Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I keep reminding myself...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kraft Food Hacker Semi-Finalist!

WHOOOO! A week or so ago, I submitted a video to be Kraft Canada's first ever Food Hacker! 

And guess what? I made it to the semi-finals!!!

I will be participating in a Twitterview (an interview on Twitter) TONIGHT (Monday, August 11) during the Kraft Food Hack Twitter Party from 8:00p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and I'd love for you to join in the fun:)

Why am I the perfect candidate for this job?

Well, I'm not trained chef, but I did teach myself how to cook. 

Way back in 1998, when I left home for university, I didn't know how to do much more than boil water or microwave a pre-made meal. After gaining the Freshman 20 (that's a thing, right?), I decided I needed to learn how to cook...and so I began experimenting in the kitchen.

Remember, this was a time before Food Network, food blogging, online 'how-to' videos, etc. This was a time when you had to call your mom, call your grandma (who I would consider to be the original food hacker in my life!), or buy a cookbook and figure out cooking for yourself. I made a lot of mistakes in the kitchen (I still do!) but I also learned a lot about cooking.

I have learned that I love great food and I love making great food for others. I also learned that great food does not have to be time consuming or expensive (a lesson that has served me well as my family has grown!). Anything that makes my time in the kitchen a little bit easier is right up my alley! I also learned that I love fiddling with recipes- if I eat something delicious at a restaurant, I go home and try to recreate it Sarah-style. If I'm at a party, I spend too much time at the serving stations checking out their ingredients and then (you guessed it!) recreating it at home (Sarah-style- quick and easy, of course). Heck, I'm pretty sure I am the queen of making something out of next to nothing!

To top it off, I live for social media and love tweeting, blogging, facebooking and writing and have spent the better part of the past 2 years as an on-air personality, discussing "hot topics" in the news and parenting issues. I feel like I was born to talk on air and love engaging with a variety of audiences on a variety of topics. Having been a poor college student, a newly-wed, a new mom and now a harried mom of two, I know I am able to relate to people during all stages of their life.

In short, I am the perfect person to fill the inaugural "Food Hack" shoes for Kraft Canada:) and I welcome the opportunity to chat food with my fellow semi-finalists tonight!!! 

Wish me luck! xo

Friday, August 1, 2014

Foodie Friday: Stuffed Mushrooms

A few years ago I was hosting a get together at my house and decided, about an hour before guests
were to arrive, that I needed another appetizer to compliment my already prepared bruschetta. 

I ran to the grocery store, prepared to get all the ingredients I needed for stuffed mushrooms (these are a go-to fav at every party/event I have ever attended, so I figured my guests would love them). However, when I saw herb & garlic cream cheese on the shelf, I decided to throw caution to the wind and create my very own food hack. Guess what? They were a crazy hit, and I've been making herb& garlic cream cheese stuffed mushrooms ever since.

Recently, Kraft decided to host a food hackers competition and, as a certified* food hacker, I decided to make a one minute video to enter myself.

Here's my recipe for the best (and easiest) stuffed mushrooms you will ever make:

Thanks to my husband for skipping his nightly viewing of the Jays game to help me film this (and putting up with my 5 wardrobe changes). And thanks to Kraft for hosting such a fun competition. I love a good food hack and Lord knows I have a million of them born mostly out of necessity.

*not a legitimate certification but real, nonetheless

Monday, July 28, 2014

African Lion Safari: Go Wild!

If you live in Ontario, it's likely that you have heard the jingle for African Lion Safari. If you have a child who likes to parrot everything he hears, it's even more likely that the mere mention of African Lion Safari puts that jingle ear worm in your head for the rest of the day (sorry, not sorry!).

After months of jingle singing and begging to visit, however, my five year old got his wish- we finally visited African Lion Safari. Celebrating its 45th year (FOURTY-FIVE!), African Lion Safari is Canada's original safari adventure and I can personally say that it is a BLAST for the entire family!

Our boat awaits!
Upon arrival (you pay at the gates, while still in your car, which is so smart!), park your car in the free(!) parking lot and head out to the "African Queen" boat cruise. I suggest fitting in the boat cruise (and train ride) early if you have younger children, as the line ups become longer as the day progresses and wee ones have trouble waiting.
The African Queen boat will take you on a 15 minute leisurely cruise of the Water Safari Lake, where you'll see the cutest ring-tailed lemurs, spider monkeys and marabou storks, amongst other animals. My boys loved the boat in and of itself, but were especially thrilled to see so many animals on their own islands and (luckily) the animals were very active and spent a lot of time showing off for us!

Some nosey zebras going right up to a car
So close!
From there, I highly suggest taking the Safari Tour Bus into the Games Reserve for the highlight of this day trip- an up close and personal encounter with some of the most beautiful and majestic creatures nature has to offer. I would highly suggest the bus trip, in lieu of driving your own car (which is an option), as the driver is incredibly knowledgable and provides fantastic background information during the approximately 45 minute ride. We were incredibly lucky to see a plethora of babies on our trip and had the chance to get extremely close to one of my favourite animals, a beautiful giraffe. The highlight for my boys was the baboons- we watched them climbing on cars and hitching rides as some brave souls drove along. This was by far our favourite part of the day and a definite must-do that my boys are still talking about!
My favourite site of the day- I couldn't snap enough pictures

Lastly, I cannot recommend the Elephant Round-Up show enough. There are three shows at African Lion Safari (Parrot Paradise and Birds of Prey, and Elephant Round-Up) that are all excellent, but the Elephant Round-Up was by far our favourite. The elephants, along with their trainers, play soccer, basketball and do some painting, along with a few, fun high jinx thrown in for added entertainment. Unfortunately, it started pouring rain during our show, which made getting pictures impossible, but that didn't stop us from waiting around to touch an elephant after the show was done- such an amazing experience!

To top off the day, I would suggest a visit (or in our case multiple visits!) to the kids playground- full of fun things to climb and a ball pit that made my 3 year old squeal with delight- and the AMAZING water park (sadly, it was raining so my kids didn't get to partake but on a warm day I think it would be difficult to pull them away). Make sure you partake in some delicious food offerings (we had Pizza Pizza-yum!- but there were hot dog and fries stands near the water park that I would have loved to try out) and ice cream (!), and make a quick visit to the petting zoo before you leave.
Crazy baboons hitching a ride!

All in all, despite the rainy weather we encountered, our day at African Lion Safari was so much fun! If you're going, plan to spend the entire day- pack some snacks (the parking lot is very close and we were able to make a few trips back and forth so that we didn't have to drag a backpack around) and your swimsuit and have some fun!! There is so much to see and do and children (and adults!) of all ages will take something away from what proved to be an educational and fun day!
African Lion Safari is a fantastic place to spend the day with your family and make some memories to last a lifetime!

*Disclaimer: I was provided with free entry to African Lion Safari for my family of four but opinions are, as always, my own!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Arbitrary Rules

I realized last week I have a whole bunch of rules for my kids that have no real rhyme or reason to them- they were likely created in a lack of coffee haze or I will lose it if you ask for X one more time  rage and somehow managed to stick.

Honestly, I always thought I'd be a bit cooler as a parent. 

Pre-kids, I was positive I'd be relaxed with the "rules"- I always felt I had too many rules as a kid, although looking back I think my parents were pretty fair and not nearly the crazily strict monsters I made them out to be in my head. Post-kids? I think I'm actually more strict than I ever imagined I would be - fair, for the most part, but strict. 

And yet, as I was taking stock of our household recently, I wondered if I really needed all the rules I've imposed on my kids for no reason at all... or if it's those rules that have actually allowed me to maintain my sanity as I juggle a work-at-home job with having two (very strong willed) boys at home with me

Here's just a small peek into the window of my arbitrary rule making:

  • no television before 8:30am (no clue why I made this rule- it would be so much easier for sleepy Sarah to just let them watch some cartoons in the morning)...and then, just to make it even harder on me...
  • everyone must be dressed before the television goes on
  • no juice before 11am (again, no rhyme or reason...just seemed like an ok time to have juice)
  • no dessert after dinner (I think I made this rule after we had some ice cream one night and no one slept until 9:30pm. Now, if we are going to have dessert, we have it before dinner. I know, makes no sense!)
  • no games on mommy's phone (I'm a real stickler about this one, and I'm not sure why- they'd probably be better behaved if I let them play on my phone occasionally)
  • everyone must hug after an argument (they hate this, I think it actually causes more arguments in the end, and yet I still make them hug it out)
  • maximum one piece of gum each day (this is super hard for the 3 year old who is known to swallow his -aspartame free, don't worry- gum...but I can't for the life of me remember why I made up this rule because my kids hardly ever have gum as it is)
  • no flip flops (again, no clue why I made up this rule but I recently loosened my reigns on this one and bought the kids flip flops for the summer...providing they don't run in them)
  • only ONE episode of Sheriff Callie each day (my 3 year old is obsessed with this show and wants to watch the same episodes over and over and over and over and over and over and over- this is one arbitrary rule I'm sticking with!)

Of course, there are a lot of "normal" rules that I'm pretty lax on (clean rooms? meh. your room, your mess, as long as there are no living creatures or fungal growths I'm ok) and some arbitrary rules that I take away pretty much right after I make them because I realize how ridiculous/irritating they are (I had a rule about not eating in the living room that I gave up on after a day because it made my life infinitely harder than it needed to be). There have been rules my kids have talked me out of (yes, fine, you can pick up the cats if you promise to be gentle) and rules I won't give up on no matter how difficult they make my life (learning enough self control and patience to sit still for at least 5 minutes without devices to distract is something I'm big on).

I don't have any plans to remove my arbitrary rules for the time being- they work, generally speaking, for our family- but it's interesting how and why we make the rules we do. 

So tell me, what are some arbitrary (silly) rules you have made up for your kids in the interest of saving your sanity?