Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! This is a time to spend with family, enjoy the food, and show each other how much you care. Please stay safe and cherish these moments, as time goes by too quickly.

Have a safe and happy holiday season and if you drink, please find a safe way home. This is a time for happy memories not sad ones.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!


Monday, 19 December 2011

Work at Home

As I was looking into some Work at Home programs, I came across one that looks promising. I am always on the lookout for a legitimate way to supplement my income, so do some searching on a regular basis. I am insistent on being able to continue my freelancing, but as many know, it doesn't always pay the bills. It is good to find something to subsidize my freelancing and help me achieve my financial goals faster.

Home Based Working Moms is an association aimed at helping moms (and dads) stay at home with their children and contribute to the family income. There are different programs available, including an affiliate program which is free to join. If you are unsure if working at home is for you there is a Work at Home Kit available to help with determining what is right for you.

I personally enjoy working from home. I am available for my family when need be and I save money on fuel. I encourage anyone who is contemplating making a change to consider all the options. Working from home is rewarding, but you also have to be able to walk away from your work and do other things. This is why it is beneficial to have an office/workroom with a door that can be closed. It is all too easy to spend all hours of the day working - self discipline is a must. I am guilty of sitting at my computer writing at all hours of the day or night, but am trying hard to separate my work time from family time. I do have a very supportive partner and children but do tend to spend a little more time at my computer than I should.

My son gives me a hard time about it sometimes, but I don't mind. He knows I enjoy what I do but doesn't want me spending my entire day at the computer. I have started reading Under the Dome by Stephen King at his request; lately my reading has consisted of marketing, writing and publishing books so this is a nice change. I sometimes get caught up in my work but have to remember to practice what I preach.

Recreational reading is a great way to relax, as is pursuing a hobby. It is important to take time for yourself even when the temptation to continue working is there. If possible, keep your work area away from your living area. I am unable to do just that at this point in time as our home is just over 900 square feet and there is no separate office space for me. I have claimed a portion of the room between our kitchen and living room, and my crochet and sewing spill into the living room and bedroom.

I have gone off topic just a bit, but the point I'm trying to make is do your research and find what works for you. I wouldn't change what I do for anything. If you need a little extra help deciding what will work for you, then spend the few dollars to get that help. If it points you in the right direction and gives you the means to start and build a successful business, then it is worth every penny.

For anyone interested in a writing career, please visit my Writer Worries blog for some helpful advice. Was this post helpful? Please comment below.

Thanks and have a great day!


Last Minute Gift Ideas

We are in the final stretch before Christmas! Where has the month gone? I am like many others and not finished my shopping yet. My goal is to finish it on Wednesday when we go to a larger center, as I have an appointment there that day. Personally I would like to make things for family members, but not everyone is appreciative of my efforts.

I have my list of things to buy, but sometimes there are those couple of people who are hard to buy for. My brother-in-law is one of them. He is the type of guy who will buy something when he wants or needs it. This is why a Canadian Tire Gift Card is usually the choice for him...along with some little gag gift so I have something to duct tape (hey, he started it).

As people have varied interests and home decor, it is sometimes difficult to shop for them. Also, being on a budget (like so many people are) can increase the limitations. I find gift cards to sometimes be the most practical for some people. Depending on the likes and interests (and how well you know the person), there are a few other gifts that may be suitable.

  • travel mugs
  • games
  • puzzle books
  • books
  • electronic gadgets
  • kitchen gadgets
  • car accessories such as floor mats, steering wheel covers, seat covers, emergency kits
  • rechargeable flashlights
  • CD's of their favorite music
  • tool sets
  • coffee or tea baskets
  • gardening supplies
  • craft supplies (this is nice for school aged children)
  • specialty calendars 
This is a small list of the items available, but should get the imagination going. I welcome any other ideas I may have missed. Please comment below if you have any other suggestions. 

Thanks and have a great day!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Giving New Life to a Worn Out Quilt

As I typed the title for this post, I was going to say "old" quilt, but the quilts I'm thinking of aren't very old. They have just been well used and loved.

The first one that I need to give new life to is a Trip Around the World quilt (over 1000 - 2 1/2" squares) I made several years ago. It has been used almost every day since I finished it, and it is showing its wear. The edges are frayed, the fabric is disintegrating and it has faded slightly. I had thought about cutting it up into smaller projects, but just can't bear to do that.

I have decided to give it new life by making a new top and using the entire worn out quilt as the batting. I spent hours piecing and quilting it, so have an attachment to it. It was the first queen size quilt I made that would stay in my home; the others always ended up being sold. It has a 100% cotton batting which makes it very warm, and I cannot bear to cut it up, toss it or use it in the dog's bed.

I have yet to decide on the pattern, but perhaps a Log Cabin will be in order. I use the Quilt in a Day method to make my Log Cabin quilts as it is a time saver to say the least. I have made several quilts this way in a variety of sizes. Eleanor Burns has done a wonderful job of putting together workbooks and instructor manuals.

In order to make the new top the same size as the quilt, I will have to measure the worn out quilt, figure out how many blocks I will need to make, and adjust the border sizes to make it fit properly. I will definitely be putting my brain and calculator to use when I'm figuring it out. One thing to remember to take into consideration are the seam allowances; always figure it out on paper (graph paper works well) before any cutting is done. This will ensure mistakes are minimal.

In the age of disposable everything, why not give your worn out quilts new life instead of throwing them away?

Have a great day!


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Homemade Oreo Cookies

With Christmas baking getting into high gear, why not try some Homemade Oreo Cookies? They are very tasty and must be hidden from family members if you want them to last until Christmas. The hardest part is hiding them from yourself, especially if you have very little willpower (like me).

You will need:

4 chocolate cake mixes
8 eggs
2 cups of oil


2 pkg cream cheese (8 oz)
1 cup margarine
5 cups of icing sugar


  1. Mix the first 3 ingredients together by hand. (I found using the dough hooks with my stand mixer to work well.)
  2. Roll into balls and place on a metal baking sheet. (I did not have much luck using my stoneware pan for these; and that is all I usually use for cookies. Needless to say, the first dozen cookies were messed up.)
  3. Bake in a 350F oven for 8 - 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and tap hot pan on the counter to flatten the cookies. Let cool slightly and transfer to a cooling rack.
  5. Mix the filling ingredients together. 
  6. When the cookies are cool place a teaspoon full of filling between two cookies (flat sides together) and gently press together to spread filling.
  7. Hide cookies from the family until Christmas!
You can of course bake them any other time as well; they are a hit anytime. This recipe was adapted from one I made from the 4H Cookbook. I doubled the recipe as the single only made about 30 cookies.

Enjoy your cookies and have a great day!


p.s. Try them with other cake mixes and let me know what you think in the comments section. Thank you!

Monday, 12 December 2011

10 Cold & Flu Season Tips

It seems as soon as school is back in for another year or the weather starts to change, the flu bugs increase in numbers. The following 10 Cold & Flu Season Tips can help decrease the spread of the bugs and make the sick people in your home as comfortable as possible.

  1. First and foremost: wash hands frequently. Germs are spread very easily through contact with other people and common surfaces such as door handles, refrigerator doors and taps. Soap and water works well for hand washing and surfaces can be sprayed with Lysol or other sanitizer.
  2. Keep the sick person as isolated as possible. This is not always easy, but it does help in preventing the spread of germs. Give children books to read or let them watch a movie if they feel up to it. Otherwise, resting is best. Depending on what type of bug they have, sleep is often interrupted due to coughing, stuffiness or vomiting. 
  3. Provide plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated. This is particularly important with stomach bugs, as diarrhea and vomiting can quickly dehydrate. Pedialyte or Gatorade are beneficial, as well as diluted ginger ale, water and weak tea. Stay away from dairy products if at all possible. If fighting a stomach flu, also stay away from citrus juices as these can aggravate the stomach more.
  4. For coughs and colds, juice is beneficial as it increases the Vitamin C our bodies need to help fight germs. Dairy products will increase mucous production, so it is best to stay away from  them for awhile as well.
  5. For those well enough to eat offer crackers, toast and chicken noodle soup to begin with. This is especially important for those recovering from a stomach bug. Too much food too quickly can easily upset the system again.
  6. Keep the sick person warm and comfortable. Provide blankets, pillows and buckets (if necessary) in addition to tissue and any required medications.
  7. If they are running a fever acetaminophen is a good fever reducer, as well as a cool washcloth on the forehead. A tepid bath may also help.
  8. To prevent, or at least minimize, the onset of a flu maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan. The healthier you are when and if it does hit, the quicker you will recover.
  9. Minimize exposure to others; keep sick people home and do not allow visitors. This is not always possible but it does decrease the number of germs spread.
  10. If the sick individual doesn't appear to be getting better after 24 hours, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. This is especially important for those with weakened immune systems; infants, the elderly and anyone undergoing treatment for more serious illnesses. Use your judgement; do not wait the full 24 hours if something doesn't seem right. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Taking simple precautions to prevent flu bugs from invading your home is beneficial. If they do attack, following the tips above will make them feel unwelcome and they will quickly leave.

Have a great day, and stay healthy!


p.s. Did you find this list helpful? Please comment below. Thanks!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Tree Care and Decorating Tips

What a change in temperature from yesterday! I was much happier doing chores today; the animals are happier too.

I am getting anxious for Christmas; it is my favorite holiday of the year! I am actually a little further ahead than I was last year as far as having presents bought. Last year we shopped the week before Christmas; this year the majority of our shopping was done when we took my son for his appointment at the Stollery. I am happy to report all is well once again!

My biggest challenge this year is going to be making room for the tree. Our house is little, so we don't have a lot of extra floor space. We already have wrapped gifts (many thanks to my daughter), now we just need the tree to put them under. I have an artificial tree I put up every year; my Charlie Brown Tree as I like to call it. It isn't pretty, but does the trick. once the lights and decorations are on, it doesn't look all that bad.

Today I am going to talk about caring for your real tree (has been years since I had one) and decorating a tree whether it is real or artificial.

  1. The most important thing to remember with a real tree is to be sure it is kept watered. There are many tree stands available and the bigger the water reservoir the better. Be sure to check the level each and every day; real trees take up a lot once they warm up. A dry tree can become a fire hazard, and no one wants to lose their home because the tree caught on fire. (Sadly, it is one of the causes of fires during Christmas.)
  2. A handy (but not necessary) thing to have is a tree disposal bag. This is put down first, then the tree is placed in the center. It can be covered with a tree skirt or left as is. When it is time to take out the tree remove the stand and pull the plastic bag up over the tree. This is a great solution to removing it from your home without having a trail of pine needles across your floor. Once you get the tree to the disposal site you can remove the bag (many landfills have spots for trees).
  3. Another option for removing the tree without leaving a big mess in your home is to use a tarp. Wrap the tree and take it outside. 
  4. When it comes to decorating, individual tastes vary more than night and day. Personally I prefer a traditional tree, with the lights, some ornaments (mix of purchased and homemade) and a little bit of tinsel.
  5. Keep your lighting to electrical or battery power. Many years ago candles were used on the trees, but they are a fire hazard. Keep your family's safety in mind!
  6. No matter your tastes, rule of thumb is to put the lights on first. Chances are you won't get them perfect the first time and will have to redo it (I usually end up redoing mine at least twice). If you are the lucky owner of a pre-lit tree, then all you have to worry about is the decorations. 
  7. Keep in mind when decorating to not go overboard. I have seen real trees decorated so the tree itself wasn't even visible. The idea of a tree is so it can actually be identified as such. if you are going to fill it with decorations, you may as well make a cardboard cone and stand it in the corner.
  8. For those with pets, be very careful with using tinsel. Cats like to eat it, and it can be deadly. Several years ago my cat ate some; I didn't realize it until it had passed through her system. Many cats aren't that fortunate; it can cause intestinal blockage and if not corrected in time can be fatal. If there are animals in your home, it is best not to use it at all. Yes it is pretty, but is it really worth the risk?
If I have missed anything, I welcome comments below. Also, what do you prefer...a traditional tree or one that has a more contemporary look to it?

Have a great day!


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Alpaca Fiber

Today I tried (and I think failed) to successfully wash a small amount of alpaca fiber. I know I have a lot to learn about the industry...feeding the alpacas is the easy part. I asked an experienced alpaca owner how to go about it and she was most helpful. I decided to try with a small amount first, as I would probably cry if I ruined an entire blanket.

What do alpacas and their fiber have to do with this blog you ask?

First of all, I have been wanting a herd of alpacas for years. We were finally able to purchase a small herd of 7 this spring and I absolutely adore them. When you read about them lowering blood pressure, they most definitely have that effect. I think the only time ours raise my blood pressure is when they are all trying to get to the feed bucket at the same time. I don't appreciate getting spit on. Although they don't direct it at me I have been caught in the crossfire....GROSS!

Secondly, alpacas are a low maintenance livestock ideal for anyone to raise. I grew up around cattle and they always scared me. The alpacas are much quieter, smaller and mild-mannered compared to some cows. Being a homemaker, I will be able to utilize my crafting abilities and make wonderful things from the fiber. Plus they will subsidize our income as time goes on; that in itself will be a bonus.

The best part is their fiber is warm, hypo-allergenic and comes in 22 natural colors. I have to admit, I have yet to work with the yarn but I can't wait. I know how soft and warm the fleece is on the alpacas; I can only imagine how warm mitts or a toque would be. And in our cold Alberta winters, anything that keeps my fingers from freezing is alright by me. If I ruined the fleece so I can't make yarn from it, I will be lining my chore mitts with it. My fingers were numb last night and this morning doing chores, and we haven't even reached our coldest part of winter yet.

I know I have a lot to learn about raising them and processing their fleece but it is a road I am very willing to take. Working with them will be a great asset for first hand information when I write about Hobby Farming (a book scheduled further in the series).

My question for you is have you used alpaca fiber? If so, what have you made from it? Please feel free to post comments below.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Ice Cream Topping

I know some people must think I'm nuts, posting about ice-cream on a day like today (especially those of you who live in my area). I am a big fan of ice-cream but sometimes plain just isn't good enough.

There are many toppings on the market, but one of my family's favorites is a home-made hardshell. It is very simple to make, and stores well. (It is not recommended for anyone with nut allergies as peanut butter is the main ingredient.)

You will need:

1 cup of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy - this is strictly personal preference)
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Colored sprinkles (optional)


  1. Place the peanut butter in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 1 minute. 
  2. Mix well, increasing the time if it isn't heated through and almost bubbly. (Keep in mind microwave ovens vary in temperature, so this is strictly a guideline.)
  3. When heated through add the chocolate chips and mix well until they are melted.
  4. Drizzle over ice-cream and enjoy! Sprinkles may be added on top before it hardens as well.
Note: This stores well; just place in a container with a tight fitting lid and keep it in the pantry. Chances are it won't last long enough to even get to the pantry. It can be reheated in the microwave if it has actually lasted long enough to harden.

Have a great day!


Monday, 5 December 2011

New pattern!

As promised, the new pattern for the Crocheted Headband is now available. This headband may be made in any color you choose, and is easily adjusted just by increasing or decreasing rows. Make a pair of Fingerless Gloves from the same yarn and you will have a very stylish matching set.

Why not visit your local craft shop and pick out some yarn today! The set makes a nice Christmas Gift as well.

Have a great day!


Book Release Update

Good morning!

I had originally scheduled my Cooking 101 release for today but due to some unforeseen circumstances I will be delaying the release. Rather than publish a mediocre book, I will be taking some extra time to edit it. I apologize to everyone, as I really wanted to release it today. I am not happy with how one section turned out, so will be fixing it. My aim is still to have it published before Christmas.

Self-publishing gives an author the flexibility they sometimes require, but it does not mean their work should be shoddy. I have read (or tried to read) some self-published books but was turned off by the poor grammar, spelling and punctuation. I have caught typos in textbooks and traditionally published books, which goes to show that no one is perfect. My problem with some is the frequency with which the errors occur. I will not publish a book that has not been proofread several times.

Now, I must get back to work so I am able to publish my book before Christmas. Once again my apologies!

Have a great day!


Saturday, 3 December 2011

Cancer, Writing and Priorities

Friday was a good day! My son had his 6 month check-up and all appears to be going well. We will know for sure within a week or two, but all signs are pointing toward very good. Appointment times always stress me out just a little, but that is to be expected.

He has now been cancer-free for 3 1/2 years, which makes us very happy! Checkups are once every 6 months now, and they split the other tests between the two. He has also hit the six foot mark on the height chart; chemotherapy did not stunt his growth at all. It was a long road, but he was very positive through the whole process. He did get frustrated occasionally, and still does. His mobility has been limited due to the surgery but he is taking steps to improve it.

For those who don't know our story, he was diagnosed with a Ewing Sarcoma in September of 2007. Being told your child has cancer is one of the last things any parent wants to hear. The roller coaster ride had begun! I was working full time and could not be at the hospital with him all the time. My ex husband was able to take the time off work and accompany our son to the Children's Hospital for treatment. I was able to take some time off, but not without a fight. My employers (people who I thought were my friends) said my job came first, then my family. Had it not been for the health benefits we so desperately needed at the time, I would have quit then and there.

Treatment and surgery was successful and our son is now almost 18. The healing still continues as the surgery on his leg was extensive. The removal of the tumor and part of the fibula in his right leg left him with a scar from above his knee to his ankle. Plus, he also has a few smaller scars on both sides of his ankle and the top of his foot. The re-routing of muscles, nerves and tendons left him with pain and itching that was very hard to ease.

When treatment was complete and he was given the confirmation the cancer was gone, I gave my notice to my employers. I had come to realize there was more to life than working for someone else. I was giving up a good benefit package, but with treatments complete I could afford to do so. I opted for a private benefit package and concentrated on being available for both of my children whenever they needed me. I still worked, but mostly from home. I secured a couple of bookkeeping contracts and worked, but soon found that wasn't where I wanted to be.

In January of 2010 I became a freelance writer and haven't looked back. I have always had a passion for writing and decided it was what I was destined to do. Bookkeeping was good pay, but being tied to a computer all day was not my idea of fun. Life's too short to go through the motions of a job you don't like; if you are able to make the change then by all means do it.

With well over 100 articles and a couple of books under my belt, I am happier now than before. The road has been a long one and I still haven't hit my fame and fortune stage yet, but I am confidant my time will come. I have realized I do need to create new content on a daily basis to benefit financially. In the beginning I wrote and submitted several articles a week; lately I have been wrapped up in my book and have not done so. It is reflecting in my earnings.

I have some advice for anyone who is just beginning their freelance writing careers: don't stop writing and submitting articles. The more you write, the better. If you have decided to write a book keep up the smaller projects as well, as they are the ones that pay the bills while you write your book. Treat your book as a hobby if you rely on the article income. If you are already earning enough residual income to get by then by all means spend more time on your book.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I learn from my mistakes. I also want others to learn from them as well. I have done some extensive reading lately on marketing, publishing and writing. I have come to the conclusion I have once again gone about things the hard way; but then again, that is just my nature. As I was feeling just a bit sorry for myself for not having the income I was hoping for, I realized there was no one to blame but me. I stopped submitting articles and my earnings show it.

I have been working on my book, plus wrote the "Your First eBook" Course; a workbook type format for beginning writers to learn about writing, pricing, publishing and marketing their first eBook. It is a simple to follow format and will be a great asset. I have written it from my point of view and experience; once again letting others know what mistakes NOT to make.

I have also written a report on starting a craft shop without needing to make the crafts yourself. It is a perfect sideline business for any homemaker who has some extra space in their home. It is an economical way to increase your inventory and provide variety for customers.

It appears I have rambled in this post, but I want you to put what really matters most first. Family is number one in my books and I have made personal sacrifices to be able to be there for my children, parents and siblings when I am needed. I have a very supportive partner who loves me and my children for who we are and does his best to support us financially while my writing career gets off the ground.

With that in mind, I must get myself back on track and start submitting articles once again. They were what was paying the bills and with the holiday season fast approaching the extra earnings will come in handy. Plus, there is still the matter of my van.

Have a great day!