Saturday, July 23, 2011


The following article will be published in the next issue of the Carberry News Express, a paper in the neighbouring town of Carberry (about 25 mins east of Shilo - and supposedly Canada's second largest potato-producing community!). I have been writing two articles per month aimed at reaching the military members and their families who choose to live there and commute to Shilo.

*   *  *

I never have considered myself particularly maternal. I played house when I was a little girl, but only if I could be the Mommy (I like control). I heaved great sighs of exasperation each time my parents asked me to take care of my little brother while they worked (we’re nine years apart). I have never liked children; I only babysat for the money (I got a job at McDonald’s as soon as I turned 15 to avoid this frustrating task!). And when I met and married Wayne at 24, I was working full-time as a writer and editor, while serving at restaurants and pubs on the weekends. This provided the extra spending money we used to fund our fantastic D-I-N-K lifestyle (DINK = Double Income, No Kids). It was great!

Then, I began to see babies as the expression of a couple’s love and intimacy; as a reason to grow and learn together; and as a tiny bundle to call our own, to nurture and teach and love and raise. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay home 24/7 to raise one. But I knew it was the next step in our marriage; we just had to figure out how to make it work for us.

The dream became a reality only once we decided to become a military family. Living in Metro Vancouver, our two-bedroom townhouse was not only too small for more than one child, but it was far too expensive to afford on one income. I would have had to go back to work and pay for daycare, which is hard to come by in that area. We would have been near family, but both our sets of parents were years away from retirement at the time and would not have been able to provide regular childcare. Our yard was also roughly the size of a postage stamp – no fun for a kid.

So when the opportunity to join the Canadian Forces presented itself, it seemed to be the logical answer. Wayne would have a contract that would guarantee his position; we’d rent on base so he could work close to home; and I could stay home with the kids while they are little. It seemed almost too good to be true!

Of course, it was. Wayne left to complete his training for a total of 16 months, and then the Army moved us to the middle of the Prairies. This wasn’t exactly what I had imagined.

But after the initial shock, I began to appreciate this crazy life for what it is, and I can say now that I have enjoyed the position of CEO of the Baxter home more than any other title I’ve held in my career, even if it is in the middle of nowhere! I now officially consider myself a stay-at-home-parent, instead of just a mom who doesn’t have time to work. And I am not only okay with that, but I am delighted to have the opportunity to be home; not everyone who wants to do this, can.

I admit, sometimes I ask myself how my life went from high heels, boardroom meetings, and after-work cocktails to flip flops, naptime, and Sesame Street. Sometimes I grumble at the fact that I have to drive 25 minutes into Brandon just to buy groceries. And I totally add menial tasks to my morning to-do list, just so I have something to cross off (today’s list included "make coffee," "read flyers," and "lunch," just to avoid "fold laundry," "empty dishwasher," and "wash diapers"). But I know that being home with my kids is my primary role right now, and I know myself well enough to know that I don’t have the energy reserve to pour into them and a job outside the home. But it’s okay. It won’t be like this forever. It’s just another stage of life, and I am blessed to have a husband who supports it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

::Upcycled diaper bag::

Another sewing project! I'm on a roll...

Heidi has a pair of corduroy overall she never wore. I loved them so much - the print is so happy and fun - that I carefully hung them in her closet and waited and waited until she would grow big enough to wear them. Of course, they were given to me when she was newborn, and I had no reference point for how fast she would grow, especially as the product of two tall parents.

Alas, twelve months came and went and I thought surely, they would still be too big. But by the time I thought to bring them out of the closet, they were too short! (I wasn't sewing at the time, or I would have thought to cut them off into a romper.) They have been sitting all this time in Heidi's closet, and eventually made their way into the "to sell" pile of Heidi's massive wardrobe.

Then I found this tutorial, which shows you how to make a diaper bag alternative with a pair of children's overalls! I loved this idea, especially because my diaper bag, which I also use as a purse, has been slowly accumulating more and more stuff now that I have two children! (I'm a "just in case" type of person, ok?) It's intended to enable Mommy to use her own purse and have detachable diaper bag, so she doesn't have to constantly switch her wallet, keys, makeup, etc. from the diaper to her purse when she does go out without her kids (rare, I know).

But what a perfect way to continue to show off this fun print and make it functional, too. And once I'm done with diaper bags (when will that be???), Heidi can use it. (They were her overalls, after all.)

My only problem was that the straps on these overalls weren't adjustable; the overalls did up in the back with a zipper. This wouldn't allow me to attach the bag to the straps of my purse. So, when I cut off the legs just at the crotch to sew up the bottom of the bag, I reserved the snaps that followed the length of the insides of the legs and created my own adjustable straps! I cut on the seam of the original straps, folded them down and zigzag stitched the new snaps on.

(Yes, that's crooked stitching below that snap, but I'm no perfectionist when it comes to projects for myself). 

This could not have been an easier project. It's the perfect way to preserve some of your favourite kids' clothing!

The finished bag, full of goodies!

The essentials.

My current purse...

My current purse with the diaper bag attached. Fun!

If you live in the area and would like me to convert your child's overalls into a detachable bag, use my contact form at

::Spring chicken::

When I saw this easy tutorial for a stuffed chicken from the sewing blog Sew, Mama, Sew, I knew I had to make it! Thankfully, Heidi's friend Michael is about to turn 2, and this seemed to be the perfect little friend to make for him. It took me only a couple of hours, and other than the body fabric, I used scraps to make the rest of the pieces! I love projects that use scraps. The best part about stuffies is that you can really create a personality with the fabrics you choose. In the tutorial, the chicken is quite whimsical with the orange body, whereas mine came out a little more "country," with the traditional colours.

Here is the finished product. Happy birthday, Michael!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

::Sunshine Muffins::

Today, I baked. I haven't done that in a while, being that Wayne and I are trying to make healthier food choices (and nachos, cookies, and cake pops don't exactly fall into the "healthy" category, do they?).

I made a recipe my mom has been making for years, from The Best of Bridge cookbooks. They're called Sunshine Muffins, and they are so moist and refreshing, I could eat them every day. They are an orange-based muffin, and lend themselves to all sorts of fruit/nut/chocolate mix-ins. While I always include semisweet chocolate chips (because chocolate and orange is my most favourite food combination in the world!), I decided today to include chopped fresh cherries. No joke, the cherries from Superstore for the past couple of weeks have been to die for. Just like picking them off the tree! Amazing.

I also decided to tweak the recipe a bit, to make it a tad healthier by reducing the sugar. With the chocolate chips and cherries, I would never have noticed the sugar was reduced (and my waistline probably didn't either). Bonus: this recipe is quick and easy.

Suffice it to say, these are not the *healthiest* version of these muffins that I could make. I could substitute some of the flour for whole wheat, throw in some wheat germ or bran, include nuts instead of chocolate, and use applesauce instead of oil. Alas, I threw caution to the wind and whipped them up the way they were meant to be made. Mostly. Recipe below.

Sunshine Muffins

whole orange (pref. organic), cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup orange juice (or just another orange if you don't have O.J.)
1 egg
1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed) --> or substitute applesauce
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cherries
1/4-1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine cut-up orange (that’s right – the whole orange), orange juice, egg and oil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. 

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add your mix-ins and combine to coat them with the flour mixture. 

Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir by hand until just combined. Pour batter into 12 muffin tins (I use silicone) and bake at 375 deg.F (190 deg.C) for 15-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Book Reference – The Best of the Best – Vol. 1

Sunday, July 17, 2011


"I was reared in the generation of women who were told we could be anything we wished, and succeed. Our expectation, our greatest achievement in life was no longer wife and mother — we had evolved! Our focus was on career, success in business, making a name for ourselves. Our mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers had fought hard for the opportunity to be something outside the home. And I appreciated that, so much so that I assumed my purpose in life was simply me…what can I do, who can I be? I was of the evolved generation, a product of women’s rights! What I didn’t count on was that motherhood, something that is supposed to be biological and natural, would be the most challenging."

Read the rest of this oh-so-true article here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

::cake pops::

I thought I'd consider making cake pops for Heidi's 2nd birthday party, but in my years of baking and cooking, I have (finally) learned to never try something new when guests are coming. So, when my friend Liz asked me to host an Arbonne party for her, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try my hand at creating these delicious, super-sweet, cake-icing-chocolate balls on sticks.

Good thing, too.

Dang, these things are more work than they look! The redeeming quality is, of course, that no matter how bad they look, they taste the same: yummy!

Either way, I started by watching Youtube tutorials, and thought surely, baking blogger Bakerella would have something to say. And she did. I watched her tutorial and thought, "That looks easy!" Well, let's just say I'm glad I started this process two days ahead of time!

First, I had to bake the cake. (Don't be silly and think I made one from scratch. no name helped me out with this part.) I baked them, let them cool, and cut them into quarters, like Bakerella said. I started by picking up two cake quarters and rubbing them together over a large mixing bowl to create crumbs.

If I had continued this way, I'd still be making cake crumbs. That did NOT work.

So I said, "Screw that," and started manhandling that cake! I broke, smooshed, tossed and stirred those cakes until they were nothing but a pile of lumpy crumbs. I thought the lumps gave it character. You know, rustic, like something Bobby Flay would do.

Then I had to mix in the icing (again with the no name brand). The entire container. I thought this may be too much but I was wrong, very wrong. In fact, I still have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't enough.

I dumped it in and began to stir with a wooden spoon, as per Bakerella's tutorial, thinking it would come together evenly and quickly. And again, that did NOT work. And so, channeling my best meatloaf-making skills, I squished and mashed the icing and cake crumbs by hand like nobody's business. It felt good!

By this time, it was late at night and Wayne could barely keep his eyes open on the couch, waiting for me to finish up in the kitchen. I thought to myself, "I'll just roll them into balls now, leave them on the baking sheet in the fridge and pick up where I left off in the morning." So I pulled out my 2 Tbsp. scooper and began "rolling" cake balls.

However, each time I tried to roll the cake and icing mixture, it would break apart in my hands! Either there wasn't enough icing, or it was too hot/humid in our house to get the mixture to stick together. So I had to knead and squish each cake ball individually. After 36 scoops, this gets boring and tiring. Ugh, it was a late night. But I did it.

The next morning, my first attempt to melt the coloured chocolate wafers left me with a Pyrex measuring cup full of burnt pink discs, with a core of brown and black crust that stunk up my kitchen. FAIL. (Why did I think I could melt coloured chocolate in the microwave? I dunno!)

So out came the double boiler, and my plans for pink cake pops changed to blue ones. Ok, ok, this mistake was entirely my own and I take full responsibility for it.

The remnants of the pink chocolate.

Ewwww. It stunk.

So with the blue chocolate safely melting in a homemade double boiler on the stove, I prepped my lollipop sticks, my dipping cup, and my styrofoam block that Wayne so kindly drilled holes into for me to let the pops dry in before packaging. 

I figured the cake balls would be cold enough having been in the fridge all night that I wouldn't need to freeze them for the 15 mins Bakerella suggests before inserting the sticks and dipping them. Again, I was wrong. They were still barely holding together. Into the freezer they went.

A couple of hours later, I re-melted the chocolate and took the pops out of the freezer. They were much harder and actually stayed together as I inserted the sticks and dipped them into the chocolate.

But as time went on, the once-frozen pops began to thaw, and the crumbs would come off in the blue goop. I then tried to reshape the cake balls as I worked with them, but that left my hands brown and sticky, which stained the lollipop sticks! Ugh, I just couldn't win!

Finally, I got 20 of them dipped before running out of chocolate (the last one had to be slathered with a spatula!), and decided that would have to do. I sprinkled coloured sugar on them (which also looked very awkward and childish in its application - how do you do that evenly? Dipping them in the sugar looked silly, too.). I put them in the fridge to harden up, and then covered them with clear candy bags and wrapped the bases with blue ribbon.

If you think this post was long and boring to read, imagine being the one MAKING the bloody things! Haha. As I said, though, they taste awesome (and that's with from-the-box mix and icing!) and even though they are sloppy and kind of look like homemade gumballs on sticks, I vow to dip and wrap the remaining cake balls (which are in a Ziploc in the freezer) in my leftover purple chocolate wafers for another event so I don't waste the ingredients.

Now I just need to find an event worthy of so much time and effort. :oS