Pinterest Cooking Frenzy Part I #thesearethedays #makeyummyfood

In 2012 I set out to try some of the activities with Jonah that I had filled my pinterest board *Cute Kids Stuff* with. I spent time making that a priority and loved the memories we made while Brooklyn was in school. And especially since, later that year I went back to work, I am so grateful for that little burst of inspiration to DO, not just PIN. I have tried, for various reasons since, to keep this up. To keep my kids and making memories with them, a main priority. And we’ve had some amazing times as a result.

Now, I am wanting to take this further and do something for me – though it will, of course, benefit my family as well.

The kitchen is my happy place. Which is a good thing since about 80% of my day is spent in it. I love trying new things and especially love finding new family favorites. In addition, I love the opportunity to involve the kids and teach them different cooking skills or to appreciate the opportunity to try new foods.

So let’s get started ~ A few months ago I found myself in a bit of a Pinterest frenzy and tried 4 new recipes. Want to know what I tried?

It all started with wanting to try these delicious looking meatballs – Hoisin Asian Meatballs from Damn Delicious.

Hoisin Asian Meatballs - These juicy, tender meatballs are smothered with a sweet Hoisin glaze!

photo used with permission

I know, right?!

They did not disappoint – even my sweet, picky, 9 year old Brooklyn was a fan, despite trying to convince me she hates ALL meatballs. Ha, silly girl. And really uses basic ingredients – ground beef, breadcrumbs, spices, eggs, and of course Hoisin Sauce.

**Note: It probably goes without saying, but if you aren’t a fan of Hoisin Sauce you probably won’t like this. And you’re probably crazy ;) **

While I was waiting for the hamburger to thaw, I noticed this yummy looking dish and decided to make it so I could munch while I cooked.

Chili Cheese Dip from Love Grows Wild

Chili Cheese Dip appetizer recipe

photo used with permission

Just three ingredients – cream cheese, chili, and shredded cheese and another huuuuuuge hit. But this time with my son, who ate two helpings of it before dinner. And, is actually eating more as I type this post. The recipe calls for chili without beans, but I love beans so I used a chili with them. No specific brand….I just used what I had on hand. And make sure you use a nice thick layer of cream cheese on the bottom. Mmmmmm

Olive Garden Copycat Dressing from Mommy Savers

olive garden salad dressing recipe

photo used with permission

I love the salad at Olive Garden more than I love any other salad. And I am always looking for a homemade version, so I knew I had to try this one out. The best part is it also uses ingredients often on hand, so no crazy grocery trips!

The verdict? Delicious, but not quite like the Olive Garden. And I have to be honest – it killed me a little to put corn syrup in it. BUT, it was definitely good and I am excited to have another homemade dressing to choose from.

Roasted Ranch Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese by Joyously Domestic

photo used with permission

Plain and Simple – these are DELICIOUS! And I didn’t even have any bacon to use, so I can only imagine. Also, strangely all I had on hand was Three Cheese Ranch – strange because I don’t like that dressing lol – but they were still great (just in case not having exact ingredients is something that freaks you out).

Well there you have it – FOUR Pinterest wins! And trust me, there are more coming. This Pinterest frenzy continues and you are going to be so glad.







Winning With Westjet #thesearethedays #welovewestjet

I love holidays. I was made for them. So when the Captain won two flights anywhere Westjet flies, my heart skipped a beat. I mean, we had a few glitches in the beginning with the timing and original expiration of the vouchers, but when it all got taken care of, my heart resumed skipping.

And we were able to fulfill our dream and promise of taking the kids with us on a tropical getaway. It did of course cost a small fortune {$1,000 per flight for the kids!!!} but we knew it would be worth it. And it was {more posts to come}.


                     Waiting for our flight


But how would our experience with Westjet compare with other flights we’ve taken?

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I am so not the type that is going to pay to choose my seat – boy I think that’s a ridiculous feature. So we just hoped for the best – and best was not quite what we got. The Captain was seated near the front of the plane, Jonah and I were in the middle, Brooklyn was by herself in the row behind us, and my mother in law was in the back. And the funny thing is, it seemed that every other group on the flight was split randomly. People were up walking back and forth the entire flight to chat with family, trade off kids or snacks, etc. It was pretty funny.


                                Born to fly

But the truth is, that was the one and only thing that wasn’t great about it. Everything else was perfect. And we arrived to Mexico and came home, true Westjet fans!

Of course, I knew immediately it was a winning airline:


Any airline with Clamato is one I want                             to fly with

In addition to the smooth flight {yay} and amazing flight attendants, the kids were able to check out the cockpit before we exited the plane. I did it as a kid and was so hoping the kids would be able to as well – especially since this was the first {of many, I hope} time flying.


We loved our experience with Westjet and are looking forward to booking with them again. Hopefully it’s in the nearer future, as we truly were made to holiday!


Keeping It Real #thesearethedays #itsbikinitime

I did it again! I sported a bikini on our Mexican vacay, and despite not being as fit as I’d like to be, I rocked it anyways.

Even when Jonah giggled and said *Mom, your tummy looks like a mouth*. #yesihaverolls

I don’t have a *perfect* body, and there are still improvements to be made. But it’s mine….my body…and I love it. I love my shape, and the way I look….and I loved finally wearing all my cute bikinis too.

So, to really keep it real – here is a straight on photo….This is me….this is my body. And even though it’s not perfect, I can still love it.

IMG_0092IMG_0098But, it doesn’t mean I can’t also execute the *tummy tuck* in photos too:

IMG_0173IMG_0459Well, there you have it. Love it or hate it….it is what it is.

I’m choosing to love it…at the same time as choosing to change it. But in the meantime, I’m still going to rock it! #rockyourbody

A Small Fortune…But Worth EVERY Penny. #thesearethedays

You may remember my issues with the OUTRAGEOUS cost of photos from my first experience swimming with the dolphins. A friend and I went while away in the Mayan Riviera, and nearly fainted at the $350 price tag for a cd of images.

I mean, come on!

And while I wasn’t in any way, going to spend close to that this time around, I knew I wanted the cd. The price was still outrageous, and I’m sure I could have bargained a bit, but I went for it. $170 for the cd of images and the cd with the video, PLUS 8 printed photos. AND, he included a second set of cd’s so my mother in law could have a copy as well.

I paid the price for a couple of reasons. 1. Because I wanted ALL of the memories and 2. THIS:

Inspiring Change

I love me a company that reaches beyond themselves and knowing that other children are able to have this experience just does my heart good.

It was 100% worth it to me.

Dreams Come True with Vallarta Adventures #thesearethedays

logoMy parents gifted each of the kids $100 for their birthdays this year, to spend on our holiday in Mexico. Incredibly generous and a wee bit ridiculous, I know. But, as Brooklyn said, *They love us!*

And they do. These kids are seriously spoiled rotten – but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

BUT – I did not want to come home from Mexico with $100 worth of STUFF for each kid. Oy. So I came up with a genius plan. I’m really trying to move our focus as a family, and on the blog, away from having more stuff and, instead, having/making more memories. So I suggested this idea to the kids and asked what they thought about using their birthday money to make memories swimming with the dolphins.


After a quick google search, I discovered Vallarta Adventures, and booked immediately. I knew it was the perfect fit. I couldn’t have been more right. Our experience was incredible and is one the kids will remember for years to come.

I think the pictures speak for themselves:

dolphin collage 4dolphin collage 1dolphin collage 3dolphin collage 2The facility is beautiful, and I can’t say enough great things about our trainer, Sofia. She was AMAZING and made our experience the same.

We will definitely be booking through Vallarta Adventures again!

The Switch #theylovetodance #thesearethedays

Well, it’s been a source of uncertainty for a couple of years now. You might remember my post earlier this year about Brooklyn and what her deal is with dance. To refresh your memory, she LOVES being there, but HATES going to it.


So this year I signed her up like usual, and although she was more positive she still wasn’t excited. When I asked her why, she said:

*Well, I just feel like I’ve been there too long*

So I probed further and asked if she would be interested in trying a new studio {a thought that had not previously occurred to me lol}. I didn’t think too much more about it and Brooklyn really didn’t bring it up again either.

But several weeks ago now, I followed an instinct and switched her. Actually, I switched them both. I chose a studio that I have heard excellent things about, one where several of my friends have put their kids, and one, upon visiting, just gave such a nice feeling.

So I signed them each up for a Hip Hop class, and Brooklyn’s first class was just 30 minutes after registering them. lol She was a little nervous and feeling lazy and really didn’t want to go, but I coaxed her. And she ended up going happily in the end.

In fact, while in the waiting room, I turned around and she had gone into class without so much as an *I’ll see you later*. After class she said she liked it.

Later that night, during bedtime prayers, she expressed gratitude for her new dance class.


Then, on the Wednesday, while I was telling Jonah that his new hip hop class would be the next day, Brooklyn said, *Oh, I wish it was Tuesday already*.

It was a difficult decision because we’ve been at their old studio since she was 4 {so this was year 6}, but it was the right one.  And I couldn’t be happier.

P.S. Jonah’s first class was GREAT! He came out so thrilled and happy and showing me what he had learned.

P.S.S. It’s been over a month now, and the kids are incredibly happy and settled in. I never have to convince Brooklyn to go and week after week she tells me how much she likes it. Jonah, also, is happy to go. In fact, when I had a small *friend of the family* emergency to attend to, and spent some time at the ER, making him miss his class, he BURST INTO TEARS.

It’s a good sign. A good sign indeed.

The Pillow #thesearethedays #itssentimental #givingismagical

It started with a patient passing away first thing in the morning. It didn’t matter how many times it happened, I never got desensitized to it. I always take a minute to silently offer warm thoughts to the loved ones. Nobody ever wants to get that call.

I mean, the reality is people die. And it isn’t always the shock that people are sad over – it’s simply the loss. No matter whether it was sudden or a long process, the loss is always great and felt immediately. And that grief breaks my heart.

The family asked for some chairs so they could all sit together around her, so I offered to grab some.

The love in that room was palpable. There were tears of sadness, but more than that, there were tears of gratitude. For however many years their lives had all been blessed by her presence, her example, her generosity, and love. And you could feel it. I soaked it up.


On her bed was a pillow. As I put the first chair down, I commented that her pillow matched the bedding set we had just bought Brooklyn {for her then upcoming birthday}. They were a kind group, and even in the deepest moments of grief found an opportunity to reach outside themselves.

Her husband said simply, *Take that pillow for your daughter*. And quite frankly, I couldn’t contain my emotion. The tears just started flowing as I protested that I couldn’t possibly take this pillow from them. I mean, how could I?

But he insisted, saying that his wife would have wanted it that way.

I don’t know if there are rules against it, but in that moment, there was no way to refuse. And so, I agreed, with more tears, asking if I could leave it in the room for a while. I wanted it to soak up that love, that kindness – and the ability to be so generous and thoughtful amidst that grief. So I did.

And I couldn’t be more grateful. Being able to add this pillow to Brooklyn’s birthday gift meant a lot. And being able to explain to Brooklyn how and why this pillow became hers was magical.

A co-worker of mine thought it was weird. I think it’s beautiful.


And Brooklyn, too, thought it was beautiful, immediately hugging the pillow with gratitude and compassion. She gets it. This sweet 9 year old, sometimes entitled feeling, little girl gets it.

I couldn’t be more proud.

The Company I Keep #thesearethedays

I know I’ve talked about it before, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I’m not much of a complainer. And I’d like to say there’s no particular reason, that it’s just the way I’m wired…and while that may be partially true, at the end of the day I think it has a lot to do with the company I keep.

optimistThe friends I have and the examples they are and have been. Through really big trials, with every reason to complain, they didn’t and don’t.

Case in point:

Maria: For weeks after her youngest child, 5 year old Shelby, passed away from Cancer, Maria drove to work blaring U2′s *Beautiful Day*.

me shelby nicole

                            Me, Nicole {7}, and Shelby {5}

Donna: When her daughter, Nicole passed away {at age 11} from Cancer, and I felt like I had missed out on more time with her {because I had}, Donna simply stated that it just meant more time for her. Something she was grateful for.

Morgan: A sweet 6 year old, who was battling Cancer, once said, *Mom, I love my feeding tube because then I can eat and play at the same time.*

Maternal Grandma: Her life was filled with all sorts of unfair experiences – and yet what all of us remember is her LAUGHING her way through every day. One time she returned to her vehicle in a parking lot to find a nasty note left about her parking job. Instead of getting angry, she started laughing that someone would WASTE their time to write the note.

Nigel: Passed away from Cancer in his early 20′s and at the funeral his journal was discussed. Regardless of the events of the day, each and every entry started with *Today was a good day*

Karma: A dear friend whose 4th child passed away at 16 months of meningitis – and yet the way she lives her life…the way she continues to help and give to others…you would never guess her heart carries such heaviness. She has since had 2 more boys.

A close friend {who will remain anonymous due to subject matter}: Despite spending time in an abusive relationship – one that really took it’s toll in a fairly short amount of time – she has risen above and made her life incredible. And her efforts to help others is inspiring.

Brent: My incredible husband. Even in the weeks that followed his dad’s sudden passing, he did not take his grief out on the kids, me, or anyone else. And since then, although the loss is great, he has managed to move forward, without complaint.

Mother in law: It’s only fitting to mention her. A woman who was widowed suddenly, while on holiday, and in what could have been the *prime* of their married lives….and although I know her loss runs deep, her days are not filled with complaints.

Josh: A dear friend of mine who passed away at age 15 {Cancer}. When his dad asked him once if he ever wondered *why me* he shrugged his shoulders and simply said, *why not me?*.

A close friend: Her husband left her for a co-worker and took up his role as a *deadbeat dad* of sorts. And she – one of the most incredible women I know has taken life on…made it the very best.

Aunt Kristy: Who lost a young daughter {10 months…to SIDS} and then years later, her husband {Cancer}….just found her way to carry on, always finding ways to laugh and things to be grateful for.

My mom: While I know my  mom has shed many tears over circumstances {yes her kids were the cause of many of those}, she never let it swallow her whole. She always got up and kept moving. Always.

The thing is this. I consider myself to be a compassionate person. I’m empathetic and my heart hurts at the anguish of others. I lose sleep when those I care about are struggling. But I actually have very little compassion for complainers. And I think it stems largely from this list….from those in my life who have had REAL hardships….REAL problems….and still….STILL…don’t complain their way through life. They are gracious, kind, helpful, and always looking for the good in situations. It’s for this reason I have difficulty spending extended periods of time with those who LOOK for reasons to complain. repetitively. Spending their energy finding things to be unhappy about. Ways to negate all the positive things in their life and instead focus only on those things that aren’t perfect or ideal.

fifty five

Sometimes our choices determine our circumstance

I almost can’t process it. I have seen so much loss, so much hardship – and yet those are the people who have shown me the most optimism and grace.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have those listed among the company I keep. I continue to meet and become close friends with people who live similarly. I don’t know how or why I have been blessed in this way – but I have an immense amount of gratitude for their examples.

Simply incredible.




My Afternoon Gig #thesearethedays #makingmemories

Those of you who follow on facebook know that my Service Aide job has come to an end {last weekend}. I can honestly say I am BUMMED – I mean, thrilled for my friend who is coming back, but so BUMMED for me. I really did love this job, and was happy to see how the casual thing would work out. I guess I’m lucky that I don’t HAVE to work, so I had a little freedom in just taking casual shifts or waiting for the right position.

And then it happened.

A posting…the perfect kind of posting. Part time, at the hospital, utilizing my former admin skills and experience. So I applied. And got an interview {seriously!}.


So, yesterday I began my career as the Admin Assistant to the Director of Clinical Engineering. And I couldn’t be more thrilled! It makes leaving my position not quite so difficult.

And then, another amazing thing happened. A friend of mine, a former youth leader who is like a sister to me {for 18 years now} e-mailed me. Her mother in law, who has been a widow for about a year and a half, is needing a little tlc. She asked me if I knew anyone who would be able to provide an outing and some attention for an hour or two every afternoon. She listed some requirements based on the situation and I thought, hey, I can do this. And she said they had hoped I would, but didn’t want to ask because of the commitment.

Not only were they moving her within minutes from the hospital {SO convenient for me}, but the entire opportunity just struck me as nothing close to coincidental. I am excited to spend some time with her each day, take her out, make memories, and just love her. But  more than that, I am most definitely aware of the incredible impact she is going to have on my life.

It is a difficult thing to watch  someone suffer from varying stages of dementia. I saw it fairly regularly as a Service Aide, and it does something to a person’s soul.

please don’t ever let that be me.

I mean, being a widow comes with its own challenges – I see it with my mother in law. But to be a widow AND be confused AND believe your loved ones have abandoned you. It breaks my heart.

It’s also been 9 years this coming week that I’ve been without a grandma {or a grandparent}, and often I have wished that I could have their influence in my life now. Grandparents are pretty incredible people. I was able to spend a lot of time with my dad’s mom for months in the hospital before she died {2002}, and those memories are some of my fondest.

And now I get the opportunity to create more memories with this {sometimes not so} sweet lady.

I am so grateful that neither job impacts my life as a mom or the kids schooling. AND, should my admin job ever require more hours, my afternoon gig is totally flexible. I mean, how lucky can a girl get?

Right now, I am feeling blessed. Really, really blessed.

Catching the Bento Fever #thesearethedays #bentofever

For a few years now I have been telling Brent I want to pack Brooklyn better lunches. More than just the typical {and boring} sandwich, and something with more variety and healthier items. Not to mention, cutting down on the amount of ziploc baggies used. Don’t get me wrong – ziploc bags are necessary and something we use often – but I hated the idea that we were filling our own landfill with her lunches alone.


                     photo from website

So last  year I bought some Rubbermaid Lunchblox products. I was SO excited….and had every intention of rocking her lunches {and Jonah’s as he was in Kindergarten two full days a week} but still didn’t have the vision.

Thank goodness for Pinterest – I FINALLY get it!

And thanks to the Bento Review Post by Smashed Peas and Carrots {one of my fave blogs}, I went for it and ordered some items. I had them shipped to the condo and can honestly say it was the ONLY reason I was anticipating the school year starting {okay, that and both kids being full time lol}.

Bottom line: I have caught the Bento Fever.

I have a few more products to add to our collection, but am happy for now. And my kids are rockstars at bringing home the reusable toothpicks {yay!}. I also know I can get even more creative, but I am still having loads of fun and I know the kids are enjoying their lunches.

Here are some ideas:

**Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be fancy. And, once  you lose the idea that kids need a whole baggie of carrots for example and realize that just a couple is perfect, your life will change. Their lunches will change.**

IMG_0754The first day: Jonah’s {top} had kabobs {cheese is chopped cheese string}, watermelon, cashews, and a candy treat.

He told me after school he wanted more….of course he would – I completely forgot about recess snacks. oops.

Brooklyn had the same lunch except raspberries instead of cashews.

IMG_0757Jonah’s perfect Robot Bento Box.

IMG_0756And Brooklyn has the adorable Owl one.

IMG_0762Pasta Salad {with veggies, cheese cubes, and a homemade dill dressing}, fruit kabobs, frozen yogurt bites, carrots {with dip}, and a ham wrap.

IMG_0780Yogurt {with saran wrap just in case}, raspberries and blueberries, ham sandwich shapes, cucumbers and dip, a container with a few smarties, and a fruit leather {cheese string for Brooklyn}.

IMG_0791Bruschetta crackers, laughing cow cheese, carrots, cubed nectarines and frozen yogurt bites, and a wrap cut into little bite sized roll ups :)

IMG_0811Apple sauce, laughing cow cheese, THRIVE freeze dried apples and strawberries, 2 candies {2 to share, as per Jonah’s request}, tortilla shell cheese pizza {Brooklyn had a cheese quesadilla}

IMG_0854An orange, laughing cow cheese {was a big hit lol}, sliced strawberries {in a cupcake liner}, ham rollups, a sliced pickle, snap peas, half a granola bar, and a minigo yogurt.

IMG_0857Ham wrap {Jonah had cheez whiz}, carrots and snap peas, an orange, and grapes. Plus a yogurt tube.

IMG_0873Chicken sandwich {kids have request the whole thing now instead of half}, cheese slice, cubed nectarines, cucumber slices, and a minigo yogurt.

Other things I plan to send: bagels and cream cheese, guacamole and tortilla chips, granola and yogurt, granola bars, mini rice cakes, and anything NOT dairy related. Clearly that is a bit of a food rut/crutch I need to back away from. lol

I also have a few more items {okay lots more} I want to buy, including containers for apple sauce and yogurt with a lid. But for now, I’m enjoying providing the kids with colourful lunches and variety. 3 weeks in and I am still going strong!

Have you caught the vision of Bento style lunches?

Also – any other suggestions for what to send – pass them along!