Busy being a mother and a wife and taking on the biggest challenge yet, a permanent move across the world. Read here my random thoughts, feelings and stories about my life that is about to be turned upside down (literally).



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Living a Simpler Life





As our container of household items floats along the Pacific Ocean we have been forced to live with the bare minimum. We packed our suitcases 2 months ago and that is all we brought.

We arrived to a lovely rented house with minimal furnishings and kitchen items. It is far less than half of what we owned in Canada but in reality, we haven't needed much else.

Sure I've been cursing the fact that we don't have a dishwasher, but to be honest, some days I enjoy the soothing warm water as I take my time to scrub away and look out the window above my sink. Some nights my husband and I quietly do the dishes together, one washes, one drys, we don't say much but just the feeling of being together for a simple purpose is comforting.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Our stove and oven is of the 1970's variety and I avoided using it for the first couple of weeks, luckily we had meal tickets at our inlaws across the street. After overstaying our welcome we offered to cook for them and I had to jump right in. It is the first time I had cooked with a gas stove and I love it, the instant heat, the simplicity of lighting the oven, it cooks well and it is all we really need.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

We have a washing machine, thank god for that, the way my kids go through clothes I couldn't imagine what we'd do with out one. We are without a dryer. This is not a big deal, I always enjoyed hanging our clothes on the line in the summer but we always had a dryer to use on rainy days, to fluff up towels or when I just couldn't be bothered. Here everything goes on the line, if it's raining you wait or hang them on a drying rack inside. Thankfully one of the benefits of living in Australia is the generous amount of sunshine.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

In Canada we had a gigantic TV with a billion channels, the ability to record 2 shows at once and watch another at the same time. The kids had Diego, Handy Manny and Phineas & Ferb at their beckon call, they knew how to use the complicated remote and they watched what they wanted, when they wanted. I indulged in all my shows after the kids went to bed, I scrolled through hours of recorded TV trash and sat comatose for hours. Our Wii gaming system used to get a workout, obviously not from my Wii fit, but from Mr5's expertise at Batman and Starwars Lego. He only just asked yesterday if we still had our Wii, and he didn't say that he missed it.
Here we have a little TV with an antenna, kindly lent to us by a friend, we have 8 channels and I have to wait for Wednesdays paper to pull out the printed TV guide for the week. The kids have 1 cartoon channel, and guess what? We barely watch TV. We play outside, go for walks, read books, play Lego, visit friends, visit family. I don't miss TV one bit, okay maybe just a little bit, but I am surviving without it.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

As I talk to people, and get a feel for the Aussie way of life it's become obvious that life is a bit simpler here, having a dryer is a luxury, not everyone has satellite TV and heck, who need an oven when you've got a BBQ!

Other things also stand out, North America is so dependent on the convenience of everything. In Australia you are hard pressed to find a drive-through coffee-shop unless you go to McDonalds. Drive-through bank machines are unheard of, to be honest there is not much choice for drive-through anything, unless you count the drive-through bottle-o (liquor store) but that is a whole other topic.

Not every business accepts bank cards and store hours are limited, most businesses close at 5 pm on weekdays, sometimes later on Fridays, and Sunday shopping is a relatively new thing here.

As it turns out, all these things that I couldn't imagine living without are really not missed.

In time we will get a dishwasher, new stove, gigantic TV and probably many other things, but until then I will enjoy a simpler life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We are here, here we are.

It's hard to steal the time on borrowed wifi (from my in-laws) to write a proper post about the beginnings of our adventure. I have neglected my blog a bit, more avoided really, the emotions I felt during the last few weeks of our time in Canada were too overwhelming to express. Ive been known to bottle my feelings a little bit, but I made a conscious effort to keep talking to my husband, I might not of shared with everyone but I did share with my him, my best friend and I feel like it was just the outlet I needed.
Well, we are finally here, after 2 years of planning, anticipation, excitement, doubt and reservations. It is everything we expected it to be and we look forward to experiences to come that will make it everything we hope it to be. I have been welcomed with open arms not only by family and friends but also the wonderful online community that I have been sharing this process with for the past year. I was so pleased to see all the welcome "home" messages from my Australian twitter friends upon our arrival, I was DM'd phone numbers and offered to be picked up from the airport from people who I've never met but hope to one day. I've had the pleasure of meeting 2 of my favorite Aussie tweeps already and have plans to see them again and meet others soon.
We are proceeding with regular life, house work, cooking meals, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, not unlike my everyday life in Canada. The difference now is the involvement of family, Our rented house is across the street from Nanny & Poppy, my sister-in-law and her family also live there while their house is being built. Between our 2 homes we have 6 adults and 6 cousins, back and forth we go, sharing meals, playtime, TV time (and wifi). I get time to myself each day to just do what I want & in turn I give my sister-in-law a break while I have her kids over to play.
I grew up with only my parents and one sister, we had no family in Canada, our family holidays were just the four of us, no cousins to play with or Aunts & Uncles to tease us. We were happy as we knew no different but I am so excited to be giving this opportunity to my children to enjoy their childhood with more than only each other.
The beginning of this adventure has not yet involved exciting travel, kangaroo spotting or hot sunny days, but the reality of the benefit that this move is to our family is already very evident.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Displaced

I have lost all ability to express myself in writing, I am holding myself together with bits of tape and glue, I might burst at the seams if I let go just a little. So much has happened over the past month, I am in the middle of the biggest change of my life. I cannot manage to string two sentences together for a blog post. I am not ready to let it flow, because if I sit down at the computer to express what is inside I'm afraid that I will never be able to stop, I will deflate, there will be nothing left but my fears, worries and anxiety splattered all over your screens to see.
I am so displaced, I can not find a better word.
Like my 2 year old said to me yesterday:
I just want to go home

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Weekend to Remember

As my move date draws near, my social calendar is quickly filling up. I am trying to spend as much time with my family and friends as I can. The highlight so far has been my girls weekend away to Scandanive Spa in Blue Mountain. What I thought was going to be a day at the spa with my best friend Jennifer turned out to be a surprise weekend away with all my close girlfriends. I have known these girls for almost 20 years, our earlier friendship consisted of late nights, and sometimes early mornings in the club scene of downtown Toronto, seems so far from where we are today. Since then we have lived together, shared each others joy in new relationships, careers, engagements, weddings and children. Being with them is so very comfortable and this weekend had us feeling like we were all 20 again. Not a care in the world just a bunch of girls hanging out. We enjoyed a relaxing day together, shared an amazing dinner and then danced all night! There were a lot of laughs and also a few tears shed. It is so hard to imagine my life without these amazing women. I know that we will keep in touch through e-mail and facebook but I will miss our monthly dinners, birthday celebrations, camping trips and annual Christmas party. I can't even put into words how much their friendship means to me.
Here are a few of my favourite photos from the weekend, some are too incriminating to share so I will only post the "appropriate" ones.


Road Trip!

The hot pools.

Ready for our massages.

I had this smile on my face all weekend.

Relaxing by the fire.

Ready for a night out.

There were many of these.

As well as many blurry photos like these.



This was indeed a weekend to remember.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It doesn't take long to fall in love.



The past few weeks have been filled with the most life altering news, all that we had been wishing for was finally happening, my Australian Immigration was approved followed the next day by the sale of our house.
The most unexpected joy came as a bit of surprise, a positive pregnancy test. How quickly it all seemed to fall into place, we had been trying for a 3rd baby for over a year. To finally get pregnant just as we are preparing to move to Australia confirmed my lifelong belief that everything happens for a reason, it all works out in the end.
But not this time.
I had 4 whole days to feel the joy of an expanding family, I eagerly downloaded the baby center app on my phone, I checked the due date, December 25th, the best gift I could imagine, I consulted the Chinese gender predictors, a girl, I shared the news with my family, all were overjoyed. I told my sister that her new baby girl due in July would soon have a playmate. For 4 days I envisioned the gentle moments I would catch my boys in with their new sibling and I imagined the comfort of having a baby in my arms again.
4 days was all I got, because at exactly 5 weeks pregnant I miscarried. It was so early, and according to my app the baby was the size of a sesame seed, but those 4 days felt like a lifetime, I envisioned this baby born, nurtured, loved and become part of my family.
I've read so many stories on miscarriage, always trying my best to empathize with those sharing their story, never could I imagine the pain it would bring, true gut wrenching sadness. I find myself struggling to justify feeling so overwhelmingly distraught because it was so early. There are so many others who have had weeks, and months of bonding with their baby only to tragically lose them.
Mine didn't even have a heart beat yet, but it had already filled my heart.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A new start to come

It seems like ages ago, but in the summer of 2009 my husband and I decided that it was time to move back to Australia, we wanted to surround our children with a family much larger than what they have here. 2 years later after many ups and downs, here we are with a sold sticker on our For Sale sign. We are getting ready to pack our bags and head to the other side of the world. Emotions are high, the past few weeks have thrown us a few curve balls but I am feeling so hopeful. I have a renewed sense of life, the chance to start over, a chance that not many of us get. I am happy with all the wonderful blessings in my life, but I am going to start fresh. I am going to take better care of myself, be smarter with my finances, get more exercise, get out with the kids, make time for my husband, travel, explore, sing, row, swim, create, laugh and love.
What better way to celebrate all the new things to come than with a gorgeous blog re-vamp.

So my friends, are you ready to come on this journey with me?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A life story, a story of love.

I have a story to share, about the man who was my father. On the 2nd anniversary of his passing he is still in my thoughts every day, he is every where I go, I see him in shadows in the night, I hear his voice, a whisper saying hello, I see his reflection through the window, just a glimpse but he is there, and I am glad.

Born in 1946, in the town of Subotica, in the former Yugoslavia. He was born to parents he never knew, adopted by Maria and Marco, Hungarians living in Subotica. He was joined 7 years later by his brother Joso.



His days were spent playing barefoot in the streets, kicking soccer balls and running with the Gypsy's. His nights were spent in a one room apartment, for they had very little money. He was happy, so very happy with nothing, he didn't even know the things he didn't have. For he had love, and that is all that mattered.

He was clever and mischievous, he was bored in school and was much happier attending the school of life, on the streets, stowing away on the trains and riding until he was in a foreign land. He's be gone for days but his parents always knew he'd be back, charming his way into homes for food, and hitching a ride back to them.
Then one day he spotted my mother leaning against a railing in the city center market, she was young and naive, and had never had a boyfriend. He charmed her, wooed her, promised to marry her and then left for his military duty. She was smitten, and of course she would wait for him.



2 years he spent in the Army, traveling, learning new languages, meeting new people but waiting until the day he could get back to the woman he promised to marry. Marry they did, running away from her strict parents, hoping on a train to Germany and eloping with their best friends. They had their whole lives ahead of them, the world was their oyster, they wanted great things for themselves.

They chose to start their new life in Canada.

They landed with $50 to their name, and only speaking a few phrases of English, but they were happy, for they had love, and love would see them succeed.

He worked hard, he wanted to provide for his family and his 2 little girls that quickly became the love of his life. He took long job postings as an electrician in the mines of Baffin Island, leaving my Mom to raise 2 girls on her own for extended periods of time. We'd all wait, anxiously for Daddy to get home. He'd tell us about fighting polar bears and sharing whale meat with Eskimos, he'd bring us beautiful sparkling rocks, telling us they were full of diamonds. He'd tickle us until we almost peed, and stroke our foreheads at night to lull us to sleep.



He'd read books on Aristotle and Chomsky, he'd smoke cigarettes and drink vodka, he was mysterious and would divulge strange ideas to us when he'd had too much to drink. He'd recount his theory's on aliens and UFO's, government conspiracy and the afterlife.

He'd teach us Latin and German, and scold us for watching soap operas and reading Archie comics. He described all corners of the world with his stories and took us to some of his favourite parts of the world in real life. In France we spent days seeing every historical monument there was, in Hungary we spent Christmas day in a Hari Krishna temple. In Yugoslavia we went to the mountains and the sea and saw everything in between.

He taught us to be ourselves, and told us to be open with him, we talked about sex and drugs, and could always count on him to be fair and honest.
He made us laugh, he had a dry sense of humour that terrified our boyfriends but made us giggle all day, he was quick and witty and was king of the pull my finger joke.

He struggled with insecurity, and was disappointed easily by unkind people. He was a recluse, liking time on his own to think, for he was a great thinker. He taught us how to be good thinkers, to see the logic in things and to open our minds to more than what is just there in front of us.



His ultimate goal in life was for us to be happy, if we were happy, he was happy, all our accomplishments big and small made him proud, little did he know that he made us proud too.

He did all the things a great dad should do, he taught us to be kind, thoughtful, forgiving, appreciative and to Love, for Love above all was his specialty.

Here is a poem that i wrote for my Dad when I was 20, one I didn't share with him until after I found out he was sick.

I’ll Fly Away

The sound of silence, unnoticed by my ears.
Yet I unsuccessfully block out the whispers.
“Spread your wings” they call, “don’t hold back, just fly away.”
My first reaction is to obey,
to follow the whispers to a sea of independence.
Yet instead, I grasp on to what is more definite,
something stronger and wiser, than I’ll ever be.
Someone who’s arms can forever wrap around me
and protect me from a world so seemingly large and scary.
He who stands so tall is my father.
A bright moon and I his star, glowing brightly under his rays.
I’d like to fly away and soar in the sky,
but only dear father if I know you’ll be there to catch me when I fall.


Tina
May 1992

Monday, April 4, 2011

Relocation Tinkertines Down Under

I was very happy to receive this link from my Twitter friend @jackiembooth in the UK. With all the doubt I've been feeling over our move to Australia, this is just what I needed: A reminder that the city of Canberra, where we plan to make a new life for our family, is a great one. Jobs are plentiful, the balance between nature and metropolis is a perfect one for us and just seeing the sunshine and hearing the birds chirping in the background was enough to make me pull out my suitcases. The video is a bit long and the properties showcased are not exactly our taste, we would definitely be in the market for something less "outdated", but the excitement of moving to Canberra is creeping its way back in. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of the miles and miles of bike paths. My dream home will hopefully have views of the Brindabella Mountains (and a swimming pool). I have a long "to do" list for my new life, and taking up rowing is one of them. I can't wait to get out on the lake in the early mornings and glide through the water.
The proximity to the coast and the mountains is invaluable, I could surf the beaches of Sydney in the morning (if I surfed) and by the afternoon be on the snow hills skiing (if I skied), both on my "to do" list as well. There was even a little part of me that envisioned my boys racing along the motorcross track that was featured (what, am I crazy)?
If you've got the time, have a look, you might even decide that Canberra, Australia is the place for you.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Decision To Make

One of the first orders of business when I move to Australia will be to find a job. We will need to become a two income family again in order to afford all the comforts we enjoy now. I'm okay with this, and am ready to get back into the full time workforce. I will miss being at home with the kids but I feel like I've given them a great start and we are all ready for this next phase of life.
I've been thinking a lot about what I might want in a job. I will be settling in Canberra which is the capital of Australia and there are plenty of government jobs. I've always been interested in getting into the administrative side of my career, and to be honest, working for the government will earn me more money than anywhere else.
My days as a Recreation Therapist for the elderly, or better known as a Diversional Therapist in Australia, were busy and exhausting. I was always on my feet, pushing wheelchairs, lugging supplies, setting up for activities and events. I was often emotionally drained after a day of comforting those who are grieving the loss of their independance and settling those with dementia during frightening and confusing episodes.

Maybe this time I might do something easier, I am not implying that public service jobs are any less work than other jobs but I could ease into one by starting in an entry level or temporary position. Answering phones, e-mails and doing some light administrative duties. I would sit at a desk all day, and quiet my brain a little bit. I would take uninterrupted coffee breaks with adults and engage in adult conversation. I'd enjoy the pleasure of trips to the toilet without two kids following me and wanting to sit on my lap. I might even be able to make a phone call in peace, perhaps send an email without a two year old banging on the key board. Oh the luxury.

But is that what I really want?

I love working with the elderly, especially those who suffer from Alzheimer's and Dementia, sure it can be a long and exhausting day, both emotionally and physically, but it is also very rewarding. I love seeing the smile on their faces when I pop in to their room for a visit. It is an accomplishment for me when they complete a craft, baking or gardening project with ease. I am so amazed by them when they easily rattle off difficult answers to the daily crossword puzzle. Then there is the joy of Bingo, their timid voices can get really loud in the excitement of calling out a win in Bingo. I suppose I'll get to enjoy some serenity by taking them for a walk around the garden, enjoying the fragrant blooms and reminiscing with them about their own gardens. There is always time for a coffee break, gathering around a table, enjoying a cup of coffee and sharing stories of our children and family life. I would also get the opportunity for some quiet time, like when I sit with them bedside, during their last hours, holding their hands and reflecting on the life of my own loved ones.

I learn so much about life from these wise men and women, perhaps skills that would benefit me more in the long run than learning how to navigate through a government database.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Real Truth


This move to the other side of the world seems so close but is yet still so far away. I'm standing at the edge of the cliff, waiting for our house to sell and when I sign on the dotted line that is when I will jump in feet first (or fall off screaming). I am so afraid that the only thing that is holding me together right now is the fact that we do not have a specific move date yet. The move is real, it is in the works, my immigration application is in progress, our family and friends all know of our plans, we've informed the schools yet it still doesn't feel real. I put a smile on my face and tell my friends how excited I am, I cheerfully talk about it on Facebook and Twitter but to tell you the truth, I'm terrified. I am a creature of comfort, I love my little house, I love my routine and that I get to stay at home with my kids. I love that it is only my husband and I who look after our kids, and they don't go anywhere without us. I guess what I am most afraid of is giving up my control, control over my life that I have wrapped up nicely in a warm comfy blanket, safe from all of the world. My in-laws will be very involved in the kids life, the kids will be spending weekends with them, they will be driving them around town, Poppy will take them to see his horses (don't get me started on horses). I will have to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and navigate my way through round-abouts and streets in a city 5 times the size I am used to. I will have to work, I haven't had a full time job in almost 5 years, I don't remember what its like to get dressed in real life clothes and get myself to work. How am I going to do that plus get 2 kids ready for school and day care, AND drive them there on the wrong side of the road. I worry about all the things that are going to be more expensive, houses, clothes, food. I worry about the flight over there, I am terrified of flying, and then there will be sharks and spiders and snakes and droughts and bush fires to deal with. Okay so I know I'm getting a little carried away but these fears are all real to me. All these fears and worries are lingering at the edge of my mind, waiting for the move date to be set so that they can drown me and I will not know how to surface.
I tend to underestimate myself , A LOT, and I hope this will become the case here as well because I have no idea how I am going to face the reality of all this when the time comes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's The Little Things.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. If you ask my husband he would call me Miss Cranky Pants, none the less I do tend to appreciate the small things. I don't need big happenings in my life, its the insignificant little wonders that make me smile.

Right now one of my favourite things is to use the Instagram app on my iphone to alter my photos, if you follow me on Twitter then I'm sure it's become quite obvious.

I have discovered that I automatically photograph the things that make me smile inside, the blips of my life that really brighten my day.

So I've decided to put together a little photo display of all things that make me smile.

1. My morning green smoothie, I have one every day and I love experimenting with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.


2. The view from my front window as the sun comes up in the morning glistening on the ice covered lake.


3. My beloved Frangipani plant, a gift from my mother and one that I cherish dearly, its bloom is slowly emerging and has only done so twice in the past 6 years.


4. My photo wall, a reminder of the love that fills my life and my favourite one with a butterfly settled on its corner is a photo of my Dad who I lost 2 years ago to cancer.


5. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, almost every night for 3 years we have read this book to our first born and now to both our boys, they recite it word for word and I will never tire of it.


6. Bath time, because my husband usually bathes the boys, giving me some time to clean up after dinner in peace and also because it means the end of Mommy duty is nearing and Me time is coming up.


7. Me Time, indulging in my favourite hobby, carefully choosing beads for hand made earrings, I love every pair I make and I wear them all the time.


8. A night cap, well okay, I don't indulge every night but on the weekends I love to sip a rye and ginger, it only takes one to make me giddy which is not so much a bad thing.


9. Oh and how could I forget these 2, their love for each other makes my heart fill to the brim and brings tears to my eyes.




What are the little things that you might capture in pictures without realizing they are all your favourite things?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Gift

I have been given a gift, I've embraced this gift and it has opened my eyes. The gift of seeing my world in a whole new way. I have taken for granted the beauty that surrounds me, the seasons that carry me and the country that I love. Knowing that I will soon be saying goodbye to my life here in Canada, I have taken so much time and care to appreciate all of it. The birch trees that are scattered along the back field, how they glisten in the moon light. The loons I hear all summer on the lake as they sing to each other in the darkness. The rich beautiful tones in the trees as they turn colours in the fall, and the crunch of their leaves under my feet. The first snowfall which is the most beautiful one of all, light airy flakes that lightly fall and dust the ground. The hearty fire in our wood stove on cold cold days and sunny winter days that stream warm sunshine into my front window. The sleek frozen lake, spending hours on it skating, its wide vast surface that could take me miles and miles. The tobogganing track we work hard to build each winter and the snowmen and snowforts that are scattered on our back lawn. We caught a quick taste of spring last week, an unseasonable warm day with that distinctive spring smell bringing feelings of hope and renewed energy, motivating us to hang on for the last leg of winter.
In the past 8 months I have taken the extra time each day to really feel each moment. I watch my children discovering many of these beautiful moments as well and I ingrain in my memory the look on their faces, the pure joy of it all. This is how we should always live our life, like we will never walk by that beautiful maple tree again.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Opposites Attract

Although I've seen it many times, I was really intrigued today watching my two boys eat cupcakes. J, my 4 year old carefully licked off the icing savoring every taste and leaving an undressed cupcake sitting on his plate. H, my 2 year old casually swept the icing off with his finger smearing it onto the plate leaving him with a moist delicious cupcake which quickly turned into crumbs on his iced plate.
They fascinate me, these two boys who were created in the same way by the same parents. J's eyes are soft and hazel, H has the brightest blue eyes you've ever seen. J has olive skin, H is fair and light. From before they were born they were different, I sailed through J's pregnancy, a little nausea, a lot of energy, little discomfort and after a relatively slow and easy labour he popped out a week early weighing 6.8 lbs. H's pregnancy was the opposite, I was so sick that I lost 15lb in my first trimester, I had heartburn, varicose veins and he decided to stay in 7 days past his due date. When he was ready to come out he let me know with quick onset of extremely painful labour and a difficult delivery. He weighed in at a hearty 8lb 11oz. J was a great sleeper, sleeping through the night at 2 months old. H still wakes up throughout the night and in his first year of life I don't think I got to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. J kicks his covers off in the night, H likes to snuggle deep under his blankets. J is petite and tiny, the smallest in his class, H is a big boy, almost as tall as his brother and close to wearing the same size. J is rambunctious, energetic and very independent, H likes to sit back and watch, he's a big cuddler and an even bigger mamas boy. J loves to sing and dance and do puzzles, H likes to line up his cars and play trains. When not happy with how things are going with each other J will fight with words, H will hall out and belt him. J is stubborn, H is easily persuaded.
Each day I notice how very different these boys are and I wonder what their relationship will be in the future. Will they grow apart because of their differences or will their opposite nature attract.
When H was born a girlfriend posted a comment on my Facebook wall congratulating me on his birth and stated that he and his brother will one day stand as best men for each other on their wedding days and at that moment I realized that no matter what they do in life, nothing would make me prouder.



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Zucchini In My Cake (recipe)

In my quest to completely eliminate wheat, dairy and eggs from my diet (see why HERE ) I have taken to flipping through my cherished 3 ringed binder full of family favourite recipes to see what I can re-invent.
One of my favourites is Chocolate Zucchini Cake, passed on to me from my Mom during the summer of 2005 when my eagerness to produce a lovely vegetable garden resulted in a Zucchini overgrow. After many deliveries of giant Zucchini's to my neighbours I was still left with a pile of my own to deal with. I made every Zucchini recipe I could find and was not at all surprised when my husband banned me from growing Zucchinis the following summer.

The fruits (veggies) of my labour

This weekend I decided to turn this yummy Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe into one that I can eat, one my husband and kids would enjoy as well. So with a few tips from my Twitter friend Maggie, who has a very resourceful Gluten Free baking and living website, I was on my way.
 ( Maggie's great recipes & tips are at She Let Them Eat Cake  )


My biggest concern about re-inventing this recipe was that in knowing how delicious the original flavour of the cake was, my altered one would not compare. I was up for the challenge anyway. Yes it does taste a bit different, it is not as moist and a little less sweet but overall is still very similar and I'm loving it. The most important part is that it passed the husband and kid test with flying colours. They are begging for more.

So here you go:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake (my style)

They look and taste as good as brownies
You'll need:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cup sucanat (un-refined)
(Maggie suggested I could also use Evapourated cane sugar - refined but not bleached)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce  
......
2 3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour 
(I used a brand I got at No-Frills called Bobs Red Mill)
5 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
....
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
(I don't peel mine because I like the look of the little green flecks in the cake, but unpeeled is a better way to conceal the fact that there are vegetables in the cake)
....
Handful of chocolate chips and chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Pre-Heat oven to 350 º 
In large bowl add canola oil, sucanat, & applesauce, mix well.
In separate bowl mix, flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda & powder, stir together and add to the wet mixture.
Blend well.
Stir in almond milk, vanilla, and grated zucchini.

Pour into greased 9x13 or 10x10 pan
Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts on top
Bake for 45 - 50 minutes. 
Let cool, cut into squares & serve. 

Enjoy :) 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Reaching Out

J went to a birthday party this past weekend, most of the kids from his JK class were there including their parents. I casually mingled with other mothers while J had a great time. There was one mother that I did not approach, and the regret that I didn't has been weighing on my shoulders more than I expected.

J had a great start to JK in September, he is a very sociable kid, he skipped on to that big yellow school bus without a look over his shoulder while I stood at the side of the road sobbing like a little girl.
 Within a couple weeks of starting school I noticed that he was speaking in another tone, he was mimicking the voice of another child, he also spoke highly of a new friend and I was encouraging of this relationship. Then J's behaviour got a bit more aggressive at home, he was talking back, shouting and being defiant, all in this new tone of voice. I attributed it to him picking up bad habits from other students at school. In October I began to volunteer in his classroom, my first experience in the class room was witnessing the very challenging behaviour of one student. He was being mouthy, disobedient, and rude, and to my surprise I realised that this was the friend that J had been raving about, and it was this boys voice I heard coming from J each night after school. It was in this first visit that the teacher took the opportunity to chat to me about her concerns that J was being easily influenced by this boys behavior and asked if I would like them to be separated from sharing the same table and kept in separate play groups when possible.
I immediately said yes and the plan was in place, within weeks J had settled down, stopped mimicking this boy and started raving about another young boy who was now his best friend. Mission accomplished!
Yet as I continued to volunteer in J's class room I saw so much more in the misbehaving boy, besides his loud distracting behaviour that often got him sent to the principals office, I caught moments of brilliance, and a child wise beyond his years. He was smart, really really smart, he could read, he used language that far surpassed the other 4 year olds. I wondered what his home life was like and how such a clever little boy could be exhibiting these very challenging behaviours. I was judgmental, I had heard that his mother was barely 20, with piercings in her face and and a new baby in her arms  I judged, I assumed that she didn't discipline him, that she was probably more concerned with her social life than raising her child.

So here I was this past weekend, casually chatting with the other mothers at the birthday party and from the corner of my eye I watched this young girl struggle with her son, he was being a bully, pushing and shoving, he was not listening and giving her a hard time. Yet she was trying really, really hard, she was trying to be calm with him, she was using tactical parenting skills that any of us would be in awe of, she was firm and followed through with her threats of a time out. I could tell that she was reaching the end of her rope yet I didn't talk to her, nobody talked to her, she was there alone, and not one other parent talked to her.
I am ashamed that I didn't reach out to her, even just a handshake and an introduction, it didn't matter what our children's relationship was, it mattered that she was a mother in need of a friend, and I didn't reach out.
For that I am ashamed.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I like about ME- my yearly review

Thank you to Anjanette, a new Aussie twitter friend for sharing her blog post "How do I love me. Let me count the ways..." at   http://anjwritesabout.com/ which was inspired by a blog she follows.
In a pay it forward (to myself)kind of way I decided to write my own version of it, and maybe you should too. It might feel good.


This job called "Life"  is a tough one, with many rewards and many challenges. We make our way through the daily grind with little direction from anyone but ourselves. This job does not include a yearly evaluation, and we are often reminded of the "areas that need improvement",  but how often are we reminded of our great attributes. Even though I work for my family, my immediate supervisor is ME so here is my yearly review, in random order, the things I like about ME, without the "areas that need improvement".

I like that I tell my kids I love them more than just once a day.
I like that even though I am a worry wart I let my kids do extreme and crazy stunts because they love it.
I like that I am a positive person and I don't often dwell on the negative.
I like that I can see good in everyone, even if they are really not that good.
I like that I am empathetic and I always take a moment to walk in others shoes.
I like that I love seniors and have made it my profession to benefit them.
I like that I am sensitive even though it sometimes hurts my heart.
I like that I don't complain about my husband (very much) because even though he is slightly annoying he is way more awesome than not.
I like that I am a good driver.
I like that even though I am overwhelmingly terrified of flying, I've never let it stop me from traveling.
I like that I am Serbo-Croation and that English is my second language.
I like that I am good at learning new languages.
I like that I am a good baker.
I like that I am a good singer.
I like that I am neat and tidy and my house is always clean(ish).
I like that I am a good housewife.
I like that even though I sometimes tend to care about what people think of me, I've never cared about what people think of my parenting.
I like that I call my mother everyday.
I like that I am a thoughtful gift giver.
I like that I send my close friends happy anniversary cards.
I like that I don't swear.
I like that am trying new things like blogging, jewellery making and a healthier diet.
I like that I make my kids laugh.
I like that I am a good friend.
I like that I am brave enough to pack up and leave behind my good life here for the possibility of an even better life for my family.

In saying this, I am also always striving to make myself a better person, perhaps next years review of things I like about ME will grow double in size.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Remember

January 26th is Australia Day and in honour of this day I thought I would share a few of my favourite memories of Australia. My experience with Australia is far more than a vacation experience, it is a place I've called home and and will soon call home again.

I remember Australia:

The thrill and excitement of seeing the Opera House for the first time, the day we first landed in Sydney, the moment I realized "I'm really here".


The sound of a thousand birds singing outside my window, joyfully waking me early each morning.

The crunch under my feet from the bark of the Eucalyptus tree that littered the side walks.

The long and windy road on the drive to the coast, with a view of the ocean occasionally peeking through the trees. 

Spending long days on the river watching my husband wake board and water ski.


Learning to drive a stick shift for the first time and managing to do so on the "wrong" side of the road.

Climbing the Sydney Harbour bridge with my Mom on her first visit to Australia.


Camping at our favourite secluded beach, feeding Kangaroos and Rosellas and wrestling the occasional Goanna out of our tent.


Wearing a fancy hat to Melbourne cup and betting on the winning horse only to find out that my husband changed his mind at the betting window and choose a different horse.


Enjoying Sydney Harbour at sundown. 
 


Hearing gripping war stories from the wise men and women at the veterans home where I worked and finding a new found respect for all those who have served.

Becoming addicted to Australian Television: Home and Away, Kath and Kim, The Footy show, Rove Live and This is your Life.

Waking at sunrise and tiptoeing amongst the kangaroos while being led to the beach by my husband (to be) with a sparkly ring in his hand.

Having the most amazing wedding I could ever imagine, just 22 of us celebrating together for an entire week before the big day.

Honeymooning for 5 weeks, driving around half of Australia in our converted Landcruiser with sleeping quarters in the back.

Fossicking for gems in little towns called Emerald and Sapphire.

Four wheel driving on Fraser Island and wading down Eli creek.

Sailing for 3 nights in the Whitsundays on a 100 year old sailboat.


Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef


Waking up on the beach most mornings of our honeymoon.

Driving for hours in the Outback on endless stretches of road listening to Silverchair and Powderfinger.

Feeling at home no matter where I went.

I am lucky to be able to call two wonderful countries my home and am struggling with the emotions of leaving one for the other but in looking back on all the wonderful things I experienced I look ahead to all the wonderful things my husband, children and I will experience together as a family.

Happy Australia Day and we will see you soon!
















Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feels Like Home

I have only been tweeting for a short time, I started mainly to follow celebrities and by chance I came across another "commoner." A Mom like me who was tweeting just for the fun of it, so I followed her and then followed some of her followers who were also doing the same. Before I knew it I had a network of Moms in my life. Some had blogs, some had small businesses, but all in all we were the same. Just a bunch of Moms looking to connect, a way to escape our hectic, demanding and overwhelming lives. "Twittering" with Moms is like being at a giant playgroup without the kids constantly interrupting our conversation. We talk about our children, their feeding habits, washroom challenges, and developmental breakthroughs. We swap recipes, talk trash TV and complain about our husbands.
No matter what time of day or night, there is always someone on Twitter, people from all corners of the world, in my case mostly Canada and Australia.
I've grown quite attached to Twitter in a short period of time, my husband thinks I may have a problem but I need stability at this time in my life. I am giving up so many things to move to Australia to be with his family and friends. Don't get me wrong, they are wonderful and I am excited about our move but I need something to hold onto, something that will always feel like home. Although we are still getting to know each other, I am comforted to know that you, my Twitter friends, will be there with me throughout this crazy journey I am embarking on, and for that, I Thank You.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Love Me Some Muffins (recipe)

I recently started a dairy, wheat and egg free diet. Against my own will (kind of). I had been plagued with physical and emotional symptoms that my doctor couldn't get to the bottom of so I went to a naturopath. It took one prick of my finger, and a wait of 6 weeks to get test results informing me that I have many food intolerances. Dairy, wheat and eggs being the most predominant. Food intolerances are not to be confused with food allergies, allergies usually cause acute and sometimes severe reactions,  where intolerences can build up over years and cause many subtle symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, moodiness and anxiety, all of which I suffered. So I had to do it, for the sake of my kids, my husband and most importantly ME.
Its been a tough 4 months, especially the giving up cheese part, although I am allowed goats cheese (Thank God) because I love it. I have found new favourites like Almond Milk, and a wheat-free bread from Stonemill Bakery that is the closest to real bread I could find. I am eating rice pasta, beans, lentils, and many fruits and veggies. So far it has been a success, I've lost about 15 lbs, I feel happier, more patient and more energetic. Its amazing how what we eat is so directly related to how we feel emotionally.
Here is the bad news, I can't have muffins, I LOVE muffins, for breakfast, a snack, dessert, anything. I am a mega baker of muffins, every weekend, every play-date, I was the muffin (wo)man. 
I know, I know, there are many wheat alternatives and I've read many recipes, but I'm a lazy baker, if I can't find the ingredients in my cupboard I don't make it. I've read some really yummy looking recipes  but couldn't even pronounce some ingredients let alone know where to find them. I plan to soon make more of an effort to stock my pantry but for now I'll experiment with what I have.
Here is a muffin recipe that is close to tasting of plenty dairy, wheat and egg yumminess. I managed to create this recipe using a few of my favourite "regular" recipes and I'm feeling like I finally got it right.

p.s I shop at No Frills and got 95% of my ingredients there

Oatmeal Fruit Muffins- Wheat, Dairy and Egg Free


I'm no food photographer but don't these look  Yummy!
note: not suitable for gluten free diets, only wheat free (if that makes sense) and I can't guarantee that some of the ingredients don't have a smidgen of wheat/dairy/eggs. I don't always read the fine print (told you I was lazy)

You'll need:
1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour (can easily be made by blending whole oats in a food processor)
1 cup quick oats  
2/3 cups golden sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup apple sauce (all I had was a Presidents Choice strawberry applesauce cup, so I used that) 
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 apple peeled and grated (squeeze out excess juice)

-pre-heat oven to 400ºF
-mix together barely flour, oat flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until well blended
-In a separate bowl mash banana well and then stir in applesauce, oil, vanilla, milk and mix well
-blend above mixture into dry ingredients
-stir in blueberries and grated apple

Spoon into a greased 12 cup muffin tin and sprinkle a pinch of golden sugar on each
Bake for 20 -23 minutes

Makes 12 muffins











Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Shape of a Heart

My sister is expecting her first baby so I've been reminiscing to her about the highs and lows I felt whilst pregnant with my first born, it was a smooth pregnancy, not many physical complaints, all the feelings of fear and wonder were normal (I suppose) and when it came time to give birth everything went perfectly (yes I said it, my labour and delivery were perfect)

The difficult part was the road to pregnancy.

My husband and I wanted to have children pretty much right after we married, I stopped taking the pill and we were "unofficially" trying. A year later we decided to try a little harder and still nothing so I saw my doctor who sent me to an Obstetrician/Gynecologist. She immediately put me on fertility drugs (Clomid) and sent me for blood tests and a Hysterosalpingogram, a procedure where they inject a dye into my uterine cavity and it flows through the fallopian tubes while my abdomen is being x-rayed. The results show whether ones fallopian tubes are blocked. The results came back normal, my fallopian tubes were clear, my bloodwork showed that I was ovulating so I was instructed to continue with the Clomid for 6 months.
After 6 months with still no results she referred me to an invitro-fertilization clinic in Toronto. My husband and I panicked a little, invitro meant having to pay for treatments that we could not afford. I was afraid that we may never have a baby.  From our first visit to the obstetrician, until this time it had been over a year of analyzing every change in my body, each month I was convinced I was pregnant and then utterly disappointed with the arrival of my period. It seemed like friends and co-workers were announcing their good news almost every week, it was bittersweet, I was truly happy for them and then went home and cried on my husbands shoulder, sometimes he would cry with me.
The visit to the invitro clinic was exciting, a new phase in our efforts, we decided we would make it work somehow, we'd sell our house and buy a smaller one, we'd borrow money from our parents, anything that would give us our dream of having a family. The doctor went over everything with us and invited us to attend an evening information session with other couples considering invitro. Also on the same day he scheduled another test similar to the Hysterosalpingogram called a sono-hysterosalpingogram or Saline Hysterogram. This time my uterine cavity would be filled with saline solution while an ultrasound was being performed. This would show my full uterine cavity as well as my fallopian tubes. I asked if the results would be any different from the previous test and he informed me that it was a possibility since I had also suffered from Endometriosis, (when the uterine lining or tissue grows outside of the uterus and can cause blocking of the fallopian tubes).  He then told us that if in fact it showed that both my fallopian tubes were blocked then we would be eligible for some financial assistance from the government for the invitro treatments. We arrived for the the tests and information session that day with the unusual hope that in fact both my tubes were be blocked, we really needed the financial help. As I laid in the dark room while the technician performed the ultrasound I remember imagining that I was at a prenatal ultrasound, and that I was growing a baby inside of me. My bubble was burst instantaneously when she commented that both tubes were clear,  I was devastated and I couldn't help but burst into tears.
The wait for the information session was sorrowful, I was sad, so disappointed that we hadn't been able to do this without medical intervention, something I had always dreamed of, bearing a child. Shortly before the session the doctor called us in to go over the results, I didn't expect to hear anything more than what the technician told us. He shut the door and said "I have good news for you", I wondered what good could he have found in those results, "You have a Subseptate Uterus" he said, "your uterus is in the shape of a heart".  I wondered how this was good news. He explained to us that a subseptate uterus is a congenital condition that I was born with, my uterus did not develop properly resulting in a "septum" a mass of tissue on the uterine wall.  Most likely I had been "getting pregnant" meaning my eggs were probably fertilizing and implanting in the uterus but the septum was taking all the blood supply from the eggs. In turn the eggs could not survive and more than likely were dislodging and being expelled during my periods. The good news was that this condition was easily corrected by a simple out patient surgery that was completely covered by OHIP. We couldn't believe it! We were told to skip the invitro information session and left the office giddy like school children with the name of a top Gynaecological surgeon in Toronto.

Image courtesy of gynaecology.spotmysite.com

Fast forward a few months,  I  went in for a Hysteroscopic Laparoscopy where the surgeons made three small incisions in my abdomen, one in my belly button, one on my pelvic line and one near my bikini line. In these small incisions they inserted their surgical instruments and carefully removed the septum. Surgery was a success and I was on my way home that same day.  Six weeks later I had a post-operative appointment and was told that everything healed well and to go home and make babies. So we did. Three months later I was staring at a positive pregnancy test with tears in my eyes, and in August of 2006 my beautiful boy was born, two years later along came beautiful boy number two. We feel so blessed to have two precious children in our life that we are talking about having another, although if you ask my husband he'd say  "then we have to do it more" and that is entirely another blog post in itself.

JWR 2006
HMR 2008



Monday, January 10, 2011

White Horse

We are selling our car.
We are going to be parting with a lot of things in preparation for our move and this by far might be the hardest thing I part with. This white 2003 Chevy Malibu, with way over a hundred thousand kilometers, a broken side mirror and a small burn in the upholstery is not just any car, it is my Dads car, and if I could I would keep it forever.

In January 2009 my husband hit a deer and wrote off his Jeep, my Dad said to us "use my car, I'm not using it right now, I'll get it back from you soon".
He wasn't using it because his body was ravaged by a painful cancer.
He could barely lift his hand to hold mine.
His days were spent lying in the rented hospital bed in his family room, an oxygen tank hissing by his side with my stepmother on leave from work taking care of his every need.
He wasn't using it because he was dying. 
 
How I hoped that it was just a temporary loan and that he'd soon be asking for it back.
That he would need it to choose the sunniest day to skip work and keep driving to show up at my doorstep for a surprise visit, as he often did.

Two months later he was gone.

I don't drive his car very often, but when I do I take a moment to be with my father, I smell the faint odour of cigarette smoke mixed with his cologne, I place my hands on the steering wheel where his gentle hands rested for his many long drives to work. I lay my head back on the headrest and close my eyes and think of him.
This was his white horse and he was my knight in shining armor.

He was my best friend.
He was the smartest, kindest, funniest and most generous man I knew.
He flew for over 30 hrs in excruciating pain from a herniated disc in his back so he could walk me down the aisle at my wedding.
He supported everything I did and always told me "If you are happy, I am happy".
He was the first relative to hold my first born son.
He was everything to me.



 The car, I know must go, so I'll hold on to the the other things, like how I see his mischievous smile in my eldest son every day. How I subconsciously twirl his wedding band that I wear on my right hand, paired with the wedding band of my grandmother,  his mother,  that he presented to me on my wedding day. I'll treasure the video I have of him teaching my eldest son to do a high five. I'll keep the image in my mind of seeing his eyes light up the first time he held my second son and I told him that his name will carry on with my son.
I'll close my eyes and replay his voice over and over again, telling me that he loves me, it will never grow faint and I can hear it right now.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Up in the Air

I was scrolling through our photos today and realized that we like to take pictures of my husband throwing our children in the air. I'm sure we all do it, and the pure joy (or terror) in our childrens face is priceless. My sons have inherited my husbands "extreme genes" and as far as they are concerned the higher the better.
I thought I would share some of my favourite kid toss photos.
(Now before you call Childrens Aid, please remember that these maneuvers were performed in a controlled environment and no children or parents were harmed in any way.)


First flight. I was crouched low on the ground while taking this photo and the result was the illusion of a much higher kid toss.



Darn kids always jumping on the furniture!


Water always makes for a safer landing.

My favourite so far, I'd photo-shop my husband out if I knew how.