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Tomato Pepper Salsa…A Must Try!

A little over a week ago I visited the Red Deer Farmer’s Market.  My husband and I took our daughter and were more or less just looking for something to do on a nice and sunny Saturday morning.  We were just about to exit the market and stumbled upon this booth where they were selling fresh picked peppers (jalapeno, bell peppers, Thai peppers, and so many others).  We are big fans of fresh mexican fare (which is extremely hard to come by around here), so we looked into purchasing some peppers to add to our home cooked mexican dinner we had planned for the week.

When we were browsing the peppers a little closer, we realized the vendor had variety bags of peppers that you could purchase for $5 and his own personal salsa recipe was inside for your convenience.  What a great idea!  So, we jumped on it and bought a bag for $5.  A week went by and I finally got around to making the salsa.  It made 12 cups!  So, we shared with a couple of friends and so far, it’s gotten rave reviews.  The man at the market definitely knows his salsa!  This recipe is a perfect sweet and spicy blend.  It’s DELICIOUS!

I shared a batch, kept a batch in the fridge AND froze a batch.  Highly recommend all you local folks visit him at the Red Deer Farmer’s Market (unfortunately, I didn’t catch his business name).  Here is the recipe for your enjoyment:

Tomato Pepper Salsa

8-10 C Peeled, chopped Roma Tomatoes

5 Sweet bell peppers; He recommends 2 green, 1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow

2 C chopped onions

1C chopped Jalapeno peppers (approx 8)


4 cloves garlic, minced

2 C vinegar

1 5.5 oz can tomato paste

2 T sugar

1 T salt

2 t paprika

1 t dried oregano

Put all ingredients into a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stir often.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring often, until thick enough to coat spoon.  Fill and seal in sterilized jars.  Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Single batch makes approx. 12 cups.


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The “Big Cook” is a Mommy Lifesaver

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We have all been there before.  Whether you’re eight months pregnant or have your hands full with extracurricular activities and busy kids at home, we can all benefit from a “Big Cook!”  Not only is a Big Cook a great excuse to get friends together, but by the end of the day you have a fully stocked freezer of ready to pop in the oven meals.  Personally, I know there are several days where I get busy during the day and realize around 3 o’clock that I forgot to pull something out of the freezer for dinner.  Then I’m stuck quickly de-frosting something in the microwave or calling my husband and suggesting it’s a good night to eat out.

I had the opportunity to join some girlfriends yesterday for  a Big Cook.  It was my first experience doing one, but some of the girls were well seasoned in this area.  One of the girls emailed us a grocery list a couple of weeks in advance and we were all assigned items to bring the day of the Big Cook.  We met at 10a.m. and had successfully prepared 80 meals by 4p.m.!  BBQ Pork, Tricolor Chicken and Pasta, Taco Toss, and Zippy Pork Chops were just a few among our menu.  Our day began by organizing all of our ingredients into one area.  Then we came up with a game plan as to what we were each going to be doing.  I browned 15 pounds of hamburger, while some were mixing the sauces for the burger meals and others labeling the bags the meals were being placed into with the meal title and cooking instructions.  We continued this system through the pork and chicken dishes as well.  Throughout the day, we took turns washing dishes and dividing the meals among everyone.  At the end of the day, we each had 10 different dishes and 20 meals for four people (two of each dish)!  When it was all complete and clean up was over, we sat down with our receipts and added all the expenses together and divided by how many people were taking food home.  The average cost came out to about $9 per meal.  Not too bad when you consider the fact that each meal is for four people.  That’s about $2.25 per person per meal!

The idea for The Big Cook came from three busy mom’s named Joanne Smith, Lorelei Thomas and Deanna Siemens.  They decided one day to get together and cook in mass in order to prepare meals to freeze for future evenings.  They developed fast and healthy meals that could easily be frozen for future use.  The idea took off and in 1997 they published the cookbook titled The Big Cook.  This is one of those products I saw and said to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”  It’s such a great idea and there is an enormous market of mothers and fathers that would benefit from this style of cooking.

My husband and I are pretty adventurous with cooking and I wouldn’t go as far to say that we will rely on this method completely, but for those days you really just don’t feel like cooking or don’t know WHAT to cook, it’s great to know you have meals ready to go in the freezer!  Another great thing about this style of cooking is it allows us to focus more time and energy on the side dishes that surround the entrée.  For me, I usually spend most of my time preparing the entrée and then add simple vegis and rice or potato with it.  With The Big Cook in my life now, I can focus more on some new side dishes.

Overall, The Big Cook is a great concept for any family.  I am already looking forward to the next event and I hope that you adopt the idea among your friends and family and give it a try.  So fun and so easy!  Happy cooking!

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Sports Theme 1st Birthday Celebration

My girlfriend, Kimberly, did an amazing job putting together a sports themed birthday party for her one-year-old baby boy.  She baked three cakes, cake pops and had chocolate covered strawberries for dessert, while keeping the food menu simple and ‘sporty’ with hot dogs, chips and potato salad.  Sounds pretty basic, but check out the pictures!  She put some real creativity into everything from decorating the sweets to the overall presentation.

Tip: Rather than going out and spending $5 on a 15oz. tub of cake frosting, ask your local bakery if they will sell you some of their fresh frosting.  Kimberly asked a baker at our local Sobeye’s grocery in Sylvan Lake and got two LARGE tubs of frosting for only $4 a tub.

Great work Kimberly!

Cake Pops decorated like baseballs!

Chocolate covered strawberries decorated like footballs!

Handmade printable labels for the water bottles (just taped on) added a great personal touch!

Happy Birthday Hudson!!!

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How to Prepare to Host a Home Party

You know how it goes…Your girlfriend is hosting a PartyLite party and invites you to come along.  She tells you, “No pressure to buy, just come and visit and have a good time.”   Then you arrive and see all the neat products and you start imagining where you would place them in your home.   Next thing you know, you have a $200 bill to pay!  Throughout the evening, the consultant keeps mentioning the idea of hosting your own party and all the benefits you receive in return.  However, there are still questions in your mind…How much work is it going to take to host a party?  What is the process?  Are there any commitments to buy?  What are the benefits?  Is it worth my time?

After selling PartyLite candles for about 5 years, I completely understand this predicament and can empathize with each and every one of you.  After all, I got started with PartyLite after hosting my own party and realizing how easy it was to make a side income and still have fun while ‘working’.  But, I don’t want to talk about selling the product today, I’d rather share with you the benefits of hosting your own home party and walk you through some easy steps of how to prepare.

Whatever the product is, Pampered Chef, PartyLite, Scentsy, Creative Memories, the consultants all need the same basic preparation from you.  You’ll want to think about the following:

1. First and foremost, inquire what the benefits are to hosting  a party.  Then you can determine for yourself if it’s worth your time.  Most of the time you can opt to host a ‘book party’ if you don’t want to invite guests into your home, but would still like to earn the benefits of hosting.  A book party consists of basically handing out catalogs and order forms and providing a deadline to accept orders.  When all your orders are submitted, you turn them over to your consultant and you earn the benefits of your sales.  Easy as that.  Always know what the benefits are ahead of time so that you can set a goal for yourself (if you prefer) and/or prepare your order so you’re ready to take full advantage of the benefits at the time you close your show.

2. Depending on the product, determine where in your home you would like to have the consultant do her presentation and display products.  For instance, if you’re hosting a Pampered Chef party, the consultants are going to need access to your kitchen, so plan to have all of your guests near and around the kitchen area.

3. How many people do you want to invite?  We all know when you invite 30, most of the time 15 will come.  However, if you invite 30, you should always be prepared to host 30.

4. Do you want to allow your guests to bring a friend?  This will most likely increase your attendance and possibly your show sales.  In addition, you may meet a few new faces!

5. The time of year you are hosting may affect the type of products your consultant may have for sale (depending on the company).  PartyLite for instance, was very popular in the fall when all the harvest and holiday scents came out.  I found that the spring/summer sales were slow for me.  It makes sense though, living in Alaska.  Most people liked burning candles to add to that cozy winter atmosphere in the fall/winter.

6. Do you want to allow parents to bring their kids?  Depending on the time of day you decide to host your party, it may be a good idea to allow parents to bring their kids.  This is only a good idea if your house is kid-friendly and already equipped with toys and preferably a play area for the kids during the party.  If you’re house is prepared for kids already and you decide to allow kids to come with their parents, you may see a few more RSVPs from your friends.  Your guests won’t have to worry about booking a sitter and this is a bonus for every mom…or dad!  And if you decide you don’t want any kids at your party, that is fine too.  And if this is the case and you find this to pose an issue for a few people, offer them a catalog and order form and keep your show open a few extra days after your party to give those that couldn’t attend a chance to order.

Okay, so now that you have thought about the above, how are you going to prepare for your home for the party?  Here are a few quick pointers to consider when preparing:

1. Tidy Up – Don’t feel the need to go out and hire a maid or spend an entire day cleaning (unless of course, you haven’t cleaned in a month and maybe you need an entire day to clean).  Just quickly run through the house (especially the areas your guests will be occupying) and do a surface clean of each room.  To make things easy and efficient, I grab a basket and throw all my cleaning supplies into it to haul around the house with me.  I quickly dust, sweep, and shine all the surfaces.  Easy and done within an hour.

2. Seating – make sure you have enough seating for everyone.  You want your guests to feel comfortable.

3. Food – consider what kind and how much food you will serve at your party.  Serving some kind of food at your party not only provides an incentive to get people to your party (we all know this is true), it will keep people at your party longer.  You do NOT need to serve a full course meal, but consider a couple appetizers at least.  Finger foods are best at parties like these when people are moving around and shopping.  In addition, with food there needs to be a beverage.  Not everyone enjoys alcoholic beverages, so have some options.  Wine is great for the ladies, but consider having a couple choices of juice, soda and water available too.

4. Friendly Welcome – It’s easy to neglect your front porch while focusing on tidying the house and preparing food all day, but don’t forget to make sure your porch lights are on and your front door is in an inviting state.  By that I mean, put your families shoes and coats out of sight and make sure the front porch is clean and welcoming.  Common sense really, but it’s easy to forget when you’re busy with other tasks.  Your front door/porch is the first thing your guests will see, so make sure you are welcoming them with open arms.

5. Consultant Space – While setting up for your party, consider where you would like your consultant to display products.  Every home party I’ve been to and hosted, the consultant has needed a table of their own.  If you’re worried about space and are not sure you can provide a table space for your consultant, make sure and mention this to them prior to the party so they can prepare to bring one.  Most consultants will have a back-up if needed.

The next time you are offered to opportunity to host a home party, consider all of the above and you are sure to have a successful party!  Your consultant should provide you additional information about distributing invitations and when and how to close your show, but hopefully the above tips are helpful for your personal preparation.  Don’t be afraid to host.  It’s only as difficult as you make it and the benefits of hosting are WELL WORTH IT in the end.  Remember, the more sales at your party, the more FREE stuff you earn as a hostess!  Give it a try and have fun!

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Beach Picnics on the Mind

Is it too early to pull out the picnic basket?  I think not.

I find it so refreshing to go to the stores in our area this time of year and be able to shop for sand toys, picnic supplies, swimwear, etc.  Even though it’s -10F outside and feels like we’re never going to see the grass peek through the frozen ground, it IS just around the corner!  Why not lift those winter blues and go buy yourself something for summer?  I did.

A quick visit to Walmart for milk today turned into a shopping cart of sand toys, bubbles, and summer sandals for our daughter.  We plan to make several trips down to Sylvan Lake this summer and enjoy picnics on the beach, so it was hard not to take advantage of the clearance racks.  Many retailers offer clearance sales on summer products at this time leftover from the year prior.  Along with many other great deals, we came home with three pairs of summer shoes for her, all for less than $20!

Last year our little girl was barely walking, whereas this year she will be turning two in July and running!  Needless to say, appropriate footwear is a must this summer.  And since we mostly picnic at the lake, we picked up a pair of water shoes for her that will be great for this occasion.  Family picnics can be a blast if you are well prepared and a disaster waiting to happen if you’re not.  From proper apparel to ‘picnic friendly’ food, there is a lot for a parent to consider.  Here are some picnic ideas to think about now, while there are great deals at your local stores:

1. Apparel for your toddler – If you plan to picnic near water and expect your kids to want to play on the beach, there are a few apparel options to consider.  Water shoes are perfect for your active toddler.  There’s no telling what they’ll be stepping on under the sand and these shoes will protect their little feet from any sharp objects.  In addition, these shoes are great to have for traction while swimming at the local pool.  SPF Swimwear is another great piece of apparel to consider investing in for this summer.  Not only do these suits provide extra protection from harmful UV rays, they also help to keep your child warm after jumping in the water.  Headwear is another must.  If your child will allow you to put a hat on them, it’s great to keep their heads covered.  Sunburn on the scalp is not a fun consequence to deal with.  If they refuse to keep a hat on, lather their little heads with sunblock of course.

2. Supplies – You’ll need the obvious necessities such as plates, utensils (consider paper and plastic as not to lose any of your valuable kitchenware from home), and napkins for your picnic.  One thing that I couldn’t live without when picnicking, is a good thermal tote or soft cooler.  I have a couple, but the one I really enjoy for picnicking and even grocery shopping or carrying a dish to a potluck, is from Rachael Ray.  You can find her products all over the internet and I believe mine came from, but check out all the food totes she has available on her website  One last important supply you DON’T want to forget is a blanket to sit on.

3. Activities and Toys – You will also want to consider activities for the kiddos.  Think about the area that you will be picnicking; will there be a playground?  Will there be a beach? If you’ll be near water, Buckets and Sand Toys are great and super cheap!  You can find great deals in Sylvan Lake at the Dollarama and Walmart, just to name a few.  Water Toys and Floats are fun for the beach too.  You may consider some arm floats or a suit with floats built in for your child, should you plan on swimming.

4. Food of course! So many options here.  If you have a busy toddler like myself, you’ll want to consider foods that can be mobile while being consumed.  Without being in the comfort of their home, buckled into a booster seat at the table, they may be anxious to get back to playing in the sand or maybe they just want to stand next to the blanket and snack.  Either way, you want finger foods that they can eat on the go.  You don’t want to be cleaning noodles from a pasta dish off the grass and blanket for example.  Here are a few kid-friendly foods that are great for picnics:

– Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (use a cookie cutter and make them a fun shape for the fun occasion!)

– Hot Dogs (with or without the bun)

– Lunch meat sandwich

– Pizza (super easy to pre-make at home and always popular with kids — use a hoagie roll cut in half, a sliced pita bread or english muffin for the base)

– Grapes, sliced apples, pineapple, banana slices

– Yogurt

– String cheese or sliced cheese

– Muffins, cookies, or granola bar for dessert

5. And last, but not least…Always remember SUNBLOCK!

Well if you’re like me, you’ll read this and start craving sunshine immediately!  When there’s no sun, it’s nice to know you can at least go to a warm store or mall somewhere now and find summer products to give you some hope and reassurance that Spring is just around the corner.  Why wait?  Start planning for your spring picnic now.

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Adjusting to Life in Canada

Canada has been treating us well and we are finally feeling ‘settled in’ after a long drawn out transition from Alaska.  The Canadians have welcomed us with open arms and as a result we have already met so many wonderful people and made some great friends.

We’ve been here for almost 4 months now and it has been an eventful time so far.  We try and get out and see something new as much as possible.  One thing we love about the area is how you can drive an hour any direction and see some completely different terrain. Jeremy and I both agree, this move was a great decision and we are looking forward to making Alberta our home for at least the next three years.

While relocating to a new area can bring many changes to your life, we have had our share of change while adjusting to the ways of Canada.  Read on to learn bits and pieces of our ‘Adjusting to Life in Canada’:

Adjustments There have been many things we have had to adjust to while living in here.  From the different variety of groceries to socialized healthcare, there is much to learn.

Food – Lucky for us, we LOVE international cuisine and there is a galore of Thai, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants to choose from.  In addition, the grocers have a pretty good selection of international ingredients.  I’ve come to love Canada’s Superstore for the price and the variety!  They have a whole aisle devoted to international ingredients. We have definitely had to make some sacrifices when it comes to food though.  If you love Mexican food as much as I do, this is NOT the place for you.  There is one Mexican restaurant that I know of in the entire Red Deer area.  We decided to try it out a couple of weeks ago and spent about $20 a plate for enchiladas!  Not worth the money.  We like to make tacos or enchiladas at home every now and again.  Prepare to pay $3 for a small can of green chillies!  The variety of Mexican ingredients in the stores is terrible.  We may not enjoy margaritas and fajitas as much as we did in Alaska, but we are enjoying the other local and chain restaurants that the area has to offer.

Residency and Healthcare – I knew when we crossed the border from Idaho to B.C. we had our work cut out for us in order to gain residency and find ourselves ‘settled’ in Canada. 1.  Retain work permit to live in Canada for three years 2.Apply for Social Insurance Number 3. Apply for Alberta Health Care 4. Find a family doctor…that is good and also taking new patients 5. Get Alberta Driver’s License 6. Get Out of Province Vehicle Inspection completed for new plates — have 10 days to complete all necessary repairs to meet requirements of Alberta law and pass inspection (my car was provided an estimate today of $1100 to complete the required changes…I have a 2005 Ford Escape)


Healthcare — Interesting topic of discussion.  Canadians are VERY proud of their healthcare system and everyone I have talked to loves their family doctor and appreciates the benefits the system provides them.  Everyone is floored what we pay for medical services in the states…insured or not. Our biggest challenge when we moved here was not finding a doctor, but finding a doctor that’s taking new patients.  The availability is terrible and I haven’t yet figured out what people do if they can’t find a doctor they like?  I even asked one office if there was  a waiting list I could get on and she acted like I was the first person to ask that question! 

After a couple tries and one really bad experience, I think we finally found a doctor.  Dr. Kathy Unger in Lacombe, which is about 25 minutes from our house.  She’s personable and thorough.  She does it all too…from regular check-ups to pregnancies and deliveries.  Apparently it can be somewhat cumbersome to find a family doc that can do pregnancies as well.  So, IF we enter that stage while in Canada, at least I know we have a doctor we can trust.

Needless to say, our experience with healthcare in Alberta has been slow starting, but I feel like we are on the right track now.  More details to come…

This is just a quick update from our new home in Canada.  Hope all is well in the states!  Love to all, Tina

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Fourth of July in Kenai

I hope you all had a festive Fourth of July last weekend!  It was a busy day in Kenai with our parade, stage entertainment, vendor booths, and an iron pour (see photos below).  Luckily I had so many volunteers helping out this year, I actually had a few minutes to enjoy the parade and get something to eat at the park strip. 

We started setting up on Friday and I was becoming a bigger hazard as the day went on.  I hope after the baby is born, I gain some of my BRAIN back!  Friday while I was setting up a tent for Saturday’s events, I laid my blackberry cell on the hood of my car.  Well, when I drove off I completely forgot about it.  I never saw my phone fly off the hood of my car…right in front of my face…but I realized where I left it and where it was no longer, about a mile down the road.  I circled around and looked all over for it before I found it laying in the middle of the highway completly crushed!  UGH!  The day before a huge event that I’m reponsible for and I have NO PHONE!?  So, I had to go straight to the phone company and get a phone.  What an expensive mistake!

But it didn’t stop there…I returned to the office Friday evening around 7p.m. and was formatting some data for the parade emcee the next morning when I copied a column and pasted it OVER TOP OF data not realizing it.  Then, like an idiot, I hit the “SAVE” button!  It just so happens that I pasted over about 2 hours of data entry!  The only reason I know this is because that’s how long it took me to retype it all Saturday morning. 

To my surprise, everything ran very smooth on Saturday!  We had sunny, 75 degree weather all weekend and lots of people came out for the festivities this year! 

A local golf course loaned me a golf cart to get around for the day…I felt a little goofy, but it was a blessing!  If you look closely at the areal shots below you can see me in my golf cart.  I think Jeremy appreciated the ride as well 🙂

Well, now that this event is over I can focus on wrapping up work and prepare to be out for a while!  I hope you all had a great weekend!  xoxo

4th Parade 087

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