Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Strange British baby food - found on my trip to London - lots of pie involved!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Lighten your travel load! Pack lightly to save time AND money!

Looking for a huge way to simplify your travel? Packing lightly really makes travel easier and more enjoyable! By decreasing the size and number of luggage and bags you travel with, you can save bother and money.  I for one hate lugging around too many athings while travelling.  I also can't stand pacing and unpacking things when we have multiple stops on a trip.  To minimize these annoyances and maximize travel enjoyment I've some up with an unorthodox way to travel light.

Before leaving for a trip:
  1. Take a good look in your closet for any clothes you haven't worn in a while, you've outgrown, aren't in style anymore, are worn out or stained.
  2. Look through your drawers for undergarments and socks that are worn out or have holes, etc.
  3. Check out your shoes. Are any worn out, out of style or you haven't worn in a while?
  4. For toiletry essentials like toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, razors, makeup - are there any of these that are at the "end of the tube"? Be sure to bring these ones along and throw them out along the way when they're finished.
  5. Bring along any magazines you have piling up that you haven't read yet. I subscribe to a few magazines and sometimes can't keep up with all of the reading.  Save money in the airport and instead of buying magazines or books there, bring ones from home!
The key to this strategy is not to load your luggage with items you won't use just because you want to get rid of them.  Only include essential clothing, accessories and reading you will need during the trip and feel comfortable with throwing away along the way.  
There are major benefits for following some or all of these tips:
  • You'll definitely have a lighter luggage on return which may save you money on extra heavy luggage charges that many airlines are now charging
  • You'll be clearing out clutter from your home
  • Save money on reading material in the airport, since you'll be bringing your own
  • Your luggage will be lighter to carry home, when you're exhausted from the great trip you had!
  • If you're making multiple trips to different cities on your vacation, the unpacking & repacking of the luggage will get easier as you throw things away
  • You'll be able to fill up the new space you get in your luggage from throwing things away - with souvenirs, etc.
  • Your final unpacking when you get home will be much easier and quicker
  • Your laundry will be lessened because of the clothes you threw out along the way

Friday, 7 June 2013

Create an quick & easy floral bouquet from your garden & shrubs!

I love flowers & would love to have bouquets of flowers throughout the house all the time.  I love the look, the scent & just how it cheers up the surroundings in general.  That's all well & good, but who can afford to buy bouquets of flowers from the store regularly?

Right now I'm just starting to build up a garden of perennials that will be great for cutting & arranging into a bouquet, but it takes time.  My garden is full of a number of beautiful flowering shrubs that the previous owner planted & that are thriving still.  So I thought, until I have a bunch of flowering perennials, why not make bouquets from the shrubs?

So here's what I did in 3 easy steps that shouldn't take you longer than 10 minutes to a beautiful, professional looking bouquet!

1. Survey your yard for any flowers or flowering shrubs that are freshly flowering & that you'd like to include in your bouquet.  Pick the freshest looking stems with some unopened flowers & cut each flower in varying lengths for visual interest in the bouquet.

2. Give the flowers a good shake! Why?  Shaking the flowers gets rid of any rain, dead blooms or any bugs that you don't want to bring in the house! Take a quick look at the flowers to make sure they look ok to bring in the house.  Successful shake, ok, next step!

3. Arrange the flowers in a vase that is tall enough & large enough depending on the type, length & number of flowers you picked.  Put in the tallest flowers first, then interesting ones that may hang over, etc.  Next fill in the bouquet with the rest.  At this point, take a look at it from afar & make any changes you think are required. Vary the colours of flowers beside each other & snip off any excess leaves to make the flowers centre stage!

Now set the vase in a place you pass in your house many times a day & see how much the flowers improve your mood!  You'll be picking flowers & making bouquets regularly I'm sure!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Travelling with a baby overseas - My worries & hopefully tips!

After much debate and much worrying on my part, we've decided! We're booked to go to Europe this summer, which is my son's first trip on a plane.  The plane ride there will be at least 6-7 hours and we're staying 10 days.  Travelling as a single or couple takes good planning, but travelling with a one year old takes a lot more consideration.  I've been thinking of strategies to curb my worrying and I think the best way is to note my biggest concerns and then come up with plans to ease them.

First I've divided the travel worries list up between, before the trips worries and during the trip worries.  Obviously I'm going to tackle the pre-trip worries first. So, let's start now!


Before the trip

The passport photo - How will I get my son to sit still and not make an expression?

Getting passport in time - Will we be able to get his passport in time before the trip, or will we have to invest in paying more to have the processing rushed?

Monitoring the pound & Euro -I will be monitoring the Canadian dollar exchange rate against the British pound and the Euro to exchange money at on a day where the exchange rate is good.

Will any of us get sick -How should I prevent us getting colds, etc. before the trip and during it?

Packing light, with a toddler -I always pride myself on packing light while travelling, but how will I do that with a toddler in tow?

The naysayers saying we're crazy -How should I drown out the people in our lives who think we're crazy to travel with a one year old?  They just add stress and needless worry instead of encourage us to travel.

During the trip

The dreaded long plane ride -How will my son react to the plane ride? How will we keep him quiet and happy for so long?  He loves to be active and not sit still, how will we handle this best?

Travelling place to place - taxi, train -If we don't have a car with a car seat for my son, how should we travel to ensure safety and what are the local regulations on car seats for toddlers?

Jetlag - my son's & mine- I tend to have bad jet lag and now that I have to take care of a little one, while I have jet lag, I have to come up with strategies to minimize the impact of it.  I also have to find ways to help my son if he ends up having jet lag.

Just listing and summarizing my worries is already helping.  As I research and work through these worries I will post and share what I learn.  I'll also try to actually enjoy the planning and anticipation that comes along with looking forward to a fabulous trip!

What do you worry about when you travel?  How do you curb the worrying from taking away from the enjoyment?

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Wordless Wednesday - My son's first Passport Photo!

The first step to our first plane trip vacation with our 11 month old son is done! It was difficult to hold him still while he got the photo done.  It took about 10 tries, but it's done!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Frugal ways to Reinvent your baby or child's clothing - Easy and quick apparel crafting

Do you ever see great deals on baby or children's clothes at the store but find they're a bit plain?  Looking for some affordable and unique ways to jazz up your child's clothing?  I had some fun using a few things from the craft store and reusing other things from around the house.  Using a few simple ideas and supplies I was able to personalize my son's clothes more and make them unique to only him!

Fun Clothing reinvention #1 - Monogrammed Onesie

I bought two frugal pieces of baby clothes, one navy onesie and one red shirt.  They're both cute, but a little plain.

To reinvent the navy onesie I looked through my craft supplies that could be used to make it less plain.  I decided to use an iron on teddy bear patch and some letters.  It took me a little while to come up with what I wanted to spell on the onesie.  I thought my son's initials would be a nice idea, so that's what I did.  I think it looks like because it looks monogrammed now.  What do you think?

Fun Clothing reinvention #2 - Horseplay

I bought this striped onesie for only a few dollars.  

To  add some extra style I added an iron-on horse patch that I thought went well with the stripes.  It was a 5 minute craft that adds some equestrian style to this onesie.

Fun Clothing reinvention #3 - Reuse some material

This last clothing reinvention was inspired by a broken lampshade.  A broken lampshade? Yes, a lampshade that my son broke by knocking over a lamp a few times gave me an idea.   

I noticed the shade was covered in a thin material that had cute details embroidered on them, like a teddy   bear and bird.

I cut the material off of the lampshade and divided into the two main details - the teddy bear and the bird.  Now, what was I going to do with these cute details?

I had picked up a bright yellow summer shirt that was on sale and was waiting for warmer weather so my son could actually wear it!  In the meantime I thought why not see if the embroidered details from the lamp would look good on the shirt.

I folded the detailed material under and laid them on the shirt like patches to see how they looked before I decided which one to sew on.  I like the teddy bear detail on this shirt, so this is what I'll be sewing on. 

 I'll keep the bird detail and may even cut the material down to only include the bird and sew it on another piece of clothing when I get inspired.

These are only a few, very quick ideas to add a little more style to our child's clothing.  I find it fun to think of ways to personalize clothes and make them unique.  I hope you have fun coming up with your own ideas!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

My Maternity Leave ends & my Life as a Stay at Home mom begins!

Today I finally, officially ended my Maternity Leave and resigned from my full time job.  I talked to my boss on the phone, wrote and sent my resignation letter and it's done.  Now all there's left to do is a bunch of tedious paperwork, but it's a relief that it is all final and out in the open.

Before I was pregnant I didn't think that I would want to be a stay-at-home mom, (SAHM).  When I was pregnant I started to consider the option, but still didn't really picture it.  After having my son, I went through the motions of calling daycares, in preparation for returning to work.  I considered if I wanted to return to the same job or try something else in the company or work somewhere else entirely.

About half way through my Maternity Leave it dawned on me, as I thought and thought and planned, that going back to work, wasn't going to work for me now.  I didn't tell most people though, because it wasn't a final decision.  It was almost like I wanted a door left open just in case I changed my mind.  It became more and more difficult to picture the new daily routine of returning to work and not being with my son during the day.

The best way I can sum it all up is that I realized I could probably do a job outside the home and be a mom, but I couldn't do them well.  It was a personal decision, and everyone's is different, but this was mine.

Throughout my year of Maternity Leave there were habits that were part of my daily routine.  They were so routine that I didn't even think of them before.  When I finally decided not to return to work, I thought of 6 daily habits that I'm happy are no longer a part of my life right now.

1. No small talk or elevator chats: I'm surprised at how bad I've become at small talk now.  It must be because for a year the majority of my day is with my son.  Although I try to talk to him all the time and narrate what I'm doing, it's not like talking to adults.  Now when I'm at any event with adults where I have to start conversations it's more challenging to think of topics and keeping the rhythm of the conversation going.  I'm glad I don't have to stutter through those elevator chats when I'd get stuck with my boss, or bosses' boss and try to think of something witty to say.  

2. Being "on" all the time: When I was in the office it felt like 9 hours of being "on". I didn't feel like I could truly be myself, and I always felt on edge.  Someday's I found this really exhausting and I know not everyone feels this way, but I definitely did.  It was a feeling that at any moment some major issue would come up and I'd have to be ready to tackle and solve it right away.  Sometimes I feel that with my son too, that I can't relax because I'm always watching him and making sure he's not getting into any trouble.  The difference is I feel like I can be myself, however wacky that is and I won't be judged.

3. No heels: I used to wear heels in the office all the time, especially when wearing a suit.  During my commute to work and on my lunch hour I loved taking off my heels and slipping into more comfy shoes like Birkenstocks.  Since I wore heels daily I got used to it though, even though many of them hurt my feet.  Now, I'm almost always in flats and other comfy shoes and enjoying it a lot more.  When I have to put heels on for a special event it really takes getting used to again.

4. No ironing: I used to have to iron my clothes for work almost daily, depending on what I was wearing.  I hated it.  I hated it so much I bought a handheld steamer that made it easier to steam out wrinkles while your clothes were anywhere - on the back of a chair, on the bed, etc.  My steamer stopped working around the time I started my Mat Leave, a sign perhaps?  Recently I had to iron a pair of pants and was thankful this isn't a daily task anymore.  The ironing daily task has been replaced with many different mommy-related tasks.

5. Warm breakfast and lunches: I have to say, I'm a sucker for a warm and substantial breakfast or lunch everyday.  When I was working I'd try to make a warm breakfast before I left at least a few times a week.  Lunch was harder, so I'd bring in frozen dinners or get something from the food court about once a week.  Now it's a treat to be able to try new recipes and have a warm lunch anytime my son will cooperated long enough for me to whip one up.

6. Commuting: Commuting, this I don't miss.  I used to have to illegally park my car in the overflowing train station parking lot, just so I could take the overpriced and overcrowded train.  Now there is talk that the train company may charge monthly fees for the privilege to park there, making it more expensive to commute downtown.  Trekking from the train station on my 15 minute walk both ways among the crowded streets won't be missed either.  I find it harder and harder to sit in traffic now too, especially when my son is in the car and might have a meltdown at any moment.

Does a year, a habit make? A year doesn't sound like a long time but it is.  Many of my old habits have slowly died.  They've been replaced with habits that all centre around my son, and I am thankful for that.  I'm blessed to be able to stay home with him for now and decide what I want to do next in terms of work.  Once in a while it is fun to go back downtown and remember "the old days", because some of those days were good.  But, these days, even the frustrating days with my son are better than any bad day I ever had at the job I left behind.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Easy almond butter in 10 minutes!

Making creamy or crunchy, thick and tasty almond butter at home is so quick and easy, you'll never buy it from the store again!  Have you ever bought almond butter from the store?  At stores nearby, I can't buy it for less than $6-10 for a small jar.  When you buy it from the store it also usually has other ingredients such as preservatives and too much salt or sugar.  By making it at home you can control the ingredients.

Knowing that almonds are just as healthy as peanuts, and having almond butter for breakfast is an easy way to incorporate important vitamins and minerals, I tested a number of methods of making almond butter easily and quickly.  Almond butter is high in Vitamin E, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.  It's also a great alternative to other higher calorie spreads like butter, chocolate spread, cream cheese, jams and jellies.

Recipe - it only takes under 20 minutes!

Toasted almonds
1 tbsp Olive oil (optional)
1 tsp. Sugar (optional)
1 tsp. Salt (optional)

1. Arrange 2 cups of almonds on a cookie sheet wrapped in aluminium foil.
2. Measure out 1 tbsp of Olive oil and spread it over the almonds
3. Measure out 1 tsp of sugar and salt and spread both over the almonds
4. You can omit the oil or the sugar and salt and still come out with very tasty almond butter!
5. Toast the almonds in a toaster oven for approximately 5-8 minutes, turning half way through.  Make sure to monitor them so they don't burn. Toasting the almonds adds a lot of flavour and is an important step!
6. After the almonds have cooled, add them into a food processor and pulse for approximately 5-7 minutes, stopping every couple of minutes to scrape the sides of the bowl.
7. Put the almond butter into a sealed container and refrigerate.  This butter should last for weeks for you to enjoy!

You can use the almond butter just as you would use peanut butter: simply for spreading on bread, or toast, in cookies, in sauces, etc.  Almond butter can be substituted for peanut butter in most peanut butter recipes! Enjoy!  If you try the recipe let me know what you think!!

Toasted almonds
Stage 1 of processing - almonds are still in large chunks

Stage 2 of processing - starting to look like a paste

Stage 3 of processing - starting to be shiny because of oils & smooth at the bottom of  processor

Stage 4 of processing - homemade almond butter - ready to spread
Homemade almond butter stored in a margarine container - yum!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday -Spring flowers! Floral arrangements from the Home Show!

There were many unique floral arrangements at the Home Show I attended this week.  
Ambitious Easter centrepiece ideas anyone? 

A cake made out of flowers

A modern arrangement

A beautiful leaf over some orchids

An Easter/spring floral headpiece

I love horses so I couldn't resist!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday - I couldn't resist - it was on SALE! Baking, baking, baking!

I saw that a bag of flour was on sale in the flyer of our usual grocery store.  When my hubby went to get the groceries I asked him to pick up a bag of the flour.  I didn't happen to notice the SIZE of it!  Eek!  When he brought it home, I thought, how long is it going to take me to use this up? I better start baking now!

The massive bag of flour with my son for scale only, of course! :
I think he already wants to help me bake!
First baking project - Buttermilk biscuits!

The biscuits turned out well - must be the fresh flour!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday - Cheap, Funny & Odd St. Patrick's Day Goodies

It took quite a while to get this cute hat with a little green wig on him.  I thought it was cute even though we're not Irish!

My little leprechaun

Cute, oversized tie

The weirdest St. Patrick's Day party favour

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Wordless Wednesday - A Big Snowman Family

I saw this snowman family while driving last week and I had to stop and take a photo so I could share it.  These snowmen were massive! I know we got a lot of snow this year, but I still don't know where they got enough snow to build this whole family.  I thought the smiles and ties were funny too!  Someone is creative and has a sense of humour!

Stretching your baby's wardrobe & saving money on your child's clothes!

I've always loved fashion and putting together outfits for myself, be it for work or play.  After I became a mom, I developed the same love of fashion, but for dressing my son.  I like putting together outfits, not just dressing him in anything that fits and is season appropriate.  Shopping for kids can get expensive however, even though picking out their clothes is fun because there are so many cute pieces.  I try to get the maximum use out of every piece of clothing I buy for my son, and that's why I tried to use some off season pieces in a few different ways.

Although I enjoy dressing up my son, I actually find it difficult at times too.  With my son, like with most kids it's hard to estimate how quickly they will grow out of clothing and therefore how much clothing they need for each season.  Then there's the many gifts of clothing.  The most common gift given at my Baby Shower was clothing.  Everyone loves picking out a cute outfit for the new bundle of joy.  Of course I was happy to get all of the clothing, but there were some challenges.  I got so many of 0-3 months, and not as much from older ages.  I also got summer, or short sleeved clothing for ages that my son would be in the winter.  How was I going to not waste this cute clothing before my son grew out of it?

Outfit #1: Winnie the Pooh overalls with collared blue shirt, was a Baby Shower gift

The Challenge: Not season appropriate - My son fits this outfit now, in the middle of a cold Canadian winter

A cute outfit, but not for the winter

Reinvention #1 Use of the collared blue shirt - layered under a long sleeved shirt

One combination of clothing to use the shirt with

The collared shirt is fully showing with longer sleeved shirt showing through

Reinvention #2- Collared blue shirt - layered under a sweater

Looking preppy with the collared shirt & sweater combo

Outfit #2: A cute themed onesie I HAD to buy, (Mini Pooper)

The Challenge - Not season appropriate - It was short sleeved & only available in a size that would fit my son this winter

A cute onesie with a funny logo, but not for the winter
Reinvention- Mini short sleeved onesie - layered over a long sleeved t shirt
One outfit using the funny onesie 

A Mini outfit with stripes just like on a Mini car!

Outfit #3: Another short sleeved onesie I got as a gift that my son fits into in the winter

The Challenge - Not season appropriate -Another cute onesie I got as a gift

A cute, colourful onesie, but not in cold weather

An outfit using the onesie as a layer

The orange onesie collar really stands out under the striped sweater!

I hope these three outfit reinventions have inspired you to get the most out of your baby or older child's wardrobe.  Before giving up on a piece of clothing and thinking it won't work in the current season, think of layering it or combining it with warmer clothing in a unique way.  It feels great to get more use and wear out of your existing child's wardrobe and saving a little money along the way.

I'll leave you with a Challenge even I CAN'T solve: what do I do with these overalls in the middle of winter??