Friday, December 5, 2014

friday favorites (advent edition)

believe it or not, 
i had never even heard of advent growing up,
despite celebrating Christmas as far back as i can remember
i blame it on being raised on the other side of the world
that's my go-to scapegoat, by the way

don't know about a specific tradition?
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

never had (or even seen) a ham dinner until you turn 18 and start dating your future husband, 
who just happens to be as Southern as they come?
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

have a *lightbulb* moment when you watch star wars for the first time at the age of 29? 
(thanks to said husband, who mandated it as a long overdue rite of passage)
and finally understand half of your conversations growing up 
where people kept referencing "the dark side", "storm troopers", "something about Luke's father"
"oh, sorry, i didn't grow up around here"

forgot to pick up groceries for the week?
"err - sorry, i didn't grow up around here?"

you get the picture. 

anyway, back to the point of this blog post:  advent
i did what i could, given our timeline and how little the girls were
and honestly, it was wonderful and i am so glad with how everything turned out

this year i figured they were old enough to do an advent calendar
but, if you know me, you know that one of those chocolate-a-day calendars wasn't gonna cut it
so i spent a chunk of time researching little crafts and activities for each day leading up to Christmas
some fun and cutesy, some reminding us of what we are actually celebrating
then, i dug up this awesome advent garland that my mom in law gave us at our first married Christmas
(at the time, i was still in the dark about advent so i honestly had no idea what to do with it!
also, we've never been fully successful at decorating for christmas, but i believe that first year, we put a red bow on our one houseplant and called it quits...true story!)
now, before you go thinking i'm the mom of the year or anything, 
let's get real
if you really know me, you know i'm a dreamer
i dream up harebrained ideas, like this advent calendar
but the execution isn't always 100%
case in point:  i have yet to write the activities down and put them into the garland
aaaaand, we've sort of jumbled up a few days to suit delayed naps and busy days
(...life with toddlers!  at least they don't seem to mind just having the activity "announced")
but we're getting there
i even got organized enough by the end of this week to snap a few pictures of our advent activities!
if you're stumped on advent ideas for two year olds (or almost three year olds!), 
feel free to borrow some of ours - here's what we've done so far:

Dec 1:  read "The Nativity, from Luke 1-2" in The Jesus Storybook Bible
using characters from our Nativity Play Set to act it out as we went

Dec 2: set up Nativity on the mantle + listen to and sing away in a manger
Dec 3:  make popcorn together (a first for our girlies...and very exciting at that!) + more nativity discussion as we munched on it (they're really into telling the story of baby Jesus) 
Dec 4:  make peppermint almond bark...complete with cheery chocolate mustaches!
(the girlies dubbed it "a birthday treat" for baby Jesus)
Dec 5:  print out matching sheets of nativity characters onto cardstock (tons of options online - google image search it!) and use them to play a memory matching game

oh, and if you were wondering about our peppermint bark, here's the "recipe"...roughly
ingredients:

- approx 1/2 a pound 72% Dark Chocolate
- 1 tsp(ish) pure peppermint & mint extract 
(they came blended together, so it's 1 tsp total, not each)
- about 6 toddler handfuls almonds...err, we're not exactly accurate around here

instructions:

- if your chocolate is in large chunks, get the kids to crush it in a big ziploc bag (we used my water bottle filled up as our tool of choice)

- dump chocolate into a double boiler (or use a metal bowl fitted on top of a pot of boiling water, like we did) and stir till melted through

- add peppermint extract and almonds then stir until well mixed

- pour bark onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pop into the fridge until it hardens

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

what's on my mind + fudgy pumpkin brownies

so, life's been a bit of a hurricane lately
(and i use the term "lately" very loosely...as in, the last couple of months!)
between moving, a family wedding, Daniel's birthday (which we still haven't celebrated!),
photo shoots, hosting family...life in general
has made for a super busy season in our lives

plus i'm processing a lot in my head and my heart
the Lord's been working on me, slowly but surely
He's been showing me things in my life that need to be rooted out
i'm learning about truly trusting in Him,
about making Him the foundation and source of my joy
i've really been challenged by a lot of good stuff from this sermon, actually
i've never been one to understand deep concepts right away
i sort of have to mull over all the bits and pieces
so it takes a while, and it's actually quite a draining process
but i am thankful for it.

and between all the processing and busying and living,
i carved some time out to bake these amazing brownies
(you gotta fuel all that thought with something, right?  may as well be chocolate.)
not only are these grain free and delicious
(which is not always the case)
they include pumpkin puree!

now, if you are like my husband, that statement meant nothing to you
he always asks me at this time of year
"what is with you and all things pumpkin?  i just don't get it."
and neither do i
all i know, is that i LOVE pumpkin anything:
pumpkin pie, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin n'oatmeal, roasted pumpkin,
pumpkin fries, pumpkin ice cream...you get the gist 

anyway, back to the brownies
they're gluten-free, grain-free, egg-free, refined sugar free and dairy-free
sounds crazy, i know
but if you have a food allergy / sensitivity / intolerance,
you know it's possible to have "everything-free" food (as my family calls it) that still tastes good
hard to come by, maybe, but possible
so without further ado, here's the recipe, adapted from what runs lori

ingredients:

coconut oil, for greasing your pan
(or whatever other oil you like to use)

1 cup walnut butter
(i made my own, using a magic bullet + walnuts + some coconut oil)

1 cup pumpkin puree
(canned or roasted and pureed from scratch)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/8(ish) cup honey - more if you like things a bit sweeter

4-5 pitted medjool dates
(soaked in hot water to soften for a minute or so)

1 tsp baking soda

a dash (or two) of himalayan pink salt

a chia egg
(1 tbsp ground chia + 3 tbsp water, let sit until it gels a bit)

a handful of chocolate chips (optional)*
* if you want to be 100% dairy/egg/other allergen free, use a brand that allows for that.  although i've not used it, i hear enjoy life is fantastic, and it's free of popular allergens including dairy, soy, nuts and eggs + more.

instructions:

- preheat your oven to 350* F

- grease an 8x8 glass baking dish with your oil of choice (i used coconut)

- puree or mash your dates really well.  i prefer to mash, because you get these really lovely sweet "bits" in your brownie vs. an overall sweetness boost

- in a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, baking soda and salt

- make a well in your mixed dry ingredients and add the chia egg, honey, date "paste", walnut butter and pumpkin puree;
alternatively, mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl altogether.  i went with the former option because i like to cut out extra clean-up wherever i can!

- try to get your liquids mixed together as best as possible in the "well" you carved out, then incorporate the dry ingredients.  if you went the separate bowl route, just mix your liquids then add them to the dry bowl

- fold in chocolate chips, if you chose to add them

- pour batter into prepared baking dish

- bake for 30-40 minutes, or until you poke it with toothpick and it comes out clean

- let cool a bit, and enjoy the fudgy goodness that they are! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

mixing work and pleasure

as soon as daniel walked through the door on friday after work
i asked if he wanted to go for a "scouting picnic"
you see, i had been toting the girls around all week to different locations
trying to find that perfect spot to do my fall mini photo sessions
and while we were at it, we explored and played and enjoyed this year's mild October weather
(side note:  October?  really?!  how? why? whaaaat?! ...at least it's still been wonderful outside)

anyway, while drifting off the night before, i had thought of one more spot to check out
and so we packed up our water bottles + a simple picnic dinner
(ham + mustard lettuce wraps / apples / olives / grain free brownies for dessert...yep, we're that fancy)
and headed off for an evening of exploration / location scouting
i'd be lying if i said it went 100% smoothly
because, let's be honest, two year olds at the end of the day can be a little testy
but, i can honestly say it was well worth it!
i'm continually amazed and inspired by how intricately and beautifully created the world around us is
29 years on this earth, and it still hasn't gotten old!

i hope to pass that wonder on to our children
and i think one of the best ways of doing that is to get them out in it
and if i get some work done while i'm at it, well then that's a double bonus

aaaaaand on a slightly related note, here's a shameless plug for any of you who are local 
and are interested in booking a mini session:
i'm even running a facebook contest, where you could win your session for free!
be sure to follow the link to check out how you can win + the deadline for entries
it would be so fun to meet local readers and capture images for you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

a bittersweet milestone

last night, my girlies reached a new milestone:
their first night in a "big girl bed"
another step away from babyhood
another step towards independence
another bittersweet mama moment, 
as i glanced over into the guest room and saw their disassembled crib leaning against the wall

but, there's no bittersweet taste in their mouths
they are straight up excited
and actually fell asleep quickly and without nearly as many shenanigans as i expected last night
(i'm sure it helped that following a busy morning out, naptime was spent screaming instead of sleeping)
so here's to my girlies, growing up just a teensy bit more...don't be in too much of a rush, eh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

overnight pumpkin pie n'oatmeal - welcome, fall!

yesterday was all about firsts

first day of fall
first day of school (if you live in BC anyway)
first episode of the season for The Blacklist*
and first my first pumpkin-y meal of the season, 
the recipe for which i am sharing with you today!

overnight pumpkin pie n'oatmeal
grain free / dairy free / egg free / vegan
adapted from this recipe
ingredients:
1/2 cup mashed roasted pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut milk 
(i use the light can from Trader Joe's - no additives!)
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1-2 tbsp walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
maple syrup, to taste

instructions:
- combine all ingredients except for coconut and maple syrup in a jar or other container.  cover and place in your fridge overnight
- when ready to eat, heat through (if desired) on stovetop...or just eat it cold like i did
- top with coconut and a drizzle of maple syrup (if desired...i used the tiniest little bit and it was perfect!) oh, and a splash of extra coconut milk before serving doesn't hurt either ;)

*my husband likes to follow tv shows that cause me to turn into a giant stress ball, but at the same time capture my undying attention.  he did this when we were in college with the first season of 24, now he's done it with The Blacklist - so intense, but i just can't stop watching!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

happy first day of fall!

fall? already? what?!
we had what felt like the eternal summer this year
(actually, it's still going strong - yesterday was HOT and sunny!  ...and I'm loving every second of it)
but somehow, i'm still shocked that we're not still in March
this year has really, truly been a blur

but blurry or not, we've made it to the first day of fall
and of course, i had my first pumpkin-y meal for breakfast:  pumpkin pie "n'oatmeal"!
i'm not quite ready to share it with you
(just have to try one more tweak then you'll be the first to know - promise!)

until then, i wanted to share this little gem from my devotional this morning
(from today's morning reading in Morning and Evening by Charles Haddon Suprgeon)
Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. 
That He is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. 
That He is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. 
That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. 
That He is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour. 

That He is full of grace, that He is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant He has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory-all this should tend to make us glad in Him.

...So let God's people now rehearse the deeds of the Lord! Let them tell of His mighty acts, and "sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." Nor let them ever cease to sing, for as new mercies flow to them day by day, so should their gladness in the Lord's loving acts in providence and in grace show itself in continued thanksgiving. Be glad ye children of Zion and rejoice in the Lord your God.

(full devotional here)

so thankful that in my foolishness, my weakness, my finitude, my unsteadyness
i can and i should be glad in Him!

Friday, September 19, 2014

settling in

well, 
it's just over half way through September and we are finally starting to settle from our move
i'm so excited to share our new little space with you
whether that's through my feeble attempts at home decor
(seriously, not my forte)
or through the little things we'll be doing around here:
cooking
mothering
exploring
living

i've not taken my "fancy camera" out of it's case since we moved
except to second shoot that wedding i mentioned last post
but i have taken a few snapshots on my phone
so without further a do, here's a glimpse at what life's been like the past couple weeks:
(if you follow me on instagram, you've already seen these, so this is for the rest of you!)

our new view
books unpacked = a morning with dr seuss!
produce bought!  another "milestone"!
gotta take a break from unpacking...beach day!  (and beach hair  ;) )


girlies painting in the backyard = unpacking in peace

whoops, guess i got too into unpacking - girlie got into my mascara while i wasn't looking
rainy day people watching...another distraction while mama unpacks
finally starting to cook meals in our new home!!!
(this would be Sheena's recipe - I just used sheep feta instead of goat cheese)

...and that about wraps it up
happy weekend, folks!
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