Thursday, 28 July 2011

Two More Fitness Firsts

I'm on a roll this week.

On Tuesday during the day I wasn't feeling that great, so the thought of going to my first yoga class wasn't even on my mind by the time evening rolled around.  I put F to bed as usual, then changed into my pjs.  I went downstairs and happened to glance at my Facebook to see a message from Monica:  "OKAY MARTINA - GET READY FOR POWER YOGA!  I'M COMING TO GET YOU!"  I glanced at the clock - 7:50.  Yoga started at 8.  I hesitated for a moment, asked Tyler if I could go, then ran upstairs to get changed again.  Just as I came back down Monica was at my door.

I'm so glad she dragged me out!  I was quite nervous.  I had never taken a yoga class, in fact the only yoga I knew was from a Yoga for Beginners dvd that I have, which I've only done a handful of times.  What was I thinking going to POWER yoga for my first class?  Monica assured me I could do it, as she hadn't really done yoga before when she started the class awhile back but has caught on.

So I just jumped in.  I don't think anyone knew I was a novice.  And actually, I didn't find it that difficult.  It was challenging for sure, but not as overwhelming as I thought.  Everything was totally doable for me, even some of the more complicated poses.  I was surprised at my own flexibility.

It was a wonderful class, I will definitely be going back.  I really felt it the next day, in a good way though.  I felt it even more so than the spinning from the day before.  I was sore, but it felt great.  And I kept thinking I needed to do more yoga to counteract the soreness!

Tonight I took another chance and went to Pilates.  Again the only time I have tried it before was from a pregnancy Pilates dvd that I have.  And again I was a bit nervous.  But as with yoga, I found it challenging but not too hard, and I really enjoyed it.

I'm feeling rather proud of myself this week.  These are all things I have wanted to do for a long time but have been to scared or nervous to try for fear of looking like a fool.  But I surprised myself not only with how comfortable I felt, but also with the ease I was able to do the exercises.  It actually felt like I have been doing these things for awhile, and not that it was my first time taking a class.

I would love to go to spinning again tomorrow morning, but I think I should take it easy (plus I need to go easy on the childminding costs).  Saturday is cardio kick and I can't wait!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Fit and Active Lifestyle

Remember this post?  The one where I was down because I wanted to be a fit and active mom and do all sorts of fun stuff with my family?  Well, we are getting there!

First off we got bikes.  My dad gave us a couple of his old ones.  We still don't have a bike trailer, but hopefully soon we can pick one up so we can hit the trails with the kids in tow.  I still haven't even gotten on one of the bikes, but I keep meaning to get it out and make sure I can still ride it (I know they say you never forget, but it has been a really long time for me!).

We have been getting out a lot more with the kids.  Not doing anything particularly fitness related yet, but they are still little.  The point is we are feeling more comfortable getting out and doing family activities, so it won't be long before we'll be doing more things like biking and hopefully kayaking when they are bit older.  Definitely some skiing this winter.  We might even brave camping on the September long weekend!

But as for me, I am really starting to get into more fitness classes at the Y.  A few weeks ago I started a cardio kick class on Saturdays which I love.  It is hard, but so much fun.  I really feel it the next day. 

And today I took the plunge.  I did a spinning class!  Monica joined me to help me through it, and I did feel more comfortable having someone I know with me.  But I felt confident going in, and didn't feel too foolish asking someone to help me adjust the bike.  I did stay at the back so no one could see how novice I was, but felt comfortable being there which is a great start.

I was actually surprised at how hard it was!  I mean, I didn't think it would be easy by any means, but I tend to hold my own pretty well in new fitness situations (I'm totally killing that cardio kick class and I've only been twice).  This was a whole new ballgame for me though.  While I am in decent shape, muscles I didn't even know I had were being challenged, and I will definitely be feeling it later.  I actually spent most of the class with my butt on the seat while everyone else was up and at it.  I know today's class will have been the hardest, and hopefully after a few more classes I'll be able to keep up a little better.  I was certainly sweating up a storm, and it was a great workout.  Funny enough I didn't love it the way I love zumba or the cardio kick, but I love the idea of what it is doing for my body, and that is motivation enough for me to keep going.

I am starting to look pretty good again, and now that I am seeing the results it is pushing me more than ever to get in the gym and keep working at it.

Monica goes to power yoga on Tuesday evenings and I might join her.  There is a pilates class on Thursday evenings I am interested in.  I would love to be able to swing another spin class during the week, or a different one like 20-20-20 or total body conditioning, or even aqua fit, but we'll have to see.  It kind of depends on how often I can afford to put the kids in the childminding there.  Wouldn't it be great if I could go almost every day? 

Zumba has been on hold for the summer since the instructor left, and I haven't been able to make it out to the Wasaga Beach ones.  But I have been told it will be back in the fall, so I am looking forward to putting that back into my fitness routine.

I never used to think I was one of those people who were totally into fitness and getting in shape, but I'm really starting to get into it.  I love what it is doing for my body, and for my mind.  And I love the fact that I just feel.....healthy.  Dare I say, I'm getting a little obsessed with fitness!

So I am feeling really good and much more confident about working towards my goals and achieving the lifestyle I want, both for me and my family.  The boys are in active tots and in the fall we will start swimming with them again.  Maybe even some soccer for T.  Now, if only I could kick Tyler's butt into gear and get him into something just so he gets a little bit of exercise!

Elvis Lives! ..... in Collingwood .......

So our town is home to the Collingwood Elvis Festival.  Maybe one of the largest Elvis Festivals in the world, I don't know.  In any event, it's a big deal around here.  Every summer people come from all over to experience all things Elvis.  There are Elvises (Elvi?) in virtually all shapes, sizes, genders, and ages.  You could say our town is overrun by Elvis!  Concerts, contests, impersonators galore.  

Last year during the Elvis Festival we had just moved in, so didn't get a chance to go out and experience it.  This year we were away for a wedding in Toronto, but made it back in time to catch the tail end of the action on Sunday.  I imagine we missed most of the fun, there wasn't as much going on while we were out there, but we still got to see a few Elvises and avid fans.

Some people think Elvis impersonators are weird or creepy.  Or maybe they think the whole idea of an Elvis Festival is cheesy.  I think it's pretty darn cool.  I mean, there is no denying that Elvis was kind of a big deal.  The man is a legend.  

I like to watch the faces of the people who might have been fans of Elvis when he was alive.  Maybe the old woman walking down the street wearing an Elvis t-shirt was just a young girl or teenager when he was popular.  Maybe she had posters of him on her walls that she kissed before bed, or daydreamed that she would get to marry him.  Maybe she even saw him live in concert.  To her it is not just a cheesy festival, it is a part of her youth.  And for one weekend a year, she gets to relive a little bit of it.  I like thinking about those kinds of things.  Our generation may never have an icon like Elvis.  Most new music, while it is still great, is not legendary.  Everything is already been-there-done-that.  But Elvis, during his time, was groundbreaking.

I also love that all the shops on the main street do up their windows full of Elvis memorabilia and paraphernalia.  Vendors line the streets selling all things Elvis - t-shirts, purses, baby clothes, hats, sunglasses, leis, even fake sideburns.  Even the baby store had rock and roll sock monkeys and Elvis bibs and onesies.

I wonder, how does one decide they want to be an Elvis impersonator anyway?

One thing is for sure, Elvis will live on.  And people of any age can enjoy the music he gave us.  I couldn't help but want to dance and sing along, and I noticed all sorts of people young and old, itching to do the same.

I think we missed all the really good Elvises this year since we were so late getting out there.  Next year I plan to get out and get the whole experience fully.  And I want to take pictures of as many Elvises as I can!  But for now I'll leave you with this one.  Didn't look that much like the real thing, but he was definitely enjoying his job. 

Until next year, Elvis has left the building!  (sorry, how could I resist?)

Monday, 18 July 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

I seem to be all about the recipes these days (and a big thank you to my friend Mashi for letting me in on this one!).

So unlike my recent treats, these ones are not sugar free (hey, I can't be good all the time!).  But I did manage to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by more than half by using stevia instead for the filling.  I didn't want to try messing around with the crust since I figured the lack of sugar would change it too much.  For the filling however I omitted the sugar (all 1 1/4 cups of it!) and used 1 tsp powdered stevia, then made up the rest of the lost bulk with extra strawberry puree (which actually was sweetened with a little bit of sugar, so I can't claim the filling is entire free of the stuff!).

The recipe worked out just fine though and the bars were delicious.  A very refreshing alternative to other baked sweets.  Actually they weren't very sweet at all, more on the tart side.  Basically like pouring an entire pitcher of strawberry lemonade onto a crust and baking it!

So here is the recipe.  (original recipe and picture here)

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
1 tsp powdered stevia
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
To make crust:
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Press into pan and bake for about 17 minutes, until set at the edges.
While the crust bakes, prepare the filling:
In the bowl of a food processor, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.
Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for 23-26 minutes, until the filling is set.
Cool completely before slicing and use a damp knife to ensure clean slices.
Makes 24 bars.

These bars lasted about 24hrs in the house before they were all gone.  And I will admit that I ate most of them (they're suitable for breakfast, right?).  Good thing about the reduced sugar part.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Family Fun Week

Tyler just had the past week off so we packed it full of fun stuff.  This post is going to be more of an overload of pictures rather than a bunch of writing, so get ready for some crazy cuteness!

Saturday - Hanging out in the backyard, playing in the kiddie pool.

Sunday - We went to the Chili Ribfest in Thornbury with Tyler's mom and stepdad.  It rained a little bit at first but it didn't stop us from having a good time.  There was a vintage car show which T really liked, and a hunter jumper horse show which brought back a lot of memories for me from when I used to compete.  T went on his first midway ride which was just a car that went around in a circle, but he enjoyed it.  The food was great and we had a really nice time.

Monday - The boys and I drove down to Aurora to stay at my dad's.  Tyler had already gone down to do more work on the landscaping.  We visited with my mom and friends, then in the evening the boys had fun 'helping' daddy in the backyard.  Future landscapers maybe?

Tuesday - A big trip to the Toronto Zoo.  I LOVE the zoo, and am one of those people that will cover every inch to see every animal.  Of course we couldn't do this with two toddlers, it was still a little much for them.  It was also ridiculously hot.  They are not quite at an age where they were really into it, but they did seem to have fun.  We had a good time though, and they especially liked the water park.

The otter was Tristan's favorite!

Out cold on the way home

Wednesday - Back in Collingwood, and we went strawberry picking at Fernwood Farms in Stayner.  It was so much fun.  I was worried that F would trample all the plants and I'd have to spend the whole time chasing him around, but he was really good.  The boys had a blast!  And we made out like bandits with three huge baskets full of strawberries.  I've already made strawberry ice cream, strawberry 'freezer' jam, strawberry lemonade bars, strawberry margaritas, and we've pretty much eaten strawberries every day.  And we still have a big bag of them in the freezer!


T showing off his strawberries

That's a lot of strawberries!

Thursday - Our second trip to Wasaga Beach, this time we went to a quieter and more family friendly area.  The water was so warm and the boys loved it, especially T.  We stayed all afternoon and had a picnic dinner on the beach.  Lots of fun, but the sand...oh the sand.  That stuff gets everywhere, ick!

Friday - Tyler went fishing, just a regular day for me and the boys.

Saturday - We went to Famarama at Blue Mountain, and event where they had lots of fun activities for kids.  Mainly though we just played in the fountain and in the park, which are the kinds of things the boys love best anyway.

Sunday - Quiet day at home while Tyler and Mike worked on the front walkway.

Back to work for Tyler tomorrow.  I wish every week could be family week!!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Strawberry Stevia Ice Cream

Seeing as how I am still on my sugar-free goodies kick, coupled with the fact that we went strawberry picking the other day and have an overabundance of them, the only logical thing left to do would be to make sugar free strawberry ice cream using stevia.  So here is what I did.  *note to self: must remember to take pictures next time!

Strawberry Stevia Ice Cream

3 cups strawberries
2 eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp stevia
1/2 vanilla
about 1/2 cup chopped strawberry chunks

Puree 3 cups strawberries with 1 cup half and half cream.
Whip  eggs, the add remaining cup half and half, whipping cream,  stevia, vanilla, and pureed strawberry mixture, then mix it all together.
Turn on ice cream maker and pour mixture in.
While it's making the ice cream, chop up some more strawberries into small chunks.  I wasn't measuring, but I think I had about 1/2 cup.
Once ice cream has started to thicken add strawberry chunks.
I think in total I had it in the machine for about 25mins. 
Transfer to another container and put it in the freezer to firm up.

It was so good I couldn't wait for it to freeze up properly before helping myself to a bowl.  It had more of a soft serve consistency but was delicious none the less!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Fantastic Sugar Free Banana Bread

So we have this amazing banana bread recipe Tyler found online awhile back that yields seriously the best banana bread ever.  I wanted to make a sugar free banana bread using stevia, but still wanted to use our usual recipe, so I just figured out how to substitute stevia for sugar.  Basically 1 cup sugar = 1tsp stevia, but you have to make up the lost bulk with something that works in whatever recipe you are using.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup sugar, so we used 1 tsp stevia and made up the rest with extra mashed banana. 

Sugar Free Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 tsp stevia
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mash 3 ripe bananas (+extra bananas to make up for the lost 3/4 cup sugar) then add:
2 large eggs, beaten
6 tbsp melted butter
 1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

Pour wet ingredients into dry and fold.  Pour into greased and floured pan and bake at 350 C for 45-50mins.

So how did it turn out?  Amazing!!  Still moist and delicious, and just sweet enough.  We made one plain loaf and one loaf with home made sugar free chocolate chips.  (not sure how Tyler made them, but I think it was something along the lines of melting baker's chocolate then adding stevia to sweeten, then spreading on a parchment lined baking sheet, cooling, then breaking into 'chips')

And the best part is feeling good about offering it to our kids as a snack knowing that it's sugar free.  They love it too!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Bedtime Songs

For several months now singing songs at bedtime has been part of our routine with T.  This is how most nights go once he is lying in bed:

Mommy and Daddy:  What songs do you want to sing tonight?
T:  2 cat songs, 2 bubble songs, and 2 twinkle twinkle (same as every night)

You're probably thinking, "Ok I know Twinkle Twinkle, but what are cat songs and bubble songs?"

It started with Twinkle Twinkle.  We just started lying in his bed with him, cuddling, and staring at the star projections on the ceiling from his Twilight Turtle, singing the lullaby. 

Then one night while staring at his Fisher Price aquarium he requested a bubble song.  Bubble song?  So we made one up to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle.  At first Tyler tried to get creative with lyrics, but they were always so ridiculous and all the laughing got T wound up.  So now the only lyric is "bubble", for the entire Twinkle Twinkle tune.

We used to offer singing one of each song, but he would always negotiate two. 

Not too long ago he asked for the 'cat' song.  This is from watching Wiggle and Learn, where they have one bit that is this jazzy scene with cats dancing in an alleyway while the Wiggles hang out on balconies, and they all sing "Meowwww, meow meow meow meow meow meow meowwwwwwwwww".  So we added cat song to the repertoire, and while we sing it T likes to make cat-like motions with his 'paw', and requests that we do too.  So cute!

Last weekend while we were visiting my dad's he said we didn't have to sing the bubble song since we didn't bring his aquarium with us.

Kids are so funny.  Who knows where they come up with the things they do!

As of late he has started asking to sing more Wiggles songs before bed as well.  We will usually sing Hot Potato once but have to leave it there, or else we'd be in his room all night belting out renditions of Fruit Salad and Rock a Bye Your Bear.

He is just too cute.  I love my Big Guy!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Hooray for Friends, New and Old

I recently realized that it hasn't been just since we've moved here that I have felt lonely.  It has been much longer than that, probably since around the time I first became a mom.  So much changes once you have kids, and often friendships are one of them.  I only had a few very close friends up until that point, but they were great friends.  We had common interests when it came to things like music, fashion, and lifestyle.  It was great to just hang out with them and do something fun, or nothing at all.

Inevitably we drifted apart probably even once Tyler and I got married, but definitely after I became pregnant and had T.  Such is life sometimes.  Sometimes there are reasons, sometimes not.  Sometimes life just takes you in a different direction.  I remember being pregnant with T and feeling very sad that my friends never called to see how I was.  In retrospect maybe I was selfish, after all it's not just about me all the time (though I know I tend to be one of those people that makes it about myself).  Nevertheless I did feel like I was still making an effort and they were not.  And at some point, you do just stop trying.

Now I can't remember who's fault it is that some of us don't talk anymore.  Probably both of ours, but one of those great friendships has disappeared.  The other two ladies and I keep in touch.  Like I said life has had different plans for us, and that is fine, but it means we don't get to see each other as often as we would like.

So for the past 3-4yrs while this has been going on, I had been feeling increasingly more alone.  And once you have children you want desperately to have friends you can relate too.  Mom friends, who you can share parenting advice and say "oh yeah, I get it!".  Even before moving I longed for those kinds of relationships.

Moving out here was a chance to start fresh and make new friends.  New friends with no baggage or past history.  Starting fresh from this point onwards.  For that first year I think I underestimated how hard a task this would be.  Things with two children were really hard, and I wasn't feeling myself.  In the late summer I met a few people, but then winter hit and I stopped seeing familiar faces.  I felt so low all winter, thinking I would never make new friends.

It's amazing how different I feel now.  We've been going to the Early Years Centre almost every week since we moved here, and it has been a great place to meet new people.  For the last couple of months we have been seeing the same families almost every week which has given me the opportunity to get to know some of them better.  It's also great that the boys are starting to recognize some of their playmates. 

Yesterday it went one step further and we were able to meet up with some of the moms that I talk to often at the park in the afternoon.  From there we were all invited to one of their houses so the kids could all play in the backyard (since it was getting hard to round them all up and keep them in the park area!).  I think one of the nicest parts is that these particular moms are all getting to know each other too, so it's not like I'm just the 'new' mom on the block. 

I feel like such a nerd for being so excited about the prospect of new friendships, but I have a good feeling about these ladies and am really hoping that this can progress into some really great friendships.  They all seem to be of similar age and attitude as me, and we all have kids the same age as another one's kids, so each child has a playmate even though overall they are aged 2mos-5yrs.

So after a lovely afternoon chatting in the backyard while the kids had a blast playing in the sprinkler, we all exchanged numbers and planned another meet up tomorrow at Sunset Point.  Hopefully the weather is nice so we can go. 

It has been so long since I have felt like I have a really good friendship with other ladies, so I am looking forward to getting to know them better, both through our kids but hopefully more personally as well.  One of the moms has suggested going out for drinks sometime which is a fantastic idea as I could really use some kid-free girl time!

And we can't forget the great friendship we seem to have developed with M and her boys as well.  I love that I have someone that I can feel comfortable calling to hang out, or that I can call in a pinch if I need someone to take care of the boys.  We definitely have a great time talking and the boys all have fun playing together.

Finally I feel like I am making the kinds of friends that I have been longing for since becoming a mom.  Of course I miss my old friends, they will always be a special part of my life.  We keep in touch and do plan on getting together when time allows.  I can't wait to see them, and I know it will be like old times when we finally do get to meet up. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Another Crazy Weekend

Happy Canada Day!  Ok, I'm a bit late, my apologies.  But better late than never!

Actually Canada Day was rather uneventful here.  Tyler left to go to my dad's for the weekend on Thursday night so he could do more work on the landscaping.  Originally the plan was we would all go for the weekend, but then I realized that would just be a huge pain in the butt for me since no one would be there to hang out with and help with the kids, and it is so hard taking care of them there.  Not to mention sleep and routines get all messed up.  So I opted not to go down for the whole weekend but did decide to go on Sunday and stay one or two nights, since my dad would be home by then and we'd have someone to visit.

The boys and I didn't so much on Friday.  On Saturday we walked to the Farmer's Market which was really nice.  Didn't bother buying anything but saw lots of stuff we could pick up next time we go.  Then we walked to the main street, as I was on a mission to find the boys really good sun hats.  You know the kind that have huge brims to cover their faces, neck and ears, and hopefully a strap underneath to keep them on their heads.  I found exactly what I was looking for at Three Peas in a Pod, but they were expensive, $40 each!  They were so cute though, and were made with an SPF material and were exactly what I had in mind, so I really couldn't resist.  The didn't have the right size for the boys, only smaller and bigger ones.  I got the bigger ones thinking if I was going to spend that money on them then they at least better wear them for a few years.  They can wear them now, they're just a little big, but the straps and toggles keep them on. 

They're so cute in their new hats!  (I bought the white one for F and the brown one for T, but T insisted on wearing the one with trucks this day)

Sunday we drove to Aurora to check out what Tyler had been doing all weekend.  When we got there the backyard still didn't look like much, but I knew he had been hard at work.  There was tons of flagstone, natural stone, and plant material everywhere.  Some really beautiful trees had been dropped off and were waiting to be planted in their new homes.

It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant Tyler is at his job.  Not only did he design the landscape, but he was building it too, and in record time with minimal help.  The guy is a machine, working 14+hr days in the heat and even after dark getting it all done.  When we arrived on Sunday the place still looked like a mud pit, but by Monday night he had all the major work done.  The stairs were built, the flagstone was laid, the water feature was installed, the large trees were planted, and the sod was down.  While there is still some stuff to be done, I can already see how fantastic it is going to look. 

Watching him work on the landscaping made me miss my job so much!  I so wanted to get out there and dig and rake and plant!

While he was busy at work, we hung around the house, went to the park, or visited with friends.  On Monday we had lunch with Kris which was great, I feel like we don't get to see her enough.  It was so nice to hang out with her and chat.

Tyler worked until 11pm on Monday then headed home that same night because he had to go to work on Tuesday.  I can't believe how hard that guy works.  We stayed until Tuesday, then after having lunch with Mike, Renee and my dad, we headed back home.  The boys slept all the way home, and just like last weekend we got home at the perfect time to slide right back into our routine.  Those two are turning into great little travellers.

So the first half of the weekend was rather relaxed but the second half made up for it.  I always feel like going away for a few days, no matter how simple it seems, ends up being such a chaotic event.  I was thinking it wasn't really worth it for me and the boys to have gone down, but at the same time I enjoy getting away and seeing my family.

This weekend Tyler still has to go back on Saturday to finish up.  I feel like we haven't had a weekend with him in ages, and we miss him!  But he will be around on Sunday so we're planning on doing something fun as a family.  There is a Chili and Ribfest sort of event going on near Blue Mountain that we might check out.  Should be fun, I can't wait to do something exciting as a family!