Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Elf Yourself

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011 Gift Tag Round-Up

Okay folks, only one week left until the jolly old elf slides down your chimney bearing toys and Christmas joy. That means you only have 8 days to get everything wrapped and under the tree. My favourite part of wrapping gifts is the tag and with so many awesome (and free!) options being offered, there is no need to spend your money on the sticky labels from a big box store.

Here are some of my favourites that I came across in my searches. Any of these can be printed on card stock or full sheet labels and cut out.

Chevron Tags from Marry This

Bookmark gift tag by A House Full of Moxie
{download at Simply Modern Mom}

Blush Printables can always be counted on to have beautiful gift tags.
These traditionally coloured tags are this year's offering.

These round tags using the Skunkling font are also from Blush Printables.

These modern gold and purple tags are another Blush Printables design.
{download at The Sweetest Occasion

Modern red and green tags from domestifluff.

Feminine gift tags by Hello!Lucky.
{download at How About Orange}

These tags from Jones Design Company are available
in five different colourways.

Finally, if you are making any gifts or doing any canning, Frugal Living has various canning labels available for download. I particularly like these traditional ones.

Are there any labels you've come across that I missed?

Merry Christmas and happy wrapping!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Making an Advent calendar

Growing up we never had Advent calendars. I don't think it was for any particular reason, they just weren't a part of our Christmas tradition. When A. and I started living together we bought the cheap $3 calendars from Wal-Mart with the waxy chocolates that we stopped eating after day six. As M. gets older and understands more about Christmas I wanted to make something that would be meaningful and that would allow us to track which activities we did over the years. I pinned several different inspiration photos to Pinterest but the one that ultimately stole my heart was this library cards & pockets Advent calendar from Not on the High Street.

I used this picture as an inspiration for my own project. I used materials that were readily accessible and purchased what I needed (sturdy scrapbooking paper, vinyl stick-on numbers, and mini clothespins) from Michael's. My book pockets have an adhesive back so I cut the scrapbook paper to size and attached the pockets to the paper.

True to my library nerd nature I looked up the Library of Congress call number for Advent calendars (GT 4988.5 if you care) and created a Cutter number (signifies the author) for our last name. My brilliant co-worker (a crafting whiz in her own right) suggested the phrase "On the {number} day of Advent" as the title proper (fancy cataloging term) for each card.

I mapped out our activities on a calendar beforehand (some items had to be placed on weekends) and then wrote them out on the borrower line of the book card. This way we are easily able to see what we did year after year since each year will have its own line on the card.

I strung everything up on a heavy twine and each day we pick out the card as a family. I'm really loving it so far and hope it can turn into an annual tradition!

When I was trying to come up with 24 different activities I searched around and found some great lists like this one from Jordan Ferney and this one from Kim McCrary. I took a few ideas from them and came up some more that suited our family and arrived at the following list. Borrow at will!
  • Hang the wreath
  • Pick out a book for the Birth & Babies exchange
  • Make a tree topper
  • Decorate the tree
  • Hang stockings
  • Make a popcorn garland
  • Pick an item from the World Vision catalog
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Pancakes for dinner
  • Go tobogganing
  • Make cookies
  • Make a Christmas craft
  • Hot chocolate in front of the fire
  • Drive around the neighbourhood to look at lights
  • Make snow angels
  • Hang yearly ornament (Tradition #1: M. gets a new ornament every year. She will then have a starter collection for when she has her own home.)
  • Go skating
  • Visit Santa
  • Pick a Christmas treat
  • Watch Mickey's Christmas Carol
  • Snowball fight
  • Unwrap a new book to read tonight
  • Christmas PJs (Tradition #2: New pajamas every year at Christmas)
  • Read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (Tradition #3: We read from the same copy A. had as a child)

Do you have an Advent calendar every year? Have you ever made one?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2012 calendar round-up

It's that time of year again! Your December is full of Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, and family dinners and friends are already sending you invitations for January. Time to find somewhere to collect all of these dates. Enter the 2012 calendar.

Last year I featured a calendar a day but I decided to do things a little different this year. I explored pages and pages of results on Etsy and pinned my favourites to my "calendars" board on Pinterest.

Calendars pin board
The focus this year is on poster calendars; that is, the year at a glance all on one page. There are some really great options out there and these are just a few that caught my eye. To see all 39 calendars, click through to Pinterest.

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest
 {Such a unique idea - I love it!}
Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

Source: via Courtney on Pinterest

I hope you find something that you will love for the whole year!

Are there any that I'm missing? Have you found a calendar that knocks your socks off?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Things I Learned in the US

We just got back from a week in Palm Springs opening up my grandparents’ trailer (which came with its own set of issues) and these are some things I learned in the Unites States.
  • Montana doesn’t have sales tax. Woohoo to guilt-free shopping at Target! Check out the Missoni for Target items I picked up on CLEARANCE!! The Target in Great Falls doesn’t carry Dwell Studio though so my mission wasn’t a complete success.
  • The ketchup tastes different. Can’t pinpoint it - more sugar or vinegar? - but it was a definite difference.
  • Traveling with a two-year-old is not my cup of tea. This past week has been an exercise in patience for everyone (and patience is not something toddler’s excel at). It was nice to get away but man, I am exhausted! M. is a generally charming child and I had people tell me she did quite well (travel is hard on adults too!) but that aside she missed naps, was off her schedule, didn’t have her toys and was cranky. I think future trips - until she stops taking afternoon naps and learns better listening skills - will be road trips. There are lots of places within driving distance that we love to visit (Vancouver! Winnipeg!) so we are good with that. Also, we need a vacation sans kid. It would be nice to not have someone demanding my iPod every 5 minutes and wanting to watch Dora the Explorer. It would be nice to be able to go out in the evening to a show or a nice restaurant where we don’t have to worry about our child throwing a temper tantrum. It would be nice to sit peacefully on an airplane without being hit or scratched by a whiny toddler and embarrassed because we have one of *those* kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter to pieces and want to show her the world but I think those explorations can wait until she’s a little older.
  • When you ask an American how far something is you’ll get an answer in miles not minutes.
  • Looking for guaranteed free wifi? Find your nearest Starbucks. The same can be said for Canada but Starbucks was a life-saver this week when I was waiting for an email and the RV park didn’t have internet. One of us would drive in to Desert Hot Springs every morning to pick up coffee (for A. ) and tea (for me) and update our emails.
  • It gets dark in the desert FAST! Daylight savings really messed with us this trip because it was dark (pitch black) by 5pm. The desert is also very quite and peaceful. We took a couple walks outside the gates of the RV park and A. is now convinced that he would like to retire in Palm Springs. He was also fascinated by the wind farms.
  • Date shakes are delicious! We went out to Shields Date Garden and I was able to cross an item off of my life list.
  • Being able to buy wine in a grocery store rocks. I always knew grocery stores sold liquor but when you like some wine with dinner it’s really nice not to have to go to a separate store.
  • I would definitely stay at the Ayres Hotel Manhattan Beach again. It’s right off the freeway but not at all noisy, is in a good location to access the sites, the rooms are big and nicely decorated (traditional European? French?), and the service was impeccable.
  • The Cheesecake Factory is way fancier than The Cheesecake Cafe here in Calgary, had valet parking, and hosted a wedding reception! These things may only apply to the Redondo Beach location but that's the only one I've been to. 
All in all, it was nice to get away but this is definitely a case of needing a vacation from our vacation. :)

Have you had a vacation end up being not quite what you expected?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Pinterest Challenge : Autumn edition

A lot of the projects that I've worked on around the house lately have been inspired by Pinterest, but the things I had planned to do this past weekend coincided perfectly with the second Pinterest Challenge that was hosted by Sherry, Katie, Ana, and Erin. Check out their projects - they are pretty awesome!

Since it was Halloween on Monday it was the perfect chance to try out some of the pumpkin designs I had pinned. My sister and I took M. to the Calgary Corn Maze over Thanksgiving and we picked out four lovely pumpkins. A. was in charge of two of them (M. coloured on one and then we carved a design) and I took the other two. The designs that peaked my interest the most were the pumpkin village {original source: Disney Family Fun} and the drilled holes {original source: Martha Stewart}. A. make a happy face using some cut out parts and we carved a monogram on M's coloured pumpkin.

I think they turned out pretty great although I should have stuck with one chevron row and used a bigger drill bit so more light got through. As it was, I had to leave the lid off on the little one so enough oxygen got in for the candle to burn.

The pumpkins were the main project I had planned for this challenge, but as luck would have it, we completed two others as well.

With winter fast approaching and snow in the forecast, we really needed to get some raised garden beds built so that I could plant my garlic, winter onions, and chives.  I had pinned many different raised bed ideas (like this, this, and this) but the design A. decided he liked the best was this cedar raised bed {original source: Sunset}.

I wanted two beds so we went with 6' x 4' so that it was easy to cut on a 12' board. Now, cedar isn't cheap so we could have done this project for less money if we had gone with pressure treated wood, but cedar is naturally rot resistant and we didn't want to run the risk of any of the chemicals from pressure treated boards leaching into our soil. Plus, cedar is beautiful and smells amazing!

A. built two 6' x 4' boxes in the garage in about an hour. It took another hour to dig trenches in our rock hard ground to settle the beds in to and about another hour to fill them with black garden soil. (I ordered a Big Yellow Bag from Eagle Lake Turf here in Calgary.) We did the digging and filling after M. went to bed. Now we are the weird neighbours who garden in the dark! All told we spent about $300 for the two beds - the cedar and supplies were about $150 and the bag of soil was $150 delivered. Seems expensive but the amount of money we will save on produce during the summer (fingers crossed) will pay off the beds in no time.

Last, but not least, I made these cranberry granola balls {original source: Sweet Potato Chronicles} for a Birth & Babies Halloween gathering we hosted on Sunday.

They were really easy to make and taste delicious! Sunflower seed butter is great if there are any nut allergies in the group and has a nice flavour but you could substitute any nut butter you want.

Did you complete a project recently that was inspired by Pinterest?

Friday, October 14, 2011


When I was a kid, my Mom made the best birthday cakes. I have strong memories of a Hickory Dickory Dock cake in particular and I want to be able to create these kinds memories for M. So, like any good Pinterest addict and parent, I have taken note of the trends that are big in kids birthday parties this year. The one that I thought would be fun for M's second birthday (and the easiest to run with) was rainbows! Specifically, I really wanted to make a rainbow cake. I was looking forward to seeing the looks of surprise on everyone's faces when I cut into it and who doesn't love bright colours on a summer's day?!

First, came the invitations. I loved these fun striped invitations by Chickabug on Etsy so I ordered the printable PDF file and easily printed them on my own. Unfortunately, the Canada Post strike foiled my plans of mailing all of them but luckily, since it was a PDF, I was able to email copies. Crisis averted!

Next, I decided that I wanted to start a new birthday tradition with a fabric "Happy Birthday" banner. Since the theme was rainbows this year I tried to find one that would work and would also be gender neutral (fun for the whole family!). This rainbow owls celebration pennant from stichinginsocks fit the bill perfectly.

I decided on an easy menu of BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, spinach salad and fruit skewers. These rainbow fruit skewers that I saw on Pinterest were a big hit!

Finally, the star of the show (aside from the birthday girl, of course), was the cake. I looked at several different recipes but since I didn't want to buy additional types of flour that wouldn't get a lot of use, I decided on this beautiful cake by Kitchen Corners.

It was easy to make - I did three layers instead of six; two colours per layer - and most importantly, it tasted amazing! I think we only had a small sliver left at the end of the day which I call a success.  Here is my finished cake complete with a cake-topper inspired by this one I saw on Pinterest. I simply created some diamonds in Word (no fancy Photoshop for this girl), cut them out and glued them onto a piece of shipping string.

Finished product

Happy 2nd Birthday!

What are some of your best birthday memories?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

DIY play kitchen

M. turned two in July and I decided that I really wanted to build a play kitchen for her. I had seen all sorts of great examples on the web and settled on this kitchen that I saw on Pinterest.

Like a lot of DIY play kitchens out there, this one uses the RAST nightstand from IKEA as the base. So, off to Ikea I went to purchase two nightstands and various other bits and bobs like a towel rack, handles and knobs. I picked up a cheap faucet and mixing bowl at Wal-Mart and purchased all of the hinges, fasteners and wood from Rona. I ended up stealing one of my Mom's smaller mixing bowls when I discovered that the one I purchased was too big around. (Don't worry, I gave her my new one!)

My step-dad was a huge help in the building process seeing as how the last time I used power tools was in grade 8 industrial ed. when I built a birdhouse. Bits of Becky provides great instructions including all of the cut dimensions so it was fairly straight forward. It took us about 5 solid hours of work and then another couple of hours by my step-dad to finish things off (apparently the oven door was a bit of a pain) and re-sand all of the edges. I should have started this project way before M's birthday but I'm a bit of a procrastinator. We did have it finished and ready to go for her birthday party though so I met my self-imposed deadline.

There are still a couple of things I need to do like add legs to the fridge (at least), sew a curtain for under the sink and possibly paint the whole thing. I might even add a backsplash with some of our left-over glass tile.

All in all, it was a success and I hope it stands the test of time so that one day our grandchildren can play with it.

Here it is loaded with all of the play food and the Green Toys kitchen set that she received as gifts.

Complete set



Have you DIYed any birthday gifts recently?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Library : work in progress

About a month ago I saw the bookshelf below on Pinterest and fell in love.

We needed to buy new bookshelves for our basement library anyway so I decided that four Billy shelves from Ikea would do the trick and that I would paint the backs yellow. We stopped by our brand new, friendly neighbourhood Lowe's and purchased a test pot of Olympic No VOC paint in their Bumblebee colour. I sanded all of the backs (the two smaller ones were a chip board type material but the two larger ones where paper so they took more paint) and crouched on my hands and knees this past Sunday and got painting. They turned out really well and only took one $5 test pot of paint!

We finished putting together the bookshelves tonight and lined them all up and I am so happy with how they turned out. I can't wait to FINALLY unpack all of our books and knick knacks! It's going to be such a bright, happy space.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday pancakes

Growing up, pancakes on Sunday mornings were something of a tradition. Every Sunday morning I would get up with my dad and help make pancakes. Plain, banana, berry or cheese - we liked them all! When my Dad moved to Yellowknife ahead of us to find a house and start his job I took over the pancake making role at the ripe old age of ten. There was a period of time in my teens when I went off pancakes. I'd simply had too many of them and was sick of pancakes. Now that I have my own family, pancakes are making a comeback as a Sunday tradition. And, without fail, my husband requests cheese pancakes. Cheese pancakes may sound weird, but I promise you, they are the perfect blend of sweet and savoury.

The recipe that I have been faithfully following for the past 20+ years comes from my Mom's old Five Roses cookbook. It produces a flavourful and, most importantly, fluffy pancake.

Click to see the larger image.

Some pancake cooking tips:
  • make sure your baking powder is fresh. You should hear a fizzing sound when you mix the wet ingredients into the dry. If you don't, your baking powder is too old and the pancakes won't be light and fluffy.
  • I reduce the sugar by 1 tablespoon. I don't like overly sweet pancakes. Plus, if you add fruit that will make up for the missing sugar.
  • Flip the pancakes when bubbles stop forming on the surface and when the edges are starting to solidify and look cooked. After 20 years I can also tell they are ready to flip by smell. They smell like cooked pancakes. :)
  • Without a doubt, I have had best results using my electric frying pan. I get consistent heat and know what the product will end up like every. single. time. I set mine to 350 F and always get perfect pancakes.
  • To make cheese pancakes I add a good handful of grated old cheddar - about 1 cup.

Bubbles have stopped forming and the edges are looking cooked. Ready to flip!


My favourite part of being designated pancake cook? Chef's choice! I always reserve the last bit of batter to make a pancake of my choosing. Today I made several mini pancakes.


Does your family have a Sunday breakfast tradition?