Saturday, March 29, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week Four

The end of week 4 already! 
It's crazy how fast the time flies - I'm already a 1/4 of the way through my 100 happy days.
So far this challenge has been eye opening.
I always knew I was a positive person (with the odd downer of a day where nothing seems to go right) but wondering what picture to use every day has been tougher than I thought it would be, but only because so may things make me happy. 
Really simple things. 
A desert, the way the sun feels, the simple act of relaxing.
This week I found one day particularly challenging but at the same time not.
At work one morning this past weekend I received a call from a former patient's mother.
I had spoken many times to this woman when she would call to get updates on how her son was doing.
This patient was with us for many months before being discharged home about two months ago and while with us he had made huge advances, both physically and mentally. He went from having to be moved from his bed to his wheelchair using a ceiling lift to transferring completely independently. 
I had met him on two previous admissions and had been aware of his heavy drug use. When he came to us this last time he had been in and out the ICU for months and had been clean for that same amount of time.
And he was so grateful. 
He reconnected with his family, started saving his money towards things he'd always wanted, and made moves to lead a healthier life. 
About a week or two before his discharge, he slipped up and used.
I remember having a long conversation with him one evening where he apologized for letting me and the staff down. 
I gave him a huge hug and told him he hadn't let anyone down and reassured him that this one slip up hadn't ruined all the progress he had made. 
I gave him another huge hug the day before he left and told him to take care of himself.
I thought about him a lot after his discharge, wondering how he was doing.
Getting that call... 
I've experienced many patient's deaths, as is the nature of my job, but none have hit my the way this one did.
After I hung up with his mother, I went downstairs to light out memorial candle and wrote a quick note to him in our book.
Then I sat for a few minutes in the stairwell and cried.
With every other patient I knew they were going to die and my job was to make sure it was a comfortable, dignified final journey. 
This one wasn't expected. I mean, we all knew it would happen sooner or later as this guy had lived 9 lives, but I wasn't prepared. And he'd come so far from when I'd first met him. 
I was heartbroken. 
So P., wherever you are now, I hope you're happy and doing what you love. 
And I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, just for you.
You are my happy thing this week.
I'll miss you fiercely.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

Day 22: Friday.
You've already seen the recipe.
I had a craving, and the craving was satisfied with these quick and delicious brownies.
This recipe is my go-to from now on.
Chocolate is always happiness.

Day 23: Saturday.
This may seem stupid but to me it's not.
Full fat yogurt.
For so many years I only ate the lowest of the low fat yogurt. 
In the vein of not depriving myself and not setting diet rules, I've started eating full fat yogurt and OH MY GOODNESS it's so much better.
My happy thing for Saturday was eating full fat yogurt without a single hint of regret or guilt. 
I'm still working on regular pop (though I don't think this is the best idea and I'm actually trying to drink way more water than I usually do)

Day 24: Sunday.
Sunday was the tough day at work that I (long-windedly) mentioned above, so I was in a weird state of mind.
It ended on a high note though, as the nursing student that I had worked with a few times while he regular preceptors were away got me a gift!
Her roommate's family I think owns Pillitteri winery in Niagara and she and I had talked about my love of Niagara so at the end of the shift she gave me a bottle of wine!
So lovely.

Day 25: Monday.
Day 5 of work. A busy day with lots of blood work (I'm now 4 for 4, 100% success rate with taking blood. Basically I'm a natural), vitals, assessments, etc. I was tired, especially knowing I still had one more shift to work before I had a day off. My happy moment was my evening half hour break, sitting down with my feet up and remembering that I had a Timbit in my bag. 

Day 26: Tuesday.
My last of 6 straight shifts (8 hrs-8 hrs-12 hrs-12 hrs-12 hrs-8 hrs), and I was happy it was a quick one. I bought a bottle of wine on the way home to sip while I kicked back. I took the dog for an hour long park play and I was glad to see the sun out. It's a reminder that, despite the quick snowfall we had today and how long this winter has felt, spring is coming. 
My long shadow cast on the slowly melting snow was all the reminder I needed to think happy thoughts of spring. 
Day 27: Wednesday.
I did a whole lot of nothing and then cleaned part of the apartment.
Then finally painted my nails with my new top coat.
I also drank wine on the couch and made a nice dinner and just... relaxed.

Day 28: Thursday.
Not quite a day off, but I worked an 8 hour night shift so I had until 10:15 pm to hang out before I had to head ot work.
I slept in with this lazy cuddler who felt it was no big deal to spread out across my side of the bed while we watched some Parks and Rec before we went to the park.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hunter's Series: Hunter's Pie (Featuring Guest Writer John!)

I've wanted to have a guest writer take over my blog for a long time and finally the dream has come to fruition!

Last week John cooked up two wonderful meals: a duck & goose stew (which I refer to as duck-duck-soup) and a variation on sheppard's pie called hunter's pie, made with beef, deer, and peameal bacon.
It was delicious. 
We ate the pie for dinner (and lunch) so I only have pictures of the pie so that will be the recipe up today.

Anyway, to tell you how he made his hunter's pie, here is John!

Hello everyone. This hunting season for me was pretty short, as I only got out once during duck and goose season.  But thanks to the kindness of my hunting buddies Shawn and Kris, we had a pile of different game meats in our freezer. Among them was deer, moose, elk, Canada goose, and a few different types of duck.  So first on the menu of wild game food was my take on Sheppard's Pie- a Hunter's Pie.

It's really simple to make, and you can substitute the ingredients used with pretty much anything you'd like.  This is very meat-heavy though, so if you're hoping for a vegetarian alternative you're out of luck.  Maybe in the spring I'll do another post about foraged wild edible plants though- spring fiddleheads are pretty tasty.
So central to this recipe is meat: Peameal bacon, ground beef, and ground venison.  Venison has a stronger, more gamey flavour than beef, so combining half beef and half deer mellows out the flavour a bit and makes it more accessible to people that would otherwise be scared off by eating deer.
I started off by cutting the bacon in rough chunks, and sautéing them in a pan.  Then I added onion, minced garlic, cracked black pepper and chilli flakes.  When the onions turned translucent, I added the ground meats.  When they were fully cooked I drained off some of the liquid to prevent the pie from being too soggy.

Ground beef and deer in the pot.  The beef is the bright one, while the venison is more brown in colour.

While the meats were browning, I boiled and mashed some potatoes and a few sweet potatoes. I like the contrast between white fleshed potatoes and the orange of sweet potatoes, as it makes the pie look a bit more interesting.  I then added a bit of butter and a spoonful of horseradish to the potatoes, which makes them taste way better.

With the meat browned and the potatoes mashed, all that's left is layering this sweet concoction in a baking dish.  To assemble: meat on the bottom in a layer about 2cm thick, sprinkled with corn and peas (the canned stuff works great), then smooth on the mash to about 2cm thick as well. Toss it in the oven for a while and you're set.

Butchering (ed note: in my mind I'm going to just read this as 'hunting'. Still love you John!) any large game animal like deer, moose, or elk leaves you with a lot of ground meat. This is a great way to use up all that delicious, flavourful meat and clean out your freezer.  Anyone who hunts knows how important it is to use as much of the animal as possible, and this is an easy and tasty way to accomplish that.
Thanks for reading my wildly speculative ramblings, and thanks to my lovely wife for letting me contribute to her blog.

Up next in the hunter' series: Duck-Duck Soup

Monday, March 24, 2014

DIY Beachy Waves Hair Spray

During one of my recent Pinterest binges I came across a DIY hair spray for beachy waves.
This is something I covet on the regular.
Beach waves.
I have hit-or-miss success with curling my hair (curling iron, straightener and my sister's 'magic wand' as I call it) so I was eager to try this out and see if it worked.
Especially since I had thrown out my store bought bottle of a similar product when the spray part stopped working.
Anyway, this spray is incredibly easy to make and it works fairy well without giving your hair that hard crunchy texture .
And it may likely cost you nothing as there's a fair chance you've already got the majority of the ingredients required.

Mix the following together:
  • 1 cup hot tea (chamomile tea if you want to lighten your hair, black tea if you want to darken it or just 1 cup hot water if you don't want to have to store this in the fridge)
  • 2 tbsp Epsom salts (add more if you want more texture - I might add a 3rd tbsp in to mine)
  • 1/2 tsp conditioner (or almond or jojoba oil if you'd rather)
  • 1 tsp aloe vera
  • 1 tsp lemon juice & 1 tsp vodka (only if you want to risk lightening your hair and don't mind storing your spray in the fridge, otherwise skip this ingredient) or 1 tsp essential oil (without risk of lightening your hair)
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salts (this will add some stiffness to your hair. I didn't have either on hand so I left this out)

Mix it all up as best as you can and transfer it into a 10 oz spray bottle.
I dumped out an old Victoria's Secret body spray that I hadn't used in years and used that. 
Shake it (vigorously) to really mix in the Epsom salts. 
Spray into damp hair and then start scrunching your hair.
I did a combination of scrunching, twirling sections, and wrapping my hair into a loose bun.

It gave me decent beach waves for the evening and I was satisfied enough to use this spray again & probably to make another mix once this one runs out. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Quick & Easy (and delicious) Brownies

It's been too long since I've added any baking posts.
Partly because I haven't been doing much baking.
This week I got the bug and after making a nice dinner on Thursday night, I took a quick glance through my Canadian Living Baking book for a Brownie recipe.
I used the 'Super Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies'  recipe but left out a few steps & ingredients.
The result was a deliciously moist and soft brownie with that trademark flaky chocolaty crust on top. 
I seriously don't think I'll ever make brownies from a box ever again, or use another recipe.
This one is the best I've ever made.

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Over medium heat, melt 1/3 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add in 3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used both sweet and semi-sweet chips), stir until melted. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool.
  • Whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time, then add in 1 tsp vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt. Pour into the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. 
  • Pour into a greased brownie pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Let cool then cut and enjoy.

Friday, March 21, 2014

100 Happy Days: Week Three

Week three is up!
Days 15-21 of 100 Happy Days.

Day 15: Friday.
Sick day.
A lovely day spent being lazy and watching Workaholics.
Friday night we brought our pup over to a friend's house for some Cranium and a doggie date. It was a great sick day.

Day 16: Saturday.
We slept in and John made me pancakes.
Then we got in the car and drove to Peterborough to see some friends that we haven't seen in awhile (also another doggie play date). They live on a lake so their property was gorgeous.
We spent the evening drinking wine and playing numerous board games. One of my favourites was this game called Doodle Dice... go find it. 

Day 17: Sunday.
After another lovely sleep in we woke up and decided to take the dog for a stroll across the frozen lake.
So absolutely beautiful. Even though there was a chill in the air, there was a warmth to the sun that felt like Spring wasn't too far off. 
Happiness was these two.

Day 18: Monday.
After a lovely weekend, Monday was a total 180. 
I knew there would be days where being happy would be a struggle and day 18 was the first.
I was frustrated and disappointed and angry and sad and a whole slew of other emotions.
It was hard to find anything to be happy about. 
When I finally got home from work I had a good cry and tried to move on from it. 
The pup had also cut her foot at the park and John had bandaged it up for her.
As hard as it was to find something to be happy about it that day, this little face with her wounded paw made me melt a bit. 

Day 19: Tuesday.
Still not feeling quite myself, I did a lot of thinking on my walk through the park with the pup and decided I felt better. 
I also decided I should get back to journaling as I did it a lot in my teens and found it to be a great way to keep track of thoughts and feelings, and it's the sometimes the best form of therapy.
You can vent out all of your problems without having to subject someone to your rambling. 
My mom had given me this notebook I think for Valentine's Day so I opened it up and started writing.
It's amazing how much less serious your problems seem sometimes once you've gotten them out of your head.

Day 20: Wednesday.
My only day off this week after picking up an extra shift on Thursday (then working straight through til Tuesday. Next Wednesday - come sooner!). It was a lazy one.
I had bought this t-shirt for John for Valentine's Day but it shrunk in the wash (it was already a more fitted shirt to begin with too) so he gave it to me. 
If you don't get the reference I'll direct you to the wonderful TV show Portlandia. 

Day 21: Thursday.
On my way home from work I picked up some items for dinner, including a bottle of wine, and then broke my Lent challenge.
I bought myself some new nail polish, specifically a matte top coat that I've been lusting after for awhile. 
I plan to make my nails matte black tonight. I've already done my toes (matte red) and I love it. 
It was a small purchase and I needed the pick me up so I don't feel bad at all about breaking my self imposed challenge of no spending.
In fact, I feel quite happy about it. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

100 Happy Days: week two

Continuing on with the 100 Happy Days project, I present to you week 2: Days 8-14

Day 8: Friday.
My happy thing was bedhead. 
Long hair doesn't suit the messy look (on me anyway) but my shorter 'do - the messier the better. 
After a nice sleep in and a long dog walk, my hair looked disheveled in the best way possible.
I'm rarely happy with my hair so this made me happy enough to take a goofy mirror selfie.

Day 9: Saturday
While I hate working nights on the weekend, I also love it. Here's why.
John is home.
Not only do I get to crawl into bed beside him for a some early morning snuggles, but he takes care of the pup for the day so I always sleep way longer and way better than I do when I try to sleep post weekday night shifts. 
On Saturday morning I woke up at around 4pm (that's almost a solid 8 hrs which is rare) and had a lazy few hours before I had to return to work. 
We watched some Twin Peaks (simultaneously great and weird as hell) and I got Reese to cuddle up in my nest*

*One's 'nest' is the area in the crook of one's knees where someone else can curl up in. It is akin to a bird's nest where the babies can rest. I credit my mother with coining this term. For a visual representation see above.

Day 10: Sunday
Two night shifts down, two to go. 
While scouring my apartment for food (at this point I thought we were waiting to see what weird creations we could create with the random food items we had before we caved and went grocery shopping), I came across a container of snacks that I had put on the top of the fridge. Among them were granola bars, All Bran bars, Special K cereal bars, peach & yogurt cookies, and a box of Girl Guide cookies.
It was as if the heavens had opened up and shone a light on this container.
After enjoying a few of the minty chocolate delicacies, I decided I would take the rest of the box to work with me to share with my co-workers because nurses like food.
Also, this was a convenient excuse for me to say, "I'll share them so I don't end up eating the whole box" and then eat the whole box on my 12 hour night shift.  

Day 11: Monday.
6 degrees.
I felt as though Spring was hinting at it's arrival after such a long, harsh winter.
Looking at the forecast showed we were due for another cold snap but this one day reprieve was enough to brighten my spirits after feeling just so bleepin' done with winter.
I'm a summer child in my bones.
Our walk through the park was a long one, sans hat & mittens for me and sans jacket for the pooch.
I can't wait for spring.

Day 12: Tuesday.
I got home from work around 8 am and rather than climb into bed, I decided I would nap on the couch amongst the hundreds of pillows. I often do this after my last night shift so that I only nap and not sleep in the hopes of falling asleep early and getting a decent sleep that night.
There are several things my pup really loves.
These include squirrels, the cat, anything anyone is eating, and items in the recycling bin.
Without fail she will take everything out of the recycling bin and leave a trail behind her.
When I woke up she had clearly found the best item: the Betty Crocker cake mix box.
Like mother like daughter.

Day 13: Wednesday.
Snow storm.
I watched it come down from 7 am when I arrived at work til 7 pm when I left work.
At times the wind was blowing so hard it seemed it was snowing sideways.
I thought I woke up from my nap on Tuesday feeling not so great, but I woke up this morning feeling even worse.
This cold has hooked it's claws into me. My nose is stuffed and runny, my head is congested and under so much pressure, and I'm constantly clearing my throat and swallowing to ease my sore throat.
After a long 12 hour workday, my happiest happiest moment was climbing into bed early to watch Parks & Rec with John.
And promptly falling asleep.

 Day 14: Thursday.
Sick sick sick.
I slept in til 10 am but then real life reared it's ugly head and I had to go to work.
In hindsight I should have called in sick first thing in the morning but I thought as the morning progressed that I would feel better.
Not so much unfortunately.
I did put myself down as sick for tomorrow though so I have a lovely 3 day weekend coming up.
During my lazy morning, before work, I watched some Netflix and cozied up with my friends kleenex, sinus medication, and tea with lemon & honey.
I also finally caught the full finale of the Bachelor.... what a doozy.
That guy is the worst.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Healthy Chicken Fried Rice

On Wednesday night I wanted to make a nice dinner but I realized we had very little food in the house.
I knew I would use the roast chicken my dad had so kindly brought us, so I scoured the cupboards and the fridge for other items to go with it.
I happened upon a bag of brown rice from when I had tried to go on a cleanse to cure my bloating.
I decided I would make a healthier chicken fried rice entree.

It's really easy to make, much healthier than the kind you'd get at a Chinese restaurant, and you can customize it to include the vegetables you like. 
  • Make your brown rice. Follow the instructions on the bag but you can generally expect to follow the 2:1 ratio of water to rice. Also the rice I made takes 30-35 minutes to cook so do this first.
  • If you don't have pre-cooked chicken (as I did), now would also be a good time to get that chicken in the oven.
  • In a pan over medium heat, sautee 1 white onion until translucent (or not if you like a little more crunch) in 1 tbsp olive oil. Add in 1 stalk of celery, diced, broccoli, and fry until broccoli has softened. Add in spinach. Reduce heat to low and cook until spinach is wilted. Again, feel free to add in whatever veggies you want. 
  • Push the veggies to one side. Crack 1-2 eggs (depending on how many you're feeding and how much you like eggs) into the empty pan space and scramble them. 
  • Mix your cooked brown rice into the veggies and egg. Add in your chicken, cut into appropriately sized pieces, and mix it all together.
  • Serve and enjoy.
That's it.
It's not a spectacularly fancy or original recipe but it was really good for something I made on the fly. 
Try making your own (and healthier) version of some of your favourite take out items.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

100 Happy Days: week one

As I mentioned last week, I embarked on the 100 Happy Days challenge.
Week one went well, although sometimes I felt like I was picking something that made me happy too early that day, or reusing something similar from a day before.
But does that matter? 
Whatever makes me happy.
I've found I'm identifying multiple things to snap a picture of and then having to narrow it down to one to be my happy thing for the day.
The more things you have to be happy about the better.
So without further ado, here is week one, days 1-7 of my 100 Happy Days

Day 1: Friday.
John and I went out for dinner with our good friends (faces blocked out of respect for their privacy) who are expecting a baby in July. We feasted on Indian food, a favourite of mine. 
Besides being able to catch up over delicious food, the thing that made me happiest was that upon greeting each other, as we took our jackets off, my friend asked, "are you wearing stripes?"

Day 2: Saturday.
I originally meant to take a picture of my feet and John's feet in bed with the sunlight coming in through our bedroom window while we lazed in bed, but I didn't want to ruin the moment.
Many things to be happy about on Saturday - a quiet day + dog walk with my best friend and her pooch, wine with my sister, a visit with some other friends in the evening. 
My main problem is that I enjoy the moment and forget to try and capture it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 
Look up the lyrics to 3x5 by John Mayer, one of my favourite songs.
Day 2 is a delicious breakfast of leftover Indian food incorporated into scrambled eggs & more broadly representative of my love for breakfast.

Day 3: Sunday.
Another day to sleep in and wake up to a full pot of coffee.
John and I had brunch with my best friend and her husband.
I got the grand slam because, as previously mentioned, I love breakfast.
I worked in the evening and I was quite thankful for a quiet shift that allowed for the nurses to sneak away between med times and providing care to watch some of the Academy Awards.
I didn't want to post a picture from work because I'm always afraid somehow I will overlook something and break confidentiality of a patient.
Day three was the first day I felt I repeated myself with a food picture.
I was quite pleased with the way my homemade salsa turned out (1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 onion, 1/2 jar of diced roasted red peppers in oil and handful of parsley all blended together) so I mixed it with some chicken and tossed it on top of some spinach.

Day 4: Monday.
After an early morning visit to the vet (a one week check up post spaying), Reese was okayed to play off leash in the park again. 
My happiness was seeing how happy she was to be able to leap and bound through the snow at full speed again, to play with other dogs, and to finally let out that built up energy.

Day 5: Tuesday
After working my first of 5 night shifts this week I was very happy for my giant mug of coffee.
I find that the first night is always the hardest, as I only really do 5 a month now and they are all in the same week. 
This means I get a 3 week vacation from nights every month which is fantastic but also means that that first night back is going to be a long & sleepy one.
After a solid 4-ish hours of sleep this morning I was up to take the dog to the park. And though I intended to come home and try to take another nap before heading back to work, I instead did the dishes and made myself breakfast ... and a pot of coffee.
My fondness for oversized mugs and my fondness for maps combined here to make this my happy thing for the day

Day 6: Wednesday
Early Wednesday morning I was tired at work, waiting for 7:30 am to roll around, but I knew I was going home to sleep in my own bed for the next two nights.
In the wee hours of the morning, the quiet ones on those lucky nights where everyone in the house is sleeping, I made myself some raisin toast and read through the paper from the day before.
Quiet moments before the morning rush.

Day 7: Thursday
My full day off. I woke up at 11:30 am after catching up on the sleep I'd been deprived of during my night shifts and resigned myself to a lazy dog of dog walks, tv shows (True Detective!) and a luxurious bubble bath.
I love baths. And I hadn't taken the time to lounge in one for awhile so Thursday's was like being at the spa. It's amazing how something so simple can put you so at ease.

And that wraps up week one of 100 Happy Days.
Join in if you haven't already and let me know what some of your happy things are.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lent: the challenge of giving things up

I'm not a religious person but every year I feel the temptation to try and give something up for lent.
Usually it's chocolate or pop or junk food ... and usually the attempt fails.
Because let's be serious, 40 days is a long time (46 actually but Sundays are essentially cheat days according to

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras (we had pancakes for breakfast today so... early celebrations?) and Wednesday is the start of Lent.

Since giving up anything food related would be in direct contradiction to my 2014 goal to not give up foods or diet, I have decided to embark on a much more challenging Lent challenge:

No selfish spending.


With the exception of bills and life necessities like groceries (maybe the odd bottle of wine... unless I can convince people to buy them for me...), I am going to try not to spend any money.

This stems from my recent calculation of how much money I made in 2013... and how much I have to show for it.
I doubled (and then some) the amount I made in 2012 and yet.... 

I suppose I do have a bit in savings and in a TFSA but not enough.

So this challenge is the start of a longer challenge in which I stop spending frivolously and bulk up my savings so that owning a house is a closer reality.

It's going to be a tough 40/46 days (we'll see if I can avoid the Sundays but maybe I'll give myself a $25 limit on Sundays if I'm struggling) without going out for dinner/food/drinks, no new clothes, etc.

Anyone else giving something up for lent?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Happy List Redux: The 100 Happy Days Challenge

I didn't do a Happy List for February because I want to put a different spin on it for a little while.

For 100 days to be exact.
Inspired by friends & family on Instagram, I'm going to start the 100 Happy Days challenge.
I can guarantee that I won't be happy all day for 100 days but if this helps me find things to be happy about on those days when things don't feel like they're going my way then the challenge will have worked.

Want to join in?

Go to the 100 Happy Days website for the official instructions (it's not overly complicated, basically just don't use this challenge to make people jealous of your fabulous life).
Then upload your pictures to Instagram or twitter or Facebook using the #100happydays hashtag.
Or do what I plan to do: a weekly round-up of the things that have made me happy each day of the week. 
Fridays will be my round-up day and I'll post my happy things here.
Feel free to send me your happy things for inspiration or if you just want to share them.

100 Happy Days starts now!