Crocheted Bunny

So as soon as I said that maybe I would try crocheting a bunny next year, I thought, why not this year?  Why do something later when you can do it now?  That was my OCD speaking.   When I get an idea in head, I run with it, sometimes, and then over-analyze it to death.  A bit of a contradiction, I know.  I am complicated.  Anyhoo, the crocheted bunny was born.

This bunny has been through a lot – multiple amputations, transplantations and eye surgeries.  One foot is bigger than the other.  The ears are not symmetrical.  The Virgo in me wanted it to be perfect, but no one’s perfect right?

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When I showed him/her to my blog buddies, Stephanie asked if that was Miffy, and Charlie asked if it was a boy or a girl?  Who is Miffy, I asked?  This is Miffy:eeHXgd6O

Aside from the ears, I can see the resemblance.  Miffy is a female rabbit created in the 1950s as the main character in a series of books written and drawn by Dick Bruna, a Dutch artist.  She has starred in two television series and one movie.  Have I been living under a rock?  My husband also does not know who Miffy is, so I don’t feel so dumb not with the times.  You learn something new everyday….

Initially, I was going to make a flower to put on my crocheted bunny’s head and make it a girl, but when Charlie asked me if it was going to be a boy or a girl, it got me thinking.  Who am I to decide what it “should” be?  Why does it have to be a girl or a boy?  So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to make the flower and leave it as is.  I’ll let my daughter decide (when she’s old enough to know the difference).  Simple.  And done.

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I got the free pattern for this bunny from Happy Berry.  It was easy to follow and she even has 3 youtube videos for you to follow along if you want.  I used a thicker yarn, so I used a bigger hook.  But in hindsight, I could’ve used a smaller hook so that the stitches are tighter.  You can see the filler in some gaps between stitches.  All in all, I’m pretty happy with this second amigurumi project.  I already have the next one planned. 😉  In the meantime, this little bunny is going into my baby’s nursery.

For more Easter crafts, check out Charlie’s post on how to make a paper mache Easter egg pinata.

Happy Easter!

Paper Mache Easter Egg Piñata

PaperMacheEggPinata_5A few weeks ago, my daughter told me, out of the blue, that she really, like reeeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyyyy wanted a rainbow Easter Egg Piñata. My automatic response to her dragged out pluuuuuuueaseeeeeee Mommy, please, was “we will see”.  But then as soon as the words left my mouth, I thought, wait, why not? I’m always looking for crafts to do with her and it can be easy to make simple paper mache piñatas, especially an egg shaped one.  We had almost everything necessary for the project on hand.

PAPER MACHE EASTER EGG PINATA SUPPLIES

  • hand torn newspaper (we used cut white printer paper at my daughter’s insistence; I pick and choose my battles and this was not one of them)
  • paper mache paste
  • balloon
  • paper clip
  • ribbon or string
  • paint or tissue paper

Ultimate Paper Mache has three different recipes for the paste and we used the raw flour and water one – no glue, no boiling, easy-peasy and ready in less than a minute.

NO COOK PAPER MACHE PASTE RECIPE

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • optional: 2 tsp. salt (to help prevent mold)
  • optional: dash of cinnamon to enhance smell
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My daughter loved playing with the squishy paste so much that I thought we would never actually get to making the egg, but we did, and she was more methodical than I imagined she would be at three.  So much so that I didn’t have to help her.

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Paper Mache Easter Egg Pinata

I only intervened when she started grabbing fists full of toilet paper and dunking them into the paste and then flinging the globs off her fingers.  I suppose she had wanted to remind me she is only three after all.

We ran out of paper (hence the grab for toilet paper) at around the same time she started to lose interest and while there were still a few holes, it was time to stop and clean up.

The paper mache paste was fairly easy to clean up.  The real added bonus of this activity was that she gladly jumped into the bath without me having to beg or bribe her.

That was a few weeks ago and I had almost forgotten about the egg that we had hung up to dry.  Then today, she refused to nap, and by 4 PM she was starting to get clingy and fussy and I figured it was time for some messy crafting.

By the way, at what age should I stop dismissing negative behavior as just fussy?

As I looked around the room for something we can do together, I saw the unfinished egg.  We should probably add a few more layers of paper but with Easter being only a week away, I asked if she wanted to paint her egg piñata.

The ecstatic cheers and leaps into the air suggested the answer is yes.

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She popped the balloon with a paintbrush and immediately asked for chocolates to fill it with.  Luckily she was receptive to the idea of painting and letting the egg dry first before adding the treats.

As she painted (she choose neon green, blue, and black, and then as an afterthought added glittery purple, orange and yellow for the glitter), she went on and on about how she and her friends are going to have so much fun trying to break the egg open.

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Then she went on and on about the chocolates and candies she wants to eat and I made a mental note to get some bottles of bubbles, tiny cans of PlayDoh, erasers, stickers and (more) temporary tattoos for her piñata.

The cutest little chick erasers ever!

The cutest little chick erasers ever!

What are good/ safe candy substitutes in a piñata?

Paper Mache Egg Pinata

I have a few non-candy ideas for the Easter Basket, but what other non-candy treats would you suggest for an Easter Egg Hunt?

Happy Easter

Hope you and your loved ones have a happy Easter!

Crocheted Easter Eggs

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Crocheted Easter Eggs

Since my daughter is only 11 months old, we will not be doing much with her to celebrate Easter this year.  There will be no Easter crafts or games.  She’s too young to dye Easter eggs and join in on an Easter egg hunt.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get into the Easter spirit.  No, I did not go out and buy a ton of chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies.  Instead, I decided to try my hand at amigurumi.  Say what?  I know, I can’t even pronounce it myself.  Let’s call it ami for short.  Ami is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed dolls, which can be animals or inanimate objects.  As you know, I crochet during my spare time, usually when baby is sleeping.  I actually began crocheting as a hobby about 6 months ago and have been “hooked” ever since.  So, I still consider myself a beginner, even though I have a massive yarn stash that can revival those of long-time crocheters, I’ve spent many, many hours crocheting (late at night, instead of sleeping) and made many, many hats, scarves and headbands.  I thought, crocheted Easter eggs can’t be too difficult to make.  It’s just a round ball, really.  And ami is usually crocheted with just one stitch, the single crochet stitch, which I already know how to do and I already had most of everything needed (yarn, G hook, stitch marker, yarn needle).  All I had to buy was the polyester fiberfill to stuff the inside of the egg, which can be found at any craft store or online.  Alternatively, you can also stuff the insides with scrape pieces of yarn.

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These eggs are super easy to make.  I followed the free pattern from Petal to Picots.  She gives great suggestions on how to change yarn colours to make striped eggs.  But if you’re lazy, I mean, short on time like me, just use multi-coloured yarn and let the yarn create the pattern for you. 🙂  I whipped these little eggs up in no time!  Aren’t they so cute?

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Not bad for my first go at ami, right?  Maybe next year, I’ll try crocheting a bunny. In the meantime, this little guy is going to have to fill in.  😉

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You can include these crocheted eggs in your little one’s Easter baskets.  Or why not include them in your Easter egg hunt as decoys?  You can also use them as centerpieces to decorate your coffee or dining table.  Whatever you do with them, the best thing about these eggs, is that they’ll never go bad.  Use these handmade mementos again and again. 🙂

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Looking for other things to put in your little one’s Easter basket?  Check out Charlie’s post on 7 Non-Candy Easter Gift Ideas for Toddlers.  Have a wonderful day!

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7 Non-Candy Easter Gift Ideas for Toddlers

This is NOT a sponsored post.  I had really wanted to find some non-candy treats for my sweet little girl’s Easter basket this year and this is what I came up with.  There are some affiliate links in this post however.
I know Easter is not just about gifts and baskets and treats, but if you’re going to give the little love ones in your life something anyway, then here are some gift ideas that aren’t candy or chocolate.
Although have you seen these super adorable Lindt Chocolates?  I got them from Costco recently.  The carrot shaped box contains chocolate chicks, lambs, carrots, lady bugs, bees, three kind of eggs and rabbits.
Chocolate Bunnies, Lambs, Chicks, Eggs, Carrots, Lady Bugs, Bees and EggsWhen my daughter took one of the eggs into bed (she didn’t want to eat it, just nap with it), I ended up eating it after she fell asleep.  Since it was in her little hand for quite some time, I inadvertently found out that the soft inside melts to a liquid before the outer shell melts for a totally special treat.  Now I hold them in my hand for a few minutes before eating.  But shhh…I’m afraid there won’t be any left for her egg piñata.

7 NON-CANDY GIFT IDEAS FOR EASTER

  1. Toys/ Games
  2. Puzzles
  3. Plush Animals
  4. Clothes
  5. Accessories (e.g. Sunglasses, Caps, Umbrellas, Rain boots, Rain jackets, etc.)
  6. Books
  7. Keepsakes (e.g. Photo frames, Music boxes, Money banks, etc.)

TOYS/ GAMES

My daughter will probably love any toy or game given to her, especially balls, but since Easter is often associated with baby bunnies, lambs and chicks, and eggs, I thought maybe I’ll stick to that theme.

Meet Jack the rabbit:

Jumping Jack

My daughter loves playing this exciting game. Kids take turn spinning to see how many carrots to pull from the hill. One of the carrots will make Jack jump out and all the players try to catch him to win.

Since my daughter loves Jumping Jack so much, I’m getting her this Funny Bunny Game for Easter.  Each player has four bunnies and the first to the top of the hill wins.  But beware of holes!  Kids take turn drawing cards to see how many spaces to move but the big carrot card means it’s time to turn the carrot, which triggers the holes.  It’s for 2-4 players ages 4 and up (hey, that’s me; I can’t wait to play this with her).
My daughter is three so I thought she would be too old for these Stacking and Nesting Eggs but she plays with them several times a day in so many different ways.

Stacking Nesting EggsSometimes they are chickens on her farm. Sometimes they are cups.  Sometimes she uses them to “wrap” or hide presents for me.  Sometimes she even asks for them as her bath toy for the night (letting her pick a toy to take into the bath has been the most useful tip I got to get her cleaned up at the end of the day).
She likes her Stacking and Nesting Eggs so much that I’m considering these Hide N Squeak Eggs for her Easter basket.  They are also meant for a younger child because the eggs have different expressions to encourage shape and color recognition but they are so cute and they make happy cheep-cheep sounds.  I think they’ll make a fun Easter gift but also great for year round play.  What do you think?

Or would they be too similar to her Stacking and Nesting Eggs and these wooden Ukrainian nesting Easter eggs be a better choice?

PUZZLES

My daughter loves puzzles so I’m sure these will make a good gift for her.  How about your little ones?  Puzzles are great is so many ways.  Puzzles can help develop fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, problem solving, memory, and shape recognition!  I’ve noticed my daughter developing and practicing different strategies too when working on her puzzles.  For example, sometimes she will sort similar patterns and colors and complete those pieces first, while at other times she will complete the outside edge first.

PLUSH ANIMALS

My daughter has gotten a variety of plush/ stuff animals over her three years of life and while she never took to a lovie as a baby, she does play with and nurture her stuffed animals now that she is older.  She calls her favorites her babies and treats them like so.  I think they allow her a safe way to role play and make sense of her environment.  For example, a year or two ago she would put diapers on all her animals and swaddle them to sleep.  Now, she takes them to the potty and tells them to stay at the table when she serves them dinner.
Calico CrittersCalico Critters RabbitThese Calico Critters Bunnies aren’t really stuffed animals – they are more like miniature anthropomorphic animal figures with a soft flocked material and they are super adorable.
Aren’t these Hopscotch twins just the cutest?
Hopscotch Rabbit Twins
Here, my daughter placed all her “Easter buddies” onto her chair to watch a dance show she is putting on:
Easter Lovies, stuffed animals (bunnies, chicks, lambs)
She is quite the performer.  This bunny had a special ticket so she is seated in the VIP section:
Bunny on ShelfWhich of these would be perfect peaking out of an Easter gift basket?  The realistic looking lamb? Or the adorable bear in a baby chick costume?  Or Boo with bunny ears?  Or the super cute and small itty bitty bunny? Or a bigger super soft, cuddly and light Burrow bunny?

 

CLOTHES

Honestly, my daughter doesn’t think clothes make good gifts for her because they’re no fun.  I wonder if she will change her opinion when she gets a little older. Perhaps when she is a teenager? But as a mom, I think clothes are great practical gifts and she will look oh so pretty in pink:

And this silly tee should get a giggle or two out of her, or any boy on your list!

ACCESSORIES

My daughter may not think clothes make good gifts, but accessories are another story.  She loves umbrellas and has been asking for a pair of rainbow rain boots for as long as I could remember.  With April showers around the corner, maybe rain boots, a rain coat, and an umbrella would make the perfect Easter gifts?

BOOKS

Books make great gifts for any occasion.  A good book could spark curiosity and stimulate discussion.  There are so many good books to choose from.  I ended up picking this funny one about P.J. funnybunny with a message of self love and acceptance and this cute classic (1943) about the baby rabbit Marshmallow.


Would you pick an Easter book or was It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny and Marshmallow
okay choices?

I also saw this Easter sticker book at the local grocery store and it was so pretty inside that I had to get it too.  Besides, I haven’t met a toddler who doesn’t love stickers!

KEEPSAKES

We’ve been trying to teach my daughter about saving and spending concepts and having a jar or bank for her money really helps.  She got some cash for the Lunar New Year last month and has a knack for finding coins.  She has already filled up her little plastic dog bank so a new lamb money bank could make a useful Easter gift.

Lamb Money Bank
These darling yarn Easter Eggs hand-crocheted by Melissa would make a wonderful momento as well.  They are so beautiful!
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What other non-candy gift ideas do you think would be a nice treat for Easter?
 with love from ALL OF US AT SINKSFULLOFDISHES.COM

Vietnamese style chicken curry (Ca Ri Ga)

The other day, we went grocery shopping to buy ingredients to make Vietnamese style chicken curry.  We saw whole chickens on sale – 3 for $20.  That’s pretty cheap in our neck of the woods so we bought them.  I wasn’t completely sure what I would use all that chicken for (I had a few recipes in mind), but I knew I could just freeze it until I figured it out. We normally buy chicken in parts (thighs, breasts, etc), so having to butcher a whole chicken was a bit of a first for me. I tried to follow Martha’s instructions, but our knives were pretty dull so I had to enlist hubby’s help.  It actually wasn’t so difficult to do, just need some muscles or sharper knives.  😉  We used most of the chicken for the curry, except for the back (we saved for making stock) and 2/3 of the breast.  That way, everyone is happy since the hubs likes dark meat and I prefer white.  You can choose to use any parts of the chicken you like.  I prefer skin-on and bone-in for more flavour.

This recipe is relatively easy to make.  You can divide the work into 2 days if you want, just marinate the chicken overnight the day before you want to eat it.  It’s also a one pot recipe….you know how much I love one pot dinner recipes!  Less dishes to clean!

What makes this curry Vietnamese style is the coconut milk and lemongrass, which may be difficult to find depending where you live.  If you want to omit the lemongrasss, I am sure the curry will still taste pretty good.  You can adjust the spiciness with the amount of curry powder and chili paste.  The amounts used here don’t result in an overly spicy curry.  Even our baby can eat it!

I love the smell of this curry, especially when garnished with cilantro.  Mmmm…can you smell it too?  Don’t forget to have it with toasted baguettes.  It’s how Vietnamese people eat their curry and the best way to eat it, in my opinion!

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Vietnamese style chicken curry

Oh and one more thing, this curry is better than my mom’s (according to the hubs). Shhh…..don’t tell her! 😉

Stay tuned for more easy chicken recipes.  In the meantime, try some of our other tasty recipes.

Vietnamese Style Chicken Curry Recipe (adapted from Food.com)

2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
2 small shallots
1 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon chili paste ( such as Sriracha)
peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 lbs chicken (thighs, breasts, whatever you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, divided into 6 pieces and separated
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
2 2/3 cups coconut milk
4 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
potatoes and/or yams cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/4 cup cilantro leaf

Directions

  1. In a food processor, combine curry powder, garlic, sugar, shallots, salt, chili paste, 1 tablespoon of the oil and black pepper. Lightly puree and pulse into a rough paste.
  2. Rub the paste all over the chicken. Place in a bowl , cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf and lemongrass and cook for another few minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Add the chicken to the stockpot and sear for about 10-15 minutes, or until browned.  Remove chicken from the pot.
  5. Turn the heat to high. Add the water, coconut milk, carrots and potatoes to the pot.  Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to low.  Add back chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and carrots and potatoes almost soft.
  6. Test the carrots and potatoes for doneness before adding the peas. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes in a light simmer.
  7. Serve hot over rice or with fresh, warm baguettes. Garnish with cilantro.

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Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

When I discovered that my toddler, who practically sustained on air, was actually enthusiastic about eating unnaturally bright blue or green color foods, I began searching for non-dyed choices to indulge her and to hopefully get her to gain a few pounds or at least a few ounces to get her weight percentiles up from the single digits.  Cue green pork and shrimp dumplings.

She wasn’t interested in naturally blue or green foods like blueberries or broccoli but foods that are not typically blue or green like noodles, rice or dumplings.

As a result, pandan, pesto and spinach became common ingredients in our kitchen.

For St. Patrick’s Day, we decided to celebrate and join in on the festivities with two of my daughter’s current favorites: green dumplings and spinach noodles.

Green Dumplings & Spinach Noodles

No green beer for us 😉
There is no doubt in my mind that my mom is the queen of pork dumplings so I used a modified version of her recipe where all vegetables like chives and leeks are omitted with some store brought green dumpling wrappers.

Green Dumplings

There is a beautiful post here by the Flavor Bender on how to make your own green (spinach) wrappers but I took the easy way out.

Green Pork & Shrimp Dumplings

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. ground pork
1.5 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp bouillon of choice
3 tbsp. sesame oil
white and black pepper to taste
1 lb. raw deveined shrimp
1/2 tsp salt
Dumpling wrappers

optional: herbs such as chives, leeks, cilantro or vegetables such as cabbage

Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
Splash of Balsamic vinegar
Splash of Garlic oil
Sesame oil

Directions:
1. Mix pork, water and salt until “sticky” so that the meat will be moist and not crumbly. My mom used a wooden spoon to manually mix the meat, but I just put it in the kitchen aid for about 3-5 minutes.

Ground Pork
2. Add seasoning (sugar, boullion, pepper and sesame oil) and mix until incorporated.

Mix Pork
3. Smash shrimp with salt to make almost a paste. My mom uses the flat side of a meat cleaver but due to my knife aversion I just crush the shrimps with my thumb and palm. Add shrimp “paste” to pork mixture and blend well.

Shrimp Paste

4. Assemble dumplings. There is a great video on YouTube by Tipsy Waltz showing 7 different ways to wrap a dumpling:

5. Cook dumplings in your preferred method (steam, boil, deep fry or pan fry).

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles

Boiled Green Dumplings with Spinach Noodles and Hoisin Sauce

Pan Fried Green Dumplings

Pan Fried Green Dumplings with Garlic Worcestershire Reduction

6. If using the Garlic Worcestershire Reduction Sauce, boil first three ingredients until reduced and drizzle on sesame oil then pour on dumplings or serve on side as a dipping sauce.
7. Enjoy!!

Tips:
1. So many other sauces work well with these dumplings! My daughter likes dipping her boiled dumplings into plain hoisin sauce. My mom likes her dumplings pan fried and served with a Sriracha and white sugar paste.  I prefer my pan fried dumplings drenched in a sweet and sour raw garlic and vinegar sauce (my breath stinks for days though).  What is your favorite dumpling sauce(s)?
2. My mom taught me this trick when I was still her little helper. To quickly devein shrimps, pierce the back of the shrimp with a toothpick (works better with the shell on) and then gently pull the toothpick up, perpendicular to the shrimp, pulling the entire vein out.  Growing up in a competitive household, it was always fun to see who can devein the most shrimp quickest.  It takes us about 5 seconds to devein a dozen shrimp.

Shrimp

3. Keep wrappers moist during assembly by covering with a moist towel.
4. Assembled dumplings can be kept for hours in the refrigerator if well wrapped and for a month or two if frozen so a great time saver is to go ahead and make a large batch and save some for another day.
5. Any extra meat mixture can be formed into meatballs or patties and frozen for use in other recipes.  This is partly why I omit the herbs and vegetables in the receipe- the meatballs and patties are awesome for a quick last minute meal.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A Grey Nursery

Leading up to my due date, I think I was more nervous about how I was going to decorate the nursery than actually delivering my baby.  The process of putting the room together was almost as long as the gestation period and much like pregnancy, it came together in stages.  First we bought the crib and dresser/change table, which sat in their boxes for a while before they were assembled.  Next came the paint and lastly the accessories.  Why did it take so long, you ask?  Two reasons: 1) we were preoccupied with other things, like work, and it just wasn’t a top priority and 2) we had just moved into our new home 10 days before baby arrived and all we had time to do before moving in was put in new flooring and paint, that is every room except the nursery since I didn’t know what color I wanted it to be.  We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but that didn’t matter.  I wasn’t going to paint it pink or blue anyway.   I wanted it gender neutral, for baby to be able to grow with it rather than outgrow it and for it to be an extension of our home rather than completely different and separate.  So, why was I having such a hard time with paint color?  Because we had painted the rest of our home (with my dad’s help) in 3 shades of grey: magnetic grey, universal grey and white mountain, which is actually light grey, not white as the name suggests.  And while my highly opinionated parents were cool with the living room, kitchen and master bedroom being grey, they thought that kids’ rooms should be bright and cheery and yellow of course.  Since the crib and dresser we purchased was slate colored, I gave yellow some serious consideration and we’d visited the paint store several times to only come home with a bunch of paint swatches.  An entire room painted in yellow just didn’t speak to me, especially when there wasn’t any yellow anywhere else in our home.  What spoke to me was grey.  So, secretly, without my parents knowing, we painted the room white, with a grey accent wall.  I’m such a rebel, I know.  After that was decided, the rest of the room came together more easily, albeit slowly, and was inspired by a picture we took soon after baby was born.  

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As cheesy as it sounds, she really was our little sunshine, the light of our lives.

So, we added touches of yellow here and there….a tree decal with yellow leaves and owls that was put up by one of the aunties, artwork and even a cute little gift bag from a dear friend (Charlie) that fit perfectly with the my little sunshine theme.

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We introduced other colors through the textiles.  We have a green polka dot and a blue and white doggy change pad cover that goes with various cribs sheets with polka dot and animal prints in the same colors.  We also have a pink crib sheet that works well with the rest of the room if we are in a more girly mood.

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For added storage and to hide her toys, we put in a cube organizer and introduced even more color with the pink and blue drawers.

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The room is filled with special little touches and gifts for baby from family and friends –  a pair of bronze shoes that belonged to my husband, personalized artwork, a stuffed bear and a crocheted blanket made by her aunties.

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I really hope baby grows to love this room and all the little things that went into it.

What do you think of the grey and yellow?  Is the room colorful enough or is there too much color?  How did you go about decorating your baby’s nursery?  What were your nursery must haves?

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Top 10 Best Electric Smokers (Dec. 2017) – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

If you are reading this post, then it’s safe to assume that you a fan of smoked foods. And frankly who doesn’t? However, it’s not all about just eating; it’s more than that for you. You love the idea of smoking your food, and who can blame you? What can taste better than food prepared by your own hands?

However, there is a small problem: smoking is not easy and very time consuming using traditional smokers. As a modern man or woman, you can’t afford to spend several hours of your day just sitting by the smoker. If that is the case, then electric is the way to go. However, with too many choices available, selecting the best electric smoker for you might be a tough challenge. To help you with your decision, I have put together this buying guide. This guide will contain an electric smoker review which briefly discusses 5 best electric smokers in the market right now (in my opinion of course) and a guide on how to select the best smoker for you.

While a purist will run screaming for the hills when someone mentions electric and smokers in the same sentence, they do offer some big advantages that simply cannot be ignored:

It is clean and inexpensive: An electric smoker runs on erhh… electricity, which is a clean energy source, so rest assure that your conscience won’t keep you up at night. Moreover, electricity is very cheap (unless you live in some places like Hawaii) and will keep the cost of running your smoker to be fairly low compared to other types. Let’s say the heating element is 1500 Watt (most use less than that), so for a 12-hour cook, your little machine would consume a total of 18 KWh. With the average retail price of electricity to be 12.49 cents/KWh for the residential sector, that would translate to a staggering of $2.25 for a 12-hour smoke. No other types of smoker can match this cost efficiency, and you can save a lot of money in the long run, which in turn can be invested in better smokers.

It can be used in cold and windy days: Like other types of smoker use flames to generate heat, expect it is very difficult to use them on a cold or windy day. Electric smokers, on the other hand, does not have this problem.

Smokin-It Model 3 SmokerThe Smokin-It #3 is a heavy-duty home smoker. Constructed of 18 gauge stainless steel, it rests on four caster wheels for ease of movement. This machine is insulated with fiberglass for superior heat retention. The #3 comes with four grill pans, a smoke box, and drip tray. It also came with a sample of hickory wood to get smoking right away, which I thought was a special extra touch. It helped to alleviate my immediate desire to get cooking.

Smokin-It Model #3 allows you to create stellar meals in the comfort of your space. I found it to be super easy to operate. The thermostat was useful, and the smoker has a range of 100 to 250 degrees. My favorite feature of this machine was its size. If you need to smoke a lot of meat for a family gathering or big meal, this is the one to get the job done. It has a total capacity of 45 lbs, which is plenty.

A friend of mine owns a Smokin-It #3, so I have had an opportunity to cook with this one. The ribs I cooked in the Smokin-It #3 were delicious. I found them to be on par with some barbeque I’ve paid for. I liked the stainless steel for its visual appeal, and the heavy duty castors made this smoker a dream to use.

Masterbuilt 20070910 Smoker

Masterbuilt Electric SmokerThe Masterbuilt 20070910 is included in the list of best electric smokers because it is easy to use and accessible for newcomers and experts alike. It sports ample smoking room and four grill trays. I like this one because it has a lot of useful extras, like an air damper and water tray. ReviewsGeek The air damper allows adjusting the amount of smoke, giving you a range of mild to smokier flavors. The water tray is perfect for adding additional vinegar and brine seasonings. Not only does it help add flavor to your meat, but helps keep it moist too.

You’ll love that this machine has a push-button control. It makes it super simple to manage and maintain the temperature. It also comes with a 24-hour timer and an automatic shut off. It is impossible to mess up your meal with this machine. The ribs I cooked in it came out tasty in just a few hours. The unit comes with a light, which is another perk. An additional thermometer is always handy, but the Masterbuilt also comes with a remote control, to make your next time smoking convenient. This is the smoker if you’re looking for something that’s as technically savvy as you are, or if you are just starting out and looking for the easiest operation.

Easy Yummy One Pan Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Gralicky Ketchup Chicken with vegetables, rice and quinoa

Garlicky Ketchup Chicken

Doesn’t it seem like some days just get away from you? I thought I was ahead of the dinner game when I managed to pull a bag of chicken out of the freezer to defrost, and cooked a pot of rice and quinoa while my daughter was busy helping stir the pumpkin into the egg mixture for the Libby’s Pumpkin muffins we were baking.

Instead, my daughter won’t take her afternoon nap and at 6 PM, she was fussy and I still haven’t a clue what was for dinner except that there was rice and quinoa, and the boneless and skinless chicken thighs were defrosted.

I’ve been wanting to use the green beans I got earlier in the week from Costco so I Googled ‘chicken green bean recipes’ and thought a green bean and chicken casserole that came up looked tasty.  But it’s getting much too late to be attempting to make cream of chicken soup from scratch since I didn’t have any on hand so I pinned it for another night.

Does Pinterest come with a warning label? It’s a dangerous place for me when it comes to time management.  I’m not sure what happened after I pinned the recipe but I ended up looking at shrimp recipes when I had no shrimp in the house, just defrosted chicken and a picture for sweet and sour shrimp looked really delicious.

While the term sweet & sour often conjures up an image of something fried and drenched in a bright red or orange sauce for some, it really can mean any flavor profile with both a strong sweet and a strong sour component.  The sour notes can be from vinegar, or tart fruits such as tomato, kiwi or pineapple, or sauces such as ketchup for example, and the sweet component can be from different types of sugar, sugar substitutes such as artificial sweeteners, honey, agave nectar, fruit preserves, syrup, etc.

Any of those variations are almost always well received by this family.  The balance of sweet and sour can be adjusted easily to your preference and works well with other spices on meats, seafood and vegetables.  Sweet and sour sauces are probably higher in sugar content so that might be something to consider if it’s important to you or your family.

By now, I think my daughter is hungry enough to eat anything so I just need to get food on the table quick.  I push away my phone and think.  The ketchup shrimp we had a few weeks ago was quick and easy to make and was wildly popular with my kiddo so maybe the sauce would translate well to chicken?

Garlicky (Sweet & Sour) Ketchup Chicken 

Adapted from one of my favorite sites for Cantonese recipes: The Hong Kong Cookery

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken (I used boneless and skinless thighs that were already marinated to taste with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder)
1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chicken stock (I used white grape and peach juice since I know the chicken we have on hand was accidentally over salted when it was marinated)
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Shao Hsing Rice Wine
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tbsp soy sauce

Optional: vegetables of choice

Directions:

  1. Brown chicken on both sides, then add stock, cover, lower heat and cook until juice runs clear and until centers are no longer pink, approximately 20 minutes.  About halfway through, I added approximately three cups of frozen vegetables (organic broccoli, red pepper, mushroom & green bean stir fry mix) and some browned vegetarian sausages as meat substitute for me.
    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Browned Chicken, Vegetarian Sausages, and organic vegetables

    Remove chicken, vegetables and any liquid from pan.

  2. In the same pan, heat oil with crushed garlic at low temperatures until fragrant and garlic is slightly browned but not burnt.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (ketchup, sugar, Shao Hsing Rice Wine, and soy sauce) and liquids from chicken and cook until sauce is thick enough to coat chicken. Ingredients: soy sauce, rice wine, juice and ketchup
  4. Add back chicken, and vegetables if added, to sauce and mix and cook just a few minutes until well mixed

Tips:

To save time, I used frozen vegetables and the chicken was marinated and frozen the day we purchased it a week ago so there was almost no prep time.  I crushed the garlic in one of the serving plates so I won’t have to wash the cutting board.

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Also, I didn’t need to add any oil but depending on your pan, add oil ~2 tbsp. to brown chicken.  I am probably super annoying because I rave so much about my Anolon pans, but once I discovered that I did not need to add any oil to brown meats, even skinless chicken, I was in love.  LOVE.  My sister brought me the set from Macy’s as a gift after she fell in love with her pans and now my mom and brother both have sets in their kitchens too.  Look how nicely the skinless chicken browned without any oil added:

Love how nicely the chicken browns with no oil

Love how nicely the skinless chicken browns without adding any oil.  Affiliate link: Anolon Pans

My daughter enjoyed this dish so much that she ate the leftovers for the lunch the next day when normally having the same meal in succession is a big no-no in her books.  Sweet and sour saved dinner (and lunch)!  Maybe give this recipe a try – and let me know if you liked it.

So, does your family like sweet and sour as much as ours?  What is your favorite sweet and sour recipe?

Go to One Pot Dinner

I’ve always loved one pot dinner recipes that don’t require a lot of work and taste great.  Well, who doesn’t?  Pre-baby days, I liked recipes that were quick to make since I often got home from work late and didn’t want to eat dinner at 9pm.  Those days, we had a lot of fried rice, pasta or bbq.  Now with baby, things have changed a bit.  You may think that being on maternity leave, I have a lot of time to cook lavious meals.  Au contraire mon ami.  You see, as my babe has gotten older, it’s become more difficult to leave her alone while she’s awake.  She’s currently 10 months old and I don’t know if it’s the separation anxiety or if she’s just a momma’s girl, but she can’t seem to be without me for more than a few minutes.  Even if I put her in a playpen next to me in the kitchen, she will only last 5 to 10 minutes before wanting me to pick her up.

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(Yes, she is playing with a water bottle and a drink tray.  Please, no judgements.)

Prior to being mobile, she was content to just sit in her chair and watch me do dishes or prep dinner.  Now, she just wants to be in constant contact with me.  These days, making dinner is an all day process.  

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Most of the time, I prep the ingredients (wash and chop veggies, marinate meat, etc) during her morning nap then either cook the meal during her second nap and we have a cold or lukewarm dinner when my husband gets home from work or I wait until he gets home to look after her before I begin cooking.
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This is why I like recipes that don’t require a lot of work.  I especially like ones where you put everything together in a pot or oven and walk away.  This recipe I’m sharing today is for how to cook pork shoulder for pulled pork but we just eat it as is straight out of the oven.  It’s my husband’s new favourite dish.  He loves being welcomed home by the smell of it cooking in the oven as he walks down the driveway.  

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One pot dinner

This dish has everything you need: meat, veggies and carbs.  The meat is so tender and carrots and potato so soft  (they ought to be, it’s been in the oven for 2 hours) that even baby can eat it.  Bonus!  We usually have it with rice and a side of blanched veggies (no need to season since the meat is already so flavorful).  And if I’m really ambitious I’ll make some cheddar biscuits to dip in the sauce, but usually I’m not. 😉  Remind me to share that recipe later.

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What do you think?  Does this look good enough to give it a try?  Let me know what you think.

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What’s your go to recipe?   How do you keep your child occupied while you cook or do other things?  

One Pot Dinner (Adapted from the kitchn)

Ingredients

4 to 6 pounds boneless or bone-in pork shoulder or butt

1-3 tablespoons mixed spices (see rub recipe below)

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1 yellow onion, sliced

few carrots, roughly chopped

few celery stalks, roughly chopped

few nugget potatoes, chopped in half or quarters

4 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)

1 1/2 cups liquid — chicken or vegetable broth

Rub from Food Network (makes more than you need, just store leftovers in a sealed bag or container)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F.  Place an oven rack in the lower-middle of the oven.
  2. Trim the pork: Trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
  3. Season the pork: Sprinkle the pork with the spice mixture.  Rub the seasoning into the pork with your fingers so the meat is evenly coated on all sides.
  4. Sear the pork: Warm the oil in the Dutch oven (or frying pan) over medium-high heat. Sear the pork on all sides, working in batches as necessary so as not to crowd the pan. For more detailed step-by-step instructions, see How To Sear Meat.  Transfer pork to oven safe dish or pan after searing if not using a Dutch oven.
  5. Add the vegetables: Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, potato. Nestle them around the pork.
  6. Add the liquid: Pour the liquid over the top of the pork. The pork should be only partially submerged, with some of the pork remaining above the surface of the liquid.
  7. Bring to a simmer: Set the Dutch oven with the pork over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer.  If not using a Dutch oven, warm the liquid in the hot pan after searing the pork.
  8. Cover and transfer to the oven: Once simmering, cover the Dutch oven and transfer the whole pot to the oven.  If not using dutch oven, cover oven-safe dish or pan with aluminum foil.
  9. Cook for 2 hours or until fork tender: Let the pork cook undisturbed for 2 hours, then begin checking it every half hour. Total cooking time will be 2 to 4 hours, depending on the amount of pork and whether it’s bone-in (which takes longer to cook). The pork is done when it is fork-tender (when the meat can be easily pierced with a fork without resistance and easily falls apart with a little pressure). If you’re cooking pork on the bone, the meat should be falling off the bone. If in doubt, cook the meat another half hour; it’s almost impossible to overcook meat with this method.  Two hours is usually enough time to cook to tender.