Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Judicious January

I wrote yesterday how this year I plan to SIMPLIFY in a lot of areas. One area is MONEY and another is FOOD. So when I came across this post on Money Saving Mom, I knew I was up for the challenge.

After the excess of Christmas, it feels natural to try to scale back a bit in January. Just the other night I was thinking that I would try to spend a lot less on groceries in January and try to use up some of the items I had stocked up on prior to Christmas "just in case". So this challenge came along at just the right time. I need to be held accountable when I take something on and it will be nice to track spending (particularly grocery) etc. here on the blog to refer to. As well, I over spent just a WEE bit on Christmas this year, so the money I save from the household budget will be devoted to making up for my excess in December!

So here's my goals for what I will call Judicious January!

1) Reduce grocery budget by $150 to $350 for the month. Keep receipts and USE CASH to track this!
2) Use pantry, freezer and leftover food when planning meals - thus eliminating a lot of food clutter that would otherwise go to waste
3) Incorporate one meatless/vegetarian meal per week (not so bad for shedding the holiday excess around the hips too!)

Other goals for Judicous January not specifically related to the Eat From the Pantry Challenge are:

4) Reduce fast food consumption (usually midless drive-thru-in-the-car eating) to no more than once per week. Good for my budget, hips and health!
5) Take outgrown kids clothing, baby swing and playpen into local consignment store. Not only will this get these items out of my house, I'll gain space and a little cash and someone else can purchase some quality items for a lot less. Extra money will also be applied towards Christmas bills.
6) No purchases of craft items! I have ordered one item I need for the business, but that's it!
7) Additionally, restrict impulse purchases such as magazines, treats etc.

I'm taking my cue this month not only from the Eat From the Pantry Challenge, but also from no-spend months by Rachel and Lisa. If they can reduce spending and save a little cash, I think I can too!

I will be blogging about this experience at the end of each week in January to keep myself on track and keep you updated if you are interested! Let the saving begin!

One Little Word

Ali Edwards is one of my favorite scrapbookers. I remember finding her work on TwoPeas way back in the day when I started pursuing scrapbooking (as we now know it) as a hobby. She was a Garden Girl then and she was one of my main sources of inspiration then, and she remains so today. If you read her blog you may know that besides sharing incredibly meaningful project ideas she shares a lot of herself with her readers. Back in 2007 she shared that she was going to have a one-word mantra or slogan for the year (I think it was PLAY). She explained the significance of the word and throughout the year shared how the word had impacted her work and life (by the way, this year her word is STORY).

I have been thinking about this concept for a while and the word that seems to come to me time and time again is SIMPLIFY.

Why SIMPLIFY? I know that I am not the only one who has a busy life - in fact I am quite lucky in that right now I am not working full time outside of the home as so many other moms are. But we have some major decisions and life changes coming this year:
I will be returning to work in the fall of 2010 but am unsure which position I will take. We are discussing taking on a nanny once I do go back. This would necessitate purchasing a home that would work for that kind of living situation. Selling our current home would mean that we need to do some cosmetic fix-ups earlier than we anitcipated. All these things feel overwhelming to me so I need to come up with some strategies and plans to help us sort it all out.

I think I am craving simplicity like I crave chocolate - at first the craving is intense but after just a little piece, the craving is abated for a while. I think if I can begin to simplify in a few small areas (and do it one area at a time) I might feel less overwhelmed.

So over the next few weeks I will be organize and share with you my plans to simplify in the following areas:


I may also think of other areas in need of simplification, and if I do I'll add them to this list. I will also share some of the blogs, websites and resources I am using to help me in this goal.

Can you think of one little word that you might like to embrace for 2010? I would love to hear about it. We can join each other on the journey.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Aftermath

It's a back-to-normal kind of day around here.

We had a wonderful Christmas day with family - opening presents with Grandparents in the morning and a lovely dinner with extended family at my cousin's house on Christmas night. Grayson and Sam were totally spoiled and received many wonderful gifts, including a rocking horse, play mailbox and little people garage (Sam) and a roundhouse, Bounce Back Racer and building sets (Grayson). Santa was very good to me - he brought me a Cricut Expression, a watch, spa gift certificates and a breadmaker (looks like I am going to be a fat, pampered happy crafter who is always on time this year!) Shane's gifts included a new watch, tools, super special Scotchedy-Scotch-Scotch and lots of books and videos.

We had lots of fun on Boxing day playing with our new toys and visitng ZooLites in the evening. And yesterday was a lazy do-whatever-you want kind of day where we didn't even get out of our pyjamas!  But I have found that when you have little ones, everyone does better when the regular routines are followed, so today we are trying to ge back to regular meals, baths and nap/bedtimes.

The week after Christmas is always a week of reflection for me...on what has happened in the past year and on what is to come. I will share a few thoughts on this later in the week, but for now ( to keep me organized) here is the last meal plan of 2009.

Monday: Homemade Chicken Fingers (chicken sliced into strips, tossed with Shake and Bake and baked in the oven) Oven Fries and Coleslaw

Tuesday: Leftover buffet! (we still have leftovers from Christmas as well as in the freezer)

Wednesday: Macaroni & Cheese, Veggies & Dip

Thursday: New Year's Eve - we are going to Shane's business partner's house for a party. The kids are coming along and will have a little sleep there until we are ready to go home (hope this works out!) It's also our 7th wedding anniversary! So no cooking for me, but I'll bring a long an appetizer like bruschetta

Friday: Happy New Year! I am having the whole family over for supper. I'll do a big Roast Beef, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, Carrots, Peas, Soft Rolls, Salad, Skor Bar Trifle for Dessert

Saturday: My MIL's birthday. We are taking her out for supper to her favorite place - Red Lobster! Wow...two nights this week I haven't had to cook!

Sunday: Easy Chicken Enchiladas,  Green Salad

And as always...for inspiration and great ideas, make sure to have a look at the HUNDREDS of other meal plans on http://www.orgjunkie.com/!

Lastly, I am debating whether or not to buy a couple of cookbooks - The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook and Family Feasts for $75 a Week. I follow the blogs of both these women so I know there are some recipes on the blogs that are the same as in their books. It might be nice to have all the recipes in one place for easy reference, but I seem to collect cookbooks and they get left on the shelf. In my effort to SIMPLIFY (more on this later this week) I am wondering if it worth purchasing them. Anyone have these? Should they be a must-have? Let me know what you think about cookbooks!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Preparations (long)

I am such a procrastinator! I had all my plans for the holidays ready to go by mid-November thanks to my Christmas Planner. I had my December Daily album organized and materials were gathered and prepared. Most of the gifts had been purchased. I thought I wouldn't have much to do except enjoy. Boy, was I wrong.

As I was making the last batch of cookies at 11:00 tonight (note: I started writing this post late on December 23rd but I think it will actually post on Decebmer 24th!) I realized that being organized only works if you are NOT a procrastinator! Sigh...better luck to me next year! Anyway, I think I am ready and all will be well!

But, in an effort not to forget all the wonderful little things that have happened over the past few weeks, here's what we have been up to!

* I think the 12 Days of Christmas posts on Sharing Memories Scrapbooking went well. I truly appreciate the comments from good friends and supporters! It did take up a lot of time getting the project tutorials and posts ready. Next year I will start in October for that type of project!

* Shane and I had a WONDERFUL time at the holiday party at the Banff Springs! The food and party was amazing, our room was lovely, the scenery was breathtaking. It made for such a relaxing break before Christmas! This was the view from our window when we woke up on Sunday morning

* I tried several new recipes this year from Kraft's Holiday How To Centre:

Chocolate Fudge

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies (that's what I was baking tonight!)

and Cranberry-Almond Biscotti

They all turned out great after some minor issues. I always thought I was a good baker (and not such a good cook) but man did I ever have troubles this year - even with good old Rice Krispie squares! Yikes! But Grayson loved helping and we finally have lots of treats to share and enjoy over the holidays.

* We enjoyed Grayson's holiday concert and craft night. He and his classmates sang some wonderfully joyful tunes and we had snacks and built mini gingerbread houses.

I'm so glad I got a few pictures of this dear little house before Grayson dropped it on the ground and broke it to pieces. He was heartbroken so we made another one the next day.

I am so pleased at the wonderful Pre-school he is going to. They did so many fun activites and crafts in preparation for the holidays.
They wrote and sent letters to Santa, and how great it was when Grayson got his letter FROM Santa in the mail! They have been doing lots of Christmas themed activities that still incoporate learning outcomes like listening and learning about the 5 senses with Gingerbread men.

And he has brought home some wonderful keepsake ornaments and decorations.

Now he has been off from school since last Friday and is already getting a little restless. I have some crafts ready to go for next week when he is bored out of his mind! OH...and our Advent Calendar and George our very own Elf have been very fun daily activities that help keep us focused! Only one day left on the calendar now!

* We all got our Holiday haircuts (well, except for Shane who has no hair!) All went well and we are pleased with the results in time for the holidays. Grayson got a #3 on the sides and #4 on the top and gel for the first time. So grown-up!

I had 2.5 inches taken off all around and Sam had his FIRST HAIRCUT! (just a little trim as I couldn't bear to part with all his blond curls!)

* We took the boys to visit Santa on Monday which went very well. We went to Northland Village Shoppes where the REAL Santa comes to visit, not just one of his helpers. Grayson was quite fine and told Santa what he wanted. Sam didn't cry, but he wasn't too thrilled either.

* I have of course been decorating and cleaning. The tree has all kid-friendly ornaments this year, which is good because Sam has tried to destroy several already! I HAD to clean up my scrap area because it is in the rec room and that's where we decided to put up the tree this year so we have more room to open gifts and relax on Christmas day. It took me three days of tidying and organizing to make it presentable! (no photos...I have to add those to my must-take list!)

* We were sick AGAIN...Shane with a wicked sore throat and me with a cold (just a generic one...not a sinus cold thank goodness)

* I am taking the time to go through and print the rest of my Project 365 photos. I have to admit that I fell off the photo-a-day wagon in mid-August, but I still have most of the days covered. I plan on using a few of my favorite/seasonal photos of the boys for the days I didn't take a photo. Overall I am pretty pleased with myself for mostly keeping up and it is a stunning account of an entire year in our life! So worth while. If you didn't do Project 365 for 2009, you can do something similar for next year - check out Becky Higgins Project Life.

* And we've been trying to relax a bit and have some fun in the midst of all the craziness. Shane took Grayson to see The Princess and the Frog on Saturday, and we plan to make our big family gingerbread house tomorrow. We also are going to take a drive to see some Christmas lights and maybe take in ZooLites at the Calgary Zoo on Boxing Day night. And I am bound and determined to get out and do some sledding with Grayson over the holidays.

* So besides the Gingerbread house, tomorrow I will finish wrapping up the gifts, tidy up a little and get ready for a wonderful and relaxing Christmas Day. We'll hang the stockings and I will go to Christmas Mass with dad after the boys are in bed. Then I'm sure I will have visions of sugarplums and other nice things all night long!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and that you make lots of memories to enjoy for years to come! So from my family to yours...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan for Christmas Week

Such a busy week ahead with all the last minute prep! Here's my plan:

Taking the boys to visit Santa at the mall, so we will have dinner out afterwards and pick up our last minute shopping

Salmon (marinated and baked with bottled orange ginger sauce), Rice and Broccoli

Chicken Cacciatore over Spaghetti

Thursday - Christmas Eve
When I was young we often had traditional French Canadian Tourtiere for Christmas Eve dinner...unfortunately my family doesn't like it! And many friends have culinary traditions of their own - Italian meatles meals and Ukranian Perogies etc. But we'll just have a favorite of the boys instead - Meatballs in Applesauce with Rice and Broccoli and some yummy Christmas baking for dessert.
Friday - Merry Christmas!
We are having Christmas breakfast at home: Ham Steaks, Scrambled Eggs, Fresh Fruit Plate, Land of Nod Cinnamon Buns, Coffee, Tea and Champagne & Orange Juice!

Baking and nibbly appertizers will probably set out during the day and then we are going to my cousin's for family dinner and I just have to bring along the salad - Mixed Greens and Pear

At home relaxing - probably having family over in the evening. A pot of simmering Hamburger Soup, a Mixed Green Salad and some Buns will work nicely for whoever drops by.

We'll need a break after all the Christmas feasting so we'll have Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Tomato Soup.

Check out all the menu plans and recipes on http://www.orgjunkie.com/!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Muffin Tin & Menu Monday

Grayson is a picky eater. Lately we have been having BATTLES about trying to get him to eat is meals. After wracking my brain about how to get this kid to eat, I remembered back to when I tried serving him his lunch in a muffin tin how he was so delighted that he ate it all up! So, with nothing to lose, I tried it again today.

Nothing fancy...cheese and ham cubes, some pretzels and crackers, strawberries and a banana muffin. HE ATE IT ALL. I was so thrilled! Spurred on by my success, I revisited the muffin tin monday ideas found here and plan to incorporate some of them next Monday!

Muffin tin lunches aside, here is the rest of the menu plan for this week:

Monday: Grilled Steaks (grilled Hot Dogs for the boys) Baked Potatoes, Broccoli

Tuesday: Chili, Buns, Veggies & Dip

Wednesday: Perogies and Famers Sausage, Mixed Green Salad

Thursday: Chicken Cacciatore over Pasta, Mixed Green Salad

Friday: Pizza night, but I'm saving my wine consumption for tomorrow night!

Saturday: Oh I can't wait for Saturday! Shane and I are heading up to the famous Banff Springs Hotel for an overnight Christmas party! The dinner menu is as follows:
Appetizer: Seared Prawns on Asparagus Salad with Micro Greens and Herbed Sabayon
Soup: Butternut & Apple Bisque with a Gingerbread-spiced Crème Fraiche
Entree: Alberta Beef Tenderloin served with a Merlot Reduction Sauce, Dauphinoise Potato and Seasonal Vegetables
Dessert: Valrhona Dark Chocolate Praline Mousse served with Zinfandel Cardamom Marinated Peaches
Oh. My. Gosh. I think I have died and gone to heaven...even before eating this incredible menu! YUM!

I guess I better leave some supper for the boys and Grammy who is looking after them...probably something easy to heat up like lasagna/pasta casserole.

Sunday: Oh the food doesn't stop. Our overnight party includes brunch the next morning too. And the Banff Springs Brunch buffet is one of the best in - dare I say it? - THE WORLD! Our plan is to sleep in just a little, go for a bit of a walk and then PIG OUT on all the super delectable buffet items!

Sigh...fter all that rich food we better have something light for supper on Sunday - leftovers or soup and buns.

Now off to get the shopping done - haven't been able to get out for a few days because of the snow!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tags - a - plenty

Today's post over at Sharing Memories Scrapbooking showcases our Christmas tags. I love these little tags so I made LOTS of them...for a craft sale this weekend, for online sales, for my crop customers and for myself!

I made three different sets - solid:

Christmas Greetings:

And Christmas Words:

I love 'em all! Jump on over to today's post to check out how to use them and purchase them! And, get a few more ideas for how to use tags around the house!

I happened to come across a few more great and super creative ideas for using tags too:
Scrapbooks etc. - their designers share 16 tags that you can make from scratch!
Christmas Projects.com has a whole page of tag ideas.
And today Martha has a lovely idea for a typewritten tag (it's not really a tag, it's more of a label, but punch a hole in it and call it a tag baby!)

Make some tags today!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Cards

Just a couple of quick shares today...

Since I featured some tip and tricks for keeping your cardmaking simple over at Sharing Memories Scrapbooking today, I thought I would share a few places around the web that inspire me for card making!

Jennifer Maguire always has the best technique tutorials. The post I linked to shares Thank You cards, not Christmas cards, but I love how she made a lot of cards using similar styles and materials.
Christmas Cards All Year Round  - I have a soft spot in my heart for this blog as I was on their design team earlier this year. If you keep up with making your cards "all year round", you'll have lots of cards ready for NEXT Christmas!
Split Coast Stampers - a mainstay in the world on consultants who sell card making supplies, this HUGE site has so many card designs, you'll wonder where to start!
Carla Creates - my Calgary Crops colleague always has new designs posted on her great blog!

Hope that gives you some additional inspiration for getting those Christmas cards done!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1st

To me December 1st has always marked the beginning of the Christmas season. We put up our tree on the weekend closest to December 1st and I always try to get my Christmas cards send out around now. This year it means three new things for our festive celebrations:

1) A new Advent Calendar and tradition.

Since Grayson is old enough now to grasp the idea behind the calendar, I decided to make one that we could use for a few years. I came up with this one after seeing versions of it online and at craft shows. (*You can get How-To instructions over at Sharing Memories Scrapbooking as part of our 12 Days of Christmas feature!) Each day I plan to have him remove the daily magnet (where treats will be waiting of course!) and then we will spend a little bit of time with this book:

I picked it up at Chapters a few weeks ago and I am excited that each day has a bible verse, story, activity and prayer. I think it will be a good introduction to the real meaning of Advent for Grayson. And I hope our little daily ritual will be a restful moment in what are sure to be busy days ahead.

2) We have a new visitor in our house until Christmas...the Elf on the Shelf!

I wrote about him awhile back, and even though he arrived at our house in November, he somehow got out of his box, flew up the stairs and settled himself where he can keep an eye on us to report back to Santa. Apparently each night he flies back to the North Pole, reports to Santa on how naughty or nice we have all been and then flies back to our house and finds a new spot to sit in for the next day! He can't talk, but he sure is a good listener. We named him George. Oh, and we can't touch him otherwise his magic powers might dissappear! Cool, huh?

Grayson spotted George first thing this morning, so I think this will be a very fun little game each day. Hopefully it will also help when G.'s behaviour gets a little challenging...I hope to just be able to say "Grayson, George is watching"!

3) Inspired by the fab Ali Edwards, it's time to start filling up my December Daily Album. This is my first year doing it and although I love the idea of documenting the days leadinng up to Christmas, I have to say that with two craft shows and my 12 Days project on the website, I am not going to beat myself up if I don't get a page done each day! I plan to write on my blog or use the journal function of my new Cozi calendar to record things I don't want to forget, take a few pictures each day and then use the page plan and date circles I designed back in November to put the pages together quickly. I have precut my 8 x 8 pages and the strips of patterned paper that I plan to add as embellishments. My album is covered, but the title isn't done, but that can be done after a bit of the initial December craziness has died down. I have it all packed in a handy little case along with some adhesive so I can put a page together whenever I find myself with a free minute. HAH!

Besides being inspired by Ali, here are a few of my favorite December Daily albums from around the web:

Molly Irwin - her work is so beautiful. It feels peaceful.
Lisa Kisch - so fun, bright and cheery!
Lisa Day - one of my favorite scrappers is doing a Christmas Memories album that I love!
Cathy Zielske - has some amazing digital templates for recording Holiday Memories - easy peezy!

Hope they inspire you too!

Well, I'm off and running. Check back throughout the next 24 days to see if I keep up with my self-imposed crazy schedule!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Cozi Weekend & Menu Plan

It suddenly snowed on Friday night and I suddenly got a cracker of a headache. Coincidence? I think not. So, we ended up staying in for most of the weekend and it turned out to be nice and cozy in more ways than one. Once my headache subsided a bit, I worked on some kits for the craft show next weekend, watched a couple of bad made-for-TV movies, completed our Advent Calendar (more on that tomorrow!), put up our tree and discovered Cozi. I think I am in love.

Cozi is a calendar application from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) that I stumbled upon while I was reading one their many online newsletters (scrapbooking, probably!) Shane and I have been trying to coordinate our calendars for a while now. Since I use Microsoft Outlook, I end up having to send him an "invite" for all the events I need him to know about. With Cozi, we can both check the calendar online, sync it to both our Microsoft Outlook accounts and see all the events for all members of the family. I can make and keep track of all my lists, including my shopping list (which I can easily send to my phone) and my calendar in one place. It also has a journaling feature, (which I don't know how much I would use since I have a blog) and a screen saver mode which will come in handy. All in all I really like it so far! Check out the intro video here. Oh and did I mention it's free? Yay!

So, I used Cozi to plan my menu this week...it was nice to have my calendar in front of me and then to easily add item to my shopping list. Then I sent my list to my phone and I can stop at the supermarket later today without worrying about having my scribbled-on-a-scrap-of-paper list with me! Anyway...here's my plan, and make sure to check out all the other great plans on http://www.orgjunkie.com/

Monday: Chicken cordon blue (pre-made from M&M), rice and mixed veggies
Tuesday: Mushroom Garlic Pork Chops, roast regular and sweet potatos, broccoli
Wednesday: Hamburger Soup, buns, veggies and dip
Thursday: Spaghetti & meatballs in tomato sauce, salad
Friday: What else - pizza night!
Saturday: Leftovers (I am at the craft sale all day, so I held leftovers off until tonight.)
Sunday: Baked ham, Schwartzies potatoes, peas and carrots

I am off to finish off more kits for the craft sale and projects for the 12 Days of Christmas which starts tomorrow on Sharing Memories Scrapbooking! I am very excited to share some Christmas crafty goodness!

Have a good one!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday and a Free Download!

I felt so unorganized last week when I didn't have a menu plan, so I was determined to get back on track this week! Here's my plan, and of course go to http://www.orgjunkie.com/ to see hundreds more meal plans!

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce, Raw Veggies and Dip, Garlic Bread

Shepherds Pie, Green Salad


It's my Dad's birthday so we'll have a little fancier dinner along with a nice dessert - Glazed Chicken with Fruit and Sweet Potato, Crusty Bread/Buns, Green Salad, Ginger Cake with Whipped Cream

Pizza, Salad and my weekly glass of Red Wine!

We are at a kids Christmas party for one of hubbies clients - so no cooking for me!

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatos, Green Peas

You may have noticed that I love Campbells Soup Recipes...their recipes are easy, foolproof, tasty and economical. While I was on their newly revamped website I saw that they have a FREE 16 page Holiday Planner with recipes for appetizers, main meals, desserts and idea for those holiday leftovers! You can download your free copy here. Print it out and keep it handy for the holidays!

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This and That

Wow...things are really getting busy around here. So busy that I completely forgot about making a menu plan this week! Oh well, I have been winging it, but it sure does take up more energy when you have to figure out what you are going to make for supper each day. It has reinforced why I love staying organized with a menu plan. Back at next week for sure!

Had a great weekend...Friday was the blog hop over at Adornit (if you missed it you can still visit all the blogs involved, just start here!) What a blast it was! (I have to say it makes you feel pretty good when you get some lovin' in the form of comments!) And Saturday was a fabulous day of scrapping, fun and friendship at our first Calgary Crops All-Day Crop! We are so looking forward to more crops in the New Year.

Now I am turning my attention to Christmas preparations. I have pretty much all my shopping done, which is great, so now I am planning for some fun family activities and traditions - working on getting my December Daily album and Advent Calendar ready for December 1st; getting family clothing ready for holdiay photos and events; pre-baking some cookies; sorting through (and giving away!) decorations etc. We also got our Elf on the Shelf the other day: Grayson was mesmerized! I will post photos of all soon enough!

But I am really excited about prepping for this fun event:

I have been working hard getting Christmas items ready for the store and some upcoming craft fairs, so I am going to showcase the items with some fun and easy projects! A new idea/project will be posted everyday starting December 1st. And we'll also have prizes! To make sure you don't miss out and sign up to receive the RSS feed from the site! (It's easy...just click on the Subscribe/Follow button on the bottom of any blog post and enter your email address. You can also follow in Google by adding the URL www.sharingmemoriesscrapbooking.com/blog to your account)

It's gonna be lots of fun!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make it Merry!

I am so excited to be included in Georgana Hall's Adornit Make it Merry Blog hop!

Because I made a totally scrappy project for the hop, I posted it on my other blog. Go check it out and learn how to make this super cute mini-album!

And then grab a coffee and hop around the blogosphere to 60 blogs featuring lots of Merry projects! You can start here.

Have fun!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lists and Plans

'Tis the season for making lists it seems! I spent the morning making a bunch of lists - To-Do's for this Saturday's Crop, the beginnings of the Christmas gift and card lists, ongoing renovation plans and of course the weekly menu plan and grocery list.

Monday: Maple Soy Salmon with rice and veggies not couscous and asparagus as stated in the linked recipe

Tuesday: Loaded Baked Potato Chowder, Green Salad and Buns.

Wednesday: Skillet Pasta (not homemmade this time - Hamburger Helper Lasagna I am afraid!), green salad and garlic bread

Thursday: Leftovers...we always have to clean out the fridge by this point in the week!

Friday: Homemade Chicken Strips (cut chicken breast into strips and coat with extra Crispy Shake and Bake. Bake according to direction on package.) Oven Fries, Raw Veggies and Dip

Saturday: I switched Pizza Night from Friday to Saturday this week as I will be out all day at our Calgary Crops Scrapbooking Crop. Putting a pizza in the oven is the easiest thing to get Shane to make! I'll add a salad and have a big glass of wine when I get home!

Sunday: We are going to have dinner at my brother (and hopefully soon to be sister!) in laws place to celebrate Maja's birthday! Yay! A birthday celebration AND no cooking for me!

As always, check http://www.orgjunkie.com/ for hundreds of menu plans!

OK...back to my list making!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Daily Bread

I mentioned on Friday that I was baking bread. Well, it turned out FAB-U-LOUS! I think it truly is a no fail recipe - because I am no baker! The only drawback is you have to plan ahead for this bread as it has to rise a loooong time. I started it on Thursday night, let it sit about 14 hours overnight, then turned it out, folded it over onto itself, let rest for 2 hours and then baked it. We had it for dinner on Friday night (instead of previously planned pizza) and again on Saturday for lunch - smothered with butter, sliced garden tomatoes and salt. A piece of cheese on the side and I was in heaven!

So, here is the recipe as I gleaned it from the Jim Lahey video I posted on Friday.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread

3 cups all purpose flour (apparently you can use bread, whole wheat and even rye with the same great results - I just haven't got there yet)
1/4 teaspoon yeast (Yes, that's all the yeast you need)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups tepid water

Mix dry ingredients with hand in large bowl, just to blend. Add water and mix with hand until it all combines into a very wet shaggy dough. (it's worth watching the video to see how fast it comes together.)

Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in warmish place (18 - 20 degrees celsius) at least 12 hours. Dough is ready when it has risen dramatically and there are lots of bubbles on the surface. I wish I would thought to take pictures of the steps up to this point. It was hubby who said "Aren't you going to take pictures of it?" that prompted me to do so!

Tip dough out onto WELL floured work surface. Pat the top with a little more flour and fold itself gently back onto itself. Let rest 15 minutes.

Generously flour a cotton (not terry cloth) tea towel and plop the dough onto it, forming it into a ball shape as best you can. Add more flour over the surface, cover over with the tea towel and let rise for at least 2 hours. (It will probably double in size.)

About a half an hour before the dough is ready, pre-heat your oven with a round cast iron, pyrex or ceramic casserole dish in it to 450 degrees. Leave the dish in the oven for half an hour, as it has to be screaming hot when you add the dough. Pull the dish out of the oven and flip the dough off the tea towel and into the dish (again, have a look at the video to see the type of pot and how to do the dough "transfer"!) Place the cover on and bake for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Then, take off the lid and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes uncovered (until the crust gets nice and brown).

Slip the bread out of the dish (mine came out so easily and I never greased it) onto a rack or cool countertop and let it cool. Then enjoy the hard hollow sound it makes when you tap it, slice it to admire the "crumb structure", then eat it up!

I don't kow if this bread will become our daily bread...it would take a lot of planning to make sure you had a loaf ready every couple of days...but I think it will become our weekend bread. It's great to include with a casual Friday supper and for weekend lunches. I think I will still ask for a breadmaker for Christmas, but this will be a recipe I definitely will turn to again.

Tomorrow...meals for the week!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Five

A few random things to report on...

1) The boys got their H1N1 vaccination yesterday. After the kefuffle that the Alberta Government's Health Ministry created last week with mass clinics, I was thankful that they backed off, regrouped and came back with a better plan to immunize high risk groups first. And apparently it's working - no more 6 or 7 hour lineups. We went to the Olympic oval and were done within 45 minutes. Much better. I am just glad they were able to get it, what with the possibility of running out of the vaccine etc. They do have to go back in three weeks (Nov. 26) for a second dose, so I am hoping that it will be as easy then! SO far they have had no reaction, although most kids apparently complain of sore arms more than anything.

2) Grayson had his first piano lesson yesterday! I found a great music studio who has a variety of teachers that come out to your home to give piano, guitar, bass and drum lessons. And their first lesson is free. If you are in Calgary, they are called Zephyr Music Studios. Grayson was kind of cautious at first having someone in our house, but after he got past that, he was happy to sit down, listen and learn for the enitre half hour lesson. He now knows where the C's and F's are and that the notes are named after letters - A through G ("There's no "H" mom" he said afterwards to me!) I think he enjoyed it and we signed up to continue with the lessons. (Sorry for the not-so-great photo, but I took it just as they were finishing up and didn't have a chance to take a second one!) 

One thing I have learned about Grayson and I is that he doesn't respond well to me being the teacher. This was the case when I was trying to teach him how to write, and again when I attempted to teach him about the piano. I took lessons and played piano in my formative years so I thought I would be able to teach him at least the basics. But when we sat down together he balked and didn't want to listen or try anything I suggested. We both got frustrated and gave up before the lesson had really even started. So although I had harboured dreams of homeschooling my children, I don't think it's gonna happen!

3) I am baking bread. Yes, real bread, from scratch., no breadmaker. I came across a link to this video produced a few years ago by the NYTimes. It features Jim Lahey making his super simple no-knead bread. It's so simple he says a child could make it. His secret? TIME. So I started it last night and should be ready to move to the next step after 9:00 this morning. I'll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime watch this and get inspired to make some yourself!

4) I forgot to share this on the blog, but this past Halloween I found, puchased and gave out a few of these cookie treats to some special kiddos.

These fun little cookies are by KookieStationary, a local company from Canmore, Alberta. I first saw the cookies at the Creative Craft show back in September and grabbed a few of the Halloween themed cookies. The cool thing is you can write on them with the included pen (the ink is made of vegetable oil and is completely edible) before you give them away! And they have lots of designs for every occasion - inlcuding some really cute Christmas ones. You can buy them at some locations in and around Calgary (check their website for retailers) or order directly from them online. So fun!

5) Since deciding to take an extra year off of work we have adopted a more frugal lifestyle while living on Shane's income. I have always enjoyed getting a good deal but recently have started being more aware and watchful of coupons, freebies and sales. I was so proud of myslef when I was able to save $66.08 off my groceries yesterday! Between the 10 for $10.00 sale, regular sales, CO-OP gas coupons, instore coupons and vendor coupons I watched the total on the cash register drop and drop and drop from $180.84 all the way to $114.76! Amazing! I have to say I felt like a very thrifty little housewife!

Here are a few blogs I enjoy that give me inspiration or resources to live a more frugal lifetsyle:
  • Simply Frugal posts several times a week on Canadian coupons and deals in Canadian stores.
  • Small Notebook inspires me to embrace a simpler, less materialistic life. I love the No-Spend July she does!
  • Simple Mom offers tips to stay organized and therefore spend less. Love this blog.
Do you follow any good sites on living a frugal live? Do you have any suggestions or tips? I would love to hear them.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas? Yes!

How many of you start Christmas preparations the day after the Halloween goodies are put away? I know I do! This year besides starting to get cards and baking and gifts ready, I am excited to be starting TWO new traditions for our family this year.

The first is The Elf on the Shelf!

I saw this last year on Georgana Hall's blog. It was too late to get started with it at that point, but I made a note in my "Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas" notebook to order it for this year. The idea is that the little elf watches your children every day and reports to Santa whether they have been naughty or nice. He changes his location each night after the children go to bed and they must find him the enxt morning! He has strict instructions not to talk to the children, only to grown-ups and Santa! I ordered mine yesterday and am looking forward to having the kids grow up with this little elf watching over them. (And I am really hoping he can get them to be "nice"!) The Elf is $29.95 US and you can order it here.

(Oh, and if you are curious about my Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas noteook, it was a BPS class I took last year, taught by Georgana Hall and Debbie Raymond. If you missed the class this year, you can find out all about it here. And yes, I love my notebook!)

The second new tradition I am preparing for is the December Daily Album. It is the brainchild of Ali Edwards and she has been doing it for a couple of years now. I love the way it is set up to capture and record all the preparations that go into Christmas, documenting the 25 days leading up to the Holiday. I am super excited about this one and have been working on it and some special freebies to share over the past couple of days. I will share more soon, but for now, go read about it and get inspired at Ali's blog.

Because I was busy working on my December Daily stuff, I didn't get my menu plan posted in time yesterday to call it Menu Plan Monday, but oh well...at least it is here and organized for the week:

Monday: Perogies with side of Veggies
Tuesday: One of Shane's favorites, Dijon-baked Chicken Thighs with Rice and Broccoli. This recipe is from Sandi Richard - menu planner extraordinaire!
Wednesday: Ravioli with Quattro Fromaggio (four cheese!) Sauce, Garlic Bread and Salad
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: What else...Pizza and Salad and Wine, Oh my!
Saturday: Steaks ( grilled if it's nice out, broiled if it's yucky weather!), baked potatoes, raw veggies and dip
Sunday: I'm getting a little bored with roast or ham for Sunday dinner...any other ideas? If not, I'll do a roast. Sigh!

And since I'm asking for advice and ideas, any new ideas for kids meals out there? What are your kids favorites? I feel like I am always cooking the same old same old!

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! We certainly had a great couple of days celebrating. Here is a pictorial account.

Yesterday at Grayson's Pre-K class they had a nice little Halloween party and I was so happy to be able to volunteer to help. Grayson went as a monkey. We had some issues with the headpiece of the costume in the car.

When we got to school he was so excited for the party to start that he was vibrating!

But he and all the kids had so much fun doing all the activities - Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, Halloween Bean Bag Toss, Halloween Bingo, Crafts and Cookie Decorating.

Then they had a snack, sang Halloween songs and listened to Halloween stories. It was a very fast-paced, busy 2 and a half hours, but the kids had so much fun! (& I was exhausted at the end of it!)

Today we had a lazy weekend morning and got everything ready for the big night. In the afternoon we prepared and dropped off some treats to our friends. I also tried to get some pics of the boys in their cute matching Halloween t-shirts (I know...what a geeky mom I am, but I might as well take advantage of it while they are young!) Sam didn't want to cooperate, even with a little help from Grayson:

I did manage to get a sort-of-OK shot of all three of my boys in their orange finery.

After a nice supper provided by Grammy, the boys got dressed in their costumes and once again we tried to get a pic.

Then we were off! Grayson was really into the Trick or Treating this year (Sam was clueless, but came along for the ride!) The weather was quite nice - about 7 degrees celsius - and we visited several of our neighbours houses, ending up around the corner at Grandpa's house.

The wind started to pick up, so we made a few more trick or treat stops and headed home. For two little boys who didn't go to too many houses, they sure got a lot of "loot"!

We sorted through the treats and allowed Grayson to choose one or two. Baths, some milk and a couple of spooky stories rounded out the night and our little monkey and Tigger  conked out the moment their heads hit their pillows. It was a great Halloween and we look forward to many more, creating more memories and family traditions that our boys will hopefully remember for a long time!

Happy Halloween!