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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Minecraft Costume (and a successful attempt at crafting)

So anyone who knows me knows I am not all that crafty.  I would like to say that I am but I can't.
I cannot draw, heck, I can't even draw a straight line with a ruler.

With Halloween coming, B decided he wanted to be a Ninja Turtle.  Easy, there are costumes to buy.
O decided that he wanted to be Minecraft Steve.  If you are not familiar with this game, Steve is the main character.  This game is all the rage with kids now, but I really know nothing about it except that you build things and you get rid of "creepers", which are zombies.  The game is old school graphics and pixellated.

Well, great idea O, but there are no costumes anywhere.  I did find a head on Amazon, but it was a painted cardboard box, at the grand cost of $30cdn plus shipping.  There was no way I was going to spend that on a piece of cardboard!  After looking it up online and studying the pictures, and reading a couple of other blogs, I thought that I would be able to make him the costume.  I kind of combined a couple of ideas from a couple other blogs to get to my final result.

Step 1 was to make the head. 
Materials needed:
cardboard box
different colours of fleshy toned paper cut in to squares, plus a black or dark brown for the head
hot glue gun
paper cutter (for cutting a LOT of squares)
ruler or measuring tape

My inspiration for this part came from this blog .  I got a box proprtionate to the size of O's head, bought A pack of cardstock paper from Michaels, plus an extra pack to get the right colours.  The head seemed to be layed out in an 8x8 pattern, so I found the centre of the box and split the box in to a four part grid.  I then figured out the size I would need to cut the squares in order to fit eight across.  This will depend on the size of your box, but for me it meant a 1.5"x1.5" square.

After that I laid out the pattern, picked up the hot glue gun and proceeded to glue the squares on to the box, leaving an empty space where I needed to cut out the eye holes.

Step 2 was to make the sword
Materials needed:
Foam poster board
Black, yellow and brown paint.

I was lucky enough to find a template for all the weapons used here.

I printed off the template for the sword (found at the bottom of the blog post in the link) cut it out and painted it.  He wanted the gold sword, hence the yellow paint.  I painted the outline first, then the middle, and finally the handle.

Step 3 was to paint the body.
Materials needed:
Larger cardboard box
spray paint (teal)
exacto knife to cut out head and arm holes

You don't need to do this step.  Minecraft Steve wears a teal shirt and jeans, so your little Minecraft guy could go out like that.  However we live in Canada, and need to bundle up for trick or treating, so I needed something that he could wear his jacket under.

Using O as measurement I cut the flaps off the bottom of the box, and cut out the holes needed.  I then spray painted two coats on the box to get Steve's body.

The end result turned out really well.  O was ecstatic with his costume, he was the only Minecraft character in the neighbourhood, and everyone (kids) knew who he was.  A crafting success for this mom!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Wow, I know I said it in my last post, but I have been a bad blogger!  I am going to be better, I promise!  Now that summer is over and the kids are in school I am hoping to have some more time to myself.

Oct 14th was Canadian Thanksgiving, and turkey dinner was hosted at our house.  We always do a full spread (that I forgot to take a picture of).  The day was eventful to say the least (think exploding toilet and full septic tank)  but all turned out well in the end.

Do you have canned cranberry sauce with your delicious turkey dinners?  We used to, until two years ago when I decided that I wanted to try to make it.  After looking on the back of a package of cranberries and seeing how easy it was I thought I would give it a go.  Seriously, it only takes about 15 minutes to do.

OMG, it is so much better than the canned.  You can add all sorts of different things to it, but I like mine plain and simple.  I bought organic local cranberries this year, and so did not have the recipe handy to make, so I had to go searching the internet to find one.  This is also how I found out about all the different things you can add to the sauce.

This is all you need, plus a pot.

Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups cranberries washed

Combine your water and sugar and bring it to a boil.  Add berries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and gently boil for ten minutes.  You will hear them popping, like Rice Krispies but cranberry style!

After ten minutes remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  After it is cooled put it in to the bowl I will be serving it in and refrigerate until it is dinner time!  I always make it the day before as well.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Garden Goodies

I am so excited, yesterday I had the first harvesting from my vegetable garden for the season!  Everything is doing really well, there are a ton of little green tomatoes, tiny little cucumbers, the hot peppers are doing very well and I will be able to start picking the cayennes soon.

I decided to take a look yesterday morning, and it looks like the basil is ready to start picking and using and freezing.

And this is what I was able to pick yesterday!
Green and yellow beans (which were delicious steamed by the way) and our first cucumber of the season.  In another week or two we will be inundated with them, and the beans are already getting out of control, and that is only the first planting.  The second is two weeks behind, and starting to sprout lots of little baby beans too!  this year I will be trying to freeze them to see how they turn out.

And we had one lonely little cucumber ready too, I don't know why it was so far ahead of the others, but I'll take it, and it was delicious.

My day continued with a nice afternoon pedicure with my sister-in-law.  We had to wait a bit to get in, so we wandered the mall for a bit, but the wait was worth it.  We both got a total pampering foot rub and treatment with fun summer colours.
And check out the cool freehand artwork, but please ignore the flip flop tan lines :D

Monday, 22 July 2013

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Saturday, 20 July 2013

A to Z

We had a great Saturday today, after the crazy storms of yesterday.  B has gone for a sleepover with his best friend and cousin, and we had the hubby's brother, sister in law and nephews over for an impromptu visit and dinner.  they were up at our cottage, and the power was knocked out, and is scheduled to be out for another day or so!
Tomorrow we are going  here just the hubby and I.  It is our 12 year anniversary (!) and we are going for some pampering.

A good friend of mine posted this on her blog, and tagged me, so now I have to do it!  But I also thought it would be a fun foray in to a post other than recipes.  So here goes!

A to Z

A. Attached or single?
Attached, tomorrow is our 12 year wedding anniversary!
 B. Best friend?
I have two, L and D.  They are both very similar people which is funny.  L I have known since grade 9 (which is too many years to count) and D is someone whom I have known for a very long time and was friendly with, but did not become friends until we started to work together.

C. Cake or Pie?
Well, I am not much of a sweets or dessert person, even though I make them, but give me a slice of cherry pie and I will gobble it up.
D. Day of Choice?

This is a hard one.  Since deciding to stay home with the boys, I don't really worry about the beginning or end of the week.  I would have to say Saturday, that is the day when S is home and I get tow atch him unwind and play with the boys.  There is not usually any hurry to the day and we can do whatever we want whenever we want.

E. Essential item
Oh man, this is a hard one.  I like lots of stuff and like having it, but something I can't live without?  That is a hard thing to choose just one.  But since I have too, here it is
Yep, chapstick.  I am a chapstick fiend, and I would be in serious withdrawal if I didn't have any to put on.

F. Favourite Colour?
This is a toss up between green which makes my eyes pop, or a nice mustard yellow.

G. Gummy bears or worms?
Bears, definitely bears.  I have a problem with eating worms, even if they are fake.

H. Hometown?
Well, if we are talking my place of birth, that would be Port Alberni, BC (lived there until grade 3).  After that we lived in or around Barrie, ON.

I. Favourite Indulgence?
Chips, any kind of chips.  I have a severe salty tooth.
J. January or July?
July, definitely July.  I dislike being cold and I dislike the snow.  I know, I live in the snow belt of Ontario, but what can you do?  Give me the heat and humidity over frostbite and snow drifts any day!

K. Kids?
I have two boys, O and B, and 7 angel babies.

L. Life isn't complete without?
Laughter, understanding and forgiveness.

M. Marriage date?
July 21, 2001

N.  Number of brothers/sisters?
Two brothers, both younger.

O. Oranges or apples?
Depends, if they are Christmas oranges (mandarin or clementine) then oranges, any other time of year apples.

P. Phobias?
Spiders.  Ugh I can barely type it.

Q. Quotes?
Well, this is one of my favourites, and it really strikes a chord with my trying to add to our family after multiple losses.
R. Reasons to smile?
My husband, my family, my boys whose hijinks never fail to make me laugh.  Friends, and a good tv show!

S. Season of choice?
Summer.  While I love the holidays in other seasons (xmas, thanksgiving, easter) I love the heat of summer, and a lot of the festivals we have around here make it a great time of year!

T. Tag five people
I don't know if this will work or not, but Jess, Shelly, Jenn (I know you orginally tagged me, but, well, I have a small following right now!), Jenn (a different one!), krysten

U. Unknown fact about me?
Ummmmm, I am pretty double jointed, and I am very sarcastic, which is hidden under a good girl image.  I am the queen of one liners and inuendos though, trust!

V. Vegetable?
Hmmm, toss up between brussells sprouts or beans fresh from the garden (dinner tonight!)

W. Worst habit?
Picking my nose?  Ha, totally kidding! I guess it would have to be biting my fingers.  I do not bite my nails, but sometimes I will bite the sides of my nails where the skin is thick.  Weird, I know.

X.  Xray or ultrasound?
Well, I have never had an xray, but I have had many ultrasounds, so I will go with ultrasound.

Y. Your favourite food?
Toss up, tacos
or spaghetti and meatballs

 Z. Zodiac sign?

and now it is your turn!  Do the survey and tag me, and all your friends who blog, get to know them better!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

How does your (veggie) garden grow?

One thing I have been waiting for since the end of last summer is fresh garden vegetables.  I have planted a garden every summer for the past eight years.

We always plant right around the May long weekend.  This year we planted it on the Sunday.  I didn't do carrots or radishes this year to make room for more beans.  Our other staples are cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumber, basil, jalapeno peppers and cayenne peppers.

This year I *will* try making salsa.  I have been saying that for the past two years but I really mean it this time!

The roma tomatoes are grown strictly for freezing.  I will do another post on that when it actually comes time to do the tomatoes.  But basically we blanch, de-skin and freeze them in two cup portions.  This equals a large can of tomatoes.  We sub them in any recipe that would normally use canned tomatoes, lasagna, spaghetti, casseroles, etc.  Last fall we did over 100 bags!

I took some pictures of my tiny veggies this morning to share.

Here is the garden itself, fenced in to keep kids, dog, and wild critter (rabbits) out.
My tomatoes are doing really well
There are even some baby tomatoes right now!

The beans are coming out too
As are some tiny cucumbers
And the last one (I promise) the cayennes.  They are not ready until they turn red, but it won't be too long before I am picking them!
Now see that red roof in the top left corner of the very first picture?  After spending two hours weeding all the gardens, I am taking the boys right over there to go jump in the lake.
Happy Wednesday everyone!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Micro Suede Cleaner Extraordinaire

If anyone has stained up microsuede furniture, take note! 
I have come across the best cleaner for it, at a very low cost.  The secret cleaner......Rubbing alcohol.
That's right, rubbing alcohol, I tried it out today, and it works great.

*Disclaimer* As with any new cleaning product, please test in an inconspicuous area first before attempting this.

The only things you will need are a spray bottle, a bottle of rubbing alcohol (NOT peroxide) a white sponge or rag, and a scrub brush.

I tried this out on my chair.  Please do not judge the state of the cushions, I have two boys who like to use them for fort building, trampolines, soft landings and whatever else their imaginations produce.

This is the before picture
See, gross right?  I found out after the fact as well that you can't use water to clean stains, it leaves watermarks.  *sigh*  this was filed away for future reference. 

So here is what you do.
1. Pour the rubbing alcohol in to the clean spray bottle.
2. Fully saturate the stained area.
3. Scrub with your white rag or sponge.  Put some elbow grease in to it, you aren't just giving this a light wipe.
4. When it is dry, if it is crispy use your (dry) bristle brush to rub the area and soften it up.

That's it, all there was to it.  Some stubborn stains will require a couple of treatments before it is all the way gone, but even in one treatment of mine it looks almost brand new again!

And now for the after shot!
I did the whole chair as well as the cushions, unfortunately I forgot to take a before shot of the chair itself, but here is the after.
And the rags that I used that used to be white.
Seriously the dirt that you get off is kind of gross.

I am off to do my couch now.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Muffin Tin Meals

Man oh man, I did not realize that it had been so long since I had posted.  Blame it on life I guess.  Hopefully now that the boys are done school for the summer and the daycare kids are gone I will have more time.

Have you ever cooked meals in your muffin tins?  I have recently discovered this novel way to make indivdual meals, and the boys love it!

The most recent thing I made was on Fathers Day, breakfast "muffins".  My husband is a huge fan of these, I always make extras to keep in the fridge so he can pop them in the microwave and eat them for breakfast on the way to work.

I will warn you that the muffin tin is a pain to clean afterwords, I have used butter, and oil to coat the tin and it still sticks.  I might try using muffin papers next time.

They are very versatile, add in whatever fillings you want.  This time around I used bacon, jalapeno pepper, tomato, fresh basil and cheddar cheese.

You will need:
8 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
3. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and baking powder.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Lightly spray a 12-cupcake pan with oil. Spoon your ingredients (I used bacon, tomato, basil and jalapeno) evenly into each cupcake.

5. Ladle the egg mixture over your other ingredients.
 6. Sprinkle with cheese.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  This is how they will look when they come out.

I have tried a couple of other meals in the tins as well, mini meatloaves, which take a lot less time to cook than a full sized loaf!  There is also this recipe for mini chicken pot pies, they are really good! Mini Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A great way to use up leftover meat (and other ramblings)

Geez, I am looking at the last time I wrote a post, I am being a bad blogger already!

I will blame it on being busy in the gardens, spring has officially sprung in my area, I have tulips, and daffodils, and hyacinths and many others as well.  But with spring comes spring cleaning in the gardens, and that is what I have spent most of last week doing.

Another "project" I  am working on is using up everything in my freezer.  I always buy a lot of meat when it is on sale, and my freezer was becoming a little bit of a bottomless pit.  So I made myself commit to a good solid two weeks of not buying any meat while grocery shopping, and using only what was in my freezer.  I am at the end of this two weeks now, and I am happy to say that I did not cheat!  I am down to a manageable freezer that has only frozen tomatoes from last years garden (used in place of canned tomatoes), waffles, and chicken breasts.

One of my meals involved cooking a ham that I had purchased after Christmas when they were really cheap.  now a large ham for four of us was going to be too much meat, but I figured a day or two of leftovers, then freezing the rest for later use would be good.

In my search for recipes to use up some of the meat, most of what I came across was soups.  We are not huge soup eaters around here, so I decided to make up my own recipe.

Making up a meal as you go can be a daunting task for some people, I actually enjoy it.  And I have a hubby who will eat mostly anything I put in front of him so that makes it a little easier.  I must say that the end result was delicious, all my boys loved it.  You can also use pretty much any kind of meat leftovers you are trying to use up, you may have to switch up the soup though.

Ham and Pasta Casserole
chopped, cooked ham
pasta cooked al dente
garlic, minced
veggies of choice (I used asparagus and broccoli)
Cream of Cheddar soup
one soup can of milk
Cheese to grate on top (optional)

I first started by cooking my pasta and setting it aside.
Cut up your vegetables in to bite sized pieces, I used asparagus that needed to get used up as well as broccoli.  Sautee with minced garlic in a litlle bit of olive oil.

Mix your cream soup (I used cheddar) with one soup can of milk.  Add seasonings.  I used some seasoning salt, pepper and basil.  Add in your ham and pasta, and vegetables once sauteed.

 Mix it all together and bake in the oven at 350* for about a half hour.  *I use a lid or I find that the pasta can get kind of dry.

At the end of the half hour I grated cheese over top and mixed it in and put it back in the oven, lid off, for another ten minutes (or until cheese is bubbly).
The cheese I used was a Jalapeno cheddar.  If you like a little hint of heat, use this!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Stir Fry

Who doesn't love a good stir fry?  It is a healthy meal, fairly quick to cook up, and the leftovers are great for lunch the next day.

The only time consuming part is cutting everything up.  I try to get that done in the afternoon so all I have to do is cook up the rice or noodles, and cook the stir fry itself.

I decided to go with a chicken stir fry for dinner, adding in lots of veggies so the boys could pick out the ones they like.

 My go to veggies are normally red pepper, mushroom, celery, snow peas, ginger and garlic.  Sometimes I will throw some carrot and broccoli in there too.

I find it easiest to cook the meat up first and remove it from the pan, then cook the vegetables and add the meat back in when you add the sauce.

Ahhh, the sauce.  That is always my biggest problem is what kind of sauce to use.  I used to buy the PC Memories sauces and use them, but I have been making my own for quite a while now.

I found a great list of basic stir fry sauces  from food and family, and have pinned it for future reference.  I used the soy sesame sauce for my stir fry. 

Homemade sauces are quick and easy to whip up, and you most likely have the ingredients in your pantry already.
Soy Sesame Sauce

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tsp. rice wine vinegar
4 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes (next time I would use 1/2 tsp or less)
2 tsp. sugar

**One thing I must note is that if you have anyone who doesn't like hot to cut back on the amount of chili flakes used.  I cut back to 1 tsp and it was still too hot for my sons.

After cooking my veggies I added the chicken back in and added my rice noodles.  Then I added the sauce and mixed and simmered for a couple of minutes while I set the table and got little hands washed.

The finished product!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Best Homemade Playdough

What a strange day today.  First it was raining, then thundering, then the sun peeked out for a little while, and now it is back to rain again.

B and I took advantage of the little bit of sunshine, and went out for a bit of puddle jumping fun.  Once the rain started again it was back in the house for us, with the idea of getting the playdough out.  Unfortunately, someone had snuck in to the playdough at some point and left the lids off, so it was all hard and crumbly.

Never fear, Mom to the rescue!  I make all the playdough for B's playschool. Every time I bring in a new batch all the moms are amazed at how fresh and fluffy it feels.  So we set out to make a batch of homemade playdough for home.

This is a cooked playdough recipe, and very simple to do, it only takes about ten minutes.  I have tried uncooked recipes that I have found as well, and this yields the best result.

Your Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

**If I am making a batch for school I double the recipe, one batch is enough for home use, but if you want to make a larger amount make sure you double!

Combine your flour, salt and cream of tartar in a pot.  Add your liquids.

At this point you want to add your colour.  You can use either koolaid crystals or food colouring.  I have tried both and the food colouring gives you a stronger colour.  This is the job of my little helper.

Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until a ball forms.  It will look like this.

Remove from heat and knead until smooth.

And there you have it, a quick and easy playdough that will provide hours of fun.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Cranberry Apple Pork Loin Roast

I do not cook pork a lot.  I do not mind the meat itself, it is just that I always over cook it, doesn't matter if I roast it or pan fry it.  I recently found a recipe for crock pot pork chops ( and they were amazing!  So the crockpot has become my new pork cooking tool.

I had a pork loin roast in the fridge and I was perusing recipes for the crock pot to figure out what I was going to do with it.  I found this  pork loin recipe    and thought it was worth a try.  I have to admit to being a little skeptical of the ingredients.  I was fine with the apple and cranberry, I thought that the juice and brown sugar would make the recipe too sweet.  But, I am always up for trying something new, so I gave it a go.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe, it was quite good, and very little prep work.  I minced fresh garlic because that was what I had on hand, but if you have the pre minced garlic in a jar it is even faster.

Your ingredients:

  • 1 (3 to 4 lb) boneless pork loin roast
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c apple juice
  • 2 apples, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste 
(I am paraphrasing here since I found the instructions a little vague)
Place your roast in the crockpot.  Rub the roast all over with the minced garlic.  Add remaining ingredients by sprinkling around and on top of the roast.  Cook on low for approximately 7 hours.  Your pork will be done when it reaches 160*.
The pork came out so tender I barely needed a knife to cut it.  I served it with roast potatoes and roasted asparagus.  It was delicious, and my pickiest eater had seconds of the meat.  All in all it was a hit.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Baked Potato Casserole

I have been craving potatoes all day, but have been busy working around the house, so did not have time to plan out and cook a big meal.  I also forgot to take any meat out of the freezer, so I was left with few choices of something that would defrost quickly.

I settled on bacon, and then remembered my potato craving, so baked potato casserole it is!  I am sure you have seen something like this on Pinterest, or somewhere else on the internet.  This is my own version.

My ingredients: potatoes, bacon, cheese of your choice, seasoning of your choice and butter.

My first step is to cook the bacon.  I throw it in the oven to cook up, way less mess that way.  Seriously if you have never tried cooking bacon in the oven give it a shot.  Throw some aluminum foil on a baking sheet, put your bacon on that and put it in the oven at 400* for about ten minutes.

While the bacon is cooking wash and cut up your potatoes.  I like to do them in rounds, about 1/4" thick.  You can also cube them.  Next I parboil them so they don't take as long in the oven.

When the potatoes are done add them to a casserole dish.  I used a pyrex dish that I lightly buttered.  You could also use cooking spray, I just didn't have any at hand.   Add your seasoning of choice (in my case salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil), add a couple of dollops of butter, and put in the oven at 400* for about 15 minutes.

Add your bacon and cheese, I used parmesan and cheddar and put back in the oven until the potatoes are fork tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

I served it wish some steamed broccoli, and sour cream on the side.