Cheeseburger pie, pina colada pie- Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies cookbook

So let’s begin by saying that I am really new to the whole kitchen scene. I definitely fall into the rookie in the kitchen category. Before going on maternity leave my husband did all of the cooking as I didn’t have any interest, skill or time to worry about what we were having for dinner.

While on maternity leave I decided that I wanted to learn how to cook.  I could no longer use the excuse of not having enough time as I am now home all day.

So I have been trying new recipes and feeling really proud of the meals that I have waiting for my husband when he gets home from work. It really does provide a great sense of accomplishment.

I was recently given an amazing cookbook as a birthday present. The cookbook is by Betty Crocker called Bisquick Impossible Easy Pies. This cookbook provides healthy, easy and quick recipes for all types of meals. It includes: beef pies, chicken and turkey pies, ham, sausage and bacon pies, fish and seafood pies, meatless pies, fruity pies and sweet-tooth temptations. Each recipe includes the nutrition information at the bottom which is very helpful.

Examples of recipes include, Brownie pie, Pina colada pie, Mac ‘n cheese pie, Cheddar ‘n Broccoli, Cheeseburger pie and Sausage breakfast pie. Any of your favourite meals are listed in this book as a pie.  They are absolutely delicious and they are perfect for a family meal or for hosting guests.

The recipes are super easy, very healthy and really don’t take long at all to prepare.  Whether you are a veteran chef or a rookie like me, you will enjoy these healthy recipes for your family.

You can read more about the cookbook here: http://www.amazon.ca/Betty-Crocker-Bisquick-Impossibly-Easy/dp/0764559176                                Cheeseburger pie from Betty Crocker

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Incredible and unforgettable books: The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Cover of "Outlander"

Cover of Outlander

For the past number of months I have been reading the Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon and I just can’t get enough. All of the books are hard to put down and once you finish one you can’t help but dive right into the next one.

The Outlander series consists of the following books and it is suggested that you read them in order as they follow a story through chronological order.

  • Outlander
  • Dragonfly in Amber
  • Voyager
  • Drums of Autumn
  • The Fiery Cross
  • A Breath of Snow and Ashes
  • An Echo In The Bone
  • Written In My Own Heart’s Blood: Will be released in early 2013.

I’m currently in the middle of reading Drums of Autumn which is the fourth book in the series. The books are incredibly well written and the character’s that Gabaldon has developed are unforgettable. The books are about love, hate, family, adventure, fantasy, war, violence, romance, revenge, death and struggle and they are all set within the context of historical fiction. There is so much that happens in each book that the list above hardly does justice to everything that takes place.

I have completely fallen in love with the main character Jamie Fraser who is a Scottish Highlander from the 1700’s.  He is a burly masculine man who will do anything to protect those he loves. His strength and loyal character will leave you wanting a Jamie Fraser in your own life.

Don’t get me wrong, these books are not just a love story.  They are built upon historical fact which makes them even more interesting. I have learned so much about 18th century Scotland, England and the American Colonies as well as the wars, the leaders of the time and day-to-day life back then. I love that I’m continually learning something new without actually feeling like I’m learning.

I am a huge book-worm and I have to say that these are some of the best books I have read.  It is certainly one of the best series that I have read.  I can hardly wait to plow through the remainder of the series although I’m worried that I will be left wanting more.

I definitely recommend this series. You will not be disappointed.

You can read more about her books at: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/writing/the-outlander/

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Favourite kids shows from the 80’s

Now that we have a 6 month old baby we are starting to watch cartoons and kids shows again. It is interesting to see that a few shows from when we were little have survived the test of time. The classics such as Sesame Street, Scooby Doo and Thomas the Train are still on and are pretty close to being the same as 25 years ago.

Some of the new shows and cartoons we have been watching are great but it also made my husband and I think back to our favourite shows that we watched when we were growing up. I’m sure the graphics and animation would look terrible if we watched them now but they sure were good back then.

We came up with a list of our favourite shows that we use to watch when we were kids. As we went through them it is incredible that we still remember so many of the theme songs. Obviously cartoons are a very important part of childhood and they create memories that stick with you for a very long time.

Let us know if we missed any of your favourites.

1. Kidstreet- My sister and I played this game all the time. I would send her out of the room and then bring her back to see if we could get matching answers.  Then when we got it right we would clap above our heads like they did on the show.

2.  Thundercats- This was my husband’s absolute favourite cartoon. Even when talking about it he raised his hands above his head like Liono and pretended to hold a sword as he chanted “thundercats, thundercats, thundercats, hoooo”!

3. Jem and the Holograms- Now this was one of my favorites and I clearly remember on my first day of Kindergarten we were asked to sing the theme song from our favourite show. I belted out “Jem… Jem is truly outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous Woo ooo Jem… Jem the music’s contagious.” I even remember getting Jem blue and pink eye shadow and loading it on my eyes.

4. Fun House- This was my absolutely favourite gameshow and I always wanted to be a contestant. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPJCwGfnom4

5. The Raccoons- Cyril Sneer,Cedric, Bert, Melissa and Ralph Raccoon

6. Denver the last Dinosaur- “Denver the last Dinosaur, he’s your friend and a whole lot more”

7. My Pet Monster- “My pet monster on him I can depend”

8. Care Bears- “Whose that coming from somewhere up in the sky”

9. Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers- “Chip, Chip, Chip, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers”

10. Hercules- This was on every morning at 6:30am before I went to school

11. Darkwing Duck- “If there’s trouble I”ll call D.W.”

12. Captain Planet and the Planeteers- “Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart!”

13. Astro Boy

14. Transformers- “More than meets the eye”

15. G.I. Joe- “And knowing is half the battle”

16. Fraggle Rock- “Dance your cares away, worries for another day”

17. Duck Tales

18. The Popples- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpKaGrmSQLk

19. Rainbow Brite

20. He-man- “By the power of Grayskull” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yeA7a0uS3A

21. Belle and Sebastien

22. Muppet Babies

23.  Beetlejuice

24. C.O.P.S.- “Fighting crime in the future time”

25. Ghostbusters- “Who ya gonna call?”

26. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- “Heroes in a half-shell; Turtle power!”

27. Dennis the Menace- “Hey Mr. Wilson….”

28. Ewoks

29. Garfield and friends

30. Teddy Ruxpin- “Come dream with me tonight” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyHqj5lunuU

31. Super Marios Brothers

32. My Little Pony- “My little pony princess pony”

33. Punky Brewster

34. Pound Puppies

35. Smurfs-“lala   la la la la,  la la la la la”

36.  Video Arcade Top 10

37. You can’t do that on television

38. Inspector Gadet-Penny, Brain, Dr. Claw and MAD Cat-“this message will self-destruct”

39. Bravestarr- http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=NqwzTipInnE&NR=1

40. Gummi Bears

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Celebrating a milestone birthday…as a mom

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday surrounded by my amazing family and friends.  As I get older, I appreciate even more the incredible people who are part of my life.  It makes getting older that much easier when you get to spend it with the people who mean so much to you .  Well that, and the fact that the evening ended with terrible dance moves and a ridiculous limbo competition made me feel young and reminded me that man I am a good limbo-er.  And then, one of my friends said, “you are going to be one of those embarrassing moms who bust out the retro dance moves that you think are hilarious but are totally not cool anymore”.  I’ve only been a mother for 5 months but I have officially joined the ranks of embarrassing mom dancers.  I may have the “mom” dance moves but I will never give in to wearing “mom” jeans.

For my birthday this year my parents gave me an incredibly thoughtful and unique birthday gift that I will have and cherish for the rest of my life. They bought me a beautiful silver ring with my daughter’s birthstone on it.  It is a gorgeous ring that will be worn on my pinky.  I love that I will have a constant reminder of my beautiful daughter with me wherever I go.  This was such a touching and thoughtful gift and I just love it. So for those trying to think of a gift for a new mom…this was just perfect.

This isn’t the exact ring but it has a similar design.

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We left on a jet plane…with a 5 month old

We just returned from an incredible two-week vacation in Florida.  I am a terrible flyer.  I dislike every part of flying and am a nervous wreck the entire time that I am in the air.  So when we were planning our trip to Florida I tried to convince everyone that we should drive.  I lost that argument and reluctantly gave in and purchased our airline tickets.

Leading up to the flight, I was hoping for a smooth flight and hoping that our baby would be comfortable and well-behaved on the flight. I was also secretly hoping that having the baby with me would keep me distracted enough that I wouldn’t have time to be fearful of flying.

On the ascend and descend we gave our baby her soother and whether that helped or not I’m not sure as her ears didn’t seem to bother her at all.  We made it through both flights without a single tear. She just loved looking up and down the aisle at all of the different people. As for me, having a baby with me didn’t help…I was still nervous the entire time.

In preparing for the trip I had absolutely no idea whether we should try to pack everything we need or whether we should rent some items down there.  So I began calling Southwest airlines to see how much I could bring. I was happy to discover that you can actually bring the car seat and stroller through the airport security and take it all the way down to right outside the doors of the plane.  The stroller and car seat are stored underneath the plane for the flight and  as soon as we were disembarking from the plane, our stroller was already waiting for us right outside the doors of the plane.  This really made carrying our little one really easy. It also meant that the stroller and car seat weren’t considered checked baggage. Bonus! This meant that I could take her portable crib as a checked piece of baggage. 

When searching for flights, I would recommend finding an airline that offers at least two checked bags free of charge (southwest offered two bags of 50 pounds each) as you will need if travelling for any period of time with a baby.

On our flight home there ended up being 40 extra seats on the plane so the amazing staff at Southwest airlines said we could bring the car seat onto the plane and have our baby sit beside us in her own seat.  That was incredible! On both flights she slept, ate and just looked around and was totally content.

I wasn’t sure what the guidelines were for carrying formula for a child as there obviously the limitation on liquids.  This rule however doesn’t apply for baby formula.  You can take as many bottles as you think are necessary for travel. They put the bottles through a little machine at security which tests the liquid without even opening the bottle.

Overall, travelling with the baby was a breeze. She was content, we were able to bring everything we needed and everyone at the airports and the airlines were super helpful.

One thing worth noting- you have to take the baby out of the stroller to walk through security as they put the stroller through the scanner on its own. At this point it would be handy to have a baby carrier or sling with you so that you can strap the baby to your body and free up your hands.

Lastly, when you book your boarding pass, you also have the call the airline to let them know you have a lap child travelling with you. 

Now if only I could get over my fear it would all be smooth sailing!

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Our top 10 favourite baby products for 0-5 months

Trying to decide what you need for your first-born child can be a very daunting task. My husband and I were so overwhelmed when we first went to Babies R Us. We didn`t know what we needed and what we could do without.  I remember standing in the aisle trying to figure out how in the world the strollers worked let alone what features we were looking for.

So for those first-time parents, we have put together a list of our top 10 favourite products from 0-5 months old. If any parents have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

1. Graco stroller and car seat combination

We use the car seat and stroller combination daily. Our daughter loves sitting in her car seat in the house while we are making dinner or if she is watching cartoons. We use the car seat constantly. If we are at a friend’s house or a restaurant for dinner she loves to sit in her car seat. This is by far the product that we use the most and we have been very happy with our Graco stroller.  The stroller is quite easy to fold-up and is extremely portable. It’s also lightweight and is easy to lift.

To see the stroller and online reviews visit: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Graco-Alano-Travel-System-Happy-Day-Pooh/13060510?adid=bzv_fb_revshr_001

2. Cougar Chariot Stroller

This stroller is for the active parents.  This stroller was given to us as a gift and we just love it. As we love to be outdoors, this stroller is absolutely perfect. It is so lightweight and easy to push that it just glides along as you jog.  The most amazing part of this stroller is that you can buy many different accessories to meet your needs.

 If you are not a jogger you can buy the hiking kit instead so that it is suitable for taking the stroller on hiking trails.  In addition to the jogging kit and the hiking kit you can also buy the strolling kit, biking kit and cross-country skiing kit. Each kit is priced individually so I would recommend only buying the ones that you will use.  Right now the jogging kit is the only one we have and it works for everything we want to do.

For more information on this product and other chariot active strollers you can visit: http://www.chariotcarriers.com/english/html/cougar_conversion_kits.php?conID=1 

3. Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard

This is another one of our favourite items and we have used it everyday since our daughter was born. From when she was first-born until about 4 months of age, she slept in the top part of the playard which is the bassinet. We kept this right beside our bed and that way it was easy for us to reach her. We have now taken out the bassinet and she is now sleeping directly in the playpen. We have added soft blankets on top of the thin mattress that it comes with so that it is a comfortable sleep for her.

The entire set is extremely easy to pack up and is super portable.  We have just returned from Florida and we took this with us as one of our checked pieces of luggage. We used it as her bed at night and we took it down do the beach during the day where she used it as a playpen. We absolutely love this playpen and it’s one of those items that we can use while she is a toddler as well.

Please note: it comes with a  change table but we never used this feature as we always change her on her actual change table. So for us this was a feature that we never used.

You can view the product here:

http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=12076269 

4. Graco electric swing

For the first three months, this swing was the best item we owned. It would comfort our daughter if she was upset as she found the motion very relaxing.  It was also great for getting her to nap during the day as the motion rocked her to sleep.  When we were eating dinner or when we were doing things around the house, she was so comfortable relaxing in her swing. 

The swing can be plugged in or run on batteries and it also has a mobile and music so it was very soothing to our little girl. We still use the swing every once and while but we primarily used it from 0-3 months.

Product details:

http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=10833947

5. Newborn to Toddler Rocker

This little rocking chair is another item that is used daily in our household.  From newborn until now at 5 months, our daughter has sat in this chair everyday. When she was a newborn we would use the vibration mode and it gently would soothe her to sleep. It has two toys attached that rattle and play music and she loves just staring at them. Now that she is older she can pull the handle and make it play music.  When she gets wound up and moves around a lot it makes the chair rock back and forth and she just loves it.

When she is a bit bigger we can then convert the chair so that it is appropriate for a toddler to sit in.  We use this chair indoors, outdoors and take it to other people’s homes. It goes everywhere with us! We highly recommend this chair as it is so handy and practical.

Our chair came from Toys R Us: http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=2773425

6. ERGO Baby carrier

This baby carrier is fantastic. Sometimes it is not convenient to push a baby stroller around and that is where this carrier comes in handy. The carrier is adjustable and therefore my husband and I can both wear it which is fantastic.  We have used the carrier for walking outside, doing yard work (I raked leaves with her in it), doing indoor housework, going out shopping (especially places with small aisles) and transporting my daughter different places (taking her down to the beach on vacation).

It is such a secure carrier that we feel confident that she is safe and comfortable while she is in it. The carrier also works in three ways- front, back and side carrying positions.

Our daughter loves being in the carrier as she can look around at everything and she is so cozy in it that she often drifts off to sleep. 

Love this product!

Product information at: http://store.ergobaby.com/Baby_Carriers/Original/BC6CA

7.  The Sleep Sheep

The sleep sheep is an amazing sleeping aid. It has velcro and attaches right to the crib or bassinet. It has a variety of different nature sound settings. It has a built-in timer so that it shuts off automatically after about 20 or 25 minutes.

The sounds soothe our daughter to sleep and it helps to relax her before bed. She often gets really wound up before bedtime so she will play in her crib while the sounds are on and as she listens to it we can see it begin to relax her.  If we are still up watching tv or puttering around the house it also helps to drown out any background noise and it allows her to focus on falling sleep.

It also great because it is portable so we can attach it to her car seat if we are travelling at night.  This is a great gift for new parents.  It also helps the baby understand that when she hears the sheep, it is time for bed.

Available at Chapters: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/gifts/Sleep-Sheep-Plush-Sound-Machine/059366464087-item.html?ikwid=sleep+sheep&ikwsec=Lifestyle

8.  Playtex Diaper Genie

When we started putting together the nursery I didn’t think we needed to buy a special garbage can. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just put the diapers in the garbage in the garage. I’m glad I listened to my husband and agreed to get a Diaper Genie Garbage can. It is so nice to be able to put the diapers right into the garbage in the nursery. The diaper genie helps to keep the nursery smelling nice and fresh as it keeps the smell contained in the garbage. 

It is very easy to use and you can easily transport the entire bag of diapers right out to the garage once it is full.

Important to note: You have to buy special diaper genie garbage bags but they are affordable and you can buy them at Toys R Us, Costco or Walmart.

For more information you can visit:

http://www.toysrus.ca/product/index.jsp?productId=3316303

9.  Ikea baby playmat

Sometimes our baby just loves to burn off her energy.  When she is too restless to sit in one of her chairs, we love putting her on her playmat. She loves lying on her back playing with the toys dangling above her.  We also use the playmat for tummy time. The playmat is nice and soft and is great for lying on her tummy and practicing lifting her head and crawling. Now that she has learned how to rollover, she loves travelling around her entire playmat.

The playmat folds in half and attaches by velcro so that it is easy to store it while not in use. We use the playmat almost daily so that she can move freely without being restricted to a chair.

Product available at Ikea: http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/10195766/

10. Evenflo Exersaucer Triple Fun Jungle

Just before our daughter was four months old, she began to use her exersaucer.  It has a multitude of items for her to play with. With a seat that swivels she can look around at the different toys while simultaneously strengthening her legs as she is standing straight up while in it.  Now that she has learned how to use her hands, she loves playing with the different toys.  This specific model has music, lights and sounds so it keeps her very entertained.

The exersaucer also has a newborn playmat and it unfolds into a play centre for when she is older and can stand on her own so it is therefore an item that we can use for a long time. We looked through all of the exersaucers available at Toys R Us and after playing with all of the them, we liked the toys on this exersaucer best.

Product is at Toys R Us: http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3420756

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“Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving”- now that’s a must read

If you have tuned into the news week, I’m sure that you have heard about a trilogy of new books by E.L. James. These three books have been so popular that they simply can’t keep up with demand. A new print run of the books has been ordered and will be available on early April. You can now order the books online to ensure that you are next in line to get access to these hot sellers. Anything that can sellout that quickly, is a must on my “to read” list.

The three books are entitled, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. The description on Amazon.ca is as follows:
“When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind – until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.”

I don’t know about you, but that last sentence sounds rather creepy yet totally intriguing. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered a book online, but for something that is such a big seller, I think I just might. I need to know what all the rage is about right? I consider it research for my blog. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Mommy Bloggers are apparently spreading word of these books like rapid fire. The Toronto Star reports-http://www.thestar.com/news/books/article/1144739–erotic-novel-for-women-fifty-shades-of-grey-gets-u-s-publisher

Once I have received the books and read them, I will be sure to report back.

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Want to earn more air miles?

The Air Miles program logo in Canada since 2009.

Image via Wikipedia

For those of us who used to just accumulate air miles strictly by going to the liquor store, I’m sure you’ve realized that by the time you are 95 you may have earned just enough to buy a gift card to go to the movies.

As I would actually like to travel with my air miles, I have been researching new ways of adding more air miles to my account.

A few ways to get more air miles:

1) Switched your homephone to Primus to earn miles on each phone bill

2) Johnson insurance (car and home) gives air miles for having your insurance with them

3) Shopping at Metro and receiving their special offers via mail and e-mail and using those in the store give you tons of extra air miles.  It’s usually as simple as spend $50 get 25 bonus air miles

4) Sign-up for the air miles opinion surveys. I get a few surveys every week. They only take a few minutes and they provide me with a few bonus air miles every week. https://www.airmilesopinions.ca/index.php?id=19

5) If you are on online shopper, check and see if should be shopping through the air miles website to be earning points for each purchase. For example if you buy from Chapters/Indigo online, be sure to shop through air miles to earn extra miles on all purchases.

6) You can get an American express air miles credit card and then for each $20 you spend, you earn air miles.  Therefore if you put big purchases on your Amex then you can earn air miles really quickly.

7) If you need any hardware supplies, shopping at Rona gives you air miles as well.

By just doing a few of things, in a much shorter period I earned a lot more miles and flew both my husband and I across the country and back. So it does pay off to make a few different shopping choices in order to earn miles. And certainly, by continuing to shop at the liquor store and buying some of their bonus product offers you will also see the points accumulate faster.

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A new way of thanking people for baby gifts

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Image via Wikipedia

Before and after the arrival of our little girl we were overwhelmed with the incredible generosity of our family and friends. We are so fortunate to have received such beautiful gifts to welcome our new addition in to the world. Upon receiving the gifts we were sure to add all of the items into a notebook so that we could record the presents that people gave us. This was helpful both for writing thank you cards and also to keep as a reference so that we can look back and remember who gave us what.

In addition to keeping our reference book, I also decided to keep a record of the clothes that people gave us. On the inside of each article of clothing, I wrote the person’s name who gave it to us. So now, each outfit that was given to us as a gift has a name on the inside tag. When our daughter wears an outfit that was given to her we are sure to take a picture and send it as a thank you to the person who gave it to us. Or, if we are going to be seeing those people, i’m sure to dress her in the outfit that they gave her so that they can see it on her. If I buy clothes for someone’s baby, I love to see how the outfit looks on them so this was a handy little way for me to stay organized.

Another option is to add the picture to Facebook and tag that person in the picture so that everyone can see the beautiful outfit that they gave you.

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Here we are…blogging!

My husband and I both like trying to new things. Usually this involves something such as bungee jumping or paragliding in the alps but as new parents we have had to cut down on our thrill seeker adventures (at least until our little girl is a little older). As we are both writers, we wanted to challenge ourselves to try something new and enter the world of blogging. This is a very new realm to us so we are still trying to figure this whole thing out.

Every night when my husband comes home from work, he says “thank you for the smiles” to our little girl and hence we thought it would be the perfect name for our blog.

I am the first to admit that I am not the most domestic person in the world. The world of cooking, cleaning, being organized and being responsible for another human is entirely new to me and I am learning as I go. I assume that there must be others like me out there so I thought maybe some of the things that I am learning would be helpful to others.

So happy reading and please feel free to ask questions or provide comments as this is meant to be a learning experience for both my husband and myself as well.

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