20+ Elegant Easter Decor Crafts from the Dollar Store

by Robin

I'm not sure why, but I've got almost no Easter decorations. I have an Easter box in storage, but it only holds the kids' special Easter baskets and some refillable plastic Easter eggs.

Oh, and there's a sad little Easter wreath that I almost always forget to hang on the door.  And I LOVE wreaths!?!  I love Easter, too.  But for reasons I can't explain I've been pretty Bun-Humbug (🙄).

My Easter box is more about frugal than fancy.  I think being so focused on paying off our debt lead me to cut back in all the non-essentials.  Even though I enjoy decorating and crafting!  It makes no sense when it's as affordable as a trip to the dollar store plus some creativity.  (Years ago I had so much fun when I challenged myself to create a menu planning board from just dollar store supplies.  It turned out great and over 4 thousand of people have pinned it! I love that sort of challenge!)

This is the year my lack of Easter decor changes!

I've got a great list here of over 20 super affordable and elegant  Easter crafts with dollar store supplies.  I'm planning for a Crafternoon with a good friend (or more!).  I also have a crafty daughter (who you've met through her terrific baking recipes here) who would love to spend time creating with me.  I'm going to share this list with them and together we can choose something great to do together.


Spotify vs Google Play vs Amazon Prime Music: which is the best streaming music service for your money?

By Ed

Indulge my not-so-inner grumpy old man for a moment here...

Kids these days!  They'll never know the simple joy of squeezing the right number of songs onto a mixtape or debating the merits of two CDs you want to buy, but only have enough money for one.

There is a generation that has no idea what it is like to not be able to instantly listen to any song you want.  They'll never know the pain of sitting next to a radio waiting for that one song to be played with a cassette recorder cued up to 'own' a hissing, second-hand copy.

And I think it's great.

I listened to a lot of bad - or at least mediocre - music growing up, simply because I already owned an album. Those deep 'filler' tracks got love sometimes just because they were 'sunk cost' in owning the singles. And it made me play it safe - new artists, new genres - they didn't get explored until I was sure I liked them.

For all the groaning about cookie-cutter pop music, 'kids these days' get a much more diverse cross-section of listening than we ever did. I just supervised a high school dance where students danced to everything from the latest 'not-on-mainstream-radio' rap to 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire' theme, with stops at "Sweet Caroline" and "All-Star" along the way.

Music Streaming simply is one of the greatest things ever to come along for music fans.  There are many services out there including offerings from iTunes pioneer Apple and elite Tidal.

We're going to look at a popular pair of free/pay offerings from Spotify and Google Music, as well as upstart Amazon Prime Music just for comparison sake.  We've used (and paid for) all three over the years - which one is worth your hard earned money?


Rhubarb Custard Bars with Meringue Topping - Perfect for Potlucks!

Recipe by Charlotte - Intro by Robin

I don't know about your workplace, but mine has a culture of potlucks. So. Many. Potlucks.  For all the seasons, honouring life events and holidays - and sometimes just for fun.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sharing a meal with my co-workers - and potlucks are a great way of doing this when a non-profit like ours has no budget for catering.  We can have a bit of a celebration without costing the organization to feed a big group.

But, potlucks take more planning and preparation than our usual no-brainer method of taking lunches to work.  And normally I'm pretty on top of planning meals - but I've got a blind-spot for planning for these potlucks.  It's pretty darn common for me to realize late the evening before that I need to have something extra delicious to take to work tomorrow.  Reheated leftovers are not going to cut it for my colleagues.

Our teenage daughter Charlotte's latest baking creation is terrific for potlucks.  I often get asked for this recipe when I take it places - so you know it's tasty!  It's the perfect mix of tangy and sweet.  Squares, like this and Charlotte's Blueberry Pie Squares, are handy for potlucks and gatherings.  You can cut them to whatever size it going to meet your groups' needs.

Beyond being delicious these Rhubarb Custard Bars are great for forgetful bakers like me.  All the ingredients are easy to find in a pretty basically stocked kitchen - no extra trips to the grocery store!  Plus it uses frozen rhubarb - which I always have a giant bag of in my freezer.


20+ Almost No Prep Slow Cooker Recipes (a Dump & Dash Collection!)

by Robin

We often have the best intentions to cook dinner ourselves, don't we?  It's usually healthier and it always costs less than restaurant meals.

But today, I'm sick. And with every Kleenex I reach for I'm fighting the urge to also reach for a takeout menu.

I have a go-to recipe for when, for whatever reason, I don't have the time or energy to cook.  It's my Dump & Dash Slow Cooker Chili.  Every single ingredient is waiting for me in the kitchen.  I literally dump it in the slow cooker and mere moments later dinner is no longer on my to-do list.

Here's the thing.  I've been sick for a couple of days now.  And two days ago, when this cold first knocked me down, we had the Dump & Dash Chilli.  My chili has become one of my son's favourites (he used to be less than excited to see it on the table until Ed discovered this awesome new product) but twice in three days would be pushing it.

I've got my Meal Plan Master List.  Have you made one yet? It's a meal planning game changer - normally.

But what my current master list lacks is more mindless, effortless meals like my dump chili.  That's what this post is all about.  Twenty plus recipes that require little to no prep and are delicious - you just dump it all in the crockpot and you're done.


Ctrl V Virtual Reality - An Eyeroll Free Teenage Birthday Party (and a coupon code for Guelph!)

By Ed

This year for our duaghter's 14th birthday, she really wanted to take everyone to the Guelph CTRL-V Virtual Reality Arcade. She has been a couple times, but her friends have never been at all. In fact, we can't get over how many local people we talk to who haven't checked out this awesome place.

So in exchange for this post the folks at CTRL-V Guelph were generous enough to let us bring a bunch of kids (ages 10-14... and, well, Robin and I too) in for an hour of Virtual Reality gaming and party awesomeness.

And now we're here to tell you what to expect from CTRL-V Virtual Reality and why you need to plan your next party there (kid, teen or grown-up).

But first, indulge me.

Virtual Reality - what to expect.

I'm standing on a cliff with a platform built into it. Below and to my left, I look and see the gates to my fort. They are locked and protecting the main castle which I'm charged with defending.  All of this sits in the middle of a valley with steep sides.  And up the middle charge of this valley charge a horde of attackers...


Antique Treadle Sewing Machine Base + Live Edge Wood Top = Eclectic Modern Night table

Intro by Robin

As a little girl, I was fascinated with my grandmother's old Singer treadle sewing machine.  It sat in her kitchen - mostly holding dusty shoeboxes of odd things and old newspapers on top - but the top was not what drew me to it.  

I was enamoured with that treadle. 

My cousin and I would take turns pumping it with all our kid mite to see just how fast we could get it going.  Then we'd yank our hands away and dizzily watch the wheel spin.  (We'd keep doing this until the grown-ups would pause their euchre game long enough to notice and scold us to stop.)  

It's an 80's parenting miracle that we still have all our fingers.  That wheel is a finger guillotine.

When my grandparents passed away - my aunts and uncles gave me the treadle machine.  But this caused a problem: I now had two.  I had purchased one of my own from an antique shop many years ago.  

We don't live in a large house and every square inch is pretty much spoken for.  This is part of the reason we've embarked on our big Basement Makeover.  We really didn't have space for two bulky old sewing machines - let alone three!  I've had my other grandmother's machine - that I can actually sew with - for the last 20 years.  

The wooden cabinet tops of all the machines were beaten up.  Beyond salvaging really - even if I had space.  For example, my grandmother's was just laminate that was peeling and chipped in a bad way.  The other one had ugly gouges and a newer repair to the frame that was clunky and barely matched. 

It was the bases that spoke to me with their steady, iron, sculptural beauty. 

Since right now we are working on sprucing up our guest room what we actually needed - and had room for - were nightstands.  I wanted to add a warm wood top to the treadle bases. I had yet to stumble upon the perfect wood.  

And then I discovered a new wood product at Home Depot!  And we're happy that Home Depot chose to sponsor this post after we shared our unique idea with them.

What follows is the very simple instructions for how we made these eclectic modern tables from antique treadle sewing machine bases with natural live edge wood tops.  

Oh you guys! They turned out so great!

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20+ Elegant Easter Decor Crafts from the Dollar Store