Friday, 31 January 2014

Sunday night dinners

Even though life is busy, we manage to eat pretty healthy food in our house.  Not every night - tonight's "fancy ramen" would've been a bad example of our healthy eating!  Our dinners are simpler than they used to be, and we tend to have more repeats than before, but these are necessary adaptations with our busy schedules.

Before I went back to work I looked though every cookbook on my shelf and found every recipe that I knew would be quick, I thought would be quick, or the author promised would be quick.  Then I put them all on a master list along with what book & what page I would find the recipe on.  I then added all those meals that just exist in my head for quick go-to meals - fried rice, dhal, frittata; basically things I can almost cook with my eyes closed.  I call this list "Truly Easy Meals" to differentiated it from what Martha Steward might call easy, but would take me all weekend to prepare.   This is my master list for reference and inspiration every weekend as I plan our menu for the next week.

I make a geeky menu as seen below, make a grocery list and we're off to the store.

I was so busy taking a photo of Finley I failed to notice that Chèvre cheese was on sale!

The other secret to our eating success is that if something can be frozen (and I believe most things can be!), I make a double batch and save some for a rainy day.

Very big pot of Tuscan tomato soup

 In the past month or so, I've been trying to make Sunday night a special meal.  It might be a new recipe, or an old favourite that we haven't had in a while.  Not fancy, but fancier than Tom Soup + GCS (tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwich.)  Most importantly, it is a time for Derek and I to relax together, catch up on the week and have some adult conversation.

Last Sunday I hit up another one of my Jaime Oliver Books for some inspiration and this is what I found:

Cookbook Challenge #18: Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes from Jaime's Dinners

An older and wiser Jaime than in my last cookbook challenge!

I've never made a meal that looks this much like the photo!  But my pot is nicer than Jaime's!

I have a inexplicable fear of cooking certain things: roast beef, pot roast, whole chicken, or even chicken that is still on it's bone.  When I read this recipe and it called for chicken legs "dejointed", I almost changed my mind.  I'm not an orthopaedic surgeon, I don't want to de-joint any legs.  But fortunately I was able to buy the legs already dejointed.

This meal came together so easily, and then cooked away slowly in the oven for 90 mins, making the whole house smell like garlic, basil and tomatoes.  I felt like an Italian Nona.  With a loaf of sourdough and a salad it was a very special Sunday night dinner.

I'm not sure what I will make this Sunday, but I will look for my inspiration in my books tomorrow.  Hey, maybe I'll even try a pot roast!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A weekend of great achievements!

The youngest and the oldest members of our family had a banner weekend, both achieving amazing physical feats!

First, many many hearty congrats to Finley's Great Grandpa Jaring, who set two new world records this  weekend: first person in the 105-109 age category to complete the 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle in  competition.  He already has many world records to his name, but these are something special to add to his trophy shelf.  It is a huge inspiration to meet Jaring, to see his passion for life, and to see the enthusiasm he brings to everything he does.  Imagine living to 105… Now imagine setting new world records in swimming at 105.  Hard to imagine, isn't it?  He's truly amazing.

Here is a video of him completing his swim for the 50m freestyle world record:

Meanwhile, back at our house, Finley's been working on something for a while.  It started with some yoga move: the plank & downward dog.  Then he progressed to rocking back and forth on all fours.  Around Christmas he tried to propel himself forward with his legs, but unfortunately his arms did not get the memo and he crashed face first into my parents' hardwood floor.  But he kept persevering.  This week he started to crawl backwards… then sideways… and today he crawled for the first time!  Yes, little boy, the world is your oyster now.  And now it's time to baby proof this house already!

My achievements were much more modest in scope, but today I did my first "real" mountain bike ride since Finley was born.  I climbed up a new trail "Fifty Shades of Green", and downhill on one of my favs, Credit Line.  It's been a very balmy weekend out west - 12c!!! - so it was a glorious day for a ride.  

Derek did the same ride too, but as most parents of babies will relate to, we did not do it together!  

After such a great achievement Finley had a big nap & was early to bed.  I think I might follow his lead and hit the hay.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

And finally, I resolve to have fun blogging!

Welcome to the last day in my blogging blitz!  In the past 5 days I've presented the last of my new year's resolutions: the hobbies I plan to foster this year.  I've got lots of other fun things I hope to do this year - get back into running, mountain biking, some travel, hanging out with my amazing husband & son, visiting friends and family - but I wanted to give a special shout-out to a few of my hobbies.

Why these ones?

Birding: because it's a new hobby, it's a chance to learn more about the natural world around me, and it's something I can teach Finley.

Cooking: because it's easy to incorporate into a busy life (we have to eat!), it will help me learn new and healthy recipes to feed myself and my family.

Reading: because it's one of my oldest hobbies.  I've always loved reading; I even remember the first "book" I read by myself - "Freckle Juice" by Judy Blume.  Yet when I get busy I often let the reading drop.  It's easy to read a few pages before bed, and relaxing too.

Skiing: because it's hard to incorporate into my current schedule, so I need to put a special effort into doing it.  Because no matter how busy I get as a mom, a wife, a doctor, etc, I need to have a little time that is dedicated to something that gets me revved up!  And skiing does that.

And today the last hobby is revealed - blogging!  Yes, I resolve to keep up with my blog.  But why blog??? It's a good question.

I started blogging almost one year ago.  I thought long & hard about starting a blog, and what my goals would be.  I couldn't think of a theme, I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to read about my life, and it took me a bear's age to decide on a name.  But when I was pregnant, I really felt like I wanted to share some of my experiences, and blogging seemed like a great way to do just that.  Now that Finley is here, I have even more I want to share.  Since I'm not on Facebook or other social media outlets, a blog was a way of communicating with everyone.  I never had the intent of creating a high traffic blog; I just wanted a place that I could post some stories & pictures for the entertainment of my family & friends.

I have to say, though, that it has turned into something more for me.  I've always enjoyed writing as a creative outlet, so I really have enjoyed doing the blog.  I like to think about different topics or ideas I might  blog about, I like taking the photos that will go along with the story.  And while it's not exactly a journal, the blog postings about my pregnant and our growing family will become a type of memoir to look back upon.

And lastly, I touched upon communicating.  This is my final resolution that I'm going to throw out there.  I know I can do better, and this year I will.  The blog is one way, but I know I need to pull up my socks when it comes to answering phone calls, emails, and even good ol' fashion letters.  In a world where it's so easy to send a quick hello to someone, I don't really have any excuses!

Friday, 17 January 2014

I resolve to have fun skiing!

I will have fun, even if Mother Nature insists on snubbing ski enthusiasts of the south coast of BC.  After a crumby start to the season, Whistler-Blackcomb received a ridiculous amount of snow last weekend - 60cm in two days.  Hooray, the season is saved!  Not so fast… with an inversion set up over the hill for the next several days, temperatures at the peak could reach 11 degrees Celsius.  Bye bye piddly base.  Boo hiss!

Last year I managed a pretty good ski year for a preggo, and this year I'm hoping to make it up a few times even despite my busy schedule & a little bud too small to take up the hill yet.  Luckily my awesome hubby supports my ski habit, so I should be able to sneak up for a run here and there!

Selfie on top of Blackcomb today

There's a little too much of this around: Ice moguls of death

Just for giggles, I peered down False Face into Sudan Couloir… Definitely not ready for prime time!

Pretty light over Musical Bumps

Lots of smiles, because even with a lousy base, ice moguls and death-defying entrances to runs, skiing is so fun!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

I resolve to have fun cooking new recipes

Yes, you know what that means… the cookbook challenge continues!  As part of my week of releasing my "fun" resolutions, I'm resolving to reconnect with my inner chef.  I admit I've been cooking a lot less since Finley came along, instead relying on a huge stockpile of delicious homemade frozen dinners.

Freezer stocked courtesy of my mom, Sharon, friends, neighbours & my pre-baby self

We still rely heavily on this stash, especially on days that we both work.  I've also created a list of all the 20-30 minute meals I know of and we turn to these frequently too. But sometimes it's nice to try something new, to exercise the cooking muscles and to tantalize the palate!

I've already done two cooking challenges in 2014, and I aim to do 2 every month.  But my challenge has become more challenging as a few new books have joined the fold:

Four new cookbooks that were gifted to me this year - they all look fab & I can't wait to start cooking!

Super Baby Food is not really a cookbook, but more of an instruction manual on how to feed your baby homemade wholesome food.  It does have lots of recipes in it, and if you want to be technical, I have met the cookbook challenge in making several new things out of this book.  I use it to make homemade rice, barley & millet cereal, which I prefer to the store bought stuff.  I can by organic grains & feel pretty confident about what goes in to Finley's tummy.

Making baby food has actually been pretty easy, as mostly it's just pureed whatever.  We've pureed apples, pears, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, lamb meat, blueberries so far, and I'm sure there will be more to come.

In a world of useless gadgets, every so often you stumble upon a really useful gadget.  Here is my great gadget, which I bought used from another mom in town.  It's called the "Babycook", which is a bit of a creepy name that makes me think of Hansel and Gretel.  But it's for cooking baby food.  You steam and puree the food all in the same container.  The other day we went from apple to applesauce in 15 mins.  You can throw in a raw potato, a piece of uncooked chicken & a raw veg and have a delicious pureed dinner in 15 min later.  How cool is that?

OK, but on to the products of this resolution.  I've already done my two cookbook challenges for January!

Cookbook Challenge #16: Rice Noodles with Vegetables, Tofu and Mommy Brain 

The last ingredient was supposed to be watercress, but it was missing on account of mommy brain.  It probably would have enhanced the meal, but we will never know.  Not that it wasn't good, but I probably won't make it again soon.  And if I do, I may forget one of the ingredients again.

This book was given to me for Christmas many moons ago when I went through a vegetarian phase.  I liked spicy food, so you can imagine what a hit it was.  It has lots of very tasty veggie dishes.  This one was good, but not a stand-out.  It was quick & easy though, and that counts for a lot these days!

Cookbook Challenge #17: Shrimp and pea risotto with basil and mint

Photos do not do this meal justice.  It was yummy beyond yummy.  As we started eating I asked Derek what he thought, he told me he couldn't speak.  When he finally did, he said: "This is insane."  That sounds like a pretty good compliment to the chef, and incentive to keep trying new meals!

Aw, look how young and fresh faced Jaime Oliver is on his first book!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

I resolve to have fun reading

I love reading!  I read quite a few books when Finley was newborn.  He would feed for about 1-2.5 hrs at a time and I would sit there reading books & admiring my little dude.  Now he's a very efficient eater, so that's not prime reading time.

Here's what we are reading right now:

Favourite books of all time: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth and The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Good books from 2013: The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant, I know this much is true by Wally Lamb,  Winter of the World  and Fall of Giants by Ken Follett… and some others too.

I read a ton of books in 2013, but I can barely remember what I had for dinner yesterday, let alone recall the books I read.  Isn't that sad?  It's called "Mommy Brain" apparently.  I only know that I enjoyed quite a few.   Hopefully this year I will read lots of books that I may or may not remember in January 2015.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I resolve to have fun bird watching

Since work is un-fun most of the time (interesting, yes.  challenging, yes.  rewarding, yes.  fun - not often), then it stands to reason that by introducing more fun into life, one achieves an appropriate balance of goofy grins vs furrowed brows.

There are a few hobbies - some new, some old - which I resolve to foster this year.  I will be rolling out these fun-filled resolutions each day until the weekend.  

Today, please meet the first hobby, a new hobby: bird watching!

When I was in high school I had a cheeky boyfriend who liked to tease me because I was pretty straight-laced (still am.)  He was a bit of a daredevil; he was a pioneer snowboarder,  he liked to ride his bike off little cliffs etc.  He used to say that my last name translated to "stamp collector" on account of my more tame hobbies.  For the record, I've never collected stamps in my life.  There was a time when I collected ball bearings (I had such a great collection!  So many sizes & colours!), but never stamps.  In fact, I've never really thought of my hobbies as tame… until now.  

I'm sure there are some extreme birders out there, but I'm not one of them.   Since Finley was born I walk a lot.  And while we are walking in the forest, I like to look at all the life around me and I've often wanted to know more about the birds I see.  Knowing that I wanted to start up this hobby, my brother got me a bird book for Christmas: "Birds of Southwestern British Columbia."

My birding partner in crime

So far I have identified two new species while walking along the dyke:

The Common Merganser

The Varied Thrush (I've only seen the male so far)

But there's no denying that the main attraction around here these days is the Bald Eagle.  They come here in droves to feed upon the spawning salmon.  We are, in fact, the Bald Eagle Capital of the World, having counted a record high 3769 in 1994.  This year's count was 1617, a high number which makes sense given it was a big (and stinky) salmon run this year.

About a month ago I counted 40 while out on a walk.  They are everywhere and they are so magnificent to watch.  Sometimes they are perched in trees or on the shore of the river within about 15 ft of where you might be standing.  The juveniles appear enormous on account of their thick plumage.

iPhone shot of an eagle, who was a lot closer than he looks.  I said I was going to look at birds, but no one said anything about developing my wildlife photography skills!

Geez Mom, turn this car around so I can check out those two in the tree! 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The body is a temple!

The next few resolutions are aimed at restoring my physical health.  As you've heard me mention at least a few times, my pregnancy was hard on my body.  Given that I'm just a small fry at 5'4 (on a good day) and my baby was ginormous, this should not have been a surprise.  Yet I am still surprised and frustrated by the limitations I still have, 7 months later.  But I am working with a great physiotherapist and I am feeling stronger each week, so I must be making strides in the right direction!

I'll keep doing my daily physio exercises and my walk-run program (hopefully soon it will be run only!), but those aren't really resolutions, as I'm already doing them.  I'd like to make a goal to run in an 8km trail race in May (I had originally hoped to do a 21km race on that day, but that's not going to be possible!), but I will only be able to do that with my physio's blessing.

So I only have two small resolutions in the fitness & diet department:

1. One treat per day, except when on vacation (gotta be realistic!)  This will be in stark contrast to the holidays, at which time it was perfectly acceptable to eat cookies for breakfast, go out for a big lunch, have wine with a big rich dinner then round it out with a tasty dessert or two.  Mmmm… Christmas!

2. Stop eating when I'm full.  I make this resolution embarrassingly often, maybe every year!    Sometimes the food is so tasty I just want one more bite!  But I resolve (once more) to hold back.  Does anyone else have this problem, because my husband looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language when I told him this resolution.  He failed to understand how anyone could keep eating when they are full.  I mean, full is full, isn't it?  It sort of implies no more room.

At the start line of the 5 Peaks Alice Lake trail race in 2012.  Can you spot me?
I hope to be there this year for the "Loop the Lakes" race on May 24.
I know I won't make the 21 km loop this year, but hopefully the 8km?

I think there are two more resolutions posts to come… So far I'd say I am doing a fair job at my first set, but to paraphrase Sir Francis Bacon - "My iPhone makes a good slave, but a bad master."

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Freeing the mind in three easy steps

Here's my first lot of resolutions.  I started with this lot because I was thinking too hard and trying to phrase them perfectly & trying to make them into SMART goals…. Then I realized that I was at risk of not posting any resolutions until sometime in the summer.

I don't consider myself an overly anxious person, but I am prone to stress and anxiety like anyone else.    And like everyone else, I don't much care for the way it makes me feel - overwhelmed, pulled in too many directions… it feels like I'm in one place and my mind is in another.  I have a few ideas for how to slow things down, calm my mind and really feel that I'm living in the present.

Free the Mind!

1. Meditate for at least 5 minutes every day.  I can do five minutes every day, and I can probably do longer too, but this is where I will start.  While I was pregnant, Derek introduced me to a 6-week pod-cast "Introduction to mindfulness meditation."  I thought it would help me through labour (it did!), but it also helped calm anxieties in pregnancy & since Finley was born.  I've fallen out of the habit lately, so I plan to start again.

2.  Reduce screen time.  I pick up my phone a lot, and I mean a lot.  It's like a reflex.  I  check my emails, surf the web, look at my messages, etc.  Sometimes I literally just pick it up, stare blankly at it, and put it back down.  I would probably cringe if I knew how many times I pick up that stupid thing every day.  Why do I do it?  I'm not sure.  I certainly do not get enough emails that they need to be checked every 15 minutes.  I am certain that my time could be spent in better ways than constantly looking at my phone (or iPad or computer.)  10 years ago I had no such device in my life, and now it's practically glued to my hand.  So, the plan is: no checking phone while I'm hanging out with people, turn off my phone when I'm out socially.  I'll check email in the morning and in the evening - no checking in-between (unless I'm expecting an important/time-sensitive email which pretty much never happens.)  More time living my real life, less time living my virtual life!

This includes blog posts.  No reading and re-reading.  Write, proof-read, post!

3.  Let go of perfection.  (NB: not that I think I'm perfect, far from it!) Have you ever heard of someone making a resolution to do fewer dishes or less laundry?  You heard it here - kind of.  I'm not actually resolving to not clean my house, I'm just resolving to let go of the need to feel like everything needs to be perfect: super doctor who runs her busy clinic on-time, yet still makes it home to her spotless house in time to feed her baby home-made organic quinoa snacks. You will never find photos of my house, my office, my cooking or my family on Pinterest!  I have no idea how to make that into a SMART goal, but I'm going to let go of making into a perfect resolution and just go with it!

This includes my resolutions.   Make 'em, post 'em, break 'em!

Here is a bear who knows how to relax!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions

I make resolutions every year, and have done for as long as I can remember.  Many of them are not new - they could be things I've been working on throughout the year, or even longer.  I am pretty good about working towards my goals, but my resolutions tend to not have clear end points, so it's hard to say when or if I ever achieve them.  For example, I always want to improve the balance in my life, reduce stress and be healthy.  But how do I know at the end of the year whether I have achieved greater life balance?

I am going to try three new things this year.  The first is inspired by the book "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  I read this book a few years ago and I enjoyed it.  She resolves to increase her happiness by examining different aspects of her life (ex. marriage, parenting, health) and each month she sets up a list of resolutions to increase happiness in that part of her life.  I am not planning to do my resolutions month by month, but when I think about my ultimate goal of leading a healthy, happy, balanced and fulfilling life, it might be helpful to approach it in bite sized pieces!  Therefore, this year my resolutions will be little manageable tasks, each dedicated to finding balance and happiness in a particular part of my life. 

The second is that I am going to try to make my resolutions into SMART goals.  For those who have not had the pleasure of a leadership seminar, medical school, or a project management pep-talk, SMART is a mnemonic that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.  It's a way of framing your goals to make them more achievable.  

For example: "I resolve to cook at home more" is not SMART.  "I resolve to cook three meals at home every week" is SMART.

Thirdly, by sharing some of my resolutions on my blog, I will feel compelled to keep them otherwise all my legions of blog-followers might make fun of me!  So stay tuned over the next week or so, as the resolutions are revealed. 

Does anyone else want to share their resolutions?

To mark the start of the new year, this week's photo challenge is "Beginning."  Here is a shot from Whistler Mountain today - my first day of the year and the beginning of my ski season!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Happy New Year to all!

Welcome 2014!   It's nice to see you!  2013 was a BIG year in our house, and I'm looking forward the exciting adventures 2014 will bring.

We rung in the new year in a quiet fashion.  We did not welcome it at midnight, as there is no way I can stay up that late.  Finley slept in on new year's day, so we greeted 2014 at the very reasonable hour of 6:30 am (if you had told me a year ago that I would consider that "sleeping in", I probably would have cried!)

I made Finley a special lunch to celebrate the day: home-cooked lamb chops with a plum compote.  Also known as pureed lamb with pureed prunes.  Oh yum.  Forgive me for not including a photo of this meal; I think it only looks appealing to someone under the age of 9 months.

Derek & I also had a special meal, something I've never cooked before - cheese fondue.   I don't even think I've eaten cheese fondue before.  I kept asking Derek what else was supposed to go with it - a salad, some vegetables, anything?  Is it really just cheese and bread (and red wine on the side)?  Derek tells me that it is.  I felt compelled to add something to the meal so I chopped up some vegetables as well, but Derek did not join me in vegetable fonduing.  (Yes, I tried to sneak some cauliflower into my husband, but to no avail!)

Happy New Year's from our little family!!!
So, you might be wondering what's in store for the blog in 2014.  Well, my loyal readers, here's what you can expect:
  • Musings on life/work balance as I wade into the trenches of the working mother
  • I tackle my new year's resolutions on the www for all to see (and hold me accountable!)
  • More reflections on the joys & challenges of parenthood
  • Stories about and pictures of Finley, Zambo, our family and the wonderful town we call home
  • Random irregular photo dumps (not weekly, as I'm sure you've already noticed!)
  • Occasional photo challenges, when the mood strikes me and when I have time
  • The continuation of the cookbook challenge (I thought I'd get through my collection of 40+ cookbooks in 2013, but I only made it to 15!), now including gourmet homemade baby food!
  • More Throckmorton!!!!  He's been complaining that for a guy who's name is in the blog title, he seems to be in the shadow of a certain baby.  So we will endeavour to change that in 2014.
Anything else you'd like to see?  I make no guarantees, but if you give me some feedback in comments below, I will take it into consideration!

Happy new year!