Browsing Tag

how-to

HOME + GARDEN

The Ups and Downs of Home Renovation

home renovation tips

I have been quiet the past weeks because I oversee the renovations at the 1960s split-level house we bought in spring. Like we see on TV, my emotions went from total excitement to deception as problems surfaced. Then, fatigue and despair hit as things take time to be rebuilt. Thankfully, my energy went up again since we are closer to the finish line.

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Social Media

Seven Writing Tips for Bloggers to Convey Your Message

tips for editing your blog posts

Every blogger develops their own writing style. This is a part of the attraction of reading a blog. If we were to examine your writing style, we will probably find that reflects the type of person that we are in real life. Loyal readers can discover some of your character traits and your skills just by reading your blog. For instance, I like to get to the point, which is why I prefer shorter posts to long ones. Continue Reading

BEVERAGE FOOD + DRINK

Easy Tips for Brewing a Good French Press Coffee

brew french press pot tips

brew french press pot tips

I always start my day of work by brewing a pot of French Press coffee. I am picky about which coffee beans I buy. It has to taste fresh and strong. If it is not, I will throw it away. I will take extra steps to ensure a great cup of joe but I am not a coffee snob. Although I grind my own beans right before brewing my coffee, I won’t make a fuss if some grounded beans from yesterday are in the pot.

coffee french press pot

Here are the few essential steps to brew a robust French Press pot.

1. A coarse grind

The larger particules eliminate the unpleasant sludge caused by the fine grit. I take that with caution. The coarser setting of my old entry-level grinder does produce some powder and tiny coffee bits. But the metal filter of my Bodum pot doesn’t a decent job at keeping them out. I found that pouring the coffee into a carafe as soon as it is ready diminishes the effect.

If you are on the market for a coffee grinder, go for a burr grinder instead of a blade one. Be prepared to invest $300 or more for a grinder that will produce an even grind time after time. Remember that an entry-level burr coffee grinder will always beat the best blade coffee grinder. Fopr the moment, I will continue to use my 25 years old grinder.

2. The right amount of coffee

Personally, I put 2 rounded tablespoons for 2 mugs and a half of coffee. I have an 8-cup model but I don’t fill it up. Find what works for you and for the coffee beans that you use.

3. The water temperature

Water should be about 200ºF (anything between 195-205ºF is fine). I don’t need a thermometer since my Breville electric kettle has a French Press setting. Otherwise, know that the right temperature is slightly lower than boiling temperature. It is because you don’t want to burn your coffee.

4. Pour a Little, Stir and Set the Timer

I initially pour a third of the total water that I will use to make a press pot. I stir with chopsticks until I create a small foam. I set my stove the timer to 3:40 minutes. Since I aim for a total  brewing time of 4 minutes, I offset the stirring time and the time it will take me to cancel the timer and reach the pot.

5. Fill the Pot

Pour the hot water. Add the filter assembly. I put down the filter a little, just enough to make sure that the coffee is fully immersed.

french press coffee pour in mason jar

6. Pour into a Carafe

As soon as the timer rings, I pour me a cup and pour the rest into a Mason jar. To avoid the sludge, don’t pour every sip of liquid. I also throw away the bottom of every mug. Maybe, it is time that I invest in a better coffee grinder after all.

 

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Parenting Tips: How I Get My Baby to Sleep All Night

How to get my baby to sleep through the night?

My husband and I are the lucky parents of a loving baby that sleeps all night since he is 3-week old. We can’t take all the credits since Zack arrived from his 3-week hospital stay this way.

At four weeks, Zack made us understand that he didn’t want us to wake him anymore for feeding. His doctors said it was OK to let him guide us to what he needs. He drank plenty of milk during the day. He quickly moves to sleeping 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours and so on, without a bottle. He sleeps for 10 to 12 hours every night in his nursery since he is 3 or 4 months.

At a time where having a good night sleep is a luxury for most new parents, I felt truly blessed. So, I did some reading to make sure that my baby continues to sleep well. I learned that a few simple rules made it possible. For the ones who doubted that it applies to most babies, you should give a try to know if it works before you make a decision. I read that this method provides a high success rate.

Differencing Night and Day

The first rule for sleeping all night is that your baby must grasp the difference between night and day. Once your baby distingues nighttime, you can teach your baby that night is made for sleeping. It starts by lowering the lights and reducing the noises in the house near bedtime. The light and noise trick comes from the hospital. This is what they do at the NICU.

Short Bedtime Routine

We try to keep our bedtime routine short and simple. Ours used to take up to 45 minutes when he was a few weeks old. Now that he is 17 months old, it takes about 10 minutes. Zack understands it. In fact, he is looking forward to our bedtime ritual. Our babysitter reproduces the same ritual once a week with the same level of success than us. While my husband is prepping his last bootle feed, I change his diaper and put on his pyjama. We feed him in our living room before we move him to his room upstairs.

For about a year, we waited until he was asleep in our arms and then, gently put him in his crib. Sometimes after he reached one year old, we slowly moved away from waiting that he was completely asleep before leaving the room. Later, our son started to tell us that he did not want to be in our arms and that he prefers to go straight to his bed.

We currently feed him a bottle, brush his teeth, mommy quickly gives him a kiss and he goes straight to his crib. After putting my baby in his crib, we turn his pendant light off, we strategically place two OXO nightlights around his room and illuminate his ceiling with stars and a moon. We tell them the story about how the sun went down and the dark sky gets brighter. We only provide him with a dark sleeping environment at nighttime. We have a little play session with a plush toy or we sing him a few songs before we tell him good night. A baby can easily relate to these steps and understand what is coming next.

Everyone, including my baby, is happier since my baby falls asleep by himself, at naptime and at bedtime. I feel that you must do that step when your baby is ready for it.

Give Your Baby Time to Learn How to Sleep

Babies must learn how to stay asleep when they are transitioning from one sleep stage to another stage. This is one of the reasons why they cry. Waking them when they are transitioning from one sleep stage to the next only makes it harder for them to learn that most important skill when it comes to sleep. When this happened, your baby can still be asleep. Give your baby the few minutes he/she needs to make the transition. So wait a few minutes — my limit is 5 minutes —before you rush by the crib. It will be a lot easier to do this if you must get up in the middle of the night and walk to their nursery than if your baby sleeps next to your bed.

Comfort only when Needed

From what I read, the earliest a baby can learn how to sleep on his/her own, the easiest it will be to acquire the skill. I can bring comfort to my baby in my arms if he woke up in tears (arrived a lot when he does his teeth), but he will return to sleep in his crib after that. I often found that he only wants a fresh diaper. Like I said earlier, we quickly reached a point I didn’t need to feed him during the night.

Keep the Noise Down at Night

To further help your baby distingues between night and day, it is best that they sleep with no noises at night and that they can nap hearing your day activities.

What about Naptime?

To not confuse them, rely on a different routine at naptime. Your baby needs to know that we only expect a short sleep.This is why when he was younger, he slept in his room only at night. He napped in the crib of his playard in a corner of my living room during the day.

As he grows older, I tried several napping techniques.  To tell you the truth, I had more problems with establishing a regular naptime than sleeping at night. My boy used to fight me even when he was tired. For the past few months, we found a way that suits him. I tell my son that I will see him soon and that we will play after he sleeps. I often leave him with a book in his crib. He decided when to fall asleep; which is usually a few minutes after I left his room. One important visual cue remains: I partially close his blinds so he sees that their is still light outside.

I know that every parent and baby is different. My technique might not suit your parenting style. My goal is simply to provide food for thoughts. Any comments, any tips to add? How did you teach your infants to sleep at night?

BABY care FAMILY

Baby Food: Essentiels to Make Your Own Baby Purees

baby food

baby food
photo of my son at 7 months after a meal

Introducing a baby to solids can be challenging for new moms. After trying several brands of store-bought vegetable purees, it became clear that if I wanted my son to develop appetite and to stimulate his taste buds, I must cook my own vegetable purees. It is fun and if you do in batch, it will not require a lot of your time.

Before I gave birth, I wanted one of these fancy baby food machines. Let me tell you that you don’t need one. I bought a Beaba Babycook, read the manual and return it. My method is simpler, uses what you already have in your kitchen and would not become useless 6 or 7 months later. Talking to a few moms convinced me that a baby food machine didn’t worth the trouble, the cash and the extra counter space. Instead, I upgraded my 20-year old immersion blender for a sturdy model with a chopper attachment with lid. I never looked back.

Batch Cooking and Freezing

If I was making mashed potato and carrot for our dinner, I doubled the recipe. I froze the rest in ice cube trays. I use standard ice cubes (because I had them), the trays from KidCo and the PLASTIS ice cube trays from IKEA. If you need to equip yourself, buy two standard size silicone trays — it is easier to remove the food from them — and a few PLASTIS trays. The smaller size of the PLASTIS trays is practical for adjusting how much food you serve to your baby.

Season the Baby Food

My goal was that Zack could easily transition to what we eat for dinner. I developed recipes that fit my cooking style. For me, that means seasoning the food. Right from the start, I use butter, olive oil, onions, freshly ground pepper, ginger, fennel, and herbs to provide an array of flavour to my baby.

The Basis of my Recipes

I boiled the  vegetables in a marguerite. I tried roasting in the stove one or twice without success. I cut the vegetables in small pieces to reduce the boiling time. Each puree includes two or three vegetables that complement each other in taste and texture. I cooked them together.

I experimented a lot. Don’t hesitate to look at what inside your fridge or on your counter before you start. One of my yummiest recipe was a batch of caramelized onions that I mixed with boiled carrots. For inspirations, I looked at soup recipes. The list of ingredients triggered delightful mixes that became my signature purees.

Zack adored these recipes:

  • Ginger flavoured sweet potato and zucchini puree. I added a small potato to absorb the water of the zucchini.
  • Ginger flavoured carrot and red onion puree.
  • Mashed cauliflower and potatoes with a touch of fennel.

Have you cook any tasty purees lately? What is your secret?

Zack now eats like us. No more purees for him; in his mind, he is a big boy. He looks forward to lunch and dinner. He eats by himself and likes everything, except for eggs that he never cared for. We will never know if making his purees played a role in that but I am sure that it didn’t hurt. I encourage any mother to make their own baby purees. All you need is your pots and pans, a handblender, good ingredients and a little bit of imagination.

 

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining

Garnish a Spinach and Lettuce Soup with Greek Yogurt

garnish a soup with greek yogurt video

garnish a soup with greek yogurt video

If you think that serving a soup is boring, you will change your mind after watching this video. What I like about serving a soup at a party is that you can cook a day or two in advance. In summer, there are tons of tasty cold soup recipes that you can choose from.

If you are convinced after you learned how to give panache and to enhance the plain taste of a spanish and lettuce soup with sliced chilis, minced cilantro, pickled daikon and two small scoops of Greek Yogurt,  then — as they say — it would be your lost. Personally, I want a bowl.

Video by Randy Risling staring Corey Mintz for The Toronto Star

ORGANIZING

New Uses for Old Things: Shutter Makeovers

old shutter diy pin board

Next time you pass by a stray shutter on the curb, at a garage sale or at an antique market, stop and consider giving it a new lease on life. Sure, they function perfectly well inside or outside of windows, but with a little creativity that shutter can also add functionality and organization in the corners of your home.

old shutter diy pin board

Shutter slats are perfectly suited for storage and organization. As shown on MarthaStewart.com, a coat of paint unifies a trio of shutters to create an entryway catchall for shopping lists, invitations and mail. This easy idea can be put to use almost anywhere in your home – add one to a kitchen wall to clear clutter from the fridge, or a kid’s room to display their artwork . We also love the idea of using a weather-worn shutter to organize seed packets and other gardening gear in a garage or potting shed with the help of clothespins, S-hooks and other hardware.

shutter diy book magazine rack

Speaking of kid’s rooms, turning a shutter on its side creates a clever rack to keep their favourite books easy to grab (check out the full DIY by Jamie of Something To Do). Right-side up, with a few rungs removed, create a rack for magazines and tuck it near your favourite chair for an adult-friendly reading nook.

shutter diy furniture shelf table

Obvious organizers, shutters can also play a part in larger projects around the home. We love the country-charm of this coat rack and shelf combination – perfect for a cottage. For a more contemporary look, choose clean-lined brackets and hardware.

HGTV created a console table using a shutter as the tabletop, and it’s barely recognizable! We love the light and airy look, but for a more solid surface, add a piece of glass on top.

SOURCING:
+ Entryway Pin Board DIY, Martha Stewar
+ Seed Packet Pin Board, Nest Full of Eggs
+ Entryway Coat Rack DIY, Better Homes and Gardens
+ Console Table DIY, HGTV.com
+ Magazine Rack, My Repurposed Life
+ Kid’s Bookshelf, Something To Do

FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

How to Peel a Garlic Bulb in 10 seconds

how to a garlic head in 10 seconds

how to a garlic head in 10 seconds

With the big Holiday season only a few months away, it is good to know tricks that can save you time in the kitchen. In this video, SAVEUR magazine‘s Executive Food Editor, Todd Coleman, shows you how to peel a whole head of garlic in less than ten seconds. It’s a bit noisy but effective.

More Options

silicone garlic peeler

For every day use, you can tap a clove of garlic with the back of a chef knife. A less-messy option is a garlic peeler. I like the colorful silicone garlic peeler by Danesco and Zak Designs.

I am on the lookout for more time-saving cooking tricks. If you know any, please share them.

SOURCING:
How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from SAVEUR.com
Zak Designs E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler, Blue $6.27 USD at Amazon.com [affiliate link]
+ via Aging Ungracefully

COOKING tools FOOD + DRINK

New Uses for Old Things: Muffin Tins

muffin tin ice cube tray cookie bowl

muffin tin ice cube tray cookie bowl

There seems to be no end to the versatility of baking tins: from container gardens to home office organizing stations. Though as useful as they may be elsewhere in your home, turns out they can be put to creative use in the kitchen too.

With its inverted moulds, Wilton’s Non-Stick Ice Cream Cookie Bowl tray makes a simple scoop of ice cream practically gourmet. The fluted edges of each “bowl” mimic vintage ice cream sundae dishes, but you can create the look (and the taste) for less by flipping over a regular muffin tin, adding a generous coat of cooking spray and forming your cookie dough around the mounds.

Lest you work up a sweat baking these sweet treats in the summer heat, keep cool by adding oversized ice cubes to your drink. Place slices of lemon and lime in muffin tins, fill with water and freeze! Try freezing cucumbers and pairing them with this recipe for Spa Cucumber Water, or use berries and plop the ice cubes in a punchbowl. If you don’t have a large freezer, remember to make room to balance the muffin tin.

We want to know: have you re-purposed kitchen tools or utensils in creative ways? Share your tip in the comments!

SOURCING:
+ Wilton Non-Stick Ice Cream Cookie Bowl, $11.99 USD
+ Lemon-Lime Ice Cubes from Industrious Justice

COOKING tools FOOD + DRINK

Kitchen Tip: Stock-Up for Your Slow Cooker

slow cooker veggies healthy mama baby blog

slow cooker veggies healthy mama baby blog

During these dog days of summer, the prospect of a hearty, rich slow cooker meal likely couldn’t be further from your mind. After all, it’s grilling season!

But this quick – and brilliant – tip from Tara and Stephanie at Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby makes so much sense right now, when farmer’s markets are loaded with fresh, locally grown veggies.

They chop meat and veggies to pre-assemble and freeze basic slow cooker meals. All it takes is a few ingredient adjustments to create completely different meals – from barbecue chicken to Thai curry.

Your slow cooker may stay in storage for another few months (although it sure beats turning on the oven during a heat wave!), but when you’re ready for your first cozy fall meal? You can re-live summer memories with the tastes of the season.

KITCHEN design ORGANIZING

New Uses for Old Things: Baking Sheet Magnet Board

Baking Sheet Magnet Board

Baking Sheet Magnet Board

Yesterday’s easy end-of-the-year teacher gift project got me thinking about everything else that comes with the end of the school year: piles of projects, artwork and report cards making their way from the classroom to every room in the house.

A little spray paint gives everyday kitchen baking sheets a new life as wranglers of colourful artwork and rainy day creative projects. Photos and display-worthy drawings are held to the baking sheet with magnets glued to the bottom of fluted metal tart cups, which are filled to the brim with pretty, stacked sewing notions.

This idea would look at home on the wall of a kitschy kitchen, in a kid’s bedroom or a craft room – whether you choose a colour that adds punch, or leave the sheets unpainted for a more modern look.

For full project instructions, check out the Crave Paper Blog.

SOURCING:
+ DIY Baking Sheet Magnet Board from Crave Paper Blog