Monday, 19 November 2012

Cleaning your Ceramic Stovetop

Does your ceramic stovetop always have little black spots from spitting oil or boiling pasta? I am a mother of 5 and always cooking, I mean ALWAYS cooking! At the end of the day my cooktop usually looks like this.

Not so pretty right? Believe me, when the dishes are washed, floors are swept and leftovers are tucked away, the last thing you want looking at you is another dirty surface.

 So I pulled out my Shaklee Scour Off and these handy little Loofha scrubbers that I found at my local Dollarama.

 They claim to be scratch free(which is required for ceramic cooktops,) enviro-friendly, and compostable to boot.  

I just popped off those knobs and dropped them into the sink while I scrubbed. So much easier to get to all the spills and grime that seep under these little spaces once these are removed.

I love using mircrofibre cloths for cleaning, again, they are enviro-friendly(just toss in the washer and save piles of waste from the landfill,) super-absorbent and they always give a nice polished finish. I picked these ones up from Costco in the automotive department. A large bag for very little, plus there were multiple colours which I find useful as I like to assign each colour a different purposes.

End result, a spot free finish, no residue or scratches and it only took me about a 60 seconds to accomplish. It is so nice to have a clean surface to inspire the next meal and the peace of mind in knowing that you didn't have to use toxic chemicals.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Late Fall in my Backyard!

I will admit that I am a true outdoors girl and long-time admirer of Mother Nature.  Our new home was purchased mainly because of the property. The house is always secondary when I am house-hunting as a house can (and usually will)  be renovated. But there is no changing a neighbour's home 10ft from your own or having piece of mind when your children go out to play. We are in the middle of a small city, minutes from all amenities, but come home to a mature sanctuary on 5 sprawling acres. During these crisp Fall days, there is nothing better than slipping on my rubber boots and heading out to the garden. 
Cape Breton is famous for it's breath-taking scenery and colours along the Cabot Trail this time of year If you have never visited our beautiful island, please write it on your to-do list, you won't be sorry! So, before the snow begins to fly, I would like to share a last little glimpse of this glorious season from my own backyard.  

A typical image at our back door. Rubber boots
One of the many Fall wreaths I created this year. Switched it to my front door since this picture. But it certainly sets the tone of the season.

My daliahs making their last efforts to show their pretty little faces.

 The leaf littered walk to my garden shed.

 What says Fall more than pumpkins and Mums?

 The last little tomato hanging on to it's fallen branches.
 My property is home to mounds and mounds of leafy ferns. I love ferns in all seasons.
 I happened upon these interesting little mushrooms, such a colourful surprise underfoot.

Another picture showing the awesomeness of these guys. Reminds me of a pink grapefruit.

 A peek into the woods where the boys love to do some mountain biking.

Another Fall wreath, this one currently resides on the exterior master bedroom door. Love the orange, red and green together. 

My 5 little helpers. Taking a little break to play in the leaves.

 Perfect time of year to move things around and separate for new plants next Spring.

This is a beautiful piece where the kids love to play soccer and football.

 Another group of mushrooms. Hey, where's Papa Smurf?

The soil is in wonderful condition to get rid of pesky weeds before Spring. Rhododendrons are some of my favs. I have purples, pinks and reds in many different shades.

 Fall is a time for health, family and fun!

Friday, 5 October 2012

High Kicking Cheese Platter

Starting off on with a simple yet rewarding project, preparing a cheese tray. My boys and husband have joined the Taekwondo program here in Sydney at Island Martial Arts Center. They are loving every minute! Tonight was the blackbelt testing, so there was a call to the families to provide goodies for the banquet afterwards. As my first call of duty, I wanted to rise to the occassion and of course, be asked to contribute again. Nothing is more rewarding than someone enjoying what you have prepared with your own hands. 

Started off in my head with my usual fall backs, fruit trays, sandwiches, squares, etc. Taking also into consideration that there is a huge demand for peanut-free dishes in our community. The decision was ultimately made when browsing for inspiration at my local grocer and saw that block cheese was on sale for half price...cheese tray it is! I am very much a bargain hunter (with 5 kids you have to be!) and felt that I could add more garnishes to the dish for the same price if I took advantage of sale prices. This is usually how I also shop for nightly suppers, find what is fresh and on sale, find the recipe later. 

Anyway, I came home with a stock pile of goodies and prepped the kitchen. Scrubbed the counters, veggies, and fruit. Chopped the cheese into cubes of equal size. Stored in airtight Rubbermaid containers in the fridge until assembly time. (Note: When shopping peanut-free, consider crackers, spreads and may be surprised to what may contain nuts or traces of labels carefully and always look for the peanut-free label.)

Then the fun part, designing the platter.  I didn't want to send out any of my good trays in case of loss or damage, nor did I want to skimp on the quality that wouldn't hold the weight of the food. So I wavered in between and found a large, white, plastic oval platter that I found a Costco. Gave it a quick wipe and used my label maker to add our name to the bottom. 

I didn't like the white showing through, so i decided to cover the base with leafy red lettuce. Cleaned out a firm red pepper and placed it in the center and filled with stuffed olives. Mimicked the same with a green pepper only filled with a spinach dip. Used the pepper lids to add height and interest to the tray. Worked my way out from there. Using the sheaths of Breton crackers on each end. Filled out to each side with the cubed cheese, Triscuit triangles and the other end Vinta square crackers (using a variety of shapes.) Then added the grapes, baby dills, and pepperoni. Still looked a little less than full, so I added a few fresh sprigs of parsley to the mix.

Love using food for containers. You don't have to worry about them being returned after the event, plus it adds fun and interest to the platter.

Voila! So easy, big impact!

Thought it would be fun to also include a budgetary break-down. Please keep in mind that these are sale prices at my local grocer and prices vary according to region and seasonal products.


Red Leaf Lettuce - $2.00
Seedless Red Grapes - $2.16 (used half bag - $1.08)
Seedless Green Grapes - $2.16 (used half bag - $1.08)
Sweet Green Pepper - $1.17
Sweet Red Pepper - $2.07
Curly Parsley - $1.39 (used very small amount - $0.25)
Spinach Dip - $3.79
Pepperoni - $4.73
Vinta square crackers - $2.50
Triscuit Triangle crackers - $2.50
PC Crisp&Thin crackers - $1.89
Mozzarella cheese - $4.27 (used 3/4 of block - $3.20)
Old Cheddar cheese - $4.27 (used 3/4 of block - $3.20)
Marble Cheddar cheese - $4.27 (used 3/4 of block - $3.20)
PC Green Olives - $4.99 (used half jar - $2.50)
PC Baby Dill Tangy - $1.49


I will admit, this is a little more pricey than I would usually dish out for a tray. However, this was an important event for our family and felt that it was justified. If you wanted to cut back on expenses you could definitely make some substitutes. But I strongly advise you to cut back on quantity rather than the quality of the ingredients.

Check in again,