Monday, December 27, 2010

Make it Happen Monday

Ammie at Domestically Obsessed, is taking the week off to spend with her family so I won't be linking up my to-do list this week.  I have lots to prepare for though so I need to make a list anyway!

  • buy primer for our basement (woooo the drywall is finally done!)
  • vacuum....twice.
  • wipe the drywall dust off of EVERYTHING IN MY HOUSE
  • arrange the furniture to make an inviting second guest room out of our junk room ..eek.
  • revamp menu-plan and grocery list to adapt to sister-in-law's candida diet
  • clean up laundry area/storage room
  • get  groceries for our New Years Christmas with my family
  • chop kindling...and then clean the carport...again.
  • make the pillow covers that have been on my to-do list for the last month! They will be the perfect finishing touch for our guest room.
 If you haven't already seen it, I'd like to suggest a new movie for your Christmas traditions.  The Nativity Story is a movie about exactly that. It's not a story about the life of Jesus, just the events leading up to His birth and the exodus to Egypt to escape Herod. If you're a sceptic of "religious" movies (and you have a right to be) this is not your typical low-budget, bad acting movie.  It brings to life the story that we so easily glaze over year after year. How many times have I watched the kids Christmas rendition play through my mind as I listened to the story? Not once have I really stopped to fully grasp the scorn that Mary and Joseph endured from their friends and neighbours. It brought me to tears.  This story is not a "story".  It's not about little children dressed in sheets, fumbling through script lines. It's about a girl. Not a grown women. A girl with more faith than any of us will ever have. A girl who could have been stoned to death and yet chose to believe in her Lord and Saviour. It's about a man who was put in the most painful situation - expose his fiancee and watch her be stoned, quietly anull the engagement to the woman he loves OR trust in his Lord and take her as his wife anyway. How many of us could show so much integrity and faith if faced with the same circumstances? I don't know if I could. I guess that's why He chose Mary and Joseph. Not Tim and Camille.

Watch it and remember the amazing events leading up to the birth of our King - a baby. Remember that it's not a story.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keep Your Christmas Tree Watered While You're Away

Ok folks, one last post before we head to the in-laws for a week. 

We almost always go away for Christmas but I just can't stand the thought of not having a Christmas tree to enjoy.  This year we're gone for a little bit longer than usual AND my family will be coming for New Years so I want my tree to last extra long.  Wanna keep that yummy pine scent around as long as possible!

I did some searching and I came across this great instructable on making a watering system for your Christmas tree. Since ya'll can head to the site and read for yourself I thought I'd just touch on the important points.

I didn't bother disguising it as a Christmas present since we aren't going to be around, but what a clever idea!  I found some old hose downstairs with two regular female hose-ends and used an old 5 gallon pail we had kickin around.

FIRST KEY POINT:  Measure how deep the resevoir of your tree stand is (if you have one). I just grabbed an old measuring tape.  DO NOT FILL YOUR PAIL DEEPER THAN THIS HEIGHT. You will end up with a soggy mess when you get home.  There is physics involved....but that's not a strong subject for me. Make sure you have water already in the tree stand resevoir.

SECOND: Submerge your hose COMPLETELY in your pail of water. Jimmy it around a bit until air bubbles stop coming up. There can't be any air left in the hose for the siphon to work.

THIRD: Jam your fingers into either end of the hose creating a tight seal while it's still under water. Keep one end in the pail and move the other end to the resevoir of the tree stand. DO NOT REMOVE YOUR FINGER UNTIL THE END IS COMPLETELY SUBMERGED.  This was pretty tricky since there wasn't much room to manoever.

To test your siphon, grab a big glass of water and add it to your bucket.  You should be able to see the water level rise in the stand resevoir.  If nothing changes, take the hose out and try again. Try, try again.  It took me four tries, but the big ends on my hose made it really difficult to create a tight seal with my finger.

I thought this was pretty snazzy! Three cheers for a nice green Christmas tree when we come home!

handmade projects
The Boardwalk Bragfest

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas holidays

Well folks, it's gonna get a little slow around here for the next couple weeks.  I had some posts planned around projects I want to do - except now we're a week before Christmas and I have no idea when I'm going to get those projects done.  They'll just have to wait for the New Year.  Until then, my posts will be few and far between as we spend time with friends and family.

The thought I wanted to share today is a follow up to my revelation on Tuesday.  I think it's safe to say that for the majority of women out there, Christmas is a time of high stress levels, anxiety and the like. I am right there with you.  It seems like all year I look forward to spending time with family, but when the time actually comes for us to visit (or them to come here)  I am tired, stressed out and worrying about how things look and who will start the arguement this year.  How easy it is to forget about the real reason for Christmas.

I've just started a book study called Experiencing God.  It is challenging how I believe God speaks to me and how I discern His will for my life.  It has only been a week and I have a feeling this is going to change my life.

Anyway, I've been realizing that when I worry about things and allow them to consume me, I am essentially saying that I don't trust God. I am saying that God is not big enough to handle my problems, His strength is not enough for me.  How horrified I was! You have no idea how many minutes/hours/days I spend stressing about this and that - stupid little things that mean nothing in the long run.

In the same breath, how many times have I worried about God using me for his work? How many times have I answered back, "No Lord, choose someone else.  I'm not good enough. I don't speak well enough.  Why would they listen to me?"

I read a profound statement this morning:

When you believe nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have declared about yourself.


God cares for us.  He longs to be in the closest most intimate relationship with each one of us. Don't let your doubts and pride get in the way!  He longs to use you in ways that you can never imagine. 

So in this Christmas season, I challenge you to spend it one day at a time. Take a deep breath and remember that God carries you in the palm of his hand.  He will make sure that tomorrow takes care of itself, if only you let go.  Chances are, if you're worried about things being perfect, you've forgotten the true meaning of Christmas after all.  And in the midst of the chaos, don't forget to spend time with Him and ask Him to join you in the celebration!

I wish you a very blessed and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Week's To-Do list

NEW TODO small button

I got a pretty obvious message from God in my morning devotions in the form of Matthew 6:33-34. It goes something like this:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Doesn't get much clearer than that! Isn't cool how He brings things into perspective when everything seems to be spiralling out of control? If I follow Jesus one day at a time, I will be right at the center of God's will every step of the way. Gotta get my priorities straightened out!

Alright, so last week wasn't a complete failure...but I certainly didn't get as much done as I was hoping. I don't know about you, but it seems the more I get stressed about the length of my to-do list...I get less and less done.  It's unreal. 

Last night I sat down and made a list, which unfortunately involves some things from last week but I've already managed to cross a bunch off this morning so I'm on a roll!  Here she is:

- finish meal plan for Christmas (on New Years) with my family
    ***waiting to hear back from my brother how long they will be staying 'til I can finish this one**

- clean the fireplace brick - this is really not necessary but it's on my list anyway

- clean toothbrush was gross...and I just know a certain someone who would notice

- vacuum crumbs from cutlery tray...also gross

- wipe out fridge

- wrap presents...this is possibly the EARLIEST I have ever crossed this off my list!

- make guest bed

- mop kitchen - waiting for hubby to wake up so I can vacuum it first

- cut kindling and clean up carport (I'm secretly hoping hubby will see this on my list and do it for me :) Here's hoping!

If all these things get done then I'm hoping to start on some fancy pillow covers for my guest room and living room.  I was hoping to have these done eons ago but I have come to terms with the fact that this REALLY isn't a priority.

EDIT: Look at all the black lines up there! I am so proud of myself - I got so much done today. I might need to make a whole new list to start tomorrow!
What's on your list this week?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Baking - Peppermint Ammonia Cookies

Don't let the "ammonia" scare you away!  Back in the day, baking ammonia - otherwise known as ammonium carbonate - was used as a leavening agent, similar to baking powder. Unfortunately it's really hard to come by these days -unless you live in Abbotsford, BC!  So many Mennonite ladies have asked for this ingredient that Safeway has actually started carrying it behind their pharmacy counter! ....but only in Abbotsford.  I searched Kamloops high and low for this treasure and came up empty handed.  I had hoped to make these cookies for a baking exchange tomorrow and I didn't have time to import it from the coast!  Lucky for me, the good ladies at Mennonite Girls Can Cook found a recipe that's close enough to the real thing so this recipe will have to do for now - 'til my Mom can bring me some baking ammonia next time she comes.  Grandma's recipe also calls for Oil of Peppermint but she said regular ol' peppermint extract would be fine.  I didn't bother looking for the real stuff.

This is my Grandma's recipe for those who are adventurous and are willing to track down the ingredients.  For those who want to take the easy route this is the Peppermint cookie recipe I used - sans ammonia.

EDIT: Unfortunately these cookies aren't anything like the peppermint cookies my Grandma makes. I wrote this post before I tried the recipe. The baking ammonia really does make a difference in texture and taste.  These are much more "cakey" - if that's a word.  They're still good so please do try the recipe...just not what I was hoping!

Peppermint Ammonia Cookies

1/2 cup          butter
1 1/2 cups      white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp        baking powder
4 1/2 cups      flour
1 cup             whipping cream
1 tsp             oil of peppermint
1 1/2 Tbsp    baking ammonia
1/4 cup          boiling water

Dissolve baking ammonia in the boiling water.  Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, adding eggs.  Add peppermint oil.  Mix baking powder with 2 cups flour and gradually add to creamed mixture alternating with the whipping cream. Add the additional 2 1/2 cups flour.  Mix well.  Chill dough an hour or two.  Sprinkle countertop liberally with flour and roll out to about 1/4 inch.  Use a small round cookie cutter to make circles (an empty tomato paste tin is a good size).  Bake at 375F for 8-9 minutes or until the bottoms are JUST really really really don't want to overcook these!

Photo courtesy of Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Monday, December 6, 2010

Make It Happen Monday (night)

Oki doki - Christmas is just around the corner, can you believe it? I'm way past that though. I'm already stressing about New Years.

Wanna know why?

My family is coming.


Last time that happened was a year and a half ago.....and it didn't end well. Enough said.

My list of things to do this week involves starting to get ready for them to come. Basically, cleaning, cleaning and MORE CLEANING.  My house is never clean enough for my mom.

Ok now that I've got that off my chest I can get on with my list!

  • wash guest room bedding and make the bed (somehow this part never gets done)
  •  buy a million drapes and decide on a set for said guest room
  •  finish sewing decorative pillow covers for said guest room ( hoping to do a post on this project!)
  • mop the kitchen
  • make 8 dozen cookies for the baking swap next Monday - that number is daunting...I may need to enlist the hubby
  • work on my harmony part for the kids Christmas production (I'm part of the adult choir)
  •  hopefully make a batch of biscotti to wrap up as Christmas gifts for the families of my piano students
EDIT: Well, I've gotten so much done this week....but hardly any of it was on my list!  The bedding is washed...the bed is not made though and I'm hoping to tackle the middle three today.  My baking swap will have to wait 'til tomorrow!

Yikes, somehow I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Some of the cleaning can wait but we're leaving for Christmas with my hubby's family on the 22nd so my time is starting to run short! And we don't even have our Christmas tree up!

What's on your list this week?

Frugal Coffee Tip

First off I just wanna say I was featured on Making Monday's Marvelous Day at C.R.A.F.T!!!  Woo wooooooo Check out the awesome buttony bling I got on my side bar now! My Rustic Christmas String Art project was cheap enough to catch Jamie's eye! Can't go wrong with some partical board, mismatched nails and some leftover twine. Thanks so much Jamie!!!

On to my tip of the day.

For all you serious coffee junkies like me - I'm talking to the junkies not the connoisseurs here.  If you're REALLY REALLY picky about how your coffee tastes...go ahead and move on 'cause this is probably not for you. 

This is for all you ultra cheap, Mennonite-(or Dutch) - esque lady's out there.  You know, the one's who reuse tin foil and zip loc baggies? That's me!

Next time you make coffee, leave your old filter and grounds in (GASP) and add half the amount of new coffee.  For example I make six cups of coffee usually, so yesterday I added another three scoops to the six that were in there from the day before!  And it works! If anything it was a little stronger than I usually like it.  This morning I added another two scoops two the....nine old ones...hehe.  This time it was verging on weak BUT I betcha it would've been good had I added THREE instead of two! Gah I'm so cheap I can't help but think of how my can of coffee will go so much further now..woooo hoooo!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Baking - Peppernuts!

The real Mennonite name for these tasty morsels is pfefferneuse but Gramma always called them peppernuts.  I should start a Mennonite cooking series or something!  These little bite-sized cookies are mostly savory but a little bit sweet.  They're a nice change from all the sweet cookies!

Anywho, since we're not spending Christmas with my extended family this year :( I thought I might try some of the holiday baking that my Gramma ALWAYS has made for us when we come!

I found a few recipes that had some really strange old-world ingredients so I thought I'd call Gramma for her special recipe.  This is the real deal peeps!

Old Fashioned Peppernuts (Pfefferneuse)

1/2 cup    butter                        
 3/4 cup    white sugar                
3/4 cup    brown sugar              
1 Tbsp    honey                        
 1 Tbsp    molasses                         
1 egg                                         
1/2 tsp    vanilla
4 cups     flour (divided)
1/2 tsp    cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp   star anise (not the same as anise seed ...but can be substituted if necessary)
1/2 tsp  cinnamon

1/2 cup sweet cream

 Cream butter and sugars.  Add honey, molasses, egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  Mix all spices with 2 cups flour.  Add this to the butter/sugar mixture alternating with sweet cream.  Mix well as you go.

Refridgerate several hours.

After refridgerating,  take a big handful of dough.  Work it with your hands to soften it up but not too soft!  Roll into a thin rope and slice into 1/2 inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Place pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes.

Before putting them away - preferably while still warm, throw them in an empty ice cream bucket and add 1/2 cup or so icing sugar.  Cover bucket and shake, shake, shake to coat the cookies!


PS: I linked this tasty recipe up to Donna's Saturday Night Special party at Funky Junk Interiors



Friday, November 26, 2010

Bedside table "slip-covers"

When we moved to our new house, my mom donated to us her old bedside tables since we didn't have any.  This is what they look like.... sad face...there's a matching one on the other side of the bed.I didn't leave them like that...I had a grey sheet tossed over each one which really wasn't much better.

After browsing through some new fun blogs, I came across a tutorial  from Ana White showing how to make a gorgeous, knife-pleated slip cover for a parson's chair.  I repeat....gorgeous.  And then it hit me,

I could make gorgeous little knife-pleated slip covers for my night tables!

Now as you may know...I have this habit of dreaming beautiful things...starting beautiful things....and then finding them semi-finished in the back of the closet three years later.   Not this project! I was determined to get'er done...and get'er done I did!

I had been eye'ing up this beautiful black idon'tknowwhat material at Fabricland on the upholstery/tabling/drapery shelf.  Low and behold, it was on sale when I came to get it! Wooooo sale!

A bunch of math, pinning, cutting and sewing later....this is how my first one turned out! Isn't she beautiful?! I gave the legs a lovely coat of silver spray paint to give them some class too!

EDIT: This picture is way better than the one I had up! Now you can actually see all my beautiful knife pleats!

 Here's a close up so you can see the gorgous material and the pleats I so carefully measured eye-balled....

Here's how I did it: (I didn't take too many pictures of the process 'cause the lighting in my house is lame so you'll just have to imagine as we go)

This was the most complicated part - getting it all planned out.  Bear with me and feel free to ask if my directions make no sense!

1.  Measure the diameter of the tabletop and add 1 inch (1/2 inch seam allowance on either side)
2.  Measure the circumference of the tabletop and add 1 inch for seam allowances
3.  Measure how long you want the skirt of your cover to be, including pleat.
  • Decide how long you want the pleated section to be and subtract that from the total length of skirt.
4.  Take the length of skirt without pleat and add 1 inch for seam allowances
5.  Take the length of pleat and double it - add 1 inch for seam allowances

For example: My table stands 25 inches high.  The length of my finished skirt with pleat is 9 inches.  The finished pleat is 3 inches and the finished skirt is 6 inches. Therefore, my unfinished skirt measured 7 inches with seam allowance and my unfinished pleat also measured 7 inches with allowances (you fold this piece in half).

Once you've got all your measurements:

1.  Cut out a circle using the diameter of the tabletop plus 1 inch.
2.  Cut a long rectangle for the skirt.  The long edge should equal the measurement calculated in point 2 above (diameter multiplied by 3.14).  The short edge will be the length of skirt in point 4.
3.  For the knife pleat pieces, double the circumference length and add a foot or so (piece it together if need be...the seams won't show).  The length  should be twice your finished length plus 1 inch for seam allowances.

Mark all your pieces so you don't mistake skirt pieces for pleat pieces!

To make the pleat:

I referred to an awesome tutorial by Pink and Polka Dot on how to make knife pleats.  She lays it out really clearly.  I will emphasize one thing though. Do not underestimate the length of material you need. You will definitely need twice as much plus a foot.  I eyeballed my pleats as she did...I'm not that picky..or patient. 

To make the cover:

1. Pin your finished pleat to the skirt piece, right sides together and sew.
2. Iron seams up.
3. Match and pin the ends of your skirt/pleat together, right sides together and sew.  You should now have a complete circle.
4. Take your tabletop circle and pin to your skirting, right sides together. Use lots of pins and do an inch or so at a time keeping the edges lined up (this is not an exact science..) 
5. Sew!
6.  Put your finished cover on the table to make sure everything looks good.
7.  Fix it if it doesn't!
8.  Iron the seam down toward the skirt (use the narrow end of your ironing board for this)
9.  Put your pretty new table cover on and admire!!! (I ironed it again while it was on)

mmm buttonCatch As Catch Can

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rustic Christmas Wall Art

Here's a project I saw made on CityLine the other day.  I'm trying not to buy any Christmas decorations this being I come.

First I used my hubbies circular saw. Seriously people. This is a big step for me.

Ok, so I used his saw to square up a piece of particle board we had kickin around in the basement...gave it a quick coat of Zinsser Bulls-eye Primer....followed by a couple coats of some shiny silver spray paint...just 'cause that's what I have.  Silver and flat black. That is all.

Next step.  Draw a Christmassy picture on your board....or...for those less artistically inclined - print out an outline.

Place your diagram on your board and hammer finishing nails along the outline of your picture.  You can get all sorts of nice finishing nails according to what colors you want in your diagram (or you can use plain ol' ones and color them with markers!)

 I found you want to space the nails about an inch apart.  On straight lines you can set them further and on areas with lots of curves you want them closer together.

When you've got all your nails hammered in, take some twine or yarn and outline the diagram.  Tie a loose end around one nail and start winding the yarn around each consecutive nail (hope that makes sense!)  Check the diagram if it doesn't.  Just do enough yarn to ensure you've put enough nails in.  If you don't have enough, your picture will look put in more nails!  Next, take your yarn back off and tear off the paper (if you've used a print out).  Redo your yarn outline.  You can leave just the outline or fill it in by randomly going back and forth across the middle as I have done.

The olive branch on mine looked messy and shapeless so I used a green permanent marker to color the nail heads and twine so you can tell what it is!

I love the way it turned out but I'm really thinking it needs a frame of some sort....something to make it stand out against our wall color.  I think I'm going to make another one too...maybe a taller Christmas tree one?  On CityLine, the lady used a board 2 ft by 4 ft and made a landscape with snow drifts and a tree!

mmm button

Monday, November 22, 2010

ANOTHER Silhouette giveaway!

Ok seriously - Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick is doing ANOTHER Silhouette Craft Cutter  giveaway.  HOW LUCKY ARE WE? 

You can get all the info for entering here ANNNND if you have no idea what a Silhouette machine should really check out their website.  It's the coolest thing since sliced bread!!!

Make it Happen Monday

I'm switchin it up from the usual Menu-plan Monday this week.  I'm feeling like I need the incentive to actually accomplish something this week.  I spent all of last week recouperating from our holiday in Mexico.  Isn't it strange how you almost need a holiday from the holiday?  I was so exhausted all week!
Anyway, on to the good stuff.  Havin a get'er done day with Ammie at Domestically Obsessed!

For Today:
  • make bread and buns
  • make coffee plans with two girls from our youth group and a lovely lady that I just want to sit and learn from! She doesn't understand why I want to spend time with an "old fart" like her!
  • put up a few more Christmas decorations
This afternoon I'm booked from 3:30 - 9 with two piano lessons, dinner with good friends and then bible study!

For the Week:
  • sew table covers for my bedside tables
  • create some Christmas artwork that I saw on CityLine
  • stuff rags in all the registers on our main floor to keep the cold air from the basement in the basement
  • buy wedding present for a wedding on Saturday!
  • buy baby shower present for shower on Tuesday
  • make appy's for said baby shower
  • plan meals and baking for our family Christmas (we're celebrating over New Years since we're spending Christmas day with my husbands family)
  • bake muffins for our youth coffee cart ministry
  • find some tougher Christmas piano music for one of my students

I'm sure there's more but that's a pretty good start!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Get'er Done Project 1 - Junk Drawer

Now that the snow is starting to fly and I can't spend my free time reading on a beach (bummer!) .... I've decided to (wo)man up and tackle some inside projects that have been dying for attention ....for days...months...a year (eek).

First up. The Junk Drawer....dun dun dunnnnnnn. Everyone has one...well everyone except my mother who is perfectly organized in every way.  I take after my dad.....

This was our junk drawer.

 To tackle this project I visited my very favorite dollar store and picked up some little baskets - 4 for $1.25...can't go wrong!  I use these EVERYWHERE.

Then, I took out the drawer and emptied it on to the kitchen table...well I emptied it in an organized fashion...

Among all the pens, permanent/dry-erase markers and random office supplies there was also:

- 10 "D" batteries
- 5 "AA" batteries
- 2 "AAA" batteries
- 1 "C?" battery
**** it is unknown whether any of these batteries are still useable****

- 3 packages sweet pea flower seeds
- 6 pads of post-it notes
- Scratch remover for CD's
- a piece of hardware for the kitchen faucet
- needle nose pliers (so that's where they've been all this time)
- two rusty xacto knives
- 3 lighters
- some metal clip ...that metal thing in the middle that is shaped like an 8
- misc. screws, nails and picture holders

Unfortunately I did not find the household scissors we have been missing for at least two months. Lord knows where those are....I sure don't.

Now, thanks to my trusty dollar store baskets this is our new and improved junk drawer! Everything has home - pens and pencils on the left, dry-erase and highlighters on the right, our huge collection of permanent markers on the bottom and smaller office supplies in the middle.  Yay! My blood pressure drops a few points just looking at it!

What projects have you been putting off?

Catch As Catch Can

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to the great ...gray....North

We just got back from a wonderful week-long trip to the Mayan Riviera (Mexico) with our best friends!!! 

We flew in at 2 am and stayed up to watch the sun rise over the ocean.  There may have been alcohol involved.....
 I was created to live on a beach.  For serious. I would be perfectly content to live the rest of my life in a bathing suit beside the pool and a large library of books at my disposal.

Stop talking to me ...can't you see I'm busy??!!

Next to reading beside the pool, my other favorite thing to do is nap in a hammock!  There's nothing like waking up to a warm breeze and a canopy of shady palm trees.  Do palm trees grow in Canada???

Unfortunately some people actually need entertainment so I was a good sport and tried to be as social as possible :) Go me.

Biking at Xel-Ha

 We stayed at the beautiful Grand Sunset Princess which was 45 minutes South of Cancun.  They had a different fancy restaurant to eat in every day of the week!

I ordered the Red Snapper...and they served me the ENTIRE FISH!

All the restaurants were "work-place casual" dress code so I got to see my hubby "dressed up" almost every evening.  It doesn't happen very often people.  

The rooms were gorgeous with a King sized bed, a HUGE tufted leather headboard and a flat screen TV. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be.

The bathroom of my dreams!

A pic of me and my favorite person

I heard it snowed here in Kamloops while we were gone. There was definitely snow on the Coquihalla highway as we drove home from Vancouver yesterday. As for me, I will bide my time 'til summer comes back.....probably sitting at the computer looking at my Mexico pictures and dreaming of the beach.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My new vacuum!

This post is for Ammie over at Domestically Obsessed.  She did a great post about useless purchasing - wants vs.needs so I told her about our lastest....impulse buy (those words leave an icky taste in my mouth).

It's a vacuum.


It's called the FilterQueen Majestic 360...and boy does it a good way!  This lady called and asked if she could do a demo at our house, and I obliged.  I never until this day give in to these demos....I just let them come over and do their thing 'cause I know it helps them make money...and everyone needs to make money somehow!

Anywho, she pulled out this cute little vacuum and stuck an attachment on that allows us to see what gets sucked up and what goes through the filter and would be sent flying back into the air by our normal vacuum.

So. gross. to see that even though my vacuum catches a much dust and skin cells gets blown right back into the air I breathe through the vacuum's exhaust vent. I know this is true 'cause why does my upright vacuum always seem to end up dustier than the floor I'm cleaning?

The next gross thing she showed us was a picture of a dust mite.  Gag. Double gag.  She described how they realllllly like bedding 'cause it's warm and cozy in there.  Then she took her little vacuum to our bed(!!!) pulled back the sheet and mattress cover and vacuumed the mattress.

Ok, for the record, I'm not the hugest neat freak in the world, but yes I do wash my bedding regularly.  Do you know what that vacuum sucked out of the mattress?  A ton of dead white skin cells.......and black stuff...which are dead dust mites and their POOP. Here's some additional info that you probably don't want to know!

Then she did a test with my old (which is only 4 years old) upright vacuum and the one she brought. She went over a spot with mine 52 times. Then she went over another spot with hers 15 times.  Then she changed the filter and went over my spot again with her vacuum.  It STILL pulled up sand and lint.  Now I usually only vacuum over the house once...probably passing over some spots twice on the way through.  52 times is like vacuuming once a week for a vacuum is just brushing dirt back under the rug!
This cute little vacuum of hers also has this little filter pad over the exhaust which you can spray a little fragrence on.  Seriously, my whole house smells like cucumber melon right now! No more burnt dust smell from my old vacuum. Yech.

Also,  no more hauling around a big cumbersome, heavy upright. I hated the way I had to lug the whole machine around, smashing it into the baseboards, lugging it up and down the stairs. Boo.

It's the same size as my hubby's cowboy boots!

This little baby is small! It rolls like a charm and the hose is 8 ft long....that means I can vacuum my entire living room without moving the machine.  If necessary, I can just give it a tug and it rolls just where I need it to.

Here's the catch.  It's cost. You probably saw that one coming.  And you're right.  It costs A FORTUNE. (Message me if you reeeeallly wanna know how much it cost),  Unfortunately, after watching this demo I couldn't DREAM of using my gross, cumbersome, nasty upright.

Impulse buy...(bleh).  The even grosser part is that we have to leave part of the balance on the credit card we worked so hard to pay off!! Laaaaame.  The moral of this story is that sometimes even the most seasoned buy-only-what-you-need frugalista makes mistakes :(

.......but my house smells like cucumber melon when I vacuum!

Menu-plan Monday

This week I'm keepin' it extra simple because we are preparing for VACATION!!!!  Soooo excited! We're flying to the Mayan Riviera on Friday afternoon for a whole week of lounging on the beach! I don't want to buy too many groceries so I don't have anything left to rot in the fridge while we're gone!

Monday - Herb - coated Cod with brown rice and steamed sweet potato.  Cruise over to last week's menu for the recipe.  I was supposed to make it on Saturday but we were busy all day and I just grabbed something out of the freezer.....I think.

Tuesday - Steak with whipped cauliflower (see last Wednesday for cauliflower ideas) and a green vegetable (whatever is on sale and looks tasty!)

Here's my go-to steak marinade:

1 cup     low-sodium soya sauce
3 Tbsp   white vinegar
1 Tbsp    olive oil
Squeezed garlic to taste (we like lots!)
1/2 tsp   black pepper

You can add other spices to this, as inspired.  I often add red chili pepper flakes.

Wednesday -  Taco wraps and a green salad. 

We had lots of leftover taco beast (not beef!) from our bible study date night last week.  Throw it in a tortilla wrap, add lettuce tomato, cheese, salsa and sour cream and dinner is served!

Thursday - Dinner at a friends house! She's also giving me a mani/pedi so my hands and feet are beach-ready! Soooo excited!

Friday - we leave first thing in the morning to drive to Vancouver to catch our flight!

Here's how I keep my menu plan.  I used colored markers on some printer paper, then slipped it into a sheet protector.  Now I write out my plan with a water-soluble marker and wipe off when next Monday rolls around!  I keep it in the front of my Control Center binder which stays in the kitchen at all times.

I forgot to update our Thursday dinner plans for a night out!
The D's and N's remind me what shift my hubby is working this shift we don't eat dinner 'til he gets home at 7:30pm and night shift I have to have him fed and out of the house by 6:15pm.  It's never a good night when I forget what shift he's on and dinner isn't ready on time!

Where do you keep your menu plan??

Saturday, October 30, 2010

12 New Things - Quilting!

Wanna know what this is all about?  Check out Sarah Mae's great blog!   Take a look at my list of new projects too.

My October challange was to learn to quilt.  Due to the fact we were hardly home at all this month, I kinda cheated and didn't make a whole quilt.  I did manage to put together one block though!

Here's how I did it:

I found a site with lots of free quilt blocks and really clear directions. And then, true to form....I wung it....winged it....whatever the past tense of "to wing it" would be.

The block I chose was a Greek Square.  Mostly 'cause it only requires two colors and that's all the scrap fabric I had laying around.

Greek Square block - the instructions I followed were actually for a table running that connects four of these blocks

I should've known right off the bat this wasn't the project for me - I am incapable of cutting in a straight line...let alone sewing in a straight line. Precision is not in my vocabularly......Luckily I'm good at manoevering things around to look like they were cut evenly!

It turned out pretty well though! I had to stretch it a bit to make the seams match up but all in all, I gotta say it looks good! Would look better in a quilt or table runner....but it's a start.

Plum platz

Tasty Mennonite recipe #2!

Platz is a tasty sheet cake covered with fruit and topped with a sweet, crumb topping.  Growing up, Mom always used frozen plums or rhubarb, apricots are really good too!  Today I used frozen plum halves since that's what I had in my freezer.

Plum platz

1 cup        flour
1/2 cup    white sugar
1 tsp        baking powder
1/4 cup     butter

Use a food processor to combine until crumbly, or use a pastry knife.

Add in:

1/2 cup     milk
1              egg
1 tsp        vanilla

Spread into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Cover batter with fresh or frozen fruit. *Try rhubarb sprinkled with a package of strawberry jello powder!*

Crumb topping:

1 1/2 cups     flour
1 1/2 cups    white sugar
1/2 cup         melted butter

Mix these together until crumbly and sprinkle over fruit (use all of it).

Bake in the top 1/3 of your oven at 350F for about 30 minutes or until golden! Serve warm with ice cream or at room temp. as finger-food.

Warm, sweet and slightly sour, plum-y goodness

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Menu-plan ...Wednesday?

Here's my menu for the week!  I had it done on Monday just forgot to post it for ya.

 I don't generally follow anything....low-carb...low-fat..whatev.  I aim for healthy and fresh and everything in moderation.  I also aim for cheap - which means I make big batches and freeze the leftovers!

Monday - Date Night with our bible study group - this week we're doing a movie and Taco night!

Tuesday - Borscht and buns - check out my Mom's recipe

Wednesday - Farmer sausage, mashed cauliflower and miscellaneous frozen vegetables.

                   I've been trying to cut down on our consumption of starchy foods so I'm experimenting with cauliflower.  It is de-lic-ious.  Not the same....but still really good.  I steam a whole head of cauliflower 'til it's soft.  Then I puree it in the food processor with some butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Or you could mash it with a potatoe masher....add some garlic salt.... whatever suits your fancy!

Thursday - Black bean soup (left over from last week) and home made buns!

Friday - Chicken and Rice Dinner with a veg...probably brussel sprouts 'cause my hubs likes them.

           This recipe is one of my go-to easy, versatile dinners.  I've never actually made it exactly how the recipe says...go figure.  I use only as much chicken as we need, and I substitute the poultry seasoning and parsley for at LEAST a tablespoon of curry powder, mmm maybe 1/2 tsp corriander....some tumeric...and a lot of fresh ground pepper.  Oh and I also add some garlic salt and pepper to the flour when I dredge the just jazzes up the chicken a bit too.  You gotta try it!

Saturday - Herb-coated Cod with roasted vegetables....lots of them.  I'm thinkin some rutebega, red onion, cherry tomatoes, potato, yam..whatever else is kickin around in my fridge.  Beets are good too.

              The key to roasting veggies is keeping the pieces small, especially harder root veggies like sweet potato, butternut squash and regular potato.  Nice small pieces with some red onion wedges and whole cherry tomatoes.  Throw 'em in a glass dish and drizzle them with olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt and pepper...add some garlic if you want.  Toss it around a bit to coat and throw it in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes or so.  Check it every so often and give it a stir to make sure it roasts evenly.

             Oh and for the cod, you can use any white fish.  Tilapia is a mild and sustainable option for those that are iffy on the seafood.  It calls for butter-flavored crackers - I use regular soup crackers. So. good.

Sunday - Leftover turkey soup and buns.  No recipe for this one.  A friend gave me a bunch of broth with meat leftover from thanksgiving (...I'm in Canada remember? We celebrate in October!)  I just add some pasta or rice, onions, garlic, carrots, celery....lotsa pepper. Taste test 'til it's good!



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm just angry ok?


I've been in this funk the last couple days - for the longest time I couldn't figure out why.  Last night we watched Brian Doerksen's Level Ground video with our bible study and for some reason, which I can only deem completely unrelated to the video, I realized that I'm just angry.  That's all.  I'm angry.

I'm mad at my hubby. I'm mad that he is susceptible to temptation.  I'm mad that he's not strong enough to overcome his weaknesses (even though he's come a long way). I'm mad that he forgets that I hurt so much deeper than he can imagine.

I'm mad at those people we've confided in and looked to for guidance.  The ones that are, dare I say, obligated, to reach out to us, for support and accountability. I'm mad that they haven't been there for us.

I'm mad because I feel like I have no one to support me.  Who wants to hear about these things? It's dirty, taboo laundry in Christian circles.  No one wants to ask about things like this, can I blame them for not asking?

I'm mad at God. I've never had the guts to express that before but there.  I'm mad at God.  I'm mad that I don't feel strong. I need His strength but I don't feel strong. 

And mostly I'm mad at myself.  I'm mad that I let this get between me and God. I'm mad that I haven't been the prayer warrior for my hubby that he needs me to be. I'm mad that I can't be there for him when he needs me.  I'm mad that I can't meet his deepest need without feeling used and dirty.  I'm mad that after all this time I still feel like nothing has changed. When will it get better? Will it ever feel better?

Oh and I'm mad at my mom too, but for completely unrelated reasons.

Mennonite Cabbage Borscht


For all you peeps that have never heard this soup before, let me introduce you.  There's two main types and a bazillion different family recipes depending on where your family originated from.  The Mennonite version is cabbage based and is often made with a soup bone or two.  The Ukrainian version is usually beet based and is meatless. That isn't the rule, that's just the "usual" differences. Oh and I think the Ukrainian version is spelled without the t. It's pretty much a "grab veggies from the garden" soup.

Oh and if you don't know what a Mennonite a nutshell, they're a people group that immigrated kinda from Holland, to Germany, to the Ukraine and then to Manitoba....and Abbotsford, BC. It's a long story...and there's a few books written.  Up From the Rubble is the one that comes to mind first - it's written about my dad's family.  Most have a Christian background but I dislike making that generalization.  If you want the long detailed version....Wikipedia does an ok job

Luckily for me, not only is my dad's family Mennonite, I also grew up in a small VERY Russian/Ukrainian community called Grand Forks (southern interior BC).  The mother of one of my good friends had immigrated from Russia so I got a good introduction to their native food. 

Anyway, on to the good stuff.  Here's the recipe - it's basically the recipe from the Mennonite Treasury cook book (the bible of all things Mennonite cooking). 


2 lbs          soup bones
2 quarts     water (I think I end up using at least 3 or 4)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 or 5 carrots shredded
1 head     cabbage, chopped finely
4 potatoes, cubed
10 whole allspice berries (we find ground is better...use about 1/2 tsp or a little more)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground anise seed
1 tsp salt
Pinch ground pepper (I use almost a full tsp peppercorns)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato (my mom uses a jar of home made canned tomatoes, I use a big can of diced tomatoes....or leave them out completely...whatever works for you!)
1/2 cup  heavy cream*****

***We leave the cream out and use sour cream when serving it****

Cover the soup bones with water and simmer at least 1.5 hours. Save the broth in the pot. Pull the bone out and remove all the meat from it, set aside.  In your largest pot, use a little bit of butter and saute the onion for a few minutes.  Add the cabbage and the carrot and allow it to cook down a bit. Add enough water to the reserved broth to make 8-10 cups and add to vegetables.  Toss in your potatoes, tomatoes, meat and spices now and bring to a boil.  Simmer until potatoes are soft and then some, to meld the spices into the soup...the longer the better!

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a squirt of white vinegar.  Seriously.  I know it sounds wierd but don't knock it until you've tried it! Oh yeah and a thick slice of fresh white bread slathered in butter.  I'm a big advocate for whole grains, but nothing is better than a warm slice of white bread and butter with my borscht!

This Christmas I will be getting acquainted with some other Mennonite recipes and I'll be sure to share them all with you too!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to Reality: My Monday Daybook

Outside my Window...It's a chilly October day. Windy and gray with a tornado of yellows and oranges as the leaves swirl off the trees in my front yard.  I love those trees....but not raking....

I am Thinking...  Man, I so don't want to clean my house this morning.  After spending 5 days living out of a camper in the middle of God's beautiful creation with good friends, it pains me to come back to the hustle and bustle of real life.

Our home for a week. Nothin to worry about except cooking simple meals and occasionally sweeping the camper floor....but only when I really feel like it!

I am Thankful for... My wonderful husband who diligently goes to work each day to "win the bread" and for the security in his job (for now).

From the Kitchen... Nothing yet, but there will be a big pot of Mennonite Borscht bubbling on my stove today or tomorrow! I have a cabbage that needs to be used and what better than a warm, hearty soup. I re-found the Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog and spent some time pouring over the recipes that my Grandma makes.  Since we won't be spending Christmas with the extended family this year I think I'm going to have to try some myself!  I will post the recipe for my Mom's borscht tomorrow...I can't find her recipe and the ones on the MGCC blog don't have the spices that gives my Mom's the flavor I love!

I am Wearing... Jeans, a warm, nubby sweater and my slippers.  I have to change into dressier clothes for my piano lessons this afternoon but I'd rather be comfy while I'm doing my housecleaning!

I am Creating... a quilt! Ok, I haven't actually started yet...oops...but it's my October project for the 12 New Things adventure I've embarked on with Sarah Mae over at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.  I might not get it finished in time but I have really good intentions on starting.  Projects like that require one to actually be at home for more than a handful of days out of the month!  Has anyone else quilted before? I could use some helpful hints!

I am Going... to the Mayan Riviera (Mexico) in less than two weeks with my hubby and our really good friends! Somehow I still don't feel old enough to be going on major trips like this without my that strange?! :)  We travelled a lot as a family...usually by car and tenting along the way and I have such great memories from it.  I just hope that we can give our children the same experiences.

I am Reading... Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago.  It has taken me almost a month...which is ridiculous because I usually read books in a week or less.  I found a list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and I figured I should try some of the classics.  It's definitely not my usual style but I'm slowly getting drawn into the story line and the drama.

I am Hearing... the dishwasher in the kitchen and the fire crackling in the fireplace - the latter is by far one of my favorite sounds of all time.

Around the House... shows signs of the tornado that was me as I prepared and packed for our hunting trip last Wednesday.  My dearest was at work so I had to do everything myself amongst everything else in my's a disaster.  I am using one of FlyLady's key skills - I set my timer for 15 minutes to clean, and then I come back and work on this post for 15 minutes.  It keeps me from getting overwhelmed!

One of my Favorite Things... curling up on the couch by the fire with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. 

A Few Plans for the Week... this is actually the first week in October that we will be home for the entire week. Yes, it has been a crazy month.  I have piano lessons to teach today, tomorrow and Wednesday, worship team practice on Thursday evening (I play keyboard at church two Sunday's of the month), we help out with our church youth group Friday nights..ummm what else.  Tonight is Date Night with our Young Married's bible study.  We do a potluck dinner and just hang out and enjoy each other's company.  Oh! And Wednesday night we kick off our Coffee Cart ministry with the Youth group! We've been donated all the coffee we need from Van Houtte and a big gazebo from Canadian cool! We're setting up right here on the North Shore in Kamloops - we want to reach the people right here in our's praying for some good witnessing opportunities!

Some Pictures I'm Sharing...
The best way to relax - sitting around the campfire with a good book, a warm cup of coffee and my leopard print slippers!

One of the many waterfalls in Wells Gray National Park - if you've never been to beautiful British Columbia you're missing out!
I know it's a bad picture but this is one of our youth getting baptized in the freezing cold river! Woooooo! These are the moments that make hanging out with 30 screaming teenagers every Friday night bearable.

The Simple Woman's Daybook is a journal outline for women to take a moment out of our busy day to focus on the simple, beautiful things we're blessed with in everyday living.