Joining the Bullet Journal Cult

It all started with a tweet:

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Link here and you should be following me

A bullet journal? I thought. What in the world is a bullet journal? 

And then I was sucked deep down the rabbit hole of bullet journaling. I read the Buzzfeed article, which basically says that it’s a planner/to-do list that’s in a regular lined, dotted, or plain journal. You make all the pages yourself rather than having them done for you, which gives you both a lot of work to do and lots of freedom to do what you want. I learned that the term for bullet journaling for those in the know was “bujo” (an obnoxious word, btw) and there was a whole Instagram subculture dedicated to it.

I was intrigued. A daytimer that worked however I needed it to? A to-do list that I could add and remove things from as I did them? STATIONARY?! Well, I’d better see what other people were doing.

I disappeared for two days as I scrolled through my Instagram feed looking at all of the beautiful, creative, fun ideas that people had come up with and I decided that I’d better try it. So I picked up a notebook, a ruler, and some pens and…. then turned back to my phone to look at more Instagram ideas.

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I picked a Leuchtturm 1917 journal because it had a dot grid, which felt like a happy medium between ruled (which doesn’t leave much room for different shapes or doodles) and plain (I’LL NEVER DRAW A STRAIGHT LINE). I grabbed some magnetic page markers so that I could easily flip back and forth from frequent pages. The pens were recommended by many on Instagram, but they also happened to be my favorite brand. The 0.3 mm tip is perfect for bullet journaling, though I adore the 0.1 mm tip for other writing. I grabbed both the bright colours and the pastels and let me tell you, the pastel blue-grey is my all time favorite pen.

Then I started the pages.

First step was to make an index so that as I filled my book, I’d easily find things. It’s not called a Table of Contents because instead of outlining chapters and sections, you put a word like “January” and list every page that has that word next to it. It’s easily filled in as you fill in the book.

Second page was the key:

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In my daytimer, I’d use these symbols to denote specific things so that I could easily scan to see what needed to be done (the to-do portion of my journal), appointments I needed to attend, and just cool things that happened in my day, such as Monkey saying “Grandpa” for the first time.

But after the first two pages, I retreated back to Instagram. There were so many things that people did. To read pages, Walk to Mordor challenges,weight-loss trackers, gratitude journals, and calligraphy practice pages. It was a little overwhelming. I reminded myself that this book is just for me and it’s not meant to be perfect so I settled on a page to list all the books I read this year, which I set up as a bookshelf. I’ll fill in each book as I read them (and colour code them based on the author’s gender so that I can see if I’m reading as many women as I think I am).

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Instead of adding a bunch of pages of tracking systems, I decided to wait. If I wanted to add a tracking page, I could just do it where ever my next blank page was. Because of the index, it doesn’t have to be in any order. So my yearly, monthly, and weekly calendars started up:

The best part is that I can track whatever I feel like. I’m interested especially in the habit tracker where you fill in a box every day you eat out, read, write, spend money, exercise, play video games, etc. It can track whatever you want. And then at the end of the year you can look back and decide if that’s how you want to spend your time next year. Did you eat out more often than you expected? How about exercise? It’s a really cool way to show yourself where you put your time and effort. I am also tracking weather because it’s so funny how often we say “I can’t remember the last winter that was this cold.” Well, I have it written down.

Mine are simplistic because I’m not artistic at all, but they don’t have to be. You can make it as simple or intricate as you like. You can add weekly inspirational quotes. You can have a doodle box in the corner so each week you do some kind of art. You can make each month/week different or keep them the same. If my January spread was above, here’s my February. Not the same at all. I love variation.

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Make it whatever suits your life and what will inspire you. Get whatever supplies that make you excited to fill in the next month. All I ask is that if you do it, post pictures to Instagram. Let the world see your pretty Bujo!

Have you ever given this a try? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to see what you’ve been working on!

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Crochet Dragon Egg Bag

When I was a little girl, we had an English nanny. Her name was Mrs. Wilson and she was our family’s Mary Poppins. She didn’t sing and she was a grandmother, but she had the loveliest accent and she took care of my siblings and me while my parents worked.

One of my fondest memories of Mrs. Wilson was when she taught us how to knit. My sister and I knitted scarf after scarf under her tutelage, though we weren’t that great. The scarves often had holes or missed stitches or grew very, very wide, but we were so proud that we could make something useful out of a bit of string.  Steph was always better than me at knitting.

Once I was an adult, a friend of mine taught me how to crochet. It was like my eyes had been opened. All the frustrations I had with knitting suddenly disappeared because I could make a dozen different shapes and my hands seemed to have been made to crochet, unlike knitting where I had to focus my entire brain on a stitch to make it look mediocre.

I took to crochet like a dog to a puddle and never looked back. While I am pretty good at making hats, I love mastering new stitches and making new things. So in the last couple of weeks, I learned how to do the crocodile stitch and made a bunch of bags with it.

I use these bags as dice bags because they remind me of dragon eggs and what is more nerdy than dragons? The stitches look pretty complicated, but really, it’s just a bunch of double crochets. It takes me about two or three hours to make one of these suckers and I’m thoroughly enjoying how they look with different types of wool.

I thought I’d share the pattern to make this guy for any other housebound folks out there.

Crochet Dragon Egg Bag

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Inspired by this

 

First, I used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable Yarn in Dragonfly to make this bag with a size H (5 mm) hook. I also really liked using Patons Metallic yarns to make it look shiny.

1.Make a magic ring (or chain four stitches and connect with a slip stitch). Chain three stitches. Double crochet 12 stitches in the ring. Slip stitch last double crochet to the third chain to join the round. (12 stitches)

2. Chain three stitches (does not count as double crochet). Double crochet twice in each stitch. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (24 stitches)

3. Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the second stitch. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (36)

4. Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the next two stitches. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (48) (End here if you’d like a smaller bag)

5. (Only if you’d like a bigger bag) Chain three stitches. Double crochet twice in first stitch, then double crochet once in the next two stitches. Repeat until all the way around.  Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. (60)

6. Chain four stitches. Double crochet in same stitch. Skip two stitches. *Double crochet, chain, then double crochet again in next stitch (called a V stitch). Skip two stitches.* Repeat from * to * until all the way around. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round.This is the base of the scales.

7. Chain three stitches. Double crochet four times around first post of V stitch (/). Chain one. Double crochet five times around second post of V stitch (\). This is called a crocodile stitch. *Skip 1 V stitch. Double crochet five times around first post of V stitch (/). Chain one. Double crochet five times around second post of V stitch (\).* Repeat from * to * until all the way around. Connect last double crochet to the third chain stitch with slip stitch to join the round. This is the first round of scales.

8.-24. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the bag is as tall as you please. When you’re ready to make the holes for the draw string, repeat step 6.

25. Chain one. Single crochet once in each stitch around. Slip stitch in chain to join the round. Bind off.

You can use any kind of string as the draw string of this bag, threading it in and out around each v stitch on row 24. I like to chain a bunch of stitches to make a long rope, then crocheting single crochets down the rope to strengthen it.

There you go! I hope you like it! Let me know if you have any questions. And if you make this bag, send me over a picture! I’d love to see it!

Cinnamon Buns Are Way Too Much Work (But I Made Them Anyways)

Cinnamon buns were a staple in my house while I was growing up. They are one of my sister’s favorite desserts and we often had them instead of a cake around her birthday. But to be honest, not one of my favorite desserts. If I’m going to eat a cinnamon bun, it has to be gooey and have more sugar than cinnamon. If it’s crusty or hard at all, I’m not very interested.

When I moved out of my parents’ house (and out of my small town), I discovered the joys of Cinnzeo. Fresh, warm, gooey cinnamon buns that I don’t have to make myself? Yes, please! Still not my most favorite dessert (at West Edmonton Mall, I’d choose a crepe or frozen yogurt first), but still so delicious. Because I was so close to buying good cinnamon buns, I never learned how to make them.

But then I moved back to my hometown. No longer were cinnamon buns with extra cream cheese frosting only five minutes away. Nope, now they were a full hour away and I had to lug along a couple of kids. So Cinnzeo was out of the picture.

A couple of months ago, I decided to try my hand at cinnamon buns and it was a disaster. They were probably the grossest things I have ever baked. They didn’t rise properly and I hadn’t practiced with my new oven enough to know that its temperature is a little low so they were severely under baked. It was awful. Even my husband, who chokes down whatever I make without so much as a peep, couldn’t stomach them.

But yesterday I decided to try again. And this time it was delicious!

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I was stuffing my face when I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture so this is half of a cinnamon bun. Shut up.

The recipe I used this time had a full five more steps than the previous one I used and I’m going to say that is why my last recipe failed. It had nothing to do with my inexperience or impatience. Nothing at all. Anyways, the recipe I made was inspired by this recipe, though I tweaked it a bit to suit my needs.

Anyways, if you are interested in doing a whole freaking afternoon of baking then give these delicious, gooey, not-at-all-crusty cinnamon buns a try!

Cinnamon Buns

Makes: 18 buns  Time: 2.5 – 3 hours (ugh, I know right?)

Ingredients (dough):

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (turbinado sugar or “sugar in the raw” is best, but white will do)
  • 2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

Ingredients (filling):

  • 2 tbsp margarine, melted
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Put milk and salt into a small saucepan and turn the heat on medium, stirring often to prevent film from forming on top of the milk. Once the milk has started to steam and bubbles have started to form on the sides of the pot, remove the milk from heat. Add margarine and stir until it melts. Then add the cold water. Set aside. This is called scalding the milk and is used to intensify flavors and enhance the fluffiness of the yeast-based baking.

In a stand mixer, blend sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment. Slowly add the warm milk mixture while the mixer is on (to prevent the warmth from cooking the eggs). Mix the yeast with 2 cups of flour and add it to the liquids. Mix well. Replace the paddle with the hook attachment and add the remainder of the flour one cup at a time. Once mixed, knead the dough on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic-y. Roll into a ball and put into a large bowl.

Now it’s time to let the dough rise. If it’s a warm summer day, leave the dough out in a sunlight spot to stay warm (look for a sunbeam that a cat would think ideal). If you’re like me and baking to escape from the cold misery of the outdoors, you’re going to need to use your oven. Preheat your oven for 3-5 minutes and then turn it off. The residual warmth with be all that the yeast needs to rise. Where ever you put it, cover your dough with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 60-90 minutes. You want it to double in size.

Divide your dough in half on a floured surface and roll each half out until they resemble rectangles. Now it’s time to add the filling. Put half the melted butter on each rectangle and then literally cover it in brown sugar. A cup per side is only a suggestion. Be free with this, my beautiful butterflies. Want to add a couple of mini marshmallows? You do you. But I swear, if you tarnish these cinnamon buns that are too pure for this earth with raisins, I will delete you off Facebook. Now add your cinnamon. I’m only marginally a fan of cinnamon since my husband put it in everything (cinnamon mashed potatoes, anyone?) so I used it pretty sparingly.

Once your dough is covered in whatever filling you wish, roll it up. For those of you who use baking terms, roll it like a jelly roll. For my fellow millennials, roll it like a fruit roll-up. Cut it with a serrated knife and place it into a well greased pan. I made my slices a little thick and came out with only 16 rolls so I used a 9″ x 13″ pan and an 8″ cake pan for my beauties. Also, don’t use glass! It takes too long to cook and the buns will brown too much.

Now you have to let them rise once again. I just left them on my counter this time cause I was very unimpressed with how long it took to get a single freaking cinnamon bun. Leave them for 30 minutes this time. While you wait, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they’ve risen, stick them in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once they’re done baking, frost those suckers while they’re warm. That way the frosting melts and gets in all the spaces. I used a classic American buttercream, but a cream cheese frosting or even royal icing would do just fine.

 

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My little flour-covered helper

There you have it! Cinnamon buns that are not at all fast and only kind of easy, but actually good enough that I am eating more than one. And my husband has eaten one at each meal since I made them last night. Make a batch if you have a whole afternoon to burn and let me know how it goes!

Gingersnap Cookies

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Some special people are getting something delicious tomorrow!

Yum, yum, yum! I love cookies! And a special cookie that we ate many of in my childhood was gingersnap cookies! These delicious cookies were always a special winter cookie that tastes like cinnamon, ginger, and sweet, sweet sugar! Yum! My siblings and I would always steal a ball of dough from my mom’s baking pan when she wasn’t looking because nothing is better than cookie dough rolled in sugar.

We have had a cool couple of days here and both my boys were napping so I decided to warm up my house by baking. And when I’m feeling a little down (which tends to happen often when it’s cold and grey outside), I like to do something nice for someone else. So we made 7 dozen cookies to give to some special people tomorrow!

Alas I couldn’t make a cookie for every single one of my friends, so I figure I can share the recipe and, if you make them, I will take some of the credit. After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

Gingersnap Cookies

Cook time: 10-12 mins ~ Prep time: 10-15 mins ~ Yield: about 3 dozen

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (white or brown, you choose. Brown makes darker cookies. I used white in the picture above)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (to roll dough balls in)

Cream butter and sugar together in a stand mixer. Add egg and molasses and mix well. Add flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until dough is uniform colour. Roll dough into 1″ balls and coat in white sugar (if dough seems too wet to roll, dust the dough with more flour until balls stay together when rolled in your hand). Place onto greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 mins. Let cool on a baking rack or enjoy warm.

Yum! These are delicious. You should make some to stuff your face with on Valentine’s day! They make great ice cream sandwiches with some vanilla ice cream crammed in between two of them. Mmmmmm….

S’more Pavlova

My family has done so much for me in the last month that I decided to throw a “Thank You” party for them this passed weekend. We cleaned up the house, bought some flowers, and made some food for my parents and siblings to thank them for helping us adjust to having little Eggs join the family. My husband cooked dinner (he’s so much better at cooking than I am. I burn everything) while I made dessert. One of the desserts I made is a S’more Pavlova.

I’d never heard of a pavlova until this year. My little brother spent 8 months in Australia and had it as part of Christmas (2014) dinner with a family that let him live with them for a couple of months. It’s pretty much just a giant meringue cookie covered in whip cream and, usually, fruit. Yum!

For Christmas, we usually incorporate a review of the year into our day. Sometimes the Christmas decorations are a colour that was important to us that year (like blue because my sister graduated and that was the colour of her dress). Sometimes it’s in the food. This year, we had a pavlova for Christmas dinner because Jo had been in Australia for half of the year. It was the first time any of us had tried it. It was delicious.

This weekend, I decided to have a little something for each member of my family. I made flapper pie for my mom. Brian made taco casserole for my dad. I had sprouted flower bulbs for my sister and her boyfriend. And a s’more pavlova for my brother. And since it turned out so well, I thought I’d share my recipe with you! I modified this recipe to make it my own (her pictures are so much prettier than mine so don’t click the link).

 

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Recipe For S’more Pavlova

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Baker’s chocolate bars (dark or semi-sweet – whatever your preference for sweetness)
  • 1 tub of cool whip
  • graham cracker crumbs (for garnish)

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. On parchment paper, drawn two 6″ circles and put on a cookie sheet. In a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs until they are stiff. Add the brown sugar one spoonful at a time until it is dissolved in the eggs. Divide the mixture in half.

Spread the mixture on the parchment paper so that it fills the two circles. Spread it flat and then indent the top of both so that there is a large space for the chocolate to pool (make it look like a deep dish pizza). Place the meringues into the oven and immediately reduce the oven’s temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 1 hour then turn off the heat and let the pavlova sit in the oven for another hour to cool.

Once the pavlovas have cooled, melt your chocolate bars (leaving approx. 1/4 of one to the side for garnish). Pour half of the chocolate on top of one of the pavlovas. Let it cool. Take half of the tub of cool whip and spread it on top of the chocolate-covered pavlova. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs. Stack the second pavlova atop the first. Cover in the remainder of the melted chocolate (reheating if necessary). Let it cool and cover it with the remainder of the cool whip. Coarsely chop or grate the remaining chocolate and put on top of the whip cream with any remaining graham cracker crumbs you have.

Voila! There is your s’more pavlova!

Update: After eating this most delicious dessert, I’ve concluded one thing: it’s better to use a chocolate ganache or a chocolate spread because the hardened chocolate was really difficult to cut through. If you’re going to use melted chocolate, make sure to eat the dessert right away.