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.