Friday, January 30, 2015

Easy & Fun Valentine's Day Painted Mugs

Some people pooh-pooh the commercial end of Valentine's Day, and I get that. I really do. I love to get a gift as much as the next girl, but the best gifts are true expressions of love. Not just the love between romantic partners, but the love between friends, neighbours, parents and children, extended family, found families - whomever you love really.

That's why I think it's nice to make a bit of a fuss about Valentine's Day. Even if you don't buy anything, you can certainly throw around a few extra compliments and firm hugs. Make somebody a hot cup of tea (chocolate chip scones would be even better!). It is in this spirit that I asked the family to paint some Valentine's Day-related dishes with me recently. The boy and the husband chose to do something else instead. Fair enough. The spirit of Valentine's Day doesn't seem to call for forcing people to do things. But my little girl and I had lots of fun with this simple Valentine's Day craft activity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday

Wednesday rolls around pretty quick, don't ya think? Time once again to share a look at food highlights from the week. This week I've been really craving fruit a lot. It goes along with my desire for all things spring (most of those things will clearly have to wait). Quite frequently I've been running fruit through my Yonanas machine to turn it into tasty "desserts." But I have also been making fruit salads and fruit platters for the whole family - like this after-school fruit plate, above.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Miso Soup Bowls & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #19

I bought these sweet little blue bowls last time I was at the thrift store. (If you remember last week, I was clearly in a blue mood.) We have plenty of larger bowls in the house, but when I saw these bowls, miso soup immediately popped into my head.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Easy Vegan Chickpea Patties

Weeknights are tough. You're tired from working or taking care of kids, or both. You want to serve your family a healthy meal, but you lack the time, the energy and maybe the motivation. That's where these little chickpea patties come in. If you have bread crumbs on hand (I keep some in the freezer), these tasty, nutritious chickpea burgers will take you just 5 or 10 minutes to whip together and about 15 minutes to cook.

While the patties are frying, you can toss together a green salad and boil some potatoes (to fork-mash with a little olive oil and salt) and you have an easy, tasty, healthy weeknight meal. You can simply dip the chickpea patties in ketchup (to please the kiddos) or serve them with this simple vegan gravy.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Vegan & Gluten-Free Granola Bars With Cacao Nibs

vegan gluten-free granola bars recipe

My All or Nothing Granola Bars are a favourite treat of three generations of happy snackers in my family - me, my mom and my daughter. They are so much healthier than store-bought granola bars (even those ones that are marketed as low-cal. Low-cal does not equal healthy). The great thing is, you can squeeze all sorts of healthy foods into a homemade granola bar and still make them yummy (with the help of nut butters, dried cranberries, chocolate chips and other tasty ingredients).

I decided to create a new variation of my favourite granola bars when I noted that we had several open packages of granola in the house. People in my family like to open cereal boxes, eat about two-thirds of the package and then move onto a new box. I used a packaged, organic fruit and nut granola to make these Vegan & Gluten-Free Granola Bars With Cacao Nibs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday

The fam and I have enjoyed some nourishing and tasty meals this week. Nothing complicated - just good comfort food for dreary January. On Sunday, the husband's dinner-cooking day, he made burritos with refried beans, sautéed peppers and mushrooms, diced tomatoes and guacamole. He also made homemade French fries and this easy and satisfying Mexican rice recipe.

As you can see, I was so hungry I took a few bites of my burrito before I remembered to take a photo. It was pretty delicious.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winter Blues & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #18

I donated three big bags of clothing to the kids' school fundraiser last week. I suppose that's why I felt entitled to visit the thrift store one day even in the midst of January de-cluttering. I try to be picky about what I bring home, but I felt myself drawn to all sorts of blue plates that were clustered together on a shelf.

As I wrote in this September post about plates, I like to collect small, round plates for food photography. For my weekly What I Ate Wednesday posts I tend to go with a white plate or bowl, but for my recipe posts I like to shake things up a bit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Popcorn Time & Our Top 5 Family Movies (Giveaway)

We are a family of movie lovers. There are few activities we like more than curling up on the sofa with some popcorn to watch our favourite family flicks. So I asked the family to join me in picking our top 5 family movies. It wasn't easy, because there are plenty of great family movies, but we narrowed our selections by choosing movies that all four of us enjoy (ie. they are entertaining for both boys and girls as well as Mom and Dad). So no Barbie movies (although my guilty confession is that I love those Barbie movies!) Read on for the list.

But first, a snack. When the January blues hit, you need to take advantage of life's small pleasures - like hot cocoa, warm blankets and cuddly dogs. On a recent movie night, we enjoyed treats courtesy of Popcorn, Indiana - Popcorn, Indiana popcorn is made from non-GMO corn, without added preservatives, colourings or artificial flavours.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday

I always find January difficult. It's super cold right now and it feels like winter still has a long way to go. Although I often crave comforting, warm foods in winter, I've been consuming quite a few fruit smoothies for breakfast lately. I must be needing vitamin C! Plus, I don't really feel hungry until about 10 a.m., but I prefer to "break my fast" earlier than that. Hence the easy-to-swallow smoothies. This one, above, was a combination of banana, orange juice, frozen strawberries, frozen pineapple and water. Sometimes I add a bit of pumpkin protein too. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Special Features & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #17

vintage sewing machine and thrifted frog vase
I am continuing to focus on purging excess stuff from our home this week. The kids' school is having a clothing collection as a fundraiser. The last day to drop off is Friday. So Friday it will be. (I'm deadline oriented!)

In the meantime, I took a box of my daughter's outgrown clothing to a secondhand kids' clothing store. I had never tried selling clothing before and I wanted to know if it's worthwhile. I brought a big box of what I thought were clothes in good condition. After leaving the box to be sorted in the store for half an hour, I was told that a few of the items didn't smell fresh and needed to be laundered. The majority of items were "a bit too loved" and were returned to me. For the items they did want - two dresses and three pairs of jeans - I received $9.50. (One pair of jeans still had the tags on them. My daughter wore one other pair maybe three times.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Christmas Country Home Tour

I realize I'm a bit late with a Christmas home tour, but that week lying in bed sick after Christmas kind of threw off my schedule. And I really wanted to give you a peek at my sister-in-law's lovely country home all decked out with special touches for the holidays.

In the midst of home renovations, she still takes such care to make her house pretty and inviting. It's beautiful and charming, but at the same time a home that is lived in and loved, where dogs and kids are encouraged to play freely. With four kids, two dogs, a cat and a couple of turtles, there's lots of playing to be done!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Adult Onset by Ann-Marie MacDonald (Book Review)

Ann-Marie MacDonald wrote one of my favourite novels ever - Fall On Your Knees, a grand, enthralling story that sweeps from Cape Breton Island through to Harlem in New York’s Jazz Age. It is the page-turner of all page-turners. And, yes, it was an Oprah's Book Club selection. Quite a coup for a Canadian author.

I also very much enjoyed her (quite different) second novel The Way the Crow Flies. So I was beyond excited to learn that MacDonald had a third novel out. Adult Onset is the story of Mary Rose MacKinnon, a successful, forty-something author who is taking a break from her writing career to raise her young children, while her female partner - a theatre director - continues to advance her career.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pom Pom Juice (Recipe)

Colin Erricson/ 

As promised, here is another lovely juicing recipe from The Juicing Bible, Second Edition, by Pat Crocker. I shared Pat's recipe for Green Goddess juice earlier this week. That one is fully vegetable-based, which is awesome - lots of health benefits! But, if you are like me, you have a sweet tooth and a love of delicious fruits.

I say make a vegetable juice one day and a fruit juice the next! You can't go wrong, especially if eating cleanly is one of your goals for the new year. This Pom Pom juice benefits from yummy pomegranate seeds, cherries (one of my faves!), plum and apple. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday

You know when you're sick and you can't eat much? That was me last week. In the midst of a flu (or whatever that wicked, wicked virus was), I (shamefully) recall looking down at my belly and thinking, "my stomach looks pretty flat." When I finally hobbled woefully downstairs after a few days in bed, my mom said, "You look skinnier already." And I said, "I know" with a distinctive hint of joy in my voice. It's sad, but true. That is the one up-side to being sick - pride in your flatter tummy.

In this case it's easy go, easy come, though, because I don't really see a big difference now. To be honest, food turns me off a bit still. But I didn't mind swallowing a bunch of pasta and pizza when my husband made it this past Sunday. He made rapini pizza (my favourite) for me and pasta with Yves vegan meatballs. Pictured is the lunch portion I had the next day. I stirred some leftover chickpea salad into the pasta for extra nutrition.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #16

To tell you the truth, shopping (thrifty or otherwise) is not in line with my January goals. I am continuing to focus on purging excess stuff. At least I will be once I fully recover from whatever virus took me out after Christmas.

As part of the purging process, I'm also thinking about how I can better use the things that I do have. In the coming weeks, I'll be looking at the collections that I enjoy and how I can showcase them better in my home. (That's one of my most prized possessions above - a bookcase that belonged to my grandmother. Another goal I have set for this year is to try to read more of my many books!)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Green Goddess Juice (Recipe & Book Review)

Colin Erricson/

January is all about taking a second look at our lives. Do I like where my life is headed? Is there anything I want to change? Whether you make resolutions or not, it can't hurt to consider even a few minor healthful changes. While some may choose to do a full 3-day detox or juice fast, I prefer to go the route of adding more fruits and veggies to my diet. And maybe cutting out some of those chocolates and other tempting items that become a bigger part of our lives during the holiday season.

This first month in a new year is a great time to dust off your juicer and stock up on leafy greens and other veggies. While I tend to juice fruits more often than veggies, that's one gentle change I can make this month that's sure to add a bigger, better variety of nutrients to my diet. For assistance, I am turning to my copy of The Juicing Bible, Second Edition, by Pat Crocker.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Making Memories: Our Christmas Eve Open House #NikonMOMents

One of my most-anticipated annual traditions is the Christmas Eve Open House. When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was one of my favourite nights of the year. Mom would make appetizers and sweets and friends would drop in to visit and enjoy tea or drinks. I loved the Christmas tree, the visitors, the tasty goodies and the nearness of Santa's arrival.

I was thrilled when it was once again our turn to host the Christmas Eve Open House this year. Of course, there is a lot of preparation involved - cleaning, planning appetizers and baking cookies. It's always a matter of achieving your goals for the evening without tiring yourself out so much that you won't enjoy your guests. I think we usually manage to finish our list of chores about the time guests are expected at the door. I took this picture of Ace, above, right in that beautiful moment when the house is ready and nobody has arrived yet.

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