Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Check This Out!

I've been channeling my creative energy and actually getting stuff done!  (I've also decided without a shadow of a doubt that next year I need to get my holiday move on waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in advance.  I'm feelin' the pressure with a number of countdowns on the go - and all less than the 2 weeks away!)

On Tuesday, we went to Montana's to celebrate my parents' 30th anniversary (whoa, I just accidently typed 50 - seriously overdating them!) as well as my sister's 25th birthday.  Big family dinner with all 13.5 of us - I'm sure the other restaurant patrons were happy when we called it a night - especially after Kaleb played paparazzi with Auntie B's camera and focused on tables besides ours.

Here are some of the photos of the card I made for Mom & Dad (sorry, I can't remember the name of the paper pack - it's upstairs in the craft room and tonight I'm too lazy to go find out for you!)

I was so excited about the sophisticated silver theme... until I realised silver is for the 25th!  Whoops.  Still a pretty card and I really think the gift card pocket was a nifty little add-on.

Here is another project I've worked on (for details on my inspiration, check out my previous post!)

I picked up the blocks at Michaels the other day (25% off because of the fantastic US Thanksgiving sales.)  I would've preferred larger blocks but they were slim pickings!  I think these were an inch and a half or maybe even 2 - can't quite remember.  The paper is from a pad I picked up last year post-Christmas from Walmart.  The boys have already started using them and it has alleviated many of the repetitive and annoying "How long til Christmas?" types of questions!

Here is my final completed project of the week (BIG BIG DISCLAIMER:  if you are my brother and sister-in-law, please read no further!  You only have to wait until Saturday before the reveal!!!)

I 'created' these for my nephew, Hawksley, who was a year old in July.  Wasn't sure what to get for Christmas and wanted to stick to something heartfelt and homemade.  He'll still get something fun to open but this is his 'big' gift.  I talked to Krystel the other day and she said he could use stuff for his room - that made me think that I could easy pull off something like this - I'm just hoping they're done in the right colour scheme.

The first picture shows how I was going to originally keep them but I'm an embellishment kind of girl so the second picture shows the end result after I dug through my stash!  I got the wooden letters at Michael's and painted them with acrylic paint.  The papers are WeRMemory Keepers (Precious Metals - Coppered Out kit from Winners or HomeSense once upon a time.)  Buttons (Latte), ribbon (Double Stitch Grosgrain in Chocolate Chip) and brad (Designer Circle) are from Stampin' Up (thanks to Karey Jeans @ Creative Craft Corner for my recent order!)  The rub-on phrases were from a pack I picked up at the Sandylion outlet last year.  I sanded the papers, modpodged it all and then gave it a UV gloss sealant.  I think the letters turned out pretty well - and my boys loved them so much they've requested I make initial hangers for their room. 

Countdown takeout boxes?  Yeah... don't ask... they're a runaway train - or maybe more like a car that ran out of gas (in that I was all gung-ho and then lost my excitement for that particular project.)  Should've just bought the kit (my advice to anyone considering that project - JUST BUY THE KIT!)  They're almost done - just have to attach ribbon to 12 more boxes and stuff them with delights (well, in our case, puzzle pieces from a Nativity puzzle I found somewhere...)  Hopefully tomorrow, I'll get it all tied up and can show you the finished project.  Note to self:  next time buy the kit!

This week is a busy one - lots of yummy (as in food) gifts to complete and I'm going to attempt cute little recipe books.  On a final note, does anyone know anywhere besides Michael's for good crafting supplies (even if it's online?)  I'm looking for other sources for chipboard diecuts, wood supplies, etc. but at reasonable cost and with good selection.   Share, please and have a great week - only 27 days til Christmas!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Makin' A List....

...and checking it twice. Wondering if this makes me naughty, nice or simply crazy? Christmas 2011 gift and crafting extravaganza planning has begun. I haven't even finished my shopping or creations for 2010 but as I Google (or Yahoo search to earn my Airmiles!) yet another query, I'm motivated by all the great ideas I'm finding.

One search result will bring me up pages of neat ideas and then of course, I have to browse each page, seller, etc. and come up with even more great ideas. Here are some of my think-I-have-to-try ideas for Holiday Season '11! (Spoiler alert: if you are one of my regular holiday gift recipients, please try to contain your excitement for the actual occasion. You have 12+ months to perfect that look of awed amazement!)

From Little Birdie Secrets: (one of my new favourite blogs!)

Easy Photo Blocks & Tiles

Christmas Countdown Blocks

From that legendary domestic diva, Martha Stewart, here are some good things:

I’ve seen a number of these simple yet lovely ribbon wreaths on various sites but Canadian Living offers easy instructions.  I found my original inspiration in the Stampin’ Up 2010-2011 Idea Book & Catalogue.

Following the chain reaction of ideas spurning ideas, when I searched for an image of the Stampin' Up wreath, I found another great wreath project I'd like to keep for me.   

This may be just the project to kick off a crafting new year... I love it!
(Hint:  search for Stampin' Up and any number of queries in Google and you'll find a ton of ideas to tweak - thanks, ladies!)

These are just some of my creative giving plans.  (I've been fighting with images, text, formatting and a computer that keeps freezing for hours to get this post finished... so I'm not sharing the rest!)  Maybe I'll find myself organized enough to devise a schedule of sorts to keep me crafting for Christmas throughout the whole year.   Keep sharing your ideas too - you know how much I love them!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feelin' Blue

Not my state of mind... just the colour scheme that seems to have struck my fancy during some recent Etsy browsing sessions!
The Sweetpeat,
katecotten, $8 USD

Blue Chocolate Flowers BBQ Apron,
apronsandmore, $18.95 USD


Kindle, Nook or Kobo Cover,
hobop, $29.99 USD

I know I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again... but I LOVE Etsy! I just made some stocking stuffer purchases (first Etsy purchases ever!) and am anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail. It's a great source of inspiration for do-it-yourself projects or out-of-the-ordinary-I-think-you're-extra-special gifts for everyone on your list year-round and pat-on-the-back-I-deserve-a-treat steals or splurges for yourself.  The hardest thing about it is the overwhelming choice - with so many options it's hard to decide. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Think Outside The Box

Yesterday being Rememberance Day, I find myself in a somewhat reflectful mood.  Honourable men and women worldwide are willing (and have been willing for years) to stand up for freedom, liberties, justice - to fight in the name of peace and truth that this world be a safer, better place. The cost of these freedoms is ultimate sacrifice - sweat, blood, tears, life - and we remember these men and women willing to serve, who lay everything on the line day in and day out.  I know it's an oversimplified viewpoint but I'm not looking for an in-depth discussion; I'm merely trying to lay a foundation for my thoughts.

For myself, I find Rememberance Day is always a prelude to the Christmas season.  As much as I love Christmas, I hesitate to totally embrace the 'season' (not the meaning!) until we've paid our respects to those who have served our Country faithfully.  As I relfect on the sacrifices they've given - often their lives - in a fight for peace and goodwill, I am reminded of another ultimate gift and ultimate sacrifice - for those of us of the Christian faith, the basis for our every belief, the birth and ultimately, sacrifice, of Jesus Christ.   Perhaps the subject of life and sacrifice in terms of those in service and the advent of the holiday season also celebrating life and sacrifice is what ties these occassions together in my mind. 

While we sit cozy in our homes, with our Christmas trees, stockings stuffed and tummies overflowing, there are so many who do not get to celebrate in a warm environment, who do not get to experience that feeling of peace, joy and goodwill. 

Casting Crowns has a Christmas song, I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day, that gets to the heart of the matter.  I'm not sure if it is their original song, but the lyrics just remind me that even though there is suffering in the world, and we may not be living in a time of peace, God is still the cornerstone of Peace on Earth and He still cares for each and every one of us.

All this brings me to the title of my entry today.   I think it's time to (and I know you do!) think outside the box... when you're wrapping your gifts and you're tying yet another ribbon, when you've written so many Christmas cards your hand begins to cramp, when you fill your belly with a warm meal, sip at your hot chocolate while wearing your flannel jammies, sitting in front of a warm fire with your loved ones around, when you stand up on Rememberance Day with a poppy on your lapel, a hand on your heart, what sacrifice have you offered?  What have you been willing to do to promote peace on earth and goodwill to men?

There are faith-based and secular national and international organizations alike that offer a number of programs (and I'm sure there are a number local to your communityas well!) that reach beyond Walmart to offer inspirational gifts this Christmas season.   My extended family in years past have, rather than exchanging gifts, pooled money into a group fund and donated to charity in the family name.  

Last year, we personally purchased farm animals through Samaritan's Purse for my nephews, who obviously did not see the farm animals, but had a little notecard tucked into their stockings to remind them that Christmas is more than getting - it's all about giving and sharing that precious love.   It's reaching out to mankind, here or abroad, and remembering that it's more than tinsel and gift wrap and yet another toy. 
Kaleb's teacher will be getting a candle from Bath and Body Works this year because, hey, after spending day in and day out with (20) 4 and 5 year olds, a girl deserves something nice.  We'll also be purchasing school supplies or a gift card from one of the organizations below to give on her behalf. 

I just remind you that even though we may not be laying our lives on the line everyday, we may not be fighting to make this world a better place, but that doesn't mean we can't do something small to influence the life and well-being of someone outside our social circle.  Make a hamper for the local food bank, find a family to sponsor this Christmas, check out with local adoption agencies or womens shelter to see if they have needs for a care cupboard or Christmas parties (i.e. Jewels for Jesus in Mississauga) and instead of stuffing those stockings with yet another plastic toy, why not slip in a donation card from one of the organizations below?

Please note that we have not sponsored all of these organizations, nor do I necessarily endorse them... they are just the ones I could remember and you can also do a quick Google search for "Sponsor A Child" for similar programs.

Think outside the box this year and give something with a little more love behind it - you'll bless someone less fortunate, you'll feel good yourself and the gift card recipient will be honoured that you chose the heart of the season as your inspiration.  Let's all inspire some peace on earth and goodwill to men!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade Holidays

Now that Halloween is over, Rememberance Day is just around the corner (wear your poppy with pride!) and before you know, Christmas will be upon us.   My mom has been suggesting for years that we celebrate the "commercial" (i.e. gift-giving) side of things as the Dutch do, celebrating St. Nicholas, early in December for Sinterklaas Day and leaving the 25th for a the true reason for Christmas, a celebration and rememberance of love's greatest gift.  After a hectic October and what is shaping up to be a busy November, my siblings and I discussed (and decided) that, hey, maybe Mom's onto something here.  So with my immediate family, we'll be celebrating Christmas in early December (not actually on Sinterklaas Day, though.)

This is all excellent in theory... but it means I've lost close to 3 weeks in my "making-a-list-and-checking-it-twice-all-while-staying-on-a-budget" window of opportunity.  Don't get me wrong - I'm organized on paper but my ideas aren't really gelling this year.   I want need to keep things to a minimum and honestly, I'm the kind of girl who goes a little overboard, especially at Christmas - just because I love all things merry and bright - and incorrectly think that the more I do or give, the more expressive my love.

Every year I try to, not necessarily simplify, but do less commercial gift-giving.  Yes, I still stuff the stockings and pick out those perfect gifts, but I'm trying for heartfelt or homemade, without being chintzy, cheesy or cheap.  I'm a crafter at heart, even if those ideas don't necessarily translate into physical realities as nice or often as I would like.  I'm all set on crafts to do with the kids - the idea folder (in my head!) is chock-full of goodness.   It's the nice-to-give, lovely-to-receive things that I have a harder time with.

I need ideas so I've been scrounging the internet, magazines, catalogues and even browsed one of the local craft shows (ok, who am I kidding - I went to shop!) for some easy-to-implement homemade holiday ideas. This has led me to a number of blogs and Facebook groups I'll be following (I'd share the links but I have them saved on my laptop and I'm logged into the home pc.)  I stumbled upon Martha Stewart, Stampin' Up and Close To My Heart - and I think I'm suffering from inspiration overload but still haven't found those perfect somethings that I'd like to create.

Candy Countdown Calendar
by Stampin Up
 I am definitely going to do some of my "gifts-in-a-jar" (or bag or box) - mixes for homemade goodness and of course some homemade treats.  I also found a cute (I absolutely love it!!!) Advent/Countdown Calendar kit from Stampin' Up - which I am not going to buy but will use as inspiration for creating my own take-out box Advent calendar garland for the boys (thereby tapping into my endless supply of scrapbook materials!) After tinkering with my printer, Adobe and some papers, the question of the day becomes:  do I create my own (48!) takeout boxes or do I splurge on the boxes and just embellish using my own supplies???  Decisions, decisions....

Here's my next question (or two or three) of the day:  What homemade holiday decor, gifts, packaging, etc. ideas do you use or share?  What traditions or do-it-yourself projects do you incorporate to keep things more heartfelt and less commercial?

Less than 2 months to go - I'm sure my posts will be very holiday-themed and I'll try to keep you up to date on the Advent garland project.   Share your ideas, comments, etc. - you know I welcome your feedback.  Enjoy all the preparations as you get into the holiday spirit and remember that neverending, unconditional love is the reason we celebrate the season and should be the basis for all we do to make it special.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Apple Orchards & A Thanksgiving Twist

I just thought I'd share this (which I'm sure we'll all recall.)  It's a classic and for some, I'm sure it's just a rote tradition when sitting down to that big stuffed bird.  I would hope it has more meaning than that to us:

Bless us, Oh Lord,
and these thy gifts which
we are about to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ, Our Lord.

~ A Traditional Prayer of Thanksgiving

'Tis the season to think of bounty, gratitude and the myriad of blessings we enjoy.  Today, I volunteered with Kaleb's class on a trip to one of our local orchards, Archibalds.  Always a great group of kids and the lady leading our tour was amazing - she had songs, puppets and rhymes and did such an excellent job of simply explaining to a group of 5 year olds.   

It's Apple Picking Time!

Mmm - cider!

Kaleb & Mommy
The orchard has a pretty smart set-up when it comes down to adult chaperones on field trips.  Once we got off the bus, the teachers and students sat in the outdoor classroom while the parents/adult volunteers were shuffled into the winery and gift shop.  Archibald's is our u-pick orchard of choice and I love the gift shop selections for baskets, stocking stuffers and other country or gourmet gifts.  Their wines and ciders are absolutely delicious and they have a great play area for the kids.  We have yet to visit the golf course. I think walked out with some great ideas for Christmas gifts after and will be heading back over the next few days to pick up cider for the weekend.        

Speaking of this weekend, Thanksgiving is upon us.  If you're anything like us, you have to split your time between families and that often means multiple meals.   I enjoy a big dinner but only on occasion.  It made me think that the full-blown turkey dinner more than once in a 4 day period is definite carb-turkey-pumpkin overload!  

Fortunately, we live in an area that provides a bountiful harvest of autumn fruits and veggies.  With access to a ton of recipes, there are some great alternatives to that traditional gobbler and the same old sides.    After browsing through my recipe binder, these would be my (mostly untested) picks for a lighter or more intimate meal.  

Turkey:   Turkey Pesto Tenderloins
Veggies:  Maple-Glazed Root Vegetables or Autumn Vegetables with Maple-Ginger Dressing
Potatoes:  Rosemary Mashed Potato Gratin or Epicure's Potato Casserole
Salad:  Epicure's Apple Walnut Salad or Smoked Chicken & Spinach Salad
Dessert:  Buttery Orchard Apple Torte

Of course, with any good recipe (or great home chef!) the fun is in tweaking it to suit your needs.  Don't like one of the root veggies?  Swap it out for somethingn else.  Don't have a particular seasoning or dressing?  Raid your pantry and use what you have on hand.  In the case of the chicken spinach salad, if serving for a Thanksgiving meal, I'd definitely go with turkey instead!

What's on your menu?  Have any unique recipes and/or family faves?   Remember, Thanksgiving is all about more than a full belly and a full house - count your blessings and know that gratitude is more than words spoken - it should be a daily attitude!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Creative Comforts

I think that everyone of us has something inside just itching to get out.  I don't necessarily mean talents or gifts, but just a part of us that when left untouched, tends to keep us feeling unfulfilled or antsy.  For me, one of these itches is the need to create - to do something with my hands and see a finished product as a result of my efforts.  Depending on the day, my mood, the activity, I'm left feeling relaxed, satisfied, energized, etc.

It is my goal, now that we're back into a semblance of routine, to try something new every week to give vent to this monster.  More importantly, I'm starting to realise that for everyone's well-being, I need to grab some "important-to-mommy-let's-keep-her-sane" time - without feeling guilty.  So far, I'm off to a decent start.

Michael's (I love Michael's!) offers some crafty courses in a wide variety of interests, catering to various skill-levels.  Per chance, one day I saw while browsing, that they were offering a beginners scrapbooking course.  I've scrapbooked before, but even with my amazing & organized scraproom, (thanks, baby!) I need a kick in the butt to do something with the supplies at hand.   I signed up for the course (less than $30 for 4 weeks) and the last 2 Wednesday evenings have spent a couple hours with some other ladies who like to scrap. 

My first session, and even through part of yesterday's session, I wondered if perhaps the course was too beginner-oriented... but then again, I just wanted some motivation, inspiration and a night to myself.  Last night I started and completed one of the first scrap pages I've done in a looooong time - and I enjoyed it, even though it meant I was doing groceries at 10 pm and maybe the final product isn't quite perfect (I forgot half my tools - whoops!)

The Finished Product

Back to my goals.... As I said, I want to explore a little more while creating.   I want to delve into new recipes, sit down and scrap or cardmake, maybe write a chapter or two of that book floating around in the recesses of my mind.   I don't always get the chance to do a big complicated dinner like I did pre-daycare but it's my ambition to try a new recipe or two each week.  

I made my first batch of slider (mini-burger) buns last week and they were a keeper for sure!  The recipe was so yummy, I can improvise and use them as dinner rolls.   I'm thrilled about this - most of my yeast-based recipes tend to be a no-go.   Here's the link from CHOW:  Slider Buns.  

Honestly, I improvised a little - I didn't have shortening, so I used Tenderflake.  I didn't have kosher salt, but I did have course salt and used that instead.  To make them a little more savoury, I added a couple shakes of Epicure's Pesto Herb Mix.  (I swear, Epicure makes my life just a wee bit simpler... if you're interested in any products, I can give you contact info for two fabulous reps who just happen to be close friends of mine!)  The buns were delicious, the daycare kids enjoyed them as an afternoon snack, warm from the oven.  The boys didn't care for the turkey sliders I made but loved the bun - the whole 1 1/2 dozen disappeared the same day I made them.

This afternoon, the kids wanted food to play grocery store. While rifling through the pantry to see what non-glass items I could lend to their imaginative pursuits, I found a can of pumpkin puree tucked in the back corner.  When I was tidying up after dinner, I saw the can again and was struck with a craving for pumpkin muffins.  And after a somewhat stressful day, the need to create overruled the desire to take a bubble bath and soooo pumpkin muffins I made.  I flipped through my binder full of clippings and couldn't find a pumpkin muffin recipe but I found an apple spice muffin recipe and used it as a base.

My batch just came out of the oven just before bedtime and once they cooled enough to eat without burning the tongue, the boys (all 3!) sampled and approved.  I still think they're missing "something" that would make them perfect, but I'm pretty sure they'll be gone by tomorrow.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs (gasp!)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp ginger
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 can (756 ml) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350°F.  I'm sure there's a proper method to adding the ingredients, but using my stand mixer I just dump it all in and mix until smooth.  Spoon into prepared muffin tins.  (I use standard tins with silicone muffin cups.)  Bake for 15-17 minutes - do the toothpick test.  Cool on wire racks and voila, yummy fall eats!  I'm sure they'd be good with frosting if you wanted a sweeter cupcake treat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lucky Linds Is Loved

I love alliteration (a la the title of this post.)  That's just a side note for free....

You must be pretty lucky - not often you get two posts in a week, let alone in one day!

On the 21st of August, I celebrated my 29th birthday.  Shocked?!?  I know, I don't look a day over 25.  :)  I spent the day packing, cleaning, and driving home from the cottage.  No worries though - I did celebrate!  The 'boys' took me for dinner, informed me while I was doing groceries that I could buy a Kobo eReader (I have mixed feelings about it!) for my birthday and I planned a girls night out with my friends.

Last Wednesday, my friends and I had a lovely dinner at Jack Astors, followed by dessert at Demetres in Whitby.  Let me tell you - spending a night with these hot mommas always makes me laugh and feel loved!  We can complain, joke around, share our stories, our joys, are dramas, our concerns and always end the night feeling better than we started.

As we were celebrating my birthday, I was genuinely spoiled.  Seriously, they go over and above and I felt oh-so loved - I would have been happy with the fine company but no, they bore gifts as well - many a much appreciated gift card included.

Last weekend, I hit Chapters to enjoy the spoils.   Just having got the eReader from Kev & the boys, and also being an ardent patron of the local library system, I didn't want to just load up on paperbacks.  Mom & Dad had the boys, Kev trailed along to bear my purchases and I decided to invest in some crafting inspiration in addition to some cheap reads.

I had an anniversary card to make today and a craftroom filled with supplies (and junk!  Sheesh I need to reorganize again so I can find the floor... and the desk... and the desk chair.)  One of the books that made it home with me after my shopping spree on Saturday was Joy of Card Making,  (Leisure Arts, available at Chapters, $20.46). I basked in perusing it earlier this week and thumbed through this afternoon for inspiration:

This is the layout I opted to follow:

With some variations on the opposing page:

And my final project, a simple anniversary card, blank inside, and a coordinating envelope with scalloped flap:

I'd say I'm having a productive day but as I look at the laundry and other chores to be done, I'm not sure productive is the right word!  I guess I'm chanelling my creative or should-do-something energy into more frivolous pursuits and leaving the mundane for another day.

Baking Makes Me Happy

I will be the first to 'fess up to the fact that I am NOT a domestic diva.   I am nowhere near close to being crowned the next Martha Stewart or being monikered June Cleaver (although for some odd reason, I like the idea of serving dinner in heels and pearls).  Dinner is often a fast food affair and when I do cook, it's often with disasterous results (or decent results and then a 2 hour battle to get everyone to eat their meal without complaining!)   All that being said, however, I do enjoy my time in the kitchen when inspiration strikes, I'm not feeling rushed or pressured and all things go as planned.

I often find baking a great pick-me up.  I'm sure there's a scientific explanation that has to do with the smells triggering emotional responses, blah, blah, blah... but really, it just comes down to having fun and putting a smile on my face.  I tend to achieve better results (or at least better customer satisfaction - and my monkeys are two tough customers!) when I roll up my sleeves, don an apron, and facedown the mixing bowl than when I'm faced with having to come up with yet another chicken dish that will keep everyone happy.  I have a huge recipe book collection and an even bigger clipped and/or bookmarked recipe collection amassed from the internet, magazines, friends, tv, etc.

Despite this gargantuan mess of recipes, many of which I am still waiting to try - one day, I have my failproof, fall-back favourites.  One of these is my mom's Banana Bread recipe, which of course I've tweaked a little.  I've probably shared it before, but I have never (okay, rarely ever) had a flop with this family favourite. (So much a favourite, even the in-laws enjoy it and my sister-in-law requested it as the cake to celebrate Mom & Dad Brown's anniversary tonight.)  Originally a zucchini bread recipe, perhaps from an old Unico oil cookbook, it works well for banana cake, loaves, muffins, etc.   

Mom's Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar  (the original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups but I find it works just as well with a single cup!)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 or 5 ripe, mashed bananas

Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl.  In separate large bowl, combine eggs, sugar and oil.  Alternately add milk and dry ingredients to egg mixture.  Add bananas and vanilla.     (If using stand mixer, combine dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients all together and mix until well blended, then add bananas and mix some more.) 

Bake in preheated 350°F oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.  (Check at the 35 min mark if you desire.  My oven is slightly warmer so it takes about 35 minutes to do a bundt pan or two loaves.)

As a cake, it's delicious with a fluffy cream cheese frosting, topped with walnuts.  One of these days, I'd like to try it with a maple frosting.   I've also done a streusel topping if baked as loaves.  It's perfectly delicious on it's own and our usual serving method is warm from the oven, sliced and slathered with some butter!  Yum!  \

I also use my garden fresh zucchinis in the recipe but it's more of a feel-it-out type of thing than an exact recipe.   Usually, I'll grate a zucchini and use just 2 bananas;  everything else remains the same.  It makes a slightly denser cake.

Successful baking is like a warm hug from someone you love - comfort from the oven!  No wonder it puts a smile on my face.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Don't Quote Me On This But...

Have you ever heard/read the quote saying implying that those who rely on quotes lack inspiration or the creativity to think for yourself?  I can't remember exactly how it goes and I'm too sleepy to Google to find it.   Anyhow, everytime I 'hear' this quote, I tend to chuckle as I'm a BIG relier on quotes and I find them very inspiring.

Today I was browsing some of the local home decor stores for wall art (my kitchen is now painted and all that's left in our reno project is a few baseboards and the transition piece at the stairs.  It only took all summer but it's looking good!  Thanks, baby!)  Anyhow, HomeSense and Winners had slim pickings, a few hopefuls but nothing that struck me enough to buy and Pier1 is just a scary store to go into with 2 rambunctious monkeys.  The couple things I saw were pretty close to what I was looking for but way out of budget.

This disappointment led me to browse Etsy, which I haven't done in some time. The category I opted to give a quick perusal offered alot of painted signs and vinyl wall art - often with well known quotes.  I was struck by a number of them - humourous, feel good, inspirational - but I was reminded at how much I love children's literature and Winnie the Pooh offers some of the best lines out there! 

Before I fall asleep at night, I often blog in my head.  I come up with witty and wonderful things to share but by the time morning comes and I've shaken the cobwebs out of my brain, I've completely forgotten what I was going to write.  Tonight while I'm waiting for my Kobo (thanks, boys!) to sync, I thought I'd utilize the time to share some of my favourite quotes while I'm feeling inspired.

In no particular order (and without proper credit and even misqouted I'm sure), here are some of the words I try to live by:

* Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply.  Speak kindly.
* Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
* If there ever comes a day when we cannot be together, keep me in your heart... I will stay there forever.  ~ Winnie the Pooh
* Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.
* Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.  ~ Winnie the Pooh
* I meant what I said and I said what I meant.  An elephant's faithful 100%. ~ Horton Hears A Who
* Never tease a weasel.  Not even once or twice.  A weasel would not like it, and teasing isn't nice. ~  Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule.  (We hear this one a lot around here! It's a great little picture book that I highly recommend.)
* Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~ Phil. 4:8 NLT
* There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think; but the most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you. ~ Winnie the Pooh
* Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation. ~ D. Elton Trueblood
* I have faith in God similar to how I have faith in the sun. Not because I can see it, but because I cannot see without it.
* Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
* Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ~ 1 Corinthians 13
That's all I've got for now!  There are a ton of others I could share but these are what I'm offering tonight.  I hope you find some inspiration among them and share with me the words that give you encouragement, hope, inspiration or just a smile!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Celebration Of Life

This weekend offered a spectrum of choices in the celebration of life.  My great-uncle, Frank Weening, passed away suddenly on Thursday in his 78th year and while I have not maintained a close relationship  with many of my extended relatives, he was still much beloved and will be missed by many.   My heart is saddened on behalf of his children, many of whom I've become good Facebook friends with, and of course, for his wife, Auntie Rita, and siblings, especially my Pake.   While it is necessary and normal to mourn, I'm always struck by the laughter that often can be heard at the visitations and memorial services of those who cherished life, family, faith.    What a wonder that in the midst of such great sorrow, we can look back and remember all the good and know that above all we love and are loved.   That not only do we say goodbye and mourn, but we celebrate happier times and a life well-lived.

I was touched by many of the Facebook statuses and messages I read over the last few days regarding Uncle Frank.   It served to remind me of how my family finds itself anchored in faith.   It also reminds me that we touch many lives- that our reach extends further than we know and as such should strive to walk in kindness and love.   These reflections also spurned my Facebook status today:  "All I want is to know I lived life to the fullest, never missed an opportunity to laugh, and have loved greatly and without abandon. Let it be said that I've treasured and cared for that which is important: my faith, my family, my friends."   A sentiment I've voiced before, no doubt, but perhaps spoken a different way.

In another aspect of life's celebratory moments, Sunday we ventured to Centreville with the kids to spend the day with the Weening boys in lieu of a birthday party for Knightley (just 3) and Hawksley (1 on Thursday).   Kaleb, Justin & Knightley had a blast starting off with the ferry to the island.  It was busy but not too bad and they are all at the perfect age to enjoy the rides - lots of laughter and smiles all around.  Mommy forgot her camera but Uncle James had his always at the ready and hopefully will share the captured moments with me!   Happy birthdays to my sweetest Weening nephews - we love you boys sooooo much!

On a side note, tonight is t-ball night which means we rush to get dinner served and everyone out the door on time.   I got a jump start on dinner prep.   I have tons of recipes clipped from various sources (mostly magazines) and found some inspiration.  I baked some yummy Tex-Mex Cheese Biscuits, recipe courtesy of the milk calendar.  My only variation was to grab some fresh basil from the garden, finely chop and mixed it in before adding the milk.   I also have an Old-Fashioned Pear Crisp in the oven, receipe from Chatelaine, to be reheated and served for dessert.  Now what to do with for the entree?   I'm thinking peppery maple chicken, corn on the cob and a side salad.  For me, yummy food is definitely one of life's little pleasures!  If I have to eat, I might as well make sure it tastes good!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Lovin'

We are indeed blessed.  We live in an amazing country.  We have a roof over our heads, food on the table, 2 beautiful boys, the joys of family and friends.   It is at once incredibly easy to count our blessings and impossibly difficult to number them all.

Every season I'm struck anew with a wonder at the beauty and bounty surrounding us.   Summer brings with it it's own particular set of blessings to count and enjoy.  Some of the simplicities - small things that bring me pleasure, are:

* My gardens - I don't really have a green thumb but I love to pretend I do.  I'm always amazed when I can pull produce from the garden and glow with pride because somehow I managed not to kill it!   This summer, once again, my beans are thriving, my zucchini is an overwhelming jungle, my basil is fresh and fragrant, the cucumbers survived and the rest are hanging in there.

As for my perennial beds, my lilies (always a favourite) are indulgent with blooms - a deep pinkish purple and a striking contrast of white.  Beautiful!   Unfortunately, I think this may be the year that my hibisicus has not resurrected itself and I lost my huge chive plant.   I blame it on the dog.

* Reading in the sun.   Nothing quite so relaxing as finding a quiet spot and hopefully a nice breeze to curl up with a good book and work on that tan.  Yes, I know the dangers of sun exposure but no, I will not give up my tan.  Life is too short to worry about all the things that could go wrong - the sun can just join the list of thing that are bad for me in excess but I cannot live without.

* Patio nights with friends.  Whether in the backyard or a local restaurant, it's always fun to dress up, get in some good conversation, lots of laughs and enjoy a nice frosty drink with the girls.  Conversation runs from the ironic to mundane, silly to serious with everything in between.  For all of us busy moms, these nights are a must-have sanity saver - reminding us that our whatever role we're filling at any particular moment, it is not the sum of us - it is only a part of the whole, beautiful, wonderful, strong woman we are.

* Watching the boys in the sprinkler.  It makes me giggle everytime.   They love water play and some days I'm hard pressed not to join them myselves.   Fortunately for us, Durham region is loaded with splash pads too - so they will make (and have made) for some excellent sunny-day adventures that are easy on the wallet. 

* Picking fresh fruit and hitting the local farmer's market.  Ontario has some great produce.  Our area in particular has some great berry farms (yummy blueberries!), a few good orchards and all that goes with it.   It's another great way to spend a summer afternoon - and the best part is enjoying the bounty once we get it home.   Fresh, baked or even on the 'que, fresh produce is a hit at our home!    Here's a great guide to in-season produce Ontario-wide:  http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/english/availability.html

* Road trips, day trips or lazy days at the cottage.  I know they're not the same, but for as long as I can remember one or the other or all of the above have been part of the summer experience.  Kevin's family has a cottage on Sturgeon Lake - a little rocky for swimming, but with water shoes the boys don't mind and they're quite content to go fishing.  I'd like to fit in a few more road trips as they get older too - we have so much to discover all within a couple hours' drive.   Day trips are always exciting - Wasaga, Niagara, how fun!

Here are some pictures from the cottage on the weekend and snapshots of my blooms at the end of June.  Oh, and if you know what to do with my over-abundance of basil or zucchini, please share!  I'm good for pesto and zucchini bread but need to add some variety to my recipe book.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Feel Like A Princess...

...when I think of how Kevin 'courted' me.   I know it's such an old fashioned word but really, that's how he made me feel.   As much as I'm a sucker for romance novels, I'm not naive enough to believe that life is a fairy tale and that happily ever after happens without an effort made on both parts.   I was never a damsel in distress unless you count the few times I ended up broken down on the side of the road.   

Kevin was a romantic - surprises and dinners and flowers and more.  He won me over with his charm, his endless patience, his wry sense of humour, his firm and steady personality.

We've known each other for 10 years.  We've been marred for 6 - yesterday was our anniversary.  You would think by now, the shininess of our relationship would have worn off.  Don't get me wrong, most of the time, with two kids underfoot and busy lives, the grime of daily life means you have to look for that glimmer but when I look at him, really look at him, and think of how blessed I am to be married to and started a beautiful family with such a wonderful man, I can see the sparkle and I still feel like a princess! 

I never feel more beautiful than when Kevin looks at me with a sparkle in his eye.  I never feel more safe then when his arms are wrapped around me.  My heart is lightened when we can laugh over silly things and it melts a little more every time I see him being one of my boys.  I don't believe in fairy tales but I know that the day I melded my life and heart with his, our happily ever after began.   Kevin will always be my own personal Prince Charming and I will always feel like a princess when I think of how much I'm loved!

Here are some of my favourite shots (or at least they invoke some favourite memories!) of time with my favourite guy!


See why I love him???? He's the best!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daddy & Me

It's Father's Day tomorrow.  It's also our 6th anniversary.  On June 20th, 2010, I not only will I miss and remember my incredible Opa (maternal grandfather),  marvel at my industrious Pake (paternal grandfather), celebrate my incomprable father, but I get to celebrate 6 years of mostly blissful marriage to the love of my life.   10 years that we've known each other, 6 as husband and wife, 4 as the most amazing father I've been privileged to know (and that's alot of amazing dad's when you realise the size of my extended family!)

For now, I'm going to post laud to my dear old dad and save the anniversary accolades for tomorrow.   I have tender memories (and some not so tender as most of us do!) of Daddy & Me.   I can remember 'working' in the greenhouses with him, fishing, camping, snowmobiling (and then having to pee in a snowbank - no small feat for a girl in bib-front snowpants), cuddling when I couldn't sleep and he watched the evening news.  He surprised me with a Father-Daugher dance at our wedding, held my hand in the wee hours when I laboured with Kaleb, and glowed with pride when Justin was born.

We haven't always seen eye-to-eye, and have often butt heads with each other (that makes me giggle because when the boys give each other head-butts, they always yell "butt head" at each other... not in a bad way but because the reverse the words... but I digress.)   Some would say Daddy and Me are too much alike - and that's often not a positive reference.  I would say I agree... but if I am lucky, I'm also akin to him in ways that matter - faith, unconditional love, the need to stand for what's right, and a stubborn tenacity!

I read this quote today and I loved it: 
"Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever. ~Author Unknown" 

On that note, I'm not a big country music fan at all - but Dad has made two songs important to me.  Once upon a time (okay, probably more than once!), I heard Holly Dunn's "Daddy's Hands" - and it always makes me think of my Dad (and grandfathers actually.)   Number two is the song Dad surprised me with for the Father/Daughter dance at our wedding, "Tough Little Boys" by Gary Allan (look it up on YouTube if you get a chance).

Daddy's Hands by Holly Dunn
I remember Daddy's hands
Folded silently in prayer
And reaching out to hold me
When I had a nightmare

You could read quite a story
In the callouses and lines
Years of work and worry
Had left their mark behind

I remember Daddy's hands
How they held my Mama tight
And patted my back
For something done right

There are things I've forgotten
That I loved about the man
But I'll always remember
The love in Daddy's hands

Daddy's hands
Were soft and kind when I was cryin'
Daddy's hands
Were hard as steel when I'd done wrong
Daddy's hands
Weren't always gentle but I'd come to understand
There was always love in Daddy's hands

I remember Daddy's hands
Working til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly
Just to keep us all fed

If I could do things over
I'd live my life again
And never take for granted
The love in Daddy's hands

Daddy's hands
Were soft and kind when I was cryin'
Daddy's hands
Were hard as steel when I'd done wrong
Daddy's hands
Weren't always gentle but I'd come to understand
There was always love in Daddy's hands

Daddy's hands
Were soft and kind when I was cryin'
Daddy's hands
Were hard as steel when I'd done wrong
Daddy's hands
Weren't always gentle but I'd come to understand
There was always love ............ in Daddy's hands


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tick, Tock....

Man, this year is just flying by!  I know they say that happens as you get older, but really, c'mon now, I'm not even 29....    Kaleb has less than 2 weeks of school left and it's crazy to think how it seems like yesterday we were taking pictures of his first day of JK. 

It's also amazing the things they pick up when their out from the sheltered life that mommy encourages.  I'm by no means overprotective and they are probably exposed to stuff that is slightly older than age-appropriate at times as a result of having slightly older kids in the house... but some of the things they say leads to some pretty mixed reactions - laughter and the knowledge I should probably address it because it's wrong.
The most common refrain we here these days is the ever-popular "Well, you're not my (blank) anymore."  This always comes on the heels of someone they are playing with not wanting to play by their rules.  Everyone wants to lead and no one wants to follow.   Yesterday, Kaleb & Justin were arguing over who got which car and Justin (he's just 3!) piped up with that line.  "You not my brother anymore."   He got the last word in although Kaleb tried to convince him he had to move out if they were no longer related.

I get told I'm not their mommy anymore on a daily basis - it's usually something I laugh off - but the refrain does get tiring! Ok well if I'm not your mommy anymore, I'm just gonna go do some un-mommyish things (i.e. be completely selfish) while you both fend for yourself.   No?  Don't like that one, do you?  I guess you're stuck with me then....

The "You're Not My" line is generally followed by the retort (and ultimate penalty):  "Yeah, well you're not invited to my birthday."  (It matters not whether that birthday is in 2 weeks or 8 months... it's a threat and unless you play nice, they'll remember!)  In all fairness, I've seen many an adult behave in similar manner if albeit a little more smoothly and slightly more saccharine.

So, yeah, Kaleb's picked up that and much more over the last 10 months and has been more than willing to share with his brother!  I accompanied a class trip to the local zoo on Friday and after watching the behaviour of his classmates, I could more readily see where some of the traits (and not all bad!) were coming from.

Tick, tock, with each day that's passing by, I'm realising my little boys are not going to remain so little for so long!

On a completely unrelated note, check out the websites and Facebook profiles of these talented ladies aka entrepreneurial mama's in my area: 
Crazy Baby Accessories on the web - adorable handmade baby clothes and accessories in trendy designer prints or Crazy Baby Accessories on Facebook

Live Love Bath on the web - handpicked natural ingredients for body and bath or Live Love Bath on Facebook

Friday, May 28, 2010

I Love My....

...hubby.   Kev's the best.   I know I don't always show how much I appreciate him (and his hard work) but I really do.   He is an amazing husband and father and I can't imagine how different (and lacking) my life would be if we had not met.

...kids.   They light up my lives.  Two very active, excitable, crazy little monkeys come with their challenges and endless patience-testing occasions, but moreso, they come with hugs, cuddles, kisses, funny antics, and a ton of moments that make me stand back in awe and pride that I am so blessed to be their mother.

...kitchen gadgets.   I figured I should get the important stuff out of the way first, but now that everyone knows my priorities are straight I want to rave about my new T-Fal Actifry!   (Check it out on the T-Fal website.)   Kaleb won't eat potatoes unless they're in french fry form and I was feeling guilty feeding him the frozen variety too often (and let's be honest, baked from frozen just doesn't cut it.)   I tried fresh cut oven baked but they never came out 'perfect.'  Always too crispy on the outside and hard in the middle, or mushy, or just yuck.   The Actifry has solved my problems and it only uses a tablespoon of oil!   We've used it for diced potatoes and I've made fries a number of times (easy-peasy to cut thanks to my Kitchen Stuff Plus house brand potato chipper.)  They come out golden and crispy.  Don't be fooled though - this is no quick and easy fryer.  Still takes a good 30 - 40 minutes and it costs a pretty penny.   We got ours at Home Outfitters with a 25% off  coupon and I know they're also available at Sears.    I still have to try wings and it came with a recipe book so I won't be stuck on ideas.  I figure it's an investment if I use it a couple times a week - I'm just a little sad it can't make Olliebollen healthier!  To see some other reviews, just look up Actifry on YouTube.\

We've been busy, busy around here... but I promise to update soon with more insight into what's been going on.    Big weekend ahead - Kaleb gets to meet his t-ball coach and pick up his uniform tomorrow.  Kev has 3 games this weekend.  Kaleb has a birthday party... and if the boys can manage to not beat each other up, we'll probably be seeing the new Shrek movie too!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm Sorry!

I've been remiss in my posting but I have a good excuse.  Really!  Honestly!  We've been busy and THIS weekend is only going to get a whole lot busier.  I'm sure I posted about my 'worries' re: the whole daycare situation.... well it's worked itself out for now and I'm looking after a good friend's little boys for the mornings.  They're close in age to my monkeys and the school schedule is the same so it works well all around.   This week was our first with this switch up in the schedule and while it's going well, change always takes it toll on us.

Speaking of change, thanks to my magnificent, wonderful, generous mother, Kev & I put a huge dent into our main floor rejuvenation project.   Mom (and Dad, I suppose), took the boys last weekend (while tending to my youngest brother recovering from knee surgery - brave souls!)  The absence of my precious babies means that we were able to tackle the next step, also known as Phase 2:  Painful Painting.

I *HATE* painting... but we limited our arguments and got it done.   The 2 family/living rooms are finished minus the trim work and a couple spots I have to touch up on the ceiling because I find the paintbrush/roller unwieldy.  Seriously, a roller or paintbrush has a mind of it's own and my inherent clumsiness has no bearing whatsoever on any of the flaws speckling my main floor.

After all my agonizing over the paint colours (and thinking I was thrilled with them), I have to say they look a lot different on such a broad space and different between rooms due to the lighting.   I wasn't thrilled first off (but seriously, ANYTHING is gonna look better than it was!) and now that we've lived with it for a week, I've grown accustomed.  Perhaps I don't love them but they work.  (Although I did a test patch of "A Quiet Moment" and it makes me smile.... really, I love it that much.  I can't wait to do the kitchen!)

Saturday, we didn't get down to work til about noon... and worked our butts off sanding and priming until about 6.  Stopped for dinner and started on the first coat of  "Cup of Cocoa" in the family room (fireplace).   Saturday morning, we got a slightly earlier start and finished the 2nd coat in that room and got both coats on in the living room (front room).   Then we slapped on two quick coats of  "Traditional" and after cleaning up and seeing midnight, we called it a weekend.   "Traditional" looked like chcolate pudding being spread on the walls.   Kaleb said he wanted to lick it!

The project:

What with Mother's Day and the youngest monkey's birthday tomorrow, this is what we're living with in reno world.  Not so bad and I'm excited to pick out my accents and know what I'm on the lookout for scheme-wise.

On a completely unrelated topic, J has requested popsicles (not cupcakes) to celebrate his birthday tomorrow with the kids.  He wants chocolate popsicles.  I'm fine with that - it's his special day!   For the life of me though, I could not remember what were in pudding pops (duh, just pudding!).    I googled it and came across this blog which I will definitely be bookmarking:  Culinarily Obsessed.   It hasn't been updated in a while but she has some quick and easy recipe ideas and I want to explore some of her links.   Yum!