Monday, August 10, 2015

My Saeco GranBaristo and a Free Printable!

Saeco generously provided me with the Saeco GranBaristo, but have not paid or asked me to write a review. All opinions are my own!

A few weeks ago, Saeco invited me to attend a coffee event. Their knowledgeable staff and a barista from Rooster Coffee talked about different aspects of coffee beans and espresso makers. I left that event positively buzzing from my caffeine intake and my excitement over my new coffee maker!

Until this point, I used to make coffee at home using a moka pot. If I wanted to be fancy, I would use my manual milk frother. While I could make an okay cup of coffee, I would always apologize before making a cup of coffee for guests “Sorry, I hope this okay. I just make my coffee with my little moka pot. I won’t be offended if you don’t like it” Jeeeez, no confidence.

Since getting the Saeco GranBaristo, I can’t wait to offer my guests a coffee. It’s pretty much the first thing that comes out of my mouth when people come over. “Hi! Come in. Can I offer you a cappuccino? A latté?” It has upped my hosting 100% and has totally changed my morning and afternoon tea times to coffee breaks. My favourite drink is the espresso macchiato. It’s beautiful and delicious. I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to buy a drink at a fancy coffee place again!

Saeco GranBaristo - Espresso Macchiato

I am so impressed with the sleekness of this machine. It can make 16 different drinks and is only 8 inches wide. With my condo, counter space comes at a premium, and I have no issues leaving this out. It looks great and I use it at least twice a day. As this machine also has a hot water function, I’ve been able to get rid of my stove top kettle (in addition to my moka pot and manual milk frother) so it seems like a pretty great upgrade!

Saeco Granbaristo

In terms of function, there are two parts of this machine that make it a total winner for me,  and the first is that it’s a bean-to-cup machine. It grinds whole beans fresh for you for each cup of coffee. That’s amazing! First off, coffee beans lose their aromatics very quickly after being ground, so grinding them right before using them is ideal. Secondly, whole beans are far cheaper than pods. At the Saeco event, we were also provided with a bag of the House Espresso from Rooster Coffee and it was so good that I went back last week to get a second bag. I’ve made coffees for half a dozen people and they’ve all commented on the freshness, aroma, and taste.

Saeco GranBaristo in action

The second part of the GranBaristo that I love is the milk frother. This thing is a total game changer. I’ve been told that whole milk or 3% milk makes the best froth, but we drink 2% at home so that’s what I use and it’s great! The steamed milk comes out beautifully silky and the froth comes out nice and thick. This machine also created a beautiful crema. I seriously cannot say enough good things about the quality of the drinks.

The machine gives you a prompt when the water needs refilling or the spill tray or spent grounds tray needs to be emptied. The only learning curve for me was remembering what drinks the icons on the front made. I wish it was written underneath the icons. At this point I’ve almost made each drink, but I made myself a little chalkboard inspired coffee menu as a reminder. I love the way coffee art looks in the kitchen. Click here to download the printable!

Coffee Menu Art for the Kitchen

From the time I turn on the machine to the time I’m sitting on my couch with my macchiato is probably about 3 minutes; I have an 11 month old, so anything that gets caffeine in me with expediency is a welcome addition in my home :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Taking a Baby to an Amusement Park

Blog Post Photo - Taking A Baby To An Amusement Park

Kevin won two season’s passes to Canada’s Wonderland at work a little while ago – lucky him (and me!). I wasn’t sure if a huge amusement park would be such a good place to bring a 10 month old, but I spoke to another mom about it last week who had just gone with her family and she assured me it was fun. Her biggest tip was to leave during his morning nap so he could sleep in the car, and to only plan on being there for 2-3 hours. Sounded good to me!

On Saturday, we took the 40 minute drive up. I checked out free parking before leaving and we scored a pretty sweet spot on one of the side streets. It saved us about $20 and was literally as close at a lot of parking lot spots. The City of Vaughan rule (where we parked at least) states there is a 3 hour limit, which worked for us. We also brought lots of snacks and water for Benjamin. Apparently you’re not allowed to bring in food or drinks (I didn’t know this), but they only checked my backpack (which had nothing) and Kevin cruised right on through with the stroller contents. In all honesty, if they had checked under the stroller and tried to take away Benjamin’s snacks/drinks, I would’ve caused a serious ruckus. I mean, as delicious as it is, I’m not feeding him funnel cake and hot dogs.

Once we had our season passes (kids under 3 are free by the way), we entered the park. Just as we were passing the mountain, the divers came out so we watched them jump off the mountain. Very impressive.

Canada's Wonderland Divers

Then we went straight to KidzVille.

KidsVille Entrance at Canada's Wonderland

There were about 5 rides that Benjamin was allowed to go on and we went on 4 I think. He mostly seemed indifferent. The rides were super cute, but I think he wasn’t fazed because the “ride experience” at his age level is akin to being in a car, and for him it’s a case of been-there-done-that.

Benjamin on the Train Ride at Wonderland

Family on the Helicopter Ride at Wonderland

  Kevin and Benjamin at the Helicopter Ride

We also passed by a stage where Charlie Brown and his crew were putting on a show. Benjamin was entranced. He leaned forward, mouth ajar, eyes wide open for the 5 minutes of the show that we caught. Next time I want to make sure we catch a full show because I’m pretty sure this was his favourite part of the day.

Charlie Brown's Jungle Journey at Wonderland

About halfway through our trip, Benjamin let us know he wanted to be nursed… his cues are easy to read because subtlety is not his strong suit

Family on a kid's ride at Wonderland

I looked around for a shaded area as he gets very hot and sweaty even when he’s nursing in the AC at home. Just as I went to sit down, Kevin pointed out a family pit stop area, called Parents Rest Zone. It was pretty great! I’m not sure why I didn’t bother looking for one of those. I mean, we were in Kidsville. It would make sense that there would be an area to change, nurse/feed babies. The nursing station looked like a triage room at a hospital – picture two “rooms” created with curtain partitions. I didn’t mind though. They each had a wooden rocking chair, and Benjamin happily nursed. I’m always grateful when I can find a quiet place to nurse him because he gets so easily distracted these days. He’ll break his latch over the slightest noise or movement to see what’s going on around him.  Parents Rest Zone at Canada's Wonderland

We then made our way to the Water Park. I wasn’t sure what he would be allowed to do so I asked one of the supervisors. He said the kiddie pool was fine and there was a new water attraction at the other end of the water park that was geared toward the little kids. The kiddie pool was good though. Benjamin loves the water. I busted out one of my old swim suits (I only own bikinis), but after a bit on insecurity I also packed a fitted workout tank for a bit more coverage. Although I’m happy to say that once we got to the park, I felt fine just wearing my regular bikini top and bottom.

 Mom and Baby at the Kiddie Pool at Wonderland

It ended up raining minutes after we finished up in the water, which was great timing. We were able to get out and into a change room with no line-up! People were running out of the pool in droves as we were leaving the water park, which had us a bit perplexed… I mean, you’re already wet, no? What’s a little rain?


My 7 tips for going to an amusement park with an infant:

  1. Check the forecast! It’s just not worth it to go if it’s going to rain or if there’s a heat alert. Babies have a harder time regulating their temperature and can get dehydrated very easily.
  2. Leave your house at the start of morning nap. Stay for 2-3 hours. Leave the park at the start of afternoon nap. But be open to leaving earlier if your baby seems tired. We arrived at 11am and left at 3pm. Benjamin slept from 8:30pm-5am that night, which was AMAZING! Any parent of a young baby will tell you that a good night’s sleep is worth its weight in gold!
  3. Bring some baby snacks and lots of (frozen) water. We fed Benjamin right before we left so a container of Cheerios was sufficient for food. We brought a few bottles of water and his sippy straw cup. I froze 2-500mL bottles of water so that we’d have a nice steady stream of cool water.
  4. Bring your stroller! And maybe a stroller lock if you’ve got a nice one because you have to leave your stroller at the ride entrances. I took my backpack onto the rides, but we left the diaper bag in the bottom of the stroller without issue. We made sure to lock the wheels and put a carabineer around one of the wheels so that someone couldn’t just run off with our stroller. You’d have to remove the carabineer and unlock the wheels first. This didn’t make it steal-proof, but I basically just wanted our stroller to be a bit harder to steal than the others! It was very convenient to be able to put our belongings with the stroller (babies come with a lot of stuff…) so do yourself a solid and just bring it.
  5. Figure out parking before you leave. At Canada’s Wonderland, the parking prices are pretty crazy and the spots are FAR!! You have to arrive at or before the time the park opens to get a “close” spot. We arrived at 11am, parked across the street (for free) and walked 5 minutes to the front entrance. To us, it was totally worth it.
  6. If you're still nursing, bring whatever you need (a cover or blanket or nursing top) so that you can nurse comfortably in the open. We were lucky that there was an air conditioned private area to nurse, but I would’ve nursed him under a tree. I don’t have any issue nursing in public, but I don’t want to nurse in the hot sun!
  7. Bring your camera! I wasn’t sure if I should bring it, but I’m glad I did! I really wasn’t fussy about getting amazing photos, so I barely touched my settings. I just wanted better than phone quality photos, which is what I got (except for the water park one).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What To Watch When You Don’t Have Cable

Life Without Cable - Blog Photo - 2015-07-22 As renters, we always had cable and internet included in our rental costs. Now as condo owners, we have to pay for those services ourselves. And let me tell you, it’s expensive! I had no idea how much internet and cable costs were until April last year, and I wrote a post about that experience. The condo we live in is set up with fibre optics, which is faster, but it ties us to either Rogers or Bell as other ISPs can’t run on these fibre optics*. Our decision was to go without cable television and just pay for internet. When people find out we don’t have cable their response is “What do you watch??…” or “Do you have a TV?”. The answers are “Lots of stuff!” and “um.. yes (Duh…)” Just kidding on that last part. I used to think the same thing when I found out people didn’t have cable. So if you’re curious what we do at Casa Watson, here it is!

We’ve been subscribers to (for about $8/month) since 2009… long before we knew anyone else using it and back when it was all grainy off-brand movies from the 90’s. It has come a LONG way since then. There are lots of lists online on what to watch, like this one by the Huffington Post. My husband and I are currently watching Orange Is The New Black season 3, but he’s watching a bunch of other shows, like House of Cards, and House of Lies. Also, the movie selections are great, as is Netflix Kids, but Benjamin is a bit too young for section.

YouTube has blown up in the last few years. I remember going on it and posting a few videos back in 2007 when there was a 3-minute limit. Now people have very successful careers being professional YouTubers! I watch a variety of channels from daily vloggers, to makeup gurus, to news-y reporters, to comic videos. If there’s something you want to learn, someone has made a video about it on YouTube. It is very easy to get caught up in a YouTube black hole. I suggest disabling the “auto-play” feature so that you have more control. Here are a few of my current favourite channels:


Network TV logos

A lot of people don’t know this, but tv stations have a LOT of shows available to stream (for free) on their websites. So in terms of Canadian stations, I’m talking about Global TV, CityTV, CTV, MTV Canada, HGTV, etc. Just look around and you’ll see what I mean. I use these stations to watch most of my cable shows that I’m “missing” by not having a traditional cable subscription. The only caveat is that you can’t watch them live. Sometimes they’re available the same day, but mostly I watch these shows the following day. Also, they’re not available online forever. Some only stay available for one week, some for a few weeks. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Using this method I watch shows like:


Kevin owns a few hundred movies on DVD. I have a few TV series on DVD. We watch them sparingly.

What We’re Missing..

Kevin loves Game of Thrones and sports. He’ll get GoT episode downloads from others and he watches sports at our parents houses when he’s there, but we don’t make special trips for it.


My biggest tip to streaming online is to download an ad blocker. It has completely changed my streaming experience! I use AdBlock Plus and it’s available on Chrome and Firefox. I cannot recommend this enough as it removes all the ads at the beginning of YouTube Videos and all the commercials from the network TV sites. Even if you’re not streaming, this removes ads from other websites. I love it.

Additionally, I have a computer tower set up to our TV. Basically our TV is acting as a giant computer monitor, so when I turn on the computer the TV opens up to my desktop. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse so I sit on my couch to do everything computer related. It’s awesome. Whenever anyone comes over they think it’s a SmartTV, but it’s just a basic flat screen.

I hope this helps you expand your knowledge of tv/video watching options outside of traditional cable! What’s available in Canada versus the U.S. varies greatly (it seems like our options are more limited) so if you’re a Canuck and have another option I’ve missed here, please feel free to share it!

*After I finished writing this post, I read a news article that says the CRTC is forcing the country’s big ISPs to allow competitors access to their fibre optic lines.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Life Updates

Hello? Anyone out there???


What a long blogging break, eh? I’ve missed blogging! I’m back today to let you all know what I’ve been up to lately!


I use Windows Live Writer for blogging and kept getting an error message when I tried to log into it. With a bit of trouble shooting today, I finally figured out how to reset my password. So yay for that! Also, typing a blog post is a lot harder these days. I’m literally typing this with one hand while holding my keyboard over my head with the other hand lol. Benjamin loves to crawl all over me. I always thought I’d blog regularly when he was napping but I’m usually running around the condo trying to get other stuff done. I really want to try to commit to a weekly blog post but it’ll probably continue to be an annual event knowing me :P


So, I have a 10 month old! Benjamin is 10 months old today. Kevin and I spent a good long while looking through my Instagram post yesterday and marvelling at how fast Benjamin has changed. The last few months have been a blur. It feels like time is flying and going by so slowly too. I’ve made a few friends in the past year (mom-friends, if you wanna call them that) for which I’m thankful! Specifically Jeanette, from This Dusty House! Conveniently she lives a few houses down so we hang out a couple times a week. Isabel is Benjamin’s bestie!!

2015-06-17 Benjamin and Isabel having a play date

We moved into the condo last August. I can’t believe we’ve been here for almost a year!! I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 2 years in the last 15 years, which just seems crazy to me. For a while I was feeling like a transient hobo and it was really getting me down. I was feeling so uninspired to decorate our last 2 places. We kept everything in boxes in our last apartment and slept with the mattress on the floor (in anticipation of the condo being completed). Eventually I told Kevin that we had to put the bed together because I couldn’t get up off the floor anymore with my huge belly. Frankly, we haven’t done much to the condo either. We had some deficiencies, one of which was a crooked wall that they came to fix, so all we’ve really done is move our furniture in and that’s it. I rearranged things in here about a dozen times, but I think it takes a while to find what works. I’m still working on furniture placement (shhh.. don’t tell Kevin).

 Kevin and Benjamin at Nana's house

I’ve been out of full-time work for over 2 years as well! After my last full time job ended I thought I’d get back into work quickly, but it never did happen. That’s another reason for the lack of decor inspiration. We’re using what money we have a lot more carefully. Once I’m back at work I think we’ll work on making this place more personalized!


So anyhow, that’s what’s up with me these days… Hopefully I’ll be back here before 2016 :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...