Sunday, January 31, 2010

Easy Dinner - Pork Chops and Rice

Another old stand-by in our family is Pork Chops and Rice (which can also be made with chicken - but then it's called Chicken and Rice).

To make enough for 6 you need:

3 large pork chops (or 6 small ones)
1 1/2 cups of rice
3 cups of boiling water
3 rounded teaspoons of chicken bouillon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 orange, peeled and cut into small pieces (optional)

(eew raw meat - I shrunk the picture down as it was just a little too disgusting to look at.  
See how considerate I am)

Here are the extremely complicated and time-consuming instructions:
  1. Put the rice in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan with pork chops on top.
  2. Mix the bouillon into the boiling water and pour gently over the rice and pork chops.
  3. Cover and cook for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven.
  4. In the last 5 minutes mix in the orange pieces or raisins, if using.
See how easy that is, and it is sooooo yummy.  Have a look at the finished product - much more appetizing don't you think?

I only added raisins, as we were out of oranges and I cut the meat up so it was easier to serve.  I made squash and broccoli to round out the dinner.

Remember to freeze any leftover rice to use in freezer fairy soup.

For another easy dinner look  here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Photo

I take this opportunity to interrupt your day to bring you ....
a peaceful scene. 

Linked to Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thankful for Skating

I did a little of this ....
last week and again today at a lovely park near where I work.

I'm thankful that ...

there was sunshine through the treetops to enjoy -

a lovely Victorian bandstand to admire -

and a peaceful quiet (almost empty) rink -
What a wonderful lunchtime skate!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Frugal Cottage Laundry Room

When we had a family room built in our basement, a few years ago, the laundry area was walled-in but not finished.  That left the back of the new walls exposed - studs and back of drywall - and the existing basement exterior walls, which consisted of plastic-covered pink insulation, a cement floor, and an exposed ceiling.  Not very inspiring, to say the least.

(I could only find photos from prior to the basement renovation, but you can see the yucky floor and pink insulation that was still visible in the laundry room even after the family room was complete)

Funds were low after the basement work, so I plotted and planned how to makeover this space using next-to-no money.   I love the colour red, but it just didn't seem to work anywhere else in the house, so I decided the laundry room would be a rustic cottage room in white and red.

Here's how I dealt with each area:
Ceiling: I figured that I don't look up when I do laundry, so the ceiling could remain unfinished.  Hubby added a light - a real up-grade from the bare lightbulb ghetto look.

Floor:  The previous owners of our house had painted the cement floor with the wrong kind of paint, so it was a peeling, unsightly mess.  I thought it would be too much trouble to remove that paint and paint it again, and there was no way I was going to actually finish the floor properly because then we would have to move the machines.  So I took the lazy (but clever!) way out.  I bought dollar store woven grass beach mats and covered the floor with them and then put a red IKEA floor runner on top.

Walls:  I painted the back of the drywall and the exposed studs white, so it has that cottage look I was going for.  I only used primer and I am, frankly, quite happy with the clean white look.  The exposed pink insulation was much more of a problem.  I had some huge old painter's drop-cloths that I decided would do the job.  It wasn't easy to measure around the pipes and window etc and it was even more difficult to secure the drop-cloth to the wall.  I should warn any pro-home builders to go and read other blogs right now or at least skip the rest of this paragraph while I describe how I attached the drop-cloth to the wall.   I managed to fit the cloth behind some of the pipes, and the pipes do the bulk of the work in holding the drop-cloth in place.  I then used some straight pins and double-sided tape and they do the rest.  It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been in place for well over a year now and still holding strong.  I had to make the wall purty, so I spent some time at the local thrift stores in search of wall decor.  What I finally found was a vintage tablecloth with just the right feel, and the colour red.  So home it came and I pinned it in place.

Covering the very bad, very ugly, no good areas of the laundry room:  Two main areas fit this description, the sink and a storage area under the stairs.  I was very fortunate to find two tablecloths with the same pattern, in two different thrift stores - and in a lovely cottage red and white check, no less.  I used double-sided velcro tape to secure them in place and they are holding strong.  They don't get moved much as there is another access to the storage area and nothing is under the sink.  I also painted a board and lay it on top of the sink.  It is a good spot to dry clothes.

Pretty Touches:  I added some metal buckets from the dollar store to put the dryer sheets and stain removal stuff in.  Of course I got them in red.  I also had a tin with a red lid that I put the laundry detergent in.  Hubby installed a shelf for the laundry detergent so it is near the washing machine.  I also added a laundry basket for dirty clothes and a red dollar store bag to put lost socks in.

We all want to know the bottom line on projects, so here it is (although approximate as I did this over a year ago and I can't remember exact amounts):

paint: already owned
dropcloth: already owned
tablecloth on wall: $8
2 check tablecloths: $12 ($6 each)
velcor tape and pins: $5
board on sink: scrap wood
beach mats: $3
red rug: $30
ceiling light: $6
shelf and brackets: $10
bag for lost socks: free (gift from sister-in-law)
red buckets: $3
TOTAL: $77

There you go - a fresh cottage laundry room for $77.  How about you - have you ever made-over a room with more muscle power than money?

This post linked to Frugalicious Friday at Finding Fabulous
Metamorphis Monday at Between Naps On The Porch
Before and After Party at Thrifty Decor Chick 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mom's List for High School Graduation

I am naturally a list-maker and I guess it is no different when it comes to how I raise my children.  Now that we have teenagers I can see the end of my hands-on parenting days and I have a mental list of things I want them to accomplish before they fly the coup when they graduate from High School.  Malcolm is in University, so he has accomplished most of the list, but now that Kate is in Grade 12 and William is in Grade 10, the pressure is on. 

I thought you might be interested to see the list:


Learn to cook.  While all 3 kids have made cakes (from mixes), and cookies (from scratch) from an early age, they have not often cooked dinner.  I don't know why - I guess I'm too lazy to make them do it, and they're busy with school and things.  Anyway it has never really happened, especially for Kate, who is the least interested in cooking of the three.  I would like them each to be able to cook about 5 different dinners so that they can survive on their own.

Clean the house. See what I mean - some people need instruction on what to do with a vacuum cleaner.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but they need to know the basics of keeping a house clean - how to vacuum, dust, clean toilets, shine mirrors etc. 

 (I don't know who this little munchkin is, but isn't she the cutest!!!)

Do laundry. A very important skill that is needed even in University residences.  Enough said.


Read a book on finances.  There are many, many, many books out there, but this is the one I have them read.  While I don't agree with everything she says, I do like the fact that she explains finances in easy to understand language.  The book is well-written, engaging, and she gives advice that makes sense.  She goes through the hows and whys of saving money, giving, setting up different accounts and how and why to stay out of debt.  Not only is she giving good advice, but she has had to use her own advice, as she was $100,000 in debt back in the early 1980s and has worked and worked and is now debt-free.  We likely should have discussed and done a more hands-on approach to all this as the kids were growing up, yadda, yadda, yadda, but you know what, it didn't happen.  But I do still want them to know about finances.  I figure even if they forget the details in this book they will know they can always re-read it again later.


Pass Bronze Medallion.  This is a swimming course - not sure what other areas have, but here in Canada when you pass your Bronze Medallion you have a basic level of swimming proficiency, water safety, and lifesaving skills.  Our kids go on canoe trips every year at the summer camp they attend - either as campers or leaders.  For my peace of mind, I want them to have some level of first aid and water safety skills on these trips.  A few years ago, Malcom had to use his skills when one of his campers had a grand mal seizure on a 5-day canoe trip.


Learn to Drive.  Yep I think this is an important skill and surprisingly not one that any of them are keen to get.  I especially think this one is important because I didn't learn to drive until I was in my 30s.  It is much harder to learn to drive after you leave home, so I am encouraging them all to get their driver's licence while they are still living at home.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), driver testing in Ontario is a 2-stage process.  While this is good for reducing accidents (I guess, although I've never heard it really helps), it is a pain for the kids to get both tests finished by the end of high school (or maybe that is just my kids).

Okay now, let's see how we are doing -

1. Learn to cook:  Malcolm = yes, Kate = no, William = almost.  See, I need to get that girl cooking.

2. Clean the house:  Malcolm = yes, Kate = yes, William = yes.  Kate and William each clean a bathroom or vacuum part of the house almost every weekend.  (Malcolm is away at University, but he did his share when he was living at home).  I'm not exactly a neat freak but we do a weekly clean-up and each of the kids usually are given one job to do.
3. Do laundry:  Malcolm = yes, Kate = yes, William = yes.  One of the treats in starting Grade 9 is that you are responsible for doing your own laundry.  That means they have all had 4 years of practice before leaving home.
4. Read a book on finances: Malcolm = yes, Kate = no, William = no.  Looks like someone is going to be doing some reading soon.
5. Pass Bronze Medallion:  Malcolm = yes, Kate = yes, William = yes.  Thank heavens they are all done.  William just got his in December, which is good timing as he will be going on a 12-day canoe trip this summer into the wilds of Northern Ontario.
6. Learn to drive:  Malcolm = passed the first level, Kate = no, William = no.  Oops, not doing so well with this one.  Malcolm was booked to take the final highway portion of the driving test this past summer, when gosh darn it, the examiners went on strike.  The strike is over, but with Malcolm away at University it makes it difficult to book a time, not to mention that there is a huge backlog of people wanting tests.  That is pretty much Kate's excuse as well, although I do need to book her Driver's Ed course and get her going with this.  William, is off-the-hook as he is too young still.

TOTAL: Malcolm = 5 1/2 out of 6, Kate = 3 out of 6, William = 3 1/2 out of 6.  

We're getting there, but there is still some work to do.  How about you, do you have a list of goals for your teenagers?

Monday, January 25, 2010


Do you love the ocean?  Do you love gorgeous homes?  Then get yourself over to the wonderful new blog, Low Tide High Style (  Check out her fantastic, amazing, gorgeous kitchen below.  I mean that is my dream kitchen.

Not only does this woman have serious talent but she has a giveaway on now until Wednesday, Jan 27th.  Look at the lovely goodies she is giving away. 

Gorgeous, no???

Easy Dinner - Mexican Chicken

I don't know about you, but it can be a struggle to think what to cook for dinner day in and day out.  I'm always happy to hear about easy dinners, so I thought I would take some time every Monday and share some of our family's tried-and-true recipes.

This one started off as a crockpot dinner, but I can never remember to get the crockpot going ahead of time, so I converted it to be made in the regular oven.  Since I make it with frozen corn and frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts, it takes 1 1/2 hours to cook. If you use canned corn and thawed chicken, then it would likely cook in 1 hour.  The length of cooking time is about the only drawback to this recipe, because otherwise it is dead easy, yummy, nutritious, and combines veggies and meat in one easy dish.  I serve it with rice (which I often have in the freezer since I cook double batches and freeze the leftovers).  Everyone in our family likes it, even Miss I-don't-like-tomatoes-Kate.

The quantities I have listed are for 6 people, but it is an extremely flexible recipe and you could add another can of beans, more corn, or an extra chicken breast if your family prefers it in different quantities.  We aren't huge meat eaters so for the 6 of us, 3 chicken breasts is plenty.  This is one of those recipes that could really be changed and tweaked depending on your personal preference - I could imagine adding spinach, onions, peppers, and serving it with baked tortilla rounds. 

What you need:
2 cans black beans
3 cups frozen corn
3 skinless boneless chicken breasts
650 ml jar of taco sauce (I looked this up on-line for all you non-metric cooks and it is 22 US fluid ounces.  I'm not sure what size jars the taco sauce comes in but something in that range should work).

What you do (this is where it gets really complicated):

Layer 2 cans of drained and rinsed black beans in the bottom of a casserole dish

Add 3 cups of frozen corn on top

Put 3 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts on top

Cover with 1 jar of taco sauce on top (I made this a few weeks ago and we didn't have any taco sauce so I used a can of diced tomatoes with lots of chile pepper, cumin, seasoned salt, and pepper mixed into the tomato and it was just as good)

Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours in a 350 oven.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Inspiring Finds Link

In the blog world I'm a newby, newly hatched, wet behind the ears ... So I just want you all to know that I did my first link with Mr McLinky (or whatever he is called).  If you want to read about my inspiring idea, and more particularly all the other inspiring ideas, you really should visit Melissa's very inspiring blog, called, what else but The Inspired Room.

My Travelling Skirt

I bought this skirt about 10 years ago, back when there were still Laura Ashley stores in Canada.  It was on the sale racks for a fabulous price and I liked the colours.  I mean, what's not to like - it matches white, black, green, blue, yellow.

Nice, eh?  Let's take a closer look.

See what I mean.  I love it!!!  It sort of fit with the French provincial thing that was happening in design and fashion at the time.

I had good intentions of shortening it, I really did.  But ... I never got around to it.  Sooo, I never wore this skirt as it is ankle-length and looks sort of, well, dowdy on me.

Now you might think this skirt has had a sad, sheltered life in the back of my closet, but you would be wrong.  In the last decade, this skirt has been to Hawaii, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Russia.  I on the other hand, have not!!!

You see my parents travel a lot and my Mom borrows this skirt to take with her for when she needs to dress-up - it packs well, is light, doesn't wrinkle, and matches everything.  Just this past fall I was mentioning to my mother the possibility of her shortening it for me, after she wore it in South East Asia and Australia, that is.

Now it looks like my turn to wear this skirt has finally arrived.  My friend and I are making plans - still little baby plans - to go to Bangladesh in the summer of 2011 and work in a Rehab Centre just outside of Dhaka.  We are both Speech-Language Pathologists and they are looking for people to come over and teach courses to Bangladeshi students who are training to be Speech-Language Pathologists.  We would also be supervising their clinical practicuums.  Our planning is still very preliminary, I hasten to add.

Anyway, back to the skirt.  I was reading the Rehab Centre website and they recommend that woman wear modest ankle-length skirts, or pants with long tops.  We would be going in the rainy monsoon season, so I was thinking a skirt would be cooler than pants.  But an ankle-length skirt - I really don't wear them that long.  Then I remembered the skirt-that-has-seen-the-world-while-I-stayed-home and was happy that I'm such a procrastinator and it is still ankle-length.  Of all the details to think about, my clothes are probably the least important, but that's just how my mind works.  Now to get back to some of the more important details, like filling out the application form.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Freezer Fairy Soup

I got the idea to make freezer fairy soup, from somewhere in internet-land many years ago - I'm thinking from my Flylady days.  I just thought I would pass along the tip as it is a perfect way to make a frugal, healthy, and fantastic dinner.  I always freeze the bits and bobs of leftover food - veggies that didn't get finished, ends of roasts, and small amounts of rice, mashed potatoes, or pasta.  Then when I decide to make freezer fairy soup, which I do every week or so in the winter, they form the basis for the soup (although I only put either rice or pasta into the soup, not both).

My secret weapon to make the freezer fairy soup extra thick, extra nutritious, and extra yummy is a mixture of lentils, split peas, and barley.

I cook a large pot of these, mixed in about equal quantities, for approximately 45-50 minutes.

Since I cook a large pot full, I only need to do this once or twice a winter.  Once the mixture is cooked I freeze them in small containers ( anything from a 1/4 cup to 1 cup in size).

Then when I make my freezer fairy soup, I plop a frozen lump into the soup and when it defrosts it thickens and yummifies the soup.

I also add any old veggies from the fridge, some meat and seasonings and you have dinner.  You will be thanking the freezer fairy for not only the wonderful soup, but also the clean fridge.  Bon Appetit!!!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
and Best of 2010 Blog Party - Recipes at House of Grace

Friday, January 15, 2010

Snow, Ice, and More Snow

Yep that's what winter is like here in Ontario - sometime you can mix in sleet, hail, rain, and even just plain slush and mud when the snow melts.  I like to just go with what nature is throwing at me for my decorating inspiration.  So when I see this in the garden -

And I'm wearing these -

I know it is time for some winter touches to the front porch.  I finally got around to jazzing up the teeny-tiny skates I bought at the thrift store.
Aren't those the cutest little skates, and the cutest little pom-poms.  The pom-poms were tied around our Christmas crackers this year and were just what I was looking for to add that snowball touch.  Now our front porch looks decorated for the season.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Firing up my Decorating Mojo

Have you ever seen Calamity Jane, the 1953 movie with Doris Day.  Well I happen to love old movies and this one holds a special place in my heart because of the little do-it-yourself, makeover, before-and-after cabin number during the song "A Woman's Touch".  Now I'm sure almost nobody else has seen this movie so I've put a You Tube link to the song.  Go and watch it - I'll be here waiting.

There now, wasn't that cute.  Not the lyrics, and especially not the curtains, but the amazing transformation of the little cabin.  I mean even the flowers grow and the cracks disappear in the length of time it takes for them to sing that song.  Isn't it the cutest.  I will admit the cabin is a bit frou-frou, but still it somehow warms my heart and fires up my decorating mojo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Photo

Don't you just love a beautiful snowy scene.  I know I do.  I enjoy living in a place that has all four seasons, although, I might need reminding of that come March.  For now, I'm okay with the snow and cold.  I'm letting it inspire my decorating, and my cooking - lots of white, birch sticks, pine cones, and warm winter soups.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I heart my Smilebox calendars

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming - Old Faithful
I used Smilebox recently, to make several calendars, and I have to say I love them.  The program was easy to use and created fantastic calendars.  You can pay for monthly or yearly subscriptions to Smilebox, or if you are only trying it out, it is free as long as you cancel your subscription within the 2-week trial period.

All you have to do is select your frame layout according to how many photos you want to display on that page, up-load your photos, drag the photo into the frames, adjust the photos, and save it. Once the calendar is made, I put it on my memory stick and took it to my local Staples to be photocopied.  I had them colour photocopy it onto cardstock (I asked them to pump-up the colour), and then had a cerlox binding put on.  The whole thing was $10 and change (and that's Canadian dollars).

Although I loved the finished product and the program is incredibly goof-proof, there are a few things I wish Smilebox would improve.  I wish there were a greater variety of layouts.  Although there was usually a choice of a couple of layouts, depending on the number of photos I wanted to display on each page, I sometimes found that not enough.  I usually used 3, 4, 5, or 7 photos per page (for some reason, 6 is not an option), so frequently I had to select the same layouts.  I would also have liked the option of making the kind of calendar that has the pictures on the top page and the days in a grid on the page below, so that I could record appointments.  The last thing on my wish list would be the ability to zoom out from photos so that more of the photo fit in the frame provided.  Often when you slide your photo into the frame, only a portion of the photo shows up, as the openings do not match the size of the photo. While you can zoom in, I would have liked the option of doing the opposite, by reducing the size of the photo, so more of it showed up.

near Smithers, British Columbia, Canada

Having said all that, I found the program really easy to use (I should point out, Smilebox has not asked me to write this review, I do not work for them, nor do I know anyone who does). Using it, I created professional-looking calendars that are wonderful mementoes.  One of the calendars I made was from the photos of a trip I took last summer with my parents and youngest son, driving from the Toronto area out through Yellowstone Park and then up into northern British Columbia to visit my Dad's hometown.  It was a fantastic trip and the calendar reminds me of all the wonderful sights we saw.  I'm looking forward to re-living the trip throughout the coming year, month-by-month.  I also helped my daughter make a calendar from her trip to France this past summer, and I helped a friend make one of their recent trip to Newfoundland.

Giverny, France

Having now made several calendars, here are some tips I have for would-be calendar makers:
  • I tried to have a common theme for each page so the calendar has some cohesion.  For example, I filled January with prairie photos; February with Scotts Bluff, Nebraska photos; March to July are various Yellowstone Park photos; and August to December are British Columbia photos. Together, the photos show the progression of the trip.
  • I made sure to adjust the colour of the name of the month to coordinate with my photos.
Mont-St-Michel, France (the colour of the word October coordinates with the colour of the door, window trim, and ocean)

  • I also tried to mix pictures with close-up details and more distant shots.
Scotts Bluff, Nebraska (The wagon wheel tracks my son and father are walking along were made by the pioneers. Amazing!)  Here I used a combination of close-up photos and distant shots.

  • by sliding the photo around and using the zoom feature I was able to focus on the best parts of the photos and edit out non-essentials or distracting parts. 
  • I made sure to have a balance of colours in the photos.  For example, if all the photos are soft ocean photos, it would be jarring to have one photo with bright beach towels.  It would work though, if the same bright colours were in a few of the other photos.
Saint-Malo, France (notice all the soft greys and blues in these photos)

Smilebox is definitely a program I will keep in mind to use again.  There are a lot of other features that I could see myself using - photo invitations, for example.