Mush

I don’t share a lot of recipes in this space, for a couple of reasons:

a) I’m not a very good cook.
b) I’m not a very good food photographer (or photographer, period!)
c) It’s a lot easier for me to point someone to a page on AllRecipes.Com or Kraft.Ca than it is for me to type out a recipe I’ve copied from one of those websites, because honestly? That stuff is really all I cook!

But this recipe? Well, this one’s an original. Or so I’m told. It’s been passed down along the men in Nathan’s family – a “Boys Night Tradition”, if you will. It looks absolutely disgusting (so I don’t feel a need to take a picture!) but Nathan and Topher and Ellie practically inhale the stuff, and I usually take two helpings, so it’s not that terrible …

Ingredients:
0.5 kg ground beef
1 can corn
2 cans tomato with basil & oregano soup
1 cup rice

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef.

2. Drain the ground beef.

3. When the ground beef is almost done cooking, start the rice. We usually use 5 minute white rice – which isn’t the healthiest, but it works. Follow the directions on the box.

4. Once the meat has been drained, add the corn.

5. Add the soup. Stir until well mixed.

6. Add rice. Stir.

7. Let simmer for about 5 minutes so the rice can absorb some of the tomato soup.

8. Serve :)

We’ve made it with regular tomato soup before and it works, it just tastes a little bland.

I’ve also added cooked and pureed squash – about half a cup – and it went undetected.

Spring Flower Crafts

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Today is the first day of spring.  Its hard to believe, since there’s still a ton of snow on the ground and its -10 this morning – but a girl can dream, right?

The kids and I spent some time making spring flower crafts on the weekend.  It was nice to have a chance to craft with Topher, for once – he’s usually at school when we dig out the paints, pipe cleaners, and construction paper!  He usually feels he’s “too big” for our projects, anyway (though he did like the Fruit Loop rainbow we made last week!)

First, we made paper plate flowers.  It’s pretty simple:  Cut small triangles out of the paper plate to make the petals, then paint the flower however you want.  We had yellow plates so I just turned them over so the kids could paint the white side. Topher was very proud of his rainbow flower!

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Then attach a pipe cleaner for the stem.  I taped it onto the back with scotch tape.  It’s pretty flimsy – rolling up construction paper to make the stem would have been a better idea, but we were low on green so I used what I had on hand.  We’re just going to stick it on the fridge, anyway – it doesn’t need to stand up on its own, so it’s all good!

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Then we made muffin cup daffodils.  I drew a star on the white side of the paper plates, then cut it out.  The kids coloured the inside of the muffin cup yellow, then glued the muffin cup onto the yellow side of the star.  Once that was dry they glued a green craft stick we had on hand to the back, and voila:

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Our third project didn’t turn out at all like it was supposed to, but oh well.  The plan was to make a flower crown something like this one but Topher decided he wanted to draw (and colour) his own flowers.  He even drew some for Ellie to colour!  I didn’t mind – they had a lot of fun, and honestly, it took them a lot longer that way – and what Mama doesn’t love when her kids are having fun, doing something together, getting along, and being quiet, for an extended period of time?

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I’m going to pin the flower crown project for later, though.  I think I’ll just cut out a bunch of different flower shapes and let Ellie go crazy with the gluestick!

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts

We’ve been fighting sickness in our house for the past couple of weeks.  First Ellie had a bad cold, then Topher caught a nasty virus that kept him out of school for almost a week.  I had the stomach flu earlier this week and Ellie’s been home from preschool with another cold …

I probably should have spent the morning spraying lysol on every surface in our house to get rid of all the germs, but instead I pulled out the craft supplies for a morning of St. Patrick’s Day crafts. Ellie loves to craft – she had so much fun, she forgot to whine about how much her nose was running for almost an hour!

Here are the projects we completed:

Project #1:  Marshmallow stamping.  This is the project Ellie was the most excited about, because who doesn’t love stamping?  It’s pretty easy:  Put paint on the bottom of a large marshmallow and stamp it in a shamrock pattern.  Once the paint is dry, draw stems.  Ellie had so much fun, she decided to fill a couple of sheets with shamrocks!

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Project 2:  Rainbow blower.  Paint an empty toilet paper roll blue, for the sky.  While it’s drying, cut strips of rainbow-coloured tissue paper – approximately 1 inch wide and 12 inches long.  Glue the ends of the strips inside the toilet paper roll.  We had a lot of colours so ours overlapped a little bit!  We decided to make the streamers thinner by cutting each one in half once they were attached.  Once the glue dries you can blow into the toilet paper roll.  It doesn’t really do anything amazing, it just looks cool.  Ellie actually pretends hers is a rocket ship!

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Project 3:  Cheerio and Cotton Ball Rainbows.  This one was a lot of fun – I think I’m going to do it with Topher once he gets home from school!  I drew lines in the shape of a rainbow in the colours of fruit loops we had:  orange, green, pink, yellow, and purple.  I sorted the cereal into separate bowls for each colour, then let Ellie glue the fruit loops in place.  Then I gave her a handful of cotton balls to make a cloud on either end of the rainbow.  Make sure you use enough glue for the fruit loops to stay attached!  The finished product looks pretty cool – I displayed it on the fridge for awhile, but then Chloe decided to sample some of the fruit loops.  Silly dog.

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Paw Patrol Birthday Cake

Paw Patrol Everest Birthday Cake

So I was planning to share a tutorial today on how I made an absolutely amazing gymnastics cake for Ellie’s party yesterday – but life happened.  Topher was sick for four days leading up to the party so I wasn’t able to peruse craft and baking supply stores for materials like I would have been otherwise.  I was planning to spend all day Saturday on my cake masterpiece but we had a showing mid-afternoon so I wasn’t able to start until after we had finished dinner.  Naturally, Nathan was out the entire evening, leading worship at a church we used to attend , so I had to bath both kids and put them to bed while baking a cake from scratch with a recipe I had never tried before.  Oh, and I had two and a half hours of typing work to finish, too, and party favours to put together.

Sigh.

The cake was okay, but nothing amazing …

So I decided to share the cake from Ellie’s third birthday instead!

When we celebrated Ellie’s third birthday one of her only requests leading up to the Big Day was a Paw Patrol birthday cake.  She had her heart set on a Marshall sheet cake she had seen at the grocery store but it was way too big and way too expensive – so I decided to make my own.

I scoured Pinterest and found this amazing Rubble birthday cake.  It looked easy enough but Ellie was adamant that she have a white cake – so I turned it into an Everest cake instead!

Here’s the How-To:

1.  Make two round 9″ cakes.  I used this recipe for Buttermilk Vanilla Cake, replacing the Rodelle Reserve Vanilla with plain old artificial vanilla extract.

2.  Place one of the cakes on a cake stand.  Frost the top of the cake,  then place the other cake on top.

3.  Frost the top and sides of the cake.

4.  Place white chocolate KitKat sections in the frosting around the side of the cake, leaving a gap for the “snow”.  If I had read the tutorial properly I would have known to put a little bit of frosting down on the cake stand to stand the KitKat pieces in so they would stand up better, but oh well.  It worked!

5.  Build a ramp with frosting.

6.  Arrange white chocolate cookie pieces around the inside edges of the cake and down the ramp.  My frosting wasn’t thick enough – and I didn’t have enough left! – so I just stuck cookie pieces down the side of the cake and piled some on the side.

7.  Place Everest toy on the top of the cake.

We added a number candle beside Everest for Ellie to blow out.  She was so excited that she didn’t even notice it wasn’t a Marshall cake until after she had eaten an entire piece and been excused from the table!  “Wait – where’s my Marshall cake?!”

Sorry babe.  Mama’s on a budget 😉

Dear Ellie …

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Today is your birthday.  It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been four years since we met … I remember your birth so vividly!  There were two doctors in the room with us.  Your dad had his head by mine – I could hear him praying in my ear.  He glanced up seconds later and the room was filled with more than a dozen people – all of them prepared for your birth to be as crazy-difficult-traumatic as your brother’s.  But with three pushes you were here – no drama, no life-saving techniques or machines needed.  You were placed on my chest, I kissed your red, splotchy face, and my heart was full.

You’ve changed a lot in the past four years.  Obviously, you can walk and talk and feed yourself, and you go to the bathroom on the toilet most of the time.  This past year, though, in particular, you’ve become fiercely independent:  You want to do everything by yourself, from pouring your breakfast cereal to brushing your hair to zipping up your winter jacket.  You’ve gone from following your brother’s every move, obeying his every beck and call, to telling him no every now and then.  Sometimes you take charge when you play together, building forts and obstacle courses and tents for your toys.  While I miss the days you called balls “gollys” and dogs “gogs”, I’m glad you’re becoming your own person!

Because I think you’re pretty amazing.  Even at the age of four, I can see great things in you!

You’re kind and compassionate.  You love others – “I love everybody in the whole world!” you frequently tell me.  I was so proud of you earlier this year when you noticed one little girl in your class who didn’t have any friends.  She’s so shy that she doesn’t even speak to your teachers, she only smiles.  But you made it your goal to become her friend – drawing pictures to give her, sharing your toys, inviting her to sit with you – and now you’re best friends!  She scrambles over the other kids to sit next to you at rug time and even though I have yet to hear her voice, she always makes sure you see her wave good-bye at the end of the day.

You’re persistent.  You don’t give up.  I’ve seen you stand at the parallel bar for ten minutes before your coach is able to help you – and you keep trying, over and over and over again, to pull your feet up between your hands into a tuck position.  And when you finally do it, your grin covers your entire face!

You’re organized.  Sometimes to an extreme– you line up all 47 of your ”pups” at least six times a day, then move them all over the house – in order! – and eventually back to your room, where you put them to bed for the night.  We’ve learned to start your bedtime routine 45 minutes earlier than your brother’s just so your pups can be tucked in in time!

You love to be the center of attention.  You’re always saying “Look at me, Mommy!  Look at this trick!”  Sometimes it’s a gymnastics trick – a somersault or a dog tail or a stork stand.  Sometimes it’s slurping up half a cup of juice with one pull on your curvy straw.  Whatever it is, you’re always so proud of yourself!

You also love to make people smile.  When someone is sad or hurt or sick, you’re the first to rush in, arms open, ready to offer a comforting hug.  When I’m not feeling well you bring me books, hug me and kiss me, and crawl under the covers to keep me company.

You’re helpful.  You’re always under my feet when I’m doing chores around the house.  “What can I do Mommy?  Can I help?  What’s my chore?” And (unlike your brother!) you never, ever ask for payment!

You’re an artist.  You can spend hours sitting at the kitchen table with a pile of white paper and crayons, drawing cats, dogs, dinosaurs, spiders, suns, and your latest favourite:  traffic lights.

I hope you don’t outgrow any of these things as you get older.

I hope you don’t forget about them.

I hope I don’t forget about them!

It’s my job as your mother to love you, to nurture you, to support you – to help you develop roots, but eventually watch you take wing and fly.

That thought terrifies me!

I pray for you every day, sweet girl.  I always have and I always will.

You’re growing up in a very different world – in a very different time! – than I did.

I pray for you to be strong.

I pray for you to be courageous.

I pray for you to be kind and compassionate, and to love others.

I pray for you to have a servant’s heart.

I pray for you to stay creative, and to pursue your passions.

But above all, I pray that God, “from his glorious, unlimited resources … will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”  (Ephesians 3:16-19 – NLT)

I love you Elliebelle!

Happy birthday!

xoxo

Mama

 

Simple Crochet Scarf Pattern

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I haven’t been crocheting for that long – only a year! – but it’s a creative outlet that I really enjoy.  On the rare evening that I don’t have to work, I grab my yarn and my crochet hook and settle down in the corner of the couch to work on my latest project.  Nathan plays his video games and I crochet well past the point that my arms get tired.  It’s one of my favourite ways to spend an evening!

You only need to know a couple of stitches to get started:  If you can chain and single crochet, you can make dishcloths, scarves, and blankets!  Add a slip stitch and you can even make hats!

I learned the basics by watching Crochet Guru on YouTube – I highly recommend her videos, she’s my go-to whenever I have questions.

Once you’re figured out how to chain and single crochet, here’s a very simple, very repetitive scarf pattern:

What you need:

  • Yarn – I use 2 3.5 oz balls of Charisma Loops & Threads.  It’s a 5 (Bulky) yarn.
  • Crochet hook (8 mm)
  • Yarn needle

What you do:

  1. Chain 13.
  2. Beginning at the second chain from the hook, single crochet all the way across (12 single crochet stitches)
  3. Chain one.
  4. Turn your work.
  5. Repeat Steps 2-4 until your scarf is the desired length.  (For a medium length scarf I aim for 70 inches.
  6. Tie off, leaving approximately a 4 inch tail.
  7. Weave in the ends using your yarn needle.

And that’s it!

You end up with a nice, warm, totally wearable scarf! I’ve made two for myself this year :)

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Ellie’s Birthday Party

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Ellie is turning four this weekend (where did the time go?!?) so the birthday party planning is in full swing!

This year is the first year we’ve had a real birthday party for Ellie.  We’ve had family parties in the past and last year we had a playdate at an indoor playground to celebrate, but Ellie’s been planning her birthday party for this year since the second she realized what a birthday party was – probably since she saw Topher open all the gifts from his friends at his party last year!  For the longest time she couldn’t decide between a Paw Patrol party at her favourite indoor playground or a gymnastics party at her gym,  but eventually settled on the gymnastics theme.

We’re (still!) trying to sell our condo, so we decided against having a party here.  We’re members at the gymnastics club where Ellie takes lessons so we were able to book a one hour session with a coach in the gym for Ellie and her friends as well as one hour in the party room for a reduced rate.

We were planning to book the party for later in the day (so we wouldn’t have to provide food!) but I waited too long to book so we’re having the party from 12-2 pm on Ellie’s birthday.  The current plan is to pick up pizza, maybe a fruit and veggie tray and some juice boxes, and call it done.

I’m the laziest birthday party planner EVER.   Two hours of fun and insanity with a herd of hyper children is more than enough.  We sugar them up, send them home, tear down the decorations in the party room in ten minutes or less and it’s done.

Until May, when we have to do the whole thing all over again for Topher.

 

*** We purchased Ellie’s invitations from Stockberry Studio.  I would definitely purchase from this shop again – their invitations are adorable and the turnaround time was very fast!  I think I had the proof in my inbox less than an hour after I purchased it (though the shop does say you may need to wait one to three business days depending on how busy they are.)

 

March Goals( and February Updates)

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In keeping with my one little word I’ve decided to set monthly goals relating to the theme of creativity, both to push myself and to keep myself accountable. In my mind sharing something on my blog means I have to do it – you all have to hold me to it!

February Goals:

Goal #1: Write more consistently for me.

My writing goals for the month of February:

Write three times/week on this blog – Check!
Share longer, essay-style posts on Scattered Words two times/month – Check!  (Read here and here).
Outline my book – Check!  Now to sit down and start writing the thing …

Goal #2: Crochet two more hats – Check!

I actually made three!  I made a sideways shell slouchy hat for my sister, a Paw Patrol hat for Ellie, and a Pokeball hat for my friend’s son.  I’m a crocheting machine!

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(Sideways Shell Slouchy Hat Pattern, Paw Patrol hat patterns, Pokeball hat pattern my own).

Goal #3: The Year of Creativity.

Not so much.  I joined Coffee + CrumbsYear of Creativity” class in mid-January and my plan for last month was to catch up, work my through all of the February content, and share some of what I’ve been learning (and writing!) on Scattered Words.  I managed to share a couple of pieces (here and here), but between a week of sickness, dealing with a lack of sleep thanks to the loud neighbours (who moved out yesterday!), and showings – I didn’t have as much time to devote to it as I thought I would.

March Goals:

Goal #1: Write more consistently for me.

Writing is an important part of creativity for me, so I’m keeping this one in here. I want to keep posting three times/week here and twice a month at Scattered Words.  I’ve compiled a list of various places to submit my writing – this month my goal is to submit one piece somewhere new.

Goal #2:  Crochet a pair of slippers.

Now that I’ve figured out hats, it’s time to move on to something new!

Goal #3:  The Year of Creativity.

I still feel like I’m scrambling to catch up, so my goal is the same as last month:  catch up, then work my way through the March content, sharing some of what I’m learning (and writing!) on Scattered Words.

Goal #4:  Make my blog pretty.

When I started this blog I found a theme I liked, installed it, and started typing.  I haven’t taken the time to do much else, so that’s my project for this month!

What are your goals for March?

Frugal February Update

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Yesterday was the last day of Frugal February so I thought I’d share a little update!

This year wasn’t our best year – we ate out a few times (I blame Topher’s ever-changing hockey schedule, but if I had been more prepared we could easily have avoided restaurants!), and the kids were invited to a couple of birthday parties I wasn’t planning originally planning on them attending.

Unexpected Miscellaneous Expenses:

  • Birthday gifts – $70
  • Booking Ellie’s birthday party (for March) – $75
  • Dollarama loot for incentives for Topher’s reading rewards – $12

But apart from that, and the eating out, we did great!  We ended the month with $1009.50 more than typically do.  We even managed to (finally!) hit our down payment savings goal!   We’ve had enough money for the past year if we used the money we’ve set aside for the kids (they each have Savings accounts for college) – but last week we hit our goal without touching any of their money.

So I’d say it was a pretty good month :)

Did you try Frugal February this year?  How did you do?  

House Tour

I don’t think I’ve ever shared a house tour on my blog. What better time than when I have professional photos, courtesy of our realtor’s photographer?

Okay, so it’s completely bare and void of personality at this point in time, but this is our home:

This is the entryway. I usually use the area above the shoe cubby as a sort of command centre, with a spot for Topher’s school calendar and backpack and whatnot. I bought the awesome shelf from Legacy Studio back in 2012.

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This is our dining area/kitchen. We used to have all chairs but decided to invest in the benches after we realized how messy our children are. White chairs, with kids? What were we thinking?!?

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This is our kitchen. It’s actually not a bad size – there’s tons of counter space and lots of room in the cupboards.

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This is our living room. I love the fireplace but we rarely use it because a) Ellie is not very good at listening and won’t stay away from fire and b) It’s a pain to clean it out afterwards. That lovely brown couch is Nathan’s most prized possession. It’s more than 40 years old – his mom bought it before she married his dad, and Nathan somehow ended up with it as his inheritance. Nathan loves his couch; my true feelings towards it will likely appear in a blog post at some point in the future. Stay tuned!

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This is our room. It’s very brown. I like colours, Nathan likes neutrals. We kept it neutral for the photos.

condo16This is the kids’ room. Ellie is still in her crib with the side taken off so it’s almost a “big girl bed”. We’re planning to buy her the same bed that Topher has once we move. She already picked out her bedding!

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This is the bathroom. I don’t really have anything more to say about it.

condo19This is our balcony. It’s probably the main reason we bought the condo in the first place, apart from the fact that it was the nicest one we saw that we could afford. The balcony is huge – it spans the entire length of the condo and overlooks a park.

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And that’s about it! Our little home.

If you want to buy it shoot me an e-mail.