A Simple Recipe for Chocolate Fudge

We often avoid keeping too many sweets in the house, but every so often something makes its way into the shopping cart. A pack of Jersey Milks we picked up for a quick getaway this summer was on my husband’s mind this previous weekend. If not that then at least some other kind of chocolatey goodness- even the "freezer fudge" would do. Alas, I was in the kitchen but didn’t need to look to know the cupboards and freezer were bare of such sweets. In the midst of puttering around with dishes and tidying up I broke the news. At the mention of the freezer treats I did, however, want to try making fudge again.

Fudge fail

The first time I made fudge it was edible, but it was like a stickier Mackintosh toffee inside and out. My husband actually enjoyed it and anyone who knows him would confirm he’s not the type to give compliments or consume something for the sake of politeness (minus one expired beer given to him by a great aunt). I really can’t recall what flavour of the fudge was supposed to be. He thinks it was peanut butter, but I’m not exactly sure. Either way it was a very involved process and I’m glad it was enjoyable in some regard. We even gave it the nickname “freezer fudge” because the only way to eat without making a giant mess was to enjoy it frozen.

The secret to making fudge

I think the secret to the fudge turning out this time isn’t much of a secret. I simply didn’t overcomplicate it. An extra can of condensed milk was sitting in the cupboard and I recently bought a bulk bag of chocolate chips so I thought I would give this simple, four ingredient recipe for chocolate fudge a try. There was no need for a candy thermometer or boiling ingredients and it turned out like a store-bought fudge.

If you want to try this recipe too, the flavour and texture are fantastic, plus you can dress it up however you’d like. I’ve included how I made mine into somewhat of a Turtles fudge.

Simple chocolate fudge recipe

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Servings: 2 pounds of fudge, about 32 pieces

Ingredients

For the fudge

  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (300ml) can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the toppings

  • 10 caramel squares
  • Handful of pecans, chopped
  • Handful of semi-sweet baker’s chocolate

Directions

  1. Line a 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
  2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, mix the chocolate chips and condensed milk. Stir until the chocolate melts and it's smooth. From previous experience, chocolate burns easily so keep your eye on it.
  3. Remove the saucepan and stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepare baking pan and spread it evenly. You’ll notice it starts to cool quickly so make sure to get it in right away.
  5. Let it cool for a few minutes.
  6. Spread half the pecans over the fudge and gently press so they just indent the top.
  7. Melt the caramel in a microwave safe measuring cup or dish and drizzle it over the pecans and fudge. Be sure to do this in spurts of 30 seconds or less, stirring in between, as the caramel could burn. Keep in mind it will be hot.
  8. Next melt the chocolate in another microwave safe dish and drizzle it over top of the other ingredients.
  9. Top with the remaining pecans.
  10. Place the fudge in the fridge for two hours.
  11. Use the edges of the parchment paper to pull it from the pan, place it onto a cutting board, and cut it into squares.

The original recipe for just the fudge can be found here on the Eagle Brand website. Sometimes the best recipes come from the most obvious places, like the Tenderflake box’s recipe for pie crust.

How to store homemade fudge

Once it’s cut you’ll want to store your fudge in an airtight container. Some folks store theirs on the counter where it can last up to two weeks, but it lasts longer in the fridge. Personally, we froze a good portion of our fudge off the hop since it made such a large batch for two people. Fudge lasts up to a year in the freezer.

Enjoy

Thanks for stopping in!


How to Organize Your Content in a Spreadsheet: 7 Steps

You have a million great ideas for your blog or social media content. You jot them down on sticky notes, scrap papers, or your notepad thinking they're the best, only to lose track of them later. While you want somewhere to sort and plan them, you aren't quite ready to invest in another software. There's also the problem of wanting to share them with a coworker.

You wonder how you're ever going to get your content ideas happening.

Why not use a spreadsheet?

I know, it might sound pretty old school when there's plenty of great, new software out there, but hear me out.

Not only do you likely already have a spreadsheet software available to use, but you might also know how to use it already, and the same goes for your coworker. It can definitely help bridge the tech gap, especially when working with someone outside of marketing.

In this post I'll show you how to make a layout you can organize your content into in 7 steps. I've decided to keep the layout simple, but this is to get you started. Perhaps another time I can share a more complex version, or maybe I'll spare you. Regardless, here's how to create a simple spreadsheet layout that will help you sort your content ideas and start putting them into action.

 

Example content spreadsheet

 

1) Get Started.

Start with a blank sheet and fill in your titles. For this example, I have "type" meaning type of post, image, Facebook copy, Instagram copy, blog/ other copy, status, and notes. There's no correct way of organizing your sheet; it's what works for you. As you work with it, you'll likely think of more columns you want to add, or you might find you can combine or take some away.

 

Titles added to content spreadsheet

 

2) Select and freeze the top row.

Freezing the top row will keep your title at the top of the document as you scroll down. Do this by selecting the row, then "view" in your menu, and next "freeze." Choose "one row" to freeze only the top.

 

Freezing the rows of the content spreadsheet

 

3) Add a dropdown menu.

Next, you want to add your dropdown menu under "type." To do this, right-click the cell under the title to bring up the context menu. Select "data validation."

In the data validation panel, set your criteria to "list of items" and type the items you want to include in the field. Separate them with a comma.

In this example, I used social, blog, web, and other.

 

Adding a drop-down menu to the content spreadsheet

 

Now your drop-down menu will be there. Give it a click to test it out. Copy and paste it into multiple rows in the first column.

 

 

4) Add colour coding.

To add your colour coding, right-click all of column A and head down to "conditional formatting" in the context menu.

 

Adding colour coding to the content spreadsheet

 

Make sure the range says "A:A" so that it applies to the whole column and not one cell only. Under format rules and "format cell if..." there will be a drop-down menu. Select "text contains" and in the value field add the type you want to colour code.

You can give the entire cell colour by clicking the little paint bucket or you can give the text colour by clicking the A. Keep in mind it's best to keep it something that's easy to look at. Yellow on orange might be a bit tough to read.

 

Where to find conditional formatting

 

This is what it will look like colour-coded.

 

What the colour coding looks like in the spreadsheet

5) Repeat.

Next, you'll want to repeat the previous two steps to create the status column. This is where you'll mark your progress and / or communicate it with your team. For this example, I used to-do, in progress, drafted, complete, and posted. Other suggestions could be "please revise" or "for review" if the process involves proofreading.

 

What the content spreadsheet looks like with statuses

 

6) Add your work.

Now you can start filling in your ideas.

 

What the content spreadsheet looks like filled in

 

If you aren't familiar with how to insert images into Google Sheets, you select insert in your menu, images, and insert image in cell.

 

How to fill in the blanks

7) Filling in the blanks.

This step is optional, but you can do it to see if you like it better or not. If you aren't a fan of the blank spaces, you can use conditional formatting to fill the cells if they're empty.

 

Example content spreadsheet

 

Notes

You won't be able to pull a quality image from your spreadsheet later, so keep them all together in a folder where they're easy to find later. This column is more for reference. If you're collaborating with someone, they'll need access to the images folder as well.

Long-form content is best kept out of the cells of a spreadsheet as it will be difficult to format in spreadsheet software. If you're working alone you can have your drafts in an easy-to-find place on your computer. If working with someone else, you can add a link to a shared document.

Conclusion

Now that you've created your own content spreadsheet, it's time to take those content ideas from your sticky notes and start putting them into action. If you're new to content marketing, or you feel stuck on ideas, one place to look for inspiration is your customers. Are there any FAQs you can address in your content that might be helpful?

I'm still working on getting more tutorials up that might help with content marketing. For now, if you're interested in reading some of my other posts, you can find them here.


Going Green: All or Nothing?

Helping our planet isn’t an all-or-nothing effort.

We might think one person can’t make a difference, but there’s a lot of value in small actions. Even if they aren’t all, they certainly aren’t nothing.

While those actions might not be perfect every time, it’s action nonetheless; especially when those efforts are combined with that of friends, neighbours, and communities.

It might seem impossible as individuals to tackle something as gigantic as deforestation, however, we can look to our everyday choices and habits to see where we can make adjustments.


You Don't Need to Buy a Bunch of Stuff to Work From Home

"Things you need to work from home."

  • new outfits
  • fancy desks, lamps, chairs
  • headphones that make you look like your not wearing headphones, but at the same time speakers, Bluetooth or otherwise
  • water bottles so that you don't have to get up as much
  • coffee mugs just because
  • special candles
  • gemstones
  • fancy pens - you shouldn't have to settle for just anything
  • fragrance diffusers
  • special lightbulbs
  • armchairs for thought moments
  • phone holders
  • office blankets
  • a hat - for video calls when your hair just isn't right
  • humidifiers
  • shoes to keep your feet clean?
  • capsules and extracts for focus
  • more water bottles
  • and let's not forget a handheld vacuum

These, and so much more, are the things you need to work from home according to social media and blog posts made note of around the internet.

Let's stop overcomplicating working from home. You don't need to buy a bunch of stuff in order to work from home comfortably.

Before making a purchase for your home office or workspace, ask yourself if whatever it is is going to add value to your workday in a meaningful way; or is it going to be used once or twice and be forgotten?

You don't need the latest AirPods to get the best out of your video calls.

You don't need new outfits to look your best on camera - wear what you would if seeing who you're meeting in person.

You don't need a bunch of new furniture - only an appropriate chair and a surface to work on.

Many of these things you likely already have around your home, or at least a suitable substitute. You don't need to pay top dollar for the bells and whistles and you certainly don't need them.

If it’s something you want, just be honest with yourself about it and make sure to shop with intention.


DIY Upcycled Pen Cup

I know a new pen cup isn't a huge purchase. There are some fairly decent-looking ones on sale at the office supply store for as low as a dollar. However, when you can turn it into a DIY project and make some, why not? You may already have what you need at home.

A while ago, I made some from some old tea tins. At the time I was really into trying new teas and didn't quite feel right putting the lovely tins into the recycle bin so I saved them for later. Most were silver and I had some copper ones as well.

Any tin will work for this as long as it's sturdy enough to not tip over.

DIY pen cup

How to make your own

To make your own, peel off the label and wash all the residue from the glue off before decorating. I spray painted some of mine, but I can picture many different ways to decorate these such as wrapping in colourful tape, paper, twine, fabric, or ribbon. You could even have fun with glitter or stencils - be as creative as you want!

If you are wondering how to spray paint them, once your tin is clean, make sure it's dry and sand it with steel wool or fine-grit sandpaper. It doesn't have to be too much. Simpy scuff it a little to give the paint something to stick to. Remove any dust with a damp cloth and make sure it's completely dry again before spraying. Make sure to follow the safety and use instructions according to your can of paint.

The spray paint should be specific to metal if using a metal can. Again, check the back of your spray can to make sure it works on the surface you're painting.

Note on choosing colours

When I made these I had black and gold paint I needed for a few other projects. The paint cans went a long way, so I suggest if you aren't using paint that's leftover from another project to pick a colour you don't mind using later to prevent waste.

I'm happy I went with more neutral colours when I made these as my home office has changed a few times since, but I've found a place for them each time. Since I started working from home, I organized most of my sewing, art, and craft supplies into my closet, but have kept these out paintbrushes, markers, and all.

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*Make sure to wear proper personal protective equipment and take safety precautions for all DIY projects. If you aren't sure, please research beforehand.


Meals for Your Planner: Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

I'm a little late to the game, but recently I discovered overnight oats. I love how convenient and versatile they are. Easy too. I thought it would be a good topic to share for those who are looking for a quick or inexpensive breakfast.

If you haven't made these before, don't hesitate when reading ingredients as I find, so far, I have been able to substitute or leave out certain ones. Really, as long as you have the oats and some kind of milk you're good.

Substituting Overnight Oats Ingredients

When I first started making them, I saw ingredients like chia seeds, Greek yogurt, muesli, and flaxseed - which aren't things I had on hand or buy regularly. However, the more I searched, I did end up finding some simpler recipes and established somewhat of a base I'm going to use for my oats going forward. I also noticed it's easy to substitute ingredients.

For example, the blueberry overnight oats recipe I was following one of the first times I made them called for Greek yogurt. I'd forgotten to add that to my shopping list when planning so I substituted some raspberry Activia and it did the trick! It doesn't have to be exact as long as you have a good feeling the flavours will go well together. I know there's a considerable price difference with Greek yogurt as well, but since it makes so many portions - I decided to get it.

Really, it all comes down to preference. With all that said, the other night I went searching for a simple apple cinnamon version. I couldn't find one that I loved, so I made up my own.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oats (rolled, old fashioned, large flake)
  • 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 apple, chopped
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)*
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt

*Note: submerge the apples in a cup or so of cold water and add lemon juice to prevent browning.

Directions

  • Add oats and milk to a jar or container
  • Add greek yogurt
  • Add chopped apple
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and salt
  • Drizzle with syrup
  • Close the jar or container and place it in the fridge overnight
  • Give it a stir before eating

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Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy this recipe!

If you've had overnight oats before, what are some of your favourites?

Also, don't feel bad if your overnight oats aren't as pretty as the ones on Pinterest, mine aren't (see photo below). They'll still be tasty.

Overnight oats, apple cinnamon


Meals for Your Planner: Fried Beans with Cashews

Who says dinner needs to be difficult?

No one, that's who.

Fried beans and cashews is a crowd-pleaser, it's simple to make, and doesn't take much time.

For me, it's one of those recipes that has simply become measurable in handfuls and pinches. We all need some of those recipes in our repertoire! For this post, I added some approximate amounts for you to go by if you wish.

If you want a recipe that's more formal, Google fried beans with cashews and some recipes will come up. However, if you don't need things to be perfect you can use the lists below as a reference. Keep in mind that if you follow this one, it's more of a large side dish for two.

If you want to have it as the main course (I've done it) I would double the portions of cooking for two.

Ingredients

  • Two big handfuls of beans. If you have large hands - a little less. Be reasonable.
  • Enough olive oil to lightly coat the beans
  • A little bit of butter, maybe a teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt - I just crank my salt grinder 5 times
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper - 15 cranks
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder**
  • Your palm-full of cashews per handful of beans***

Notes:

  • In place of garlic powder, you can use fresh cloves - try two*
  • In place of onion powder, I used to include a bit of red onion, but not everyone accepts them**
  • If you are out of cashews, try pepitas instead. I've done this. It's good.***

Directions

  • In the size of frying pan you need, warm the oil and melt the butter of medium heat
  • Put the beans in and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder* (thaw first if frozen)
  • Stir occasionally until they are starting to look cooked and add the cashews
  • Fry until they start to brown
  • Serve warm

Notes:

  • If using fresh garlic, cook for a minute in the oil before adding the beans
  • If using fresh onions add them with the cashews so they stay a bit crunchy

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This side pairs well with oven-roasted or baked potatoes as well as steak, pork chops, chicken, or sausage.


Day Planner: the Backlog

Some might refer to it as a "mind dump" and others a "backlog," myself included. Simply put, it's kind of like a master list of everything you know needs to be done - but don't let that idea scare you away!

Creating a Backlog

As overwhelming as it sounds, it can be helpful to write down every to-do in one place. Remember, it's somewhat like taking an inventory so that you can make a plan to get things done - and that plan isn't to get it all done at once.

Often when I've created a backlog there have been a few items that I can immediately cross off the list. These are things that I thought I would want to do or thought I should do, but really I've put them off. When I think about it honestly, I know they're not going to happen.

Sometimes we have to assess whether that suggested book, complex recipe, or even an invite to an event just isn't our thing, and that's okay!

Purpose of a backlog

Think of the backlog as a base list for all other to-do lists. It can be tempting to want to be productive and go through your backlog directly. Personally, I keep my backlog close by for when I'm planning my day, and my week. It's easily accessible when I need it so that I can move items over.

I treat my weekly notes section as a weekly backlog sometimes when I have a task that I'm not sure where to place, but I'd like to get it done that week. Daily, I pick around 5 - 7 tasks a day and work away at them. Those are what I focus on and I start with the higher priority items. Check one off, move to the next.

With all that said, continually adding to your to-do list is much like moving the goal post. By doing this we won't feel we got much done; possibly the opposite, that we have so much to do still.

The details

The details are really all about preference. Backlogs can be on paper or electronic. They can be ongoing, weekly, monthly, or even used on an as-needed basis when getting started with day planning, or getting caught up when tasks have piled.

The list doesn't need to be beautiful or categorized, but can be. It can also be specific to a project or contain everything that comes to mind. As I often mention with day planners and getting organized - you can be as creative, or not, as you want to be - as long as it helps you simplify and create less stress.

Happy planning!

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If you want to learn more about how to inventory your to-dos, I wrote a post about it here.


Monthly Planner : Budgeting Inspiration

What's the cost of a cup of coffee? You might be thinking around two dollars. So every morning on your way to work or school you grab a cup of coffee because "what's two dollars?"

Five days a week for four weeks is $40, and that's if that cup of coffee is in fact only two dollars and you only buy one.

The point of me sharing this article is not to shame anyone for buying a morning (or second) cup of coffee. It's to help you think about spending with intention. Maybe you want to include $40 a month in your budget for coffee because it's important to you, maybe you had no idea you were spending that much and want to start bringing a travel mug most days.

Whatever works for you. I just know how helpful it is for me personally to include a budget in my monthly planner so I thought I would share some ideas for inspiration. 

Why include a budget in your monthly planner?

Have you ever asked yourself, "where does all my money keep going?"

This might help with that.

By no means am I an expert in budgeting or finance. My math skills are average at best, my accounting skills basic, and the system I put together in order to track my finances is nothing more than simple addition and subtraction. 

The reason these pages work for me is that they create structure beyond glancing at statements and balances. They give a bit of perspective having everything all in one place. Tracking spending can also be a bit of an eye-opener. 

Below are the pages used in my monthly planner for your use as inspiration for you to create your own. You can also download them in my monthly planner package on Etsy you don't feel like making your own.

1. Monthly bills checklist


Note: the numbers in this post are made up for the example.

I believe a bill checklist is an important tool for anyone to have. A week before the beginning of a new month I gather my bills (mostly emails) and fill mine out. If it's different each month and I don’t have the amount yet I use the average amount and adjust later. I then total the amount of all bills due that month and move the number over to my budget sheet.

Another note: this might seem obvious, but it’s helpful to use this list to put due dates in your day planner.

2. Monthly budget 

On my monthly budget sheet, I include how much income I expect to come in as well as how much I expect to pay toward common categories like bills, groceries, entertainment, gas etc.. Sometimes it’s helpful to think ahead here. Do you have any events to attend, gifts to buy, or maintenance to schedule this month? Write down what it is, and how much it will (or you think it will) cost. Once you have all items in there, total all the amounts and that will be your budget for the month.

3. Budget tracker

A budget tracker is exactly as it sounds. I like to keep mine simple. It includes a column for date, description, and amount. I write down any purchases made that month. At the end of the month, I total the amount to see how much I’ve spent that month altogether. I also categorize my expenses (using the categories in my budget) to see how much I spent in each area.

Using highlighters is helpful for distinguishing the categories when adding the numbers. A sheet like the one below is helpful too:

Conclusion

At the end of the month, I compare my budget to my actual spending. I look to see how I did overall as well as in each category. While your numbers might be way off the first month you try, I found by tracking how much I was spending each month, I was able to set a baseline. This helped me set better and more realistic budgets for myself later. Personally, I find tracking helpful in itself as you’re holding yourself accountable. Since everyone is different, it’s a matter of finding what you’re comfortable with.

If you'd like to check out my printable finances package on Etsy - here's the link.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like my post on weekly menu planning, which can also help with your budget!

 


How to: Make Your Own Bath Bombs

A while ago I posted some homemade bath bombs to social media. Since then I’ve had a few requests for a tutorial on how I made them so I thought I would put something together using my favourite example, Rose Oatmeal. This is a great one for beginners!

Much like other DIY projects, the end result is that you’ll have bath bombs that are much less expensive than purchasing the finished product- and of course, the sense of accomplishment that comes with making something with your own hands. This recipe doesn’t make too many bath bombs, however, I personally prefer making mine in smaller batches. It's a safer bet, they won't sit around as long if you don't use them right away, and working in smaller batches allows you to make a few different scents if you’re making many to give away as gifts. Also if you're experimenting or new to learning, it’s less wasteful if things don’t go exactly as planned (happens).

I’ll jump right in, beginning with what you need, and go through the steps one at a time!

1. Gather all your tools and ingredients

You are going to need:

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup food grade citric acid
  • 1/4 cup epsom salt (I’ve also used sea salt as a substitute)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Oatmeal flakes (optional)
  • Rose pedals (optional)

Tools

  • Bath bomb molds*
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Whisk

* I’ve read that a meat baller works in place of bath bomb molds, but haven’t tried it myself

2. Mix together dry ingredients

Using the whisk, mix salt, baking soda, and citric acid in the medium sized bowl.

3. Melt and add coconut oil

You can melt your coconut oil (carefully) by placing it in a small bowl and setting it on top of a cup of hot water, stirring it until melted.

Once melted, add it to the dry mixture and stir until it starts to look like wet sand - or snow just because I’m Canadian.

4. Add essential oils

I added 30 drops of essential oils here. For this batch, I used tea tree oil, but there are no rules of course! Pick your favourite, or a combo of favourites, and add them in. You can also go without if you prefer scentless.

Once you have your oils in there, mix your creation some more until it’s well blended.

5. Decorate (optional)

Use a hand blender to grind up a handful of oatmeal flakes and rose pedals. Then put them in one half of your mould. Avoid creating a pile because the mixture needs something to stick to.  A small layer at the bottom will do.

6. Put them in the mould

Pack the moulds as tightly as possible and squish them together. Wait 3 minutes before removing. Don’t worry, you don’t need to stand there and hold them the whole time. I wrap mine with rubber bands so that I can walk away and do something else.

7. Unmould

Carefully take your new bath bombs from the moulds and place them on a soft towel to dry. Keep them out of reach of children, pets, and curious spouses. Let them dry for 24 hours so that they have plenty of time to become solid. 

Note: after one hour, my boyfriend casually grabbed one on his way through the kitchen because he wanted to see how they turned out. My thinking is he may have given it a slight squeeze because he exclaimed something across the house about how solid they were. It lived and I laughed, but be sure to communicate with others not to touch :) 

Once solid, they're done!

Enjoy!