Becky Higgins…Please Pick Me!

A few weeks ago, Becky Higgins announced her 2015 Creative Team call for submissions on her blog.  Immediately I thought, “that’s cool, but I’m not good enough”.  But then I started looking at the blogs of the 2013 and 2014 Creative Team members and realized that my style is very similar.  So I decided to send a submission!

The selection criteria are:

  1. Fantastic photography – I think my pictures are decent, especially when the boys cooperate!
  2. Great storytelling – I’m pretty good at this, after all, it’s my day job!
  3. Use of product – The hardest part about this one is limiting myself to Becky Higgins products when I have an ever-expanding stash!  They are also looking for simplicity so I’ve had to restrain my embellishing somewhat – which is actually quite freeing!
  4. Layout photography – I’ve struggled with this a bit, but this blog post (which Becky posted on her Facebook page yesterday) really helped me a lot!

Here’s the layout photos I submitted, along with a short write-up.  Hope they like them!  Best of luck to everyone else who is trying out!Submission 1 Submission 2 Submission 3 Submission 4 Submission 5

My Scrapbooking Journey – Part 2 (Reigniting A Passion)

In my first post, I wrote about how I discovered scrapbooking, how I grew in my knowledge and excitement for the hobby, and then hit a giant wall when my first son was born.

When my second son arrived in late 2013, my scrapbooking room was a glorified storage room.  It was full of toys, junk and a mountain of supplies and unfiinished projects.  It was daunting to open the door and gaze at the mess inside.  Where the heck would I even start to restore it?

Slowly I moved out the toys and sold off the ones my son didn’t like.  I found homes for the random junk and slowly it regained its feeling of calm and creative promise.  The next task took me nearly a month.  I decided I need to go through every bit of my stash and purge.  I had acquired a lot of paper, tools, embellishments and projects from the many scrapbooking stores and events I visited, and I needed to make sense of it all.  I was ruthless and set aside everything I didn’t love or think I would ever use.  The result was a large pile of castoff items that I was able to sell for nearly $200 through some local mommy boards.  I reorganized everything, labelled colour and tool drawers and put all of my unfinished projects in a rubbermaid bin so they were all in one place, but covered so they weren’t piled up and intimidating me every time I entered the room.

What a transformation that was!  Not only did I purge the things I didn’t like, but I also rediscovered a lot of pretty things that I forgot about.  I could feel the excitement building to get back in there and play!

But where to start?  There were SO many projects to finish, and so many I wanted to start.  I decided to visit Michaels to check out the new products (it had been years since I looked in their scrapbooking aisle) and get some inspiration.

That’s where I stumbled across Project Life by Becky Higgins.  Very simply, it’s pocket scrapbooking and meant to simplify how you record your memories.  It looked very familiar…I used a Creative Memories photo album to record our honeymoon in Aruba, and it was pocket scrapbooking style.  I remembered how easy it was to assemble, and decided to try it out again!  I purchased some pocket page protectors and decided to cut down some of my massive paper stash to create the cards.

My first Project Life project was a birthday album for the boys.  I had a lot of photos I wanted to include, and this was a fantastic way to do it.

But what a pain to cut down the paper!  So back to Michaels I went.  After much deliberation, I purchased my first Project Life Core Kit – Honey.  It’s SO pretty!  I also went onto Facebook to see if there were any Project Life groups where I could get some inspiration.  There are a few!  Including one just for Canadians.  It was there that I discovered that I could swap portions of my core kit for other core kits to build up my supply and round out my collection with other styles and colours.  Little did I realize that this would turn into an obsession!

Over the last six months I’ve built up quite the collection of kits from Becky Higgins, Me and My Big Ideas, and We R Memory Keepers.  I’ve tried to buy kits that will work with predominantly boy and family photos, but I couldn’t resist the odd girlie kit!

And not only is it pretty, but it’s so simple to use!  I’ve scrapbooked nearly 100 photos and I’m still excited and full of ideas.  Many people document week by week, but that seems to become a challenging task and you’re always behind. I prefer to work in monthly batches. After all, in ten years, will anyone really care which week we went to the beach? I’m not putting down the people who do it that way, to each his own, but for me it’s just too much pressure when I have very little free time.

For me, the easiest route is to group the photos by category within a one month period, and then add them to the page protectors.  Then I go back and add the cards, journalling and embellishments later.  For me, the hardest part is sorting the photos and choosing which ones to use and how.  Separating the tasks keeps the fun part…fun!  Here’s some samples of the pages I’ve completed (most recent ones are at the top):

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As you can see, you can add as many or as few embellishments as you fancy.  Some photos stand well alone, while others need a little sprucing up.  It all depends on my mood and the theme of the pages. Sometimes I feel like playing or trying out a new technique.  And I try to journal on every spread!

I still love traditional scrapbooking, the 4 – 6×6 page protectors challenge me to be more creative, and I love adding 12×12 pages and other items to give my album more interest.  But I what I really love about Project Life is that I can document our lives quickly and in a way that my kids enjoy, and I can have fun doing it!

If you are a scrapbooker in need of a little inspiration, or someone who wants to begin the hobby and you’re overwhelmed with all the options, I encourage you to check out Project Life!  You won’t be disappointed!

My Scrapbooking Journey – Part 1 (Cultivating A Hobby)

I started scrapbooking just over 10 years ago.  I can’t believe it’s been that long. It feels like it’s always been a part of me.

When I was little, I loved arts and crafts.  I was always trying to come up with an idea of something to create.  Shopping for school supplies was one of my favourite events of the year!  Little did I know that this seemingly fleeting interest would turn into an adult passion.

My mom was the reason I jumped into the hobby.  She showed me some pages she created after my nephew was born, and I was intrigued.  I knew I could create something like that and I loved the idea of combining crafts and photos.  So off I went to the local scrapbooking store, and I was immediately hooked!

This was my first layout.  Pretty basic, but now that I look back, it wasn’t that bad!  I worked on it in the cropping area at the store where we had full use of a Sizzix die cutting machine, and endless possibilities of paper and stickers within a 50 foot radius.

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Here’s the pages that followed, you will see that my technique started to evolve over time, but I was always about simplicity.  Not too many embellishments, but also very little journalling with my own handwriting.

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I had subscriptions to Simple Scrapbooks and Creating Keepsakes magazines and poured through every edition looking for ideas and the latest supplies.  When I purged my scrapbooking room this past spring, it broke my heart to give away nearly 100 old copies of those magazines, because I wanted the space and hardly looked at them.  But I did keep the special editions, which you can see on my shelf!

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I attended quite a few CKC Buffalo Conventions with my mom and aunt, which were a great opportunity to take classes, learn new techniques, shop and crop!  I have a storage bin on the floor in my room of all the CKC Buffalo projects I need to finish.  Someday I’ll get through all of them!  This is a layout from one of the many classes I took.  I love the colours and structure of the page!  It’s one of the very few I have with a photo of me.  Most of them are about my nephews, sons and family.

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After a few years of scrapbooking, I started to lose motivation for the hobby.  I could only scrapbook so many pictures of my nephews, regardless of how adorable they were/are.  I have stacks and stacks of mini albums about trips hubby and I took before and after we got married.  I needed new subjects to focus on!

Before our first son was born, we moved into a new house and I claimed a small room in the basement for my scrapbooking space.  I painted it a bright teal, it felt energizing and brightened the otherwise dreary space.  I love this space, it makes me happy when I hang out in there.  I really do forget about everything else and just play.

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My ribbon, Colour Shine, and washi tape collections.

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My happy place

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Like many scrapbookers, I’m a bit of a hoarder. I use colour drawers to organize my embellishments, and categorized my tools so they are easy to find. I also have copious amounts of paper. Because you can never have too much paper!!

Before our first son was born in 2011, I forced myself to finish an album I was working on for a Europe trip hubby and I took in 2007.  That was the last project I worked on for two years.

Everyone made maternity leave sound like a glorified holiday.  For those who don’t live in Canada, we get a year home with our child.  I had no idea how little time I would actually have to myself!  And when you’re only sleeping in 2-3 hour increments for many many months, there aren’t exactly many creative juices flowing!

Instead of scrapbooking his first year, I created a number of photo books.  I liked being able to create them quickly, and they looked great!  My poor scrapbooking room turned into a glorified storage space, the door forever closed to hide the clutter.  When I went back to work, I had even less time to myself.  And the time I did have was usually spent unwinding or catching up on household to-do’s.  I thought I would never get back in there…that is, until my second maternity leave when I discovered Project Life.  But that’s another story altogether…stay tuned for part 2!

Harvest Home Decor

I love the fall.  I love the cooler days, the vibrant colours of the trees as the leaves change, and the plentiful variety of pumpkins and gourds available for cooking and decorating.  I’ve shared a lot of my fall baking projects, but I thought I’d also share a few snapshots of how we dressed up our home for the season.

I’m most proud of our front porch.  I always admire homes with rich fall outdoor displays and this year I took advantage of the free time I have while on maternity leave (translation: shopping with a 9 month old in tow and decorating while he naps) to dress up our entrance.  I’ve wanted to create this pumpkin tower for quite some time, I saw something similar at Springridge Farm a few years ago.  It’s very simple – three pumpkins stacked on top of each other in a heavy ceramic pot (I learned the hard way and broke a plastic pot) with a rod running through the middle to keep them from toppling over.  It turned out great!

My oldest loves the little pumpkins.  Every time he passes them, he moves them around to his liking.  A future designer perhaps?

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With Halloween just under two weeks away, I’ve incorporated some spooky (but toddler friendly) items.  Now we just need to stay out of the Halloween chocolate so there’s some left for the trick or treaters!

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Slow Cooker Beef Stew – Take 2

A few weeks ago we tried Simple Beef Stew from Saving You Dinero.  It turned out very well, but the sauce was very thin and I had to thicken it at the end.  A few readers suggested removing the lid for half an hour before it was ready.  I tried that, but it didn’t work.

So I decided to try the roux again: melt two tablespoons of butter in a pan, then whisk in two tablespoons of flour and cook until it’s a light golden colour.  Then add sauce from the crock pot and heat until bubbling.  It thickened fairly quickly.  As an experiment, I also decided to add some Bisto gravy thickener, which I found when I was cleaning out my pantry on the weekend.  What a difference these steps made!  It immediately looked like gravy.  I brought the pot to a boil and then poured it over the meat and vegetables in the crock pot.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to thicken the sauce DURING the cooking process, but this method isn’t too time intensive (it took less than 10 minutes) and worked like a charm.  Hubby and I like thick, gravy like sauce and this did the trick.  I would love to hear any suggestions for achieving this without the extra steps.  Please share if you have any tips!

I made two other adjustments to this recipe this time around.  I added a packet of Club House Beef Stew seasoning at the beginning.  It added a lot of flavour!  Hubby always adds HP Sauce and he pointed out that this stew had so much flavour, he didn’t need to add anything.  That’s quite the compliment!  The other adjustment was the addition of more vegetables.  I added some extra carrots, a cup of frozen peas and a cup of green beans.  The beans were pretty soggy by the time the stew was ready, but the new vegetables tasted great!

Now to find the ultimate chicken stew recipe…any recommendations? Thanks for reading!

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Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Broccoli

On tonight’s menu was Creamy Chicken & Broccoli, from 13 Freezer Meals In Three Hours, the recipes for which I found on Saving You Dinero).

Ingredients:

1 -½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2-3 medium/large)

1 – .6 oz package Italian dressing, dry mix

½ cup water

1 10.75 oz can cream of mushroom soup

8 oz brick of cream cheese

1 – 12 oz package frozen broccoli

Directions:

Add chicken, dry mix, soup and water to crock pot. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. About an hour before it’s ready, add broccoli and a bar of cream cheese and mix well. Serve over rice.

Freezer Bag Instructions – Place chicken, Italian dressing, and water in a large freezer bag. Keep broccoli and cream cheese separate.

Review:

This was another hit! It was really easy to prepare and tasted fantastic! I’m not a big broccoli fan but I really enjoyed this. I accidentally bought ranch dressing mix instead of Italian and it tasted just fine. Two thumbs up!IMG_2600.JPG

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Thanksgiving Baking Bonanza

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada and my contribution to my husband’s family dinner is broccoli, carrots, dinner rolls and dessert. I love and opportunity to bake, especially since hubby doesn’t have a sweet tooth and the little guy and I can only eat so much!

I decided to make cupcakes and pumpkin lollipops for each place setting. I scoured Pinterest for turkey cupcake inspiration and once I found an idea, I went to Bulk Barn to stock up on candy. I may have gotten a little carried away (I had so much leftover that I made candy bags for the boys) but I found everything I needed.

I made two dozen white cupcakes, half iced with vanilla buttercream and the other half with chocolate frosting. The turkey head is a twix bar cut in half, and the face details are attached with a melted candy decorating pen.

I also made 16 pumpkin pops using candy melts and pumpkin molds. It was a test run for Halloween, as I’ll be making the pumpkin pops again for my sons class (but I have to make 25 – eek!).

I’m pleased with how everything turned out, hopefully they taste as good as they look!

Gobble gobble (happy thanksgiving)!!!
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