Enjoying the Kitchen Again

During my rough year pre-baby, I ate a lot of comfort food and was too tired and down to really get into cooking. When I was pregnant with A, nausea took over, followed by exhaustion, and I still didn’t cook a lot. And then, in the early months with him, it was impossible to try to cook anything beyond a simple meal, and I gravitated to eating pre-made, packaged, processed things that were fast and easy.

In the last few weeks we’ve been making concerted efforts to eat better, all around, for everyone in the family. For me, at home for lunches and breakfast every day, that has meant getting back into the kitchen. I’ve been buying more fresh produce and taking the time to prep it and keep it quick and accessible in the fridge, taking an hour or so at the start of the week to rinse, chop, portion, and cook batches of things like rice and couscous.

I’ve also been digging back into CookSmarts recipes, having skipped around between CS and flying by the seat of my “whatever is fast” pants. We’ll see what happens during summer, because I often revert to quick and easy and not heat-generating during the warm months!

And, having cleared out many of our cupboards, I’ve made our appliances like the Instant Pot more accessible, and have been leaning on it for meals like this Hawaiian pulled chicken bowl. I love how fast it is with things like frozen meat and heartier stews and soups, and although it may not actually be that ‘instant’ when you consider the time it takes to get up to pressure and back down, I like that I can set it and forget it.

Overall I’m enjoying being in the kitchen, and enjoying the food I’m eating, a lot more.

Winter Walk

For a brief few minutes it’s just A and me. This isn’t remarkable in itself – most of the time it’s always A and me, with Matt and work and M in school. But it is remarkable because he’s strapped to my chest under my coat and we’re tromping up a trail.

It’s a groomed, wide trail. This isn’t a true wilderness adventure. But the snow is creaking and crunching under the weight of my boots, and the sun is quickly dipping below the visible horizon, and the air is so clear and crisp. For the last few minutes we’d been following Matt and M, hiking their way up with a sled bungeed to another sled. Maybe this is why it reminds me of my childhood – a bit of winter exploration in the brisk north, where everyone ventures out when the cold snap finally breaks and it’s only -20C.

It feels familiar, that twilight setting in, snowballs resting on bent branches. The only sound is my footsteps and a distant train chugging along the lakeshore we just left. A is probably the warmest of us all, nestled into me with my orange parka zipped over his body. Underneath, he’s dressed up like a polar bear.

This is one of our favourite places in town — I’d venture one of our favourite places in the world. We came walking here in the first winter storm of the season when I was in early labour with M. It feels like home and I am so happy to be walking this trail with A, no matter how much the cold is making my head throb.

We all meet at the car — one of two left in the parking lot — and artfully do the dance of getting each kid in a car seat, loading the sleds in, defrosting what needs to be defrosted. We’re going home for a warm meal and a warm bath and a hot, hot fire thanks to the load of split pine dropped at our garage door earlier this morning.

My heart is full.

[BLOOM] Keeping Motivated & Accountable

One of my issues with goal-setting is that I make goals and then promptly forget about them until it’s time to review. I’ve learned that I need repetition and structure — and reminders — to keep things going properly. This year I really do want to have an awesome 365 days, and so, I’ve set up a few ways to keep motivated and accountable with my goals and intentions.

#1 – You can check out everything I’ve compiled, photographed, written, etc. on this subject, on a page right here on the blog. It’s also on my top menu for future reference. I don’t expect anyone to look at this other than me, but hey, it’s an option. 😉

#2 – This is mentioned and linked on that page, but I’m hashtagging any images connected with my theme for the year with #mywordisbloom on that platform.

#3 – I have a set of whiteboard decals I plan to put up somewhere in the house, so we can track our family goals. I’m thinking a seasonal ‘bucket list’ of sorts would be fun! We also went through our hopes, goals, and intentions for the year and I wrote it all down in a document, but having it in front of our faces is more likely to bring success.

#4 – I’m using two books that have been interesting, and useful, so far:

The 52 Lists Project is a weekly journal that is comprised of, obviously, 52 different lists that all have a goal of making you think about your life positively. I’m on week three and it’s a fun way to stretch my brain and dig into the best parts of my life.

The Five Minute Journal (Chapters link because the price on Amazon Canada is nuts) is a daily journal intended to give structure to evaluating your day, morning and night, and thus evaluating and making a difference in your overall life. I’ve tried gratitude journalling before and failed, but I like how this one is set up in a way that really requires habit-forming for change.

With that said — back to regularly scheduled programming! I’m hoping to blog more this year, about whatever comes to mind. So, I’ll see you soon!

[BLOOM] Relationship & Social Goals

Maternity leave, in winter in Northwestern Ontario, can be a bit isolating. Oh, I know, it’s hard for everyone to get out of the house and do stuff in the early days, but I sit here with extreme cold warnings popping up from my weather app, I watch the snow pile up in the driveway, and I rue the fact that we aren’t in a big city with a mall or an aquarium or some other kind of climate controlled meeting place where it’s acceptable to bring a screaming kid (because my kid is, currently, a screamer).

I know it gets easier when January passes and the worst of the frigid cold is over, but it has me thinking about social relationships for now. We’ve slowly been shifting into a different social circle — by virtue of having a three year old, we’re seeing more of fellow parents at things like birthday parties and skating, and a lot of our younger friends are moving away or have already done so. But still, we know a lot of people but don’t do a lot of social things. I’d like to change that, a bit — I am an introvert and always will be, but sometimes I think I tend to decline invitations and act like a hermit a bit too much.

And, as parents of two kids, it’s obvious that our own relationship requires a conscious effort to be more than bleary-eyed ships passing in the night. That counts as a relationship I want to nurture, too.

To put it out there in list form:

  • Bring back Friday Night Meatballs or something similar — originally instituted due to a lonely maternity leave, we are well overdue to get this going again, but we need to have the bathroom in shape first.
  • Accept invitations. More of them, even if I feel tired or gross or not social. I usually have fun when I get there no matter how socially awkward I feel before I go.
  • Extend invitations. It works both ways.
  • Turn the “we should get together sometime” talk into concrete plans. Take initiative, again, even if I feel socially awkward about it.
  • Turn consciously toward connection — a friend shared something that indicated successful couples make a point of consciously connecting with their spouses, when a partner presents them with something (“hey, I read this cool thing” or “guess what happened at work today?”). I am all too often in multitasking-tired land and only have half an ear out.
  • Respond with love. I know we are in the early days, the survival time of the first three months, and lack of sleep gets me grumpy. It’s something I need to work on.
  • Those last two goals count for the kids, too.

The overall goal, really, is just to expand and connect and keep building that social circle. Living in a place where we don’t have those family or childhood connections, we really do have to work to create that sense of found family, but it’s worth the effort when it works.

[BLOOM] Travel and Adventure Goals

When I was on leave with M we were able to make a summer trip down to southern Ontario [How We Spent our Summer Vacation: Part OneHow We Spent our Summer Vacation: Part TwoHow We Spent our Summer Vacation: Part Three] and we’re hoping to do it again this year. Matt calls it the tour de bebe. 

That’s our largest travel and adventure goal for 2017 — with me off work, and him with more vacation time, plus M likely being out of preschool, we want to visit family and take some time for ourselves down south, too.

Goal two? More local adventures! This is enough of a goal that we’re considering buying a stupid expensive stroller so that we can get out with both kids more effectively, even in winter (think bike trailer/jogger/other optional configurations; well worth it if we use it for the next few years and always keeping great resale value on the local market!). I want to hit the beach more, because last summer was so busy we barely got out, but I also want to take M outside for fresh air year-round, and A, too.

Ideally we’ll be saying yes to more things, and jumping on opportunities whether it’s for travel, hobbies, classes, what have you — I want this to be a year of fun, trying new things, and heading back to our old favourites for some reconnection.