Tuesday, 28 February 2012

52 Projects – Week Four – Pantry Storage Boxes

I’m slowly working towards my 52 projects around the house – this might be a tough goal to accomplish. Weekends seem to fly by and before we know it, Monday is knocking on our door.

But, I’ll give it my best shot – and I’d rather have less projects I’m happy with than more projects that I’ll end up redoing. Quality versus quantity, right?

The next project in my ‘series’ is an idea I had after seeing this pantry redo

What’s not to love? And you know what I loved most – the boxes on the shelves. They added some rustic charm to the pantry and made it seem more part of the house instead of ‘just a pantry.’

But, finding boxes like that around here proved impossible. To me, anyway. Maybe they exist, but not anywhere that I knew about. So I made my own – with a lot of help from Mr. E.

We used inexpensive supplies that we picked up from Home Depot:

I played around with the sizing of the boxes on paper, to make sure they would fit on our shelves, and fit beside each other. 7” wide was the magic size for the small boxes.

So we measured twice (or more) and cut one box to make sure it would work properly.

Once we knew it would work, we began the first assembly line step – cutting the pieces. We ended up with a lot because I wanted six small boxes.

I also loved the colour of my inspiration boxes, so the next step was the long, slow process of staining all the pieces of wood. They’re pine, so they took the stain quickly. It just took a LONG time – a few evenings of staining, waiting and wiping. I took over the kitchen table for about a week while everything dried (good thing we have an island that we could eat at!)


Since it’s winter here, and we had the weekend without kids, we assembled the boxes in the house.

The compressor stayed in the garage, so the nail gun wasn’t very loud. And we didn’t freeze in the garage. J

Once we got the hang of putting the boxes together, they didn’t take long.

I added some vinyl letters that I cut with my Slice. I think it makes the pantry look more personalized, and everyone can find things in the boxes this way.

So, what do you think?

This was a time consuming project, but I think the time we put in was definitely worth it. These will help organize those items in the pantry that took up a lot of space.

Now, just to organize the pantry so these will fit on the shelves!

Cheers! Kim

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Meals - Week Eight and a Spanish Pork recipe

Wow! Eight weeks of meal planning and trying new meals almost every night. That must be a record for me. I'm happy with how this is working out. My binder full of recipes is getting used, and so are my cookbooks (I have lots of those). Nearly all recipes are good, so we haven't had to resort to take out yet. And keeping a record of what we've had makes the organizing junkie side of me happy too!

So, here's week eight's meal plan for the week, and a recipe from Clean Eating magazine that was really good.

Monday: Home made Macaroni and Cheese. While I couldn't find this recipe online, here's where it came from:
The mac and cheese was creamy and rich and definitely didn't taste like it was good for you!

Tuesday: Spanish Pork with Potatoes - this was good and didn't take too long to make. The goat cheese was a bit strong for the boys, but they said it was really good.

Wednesday: Subs - Mr. E was out of town and I decided that being lazy was okay for a Wednesday. So, the boys had subs (and I had leftover mac and cheese from Monday!). I didn't realize how expensive subs were - aren't they just sandwiches? All in, it was nearly $20 for the two of them (of course they got the combo which came with pop, that they never get during the week). Yikes - we won't be doing that very often.

Thursday: Crockpot BBQ Chicken - the boys helped me put this together in the morning before we headed out. An easy sauce and a bit of stirring made this come together really fast. It was okay - the sauce didn't absorb into the chicken very well, so it got average reviews.
This was the first meal that didn't make it back into the recipe book - not bad after eight weeks of meals!

Friday:  the unseasonably warm weather must be leaving the viruses and germs around, because I was not up for cooking anything. Mr. E whipped up burgers and hot dogs with a side of 'home fries' which went over really well. The home fries are fabulous and the kids ask for them all the time - I'll have to show you our tips and tricks.

So, onward and upward - here's to week nine of menu planning and healthy eating.

Cheers! Kim

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Meals - Week Seven and Cheddar-Scallop Cakes Recipe

Week Seven and our meal planning is going - okay. I'm not as focused on it this week, and it showed. I forgot to buy the ingredients I wanted for Tuesday's original dinner, so we had to change it at the last minute. This definitely takes time to plan and execute. Mr. E is helping out as much as he can, and the kids are getting involved in helping chop and make the basics (not by choice, but hey - I have to take what I can get)

Sunday: Cheddar Scallop Cakes and other appies – every now and then, I go on a mission to clean out the freezer. Today was one of those days. I found some frozen appetizers from last weekend, and this recipe for Cheddar Scallop Cakes. I had all the ingredients, so we ate these, nachos and the rest of an Oriental Party Pack, while sitting and watching tv. This was a nice relaxed dinner and didn’t take long to make.

Monday: Tuscan Pasta – not going grocery shopping on the weekend can make for some interesting meals on Monday J This meal has no meat, but white kidney beans for protein, and is fast and easy before tae kwon do.

Tuesday: BBQ Pork Chops - Mr. E to the rescue!

Wednesday: Ground Beef Gyros – even though the pitas fell apart, the kids loved being able to eat dinner with their hands J

Thursday: Slow Cooker Pot Roast – a Sunday dinner special on a weeknight! I love my slow cooker and it’s getting used a lot these days.

Friday:  Leftover night. All these great meals made more than enough for seconds, so we cleaned out the fridge.

Saturday:  Pizza. Mr. E and I were on our own for the night, and we put in a full day of house stuff, so we wanted something quick and easy. A frozen pizza loaded up with extra veggies and bacon was just the thing.

As we try more and more new recipes, using a simple ‘like’ or ‘don’t like’ to rate each of them isn’t very effective at keeping track of our make-agains. So, I’ve started asking the kids to rate each meal from 1 to 5. Let’s see how well it works J

Cheers! Kim

Friday, 17 February 2012

How to Ripen Avocados Quickly and my Simple Guacamole Recipe

This might be common knowledge for some people, but it doesn’t seem to be well known around here (although I suppose avocados aren’t really common in Alberta!) Mr. E told this to a woman in the grocery store a few months ago, and she thought he was nuts.

Maybe men aren’t supposed to know things like this?

Anyway, I guess that’s besides the point.

Do you know how to ripen avocados that are still hard?

I have no idea where I learned this – Martha Stewart maybe (she knows everything). Anyway, if you have the urge for guacamole and want to make it yourself, finding avocados out of season means they’re more than likely hard and not usable right away. (although I realize that I don't know when avocados are in season, since they don't grow in Canada. When are they in season?)

I’ve learned the hard way (pun intended!) that you need to buy avocados that are a bit ripe – if they’re rock hard, they probably won’t ripen at all and you’ve wasted your money. They make absolutely horrible guacamole. Blech. Trust me when I say that.

Anyway, if you put your avocados in a paper bag, close it and sit it on the counter overnight, by the next day they’ll be the perfect consistency. And you can make this:

My recipe for guacamole is as simple as it gets: two avocados, about ¼ cup of finely diced red onion, and about a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice. Mush the avocado, mix in the onion and juice and let sit for half an hour or so (this lets the flavours mix together). It’s delicious. It doesn’t need any other ingredients, in my opinion.

Mr. E and I love this as a simple snack, along with whole wheat nacho chips. A little goes a long way since it’s high in fat (the good fat, but you still don’t want to overdo it). It lasts a few days, but starts to turn brown on the top pretty quickly.

This version of guacamole is simple, fast and delicious – a great snack.

I might have to make this again soon. It's that good.

Cheers! Kim

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

52 Projects - Week Three - Framed Recipe Card

This project is appropriate for the week three project because that’s how long it took – three weeks. I learned a lot about glue with this project, specifically what does and doesn’t work.

Anyway, here is the finished project: 

My framed recipe card - finally finished!

A close-up view

Making this frame definitely tested my patience – this was not an easy project, although it should have been.

The frames themselves are simple Ikea Ribba shadow box frames. I attached some faux leather to the back, to blend in with the frame and allow the recipes and fork to stand out. (I just used spray adhesive to put the leather on – like I did for these frames)

For the first try, I used glue dots for the recipes and the fork. The recipes stayed attached just fine, but the fork had fallen down by the next morning.

Fail with the glue dots.

My next attempt was to use my glue gun on the fork – hot glue works on everything, right?

Wrong. The next morning, the fork had fallen down.

Fail with the glue gun.

By this time, I was frustrated slightly annoyed that this wasn’t the easy project I thought it would be. Heavy duty help was needed so that fork wouldn’t go anywhere.

Enter Gorilla Glue.  

And if this didn’t work, this project was done – I’d pretend it didn’t happen and I’d move on.

Gorilla glue didn't let me down. Or the fork. Three cheers for gorilla glue! J

So, why did I frame two recipes and a fork? Seriously? A fork.

There is a piece of each of my grandmothers in this frame. The recipes are handwritten by my maternal grandmother, and I remember her pulling these out of her recipe box and making them, again and again.

The writing is hard to see, but the recipes are for Arrowroot Squares (an unbaked dessert made with – you guessed it – arrowroot cookies). The second is for Jam Thimbles, which are her version of jam thumbprint cookies.

I spent a few of my childhood summers with my grandparents, while my Mom went to University (what a role model!) so I remember these recipes, and many others, well. I learned how to cook and bake by watching her, and being allowed to help out and try on my own. Wonderful memories were made those summer days.

And, the silver fork was my paternal grandmothers – she used it as a child, my Dad used it, and so did I. There’s a spoon that matches it somewhere in the house, so hopefully I’ll find it as I clean and organize things.
Displaying these in the kitchen makes me smile – they are pieces of my history and both of these women helped shape who I am.

Cheers! Kim

Monday, 13 February 2012

Meals - Week Six

Some weeks are definitely more challenging with meal prep than others. While the meals aren’t challenging or time consuming, a long demanding work day means I have less patience when things don’t work out quite the way I envisioned. Oh well, nobody went hungry and nothing ended up in the garbage J

Sunday: Steak and Potatoes – since it was just Mr. E and I for dinner, we had one of our favourites. Mr. E is a great BBQ-er and it’s so nice not to have to cook once in a while.

Monday: White fish fillets with warm corn relish. This was fairly quick and easy – using cornmeal for the breading made it nice and crunchy. Next time I’ll bake it in the oven – that might make the breading stay on the fish instead of ending up on the bottom of the frying pan. Grrrrrr.

Tuesday: BBQ Pork Chops with edamame beans. Mr. E came to the rescue again by taking the cooking off my plate. He’s the best J

Wednesday: Ginger Chicken – this was a delicious combo of soya sauce, grated ginger and garlic on oven baked chicken. It was quick too, so we could get to activities with lots of time to spare.

Thursday: Slow Cooker Spanish Rice – have I mentioned how much I love my crock pot? It makes Thursday night dinners a breeze. And this recipe made enough for leftover lunches for Mr. E and I for two days, which is an added bonus.

Friday: Swiss Chalet – the boys turned 12 today (where does the time go?) so they got to pick dinner Friday and Saturday (they each have different favourites). Aidan, as the oldest, picked first and chose Swiss Chalet, so I took the easy way out and had it delivered.

And every birthday needs a cake, right? I didn’t have time to make one (I made 40 cupcakes on Wednesday for them to take to school on Friday, so I was ‘baked’ out this week), so I picked up cupcakes from Bliss, which is close to work. They have amazing cupcakes and it gave the kids the option for different flavours.

Bliss Cupcakes - yum!

Saturday: Subway – tonight was Zachary’s turn to pick dinner, so Subway it was. And since there’s one in the neighbourhood, dinner took about 10 minutes. And the best part was no dishes to wash after!

So, no recipes to share this week – I’m only linking to ones that are online. The cupcake picture makes up for that, right? They are delicious J

Cheers! Kim

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Meals - Week Five, Pasta e Fagioli and Spinach/Artichoke Dip recipes

I think we're settling into the groove of menu planning - it seems easier as we go.
Here's what we had for Week Five:

Sunday: Pasta e Fagioli soup - I love Fine Cooking and have a lot of their special focus publications. So, when Mr. E and I were looking for a bit of a treat, where else would I look?

It was fantastic - and we had leftovers for Wednedsay dinner, and Thursday lunch. What a bonus!

Monday: Mediterranean Chicken Casserole - this was made on Sunday night and just needed to be baked for half an hour. Which is exactly what we need on an activity night - something fast.

Tuesday: Spiced Pork Tenderloin - with pear and cranberry relish. This was tasty

Wednesday: We had enough soup from Sunday left over that we had it again for dinner tonight.

Thursday: Homemade Egg McMuffins - Mr. E made these as I laid low wits the flu. Good times - but the boys love these so it all worked out.

Friday: Mr. E and I went out for lunch today, and we had leftovers. So, the kids had take-out pizza and we had leftover lunch. It was quick and easy after a long week of work.

Saturday: With no kids, it was a relaxed evening. We decided to have appetizers and French Onion soup. Except we had enough appies that we didn't need the soup.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip


home-made Guacamole (avacdo, red onion and lemon juice - a healthy, but rich and yummy dip)

This was another successful week of meals - here's hoping that the winning streak continues!
Cheers! Kim

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cleaning my studio - a creative result

So, when I finished cleaning my craft room / studio (you can see that here), I figured I'd use the space to finish the projects I've got planned, instead of using my kitchen table. I had no idea that there would be other benefits.

My creativity came back!

As I mentioned in my post about cleaning my studio, most of the time I would walk right back out again. Which meant very little impromptu creativity, and zero scrapbooking at home.

Not any more.

In the past week, I've completed three layouts - three!

That may not be many for some scrapbookers, but I haven't completed a single scrapbook page at home in more than three years. This is a huge deal for me! Woohoo!

As I was cleaning up, I found a few pictures I had printed a while back - ones that I wanted to scrapbook. I saw them after everything was put away, and *BAM* I had an idea of what I wanted to say about the photos. I pulled stuff out - because I had a clean table to use - and I did it. I scrapbooked.

It felt great - it was fast (which is unusual for me) and I love the layouts.

Wanna see?

I hope that everyone else who completed their 'impossibilties challenge' feels as good as I do.

Cheers! Kim