Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

They don't call it the Great White North for nothing! Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bye Bye Ardyn

Today is our last day having Ardyn, full time. Her mom took a very part time job, so I will only have her about 6 days per month, from now on. We've had her since birth, so kinda sad! Her baby brother or sister will join us for those 6 days too, once he/she makes her appearance this summer:-)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Flowers - Video

I had some leftover icing and decided to try my hand at a butter cream rose. I have literally NEVER tried my hand at one before. But I did watch a youtube video a few weeks ago, and I thought the process seemed manageable. So here is my very-first-ever attempt at a butter cream rose. It actually...worked decently well. I will definitely need more practice, practice, practice, however, it was not quite as difficult as it appears.
This is my second-ever attempt at a butter cream rose. Here it is still on the "nail" used for decorating
And here it is off the nail. That is a part that is a little tedious. Gotta be very careful! All in all, I think I did it pretty good!! It was actually really fun, so you know what I will be practicing with my leftovers from now on:-)

Large Icing Tip - Tip

Here is a little video showing you something I do for the large icing tips...I figure it might possibly be genius because I did not see it online or on Pinterest anywhere, I invented it myself:-)

Singing Songs

Here is a new singing video. Just because it's part of daily life around here, and I haven't posted one in awhile:-)
0:00 - Stereo Hearts
1:12 - "scream, shout, let it all out" song
1:35 - Hot Chelle Ray song
2:16 - Ten Thousand Reasons
3:17 - Peter, James & John Were Fisherman
4:25 - New Testament Books of Bible - Brooks
5:01 - Old Testament Books of Bible - Kenna
5:54 - Sonny, Ardyn & Grey try their hand

Monday, March 25, 2013


Hey everyone, just a quick little note to say THANK YOU for checking in on us!! I realized that this month marks the 6th anniversary of this blog. We've been going strong here for SIX years, and that is just too cool! I am very grateful for this medium of "online scrap booking" to be able to share a peek of our daily lives with you, since we live so far away from family. Hopefully we make you smile when you think of us and you always enjoy your stop over at our little corner of the internet world!

Love to all,


Bright Eyes

I recently got a great Amazon local put on canvas, $90 worth for $35, and free shipping. Yessir! That is as cheap as you can get canvas prints, I'd say! They arrived the other day, and I love them!!

One thing that has me captivated is their eyes on the canvas. They are so brilliant and beautiful. They each have such blue eyes, yet completely different shades and hues. And they all have different, yet similar eye shapes. I won't give you any hints as to who takes after who, in my opinion, but can you tell who's eyes these are? The only hint I'll give is that in each of these pic the kids were smiling, so these are their "smiling eyes".

These pictures kind of don't do justice to the hues and colour variations that exist in real life, but you can take a stab at that too if you want (lightest, brightest etc:-)
#1 = ?

#2 = ?

#3 = ?

Kenna's Birthday Cake

This cake comes to you by way of a vision. Unlike John the Revelator, Kenna's vision contained not multi-headed beasts...but butterflies.

She literally had a dream, in which she was talking to Auntie Kari, and she described, in the dream, what her birthday cake would be like. Upon awakening (this happened in about Sept), she informed me of the plan. It's pink, black and white. She took to drawing it for me. By this, I mean that no less than 72 reams of paper have been dedicated to the planning of the precious cake. Just to make sure I got it right.

It's 3 tiers, it's covered in butterflies, and it's entirely that black and white damask type pattern.

I was able to describe to her what was actually feasible, in real life. This is not the stuff dreams are made's a cake. Her expectations have been quite dashed, and we've been having quite a few conversations about gratefulness and expectations. It's such a learning curve, being 7, and having so many grand plans;-)

That being said, I am quite pleased with the way it turned out! I think it looks quite lovely and is definitely the essence of her dream cake, while not being an exact replication.

I saw this zebra pattern cake thing on pinterest, check out the link for the how to's. Very easy peasy to do, and added some pizzazz to the inside of the cake! I dyed vanilla cake pink, I did not use strawberry cake mix.
One layer, done baking. When you stack them all and cut into it, you get a "zebra" styled print!
I tried to do a very careful job of everything this time, from leveling to the dreaded crumb coat. And it all went very well!
bottom layer is two 12" rounds, I used an entire cake mix (Duncan Hines) for each layer.
Every layer is filled with raspberry filling. I usually don't take pics of my entire process, so here are a few, for the curious. Sometimes I only do the "fruit" on one layer, but this time, I did all of them.
I make a stiff buttercream and create a "dam" around the edges to keep the filling from oozing out. I used seedless raspberry preserves, mixed in with just a touch of regular raspberry preserves (I like a few seeds in there, but not too many) and then a little lemon juice (cuts some of the sweetness a bit). That's it. No recipe at all, just a simple and delicious filling!
Top layer crumb coat also went really really well. The icings consistency, as well as my skill level improving with practice are making doing the sides of these high cakes much easier for me to do quickly, neatly and nicely!!
Side tracked: I made gluten free cupcakes for Brooks to have some cake too. I used the leftover raspberry filling mixture and filled the cupcakes with it. Then a tried a new method for a flower on a cupcake I saw online. I think I need MUCH more practice before I break this one out on anyone, lol!!
I made my own marshmallow fondant. Here is bottom layer, covered.
For the pink butterflies, I needed to dye the fondant pink. As I was kneading the colour smooth, I decided to leave it a little marbly looking - thinking it would give nice texture and dimension to the butterflies. It worked! I love how they turned out!
Ok, here it is!!!
The black and white stuff you see is sugar paper - Wilton brand I think. I had been worried, thinking I would have to hand-pipe on some type of pattern like this...and then I saw the sugar paper at Walmart, so I bought 1 sheet ($3), and called it a day...

Ok, the colour is actually a brighter/hotter pink, like in the first pic, but I was getting a glare in shots with the flash on, and without the flash the pics looked better but the pink looks peachier than it really is.
Butterfly close up! I love how the marble look turned out with them!
To make the butterflies, I bought a fondant "cookie cutter" set from Wine & Cake Hobbies. It cuts and embosses the fondant very easily. It was my new addition to my cake decorating supplies this time (I like to add a new item to my stash with each cake:-)

So sometimes, you know how a cake has a "back" side, because you messed something up and the back looks yucky? Well...yah. In fact, this time I didn't really have any yucky spots. My fondant was pretty smooth, everything was very level...Then I cut and applied my sugar paper. I should have bought 2 sheets, not one. Oops. I didn't have enough to finish the band on the top layer. So there is definitely a back side to this cake!!
The back side. See the missing black & white band? I tried to cover it up with some visual distraction...using up all my extra butterfly cut outs:-)
The zebra insides

The visionary, and her cake!

It's the happy birthday song!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ice Age?

T-ball started on Thursday, and it was SNOWING during practice. Saturday was also frigid, and today leaving chuch rain/snow/sleet again. What on earth is going on here?! You will have a hard time convincing me global warming is at play here, I feel like we're heading for another ice age! ;-)

So Grey and I, as avid baseball supporters, spent our time in the van watching the kids from the warmth of heated seats:-) Ain't no way I'm gonna stand out there and freeze!!

Here is Grey clinging/suspending up on two of the van seats...over Ardyn's head, basically:-)

"See my Spidey moves? Ma! You better take a picture!"

I obliged. Have a wonderful day everyone, and try to stay warm! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blast From The Past - Video

Ok, this one is from Kenna's 1st birthday party. Never before seen footage! It's long...the difference between your first child and subsequent children...we filmed the entire cake eating process, lol!! Just watch a minute or two of cuteness and let it go, no worries. I'm her mother and even I didn't watch the whole thing again;-) After her bath, around minute 7, she starts to open her gifts. Around 8:30 you can see me, very pregnant with Brooks;-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Grey's Birthday

Happy Birthday to the baby of our family! We adore this kid with all his quirkiness and fun personality!
His birthday cereal...and its gf, so Brooks can have some too!

Snack time - huge lollipops Grey got for his birthday!

I was baking up a storm today...I made 9 cakes! The table was all full of cakes and baking, so we picnicked on the living room floor! Ardyn, and spunky May. She's turning into one of those kids you have to watch every minute. Cute as a button, but totally mischievous!!
Grey's cake. It's red velvet. I applied the chocolate Lightning McQueen I made the other day, and it looked great! It tasted wonderful too, and was a quick and easy cake.
I made gf cupcakes for Brooks

Big birthday boy!
Tucking him at night, he suggested I go take a picture of him, all wrapped up:-) He's sleeping with his Mater Tormentor toy, a gift from Sonny - he loves it!

It's been the coldest March since we've lived here. Can't really believe how much it still feels like winter!! Today it SNOWED! Not for long, and of course it didn't stick, just blew in the air, but WOW. It was soooo cold. The kids had their first day of t-ball today, and they were freezing out there (I watched from the van - wimp).

Here is some footage of the snow, and of Grey's happy birthday song!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Sandwich Strike

So perhaps a little background...This post will likely be of little use to anyone, unless you have a husband as picky refined as mine. But this is the story of how I came to make Brian's lunches, again. After an 8 year strike. And the details of one of our most dramatic moments, which is somewhat laughable, and might give you an indication of how tame/(hilarious?) our "fights/arguments" are.

I am from a large (& thrifty) family. Sandwiches consisted of smearing tuna on the bread, done. 1 tin...probably 4 or more sandwiches. I don't know the rules when Brian was growing up...but now, for him, 1 tin = 1 sandwich. I lay out 1 or 2 slices of meat on the bread, he piles on half a pound. Not joking. So there is the background in the difference of our perspective in sandwich making.

I try to "do more" for him while not going way over the top, only because I think it's just kind of a waste of money to use that much expensive food on one sandwich.

The scene: Summer of 2004. Brian, at the time, was a roofer, and working on the roof of the church that we would soon come to attend and love. I had the day off from Linens N Things, and I had a job interview at CBN, which was right across the street from the church. Our lunch and sandwich battles were well established by then. We did not have a lot of money for eating out. He doesn't like/doesn't plan time to make his own lunch. We couldn't figure out a way to keep the sandwiches "good" come lunch time (soggy bread issues etc). I would make the lunch, but not put enough meat on it. Issues.

So this day, I thought I would bring him his lunch. It would be freshly made and delicious! Making the sandwich, I realized we were almost out of meat, but there was enough, in my estimation. 4 slices of roasted turkey lunch meat, from a "package" so not the largest slices known to man, but I thought it looked acceptable, so I used it all up.

I pulled into the church parking lot, and he saw the car and came running over.

"What are you doing here?"
"I had my appointment at CBN, so I thought I'd bring you lunch", as I handed over the bag.
He was obviously hungry, as he tore into it right away. He took a big bite of the sandwich and said...

"Coulda put a little meat on here"

I stared at him, aghast - I think my jaw literally dropped - I didn't even say a word. I spun around, hopped in my car, and drove away.

You have to know the layout of Avalon Hills in proximity to the highway to fully appreciate the hilarity of the next detail...but it was sort of like storming off...and having to do so for a mile while being watched. It sort of looses it's dramatic effect. I drove out the parking lot, looped around, and then had to drive the entire length of the parking lot and building again to get to the highway, so he was just standing there, with a bewildered look on his face. And waving at me. A Queen-imitation wave. I sped away.

That night, he came home and said "why'd you leave?" when he walked in the door

"You are the rudest person I know", was my reply. No 'thank you', no 'that was sweet', no 'nothing'. Just a complaint about the food was the FIRST thing. I wasn't angry really, just over it. I explained that I would never make him a sandwich again, as long as I live.

And I kept my word.

Until Fall 2012. I literally never made him a sandwich of any type - even if we were having subs at home for dinner. He can make it himself or he can starve. Either of those options share equal billing with me, I could really care less. He would try to coerce me on occasion, and tell me how good I was at it and everything, but I didn't crack:-) There have even been periods of time when we're short on money and he had to bring his lunch with him, and he had to make it himself. I would pull it all together, but would not make his sandwich. Make it, or starve. It's been a decent mantra, really. I wasn't bitter or rude about it, just steadfast.

We decided last fall that he would not eat out anymore for lunch, to save money, and for health reasons. And I volunteered to end my strike and try my hand yet again at making his sandwich everyday. I must say he has a couple times jokingly criticized the amount of meat, but he knows better than to be serious. Or he'll be making his own for the next 8 years.

I am not in any way touting this tale as my best "I know how to be an excellent Proverbs 31 woman" by the way.

Anyway, he's nicer now. Amazing what 8 years will do to you:-) He compliments me on the yummies, and has thanked me for figuring out how to keep everything "good" - to his high standards.

Here are a few tips we've collected. They might help you out if you have a picky sandwich eater in your midst.

This was today's lunch. I didn't use any Re-Pac bags today, just so I could take a pic, and we could see everything. Normally, lettuce, peas (or similar), and sandwich would be in Re-Pacs. TODAY - Yogurt, apple, snap peas, chips, Naked Juice and the sandwich trimmings - basil, sliced tomato, mayo. He also has a Nalgene bottle he takes with tap water in it.
You may notice everything is "not together". I don't actually make his sandwiches. He assembles them when he is ready to eat. This keeps everything fresh, nothing gets soggy, etc. I put the meat on the bread, and that is it. The downside is excessive "baggie use", but the Re-Pacs help with that a lot.
When tuna is for lunch, I mix it with mayo, celery, etc, and put it in this container. He spreads on bread to eat and adds the lettuce etc at that time.
Notice the mayo packets? Of course, he will only eat Hellman's mayo. So guess what I found? Back in Sept I ordered these little packets online. Of "real" mayo. I think it was a restaurant supply store or something, because we have enough mayo to last us for about 3 years worth of sandwiches!! I store them in this massive basket on my pantry shelves. If I ever run out of mayo for a recipe, I know I can just squeeze out a few of these as my backup, and they'll never be missed.
A tip - a real issue here, and possibly this is only "here"...because it is very hot, and the lunch cooler sits in his very hot truck all morning until the ice packs start to melt, and condensate, and make everything wet, mushy, and gross. Ruins bread, even through its plastic etc.

Well, I saw this tip on Pinterest, and it works! You put your ice packs in a ziploc bag, along with a clean dry sponge. As the ice pack melts and produces condensation, the sponge soaks it up! Just put the whole thing back in the freezer to re-freeze every night, and back in the cooler in the morning. So in my freezer when you see ziplocs full of ice packs and sponges, you know why;-) We're not crazy, we're smart!
in the lunch pic above the ice pack is sitting on it's yellow sponge:-) This one I pulled out of my freezer for a pic
Another tip...I do this a lot actually. When I buy something, especially if I bought it in bulk, I Sharpie details onto the packaging. In this case, I bought 500 brand name Ziploc bags from Costco on Dec 19, 2012. They were 7.99, making them .01598 per bag, which is cheaper here, than Great Value brand for the same size. I write the info on each box (500 came in 4 boxes), that way when I run out I know what I got, and how much it was, and can compare when re-buying if prices have changed. I do this for things I don't buy often (or thing that will take a long time to consume, like the ziplocs). The date is helpful too, because I will know how long it took me to use them all up, which helps with budgeting.
Sometimes instead of buying the little bags of chips, I get regular bags and make my own "small ones" using ziplocs. I trap lots of air in the bags on purpose to help cushion them and it works well, and is cheaper than buying the smaller chip bags.

There you have it! Tips to help even the most particular lunch eaters!

Milk Bag Alternative

I am from here:
Markham, Ontario, Canada
Where milk comes like this:
in bags
Oh milk bags. I miss you...
Although useful, they were also the bane of our existance growing up...WASHING MILK BAGS. Ugh.

But they do save a lot of money - as you don't have to buy as many ziploc bags for lunches and snacks.

Enter these guys:
Re-Pac bags. They are not free, like the milk bag, but they are as useful, and easier to deal with!
 I got a Groupon for these Re-Pac bags, making it 3 for $10, instead of the normal 3 for $22...pricey. I would not have bought them at $22, actually. They are approximately the size of a ziploc as you can see above.

They are great for snacks and things that do not need to be airtight. Like their freebie cousin, the milk bag, they are not completely sealable (they zip with a zipper), so you still need ziplocs for certain things, and for marinades, etc. Anything requiring airtightness, really.

The advantage they have over their freebie cousin, is that a) they are available everywhere/to anyone and b) NO WASHING!

Well, you definitely do wash them, by one of three methods, the dishwasher, the washing machine, or by hand. Really only 2 methods, as washing by hand is the most ridiculous option, ever.
The insides are a waterproof-ish material. Wash in dishwasher, and done.
I love these because they are saving me money with not sending ziplocs with Brian's lunches, and they save the environment from a little extra plastic, and I don't have to WASH THEM!

My kids do not know how easy they have it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Lightning McQueen Cake

I started today on Grey's cake. I have both his and Kenna's cakes to make this week. His birthday is on Thursday, which is also the first day of t-ball, so I wanted to get a head start on it, so it's easy peasy on Thursday.

He wanted a Lightning McQueen cake, and I didn't want to buy a cake pan...I saw an idea online awhile back, but now I can't find it - pinterest? another site? anyway, here it is!

Find a colouring sheet online and print it off. Enlarge if needed. Cover over with wax paper and secure both with tape so they don't move around. If there are any letters or numbers, REVERSE the image before printing. (This is something I didn't really think about until I was done and had backwards numbers)
Melt coloured chocolate wafers and start piping the design. Remember, what goes on top when you see it in reverse is what goes on the bottom when you are decorating. Like the blacks of his eyes, before the coloured part.
All done the details, now its time for the red!
And he's DONE! Pretty cute right? When I looked at him I was pretty bummed that I didn't think to reverse the image, 'cause now the 95 is a backwards 59...I considered redoing the whole thing, but, he's turning 3...he doesn't know how to count to 95 yet:-), so I think I'll just leave it. Once the cake is baked and iced, I'll just put this on the top. Done. Pretty easy right?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Gluten Experiment

I've decided to try Brooks on a gluten free diet for about 3 months, and see if his tummy issues/overall health improves at all, and I will likely get him allergy tested in the summer. He went gf starting on Friday, after eating the promised birthday cereal of Kenna's. First up, snack. My homemade granola bars are gluten free, and I stocked up on some gf cookies, and also had make No Bake Cookies/Haystacks - also gluten free. Morning snack is usually a cookie type thing, afternoon snack is usually a fruit or veggie, so we're safe there.

Lunch. I had already decided to make pancakes (what Kenna wanted for her birthday), and so I made gluten free ones! I used my normal pancake recipe, and didn't change a thing, other than sub out the flour, for Trader Joe's GF All Purpose Flour. This flour, from TJ's, is 4.99 for 2 lbs, (pricey!!), and does not need Xanthan Gum to be added, which is typical for substititute flours in GF baking - you need the Xanthan Gum to bind it together.

I literally did not alter my recipe AT ALL, just subbed out the flour, cup for cup. Well, I likely should have added a touch less milk than originally called for - It was runnier than normal. Typically this would not be an issue, but my griddle is kinda bent/warped/not perfectly flat anymore. So it sent the batter running for the low spots on the pan. This created oblong pancakes, instead of round. Oh well.
They didn't "bubble up" exactly the same, normally my pancake have large bubbles (so you know its time to flip), these pancakes had teeny tiny pinprick sized bubbles.
My bent up pan! Poor pancakes!
The result - the pancake was thinner - did not puff up the same, however taste and texture were not compromised. They tasted just fine. And not "just fine for gluten free", they tasted just fine, period. I used the same amount of batter to make the pancake as normal (about 1/4C), so they were just thinner and larger instead of smaller and fatter.

All the kids ate them, and I did too, and everyone ate their normal amount, requested seconds etc. I didn't mention they were gf, and no one seemed to notice, so it passes that taste test! I froze the leftovers for Brooks to reheat for later meals, and I think I will normally do that - make a batch for him and freeze the rest until used up. The gf flour is too pricey to make it for everyone, but with his tiny appetite, it should be able to last awhile and be more affordable. Other brands that DO require the addition of Xanthan Gum (it's a powder and thickening agent) are only about .50c cheaper than the TJ's brand, so we'll have to see what I find works best in recipes, as we go forward.
For now, he is excited that he has his own food that no one else is allowed to eat (his own cookies, and his own loaf of Udi's gf bread), but I'm sure that will wear off soon! Today at Costco he was denied several samples because they contained gluten, and that made him pretty miserable.

For dinner, in addition to our regular pizzas, I made a gf pizza crust, from a mix that you add yeast and oil to, and it was actually not bad. To me, it tasted like pizza "from a box" in the frozen aisle. You know how those pizzas have a slightly "something" taste to them, but while being somewhat flavourless, are still alright? Well, that is what I would liken this to. Definitely not terrible. Not an exact replication of normal dough, but it tasted fine enough for a gf person to enjoy pizza without complaint. Brooks didn't complain at all, in fact, and I also ate that pizza with him and it was good. Different than "the norm" but not bad, so I guess that makes it good!

I'll post some good tasting gf recipes as I come across them. Lucky for him, much of our diet consists of fruit, veggies, rice & meat, so he's golden there. Brian and I have cut back on pastas, but I still make it for the kids. I have bought a few gf varieties and will have to see which one he likes the best.

Wedding Suit

I'm trying on Grey's clothes for my brothers wedding coming up. I need to make sure we have everything we need before its time to leave!

Anyway, he really loved his suit, and insisted upon pictures, so he could see himself. Perhaps I should invest in a full length mirror:-D

And we really didn't get one decent shot, thanks to his shenanigans. But the suit is adorable;-)
He's a poser. Oh brother.