Chocolate Chip Cookies

When we received my daughter’s first food allergy diagnosis, I of course immediately started researching recipes without her allergens. As the number of food allergies grew and I became more limited in the number of staple ingredients I could use, it became more difficult of course to bake but I always managed to find substitutes and make it happen.

Mostly, I’m satisfied with my baking, my cakes especially. Still, when it comes to making cookies, a little voice in my head always lingers: “it would have been sooooo much better with [insert allergen]”.

You see when I was growing up, chocolate chip cookies were a staple at my house… Our friends and cousins always hoped for a fresh batch when they came over and my mom, and later my sister and I, became famous for that chocolate chip cookie recipe. (The truth is, we simply used the recipe from the back of the chocolate chip package…but that’s another story…)

 

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I found the recipe while looking through Pinterest and it’s actually from Vegan Chow Down. They were as good if not better than the cookies from my childhood. What I love about this recipe is its simplicity. Lots of recipes I find that are allergen free or vegan often have many complicated ingredients that I don’t always have on hand.

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So without further delay, here is the recipe as found on Vegan Chow Down, with my input concerning ingredients:

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup softened vegan butter (I use Becel Vegan* margarine. Olivia uses Earth Balance which is a really -nice option but it contains flax oil which eliminates this product for us as my daughter is allergic to flax)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk (I use Natura unsweetened soy milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste (I’ve always used pure extract)
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda (NOT baking powder)
  • 12 oz dairy-free chocolate chips (I use Camino).

 

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream softened vegan butter or margarine and both sugars with an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the non-dairy milk and vanilla. Mix well. Scrape sides of bowl in order to incorporate unmixed ingredients and mix for a few more seconds.
  4. Add flour, salt (if using), and baking SODA. Mix until most of the flour is gone and the dough has formed. Switching to a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the bowl and mix the dough until all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Olivia suggests using a tablespoon to do this which makes it easier to make every cookie the same size. She also suggests flatten the raw scoops but I left them in their scoop shape.
  7. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. (Be careful. Keep your eye on the first batch to make sure they don’t overcook.)
  8. Remove parchment paper from baking sheet and place onto a cooling wire rack.
  9. Once the cookies have cooled, remove them from the parchment paper.
  10. Try to eat just one.

*  I don’t bother softening the Becel Vegan margarine since I find it already has a soft texture even straight out of the refrigerator.

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Coup de foudre.

We moved last year. When we have people over however, I’m tempted to tell them we moved in 2 weeks ago. I’ve slowed down on my decorating sprint and have procrastinated a lot over the last few months. But it’s time to get things back into gear and so I’ve given myself until the end of November to tie all the loose ends so that we can focus on the holidays in a cozy and organized home.

Coup de foudre is French for « love at first sight ». And that’s what hit me when Montreal based new interior decorating web shop and blog, Chaos & Co, launched 3 weeks ago. It was love at first sight for so many items and ideas and I was struck with much needed inspiration to continue decorating my home.

Over the last few days, I’ve built quite an extensive wish list on my personal Chaos & Co account. Their concept is simple, easy and original. The products are unique but relatable. The authors are young, energetic and creative moms who know and understand the reality of keeping house with young children and have decided that having a beautiful decor is possible for all of us, even for those of us with little ones in our lives.

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On my first visit (2 minutes after the site’s launch), I couldn’t resist this vintage bronze watering can. It’s delicate, discreet, but so unique! And yes… Other real vintage items are available in the shop, as well as original creations from local artists and many other goodies. It’s unreal the difference one item can bring to a room. All we need is a few moments to breathe and focus, a bit of inspiration and a little push to create a completely new space. When I received my item, it came beautifully wrapped. Like a gift from myself, for myself… So exciting to get spoiled!

I promised the founders of Chaos & Co, Viviane and Caroline, a pic of my purchase in its new home so here it is!

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Happy redecorating everybody! And hurry up before I snatch all the good pieces!

 

xx

It’s just an illusion…


Just checking in to share my most recent makeup discovery. I could not tell you how many concealers I’ve tried in my lifetime, especially in the last 4 years. And last week, I discovered what I seriously believe to be the best concealer to ever have come in contact with the human race. The “Light Illusion Concealer” by Evelom had been patiently waiting for my tired eyes, on a shelf with all its buddies, at Murale, (inside PVM) downtown.

After a sympathetic makeup artist applied it on me, I could not wrap my mind around the result and overall illuminating effect it had on my face. Not only is the product very efficient, but I love the sophisticated and practical packaging and integrated brush.

This concealer definitely gets the Mademoiselle Poule stamp of approval!

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Please let me know what you think if you do end up getting one too!

xx

Tricycle adventures

As we struggle to survive our crazy weeks (and equally busy weekends) we often focus on what is annoying us or stressing us and forget what is important.

Every day, I leave work and rush to daycare to pick up my chickens and I make my way home (trying to keep my eyes open) with two happy little girls quacking in the back seat. We get home and my oldest bounces out of the car ready for her daily tricycle adventure around the block. She is so happy. So excited. So brave because pushing on those pedals is still quite difficult for her tiny legs. But she pushes through and she’s got such determination. After a full day, she’s ready for more.

So off we go, with my 1 year old on my hip squealing and waving at squirrels as I follow the oldest on her pink tricycle. She would probably insist that I tell you that pink and purple are her favorite colors at this point. I look at my watch worried that we’ll take too long again and get behind in our bedtime schedule. And that is the exact moment she decides to slow down and stop. She stands up and she starts collecting leaves and pebbles from the sidewalk and puts them carefully in her pocket. Then she turns back and notices that her little teddy (comfortably sitting in the little basket attached to the tricycle) is falling to the side. She lovingly adjusts his position and pats him on the head and gets ready to continue her adventure. Because every evening, at 6 o’clock, I take a walk around the block but she goes on an adventure. And she teaches me valuable lessons which I try to remember and apply the following day.

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She is taking her time, and living her little life and paying attention to every detail around her and I’m worrying about a meaningless schedule. What is the worst that could happen if we took our time? If we stopped to enjoy these precious moments together, which, I have it on good authority, will be behind us in a flash?

But no. I’m always pressing and pushing along and stressing… Hurry up…. But hurry why? So we can get back inside and keep hurrying? So that we can quickly rush through dinner and run upstairs and take our baths as fast as possible and read a book, of which we’ll try to skip pages to save ourselves another 20 seconds? And what will we do with those 20 seconds we “saved”? Nothing.

So, as she was slowly getting back on her tricycle, ever so carefully, keeping her little teddy from falling out of his basket, I stopped myself from asking her to hurry again and thought. I really gave it serious thought: Really, what is the worst that could happen if I let her go at her own pace and just enjoyed her. What is the worst that could happen if I let her take 2 more minutes here and there? I will tell you exactly what would happen: She would go to bed 20 minutes later. That 20 minute sleep deprivation will unlikely stump her growth beyond recovery. And if I could just bring myself to accept that bed time will not happen at 7PM sharp as I aim for every night, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t stress and I wouldn’t get impatient as much, and as a result, everybody would be in a better mood and more cooperative.

I am by no means an authority in matters of parenting. But most moms know this deep down: the more impatient we get, the less cooperative the kids get and the grumpier and more frustrated the whole family becomes. So my daughter is teaching me a lesson and I’m trying to be a good student: “Relax mom, and smell the roses”.

Life is stressful. Life is busy. We’re in the thick of it. With a toddler, a baby, a working mommy just freshly re-integrating the workforce after a year on maternity leave, and a dad starting his own business. We worry, we want everything to be perfect, and we have very high expectations of ourselves. And these expectations are often unattainable. Unrealistic.

And as we plow through our days and weeks, we must never lose sight of what’s most important. We must be thankful because we have it all. We are rich. We have what money cannot buy: we have children.

Magnificent children who teach us invaluable lessons about life. Children who are patient with us and who love us unconditionally, and forgive us and give us second, third, and tenth chances. Children who are wiser than we are on so many levels. Who know so much more about life than we give them credit for. Their spirits are untainted. They find beauty in everything and in little nothings. Children who will be grownup and leave us for bigger adventures before we know it.

So every day, I try to slow down a bit more. Because when I get to the end of my life, I have a feeling the long hours I spent emailing strangers in my cubicle are not what I’ll remember with a smile. No. The tricycle adventures are what I’ll remember and those are the memories I will cherish.

Winners this weekend

So there’s really nothing quite like a bit of shopping therapy.

… And Winners rarely disappoints.

I was there this weekend primarily shopping for the kid’s Halloween costumes which I thought I was getting a head start on. Although I was in advance by my master-of-procrastination-standards, I quickly realized when I saw the half empty racks that I was almost late!  I thankfully still managed to find two adorable costumes and then was free to wander around and shop for moi.

I mainly browsed the accessories section and the payoff was too good not to share so I thought I’d let you in on what I found (better photos to follow… i need to empty my iPhone… again).

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The retro pink Marc Jacobs sunglasses were irresistible. Although a little less conventional than the usual style I go for (also known as black), for $29.99 I just could not pass these babies up. They are so fun!

A few racks further, this Kate Spade city wallet for $99 was waiting for me. I love, and have used this format for years and could never convert back to a smaller wallet. It’s the only format that allows for all my cards to fit and still closes nicely. It even has a pocket in the back where you can insert your phone.

And I guess it was a Kate Spade kind of day. I topped off my little escapade with this mother of pearl stainless steel watch for $149. I love this watch because the clock is large but thin so it makes a statement while keeping a delicate and elegant look.

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The best part? These items were all pretty small so I was able to stuff them all in my diaper bag when I got home and avoid raised eyebrows… until they make their debut…

XX

Guardian Angels

Currently sitting at work feeling hung-over.

Last night, at 10:30 PM, my husband and I were quietly and peacefully binge watching The Mindy Project when we heard our 3 year old suddenly start crying to the top of her lungs.

I bounced to my feet and raced upstairs and Hubby followed me. I figured she had fallen out of her bed but found her lying on her back, in bed, still crying in distress. I sat her up and she started coughing… and coughing and wheezing non-stop. Hubby quietly went back downstairs to get her some water while I held her in my arms and tried to calm her without waking her up too much (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept). She complained of bobo’s but wouldn’t tell me where. Then she tried drinking and cried even more. I looked at my husband: “Babe, turn on the lights!” My fear confirmed itself. She had a thick necklace of hives all around her throat and neck and her ears were so swollen I could not feel the cartilage in them. Little Miss S was still coughing and gasping…

I was holding a half asleep toddler in fully blown anaphylaxis.

We administered a shot of epinephrine, Hubby grabbed S and raced to the car as I followed with baby P.

We hadn’t even finished going down the stairs and I could tell her breathing had already cleared up. Thank God.

Once at the Montreal Children’s hospital, it was business as usual. Pre-triage and triage in a flash, we’re in a room at the ER in less than 15 minutes with a nurse taking her vitals, again, while we waited for the Dr who of course confirmed anaphylaxis. Six hours (and more Peppa Pig episodes than the human brain can handle) later, we’re free to go home. It’s 4:30 AM.

Relief.

Relieved we can all finally get some sleep. But true relief doesn’t exist.

I worry. A lot. No parent wants a call from daycare. But for parents of children with life threatening conditions, that phone call… that phone call cuts your breath. It chokes you. It weakens your knees. It paralyses your thoughts and freezes your mouth. It makes the blood in your body vanish to unknown parts of the universe.

I absolutely hate having someone babysit my kids. Not because I don’t trust them. Because deep down I fear that if an Epipen NEEDS to be administered, they won’t know how. They will call me, they will ask me to come home and do it because they’re scared, or they will try but will panic and shoot the thing upside down and into their own thumb. I tell them how, I show them how, and I train them with oranges and empty devices. But when shit hits the fan and you have to do it, it’s hard. It’s hard emotionally, it’s hard psychologically, and it’s hard physically. No 3 year old wants to be stabbed with a big needle. And they let you know. You almost HAVE to be two people. Last night my husband was holding her and I did the “stabbing”. She screamed in horror. She tried to get away as I kept the needle deep in her thigh for the recommended number of seconds… It was ugly and it was hard. But it saved her life.

I used to feel free when we’d go out at night when they were asleep with the sitter downstairs watching a movie. I felt if they were sleeping they weren’t eating so the danger was gone. If they were sleeping they were safe. But even though, being an informed allergy-mom, I’ve always been aware in theory, that anaphylaxis could happen within 6 hours of ingesting an allergen, last night changed everything because it actually happened. In the middle of the night, she was sound asleep dreaming of her stuffed animals and dolls and then she needed an Epipen… out of nowhere. What would have happened if my sweet little babysitter had been there instead of me? What if we were half way across the city enjoying dinner and didn’t hear our phones ring?

What if?

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My 3 year old has six different food allergies. My 1 year old has two. All could be fatal if reactions are not treated in time.

So I cook a lot. I bake a lot. I manage cross-contamination like it’s nobody’s business and I can cupcake all the other daycare moms under the table. I bring all of my 3 year old’s lunches and snacks to daycare. I bring all her food to my mom’s house for dinner. To my in-laws for family BBQ’s. I have stashes of frozen last minute treats. I do all that while keeping it all super healthy to counter the lack of nutrients that could occur with entire food groups excluded from their diets. I take all the precautions. I try my best to educate everyone around me for my childrens’ sake and both my and Hubby’s families are very supportive and understanding. I advocate for them 24/7 and I teach them to advocate for themselves. I manage their safety and try to minimize the sociological, psychological and emotional impacts that “being different” have on a toddler. I never have vacation because I always cook. I do my best and I try my hardest. I go above and beyond like any mom would for her babies. But at the end of the day, risk zero does not exist.

At some point, I have to let go, let them live, and trust their guardian angels. But it’s the hardest thing. Ever.

X

 

 

Travelling with kids: Very basic insight for first time moms.

Lots of my girlfriends have recently had their first child and are coincidentally all separately planning a trip to Italy… Well maybe not such a coincidence: where else would you want to go???

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My morning coffee ritual on the Amalfi Coast.

 

Having done a bit of travelling with my kids, my girlfriends have all reached out to me for insight over the last few weeks. So I’ve had pretty much the same conversation with all of them to discuss the ups and downs, tips and tricks of travelling with a little one. After having the fourth of these conversations, I thought I’d share my insight and make it public.

So here is a summary of my travelling advice, from my personal experience of travelling with a very easy child. This is the basic stuff I came up with during my latest convo’s on the topic. I’ll be checking back in to add or edit what follows if anything comes to mind.

 

Number 1: Let Go.

As first time mothers, many of us tend to be overly controlling and obsessive (I speak from experience) all for the benefit and wellbeing of our baby. I feel free to say this because I was the worst. I was that mom who would walk around and drown people in Purell before they came within 10 meter radius of my child. I refused to engage in any social activity that disrupted my baby’s naps by more than 10 minutes. The whole world had to adjust to Baby S’ nap schedule. Then, when my No 1 was 4 months, we attended a wedding in Boston. It was our first adventure with Little Miss S. During this short trip, I did what I thought was best for my daughter and what I was comfortable with. Three years and 1 more baby later, looking back, I admit I was very uptight and although I did enjoy myself, I now realize that if I had let go just a little bit, my husband and I probably would have had more fun.

So my first advice is to let go. Yes, babies like predictability and do well with a schedule. But babies also adjust very easily, most of the time. Take a deep breath and let go… you won’t break the baby.

 

Number 2: Car vs Plane.

This question obviously applies only to short destinations. We’ve travelled to Boston and New York from Montreal and opted for the drive both times. The first time, Little Miss S was 4 months. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Up to this age, all they do is sleep and are perfectly content being snuggled in their car seats (once the battle of getting them IN the car seat is over).

We however made the life altering mistake of driving to and from New York when she was 18 months.

LONGEST.

DRIVE.

EVER.

I think we made 7 stops JUST because she didn’t want to be sitting anymore. It took us 10 hours instead of the standard 6. We definitely should have taken the plane ESPECIALLY since at her age her seat would have been free. And if she doesn’t want to sit in the plane, at least we’re still moving toward our destination.

 

Number 3: What stroller to bring:

This is a good question. Parents often wonder whether they should travel light and pack the umbrella stroller or go all out and take their beloved Bugaboo or UppaBaby overseas. Again, it depends… If you’re travelling to an all inclusive resort in Dominican Republic, and don’t plan on leaving the resort much, save yourself the headache and by all means just bring a little umbrella stroller. It’ll be more than enough.

If the destination is a 3 week excursion across Italy’s cobble stone sidewalks, I would opt for the big sturdy stroller. More of a headache to travel with and if you have layovers you might not have access to it, but it will be worth it once you’re there. Trust me. Your baby will be more comfortable to nap while you’re visiting and you’ll have more storage space for your longer walks. Also, Italy for example, although a country that adores and welcomes children is not very well equipped, by North American standards, for babies. The bigger strollers can somewhat comfortably double as a high chair and changing tables on the go… at least more than an umbrella stroller.

When we left for Italy, bringing the Bugaboo was a very heated debate with my husband who was scared of losing it on the flight and thought the stroller would be a burden to carry around. But once there, he had to admit that bringing it was the right move.

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Number 4: What to leave behind.

Food: I’ve actually seen parents bring baby food on trips. Other than a few snacks for the plane, unless your child has severe food allergies (which is my case), you will always find food where you’re going. Leave it behind, lighten your load, and save some room for spare outfits in your suitcase. If your child does have food allergies or other restrictions, like mine do, then you’ll need to plan more: either book hotels with a kitchenette located close to grocery stores or research restaurants that are safe to eat at and make arrangements ahead of time.

Playpen: As much as possible, try to have the hotels where you are staying provide a playpen for your baby to sleep in. I know, it feels gross at first. You don’t want your child to sleep in the same cot as a gazillion other regurgitating babies. But playpens, even the super light travel models, weigh a ton and you’ll be so happy if you can leave it behind. Besides, they do wash the sheets.

Diapers: Unless you’re travelling to an all inclusive resort where they will charge you way above what diapers are worth, just bring what you need for the first 24 to 48 hours. You will find diapers in every country. There are babies all over the world who need them.

Car seat: If you’ll be renting a car, you can most probably rent the car seat from the car rental place as well. Yes I know. A gazillion regurgitating babies have sat in it but it’s nothing a few Lysol wipes won’t take care of. Your husband will thank you.

Electric breast pump: IT WEIGHS A TON. Buy a manual pump for the trip. You can even fit it in your diaper bag. I love the Lansinoh one. I found it worked just as well as the Cadillac Medela model.

 

Number 5: What to bring.

Your baby.

Clothes: Calculate how many outfits you’ll need. If you will have access to a laundry service, take advantage of it and pack lighter. In your carry-on, always bring 1 or two spare outfits on the plane for your baby AND for yourself. Maybe even a spare t-shirt for your hubby. He’ll thank you if severe turbulence occurs right after he’s given the baby a bottle.

In your diaper bag: Other than the usual diapers, etc,

  • Travel activity pack: A few books, stickers, crayons and coloring books, little figurines, etc. Novelty is key for entertaining little ones on the plane. So a trip to the dollar store before take-off is always a good idea.
  • IPad filled with Peppa Pig episodes: I’m personally not a fan of using technology to keep my kids in check but let’s be honest: even I NEEEEED audio-visual entertainment to make it through an overseas flight. And unless you’re Kate Middleton, this won’t happen often so it’s fine: let them binge watch Peppa once or twice a year. And if you ARE Kate Middleton, I’m nothing short of honored that you are reading this.
  • Basic first aid: Tylenol, Band-Aids (in a Ziploc bag to protect them from moisture), Benadryl, etc. Although you should be able to find these items wherever you are going, having them on hand when you need them is always a good idea, especially since they shouldn’t overcrowd your bag.

 

Number 6: Trust yourself.

Although I find it helpful to get insight and advice from senior moms, I’ve gained lots of confidence over the last years and have learned to always trust my gut. So trust yourself and take it one day at a time. For some of us, travelling as a first time mom might seem like an overwhelming, sometimes even scary adventure, but you got this. You’ll come back from your trip a grown, better, stronger and more confident mom.

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My paternal grandfather’s hometown, Ripabottoni, in Italy.

 

As mentioned in my introduction, I’ll be revisiting this post to add to it because I’m sure I’ll think of a bunch of things I forgot to include here when my next preggo or new mom friend asks me about travelling. Until then, please share any advice or tricks you may have!

 

Bon Voyage!

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