Wednesday

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!

The ultimate chocolate pie: Mississippi Mud Pie

Gordon Ramsey's Mississippi Mud Pie Recipe

Because we can't be healthy all the time, I decided to make Gorden Ramsey's Mississippi Mud Pie for Valentine's Day this year. 

You guys! This pie is ridiculous

It's insanely good. And insanely indulgent too.... it contains only 5 simple ingredients: chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar & cream. So yeah, obviously it's good!

(Come to think of it, it would actually be gluten-free too if it weren't for the graham cracker crust... but you could easily swap out the graham crackers for ground almonds and all would be righted in the wheat-free world).

Gordon Ramsey's Mississippi Mud Pie Recipe

So anyway, this pie is way too delicious not to share. So read on for the recipe. And bake this up next time you're in need of a serious chocolate fix.

Monday

Lately.... We've become smoothie people!


So we bought ourselves an unconventional Valentine's Day present this year... A Vitamix blender! 

We have been using the crappiest, most useless blender for years now, and I finally decided it was time for a serious upgrade. 

The inspiration came from our desire to eat healthier, but mainly to help find (sneaky) ways to increase our two year old son's intake of veggies. It has been an ongoing struggle to say the least.

I have been reading online reviews of blenders for weeks now, and I decided to go with a Vitamix for its ability to turn tough leafy greens, and other hard vegetables, into silky smooth drinks. 
And we decided to go the blender route vs. the juicer route because I like the idea of using the whole fruit/vegetable and not getting rid of all that valuable fibre (that is removed in the pulp by juicers).

Oh and we have not been disappointed. I LOVE this blender! Holy smokes, do I ever love it!
It is so much fun to use. There is something seriously satisfying about watching it pulverize kale, nuts, and spinach into smithereens in seconds!

And as far as fooling our two year old into eating his greens goes....


It's working magnificently! Thankfully he's too young to have built the association between the colour green and "foods that kids aren't supposed to like". So Zac has been all into the whole green-thing.
And every morning Zac asks to "make a green movie?" (translation = make a green smoothie), and we do. Zac even stuffs the blender with spinach leaves and kale all by himself. Then we throw in whatever fruit we have on hand, turn on the Vitamix to full throttle, and we do our little 30 second smoothie dance in excited anticipation.

And they taste amazing! Zac drinks two full glasses every morning.

We've been using this basic formula (via simplegreensmoothies.com):


And I've been using these handy tables as references to get an idea of how much protein/fiber we're getting (via FitSugar):




So yeah, I guess this means we've officially turned into smoothie people ;)

Saturday

Happy Valentine's Day (and my favourite love song)


Whether you're a Valentine's lover or hater, I'm sending lots of love your way today :)

We don't have any Valentine's Day-specific plans, but we are planning on baking up Gorden Ramsey's incredibly indulgent Mississippi Mud Pie for a real chocolatey treat.

And now, I'll leave you with two of my favourite love songs...




Have a great weekend!
oxo
Vanessa

(Top image via Free People Blog)

Friday

My Favourite Make-Up and Body Products


I'm presently in that "wonderful" postpartum period... you know, that lovely stage when your body still looks and feels kinda pregnant... only you're not.

It took me months to get my beauty act together after my first baby. I mean, I barely showered and rarely ever got dressed, never mind blow-drying my hair or swiping on some mascara. At the time, I felt I couldn't indulge in any me-time with a howling, colicky baby in the background. But it was ridiculously unbalanced and unhealthy for me, and that complete self-sacrifice only left me feeling miserable both inside and out.

So this time, I promised myself I'd do things differently...

And I'm happy to report that I have been.
(mostly thanks to my second baby being the easiest baby ever, and my husband currently being on paternity leave.)
Every day I have been granting myself a fair amount of me-time... to take guilt-free showers and to pamper myself with some rather lovely & luxurious body products.

Seeing that it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and we should all be loving and pampering ourselves.... I thought I'd take the time to share with you my absolute favourite make-up and beauty products (something I've never done before on this blog).

Here it goes....


Lady Grey's Favourite Make-Up:

Make-up favorites
  1. MAC Blot Powder Pressed - a fantastic mattifying powder that I use over foundation to set it and control any unwanted shine. It makes my skin look flawless.
  2. Laura Mercier Oil-Free Primer - This stuff is amazing. I don't use it every day, but I love to use it when I'm going out and want my skin to look extra good. I use it under foundation to smooth out any imperfections and "prime" my face for colour.
  3. Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua - the lightest, most wonderful foundation I've ever tried! You need only a tiny amount of this stuff and it gives your skin the most radiant, most natural glow. It's hard to even call this a "foundation" because of how lightweight it is. I love this stuff.
  4. Lancome Hypnose Mascara - my go-to mascara for years. Point finale.
  5. MAC eyeliners - I definitely don't wear eyeliner every day, but when I do, I love the ones from MAC (as well as the Le Crayon Khôl by Lancôme).
  6. Touche Éclat by Yves Saint Laurent - this was a recent indulgence that I'm really enjoying - it's a complexion highlighter that brightens up your face and covers up dark circles, fine lines and other signs of fatigue. It adds a subtle but beautiful glow to wherever you swipe it. Addendum: after using this for a few weeks now I have to say that I'm not sure it's worth its price-tag. I still do really love this product, but its effects are rather subtle to warrant its high cost.
Lady Grey's Favourite Body Products:


  1. L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil - I just love the way this stuff feels on my skin in the shower. When it comes in contact with water it feels like it almost heats up, and is amazingly comforting and soothing on the skin. And somehow the texture isn't actually oily at all.
  2. L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Face Cream and Night Cream - I first got these as samples in the mail and instantly fell in love with their texture and mild scent. I'm really not a fan of overly perfumed face creams. But these I truly adore. I definitely want to buy them in full-size.
  3. Lansinoh HPA Lanolin - ok please don't judge.... yes, this is, in fact, a Nipple Cream (I'm postpartum, remember!). But I discovered in the middle of the night one night that this stuff makes for the absolute BEST lip balm in the world! If it can fix a seriously cracked nipple, it can certainly heal a chapped lip! Now I suffer from some pretty serious chronically chapped lips (so much so that I can't even wear lipstick because it just looks cakey and gross on my chapped/cracked lips). And I have tried a lot of lip balms/treatments and I find them all very drying unless you reapply them constantly. I recently splurged and bought Dior's Crème de Rose after reading rave reviews and I was thoroughly disappointed. But this lanolin stuff does wonders for my lips. Just saying.
  4. Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner - I have been using this stuff since I was 17 years old and working in a natural foods store. It's the best!
  5. Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion - this basic drugstore cream is my go-to face, hands and body cream. I put it on my hands after every hand washing and I use it on my face every morning and night. It's not fancy but it might just be the best cream out there :)
Lady Grey's Favourite Hair Products:

  1. Kérastase hair shampoos/conditioners - they're all amazing! I buy them once in a while when I'm feeling fancy (but most days I just use TRESemmé Naturals, 'cause it's cheap and works really well).
  2. Klorane dry shampoo - this stuff changed my life! Ok minor exaggeration. I have fine hair and I play with it too much, so it gets greasy really fast. This stuff allows me to not wash it every day, and it's the only way I can get away with that. I spent my teenage years trying to "train my hair" to not need daily washings... nuh-uh, never worked for me! But this stuff works!
  3. Lulu Organics Hair Powder - this stuff is essentially a powerful dry shampoo in powder form (and its talc-free). I use it before bed when I'm planning to not wash my hair the next morning, and I wake up with hair that looks perfectly clean and fresh.
  4. L'Oréal Professionnel Wild Stylers Crépage de Chignon - This texturizing spray is half dry shampoo and half hairspray (with mild-moderate holding power). I love to use it when my hair is "too clean" and slippery to style.... it gives it great volume and texture without any stickiness or gunkiness. 

Well that just about wraps it up. I'd love to know if you have any favourite make-up or body products that have stood the test of time... you know, the stuff you buy over and over again because it's so good? Please share if you do!

Thursday

Healthy Toddler Cookies!

healthy toddler cookies Recipe

It's the middle of February in Montreal, and we have a new baby in the house. So essentially, we are pretty much house-bound these days. And we're suffering from some serious cabin-fever.

Zachary especially.... He's a rambunctious 2 year old with a very tangible need to burn off excess physical energy. And running up and down our (thankfully) long hallway for hours on end isn't exactly cutting it anymore.

So we've been cooking and baking a lot. Turns out, baking is a great activity for toddlers (at least for mine). It completely engages him, and the pay-off is pretty sweet too ;)

Yesterday we decided to invent some healthy "toddler cookies". (We had so much success with our Toddler Muffins, after all, so why not try again?!)

We scoured the internet for suitable recipes and inspiration, but we couldn't find anything that suited our needs. We used to make these 2-ingredient cookies all the time, but after a while they just weren't satisfying enough... they were, dare I say, a little too healthy for our tastes. I wanted our cookies to still taste like a treat - yet be full of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.... you know, a well-balanced toddler snack that is fun to eat too. Is that too much to ask for?

So anyway, I took out a bunch of healthy ingredients from the pantry, and we started to experiment....
And the result was rather delicious actually!

healthy toddler cookies

The entire batch lasted less than 24 hours in this house... they were that good. (Also a clear indicator that we are house-bound and bored out of our minds and just stuffing our faces with cookies to pass the time!). No but seriously, these cookies are fantastic, and we will definitely be making them again and again.


Making cookies with your toddler
^^ my little sous-chef! For the record, Zac did not scoop out all those perfectly placed cookies by himself, but he did try! 
And a warning: giving your toddler free-reign at fresh out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies will inevitably result in some serious chocolate hands ^^ 

Read on for this easy recipe that you and your kids can make together...
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