December 30, 2016

The highs and lows of 2016.

I read something online the other day where someone said that they get together with their close friends at the end of the year and share their high and low points of the past 12 months. I thought that was brilliant. I've always loved going around the room and hearing everyone's high points of the year, but I like the idea of sharing the low moments, too. It's good to look back on where we've been in the year and see how far we've come or, maybe, still have to go.

I know a lot of people that have had big struggles in 2016 whether it's health, professional, or personal. Breakups and health scares and job drama have all been big players in the lives of many of our friends this past year.

Looking back, it seems like the high and low points of my year should be fairly straightforward. High point: getting pregnant again. Low point: losing my job. It's not all black and white, though.

Losing my job was hard. It really was. The funny thing is, before I knew that my job was gone, I was struggling with the prospect of returning to work. Having the choice to return to that hard job taken away from me was actually a blessing. It taught me something about my faith, and it reinforced for me that God's plan is so much bigger than ours. There is no part of me that wishes I still held that position, and I'm so grateful for the part time opportunity that was dropped right at my feet when I needed it the most. I applied for a dozen jobs and got only got one offer and it was the perfect offer. God was there, holding my hand the whole time.

I was searching for a different post today and came across one I wrote a few years ago on the cusp my 24th birthday. So many years later and it seems to echo so perfectly a lot of the same sentiments that I felt this year.

It's hard to put into words the high points of 2016. We spent a lot of time with my side of the family, and accidentally spurred a family reunion in Ontario when we visited. I hadn't seen my dad's siblings since I got married in 2010 and most of my cousins for almost 15 years. It was wonderful to discover that not only are were connected to these people through blood, but that I also really like them.

This was also the year that I ate some many vegan/dairy-free doughnuts that I almost got tired of them. 2015's word of the year was "baby" and 2016's is "doughnut." 2017's will probably be "thighs."

Getting pregnant again has, of course, been a huge highlight. Not that pregnancy is the most fun thing in the world, but I feel like I've been better at it this time around. I'm looking forward to welcoming our little girl in a month or so and have, for the most part, gotten over the nerves I initially had about it. Raising a boy and a girl is going to be a wild ride, I'm sure, but I'm ready. Bring on the headbands and frilly bums.

How do you round up your biggest moment of a year without feeling like you've left things out? Visiting friends, doing puzzles during Parker's naps, the anticipation of a new life in our home, sharing in the joy of friends' pregnancy announcements, months at home with Parker and now watching him grow into a little person with a fabulous personality, working on a women's ministry, discovering a dairy-free bakery, and finding a new hairdresser all made up the high points of 2016 (some more so than others). It's been a wild ride of a year, but was ultimately so good to us.

I know that 2017 is going to be its own beast. We'll be growing our family and I won't be the only one wearing dresses anymore. I'll likely be off work for the entire year. Towards the end of the year we'll (hopefully) start making gradual plans for moving back to Victoria. I'll read a lot of books, paint a lot of things, and knit through my ever growing yarn stash. I'll also drink a lot of decaf coffee to make up for lost time.

Bring it, 2017.

December 29, 2016

New year, stay you.

I see a lot of "new year, new you" things floating around the internet and I just don't like them. Yes, January 1st is the easiest date on the calendar to make big life changes, but I don't understand why we need to completely overhaul our entire lives. There's nothing wrong with who you are. Okay, maybe there is, but you don't need to wait until January 1st to start working on it. I also don't think there's anything so wrong with you that you need to become a new person in the new year. That's just weird.

I think it's a good idea to try and make better life choices all the time. For instance, after Christmas and the holidays is the perfect time to start eating better. It shouldn't be that hard considering the overindulgence that happens this time of year. I haven't been hungry for almost a week. Love yourself, love your body, and please don't try and do a complete makeover of yourself because I still want to recognize you. By all means try bangs out, just don't shave your head, join a cult, and ask me to start calling you Moonbeam.

That said, I'm not usually big on New Year's resolutions but I have pretty extreme weight loss goals for 2017. I'm hoping in the next month or so to drop about 15 lbs in a day. It's a bit of an intense weight loss program, but I've done it before and had decent success. It's the kind of diet that gives you more curves and a more voluptuous bosom within days. Yes, it's childbirth and it knocks Beach Body out of the water. Take that, Shakeology.

Remember, to me, you are perfect. Spend five minutes with a baby and you'll remember what self love is. Don't go wrecking that person we all know and love. Maybe just stop chewing with your mouth open.

December 28, 2016

Pin this post.

I was late to get on the Pinterest train. I've only been pinning for two years, and only started because I was pregnant with Parker and needed somewhere to organize my Christmas baking and mobile making needs. I thought I'd share some of my favourite food-related pins (Pins?) with you and let you know how they turned out. My issue with Pinterest is that I never know if the BEST RECIPE EVER and TOTALLY FOOLPROOF thing are actually realistic claims. I find that, typically, nothing ever lives up to the hype.

(P.S. I hate link-heavy posts, but it's unavoidable here. Sorry.)

Really good rum balls: These are amazing. I made them last Christmas for the first time and they're not only super easy, but just looking at the ingredients (rum, icing sugar, chocolate, and almonds) you know they're going to taste good. I'm not a big rum drinker but I don't mind eating it one bit. The only downside to these little treasures is that they never look as pretty as the picture. They don't even really look that appetizing, actually, but that just means there's more for the adventurous and unsuperficial. I made some for Christmas this year but obviously didn't have any.

Starbucks pumpkin scones: I've talked about these here before but they're worth mentioning again.When I gave up dairy I had to give up Starbucks' pumpkin scones and that was really soul crushing so I found a recipe I could make myself and now they're a go-to. I just use coconut or almond milk in place of cream and Earth Balance instead of butter. I also roll my dough into a circle and cut it like a pizza because it looks less like chicken strips that way.

Banana bread cinnamon buns: Minimalist Baker is one of my favourites (I got the cookbook for Christmas!) and these cinnamon buns are one of the big reasons why. I've made other kinds from the website, but these are far superior. I like to make them when we have company over that I'm trying to impress. Then I impress our company with how cinnamon buns I can eat.

The chocolate cake to end all other chocolate cakes: It's actually a one bowl vegan chocolate cake also from Minimalist Baker, but I can safely safe that it's the only chocolate cake recipe you need. It's easy, delicious, and the cake itself isn't overly sweet. What the cake lacks in sugar content the icing more than makes up for. This cake is the reason I gained weight when Parker was two months old. It's also the cake I'll be making for myself as a reward for pushing a second human out of my body. This cake is my push present, and I plan on eating a piece of it as I get stitched up in the hospital. I have also used the icing for other recipes, and find it goes really on bean cake.

Bean cake: I like to make this when I want chocolate cake but feel guilty about eating chocolate cake. I always use coconut sugar in it and made it for Parker's first birthday. No one ever knows it's made from beans and I like that it's allergy friendly (unless the allergy is eggs because there's basically a whole chicken in there). The only thing I don't like about it is that it's hard to make cupcakes out of. Because there's no flour, it can tend to fall apart when coming out of the pan. In a regular cake pan this isn't too bad, but I've still yet to make a cupcake batch that hasn't had a 50% failure rate. And by "failure" I mean structurally. I end up having to eat a lot of cupcake bottoms out of the muffin tin. Someday I'll get it right.

Avocado frosting: In an effort to make better life choices I thought this would be a nice substitution for regular icing. It's not. If you put a bit of instant coffee granules in it you get some nice kick, but it reminds me more of pudding than frosting, and it does not keep well. This is for immediate consumption only, otherwise the next day you'll be wondering why on earth you decided to make chocolate guacamole.

Vegan hazelnut cheesecake: It looks like the link I have pinned doesn't actually work anymore, but this recipe looks the most similar (if not exactly the same). I made this for our anniversary this year because I'd been wanting to try a nut-based cheesecake for a while, but needed a special occasion to justify it. I've made a tofu cheesecake before and never again. All I could taste was the soy. This cheesecake was pretty good, but I may have over-roasted the hazelnuts or something or maybe shouldn't have soaked the cashews in the fridge instead of on the counter overnight. It just wasn't quite right. I put the leftovers in the freezer, but every time I had a piece my stomach would get a bit upset. It was mediocre. I'll try another vegan cheesecake again but will go a different route.

Chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard: Yes. The "ice cream" is just frozen bananas (i.e. healthy) and the cookie dough bites are super easy to make. You get a little messy rolling them, but it's totally worth it. I like to leave the extras in the freezer to eat later on.

Slow cooker broccoli, spinach, and potato soup: I want to love this soup, but I just find it so uninspiring. I've made it a couple times but just can't get excited about it. It also makes the house smell like farts when I get home from work.

Vegan cheese sauce: I like how easy this cheese sauce is, but I'm kind of over beans being in everything. Last time I made this I didn't do as good a job as I thought cleaning out my food processor so when made "frozen yogurt" in it everything tasted like beans. I was three months pregnant at the time and it's really stuck with me. Bean aversion.

Cashew Alfredo sauce: If beans are overdone in cheese sauces, nuts definitely are, too, but I can forgive them in this one. I like that this recipe is so easy, so fast, doesn't involve beans, and if you put it over spaghetti squash you feel like a vegan healthfood princess. Or something. I like to blend up steamed broccoli or peppers in it to thicken the sauce a bit and give it some more substance. It's been a while since I last made this and I think I need to make it again soon. This is another one of those things I like to feed people I'm trying to impress because it seems harder than it is.

I've also tried to learn proper furniture painting techniques, gotten many knitting patterns, and laughed about the "must-have" first time parent lists. I just can't stop clicking on them.

Have I just blown your mind with all my food-related insight? You're welcome.