Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We-Design-Day: Thinking, rethinking and thinking again

Every so often I've experienced the 'doubt' and it does usually surround my own projects (for our home). The less residential work I do the more I doubt my ability to do residential work. For some bizzare reason, planning labs, offices and the like is far easier - perhaps because it is just one project of many. My home is mine and the choices I make impact a greater audience.


I did have 'the talk' with my Husband about budget and true to our usual dance, he said "What does the project need?" and I said "I knew you'd say that!" and I explained my desire to design a project to a budget and not budget to a design. This is causing me many mixed feelings because I want more than we can afford. But with our budget in mind, I'll be planning a project to fit.

This week has me finalizing (or trying to between play sessions with TroubleMaker) the measured plan of our basement as welln trying to find just the right solution. This morning, my husband and I sat around discussing his needs for his office and studio. He was able to further help me refine and define his needs. I've got a better understanding of just what he requires which does simplify a few things for me and what I need to squish into our family space.

I also need to take a careful look at the ceiling. Our ceilings downstairs are suspended with accoustical tiles. Not exactly a designer's dream but they are simple and easy to work with. We have a few wacky bulkheads to deal with. One of which I have no idea what purpose it serves. My plan is to take down some of the tiles and see if the one is actually necessary or if I could replace it during the renewal. I also need to improve the lighting in both what will be in my new sewing studio as well as in the library area. I'd like to improve the lighting in the family room as well, however, my main focus will be the area in which we work.

A photography studio has special lighting needs that generally aren't met by general room lighting. My husband has a series of soft boxes and hot lights that he uses for table top work (like the pictures he did here) as well as his portraiture (seen here). He does need good task lighting around his office space. Furthermore, we will be moving all the prop storage into his new studio and that area will require special lighting as well - likely I'll use unit mounted lighting to provide the best direct light so we can see what we're selecting.

Think about your space and the tasks you do. For my sewing studio, I already have incandescent fixtures mounted to my sewing table. These are postitionable so I can focus them on the task at hand (whether sewing a piece or threading a needle). I need more general lighting for cutting and the other crafts I do. We'll be having a work centre in the Sewing studio and I need to ensure adqueate lighting there as well. I have an issues with shadows and must think about those as well.

One of my first renovations was to our kitchen in our condo. I picked two halogen fixtures that had three positionable lights. They provided very decent light - except when I was standing at the counter doing anything! Because the light was so bright (and very hot, I might add) my body cast huge shadows and I was always turning and shifting to allow the light to get past me.

Here are some lighting basics.

The typical types of lights used vary with the application. There are fluorescent, halogen, LED, incandescent and compact fluorescents. My personal opinions aside, each light has an appropriate time and place. Think about the work you are doing and what you need for lighting to see. Think about the time of day that you will use the space and what (if any) access to natural light you have. Take the heat the lights give off into consideration - as I mentioned, halogens are HOT. They have a good light rendition but they generate a lot of heat! Fluorescents of old caused many problems for people (flickering) but the new ones are much better and there are even 'true' light bulbs that replicate day light.

I'm not 100% familiar with LEDs but I do know I personally have difficulty with them. I cannot see accurately with them and the light itself is muddy and I see flickering and fluttering when I look at them. My husband read recently that it may be caused in part because they only emit on certain wavelengths and our eyes see the full spectrum. I know the are environmentally friendly but my issue with them is, the colour rendition aside, is that if one light burns out on my string of Christmas lights, I must replace the entire string... And that's a green thing I can't wrap my head around.

Come really close and I'll tell you a secret... Compact fluorescents drive me nuts. First, the colour rendition is horrid. never, ever, ever try to pick a paint colour in the presence of a compact fluorescent! Second, they flicker like mad (to me). Third, they are STILL a fluorescent and contains mecury - which requires special disposal procedures.

Incandescents are the oldest and most commonly used light for residential applications. They are not eco-friendly but they do have a nice light (albeit a bit yellow). And they can be turned into some pretty cool crafts once they burn out!

I'd hope I'd have another download for you this week, but with all the holiday fun, I didn't get it printed out for this edition.

Have a great week and feel free to send me any lighting questions!

Monday, December 27, 2010

MPM#33 - An Appy New Year!

Before I get into my post, I must announce with a HUGE helping of pride, my husband's website. The majority of the images I post are taken by him via his company, Blackstone Images... Well, this Christmas our/my gift to him was his own website! It is very early and extremely preliminary but I'm just SO pleased to post a link to HIS site... Blackstone Images

Ahhh... Another Christmas has come and gone and our house was a hive of fun and activity! We had an excellent and even moderately relaxing Christmas. Santa answered TroubleMaker's request for a Race Car Game and we've all become very good at racing the little cars around the track at high speeds! His Gran made him some awesome new clothes and he's got more socks then me and his Dad put together!

We got the chance to visit with some family we don't see often at my Mom's on Boxing Day and I ate so much I had a tummy ache!

Presently, I don't feel much like eating so I'm quite glad I planned this menu weeks ago! We'll be playing it pretty casual around here this week. Between building new (train) layouts and racing cars, there won't be much time for cooking!

Enjoy your week and Happy New Year! We are doing our first "Appy" New Year - we're getting together with our friends and are all bringing 2 or 3 of our favourite appetizers to share!

December 27 to January 2

Monday Chicken Nuggets & FriesTurkey & Ham Sandwiches
Tuesday Assorted subs
Wednesday Spaghetti & Meatballs
Thursday Chicken Nuggets & fries
Friday An "Appy" New Year: Crock Pot Spinach dip plus 2 yet to be determined!
Saturday ??
Sunday Pork Roast with Brown Sugar Glaze


Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great menu planning ideas and resources, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fun Sock Friday (The Christmas Eve Edition) – How to Make the Perfect Bow

It’s just after eight on Christmas eve morning. I’ve been a busy little elf so far this morning… Buns are rising, ham is in the crock and I’m stopping for a sip of juice before tackling the rest of my to do list.

Over the past week or two I’ve been working on my bow making skills. I must admit I have a bit of a ribbon addiction and I have rolls and reams and spools of ribbon just waiting to be made into something. I’ve bought the majority of it because I love the colour or the texture but some has been purchased because I knew it would make a perfect bow. Four and a half years ago when I got married, I thought I’d perfected my art of bow making but it’s been a long time and when I sat down to transform the lovely Christmas ribbon into bows, I couldn’t remember my tail from my nose (hahaha). So in my chair I sat, ribbon in one hand, wire in the other and thought… I twisted and trimmed, tried and retried and then it happened.

Now I realize that I likely did not “invent” this bow, with so many talented crafters and artisans before me, they likely happened on the recipe long before I did but this is my attempt and I hope you find it makes as splendid a bow as I did!

Wired ribbon (I used 12’ (about 3 metres) of ribbon to make the bow illustrated)
Florists wire (24 gauge) on paddle
Wire snips

Cutting your bow

1.Decide how big/full you want your bow

2.Snip this length, allowing ½ to 1” extra for overlap

3.Cut three of this length (illustration used 20” for this)
4.Cut two more – one inch (1”) shorter (2 @ 19”)
5.Cut one more – one inch (1”) shorter than the previous (18”)
6.Cut nosing – 4 to 7” (depends on how you wrap it)
7.Cut tails – decide on how much hang you want on one side, cut 2x (leave one long piece)

Putting it all together
1.Pick up first long loop, overlap and fold loop in half to mark centre point. Pinch centre point in with overlap (accordion the pinch).

2.Using florists wire, wrap 2x around pinch, pulling very snug to secure (DO NOT CUT WIRE)

3.Repeat step #1 with next 20” piece, place immediately below first wrapped loop and wrap 1x snuggly with wire

4.Repeat with final 20” piece and place below second wrapped loop and wrap 1x snuggly. Wrap all three loops once or twice and pull tight. DO NOT CUT WIRE

5.Pick up first medium loop (19” piece) and repeat step one. Lay this pinch atop the foundation bow layer. Wrap wire around 1x.

6.Repeat with second medium loop and wrap 2x around, pulling snuggly.

7.Pick up small loop piece (18” piece) and repeat step one. Lay this pinch atop the middle layer. Wrap 2x to secure.

8.Pick up tails and fold in half. Place below all loop and secure.

9.Cut about 8” of wire from florist wire paddle and set paddle aside.

10. Take nosing and loop around middle of bow. Leave it loose and overlap at back of bow.

Using wire, loop around and secure nosing. Form a loop in the wire and secure to itself (for the hanger)

11. Fluff up the bow and viola! The perfect bow!

I just love crafting and I’m so glad I have this to share with you!

A huge thank you to my photographer extraordinaire and fellow blogger for helping me with the photography for my first tutorial. I can tell you the hot lights are HOT but they made the pictures just pop. I love you and thank you!

**So excited to be sharing this with Blissful & Domestic and her Friday Linky Party!**

All images used with permission. All images copyright Blackstone Images

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We-Design-Day: Money Talks

There is something funny about talking design budgets just days before Christmas… But budgets are important – whether it’s a redesign, a lipstick & eye shadow makeover or a new build we must all look at what we can afford versus what we wish we could afford.

I’ve worked on projects both ways – where we designed the budget around the project needs and where we had a set budget and we designed the project to fit. Of course, unlimited or ‘unset’ budgets are the best because you get to cover all the essentials and design the space as it’s really needed. The reality is, those projects don’t come around often (if at all) and it’s very easy to have champagne taste on a Kool-Aid budget.

One of the questions I get asked often is what should my budget be? There are of course all kinds of formulas that I could put out there but the essential thing to remember is to spend what you are comfortable with. I would never want to see a client stretch their budget to a point of being uncomfortable or have them later regret the money they put into their home because they spend 20 years paying it off. Conversely, you do often get what you pay for and if you spend $400 on a couch and it falls apart six months later, it wasn’t a good investment either.

Budgets often rely on scope. If you are doing a new build, you want to ensure your money is spent where the investment will be best realized. Windows, adequate insulation, good heating and cooling and quality construction are always essential. Next, decent appliances (if you cook) followed by floor coverings. Making sure the things that stay with your home are good quality will always help your resale. Window coverings are a good investment but one must always take resale (of a home) into account with any fixed furnishing. Spending thousands on window coverings will not see a return if you resell your home.

Life cycle costing is another area to look at. Spending $4000 on a sofa may seem extreme but if you have the sofa for 20 years and sit on it daily, that works out to $0.54 cents a day. Granted, very few things last 20 years and we all know the family with the wine coloured velour sofa with matching chair! That’s where style comes into play – if it costs $4000 but you don’t want to own it in 20 years, maybe it’s not worth the investment. Furthermore, from an environmental stand point, if we all owned our things for 20 years, our landfills wouldn't be so crowded! I like to reuse as many soft furnishings as possible. Slip covers; paint and other tricks can extend and revive the life of well worn pieces. If the mechanics are still good, new foam and fabric can revive a great sofa or chair. Recycling pieces and searching for used items can be a good idea too. It’s taste and style dependant and if you’re patient, you’re likely to find something fab at thrift stores too.

For our home renovations, I usually come up with a pretty detailed budget, go to Management (my husband) for approval and then begin the project. This time, with money tight, I’m going to set a budget first and design towards it. Or design within the confines of a strict budget – depending on how you look at it.

Electronic spread sheets can be a great tool for design projects. You can record purchases or preplan your budget and have it do the math for you. This helps you keep an exact tab on the spending and allows you to categorize purchases. Next week, I’ll share a template with you that you can use to track your project.

As promised, I’ve got a nice downloadable for you. I’ll release these in phases over the coming weeks (as they take time for me to make – if you’re hurried, you can download a DWF viewer and use a search engine to find more free AutoCAD blocks). This week, I’ve got kitchen and bathroom fixtures (sinks, tubs, etc). All scaled at ¼”=1’-0”. You can print on card stock and cut out. Then begin to work arrangements on the graph paper I shared last week.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next We-design-day with more downloadable furniture blocks and my budget spreadsheet.

Kitchen & Bath Fixtures

Monday, December 20, 2010

MPM #32 - The Holiday Edition!

The countdown is on at our house – four more days of work for me and then CHRISTMAS! Now, I am a Christmas lover but since having TroubleMaker, Christmas has renewed meaning and has revived my faith in the holiday spirit. Seeing my son so very excited about everything festive has played a major role in my joy with the season. Hearing him holler from the backseat of the Jeep “KISSMISS LITES” and excitedly exclaim his joy at the snowman on the carton of eggnog, and enjoying his exuberant shouts of “Santa” at anything with a beard and a red hat.

He’s finally come to terms with the fact he is truly the only one in the house who wants a ‘new race car set’ and has reluctantly agreed that Mommy does not want a race car set and neither does Max (the dog) or Tsarina (the cat). And although Daddy may enjoy playing with his race car set, it’s unlikely that he really, really, really wants one too. His friend, “Narrow” does not want a race car set either although I’m not sure I’ve managed to convince TroubleMaker of that – how could a little boy his age want anything but?

Our house is getting more festive looking each day. Although I started decorating in late November, I’ve finally gotten around to putting the finishing touches on different things. I still need to figure out where I’m going to put the 10 extra sets of lights I’ve managed to accumulate over the past 2 years (I’ll blame Mommy brain – I have each year made a ‘rush’ to the store to buy more indoor lights for our upstairs tree – only to get home and realize I did the same thing the previous year and evidently, the year before that too)… I have; however, after all my years crafting, found the secret to the ‘perfect’ bow (I’ll make one tonight and take pictures and share on Fun Sock Friday).

I hope your home and family the warmest of Holiday Wishes and all the best for the coming New Year.

~”Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke~

December20 to December 26

Monday Baked Potato & Leek Soup
Tuesday Gramma’s Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Wednesday Shepherd’s Pie
Thursday Egg Wraps
Friday Mom’s Crock Pot Ham, Gramma’s Buns, assorted cheeses, pickles & olives
Saturday Turkey breast roast, Vegetarian Stuffing, Broccoli & Cauliflower w/ cheese sauce, mashed potatoes & gravy
Sunday at my Mom’s for Boxing Day Family Dinner


Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs, Gingerbread Waffles

For more great menu planning ideas and resources, check out the Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday – Holiday Edition!

PS Ok... So it's Tuesday but I meant well!

Gingerbread Waffles
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg unbeaten
1 cup sour milk

Stir together flour, soda, salt & spices. Cream shortening and sugar; gradually blend in molasses. Stir in 1/2 cup dry ingredients. Beat in egg. Alternately add remaining dry ingredients and milk. Bake in waffle iron at low heat. Makes 20 portions.

Vegetarian StuffingLacto-Ovo
1/4 cup margarine
1-1/2 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
2 tsp veggie or Chicken boullion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
16 slices bread, cubed
1/2 cup water

Heat margarine in pan. Add onioins & celery. Saute until softened. Mix in next 5 ingredients. Turn into large bowl (making sure to get all the marg). Add cubed bread and water. Stir until well combined. Cook in a casserole dish at 325 for an hour or so to let flavours blend. Can also be done in crock pot - cook on low for 3 hours or so

Gramma's Buns
2 tbsp yeast
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lard
3 eggs
2 cups water
3-4 cups flour

Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Rise once, punch down & let rise. Make walnut sized buns and let rise. Bake @ 375 F for 15 minutes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun Sock Friday – let’s start a revolution

I’m certain you’re asking yourself “what the heck is fun sock Friday?” – Well, it’s a new things I want to try here at Barefoot Deliberations and was inspired by a memory (of mine) brought forth from a conversation with a new coworker.

Let me tell you the story of me and Fun Socks.

Many, many years ago, like most young adults starting out own their own, I didn’t have much. I worked in a warehouse picking and packing orders. It was grubby work and the ‘dress code’ was stuff you didn’t mind getting dirty. Since I’ve never been much of a clothes horse, I had very little to wear. I started having to wear my boyfriend’s “hand-me-downs” – old sweat pants and t-shirts. However, I always went barefoot (in my shoes) and owned no socks. This job required socks and closed shoes because of the risk of injury from falling objects. I did have a pair of shoes but no socks… So I had to wear HIS socks. And I wore them until we separated three or four years later.

And then I was single and my sock fixation started. Within a week of separating, I owned seven new pairs of socks. By the first month, I owned nearly 20 pairs of socks. Primarily, they were just plain socks but I started seeing some cute ‘fun socks’. With prints and animals and stripes…

When I met my husband, he was horrified that I ever wore my ex’s clothes and so started the tradition of sock giving… Every Christmas since we started dating there have been socks under the tree for me.

Warm socks, striped socks, printed socks, argyle socks, camping socks, summer socks, fuzzy socks and pom-pom socks. Socks of every colour, material and style have graced my sock drawer in the past 12 years and I’ve loved and worn every pair.

But I’m a professional now and for the past 8 years, my primary sock of choice has been plain black trouser socks and the pretty Christmas and ‘just because’ socks sit unworn and unloved. Then one Friday morning it happened… I had no clean black socks to wear to the office. The only pair of Fun Socks that I had that was even close to work worthy was a pair of striped ‘jail’ socks my sister had brought back from Alcatraz. I got to work and of course, everyone noticed my very noticeable socks and I said it was Fun Sock Friday and so my tradition of wearing Fun socks on Friday’s began. I tried to start a revolution and get everyone I knew to wear Fun Socks on Friday but like the pet rock, after a couple of weeks, I was the only one who wore them.

Meek and sheepish, I backed off too and decided that the month of December would be my Fun Sock Friday time and I’d wear my ever-growing collection of Christmas socks.

Fast forward through a wedding, a baby and a new job and a conversation last week with my coworker and I decided to revive Fun Sock Friday... But in a slightly different forum (and form, I suppose).

I know we all have something – be it socks, electronics, singing ornaments, or a closet full of beads that we want to share with the world. I want Fun Sock Friday to be a potpourri of things you love. I know this is vague and nondescript and I’m sure we’ll refine as we go along but let’s play!

This is new and as far as I know, original. Share here and spread the fun but please don’t host your own Fun Sock Friday.

Fun Sock – the Guidelines
1.Fun Sock Friday is about sharing. Posts should be original, posted on Friday’s and mention your participation in your post. I’ll try my best to ensure my post and the linky are up by 9am Mountain.
2.Share something you love – craft, photo, person, song, collection – it can be anything but it should be something done by you because you love doing it!
3.Posts should be “G” rated and family oriented– no adult content or graphic images, please.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We-Design-Day: Fitting it In

Please pass in your homework… Just kidding! How did it go? Did you get stuck measuring or did you get lost? I used to find the whole measuring a space thing daunting and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to go back and re-measure… Even now I have to go back to a job site every so often and get one dimension I’ve forgotten!

I have some cool tools for you to download and use… First, I’ve got a nifty ruled piece of graph paper – this will help you plan your space well and get things ‘to scale’ – so you can see just how much floor space your partner’s 42” television takes and figure out how big a couch you can fit in your formal living room. Next week I’ll share some printable furnishings you can download and cut out too!

Everything is scaled to ¼” = 1’-0” – this means that one square on the graph paper actually measures ¼” but it represents 1’-0” (or if you’re a metric kind of person, that’s 1:25 scale). This will be helpful in the coming days and weeks when we start talking the ‘fun’ stuff – furniture selection and layout.

Because I’ve been down this road before, I did my measured drawing of our basement years ago and because I use a computerized drafting program, I drew it in that. However, I recently noted a few ‘issues’ with my original measurements. I plotted (the fancy term for printing) my drawing and measured it again. As you can see, I have a few little problems with my original drawing and how the space actually measures (note the interior wall measurements in the space labeled “Existing Office”). Inside the room it measures 9’-5-7/8” but the wall in the family room is 6’-10-1/4”. As it turns out (and I don’t know how I missed this), our master bedroom projects out from the house – which means the foundation should match this. It does but I didn’t seem to notice that when I drew the original plans. This caused me much confusion when I measured the basement a few months ago!

But now I’ve got a nice measured plan, drawn to scale, and I’ve also got my preliminary bubble drawing that I’ve further refined and worked it into the space I have. A good way to do this is to overlay your scaled room drawing over your bubbles. Then you can redraw your bubbles, fitting them better in the space you’ve got to work with.

This was a difficult task for me. I have so many different things I want to accomplish in our space that it doesn’t all want to fit. It’s about juggling, shifting priorities and deciding if any of the functions I want to have happen can happen elsewhere in our house. If you look at the drawing below, I scaled down my bubbles to fit the space I’m working with and the dashed lines indicate major traffic paths. I already know I want to take one of the walls out (the one separating the ‘Design Studio’ from the Family area. I also know it’s a non-load bearing wall.

Please, please, please – do NOT remove any walls in your home until you consult with a professional. A structural engineer is the specialist you’ll want to consult if you are removing walls. Taking out a load bearing wall can cause the collapse of your house. I am NOT certified to make decisions on what wall can be removed.

Now that I’ve figured out my general layout, I can start working on my solution. Furniture layout, fixtures, finishes – all will come in to play soon.
Your homework this week is to make a list of all the things you have presently in the space. Identify what you’ll be reusing and if you plan on getting any new pieces. With the templates I’ve provided, draw your room to scale and start playing with the layout. Move the furniture around, play with your space.

A few important things to think about when laying out furnishings:
1.Access to power (for electronics, lighting)
2.Circulation space
3.Leaving adequate space between pieces of furnishings
5.Views/lines of sight
6.Door/room openings (not blocking)
7.Mechanical considerations (cold air intakes, heat registers, radiators)
8.Swings – doors, appliances, etc

There are, of course, specific concerns relating to bathrooms and kitchens – drop me a line if you have any additional questions about those spaces. I’ll be tackling bathroom and kitchen design in upcoming We-Design-Day articles.

Next week, we’ll talk about budgets (and I’ll post the furniture templates)… I’ve kind of been putting the budget talk off as it’s the ‘un-fun’ side of design!

BDI Quarter Inch Graph

Sunday, December 12, 2010

MPM # 31 - To Grandmother's House We Went!

Since the late 90's, my sister and I have made the trek out to our Mother's for an "Annual" Bake-a-thon. Usually, we do it in late November or early December and at various times through the years, others have joined us, but more often than not, it's just the two of us with Mom baking up a storm. My sister is in charge of chocolate making - a craft we started doing waaaaay back in the early 80's. My sister has carried on the tradition as although she's probably one of the most impatient people I know, she's the only one with enough patience to hand paint chocolate inside the molds. I usually take one too many things on and get frustrated and a headache and my Mom always, always makes butter tarts. My sister and I have added our own little helpers to the mix and our nephews have participated a couple of times too.

I usually cook up a Christmas craft for us to do and we always find time for a game of Scrabble.

This year, however, my sister and I aren't baking at all and the butter tarts aren't getting made. Don't worry - Mom is still alive - none of us have the motivation or bother to bake. We all work too much and don't get enough time to spend together. So Grammy is baking up a storm with two of her grandkids (TroubleMaker and my niece, TroubleInventor - who are actually now sitting in the living room reading a book together) - although all the baked goods are prepackaged cookies and squares, they are still having fun.

I'm sitting at Mom's kitchen table writing on my laptop

and my sister, bless her new found patience, is HAND writing one of her stories.

Mom is cursing her 30 year old oven that only seems to be problematic when we're home visiting and the "Helpers" are sitting in the living room reading stories.

I think Santa (and our husbands) will forgive us this once...

Here is my Menu Plan for the week... It's been a bit troublesome putting it together - no idea what I feel like making (I'm a little overdosed on cookies)... A few of the recipes I'm going to make up as I go along so I'll come back and post them (update to this post) once we've eaten them.

December 13 to December 19

Monday Hamburger Rice ScrambleHamburger Hash
Tuesday Egg Salad Sandwiches
Wednesday Chicken breasts w/ Twice Cooked Garlic Potatoes
Thursday Crock Pot Stew
Friday Tacos/taco salad
Saturday ???
Sunday Ham & Scalloped Potatoes

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great menu planning ideas and resources, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Hamburger Hash
1 lb lean ground beef (frozen or thawed)
1 rib celery, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 can mushrooms
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1-2 gloved garlic, mined
1/4 onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp flour
1 cup beef bouillon (or water)
salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, paprika

-In a large frying pan, cook ground beef. If frozen, add 1 cup of water or beef broth, cover and cook until broken apart and nearly done. Do NOT drain
-Add all vegetables (including canned tomatoes & their juices) and a good sprinkling of salt & pepper. Add 1 to 2 tsp parsley, 1 tsp oregano and about 1 tsp of paprika.
-Simmer until carrots are tender.
-Combine sour cream and flour in a bowl until well combined. Add several tablespoons of 'sauce' from frying pan to sour cream mixture. Then dump all back into frying pan, lower heat and simmer until thickened.
-Serve with rice or egg noodles.
Note: this was very tasty for a 'toss together' dish. My Husband thought it would be better suited served with egg noodles. TroubleMaker and his friend (who was over for dinner) ate very well and said it was "REAL GOOOOD!" You could add more onions but I cut way back because it was our dog's birthday and he got a good helping of it on his kibble (and onions are BAD for dogs). Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

We-Design-Day: Getting Down to Business!

I hope you found the interview sheet helpful in mapping out an idea of where you are hoping to take your project. It can be difficult to put into context what you want to see. It’s very easy to get hypnotized by pretty rooms in pages of magazines or on the design shows on TV. A lot of what we’re working through goes on behind the scenes on those shows too and design is often a work in progress, built through layers of sketch-trace, napkins, and scraps of paper. Window dressings and paint colours play a role but understanding the function of the space is important because it will ensure that it all works together as a space – and that it’s not just a collection of pretty vases and floral balloon valances.

Many of the things you read (on line and in print) will suggest you get design magazines and put together a collage of your design style – this works if you understand that you will likely not end up with that room. That exercise serves the function of finding out what you like (and what you don’t). It helps you find out if you are a modern contemporary or if you’re more a traditional Victorian (or any of the other styles out there). One thing I’ve learned over the years is that those magazine photos are carefully and deliberately orchestrated – ever notice that there are never any cords or light switches visible? The light is always perfect and never dark (or too bright). I liken them to the magazine ads of the “top models” – never a blemish or a line or dimpled thigh – rooms, like models, are perfected before being put to print. Unless you have studio lighting and a degree in photo-retouching, our rooms won’t function like that.

Budget also does a long way in dictating our design style. I’ve worked on million dollar (office) projects that put in bottom line systems furniture because there was no money left after the glass curtain wall was installed and the premium mechanical system put in place. Why? Because the interior environment doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. The function of an interior space is as important as the envelope of the building but if your house leaks heat from the windows, are you more likely to spend $2000 on a sofa or put the money towards new windows?

Write your goal:

Create and open and inviting family space that is comfortable, flexible and that promotes creativity.

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Since we are embarking on the season of wishes and lists, we are going to chill out from the rigid design guidelines and dream a little dream… Get a blank sheet of paper or a cool ruled sticky note. List on it all the things you want in your space – this is your design room wish list – list everything you want to see in your space and within reason, place budget concerns aside. This is a wish list; we’ll deal with the practicality of white carpet with a toddler later!

Now get another blank piece of paper and with your room in mind, let’s draw some circles that represent the zoning. Zoning is a word used when you section off a space. Here is a look at mine – I’ve taken all the areas we need (and want) in our space and allotted a certain size bubble for each one. These are not to scale – we’ll refine them next week. Right now, we are just conceptualizing the space. Each bubble, although not to scale, should represent a realistic amount of space – meaning that if your largest activity in your kitchen is dining, the bubble needs to be in proportion to the smallest task.

In my bubble, you can see the "family/play" space takes up the largest amount of space as it will be the primary function of the area. Next week, we'll look at refining it.

This week, you'll need to do some homework! Get another blank piece of paper and start measuring up your room. Draw the basic shape first and then measure the walls. Depending on how detailed you want to get, we can do scaled drawings too - this will help with furniture arrangement.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email! See you next week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We-Design-Day: Program your Space!

How did your interview go? Were you a helpful homeowner or did you find yourself less than forthcoming? It’s hard to know what you want and whether what you want is attainable. All sorts of thoughts have to go into the discussion when you are the designer and the client and often, there is a lot of second guessing!

I’ve been doing this design thing for years and although my clients often have an idea of what they want, I help think of the things they don’t see (life & safety, building code issues) and help flush out ideas and guide things along (and often, I know what questions to ask). It’s easy for me to say “I want to put up a wall here and build a custom shelving unit.” Because I’ve taken woodworking courses and detailing courses so I do know how to both draft the plans and build the piece. I know heights and proper dimensions and the necessary clearances for hallways and how far your table should be from the wall.

Whether or not your interview went well, let’s work together to see if we can get a few more ideas on paper. I’ve used a myriad of different styles of documents throughout my career to capture these details. More often than not, I end up just taking notes while meeting with the client, jotting down things they say or wishes they express. This morning, in fact, I was out on a job for my ‘day job’. I just took a piece of paper and listed the key points they mentioned. It’s hurried and fast and I’m likely the only one who could read it but I know (usually) what I meant!

I know what to ask (and I learn more each day) and I want to share with you so you too can figure out what you want. Before we get into colour or finishes or even drawing the space, let’s take a look at some basic questions you can ask yourself. Feel free to download and use this document – but please, don’t use it or alter if for your own commercial use. It is property of my company and was developed by me and is shared with the understanding it’s only for your personal use. Thanks!

Residential Client Interview Worksheet

Once you've filled out the interview sheet, you've got the start of your program! Add to that any information you shared with yourself last week and we can get going on starting the analyzing and formulating some preliminary design work based on the information we've gathered!

Monday, November 29, 2010

MPM #30

Holy cow, it's November 29th! Can you believe that? Where did November go?!

This past week was good, except TroubleMaker was quite sick for most of it! Although I am glad I was able to take time off to stay home and take care of him (and nurse my cold back to normal). Our menu changed just a little bit as Saturday night I went for dinner with my super fantastic "other" Mother (aka Mom #2, aka the Woman who finally tamed my Dad). ;-) After the dinner, we attended Bedouin Bedlam and OMG, if I wasn't already totally addicted to my belly dancing class, I would be now and I'm wondering how I can sign up for MORE classes!! What a fantastic evening of dance!

The menu highlight from last week was the Bacon Cheeseburger Roll Ups and after a rather yummy lunch out with my Husband and TroubleMaker on Thursday, we bumped the menu around and I didn't try the Italian Chicken (if you did, let me know how it was). This week is all about yummy Winter comfort food... Enjoy!

November 29 to December 5

Monday Meat loaf with oven potatoes
Tuesday Bacon & cheese scrambled eggs on toast
Wednesday Crock pot Beef stew w/ biscuits
Thursday Chicken & Mushroom Linguine
Friday Tacos/taco salad
Saturday Pizza Party!
Sunday Crock pot meatballs on Spatchel

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We-Design-Day - Interview Yourself!

After our brief look at the History of Design on last week’s We-Design-Day, I’m anxious and really excited to work through the ‘process’ and get into construction phase of my project! But I know I have to slow down, plan carefully and prepare. The easiest way for a project to go off the rails is to get too ahead of one’s self and get lost in the excitement. It may seem long and labourious to work through and understand the steps but after we get through this project, the next one will fly by!

Since I’ve been doing what I do for several years, the process is pretty much automatic but as I decided to revise our original renovation plan to accommodate the numerous lifestyle changes we’ve had, I decided to go back to the beginning so I can share, explain and work through the design process step by step. This shouldn’t be taken as an exhaustive lesson – it’s just my understanding and observances of the process I use.

During my training, I learned a two phase, eight step approach – this isn’t necessarily the way all designers work but it is the method I know and have employed on the majority of my projects.

We’ll start by looking at “Phase One – Analysis”. The four steps noted in the above diagram are pretty simple; this phase is the programming and planning. It is all about learning the (design) problem, understanding the problem, defining the scope and establishing the parameters (of the project).

As I worked on this week’s edition, I contemplated the value of describing each of the steps mentioned above and then working through them… but since there are a myriad of good texts on the subject and a wealth of information already on the Internet; I decided to just work on the process here. If you’d like additional information, let me know as I’ve got some information written that I’d be happy to share.

When a person decides to make a change, it is obvious to them why. They are tired of the look, the function of the space doesn’t suit the present need or perhaps their family has changed and they need more space.

About five years ago, I started looking at making changes to the family room in our basement. I know I had floor plans and a preliminary budget and even had a mock-up of the colour boards but because it was so long ago our needs have changed.

We’ve gotten married, had a baby and my husband has changed careers. So many changes to our lives and our lifestyle make our initial plans out of date with our current needs! So I need to step back and reevaluate my plan. I’ve found that although I can do charts and checklists and matrices in my initial programming, one of the most effective tools I’ve ever used to tour the space with the homeowner (in the case of a residential project) or sit in a meeting room and discuss plans, ideas and ‘wish lists’ with commercial clients (and of course, tour a space if it’s a renovation). Spending ten minutes listening to someone can tell you an awful lot about a person and how they use and see a space.

So I ‘toured’ my basement with me, the homeowner. Below is that conversation…

“This is our basement – excuse the mess… it’s usually a little tidier!” I bend over to pick up a kid’s sock, a toy car and a piece of wooden train track. All of which I toss into a red plastic toy bin. “Ugh – the carpet, sorry – it’s a bad combination to have kids and carpet!” I look at design me and shrug. “This is the main space and this is the only TV in the house. We spend the majority of our time down here – watching TV, listening to music, playing with our son.”

”Is it just the three of you?” Design me asks.

“And our dog, of course! My Mom comes in every so often and my mother in law stays over at Christmas.”

”Do you have parties or entertain?”

“Oh no. Not really. Kids birthday parties, Christmas dinners and we hosted our wedding reception down here!”


“We play darts and a have a few drinks too – we’d like the area to be multi-use and heavy on the kid friendly. It has to be flexible too. Comfy for relaxing and pretty casual. Our cat breaks anything she can knock over. If you look in here, this is presently my husband’s office. He works from home and does all his photo editing and such here. As you can see, it’s full with his equipment and we’d like to move him to my office across the way and make this room part of the main room with my sewing and design studio and a family computer area.” I’d lead Design Me across the small hallway and open the door to my current office.

“This will hopefully be my husband’s new office space and table top photo studio. Oh – we also need to accommodate the odd photo shoot in the family room too… And we need prop storage. His main computer will be in here too. We also have a queen size inflatable bed we set up for guests as this room currently also doubles as a guest room.”

”Would you consider dual purpose furniture?”

“Uhm… Ideally, no – most of it is junk that breaks down after too few uses!”


So in just a few minutes, I’ve gleaned the following:

Kid friendly
Entertaining/games space
Toy storage
Sewing area/storage
Quiet office/small scale studio
Spare room/guest space

From the tour, I’ve also noted that the family has a lot of books and CD’s – all presently well stored but deconstructing the space will require a relocation of the books. They also have several guitars and an electronic piano – I’d ask more about both and how the family sees them in the space.

The thing I have learned in my years in the business is that for most renovation projects, the homeowners (or store/business owners) have a good idea of what they want but often lack the ability or even the desire to pull it all together and they second guess their choices and decisions. No one really knows how a space is used then those who interact with it daily. A designer can look at the space objectively as they have no attachment or preexisting ideas of how the space should be used. Pairing an open eye with the intimate knowledge the homeowners bring, often work very well in creating a well planned space that will fulfill the needs and goals of the client.

A designer can also bring a sense of reality to a project. From a home owner’s perspective, I want to pack in a whole bunch of stuff in what is really a fairly small and already defined space – more than the space can realistically handle. Adding too much will cause confusion, clutter and will not bring the relaxing environment the ‘client’ wants. This, I already know, is an answer I don’t want to hear – I want everything packed in, but it won’t work and I’ve been arguing with myself about it for too many years now.

So, take a tour of your space and see what you learn. Be “you” the homeowner and “you” the designer and see what your space tells you.

Next week, we’ll look at starting to sort out what you’ve learned and developing the program.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Life of Daydreams

While perusing the blogs over at The Organic Sister’s Inspiration Monday, this post got me thinking about how I’m just wading along in the water, waiting for my life to start happening. Like Cynthia at A Life Profound, I’m very tethered to reality and the obligations that I must uphold for my family, my son, and to keep my place in the world. But every single day, I dream. If I didn’t have my day dreams, I’m not sure how I could survive.

I day dream continually throughout my waking day – dreaming about all the things I can do when I get home, the writing I can do at my lunch hour and coffee breaks at work. I dream about our RV and camping. I dream about the aspirations and desires I have to start my own home-based business and how I have loftier ambitions to get back to designing with Blue Door Interiors (my design company).

I see inspiration here and wonder how I can make such beautiful art. I see my friend creating his own Graphic Novel and am inspired by his talent and his drive. I see my own husband’s beautiful photography and wish that he had time to do more.

I wish I had more time to do more baking of delectable treats with TroubleMaker. I wish I was more organized and that my house was tidier.

But then while surfing channels last night, TroubleMaker and I came across this and I got a face full of perspective and as my son swayed to the beat and tried to sing along, I realized I am here, I am alive - and so is my son. And we can continue to dream and plan...

And that, my friends, was the truest inspiration of my week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MPM # 28

What a good week. I think I've 'invented' the best soup in the world - I tossed a bunch of stuff into a pot (as I usually do) to make my Minestrone and this week my friends, I hit the mark and I wrote it down!

Reviewing our menu this week, I 'chickened' out (hahahaha) and didn't make the Angel Chicken but we did try Beef with Snow Peas and it was good but do try the sodium reduced soy sauce as it was very salty (and I used none of the extra salt called for). We also decided we'd pair it with spring rolls and plum sauce to compliment the salty. Saturday night I went all out and made Ginger Beef, sweet & sour ribs and fried rice!

November 22 to 28

Monday Bacon Cheeseburger Roll Ups
Tuesday Fettuccine Alfredo with ham
Wednesday BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Thursday Chicken nuggets & fries
Friday Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Saturday KD & fishsticks
Sunday Italian Chicken (Slow Cooker)

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup milk (or cream)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt margarine and cream over low heat. Once melted add salt and pepper and then cheese. Heat well but do not boil. Serve over freshly cooked fettuccine noodles.

Italian Chicken
3 med chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut in half
1-15oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1- 14oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1-9oz package frozen artichoke hearts
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 package vegetable soup mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing

1. Combine beans, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and soup mix in a large slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Stir together condensed soup and Italian dressing, pour over chicken, spreading evenly.
2. Cover; cook on low heat setting 5 to 5.5 hours. Transfer chicken to serving plates using tongs or slotted spook. Stir artichoke mixture in cooker, spoon over chicken on plates. Makes 8 servings.
Original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Ginger Beef
From the Best of Bridge: Grand Slam
1 lb. flank steak
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
vegetable oil
2/3 cup grated carrots
2 Tbsp. chopped green onion (or more to taste)
4 Tbsp.(1/4 cup) minced ginger root (or more)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. cooking wine – Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp hot chili oil or crushed red chili flakes

Slice steak while partially frozen into narrow strips. Mix beef and eggs. Dissolve cornstarch in water and mix with beef. Pour ample oil in wok. Heat to boiling hot, but not smoking. Add beef to oil, 1/4 at a time. Separate with a fork (or chopsticks if you’re talented) and cook, stirring frequently until crispy. Remove, drain and set aside. (This much can be done in advance)
Put 1 Tbsp. oil in wok. Add carrots, onion, ginger and garlic and stir fry over high heat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs
2 racks of short spare ribs
1/2 cup flour
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups vinegar
3 cups water

Combine flour, brown sugar, vinegar and water. Whisk to combine. Slice ribs into small individual pieces. Toss in sauce. Cook at 325 F for 2 to 3 hours until meat is done and receded from Bone. Can be halved and freezes well.

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We-Design-Day: Design 101 – A Guide to Interior Design

In conjunction with the changes I’m working on trying to make to my blog, I’ve been working on a couple of serial articles to share. One of which is a regular, weekly feature on interior design. My hope is to provide anyone with an interest a kind of “insider’s look” at small scale design and renovation projects. I’d like to share my knowledge and experience and make it a true ‘how to’ so I can help demystify an interesting and very popular vocation.

My intent is to share some of the history and principals of interior design and work through the process of a project from beginning to end. Having worked in the field for many years, I can provide insight on the construction process, how to hire a designer and general contractor, what to do when things go wrong and how to make changes on the ‘fly’.

So over the coming weeks, my company, Blue Door Interiors, will be sponsoring the “We-Design-Day ” articles and I’ll take you through the entire process of a (small) renovation project from conception to completion. Along the way, I’ll provide some Design 101 education, answer any questions you have, provide free tips and ideas and I’m planning a give-a-way or two as well!

Without further adieu, let’s get We-Design-Day underway!

When I decided to quit my ‘day job’ and return to school, I was 26 years old. I’d spent my late teens and early 20’s in the retail and middle management jobs and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I had the good fortune of being able to examine what I wanted to be when I “grew up” – I’d worked in a few different fields, had experience in what I liked (and didn’t like) and got to pick my profession. Most people don’t get that luxury so I am very thankful that my delinquent youth proved to be useful for something!

During my education and work experience, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my tastes, and my design style. I don’t follow fashion and I’m not a follower of trends. I firmly believe that the most appropriate solution for the problems I’ve faced in my career are generally the ones best suited to those who seek them.

And by that I mean it is certainly possible to design for today and accessorize with the latest trends and colours and I certainly can make your home look like the page of a magazine. But coupled with my love for interior design is a love for the environment and blending sustainable design with interior design for me go hand in hand – my first school project taught me that (I specified a compostable toilet, much to the horror of my professor)! I’m about function and form and reusing, reducing and even recycling when designing. We all want our homes to be a reflection of us and the way we live – good design can be attained by combining a good understanding of how a space functions and how the people who use the space live.

I’m about real design for real people.

This week, I’d like to share a few staple pieces of interior design information regarding the history, evolution and some definitions. My first year of design was tough. I’ve never memorized so many things in my life! Included in that memorization was the ‘definition’ of what Interior Design is… It only has changed a little bit from what I memorized and I see I’ve been ahead of my time as they now mention “sustainable design” in the definition.

Interior design is a multi-facet profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and the resources of the client are satisfied to produce and interior space the fulfills the project cools. Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public. Definition provided by the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) NCIDQ

To find where “interior design” and “interior decoration” started, one must look a long way back in time… One could say it even started when the first people furnished their caves with pelts and painted the walls, although pelts were functional and the paintings area theorized to be everything from trance drawings by Shaman to methods of communication, it still improved the interior living spaces. When the first peoples started building shelter for themselves, it all began to take form. At that time, however, the exterior and the interior were thought of in unison and as “one” space. As we (man) evolved from grass huts, the building envelope (the exterior of the buildings) strongly influenced the interior shape and function of an area.

The common use of the term “Interior Design” was not accepted into popular use until after the Second World War. Prior to the Second World War, and only really dating back to the late 1800’s, the design of an interior was often encapsulated within the architecture of the building as a whole. Any application to interiors was commonly referred to as interior decoration and specifically regarded only the application of surface ornamentation, colour, furnishings and accessories.

After WWII, a divide began to take place between the ornamentation of a space and how the space worked. This split is where the shape of Interior Design truly began to emerge as a valid and respected part of the built environment (and more than just throw pillows and wall paper).

But today, throw pillows and wall paper are all still a part of it! But I think that’s enough information for one week… Come back for the next We-design-day next week when we start down the process of designing your own environment!

I'd like to give a special "shout" to Clever by Design for helping me so many years ago with my logo and company image! I'm so excited to finally be at a point in my life where I can again fly the banner of the Blue Door Interior name!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MPM # 27 - with recipes from this week and last week!

It's Sunday evening and we just finished the last meal of my MPM # 26. The meal was "Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya" (recipe below). It was not a hit - none of us enjoyed it (and my Husband and I do like Cajun). Friday's Chinese Takeout Lemon Chicken was well received but I found it bland and uninspired. Monday's "Meatloaf" turned into a Grilled Cheese night as I was sick in bed with a migraine. The hamburger was used on Tuesday on an impromptu "Salisbury Steak a la Corrie". Our pizza party was a great hit (as it always is) and the pizza was extra tasty this week (even if I thought the crust was going to be TOUGH). The minestrone soup is back on the menu this week as Mom, TroubleMaker and I went for a late lunch out on Thursday and our tummies were too full for soup!

I promised the recipe for my "Chicken Pita Wraps" and I've included it below too.

Here is what is on tap at our house this week. My glorious four day weekend is coming (too quickly) to an end but what can you do?

November 15 to 21

Monday Pork Medallions with Cranberry Stuffing
Tuesday Crock pot Angel Chicken with pasta
Wednesday Minestrone Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Thursday Beef with Snow Peas over rice
Friday to be determined
Saturday to be determined
Sunday Roast beef with potatoes & carrots

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya
1 lg onion, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1/2 can tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken, cut into 3/4" pieces
2 cups instant rice
8 oz cooked & deveined shrimp
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1. Combine onion, celery, tomatoes, broth and tomato paste. Add Worcestershire sauce and Cajun seasoning in a slow cooker. Stir in the chicken.
2. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours (or high for 2.5 to 3 hours). Stir in rice, shrimp and peppers. Cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Adapted from an original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Salisbury Steak a la Corrie
1 lb hamburger
1/2 roll (approx. 40 crackers) saltines
1 egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine above ingredients and form into 6 large, thin hamburger like patties.

Brown each side in a large frying pan. When browned, add two cans of Franco's Beef Gravy. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until patties are cooked through.

Serve on toasted Texas sliced bread.

Chicken Pita Wraps

3 med. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Season salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley
1/2 cup water
1/2 red pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 green pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 red onion, sliced into rings
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing

6 Greek style pitas
Crumbled feta
4 lg leaves of Romaine
2 or 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1 to 2 tsp Minced garlic
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Combine all dressing ingredients well and refrigerate until dinner time.

1. Poach chicken in a large frying pan - when party cooked, sprinkle with seasonings to taste. Turn and season other side. Continue cooking until water evaporates and breasts brown slightly.

2. When cooked, slice into thin strips. Continue or refrigerate until dinner time.

3. Saute peppers and onions until tender, add chicken and warm. When nearly done, add dressing. Cover and heat through.

4. Warm pitas in oven. When warm, 'butter' pita with dressing, add chicken filling and top with fillings. Fold in half and enjoy!

Minestrone Soup

8 cups water
4 tbsp Beef or Vegetarian bouillon
14 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced

14 oz can kidney beans or Three Bean chili beans
2 cups green beans

1 cup pasta
1.5 tsp salt
1.2 tsp pepper

1. Saute onions & celery. When tender, add stock & carrots. Simmer about 20 minutes (or until carrots are nearly tender). Add both types of beans, return to a boil and cook until green beans are tender.

2. Add pasta and salt & pepper. Cook until pasta is tender.

You can also add a can of diced tomatoes but you will need to adjust the seasonings and REDUCE the amount of water (by about 1.5 cups) to enhance the flavour.

Angel Chicken
3 med chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut in half
1 8oz package of sliced white mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 0.7 ounce package of dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 10 ounce can of Golden mushroom soup
1/2 dry white wine
1/2 an 8 ounce tub of cream cheese with chive and onion

1. Place chicken and mushrooms in a crock pot. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, stir in dressing mix. Stir in soup, white wine and cream cheese until combined. Pour over chicken.

2. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

3. Serve chicken and sauce over rice or cooked Angel hair pasta

Original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catching up - an apology!

This was one of those weeks - I was struck by my first and hopefully only migraine Monday afternoon... It rendered me powerless and paralyzed. I couldn't think, couldn't see and it hurt to even move a finger. The recipes for the week's menu sit unposted (I'm so sorry about that) and my design post slated for publishing Wednesday didn't get completed. Which also means my Thursday "Green" post isn't done either.

And then I went to log in to my Blog this morning only to find out my password has been changed - thankfully I set up alternative access and was able to recover my account.

So I will delay my design post and my green post and in light of it being Remembrance Day, thanks to our soldiers and our veterans - young, old and no longer with us - for their contribution.

Happy writing,
Brennan's Mom

Monday, November 8, 2010

MPM # 26

Welcome to another week! And what a sweet week it is - due to budgeting constraints at work, I get to have an extra (albeit unpaid) day off so it is a magnificent three day work week (as we Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day on the 11th of November)! And my Mom is coming to town on Wednesday... And it is finally SOUP weather! I didn't get to make my Corn Chowder last week as I apparently forgot we were out of CORN! Duh, for sure!

And my Husband got TroubleMaker's Halloween pictures processed so I can share those too!

We have a good menu this week - the past week's highlight was the Chicken Pita Wraps - a recipe, I'm proud to say, I completely made up as I went along. I'll share the recipe soon (I'm still documenting it).

Here is what is on tap at our house this week - I'll add the rest of the recipes tonight.

November 8 to 14

Monday Meatloaf & oven roasted vegetables
Tuesday Tuna melts & salad
Wednesday Perogies & Sausage
Thursday Minestrone soup & grilled cheese sandwiches
Friday Chinese Takeout Lemon Chicken
Saturday Pizza Party
Sunday Crockpot Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going (more) Green Thursday!

As some of you may have noticed, I added a “badge” to my site last week (see, that’s it there on the right)… “I’m taking baby steps!” it says – Sustainable Baby steps towards living a more ‘green’ lifestyle. Tara over at the The Organic Sister has recently launched a really interesting website site that introduces green at an beginner's level and has different ‘steps’ one can take (with associated badges) to implementing, living and understanding the benefit of going green.

I know, I know – many will roll their eyes at “green” and “global warming” and all that, but for me, it is really important. I’ve always likened myself to somewhat of a steward for Mother Earth living as consciously as I can and taking steps to reduce my impact on the planet on which I live. Throughout the course of my 36 years, I’ve had different levels of success and there are some things I have adopted as “routine” for my life.

Some of the “green” things we do:
Chemical & pesticide free yard care and gardening
Used cloth diapers, wipes and nursing pads when our son was an infant/baby/early toddler (he's been out of diapers for months now)
Don’t use any chemical household cleaners
“Freecycle” objects that have more life (furniture, clothing, toys, household goods)
Public transit (to work)

And I know there are more things we do but also more things we could be doing and that’s where I’d like to go. I want to learn more and I want to do more. I want to understand the marketing that goes in to products and understand the real impact – both financially and environmentally.

The one concept that I was introduced to when I first visited Sustainable Baby steps was the idea of greenwashing I have to admit, I’d never heard of it before and I was concerned that it was perhaps a “made up” term – especially when I saw the first item on the list…

Paper Towel.

There are a few things I really like in life and paper towel is one of them. Now, I’m not all “Yes! Paper towel!” but I love it in the kitchen for clean-up and wiping my hands when handling (raw) meat. I went home that night and suggested the possibility of the made up term to my husband – and my reason – paper towel.
He looked at me with just a hint of surprise in his eye.

“Paper towels are like (enter brand name floor dusting device). A broom or vacuum does a great job but people buy them anyway.”

And I took a moment and realized he was right. But what would I use? Perhaps the stack of 20 tea towels I have that get used one or two per week? I argued the laundry factor (and now I’ll admit, I do not do the laundry in our house – my husband does) but he said the cost would be less – especially when you pay $2 (or more) a roll.

And this got me thinking.

Paper towels
Plastic baggies
Garbage bags
Paper napkins
Feminine napkins
Toilet paper
Disposable dish cloths
Plastic wrap
Wax paper
Disposable baking sheets
Cotton balls
Cotton ear swabs
Drinking straws

Those are 15 things that are single use items currently used in my home. And although we don’t often use paper napkins (we switched to cloth two years ago) the rest we do use and I have been using without much thought for a very long time.

I can tell you I will never give up toilet paper that, my friends, was a great invention. But what can I give up?

As I finish my lunch today and toss six (yes, six) plastic sandwich baggies in the garbage I think that can be one of my first “baby steps”. We run our dishwasher every night so utilizing (even plastic) lunch containers for my carrot sticks and another for my crackers would really bare no serious hardship, perhaps that is one thing I can “green” this week.

Can I “Green” one thing a week? I certainly am going to try – I have to, especially if I want there to be a tomorrow for TroubleMaker!

Baby step # 1 – reduce the use of plastic food storage bags

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All good design starts with an idea

Anyone who knows me will tell you I not only pile stuff, but I collect, keep and even hoard stuff. I’ve watched episodes of the hoarding show and I laugh and joke with my Mom that my step-dad is a hoarder… I didn’t realize I’m prone to condition until I started to try and sew the back pack I wanted to make for TroubleMaker.

A few weeks ago, he found a button – not just any button but a button of a backpack. I have a sewing room and as a former manager of a sewing supply warehouse, I have lots and lots of sewing stuff… One of my obsessions when I worked there was buttons. We had an entire warehouse of buttons – think of a design and I used to be able to go to the bin and find it for you. I loved buttons and would buy packages and boxes of discount buttons so I have a fairly substantial collection… Although I have tried (and with some success) to give away, freecycle and even garbage a few hundred pieces of my collection, I still have many and my son honed in on this one and began to beg me to make him a ‘backpack’.

Saturday afternoon, with TroubleMaker playing next door, I did just that.
I have not sewn anything since I tried (early in the summer) to make TroubleMaker and I matching aprons to cook in (meaning they are cut out and ready just not sewn together). Stacked on top of the cutting table are photo albums and various craft items from a few miscellaneous projects.

Stacked would indicated order. None is present so I need a different word.

Really, it’s all heaped and piled haphazardly and even the slightest jar to the table sends things sliding in a catastrophic landslide! I shoved stuff aside and laid out the fabric I selected to use. I moved a stack of junk off the ironing board (onto the floor – the only space left) and began to work. Part way through the project, I thought of an improvement and I started to hunt for a slider I wanted to use to make the straps adjustable. I know I had them somewhere but I gave up after 20 minutes or so and finished his backpack – with fixed straps.

More than a year ago – we (meaning me and my husband) decided it would be a good idea to some remodeling downstairs. One of the major changes we decided on was to move my sewing room out from the ‘third bedroom’ and move his ‘mini’ studio into my sewing room. We decided to tear down the wall that encloses his current office to open it to the family room so I can sew and craft while TroubleMaker plays. This will also allow my Husband to leave his equipment set-up and consolidate his prop storage to one room instead of two (and sometimes three).

This will also mean I have to be tidier, more organized and unable to leave projects strewn about. That scares all of us as I’m not known for my organizational skills nor am I known for my ability of keeping my stuff in one area. But perhaps if I have a well orchestrated plan and with plenty of purging, I can complete this dream. I have sketched out a custom built storage unit and I know how I’ll arrange the furniture in the newly (deconstructed) space. I have plans for keeping TroubleMaker’s toys together and new plans for prop storage.

Custom Designed Storage Unit

A place for everything and everything in its place is the only way this can work.

The only way…

Check back next Wednesday as I take you through the design process and share a colour rendering and new floor plan of the proposed space!

I'd also like to thank my Husband (Blackstone Images) for making the pictures look so good - he did a good job of hiding the absolute disaster that my sewing study is... Thank you!


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