Saturday, 31 January 2015

Book Club and Cookies x 2

I was sorting picture the other day and realize I haven't posted my recipes from the last two book clubs. Oops. 

Back in late November we met to "discuss" One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The reason I say "discuss" is because not a single one of us had actually finished the book. I've since finished the book and, although it took me a while to get into it, I can appreciate why it's a classic.

I brought Pomegranate - Oatmeal - Carob Chip cookies that I shared a couple years ago but this time made them gluten and dairy free. I simply replaced the flour with a gluten-free blend (Cloud 9) and the butter with a soy spread. Also, I realize pomegranates are out of season right now. That's what I get for taking so long to post this.

When I made these using non gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients they froze really well, but that wasn't the case this time. They tasted best fresh out of the oven or after sitting on the counter for a few hours. After they had been refrigerated, they got soft when put back out at room temperature. I solved the problem by eating the leftovers straight from the freezer but wanted to give you a heads up. Despite the softness, I still love these cookies!

Our next meeting was in early January to discuss The Dinner by Herman Koch. What a book. I was really into it at first but my interest fizzled as I continued reading. Despite that, it was one of my favourite books that we've chosen for book club. The questions we used to guide our discussion led to some very thoughtful, engaging conversation.

For this meeting I made Banana Bread Cookies. I used this recipe from The Rebel Chick and followed it quite closely. I swapped out things I can't have (flour, butter, chocolate chips) for gluten and dairy free alternatives (gf flour blend, soy butter, carob chips), but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. These were delicious and I'll definitely make them again.

My book club ladies are always open to suggestions so if you've read any great books, I'd love to know about them!

Shared at: Sew Much Crafting, The Kolb Corner, Sugar Bee Crafting, A Creative Princess, 4 You With Love, Glitter Glue & Paint, Creatively Living, A Stroll Thru Life, Kathe With An E, Made in a Day, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Petite Allergy Blog

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Essential Oil Furniture Polish

Have you jumped on the essential oil bandwagon yet? I started using Doterra oils a couple years ago but I've only recently been really exploring their many uses. Lately I've become so in love with them that I've even signed up as a distributer. Seriously, I'm hooked.

But back to the point, one of my new loves is my homemade furniture polish. 

I actually don't need to polish my furniture. My coffee and end tables are cheap pressed wood and aren't in great condition. The whole reason I do is to help repel the dog hair, which seems to take over my house within 48 hours of cleaning. With store bought polish I would polish the furniture at least every two weeks. With this I easily go a month between polishing and it's still (relatively) free of dog hair. It's easy to make and smells deliciously clean. Plus it has no harmful chemicals to worry about. 

One warning about this polish - it's really oily. It takes a little while to sink in (my furniture feels slick for a day or two) but to me it's totally worth it. 

1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
25 drops Citrus Bliss essential oil (any citrus oil would work)

Measure your ingredients. Pour them in the spray bottle. Label. Done.

Give it a shake before each use.

Please test a small, inconspicuous part of the piece you plan to polish to make sure it doesn't damage your wood. I haven't had any issues but I'm not responsible (and would feel horrible) if this somehow ruins your furniture.

One last thing - it's not recommended to use plastic bottles for essential oils. However, I live in a small city and have very limited shopping selections. I originally made this in a mason jar and dipped my cloth in it but wanted a spray bottle. This was the best I could find. When I make my next trip to the city (or get around to finding one online) I'll switch to a glass bottle.

Shared at: What Meegan Makes, Creatively Living, The Kolb Corner, Kathe With An E, A Stroll Thru Life, Sew Much Crafting, Sugar Bee Crafts, A Creative Princess

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Painted Flowers: My First Art Lesson

I love painting. I find it relaxing and love my ability to create something new and beautiful for cheap. If you've been around my blog for a while, you've seen several of my pieces and if you haven't, you can click on the "art" tab in the "labels" section on the right. Despite all the painting I've done, I'd never had a formal lesson (junior high art doesn't count) until last week.

A friend has done several classes with a local studio, which hosts a Thursday night social painting class. It's a drop in and each lesson is totally independent, so I (along with 3 other friends) went with her. I was quite nervous when the instructor started showing us the techniques but was surprised at how easy it actually was.

I didn't take pictures during the process because I was nervous and wasn't sure if it was allowed and didn't feel comfortable asking at first. Then other people started taking picture but I was too much into my painting to remember to take any. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will. Promise. For this painting, however, I'll just have to explain.

The first step was the sponging. We used wet, natural sponges and a variety of colours to do the entire canvas (including the edges). I used navy blue, light blue, white, deep purple, yellow, and a little bit of red.

Next we roughly sketched and painted the vase. This was, in my opinion, the hardest part and I'm not even going to try and explain it. I'm sure youtube would have some great advice if you were wanting to paint your own.

After that we did the flowers with a small paintbrush. I started with yellow and absolutely hated mine but got stuck trying to fix them. The instructor helped me find a better technique (space by dots out more) and made sure I understood where I should place the lights and shadows. As I said, mine started out yellow. I also added (and blended) shades of blue, purple, red, yellow, blue, and black.

Next we did the leaves, again with a small paintbrush. They were quite simple, using green, white, black, and red to make some highlights and shading.

Then it was time to go back to the vase. I struggled to make the vase look realistic but again the wonderful instructor helped guide me through the process. As with the first time, I'm not even going to try and explain it. Also in case you've never noticed, flowers have green stems. Oops.

Last but not least came the bottom. We were told to use dark colours and make wild and crazy streaks, which is exactly what I did. I used navy, bright blue, brown, purple, and black. This is the one part I'm not in love with. I am pleased with the colours but I feel like the bump (especially on the left) kind of makes it look like water and waves. I debated fixing it but decided to learn to love it as is.

For my first lesson, I'm thrilled with how it turned out (except for the wave) and have it hung up in my guest room. I find myself walking in there several times a day to stare in amazement, and I can't wait to go again!

Shared at: Life on Lakeshore Drive, The Kolb Corner, Sew Much Crafting, Kathe With An E, The Creative Princess, Fluster Buster, Upcycled Treasure, Ginger Snap Crafts, A Creative Princess, 4 You with Love, What Meegan Makes, Creatively Living, Glitter, Glue and Paint

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Budgeting and Paperwork - What Works For Us

It's the new year and, like many others, that has me reflecting on our money situation (among other things). J and I are happy with how we have our finances organized and we don't plan on changing things any time soon but it's always good to reflect and make sure we're still on track.

Because we have a system that works for us, I've already shared a lot of it here on my blog. I've also shared it with some friends and family members when looking for advice. Recently I've had two people comment about the system I introduced them to and how it's working for them, which got me thinking I should share them here. I'm no expert but it works for us and maybe it'll work for you too.

The first thing to explain is how we budget. I'm a huge fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade! While my system isn't exactly like hers, I do use some of her strategies like living on cash. About a year and a half ago, a friend was visiting and she asked about how we budget. I explained our system to her and, once she went home, she started using the jars. Just last week we were chatting and she said she's still using them and they're still working for her. If you want to read the details of how we budget, it's all here in this post.

The next thing that keeps us on track is how we deal with paperwork. When it first comes into our house, it immediately gets sorted using my organizing paper clips. I love these because they keep me from having a disorganized mass of papers to deal with. I have enough random papers to deal with at school; I don't need more messy papers in my life. At least once a week I take a few minutes and deal with bills, then file whatever needs to be filed. These clips are really easy to make and the instructions are here.

One of my oldest projects is my filing system. I'm not sure how I arrived at it but I've been using it for 10+ years and I love it. I explained it in this post if you want to read about it. Actually, it's one of my top viewed posts of all times. A few years ago I convinced my mama to start filing her bills by month and, about a month ago, she mentioned how easy it was not to have to clean out every file. If I could convince you to do one thing (if you're trying to get organized) this is it!

Last but not least is how we keep track of our debts. Last spring I made a debt chain and it has been fantastic. We finished one of the chains this winter and it felt great to rip off the last ring. Every month it's exciting to see the remaining two get a little shorter. It has also been a great motivator not to spend more money because I don't want to add to the chain. It was tedious to make but definitely worth it and you can see the instructions in this post.

So there you have a glimpse (or detailed look if you read the links) into how we organize our finances. As I said, I'm not an expert but, given that it has helped my mama, my friend, and J and I, maybe it'll help you too. If you do find it useful, I'd love to hear and if you have advice, I'd love to hear that as well.

Shared: Life on Lakeshore Drive, What Meegan Makes, The Happy Housie, The Kolb Corner, A Stroll Thru Life, Kathe with an E, The Crafty Blog Stalker, Fluster Buster, Ginger Snap Crafts, A Creative Princess, 4 You With Love, Creatively Living, Sew Much Crafting, Sugar Bee Crafts, Diana Rambles