Saturday, April 18, 2015

Too easy slowcooker lasagna recipe {Now a believer!}

Once upon a time I fell in love with my crock pot slowcooker and all seemed right with the world. 

We were happy and in love and our relationship was perfect in every way. We both would give and take appropriately and we were mindful to keep our expectations reasonable for eachother and above all we had an undeniable bond.

I knew that if my family wanted a nice moist roast or a lovely soup, all I had to do was give my beloved crockpot the ingredients and it would in turn love us back by connecting flavors together and serving up hot and delicious meals.

Everything was right in the world, until, one fateful day, I discovered that my crock pot was actually not living up to its full potential. Potentially, it was ripping us off from Italian cuisine and when I found out, I was not very pleased.

You see, I discovered that other ordinary crockpots were creating complicated Italian meals with minimal work and maximum flavor.  

But, mine was not.

My lasagna loving heart could not believe it. 

How could I have been so blind???

I was certain, after hearing about this crock pot recipe that every full fledged Italian everywhere was disgusted with the thought of giving a crock pot the complicated responsibility of cooking up Sunday dinner. I know I was at first too, but along with being astounded and perplexed I was also very very INTERESTED.

If all these other crockpots and slowcookers could create delectable Sunday dinners then I was certain mine could learn to as well. I knew our relationship would grow stronger because of it, but I still was not convinced.

As with any good relationship, I realized I had to trust my beloved crockpot and give it opportunities to prove its depth and care for us. So, as any devils advocate would do, I set out to prove that a classic, beloved Italian dish could in fact, not be cooked correctly in a crock pot and that all the braggers and doers were in fact fibbing.

BUT, I turned out to be more then pleasantly surprised. 


Here is the quick story on how my bond with my crock pot grew deeper and stronger and overflowing with trust by combining a few ingredients and walking away for four+ hours.

First gather your ingredients. You will need ready to cook lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, one egg, ricotta cheese, a clove of garlic and approximately five cups of baby spinach.

I used these delicious brands:

http://www.barilla.com/possible
To make your easy slow cooker lasagna, do this:

 Pour pasta sauce on the bottom of your slow cooker
Place ready to cook lasagna noodles on top. Break accordingly so they make a good fit.
Pour more sauce on
Layer noodles
Mix one egg in with your ricotta cheese and add a clove of smashed garlic to your 
mixture and spread on top


 
Pour more sauce on
Layer noodle
Pour more sauce on and add your five cups of baby spinach


 
Layer noodle
Pour more sauce on
Layer noodle and add sauce and mozzarella cheese on top to finish it off.

 
 It will look like this when it is done.




Keep covered and cook on high for four hours.

When a knife can easily cut through your lasagna uncover and cook on high for one more hour (If you prefer your lasagna more al dente then cook for less time. Slow cookers vary in strength.


All your excess moisture will evaportate during that last hour of cooking. Also, your home is going to smell divine.


Serve your lasagna but first make sure to give your reliable crock pot a big fat smooch.


If you're Italian, or wish to be, try giving it a big smooch on either side of its adorable little self and remember not to tell Nona how it was cooked so effortlessly.




 Sit back and enjoy a million compliments from your family and friends and pretend you slaved for hours over a hot stove.
 

Just don't tell your beloved slowcooker that you didn't give it full credit.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter 2015 {A tablescape to remember}

Because my little girl has a creativity that I admire and I want to forever grow. Because she loves a good table scape as much as her Mama. Because my own Mother let me pick and choose and set tables for dinner parties and honed my own creativity. 

Because she so sweetly stood in front of the closed glass doors of our curial cabinet, biting her lower lips, deciding carefully.

And because, after all, it was Easter.

 

Because she finally decided on the pretty blue dishes.

 

Blue dishes and letters.
 
Because she chose to add layers of fruit, "Since fruit comes in the summer and summer is after spring and Easter means that spring is finally here."

 

Because she stacked blue plates on top of white plates with careful hands and climbed the counters to choose cups.


Because her smile didn't leave her little sweet face the whole time; while her dimple played hide and seek with my watchful eye.


Because she decided we needed candles and thought of every way to incorporate our mismatched blue to accommodate them on to our table.

 
 

Because she has been carefully watering this pretty tulip plant for a week straight and still hasn't killed it.

 

  

Because she placed pears on each plate and washed each berry carefully.


Because we only pull out the English ironstone for special occasions -- like when little girls choose them above all the others.

 

Because life is too short not to use real antique linen.


 Because this blue print bowl was my Grandmas' and it had lived too long behind the doors of our hutch.

 
 Because she cautiously chopped fruit and poured water and made lemonade.


 Because we boiled eggs and never got around to painting them.

 

And because I always want to remember the first time she set the table all by herself. 

When she carefully washed it off and turned the floral dishes until they were perfectly put. The way she had to reach and strain across the table, the way she proudly stepped back and smiled after an hour of fiddling and tweaking. 

And because I always want to hold close to my heart the day when her creativity ran wild and she learned to trust her creative instinct.

 

And because what better way to celebrate Easter then with our family all huddled around our table enjoying good food, good company and the knowledge that we have eternal hope in Him.

  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Galations 2:20 

“The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.” ~ A. W. Tozer
      
Hoping that you and your loved ones enjoyed a blessed weekend. Sending you thoughts of sunshine since we are experiencing SNOW in April here. ;)

Happy Easter Weekend lovelies.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A rant about a rant that turned out to be a blessing. {Porch Project and perfect timing}

"A rant about a rant that turned out to be a blessing"
Written yesterday:

Today was one of those days where I found myself constantly one step behind my schedule. 

It all started when we woke up late.  

I'm sure you have been there too. 

 Yet I don't even blame Wednesday morning for that. I actually blame Tuesday night. 

I had worked a full day on Tuesday and finished late and while my husband was trying to get our kids to bed, I just wanted to hear "one more story" all snuggled up on the salon couch. My oldest talked about a math test and my daughter told me all about her Spring plans as she listed off the activities we would fill our sunny days with and my growing little boy, but always baby, sat right in the middle of my lap, head against my chest, just taking it all in.

Late nights like that, all snuggled in, sharing, catching up, those are my favorites. And yet all the Moms know everywhere, that the late nights always have a way of ruining early mornings.

I know you have been there too.

So here we were, running late with the empty lunch boxes staring defiantly at me as we rushed around eating breakfast, packing school bags and hunting down the forever run away boot. I rushed the kids to school in the nick of time and flew the baby over a few streets to Grandma's house for the morning and hurried back home for some sweet clients I had managed to squeeze in on what usually is my day off. 

Wednesdays are usually my laundry day and the day where I visit the sweet girls at the Beauty Supply store where I make lists of the next weeks clients and stalk up on all the supplies I need. But today, I was going to see a few clients and be done with just enough time to eat lunch, get my color supply across town, pick up my sweet babe from Grandmas loving embrace and run back to the school to pick up our oldest two. 

In the hurry of the morning rush though, I had left my full bowl of oatmeal on the counter and I had spilled my coffee down the front of my winter jacket on the walk to school.

Because clearly, that's what happens when you are one step behind and also because I can never quite fit that circular plastic seal back into the lids of all of our take away coffee cups, dont tell my husband that.

As planned, my sweet clients came and went, I gobbled down my cold oatmeal for lunch, disengaged Grandmas loving grip from my baby boy ;) and caught all the red lights across town to the beauty supply store -- there and back.

Clearly, right? ;) #murphyslaw

3:15pm school pick up came quickly but my wee helper and I raced back to the school to pick up big brother and big sister. As soon as I saw there sweet faces smiling at me as they exited the school building I could feel my shoulders relax and my pulse steady. All the rushing of the day added up to this moment where it was finally "us" time. 

We walked hand in hand home and marveled at how warm it was out. The kids skipped on the clear sidewalks, the sunshine was out in full force, visibly melting the last of the snow hill in the school parking lot and April first was proving to feel spring like. On the walk home my kids discussed how fast they were going to kick off their winter boots, (because that is why we always have a run away boot) and how they were so happy to try on their beloved sneakers from last year. 

Oh the little things!

We got home, they laced up those scuffed up sneakers from last fall and we stared at each other with big smiles; the possibility of a spring afternoon and the adventure to be had, hanging between us like heavy joy.

There was so much we could do tonight. They knew it and I knew it. There were hiking trails to go peek at and our near by pond to throw bird feed at and yet we decided on visiting the library a stones throw away from our house. It was basically decided for us since we had books to return and I am done paying all those over due fines we seem to unknowingly accumulate.


You know, you know.

And besides, I thought to myself, I could finally return the 15 new client messages that were flashing at me from my cell phone.

 I could already see what the next hour would look like, returning messages to clients, kids fighting over who got to to get their book read to them next, sharing the library computer games and  compiling a stack of books to take home and playing in the fun hand painted castle they have in the children's area. 

Yes, the library and its free play and free wifi understood me and my needs.

So we did just that. We were the only mom and kids in the place and spread out all of our books on the little round tables in the kids area. 

I messaged back clients while flipping through decor magazines and my baby learned that "whisper" does not actually mean "whistle" which is is actually just an ear piercing squeal that he imitates when he calls for our family dog. 

Kids are freaking adorable.

We read some books, I snapped some pictures of my daughter curled up in the corner of the play castle with a carefully chosen pile of books beside her and I felt like all was right with the world.


That was until we were leaving the library. 

I was trying to hold three children's hands while balancing a big stack of books in one arm. I reminded big brother to grab little brothers hand too and just then, while I felt pretty proud that I was able to balance a giant purse, a lap top, a two year old and a stack of books from parenting to politics with a heavy side of decor magazines, an older woman turned around and gave me a piece of her mind. 

The piece was big, hurtful, condemning and not true. She had clearly viewed my cell phone use/booking clients in, as me not being a hands on mother and she wasn't afraid to tell me what she thought of me. 

My biggest most valued title as "Mama" was belittled in a one minute encounter with a stranger.

My heart raced, my excuses fell to deaf ears that didnt deserve a response and those words STUNG.

A few minutes later, safe at home, this strangers spewing had me holed up in our upstairs bathroom, crying my pathetic little eyes out.

A run with my sister an hour later would enlighten me when she gave some sound advice:

"Dont give her words power by repeating them and giving them a life of their own. Just don't."

So here will not be the place where I talk about a surprising critiquing of my parenting skills or "lack of", not because I want to be illusive or vague but because this unlikely and hurtful encounter is not at all the point of this post. 

Although at my arrival home, my perplexed husband probably thought this was a sob story, it actually is not.

This is actually a story that has nothing to do with me or that hurting stranger. This is a story about God. And in total, this is actually a post to remind you to continue to listen to that still small voice inside of you.

While I was leaving the library feeling belittled and unrightfully verbally abused, another woman, a sweet thoughtful friend was sneaking up to my doorstep with neatly arranged flowers and thoughtfully picked items. 


Best of all, she had attached a note that threw love right in my face as I walked the front steps bewildered and hurt to the core of my sensitive Mama heart.



There was no card and no name but I had a feeling I knew who this loveliness was from. 

I had recently discussed the sweetness that flowers bring, the joy they can give and the unreal expectations I was setting for my little girls future husband since I often surprise her with a little potted flower for her to kill in two days flat.

#shegotitfromhermama

In the midst of feeling stabbed in the heart and ego, this sweet friend then texts me to tell me that she had "rearranged my porch a little bit" and that she was prompted to do so from her heart. 

Perfect timing.

In that moment I wasnt sure of the last time I had felt that defeated. A rushed day made worse by rudeness and judgement. And then, by just walking up our front steps, I was so perfectly encouraged like I cant even adequately describe. 

I texted my sweet friend and told her how thankful I was that she listened to that prompting in her heart and she responded back so humbly that I am still in awe.

"It is all Gods doing my friend, I just had the privilege of carrying out the plan."

How humbling. 

To know that the big God of this whole world cared enough about me and my moment of defeat that he timed my friends gift giving perfectly. 

 

God wants to work through people every day. He wants to share his peace that passes all understanding and his aboundless joy to those who need it. He wants the timing to be so perfect that people on the receiving end of goodness cant question whether it is coincidence or serendipity. He wants to work through people to share His care and to show his Divine timing. 



He wants to use you and I who believe and trust in Him to share His story. The story of love and giving to the ones we love, but more then that, the story of loving the unlovable and befriending the friendless.
 
You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are. –Max Lucado

 This story is about remembering to continually love on others, because you will never know when your love is needed most.

This story is about remembering to listen to that small prompting in your heart to do more and to love more.

That nudge is real stuff. It is similar to a Facebook poke except it is from the God that wants to bless you and those you surround yourself with.


This story is about forgiveness too.

After I cried on the bathroom floor for a while and noticed how disgusting the floor around the toilet is, all close up and personal, #boymomproblems I felt an unbelievable urge to counteract the negativity that I had just been the subject of. 

I quickly thought of five names. Five mamas. And got to work using words to build up instead of to tear down.

Words are amazing like that. 

They have the opportunity to make someones day or to ruin someones day. They can have so power attached to them that someone can hold on to them for years, good or bad. 

I picked five moms off the top of my head and I sent them a quick text from my dirty bathroom floor, it went something like this:

"Hey girl! (insert smiling emoji here)
 Just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you and wondering how you do it all! You are a Mama that I deeply admire for you awesomeness all around. I know the mama life can be challenging but you are truly doing such a fantastic job with those kids. Keep doing that stuff! Keep it up! One day they will grow up and move out and thank you for it all, and until then, here is a bit of a thankyou, for inspiring me to always choose happy and to always choose to love harder and more. 
 Hope you get a glass of vino tonight or a hot tea. You deserve it! (Insert wink face, kiss face and shy face here)"

This story is about choosing to choose happy over an assortment of other negative emotions. This is a story about loving the unloving, listening to that little voice within our hearts and a story about keeping our hearts open to peace, love and benevolence and closing it to false and negativity.

This story is ultimately a picture of His love. That when we are down and out and feeling awful and frustrated when we are running late and stresses out, He wants us to refocus. He wants to  use the people around us to encourage us and to remind us of how He sees us. He wants to love us when we dont want His love, when we think we can handle it all on our own, He wants us to put down our day to day armor and just be loved by Him and His promises.

And promise He does:

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Today I am thankful for being one step behind. I am thankful that a rushed day brought us to our local library and that I had a chance to meet a disgruntled and hurting woman. Im thankful that I got to say "God bless you" in return to her blatant rudeness. I am thankful that because of our unlikely encounter I got to be mad and hurt and then I got to be humbled and honored. I am thankful that God ended my day by prodding my own heart to pray for this stranger and for healing for her brokenness. I am thankful that a friend listened to His nudging, that she didnt think "Im too busy" "Im too tired" "I have other things to do" "It wont be appreciated" etc, etc and instead she just DID. 
 

Love does.

Today I am thankful that He reminds me all the time that he cares, if I just slow down and look at all the unlikely signs.
 
#theporchproject

Monday, March 30, 2015

Open Shelving Solutions

When we renovated our kitchen, almost four years ago, I wanted white and bright and my husband wanted dark and moody. 

So, we compromised.


 I looked deep inside my cooking-loving-cleaning-loathing heart and realized that dark cabinets were probably the best fit for our lifestyle.


 So we went with dark cabinets and decided that in order to make our kitchen feel light and bright we would add a stone back splash that was light in tone. I then matched our paint color to our backsplash so that the whole room opened up and felt brighter and airy. We even carried our light colored stone up and around part of our kitchen and added open shelving for that bright look I was craving.

See? Compromise.


Since adding these babies I have changed them around a lot. I have learned a ton on what works and what doesn't and today I wanted to share with you some solutions I have discovered that will help you get the most out of your open shelving too.

 

Before installing these, everyone I discussed them with were skeptical. 

"Wont they get dusty?" "Who wants to see your dishes and junk?" "Wouldn't you prefer a cupboard or pantry?" "The kids are going to knock everything off of them."

No sweet husband, no to all of that and all your doubts. Give Mama all the shelves.


If you are wishing to brighten up your kitchen and want to embrace the open shelving that is trending now, take my humble advice and just do it. I have never looked back and have loved them since the moment they went up.


To keep your shelving light and bright you might consider displaying items that are similar in color. White dish ware is a great idea if you are trying to brighten your space. Your bare shelves give you the option of displaying your collections, whatever color they may be, or you have a good excuse to start a collection. ;)


I decided to collect white tea pots and jugs and have found all of these at thrift stores and junk shops. Collecting like items allows your shelving to look styled without actually trying.

  

Layering art work on open shelving is a lovely way to add some pretty in a place like a kitchen where there isn't much space for hanging art work. By adding frames and pictures behind your collections you can fill up dead shelving space and you can show off some of your favorite pieces in an original way.

 

I am loving my custom Vancouver sketches we have displayed on our open shelving. I love that I get to enjoy staring at them, all zoned out and groggy eyed, in the mornings when I am making my coffee and day dreaming about the gorgeousness that is the water front in Vancouver.


Lighting is also an unexpected beautiful addition to open shelving. 

Sometimes I sneak down here after dark to make a hot cup of sleepy time tea and this little light works perfectly in this space. A timer for your little light is a great option too.

You can use a small lamp or candles or combine the two, like we have done here. By adding faux candles you can plug them in and easily illuminate a little corner in your home without worrying about safety issues.

 

Using pretty canisters to hold usable items is also a nice way to pretty up a shelf. 

Because we are using our shelving and this little corner in our kitchen as a coffee station at the moment, we have clear glass canisters full of tea bangs and jars full of sugar and closed white containers full of coffee odds and ends. Mixing clear and opaque containers in glass and ceramic are a great way to make open shelving look grown up and classy.


And speaking of grown up, if you have a pretty tea cup collection you can contain their gorgeousness in glass cylinders so you can still admire them.

 

Glass canisters are going to be your best friend when you are decorating your open shelving. By utilizing a thrift store glass container to hold tea cups and tea saucers, we can ensure that they are safely in place from crazy kids and clumsy adults.
Bonus: they get protected from dreaded dust too. ;)
 

Large glass canisters with lids are also a great way to hold coffee mugs that are used on the daily. 

This will keep them from slipping and toppling over when stacked and it will also keep them dust free and easily accessible. Not to mention, they will always look neat and tidy.
 

Clear canisters are fabulous to use for the day to day things you will be accessing from your open shelves. 

I like to fill an over sized glass canister with coffee pods to use when I am in a pinch and dont have the time to use our refillable coffee pod. Quick access to items is what you want on your open shelving and glass ware helps take the guess work out of what is inside of a container.

 


  1. Showcase your favorite collectibles
  2. Keep it simple by showing off only a few of your favorites
  3. To keep your shelves feeling bright display light colored items or clear items
  4. Store breakables in glass cylinders to keep safe
  5. To keep mugs dust free store in an easily accessible container
  6. Get rid of product boxes and unsightly containers and instead store things like tea and sugar in pretty clear containers
  7. Use cute ceramic air tight containers for perishable items
  8. Utilize your shelves by displaying framed pictures to fill in the space between your shelves
  9. Use lighting if possible to personalize your space and to add ambiance
  10. Have fun with it and switch things around with every season so you don't get bored with your shelving

By trying one or two of these open shelving solutions, I'm certain that you will love your shelving as much as we love ours.
 

Useful and pretty. 

Two musts in any kitchen.

 

If you are like me and want to take on installing open shelving all by yourself, then stay tuned for a future post where I finally share my adventures with the wet saw and give you all the dirty deets on how I installed these shelves and this tile in a weekend.

(You can get updates free and right to your inbox by subscribing with your email right here...)

--------------------------------------->>>>>>>
 


Shelfie love forever.

PSSST....Want to see what our shelving looked like at Christmas? Click the picture below.
 http://thislittleestate.blogspot.ca/2014/11/chritmas-home-tour-rustic-glam-christmas.html
 
 
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