Sunday, June 30, 2013

we have a yard: summer can officially begin!

It's been a year since we moved into the new house and we're finally getting a back and front yard. While it's been great having a natural wonderland for the cat to explore, to see fireflies in, and host butterflies and bumblebees, I'm happy that I'll actually soon be able to venture out and relax in our backyard. (Don't worry, the fireflies are still going strong and have the back field).

The yard was done over 2 days. First day, tearing out the wild flower jungle and adding top soil (the dirt we have was very clay based and not great for growing anything other than weeds apparently).

Next, they unrolled the grass. There's something odd about the idea of unrolling grass, but there you have it. We debated doing seed because it seemed cheaper and more eco friendly, but in the end agreed that we'd go the more expensive route to ensure that the grass was good to go for next summer when the baby is toddling about. Besides, seeds require way more work in terms of watering and protecting the seeds from birds, something neither of us wanted to stress about this summer. We've got bigger things to deal with this year.

So now that we've got that done, we're going to sit back and relax. No major landscaping/decor ideas going into play this year. We still have to install the tub and potentially finish the basement this fall/winter. But who knows if that will happen right away. We'll see how life with baby treats us and if our priorities shift once he's here....

It's just going to be nice to be able to enjoy having a yard this summer. You know?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

recent adventures in vegetarian cooking, inspired by pinterest

Since I've been home and have spent far too much time on pinterest, we've been experimenting with food lately.

Some of our latest concoctions:

Chickpea Mushroom Coconut Milk Curry.  It was good. Only drawback... I added too many red chilis. The recipe called for 2 but we'd made burritos earlier with 3 so I figured that 2 was really just going to not cut it, especially when cooked in coconut milk. Turns out I was wrong. We ended up adding sour cream into the mix to be able to eat it!

If I ever made it again, I would only use 2 chilis. Lesson learned. It's weird, the recipe used predominantly Indian spices but really was more Thai curry based in terms of flavour. Maybe it was the coconut milk? Not sure. But aside from the burn the tip of your tongue factor, it was good. I'd double the cilantro though to make it a bit more dense and savory in terms of flavour (cause apparently adding chilis isn't the solution).

Thai Cucumber Salad with Roasted Chickpeas. This was a hit! Totally tasty and to do again. The one drawback is that the chickpeas need to be pre-roasted for about 30-40 minutes at 400, not something that you really want to do on a hot day. It's not hard to do, just not hot weather friendly, which is ironic cause this is really the perfect hot weather salad. This is the recipe I used to roast the chickpeas, maybe another would require less heat/time?

Terriyaki Garlic Tofu Kebabs. Please forgive the blurry photo. Apparently I was too hungry when I took it and didn't hold still long enough! I marinated the tofu for several hours ahead of time because I like my tofu to have more flavour than can be absorbed in the suggested 20 minutes called for in the recipe. Paul barbequed them in the BBQ but ran out of propane before they were finished, so they weren't quite as crispy as they could have been. The rest will go into the toaster oven before we eat them. Overall they were good. People always wonder what a vegetarian can eat from the BBQ, aside from veggie burgers or grilled veggies (which I'm sorry, I can't stand... I'm so sick of grilled veggies I dread being served them).

There are infinite things that can be made for vegetarians. This week we've been experimenting up a storm, and it's only Wednesday. Best part of it? Much of it has cilantro in it and I think cilantro is the best, practically the nectar of the gods type of goodness. I don't know how I never ate this stuff growing up! So delicious.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

rites of passage: meaning, appreciation, and expectation

I'm not one for rites of passage. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think they're really important I just struggle with them and tend to avoid them like the plague.

For example, I attended neither my BA or MA graduation ceremonies. I did High School and that was enough. I tried to avoid having a conventional wedding shower, opting instead for something far more low key. And I vetoed having a baby shower.

Why? Simply because rites of passage always leave me feeling disappointed. I build them up too much. I have stupid internal conversations with myself about this, telling myself not to expect too much, only to still hold hope for some big life changing moment that will inevitably never be realized because honestly, how could it be in the context of what is traditional?

A rite of passage in our traditional modern context centers around people gathering, food, and gifts, none of which really encourage transformation or even necessarily much celebration of said transformation. I think, as I am about to write this, that I have fully become my mother's daughter, in that while I also want the hoopla that society has taught me to expect, more than anything I want the meaning back. I want less things and more stories. I want less consumerism and more thought.

I want less expectation and more appreciation.

And I want to remember to have the grace and open-heartedness to remember that from the people I love the most.

What do I mean by that?

Just this: that I can be moved to tears by the actions of people when I don't expect things from them, fully appreciating the kindness and thoughtfulness of their actions, the same actions that those nearest and dearest to me make all the time but that I don't see clearly because with friendship/family and familiarity comes the fact that I expect things and thus, take them for granted when I get them.

For example, the other day my coworkers hosted a baby shower for me. I walked out of my office and saw all that they did and almost burst into tears. Shh, don't tell them.

Why was I moved to tears? Because I walked out of my office to see tables set with flowers, a diaper cake, a full spread of food, a beautifully hand made sign, etc., and honestly I never expected so much from them. Ever. In fact, I was uncomfortable in some ways by how much had been done because I felt bad that we hadn't done as much for my male colleague when he had his son. I didn't know what to do with their generosity.

But here's the thing, I would never have had the same level of reaction if my friends had done the same. And that's just not right and bears some thought in terms of how I build up expectations towards others.

My reaction, up till now, has been to scrupulously avoid all rites of passage in order to avoid really dealing with this side of myself honestly. The kicker... is that I was recently reminded that in so doing, I deny the people nearest me the means of expressing their own joy and celebration over the big things happening in my life.

I really am a complex beast aren't I?

Suffice to say, my good friend V put me in my place and "demanded" that she be able to celebrate baby with me. In so doing, she gave me an unexpected gift, life lesson, and profound rite of passage that I had been looking for. I may never be a woman who wants to celebrate transitions in conventional ways and I may never fully find balance within my own reactions/actions in regards to my expectations and appreciation (though I am working on it), but I am also someone who is grateful for doing some of the fun traditions out there to celebrate the birth of baby GC.

things you don't know about your body until you add henna: belly button is off-centered. who knew?

So thank you V and work ladies who organized my work shower. Between the 3 of you, intentionally or not, you gave me an amazing rite of passage that forced me to grow, examine, and celebrate. I am truly grateful for the gift.

Friday, June 14, 2013

random pregnancy fact #254

Pregnancy Perk: You can nap whenever you want to, even on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Why yes, that is is my lopsided baby, making his presence known...
Why? Because they keep telling me that I should get all the sleep I can while I still can. I'm just taking their advice to heart!

ps. Today is my last day of work... how crazy is that?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

veggie recipe modification: middle eastern rice and beans

I've been on a try new things out, spicy food kick lately, so I went hunting for new recipes.

I found this recipe on Pinterest (yes, I have a pinterest addiction problem) and figured that it would be a super easy adjustment to make it veggie (lacto-ovo) friendly. Really, the only thing that needed to be modified was the broth. So I substituted my favourite vegan herbal broth for the chicken broth, and voila:

Yours truly makes her own vegetarian middle eastern rice and beans on naan. I meant to try my hand at making naan bread (high on my recent successful attempts at making tortillas) but the time got away from me and we just bought the naan instead.

It was really filling. We ate it with salad (you know, to get some veggies in) and both found it good but heavy. Really, we should be surprised given that it was bread, rice, and beans.

The one drawback? I think it could have been spicier. Given all the spices I added (not the Tex Mex featured above, that was for something else), you'd have expected it to be a little more savory. Next time I make it, I might add 2 broth cubes instead of just one (normally the herbal broth is very savory compared to your average veggie broth, which is why we use it). That said, it was yummy and there were enough leftovers for me to freeze 2 and 3 portions (in 2 containers) for when Bean arrives.

I would definitely make it again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

eco baby choices: second hand clothing

While I'm the first person to admit to loving clothing and shopping for new outfits, I've always struggled with the tension of wanting new, fun clothing, and the unethical clothing practices of most clothing companies. When I was younger, I was really good about buying second hand clothing for myself, but since living in Montreal, I've sort of lost that focus (partially just because the cheap second hand stores are so picked over in a big city). After the recent Bangladesh garment factory mishap, my desire to step outside of the unsustainable clothing industry was rekindled (it had been percolating for a while though). Ever since we found out that Bean was coming, I've tried acquire as much of our baby goods second hand as possible. 

When my friend Jen and I went shopping for second hand baby clothing the first time, I think that I was somewhat overwhelmed by just how much stuff you could find. At that point she already knew she was having a little girl, so she narrowed it down to the more girly stash, while I suspected we were having a boy but didn't know for sure, so opted to embrace neutrals in both sections.

Obviously you have to look for stains, tears, etc, but overall most of the clothing is in great condition. Let's face it, babies don't wear things for long before they outgrow them. I tried to be selective and filter things judiciously because it's very easy to get caught up in the cuteness of all the outfits. But I'm trying to avoid overly gendered things like trucks and cars, instead opting for dinosaurs, monsters, animals, and bold colours.

Crap, what is it with pastels and babies? And don't get me started on how pink everything girl is. Oy vey! I'm trying to go towards things that I would also dress a girl in but it's hard. The baby industry is very stereotyped, it's redunkulous!


Since then, I've been back to various other shops a few times and have amassed quite the collection:

This is our newborn stash. Everything in the two left piles is second hand. The stuff on the right is new. Ironically I think we have more proportionally new stuff in this category than any other just because a lot of the NB stuff in the second hand stores seems off in terms of sizing. Plus, I've been forewarned by Paul's Mom to look for stuff with buttons, zippers, etc, around the head opening because it's hard to get baby in and out of more fitted clothing because the baby doesn't hold his own neck up. I've taken her advice but it has really cramped my ability to pick up much in the way of second hand items!

We have a lot more in the 0-3 month range:

Everything you see above is second hand. From cute overalls to Paul's Habs jersey, to a ton of onesies (short and long legged), we've pretty much got our 0-3 month stash sorted.

But of course, there were a few impulse new purchases:

Monsters cause let's face it, monsters are fun. Mom and Dad rocks outfits cause of course we're going to totally put Bean in the middle of our face off! And then dinosaurs and other fun sleepers because I was hormonal and Paul gave in to my insta-gratification urges!

Below are things that were either made or purchased by the grandmothers or given by a friend (I'm actually surprised they've been so restrained so far... we'll see how much Oma will have knit when she arrives in July. She'd already knit up a storm by Christmas and I'd only told her a month earlier, she's had another 6 months since):

There are other goodies in the 3-6 month range, but not that much. I'm officially telling everyone who wants to buy Bean clothing to buy it for the 3-6 + stages now. And if it's second hand, trust me, I'm good with that. Hell, I'm great with that!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Project Life: May

The first week of May:

Highlights: Chatting with Kev about his new digs in Toronto, going to an art museum, picking up baby stuff from Paul's friend. 

Second week of May:

Planting seedlings, Paul working on his nephew's Communion gift, making fun baby bibs!

Week 3:

Taking time out for an us night: Thai and then ice in the park along the river. Nice! Hanging stuff in the nursery after Ikea shopping.

And then a big family shindig for Catholic Communion (suffice to say this is much more elaborate a rite than my Anglican communion was. It was a big surprise for me actually):


Week four:

Met with our doula, could reveal Paul's gift, out for a veggie meal with V... just relaxing really.

And week 5, which was busy:

 All of which, I'm pretty sure I've blogged about recently: cooking, walking, heat, baby, etc, etc, etc.

Since downloading the Midnight Project Life kit I've found the project a lot easier and more uniform but have definitely found myself a lot less creative with embellishments. I need to get back on track with that so that I can make my way through my stash! (I have so much leftover from being a monthly Studio Calico subscriber... I stopped because I was just getting overwhelmed with product).

So that was May, in a nutshell.

Monday, June 10, 2013

one little word: may

Even though I don't write about it much, I'm still on the One Little Word bandwagon, plugging away with my word of the year: story.

In May the challenge was to take words/quotes/overheard words etc... and apply them to a positive expression of our word in our lives right now. Here's what I came up with:

I made the cards by stamping a circle stamp in 3 alternating shades of yellow and then adding the embellishments. Nothing fancy. I opted to keep things simple and let the words do the work.

I'll be honest, I sort of started this month out with a bang, then petered off only to finish it last minute. And yet, it has been a very introspective month, full of re-evaluation in terms of priorities. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to manifest my eco goals in my daily life, how sustainable my choices are, the life that I want to carve out for our son (as in what I want to model to him, not what I expect of him), and how I deal with others.

The month flew by and yet it was full. Full of trying to get out and do things that reflect the life I want (more art and culture), making sustainable choices (upcycling goods, buying second hand), and purging (cleaning out craft room and getting rid of some of the excess). I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to eat better (admittedly I failed when it came to freezies and frozen yogurt) but I have been working on cooking freezer meals, so that counts somewhat, doesn't it? I've opted to forgo things that nurture strife in my life, instead choosing a simpler path (this is not easy for me, I'm a fighter and naturally tend towards doing things the hard way), and while this means I'm grieving a little for some of the things I'm letting go in order to do so, I'm happier with the choice of minimal drama and surprised by the unexpected ways that people and the universe are providing happy alternatives instead.

Overall, May was a good month. It was a month of financial recovery after everything came due in our lives (taxes, car, winter heating bills, appliances, etc, etc), which was important because it forced me to take a hard look at my financial choices and hopefully implement some changes. But I'm even happier to embrace June because there will be a bit more wiggle room in it and the end of pregnancy is in sight. I'm also excited about what this month has in store because it's just so fascinating to watch Bean grow these days and be excited about all the fun adventures I have in store for the month, from watching my brother graduate to other, to be shared, activities!

Friday, June 7, 2013

diy baby sewing project recap

So I was perusing my baby sewing crafts the other morning and thought I'd share the things I've created for Bean so far (I actually thought I'd made more, but I guess not. It just feels like it).

Fun bibs:

No boring bibs for my son, no sirree! I want bibs with attitude. Oh yeah baby! I suspect that one day I will probably regret instilling so much attitude into Bean from such a young age, but for now I'm just going to embrace it.

Best thing about these bibs? That I finally learned how to use the zigzag stitch in "serger" mode. Yeah. Again with the Marya not really reading the instructions properly and winging it mode. Necessity is the best of all teachers. That said, knowing this feature would have meant that I did the quilt VERY differently!

Oh well. C'est la vie!

Crib sheets:

Look Mom, they actually fit. I did it right! And learned how to sew elastic, which is easier than I thought it would be. Which means that just maybe, one day in the not so distant future, I might brave zipper sewing.

Actually sewing sheets was really easy. If fabric wasn't so costly I think it'd be something that I'd do for our own bed. But no can do, buying sheets at Winners is still cheaper than making Queen sized sheets (or the hassle of trying to get fabric that width). Ironically this is not the case for baby sheets. Odd but true. This is actually one of those places where it is cheaper to DIY it.

The Baby Quilt:

I still have to go back and trim the threads, but I'll get to it soon enough. I only have less than 2 weeks of work left, I'm sure once mat leave kicks in I'll get all the pesky odds and ends done.

The quilt didn't turn out exactly as I'd envisioned, but then again, when do any of my crafting projects? I'm good with that. I used to never do anything because the perfection beast would get in the way. I've since learned to accept that perfection means made with love, not perfectly made.

Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Next up (tmi alert) nipple pads:

Yeah, apparently I'm going to leak cause that's what boobs do when you breastfeed. Another fun pregnancy thing to deal with (just on the other end of the delivery room). Yay! But that's ok, I have like 12 pairs of these suckers now (now that I've learned my fancy "serging" technique).

Burp cloths:

Made from old towels and pillow cases. I only made 4 and bought 2 more. I might need more, not sure. I'll look into it during mat leave I guess.

And as blogged about previously, travel change mat with upcycled vinyl:

So that's what I've sewn so far. It seems like less (as I mentioned) but honestly, it's more sewing than I've done in a long time. And I'm ever so thankful that Mom bought me that sewing machine ages ago. It's really getting a run for it's money these days.

I find that I enjoy sewing quite a bit because I creating smaller projects that get done rather quickly. The insta-gratification side of my nature appreciates being able to whip up things in a day or two. My sewing skills are still rough, but they are getting better. I figure by the time Bean is a teen, I should have it down!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

life, around here, lately

We went tree hunting the other day. Our grass is being put into sometime this month, so Paul is anxious to plant a tree to go with it in the front yard.

Did you know that trees are expensive? Or that the city has all these bylaws about what kind of tree you can plant in your front yard? Yeah, they are and they do.

Suffice to say, we became overwhelmed and dropped the tree issue for now. Instead we picked up some flowers for our flower pots on the front porch. I actually picked the yellow flowers to unite both planter boxes except that Paul planted a dud in my box (left) so now my box looks sickly in comparison to his.

You mock me and say, "Marya, it isn't a competition." But here's the thing, it is because Paul makes it so. Even though I'm the one who waters and plucks away the dead bulbs, he's fully away of the status of his planter box and judges it accordingly. Bastard! I'm just saying.


I'm totally going to have to go out on Thursday, after pay day, and buy a new plant just so he doesn't win. Yes, I'm that spiteful after listening to that many little comments...

At least I'm not so mean as to purposely ignore his planter box and let it suffer.

In other news, it's been really hot lately:

I think I've seen the cat in more contorted, heat exhausted positions in the past week than I have in a long time. From just laying about on the floor, looking despondent, to letting it all hang loose like in the picture above, she's been a really piece of work lately. Don't even get me started on her mewling for water and outside. It's enough to drive a pregnant lady batty. I'm only moderately terrified about what the combination of a crying baby and mewling cat together will bring about in me!

We've added a rug to the baby's room:

We've finished the back wall. We came across a really cute and soft pig stuffed animal, which we've added to the shelf collection along with a copy of Munsch's I'll Love You Forever story. People tell you to read to baby as part of a bonding ritual. Yeah, I tried to read the Munsch story only to start crying every other page. I don't know what kind of bonding ritual this book will create. I might need to rethink the selected book, you know? The story just kills me every time.

And only once in my life am I ever going to dare show my belly on the web, just so I can share how the baby is moving (now that I finally caught it on video):

And that's about it for now...

You know, now that I've bared my belly on the interwebs... for shame!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

adventures in homemade tortillas

I made tortillas the other day.

I know, random. But it was cool and surprisingly easy to do.

First, I used this dough recipe and made the pre-requisite little dough balls to roll out for the tortillas.

Rolled out the dough (mine aren't anywhere near as perfect as theirs are but that's ok):

Fried them (with next to nothing in the way of oil. I literally rubbed a bit of oil with paper towel onto the pan):

It was kind of fun to watch them bubble up! I dug it. If you scroll to the top of this post, you'll see the finished collection of tortillas.

I made 12, thinking that it would be more than enough. Turns out I should have made a second batch if I wanted any for the freezer. Paul and I ate them for dinner that night (not all of them) and found them a bit heavier than your average tortilla. I suspect that rolling them out more would help with this, but then I'd have been cursing my inability to get them off the counter without tearing them.

In the battle between sanity and lightness: Sanity wins, they'll stay heavy!

I was really surprised by how easy these are and am hoping to try my hand at them again so that I can make a big batch and freeze them. The goal: moving away from overly processed foods and maximizing my deep freezer for this purpose. We'll see how much I get done before Bean arrives. I'm sure once he's here I'll be on cooking hiatus for while.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

diy travel diaper change mat with upcycled packaging

This weekend Paul and I bought a change pad for our change table. I know, exciting right?

Yeah, I know you dig it! Cause really, who wouldn't?

Ok, now that you've humoured me, you're still left asking, "Why the hell is she telling me this?" Well, because of the packaging that came with said pad. See, I loath wasting plastic. If I can avoid plastic, I try to. And this pad came in a huge thick vinyl/plastic wrapper.


I felt like this was an eco challenge: what could I made that would use up said plastic?

I figured that the vinyl had to be useful for some baby related endeavour, you know? Especially something baby changing related (cause god only knows how many horror stories people like to tell new parents about diaper changing adventures. I swear I will NOT be one of those parents who talk about poop all the time. I swear. And if I break said promise, please feel free to slap me. I give you full permission).

So in typical Marya fashion, I turned to pinterest and compiled a bunch of options and instructions. None of which I followed, I might add, because I'm a big believer in winging it (much to Paul's chagrin). I suppose he does have a point when he makes a case for me improving my mad, chaotic sewing skills (or any general crafting or cooking skills) when he suggests actually following the instructions to a t... but .... well.... that just seems too stifling in terms of creativity).

So I grabbed some odds and ends of fabric and started cutting and pinning:

I'm pretty sure the measurements are something like 26 x 16 inches? Roughly. I cut things to fit the general width of the vinyl. Online they recommended something else, but like I said...

Once I started sewing, I quickly realized that I needed to flip the fabric vinyl side down because sewing machine feet don't work well with vinyl. Kind of sticky and not so much with the flow...

Then there was the other side (the pretty side).  As you can see there are a few funky things going on with my sewing (again with the instructions, I know...)

Of note:

I winged it with the fabric and realized that I didn't have enough of the fat quarter to match the other side, so I patchworked it. I like it personally but I'm not so picky about perfection, so...

I sewed in some ribbons on one end to help roll it up later. I probably should have though a bit more about the mathematical placement of said ribbons because they present a challenge when trying to fold into a smaller square. But again, I'm a fly by the seat of your pants kind of sewer, so it works for me.

Just don't pay attention to the uneven placement... they were measured but then I kind of sewed over them and had to pull them through the hole used to flip the fabric right side out. That might not make sense to non-sewers, but I'm sure people who are sewing are laughing at my hodge podge sewing stylings! Yeah, I know... But it works and it won't fall apart any time soon.

In the end it folds up like this to go into a diaper bag:

All in all, I used:

2 pieces of fabric (or rather, 1 patchwork and 1 full piece) 26x16
1 piece of vinyl

Everything came from my stash and made use of odds and ends that I had about the house. Slowly but surely I am working my way through a rather sizable amount of my horde on baby related projects, which rocks!

Monday, June 3, 2013

random pregnancy fact #243

First of all: 37 days to go.

Yeah, I'm not starting to freak out or anything with that little update. No, not at all. I'm totally zen about it.


If you believe that... well...


Holy Crap, I'm big these days!

And with bigness comes even more breathing problems. I thought I was uncomfortable before in terms of breathing? Yeah, baby's just pulled the rug out from under my feet and taught me a new lesson in humility.

Did I mention that I really dig the lessons that come with body/baby? Yeah. They're my fav!

Sarcasm... a pregnant lady's mode of self-preservation!

So Friday it was about 38 C with humidity. I was at a conference with air conditioning, everyone else was freezing, and I was still sweating like a pig. Nice. And then there were the random moments of slight movement that would cause me to gasp for breath.

Good times.

On a bright note though: Paul took me shopping so we could buy him his birthday present and pick up a few baby goodies on sale just so that I could spend some time in air conditioning. Cause you know, sometimes he can be really considerate that way. I don't admit it often, but he's a pretty damn fine husband. Shhh, don't tell him though cause that will totally go to his head!

Point of this post? Breathing, pregnancy, and humidity don't mix! Damn this would be a good time for a gin and tonic. I'm just saying...


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