Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I want!

I'm SO crushing on Stila's Cherry Crush Lip and Cheek Stain.

Let me just say how odd this is for me. I wear makeup every day (having bad skin for 20 years, I'm accustomed to putting in the time each morning by now). Despite this I'm pretty low-key on the makeup front. Foundation, concealer, and a smudgy brown eyeliner are pretty much the most I'll do. Maybe a bit of blush or eyeshadow if we're going out at night - which is rarely!

I'm not exactly up on the makeup scene. I feel completely intimidated by the beauty counter girls, and going into a store like Sephora is so overwhelming that I'm on my way out the door within seconds. I feel like I don't belong. I buy my makeup at Shoppers.

For the last month we've had a few things to go to where we dressed up a bit, and I wanted to raise the bar. I had a bunch of lipsticks kicking around in my cosmetics drawer - apparently very old as I can't remember buying any of them - yeah, I know that's not good.

In fact, I think they may be from the 90's. (Who knew lipstick colours became dated? ...I guess a lot of women do know that.)
In related fact, most of them are probably gift-with-purchases passed on from my grandma. Who passed away 5 years ago.

I tried on a few of them prior to one recent night out and had both my husband and myself gasping for air laughing at how they looked. Yikes.

With my pale lips, tendency to bite my lips, chapping issues (it's Canada, it's winter), a lip balm habit... a lipstick isn't really going to cut it.

All this in mind, I saw this deal at the Sephora website - $10 (US) for two full-size Stila crushes, and thought - hey, why not. Then I saw the shipping cost - an additional $9.95 to Canada. Ouch. Suddenly it didn't seem like such a great deal. I didn't buy.

But the other day we were at the mall, I braved the Sephora store and tested out the Cherry crush on my finger. It's sheer, the colour stays, it's super pretty, not outdated, I like the brush applicator... and ONE tube there is $32 CDN (plus 13% tax, of course).

So. Is it worth spending $20 US on lipstick? Totally not something I normally do. Would it sit in my drawer or purse, unused as the years go by? Would it, being a stain, make my lips more chapped? Or would it give me a fresh look and a rosy glow (it's a cheek stain too)? Will it look pretty on my actual face as it did on my finger?

Ugh. Do other women debate for hours over spending $20 (probably $25-30 after conversion, charges, taxes) on lipstick? Am I being ridiculously cheap, or is even this seeming 'deal' crazy expensive?

I know. Life is not that rough if this is the biggest question I have in life (it's not). Just debating whether I should go on and order already, or go lower-end and pick up some cheap thing at the drugstore.

Meanwhile, DH just bought a whole bunch of electronics online (he got great deals, it's stuff I can't deny will be good, if not exactly a need, it can be written off as a business expense, but still... you know what I'm getting at here).

I've been featured!

Stacie has been doing a feature lately on Canadian bloggers - and today the spotlight is on me! Check it out at Simply Stacie.

And if you're not that interested in me, you should still go check it out - her blog is one of my daily reads. Stacie does reviews, hosts lots of giveaways, and is one of my favourite bloggers. She's based in beautiful Nova Scotia!

Simply Stacie

Today I have a family dinner to go to - seeing some relatives I haven't seen in years. In fact, some cousins will be there who I have never met in person. Should be fun!

The sales are still on, if you're bargain shopping. I just checked out the Spring website and they have a big selection of handbags on sale (love this one, for $20.99!) as well as lots of shoes, boots and sandals at reduced prices (and in Canadian dollars too). Free shipping if your order tops $49. Today's the last day for this sale. Have you found any great deals online shopping? I'm looking for a new handbag, maybe some boots... I didn't find the perfect ones for me at Spring, so if you have noticed any other great sales, please let me know!

I have a big list of giveaways yet to post, I haven't forgotten - I'll make sure to get them up before the time runs out. Here's a couple to start out with.

For baby:
For the ladies:
  • Win a $40 gift certificate to Better Mommy Fashions at My Wee View. Ends January 8th.
  • Win a Hotslings MilkDaze nursing cami at Dirty Diaper Laundry. Ends January 6th.
  • Win a black organic nursing tank top by Momzelle at Happily Domestic. Ends January 6th.
For anyone:
  • Win a Burt's Bees Radiance Healthy Glow Gift Set from TipTopHealthShop.ca at Organic Girl. Ends January 8th.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day shopping

We hit the electronic stores (yawn) today, and the mall. Nothing. Well, I did pick up one last-minute gift for my mum. But the sales were pretty pathetic. Lots of people, lots of chaos, but deals... not so much.

I did do a little online shopping, though - Forever 21 has free shipping, no minimum purchase, until the 28th with code BOXINGDAY09. So I scooped a cute little tank and skirt from the sale section:

I love the shape and the random zipper detail on the skirt. I'm just hoping it's long enough that I'll feel comfortable wearing it. I figure I could always add in a strip of fabric at the bottom (with the new sewing machine!! :) ).

The top was only $3.99, and the skirt's $19.99 (Boxing Day sale prices).

Did you brave the malls, or stay at home and shop online? Did you get any good deals today?

Thursday, December 24, 2009


It's me. I'm the slacker. I've totally been slacking off on the giveaway lists. But not to worry, I have a whole pile of them saved up and I will tell you about them!

Plus, I have four (!) giveaways lined up here, coming soon. I'm hoping all the companies come through. Right now I'm waiting on a few products to review - and of course they're taking forever with the Christmas rush in the postal system. I'm really looking forward to this! It should be fun.

Today I think I need to get to the grocery store (ugh! it's going to be a zoo! Why am I putting it off! It will only get worse!), and maybe I'll drop by HomeSense while I'm out... I know it makes no sense to go shopping two days before Boxing Day, and all my Christmas shopping is done. And it's crazy to go shopping anywhere on Christmas Eve. I guess I'm crazy like that!

I'm still not feeling Christmas. Despite the awesome early Christmas present, the baking (nearly 300 cookies), the wrapping, the tree, the get-togethers with friends and family, the Christmas cards sent and received... I don't feel it. One day soon I hope that I will get rid of the other feeling that I've got instead. The feeling of loss, frustration, grief, and, to my shame, jealousy, that I've been carrying around. I don't want to be that person. I was expecting a January baby, before the miscarriage. Then a June baby, when I was told I had an ectopic pregnancy - didn't have one - did have one (way to get my hopes up). Now I'm hoping, fearfully, tentatively, with all my heart - for a November baby. Maybe we will be lucky. More likely, it won't happen right away.

All I want for Christmas is for next Christmas to be a totally different experience.

Hmmm, enough about that already.

Thanks for your comments yesterday on my post (rant?) about food. I'm still reading the book I mentioned and it's really making me question my own diet. As you know, I'm vegetarian, but not vegan. I've been buying free-range eggs (and there's a difference between free-run and free-range - check out the wording and question what 'access' means, exactly), but after the kind of articles I've been reading, I am not convinced that makes any difference. I wonder if I can find any farmers around here who sell eggs from un-genetically engineered chickens that enjoy the privilege of an actual outdoor space, natural light, nesting and roosting areas, the use of their beaks, fresh water, food that's appropriate and not filled with supplements or 'preventative' antibiotics, with more than 8/10 of a square foot of indoor caged & stacked space per bird. We're in the country, so, maybe. Or - maybe I need to just stop with the egg eating. They're kind of gross, anyway.

When Meghan mentioned about cutting chicken making her gag, it reminded me of how the smell of ground beef used to make me gag, back in the day when I ate meat. At the time I thought to myself, why eat something that makes you gag? Isn't that one of our most basic reactions to things that aren't good to eat? Like, you know, things that have spoiled or are inappropriate, or carry disease?

And reading this book has led to some internet research, and honestly, I am learning a lot more about livestock farming than I ever wanted to know - and that's kind of the point. I didn't want to know because I already know it's horrible and wrong. Kind of like you don't want to know the details of child abuse. But the difference in your moral response is that your actions don't condone child abuse... yet by eating meat (or eggs, or dairy), how can you say you're not complicit in the abuse of animals? When the evidence is there, if you would only look? Anyway. I don't want to get all accusatory or preachy, at ALL, it's just something I've been thinking about a lot. To inform my own decisions. (And I'm not comparing child abuse to livestock farming, it's just a very clear example of a moral situation that's not a quandary at all.)

My point was (and I got really sidetracked there!) that eggs make me gag. So why the heck have I been eating them? Ugh. I think I'm done with that. I need to do some kitchen experiments with egg substitutes.

Ok, if you read this far... way to bear with me in my philosophical struggles! It's funny how writing things out makes the inevitable conclusion jump into focus.

That's hardly all. But I've got to get out and do that shopping, stat!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reinforcement, and a challenge

This New Year's Day marks my 9-year anniversary of becoming vegetarian.

I don't talk about it that much. I don't mind that my husband isn't - although he now eats a vegetarian diet at home. I don't want to be one of those preachy people who tells people what to do. But I do think that if you're making choices about what you eat, you are responsible for knowing what those choices mean, beyond what's for supper.

I changed my diet on a whim, really. I have a deep empathy for other creatures, and a deep concern about the environment. I didn't like the idea of eating hormone- and antibiotic-laden, genetically engineered meat. And in January of 2001, I just decided that my feelings about those things made it impossible to continue eating meat.

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed eating meat. I can look at someone else's dinner and remember exactly how good it tastes. I ate fish, beef, crab, shrimp, scallops, chicken, pork, even goat one time. I've had my share of calamari and escargot.

I didn't really research it. It feels like common sense that killing animals hurts them - and I don't want to hurt them. It seems wasteful that the input (grain and water) is so high compared to the output (meat) - especially in light of the diminishing supply of global freshwater and the fact that global hunger numbers are rising. For me it was primarily an ethical decision, both for people (hello, global warming) and for animals.

I think what took me so long to make the change (nearly 25 years!) was that I didn't want to think about it. I looked at my chicken dinner, roast beef, salmon steak or bacon and thought - yum. And pushed out of my mind where it came from. We've all seen the images of factory farms, chickens in cages smaller than the area of my two hands spread out, cows in terror being led to the slaughterhouse, etcetera... but it's easier to push those images away, to click to the next website, to willfully forget that that's where your dinner comes from.

It's easier to pretend that pigs, for example - that we know are social and intelligent - have not been genetically engineered to grow at a rate 400% higher than is natural, are not kept in filthy, confined, indoor, high-temperature (to increase body weight) intensive farm stalls, to not think about how their teeth are clipped, tails chopped, and ears notched without pain killers.

It's easier to just ignore that for every pound of shrimp, there's up to 20 pounds of by-catch. What's by-catch? All the other species that are caught and killed in the trawling nets used to scoop along the ocean floor to collect the shrimp. These fine nets, as you can imagine, leave a swath of destruction in the coral reefs where shrimp live. Recent sampling in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery found 166 species of finfish, 37 crustacean species, and 29 other species of invertebrate among the bycatch in the trawls, according to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. All so that people can eat their shrimp rings.

For every animal or fish that is eaten, many more die. "Downers" in the livestock industry - those that simply collapse from lack of water, overheating, exhaustion - are dumped and left to die. Animals that become infected with diseases transmitted in the crowded, unnatural living conditions of today's farms are put down (often in a most inhumane manner - the farming industry is exempt from cruelty laws). By-catch includes 'cute' species like dolphins, sea birds, turtles and whales, as well as sharks, other fish, and other sea creatures - that form an important part of the ocean's ecosystem.

I could go on and on. And you can read about this, if you have any interest, in all sorts of places, from google to the library.

I feel compelled to know. It breaks my heart - I was weeping as I read Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals. I feel physically sick to think of the practices and destructive nature of industrialized livestock farming - and it's all industrialized these days. There may be a small farm down the road where you see chickens, pigs or cows out in pasture, but that isn't a money-maker. The money's in mass production, and that means the most animals in the smallest area. That's where your packaged meat at the grocery store comes from. Shoppers want the best prices, and the best prices mean mass production.

Terms like organic, free-range, cage-free are not always strictly regulated - and if they are, the regulation may state that 'free-range' animals have 'access' to the outdoors (this could be a window or a door that's rarely or never opened), animals that are packed onto the floor of a barn are 'cage-free', 'organic' animals may be fed 'organic' grains that may or may not have had non-organic fertilizers. Nevermind that rendered carcasses, animal waste (yeah, feces), and other icky stuff like blood, hooves, feathers, even plastics are often fed to the animals in factory farms.

If you've read this far, you're one of the few who cares. It's not easy to admit that the cruelty and abuses of modern farming practices are directly connected to our own habits.

So I'm issuing a challenge. A challenge to my readers to do a little reading on the subject. A challenge to make a change in your own life that will impact many lives - whether it be adding one or two meatless dinners a week, or going the whole hog (!) and trying out a vegetarian diet for a while - or for a lifetime. See how it goes.

I thought I'd try it in 2001. I didn't know how long it would last. I didn't know if I could do it. I am one of the least self-disciplined people I know (I had cookies for breakfast today, if that gives you any indication). Nine years later, I am firmly entrenched and have never regretted my decision.

If you can't think of what to eat (the biggest difficulty for beginner vegetarians), I can recommend a few great cookbooks (like Evelyn Raab's The Clueless Vegetarian, and Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), share my own recipes, send you over to the Vegetarian Times website, where they have a huge recipe database.

I'd LOVE to help if you decide to take up the challenge. I'd love to hear about it, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rice Cooker "Stir-fried Rice" recipe

We had some leftover Chinese spring rolls that my friend made and sent home with us the other night (yum!), and I wanted stir-fried rice as a side dish to go with them... but I didn't have cooked rice on hand, and didn't really want to do all the stirring and stuff (lazy!).

So I just made this up and it was easy and yummy. And I like to share easy and yummy recipes.

Here's my brand new recipe for -

Chinese-style Stir-Fried Rice in the Rice Cooker!
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice (or use your rice cooker measuring cup, if it came with one)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
Add all that into the rice cooker bowl, give it a stir, and turn it on. Watch it towards the end of the cooking time - you may need to add a bit more water. After the rice cooker turns to 'warm' give it a fluff with a paddle and you can serve it right away or let it sit for a bit if you're not finished cooking your other dishes. For us as a side for one main dish, it made three servings, but if you had two other dishes as well I would say it would make four servings.

If you want crunchier vegetables, add them about 10 minutes into the cooking time instead of in the beginning.

I am sure you could modify this all sorts of ways, for example by adding steamed vegetables or diced firm tofu or cooked chicken (for the carnivores) at the end.

With less than 5 minutes prep and 20 minutes of no-fuss cooking time, this recipe's a keeper in our house!

The Emperor's New Paintings

It seems like a waiting kind of time. I've got paintings that are just NOT drying, which I'd wanted to send out to one of the galleries before Christmas. They were supposed to go Friday, then today - but this morning I checked, and the paint is still not dry. ARGH! So annoying. One of them is dry, I guess I'll send that off alone and wait on the rest.

By the way, have you seen the latest winners of the RBC Canadian Painting competition? I read through my latest issue of Canadian Art and saw the winning paintings. I have watched this competition for a number of years, and have been consistently disappointed by the winners. This isn't bitterness speaking - I'm ineligible to enter, given that it's for emerging artists. I keep waiting for a really wonderful painting to win. To be inspired and awed. (And I definitely don't have a problem with non-representational work, btw.)

I'm just a painter, not an art critic. Perhaps my background (BA in Fine Art and 12 years professional experience) is not enough to give me a good perspective on what makes great art, worthy of a rather large cash prize... but I just can't see it. The last three years, the grand prize winner ($25,000) paintings have all been very simple imagery on a white ground. Let's take a look:

The 2009 winner, Brenda Draney's painting Aim is Important.
The 2008 winning painting, Jeremy Hof's Layer Painting Red.
2007's winner: Arabella Campbell's Physical Facts Series #6

Hmm, see a trend there?

I am thrilled that there's such a large and career-boosting award for young Canadian painters. But I'm not convinced that, based on the past winners, it is giving young Canadian painters much to strive for.

To me, painting is about technique, beauty, and colour, with 'making a statement' present, but firmly in the last place. And while I am perfectly aware that much of the art world thrives on theory and artspeak, the greasy language of the art world 'elite', I find that aspect of art to be eye-rollingly pretentious. It's as if the talk has superseded the actual art.


Okay, art rant over.
Some giveaways for today -

For baby:
For the ladies:
For anyone:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday giveaways

We have yet another Christmas party to go to tonight - this time it's a casual affair, so I don't get to wear my crazy static-y dress again. I actually was kind of looking forward to another chance to wear it, and trying out Jenn's suggestion of hair spray to combat static!

I've got some time before we leave, and since the house is clean, the laundry's done, the dog's had a play date with his girlfriend, the golden retriever down the street, the husband's headed for a nap... this time's all mine. And I'm going to spend it entering some giveaways, here they are for you, too, if you have some free time on a Saturday before Christmas!

For baby:
For grown-ups:
For anyone:

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Winner for Chocolatey Chai Tea!

Well, I had to do a redraw for the Chocolatey Chai Tea. I announced and emailed, but didn't hear back from the original winner in the 48 hour window. So (drum roll) - here is the new winner of this deliciousness!

Lucky #23 was Pam (remember one of the comments wasn't an entry, if you're counting) - who loves both hot chocolate and chai, so this should be just her kind of thing.

Pam has gotten back to me - I'll send it out to her asap! :)

Something to be excited about

The background:
Okay, so anyone who's been reading my blog for a while knows about our recent troubles: we've been trying to start a family for 13 months and so far have had a miscarriage in June, and an ectopic pregnancy in October... dealing with the aftermath of these things has been incredibly hard for me, both physically and emotionally. The hardest parts have been - aside from the extreme physical pain of the first, the anxiety and termination of the second, and the accompanying misery of both -
  • watching ALL of my friends have babies in the last 6 months. Really, all of them. Perfect, beautiful, happy babies, with exhausted, delighted, frustrated, happy, wondering parents. I love the babies. I love their parents. But it kinda hurts, too. And not only is it a little hard to see the happy families, it's also hard to have our friendships change, as the parents are so busy and tired with babies that we don't see them as much.
  • knowing the EDD of my first lost pregnancy is approaching and trying so hard not to think about how far along I would have been, if only.
  • being the person that is more emotionally affected in our relationship. I know that DH wasn't as affected by either the pregnancies (after all, he couldn't really see anything happening, and certainly didn't experience the symptoms of early pregnancy, the hormones (oh, the hormones), or the physical pain of losing them), and I also know that he doesn't get how, since they're "over", why I'm still so affected. He tries. But I know he gets impatient with me. And that's hard on me, too.
  • reading blogs detailing the experiences of pregnancy and motherhood... I'm fascinated by and eager to join the ranks of mom bloggers, but at the same time it's a little like I'm rubbing salt in my own wounds by reading these daily.
  • the waiting, which seems like forever.
The waiting is SO. FRICKIN'. HARD.

Not only the waiting during - after we'd found out there was a problem with the pregnancies, and were waiting for test results, the pain to start, the pain to end, the emotional fallout (waiting to stop waking up crying and bursting into tears at the drop of a hat) - but the waiting after, when it feels like time is alternately flying by (in terms of my age) and crawling along at a snail's pace (in terms of wanting to get going already).

While we're waiting for February, I'm trying to keep steady with maintaining my health and learning about the things that I've been going through, fertility in general, and things that may help us in the future. It makes me anxious to learn that I now have a 20% chance of another ectopic pregnancy. Scary. But I've also learned that we are able to get pregnant, which is a big hurdle for a lot of couples, and it doesn't take forever (even if it feels like it does).

Here's the "excited" part:
I am going to have the opportunity to try some new things in the near future that hopefully will help us with the next round, thanks to Fairhaven Health. You may have noticed the button to the right, up there near the top, for Fairhaven Health. It's a site I'd looked at ages ago when we first started trying, and then life happened, I got distracted, I never really followed up. But after reading about what was going on with me, Jamie from Love To Shop Mom got in touch and encouraged me to contact them. Result: over the next few weeks (once the products arrive), I'll be testing out the FertilAid, FertileCM, and a digital basal thermometer. I'll let you know how it goes.

I've been using Fertility Friend as well (which will be more useful, I think, with the basal thermometer). While I've been pretty aware of my cycles over the last year, there are a lot of little things that this helps keep track of that it hadn't occurred to me to track. For instance, I had no idea that I am sleep-deprived about half the time - DH suffers from sleep apnea, and that really has been affecting my sleep; I just hadn't realized how much until I tracked it.

Anyway. That's a lot of me, me, me info.

A little on the not-so-serious side...

Phrase I am sick of: "At the end of the day..."
Ugh. I have heard this every day lately from different interviewees on CBC Radio 1. I think it's a dumb thing to say.

Phrase that has me giggling like a little girl: "Stink pickle"
I saw this on Manic Mother (where the context is as funny as the phrase itself). I'd never heard it before. I know I oughta act my age, but really... I know you're laughing, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home style

I got the latest issue of Style at Home in my mailbox the other day and spent a happy few hours devouring it. I that magazine.

There's a really nice pendant light from Union Lighting and Furnishing featured - I love the contemporary style - and the little crystal nod to the traditional! Price is a little gaspy at $541.60, though.

We are looking for (okay, I am looking for - DH is not as interested) some new pendant lights to replace the builder-installed boring ones in our house. I would love to get pretty lights for the entry, dining room, and kitchen. Not to mention that the bathrooms have those light strips with bare bulbs (Hollywood style, right?) - which are shiny chrome, that part's okay, but I hate the garish giant bare bulbs. They do cast a nice light, though. It's hard to find a bathroom light that looks alright and still gives enough light to do makeup by. Also, it's hard to find something we both like - I've got the kind of husband who has definite, and often contrary, opinions on home decor! (I'm pretty sure he'd hate this light, for instance.)

And that reminded me that I saw some lovely gourd lamps similar to these ones from West Elm - that were featured in the latest Canadian House & Home and cost the rather large sum of $179 US - at Bouclair Home the other day for the much more budget-friendly price of $29 CDN. The Bouclair version is not exactly the same (not as thick glass, don't have the iridescent sheen, and different colours - probably smaller too, although I didn't pay attention to the sizes) - but it's definitely possible to get the look for less.

I think they're pretty. DH, of course, is not a fan (the cord showing through the glass base is a problem for him).

Which leads me in a roundabout way to mention the Affordable Style blog by Michael Penney over at Canadian House & Home. As I've mentioned before, I like H&H, but I often find the decor and products not only too pricey, but too stodgy (I wish with heartfelt enthusiasm that "French Country" would just go away). But I have been really enjoying reading his blog - despite his declaration that country is back - and he did a nice little feature on affordable lighting recently that was great.

btw, I still haven't heard back from Trish, the winner of the Chocolatey Chai Tea. She's got until noon tomorrow to get back to me; if I don't hear from her, I'll draw another winner!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolatey Chai Tea Winner!

I've chosen (well, really random.org chose) a winner for the Chocolatey Chai Tea. I loved reading about everyone's favourite hot drinks, how fun!

Just so we're straight, one of the entries wasn't an entry, it was a postscript to a previous entry. So if you're counting to find the lucky winner, you have to skip the twentieth comment. Make sense? Good.

And the lucky winner is....

Trish (who did not get back to me - redraw winner here!)

- who said her favourite hot drink is green tea with a little honey. I like that, too! Trish, I hope you enjoy this tea! I'm about to email you - please reply within 48 hours, and I'll send off this little package of goodness.

In case you didn't read my earlier post, do stay tuned for more upcoming giveaways - fertility products, skin care products, and eco-friendly household products are coming up!


Christmas came early!

Yesterday afternoon a stranger dropped a large, wrapped present at my house. She came to the door, asked for me, and then handed over a big heavy box, saying it was a Christmas present from someone I knew, and that I was allowed to open it before Christmas. Mysterious! I waited until my husband got home, and when I opened it - what to my wondering eyes should appear, but...


My mother and stepfather had arranged to purchase and have it wrapped and delivered, since they live rather far away! My sneaky, adorable husband was totally in on it, and had been slowing down my sewing machine research on purpose!

I am SO excited. After all that debating and research, the bewildering choices, the machines so different and so modern, compared to my old one - I am off the hook and living the sweet life with my new Husqvarna Viking Emerald 118.

I woke up with a big grin on my face, thinking about all the fun things I can do now. Hooray :)

AND, as if that weren't enough, I got an email that I won a wall decal of my choice from Wilson Graphics over at Project Nursery! I chose this one, in jade - which will fit perfectly on a wall in the hopefully soon-to-be nursery. It is not too childish, I think, to live with for many years.

I'm going to draw the winner shortly for the Chocolatey Chai Tea - hang in there, I didn't forget! I'll do a separate post, email the winner, and also note it on the original giveaway post.

Just a little heads-up - I have several giveaways lined up for my blog. So, you know, follow or check back - I'm working on with companies who make great things like eco-friendly household products, fertility products and safe skin care products. Sounds exciting, right?! Yeah!

Giveaways from elsewhere:

For baby:

For the ladies:
For anyone:
I hope you're having an awesome day, too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Easy Homemade Cracker Recipe

By request! I hope you make it. I'd love to hear how they turn out or any variations you try!

This is a super easy recipe and can be adapted to make all sorts of different crackers. I have found that our guests are always really impressed when I break out the homemade crackers to go with cheese, dips or spreads. Little do they know how simple they are to make!

Basic Cracker Recipe
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor (fitted with the chopping blade), and pulse until combined.
3. With the food processor running, slowly pour the water in through the feed tube.
4. Process until the mixture forms small balls (about 1/2 cm).
  • To test the dough, turn the processor off (!) and push the balls down with your fingers.
  • If they stick together easily but do not stick to your fingers, perfect!
  • If the dough sticks to your fingers: add more flour, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulse, and test again.
  • If the dough crumbles and doesn't stick: add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulse, and test again.
5. Roll dough out on a flat surface to 1/8" thin or less, as thin as possible.
6. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheet, and prick all over with fork*
  • *Important! I always forget to do this. Don't forget or they will puff up. Though if they do puff up, they're kind of like those mini pita puffs you can buy in the store. Still very tasty, just not as convenient for dip/spread/cheese.
7. Score lightly with sharp knife if you wish to break into rectangles later on. Or leave in free-form shape that you can break into shards. Or use the rolling cutter from a pasta machine, if you have one. Or use a pizza cutter. Or cookie cutter if you're fancy like that.
8. Bake 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.
9. Cool on rack and store in airtight container.

Okay. That's the basic version. NOW is the fun part - variations! You can do pretty much anything you want with these, so experiment. Here are some versions I've come up with that make us happy:

seed crackers: substitute half whole wheat flour, and add any seeds you have on hand - flax, cracked wheat, sesame, caraway, mustard - whatever! This makes a good topping cracker, not overpowering in flavour.

cheese crackers: These taste sort of like 'Cheese Nips' only WAY better. 1/2 cup grated cheddar and about 1/2 tsp chipotle sauce - YUM. Add a dash of paprika if you want them to be even more orange.

'Indian' crackers: These taste a lot like pappadums! Add 1/8 tsp turmeric, about 2 tsp cumin seeds, about 1/4 tsp ground cumin. Add cracked black pepper if you like it.
L-R: Indian crackers, cheese crackers, seed crackers

If you want seeds (or coarse sea salt) on the top, brush with egg whites after pricking them and sprinkle the seeds on. The egg whites will stick the seeds onto the crackers and give a shiny surface as well.

Seriously, you can't go too far wrong with these, so try something new. Changing out some of the water for sour cream and adding dill might be fantastic. Substituting different flours, in whole or part is good, too (rye flour with caraway seeds? yum!). Minced garlic, and olive oil instead of butter - why not! Take a look at the gourmet cracker varieties, or even chips, in the store if you need some more inspiration. Basically as long as you get the consistency of the dough right, you're golden.

I usually make two or three batches at a time, while the food processor's already dirty (I hate washing that thing).

What we did last night

Hey! Not what you're thinking! We made Christmas presents! That's not a euphemism!

If you're my friend in real life, (as opposed to this internet life?), and you're reading this, you have to stop right now! Yes I'm talking to you, JUDY! No scrolling down, just close the window and go cuddle your gorgeous little girl. Or go enter my Chocolatey Chai Tea giveaway (it's the last day to enter). Or else you will ruin the surprise. And all Santa will bring you is a lump of coal!

Everyone else is allowed to look :)

Ta da!On the left - Apple Cinnamon Cider Jelly. And on the right - Pinot Grigio & Thyme Jelly. One of each for our closest friends (DH already took some to give to co-workers). I think I will complete the set with some homemade crackers (also super simple and always impressive) and a tin full of an assortment of homemade cookies. Nothing beats homemade gifts, in my book. Hopefully our friends feel the same way :)

Jellies are really easy to make, especially when you're using juice or wine to start with (no pressing or straining the fruit). These two recipes are from one of my favourite preserving cookbooks, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving. Each recipe made 8 baby jars for gifts plus one 1-cup jar for our fridge (shh! the cooks have to taste it - quality control, folks!).

If you or someone you know is interested in preserving, I highly recommend this cookbook (Christmas idea?). The recipes are easy and usually fast, and you can work with what's in season or what you have on hand, since it makes small batches - you don't need (or need to chop) a bushel of anything, and you won't end up with a pantry full of 30 jars of that peach-pear-lime jam that only you love.

I topped each jar with a circle of fabric - the apple jelly has 'apple, bee' fabric on it that I found at Lens Mills out in KW, which is like a quilter or seamstress' heaven (how I miss that store!), and the pretty green floral is from a stack of fat quarters that I was lucky enough to win over at Use the Loot. It's perfect - kind of retro, kind of modern.

Which reminds me, I am still trying to figure out what sewing machine to buy. It's an investment, I want to make the right choice. Ever since my sewing machine died, I've had a zillion things I want to sew. Doesn't that figure? I have narrowed it down, in theory, to a couple that have gotten good reviews online and that have the features I want:
  • the Janome Sewist 625e (though I think it's about $700?!)
  • the BabyLock Grace (a renamed CreativePro BL40)... still nearly $500...
  • a Kenmore machine, maybe - they're apparently made by Janome so might be a good choice
I need to get out and test some machines! What I really want is a simple machine that also does a one-step buttonhole, which is the dreamiest feature I can imagine. The price tags scare me... but then again the last machine kept going for nearly 50 years; hopefully a new one will be long-lived, too. If you have any further thoughts on sewing machines, I'd love to hear!

OH and I was featured on an Etsy treasury today!

Enough already about me, right?! Time for some giveaways.

For baby:
For the ladies:
For grown-ups:
For anyone:
  • Win a $25 gift certificate to EcoStore USA at Melinda Joy. Ends January 5th.
  • Win a $50 gift certificate to Lavish & Lime at My Wee View. Ends December 18th.
  • Win a $25 gift certificate to Chapters Indigo at Cool Canucks! Open to Canadians only! Ends January 31st!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

That other thing I do...

Hey! I've been featured on Smart People I Know. Aw, shucks!

And if any of you actually like my paintings, I've started a Facebook page for my artwork. It's brand new!

On the home front, we went yesterday to get a Christmas tree. It's our first year getting a real tree together. It was a family tradition at my house, but DH's family always had an artificial tree. We finally passed on the family tree to his younger sister and this year the real tree came home.

I totally wasn't feeling Christmas, as you know (thanks so much for the support and kind comments, btw) - but this helped some. It's not the same as I'd hoped it would be this year, but it is what it is. We spent about an hour wandering the tree farm, looking for our perfect tree. We chose a Balsam Fir.

These cuties cut down the tree:And here it is all decorated and lit up! DH decided the fish tank needed some lights too :)Today I'm doing some comfort baking - Molasses Spice cookies, and Chocolate Pecan shortbread. Ostensibly for Christmas, but really because I love to bake and it makes me feel happy when I'm feeling down.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas shopping

DH and I took the day yesterday and went Christmas shopping. I don't go to malls much, and if I do it's usually on a weekday (working at home and being self-employed has its privileges!). So I was a little unprepared for the madness (even on a Friday) before Christmas. It was a zoo.

The hard thing was this. I woke up feeling sad, after a vivid dream that my cousin was pregnant with her fourth. I mean, that would be happy, but it made me feel sad about the two pregnancy losses and the waiting and worry about trying again. Then at the mall we went into The Childrens Place to look for Christmas gifts for the nieces and nephew. And it (of course) was packed with strollers and babies... I kept it together although I did rush DH out of there when I realized I was starting to fall apart.

But the mall itself was full of moms, strollers, babies everywhere. In front of us walking were two moms carrying their babies and pushing strollers. There was nowhere to look without seeing something that reminded me.

And I lost it. I started crying and I just couldn't stop. In the mall. Totally embarrassing. We found a seat at the food court and DH went to get me a Starbucks - he was so nice, hugging me and going to get me something that usually makes me happy, but he really doesn't know how to handle it when I lose it like that. People were staring at me and all I could do was try to stop crying. He told me people in the line-up for coffee were asking him if I was okay and giving him dirty looks, too - little did they know, it wasn't his fault I was crying and he was doing what he could to make me feel better.

You would think you'd get over it, at least enough to go through the day without bursting into tears at something little like seeing babies at the mall. It's been 5 months and two weeks since the miscarriage. It's been six weeks since the ectopic pregnancy was terminated. And I'm okay, most days, but once in a while it all just comes back to the surface and I realize what I thought was healing is still an open wound.

Anyway... we did get a large part of the shopping done, although I'm not finished. I've got the husband to buy for (he's so hard to shop for!) and we want to do some homemade goodies for our friends and neighbours. Plus all that wrapping (how do you wrap two king-size pillows???)... And we don't have the tree yet (maybe this afternoon?).

I don't feel the Christmas spirit at all this year. I was 'supposed' to be 35 weeks pregnant at Christmas. It was 'supposed' to be a time full of excitement, anticipation and preparation. Now... it's just a time to see all the families around us having their babies' first Christmas, and thinking about what we have lost. I AM hopeful for next time. But it doesn't diminish the pain from the last two times.

Christmas sucks.

Done venting... for now anyway! Giveaways:

For the ladies:
  • Win an Everyday Minerals Everyday Resort pallet and a lavender mint lip balm at Today's Diva. A winner drawn weekly for 10 weeks, ending February 15th.
  • Win a scarf from Affordable Scarves at Cool Canucks! They have some really nice ones. Ends January 21st.
For anyone:
  • Win a Mia Mallows sampler pack (gourmet marshmallows, mm.. not vegetarian, but I bet they're yummy!) at Oh My Baby. Ends December 13th so hurry!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ow, winter! Cut it out!

I have a chiropractor appointment today, good thing because my back is KILLING me from the 10" of dense, wet snow I shoveled off the driveway yesterday.

I was thinking it would be nice for my husband to come home and actually be able to pull in the driveway. Little did I know that the plow would come by later and leave 8' of road unplowed in front of our house, with a 3' wall of packed snow at the edge of it. The downside of living on the inside corner of the street.... the plows always cut the corner! We end up having to shovel the street. ARGH. DH always calls the town to complain, not that it makes any difference.

And... I still haven't done any Christmas shopping. Yikes! I just realized how close Christmas is. I need to make a list or something.

A few giveaways for today:

For baby:
For the ladies:
  • Win a $250 gift certificate to Moody Mamas (maternity & nursing wear) at Design Dazzle! Ends December 12th.
  • Win a facial exfoliating creme by Aguacate & Co. at {Natural} Mommie. Ends December 14th.
  • Win a Bravado Allure underwire nursing bra at Your Mama Reviews. Ends December 17th.
  • Win a whole outfit from Shade Clothing at petit elefant! Ends December 14th.
For anyone:
  • Win a $110 Visa card from Kodak at Feisty, Frugal and Fabulous. Wouldn't that come in handy at this time of year?! Ends December 15th.
  • Win a $20 Sobeys gift card at CoolCanucks. This is courtesy of cqueen2 - if you are a Canadian contester you will recognize the name! Open to Canadians only! Ends December 14th.
  • One more chance to win a $20 Sobeys gift card at CoolCanucks. This one courtesy of toolman. Open to Canadians only! Ends December 13th.
  • Win a $25 gift certificate to EcoStore USA (which, btw, is having a HUGE sale right now) at Simply Living on a Budget. Ends December 19th.
  • Win a Better Life Green Cleaning Starter Kit at My Wee View. Ends December 18th.
  • Win a wonderful Glade holiday pack at Country Mouse, City Mouse. Ends December 22nd.
I'm sure you're tired of hearing about it, but there is still time to enter my giveaway as well for a box of delicious PC Chocolatey Chai Tea... I am still loving this although I've managed to cut back from my original 4 cups a day to just one! Luckily I don't think it has caffeine - or at least if it does, it's so minimal I don't feel it (and I can usually feel it these days, since I kicked the caffeinated habit).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Quick! Canadians, get your FREE L'Oreal Collegen Lip Filler

L'Oreal is giving away another 400 full sized units today on ChickAdvisor!

Here's the best part:
When you fill out the form, add a friend you'd like to gift one to and we'll send you an extra one to share with her! Great stocking stuff idea, yes?

To enter, visit the product link on ChickAdvisor here, click on the Get Yours button and fill out the form so the product can be shipped to you.*

*Please note this offer is open to Canadian residents only and there is a limit
of one entry per household. Products are given away on a first come, first served basis. Filling out the form doesn't guarantee you will receive the product, it is on a first come, first served basis, but we will disable the form as soon as possible once all units have been claimed

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sewing machine blues

My sewing machine that my grandmother passed on to me, an old beast of a Singer from the 1960's, has finally given up the ghost. I took it in for repairs and the parts are no longer available. This hard-working machine is now a very heavy piece of garbage (doesn't that suck?).

So I'm in the market for a new sewing machine. And I have a feeling I might get one for Christmas, if I can narrow it down to one or two likely candidates.

I would love to hear about it if any of you have a sewing machine you love (or hate), and what features are must haves. I do some quilting, some clothing, some things for the home like drapes, that sort of thing. I'm not an every-day sewer, but I do enjoy it and am really looking forward to getting a machine that I don't have to fight with over tension (!!).

Not least because I have some really cute wall hangings that are half-finished and I'd really love to get those done and delivered to my best friend's gorgeous daughter's nursery! They're meant to go with this quilt.

Brand recommendations, features, any thoughts?

Canadians, get your free Vaseline Sheer Infusion body lotion!


ChickAdvisor and Vaseline have teamed up to hand out a ton of the new body lotion. Click quick to get in on it!

"The lucky recipients will receive 100% off coupons to be used in-store to redeem the lotion. To be eligible, visit the Vaseline Sheer Infusion reviews page here and look for the "Get Yours" button that will appear for a limited period of time today. Click on that and fill out the form.

To be considered, you must be a Canadian resident and there is a limit of one per household. Please note that filling out the form does not guarantee you will receive one as it is first come, first served. The button will disappear from the page when we've hit the limit of eligible recipients."

Click here!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yep, feels like Monday.

It's a grey, dreary day, I've got cramps in a bad way and the dog's been sneaking into the kitchen again (where he's not allowed) - as evidenced by the trail of drips from his wet face as he foolishly had a drink immediately prior.

Did I mention that on Friday, when we were out at the party, he snuck in there, pulled a loaf of bread off the counter, un-wrapped it and ate the whole thing?

He's got a thing for bread.

We love him, but he sure is trouble sometimes.

I've got to go get the last (hopefully) of my blood work done today. Last Monday my BHCG level was at 9 and the doctor wants it to drop below 5. So this week I hope I can put the ectopic pregnancy firmly in the past. Time marches on... I'm waiting for it to march into February so we can actually start trying again. I have to say I am so sick of needles. I really feel for people who need ongoing blood work or injections.

I started a Facebook fan page for my artwork - my husband's idea - and I think it's kind of weird to do that. I'm so not into self-promotion. Yes, I see the irony - here I am letting you know... Now that it's up, it's kind of embarrassing that I only have 4 fans: myself, my husband, my SIL and a friend!

And as usual, some giveaways... there's mine, too, for the tea (go on and enter, if you haven't!)

For baby:
For the home:
  • The first 100 respondents each month can get a Randomness of Six kit which includes six of Earth Friendly Products top sellers. (I have a feeling December's are already spoken for, but bookmark this for January!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our dog, Cadbury

is the Pet of the Week! Check it out :)

I sent in his best, handsome head shot for that... but he's got some other great looks.
Take, for example,
his "don't bug me. I'm sleeping" look:
(yes, that's his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he sleeps)...

and his especially attractive 'gremlin' look:We love him!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dress troubles and.. blogger sellout?

Someone, get me a stylist.

So remember that dress I got for the Christmas party? I did a 'dry run' when I got home (when I took the photo), but I didn't think to add my dress coat. I'm just learning lessons every day these days!

First off - the nylons were so ridiculously uncomfortable - not to mention giving me that bulgy look at the waist - that they came off in the car on the way to the party! I can't understand how other women can wear those nasty things. Maybe I made a mistake buying the brand I picked. Maybe I really need to spend $25 and up (hello, Spanx - I've never tried them) on nylons to get a decent pair? But for the one time a year that I 'need' nylons, it just seems like too much money. And luckily I still have a bit of a tan from our trip to Mexico, and had actually bothered to shave my legs... so I felt cool about going bare-legged. It was COLD though, car to party, at -3 outside!

When we got into the hall and the coat came off... I discovered a much bigger problem. STATIC! The dry winter air, carpeted event hall, and I guess the satin lining of my coat all combined to attract my dress to my body like a second skin. This was at my husband's office party, about 200 people there, all dressed to the nines... and there's me in my static cling dress! I rushed to the washroom to wet down my hands and run them over the fabric. That worked long enough to get us to our table, and that's where I stayed!

The funniest thing was that when I went into the ladies' to deal with the static issue, there were a half-dozen women in there talking. When I walked in, they cried out, "Oh, look, she's doing it!" Huh? They quickly explained that they were debating whether nylons were a necessary evil. When they saw my bare legs (and I told them my nylons came off in the car on the way over), they all rushed into the stalls to remove the offending articles! Yay, female solidarity! There were lots of us there with bare legs and we were definitely happy about it!

Blogging for money

Just something I've noticed a lot more of, lately. Advertorials by bloggers about companies, no giveaway attached. I'm the first to admit, I love reading about products - honest reviews are good, giveaways make my day. But it seems there's a growing trend towards straight out advertorials, where the blogger hasn't tried the product and isn't hosting any giveaway joy.

I know blogging takes a lot of time, and it's got to be nice to get paid for it. There are companies out there that pay bloggers about $15 per post. And others that pay a certain amount per word. I've looked at these things and thought about them. I could totally do it - after years of practice in English courses throughout my education, an essay on any subject is not a hard thing to do (let's all pretend I didn't just tell you about my unfortunate art history paper). And I'm guessing you could put 45 minutes into a post, take the $15 - not a bad hourly wage, though of course it wouldn't translate into anything like a full time salary. Kind of perfect for stay at home moms, or people who want a little extra pocket money.

I don't know. On one hand, we're all smart people. As readers, we can tell the difference between a sponsored post and one from the heart. We can skip the posts that don't interest us (which kind of defeats the purpose for sponsors). And I have a lot of respect for people who can take what they love to do and make it profitable.

On the other hand, it just seems kinda iffy... it's like a fake smile on someone you thought was genuine.

I'm more of a fan of the kind of review post where a company sends a blogger something to try, they give it an honest go, and tell what happened, in their own words. Or the kind where a blogger has tried something on their own, unsponsored, and just has something to say about it. Whether it contains a giveaway or not, I am way more likely to read that than the other kind.

I don't think I'll be blogging for money. Just doesn't feel right. Not that I don't understand it or even think it's okay to get paid for blogging - as long as there's transparency and honesty there.

If you're going to do it, how about prefacing the entire post with "This is a paid advertisement," or "Hey guys! They sent me money to write this!"? And when you do, I'll probably be skipping down to the next post you wrote - about something real.

(Yes, I have accepted payment for an ad on my blog before. Is that different? I feel like it is. It's clearly an ad, and not passing itself off as anything but an ad.)


I've decided I'm having a lazy Saturday today, which means maybe some baking -

project #1: Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate & Oats from the rebar cookbook
project #2: herbed pizza dough for tonight's dinner

- and definitely some giveaways :) I will add them to the bottom of this post when I get to it. Meanwhile if you haven't entered my giveaway for some delicious tea that I'm about to make myself a cup of, go to it!

OH, and thanks for your comments about grudges. I'm glad I'm not the only one hanging on to a few! There oughta be a national grudge day to celebrate all our stale old grudges.

What you came for...

For baby:
  • Win a Glow Baby Baby's First Journal at My Wee View. I have one of these in hopeful preparation for our future little one and it is fabulous - so of course, I'm not entering this giveaway, but I wanted to share it with you. Moms of newborns need to keep track of a lot of stuff, and this is the perfect tool (plus it's a Canadian mom's design & company!). Ends December 11th.
  • Win an organic Hotslings baby sling at Best Baby Organics. Ends December 29th.
  • Win a $25 gift certificate to Wild Dill at Mkokopelli. Ends December 15th.
  • Win a Bummis Organic Diaper Kit at Happily Domestic. Ends December 19th.
  • Win an EsBaby customized fitted OS diaper at The Cloth Diaper Report. Ends December 16th.
  • Win a GroBaby shell set and soaker pads from Fluffy Bottom Babies at My Wee View. Ends December 18th.
  • Win a Snugfits tee at Oh My Baby. Ends December 21st.
For tots:
For the ladies:
For anyone:
  • Win a $20 Starbucks gift card at 4 Fabulous Families. Ends December 12th.
  • Win a $110 Visa card from Kodak at {Natural} Mommie. Ends December 14th.
  • Another chance to win a $110 Visa card from Kodak at This Mom Can Shop. Ends December 12th.
  • Win a Limited Edition Clarisonic at Mommy Goggles. Ends December 19th.
  • Win an amazing PC holiday products basket from Loblaws at Postcards from the Mother Ship. I *love* PC products - lately I've been gorging myself on their Stone Wheat crackers. I almost didn't want to tell you about this one. Open to Canadians only! Ends December 7th.
  • Win a Popcorn Snowman Snack Tin from The Popcorn Factory at Guessing All The Way. Ends December 16th.
  • A Simple Kind of Life is hosting a free tea giveaway! Check out Golden Moon Tea to find your perfect cup, from oolong tea to black tea! Giveaway ends December 9th.
  • Win a tea set from Golden Moon Tea (red teapot, tea filter bags, and a tin of Tippy Earl Grey) at unpaint. Ends December 11th.
For the home:
  • Win a wall decal by Wilson Graphics at Project Nursery. Not sure when this ends.
  • Win a $100 Crate and Barrel gift card at Half Baked. I love C&B! Ends December 10th.