Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Canada Day - With Glowing Hearts!

I love Canada Day. Not only is it a celebration of my country's birth but also a day of celebrating family.

We celebrate Canada Day at the family cottage in eastern Ontario.  My husband and his brother grew up spending their summers exploring this same shoreline, racing bike through the forest paths and of course toasting marshmallows, singing songs and telling ghost stories around a campfire.  I feel blessed that my kids are now getting the same opportunity to experience life outside of the city.


Many years, Canada Day marks the first time that our entire family is able to make it to the cottage together. While our family doesn't live particularly far apart, with work, school, sports and activities it seems that over the winter too many weeks can go by without us seeing each other.  Our family cottage is a place where we all love to spend time and make a point of visiting as much as we can each summer.  There is no t.v., no computer, and most of the time, no cell phone reception.  It truly is a place to gather and enjoy the ones we are with. 



Canada Day is the launch of our summer togetherness!  It is a day (long weekend) spent swimming, boating, tubing, water skiing (not me - loooong story), playing catch, kicking a soccer ball, chasing frogs, eating, drinking, toasting marshmallows and filling our bellies with strawberry shortcake, local corn, burgers, dogs and s'mores.  Of course, no Canada Day would be complete without "oohing" and "aahing" at the firework show my brother-in-law lovingly puts on for us each year.  It is a magical time.



Canada Day is always filled with the promise of what summer holds ahead and it never fails to produce wonderful memories that last throughout the year.  We are fortunate to live in such an amazing country and have such a special place to celebrate it together. 

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chocolate Covered Oreos - Simple, Delicious, Impressive

Another bake sale tomorrow, final one of the year.  This time I'm taking an old favourite, OREOs and giving them a little boost with chocolate and sprinkles.  Who doesn't like sprinkles?

I found these Anniversary OREOs at the grocery store.  They have sprinkles in the icing.  I thought they'd be the perfect foundation for my treat.

Image:  Love on High Heat

Ingredients:

  • OREOs
  • chocolate
  • sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or on low heat in the microwave.  Be sure to watch it because burned chocolate is awful.
  2. Dip an oreo into the chocolate one at a time.  I use a fork to dip it and a spatula to help spread the chocolate and remove excess.
  3. Generously top one side of the OREO with sprinkles.  Place sprinkle side down on parchmount paper.  Add sprinkles to the other side.
  4. Let them cool and harden.

This recipe is simple and pretty quick to make but I must admit that I had a collosal fail making mine. You might have been wondering why the before photo shows red and white melting chocolate but the final product is milk chocolate.  The truth is that I inadvertantly splashed water in the melted white chocolate which immediately ruined it and the red melts just wouldn't melt.   They were left over from a previous recipe, perhaps they were too old.  Anyway, milk chocolate is tried and true and always in my pantry.  Try making some for your next party!



Monday, June 25, 2012

Thank you Teachers! - Easy Personal Card Idea

It is officially the last week of school, time to say goodbye to our amazing teachers and get ready for summer vacation.  My kids and I worked together this weekend to put together our end of year gifts for their teachers.  We combined two ideas I had shared earlier and I think the results were fantastic.

We made a variation on the "Chalkboard Flower Pot" for each of their teachers.



We painted the black first and taped off the rim so that we wouldn't get any black where we were eventually going to put the yellow.


Instead of using chalkboard paint we just used black craft paint. I wanted the kids to write the message in something permanent instead of chalk because I was worried it would rub off on the way to school. I bought a silver 'Sharpie' and it worked a charm.

I also sprayed it with a coat of Krylon Matte Finish to ensure the craft paint wouldn't run or wipe off when the flowers are watered.


I don't think the look is too different using marker instead of chalk but I know that the message will last the test of time. As our flower pots dried, we worked on our cards

I asked each kids to give me a list of words to describe their teacher and their year.  As they listed them off, I typed them right into Wordle.   I saved the image and printed them, selecting 3.5" x 5" so that we could glue them onto the front of the blank cards I had picked up at the dollar store.  Inside the cards the kids wrote their own personal messages to their teachers.



We wanted to thank our music teacher as well because she does such an amazing job and both kids love their music classes and choir.  Instead of words describing her we used all the names of the songs from the spring concert to make the jumble.  Our theme this year was 'Sounds Fishy to Me' so we chose shades of blue and green for the font.

NOTE: For clear instructions on making your own wordle, click here.  


I hope they like their gifts, the kids put a lot of work and thought into them.  Now bring on summer!

Friday, June 22, 2012

School's Out - Fun Traditions

"No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's..." well, you know how it goes. The school year is drawing to a close and summer vacation is just around the corner.



Do you have any traditions that celebrate the end of the school year? Here are some ideas you can try to start new tradtions for your family.

Image: The Daily Cootie Catcher

Special Lunch:


Our school has a litterless lunch policy so we use re-usable bags.  Somehow though I think this would be a wecomed change and surprise on the last day of school.  So simple.

Image Source: Unknown

Something to Wear:


How about a new t-shirt that shows where they're heading next year?  This one was designed as a birthday shirt but the Target decal shows them exactly what they're aiming for. 

Image & Idea:  Etsy store REVOLUTION46R46
You could easily make your own t-shirt with a plain t-shirt and fabric paint or some store bought decals that you print from your computer and iron on any clean t-shirt. 

Welcome to Summer Banner:


Can you imagine the kids' faces when they get home and find a "Welcome to Summer" banner across the front door?  I imagine looks of pure bliss.

Image & Idea: Family Fun


Image & Idea: Find Joy in the Journey
I love this photo from Find Joy in the Journey showing the kids crashing through the banner.  The joys of being young!

Movie Night Under the Stars:


A few years ago a neighbour and I rigged up an outdoor movie screen in their backyard.  While it isn't quite as glamorous as this one, it is a HUGE hit with the kids.  What screams summer more than an outdoor movie after the sun goes down?  Because it has to be quite dark, the movie always starts past my kids bedtime so it is really a treat.  This year I'm hoping we can do one on the last day of school to really ring in the summer holidays.

Image: Miss-Design


To make your own outdoor movie theatre grab the following items.

  • Computer or portable DVD player
  • Projector
  • Small speakers
  • White sheet
  • Finishing nails to tack up the white sheet
  • Movie of your choice
 All you need now is a bag of popcorn, your sleeping bag and pillow.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Perfect Patriotic Canada Day Snack

What is red, white and salty and perfect for Canada Day?  RED & WHITE Potato Chips of course!



Today I found the perfect snack to share on Canada Day. It is made in Canada, requires no baking by me and was only $2.99. 

I was at Winners and as usual the checkout line was long.  I always browse the products they have on the shelves surrounding the line up and often find myself picking up a little something else to add to my purchase (their marketing geniuses are onto something) . Today was no different. 

Today I found RED & WHITE Potato Chips by the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company out of New Brunswick. As it states on the packaging, they are made from "red and white flesh potatoes to honour Canada's heritage". How could I pass them up?




In fact, I bought a few packages.   I needed to open them and test them for this post, right?  Also, it isn't hospitable to limit any one's chip intake at a party so we had to have lots, right?  I'm supporting a Canadian business..., right?  Okay, I just tasted them. I actually think I need to go back and pick up another bag or two. Justification enough.



I'm sure they are available in other stores across the country.  If you see some, throw a package (or two) into your cart and save them for July 1st.   You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Year in Review - Simple DIY Word Jumble

A year end word jumble all about them is a great project to make for your kids or have them make for themselves.   It is a great keepsake commemorating their school year.


  

  
I recently stumbled upon a web based program called Wordle.  If you can type, you can quickly make one of your own.

Directions:

  1. Brainstorm words that represent them or their year at school. Possible ideas could be:
    • name
    • school year
    • grade
    • teacher
    • clubs
    • sports
    • adjectives
    • classmates
    • skills they learned
    • school trips
  2. Type the words into the text box and click "Go"
  3. You can modify the font, colour scheme and layouts to make each jumble unique.

Tip #1:

To make a word larger or more prominent, type it more than one time


Tip #2:

Do not put spaces between words or they will be separated in the jumble.  I typed multi-word phrases all as one word but used capitals at the beginning of each word and it turned out great.

Tip #3: 

Use the options in the toolbar to modify the font, layout and colour scheme to create a completely unique jumble for each of your children.


There are so many uses for a Wordle.  Make one for a teacher as a gift, create a collage of your favourite places, build a family tree or document your summer vacation.  The possibilities are endless!

Monday, June 18, 2012

School's Out - Let's create memories

The school year is drawing to a close.  As much as the kids are excited about summer, don't rush into it without taking time to celebrate all they've accomplished this last school year.  For 9 months they have worked hard, studied and learned more than we could have imagined.   They say a child's mind is like a sponge, I witness this in my children every day and I am constantly amazed.

Image: Wiser Today and Still Learning


Below are some ideas that will help you to capture their year and growth.  By continuting to do these at the end of every school year you will create a keepsake that both you and your child will cherish. 

End of Year Interviews:

Do an exit interview with your children each year and include a photo from the last day of school.  This is a great way to capture exactly who your child is right now. 

Image & Idea:  Alphamom



Image, Idea & Free Download - All For The Boys
Image, Idea & Free Download: Teacher's Notebook



If these samples don't suit your taste, you can easily create a fun layout in either Word or Excel and make up your own questions to personalize the interview for your family. 


First Day vs. Last Day Photos:

I have always been good about snapping a photo on the first day of school but have missed most last days.  Not any more.  I love this idea of juxtaposing your child's first and last days with side by side photos.  At the stages my kids are in, their teeth (or lack thereof) will be the biggest change.

Image & Idea: The Larson Lingo



This one is the best though (get ready to pull out the hankies).  Christina from Christina Dieselberg captured her son on his last day of high school holding a photo of his first day of kindergarten.  Just thinking about my kids reaching this milestone makes me teary. 

Image & Idea: Christina Dieselberg


Self Portrait - Then and Now:


I also love how Mel from the Larson Lingo had her daughter's draw a self-portrait in Setpember and June.  The difference between the two really shows how much she has learned and improved.

Image & Idea: The Larson Lingo


What to do Next?: 


Put it together and create a School Memories Album for each of your kids.  Both my husband and I had one growing up and we still love looking back at what we envisioned for ourselves each year.  Now we read them together with our kids.  They love seeing the school work, photos and dream jobs we listed each year.

While you can purchase nice pre-made memory albums, with home computers and printers being so good, you can create a pretty spectacular product right at home.  Continue doing these activities each year and you will eventually be able to have them bound into your very own hardcover school memories book. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork - Simple Father's Day Dinner

Tonight I made Mexican Pulled Pork Sandwiches for dinner.  They're quick, easy, and declious.  That's the trifecta of recipes isn't it? 

These would be perfect on Father's Day because you can throw it in the slow cooker in the morning, hang out with dad all day and look like a star at dinner when you serve up this delicious meal.

Image: Can You Stay for Dinner?

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

(adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner?)

1 lb pork tenderloin
1 680 ml can tomato sauce (I highly recommend Hunts Thick & Rich Spicy Red Pepper & Chilies)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with a little cooking spray.
  2. Place the pork tenderloin in the base of your slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients.
  4. Pour evenly over pork.
  5. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  6. When done, shred the pork using two forks.
I usually serve it on buns with either a tangy coleslaw or a blue cheese creamy coleslaw on top.  For my kids I throw it in a tortilla with homemade guacamole.  Simple and delicious!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cake made with Beer = Perfect Father's Day Dessert

I came across this recipe and knew instantly that this was going to be how we finish our Father's Day dinner.  Seriously, what father doesn't like beer?  Okay, I'm sure there are some but considering my daughter called beer 'Dada Juices' when she was a toddler, I think I'm onto something here.

I originally found this recipe in People magazine (my guilty pleasure) when I was at the hairdresser.  I've been thinking about it ever since.  The recipe is the creation of Chef Brian Leth of Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn, NY.  Here is his amazing recipe. 

Chef Brian Leth's Guinness Cake - Image courtesy of People Magazine


 

Brian Leth's Guinness Cake

Serves 10-12

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp. baking soda


Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat 8 oz. softened cream cheese until smooth; gradually add 1¼ cups powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended. Gradually add ½ cup cream; beat until blended.


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-in. springform pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Heat Guinness and butter in large saucepan over medium-low until butter melts; remove from heat. Whisk in cocoa and sugar.
  3. Combine sour cream, eggs and vanilla; whisk into cocoa mixture. Whisk in flour and baking soda.
  4. Pour batter into pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until cake is firm. Remove to wire rack; cool completely. Remove from pan. Spread frosting on top.
We're celebrating with another beer loving dad so I think we're going to have a hit on our hands.  One question though.  What do you serve to drink with this?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

End of an Era

Yesterday I went on a field trip to the farm with my son's kindergarten class.   I hate to admit it but leading up to the day I wasn't too excited.  I have a million things on my "to do" list right now and it is probably my 5th school farm trip (3rd time to this particular farm).  What could I possibly see that was new? 


Tractor ride with my special guy.

As I got ready yesterday morning it dawned on me. This is probably the LAST farm trip I will be going on with a school group.  What will be 'new' is the experiences my son and I will share on this particular morning.  All of a sudden the field trip held a lot more meaning for me. 


Learning about how plants grow & planting our own strawberries.


I started picturing the day when my kids will beg me NOT to go on the trips with their classes.  My mother's own tale is that she went back to work when I was in grade 5 because I asked her to stop coming on all the fieldtrips with my class. I'm not there yet but I can see it in the foreseeable future.  Slowly but surely I am getting closer to the end of an era, one where kids want their parents tagging along and are proud to show them off to their school friends.



At the time I signed up I did it because my son wanted me along and that was reason enough.  In the future I will jump at the chance while I have it.  In the end I savoured every last minute of a morning spent learning and exploring with my son, seeing him interact with classmates, teachers and leaders.  How else would I know that he will use a friend's hair for comfort just as he'd use mine or his sister's if I hadn't been on this trip?

A moment I won't forget.

What I was reminded of  is that it is the small things in life that make the biggest impact on us.  I can put aside the 'to do' list, it will be waiting for me when I get back.  What I can't put aside is this time and the opportunity to spend special moments with the ones I love.  It is these moments that will create the memories I will cherish.  It was a great morning and one I'm glad I didn't miss out on. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Father's Day Ideas for the Kids



Father's Day is just around the corner. It is time to get the kids together to make dad's day a memorable one. Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Decorate:

This banner can be made by the kids with construction or scrapbook paper. Click the link for this free printable set. 

Free Printable & Image: Amanda's Parties to Go

Variation:

If you really want to take it to the next level, run over to your local thrift store and pick up 16 real ties and add letters cut from coordinating fabric with a fabric adhesive such as No Sew Glue. Want to shorten it a bit? Use only 10 ties and spell out "father's day" or 5 ties for "#1 Dad".

Create:

There are many variations on this idea to be found. Here are a few simple ways to make a dad feel special and loved.


Idea & Image: Frecklephoto




Instructions & Image: Martha Stewart


Idea & Image: Babes In Hairland


Idea & Image: Real Life...Isn't Always Clever


Cook:

The idea of breakfast in bed is always so exciting for the kiddos. Here is a super cute free printable for room service at home. Have the kids hang it on the door before dad goes to bed. In the morning they can fill his order then snuggle with him after they've served him his breakfast in bed hotel style.


Free Printable & Image: Seven Thirty Three

Celebrate:

Everyone loves to feel appreciated. It is always funny to look back at how your kids perceived you at different stages of their lives. These printables make it easy for your kids to fill in the blanks to tell dad how much they care. Present dad with a true memento that is bound to make him smile this Father's Day!



Free Printable & Image: 4shared



Free Printable & Image: Activity Village



Free Printable & Image: The Crafting Chicks


Free Pass:

Now we know in truth that a lot of dads really just want a day on the golf course and a big BBQ to finish off their special day. Here's a cute way to wrap up the gift of golf with free printables you can do at home.


Free Printable & Image: Tatertots and Jello


Wishing you all a Happy Father's Day!

PS - Looking for a great dessert for dad? Here's the perfect ending to your Father's Day meal.

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