Wednesday

The Instagram cookie that made me famous for a day, and other random happenings of late....

salted chocolate chunk cookies

So the other day, I made Smitten Kitchen's uhhh-mazing salted chocolate chunk cookies.
These cookies are seriously amazing - you need to make them - and yes, you do, in fact, need another chocolate chip cookie recipe. Because this one is better than the ones you already have - guaranteed!

So I posted a photo of my freshly baked cookies on Instagram and the mega food blog Food52 re-grammed that photo of mine, and suddenly I was inundated with new followers. It took me completely by surprise. That silly little cookie photo received over ten thousand likes! TEN THOUSAND! I mean, let's be honest, every photo they post gets around that many likes, but still! That's a lot for little old me.

And I became obsessed with checking my instagram feed that day because every time I did, there would be like 15 new followers. And I got a glimpse of how addictive social media can be when you're in the big leagues... and #thanksbutnothanks, it is far too consuming for me. And while my ego certainly enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame, it's good to be back to real life ;)
But the cookies! For real - make the cookies!

pussy willows

Upward and onward. 
Spring feels like it has finally arrived in the north. We still have plenty of snow, but the air is warm, there are buds on the willow bushes, and the snow is slowly melting. Hallelujah! 

We go for walks. Zac splashes in the muddy puddles while Noah sleeps in the stroller. And it is so good to be outside again. It has been far too long. This whole postpartum crap, especially in the winter, is just not for me. Have your babies in the summer, people.

life in Chisasibi

My in-laws flew up north to visit us in Chisasibi for the first time ever. It was so nice to finally be able to show them what our life is like up here. And perhaps justify why we have chosen to live so far away from everyone for the past 4 years? See, it isn't so bad up here, it's actually quite lovely.

And it was really nice to have babysitters around! Adrien and I got to go cross-country skiing just the two of us - something we haven't been able to do since I was pregnant the first time. It reminded me why we initially fell in love with this northern life.

I am always envious of people who live really close to their families, people who have access to their constant support at any given time. I think having kids in general would be a lot less stressful that way. Sigh. The grass is always greener, right?!


And this little munchkin turned 3 months old this week!


I celebrated this pivotal milestone with a big glass of wine (all by myself, as Adrien was on call at the hospital), after I had single-handedly managed to get both boys in bed by 8:30pm without any tears... from any of us.  Hallelujah!

The 3-month mark is a big one, in my opinion... it's the official end of the newborn period, it's when you can start to see the light at the end of that dark and lonely post-partum tunnel, and it's when babies genuinely begin to be fun to be around. Cheers to me! And to all the other parents out there - it sure ain't easy!


Since Zac has been booted out of the stroller by his little brother, I got him this cool little Freerider scooter that attaches to the back (it can also detach and function as an independent scooter - genius right?!). It's pretty much the bomb-dot-com, and Z loves it!

pussy willows

So that's what we've been up to lately. Life is life. And life is good.
Thanks for visiting!
xo
Vanessa.

Thursday

So I built a yellow school bus out of cardboard boxes...

DIY homemade cardboard box school bus

I was inspired to create some sort of a toy for Zac out of this big box we got in the mail the other week.... but I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. Then it finally dawned on me that I could paint it bright yellow, cut out some windows, and pretend it's a school bus.

But, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. And once I had painted it yellow I realized that it needed black stripes. And once it had its stripes I realized that it needed some red headlights.... and wheels that turn "round and round" of course... and a stop sign that flips open, and a steering wheel that steers... and a door that opens and closes, etc etc.

And suddenly I found myself knee-deep in a project that took me 2 full days to complete!

But the look on his face when he saw it for the first time made it all worth it!

DIY homemade cardboard box school bus

DIY homemade cardboard box school bus

So we've been singing a lot of "wheels on the bus" lately, as Zac acts out the verses passionately.
And it's a fun reminder of how the best things in life are free ;)

DIY homemade cardboard box school bus
(the writing on the stop sign is in Cree - this is what the stop signs look like up here in the north)

Friday

My new favourite cookbook: GENIUS RECIPES


It's no secret that I am a cookbook junkie. I own (and keep buying) a sickening number of cookbooks (and to think I almost never follow a recipe exactly). I own a lot of cookbooks that I love, but I actually only use a handful of recipes from. But every once in a while, I find a cookbook that I can cook inside-and-out... Ottolenghi's Plenty, Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day, David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen, Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook, to name a few.
Well, I now have another to add to that list!

I received my pre-ordered copy of Genius Recipes in the mail this morning (finally! Mail takes for-EVER to arrive in the far north). During Noah's nap I started to leaf through it excitedly... and I could NOT put it down! I read the entire thing cover to cover in one sitting. No joke. I had to stop dog-earing the pages because I literally want to try every single recipe in this book.

If you haven't heard about this book, it comes from the very popular food blog, Food52. It's essentially a "greatest hits" cookbook, and it includes some of the best recipes from some of the best chefs in the world today.

The concept of the book is summed up perfectly in this quote from the inside cover:

"There isn't yet a single cookbook where you can find Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with onion and butter, Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, and Nigella Lawson's dense chocolate loaf cake - plus dozens more of the most talked about, just-crazy-enough-to-work recipes of our time. Until now."

The book contains so many of my already favourite recipes, which I discovered around the web over the years (but I never knew their true origins). I love how each recipe is preceded by a little preamble explaining why the recipe is so genius, where it came from, and why it works. I have already learned so many cool tricks from this book just from the first read. This book is an instant favourite!

Tuesday

Spring comes slow, and having a newborn is hard.


Time is a funny thing. Time goes by so quickly and so tortuously slowly at the same time. I've had no free time at all lately, at least it seems, and so blogging has obviously taken a back seat. 

Even at this moment, I type this with one hand (my left at that) while simultaneously nursing my now 10 week old Noah. Zachary is sick with a bad cold and finally sleeping in his room after an exhausting battle to get him in there. It will probably take me several days to complete this post. At least I've showered.

The days are long, but the years are short. I know. I know.

There are many beautiful moments, splattered messily amongst the difficult ones. Moments so beautiful that my heart swells to the point of impending rupture. And yet, on a near daily basis, one of us inevitably looks at the other, stone cold, and says, "let's never do this again. Two is enough!"


Having a newborn isn't easy. Even the second time around. Even when you've been blessed with a chill one. It's still hard. Anyone who says otherwise is a big fat liar! Or they have a selective memory bias. 

Having a newborn is amazing, and mind-blowing, and magical, and a huge privilege.... but it is not easy!

My brain is foggy. I walk around (and surprisingly function) in a dreamlike state... that particular state familiar to all parents that comes from being woken up every 2-3 hours around the clock for months on end. 
And I'm all about coffee, and pacifiers (those wonderful but cursed pacifiers!), and re-mastering the art of doing everything one-handed (and coffee, and coffee, and coffee some more).

And I worry about my poor brain. Will I ever be able to think properly again? Two year-long maternity leaves will surely take its toll on my capacity to function as a physician in the future. I tell myself that I will read up on some medical literature during Noah's naps.... but that has yet to materialize. Just like my plan to get a little exercise in every day.



And then there's this winter that just won't quit! 

We keep getting glimpses of spring... just enough to keep us hopeful, and then winter strikes back. 
It feels awfully similar to this newborn period we are just on the cusp of exiting... we get glimpses of longer stretches of sleep, and easier days, and then they get stolen back, mercilessly. 
Just like the turning of the seasons. Two steps forward, one step back. I know. I know.

At least we had Florida to sustain us for the month of March. There's nothing like the ocean and a bit of sunshine to soothe a weary soul.





And now we find ourselves back in the far north... in even deeper winter. The snow is so thick it covers our windows and doors. We literally have to shovel our way out some mornings. 

But yesterday I woke up to the sound of birds chirping, and I think that is a sure sign that spring is just around the corner.... even in the remote north.

And no matter how hard winter clings on and fights, spring always wins out in the end. I know. I know.

And this too shall pass.


Wednesday

New Music: Courtney Barnett


I'm loving this new song by Aussie artist Courtney Barnett. Singing along to her clever deadpan lyrics is rather enjoyable ;). And her accent is super cute too!
Have a listen...



You can stream the entire debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sithere.

Life lately - escaping to Naples, Florida

vacation naples florida

Well we have been having an absolutely delightful week in sunny Naples, Florida. I was a bit nervous about travelling with a 6 week old, but the flight went really well and I am so glad we didn't let our fears stop us from coming here.... because I really needed this sunshine!


We are very fortunate that my in-laws have a second home here in Naples, so it makes for a relatively inexpensive and very convenient getaway location for us. Plus, we get to hang out with family, and having the extra hands around to hold babies and entertain toddlers is a major bonus!

handsome toddler

At 28 months old, Zachary can finally fully appreciate this little winter escape for the first time. On prior visits here he had been too scared to go on the beach or swim in the pool, but this time he has been having an absolute blast in the water. So much so that we are having to deal with minor melt-downs at meal times because we can't convince him to get out of the pool.

^^ Zachary insists on holding little Noah's hand when we go for walks in the double stroller. It is seriously the sweetest thing in the world. Especially considering the many other times of the day when Zac is trying to smother him (with well-intentioned but highly aggressive toddler love) ^^

eating out with kids in Naples Florida

We have been going out for lunches almost every day, which is such a treat for us. Thankfully both of our boys have been on their best behaviour. Dinnertime is a totally different story, mind you. Noah is at the peak of his fussy period and Zac is usually cranky and tired and resisting bedtime with force and fury. All this translates into rather stressful suppers, tepid food, and utter exhaustion by 9pm. 
But I can't complain. Beause we're in Florida. And not in deep snow like our friends and family back home. 

eating out with kids in Naples Florida
 ^^ key-lime pie, I never believed I liked you before. But I do. Oh I really do! ^^

 ^^ taking pictures in a mid-afternoon rain shower ^^

^^ finally letting his feet touch the ocean waves for the very first time ^^

We have a few more days here and then it's back to reality.... one busy week in Montreal (in which we have to pack up our entire apartment in preparation for moving), and then we fly back up north for the next 6 weeks.... back to full-on winter!

I hope March is treating you well so far :)
oxo
Vanessa

Thursday

Our top 2 best ever grain bowls (the secret's in the sauce!)

whole grain bowl with sweet sesame ginger dressing

Having a rambunctious toddler and a new baby in the house doesn't leave much time for cooking. But too much take-out, even if it is the easiest option, only leaves us feeling gross and devitalized. And given the sleep-deprivation that comes with a newborn, we really need all the energy we can get. So we have been making a concerted effort to still eat healthily despite our lack of free time (the green smoothies really do help!).

We recently discovered that whole grain bowls are a super easy, no-fuss, feel-good dinner that we can whip-up in literally no time at all. I've been cooking up a batch of whole grains (either quinoa, farro, brown rice etc) in advance, and storing it in the fridge. Then all we have to do is throw in whatever veggies we happen to have on hand, as well as some protein (stir-fried tofu, canned beans, edamame, or a crispy egg), and douse it with sauce. And voilà, a balanced, healthy, mouthwatering meal.

But the real trick, my friends, to a truly outstanding grain bowl is to have a truly outstanding sauce to go with it. And that's what I want to share with you today... Two of our favourite grain bowls and the sauces we always make with them. The first is a Mexican-inspired bowl with a creamy avocado cilantro lime dressing (amazing!), and the second, an Asian-inspired bowl with a deliciously sweet sesame ginger garlic dressing.



Read on for the recipes...

Wednesday

Life Lately.... Noah and I


Remember when I said that Noah slept all the time? Well, at 5 weeks old, he's definitely woken up! 
We had so much free time (it seemed) in the first few weeks, and life just suddenly got really busy. Such is the reality with two kids, I guess. And even though we were expecting this, it still came as somewhat of a shock to the system. We are adjusting slowly.

But it certainly didn't help that we've been apartment shopping like crazy for the last two weeks. Lugging a toddler and a newborn around the city to visit homes has been quite the adventure, to say the least. Thankfully we just signed the lease to a great new apartment and will be moving in May. It's definitely bittersweet, as we LOVE our current place.... but growing families call for larger homes. Such is life. Upward and onward.

Adrien had to fly back up north this morning for work. And although I'm a little terrified to be left alone with two kids for the first time, it's only for a week. And because I'm a total chicken, I am packing up and going to stay with my parents out in the country for the week, so I will have plenty of help! 

But for today I'm actually home alone with baby Noah. My mother took Zachary to Ottawa for the night (his first time going anywhere without me) to visit family (and give me a little break). He was so excited about it. And suddenly I have all this free time again. I was planning to make the most of it by going out for lunch and doing some shopping, but I changed my mind and decided to stay in my pjs all day, drink lots of coffee, have bubble baths and rent movies.... because I can!

And besides, I could use the spare time just to revel in Noah's cuteness....





He has certainly stolen my heart, that little guy :)
xo

Thursday

F-this! I've had it with winter - We are heading south!

winter in Montreal

Excuse the profanities, but I have had it with this winter! It has been snowing all week in Montreal. Enough already! I am so sick of cleaning the snow off the car, of dressing little kiddos in snowsuits, of salt stains, and slush.


So yeah, F-this! We're flying to the sunshine state.
Tickets just got booked. And in two weeks we are heading to my in-laws place in Naples, Fl.... to sit by the pool, be with family, and not wear coats.

Warm weather, here we come...

Naples Florida

Tuesday

Oh the beautiful chaos...


Life is certainly busy these days. This top photo sums it up almost perfectly ("almost" because we're not always smiling and laughing like this). But for the most part things are going incredibly well. Although there are definite challenges too, as there are with the addition of any newborn baby into any family.

Little Noah has some fairly serious reflux issues, which means I can only feed him small amounts but very frequently. We're on a 2-hour "schedule" in which he wakes up, I nurse him, burp him (which takes forever), and then we desperately try to keep him upright so that he doesn't vomit. But he inevitably vomits, we then change him and his clothes (and then he usually vomits a second time)... and then it's time to feed him again. You get the picture. It makes for pretty exhausting nights.... and pretty exhausting days too when you add 2-year-old Zachary into the mix.

But. I'm not complaining. Yes, we're tired, but we're managing. And reflux aside, Noah is still an incredibly easy baby overall, and I feel eternally grateful for this. And although Zac loves to get all up in baby Noah's business all the time (especially when he's sleeping or nursing), he loves his little brother so so so much! And what more could a mother ask for, anyway?!



Noah is 3 weeks old today and we are kind of in shock at how much faster the time is flying by this second time around. I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and enjoy the present moments, despite the chaos, because they are actually so beautiful, so fleeting, so impermanent.


Photos taken by our friend Catherine, who did a little photoshoot with us over the weekend. Thank you, Catherine, I can't wait to see the rest of them!
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