October 30, 2015

DIY Floating Ghosts

I like to think I'm crafty, but the truth is, I haven't really crafted all that much in the last several years. But sometimes, the inspiration strikes and even I'm surprised with my results. I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon the pin to make hanging ghosts, but I guess that is the rabbit hole that is pinterest. Originally, I just planned on making mini hanging ghosts because I thought it was something fun that Sully would get a kick out of, but then this post inspired me to be a bit more creative. Although, I will admit, a few things from that tutorial totally didn't work out for me, but don't worry, I've got easy, fool-proof instructions for you if you want to make your own floating ghost heads! I promise, if I can make these, so can you! No pinterest fails here!

Floating Ghost Heads

floating ghost heads

All you need:

-Styrofoam mannequin heads
-3 yards of cheesecloth per head
-mod podge
-paint brush
-E-Z Ancors #8
-monofilament line/fishing line

I bought my Styrofoam heads for four dollars a piece at Value Village. I'm kicking myself because I did see them at the dollar store at the beginning of October, but I didn't have this project in mind then. The cheese cloth I bought at the dollar store, the monofilament line we already had in the garage, along with the E-Z Anchors. Mod podge can be found at Walmart or any craft store. You don't need a fancy paint brush, the one I used was a cheap one from the dollar store. The tutorial I had originally found on this says to use E6000 glue to glue in eyelet screws to the heads, but learn from my mistake here: E6000 glue cannot be used on Styrofoam as it literally eats away at it leaving a big hole. Luckily I had only used this glue on one of the heads before realizing my error.

To make the heads look even creepier, I cut off the necks. A sharp knife (not a serrated edged one) will get the job done in minutes with no mess. You do not need a special tool to do this.

floating ghost heads

Then, take your long piece of cheesecloth (all cheesecloth I've bought comes in a package of 3 yards), and cut it in half. Drape one piece over the Styrofoam head and then apply mod podge to the face area. This will help the facial features pop and the overall effect will be much creepier. It will also keep your cheesecloth in place. I applied the first layer to all three heads and then went back and applied the second layer, adding a bit more mod podge to make sure the second piece was secure. You don't need to let the mod podge dry in-between layers. The mod podge will dry clear.

floating ghost heads

Afterwards, take a long piece of monofilament line and knot it around the E-Z Ancor (make sure you use a good knot, one that won't accidentally unravel as you don't want your line to slip out - I used a bowline knot). I used anchor size #8 because that is what we had in the garage, but also because it had a large enough thread. Then take your screwdriver and screw the anchor into the middle of the top of the head. It will go in easy (make sure you screw it in and not push it in). The threading on the anchor will ensure it stays in place. So much easier than trying to glue an eyelet screw into the Styrofoam! This way you won't have to worry that your glue won't hold, and I really liked that it makes the anchor part invisible.

floating ghost heads
floating ghost heads

All that's left is to hang your ghosts wherever you wish! Super easy and I'm positive I will be making more next Halloween!

floating ghost heads

Mini Cheesecloth Ghosts

mini cheesecloth ghosts

Along with my floating ghosts, I also wanted to make smaller ghosts for our tree in the front yard. These little guys were even easier to make and I think they are pretty darn cute.

All you need:

-Small Styrofoam balls
-white thread
-eyelet hooks
-monofilament line/fishing line

For these ghosts, I decided to draw eyes on them just using a black sharpie. Then I cut a big piece of cheesecloth into smaller squares. I didn't measure, you can easily eyeball it, but I did choose to double up the layers. I used white thread to secure the cloth underneath the Styrofoam ball. I attached the eyelet screws into the tops of the ghost heads with mod podge which actually holds well. You could also use the E-Z anchors as I did above, but they are a bit pricey so I only did one mini ghost with an anchor. Either seem to hold up well as the mini ghosts are super light. Attach some fishing line and hang your ghosts where you like! Incredibly easy, and I really like the way the cheesecloth blows in the wind. Sully got a big kick out of helping me hang these "ghoosts" on the tree!

mini cheesecloth ghosts mini cheesecloth ghosts mini cheesecloth ghosts

Happy Halloween! 

October 29, 2015

Thinking Out Loud {#4}: Crafting Fails & Smart Husbands

This week has not been going according to plan. Monday evening, after having quite the productive day, I could just sense that I was going to wake up the next morning not feeling well. And I was right. I was hit with a bad head cold and all I wanted to do was sleep. Not so easy to do when you have a toddler to take care of.

When I'm not feeling 100% all my motivation goes out the window. Write a blog post? No thanks. Make dinner? Hell no. Shower? No. Tidy the house? Haha!! So needless to say, my house is in shambles, I haven't showered and we've been eating snack plates, cereal, and leftovers for the past two days.

Sick, Tired & Awesome meme
Wednesday was a bit of a better day. I had more energy, but, if given the choice, probably would have happily spent the day in bed. I did manage to work on my Halloween crafts though, a project and blog post I had originally planned to have done and posted yesterday. Whomp, whomp. Of course, no project ever goes as planned either, does it? The tutorial I found on pinterest that gave me the idea for one of the projects totally failed me. In it, it says to use E6000 glue to glue the hooks to the styrofoam heads. Well, I found out that you cannot, in fact, use this glue on styrofoam as it eats away at it and leaves a big hole where you put the glue. Google of course, confirmed this for me after the fact. Now my question is, how did this work for this person then?! Luckily, we already happened to have E6000 glue and I didn't waste money on buying it. At a loss for what to do, I waited until Jim got home and he was actually able to come up with a much better solution than the original instructions, so yay for smart husbands!

Crafting Meme
Speaking of smart husbands…on Tuesday, the worst day of my cold, I went to make my favourite flu-busting smoothie from the Oh She Glows cookbook. It's essentially oranges, lemon juice, and ginger all blended up. It's delicious! Well, I already had my oranges and lemon in the vitamix, but then I couldn't find my frozen piece of ginger I keep in the fridge for smoothies. Lightbulb moment! You see, on the weekend, Jim made a peanut butter smoothie and it came out tasting like one big ginger peanut drink which was seriously gross. He blamed me for not cleaning the vitamix well enough. I felt pretty bad and thought there must have been some ginger stuck under the blade that I didn't clean out. I apologized profusely! When I couldn't find my ginger in the freezer, that's when it dawned on me: Jim blended my entire chunk of ginger, mistaking it for a frozen banana!! I mean, it kind of looks like a banana when it's frozen, and in his defence, the container wasn't labelled, but come on! Men!

I feel like the worst of my cold is behind me though and I'm positive I will wake up tomorrow (Thursday), feeling almost back to my normal self. I've been drinking lots of smoothies, lots of tea, and upping my vitamin D intake. I'm trying to get to bed at a earlier time, which, even when sick, is hard for this night owl. I'm just grateful I don't have the flu!

As always, I'm linking up with Amanda this week for Thinking Out Loud.

Do your crafts always go according to plan? 

What are your go-to cold remedies?

October 26, 2015

My Weekend in Snapshots

Six snapshots that captured how we spent our weekend:

1. Saturday I got to spend a lovely few hours chatting with my good blogging friend, turned friend, turned hairstylist, Ashley, while she worked her hair wizard magic on me. We decided to stop fighting my natural hair colour and just work with it instead. To say I'm in love with my own hair would be an understatement.

{photo credit: Ashley}

2. I actually cooked a nice dinner on Saturday night. I usually save these kind of miracles for the weekdays, but I guess I was feeling particularly inspired that night. Chicken, tomato and white bean linguine was whipped up, hit the spot and has left us with leftovers for days. Recipe coming at you shortly.

3. Jim worked on touching up the walls in our house, which were pretty banged up when we moved in. No home project would be complete without this little foreman.

4. While the boys taped in preparation for painting, I took on the daunting task of organizing and decluttering this drop zone area. What a disaster. I didn't get very far, but it's my project for the week. Just keepin' it real over here.

5. I'm feeling unusually inspired this Halloween season and bought some craft supplies for some decorations I plan to whip up. Stay tuned!

6. We went to Costco today and these guys snuck their way into the cart. I'm one step closer to embracing cold weather running.

What was one highlight from your weekend? 

October 23, 2015

5 Halloween Board Books for Toddlers

I'm slowly starting to collect holiday themed books with the intent of pulling those books out only during that specific holiday (so Christmas books at Christmas time, Halloween books for Halloween, etc…). It keeps the stories fresh and exciting, and as Sully gets older and understands the methods behind my madness, something to look forward to.

While I already have a good stash of Christmas books piling up, I was really slacking in the Halloween department. So I started to do some research on popular Halloween books for toddlers and put in a huge request at the library. There are so many books out there and I hate to say it, but there's a lot of really bad books out there. My money is important I was not about to go ahead and purchase a bunch of new books without first test driving them.

It didn't take us long to get through the huge pile we took out from the library, and Sully made it pretty clear which ones he liked and which ones he did not. His favourites he would constantly bring to me during the day to read and I would often find him flipping through them on his own.

We're still heavy into the board book stage, so I stuck with only board books this year. They're short enough to keep his attention and they are pretty indestructible. Books with flaps to lift are also a huge hit with him, and while I find them a little boring, I really like the give and return they provide. I can ask him to point out other things on the page that I notice are consistent (like "where's the mouse" who happens to be hiding in each picture), and it makes the experience much more interactive.

So, that's the background on how I came up with this list. I chose our top 5 Halloween board books, based mostly on what my 20 month old is enjoying.

Halloween Board Books for Toddlers

10 Trick-or-Treaters by Janet Schulman - Counting books that rhyme are a huge hit right now, and I lost track of how many times we read this one. There's also little things to ask your toddler to find and point out to you.

Halloween Jack by Roger Priddy - This was actually one of the first books that Sully really loved. I picked it up for a dollar at a second hand kids sale, and while I meant to stash it away, he was so enamoured by the laughing dracula on the last page that I didn't have the heart to pack it up. We easily still read this one daily.

One, Two…Boo! by Kristen L. Depken - In this book, you'll lift flaps as your count your way through the haunted house. A great introduction into all the spooky things that make up Halloween.

Where is Baby's Pumpkin? by Karen Katz - I'm sure everyone is familiar with this author's books, especially, Where is Baby's Belly Button?, and this book follows the same style, with flaps on every pages as the baby looks for her pumpkin and finds surprises along the way.

Five Little Pumpkins illustrated by Dan Yaccarino - a Halloween classic! I remember loving this one from my childhood so I was thrilled when it quickly became a favourite of Sully's too. It's impossible not to chant this rhyme about the rolling pumpkins.

Halloween Board Books for Toddlers

What are some of your favourite Halloween books for children?

October 22, 2015

Caramel Apple Nachos

Caramel Apple Nachos

For years, and I do mean years, whenever I was asked to bring a dish to a potluck dinner, you could count on me to bring a 7-layer dip. But not a homemade one, a store bought one of course. On the off chance that I was asked to bring a desert, then I grabbed whatever looked delicious at the grocery store.

I think you could attribute this to equal parts laziness and wanting to play it safe. What if no one liked or ate what I went to all the trouble to make on my own? I'm not set up for that kind of humiliation. Everyone likes a 7-layer dip though.

In the last few years though, chalk it up to age, I guess, I've gotten much more adventurous in the pot-luck dinner contribution. And a little less lazy. Now, I find it fun to bring something new that I am actually proud to brag about having made on my own. I never take anything I've never tried out on my own family first though. I'm not THAT confident yet.

So where am I going with this? The key to bringing something fun and delicious to a pot-luck dinner is to have a small list of a few "tried and true" recipes. Simple ingredients, simple instructions and guaranteed to be hits.

Caramel Apple Nachos checks off all the boxes. And the best part is, it can pass as a fun appetizer OR a healthy(er) dessert option! Win, win!

Here's all you need:

Caramel Apple Nachos

Caramel Apple Nachos

4-5 Apples (I used Honeycrisp because they are my favourite, but they can be pricey.).
Lemon Juice
Chocolate Chips
Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened - I prefer unsweetened)
Pecans, roughly chopped
Caramel Sauce

Caramel Apple Nachos
Slice your apples into thin, even slices.

Spread out apple slices onto a plate or platter, or even a shallow casserole dish.

Pour a little bit of lemon juice into a bowl and then brush all apple slices with it. This will prevent your apples from going brown before you even serve your dish. In all the times I've made this, the lemon juice was undetectable.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips, shredded coconut and chopped pecans evenly over the apple slices.

Drizzle caramel sauce all over.

Caramel Apple Nachos

Super easy and yummy! And the topping options are endless (there are about a million and one versions of this floating around the Internet). You can mix it up to suit what you have on hand or what you like. I made this one based on what taste combinations I prefer and what I already had in the pantry. Sully will not eat apples unless they are in sauce form, but one day, when he comes around to them, I see myself making this in mini portions as a fun snack or desert!

What's your go-to potluck dinner appetizer or dessert?

October 21, 2015

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

I'm a little late on the ball on reviewing this book, but my excuse is because I find really good books so much harder to talk about than bad ones. Do you feel that way too? It's so easy to pick something apart, or talk down about it, but trying to find the words for a really good read? I find it incredibly challenging.
Historical fiction books for adults
Enter The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Some of you might be familiar with Hoffman's other pieces of work, most notably The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, two well-known and well-received novels. Of course, I have read neither of these, but that's besides the point and they are both now on my ever-growing to-be-read list. I was intrigued from the synopsis of this book and I knew it was one I was interested in reading.
From the publisher: 
As a young girl in a small Jewish refugee community, Rachel dreamed of a life in Paris, far away from her difficult mother. That dream is extinguished when she is forced to marry a local widower and become stepmother to three young children. When her husband dies suddenly, Rachel finds herself in the throes of unimaginable passion after meeting Frederick, her late husband’s nephew who has come to help her settle the estate. 
A forbidden love story. A tropical island. Scandal. Paris. The Marriage of Opposites, in a nutshell, is the retelling of the story of Rachel Monsanto PomiƩ Petit Pizzarro, the mother of Camille Pissarro, the father of Impressionist painting. The novel sets out from when Rachel is just a little girl, and follows her life as she navigates a difficult relationship with her own mother, a marriage not based on love, raising step-children, bearing children of her own, deaths, illnesses, a forbidden love, betrayal and loss. It's an epic saga, one that pulled me in from the beginning and had me savouring the last few pages as I was not ready to say goodbye.

It's not often I read a book of such grand proportions anymore. I was reminded of other great sagas I immensely enjoyed (The Thorn Birds, Outlander…), and it's a shame they don't fall into my lap more often. There's something special about a story that spans several decades and is full of such detail. The character development is excellent; you grow attached to not just the storyline, but to the characters who become people to you. Nothing is held back and while I didn't want the book to end, I also didn't feel like there was more story to be told or parts of it left out.

The setting is important to note too. Taking place mostly on the tropical island of St. Thomas (now the US Virgin Islands), the imagery, detail and descriptions were palpable. I could feel the heat and humidity, I could envision the colourful plants and wildlife, and I could easily picture the homes and what life on the island in the early 1800s must have been like. Hoffman is a brilliant and beautiful storyteller.

So if you're looking for your next great read, I don't hesitate to recommend The Marriage of Opposites to you. Plus, it's always a little fun to learn a bit about history while immersed in a great story.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions, as always, are my own. 

*affiliate links have been used

October 19, 2015

Weekending: Book Club, Wine Festival & Kayben Farms

Can we talk for a moment about how Calgary is just killing it with the weather this fall?! We had temperatures in the high teens again this weekend and it just further confirms my love for October. There's not much I enjoy more than fall days where you don't even need a coat. I'm not sure how many more weekend like this we will get, but we definitely made sure to make the most of it!

Friday, Sully and I didn't get up to much during the day, but that evening I had my very first book club meeting with a book club that I joined on meetup. This book club meets once a month and each member gets a turn picking the book and the restaurant to go to. As someone who is pretty new to the city, it's a nice way to get to experience some new-to-me restaurants. This month's book was Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and was a great book to be able to discuss. I was a bit nervous when I showed up, but everyone was really nice and welcoming and it was easy to get lost in the conversation. It also helped that I wasn't the only newbie. No pictures, because I'm not that brave in a new group of people!

Saturday, I hopped on the train and met up with my Aunt Max at the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival for their afternoon tasting. I had never been to a wine tasting event before, so when I won tickets from Laura I was pretty excited! My original game plan was to stick to champagne and white wine, but eventually I just had to taste some of the beer too. Probably not my wisest decision as the rest of my afternoon and evening was a bit of a write off if you catch my drift.

Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival 2015 Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival 2015

It's hard to remember everything you taste, but I did take pictures of the ones I really enjoyed. I'm a huge bubbly/prosecco/champagne lover and these were my favourites. The beers I tasted, while not bad, were not noteworthy enough to include. I did make sure to sample the Uber Caesar as I love me a good Caesar! This was so delicious and something I would definitely buy. Under a blind test, I would never have guessed this was a Caesar from a bottle. It puts the Mott's Clamato Caesar's to shame. And fun fact: did you know the Caesar was invented in Calgary back in 1969?

Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival 2015
{clockwise from top left: rosalia giusti//anna de codorniu//lamarca prosecco//bolla prosecco}

Uber Caeser

Of course, some food was sampled too! The Bernard Callebut Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownie was just the perfect amount of sweetness. The Pulled Pork & Red Cabbage Cornbread Slider (with a Signature Double Chocolate Pecan Cookie on the side) from SAIT Culinary Campus was so, so tasty.  The highlight was definitely the gelato from Fiasco's. The servings were generous and the flavours we chose (Bourban Vanilla Bean and Dark Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt) were to die for.

Rocky Mountain Food & Wine Festival 2015

On Sunday, after a lazy morning, we decided to head out to Kayben Farms in Okotoks. I had heard good things about it and I wanted to go before they close for the year at the end of the month. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to go, or a quieter one. It often felt like we were the only ones there, so it was pretty cool to do the corn maze all on our own! Sully had a great time riding the tractor train, jumping on the pillows, seeing the farm animals, going on the slides, and leading the way through the corn maze. They had a deal where if you bought a 2016 season pass (only $35), you can use it for admission all of October. So that's exactly what I did because I know we will be back next year (and possibly one or two more times before the end of the month!).

Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms Kayben Farms

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Have you ever been to a wine tasting festival? 
Tell me something fun you did this past weekend!

October 16, 2015

Spartan Super Race Recap

I never had any plans of running any obstacle course races this year, let alone the Spartan ones. But then I entered a giveaway on Becky's blog back in the summer, and I won an entry into any Spartan race! Since I didn't want to run a race alone, I signed up for the one she was already doing - the Spartan Super in Red Deer which is a 13k+ course with over 20 obstacles (you can read Becky's recap here). I'm still not sure what made me feel like I should be signing up for such a race, but I guess I was feeling overly confident in my abilities! 

Then of course I caught wind of the Spartan Sprint in Calgary and convinced my sister to do that one with me as a sort of "training" race for the Super. Both were awesome experiences although I don't feel like I can really compare the two. Different distances, different venues and different race day conditions.

Spartan Super Race Recap 2015

On the morning of September 12, I had planned to be on the road to Red Deer around 7:30 a.m., giving myself ample time to pick up Becky and then head over to the race. As luck would have it, my alarm never went off and when I did wake up, it was already 7:30 a.m.! Cue all the swear words and I ran around the house like a mini tornado before finally hitting the road around 8. Good thing I had given myself extra time in the morning because I only ended up being about 15 minutes late picking up Becky.

We arrived to the race grounds and met up with Lindsey and her husband Chad who were also running the same heat as us. (You can check out Lindsey's recap here.) It still hadn't really hit me that I was minutes away from running my furthest distance ever. 

I didn't really have a plan per se, just to finish and have fun. I was pretty sure that Becky and I would stick together for the race, but I remember asking her just to make sure. Lindsey stuck with us for the most part, speeding up during the running parts and helping us out with the obstacles, before she took off near the end and kicked our non-pregnant butts! 

We couldn't have asked for a nicer day to race. It was quite warm, but not unbearably hot, and the course was dry unlike my experience during the Spartan Sprint. There was a lot of long stretches of just running which, as dumb as it may sound, I was not really expecting. A lot of the running was through the trails which I really enjoyed though. The time and distance passes quicker and you don't have to run as fast as you would normally feel pressured to do so because you are too busy concentrating on foot placement. 

We had 27 obstacles to complete, and I'm proud to say that we accomplished almost all of them. What a difference a dry course makes! One obstacle, where we were required to fill a large bucket with sand and then carry it several hundred metres was probably my toughest. As soon as I picked up my bucket, my back did not agree. I didn't feel like I was hurting myself or straining, just the muscles in my mid back were not happy. I kept stopping to rest the bucket on my knee when a guy came up from behind me and told me to put my bucket on top of his. I was so taken aback by his willingness to help me, but I told him I couldn't let him do that. As soon as he was done with his bucket, he ran back to me and carried my bucket the rest of the way. I almost wanted to cry! It reminded me that there are still really kind, genuinely nice people out there, and even during an intense obstacle course race, there are people willing to help you out.

Spartan Super Race 2015
Spartan Super Race 2015

The hardest part about this race wasn't the distance and it wasn't the obstacles. It was the fact that I wasn't properly fuelled. While I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter before I left my house, and had a banana before our heat started, that wasn't nearly enough food to keep my going, and too much time had passed between leaving my house and starting the race. I went in with the mindset that since I don't fuel during a 10k run, I don't need to fuel for an extra 4k. I didn't take into account that amount of energy used completing a single obstacle. Somewhere between kilometre 9 and 10, Becky and I both really started to lose steam. We were hungry and exhausted. I honestly worried that we wouldn't be able to finish. Their were water stations along the course, but that's all they offered. I think even a glass or two of gatorade would have helped us immensely. 

Spartan Super Race 2015

The second half was therefore the toughest. By that point we were walking more than we were running and I just wanted to be finished. Honestly, if it hadn't been for the support from Becky and Lindsey during the race, I don't think I could have finished. They made it so much more fun and it helps to have a friend push you along. While Lindsey finished ahead of us, Becky and I held hands as we jumped over the last obstacle (fire jump!) and crossed the finish line at 2:49:09! I could not have been more proud of us! I went into the race thinking it would take about 4 hours based on how long the Sprint took me, so I was super happy with our time. Of course, I can't help but wonder how we would have done if we had been better prepared, both fuel wise and running wise, but there's always next year to improve on our time!

Spartan Super Race 2015
Spartan Super Race 2015

So what's my take-away from running two Spartan races this year? Fuel, fuel, fuel! I wouldn't carry anything on your person during a sprint race, but I would recommend eating a good breakfast before hand. Fuel well before a Spartan Super and carry some sort of fuel with you, be it honey stingers, candy, a camelback with gatorade or a protein bar. You will definitely need it and not regret being prepared. Wear shorts or crops that are tight and not 100% cotton. You will get wet and muddy and you don't want the water weighing your clothes down. Trail shoes are recommend, but I did both without and managed fine. Have fun!

Spartan Super Race Recap 2015

Thanks again to Becky and Lindsey for being there for me during my toughest, most challenging race both physically and mentally! I never in a million years thought I would do something like this and I feel incredibly proud of myself (and us!) for knocking this one off the ol' bucket list. Now, who's joining us next year?!

Have you ever run a Spartan Race, or other obstacle race? 
What's your favourite obstacle?