Carbonated Coffee for Summer

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When I saw this coffee soda on Man Made DIY a few weeks back I thought, ew, weird. But then I thought, welp, better try it. And so here we are. This is an interesting twist on iced coffee if you’re tired of the latte version.

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Man Made has a whole system for making special double-strong cold brewed coffee.

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But I wasn’t so picky, opting instead for just brewing my favourite espresso double strength and letting it cool before straining and chilling.

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The process is pretty simple: you have your chilled super-strong coffee, a large glass, some of your favourite fizzy water, an orange, and a vegetable peeler. And some ice, but that stayed in the freezer while I took this photo.

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Fill your glass about half full with your cold coffee and plop in some ice cubes. You can sweeten the coffee if you wish (I keep a small jar of simple syrup in the fridge for this very purpose). Use the vegetable peeler to scrape up a good-sized chunk of orange peel.

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Top the glass off with soda water. Squeeze the peel over the beverage to get the orange oils in there.

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Then rub the oily peel around the edge of the glass before plopping it right into the coffee.

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And that’s it. It’s definitely different, but I think I like it. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

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Don’t Fence Me In – Make Baskets Instead

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This is another wee project I picked up to keep me from going stir crazy when I was sick last weekend. I’m behind the trend on this again (surprise, surprise), but I’ve wanted to make these custom wire baskets for ever. The Pie as a rule is against wire baskets because he always feels like he’s going to jam his fingers in the holes and hurt himself, but then again when it comes to me getting up to shenanigans when he’s out of town, I’m not really considering anyone’s happiness but my own. For these baskets all you need is some welded hardware mesh, usually used for fencing off gardens and things like that (this one has 1/2″ square holes), a wire cutter, and a pair of pliers. Or, if you’re lucky, you can get a two-in-one that’s both cutters and pliers. And you’ll need some patience and strong wrists. This is going to take a while.

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I was warned that when I opened the package it might spring open and seriously harm me.

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The only thing between me and certain death was this little bitty wire.

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When I undid the wire, the whole roll spontaneously sprang open — about three inches. I was expecting a large-scale disruption as it fully unraveled and let me tell you, I was disappointed.

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But I kept the wire. Because I always keep wire. And ribbons. And small pieces of string. Man am I a hoarder or what.

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Then it was easy to clip out the basket frame in the size I wanted – the best part about this project is being able to make them exactly the size you need. Make sure to leave those nice sharp open prongs. You’ll need at least one set of those on each seam.

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Folding it up was a little harder than I expected.

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But all the edges matched which was good.

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Folding the prongs down over the other side of the basket took some time. And I made a bunch of baskets on this day. So that took a lot of time.

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I also folded down the tops for a smoother edge.

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It’s just a wee basket.

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But it can hold things like coasters.

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Or my orchid.

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I even made a round one, out of scraps. It was not as hard as I thought it would be.

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I made a bunch more and even painted them for another project I started that weekend, so stay tuned for the results shortly!

Bacon Avocado Bites

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Today is Victoria Day, the final day in a long weekend that in Canada is the official herald of the summer to come. It’s the long weekend where people get together for barbecues and outdoor parties, where people open up their cottages and put their boats in the water. It’s the weekend where garden enthusiasts can finally plant all those frost-fearing plants they’ve been keeping inside. It’s a weekend to spend enjoying fresh air and the company of friends.

The Pie is out of town at a tournament this weekend and so I had all sorts of social events planned to keep me from getting lonely and bored by myself. At the eleventh hour, however, literally as I was walking out the door on Friday night to the first of my social engagements, I realized I had picked up a stomach bug from one of my coworkers (despite our best efforts) and I had to cancel everything. While it was a mild case (I’m mostly fine now), I knew it was infectious and one of my events was a brunch with Gen. Zod, a pregnant Atlas, and my immunocompromised mother. So that was a no-go.Avocado Bacon Bites 7

But I’d already bought all the food for it, and so in the moments when I wasn’t feeling terrible, I decided to make smaller amounts of my recipes for the brunch anyway, just to keep myself from going stir crazy with only Gren for company. This one from Sweet Treats & More is ridiculously easy and can be scaled for events of any size. They make great finger food for brunch, lunch, or even dinner. Start by setting your oven to broil and haul out a broiling pan or a baking sheet with a cooling rack set in it.

Then set to and halve, pit, and peel however many ripe avocados you want to use.

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Cut those up into as close to cubes as you can get. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. I feel like a small gob of goat cheese, brie, or a pecan wouldn’t go amiss tucked into the little indentation left by the pit.

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Then grab a slice of turkey bacon (you can use whatever bacon you want for this of course) for each cube of avocado and wrap it up. Jab a toothpick into it to keep it shut. Wouldn’t want that juicy avocado to escape.

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Lay the little packages on your pan and shove them in the oven.

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I think it depends on how high your rack is and how hot your broiler is because the original recipe called for 10-15 minutes and mine took 8 minutes before they were a little on the charred side. So keep an eye on them.

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Tasty, tasty little bites!

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Spag Bol Redux

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I have so many fun and exciting things to show you guys in the near future, but I thought I’d do a little bit of a retrospective today. My very first entry on this here blog, five-plus years and 900-odd posts ago, was a recipe for spaghetti bolognese. I make this spaghetti sauce all the freaking time, so I thought I’d do another post just to show you how things have changed over the years, but they still remain in essence the same. For one, the Pie and I went vegetarian for a month when I made that post so there’s no meat in that sauce. For another, I was way lazier when it came to chopping things up, so my sauces were much chunkier. I like them a bit more uniform these days.

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Some things stay the same, though: I always load it down with diced onions to start. I made a crapton (a metric measurement of course) of this so that I could freeze it so I can’t give you exact measurements. Just lots.

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I always add diced red pepper (I’m allergic to green) and diced mushrooms. You can add whatever you wish, though. Sometimes I chuck in whatever’s in my fridge that needs to be used: avocadoes (they add a nice thickness the sauce), tomatoes, sometimes even carrots.

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And then of course a variety of tomato-based canned items. I used to use jarred spaghetti sauce as my base but I found they were sneaking green peppers into the mix and it wasn’t doing my digestive system any good so I switched to canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.

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First I start by sautéeing up the onions with olive oil and a little butter. I let them go until they’re smelly and soft. Then I pull apart a large hunk of lean or extra lean ground beef. I like to break it up with my fingers to ensure that there are no big chunks in the pot. You can also use ground turkey or pork or whatever works for you. If you’re going the veggie route and using TVP, add that last.

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After the meat is browned to my satisfaction I tip in my vegetables, as well as some minced garlic, salt, pepper, and various spices.

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I like a mix of italian spice plus extra basil.

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I add in all my tomato things as well and give that a grand old stirring.

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Let that simmer for at least half an hour so the flavours can mingle, and feel free to adjust the spices as you see fit. I like to let it simmer as long as I can, but it’s good either way.

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Cool and freeze or serve hot on top of your favourite fresh pasta, baked into a pasta casserole, or glopped on top of bread as a sloppy joe!

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Taco Cups

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To celebrate the success of our Bench Cover Thingy, Cait and I held a wee taco party afterwards. These are inspired by Kevin & Amanda, and I think I’ll be cooking these up pretty often. They’re easy and provide a tidier option to those of us who like hard-shelled tacos. Plus kids will love being able to make up their own custom tacos in advance. Also tacos always remind me of my favourite joke, but I don’t wanna taco ’bout it. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. This recipe makes enough for 24 taco cups, which feeds four hungry adults quite nicely.

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Start with half a large sweet onion and dice that up.

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Grab 2 tomatoes and dice them too.

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Why yes, that IS dog hair on my tomatoes. Thank you for asking.
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I swear that I removed the dog hair before dicing. I promise. Maybe.

Scoop up some spices: 2 tablespoons chilli powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle, and some ground black pepper.

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You’ll also need some meat. I used about 3/4 kilogram extra lean ground beef.

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Sauté your onions in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent and amazing-smelling. Tip in the meat and stir, breaking it up into little pieces, until it’s browned all over. Drain it if necessary (the bonus of extra-lean is you don’t need to drain).

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Remove the meat and onions from the heat and tip them into a large bowl. Dump in your spices and mix them around.

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Tip in the diced tomato as well and give that a good stir. Set that bowl aside for a spell.

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Now preheat your oven to 375°F or thereabouts. Grate up about 2 cups cheddar cheese (you can use more or less if you like).

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Grab a muffin tin and generously brush the whole thing with olive or vegetable oil (or use cooking spray). I did the 24 taco cups in two separate batches so they were fresh and hot, so I only needed the one tin, but if you’re doing them all at once you will obviously need two tins.

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Now you need some wonton wrappers. Square ones are probably best.

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Press a wonton wrapper into the bottom of each hole in the muffin tin.

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Spoon a small amount of meat, onions, and tomatoes into the spaces as well.

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Top with a wee bit of grated cheddar.

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Then jam on ANOTHER WONTON WRAPPER. Press everything down underneath it so you still have space to put stuff.

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Spoon in some more meat/onions/tomatoes and top with additional cheese.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the wonton bits that you can see are brown and the cheese is melty and bubbly.

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Cait and I found that about five minutes on a cooling rack after baking made them a bit more solid and easier to handle. Just be careful when you’re scooping them out and run around the edges with a spoon to make sure nothing is still attached to the tin.

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Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives and you are golden.

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Bench Cover Thingy with Cait

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Cait and I share a calendar, because when you live on totally opposite sides of the city it makes it easier to stalk each other. So when we planned for this particular DIY event (because we are that nerdy), this is the title Cait gave it in the calendar. So that’s the title you’re getting.

Cait commandeered a large amount of shelving and other furniture from her aunt’s house and wanted to incorporate it into hers, but with a twist. So this little bench thingy? It’s a little underwhelming as-is, and because all the furniture Cait got was black, the colour is a bit much.

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We’re gonna jazz it up a little and soften it up a little as well by adding a cute cushion to the top of it. Maybe two different cushions, for variety’s sake. We didn’t take any measurements, and who knows if your furniture is the same size, so this is just a series of photos for you to take inspiration from.

I did get to cut through some 2″ foam padding with a bread knife which was satisfying. Holy moley though foam padding is expensive!

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Pinning it in place and making sure there was enough overlap on the seams.

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You can’t tell in this photo but I’m actually in mid-pin-stab and am about to yell some bad words. I hate sewing.

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Okay so in addition to the grownup one we made a Batman one too. You can see Cait in the background, sewing snaps on the other cushion. She also hates sewing.

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We used velcro and sewed straps to hold the cushion onto the bench. Luckily the bench is actually some kind of entertainment console so we could thread the straps through the holes easily.

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Adhesive velcro rocks for getting things where you want them exactly. You do need to sew it afterwards, which is a total pain, but it is a useful thing.

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Straps in action.

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Batman suits it.

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The grown-up one is nice, too. The fabric is reversible so I’m also making Cait some small square cushion covers to accent the whole thing.

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A Quick Patch

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This cute corgi is here to lure you into reading this non-pretty post.

We’ve covered the patching of small holes on Ali Does It before, but this one’s a bit of a doozy. When we moved in to the Tower we discovered that the previous tenants had built a shelf in the garage that attached to the wall. It was huge, and it stuck out so far that our teeny tiny car would not fit inside the garage. So we had to take it out. The previous tenants had built this shelf, however, with more enthusiasm than carpentry knowledge, and the 4″ decking screws they had used everywhere were all stripped and nearly impossible to remove. Finally we had to yank the shelf out of the wall and twist it to be able to saw through the last one, and that’s why we have this giant big hole.  It was the only way.

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Now keep in mind that this hole is about the size of my outstretched hand, and that’s about as big as I would go when fixing using this technique. Anything larger and you’re probably better off replacing the drywall instead so you don’t weaken the structure.

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Not to fret, though, because we can fix it easily.

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First you need to clean it up. Get rid of all the little bits and pieces that are sticking out and smooth everything down. Use a knife.

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Add a bit of crumpled newspaper as back fill (this is really only necessary on big holes). Pack it in there nice and firm so it doesn’t want to come back out again. It’s going to give you something to push against when you’re laying on the spackle.

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Then you use this nifty adhesive mesh tape to cover over the hole and give yourself a surface to work with.

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Mine wasn’t very adhesive as it’s pretty old so I had to use strips that were a little longer so I had more traction.

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Then you grab your trusty spackle and a putty knife.

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I love that this stuff is pink when wet and dries white. I love it.

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Now when you’re patching a big hole like this you want to start from the edges so the tape is well and truly stuck down.

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Don’t worry about getting it perfect on the first go-round – if you press too much on the mesh you’ll just push all your spackle through the holes and that’s not very good. Let that dry for a while.

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All ready for round two. It’s so pretty.

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Lightly sand off all the little protuberances. I like a sanding block for this because it’s easier to hold but you can use sandpaper.

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Now more spackle. Don’t be as generous as last time.

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Try to get the layers on as thinly as possible but still covering up the imperfections. If this were my living room wall I would be more careful but as it’s the garage I’m not too concerned if it’s perfect or not.

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These little lines can be easily sanded off when it’s dry.

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Now you just need to wait!

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I’m not going to leave you with a picture of dried plaster to end this boringly-photographed post, so you get a picture of a happy Gren instead.

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adventures in grown-up living

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