Easy Easter Table Decorations

April 8, 2014 in Household Hints

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easter chicksAdding creatively arranged flowers or handmade centerpieces along with colourful easter eggs of Easter decor will make your home and your festive dinner table more appealing – and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a couple of my favourites to give you an idea or two – do not be afraid to get creative, use your favourite flowers and enjoy your holiday! 

Sweet Surprise

How to Make this Pretty centerpiece:

  • Trace the mouth of a paper cup onto paper.
  • Draw petals around the circle you traced; each petal should be about 2 inches long.
  • Trace this flower shape onto coloured paper and cut it out.
  • Pierce the center of the flower with a pencil.
  • Cut triangles from this center hole out toward the petal, making sure to stop about an inch from the edge.
  • Slide the flower over the cup so that it comes up to the rim.
  • Cut off the excess paper at the tips of the triangles, then tape the base to the cup.
  • Trace the flower-shape template onto green paper and extend each petal into a point to form a ring of “leaves.”
  • Repeat the same process with the leaves and tape beneath the petals.
  • Place a small bowl filled with jelly bean in the centre.

Sweet Centerpiece

How to Make this Prettty Centerpiece:

  • Center a small glass vase (or a juice glass) inside a larger one.
  • Fill the space in between the two vases with an assortment of brightly coloured jelly beans.
  • Pour a few inches of water into the inner vase, then set your blooms in place.
  • I made this centerpiece last year and used yellow silk tulips. After the holidays, I wrapped it in plastic and stored it on a shelf – and I have a ready to place centerpiece this year!

Enjoy your holidays and send in your comments, suggestions and experiences – your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

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How to Make Easter Egg Holders

April 1, 2014 in Featured Articles

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If you don’t feel like getting too involved in decorating Easter Eggs, you can make it easy by just colouring all your eggs in solid colours and creating adorable egg holders.

The best way i could recommend to you is to involve your children and have them colour the egg holders with their crayons of markers – the kids will love making their own holders – guaranteed!

Directions:

  • Print out the template(s) you want to use
  • Colour as appropriate (water colour paints work nice – but have your children select their own method of colouring)
  •  Cut the holders out. (There are three on each template)
  •   You can make an egg decoration — wrap the strip of paper around the egg and attach with a small piece of tape (you may have to trim the ends of the paper depending on how big your egg is.Or:
  • You can make an egg holder — cut a toilet paper roll into a one inch ring.  Glue the strip of paper around the roll and place the egg gently in the ring.  It should stand nicely on the table

 

Here are your templates (please enlarge them to the size that will print desired size on your printer)

Template # 1:

Template #2:

Template #3:

 

Hope you have fun making these Easter Egg Holders – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

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Fun Easter Games for Kids

March 31, 2014 in Featured Articles

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easter eggs (284x177) (284x177)It is definitely a good idea to have few games ready for your Easter gathering – especially if there are children present. You can easily have these games organized ahead of time – when I do it, I have little plastic baskets filled with materials for each game ready to go on a moment’s notice. If you decide to do that, you will find out that it is very easy to call the kids together and occupy them for quite a while. And don’t be surprised if adults get involved as well – after all – being competitive is just human nature, even if it involves cupcakes and Easter Eggs!

 

Easter Cupcake Walk

easter cupcakes

Materials:

  • Cupcake for each child
  • Numbers taped to the floor
  • Easter basket to hold number call cards
  • Music

 How To Play:

When the music starts the children begin to walk around the room stepping on each of the numbers as they go. When the music stops the children should step on the number closest to them. A number is pulled from the Easter basket and the child standing on that number gets to choose a cupcake and return to their desk. That number is then removed from the floor and the bag. Continue until every child has a cupcake.

Egg Toss

fabric eggs

Materials:

  • Large cardboard with Easter basket drawn on one side and a good size hole cut-out in center of basket, or a few small holes for older kids.
  • Colourful egg-shaped bean bags (Easter eggs)
  • Bucket to hold bean bags
  • Tape to mark distance line

How To Play:

Place cardboard basket a little distance from a wall with a paper box lid on floor to catch Easter egg bean bags. Mark your distance line according to age and skill of children. Line children up behind the line and place a bucket of Easter egg bean bags beside them. Give each child three tries to get their bean bag through the hole. Get all three Easter egg bean bags in and earn a ‘egg-licious’ reward.

Easter Egg Roll

easter egg toss (2)

 

Materials:

  • 1 hard-boiled Easter egg for each team (maybe a few extras)
  • 1 spoon for each team

 How To Play:

Divide children into teams. The goal is for the first person to roll the egg with the spoon to the end of the course and back. The person hands the spoon to the next person in line and the relay continues until a team finishes.

 

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Hot Cross Buns Recipe

March 26, 2014 in Recipes

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Hot-Cross-Buns (2)This is another favourite treat – for Easter or for anytime. If you have not made Hot Cross Buns before, trying the recipe now will give you the chance to do it before the Easter holidays. I have made these ahead of time, froze them and then put them into the oven for a few minutes just before serving time. They come out beautifully!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1 package (1/4 oz.) of active dry yeast
  •  1/2 teaspoon of granulated white sugar
  •  3- 1/2 – 4 cups of all purpose flour
  •  1/4 cup of light brown sugar
  •  1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  •  1/2 cup of candied fruit and peel mix
  • 1/4 cup of raisins or currants

Egg wash: 

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon of milk or cream

Glaze: 

  • 1/2 cup of confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream

Directions:

    1. In a small saucepan or in the microwave heat the milk until lukewarm .
    2. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine.
    3. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is activated and is foamy.
    4. Meanwhile in the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the flour, brown sugar, spices, and salt. 
    5. Once the yeast is foamy, add to the flour mixture and beat to combine.
    6. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
    7. With the mixer on low, gradually add the butter, mixing until the butter is incorporated and the dough comes together. With the dough attachment, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). 
    8. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and, by hand, gradually knead in the candied and dried fruit. 
    9. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased.
    10. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot to rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
    11. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, and divide into 12 equal pieces. 
    12. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet (Place three buns to a row, four rows altogether. They should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size.) 
    13. Make an egg wash of one beaten egg with 1 tablespoon milk, and brush the tops of the buns with the wash.
    14. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel and place in a warm spot until almost doubled in size (about 30 – 60 minutes).
    15. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F .
    16. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash again and, with a sharp, lightly greased knife ,make a cross in the tops of each bun. 
    17. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Hope this recipe will turn out well for you, please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences – your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated

 

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Best Ever Banana Bread Recipe

March 18, 2014 in Breads, Recipes

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banana_bread_1Until I found this recipe, I used to throw bananas that turned black and soft straight into the composter. Not any more! Bananas gone past their prime are the best for this recipe and if you have more of them then what the instructions call for – do not worry – use them – it will make the bread even better! And the good thing is that you can store this delicious bread in your freezer for a long time – when you defrost it, it will taste as if you had just baked it that day!

Best Ever Banana Bread

Ingredients:

 

  • 1-1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup of corn syrup
  • I cup of mashed bananas

Directions:

 

  1. Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in nuts.
  3. Mix remaining ingredients together in another bowl.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in liquid, stir only until flour is moistened.
  5. Spoon into a greased loaf pan (8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ x 2-1/2″)
  6. Bake at 350F for 55 to 60 minutes

Hope you will enjoy this recipe – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

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Halibut with Lemon-Dill Pesto Recipe

March 14, 2014 in Recipes

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Halibut 001The wonderful taste of lemon will transform and ordinary pan-fried fish into something delicious. You can serve it with steamed asparagus and brown rice for a simple, fresh meal.

Ingredients:

  • 1 halibut fillet (about 1 lb.), skinned and cut into 4 pieces
  • Pinch of each salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil

Lemon-Dill Pesto:

  • 1 cup of packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup of packed fresh dill
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of each salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Directions:

Lemon-Dill Pesto:

  1. Using mini blender pulse together parsley. dill, almonds, salt and pepper 5 times.
  2. Pour in oil, 1 tablespoon of water, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  3. Puree until smooth thick paste.
  4. Set aside.
  5. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper
  6. In skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
  7. Cook fish, turning once, until golden and fish flakes easily when tested with fork – about 6-8 minutes.
  8. Serve with pesto.

Hope you will enjoy this recipe – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and much appreciated!

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Cranberry Custard Pie Recipe

March 12, 2014 in Desserts, Recipes

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cranberry-custard_pieGreat pie for any occasion! You can choose to make it for your Easter or Thanksgiving dinner dessert – it may take as little time to prepare but it is definitely worth it – the creamy-tart pie will be a hit!

Cranberry Custard Pie:

Ingredients:

Flaky Pastry Recipe

Custard:

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1-3/4 cups of whole milk
  • 5 large egg yokes, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 3 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons of orange juice

Directions:

  1. Prepare the pie crust as per recipe (click on the link above)
  2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 12-inch circle.
  3. Transfer to 9-inch pie plate.
  4. Trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang and tuck under itself to form a thick rim.
  5. Crimp the edge.
  6. Chilll ofr at least 30 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350F.
  8. Prick the bottom of the dough with fork.
  9. Line the dough with a piece of foil, leaving overhang all around.
  10. Fill with dry beans or pie weights and bake until dry,  45-50 minutes.
  11. Remove the beans or weights and foil.

Make the Custard:

  1. Reduce oven to 325F.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yokes, butter and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the parbaked pie crust and bake until the centre is set but still slightly wobbly – 40-50 minutes.
  6. Let cool; chill in refrigerator until firm – 4-5 hours.

Make the Topping:

  1. Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and juice in a medium pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until liquid thickens and some of the cranberries burst -about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a shallow bowl and chill until cold, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Spread the cranberry mixture on the pie and serve immediately.
  4. Or refrigerate the pie and topping separately for up to 2 days.

 

Hope you will enjoy this recipe – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

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All About Pomegranate

March 11, 2014 in Health

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pomegranate-1000This wonderful fruit is deliciously juicy and explodes with antioxidants. It may take little extra effort to use, but it is definitely worth it!

How to Choose It:

Look for large, firm fruits that feel heavy for its size. The leathery skin can also vary from deep red to reddish brown, but it should be shiny. Pass on fruit that is shrunken or has soft spots.

How to Store It:

Pomegranate will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Once taken out, the seeds can be refrigerated, covered for up to 5 days or frozen, tightly wrapped for up to 3 months.

How to Prepare It:

Slice the fruit in half horizontaly. Make a few slits in the membrane. Submerge a half, cut-side down in a large bowl of water. Pry it apart. The seeds will sink to the bottom, the membrane will float to the top. Transfer the seeds to a paper towel to drain.

How to Make It:

Try this: Toss together 1 bunch of trimmed watercress, 1 thinly sliced small fennel bulb, 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper.

Few more suggestions:

In a cocktail: Add a splash of pomegranate juice and few seeds to you mint mojito.

In a salad: Sere roasted squash or carrots on a bed of arugula, topped with crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds and a mustard vinaigrette.

In a Pilaf: Fold the seeds into cooked barley along with chopped apple, parsley and roaster almonds.

In a Dessert: Sprinkle seeds over scoops of lemon sherbet and serve with ginger cookie.

 

Hope you have enjoyed this information – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated.

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How To Make Homemade Marshmallows

March 10, 2014 in Recipes

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marshmallowsYou can buy marshmallows easily and inexpensively – but making them gives you a piece of mind knowing what you use to make them. Make a batch and drop them into a cup of hot chocolate – that is the perfect cold day pick-me-up!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup of cold water
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of warm water
  • 2- 7 gram envelopes of unflavoured gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup of icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Stir granulated sugar with corn syrup, cold water and salt in small saucepan.
  2. Set over high heat.
  3. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring for 1 minute.
  4. Stir in vanilla.
  5. While waiting for syrup to boil, pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment.
  6. Sprinkle in gelatin.
  7. Let stand 2 minutes to soften.
  8. Line 8-inch square baking dish with overhanging plastic wrap.
  9. Lightly spray with cooking spray.
  10. Set mixer on high, then pour hot syrup in a stream down the side of the mixer bowl, beating gelatin mixture until it is thick and sticky and white peaks form – about 4 minutes.
  11. Scrape into prepared pan, smoothing top as best you can with an oiled spatula.
  12. Let stand in room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  13. Whisk icing sugar with cornstarch in a small bowl.
  14. Sift one third of mixture  over top of marshmallows to dust the surface.
  15. Turn out onto cutting board.
  16. Discard plastic wrap.
  17. Sift half of the remaining sugar mixture overtop to dust the surface.
  18. Slice into cubes about 1 inch each.
  19. Roll each cut marshmallow in remaining sugar mixture until all sides are coated.

 

Hope you will enjoy this recipe – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!

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All About Home Renovation Projects

March 6, 2014 in Household Hints

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home-renovation1This is the time of the year when you start thinking about spring, about cleaning and possibly renovating your home and start looking forward to the challenge. Where should you start? I found this information in a magazine and took out of it what I considered valuable advice – the one that will give you an idea where it is a good idea to start and where best to allocate your budget:

1. Kitchen:

Kitchen is the heart of your home and sometimes all it needs is a fresh coat of paint, change of lighting or just changing outdated cabinet handles. Those are not big costs that will make a difference, but if you are up to larger project, consider your flooring or repainting the cabinets – the more you do, the bigger the focus on the kitchen will be. That is from the centre of entertaining to family dinners and festive holidays.

2. Bath:

According to the Appraisal Institute of Canada, kitchen and bathroom renovations remain at the top of the improvement list reflecting in the price of the home. Homeowners usually recoup 75 – 100% of the investment. Best visual appeal belongs to wood cabinets, large stand-up showers, stone floors and countertops – all adding value and appeal.

3. Paint:

When you look around your home, you might just find that room where paint has faded from sun exposure or has dirty hands marks all over. A fresh coat of paint will give you dramatic results with little investment!

4. Flooring:

Gleaming hardwood or tile floors add to both value and appeal to your home. If you decide to replace your flooring, remember to maintain consistency. If you make too many strange transitions and changes in materials, you will loose the impact.

5. Landscaping:

The front of your home is the first thing people see and it is hard not to judge book by its cover. Landscaping will do more than just make the space beautiful. It can extend living space by adding decks and patios, it can provide or increase privacy and reduce noise levels. And a few strategically planted trees could help save on heating and energy costs.

6. Windows:

Very important consideration when you are thinking about renovations. It maybe be a larger investment, but it will be one that will not only improve the look of your home – it will positively reflect in your pocketbook.

7. Plumbing Fixtures:

Brushed nickel, antique brass and oil-rubbed bronze are like jewels in your bathroom and your kitchen. Not only do they look great, they all boast water-saving flow aerators and quick on-off hands free technology.

8. Storage:

If you give it a thought, you will most probably find dead-end spaces under staircases, awkward wall niches and low head spaces in the basement. Converting them into usable space like built-in storage or extra closets will help maximize living space now and definitely appeal to potential buyer should you decide to sell your home in the future.

9. Eco-Friendly Additions:

Investing in eco-friendly elements can definitely yield some very strong returns. Water saving plumbing fixtures, tankless water heaters and eco-friendly products like bamboo, cork and low VOC paints will add value and environmental impact.

10. Consult a Professional:

It may be worth your while to invite a realtor or interior designed to check out your home or consider hiring an architect or contractor for larger renovations. They can provide advice, help you draw up a plan or manage construction. Suggestions on paint colours or furniture placement can go a long way in improving the aesthetic of your home. Remember that a little professional advice before the project begins can help you avoid costly errors later.

 

Hope you enjoyed this information – please send me your comments, your input is always welcomed and much appreciated.

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