Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pizza Recipe

For a variation of the traditional pizza, try this recipe. You will also find it in the Main Course section of my new book, Cooking 101, which will be released on Monday December 5, 2011.

Macaroni Pizza

You will need:

2 boxes of macaroni and cheese
1 tbsp prepared mustard (Honey Dijon is good too)
2 eggs, beaten
1 can pizza sauce
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 medium onion, sliced and separated
2 – 3 cups shredded cheese


1.    Prepare the macaroni and cheese according to package directions.
2.    Add mustard and beaten eggs to the macaroni.
3.    Spread macaroni mix into a greased 9X13 pan
4.    Add the sauce, ground beef, onions and cheese.
5.    Bake in a 350˚F oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and onions are tender.
6.    Remove from the oven when done and let sit for a few minutes before serving.
7.    Cut into pieces and enjoy!

As with any pizza, toppings may be mixed and matched. The possibilities are endless.

I added red peppers and green onions to the ground beef on this pizza. Half was made with the peppers and half without.

Enjoy and have a great day!


Attention Crafters!

Oh my gosh!!! Less than a month until Christmas and I still haven't started my shopping yet!

On Friday we should get some of it done; we are going to the city as my son has his check-up at the Stollery. (It is so nice to have appointments spaced six months apart now, and some of the tests a year apart.) I'm hoping the weather co-operates with us; I don't care to drive in the city where there are so many careless people.  Sometimes I think some of them should be on Canada's Worst Driver.

Now is the time to look for those unique and interesting gifts. Gifts such as these are not found in your local department store or even online. I am talking about the handmade gifts, available at the Christmas Craft Sales and at the little specialty stores across the country. There are many talented people out there, why not make their Christmas a little brighter by buying something they have made? Handmade gifts are so much nicer to receive. Granted certain things can't be handmade (like the Kobo Vox I would like) but I would love to receive a quilt or wall hanging. In my family I am the crafty one and not everyone appreciates quilts, afghans or other handmade things.

If you are a craftsperson, now is also the time to market your wares. If you have been stockpiling all year, why not host an Open House during the next three weeks leading up to Christmas? Decorate your home, put on some Christmas music and showcase your creations. If you feel you don't have enough for an Open House, get together with other crafters in your area.

Or better yet, provide a location for others to sell their wares. What starts out as a way to make a few extra dollars for Christmas could easily lead to year round income. For the homemaker interested in a few extra dollars per month, this is an excellent way to do it. I rent space in a local store that does showcases local crafts people, thus giving them constant exposure and custom orders (occasionally). I pay a low monthly fee, and sometimes make tenfold. It gives me the opportunity to sell my crafts without having to spend my days or weekends at markets and craft sales. It's a win-win!

The snow has started to fall, which doesn't impress me much. The good thing is it isn't -40. Hopefully the snow is over by tomorrow evening so the roads are clear for our trip on Friday.

Have a great day!


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Vehicle Maintenance

I miss my van!

I didn't realize just how much I depended on it until I no longer had it. I blew the engine in it, and now it sits awaiting repair. It had a few other minor issues, but nothing I couldn't work around. Now we are down to one vehicle, which Ross takes to work each day. I am glad I work at home, but having that second vehicle is nice just the same.

As a repair such as this one is an unforseen expense, budgeting for it was not done. I will be working extra hard to pay for the repairs so I am not home bound all winter long. I am not a big fan of driving in the winter, but it sure does come in handy being able to do so.  With almost 270,000 km on it, I have gotten my use out of it. Many kilometers were put on it while my son was undergoing cancer treatment. We did bi-weekly trips two and a half hours away for treatment for nine months. In the beginning of diagnosis, that trip was made several times withing the first couple of weeks.

It is important to do regular maintenance on a vehicle in order to keep it in perfect condition. One of the most important is oil changes, which I was usually adamant about. I regret to say I was a little lax in doing so lately as I felt I didn't drive as much so I could put it off. WRONG!!! I was informed after the fact that oil breaks down, and an engine will use it as fuel. That would explain the burnt oil I found when I took the oil cap off the engine. The worst part was it quit while I was in town and we had to load it on a trailer to take it for repair. (See photo) Inch by inch with a block and tackle; another learning experience for me.

I am not totally naive when it comes to vehicles and how they operate. I have changed my own tires, added my own oil, windshield washer fluid and transmission oil. Unfortunately for me, I got a little neglectful. I will be needing new tires and a new windshield (no thanks to the truckers that threw rocks at me) before it is 100% road ready, so when it is fixed I should be good for another 500,000 kilometers. For a van that size, I do have to say the gas mileage is great. It is hard to borrow a vehicle that gets only 15mpg while my van got almost 30mpg.

As the repairs get done to my van, I will be spending more time working to pay for it. I will be blogging more as well as adding more eBooks and articles to my portfolio. Plus, I have my patterns available as downloads, which can be accessed via the links on this blog. This is perhaps the kick I needed to spend more time marketing.

I have also been reading the information available at Entrepreneurs-Journey and have learned a lot. I would recommend the information contained on this site for anyone interested in blogging or online businesses. I am not an affiliate for the site; I just think it is practical information anyone could benefit from.

And remember...keep your vehicle maintenance up to date. you do not want to be left stranded like I was. I never said I do things the easy way...just ask my Dad!

Have a great day!


Monday, 28 November 2011

Writing as a Homemaker

I have been a member of Ezine Articles for several months now. A couple weeks ago they posted a contest on Facebook, and luckily I was the first one to answer their question correctly. My prize? A very nice leather bound journal, with their logo on the front cover. Plus, a very smooth writing pen! I was so excited when I won, and moreso when the package arrived in the mail today. Thank you Ezine Articles!

Being a homemaker for over twenty years has taught me more skills than any one job ever did. I have learned to budget both time and money; do laundry; wash dishes; cook; fix a leaky tap; unclog a toilet; care for children; live on less; sew; crochet; clean anything and everything; change oil in a vehicle; fix an extension cord; put up blinds; winterize a home - and the list goes on. Being able to write about all of these things is truly an experience in itself. 

Writing has very much become a part of my daily routine. Some days I write on my blog, other days I write articles. My books are also at the top of my writing list almost each and every day. As I spend more time writing, I learn more as well. I have learned more about writing and self-publishing in the past year and a half than I had ever known. In all honesty, the last six months has been the biggest learning curve.

In addition to writing articles, my blog and my books I have also written a couple of patterns I designed. That was a challenge in itself, as the patterns have to be written clearly so the beginner can follow the directions. It is all too easy for an experienced crochet artist to skip steps while writing instructions, as they know all the steps. One such pattern is for my Fingerless Gloves. I had to make sure I put in each step I took, even though it was second nature to me when I made them.

I aim to teach new homemakers the skills I have learned over my 40+ years, and making crafts is just as much a part of being a homemaker as cooking and cleaning is. My designs are aimed toward the practical aspects and can be completed in a relatively short time. I have learned to start small and simple, then try more complicated patterns or ways of doing things once the simple has been mastered. More complicated allows for a challenge, while simple gives us the skills we need along the way. My advice for anyone starting something new is to start small. I have been guilty of taking on a huge project (hence my learning small and simple is best to begin with) only to be frustrated when it did not progress as quickly as anticipated.

A little bit of advice for those of you just joining me: listen to what I have to say. Most of what I have learned has been the hard way, so when I suggest a way to go about doing something, keep in mind that was probably not the way I first did it. It is okay to do things the easy way, as long as it doesn't cut necessary corners. Enjoy the new things you will learn and don't be afraid to modify anything to suit your personal circumstances.

Have a great day!


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Party Dip

Today is Grey Cup Day!

I like to make the following dip for special events, and it rarely lasts the day. The following recipe can be found in my upcoming cookbook, which will be released in just over a week. This is one of my family's favorites, and I will be making it this afternoon. 

Surprise Spread

You will need:

2 pkgs cream cheese
½ cup Miracle Whip (or store equivalent)
1 cup sour cream
1 can pizza sauce
1 each green, yellow and red peppers
1 bunch green onion
1 tomato
1 – 2 cups shredded cheese


1.    Cream together cream cheese, Miracle Whip and sour cream. Spread on a large plate or platter.
2.    Spread the pizza sauce over the base and set aside. (It may be refrigerated while you chop the veggies.)
3.    Chop the peppers, tomatoes and green onion.
4.    Spread the vegetables evenly over the base, then sprinkle shredded cheese over top.
5.    Serve with assorted crackers.

Enjoy and have a great day!


Friday, 25 November 2011

Fingerless Gloves Pattern Available

The pattern for these gloves is now available. I was able to make them in a couple hours from some chunky acrylic yarn. I would recommend acrylic as the cotton yarn (dishcloth yarn) stretches out a bit too much for my liking.

I would appreciate some feedback on the clarity of the instructions from those who buy the pattern. I have crocheted for most of my life, so I tend to forget some steps a beginner may need. The size of the gloves can easily be adjusted by changing the size of the hook. This particular pair was made using a 4mm hook; switching it up to a 5mm will make the gloves just a bit bigger. The size may also be adjusted by the number of rows made. The instructions specify the adjustments possible.

My next project will be to make a pair of mittens; I will have to visit the local department store to stock up on some yarn. I have several balls of cotton yarn on hand, but not much in the line of acrylic yarn. I will be trying my hand at making a pair or three from alpaca yarn as well; but that may not be until next winter. We will be shearing our alpacas in the spring and I will have the fiber processed into yarn. My impatience may get the best of me and I will most likely order a few skeins from a fellow alpaca owner.

Along with making things to keep hands warm, I want to try my hand at making things to keep feet warm as well. For anyone who spends any amount of time outdoors in the winter, they know how important it is to keep feet warm and dry. Alpaca yarn is supposed to be one of the best for socks. I have yet to try it myself but I will be keeping you updated on my findings. For anyone wanting to try crocheting with alpaca yarn, please visit A to Z Alpacas. They also have a great tutorial online for making felted insoles.

I have also made the "7 Quick Household Tips" available for download. Please click on the link on the left side to get yours today!

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fingerless Gloves, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American neighbors! May the day bring you health, happiness and good will!

Today I am working on an eBook, which will be available for sale by month end. I will also be putting the finishing touches on Cooking 101 over the course of the next few days, which is still scheduled for release on December 5.

I am enjoying my time spent writing as well as the time I spend cooking, baking and making various crafts. Today I will be making cupcakes...and they will be ready by the time my kids get home from school. I am thinking chocolate would be a good flavor; chocolate is always a good choice in our house.

I am almost finished another pair of Fingerless Gloves, which I started last week while babysitting my nephews. I have made a few pairs, and have found the acrylic yarn to be better than 100% cotton. The cotton is warm enough, but it stretches out and the gloves soon become too big. My daughter claimed one of the first pairs I made and they are now big enough to fit a man. It was a good lesson to learn, as now I know what is the best yarn to use. I am anxious to try alpaca yarn as well, but have to wait until spring. Ours will be ready for shearing then and I plan on processing the fiber myself. Perhaps I will buy some yarn from fellow alpaca owners so I can work with it before the winter is over.

Now that I have made a mental list of things to do today, it is time to get busy with them. The most time consuming part will be writing out the instructions for the Fingerless Gloves, as I have designed this pair. The pattern will be available for purchase by month end.

My baking and crocheting await! Have a great day!


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Decorating Tips

Here we are, with just a little more than a month until Christmas! I haven't started my shopping yet; have you?

I haven't started to decorate yet either. I prefer to leave the decorating until after the 15th of December. Some people I know decorate right after Remembrance Day, but I think that is too early. Our little house needs to be rearranged to accommodate our tree so I leave it as late as possible. In the event we are able to have a real tree this year, the decorating won't get done until Christmas Eve. If we decide on using the artificial tree again (our Charlie Brown tree) it will be set up before Christmas Eve. I am hoping to be able to set up my little Christmas Village as well; perhaps my plants will be relocated for a few weeks so the village can be set up where we can enjoy it.

The village consists of two sets of ceramic lighted buildings four to seven inches high. It is fun setting it up, as I use quilt batting for the snow, a small oval mirror for the pond, and can rearrange the little people as I see fit. Santa's sleigh usually gets perched on a rooftop or between two buildings. My kids like to move the little people around. Sometimes they'll move something just to see how long it takes me to notice it.

When getting ready to decorate your home, there are some safety factors to consider. First of all, ensure the cords are tucked away so no one trips over them. It is also important not to overload an outlet; if you must have a few cords plugged in to one outlet use a power bar or power block. These usually have built in surge protectors and will trip the breaker if there is too heavy a load. It is best to not overload your outlets at all; many fires during the holidays can be prevented.

Also, do not leave lights unattended. The new lights available are cool to the touch, but sometimes old sets are used as well. If you have lights on a real tree, be sure to keep the tree watered. A real tree will dry quickly if not kept watered and can easily burst into flames. Christmas is supposed to be a happy time; don't let it be the day you lost your home due to carelessness.

Take a few moments to check over your outdoor lighting as well. Repair or replace sets with frayed wires, as these too can be a fire hazard. A few extra minutes taken while decorating can mean the difference between a happy holiday and a disastrous holiday. Don't cut corners when it comes to electrical cords.

Stay safe when stringing your lights on your roof. Do not go on your roof if it is icy. Many people will string their lights in the fall, before the snow flies. This is not a bad idea, especially for anyone stringing lights on a steep roof. Any roof is dangerous when it is slippery; use common sense. There are many brackets and hangers on the market which attach directly to the edge of the roof or eavestroughs, which makes the need to go on the roof minimal. If you have a fence, perhaps it is best to string lights on it instead.

There are many solar lights available on the market. Using solar sets outside not only cuts down on your electric bill, it also eliminates the need to have extension cords running all over your yard. Eliminating the extension cords also eliminates a tripping hazard. It is the home owner's responsibility to ensure their property is safe for visitors; do not let carelessness result in injuries.

Enjoy the season and the decorations. Keep safety in mind at all times.

Have a great day!


Friday, 18 November 2011

Snow Removal Tips

With winter comes snow. Now is the time to get ready for it.

There are a few things to be done before the major snows hit your area (if they haven't already).

1. One of the first is to make sure you have your shovels and ice chippers handy. Trying to retrieve them from the shed after it snows a foot or two is not fun.
2. Decide beforehand where you will be piling the snow when it is time to shovel. Remove any planters or items that could be damaged by the weight of the snow.
3. For those with snow blowers or garden tractors and quads with blades, be sure your equipment is ready to go. Perform your Fall maintenance so when the snow comes you can get right to it. Keeping your equipment maintained is crucial any time of year, but even moreso when temperatures dip well below freezing.
4. One of the biggest mistakes people make with the first snow fall is shoveling too much too fast. Remember to pace yourself to avoid sore muscles later. Doing some stretches before you even pick up the shovel is a good idea. For anyone with a heart condition, don't rush; the snow isn't going anywhere. If you don't get it all shoveled today, there is always tomorrow. It is not worth ending up in the hospital over.
5. Make snow removal a family affair. Even toddlers can have a little shovel and will enjoy being able to help. It is a great way for the entire family to get some exercise and fresh air. When the snow is shoveled, warm up with a mug of hot chocolate and a family movie.

For those of us who live in snowbound country, we must learn to embrace it. It comes whether we like it or not. I am personally not a big fan of it, especially when it comes to traveling. Perhaps I need to take up a winter sport so I can learn to appreciate the snow. What do you do for fun in the winter?

Have a great day!


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Old Man Winter is Here to Stay

I do believe winter is here to stay! I am not looking forward to it, but we live where we live and we have to deal with it. I know I will whine and complain about it, but will make it through just as I have any other year. I don't completely hate winter; the best thing about it is there aren't any BUGS! The other advantage is I get more done inside; during the summer I spend very little time inside so only the basics get done. Winter is a time for me to crochet, quilt and scrapbook.

In addition to my crafts, this winter will also be spent working on book number three: Cleaning, Storage and Decorating (date of publication TBA). I have learned a few tricks over the years and will be sharing what I know. Not everyone has unlimited space, so finding storage solutions that look nice can sometimes be a challenge. There are many organizers, storage totes and shelving available on the market but some come with a hefty price tag. My goal is to offer practical solutions for the lowest cost possible.

In our climate, the cold settles into the walls and floors of our homes. For those that live in homes built before the invention of pink insulation, chances are there is no longer insulation from top to bottom. As the years go on, the insulation used in the 40's and 50's (and earlier) has settled and no longer offers a barrier between the walls. For those who renovate the older homes, the foam insulation is placed on the exterior walls then covered with siding. Doing it this way eliminates disturbing the insulation inside the walls, and makes for a more cost efficient renovation.

Upgrading the windows is also a good idea, but can get costly as well. A few years ago I had inquired about having windows replaced in a home I was living in. I had mentioned to the contractor I wanted bigger windows put in, and he told me in the older homes they preferred to install inserts into existing frames. The reason for this was because once they start cutting they may find, or cause, more structural damage. The end result for me was the windows did not get replaced as the house was a rental and the owners did not want to invest that much money into it. I did learn something from talking to the contractor, and that in itself was a good thing.

If renovating your home is not an option, there are steps you can take to make it warmer in winter. On October 28 I explained how to install the plastic film on interior windows to help winterize, as well as how to check for drafts. To give you an idea of how cool an interior wall can be, we have a digital thermometer on a North wall in our kitchen. This morning the outside temperature was -15C and the wall temperature was 15C while the rest of the house is at about 20C. That is a big difference in my world. That coolness will permeate into the rest of the home, thus increasing the need to turn up the heat. Something as simple as displaying quilts on the walls will help insulate against the cold. (I can think of many who would be rolling their eyes at this point, but believe me it works.)

It is time for me to suck it up and go out to do the chores; our animals await. Then it is off to my sister's to babysit my nephews for the day.

Have a great day!


p.s. Have you done what you can to winterize your home to keep out Old Man Winter?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Where has 2011 gone?

It is hard to believe it is mid-way through November already! Where has 2011 gone?

This has been an exciting year for me, as I have been able to concentrate on writing my books as well as several articles. In addition to my series, I have been busy writing shorter eBooks as well. I recently published "Your First eBook" Course on Lulu and am currently working on a craft related book. (The title is not finalized yet, which is why all I am revealing so far is "craft related".)

It has also been a year of learning for me in more than one area of life. I have (and am still) learned about self-publishing, writing, marketing, blogging and staying on track. I have also learned about alpacas (we bought a small herd in June) and pot belly pigs (one joined our family in July). My experience with farm equipment maintenance and repair also increased this year, which is a good thing.

As I continue to write my series, I constantly make notes for the next books. Life has so much to give, and there is still so much to learn. I have learned most of what I know through trial and error (some of the errors are just downright funny, but more about those in the books), and life's experience is the best teacher. That is not to say a formal education is not important, because it is. However, some things just cannot be learned in books.

As I reflect on the past ten and a half months, I must say it has been a good year. Things have been a bit hectic at times, but we have gotten through. The only major catastrophe for me has been the motor going in my van just recently. I am afraid to find out cost to fix it; looks like we may become a one vehicle family for awhile. That will put a bit of a damper on things, but I will save money on gas. I will be home bound for the most part as my partner works full-time, but that too is not a bad thing. I don't care to drive in the winter anyhow, so my feelings aren't seriously hurt. I am not looking forward to not having the use of a vehicle though in case of an emergency. My sister told me I should just saddle up the horse when I need to go somewhere; don't think I want to make the 10 mile trek to town on horseback though.

Cooking 101 is in the final stages and is still scheduled for release on December 5. I am still interested in featuring a few more home-based businesses (cooking/baking related). If you or anyone you know would like to be featured, please let me know. Location is not an issue as these books will be available internationally. I look forward to helping anyone with an existing business increase awareness, as well as providing the information so others may make informed decisions on what is available.

Upcoming books will also feature existing home-based businesses; no matter your business, I will most likely be writing a book on something that it pertains to. Let me know what it is you do, and I will let you know where in the series it will be. The next book in the line-up is Cleaning, Storage and Decorating; date of publication TBA.

Have a great day is time for me to take my son to his orthodontist appointment (thanks Dad for the use of your truck).


Monday, 14 November 2011

Wanted: Home-based business info!

Good morning! As each of my books in The Homemaker Helper Series has a section dedicated to home-based business, I have decided to showcase local and not-so-local businesses in each book. I regret not thinking of this sooner. Cooking 101 is scheduled for release on December 5; I am very interested in showcasing Party Plan, Catering, Farmer's Market Vendors, etc. Your location can be anywhere, as this book will be available worldwide.

Everyone is being asked the same questions:

1. How long have you been at this business?
2. What are your reasons for starting this business?
3. How much do you make, ball park? (I understand some may not wish to answer this question; that is fine.)
4. How many presentations do you do per month, on average? (This question is directed at Party Plan, but if you have a table at a local market or cater, just include the average number of times you do it per month.)
5. What else would you like to share about your home-based business? Experiences, website, etc.

For those wishing to be included in this book, please send me an email ( with the answers to the question. Links will be included in the book which may result in orders or inquiries about your business for years to come.

Please contact me before November 20, 2011 if you wish to be included in this book. Thank you!

Have a great day!


Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day

Today is the day we officially honor those who fought for our freedom. Let us not forget the sacrifice they made. Many made the ultimate sacrifice; their lives. It is so easy for us to go about our daily lives and not give much thought to how fortunate we are. Although today is the day of honor, how many take time throughout the rest of the year to remember?

On Wednesday I attended an early Remembrance Day Ceremony at my children's school. My son and several of his classmates were responsible for putting together a program and delivering the message to all who attended. It was an emotional ceremony to say the least; there were many tears being wiped away throughout. The students had covered the stage door in black paper, had the lettering surrounded by poppies, and had candles lit on tables in front of the stage. Candles were also lit by some of the students for peace, love, dedication, honor and freedom. There was a slide show to correspond with the program, which showed our soldiers in full gear fighting for our country. Also honored were the soldiers who continue to fight for our freedoms today.

The students were fortunate enough to be able to interview a teacher whose son spent time in Iraq. It was very moving, as we don't generally think of anyone so close to home being in the service. Her and her family can look back on the experience and be thankful he is still with them; others weren't so lucky.

I encourage everyone to wear a poppy; not just today, but other days as well. I have poppies pinned to wall hangings in my home to honor the soldiers every day, not just on November 11. They deserve the honor and respect, as many paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Honor them with silence...

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Holiday Wreath Pattern

As the holidays quickly approach, it is time to start considering putting up the decorations. I usually wait until after December 5th; that way Remembrance Day Ceremonies are over and the season is almost in full swing. One of the first things I like to put up is a wreath. There are many different types available on the market, but sometimes home-made is best. The following is a pattern taken from The Homemaker Helper Series: Crafts and is very simple to make.

Braided Wreath


3 strips of holiday fabric, each 3” X 36” – each strip should be a different print
Polyester stuffing
Ribbon – ¼” wide and 1 ½” wide
Sewing machine


1.    Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, and sew using a ¼” seam allowance. Be sure to leave one end open.
2.    Turn the tubes right side out and fill with stuffing. Don’t overstuff as the tubes will be more difficult to braid.
3.    Stitch the tubes together at the open end. Braid the tubes, securing the other end with a few stitches as well.
4.    Join the two ends in a circle and secure with a few stitches. Add a hanging loop and a bow.

This wreath can be made to suit any season. Holiday prints with gold or silver threads would make for a very festive wreath.

For a larger wreath, all you will need to do is make the tubes longer. Make yours today!

Have a great day!


Monday, 7 November 2011

Crocheted Mitts

It is getting to that time of year when hands get cold, but it is nice to have one's fingers free. I made a pair of fingerless gloves this evening, modifying a pattern I found online. It is worked in single crochet and took me less than two hours to complete the pair. I added 11 rows to the original pattern, as it didn't allow for much wrist coverage. The pair I made is almost too small for me; perhaps a 5.5mm hook would have worked better than a 5mm.

When it comes to crocheting, sometimes all you need to do is change the hook size to modify the size slightly. Another factor that will influence size is the weight of the yarn. Using a baby yarn will make a nice soft item, but the size may differ drastically from the original. It is interesting to try the same pattern with different hook sizes and yarns to see the difference it makes. For a more elegant look (but not practical for warmth) you can use crochet cotton with a bigger hook. This will give you a lacier look. Adding a few rows will also make the gloves longer which will look very stylish when using crochet cotton.

This rule also applies to mitts, hats and scarves. In the case of these three however, you will want to use a heavier weight yarn with a tighter stitch to keep out the cold. Alpaca yarn is perfect for mitts and hats, as it is very warm. It also breathes and wicks moisture away from the skin, making it perfect for outdoor activities. Another way to make a heavier item is to use a double strand of yarn; this will make the stitches tighter and the mitts or hat warmer.

These go together quickly and sets can be made for the entire family in a weekend.

I will post pictures as I make the items; they will be available for sale locally and online.

Have a great day!


Sunday, 6 November 2011

10 Tips for Winter Travel

With the approaching winter, it is very important to be sure your vehicle is ready for the extreme cold many of us endure. I bring up this topic because I had a breakdown on Friday which reminded me one can never take a vehicle for granted. Needless to say, I am now without the use of my van. Perhaps my Dad will let me use one of his trucks for a couple weeks while mine gets fixed. My sister suggested I saddle up the horse and use him for transportation; don't think he'd appreciate the 10 mile walk to town though. Besides, I'm not too keen on it either. All I can say is BRRRRR!

No matter how much or how little we travel in the winter, it is important to always be prepared for an emergency. When it is -40 or during a blizzard, a 5-mile drive could end in disaster just as easily as a 500-mile drive.

  1. Good tires are very important, especially for areas that receive a lot of snow. Winter tires are best, but a good all-season radial will suffice. Ensure your drive tires are in good condition, but don't skimp on the free-wheels either.
  2. Keep your fuel above half a tank. There is less chance of moisture building up inside your tank and causing engine failure. Putting in a few ounces of gas line antifreeze doesn't hurt either with your fill-ups, especially in extremely cold weather.
  3. Do regular oil changes. Now is not the time to ignore the fact, as oil breaks down and can quickly cause engine failure. (Let's just say it is a lesson perhaps learned the hard way. Intentions alone do not save the engine.)
  4. Be sure all fluids are topped up. This includes the windshield washer fluid, proper engine anti-freeze, transmission fluid and brake fluid. 
  5. If the windshield wipers on your vehicle are on the verge of falling apart, replace them. Winter temperatures can wreak havoc with them.
  6. Keep extra blankets and a few snacks in the vehicle at all times. Also have a few bottles of water as well; they will freeze but can be thawed in a pinch.
  7. Keep an emergency kit containing: first aid kit, booster cables, candles and matches, extra winter wear, and a flashlight with extra batteries. Adding a couple of extra emergency blankets to the first aid kit won't hurt either. They don't take up a lot of space and can mean the difference between life and death.
  8. Drive for the weather conditions! Don't be driving 100km/hr if the road conditions only are safely traveled at 70km/hr. Many vehicles end up in a snowbank because the driver was in a hurry. Also DO NOT use cruise control in winter, as the tires keep spinning the same speed no matter what surface they are on. Hitting an icy patch can quickly send you into a spin and you end up with a real close view of the ditch.
  9. Most people carry a cell phone with them, so keeping a separate one in the vehicle for emergency use only is not usually feasible. However if you don't regularly use one, investing in a pay-as-you-go phone may not be a bad idea. You may not have trouble, but may come across another motorist who needs assistance.
  10. Something else to remember is in the event of a breakdown or collision, STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE! Sadly, people think they can walk to find help and the end result is often grim. it is easy to become quickly disoriented when trying to navigate a blizzard.
Keep these tips in mind and winter travel should be worry free. And in the event of a breakdown, you will at least be prepared. 

Happy travels!


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The True Spirit of Christmas

Less than two months until Christmas! Have you started your shopping yet?

As we get closer to Christmas, we tend to panic when we start running out of shopping days. My question is, when did Christmas become so commercial? There is more money spent on advertising this season than throughout the entire year I'm sure. Kids watch TV and end up with lists a mile long; and they want the most expensive things.

When I was growing up, my Grandma made us flannel pajamas and knit slippers almost every year. I loved getting them! Sure, I had wish lists too, and my parents always made sure we got a toy of some sort. I can recall getting games, Legos and other toys. The one Christmas gift I got when I was perhaps 10 or 11 (don't quite remember) was a beading loom, which I still have. I spent hours making little bracelets with it. My point is, the handmade gifts and the simple gifts were the ones I remember most. Money was not as plentiful as it seems to be now; or perhaps people just go into debt more at Christmas to buy whatever the kids want.

Whatever happened to Christmas being about family and friends getting together, and not about the dollar value of gifts? I was raised to believe it was the thought that counts, but with the limits and lists today it seems the true spirit of the season is gone. I have made gifts for family members in the past; some were appreciated and others not so much. What many people don't realize when they receive a hand made gift is the love and work that has gone into it. Anyone can buy a gift, but one that was made is that much more special. I loved getting handmade gifts. I do have to say I hated to give up the worn out comfy pj's though.

I understand that not everyone knows how to make things, and not everyone wants a handmade gift. Sometime there are items on the list that we do not want to buy ourselves; or we can't justify spending money on something we don't really need. My ex husband refused to buy me appliances for gifts; I always said it didn't matter if it was one I wanted or needed. If it is on the list, should it be ignored? My opinion, no it shouldn't be. A few years ago my kids bought me a sandwich maker; it is one of the most used small appliances in our home. I was very happy with it.

As much as I like handmade gifts, this year I have a Kobo Vox eReader on my list. I have told family they could even pool their resources; it is something I will get a lot of use out of. I have downloaded several eBooks onto my computer and would love to be able to sit down and read elsewhere. Plus with the apps available for it, I will be able to utilize it for my own book writing and marketing. I had considered investing in a smartphone, but I think the Kobo Vox will be just as good.

It appears I have strayed off topic, but that's what makes life so interesting. Now, back to the spirit of Christmas. If making gifts isn't your idea of fun or you feel they won't be truly appreciated, why not make some ornaments for the tree instead? Spend some time with family members making ornaments for your tree and a few extras which may be used as gift tags. Make a Star for the tree or a Wreath for the door. Patterns for these can be found in the first book in The Homemaker Helper Series which is available in print and as an eBook.

Spend quality time with your family; that's what really matters. Don't get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget what it's really about. Slow down; invite friends over for eggnog and a visit. Take the time to go for a walk and enjoy the lights and decorations. Make decorating your home a family affair. It isn't too late to make a gift or three; go through your list and create something they will cherish for years to come.

I am off to help my Dad for awhile today, then Ross and I are going to the Terri Clark concert tonight! I can hardly wait!

Have a great day and remember the true spirit of Christmas; not what it has become.