Thursday, May 22, 2014

15 Favorite Summer Picnic Dishes

Got any picnic plans?  We had our long weekend at family camp, but I know that many of you in the States are gearing up for summer and school getting out soon.  Here are three recipes to make when you are ready to enjoy some fresh food outdoors:

Looking for more ideas?  There are 12 more of my favorite picnic dishes featured at Swirls and Spice this week!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

3 Reasons Why Family Camp Was Just What We Needed

 I have good memories of going off to summer camp as a kid.  But my own family hadn't had a chance to go away to a camp until this past weekend.  And I'm so glad we went.  Here are three reasons why.

1.  The Fresh Air and Scenery

Where we live the land is flat and not particularly interesting.  There are no lakes, rivers, or ponds in our community, nor are there many flowers around, even after all the snow melts.  So it was lovely to enjoy the view at the water's edge and see the green hills of the Qu'Appelle Valley on our way there and back.  I spent many hours roaming the grounds with my youngest daughter and skipping rocks at the shoreline of the lake while my other children explored and collected rocks and shells.

2. The Food

I was unsure what to expect from the dining hall.  Memories of camp food from my childhood did not inspire me to expect much.  However, the volunteers at our camp made some fantastic meals and evening snacks for us.  The highlight was fresh donuts.  Move over Tim Horton's. Eunice makes some of the best in the country!

3.   The Freedom!

The best feature for me and my husband was that our kids were not always with us.  Not only that, I was free from my household responsibilities like preparing meals and doing laundry, while my husband was able to leave his job responsibilities at the office for the whole long weekend.  So we relished the opportunities to listen to Bible teaching twice a day while our children were engaged elsewhere in the children's program.  And there were other moments to sit and talk when our kids were busy playing and running around the campground.  We came back truly refreshed.

What are your summer camp memories?
Do you have a favorite spot you like to go for getaways?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

3 Recipes Featuring Blueberries to Eat, Drink, and Celebrate!

Blueberries might be the secret to my grandfathers' long lives.  And I've had the privilege of picking wild blueberries with one of my grandpas, who is now 97 years old, when I was young.  I think I might have even used a tin pail like in the book Blueberries for Sal.  Or perhaps I used an empty ice cream bucket.  In any case, the fresh berries were marvelous!

Here are three delicious recipes that feature blueberries, to inspire you to indulge in some blue goodness this weekend:

@ Swirls and Spice

@ Roots of Simplicity

@ Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

I share ideas here
This post contains an affiliate link.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Colorful Melted Candy Suncatcher

A burst of color is what we need as we await the beauty of spring that is still yet to come.  And with some Jolly Rancher candies and our oven, we made a lovely suncatcher in the shape of an Easter egg.  It now hangs in the window, catching rays of sunlight through the translucent colors to brighten up the kitchen.  It's easy to make your own suncatcher by melting hard candy.  Here's how.

Supplies needed:

  • hard candy in assorted colors (we used Jolly Rancher candies)
  • baking parchment
  • baking tray
  • metal skewer
  • waxed dental floss or ribbon
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F (140 C).  Line the baking tray with parchment.
  2. Arrange the candies on the parchment in an eye-pleasing roundish shape.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the center is melted flat.
  4. Tilt the warm tray to swirl the colors a bit and to even out the shape.
  5. Allow the disc formed to cool.  Trim the edges with a knife or break off small shards to even out the edges somewhat.
  6. Heat the pointed end of the metal skewer over a stove top burner and puncture a hole near the top of the disc.  Allow the edges of the hole to harden before threading with floss or ribbon.  
  7. Hang up your suncatcher near a window.

I might be sharing this idea here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

8 Ways to Welcome Spring, No Matter the Weather

The calendar says that spring is here.  Winter is reluctant to leave these parts, but we're going to welcome spring with some of these activities anyway.  Here's how you can join us:

1.  Plant some seeds, inside or outside.  A recent post at Simple Bites demonstrates how to start seeds indoors.

2.  Make some colorful springtime snacks.

Ladybugs on a Celery Stick
Vanilla Sprinkle Ice Cream Bites

Deviled Eggs with Greens

3.  Play a spring-inspired game.

Eco-Friendly Flower Game

 Ladybug Games
 4.  Create some watercolor cards to send.
Watercolor Easter Cards

5.  Sing songs or recite poems or rhymes (with actions) that celebrate spring, Easter, and/or Passover.
          Some possibilities:

6. Add flowers to your table or home decor.  Gather them fresh from outside or craft them inside.
Tulip Napkin Rings

7. Make a pitcher of fresh lemonade and invite a friend over to enjoy it together.

Cherry Lemonade Mixer

8. Sort through clothes and have a spring fashion show.  In the process, decide ahead of time what to wear to events like Easter or spring concerts.

I'm sharing this post here.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

3 Kid-Friendly Ways to Celebrate the Olympic Games at Home

The winter games are here, and I am eager to watch some Olympic action this weekend!  This is one of the rare times when I wish we had access to T.V. programming.  Since we're an internet-and-DVD-only household, I'm planning to whip up some goodies over the next week and a half and invite myself over to watch some of the events with friends.

In addition to watching, there are some hands-on, feet-on activities that I'd like to do with my kids to celebrate the Olympic games that start this week.  Here are three things I'm planning for us:

1)  Eat some Olympic Rings!

2)  Do some indoor figure skating!

How to Make Carpet Gliding Skates

3)  Make and award some ice medals!

Are you planning to watch the games over the next week?  
If so, what will your family members be doing while you watch?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Red Heart Pocket Pies with Strawberry Filling

It's not Valentine's Day yet, so I made these pocket pies with strawberry rhubarb filling to celebrate my daughter's second birthday this month. Any red fruit will work as the filling.  I chose strawberries and rhubarb in order to clear out the last of the frozen produce that we gathered late in the summer.  The recipe I used is from the Artful Parent.  I appreciate that she includes instructions for how to make both the red fruit filling and the pastry crust from scratch.  If pressed for time, you could also just buy crust and filling.  Either way, your friends and family members are sure to enjoy a lovely pocket pie, for Valentine's Day, or just because you love them.

You can find the recipe I used for these pocket pies at the Artful Parent.

In case you would like something with chocolate too, I have a recipe for Chocolate Buckwheat Waffles over at Swirls and Spice.

I'm sharing this at Marvelous Mondays.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Cake Stand {Make One Instead}

Have you noticed that most of those lovely photos of cakes in magazines and on Pinterest include a cake stand?  At my other site, Swirls and Spice, I share recipes that I develop and try to make the food look enticing in the photos. But my budget is rather limited, so I don't own a lot of fancy props. I've contemplated buying a cake stand, but it just does not seem worth the money.  So I have done without and endeavored to avoid coveting cake stands and other lovely dishes I see.

Still, there are occasions where a pretty cake stand would come in handy, like the baby shower pictured above.  At the top left of the photo, if you look closely, you can see half of the Boston cream cupcakes I made sitting on a glass stand.  The rest are on a matching glass platter.

Instead of buying a rather expensive one-piece cake stand, I found two bowls and platters at the (Canadian) dollar store that I though would work.  And they did.  I spent less than $5.00 and I now have two convertible "cake stands" that double as bowls and serving plates.  I've used them frequently in the few two months for parties, family meals, and potlucks.  Below are some of the recipe photos that have included my bargain serveware.

at Swirls and Spice

at Swirls and Spice

If you've ever wished for a cake stand but lacked the money or space to have one in your kitchen, be not dismayed.  Simply find a fancy bowl and platter, invert the bowl under the platter, and voila!  You have a convertible cake stand!

 Recipe for Citrus Swirl Lemon Bars {from Swirls & Spice}

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stacked Button Christmas Tree Ornaments

Each Sunday of Advent we have planned a family activity.  Homemade ornament making was something that the kids and I really enjoyed this month.   Some of the ornaments turned out to be more durable than others, and these button ornaments are ones that I hope to keep around for a while.

Stacked button tree ornaments would also make cute teacher gifts or package decorations.  We've still got quite a bit of packages left to wrap, and I'd love to make a few more of these to add to our teacher gifts.  How about you?  Do you wrap your presents early or wait until it's closer to Christmas?

 Materials Used:
  • Assorted buttons (ours were from the dollar store)
  • String, dental floss, or embroidery floss.
  • Beads
  • Hot glue and glue gun, or craft glue, optional


  1. Stack buttons, starting with the largest at the bottom and top with a sparkly bead on top.  
  2. Thread string through two of the holes of each button, separating the buttons as needed.  Tie a loop at the top of the string.
  3. Glue on seed beads for additional colors if desired.

I'm sharing this at Show and Tell Saturday and more.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Homemade String Art Kit: A Great Stocking Stuffer or Last-Minute Gift

Doing it all just can't be done.  That is a lesson I continue to learn this year.  The women I admire most already recognize that and focus on top priorities, letting others go.  So it has been a while since I've done much crafting, much less posted about any.  But for the sake of friends and family, some crafting inspiration returned this month.

A new friend of mine had a baby this fall, and I was able to visit her in the hospital and meet her sweet newborn daughter back in November.  I didn't prepare a gift ahead of time, so I baked some goodies and picked up some helium balloons for her other girls.  However, I still wanted to send a baby gift, so this week I finally got a package together.

But what could I tuck in for the older children this time?  A craft kit made perfect sense (and it was one of the ideas in this article about gifts for kids). Friendship bracelets seemed a tad complicated, so I decided to print out instructions for string art stars.  To wrap it up, I notched the ends of a cardboard tube.  Here was the result:

These simple kits would work well for so many occasions!  I only wish I had thought of it before we bought gifts for the class Christmas parties at school this week.  Since I had some embroidery floss and cardboard tubes on hand already, I did not have to buy a thing!  String art kits would also make great stocking stuffers.  Or you could bring these along as gifts to open and enjoy on any holiday car or plane trips coming up (but make sure you bring along some notched cardboard discs).  Would any kids you know enjoy a kit like this?

Materials Used:
  • Cardboard paper towel tube
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery floss or colored string
  • Printed instructions* for string art 
         *I used these instructions by Creative Jewish Mom.

  1. Wrap the printed instructions for string art around the tube.  Trim the tube so that it is slightly longer than the paper for the instructions.
  2. Optional: Cut notches in the ends of the tubes and wrap extra string around the tube so that the paper is tied onto the cardboad tube with decorative string art.
  3. Tuck skeins of embroidery floss or string inside the tube.  Give with a smile.