Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wishing you and your loved ones a spooky and safe Hallowe'en!

Top 12 Pantry Staples You Should Have

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Tuesday! Hope everyone on the east coast are safe and sound after getting a hit from Hurricane Sandy yesterday, and praying for those that are waiting for what will come today. We had a very windy and rainy night last night, and although we had a bit of a power outage, nothing too major to report in this area.

Today in my series of Cooking 101, I wanted to list some of the pantry must-haves. These are the essential items you should have in your pantry to avoid any claims of "there is nothing to eat" in your home, as well as to avoid running to the store to buy these items. These items have a longer shelf life, do not need refrigeration, and can be easily whipped up with other ingredients you have to make a quick and easy meal. All of these items can be purchased when they are on sale, so make sure you stock up when you see a sale for them!

1. Pasta
Having pasta on hand is always ideal to whip up a quick lunch or dinner meal. Pasta is inexpensive, easy to cook, and virtually has no expiry date. You can make a multitude of dishes as it is very versatile to incorporate with meat or vegetables. Toss in some spaghetti sauce for a quick lunch, add some grilled steak or chicken along with spices for a yummy dinner, or mix pasta with olive oil and vinegar for a simple pasta salad or easy snack. I always buy a few pounds of pasta when it's on sale for those lazy days.

2. Beans
Either canned or dried, beans are very inexpensive, nutritious and filling. Beans can be added to soups and stews, tossed in cold salads, ground into homemade hummus, made into chili, and even added to ground beef or pork. Stocking up on dry beans is beneficial since you avoid the additives and preservatives that come with canned beans. But if you do stock up on canned beans, note the expiration date.

3. Rice
Along with pasta, rice can also be a great grain to stock up on and be used for it's versatility. Add rice to just about any dish you are preparing, such as casseroles, stir-fry, sushi rolls, or as a side dish to meats. Add steamed or grilled veggies and spices for a healthy lunch, or grilled chicken cubes with some peppers for a yummy dinner.

4. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter isn't only great for the good ol' PB&J sandwich, it is very versatile in what it can be used for, much more than people think. Use it in Asian-inspired dishes to add that nutty taste. Add to sauces and dips for a new take on taste. Use it in desserts, spreads or smoothies. Or, for a quick light snack, dip some fruits or veggies in peanut butter. My fave snack: apples dipped in peanut butter. Yum!

5. Stock or Broth
Using stock or broth in place of water will add so much flavour and taste to your dishes. Use in homemade soups and stews, casseroles, and pasta sauce. Grill your meat in the pan with an added splash of stock to maximize the flavour. Cook rice, couscous or quinoa for an added flavour.

6. Canned Tomatoes/Tomato Sauce
If you have stocked up on pasta, why not add tomato sauce to your pantry as well? You can find a large variety of sauce flavours to use in many of your dishes. Canned tomatoes are a great alternative to fresh tomatoes to make your own homemade pasta sauce, chili, or meat dish. Keep a few cans of diced, crushed, and whole tomatoes to fill any recipe that calls for tomatoes.

7. Flour
Flour is a key ingredient in most baked goods, and so should be kept in the pantry at all times. You can also use flour along with eggs to coat and bread chicken, thicken sauces, or make homemade bread.

8. Oats
A great substitute to flour, oats can be used in a wide number of dishes for any meal. Use oats to make your own homemade granola, oatmeal pancakes, add oats to ground meat for meatloaf or meatballs, or make a crumble topping for your dutch apple pie.

9. Sugar
Along with flour, this is another key ingredient in many cooking and baking dishes, sauces and drinks. Use it to sweeten your coffee or tea, add to your brownies recipe, or make sweet and sour sauce for your chicken.

10. Fresh Onions and Garlic
Many recipes call for onions and/or garlic to add taste and spice up a dish. A small clove of garlic can pack a whole lot of flavour, and when you add onions to the mix, your sauces, meat dishes, salads and stews will  taste delicious. You can even caramelize onions to add to pork tenderloin, grilled chicken or steak, or toss in your pasta.

11. Cooking Oil
Whether you prefer vegetable oil or olive oil, having cooking oil on hand is a must when cooking as you need some sort of fat to cook. Extra virgin olive oil is a healthier choice, as it is packed with antioxidants, is loaded with health benefits to fight off heart disease and cancer, and is packed with flavour and taste.

12. Vinegar
Vinegar can be used both as a kitchen staple and a household staple. Aside from its benefits to cleaning and deodorizing, it is also a powerful flavour booster. Add white vinegar to sweet and sour dipping sauce or homemade barbecue sauce, balsamic vinegar to make your very own balsamic vinaigrette, or red wine vinegar for your fresh garden salads.

What staple items would you add to this list?

Book Art Wall Art

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hello! Hope you all had a great weekend! I sure did...it was a very relaxing (and very chilly) weekend! Last week there was a book sale in the building where I work, and so I decided to take a quick peek as to what they have on sale. I was looking for some large books filled with art or pictures that I can use to hang in my RIBBA Ikea picture frames that I bought three months ago (yes I know...I still haven't hung them up!).

And guess what I found! Two really neat books FILLED with beautiful pictures and photographs! One was filled with beautiful drawings of the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Perfect as to what I was looking for. Another one was filled with beautiful nature and culture photographs. Perfect I thought!

Now you will NEVER guess what the cost of these two amazing books were! A whopping twenty five cents EACH! Yes I wrote that down correctly! I spent $.50 on these two books, that I can used and interchange pictures for the next few years or more!

At that price, I had some spare change left over to buy myself this great crafts book from Martha Stewart. Yahoo!

Pages filled with amazing crafts that I can't wait to start doing!

I will post up the final pictures of the frames once I get a big enough matte for the frames (the pictures are still too small for the matte that came with the frames). Just a quick bathroom reno update: we have not started on the renovation yet (boo!). We were hoping to have finished by now, but we are still waiting for some material to come in (we already ordered it over a week ago). Cross your fingers for this week!

Mozzarella Crusted Chicken Bake

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hello all! Thanks for stopping by today! This week was a really busy week for me (hint hint: we are starting on the bathroom soon!), so I really didn't have time to post as much as I wanted. However, last night I made these and they were so yummy! Serve with a salad or potatoes and you are set! Enjoy and see you all next week!

Mozzarella Crusted Chicken Bake
Prep time: 20 min        Cook Time: 35-45 min           Yield: 4 servings

- 1 lb. chicken breast, cut into strips
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup cheese of your choice (mozzarella, parmesean)
- 1/3 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease baking sheet.
2. In a wide bowl, combine mayonnaise and cheese. In a separate wide bowl, add dry bread crumbs.
3. Dip chicken strips in the mayonnaise mixture, coating both sides evenly. Transfer to the bread crumbs bowl and coat each strip evenly on both sides.
4. Place chicken strips in the baking sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and crust is golden yellow.

To make the breading stick to the chicken, roll the chicken into the flour to coat before rolling in your wet mixture. This will allow the wet mixture to stick to something so it doesn't fall off during baking or frying!

Use 1/3 cup ranch or Caesar dressing.
Alternatively, dip strips in a whisked egg mixture of your favourite spices (salt, pepper, chilli powder, seasoned salt, etc.)
Use flour instead of bread crumbs.
For more crunch, mix bread crumbs with crushed corn flakes or rice crispies cereal.

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Common Cooking Spices

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hello all! As part of my mini-series Cooking 101, I have decided to compile a small list of spices and their most common uses in dishes. I decided not to give background information on each spice, as you can find so much online. Instead, I simply listed the most common dishes you can use each spice in. When I fist started cooking, my go-to spice was always black pepper and salt, but over time with more cooking experience I have developed a sense for what spices should go in what dish. You don't want to add paprika in a pasta dish or nutmeg to your salad (unless you prefer those tastes!). I briefly listed the top common spices used in many dishes, since these are widely used in many recipes but is hard to know when NOT to use them. Over time, I will be adding to this list to include other spices that are widely used but not as common, such as nutmeg and ginger, so check back!
Soups, salads, vinaigrettes, marinades, grain dishes, tomato-based dishes like tomato sauce and tomato soup
Bay Leaves
Soups, stews, marinades, tomato sauce, and dishes containing tomatoes, beans, corn and/or potatoes
Black Pepper
One of the most versatile spice to add heat and aroma to any dish, from pork and chicken to salads and soups
Both dry and fresh chives give a mild-onion flavour to many dishes such as omelets, baked potato, potato salad, fresh vegetable salad, dips, dressings, soups, sauces
Pizza, pasta, beef, chicken, herb breads, eggs, fish, potatoes, salads, tomato soup, tomato sauce
Tomato-based sauces, paprikash, goulash, beef, pork, poultry,stews, soup, rice, cheese dishes. Sprinkle it to garnish casseroles, vegetable pies, hummus, and dips
Fresh parsley has a better taste in dishes than dried, so use in salads and salad dressing, soups, bean dishes, casseroles, stews, pasta, potatoes
Rosemary has a strong piney taste, so use it to season poultry such as chicken and turkey, lamb, beef, fish, stuffing, stews, herb breads, tomato soup, tomato sauce, potatoes
Soups, vinaigrettes, bean dishes, soups, cheese dishes, chicken, corn, eggs, fish, lamb, potatoes, salads, tomato sauce, tomato soup


I created this table into a PDF so now you are welcome to print and use it at home. I have a print out taped to the back of the door where I keep my spices. Easy and convenient as a quick reference when I'm cooking!

Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions

Friday, October 19, 2012

Happy Bakefest Friday to you all! This past week I bought some pork tenderloin that was on sale. I usually tend to cut up pork tenderloin into small pork-chop sizes and freeze them until needed for future recipes, but this time I wanted to try baking the pork with some veggies. Sorry I have no pictures of the process it took to make, because I honestly wasn't sure what the end product would turn out! But thankfully it was a complete success, and the meat was so juicy and tender! Enjoy!

Tenderloin with Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions
Prep time: 40 min        Cook Time: 1.5 hours           Yield: 8 Servings

- 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium yellow onions, sliced
- 225g. mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 2 tsp. pork rub spice (or other spice of your choosing)
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Rub 1 tbsp. olive oil all over pork. Marinade pork with desired seasoning. I used a pork rub, but you can also use barbecue sauce if desired. Or simply stick with olive oil, salt and pepper. Leave pork covered in the fridge for about half hour to marinade (or longer if you prefer more flavour).
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a deep baking pan, add remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add sliced mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Place the marinated pork tenderloins on top of the mushroom and onions.
3. Cover the baking pan with either a lid or aluminum foil. This will help to keep in moisture from being released from the onions and mushrooms, and thus will make your pork juicy and tender.
4. Check the meat regularly to ensure proper baking. Bake for one hour, or until pork is cooked in the center.

Cook the pork in 1/2 cup chicken broth only. Fry the onions and mushrooms on the stove until golden brown.
Substitute mushrooms for any other veggie you prefer.

Serve with bakes potato wedges, mashed potatoes or your choice of vegetables.  

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Potatoes 101 - How to Pick a Potato

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Potatoes, America's favourite starch, are prepared in numerous ways, from mashed potatoes to baked potatoes to homemade chips. While there are hundreds of varieties available on the market throughout the world, there are usually only a few common varieties that are widely known and sold in the supermarket or at your local farmer's market. However, choosing the type of potato for the right dish may be a daunting task. Potatoes are classified by their starch and moisture content. There are three categories of potatoes: waxy (new), starchy (mature), and all-purpose.

Waxy Potatoes (New Potatoes)
Description: Waxy potatoes tend to be high in moisture and sugar but low in starch. Thus they tend to hold their shape when prepared. These potatoes are the immature potatoes that are harvested in the spring and early summer. They tend to be smaller in size and have a rounder shape.
Variety: White, yellow, red-skinned (White Finn, White Rose, Russian Blue, Cal White)
Best Dish: Salads, soups, stews, hashed browns, scalloped potatoes

Starchy Potatoes (Mature Potatoes)
Description: Starchy potatoes are high in starch content but low in moisture and sugar content. These types tend to bake and fry well since they don't hold their shape well. These potatoes are best used for mashing and frying.
Variety: Russet, Idaho
Best Dish: Mashed potatoes, french fries, baked potato

All-Purpose Potatoes
Description: As their name suggests, these potatoes can be used in many potato dishes. If you are not keen on purchasing the different varieties of potatoes for your different dishes, then this potato is your go-to potato. They are irregularly shaped and the most cost-effective alternative.
Variety: Yukon Gold, Red Gold, Kennebec
Best Dish: Easy potato recipes such as mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, french fries, potato salad, hashed browns

Cooking 101

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good day all! As you can tell from my blog posts - aside from decorating and crafts - my biggest love is for cooking and baking. I love the tastes and smells of food, and the comfort and joy it brings when you bite into something delicious. I can make a really good New York style cheesecake, but I believe we can all increase our cooking knowledge and skills. No I didn't go to the best culinary school nor do I have a dad that is a top chef. But I have learned (and still continue to learn) many kitchen skills from cook books, cooking shows, family and the internet as I am sure many of you have as well. But let me tell you I am no professional (FAR from it actually). Yes I have burned cookies, made a lava cake (accidentally!), and forgot to add salt to my main course. But as in any field, mistakes do happen and we do learn from them. When I started cooking at the age of 15, I didn't know what I was doing. I just followed a recipe. But over time my cooking skills have evolved. And I am hoping that they continue to expand.

Thus to share with you, I am happy to announce that I will be offering a mini series, "Cooking 101", where I will post tips, articles, and techniques on cooking and baking. Please, feel free to join in on this series by posting comments or questions at the end of each article and we can all learn a few good things. If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, email me your ideas and suggestions. I am as excited as you are! I have an ever-growing list of topic ideas for this series that I can't wait to share!
I kicked off my mini series yesterday by filling you in on the gadget must-haves in your kitchen. If you missed my first article then read it here.

The Top Useful Cooking Tools and Utensils

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In this day and age we have all become so obsessed with the latest and greatest cooking gadgets. Everything and anything that can slice, dice, chop, and blend better than the rest of them. Everything from the Magic Bullet to the Ninja Blender, from the Super Grill to the Big Boss Grill, and from the Robo Stir to the Slice-o-Matic. We as consumers have seen it all! And how many of us are guilty of owning at least one of them? Forget about these fancy-shmancy things that only bring clutter to your countertop or cupboards. I am here to share with you the basic cooking utensils you need to have in your kitchen before you go out to buy these fancy gadgets that you will use once (okay...maybe a few times) and just shove in the back of your cupboards.
This is an essential and versatile utensil to have. It easily allows you to drain pasta from the water, drain canned veggies from the juices they were canned in, strain tea leaves for your tea, and rinse your fruits and veggies. They come in different sizes, shapes and materials. Strainers called colanders, which have larger holes, are used mainly to drain larger items from liquid, such as pasta and veggies. Smaller holed strainers, such as mesh strainers, not only help to drain liquid but also serve many different purposes. You can easily separate larger elements such as chunks from tomato juice, fat out of gravy, and seeds from raspberry puree. You can also use it to sift dry ingredients when making sweets or sift powdered sugar on top of your cakes.

Spoons – Solid, Slotted and Perforated
This is a must have in your utensil drawer. Wooden spoons are so beneficial as compared to the other types of kitchen spoons. It is probably the most essential hand tool for any cook. They don't scratch non-stick pots and pans when you stir and they don't conduct heat. Make sure you choose a spoon that is made of hard wood to ensure it won't absorb the taste or smell of your dish.  Solid spoons can also be made of either stainless steel or silicone, which are great for stirring, mixing and serving. Make sure that the handle is insulated though, so you don't end up burning yourself. Slotted and perforated spoons are great for draining foods from liquid.

Sometimes it is hard to tell if your meat is cooked appropriately or if the sugar for your candy apples is at the right temperature. A thermometer is like your best friend – it will always tell you when it’s enough!  An instant-read thermometer works wonders as it can instantly tell you what the temperature of your meat is. However, make sure you don't cook or bake with the thermometer inside, or else it will ruin it.

A peeler is another must-have in the kitchen. Two things that everyone wants to achieve in the kitchen: reduce food waste and reduce time spent. Imagine the amounts of food and time waste that might go into peeling a sack of potatoes. They are great at peeling apples, carrots and potatoes. Use them to cut thin slices of cheese for your appetizers or salads. Cut thin slices of potatoes to make homemade chips. So many things to use for such a small and efficient gadget!

There are different types of whisks, ranging from balloon whisks, to flat whisks, ball whisks and even gravy whisks. Of course, you do not need to have all of these if you won't use them. But the ideal kind to have is the balloon whisk. Different than a mixer, a whisk helps you control the amount of air you add to your meringue batter or how well-combined your dry ingredients are for your cake batter. A whisk is easy to have on hand, if you ever need to beat some eggs or combine oil and water. The one I use at home is the OXO 9" stainless steel whisk.

Mixing Bowls
A good set of mixing bowls is very useful for adding your dry and wet ingredients together. It would be preferable to have mixing bowls in a variety of sizes such as small, medium and large. If you tend to make larger quantities of food, then include an extra-large size in your collection. Usually mixing bowls tend to come in a set of 3, 4 or 5 sizes. They can be plastic, glass, porcelain, wood, silicone or stainless steel. I use a glass mixing bowl with a handle, for easy gripping while stirring and whisking.

Measuring Cups and Spoons
There are two types of measuring cups: dry measuring cups or liquid measuring cups. Dry measuring cups are designed to stack within each other for easy storage and tend to come in sets of six: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 2/3 cup, 3/4 cup and 1 cup. They are designed to easily level off the dry ingredients at the top. Liquid measuring cups are made of clear glass or plastic, come in large cup sizes, and have a spout for easy pouring of liquid. Ensure a sturdy handle and marked labels on the side for the measurements. Measuring spoons come in a set and are used for measuring small quantities of an ingredient, such as spices and baking powder or soda. Ensure clear markings on each spoon so as to not confuse tablespoon with teaspoon.

Having tongs in the kitchen is like having a nice extension of your fingers! Having a sturdy pair of tongs is great for turning tender or big food your have frying or baking away. They are also versatile, and can be used for flipping burgers, serving salad, mixing pasta, lifting steak and moving cookies onto a tray.

Metal Spatula
There are many things that tongs just cannot do, such as flipping those pancakes. Which is why you need a spatula. These are handy to have, since they can easily slide under your burgers to check if that side is good to flip, or use to easily transfer those delicate cookies onto a cooling tray. Look for spatulas that have a thin front edge to easily glide under food.

Cutting Board
Having a good and large enough cutting board is essential in the kitchen. You can either buy wooden or plastic cutting boards, but opt in for the wooden ones as they are more softer on your knives and won't dull them as quick as plastic cutting boards do.

Cooling Rack
Not a must, but definitely a good tool to have, a cooling rack allows your cookies and cakes to cool evenly. It also prevents from moisture build-up that tends to happen when you let your cakes cool in their pans, which produces softer and moist bottoms of cakes.The Wilton 3-tier Stackable Cooling Racks are perfect for large quantity of baked goods, or can be used separately if only making one batch of cookies.

Chewy Decadent Brownies

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hi! Thanks for stopping by on this Bakefest Friday. It was my little sister's birthday last week, and I decided to make her her all-time fave dessert - brownies! She loves the brownies that I make, and I love making it for her. It's super easy, and the outcome is dee-lish! These brownies turn out chewy, moist with a bit of a cakey texture. And the best thing is that you don't need to glob on any extra frosting on top (Unless you want to! But make sure to cut down on the sugar in the batter if you do).

Start off by melting 1/2 cup butter and 100 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler over low heat. I do not have a double boiler so for this method, I simply used a small pot filled with water and placed my butter and chocolate chips in a stainless steel bowl. You can either use a bowl or another small pot. But be warned: for either method, make sure that the water does not touch the top pot or bowl.

I melted the butter first and then added the chocolate chips. I find this method works well, since the chocolate melts easier when submerged in the butter. Plus, you don't end up with burnt chocolate if you forget to stir!

Once the chocolate is all melted, you get a thick consistency of this mixture. Take it off the heat.

I transferred the mixture to a bigger bowl, but you don't have to if your bowl is deep enough. Add 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Beat well. I used a whisk, but you can always use a stand-up or hand held mixer. I just like to ensure all of the ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating lightly after each addition.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir well. Add this to chocolate mixture, beating until well blended.

Pour chocolate mixture in a greased and floured 9-inch square cake pan, to avoid your brownies getting stuck to the pan. You can sprinkle the top with pecans, walnuts, or M&M's. I used chocolate chips instead.

Bake for 30 minutes or until set at 350°F. Let cool completely in pan.


Chewy Decadent Brownies
Prep time: 10 min        Cook Time: 30 min           Yield: 16 squares

- 1/2 cup butter
- 100g semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square cake pan.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in a double broiler over low heat, stirring until smooth and melted through. Remove from heat. Add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, beating after each addition.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir until mixed. Add to chocolate mixture, stirring until well blended. Spread in prepared cake pan.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan.

Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.
Add 1/3 cup M&M's chocolate candies.
Once cooled, frost with chocolate frosting.
Add an extra egg to the batter for a more cake-like texture, or use 2 eggs for a more chewier brownie. 

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Floating Wall Shelves

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hi all! Thanks for stopping by today! I always love it when I have views and people like you taking the time to stop by to read what I have to say and see what I have done. It always makes me happy so thanks for your support! :)

This past Thanksgiving weekend was a busy one for us. We did lots of yard work around the house, pulling out those annuals we had planted and clearing out the veggie garden. But aside from the eating, cleaning and yard work, we also squeezed in some time to do some decor in the basement. I wanted to finish the family room we have down there before we can start on the bathroom. Always finish what you have started!

So you have probably seen what our family room in the basement looks like now. If you haven't, go see it here. There was just one wall that looked bare and boring, right behind the couch. I needed to add something, but anymore pictures and the place would look like a museum! So I thought about adding shelves. I found floating shelves at the BMR Building Centre store on sale, and decided to use that. The thickness of the shelves closely resemble the IKEA bookcase we have in the room, so I thought it would match perfectly!

This is what the wall looked before, all bare and boring! Nothing to really catch your eye.

And this is what it looks like after adding the shelves.

The cute flamingo bought in Cuba sits comfortably on the lower shelf.

I used the decor I had on my glass table that is now my Halloween vignette on the upper shelf.

Love it!

What I am Thankful For This Year

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In honour of Thanksgiving day being yesterday, and since I did not have time to post this sooner, I wanted to share some of the things I am thankful for this year.

1. Faith
First and foremost, I am thankful for the faith I have in God. He has been with me through the worst of times and the best of times, and I am truly grateful for all that He has provided.

2. My Family
Becoming a wife this year has made me a very happy (and lucky!) gal! I am so grateful for my husband, for being with me for these past 8 years and then (finally!) marrying me! I am also grateful to the new family that I married into, since they are such amazing people and a great family. I am also thankful for my parents and sister, who continue to support me and love me unconditionally. I am so happy to have such a loving and caring family!

3. Health
This is one of the major things that we all take for granted. It is one of the things we cannot live without. And therefore, third on my list is my health.

4. My Dog, Sparky
I have never had a pet before, other than fish. But who can hold fish anyways?! Over the past year that we have had him, my love for him has really grown! I never knew how much I can love a dog! I am so happy to have my happy, playful, and full-of-life beagle!

5. My Friends
Over the years, I have had many friends come and go, but the three close friends I have today have been friends with me the longest. I am so happy to have such an amazing group of friends in my life. It helps to keep my life balanced!

6. My Job
I am so happy to have a job that I went to school for. Graduating with a Master's degree, I once feared I will not find a job in my field in this hardship of times. Luckily, I found this job while I was still in grad school. I am fortunate that they allowed me to work part-time while in school and switched over my hours to full-time after I graduated.

7. My Baking Skills
Yeah I know, I am thankful for the ability to bake (and cook)! Ha! But I love that I am not afraid of the oven (I personally know some who are) and know how to read a recipe (again things we take for granted!). And I am so happy I can always have some yummy food or desserts in my home and no need to go out to eat, thus saving us money!

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Thursday to all! Wow, I can't believe that this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend! October has come upon us so fast and quick, I am still in shock! Where did September go? Even with the chill in the air and the leaves falling, I still love October for Thanksgiving. To me, this is the start of a rather long holiday season! Plus the smell of pumpkin pie, apples and cinnamon, and walking into a warm home from the chilly outside is just something I love!

I have compiled a list of recipes from my favourite sources that I just know you will enjoy. I hope this helps in the dinner planning process!

1. Ultimate Stuffed Mushrooms - Kraft Foods
2. Mini Mushroom Tarts - Completely Delicious
3. Classic Stuffed Eggs - Canadian Living
4. Spinach, Bacon and Onion Dip - Martha Stewart
5. Cornbread Bites - Martha Stewart

1. Dijon Maple Glazed Spiral Ham - Food Network
2. Herbed Pork Roast and Cranberry Chutney - Food Network
3. Perfect Roast Turkey - Martha Stewart
4. Maple Glazed Stuffed Roast - Kraft Foods

1. Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad - Kraft Foods
2. Mashed Potato Layer Bake -  Kraft Foods
3. Sauteed Green Beans and Mushroom - Food Network
4. Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing with Smoked Sausage - Canadian Living
5. Garlic Mashed Potatoes - Martha Stewart

1. Pumpkin-Carrot Cake - Kraft Foods
2. Homemade Pumpkin Pie - Taste of Home
3. Cinnamon Apple Cake - Robin Hood
4. Deluxe Pumpkin Cheesecake - Taste of Home
5. Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake - Kraft Foods
6. Pumpkin-Chocolate Tiramisu - Martha Stewart

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving! See you all back here next week!

Decisions, Decisions

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Good morning all! Thanks for stopping by today! If you remember from yesterday's post, I was talking about the different looks that I was going for in regards to our bathroom reno that we will be starting soon. After thinking about it more last night, looking through the selections at the local hardware stores in town, I have come up with some ideas of what I have found suitable for the bathroom, which I found all from Rona.

This first reno board I created uses dark cabinets with a white counter top. I love the idea of including a glass shelf, since it adds a modern touch. I did not include a mirror in this board because I was planning on reusing the mirror we currently have and just adding a frame around it.
This second board uses white cabinets, white counter top and a really neat mirror. I like this mirror since it is simple but modern.
Looking at my two boards I think I am really aiming for the darker cabinets. Since our bathroom is small, having the two drawers with one door helps to add more storage space and allows us to organize it efficiently. I find myself adding baskets and stackable shelves in our current two-door cabinet to maximize space.

And finally, the paint! I am telling you now, it is SO hard to decide on paint. I like neutral and light. The tiles we currently have in the bathroom, which we are not replacing, have hints of blue and grey in them. So I naturally went with that palette. Here are a few of my faves that I chose from Behr. I will collect these colour sample chips the next time I go to Rona or Home Depot and see which colour choice works best in our bathroom. Again, I will keep you updated on this as things start to roll along with this reno!
Are you liking any of my selections? Do you have a preferred colour? Let me know in the comments section below!

Bathroom Renovation - Ideas

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hi all! Hope your week is going by great! The hubby and I have decided we are finally going to give our outdated bathroom a new style. I am so excited, because I am absolutely tired of seeing the outdated old stuff in there. You know...the 1970's style vanity that was painted white by the previous owner to make it appear new, the really old (turned yellow) tiles, the same paint as the rest of the house (I guess those people thought a neutral colour choice would be best for the ENTIRE home!) and just how dark the room appears. I haven't taken any pictures to show you yet. But that is because we haven't really started buying stuff for the bathroom yet. So keep an eye out to see when we do start the reno process, which should be within the next couple weeks!

As any good decorator and DIY-do-er (does that make sense?), I invested some time into searching up for inspiration. I think I have good taste, but I also think I need to freshen up on my good taste. So I was searching on the HGTV Canada website for bathroom inspiration. This is a collection of what I have found that appeal to me and to our current bathroom.

Our bathroom is small, so small that you can practically touch either sides of the walls just by standing in the middle! So something light and airy will do this bathroom good. I like white, and white really opens up any room. I like this bathroom since the paint is very light, and the colour choice of the vanity and mirror is white. It makes the room look big and bright. Plus the lighting fixture is pretty!

Again, same thing with this bathroom style. However, the wall colour appears to be white, with dark grey accent tiles in the shower. What a dramatic statement!

I love this colour choice for the bathroom. This is the exact (reverse) layout of our bathroom - toilet and sink on one wall, and bathtub on the opposite wall. But minus the big window. We have no windows in our bathroom, which is why I want a light colour palette and a light vanity with much-needed lighting!

Again, loving the colour choice that is reflected in the big mirror. But I love the white counter and dark vanity! Makes the room look so modern.

I just love the glass shelf above the toilet - so modern! Plus that grey-brown colour choice is oh-so chic!

Again, loving the dark vanity, white sink and blue wall colour.

So as you can see (and now I can see too!), I really want to go with the grey or blue light tone for the wall colour, big mirrors, and lots of lighting. However, I am still torn between a dark brown colour for the vanity or a lighter choice. I think I need to do more searching and thinking for this one. But as long as we tear down those ugly tiles and replace with something that is easier to deal with, I still have time to think of the colour of the vanity! Stay tuned, I will update you all on what my choices are, what the bathroom looks like currently, and our entire reno project! :)
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