Thursday, December 30, 2010

Steven and Chris...and a Toddler = A Slight Adaptation of a Delicious Recipe!

Okay, most of you know that I am a farmer's wife. More precisely, a beef farmer's wife. This is quite funny, considering the fact that I was a city girl, and a strict vegetarian for much of my adult life.

I'm always on the look out for beef recipes, because...Well, we've got a lot of beef!

I happened to "half catch" some of Steven and Chris when the toddler distracted me. You know how much I luuuuuuuv Steven and Chris, right? Anyway, the original recipe for Jen Low's Braised Beef Short Ribs and Sour Cream Biscuits called for short ribs. Duh! The name of the recipe is pretty self-explanatory, but I pulled out a rump roast instead of ribs. Too late to figure out something else to do with the hunk of meat, I decided to attempt a slight variation to the recipe...substituting short ribs for a roast. Hmmm.

The reason the recipe caught my attention (or "half attention" since the toddler was threatening to tear apart the house) was because there was mention of olives and raisins added to the recipe! Yes! Olives and raisins with beef, red wine, garlic, and onions! What an unusual combination of sweet, salty, and savory! Intrigued, I had to try this recipe out.

Another thing that piqued my curiosity was that Jen Low said she had a "Five Minute Bread" recipe! Any meal that has "minutes" instead of "hours" is perfect for me!

Copied directly from the Steven and Chris website, here is the recipe for
Braised Beef Short Ribs
Makes 4 servings Olive & Raisin Beef Short Ribs.


3 cups beef broth
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1/3 cup red wine (optional)
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 stalk and its leaves fresh parsley -- this is not just a sprig, but the whole stalk (or 2 tsp dried)
1/3 cup sliced green olives
1/3 cup raisins
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
a few grindings fresh black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
8 beef short ribs (1.5 kg), trimmed of excess fat
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Coarsely chopped parsley to garnish

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Into large (lidded) oven-proof pot, mix beef broth, tomato sauce and red wine (if using). In cup, mix water and flour until smooth, whisk into broth mixture. Add onion, parsley, green olives, raisins, garlic and black pepper to pot. Set aside.
  • Mix chili powder and cumin. Sprinkle on all sides of beef short ribs. Heat vegetable oil to medium in large non-stick skillet, brown ribs in batches. Put browned ribs into pot of broth mixture.
  • Cover and bake on middle rack of oven 1 hour or, if you have time, you can cook them for 1 1/2 hours for even more tenderness.
  • Uncover and skim off any excess fat. Discard parsley stalk. Stir to blend sauce. Plate ribs, spoon sauce over top. Garnish with chopped parsley. 
Now for the Quick Sour Cream Dinner Buns:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
2 tbsp mayonnaise (regular)
2 tbsp sour cream (regular or low-fat)

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In medium bowl, mix all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  • Add the milk, mayonnaise and sour cream to the bowl. Stir until soft dough forms. Use a spoon to drop into 5 or 6 mounds onto prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake on rack above your pot of short ribs, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden (if you are baking these buns on their own, you could also bake them on the middle rack).
  • Makes 5 or 6 Quick Sour Cream Dinner Buns. 
Serve with salad of your choice. I added some dill into the dinner buns for a little bit of yummy freshness.
Even though I didn't use the right cut of beef (and I totally forgot to make a slurry!), the recipe was AMAZING! I will certainly be making this dish again (and again, and again)! Even the toddler loved it! She kept asking for more beef and olives!

By the way, the photo of the braised short ribs and the dinner buns look much more appetizing on the Steven and Chris website than they do here. The toddler hid my camera, so all I had as my cell phone cam.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Awesome Gift Ideas

I have to admit that I have a very strange love of fabrics, materials, textiles, patterns, and colours. Okay, I just love all things pretty! I can't seem to get enough of beautiful fabric. I'm like this with paper products (like stationery and origami paper) too. I know. Weird.

Anyway, there's  nothing I love more than beautiful fabric. Well...except for my daughter, of course!

I discovered Kiokko Baby Boutique many months ago and have lusted over some of the beautiful items on the website. I thought it would only be fair for me to share the love.

I'm not saying this because I recently won this from Kiokko Baby Boutique:
You'll find the most adorable gift items for new moms, baby showers, birthday presents, or any other special occasion. They carry items like bibs, nursing covers, burp cloths, blankets, pacifier clips, eco-washcloths, and so on.

 Don't you just love the patterns and designs? I know I do!

Hop on over to Kiokko Baby Boutique and check out their gorgeous baby items! While  you're at it, you  might want to check out their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter!

Looking For Last Minute Presents?

My sweet husband picked up on my hints for what I wanted for my birthday a few days ago. Okay, so my hints were pretty audible. Okay, they were loud.

I wanted something like this in turquoise:
and Hubby picked up on my cues and got it for me! It's beautiful stunning! There's a funny story that goes with my original Mo'Lovely necklace. I had been lusting over one of the lariat style necklaces for months. I kept mentioning it to Hubby, but never got a response from him. What did I do? Well, I went and bought myself one! I was sad because Sophie (the very talented jewelry maker/artist) said she'd have one especially made for me in turquoise, but when I went to see her, she didn't have any! I ended up purchasing an equally beautiful one for myself in different shades of brown. I was still a little sad that I didn't get my turquoise one though.

I asked Sophie if there would be any available soon and she just said, "Maybe if you're nice, Santa will get it for you." Hmmm...Cryptic.

Needless to say, at my surprise birthday party (thanks to my wonderful husband and fantastic friends!), my husband presented me with the necklace I had wanted! It is gorgeous!

Mo'Lovely has a wide arrangement of stunning pieces. Check out the Mo'Lovely Facebook page for a full view of designs and styles.

Check out the FB page and you'll find gifts for all occasions! Christmas, birthdays, showers, graduations, friendship, or "just-because".

If you're a last minute shopper, you can find some pretty cool gifts at Sophie's! I just have to insert here that by purchasing Mo'Lovely pieces, you are supporting a local Manitoulin Island business. Just sayin' :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winner! Gagnante!

The winner of our Stellar Dendrites giveaway was chosen via .
Congratulations to Abi Max. You are the proud new owner of a stellar dendrite photo set (three framed and matted).

Please contact us with your mailing information so the artist (Christine Williston) can send your prize to you! Wow! Just in time for Christmas!

Thanks to everyone for entering the contest! More to come soon! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gravol and The Children's Wish Foundation: Helping Parents and Children

 As a blogger and a parent, it is my hope that I can  bring others up to date with many latest finds in products, services, and everything related to baby, toddler, kid, and family. 

Recently, I was introduced to an initiative by Gravol and the Children's Wish Foundation. This is the second year that Gravol has partnered with The Children's Wish Foundation. Both Gravol and the Children's Wish Foundation strive to provide parents with a trusted online space where they can access tips and answers to many of our parenting questions. 

As a first time Mom, I know I've always got LOTS of questions and a trusted platform where I can access tips and suggestions is something I appreciate and welcome. With the amount of information parents can find online, it can be difficult to know where to turn and who to trust. Let's face it, not everything we find online is reliable...and when it comes to our little ones, we want information that we can trust.

You can access the website, where you can find a video and links to helpful tips and resources . Click here to read more:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Awesome Holiday Gifts

I'm a very practical and frugal person usually a very practical person. With our ever growing family, the holidays can be a bit hard on the pocketbook. This is why practical is good.

We know it's not all about the presents, the buying, and the receiving, but it sure is fun to put a smile on someone's face when you know you've given them something truly amazing. Donations to special charities are a wonderful way of spreading the holiday cheer and spirit. Doing something for others is also a great way to show you care. Making something from the heart like a craft (kid art is the best!) also means a lot.

Aside from those, here are my Holiday must-gives!!!

BornFree Twist 'n Pop straw cups are fabulous in so many ways. Little One loves that it's easy to hold and she loves drinking from the straw. I love that the top can slide shut so that when not in use, the straw is protected (so little fingers can't touch the straw and spread germs all over it). We love this product!

Mabel's Labels are perfect for every kid...and the adults in their lives! We lose things often in this household. We forget Little One's items at friends and family members' houses, we lose items from Little One dropping them at the mall or elsewhere...and we even lose things when our littlest friends accidentally take them home with them after a play date. What better way to keep track of Little One's items than by putting her labels on her belongings? Absolutely brilliant! EVERY child needs Mabel's Labels!

Wean Green Cubes are ideal for storing homemade baby food in and toting healthy snacks in. Little One absolutely LOVES her Wean Cubes. I love that they're made of durable glass, they're BPA-free, they're compact, and they are super cute!

Rub a Dub Whale of a Time bath toy made by ALEX.
 Little One absolutely loves this bath toy! Each part has a special function (spraying, twirling, etc). Loads of bathtub fun for your toddler!

BigSkyBrands candy as stocking stuffers! Big kids and little kids alike will love the Sunkist, Jones Soda, Maple Ice Mints, and Yogen Fruz candies. The tin containers that the candy comes in are super cool and have multi-purposes! I store my change in my containers once the candy is all gone. Hubby keeps nails, screws, them and keeps them in his truck.

Today I Ate A Rainbow! is a great tool to teach young children about eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. It's a fun and interactive way to get them eating their fruits and veggies!

THERMOS Lunch Kit and FUNtainers
was great for carrying lunches in our parents' time and in our generation too. Thermos has passed the test of time and is still very popular in our kids' generation. Their styles and products just keep getting better and better. For me, there's nothing more nostalgic than old school Thermos lunch boxes and containers! The new items are really fashionable and the FUNtainers are really cute with all the popular Disney characters (among other designs).

Wee Warmers are perfect for the wee ones in your life...especially now that the weather warrants warmer attire! These super cute and super fashionable wee warmers protect sensitive skin, keep babes warm, and add a little sense of style and originality to every outfit.

Krafty Creations adorable handmade creations from crocheted beanies with flower pins to pillow case dresses and super sweet headbands and clippies, you are bound to find something special for every little girl on your shopping list.

Ultimately Chocolate TOFFLES make a fabulous, elegant, and decadent gift for the holidays and for all occasions!

Mo'Lovely Designs - the perfect way to let any mama know they're special. Mo'Lovely has got necklaces, earrings, sets, and other beautiful creations. I already have my eye on one particular item! I'm  hoping Hubby gets it for me for Christmas or my birthday!

Stellar Dendrites are a fabulous way to greet loved ones during the festive season. What says "winter" better than gorgeous photos of snowflakes?!

Laundry Tarts' sensational and delectable fragrances are sure to make mouths water in your house during the holidays!  I told you that I am a practical girl, and I would LOVE it if someone gave me Laundry Tarts laundry detergent for Christmas! I'm not kidding! Yummy smelling clothing and natural ingredients = a good thing!

Krafty Creations has adorable handmade items for kids. I'm addicted to Krafty Creations and have bought items from them several times already. The pillow case dresses are the cutest!

My Dandelion Wishes is the place to shop for adorable kid and mama stuff. I've ordered several owl hats from My Dandelion Wishes. They are too, too, toooooooo cute! I *was* considering keeping my owl hat source a secret, but I thought it wouldn't be right to not share. I was tempted though! Everyone who sees this adorable hat on Little One always asks where I got it!
Piggy Paints are perfect for every little girl on your shopping list! The ingredients are "natural as mud" and safe for little fingers and toes!

 Bobs and Lolo's music will surely get your little ones groovin'! My toddler loves Bobs and Lolo! What better Baby's "first CD" than a Bobs and Lolo CD? Fun-filled songs, learning and dancing...chock full of good stuff! We big, fat, fuzzy heart those girls! They're so much fun!

Orglamix organic glam is a fab gift for those who love their organic mineral make-up! I'm hooked! I've got several different shades of very cool organic mineral eye make-up!
 Crayola products are classic, good, wholesome, creative fun. With their huge line of products, you can inspire every budding young artist on your shopping list. Cultivate creativity and share the Crayola luv...or just have your toddler draw all over herself and the floor. Hey! At least Crayola products are washable!
 Simply on Board straps are great for those who hate having baby toys, teethers, and sippy cups flung out of a stroller and onto the floor. Never drop, misplace, or lose baby's favourite items again! Nothing irked me more than having Little One's Sophie fall on dirty shopping mall floors. Simply on Board = smart!
 PhotoCaptiva is a great way to spread holiday cheer! Even if you may be too late to get your holiday portraits taken, it's never too late to have a fun family photo session! Better yet, why not GIVE a session to loved ones? I'm thinking we may have to book a session with PhotoCaptiva for my parents with all their grandchildren! How special is that?
In the weeks leading up to the holidays, I'll be posting more of my fave places to shop online. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

T'is The Season...For Stellar Dendrites! Review and Giveaway!

It's hard to believe that it's already the end of November!  This means the holidays are just around the corner! 

I was thinking of creative ways to send notes to our loved ones and I absolutely fell in love with some of Christine Williston's stellar dendrites.

Stellar what? That's exactly what my ESL student asked me.  Luckily for us, Ms. Williston was kind enough to be a guest speaker and discuss what stellar plates and stellar dendrites are,  how they are formed, how to capture them on camera (Ha! I *was* going to say "film"!), and she also fielded questions about her stellar dendrites.

They are so stunning! If you've ever really paid attention to how unique and beautiful a snowflake is, you'll appreciate these photos. Don't you remember being a kid and each year having that feeling of sheer awe at the first snowfall of the year? I remember trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue or trying to "save" them from melting.  Being a kid, it was hard to understand that a snowflake's beauty only lasts momentarily...and then it melts.

Ms. Williston captures stellar dendrites in different forms.  She's even captured stellar plates -  the core and beginnings of a stellar dendrite! She sells her photographs as well as her cards.


5X7 Prints on sale now!Chose from Best Sellers of Contact Sheet Album.
5X7 - ........................................
............... $10.00 

5X7 - Matted - ...........................................$15.00

5X7 framed and Matted to 8X10 - ...................$20.00
..................................................         set of 3 - $50.00
4X6 Gift Cards, pack of 6 - ..............................$20.00


To order, please contact the artist at

What's up for grabs?  This fabulous trio of stellar dendrites by Christine Williston is free to a good home.  The photographs are matted and framed. That's right. The artist was kind enough give these framed photos to one lucky reader.

How to win?
To enter, go to Facebook and "Like" Stellar Dendrites! (4 entries)
Go to "Contact Sheets" and  let me know which image you would like to have on a greeting card! Make sure you leave a separate comment here for each entry to let me know that you've entered.

Extra entries (Optional):
- Check out Christine Williston's other works of art at Masks and "like" her Facebook page. (2 entries)
- "Like" Random Thoughts and Musings from the Island REVIEWS on Facebook! (4 entries)
- Follow me on Twitter @chancesmommy and Tweet this contest. (2 entries)
- Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect. (1 entry)
- Grab my button (on the sidebar) and post it. Leave me a link to where I can find where you've posted it. (2 entries)

Good luck, everyone! Contest closes on Friday, December 10, 2010. Just in time to receive these beautiful photographs for the holidays!

Christine Williston Biography:
Originally from Montreal Q.C., Christine is a Set/Costume Designer for Theatre. She has a D.E.C.C in both Creative Arts, and Professional Theatre Design. Various credits include Shaw Festival and Banff Center for the Arts, and De-Ba-Jeh-Mu-Jig Theatre Group. Before leaving Montreal in 2000, she worked in French Theatre, Film, and Television. Various credits include Cirque Du Soleil, Student Bodies (FOX Network), and Théâtre Sans Fils. She began making masks while working in Theatre. Now a resident of Wikwemikong, she has had more time to focus on visual art and new Media, with notable exhibits through 4elements Living Arts and The Redlake Woodland Art Festival: Tribute to Norvel Morrisseau 2008.

 Learning from the native community about aboriginal art forms, she is exploring and incorporating these visual styles into her practices as a mask sculptor and digital 3D artist.
Since 2004, she has been collaborating on a series of new media projects Entitled “The Millennium Project”, with David Osawabine and Eddie King. Based on the teachings of the Petroglyphs found at Stony Lake Ontario, this project is an audio visual montage of how these teachings are manifest in the environment. Within this she incorporates 3D Animation, Composite Editing and Digital Photography. This has further lead to an interest in Macro Photography, generating a 50+ image series of Stellar Dendrites.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Share A Smile!

What makes you smile?

For me, it's the simple things in life that make me smile.  The sound of my toddler snoring in her sleep makes me smile.  The way she says "PEAS!" when she really means "Please!" just melts my heart.  The way she seems to acquire several new words a day makes me smile! In just one day, "fish", "hand", "Lola", "bum-bum", "bus", and "bath" have been added to her list of vocabulary. THAT makes me smile.

You see, I never expected her to speak at the age of two. Someone from Infant Development was following up on Little One's case and told me that since she was so premature, she would not likely be speaking now and that if by two, she wasn't speaking in short sentences that she'd have to be seen by Speech Pathology and have speech therapy. Of course, every parent dreads that something will be wrong with their child (developmentally, physically, neurologically, etc).  The fact that Little One is trying to vocalize her wants and needs makes me smile. It makes me smile a crazy, big, goofy smile!

She's up to over 80 frequent use words and counting!

Another thing that makes feel good and spread the smiles is when I support a cause I believe in or to see the help I have offered be put to good use. Donating to Sick Kids Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital makes me smile. It makes me smile just knowing that in some little way, we are helping save the lives of so many precious children out there.

We also donate to other charities in hopes that our funds will help make a better life for children in those places. Medical assistance, food, shelter, education, and all the basic needs are so important for everyone and if we can help just a little bit, then that makes me smile.
Since we're on the topic of making people smile and doing something good for others, I wanted to bring awareness to this really amazing campaign by Snack Pack Canada. Adults and children go hungry every day, and the holidays are no exception. Do you help out by putting together food baskets? Do you donate your time to serving hot meals at local shelters? Do you donate non-perishable goods at your local grocery store's Food Banks bin? How do you help others?

Check out the Snack Pack Share a Smile Campaign and help them reach their goal of raising $20,000 for Food Banks Canada in time for the holidays! Just log into Facebook and go to the Snack Pack Canada page. Every day for the next 10 weeks, there will be a new idea for different ways to enjoy a smile with a Snack Pack. Snack Pack will donate $1 to Food Banks Canada each and every time you share a smile with a friend. And, to add an extra smile to your day, you are also entered to win a great weekly prize from Sony.

Taking  part in the Snack Pack Share a Smile Campaign and raising funds to help feed the hungry could not be any easier.  Share a Smile and a $1 donation will be made on your behalf to Food Banks Canada. You can also opt to Share a Smile and Snack Pack will make the donation on behalf of one of your Facebook friends. You will then be given the option to register for the contest and receive a ballot into their weekly prize draw. Plus, you’ll earn a point towards one of the fun Smile badges! Remember, the more often you smile, the more donations, ballots and badge points you’ll collect.

I am really excited about this campaign and hope that you will join me in spreading the word! If you want to spread the word on Twitter, please include the #SnackPackSmile hashtag.

Smile! You never know! You may be making someone's day a better one just by smiling! :)

Disclosure - I am participating in the Snack Pack program by Mom Central on behalf of Conagra Foods Canada. I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Best Bath Toy EVER!

Hubby and I try not to buy Little One too many toys.  Quite frankly, she's got enough.  Oh, okay.  The truth is that I am tired of finding toys everywhere and want to keep them contained!

I did splurge the other month and found this amazing bath toy for her.  Why? Well, I felt badly that she was playing with empty containers in the tub.  Sure, she could care less. She thought they were fun. 

I wanted to get her something that would stimulate imaginative play and help her with hand-eye coordination/development of motor skills.  I found this:

It's the Rub a Dub Whale of a Time bath toy made by ALEX.
You simply suction cup the whale to your bath wall and your child can stack up all the whale's friends.  All together, the set includes five pieces. Each cup has a different function (spray, twirl, spin). 

Little One LOVES her Rub a Dub Whale of a Time toy!  All the parts move and spin when water is filtered through.  Little One really enjoys pouring water from one cup into another. It's amazing how a toy like this can teach young children about problem solving skills.  Little One has learned that if she doesn't scoop water into the cups, there will be no spraying, twirling, or spinning. She learned very quickly how to make each piece operate.

Another thing I love about this toy is that you can stack the pieces and let them drip dry!  

You can find this product and other toys by ALEX on the company's website.  I purchased Little One's Rub a Dub Whale of a Time bath toy  at Chapters IndigoChapters Indigo carries a wide range of Alex products as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Princesses, Fairies, Ballerinas, and BornFree Twist 'n Pop Straw Cups!

 Little One turned TWO on Remembrance Day.  We had her birthday party on the weekend and included a few of  her gal pals.  Last year, we had a huge party for her and to be honest, this year I am just too busy overwhelmed with everything else exhausted to have another big party.  Instead, we had a Princess-Fairy-Ballerina party with 10 of her closest friends and 3 baby sisters! Too cute!
 I have to say that I LOVE throwing parties and entertaining.  It's so much fun!  I even wrote an article on the BornFreeMom site about toddler birthday parties.  For Little One's 2nd birthday, the decor was Tinkerbell inspired. Hello, A Buck or Two! They've got great decorations for all themes! Is it sad that I love that store?
 All the little princess-fairy-ballerinas were ADORABLE in their tutus!
 The food was deeeeeeeeeeelish!  My Mom wanted to make some traditional Filipino food for Little One's birthday.  She said that all birthdays need to have pancit (a Filipino noodle dish).  Noodles are symbolic of long life.  The lumpia (spring rolls) did not even last five minutes on the dining table!  My Mom even doubled the recipe and we still ran out!
 I made a veggie tray, fruit tray, edible fruit arrangements, sandwich rolls (roasted red pepper and garlic and herbs), and what I jokingly call "funeral sandwiches". You know, the egg salad sandwiches, salmon sandwiches, ham sandwiches, etc.
 Some of the little princesses getting their tiaras on.  So adorable! I can't get over the cuteness!

The Pièce de résistance was definitely the CAKE!!! 

The loot bags were Tinkerbell inspired as well.  Bubbles, Tinkerbell crayons, and other goodies were given to each guest.  The most exciting parting gift was by far the BornFree Twist 'n Pop Straw Cups.  Each little girl got to take home a straw cup.  They were a real hit!  Moms and tots LOVED them!  I cannot begin to tell you how excited everyone was about the cups.
You all know how much I love BornFree products, so I was really happy to be able to spread the BornFree luuuuuuuv at Little One's birthday party.  I honestly and firmly believe that every kid needs a BornFree straw cup!  

When I started writing blog posts for the BornFreeMom site, I was fortunate to receive a Twist 'n Pop cup for Little One. She used the training cups and the drinking cups, but the first time I heard about the straw cup was from the BornFree site.  Little One LOVES the straw cup.  I love how easy it is to clean.  I love that it's BPA-free.  I love that it's got a hygienic feature -- the twist straw mechanism that keeps the straw clean and reduces spills.  It really, really grosses me out when straws are exposed or when kids touch each other's straws.  I do realize that kids will be kids, but seriously...Way to spread the germs!!!

Pretty soon after Little One got her straw cup, ALL the kids wanted one!  Mommies at play groups would tell me that they had to go out and get "little Johnny" or "little Susie" a BornFree straw cup because they were obsessed with Little One's.

One of the moms at Little One's party told me that her 3 month old will not use any product other than BornFree products.  Her 3 month old will only use BornFree nipples when bottle-feeding! Isn't that interesting? 

I would like to thank BornFree for being part of Little One's special day. Thank you so much!