March 28, 2015

One last Blast of Winter means Stew is on the Stove | #WhatsCooking

I've been living in Southwestern Ontario for almost 19 years, you'd think by now I would be used to winter not wanting to end. The last two years, we've had extremely long and brutally cold winter months, so when the calendar said it was spring.... I would actually like to experience it.

It doesn't help that my entire family in British Columbia are lovingly posting pictures of cherry blossoms, green grass and daffodils. :)

So while my family and friends are posting pictures like this...

Photo Credit: Lindsay from Becoming a Bolder Being

I'm posting pictures like this....

Photo Credit: Canadian Teenology contributors

Yes, it's my daughter and her friends. They decided to do a photo shoot during "Spring" break. :)

To keep me warm this March, I spent Spring Break making delicious winter foods, like Beef Stew! Whether it's prepared on the stove or in a crock-pot, the feeling of comfort you get from a hot bowl of hearty goodness on a cold, snow day, is still the same.

Do you have a family recipe that you make or do you like to vary your recipe from time to time?

My beef stew always has the must-have's of stewing beef, carrots and potatoes but the rest seems to come about based on what is in my kitchen at the moment.

My Spring Break Beef Stew
For those of us who are still experiencing a chilly winter day... this recipe is for you! ENJOY!!

 Slow Cooker Classic Beef Stew

What you'll need:

7 slices bacon, but into 1-inch pieces
1 boneless bottom blade pot roast (2 lb/900 g), but into 2-inch pces.
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup dry red wine
1 lb. (450 g) each baby carrots and quartered fresh mushrooms (I cut up large carrots and my kids don't like mushrooms, so I left those out)
1 pkg. (284 g) pearl onions, peeled (I had a small white onion on hand)
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minched
1 cup 25%-less-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup Bull's-Eye Guinness Draught Beer Blend BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup Kraft Calorie-Wise sun-dried tomato & oregano dressing
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

What you'll do:

Cook and stir bacon in large skillet on medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet with slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. drippings from skillet.

Todd meat with flour, Add to drippings in skillet; cook 6 min. or until evenly browned, stiring occassionally. Spoon into slow cooker.

Add wine to skillet; bring to boil, stirring constantly to scrape browned bits from bottom of skillt/ Cook and stir 2 min.; pour over meat. Add carrots, mushrooms, onions, celery and garlic.

Whisk broth, BBQ sauce and dressing until blended; pour over vegetables. Cover with lid; cook on LOW 8-9 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours).

Stir in Parsley.

Variation: Omit wine, increase beef broth to 2 cups, using 1 cup to deglaze the skillet, and remaining to mix with the barbecue sauce and dressing as directed.

I am part of Kraft Canada What's Cooking Ambassadorship. I receive compensation in return for bringing you some delicious recipes. Ones I make often in my home for my family.

March 27, 2015

Sexiest Coffee Mugs Ever! (US Giveaway) #LBandMe

There is nothing more important to me than my first cup of coffee in the morning. It's a running joke that you don't talk to me until the mug is empty. My friends tag me weekly in photos on Facebook about coffee. It's not a secret that I love my cup of Joe.

This pretty much sums it up...


I was first introduced to Luigi Bormioli, the World's leading Glassware Maker, last year by a friend of mine. My china cabinet is now bursting at the seams with Italian glass. Every time I go shopping, I stop by the glassware section to see if I can find any more to add to my collection. So far, I have purchased for myself, a set of Magnifico large bowl for red wine (for guests, I'm allergic to red), a set of Romantica Wine for white, a set of Romantica flutes for champagne, a set of Canalleto DOF barware for when I'm in the mood for Pumpkin Spiced Whiskey and Coke (thanks Mom for introducing me to that odd combination!). They truly have a #GlassforEveryOccasion.

My friends are beginning to ask me why so many different glasses, what's the big deal?! There is a reason you need to choose the right glass. In particular, it makes your wine taste better!!

But back to my love for coffee.... 

Last week, Luigi sent me a couple sets from their Thermic Collection to add to my ever-growing personal collection. When I posted this picture on my Facebook wall, the response was crazy. One phrase that kept coming up... "sexiest mug ever!"

My coffee never looked so good. It is such a beautiful mug. It is handmade, super light-weight, and dishwasher safe to boot!!

#LBandMe

So I asked the company if I could give away a set of Thermic Cafe mugs and they said YES. :)

Our Thermic collection is handmade of double wall borosilicate glass. Due to the borosilicate material, our finely constructed glasses are both microwave and dishwasher safe.  Glasses from our Thermic collection will maintain the hot or cold temperature of drinks while the double wall design prevents condensation to the outer surface.  At first glance, this beautiful collection seems extremely delicate but its lightweight construction has superior strength and durability. - Luigi Bormioli, website.

How would you like to win a set?!


A set contains 2 mugs. Enter here (open to the Continental United States only, no P.O. Boxes please, contest ends April 14, 2015 @ 12AM EST):

a Rafflecopter giveaway  


Disclaimer: I was provided product for my own personal use, because I liked it so much, I asked if I could offer my readers a chance to win the product. Opinions are my own.

March 19, 2015

Are you ready for whatever life brings? Join #ManulifeReady on Twitter March 24 @ 9pm ET to WIN BIG cash prizes!


Join us on Twitter Tuesday March 24th @ 9pm EST for a Twitter Party of HUGE proportions!! We'll be giving away over $3,000 in cash prizes.

We want to make sure you don't miss this night online. Here are the details you will need to know.

Hashtag: #ManulifeReady
Twitter Handles to Follow: @Manulife @ShashersLife and @HartGalla
Date: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Time: 9:00pm EST
Mandatory RSVP
Be sure you read all the Rules & Regulations first.

In the meantime, you can get involved in ANOTHER contest from Manulife, "What's Your Door?"

We are having a great time on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, sharing photos of the various doors in our lives. Whether it's the door to your first home, the door from the hospital where your child was born, the door to your first car, a door to your dream vacation, your office door, or your bedroom door... We want to hear what impact that door has had on your life!

If you join the conversation, you could WIN $2,500!!!! 

CONTEST ENDS MARCH 22, 2015 @ 12AM EST 
  • Post a photo on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram of a physical door in your past, present and/or future and tell us why it’s important for you. 
  • Use the hashtag #ManulifeReady 
  • Have fun and post as many photos as you want! 
  • Be sure to read the Rules and Regulations first. (Hint: Open to Canada, excluding QC)

Good luck to you all, I can't wait to see whose door wins!


Are You Ready for whatever life brings?!

Pssst! Before you go, don't forget to RSVP for the Twitter Party on Tuesday, March 24th.

Disclaimer: This campaign is brought to you by Manulife, my paid client, under Splash Media Engagement. Opinions are my own.

March 18, 2015

Broken Bones and all that Jazz

It was the afternoon of January 18th, I was enjoying a peaceful afternoon between church services. The kids had been farmed out to friends, it was just me and the cat. It was every mother's dream, a little peace and quiet at last!

Shortly before dinner a call came in. My third child was hurt. He'd been tobogganing with his friend, seeing who could get to the bottom of the hill the fastest. Liam was determined to win!

When all of a sudden...



Laughter quickly turned into screams and those screams didn't stop. Tears didn't stop. He was hurt. Not just a little hurt, but a lot hurt. Hurt for reals.



The only winner in this race was the fence. 

The loser... his collarbone.


The following month was like caring for a newborn again. He was on liquid codeine for the first two weeks. He couldn't get out of bed by himself, he couldn't go to the washroom or take a bath by himself. His pain tolerance is very low and the pain he was experiencing was high. Every time someone would brush past his shoulder, he'd cry out in agony.

A month in, he fell down the stairs, doing damage to the healing bone. Setting us back a bit with his pain levels, his healing process and with his mental status.

I could see a sadness forming behind his eyes. 
 
We tried to send him back to school. A couple hours into the day, the school would call me to come get him. He was crying, saying he was in too much pain. I kept trying. I kept sending him back.

Until one day...

He called me from the school, he wanted to come home. I stood my ground and said NO. Enough was enough, he had to push through and stay in school. He was sent back to his class.

Around thirty minutes later the school office called me back. He didn't make it back to his class so she went looking for him, a male staff was sent into the boys bathroom. There he lay, face down, by the toilet, passed out.

When they brought him to the office, he was shaking uncontrollably, his lips looked like he'd been stung by a bee, there were blisters surrounding his mouth. He was in shock.

We spent the next 12 hours at the hospital, getting poked, prodded, pricked, and pressed.


In trying to get to the bottom of why he passed out, he told me a few boys had been pushing him around. His shoulder was hurting even more now. When he asked for help getting one of his books off the top shelf in his locker, they mocked. No one helped. He felt like the halls were closing in.

This wasn't the first time he'd been teased or pushed around in school.

He has never enjoyed school, not from day one. Each year I've met with the teachers to hear how bright he is, but doesn't want to do the work. Each year I've asked for assistance, I've asked for support, I've asked for testing. At the end of Grade 6, the principal from his last school told him to his face, "You can do the work, you're just being lazy." I almost came unglued.

He's the kid who spends more alone time in the school yard than playing with his classmates. He's the kid who rarely gets invited to birthday parties. Yet, he is the kid who lights up the room when he enters it. His smile melts hearts. His gentleness calms souls. He has quick whit and a love for facts and figures. And jokes, boy does he love to tell jokes. We tell him he'll be a great actor one day. 

But this time, he couldn't take it anymore, this time he had a severe panic attack.

I was blown away with the kindness of others after this whole incident took place. Friends far and wide came over to visit, to sit and talk with him and to make sure I was OK. A friend of mine dropped off my favourite wine, treats and a card, but most importantly, she brought with her a hug.


My friend and author, Ann Douglas, saw what we were going through and shipped her latest book, "Parenting Through the Storm" to me. Which I've been devouring and is AMAZING. In fact, it is so great, when I saw a friend going through a hard time with her kids, I sent her a copy! #PayItForward


For two Saturdays in a row, his Junior Youth leader from church came by the house to play games with him and him alone. His best friend's family (from church) came over with a present for him and food for us. And others came by from church at different times to see how he was doing. His older brother's youth group was at our house and loved on him with words of affirmation and prayed for him.


Our house was filled to the brim with love. 

One night we had a surprise guest show up at our home to take him out for dinner (along with his older brother). Do you recall my stories about my favourite summer camp (Ontario Pioneer Camp) in the Muskokas? The place which stole my heart last summer when one of the counselors SAW my son for the awesome kid he is? If you don't remember, read about it here, "When a Boy is Seen for his Awesomeness." He came for a visit to help lift Liam's spirit.




Liam's face beamed for hours! We couldn't get him to stop talking.

Our community came around us like a big warm hug. It refreshed me, it renewed my hope and it got me to the point where I could stand without worrying about the future for our son. The kindness of others helps bring healing!

Next steps for our son...

In talking to the principal, it was determined that because he is so far behind in Grade 7, the recent episode in the bathroom, and their inability to provide him with the necessary tools to learn how to cope better while in school, that he should stay home for the remainder of the year.

It wasn't an easy decision but we've decided it is best for him to keep him home. Homeschooling will be a challenge and adjustments in life will have to be made but thankfully my husband also has a flexible schedule and will co-teach. The city I live in is packed with homeschooling groups, the support system in our church is beyond amazing, and of course the friends and family I couldn't live without, are the biggest group of cheerleaders we could ever have asked for. 

We are far from alone in this journey and that makes a world of difference!