Colouring Books for Grown-Ups

I haven’t used my pencil crayons in twenty years, but I haven’t been able to let them go either.  I never thought of taking up colouring again, but someone else has, and hence the trend of adult colouring books! What a great idea! Here’s a project I started with some awesome highlighters, and I hope my friend will help me and finish the rest.  I can’t wait to the see the combined result!

Colouring Book

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How I Plan to Have 52 Dates with my Husband This Year

If James Lipton ever asks, my least favorite word is “busy”.  It’s not that I don’t like being occupied or involved.  It’s just that it keeps me away from my favorite thing, my man.  My husband is part of so many activities and he rarely says no to anyone.  His busy calendar often leaves me eating dinner alone and saying “hello and goodbye” as we get ready for work.   Sometimes I feel like “Ladyhawke” (high-five if you get my obscure ‘80s movie reference).  So I often feel like the neglected wife.  But he’s not without his complaints either.  When we do have time together, I might try to get some errands done or even fall asleep watching tv.  This doesn’t count as quality time either.

So we came up with a plan.  I got a deck of cards.  Each week I set out a new card (alternating colours) to signify it’s time for a date.  I plan the dates for the red cards, and he plans the black ones.  After the date, I write down on the card what we did and when.  I wish I could draw, but stick men is all I can manage.  In the last five months we’ve had twenty dates!

52 Dates

52 Date Rules

  • Each person plans half the dates
  • Dates don’t have to be elaborate or cost any money
  • Dates cannot include other people
  • Average one date per week for the year

A typical date for us usually involves going out for dinner; it’s one of our favorite things.  But it can be as simple as watching the new Doctor Who episode together, having a nice breakfast at home, or going for a walk.  The best date so far (we both agree) was grabbing a coffee at our old campus, and strolling around hand in hand, reminiscing about old times.

This has been working well for us because it makes him really make time for me and it makes me really take quality time with him.  So far it’s been working great for both of us!

download

Gifts That Give to Charity

I love giving presents to my family at Christmas.  I hope to find something nice that they will like and can use.  But it’s such a challenge!  Unfortunately we are fortunate enough to have almost everything we want.  So for the last few years I have been trying to find nice gifts that also helps others.  A search for gifts that give to charity or leads to numerous lists of ideas, but they are usually stores, websites or charities I don’t know.  So after some intensive research I’ve come up with a few ideas, including local (Edmonton) charitable gift guide.

International Gifts

Kiva Mirco Loans

Kiva helps facilitate micro-loans directly to borrowers throughout the world.  A $25 gift certificate will let the receiver choose the individual who gets the loan and once it’s paid back, they can loan it out again or withdraw it.  You can choose the loanee based on location and sector.  In the last six year my $25 donation got matched and then has been donated out nine times.  Right now I’ve loaned to Agileo in Uganda to buy a maize mill and Aliyma in Krygzstan to buy cows and sheep to sell milk.

How Kiva Works

Oxfam

Oxfam is an international organization that tries to find solutions to poverty in developing nations.  Oxfam Unwrapped allows you to pick from a variety of gifts that go directly to help people around the world. Plus they come with cute cards and clever sayings.  Give your mom a chicken for Christmas.  Get your brother a few drinks (of clean water).   Plant a vegetable garden for you aunt and emergency toilets for your uncle.

Oxfam Goat

OXFAM

UNICEF

UNICEF also offers gifts that are given to those in need in developing countries.  Their program of Survival Gifts lets you pick from educational gifts like school books, health needs like anti-malaria pills, water pumps, and emergency relief.

Local Gifts

If you prefer to keep you donations close to home, here are a few suggestions in the Edmonton area.

There are a number of great calendars that support some local groups.

Edmonton Fire Department Calendar

Edmonton Fire Department Calendar

Art from the Valley Zoo Development Society

The gift of home decor while supporting the zoo.  The Valley Zoo Development Society offers paintings by Lucy the Elephant or Hula and Makani the Harbour Seals. Pieces range from $39 – $139.

Harbour Seal Art

Harbour Seal Art

Edmonton Public Library Merchandise

For over a year the library has offered free library cards to everyone.  Plus the library offers more than book borrowing, their goal is to grow literacies and life skills for an active, engaged community to enhance their health and success.  Pick up some stocking stuffers like mugs, USB ports, pens or mitts.  This is adorable onesie is the most expensive item at $20.

EPL-07

Ginger Bread Men for Habitat for Humanity

Albertan coffee shop, the Good Earth Cafe will give $1 from every $6.95 cookie package to Habitat for Humanity.

Greeting Cards for the Stollery Centre

I love this idea.  If you are sending out Christmas cards, why not buy cards that supports a charity?  These clever folks offer eCards, or PDFs, which you can print and mail with the gold ol’ post.  The donation amount is up to you. That’s a win-win-win.

Christmas Tree for Kids Kottage

Buy your natural fir tree for $20 from Ikea, you get a $20 Ikea gift card and Kids Kottage will receive some of the proceeds.

Red Mittens for the Canadian Olympic Committee

Every year the Bay offers a new style of the iconic red mittens.  $3.33 from the $10 price goes to the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Red Mitten the Bay

Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton

Ten beautiful wildlife photography greeting cards for $15 or a donation to save wildlife from $50 to feed hungry birds to $1000 to support eagle rehab.

xmas-ask-card-2014-photo-without-text1

Festival of Trees (Nov 27 – 30)

Last but no least is the University Foundation’s Festival of Trees.  This fundraising event is not only an experience gift but also a great shopping opportunity.  This year’s donations are to support the purchase of a gamma knife to perform delicate brain procedures. Tickets for adults are $10, seniors/youth $5, and children (2-12) $2.

UHF_FOT2014_weblogoblock_FINAL

Got any other good Gifts that Give Back?  Let me know!

How (Not) to Take a Passport Photo

I’m obsessed with make-up tutorials right now, because this happened!  My passport photo or the Creature from the Black Lagoon!

Bad_Passport_PhotoOk, scroll past it already!  I was so embarrassed by this photo, I couldn’t even ask the photographer to re-take it!  My loving husband re-assures me that I don’t look anything like it, but it is LITERALLY my picture!

So a week later, after I had time to prepare, I had this photo taken.  Better, right?  Short of going on a crash diet and getting a face lift, here’s what I did.

Passport_PhotoHow to Take Your Best Passport Photo

  1. Get enough sleep.  To avoid that puffy-red-eyed exhausted look, try not having to fake it.
  2. Do your makeup.  Oh, how naive I was to believe in natural beauty. Those Dove ads lied to me.  Ok, yes you’re a natural beauty, but go ahead an enhance that beauty with a tad of make-up.  By the way, I;m in love with Jaclyn Hill‘s makeup tutorials.
  3. Pose! The official Passport Canada instructions require a neutral face, but not a relaxed zombie face!  Smize (thanks Tyra!) and work that jaw (thanks Peter Hurley!).  I’m a natural frowner, so I gave just a hint of a smile to turn the corners of my mouth straight.  That gave me a (positive) neutral face.
  4. Wear your hair down.  Ok, this doesn’t apply to me, but if your hair stylist gave you a great cut to flatter your face, then show off that work of art.
  5. Wear a flattering and not distracting shirt- ie: black v-neck.
  6. Choose the right photographer.  The reject photo was taken at London Drugs on a Saturday morning, when the cashier was juggling passport photos and print pickups.  The good photo was taken at Black’s on a weekday evening when the entire mall was empty.  The photographer was glad anyone came into his shop.
  7. Take your time.  Just relax (while posing!) and don’t be afraid to ask for a re-take.

Enjoy your world travels! This photo is going to last me the next 10 years!

How_To_Passport_Photo.jpg

Not Delayed Blooms – Monkshood (?)

(Sound of hand slapping forehead!)
Such a rookie mistake AND beginners’ luck!  I thought I had delphiniums, but now I think they’re monkshood.  I couldn’t believe that all my neighbours’ plants were blooming and mine just started to bud.  Then I took a closer look and realized that I had mislabeled my flowers.  The MAJOR problem is their care is completely different.

wordpress.craftambitions.com

wordpress.craftambitions.com

Last summer, I moved my monkshood (by un-gloved hand, oops!) from a partial shade area to full sun, covered it in manure and bone meal, and kept it moist.  Luckily they LOVED it!  They grew taller and with more buds than ever before, and are just starting to bloom.  It’s  easy to see the significant improvement because I missed moving a few plants, and the ones in the old location look weak and spindly in comparison.

Now that I look at the two flowers next to each other, they are obviously different.  The delphiniums have a five-petal flower and the monkshood are a funny hood-like shape.  I guess the lesson learned is that all flowers like extra sun, water and manure!

My Childhood is For Sale

A trip to a local antique shop has made me feel old and depressed.  I didn’t realize that the contents of my childhood toy chest made for the inventory of an antique shop.  And when did toys from the ’80s become antiques?  Oh, I know, it’s when the kids these days started wearing those ridiculous skinny jeans.  And check out these prices.  Forget investing in blue chips, I should have bought more action figures.

My Little Ponies ranged in price from $25 to $48 for a purple unicorn, and the plastic Coke yo-yo I thought was a novelty was priced at $75!

collage_toy1
Hubby’s Star Wars figures are priced at $15-$25, but what really shocked us was that an original Nintendo sells for $148. Please tell me who is buying a 30 year old gaming system and what are they doing with it?  I can barely pay someone to take away my Rock Band set.  Maybe I should hold onto it until 2044?

collage_NES

The only thing toy that made us feel happy was the Darth Vader Mask.  We bought ours at a garage sale for $1 (I wrote about it here) but the antique shop priced it at $80.

collage_Vader

Grandma’s House or Antique Mall?

It also appears that the antique store robbed my mom’s china hutch and my grandmother’s house. They have Oma’s coffee mugs, coffee maker, jam jars, cookware, crystal glasses, etched wall mirror, Royal Dalton dolls, framed needlepoint, glass sculpture, and furniture.  I’m not sure how I would feel if I saw all my belongings for sale in a store.

An entire set of mom’s china pattern is for sale.  It’s the delicate pink flowers and gold trim of Royal Albert’s Lavender Rose.  The teapot is priced at $150 and a dessert plate for $9.50.  Mom thinks this is outrageous.  The store’s website tells me that for the dishes to have value they must have been manufactured in England.  If it doesn’t say England, than it’s a China-made new production.collage_china_crystal

And there are the loads of crystal classes. These ones sell for about$4/piece, which I think is inexpensive.  Can you tell crystal from glass?  My friend has a very clever grandma that takes advantage of people who don’t care to know the difference.   She heads to garage sales bright and early, buys all the crystal priced as glass and sell it at the flea market!

If you’re not sure if it’s crystal or glass, there are few tests to try:

  • Read the label.  Obvious I know, but my $4 crystal vase still had the label on it.
  • Crystal shines like a prism.
  • Crystal is heavy.
  • Crystal sounds bright.  Flick it or run a wet finger around the edge.  Crystal makes a pleasant sound, glass is dull.
  • Crystal can be worked thin.  Check the rim.

 

singer_sewingWe can’t talk about antiques without talking about Singer sewing machines.  I’m a bit of an expert these; I watched an episode of Pickers once. Don’t get excited if you have one of these, they aren’t worth as much as you’d like.  Singer made a variation of this machine from the 1850s (in the 1920’s they added electricity) to the 1970’s. They were very popular – everyone had one – which makes them not very valuable today.  Plus most modern people don’t want a hundred pound piece of furniture (ok – my Singer “featherweight” is only 30 lbs).

The biggest surprise to me at the antique store was the prices on what I consider old and out of date housewares.  I don’t know who would want these “antiques” at all, much less pay more than a couple of quarters for them.  I guess the antique mall is too rich for me, and I’ll just have to stick to garage sales.

 

collage_50s

7 Tips for a Great Garage Sale

I’ve been known to visit a few garage sales in my time, and to throw a couple too, so I’ve come up with a few tips.

  1. 7 Tips for a Great Garage SaleHave a large inventory.  Be sure to have enough stuff to warrant sitting around for a whole weekend selling it.
  2. Merchandising.  Think like a store.  Have your stock sorted, organized and clean.  Display your good stuff out front.
  3. Signage. Lots of them.  Make it easy to get to your house.  I like easy to follow arrows, hubby likes a straight forward address.  Sometimes if we get lost on our way to a sale, we’ll just give up.
  4. Pricing.  Price it clearly, price it to sell.  Buyers like to know the cost, they feel uncomfortable making the first bid.  10%-25% retail is standard.  You can mark a whole table or box of stuff at the same price.
  5. Advertise the big stuff.  Big and/or expensive items are difficult to move at garage sales.  Put it up on kijiji before the sale starts and have them pick it up during your sale.  Don’t forget my kijiji rule – only respond to polite and properly written replies.  Shout out to Weird Al for putting this sentiment to music.
  6. Have Change.  You’ll need small bills and change.
  7. Make it a party.  Get your neighbours, family, and friends to join you.  “Multi-family” sales are always more appealing and fun.

Good luck with your sale!

Love Thy Neighbours’ Garage Sale

garage_saleI know the exact moment I became old.  It was a lovely Saturday morning in the summer of ’12.  I was driving through my neighborhood, listening to CBC radio, and I saw the sign – literally.  Garage sale!  I followed the arrows and soon found myself rummaging through someone else’s junk.  Ever since my first taste, I can’t stop.

Now it’s become a weekly adventure.  Sometimes we take our cruisers and prowl the streets.  Other times we drive to the fancy communities with our fancy lattes.  We never know what we’ll find.  It’s just like my very own Antique Picker Wars.  It’s really hit or miss.  Sometimes there’s nothing but yogurt containers and other times it’s crystal and nerd toys.

When we first starting shopping, we made one rule.  Fair prices are paid – no haggling on good deals.  Other than that, it’s fair game.  Plus now we know where to find the good sales.  Run down neighborhoods are more likely to have run down stuff and is the only time we find cigarette smells.  Young neighborhoods with young families have lots of baby and kids stuff in great condition.  Old neighborhoods tend to have all sorts of things from another era.

We’ve found many items worth our cash – kitchen wares, books, dvds, knitting needles and craft supplies, crystal vase, nerd stuff, power tools, mahogany headboard, baby toys, golf caddy, art, garden supplies, furniture,…  He are a few of our favorites.

Favorite Buy: Road runner carved in wood.  I have this memory of when my twin brother and I were 4 years old.  We were playing with my mom’s carved wood bird.  It was like an asymmetrical seesaw, and if you pushed down on the tail it would pop back up.  Except it wasn’t a toy.  Mom warned us to stop playing with it or we’d break.  No way, I thought.  Then all of a sudden it’s beak was broken off.  I’m sure it was my brother’s fault, I don’t have any memory of breaking it.  Well, guess what I found at one sale.

Road_Runner

Road Runners – Mom’s (above), Garage Sale Find (below)

Darth Vader Helmet

Darth Vader Mask

 

Hubby’s Favorite Buy:  Toss up between the Darth Vader mask or the beer stein collection.  Vader cost $1 and the steins cost between 10 cents and a $1.

Beer Stein Collectiion

Beer Stein Collection

Blender

Blender

 

Best Deal: Commercial blender with 3 HP, $25.  The seller had gotten out of the smoothie business, and I got the best blender ever.

Worst Deal: Old garden trellises.  I got three of them for two bits each.  They’re ugly, broken, and I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes other people’s trash is just trash.  Don’t buy stuff just because it’s cheap.  Lesson learned.

 

A Tech Guide for Rip Van Winkle

ripvanwinkleMy friend, “Rip”, hasn’t exactly been sleeping for 20 years, but his luddite ways has left him out of the web.  On a road trip last year he got lost, so he thought he’d look up the address in a phonebook in a phone booth.  He drove around for ages looking for a public phone.  Luckily he found a blue police box and a nice doctor helped him find his way.

I think it’s about time that Rip adopt the most modern technologies for his next adventures.  The irony is that Rip isn’t actually technologically obtuse.  He can code in COBOL like nobody’s business.  He’s just a really slow adopter when it comes to his personal life.  So where should be get started?

The Smart Phone

Rip sometimes uses a beeper for work, but I think it’s time he get a cell phone – and it better be smart.  After careful consideration (we are Samsung AND Apple users) I have decided to recommend the iPhone.  For three reasons: #1) It’s the most intuitive.  #2) Its so widely used, almost anyone can help him use it.  #3) His bffs use iPhones too, so they can all use FaceTime.  (Rip – This means that you can video chat with each other ANYWHERE for FREE as long as you are using wifi.)

I should probably explain to Rip that a Smart Phone isn’t a phone, but a tiny computer that can also be used for phonecalls.  At the most basic level, it’s a:

Phone Address Book Clock Calendar
Camera Video Camera E-Mail Text
Weather Reminder Calculator Notebook
Maps & GPS Music Games Computer

oldfashioned_smartphone

And then there are the apps.  There is practically an app for everything you can think of and 10 for things you didn’t even know you needed (although I’m still waiting for the app that will call 9-1-1 if I have a heart attack or a stroke). Some of my favorites are:

  • Facebook
  • Google Calendar
  • Do it Tomorrow – After a lot of research into various to do lists – the color coded, deadlines, categories… – this is my favorite, and the simplest.  You can either enter it for today or for tomorrow.  Anything you don’t get done will be left on the today page.
  • Face Time
  • Netflix
  • Urbanspoon
  • Wikipedia
  • IMDB
  • Youtube
  • Pinterest
  • CBC radio – Hey Rip, you can live stream or listen to podcasts of DNTO.
  • Banking
  • Shopping – Canadian Tire, PC Points, MEC, Groupon, Kijij…

do it tomorrowurbanspoonpinterest

 

Have you got any favorite apps or iPhone tricks?

Going Full Google

I’ve recently decided to go full Google, and I would recommend that Rip do the same.  With one login, on one platform, and with apps that can work together – how can you go wrong?  It’s all cloud based, accessible on any computer and on your phone.

google1Google Calendar

I started my Google crush with the Calendar.  It is the most powerful tool I’ve ever used.  The best part is being able to share my calendar with the husband.  We are both so busy, it’s hard to keep track of our schedules, and to make time for each other. With Google Calendar not only can I see which night he has free, but I can add an appointment into his calendar to take me on a date.

  • Color code schedule, reminders, meeting requests
  • See other people’s calendars or share yours
  • Upload other schedules, like Edmonton Eskimo home games
  • Set annually recurring events like birthdays and anniversary
  • Set events years in the future, like “go to optometrist in 2016” or “renew passport in 2018”

Gmail

You don’t have to have Gmail to use Google Calendar, but why wouldn’t you?  With the same login, you can have this awesome email tool.

google2Google Drive

Google Drive is a cloud storage, file sharing, and collaborative editing tool.  It offers documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and drawing.   I have only used docs and spreadsheets, and truthfully, it is not my favorite.  I prefer Evernote for note taking and writing.  And the spreadsheets function never quite worked properly.  But for Rip, I think it’ll work just fine.

Google Keep

I have just discovered Google Keep and I love it.  It’s basically electronic sticky notes.  It’s simple, but you can set titles, color coding, check-able lists and include pictures.

Google Maps

It’s a map.  It’s online.  It has map view, satellite view, and street view.  Even Rip knows Google Maps, so I don’t need to sell it here.

Google also offers Web, Images, News, Shopping, Videos, Blogs, Books, Visual Search, Travel, Finance.

I think that’s a good start for Rip.  Any tech, apps or tools you can’t live without?

Jenn’s Favorite Things

1. Ginger

I’m in love with anything ginger right now.  I love the hot, spicy flavour.  Yum!  Here are some of my favorite ginger foods.

Chimes Ginger Chews – Original is best, but orange is also really good.  These candies are soft and chewy and keep a strong ginger flavor for the whole candy experience.

Natural Brew Ginger Ale – A refreshing non-alcoholic drink.  Available at some Safeway stores, if you look really hard, it’s usually hiding on the bottom shelf.

Crabbies Ginger Beer – There are a lot of ginger beers out there, but this is my favorite because it is the spiciest, the most like eating fresh ginger.  To fancy it up, serve it chilled, over ice, with a lime wedge.

Instant Honeyed Ginger Drink – This is the perfect hot drink to warm you up.  It’s also excellent if you have a sore throat or feel like a cold is coming on.  You can find this in most Asian groceries, like T&T.

ginger

2. Chocolate

I love chocolate!  Chocolate in any form.  I was spoiled by my parents because at Christmas and on Valentine’s Day we would get Bernard Callebaut chocolates, and they were the most amazing chocolates I ever had.  My mom’s favorites are Purdy’s Chocolate covered Gingers (hey another yummy ginger food!).  For brownies, you can’t get easier or chocolatier than Ghiradelli’s Brownie Mix.  They also make a great hot cocoa mix.  When I can’t make it to France for pain-au-chocolat, Duchess Bake Shop and Bon Ton Bakery make pretty good pastries.  The very best chocolate is my mom’s birthday cake.  It is complete decadence.  She puts ganache on each layer, then covers the whole thing with chocolate whipped cream.  Heavenly!

Mom's Chocolate Layered Birthday Cake

3. Containers

I have an affinity for anything that holds other things.  Boxes, bags, baskets, bins.  I love them all.  Here are some of the best.

To keep your home organized –

  • Jenn's Favorite ContainersCutlery tray, to tame your junk drawer.
  • Knife tray to keep your blades in order and protect the blades, $17 Rationell Knife Tray from Ikea.
  • Compartment box (or tackle box) – I like to keep all my spares keys in here.  It keeps them organized and easy to find.
  • Magazine File for random papers, $3/5 from Ikea.
  • Hanging Storage.  I have absolutely no storage at my back door except for a few coat hooks.  These hanging pockets are perfect for gloves and toques during the winter and sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer.  Notudden from Ikea $10.
  • Laundry Bag (Jall $6 Ikea) or Bag Buddy $13 – I used these for all sorts of things, not just dirty clothes and raking leaves.  I keep one in the garage for car garbage and another one for pop cans or recycling.
  • Mahogany Wood Memory Box, Bombay Company $99.  I have always loved these memory boxes.  I keep my most special keepsakes in them.
  • Jewelry Box.  The best part of jewelry boxes is the tiny little compartments for each pair of earrings, necklaces or rings.  Mine is this amazing cherry red faux-snake skin box with multiple drawers and compartments.
  • Blanket Chest.  When I was a little girl my Ngin Ngin (grandma) had a beautiful Chinese chest.  It was dark wood and elaborately carved.
  • Garage.  My very favorite container is my car house – my garage!  I never had a garage until a few years ago and it is the best!  It keeps your cars warm and covered, so you don’t have to brush snow off your car anymore.  Plus you can keep a whole bunch of other stuff in there too.  Awesome!

For Travel –

  • travelHumangear Gotoob – This is the best travel tube for carrying lotion, soap, or shampoo. $6.75 from MEC.
  • Eagle Creek Packing Folder – You can put 12-15 items in these folders.  It keeps your clothes from rolling around in your luggage and from getting wrinkled.  I especially like that you can keep entire outfits together, $17-$34
  • Lug Two-Step Cosmetic Case – $36
  • Lug Bags – I have to agree with Rachel’s Favorite Baby Things, these bags are great.  They are brilliantly designed, with lots of pockets and zippers, and they come in the most fun candy colors.  They range in price from $31 for a small purse to $300 for a 4-wheel roller bag.  I actually find these bags to expensive at their retail price, so I like to pick them up gently used on kijiji.

4. Rich Moisturizing Cream

If the dry winters weren’t bad enough, I get to battle eczema too. I’m no stranger to flaky, itchy skin or dry cracked hands.  There are a billion of different creams out there, and after a lot of guess-and-testing and some research I have narrowed down my favorites to three different products.  CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is the lightest of the bunch, so it is the favorite for my face.  It also BEST rating from Paula Begoun.  Glaxal Base and George’s Cream are my other two favorites and they happened to be Canadian.  George’s is the richest and greasiest.  I like it for my hands, but it leaves lots of fingerprints on my phone.  CeraVe $23/453g, Glaxal Base $24/450g, George’s $17/450g.

cream

5. Pedicures

Pedicures are my most favorite way to get pampered.  I especially like going to small private nail shops.  For $35 I can get a relaxing hour in a massage chair, with a good foot soak, leg message, and I go home with the cutest toes.

6. Malcolm Gladwell

Anyone who knows me would be shocked to find an author on my list, but less surprised that it’s non-fiction author Malcolm Gladwell.  I’ve read most of his books, and every few pages I seem to be blown away by something different.  He can change the way you think about things.  One great example of this is his article Million Dollar Murphy.  Take some time to read this story and you’ll you what I mean.

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

More of Our Favorite Things – In the Kitchen!

Thanks to everyone who read the first Favorite Things – In the Kitchen! Here are a few of your favorites.

  1. Magic Bullet – Michelle.  She says she can’t remember the last time she used her blender.  I agree, I especially like that you can make a single serve smoothie precisely to your liking.  You can often find it on sale for $30 (25% off) at Canadian Tire.
  2. Pampered Chef Potato Masher, $11.50 – Michelle.  One word. Magical.
  3. Soda Stream, about $100 – Pam.  This handy device carbonates water.  You no longer have to lug heavy drink bottles home, your trash production decreases, you cut down your consumption of pop, and you can enjoy lots of fizzy drinks.  I would avoid the Soda Stream flavourings (they don’t taste quite right) and stick to lemon, lime or any other fruit juice.
  4. Cusinart 4 cup chopper/grinder, $60 – Debbie. It’s brilliant for chopping onions, jalapenos and herbs.
  5. Immersion Blender – Debbie.  Great for soup!
  6. Chocolate Avocado Pudding – Debbie.  What?  Chocolate-avocado?  This vegan recipe replaces whipped cream with avocado, for a healthy alternative to a rich dessert.

kitchen2

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

Rachel’s Favorite Baby Things

Rachel is new mom to brilliant 18 month old Kieran, and here are her favorite baby things.

1) Westcoast baby kimonos – best, best, best invention for 4am diaper changes, promoting skin to skin, and stopping baby from scratching their face off. We give these to all our friends as a new baby gift. Buy from Westcoast Baby or estsy.com,$30.

Astro Infant Kimono Wrap

2) Ergo baby carrier, starting at $115.  We have the sport version and have used it from newborn to 18 months and plan to keep going. Keeps baby’s hips supported (rather than dangling the baby over your crotch) and is ergonomically great for parents. You can wear them on your chest, hip, or backpack (our current favorite). While I loved my ring sling my husband would never wear the sling (can’t blame him) so the ergo was a great way for us to both wear baby.

Ergobaby Original Collection Baby Carrier - Galaxy Grey

3) Music Together of the Northern Lights classes.  If you are looking for classes to give to friends with new babies Music Together rocks. My son lights up whenever he hears the CDs. It has had the ability to calm him from most tantrums and has given us pleasant car rides. We are total sports folks and if I only had one activity to do with my son we would drop swimming, open gym and this would be it. Plus, he now shows great interest in music, instruments and will sing himself to sleep!

4) Dollar store plastic bins. I realize this seems silly but there are a lot of things to organize post baby. I use these inexpensive bins everywhere in the house to keep organized. Bottle parts in the pantry, shoes and socks in the bedroom, jars of baby food in the pantry. New parents always have a need for storage bins-we got quite a few as gifts and within a few weeks I understood why.

5) Lug diaper bags-tons of pockets waterproof, wipe clean bottom, wet pouch for diaper stuff-couldn’t ask for anything more. We have the Tuk-Tuk ($116) my sister has the Hula Hoop ($106). Dark colors mean that dad will carry the same bag!

bags

6) Mixie Bottle -Yes, breast is best but sometimes life happens and breastfeeding needs to be supplemented with formula. The problem with traditional formula dispensers is you wind up with white powder everywhere when you try to mix a bottle on the go. Being a new mommy and being covered in white powder is not really socially acceptable.  The joy of the mixie is no mess and you don’t have to keep it cold. The powdered formula is kept separate from the water so you just push the button and mix away. We tried other mixing bottles and they all leaked and were cumbersome (too big for the diaper bag). Expensive-yes. Worth it if you have to use formula? Heck Ya. Available in Edmonton at West Coast Kids for $20.

7) Aden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets, $50/4 pack. -These are huge so they make swaddling easy but you can also use them as a nursing cover, car seat cover, floor blanket etc. We were given several sets and they have now become my son’s security blanket for sleeping; he loves to drag them around. They wash really well and have never had difficulties getting stains out. Because the blanket is so light we were able to use it as the internal swaddle when he needed to be double swaddled (swaddle the arms and then put the baby in a swaddle bag or pod-also a worthy investment).

8) “Happiest Baby on the Block White Noise” on itunes for $10. Babies like white noise but most baby white noise machines don’t have a volume control and are pretty quiet. This doesn’t work when comforting white noise is as loud as a shower. We discovered these tracks when the only noise that would calm my son was a hairdryer. Running your hairdryer for hours is not safe, hitting repeat on these tracks is worth it.

9) Busy board-see craft ambitions blog. My son has spent happy hours with this. All of his friends love playing with it. All of their parents want one.

How to mak a Busy Board

10.) Glamour mom nursing tops, starting at $49. These have a built in bra that works for all sizes. They are long so they cover the mummy tummy. This also means that the provide tummy coverage while nursing in public. I used this under cardigans for easy access nursing.

Mbody Starter Nursing Bra

11) Healthy mom=happy baby. I think that exercise is a huge help when coping with all of the changes being a new mom. There are a ton of new mom exercise classes and a chunk of them are going to get you to do things that aren’t great for the post-natal body (running, jumping, crunches-I now know that no one should be doing crunches). It is well worth the investment to get the input of someone who knows what they are doing, or to do your reading in the right places. Check out Jessie Mundell’s blog or online training. This girl knows the needs of new moms! 

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

Tim’s Favorite Pizza

A reader pointed that we missed Tim’s favorite pizza place.  Well, here it is!

His #1 favorite is Zorba’s in Acheson. They make Chicago-style deep dish pizza.  Don’t get there hungry because the thick crust takes 45 minutes to bake.  The best way to enjoy Zorba’s pizza is to go on a beautiful summer day, ride your motorcycle the 25 minutes from Edmonton, and then enjoy some delicious, cheesy pizza.

Tim’s #1 favorite pizza place in Edmonton (effective November 2013) is at the Italian Center, west end.  It’s the exact opposite of Zorba’s – it’s Italian-style thin crust and takes just a few minutes to cook.

Zorba’s Pizza
AB.  26302 Township Rd 531a
Acheson, AB T7X5A3

Italian Center, west
17010 90th Ave
Edmonton, AB T5T 1L6

Tim’s Favorite Things

Tim, who has very sophisticated and discerning tastes, gave me a list of over 50 things that are his “favorite”. Here they are, in no particular order.

Books
· Travel books
· Travel guides
· Photography books including National Geographic

foodFood/Cooking
· Inexpensive home cooked meals
· Mario Batalli recipes – Bolognese sauce is always a hit.
· Jamie Oliver and his  Money Saving Meals, particularly beef brisket
· Cooks Country Kitchen
· America’s Test Kitchen
· Slow cooking roasts and pork shoulder.  One our favorite dinners of dad’s is his Sensational Pork Roast.
· Grilled cheese sandwiches
· Home grown tomatoes
· Ingrid’s cherry pound cake
· Good coffee; why is it so hard to find?
· Bacon – makes everything taste better
· Digital meat thermometer
· Fresh ground pepper

Food Places
· Duchess Bakery
· Pampa Brazilian BBQs
· Italian Center, west end
· Chicken fried steak, something you find at restaurants only in the United States

Media/Entertainment
· CKUA radio
· Satellite radio , ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s specialty stations
· 24 hour news on TVMusic
· CDs:  “Essential” collections of jazz and blues artists like Big Joe Turner or Dinah Washington

Electronics
· Samsung Tablet
· Magic Jack free long distance app
· Digital cameras, digital film is cheap
· GPS
· PVRs, so you never have to watch a commercial again
· My 50-in. plasma tv and Sony sound bar audio system with subwoofer
· My Canon 5d MkII DSLR camera; expensive, professional grade digital camera that correctly exposes the image 97-percent of the time

Gear
·#550 Leather Lined in Walnut My Australian brand Blundstone boots; they’re expensive, but three boots in one: motorcycle boots, winter boots and everyday boots. Plus they have no laces, so good for lazy, old guys like me
· Pocket knives and utility knives like Swiss Army knives; leave them lying around the house; in my office for letter opener and with screwdriver blades, you always know there’s a screwdriver nearby
· Quality notepads (the art of writing is not dead yet) and quality ballpoint pens
· Snow blowers
· Quality sunglasses
· HALIOS Laguna‘Boutique’ wristwatches like the Halios Laguna (custom made by cottage industry companies, and sold at a fraction of the price of brand names like Rolex, Omega, and Breitling).
· ABC watches (altimeter, barometer, compass); it’s nice to travel and have a weather station on your person
· Moisture-wicking undergarments, the best invention for motorcycle touring
· Binoculars/monocular, there’s nothing better than viewing stuff through quality glass

autoAutomobiles
· Old cars and motorcycles, they’re pieces of industrial art and they bring back memories for anybody who grew up with these machines around them
· European motorcycles, like Ducatis, BMWs, and Moto Guzzis
· Motorcycle helmets that fit my oddly shaped head
· Heated handgrips and saddles – the greatest invention besides anti-lock brakes for motorcyclists
· Dad’s old 1983 Mercedes-Benz 300D turbo diesel sedan
· Fuel-efficient, fun to drive cars like our Mazda3
· Old luxury cars that have past their prime, but still impressively engineered and of outstanding quality like our black Mercedes, but now affordable
· For Tim’s favorite bike-related things, see his post Motorcycle Things We Love at CarAndRider.com

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

Our Favorite Things – In the Kitchen!

The Kitchen!  Our favorite family gathering place and our regular eating-hole (eating-hole?  it sounded funny until I typed it out!)

  1. Rocker Garlic Crusher – cousin Carol. It’s easier to use than a garlic press and easier to clean. She picked it up for $2 at Daiso, a Japanese toonie store, in Richmond BC.
  2. Starfrit Slim Glass Kitchen Scale, $20 – Ingrid.  The best thing about this scale is its size.  It’s the size of adessert plate and so skinny you can store it anywhere.  It weighs in imperial or metric.
  3. Digital Meat Thermometer – Tim.  Dad makes some great roasts and pork shoulder, and this is his secret to the best roast beast.  You’ll never have an over cooked meal again.
  4. Fresh ground pepper – Tim.  I love this item because it’s cheap and makes food taste so much better.  You do need a pepper mill, and they range in price.  You can get a decent one at most department stores for $20.  But if you’d rather spend 10 times that try woodenpeppermills.com.  These pepper mills are so beautiful that I can remember them from Sarah Moulton’s cooking show 15 years ago.  They are hand crafted and start at $180.Favorite Things in the Kitchen
  5. Blendtec Blender – Chris.  When you start every day with a fresh fruit and veggie smoothie, and you like another smoothie for dessert, you’ll need a serious blender.  This restaurant quality blender is pricey at $460 at Costco, but it easily crushes ice and purees anything into a nice smooth texture. Will it blend?  Absolutely.
  6. Chef’s Knife – Jenn.  One good quality knife can change your entire kitchen.  I like an 8″ blade and a good steel to keep it sharp.  If you’re going to spend the money, you need to take care of it.  Hand wash only (the dishwasher flicks around bits of detergent and food, which dulls the blades) and sharpen regularly. Watch Alton Brown explain to you everything you need to know about knives, but didn’t know to ask.

Beverage Vessels

Cups get their own category? Yup. I heard about so favorite cups, I had to make its own category.

  1. Contigo Travel Coffee Mugs – Jenn. They keep your coffee super hot (Hugh Jackman hot), and they never spill.  We love them so much that we use them almost every day, so they only last about two years before they get abused and break.  You used to be able to buy two for $40 at Costco in a variety of colours.
  2. Beer Steins – Curtis.  No red solo cups here, beer is enjoyed from real steins.  We have a plethora of steins collected mostly from garage sales.  Curtis likes them so much, he drinks his daily water from them.  They are almost as nice as his buddy’s Tiffany rock cut beer mugs.  Sorry guys, Tiffany no longer sells them.
  3. 1960s-era restaurant ‘standard’ clunky coffee mugs from Uncle Johnny’s restaurant – Tim.  My favorite thing about this mug is it’s a historical artifact.  You can find the matching plates at Chop Suey on the Prairies Exhibit at the Royal Alberta Museum.
  4. Cup with Straw – Jenn.  Yes, I call it my sippy cup.  It’s great that it has a lid, but what I really like is drinking out of a straw.  Straws make everything more fun.
cups

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

If you have any favorites you’d like to share, just send me a message!

Claire’s Favorite Things

Claire’s friends know that she is a stylish shutterbug who takes delight in anything adorable.  So it’s no surprise that she said her favorite things are photography, jewelry, and cutesy things.

She’s also a thrifty gal with high-end tastes, so her list has a wonderful range of prices from a few dollars, to the sky.

1. Photography

Claire’s gear is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Digital Camera, and she takes great photos from portraits to landscapes.  Here are a few things she’d like to add to her equipment.

  • Magazine subscription or books on digital photography

    PreOrder Camera Bag  Purse insert MINI gray-yellow-chevron-ruffles and rosette-Includes camera strap w/lens cap pkt-Snugglens

    Camera Bag and Strap

  • Camera strap with funky designs will make you look great behind the camera.  Etsy.com sells a variety from $20 and up.
  • Camera bag, also from Etsy,com, will be functional, and good looking (and could match your strap!).  Don’t forget about shipping costs.
  • Magazine subscription or books on digital photography
  • Digital SD Card – To make sure you never run out of “film” on your DSLR be sure to have enough memory.  Try Sandisk Extreme or Lexar Professional
  • Light box – McBain Camera sells them starting at $120.  If you can wield a box cutter, you can save yourself some money and make one by following this tutorial or this one, which also provides some technical tips on photography small items, like jewelry
  • Studio Lighting Kit – Don’s Photo sells them starting at $300
  • Finally, to end the list with something really extravagant, the M.Zuiko 75mm f1.8 portrait lens for $900.  They say this lens is so good it makes your subject even more good looking.

2. Jewelry

For the moderate spender, Claire says Winners offers a variety of fine high fashion jewelry.

But what’s she’s really had her eye on is a rainbow coloured ammolite pendant, and I have to agree that this gemstone is stunning. Ammolite is a rare gemstone made of fossilized shells and found in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  It’s also the official gemstone of Alberta.  Haha made you learn!

File:Ammolite jewellery.jpg

3. Cutesy Things

Hello Kitty Pilot Hat - White. Hello Kitty, Knitwits, Knit Wits, Animal Hats, Animal HatPlease don’t let this out, but Claire is secretly infatuated with Hello Kitty and Minion memorabilia, but she feels too old to go overboard.  Well, she’s definitely not too old, and I’m pretty sure she’s not alone.  Actually I know a-many highly sophisticated ladies who would take delight in something cute.  So if a stuffed toy, toque or cell phone case would make her happy, then she should go for it.

Hello Kitty toques and mitts by knitwits can be found at Simons at WEM.

Despicable Me: Minion MadnessMinions are everywhere.  You’ve got Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and Minion Madness, hopefully that will hold you until July 2015 when Minions (the feature film) is released.  Maybe Claire can wear her Hello Kitty toque to the premiere.

There’s a plethora of toys too, just search Despicable Me at Toys R Us or Walmart.

I even found Minion Maker.

And for a cute overload, Animal Planet has this amazing show called Too Cute.

Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!

Dear Young Self, You’re going to love Beer.

Curtis’s Favorite Thing

Dear Young Self, You’re going to love Beer.

Hey man, I know you have questions about the way that your life will turn out – stuff like – do you get a jet pack or a hover skateboard board, but I need to talk to you about something that will become near and dear to your heart.  Beer.  Now I know that on your 18th birthday someone will buy you a Heineken and it will be memorably bland, so much so that you’ll want to avoid beers for many years afterwards.  I know that your college beers will be adequate pitchers of Rickard’s Red shared with friends at the University bar, when you should be studying.  (It’s ok, enjoy those beers because school and everything works out, since you work as hard as you play.)  But there is a whole wonderful world of beer that you don’t want to miss out on.

Your first experience with the “craft” beer market was picking up beer from Chateau Louis.  The great beers that will be available – like Holsten Festbock, McEwan’s Scotch Ale and Young’s Chocolate Stout – will make you realize that you have been missing something special in your life.  Later on, when the rest of North America wakes up, you will have access to all sorts of great beers.  So many, in fact, that I will categorize them for you.
beer1

harp

Lagers are the most common type of beer, and vary from light to dark in taste and colour.  Harp (made by Guinness) is the perfect lager light to me.  Great flavour without being so hoppy that it hurts.

beer3Pilsners are a type of pale lager.  Pilsner Urquell from Prague or Steam Whistle from Toronto.

Stouts are the darkest beers in flavour and colour.  Cobblestone Stout made by Mill Creek in Scarbourough may be the greatest stout ever.  Seriously. I dream about this when I’m awake.  It tastes like a warm hug from someone you love.   Another great one is St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout by McAuslan in Montreal.

cobblestonestout

Wheat beer: Maisel Weisse and the Maisel Weisse Dunkel as well as Erdinger and Erdinger Dunkel are fabulous German wheat beers.  Add the word “dunkel” to your vocab.  It means dark in German.
beer2

stbernardusabt12box

Lambics are a sour type of wheat beer.  Now you might not usually like fruit in your beers and Lambics tend to be fruity,but there are some Belgian Lambic Ales that I like St. Bernardus Abt 12.

CRABBIES_GB_PHOTOGRAPH_18871

Crabbies is a great ginger beer.  You’ll like that spicy ginger taste, and this beer captures that flavour the best.

guinessNow, when you are out and about and the bar you are at does not have a great beer selection there are popular beers that you can get in most bars that are actually really good too.  Guinness for example is great and available almost everywhere.  For example the Cosmopolitan Music Society, a local community band, rehearses in a building that has a liquor licence and they stock Guinness.

I know you’ll appreciate all this advice, since you’re me!,
Future and still healthy-head-of-hair,
Curtis
.
Note: We weren’t paid or perked to name any of these products, they really are just our favorites!