Thursday, June 30, 2011

Berry Picking

One of the best things about my parents living out in the boonies is the U-Pick fruit farms. Apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries - you name it, you can find a place not too far away to pick your own.

Earlier this week my parents and I found ourselves at Millar Berry Farms, hitching a ride on the tractor to be brought out the strawberry patch.
The strawberries were bright and beautiful and the pickings still aplenty.
The fragrance of a strawberry patch is amazing and if you've never tasted a freshly picked strawberry, straight from the plant and still warm from the sun.. well you are missing out.

For some reason, every time I look at the below picture of my mom I think she's in Africa. It might be the shirt. Rawr.
Here I am trying to hide and eat my strawberry in peace. You have to try at least one to make sure it's not rotten, right?
Half an hour later and $17 poorer, we were set with a load of strawberries to last a normal family two weeks, but mine, more like two days :)
I've been eating copious amounts of strawberries on my morning oatmeal and loving every bite. Strawberry picking will last another week or two, so get out there before it's too late!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baby Shower Time

This past Sunday I had my baby shower or "baby'que"! The weather was perfect for a backyard barbeque and pool party - clear blue skies and although it started off a little cool, the temperature heated up nicely throughout the day.
My party was at my parents' but hosted by my beautiful BFF and Aunt and I know my mom did a heck of a lot of work to help out too! I hardly saw my best friend all afternoon so I know she was pretty busy running around making sure everything was perfect!
Mostly everyone invited showed up - lots of family and friends! I think the last time my high school girlfriends were all together was July 2008 at my wedding (not including the night before the shower for a birthday party)!
We had all the fixings of a good BBQ - mini burgers and sausages, potato and pasta salad, deviled eggs, rancho beans, tutti fruitti, watermelon, lemonade to drink and of course cake for dessert!
The kids had a blast running around the yard, swimming, and going on frog hunts.
And, the sweetest way to end any party, especially because of the pregnant girl's sweet tooth? A candy buffet filled with tootsie pops, skittles, starbursts, hershey kisses, licorice, and Baby Ruth chocolate bars :)
It was a really lovely party and thanks to the guests' generosity, we are much more prepared for Baby's arrival!

Monday, June 27, 2011


I've noticed a favourite question for people to to ask pregnant ladies is, "How's your nursery coming along?"

What do you mean, what nursery? I have to make a nursery? Hrmm.

M and I currently live in a two bedroom place, which is perfectly fine for the time being. We use the second bedroom as an office/guest room. Now with baby coming though, two bedrooms doesn't seem like enough! Two plus a den, like we had in Toronto would be perfect, 3 bedrooms would be even better, but what can ya do? I have no interest in moving, yet again. Our 100 year old apartment is quite large, but the space is not designed well - we have a huge living room, a massive kitchen, but the bedrooms are fairly small. So, our second bedroom is now becoming the baby/guest room and we've moved our desk to a spot in the living room.

But here's my secret - I have no interest in designing a nursery. What's wrong with me?! I see pictures of cute nurseries everywhere on the internet. My brother and sister-in-law have one of the most gorgeous nurseries I've ever seen. But personally, I have no motivation to make a beautiful nursery for our baby! Maybe if I owned a house and had a specific room for a nursery I'd paint and make it all cutesy, maybe not. My life calling is definitely not to be a decorator. I kinda feel bad about this, but not really, and definitely not enough to do anything about it.

And so, here is what our nursery currently looks like:
So lovely, right?!

Those first pictures were actually taken a month ago and some progress has been made since then. M's parents bought the crib and mattress for us and my talented husband put all of it together, so the room is coming along, slowly but surely!
Do you have any tips for making the baby/guest room a bit nicer, but requires little effort and moolah?!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Thoughts...

Three random thoughts on this lovely Friday...

1) How do you properly pronounce Chi-Town? I've heard some say it like "chai" as in the tea, and others as "shy". I'm so confused. Someone please help.

2) I keep hearing about a magical place called The Doughnut Vault. This place has huge lineups, opens at 8:30am and is sold out within the hour. To what lengths would you go for the most delicious donut in the world?!
3) Why do so many drivers in Chicago turn left or right from the centre of the lane? Do driver's ed teachers not explain that when turning you should 1) use your gd blinker, and 2) move the eff over? Oh my goodness.. did I just say that?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

30 1/2 Weeks Update

Two months and four days till baby's expected due date! Since my last update three weeks ago, there have been major, major changes with my belly. I'll let you see for yourself.

May 18th (26 weeks and 5 days) VS. June 10th (30 weeks)

Um.. yeah. I'd say I officially "popped" around 28-29 weeks. I really wish these bathrooms pictures weren't so terrible - dark and I'm in different positions each time, but well.. I take them around 6:30am and it's the best I can do!

Here are a couple more I took that same morning and you can see that I look different in each picture. The size of the bump totally depends on the angle you're looking at and what I'm wearing.
I still fit into most of my regular clothing, tops for sure. I haven't tried on non-maternity pants recently but I'd guess they be difficult to zip up. If I could give advice to someone, it would be this - wear maternity clothes as soon as possible! Even though I fit into my regular clothes they make me look frumpy. My maternity clothes are more fitted around the belly and accentuate the baby bump, which in turn makes me look pregnant rather than lumpy.
I still haven't gotten any comments from strangers, but I have noticed a lot of people staring at my belly and smiling as I pass them on the street.

I went for a checkup yesterday and the doctor said I'm measuring perfectly. I gained one pound which puts me up to 8.5 lbs of total weight gain. The doctor is very happy with this number and says it's completely healthy so please don't tell me to eat more (mom)! The baby's heart rate was between 144-148. She confirmed my suspicions of Braxton Hicks contractions, which are occurring a few times a day, mostly while I'm walking. All of a sudden my belly will get really tight and a bit sensitive to the touch. I didn't really think anything of it until the teacher at my prenatal class explained this is what Braxton Hicks might feel like! So there, at least I've learned one thing from attending prenatal classes!

The baby has definitely moved positions and makes my belly extremely lopsided sometimes. M and I had a laugh last night as we were going to bed - my belly looked completely deformed. So weird. The baby is still moving around a lot and ow, often kicks or pushes into my ribs. I'm sure that'll only get worse :)

Overall, I am feeling super and have an exciting few weeks ahead - summer vacation is beginning soon, I'm going home for a nice long visit where I can swim and relax in my parents' newly renovated pool, AND my baby shower is in a week and a half!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great Cake Challenge

When we were youngins and all living under one roof, my family had the tradition that on your birthday, you get to choose a special birthday cake. I remember my dad requesting German Chocolate quite often.

I always like an excuse to bake something new, so when my parents' 40th wedding anniversary/retirement party rolled around I knew German Chocolate was at the top of my list. I asked my mom for her recipe, which she actually couldn't find, but she sent over a similar one found here.

Now let me set up the real story. M and I planned to start the drive from Chicago to my hometown at 7pm on Friday night. The drive is 5+ hours, so I figured we'd make it to my brother's house by 12am, which is actually 1am Ontario time. Fine. That meant the cake must be baked by 6:30pm so it would have enough time to cool before starting the drive.

I got home early from work, around 3:45pm and started on the cake right away. I thought I'd have plenty of time to finish everything before an appointment I had to leave for at 5pm. I thought wrong. Never underestimate how long a cake actually takes to bake. Forget about what the recipe says! Leave yourself a good two or three hours, I say!

I started by making the frosting, which was relatively painless. Good start, good start. See, I was so optimistic that I took the time to document with pictures! Note how the pictures end here...
The ingredients are all set out.

The pecans are being roasted!

The frosting is complete! (P.S. Next time I'd make two batches.)

Then I started on the cake batter. It took FOREVER. As I whipped the butter and sugar together I nervously watched the clock creep closer and closer to 5pm. The cake still had to bake for 30-40 minutes. I contemplated cancelling my appointment. I started to mix up the vinegar and milk to create buttermilk. In my frantic rushing about, I spilled the entire thing. At 4:59pm I was wiping up stinky buttermilk off the floor. I swore. A lot. At 5:05pm I gave up and threw the half finished cake batter into the fridge so I could leave for my appointment.

I rushed around and made it back home for 6:30pm. Half an hour till departure time and I had to finish mixing the batter, bake the cake, plus pack my luggage. I told the husband to get comfortable, this might take a while. I didn't actually say it that nicely though, if you catch my drift.

After 30 minutes of baking, the cake was still very wobbly. After ten more minutes.. just as wobbly. Twenty more minutes.. not quite baked, but I took it out of the oven anyway, covered it with tinfoil, set it on a cutting board, carried it out to the car with oven mitts, and rode home with a steaming, slightly undercooked cake on my lap. We rolled into my brother's driveway at 2:30am!

I was really very nervous for people to try the cake, but for the ordeal that it went though, I must say it turned out better than expected! Not the BEST I've ever had, but pretty darn good!

This is obviously not a picture of my cake, but if you follow the recipe, yours will end up looking something like this!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Boy or Girl?

Is it a boy or a girl? is the #1 question I get asked.

When I was only a few weeks pregnant I had a dream about a baby girl, so I thought for a while that must be what we're having. Now half the time I think it's a boy and the other half I have no flippin' clue. M thinks it's a girl. I'm not sure if he has reasons for this or it's just his sixth sense!

I keep seeing this survey all over the blogosphere and thought I'd join in. By answering the following questions, let's find out what the stars predict for the gender of our baby :)

Here we go...

Sleep Position
Pay attention to which way you lay down in bed tonight. If you prefer sleeping on your left side, you’ll have a boy. Right side? You're pregnant with a girl.
Right side, always = GIRL

Upset Stomach
Little girls aren’t always sweet. Extreme nausea means you are having a daughter.
No nausea, thank goodness = BOY

Soft or Dry Hands
If your hands are dry during pregnancy, you are having a boy; soft—expect a girl.
Hmmm, how does it work if my hands have always been and continue to be dry? = BOY

Food Cravings
Your favourite pregnancy foods may tell you what sex the baby is. If you’re craving citrus while pregnant, you’re having a girl.
Well I do enjoy a good orange quite often but I wouldn't say I crave them = BOY

Adult Acne
If altering hormones makes your skin break out, expect a girl.
Oh Lordy, my face has never been worse = GIRL

Graceful or Clumsy Pregnancy
If you feel as though you’re gliding through the day, you’ll have a girl. Stumbling? It’s a boy.
I definitely have the dropsies on a daily basis = BOY

Face Weight Gain
If your face gets fuller, it means you’re having a girl.
I'm not entirely sure, but I think it's stayed kinda the same = BOY

Sugar and Spice Food Cravings
Craving salt during pregnancy? Potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn means a boy is on the way. Need a little something sweet? Ice cream, chocolate, and candy means you’re having a girl.
Give me candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner please = GIRL

Mood Changes
If you’re experiencing pregnant mood swings, expect a baby girl to arrive soon.
I don't think it's THAT bad, but my husband might say otherwise?! = GIRL

High or Low Pregnant Belly
If you’re carrying the baby low on your stomach, expect a boy. If it’s high, you’re having a girl.
Very low = BOY

Baby Weight
If you’re carrying the baby in front, it’s a boy. Is the baby weight spaced all around your middle? It’s a girl.
Um, I think it's just in front but it's hard to tell? = BOY

Pendulum Test
Dangle a chain with a charm over your palm. It swings back and forth: boy. In a circle: girl.
Circle = GIRL

Model Your Hands
“Show me your hands.” If you would hold your hands palms up, it’s a girl. Down? You’re having a boy.
Palms up = GIRL

Toddler Advice
Get baby advice from a nephew or from a friend’s little boy. If a toddler boy shows interest in your belly, you’ll have a girl. If he ignores you, it’s a boy.
They aren't really toddlers, but my nephews aren't very interested at all = BOY

Key to Pregnancy
If you pick up a key by the round end, you’re having a boy. If you pick it up by the long end? A girl.
Round end.. because it's bigger and easier, duh? = BOY

Even and Odd Numbers
If your age and year of conception are both even or odd, it’s girl. One even and one odd means a boy.
28 in 2010 = GIRL

Baby’s Heartbeat
If the baby’s heart beats more than 150 times per minute, you’re pregnant with a girl. Less than 150, it’s a boy.
Consistently higher than 150 = GIRL

Dream Meanings
If you dream about having a girl while pregnant, you will wind up having a boy and vice versa.
Oh my! (see first paragraph) = BOY


Holy smokes, I guess we're having a boy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Exceptional Weekend

This weekend held the perfect balance of relaxation and productivity. Summer weather is definitely here and I'm loving spending as much time as possible outdoors. Gotta soak up the sun while it's here, right?

After work on Friday I headed downtown to Zed451 to meet up with M and some friends, one of them who was working the bar that night. He made me this super delicious strawberry kiwi minty drink that tasted like heaven on such a warm evening.
We sat up on the rooftop patio for a few hours chit chatting and catching up with our friends,
(why does my hand look so manly and ape-like?)
and eating fondue! Perfect meal for sharing.
Saturday was busy busy and included volunteering, a weekly to trip to the farmer's market, lots of frolicking outside, a road trip to the drive-in movie theatre, etc. etc. etc. Sunday's weather was more bearable so M and I took a long long walk through Lincoln Park, dodging goose turds the whole way :)
Something that's been on my to-do list for quite some time is to visit the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool which I see as a little hidden gem in this grand city of Chicago.
I loved it. So very peaceful and pretty. Definitely worth a walkabout.
And ta-da, look at my baby bump! It's massive, or as M so nicely puts it, I'm looking robust!
Perfect, perfect weekend. Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hot Diggity Dogs

There are quite a few things I miss about living in Toronto, one of them being the food! Street meat to be exact! I am one happy girl when I see the street meat vendors out, signaling that spring has come, which I guess means that hot dogs should be consumed. Chicago also boasts having great hot dogs, so which city does it better? Let's discuss...

Street meat vendors are everywhere in Toronto. Some vendors stay out year round but most pack up for winter and come back in full force as soon as the nicer weather hits. The vendors typically sell hot dogs and sausages, ranging from $2-4. The toppings are in plastic containers on the side of the carts so you're free to add whatever suits your fancy.
In my opinion, the absolutely best topping available is sauerkraut. This MAKES the dog. Street meat is not street meat without the sauerkraut. What else do I put on my hot dog or sausage? Well let's refer to the picture below, which I took this past weekend, while I was in Polish sausage heaven. Since I haven't had street meat in a loooong time, I decided to go big with the toppings. Sauerkraut, pickles, olives, ketchup, spicy mustard, bacon bits, corn relish, and regular green relish.

Chicago: There are no hot dog stands in Chicago but there are tons of hot dog restaurants with pick up windows and small seating areas. The typical "Chicago style hot dog" is made very specifically, which you can read about here. The toppings are as follows:
You will notice no ketchup. Ketchup is a big no-no in Chicago. I can't remember the prices exactly but I'd say they're similar to Toronto. The Chicago dog is the basic hot dog but the restaurants have many options if you like to add cheese or other toppings.

The Verdict: Who Does it Best?
Well, in my humble opinion, there is no contest. Toronto is the clear wiener! Why?
1) The Chicago dog is too difficult to eat with big spears of pickle and tomato. I have to take these off and eat them separately because they won't fit in my mouth otherwise.
2) Why is the relish on a Chicago dog neon green? Scary.
3) The self-serve method and variety of toppings in Toronto makes everyone happy. And you can eat ketchup without getting heckled :)

That settles that! If you've tried both styles of hot dog, which is your fave?