Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Musings: 24 Books for Advent

I have to admit that in the last several years I've really lost that "magical" Christmas feeling. As a kid it was amazing of course, but as I got older I became rather disenchanted with Christmas and the crazy consumer culture that exists around it. I don't like accumulating "stuff" just for the sake of it and I really struggle with the idea of making up Wish Lists filled with things I don't need.

I've noticed this year though now that the boy-o is old enough to have at least some idea of what's going on I'm a little more excited about Christmas than I have been in past years. We've decided to start a new "Advent Calendar" tradition with the boy-o and rather than opening a cheap cardboard chocolate calendar window every day, we've decided to wrap up 24 books (some of them books we already had, and some of them new ones) and every night before bed the boy-o will get to unwrap one to read as our bedtime story that night. There will be one book for each of the 24 days, with the 24th book being "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

Most of the books are winter or Christmas themed but not all of them since we used some books we already had mixed in with some new books. Next year we'll by the second half of them so that they're all winter/Christmas themed. After the 12 Days of Christmas are over we'll put the books away again to save them for Advent next year. We're all big fans of reading in our house, and the boy-o loves books, so this seemed like a perfect way to keep that excitement about books going for as long as possible!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kid's "Busy Bag" Items: Part I

I've decided to take up a new creative enterprise and make up some portable activities for toddlers and young children to use in the car, on planes, at restaurants, in doctor's offices, or any other place kids are expected to sit quietly. I've decided to make up several different little activities that I can put into these "Busy Bags" and then sell them at local craft shows.

The first one that I've made up is something that you might have seen floating around the internet already, and that's the DVD case turned into portable drawing/colouring station. The first one I made was definitely a bit of an experiment, but I think it turned out quite well and is something that I can work with to perfect the pattern for the next one.

I also really love the concept of upcycling and giving old materials new life--especially when it comes to kids stuff since they grow and change so fast.

I think the idea of having something like this to tuck away in your diaper bag/purse/stroller is genius and would definitely make life a little easier sometimes. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beef and Sausage Slow-Cooker Stew

When it gets chilly outside nothing beats throwing dinner together in a slow-cooker and letting it simmer away all day. It's such a relief to come home to a hot dinner that's filled the apartment with delicious smells and is ready when I am. We're trying to use the slow-cooker more, and part of that has been venturing out into stews. I'm not a huge fan of stew because I don't dig chunks of meat like that, but making it myself was a much better experience. I was able to trim the meat to my preferences, and I made sure to dice it into smaller bite sized pieces (rather than the huge chunks you often see--which, I'll admit, gross me out.)

This is the recipe that we used this week:

Beef and Sausage Slow-Cooker Stew:


- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 TSP salt
- 1 TSP black pepper
- 3 lbs beef for stew
- 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
- 1/2 lb smoked sausage, diced
- 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup chopped leak
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 4 stalks of celery, diced
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 gloves of garlic, minced
- 1 TSP dried thyme


1. Combine 1/2 cup flour, salt, pepper, and beef into sealed bag and shake to coat.
2. Place beef in slow cooker, and add remaining ingredients. Sir well and cover. Cook on low 8 to 12 hours, or on high 4 to 6 hours.
3. If stew is too liquidy before serving, add a TBSP of flour to stew and stir well. Simmer until stew thickens and serve!

This delicious stew will go perfectly with a nice big hunk of zucchini and cheese damper too! The meat was so tender it essentially fell apart in the stew making it almost more of a ragu than a stew and it was delicious.