WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Pregnancy 2 \\ First Trimester Recap

You know I love a pregnancy recap – everyone’s experience is so different & I love hearing about all your different journeys. It’s so fun! So I’m finally pulling this together now – well into my second trimester.

Thankfully, I’ve documented this pregnancy in my journal, as I do with most of my life, or I’d never remember half these details. This time around, I’ve been enjoying the What to Expect App, mostly for the fun baby size comparisons. I also still have the Nurture App (like last time), since I found it super useful for tracking feeds, sleep, BMs, etc once baby is here. 

In order to keep some sort of order to my thoughts, I’m going to follow the same format as last time and answer the same questions for all three trimester recaps. If you’re curious about something, leave me a comment or send me a message. If I’m getting a lot of the same questions, I’ll think about adding an FAQ or something. Let’s get into it though!

First Trimester

Weeks 1 to 13
Important Milestones
  • Week 3.5 – Sept 25, 2020: Positive test result on TWO home pregnancy tests! 
  • Week 8.5 – Oct 30, 2020: Dating Ultrasound. I had my initial midwife visit the day before and we opted to do this ultrasound. It’s always reassuring to see the baby on the monitor. It’s also a much more accurate indication of how many weeks you actually are – over LMP (last menstrual period). It changed my original due date just slightly. 
  • Weeks 9 – 15 – Nov/Dec 2020: Like last time, we mostly waited to tell anyone I was pregnant until after my dating ultrasound. We had told a few close friends beforehand, but waited to tell most until after. I didn’t have to sneakily drink as much non-alcoholic beer/wine as last time (thanks COVID), so it was easier to hide overall. We told our parents in person, but mostly, we had to let everyone else know over text message, zoom, or social media. We drove to Vernon for my Nana’s 90th Birthday in November, so we got to tell her in person. I told my coworkers in a meeting in mid December and then publicly announced on December 17 (at 15 weeks). 
  • Week 11 – Nov 20, 2020: First Trimester Blood Work. I’d heard so much about how hard it could be to get an appointment with lab services during COVID, but I managed to score one at the location near us. It was busy compared to what I’m used to, but apparently very slow for COVID times. My nurse was great & got all the blood she needed super quickly. I was impressed – they generally struggle with my tiny veins!
  • Week 12 – Nov 25, 2020: First Trimester Screen. With all the new restrictions, I thought Nathan might not be able to join me for this ultrasound. Luckily, they were still allowing support people at the time. The actual ultrasound went really well. Baby Fish was moving around so much. It was fun to see! Their heart rate was similar to Anni’s at this time. 
  • Week 13 – Dec 1, 2020: Midwife Appointment. We went over my ultrasound results. My midwife, Alissa, said she had no concerns for any of the trisomies, which is how we felt after seeing the odds too. She mentioned that the bruise they saw on my dating ultrasound was still there, but would probably go away before my next ultrasound. My blood pressure was normal again (something I always think about after having high blood pressure with Anni at the very end of my pregnancy). She tried the doppler again & was able to find the heartbeat. It was in the 150s (similar again to Anni’s). It’s always so cool to hear the heartbeat for the first time!
Dating Ultrasound
FTS Ultrasound
Changes

As pretty much everyone says, I started showing so much earlier this pregnancy than I did with Anni. It’s fun to compare this time to last. I honestly started showing around 10 weeks this time, and couldn’t really do up my pants well before the end of this first trimester. It was nice to be working from home so I didn’t have to get creative with my workwear. I was a bit nervous to tell work given I hadn’t even been there a year yet & I will be missing our busy summer season. 

9 weeks, 12 weeks, & 13 weeks
11 weeks & 13 weeks
Symptoms

My symptoms are almost identical to those I had with Annika. Nausea-wise, I’ve been pretty lucky this time & last. I would mostly feel sick if I didn’t eat often enough or regularly. Often, I just felt generally gross. It wasn’t really distinct, I just didn’t feel like my normal self. It was also more often in the evenings than any other time of day. 

I’m generally low sleep needs, so my need for more sleep once again ramped up. This time, I couldn’t really nap in the middle of the day that often (although I did sneak a few in on the weekends). One perk of COVID was being able to sleep in more though. I did experience a fair bit of insomnia in the first trimester this time, which I don’t remember having with Anni. I’d lay awake for so long after we turned the lights off to go to bed. It was frustrating because it seemed to make getting out of bed in the morning that much more difficult. 

My food aversions & craving have also mirrored my experience with Anni. I was just getting away from the sweet tooth I’d earned while pregnant with her, & now it’s back in full force. Carbs & melty cheese are big hits too. My veggie aversion wasn’t as strong this time around luckily, but it still hasn’t been my most nutritious few months. Oh well. It is what it is!

Towards the end of the first trimester, I started to get more lower back/glute pain. I think it might be something related to sciatica since it comes & goes. So far, it hasn’t been too much of an issue, but I’ll definitely be bringing it up when I start chiro towards the end of the second trimester. 

Decisions

There aren’t a ton of decisions to be made in the first trimester, especially with a second baby. First Trimester Scans are standard of care in Alberta, so we got one. I also opted to do a dating ultrasound since I have found it offers a lot of peace of mind. 

Comparing FTS results: Annika’s on the left, Baby first on the right

I’m once again going with a midwife practice – I love my experience so much, even though I was transferred to OB in the 11th hour. I still got all the postpartum care afterwards, which I found invaluable. One of my midwives from last time has since taken a break from midwifery, so I was originally with just Alissa. She’s absolutely amazing, so I was more than happy with that. Unfortunately (although for happy reasons), she is not going to be available around my due date, so she’s transferred me to new midwives. I’ll talk about them more as I’ll meet both in my second trimester. I’ve heard nothing but great things! 

Although we’re going the midwife route, I am still planning to deliver in a hospital like last time. Again, this is an extremely personal decision, & everyone should do what they feel most comfortable with. For me, I felt most comfortable being close to a NICU & everything else that comes a level 1 trauma center. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have been able to go the birthing center or home birth route anyway, due to my hypertension at 41 weeks. I think such a huge change in location would have been much harder for me to deal with, so I feel pretty confident in the decision we made to deliver in hospital & will do the same again. 

Swaddling Anni’s babies for practice

Favourite Part of the Trimester

Seeing the baby at the dating ultrasound was a really happy moment in a pretty tough year. I also loved telling Anni that she was going to be a big sister, & having her come up with the nickname, Baby Fish.

Annika Baby Fish Announcement
Annika Baby Fish Announcement
Least Favourite Part of the Trimester

I haven’t shared this side of pregnancy very publicly yet. The month before this pregnancy, I had a very early miscarriage. I would have been 4.5 weeks, & we’d only just found out 4 days prior. While it is so common, it still stung. It made me feel a lot more cautious about who I was ready to share this pregnancy with & when. I do plan to write & share more of my experience at some point. I think talking about it can be really helpful for others who experience the same loss. Right now, I’m still sorting through a lot of my thoughts & what I might want to say. I hope if you have experienced or do experience something similar, you have people to reach out to. ❤

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little insight into my first few months of this second pregnancy. Thanks to Cassy Joy from Fed + Fit for this idea – I so loved following along with her recaps & doing my own last time. You can expect another recap for my 2nd & 3rd trimesters, but I promise there will be non-pregnancy posts in the mix again at some point too if that’s just not your thing. I have a lot of thoughts, and a huge backlog of travel tips for when we can do that kind of thing again.

xo,

A

Bullet Journaling in 2020

Bullet Journaling in 2020

As we face another potential lockdown, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I can do to make hibernating through winter a little easier. More crafts, more writing, more reading, more journaling. I’ve always loved to journal, & have definitely covered a lot of my bullet journal journey. However, it’s evolved again since the last time I blogged about it. I think this is my best iteration to date.

In the last five years or so that I’ve been journaling this way, I’ve gone from setting it up as the bullet journal site suggests to adapting it in pretty much every way to be my own. I’m not sure bullet journal really fits how I use it anymore, but it’s always been the inspiration behind this style of journal. I’ve just changed it to switch my changing needs and aesthetic. I guess that’s the beauty of this style of journal/planner, & most of the reason I’ve stuck with it for so long. You can essentially make it whatever you want.

Pens
Pens, my other favourite part of hand lettering & journaling

Let’s start with the biggest change: the physical journal. I was a pretty diehard moleskine fan. I’m talking stacks of them, from travel journals to my original bullet journals. I used the regular lined ones before switching to graph paper with the bujo.

Two years ago, I switched to leuchtturm1917. Now that I’ve used them for a couple years, I can safely say that they hold up better. They also use points to make the grid instead of solid lines, which I like the look of a lot more. The other main difference is that they have two bookmarks. Since I used this as a hybrid planner & journal, this is helpful to mark my weekly journal page as well as that month’s overview calendar. I find I’m pretty good at keeping up to date on the planner side, allowing me to go back & journal those events when I ultimately get behind.

Journals
Moleskine, Leuchtturm, Minted, Promptly

The other big shift I made was in how I set everything up. My current approach is significantly more formulaic. Journal time feels more limited these days so I found myself with more & more blank pages. It was clear my process wasn’t serving me anymore, so I switched up my layout a bit.

Weekly Bullet Journal Layout
New Layout, who dis?

Every month, I still sit down & draw out my monthly layout. I’ve outline this in the past. It takes a bit of time, but I really enjoy this part. I prefer this more visual monthly layout to the linear one more typical of the bujo style. It’s also where I get to practice little doodles & work on my hand lettering.

Monthly Bullet Journal Layout
December 2020 Layout
Monthly Bullet Journal Layout
February 2020 Layout

Each week, I use a two-page spread. On the left, I evenly break up the page into 7 sections – one for each day. This is where the graph design really comes in handy. I put all my appointments, events, and Annika’s mini milestones here. I like to colour code them a bit to keep it all organized. Everything Annika-related is in pink, for instance. These little notes are the only reason I’ve been able to keep up with her baby books & create photo books.

Since the planner page is super quick to set up, I don’t usually do them ahead of time. This is the part I like best – it’s super adaptable. I generally use the page on the right to journal. I can jot down a few things here & there throughout the week, but if I happen to need more than one page or I want to add something else in (like book club, Christmas lists, or travel thoughts when we can do that again), I have the flexibility to push the next planner page.

Bullet Journal Layout Setup
Setting up a new week

That’s it – my simplified bullet journal/planner system. What’s on your list of new (or renewed) projects for this winter? Share your new fun quarantine projects & old standbys to get us through this winter!

My Newborn Essentials

Babies! How can such a tiny being take up so much space in your heart, & in your home? I love research, so reading about all the baby items was a bit of a thrill. I talked to friends, read Lucie’s List, devoured books, blog posts, & reddit threads. These are the things I found most useful in those first months being a mom – & some that have carried us through to now, with an 18 month old.

Reading list

This list is technically my few favourites from while I was still pregnant, & some resources I consistently went back to when I felt unsure about something.

  • Lucie’s List: I loved slowly going through this whole list & thinking about what pieces I might need or not. It’s probably not for the faint of heart, so if you don’t love information, it might not be the best resource for you (but check it out & cherry pick the info you do want!)
  • CandoKiddo: I wish I had found this website/IG sooner. Rachel is a pediatric OT & I love all her cheap & easy ideas for what to do with your newborn. There is SO much information about pregnancy (& sleep & eating), but very little about what to actually do with this little baby once they’re here. This is it! (Her tips also gave me the confidence to not going overboard with baby gear like swings, bouncers, etc., & instead wait to see what I needed.) Bring on the great tummy time activities & tips!
  • The Baby Whisperer: I will admit that I kind of found Tracey condescending when I first read her book. She firmly believes in her techniques & isn’t afraid to tell you why she’s right. Sleep Training is a touchy subject (do it, don’t do it, you do you!), but I found her routine suggestions invaluable & totally agree with her that babies are born with certain personalities. I followed her EASY (eat, activity, sleep (you)) routine from the day I brought Anni home from the hospital & I think it set us up with a lot of great habits. (I could go on about sleep, so I’ll leave it at this: do some reading before you’re super sleep deprived with a newborn. My brain was basically mush for the first three months, even though I felt like I was fine.)
  • Taking Cara Babies: I only did a but of reading from her site before I gave birth, but since then I’ve found her Instagram stories amazing & insightful, & she has lots of great (free) blog posts for many different milestones (& flexible routines, not rigid schedules! 😉)
Eat

Aside from labour, this was probably the thing I was most nervous about. As someone who loves a plan, it’s just one more thing you can’t really plan for. That fact really influenced my choices. I didn’t have any insurance coverage for a pump & I didn’t want to spend a lot in case it didn’t work out. I was lucky enough to inherit a hand pump from a friend, which I wound up using the whole time.

  • Madela Harmony Manual Breast Pump: This handpump worked great. I’ve read that you can get more milk with a hand pump, but I don’t know if that is true. Since I wasn’t exclusively pumping, I found this worked perfectly for me. It was also small enough to throw in my purse or overnight bag the first few times I was away from Annika over a feeding.
  • Haakaa: This little pump is amazing! It works by suction. You put it on the opposite side to the one babe is nursing on. In the beginning, I would easily get 4 oz while she fed & it really helped me build a freezer stash.
  • Bamboobies Nursing Pads: I found these especially useful at night & ordered an extra set for overnight.
  • Formula: There are lots of companies that are willing to send out free samples & I took advantage of that, although we never really wound up using much of it. It was nice to know we had a backup if we needed.
  • Bottles: My madela pump came with a few bottles, but Anni never liked them, so we ended up using another free sample – a Philips Avent bottle. It took Nathan trying every night for months for her to reliably take it, but eventually she did & has been great with it ever since. Don’t forget to look into different nipples as they grow (I didn’t really realize nipple flow rates were a thing at first!).
  • Glider: We went with a white leatherette glider that swivels & reclines. I’ve spent many hours in this chair & I’m glad we went with one that reclined. It made those overnight feeds so much more manageable. That said, we also have one of those typical Ikea chairs you find in virtually every University student’s apartment. When it got really hot in the summer, we slept in our basement & I used that. It totally did the trick.
Sleep

Oh baby sleep. Aside from breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding), this may be the most talked about baby thing. When you’re sleep deprived, there’s little else you can think about. This is some of our favourite sleep-related baby gear:

  • Bassinet: we used a Moses basket that we bought off a friend. I just wanted Annika nearby & this is what worked for us. It sat on a rocker, which I don’t necessarily think is necessary, but was nice sometimes. I liked that it was lightweight & easy to move closer to our bed if we needed.
  • Velcro swaddles: It took me a long time to master a regular swaddle (like the ones the nurses so effortlessly manage in the hospital), so velcro swaddles really came in handy for us. I liked the Halo brand, but there are so many out there.
  • Miracle blanket: Once Anni Houdini-ed her way out of the velcro sleep sacks, we moved on to the Miracle Blanket. It’s basically a straight jacket for babies who aren’t ready to transition to a sleep sack, but end up with a lot of loose blankets in their crib/bassinet.
  • Pack n Play: This is probably one of the most versatile pieces of baby gear out there. There are so many brands – we have the Graco one, which works great, but if you have the budget there are definitely some better lighter weight options out there. Besides its more obvious uses (travel, a safe place to let your baby play), we primarily used this for getting back to hanging out with friends. Seriously, it’s invaluable. Find a dark room, set it up, & put baby down at their regular bedtime while you spend some time with friends. The best. We still do this pretty often, as do several friends in our group & it’s definitely helped us get back to feeling like ourselves.
  • Sound Machine: We swear by our sound machines (yes, we have more than one because we got so used to sleeping with one when Ans was in our room that we kept it there). The Hatch Baby Rest is my favourite. You can set up programs from your phone (so it eventually works as a time to rise clock when Anni gets older) & it’s sleep & simple. We recently added a travel version to the roster, so we’d always have it on the go.
  • Baby Monitor: We are one of the few families we know that didn’t go with a video monitor. We’d had an unsettling experience with our dog camera & decided we were fine with just sound. Our Philips Avent monitor has been great. Sound only comes through if it detects a change (such as baby crying) so we don’t have to listen to the sound machine all night, & it shows the temperature. The range is pretty good & the battery lasts more than 24 hours. No complaints. It has a few extra features that we don’t use, but overall, it’s a simple & effective monitor.
Gear

I really tried to keep a lot of baby gear to a minimum. A lot of it is only useful for a very short amount of time & I was finding that everyone had different favourites. Often they offered really conflicting opinions. What worked for one baby wasn’t necessarily going to work for my baby.

I also felt that if I had access to a lot of gear, it would be really easy to overuse it. So I decided to be really choosy about what we did buy (basically the essentials) & see how it went for the rest. We wound up using a swing borrowed from family friends & were gifted a Fisher Price bouncer that we used a lot when we wanted to put Anni down & eat dinner or make something. She loved the vibration. So of my other favourite baby gear includes:

  • Stroller: This is one of the pieces of baby gear I was most excited about, & 19 months later, I’m still really happy with my choice. We went with the Thule Urban Glide 2. I think it fits our lifestyle perfectly. If you’re planning on using it to hit the mall, it’s not your best option. Since I’m more likely to be hitting the paths or going for walks in our neighbourhood, it’s rugged suspension & smooth maneuverability is exactly what I was looking for. & as Anni got older, I was able to go for runs, which is so amazing. It fits great in the rooftop box on my car & is light enough for me to lift it up there. No regrets. (Find YOUR stroller – there are so many great options out there!)
  • A wrap: Babywearing very quickly became one of my favourite things. Wraps are a little bit intimidating at first, but once you get it, there’s no looking back. Watch a couple YouTube videos (Solly Baby has a ton of great tutorials) & you’ll figure out it in no time. I had a Milk Snob wrap, but I hear the Solly Baby ones are incredible too. I basically never went anywhere without my wrap – Anni had some of her best naps in it.
  • Baby carrier: As babe gets older, & heavier, carriers are amazing. We have the Ergo Baby Omni 360 & I love it so much. If you can find a store that will let you try a few (after baby comes) to figure out what you really like, that’s probably your best option. We still use ours for short hikes (we carry her on our backs now) so we’ve really gotten a lot of mileage out of it.
  • Diaper bag: This might seem silly, but having a diaper bag you love really makes a difference. My mother-in-law gifted me a black Freshly Picked bag & I LOVE it. You can wear it as a backpack or shoulder bag, but it’s not immediately recognizable as a diaper bag. In fact, I still use it now as a work bag.
  • Ikea Play Gym: I got this one at the recommendation of Rachel from CandoKiddo. A lot of play gyms don’t allow you to move things around to very many places & are pretty expensive. The Ikea one is cheap, adaptable, & does what you need it to.
Our stroller with carseat attachment
Wrap life, all the time.
Anni chilling in her bouncer while we enjoy a sweet anniversary dinner (Chicco Keyfit 30 carseat & Graco Pack n Play in background #allthebabystuff)
clothing

I’m not going to list a ton here. Everyone has their own priorities when it comes to clothes, so I’ll just list the couple truly practical things I love. There are a ton of local brands out there too, so check your local market for some seriously amazing finds.

  • Bonds zippy’s: two way zippers, hand & foot cuffs, adorable patterns, reasonable prices. I can’t say enough good things about Bonds sleepers. We were gifted a 0-3 month size that fit Anni from the time she was about a month old until she was over 6 months old. They fit large (so the foot cuffs generally fit when they’re on the younger end of the size & then later they can still wear them without their feet in them). They’re based in Australia, so it takes a bit of planning if you want to order. I generally wait for a sale & then recruit enough friends to meet the minimum requirement for free shipping. It takes about 2 weeks for them to arrive & you have to pay duties, but for how long Anni is able to wear each set, they’re worth it.
  • Robeez socks: The only baby socks that really stay on. I bought her a pack of three pairs when she was little & anytime she wore a different brand, I wondered why I’d even bothered.
Accessories

Last section! Woohoo! Even my attempt at a really minimal baby list is getting long. It’s hard to reign it in.

  • Jacket Extender: I opted to use a jacket extender for my non-maternity jacket instead of getting a winter maternity jacket. The best thing about this decision is that you can flip it around and use it over your wrap or carrier after baby comes. It came in really handy for getting out in cooler weather.
  • Keekaroo Peanut Changer: It might seem a bit silly, but when you’re doing as much laundry as you tend to with a newborn, anything that cuts down on that is amazing. In the beginning, she serious peed every time we went to change her diaper & all we had to do was wipe it up & be done with it. Now that she’s super squirmy, & often doesn’t want her diaper changed, it still comes in handy. It’s a bit of a splurge, but arguably worth it.
  • Baby ComfyNose Nasal Aspirator: A snot sucker. Definitely up there on the list of things you probably haven’t pictured yourself doing. Babies can’t blow their noses though, so you’ll inevitably probably need this at some point. The Frida Baby version is really popular, but we like this brand because you don’t need to buy expensive filters (you can use tissue paper or toilet paper).
  • Carseat cover: Our milk snob carseat cover has gotten a ton of mileage. I used it over our bucket seat when she was little & now it lives in my car so I can use it to hide all the grimy shopping cart parts from little hands.
An early nursery photo, showcasing our glider & the Keekaroo peanut changer.

So there you have it – my newborn essentials. I tried to keep in pretty minimal (I truly don’t believe you need as much stuff as you probably feel you do when you’re looking at that seemingly endless list while pregnant). A lot of gear can be replaced with a soft spot on your floor (you can never have too many blankets) or a playard. So don’t stress if it’s not in your budget (& seriously, check out @Candokiddo – she has a million great, inexpensive ideas for what to do with your new baby!). In order to keep this list manageable, I also limited myself to things we used in the first 3 months or so – the sleepy newborn phase. The next phases are truly my favourite though, so I’ll be back with some of the feeding, sleep, & play gear we love!

hi Annika Rose: A Birth Story

Forty one weeks & one day in, forty one weeks & one day out! I thought it was a fitting time to share our sweet girl’s birth story. I’ve gone back & forth about whether I would actually share this on the blog. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep Annika off my own public social media accounts so she can dictate her own online story (that’s a whole other blog post). I’ve ultimately decided that this story is part of my own though. I loved reading birth stories when I was pregnant. I still do, in fact. So here we go, my birth story.

When my midwife came over for my first postpartum check up after Anni was born, she asked me how I felt about her birth. We had “planned” for as intervention free of a hospital delivery as possible &, spoiler alert, that’s not really how things went down. Strangely (& happily) I feel really positively about it. It wasn’t what I’d wanted, but it was the best possible experience given the circumstances. I’ll break this out into sections so you can skip through to whatever you want. Buckle up, it’s a long story.

BACKGROUND

I’d luckily gotten into a midwife practice fairly early on my pregnancy. I wasn’t loving the OB experience so far and had heard midwifery care here was amazing, & covered by our provincial healthcare. I feel so lucky to have had it as an option, to have loved both my midwives, & to have had an easy, uneventful pregnancy.

I’m not a huge fan of hospitals, but wanted to deliver at one in case something went sideways & they needed to transfer care. A hospital birth under midwife care felt like a happy middle ground. I was seeing a chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy & postpartum care in hopes of making sure labour could progress as smoothly as possible. My goal was for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. I’m not a big fan of needles & the idea of an epidural totally freaked me out, despite hearing of its supposed magic. I also don’t love situations I can’t control, but was trying to keep an open mind & accept that I may not have a choice with much of what would happen. I still had conversations with both my husband & our midwife team about my ideal birth plan. Basically, if labour was going well, & I was coping, epidural would not even come up. If it wasn’t or labour was long & I need a break, I was open to it. We had a TENS machine packed & hoped to have access to the one room with a tub at the hospital for other pain management options.

LEADING UP

At 40 weeks & 5 days, I chatted with my midwife about what our next steps were. It didn’t seem like labour would be starting anytime soon, despite my trying to will my body into it. I was trying all the old wives tales & natural labour induction techniques & was really tired of being pregnant. We booked a routine NST at the hospital for 41 weeks where we were going to discuss the plan for that week.

Last photo of me with the bump

Monday (41 weeks) came around & I headed to the hospital to meet my midwife in the afternoon. Triage was busy, but they had a bed for me & hooked me up to a monitor. Babe was doing so well. She saw everything she needed to from baby in the first few minutes – she said it was the loveliest NST she’d seen in months. She kept me on the monitor for the full twenty minutes to make sure it was all still good & we started discussing the risk/benefit of waiting for my body to go into labour naturally & what our next steps were. She was going to send me home with some stats about those risks in the 41st week, but the plan was for her to start checking me at home every two days & hope things started on their own. She would be willing to let me go to 42 weeks if I decided that’s what we wanted. We were chatting and joking & I was feeling good.

Before she checked my cervix, she decided to check my BP. We were still just chatting casually & joking when the reading came back. It was high, like 170/85 or something. I don’t think I realized how high it was until much later. She took it again a few minutes later to confirm & it was unfortunately still sky high. I felt great & had no other high BP symptoms. I still didn’t really realize what it meant or where things were going, but the friendly nursing team started stepping in to take my blood pressure.

Our conversation changed to talk of getting an OB consult & blood work pretty quickly at this point. I was texting my husband and I think we both still thought I might be going home, but then my readings weren’t getting any better. Instead, they were climbing higher. Triage was busy & loud & distracting but even that didn’t explain why it was so high. They ordered some blood work & tested my urine for protein, as we chatted about what would likely happen. My midwife said she was 90% sure they’d have to induce me & that she was going to have to transfer my care to obstetrics. I think this was the hardest part for me. I had gotten to know my midwife team so well, & had had a generally great pregnancy with no complications. To have this come out of nowhere so suddenly was really emotional for me.

While we waited for the OB consult, they were cycling through taking my blood pressure & it was just getting higher. They prescribed some oral medication, but at one point it still jumped up to 190/102. I had a couple like that before the medication kicked it & it started to go down.

When my husband arrived, the OB resident was talking to me about their plan & explaining the transfer of care forms. She was going to put a Foley catheter in & once I had a few good blood pressure readings, I could go down to antepartum & wait for it to do its thing. They both thought it would take all night.

I was only about 1 cm dilated when she went to put it in & it was super uncomfortable. I was crying a lot but it had more to do with feeling overwhelmed by all the changes and being induced so suddenly. I hate crying in front of people, especially in a situation like that. I knew it was the right decision to be induced – I was 41 weeks & delivering the baby would most likely bring my blood pressure down. There was no reason to give her more time to come out. But I was still upset, & scared for what I figured would be a long labour.

I was still in triage & getting pretty hungry as it was 7 pm at this point. I’d been there for hours. They were just waiting on a couple more lowered BP readings before moving me to antepartum & then we could go for dinner. We figured we’d get pizza across the street since everyone we talked to predicted I wouldn’t be dilated enough to induce until morning. We finally moved downstairs around 8 pm and started getting settled. My SIL came over from her unit (she’s a nurse) on her break & I was commenting that I felt like the catheter was dropping down each time I went to the bathroom & was going to come out. My nurse was like, yeah maybe, but don’t get your hopes up. We got ready to head for dinner and I went to the bathroom one last time. Sure enough, the catheter fell out.

We paged the nurse and she was pretty surprised. She said it could have been placed incorrectly so an OB resident was on his way to check. He arrived with a medical student, another guy. This was definitely something I had thought I’d have a hard time with when I was with an OB practice in the beginning & knew there were male OBs in the practice. Funnily enough, it didn’t bother me though. More than anything, it seemed pretty funny.

Good Earth dinner before induction. We are ready?

He checked me, & the Foley catheter had been correctly placed. I was actually 3-4 cms dilated. Hurray! We packed our stuff up, grabbed some food from the cafe downstairs quickly, & headed up to Labour & Delivery.

INDUCTION

Once we’d eaten & gotten settled back up on Labour & Delivery, they broke my water. There was some talk of whether there was meconium, but they decided they didn’t think so. We discussed waiting to started me on oxytocin, but the OB said he didn’t think there was much point. I was pretty resigned to the fact that I was going to be induced so we decided to just go for it & start the oxytocin. It was 9 pm. Because of my high blood pressure, I was also hooked up to two monitors the whole time, one for baby’s heart rate & one for my contractions. We had a nurse assigned to monitor these & check my blood pressure every 30 minutes. She never left the room, but we were allowed to wander the halls with all my gear. It seemed super quiet on the ward, with maybe two other rooms occupied. Contractions started pretty quickly, but were super mild in the beginning. We kept walking around to get things moving. My SIL came for a visit when she got off work just after 10. We chatted for a bit and then got back to wandering the halls.

SIL Visit

My contractions were pretty regular right off the bat, which the nurse was happy with. We just needed them to get longer & more intense to get things going, so we kept walking a fair bit. At this point, I remember thinking they just felt like a squeezing feeling. Sort of similar to cramps, but not really at the same time. It didn’t take too long for me to get to a point where I couldn’t walk or talk through them.

ACTIVE LABOUR

At that point, we moved back to the room. I was really feeling it in my lower back so I wanted to use our TENS machine & lean over the back of the bed. I just couldn’t stand being on my back. The nurse also offered to hook up the laughing gas, which I decided to go for even though most people had told me they hated it. Luckily, I found it really helpful. It didn’t stop the pain but it took the edge off & forced me to focus on proper breathing. N was also really great at applying counter pressure & rubbing my back. I thought I’d be a lot more vocal through the pain, but I mostly just put my head down and tried to breath.

I laboured like this from about midnight until 2 am, when the OB resident came back because my blood pressure was back up. He wanted me to consider an epidural, not for pain management, but to lower my blood pressure. I was hesitant since I really couldn’t stand being on my back, but it also seemed like a logical decision given the issues we were having with my blood pressure, so we decided to get it.

The anesthesiologist came pretty quickly & started the whole process. This was probably the worst part for me. I kept telling myself that at least I’d get some pain relief & maybe we could both sleep for a bit, but I was really struggling with the whole thing. At one point, I felt something weird & involuntarily arched my back. Both N & the nurse were holding me so tightly & were pretty worried that I’d jerked back. The anesthesiologist was pretty quick afterwards & it didn’t take long for me to start feeling the effects.

EPIDURAL

Unfortunately, the epidural never fully worked for me. My left side was definitely numb, but I was still having a lot of pain on my right side, in the front, & had significantly more mobility in my leg on that side. They kept propping up my left side since they said gravity should help it work, but that didn’t do anything for me. The pain kept getting worse & I was really grateful for the laughing gas & my husband’s encouragement.

At 4 am, the OB resident came back because my BP had spiked again. He told me I’d earned a check (we’d asked a couple times before this point, but he’d told us less fingers were better, so we were excited he was going to check so we’d have an idea of where we were. I hadn’t had one since I was first induced). N said he was suggesting that if I wasn’t at a certain point, they’d be doing a c section. I luckily didn’t catch that since it was one of my fears going into labour.

To his surprise, baby was right there when he checked me, which he said was probably why my BP was up & the epidural wasn’t working. Looking back, I’m curious how long I’d been at that point. He told us we could start doing some practice pushes & the nurses could get ready for baby. This was just after 4 am. My husband got on the phone right away to call our midwife back. We wanted her there for delivery & were supposed to call her when I was at 8 cm.

The nurse talked me through how we’d push. They were gonna have me start on my back, which I wasn’t super excited about after having learned it isn’t the best position in baby class, but my back pain was pretty intense at this point. I was still sucking back the gas with every contraction, to a point where she said, you’re going to have to put that down on the next one if you want to push. I was pretty unsure I could manage it.

I did though. N & the nurses counted for me. He liked feeling like he had something useful to contribute & I liked having something to focus on. Pushing was so much better than the waiting. I couldn’t actually feel what I was doing or feel any pressure so I just focused on pushing like they told me. It seemed to do the trick. I was making progress quickly & they were starting to see the top of babe’s head.

Between contractions I was really struggling though. I couldn’t feel an urge to push or anything like that & the pain in my back had really increased. I actually looked forward to each contraction so that I could push. It was such a welcome distraction from the back pain. After trying a few push just on my back with N & a nurse helping me hold my legs, we decided to try to use the squat bar. We did that for a little bit, but it wasn’t my favourite. I was still making really good progress though. With every push, they were seeing more of the head. N said it was really cool to see.

My midwife arrived around this point. I was really happy to see her & glad she made it for the delivery, although I’d felt so bad calling her so late. She was also pregnant & I’d hoped to give her a little more time to get herself there.

I switched back to pushing more on my back, using the squat bar for support. I thought I would like the squatting position more than I ended up. I think it was just hard given that one leg was numb from the epidural. With every push, I got so much encouragement from everyone around me. They asked if I wanted to see the head with a mirror & I decided to look. I think my response was, that is so weird. It was strange to see, but I’m glad I looked.

The room was pretty full at this point. A lot of the nurses on the unit had made their way to our room & were pretty excited for us. The OB resident came back & was ready to catch the baby. He guided me through the last few pushes, telling me to stop at one point, which felt so weird but probably saved me from a much worse tear.

The last few minutes we a blur. All of a sudden, babe was out and they were lifting this little slimy bundle onto my chest & cleaning her up & asking if we’d seen if it was a boy or girl. Someone used the pronoun, she. She’s a girl!

There were tears & photos & video. My husband eventually cut the cord. Mostly she snuggled on my chest & let us admire her. There was a flurry of congratulations & excitement. The actual OB came to congratulate us & check that his resident had it all under control.

Anni’s first snuggles

I had a mild second degree tear so the resident stitched it up, which seemed to take forever. Our OB also showed us the placenta, which is so bizarre, but pretty cool. The whole time, babe was just chilling on my chest. They didn’t even think of taking her to weigh her or anything for so long, which is exactly what I’d hoped for. We got so much great skin to skin.

Our beautiful Annika Rose weighed in at 7 lbs 11 oz & 21 inches. Her official time of birth was 5:15 am (I pushed for about 45 minutes). We’ve been smitten from the moment we met. She’s an amazing, sweet, easy-going baby, & we feel so lucky.

Poutine with Purpose 2019

Oh My Curd – if you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a lot of posts about poutine this week; I’m an official Poutine Pusher for #PoutinewithPurpose again this year! This is my favourite food week in the city & I’m so excited to be included in this weeks events.

Calgary’s Poutine Week is the seven days of the year you can eat poutine guilt-free! Why? Every poutine sold at participating restaurants provides a meal to a youth in need thanks to Mealshare YYC! In 2018, Calgary Poutine With Purpose sold 11,000 poutines and Victoria sold 2,050 helped thousands of youth in need. We’re hoping to break that record again this year & today is the last day to help us make that happen (unless you head out to Canmore for 514 Poutine – they extended theirs until tomorrow! Bonus poutine!)

It’s easy to get involved:

  1. Find a restaurant or poutine you want to try at poutinewithpurpose.com
  2. Eat poutine.
  3. Provide a meal to youth in need
  4. Tell everyone!

This week, I tested 4 of the 90+ participating poutines. If you need some help narrowing down the list, here are my thoughts on the four poutines I tried.

Citizen Brewing Company

Tender beef meatballs, mushroom gravy, squeaky curds, sour cream, & dill top the best crispy fries I’ve had in a long time (& I put away 8 poutines at the Gravy Bowl, so that’s saying a lot!). Inspired by his grandma’s perogies, chef Brad nailed it with this entry. It’s even baby approved!

If you haven’t checked out Citizen Brewing yet, you’re in for a treat. Not only is the poutine fantastic, but they’ve got a great selection of beers on tap, friendly staff, lots of board games, & a wicked patio when the weather finally cooperates. We loved their Monday $5 pint deal,& I’m definitely going to be checking out Thursday ladies night with my girlfriends soon!

Calcutta Cricket Club

I’m continually impressed by everything that comes out of the kitchen at Calcutta Cricket Club. As I’ve come to expect from this cosmopolitan Indian spot, their poutine this week is spicy & full of flavour.  My mouth is watering again just thinking about it!

I met a girlfriend for happy hour at this trendy spot on 17th ave. Their lamb curry poutine features tender, braised lamb shoulder, tomato aioli, mint raita, green onion, fries, & cheese curds. I loved how the spicy tomato aioli worked as a stand in for gravy. It has so much flavour! & the mint raita is the perfect compliment, helping cut the spice down a notch, while adding a ton of additional flavour.

On top of the delicious food (we ordered a few favourites from their happy hour menu – it’s a fantastic deal!), the ambience & service are spot on. They’re also baby friendly, which has been an amazing perk for us since Annika’s arrival in July.

Anju

I am always excited to see what Roy’s going to come up with. We’re longtime Anju fans, as all my friends & family well know. It’s my number one suggestion for anyone who loves flavourful, inventive, delicious food. Honestly, I could go one for days about everything I love about Anju, but I think there are at least 5 previous blog posts about just that subject, so I digress.

Enter the Cruel Skintentions Poutine: Kennebec Fries, Fried Chicken Skin, Spiced Curry Powder, Cheese Curds, Sriracha Chicken Gravy. Yeah, you read that right, Chicken Skin (cuz poutine isn’t naughty enough on its own 😉😂). These guys know the way into this girl’s heart, that’s for sure. This a fairly simple Poutine with Purpose entry for Anju, but it hits all the right notes for me in terms of flavour. I loved the hint of spicy from the sriracha chicken gravy.

Since N was back in town, we couldn’t resist ordering a few of our standby’s too (Crispy tofu, oxtail tortellini, gochujang wings, in case you’re curious. 😉 ) It was a fantastic way to spend a Thursday evening as a family. Thank you so much for hosting our whole crew!

514 Poutine

Our family has a running joke that our car can’t drive past Canmore without stopping in for poutine, so when 514 Poutine showed up on the list of participating restaurants for @poutinewithpurpose, we knew we’d be making the trip. 

This is the most authentic Quebecois poutine in the West. It takes me right back to living in Montreal. The cheese curds are the real deal, the gravy is delicious – with a balanced flavour that holds its own without taking over – , & the fries are crispy on the outside & soft inside. All this is why we love visiting 514 Poutine, but the real reason we keep coming back are the friendly owners. They never fail to make us (& Odin!) feel so welcome.

This is their first year participating in Poutine with Purpose, & they’ve included four of their incredible poutines: traditional, extreme, meat lovers, or deluxe. We ordered the meat lovers & the deluxe & they were both incredible. I’ve always been a traditionalist, but the tender smoked meat on the deluxe may just have converted me. Pair it with a Black Cherry Cola or Spruce Beer for the real Quebecois experience.

So that wraps up my week of Poutine with Purpose. I hope you get a chance to sample some of these fantastic options & help us break last years’ record. You really can’t go wrong with this mealshare & poutine collaboration.

As always, thanks to Karen for organizing this amazing event & thinking of me as part of the Poutine Pusher team. I always love being part of Poutine with Purpose, & the fact that it’s turned into such a great opportunity to give back to our community, with the help of Mealshare, may just be the best part. Thank you also to all the restaurants who hosted me & were so open to chatting about their creations this week – you guys have been so awesome & accommodating! I can’t wait to find out who are overall winner is!

Happy Poutine Eating, friends!

Gravy Bowl 2019

It’s here! Poutine Week! As you well know, this is my favourite of the YYC food weeks, & I’ve been incredibly fortunate to join five Calgary food aficionados as Poutine Pushers. This is my third year as a Poutine Ambassador of sorts & no, the thrill hasn’t worn off. I’m super excited to get the opportunity to sample so many of this city’s fine creations.

The instagram station

Calgary’s Poutine with Purpose is the best seven days of the year, if you ask me. Why? Two reasons: Participating restaurants are competing to sell the most poutine over the course of this week AND every poutine sold at these restaurants provides a meal to a youth in need thanks to Mealshare YYC! You eat delicious poutine, & help Mealshare in heir goal to end youth hunger. Win win!

In 2018, Calgary Poutine With Purpose sold 11,000 poutines and Victoria sold 2,050, helping thousands of youth. Wow! I can’t wait to see how well this year goes!

& it’s incredibly easy to get involved:

  1. Find a restaurant or poutine you want to try atpoutinewithpurpose.com
  2. Eat poutine.
  3. Provide a meal to youth in need
  4. Tell everyone!

I kicked off my 2019 Poutine with Purpose with a Saturday full of delicious poutine at the Gravy Bowl. N was working up at site so I brought my bestie along as my date. I had to miss this event last year so I was even more excited than usual, if that’s possible. Teams made up of a chef + a Local Brewery compete in a live cook-off for best poutine.

My sweet date

The idea is that teams present to the judges, while we sample those same poutines family style. This year, guests were also handed a token to cast their vote & award one pairing the People’s Choice Award. In true Danel & Alanna fashion, we took this task very seriously. 😉

Over the course of four hours, we sampled EIGHT poutines with beer samples. Whew! It was intense, but delicious. & I have to say, I was incredibly impressed with each & every pairing. Each restaurant + brewery really brought their A game.

Our vote went to the Alberta Prairie Poutine by Elbow Room + Half Hitch We’re both suckers for crispy brussels sprouts & theirs were cooked perfectly, as were the fries. The kick from the serrano aioli took it to the next level. It turns out we were in good company since it took home the People’s Choice Award.

Smiles for Half Hitch +Elbow Room
Cleaver & Railyard dishing out poutine
Cheese stretch!

The Lamb Gyro Poutine by Yellow Door Bistro + Banded Peak took first place from the judges. With lamb gyro, halloumi cheese, a delicious herb gravy, & twice cooked fries topped with tabbouleh & garlic sauce, it was a top pick of ours too. If they were to bottle that garlic sauce, I’d be first in line to pick myself some up!

The Lamb Gyro Poutine. I missed rhe IG station on this one. I blame my food coma. Haha

I have to give a shoutout to 4 spot for the jalapeño cheese hush puppies they topped their BBQ in the Garden Poutine with. If those aren’t on their menu, they should seriously add them.

Leopold’s + Annexe (i loved this one as a dish but it was the least poutiney poutine we ate)
Cacio e Pepe Poutine by our hosts, Double Zero, + Wildrose
4 Spot + Cold Garden (hush puppies!!)

As always, I was to give a special thanks to Karen for organizing this amazing event & thinking of me every year. She puts so much time & attention into making this week truly awesome & is just such a rockstar. I can’t say enough good things about her! The fact that it’s turned into such a great opportunity to give back to our community, with the help of Mealshare, may just be the best part of Poutine with Purpose.

(Find my previous year’s posts here, including my first Poutine Crawl experience way back in 2014! I can’t believe this is my 6th year of poutine-ing!)

Pregnancy \\ Third Trimester Recap

Well, that was quite the break! I started this post July 12, & then I got preoccupied with the waiting game. For some reason, I could not motivate myself to finish writing this post. So, here we go, over 4 months late. Let’s take a trip back in time & look at my third trimester.

Third Trimester

Weeks 29 to 41
IMPORTANT MILESTONES
  • Week 29 – May 7, 2018: Baby Moon! I flew down to SF to meet Nathan and pack up his condo. I was lucky to be able to work from home that week, & enjoy a final week of California living. I went to 2 NPSF workouts & an East Bay Free Fitness one too (they’re now officially NP Oakland!). We said goodbye to all our favourite spots & spent time with his wonderful coworkers. It was a really lovely final week in the Bay.
  • Week 30 – May 14, 2018: Baby moon! We road-tripped home from California. Highlights: Mendocino, Avenue of the Giants, Oregon Dunes, Oregon Coast, Cannon Beach, Portland, Vancouver. I love this drive. I’ll do a recap of it sometime. I have so much to share.
  • Week 32 – June 3, 2018: My Baby Shower. My best friend, Danel, & my mom hosted my shower at my parent’s house. It was an incredible shower. They put so much work into it & I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect afternoon. My Nana flew in from Vernon, which was the best surprise & baby & I felt so incredibly loved.
  • Week 33 – June 7, 2018: My midwife thought baby might be breech so we scheduled an ultrasound. We learned that baby had flipped & that it has a lot of hair, which is rare at this stage. They estimated that baby is about 5 lbs, which is in the 75th percentile. Everything else was normal, which is a huge relief.
  • Week 34 – June 13, 2018: First birth & babies class. It was a really great class. Our instructor was great & we learned a lot about the pelvis which was really interesting. Most of us are due between July 21 & 23, & delivering at the Foothills.
  • Week 34 – June 14, 2018: Dr for Moms Chiropractic adjustment. I had such an amazing & informative first appointment with Dr. Hort. My back felt so much better right afterwards & she did some other adjustments that will hopefully help make labour go smoothly.
  • Week 36 – June 29, 2018: Last day of work!
  • Week 40 – July 23, 2018: Due date! & my birthday! Went for lunch with my SIL & MIL & then my brother’s girlfriend took me for ice cream. No signs of baby.
  • Week 40 – July 24, 2018: Membrane sweep at midwife appointment. Baby was in a good position, but it didn’t do much. I went to acupuncture after, which was really relaxing. I definitely fell asleep.
  • Week 41 – July 30, 2018: Non Stress Test at Foothills. I was scheduled for this routine NST as I was one week overdue. It went really well, but (spoiler alert!) babe had other plans for us, so this marks the end of the third trimester for me. I’ll share more with my birth story.
CHANGES

I was expecting to feel huge in my final month of pregnancy, but I was still surprised by how massive I felt. I still managed to get out & do a lot, but I had to slow down & do less, especially in July when it was also really hot. The only shoes that fit me by then were my Birkenstocks.

I stopped working at the end of 36 weeks, which gave me plenty of time to prep meals, wash all of babies clothes, & do all the things you feel like you should get done beforehand. It should have also given me ample time to finish this blog post, but instead, I watched a lot of Netflix, took long walks with Odin, met up with friends, agonized over possible labour symptoms, & ate my weight in dates.

SYMPTOMS

I felt great up until about 37 weeks. & even then, I felt pretty good, just huge & hot & swollen. I wasn’t sleeping great since I was constantly thinking about baby or labour or…god knows what, & getting up to pee 1000x a night. I was feeling very ready to not be pregnant anymore, anxious to meet baby, & scared for labour.

Energy: My energy was all over the place. Sometimes I felt great & went on a cooking/cleaning spree. More often, I napped a lot to make up for my increasingly broken night time sleep.

Lower Back Pain: Although it was a lot better thanks to Dr Hort, it was still there. It was hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in & I think that really contributed to my back pain.

Foot Pain: My arches were still bugging me (although, I was no longer running) & my feet also got quite swollen in the final weeks.

Swelling: My hands, my feet, my face. I stopped being able to wear my rings in mid June (around 32 weeks) & by the end, even my bracelets were snug. My feet were definitely the worst. I could get my runners on, but they looked pretty comical so I mostly wore my Birkenstocks. I had to loosen the buckles several holes. I thought I’d be able to wear flip flops, but my feet seemed to almost spill out of them. V attractive.

FOOD: AVERSIONS & CRAVINGS

I was still craving all those quick carbs & sugar. I fear my love of sugar might be here to stay now, which I’m still finding quite strange. I was loving pizza, burgers, french fries. Someone told me that greasy food sometimes puts people into labour, so I took advantage of that & felt no guilt eating Wendy’s or Taco Time in those final weeks. I also craved caesar salad (which is a very normal craving of mine, actually) & chili chicken a couple days before I was induced. Random!

DECISIONS

There weren’t too many big decisions left to make by the third trimester. The biggest ones had to do with labour. I had planned a pretty low intervention, hospital birth. It seemed like the best of both worlds. Ideally, I wanted to go into labour on my own & see how things went. If everything was going well & I was managing the pain, I didn’t want an epidural. My midwives were both on board with this & really supportive of everything on my “wish list”. It’s funny how much you really get to know them & how they’re such a huge part of this short period in your life, & then you don’t really see them again. (That’s a bit of a tangent, but it’s weird!)

I had decided to see a Chiropractor who specializes in helping moms. She was amazing & I definitely felt she made a big difference in my back pain. She also did a lot to make sure my pelvis was in the right position. I’m not sure if I’d have had issues if I hadn’t seen her, but I’m happy I did since everything went well!

Once I hit 40 weeks, I decided to also do acupuncture to try & help move things along. I’d never been before so I had no idea what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying it. It was mostly just nice & relaxing. I got some sleep & just chilled out. It was wonderful.

a last photo of our little family of 3
FAVOURITE PART OF THE TRIMESTER

My baby shower. It was incredible. I felt so loved. My mom & bestie put so much care into planning & organizing it. I felt so lucky to have so many kind, generous, loving people in my life, & so many people who already love our little person.

LEAST FAVOURITE PART OF THE TRIMESTER

Waiting! & the heat. I normally love summer & the heat, but it was tough to handle while pregnant. & I am pretty impatient, so it probably comes as no surprise that I hate waiting for my due date to come (& go) with no baby. I had thought I might be early (for no real reason, honestly), so that made it all the more difficult. & as someone who really likes to plan things, it’s hard having no control over this huge event in your life. I suppose it’s good practice for when you actually have a baby, but it’s definitely a struggle.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little insight into this stage of pregnancy. Thanks to Cassy Joy from Fed + Fit for the great idea – I so loved following along with her recaps. You can expect a birth story soon (I actually already have it all written as I didn’t want to forget) & perhaps a 4th trimester recap, since we’re done with that as well. & I swear I’m still working on many non-pregnancy posts as well, or at least, I’d like to get back to more blogging of that nature.

xo,

A

Travel \\ Munich

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since this trip. I certainly didn’t mean for these posts to get so far behind, but I’ve had a different set of priorities lately. Google photos sends me a flood of photos every week though & I love looking back on our time in Europe last year. Munich was another must revisit for both N & I, but especially for N who found his overnight stay (the shortest of the whole tour) during Contiki far too short. I’d had a few days to explore the city, but was eager to revisit my favourites & find some new ones.  Here’s what I loved most about our visit this time around.

Traditional Bavarian Experiences

Travel planning & research has gotten so much easier even since my first visit to Munich in 2009. There’s just so much great information online, & while it can be overwhelming, I love pouring over different articles & blog posts & making a big plan. Going into this trip, I felt I had a much better grasp on Munich than I did even after my first visit. While I love the eclectic mix of modernity, grit, & multiculturalism you find in Berlin, I’m more at home in laid-back Munich (however, it’s unfair to play favourites with either of these great German cities, if you ask me). The juxtaposition of high-tech with traditionalism that you find in Munich is such an interesting contrast. I really love it!

Traditional breakfast in Munich is a must, if you ask me. I’d read a fair bit about it before our visit, but I was still skeptical before we went. When we woke up a little groggy from a few too many steins the night before, I really wasn’t sure I was up for it. Luckily Munich is pretty compact so even though we needed to get an early start, it didn’t take too long to get from our hotel near the Englischer Garten to the city center. & I’m so glad we didn’t end up skipping it. It wound up being one of my favourite memories from the city.

So what exactly is a traditional Bavarian Breakfast? Most people we told about it were not into the idea of starting their day with beer & sausage, & I was honestly pretty skeptical, but it actually really works. & once you’re there among locals, who are ordering the same with their morning paper, it seems totally normal. The wheat beer (weissbier) is quite refreshing. I read a lot of reviews about where to go & we settled on Schneider Bräuhaus for our Weisswurst Frühstück. Breakfast included the beer, boiled sausages served with loads of sweet mustard, and freshly baked pretzels. The sausages come in pairs & are served in a pot of hot water to keep them warm. You’re supposed to remove the skin by cutting the sausage lengthwise and then roll the meat from the skin with a fork (apparently eating the casing gives you away as a tourist, not that we were fooling anyone).

Traditional Bavarian Breakfast

The sausages arrive in hot water to keep them warm.

Traditional Bavarian Breakfast

Beer, Pretzels, Sausage, & Mustard. Don’t knock it til you try it.

Last time I was in Munich, I didn’t quite have the funds for a dirndl, the traditional Bavarian dress for women. I’ve often thought about how I should have just gone for it since then though, so I was resolved to buy one this time around. I looked up a few tracht stores in the city center beforehand & we found one that seemed to have reasonably priced dirndls. It was fun to try all the different patterns & combinations on. I found one I really love & wore it out that night. You certainly don’t need one to enjoy the beer gardens or other Bavarian traditions, but I love mine & got so many compliments on it all night in the beer halls!

Traditional Bavarian Tracht

In my dirndl at the
Hofbräuhaus

Beer Gardens

They’re everywhere in Munich &, for us at least, an essential part of any stay in the area. They’re all a little different, but most of my favourites have a great outdoor space. I think what really makes the Bavarian Beer Garden so special is the seating. Don’t expect to have a table all to yourself. Half the fun is making friends with the other people at your table.

We went to quite a few biergartens over the course of our stay. On our first night, we headed over to one of my personal favourites: Augustiner-Keller. We started in the restaurant for dinner with my brother & his girlfriend before heading over to the biergarten for another stein. Even my brother’s girlfriend ordered a 1L stein, & she’s not usually a big beer drinker. There’s something contagious in that atmosphere, whether it’s the garden setting, the twinkling overhead lights, or the sounds of other parties enjoying the warm summer air. The beer at Augustiner also has a great reputation, combined with its central location & charming garden, it’s a busy favourite for many.

Augustiner-Keller

My brother & his girlfriend

Augustiner-Keller

N & I

Augustiner-Keller

Augustiner-Keller

Beer Gardens

Another favourite of mine is the beer garden at the Viktualienmarkt. It’s mostly self-service, so you’ll definitely find yourself cosying up to other groups, especially during prime market hours. I love this aspect of it. I’m a sucker for a market, so the opportunity to gather a variety of lunch options before finding a table & grabbing a couple steins is my idea of the perfect afternoon. A unique feature of this particular beer garden is the beer itself. Every six weeks, a different beer from one of Munich’s famous breweries is served on tap. They alternate through Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Spaten.

Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt

Lunch & Steins at the Viktualienmarkt biergarden

Viktualienmarkt

Crowded Saturday in the biergardens

Viktualienmarkt

Tables of new friends & old friends

Viktualienmarkt

Rounding out my top picks is the biergarten at the Chinesischen Turm in the English Garden. No visit to Munich is complete without some time in this huge park, & I think the biergarten here is an equally worthwhile stop. Bands play beneath the huge wooden pagoda in the summer, & its proximity to the University draws in a younger crowd. On a sunny day, it’s the perfect spot for a break. We joined my parents here for a drink on Canada day, before continuing into the city center for dinner.

Chinesischer Turm

Chinesischer Turm beer garden

Chinesischer Turm

Chinesischer Turm

Prost!

Chinesischer Turm

Ready to ring in Canada Day, Munich Style

Food

As always, this is probably the most important piece of research for me when planning a trip. I essentially plan all my sightseeing around the food I want to eat, & Munich was, of course, no exception. I’ve already mentioned traditional Bavarian breakfast as a must, but there were definitely a few more gems during our stay.

Much like our previous stop, Bavarian food is pretty heavy. It’s definitely a style I personally love (there’s a reason why grandma’s food can be so comforting!). Expect big portions & lots of meat, although you can certainly find a diverse array of food from other cultures as well. I just gravitate to some of the more Bavarian options.

The restaurant at Augustiner-Keller is a great spot to sample some Bavarian specialties. N & I both went for the pork knuckle with potato dumpling & red cabbage. It is a huge serving, but it was so good that I would order it again in a heartbeat (& we did in fact during a stop over in a small German town during the cruise!)

Augustiner-Keller

Pork Knuckle at Augustiner-Keller

The following night, I had made a reservation for dinner at Spezlwirtschaft for dinner. They do a modern take on German comfort food. We shared a trio of cheese dips to start & then I went for the homemade käsespätzle topped with crispy fried onions (a regional version of mac & cheese which did not disappoint). Everything was delicious, the atmosphere was trendy & younger, & it was just down the street from our next stop: the infamous Hofbräuhaus.

Spezlwirtschaft

Trio of cheese dips

Spezlwirtschaft

Bavarian mac & cheese

Of course, no “gastronomic” tour of Munich would be complete without a stop at the Viktualienmarkt in the heart of the city center. It’s a pleasant place to stroll, pick up lunch, or find a table in the biergarden to enjoy a few steins. We stopped by on a Saturday & did exactly that, picking up an array of items from a few of the hundred or so vendors in the market before joining fellow beer lovers at one of the crowded tables.

Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt

One of the many many stalls

Viktualienmarkt

Always a sucker for a pickle at the market.

Viktualienmarkt

Finally, if you’re looking for one of the best sandwiches you’ll possibly ever eat, head over to Haxnbauer. You have two options when you enter, left for the restaurant (which I hear is also great, however, make a reservation & prepare to spend a fair bit) or right for your to go options. You’ll usually have two choices of grilled meats for your Haxensemmel, which is a ciabatta bun with the most tender & delicious sliced grilled meat & coleslaw. We ate ours outside at the Viktualienmarkt (under one of the tents as it was a rainy Sunday & the market had already closed for the day). It was perfect.

haxn

Haxn in the rain.

Wander

One of the best things about Munich, in my opinion, is its relatively compact center. It’s easy to spend the morning doing a free walking tour to get your bearings, grab lunch & explore the Viktualienmarkt, & then head up to the University & English Gardens for the afternoon. You’ll still have time to change into the dirndl you purchased earlier that day before dinner & drinks back in the center & hit the beer gardens or halls for a great night out. In fact, that’s exactly how we spent Canada Day on our trip.

Marienplatz

Marienplatz: touring the center

Munich

the Devil’s footprint

Munich Munich

Munich

Old City Gate

The different approaches to Holocaust memorials are most striking if you get the chance to visit both Munich & Berlin. Where in Berlin, the designs are meant to inspire reflection & are generally hard to miss, Munich has taken a much more conservative approach, in an attempt to avoid devaluing them. Neither of them is wrong, but I think it certainly showcases the huge different between both cities. In Munich, you will likely miss the two main memorials I’m aware of unless you’re looking for them. I believe the idea is that you’re meant to stumble upon them unexpectedly, in every day life, but I think it may be just as much a response to what is perceived to be an over the top memorialization in Berlin.

Both are interesting stops as you wander the city center. You’ll find the first in an alley near the Feldherrnhalle. When Hitler came to power, he installed a plaque in this square to commemorate the failed attempt to take over the city in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Passersby were expected to perform a Nazi salute, however, opponents of this Regime would cut through the alley in order to avoid passing it. If caught, they were arrested. Today, you can follow their path along Viscardigasse (or Dodger’s Alley), memorialized in bronze cobblestones to commemorate their bravery in this act of passive resistance.

Munich Memorials

Dodger’s Alley Memorial

The second is up near the University, a great stop on your way to the English Gardens, & another floor memorial. These bronze pamphlets are meant to resemble those distributed by the White Rose Resistance & are dedicated to two key members, Hans & Sophie Scholl, who were subsequently caught & sentenced to death for denouncing Hitler & the Third Reich.

Munich Memorials

White Rose Memorial

Munich Memorials

Afterwards, grab a couple beers from a convenience store (drinking in public is allowed in Germany, & you’ll likely be thirsty from your walk) & head for the English Gardens. Head over the Eisbach, a small man made river where surfers have been catching waves since the 70s. It’s pretty cool to watch them surf for a while or if you happen to be there on a hot day, cool off with a dip in the river a little further down from the waves. As one of Europe’s biggest parks, you could easily spend an entire day wandering this park, stopping for food & drinks at the tea house or beer gardens, or packing your own picnic to enjoy.

English Garden

Park drinks

English Garden

Eisbach surfers

English Garden English Garden

This just barely scratches the surface for Munich. We easily filled two days with great food, drinks, & sights. It’s certainly a smaller scale than the sights of Berlin, but I think that might be what draws me to it. If you have some extra time to kill, we also enjoyed a rainy afternoon at the well designed BMW Museum, or you can get out of town & tour one of the many nearby castles.

Munich Olympic Stadium

Always a sucker for an Olympic Stadium

BMW Welt

BMW Welt

Still very much love my first car, a 1997 BMW that looked similar to this one.

BMW Welt BMW Welt

BMW Welt

Wouldn’t this be fun to drive?

This was the last stop on our Europe Beer Road Trip. My brother & his girlfriend were on a flight home to Calgary & the rest of us flew to our next stop: Copenhagen!

Pregnancy \\ Second Trimester Recap

Second Trimester Bumpdate

It’s hard to believe I’m in the third trimester of pregnancy. On the one hand, I feel like I found out I was pregnant in another lifetime. On the other, it feels like it was only just yesterday. Time is bizarre. It passes both so slowly & so quickly. I’ve continued to journal pretty often, which is pretty much the only reason a post like this is possible. There’s no way I’d remember many of these details otherwise. I’m so glad I’ve kept it up – I’ve always loved reading recaps like this.  Hope you enjoy this little second trimester recap!

Second Trimester

Weeks 13 to 28
Important Milestones
  • Week 13 – Jan 15, 2018: Nuchal Translucency/First Trimester Scan. N had to fly out that afternoon, so we got there early in hopes that N might get to see baby for the first time. It did seem to work, although they somehow didn’t have my bloodwork so we didn’t get any results. It was so cool to see how much babe had grown though & seemed to be flipping around & covering its face with its arms. So cool to see!
  • Week 14 – Jan 22, 2018: Calgary Midwife Collective appointment. First appointment with CMC. I met one of my two midwives, Jamie, & we got my file transferred. She also checked baby’s heart rate, which was still a pretty big novelty for me. It measured around 150 bpm.
  • Week 14 – Jan 23, 2018: Announced to both work & social media. I emailed a photo to the ladies in my department after telling my boss & it was fun to watch them figure it out. They were really excited & happy for us. We also got so many congratulations from social media, & a few surprise revelations as well.
  • Week 14 – Jan 25, 2018: We got the FTS report in the mail & even though I had talked to my GP earlier in the week & knew the results were fine, it was reassuring to see it in writing.
  • Week 18 – Feb 20, 2018: Felt some tiny baby movements for the first time! It was hard to know for sure at first since they’re pretty subtle in the beginning, but this was the first time I felt certain it was the baby.
  • Week 19 – Feb 26, 2018: Anatomy Scan. We were able to book a morning appointment this time so N didn’t have to rush off to the airport, which was nice. Baby looked much more human this time around, aside from its lack of body fat. Ten fingers, ten toes, a stubborn personality like its mom & dad. They weren’t able to get everything they needed, so I had to schedule another appointment (I ended up having two more to get it all). Heart rate was 144 & we got a CD of photos as a keepsake.
  • Week 26 – April 19, 2018: Glucose Test. Given my newfound love for all things carbs & sugar, I was a little worried about this Gestational Diabetes Test. The orange drank didn’t taste as bad as I expected, but made me feel a bit nauseous. It’s mostly just an odd consistency. Everything came back normal at my midwife appointment the following week, so I’m in the clear for GD, it seems!

 

Bachelorette party at 26 weeks

26 weeks

4 pregos go to a Baby Shower

It’s fun being pregnant with a bunch of friends!

Changes

It seems funny now to think about how felt like there were so many physical changes in my first trimester. The second was definitely filled with significantly more changes, especially in terms of baby bump. Mine really seemed to pop around the halfway point, but others really took notice while I was visiting N in California at 22 weeks. Now, at 28 weeks, it’s now impossible to deny I look pregnant, as expected.

22 weeks

22 weeks: visiting N in California was the first time others took notice of the bump.

Workout Gear Progress: 19 weeks & 26 weeks

Grey Dress Progressions: 21 weeks & 27 weeks

For the most part, I’m just incredibly fascinated by all the changes. It’s by far the strangest experience of my life. Seeing the baby grow with each checkup & feeling its kicks get stronger from week to week – it’s hard to put into words how magical it all seems. Baby is getting so active lately. I can see my stomach moving sometimes now. It’s all very strange.

Odin & Mom: 25 weeks

16 weeks, 19 weeks, & 27 weeks

Symptoms

The second trimester feels like a bit of a free pass in terms of symptoms. It took a bit longer than I expected for the exhausted phase to pass, but once my energy returned the whole pregnancy thing seemed pretty fun. There are definitely mild annoyances here & there, but overall I feel extremely fortunate to feel so good. I’ve had a really easy pregnancy so far, & I know that’s not the case for everyone so I’m feeling extra grateful.

Energy: My energy levels returned to mostly normal a few weeks into my second trimester. I still find I’m more tired than my pre-pregnancy self ever was, but I’m not accidentally dozing off at my desk every afternoon like I was in my first trimester.

Lower Back Pain: I’ve never really had back pain, & luckily it’s super mild. I can’t really complain too much. I’m loving my heating pad & find I’ve made extremely good use of the Runner’s Relief roller oils I’ve gotten for finishing the last two SeaWheeze runs. That Peppermint Halo is addictive!

Foot Pain: I haven’t had much real foot pain from running in years, but it seems to be back in this trimester. I first experienced it while training for my first half & ended up getting orthotics. They helped the issue to a point, & I got through training, but afterwards, I looked for some other solutions. I found strengthening my foot muscles really helped me to run pain free for the last 5 years. I think if I were more diligent about keeping up with those strengthening exercises now, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue for me, but I also think with all the other changes in my body, some discomfort is to be expected. Luckily, it’s pretty mild & I’m managing ok by wearing slightly more supportive shoes than my usual minimal choice. Overall, I’m happy to still get out for runs!

embarrassed Odin

Embarrassing Odin pre-workout

Leakage: This definitely falls under the category of things I never thought I’d share with an online community, but wish I’d been a bit more aware of before. So, TMI, but I’m sharing anyway. Buy some kind of pad/panty liner when you get pregnant. As things progresses, there’s significantly more going on & it’s just awkward otherwise. For you, for others, for your pants. It’s so much easier to swap out a liner than your pants.

I’m not usually very sneezy when I get sick, but I caught a cold in March & was sneezing excessively for about a week. Like upwards of 20 times a day. It was bizarre. & I was so grateful I’d started wearing liners. They come in handy when you’re not sick though too. The joys. 

Food: Aversions & Cravings

I’ve gotten better about eating more veggies in the second trimester, but I still primarily crave sugar, whether in the form of carbs or treats. I guess baby wants that quick energy! I’ve been loving anything with melted cheese, bread, cupcakes, & ice cream. Nutritious! I try to balance it out with veggie bowls or smoothies, but I try not to worry too much about it.

Excessive Ice Cream consumption continues

Decisions

As I mentioned in my First Trimester Recap, we decided to do the First Trimester Scan. This non-invasive scan combines an ultrasound with bloodwork to determine your baby’s risk for a few specific chromosomal issues. Depending on the results, more invasive testing may be warranted. While this test is just a screen & doesn’t guarantee these chromosomal issues are not present, it does help ease some of the worry, & is much less invasive than a diagnostic test like the CVS or amnio.

Due to a mix up with my bloodwork, I didn’t actually get my results at our ultrasound, like you’re supposed to, & had to redo my bloodwork. Our doctor also always says no news is good news, which I had a hard time with since I didn’t know for sure when she’d actually get my lab results (or if she’d get them at all given that they’d already screwed up once). I called a few days after & was told that everything looked good, but it was still a huge relief to get the results in the mail another few days later. Since our results showed a low risk, we decided not to do any further testing.

More bloodwork

This trimester we also started thinking about some fun things, or at least I think they’re fun! My mom & my best friend are planning a baby shower for me in June, so I got to make a few decisions about that before they took over planning. I’m excited to see what they’ve got up their sleeves.

I also spent a significant amount of time researching baby items. There is so much stuff out there. I’ve mostly decided to start with a lot of good quality basics & go from there. It seems like there are many “nice to have” things that take up a lot of space & are only useful for a short time. I’m trying to avoid those.

baby box

Odin approves of free baby items

Favourite Part of the Trimester

Feeling kicks & movement scores high on the list here. It’s reassuring and wonderful, while also being the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced, especially as their strength & frequency has increased.

I’ve also loved getting to a stage where I had a real bump & didn’t just look like I’d been eating too many crave cupcakes (although I 100% have been. Cravalicious if you’re wondering.)  I seem to be in a bit of a sweet spot where my bump still looks mostly cute & I don’t feel too huge yet, so I’m trying to embrace that before things get uncomfortable. I’m so glad the weather has been warmer & I can wear more dresses. I’ve just never really been a pants girl. 

H & A baby bumps

H is due 3 weeks after me. It’s so great having a close friend pregnant at the same time as you.

27 weeks & 5 days

27 weeks & 5 days

Least Favourite Part of the Trimester

The unwanted advice or negative comments. This hasn’t been terrible, but I knew it was going to be my least favourite part & they definitely ramped up once we announced I was pregnant. There are so many comments about why you aren’t ready or how big you’re getting. I mostly just try smile & shrug, but it definitely gets on my nerves. No, our nursery isn’t ready. Yes, we’ve decided on a stroller, but we don’t have it yet. Yes, I know babies come early sometimes. No, I’m not worrying about the possibility of going into labour during our road trip. & no I’m not going to entertain your questions about my weight gain, size, diet, etc. Sorry (not sorry)!

Bumpin in SFO at 22 weeks

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a little insight into this stage of pregnancy. Thanks to Cassy Joy from Fed + Fit for the great idea – I so loved following along with her recaps. You can expect a final recap for my 3rd trimester (& maybe the 4th?) & I swear I’m still working on many non-pregnancy posts as well. As usual, I have far too much to write about & not nearly as much time to do it as I’d like.

xo,

A

Poutine with Purpose

Poutine Week 2018

Oh My Curd – my favourite food week is upon us! Lucky for me, I’ve already had my stretchy pants on for weeks. Talk about perfect timing to be pregnant! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a lot of posts about poutine; I’m an official Poutine Pusher for #PoutineWeekYYC again this year!

Calgary’s Poutine Week is the seven days of the year you can eat poutine guilt-free! Why?  Every poutine sold at participating restaurants provides a meal to a youth in need thanks to Mealshare YYC! Last year, 8,000 poutines were sold over the course of the week, providing 8,000 meals to those in need. We’re looking to break that record for 2018, & with 85 amazing restaurants participating in the cause, we have high hopes!

It’s easy to get involved:

  1. Find a restaurant or poutine you want to try at poutinewithpurpose.com
  2. Eat poutine.
  3. Provide a meal to youth in need
  4. Tell everyone!

This week, I tested 5 of those 85 poutines. If you need some help narrowing down the list, here are my thoughts on the five poutines I tried.

Calcutta Cricket Club

I’d been meaning to get to Calcutta Cricket Club since they opened, so when I saw them on the list, they were my first pick. I’d been hearing rave reviews about this 17th ave spot since they opened this summer.

CCC has two options on the menu this week. Both include curry in place of the usual gravy, either butter masala or fenugreek-cream. As I think you’d expect from a Indian-inspired poutines, they’re spicy & full of flavour. The fries are seasoned with Kashmiri spices & would stand up on their own as a fantastic snack over cocktails. I’ve been obsessed with fenugreek lately, so I immediately feel in love with the fenugreek-cream curry. It’s to die for! & the Butter Masala has a hint of that Butter Chicken flavour that’s so popular, but stands on it’s own. To top it all off, they brought in some seriously legitimate cheese curds. (Honestly, these were the most authentic curds I tasted all week – the squeak!) They didn’t cut any corners with these dishes & it showed in each beautifully executed component.

Calcutta Cricket Club

Calcutta Cricket Club

If you like spicy Indian flavours, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better poutine option this week. I couldn’t get enough of either option & definitely struggled to put down my fork. My only regret is not asking to take the leftovers home with me.

On top of the delicious food, both the ambience & service are spot on. I’m already planning my next visit – I think I need to try the rest of the sharing-friendly menu, & hopefully enjoy one of their fantastic-sounding cocktails post-baby.

Calcutta Cricket Club

Butter Masala Poutine

Calcutta Cricket Club

Fenugreek – Cream Poutine

Calcutta Cricket Club

Wine Bar Kensington

My next stop was Wine Bar Kensington, a hidden gem & sister restaurant to Brasserie & Container Bar. I think Brasserie is one of the best kept secrets in the city, & my personal go-to spot for fantastic brunch without a wait. Now that I’ve given away my personal brunch secrets, let’s talk about the Not-So-Traditional Poutine from @winebarkensi .

Featuring duck gravy, pickle-brined shoestring fries, Alberta cheese curds, chives, radishes, & a lovely side of house-made pickles, it’s delicious. I thought this one was the perfect combination of rich, comforting, & flavourful, all while not putting me into a total food coma.

Winebar Kensington

Poutine Prep

Winebar Kensington

Their intimate downstairs space is perfect for a date night, or catching up with some girlfriends over wine & cheese (or poutine!)

Winebar Kensington

the Not-So-Traditional Poutine

I’m honestly not usually a fan of shoestring fries, but they worked so well here. The dish comes with the gravy on the bottom, so the chef suggested I mix the shoestring fries into it. I think this is the key to the success of the shoestring fries as they don’t get soggy from having the gravy on them from the start. The chives & radishes serve to balance the richness of the duck gravy, which is exactly what the dish needs. I’m always a sucker for a side of pickles, especially when they’re as delicious as Wine Bar’s, so they were the perfect accompaniment to a well-executed poutine.

Cleaver

Third on my personal poutine week tour was Cleaver. My friend, Heather, joined me for dinner Friday evening & we started the evening with their AMASIAN duck & pickle poutine.

This one has a lot going on, in all the right ways: double dipped duck fat fries with confit duck leg, topped with teriyaki gravy, pickled zucchini, pickled onion, Gochujang aioli, & Montreal cheese curds.

Cleaver

AMASIAN duck & pickle poutine

Cleaver

The promise of pickles, duck, & Gochujang were what immediately drew me to this one when I saw it on the roster. Despite these heavy hitting flavours, it’s somehow both balanced & complex. We both really enjoyed each varied bite. & I even learned something new, pickled zucchini is delicious! Before tasting this one, I was a bit worried it might have too many competing elements, but they all really worked together.

During our meal, our server shared a fun fact about how they landed on this particular poutine as their entry for the competition. They held an in-house competition amongst their staff a few weeks ago & it came out on top! How’s that for an ingenious way to come up with a creative new dish?

Royale

After a weekend of bachelorette activities, my best friend & I decided to grab a late lunch at Royale on Sunday. If you haven’t been since this space was Melrose, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how bright, open, & beautiful it is inside. It’s the perfect spot for a boozy brunch with girlfriends or a romantic date night. The service was friendly & welcoming & we never once felt rushed. It was a beautiful spot for a lazy afternoon catch up.

Royale YYC

The gorgeous bar at Royale

Royale YYC

I love this beautiful mirror & the giant skylight . Such a pretty spot.

The menu at Royale is French-inspired, so they went with some pretty classic flavours: duck leg con fit, cheese curds, & pan gravy. This is not a poutine for the faint of heart; it’s huge! If you’re not the biggest duck lover, I would probably advise trying a different poutine this week. This is a true homage to the bird. There is so much rich, duck flavour in every bite. Even with two of us, we couldn’t get halfway through this one. Bring friends. Order some fun drinks. Sample a couple other things from their delicious menu. That’s how I would do it. 😉

Royale YYC

I’m not sure if the photos truly do the size of this thing justice.

Royale YYC

It’s massive!

Royale YYC

4th Spot

My last stop is a neighbourhood favourite. I made a reservation for lunch at 4th Spot this week, hoping the weather would cooperate & I could walk over with Odin & enjoy their patio. I couldn’t have planned it any better. We had the perfect day. I found a quiet spot at the edge of the patio in the sun, where I could pay attention to the doggo while enjoying my lunch. I think he might have stolen the show for everyone else on that patio though, with that adorable mug. He has a real knack for winning people over.

4th Spot YYC

My patio poutine partner in crime.

On to the poutine, though! This was another monster serving. 4th Spot is doing a BBQ Burnt Ends Poutine this week. Their hand cut kennebec fries are topped with Quebec cheese curds, brisket burnt ends, crispy jalapeños, crispy onion strings, & covered in homemade gravy & BBQ sauce drizzle.

4th Spot YYC

BBQ Burnt Ends Poutine

4th Spot YYC 4th Spot YYC

My favourite part of this poutine was the crispy jalapeños. I could not finish this one, but I made sure to eat every last jalapeño. They were battered & fried, & so addictive. All of the flavours are fantastic, but it is very heavy. I was glad to have a walk home afterwards! If I didn’t love the crispiness of the jalapeños so much, I might suggest they be fresh, just to offer a counterbalance to the heaviness. Then again, poutine is supposed to be heavy, so I can’t hold that against it.

After a week of sampling poutines, I’d like to be able to say that my cheese cravings are satisfied, but pregnancy doesn’t seem to care that I’ve consumed enough to last me a few weeks. I am looking forward to some lighter meals over the next week, but with so many delicious options out there still, I’m having a hard time not finding an excuse to grab another Mealshare poutine. It’s for a good cause, right?

As always, thanks to Karen for organizing this amazing event & thinking of me again this year. I always love being part of Poutine Week, & the fact that it’s turned into such a great opportunity to give back to our community, with the help of Mealshare, may just be the best part. Thank you also to all the restaurants who hosted me & were so open to chatting about their creations this week – you guys have been so awesome & accommodating! I can’t wait to find out who are overall winner is!

Happy Poutine Week, friends!

(I unfortunately had to miss my favourite event of poutine week – the Gravy Bowl – which was a huge success! Anju took home first place in the competition this year. Congrats to Roy & his awesome team! Find my previous year’s posts here, including my first Poutine Crawl experience way back in 2014! I can’t believe this is my 5th year of poutine-ing!)

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