Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pregnant Productivity

As you come to different seasons in your life, different accomplishments carry different weight. For example, in High School, you might very well feel that a worthy accomplishment is pulling an all-nighter getting your biology report done, and still getting to class on time in the morning. When you are a young, married couple without any kids, painting your entire house and cleaning out all of the cupboards might seem like a reasonable accomplishment, and when you have you first newborn, getting out of bed and showering is something that deserves applause some days.
Now that I am expecting our third child, my idea of being productive varies day-to-day. Sometimes I'm proud of myself for making supper on time, other days I'm proud of myself for not losing it because of my lack of sleep and over-abundance of hormones. Today, however, productivity actually looked like checking off items from my to-do list, and setting myself up for finishing a number of tasks this week. My secret to pregnant productivity? I enlisted my Mom's help!
We started the morning by visiting our local Farmer's Market. Sadly, that title is a misnomer, since their "Farmer's Market" license was revoked due to a lack of actual farmers, and they've been operating as a "public market" for the last few years where anyone can, and does, come and set up to sell whatever they want - including garage sale items. However, given that this was one of the last markets of the year (thanks to the early Thanksgiving), there was a higher percentage of BC Fruit stands and yummy, farm-fresh treats. We loaded up on yellow beans, berries, plums, macintosh apples, and even enjoyed some fresh squeezed lemonade while we browsed. Now, this was a much needed shopping trip since I have been relatively isolated this week thanks to a resurgence in my little one's health issues. He's been waking up about 8 - 10 times a night and not napping during the day because of breathing issues, so Mommy hasn't been sleeping much either - meaning I'm a mess. I haven't even made it to the grocery store this week. But now we have produce! YAY!
After the market we hopped over to Walmart to get some other shopping done. My household ran out of diaper genie refills, Tylenol, paper towel, toilet paper, diapers and wipes, all in one week. It was a BIG shopping trip. I also needed to get some craft supplies to finish up some projects (buttons for the knitted headbands I make, quilting thread for the quilts that I've been chipping away at for two years now, and dark thread for a soft bow case I'm making for my husband) and luckily I found it all at Walmart! $150 later, we were on our way out.
My mom treated us to lunch at Booster Juice (Strawberry Sunshine and BBQ Chicken Panini - YUM!) which we took back to her place so the boys could play once they were fed.
After the delicious lunch, my mom treated me to something else I hadn't had in a while... a nap! After averaging 5 hours of sleep a night (most of which I got after 7 a.m.), and not getting a nap all week thanks to the rugrat, I was burned out and could barely keep my eyes open. So my parents took the wee ones outside while I passed out on the couch for an hour and a half.
After supper we ran a couple quick errands and I picked up some stuff to give to my mom, and now, at 9:00 at night, I'm very pleased to say that I accomplished more in one day, thanks to my mom, than I did all the rest of the week.
I must admit, were I not pregnant, I might find today's accomplishments meager at best, but given my current state, I have to say I'm proud of all I got done.

And now I can be lazy tomorrow.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rewards Programs

As I mentioned in my last post, I am super excited to be going with my darling husband on a trip to the mountains come December! However, as fun and lavish as the trip plans might sounds, the reality is, this trip will be taken a few weeks before Christmas, when funds get really tight, right after a tax installment is due, and just after we have to pay our annual home insurance installment.

Money is going to be tight...

However, there's always a way around that! This time around, we've opted to not cut back on the fun, but rather to get creative in how we afford the fun!

Reward Programs.

I have always been a fan of rewards programs. I have a ridiculous number of rewards cards in my wallet, for everything ranging from pet stores, grocery stores, travel programs and department stores. It has never made sense to me why you would a) not have a membership card (which you get for free), that allows you to pay less when you shop at a store (even if you only shop there once a year!) and b) why you wouldn't cash in on a rewards program for some of the things you buy most, like gas and food.

Myself, I shop primarily for groceries and fuel at our local Co-op, which offers a cash-back rebate program for all members. Whatever I spend in the course of the year, at the end I get a percentage back. This membership program does not keep me, however, from keeping Safeway, Save-on and Sobeys membership cards in my wallet. And while you may think, "You can't expect to get many points if you only shop somewhere a couple times a year," you're right, I won't get many, but as is the case with Safeway and Save-on-Foods, club members get an additional discount, which adds up quickly, and at Sobeys, you can convert your club points into Aeroplan miles! And those babies are things that we collect alot of.

If your credit card is not linked to a rewards program, get a new card. My husband has a work card which is linked to our Aeroplan account. The best part is, he has to buy flooring for people from time-to-time, which is automatically paid off the card as soon as we charge it on, but we get the points for the $3000 purchase too. The product of which is, after having his credit card for only two years, we now have just about enough points for two, round-trip, long haul flights.

You can also collect Airmiles, which rack up just as fast for some people, but while I've had an Airmiles card for years, we've barely raised enough points to buy much of anything (I just don't shop in Airmiles places). I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that you can use your Airmiles rewards to buy passes to the Banff Hot Springs! For 35 points per person, you can be bathing in the natural hot springs on a cold Decemeber day - and that's just what we're going to do!! It's been a long time since we went to the Hot Springs (it just doesn't work as well when you have little ones), so for no skin off our noses, or money out of our wallets, we will spend a chilly afternoon in the warm pools.

My credit card has its own rewards program, which I basically forgot about until today when I realized I had a considerable number of points. While perusing their catalogue I found that I could redeem my points for a Keg giftcard, and wouldn't you know it, but the Keg in Banff overlooks the parade route that we were hoping to catch a glimpse of during dinner! I've got enough points for a $100 gift card, which will buy us a nice meal, and maybe even enough points afterwards for a $25 Starbucks giftcard, which will always get used in our household.

Besides the freebies, we're also going to be bringing our SUTP coupon book to help us decide where to eat, and what to do while we're in the Rockies. You can get discounts on things like Gondola rides, tours, spas and shops and while I'm not sure that we'll do any of those, it's nice to know we can if we want - and pay a bit less!

Do you have Rewards cards? If so, check out your balance - you might be surprised! If not, ....WHY????!!!?

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fifth Anniversary

A year and a half ago, I was musing with my darling husband about our fifth anniversary. I said that I'd like to save up, spend a weekend in Banff, do the things that we never get to do with kids (visit certain stores, go to the Hot Springs, etc), and just have a trip to the mountains all by ourselves, for the first time since our honeymoon. Well, given my exciting news last post that I am expecting a baby at the end of March, on our first anniversary we will have a one-month-old baby. Not exactly the ideal age to have Mommy and Daddy jet off for the weekend. Mommy wouldn't handle it very well either.
However, Matt and I have formed a new plan. If you remember last time I was pregnant, Matt and I actually planned a trip to Calgary for the weekend where we had one last date weekend before the baby came. We called it a Babymoon. So, this time around, we are coupling our Babymoon with our fifth anniversary celebration.
That means, this December, Matt and I will be headed off to the mountains one fine Saturday morning while my beloved Mother will come over and take care of the kids here. And I've got to say, I'm really excited! I don't think I've ever been to the mountains in the winter!
The weekend we're hoping to go is actually the weekend of Banff's Christmas in the Mountains celebration where they'll have bonfires set up around town, ice sculptures, wagon rides, hot chocolate and popcorn, carolers, and anything else your seasonal heart desires! Matt and I plan on going in time to enjoy the festivities for a bit before we head over to the Hot Springs (money-saving tip: Airmiles can be used to purchase tickets for the Hot Springs! Just make sure you order them enough in advance so they have time to get to you before your trip!) After the hot springs, we'll head back into town where we'll have supper, and depending on whether we feel like it or not, we may get a restaurant that has a view of the main street so we can watch their Parade of Lights while we eat. Or, it might be safer to have a quieter meal one street over. Either way, the way the events are scheduled, Matt and I plan to be moving just ahead, or just behind of the crowd. (we'll go to the Hot Springs an hour before the Christmas celebration ends, and then we'll have supper just when the parade starts and everyone else is on the street)
That night we plan on staying at the Georgetown Inn in Canmore. This was the cute little inn that we stayed at on our wedding night, and even though it's on the main hotel stretch of town, it's strategically tucked behind trees and a huge wood pile, so you can't actually tell you're not in the country!
The next day we have a plan, and a plan to not use a plan. We'll take the day leisurely, doing whatever we feel like doing, and if we get bored I'll have a list of activities we can look into (like going to Canmore's Festival of Trees, or hitting up a cute Panini shop)

I'm so excited to spend this time with my man! I also can't wait to take pictures of the gorgeous mountains covered in snow!

Now I just have to wait two more months...

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I've got a confession. I've been hiding something. Not a bad something, mind you, but hiding, nonetheless.

I'm pregnant!

Baby number 3 is due March 27th, which makes me about 12 weeks pregnant at this point!

Anyone want to draw any conclusions about my lack of posts in the last 12 weeks? Turns out, when I'm pregnant, I don't have the energy to be creative! However, hopefully the second trimester will treat me a bit better and I'll be able to tinker in some fun things!

The last few days I've really had no choice but to keep busy... Sunday we went for a fun fishing trip with my parents, at which point I got caught in the rain. Once we got home and dried off I had to crack down on some bookkeeping that I had to have done by today. I got in about 5 hours over the weekend, but something that I had anticipated taking me 30 minutes ended up taking me 3 hours, so it threw off my planning a bit. Monday I had to make up time, so I did 6 hours of bookkeeping, which isn't hard, but it sure is mind-numbing. Somewhere in between that we got our piano tuned and Nathaniel and I both had doctor appointments (the appointment time was 2 and I didn't get home until 4.) I worked until 11 last night on the books, and then helped my poor hubby clean the house (he got tired of not being able to reach the coffee maker in the morning so he made the kitchen spotless!), and then needed to get up again this morning to finish off the books. Oh, and then I have a meeting tomorrow that I needed to do some prep work for so I wrote out a more complete Sunday School lesson plan for the next few weeks.

The good news of all that busy-ness being that by 11:30 this morning, my house was clean, my bookkeeping was done, my Sunday School lesson was planned, and for the first time in a long while, I had a chunk of time that I didn't know how to fill!

I assure you, it didn't last long.

Do you remember a few months ago when I was knitting headbands? They were cute little things that I had seen on Pinterest that turned out to be a breeze to make, and I could easily fire one off while having a leisurely afternoon. Well, I made about 4 and a half of them before life got busy and I stopped have leisurely afternoons for a while. I took one on vacation back in June to finish, but I didn't write down the pattern and relied on memory. Turns out, my memory sucks. So I nearly finished the stupid thing, but that hardly counts when about half of it is done wrong. I tried unwinding it to the part where I still knew what I was doing, but apparently my stitch-catching skills also suck. Today I tried again, and finally gave up on finishing the half-done headband. So I unwound the whole thing and started clean. But it didn't matter, because I still got it done in the time it took me to watch a few Big Bang Theories. In between knitting (I can only sit still for so long), I learned to play another song out of my Grade 4 Royal Conservatory practice book (it's been so long since I played 'real' piano that I need to work my way back up), and I kept my house clean! YAY!

And now, it's 9:15 p.m., both of my boys are asleep, the supper dishes are done, I've finished my apple cider and my second Kraft Handi-Snack of the night (pregnancy craving), and I think I'm going to turn on another Big Bang and knit something else!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

P.S. For those of you who are skeptical about the speed in which you could knit one of those headbands, my first one took 3-4 hours, and I am, at best, moderately not-slow at knitting. I can finish one up in 2 hours now, when I'm not messing it up, so really, give it a try!

P.P.S I also reduce the width by about 40% now since many of the people I'm making them for request in narrower. I think the one in the picture is about 30% reduced.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Promises, Promises

The promises to which my title refers are the promises I made to try and post more regularly! Unfortunately, life got too full of baking and parties to have any time for posting!
This past week I held one of my Pampered Chef tasting parties! Each new season I get a new recipe book and I need to test the recipes to see which ones are actually doable in a short enough time to make them for a show, and which ones taste yummy enough to serve! Instead of incorporating them into our weekly meal plans, I've taken to hosting parties where I whip up 7 or 8 recipes, everyone comes and tries them, and I get the whole job done in one day!
This time around I made Mexican Fajita Bites (spicy chicken, herbs and cheese stacked on pepper wedges and baked like nachos), Tangy Gouda Gems (in phyllo cups with sweet pepper jelly), Savory Parmesan Thumbprints (with a roasted red pepper and apricot filling), Orange Blossom cupcakes (with cream cheese topping), Mini Cherry Cordial Cups, and a German Chocolate Lava Cake. The Fajita Bites were an unexpected sensation. I didn't think they'd be bad, I just didn't think they'd be that good! It was a bit tedious stacking the pepper wedges, so after the first round of those, I put the rest of the mix on top of tortilla chips and made Fajita Chicken Nachos. They were wonderful!
The gouda bites were great, but that didn't surprise me; warm melty gouda in phyllo cups topped with sweet pepper jelly? Perfect.
The Parmesan Bites were more popular than I thought they'd be, and I was given a license to play with the recipe more to add some herbs and depth to the flavors.
The Lava Cake was a guilty pleasure (not for me though, I don't do lava cakes).
The Cherry Cordial Cups were a bit of a marachino cherry overload, but still yummy.
And the Orange Blossom Cupcakes? I had to fight my natural urge to tweek the recipe as I went. It called for two small oranges, zest and juice. I thought for sure they wouldn't be tangy enough, but I'm glad I stayed my hand. They were declared beyond improvement - absolutely perfect.
The recipe were all from the Fall/Winter Pampered Chef Season's Best recipe book, except for the Tangy Gouda Gems, which were from the Cooking for Two or More recipe book.
On Wednesday I had a meeting, at which I served the leftover cupcakes, and then Thursday I had a birthday dinner at my parents' house, where Matt surprised me with the Persuasion metal cuff bracelet that I've been fawning over for a year!
My mom asked me to come over the next day to help her get some cleaning done since they had just come home from holidays this week, but when I got there I noticed very soon that something was up - especially when a houseful of people started singing happy birthday to me! My parents threw me a surprise 25th birthday party, complete with some of my favorite people and my favorite foods! It was a great evening, and there wasn't even any cleaning for me to do! And as a gift for me, my parents asked everyone to bring me a spice! I FINALLY HAVE SAFFRON! I'm so excited!! I never wanted to pay the $15 for a few tiny pieces of it myself, but for 3 years I've asked for it for Christmas, and no one was willing to get it for me! Now I have three bottles of it, a bottle of cardamom, and some vanilla beans too! YAY!
Today I hope to get around to making some muffins since it's such an ugly, windy day, but we'll have to see! Perhaps I'll get sidetracked with my new spices and make up a homemade chai tea?

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)