarch of the family and they were the glue that held us all together.

Now my cousins, brothers and I are all scattered all over Quebec and Ontario.  We live hours away from each other and I have since had to form my own traditions for my own little family.  It truly breaks my heart to know that Little One won't experience the wonderful childhood I experienced.  I know hers will be a great one and she won't know what she's missing.  It's just that family is so very important to me and having her cousins 11 hours away is just really heartbreaking.  I get homesick during the holidays.

Thank goodness she has her grandparents here! She also has a few members of Hubby's family here, but life is so busy and we seldom see them.

I want to create some new traditions for Little One to look back on and remember with fondness.  Today, Little One's babysitter and friend came over and baked "Easter Cupcakes" with her.  They're basically "rainbow cupcakes" and they are so pretty!

Dry Ingredients:
2.5 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c butter
1 c sugar (we used Dememera)
3 eggs
Food colouring (red, blue, yellow, green)

  • Line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper baking cups (so you have two dozen). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Stir dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
  • Whisk together wet ingredients in another bowl (except for the butter and sugar - beat those ingredients together in a large bowl until fluffy). Add together and add eggs, one at a time.
  • Pour dry mixture into wet mixture. Mix until evenly blended.
  • Take four bowls and evenly distribute batter into each. Add a few drops of food colouring to create the shades you desire. We did blue, pink, green and purple. Make sure to mix well.
  • With a different spoon for each different colour of batter, take a spoonful of batter and spoon it into each cupcake liner. Keep adding a colour at a time, making sure not to mix/blend the batter. It should look like layers of different colours. 
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. We found that 16 minutes was just about right.

Aren't those the coolest cupcakes ever? I'm going to have to tweak the recipe so that it doesn't call for that much sugar or fat. I'm not too keen on the amount of oil, butter, sugar, and eggs in them. Basically, use whatever white/vanilla cupcake batter you normally use (I suppose if you're not a baker, you could use boxed cupcake mix).  Then divide into different bowls for different colours of batter.

Little One was so impressed with how pretty the cupcakes were, but the funny thing is that she didn't eat them!  For some reason, she's not much of a cake person. Oh, well! More cupcakes for Dad, then!

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    About the Blog Author

    City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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