Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cottage Cooking

We will be vacationing en masse as a family of 17 shortly.  My parents have splurged on three cottages at a lakeside resort in western Ontario and we (assorted family units spread across three generations) will be soaking up the sun, fishing off the dock, swimming in the lake, making s'mores by the campfire, and trying to give each other space when necessary.

I'm all about keeping things simple on vacation.  The cottages come with basic furnished kitchens (woohoo) but not with grills (sigh).   I'm a don't-turn-on-the-oven type of girl in the summer - unless the temperatures have dropped a bit.   We don't have air con in our home at the moment and these days that feel like 40C leave you sweltering.  *If* I even drum up the energy to cook (we eat a lot of fruit and veggies and salads and sandwiches in the summer) - if I cook, it's done over the BBQ or involves a quick pan-fry - no fuss, no muss.    It also involves a fully stocked kitchen... and it still requires time in said kitchen.  We're going to have to think outside the box - err... oven - for some simple to serve meals that keep everyone satisfied.

I don't want to spend tons of time prepping while we're away - I want it easy, peasy, but tasty and delicious.  I'm not into a week of hot dogs or sandwiches on repeat... so today I spent the morning finessing our vacation meal plan and prepping freezer meals.  All I'll have to do while we're away is thaw in the fridge while I'm lakeside and pop on the grill at dinnertime.  (Oh wait... didn't I mention they don't have grills?  Why, yes, I did!  We found a great little tabletop propane grill at Walmart on clearance for less than $20.  It will be added to our camping stash when we return.)   If I'm not grilling, I plan on plopping the whole frozen mess (mmm.... appetizing!) in the crockpot for even less work!

Here is a week (almost) of cottage meal-planning - I've asterisked (is that a word?) the meals I've prepped in advance and possibly frozen.  The odd meal I won't prep until right before we leave, but I did a big chunk of it today.


  • Cinnamon Rolls* (prepared, but frozen - thaw & bake)
  • Smoothies* (I froze into individual packs and will bring my personal blender along)
  • Blueberry Pancakes* &  sausage (mix measured into a jar, blueberries frozen and bagged)
  • Bacon, eggs, pierogies & fruit
  • Granola Parfaits* (prepped in jars, granola measured in top cup)
  • Breakfast Wraps

  • Cheddar smokies & veggie sticks
  • Nibblers - salami/pepperettes, cheese, fruit, crackers
  • DIY subs
  • leftovers / munchies
  • Burgers* (prepped and frozen)
  • Pulled Pork* (prepped for crockpot)
  • Turkey Chili* & Cornbread* (my chili will be partially prepped and frozen for the crockpot.  I haven't decided whether to bake and freeze the cornbread, or just freeze the batter and bake later.)
  • Tacos* (meat prepped for crockpot - we'll go light on the toppings)
  • BBQ Chicken Packets* (prepped & frozen)
  • Chicken Caesar Wraps* (chicken seasoned & frozen - will slice after grilling)
We also have some classics to bring along (s'mores anyone?) and lots of fresh fruit/veggies - a friend of mine is away and has offered me here half-share CSA order from one of the local farms.  (This makes me happy... very, very happy!)   I also expect additional veggies will be ready for the picking from my own garden - we froze a bunch of fresh picked produce last week because we're just not going through it fast enough.   Yum!   My last culinary experiment will be a batch of Spiced Peanut & Cashew Caramel Corn to share - I found the recipe in the current summer Food & Drink magazine at the LCBO. 

What are your favourite camping/cottage/getaway meals?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Oh Ontario...

There are so many beautiful little hidden gems across the province.  We're truly in the perfect location for day tripping, staycations, or mini-getaways.  This summer we've had to cut-back on our little daytime adventures.  It's been hard balancing housework, exploration time, and a few part-time jobs.  I'm an expert juggler... well, a juggler at least.  I've been known to drop a ball or two before.

This summer, the kids have enjoyed time at Grandma & Grandpa's cottage on Sturgeon Lake.  They've gone camping with Oma at Ontario Park Awenda.  We went spelunking (and hiking and swimming) at the Warsaw Caves Conservation area.  We've spent countless hours on the shores of Lake Scugog and playing in Palmer Park.  We found a fantastic deal on Wonderland tickets and wore ourselves out with sun, rides, and junk food.  This week we headed west and explored the sights (and tastes) of the St. Jacob's Farmers Market, with a stop at the Elora Gorge on the way home.

Before the summer ends we'll be heading east and taking some much needed R&R at the Singleton Lake Family Campground with the whole family.  Fishing, campfires, swimming, boating, cousins, laughter, and fun!!!

We're packing what we can into our summer... and exploring new and favourite haunts along the way.  Some of our favourite Ontario gems include the Warsaw Caves, Centre Island, the city of Ottawa, Cobourg beach, Niagara Falls, and many of the quaint little towns along the smaller highways and byways.  We also like taking in the occasional Jays game - the boys are headed to their first in September!

Our must-see list includes 1,000 Islands, Tobermory, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Kingston, the Badlands, Algonquin Park (nope - haven't done it yet!), and the Algoma Central Railway. Did you know Ontario is as big as Spain & France combined?   There's so much to see, and do, and explore!  I know there are conservation areas and beaches and activities practically in our own backyard that we have yet to experience.  Any others we should check out?  Our list is constantly growing and changing - memories can be made in the oft-overlooked lesser-known destinations just as easily as the top tourist spots.  Summer is perfect for getting out and having fun!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just My Cup of Tea...

A couple months ago I joined up for Steeped Tea - not because I want another "job", but to take advantage of the consultant savings personally. (Although I *can* place orders if you want something!) The starter kit was on at a fantastic price and it came loaded with some fabulous product. 

I love tea... and I'm not as picky as some when it comes to loose leaf vs. bagged.  I still have a picky palate and I've come to realise my tea tastes have evolved a little over time.  I've been using Steeped Tea products on occasion for years since a friend introduced me to the company.  I'm also a fan of some of the Tazo varieties and my all-time-favourite tea is still the White Christmas by Stash.  It's like a cozy sweater in a cup.  (It's also great for soothing sore tummies with its blend of mint and ginger.)   I'm NOT a fan of most of the traditional brands, but in a pinch, they will do.   

Fast forward to now... I have a cupboard full of teas in all varieties.  Green, black, rooibos, fruit, latte blends, and more.  Unfortunately, I'm not a fan (eek!) of all the flavours I have in my tea basket.  This is expensive quality product that you don't just want to toss if you don't like it.   Black & green teas are not my most favourite varieties as my tastes have changed, but I've ended up with some in my kits.... so we improvise and try some new-to-me ideas on brewing a cup and blending to find just the right fix. 

In my ongoing ever-present quest to live a practical healthy lifestyle, I've cut way back on my diet pop consumption (I don't stock it in the fridge anymore.)  We also don't drink fruit juice (or fruity drinks) on a regular basis (and really, juice has never been a big part of our diet.)  I've been experimenting with my loose leafs and have found that switching up how you brew and blend can leave you with fabulous results that feed the cravings for those unhealthier choices. 

We've found that Justin & I enjoy rooibos blends iced (various methods) and berry fruit blends are fantastic no matter how you drink them.  I love brewing our own iced teas and I still use a simple syrup for sweetening, but my ratio of sugar to water in the syrup and syrup to water in the tea blend is minimal. 

To put it in perspective, I have read that 4 grams of white sugar (granulated) is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. (Side note, did you know a can of Coke gives you 11 teaspoons of sugar in one easy convenient drink???? Ick!)  I brew a jug with 8 servings of tea, with one cup of simple syrup, and approx. 2 teaspoons of sugar in my simple syrup.  So my one cup is divided by 8 servings... which means my 2 teaspoons of sugar are now spread across those 8 servings leaving me with 1/4 tsp. of sugar per serving or 1 gram of sugar per serving.  I can live with that... it's not eliminating the sugar completely, but it's definitely a better option without adding artificial sweeteners to the mix. 

Earlier this week I tried Berry Mania tea strong-steeped, iced, and topped with Perrier - pop with a subtle flavour - almost like an Italian soda.  Sparkling, but not overly sweet.  The bubbles hit those soda cravings without all the crap.   I've also been doing various teas (iced) and blended with lemonade (not the real stuff... it's all about the small changes!) I do 2/3 tea to 1/3 lemonade ratio and serve on ice.   This works well with fruit teas... but last night I switched it up with a smooth Earl Grey de la Creme and topped with a splash of Perrier.  Wow!

Tonight I'm brewing one of my green teas. It smells fantastic but I. Don't. Like. Green. Tea.  Until I tried a sip... mint mojito.  I'm icing it now and will blend it with my lemonade for my morning on the go drink.  Because what's better than mint lemonade... or green tea lemonade... or mint green tea lemonade.   I'm thinking this would also be a fabulous one topped with sparkling water.   

So long story told... I've learned that even if a certain blend isn't my cup of tea (we're talking about you Banana Split Fruit Tea - ugh!), there's generally a way to incorporate that blend into a new or tastier brew to make a cup that's... welll... just my cup of tea.  (PS, Justin loves the Banana Split - I think it smells like Carribean rum cake and plan on using it for a Bundt cake with an infused-rum glaze.  Ah, memories of Jamaica!)

What's your favourite cup of tea?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Goodbye Goodnites!

My name is Lindsey and I'm the mother of a reformed bedwetter.  I hesitated to even post this online because the child who suffered with bedwetting is quite sensitive about it.  It didn't seem to matter how many times we tried to be reassuring or supportive. It didn't matter how many times we told him he wasn't the only one and that there's a significant family history of bedwetting.   Lately, it had become a BIG HUGE EMBARRASSING fact of life for the kid.

After endless purchases of pull ups and goodnites, conversations with the doctor, trying to wake at regular intervals,  limiting drinks before bed, and (mistakenly) just winging it, we discovered a (highly expensive) product that saved the day (so worth it!)

If you have an older bedwetter (remember my kids are 7&9... and in the interest of protecting the privacy of the one who dealt with this,  I'm not narrowing it down), give the Chummie Elite Bedwetting System a try.  We purchased ours on Amazon.ca, albeit somewhat leerily.

We started using it layered (underwear,  sensor,  good nite, pajamas.)  The first few nights were rough.  Waking up multiple times, having to change the underwear and clean the sensor with each awakening.  I'm not one for stripping a bed at 2 a.m. so that's why we opted for the extra goodnite layer.  I feel for mothers of newborns everywhere. 

Fast forward a few nights and he was down to the alarm going off once a night and dealing with it himself - the bedwetting diminishing from a full soak to just a dribble and many mornings waking up dry.  Another week went by and we waved adios to the goodnites. 

Then the true test: would he wake up to pee during the night, wake up dry, or flood the bed again without any system (AKA cyborg gear) or backup protection.  We made it a week without any incidents at all.  We had a dribble incident one night after that initial week, but he woke himself up before it was a mess. We've made it another two weeks without any accidents or minimal wakeups.  Success!

I'm raving about this product.  Pricey, yes.... but so worth it for a solution that worked effectively and gave him so much confidence, never mind the cost savings of the goodnites. (A box of 44 cost approx. $24.  We paid approx. $90 for our system.  I figure that's about 5.5 months of goodnites we would have paid for... and no extra bedtime expenses ever again!  In July we can call it even.)  I'm so happy to see him proud of himself and lose that embarrassment that seemed to hit him hard Every. Single. Bedtime. And. Every. Single.  Morning. 

I'm the mother of a reformed bedwetter... and I feel like I probably wouldn't be saying that for years if we hadn't given this system a try.  Goodbye goodnites.  We're glad to see you go! 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Incredibly Delicious Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

I found a fabulous deal on a bread machine via Amazon.ca just before Christmas and I've been using it sporadically for this and that.  Then Christmas and the various hosting opportunities arrived and I had no room for it in my kitchen so I placed it in the basement out of sight.   Last week, I decided to bring it up again and test some recipes.  Some were just "meh" (not horrible... but not delicious).   Others have been pretty darn good.  

These cinnamon rolls though... they go way beyond "pretty darn good" and right into "incredibly delicious."  I've been craving cinnamon rolls all week, but in my mind, they're a weekend treat.  This is probably because of the time factor involved.  I struggle enough to get three of us out the door with somewhat healthy lunches, a belly full, and hopefully teeth brushed.  If clothes match and we remembered our gloves, that's just a bonus.  Forget time to proof a batch of cinnamon rolls, bake them, and clean the sticky fingers after they've been devoured.

Yesterday, I did some quick online reconnaissance to find a bread machine recipe I could use for the dough portion.   I found this one from Food.com and this one from Happy Hooligans.  Then I decided to just do my own thing, leaning heavily on the first recipe, and was filled with shock and delight at the ooey-gooey perfection that sat upon our plates for a very short period of time this morning.  

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls:


1 cup warm milk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast 


3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 - 1/2 cup brown sugar
4-5 tablespoons cinnamon


2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/8-1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

Add dough ingredients to bread machine in order listed (or check your user manual and see what order you should add them).  Before adding yeast, make a well in the dry ingredients, add yeast, and ensure it's not touching your wet ingredients.   Set bread machine to dough cycle and let it do it's thing. 

Once dough cycle is complete, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until you get a nice even rectangle.  Mine was about the size of my cutting board... but that doesn't really help, does it? Approximately 9"x12" give or take. 

For the filling, spread your butter evenly across the dough.   Sprinkle your brown sugar across the butter. Sprinkle your cinnamon across the brown sugar.   Add some nuts or raisins if you're into that kind of thing.  We gave them a pass this time around.  I already have one kid who refuses to eat these (I know... he's strange!) and the other would probably turn his nose up at them if he found an extra surprise.  Wait... why didn't I add extra ingredients?  I could have split the whole pan two ways!

Lightly grease a 9"x13" baking pan.   I used butter.  Once your dough has been topped, roll into a tight log - use the long side of your rectangle, people.  Pinch the seams to keep it all together.  Cut into 12 equal portions (they should be about an inch or so thick.)   There's a nifty dental floss trick for cutting these... but we only had mint flavour and opted to use a knife.   Place in your greased baking pan, leaving a bit of room between rolls for expansion.

Now.... here is where you can decide whether these babies are going to be popped in the oven right away, or saved for the morning.    Cover with plastic wrap.   If you want to bake them "now", let rise on the counter for another 45 minutes or so.   If you are saving them for morning, place them in the fridge for a slow rise overnight.  I'll be honest and I actually left them on the counter for a bit.... and then put them in the fridge.
In the morning, take your prepped rolls out of the fridge and set your oven to preheat to 375.   Bake for 20 minutes approximately - until golden brown.   Our oven took 24 minutes but it can be temperamental.  

Mix up your glaze while these are cooking.  Let your baked cinnmon rolls cool slightly - very slightly - and spread or drizzle with your cream cheese glaze.  Serve warm!  Straight from the pan.

I know it sounds like a lot of work.... but it really wasn't.  And did I mention they were incredibly delicious.  If your family doesn't mind a tasty carb binge and sugar overload, they'll shower you with affection.  You're welcome.

PS. I've heard you can freeze your prepped rolls.  Just let them defrost on the counter 10-12 hours to rise again after freezing.    Also, the glaze recipe makes a lot of glaze.  I only used half.... so you could reduce the recipe.  Or make another batch of cinnamon rolls later in the week.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Smoothies and a Painting

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just want to crawl in bed and stay there?  Monday was a snow day, and as much as I love my boys, I don't always care for thw noise they create.  By Tuesday afternoon, I had a full-on pillow over the head, turn off the lights migraine.  The Advil eventually dulled the pain and my family should love me.  I sucked it up and managed to create a yummy dinner (tex-mex stuffed peppers) without vomiting or passing out.  That's a win, isn't it?

By Wednesday morning I was feeling human and I made it through work and even had a productive day in the office yesterday.  (Oh, hey!  Guess what?  I have a new part-time admin job.... that works with our home life. Score!)  Despite feeling more human, the headache lurked... waiting to ambush me on my only free day (that would be today) - a day with a to-do list a mile long including some Wisdom and Whimsy deliveries.  (Sorry, Aidan!)

So a wise girl rearranges her life... and puts on her sweat pants,  swallows some more Advil, keeps the water glass filled, and takes it easy.  And if taking it easy means painting a sign base, so be it. (Sometimes I find creating without expectations to be The Best relaxant.)

And then my energy levels plummet and I think "Oh, maybe I should have just stayed curled up on the couch..."  and "It's such a gorgeous day, but I wish the sun wasn't so bright!" Ah well...

Now it's lunchtime. I have nil appetite and no wish to take more Advil. I hit the kitchen and hope a smoothie might revive me a little. (Actually,  I make a lot of smoothies and it's usually just to ensure I'm getting a healthy breakfast that's portable. Its just today's variety that we're hoping is a pick me up!)

This beauty may resemble the radioactive love child of a bowl of Cheetos crossed with a creamsicle.... but it's all goodness!   So what's inside? Carrot juice, frozen mango chunks, a banana, and some vanilla yogurt for protein. Maybe the yogurt wasn't the healthiest addition, but hey, at least it's not vanilla ice cream! 

Blended with my $10 Wal-Mart bargain individual Hamilton Beach blender and it's a delicious burst of sunshine in your mouth, creamy and refreshing.  Here's to kissing the remnants of this headache goodbye!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pre-Christmas Wrap-Up... we've survived and we're a little bit humbler.

We have survived the pre-Christmas chaos.  Other than forgetting to buy bacon for Christmas morning (how could I forget the bacon?!?), we are wrapped, ready, and feeling relieved!  I'm also waiting for Amazon in conjunction with CanadaPost to do their thing - one last little gift that slipped my mind and is headed to our doorstep (guaranteed delivery by 8 pm tomorrow - nothing like last minute.)

The boys are on Christmas break.  All my Wisdom & Whimsy orders have been picked up or delivered.  Toy and food drive contributions have been dropped off.  Outstanding clerical duties have been tied up (I hope!) We skipped one big family get-together to take advantage of a much-needed early night on Friday.  Saturday we visited with our in-town relatives on Kevin's side to exchange gifts with the kids and talk with the adults.  Sunday found us hosting my side of the family with so many smiles and giggles and yummy goodies (great turkey, Mom, and the potato soup... delicious if I do say so myself!)  I'm still finding bits of wrapping paper in the cushions.

Kevin & I don't do much for each other at Christmas.  I share my love, he shares his warmth.  This was a concession we made to economizing.... I miss my stocking, but I'm all grown up.  I can handle it.   The boys, however, like to pick out presents for both of us.  Usually I will take them shopping for Kev, and he will take them out for me.  He always makes it sound torturous... and I laugh til I'm blue in the face.  We're kind to each other like that.  He never seems to quite understand that I shop with them regularly... and there's a reason I try to do it while they are at school.

This year, we found ourselves short of time.  I still managed to take them shopping for Daddy... but it didn't quite happen in reverse.  So I took them shopping for me... and felt incredibly awkward.  They chose Shoppers Drug Mart and I tried to not peek.... and then in my effort to shop local and support small business as well, we went to a unique local shop called Coach House Studio.

Coach House Studio features artists and crafters, as well as some other home-and-gift type goods.  Most of it's up my alley... and they have customer service down to a fine art.  Seriously... that means so much to me. A smile. Friendly chit chat.  Assistance when you want it.  Space when you need it. And such an amazing variety of constantly changing goods.... I could browse all day.  The pricing is fair - you have a good range so you don't have to break the bank (although you most definitely could.)  An amazing selection of big & small ticket items for anyone who likes warm & cozy.  

Yesterday the clerk working took the time to help two little boys find mom a gift.  She suggested we walk through the store - jot down ideas or they could remember.... and afterwards, she helped the boys select an item or two, wrapped them before mom could pay, and still managed to keep us under budget.  The boys are THRILLED about their choices.... and I have to say I'm a little excited as well.  Not because I NEED anything... but their excitement was contagious.  I had to keep reminding J not to ruin the surprise... wrapping paper hit the ceiling when they got home and I think they used an entire roll of tape.  But, they were oh-so happy!

In our pre-Christmas chaos, we also had our annual trip to SickKids.  J had been putting together a box of toys and such to donate.  We picked up some small items from the bargain bins at Target.  Kevin & Kaleb hauled it in (while Justin & I ran to our appointment... we were close to being late).... only to find out that people are so incredibly generous SickKids was turning away donations.  I was a little disappointed for him... he seemed to be okay with donating them local though, so we added them to the Operation Scugog bin close to home.   We had good news during our appointment (better ranges than last year) and were told he's a relatively healthy kid.  (We knew that.)

On the way home, we encountered another giving/learning opportunity.   While approaching the on-ramp to the DVP, we saw a homeless man holding his cardboard sign.  My kids are sheltered.  We don't see a lot of social issues like this in our small rural community - yes, there are needs and we encourage generosity... but homelessness isn't as visible.   We didn't have any spare change or cash on hand... and in all honestly, we probably wouldn't have passed it on.  However, mom packed a snack bag for the trip to the hospital that we really didn't touch - granola bars, clementines, a couple of juice boxes.  Nothing exciting. Nothing big.  But sitting at that intersection waiting for the light to change, I at first dismissed the need... and then it hit me.  Why not?  We didn't need it... we were heading to a meal out. So we rolled down the window and passed him the snacks.  Nothing big.... but his gratitude.

Oh, his gratitude was humbling.... and it was an opportunity to discuss and teach... and maybe create just a little more caring in the future generation.   As we drove away I was teary eyed - it's so easy to think we have it bad... but there are so many who have it worse.  It's easy to sit in judgement.... but we never know the whole story.  The questions started... we gave simple, honest answers. We asked questions ourselves... and the boys, they learned.  We may have brought a brief moment of gratitude to a stranger.... but I think we all realised how fortunate we are... and how easy a small gesture can bring a smile.  Hopefully it's a lesson they remember... and the next time they see a need, they don't ignore it, but try to creatively be a blessing.