homegrown mama

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

::Butternut squash soup::

In food on 20112011-10-31T03:02:28+00:0031 9/11 at 03:02

I did a simple Google search to find an easy recipe

Nana B. is here for a visit and you know what visitors mean: I get to COOK! Cooking for hubby and I isn’t a problem; but cooking for two adults just isn’t as adventurous. Having a third adult to feed means I can try bigger recipes and plan full meals, knowing we won’t end up with a fridge full of leftovers by Friday. So far, the Bakopoulos sisters’ Greek Lemon Chicken & Potatoes and Healthy Harvest lasagna have made an appearance at the table. But tonight, tonight, was creamy butternut squash soup.

I did a simple Google search to find an easy recipe, and many variations on this fall soup came up. Foodnetwork.com is usually a safe bet for yummy recipe goodness, so I investigated the recipe Google proposed further. It sounded easy enough, but as I scanned the many reviews, I learned that many people found the amount of stock to be too much, and the taste quite bland. After reading and incorporating people’s suggestions, I came up with a creamy, rich version that looked gorgeous when served (although I forgot to take photos – totally scooped this one off the interwebs), and tasted DELISH! Here’s the new soup recipe, adapted from Cathy Lowe on Foodnetwork.com.

Rich & Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 6


1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash

4 slices bacon, diced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups beef (or chicken) stock

1 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup half-and-half or whole milk


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Slice squash lengthwise, remove seeds with a spoon, and place cut-side down in a large ovenproof dish. Add 1/2-inch of water and bake at 350F for 1 hour.

In large stock pot, cook the bacon chunks on med-low, until the fat is rendered and the meat has cooked, but before it turns crispy. Add the butter and allow it to melt, while stirring. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add cooked squash (scooped from the skins with a spoon), wine and stock. Bring to a simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

If you own an immersion blender (and you should. They’re fantastic! Pick up one on sale at Canadian Tire. You’ll never regret it.), pop it in there and give the soup a good whir until its texture is consistent. CAUTION: the soup is hot, so do NOT lift the base of the blender close to the surface of the soup. If you do, your arms, chest and face will be sprayed with hot liquid! Alternatively (that is, if you do NOT own an immersion blender, but it’s on your shopping list…), transfer the soup to a standard blender in batches and puree. While blending (either way you choose), slowly pour in the half-and-half/milk, to create a creamy, thicker soup. If using a standard blender, now return the mixture to your pot and stir in a few good shakes of nutmeg, and hearty helping of sea salt, and a good amount of freshly cracked pepper. Season like this to your personal taste.

Ladle into deep, heavy bowl and top with a dollop of  yogurt or sour cream, and a light dusting of nutmeg for presentation. If you have some white truffle oil kicking around in your cupboard, drizzle a tablespoon over the soup at the last moment. This gives it incredible depth.

Serve with fresh crusty bread to clean out your bowl. Thank me later. 🙂


::life lessons::

In family, military life on 20112011-10-28T09:30:25+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

…the biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned since being here…is contentedness

Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if Wayne hadn’t joined the Army. I’d probably be working full-time to help pay our mortgage, and we’d have only one child (because daycare for two kids on the West Coast costs more than I would make if I was working!). Plus, knowing me and my perfectionist tendencies, I’d be a stressed ball of nerves trying to balance work and family, torn by the need to work and guilt from not spending enough time at home. I’d have the luxury of family living close-by, but also a fast-paced life that affords little down time; I’m sure I’d feel obligated to “do/be/get more” all the time.

And so, the biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned since being here actually has nothing to do with the military: it’s contentedness. That’s not to say I don’t become a green-eyed monster from time to time, or that I’m not tempted to whip out a credit card for something I want but don’t really need/can afford. However, it is an entirely humbling experience to be told where to live, when to arrive, and not knowing when we’ll be leaving. On top of that, I am responsible to set up my children for success by enrolling them in activities and building relationships with people who can contribute to our family, and their lives.

Thankfully, we have been so blessed in this area. I admit that when we arrived in Manitoba, I felt lost. I didn’t know how to get “my old life” back, to feel like I was home. But then I realized, this is my life, and this is our new home. Gone were the days of endless home décor options, the latest fashion trends, and the coolest car in the neighbourhood. No one here, except me, expected our active social life, meticulously decorated home, and deep-rooted friendships to suddenly ring the doorbell and join us in our new house. I found that this new life, and connecting with new people, had three simple requirements: commitment, authenticity, and a little hospitality.

I’m certain that one of the best parts of living the military life is meeting new people. In the year-and-a-half I’ve lived in Manitoba, I’ve met some amazing folks from all over this country who have ended up here in Westman, people I now consider life-long friends. Some are CF members, some are CF spouses, and some are people from church, mom’s groups, and general community life. It’s been so refreshing to hear the celebrations, and the struggles, of other families, too. And even when it feels like everyone else has life all figured out, they always seem grateful to chat about their most recent challenges and experiences when I invite them in for a cup of tea.

And what do you know? It seems like I now have more time to do just that.

::Doing Army life – the “right” way::

In family, military life on 20112011-10-26T09:30:48+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

“I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do and where to go.”

One thing we all have in common as military members or spouses is learning how to “do” this life. No matter our place or family of origin, we were introduced to this institution at some point along the way, and considered how it would affect our jobs, our dreams, our family, our 10-year-plans, etc. And while the Canadian Forces requires a certain amount of conformity from us, this experience really is different for everyone.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a type-A person, who likes to do things by the book. Subsequently, I expect everyone else to be this way, too (rules and policies exist for a reason, right?). Too bad not everyone has such a black-and-white perspective. To some people, there are grey areas; to others, rules are merely guidelines.

When hubby joined the Army, and then spent the next 16 months in training, he told me daily of the regimented routines he endured, the strict guidelines by which he had to abide, and the high standards he had to keep. The recruits who kept up with the demands excelled; those who didn’t were re-coursed or their careers were prematurely terminated. As gruelling and relentless as this sounded, I secretly longed for my life to fit into a box that way, with expectations laid out and consistent timelines. Why? I was home with a newborn – my first, of course – and while she was only a month old, she had me at her beck and call, at all hours of the day…and night. And she was completely unpredictable.

When we finally arrived in Shilo, I started to meet other military spouses. I’d often hear about their plans, their careers, their educational choices for their children, their weekly activities, their hobbies and pastimes. But I felt lost in this new Army world; I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do and where to go. “Isn’t there a ‘right’ way to do this?” I thought, frantically. I couldn’t help but feel…behind. The focus of my entire pregnancy and first four months as a mother was to get us successfully to our new destination; I just didn’t think about what I’d do when we got there.

I’ve never come across such a diverse group of people who have one common thread, and while this kinship should create camaraderie, it actually made me feel disconnected. I was discovering so much about others, and so much about our new hometown, that I just felt like I couldn’t keep up. It was one, big grey area!

Almost two years into living here and meeting new families, I have learned that being a military member may dictate where you live and work, but being a military spouse means finding your own way down one of many paths. Each new posting requires us to relearn a routine, adjust our goals, fill out the forms, and make the appropriate arrangements. There’s no need to do it any certain way, and how we fit the Canadian Forces into our lives is unique to each family.

But the best part about it is there is always someone else close by who is going through this also – giving us yet another thing in common.

::Fall fun::

In family, food, outings on 20112011-10-24T09:30:07+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

Fall is here, fall is here!

Ah, my favourite season has arrived again and I’m enjoying these days of crisp breezes, morning frost and my favourite GAP jeans. But while my love for autumn relies heavily on fashion options, the true reason I look forward to this time of year is the FOOD! I just love that Thanksgiving in Canada is in October, not too close to Christmas, like in the U.S. All September long, I pine for turkey, cranberries, stuffing, sweet potato crisp and chewy ginger chocolate cookies (are you drooling yet?). Time to dig out my scarecrows and fall leaf garlands, toss some gourds in a decorative bowl, light an autumn spice candle, and sit on the couch with a good book and a fuzzy blanket.

Of course, it’s also time for all things pumpkin. We recently took the family to Meandher Creek Pumpkin Patch! Last year, hubby was on a course in Gagetown, N.B., from October to December, so I took H on my own for the afternoon. She was only 13 months old at the time and while she enjoyed sitting in the straw, watching the goats and piglets, and crawling on the mounds of pumpkins, she didn’t really know how to have “fun” there just yet. She did choose her own little gourds and I picked up our pumpkins for the season but other than that, it was a little anticlimactic.

This year, though, my crazy little redhead is two and she’s on the move. She had a blast running through the corn maze, climbing the hay bales, and choosing pumpkins. I was equally excited to take hubby, because dads seem to make these outings more fun for kids, don’t they?

While I was there last year, I purchased a small jar of Meandher Creek’s homemade pumpkin pie spice. It’s great stuff and while I don’t often make pumpkin pie, I do bake with pumpkin a lot in the fall and winter, so this was a yummy find. I  have taken to using it in my recipe for Starbucks Pumpkin Scones. Instead of measuring out the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger, I just add 1.5 tsp. of the pumpkin pie spice in their place and it’s wonderful.

Photo by run for your life

But I also realized how expensive my Starbucks pumpkin spice latte habit was becoming last fall, so decided I would venture to make my own at home to cut costs. Needless to say, I had to buy a new jar of the spice this month at the pumpkin patch, because I just ran out.

Here is my recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latte. Enjoy while snuggling on the couch with your honey…or babes.

Baxter-style Pumpkin Spice Latte

½-cup 2% milk (use 1% or skim if you’re watching calories)

½-cup hot brewed coffee or two shots of espresso (adjust according to your taste)

½-tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp real maple syrup

optional: whipped cream/dessert topping

Pour milk in your mug and heat in the microwave until hot but not boiling (mine has a beverage setting on it that worked well). Remove and stir in pie spice and maple syrup. Add coffee, stir, and top with whipped cream/dessert topping if you’re throwing your cares out the window. Relax, and enjoy!*

*Note: The last sip usually contains some leftover spices. It’s pretty gritty, so I’d avoid it if I were you!

::I’m pregnant – what now? pt. 6::

In baby gear, pregnancy on 20112011-10-23T09:30:36+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

How do I get baby from A to B? (Transportation)

Holy crap, does this part ever take some thinking! I spent SO LONG researching strollers alone that I thought my brain just might explode! Here’s a tip: decide on your stroller first, because only certain car seats adapt to certain strollers (with a “travel system”). If you don’t live in a climate where weather (read: SNOW) is a contributing factor, your best bet is a stroller/car seat package, which guarantees compatibility. Of course, where you intend to take your stroller (mall? mountain trails? sidewalks?) also plays a part in deciding which one to buy. Let the games begin!

Car seat & stroller: We love our BOB Revolution stroller, which accommodates a handful of car seats (we used the Graco SnugRide). We also enjoyed the double version when O was an infant, but only for a short time, as H insists on walking now.

Mommy Hook: I LOVE this product. It hooks onto your stroller to allow you more bag storage when shopping. It also is a great little handle for toddlers to hold onto when walking alongside the stroller. Just be wary of loading it with too much weight, as a small child/infant in the stroller does NOT balance a 15 lb. bag of groceries hanging from the handle of a stroller!

Seat belt strap covers: so the straps don’t burn baby’s neck every time you tighten/loosen them. These are great inventions and so simple. If you can sew, you could easily customize a pair for your babe. It’s basically a potholder pattern with hook & loop tape strips! But here’s a great little tutorial for ya.

JJ Cole BundleMe: there are winter and summer versions, and of course other brands, too. But they are so convenient and prevent you from having to bundle up your baby everytime you go out.

Baby Bjorn (make sure it has the lumbar support on the lower back) or Ergo Baby baby carrier. I also bought a CuddlyWrap on Craigslist, but both kids hated being put into it and I hated that the huge ends of the fabric dragged on the ground as you wrapped it. It’s fine for being at home, but trying to work with it in a dirty parking lot was out of the question for me.

Well, that’s it! I mean, I could go on FOREVER about baby stuff. But this six-part series is really a decent place to start for a list of necessities. Having a baby is so much fun, and choosing your baby’s gear can be a super fun way to make your husband feel more involved in your pregnancy.

* * *

Part 5: How to get baby from A to B (Transportation)

Part 4: What about the obvious stuff? 

Part 3: What do I need for a newborn?

Part 2: I’m a new mom – what do I need?

Part 1: Get yourself connected

::I’m pregnant – what now? pt. 5::

In baby gear, pregnancy on 20112011-10-21T09:30:11+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

How to keep your baby from getting bored

Many of these are big-ticket items. The best idea is to register for them and have your baby shower host (or mother/mother-in-law) kindly suggest to your friends, family and shower guests that not only are gift cards to your chosen baby shop appreciated, but it would also be a good idea for people to go together on big gifts. The office where I worked while I was pregnant with H kindly pooled their resources to buy me our high chair, and put the rest on a gift card for me to spend as needed. It was much appreciated! Another idea is to look on Craigslist or Kijiji for these things. Better yet: buy or borrow from friends with kids.

Jolly jumper: this thing is straight up awesome. Even folks who live in an open concept home can now buy a stand for their Jolly Jumper, which makes it portable, too. Both my kids loved this item, although beware of a younger sibling being tortured. Case in point: when hubby was a babe (youngest of 3), his parents had it set up on the hall closet doorway (the only doorway around). As he bounced, middle sis grabbed him by the Jolly Jumper belt, pulled him out and away from the closet and let go. Just as he swung to the back of the closet, she attempted to slam the closet door! As you can imagine, baby hubby ricocheted off the rear of the closet and right back into the door. OUCH! Lesson learned: supervision required.

Activity mat: there are a ton of styles to choose from. I bought mine for $15 from the Cloverdale Swap Meet. This is an expensive item, for some reason.

soft play mats for hardwood/laminate floors. When babies first learn to sit alone, their heads are usually hard to hold up with their little necks. These mats prevent big head bonks on the hard floor.

Bumbo chair & tray: many parents use this in lieu of a high chair until 6 or 7 mos old! Best to buy 2nd hand, for about $45.

High chair: I loved the Fisher-Price Space Saver but found it frustrating once baby started feeding herself and food was always finding its way beneath the cushion. I was constantly washing it. I now prefer the booster-style chairs, which are so much easier to clean and also more portable.

Vibrating bouncy chair: so great for newborns! I don’t know why I never had one of these for H, but O loved his.

portable playpen: perfect for a diaper change station for newborns (it has a suspended platform option), and a sleeping option when visiting friends and relatives. We’ve also carted this to the beach for the afternoon! The perfect, sand-free haven for your little one.

Swing: so many options, I’ll just leave it to you to research

Exersacuer: ditto here!

Sophie the Giraffe: put it on your registry and someone will buy it for you. I don’t know why babies love her so much, but ours has almost no spots left, she’s THAT well-loved!

Up next: part 6 – How do I get baby from A to B? (Transportation)

::I’m pregnant – what now? pt. 4::

In baby gear, pregnancy on 20112011-10-19T19:21:04+00:0031 9/11 at 19:21

What about the obvious stuff?

There are some everyday-type items all new parents should have for their house/nursery/baby. Here they are!

Baby monitor: Something simple like this dual receiver monitor works great. I originally wanted an Angelcare monitor (the kind that sounds an alarm as soon as your baby skips a breath). They were discontinued at the time I registered, and I’m kind of thankful, although they are back in production now. I’ve heard from friends that the alarm sounded falsely more than anything.

Disposable diapers: President’s Choice brand are fine and worked well for both my kids. But I do tend to lean toward Pampers (seems to catch the poop best). But if you are thinking of cloth diapering…

Cloth diapersComfy Rumps, which are from the Lower Mainland! I ordered the starter pack and haven’t looked back. Honestly, it sounds like a lot of work, but it saves SO MUCH money. Plus, they’re super cute, and cheaper than any other cloth diaper on the market. However, many moms I know swear by FuzziBunz, gDiapers, and Little Tree Hugger (also a Canadian brand).

dishwasher baskets: great if you’re bottle feeding, and once baby starts drinking from sippy cups (as young as 4 months)

bottle sterilizer: use this instead of boiling bottle nipples all the time. Man, I despise boiling nipples. (Does that sound weird to anyone else…?)

Bink Link pacifier clip. So cute. Yes, you could get the cheap ones from Walmart. But why not make a statement?

Diaper Genie and refills: Ok, this contraption is supposed to cut down on diaper stench. We have the older model, which is less “fancy.” As Kevin at Dadcentric says, “You literally stuff a crappy nappy into it, which is lined with diaper shrink wrap, rotate the top and repeat. You do this until you can stuff the container no more, a limitation that depends completely on one’s upper-body strength, aversion to handling Dirty Diaper Sausage and competence at resetting the shrink wrap cartridge.” The bonus of this older model is its ability to create a dirty diaper sausage, always a fun item to try to stuff into your garbage can! But seriously, even though some parents dislike the product itself, I find it extremely convenient to have in baby’s room. And I do NOT find the smell offensive, since you twist off each nappy and only smell the scented liners when opening the lid. That said, any sort of lined, odour-masking diaper pail for the nursery will do.

Low-wattage lamp for baby’s room (7 watts): I didn’t learn this until I had baby O, but to save him from “really” waking up during midnight feeds, I put a 7 watt bulb in his lamp so that if he needed a diaper change, I could see what I was doing, but the dim light would let him stay drowsy. Eventually, I decided not to change his diaper at all if he hadn’t pooped and he began sleeping through the night much sooner (bonus tip for you moms).

Diaper cream (in our house, we call it “butt sauce”): hands down, Penaten and Sudocrem work the best (both available at Walmart/Superstore). But if you are using cloth diapers, or prefer a more “all-natural” approach, I LOVE Grandma El’s ointment. Wait for it to come available on hippobargains.com or babysteals.com, though. It’s pricey. Anything by Arbonne is also great, if you know a consultant.

Wipes: the best wipes for your money are definitely the Kirkland brand from Costco. Unscented and not too fluffy. We love them and go through them like crazy, especially with a sticky toddler, too.

Robeez: the BEST slippers for babies. Kids wear these into toddlerhood and they’re the best for keeping on socks (also a Vancouver company). Easy to buy 2nd hand at the swap meet, and readily available on the deal websites for half price. Sign up on the Robeez website for their sale emails, too.

*I left out an item on the previous post: Infant Vicks Vapor Rub (called BabyRub) is a great thing to have when baby is stuffy or has a cold. It’s not as potent as the adult kind: it’s non-medicated and contains aloe vera, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender. Perfect for helping baby sleep and breathe at the same time.

Up next: part 5 – How to keep your baby from getting bored

::I’m pregnant – what now? pt. 3::

In baby gear, pregnancy on 20112011-10-17T01:04:13+00:0031 9/11 at 01:04

What do I need for a newborn?

-No-scratch mitts: I got over my fear of nail clippers really quickly when baby O (#2) came along. But with H (#1), her nails were like claws and I was terrified I’d snip off the tips of her tiny fingers. In reality, clipping a newborn’s fingernails while they sleep is quite easy. Practise makes perfect.

Kiddopotamus Swaddle or Woombie: if you plan on swaddling. I did because H would wake herself up by getting startled in her sleep and smacking herself in the face. AND/OR

-Sleep sack: for you non-swaddlers whose kids are not born in the summer. Winners has great selections of organic cotton or fleece.

Bath sling: I always found the actual baby tubs frustrating. How do you empty the soapy water to rinse baby while he’s still in it?

Grooming & health care kit: usually includes aforementioned baby nail clippers, digital thermometer, brush, comb, medicine spoon, snot sucker, etc.

Vitamin D drops: any brand is fine, including store brands

Tempra (baby Tylenol) drops, dye-free

Ibuprofen (baby Advil) drops

Camilia: homeopathic remedy for teething and general irritability. Available in Superstore’s health aisle, or Walmart’s pharmacy

Coryzalia: homeopathic remedy for cold symptoms. You can’t give anything else to kids under 2 with a cold

Muslin swaddling blankets (perfect for swaddling while out of the house, because they’re so big, and for wrapping baby/keeping her warm but not hot)

Burp cloths: ok, not a necessity. But I make these form flannelette and Warm N’ Natural quilt batting and they are super absorbent and soft. Perfect for saving visitors’ clothes if they offer to burp baby after a feed

Up next: part 4 – What about the obvious stuff?

::I’m pregnant – what now? pt. 2::

In baby gear, pregnancy on 20112011-10-14T17:22:58+00:0031 9/11 at 17:22

I’m a new mom. What do I need?

Here is my list of goodies specifically for new mommies. I’ll keep this post short and simple, in list form. Because it’s the most important list, I think. Happy shopping!

Lansinoh lanolin nipple creamnipples crack and bleed and weep. I’m sorry. But this stuff should come with a holster because I used it after EVERY feed with H.

Johnson’s or Lansinoh breast pads. Oddly, some women never experience double letdown. Not me. I might as well have had twins! So breast pads to soak up the leakage were a must.

Generic stool softeners and Ibuprofen for post-delivery (oh, and possibly Preparation H – sorry! I just wish someone had warned me about that!) ‘Nuff said.

White cotton panties (Superstore has cheap packs – 5 for $5 or something. They’ll be ruined, guaranteed. But so comfy and accommodating for those huge postpartum pads.)

Nursing brasThyme Maternity has the best nursing bras and the ladies there will fit you properly. I laughed when they told me I’d be a full C cup when nursing (only in my wildest dreams!), but they were bang on. My all-time fave nursing bras (no joke, I’m wearing one right now) are the criss-cross wrap bras by Warner’s. They’re available at WalMart and Zellers and Sears and I could wear them all day every day. Plus, they’re cheaper than most other nursing bras – only about $18.

comfy cotton PJs or yoga gear to wear around the house for the first month or so. Buy them one size larger than normal. I loved Joe Fresh yoga clothes, available at Real Canadian Superstore & Extra Foods/Loblaws. They’re perfect because they are inexpensive enough to buy and not feel bad about spending the money, but the quality is good enough to withstand multiple washings (due to aforementioned leakiness)

Glider chair or big comfy chair for nursery for nighttime nursery feedings

Nursing pillow (also good for propping up baby once neck control is present)

Nursing cover: I love Tata Tents, for the prints and the pocket on the front to hold your breast pad or baby’s soother

breast pump: Breast pumps are perfect to: help you relieve pressure; allow Dad or Grandma or a friend to feed baby while you sleep or shower; and, give you the opportunity to go shopping or out on a date with hubby without the baby. I have the Philips Avent Manual pump and the Medela Swing Electric and I love them both. The Avent is great for travel and you don’t have to plug it in. The Medela is easier but takes more set-up.

Diaper bag: this is all about personal style. I admit, though, that I found the smaller, more structured ones were too structured for the different items I wanted to stuff in them (because they eventually merged with my purse for a time). So I prefer a sack-style. The best option is to have one that hooks onto a stroller, though. Better yet, find a sweet yoga bag and call it your “diaper bag.” That way, you’ll really enjoy carrying it around.

Books: Because I am totally type A, I refused to read much during pregnancy, otherwise I would feel like I’d need to do/buy all sorts of things. The only book I read cover to cover (because I found it refreshing and engaging…and funny) was called From the Hips (available at Chapters). I got my weekly pregnancy updates from Babycenter.ca in my inbox, and the only other book I refer to even now is Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book (available at Chapters and on Amazon).

What other mommy products couldn’t you live without in those first few weeks with a newborn?

Up next: part 3 – What do I need for a newborn?

Sugar: Sugar and Spice and Vanilla Chai Nice

In food on 20112011-10-13T04:17:15+00:0031 9/11 at 04:17

Sugar: Sugar and Spice and Vanilla Chai Nice. Check it out! Kristen is an amazing baker living in New Brunswick. Wish I lived closer – YUM!

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