Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's for Dinner?

I am by no means a foodie. I love to eat and I enjoy baking, but I dislike cooking. But I really dislike figuring out what's for dinner every night. And I bet most other moms out there do too. A few years back I attended a session given by Sandi Richard about menu planning. Her approach was like nothing I had ever heard of before and it made a lot of sense. I purchased one of her cookbooks and tried a few recipes, but didn't really give the full menu plan a try until I had my first son. It took a bit of time and energy at first to get organized, but it worked very well. Well, somewhere along the line I sort of forgot about it and we fell back into dinnertime chaos. Finally after yet another supper of heat'n'eat pasta, my husband said, "I really liked it when we were doing those meal plans." I realized that he enjoyed having a good tasting supper, but even more so, he liked that fact that things were more peaceful at dinnertime because I wasn't scrambling and pulling my hair out wondering what to make.

So I dug out the meal plans I had created, and even made a few more. They have made shopping and dinnertime a lot easier and more relaxed around here. I thought I would share a few resources as well as a few of my own suggestions.

Meal planning isn't complicated. Just follow these basic steps.

  1. Start by listing all the meals you know your family enjoys at dinnertime. There were really only a handful of recipes in my repertoires so I looked through a couple of websites known for easy to fix, family & wallet-friendly meals (try Kraft Canada and Campbell's Soup). I added a few of their simple, easy to fix recipes like One Dish Chicken and Rice Bake and Cheeseburger Pasta to my list.

  2. Choose 5 - 7 dinners from your list to make a weeks plan. Some meal planners advocate planning only 5 dinners per week and winging it the rest, but I like to plan for all 7 nights...even if I know that one night is take-out or leftovers. I try to vary each weeks plan - a couple of chicken recipes, a beef recipe, maybe a pasta or stir fry, and I usually slot in a pizza night once each week. Once you make 3 or 4 different plans you will have a whole month's worth of dinners organized, but even 2 different plans can be rotated and repeated to provide menus for a month.

  3. List ALL the ingredients in the amount needed to make each meal. That's right...even the salt and pepper! That way you make sure you have EVERY INGREDIENT NEEDED TO COOK EVERY RECIPE. This is crucial to making your plan work and not abandoning it at the last minute because you are missing a key ingredient. Yes, this the step that can take a while, so you definitely only want to do it once, so when you are finished, place it inside a plastic sheet protector for safe keeping. This will become your grocery list for the week.

  4. When you are ready to go shopping, take your list and "shop" your cupboards first. Use a dry erase marker and cross off all the ingredients you already have in the house and do not need to purchase. One of the best hints I ever heard was to do this on the OUTSIDE of the page protector so you can re-use the list! Add your staple ingredients for breakfasts and lunches onto the outside of the page protector as well. You are ready to shop! When you return, simply wipe the page protector clean and store it for the next time you use that menu plan! (I love the feeling of being super organized when I put my list back in my household notebook for the next time!)

That's it! As you can see, it may initially take an hour or so to make a couple of menu plans, but you will save so much time, energy and money in the end that it will be worth it.

Here are a few great online resources for menu planning:

Kraft Canada offers tonnes of recipes and ideas on how to cut dinnertime chaos. Check out their menu-plans-in-a-bag that include a pre-made grocery list. This is a great place to start.

Fixing Dinner. This is the website for the TV show of the same name on the Food Network. It is hosted by Sandi Richard and each week she walks a family through the menu planning process. The website lists the menu plans and recipes featured on each show and provides an accompanying grocery list. This is a gold mine for menu plans...really good stuff.

Simple Mom explains her menu planning process here. (She creates 2 menu plans each month and rotates them) and also lists menus and recipes for a full month.

The Organizing Junkie offers Menu-Plan Monday where you can share your weekly menu plan or look at someone elses. There is lots of inspiration here. And, it's nice to have a feeling that you are not alone in the crazy game of "What's for Dinner"!

Hope this helps you start taming your dinnertime chaos. I would love to hear how it works out for you if you try it, or to get some tips from those of you who are pros at it!

Happy Scrapping!

Monday, April 27, 2009


Sickness and snow. They seem to be neverending around here. And I am sick of them both!
Just when we think we are finally getting well, someone in the house gets sick and it starts all over again. Poor Sam had an ear infection last week, stemming from a cold that he had the week before. Grayson got over one cold, but now has a hacking cough and a runny nose. I was doing good when Shane was sick a few weeks back, but now my sinuses are killing me again. On it goes. Sigh...

I can't help but wonder if the crazy weather this winter has anything to do with it? We thought spring was finally here- the grass was greening up and the birds, rabbits and squirrels were coming out of hiding. But then it snowed again last week (on Earth Day of all days!), and then we got a blizzard last night! Here is the view from the window this morning.

Come's April 27 already. Enough is enough! Uggghhh.
I can't take it anymore. Shane and I have been talking for a couple of years now about buying property on Vancouver Island in preparation for retirement, but this winter has spurred us on to look more seriously at this. We could probably only afford to put a trailer on the property at first, but we are so fed up with snow and cold that I could live with that. So, we are making plans to get out to the island to look at some land later this spring or early summer. Maybe then the snow would be just a memory? can dream.
Happy Scrapping!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Link to great deals

I love getting a good deal and have often used the Michael's 40% off coupon to purchase something I needed. There have been some times when I didn't receive a flyer delivery so I didn't get a coupon - no shopping for me! But now you can access coupons for Michael's (and lots of other Canadian stores!) at Flyerland. Check it out and save some cash!

Save the Earth by Scrapping!

In honor of Earth Day, let's talk about green scrapping!

Remember the 3 R's - reduce, reuse and recyle? Most scrappers I meet practice at least 2 of the 3 r's without even knowing or trying. Most of us reuse as much as possible and recycle those little bitty leftover scraps. Our biggest downfall is buying MORE of all the pretty supplies manufacturers produce to entice us. So let's try to reduce! Why not put a moratorium on purchasing any more scrapbooking supplies and use up our own product stash? I know we all have enough. Sort, purge and donate scrapping supplies you don't use to a local children's club, school or scrapbook charity.

Support Green Manufacturers. It seems pretty obvious, but in an industry that uses so much paper prodcuts, it pays to go green. Here are a few that have made the effort -

Paper Trunk - uses recycled cardstock and vegetable based inks.

Scrap Naturally - this Canadian company makes 100% recylced paper

DCWV (Die Cuts With a View) introduced their Green Stack which uses 70% recylced paper.

K&Company launched a line called Remake which uses 100% recycled materials as well as featuring recycled packaging that is pretty enough to re-use.

Piggy Tales uses recycled paper and soy-based inks.

Cosmo Cricket, Jillibean Soup, October Afternoon and Scenic Route are also doing their part by doing things like becoming FSC or SFI certified, making their manufacturing plants and processes more green or offering their products in reusable packaging.

And to inspire us in the area of reusing, have a look at this great video by Leah Fung and her fellow scrappers as they show you their favorite ways to reuse and repurpose products. (I LOVE the wall calendar that Leah makes!!)

Happy Earth Day and Happy Green Scrapping!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reality Bites

I was uploading our photos from the Easter weekend to my computer today and there it was...a full length picture of me taken by my husband. Wow. It stopped me in my tracks. Why? Let's just say that as a mom of a 10 month old who is still nursingI am hungry all the time, I have not lost all the baby weight yet and my chest region is...ahem...huge. Yikes. (I knew there was a reason I am usually behind the camera, instead of in front of it!) I have known in the back of my mind for a while now that I needed to address my weight, but it's been pretty low on the priority list. Well, after seeing this picture I know I need to move it higher up on the list.

My weight has been an issue for most of my adult life. I have never been slim or svelte - I was always more aptly described as curvy or "pleasingly plump". I did have a good handle on it through Weight Watchers though, and got my lifetime membership by getting down to my ideal weight and staying there for a good long time throughout my twenties and early thirties. Then I met my husband, got married, got comfortable, got pregnant (twice) and got fat...again. I am now 35 pounds heavier than my ideal weight, and boy, can you tell just by looking at me!

I could go back to Weight Watchers, but I truly don't have time to attend meetings, and I really want to try to create a better and healthier long term lifestyle for me and my family and not just lose the weight again. I had picked up Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet book after I had our first son, but never got around to reading it, and before I knew it I was expecting son number two. Well, I have read it over the last few days and I think adopting the principles in it will lead to a more sustainable weight loss and more active lifestyle.

I love that there are 3 distinct phases. Here are my goals for Phase 1 of The Best Life Diet which will last about a month to six weeks:
  • weigh myself ONCE at the beginning of phase 1 and then not for another month or so
  • eat three meals a day and one snack...making sure to eat a really good breakfast
  • make sure to take mulit-vitamin and supplements for health
  • be more do SOMETHING rather than nothing!
  • stop eating two hours before bedtime
  • stay hydrated and eliminate alcohol (not hard since I am still nursing and I rarely indulge)
Notice there is nothing about cutting calories? That comes later. This phase is to prepare me with healthy habits. I can do this!!! (I know also that I can't really cut a lot of calories until Sam is weaned, which will probably be in a month or 6 weeks.)

As for the active part...we have been really sedentary and stuck inside during this long, cold winter. I am hoping now that spring is finally here we will be able to get outside and have some fun while moving our bodies. I also got out the Wii Fit...I have had it since Christmas and not even tried it out. It was great...after the body test I did some yoga and strength training while the kids played. I felt really good afterwards and I plan on using it at least three times per week. The Wii "trainer" also sensed that my right side/balance was weaker than my left, which is due to my back and pelvis issues during my pregnancy, labour and delivery. I am looking forward to becoming stronger, pain free and having more energy to get out and play with my boys.

I am going to use my blog to track my progrss on this journey towards not just losing weight, but creating my "best life". Hmmm...maybe reality doesn't bite so much after all.

Happy Scrapping!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ten tips for traveling with kids

Photo from AAA Insurance

We just got back from our road trip to visit my husband's family. Some may say that traveling with kids in a car for 6+ hours is not their idea of a great vacation, but it went well thanks to some tips and tricks I've picked up over the past few years. I am by no means an expert on this, but here's what works for us.

  1. Make sure your car is in great shape. Have a tune-up and oil change done ahead of time to make sure all is working perfectly. Nothing ruins a road trip faster than breaking down on the side of the road.
  2. Plan your route AND your rest stops ahead of time. Have a look at the map and see where natural rest stops occur. Don't leave it to chance that there will be somewhere to stop with bathrooms, play areas or refreshments available.
  3. Try to travel based on the kids schedule. If possible, drive when it typically would be nap time, make pit stops when they have energy to burn.
  4. Prepare to be the entertainer. Bone up on games like I-SPy or other games the entire family can play like travel bingo. Search online - I like MomsMinivan for lots of ideas
  5. CD's with kids music or a childrens' story being read aloud give mom a break from doing ALL the entertaining! If you have a DVD player in the car, allow the kids to choose their movies and play them when everyone needs a little down time.
  6. Create excitement by telling the kids what will happen at the next stop or when you get to the final destination. Things like knowing they go swimming in the hotel pool or that the camp ground has a playground they can play at when they get there are great motivators to cooperate in the car.
  7. Make it educational. Practice reading signs, recognizing numbers, telling time, identifying directions like left or right or North, South, East and West. Older children can plan some of the trip, track the distance on a map of their own or research interesting places along the way.
  8. Bring along surprises. I buy dollar store toys, books and treats and dole them out when things get a little boring.
  9. Follow the scout motto to "Be Prepared"and pack some of these items in the car just in case:
  • first aid kit
  • map (even if you think you know where you are going you might come up against a detour or other situation that forces you to change your course)
  • water/drinks
  • food/snacks
  • wipes/paper towels
  • tissues/toilet paper (for when your 4 year old can't make it to the rest stop!)
  • toys/games/books
  • diapers/wipes/change pad
  • blankets or other comfort items for nap time
  • change of clothes
  • plastic bags
  • meds - baby, children and adult pain relief, cold medication, prescriptions etc.
10. Practice patience and realize that no trip (no matter how well you plan it!) will be perfect. Ease up and make sure you enjoy the journey...not just the destination!

Happy Scrapping!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Shhh...I am writing this from the bathroom of out hotel room at the Holiday Inn in Lloydminster where we are staying while visiting Shane's family for Easter and all three of my boys are asleep in the next room!

Over the last few days we finished up our Easter crafts and did our Easter baking (which I forgot to take pictures of) but we were so busy getting packed up and ready for our road trip to Lloydminster that I haven't had a chance to blog about it until now. Here is a shot of our cute bunnies we made for family and friends. Grayson is really into crafts and projects right now and he did all the gluing himself - I just cut out the photos with my CM custom cutting system and drew on the nose and mouth. We added magnets on the back so they can be put on the fridge. He was quite proud of himself and he handed them to Grammy, Uncle Darcy and Grandpa with pride.

Unfortunately we didn't get an Egg Hunt done at home...there was just no time. And it was a bit of a challenge even getting the boys' Easter baskets up here for tomorrow. We smuggled them in wrapped in several layers of plastic bags and stapled securely at the top so they wouldn't fall open. They are now hidden in the only place not immediately visible in our hotel room...the bathtub! I hope Grayson will think to look there in the morning! We'll try the Egg Hunt next year, and I'm sure Sam will be all over it since he will be up and running by then!

Although it is pretty obvious which basket is for Grayson and which one is for Sam, next year perhaps I will make some personalized bunny cookies to identify each boys basket. These are so cute, and what a nice tradition it would be!

I am looking forward to the big family dinner (which is held at lunchtime here) tomorrow at Shane's uncle and aunt's place. There will be at least 35 people there which makes it a fun, busy, noisy gathering! It's a great time to see everyone and catch up (not to mention the fantastic food!!!). Then after we finish stuffing ourselves, we are going to drive into Edmonton and stay overnight. On Monday I need to visit our favorite jewelers there in order to have my wedding and engagement rings re-sized, and then we will visit that mecca of shopping - the West Edmonton Mall - before heading home.

Wishing you Easter Blessings!

Happy Scrapping!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Three Things for Tuesday

Three quick things today...

First...I got the LAST ISSUE of Simple Scrapbooks mag today in the mail. Can we all take a moment please?

OK, thanks. You can read all about it on SS editors Angie Lucas' blog.

I haven't opened it yet...I want to save it and read it on our 6 hour road trip up to Lloydminster. Oh Simple Scrapbook Magazine, we will miss you! If you see on in your bookstore, grab may become a collectors edition one day!

Second...since Spring has finally arrived in Calgary (fingers crossed it's not just a trick) my thoughts inevitably turn towards freshening up the house and my wardrobe. Time to switch the closet to pastels and lightweight fabrics instead of wools and tweeds and rich colors. I always enjoy the turnaround, and I got some new tips and ideas at Home Made Simple's website. Like the TV the site. Maybe my closet will look like this one day...

...but right now I share a standard size closet with only one hanging rod with my hubbie. Sigh. Oh well - a girl can dream.

And finally...I received a wonderful email from one of my former art students today. It really touched my heart and made me remember what an important job teachers have. I haven't heard from this student for 10+ years, but to know that I made a difference in her life was incredibly fulfilling. It also reminded me how much I love teaching and creating. Thanks so much made my day!

Happy Scrapping!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Getting ready for Easter

We've have started doing lots of fun things around here to get ready for Easter.

I found these super cute Easter magnet sets at the Dollar Store. It's like playing paper dolls, but with bunnies and Easter eggs! Not bad for a buck a-piece!

We have been reading quite a few Easter themed books from the library. One of our favorites is Owens Marshmallow Chick by Kevin Henkes. Grayson really likes it because Owen likes his yellow blanket and the yellow marshmallow chick, and yellow is Grayson's favorite color. Sam likes the book (I think) because the pictures are simple and contrast with the page backgrounds.

When we were at the library, we also grabbed a couple of Easter themed videos to watch during afternoon quiet times. Grayson has already watched the Dora's Egg Hunt video several times! (What can I say? My son likes Diego, but he LOVES Dora!)

Since we are not going to be at home for Easter this year, I plan on doing an egg hunt here at home one day next week after watching the video. I also found printable Easter Cards, a coloring page and a certificate all featuring Dora and Boots. Very cute!

I used one of my Creative Memories Custom Cutting System patterns to trace a bunch of little eggs onto some cardstock. Grayson isn't big on coloring, so we will probably add some stickers or stamps to the egg shapes, cut them out and make Easter cards out of them for family and friends. I'll post some pics next week hopefully!

Also next week we will make some Easter cookies to take with us to Lloydminster for our family, and I am gearing up to dye Easter eggs. I am both looking forward to it and dreading it! I got a "no-mess" kit, but we'll see how true that is! It will be our first try at it, but it should be good for a laugh!

It has been lots of fun focusing on a holiday and doing lots of activities around it. It makes me think more and more about the Montessori approach and/or homeschooling. Hmmmm....but that's another post for another day!

Happy Scrapping!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

LOM Layouts

For the past 8 weeks I have been immersed in sorting, purging, and organizing 20+ years worth of photos. And thanks to my new Library of Memories (LOM) system, as we take more and more photos I now have a system for keeping them organized, telling the stories behind them in meaningful ways and displaying them so we can enjoy them right now.

It's a great feeling to know that I am working on the legacy for my boys... photos and stories of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Photos and stories of extended family members and other people who love them. Photos and stories of their lives. I love this!

We have another 8 weeks to go in the LOM class over at Big Picture Scrapbooking and we will be tackling things like how to deal with storing memorabilia and all the kids' school items, but at this point after having done so much work I am ready to reap the rewards of my new system and do some scrapping!

So, I created these 4 title pages for my new LOM Albums: All About Us, People We Love, Places We Go and Things We Do.

As you can see I used the same plan for each, which helped them come together fast and will give the albums some cohesiveness (I am a big fan of page plans!). All new layouts from here on out will fit into one of these four types of albums. No more worrying about making sure that layouts are scrapped chronologically, or that I am caught up with my scrapbooking. Just focusing on enjoying the process of scrapping and the resulting pages. I love thinking about my family looking through these albums and enjoying them and all the stories they will hold.

I also had a bit of time to work on my Project 365 album, and I will share some fo those layouts in the next few days. feels good to create!

Happy Scrapping!