A Christmas Care Package For My Daughter In College

Christmas Care Package
Christmas Care Package

With my daughter away at university, I’m enjoying putting together care packages for her, especially around the holidays. Ten days ago I sent her a Christmas-themed one. I thought I would share the contents of the care package I sent as well as some tips for putting one together. You may be inspired to create one as a Christmas mailing to anyone on your list who lives far away and won’t be home for the holidays!

This is the first year that my daughter is living in a house (vs in a dorm), so she has more space for decorations, and she has more people for sharing things with. She enjoyed the Halloween care package I sent, so I thought I would do one for Christmas. She’s also coming home for Christmas on the last possible day (she’s taking an exam on the last day and time slot) so I really wanted to send something that would help her enjoy the build-up to Christmas. Continue reading

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Christmas Garland At The Bottom Of The Staircase!

Christmas banister
Christmas banister

This year, I put Christmas garland at the bottom of the staircase and I love how it turned out! As a blogger, I’m on social media quite a bit (okay, a lot), and I was inspired by a friend’s banister.

In the past, I’ve decorated the top of the banister, along the handrail, but it’s prickly. It’s also a bit of a hazard for someone who can be clumsy because it’s hard to hold onto the railing properly. So, I switched things up and decorated the banister at the edge of the treads.

Christmas banister
Christmas banister

Here’s what you need, how to put it all together, and a few tips and tricks.

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3 Easy Christmas Treats To Make With The Kids

 

3 Easy Christmas Desserts
3 Easy Christmas Desserts

(This post is sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. As always, all opinions are my own.)

It’s the holiday season, which means lots of festive decorations, tableware, and food! Adults and kids love the special desserts that come with Christmas, and it’s even more fun when they’re simple to make and decorate. The important part is being together, so here are three easy-to-make suggestions for home or school: gifts made with brownie squares, puffed rice cereal wreaths, and a tree made out of cupcakes. You can make the base of the treats in advance and save the decorating for the kids. The best part is that it’s all edible!

Brownie Gifts

Brownie Gifts
Brownie Gifts

For these palm-sized brownie gifts, you will need: a brownie pan, packaged brownie mix and icing, mini candy canes, and holiday sprinkles of your choice.

To make these brownie gifts into perfect squares, use a tray like this one, from Kitchen Stuff Plus. This brownie pan is perfect because many people like the edge pieces and, with this pan, everyone gets one! I like the stability and the clean edges of these perfect squares. Continue reading

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How To Set A Simple, Elegant, And Affordable Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Table Centerpiece
Thanksgiving Table Centerpiece

Thanksgiving is a special time of year for celebrating family and friends, and setting the table should be something fun, easy, and seasonal. In the past I hadn’t really spent much time on the centerpiece or place settings for my Thanksgiving table, but this year, I did.

In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October, making it the perfect time for college students to come back home after spending six weeks away. We love having our oldest come home to enjoy some warm weather, family time, and great food.

This year, I challenged myself to creating a simple yet elegant Thanksgiving table. We host Thanksgiving, so I had a lot of items on hand already. I added a few dollar store finds and re-purposed some tableware and I was all set.

My daughter and I also printed out some questions (that we got online) about being grateful so that each person could ask one of the group, after first providing their own answer. For example, one question is ‘If you could learn a new skill this coming year, what would it be?’  and another one is ‘What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned this year?’.  Asking these questions turned out to be my husband’s favorite part of the meal (other than the food, of course) and we all enjoyed learning more about each other. Continue reading

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Witch Hat Halloween Cupcakes

With Halloween less than a week away, I thought I’d share this easy and fun Halloween cupcake idea: Witch Hats!

Making a witch’s hat out of Oreos and Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses is something I’ve seen in magazines and online for many years. Putting them on top of cupcakes is something I decided to combine because I wanted a ‘wow’ cupcake for a party we were invited to.

To keep this dessert simple, I recommend that you buy the cake mix, a tub of icing for the cupcakes, and a tube of icing to make the witch hats. It doesn’t make sense to try to make any of the icing at home. You just won’t get the right consistency and the clean-up is easier with store-bought icing. Buy any combination of sprinkles you’d like to use from the bulk food store or from the grocery store.

Here’s how I made the Witch Cupcakes: Continue reading

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9 Book Reviews From My Recent Spring/Summer Reads

Educated by Tara Westover
Educated by Tara Westover

One of my recent posts, on self-care, talked about my love for reading and how important it is in my daily life. Over the years, I have gone through phases, sometimes reading a lot and sometimes, especially when my kids were younger, not reading much at all other than magazines and newspapers. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, ever. It’s relaxing and it calms me down. It educates and entertains me. And, it connects me to periods in history that only books can do.

My earliest memory of reading is indelible: reading about Dick and Jane the summer before I entered Kindergarten. Growing up in an expat community in Saudi Arabia and reading about the neighborhoods and adventures of these siblings and their parents captured my imagination and my love for anything American. I don’t remember any other books or authors from that time of my life, other than how good I felt when I was reading. Continue reading

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Blueberry Peach Crumble

Blueberry Peach Crumble
Blueberry Peach Crumble

I love fruit crumbles! They are easy to make, forgiving, and always a popular dessert. You can top them with whipped cream, ice cream, or some milk. And, you can easily warm them up the next day: they taste just as good as freshly baked.

I’ve written about crumbles, cobblers, and crisps before, and you can check out one of my earlier posts, here, to learn the difference. Because I love oats, I always make crumbles. And, because I always seem to have overripe fruits hanging around in the summer, like peaches and blueberries, this blueberry peach crumble is on repeat at our summer BBQs.

Blueberry Peach Crumble
Blueberry Peach Crumble

The thing about adding blueberries to a crumble or any pie is the beauty of the dark purple caramelized fruit that bubbles around the edge of the dish. It spells summer. Even my youngest guests love watching the fruit bubble on the sides of the baking dish!

Because the best part of any crumble is the thick oat topping, I’ve adjusted the measurements of my original recipe to make a generous topping. I hope you enjoy making it.

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12 Ways I ‘Self-Care’ That Make A Huge Difference In My Day

‘Self-Care’ is a term we’re all hearing these days, and for good reason: life is busier and more stressful than ever. I often wonder why that’s the case for me, given that my kids are in their teens and need less physical attention…but it is what it is. I thought life might get a bit easier, but it’s a different type of worry that creeps in as your kids grow up. That’s why self-care is something I’m focusing on more and more.

What is self-care? It can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re doing things that make you feel better mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It’s also important to be cognizant of the need for self-care, because if you don’t manage your stress and energy, nobody else will do it for you.

And, what works for others might not work for you, so taking the time to figure out your best self-care techniques is important. Only you know what works best for you.

July 24th is National Self-Care Day, so I thought I would share my self-care techniques in the hopes of inspiring you to engage in the self-care that you need.

Here are the 12 things I do in terms of self-care that make a huge difference in my day and, consequently, in our family atmosphere:

Number 1: Start the day by doing stretches, mainly for my back. I take a few minutes to lie down on the ground and let my back relax. I look out the window and see sky and trees. Looking at nature and concentrating on being quiet calms me right down.

Number 2: Exercise! I am on my treadmill 5 days a week, watching reality TV and catching up on news. This is my time and I can’t do without it. Sometimes I talk to family and friends on the phone while I’m walking, and other times, I just kind of zone out. I’ve added weights to my routine and I like how that’s making me feel, too.

Number 3: Read at lunchtime, and anytime I can. This might sound very anti-social, but lunchtime is my time, unless I’m out with friends or family. I think I associate reading at lunch with the days when my kids would nap and that was my only free time. Reading is so important to me that anytime I feel stressed, it’s the number one thing I want to do! Continue reading

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Making Cream Puffs At Home Is Easy!

Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs
Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs

This post is sponsored by Conestoga Farms Eggs. All opinions are my own.

Making cream puffs at home is like discovering your inner pastry chef! Yes, they’re that easy to make. And, you can have fun with the sizes and fillings you choose to make and use. Cream puffs are also perfect for bringing to a summer gathering because they’re a finger-food dessert.

Eggs are the key ingredients in cream puffs, and recently I made a batch using Conestoga Farms’ Free-Run Omega-3 brown eggs. I love that local Southwestern Ontario farmers produce these eggs because buying food raised close to home makes me feel good about what my family eats.

Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs
Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs

The Conestoga Farms’ Free Run Omega-3 brown eggs are laid by hens living in weather-sheltered barns where they can run freely to forage for food. The hens are grain-fed and their diet includes flax seeds, a high source of Omega-3 polyunsaturates. Omega-3 fatty acids can benefit heart and brain health. Continue reading

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Fattoush Salad – A Favorite In Our House!

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad, a popular salad in the Middle East, is one of the tastiest and most requested salads in our house! As my kids have gotten older, their tastebuds have evolved and cooking for them is a pleasure.

Fattoush is an easy salad that is forgiving in both the quantity and variety of ingredients. If you went to ten people’s homes, you’d find ten versions of this salad! There are so many ways to make fattoush. People refer to it as a peasant salad in that people used whatever leftover vegetables they had on hand to make this dish. I’ve even seen it made using only purslane, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which is very different from the recipe I’m sharing below.

With Ramadan entering its second week, this salad is a staple found at many Iftar meals. Iftar is the evening meal that breaks the fast for Muslims around the world. I thought it would be a good time to share the recipe my mom has taught me for making fattoush.

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

There are a few things that distinguish the typical fattoush salad from a green salad. The simple green salad has lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Fattoush adds onions, sumac, green peppers, mint, parsley, pita chips, and a dressing of oil and lemon with the option of adding pomegranate molasses. My mom doesn’t use pomegranate molasses, but many restaurants use it for a tangy taste. Continue reading

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