• Recipes

    Instant Pot Beef Stew

    I’m not going to write one of those blogs that write a long love story for a recipe, telling you how their grandmother used to make it like this and eating it makes you remember her during your childhood. All that is nice but let’s be honest, no one reads that. They all skip to the recipe.

    Lots of people ask me for the recipes that I use. It’s usually a conglomeration of a few recipes I saw, me not measuring anything properly, not having half of the ingredients, and winging it. So enjoy!

    Instant Pot Beef Stew

    – 1-2 lb of stewing Beef, cubed

    – 3 tbsp flour

    – Olive oil (I use spray)

    – Medium onion, chopped

    – 2 cloves of garlic, minced

    – 2.5 Cups Beef stock

    – 4 Tbsp tomato paste

    – 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

    – 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

    – 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

    – 4 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

    – 4 Large carrots, peeled and cut

    – 2 celery stalks, chopped

    – 1 Cup of mushrooms

    – 1 Cup frozen peas

    – 1 Cup frozen corn

    – 1 Tbsp cornstarch

    – 2 Tbsp Water

    Set your IP to sauté. Oil the bottom of the pan. I use olive oil, and I spray the sides too. Throw your beef in the IP. Mix it around a bit and cook it. Add the flour and stir it up. Add the onions and stir until it’s all browned nicely.

    Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, and tomato paste and stir. Pour half a cup of the beef stock.

    This part is important so pay attention. Scrape all of the browned bits off of the bottom of the IP. You need to get it all off because the IP will give you a burn alert while you’re pressure cooking if you don’t.

    The sauce should thicken up nicely while you’re scraping. Add the rest of the stock, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Stir it up well.

    Add all the veggies except the corn and peas. Mix well. Put your IP on stew/meat and then down the time to 30. Make sure it’s on sealing.

    When the IP times out, slide the sealing over to release. After the pressure releases, open the cover and set it to sauté. Make a slurry out of the water and cornstarch, add that in.

    Add the peas and corn and cook for 5 or so minutes until they’re cooked through and the gravy has thickened.

    This goes nicely with a roll or crusty bread!

    Enjoy!

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  • Travel

    Top 6 Places to Eat in Antigua, Guatemala

    If there’s one thing you need to know right from the start if you’re planning a trip to Antigua, Guatemala, is that there are a ton of incredible places to eat. You will not go hungry. Surprised? I was too!

    I’m a big fan of TripAdvisor. I review everything I do and everywhere I ever eat while I’m out on adventures. I was aware that there seemed to be come decent places to eat, but not too sure about much else.

    In Antigua, everything is within walking distance. I’m not a huge fan of walking around until we find something we like, because much of the time, the best places are kind of hidden. Look at the menus outside of the restaurant. Most have a person standing outside to help you and draw your attention into their restaurant. Ask them questions. They know what’s up.

    You may need to install Google translate. Several places that we went did not have many who spoke English. They usually have a menu you can read but you might have some difficulty communicating.

    So without much more babbling on, here are my top favourite places to eat in Antigua, Guatemala.

    #1 Cafe Condensa

    Honestly this is probably my top favourite place to eat, and also my most frequented. They had fantastic breakfasts, as well as delicious cakes and sweets. The coffee was so good, and the atmosphere was really lovely, with the colonial style building with gardens in the centre that boast fountains and trees and birds chirping.

    This place is found right off of parque Centrale so it’s quite popular. There is a little take out place in the front where we often got coffee, as well as it has a little gift shop inside.

    #2 Luna De Miel

    This was a brunch place that had amazing crepes, waffles, salads, smoothies, and iced coffee. The menu is huge, we’ve been in several times and still not tried a fraction of the options.

    They even have a rooftop patio to sit on. We frequently saw little puffs go up from la Volcan Fuego here. It’s a fantastic view.

    #3 Cafe Sky

    The food here has been tasty every time. They’ve got North American options, and even soups and salads for when you want something lighter. The food isn’t what I come for, but the fact that it was good both times we went was a lovely bonus. The real reason we want to eat there every time we go is the view. It’s got a spectacular view of the city and Volcan Agua.

    It is a bit off the beaten path but it is well worth the 10 minute walk. The staff was lovely every time as well.

    #4 La Cocina De Paula

    This gem is a well kept secret of the city. It’s local, Spanish food, made fresh. It’s extremely cheap and very very tasty. We were told to get the Pollo from Paula’s so we did. It was so delicious. It’s a tiny, hole in the wall place but it’s so good. If you’re looking for some local food, this is the spot.

    #5 Monoloco

    I can’t recommend places and skip this place. It had a more of a North American bar feel but the food was lovely. We actually watched the Super Bowl here one year! You get a ton of food for your money.

    #6 Fernando’s Kaffee

    I can’t even recall how many times I sat and ate here. Whether it was just a croissant and coffee or a breakfast or a dessert. The coffee is fantastic. The sweets were yummy. The garden is nice. It was very handy to were we were spending a lot of time so we frequented for coffee.

    I can honestly not believe I don’t have more photos of my food from here but I cannot find any! Must have been too good to stop and photograph!

    There you have it! My top favourite places to eat in Antigua! Enjoy!

  • Travel

    Travel Journaling

    I found out about bullet journaling a few years ago and have used it off and on since then. I like to make lists and track things but sometimes the idea of having to write out my own calendar is daunting, so I don’t really use it anymore.

    Through bullet journaling, I came across a post on Facebook I believe that inspired me to start a travel journal. It’s not exactly the same as bullet journaling (though it could be if you wanted it to be). I can’t remember exactly but the post was someone sitting poolside with their Leuchtturm or Moleskine journal sitting on their lap. I’d also seen a few people post about travelers notebooks, which are a super cool way to track your travels, but they can get a bit more scrap book-ish than I wanted to do, and I liked the idea of a hard cover, since I might not be writing on the best surfaces and under the best conditions.

    I looked around for a good notebook, but when I started this book (in 2016), there wasn’t really many options for good notebooks. Now that Bullet Journaling is popular, they’re everywhere. I actually looked online and couldn’t find the specific one I wanted for quite a while but finally, I located a Moleskine store in Grand Central Station and knew that we were headed that way soon so I crossed my fingers and on our trip to New York in October 2016, I found the store in Grand Central and found exactly the book I was looking for; a large (7.5 inch x 10 inch) black dot grid Moleskine notebook. I was so excited! It was perfect.

    From previous experience with bullet journaling , I knew that I’d be using Sakura Pigma Micron 05 or 03 pens, and a small metal ruler that fits nicely in the back pocket of the book. These pens don’t bleed through the paper. The same pen in bolder font can bleed through and ruin things for the next page. I know it sounds a bit obsessive but I didn’t want to ruin my notebook, especially after putting a lot of effort into it.

    I started actually travel journaling that same trip. I figured out where to order photos from and what size they’d be, and measured off places for photos to go within each page. I chose a way to head each page and each day and use that consistently.

    I chose to write every detail of our trips in this book. I don’t bullet format anything. That’s my choice. It would take MUCH less time and effort to do it that way but I love they look of it so much I wouldn’t change it for a slight convenience.

    I did plan out the front few pages. One is a map of the world that I drew with a quote, one is my bucket list page (hindsight being what it is, I should have saved 2 more pages for that). I cross each thing off and date it as I do it. I add things all the time and it’s getting quite full.

    I’ve taken this journal with me every trip I’ve done since then. Sometimes I don’t have time to write in it so I have to catch up later, which is fine. I’m not sacrificing my trip for the journal.

    I usually end up writing 2-3 trips out before I order photos now. Unless I don’t have another trip planned for a long time. Then I usually go ahead and order them.

    I love my travel journal. I love to look through and reminisce about the trips we’ve done.

    Anyone could do this and modify it to how they want to do it. This is my preference and I’m very happy with it.

  • Life

    Approved

    It’s been over a year since I posted about our intentions to adopt. At that time, we had finally sent in our completed dossier to the our agency.

    Quite a lot has happened since then. After we sent the dossier to our agency, they got back to us, saying they thought it would be best to update our information, since it took so long to get everything notarized and organized that most of our documents would be out of date by the time they made it to the Philippines. That really sucked. We had to redo our Medicals, our criminal record checks, get new letters from our employers, and new financial statements. Plus they had found a new medical document they wanted filled out for the Philippines specifically. So, off we went to get that all done with and re notarized. Our dossier finally went off to the Philippines probably in August of 2018.

    In November we received word back from the Philippines that they had some extra questions from us. We were asked more questions on how we planned to handle becoming a multicultural/multi racial family, as well as specific scores from our psychological testing.

    The rest of the questions was the easy part. Getting in touch with our psychologist is like pulling teeth. It took 3 weeks for her to return my original email. We didn’t finally receive the documents from her until January of 2019. 9 weeks after emailing her. With the extra addendum finally put together, we were able to mail it off to our agency and finally off to the Philippines.

    The processing time for extra information requests is 2-4 months, so I expected that we wouldn’t hear anything until the 4 month mark. I was scared we’d be asked more questions and have to wait another 2-4 months. I was right in that they took 4 months. We finally got our approval!

    It really has been quite a long road of paperwork. We began thinking of adopting in May of 2017, got approval from the province of NB in April 2018, and approval from the Philippines in May 2019.

  • Life

    A Small Town Nurse

    REPOST from old blog. Sept 21, 2018

    I want to start this post off by saying that I’m privileged enough to work with one of the best teams of nurses on earth. We have each others backs and support each other in every hairy situation you can imagine.

    Working at a tiny hospital in a tiny town is a completely different experience than that of the nurse in a large hospital. Many people would ask things like “Is it weird to nurse people who you’re related to?” or “Is it weird to see the same people at the grocery store that you saw in the ER that day?” Honestly? It’s not even weird. If you’re doing your job as a nurse, you can separate outside life from what you see in the ER.

    But can you? Really?

    For the little things, like giving a needle or the medications people take, yes. I don’t remember (or judge) that sort of thing. I’ve had someone ask me if I remembered seeing their bum once. No. No I didn’t. Thanks for the reminder.

    For other things, it’s more difficult to forget about. Since it’s such a small community, I get to know, and care about my patients. I am able to form great relationships with many of them, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

    There are other things, though, that you carry with you. For a long time. Some days, when I’m going about my life, grocery shopping with my little girl, I see someone and think, I remember nursing your family member, and it brings up all kind of different emotions.

    I remember holding your aunts hand while she died. I remember stepping out of the room and blinking back my tears.

    I remember the fear on your friends face when they were having the worst day of their life.

    I remember holding out hope for you when you were praying that this wasn’t a miscarriage. I remember the joy on your face when you found that it wasn’t.

    I remember laughing so hard at your joke that I snorted, which of course made me laugh harder.

    I remember the day you felt that you lost every bit of dignity you had. I tried my best to give you some of that back.

    I remember holding your hands, sitting on the stretcher, and praying with you.

    I remember waking up in the middle of the night, questioning myself, whether I did or said the right thing that day.

    I remember being there when we couldn’t save your family member. No matter how hard we tried, and we tried SO hard.

    I remember being called in to work in the middle of the night so we could transport you to a larger hospital where you could get the life saving procedures you needed. I didn’t mind the loss of sleep, if it meant you could come home to your family.

    I remember the day you were so scared you might die. I remember being scared too. When I see you in the community, my heart sings.

    So as you can see, it’s VERY different to work in a small community than it is in a large hospital. Yes, we clock out at the end of the day, but the nurse in us is always going, thinking, remembering.

  • Life

    We’re Adopting

    REPOST from my previous blog on June 5, 2018.

    I thought since we are finally finished our dossier and have sent it on it’s way, that I could write a bit about our journey in adoption so far, and answer some questions that I am getting quite frequently.

    I’ll start at the beginning. Which was actually over a year ago. We decided it was nearly time to being adding to our family, so I went off of birth control in January, with the idea of actively trying to get pregnant in March or April. As time went on, and it got closer to the time to actually ‘try’, I just couldn’t do it.

    Without meaning to sound selfish, I hated being pregnant. I wasn’t even particularly sick, but I was extremely anxious the whole time. We approached our pregnancy with Harper as an ‘all in’ experience. We had a gender reveal party with cupcakes and yummy food, we had a babymoon, we did a cute name reveal. It’s actually where this blog came from. I just didn’t want to look back on it and think, I should have done something else, because honestly, I didn’t know if I would want to, or have the opportunity to do it again. During my pregnancy, I bled frequently. Each time I would think I’d lost her. It was mentally and emotionally draining. We were blessed to carry her to term and now have a happy, healthy, beautiful 5 year old, but I was not in any rush to put myself through that again. Yes, I know that every pregnancy is different, but I found it extremely hard.

    We had talked about adopting before, probably a year or so before that. We got the first bit of information from the company that handles adoptions in New Brunswick. But, I just didn’t feel confident in it, as the person who normally did them was out for an extended sick leave, and I didn’t want to be doing this with someone who wasn’t confident in the procedure (not that anyone wasn’t competent, I just didn’t feel like it was a good time).

    Anyway, May rolled around and I still couldn’t work myself up to actually getting pregnant again, so I asked Casey, again, how he felt about adoption. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, so for me, it’s always been an option. His answer was basically that he wouldn’t ever pressure me to have another child, and his opinion was the same now as it was when we talked about it before, “Lets look into it.” So, in May of last year, I emailed Gentle Path again and began reading through the first step documents.

    So over this past year, we’ve been filling out documents, getting references, and much more, up until we could take the mandatory Adoption Course in September. The course was held in Saint John, and was 2 days about the process and what to expect with our adopted child once he or she comes home. It was a good course, as we were going into this pretty blindly.

    Before that course started on Friday we were able to book our evaluation with a Psychologist in the city. We did some mandatory personality testing and had a chat about our lives and marriage. It took a few weeks for this to come back but not that long in the grand scheme of things.

    After the course, we were able to begin our home study process. Gentle Path contracted a Social Worker for us, and we scheduled a time for her to come to our home and talk to us. Since we’re very rural, she scheduled a full day to spend with us. In January, she came to our home and we had 7 long hours of interviews. If we didn’t live so rurally, it would have been done over the course of a few visits, but this worked well for us. We also met with her a couple more times, in her office to complete the study.

    Once our home study was done and all of our documents were complied, we were able to submit our Dossier to the Adoption Panel in New Brunswick. They reviewed our paperwork and on April 5, 2018 we were accepted by the province of New Brunswick to adopt a child into our home.

    Since then, we’ve been compiling a few more documents that were specific to the Philippines, and getting them notarized by a Notary Public. We ran into a few snags doing this, as things needed to be worded properly, and all needed to be signed in blue ink, not black.

    So finally, we have all of the paperwork and whatnot sent off to Gentle Path, who deals with it from there, sending it off to the Philippines. Hopefully within a month or so, I hope to hear back from them whether we are accepted or not.

    I’ve gotten many questions from people over the past couple of weeks, but I’ll answer the most common right here.

    Are you getting a baby?

    No. The youngest child we would potentially be paired with would be around 1 year old. Babies aren’t common in international adoption, and you tend to wait a very long time for one. We have applied for one to two children (sibling group) under the age of 5.

    Boy or girl?

    You actually cannot request a preferred sex when adopting from the Philippines. Some countries allow this, just not this one. We have no preference.

    How long does it take?

    Honestly, it varies. You aren’t just put on a ‘list’ in the Philippines and just happen to get the next child available to you. You are paired with a child that meets your criteria. We were approved by the province for 1-2 children under 5 who have mild developmental delays, and minor correctable needs. Since we live in such a rural location, we thought it less safe to accept a child who might have serious health needs, where they might require multiple surgeries, blood transfusions, or complicated procedures. I’d hate to think we put a child at greater health risk living on a small island than living in an orphanage in a large city, with access to larger hospitals. We came up with the things we would and wouldn’t accept with the social worker who did our home study, and believe it’s best for our family. Therefore, we will be paired with a child that meets that criteria. I hope that makes sense.

    If we were on a list for a very young, healthy single child, we might wait a very long time. There is really no way to know how long it takes to pair each family, as each family has different criteria. My educated guess is between 2 and 3 years.

    Why the Philippines?

    Unless you go into the adoption process with a country in mind, you basically have to look at each counties rules and regulations and see if you can meet them, and choose from one of those countries. We had a few reasons for choosing the Philippines. We chose a country we have interest in travelling. When our child is older and ready to travel back to the country they are from, we wouldn’t mind visiting the Philippines more than once. It’s a beautiful country with so much to see and do.

    What does Harper think?

    Harper isn’t really old enough to understand. Some days she says she would like to have a sister. Some days she doesn’t want a sibling at all. She will grow to understand once things get moving.

    Why not domestically adopt?

    Honestly, this question is deeply personal, and different for each person. It can take many YEARS to adopt within the province, unless you’re willing to accept an older child or a child with serious heath issues.  It’s a whole different process to get a home study finished and submitted. Casey and I love to travel and I suppose that I can only speak for myself when I say I have a heart for people who live in poverty that many in our town have never seen. Orphanages don’t exist here anymore, but just thinking that my future child is currently laying in a crib in an orphanage that is underfunded and understaffed fills me with both hope and sadness. We can’t change the world with adopting a child but we can change the world for that one child. Adoption is no small thing to take on. You have to have it in your heart, and this is what’s in mine.

    That’s all I can really think of, when it comes to frequently asked questions. If you have any, I’d love to answer them. If you’re interested in adoption, I’d love to point you in the right direction!