Monday, 30 April 2012

Meal Planning 101

I make a monthly meal plan.  Upon finding out this fascinating fact about me, people generally have two reactions.  They are incredulous and can't understand how or why I make my monthly menu.  Or they're torn between a combination of admiration and jealousy that I call jealmiration.  Either way, I feel an explanation is in order. Why do I feel this way?  Because my sister-in-law said she thought such a post would be interesting to my readers, and seeing as she makes up a full 25% of my readership, I cannot ignore her.  
So, the method behind the madness:
Step 1 Organize your Recipes
I use a binder with plastic sheet protectors and dividers marking out categories like soups and sauces, side dishes, meats and poultry, etc.  My recipes are torn out of magazines, photocopied from library books, handwritten, or printed off (thank you Pinterest!).  A new recipe does not make it in to the binder until it has been tested and approved by Cee Lo and Christina.  Or just Jimmy and I.  This collection of favourite recipes then becomes your reference guide for building your menu.
Step 2 Give Yourself a Framework
To make this whole process easier, I like to give each day of the week a meal type.  At our house Monday is pasta, Tuesday is meat and roast vegetables of some kind, Wednesday is soup (which will become salad for summer), Thursdays are for stir fry, Friday is "fun" night, meaning homemade pizzas, quesedillas, or nachos (I know, woo hoo!). Saturdays are a "wild card" day meaning it's the day I usually try a new recipe or we go out to eat (the good times never take a break around here).  Sunday is the day my dad makes dinner, and I love leaving that day blank.  Of course, this framework should be customised to fit your schedule.  I purposely plan a lighter meal on Wednesday because that is yoga night.  You may want to plan to make a larger meal one night and have left over night the following day when you are busy with some activity or other.  You could even come up with a set of meals for two weeks and just keep rotating through them, adding something new in every once in awhile. To keep things fresh, I try not to repeat the same dish within a two week span, unless it's one we love.  
Step 3 Lay it Out
Get yourself a calendar of some kind and write your meals out so you can see them.  This is crucial!  I like typing my meals into my iCal.  Then I have them on my phone if I'm out and about and need to pick something up at the store.  
Now that you've got your plan laid out, take a look at your meals and start the master shopping list.  I use a ready made list like the one below to simplify the job a bit.  
I look at my calendar and tally how many meals I'll need chicken, beef, or pork chops for.  Likewise, how many packages of short or long pasta will I need for the month?  And so on.  Since most of the recipes are familiar to me, I can think of the main ingredients off the top of my head, but sometimes I reference back to the binder to double check.  I always look through my cupboards to see what I already have and which staples (spices, olive oil, etc) I'm running low on. In terms of produce and other perishable items, I look at what I'll need for the first week or so of the plan.  Add to this the breakfast, lunch and snack foods you normally buy, and you're ready to hit the store.  I usually go to Save On Foods for the first Tuesday of the month to get 15% off my entire purchase.  Superstore also offers a $25 gift card when you spend $250 once a month.  The only thing is, I don't like to buy my meat at Superstore, so it can be hard to get to $250, and it means I have to go to another store.  But sometimes it's worth it as Superstore has such great prices on other household items like dish soap, laundry detergent, and toiletries.  And I can always find something in the Joe Fresh section to bump up the tally.  Either way, I do only one big shop per month.  I freeze all of my meats and cheese to make it last, and I buy produce and other forgotten items on a weekly or bi-weekly trip as needed.
A friend once asked me "What about freedom of choice?  What if you don't feel like having spaghetti and meatballs on a given night?".  Others may wonder what will happen if you decide to go out last minute (again, I say others because I never decide on anything last minute).  These people are just trying to find an excuse to avoid planning.  It's incomprehensible to me, but there you have it!  My answer is simple: if you don't want a planned meal on the night it's written, you swap it for another night.  And if you go out instead, maybe you just drop that meal all together.There's room for flexibility within the plan, really!  But knowing the plan is there far outweighs these petty worries about so called "freedom to choose".
And there you have it!  It takes some work, but I find the less often I'm at the store, the less money I spend.  And I love having a ready answer to the question "What am I going to make for dinner?".  It's like the runner's high for people who like to organize.  Jimmy raves on and on about what a marvel I am.  He really appreciates all the thought I put into the meal plan.  Or not.  Let's face it, this whole system is built around satisfying my OCD tendencies.  Jimmy wouldn't mind if we had the same meal every other day.  He does, however compliment my cooking on a regular basis.  He just isn't interested in the planning that brings it to his plate.
If you're still reading, I applaud you.  This seems very long winded and uninteresting, not to me because I love planning, but other, non-planners probably needed a nap half way through step 2.  We'll see if my sister-in-law was right through the page views and always plentiful comments left by my mom and her desk mate at work, each representing another 25% of my readers.
Always striving for new heights of neuroses,

Friday, 27 April 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is April 27th today, in case you lack a calendar.  Even if you are in possession of a calendar, you may still be confused because it is SNOWING here in Edmonton. Not only that, but this bébé is still very comfortable in utero.  I don't know why this surprises me, what with the snow and the due date being a week away, but it does! This waiting is killing me.  And so are the many phone calls and texts of well meaning family and friends "checking in".  The nesting has come to an abrupt halt, and yesterday I spent all morning napping and all afternoon feeling bad about napping all morning.
I know what you're going to say: "Enjoy it, soon you'll be run ragged!"
Somehow that doesn't help!  So for now, it's just me and my anxieties waiting and waiting.  Latest anxiety?  My weight gain has slowed from a steady two or three pounds a week down to one pound two weeks ago, and a pound lost last week. Also, my fundal height has stalled out at a 37 week measurement for the past three weeks.  My doctor says it's not a cause for concern, and I guess I can be glad that the baby won't be a nine pounder.  Still though, the snow, waiting, and anxiety do not a happy combination make!  I'm just going to bundle up in a blanket and watch this commercial on repeat.  And on mute.  One of my friends pointed out that while easy on the eyes, his voice is actually quite annoying.  And she's right!  Also, my mom doesn't like his hair.  Quit ruining my simple pleasures, people!   

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Nursery Reveal!

You know that my mom is the fashion and art director here at Chez Quinlan, but did you know she is also the fashion and art director of my life too?  Well she is.  And she does a fabulous job.  Her latest project?  The nursery, bien sûr.  The theme? Vintage French Nursery.
The nursery used to be our guest room - of which I have no pictures.  I do have some kind of before pics through which you can see the amazing transformation.
Blah . . .
Floating branch that used to be anchored by the guest room book case.
The old chair and artwork from the guest room.
And now . . . the end result!  It's so full of sweet little touches and details.  My mom did a beautiful job.
As you come in the door, on your right.  More details on the artwork in a post to follow.
A view of the chair, painstakingly re-covered by my mom. You won't believe the deal she got on the chair - sources to come soon!
Notice the nail head detail.

The très French looking dresser.
A view of the chic rug and hand sewn crib skirt and mama's blanket for those late nights.
More of the custom created linens - and yes, I know the bébé can't actually use them.  It's for the look people! The little pillow (which also won't be used - yet- was mine.  It's printed with French poetry, and my mom turned it into a mini pillow for the little one.
The custom made wall decal we plan to use as a growth chart.
My mom calls it the tree of life.  Worry not - sources are coming!
The unbearably cute giraffe lamp and sleek and stylish side table.
The of the moment drum light, lovingly installed by James, after my dad taught him how to do it with our dining room lights.
 My mom slaved over this room.  She did all of the shopping, sewing, and pounding of upholstery nails, not to mention trying to figure out how to fit all of that furniture into a not so big room.  All I did was find a designer for the tree of life then help my mom put it on the wall.  Jimmy of course risked life and limb with the electrical and moved the old furniture out.  Other than that the room was a total surprise fro me and Jimmy, which was so fun to come home to after yoga one afternoon.  And now we wait . . . 10 days to the due date.  Jimmy told me the other day it might be time to tell his boss that we're having a baby seeing as he may need to leave work in a hurry any day now.  
"What?!" I said. "You still haven't mentioned it?"
His reponse: "I like to keep my private life private."
I'll be back soon with all the details on where my mom found all the goods!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I am Cray - Cray

Today's nesting project brought to you by the chicken farmers of Canada.
Step 1: Grill chicken
Step 2: Take a picture of grilled chicken for your blog
Step 3: Slice and package chicken in meal sized portions to be frozen.
I'm getting tired of nesting.  Does that mean the baby is coming soon?  When I told my mom about my efforts (as if she didn't suspect based on the overpowering scent of charcoal emanating from my person) she said I was crazy.  I explained that a new mom friend had told me about this trick so that when the last thing you feel like doing is making dinner, you can thaw your pre-grilled and pre-sliced meat to throw in a salad, stir fry, or pasta dish.  Finally my mom agreed that planning ahead did sound like a better strategy than the one she used after my sister was born.  I'm not sure what she means.  I have fond memories of eating nothing but Chips-a-Hoy for weeks on end when my screaming sister came in to the world.
Yours in ever lessening sanity,

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Uh Oh!

I really made Blogger mad with my not so kind comments yesterday.  Now it won't show me my Reader of all the other blogs I religiously follow, nor will it allow me to obsessively pore over my stats page.  I can't believe it's still letting me write a post. I'm off to buy it some flowers to try and make amends . . .
While we routinely wake up to weather like this (just last Saturday was the latest storm), I know that spring will come eventually.  It may be time for summer when it arrives, but still, I know it will come at some point.  You only have to look to this past September when summer arrived for about a week to know that I'm right.  So while the weather here may not follow conventional time lines, you can create a spring like feeling by baking up a batch of these award winning bites of sunshine that I found on Pinterest.  They turned out crinkly just like the picture showed, and are perfectly tart and chewy-crisp.  I LOVED them.  No surprise they took the top prize at LDS Living Magazine's website, a site I have to admit I would never have been exposed to if not for Pinterest.
Lemon Crinkle Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray cookie sheets with non stick spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again.
3. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. 
4. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
5. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte (not melty or shiny). Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
Jimmy turned his cookies into what he calls a "chip-wich", even though there are no chips in these cookies.  I would have made mine a chip-wich too, if he could've found Pinochio's Royal Vanilla ice cream for me to sandwich in between.  Alas he could not, and came home instead with cocnut ice cream.  Blech.  He said it was good, so if you go for coconut, you might like to try it.  I'll wait until I can get my vanilla. 
Meanwhile, Ellen has issued a pregnancy dance dare to all expectant mothers who should really be dancing for two.  She wants them sent in for mothers' day.  Should I do it?  I don't know if I can compete with this guy.
Until next time,

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Guess Who's Back?

Back again?  My cousin Wyatt and his ukulele, that's who.  He's got a cute band mate too.  And of course my stellar skills as a videographer are on display.
Family dinners aren't just an opportunity for Wyatt to wow us with is musical talent. It's also a time for us girls (and one boy) to strike a pose.
Don't look directly at the belly.  Those lines can make you dizzy.
And just when I said "Pontifications from Paul" wouldn't become a regular feature, Paul goes ahead and delivers more material for me to make use of.  As I mentioned, Paul lives out of town, and as he was preparing to hit the road the other day, he told me he'd be back in nine days.
Me: You never know, the baby could be born by then!
Paul: What? No!
Me: Yeah!  We're only two and a half weeks from the due date.
Paul: Really?  Wow!  You look great, then!  I didn't realize it was so close.

Thanks, Paul.
PS. Sometimes uploading videos and pictures and the formatting on Blogger makes me really mad.  Do you see how one of my paragraphs above is actually a part of the picture caption?  And do you think I could fix it?  Also, I had to create my own YouTube channel in order to upload that video.  Just saying . . . a post that should've taken me 20 minutes to publish has taken an hour and a half.  I'm done my complaining for the day.  Now you can go and complain to someone else about how you wasted six minutes of your life listening to me complain.  You're welcome.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Feathering the Nest

. . . or preparing for the apocalypse.  I have this fear that once the baby is born neither Jimmy nor myself will be able to visit a grocery store ever again.  
To be fair though, there are two loaves of bread in there somewhere that I picked up for my Nana and haven't delivered yet.  Once those are out of there it will really free up some space.
I've mentioned before that James hasn't been spouting many gems lately.  I think my late third trimester grouchiness has really put him off his game.  You know how I know?  He volunteered to clean the kitchen tonight.  Volun.  Teered.  As opposed to voluntold.
Luckily, his brother Paul is in town and has provided me with some fodder.
Paul: So Shel, do you find that you're really a lot warmer carrying all that extra fat, I mean body weight, around?
Even Jimmy shot him a look that warned him he may have only moments left to live.
Seeing as Paul lives out of town, the lovely little tidbits he says aren't likely to become a regular feature here at Chez Quinlan, but if that changes, I think I'll call it "Pontifications from Paul". 
One can only hope!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Mall Mania Photo Shoot Part Two

Before getting to the photos, let me say that these photos are four weeks old, so the baby bell no longer looks quite so diminutive.  I really fooled my aunt, a faithful reader.  When she saw me IRL at Easter dinner, she pointed out that the bump looked much smaller on the interweb.  I had to admit that my pics aren't always au courant. 
On to the photo shoot!  This time the fashions come to you hot off the racks at Old Navy.  And while Old Navy does have a maternity section, I've voiced my complaints about the cramped and disorganized quarters it occupies, not to mention the rather limited selection.  Happily, though, we found many items in the "regular" section that worked well.  And while we did not receive a warm welcome at Forever 21 and had to hide our photo shoot in the dressing room, the fine folks at Old Navy didn't bat an eye, and even offered to get me a chair when I got a foot cramp during the arduous work that is a photo shoot.  I kid you not!
The story: Walking shorts and a cotton shirt, buttons straining, is the perfect look for a labour inducing waddle around the block.  Just don't forget your straw hat with coordinating band for that pesky melasma.
The story: Brights are hot this spring, and layered over black, the bump virtually disappears.  Wear this while riding in your drop top and cranking Black and Yellow.
The story: A casual look you could wear while strolling the boardwalk and channeling a pregnant mermaid.  As an added bonus, the stretchy waist band will allow you to indulge in a churro or two.
The story: Another hot spring trend, this floral dress might be just the frock to enhance your glow at your baby shower.  Or to highlight just how pale your legs are.  Either way . . . 
The story: Another feminine floral paired with pearls.  And while sandals and flip flops may seem like a pregnant woman's best friend, squeezing your toes together to fit through the straps may lead to intense foot cramps.  I know first hand.
The story: Stretchy skirt and elastic waisted shirt.  Enough said.  Really, this should be your uniform.
The story: A roomy denim skirt with such interesting details at the neckline requires very little accessorizing.  Aside from a jaunty hat of course.  Wear this while strolling the beach on your babymoon.  Or just on your imaginary babymoon.

And while these outfits might fool you into thinking spring is here, it isn't.  At least not in Edmonton.  Snow, rain, grey skies and wind have been our spring time companions.  Luckily, I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  I've bought a plane ticket and will be escaping to Arizona about a month after the baby is due with my mom and sisters.  Should be interesting, to say the least!  Now I just need to find the baby a temperature controlled bubble so that I can enjoy the hot, hot, hot temps by the pool uninterrupted.  
Until next time,

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I Pity the Fool

I mentioned yesterday that I tricked Jimmy on April 1st.  It wasn't my idea, but my sister-in-law's.  I had doubts, to be sure.  Let's face it, I'm not an Oscar nominated actress.  I've never even gotten a nod from the Razzies.  And I thought it was a little mean.  So what made me change my mind?  It was on April Fools' Eve when someone was looking for me and James said, "She's just over there.  The one with the huge belly.  You can't miss her!"  And with those words, his fate was sealed.
So, early on April Fools' morn, when Jimmy climbed out of bed and made his way to the bathroom, I sprang into action.  I went into the other bathroom and with some strategic water splashing, achieved the look of a woman whose water had broken.  I called Jimmy once.  "What?" came the call back.  I called once again, a little more urgently, and started making my way towards him.  "What's wrong?" was the call back this time.  We met half way, and I told him I thought my water had broken.  
"How do you know?" was my husband's first question, a stunned look on his face.  I had to call on all of my dramatic skill to stay in the moment and not laugh.  
"Well, I don't think I peed my pants!" I replied.
I have to commend James.  He stayed calm and did his best to be supportive.  He told me everything would be okay, and that I was okay.  I think he needed a moment to collect himself, as the next thing he asked was: "What does your book say?" 
I know he knows what my book says.  He has a good head for numbers, and he can recite all the stats we learned in our prenatal class.  He could tell you that as long as the contractions aren't coming close enough together that birth is imminent or you're in unmanageable pain, you have about 12 hours after your water breaks before infection becomes a concern and you need to get to the hospital.  But I had caught him off guard.  You see, he may have been out the night before, and he may have enjoyed a beverage with friends.  So, I turned to go get my book to answer his question, even though I knew the answer, while he tried to get his bearings.  Upon looking in the book, I turned to him and said, "The book says Happy April Fools' Day!"
He looked relieved, then slightly annoyed and said, "That was mean!"  When I hugged him, I noticed he was slightly sweaty.  He forgave me, of course, but said it was an unfair trick because he wasn't totally clear headed so early in the morning.
The fact that we woke up to a beautiful spring snowstorm didn't help his nerves either!  He told me later he had visions of us stuck in traffic, trying to endure contractions in the car while traffic stood at a standstill.  
All in all though, I think the trick was a good thing.  I feel totally reassured that Jimmy will be a calm and supportive coach when the birth day does arrive, and Jimmy has realized it really could happen at any moment, and that it will be a lot easier without any residual beverages in his system.  Will that hold him back?  Only time will tell!
Awkward self portrait #1
And #2
Only 3.5 more weeks to go!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Ellen . . . Who Else?

Well, even though I sent this picture into Ellen, she hasn't shown it yet.  And now I know why.  The picture I sent can't compete with this one.
Jimmy has been surprisingly quiet lately.  I think he's lying low after my awesome April Fool's trick.  I don't possess the sharp wit nor love for teasing others that Jimmy does, so when I get him, it is a momentous occasion.  I can't believe I haven't gloated about it publicly via internet yet.  Perhaps tomorrow.
And sadly, there has been no long lasting solution found for his hair dilemma.  The people haven't spoken loudly enough.  Which makes me wonder if the people are really as interested in his hair, clothing, and witty quips as he thinks they are.  A quick visit to my blog stats page confirms that the post about my hair racked up 96 page views, while the post about his bad hair had a paltry 36 views.  Hmmm.  I guess the people have spoken.  To be fair, another perusal of my blog's stats revealed that people have found my blog through Google searches such as "different ways to wear my hair for school" and "short pixie cut" which could explain the extra page views my hair has garnered.  Although, there have been a couple of searches for "3 2 1 buzzcut" and inexplicably "buzzcut stripes" that have led a reader or two to Jimmy's hair post.  
Anyways, I should really stop procrastinating and start dinner.  I hope leftover and re-heated apple tarts from Nana's Easter dinner are okay with Jimmy.  That's all I have the energy for.
Until next time,

Monday, 9 April 2012

Adventures in Babysitting

Today I put in what I'm hoping will be my last baby sitting shift before the bébé arrives.  With so many nieces and nephews, you might wonder how I can be sure I won't be called to the front lines again.  Thankfully after a long winter away, my mother-in-law is set to return this Thursday and will resume her regular child minding duties.
And as far as last shifts go, this one did not disappoint.  Highlights included wiping a very stinky and very sticky poop out of the training potty, a four year old and several bottles of brightly coloured nail polish, and a 36.5 week pregnant woman dropping it like it's hot in order to wipe up a "small" pee accident from the floor.  
Before all of this, the day started off quietly enough with a little baking project. Remember when I almost poisoned my nephew who is allergic to eggs?  Today I vowed to make up for that little blunder with some egg free baking.  Not only is the recipe egg free, it's also gluten, sugar, and butter free.  And it doesn't taste like cardboard, either!  
The original recipe comes from 101 Cookbooks, and I changed it only slightly.  The genuine article calls for 1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut, but I care not for the texture nor flavour of coconut, so I left it out.  I've made the recipe twice now, and I have one tip.  As there is no sweetener in this recipe aside from that long, yellow fruit from the tropics, be sure your bananas are venerably ripe to impart a hint of sweetness.
Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed until just melted
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl whisk together oats, almond meal, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.  In a separate bowl combine bananas, vanilla and coconut oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  The dough is a bit looser than a traditional cookie dough, so don't be alarmed.
3. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are golden.  Makes about 3 dozen bite sized cookies.
And to finish the day off, my six year old nephew is hosting his second annual NHL playoff draft.  Last year I came in dead last.  I can't say why, as I have a bullet proof strategy.  I pick players who have names that sound cool.  I'll let you know how it goes this year.  I'm hoping for stellar results.  

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Solution

I don't know why it took me so long to realize that there was an easy solution to Jimmy's hair dilemma.
Other sights seen on our Banff getaway:
And we tracked this guy around town for a half an hour:
It was a lovely time, as you can see.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


My friend Paul, who is not a woman, shared this video, and as he said, it's funny, but not funny.  
An easy trap for women to fall in to - being sure to take care of others and leaving themselves last.  I think we all know someone (man or woman) who doesn't look like the type of person to have a heart attack. Someone who is young and at a healthy weight, but unimaginably, does have a heart attack.  If we know the signs and catch an attack early, hopefully tragedy can be prevented.
Paul maintains not one but two blogs!  One related to all things lacrosse and the program he and Jimmy run here in Edmonton and the other about his family and their experience with two sons far, far away at prep school.  I of course, read both blogs religiously.  Ok, so I don't always read the lacrosse blog, and I may skip over the posts on the family blog that deal strictly with sports, but I love the videos he makes of his boys (and not because Jimmy makes occasional appearances either), especially the soundtracks he picks to go with them.  Paul was Jimmy's coach once upon a time, and he taught Jimmy the same thing he teaches his own sons now - the value of hard work.  
I can't wait to annoy and perhaps embarrass our kids when I post videos and pictures of them online.  Ah the joys and privileges of parenthood! 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A Dog?

Through work, Jimmy has become friends with a lovely family who have been blessed with four sons.  Yes, four.  Upon hearing our baby news, the saintly mother of those four boys (who should really have a personal assistant to help her organize their hockey practices) exclaimed that if our baby is a girl she is taking her home.  I guess someone who is that starved for an extra x chromosome will do anything, even raise five children!
We were visiting with three of the four boys last weekend, and Jimmy began teasing them about the fact that they could be welcoming an adopted sister into their home if their mom's wish comes true.  The youngest boy, an animated five year old announced that this wasn't a concern as he suspected the baby would be a boy. But he added, if it was a dog, he'd take it.  
After we recovered from our laughter, Jimmy asked what he'd name the dog. Without hesitation the boy declared "Lilly!"  So no sister for him, but he does want his new pet to be a girl.  
Oh boy!