Thursday, 29 August 2013

Chocolate zucchini loaf...and a breakfast meal for busy parents

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So let's back up for a minute.

I actually wrote the post below last night and didn't publish it since, well...some little people in this house woke up, needing extra cuddles...so publishing it had to wait. Priorities? Well, cuddles always come first. Then I woke up today and the day quickly got away from me since, well...little people need every ounce of my attention, every minute of the day. But just as I was about to sit down to hit "publish" tonight, Terry noticed something on our front porch.



I don't think there is anything better than baked goods showing up on your front porch unexpectedly. Thank you Maja SO much!!

Isn't it just delicious looking? Holy moly...Maja, you certainly know how to bake!


The bread was incredibly delicious and the packaging was quite possibly the cutest thing ever--the little label, brown packaging and card--I just stared at it for a while because it looked so pretty. But when you have a 2yr old eyeing up a delicious zucchini loaf, it doesn't last long.


Thank you for making our night Maja!! What a treat. And so fitting--since ironically, my post that I was just about to publish was all about zucchini bread (a different kind, mind you), buy still...it's like you read my mind. I'm going to need your recipe Maja, because it was just ridiculously good. Seriously. Thank you again! You're an absolute angel.  

So...

What do you do when a huge zucchini shows up in your kitchen one afternoon?
(Thanks Judy for dropping it off!).




Well, you make delicious chocolate zucchini loaf--THAT's what you do.

And what do you do when you have no idea how to make chocolate zucchini loaf? Well, you Google it of course.

And you come up with the most delicious chocolate loaf that you've ever tasted--and you can't believe it, because, well it has tons of zucchini in it. Which totally means that it's healthy, right? Cause it's got like a mound of zucchini in it. So it totally counts as a vegetable, not a cake. The zucchini completely cancels out the chocolate chips. Eat as much as you want. I did.

*Scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe. I promise you, you won't regret making it. 

Then what do you do when a couple of your friends have recently had babies? Well you share your baked goods.

So instead of making them dinner, I completely stole my friend Kim's idea and made them breakfast instead. Kim made Terry and I a delicious breakfast when Carter was born, so I returned the favour and then also returned the favour to another friend who had also spoiled us with a meal when we were knee deep in newborn not so long ago. Congrats Kim/Jason and Matt/Amanda!

So with a lot of baking, and a few cute labels, I put together a little breakfast basket and headed over to their houses to drop them off.



The bottom of the basket was full of yogurt, berries and granola that I baked up that morning.




Then I baked up some chocolate chip banana muffins to go along side the zucchini bread.


I wrapped the loaf in saran wrap, cut some paper to size and put a cute little bow around it.



And those labels? They're from Dollarama! Don't tell anyone.
(They're tucked away in the wedding section if you want some of your own...but clearly there's no need to wait to get married to use such perfectly cute labels). You'll start seeing these suckers all over my house--on storage baskets, drawers..the possibilities are endless. I just love them.


You want to surprise someone with a meal? Feel free to steal Kim's idea too of making them breakfast. Everyone loves a good meal. Especially first thing in the morning.  


 So...with that said. If you want to make your own chocolate zucchini loaf, here is how I made it. I found it here when I went searching online. Enjoy!!


Ingredients
·         2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
·         1/2 cup cocoa
·         1 teaspoon Baking soda
·         1/2 teaspoon baking powder
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 1/2 cups sugar
·         3 eggs
·         2 teaspoons vanilla
·         1 cup vegetable oil
·         2 cups packed grated zucchini, I took the skin off but you can keep it on
·         1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions
1.       Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, just till blended. Set aside.
2.       In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add in oil and vanilla, beat again till well combined and oil doesn't separate after sitting for a few minutes.
3.       Blend egg mixture to flour mixture. Beat till blended but don't over beat. It'll be the consistency of thick brownie batter.
4.       Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips.
5.       Pour batter into 2 greased or sprayed loaf pans.
6.       Bake in a preheated 350 dergee over for 50-60 minutes. Test for doneness using a toothpick.
7.       Let cool for 20 minutes in pan before removing to rack to cool completely.

8.       Sprinkle with powdered sugar, slice and serve.






Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Let it be

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I watched today as Mya brought a little tupperware container full of fishie crackers into Carter's room as I was getting him dressed. He squirmed out of my arms the moment that she came in, begging to be let down to play with her.



As his little body crawled quickly towards her, knees sliding across the bright green shag rug under him, she smiled and quickly sat down to let him crawl up all over her.


Two bodies giggling, squirming, squeezing each other in delight--all while a little hand held firmly to that little container full of crackers.

I saw those fishies slide back and forth in that little bowl, like watching a toddler moving with a tall glass of water, and I sat for a moment and just watched.

These are the moments when we either choose to make a move, or let it be.

I knew what was coming.

Fishies ALL over the rug. Crushed fishies all over the rug.

But I sat still. Watching. Smiling. Letting it be.

I watched as Carter's eyes narrowed in on that container and with one quick grab, crackers flew through the air and landed ALL over the floor--quickly turning from whole crackers to tiny crumbs, lost in the green of the carpet.

I still sat there. Watching. Smiling. Letting it be.

Two little bodies continued to squirm, giggle, roll around and eat crackers right off of the floor. I watched this moment between them--this love between my kids, this sibling connection that is so strong already. I didn't want to ruin their moment by being concerned by a mess. A mess, really, that could ultimately be cleaned up in a matter of minutes.

I've realized that sometimes it's worth making a move, stopping the mess that you can see coming from a mile away or stopping the stains that you know will somehow jump from your child onto your couch cushions. Sometimes it's worth grabbing the glass of water that your toddler is so (not) carefully carrying across the room or stopping the markers from becoming artwork on your walls.

But sometimes it's not.

Sometimes it's good to just sit back and let it be. Let them make a mess. Let them make mistakes. Let them make stains. Let them make scratches on your floor. Let them be carefree.

Let them be kids. 

Love marks. That's what a friend of ours calls them. Love marks.

Exactly.

My original hardwood floors may not be as perfectly smooth as they were before we had kids. But the love marks on them from tiny feet running in circles throughout our house pushing baby strollers, crashing into baseboards and skidding around corners are beautiful to me.

The fingerprints on my couch from letting her eat an Oreo (yes, an Oreo--quite possibly the messiest cookie out there I've discovered) on it can be wiped away. But that look on her face as she positioned herself on that big couch, hand outstretched waiting for that delicious treat to be placed in her hand, hearing that she must be "SO big" now since I'm trusting her to be careful with her chocolate covered fingers--knowing full well that she won't be...well, it's just worth it to me.

She doesn't need to know that I scrub down the couch some nights when she falls asleep, wiping away the evidence of the fun from the day. Wiping away the stains, the marks and the smudges...but certainly not the memories that we made.

They don't need to know that I go around our house sometimes with a tiny paintbrush, touching up the white paint that's been chipped away from little hands and feet playing in each room as if play was an Olympic sport.

They don't need to know that I search under cushions and couches late at night for lost blocks, since I love to see the thrill on their faces as they dump the whole box of toys out in front of them.

Enjoy those carefree moments, Mya and Carter. Remember how it feels to sit in the middle of a pile of Mega Blocks and let your imagination go wild. We'll clean it up later. When you're all done. Don't worry about the mess. Create some magic.


I want you to remember how your mom looked at you and told you that you looked beautiful when you came into the kitchen after being left for only 5minutes alone with markers (yes, this is what only 5minutes can produce). Because that look on your face of pure pride in your 'makeup' application could only lead a mom to smile, instead of being mad. But please...please use paper next time. I love your artwork just as much.


Remember what it feels like to sit in our sandbox and let the cool of the sand tickle your feet. Get dirty. Make castles. Don't worry about getting your dress covered in sand. Clothes are washable. So are your feet (even if there is still evidence of your marker tattoos on your feet).


And if you have kids one day, and your own living room becomes a jungle gym every single day like ours, remember your toddler years and come and give your mother a hug.


Learn responsibility and be respectful, but enjoy life. That's what it's really all about.

And I'll try to sit back a little more and let that magic happen. Even if it is a little messy.




 







Friday, 23 August 2013

An organized play room...and a couple Ikea hacks

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Toys. Toys. Toys.

Sometimes they save my sanity. And sometimes they make me lose it.


I love them because what would I do without them on those long car rides? What would I do without them when little bodies become bored or rambunctious? What would I do without them when I'm trying to teach sharing, encourage fine motor skills and all of the other great stuff that learning through play provides?

But on the other hand, sometimes they can make me feel like I've lost. my. mind.
Tripping on them in the kitchen. Cleaning up millions of little ones on the floor millions of times a day. And clutter. CLUTTER, I say.

Too many toys becomes just too much for me, in every sense of the word.
Too much clutter. Too much stuff. Too many options, and ultimately less appreciation and gratitude for the things that they have.

So we decided to de-clutter our toys, keeping only the ones that Mya and Carter play with regularly (or that we thought they would play with when they're older) and we donated the ones that have been sitting collecting dust--because really, excess of anything is never a good thing.

Our main floor toy area now has only three toy baskets in which we rotate toys throughout the months (these baskets were from Canadian Tire, for $3.99 each on sale the other week--score!).


 P.S. They always come on sale for this price (we've bought a few of them before to store the kids books in each of their rooms), so keep your eyes open in the flyers each week if you want any yourself.

And our toy room in the basement? Well, now when two little birthdays roll around in October and the new toys (which one little girl is VERY excited about already) start to fill up our house once again, we'll be ready to add some more to our now (very organized) pile in the basement.

   
     So we started by bagging up some of the toys that we decided weren't played with much. Then we asked Mya which toys she wanted to give to some kids who didn't have as many toys as her, and she picked out a few. I'm not sure that she really understood fully at this age what we were doing, but as we continue to do this throughout the years it's our hope that she and Carter will start to understand that donating to others is better than having too much. Always.


     So after assessing the new amount of toys that we had, we got started on really organizing our playroom.

Now, let me start off by saying that Ikea is getting some HUGE free advertising here with this little post of mine...I have no connection to them though, other than I just love that store. But hey, Ikea...feel free to cut me a deal next time I pop in, cause honestly, everything in this post is all about you!!

Alright..here's how we did it.

So if you're overwhelmed by toys and losing your mind over piles everywhere, hopefully this will give you a bit of inspiration:

We started by organizing our books and bought some spice racks from Ikea which we turned into cute little book shelves (kudos to Pinterest for the great idea).

A bit of white paint, and they look as cute as ever. We throw little board books here so that the kids can easily grab any book that they'd like and we're not worried about little fingers ripping pages.



And a bit of paper taped to the table means endless hours of colouring and drawing (and saves the table from scratches and marks).

Terry and I then bought a new shelving unit (also from Ikea) to store what we had left over from our toy purging and we bought some fantastic fabric-covered baskets from Ikea too which fit perfectly.

How did I actually organize the toys? Well, I made a huge mess. I dumped all of the toys all over the floor and started sorting them into piles, setting aside the ones that I knew we'd donate and setting the other ones in common piles (ie. all the dolls and doll accessories in one pile, all of the trucks and cars in another). I then put them all in the fabric-covered baskets that we bought.

This is what it looked like once we got it home and put the black and green baskets in.



And here is what it looks like now.


When we bought these green and black baskets I wasn't in love with the lack of pattern on them. So, I bought some fabric and got to work on covering the fronts (scroll down to the end of the post to see how I transformed these baskets from this...


to this.


After covering the baskets, I then took pictures of the different toys that we had, printed them off of my computer and made cute little labels for the bins. I laminated them so they'd last, and used velcro to stick them onto each basket, which also allows me to switch up the labels as the toys change over the years.








I then bought some white storage boxes (also from Ikea) where we now store colouring books/paper, craft supplies, extra markets etc.






These little white beauties are from Dollarama (can you believe it??)--I love them.




This room isn't quite finished yet though--it's been a work in progress over the past few months since everything takes a million years to get done when you're doing it only at night once little people have gone to bed. But I still have big plans for that coffee table, want a fun rug for the floor and still need to get some artwork for the walls. But it's coming. The Ikea shelving unit is off to the right of the picture below and the rest of the larger toys (large ride-on cars, dress up costume bin etc are all tucked away under the stairs).  

And don't be ridiculous...it's barely ever that neat and tidy. You caught me on a good day.


So, back to the baskets:  If you want to cover your own baskets, here is how I did it:

After measuring the fronts of the baskets, I cut my fabric to size and started gluing my fabric on with my hot glue gun.





Pulling it tightly, I made sure that the fabric was perfectly lined up and smoothed out nicely.

I cut the top flaps to size, and glued them on as well, tucking the edges under.


Lastly, I bought some fabric ribbon and glued it down along the edges so that there were clean lines.



So here you have it. All wonderfully organized and makes me so darn happy every time that I look at it.


How does everyone else organize or store your kids toys??

Happy organizing!

Erica xo






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