Friday, July 29, 2011

Creamy Tomato & Artichoke Penne

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Pioneer Woman, but I changed the recipe slightly to suit my own taste (less cream, more garlic, etc). All of us loved this, and it's now one of my favourite pasta dishes. I will definitely be making it again. Don't let the long ingredient list scare you. It's really easy and quick to make. From prep to table can easily be done in 20 minutes if you don't bake it. For just our family, I cut this recipe in half and we had leftovers. It can be topped with grilled chicken or shrimp if you want. I made this with penne and also with spaghetti; I think I actually prefer the spaghetti with this one.

Creamy Tomato & Artichoke Penne - serves 6
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 540 mL can diced tomatoes
1 540 mL can artichoke hearts, drained and squeeze excess liquid out (I used whole ones and cut them in half)
Splash of white wine (a couple tablespoons), optional
1/2 cup whipping cream (more or less depending on your taste)
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup (approx) Italian shredded cheese (mix of provolone, mozzarella, parmesan, emmental)
Fresh herbs to garnish
500 grams pasta of your choice. Penne or spaghetti is good. (Reserve 1 cup of pasta water).

Directions: Cook pasta in boiling water until just firm if baking later or al dente if not. Do not over cook the pasta, especially if planning on baking it later. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Set aside. In a large pan melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and garlic and saute for a minute or two until onions are clear. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, and white wine (optional). Simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low. Add cream, chicken stock, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Heat gently until cheese is melted and sauce thickens slightly. Toss pasta with the sauce. Add a very small amount of reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Garnish with fresh herbs.
To Bake:
Place pasta in a 9 x 13 pan. Make sure there is quite a bit of sauce compared with pasta as the pasta will absorb more sauce when baking, and you do not want it to dry out. Add a bit more broth if it's too dry. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake at 400 F for about 15 minutes. Uncover and broil for a few minutes until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tips for Coping with Morning Sickness

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile, and now that I shared with you our big news, I can write all about pregnancy without you all wondering why!

My pregnancy with Ellie was kind of a rough one. I was pretty sick for several months, and there were many days where I could not even read or watch television; all I could do was lie on the couch feeling absolutely terrible. That's how awful I felt. I can really empathize with those who have a lot of morning, or more like all-day sickness. It can be debilitating, and sometimes there is nothing that really works to help alleviate its intensity. That's how my pregnancy was with Ellie. None of the tricks and tips or medication seemed to help at all. The smell of water made me head for the bathroom. To be honest, it was so awful that I recall telling my husband that this might be our only child! Selfish, yes, and I was not entirely serious, but that just gives you an idea of how bad I was feeling in the moment.

This pregnancy has been much different, however. I've had typical morning sickness, but it has not been nearly as intense as it was with Ellie. I have no idea why this is...maybe it's a boy this time? Maybe it's because this is my second pregnancy? Who knows. In fact, I haven't even thrown up yet. Not even once. I started getting close with gagging and all (sorry if t.m.i.), but then I decided to take a low dose of prescription medication for morning sickness, which seemed to start working overnight. I could hardly believe the difference. Anyway, onto my tips. I realize many of these tips are common knowledge, but these are things that specifically have worked for me this pregnancy (Like I said before, nothing worked last time!)
photo credit

1) Lemons. Especially at the beginning of my nausea, lemons really helped take the "bite" out of the nausea. I drink a lot of icy-cold lemon water, and as soon as the nausea hits, I drink a glass or if things are really serious, I just suck on the lemon wedge. I like my water pretty lemony, and fresh lemons are something I always have on hand. The scent really seemed to help, too.

2) Give In to the Cravings & Avoid Foods that Turn You Off. This is pretty straight forward. I have had quite a few cravings this pregnancy, and I definitely have indulged myself. Doritos, pickled onions, McDonald's fries, and hazelnut chocolate are just a few things I've craved so far. I find that one day I might crave something and the next day I don't even want to look at it. Don't force yourself to eat something that is unappealing at the time. It just isn't worth it.

3) Eat Lots of Protein. I don't know why this seems to help, but it does. I read this tip somewhere else, and I think it actually helps. Almonds are a great source of protein and a quick, healthy snack. I have been eating lots of raw almonds, and when hunger or nausea strike, I grab a handful.
4) Have Snacks on Hand. Some people can't eat when they're nauseous, and others need to eat all the time. I'm one of those who has to eat all the time if I feel sick. I'm sure it's one of the reasons I tend to gain a lot of weight in the first trimester. Keep snacks in your purse such as a granola bar, peppermints, crackers, almonds, or whatever suits your taste. This way if you're driving or in church or at someone's house and the hunger nausea sets in, you can stave it off a bit. If you tend to feel sick first thing in the morning, keep a snack beside your bed to nibble on before you get up for breakfast.

5) Get Plenty of Rest. This should go without saying, but you need to get enough sleep when you're pregnant. I have really found that if I don't get enough sleep, I feel that much more nauseated the next day. It makes a big difference for me.

6) Don't Feel Guilty if You Need Meds. I'm sure every pregnant woman I know does not want to take meds when pregnant. I think it is very wise to avoid medication as much as possible when pregnant. However, if you feel you simply cannot cope without some meds for morning sickness, try to not feel guilty. I know that with this pregnancy, I am SO glad I decided to start a low-dose prescription for the nausea. Last pregnancy it didn't seem to help at all, but for some reason, it has helped immensely this pregnancy, even with a very low dose.
Bible Study
7) Give Thanks. This can be a tough one, especially when you're in the throws of it. Try to remember that this will not last forever, and at the end of it you will have a beautiful baby. Some women give thanks for their morning sickness because it can be a sign of a healthy pregnancy. There has never been a better reason for being sick!

*Linking up to Raising Homemakers*

BIG News!!

baby Pictures, Images and Photos
Photo Credit

Okay, I just cannot keep this a secret any longer, so here it goes...Baby #2 is due January 10, 2012 and we are super excited! I'm 16 weeks today, which is getting close to half-way. Part of the reason why this blog has been lacking in posts lately is because I've been just too way tired to write anything. Every spare moment of the past nearly 4 months have been spent sleeping. No joke. I remember being tired when pregnant with Ellie, but I guess I forgot just how tired a person can get. As for the morning sickness, it's been quite manageable, actually. In fact, no throwing up yet! I can hardly believe it - with Ellie I threw up nearly every day for a LONG time (well into my 2nd trimester). I've felt nauseous with this one, but when it was getting to the gagging stage, I decided to take some meds for it, and that has helped immensely. For some reason when I'm pregnant I tend to get the most horrendous headaches. I'm not the type of person who has a lot of headaches normally, but when I'm pregnant I tend to get lots of really bad headaches and even the occasional migraine. And I eat. A lot. And often. Especially when I feel like throwing up. Yeah, I think I read somewhere that by now I should have gained around 5 pounds...Umm....Try 15 at least. In fact, it could be getting closer to 20 by now. Yikes. As long as I don't gain another 60 pounds from now I'll still be ahead of where I was at my top pregnancy weight with Ellie....wowsers.

Anyway, I'll keep this one short, but I want to blog more about pregnancy and babies since the topic has been consuming my mind lately, so I needed to make the big announcement before I start blogging about it more. That's all for now. I think I need a snack now. Or a nap. Or maybe both.:-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Menu Plan and Potty Parties

(This is an older picture of Ellie, but I want to try to include more pictures in my posts.)

Last week's menu was a bit of a flop, and I didn't follow it all that closely. Oh well. Some weeks are like that, and that's okay. There are a few repeats this week because of that.

Here`s the plan for this week:

Went out to eat

Hamburgers on the BBQ, Grilled Veggie Salad

Leftover Hamburgers (I don`t know why my computer is acting weird and underlining this)

Grilled Chicken Salad with Honey Citrus Marinade, Baked Potatoes, One-Hour Focaccia Bread

Baked Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms, Caesar Salad

Sausage, Perogies, Cooked Mixed Veggies

Chicken Fingers, Tater Tots, Veggies & Dip

*For more great meal ideas visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

In other news....this morning we threw a Potty Party for Ellie in hopes of getting her excited about trying potty training again. It wasn't really that big of a thing. I just threw some balloons in the bathroom and strung a couple of streamers. I also wrapped up her training underwear and let her open it. She was super excited at first, but the excitement kind of wore off quickly. She's going diaper-free (except at nap and bedtime), and I have the timer set for every 30 minutes or so to remind her to try. I'm going to give it an honest go again this week and if it still isn't clicking, I'll hold off totally for another month or so. She will be 2 soon, so I think it's a good time to try, but no pressure really.Believe it or not, the best success we`ve had so far was when she was about 16 months old and she was really into it and telling me when she had to go. I can tell you this much...potty training isn't exactly my favourite thing so far. It`s kind of interesting because she knows when she`s had an accident because she`ll come to me and say ``uh oh. Big mess!`` Lol. (I don`t know why my computer suddenly is typing my apostrophes all weirdly.).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Divided! Age-Segregation or Family Integration in the Church

I just watched a thought-provoking video called Divided that addresses the age-segregation church model - Sunday School, Youth Groups, etc. Agree or disagree, it raises important points about how the local church models itself and where it gets its model from. Just for the record, I'm not necessarily opposed to the existence of Sunday School and youth groups...I'm more opposed to the general philosophy behind many of them. Not all youth groups are run the same way, but by and large, many of them that I've encountered are flawed for the very reasons this movie brings up.

Watch the hour-long movie Divided for free by clicking here. (It's only free until September.). I highly recommend taking the time to watch it! My husband and I found it to be extremely interesting.

I believe that, in general, a family-integrated model of church is more biblical than age-segregation. Before I go any further, though, I need to clarify that I am not endorsing the entire family-integrated movement and everything that goes with it. There are elements to the family integration model I agree quite strongly with; however, there are extremes of the model that I completely disagree with. For example, I don't agree that the family IS the local church, per say. I believe that the family and the local church have separate but complementary roles in the body of Christ. I believe that the father is the head of the home but the elders are the authority in the local church body. It's important that the elders do not try to usurp the authority of the father in regards to the family and decisions made for his family but also important is that the father does not usurp the authority of the elders in goings-on of the local church. Family integration needs to ensure that singles are and those without children are not left out and that it still has a "go out" mindset with regards to being mission-minded.

What biblical family integration is in my mind is basically less age-segregation and children and babies are welcome in worship services. Sunday School would ideally be the entire family together. Youth groups probably wouldn't exist, but if they did, they would be more family-minded as opposed to separate from the family. Babies and kids who are overly noisy or need to be taken out would be welcome to be taken out by the parents. There wouldn't necessarily be scheduled workers for these areas as it's more the parent's job to discipline or take care of the childrens' needs, in my opinion. (I don't have a big problem with scheduled workers, though. I just personally think it's more the parent's job to tend to the child and then return with the child to the service if possible.) The local church we fellowship with, although not family-integrated, is not opposed to children and babies sitting in the service. From my understanding and what I've observed is that babies and toddlers are welcome in the worship service and can be taken out as needed. There is a toddler room and nursery available with workers but it's really the parents' decision as to whether or not to use these services.

My husband and I believe that family integration is more biblical than age-segregation based on the scriptures. Does this then make age-segregation wrong, per say? Well, I'm not willing to go that far, but I am willing to respond by asking what makes us think we can come up with a better model than scripture has already lined out? However, what is one to do when there is no family-integrated church to attend? Then, do you pull your kids out of Sunday School and youth group, while everyone else is attending and your kids are "left out" and you then appear like you are going against the church, in a sense? That doesn't seem like that great of an alternative to me. And yes, I realize many people do not share our views and think what we believe is crazy. And while I'm certainly open to hearing others' opinions, if there is no scripture model to back it up, it will be hard to convince me that the alternative is better.

One of the most interesting parts of this movies is when the history behind the Sunday School movement and age-segregation is explained. Obviously the idea had to come from somewhere - man or God.

Those are just a few of my jumbled thoughts on the issue. I have many more thoughts about the issue, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Here's an excerpt from the Divided the Movie website

As you look on the church landscape, youth are leaving the faith in droves. The modern church, overall, is struggling to reach the next generation with the gospel. What has happened? Whether for good or bad, men, for many years, have been inventing solutions or brainstorming ideas without fully relying upon the foundation of God’s Word. God, however, is greater than man, and as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways higher than ours and His thoughts than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). We have substituted the greater for the lesser – God’s wisdom for man’s ideas. Jesus said that he who hears His Word and does it, is like a man that built his house upon a rock, and when the storm came, it stood firm. On the other hand, he who rejects His Word, is like a man who built on the sand and when the storm came, the house fell (Matt. 7:24-25). Shouldn’t the church, as a whole, abandon the sandy ideas of man and shamelessly return to the firm rock of the Word of God? God’s Word sufficiently identifies how youth are to be reached. For more information on this issue, please see the film Divided, which is a documentary on age-segregated youth ministry in America. Watch it for free (for a limited time) at For an in-depth study, the book A Weed in the Church delves into the topic and more thoroughly handles the Scripture passages that address ministry to young people. For other details or to help spread the message, visit

Monday, July 18, 2011

Heat Wave & Menu Plan

It's HOT. Very, very hot (as Little Ellie would say). It's supposed to feel like 40 C for this afternoon (104 F for my American friends) today. Craziness. Needless to say, I'm hoping to try out a few grilling recipes this week so I can keep the oven off as much as possible. I think it's supposed to cool off later on in the week. I'm just so very blessed and thankful to have central air conditioning! We've got a fairly busy week for the beginning of the week with a couple doctor's check-up and Ellie's vaccination on Wednesday.

Here's the plan for the week. Many of the recipes are new this week

Sunday, July 17

Monday, July 18
Grilled Chicken Salad (marinating the chicken first with Honey Citrus marinade), (NEW) Grilled Garlic Bread, (NEW) Baked Potatoes on the Grill

Tuesday, July 19
BBQ'ed Hamburgers, Veggies & Dip

Wednesday, July 20

Thursday, July 21
Pizza (using a leftover crust from freezer), Salad

Friday, July 22
Tater Tot Casserole (NEW - I looked at a few recipes and am going to try out my own version), Cooked Mixed Veggies & Tossed Salad

Saturday, July 23

*For more great meal ideas visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuscan Pizza

This is a veggie-loaded pizza and has my favourite trio - feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, and kalamata olives! If we go to a restaurant, you can almost guarantee I'll pick something with those ingredients if possible.

Tuscan Pizza

Your favourite pizza crust recipe
Your favourite tomato-based pizza sauce
Lots of fresh spinach
Roma tomatoes, chopped
Red onion, chopped
Sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in water or oil-packed and blotted dry
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Mozzarella cheese

Top the pizza with the veggies and cheese. Bake according to your pizza crust directions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sliding Fun

Sliding Fun! Ellie loves slides, and we take her to the park once in awhile so she can play. Truthfully it's a bit nerve-wracking taking her to the park with her neutropenia. We try to take her when there aren't too many other kids around. On this particular day, we were alone for quite awhile until a few other kids showed up. She wanted to play with them so badly, so we decided to take her home rather than try to keep her away from everyone. We really want to get a play structure for our backyard but are having a hard time finding the right one for the right price. That way, she can enjoy sliding and swinging in the safety of our backyard.

The other day in church I overheard a lady asking my sister-in-law why I won't let Ellie play in the nursery. For some reason, probably a mixture of emotions and exhaustion from major lack of sleep in the past few days, it made me cry! The night before we had had a particularly rough night with Ellie being up a lot in the night. I had gotten about 10 hours of total sleep over the past 2 nights, and Ellie was extremely grumpy and not behaving well at all in church. Trying to keep her in check without going in the toddler room was a lot of work. We try to keep her out of the toddler room because there are often kids in there whom we don't know (as in, don't know if they were sick recently, etc.). Most parents of kids with neutropenia from online support groups try to avoid places like these, too. Very rarely, I will let her in there if I know the kids and the kids Moms well enough that they know about Ellie's condition. I'm sure I look like the meanest Momma in the world when I don't let her go in there. Some people just don't understand. It is very difficult to know just how careful to be. I mean, we want her to have as normal of a life as possible, but we don't want to take any unnecessary risks that might land her in the hospital. Although, she looks so healthy, her last blood test was still not good. we take her to public pools? Do we take her to the zoo? So far, we have decided not to. She's young enough right now that she doesn't really know that she's missing those things. I really, really want to take her to the pool in the summer, and the doctor said we could but it was better to avoid them because obviously there are lots of people in a crowded area. She has been so healthy since Christmas that I start thinking maybe we are too careful, or maybe we are being "just right" careful. Who knows...I guess we just need to pray about it, try to make wise decisions, and trust the Lord with the rest.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Last week we were on holidays, which was wonderful. The weather was fantastic, and we were able to get a lot accomplished. My hubby was busy every day working on stuff for the house and vehicle shopping, so it wasn't really much of a "break" for him, but it was so nice to have him home for the week and be able to relax a little bit. He got A LOT accomplished on the doors and door frames we are sanding and painting. It will be so nice to have that all done soon. We also made a whirlwind trip to go buy a vehicle, and we are now owners of a van. We actually went up to look at a different van but that one just seemed...well...sketchy. As in, mysterious writing someone had tried to wipe off the side window that said something like "free," "discount," "missing rad." We couldn't make out all the writing since the sun had to shine just right to even notice there used to be any writing at all, but to make a long story short, it was oh-so-sketchy and we knew we should high tail it out of there. The next morning, we ended up looking at a different van that had just gone for sale by a private owner and this one was sketchy-free as far as we could tell, so we ended up buying it and bringing it home. Hooray for our new-to-us van!

Here's the meal plan for this week:

Sunday, July 10
Homemade Tuscan Pizza (spinach, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, red onions, black olives, and feta cheese) & Veggies with Dip

Monday, July 11
Leftover Pizza

Tuesday, July 12
Greek Chicken Salad Pitas (NEW) (Caesar Chicken Pitas for my Hubby)

Wednesday, July 13
Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Rice, Peas, Spinach Salad

Thursday, July 14
BBQ'ed Steak with Grilled Mixed Veggies

Friday, July 15
Fettuccine Alfredo (Healthier Version) & Salad

Saturday, July 16
Sausage, Perogies, & Cooked Vegetables

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Monday, July 4, 2011

Busy & Beautiful Summer

This blog has been suffering from a major lack of posts lately, but this blogger is having a wonderful summer! The rain has finally settled down and we are enjoying some beautiful days. We were at a wedding this past weekend of some good friends and had a lovely time. It was a whirlwind trip for us since we left bright and early the morning of the wedding and drove 6 hours to get there in time. She sat well through the outdoor ceremony (it was HOT!), but then was a bit of a crazy girl for the reception. She was running, running, running the whole time. I was a pretty exhausted Momma after that. I couldn't really blame her too much for wanting to run around so much since she had been cooped up for 6 hours in a car until then. We stayed one night and then spent the next day shopping and hanging out with family. Little Ellie doesn't really do well in hotels. She has always been a bit of a finicky sleeper and only recently started sleeping well at her grandparents' houses when she visits. So, instead of staying another night, we decided to drive home late, which would be less stressful. We got home around 1:30 a.m. last night and crashed into bed. Needless to say, I was tired today! I still haven't finished unpacking, and it's almost time for bed!

We also had a fun Canada Day and enjoyed taking Ellie to the parade for the first time. We missed it last year, but she had SUCH a blast! She was waving at people and intently watching the whole thing.

Fun at the parade on Canada Day.

Cute as a button at the wedding.

A nearly impossible-to-get family picture. This girl barely sits still for more than 2 seconds.

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