Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rayna's Portraits by Jana Photography

I searched and found photographers online, who seemed to do lovely baby and maternity photos.  Jana Photography  (comprised of Jafar and Nasim) had a collection that looked like exactly what I wanted.  I loved their gallery,  that and the fact they were located in Burnaby and provided image files, I decided I wanted them to be Rayna's photographers for her 7 month pictures (6 months was in December and too busy).

To me, this age (6 to 9 months) is beyond precious.  They are alert, playful and ever smiling.  That is my Rayna.  She is giggly, cuddly, laughs with her whole face and eyes, and has a delectable nature.  It was so important to capture this.

So I was excited and anxious to do these pictures.

They did an amazing job.  Rayna laughed the entire time,  there were multiple changes,  backdrops and ideas...none any less cute.  When it came time to select photos, I was baffled, so many good ones to choose from.

Jana Photography captured Rayna's very essence, and delivered exactly what I hoped.  I have these as a lifetime keepsake to always remember these tender moments...and reflect on this cutie girl of mine.

If you need baby photos, I highly recommend them.   Please visit 
http://www.jana.photography/ for details.

Check out some of my absolute favourites here...

Monday, February 22, 2016

"What I Have Learned" Series - Featured Mommy: Simmi Puri-Gopal

I love hearing from moms, new and veteran, about their journey, their expertise, their stories and their learnings.  As such, I was excited to incorporate a new feature on this blog, where I hear from other moms and give them an avenue to share their insights.  I am delighted to present the "What I Have Learned" series. This series aims to not only host a network of moms that can relate to one another, but also just to celebrate this amazing gift and all the amazing woman out there.

So without further due, let's kick off our first featured mommy...

Simmi Puri-Gopal is a Marketing and Communications Manager at the University of British Columbia.  She is mom to horse-loving, dancing, bubbly almost 2-year old Aris.  

Simmi always knew she wanted to be a mom, learning curve or not, she was ready for the changes it entailed and loving it. While this mom used to fill her schedule with hobbies such as yoga, experimenting in the kitchen and trying new restaurants; she was excited to become a mom where less time was spent on hobbies, and more on trying to discover which foods her son would not throw on the floor.  

With such a demanding and important profession, Simmi has learned to strike a balance and says she has come to value something that is her own thing, which makes her appreciate what she has at home that much more (though it was definitely difficult going back to work initially).

Speaking to Simmi about motherhood, she had some delightful insights to share.

What would you say is your biggest learning(s) since becoming a mom?
I feel like each month comes with a new set of lessons for me.  In the beginning it was all about survival.  Get this baby fed. Get them to sleep. Then it became about how to keep then engaged and build that bond. Now, I would say my biggest learning has been to just be present. I've learned to just enjoy my time with him and not get distracted by my phone, TV, work, chores etc. Getting pregnant was not easy for me and now that I finally have his beautiful blessing in the form of a healthy baby boy, I want to cherish all those precious moments we have together.

What, if anything, was the hardest about transitioning to mommyhood?
I never really knew just how all-encompassing being a mommy is.  You hear from others that it's a lot of work and I had friends that would complain about how tired they were.  But I would just think that they were a)exaggerating or b)just didn't know how to manage their time.  I was way off.  Waaaaay off.  Being a mommy consumes every aspect of your life.  From the physical to the emotional.  But I still love it.  How strange is that?

What is your favourite thing to do with your child?
I love playing hide and seek in our backyard.  He's now starting to understand the concept and gets a kick out of me trying to look for him (he's not exactly good at hiding yet!). But then there are times when we just cuddle in bed with one of his favourite books.  It is the best feeling ever and sometimes I just close my eyes and soak it all up, thinking how lucky I am to be in this moment.

How do you balance work and family?
One thing I've learned that's helped me in balancing work, family, health, is that it's OK to ask for help.  In the beginning, I was a little stubborn about doing it all myself and I was blind to the fact that I was in the very fortunate position of having an army of family ready to help at a moment's notice.  It really does take a village to raise a child.  Also, being organized and sticking to a routine is essential when you're trying to accomplish a lot in one day.  But at the same time, all the planning and organizing in the world will not prepare you for the times they get sick or go through a growth spurt or (the absolute worst offender) teething! So sometimes it's not about juggling all the balls in the air, it's about not letting them hit the floor!

Any particular funny or insightful stories?
Poop, poop, everywhere.  From bath time accidents to "how did that dirty diaper get into the laundry?"  I've never seen, cleaned, or even discussed, so much poop in my life.  Sometimes I have to catch myself discussing it at dinner with friends or family.  "How did his poop look today" "Was it runny?" "Was it hard?" "How much did he poop?"  "Did he poop?"  "How did I get poop on my shirt?"  These are regular conversations I have with hubby.  So much for pillow talk.

What advice would you give to new moms?
There is a lot of pressure on moms in today's Instagram-happy, Pinterest-perfect culture to be perfect.  But the truth is that we all have those not so perfect moments on a daily basis.  It's easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the big picture.  At the end of the day, does my son really care that mommy didn't make homemade Valentine cards for all the kids in his class?  Does he even know what Valentines is? Does he know what DIY means?  Nope.  He's just going to take that beautiful, hand-crafted Valentine that some poor mommy slaved over and put it in his mouth.

Simmi and her happy family, can be found playing together in their backyard, at Chapters looking at horse items, or just generally laughing together while singing Mother Goose rhymes.  I love talking with moms that, amongst the busyness of life, remember to just hone in on the special time with their little ones, and Simmi definitely does that.

Simmi, husband Naveen, and Aris Gopal (with horse in hand)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yummy treats for the little ones...and you!

treats toddlers

Being a mom of two little ones, time is never something you seem to want to waste, or have a lot of. Regardless, you want to make sure what you are feeding your kids, and yourself, is nutritious overall and tastes good.  

I often try to make sure that whatever I am making the kids, is the same, or similar, to what I am going to eat (who wants to make 3 different meals each meal).  Having said all that, kids need snacks and, I really believe, treats as well.  Now giving cookies, candies, and so forth, in moderation is fine...kids are only kids once right.  However, if you want to make them enjoy eating nutritious foods too, there are ways to make some good foods into treats as well.  I found that when grocery shopping, I was getting frustrated with the amount of sugar in any kids treat. I mean really, no one needs to have that much sugar and not getting anything else out of it.  

I also felt, through the day that I enjoyed an occasional treat, but trying to lose the baby weight, I didn't want to eat anything sugar-filled.  I have a certain taste for subtle sweet, but yummy and light in nature.  

Luckily, I found that messing around in the kitchen often resulted in not only satisfying my cravings,  but my toddler loved them too!

Here are some guilt-free items I often make at home.  They are low in sugar, super-healthy, and I promise so tasty.  

Milk Milkshakes
I make these on the regular, love them, and they are always a hit at my house.  I know the immediate connotation to milkshakes is ice cream, but I don't remember the last time I used ice cream in a milkshake.  The taste is not compromised by just sticking to milk and frozen fruits, and you can play around and make it different every time.

I just add milk, ice, a banana, vanilla and blend away.   This is the simple basic recipe.  But 90% of the time I remix this by adding various different ingredients.  Here are my favourite combinations (make your own, play around).

Milk, frozen strawberries, banana, vanilla, 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter

Milk, frozen blueberries, bran muffin, a dab of chocolate syrup 

Milk, oranges, strawberries, banana, ice  (you may need to strain the pulp of the oranges slightly)

Milk, mixed frozen berries, vanilla greek yogurt, peach slices

I sometimes add in almond milk, or nut butters to any combinations for a boost of protein

blueberry peach milkshake
Blueberry Peach Milkshake
Turning Mommy - blueberry bran milkshake
Mommy and Caiden Blueberry Bran Milkshakes

Peanut Butter Banana Pucks

I love these.  Now they never turn out as pretty as I intend, but my kid doesn't care.  When they are done, you can eat as a frozen treat, or use them in a milkshake!

Ingredients: Bananas, Peanut Butter, Cocoa or Melting Chocolate, Margarine

1. Slice Bananas (however many you want, and however thick you want).  
2. Spread them on baking sheets, covered with wax paper.
3. On each slice, top with a nut butter of choice (I use peanut or almond, and always opt for natural).
4. On low heat, simmer some water. Place a small bowl above the pot of water.  
5. Within that bowl, add your desired amount of cocoa or melting chocolate.  If the chocolate is dry and not melting smoothly, add a teaspoon of margarine.  Mix consistently in the bowl, until you have a smooth chocolate dipping sauce
6. Remove the chocolate from the heat, one by one dip the banana slices in the chocolate sauce.  Coat as much as you like (just the tops or the whole thing, it's up to you).  Once coated, place back on the wax paper.  Do this one by one until done.
7.  Place in the freezer until fully chilled and chocolate has set.
8.  Enjoy!

- I use a toothpick to lift each slice into the chocolate sauce.
- Once frozen, I usually freezer bag them, for the occasional treat.  To my admission, they can be rich, so you may not want to have a lot at once.

Turning Mommy - natural peanut butter
Natural Peanut Butter - ready to top a banana slice

Yogurt or Milk Pops
I cannot say enough, how awesome these are.  In fact, we rarely buy popsicles because of this!  I used an old family tradition of making milk pops with my grandfather.  He used to just take milk, food colouring, add sugar and freeze them.  I grew up on these (as did many other Fijian families), and I wanted to have those yummy special treats carry on within my own family.  So I do these classic pops, but often slightly remix (and often I don't need to add sugar).

All you need to do is mix this up, I use a blender.  And freeze in popcicle molds.  Here are some concoctions I have tried and my kid eats it up!

Classic: Milk, vanilla, food colouring, a touch of sugar

Milk, strawberries and coconut shavings (sweetened)

Milk, blueberries, and a touch of orange juice

Milk, vanilla, mango, a splash of pineapple juice or orange juice

-Substitute the milk for yogurt in any recipe, for a more creamy taste
-Feel free to add sugar to sweeten, in moderation.  With the fresh and ripe fruit, I rarely feel the need.
-I sometimes add the food colouring of the natural colour, to just make the pop brighter, or sometimes do without it completely

Turning Mommy - strawberry coconut pop
Strawberry coconut milk pops in the making
Turning Mommy - strawberry coconut pop
Milk pops ready to be frozen

Banana ice cream (without the cream)
I saw this first on a kids TV show, and they called it banana swirl.  I had to try it, and sure enough, when you take frozen bananas and just blend them (in a decent blender), it creams together beautifully, looking just like ice cream.  Except, without the cream and no added sugar.  Add some sprinkles and topping, and you can seriously pull it off as actual ice cream.  So why not!

You can keep it simple, just bananas. However, I find that adding a touch of milk and vanilla, makes it just a tad softer/creamier, and I just love the vanilla taste, so can't do without it.
I have added other frozen fruits, or a touch of chocolate syrup sometimes as well as just bananas. 

1. Slice bananas
2. Freeze, in a freezer bag
3. Once frozen, add in a blender (with or without milk or vanilla) and blend away.  

- If you opt to use with milk, remember to add just a touch, as you don't want to make it too soft or liquidy.  I add about a tablespoon at a time, only because I don't have an industrial blender and this makes it softer.
- Feel free to mix it up and try different combinations, add other frozen fruits to give it a bit more excitement, or to create your own unique "ice" cream.  However, just be sure it is frozen to keep the ice cream texture in tact.
Turning Mommy - banana ice cream
Simple, delicious banana ice cream

Your kids will love these treats, and I am pretty sure you will too!

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Superbowl to Remember

Both Caiden and Rayna's first Superbowls have resulted in the Denver Broncos winning the AFC championship and advancing to the Superbowl.  Both my kids are lucky for Dad and Nana's favourite football team.  What are the chances huh?  Both kids firsts, Broncos win AFC for both.

In 2014, the Broncos ended up losing to Seattle.  However, this time, in 2016, they won!

What a victory, it was glorious to see the team you root for all season win the championship,  and of course to celebrate with your family.   What made it even more special was the fact that, for Vick, it was the first time his team won while he was here,  among family and friends (previous Superbowl wins were when he lived in Greece).  So nonetheless, it was special for my family.

All the playoff games we dressed the kids up, as well as ourselves, in Broncos gear.  We also just happened to watch them all within the comfort of our own home.  So naturally,  we had to watch Superbowl at home too.  We took a risk though,  we bought the kids new gear just for game day.   Rayna sported an orange sleeper, covered in the Broncos logo, while Caiden sported a Manning jersey.  Vick and I ordered new gear also, special Broncos Superbowl 50 bound shirts (mine read "we run the AFC").  Needless to say,  we were crazy excited.   However, due to some delays in processing, our shirts didn't get shipped on time...bummer!  Maybe it was a sign to not change it up totally. 
So game day, my little Broncos family got ready in orange and blue, we completely decorated the house in Broncos memorabilia, set up a table full of food and drinks, had our friends over,  and had an awesome time watching the boys win this one (though I will admit it wasn't the most exciting of games).  

Caiden didn't really care that much, and taking photos of him was like pulling teeth. Having said that,  he learned to say "Go Broncos" really well.  Rayna was a trooper. She was in the living room with us the whole time and even napped and had dinner while the game was on.   No one wanted to move her (for sake of not jinxing anything), and, frankly, she really may have been the lucky charm, at least in our eyes.

The win came with us popping some champagne,  birthday cake for our friend Neelam, dancing, singing and lots of cheering.   Then as we were settling down, my parents show up at the door.  Dad is wearing his retro Elway jersey and wearing his authentic Broncos helmet.   The crowd goes wild again!

Overall,  it was a great day and I was so happy.  I was happy my husband and dad's team won.   I was happy it was a fun celebration.  Really though,  I was so happy to have been with my family.  It could've easily been a "go out with the guys" event, but to be there together,  dressed as a unit, taking pictures and just sharing these moments is what makes life so awesome.

Here are some pictures of our Superbowl 50.

Go Broncos!!! 
Caiden ran away, but a great pic of 3/4 of the fam jam
Chandras and Bains posing in their Broncos gear
That smile!
They have been waiting a while to celebrate this moment.
Little Ray posing with the helmet
It's literally almost the size of her.
Nana holding the lucky charm.
Pin, Vick, Father in Law and Dad - happy as can be
The birthday girl and me!
The kids watching the first playoff game.
Vick and the dads
This was definitely voted the best picture of the day.  Ray and her Uncle Nelly, looks like she is consoling him as the Broncos beat the Panthers...who can be upset after looking at that face though!