Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beef & Barley Soup

A friend asked me for this recipe and I thought I had put it on the blog, but I searched and could only find the intention of putting it on the blog. So, here it is. Super easy. Super yummy. I think I now have it memorized.

Beef & Barley Soup
1 lb lean or extra lean ground beef
1 finely chopped onion
3 cups boiling water
2 Beef Oxo packets (I use 2 tsp Better than Bouillon)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 diced potatoes
2 shredded carrots
1/2 cup pearl barley
salt & pepper

Brown ground beef. Drain excess fat. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent. Season with a little salt & pepper. Add everything else. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and barley is cooked.

Serve with crusty rolls.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Choose Artfire

There are a few places to sell your crafty wares on the Internet, but I chose Artfire to set up my shop. Here's why:
  1. No listing fees. No closing fees. No extra fees. I can list as much as I want for a low monthly fee. If I want to sell lots, Artfire is the place to do it! There are lots of perks in going Pro, too. I love having access to all the extra features.
  2. You can list for free! You can set up a basic studio and list your items for free! It's a great way to feel out the market if you're just getting started.
  3. Artfire has the best SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which means that when people go searching for "Reusable Facial Pads," my humble studio shows up on the front page. Tell me, how often do you click through to the second page of search engine results? This is super important. I get most of my business and traffic through people searching and finding my studio on Artfire.
  4. My buyers don't need to set up an Artfire profile to purchase from me. It's just one more step removed, another possible barrier. 
  5. Facebook kiosk! My friends and fans can shop right from Facebook! No need to leave Facebook, you can do it all from there!
You can set up your own studio on Artfire and get access to all these great features, too. Just click this to go sign up. Bonus: if you sign up for a Pro account through my link, I get a free month & you get a free month (your third month is free).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baking with Bokeh + a little rant

You know, all you need to do to make your baking look yummier is grab some natural light and a low F-stop and you get that nice blur in the background that means you can't tell when it was I last gave my counter tops a good scrub (usually daily, but you never know). These banana oatmeal muffins were pretty good, except the big ones stuck to the cupcake paper like nobody's business.

(Here begins the rant; if you're not one for rants, just skip this part, enjoy the picture. We ate muffins; have a nice day.)

I found the recipe on By itself it would be a fine muffin recipe. I probably should have followed the recipe as written just to have actually made it. But I read the reviews. This is my biggest beef with and it really has little to do with the site itself, but much more to do with the users of the site and how they incorrectly use the star system and the reviews. Seriously, no matter how many stars the recipe has, you still need to read through at least 10 reviews to figure out whether you should even bother making the recipe or not and what changes you should make to the recipe should you decide to make it. I mean, it's one thing to make the recipe once, decide it needed a little more *whatever* and write a review saying as much and still rate it well. It's another thing to change 3-5 things about the recipe, declare it fabulous and give it 5 stars. It's like going to Home Depot, going through the self checkout, going home and doing the online survey and saying you got fabulous service at the checkout. "I rock at scanning things and swiping my debit card." I have occasionally seen comments by other users who get upset with previous reviewers who rate a recipe poorly based on the changes they made to the recipe. That makes sense, but it is equally unhelpful to have to read through countless reviews in order to determine what recipe is 4.5 stars. I don't know why someone just doesn't write up their own recipe with the changes they made and then everyone can rate that recipe with 5 stars as written.

This recipe for Banana Oat Muffins has the same issue, of course. These muffins were pretty good made with the changes that most people suggested. They weren't complicated changes, apple sauce for oil, brown sugar for white, add some chocolate chips, whatever. No big deal. I would probably make them again, but follow the recipe as written. 1/3 cup of oil isn't that bad for a batch of muffins and maybe then they wouldn't stick to the cupcake paper so badly.

So that's my rant. I don't know why I don't just use some other site, other than it's just as unpredictable if it's a good recipe or not. I implore you, Allrecipes users, write your own recipe or rate the recipe as written.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Home Improvements

So, in between Halloween and Christmas, a whole bunch of home renos/updates happened, so there are not a lot of other crafty creations in between as a result. So "we" (not really me: my job was taking care of my kids and our handy friend's kids and feeding people) ripped out our kitchen ceiling. I wasn't aware how much of the ceiling was getting ripped out, or I would have done some more covering up of stuff. We thought there was drywall on the ceiling (there was), but there was also lath & plaster, so they had to rip all that down, too.

It was a huge mess, as you can see, but the men had it mostly cleaned up the same night, which was pretty impressive. They bagged it up in heavy duty garbage bags and the garbage men picked it up! We thought we might have to borrow a truck and haul it down to the dump, but it totally work out!

The ceiling looked like this. The lath & plaster took up so much space that there was 2-3 inches of extra ceiling height that we got out of the reno.

They needed to get at the plumbing of the bathroom above the kitchen to take care of a leak. We couldn't exactly solve the problem entirely, but the new non-slumpy, bubbly ceiling is fantastic!

Our super handy friend was super awesome and worked soooo hard for us over the next couple of weeks, taping and mudding and making the ceiling all nice and beautiful. Then his wife came and helped me paint it. Not only that, she helped me paint the sitting room, the kitchen walls & then the front entrance, hallways, and stairwell. I guess I haven't taken any photos of the kitchen painted...

These are the colours we chose for the kitchen (middle brown on left), sitting room (red) and house colour (grey triangle in the middle). 

Painting the sitting room. I think this is after the second coat. We did three total. It was done in time for Christmas, hosting the in-laws!

Our handy friend also installed this sweet mantle that my husband scored at an awesome deal on Kijiji. It really put the finishing touch on the room.

The mudroom. 

The mudroom again. We're looking at the closet door, which has since been painted and had hardware put on properly (can you tell what's wrong?) and the kids' sock sorter. I used to have this little organizing rack in our bedroom because there was no room for my night table beside our bed, so I could keep my books and whatnot in it.

Looking at the mudroom from the hallway. There are little organizational containers in the cubbies of that bench, one for each member of the family. We still need to put up new trim throughout the house, which is a pretty big project that we'll just have to plug away at bit by bit.

My friend is going to help me again next week paint the rest of the kitchen (we left one wall because it's getting painted a different colour) and the tv room & dining room at the back of the house. After that is done, there will be just the bathrooms and the sewing room to paint!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Christmas Nightgown

So, I guess I made it back to Christmas now.

There is a tradition in my husband's family of opening a gift on Christmas eve. The gift is always pajamas. It is a sensible gift: that way children look cute in pictures on Christmas morning and they can always use new pajamas. I like to think I'm pretty easy going about Christmas traditions, so we have done this since we have been married and the kids have received new pajamas on Christmas eve their whole lives.

Zoe loves dresses and nightgowns though she has very few nightgowns, so this year I wanted to make a very traditional style nightgown that she would love. She was pretty happy when she opened it on Christmas eve:

She still loves it as much as the day she received it. She loves dresses. She would wear dresses everyday if you let her (which I would since she's in kindergarten and it's not that much longer that she's going to want to wear dresses everyday).

Opening her stocking Christmas morning, wearing her very pink and frilly nightgown.

 The two oldest children in their Christmas pajamas.
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