Cool new Blog!!

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I wanted to share with you this new blog I just happened to come across..(ok, ok, it’s a blog my 13 year old son has started writing) but he has only written a few posts about things that interest him. But, putting all my proud mom feelings aside, it’s pretty cool. I have already learned a few things! 

garagefactx blog

So please click on the link, read, comment, like, and even follow his blog. (I told him with my celebrity blogger status, I could increase his traffic!! Lol ) He currently has 45 views already and 3 followers. 

Here is what his homepage looks like, he even designed the logo at the top! 

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Easy upcycled photo display

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Easy upcycled photo display

When we first moved into our house, Sam was about 3. Her room was painted a light purple, so I stuck up some decals, and bought a new quilt. Quick and easy. Here is a not so great photo.

When we finally got around to redecorating it, she wanted a pink and black cupcake theme. So we painted a wall black, I made her a quilt, and we made all pink and black accessories. Not quite so quick or easy, but I was really happy with the results. 

Now she is in grade 7, we decided it was time for an update, so she picked a new paint colour, and comforter. We have taken a while to get going on the rest, but I thought I would share the project we finished this weekend. 

We started with an old frame. This frame has had many lives! I bought it at a garage sale when John and I first moved in together, then I repainted the canvas. At one point I used the frame on our kitchen wall for calendar ant artwork. Here is what the front looked like..

But, Sam is not into the antiqued look, she liked the rustic look of the back of the frame.


So we bought some fairy lights from Ikea, and some wooden clothes pegs from the dollar store. 

We took apart the clothes pegs, and coloured them red with a Sharpie marker. Note: this was a little messy, so we wore plastic gloves. 

Then I measured across the length of the mirror and added six screws, about eight inches apart. And, as you can sort of see in the photos, I used a silver thread to tie the lights in a loop around the screw before I tightened the screws.


Then, I flipped over the frame and used my handy glue gun to glue down all of the extra cords to the back of the frame. I also glued the battery packs to the side of the frame so the switched can be turned off and on.

I drilled holes in the inner frames and used those holes to screw and anchor them into the wall.

Here is the finished project after we printed out a bunch of photos and attached all of the clothes pegs. 

We were really happy with the finished product. She can change the pictures when she wants too. It didn’t take a lot of time to do, but makes a big difference in the look of her room. 

What???? Chocolate pasta??

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What???? Chocolate pasta??

Yup. It’s really a thing! Chocolate pasta! My first thought was, “Finally, a way we can actually eat chocolate for dinner!” but apparently it’s supposed to be eaten as a dessert. OK, I can live with that. 

A couple of weeks ago I bought a stand mixer. I have to say that I love it! I’ve made everything from mashed potatoes to cake to pasta, now chocolate pasta! John’s mom regularly makes her pasta from scratch, and it is delicious! She uses the hand cranked pasta machine. I’m not claiming to be anywhere near her level of pasta making abilities, but I tried making a batch of regular pasta a couple weeks ago, and it turned out pretty well. So when I came across this recipe, I couldn’t not try it right? 

The chocolate pasta recipe is as follows: 2 eggs, 2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of cocoa, 1tsp vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of icing sugar. I dumped everything into my mixer, and gave it a good mix. 

It looked too dry and crumbly, so I ended up adding a couple tablespoons of water, until it could form a ball.

I kneaded it like dough for about 5 minutes, until everything was stuck together. 

Then, I wrapped it in Saran Wrap and let it sit for 1/2 hour. I’m not sure why you do this, but every pasta recipe says to let it sit, so like a good little girl, I did what I was told. 

After the 1/2 hour or so was up, I divided the dough into four.

And flattened it like a pancake, then started rolling it through my machine. Here is what the attachment looks like:

I started rolling it through at the largest setting. I just kept folding it in half and rolling it through, about 15 times. Here is what it looked like the first time through….

And here is what it looked like after about ten passes through. I continued folding it in half, running it through, then changing the setting every few passes. I kept going until I reached the #1 setting. Note: next time I would leave a little thicker so the pasta is a little less fragile. 

Each quarter of the dough ended up making 4 strips, about 10 inches long each. After I cut the strips, I dusted the sheets with a little flour.

Then ran them through my old pasta cutter.

And here is what they turned out like! 

This is how much the entire batch made, enough to cover a regular sized cookie sheet. I put half of it in the freezer, and half in the fridge for dinner. 

Just as we were finished dinner (which was a huge pan of Shepards pie my mom made…thanks mom!) I cooked the pasta for about 4-5 minutes in boiling water.

Then strained it, and topped it with some mars Capone and ricotta cheese mixed with a little icing sugar and vanilla, and topped it off with some grated chocolate. 

It was really good. Not sure I would make a batch of it for dinner every night, but it was unique, and something I have never tried before. I would make it again to bring as a dessert or to have with company. It would also be delicious with maybe a fruity topping or a chocolate sauce… mmmmm…

French toast and Apple pie Mash up! 

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Happy new year everyone! Hoping everyone has had a happy and healthy year, and had some time to relax over the holidays. I thought I would share this new breakfast I tried out over the holidays. Although, I am not a breakfast fan (I’m more of a coffee only in the morning kind of person) I would make an exception for this… very yummy! 

After staying at my cousin’s a couple weeks ago, I was reminded of a delicious recipe she shared with me. Basically it is cubes of bread, mix in some cubed cream cheese and frozen blueberries, then pour eggs over top. It is a delicious French bread recipe! I think I have posted it before, but I can’t seem to find it. But, trust me, it is amazing.

Anyways, after having it for breakfast at her house, I decided that I should make it again. But I made it with a little twist… a little bit of a gamble, but turned out amazing! 

I started to make my cousins recipe by cutting about 2/3 of a loaf of bakery bread into cubes, then we had 5 eggs left in the fridge, so I mixed the eggs with a couple tablespoons of milk and pored it over the bread. Problem was that we didn’t really have enough to fill up the pan, and no more eggs or bread 😦 so, I sprinkled some oats on top thinking that maybe I could extend the recipe a little with oats.

But then I thought, apples would work well here too. So I cut up about 5 apples, mixed them with a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon, and another cup of oats. 

And put it on top of the bread…


Then popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. This is what it looked like when I took it out of the oven…

It was really delicious. Apple pie on the top, French toast on the bottom! We also topped it with a little maple syrup. 

Not only was is great right out of the oven, but it was really good heated up the next day too! 

Enjoy and take care! 

Easy cupcake toppers! 

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Easy cupcake toppers! 

Sorry I haven’t invested a whole lot of time in writing lately… I’ve been making stuff, just not writing about it! 

Last week, I had to make a treat for John to take into school for a Sick Kids Hospital fundraiser. I needed something creative, but quick and easy. I have seen these on Pinterest a few times, so I thought I would give it a shot…

I started by covering a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and then carefully spread out a bunch of pretzel sticks.

Then, in a sandwich bag, I meted some green candy melts in a mug with some hot water.

Once the chocolate had melted, I shipped the corner off the bag…

And squeezed out the chocolate in a zig zag tree shaped design.

Then, I used a snow flake for the top (closest thing I could find to a star) and Christmas coloured sprinkles. Then, popped them into the fridge.

The best thing was, I made them a couple days ahead of time, and kept them in the fridge in a sealed container. In the morning of the event, I iced the cupcakes with white icing, then dipped the icing in a bowl of coconut to make it look like fluffy snow.


I took out my container of ready made trees…


And stuck each one into a cupcake. Easy. I didn’t take a picture of the whole tray because John took them into school and put them together there (btw that tells you how easy it was to do- I let John do it!) but, I loved the way they turned out. The only thing I might do next time is make more, and put two in each cupcake, so they are double sided.


Enjoy! 

Apple strudel!

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Apple strudel!

It is the perfect time of year to enjoy apples in Ontario. They are delicious and very affordable right now! 

John came home with a second bag of apples this week, when we haven’t eaten the first bag yet, so I thought it is a good time to do some baking! So I dug up our apple peeler…

  
And I peeled about a dozen, then cut them into slices…

  
It was then that I realized that I only had about 1/4 cup of bread crumbs left 😦 

  
So I tossed some Graham Crackers into the food processor, and voila!  

   
But, first, the filling… I added about a teaspoon of cinnamon…

  A tablespoon of vanilla,
  About 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and a cup of quick cook oats. 
 To make the crust, I cracked open a box of phyllo pastry. And on the first layer, I melted some butter and used a BBQ brush to spread it around  

 Then I used some of my handy dandy Graham cracker crumbs to sprinkle between layers. I also sprinkled some white sugar. This makes the pastry fluffy and keeps each layer from sticking together . 

 i added 3-4 layers of Phyllo, butter, grahams cracker crumbs, and white sugar. Then I spooned the apple mixture in the middle. 

 Then folded over the sides, to tuck the pastry in.  

 The final step before putting the strudel in the oven was to add a wash of egg over the top. Crack a couple eggs, and use the pastry brush to cover the tops of the strudel in a generous layer of egg. The wash,  when cooked, makes the strudel shiny and golden brown.  

 I also cut slits into the top. I have found that the slits make it much easier to cut once it has cooked. The phyllo becomes very crumbly once it has cooked. 

I popped it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, then turned down the temperature to 325 degrees for another 10 minutes. Take a look at the final product!! 

    
 Wish I could give you a taste, because yes, they taste as good as they look!

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! 

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My kids have been teaching me how to play Pokemon Go, and I have to say, the more I learn, the more I like it. It gets them outside, active, and actually wanting to walk places! I am just amazed at how everywhere we go, people are playing, I have never seen anything like it before! So, as a teacher, I really believe it is my responsibility to learn what is motivating to kids, and figure out how I can use that excitement and interest in the classroom. Plus, I am almost level 20 in Pokemon Go… I think that’s got to earn me some kind of respect and admiration from my students…. Right? 

Anyways, I came up with a reading program that hopefully will capture and channel all of their Poke-energy! It is called the Pokebook Reading challenge. Here is my listing on Teachers Pay Teachers…

 
The idea of the program is promote reading and to encourage kids to read for enjoyment. They track their reading using a Readingdex, and every book they read earns them BP (book power). If they earn 100 BP points, they level up, get a Bookmark Badge, and get their name displayed on my Pokewall in the library. 
Here is the link to the ad:

Link to the Pokebook Challenge
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know by commenting here or on my TPT page. I am always looking for ways to improve. 

In the next few days, I will also share my latest craft project…. How to make Pokeballs out of paper plates! Yay. 

“Adults Only” Gummy Bears! 

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“Adults Only” Gummy Bears! 

   
I think I might have posted about this one before, but it is worth sharing again! Vodka soaked gummy bears….how can that not be a good idea?  I have made these a few times now, and even though they are pretty easy to make, I have learned a few tricks….

First, and most important, make sure they are clearly labelled, not for kids! They do have a strong vodka taste, so I can’t see kids eating a whole bowl of them, but keep them hidden in the back of the fridge clearly labelled that they are for adults only.

There are only two delicious  ingredients… Vodka and gummy bears. Start by putting the gummy bears into a non metal container, and pour enough vodka over them so they are covered.  If you use a metal container, they end up having a metallic sort of taste. Tupperware or ceramic works best. 

  
 
They need to be covered and refrigerated, and need at least a few days to absorb all of the vodka, just pour a little more on top each day as they absorb the vodka.  The plate below probably had at least a cup of vodka added.  I think the best way to tell if they are done is through a taste test. I recommend trying them a few at a time, just to be sure… Wink, wink. 
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 Last tip, they must be kept in the fridge. If not, they end up looking kind of like the picture below. Still taste delicious, but not as yummy looking. Lol. I would also recommend giving them a quick stir every day until they are eaten, if they become too sticky, just add a couple tablespoons of vodka.  

I used a ceramic plate to spread them out, in the fridge and they didn’t stick together quite as much.  They do end up a little sticky and slimy, so I would serve them with toothpicks, or tongs, or in little serving cups. 

 
Last tip, I would suggest that if you are serving these while kids are around, have a separate bowl of regular gummy bears for kids, you know, so it isn’t “sooo unfair” (once again, speaking from experience) 

I would love to try other candies as well. I have seen people dissolving hard candy in vodka to give it a candy flavour too. Hmmm, so many possibilities!  Enjoy! 

Homemade Pesto

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Homemade Pesto

 In my herb garden, basil has been growing like crazy! We use a little bit in salads and with tomatoes, but I was thinking that by the end of the season, I should make some pesto. 
 But then we were at a farmers market, and they were selling these huge bunches of basil for $3.00!  So I figured, why not make it now!  

I plucked and washed all of the leaves. 
 I wasn’t sure if the kids would like the strong basil taste, so I read online that you can make it a little milder by adding spinach, so I decided to try that. Also, I am not a big fan of pine nuts, so I left those out too. So, in our little blender, I put about 1/3 basil leaves and 2/3 spinach leaves. 

 I squeezed half a lemon… 

  Added a couple of cloves of garlic…  And about 1/2 cup of olive oil to start…
I also added a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

 

  
I had to add some more oil to get the blender going and get everything to blend properly, but once it was moving, I kept adding handfuls of spinach and basil. It doesn’t look like the most appetizing food I have ever made, but it smells and tastes fantastic! 
 
I searched and searched online to try to find a way to preserve pesto, or seal it in jars, but because it isn’t cooked, I couldn’t find any other way other than freezing it. It will keep about a week in the fridge, but the only way you can keep it for longer is to freeze it. 

So, I spooned it into little salad dressing containers, and sprinkled a bit of cheese on the top, and popped them into the freezer. 

   
  

Looks a little yummier with some Parmesan on top…  
 

We had it for lunch today, it was delicious!    
   

Rose Petal Jelly

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Rose Petal Jelly

We have benefitted in the past from our neighbour’s green thumb… We enjoy the apples that hang over into our backyard every fall, and we enjoy the roses that grow through the cracks in our fence and end up blooming on our side. And, as you may know, I am a bit of a hoarder, so… I saved all of the petals from the roses and dried them… You never know when rose petals might come in handy! And, guess what I came across today? A recipe for rose petal jelly using dried rose petals! Perfect.

I started with about three cups of rose petals. I also had a few dried rosebuds I had left over from when I made tea…

 
The recipe said to use 3 1/2 cups of water and about a cup of rose petals. I had more than double that, so I made two batches, and I just dumped in the extra rose petals. I brought the water and rose petals to a rolling boil, and turned the heat off and let it steep for about 5-10 minutes.

  Look at how pretty the petals looked!  
By letting it steep for 10 minutes, the boiling water absorbs all of the flavour and colour of the petals.  I used my Teavana tea pot to strain all of the petals from the water, but for jelly making, most instructions say to use cheesecloth, but I figured this was much easier!    

I was a little disappointed that the colour of the water was a little brown. I divided the water into two pots so there was a little over three cups in each pot.

 

But, look what happened to the colour of the rose water when I added lemon juice!  The pot on the left has the lemon juice added… Cool eh? 

 I got so excited about the change in colour, I forgot to mention that after I squeezed the lemons, I strained the lemon juice to get rid of the seeds and pulp. 

 
Before starting with the rest of the jam I washed the jars, and put them, and the lids into the oven and turned the heat to 300 degrees. 

Then, to the rose water, I  added a few fresh rose petals, to leave in the jelly, and a box of powdered Certo (I am a very loyal customer…I love the Certo brand) 

    
And brought it to a rolling boil. Here is my free tip for the day: this is the most important step to making sure your jam or jelly sets, and thickens. Once you add the Certo, you have to be sure that the temperature is high enough that it is a true rolling boil. This means that the boiling doesn’t stop when you stir it, and it almost doubles in size because of all of the bubbles. The picture below is not quite a rolling boil. 

  This is a rolling boil! Now you can turn your timer on for 1-2 minutes and stir it, and let it boil away.  
Then, I added 4 cups of sugar to each pot…

 And brought it up to a rolling boil once again. At this point, I turned off the oven, so the jars and lids are hot and sterilized. Another tip is to half full each jar, and let the jelly/jam sit for five minutes before filling the rest of the bottle. Fruit (or petals in jams and jellies tends to float to the top, but if you let the jam thicken a little before filling, the fruit will be evenly distributed throughout the jar. 

After waiting a few minutes, I carefully filled each jar. Then, I put the filled jars back into the oven. The oven keeps the jars hot, and if you leave them in the oven until they are cool, they seal perfectly every time! I have bottles of jam from five years ago that are still perfectly sealed…

  Here is the finished product, you can see the petals floating in the middle.   
It thickened perfectly, ended up being a very pretty colour, and it is delicious on a cracker with a bit of cream cheese!

 I might have to actually plant some roses in our own backyard, because I don’t think there are any more roses poking through our fence! 

Have a great day!