Update: 6 months & THREE YEARS

Size -- I pulled out some 9 month and 12 month clothes thinking "this'll fit in a little while" ... Nope! Now! Every mom says their child is growing like a weed but I'm serious. She's huge. 

Food -- phew, to list what she's had in these like two weeks of trying solids ... Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pear, apple, watermelon, cucumber, potato, broccoli, and eggs. She eats like a monster. 

Activities -- let's be honest she still spends most of her time blanket- hanging (like with Grey below) or in the moby wrap. She plays with some toys and eats and has been swimming. 

Likes -- swapping seats in the stroller with big brother. Now that she can confidently sit up she's welcome in the front seat of our Valco. 

Dislikes -- fat shaming. 

Size -- big enough to wanna do everything "mine-self" small enough to ask to be held. A Mommy's dream :( He was 26 lbs when we went to his pediatricians for strep throat which is tiny but he's always been low on the percentile for age. His height is top of the charts though. Size 3T and 10 shoes. 
Food -- here's a packed lunch of salmon on whole grain, mixed berries and cucumber. We have been eating from the garden a lot lately. 

Activities -- swimming and shooting water guns make top of the list. 
My mom, sisters and I took the kids to Kusterman's berry farm west of the city. Oliver rode a huge horse but his favourite part was the go-kart track. 

Likes -- one morning this month he told me his cell phone (an old LG flip) needed a new battery and that he'd pay with his own money (displaying a wad of Canadian Tire cash he'd collected) so I got him and Koko in the wagon and we walked to the ol' CT. Sadly they don't sell vintage cell batteries (?!!!??) but he found a chocolate bar to drop a dollar on, and he was able to show me a thousand expensive things he wants for his birthday. Including this baseball kit. 
His very favourite things ever (if you're looking to buy him a birthday gift) are: baseball, Special Agent Oso, hockey, kidscape playground, cars, motorcycles, puzzles, bath toys but mostly water guns, Mickey Mouse, Frozen, goldfish crackers, cherry tomatoes, chocolate, makeup and nail polish, trains including Thomas, birds, fish, bears, turtles, pretending to cook, actually cooking, knife skills, taking photos, the forest. 

Dislikes -- strep throat kicked his buuuuuutt. It was the worst. He was cap-locks MISERABLE for over a week. Here he is drinking a mix of echinacea, raw honey and garlic with warm water and apple cider vinegar. 
The pic below is from a super fun birthday party we attended but it proved he dislikes focusing on something for more than six seconds. Can't believe my camera could take this photo of him in a beard fast enough. The stereotype is true: all the girls did amazing and the boys just went crazy. 

A great time for us - Oliver celebrates 3 times around the sun and Kota has her first ever half birthday. 

My food sensitivities

It has been almost five years now since I discovered my food sensitivities. It doesn't seem that long ago but I'm positive my appointment was before I became pregnant with Oliver (November 2010) and it's midway through 2014 now so... Wow, time. 

The backstory: I would never have expected to have food sensitivities. I'm that girl who everything goes biologically right for - I don't sun burn easily, my hair grows quickly, I can use any soap without a reaction, never dealt with bad ache, I've just drawn all the good cards in life from a genetics standpoint. I even dodged the bullet of gluten intolerance/ Celiac disease (as I've mentioned before I'm the only person in my family who doesn't have it). Then one day I was introduced to someone who called themselves a holistic allergist and I was very intrigued. 

Without letting on too much (I wanted to see if the testing was legit) I told her that I sometimes feel a tightness in my throat after eating and am thinking it could be from a food trigger. She suggested we test for a number of things. 

The test came out with 4 sensitivities. 

Soy. This didn't surprise me. After a brief stint in veganism (brief) and a major, but ultimately wrong, belief that soy is amazing for you and that you should consume as much as possible, I likely over-did it and became intolerant to it. I had been drinking soy lattes a lot. After my treatment I drank another to see what would happen and I felt perfect. 

Sugar. In fact, my test for sugar intolerance was through the roof. I ultimately didn't get treated for it - my idea was that I would just try to avoid white sugar for the rest of my life, ha ha - but now I know. 

Peppermint. Another duh moment. I have overdone mint on many occasions. It's one of my favourite teas and my second favourite flavour for things like baking (first is lemon, third is coconut). After treatment I no longer react to it. 

Cardamom. This was the kicker and made me ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SOLD AND IN LOVE WITH HER PRACTICE. I had been drinking chai pretty regularly for years but was baffled by the fact that sometimes it would make my throat nearly close from the allergic reaction (or whatever was happening) and other times I would be fine. When she read out my test result that cardamom was severely affecting me I realized -- that's the ticket! Going back to check the ingredients of various tea bags it was bang on. That was the spice my body was rejecting. She cleared me of this trigger also and I've been symptom free ever since. 

Everyone reacts differently (mine was throat tightness, yours could be migraines, bloating, itching skin) and everyone has different triggers (interesting that mine were almost exclusively from hot beverages but I see now that where I vary my foods a lot, I tend to drink the same thing over and over every morning and that constant exposure can very often lead to sensitivity). 

If you think you are in the same boat you will feel so much relief from being tested and treated. I can't promote Alla's business enough. For under $100 you can enjoy anything you want without the aftermath of food reactions. It's jaw dropping and it only takes 1 hour. 

Send me an email if you want to hear more about my experience or email info@allavallejo.com for an appointment now. 

A few days without the boys

As Oliver approaches his big milestone (three years around the sun) I realize that it's been exactly that long that 99% of my waking (and resting) hours have been devoted to him. Feeding him, teaching him, clothing him, chasing him, cleaning up after him, and of course laughing at his jokes. I don't mean to complain: it's the joy of my life to spend time with him, but let's just say a week ago when Cal offered to take Ollie up to the cottage 2.5 days earlier than our scheduled weekend and leave me home with only Dakota to take for, I agreed! A little down time will make me a more refreshed mama, right?

At first I wondered what I could possibly get up to, but here's a taste. 

- fold and put away the laundry (a mere 4 pieces are mine)
- make 3 batches of chewy lemon cookies (then eat two with a cup of coffee)
- shovel rice in Dakota's happy mouth while I eat soup
- watch a documentary ... on the Duggars 
- collect all the garbage and recycling in the house 
- organize my overflowing collection of guitar tabs into one notebook 
- play guitar to Dakota 
- a looooong bath
- braid my hair
- walk outside to check the weather to decide what to wear, end up in the garden of course
- make paper invites for Ollie's party to give to neighbour kids 
- deliver them, walk to the mall (with Dakota wrapped in the moby) to pick up a few things - an unsweetened iced tea ends up being one of them, sadly a billion-pound box of diaper wipes does too and my back aches (eff you enticing bulk discounts) 
- wash and put away dishes
- phone call with Cal, Ollie also adds: "guess what mommy? I'm at the cottage!"
- almost finish packing cottage bag for us girls 
- weeded the front garden
- read the majority of an AJ Jacobs book
- re-watched Wanderlust (but mostly just smiled at Dakota)
- leisurely made spinach and feta quesadillas 
- tickled Dakota for around 2 hours straight
- met a friend for Starbucks 
- packed a lunch for our exchange student 

Oh, and that was only in 12 hours. 

Mama needs her breaks. 

Coconut brown sugar granola

My mental to do list today involved "clean out the pantry". You know, those little loose items that either need to go in a mason jar or get used up? 

I jotted down in my mind: about 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, a cup-ish of shredded coconut, the last shake of those sesame seeds, a quarter jar of wheat germ, the rest of that brown sugar about to dry out, and the dried cranberries. Oh and, Amy, don't forget: finish those berries and that open almond milk before they go bad.

Then as I opened the kitchen cupboard to a large bag of organic rolled oats it all came together like a lightening bolt: GRANOLA!

While I usually just wing it with granola I wanted to see what some recipes online do with brown sugar (as I've most often just used equal parts coconut oil and honey or maple syrup). But then ... *THEN* ... the first recipe that popped up for my search literally called for these ingredients:

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (no shell)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup each: brown sugar, honey, butter
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup raisins (I used dried cranberries)
Serve with: berries and milk

SAY WHAT! Things like this happen to me all the time. Sometimes I make a recipe then as it's baking I will look up how other people make the same thing and it'll be identical to what I just totally made up. Kitchen coincidence!

So here's how you do it:
1. Preheat to 300F. 
2. Grease or line a baking sheet. Toss the first 4 ingredients and let toast in the oven for 20 min. Toss if you need to, a few times. Turn up to 350F. 
3. Warm the next 3 ingredients til liquified and mixed, then toss with oat mixture, adding the raisins and germ also. (I added sea salt and cinnamon now - mmmmm!) Toast another 10-20 min. Stir a few times during. 
4. Use a wooden spoon to remove from pan into a large container and let cool, then seal up. Will keep for at least 2 weeks. Eat with almond milk and berries!

Four-berry chia jam

Been seeing this one around the web for months now but it's simply time. 

In a sauce pot, warm 3 cups of berries (I used strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries). Drizzle in 3 T honey or maple syrup.

Stir and mush til saucy. (Took me about 15 min, low and slow.)

Toss in 2 T chia seeds and turn off the heat. 

It's that simple! Let cool in a jar and enjoy on toast, pancakes, etc. So healthy, so easy!

Best Foodie Instagrams

@thatspaleo -- if you're looking for some inspiration on your newly grain free diet, you'll get all the protein you need on this feed
Lots of: eggs, coconut oil, almond meal

@davidchang -- a cool look into the life of a chef, he owns the famous Momofuku group of restaurants (including Milkbar in Toronto) and wrote one of the most intelligent and interesting food books out there
Lots of: noodles, radishes, cereal milk

@tracyshutterbean -- I can't get over her unique (and informative) photography style, especially her "prep for the week" photos 
Lots of: tacos, sriracha, ice cream 

@run_wilde -- no one has ever made healthy, simple food look this great
Lots of: fruit, oatmeal, chia

@blisssedout -- also a killer photographer 
Lots of: herbs, avocado, flowers 

@weelicious -- this is the type of lunch I want to pack my children, from a very talented Food Network star who may just slip some red carpet shots in (care of her Hollywood husband)
Lots of: heirloom raspberries, hormone free cured meats, cute mini sandwiches 

@mynewroots -- the most gorgeous chef of life, living in Copenhagen, happens to make healthy, gorgeous, mostly vegan food and has a degree in holistic nutrition 
Lots of: rice bowls, berries, raw dessert

@heidijswanson -- I don't know what is more beautiful: her recipes, her photography props, or her travel-happy life. She is the blogger behind 101cookbooks which I've made more recipes from than anywhere else on the internet (and they're always bang on)
Lots of: maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, squash 

@thesmitten -- this just makes me hungry
Lots of: cake, pasta, restaurant meals 

@ohladycakes -- more swearing that you're used to from an adorable, vegan food blogger 
Lots of: caramel, coconut cream, almond milk

@minimalistbaker -- a husband and wife collab that have lovely, and skillfully described, food as well as awesome tips for food bloggers 
Lots of: chickpeas, peanut butter, chocolate 

@simplegreensmoothies -- great daily inspiration for your healthful liquid breakfast: all colours welcome!
Lots of: kale, banana, pineapple

@joythebaker -- not anyone in history has come across Joy and not fallen in love, a person you'd like to be friends with but will settle for following on Instagram 
Lots of: doughnuts, bourbon, shrimp

@sproutedkitchen -- I was already in love before they went and had an adorable newborn baby
Lots of: waffles, sprouts (naturally!), salad

Cider beer for summer

It is summer HARD here in Ontario. Last night driving home from a friend's place Calvin looked at our car's outdoor temperature reading and said: "Wow, when's the last time it was 25 degrees out not including humidity at 10:30pm?" It's hot. 

In this weather most Canadians crack open a cold beer, and while I get on that train sometimes, I really just love hard cider. Call it a girly love of sweetness or my over exposure to gluten-free options growing up with a Celiac-heavy family or just being so used to promoting fruit and veggie consumption but I love a good apply (or peary) cider! They have anywhere from 4-8% alcohol and come in the same sizes - cans and bottles - as typical beer. Prices can be similar too. The main difference is that instead of fermenting barley/wheat/hops, hard cider is made from fermented fruit juice, using yeast. Because yeast eats sugar, the fermentation process will decide how sweet or how dry the final product is. Typically if it's drier (less sweet) it'll also have a little more alcohol content.

Nutritionally it's no easy choice. The nutritional profiles are similar to beer with a few more carbs per serving for ciders typically. Where beer is great in b vitamins, cider is rich in antioxidants and vitamin c. And many are made entirely of local produce! 

I've tried a good handful of ciders out there. From the big names like Strongbow, Magners, Somersby, Seagram and Grower's ... to the "side projects" of major brewers like Keith's cider and Stella Artois' "cidre" ... and a delightful cider by our friend's family orchard (Twin Pines Orchard) ... For me there's no clear winner. 

Another one I gave a go was Molson Canadian's new Cider. Calvin came home with a six pack of bottles and after his first one decided he'd prefer one of PC's new "cervezas". I didn't hate it but it wasn't anything special, and hey I just got myself sole access to the rest of the pack. Sweet (pun intended). 

But then!!!

We also had a chance to try Molson Canadian Stone Fruit which is made with peaches and apricots. Wow wow wow! This is going to be my rest-of-summer drink. It's sweet without being syrupy, more like a mild nectar with a boozy kick and that bitter hit that we all love from beer. It's anything but average with the unique flavour of apricots. I was stoked with every sip. 

I think you'll love this option whether you're into supporting local, need to eat/drink gluten free, or just appreciate good taste. 

Full disclosure: I was able to receive product free of charge for review. The opinions are 100% mine.