Friday, October 28, 2011

***Skooks' Playground***: Four Things Friday - Vol 1: Jobs

***Skooks' Playground***: Four Things Friday - Vol 1: Jobs

As I was catching up on my blog reading, I happened upon the Craftacular Mrs Skooks at Skooks Playground starting up a new "four things Friday" and this week, she's interested in our First Four Jobs...

My first job... Besides babysitting was waitressing at a small restaurant in my home town (to which I've now forgotten the name of). I remember liking it a lot - I loved the girl I worked with - she was older, cooler and kind of inspiring. The owner (who may have been the cool girls father) looked just like the Dad in the Cyndi Lauper video "Girls Just Want to Have Fun".

My second job (short of about three other short stints as a waitress) was selling credit cards at a box stores front entrance. I loved the job but I hated pushing credit cards. There were nights where I'd work for four hours and not make a cent. We were paid by the application - $2.50 if they didn't sign for the insurance, $3.00 if they did.

My third job was a rental car clerk. I loved this job and was devastated when I got laid off. I was laid off because the city I live in has two airports... Shortly after I started, the City voted to close the city centre airport and hence, I got laid off with a bunch of others because they'd be phasing out that location.

Irony - it's been 18 years and the airport is still open.

My fourth job was an order picker at a sewing supply wholesaler. I loved the job (most days - although it almost killed me the first few weeks as I was not accustomed to standing eight hours a day). it inspired my desire to learn to sew again and fostered my creativity. It morphed into an assistant manager's position and from there, I spring boarded into design school.

What a fun way to wrap up my Friday!

Images courtesy of Blackstone Images

Thursday, October 27, 2011

MPM: The Week After

We survived the big Halloween party we hosted! Saturday afternoon saw us host 15 kids plus parents - it was an incredible amount of preparation and a family effort to make it happen (Thank you to my amazing husband for all his help), but happen it did and there were 15 kids just delighted with the event!

It's hard to believe that all the planning and preparation could lead up to so much excitement and yet end so quickly! I learned a few things - first, I decided to not buy three times as much food as I needed and second, it likely isn't worth planning a bunch of activities and crafts for a group of kids. They make up their own games and keep themselves quite entertained!

I also learned is is possible to overload on sugar. But I think I already knew that! This week, I think we seriously need to explore the vegetable family again! That is, assuming my husband can eat something solid at some point!

October 31 to November 6

Monday Perogies
Tuesday Fettuccine Alfredo
Wednesday Vegetable soup with cheese biscuits
Thursday Baked Chicken Breasts and Garlic Mashed potatoes and garden veggies (from my Dad's garden)
Friday Chicken Burgers with chips (assuming my honey can eat them)
Saturday Sloppy Joe Pizza
Sunday Roast Beef with root vegetables

I'd also like to let you know that having defined some recipe and planning criteria has made the menu planning task much easier! I don't dread it as much and I find myself thinking of things mid-week and I feel like I'm regaining control!

Thanks for stopping by and for more great menu planning resources, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

MPM: Keeping Up!

This past week, we did pretty good... Until Thursday that is... I went off the rails but I kept moving... Even when it hurt! My arthritis is not cooperating but I keep moving and trying because I know, eventually, it has to get better!

But a new week is dawning and I'm back at the drawing board thinking up meals. This week, my husband is having some invasive dental work done so we will be all adopting his 'soft food' diet for a few days post op. This is actually easier on me than him because I am a SOUP fanatic! But he won't eat soup for days on end so.... His loss, I say! The one benefit of living in a Northern climate is SOUP season!

Monday Impossibly Easy Chicken Pot Pie (I make my own biscuit recipe to top this with)
Tuesday Quesadillas
Wednesday Baked Potato & Leek Soup with Cheddar and Bacon
Thursday Fettuccine Alfredo (this is not my usual recipe but I fell in love with Cassio's sauce and am trying a bunch of different ones in hopes of recreating their sauce)
Friday Kraft Dinner & Fish sticks
Saturday Halloween Party! (veggies n' dip, cheese, meats & crackers)
Sunday I'm not telling! My parents are coming for dinner and my (step) Mom reads my blog so I'm keeping it a secret!!!

Another week planned and I'm beginning to feel a little more in control of our menu plan. I haven't been doing more than a week at a time and I've not been following a strict budget but (yet) but I'm getting back on track and keeping up with one of the little bites I've chewed off for myself, so two weeks in a row, I've planned and it's not been an overwhelming, last minute, chaotic event!

Now if only I could remember to print if off! Thanks for stopping by and check out everyone who's planning their menus with Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Friday, October 21, 2011

I need six more hours each day

I have four unfinished posts and a dozen (or more) rattling around in my brain trying to escape.

But it all lays still with in my head or a half written thought typed on a page.

I have been told I, all to often, take on more than I can realistically can complete. I do not believe this is an affliction uncommon - I'm most certain a large majority of the world suffers from this.

For me, when I take on more than I can get done, I get nothing done. I do not know if this is common or not.

I have a Halloween costume to sew before next Saturday, a basement renovation to finish (again, mostly before next Saturday), baking, cooking, decorating, AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! And don't even get me going about Christmas and the house work that lays undone.

But the real point of my post is to figure out how I can achieve more. Don't confuse my desire to do more with ambition as that is certainly not it! ;) I just want to figure out how to better organize my time, get more energy and plan better so I can complete the thoughts I have, finish the posts I start and one day, actually do some of the things I love - design, sewing, crafting, play the beautiful guitar I have. I just need to figure out to get it all in one day.

Don't you wish the day had just a few more hours in it too?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

MPM: Growing the Process - Recipe Selection Criteria

Pumpkin Pie Carrot Craisin Muffins

When I decided to try and sort out my recipe criteria for longer term benefits, I wasn't really sure how I would narrow it down. When I menu plan now, I flip through magazines and my binders of recipes and pick. Or I just “wing” it – I know what I have in the house (usually) and I will very often type random meats and dishes into my favourite search engine to come up with pages and pages of results. And although this has held me in good stead, it is usually done hurriedly and when I'm stressed out 20 minutes before bed on a Sunday night!

As I got started on this article tonight, I went back to the Org Junkie's recipe selection criteria and tried to find something I could adapt and include in mine. Reading hers over, I realized that although there are things that can be adapted, the types of food we cook for our families and ourselves are largely based on us – our culture, our ability, our eating habits, our likes and our dislikes.

Seems obvious, doesn't it?

My husband and I are both descended from Northern European ancestry so we both grew up eating food that has become fairly traditional for a North American diet (meat & potatoes). We've both expanded our tastes – in part because I love cooking and trying new things.

My husband has issue with his cholesterol so we are trying to adapt the way we eat and I've had long issues with my weight and using food for comfort and consolation. These are things we want to get under control and that we do not want to pass on to our son!

I've given it some thought and this is what I've come up with so far that I am going to try and apply to my meal planning:

1. Lower sugar and sodium
2. Primarily scratch ingredients – low processed foods
3. Prep time – weekday meals to be “on the table” in a maximum time of 1.5 hours
4. Ingredients to be seasonal and/or readily available
5. Adds variety
6. Recipes to be flexible and adaptable

I've also thought it would be advantageous for me to apply "themes" to the nights of the week. I'm working on a list of themes - preliminary ideas to start the menu plan with (beef, chicken, crockpot, etc) and then I can refine them down.

This is our week this week (and yes, it's Sunday night, BUT I actually started this menu plan last Monday and have been working on this post all week)!

October 17 to October 23

Monday Soup and Sandwich Crockpot Tomato Soup & Turkey Sandwiches
Tuesday Chicken Honey Dijon Chicken on Egg Noodles
Wednesday Simple Supper (30m or less) Ginger Beef & Mushroom Stirfry
Thursday Hamburger/Ground Beef Applesauce Meatloaf with Oven Roasted Vegetables
Friday Kid's Choice/Boy's Night to Cook! Kraft Dinner & Fish Sticks
Saturday Fun Supper Night Finger Food Picnic
Sunday Traditional Roast beef with vegetables cooked around the roast

For more great menu planning resources, check out the Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday! Thanks for stopping by and we'll see you again next week!

Photos courtesy of Blackstone Images

PS The muffins pictured above is an original recipe - I'll post the recipe on Thursday!

We-Design-Day Project: Construction Drawings!

This is an exciting week for me! I think I’ve finally nailed down the final, accepted design for the basement renovation. It’s been a very long and complicated process – made worse by my indecision and lack of time to dedicate to it. But this week, I am very happy to report that I’ve got what I need to down and documented, I’ve got the furniture specified and I’m now working on the construction schedule and the final budget.

I’m also planning a meeting with the We-Design-Day Fun with Colour winner (we had a scheduling conflict for our last meeting so we had to postpone) and will have the interview and the final results in the coming weeks and as if it couldn’t get better, today I’m involved in a seminar on ORGANIZING so I’ll be sharing those tips with you soon as well (likely, the organizing tips will be shared with my Friday participation with the 52 Week Organizing Challenge)! And I’ve got the next two renovation projects picked out AND (it must be summer) I’ll be sharing with you how to prepare a 10 Year plan for your home!

It’s going to be a fun, action packed summer so let’s get it underway with the final design for our first WeDesignDay Renovation project!

Last week I met with my husband to review the preliminary layout for his office. He expressed concern with the layout – his work flow is different than mine.

Design Tip: It’s important to keep in mind when planning an office space how your work flows and how you (and others using the office) are “handed”. Generally, most right handed people have the reference documents on their left side and will work in a left to right motion – ensuring less paper clutter on their right hand side to allow for free movement of the pointing device. A person’s height and weight are also important to take into consideration. Being too tall or too short cause strain and injury and having an ill-fitting chair makes sitting for long periods of time uncomfortable!

So we flipped his desk around and he’s happy! We are also improving the lighting and upgrading the electrics. The next WeDesignDay project will reduce the need for a complete table top studio in his office but we will accommodate prop and equipment storage.

This finalized design will meet our goal – it will provide an open workspace for me, a good play area for TroubleMaker, a larger office for my husband with a ‘thinking’ space and lots of storage, a games area (YAY), a music area and improve the overall lighting and layout. We are focusing our budget on getting the furniture that will work for my open-concept office and improving the electrical and lighting.
Since we painted the basement recently, we will not need to repaint but we will be installing new flooring in the area we are opening up. I’ve tentatively selected the lighting we’ll be installing and the furniture list is compiled. I need to do further research on replacing the T-bar ceiling – it won’t match up with the existing ceiling but I think offsetting it one way will work out fine and will require less cutting and patching on our part.


I will be sending out the lighting and electrical to my electrician (who also happens to be my step-father) and since we’ll be doing the remainder of the work, I’ll be pricing out the materials.

Next week, I’ll have the project schedule and the detailed budget for you. In the meantime, happy designing and see you next week!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All the Things I want to do One Day

My head is a jumble of everything. I have ideas, thoughts, dreams, ramblings, half formed posts, half thought thoughts...

I have a lot of things going on in my head at any given moment and my general repository is to say it over and over and over in hopes of committing it to memory. Or I email it to myself at home. Or I write it on a slip of paper.

As you can well imagine, none of those scenarios work very well.

I have an "in box" filled with hundreds of self-addressed emails with links to different things I want to do, try, or read more about. I can only remember so much and I don't remember much at all anyway so the repeating it to myself only works for 'short term' things like a phone number (til I find paper) or something I have to tell my husband who's in the next room. The slips of paper could be effective if I kept them all in the same place, but I don't... Pinterest is helping, assuming I can remember to go look and not just pin things to my boards where they will sit, unattended, for decades to come.

So as I was cruising the net at lunch today, I had a thought as I found yet another thing I want to blog about one day... The thought was this:

I should have a blog where I can post about all the things I want to do one day.

But you have a blog already.

Yes, but it's not about things I want to do one day.

So make it about things you want to do.

Why don't I write a post about all those things?

Why not write one weekly?

Cause sometimes I have more than one thing in my head.


So it's a mostly formulated thought. The Things I want to do One Day - we all have them - craft projects, books to read, recipes to make. And now I'm going to use electronic media to capture and track all those things for me. Coupled with my Pinterest account, I'm hoping to made a definitive collection of "things I want to do one day".

How about you? I think I might create a link party in the future, we'll see...

Monday, October 10, 2011

MPM: Grow the Process (because Ice Cream is not a health food)

Ask me how my week went? I dare you!

It didn't. I didn't get healthy, I didn't exercise, I didn't exactly stay on menu. I didn't get a month's worth of menus planned, I made dessert, then it was Thanksgiving and there was gravy and pie and more gravy...

Photo couresty of Blackstone Images
Table centre piece created by me!

I don't want to use the "F" word so soon into this game but I must... I, with grace and fashion and no regard for the promises I made myself and my family,


But it's a new week and although I don't feel any more inspired to get moving, I'm going to keep forging ahead and keep trying. I don't want to quit and the super flashy failure, I hope, will work to keep my plodding ahead!

October 10 to 17

Monday Pizza Party (thanks, Honey!)
Tuesday Tortellini with Marinara
Wednesday Oklahoma Crockpot Steak Soup
Thursday Open Faced Chicken Club Burgers
Friday ???
Saturday Taco Night
Sunday Turkey breast roast with crockpot stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy

I have to admit this menu plan likely had less thought than what I wore today... It isn't that I don't care - I do - but I've painted myself into a corner and I don't know how to get out... I need to get healthier and provide more nutritiously balanced meals for my family and I need to get our grocery budget under control.

I have menu planned for the better part of 20 years but since changing jobs in 2010 and cascading down into a deep depression, I have just lost all motivation and desire so I think it is time to review my strategy, discard what isn't working and try to adopt some new things that I can use and commit too. After discussing with my husband, he suggests that I take a slow approach - as I tend to be a "jump in with two feet" kind of person only to be distracted and disappointed and don't keep it up.

So where does an unmotivated, troubled person go for menu planning advice? Well, to the hostest with the mostest, Laura over at the Organizing Junkie.

When I found her site early in 2009, I thought it was like I'd died and gone to Heaven. More than 200 people were sharing the meal plans each week and it was easy to cruise from site-to-site and "steal" meal ideas. As I got more involved, I started to realize I could plan smarter so I started developing a "tool box" of tricks of my very own. It included a printable menu planner with grocery list which later evolved to an electronic spread sheet. I've started trying to develop a family-friendly meal planning board game and have even gone so far as to develop and create my own recipes, engaging my husband as chief food photographer and my son as my Sous Chef (I've yet to meet another three year old who can wield a kitchen knife with such finesse).

But, like many things in my life, as I get busy, distracted and/or depressed, everything shuts down around me. For a few things, I press on through sheer determination but that isn't working for me anymore, so I'm seeking out something new... A Plan. A real plan I can build and execute and more importantly, maintain.

The Internet is a resource like none other. Most of everything you can think of is online and available to you 24 hours a day. If you've thought of it, likely, someone else has too and has posted it. So, I've started my search for the

1. Plan my menu before Sunday night and more importantly, not on MONDAY!
2. Include one meal in which vegetables are the "feature dish"
3. Develop a recipe selection criteria
4. Add (at least) one new meal/recipe per month
5. Divide three of the seven nights into a set theme: beef, soup, sandwiches, etc

There is a lot more I could be doing but I know me well enough to know when to stop... And like the "to do" list pictured below, I can tell you I'm fairly good at adding one new meal/recipe per month already, so I can almost cross that one off my list!

Photo Courtesy of 22 Words

Any more tips for me...??? I am certainly "Organizationally Challenged" but I'm trying! For more great meal ideas, menu tips, hints, tricks and inspiration, please check out all of the people posting at Menu Plan Monday and for more great Crockpot ideas, check out Dining with Debbie, I'm linked up with her too!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Giving Thanks... What I am thankful for!

Being at my Mother's has made me a bit mushy in the brain, I suppose. I've had the opportunity to just watch the world for a few days and realize that life is short, way to short to be lost and concerned with things I can't change today.

It doesn't mean that the things that drive me won't still consume me but for today, I am putting those things aside.

It is, after all, Thanksgiving.

I am thankful for:
  • sweet little children (especially mine)
  • soft, smooshy kisses from my son
  • long skinny legs
  • giggles and smiles
  • "Mad Face"
  • chants of "faster, faster... WEEEEEE!" as we raced across the field on the quad
  • my Mom's gravy
  • broccoli and cheese sauce
  • a warm bed
  • soft pillows
  • hot showers
  • crisp, clean sheets
  • fresh air
  • clean water
  • colour (and subsequently, my eyesight)
  • the smell of turkey cooking
  • my house
  • my husband
  • my family
  • my health
  • my brains
  • my ability to say "no" and conversely, my ability to say "yes"
  • seeing TroubleMaker smile
  • my life


Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Light Inside: Finding Peace

For the past few weeks, my view of the world has been dark, melancholy and pessimistic. Trying to understand my place in the world has had me question why I decided to bring another life into the mean, hateful and angry place. All of this has left me sad, alone and lost.


I'm a happy, optimistic, it's raining sunshine kind of person so this has left me all very bewildered and not at all at peace with my existence.

But sometimes, peace and tranquility finds you in the most unexpected and unimaginable way. And today, it found me.

It started simply enough with my step dad asking for help unloading and moving his quads. He needed a couple of extra drivers to ferry the quads and drive his truck. We were all planning to go out and enjoy the beautiful fall weather so away we went. By the time we got out to help, he'd actually done what he needed but encouraged my sister and I to take a ride around the field on the quads. He gave us a crash course in Quad Driving 101 and tentatively, I pushed my thumb to engage the throttle. The machine lurched forward so I promptly let go. A couple of hesitant tries and soon, I was ambling across the hay-stubble field, the late fall sun cascading shadows of light through the tall pine and poplar trees. Looking back, I saw my sister flanking behind me, a wild grin on her face. I pressed harder and the machine shot forward, filling my sweater with cool, fresh air.

We raced around the field, laughing, getting silly and frightening ourselves by going up a tiny little incline to get back on the driveway. We drove up to our children and their eyes were giddy with excitement - you could read their question - could they have a ride too?

And with my little boy in front of me, clutching my pant legs, we slowly sped away back into the field. Courses of "faster" and "Weee!!!!" filled the still of the afternoon. The grumble of the engines delighted all of us and as I turned the lumbering machine to race back across the field and TroubleMaker's little hand waved joyously at his cousin as they drove towards us, peace found me.

I suddenly saw the clouds that surround my soul dissipate, the warmth of the sun touched my skin and all the beauty and wondered I'd seen last weekend while we were in Jasper hit me.


And as our confident on the powerful machines grew, we decided to take one of the many trails my step dad has around his quarter section. And as drove deeper into the rugged, Alberta bush, the sense of wonder expanded. The light spilled through the dense canopy and illuminated the mossy ground and the burst of red and yellow leaves dripped with light.


Everything I saw was beautiful - the squirrel running up and down the fallen trees, the old man's beard that grew on the trees, the squishy, vibrant green moss, the laughter of the kids was pure delight.


I know it was just one day and it was a silly activity, but I felt peace and I began to remember that under all the darkness, there is light.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We-Design-Day: Trending 2012

I promise, one day, I'll finish the basement and do the big "reveal"... Really, I will but today is not that day.

With the year winding down (that's a thought, hey?), predictions are being made and pushed forward. Not predictions of gloom or the curse of 2012 but design, fashion, architectural changes and innovations, colours and all the things that make our living world functional and aesthetically pleasing. Generally, I am not a trend follower - trends come and go and with my strong subscription to sustainable design, I have a moral obligation to encourage repurposing, reusing and reducing the unnecessary consumerism.

But daydreaming and rethinking some of the ways we look at trending can lend itself to incorporating bits and pieces into designs so we can be modern without breaking the bank, destroying the environment or having all Harvest Gold appliances for decades after it went out of fashion (Hmmm... I wonder if Stainless steel will ever end up causing the shivers Avocado green does????)!

I'd like to introduce to you the "must have" colours being predicted for 2012...

PANTONE 17-1463 Tangerine Tango
PANTONE 13-0759 Solar Power
PANTONE 18-3628 Bellflower
PANTONE 18-2140 Cabaret
PANTONE 19-3953 Sodalite Blue
PANTONE 14-0116 Margarita
PANTONE 14-2808 Sweet Lilac
PANTONE 14-5420 Cockatoo
PANTONE 18-1210 Driftwood
PANTONE 16-1120 Starfish


Any thoughts? It is funny to think that a panel of people sit around picking out and trending the upcoming colours - two years in advance. Seriously! Someone already knows what the top colour selections will be for the fall of 2014!

This following photo is great eye candy but I love how it's blending a work space with a living space! The basement renovation I've undertaken was done so I could have my studio as part of the family living area so we can work and interact together without isolating us from the family. This space does this fantastically - I love the idea of using fabrics as (temporary) art! If you are a sewer, this would be a fabulous way to store your fabrics and remember what you have on hand! And your "art" can always stay fresh as you'll be using your stash! The over sized hangers would be a simple and easy wood project - some MDF and a jigsaw and TADA!


Design Tip

Incorporating the hot colours could be done easily and sustainably if you work with a neutral colour pallet. If you look at the hot colours Pantone is predicting, there are a few selections that are neutrals. Those colours vary slighting in shade and tone but the essence remains year to year. Incorporate ones that work for you in fixed items - large furniture and base colours for walls and play up the fun and interest by using the punches creatively - whether it is in toss pillows, lamp shades or fresh flowers you can use the colours to anchor a space.

Not a fan of the neutral? That works too - if you pick your big pieces to work long term with a variety of neutral accents. Just make sure you love the colour and will love it in five or ten years! Even with the advent of knock-down furniture, not everyone will want (or could afford) to replace it semi-annually!

Have questions about trending or want more information? Below are couple of links with trend information. For a whole new world, take a look at Maison De Objet - inspirational, for sure!

Pantone 2012 Predictions
2011 Design Trends

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Let's Get Healthy

With our weight, our health and our budget spiraling out of the control, I know I have to get my act together and lead by example.

What is my goal? Well, I control what goes in our mouths! My husband does not cook so this makes it my responsibility to ensure that I am doing my best to provide healthy, diverse and satisfying meals to my boys. It is far to easy to cave into simple, quick and instant foods, especially while working full time and dealing with other responsibilities we all face. Don't get me wrong, I will always think that those kinds of meals have a place in menu planning but when most of my menu planning and meal preparation revolves around opening cans and boxes, something has gone wrong. I need to get our grocery budget under control and the time is NOW to teach our son about healthy eating and physical activity. Very often, TroubleMaker helps prepare the food we eat - he needs to understand healthful foods do not generally come from cans.

So where do I start? Research, my friend! Very few things haven't been thought of before and this can be one of those times to use the Internet for positive things!

There are exercise programs abound and eating plans and all of them tell me that once we get rolling, we'll feel better, have more energy and it will become habit. I am hoping they are right because at the moment, I just want my slippies and my chips!

So what is the plan? Well, honestly, I just want to crawl back into bed and let someone else play grownup for me but if I really have to put one foot in front of the other, I'm hoping it will go down something like this...

Walk two nights a week with a longer walk on one weekend morning
-->Walk nights - simple suppers with minimal prep (use the crock pot)
Strength Training three nights a week
-->Based on home routines planned at Spark People
Online Dance Practice
-->One day a week, practice my existing routine or learn new via online tutorials

For meals, I will keep prep time low for weeknights and explore my culinary ability on weekends or holidays. Exercise nights will be crock pot or the prepared type meals. I have to fit it in but I have to be realistic about the time or it will make it too easy to drop it all and resume old habits.

I've been Pinning a bunch of different recipe sites with prepared meal plans, healthy meals, quick meals and the like. This is giving me some renewed interest in cooking. I've also been working on a "Meal Planning" game for a while and I'm hoping that I'll have it to a point where I can test drive it with my family so we can all be involved with the weekly menu planning!

I also know I work much better when I plan a month at a time... So I'm leaping back on that wagon. It's the only reasonable way I can keep our grocery bill in control. Now that my recipe binders are sorted and organized, it should help me too. But I've found electronic tracking does NOT work for me. So I will be going back to using my tried and true template that I developed before I returned to work in 2009.

My Template Later, I'll upload a blank one to ScribD so that you can download it and use it too! Because I dislike the use of paper, I'm working on getting it put on a white or chalk board.

October 3 to 7

Monday Chicken Nuggets & Fries
Tuesday Unstuffed Green Pepper Soup with Baking Powder biscuits
Wednesday Irish Chicken and Dumplings
Thursday Penne with Tuna and Broccoli
Friday Latkes, Poached eggs, Bacon
Saturday Deep Dish Pizza Party
Sunday Oven Roasted Turkey breast, crock pot stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed vegetables

I do realize not too much of that sounds "healthy" and tonight's soup is pretty reliant on prepared food but it's a start and any step forward is a positive one!

Thanks for stopping by and listening to me wander on and on... For more concise and happy menu plans, why not check out The Org Junkie and the 250+ people who share their weekly meal plans!

Image courtesy of Homemade Simple

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jasper Getaway 2011, Day Four: The Inn Restaurant & Lounge Review

It seems like only yesterday we were anxiously awaiting our departure for our fall getaway... Now, it's four days later and we are all snuggled up, waiting for bedtime.

This morning, we had breakfast before heading out. There are some amazing places to eat in Jasper but for convenience and simplicity, we opted to try the restaurant attached to the hotel.

The Inn Restaurant and Lounge is the dining room attached to the Best Western Jasper. It's decor is semi-formal with plush chairs, a warm and inviting interior with touches of whimsy like the rice paper clad, iron hand rails that work to divide the different levels of the dining room. We were seated this morning by the nice, large gas fireplace. The restaurant is being closed for renovations so I'm excited to see what they've got coming - the chairs are probably the most comfortable I've ever sat in when dining!

They do not have a breakfast menu. The offer a buffet - a continental as well as a hot buffet. The entire buffet is offered for $13.95 per adult and includes juice, coffee or tea. Because my husband is a long standing Best Western rewards member, we received a coupon to eat for $9.95 per person.

I am not really a buffet fan. I have "issues" - mostly the idea of sharing common foodstuffs with other people. However, the restaurant is very clean and each item has it's own set of serving tools. The buffet is set up in their atrium, it is well light and is flooded with natural light.

I started with a glass of orange juice - it was pulp free so it was all good!

Wanting a hot breakfast on the cool, rainy morning, I tried the pork breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs and my personal favourite, hash brown potatoes. I also selected several pieces of fresh fruit - pineapple, strawberries and plump red, seedless grapes. A small croissant and some butter and I went back to the table. My husband chose bacon, scrambled eggs and French toast.

I loved the sausage - they were cooked perfectly and void of any grease! The potatoes had potential, however, the majority of them were uncooked in the middle - and if there is one thing I dislike, it is uncooked potatoes! The eggs were typical buffet fair - squishy, mushy and slightly under cooked. Dousing them with a generous helping of fresh ground pepper did help to mask the texture! The croissant was fresh and light and my husband said the French toast was good but the syrup was lacking...

Keep in mind, we eat 100% Maple syrup that we import from Maine so our expectations of syrup are likely a little high!

For a quick and convenient breakfast, this restaurant fit the bill. They did have a fantastic selection of fruit, cereals, pastries, yogurt and toast. Their hot buffet was less than stellar but as far as hot buffet breakfasts can go, it was likely better than most. The pastries were adequate - cranberries seemed to be the fruit de jour so they had many little specialties prepared with them - which was fine as I am a fan but the muffins should be skipped as they are greasy and flavourless.

Breakfast (with coupon) was $25 including tip. We'd give The Inn Restaurant and Lounge:


Although our time away has ended, I'll be sharing another food review, hotel review and a couple pictorial posts detailing the high points of "things to see"! Thank you for sharing our love and wonderment of Jasper National Park - one of my favourite places on Earth!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jasper Getaway 2011, Day Three: Cassio's Italian Restaurant Review

Our decision on where to eat tonight was a difficult one. I had thought we'd do one of three things:

Pick up pizza and eat in the hotel room
The L&W Restaurant or Cassio's Italian Restaurant

All day, we weren't sure what we wanted. I was feeling a little off this afternoon and wasn't feeling anything. After another great day of sightseeing and picture taking, we came back to the hotel for a little rest before deciding.

My husband was in favour of going out for dinner - I always agree with him but I decided I didn't feel like either of the restaurants I'd previously suggested. So, back on the Internet I went in search of somewhere else.

I selected two options - based on other reviews I'd read. The options were Karouzo's Steaks & Seafood and the Downstream Bar & Grill.

Karouzo`s has apparently closed for the season. It would have been REALLY handy if their website had said so. Jasper is a year round community - so it was a huge surprise to us as well as the several other bewildered patrons we saw wandering past.

Deterred but not finished, we headed on to Downstream. Not being able to find a menu on line, I really had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, most restaurants in Jasper post their menus outside - reviewing what the Downstream had to offer, we decided to pass.

A little further down Connaught Drive and we happened upon one of my original choices, Cassio's. When we were here two years ago, we went in to this restaurant but left as the menu was not at all something either of us would enjoy. But apparently, things have changed since 2009 and the new menu was very appealing.

The decor is a mash of Mountain inspired Greek. It's dim and potentially romantic and if you want a window seat, a reservation is required. We were tucked back at a private table that over looked the entire restaurant - it was perfect for us.

We ordered the Artichoke and Spinach Dip for an appetizer. First, we were presented with a small loaf of warm bread with a vinegar and oil dip. The bread was fab but neither of us were big oil/vinegar fans so butter would have been a nice option. Very shortly after it arrived, the dip came. It was served with ciabatta crisp and another portion of the dinner bread. The dip was good - very cheesy but a bit oilier than I would have liked. The ciabatta chips were amazing and the highlight of the dish. The spinach would have been better if it had been shredded instead of whole leaf lumps and the artichokes were few and far between.

For our mains, I ordered the Fettuccine Con Polo and my husband had the Cannelloni.

The fettuccine was excellent - although I had to add a table salt for a bit more flavour. The chicken pieces were plentiful and tender and the noodles were fresh, light and cooked to perfection! The sauce was creamy, light and just the perfect combination of garlic and cream.

My husband reported the cannelloni was "good". He felt the Rosé sauce blended harmoniously with the mild flavour of the cannelloni filling.

We both had a glass of wine with dinner and coffee for dessert. My husband ordered the Hot molten lava cake, which is described as "individually baked chocolate cake filled with hot chocolate fudge,topped with vanilla ice cream, raspberry coulis and whipped cream". My husband said it was good - but he doesn't like it when many flavours are brought together. Chocolate should be chocolate, on its own.

Overall, the portions were HUGE - too big even! The value for money was very good and the atmosphere was relaxed. The service was very good - friendly and cheerful and the owner popping around to all the of the tables checking on how the meals were was also an added bonus. Cassio's certainly has a great menu, good value and exceptional quality. Our dinner for two, with appetizer, wine and dessert (including tip) was $105.

We would give Cassio's Italian Restaurant:


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jasper Getaway 2011, Day Two: Evil Dave's Grill

Happy birthday to my amazing husband - he was the inspiration for the selection of our restaurant dinner selection. And it's not because he shares the same name but because we dined there two years ago by random chance. And we still talk about the meal we had!

I booked a reservation - absolutely necessary in the "high" season and likely a good practice in the off season. It is casual but still likely a step above most places and, I'd like to add, it is kid friendly. They have a super kid's menu and one day, I hope to take TroubleMaker there with us.

So, we entered already knowing it was going to be fabulous. And thankfully, we were not at all disappointed!

We started with an appy and a couple of cocktails. I had the Mother's Ruin, my hunny had the Perfect Storm and we'd selected the Holy Cow for our starter.

Holy Cow - that's all I have to say! The green onion cakes were fabulous - not a bit heavy or greasy and the soft inside was lavishly complimented by the banik like crunch of the outside. The beef was butter knife tender with a soft garlic taste. The chili aioli was outstanding!

The cocktails were great - my husband reported the Perfect Storm as one of those dangerous drinks - it didn't taste like alcohol and it could quickly and easily multiply! The Mother's Ruin hit the spot - but I'm a Bombay Sapphire fan to begin with.

For dinner, I ordered the Nefarious chicken. The breast of chicken is encrusted with a panko Parmesan breading, served with sauteed season vegetables presented on a bed of sour cream chive mashed potatoes. Drizzled with a sweet chili sauce and topped with fresh fried tortilla strips.

My husband had the Diabolical Tenderloin (petite). It was a four ounce Angus beef tenderloin served with sauteed vegetables on the same bed of sour cream chive mashed potatoes. The steak was topped with a pico de galo and a peppercorn demi glace. Also added, but not listed, were fried onion straws.

Both meals were perfect.

The chicken was tender, amazingly tender. The breading was light - almost not even there but it had a unique and pleasant flavour. Dipped in the chili sauce and it became a flavour explosion! The vegetables were tender crisp and the potatoes were good - albeit lumpy (I'm not a fan of lumps in my mashed potatoes). The vegetables lacked a little something - they were fresh enough (although we both agreed the carrots tasted a bit "old") and cooked just fine but with the devine chicken they were being served with, they could have been a little more innovative. The potatoes were good - but again, a little more flavour would have been welcome. And the lumps - not distracting from the rest of the meal lumpy, but a smooth whipped may have been more suitable.

The steak, ordered "medium", was just slightly under cooked for my husband's liking - but he ate it as it was because it was very good. He didn't care for the carrots but liked the potatoes. The onion straws and demi glace were absolutely the best compliment to the tender beef.

We each had a glass of wine (his red, mine white) that again only worked to enhance the amazing flavour combinations.

Dessert was a must.

He ordered the Mousse Head and I had the Cheesecake.

I seriously think I died a little death and went straight to heaven when eating the cheesecake. It was a Skor cheesecake, sitting on a bed of drizzled chocolate and caramel sauce, topped with whipped cream and Skor bits. It was simply the best dessert I'd ever eaten. I'm drooling just thinking about it!

The Mousse was a decadent white chocolate mousse layered with an all natural blueberry compote. He loved it and reported it was light and creamy and all the good things such a dessert should be!

We rounded off the meal with a couple of coffees and enjoyed the atmosphere.

The restaurant isn't very large and from certain points, you can see into the kitchen - which gives you a good view of the happening food magic. The decor is fun - all plays on "devil" like themes - devilish masks, fire place TV's, candles and hits of metal. It's dimly lit but creates a romantic and intimate dining experience. its busy and bustling but a refreshing retreat. Windowed well, a panoramic view of the mountains is always available.

The serving staff is light, friendly and helpful. They are attentive, but not "in your face" and it is evident they are proud of the the food they serve.

Our dinner, including wine, cocktails and dessert was $140 before tip. Some may consider it pricey but service, food and ambiance of this caliber is absolutely worth every cent. I would dare to say a finer restaurant could not be found in Jasper National Park. Chef Nicole Langille, owners Cyndi and Mike Day and their staff make Evil Dave's Grill an amazing, fun and real dining experience.

Out of five stars, we give Evil Dave's Grill:



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