Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frame of Mind

In between my crazy packing blitz, I've been brainstorming for a number of projects I've been asked for input on. One project invovles some empty frames and an office - what can be done without adding more of the same-old photos or prints to the wall? These are some of the ideas I've had and of course, between Google & Pinterest, I've seen once again that there truly is no such thing as a new idea!

From Bella Home Fashions

Skeleton keys are really big in home decor right now. These framed rustic keys on burlap from Bella Home Fashions are delightful in their simplicity, which makes a knock-off easy to reproduce if you can find some keys you love.

From Royal Bebe Shoppe

I've seen some similar ideas with keys grouped and framed, or instead of being mounted on burlap, being mounted on textured wall paper scraps. I've also seen other curios (bats for halloween, interesting knobs, etc) displayed similarly. These make a charming home-decor piece that I might just have to try for myself!

Other ideas using burlap include stamped or stencilled art - think fleur de lis, crowns, damask, monograms, or whatever works for your decor scheme. You can buy stencils or create your own. To frame the art, I would get a piece of project board from Home Depot cut to fit your frame, stamp or stencil your burlap, stretch tightly around the board and staple to the back. Easy, peasy.

From Homemakin & Decoratin Blog

If you're into the whole monogram thing, you can spruce up an inexpensive frame using wallpaper scraps, scrapbook paper (depending on the size of your frame), or even fabric as your background and add a bold monogram (wooden, vinyl, or whatever other type of material you can find that suits your purpose).

If you want to make a simple, bold statement, skip the patterned background and just use a monogram on a solid backing and mat it for a contrast, if you'd like. If you're not into monograms, you can frame a selection of coordinating fabrics or wallpaper to suit your scheme.

Butterfly Wall Art, Cozy.Cottage.Cute

Another fun idea is a collage - fabric or paper - providing a whimsical piece of art. I love this butterfly one (above) seen on Cozy.Cottage.Cute. This can be done as butterflies, hearts, flowers, whatever tickles your fancy, using scrapbook paper, glue dots and a paper punch. I also love this fabric collage (below) that I saw on Pinterest one day - no tutorial but it's a great idea.

Fabric Collage - Pinterest

If that's too much work, you can frame antique or everyday maps - make it extra-special by showcasing locations important to your family - where you met, where you married, where you live, where you've travelled, honeymooned, etc., like in this idea from Minimoz (below).   If hearts aren't your thing, just mat and frame as a regular print.
Map Love from Minimoz

(I apologize for the poor formatting - for some reason, I just can't seem to get my margins, spaces & photos to align the way I want!)

The Post-Christmas Box-Up

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas celebrating an occasion of joy, hope & love!   We scaled waaaaay back this year and we spent the day quietly, enjoying family time and no stress with the monkeys! (Santa is bringing me keys to our new place in a week, along with a shopping spree for appliances.  No pretty bows - but hey, I'm a grown up, I'll deal!)   For family, I tried to give heartfelt and handmade and stick to a budget for our guys!  I'll go more into detail once the dust has settled, been wiped away and the furniture has found a new resting place.

Boxing Day took on a whole new meaning for us this year.  The trees (yes, trees... the boys decorated our litttle porch trees - one on either side of the fireplace) came down, pictures came off the wall and boxes started travelling up the basement stairs.   There is no doubt in my mind that anyone coming to our front door will wonder if we're still moving.   Even though I feel like I seriously decluttered prior to listing the house, I have an inkling that we will be purging even more when the boxes are unpacked again. 

The countdown is on - 7 days to go til we get the keys!   2 1/2 weeks until we lock the door on this place.  Ah, 2012 is going to be filled with so many changes - all positive, I'm sure!   I'm dreaming and scheming and can't wait to pursue some great ideas and start this new journey in our lives.  We are so blessed to be able to make this move and I'm excited about how the move alone will effect so many areas of our life in a big, beautiful way! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stocking Stuffers: The {Crazy} Monkeys

Here are some of my favourite, regularly go-to small gifts for imaginative, crazy, energetic boys.  Easy to tuck into stockings (or use as bribery, should the need arise), they don't cost a fortune and they're always a hit!  Side note, the monkeys in our household are 4 & 6 - the recommended ages don't always coincide, but hey, whatever works.

1) Lego Surprise Minifigures, $3.49;

Every year, Lego releases another series of these minifigures.  We love them!   The kids are never sure what's inside until they open it, but they know it will have a character and accessories.  Also, as it's not part of any "themed" Lego set, it easily adds to their collection.   You can find them everywhere - toy stores, Chapters, department stores and I even snagged a couple at Shoppers Drug Mart.

2) Crayola Color-Filz Activity Kit, $6.48

Whether you choose a brandname kit (like Crayola) or hit your local craft, department or dollar store, activity kits are a great little item to tuck inside the stocking for some quiet or easy-to-bring activities.   Crayola offers colouring kits, craft kits, and more, while the dollar store has a variety of craft supplies and ready-to-go kits at a budget price.  If you are gonna take a peek at Michael's, don't forget to take a coupon for significant savings - available to print on the Michael's website or to clip from the weekly flyer.

3) Arm & Hammer Kid's Character Spinbrush

There are a few "traditional" stocking stuffers the boys get every year... and that they surprisingly enjoy.   For some reason, these toothbrushes are a hit.  Yes, they cost a little more than a typical toothbrush - but they love the spin, and the fact that they feature their favourite characters.  Most of the major oral care companies have a competitive selection - readily available in local department and drug stores.   I figure with all the extra "junk" they're eating over the holidays, a toothbrush they're excited about is a good thing!

4)  Socks, Underwear, Hats, Mitts, & Graphic Tees

This is another one of those strange but just go with it ideas.  My boys actually love getting new socks, new boxers, and new graphic tees.  They also get excited about hats, mittens & the like.    The cooler the design, the better - no boring tighty-whities here!   We really like the selection available at Old Navy, GAP and even American Eagle Kids (online) - but we've found some decent (and less expensive) options at Walmart, Zellers & Joe as well.  Maybe not a go for all families, but it works for us!

5) Hexbug Nanos, $9.95

These little robotic bugs are fun!  Kaleb got one for his birthday in October and he keeps it in his coat pocket so he can play with it anytime he's bored.   All the nanos I've seen retail for less than $10 - and you can find them at Walmart, ToysRUs, Chapters and even Shoppers Drug Mart.  From what I can tell, they're pretty popular!

So those are some of my suggestions if you need some help looking for any monkeys in your life.  It's by no means an exhaustive list!  If I still need some inexpensive options, I usually check out the dollar store - perfect for colouring or activity books, puzzle erasers, slime and grow-your-own toys, playdough, jigsaw puzzles, etc. - the stuff that doesn't fall apart with the first use.  Another hint when it comes to the monkeys is to start looking for next years stuffers in January (post-boxing day clearance).   I've found some inexpensive brand name small toys, silly bands, etc. for next to nothing by looking well in advance!   Books, cheap DVDs, second hand video games and the like also make for inexpensive but appreciated stuffers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stocking Stuffers: The Book Worm

There are only 5 days left until Christmas, 4 shopping days, and a whole lotta last minute shopping procrastinators!   I would like to say that I'm done, but unfortunately, I have to exchange one item, pick up something for my grandparents who have no room for anything else (suggestions?!) and a quick trip to the dollar store for tool boxes, screws and nails for the monkeys who have requested their very own tools for Christmas after participating in a Home Depot kids' workshop. 

I don't want to shop - I'd rather stay home and read.  I am a self-professed word-nerd bookworm. I love nothing better than a yummy drink, great book, comfy blanket, some quite time and a little chance to escape the chaos of modern-day existance.   It's a cheap form of entertainment and I don't have to look pretty to enjoy it.    Everyone knows a bookworm, an occasional reader,  or perhaps someone who should just give a book a try to exercise their brain a little!   Here are some suggestions for the bookworm's stocking, also perfect as a small gift for a friend this holiday season:

1) The Book of (Holiday) Awesome by Neil Pascha, $12.62 .

Available at Chapters and most other bookstores.  I think I may have seen in at some department stores and Shoppers Drug Mart as well

2) A Charming Bookmark

I first saw this idea on Pinterest and loved it!   It's one of my 2012 projects that must get done!   Full instructions on the link - they just need ribbon, ribbon clamps, charms, and jump rings - for a few dollars each and a quick trip to the craft store (or use items on hand), you've got a pretty, thoughtful gift.  If you're not the crafty sort, you can find charming and unique bookmarks at bookstores, gift boutiques, and Etsy!

3) Starbucks Hot Cocoa Trio, $6.97

This trio includes 9 sachets of your favourite Starbucks cocoas - double chocolate, salted caramel, and peppermint.  Any good bookworm knows the reading is always better with a hot drink in hand!

4) Personalized Bookplates

Ensure a treasured book always finds it's way home while ? a time-honored library tradition.  Martha Stewart offers a suggestion on DIY stamped bookplates, but you can also check Etsy, print shops (like Staples or even Vistaprint), or print your own if you have the inclination.   I designed a set of these for myself and had them printed through Kemik Labels (that's my hubby's family business.)  They make a unique but thoughtful gift!

5) Chapters Indigo Gift Card

I know many people feel gift cards are thoughtless... but I disagree!  Most times, when I receive a gift card  (for a store I love!), I get excited - because I can shop and splurge on those *wants* without worrying about what I *need*.    The Chapters Indigo gift card is a great idea because you choose the denomination and the recipient can use instore (Indigo, Chapters or Coles or online - at Chapters (books & merchandise) or even better, on the Kobo website for digital reading - yay ebooks!  Did you also know, if you're really crunched for time, you can also buy eBooks or store credit on the Kobo website and *gift* them to someone via email? ? 

I still have at least 2 more stocking stuffer suggestion guides to go - kitchen and kid related - and we'll see what else we come up with before time runs out.   In the meantime, get that shopping done, wrap those gifts, and take some time to relax and reflect - it's not the gifts that matter!  It's the thought, the love, the memories that go into each and every bow that's untied.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Egg Free Double Chocolate Cookies

My monkeys have been asking me to bake cookies for days, but I haven't had any eggs in the fridge.  A simple solution would have been to run to Shoppers or hit a grocery store any number of times I've been out since the weekend, but in between tying up the last of the orders before Christmas, packing, and trying to keep my house clean, little details (like remembering I need eggs) seem to keep slipping my mind.

Today, Kaleb is home *sick* again.  This is the third time in the last week and a half.  He just can't shake his cough and has a fever when he wakes up in the morning.  On top of that, none of us are getting much sleep (and by us, I mean me.)  He just coughs, and coughs, and coughs... and even though it's just a typical run-of-the-mill cold, my mommy heart breaks because beyond giving him regular doses of medicine, there's not much I can do for that annoying, scratchy cough.    So he's home because he's tired and well, that cough is probably driving his teacher crazy! 

Today, I also have Justin home.  And a ton of stuff to do.  But I'm taking a break and decided that to save my sanity, I need to give one kid some peace and the younger one something to do before he drives us up the wall.  He's such a pest - a cute pest - but a pest nonetheless.   So we broke out Google and looked up "egg free double chocolate cookie recipe."  After some hit & miss search results (and a few I'd like to try if I had the other ingredients needed, like cream cheese for these babies), I found an egg-free chocolate chip cookie recipe that I thought might work after tweaking.   One monkey wanted chocolate, the other wanted chocolate chips - put them together for some of the best double-chocolate cookies, sans oeuf, I've ever baked or tasted (not too hard considering it's the first time for either!)  While Kaleb watched a movie, Justin and I washed our hands, pulled out the mixer and started baking!

Egg Free Double Chocolate Cookies
1/2 c butter
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp milk
1 c chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Add flour, cocoa powder & baking soda. Your mix will probably be dry at this point. (If you're using a stand mixer like I did, you could cream your butter & sugars, and then just dump in the rest than mix.... up to you!) Add vanilla, oil and milk. Cream together until it reaches a sticky cookie dough consistancy. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon onto baking sheet (my tip is to use a baking stone lined with parchment paper). Bake in preheated 350F oven for 8 - 10 mins. Let sit on baking sheet 5 mins than transfer to cooling racks.
These cookies are delicious! My first batch to bake didn't flatten at all so I flattened the 2nd batch with the back of a spoon before baking. Entirely up to you.

We sampled while still warm (and therefore they had a wee tendency to fall apart) but they were delicious!  Once cool, I transferred them to a plate and they hold together just fine  My monkeys were happy and I now have a go-to recipe when I run out of eggs but want some chocolately goodness -yum!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stocking Stuffers: For The World Changer

My kids are spoiled.  Even this year, though in general we have all cut back due to budgetary restrictions, they were spoiled.  We have had 2 family Christmases already and with a house that needs packing, I'm shocked  at the amount of "stuff" they have and I remind them that they are blessed and fortunate to have so many toys, food on the table, comfy beds to sleep in, and their healthy growing bodies. 

In an effort to remind them to see beyond their own little worlds, we try to use various community and charitable programs over the holidays that they can participate in.  We donate food to food drives, drop our dimes in the Salvation Army kettles, pick out toys for police-sponsored toy drives for local shelters, and load up shoe boxes to send overseas - all in a hopefully successful attempt to get the monkeys to think beyond themselves.   There are so many opportunities to give beyond our families, our friends, beyond the material and just-for-the-sake-of gifts.   This collection of stocking stuffers and small gifts are perfect for twice-the-giving - for the recipient who has more than enough they're a token, and also for the programs and individuals they support, the resources are invaluable.  We can all change the world a little at a time.

1)  Suetables Ornaments, Hospital for Sick Children, $25:  These 3" silverplate ornaments are tucked into a SickKids branded gift box.  20% of the sales goes to the Hospital for Sick Children.  Not only will they look pretty on a tree, they'll help raise money in honour of a boy who survived cancer through Sick Kids.

2) Samaritan's Purse - Gift Catalogue,  Samaritan's Purse has many options available for impactful gift-giving.  I personally prefer their physical catalogue - it tells you how much it costs to do so much for one school, one family, etc.    If you call their toll-free number to donate, they'll also send you a gift enclosure card that you can personalize to say what you've donated on your recipient's behalf.    (Online, you can opt for an email) Whether you support their food programs, women's programs, health and education program, or emergency relief program, you know your money is going to a good cause.    For example, for only $15, you can provide a week’s supply of life-saving food.   (Personally, in the past, we've opted for the "Small Animals" option - supplying small animals -chickens, rabbits, etc - for families to raise for food.)  You can also "Pack A Shoebox" online.

3) WWF Wildlife Adoptions, Save A Polar Bear, $40.  With a wildlife adoption, you get a whole adoption kit - personalized certificate, plush toy and collector card, gift bag and of course all the details on the program.  I think these would make great stocking stuffers for kids while helping them learn about our environment and the animals around us.

4) Toronto Fire Fighters Calendar, Princess Margaret Hospital, $26 - This one the ladies will like.  Featuring real Toronto fire fighters, every purchase and donation made to The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation through this calendar will benefit the Fire Fighters' Cancer Research Fund.  Eye candy and a good cause - who can complain?

5) Kernels Gift Card, Make-A-Wish Foundation;  Until the end of December, Kernels Popcorn will make a donation to the Make-A-Wish foundation with the purchase of any gift card (plastic or virtual).  What a sweet (or savoury) deal!  While you're picking up one for your friend, you can pick up one for yourself - they don't expire and until the 31st, they help bring a child's wish come true!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stocking Stuffers: The Typical Man

I find choosing the perfect stocking stuffers for the guys on my list to be a big pain in the butt (which is not the word I would usually choose but I don't want to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities.)  Most of the guys on my stocking stuffing list are pretty average.  Oh, don't get me wrong, they're extraordinary men, but realistically, they're as excited about the contents of their stockings as they would be about oh, say, doing a load of laundry.  Yeah, no big excitement factor there, which makes picking a non-typical gift more than difficult.   So what can you toss in the sock that says "you might be typical... but I think you're great?"  (For demonstration purposes, we'll pretend that they *deserve* more than a lump of coal...) 

Here is a collection of stocking stuffers and small gifts for The Typical Man - someone who has a little bit of everything, has well rounded interests, and would enjoy a nice cold brew rather than a copy of "It's A Wonderful Life."

1) The Hockey News Yearbook, $9.99;  These annual yearbooks are available with a variety of teams featured on the cover, but if I were choosing for any of the guys on my list, I'd stick to the Toronto & Ottawa cover.

2) Dumb & Dumber DVD, $12.99 -  I know it's probably a part of many DVD libraries, but hey, it's a classic.  And I've never met a man (or woman) who does not bust a gut watching the charming hijinks of Harry & Lloyd.

3) Ontario Craft Brewers Holiday Discovery Pack, $11.95;  From the LCBO "Six of Ontario's finest beers, hand-crafted, locally brewed and perfect for holiday giving."  I concur.

4) Ted Reader's World Famous BBQ Sauce - Beerlicious BBQ, Canadian Tire, $4.49 - for the man who rules his 'cue.

5) Reloadable Holiday QuickPay Card, Tim Horton's - Available in your choice of currency, my man says this is the best stocking stuffer he can get.  Who doesn't like Tim's?  It's a Canadian tradition!
Other ideas for the extraordinary but Typical Man on your list include the standard new socks & underwear (goodbye holey laundry!), pop culture tees, multi-tools, fishing lures, iPod accessories, video games, or lotto gift packs.   And because the typical man is typically a little like Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to the entire season, feel free to mumble "Bah-Humbug" while trying to make his stocking special.

Stocking Stuffers: The Fun & Flirty Girl


We all know her and wish we could be just a little more like her.  She can charm the world with her smile, she's always pulled together and she's not afraid to accessorize.  She's girly, she's charismatic, and her laughter is infectious.  She's always ready for a good time and you can't help but find her bubbly existance inspiring.   This collection of budget-friendly stocking stuffers or small gifts that sparkle & shine at less than $15 each were chosen with the Fun & Flirty Girl in mind.

1)  Essie Nail Polish: Turquoise & Caicos is called "a flirty and pretty tropical aqua."  $8, MSRP.  DBP, Toluene and Formaldehyde free (available at Shoppers Drug Mart).  

2) Curved Filigree Stretch Bracelet, Rickis, $14.99;  The best part about Ricki's jewellery is that it's always buy one, get one half off - so you can pick up something pretty for a friend and add some sparkle to your own wardrobe at the same time!curved filigree stretch bracelet
3) Grosgain Belt, Jacob, $11.40;  This wide black ribbon is embellished with black rhinestones - pretty!
4)  Ballet Pumps, H&M, $14.99;  These are perfect cold weather flats cute for pairing with leggings, skinny jeans, or as quick change party shoe.  They're imitation suede with pile on the inside for keeping your tootsies warm!
5) Wehausen Infinity Scarf, Spring Shoes, $14.99;  Available in rust, taupe & midnight black. 
Need more ideas for the Flirty Girl on your list?  You could try La Senza's Ooh La La Lace Microfibre Hipster, ($7.50 or 5/$35;)  With a floral motif, lace trim and sassy low rise fit, it's sexy, sweet & perfectly cheeky!   Or why not pick up a sassy new clutch or cocktail ring (try any women's retailer or shoe store in the mall), an embellished tank, a pair of tights or leggings, darling lip gloss (The Body Shop, Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart), or some flirty new hair accessories (think feathers or sparkles.)?  Don't get too serious while picking out the 'perfect' stocking stuffers for your flirty friends - it's all about having fun!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Super Savings & Stocking Stuffers: The Crafty Mama

Today I went to Shoppers Drug Mart... twice!  I racked up enough Optimum points to take advantage of their "biggest redemption event of the year" at two different reward levels.  I got some groceries, some stocking stuffers, and some me-gifts because a girl deserves to be pampered.   My first bill came to $287 and change including taxes and I paid a little over $37.  Wow!   Our second time through, our bill came to $66 and change but we paid only $6.58... so we got more than $318 worth of stuff (more actually, as a lot of what we chose was on sale)... for about $44 out of pocket.   What a deal!!!!   (Now, I would just like to point out that I realise it takes alot of spending to earn the top tier reward level multiple times throughout the year... I'm not a compulsive SDM customer, I just take advantage of the 20x reward days and buy all my diabetic supplies - instant crazy points!)

Next... after wandering aisles of a drugstore for far too long searching for the almost perfect stocking stuffers... I thought I could share some of my ideas for finding budget-friendly gifts for the different "types" on your list.   Today, here are some of my stocking or small gift suggestions for the "Crafty Mama", all $10 or under.

1) Filigree Designer Brads by Stampin' Up, $8.83

2) Kaisercraft Beyond The Page "JOY", $6.99

3) My Mind's Eye "Lost & Found" Christmas Trim, $4.99

4) "Hello Luscious" Assorted Buttons, Basic Grey, $3.50

5) Inkadinkado "Folk Collection" Merry and Bright Christmas Stamp, $7.99

Now, this is list is by no means all-inclusive.  The craft mama also has an endless appreciation for brads & embellishments, stickers & beads, ribbon & twine, pretty papers, inks & acrylics, paint brushes, adhesives, raw materials, and idea books to get her inspiration flowing!   (And if you really love the crafty mama, you'll remember to include some easy-peasy craft kits for the little ones to work on so she can have some good quality creative time!)  For a great selection on appropriate crafty mama stocking stuffers, check out the craft aisle at Walmart, hit your nearest Michaels (and don't forget your 40% off coupon!), pop by a local scrapbook or beading boutique, and investigate the dollar store for some great budget-friendly finds. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Day, Another Dollar

Yesterday, we had a (rare) opportunity to enjoy a non-fast-food, kid-free-meal at the Keg.  Delicious!  It was an enjoyable evening celebrating my not-so-little sister's birthday with family and friends.   Conversation did not consist of arguments about which superhero is faster or who's toy is whose... but involved topics about government, health care, hobbies and *gasp* budgets. 

With the change in career path I've taken (from a small but regular income to a sporadic income helping to cover my craft addiction) and the purchase of our new home, budget (which hasn't ever had a lot of stretch) is now rubber-band-about-to-snap tight.  I do well with my grocery budget and always feel guilty for those occasional meals I just don't want to cook.  However, I'm feeling a lot less guilty about those sometimes escapes from the kitchen - particularly after our bill (and babysitting costs) last night.

My sister-in-law put things in perspective when she looked at their bill and mentioned the home improvements they could fund but get put off because "we just don't have the extra money right now."   I looked at our bill and realised it was almost half the cost of my 2 week grocery shop - yikes!!!   I'm not complaining - we definitely enjoyed our evening out and how can you go wrong with filet mignon and adult company?  But... I did have to wonder how other people (random strangers - uh, or maybe even Kevin & I while we worked full-time and didn't have kids) can justify regular entertainment or dining out multiple times a week?  It's funny how budget priorities change - and I'm feeling a little better about our $12 fajita dinner for 4 tonight - or the occasional take-out subs.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Forgotten But Not Forsaken

I realise it's been a little more than 2 months since my last post.  Most already know that life has just been super, crazy busy here and we're just rolling with the changes.     I'm no longer doing daycare and it was a fabulous decision because it means I've managed to squeeze in extra hours crafting and developing a little hobby business called "Wisdom & Whimsy".   For now, I've got a Facebook page showcasing cards, gifts & home decor items I've crafted with some power-tool help from Kevin.   Lots of custom orders rolling in... aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I've been using the chop saw all by myself.  Scary, I know, but so far I've managed to keep all 10 fingers!

Also in recent changes, our house was on the market, and we put an offer in on a cabin-y cozy bungalow on 2 acres about 30 minutes north of where we are now.  The last day of our offer on the new place, we tied up all the loose strings on the sale of our house and all is good - in the first week of January, we take possession of the new house and the 2nd week of January, we turn in the keys on this place.  Ch-ch-changes!

The boys will be in a more rural school, busing to and from.  Justin is excited because he'll be in school 5 days a week (just like Kaleb!).   Kaleb is more of a thinker and he chews on all the little what-ifs - he says he's excited though and can't wait for a tire swing and a tree fort.... me?  I'm just happy the neighbours won't be able to hear our incredibly loud existance.

That's been life here in a nutshell.  I may have forgotten to post regularly, but I definitely wasn't ready to give this up.   Hopefully now that life has somewhat resettled - as resettled as can be with less than 2 months to pack and move - I'll get back into the swing of regular blog posts!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer's End & A Need For Change

I'm finding after a very busy summer and seven years in the same home that I'm craving change!   The small changes come with the stealthy approach of autumn weather, the start of a new school year (with both boys in school at least part of the time!) and little projects around the house.

It's not feeding the need, though - I want bigger, better changes, not just normal routine-of-life-blink-and-you-miss-it change.  I want to move.  Very badly.  Soooooo... we're on the property hunt!  And after walking through one house after another, we've come to the realisation that small budget means it's hard to find everything on our checklist - nevermind the wishlist!   So we keep looking.  No rush.  At least we're headed in that direction.

Anticipating a move also means my daycare days are coming to an end.   I can't say I'll miss it (although I'll miss the somewhat reliable income!)   My families have all been made aware that we're getting antsy and that they'll have to make alternate arrangements.   Move or not, I think it's time to reclaim our space and my boys would enjoy having a mom who's not being pulled in 7 different directions - and honestly, mom would enjoy having energy and patience for the monkeys alone.  The way things are now,  they're both wearing thin.   So we have to come up with another plan to keep me home before and after school while still earning grocery money.   Labels, anyone?

To help simplify life, we've been trying to declutter (oh my gosh, where does all this *stuff* come from?  Seriously?  Does it breed?)  That is a task of monumental proportions.  I have donated bags & boxes to the CDA Clothesline program, we've tagged extra bags for trash, and I've been listing on Kijiji and Freecycle - and yet, there still seems to be no end in sight!  Clutter, clutter, everywhere....

I'm also simplifying our mealtime routine and catering to my boys a little more.   This means my crockpot has been put to good use recently.  For some reason, they love meat done in the crockpot - maybe because it's so tender?   Crockpot meals aren't my favourite, but we pick our battles!   Here is our mealplan with this week - we're aiming for quick and easy to cut down on the chaos with back-to-school.

* Crockpot Stroganoff
* Dinner at the in-laws
* Crockpt meatballs, corn on the cob, noodles  -  we tried the frozen PC BlueMenu Italian Chicken Meatballs last night (because I'm lazy like that!), and they were a surprising success.
* Tonight, pork stirfry on rice
* Crockpot orange beef (I found a recipe on the Disney site) served with more noodles
* Grilled chicken, potatoes, salad
* Some type of tex-mex pasta
* Turkey Shepherds Pie

Last night, I tried to clean up my front perennial bed.  I say tried because I may have gotten a little happy with my pruning shears!   Now I want mums - I love mums!- and some glittery pumpkins and such to put on display.   I love fall and hope this lull in tropical temperatures means it's here to stay!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Is... A Knockoff

My Mom turned 50 last week (gasp!) - which, on a side note, means I'm no longer in my 20s (*sigh*).  I had no idea what to get her that was a little more special than a GC to the mall - 50's an important milestone!  What to do, what to do....

Lightbulb moment - let's check Pinterest!  I remember that my mom pinned a picture of these wooden block decor things that said "Family Is Everything", originally featured on   So I stole borrowed the idea, and because I'm a last minute kinda girl, printed off a picture, tucked into an envelope and presented it with flowers and made it an IOU.

This weekend, I was in the mood for crafting - worked on some baby monograms for my sister-in-law, who is presenting them as a gift - sorry no pictures this time (yet)!  I also got Kevin to "help" me with some sawing? cutting?  What's the proper term?  As well as drilling... yah, he doesn't let me near the power tools!  We created this work of art:

The original blog where we found our idea doesn't offer a tutorial but sold them as a kit... so here is how we did it:

Supplies -
* (1) 2"x3"x4'  pine board (not pressure treated, you're going to want to look for hobby wood - pine was the cheapest but you might find some knots.)
* sanding block
* scrapbook paper
* acrylic paint
* paint brush
* carpenter's or craft glue
* mod-podge (or other adhesive)
* giant adjustable clamps
* sandpaper
* wooden dowels (1/4" x 1 1/4") - found a pack of them in Home Depot at the end of the hobby wood aisle.

Depending on the supplies you have on hand, this project should run you less than $10.  I can't give you a total timeframe because nothing is a sit-down-and-do-it-all-at-once project around here - we have lots of interruptions and distractions so we squeeze in steps between laundry loads, mealtimes and stories.

First, figure out what you're spelling... we did Family is forever.  Which means I needed 7 blocks of various heights and a platform for them to rest on.  Apparently, a 2x3 is actually more like 1.5x2.5 so keep the actual dimensions of your board in mind.  We Kev cut our board to 2 @ 6.5", 1 each at 10", 4.5", 4", 3.5", and 3".  The letter blocks are going to be centered on your base so figure out your centre line and drill holes for your dowels on the base and in the corresponding letter blocks.  Kevin did this part... so uh, you can do the math.   Your end letter blocks (F & Y in our case) will have 2 dowels  inserted on the side, not the bottom, one going into the base, one going into the neighbouring letter.  We drilled after painting and sanding, etc... not such a bright idea!

Now, sand like crazy getting rid of any rough edges on the cut sides and the drill holes.   I used a sanding block but I think next one I make (for me!) I'll use our little hand sander. 

Once it's all smooth and pretty, decide on your base paint colour and add as many coats as necessary to ensure everything is covered nicely.  I did 3 coats (and due to the drilling mistake, will probably now have to do some touch ups). 

Trim your patterned paper to fit your squares leaving a border of the painted block.  Mine were (2) 2"x6", 1 each 2"x2.5", 2"x3", 2"x3.5" 2"x4".  You don't need one for the base block.  Adhere to painted blocks as desired - I used mod podge and allowed to dry.

For the letters, I used my Cricut to cut the saying out of vinyl.  If you don't have vinyl you could use paper and just podge it to the scrapbook paper/wood.  If you don't have a die cutting machine, you could just cut them out by hand - print them using MS Word or something similar and grab the scissors! Or paint them on if you have a steady hand.  I think painted would like nice but I'm not that artistic.  They can be different fonts, heights, etc.  Just make sure they'll fit on the accompanying paper.  Seal everything with a coat of mod-podge or other sealant (acrylic spray, etc.)

Glue the dowels into place, and glue the blocks into place, clamping with each addition and allowing the glue to dry.  If your measurements were right, it should all fit together tightly.  My only hint is to adhere the smaller blocks to the base before attaching the end ones.  Once everything is dry, sit back and enjoy your masterpiece - but take a picture first and let me see how it looks!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Where I'm From

I'm getting older.  I'm thinking more about family, roots, and where we came from.  I'm remembering more and looking back at childhood - mostly fondly.  I've always found history engaging (in a let's read some intriguing and possibly romanticized historical fiction or listening to old family stories kind of way.)  I think family history is intriguing - but never sit long enough to ask the right questions or retain the memory of those conversation enough to recount the stories accurately.  I've always been a little introspective, a little retrospective so when I  found an example of this completed poem template while doing some random blogger exploration, it really struck a chord.    (Side note,  see the link at the top that says  "Next Blog >>>"?  Just click it to jump to a new random blog.) 

Where I'm From

I am from a swing hanging in my grandparents yard, from Kraft dinner and fresh jam made from plump strawberries we picked ourselves.

I am from the white farm house with too many rooms, the steep staircase, the big back yard, the greenhouses smelling of damp soil and sweet blooms. The home filled with laughter, tears, sibling spats and happy memories.

I am from the wheat fields, the corn fields, the green fields rich with black muck, the stagnant waters of the canal, the willow trees tempting as they sway in the breeze.

I am from loud Thanksgiving dinners with cousins, aunts, and uncles spilling from each room, from endless rounds of broken telephone, from stubborness and quick tempers, from kindness and unconditional love, from Hofstedes and Weenings and finally, Browns.

I am from prayers before meals, from devotions after dinner, and from the bargain hunters always looking for the next good deal.

From bedtime blessings, "May the Lord bless you and keep you", and from never believing in Santa but always pretending to hear his sleigh.

I am from a family who sees Christianity as a relationship, not a religion. Where faith is a lifestyle. Where your actions should reflect the light of your heart. Where Jesus Christ is redemption, not a swear word.

I'm from "The Marsh", "The Hill", The Netherlands, completely Canadian, entirely Dutch. From oliebollen, stamppot, zandkoekjes bakken, a quick hamburger or chicken and rice.

From the first time Opa gave Oma a kiss, skating on a frozen canal in Holland, from my parents' Friday night wedding in a church hall, my mom in her handmade dress, from the dangers of double-riding your bike without a helmet, cracking heads and lying unconscious waiting for a good samaritan.

I am from puzzles and photos in Oma's closet, from chalk and treasures in Pake's basement, from days spent roaming the woods, from rounds of Uno and Rummikub. I'm from strong, hard-working men and efficient housewives raising endless sons and daughters, from a family that has always been close but now lives apart, seen less often but never loved less. From a heritage rich in faith and fortitude, from welcoming hugs and lessons in patience, this is where I'm from and where I'm from is part of me.
~~  For the blog that inspired this post, visit here 
~~  For your own Where I'm From template and another completed example, visit here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


There's something special about the little black dress (lbd).  Every girl should have one in her closet that she can pull on and just know she looks good.   Not overly sexy.  Not a bit frumpy.  Just a dress that fits her perfect and makes her feel good.  (Some girls might even have more than one.)  It's versatile and perfect for so many occasions....

I have so many little black dresses.  They're wonderful.  Different cuts, different fabrics.  And everytime I pull one on, I feel like I've still got it.   Sure I'm curvier.  And, yes, I'm still short.   My hair hasn't miraculously grown longer or thicker or wavier.  But I feel good.  Throw on some strappy sandals, black pumps or a pair of red heels for a pop of colour.   I feel confident, flirty, feminine.  Some days I even try them on just because I see them hanging there!   Now if only I had more places to wear them - aside from the closet.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Anatomy of A(n Almost) Perfect Weekend

This weekend was one of those weekends that just called for enjoyment instead of productivity.  Here is a breakdown of our not-quite perfect weekend:

1) Make it a long one.   I had Friday off.  Kevin did not so we were all up and ready before 6:45 so we could make use of the car.   I took advantage of having Friday off to do some running around and starting some projects (or mis-starting some projects) and we went out for dinner & ice cream (not on the meal plan -gasp!) after picking up Kevin after work. 

2)  Make it fun!  Okay, so my definition of fun and the boys definition of fun greatly differs.  I was quite happy browsing Michaels and looking at paint in Home Depot.  The boys were not.  After dropping off Kevin, we had an early breakfast at McDonalds complete with playtime.  Then mommy did her running around and we stopped by the Farmers' Market (woohoo fresh Ontario produce!)  We all agree that the Farmers Market is fun but to make up for the errand-running we also stopped by a local splash pad...and then it rained.

3) Make it social.  Saturday we had birthday parties!  We were up early (for a Saturday).  The boys woke up at the crack of stupid (before 6:30 am) and didn't let us sleep much past 7:30.   We didn't rush out of the house but we had enough time to spare to take the backroads, stop for some fresh butter tarts & cookies at a local orchard/golf course, stop in for a visit with Oma and head up to Barrie to celebrate our nephews' (cousins') birthdays.    Fun times had by all!  

Present Time!

Expert Slip-n-Slider

Cousins Wrestling -
An Essential Part of Any Good Visit
After enjoying all the necessary birthday party essentials - cake, presents, water play - as well as enjoying all the cuddles with the princess we could get, we did another (yikes!) meal out with the boys.  Then back to Oma's and hop-skip-across the yard to visit with Pake, Beppe, and many of the extended family for Pake's 78th (?) birthday.

4)  Make it memorable.  After a busy day in the sun (& rain), take the backroads home.  Oh, but first, let's keep the doors to the car open and invite in many, many mosquitoes.  Then let's listen to the boys SOB for 30 minutes about said mosquitoes... and how they will poison them.  Such drama!  If I had a camcorder handy, I would share how delightfully (snort!) amusing that first stretch of the drive home was.   Hehehe... I would save such video if it existed for blackmail purposes when they are older.

5) Make a mistake.    We took advantage of the plan-free Sunday and drove... with no particular destination.  We just headed east.   Then we thought, "Hmmm....maybe we should actually stop somewhere.  Free.  That will be fun for the boys."   So I suggested we visit the Big Apple (where I have been before and thought was not-so-fun but I saw was tauted online as having lots of fun stuff to do - petting zoo, mini-golf, nature trail - none of which were actually in anyway as described.  Boo!)  After a few minutes at said Big Apple, Kaleb remarks, "I thought you said we were going somewhere fun!"  Smart-a$$!

6) Make a detour.  So after the bust of the Big Apple, we headed west again thinking we'd find a lakefront beach or park to stop along the way home.  We detoured first and stopped at a lilac farm & gift shop.  It had such promise, such potential... but it was not as wonderful as we thought it might be.  I found some yummy baby body wash though.  I love lavender.  Repeat above-mentioned smart-alec comments from Kaleb.

7)  Make it to the beach.   Finally, we made it to Victoria Beach in Cobourg.  The weather was perfectly sunny.  The beach was amazingly busy.  The boys had a blast and mommy's misrouting is forgiven.  Sun, sand, Lake Ontario, splash pads, playgrounds, pure summer fun!   Sleepy boys, early bedtime, and a lazy, rainy Monday.

I can pump now, Mommy
Look at me!
Oh, no!  It's "fast" sand.

It's cold.

Amazing daddy, awesome husband!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Once, when I was much, much younger (how long ago 15 seems!), my friends and I were walking home from somewhere and decided to take a shortcut... through a field, over a fence, around a reservoir (or maybe just a pond).  We made it through the field no problem but I got stuck on the fence...and ripped my favourite jeans.  By the time we walked around the water and made it to the street again, it probably would have been much faster to just use the sidewalk.

We also experience these snafus trying to navigate around traffic by taking unfamiliar backroads.  Different experience, same result.  You would think I would learn the lesson but sadly, no, I am forever trying to take shortcuts and then I'm left dealing with the frustration and annoyance of a plan gone awry.   The "proper" way is usually the best way.

I recently had this experience creating my "Family Rules" project (woohoo!  It's done!)

I failed to plan properly and it was one headache after another... and my end result is not nearly as pretty as I had hoped.  If you look closely, my frame is not square...hehe!  And even though spray paint (burnished copper) is my new best friend, we need to work on the fine points of our relationship.  What looked great wet in the sunlight didn't dry quite as nicely (and the little dust motes that landed in the wet paint didnt' help either!)   Ah, well.. project finished and I've made note of how to perfect my process in the future!

All this shortcut business can have it's upside, however!  Like when it saves Mommy time cooking dinner.  I try to look for 2-in-1 meals - prep once and have enough leftover to recreate.  Usually, I only have enough leftover for Kevin's lunch!   Sunday, though, we ate fabulous bruschetta chicken.  I had a package of boneless, skinless thights from Walmart ($5 for 8 thighs).  I brushed them with olive oil, diced some tomatoes, mixed them with a little olive oil, black pepper, basil and garlic and spooned over top of the chicken (I just typed kitchen instead of chicken! Wow - glad I caught that one).  I then sprinkled with some shredded mozzarella and baked - it's moist, it's yummy, it went down with minimum of complaints.  I served it with garlic bread, fresh veggies and a salad.  It was hot Sunday and we wanted something simple.

After dinner, I comandeered the leftovers and staked my claim on them (sorry, Kev!) It made for another quick, easy dinner last night.  I reheated and diced the chicken (with bruschetta topping).  I added it to some pesto-tossed rotini topped with grated parmesan (the real stuff - not the powder!) and easy-peasy dinner was served.  The boys loved it!!!  And I loved it because my shortcut actually resulted in less work for once!   What's your best household shortcut?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Busy Bees

So I'd just like to say that arranging photos in my blog is a big pain in the butt!  Seriously, they're not going where I want and the formatting options of this entire entry just sucks.  Insert sigh of frustration, groan of impatience and a little foot stomping *here*.   Now on to the post...

I thought with the arrival of summer, things would slow down just a wee little bit!  Apparently, that was just wishful think as it seems we've been going full throttle just having fun!   I've been doing really well sticking to our meal plan and avoiding the fall back of PizzaPizza or other fast food options (which we usually ended up doing once a week) and most of the new recipes we've tried have been HUGE hits.   I'll share them... but it will have to keep for another day.  

Today, I'm going to show off some of the projects I've finished lately. Most were done this weekend - Kev took on the task of keeping kids happy and entertained while I stole some alone time locked in the craft room. I have something in the works and need to try my hand at some stuff before I can run full-steam ahead.  Keep your eyes & ears open though - I'm excited for when I can share my news!

Mini Notecard Set
One of the projects I completed were the ribbon wreath inspired by a photo in the Stampin' Up catalogue that sparked the search for a tutorial - such as the one posted by this talented lady.  For some reason her wreath looks prettier.  Maybe because her ribbon is glossier?  I just feel like mine isn't quite right.

I  also worked on some note cards (blank inside) - some mini sets (3" x 3") and a few others (5" x 5").  I love the little monkey notes... but again feel like something is missing.    The little monkey ticket holder was a fun project and will be holding some zoo passes for some special little monkeys celebrating their birthdays this month.   It's a tri-fold card with a pocket in the centre for the passes (tickets, gift cards, etc.  The potential is endless now that I figured out a fun design!)   The front panel says "Monkey See", flip open and the right panel reads "Monkey Do", flip again and the center panel with pocket says "Monkeys Going To The Zoo!" 

TriFold Ticket Holder

Banana Mini Notecard
Swinging By Mini Notecard
Every craft store, magazine or website I've perused recently has been all about Christmas in July - getting a jump on holiday projects so you're not swamped with craft stuff and feeling overwhelmed come December.  Makes sense to me!  Anyhow, I thought it's great excuse to create some fun tile coasters and use a few wooden door hangers I picked up at the dollar store. (Honestly, I was going to use both anyhow... and when I picked a paper stack, I was drawn to the Christmas one.  I wasn't actually thinking "Christmas in July".)  Both projects turned out lovely... but I wanted to test out my coasters to see if they're giftable.  And I don't actually want to be using Christmas coasters in the middle of the summer so today I whipped up another more-generic all-season set.  (I have yet to seal them - so no pictures yet!)   

It's my goal to get a few more projects done here and there - if I can get them done now, it gives me some always-appreciated alone time and means I'm creating some from the heart gifts without the stress I usually encounter because I don't implement timelines so well!  What's on your holiday to-make list?  What's on your holiday handcrafted wishlist?

PS - I'm addicted to Pinterest.  So many great ideas without weeding through a ton of google results.