My Secret Sister Gift Has Arrived

Carla @My 1/2 Dozen Daily, hosted a Secret Sister Swapon Wednesday, I was very excited to receive my Secret Sister Gift.

My Secret Sister parcel has arrived, 2012

This was one well taped box! (I covered up my address with the labeled recipe card)

Inside, I discovered colourful packages sealed with beautifully patterned washi tape.

Secret Sister packages inside box

The washi tape alone should have clued me in to my Secret Sister…I had recently learned  of a Secret Sister ‘washi tape lover’.

I knew it…my Secret Sister was none other than Virna @craftmates…my very own Secret Sister I was assigned to by Carla! Click here for Virna’s reveal of her Secret Sister package from me.

I meticulously peeled back each an every piece of washi tape…careful not to tear the paper bags or tissue. Underneath all the pretty paper and washi tape were all sorts of treasures.

Opened packages from Secret Sister

Magazines with recipes to adapt, red and white tea towels and a red owl coin purse to satisfy my love of ‘all things red’, a ‘kitchen inspired’ key fab, a gorgeous handmade grocery tote and reusable snack bag, handmade tags, notepad and kitchen themed calendar, and to top it off, Virna sent me an adorable elephant pendant. Matthew spied the bejeweled elephant right away…he loves everything to do with elephants!

To tell you the truth…I was blown away!

The wonderful tote bag and snack bag were hand sewn by Virna herself.

Handmade tote bag and snack bag by Virna @craftmates

Love it!

The ribbon was inscribed with ‘Made by Virna’.

Ribbon inscribed with 'Made by Virna' from craftmates

The calendar, notepad and stunning tags were handmade by Virna’s fellow craftmate…Irma.

Handmade kitchen notepad, tags and kitchen themed calendar by Irma @craftmates

The tags are frame worthy!

Thank you…thank you…thank you! The time and effort you dedicated to putting this incredible Secret Sister package together is greatly appreciated!

P.S. These ladies are super talented! Craftmates will be attending their first craft fair this weekend, November 10 and 11th 2012, in Milton, Ontario. If you live in the surrounding area I would definitely try to swing on by. Click here for further details.

P.P.S. You may be wondering what I did with all that nice washi tape…

Beautiful paper bags and 'saved' washi tape

…I couldn’t just throw it away! Needless to say…I think I am now a washi tape lover myself!

Have you participated in a Secret Sister Swap before?

An Update On My Secret Sister Swap

I was relieved to hear that the package I sent to my Secret Sister arrived safe and sound! I can now reveal her to you…Virna @ craftmates.

She has just posted about the package I sent her for the Secret Sister Swap that was hosted by Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily. Click here to view.

Thankfully, Virna posted pictures of all the gifts…unfortunately, in the rush to get the package off, I accidentally deleted all the pictures I had taken of the gifts from my camera. 😦

I focused Virna’s gifts on her love of everything to do with sewing, the 70’s and chocolate…she loved the Dairy, Egg, Soy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies! Click here for the adapted recipe.

For the 70’s aspect, I found a funky 70’s mug and put together 6 mini packages of individual cacao mixes…2 tbsp of Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar and 1 tbsp of Mum’s Original Organic Cacao Powder…along with a recipe for her to enjoy. All she has to do is mix 1 tbsp of milk or milk substitute with the cacao mix, add 1 cup of hot milk or milk substitute, stir and enjoy!

Michael enjoys his hot cacao made with soy milk!

I also discovered, in one of my decluttering phases, stationary from when I was a child. Would you believe I still had a letter and envelope set with the ‘Brownie Owl’ at the top of the page! I couldn’t resist using it to write a letter to Virna explaining all the items in her Secret Sister package. 

For Virna’s love of everything to do with sewing, I revamped a tomato pin cushion following the directions from Tara @ Sew Tara. Click here for her DIY tutorial. My neighbour, Joanna @ That Thing I Made, had the perfect 70’s material for the job…she even threw in some bamboo bag handles for me to give to Virna.

The bamboo handles had me off on the hunt for a pattern and material. I tried to stay as close to Virna’s favourite colours of mustard, olive-green and turquoise as possible…while keeping that 70’s vibe. I was so pleased when I found, what I considered, the perfect material on the clearance rack at Fabricland …the lovely ladies swinging bags with olive-green and turquoise polka dots! There was just enough material for the budget friendly pattern…yeah!

I love to bake! I believe the quality of one’s ingredients = the quality of the product.

With that in mind, I put together a little bottle of pure vanilla…I split one vanilla bean and added it to 1/2 cup of vodka. The mixture will need to rest for at least a month.

All in all, I truly enjoyed my quest to put together a fun, creative budget friendly package for around $20. 

A thank you, once again to Carla @My 1/2 Dozen Daily for hosting the event.

P.S. If you live in and around the Milton area, you might be interested in the first craft show that Virna and her other friends @ craftmates will be attending on the weekend of November 10 and 11th 2012. Click here for more information.

My Secret Sister Gift Arrived!

Yesterday was a very beautiful day.

I woke up in an incredibly ‘happy’ mood…I had this feeling that ‘today’ was going to be ‘the day’ that my Secret Sister Gift, that Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily hosted, would arrive!

Michael spilling his morning Dairy Free Hot Chocolate all over the kitchen table and floor two minutes before he had to leave for school, crazy drivers at the local grocery store, and even burning my first batch of Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares, using the last of my Earth Balance Vegan Sticks which meant walking to the grocery store in the baking heat of the day to purchase another box…could not damper my enthusiasm for the day!

Upon my second attempt at melting the Earth Balance and marshmallows the doorbell rang. There, sitting on my front porch, was the gift I had been waiting for…

My Secret Sister Gift on my front step

my Secret Sister Gift!

Unable to leave my post at the stove for fear of burning a second batch…I placed my Secret Sister Gift on a chair and quickly finished making the Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispies.

Upon finishing, my cell phone alerted me to a text…it was Michael…”It’s really hot out can you pick us up?”

As you know, Michael suffers from eczema…heat is a major trigger for him…as it was 30 C without the humidity factor, he was wearing his school uniform with pants carrying a heavy backpack and the fact he had papers to sort and deliver with his brother after school to deliver in this heat wave…

I left the Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares to cool with my Secret Sister Gift!

Dairy and Peanut/Tree Nut Free Rice Krispie Squares cooling by my unopened Secret Sister Gift

First thing Michael said to me upon entering the car, “So…did you get it?” …”Yup!”, I answered smiling.

Now that both boys were home…my Secret Sister Gift was ready to be opened!

Wow! “Red wrapping paper with white polka dots!” Michael exclaimed, “No way!”…”How did you know?”

Inside my Secret Sister Box

I had told the boys to expect my Secret Sister Gift to arrive yesterday and there would be gifts wrapped in red wrapping paper with white polka dots…I must say…they were very impressed with my ‘Super Mom’ skills.

To be honest…I did a little sleuthing…put two and two together…and went on a hunch.

A lovely letter revealing the identity of my Secret SisterMutant Supermodel…was tucked inside.

However, Matthew was more interested in the opening of the gifts…the boys were each glad to help.

Secret Sister gifts revealed

A beautiful journal to write in, a lovely tea box and tea mug, Veg News magazine (a magazine I love to ‘treat’ myself too), and a gorgeous handmade ‘Nubby Scrubby’ that matches my kitchen!

Handmade 'Nubby Scrubby' that matches my kitchen

Seriously, do I have to use it as a cloth…it seems too pretty!

Of course, this gift was not in the picture as I had to put it on right away!

Beautiful apron from my Secret Sister

I LOVE it! How did you know I live in my kitchen…in an apron!

Thank you, thank you, thank you Mutant Supermodel so much for all the lovely gifts and kind words in your letter! I appreciate the time, effort and thoughtfulness of your gifts.

Mutant Supermodel ended her letter to me by writing… HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY!

Sipping my tea in my new tea mug and apron from my Secret Sister

Sipping my tea, in my new apron, from my new tea mug…it truly was…thank you!

P.S. Mutant Supermodel became a recent subscriber to my blog, wrote some lovely comments on some of my posts so I checked out her blog and came upon this…click here.…go figure, my hunch turned out!

P.P.S. Strangely enough…I completed a circle of Secret Sisters…click here to see what I mean!

P.P.P.S. This Sunday May 27, 2012 is the big day…Andy and I will be running in Whitby’s 1/2 Marathon starting at 7 a.m.! My first…Andy’s third…should be a great day!

Secret Sister Swap: My Basket For My Secret Sister

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a ‘Secret Sister Swap’ that Carla @ My 1/2 Dozen Daily was hosting.

Gift Basket for my Secret Sister

I thought I would share with you my adventure with the ‘Secret Sister Swap’!

I have never participated in anything like this and I have to admit…I was a little nervous that my ‘crafting abilities’ might be a little ‘rusty’!

I need not have worried…from start to finish the entire experience was loads of fun!

By luck of the draw…my ‘Secret Sister’ turned out to be none other than my neighbour Joanna…we did the neighbourhood Earth Day clean up together.

With a list of all her favourites…glass canning jars, the colour purple, a sweet tooth for caramel, lip balm, tea…I headed out to peruse one of her favourite shopsValue Village!

It took only one visit to Value Village to find what I needed…one large basket, a purple patterned scarf, a bone china tea-cup with purple violets, and 2 glass canning jars…perfect! The ‘bones’ of the gift were taking shape!

My hardest decision was what to bake with caramel?…Joanna is prediabetic.

I decided that I would use a less refined sugar for the baking…Wholesome Sweeteners Sucanat and Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic Sugar. Sucanat is made by extracting the juice from sugar cane, heating it until it becomes a lovely dark colour and then letting it cool into granules. Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organic Sugar is derived from sugar cane and crystallized. Both are still sugars and should be consumed in moderation.

I wanted to bake something to compliment caramel…

Shortbread Cookies Drizzled with Caramel Sauce!

Shortbread Cookies made with Sucanat and drizzled with Caramel Sauce

My Shortbread Cookie recipe was adapted from Birdie SomethingGranny’s Shortbread…this recipe was one of her childhood favourites (scroll down past Granny’s Tarts).

I liked this recipe because it used simple ingredients and seemed lower in sugar. I substituted the 6-7 tbsp of sugar with 4 tbsp of Sucanat and 2 tbsp of cane sugar. (For a dairy-free version, substitute the butter for Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. I baked the cookies on parchment lined paper to avoid cross-contamination with my baking sheets.)

The Caramel Sauce recipe I adapted was from Lucy Waverman’s Fast & Fresh Cookbook.

It was super simple:

In a medium pot, combine 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 cup Sucanat and 1/2 cup whipping cream…heat to boiling stirring frequently…boil for 1 minute while stirring. Cool slightly and add 1 tsp pure vanilla. Store covered in the refrigerator.

I think this Caramel Sauce recipe could easily be adapted to be dairy free…replace the butter with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and the whipping cream with Belsoy Organic Cooking Cream.

The glass canning jars were perfect for storing some of the Shortbread Cookies and the Caramel Sauce.

Glass canning jars with Shortbread Cookies and Caramel Sauce

Tied with a bit of found raffia…perfect!

Some of her other goodies included: Werther’s Sugar Free Caramels, Burt’s Bees lip balm with SPF 8, St. Dalfour Deluxe Spread Strawberry Jam sweetened with grape juice for the Thumbprint Shortbread Cookies, Creme Au Caramel Rooibos Tea, my homemade Pure Vanilla, and a Stevia plant for her garden…perfect to sweeten a fruit salad or a refreshing summer drink.

Contents of my baske for my Secret Sister

With a little purple tissue paper…everything fit perfectly inside the basket…only thing left to do was to deliver it!

Picture, if you will, me…sneaking across my neighbour’s front lawn…carrying a polka dotted basket…crouched down so as not to be seen through Joanna’s front glass door…ringing the doorbell…and then making a dash for it back across my neighbour’s front lawn!

I felt giddy as a school child!

Back at my house I began to wonder…did I hear the doorbell?

I decided to walk down my driveway and pick up the boys’ newspaper bundles to bring up to the garage. As I turned around, there was Joanna looking about at the top of her driveway…I gave her a wave and with a sigh of relief,  headed back up my driveway.

Mission accomplished!

I made a visit to my ‘Secret Sister’  later that day…

Joanna with her 'Secret Sister' goodies

I think she was happy with her surprise ‘Secret Sister’ Basket!

P.S. To read all about Joanna @ That Thing I Made’s experience receiving her ‘Secret Sister’ Basket from me…click here.

P.P.S. I wonder who my ‘Secret Sister’ is?

P.P.P.S. Have you ever participated in a ‘Secret Sister Swap’?