Summer fun on a budget!

Toronto can get pretty expensive, and being on a budget can often feel like there’s not a lot of things you can go out and enjoy. Resteraunts, movies, clubs, concerts…it all adds up. Not to mention family friendly events- I find things for kids are often crazy expensive.

That’s why I LOVE searching What’s on Toronto. Each week, it offers an excellent list of events happening  in Toronto. The great thing is, a lot of them are free (or very inexpensive) and some events are things you’d never know were happening if you didn’t just look for them.

For example, this Easter, a church near by us was having a little easter egg hunt along St. Clair between Bathurst and Christie. It was free, so we decided to walk up and check it out. It was pretty small and simple, but they had an easter bunny greeting the kids and taking pictures, some crafts, and each kid got a little prize. BK got some bubbles, which was the best thing ever to a toddler. :)

Here’s a great article that lists a bunch of free (or very frugal) things to do this summer: http://www.toronto.com/article/731478–free-or-cheap-things-to-do-in-toronto-this-summer

I’ll usually check out What’s on Toronto if I know Rob has the weekend off, so we can go and do something fun and inexpensive (or free!) as a family. It creates such great memories and it’s a nice change from the usual park trip (although, those are great too.) We’ll either head out in the mornings, or we’ll pack a lunch and stay all afternoon!

This weekend, I think we’ll check out the Big on Bloor festival! What are your weekend plans?

Butterflies!!!

Two of our four cocoons hatched today!

I got a bit of a frantic phone call while BK and I were at the park this morning from Rob, saying that the butterflies are hatching and to come home asap! So, I scooped up BK (he wasn’t happy about leaving the park in a hurry) and we raced home to find two gorgeous butterflies!

Gorgeous, huh? We had so much fun watching them sun themselves and dry their wings! Bk loved watching the ‘Buddiefyies’ :)

Hopefully tomorrow the other two will hatch open!

Homemade Deodorant

Yep. I went there. I made my own deodorant. Honestly, it never even occurred to me that I could do that!

Last week, someone on my Facebook posted that they found a great, natural deodorant that actually works! Although, someone in the comments section pointed out that even some of the natural brands aren’t fully clear of certain toxic ingredients, and suggested making your own deodorant. I’m not going to lie, I thought this was a little crunchy, even for me. I found natural deodorants didn’t work great for me, so I stuck to my Lady’s Speed Stick.But I checked it out on EWG.org and even though it didn’t get horrible ratings, I still didn’t like the chemicals they do use, AND they test on animals. Sick. SO,after tossing my cruel deodorant, I figured, what the heck? I searched for some recipes and after reading some great reviews on blogs, I decided to try it out for myself!

I came across Kinda Crunchy Kate’s blog and loved her review and her recipe was so simple!

Just take a reusable container, and mix up:

  • 1/4 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Arrowroot Flour (or corn starch)
  • 6-8 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • Essential oils, if desired (I added about 10 drops  of lavender oil, and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil)

That’s it! mix the baking soda and arrowroot flour first, and then add in the coconut oil and essential oils until a nice paste forms.

It was super hot here, so mine was pure liquid. I’ve since put it in a smaller container and keep it in the fridge (just make sure to label it, so no one tries to eat it!)

***I only added 1/8 cup baking soda after reading the comments on her blog. She mentioned that some people get red underarms because the baking soda can dry out your skin, in which case, just half the amount next time. Since I have fairly sensitive skin, I just went straight ahead and used half the amount the first time.

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much, but I quite love it! We’re in the middle of a heat wave, and I made up a batch before bed (ie. I was hot and sticky from a busy day) and I tried a little bit and it worked instantly! I’ve been using it for a couple of days now and I really like it. Because it’s been extremely hot, I find I do have to reapply in the afternoon, but I did that with my deodorant anyways. It does feel a little strange at first, because it goes on a bit wet, which I wasn’t used to. But so far, for such simple ingredients, I think it’s held up amazingly well! It even lasted being out in the sun all morning at the park, which I was very happy with!

So, no more nasty, toxic, cruel deodorant for me!

Smell ya later! ;)

Cateripllars!

Early this spring, I planted some dill (my third attempt) and it surprisingly took off! My intention was to use it for making my Oma’s pickle recipe, along with the cucumbers I planted (which have not taken off quite yet.). Anyways, last weekend, I noticed what I thought were tiny wasps chilling on my dill flowers, and upon further inspection, I realized they were little caterpillars. “OH NO…You’re not eating MY dill!”, I said. And I scooped them up and put them in our super cool bug container. (I figured BK would enjoy looking at them for a bit.)

Well, I looked them up on google and found out they turn into really pretty butterflies, so I decided it would be fun to keep them and raise them. (When BK is a little older, we’ll try this again and turn it into a little science lesson.)

So, the funny thing is, now I’ve fed them all my dill. (The very hungry caterpillars indeed!) These things eat A LOT!

It’s been fun learning about them and watching them change! They shed their skin (and face- ew.) so they can grow even bigger. I’m surprised at how big they’ve gotten in such a short time.

Pretty neat shot of this one shedding his skin and mask.

BK really liked watching the ‘buggies’ crawl around.

They started looking a little cramped in there, so I went to the dollar store and picked up 3 more homes (there’s 4 caterpillars in total)

I put a nice thick stick in each one, as well as some more dill, and they were all quite happy, I think, to have their own homes.

I’m glad I moved them when I did, because the next day, they started their chrysalis stage.

See him hanging from tiiiny ‘threads’? He did that for about a day, and then I checked on him in the morning, and twenty minutes later, he turned into the picture below!

And then about an hour later, he was fully covered and camouflaged into the stick.

Right now, all four of them are snugly in their cocoon. Once I knew they were all secure in there, I very carefully cleaned out the remaining dill and caterpillar droppings, so they’ll have a nice clean home to wake up to.

I’ll post any changes! They take about a week or so to fully transform! I can’t wait :)

 

Homemade Play dough

Last week, we spent quite some time indoors because it was just tooo hot. So, I needed some fun activities to do with BK to keep us both busy. I remembered the play dough cutting tools we scored from a yard sale the other week, so I decided to make him some dough to play with! I does really well with not putting sand and little things in his mouth, so I figured I could give it a try.

Here’s the recipe I used:

  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Salt
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1Tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 2Tsp Cream of Tartar
  • Food colouring of your choice

Put everything into a sauce pan. Stir over low/medium heat until a dough forms. Let cool, and play!

Just make sure you keep stirring, and scrape the bottom of the pan. That’s where the dough starts to form, and you don’t want to burn it ;)

 Super gooey! Don’t worry, once it cools, it’s not so sticky.

When not in use, store in an air tight container!

 

This was a huge hit with Bk!

Father’s Day Dinner

*I knew there was something I forgot to do yesterday! Sorry for the wait. I took a day off on Monday from cleaning because of how many dishes I did on Sunday. And yeah, not worth it! So I took yesterday to catch up! Anyways, as promised, here’s what I made Rob for Father’s Day:

For Father’s Day, I made Rob my new favourite pork recipe, stuffed red peppers, and apple pie! A little bit of an odd combo, but it was delicious!

Now, the apple pie recipe, I loosely follow The Joy Of Baking’s recipe for the filling (although, I don’t let it sit for half an hour, I just chop up the apples and mix with spices and there ya go.) For the pastry, I use a recipe my aunt gave me:

  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour (I used Cake and Pastry flour)
  • 1 1/4 Cups Butter (chilled)
  • 1/3 Cup Ice Water

In a large bowl, add the flour and cold butter. With a knife or pastry cutter, cut the butter into small pieces, then use a pastry cutter until the mixture is well mixed and crumbly (There shouldn’t be large pieces of butter- like rolled oats) Sprinkle with water while pressing the mixture until a dough forms. Mix dough well, and divide it onto two balls and flatten. Wrap dough and chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

Super simple! This recipe either makes two pie crusts, or one top and one bottom crust. For apple pie, I like a bottom and a top crust, and this time I did a basket weave pattern.

Now, my favourite part of dinner, was the stuffed peppers! I had never made them before, but we had a bunch of peppers, and I needed to use them up. So here’s how I made them:

Boil a cup of rice (I made two, and it was a lot, but it depends how many peppers you’re making. Set aside the cooked rice.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Cut up a red onion, zucchini, and whatever other veggie you would like to use. Toss in a bowl with the rice, and grate a bunch of mozzarella cheese. Add a generous amount of Italian Spices, and mix everything well.

Slice your red peppers in half, length wise, and remove the seeds and that white part you don’t eat (what’s that stuff called?) Leave the stems, it helps hold the peppers’ shape.

Brush the inside of the peppers and place them in a baking dish, with a little bit of water in the bottom (about 1/2 inch to an inch) – make sure your dish isn’t tooo big, mine was just the right size for 4 pepper halves.

Then, spoon your stuffing into the peppers. (You may want to fill them over the mixture bowl, because it spills easily,and you don’t want filling in the water of your baking dish.)

 

Bake for about 20 minutes and then remove from the oven, grate some more mozzarella onto each one, and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until everything looks cooked and the cheese has melted.

YUM! Even BK liked these!

 

And there you have it! A delicious dinner :) Rob appreciated it so much, it took a while to make, I’ll admit, but it was well worth it.

 

 

Frugal Father’s Day Weekend!

Hope you all enjoyed celebrating Father’s Day with your loved ones. We had a pretty nice weekend!

Saturday, Rob had to work most of the day, so I took BK around the neighbourhood and checked out some garage sales. I scored this amazing, vintage Fisher Price chalkboard for $5!

Do you remember these?? I was so excited when I saw it, I zoned in and grabbed it!

That evening, after BK was in bed (Rob was home, don’t worry!) My friend and I walked past where the garage sale was, and they had left out everything they didn’t sell! It was a moving sale, so I guess they really didn’t want to bring these things with them- so I scored some more awesome stuff! Things I didn’t even see when I went earlier.

Amazing, right?! A toy piano, play-doh cutting set (no dough, but that’s cool, there’s all the cutting tools), a Melissa and Doug screw driver set with the tool box, a rolling toy thingy, a velcro game (top left- that fish), a bag for BK’s paints, and a ton of awesome books! There’s also a kid sized lawn chair and baby gate! All for free! So, always keep your eyes peeled!! You never know what you’ll find :)

Ahem. So, back to Father’s Day. We didn’t do gifts this year, Rob just wanted a nice dinner and time with the family. So I had BK paint him a card and a canvas:

I had him paint on acrylic paper, then after it dried, I cut the left side off, and folded it into a card. I had him draw a picture and ‘sign’ it too :)

His canvas for Daddy :)

After work, we met up with Rob and checked out the Taste of Little Italy festival going down on College St. There’s a LOT of yummy food there, but it gets pricey (and busy!) so we walked up to Bloor and grabbed some Ghazale’s! SO YUMMY. BK loved it too!

If you’re ever in Toronto, check them out. They have amazing food and you get a lot of food for what you pay.

And, speaking of food. I made Rob and amazing Father’s Day dinner! check back tomorrow for details!

Chicken Fajitas!

This recipe is a favourite of ours. It comes from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution website. It’s so simple, yet so delicious. I’ve recently started making my own whole-wheat tortillas too, (Recipe from 100 Days of Real Food’s Blog) SO yummy!

These tortilla wraps can be made in advance and either kept in the fridge for a few days, or frozen for later use. Today I made them during dinner.

unfortunately, my dough hooks broke on my electric mixer, but I was able to knead these by hand, no problem. Just mix up the dough, knead a little bit, then roll it out into a log and cut it into 12 pieces. Let stand for 15 minutes.

While you’re letting your dough settle, start the chicken.

All it takes is chicken, red pepper, onion *red onion is best, but we only had yellow, 1 tsp paprika, 1 pinch of cumin, 1 pinch of salt, and a lime. Cut up your red pepper, onion, and chicken into strips (They should all be about the same size), toss into a bowl, add the spices and juice of a lime (I roll the lime around on the cutting board before I slice it, it helps loosen the juice)

Let that sit for 5 minutes or so, and while that’s marinating, go ahead and make your tortillas.

Roll out each ball on a floured surface. Roll ‘em out as thin as you can get them, they should be about the size of a dinner plate.

Then, place them in a dry pan on med-high heat, no need for oil, since they already have a lot in them! Let them get slightly brown and bubbly on each side- it only takes a minute or two!

Once those are done, move onto the chicken. Heat your pans with a little oil, onto medium-high heat. (I use two pans for the chicken, so I don’t over crowd the frying pan) And make sure you’ve got nothing else to do for a couple of minutes, because once you put the chicken in the pan, you have to keep it moving or else you’ll set off your smoke alarms…trust me.

Keep the chicken moving until it’s nice and brown, and if you’re like me and you’re paranoid about chicken being cooked all the way through, once the outside is nice and dark, turn your heat way down and let it cook a little with a lid on while you get your toppings ready.

I love my fajitas with some sour cream, salsa, cheese, and avocado

Enjoy!

 

Cheap Thrills

A couple of weeks ago, we had to take a looong car ride with BK to visit family. Car rides and toddlers can be a bad mix. So, I decided to make some quick car-friendly activities to bring along.

I made these during his nap right before the trip, so they aren’t beautiful, but they did the job!

Lacing cards:

  • You will need:
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Yarn or a Shoe Lace
  • Pencil and marker
  • Something to poke holes with

Gather your materials, I used the tabs from a cardboard box to make mine.

Lightly draw whatever shape you want your picture to be and make dots every few centimeters. You don’t want to add too many, because you want to keep the cardboard sturdy.

Carefully poke holes in the cardboard. Make sure not to bend the cardboard. Make the holes big enough for little ones to thread a lace through. I poked a hole with a pen and then widened them with the blade of my scissors.

Normally you’d be done here, but I didn’t have shoelaces with plastic ends, so I cut my yarn to the length I wanted and covered the ends with hot glue:

Done!

Sandpaper Letters:

You will need:

  • Cardboard
  • Light grade sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Cut out the number of cards you want to make. I made four. (A, B, C, and D) Then trace the cards onto your sandpaper for size and paint each square (I did red and blue, one for vowels and one for consonants)

(I did this a little backwards because I was rushing. But I’d suggest painting each square first, and then lightly drawing the letter on, once the paint has dried. I drew the letters first and then just painted the sandpaper and cut the letters out freehand)

Once dry, cut the letters out carefully, and glue onto the cardboard!

Mine look a little rough because, again, I was rushing during nap time, and I used the cardboard tab off a diaper box. I had to rip some glue off, which is why the B is a little messed up. However, if you want to make yours more durable, I’ve heard you can buy flat wooden chips at the hardware or craft stores. (You can also buy these letters in Montessori shops, but hey, we’re being frugal here!)

Colour Matching Clothes Pins:

You will need:

  • Paint chips (2 of each colour)
  • Clothes pins (the alligator kind, not the pegs)
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Start by gluing your paint chips onto the clothes pins.

While those are drying, glue your second set of paint chips to a piece of cardboard.

(if you’re a little anal, like me, trim the paint numbers off)

Once they’re all glued and dry, cut them out!

Write the name of the colour, if you like, and you’re done!

These activities, along with some books, colouring, dvds, and small toys, helped make the trip go much faster! These were also helpful at restaurant, to keep him busy. I think he’s still a bit young for some of these, but he enjoyed trying. I found pipe cleaner worked great for the ‘lacing’ activity, because he’s still a but small to figure out the yarn, but pipe cleaner is stronger and he enjoyed putting those through the holes.

Hope you found those tutorials fun and helpful!

I’m still here!!!

Sorry for the lack of posting, I seem to be having trouble uploading pictures and accessing parts of my blog. I wrote a whole loooong tutorial and then the whole thing froze when I tried to up load pics! LAME.

So, sorry for that. I hope to figure out wha’ts up and be back to regular blogging soon. In the mean time, here’s a cute cat :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_5tpLjUcrE&feature=related