Friday, October 31, 2014

the simple five: quick zombie makeup

For those who have been undecided on whether you'll participate with the candy hunt this evening (ughh, it's raining and cold!), here's a quick last minute costume idea, if the decision is to "go".  Although it's not the most "accurate" in terms of zombie creations, it will suffice for the mere 20 minutes that the kids will be walking around the neighbourhood.  Good enough for me.

Quick Zombie Makeup/Costume

Items you'll need:
(most items can be found in your kitchen, pantry, or at the local store)
  • Red Food colouring 
  • Corn syrup
  • Makeup sponges
  • Gauze bandage
  • Black and white face makeup (inexpensively found, or you can use white/black cream eye pencil).

  • First, get dressed in old, dark clothing. (the red food colour can stain your clothes).

  • Using a makeup sponge, cover the face with white makeup.
  • Under the eyes and patches on the cheeks, smudge some black makeup/eyeliner, blending it into the skin.
  • Mix 3 parts corn syrup to 1 part water (I used about 3 tbsp. corn syrup and 1 tbsp. water) in a bowl until the consistency is smooth but still thick (you can use cornstarch to thicken to make "blood clots", if you wish).
  • Slowly add drops of red food colour until it is the colour you desire (sometimes adding a little green will make the red appear darker).
  • Using the makeup sponges, dab the red colour mixture lightly on the skin (around the mouth and cheeks) and drop a little on the gauze bandage.
  • Wrap the bandage around your head.

Done.  And since the weather is usually cold, any warm, old clothes would do (the older the better) to complete the zombie look.

Have safe.  

{For those who are interested in making the hippo costume in the above picture, please refer to my Hip Hippy Hooray post.  It is not a last minute'll need to give yourself a few days to complete it.}

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

bark loudly

A little while back, my son had a few friends over to play video games, throw the ball around at the park and just hang out.  Unfortunately with a last minute cancellation, our daughter's original plan to spend the day with a friend didn't materialize.  She was very disappointed.

It is no secret in our house that our little girl loves anything sweet. As if she's not sweet enough! So while the boys played, I promised her that we'd make some kind of candy to pass the time.  Just the two of us. As I was saying this, I wished I stopped myself from making this promise as I didn't want her to be disappointed (again). How am I going to make candy? I don't have any ingredients unless we made caramel sauce (but no ice cream to top it with) or fudge ("not interested" she said).

All of a sudden, our dog started barking loudly (and for no reason...bird? squirrel?).  The continuous yelping at small critters usually bothers me, but for some reason it felt like our pup was trying to tell us something, giving me a great idea. Throughout the continuous barking, I told our daughter that our pup was suggesting that we make "bark", and with her eyes widening with enthusiasm, she gave an astounding "yes" and hugged our dog in appreciation for the good idea. Our dog finally stopped barking.

Since I usually don't make bark unless it's Christmas, I had forgotten how quickly and easily one can have such sweet goodness in a few hours.  I just used what I had on hand...a half a package of semi-sweet baker's chocolate, half a bag of white chocolate chips and half a bag of toffee bits.

Our little girl had the greatest time watching the different coloured chocolate mix together, creating a beautiful marbled look.  Her sadness with the cancelled playdate quickly dissolved as she licked the bowls clean. She had the biggest, stickiest smile on her face.

I guess we had a sweet day after all and maybe I should thank our pup...

...for barking loudly.

Marble Chocolate Toffee Bark
(Makes enough to serve about 4-6 people).

This is the easiest and quickest chocolate bark. Ever.  Not sure if this really constitutes as a recipe, but here we go.

  • 4 squares of Baker's Semi-Sweet Baker's Chocolate
  • 1 cup of white chocolate chips
  • ½ cup of toffee bits, plus more to top (I used the "Skor" brand, but you can use any kind of candy you have on hand).
  • In two separate small bowl, place the baker's chocolate in one bowl and the white chocolate chips in the other.
  • Set your microwave at 50% (medium) and melt the chocolate for about 2 minutes.
  • Remove and stir quickly.  If it's not melted, then put the bowls in the microwave and melt again at 50% for another minute.
  • Remove.  In the bowl with the baker's chocolate, stir in the toffee bits.
  • On a baking sheet, place parchment paper.
  • Spread the white melted chocolate on the parchment paper.
  • Spread the baker's chocolate on top.  Using the spoon, swirl the two chocolate together.
  • Top with a few more toffee bits (optional), to taste.
  • Place the cookie sheet in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  • When the chocolate has hardened, break into pieces (you don't have to be looks better when you just cut it any way you wish).
  • Keep in a sealed container, in a fridge for up to 5 days.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

sweeter than pie

As kids get older, the life lessons they learn tend to get a little more complicated, tasting more sour than sweet. More than ever, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand aside as our children work out their own inner turmoil and unravel the mysteries of life without parental interference. As parents, we spend so much time building our children's wings that we forget to let them try on their own to fly.

Amongst Thanksgiving and birthday celebrations, our son has eagerly anticipated two significant sporting events: a cross country running race and his first swim meet this week. Along with honour band rehearsals, reading assignments, running and swim practices, on top of his regular school work and social life, he's had a lot to manage.

On the morning of his cross country race, our son was extremely anxious and worried that the increased distance he had to run this year (an extra kilometre!) would dampen his chances of doing well and earning a place at the next regional race (only the top 15 get to go). As scenarios began to run in his mind, he started to question his decision to enter the race to begin with, and my witty sweet boy became extremely silent, as if he was transported elsewhere.

We persevered with the morning routine and like a true athlete he became laser focused once we arrived at the running track. Before his race, very few words were spoken as he walked off on his own and collected his thoughts around the track. Although he was able to see and catch up with his friends from other schools, for the most part, he walked to clear his mind and get ready for the event.  Then it was time to gather at the starting line. As tempting as it was to give him one big hug before the race, I stayed behind, standing at the bleachers to give him the space he needed.

When his category began their race, in the distance I could see him run amongst the pack of about fifty kids-with-much-longer-legs-than-him. He held back and for the longest time was in 12th place.  My heart started to sink as it was now my turn to run scenarios in my mind about what he was thinking. Did he lose his motivation?  Is he tired?  Did I feed him too much/too little this morning?

The group was out of sight on the other side of the tracks, and for about what felt like forever ten minutes I didn't know where he was in the race. Did he fall behind? Did he go ahead? Did he stop?

Then I saw the lead runner cross the finish line. Then another. Then a group of five boys appeared around the corner, one of which was my son. As his running coach came to stand beside me with a smile and a "where-did-he-come-from" look, we watched as my son crossed the finish line in the top five! His face lit up like the sun.

On the drive home, he was still quite silent. His body was in pain from over-exertion and he closed his eyes to rest. Once we got home, I could tell he was replaying the race in his mind and with a big sleepy smile proclaimed "It was the best race I've ever ran. I really had to work hard and I'm proud that I was able to still finish strong. I'm totally pumped for my swim race this weekend".

It was at that very moment when I saw a different kind of maturity in him.  His accomplishment at the race taught him that all his hard work paid off because he stayed determined, focused on pushing through the jitters, trusted his own abilities then put his best foot forward.

This young gentleman is learning to fly on his own...

..and learning that lesson is so much sweeter than any possible gold medal or dessert he'll ever have.

Sweet Apple Galette
(makes two galettes, serves approximately 6-8 people).


Like apple pies, you can make this (without baking it), and FREEZE this. You can also make this a day ahead if kept in a container and refrigerated.  If baked from frozen, then bake for about 10 minutes longer, and make sure you use an egg wash on the crust to prevent burning (I also use the pie crust edge shield for this). The caramel filling makes this galette fairly sweet.

  • 8-10 medium sized apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour
  • ½  cup butter
  • 2 ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup of ice cold water
Caramel Filling
  • 3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½  cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of nuteg
  • ½ tsp. allspice
Whipped cream, if desired


Make the crust first.
  • Whisk the flour and salt together.
  • With a pastry blender, cut the butter and shortening until the mixture looks like pea sized crumbs.
  • Drizzle the water slowly over the flour until mixed.
  • Form the dough into a ball and refrigerate (for at least 30 can do the apples and caramel in the meantime.)
Peel and slice the apples and set aside.

Make the caramel.
  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan
  • Stir in flour to form a paste.
  • Add sugar, then water and bring to a boil
  • Remove from heat and add the spices, continually stirring.
  • Toss the apples into pan of caramel sauce, until evenly coated.
  • Roll out the crust dough into two round discs onto parchment paper, approximately 1" thick (and approximately 12" in diameter).  
  • Place the rolled out dough into two pie dishes.
  • Put half of the apple mixture into the centre of each of the pie crusts, leaving a one inch edge.
  • Fold the edges towards the centre.  You don't have to be looks more rustic if it's not perfect!  Or tuck the edges in for a more neater presentation.
  • At this point, you can wrap with the parchment paper, and refrigerate (or freeze).
  • When ready to bake, remove the galettes off the parchment paper and back into the pie dishes.  (You can place on a silpat and then on a baking pan, but this way if there is any spillage from the apples, it the crust will remain it's form.
  • Brush a little milk onto the crust.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes (or 45 minutes if frozen), until golden brown
Serve warm or room temperature, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

pockets of gratitude

While busily driving around the city to do errands the other day, I saw a chicken cross the road.  There are no farms in the area (so I have no idea where this chicken came from) and many cars had stopped traffic to let it cross, as if this was commonplace. I guess we Canadians are familiar with poultry crossings, as we similarly allow flocks of Canada Geese to cross the road when necessary.  Amongst the ever growing list of the things I had to do that day, the thought about that age old joke about chickens and roads distracted me long enough to realize how funny it was to actually see a chicken cross the road, and I couldn't stop laughing in the car all the way to my next destination.

With Thanksgiving this weekend, the holiday makes us think of all the things we're thankful for. It's one of my favourite holidays of the year. A gathering of loved ones, sharing the coziness of a hot, deep-sleep inducing meal and spending time creating familiar memories.  I say familiar, because I usually cook the same menu, and ask my guests to bring the same food item year after year.  The familiarity of this tradition provides the comfort of consistency. 

However, I've been thinking a lot lately about gratitude. Maybe we should really be more grateful, taking note of perhaps the small but accumulatively important things that we have in our lives.    Being grateful allows us to slow down and really take notice of what is staring us in the face, every single day.  Like watching beautiful sleepy faces in the quiet of the night. Or the glorious sunshine warming our earth. Or the beauty of mature trees reflected on a calm, still pond.

Being thankful requires a giver and receiver, where we owe that moment, or gift, to someone else for providing it. I'm sure that chicken is thankful that all those cars stopped to let it cross the road.  But being grateful allows you to feel the warmth of happiness at any moment within yourself without waiting to be thankful for something given to you by someone else.

So this year, I'm going to try to be more grateful. Yes, I'll still be thankful for the delicious food on our table. Thankful for being able to spend time with family and loved ones. Thankful for the time off of work to be able to enjoy all those things. But I'll also acknowledge the simple little moments. Grateful for restful children that allow me a few extra hours in the morning so I can prepare for the feast. Grateful for beautiful weather so the commute to our home is safe and enjoyable.

And on an otherwise busy and hectic day, grateful for catching that funny glimpse of that chicken crossing the road and putting a big smile on my face.

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkey Pockets
Serves 4-6 people

This is a great recipe for using left over turkey from Thanksgiving.  You could also use chicken instead (for other times of the year).

  • 2 or 3 cups of cooked turkey, diced. 
  • 1 and ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon all purpose flour (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup Corn and peas (optional)
  • ½ cup milk (you may need 1 - 2 tablespoons more)
  • ½ teaspoon Herb de Provence 
  • ½ teaspoon Poultry seasoning (optional)
  • Puff pastry sheets (1 used 10 pastry squares - 6 x 6 inch)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Heat a saute pan with the butter until melted, add corn & peas until cooked.  
  • Add the flour, black pepper. Whisk to mix everything and let cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add half the milk, then all of the turkey, then the remaining milk. 
  • Cook for a 3 - 4 minutes until the milk reduces. 
  • If the mixture is too dry add 1 - 2 more tablespoons of milk. 
  • Season with Herb de provence or poultry seasoning (or both)
  • Let cool completely.

To prepare the puff pastry shell:
  • Defrost puff pastry shells at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cut squares into triangles, fill one side with 1 tablespoon of mixture. 
  • Fold 1 side of the pastry over the filling and crimp the two sides with a fork. 
  • Repeat with remaining shells. If baking right away, brush pastries with lightly beaten egg.
  • Line the pastries on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes or until pastries turn lightly golden brown. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

mini versions

For as long as I can remember, I've always envisioned owning a treehouse.  A quiet little spot for the kids to huddle with friends, dreaming about the future.  A serene place for me to sit up high above the ground to gather my thoughts and write. A "secret" hideout to toast the end of a busy workweek with a glass of wine with my husband or sharing giggles with friends. There's something magical about the solitude of watching the world with a bird's eye view.

Last weekend, we were able to get away for a short jaunt up north and enjoy a little bit of sunshine.  Although the above seasonal temperatures felt like summer, the burnt orange and red leaves were a reminder to enjoy every bit of this last little stretch of warm weather.

The kids had a blast spending time outdoors, roaming for sticks for a marshmallow roast and bonfire, climbing trees and biking on the trails.  Our daughter in particular, closely examined about a dozen trees, deciding which one would be most suitable to climb, which at first I thought, so she can go as high up the tree as her brother.

As we watched the kids, I pondered if we should build a treehouse, sparking a discussion that had us wondering if the kids will soon be out of the "treehouse" stage. My husband thought the kids (much sooner than I would think) would soon outgrow the enjoyment of a treehouse.

Although I agreed at the moment...deep down, I wasn't sure if I have ever outgrown that "treehouse" stage.

After a lengthy search, once our daughter found "the tree", she didn't climb to the top, but sat on a branch that seemed to fit perfectly around her body. On both days of the weekend, she headed towards that tree and spent hours sitting on that limb with a notebook and pencil in tow, writing stories.  She was content to sit for hours in that tree, examining the bark, watching the sunset, writing and drawing in her little book.

Although it's pretty obvious in our house, that our son's personality is more similar to mine...analytical, results driven, inquisitive, and our daughter has the imaginative, fun loving, story-telling spirit like my husband, this past weekend, there was a glimmer of me shining through our daughter.  The part of me that relishes quiet surroundings, taking notes to archive the details, and creating our own little magic with the inspiration of nature.

I wonder if she will keep that part of me and forever embrace the creative process that is driven by solitude. There is nothing more that I want to teach to both of my kids, than to learn to tune out the noise of this crazy, fast paced world surrounding us and truly find and listen to the beat of your own heart.

No one can predict which hidden gems within our souls as parents, will be revealed later in our children.  And as easy as it is to find ways that our children are mini versions of ourselves (which unfortunately prompts many parents to fulfill their own dreams vicariously through their kids), maybe we just need to recognize that this might be a brief point in time when they are just mirroring us.  Exploring, testing, fulfilling their own desires so they can find their own branch that is strong enough to withhold the weight of their world.

As I watch with my own "bird's eye view", my amazing kids discover their world, I'm confident they will find their own way to climb to the destination of their choice, one that suits their needs best.

And maybe they won't want us to build a treehouse for them after all.

Mini Pumpkin Pies
(makes 24 servings)

This recipe is adapted from the back of the Farmer's Market Foods pumpkin puree can.  I added a little more spice, and made my own easy pie crust, which is buttery, flaky, and added a lot of dimension to this recipe.  If you don't have time to make your own crust, store bought versions would work too.

  • 1- 15oz can Farmer’s Market Organic pumpkin (or just under 2 cups)
  • 1 ½  tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½  tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. allspice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (300ml/14 oz)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 9” pie shell or pastry dough (I used my homemade pie crust recipe, found here)
  • Mix pumpkin and spices together. 
  • Slowly beat in the milk and eggs, until just mixed.
  • Follow the directions for making the pie crust.  If using prepared curst, roll out the dough.
  • Using a round cookie cutter, make about a 24 circles.
  • Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners then place the crust circles in a muffin pan.
  • Add the pumpkin filling in each crust (about 2 tbsp.)
  • Bake at 400º for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 20 minutes. 
  • Let cool. 
Serve and enjoy!