Knowing I’m “that mom”

One of the things that has made going back to work a lot easier for me is realizing what kind of mom I am. 

When Monkey was first born Mommying was easy for me. We had a strict routine and schedule, and Monkey loved cuddles. All things I am good at scheduling and  baby cuddles. When he was discharged I also rocked that with my Erin Condren full of appointments and diaper days, treatment papers and strict rules from the medical team about what to do and what not to do, activity days and planned pajama days. 

As Monkey grew, learned and professionals discharged him from programs and we had more and more time I home I started to realize there are some things I am not great at in the Mommying department, like playing. I am terrible at playing, especially when it comes to being the person leading the play, and realizing this really made me sad. 

I always knew play was never my strong suit, when I was a child I liked to colour, bake and read more than play dolls or house; but I had hoped that once I had my own little I would be able figure it out and enjoy it. That did not happen for me, not even a little. I love spending time with Monkey and watching him discover the world and learn new things but I really needed to work up all my energy to play farm or trucks and even at 10 months old he knew I was not great at it. 

When we finally found a day home for Monkey and I saw how much he would be played with that really put my heart at ease about going back to work. While there he will have his imagination stimulated and he will meet so many friends to play with and have someone who is actually good at helping him grow this way.

While realizing the things I’m not very good at I also realized the things I am good at. I am the mom who will make sure that Monkey has a good routine, he will make bread and homemade cookies with me on the weekends. I will be a mom who take him to Disneyworld when he’s too young to know how to enjoy it and again when he old enough to ride all the roller coasters. I am the mom who is already planning a trip to the Vatican for his confirmation year and  an adventure to Hawaii so he can see the sea turtles. 

And while being a working mom and going on adventures and planning to plan may not make up for my lack of play skills, it’s what I do well and I will do it every day for my little Monkey, and I’m really ok with that.  I know that going to work everyday gives him a chance to learn more than I could ever teach him, and me an opportunity to give him the best part of me. 

What is your best mommy skill? Let me know in the comments below!

Dinner at the McGills

Anyone who follows my Instagram (@the_mcgills2015) knows my favourite pass time is cooking for my family and friends. 

And my most favourite time to cook for them is Sunday dinners, especially during Lent. After fasting all week it’s nice to sit down with loved ones and eat a nice warm dinner with a glass of wine. 
This is my first Sunday back at the office and after an exhausting week I still managed to pull together a yummy meal for us to enjoy. I know roast dinners can be beyond intimidating to many but really they are some of the simplest recipes in my artillery. There is no reason for someone who wants to cook a big Sunday shouldn’t be able to. Trust me, this is where I started cooking and my skills only grew from here.

Roasted pork shoulder and carrots with potato scallop au gratin


When starting to learn how to make Sunday roast your first and forever best friend is your grocery flyer and a well stocked pantry. I alway pick up which ever roast is on sale and because we have a deep freeze I usually pick up a few. It’s great when the roasting chickens are on for about $6 a piece, even if they aren’t very big you can make soup with the bones the next day or toss the carcass in the freezer for soup another day. 

My potato box in my pantry is always well stocked with root vegetables like turnip, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes and of course potatoes. This way I always have sides that are quick and easy and are yummiest when roasted. 

You next best friend is your slow cooker. When I first started I would always make a roast beef with potatoes and carrots on Sundays for my roommate and I in university. 

First I would cover the roast in Montreal steak spice, place in the slow cooker and cover with potatoes, onions and carrots. I would turn it on low in the morning and by dinner we had a great meal to enjoy. This can be done with any roast you wish.

If you don’t have a slow cooker the same can be done in the oven. For example the roast pictured above I made this week. I flavoured the pork shoulder with seasoned salt, placed it in the roasting pan added 1 cup of chicken stock and then added a few handfuls of carrots. Cooked it in a preheated oven at 300F for 2 1/2 hours. Quickly while I waited for the oven to heat I ran 4 potatoes through the spiralizer, made a quick cheese sauce and made quick and dirty potato scallop (recipe below) that I popped into the oven after about an hour. 

And my secret for nice an crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside roasts is no matter how you make them once they are cooked place them in a 475F oven for about 13-17 minutes (until nice and brown). Trust me everyone will think you are a pro!

Potato Scallop Au Gratin

  • 4 large russet or red potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like old)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  1. Use a spiralizer to slice the potatoes and arrange them evenly in a greased 8×8 baking dish.
  2. In a medium sauce pan melt butter. Once melted whisk in flour, when combined and thick whisk in milk.
  3. Allow milk mixture to come so a simmer then whisk in cheese until melted. Pour over potatoes. 
  4. Speard bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over the top of the potatoes and cover with foil. 
  5. Bake at 300F along with the roast for the last 90 minutes.
  6. Turn up the heat to 475F remove foil and cook until bubbly and golden (about 17 minutes)

What is your quick and easy Sunday dinner trick? Let me know in the comments below!

The 10 things I learned my first week back at work

I am one week closer to retirement, a lottery winning or another matternity leave, and I have to say I AM EXHAUSTED!!! But I have learned a few things this week that will hopefully make my life a little easier next week. 

1. EBTs are your best friend…. 5:45am arrives way too soon when you stay up past 9:30pm especially when Monday has immunizations and we had a bit of a rough night… Let’s just say I was a little less made up and a lot less sharp on Tuesday.


2. Practice family table. This was something we really tried to do as often as possible when I was home but sometimes it’s just easier to feed Monkey, do his routine and then relax with my dinner for the evening. But now that he is an independent feeder for the most part and we have such little time together now this is a great time to play and have some bonding time. 

3. Crock pots, freezer meals and husbands who make guacamole are your key to success. A few weeks back I made some yummy easy to prep freezer meals that a toddler would eat and planned to have crock pot dinners on nights that life lets me prepare ahead. I was also luck that Michael is off this week so he manned the kitchen and took a huge load off my shoulders. 

4. Shower at night. No one has time for morning showers anymore, trust me… even on mat leave I was lucky to get a shower before 2 so with changing to evening showers I am much closer to keeping my regular schedule than if I switched it back to mornings. And make sure to dry your hair at night, this just leaves curling or straightening in the am and that means an extra 15 minutes of sleep in for Mama!!

5. Pack your diaper bad for the week. That’s right on Sunday night put everything you know you need (diapers, wipes, bibs, changes of clothes, toothbrush) in the diaper bag.  That way you only have to add in the few extras like outside clothes that is weather dependent and outdoor shoes in the mornings. 

6. Do the same for your gym bag… even if you don’t make it there. I knew this week would be way to difficult to actually go to the gym on lunch but now that I have a rhythm I will be implement that into my routine again. If I pack it all on Sunday and it goes in my car Monday morning I think it will help me get a little closer to my goals and not getting to work and having forgot something really helps with keeping goals set.

7. Leave your heels at the office. No one wants to try and walk with diaper bag, lunch kits, purse, gym bag and work bag in heels when it’s been probably 18 months since you have worn them. Trust me just throw on your mom Toms and slide into your heels when you get to your desk.


8. Put an entire outfit on ONE hanger. Yup that’s right! I stumbled on this by accident because I bought pieces from Old Navy, The Gap and Rickis to build my back to work wardrobe (capsule wardrobe post soon to come) and because some I bought in store and others I bought online I just started putting the pieces on one hanger so I knew everything arrived and I didn’t end up not wearing some of the pieces because they got lost in the closet. This made mornings really quick and easy.  I only need to decide on one item, pull the hanger and I’m ready for the day. It may take a little longer on laundry day but it is well worth it in the morning.

9. Evenings are for quality time. The first few days I really felt terrible for being at work instead of hanging out with my little Monkey, and then I noticed how goomy evenings were with him. How I wasn’t reaching for my phone during play times, and bath time wasn’t just for washing hair. Everything had so much more meaning to it because time is so limited. I really treasure my evenings now.

10. Know that next week will go a little smoother... or maybe it won’t but that’s ok because you are doing your very best! Plus you are one day closer to a vacation right?!?

What is your number 1 back to work tip for new moms? How did you survive your first week?

3 Month Check in

It has been a little over 3 months since my health scare and I am finally in a good routine with my self care… just in time for me to go back to work. I can say that it took the rest of January (after I was well enough to get out of bed) and February to figure out what I needed in self care and that in March I really put it into practice. My day looked a lot like this

6:30am – Monkey wakes up so we start our day

8:30am – Monkey goes down for his nap, I make breakfast and head back upstairs to bed where I open the curtains to let the sun in and watch YouTube while I eat my breakfast in bed. I get ready for the gym and relax until Monkey wakes up. 

10:30am – We head to the gym. This is a great outing for Monkey, he loved the train table in the day care and it gives him a chance to get out of the house and see new people. He is a “gregarious one” as my dad says so daily outings make everyone’s lives easier and at least this way I get a little extra self care in. 

12pm – We head home and have lunch

1pm – Monkey goes down for nap #2. Now I am able to do some quick chores, get cleaned up from the gym and do my FAVOURITE chore folding diapers, upstairs, on the bed watching the afternoons hustle on our quiet street. 

By the time Monkey wakes up from his afternoon nap chores are done, dinner is prepped I am rested, rejuvenated and ready to tackle the next play time. This routine has really worked for me and I really am going to miss now that I am back to work. But change is growth and growth is good right?!?

So how do I plan on keeping a baby/life/work balance now that I am split three ways instead of two? Well I am not completely sure… You see I am returning to work in a new role that is more team based, so before when I generally worked your traditional 9-5 there was a ton of flexibility so making time for the gym or yoga in my lunch breaks was easy, and I didn’t have a Monkey to pick up at day home so there were a lot of opportunities for self care. I was a typical gym after work, lunch break work outs when I needed to, massage every 3 weeks kind of gal back then.  Now everything will be different I will be learning my new role and working as a team so my 9-5 is not my own anymore and Monkey (or more likely Miss J) will be waiting for pick up promptly at 5:30 and somehow I will have to somehow manage 3-4 work outs a week and hopefully get better at booking my massages regularly again.

My initial back to work plan is to take it easy the first week. Make my lunch and our breakfasts at night so I don’t have to worry about that in the mornings and make sure they are very healthy. I don’t want to loose any of the traction I have gained since mid January. Then hopefully I will feel like I at least know where my office is next week and maybe I can work in a few work outs on my lunch hours or at least go for a few walks. 

What I learned when trying to find a routine for myself over the last few months was that it is much better and more successful when you take it slow. I didn’t loose all the baby weight more like maternity leave weight before going back to work but I did splurge on some new work clothes that I LOVE (capsule wardrobe coming soon), and I have a routine that I look forward to doing every day and give Monkey a much happier mama. 

How did you balance your baby/life/work balance when you finish maternity leave? How many time did you need to change it up to make it work? Let me know if the comments bellow!

 

🐒Look Who’s 1 🐒 

Thinking about last year today, I didn’t expect that you would be here quite yet, which was painfully obvious in my lack of organization around the hospital part of labour and delivery. Your father and I were supposed to start prenatal classes at the hospital the evening you were born and I hadn’t met my delivery doctor yet… actually they called to book my first appointment about an hour after you were born. But none the less you came into the world in your very special way and this last year has taught me that life doesn’t always go as you planned but God certainly has a plan and lesson for you in all the unexpected journeys you take.

At 2:50pm you were born 5lbs 6oz, 18 3/4 inches of “HERE I AM WORLD!”, and from there the adventure began. 

First Day Without CPAP

Your Father and I spent every single one of the 36 days you were in the NICU there with you. Even my birthday!

This cute smile was the best Birthday gift ever

But like the nurses told us every day, babies do go home from the NICU and not a single one would do so while attending kindergarten… as much as it felt like that is when you would be discharged. And after passing your car seat test you went home on the day that would have been the first day of my maternity leave.

First time in the car seat

When you arrived home you had so many visitors. Good thing you love snuggles so much because there were lots to go around.

Family snuggles

Not long after you got home you had some amazing adventures, like when we visited the ocean 

First day at the beach

And the north

You  even flew business class before you were even 6 months old!

Flying in style


Even with all this adventures and exciting things you continued to grow and learn so many new things like jumping

Jumpin’ jumpin’ jumpin’

Sleeping in your own bed

Crawling

Look at him go!

Feeding yourself 

Nom Nom Nom

And standing

This is what happens when you take your eyes off an 11 month old for less than a second

Seeing how much you have grown I can’t help but wonder who you will become over the next year. What adventures will you take? What will you like the most? But one thing I know for certain is that it will be a wonderful ride because you are the brightest light in our lives. 

Happy First Birthday My Monkey!

Going on an adventure

It’s almost Monkey’s Birthday, Michael wrote the most important exams of his career, Auntie “Isabet” is visiting and I have one week left of maternity leave (4 days to be exact), and that means it’s the perfect time for an adventure! Knowing that we had all this excitement surrounding the week ahead we decided to take a little day trip to the Telus World Of Science in Edmonton.

One of the great advantages of living in Central Alberta is that Edmonton and Calgary are easy destinations for day and weekend trips. You have the feeling of being so far away and can experience so many new things in a short hour or two drive. This weekend’s trip was an even shorter one where we traveled to Edmonton during Monkey’s morning nap, played during his play time and drove home during his afternoon nap.

Before looking into our trip there I didn’t expect there to be much for Monkey to enjoy or do because he’s so small. I looked anyway because I hoped a new environment, even though a little mature for him would be fun and stimulating for him hanging out in his stroller. Well was I ever wrong! Not only are games and activities for all ages scattered throughout the science centre there is a play area that caters specifically to children ages 0-8! When I read this there was no way we were heading back to work without going.

We arrived on the first Saturday of Spring Break at about 9:30am this was a perfect time! All the locals are still getting ready to head out I think because no one was there, but soon after… like by the time we took the elevator up to the second floor they were lined up out the door. If I had seen that line I would have changed plans and we would have gone to West Ed to wander instead. 

When we got upstairs we found all these fun experiences that demonstrated magnetism, optics, sound, mathematics and most importantly ELECTRICITY. 

After playing with the demos for a bit we headed to outer space 🚀 


After returning to earth we went to Discoveryland, the part of the centre for the youngest learners. In this special area we played piano


Learned about whirlpools


And walked on the surface of the sun

And looking at this face, I think he enjoyed Discoveyland

While heading to lunch we decided to avoid the cafeteria crowd and visit the Environment Gallery. This was something I wish we had visited when Monkey was less tired and hungry because I think he would have really enjoyed it more that way. But he did enjoy mama teaching him about the surgeon fish Doc

And playing in the tornado with dad 

But then the sillies set in and it was time for lunch, a trip to the gift shop and a nap on the ride home.


I think this was a great way to start off my last week of maternity leave, and I’m sure we will be back again soon to visit all the exhibits we didn’t see today. If not for the fun times but for the easiest bedtime ever… 6:30 and out like a light. Good night Monkeys everywhere.

What are some special ways you spent the end of your maternity leaves with your little? 

Spring Project

It may have snowed enough to shovel twice last Friday and  -23C with the wind chill on Saturday but that didn’t stop Monkey and I from heading to the garden centre to start buying a few things for out spring project. This spring/ summer we will be growing a Salsa Garden! 

This past fall I tried my hand at canning for the first time. I did very basic things like tomatoes in all forms and salsas. We have used a ton of what I canned, we ate all the Salsa Verde, only a few bottles of regular salsa are left and we have a healthy supply of tomatoes to see us through the spring and summer but will need to can more in the fall. This summer I hope to grow enough to make a little more so we can make it through the year without having to buy any. 

So this week I picked up seeds and started looking into supplies. In order to make my salsas mostly from the garden I bought the following seeds

  • San Marzano tomatoes
  • Tomatillos 
  • Pepper Hot Early Jalapeños
  • Sweet Salsa Peppers

And  in order to can enough tomatoes while also having tomatoes to enjoy throughout the summer I bought

  • San Marzano Tomatoes
  • Heirloom Crimson Cushion Beefsteak Tomatoes 
  • Heirloom Yellow Pear Tomatoes 
  • Sweetie Tomatoes

I will need garlic, onions and cilantro to make the salsa but I am planning on planting a smaller raised garden this year so those will have to come from the market in the fall. 

Awww! Look at how cute they are!


If these plants yield fruit then our tomatoes and salsa for the year for $22.20 (excluding the cost of soil and fertilizers).

Each step I take in this project I will log what I did and how the plants are coming along. 

Have you ever planted a garden from seed? How did it work out? Let me know in the comments below!

Time to Shake Things Up a Bit

One of the sage pieces of wisdom you get when you are preparing for baby is “Don’t worry they will fall into a routine, but they will change it up as soon as you are comfortable” (insert laugh track here). And this for the most part is very true. For example Monkey was basically sleeping through the night 7p-7a from December when we sleep trained until mid February when he started cutting his top front teeth. Now he is up once or twice a night for a quick snuggle and sometimes a Tylenol top up. This is becoming our new routine until those babies actually break through the gums and he is more comfortable, and then he will hopefully give me a solid 12 hours again. And that sounds wonderful except that will probably be just in time for Mama to throw a huge wrench in the routine because it’s time to go back to work!

Nothing will disrupt a little ones routine who has spent every waking moment of the last 52 weeks with you like only being home with them 3 hours a day. So in order to soften the blow we decided that March would be a transition month, where he would go to his day home a few days this month in order to get to know Miss J, and for him to spend a little time away from me so he knows I am coming back when I leave him there in the morning. And so far so good! 

Leaving for his first morning at day care

He goes the Miss J easily when I drop him off and he is always happy when I come back. But he has never done consecutive days… or full days for that matter. That will only start in April when I am back full time which could make for an interesting transition for both of us!

How did you handle your transition to day care and back to work? I would love to hear your stories of encouragement in the comments below!

Michael’s #1 Pet Peeve…

When Michael and I first started sharing a kitchen space I learned very quickly that  Michael’s  #1 pet peeve was something that for some reason I had not thought too much about, and that is FOOD WASTE. Which is crazy that this is something that I didn’t think about before. I was a university student on a budget once, and I am aware of the many who have little to eat and how food waste is one of the many ways I would be highlighting my privilege. But it was something I never really thought about before, and I decided to try and remedy and after 5 years I think I may have stared to get better at it!

I’ll walk you through this weeks journey of no food in the trash! 

It all started on Saturday when we had roast chicken and vegetables for dinner. We had just enough potatoes and carrots for 1 person left but 1/2 a chicken. 

On Sunday we were having pizza and as Michael resquested MEAT pizza. Sunday morning I fried up 3/4lb of ground beef and some Italian sausage for the pizza took about 3/4 of a cup of the sausage out and reserved it for dinner and used the rest to make buiscuits and gavy for breakfast (I wish I had snapped a picture because it was so good). 

I made 2 pizzas the first with meat leaving most of the ground beef unused.​

The second I used enough of the roast chicken to have 1 serving left to go with that one serving of vegetables!


Monday we had left over night where we ate the chicken and pizza for dinner to clean that up.

Now to tackle all that plain ground beef, so Wednesday I mixed it with some pasta and a can of tomato rice south make a goulash for lunch. 


And now my fridge is Tupperware free and no food went into the trash!

How do you keep your left overs from getting boring? Let me know in the comments below!

My “I’m too busy” dinner

Yesterday was a very busy day, between getting Monkey ready for day care and trying to get groceries done during the two after nap times the last thing I wanted to was spend more time than I needed to in the kitchen. But I have a Monkey who needs to be fed 5 times a day and puffs with a side of clementines just doesn’t cut it for supper. So I resorted to my tried and true “I’m too busy to cook” meal that looking back makes me wonder when I was ever too busy to cook… but I digress. 

After plating up my meal I thought it looked so pretty I just had to take a picture for Instagram (@the_mcgills2015). So I posted this:

And I received a few comments about how yummy it looked and how people wanted to join us for our too busy nights to which I need to respond… THIS ALL CAME OUT OF A BOX!!! So that means you can do this too! 

It’s just McCain sweet potato fries, boxed chicken burger and boxed salad greens…. the rest are just things I had around the house like provolone sliced cheese, buns and left over onions from Sunday pizza. 

Makings of I’m too busy minus the sweet potato fries and onions…. because we ate them all


Everything goes in the oven at the same time for 15-20 minutes, place the greens on you plate with some optional tomato/cucumber etc. and That Is It!

And the best part is it’s not that bad for you at 550 Cals and 39g of protein.

What is your go to dinner when you are too busy to cook? Let me know in the comments below!