Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Cottagey shadowboxes

Somehow the month of July seems to have flown by. For much of the month we were down to one child as Cal spent a couple of weeks at summer camp and then Matthew went to New Brunswick with my mother. For five glorious days Alan and I were home alone. We were working hard, but we also had time to visit some of the great restaurants that have sprung up in our neighbourhood over the last couple of years.

We're back to the incessant bickering reality now.

Anyway, I promised Matthew that this summer we would decorate his bedroom at the cottage. The walls are painted plain old beige, and there's not much hanging on them. He chose blue for the wall colour, and I've been brainstorming inexpensive cottage-themed art to hang.

At the beginning of the summer I picked up a few antique fishing lures. Since Matthew is crazy about fishing, they seemed like a good choice for his room.

Last week I picked up a few shadowboxes at Dollarama. When I got them home the openings in them weren't quite the right size, so I pulled them all apart. Luckily the inner frame was made of plastic and was easy to snap apart.

I hot glued the glass directly to the frame, and then glued the pieces of the inner frame to the main frame to hold the back of the box in the correct place. Then I mounted the lures on some cardstock and put the frames all together - and realized that I'd bought one black and two dark brown frames. Doh!

Yesterday I finally went back and picked up two more black frames and finished up this project that had been hanging about in my dining room for weeks.

This wooden lure is my favourite of the three. 

Since I had to pick up a couple of extra boxes and I had the ugly brown ones left over, I decided to try to rescue them with some paint. I had a can of high gloss yellow from a previous project that I figured would brighten the frames up so I got to work painting.

Then there was the hunt to find something to frame. Rooting through Cal's room I found some Playmobile pirates that Janine bought for the kids a couple of years ago for a treasure hunt at Grandma's camp. And they were the perfect size!

I love the bright canary yellow frames and vibrant colours in the pirates - they make Matthew's fishing lures look dingy by comparison. I think I might have to pick up some bright red spray paint to brighten Matthew's up.

Monday, 8 July 2013


This afternoon we had record breaking rainfall. Unbelievably record breaking rainfall. Apparently the previous one day record was 29.2mm and the average monthly rainfall for July is 74.4mm.

This afternoon we got greater than 90mm in about an hour. And the weathermen say to expect greater than 100mm before the day is through. More than an average month's rainfall in one measly hour.

So perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised that this was the scene on our main floor this evening.

We sprung a leak. A pretty big leak. Right along the edge of the rear addition where it joins onto the main house.

I leaned out of the bathroom window on the second floor (after it stopped raining) to get a picture. It was raining so hard that the eavestroughs  overflowed, a lot of water was pouring onto the edge of the roof, and the flashing just didn't cut it.

Matthew first noticed that one of the lights in the back room was leaking water (!) and soon there were huge bubbles of water under the paint. Like water balloon size. I broke them to let the water out, as they kept getting bigger and bigger. Now they look like this.

There are several more spots where the paint buckled - I have quite a patch job ahead of me.

But of course it didn't stop there. Matthew (who seems to have an uncanny ability to discover water leaks) went down to the basement and found one of the ceiling ducts leaking water all over the floor. We collected a large volume of brackish water from the vent before the storm was done.

And then the back storage room leaked too. You know, when it rains, it pours?

Funnily enough, we had a guy come this morning to give us a quote on new evestroughs as ours have some problems. If only we'd managed to get the work done a week ago. We might have escape this whole huge mess!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sex in a pan. Or a mason jar, as the case may be.

My sister introduced me to sex in a pan many, many years ago. I have no idea why it's called that, but it's a delicious and easy to make dessert. It has a pecan-shortbread crust on the bottom, topped with layers of cream cheese, pudding and whipped cream. I know it doesn't really sound like a grown-up dessert, but trust me, it's worth making.

Alan and I have our annual work picnic tomorrow where we head out to Toronto Island with both of our labs for an afternoon of cavorting. There's frisbee, soccer, baseball, and sometimes swimming. And of course, much eating. We have an ethnically diverse group of people, so the pot luck lunch is really something to look forward to.

Since I would have an appreciative audience I considered making microbiology themed cookies like these for dessert (minus the petri dishes, of course - that would just be weird to take on a picnic).

I decided that I didn't have a spare six hours for cookie decorating so I was wracking my brain for something simpler to take. Then last night we were out for dinner and had key lime pie for dessert. The restaurant served it up in a mason jar, and gave me the great idea to make individual desserts in a mason jar. Perfect for a picnic!

I googled dessert in a mason jar and came up with several recipes for cheesecake in a jar. I considered making it, but then decided to be adventurous and try modifying sex in a pan for 250 mL wide-mouth mason jars. I made 20 jars, and found that doubling the recipe (below) was just perfect for this number.

After mixing the base crust, I scooped 2 generous tablespoons into the bottom of each jar and patted it down using the bottom of a glass. I loaded the jars onto a large baking sheet and baked at 350°C for about 15 minutes.

I let the jars cool completely before preparing the next layers. The first layer is cream cheese, sugar and whip cream beaten together until it's light and fluffy. I dropped it in with a spoon and then smoothed it out as best I could.

The second and third layers are chocolate and vanilla pudding. I have to admit (as hard as it is to believe) that I had never made instant pudding before. I used Jello brand; the directions say to beat it for 2 minutes, but with the first batch I discovered that it solidified too quickly, was hard to portion out with a spoon, and ended up lumpy in the jars.  

I mixed subsequent batches in my 4 cup pyrex  measuring cup using my hand held beater for 80 seconds (and yes, I did time it). It was just starting to thicken at this point, and working quickly I was able to use the spout and pour each layer into the jar where it self-leveled.

The final layer is plain old whipped cream, 

and then I topped it all off with some chocolate shavings.

The jars are all closed up and chilling in the fridge. Now I'm hoping that I have the strength to lug them down to the ferry tomorrow!

Sex in a Pan
1 cup chopped pecans
3 Tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour

Cream cheese layer:
1 pkg cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup whipped cream

Vanilla and chocolate pudding
1 package instant pudding
2 cups of milk

1. Mix all of the ingredients for the crust together and add two generous tablespoons to each mason jar (makes 10 jars). Place jars on a baking sheet and bake at 350°C for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
2. In a mixer, whip the cream cheese and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the whipped cream and mix well. Divide evenly between jars and smooth out to edges.
3. Beat the milk and pudding on high speed for 80 seconds, then quickly pour into the jars. I put the chocolate in first and then the vanilla for the contrast between layers.
4. Top off the jars with whipped cream (about 2 cups total) and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
5. Close up the jars and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the dessert to set.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Mini succulent gardens

I have a soft spot for succulents. I don't know if it's because they're so small and cute, or if it's just that they're one of the few plants that I can manage to keep alive.

I must admit to neglecting my houseplants something fierce.

So a couple of weeks ago when I was out at my mom's house I couldn't resist buying these plants that I found outside of her local grocery store. 

I loved the assortment of succulents, but oh my goodness, the electric green plastic containers were a sight to behold. And they did nothing to improve the looks of the plants.

I happened to have a couple of shell planters that I had picked up from my next-door neighbour's lawn sale a couple of weeks earlier and knew that they would be perfect for tiny succulent gardens.

The shells are about 30 cm (12") across and look like they're ceramic. They're actually made of some kind of extruded foam product, which makes them perfect for leaving outside on the dining table with no worries about them being damaged by the sun or rain.

I got to work and transferred the plants to their new home using the soil that they came in to fill the shells.

I'd picked up three pots of plants, so I ended up with too many plants for the two shells. Luckily, I had a silver plate cream and sugar sitting around that were a perfect home for a couple of succulents.

Now they're right at home on the windowsill behind my kitchen sink.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Another school year is over and summer has finally arrived. I remember what it was like as a kid with two long months stretching out ahead me. It seemed like it would last forever (and I'm sure that it probably felt like it lasted forever for my poor mother who was home wrestling four kids).

It's not quite the same for my boys as their days are filled with summer camps, but it's still freedom from the drudgery of school and lots of time spent playing up the cottage.

This weekend was our first real weekend to relax. We'd been up once a few weeks ago, but there was a lot to do to get things opened and unpacked, so it wasn't really a pleasure visit. This visit was pure relaxation.

The boys finished school on Thursday, so we left the city Friday morning to make the most of the weekend. It wasn't a terrific weekend weather-wise, and was especially disappointing considering how hot it was all the previous week. And the mosquitos almost carried us away! Such is life at the cottage, though.

We did manage a full afternoon out on the boat on Sunday (which happened to be our 12th anniversary).

We stopped off at the boys' favourite fishing spot and whiled away the afternoon fishing and reading.

I was hoping that they'd catch something big enough to eat, but no such luck. The fishing did keep them busy for quite a long while, and the day spent out in the fresh air tired them out so we had a nice quiet evening. Even poor Tessa conked out early, and I found her tucked into bed with Matthew when I headed off myself. 

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