March 22, 2013

Weekend Graces #5: A Happy Little Welcome Message

On Friday mornings I share a small act of love and hospitality to bless the people we live with this weekend.  I call them Weekend Graces, little acts of love to make the weekend shine.

This week's weekend grace is to greet our loved ones with a welcome message upon returning home from work or school or errands or wherever.  Because it's nice to be missed, right?


For me, that meant helping the kids make a greeting for daddy with dry-erase markers on the window of the front door.  But construction paper or a simple post it note would work just as well.

Have a fabulous weekend!

March 20, 2013

Loaded Potato Soup


If any dish can be thrifty and decadent at the same time, it is this loaded potato soup.  We like to serve this as a special treat whenever we have guests for lunch.  It is filling and rich and delicious without being too fancy for a simple lunch with good friends.

This is a very forgiving recipe.  I don't make it with the exact same proportions of ingredients every time, but I've probably made it a hundred times from memory and it always turns out de-lish!

Peel enough potatoes to fill your soup pot just over half way. (If I'm using nice new potatoes with nice skins I just wash the skins and keep them on)  If they are large potatoes, cut them in half.


Add enough chicken broth to cover all of the potatoes.  Sometimes I thin the broth out with some water if I don't have enough.  Simmer until potatoes are soft.


Meanwhile, cook six slices of bacon in a large pan. When cooked, remove bacon slices and add
  • 2 onions, diced
  • half a head of garlic, minced
Cook unions and garlic in the bacon drippings until fragrant and well coloured.  Crumble the bacon and set it aside for later.


Scrape onions and garlic into the pot of simmering potatoes and let them all simmer together until the potatoes are tender and mashable when you stab them with a fork.


When the potatoes are ready, puree your soup with a stick blender or a potato masher.


Remove from heat and stir in enough milk to make the soup your desired consistency, 1 or 2 cups depending on the potatoes you used and how thick you want it.  Sprinkle with a couple pinches of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper to taste.

Serve with crumbled bacon, grated cheddar cheese, and sliced green onions.  It's also great topped with salsa and sour cream, if you have them (we didn't!).


Loaded Potato Soup
  • lots of potatoes
  • 4+ cups of chicken broth (or a combination of broth and water)
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 2 onions, diced
  • half a head of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 cups of milk
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • desired toppings such as cheese, green onions, sour cream or salsa.
Peel and cut enough potatoes to fill your soup pot just over half way.  Add enough chicken broth to cover potatoes.  Simmer until soft.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a pan until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside to crumble and serve with finished soup.  Cook onions and garlic in bacon drippings until fragrant and well coloured.  Scrape into pot of simmering potatoes.

When potatoes are fork tender, remove from heat and puree with a stick blender or by hand with a potato masher.  Stir in enough milk to reach desired consistency. Sprinkle with a couple pinches of kosher salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!



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March 18, 2013

Newspaper Seed Starting Pots


For years we have been making our own seed starting pots from newspapers.  We start our tomatoes and peppers in them in a bright window and later the plants can be planted directly in the garden, pot and all, because the newspaper breaks down quickly and the roots can spread out into the surrounding soil.

To do this you will need some sheets of newspaper and bottle. (A wine bottle works great!)


Fold a sheet in half and roll it around the bottle with some sticking out past the bottom of the bottle.


Fold the newspaper into the divot (it's actually called a "punt") in the bottom of the wine bottle.


With the seed pot still on the bottle, put the bottle on a table and push down firmly while moving the bottle around on the table surface.  This will help the seed pot to keep it's shape.


Voila! A simple decomposable seed pot.  Made for free from items in your recycling bin!



We like to reuse plastic spinach containers to hold the seed pots.



When it's time to transplant the seedling into the garden, just plant the pots directly in the soil.  Peel back any newspaper that will remain above the soil line so that it doesn't wick moisture up out of the dirt. 

Here's a little summary collage so you can pin it and remember if you want:


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March 11, 2013

Free Printable Spring Cleaning Checklist



A couple years ago I was pregnant with our twins and in crazy nesting mode. Unable to find a checklist that embodied my enthusiasm for spring cleaning, I made my own very thorough spring cleaning checklist.  I decided this year to revamp it a little and share it as a free printable.

For me, spring cleaning is not an onerous chore, but a treasured opportunity to throw open the windows and celebrate spring by making my home reflect the freshness and newness of the season. 

And crossing things off lists is, well, fun!


Please don't be daunted by the size of the list.  Many of the tasks are small ones that take very little time to complete, and not all of the items will be applicable to your home/life. I also left some blank spaces for you to add in items specific to your home and divided the tasks into the basics (like cleaning the kitchen table) and extras (like putting some fresh flowers on the table!)

You can print the file by going here.

(Note: Please enjoy this list without selling it in any way or passing it off as your own creation. But feel free to "pin" this post on pinterest.  I love seeing my own projects on pinterest!)

Happy Cleaning!

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March 8, 2013

Weekend Graces #4: Breakfast Notes

Every Friday morning I post a small act of hospitality to bless the people we live with this weekend.  I call them Weekend Graces, little acts of love to make the weekend shine.


This week's Weekend Grace is to set the table before bed for tomorrow's breakfast, complete with little notes of love or encouragement. 


Even the toddlers get one...


Happy Weekend!



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March 6, 2013

How to Make Time for the Creative Life when your Kids are Little


One of my goals for 2013 is to do something creative every single day.  It doesn't need to be a big project, in fact it can be as small as arranging some flowers in a eye pleasing way or taking pictures of something I wouldn't normally think to photograph.  Here are some ways that I am learning to incorporate creativity into my busy diaper-filled days.

1. Make it a priority. When things get stressful it's easy to start eliminating the non essential things on our to-do list.  We think that we don't have time for the tasks that refresh and rejuvenate us.  But it is exactly when we are overwhelmed that we need those things the most. So choose to make room for creativity.

2. Surround yourself with beautiful materials. Buy a stack of pretty papers of fabrics or paints or whatever and put it where you will see it often.  Let the colours and patterns inspire you and spark your imagination.

3. When you are excited about a project, tackle it right away.  So often when I dream up a project I put it to the bottom of an already long list of ideas.  By the time I get to it, my vision and excitement for the project is gone.  Put projects you are excited about at the top of the list!

4. Leave the dishes undone.   I can't tell you how many times I've intended to work on a project after I got the kitchen tidied up from dinner and the kids bathed and off to bed, and then when it was all said and done just collapsed on the couch instead.  Leave the dishes in the sink once in a while and create something beautiful. 

5. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.  Get creative and crafty with the things that need to be done anyways.  Sew your daughter a dress instead of buying one (It may actually take less time than it does to take kids to the mall!), arrange dinner artfully on the plate, decorate a birthday cake with some flair.

6. Involve the kids.  Sit down at the kitchen table with some art supplies and let the kids come and experiment and create and learn.   We show our kids an immense amount of respect when we let them freely create.


7. Make it an event.  Later this month I'm having some ladies over for a sewing night. I can't wait!  

8. Stop doubting your own creativity.   Embrace your own style.  Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes.  Experiment with materials that are new to you.  You are created in the image of a Creator, so create something beautiful today!

What ways do you make time for the creative life?

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March 5, 2013

How to Paint your Cabinets TEAL! (or some other colour, I suppose.)


If your a regular around here, you already know that I have a thing for bluish-green colours.  Teal, turquoise, aqua, whatever you want to call it, I love it.  So this weekend we took the plunge and painted all of our laminate base cabinets teal. And I am in love.


Seriously, when I am in my kitchen I just want to put my arms out to the side and swing around in happy circles.



How we did it:

The laminate on our cabinets was peeling, so we were forced to just rip it off in some places, bringing the cabinets right down to the MDF underneath.  This step isn't really recommended and probably won't be necessary for you. Apparently I just have extra destructive children.


We let our kids help peel it off since they've been working at it slowly for years anyways...


At this point we were obviously pretty committed to the project and I was freaking out a little.

Next, we sanded.  We sanded all of the remaining laminate surfaces with 150 grit sandpaper. (my husband wants me to tell you that he ought to have been wearing a dust mask in this photo and you should too!)


Then we primed with Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 primer.  This stuff is great for bonding paint to hard to paint surfaces (like cabinets).  We've used it on a number of projects and are always happy with it.


We did two coats of primer, sanding lightly after each coat with 220 grit sandpaper.

Finally it was time to paint!  We chose Benjamin Moore's Advance paint in "Majestic Blue". The paint was pricey, but it is a fabulous paint.  It smooths well and gets great coverage and cures to what so far seems like a very durable finish. We are very pleased with this paint.



We did two coats of paint, sanding with 320 grit sandpaper after the first coat.

We also added new draw pulls and knobs that we bought at the ReStore for only 2 dollars each!


 Oh my...why didn't we do this YEARS ago?




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March 1, 2013

Weekend Graces #3: Build a Blanket Fort. {Seriously.}

Every Friday morning I post a small act of love, service or hospitality to bless the people we live with this weekend. Because it's the little things that speak volumes of love, isn't it?


This week's Weekend Graces idea is to build a blanket fort with your family.  Seriously.  Play board games, read favourite stories, hang party lights, and show your kids that an ordinary day is absolutely something to celebrate.

We did this last Friday and loved it so much that we've decided to make it a family tradition. Every Friday night is now pizza/blanket fort/board game night and we've been looking forward to it all week long.

So I dare you... Gather up your extra sheets and blankets. Fill a basket with some of the things you might need like clothespins and rope, elastics and command hooks.  Drag the mattresses into the living room, round up some flashlights, pop some popcorn.


And take lots of pictures, because this season of life you are in, whichever season that is, is fleeting. And so very precious.


Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please consider following me on twitter, liking me on facebook, or signing up for my RSS feed. Happy weekend! 
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