No Figgy Pudding here…it’s a Grape Preserve

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On a recent road trip with an awesome friend of 20+ years, I was given in inordinate amount of grapes by her extremely generous gardening friend.  I am not sure of the variety but they are much denser than the seedless green ones you find in the supermarket. My knowledge of most fruits, vegetables, plants, animals…is pretty rudimentary. 

                                                
So upon my return, I was trying to wrap my head around what to do with this crazy awesome big ol’ bag of grapes. When I think of grapes, I either picture just eating a bowl full or, because they are a fruit ( I have that much food knowledge) I picture jam. The thought of these grapes in a preserve of some sort made me just a wee bit giddy. Of course some of the enthusiasm could have been left over from the fact that, on this road trip destination, we were lodging right next to a vineyard and working winery. 

So how to begin this jammy happy journey I queried myself.  Quiet, I’m thinking, I replied.  

Figs! Who doesn’t think of pairing grapes and figs? So off I went to procure some Figgy goodness. And of course, it had to be Trader Joe’s because my belly loves their food and my budget loves their prices.

When I returned from frolicking, I got my joyous bunches of washed grapes and plucked about 3 cups of them from their stems. I then tossed them with a drizzle or two of olive oil, arranged them beautifully (not really) on a parchment lined cookie sheet and popped them into a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes. I let them cool on the sheet then moved them into a pot,  juice and all.  
Next, it was time to chop up the figs and add them to the fun. Since I still was fixating on that whole whole close proximity to a winery on the trip, I decided some Pinot Gris should come along for the ride. A scant 1/4 cup of sugar got mixed in next, and the zest from one orange finished it all off. Bring all the ingredients in the pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, bring up the burner temperature just a bit and allow the mixture to cook down to a syrupy consistency. I took a few spoonfuls of the hot liquid after it had reduced, and placed it in a heat safe cup with 1 tsp. of cornstarch. I stirred that mixture back in and made sure the consistency got nice and thickly pourable. The last ingredient is the juice of one orange. Now let it cool, then spoon into canning jars or some other fairly tight lidded container.

Look at that yummy happy grapey Figgy goodness right there.

So, you may have your favourite ways of using a preserve like this, but my always gotta have it is goat cheese and preserves atop a chunk of French bread. Seriously, I could make a go of this as my staple food source. 

                                                                                      Have a happy Figgy Friday , people!

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Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Almond Milk Inspires Me

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Yes, there it is…what inspires you, Cassillis? The answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind as this carton is too sturdy for such things. On a recent visit to Trader Joe’s, I came upon this nectar of the gods, and since my budget allowed for it’s $1.99 price tag, I splurged. Little did I know the magickal properties held within this seemingly unassuming dimensional carton. 
My first thought was to warm the milk and steep chai tea in it…and that was to come to pass, but not before my brain sizzled into action on a chilly Sunday morning as I search relentlessly for breakfast fare.
I’ve made plenty of no bake protein bites which are wonderful tasty and happy, but this crisp morning called for something warmer and spicier. Gathering some ingredients, my mind raced to concoct a recipe that would both utilize items I had on hand, but do so in a palate pleasing way.
Enter Pumpkin Spiced Almond Milk

When added to the mix, this beautiful beverage made the angels sing and the sun shine. Okay, metaphorically that is. I was singing but the verdict is still out as to what percentage of angel I am, and in truth, the skies were rather overcast. But this, this was sunshine in a bowl.
I gazed inside the oven through the window and marveled at this wondrously muffinous sight. (It’s my blog, work with me on the verbiage here)
It was difficult to wait until these little delights had cooled enough to sample. They were well worth the wait.
So now, because you have shared in my glorious tale and will obviously now use the word “muffinous” in your daily conversation, I am sharing with you my recipe. Go with it and be blessed!
Protein Pumpkin Spice Extraordinaire Muffins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line muffin or mini muffin tins or spray with nonstick spray.
Ingredients:
1 cup unbleached flour
2 ripe bananas, mashed

1/4 cup Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice almond milk (or regular almond milk)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used a little less but it depends on your sweetness preference)
1 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate or vanilla protein powder (I used chocolate Orgain)
Mix bananas and milk, then add remaining ingredients. Spoon into muffin cups. I used mini muffin tins and it filled 24 exactly.
Bake for 8-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool.

Play with the ingredients and find the mix that works best for you. I’m thinking nuts, dates or cranberries would make good additions, especially with vanilla protein powder. 

Job Boards & Dating sites….a Comparison

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With the recent task of searching for permanent employment, I have found the most curious similarity in using online job boards to online dating services. Receiving an update that X employer viewed my application is akin to receiving a text that X member has viewed my profile. However, and this is the rather disappointing aspect of the comparison, with the job boards there are no winks, no thumbs up, no affirmation that, though they did not call or email to follow up to further the relationship, at least you were worthy of a wink.So with that concept in mind, I present to you my online job profile, my “all about me” as it were.

Well hi, and thanks so much for taking the time to visit my profile. I know there are many prospects out there, so I’m thrilled you have chosen to stop by and read mine. Here’s a little about me:
I’m a longtime customer service advocate. I very much enjoy talking with people and helping or assisting them. I don’t like to brag, but I have received accolades from several companies for my ability to hone in on a customer’s personality and ascertain what their concerns and needs are, so that I may efficiently and properly convey to them questions and possible solutions. 

Multitasking and front office skills are a speciality of mine, and I do love keeping busy.

By now you’re probably intrigued, so I’ll leave you only with this in closing. I’m a Scottish Canadian with a U.S. citizen status, a positive personality, an excellent set of professional references and a fairly wicked sense of humour. Isn’t that just what your office needs? 

Aromatherapy You Can Eat

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I have always loved baking and cooking…I think mostly because even if the recipe doesn’t turn out Pinterest perfect, you can usually still devour it. Eating your mistakes, much easier and more palatable than eating your words. Or a canvas or mixed media piece. I always remember in M*A*S*H the T.V. series, Max Klinger tried every which way to get out of the Army, including attempting to eat Jeep parts. I know I am crazy, though relatively harmless, and prefer to Wear or display my art, not eat it. That’s why food and recipes are a good alternate outlet for me.

One of my latest new finds is a wonderful plant based protein powder called Orgain. It comes in both vanilla and chocolate fudge. I especially like that it’s full of flavour but not a lot of weird chemicals or sugar. It makes a wonderful smoothie, mixed with almond milk, peanut butter and Greek yogurt. However, I wanted to test its versatility in other recipes.


I tried using it in some protein bites and it turned out so so good. The texture was like that of halvah so my mouth and mind were registering mega treat. I’ll post a recipe for them shortly.

However, since I just purchased a plethora of juicy berries, I wanted to make some granola so I could enjoy a morning parfait. So I thought to myself, “self, what if I put some of this Orgain powder in my granola recipe?” Since I know better than to argue with my self, it quietly agreed that was a good idea.

What follows now is that recipe, and it’s tasty happy goodness result. Taste buds….rejoice!

My Crazy Awesome Protein Packed Granola

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut

3 scoops Orgain protein powder

1 tbsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup oil (I use olive oil but use what you like)

1/4 cup honey (or agave)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Warm the oil and honey in a saucepan or the microwave just until you can stir them together. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir until well incorporated. Spread the mixture over the parchment paper. Place in oven and stir mixture every 10 minutes for 35-40 minutes. Let cool.


Store mixture in an airtight container but if you’re like me, it will be gone far sooner than you need to be worried about it getting stale.

A Para’s take on a Teacher Survival Kit

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Hey hey ! So, finally I have secured a position so i can breathe. If you have lived on a teeny bit, had no paycheques in the summer, know every school within a 40 mile radius, you may have been or are, a substitute teacher.

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It’s been a crazy, but enlightening, ride. I’ve learned that I can live on very, VERY little. And I found that my creativity greatly diminishes when stress increases. I know some of you are nodding your head vigorously. Well, before you strain your neck or get dizzy, let me tell you…I have been offered a full time position at my favourite school !

So, as well as increasing my creativity and lessening my stress, I had to think of something to give my new classroom cohorts. It’s a big difference to be part of one school, not a cameo appearance in a LOT of schools.

Since survival has been a part of my world, a humorous approach to the theme of survival seemed natural. So with that I created my own version of the…..wait for it…

teacher survival kit

But alas, what shall I put in this kit? what would I want to get me through the days, weeks, nay…months ahead?

The first thought of course, went to coffee. Coffee is the nirvana, the nectar, the mainstay of life itself. But what for those days when your nerves are frayed, your brain has frizzled, and you just need to calm the heck down. Tea, my friend, tea is the answer.

And so on, my brain and imagination hippity hopped, frolicked if you will, through, until we, that is, me, myself and I, came upon the final list of…what every educator needs at the ready for those emergency situations that have nothing to do with actual emergencies but sure feel like it.

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If you know…or are, a teacher and would like to create something of this nature for them…or you,have fun and put together your own survival kit.

 

 

Creative Crunch

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I am here to divulge to you that I am a snacker. To be honest, when I’m on my own, snacks substitute meals. I’ve heard several smaller meals are better for your digestion than three large ones. I must have skewed this a bit in my brain to mean snack all day, my friend. I don’t know that nachos, crackers or scones were what was referenced as examples of small meals. But interpretation is in the eye (or stomach) of the beholder right? 

Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. I just won’t put the effort in if I’m the only one partaking in the meal. So I’ve worked on finding some half decent healthy snacks to counter the cookies and chocolate. 

So here is my take on a crunchy cereal mix…it’s not a health food, but it has some whole grains and honey. It’s easy to make and very easy to eat. 

4 cups Golden Grahams

1/2 bag honey wheat pretzels, broken in half

1 cup cocktail peanuts

1/8 cup olive oil

1/2 cup honey

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Place oil and honey in microwave safe cup. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir. Add to dry ingredients and toss to coat. Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let cool.

Now you can add things like mixed nuts or coconut or whatever sounds good to you. 

Then munch away. I think it gives me inspiration. I know it makes me happy. 

If I had a paintbrush…I’d make a curtain

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I’ve always been pretty good at staying focused…most of the time, well, unless there’s a T.V. on, or a good song on the radio I need to sing along to, or a dragonfly. I really love dragonflies. But seriously, I like the feeling of accomplishment in a finished project. So I may have more than one project going at a time, but they usually always get completed.

organized chaos

So during the recent spring break, I offered to paint the walls and ceiling of the bedroom. And I did stay focused, though I have to say, during the latter part of the ceiling area, I gave myself every reason I could think of not to finish it right then. Feed the cats, wash the dishes, fire up the Keurig, see if there were any more jobs to apply for in the past two hours, hour, fifteen minutes. Check the weather, check my email, check, ummm, okay so then I ran out of excuses and just finished that blasted ceiling.

Then I proceeded to the main bathroom to rinse out the trim paintbrush. And noticed how dingy the paint looked on the walls there. So a small swipe of the brush against that faded hue brought it to life. Which then led me back to retrieve the paint roller, and next thing the bathroom was painted.

Well of course, you know as well as I that this newly painted surface now created a glaring contrast to the curtains in the bathroom…I know right? So what else could I do but go through my fabric stash and sew a quick window treatment. 0408161626

 

And see, you know what I’m going to say now right? As soon as that window covering was hung, yep, the outlet cover looked so out of place. So back to the fabric stash. I have to interject here, I am not a pattern type of sew person…seamstress, whatever. Put a pattern in front of me and I reply with a deer in the headlights look.

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So here’s how I made a window covering that looks pretty nifty, and a matching outlet cover. Follow along, this is easy and you don’t even need to sew if you doesn’t wants ta.

 

 

All you need is a rectangle of fabric. Measure your curtain rod length and width. You’ll be making a pocket at the top of your fabric so the dowel will go through. Otherwise your pretty curtain will just fall off the rod, silly. Decide how tall you want the curtain. Add another inch on the bottom of the fabric for a hem, add the width measurement of the rod to the top of the fabric measurement. What I like to do, because I’m pretty lazy about measuring picky like, is fold the fabric before I sew it, so I can make sure the finished size is what I need. If you want, you can iron the fabric at the folds 0416160840(again, makes it easier if you’re like me and just want to see the finished project.) Now it’s time to either sew or glue the hems….YAYY!

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And now, if you want to get all crazy and make this project look even more involved without much effort, after you’ve hung the finished curtain on the rod and placed it on the window, you can take a piece of ribbon (I used satin 1 inch) and wrap it around the rod. Now cut the ribbon to one inch longer. Find the middle of your curtain and gather it up to the bottom of the rod, then wrap the ribbon around the gathered curtain and secure the ribbon with some double sided tape.

Now just grab a favourite beverage and admire your awesomely cool mad decorating skills.

 

The Leaf not the Tree

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When I was in school, this was the name of a language arts book. The title stuck with me….working on finding the details, not just scanning the big picture. I love details; embellishments, a bit of colour, a little crystal accent. Especially in this very busy world, slowing down to enjoy life’s little details is so important and rewarding.

So today, I would like to share with you a fun technique which, ironically after that wonderful prelude, has nothing to do with leaves. Yeah, that’s kinda how I roll. But you know, if you are now disappointed and feeling sad, having gotten all geared up for leaves, you can certainly add some. Make yourself happy, self gratification and all that.

leavestrees

So now, what do you need? This stuff here:

  • painters tape
  • watercolours
  • black sharpie marker
  • 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 inch cardstock or watercolour paper

Begin by masking off vertical stripes with your painter’s tape. I cut my tape in strips because 1) trees aren’t all uniform sizes and 2) I am cheap. Decide where the ground is going to end so you don’t end up with floating trees.

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Now use watercolours to colour the ground. Colour it springtime green, winter white, summery brown (depending on where you live) or just a mess of weeds if you’d like to emulate my yard.0408161057

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, the sky is the limit…or the rest of your paper. Again, sunrise colours, sunset, rainy grey, again with those forgiving watercolours. Now, go get a cup of coffee and wait for the paint to dry0408161100

 

 

 

 

When I was a kid, I loved magic. Magic shows, magic deck of cards, heck I even got to go to a magic shop in Seattle during a family trip. See, my parents really did embrace my…quirkiness. Alas, I did not pursue magic as a career, and a collective sigh of relief resounds from all in the field of prestidigitation. But I am still fascinated by all things magic. Why do I bring this up now? Because now is the time to unveil some magic you’ve just created. Ladies and gents, peel your painter’s tape and……VOILA !!!!0408161139

Okay, so what kind of trees do you have there? You can use a fine permanent marker and create birch trees with short horizontal marks. Or watercolour a light brown and define with a darker brown. Or use a water based marker to create horizontal marks, then go over with a watercolour watered down light grey.0408161147

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a card I made using this technique as a background for a stamped image from Unity Stamps that I cut out.

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I hope you have fun with this technique…it’s fun, easy and doesn’t require any expensive tools. Except for your imagination as that is a priceless resource.

Find Your Flag and Wave It

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I’ve been marching, dancing, prancing and giggling to the beat of a different drummer for as long as I can remember. Gratefully I had parents who allowed me my creativity, and also encouraged me to embrace it. For that and many other things, I am grateful. I was always drawn to everything creative, even if it didn’t start out as a creative thing. Basically I was upcycling before it was cool….or labelled as such.

So it makes sense that I also encouraged my daughters to embrace their creativity, their individuality, and to take life with as much fun as possible while understanding when is the time to be serious.

lifes too mysterious

Many days were spent, playing with papers. clay, bottle caps, wires and beads. And I am not too proud to say many instances of my asking how one of my daughters did the crafty thing they did, and learning to do it from them.

I have worked with origami, which I absolutely love, though if I don’t have a YouTube video to show me the way, I immediately get a deer in the headlights look. I have worked with clay, which looks way cooler in my mind than at it’s completion. I enjoy metals, which are surprisingly easier for me to manipulate into what I want than that elusive clay. And beads….ooh yes, colourful textural sparkly happy sensory overload jewels of joy.

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So what makes you happy? Do you love markers, paints, papers, clay, beads? Or a bunch of those and more? Then allow yourself the time to play. It’s good for the soul and the mind and the body. I’ll be posting some ideas for different types of crafty fun, but don’t limit yourself. Let’s all find our creative flags, and fly them with pride!