Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Elliot's 5th Birthday - Bouncy Kingdom and Dinosaurs

Well, my littlest boy is turning 5 ..... and yes, I am in shock how fast the time has whooshed by us.

Mommy and Elliot five years ago...

Elliot is a rough and tumble kid, with a heart of gold, a hot temper and a devilish grin. 

Hugs and time-out all at the same time ..... but he always make me giggle!

For his 5th birthday (going to big school in the Fall!) we wanted to do something special and a little bigger than normal. He solved the dilemma for us by asking straight out for a bouncy kingdom and dinosaurs.

We invited about 25 kids (plus five of our own) because when you have a giant inflatable playground in your backyard you want to share the fun! 

This looks a little deflated, but everyone was on-board just for a picture!

As far as party games and activities went, we kept it to a minimum. Past experience has taught us to keep it simple. The two hours we had planned would zoom by and the kids would be quite content with the bouncy house and cake. 

With the wide range in ages of the kids coming (18mths to 10years) I picked up a few giant bottles of bubbles, boxes of sidewalk chalk and inflatable beach balls just to fill in the gaps.

Sidewalk chalk and bubbles!!!

Small water bottles, chilling on ice in big tubs were around the yard. With outdoor activities, kids are always busy working up a sweat! I'm not a big believer in soda or sugary drinks, especially with all the bouncing involved. 

For refreshments, we kept it easy-peasy with picnic favorites like watermelon, grapes, carrots, cucumber, cheese and crackers. We also threw in some organic purple tortillas and pretzels for some crunch.

We served this halfway through the party, buffet-style on the deck. A nice break from all of the bouncing, giggling and fun! 

I didn't spend much time or money on decorations as the party was outside. We did have a few balloons in the trees and helium bouquets around the cake table. This giant #5 was awesome and was still floating around our house a week later!

I found foam dinosaur hats at our local Dollarama. The kids got to take them home at the end of the party as an extra party favour. What else would one do with 30 dinosaur hats?!!!

Soon it was time to serve up cake and ice cream! Everyone came inside to sing Happy Birthday, grab a cupcake and headed back out for one last bounce until their parents arrived.

Elliot handed everyone a favor bag and thanked them for coming. These little treats were loaded with bubbles, chalk, Dino gummies and a boomerang to mimic the party theme.

It was a fun day with a great group of friends. Thanks to everyone who attended. :-)

Happy Birthday Elliot!!!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

My Magnolia Tree

My Magnolia Tree Survived!

The time has finally arrived!  My magnolia tree is in full bloom!

I was a bit nervous this year waiting for this day.  Shortly after moving in to our new abode last Spring, our gardens were in for the shock of their long, overgrown, 30-year lives. There's a new sheriff in town and she wants things back in order!

I have a deep-seeded passion for flowers, shrubs and trees of all kinds, but do not appreciate things being unkempt in the garden. However, not knowing much about magnolias, I waited until after bloom to do some much needed pruning. As always, I got a little "prune-happy" and was sure I had killed the poor thing. 

But mother nature smiled upon me (once again...) and blessed me with these beautiful saucers..... and a few dandelions too! ;-)

I look forward to this time of year in my garden, when the buds begin to open and the bulbs burst with spring colours. The bees start buzzing and my heart starts singing. Gardening season has finally arrived!

If you follow me on Twitter (Follow Me here) you will remember that I tweeted some pics of Spring beginning in my mother's garden at Easter-time.

Well, they are blessed to be living in the beautiful Annapolis Valley where farmers and gardeners alike enjoy an early start to the season. I think they have been mowing their lawns for about a month now ..... we are just preparing our machines for our first cut this weekend. 

In any case, we are now enjoying the joyous season of Spring and I wanted to drop by to share some of these glorious blooms happening in my own backyard. What's showing signs of life in your garden? 

I hope you get outside and enjoy your Victoria Day long weekend!


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Pepperoni Pizza Bites (Buffet-Style)

Choosing something to prepare for a buffet style event is always a difficult task. The food has to be tasty, easy to grab (buffet-style), not too messy, and nothing that will easily spoil as it will be out on the table for the course of the event.

Well folks, I think I've found a winner!!! Introducing Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza Bites!


2cans (13.8 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated classic pizza crust
8oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 48 cubes
48 slices pepperoni (3 oz)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1jar (14 oz) pizza sauce, heated 
The crescent pizza dough comes in a can, pop it and roll it out with your fingertips.

Have everything chopped, ready to go and oven preheated (400 degrees) as the dough gets hard to work with and sticky if it gets to room temp.

Cut dough into 24 equal squares. I've found it easiest to use a pizza cutter for this step.

Now add your toppings. I choose classic pepperoni and cubed mozzarella cheese.

Now there are a number of options for folding. The one that I have found the most successful and fastest is the four corner technique. Simply pull the dough from corner to corner, and then the other corner to corner. The cheese melts and bubbles in the oven and will seep through any opening. So ensure that the four corners are sealed and the folded side goes down on the baking tray. 

Combine a mixture of olive oil and pizza spices in a bowl and spoon over each pizza bite. I like to use this pizza spice from Epicure, but any Italian seasoning mixture will work just the same. Top with freshly grated parmaesan cheese and put in a preheated 400 degree oven for 18-22 minutes until slightly brown. They do burn easily, so watch carefully! 

When they are out of the oven I piled them in the middle of two sheets of tinfoil. Pull all four corners to the top centre and gather and twist. This will keep them warm for a little bit until they are served. 

To make the platter for this event, I added pizza sauce in the centre for dipping. For variety I added sliced deli pepperoni, cubed marble cheese and some tangy baby dills.

 If you ever need a quick crowd-pleaser or an after-school snack for the kids, give these Pizza Bites a try! Both adults and kids love these little gems, so make sure you make extras! 

I am already dreaming of alternate fillings ... maybe a spinach and feta combo? Mmmmmm....

So, what's your favorite go-to recipe for a buffet-style gathering?

Monday, 15 April 2013

Treasure Hunting - One Man's Trash ....

Heavy Garbage Pick-Up ..... Tis the season in Cape Breton. 

The time of year when folks can clean out their basement and garage and leave unwanted items curbside for the municipality to lug off to the landfill. Today is pick-up day and the city streets are lined with rusty hot water tanks and broken hunks of plastic. 

Heavy Garbage Pick-Up is not only a great time to get rid of stuff, but it's also a great time for some good ole treasure hunting! Now, I'm not usually one to purposely go rummaging through other people's garbage, but I always get excited to see what others are throwing away. And of course, is it of any use to me?

Now I grew up on a farm and my Dad is somewhat of a collector ('hoarder' according to my Mom!) My weekends were spent riding shotgun as he traveled to various farm sales and auctions. Livestock and farm machinery was the name of the game, but once in awhile, an old Radio Flyer wagon or steam trunk would end up in the mix of bartered items. That is why I could never stay home ..... treasure hunting was in my blood!  I even got my first little puppy, Benji, from a farm sale ..... xoxo.

So, one sunshiny afternoon when I was on my way to pick up the kids from school, something shimmery caught my eye. Something peeking up through yet another pile of roadside trash. Something I can never pass up ..... mirror! I have so many mirrors, and not because I am vain, but because over the years I have found oodles of uses for them. Interior, exterior, dark corners, table-scapes, mosaics, etc. and when it's free? Bring it on!

I quickly pulled off the road. And suddenly got an overwhelming feeling that the entire world was watching me! That I was doing something illegal, and the garbage police were going to show up with sirens blaring! So in a dash, I bolted from my driver's side door, threw the broken lampshade and wicker basket off my mirror, did a quick check to ensure it was intact and shoved it in the trunk ..... all within seconds!  But then I hesitated, not because I was second guessing my awesome mirror snag, or I heard sirens in the distance, oh no. But as I was scurrying away I caught a glimpse of another little something .....

You can see my mirror find in the background.

This chair. 

Funny how I would never pick either of these things up in a store and actually pay money for them. But because it was roadside and free, it was totally worth the investment. I envisioned this little chair in my baby girl's room, pulled up to a dressing table as she drapes herself in jewels playing dress-up. Of course a coat of spray paint and a fabric change are in order, but the daintiness and curved backrest is so sweet. Another great thing about free stuff ..... if it doesn't work, I can toss it roadside without regret. So home with me it came to a new life.  Recycle. Reduce. Reuse.

Here are some other finds. An old ladder (photography props), a wicker planter, some old skiis (winter display) and the toddler rocker and chandelier are finishing touches that I needed for baby girls nursery! All need some TLC, but I am looking forward to it!

I, myself look forward to Spring cleaning and getting rid of projects gone wrong, large renovation pieces and broken bits that you have no idea what to do with on regular garbage day. We've recently demolished old built-in closet organizers to make way for more useful, less space-hogging versions. (Post coming soon!) But our garage is housing all of the project mess. So, Rob and I lugged most of it to the road this past weekend. And before our garage door had even closed, a pick-up truck pulled in, loaded it and it was gone! Obviously they had a use for it! Recycle, Reduce, Reuse.

Not much is left in our pile of discarded items. An old steam-mop (that never really worked), a broken hulla-hoop, snow scraper,  and some very large, forest green, wall-to-wall vertical blinds that were included with the house purchase. Yep, if you're interested, they are all on our front lawn for the rest of the day! ;-)

We always try to get our stuff out a few days prior to the scheduled pick up date. That gives people time to rummage through and see what they can use. It is so much better to give items a second chance rather than tossing into a landfill. 

I also find, if you stand back and look at all of the trash on the side of the road this time of year, you think a little more before purchasing. Through my experience, I see a lot of pressed board desks and shelving and huge plastic toys in the piles.  Buying things of quality and that have an end of life recycling component are extremely important. Now, you don't always need to spend a lot of money, start looking at yard sales, junk shops, and on sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Not only will you get something unique and better quality, you can feel good about shopping local and doing something for your environment. 

And my favorite find of the day ... 3 old solid wood doors! Beautiful!

Happy Treasure Hunting!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Pancake Tuesday + Recipe

Almost every Tuesday is Pancake Tuesday at our house. Little ones can sometimes be picky, so it originated for us as a way to get their bellies full with something that everyone loves.

Swimming practice also falls on this night, and who wants a full stomach of "heavy" food when you're in the pool? Ugh!  So this recipe topped with some fresh fruit is a quick, light meal that gives them what they need.

Through the years, I have reworked this recipe to eliminate (or cut down on) bad oils, salt, white flour and now sugar. Gross you're thinking, right?

Well, like a lot of people, we are becoming more and more aware of what goes into our bodies. Making healthy substitutes in your favorite recipes aids in this cause and can actually improve the texture and taste of your food. 

One thing that I love is coconut products. So pure, and good for you! I have yet to find a good quality coconut flour, but when I do, you can be sure it will be a substitution for the all-purpose flour ( I have cut it down in this recipe, but find it is still needed to keep the pancakes light.) 

I got this recipe from Canadian Living magazine years ago while searching for a whole wheat pancake recipe. The first time I made them I was worried but the kids gobbled them up - instant success! 

We like a variety of toppings, a touch of pure maple syrup, homemade berry sauce, caramelized apples, bananas & chocolate chips, or fresh fruit are always a favorite. They are also great to make in big batches and freeze for busy times or early mornings.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups low-fat milk or vanilla soy milk (Yum!)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
In large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk,  oil and vanilla; pour over dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.

Heat large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake; cook until bubbles break on top but do not fill in and bottoms are golden, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn and cook until golden on bottom, 1 minute. 

Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper and freeze in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Source : Canadian Living Magazine: April 2004
Altered by:  Rebecca Todd - The Tangled Treehouse

Please give them a try and let me know what you think! 

Happy Pancake Day!

Monday, 8 April 2013

While the Masters Away .....

My husband is one of those guys that loves golf. He plays, reads and dreams about it more than he would like to admit. He fulfilled one of his childhood dreams a couple of years ago when he and his buddies made the trip to California and played Pebble Beach.

In a few days another golf dream will be checked off his bucket list ..... He is going to the Masters! Not as a player (wink, wink) but as a giddy, grown man in the viewers gallery.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am very jealous happy for him. But with five little ones at home, his travels leave me the sole 'doer' of everything around here! Ugh! I'm getting tired just thinking about it!

We have had plenty of time to prepare, but we are one of those 'fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants' type families ..... everything last minute, rushed, grab and dash ..... but man, we make a great team and always pull through. Notorious for saying, "someday we'll get it together", or "next time we'll prepare ahead of time ".....

However, here we are again, down to the wire and scrambling to get things done. This time is a little different as I personally have a lot more on my plate. My blog and my Etsy shop are starting to take off (YEAH!!!) but it eats up a huge portion of my time. So to make room for everything in my schedule, the boy's schedules and taking on my husband's portion of household chores and errands for the week, I needed a plan.

  • Started with a quick clean up of the house. Everything in it's place makes stressful times and tight schedules run so much smoother. 

  • Got out my dry erase markers and headed to the family calendar. Added in the tasks that were usually my husband's but now on my plate. For example: taking boys to swimming lessons, Taekwondo, and parent/teacher meetings. 

  • Headed to the grocer to stock the fridge so I didn't have to run out through the week ..... huge time crusher!  I also like to wash most produce, chop and store in Ziploc bags so they are ready to use when needed.

  • I prepared multiple meals in advance so that we can eat healthy on the go, without much effort. Some of these include roast chicken, turkey meatballs, root veggies, and a crock-pot soup.

  • Switched lunch box prep to an evening chore to save time in the morning. The boys like to help with food prep, so after grocery shopping they pre-packaged all the dry snacks for me. :-)

  • Finished all laundry and put away in closets. A system that really works for us is picking outfits for the entire week of school. We bought large clothes pins at the Dollarama to attach the bottoms and top to the hanger so there is no confusion. There have been many chaotic mornings where someone is running around looking for socks. So this system came from necessity. It also helps to keep me on top of the laundry and starts each week on an organized note.

  • My husband always packs his own luggage. I just make sure his laundry is done and pick up some new travel-sized products. I must say, my eyes were more green than usual when he packed shorts and sunscreen! We are still hovering around freezing here in Nova Scotia, so shorts season is still another month or more away.

After this hefty weekend of preparation, we are more ready than we have ever been. There is still a lot to do, but I feel more confident that I can handle it all on my own. Just some tightening up of schedules and trying to add in some fun here and there will be key.

I also got away this afternoon for a few hours just to have some time to myself. With the hectic schedule ahead, it was something my husband and I felt was important. Most of you won't be surprised to hear that I strolled the aisles of Michael's, gathered some wreath materials and spent a couple of hours in my workshop. That's my kind of Mommy time!

Does anyone else have a golf addict living amongst them? Do you prepare ahead for everything or mostly wing it like myself? Who is cheering for Mike Weir this year at the Masters? Yes, he is Canadian and we love him! 


Friday, 5 April 2013

Art Supplies Toolbox

Good morning! Just an itty bitty post today about something that I am extremely excited about! Sometimes it's the littlest things that have the biggest impact .....

Like a sunny spot for my lazy kitty ..... ahhhh ..... Spring is in the air!

My boys love to colour, cut and paste. Most days, my dining table is used for crafting rather than eating, although there have been times when they could not resist tasting the glue or play-doh ..... but that's another story!

So, I was browsing my local Winners store when I spied this divided gardeners toolbox. I love anything garden inspired, but this was not going to be toting gardening tools. Nope, not this time, I was thinking craft supplies!

I kind of surprised myself with the colour choice.  I have never been a "blue" girl, maybe because growing up in a house of all girls and we loved our Hollie Hobbies and Strawberry Shortcake decor. But with all of the grey making it's way into my house lately, blue is a perfect complimentary colour. 

So I opted for the blue, but this was also available in a cream, red and green for those of you out there looking! :-)

So we cleared the table and starting sorting the boxes of "stuff." I enlisted some help to test all the markers, and we threw out about half! Same with the pencil crayons, anything too short was tossed as well as the crayons.

We chose the kids favorite type of markers and put the remaining in a Ziploc bag to replenish the craft tote as necessary. The dividers keep everything neat and tidy. Each section having a purpose; one for charcoal pencils, crayons, pencil crayons, markers and scissor/rulers/tape. For some reason, we are always looking for the tape!

Having fewer items to dig through, keeps crafting more organized and fun!

And how cute is the chalkboard front?

I really like having this big handle on it too, so we can easily move it to the sideboard when it's time for supper.

Great little organizing project for under $20! And it only took a few minutes for the boys to gather round, pull out their colouring books and try out the new craft box.

Does anyone else having art supplies taking over their home? How do you keep it all organized?


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Architect or Sledgehammer? Dreaming of Renos.....

Well, here we are, the beginning of April.  The time of year when we start seeing longer days, warmer temps and what I consider Spring Fever! I jump up excited each morning to tackle the day, chores seems less chore-ish and my mind is constantly reeling with ideas. 

More sunshine = more energy!!!

One of the projects that we have on the books this Spring is to hire an architect. We have been living here for almost a year now, and have come to the conclusion that some walls need to come down. 

We have updated the colour, trim and landscaping since this pic was taken. But this gives you an idea of the architectural features we are dealing with.

The kitchen/dining room/living room area in particular has been begging for expansion. We are a typical family that spends most of our time in these areas of our home. Kids on the dining room table doing homework and crafts (very rarely do we eat in there) and the living room feels very detached from the kitchen, where I spend endless hours each day prepping, cleaning and cooking. In the middle of this room trio is a stairwell to the finished basement where the kids spend a lot of time. I have visions of this area opened up including the stairwell to the basement ..... I guess we'll see what the professionals say.

Hallway from front entrance to kitchen and basement stairwell ahead. Living room to the left. Dining room to the right. And yes, we are planning to change all flooring during this reno! Blue slate or pink carpet anyone?

Now we have lived in open concept design before, and it was too much noise for a family of seven. You couldn't get away! So we don't want to knock down every wall, we would like to keep a couple of the main ones for proper division of space. We also have some high sloping roof lines and some that are completely flat. Hence, an architect will be needed to guide us so that we maintain the architectural features and stability of our home.  

Bump out breakfast nook and alter deck. Would also like to upgrade to French doors. :-)

Our kitchen is very dated and poorly laid out.  I have not enjoyed cooking a single meal since we moved here ..... and I love to cook! So along with this renovation, we would also like to add a mudroom/laundry and bump out the breakfast nook. Our garage is attached so we would also like to have that insulated and do a small addition there for sports equipment.

Holy, when I type all of this it sounds overwhelming! 

I always find it takes us about a year to live in a home and decide what needs to be changed. I'm glad I didn't take my sledgehammer to the kitchen on Week 2 when I realized it was a nightmare! After hours, and hours, and hours, and hours and hours of meal prep and entertaining in the space, my ideas have come full circle. 

I have also taken the time to ask around about suitable architects for this job. Builders, contractors, tradesmen, friends and neighbours have been more than willing to share their experiences.

I'm looking forward to this project. Even though it is a big one, and there will be times of stress and tears, I know in the end it will make this space more useful and comfortable.

Anyone else planning or dreaming of some Spring/Summer renos? Knocking down any walls? Who else loves demolition as much as I do?


Sunday, 31 March 2013

Hippity, Hoppity Easter's Here!

Happy Easter!

Well, that Easter Bunny sure did hippity-hop right through our house this morning! There were eggs everywhere! 

Not to mention a very tell "tail" sign who was to blame!

There was a lot of basket stuffing and carrot crunching going on around here while we were all tucked in our beds last night.

Mr. Cottontail tracked us down with those giant feet of his even though we were staying with relatives for the Easter holiday. Wow! He is quite an amazing bunny!

Baskets were filled with sticker books, sidewalk chalk, skipping ropes, yo-yo's, sunglasses, tennis balls, golf balls, Lego, chocolate eggs, chocolate coins and of course, a marshmallow chocolate bunny.

He also left the kids these funny little bunny teeth so they could practice their bunny skills! 

The Easter Bunny did a great job hiding eggs around the living room for the little ones to discover throughout the morning. However, I think our little Audrey found the majority of them before her big brothers!

Yes, the Easter Bunny was generous this year and we are thankful.

The kids were super excited to be surrounded by family and friends this blessed holiday. We wish each of you the same happiness, a wonderful long weekend and baskets full of goodies!