A friend of mine is marking one year free of cigarettes today and is having a get together to celebrate. According to her count, over the past year she did not smoke 9500 cigarettes! That is amazing! I bet her lungs feel great!

A congratulatory card was needed to commemorate her achievement. Over the past few months I have gotten out of the habit of making my own cards, but I've been socializing with quite a few card making bloggers recently and it has inspired me to get back into it.

For this card I did a spin on the saying 'quitters never win', changing it up to 'quitters always win", as they always do when they quit smoking!




When I first looked at the finished card I thought the design looked like a quilting square. I quickly read over the words and it looked like it said 'quilters always win'.  It is true that quilters always win. The way the card turned out may mean that I'm subconsciously into quilters, but I accept that.

So a big congratulations to my friend celebrating her 1st year smoke free! And many more to come!

Posted by Jen B On Saturday, March 30, 2013 12 comments
I have been itching to make some Oreo Truffles, which are the amazing combination of a bag of crushed Oreos, a package of cream cheese, and some chocolate coating [find the recipe here]. For some spring flare, I used white chocolate coating that I dyed pastel colours. I have made these truffles before, but they were trickier this time around, probably because I gave myself the added pressure of wanting the colours to look good (normally I just cover everything in milk chocolate, which hides any imperfections).

Good Looking Spring Oreo Truffles
Not pictured (love editorial control!) are the truffles where the coating was too thin, or where the truffle part got mixed into the coating, giving them a dirty snow kind of look. I had made these before so I only skimmed the recipe, but it turned out I skimmed the part about using two forks to help coat the truffles evenly. Oops. So these ended up being a little harder to make than I thought, but the amazing thing about baking is that even if the end result doesn't look like it's supposed to, it still tastes pretty good!
Tasty Spring Oreo Truffle
Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 29, 2013 8 comments
Cinnamon Sticky Buns: a time intensive but oh so satisfying treat that I love to bake. My new rule when making them is that they must be taken to an event of some kind, as having 20+ sticky buns in my house is very dangerous.

I would like this and seven more please.
I use my bread maker to make the cinnamon bun dough, using a recipe taken from the book that came with my late '80s machine. I adapted the original recipe to enhance yumminess (sugar, butter, and cinnamon need not be restricted by measurements!). My bread maker has passed through three generations in my family, from my dad's mother, to my mother, and now to me. Sometimes we talk about getting a new one, but honestly, this one still works great!

Late '80s bread maker - still working hard!
Cinnamon Bun Dough (adapted from Sanyo's The Home Bakery Book, 1988):

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
   1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
   1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
   2 eggs
   1 cup lukewarm water
   1 package active dry yeast

Add ingredients to bread maker and let stand 5 minutes. Use Dough setting and press start. This takes 1 hour and 15 minutes on my machine. When dough is finished, remove dough from bread maker and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat evenly. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Punch down dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half into a large rectangle.


Spread melted butter or margarine over entire rectangle so that it is completely covered. I don't measure, I just keep covering it until it looks adequately drenched. Next sprinkle with enough brown sugar to completely cover. I spread it out with my hands to make sure it is even. Finally, sprinkle with cinnamon.


Roll up the dough lengthwise.


Cut into buns. Put buns onto baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 1 hour. I normally get around 10 buns per rolled up rectangle (about 20 buns total).


Now for the "Sticky" part.

Heat 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, and 1/2 cup corn syrup in a small saucepan. Heat until combined. Pour mixture into baking pan (I use multiple 9x13 glass baking dishes). Place risen cinnamon rolls into the sugar mixture.  Bake in 350 oven for 20 minutes.


When rolls have finished baking, spoon sticky sugar mixture from bottom of the pan onto the rolls so they are sticky all over. This makes them extra delicious.

Enjoy!


Posted by Jen B On Sunday, March 24, 2013 8 comments
To celebrate St. Patrick's Day we made some stew and a loaf of bread that I dyed green. That sounds kinda Irish, right?


I grew up on a beef cattle farm, so stew is one of those meals that makes me feel comfy and warm with good memories of home. The recipe I use is pretty similar to the one Mom used to make, with the addition of a few more exotic vegetables (yams!) and spices.

For our stew we used a beef roast that we cut into chunks. The roast was crazy cheap and that made the stew beef we cut even cheaper. I love saving money by doing some of the prep work myself (plus I really like doing the prep work!).

Beef Roast

Beef roast cut into stew beef chunks

Jen and John's Simple Stew

Ingredients:

1 lb (or so) stewing beef
onion, finely diced
garlic, finely diced

2 medium carrots, chopped
1 yam, cut in chunks
2-3 potatoes, cut in chunks
1 can of diced mushrooms
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Broth packet (beef or what you have)
Various spices to taste: garlic salt, salt, pepper, basil, turmeric
Corn starch + water

Method:

1. Brown beef in pot you intend to use for your stew. Once browned, add water to pot, almost covering the beef. Add in finely diced onion and garlic (I use a small food processor) and simmer on low heat with lid on for 2 -3 hours. I recently learned that this is called braising the beef.

2. Add in chopped vegetables and enough water to cover them. Add a broth packet or two to add flavour (beef if you have it). Add various spices to taste. Soften the vegetables over medium-low heat for 1 hour.

3. Continue simmering as long as desired. The more it cooks the more it thickens. To thicken to desired consistency, add corn starch mixed with water until it looks right.

Serve with bread (dying it green for St. Patty's Day is optional).

Sometimes we make the stew the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to intensify. It makes it super yummy.

Enjoy! And Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 
Posted by Jen B On Sunday, March 17, 2013 7 comments
I spent most of March Break in Barrie house/cat-sitting for my brother who spent the week in the much more exciting Montreal. My Bro's cat is an interesting dude who wants to be alone but doesn't like being left alone. It is a subtle difference and my presence was required to keep him company so he didn't pee on things he shouldn't. I also kept him fed and watered, gave him attention when requested, and removed a large quantity of cat barf from the carpet. I am a hero.

Pippen - my Barrie cat buddy
Since I normally live in the country, I was excited for my cat-sitting trip to Barrie so I could do city things. When I think of city things, I think of walking and ending up somewhere interesting, quickly traveling to multiple places, and the freedom of getting treats late at night if so desired. I enjoy my country life of trees and nature, but I miss destinations on my walks (like coffee shops) and I long for sidewalks and 50km/hr roads. While in Barrie, I wanted to walk around and see things!

So I made a plan. I wasn't just cat-sitting, I was going on an adventure. I mapped out stores downtown that I would walk to, explore, possibly buy things, and probably get some take out sushi to walk home with. I also mapped out places in the south end that I could drive to and walk around and explore. I'm not necessarily interested in buying things but I l love walking around and looking at stuff.

But you know what they say about best laid plans...

The weather didn't cooperate. Last week it was nearing spring like temperatures and I forgot that it is still winter in Canada. So it was cold and rainy and then it was cold and snowy. The sunny afternoon walkabout I dreamed of is probably still a month away. Stupid winter!

Also, my body refused to sleep properly. I'm often a bad sleeper when I sleep somewhere else, and this time was no different. My motivation to walk around and do cool stuff during the day was thwarted by my lack of sleep.

But I didn't let it get me down. I'm in a new phase of my life where I'm trying to accept things as they are and not as I expect them to be.

So I pretty much just hung out with the cat. And watched tv shows and movies. And ate ridiculous foods. I have stuck pretty well to my meal plan over the past few months, so I let March break be an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. Basically I just didn't eat vegetables for a number of days in a row. It was fun and super tasty, but I am happy to be back on my meal plan.
Sidekicks and curly fries for dinner - almost 100% vegetable free!
I'm back in the country now, eating vegetables and thinking about going on a walk to nowhere. I'm also back with my own pretty kitty, who always gives me the best cuddles and love when I've been away.

How did you spend your March Break? I hope you had a good one! :)


Posted by Jen B On Saturday, March 16, 2013 2 comments
We are now on our third month of meal planning, and this month was by far the easiest to map out. As we created the newest plan we realized there are meals we want to eat more often (breakfast for dinner) and others we will no longer schedule every month (chili). Meal planning was once intimidating to me but now it is easy. I couldn't be happier with how it is going.

An awesome result of our meal plan is that we are saving money.  I have kept a budget for as long as I can remember and part of that is tracking my spending. I was curious how much money I used to spend eating take out/restaurant food in the months before I started meal planning, so I did some math. It turns out that I would spend about $75/month on take out. I realize $75/month isn't that much, but the majority of that spending was not planned. It wasn't special food or a treat. It was mostly "I need food and we don't have any" spending. With the meal plan in place we haven't had that desparate need for take out, so we saved money.

So what to do with the money I used to just blow on take out? I bought a book series I really wanted to own. I am a very frugal person so most of the books I read come from the library. I am happy to borrow a book and return it, as I don't really have the desire to own everything I read. But there are some books I want in my house permanently. 1984 is one such title. The Harry Potter series is another. And over the past two months, with the savings from meal planning, I picked up Jim Butcher's Dresden's files.


Now I can re-read them whenever I want, John can start reading them too, and they look really pretty on my shelf! 

Posted by Jen B On Friday, March 08, 2013 4 comments


The Happy Whisk
is giving away e-books to celebrate reaching 444 blog posts on her amazing blog!

She is accepting comments on her blog for the next 4 days so head on over and leave her a comment for your chance to win!

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 04, 2013 6 comments
Welcome to the new look!


We are now live with My Adorable Small Town Life 2.0.  Many thanks to my partner John for all his effort behind the scenes to make the code do what the code is supposed to do. The new design has neat features like a slideshow on the front page and a search function! What fun!

Coinciding with the new look, I have also joined Twitter and Google+, so feel free to follow me!

Posted by Jen B On Monday, March 04, 2013 4 comments
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