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March 2017

Featured/ Life

A Day in the Life…

The other day I had the most vivid epiphany about enjoying life as it is happening. I was thinking about how just a few years ago, I was living life as a forensic accountant, travelling all around the country working on investigations. There were many days where I was sleeping in fancy hotels, drinking wine in airport lounges between flights, having dinner in hotel restaurants, or working from my room with an order of room service. In hindsight, there was something enjoyable and somewhat glamorous about a life like that but in the moment, I was just feeling overworked, stressed and lonely. And just last summer when I was pregnant, I would sometimes go for walks to a local coffee shop and spend hours reading or blogging there. In hindsight, I wish I would have done it more often since I don’t have that type of freedom with my time now.

So, as I’m sitting here on the couch and typing this as my baby naps, I am reminding myself not to feel restless and to enjoy this idyllic time, as in just a few months I’ll be back at work and I’ll be looking back on this time wishing that I could re-live it again.

My baby is five and a half months old now and we’ve settled into a very predictable and enjoyable routine. My husband has been working night shifts for the past 5 days and so I feel like I’ve been ‘single mom-ming’ it for the past 5 days. However, whenever he’s at work, my days with the baby are very routine and relaxing. Here’s a snapshot of our day yesterday:

7:15AM – I’ve set the coffee machine on autostart and I can faintly hear the grinder going from our bedroom. The husband got home at 4AM, so he’s sound asleep. I slip out of bed and head downstairs. This is my morning “me” time and I savour this hour where I peacefully enjoy my coffee and a book.

8:30AM – Baby E is up. I head upstairs to change and feed her and have our morning cuddles. Then we head downstairs where I have my breakfast (avocado toast with a fried egg) while she plays in her Bumbo chair. Sometimes she’ll play nicely long enough for me to unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher from the night before. I love starting the day with an empty dishwasher so I can load dirty dishes into it as the day progresses. I start a load of laundry, then we head back upstairs to the bonus room where we play, either on her playmat, jolly jumper, activity centre or on the floor. Side note: HGTV is always on the TV when we are in the bonus room, and I’m chomping at the bit to renovate our house or to build a new house!

10AM – Baby E will inevitably start fussing after an hour and a half of waking up, wanting her morning nap. I change her diaper, and we settle down to read a couple books before nap time. Then I zip her into her Zipadee-zip and nurse her. I put her into her crib and she talks to herself for 5-10 minutes before falling asleep.  The Zipadee-zip is a swaddle transition blanket and Baby E just loves it. Her hands are covered so I don’t have to worry about her scratching herself, it is incredibly soft and warm, and every time I tell her “Zipadee-zip, it’s sleep time!” she smiles and coos because she knows that she’s going to get fed before she has to sleep.

Fast asleep in her Zipadee-zip and DockATot

These morning naps are the long ones, usually 2 hours, so I get a lot done during these two hours. This day in particular, I finish cleaning the kitchen, put the laundry into the dryer, and then head down to the basement. Remember, when I was doing the home organization challenge? Well, we had a bout of sickness in our household and then we went to Mexico, so I fell behind on the challenge. However, I’m still chipping away at it. I’ve cleaned out and decluttered my closet, resulting in one huge bag of clothes that went to donations and one huge bag going to a consignment store. Now I’m working on our basement – our basement isn’t developed yet so it’s literally where we store EVERYTHING. There’s a lot of junk down there and it’s overwhelming to think about cleaning and organizing it before we start developing it. So, I made a plan that every day during morning nap, I will head down to the basement for half an hour. I have a big garbage bag started where I throw things that we will toss, and I have a box started where I put things that I will sell on VarageSale. I spend half an hour down there, and then head back upstairs to read and relax until baby wakes up.

12PM – Baby E wakes up and I head upstairs to change her and feed her. We then wake my husband up (he has to head to work at 3PM). I leave Baby E with him to play and I head downstairs to make lunch. Today’s lunch is this Italian Sausage Tortellini. We all eat lunch together and the husband continues to play with the baby while I clean up the kitchen.

2PM – Baby E starts fussing so after changing her and feeding her, she’s back down for her afternoon nap. This nap is usually only 1-1.5 hours long, so I just read or watch TV.

3:30PM – Baby E is up. Another round of changing diapers, feeding and playing. While she plays independently, I fold and put away laundry.  If we have anywhere to go, this is usually when we go out. But today is a lazy day where I know we’re not going anywhere, so I haven’t even put on any makeup or anything.

5:30PM – She starts fussing. Another diaper change and feed, and she’s down for her evening nap. This one is only an hour. I make a sandwich for myself for dinner and relax with my book on the couch. (I’ve been reading a lot lately now that her naps are so good. I average a book a day!).

6:30PM – She’s up. Another round of changing diapers, feeding and playing.

Play hard, drool hard

8PM – Start of nighttime routine. I bathe her, give her a baby massage with Aveeno Baby Nighttime Balm, read her two bedtime stories, feed her and put her down for bed. She chats with herself for a few minutes and then quickly falls asleep.

At this time, I do a quick tidy of the entire house, set up the coffee machine for tomorrow morning, start the dishwasher and then head to my bedroom. I have a nice hot bath with a book and a glass of wine, and I’m in bed by 11PM.

The end of my day

5AM – Baby E wakes around 5AM for her nighttime feed, so I feed her and put her back into her crib where she sleeps until 8:30AM.

The next day starts again with the sound of the coffee machine at 7:15AM!

Isn’t that the most idyllic day ever? When the weather is nice we usually go out during her awake times, but we’ve been staying in the past couple of days. The days where my husband is off work are a little more activity-filled. On his days off, I go to the gym, I go to a coffee shop to blog, and we have random outings to go shopping, out to eat, various appointments, or various social visits.

I’m not going to lie, there are days where the monotony of this routine really makes me restless. However, I am reminding myself to enjoy the quiet moments and to make the most out of this phase as it will inevitably pass. I used to feel restless when I used to nap with Baby E and I was laying there on the couch with her for two hours. But now that we’ve sleep trained her and she’s napping on her own, I really miss those cuddles! So my resolution for the last half of my maternity leave is to soak in and enjoy every single moment because I won’t be able to relive these moments again!

Beer and Wine Pairings/ Canadian Recipes/ Featured

Italian Sausage Tortellini

Italian Sausage Tortellini

My husband was the first man (first person, really) that I ever cooked for. We started dating on December 31, 2010, and it was my New Year’s resolution for 2011 to learn how to cook. Prior to 2011, I never cooked and all I had in my fridge were Diet Cokes, Grey Goose vodka and bagged salads. I still remember the first dish I made for my husband – it was a chocolate hazelnut banana french toast.

So he’s been my guinea pig from day 1, and he’s witnessed and experienced the evolution and improvement of my cooking. From that very first French toast, to date night steak dinners for two, and now to Vietnamese food and family meals.

My husband is very appreciative of my cooking skills and thanks me after every meal. I am appreciate of the fact that he will eat anything, because let me tell you, there have been times where my cooking experiments have gone awry and some of the meals are barely edible. My husband is a small town Saskatchewan boy so he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I’ll make a fancy tagliatelle short rib bolognese and he’ll compliment it and eat it, but he’ll devour and rave over a simple steak and mashed potatoes dinner. Lately there’s been one very simple, very quick Italian sausage tortellini recipe that I make that he just loves. I made it the other day and he said “thank you for making my favourite meal”. I mean, that makes me feel great but why do I bother making fancy meals when this 20 minute meal makes him that happy?!

This pasta recipe is basically all packaged ingredients thrown together so prep time is minimal. All you need is a package of Johnsonville mild Italian sausage (I buy the ground version, not the actually sausage version), a package of Olivieri fresh filled pasta (I buy the one filled with Italian sausage), a jar of marinara sauce, some spinach or other type of greens, some chicken broth, an onion, a couple cloves of garlic and some olive oil. The greens are optional but I try to sneak vegetables and greens into every meal that we have and they do add a nice pop of colour to the dish.

Follow the instructions below and you have a quick and filling meal that literally takes 20 minutes to make! It’s such a simple meal that I pair it with one of our favourite wines, Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, just to elevate it a bit! Give this recipe and the wine a try and let me know what you think!

Italian Sausage Tortellini

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 package of Johnsonville mild Italian Sausage, ground
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce or tomato pasta sauce (any brand will do). I typically buy the Catelli brand in the 640 ml jar.
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 package Olivieri fresh filled pasta (I buy the Italian sausage filled kind)
  • two handfuls of spinach, kale, or arugula (or a mix!)

Instructions

1

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or pan on medium high heat. Add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes.

2

Add the package of Johnsonville ground Italian sausage and the garlic, and cook until the sausage is cooked through and no longer pink. Drain any excess fat.

3

Add the package of Olivieri fresh pasta, the marinara sauce, and the chicken broth and stir.

4

Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

5

Uncover, and add a couple handfuls of your greens of choice and stir them in until they are wilted.

6

Dish up and serve with a nice glass of wine!

Featured/ Restaurant Review

Peking House

Peking House

One of the questions I get asked a lot, even before I started this blog, is “What’s the best Vietnamese restaurant in Regina?” My answer always is “My mom’s house”. See, the thing is, I really didn’t know what the best Vietnamese restaurant was in Regina because I never went to Vietnamese restaurants. If I was ever craving any specific Vietnamese dish, my mom would make it. And my parents NEVER took us to Vietnamese restaurants. My mom is a huge Vietnamese culinary snob and she judges Vietnamese cooking hard. She always said that it was a waste of money going to Vietnamese restaurants when she can make everything way better.

However, now that my mom is older and my dad is retired, I’ve noticed that they are beginning to enjoy going out to eat more. They like to try out all the new Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants that are popping up all over the city, and they even have their favourite spots that they frequent! So I’ve decided to start a new category on this blog called “Restaurant Review” where I will review new Vietnamese restaurants and feature some of my old favourites in the city. I will take my parents out to these restaurants, glean some expert input from my mom, and write about our experiences.

The first restaurant to be featured on my blog will be Peking House. Peking House is a Chinese restaurant located in downtown Regina on 1850 Rose Street, and it is one of my family’s favourites. I always take my parents out for dinner on their birthdays, and they usually request to go to Peking House.  We always order the same handful of dishes – and these are the handful of dishes that my mom concedes that this restaurant can make better than she can.

Hot and Sour Soup

We always start off our meal with the small order of the hot and sour soup. The small order is enough for the four of us (my husband and I, and my parents) to each have two servings. Peking House nails this soup with just the perfect balance of sour and spicy. I crave this soup often and my mom has made it quite a few times for me, but even she will admit that Peking House does it better.

Hot and Sour Soup

Shrimp Balls Hot Pot with Noodles

My husband’s favourite dish at this restaurant is the Shrimp Balls Hot Pot with Noodles. It comes out piping hot in a little pot and the shrimp balls are coated in a deliciously rich sauce. Now the trick is when you order it, to order it “with noodles”. If you just order it off the menu, it does not come with the noodles on the bottom of the pot. My husband’s favourite part of this dish is the noodles underneath the shrimp balls. One time we went here without my parents and ordered the dish off the menu, and it didn’t have the noodles on the bottom. He was so disappointed, and my mom had to explain to us that “with noodles” is a special request when ordering.

Shrimp Ball Hot Pot with noodles

Remember to order it “with noodles”

Salted Fish Fried Rice

Okay, so here’s the deal. Some restaurants have “secret” menu items. These items are not shown on the English menu, but are available on the Chinese menu. Now my parents don’t speak or read Chinese, but somehow my mom found out about this secret menu item – the salted fish fried rice. For those of you who are tired of the basic Chinese fried rice with frozen vegetables and chicken, you need to give this try. There are no frozen peas and carrots in this bad boy, just deliciously salty pieces of salted fish. It is completely different than your every day Chinese fried rice, and it is definitely worth trying. My mom has tried to make this at home once, but with a small piece of salted fish costing over $20 at the Asian food store, she says it’s just more economical to order this at Peking House.  You won’t see this on the English menu, but just order “salted fish fried rice” and they’ll know what you want.

Salted Fish Fried Rice

“Secret” menu item – salted fish fried rice

Ginger Beef

So we go from secret menu item to most basic menu item ever! This is always the dish that I order when we go. Sometimes a girl just needs a simple Chinese dish! Peking House does a mean ginger beef though. Some restaurants make their ginger beef super spicy to compensate for lack of flavour. Peking House’s ginger beef is not overly spicy but has all the familiar flavours that hit the spot.

Ginger Beef

Special Chow Mein

And finally, my mom always orders the Special Chow Mein which comes with all the veg, pork, shrimp, squid and scallops.  There’s nothing overly spectacular about this dish, other than it is a familiar Chinese comfort dish, and it is way more economical to order it at a restaurant than make it at home, especially with all the seafood in it. I always make fun of my mom for ordering this basic dish and she chastises me for ordering the ginger beef, but we always order them!

Special Chow Mein

And that’s it. The five dishes that we ALWAYS order whenever we go to Peking House. We have never strayed from these items, and although we always pore over the menu that hasn’t changed in decades, we end up just rattling off an order of these same five dishes.

The same handful of dishes that we always order

My mom’s birthday was actually this week and we are going out later this week for her birthday supper. However, this year, she has requested a new Vietnamese pho restaurant that just opened up on Quance Street. Stay tuned for that review!