Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Layout

Ever since I posted my Stocking Stuffer lists, I've been getting about 5x the daily hits on my blog. However, I've also noticed that even if a pin is attached originally to a specific post, the link just directs to the most recent post on the home page. Annoying, no?

I'm going to be tinkering with the template and layout a bit over the next while to see if some of the templates work with links properly, so I know it might look a bit *blah* from time to time, but hopefully soon I'll have a lasting design that will function properly!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Wonderful World of Quiche

I love quiche. Frankly, I don't know many who don't. Even my kids love quiche! This savory pie can be doctored to any flavor, so long as you like pie and eggs. And to tell the truth, I'm not crazy about eggs, but still, I love quiche.

I also love to make quiche. It can be made in a very particular fashion, using choice ingredients and adding things in a very specific order, or it can be thrown together with whatever you have in your fridge and still turn out light, fluffy and delicious.

When I worked at a cafe in high school, I learned the ultimate technique for making quiche. The owner insisted on quiche only being made by certain individuals who were well trained in the technique which was inspired by the quiche one might encounter in French cafes. For those of you who are curious, here's the 'ultimate technique':
Prep your dough from scratch - any savory pie crust will do (I love my aunt's recipe, but everyone has their family favorite!) For an extra treat, put grated cheese (gouda or cheddar) in the dough.
Roll out your dough to fit your deep pie plate. Make sure you leave some extra room around the edge for when the dough shrinks.
Prick the dough with a fork all around. Lay down a greased sheet of tin foil (greased side down) and put a few dried beans down.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your filling. A nice, rich quiche will have about 8 eggs and 2 cups of light cream. If your recipe says differently, just go with it. It's actually quite hard to make a bad tasting quiche.
Beat the eggs, cream, 1/2 tsp paprika, cracked pepper, and any other spices/herbs you want. Once you think everything is well mixed, beat it a minute or two more.
As soon as the crust comes out of the oven, lift out the tin foil and beans, and pour in a bit of the egg mixture. It will leak through any holes and cook quickly, making a solid crust so the rest of the mixture doesn't have a chance to leak through.
Sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on the bottom of the crust and return to the oven for 3 minutes.
Chop up a variety of fillings: peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, olives, ham, mushrooms, etc.
When the crust is back out of the oven, pour in half of the egg filling. Sprinkle your chopped ingredients evenly around the pie plate. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese on top. Add the remaining egg mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes - after 10 minutes check your crust to make sure it's not browning too much. If it's getting too dark, wrap tinfoil around the crust.
The quiche is done baking when you can put a knife in at the centre and it comes out clean.

Now, there are ways to make it fluffier (beat the yolks and whites separately and fold ingredients together) but I've always found this method to work fantastically.

But let's face it - not everyone keeps cream in their fridge all the time. And who really has time to whip up a pie crust for a weekday meal? And isn't there any way we can make this process easier??

Well, just last night I made a quiche, and the reason I opted for that supper option was because our cupboards were feeling a little bare, and if I eat pasta one more time this month I'm going to die. I did a quick inventory of what I did have: some eggs, some leftover phyllo dough that I needed to use soon, a couple types of cheese that were getting past their prime and a half used pepper.
Have you ever seen that classic James Bond scene where he goes to make food for his lady-friend-du-jour and her fridge is nearly empty? And in the next scene he's whipped up a delicious quiche from seemingly nothing? It can really happen like that.

I laid the phyllo out in my pie plate (forget cutting it into circles... I just made sure I alternated which side of the plate the long edge was sticking over). And instead of brushing phyllo with butter, I almost always use my kitchen oil spritzer that I fill with canola oil. Lay the sheet down, spray, next sheet... super easy. For the filling, I only had 7 eggs, and only 1% milk, but I did have sour cream! I cracked all the eggs, added 3 tbsp of sour cream and a splash of milk and whipped it well. I wanted to cut the sharpness of the sour cream a bit, so instead of paprika I used a chili powder blend to add some roundness. I skipped the blind baking step (you don't want to overcook your phyllo, and besides, nothing was going to leak through the 8 sheets of phyllo I used) and I added the grated cheese right in the egg mixture (half cheddar, half gouda), as well as a Bell Pepper and Herb spice blend that I had kicking around. I poured the egg mixture in and then added some chopped deli ham, tomato and red pepper. I baked it at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, pulled it out and put tin foil over the crust edges, and then baked it for another 20 - 25 minutes. I can't remember the last time my house smelled so full of savory goodness!

I don't have a picture, mostly because I planned on using leftovers for my photo op, but my boys ate everything! I reserved a third of the quiche for Matt, and the boys and I all ate equal parts of the rest! Nathaniel, my youngest, doesn't like eggs normally, but he ate as much as I did, and that's after he ate a bowl of diced cucumber and tomatoes! Not bad for a 17 month old! Gabriel, my oldest, can be quite picky about his meals, particularly if he finds them difficult or messy to eat. We put ketchup on his just to help it cool down quicker and I barely ate half of mine before he was asking for more! Definately no leftovers.

If you don't have phyllo, try bisquick, puff pastry, or a quick dough with minimal chilling time.
If you don't have cream, or sour cream, or even milk, try a can of evaporated milk. You can use softened cream cheese to add some richness, too.
Eggs are a protein, so if you don't have ham, bacon or other meat to add to it, no worries! And the only veggies you shouldn't put in quiche are cucumbers (too high of a water content). You can make pretty much everything else work (although some veggies you may have to cook in advance)

So don't reserve your quiche meals for days with lots of prep time and fancy company coming. In under 45 minutes I made a quiche, start to finish, and we were sitting down to eat a deliciously balanced meal!

Ah quiche... how I love thee.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for Women

A few days ago I posted my list of Stocking Stuffers for Men. I heard a lot of good feedback from some of my girlfriends who were stumped. But the other thing I heard a lot of was, "Now can you make one for women so I can give it to my husband??"

So, print it out, cross of anything that doesn't tickle your fancy, and leave it somewhere conspicuous!

Salted Caramels
Gourmet Chocolates
Packs of tea
Flavored Agave sticks for tea
Fine herbs/spices (cardamom, saffron, anise, kefir lime leaves)
Scented sugars
Gourmet hot chocolate packs
Rose water
Edible gold paper
Edible ink pens
High-end olive oil or balsamic vinegar
Exotic dried mushrooms
Yogurt covered dried fruit

Nail polish smudge perfector
Imported mulled soap (look at Winners for a unique and inexpensive selection)
Hair mask
Hand/Lip exfoliant
At-home Hot Stone Massage kit
Heated face mask
Scalp massage tool
Bath bombs/Milk soak
New set of Makeup Brushes
Fancy nail polish (caviar texture, matte finish, glitter)
Glass nail file
Really nice bubble bath
Perfume samples you really like the smell of

Ballpoint pens
Stationary set
Personalized Calling Cards
Personalized ‘signature’ stamp
Coconut scented hand sanitizer
Mini Lint roller for her purse
Running Wristband wallet
Reusable coffee sleeve
Wrist weights
Pocket Sudoku Book
Appointment book
Digital memo recorder (or $ for a similar app)

Low-rise lace socks (for wearing with dress shoes)
Boot socks (with a fancy cuff that shows over the top of the boot)
Sock slippers (roll up like socks, warm and grippy like slippers)
Leather gloves
Chunky cocktail ring
Warm Knit headband
Artisan/Handcrafted jewelry (think Etsy or craft shows)
Pandora Charms

In the Kitchen:
Vegetable scrub brush
Produce spray
Tart-shaper tool
Icing bags and tips
Café apron
Chalkboard labels w/ chalk pens for buffets
Sushi roll mat
Pretty cupcake wrappers
Ravioli/Cookie stamp
Unique tea ball
Cute egg cups
Barmops (you can never have too many plain white cloths/towels)
Fancy paper napkins
Handheld Microplane zester
Hand frother
Pinch bowl set
Amuse Bouche spoons
Verrine cups
Fun shaped cookie cutters
Mini Sushi Fridge Magnets
Julienne peeler
Long-handled iced tea spoons

For the home:
Mini tool kit
Linen spray
Candles (focus on yummy or relaxing scents, and natural soy/beeswax candles)
Paint swatches w/ commitment to paint that room she really wants redone
Mini terrarium
Starbucks Christmas Ornaments
Wall decals (favorite quote or imagery)
Seed packets
Stove-top house aromas
Floating wax beads w/ set of wicks
Classic Christmas Album (Carpenter’s Christmas, Amy Grant, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby)
Café-style table cloth

Gift cards:
Booster Juice/Jugo Juice
Steam bath
Appointment for housekeeper to use during a busy week
Hair appointment/Massage
To her favorite store for Boxing Day sales
Instrument Rental/Art Class

Quilting thread
Crochet hook/Knitting needles
Fabric Scissors
Glue pen
Rotary cutting tool
Scrapbook paper
Paper punches
Glue dots
Stamp set
Paint brushes
Fresh paints
Unique essential oils (outside of peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus)
Cricut cartridge

From her favorites:
Novel – get her a mug or piece of jewelry with a favorite quote from her favorite novel. Or, look for an early edition copy of a favorite classic
TV show – many shows in syndication have been made into trivia games (Scene It FRIENDS/Seinfeld), or if the show is still running, buy her new seasons
Song – Get the lyrics printed on pillows for the sofa, or sheet music for the song printed on a canvas
Movie – Get the soundtrack, or if you’re familiar with the movie, think of a significant item in the movie and seek out a copy (It’s a Wonderful Life? A bell. Breakfast at Tiffany’s? A stuffed cat named “Cat”. The Notebook? A notebook to write your memories in. Pride and Prejudice? Find some antique jewelry from the time period.)
Makeup – don’t get adventurous, but if you know of a specific cosmetic/perfume she loves, but doesn’t always indulge in, seek it out
Magazine – gift subscription, special issues, or look online for old issues
Hobby – find a new ‘tip book’ for her, new supplies or book her in for a class

A picture book of her favorite family photos
A playlist/CD of songs that were significant when you dated
A copy of the first movie you saw together
Get your wedding vows/anniversary date printed on a scarf or engraved on jewelry
Get a copy of her favorite handwritten recipe from a loved one printed on kitchen towels (
A second wedding band to complete her set, or a matching necklace
A handwritten letter explaining why you love her so much and how much she really means to you – be as specific as possible

No $ Homemade Coupons:
“Sleep All Night” – She gets to sleep all night without having to deal with kids that wake up
“Man-Made Supper” – Exempt from any expectation of having supper ready – the Man of the house will do it
“Car checkup” – tires filled, oil changed, car wash, deep interior cleaning, and detailing of dash
“Uninterrupted Bath time” – she can have a hot, relaxing bath with bubbles and candles and NO KIDS (you might want to make this one redeemable for multiple uses)
“A Clean Bathroom” – a guarantee that at least once this year, she won’t have to be the one to clean the bathroom, top to bottom (even behind the toilet and all the baseboards!)
“Her movie” – She gets to pick the movie, and you will watch it, without mocking it, and you won’t fall asleep!
“Relive the old days” – revisit popular or significant sites/restaurants/events from your first year or two together
“Foot rub” – 20 minute length
“Hobby day” – she gets to involve you in one of her hobbies, and you’ll try very hard to enjoy helping her with her project
“Shopping day” – a no-grumbling accompaniment, during which you’ll give your honest opinion and tell her at least 5 times that you think she’s beautiful
“Surprise date” – You agree on a day, and you do all the planning! 1 week min. notice for coupon redemption (which means you have 1 week to come up with something fantastic!)
“Dinner for 2, By 2” – You’ll prepare supper together for an at-home date night. You can work together, or each be responsible for different courses, but the point is to spend time together.
“Deal with the Mess” – You will deal with that mess that keeps looming over her head that she keeps putting off getting to because it’s so unpleasant/overwhelming

Any additions? Post it in the comments so others can see!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for Men

Over the last few weeks I've been looking up as many stocking-stuffer lists as I can find on Pinterest. I love to be creative with stockings, particularly for my hubby, so I was looking for new ideas. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to find that out of these massive lists of "150 Stocking Stuffers for Men", only about 3 things stood out to me as a really good idea.

So what does one do? One makes one's own list!

I started with categories, added a few more categories, and threw in a couple more for good measure. But just because it says it's for the "Metro Man" doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated by a wide array of men. Most everything on this list would be loved by my husband.

So without further ado, I now present, "Mrs. VanderLeek's list of Stocking Stuffers for Men!"

Fancy mustard (Jim Beam Bacon Flavored Mustard)
Mini Booze Bottles
Booze Bottle chocolates
Jim Beam pancake syrup
Chocolate-dipped Bacon/Bacon Lollipops
Astronaut Ice Cream
Favorite discontinued candy (just because it’s not in North America doesn’t mean you can’t find it online!)
Favorite Childhood Candy (something his grandparents had every holiday perhaps? Dutch droppies, Cream Cheese mints, Old fashioned Suckers, Chocolate Letters…)
Hot Sauce
Fancy sardines
Wasabi Peas/Almonds
That snack you hate, but he loves (his favorite gross chips, Rollmops, olives, gerkins, etc)
Cheddar Bacon flavored Popcorn
Favorite seasoning salt, chili powder blend, pepper blend

Gift cards:
Bowling alley
Tim Hortons/Starbucks
Archery/Gun Range
Driving Range
Little Caesar Hot N Ready Pizza (so he can have pizza for lunch without feeling guilty for spending the $)

Fly set
Fishing lures
Fishing line
Fishing Multitool
Fish Bonker
Deer/Elk call
De-scenting spray
Hand warming packs
Energy bars/energy drink shots
CO2 cartridges
Finger Tab
String silencers
Arm guard
Upgraded sights
Fletch repair kit
Hand weights/barbells
Weight belt
Golf Tees
Golf balls
Golf glove
Crying towel
Water filter straws
Fire starter sticks
Survival Kits
Skeleton face scarf for open-face bike helmets
Team gear
Sport blooper/highlight DVD

Metro Man:
Custom Cufflinks (check out Etsy or some antique stores for some truly unique ones)
Wine Pairing handbook/Tasting journal
Nice scarf
Leather gloves
Bow tie
The Art of Manliness
Personalized calling cards
Money clip
Pull Razor Shaving Kit
Tie clip
Mustache comb

New adapter/charger (let’s face it, they get lost)
Car charger
FM transmitter/car adapter (plug in your iPhone and listen in the car)
Mouse or Keyboard for netbook or tablet
Memory card
Ear buds (also easily lost)
Panoramic lens for iPhone
Jumpdrive jewelry (in wristbands, rings, etc)

Favorite show? Buy the season on iTunes, so even if you don’t have cable, he can watch it as new episodes premier
Trains or models? Buy him paints, parts, or accessories for his set
Obscure Christmas CD/Special of favorite celebrity/performer. You’d be amazed what people have come out with (Trekkie? Get him the album William Shatner sings on. Star Wars? Seriously, there’s one of those, too. Metalicca has a pretty sweet Christmas special.)
Artsy guy? You can never have too many supplies. Brushes, paints, tools… they get used, and then you need more!
Musician? Guitar strings break, picks get lost, sticks get snapped, new piano standards are always welcome and writing to a composer/musician might actually get you a signed copy of music.
Hockey guy? Go to a hobby store and get him a signed, or game-used jersey card. Some can be quite pricey, but depending on the player, you can find some game-used jersey cards for a decent price
Learn a Language CDs + phrase book
No hobby of his own? Help him find one. Whatever he has an interest in, figure out how he can invest his time in it and help give him the tools: Music lessons, fly tying lessons, skate sharpening, wine tasting course, etc.
Magazine subscription for a hobby magazine

Pocket polysporin for work, hobbies
Aftershave or Cologne that you like (because really, you’re the one that needs to!)
Favorite toothpaste and new tooth brush
Bottle of super glue (what guy doesn’t need super glue?)
Personal nail clippers
Toilet readers
Pocket tinsnips
Mini flashlights
Private stash of pens, tape, whatever goes missing in the house frequently
Moleskine notebook
New Wallet
Rub A535 (some guys are sensitive to this – if so, just a normal massage oil/lotion)
Dashboard Dustcloth
Personalized Stationary

House and Home:
Ultimate BBQ Flipper – flipper, knife, bottle opener in one
Personalized Grill Brands
Aerating spouts for wine
Whisky Glacier Stones
Grilling Apron
Cedar grilling planks
Manly vase – wood grain, horn, etc
Candles (sounds weird, but find a scent he really likes and lots of guys would really love this)
Hand-carved figurines (if they can appreciate the technique)
Vintage Comic Book wall art
Espresso hand-press
Tim Horton's tree ornaments

For the parents:
Wookie the Chew prints by James Hance
Metallica Lullabye album
RESERVED travel mug, couch pillow, or other item that commonly gets ‘borrowed’
Portable Do Not Disturb sign
Ear plugs (I’m kind of kidding)

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
The Cookie Sutra (The Kama Sutra with gingerbread men - not too graphic)
Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit
Nerf Gun/Lego/transformers/old ‘boy’ toys
Wood puzzles
Beard Toque
Guilty Pleasure – what is he ashamed of liking? Girly drinks? A Miley Cyrus CD? My Little Pony? It’ll be your little secret!
Indoor snowballs
Poker Chips
Gag T-Shirt (quote from favorite TV show, SNL sketch, Movie)
Juggling ball set

Big $:
Gift card for date night (dinner, movie, etc)
Tickets to an NHL game (unless this lockout keeps up!)
Beer/Cheese/Hot Sauce of the Month Membership
Small bottle of well-aged Scotch
Tickets for a scenic train ride
A really good carving/chef’s knife
Saxx underwear (I’ve heard good things)
Spa certificate (facial, massage, etc)
GoPro camera
Subminiature Camera
Solid Gold Coin

No $ Homemade Coupons:
Shovelling Side Walk
Beer/Slurpee/Coffee Run
Washing Dishes
Mowing Lawn
Watch his movie of choice
Listen to his music on a car ride
Massage (with no trades!)
Pick up dog poop/change litter box
Take out garbages
Start and brush off his car
Automatic ‘petty argument’ win
‘His’ night – leave to do whatever he wants, without worrying about kids (min. 24 hour notice!)
Date night of ‘man’ activities
Scalp massage
A cold drink and pre-dinner snack waiting when he gets home from work, every day for a week

Happy Christmas Shopping!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tea Party

I'm sorry... I know it's been another long time since I posted, but it is quite hard to post regularly when the server won't let you on!!!

It's true. I tried to post 3 days ago about a little shindig I had, but to no avail.

In any event, I'm here now, so it will all be okay soon. ;)

So, on Wednesday night this week I had my much anticipated (by me at least) Tea Party! Now, this wasn't a typical afternoon tea with lanterns, sandwiches and fancy hats (although maybe it will be next time...) This tea party was a home party, like PartyLite, Pampered Chef, Stella and Dot, etc. It's a newer company based out of Stettler, AB, which has gone Nationwide using the home party model. They get all of the ingredients shipped to their warehouse in Stettler, and they mix the blends themselves! It's all loose-leaf tea, very fresh, and veeeerrry yummy!

The company is called Siplicious and I first heard about them at a trade show I popped into a few weeks back. I was lazy, so instead of looking up contact info and hunting down vendors for a fundraiser show I'm putting on, I just went to a similar show and took the cards for every vendor I wanted at my own fundraiser! Well, there was a girl selling loose leaf tea, which is quite popular in our house, and when I found out that they made Matt's favorite variety (Earl Grey Cream), I was sold. Matt and I had a taste test that night, and despite the fact that "I made it wrong" (seriously. He's a tea snob), it was very delicious. We bought 100 g of the Earl Grey Cream and we've nearly run out of it now. So I knew I had to book a show to get more tea. And Matt agreed.

My rep came and set up, and she brought everything: a kettle to boil, thermoses, pots, little sample cups, honey sticks, and a spice rack filled with tea samples to smell. I was already excited before the demo started, and I actually was quite arrogant in thinking that the demo wouldn't be too critical for my wishlist needs, so I had already made a list of things I wanted. But, there's a reason they do demos: you think you know about the product, but you really, really don't. PartyLite has special rules about proper candle burning so they stay safe and look pretty the whole time. Pampered Chef has tips and tricks to make your cooking better and easier. And Siplicious tells you why disliking a Starbucks Matcha Latte doesn't necessarily mean you dislike Matcha, explains how their hot chocolate is really quite good for you (all natural sweeteners and no dairy products so I can give it to my milk sensitive boy) and how they are coming out with flavored agave sticks to add to your tea!

Needless to say, my list grew after sitting in the room with the samples and hearing the demo.

The largest change of note was that I'm now going to be ordering some Green Tea Matcha powder. Really, I've never been a huge fan of it. I used to really enjoy the Starbucks Green Tea latte, but only when I added two pumps of melon syrup, and two pumps of raspberry syrup - neither of which are in regular rotation anymore. I couldn't embrace the 'grassy' flavor and gave up trying.
Now, if you remember, a few years back Green Tea was all the rage. The 'discovery' that it contained antioxidants was a huge bolster for sales, and everyone switched to green. Then it transpired that some nutritionists and sciency-types felt the need to inform the world that one cup of green tea a day hardly made a difference, except that it was decidedly better than black tea. In fact, experts were giving numbers anywhere from 3 - 7 cups a day of green tea before it was effective for weight loss, and lots of the time people were adding so much sugar that it was actually quite counter-productive even if they were consuming the 3 cup minimum.
Thanks for that science/history lesson, you say, but I promise it's relevant. Turns out, the reason Matcha is supposedly 'so good' for you is that since it's the entire tea leaf ground up and consumed, instead of merely steeped, you actually get up to 10 times the amount of antioxidants from one cup of Matcha tea as you do from a traditional cup of green tea. And since steeping is actually quite effective at extracting caffeine (80 - 90% of it is steeped out in the first 30-45 seconds), you don't get the same increase in caffeine. So while drinking at least three cups of tea in one day might seem daunting to some people, drinking one latte is much more cost effective, and easier on the bladder!
But, like I said, I've never been a huge fan of the Matcha at Starbucks or Second Cup, which has been my only exposure to it. So I assumed I didn't like Matcha. Well, my rep could relate. She didn't like the stuff at Starbucks much either. But she LOVED this stuff. And it turns out, there are smoother varieties. So I went ahead and order a tin of the Kenya White Rhino, which is apparently ideal for "blending into iced matcha lattes, matcha smoothies and green tea ice cream." You see, I did go through a time in my life when I drank 5 cups of green tea a day. I was working at a law firm, and had the leisure to sit and sip hot drinks all day. And actually, I noticed that I started losing weight when I hadn't changed my diet or exercise routine really. I miss that. But I'm going to give this higher-end matcha a try and see if I can't get the same results. And really, if I'm not crazy about the flavor, I'm sure I can make myself a syrup remniscent of melons and raspberries.
The best part? I got it for 50% off through my hosting rewards!

What else did I order? Their Monk's Blend (a black tea with a sweet hint of grenadine - sweet enough that I didn't need to add anything, which is weird for me), their Detox blend (a yummy smelling chamomille - which would normally be an oxymoron to me), their Red Raspberry Leaf tea (for later in this pregnancy), an assortment of Honey Sticks for stocking stuffers (assuming I can hide them from Matt until then), some of their Milk Hot Chocolate (which doesn't actually contain dairy, so Nathaniel can have it, and they are low in complex sugars which give the whole high/low sugar rush so it's much better for kids, and diabetics), and of course some more Earl Grey Cream. Oh, and a friend booked a party from me, so in a month I'm going to go to her party and order a few more varieties! Next up: Green Walnut, Sweet Peches, Creme de la Creme and Lemonberry Mist!

Well, this is already a long post, but I feel responsible to give you a full recap: I made Almond Espresso Bars (also called Coffee Crunch Cookies, from Bon Appetit - they have a smokey, addictive flavor), Earl Grey Cookies, and Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava. Matt brought me home a gigantic and gorgeous orchid the night before that stood proudly on my table, and Gabe was so excited that Mommy had a tea party, that he decided to have one of his own! So today, I invited our whole Mommy Play Date group over for a tea party for the little ones. There were 7 moms, and 12 kids, and that's after 2 regular families couldn't make it, and 2 other newbies had to cancel last minute! I'm just glad we've got play areas on each floor! We had kids downstairs, in the kitchen, in playpens, in Gabe's room... But everyone had fun!

And now, my house is surprisingly clean, given the chaos that ensued this week, and I'm looking forward to a fun weekend with my family, and in a few short days, plenty of yummy tea!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Onesie Cupcakes

Have you seen those adorable little pictures of onesies that are rolled up with socks and cloths to look like candies and cupcakes? I love them! I was floored the first time I even saw a diaper cake, so seeing the precious little cupcakes is just too much for me!
As I mentioned yesterday, I did go out and buy some white cotton onesies to use as gifts for some upcoming showers. While I have other plans for some of them, I did devote a certain number to making cupcakes and flower bouquets.

So I had onesies, and washcloths, and cute cupcake wrappers, and even an adorable little box that I could put them in... Now what?

Well, I went to pinterest to find a tutorial, and actually came across a lot of pictures of things that were labelled "cupcakes"... and I suppose they kind of looked like them... if you squinted... But eventually I found a picture of something I actually wanted to make, and it had instructions. So I followed them and... mine looked fat and bloated compared to their dainty little thing. In part, I blamed the fact that I was using a washcloth in the center instead of socks, so mind wouldn't wrap as tightly. But perhaps I needed a smaller onesie size? I don't know - it never said.

So I kept looking for another picture, that perhaps compensated for the larger size. It turns out the universal answer to that problem was to use coffee filters in place of cupcake wrappers. And while it works, and they look pretty, they certainly don't look dainty. They're ginormous! And not what I was going for.

So I found another picture, that just wrapped up the onesie to look like a giant peak of folded icing, without anything colorful in the center. But this one didn't have any instructions. So I had to guess at what the proper wrapping process might be. It took a couple tries, but I did finally get it.

And then I thought, "Well this is stupid. I'd better make a tutorial!"

Enter this post.

You need:
1 shortsleeved onesie
1 washcloth
Scotch tape

First things of note: I used a 6-12 month, shortsleeved onesie. If you used a smaller size, you could very possibly get away with stuffing these in cupcake wrappers. In which case, you would skip the step with the washcloth.

Start with the sleeper face down and fold the sides in so the sleeves barely overlap.

Then fold it in half.

Turn the onesie so the neck is facing you, and the creased edge is facing out. Fold the neck down so that it's no longer in line with the creased edge. This will create a cleaner look for the 'icing'.

Start rolling from the top, gently pushing the first roll higher so that each subsequent roll gets lower - this will make the tiered look of the icing.

Roll it all the way up and then hold it together with a piece of tape. For the best look, push the center down a little bit so it isn't too peaked.

Next, take your washcloth. Lay it face down and fold it in thirds.

Wrap the cloth, with the creased edge up, around the base of the onesie cupcake. Tape it shut. Lastly, garnish your cupcake! You can use a pompom as the 'cherry on top', paper hole punches as sprinkles, or anything else you can think of!

Wrap them up in a box with a transparent lid, or a real bakery box.
Mine, as you can see, still need to be garnished, but considering the shower I made them for isn't until the beginning on November, I think I've got a bit of time!

Good luck with your onesie cupcakes! Stay tuned for the bound-to-happen pics of washcloth candies and receiving blanket lollipops!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I love those points in your life where you just sit down, look around, and get thrilled about the fact that you never have to do something again!

Last Friday I had my final fundraiser for the charity I was doing event planning for! I will continue helping them as events come up, but I'm no longer responsible for planning every aspect of them! YAY!

This past fundraiser I was responsible for decorations. I was roped down to using 'gold' (which turned out to be bronze) tablecloths, so I needed to ensure that my table centerpieces weren't just a fixed pallet of autumn colors. Which was a bit of an upset at first because I have two huge boxes of fall decor in my basement specifically for this annual fundraiser. Anyway, I reasoned that I could still use the fall colors, but they needed to have a bold punch of white. What was big, white, and seasonal? Spray painted pumpkins of course!

I picked up some from the store and painted them with a high gloss spray paint (on a cold day, so I had to build a make-shift paint booth in my front entry way and sit with my back against the screen door so that my paint wouldn't be too cold and my house wouldn't be fumigated). They looked fantastic! Classy and seasonal, with just a touch of whimsy! (Sorry, the only pics I have are before the pumpkins were painted!)

Of course, between here and the church we were having the event at the pumpkins rolled into eachother and some paint chipped off.... soooo I had to spray some paint into a cup and brush it on thickly so the brushstrokes wouldn't show through.

Anyway, everyone loved the centerpieces, especially the men, which I thought was odd. I think it was just the novelty of painting something they never thought of before... Oh, and I had a few other pieces aroung the room too which I thought were quite cute.

But now, it is finally done. I've got a bunch of white pumpkins that I will decorate in a variety of ways come Halloween, I've thrown out every now-meaningless email about tablecloths, invites, schedules and meetings, and I'm resting in a job well done.

And how did I celebrate my new found freedom? Well, today I unpacked my sewing machine and finally finished a couple of projects! Matt had asked me to make him a soft bow case for his recurve out of a pair of old camo pants he had. I had done up the basic case a number of weeks ago (constructed it, lined it with felt), but it still needed to be finished. So today I closed one end, made a drawstring closure on the other end and attached a handle to carry it with! Finally done! (and bow season ends in two weeks!) I also finished off the roaming stitch on those stupid light quilts I bought the material for 3 years ago! At the time it didn't matter that I didn't know how to quilt because the material was just too dang cute! But then once I attempted to put everything together and realized how horrific a task it was, my drive really started petering out. I finally cracked down on them a year ago.... and then I ran out of quilting thread! It took me this long to get new thread, wind my bobbins and finish the task. I still have to bind the edges (I've been looking for a satin trim I could use, but no luck so far), but that's what I consider the easy part (not to say I won't screw it up, I just won't cry after I screw it up)
I am looking at a couple of baby-themed projects right now too. The other day I was going through some old baby clothes and found a badly stained long-sleeved onesie that I couldn't bear to part with. The graphic on the front was pretty cute, but the steely-grey and red striped sleeves were awesome. So I ripped the sleeves off, chucked the middle, and started plotting. Today, those sleeves were turned into little baby leggings! I had to reconstruct them a bit, but the general shape was there. The length was only enough to make newborn leggings, but I'm cool with that! And lastly, I went to Winners a couple of days ago where I found some packs of white organic cotton onesies - you know, the ones that you grab and can feel by the weight and the softness that these are things you want to wrap yourself in, let alone your child? Well, turns out, I have four baby showers coming up in the next two months. But I didn't want to give people just plain white onesies - so I'm going to make little animal cutouts from some scrap material and sew them on the fronts! I had a habit of buying any reasonably cute material in the clearance bin for a while there, so I've got a load of funky prints just waiting to be made into birds, octopi, fish or turtles! What fun!

Anyway, that's all for another day, a day which I'm sure I'll have time in, because I'm done event planning!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, our blinds in our living room broke. I was saddened, but not surprised - they were old when we moved in here 4 years ago and our boys were never exactly gentle with them. Matt reminded me that we need new ones anyway - in every single room.
About a week or two after that, Matt pointed out to me that our nice high-thread count sheets that we had bought with wedding money were ripped - not near a seam either. I looked into fixing them but they are well beyong repair.
Our van currently has winter tires on it, which is convenient as the snow starts to fly, but less convenient when you think about the fact that they've been on since we got our van a few years ago, and we've driven them year-round. We need new tires.
Our cordless phones stopped recharging, too. Now, out of the 4 handsets, we only have two that work, and one is on its way out.
My kitchen canister lids are separating and falling apart to the point where they are no longer air tight (I haven't been able to keep brown sugar in them for some time). About a third of our plates are chipped, in no small part because of the fact that when I get overtired my hands stop working and I can't hold onto things.
We've been meaning to change the carpet in our upstairs since we moved in; it's original 1980's light blue, stained with 30 years of living.
Oh, and Matt's work van just rolled 400,000 km this summer.

Why does it seem like everything happens at once?

And why does everything have to cost money?

And where on earth are we supposed to get said money?

Funny thing is, it seems like every fall Matt and I are faced with a load of claims on our money: repairs, Christmas purchases, insurance payments, tax payments... And then once January rolls around and work slows down again, it seems like the money just disappears completely.
But the really funny thing is, every year, we make it through.

Now granted, some years things get pretty sketchy for a while. I still remember 'fondly' the year that we got a paycheque just large enough to cover our mortgage payment, and that was it. So bills got juggled, some automatic payments went onto a line of credit and we had a $50 gift card to Safeway that needed to last us all month. But you know what? It did last. And the reason the line of credit was available was because we had just paid it off with a generous gift from a family member at Christmas. And two paycheques later, we were again making normal amounts of money.

We always make it through.

Some of that can be attributed to smart money management. We don't take two weeks vacation every year; Matt doesn't get paid leave from work, so it costs us twice as much to go on one week's vacation as it costs most people, so instead of going into debt, we bust our butts every year and save enough money to go one the one week we can afford.
Some of it was planning. I regularly keep my cupboards and freezer stocked full. This is mostly because I shop warehouse sales and when things go on sale I scoop them up. Right now I've got pounds of ground meat, a frozen salmon, a few racks of ribs and some chicken breasts that I know I spent probably a third on from what regular price is. And because my freezer and pantry was stocked, we were able to live off of $50 of groceries for a month (and we didn't even get scurvy!)
Most of it, well, truly all of it, is because God takes care of us. And that's sadly something I haven't always trusted. It can be hard when you open a paycheque for a few hundred dollars and realize that it has to keep you afloat for two weeks; it can be hard to remember that if His eye is on the sparrow that He surely is watching over us. And when things get uncomfortable, it can be hard to remember just how much we have. Which is A LOT.

Truly, most people in the world don't have a car for their tires to wear out on, let alone the money to afford to travel to the mountains and neighbouring cities for the quick trips we've taken that have contributed to the wearing. Most people don't have phones, or nice retractable blinds, or a whole set of dishes or even sheets for their beds. Many people can't say for sure where their supper will come from the next night, let alone have the comfort of a month's worth of food sitting frozen in their basement. And that paycheque that we get every two weeks? It fluctuates, but Matt still has a job that allows me to stay at home with our boys.

The reality is, in the past year we've made some fun purchases. We've done a labour trade for a tent trailer. We've been gifted a piano. Our boys have received so many toys as gifts from friends and family, that we've had to donate garbage bags full of toys to ensure we don't drown in stuffed animals. We've been given so much that we can keep giving to our friends in need, and strangers in greater need.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)