Saturday, June 22, 2013

Food Failure and Success with Homemade Granola Bars

I think of myself as a good cook.  I have enough years behind me to have learned a fair bit about cooking - both savouries and sweets.  I've learned how to read a recipe, not just to see if I have the ingredients, equipment, and time to undertake it ... but also I know how to read it to see if it will taste good - both to myself and to the rest of the family.

Still, I occasionally make mistakes.  Such as this 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bar recipe.  It sounded so simple - 4 ingredients! - and the person who wrote the article thought they were great.  Mine tasted like pasty, banana flavoured cardboard.  The whole batch - including the piece I had to spit out - ended up in the compost bin.

Today, I had a wonderful, yummy success.  (Maybe granola bars need a few more ingredients?)  It was a simple to prepare recipe that came together in less than 30 minutes.  Because I wanted something that Walter could take as a snack to his daycare I used sunflower butter instead of peanut butter (I found the sunflower butter at my local Save-On-Foods).  I didn't have wheat germ, I didn't feel like grinding my flax seeds ... so I used some sesame seeds for the wheat germ and pumpkin seeds for the ground flax seeds.  I used a lot of chocolate chips.  And, I used old-fashioned steel-cut oats instead of the quick oats.


Honey - 1/2 cup
Brown Sugar - 1/2 cup
Peanut Butter - 1/2 cup
Quick Oats - 2 cups
Rice Krispy Cereal - 2 cups
Ground Flax Seeds - 1/4 cup
Wheat Germ - 0 to 2 tablespoons (optional)
Mix Ins* - 1 cup

*Choose what you want - chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, seeds.

Prepare a 9" x 13" pan by spraying with Pam and lining with wax paper.  Set aside.

Mix the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is melted and everything combined.  Take off the heat and stir in the peanut butter.  Now take a medium bowl and put in all your dry ingredients except for the mix-ins.  Stir to combine.  Pour in the wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine (I ended up using my hands to make sure the wet and dry ingredients were well incorporated).  Add in your mix-ins and get them fully integrated.

Press mixture into pan making sure it is firmly packed in.  Let cool completely and slice into whatever size suits you.

Although a little flimsy (I guess I didn't press it firmly enough into the pan) they are so good.  I don't know if they will make it to Monday!

Friday, June 21, 2013


Guess who graduated from Kindergarten today?

Yes - Walter has officially graduated - congratulations!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Birthday Boy - Turning Six!

I'm not usually so maudlin ... but my baby is turning six.  It makes me a little teary eyed.

It's hard to believe.  Every day I see changes in him, both physically as well as mentally.  The way he moves, the agility and assuredness of what his body can do.  The way he expresses his ideas ... and he has so many ideas.  Wonderful, crazy, incredible ideas that make me laugh and smile, and often ponder.

To help him celebrate both this birthday and his graduating from Kindergarten, we organized a birthday bowling party.  It was Walter's idea - he has recently become enamored of the game.  The children really seemed to enjoy themselves - one hour of bowling followed by lunch and cake.  It went by so quickly.

We gave out small prizes for the highest score, the next best, and those who bottomed-out.  We didn't get the ratio's right so we had to "borrow" a couple of things from Walter's loot bag.  He somewhat graciously allowed us to do this.  Not easy for a soon-to-be six year old.  Yes, we did have to promise to take him to the movies - the soon to be out Monsters Inc. University.

Well, My Bugaboo ... you are definitely not a baby anymore.  I love you from here to infinity and beyond.  Hugs and Kisses from Mommy and Daddy.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Breakfast Around Here

During the weekday, with all the hustle of getting ready and out the door, we usually default to bowls of cereal.  Which is OK.  Cold cereal with 2% milk.  There are worse things to have for breakfast.  But I decided I needed to up my game plan when it game to breakfast.

Walter and I both like yogurt ... so, I began with yogurt.  A little Ribena for sweetness and colour, a sprinkle of nuts.  Finally, fruit.

Simple, easy, and delicious.  The perfect weekday breakfast.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Goals for June

I promised myself I would set out some goals each month.  Here are my goals for June ...

1.  Back in April I got a free lamp at a yard sale.  I knew it needed work - it had a taped up cord (possible fire hazard?  Electrocution?!) and bent lampshade hardware - but I thought it had a good base and for $0.00 I thought I would try to do something with it.  I've bought the lamp kit (Atron Lamp Kit at Home Depot - $17.98); Walter thought I should spray paint the base white which I think is a perfect idea; and I just need to figure out what to do with the brownish shade - keep it, update it, or change it out.

2.  We just got our blinds for the front upstairs windows installed.  Now, I desperately want to change out the rose-coloured shears that are in the master bedroom.  I've never liked the dusty rose shears, but they work ... so I thought I should wait.  The waiting is wearing me down, so I'm thinking of sewing some curtains.  Of course, I'll need a new rod with brackets to replace the existing hardware, but I do have several fabrics at hand that could work.

3.  I've been putting all the objects we no longer want into a pile in the basement with the thought of having a garage sale once there is enough items to justify the effort.  However, I recently read in our local paper that a twice monthly boot sale happens.  For $10 I can join in the fun, selling my stuff from the back of my car (hence the "boot" reference ... so very British).  The first boot sale of the year is June 8th.  I won't be ready for that one, but I'm hoping I can have things organized enough to join in on June 22nd.

4.  I was reading local gal Ashli's blog, Mini Manor Blog, which happened to point me to Jen's Simcoe Street blog ... which led me to Carmel's Our Fifth House.  Phew!  At that point I had to stop because a possible project caught my eye.

art center for kids

See those boards with the clothes pins holding artwork?  That would be perfect to hold/display artwork that Walter does.  Also great for artwork that needs some drying time.  I could also envision using something like this for holding important paperwork that needs to be kept handy.  I've already got all the materials necessary to make this happen, including the clothes pins.  Hmmm  :)

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

So Canadian, eh?

I recently attended a three-day workshop for my job.  We had an American up from Portland to give the class.  A very nice man with lots of good things to say about Canada.  Nothing like hearing how great your country is to make you feel good, right?!

He particularly liked to point out the subtle differences between the US and Canada ... something I think we all do at times.  One interesting observation he made was our use of the word Sorry.  He was greatly amused that our buses said "Sorry, Not In Service" since he never saw it phrased this way in the States.  He said you'd only see "Not In Service" ... he found the use of the word Sorry on the bus sign to be ... so very Canadian.

I thought about this a bit, and had to agree with him.  We Canadians are polite to a fault at times.  Even our buses are polite.

Goal Setting

Katy, over at The Non-Consumer Advocate blog, had an entry recently discussing her weekly goal setting.  Springing from her son's obsession with soccer she decided to set a "Goal.Of.The.Week."  Her idea was not to choose something that was incredibly difficult or unattainable within the allotted seven days, but something practical, perhaps even rewarding.

Her post made me think about my own goal setting - both for this blog and for the things I want to get done.  Both intertwine ... I write about the things I accomplish (or struggle with), and I try to accomplish things so that I can write about them.  For me, it's a positive way of getting my rear-in-gear, so to speak.

Of course, picking one thing each week is not my method ... I prefer to pick 2-3 things and give myself a month to do them.  Since I work fulltime and have a soon-to-be six year old, I need enough leeway to succeed.  Having 2-3 things on my goal list lets me move back and forth between them and chances are better that I'll at least get 1/2 - 2/3 of them done.  That's a passing grade in goal setting ;)

Do you set goals for yourself?  Do you use Katy's version, my version, or your own version?  And, of course, how successful are you with meeting your goals?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

A Gripe - Enter to Win - No Purchase Necessary

I try to limit my on-line presence to sites and companies that I feel comfortable with.  Ones that have good privacy policies, and sound security implementation.  There is, of course, no complete guarantee ... once you've dipped your toe in the on-line world your presence can reach around the world.

Still, I try.

One thing I've noticed lately is the proliferation of contests where no purchase is necessary, simply go to XXX website and key in your PIN number for your chance to win some wonderful prize.  Every time I go to these sites and key in that special code I am brought to a page where I need to supply way more than an email address.  I see it for what it is - a cheap, efficient way of building potential client lists.  I do the work, they get the reward.

When I get one of these pages I immediately close the window and move on.  None of these prizes have been worth the cost of being bombarded by more sells pitches.  I already get too much of that.

What do you do?  Do you close the window and move on or do you give them what they want in the hopes of winning?

Monday, June 03, 2013

Sewing Drapes for Big Openings

I thought I would give a slightly more in-depth explanation of how I sewed the drapes (curtains?) for the living room sliders.

The sliders in the living room are quite large, measuring 95" from the inside frame (96" would be eight feet).  When we moved in the sliders were covered with shears.  Not being a shears kind of person, I wanted to replace them (plus the mechanism to close and open the shears wasn't working properly).  We got a curtain rod and new brackets from Ikea, and I purchased a single set of Ikea Merete drapes.  Each panel measured 57" wide, so I assumed that 114" (two panels) would easily cover the slider.  It didn't.  I started doing some research on-line to see what I was doing wrong.  Turns out that even simple, non-full drapes require at least twice the width to really cover adequately.  For a really full look, especially if you like the pleated look, you should really look for three times the width.  That meant I needed at least 190" or 95" per panel.  The widest panels I could find were 59" ... nowhere near enough.  After thinking it through for a couple of weeks, and considering other options, I decided to take two sets of Merete drapes and sew them together.  I really came to this conclusion while considering sewing my own drapes.  I was chatting with a salesperson in a fabric store.  I asked how they dealt with their custom drapes that they sewed for clients since I didn't see any fabric bolts that were wider than 59" ... turns out they sewed panels together to get the full look.  Dah!

So, back I went to Ikea for a second set of Merete drapes.  When I got home I took two of the panels and put them facing each other, with the side that would face towards the slider (the backside, so to speak) on the outside.  Since the Merete drapes have large, over-sized grommets that are used to hang the drapes, I knew I would start sewing at the top end to ensure that they lined up properly. 

Holding them together with the tops lining up I used my sewing machine to attach the two panels on one side.  It wasn't difficult to do; however, two panels of Merete drapes are quite heavy, so I did have some wrangling of fabric to do while sewing.

When I came to the bottom I realized that the panels weren't perfect.  One panel was definitely a different length then the other.

Since this was the bottom of the curtain it didn't matter too much.  I would be folding and re-hemming.  I simply needed to consider this when doing my folds.  Next, I ironed the seam flat.

I then took the sewn panels and laid them flat on the living room floor.  I measured from the curtain rod to the floor - 89" ... almost 90.  All the instructions I found for sewing curtains said to check what the shrinkage of your fabric is and consider this when making a decision on length.  The Merete package said the fabric had a 4% shrinkage rate.  90 * 1.04 = 93.6" - I decided to go for 94" since I was still considering moving the curtain rod closer to the ceiling.  I used my measuring tape, and with the help of Walter I marked the fabric with pencil at several intervals along the length.  I then used a ruler to connect these markings in a complete line drawn across the fabric. 

I returned to the ironing board with pins and began a first fold iron of approximately 1/2 - 1".  This step was to protect the possibly exposed cut portion of the fabric (and in my case, take care of that uneven meeting of two panels).  I then took a second pass with the iron, this time folding to the pencil line.  As I ironed I paused to put pins in - these would hold the fold until I could sew the hem. 

Once I completed this step I went back to the sewing machine and sewed my hem, keeping the stitch close to the fold (about 1/2" in from the fold). 

Then I simply repeated all the steps for the second two panels.

We've gone from this:

 To this:

It's definitely more our style.  I like the feel of the cotton window coverings over the scratchy, synthetic feel of the shears.  The new drapes still let some light in, but it's definitely harder to see in at night.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Two Down ... One To Go

Last time I mentioned three projects I was hoping to tackle by the end of May - drapes, utility closet, and record storage.  Well, I managed to get two of those projects done.  Yeah!

First.  The utility closet in the kitchen.  Eventually Manuel would like to build a shelving system for this space, but right now he's got a lot more important things to do on his list.  So, in the interim I wanted something that would make the space more functional.  Some shelving for storage, and a place for the recycling were my main goals.  I wanted to use items that I could re-purpose later since I didn't want to spend money on temporary things that wouldn't have much longevity.  I found two perfect solutions at Ikea.

For the storage portion I was looking for something that could fit into a 41cm square area - the deeper portion of the closet.  I found the Limhamn stainless steel shelving unit (product # 801.777.16).

It was one of the few units I could find that wasn't too small nor too big.  It fit just right.

For the recycling portion I was looking for something that I could stack.  I had considered the more traditional blue-style boxes that you can find at Home Depot, but that meant using the deeper portion of the closet, thereby losing out on more storage options since the shallower part of the closet is only 30 cm and I couldn't find any real useful storage options that shallow.  Enter the Retur recycling bins (product # 001.657.03).

At only 20 cm deep they fit perfectly in the shallow part of the utility closet.  Plus they are stackable ... and I can attach them to the walls.

I went from a fairly unusable space ...

... to something that works really well.

I'm happy with the results - it's definitely made things neater around here which was a big goal.

The other project I managed to complete was the drapes for the living room.  I thought about sewing curtains for this rather large slider.  Window coverings are fairly straight forward, but I just couldn't find the right fabric (or more appropriately, there were too many that I liked ... I couldn't make up my mind).  After doing a fair bit of reading on-line I realized that I was probably better off getting a second set of Merete curtains from Ikea (product # 801.119.85).  First, I sewed two panels together and ironed the seam flat.  I then measured from the curtain rod to the floor (just shy of 90").  Reading the curtain package, shrinkage for the fabric was 4%, which meant a measurement of 93.6" would be appropriate.  I laid the curtain down on our living room floor and marked out 94" across the fabric with a pencil.  I made a 1/2" inch fold in from the hem and ironed, followed by folding to the pencil mark and ironing this fold.  I pinned as I went to hold it all in place.  I then sewed this new hem length ... and repeated the same process with the other two panels.  Once I had finished with both sides I hung them, and finished everything off with some simple finials (also Ikea - Blast - product # 402.172.48).

The end result is a billowy curtain.  When the curtains are closed you really don't notice the panels that are sewn together as the seams are camouflaged within the folds of material.

I'm happy with the results - the colour is neutral enough to not stand out.  It doesn't call attention to itself.  It just does its job.

I didn't get the final project - the record storage - completed.  I'm still thinking through some ideas.  In the interim ... I've moved the boxes into the guest room closet.  Out of sight out of mind?  At least I don't have to stare at them constantly.  Plus, we now have room for my little ninja to practice his karate moves.  Bonus :)