January 13, 2014

2014, I BELIEVE IN YOUR AWESOMENESS

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Maybe it's because I'm a Virgo but there is something I find so exciting about goals. I don't mean a yippee kind of excited either. I mean a I'm-coming-for-you-and-it's-gonna-hurt kind of excited. Like a I'm-going-to-hunt-you-and-when-I-find-you-I'm-going-to-bite-you-and-you're-going-to-bleed-fruition type of feeling. And honestly, I don't really think that's all that excessive.

I have failed many a goal in my time. Have I been too lofty? Certainly. But from those failures I was able to find an understanding of my true capabilities and actual passions. From there I needed to gain some self-acceptance and be okay with the things I want. Super hot bod? Meh. A regular meal plan? Totally.

Last year, as some of you may know, my main goal was to pay off our credit card debt. I had the crazy-eyed desire to get it done but if I were to be completely honest I didn't believe it would happen. We had failed at it so (so!) many times. But something clicked this year and I just refused to relent. Half way through the year I even made our first real budget and built it around get rid of that pain in the ass. We hit our goal before the end of 2013 and it feel goooood. I caught the zero. I even cut up a couple cards for good measure.

I thought I would take a moment to share some of my hopes for this year. I tried to make my goals as tangible as possible so that it would be easier to say when they have been completed. There ain't nothing like adding check mark on a list, am I right?

PROJECTS:

Collect and paint a new set of chairs for the table. They don't have to match but they're not allowed to wobble.

Refinish the dining room table. We found it on Freecycle and it's a solid piece. With a little steel wool and a can of Howard's I may be able to give it a new life.

Create a functional space in the basement. We'll never be able to have a finished basement but it could definitely be more organized and easier to navigate.

Renovate the kitchen. By far our biggest project to date. I get butterflies thinking about it. I could have a faucet that doesn't fall apart when you use it. A space that doesn't always look dirty. Cupboards that close and proper storage space. Pinch me!


SKILLS:

Learn how to use three basic power tools. I think it would be awesome to not be scared of the drill, chop saw and power sander. I'm just hoping I'm not exiting the year with fewer fingers than I started with.

Focus on one creative skill. At the moment I'm thinking embroidery but other times I lean towards something altogether new. My friend Margot teaches rug hooking and that seems really interesting. It's hard to decide on one but that's the whole point of this one.

FINANCIAL:

Save enough money to buy a small camper. I'm hoping for something small that can sleep two adults and two kids. It doesn't have to be road worthy but it definitely wouldn't hurt. It'll be in the driveway for at least a year before we can upgrade to a vehicle that can tow it, but I am totally down for a driveway camper. I joined a Facebook group called Girl Camp Canada and it has me stoked!

Make a will and appoint a power of attorney. To my children I bequeath any shred of sanity that I managed to maintain. Actually, I was reading what Gail Vaz-Oxlade had to say about this and it got me a little panicked. I never really understood what kind of crap not having a will or POA could cause for family members.

Start a savings fund to replace the roof. We don't like indoor rain showers that happen outside of the bathtub. This will actually take just over a year based on our plan. 

LIFESTYLE:

Read at least one book a month. Doesn't have to be big. Doesn't have to be life changing. Just has to have non-board pages and lack illustrations of princesses. I used to be such an avid reader and I especially loved CanLit. It felt like such a part of me and I miss it in a very real way. Hopefully I'll find some time to share about each of the books here on the blog.

Try Once a Month Cooking at least once. Maybe in February because it's the shortest month. It seems daunting but I'd like to see how it works. Have any of you tried it before? I have a feeling I could get on board with once a week cooking but I'd like the challenge of a full month just once.

Create and maintain an immunity boosting/support system for myself and the kids (otherwise known as the Constant Cold Crew). Smoothies maybe? Supplements for sure. Less sugar is a given. That one will be harder for me than the kids.

So that's it. There's quite a few there but I believe it's do-able. I'm pretty damn excited about a lot of it and I plan to keep this blog updated when anything noteworthy comes up.

Do you have any big (or small) plans for 2014? I'd love to hear about them (or links to your resolution posts) in the comments below.

December 2, 2013

CREATING A HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE WITH AN ADVENT ACTIVITY BOOK



In my previous post I talked about wanting to find a way to show Georgia that Christmas is about more than presents. I look at the whole holiday season as an experience. Yes, presents are a part of that but of course there is more. You understand that when you're 30 years old but not so much when you're 3.




So in an attempt to tease out some of the magic this year I created an advent activity book. I have seen this idea floating around Pinterest and I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate the little things and taking away some of the emphasis on receiving. I found lots of different ways to create something like this (I particularly liked this one, this one and this one), but I ultimately decided to make a book because I figured it was achievable by the deadline and we could use it for years to come.

Let me tell you, it was actually really fun dreaming up plans for the different activities. I did a lot of searching around different blogs and I pulled ideas from many different lists. Some of the activities are things we would do anyway but I like how this makes it just a little more special - and a little more notable. We've already been doing several activities yearly but they always seem to be overshadowed by the all-consuming thoughts about Christmas day.



Here's a list of what we will be doing this year:

1. Put up the Christmas tree and decorate.
2. Write a letter to Santa. (cute free printables here and here)
3. Send Christmas cards to friends and family.
4. Make a wreath.
5. Celebrate the last day of Hanukkah with a chocolate coin hunt.
6. Make a snow globe.
7. Go to the Santa Claus parade.
8. Buy a toy for a family in need.
9. French toast dinner with hot chocolate and cookies.
10. Go to the mall to get a personalized ornament for Georgia and Sam.
11. Make red and green play dough.
12. Drop off plates of cookies to friends in town.
13. Photos with Santa to celebrate Georgia's birthday!
14. Georgia goes Christmas shopping with Daddy.
15. Get in pajamas early and go for a drive to see Christmas lights.
16. Make toilet paper roll elves.
17. Georgia goes Christmas shopping with Mommy.
18. Make cookies for Georgia's classmates.
19. Make snowflake window clings.
20. Make a gingerbread house.
21. Dinner by candlelight to celebrate winter solstice.
22. Go ice skating.
23. Family movie night.
24. Open a gift after dinner.

I am so happy and excited to see this thing through. I know there will be a day or two when I'm feeling extra sleepy and I'll curse my name for ever making this book. However, in the face of holiday fatigue I shall remind myself that this book is a bonafide memory making and I am nothing if not a sentimental girl.



This is a photo of Georgia decorating the tree yesterday afternoon. I just love how her little knees bend as she is so focused on her task. She kept saying over and over again how much Santa is going to love our sparkly tree and shiny ornaments. I found this tree two years ago at an auction. It was two days before we got the keys to our first house and I was overjoyed to pay just $2 for a white pre-lit plastic tree. I can't help but laugh at it's sparseness now but I can't fault it for being what it is. I'm hoping to find a fuller version this year during Christmas clearance, but I may just save this one so Georgia can have a tree in her room when she's older.

If you have any fun holiday activities to share please be sure to leave a comment. I love, love, love to hear more about this sort of thing. I'm going to start saving ideas for next years list.

Happy holidays everyone!!

November 19, 2013

TAMING THE I-NEED-IT-NOW BEAST AND CREATING HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

Georgia is almost four. This is a grand old age in so many ways. The best bits of her vocabulary are created on the fly (tonight she called the hair on her legs her 'body string' and 'leg fur'). Her artistic side is exploding as she burns through craft supplies faster than any Martha out there. Her imagination is endless and she wants to play pretend with dolls 24/7.

Georgia will be four in less than one month. December is a huge month for her. Birthday, Hanukkah and Christmas. Just try reigning in the excess that month. Just try. Fruitless. January? A big disappointment for miss Georgia Grace.



So when the time of the year rolls around that the Halloween stuff is put on clearance and the Christmas toys are out in full force, a simple errand quickly turns into a impatience fueled whine-fest. Months ago one of our friends suggested that we introduce Georgia to the idea of a year-round wish list. See something in the store you like? Put it on your wish list. You friend has a toy that you absolutely have to have as well? Put it on your wish list. It's not necessarily a real physical list (although sometimes we will write it down for her because it seems more real to her), but let me assure you that it has helped us avoid many a melt down.



One of the toys on her wish list is this years Collector Holiday Barbie. When she first saw it on the shelf she said ohmygoshlookatherdresssheissobeauitful all in one inhaled breath. That's my kid. As a young lass I considered myself to be a connoisseur of the Barbie. At the top of my 'need' list each year was the latest holiday doll (closely followed by the Totally Hair Barbie because obviously). I have to admit that I'm pretty stoked to watch Georgia open her very first Christmas Barbie (living vicariously much?) - and with it comes the sweet satisfaction of checking it off 'the list'.

Christmas planning is in full swing and toy shopping/wish list fulfilling is just part of it. I can't wait to pull out our sparkly white tree and give it a good dose of decor. I'm also really looking forward to a special afternoon of Mama-time and ornament making with Georgia. Christmas has always been my favourite but now that I have a child that really gets into it I kind of feel like I'm given a second childhood. The list-making, catalogue shopping, the dreaming. I hate to say something is magic but in this case I'll have to ask you to pardon my whimsy.

What traditions are you most looking forward to during the holiday season prep? Or perhaps you have a tip to share about maintaining sanity and patience with small children during the season. I continue to think about creating an almost advent calendar of experiences that lead up to the big day (or days) so that the holidays are thought of as a time for tradition and gift giving. Know what I mean? I would love to hear what y'all have to say about any of that.

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If you are a Canadian reader with a little one of your own you may want to hop on over to Mattel's site to enter for your chance to win your child's wish list. How awesome would that be?!

Disclosure: I am part of the Mattel Holiday Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

October 22, 2013

THE BETTER PART OF OCTOBER

The better part of October has been a beast. Not at all what I expected. Scenes of turning leaves, crochet projects and knee high boots have been buried by crumpled tissues, a broken heart and knots in my stomach. My heart is hurting for family and friends experiencing devastation. My mental health is struggling with the change in season. My daughter has brought home untold germs from school and both of my children have been sick for a month straight.

It sucks. I'm exhausted. And I totally understand that at some point I will feel human again.

I find I'm reminding myself that much of life is the perception of life. If I assume that the day will suck based on some small thing (like stubbing my toe on that moron metal bed frame), then most certainly my day will go down in Worlds Suckiest... infamy. But, if by some small fortune, I am able to see said small thing for what it is I may be able to forgive it, move past it and appreciate all the good (or at least not total shit) around me.

Seems like common sense, but no one has ever accused me of having such a thing.



Perspective is a funny thing. Much of the time I forget that I have a great deal of control over it.

I guess I'll leave this post as a reminder of the better parts of October...

Story time. Pasty Cline. The sun at my back.
A baby learning to sit. Homemade turkey soup.
A pretend Farva. Beginners nail art.
Many pies. First swings.

September 19, 2013

YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY THAT: FROZEN SWEET CORN



I really love corn. I view it as the junk food of the vegetable world. Corn on the cob is a summertime staple in our home. However, once the winter months roll around we don't often have it on our plate because we prefer to skip vegetables that are packaged in plastic lined and BPA filled aluminum cans.*  That's actually a huge bummer for me because I love me some corn from a can. So this year we are making a compromise - frozen corn. We are buying up bags and bags full of local cobs, blanching it and popping it in the freezer for year-round corny fun.

I thought it might be useful to share this super-easy process with you all so that you too can have a taste of summer even on a cold February day.

TIPS:

1. I'm going to try to not get all sanctimonious about buying local, but I will say that local = fresh. Besides, it's hard to not buy local corn in the summer.
2. Keep the corn in a cool place until you are ready to use it. Be sure to process it relatively soon as buying or harvesting it.
3. My grandmother told me that you should wait to husk the corn right up until you're about to put it in the boiling water. I try not to question my grandmother.
4. Make lots and lots of ice in the days leading up to 'freezing' day.
5. Plan to process a bunch of corn at once. I did two dozen at a time.
6. Gather your supplies and set up stations before starting.



What you will need:
corn
1 large stock pot
tongs
timer
ice
medium freezer bags
bundt cake pan
sharp knife
large spoon
large mixing bowl

Step 1
Prepare your work space. One area for husking (preferably outside), a boil, cooling, cutting and bagging station. Set out lots of medium sized freezer bags and label them with dates.

Step 2
Husk your corn. Try to remove as many of the corn silks as you possibly can.

Step 3
Boil a big pot of water. Don't be stingy. Yes, it will take a while to boil but it's worth the wait.



Step 4
When your water has reached a rolling boil you will add the corn. Don't overcrowd the pot or your water will not return to a boil quickly enough. You water should start boiling again within a minute. Allow your corn to cook for about 5 minutes.

Step 5
About a minute or two before the corn is to be removed from the boiling water you will want to prepare the ice bath in an empty sink or large basin. Use cold water and add lots and lots of ice.

Step 6
Remove corn from boiling water and immediately place in ice bath. It should cool for as long as it boiled - in this case 5 minutes.




Step 7
It's now time to cut the corn off the cob. I try to cut off about 1/2 to 2/3 of the kernel. I find it immensely helpful to use a bundt pan to steady the cob during this process.



Step 8
Almost done! Use a large spoon to portion out the corn into medium sized freezer bags. You know what sized portions your family will eat so do what works best for you. I like to make them the same size for the most part but I did a few smaller portions for things like soups and stir-fry. When you are sealing the bags you want to try to remove as much air as possible. Sometimes I will use a straw to suck out the air and get a vacuum seal. It kinda-sorta works. Also try to make sure your bags are as flat as possible (without squishing the kernels). This will save precious freezer space. Freezer space is money saving space, trust me.

Step 9
Place the bags in the freezer. If you have a quick freeze shelf, even better, but definitely not essential.

And you're done!  Now you have access to local corn all year round.  Toss a handful in your next soup or stir fry or even broil some up as a side dish.  There are plenty of uses for this golden vegetable - what are some of your favourites?

* I'm sure there is some irony to this situation in which I store my corn in plastic freezer bags.  I'll have to do some more research and see if I can find some alternative storage.
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