Sunday, 20 July 2014

Cooking In Bulk

Are you sick of hearing that Husband's parents are visiting from Newfoundland this week? I hope not! While the weather is cool I have prepared some baking and meals to take the pressure off myself while we are touring and visiting in the next two weeks. This is something that I do when I know we will be busy, or when I know a friend might be needing some extra meals (ie a baby on the way or my parents during harvest, etc). So this is what I do:

The other day I purchased a few pounds of ground beef and last night I made half of that into meatballs which I baked and froze. I will throw those in the slow cooker with sweet and sour sauce before we leave the house on a busy day of sight-seeing.

Yesterday I made lasagna and chili. My basic meat sauce, chili and lasagna recipes all derive from the same few ingredients to begin with, so it speeds the process to brown the meat and add onion, garlic, peppers and mushrooms and then split into batches. I almost always make these meals in large quantity and freeze into smaller portions to use later or give away.

I don't always want the whole can of each type of beans in my chili, so I freeze the remainder to use next time. Yesterday I used up frozen chick peas and kidney beans and added a can of six-bean medley to the chili mixture.

So now I have 3 meals frozen and ready to be thawed whenever I need a quick fix. I also have in the freezer two homemade loaves of bread, a coconut square, and a loaf of pumpkin bread. If I find the time I would like to add buns and a couple dozen cookies to the list but if the weather dries up the yard desperately needs my attention! 

Do you ever prepare meals ahead of time for when you are busy or have a large group to feed?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Basement bathroom

Now I've gone and done it...I've been fiddling around with how to get pictures onto the blog and for the moment they are in all sizes and all over the place. I apologize if things aren't appearing as they should. Unfortunately, this is how I roll!


At any rate, we have completed most of our list before the in-laws arrive in four days. We are excited to see them, and I am excited with how the basement, and its bathroom in particular, is coming together. I got the above "shabby chic" cabinet at my favorite antique and collectible shop. We got new bath sheets for them to use and, when they leave, we will use them in our master bathroom. I'd like Husband's parents to have a bit of luxury while they are here, after all it is the only vacation thay have had since they came to see us over two years ago!

Mirror from Winners (have I ever mentioned that I loooove Winners?)

Three postcards that I bought in Scotland almost....well....nearly twenty years ago. Gulp.

More recently, coat hook/towel hanger also from Winners. 

The bathroom now has a door and trim, although we did not get baseboards installed just yet. We opted to enjoy the summer weather at the lake and leave ourselves some winter projects. The in-laws are not fussy and I'm proud of the job we have done with a limited budget and very limited time and man-power.

Have you had any indoor projects to complete this summer? 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Figuring it Out as We Go

The technical side of blogging is as much fun for me as sorting papers and paying bills. Can't say I love it. All the same, if I'm to keep at this I must try to stay current and learn more about the nuts and bolts. 

This begonia is on my front door step to welcome company. I just took the picture with my new phone and inserted it straight to the blog. Is this how everyone does it?! I knew if I sat down and spent some time trying I could make this easier!

This was just a quick test to see what the  picture and post would look like. Bear with me as I figure this out :)

Summer R and R

Summer is flying by, for us, at a breakneck speed. My two boys and I are used to a casual pace--most days spent at home with a small radius of visits and local doings. It has been a busy, almost hectic, summer, and I've decided to put the brakes on before our next round of company arrives.

We had a wonderful time with my friend's three sons at the start of July. They are ten year old twins and an almost eight year old younger brother. They were helpful, listened well, were respectful of our things, and I daresay we bonded in a way that might have taken years if we hadn't had that time together. I look forward to hosting them for a week every summer if I am able. My own two children were entertained and well looked after with my main task being cooking and cleaning! There was barely a fight or disagreement between mine, which is sadly not our normal habit.

We left the day after our company did and traveled an hour and a half south to where Husband has our camper. He travels for work and we bought the camper years ago for that purpose. Although not as kid-friendly as some, our boys love sleeping in the camper and have had a wonderful time with neighboring children and some old friends they already knew. We have spent hot days at the beach building sand castles and catching (and releasing) minnows in nets and buckets. Playgrounds and fresh air have been top of the list, with a quick two-day return home to mow lawn and visit gramma.

photo from I'm
struggling with new methods to upload photos. It's on the to-do list now that we are home.

I hustled the kids back to the camper even though I knew they were exhausted. We did a few more beach days even though I could tell both boys were catching a cold. The voice in my head was saying "you will spend a long dreaded winter cooped up in your house...stay at the lake and make the most of this beautiful weather". And I listened to that voice for a day longer than I should have. The day we arrived home, 4 year old was tired and sick and I was watching him for swelling (having had protein in his urine for some time). In the night he repeatedly complained of pain in his ear and the next morning we were off to the doctor. Ear infection, as expected.

The four year old likes to have a plan made for tomorrow before he goes to sleep. I told him we are going to get our house clean and tidy for when Nanny and Poppy come from Newfoundland next week. We have our yard to care for and water, and a pond to finish. I would desperately like to do some baking but in this heat I think it will have to wait for a cooler time. He said "I just want to spend time with you and Gramma". So that is what we will be doing--resuming our routine at home and enjoying summer from here. As his ears get better we might venture to a local beach, but we are back to our old ways and I must admit it is a relief.

How is summer shaping up in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

On Cutting Corners, Falling off Tables, and Preaching at My Children

Lately I've been thinking about my tendency to cut corners--no matter what job I begin it seems that I forgo the quality of the job in order to see it done quickly. Rather than preparing well, I just want to get to the good part. So if I am cutting material for a quilt I might not do the best job because I am in a rush to see what it will look like finished. Or rather than tearing out a mistake I might let it slide, thinking: "it'll do".

I find that I do the same in the yard, even though I really really enjoy the work. I need to take time in building my flower beds and planning my yard so that I have a good foundation to work with. I would like to apply this attention to detail to all areas of my life, particularly the not-so-fun tasks that I begin with good intentions but end up slapping together. So I have decided to turn over a new leaf and do my best job of any job that I take on. As I would tell my kids, if it is worth doing then it is worth doing right.

This brings me to the staining of our basement stairs and railings. We had our carpenter build the railings out of 2" x 4" boards and the stairs are plywood. Rather than cover them with carpet or lino, we decided to stain them dark and then finish them with a clear gloss varathane. I have been working on this during naps and after the kids' bedtime for days. Yesterday I had really hit my groove, and when my four-year-old commented that I was doing a good job I took the opportunity to speechify on the merits of hard work and persevering even when you don't like the job you are doing (especially when you loathe cutting in paint or stain around the edges!). I was quite proud of myself--with my tiny paintbrush and my great attention to detail.

It was about this time that I opted to step off my step ladder and onto Husband's poker table in order to reach the highest point of the stair railing from outside the stairs. It is was a pedestal table, so I was sure to step onto the centre of the table, directly over the pedestal. The table wobbled...oh no! As you can imagine, the table crumbled under my weight and my container of dark stain flew through the air, stain splattering the freshly painted walls, the floor, well, everywhere.

I did that.
So after mommy ran around getting buckets of water and cleaning up the huge mess, we sat and had a little chat about how if mommy would have stopped and moved the table, then moved the ladder, I would not have broken daddy's table and made such a mess. This would be a perfect example of doing a job properly. I do so love a teachable moment.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A Quick Look at the Garden

It stopped raining today. At least, it stopped raining long enough for us to take a muddy tour around the yard. I didn't know Saskatchewan has a monsoon season, but it is beginning to feel like it. By my records we have had three inches plus one tenth of rain in June. While we were outside the sun was bright and cheery and I could almost hear the weeds growing. It got good and hot and felt like about 400% humidity, so naturally it kicked up a thundershower and we got another half inch in a major downpour this afternoon.

Before we came in for lunch, I snapped a few pictures of what is growing:

Sunflowers have grown an inch or two in the last two days. I haven't mulched yet this year, so I have lots of weeding to do before I finally haul it in. I'm looking for a large quantity for a low price ;)

Red onions, radishes and carrots, beets and peas are doing well. I managed to have it weeded before all this rain. I weeded around the edges of my yellow onions before the boys needed to go in for lunch. I really can't wait to get some mowing done and get on top of the weed situation out there!

One (almost) weed-free zone, at least at the moment. I say "almost" because the four year old picked some pretty weeds to place beside the creeping jenny. I don't have the heart to remove them just yet! 

Finally a look at the sittin' porch. I absolutely love this covered deck. We got the rug yesterday and 4 year old arranged the furniture. This is where we have our snacks and take a rest when we are working in the yard. I look forward to many, many hours spent enjoying this spot in my yard. Have you got a favorite spot to relax in your yard?

Friday, 20 June 2014

Company's Coming

We are having house guests in July. The first group: my friend's three sons (GULP!). The second: Husband's parents are coming from Newfoundland!

There is much to do.

In order to give three rambunctious boys some space and privacy, I want our basement as ready as possible before they get here. That space will also give the in-laws some privacy, so we might as well do as much as we can (for as cheap as possible) ASAP. Of course Husband is away working so I need to get busy while the weather is wet and I can't be outside. Here is a list to keep me motivated:

  • doors for basement (bedroom, storage area, furnace room and bathroom)
  • trim for around windows and doors, paint and install
  • baseboards for entire basement, paint and install
  • purchase a bed for basement bedroom (actually, a new bed for us. We will put the old one downstairs)
  • return the too-small curtain rod and exchange for a new one
  • hang curtains in basement bedroom, outfit the bed with sheets etc
  • finish installing waterlines on fixtures in basement bathroom
  • get floor mat and new towels for bathroom, possibly a shelf
  • possibly set up a tv in rumpus area
  • sand and stain stairs to basement and all stair railings
  • hang some of our tin signs, art work and pictures down there

 A terrible picture of the sink we put in downstairs. I really like it though, especially since I got it for $100 on kijiji (still new in the box). We painted the bathroom a dark charcoal because I had leftovers from painting some old furniture.

I hung (hanged?) this wallpaper in the basement bathroom yesterday. It is a bold choice for me. I'm glad it is in the basement. 

Once we get a door and trim I will try for nicer pictures. But I'm down to taking pictures with my phone and emailing them to myself, blah blah blah. My old laptop won't take a memory card anymore and we had a 2 year fall down on the "good" laptop which was also 8 years old and had a virus. If I ever disappear from this blog completely you will know that we finally succumbed to obsolescence.

There is also a growing list of what I want to finish outside before the in-laws visit from across the country. That is for another post, however, since it has been wet and cold lately and I need to motivate myself to finish these indoor jobs ASAP. With that in mind, I better get crackin'!