Friday, November 17th, 2017

Baked Oatmeal – My Breakfast Saviour

As promised, my baked oatmeal recipe!

The original recipe, which to be honest I never followed exactly, was this one from Epicurious. The ingredients list was a bit long for someone pressed on time, but I liked the idea of baked oatmeal. So, I played with it.

There was a lot that could be cut out of the original recipe. The important part was the base. If you memorize this part, you can muck with it until the cows come home. It’s basically foolproof:

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • grease a square pan
  • bake at 375F for ~40 minutes

That’s it!

Now granted, eating it plain day in and day out would get boring, so I mix it up often. A little maple syrup for sweetness, flavoured extracts and ground spices for depth, ground nuts or flax for added nutrition, etc… It’s pretty receptive to add ins.

These are some of the flavours we’ve eaten in the last 6 months:

  • Strawberry (frozen or fresh diced strawberries, depending on availability)
  • Blueberry (frozen or fresh blueberries, depending on availability)
  • Raspberry (Frozen or fresh raspberries, depending on availability, almond meal)
  • Peach (Frozen or fresh peaches, depending on availability, almond meal)
  • Pineapple Coconut (Frozen pineapple, shredded coconut)
  • Peanut Butter Banana (pureed over ripe bananas, peanut butter)
  • Cherry Almond (frozen cherries, almond meal, almond extract, maple syrup)
  • Apple cinnamon (diced apple, cinnamon, maple syrup)
  • Pumpkin Pie (see below)

For this recipe I add an additional 2/3 – 1 cup of oats. The pumpkin puree adds a lot of moisture to the mix, so extra oats are needed to help absorb some of it. Other than the base ingredients I don’t personally measure anything, so take the quantities with a grain of salt. They’re estimates.

If you want something to use up the last of the pumpkin, I’d suggest a smoothie with banana and the same spices as the oatmeal. What can I say, I’m an addict.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups flaked oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a ~9″x9″ pan or casserole dish. Spread the oats evenly in the pan. In a 4 cup liquid measure (or small bowl), measure out the milk, followed by the pumpkin puree, and then the remaining ingredients. Mix the liquid mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour liquid mixture gradually over the surface of the oats. Give the mixture a light stir to make sure the liquid makes it all the way through to the bottom oats. Tap the bottom of the baking dish on the counter a couple times to make sure there are no air pockets. Place in oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the centre has set.

It will come out looking something like this:

Not the most photogenic breakfast, but to be honest that’s not the top of mind in the morning when we’re trying to get ready to go. It’s tasty, healthy, and my toddler eats it willingly. What else could I ask for?

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Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

What’s Working?

I haven’t met anyone who says being a working mom is easy. While we all acknowledge that there are ups and downs, I don’t often see anyone writing about how they make it work. When I do find those types of posts, the authors often either work part time, or work from home. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I don’t find it overly applicable for my life. The only blogger I can think of offhand who is a mom, works full-time outside the home, and actually discusses how she makes it work, is Sherry at Save Spend Splurge. I know of other working moms who blog, but they rarely talk about family life. If you know other ones, please share! I’d love to hear your suggestions.

I originally wanted to do something like this to recap my first year with the munchkin, but apparently that post is buried somewhere in my drafts folder. I think I’ll finish it up and post it shortly (better late than never!)

I definitely don’t have a complete lock on work life balance, but this is a list of things that have been making things work around here.

Alternating Wake Ups

When I was on maternity leave, for better or worse, I did my best to do all of the night waking sessions and early mornings myself so that my husband could go to work somewhat rested. As I stressed out about going back to work, my husband reminded me that he was there, I don’t have to do it all myself, and he’s more than capable of parenting as well. What this has evolved into is that my husband and I alternate who gets up with our son in the morning. One person will get him up, change his diaper, take him downstairs and get his breakfast started. The other is given an extra 5-10 minutes to wake up slowly and laze a little. The next day it swaps, save for sick days and other extenuating circumstances.

Batch Cook Breakfast

Our son eats oatmeal every morning during the week. Since he’s not overly skilled with a spoon yet his food needs to be finger friendly, so I whip up a batch of baked oatmeal every Sunday. It’s convenient, because all I have to do to serve breakfast is cut a slice out of the pan and cut it up into small pieces. The flavour changes every week to prevent monotony, and we’ll usually slice up a bit of fruit for him once he starts eating it. I’ll post the recipe for you guys soon, it’s too easy to keep to myself.

Run the Dishwasher Every Night

I was clued into this by a friend a couple months ago. When I was growing up, you ran the dishwasher through when it was completely full, not before then. As a result of this habit, I often found myself pulling critical items out of the dishwasher to wash and use before the dishwasher was full, or I’d be cleaning up from a meal and not have room to put everything in there. It’s not that I’m incapable of washing dishes in the sink, it was just more effort than was strictly necessary when I was already exhausted. One of our mutual friends looked up the water consumption of his dishwasher and filled his sink with an equivalent volume of water. It didn’t even fill their sink. We replaced our dishwasher recently, and when I checked the specs on our dishwasher I found it it also uses less than a sink full of water. It takes more water to wash our dishes by hand than it does to use the dishwasher. It runs every night now, even if there’s a couple cup spaces left, and I start every day with everything I need clean and ready to go.

Saturday Shop, Sunday Chop

This doesn’t happen every week. The weeks this doesn’t happen I feel like I’m constantly running three steps behind. I try to come up with a handful of meals I want to make on Friday so that I can check the pantry and fridge for missing components. Saturday I try to integrate grocery stops into whatever it is we’re doing so I have everything in the house by that evening. It makes it easier when I’m making things like almond milk or beans where you have to soak the components in advance. Sunday I try to prep and pre-cook any components (like the oatmeal) that I might need for the following week. By the end of the day the fridge is full of assorted containers, along with munchkin’s lunch.

Freezer Pizza

Took a page from the Frugalwoods book on this one. Costco sells two packs of gluten free cheese pizzas for $14. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried ordering take out gluten free pizza before, but you can’t buy one full size gluten free pizza for $14, let alone two. The days that I’m completely done and anything more than takeout seems like too much effort, I throw one of these in the oven. Sometimes I dress it up with roast chicken, BBQ sauce, diced tomato, etc… but sometimes it’s just plain. This has saved us a reasonable amount of both time and money.

“Plus 1”

Kids can come with a lot of stuff if you’re not careful to avoid it. For the most part we’ve kept it down, but there are definitely child specific items in our cupboards. We tried having “just enough”, but found we ran into instances where having an extra one would make life easier. We had one lunchbox for our son, which worked fine, but it meant I had to wait until they got home to make his lunch. As a result, I would be making his lunch at 8 or 9 pm instead of doing it when I was preparing dinner when it would have been more convenient.

We have enough drink cups for three meals, and an extra stainless steel one for travel. We have two bottles for daycare, and one for at home that gets used in case daycare forgets to send one home. We have one set of Tylenol/Orajel/Vitamin D/nail clippers for home, and one for travel. This way we’re not constantly searching for these items trying to figure out where we had it last, it’s either in the bathroom or in his backpack. If we go out of town for the weekend, we pack one outfit and one pair of pyjamas for each day, plus one extra. This works for us.

Getting Help

I fully acknowledge that this is a luxury, but it has been one of the best decisions we made with me going back to work. One of our friends started a house cleaning company so that she could stay home with her young son most of the time. We pay her to come in every two weeks to wash the floors and clean the kitchen and bathroom for us. It’s a win-win: we help her stay home with her family, and she allows us to spend more of our weekend playing with munchkin instead of cleaning. It sets us back $40-50 every two weeks, and I don’t have a problem with that. I’m spending time on my hands and knees to play with my toddler, not scrub the shower.

Days of Rest

I have more vacation time than my husband does, and a week of his vacation is called for with his annual motorcycle trip. As a result, I have two weeks of vacation that we can’t use together as a family. This has turned out to be quite a boon. I ran myself ragged the first couple months back at work, because I wasn’t making time for myself. It was other people, all the time. I’m slowly learning that I can’t do this and retain any semblance of my sanity or general health. Now, every month or so, I take a day off all to myself. I run a hot bath and have a spa morning with bath salts, candles, masks, moisturizers, the whole nine yards. I have coffee and a nibble at a fancy coffee shop. I browse and/or purchase clothing for munchkin and myself. I read. Basically, I do whatever I want. This usually lasts until 2pm, when I get the urge to catch up on stuff around the house. When I head back to work I’m refreshed, and I’ve gotten a head start on whatever needs to be done around the house that usually gets left behind.

They’re little, but all together these have been game changers for me. Finding that elusive work/life/family balance is tough, and I’m still working on it.

What do you do to install balance in your life? What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve?



Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Monthly Update – October 2017

Hola!

So how about that October? October seems to be a consistently brutal month for us. Super busy.

I’ve been contemplating the direction I should take this blog given my inability to take outfit photos on an even remotely consistent basis. It’s dark when I leave for work in the morning, and dark by the time I leave the office in the afternoon. The weekends are busy with doing the things we didn’t get to during the week, and generally spending time playing together as a family. I won’t cut into that last wedge of time for a hobby. It took me months to hit my stride in terms of balancing work tasks and home tasks, but as you can tell around here some things had to give.

I’m not ready to give up on this blog though. I love having this little creative outlet, though I may focus more on other subjects of interest more often, and a bit less on fashion. I have been finding it difficult to reconcile the drive for constant fashion spending with some of my sustainability leanings as of late, so I may explore those areas more. While I did purchase a couple items this month, at the moment I have no urge to shop. I’m happy with my closet, so why seek out more things to covet?

It’s a question that doesn’t get much thought that I’ve seen on the internet. What happens when you’re happy with your closet? If you’ve spent years “investing” in your wardrobe, at some point your wardrobe is largely made up of these pieces. They’re not going to fall apart quickly, so why keep shopping?

Anyway, like I mentioned before, you’re probably going to see other subjects cropping up around here.

This is a budget post though, and I mentioned above that I did purchase a couple items, so I’ll keep it brief.

I bought the Babaton Beekman Sweater in Constant Camel/Birch for $152.25. The weight, style and colour combo filled a gap in my wardrobe, and is making my fall/winter clothes feel more well rounded. I’ve worn it six times so far.

I also bought a pair of dark wash bootcut jeans from 7 for all Mankind for $106.47. I find bootcut jeans work better with the style of ankle boots I have for fall and winter, so I picked up a second pair. These were 40% off the existing sale price, and fit nicely, so they were a no brainer. I’ve worn them eleven times already this month, so they’re already down in the single digit cost per wear.

So that’s what’s going on around here. What’s new in your world?



Thursday, October 12th, 2017

What I Wore – Learnings and Ramblings

Talk about a reflective year. It’s one thing to think about your clothes every couple days when you’re writing a blog post, but it’s another thing entirely to track and reflect on your wardrobe every day. I’m a numbers person, so watching the cost per wear and total tallies change over time was right up my ally, but the act of tracking everything I wore forced me to look at my actual behaviours rather than an idealized mental version of myself.

For example, I live in jeans. Three years ago I thought this was a problem, so I tried to force myself to experiment with other clothes. While I’m glad I moved out of my comfort zone, jeans are a cornerstone component of my work and my lifestyle.

On the other end of the spectrum: I hate stiff, restrictive shirts and coats. I love the look, and I admire that some people pull it off beautifully, but dear god I hate wearing them. It doesn’t look good on me! The size disparity between my bust and shoulders makes finding shirts that fit well problematic. Also, if it needs ironing, it isn’t getting worn. Full stop.

Also, I have a toddler to get ready in the morning. Shaving is not happening every day. If I’m wearing a skirt its either happening on a weekend, or a Monday. *shrug*

Spending more on jeans, shoes, and coats is a good idea for me! Quality jeans that fit well and don’t deteriorate after being washed a few times will absolutely see heavy use. Shoes that fit well, and last once they’re broken in, are worth their weight in gold for my hyper sensitive feet. Likewise, after years of trying to make cheap outerwear work, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no substitute for a quality coat. I was reminded of that today when I walked out to my car in the miserable wind and didn’t feel a thing on my upper body.

After that little justification for spending more – it only holds true if you don’t have too many of them! Sure, I’ll spend $300 on a pair of jeans, but I can count all of the pairs I own on one hand. I have a lot of coats too, and some of them are only used in one season (heavy duty parka anyone?), but none of them are fashion pieces. They are multi-year coats. Some of them will be multi-decade coats.

Can I justify spending a ton of money on shirts? Not really. Shirts don’t hold up to the same level of wear and tear as jeans or outwear, so they have to be replaced after fewer wears. Likewise, since I own more shirts than bottoms, they get worn less overall. I’ve spent a little more on some of my sweaters, but other than that I have a hard time justifying expensive shirts.

This is probably evident to most of you, but I really don’t accessorize. I cannot justify spending money on accessories, because I don’t wear them! I have one really nice purse that I love, but I shouldn’t go out buy more expensive bags without a long term plan. That should actually go without saying. Even if I did wear bags daily, given the price point of the bags that draw my eye, I shouldn’t buy anything if I don’t see myself using it a decade from now. That means no fussy materials or anything that needs to be treated delicately. Durability matters. I hate fussing.

This post is getting long, so I’ll finish off with this last point. The act of buying something doesn’t mean I’ll wear it. Style doesn’t evolve through the purchasing of clothes, it evolves through the act of getting dressed, styling yourself and experimenting with what you have at your disposal. I made some expensive mistakes. At the same time, now I have a more realistic idea of what I wear and how I wear it. I’m curious to see how much it will evolve this year.

What have you learned about personal style?



Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

What I Wore – The Stats

The turkey coma is abating!

After a weekend away in which our munchkin was in a trying mood (mental development phase for the win…) we’re happy to be home and back in the swing of things. By back in the swing of things, I mean I took the day off work and I’m doing things I want to do. Like blogging.

Consistency is a work in progress over here.

Back to the subject matter! September 30th marked the last day of my first full year of wardrobe tracking! For those of you not familiar, I downloaded the StyleBook app on my phone last fall, and have been tracking what I wear on it ever since. To say it has been enlightening would be an understatement.

This is going to be a two part post, because TL;DR.

Let’s start with the happy stuff! My most worn!

To say my jeans are work horses would be an understatement. I wore blue jeans 179 days last year. That’s almost 6 full months split between those three pairs! Even more impressive is the fact that I only just started fitting into that top pair in January, so it doesn’t even have a full 12 months of wear on it in these stats.

You know what’s even more impressive? I bought those jeans a month after I met my husband… in 2011. They have earned their keep!

And the sadness list. It isn’t lost of me that a lot of my workout clothes were only worn once on this list, lol. This drives home for me the fact that I am not a allowed to buy more exercise clothes, especially since I’m not exercising! The whole “If I buy it I’ll have to use it” train of thought doesn’t work on me, and I recognize that now. I didn’t recognize it for many years.

Anyway, a lot of this is accessories (I rarely add them), clothes I wore in the early months postpartum, and nicer office clothes. These are going to get some scrutiny this year, but they’re not on the full out chopping block yet.

Anyway, back to the happy! After a year of tracking, eleven of my items made it to under $1 per wear! Unsurprisingly, a lot of the items are cotton t-shirts and thrifted items that are inexpensive to begin with. That’s not the case for everything though! Those red flats are my 6th most worn item of clothing, originally cost me $42.49, and have no signs of slowing down any time soon. Further down the list you can see my skinny jeans from 2011 also made the top 25 list. Not bad for a single year of wear!

On the slightly more painful end of the spectrum, my worst cost per wear. Some office wear, some postpartum wear, and some expensive purchases.

Fortunately, the devil is in the details. Those burgundy pumps? I wear them to the office in the autumn (which I didn’t go to last year), and I’ve been wearing them since 2009. That trench coat beside it? I bought that in 2010. A lot of these items are season specific, and I was the wrong size during that season last year. One item even shows up on my most worn list! My Mulberry purse was a gift from my husband in 2015. I expect the cost per wear on a lot of these to drop quickly now that I’m back at work.

I’d say this post has gotten long enough for today. Next post I’ll share some of the things I learned about my wardrobe (and myself) through tracking all of this.

As an aside, if you want to start tracking your stats don’t get too hung up on the app’s recommendations for taking perfect pictures. You can see above that I definitely didn’t. If I needed a perfect image in order to do my tracking, this project would have died off a long time ago. Snap a picture you recognize, and get that data going in there. You can change it to a “perfect” picture at a later date (or not).

Do you track your wardrobe’s stats? What is your most worn item?

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Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Monthly Update – September 2017

So apparently I batch shop.

It makes sense when I think about it. Where I used to be able to casually browse and linger while making decisions, my life has become much more about efficiency. These days I browse the offerings online, save the ones I like to a Pinterest board, and then ask a sales associate to direct me to those items when I go into the store. Sure, I could order the items online, but I still prefer to try before I buy. Why tie up my money on maybes if I don’t have to?

Banana Republic Silk Cashmere Crewneck – $66.15 (reg $110.25)
Banana Republic Sloan Fit Utility Pants – $69.30 (reg $115.50)

Both of these items have been favourites for me this month. I find olive a really easy colour to work with, so the pants have been worn 7 times already! The sweater was a bit of a test. After my disastrous BR sweater experience last winter, I passed over the thicker knits and wool blends, and instead opted for the thin silk cashmere blend. After 5 wears it doesn’t seem to be pilling to the extent that my green sweater did, and the shape held up to hand washing far better than the camel merino sweater did last year.

Banana Republic Long Sleeve Soft Jersey Cardigan – $39.06 (reg $65.10)

This cardigan hasn’t been worn as frequently as the pullover, but that will likely change as we move further into autumn. I’ve still worn it 3 times so far this month.

I don’t have photos of the last blouse just yet. I’ve only worn it once so far, because I have the urge to pair it with dress pants and I don’t wear those as often as jeans. I really should wear it with jeans though, there’s nothing wrong with that pairing.

Banana Republic Cross Front Draped Shell – $31.50 (reg $52.50)

On the other end of the spectrum, there was also a notable exit from my closet this month. I sold my Smythe blazer. It was tailored absolutely perfectly for me – but I never wore it. I literally wore it once, and that was it. I couldn’t justify having something that beautiful, or that expensive, just hanging in my closet unworn. I’m thankful I purchased it, because having it sit there prompted a lot of self reflection and really drove forward my understanding of what styles I wear and why.

The blazer went to another blogger whose style it pairs with better than my own. I’m seriously excited to see how she wears it. It was a decent garment, it just wasn’t meant for me.

Quarterly Budget: $750 – $64.12 (carryover) – $0.00 (Jul) – $207.90 (Aug) – $206.01 (Sep) + $350 (blazer) = $621.97

Tons of money left over! To be honest though, I’m not going to carry it over to next season. My closet is not so lacking in volume or variety than I could justify spending almost $1400 by the end of the year. Maybe I would consider it if I had purse or jacket purchase in mind that I had been mulling over and researching for an extended period already, but there’s nothing like that going on right now. A pair of jeans, a pair of boots and some sweaters? For sure. But not $1400 worth.

On the subject of wardrobe, this Saturday marks the end of my first year of wardrobe tracking! It has been utterly enlightening, and I’m looking forward to recapping what I’ve learned with you.

What did you purchase this month? Anything exciting?

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Hi!

I'm Cassie.

I'm a petite hourglass, slow adopter, food geek, Engineer, wife and mom. Welcome to the little corner of the internet where I ramble on about random things. Mostly clothes.

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