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 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.