Valentine’s Day 2014

I know that Valentine’s Day is typically a day at childcare centers full of hearts, red, pink & white. However, this year I decided to forgo the typical “Valentine’s” cookies or cupcakes, and instead we made cinnamon buns for snack.

These however, are not your average cinnamon buns! I used my bread recipe. However instead of simply rolling them as one would normally roll cinnamon buns, I cut the flattened dough into strips, and then rolled each end until they touched. I kinda pinched the tip creating a sort of heart shape. Some of them are more heart shaped than others. But all in all I think they look pretty good!!


Can’t wait for the kids to wake up so we can taste them!

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Gingerbread Journey 2013

Check out previous years Gingerbread Journey posts to get the back story of my friend Kristina & I Gingerbread Journey.

Kristina’s inspiration this year was her husband Jon. Jon works for a landscaping company, so Kristina made a Bobcat.

I created Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, as inspired by the Tim Burton film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.

Some of my favourite parts:

The Nut Room


Violet Beauregarde:



Willie Wonka & Charlie:


The window elevator:


Charlie’s house:


Well… That’s Gingerbread Journey 2013! Looking forward to Gingerbread Journey 2014!

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Gingerbread Journey 2012…. The Continuing Saga

Well, obviously it’s no longer 2012! Yep! I said 2012! Check out my post of our Gingerbread Journey so far. This past year was busy with both Kristina & I planning our weddings and getting married. Because of the wedding planning, moving and such, I didn’t actually finish Gingerbread Creation 2012 until this past weekend. (I know! It’s already 2014!) Anyway, Do you remember my inspiration that I had to my 2012 Gingerbread Creation?


And our motto of “GO BIG OR GO HOME!” was very prevelent, when I tackled, not 1……but 7 houses!

Laura Ingalls Wilder has been one of my most favourite authors for as long as I remember. Mom read the books to my brother and me as a bed time story when we were little. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Laura & Almanzo’s story. (You’ll notice that “These Happy Golden Years”, Laura & Almanzo’s courting story has been taped back together!) Someday I will visit the Little House Museums, and see Pa’s fiddle, Laura’s typewriter, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. But for now… I create…..

Book Inspiration: Little House In The Big Woods. Near Pepin, Wisconsin
A “log” house, complete with Ma getting meat out of the smoker!

Book Inspiration: Little House On The Prairie. Near Independance, Kansas
Another log house, Pa is even talking to a Native.

Book Inspiration: On The Banks Of Plum Creek. Walnut Grove Minnesota
Here, the best part was the covered wagon made of gum paste.

Book Inspiration: By The Shores Of Silver Lake. The Ingalls Homestead, De Smet, South Dakota.
Pa is planting the trees, that can still be seen on the homestead today!

Book Inspiration: These Happy Golden Years. Ingalls House in De Smet, South Dakota.
Almanzo is courting Laura, out for a Sunday sleigh ride. (Yes I know that Almanzo’s Morgan horses (Prince & Lady) were brown, but I had already made a grey horse for a different house, and ended up using it for this one instead)

Book Inspiration: The First Four Years. Almanzo & Laura Wilder’s First Home, De Smet, South Dakota, was lost to a fire.
Almanzo & Laura are snuggled up on their front step, the night of their wedding.

Book Inspiration: Laura. Rocky Ridge Farm, Mansfield, Missouri.
Elderly Laura & Almanzo. Note, Almanzo is leaning on a cane, due to being striken with diphtheria as a young man.

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Hamburger Soup

It’s currently around 2 Celius here. One of the dayare children is talking about the snow that was at his house last night… sounds like the perfect day for some Hamburger Soup!

I found the original recipe hand written by my Grandma Dalgarno in the columns of the Strathclair cookbook. I’ve since modified it to suit our tastes.


Hamburger Soup

1.5 lbs Ground Beef
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 jar homemade Tomatoe Sauce
1 L homemade Beef Broth
4 Carrots, chopped
3 Celery Sticks, chopped
3 large Mushrooms, sliced
Parsley, to taste (usually about 1 tbsp)
Thyme, to taste (usually about 1/2 tsp)
3/4 cup Long Grain Rice, uncooked
3 tbsp Pot Barley

Brown meat & onions. Chop veggies, I usually put the celery through the food chopper to disguise it, as the children don’t like to eat chunks of celery. This was they eat it, and are none the wiser!! (sneak eh?) Add everything into the pot. Simmer for several hours.

We usually enjoy this yummy soup with some homemade garlic toast & pickles. A great soup for a cold day! :-)

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Large Muscle Snow Fun

Well, It’s getting to that point in winter when my daycare children just want the snow to melt. They are tired of playing on tramped down snow in the backyard. The boys told me last week “I can’t wait for Mud Day!!” (Check out our Mud Day 2012) They have also started to eye up the puddles that are starting to form in the driveway (Check out Puddle Jumping last June). What the boys needed was a change in scenery! (Me as well!) :-) A couple weeks ago, we watched our friend (Clint Moffat, from Moffat & Sons Construction) clean out our driveway and dump the huge pile of snow in the front yard. What could be more fun that a HUGE pile of snow?!?!?! However, I had to think of the safety of the children, since the snow pile is right beside the road. Obviously it wouldn’t be safe to slide down the side facing the road. So, the children and I sat down and made the rule that we couldn’t climb on the side of the hill closest to the road.  Over the past week, we’ve had a grand time on the snow pile! We’ve jumped, climbed, slid, stomped, pulled ourselves using our arms, rolled…. the large muscle play just goes on and on and on……….

Who will get to the top first? (Notice one child in the background, trying to get out of the wasit deep snow, I just love the thought process, and large muscles that need to work to get out of that situation!)


Climbing back up after sliding down….


Even the 2 year olds can climb the big hill!


Checking out the side that goes to the road, and deciding that yep! It’s too dangerous to slide that way!


Thanks Clint for creating such an awesome snow hill for us to have fun on (and get our exercise on!)

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Homemade Ketchup Recipe

Ketchup has been a staple condiment for hundreds of years. Have you ever wondered what people used to do before Heinz started producing store-bought ketchup? (or was it just me?) Well, this past harvest our tomatoes were VERY bountiful! After making Tomatoe Sauce every couple days for 2 months, I started looking for other recipes to preserve the tomatoes. This is when I stumbled upon a recipe for Ketchup! I figured… why not?!

It’s taken me until now to use up the store bought ketchup that was in my basement, but when I brought out the first jar of homemade ketchup all my daycare kids gave it 2 thumbs up! Without further ado….. Homemade Ketchup!

First you need to gather your ingredients:
3 tbsp Celery Seeds
4 tsp Whole Cloves (I used 16 tsp Ground Cloves)
2 Cinnamon Sticks, broken into pieces
1.5 tsp Whole Allspice (I used 8 tsp Ground Allspice)
3 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
24 lbs Tomatoes, cored & quartered
3 cups Onions, chopped
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1.5 cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Pickling/Canning Salt

Step #1
Tie Celery Seeds, Cloves, Cinnamon Sticks and Allspice into a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. Pour Vinegar into a saucepan, and place spice bag in as well. Bring to boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.
Step #2
In large canning pot combine Tomatoes, Onions & Cayenne. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken.
Step #3
Working in batches, transfer mixture to a sieve placed over a glass/stainless steel bowl and press to extract all liquid. Discard solids.
Step #4
Return liquids to saucepan. Add sugar and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup.
Step #5
I used a Boiling-Water Heat Processing method for canning. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Finger-tip tighten lid. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store. I store the jars in my cellar, but once the jar is open I store it in my fridge (or in this great Tupperware squeeze container)

Well, there you have it! A very tasty Ketchup (and without any Red Dye #2, and lower in sugar & salt than commercial brands) :-)

Categories: Frugal, Recipe | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Gingerbread Journey

Well, after spending two days immersed in the world of Gingerbread Creations I thought that I would share our Gingerbread Journey with you.

First off, for those of you who don’t know Kristina & I, a bit of background story: In 2003 Kristina and I lived together, and that Christmas is when we began our Gingerbread Journey. In our first attempt at Gingerbread houses Kristina made a simple house from a premade pattern out of a magazine, and I designed and built a Nativity Scene. After 10 years of experience, looking back, I can’t believe how crude my scene was that year. Each year Kristina and I get together on a weekend in either November or December or like this year, because of special birthdays, sudden family deaths, and the business of Christmas; January. Other than that first year we have always designed and created our scenes from ideas in our own heads.

First you must have a great dough recipe:
Gingerbread Recipe

Next most important detail is the Glue or Hard Icing. We learned the hard way in year 1 that to attach candy this “hard” icing is always the best way to go! Otherwise pretty soon candy will be falling of your creation all over the place!
Hard Icing Recipe

Finally all you need is a great imagination!! Here are our creations from over the years:
Year 1: House (Kristina)
Nativity Scene (Karen)
Year 2: Train (Kristina)
Farm Yard (Karen)
Year 3: Unfortunately due to computer problems, pictures from this year were lost. :-( (Always remember to back up your pictures!!)
Kristina made a Cul-De-Sac, and I made a daycare center.
Year 4: Living Room Scene (Kristina)
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (Karen)
Year 5: Castle (Kristina)
Grain Elevator (Karen)
Year 6: FairyTale Land (Kristina)
Rudolph’s Reindeer Academy (Karen)
Year 7: Finished FairyTale Land (Kristina)
Train Station & Santa Train (Karen)
Year 8: Pirate Ship (Kristina)
oct - dec 2010 189
Berenstain Bear Tree House (Karen)
oct - dec 2010 077
Year 9: Carnival (Kristina)
Santa’s Workshop (Karen)
Stay tuned for Gingerbread Year 10!!! A little hint on my theme for this year: I drew my inspiration from these fabulous books……. :-)

Categories: Gingerbread Journey, Recipe | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

My Laundry Arsenal

A year ago, I discovered the world of homemaking, frugal-living blogs. Some of the first blog posts that I stumbled across were recipes for making your own laundry detergent. Now…. Call me crazy, but I had never thought of that before. I mean, why would I want to spend 20 minutes every 4-6 months making laundry soap, when I could just go to the store and buy some expensive brand name. However, I had to give it a try!

1 year later, and I have perfected my recipe for detergent, no longer use brand name fabric softener, or bleach in my laundry. It’s so simple, that I wish I had figured this out years ago!

Side note: I have a front-load HE washing machine, and as this detergent is low-suds I’ve never had a problem with it.

Are you ready????? :-)

Recipe for Fabric Softener

Yep! That’s it! I fill the fabric softener spot in my washing machine with white vinegar.

Recipe for Bleach
Hydrogen Peroxide

Again, that’s it! I fill the bleach spot in my washing machine with Hydrogen Peroxide when I have a load of whites/towels. This works great with my daycare towels/cloth wipes/hankies. If I have run out of hydrogen peroxide, I fill the bleach spot with more vinegar however, hydrogen peroxide works much better!

Recipe for Laundry Detergent
¼ cup Borax
¼ cup Washing Soda (NOT Baking Soda)
½ Bar Sunlight Soap
First you grate the soap. I use my hand grater, however, I’ve also used my food processor for this job. Don’t worry about getting soap on your kitchen appliances, because seriously…. IT’S SOAP! LOL
Fill a saucepan with about 8 cups water (actual amount not important) add the grated soap and heat until soap is melted.
Add Borax and Washing Soda. Mix well.
Let cool a bit, and then pour into containers.
I use 2x3L containers, and 2x4L containers. I just pour the soap mixture equally into the containers, and then fill the rest of the way with warm water.
The 3L containers are old brand name laundry detergent containers, and I fill the detergent to the 1 or 2 line in the lid for each load.

I’ve been using my Homemade Laundry Arsenal for 1 year now, and I love it! 1 year ago I bought 1 box Washing Soda, 1 box Borax and 1 pkg of 2 bars Sunlight Soap, spending roughly $20 to make laundry soap, and still have lots of the Washing Soda & Borax left! How much have you spent on laundry soap in the last year?

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No Bake Nuts And Bolts

Have you ever craved Nuts & Bolts, but don’t like to wait the hour it takes to bake them in the oven? The Newdale Community Recipe Book of 2000 contains a great No-Bake Nuts & Bolts recipe from Gertrude Soltys (page 157). This recipe has become a staple at our family gatherings over the past few years. The secret got out at my parents 40th Anniversary party this summer, and friends have been asking me for this recipe ever since. I figured it was time that I spilled the beans on how simple it is! (Of course, when do I ever do something that’s NOT simple?)

Without further ado…..The Recipe!

1 – 675g box Shreddies
1 – 350 g box Crispix
1 – 425 g box Cheerios
1 box Ritz Bits
600 g Pretzels
5 cups Peanuts (optional)
Mix these ingredients together in a NEW/UNUSED plastic garbage bag and shake together. All the ingredients are optional, add whatever you like in nuts & bolts. I tend to not put in the peanuts, and add another bag of pretzels, simply because I can’t serve nuts in my home daycare!

1 cup Canola Oil
3 tbsp Dill Weed
4 tbsp Garlic Powder
3 pkg Dry Ranch Style Dressing Mix
Drizzle Oil over mixture and shake well. Sprinkle seasoning over mixture and shake together. Store in airtight containers.
Yield: approximately 3 Ice Cream Pails full.

Yep! That’s It! That’s All! :-) (Told you it was simple!)

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Esther’s Famous Dill Pickle Recipe

If you’ve never tried making your own pickles, you should! It is worth it because they are SO much better than store bought! I grew up with homemade pickles, as my Mom & Grandma both made some every year. When I first tasted Darryl’s Mom’s pickles, I knew that I had to try this different recipe. This harvest season has brought with it an abundance of cucumbers, so I knew that I would be able to try Esther’s Famous Dill Pickle Recipe!

Step 1: Prepare the cucmbers: You will need to wash the cucumbers. Scrub any dirt off them! I also cut the vine tip off and remove the blossom if it is still attached. I was brought some cucumbers that were a little….. hmmm…….soft/bendy….. definitely NOT nice and crunchy! So, I called up my Grandma (because Grandmas know EVERYTHING! :-) ). Grandma told me to put the cucmbers in a cold water bath with some ice cubes. So, I spend the evening filling up the sink (filled with cucmbers) with cold water, putting ice cubes in, and just generally keeping the water cold! The cucumbers perked up, and were crunchy again in a few hours!

Step 2: Prepare Jars: I use a water bath method. Place your jars upside down in a pot, with no lids on them. Pour in a few inches of water, and bring to boil. Allow jars to boil in the water for a few minutes to sterilize them.

Step 3: Pack Jars: Remove a jar from water. Place 4 drops of Oil of Dill (or 1 head Dill), and 2-3 peeled Garlic Cloves into the bottom of the now sterile jar. Pack cucumbers into jar as tightly as possible. **Make sure to leave some head room so that the lid will fit on.

Step 4: Brine: Combine 9 cups Water, 3 cups Vinegar, and 1 cup Pickling Salt together in a pot. Bring to boil. Meanwhile, place lids and rubber rings in the hot water bath that the jars were in. Once Brine is boiling, you will fill and seal one jar at a time. Pour the brine into a jar until it is overflowing. (I always place the jar in a bowl so that the excess goes into the bowl, and I can then pour it back into the brine pot.) Once jar is full of brine, using tongs, remove the lid & rubber ring from the boiling water bath. Tighten onto the jar. Repeat this for however many jars you are making!

Step 5: WAIT!: Allow your jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. I’ve been asking My Mom, Grandma, and Esther (Darryl’s Mom) how long to wait until you can eat the pickles. I got answers of anywhere from 1 week to 6-8 weeks. I tried 1 jar after about 1.5 weeks, and they tasted GREAT!! Thanks Esther for entrusting me with this fabulous family pickle recipe!

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