Friday, August 30, 2013

Get them Organized: Simple DIY Homework Station

As the kids head back to school we are trying to set out great habits for learning right from the get-go.  My son is going to be coming home with A LOT more homework this year.  To help transition him into this new routine I created a Homework Station.  I wanted one place that was dedicated to homework, held the supplies they  needed and allowed them to work without distraction.  Of course, I wanted to do this without breaking the bank.



I had been challenged to complete the Walmart Frugal Heroes challenge by doing all my back to school shopping for under $100.  Our kids don't need a lot of supplies for their school and heaven knows they have enough clothes but I do find that we need a lot of "school" supplies at home.  It seems that whenever they have homework we're constantly searching for paper, pens, etc.  That is why I decided to create a Homework Station.

We already had a child size desk.  Truth be told, this Creative Mama picked it out of someone's trash and gave it new life with a spray of paint (which you can actually find at Walmart).  It isn't big though so I didn't want to take up too much surface area with their supplies.

Here is my list of supplies for our Homework Station:

  • 50 coloured markers
  • 24 pencil crayons
  • 24 pencils
  • Electric pencil sharpener
  • 4 AA batteries (for sharpener)
  • Pens (coloured and blue)
  • 2 Highlighters
  • Eraser
  • Scissors - large and small
  • Glue stick
  • White glue
  • Tape
  • Ruler
  • Message board
  • 500 sheets of plain white paper
  • 200 sheets of coloured construction paper

First we attacked the writing supplies.  In order to keep them organized and contained I bought some cute scrapbook paper ($5) and covered some empty aluminum cans.  I chose 3 different sizes; 1 to contain all the markers, 1 to contain the pencil crayons, and 1 to contain all the pens, glue, scissors, etc.


Now I hate sharpening pencils and it seems that my kids love to break the tips so an electric pencil sharpener was a must for our Homework Centre.  I found this adorable one for $7 at Walmart.  It runs on AA batteries but even with my $100 budget I was able to purchase both!



Next I used the same scapbook paper to line the drawers of the desk.  It wasn't a necessary step but it sure looks cute!  These drawers became storage for paper so that it is always on hand.


It is important for the family to have a place to keep homework assignments, calendars, reminders, etc. so I included a message board in the Homework Station.  By using a magnetic wipe board we are able to attach letters that come home from school, write messages to each other and even do some homework help that can easily be erased afterwards.  They came in cool neon colours but with a red desk I stuck to black.


Here are a few more ideas I saw while shopping at Walmart that might work well for your Homework Station.


After purchasing all those items for our Homework Station I still had money to spare, I was rocking this Walmart Frugal Heroes Challenge.  We had received a note from my son's teacher outlining what he needed for school.  I was able to pick up the following items and still stay on budget.
  • Erasers
  • Tissues
  • Baby Wipes
  • Pencil Case
  • Pencil Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Because many of the items came in multiple packs I was able to get everything I needed for him and had duplicates for my daughter.  I will say that shopping with the kids made the task of being a Walmart Frugal Hero a bit more difficult but it was a lot of fun.  Here's my final tally...



Pretty impressive isn't it!  I think having a Homework Station will ease the chaos that has surrounded homework time at our house.  I hope you've found some inspiration to create a Homework Station of your own.

Disclaimer – I received a $100 Walmart Gift Card to facilitate my participation  in the
Walmart Frugal Heroes Challenge but as always 
the words and opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Repurposing the Sock Sorter

I love to find different uses for items. As you can imagine I have a lot of ribbons because of the products I used to make and the crafting I love to do. Trying to keep them all together, tidy and not having them unravel all over was posing a challenge.

I tried putting them all on a skirt hanger and it was good because it kept them all together but whenever I moved it or tried to unroll one of the ribbons, all the ones around it would unravel too. It wasn't the solution.

The other day at the dollar store I came across this pretty purple sock sorter. It is canvas, light-weight and perfect for the job at hand. I quickly filled it with spools of ribbons and now they are easy to see, right at my finger-tips and best of all, organized.


Sock sorter for ribbon storage


Now I just need to get back to the store to buy a few more for the rest of my ribbon collection. Happy crafting everyone!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School Snack - Mott's Fruitsations +Veggies

Back to school means packing lunches for two kids 5 days a week.  I'm always looking to strike that balance between a lunch that is healthy and also appealing to my kids. They are always begging for sweet treats that they see in their friends' lunches but I just don't feel right sending them with snacks that are full of artificial colours and sugar with no nutritional value at all.  I was given the opportunity to try Mott's Fruitsations +Veggies Snacks and I jumped at the chance. I'm always on the lookout for a new lunchbox treat.

Mott's Fruitsation + Veggie - Lunch box snack for school & on the run


My kids are old enough to read the box so they knew right away that there were veggies hidden in these fruit snacks.  I think they were a bit skeptical that they wouldn't taste good at first.  I could read their minds - Here goes mom again with her lame attempt at buying a 'treat' for lunch.

A few great things about Mott's Fuitsations +Veggies
  1. They contain real fruit and vegetable juice.
  2. Each pouch provides 100% of their daily requirement of Vitamin C. 
  3. They are gluten free.
  4. There are only 80 calories per pouch.

Their fears were extinguished because they loved them!  They both gobbled down the little bags I let them try and have been asking for them in their camp lunches every day.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that they contained 10g of sugar per pouch but when I compared this to the other gummy treats at the grocery store I found it was right in line.  At least I can rest assured that they contain real fruit and vegetable juice which the others don't.

Mott's Fruitsation + Veggie - Lunch box snack contains real fruit and veggies


I have actually thrown a couple of pouches in my purse for those emergency snack attacks that always seem to come up when you're nowhere near home.  As you can see, we've already had one such day, a trip to the local pool left the kids ravenous.

Mott's Fruitsation + Veggie - Great snack to keep in your purse


Mott's Fruitsations +Veggies are a great lunchbox treat for our family.  I'm lucky, both my kids love fruit and vegetables so incorporating those into their diets isn't a problem.  But, when it comes to finding a 'treat' that appeals to them but satisfies my desire to send them with snacks that will help fuel their minds and bodies for the day I can now rest easier. I'll definitely be keeping a box of  Mott's Fruitsations +Veggies  in my pantry, ready to make packing school lunches that much simpler.

Mott's Fruitsation + Veggie - Fruit and veggie treat for their school lunches


Contest Alert:

Back-to-school shopping can be expensive once you add up all the items the kids need for the school year.  Mott's Fruitsations +Veggies wants to lessen the burden for 3 families.  Visit the Life Made Delicious Facebook Page to enter a contest that could make your back-to-school shopping much more affordable! They have three $500 gift cards up for grabs until September 8th, 2013.  Good luck!

“Disclosure – I am participating in the Mott’s Fruitsations & Veggie fruit snacks Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Flakiest Peach Pie Recipe

As a child I have vivid memories of visiting the local Farmer's Market with my parents every summer, buying baskets of peaches and heading home for our annual Peach Pie making day.  By "our" I really mean my parents' annual peach pie making day.   My mom was in charge of the pastry.  My dad was in charge of the filling. I think my only job was to stay out of the way and eventually taste the final product.  It was a baking extravaganza.

Flakiest Peach Pie Recipe with pastry tips from Robin Hood Bake Centre


I love baking but somewhere along the way I developed a fear of pastry.  I had a few baking disasters with pastry that wouldn't come together, was either too wet or too dry.  I gave up on it altogether. I want to conquer this fear.  I want to learn how to make the perfect flaky pie crust and pass on these skills to my kids.  I want our Peach Pie Day tradition to continue.


This is why  I LOVE the new Robin Hood Baking Centre site.  I've always looked to Robin Hood for quality products and now I can look to them for baking guidance and inspiration too.  The new Robin Hood site is amazing.  It is clean, easy to navigate and contains amazing lessons and recipes to help bakers of all skill levels.  It is providing baking inspiration and helping me gain the confidence to get back in the kitchen and whip up desserts with and for my family.

My 3 Favourite Robin Hood Baking Centre Features:

  • Bake Class:The Bake Class is a series of short videos that take you through the steps visually - perfect for me.  I watched the video for the perfect pie crust before attempting my peach pie.  When I was making my pie I thought back to the video and didn't panic when my dough didn't seem wet enough.  I remembered the video and continued to success.
Online baking tutorials

  • Baking with Kids:
    This section of the site has simple, fun and child friendly recipes you can make together.  Not only that, it has other fun tools such as a cute printable baking certificate and great tips to involve your kids in baking and keep them safe.  Baking with the kids is something we all look forward to.  It is a great way to bond, to teach them about measurements and to create something spectacular together.  
CHOCOLATE OATMEAL ICE CREAM SANDWICH COOKIES
Chocolate Oatmeal Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

  • Recipes:
    Of course this one speaks for itself but there is truly a huge variety of recipes to inspire your baking.  I was particularly interested in the Gluten Free options because I have a few friends with sensitivities and I always want to have something special to offer them as well.  I also loved the savoury section because baking doesn't always have to be sweet.
Cinnamon Apple Loaf - Gluten Free

Looking for more inspiration and great baking tips? Join the Robin Hood Community to connect with other home bakers like yourself.  Ask questions, share recipes, upload photos of your baking successes!


Also follow Robin Hood on Pinterest for more mouth watering recipes.

Follow Robin Hood on Pinterest

Now that I've conquered my fear of pastry I can't wait to try the recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie this fall!  Time for the (now) famous peach pie recipe I promised earlier.  Courtesy of my mom and dad and of course with the perfect flakey Robin Hood pie crust...


Homemade Peach Pie Recipe:

Pastry Ingredients


Pastry Directions:

  1. Follow the simple directions for the perfect flaky double pie crust at the Robin Hood Bake Centre.
Flakiest Peach Pie Recipe with pastry tips from Robin Hood Bake Centre

Peach Filling Ingredients:

  1. In a large bowl sprinkle peaches with lemon juice.
  2. In a small bowl combine sugar, flour, salt and cinnamon.  Add to peaches.  Toss lightly to combine.  
  3. Put filling in pastry crust and cover with top pastry, pinching the sides and cutting slits in the top crust to vent steam.
  4. Bake at 425F for 45 to 50 minutes.

*You may want to put your pie on a cookie sheet covered in foil when baking in case it boils over.

I served this up as a surprise for my family at my son's birthday.  It is amazing how much joy and memories can be contained in a single baked good.  I have conquered my fear of pastry and look forward to next summer and the Peach Pie Day tradition continuing on!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cottage Bliss...to this!

We just got back from a week at the cottage.  As I've mentioned before, our cottage is just that, a cottage.  We don't have t.v., we don't have internet and we certainly don't have laundry facilities.  We spend most of the week either in or on the water.  That means, at the end of the week I've got some pretty dirty and smelly clothes to contend with.

Karma shone on me because when we arrived home I had a bottle of Purex Plus Oxi liquid laundry detergent waiting at the door for me.  I had been sent a bottle to try and I decided this would be the perfect test to see how well it would hold up to towels and clothes that had stains and were quite pungent.

As much as I love the cottage, there is something about going from this...



to this...



that can take a little bit of the joy out of 'getting away'.  However, I was excited to try this new detergent.  

Purex Plus Oxi contains two stain removers, Oxi and Zout.  It can also act as a pre-treater on tough stains if you pour a little on the stain, rub the fabric together then add it to the wash after waiting 5 minutes.  I had to do this on a few ketchup stained t-shirts and was impressed when days old stains came out.  

I was really happy with the detergent.  It got our clothes clean and it smelled great.  I haven't been using liquid detergent recently but this has convinced me to go back.

5 Things I loved about Purex Plus Oxi Laundry Detergent:

  1. Clean fresh scent.
  2. Hypoallergenic.
  3. Works as a pre-treater and detergent (less products to buy).
  4. Works in both top loader and front loader machines.
  5. Less expensive than other leading brands. 
Do you want to try a FREE bottle of Purex Plus Oxi detergent yourself?  I have 4 coupons to give away to Canadians.  Enter using the Rafflecopter draw below.  Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As you know, saving money is important to this Creative Mama so I wouldn't hesitate to use Purex with Oxi every time I do laundry.  Now if only I could get the laundry to fold itself.  Then you'd see a really happy mama.

Bid Adieu to Stains Sweepstakes:

From August 19 - September 19, Purex will be Bidding Adieu to Stains.  One grand prize winner will receive $500!  Enter here for your chance to win!


Purex provided me with a sample of Purex plus Oxi detergent in exchange for my product reveiw.
As always, the opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Treks in the Wild with my Family

This summer we decided to do a few staycations rather than going off on one big vacation and I’m really glad we did.  We quickly learned that living in Southern Ontario provides endless opportunities for adventure.  Our children got to explore and enjoy nature in our own backyard and understand how lucky we are to live in such a culturally rich, geographically diverse and absolutely stunning country.

Treks in the Wild - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario


One of my favourite day trips we did was a 3 hour canoe trip down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario with a tour company called Treks in the Wild.  I can’t say I’ve done a lot of canoeing in my lifetime and my husband is a pro, he grew up with a cottage, so I was a bit nervous about how this was going to go.  I knew the scenery would be pretty but I wasn't sure how long my 6 and 8 year olds would cooperate in a tippy canoe or how long my arms would hold up.  I had visions of us all capsizing as the kids began to get restless and our leisurely morning going up in smoke.  But what I quickly learned was that sometimes you don't know how much you'll enjoy something until you get out and do it.  

Treks in the Wild - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario


My fears were unfounded.  The kids loved the canoe ride and my arms held up.  Because we took a guided tour (highly recommend this) we actually divided the kids between the two canoes so there was no possibility of wrestling but the truth is, the change in pace, the change in scenery, the stop to hike and the presence of a guide who pointed out birds, history, plants, etc. kept them entertained and involved. 

Treks in the Wild - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario


A highlight for the kids was the short hike we took to a tree that had completely been hollowed out.  At first they guessed that an animal such as a racoon had done this to make a home but they were astonished to find out that it was actually termites that had done this over time.  The two of them had a hard time believing that such small insects could make such a big impact (a good lesson really).  On our hike our guides pointed out some fauna that we’d want to avoid such stinging nettle and poison ivy and they showed us some plants that you could eat in a bind (they cautioned us not to try this on our own).  My son continually repeated the mantra – leaves of three, let them be, leaves of four, eat some more.  I don’t think the leaves of 4 is real advice though but to a 6 year old it seemed to be hilarious.

Treks in the Wild - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario


The ride itself was fun.  There was a good mix of calm water and a few rapids to up the excitement.  There were some people camping along the shores and relics of old train bridges along the way.  Our guides knew so much about the local history of the region and about the river itself.  It was fantastic to have their expertise and for me, their steering.  Who knows where we would have ended up if I was in charge of guiding that canoe!  The kids both took a turn at paddling but quickly realised that it was far more fun for them to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery going by.

Treks in the Wild - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario


Our trip down the Grand River really was a Trek in the Wild for our family.  We tested boundaries and skills we hadn’t tested before and the kids got up close to nature.  Paddling in a canoe provides lots of time for talking and bonding.  It was a great family adventure!

Fresh Apple Fritters at the Brown Dog Cafe - Paris Ontario - Family Adventures in Southern Ontario

We had a great time in Paris, Ontario and were sad to bid our guides farewell at the end of our trip.  We did take their advice and stop in at a local cafe, the Brown Dog Cafe, to try out their fresh apple fritters.  The kids had their noses pressed to the glass watching them being made right in front of them.  The fritters were so good we picked up a baker’s dozen to take with us to a friends’ home for dessert that night.  Our guides never steered us wrong!  I really did fall in love with Paris, Ontario that day. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 Tips to Make School Days Simpler & More Organized

It is hard to believe that it is already that time of year again - back to school.  Yes, I said it!  Back to school.  The summer has flown by and we had tons of fun but now I am getting back into 'school' mode.  I'm shopping for the supplies the kids will need to take with them for the classroom.  I'm thinking about packing lunches and most of all, I'm trying to figure out the best ways to get us organized and ease the transition into the school year.  These 5 tips to simplify the mornings and eliminate the back to school chaos work for me.



5 Tips to Make School Days Simpler & More Organized:

  1. Establish and write out your morning routine.
    • For me the thing that stresses me out the most in the mornings is repeating instructions I think the kids should already know.  But, in the morning when we're all groggy these seemingly simple tasks take on a life of their own and are often forgotten. Having a routine written out lets everyone check for themselves that they're getting everything done so there is little need for reminders.
  2. Pack bags the night before.
    • No more scrambling in the morning to search for that library book or that one elusive gym shoe.  By packing bags the night before (leaving room to toss in their lunch), everyone can breathe easier knowing that they haven't forgotten anything.
  3. Create a lunch schedule/menu.
    • Some kids are happy having the same lunch every day, some prefer variety.  Whichever way your child likes it, create a schedule of lunches or a menu that they can choose from the night before (or better yet - on the weekend, planning out the week and your groceries)  so that lunch making duty is simple.  No more trying to figure out what to pack, simply read from the list and get it done quickly.   This is also a great way to help transition kids into making their own lunches.
  4. Attach a tag to their bag outlining extra-curricular schedule.
    • Remembering what kids need to bring to school with them on what days can be daunting for even the most organized.  Use a luggage tag (see my sample here) to affix their extracurricular schedule to their backpacks.  This will provide a reminder to them when they are packing their bags in the evening.  
  5. Label everything!
    • I can't stress this enough.  Even with the variety of products out there it is amazing how many kids have the same items.  It is also mind boggling how kids can leave their things on the playground, in the lunchroom, on the soccer field and not realise until you prompt them for that water bottle, sweatshirt, lunch bag, etc.  By applying a personalized label on their items you can help them identify their stuff and you are far more likely to get them back.  See my story here of how it REALLY worked for us.
By implementing these tips from day 1 you will set the tone and create positive patterns of behaviour that will carry through the rest of the school year! Happy New School Year to all!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Water Bottle that Walked & Came Back

Let me tell you a little story about a water bottle that went on an adventure then came back home.  Crazy you say?  Perhaps, but this story is true.



My kids attended day camp a few weeks this summer.  Every day I sent them with a lunch, their hats, a change of clothes and of course a re-usable water bottle.

One day the kids went on a trip to Toronto Island.  They took a bus, a ferry and walked a good distance to reach their destination, the beach.  After much frolicking in the water the kids had their lunches.  A little more fun and it came time to begin the journey back home.  Unbeknownst to my daughter, she had left her water bottle on the beach.

Some kind stranger (likely a counselor) picked up this water bottle and threw it into their bag.  It made the journey back to the camp but was quickly forgotten about and wasn't returned to my daughter.  Fast forward to a week later.  We had all but assumed that the water bottle was lost.  We pulled into our driveway after an evening at the soccer field only to find the water bottle sitting on our front step.  We had no idea how it got there but I knew in my heart HOW it had made it's way home.  It was the personalized label!



I LOVE my Stuck on You labels.  Before camp and before every school year I purchase labels for all my kids' items.  Every shoe, pencil and lunch container gets labeled before it is allowed out the door for camp or school.  This year we even got personalized lunch bags for the kids.  No mistaking who they belong to now.


With labels for clothing, shoes, large and small items alike, Stuck on You has everything you need to prepare your kids for back to school.  



Want to avoid your kids items ending up here?  Label their items!  

The actual lost and found at the kids' school this June.

Back to School Bonus:

Until the end of August 2013 you can enter the code: MAMA1 to receive free shipping on your Stuck on You order.  Warning though, labeling will become addictive when you see those loved items coming home day after day.  Trust me, it works!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Turn Dollar store panties into American Girl Bikini - Free Pattern

We went to the beach in the spring and a few days before the trip I was informed by my daughter that her American Girl doll didn't have a swimsuit.  We were travelling with my niece and nephew. My neice's doll had a swimsuit. The girls both wanted to take their dolls to the beach so the challenge was on.

Turn dollar store panties into a bikini for 18" Doll - Free Pattern for American Girl, Our Generation, Journey Girl


I had seen a picture of leggings made from a pair of panties for an AG doll. I figured if you could make leggings you could make a bathing suit. So, off to the dollar store I went to pick up some cheap undies.  

As I've never sewn stretchy fabric and I've never made a swimsuit I decided to go for a bikini. Somehow a two-piece seemed less daunting.

Turn dollar store panties into a bikini for 18" Doll - Free Pattern for American Girl, Our Generation, Journey Girl


I created the pattern for the bottoms using the doll's panties as a guide.  For the original top I simply wrapped the fabric and pinned it but since then the pattern I created has made it much easier.

Directions:

Download the PDF pattern here.


Materials Needed:


  • Pattern
  • New/clean panties
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins.
  • Sewing machine or needle & thread.
  • Velcro


Pattern:


  1. Cut out the pieces you printed.
  2. Trim off the pantie elastic at the seams of the legs.  Save this elastic for step #6.
  3. Lay out the swimsuit bottom pattern on your panties and pin it in place. Ensure that the waist of the doll's swimsuit bottom align with the waistband elastic of your panties.
  4. Layout the swimsuit top pattern on the panties and pin them in place. Also align the top of the swimsuit pattern with the waistband of the panties.
  5. Cut out your fabric pieces.
  6. Cut two 3" pieces of elastic from the leg bands. These will be your straps.


Sewing the bottoms:


  1. Sew along the edges of the legs using 1/4" seams.  Make sure you are sewing the seams on the wrong side of the fabric.   Do not sew the crotch.
  2. Turn the fabric wrong side out and lie up the front and back. 
  3. Sew along the side seams and the crotch using a 1/4" seam.
  4. Turn them right side out.


Sewing the top:


  1. Sew along the bottom seam using a 1/4" seam allowance.
    Alternative: you can use the extra leg elastic as a band on the bottom of the top. Simply sew it along the edge before going onto the next steps.
Turn dollar store panties into a bikini for 18" Doll - Free Pattern for American Girl, Our Generation, Journey Girl

Tips:



  • Choose ladies' panties in the largest size possible.
  • Choose abstract prints rather than stripes. Lining up your pattern is much easier.
  • Choose panties with thinner elastic at the waistband. The dolls aren't that big.
  • Always sew the small seams first.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Maple + Butter = ooey gooey Canadian tarts!

A family friend gave us a mason jar full of maple syrup he had tapped from trees on his property.  The other day I spied it in the fridge and knew at that moment that I had to make some ooey gooey butter tarts.  We were going for dinner at a friends' place so they would be the perfect ending to our meal.



I adapted this recipe from Canadian Living and totally cheated on the pastry but the result was delicious and the time it took was probably cut in half due to my short cut.

Maple Buttertarts


Filling Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cupbutter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Optional Add-ins

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  1. In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, eggs, vinegar and salt.  

Sour Cream Pastry (should you so choose to go all the way and not cheat like me)

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup cold lard, cubed
  • 2 tbsp Ice water, (approx)
  • 4 tsp sour cream

  1. Whisk flour with salt in a bowl.
  2. Cut in butter and lard using pastry blender until it resembles fine crumbs with a few larger pieces.
  3. Whisk water with sour cream; drizzle over flour mixture tossing briskly with a fork and adding more water if necessary.
  4. Press into disc; wrap and refrigerate until chilled (30 minutes up to 3 days)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8" thickness.
  6. Using 4" round cutter, cut out 12 circles, re-rolling and cutting the scraps.
  7. Fit into 12 muffin cups.
  8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Putting it together:


  1. Divide add-ons ( if using) between shells.
  2. Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into each shell.  The filling rises so don't fill to the top.
  3. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  The filling should be set and the pastry golden.
  4. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes then transfer to rack. 

My pastry:

  • I bought a 2 pack of Tenderflake Deep Dish pie crusts and brought them to room temperature.  Then I rolled them flat, cut out my shells and voila - instant pastry.  


For some reason I don't like the pre-made tart shells but these turned out perfectly.  I will definitely do this again!  Enjoy!

Do you have a baking shortcut secret?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Digging for Dinos - Summer Archaeologists

Summer is all about filling the days with fun activities that don't cost a lot, spark the imagination and keep our little ones busy.  Coming up with new ideas all the time can prove tiring so instead let's take an activity the kids already love and change it up a bit, giving it a new lease on life.



My kids have always loved sand and with sand comes sandcastle building.  But who says you always have to build castles?  Why not use the sand to build other things?

My son loves dinosaurs so we decided it would be fun to be archaeologists and put some dinosaur bones on display in the museum.



My son and I built the museum walls using a wall shaped container.  Don't have one?  No worries, use a plastic cup or take out container for your walls.



Next we used a dinosaur bone set I picked up at Loblaws last year.  I saw them again recently.  It was fun figuring out how to put the dinosaur together.  In fact, we may have been missing a few pieces but as my son reminded me, many of the dinosaurs in real museums don't have all their bones.  See - thank goodness for kids to snap us grownups out of our Type-A perfectionist mode.



My son thought that it would be fun to add soldiers (and security pigs it seems) to the wall to protect the bones from thieves.  Good thinking.



Encourage your kids to think outside the box this summer and come up with other fun ideas for getting creative in the sand.

Friday, August 2, 2013

First I Got Wet Then I Got Wild at Wild Water Kingdom

We didn't go away this summer but I still want that vacation vibe.  I want sun, waves, and someone else making and cleaning up my meals.  Is that too much for a mom to ask for?  Obviously not because Wild Water Kingdom has it all covered.

I know, I know, the name seems familiar but you haven't been in years.  Yes, I was the same.  I remember going to Wild Water Kingdom every summer as a teenager with my friends.  Fast forward a few decades, a few careers and a few kids later and I realised I hadn't been to Wild Water Kingdom in a very long time.  Now in it's 25th year, Wild Water Kingdom has evolved from the basic water park I remember to a full on entertainment destination.

Arriving at Wild Water Kingdom in Brampton, Ontario

The kids were excited to visit when I showed them the website.  Sitting on 100 acres in Brampton, Wild Water Kingdom boasts 15 full sized water slides, an enormous wave pool, a 1/4 mile lazy river, a rock climbing wall and a children's splash area with 7 child sized water slides, tipping buckets and more.  Some of their friends had recently visited with their camp and were telling them all about it.

Water slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers at Wild Water Kingdom

One of the touches I really loved was the ability to rent a cabana for the day.  While it did add another cost, it meant that we had guaranteed chairs, a home base should anyone get separated and it also provided well needed shade while we ate lunch because there was no way my kids were going to stop riding those slides and get out of the sun for any other reason but lunch.  The family next to us had a baby and used their cabana as a shaded nap time spot as well. Another bonus of the cabana is that it comes with meal service.  Instead of you running around to the different vendors for your food, a waitress will come and take your order then deliver it to you.  Ahhh...I am feeling the vacation vibe I was craving.  
Cabana Rentals at Wild Water Kingdom - include meal service
I was really impressed with the variety of food options at the park.  While there are the typical foods you might expect; burgers, fries, pizza, there were also more varied options such as Shawarma, grilled corn, fish and chips and Carribean fare.  Ice cream, slushie and popsicle options were abundant for cooling off and the Sand Bar serves licenced drinks so you can order that pina colada to sip by the pool (a mom can dream, right?).

Lots of food options at Wild Water Kingdom

Some of the water slides require tubes which you can grab at the bottom of the slides when they become available.  But you can also rent tubes for the day to avoid the wait for a tube at each slide.  This is a huge advantage on busy days.  Our cabana rental included the rental of 2 single tubes and double one as well as two lockers to lock up valuables.  We were set.

Tube Rentals - avoid waiting at Wild Water Kingdom

My kids had a blast all day.  They loved both the big water slides and the ones designed for the younger bunch.  Devil's Drop was a highlight because of the huge drop into the pool below.  They also loved waiting for the double buckets to fill and tip, drenching anyone who dared stand below. 

Wild Water Kingdom's great kids' area - water slides, splash pad, zip lines and more.


I have always wanted to go zip lining but have never had the chance, that is until I got to Wild Water Kingdom.  I had to try my hand at the Face Drop.  It towers over 90 ft above the water park and is 1200 ft in length.  You reach speeds of over 50 kmph as you soar above the park and get a breathtaking view of the park and the city around.  As brave as I am, I have to admit that when I first got to the top and walked out on the ledge I was a little scared.  Seeing my kids (who looked like ants) down below watching and waving, I gathered myself and pushed off.  It was AMAZING!  

Face Drop at Wild Water Kingdom - 90 ft high, 1200 ft long Zip line

The kids were a little disappointed that they didn't meet the 54" height requirement for Face Drop but after doing it myself I'm not sure they would have been that brave.  Luckily for me, they were able to get their own zip line experience only a few feet off the ground in the kids' area and that was excitement enough for them.

Kids' zip line at Wild Water Kingdom

A highlight for them was the rock climbing wall.  They thought it was super cool to get harnessed in and climb along side of teenagers and adults alike.  The rock wall is 25 ft and my son claims to have made it to 20 ft (he's given to slight exaggeration).  I think the rappelling down at the end was just as much fun as the climb for them.

Rock climbing at Wild Water Kingdom

Since I went as a teenager Wild Water Kingdom has added Wild Squad who are like the entertainment crew at a beach resort.  Their job is to keep you entertained and happy and they did a great job.   They had us up and singing, competing in hula hoop contests and dancing around the pool deck.  It was like being in the tropics but without the cost of a flight or the need for vacation days.  

Wild Water Kingdom - Canada's Premier Sports & Entertainment destination


We had a great day and the kids are begging to go back.  In fact my daughter is now hoping to have a half birthday (December baby) at the park with her friends.  We didn't even get to the Mini-Golf courses or Drive-in Movie Theatre that are also on the park's property.  Another visit is definitely in order.  Best of all, I now know where to get my vacation fix when I'm in the city, Wild Water Kingdom.

DISCOUNT:

Want to get Wet and Wild yourself at Wild Water Kingdom?  Use this code to save 25% on your admission when you purchase your tickets online!  CODE:  1000459

This post was gernerously sponsored by Wild Water Kingdom but the opinions and images are my own.
For more information, visit www.wildwaterkingdom.com.  

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