Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hello, meal time convenience ----------------- Hello Fresh Review + Discount Code!

Hello fresh
Time is definitely my most precious commodity these days... there are moments when I feel like I have all the time in the world (like from 10pm to 3am) and then there are times when I feel like everything needs to be done within the same 2 hours... Dinner time at our house has been slightly chaotic since I have returned to work! For the most part I haven't taken the time to make meal plans as I usually would on the weekends - instead I am doing everything else and trying to have as much playtime with my Little Dude as possible before the work weeks starts again.
Hello fresh

Living in rural New Brunswick I can't just order take-out or have pizza delivered to my door if I'm having a busy week (which these days, is every week!) - When I learned about HelloFresh from a fellow East Coast Blogger (Kayla, of Short Presents) it seemed to good to be true! Having healthy ingredients delivered to my door for me to cook up in 30 minutes was something I just had to try. I ordered our first box almost immediately and then was in touch with the company who also thought we would be a great fit to try out the service. We are now on our third box and it's safe to say that I'm hooked on HelloFresh!

By now you are probably wondering "What is HelloFresh anyway?!" 
Allow me to explain...

HelloFresh is a fresh food service where "Chef-curated recipes based on seasonal farm fresh ingredients, delivered to your doorstep every week."

Hello fresh

How it works - "We plan, We Shop, You Cook"

It is pretty simple... there is even a short video available

1) Choose your plan - Pronto, Family or Veggie 
2) They create tasty recipes for you to choose from (choose 3 per week from the 4 offered)
3) They do the shopping and send pre-measured /cut ingredients to your doorstep + FREE shipping!
4) You do the cooking by following the step by step instructions provided for you

Bonus - the subscription is 100% flexible! you can pause your subscription or cancel at anytime. It really is "risk free"! You can check out the terms and conditions for further details.
Hello fresh

Why I Am Hooked on Hello Fresh
  • I travel for work, the Mr. travels for work and Little Dude hasn't quite figured out grocery shopping yet... it is so convenient and fabulous to come home to a HelloFresh box vs. a can of soup (again!)
  • We can eat well and plan less
  • We spend more time cooking together and enjoying Little Dude rather than figuring out what we are going to eat
  • I learned a few new cooking tricks and learned some sauce recipes that I will make again without a doubt
  • I felt like I treated my husband to a gourmet meal... It's like we are eating restaurant food (but healthier) at home.
  • We tried foods and combinations of foods that we would have otherwise only tried in a restaurant 
Hello fresh

What I Wasn't Sure About, But Was Pleasantly Surprised By

Like any new product or service I was skeptical to try it and thought there must be something wrong with it... well, there wasn't. In case you are wondering, here were the things I was worried about...

1) How will the box / food stay cold (and fresh)? The food is delivered in an insulated box. The meat is on the bottom, on ice packs, with a layer of cardboard in the middle and then three boxes of all the other ingredients on top. The ice was completely frozen for both of my deliveries so far and everything was cold in the box.

2) Will the portion size be big enough? The Mr. and I have pretty good appetites and the worst case scenario would be to make a delicious meal only to not have enough. Even when I opened the box it still didn't look like enough... but was thrilled that this was not the case for any of the 6 meals we've had so far! In fact, if Little Dude wanted to share there would definitely be enough to make him a small plate as well.

3) Will I receive good value for the price? I chose the Pronto plan (3 meals a week for 2 people) which is $79.99/week. At first I thought this was pretty pricy, but after seeing the quality of the ingredients (sirloin steak for example!) knowing that there are discount codes (see below!) available to get you started and experiencing the convenience of this service I am sold. I haven't done a precise price comparison at a grocery store but my estimate is that it would cost me between $40-$60 just for the ingredients, not including the time to make a meal plan, go shopping etc. So in my view, $79.99 delivered t your door is great value for the price!
Hello fresh

What I Didn't Like So Much

I learned that I am not very good, or just choose not to, follow the instructions. In order to make these meals the way they are intended to taste I had to put my inner Julia Child aside and follow what was on the instruction card. Thankfully, I did follow the instructions because we have LOVED every single meal even though I was not always sure about the ingredients or about the steps suggested.

I really hate dishes and the downside to making a new meal every night is that you have dishes every night. That said, the meals are certainly worth washing a dish or two... You may find me ordering for 4 people in the future to have left-overs for the next day with a single dose of dishes (I know, I know, I am getting pretty lazy...)
Hello fresh
If fresh, fancy and fabulous food is what you're looking for I would highly recommend trying out HelloFresh! to make it even easier (awesome, I know!) you can even get $50 off you first box to try it out!


Thinking of trying out HelloFresh?! 

Use code JENMACD to receve $50 off your first box! 

Still not sure about HelloFresh and/or have some questions I didn't cover? Comment here or drop me a line on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and I'll tell you everything I know. Let me know if you sign up - I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the service.


My Shoes for that: Old Navy Sandals (only $26! And, YES, I am excited for spring shoes!)

Thanks to HelloFresh for sending us a Pronto Box to test out the service. As always, my opinions are my own.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

It's all about the effort

It's all about the effort
It's all about the effort --- this title has me singing Meghan Trainor's It's all about that bass in my head while also being so thankful for all of the "effort" that has been thrown my way over the past few weeks. Lately (since Little Dude was born really...) I don't feel like I have been very good at the "effort" when it comes to gifts, going the extra mile for an occasion or really for much of anything.

In My First Mother's Day post I referenced Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day for that matter, as holidays that we celebrate because we are "supposed" to but not because we really want to. I am going back on what I said a little bit here, because this year seemed to be different than any other year as far as Valentine's Day goes. In our extremely crazy schedules it seemed timely that there was a holiday to remind me (us) to do something a little extra special for the one person you just can't live without.

This year I decided to buy the Mr. the fitbit blaze he has had his eye on. Based on having never purchased a Valentine's Day gift for the Mr. before, this was a pretty extravagant first gift! I decided to "go big or go home" since I felt like I dropped the ball on Christmas, Birthday and Father's Day (even though he would disagree and tell you I'm crazy). This Valentine's Day gift was certainly not going to replace my lack of effort for the previous holidays but I felt it was a start. Side Note: The gift was a huge success and VERY appreciated, so I am taking this one as a win!

HOWEVER - In the week leading up to Valentine's Day and in the weeks since the Mr. and our families have gone out of their way to really show an effort...

The Mr. - I was in Vancouver, BC the week before Valentine's Day and of course there were two snow storms in the time my car was parked at the airport which was going to make for quite a job of digging it out when I was scheduled to land at midnight Friday night. I received a text Friday afternoon between flights from the Mr. that he went to the airport on his lunch hour and shovelled all around my car so I wouldn't have to worry about it when I landed and could get home quicker. Seriously?! This is so above and beyond what could ever be expected and so extremely appreciated! Then to top it off he came home with roses in hand on Valentine's Day which I know took some coordination on his part with the schedule he was juggling that day. These two things, both acts of pure kindness and love showed so much effort. 
It's all about the effort


My Mama - I went to pick up Little Dude at her house after work and she had two pieces of chicken cooked and in containers for the Mr. and I to have for dinner or for our lunches the next day. As if looking after him, feeding him and bathing him wasn't good enough of her to do that day?! Then... a few days later she was sick (something she picked up from Little Dude) but still took him for the day and made me dinner for when I came to pick him up. There is honestly no material gift that could exceed the value of her effort!

The Mr.'s Mom - I have no idea, but I think it must be tough to share your son with another women. I can't imagine sharing Little Dude and he is just barely 16 months old. The Mr.'s Mom (and Dad) visited this weekend and she showed up with all of my favourites in hand... skor bar squares, aeroroot squares, brown sugar fudge and brown sugar fudge with caramilk bars. To get all of these ingredients and make all four desserts would have quite easily taken an afternoon. The effort to do this before visiting and then doing everything she can possibly do at our house to make our lives easier is more effort than anyone could ever expect!

At the end of the day remember this: It is not about fancy gifts, its about the effort. But, don't be too hard on yourself... when you really don't have time to make an effort in a symbolic way, the effort you made to get someone a gift or write a note to show you are thinking of them is equally as appreciated! 

A little really does go a long way.

My shoes for that: Tory Burch 'Miller' Flip Flop in Spark Gold (the shoes the Mr. bought me for Valentine's Day this year... full disclaimer, I picked them out but gave him FULL credit! Shhhhh. Our little secret)
It's all about the effort


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tantalus Riesling

Tantalus Riesling
Name: Tantalus
Varietal: Riesling
Country: Canada (British Columbia)
Vintage: 2015

Why did I decide to try this wine? On a recent trip to Vancouver, BC I went for a dinner with a sea port colleague from the west coast of Canada. We went to a sushi restaurant and he selected this wine as “one he knew would be good with sushi” – and it was from BC so he was able to fly the flag a little bit.

Would I prefer one glass or indulge in the bottle? Glass. As a rule this wine is too sweet for my taste, however paired with sushi, it was very good!

Tantalus RieslingWhat shoes would I wear drinking this wine? Eating sushi in Vancouver in the middle of one of their worst winters while drinking sweet BC Riesling… a pretty hard scenario /wine to match shoes with! So, I am pairing the shoes a little bit more to the city than the wine, but I think it works either way. Sperry 'saltwater' duck boots!


How would I describe the wine? Sweet and fruity. I realize that is probably the shortest description ever, but since this wine was had over dinner I spent just as much time talking and eating as I did thinking about the wine…

Side Note: The next time I try this wine it will be with guacamole based on the 2016 Year in Wine's recommendations from the experts at Vivino!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Little Dude's Valentine Craft

I love any excuse to do crafts! My Little Dude is old enough now to participate and have fun making crafts with me, so homemade Valentine paintings for grandparents...here we come!
Little Dude's Valentine Craft

You can't really go wrong with a homemade gift, especially for grandparents! My grandparents still have Christmas ornaments on their tree that I made when I was a toddler and they reminisce about them every year. I really want Little Dude's grandparents to have keepsakes that he made that they too can cherish over the years. 

I chose a painting project to attempt to show off the insanely talented crafting skills of their grandson... the craft truly was a success and one I would recommend to all, but of course there are a few elements to consider when painting with a baby/toddler:

1) Your baby/toddler may (correction, will) try to eat the paint! Be aware of this and ready to grab those little fingers away from their mouths!
2) You as well as your baby will get full of paint - have another adult or someone who can prepare the bath tub at home so you don't end up with a painted house!
3) I thought my Little Dude would want to do finger painting... he did not. He wanted to use the sponge brush I had. Not an issue, but be careful when that brush is being waved around in the air!
4) Just because the painting is "finished" doesn't necessarily mean your little one wants to stop painting - be ready for a bit of a fit and have some fun bath toys ready to change their mind when onto the next activity, bath time! 

What you need:
  • Canvas (you choose the size) 
  • Painters tape (you choose the thickness) 
  • Paint - we used red, pink and white craft paint from Dollarama
  • Sponge brush (this is optional, but as mentioned my Little Dude didn't want to use his fingers...)
  • Paper plates/bowls - use these to put the paint in
  • Cloth/Mat for the floor - I used an old table cloth from Dollarama that I have painted on before. this makes clean up WAY easier (and saves your floors!)
Step 1: Tape letters on your canvas & prepare your painting area (do this during nap time!)
Little Dude's Valentine Craft

Step 2: Paint with your baby (have the second adult prepare a bath for when you're done!)
Little Dude's Valentine Craft

Step 3: Let the paint dry and remove the tape slowly
Little Dude's Valentine Craft

Finished product! Don't forget to write your child's name and the date on the back!
Little Dude's Valentine Craft

Happy Valentine's Day! 



Little dude's Valentine craft




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DIY Valentine for Babies + free print out

DIY valentine for babies
There are so many things to figure out as a parent. It's kind of ironic how a toaster (probably the most straight forward appliance ever) comes with a manual and yet a baby come with no instruction whatsoever. Which leads me to Valentine's Day at daycare...

Do you send cards, not send cards, to all the kids, just the kids in your child's group, gifts, no gifts... what is the correct answer?! At Little Dude's daycare the answer is "do whatever you would like, however here is the list should you wish to send cards, etc.". I have decided that regular old purchased cards are enough for all the kids not in Little Dude's group and that his friends will get something a little nicer.

As usual I am reining myself in here - I don't want to go crazy and overboard but at the same time don't want to give the lame gift. Right away I started thinking about what to get for a bunch of 1 year olds that will be a crowd pleaser when I was reminded of a marketing 101 rule: know your audience. For example when you market dog food, you market it to the owner, not the dog - the owner is the one going to make the purchase after all. so in this case the Valentine is for the babies, but you are really trying to impress the other parents.

Of course, I consulted Pinterest and started to plan the perfect Valentine gift for all Little Dude's friends at daycare. The daycare workers had told me that most people give some kind of food, so I was trying to find something that was not food to stand out from the crowd a little.

I came across a Pin for a "You knock my socks off!" valentine with a pair of socks and LOVED the idea! I mean, how adorable is that?! And, every baby can use another pair of socks!
DIY valentine for babies
I hit the computer, created this Free Print Out which I am happy to share with you all and then went shopping for socks. the print out folds in half so you should end up with one side looking like the picture above and the back side with a heart and a place to put the "To/Fr" info. 

I was lucky to find socks on sale at Joe Fresh, but also found a few options online at Joe Fresh (for girls and boys) and at Old Navy.

Simple and original - print the print out (click here), buy some socks, package them together and voila! You have just created an awesome Valentine for babies!


PS Check out the finished product on Instagram and don't forget to follow me while you're there :)


Monday, February 6, 2017

Thriving Through Change

thriving through change

As the saying goes "time flies when you're having fun". I have now been back to work for three months!

Thriving though change
Image from www.giphy.com
There have been highs, lows, and everything in between. I am not sure if "fun" is the exact word I would use to describe the past three months, but it has most certainly flown by.

Before I went on maternity leave I was used to my life. I was comfortable with who my boss was at work, comfortable with my cooking abilities at home and comfortable with my life in general. Now... I can't say that I am really comfortable with anything. And really, that's a good thing! When you are comfortable you become complacent and that is never how I would want to describe myself or have others think of me.

The Mr. came up with the title of this post based on some materials he has been working in at work. When he said i I immediately loved the title, but also thought it was pretty ironic. Jenna the mom thriving through change - I have always been comfortable being Jenna the career women trying to change the world, but who hated change. To be honest, I still hate change. I know it brings good things and progress won't be made without it but I love the idea that things can stay the same, people will always be the same and everything in my world will remain unchanged. I know, that is not realistic, especially with a baby! Change happens on nearly an hourly basis with a baby around (and not just diaper changes!)

Since returning to work I have noticed 6 key things that are dramatically different now that I go to work everyday and there is a child in our household:

Image from www.giphy.com
1) Routines - Although the contradicts the ongoing changes that are occurring, routines are absolutely essential to maintain some type of order. Why is routine important for babies? Aside from that routines help to increase childhood development, help babies understand the concept of sequencing which help to build their confidence. As someone who loves schedules, routines (although flexible) make our household function and ensure that I get my teeth brushed before leaving the house everyday! It might sound funny, but brushing your own teeth is one of those little things that gets over-looked in the mad dash mornings while focused on getting everyone and everything else ready.

2) "I have to go" - I used to stay at work late and never be the fist one out the door. "I have to go" was never something my colleagues would have heard from me (or the Mr.'s from him for that matter). Now, I still get everything done, but the minute the clock strikes 4:30pm I am like Cinderella leaving the ball at mid-night. I can't get out the door fast enough - get to daycare, pick up Little Dude, drive home, supper time, playtime, bedtime and *breathe*. It's a crazy routine but a routine none the less that all begins with me saying "I have to go".

3) Don't sweat the small stuff - So much easier said than done, but being back at work has really reinforced this point. There are items I deeply cared about before that now I cannot understand why I spent time or energy on something so menial. Being a mom has changed how I look at almost everything and has carried over into my approach in the workplace as well. I think my colleagues would agree this change has been for the better... (hopefully?!)

4) Convenience is key - Little Dude is incredibly fussy when it comes to meal time. Combine this with my lack of patience and it doesn't make for the happiest dinner time. Not long ago I was telling my Dad about how Little Dude wants to eat alphagetti all the time and how this was making me feel inadequate since all the other moms are feeding their babie sophistocated homemade meals. His answer was this: "Have you ever heard of a baby dying from eating alphagetti?" I answered: "no". He followed up with: "So why not feed him what he likes and enjoy your evenings together?" - Obviously he made his point and Little Dude has alphgetti for dinner that evening. I think I could go on about this topic for a while (another post idea perhaps?!), but the message is do whatever makes your life easier. In the constant rush of the day and getting everything done if you can find anything to help alleviate some of the load - just do it!

5) Work Life Balance - I really have nothing to say here except that I know it is important and I have to figure it out. Your tips and advice are more than welcome!

Weekend
Image from www.giphy.com
6) Appreciate the Weekend - Everyone (even those who work shift work or work weekends) looks forward to the weekend! The weekend before was a time to sleep in, do a bit of cooking, go somewhere, etc. Now it has so much more meaning. The weekend represents two full days that you can break the rules and stray from the routine ever so slightly to do some fun activities that weekdays would never allow for. It means family time, hockey night in Canada, endless episodes of Paw Patrol and time to remember the people that matter the most. Appreciate the weekends and don't waste them!

I know the changes have only just begun, the time will continue to fly by and there will be many more cans of alphagetti served at our house. For now I am doing my best the thrive through change and wish you the same! If you know someone heading back to work soon from maternity leave share this post with them - hopefully it will help them thrive through change as well.

My shoes for that: Michael Kors Plum Flats - with everything else changing around me I am so happy I can reply on Michael Kors to provide my favourite flats in a variety of colors each season! Side Note: The Mr. bought me these ones for Christmas :)







Friday, February 3, 2017

Super Bowl Salsa

There are a few things that make a weekend complete in my house - a good walk outside, hockey night in Canada, Sunday football and some kind of meal that involves salsa. 
Super Bowl Salsa

This weekend will be no exception, especially with the Super Bowl to watch! The Mr.'s team is playing for the championship and we are going to a friend's place to watch the game as we have been doing for years now. As the adults in the house we are both pretty pumped that we have a good sporting event to watch and that we are getting a night out (thanks to Nanny for babysitting!)

Salsa as I said is one of our favourite side dishes... we eat it with eggs, on nachos, on wraps, and the list goes on. A little while back I found this recipe on pinterest (Via Dawn's recipes) that I have since adapted to our taste and have made countless times.

The recipe makes a good portion so if you are looking for something a little different that is sure to be a crowd pleaser to bring to your Super Bowl party this weekend - this salsa is for you!
        Super Bowl Salsa
A little tip here... really and kind of tomato will do the trick, but roma tomatoes have less seeds making them WAY less messy and easier to work with for this kind of a recipe.
        Super Bowl SalsaSuper Bowl Salsa
My "1 can kernal corn" always has about for teaspoons missing - I can't hepl but have a few bites while preparing the salsa...I just LOVE corn!
Super Bowl Salsa
Don't make this with any other type of onion! I have tried it and the flavour of the salsa is completely different - who would have thought that 1/4 cup of red onion would pack so much punch?! Also, above you see a piture of the red onions missing their centers after it has been sliced (but before being diced). If you want to avoid crying while cutting your onions this is a great tip to try, AND it works with ALL onions!

Super Bowl SalsaI really have a love / hate relationship with cilantro. I love the flavour it adds to a dish, but slightly too much turns me off. After several times making this salsa and playing around with the cilantro content the Mr. and I agree that 1Tbsp is the perfect amount for us. Feel free to add more or less based on your preference. Side Note: the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup.

At this stage add the liquids/spices.

        Super Bowl Salsa
Last, but certainly not least the star of the show will arrive, avocodo!
  Super Bowl SalsaSuper Bowl Salsa
I typically buy my avocados so they are ready to eat... a little soft, not too ripe, but not too hard either. For this salsa choose avocados that are a little harder than what you would normally buy (not the kind that are soft enough to mash up for guacamole). They will stay better and not make the salsa too "gooey".

Super Bowl Salsa
Just like that you have a bowl full of deliciousness! If you have any left-overs (which is pretty unlikely...) this salsa mixed with scrambled eggs makes an amazing breakfast!

Recipe:
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, seed & dice
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 can (341mL) kernal corn
1 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
2 Tbsp white vinegar
4 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 Tbsp - 1/3 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 avocado, diced

- Combine all ingredients & mix (add avocado last)
- Let chill for at least 2 hours for the best flavour
- serve with tortilla chips

Have a great Super Bowl weekend all!

Super Bowl Salsa shoes