Monday, December 31, 2012

DIY Chalkboards

Be prepared for a very long post with lots of pictures. But also be prepared for pure DIY awesomeness. Last year for Christmas Dan and I decided to make all of our Christmas gifts. It was lots of fun but very very time consuming. You can read more about our gifts that we did here. This year we decided to make it a bit more simple. The adults would get edible homemade goodies (there will be a post on this soon) and the kids would get handmade chalkboards. Simple right? Well the goodies were easy, the chalkboards, not so much. They weren't overly complicated, just very time consuming with lots of little steps. But we are pleased with the results.

Let's start at the beginning. First, Dan cut pine boards down into the predetermined sizes for each chalkboard. We were making five chalkboards, four small hand held ones and one bigger hang-on-the-wall one. The next step was to engrave each kids name into the back of their board. We only did this to the four smaller ones. Dan printed off each kids' name on a sheet of paper in the chosen font.


Then he taped the paper to the board and using his router he carved out the name.


He repeated this four times for each name and they all looked great when he was done.


Our next step was sanding them down until smooth. Dan also put wood putty in any holes, dents or scratches on each board so that there wouldn't be any areas that would catch the chalk. While the wood putty was drying, we measured and cut the trim for the edges. We used a mitre box and a hack saw to do this.


I cut a total of two cuts. It was too hard for my weak little arms and I couldn't keep the saw straight so I kept cutting down into the box. Oops! Dan did the remaining 38 cuts or so.


We had to test out each piece of trim to make sure it fit well with all the others. It took a long time and we were tired by the end.


Once the trim was all measured and the wood putty dry, we sanded them all down and rounded out the corners in the back so that they would be easier to be held by small hands. Next step, taping them off and applying the chalkboard paint.


We purchased two spray cans of paint from Canadian Tire for approximately $5 and each. This same paint can also be found at Michael's but for more than double the price. So I would shop around. Really though, any chalkboard paint would work. We did a lot of coats. I lost count actually. Especially since after some of them had been painted, we realized they needed to be touched up with some more wood putty, re-sanded and then repainted. Our advice, make sure the boards are as smooth and perfect as possible before applying the chalkboard paint. It turned out fine in the end but we added some unnecessary steps.

Once the boards were ready, we got to painting the trim. We had each set all wrapped up with the names on them. We wanted to make sure everything would fit once we went to put them together.


We chose four colours according to the favourite colour of each kid. We purchased little tester cans at Canadian Tire for $5 a piece.


Then we got to the tedious job of painting small strips of trim.



This is where we finished off that night. All the trim painted and drying.


The next night we nailed the trim onto each board. Another job that you had to be really careful not to mess up. We needed to make sure everything still lined up well and hold things tightly in place while the nails went in.




Once all the trim was attached, we stepped back and beamed at the progress we were making.


Then we flipped them over and got to painting the backs.


Once the backs were dry, we flipped them over again and touched up the sides and front and filled in the nail holes the best we could with paint.


I then painted the backs of the last two chalkboards.


One of the last steps was painting in the names with black paint so that they showed up better. I think I had a hand cramp by the time I was done.


But look how good they look!


We needed to do some last minute touch ups on the fronts again and since Dan's youngest sister Sam was over, she helped out.


We are very pleased with these chalkboards and are extremely proud of ourselves for making them. Dan was the brains behind the operation so I would like to give him full credit for planning them out and doing most of the hard work for them. They are so beautiful and I'm sure the kids will have lots of fun with them.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

I figured that since I recently did a post on a recipe fail, I thought I would write a post on a recipe success! Last year for Christmas I received a gluten-free cook book from my sister Stacey and there is a recipe in there for stuffed peppers that I absolutely love. I've made it a bunch of times now and each time I remember why I love it. Easy, healthy and tasty.

Quinoa Rice Stuffed Peppers

1 large orange bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 tomato, sliced into four think slices
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 c. shredded Swiss cheese

Stuffing
8 oz. extra-lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tomato, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 c. cooked quinoa (or rice)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Cut orange and yellow peppers in half lengthwise and remove core and seeds. Trim a thin slice off the bottom of each to allow them to lie flat. In the casserole dish, microwave peppers, covered, on High for 3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Let cool to room temperature, covered. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, over medium heat, brown ground beef until no pink remains. Add onion, red pepper, mushrooms, rosemary and thyme; cook, stirring, until onion are translucent, about 3 minutes. Drain off any fat. Add chopped tomato and zucchini and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in quinoa (rice), salt and pepper. 

In the casserole dish, arrange tomato slices and add wine. Set each pepper half, cut side up, on a tomato slice. Fill each pepper half with the beef mixture, mounding the stuffing. Cover and bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, or until bell peppers are fork-tender. Uncover, top with Swiss cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted. 

(Substitute 1 cup undrained chopped canned tomatoes for the fresh tomato slices and white wine.)


The recipe calls for quinoa but I usually use rice. I may be brave one of these days though and actually try it with the quinoa but for now I'm happy with my tried and true recipe.

First you cut up all the veggies and fry them with the ground beef.


Once all the insides are nicely cooked, you add your rice and mix it all up.


To prep your peppers for being stuff, you cut them in half and clean out the insides. Then you microwave them for 4 minutes or so until they are beginning to soften.


Once the peppers are soft, you put them in the pan and fill them up with the stuffing.


The only problem is, there is normally a heck of a lot more stuffing than peppers. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, who knows. So after I took that pretty picture above, I piled on the rest.


Not quite as pretty eh? Oh well. I wasn't going to waste all that extra stuffing.

Dan put cheese on his since he can have dairy. So I snapped a picture of his, since it looked so nice and melty.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best Blog Award

This will be a short post but I wanted to flaunt my newest award. I'm part of an online community of other loss moms and each December on this board, we have awards handed out. There are 25 categories and all the members are allowed to vote. Last year I won Most Encouraging and I was completely taken by surprise. I had no idea that people thought I was so encouraging. I proudly wore my award badge for that one.

This year I decided that there was no way I would win most encouraging again. For some reason after having been a part of this board for over 2 years and repeatedly seeing people graduate and have babies while I get left behind again and again, I'm just not as encouraging. But I knew which one I could win so I went for it.  I campaigned for two weeks convincing people to vote me for Best Blog. Because come on, everyone knows my blog is awesome. :P

All the campaigning paid off and I won by a landslide. BEST BLOG AWARD HERE! So proud of myself and thank you to all my lovely TTCAL ladies who voted for me. I will do my best to keep my blog interesting and worthy of this award.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flaxseed Wrap Fail

I promised to blog about my gluten-free cooking adventures, the good and the bad. And this is a bad. I guess I can't succeed at everything I try but still, it was sad to have to throw out food.

Remember back in my December Simple Pleasures post I put up a picture of my chicken avocado mix? Well I needed something to put that mix on so I found a recipe for a flaxseed wrap and I thought I would give it a try. It was simple and only called for a few ingredients: flaxseed, paprika, parsley, baking powder, egg, water, etc.



I whipped it up in a few minutes and it looked decent.


So I happily wrapped up my chicken avocado mix and added some lettuce and packed it for my lunch the next day.


It looked good so I took a bite. Hmm... not the tastiest but that's okay. Another bite. This is getting grosser by the minute. Third bite, gag reflex. I knew that I couldn't eat it. It was disgusting and making me feel sick. So I scraped out the chicken avocado and threw away the wrap. So I took some more bites of just the chicken mix. After a while though, that didn't taste so good either. I ended up putting it back in the fridge (no point in wasting all my food) and I ate a bunch of corn chips to make up for my lack of lunch.

It was gross and disappointing. Sometimes my cooking adventures fail and that's okay. The next time I made the chicken avocado mix I just wrapped it up in lettuce and had little lettuce sandwiches. Not quite the same as bread but still tasty.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas time!

It's Christmas day and we are busy celebrating with family. I'm writing this blog post ahead of time since we all know I'm not going to have time to come on here on the actual Christmas day. I thought I would share some more of our decorations from around our house.

I wasn't sure how to display our Christmas cards this year but after searching on Pinterest, I decided to copy this idea. We put string around our kitchen cabinets and then used clothespins to hang up the cards. We have a lot of cards, I didn't even take pictures of them all!

 


Dan is in charge of hanging up the mistletoe each year so he is always careful to put it in the most strategic spot. His choice: the middle of the kitchen.


My mother-in-law gave us a beautiful Christmas cactus that is sitting in the middle of our table and blooming in such gorgeous colours. It's so cheery to have it in such a central spot. I love centerpieces for my table.



Another exciting thing this year is that our stockings are actually hung by the fire! Last year they just stayed in a pile on the floor since we didn't ever get around to hanging them. Dan didn't want to put nails in the mantle so I purchased 3M hooks to put up this year. And yes, the itsy bitsy stocking on the far right is Mia's.


So there you have it. Some last minute Christmas items to show you. All of my posts for this next week will be scheduled as we'll be traveling for the holidays to different houses. I will be back with some updates on how Christmas went early in the new year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

It Still Hurts

It is Christmas eve, the stockings are hung, the cookies are baked, the lights are up and our evening is planned. I'm excited to start our own traditions and spend Christmas in our house together for the first time. I'm excited that there is snow on the ground and that we might have a white Christmas after all. I'm excited to give Dan the presents I picked out for him and to see Mia's pleasure when we give her the new bone we bought. I am excited for Christmas.

But I'm also sad. I'm sad that we are celebrating another Christmas without kids. I'm sad that there are only three stockings hung by the fire. I'm sad that there are no presents under the tree with our babies names on them. I'm sad that there won't be any little giggles of delight over tearing wrapping paper or discovering a fun new gift. I'm sad for Christmas.

Jaimie & Casey

It still hurts. Losing three babies hurts. Thinking of how different this Christmas should be hurts. Watching other people celebrate for the first time with a new baby hurts. Thinking that we might even see yet another Christmas without a baby hurts.

Dustin

This isn't something that you get over or move on from or forget. I was pregnant. Twice. I carried my babies for 8 short weeks but in that small window of time, I had dreams for them. I imagined how different our lives would be, how different holidays would be, how nothing would ever be the same again. And those dreams were crushed when my babies' hearts stopped beating. It's true, nothing will ever be the same again but different reasons than I originally thought. As I celebrate this Christmas season, I will be thinking of Casey, Jaimie and Dustin. They aren't forgotten and they never will be. They will forever be my babies.

If you know someone who has had a loss or is struggling with infertility remember that they are probably hurting this year. The level of hurt will be different for everyone. For some it will be fresher, others it will be a pain they are used to. But there is still pain. Also remember that there will be women hurting in silence, you may not know their story or what they are struggling with this year. Be kind, tell them you are thinking of them, give them a hug and please be careful with your words. Asking anyone when they are planning on starting a family, commenting on how kids make this time of year so much better, or announcing a pregnancy at a family dinner can all be hurtful. Be sensitive. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Storage Room Purge

About a month ago I was sitting at work, going about my daily routine, when all of a sudden it hit me. The desire to clean out the storage room and get rid of a bunch of crap. We have so many boxes in there full of stuff we don't need and it was just getting messier by the minute. I NEEDED to clean it up. So, when I got home that night, I tackled it.

This is what it looked like when I started.


Sorry it's so small. I took three separate pictures and tried to combine them. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. But hey, you get the point of it. It wasn't terribly messy but it needed help. And it was driving me insane.


We have giant rubbermaid containers of super useless stuff like the following.

 

But, we kept all those things. I didn't even touch them since I knew it would start a heated discussion with Dan and I wasn't prepared for that. So these boxes just got moved around a bit and that was it.

It took me two evenings but I was pleased with the end results and my storage room looks way better. I even took the time to vacuum the floor and pick up random bits of garbage laying about. Although I had to ask Dan for help at this point to make sure I wasn't throwing out anything valuable or important.


I also gave away a bunch of stuff. This box makes it look deceiving since you can't actually tell how big the box is. But believe me, it was a decent size.


Dan tried to take another panoramic shot of the finished storage room but once again, it's almost too tiny to see. Oops.


Since you can't really see it, I'll just tell you. The room looks 100x better! It's so nice going in there now and having so much floor space and easily accessible boxes. And doesn't it look good?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Burger Craving Satisfied

For the past couple weeks I have been craving a burger. A nice juicy burger with ketchup, tomato, lettuce and a nice soft bun. ::::drool:::: The only problem with this craving is that it started the day before I began my gluten-free journey. I really should have just gone out that night and found one but I didn't. So I spent days dreaming about a nice tasty burger and thinking I would never be able to have one again. At least not a good one, since I wouldn't be able to enjoy a nice fluffy bun full of gluten.

But lo and behold, I came across the perfect solution: The Works. The Works is a gourmet burger bistro chain and they had opened a franchise in our city a couple months back. One of my coworkers went there with her husband a month or two ago and she raved about it. When I took a look at the menu, I noticed they offered a gluten-free option. Hooray! I could finally get satisfy my burger craving!

I convinced Dan that we should probably go there to celebrate four years of wedded bliss. It didn't take much convincing, I mean, what man doesn't like burgers? Another bonus for our evening of celebrating was that Dan's grandmother had sent us a cheque in our anniversary card and it completely covered the meal. Sweet deal.






The place was crazy busy and we barely got a table. We snuck in at the perfect time since when we left there was a line up at the door. The atmosphere in the restaurant was awesome, casual and full of life. There were cool accessories that just made it so unique.



Dan ordered an appetizer of deep fried pickles and downed them all in record time. I couldn't have any because of the gluten thing but they looked and smelled really really good. He said they were amazing.




The only problem with the pickle appetizer is that it filled him up too much and he couldn't finish all of his supper. But I'm pretty sure he thought it was worth it. :P

There were about a million different options for burger toppings but I went with exactly what I had been craving: tomato, lettuce, ketchup and mustard. Nice and simple and so so tasty. And the bun was pretty decent too! Not the same as a normal bun but still satisfying.




Dan was a bit braver than me and he ordered a burger with cheese, BBQ sauce, bacon and onions. Because he's a man.




There you have it, our anniversary dinner and my burger craving satisfied all in one nice post. Do you want a burger now?