Trick or Treat: Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween night is finally here. As I scrambled to get my pumpkin carved before all the little ghouls and witches arrived, I realized that these opportunities don’t come around every day. Pumpkin season is almost over, so I’ve got to enjoy every last flavour of pumpkin while I can! I easily separated the seeds from the carving “guts” and set them aside.

For some reason, I have always had some pre-conceived idea that toasted pumpkin seeds were tricky to make. I’ve tried making them in the past and was never quite satisfied. But this time it was different. The seeds toasted really nicely and quickly and were crunching between my teeth before I could even say “Happy Halloween”.

TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

As you “gut” your pumpkin, separate the seeds as best as you can. Place them in a bowl. Place them in a strainer and run them under water for a while, separating all the pumpkin bits and strings. Measure the pumpkin seeds. In a medium saucepan, for every 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, add 2 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Strain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking pan with olive oil and lay the seeds out as evenly as possible. Place on the highest rack in the oven and toast for 10-15 minutes or until seeds are slightly browned. Remove from oven. Allow to cool. Transfer to a small serving dish or air tight container.

That’s it–so easy, right? They’re crunchy and can be adorned with any flavours that suit your taste. Perhaps cinnamon and sugar? Maybe some taco spice? The flavour possibilities are so versatile and endless.

I hope you all have a wonderfully Happy Halloween! Don’t do too much tricking, and certainly don’t eat too many treats (even though it’s so tempting).

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Many Reasons To Give Thanks

This past weekend, people across Canada celebrated Thanksgiving with the ones that they love. Most Thanksgiving celebrations involve turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (…lots of pumpkin pie), but I didn’t get to indulge in this tasty feast this year. My family and I packed our bags and hit the road enroute to our nation’s capital, Ottawa, instead. Even though we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving the traditional way, I still have many reasons to give thanks. Freedom. Beauty around me. Family. Laughs. Good health. Jesus. The list goes on and on. So in honour of giving thanks, I wanted to share some photos from our weekend road trip that represent some of the reasons why I am truly thankful.

I have such a beautiful and fun family. I am so thankful for the times we spend together and the adventures we find ourselves in. Life truly is beautiful and there is always a way to find a smile each and every day.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, friends (Canadian or not!)

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The Wonderful World of Print: Print-spirations!

I’m feeling blessed today. Over the past few months, I have been struggling with the idea of going back to school. When I finished last semester in April, I was bound and determined that I didn’t want to continue my degree. I felt frustrated with school. I felt uninspired. It felt like a waste of my time…time that could surely be spent in much more worthwhile ways. All summer I wrestled with the idea of continuing. I lacked motivation and direction. But after a significant amount of time and prayer spent considering my options, I decided to enrol in course anyways and leave the actual “decision making” to a later date. Well, it’s no surprise that the “decision making” time came around, and it came around quick.

Needless to say, I’ve opted to head back to school. I never have and never will for one moment regret or disregard the value of an education, regardless of what it’s in. In the past two years, I have learned more about the world around me and about myself than I have in all my other years of existence. I’ve discovered my passions, my direction, my holy discontents, and all that lies between. I appreciate all of that, no matter how stressful and overwhelming “school” may be. I was sick of “wasting” my time just learning, learning, learning, instead of doing something about the things that bother me and the things that fire me up. But I truly believe that heading back to school is where I’m meant to be. I have more learning, more discovering, and more exploring ahead of me before I embark on the mission ahead of me.

Anyways, let’s get back to the purpose of this post. I start my first class tomorrow. This year I get to begin specializing in my area of choice and I have opted to explore the wonderful world of printmaking. Ever since I started print courses two years ago, my heart has been in it completely. The process is so physical, yet magical. Today I had a chance to sit down and do some brainstorming for the year ahead. I have decided to share with you some of the pieces that have been inspiring me and will (hopefully) pop up in some of my work this year.

Anything and everything grid. I love the grid composition. It’s a way of organizing and categorizing that is so visually appealing. I love this illustration which is organized, yet still has a little bit of chaos.

Natural vs. Unnatural. I love the play between detailed and graphic in this image. I also love that it involves a natural subject entangled in a web of almost unnatural colour. They create a very interesting and beautiful contrast.

Text. Doodling and journalling words is one of my favourite things to do. Words have such a dominant voice, so when paired with aesthetic beauty (or ugliness), they speak even more strongly. I particularly love the use of only black ink with lots of line and movement in this print.

Collage. I have always loved collage. I particularly love it in print, because the printed layers are collaged in and of themselves. I love when artists accentuate these layers, offering the viewer a glimpse into the process of creation. I love this image where a few unlikely images are paired with graphic block-outs and line.

Windows to the soul. I love untraditional frames in print. I adore how this artist offered us a glimpse through a window overlooking this scene, while also playing with the subject matter of a child’s silhouette. It gives more interest and meaning to the piece.

The boundaries of print are limitless. I love these approaches and can’t wait to get creating my own works. What are some of the things you like about print? Are there any approaches you want to incorporate into your work?

Happy back-to-school (or not)! I hope you are all having a beautiful and inspired week.

I found these images primarily on Pinterest, so I can’t locate the original source. Sorry!

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Weekday Round-Up: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you. I’ve missed this. I’ve missed crafting, photographing, blogging, and posting. But as I mentioned earlier, my time has been invested in settling into my new virtual kitchen. And boy oh boy, is she ever cookin’! I have been baking up a storm these past few weeks. I don’t know if it is because I know that school is starting again soon so I want to get all of my “bucketlist” baking items checked off, or if it is simply because I am feeling flavourfully inspired. Regardless, my Kitchen Aid has been mixing, my oven has been baking, and I have certainly been eating!

I usually do Weekend Round-Ups, but this is a special occasion. I wanted to share a few (okay, so there are a lot of them) photos that give you a better idea of where the heck I’ve been these past few weeks.

From custom sugar cookies to experimental cupcake flavours, peanut butter brownie cups and classic chocolate chip cookies, the baking has failed to cease. I have two words for you: sugar coma. And that, my friends, is where Carmen Sandiego (or in this case, Amber Wideman) has been.

Today, I have aspirations to finally get my sewing machine set up! When that happens, the sewing will resume along with the crafting, knitting, card-making, and re-fashioning. I hope you are all appreciating these last few bursts of summer. Many blessings!

Looking to make some of these treats? You can access the recipes for White-Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes, Chocolate Chai Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip CookiesChunky Monkey Cupcakes, and sugar cookies.

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Diary of a Cookie Cutter

Have you ever moved? You spend hours upon hours packing up boxes, organizing all of your belongings into appropriate categories, and gathering friends and family to help with the heavy lifting. Eventually you reach your new home, only to find it completely empty with the huge task of settling in looming above your head. Where do you start? Will you ever feel settled again?  These are a few of the questions that you ask yourself as you prepare to unpack.

Although I have only moved houses once in my lifetime, I have recently asked myself these unsettling questions. As you may or may not know, I am an aspiring baker. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time creatively exploring my future in the art of baking. From brainstorm journals to e-courses, research to daydreaming, I have been striving to develop a business. I’ve been taking custom baking orders for a couple of years now, but now that my work is getting “out-there”, I am looking for new ways that I can create a brand for my products that is appealing to my future customers. One aspect of this is developing a social media experience that is simple and easily accessible.

The move I’ve made involved relocating from one virtual kitchen to another. I have been operating a blog through Tumblr called Diary of a Cookie Cutter that chronicles some of my adventures in baking. Tumblr worked really well for my needs in the past, but now that I am passing out the web address as my main form of contact for potential customers, I needed a system that was more organized and easy to navigate. Since I have been hosting this blog on WordPress for nearly eight months now, I decided that my other blog needed to make the move.

Needless to say, I have been spending oodles of time trying to settle into my new kitchen. It’s hard to transfer a couple of year’s worth of baking posts to a new place, so I have decided to leave the majority of them at their old home and have created a link to the new blog.

So I am starting to settle into my new blog. The essentials have been unpacked and the rest will come slowly but surely. I’ve developed a Gallery that features various albums of some of my baked goods. I’ve also created a very specific Contact page that contains all the information needed for customers to contact me. I have even created a Recipe Archive (similar to this site) and a more baking-specific About page.

I’ve already created three posts at my new home. “The Story of a Cookie-aholic” gives an overview of my purpose for re-locating as well as gives a little background information about my love for baking. “The Top Five Tastes of Summer” counts down my five favourite summer bakes so far. And finally, “Go Bananas: Chunky Monkey Cupcakes” is my very first recipe post and is littered with numerous photos of some tasty banana cupcakes. I’m excited to share even more and more as I explore flavour combinations and test lots of recipes.

If you are interested in the baking-aspect of A SMILE EACH DAY, I suggest that you hop on over to The Diary of a Cookie Cutter. It contains even more posts about delicious and tempting treats.

So once again, I just want to say thank you. I appreciate your patience as I get my belongings unpacked. I hope that you are all finding lots of smiles each and every day!

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