Tuesday, 31 January 2012

52 Projects – Week Two - My Mission Impossible

Blog-land is definitely the place to go for inspiration – and a whole lotta challenges to get things done!

In early January, a group of blogs challenged those who read them to ‘Imagine the Impossibilities’ and do something that you thought was impossible. (the blog where I found about the challenge is here)

I admit, I read the challenge and thought nothing about it – I mean, how could I find the time in my schedule to finish something that I didn’t have time for? But, the thought kept coming back to me and I started to think about how I ‘could’, not how I ‘couldn’t’.

And, the impossible happened J

My ‘impossibility’ was my office/studio/craft room. It’s at the front of the house, so its the first room that people see when they walk in the door. And it sure didn’t make a good first impression – it was terrible. There was nothing on the walls and piles of stuff were everywhere – on the floor, covering the table, on the bookshelves. It was an awful mess – no wonder I had no creativity when I walked in – I usually turned around and walked right back out.

Here is a collage of my workspace – can you imagine trying to find or do anything in there? Working on the table meant moving everything over to the other side of the table, or piling stuff onto the floor. I couldn’t find anything either, so I’d have to search everywhere to find simple things.

Not any more – it’s a great space now.

(Details going clockwise from top left)
  1. I hung my bulletin board and some pictures from the kids – I have two plastic frames that I use to display my latest scrapbook pages. The shelf above holds a scrapbook album that a group of my dear friends made for me as a wedding shower gift J
  2. My paints are now in a metal basket so I can see them – and remember to use them.
  3. Small photo frames are in a basket on the bookshelf, and larger ones are tucked in beside the other bookshelf (you can see the side of it). Now when I’m looking for a frame, I know exactly where to look.
  4. Lots of scrapbook supplies are hung up in my ‘clip-it-up’ which sits on top of a storage unit for my chipboard and flowers.
  5. My scrapbook paper is now, mostly in one place. I keep finding more, so I’ll have to purge and get rid of the paper I won’t use. The boys’ school will gladly take it, so it won’t go to waste.
  6. My spray paint has its own basket too, so I know where to go when I need some. And I won’t buy the same colour more than once anymore.

The space underneath my table now has two bins – one for stuff I’m still not sure what to do with, and a box with pending project supplies. Having items close together makes it easier to start a project – and that’s the whole goal of this challenge!

Is it perfect? Not at all. Am I happy with how it turned out? Definitely.

And the best part? This makeover was free – yup, it didn’t cost me a penny. I had the baskets and frames – all I needed was the time. And really, that wasn’t that bad either. It only took me about a week of working for half an hour or so in the evening, and two afternoons on the weekend.

I love my ‘new’ space. I feel more creative just walking in there.

So, thanks for the challenge, ladies!

Cheers! Kim

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Meals - Week Four, and a few great recipes

It's hard to believe it's been four weeks of prepping and planning our meals in advance. I've tried this before and I’ve given up long before this.

I would try to plan for dinner, but typically I would end up with me making the same meals over and over, or having rushed meals because I'd stand in front of the pantry, waiting for the meal fairy to show up (she never did - if she's at your house, can you please send her my way for a while?)

In the absence of a meal fairy, planning meals seems to be working pretty well. Every Sunday, I go through my torn out recipes or my cookbooks and pick our meals. I try to make sure we use different protein, so there's variety in our menu. This makes grocery shopping easier too - we have a plan of what to pick up for the week, not just random items.

So, here's our menu for week four:

Sunday: Portabello Mushroom Stroganoff - the boys won't eat mushrooms, so this was a perfect meal for a night they weren't home. And it was absolutely delicious. No leftovers delicious. We ate the entire thing - and I added extra mushrooms just for fun.

Monday: Steak and Farfalle Pasta – I’ve had this on my list for a few weeks but it seemed to get pushed out of the way. It was really good with a nice creamy sauce.

Tuesday: Teriyaki-Mango Pork – this one is far out of our normal comfort zone. Mango, bok choy and water chestnuts aren’t in our regular menu. I used soba noodles which looked strange but were delicious - as was the rest of dinner.

Wednesday: Orange Salmon - this was quick and easy. Orange juice and soya sauce over the salmon, which was baked in parchment paper and served with a side of quinoa. It was quick, easy and good.

Thursday: Slow cooker ‘Chicken in a Pot’ – I don't think it gets much easier than this. Carrots, celery and chicken in the crock pot with a bit of chicken stock. Next time I'll add potatoes to the crock pot - I made those as a side dish, and thickened up the sauce for gravy. Yum - gravy on a weeknight.

Friday: Shepherd’s Pie, clean eating style

We ended up eating this on Saturday instead, but it was totally worth the wait. This was one of the first Clean Eating recipes I tried, and it definitely set the standard. There were no leftovers - two kids had thirds!

A great week for recipes overall - stay tuned for week five!


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

52 Projects - Week One - Basement Bedroom Artwork

As I mentioned in my 2012 goals, if I can do one project a week, I’ll have 52 updates / completed projects in my house which is a huge accomplishment.

Here’s week one’s result.

We spent time last summer updating our basement bedroom so it was brighter and nicer for guests. There was no artwork on the walls though, so it still looked unfinished.

Not any more. Not on one side of the room anyway J

Using basic Ribba square frames from Ikea and fabric I’ve used for the curtains in the room, I made artwork to hang on either side of the window. Using spray adhesive worked the best to attach the fabric to the frame back.

The wall looks finished and tied together – exactly what I was hoping for!

(forgive the bad exposure – it’s the basement)

And, as I look around the room, there are a few other projects I’ll share with you too, and the before pictures of the room. I still can’t believe the transformation. I still need to finish the walls on the other side of the room, but it’s getting there – slowly.

One project complete – 51 to go.


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Meals - Week Three

Here’s a recap of our meals last week, and a great recipe J This one is online so I can link to it instead of typing it out – score!
  • Sunday: Chicken Salad – This was a duplicate of what we had last Monday, so my goal of a new meal every night is done. Over. It lasted for two weeks. But, Zach requested it – so how could I say no? J If your son asks for salad for dinner, don't ask why – just make it and be happy.
  • Monday: Cheese Stuffed Shells (as roll-ups) – I prepped this the night before, so all I had to do was put it in the oven for 30 minutes. But I didn't have 30 minutes. Seriously. Traffic was horrible and it took 1 ½ hours to get home (usually its 45 min). So, the boys had subs. These will be Wednesday’s dinner instead. J
  • Tuesday: Baked Barley Casserole – This was delish. Fantastic. Everyone loved it and said it was a definite make again.  

  • Wednesday: Steak and Farfalle Pasta – this was replaced by Cheese Stuffed Shells (that we were going to have on Monday). So, I’ve moved this to next week instead.
  • Thursday: Sweet and Sour Pork – I picked up a new slow cooker magazine from BHG last weekend, and hopefully it will help with some of the dinner madness. The recipes look good and having dinner ready when we walk in the door should help with the stress.
  • Friday: Turkey Pasta Casserole – again, this was replaced. This time with pizza. I’ll keep trying to make dinner on Friday night, but I don’t seem to be doing very well.

Having kids activities three nights a week makes meal planning a real challenge. We need 30 minute meals – and I want them to be healthy too. I'm re-thinking my plan – having to spend time the night before to prep meals makes for a long night. And it takes time away from my family – and I get precious little time with them.

Mr. E and I have the upcoming meals planned – and the ingredients prepped. So let’s see how week four goes!


Thursday, 19 January 2012

Meals, Week Two - and Sauteed Fish Sticks recipe

Happy Thursday! The weather here is frightful – we have had absolutely frigid weather this week. The number on the thermometer was the same if you were using °C or °F. All week. Winter finally decided to show up and I guess it made up for all the warm weather we've had until now. We're all bundled up in our parkas, staying inside as much as possible.

Anyway . . . as I mentioned here, I'm trying to prepare healthy meals for our family and make a new dinner every night for three months!

Here's a recap of our meals from last week. I've decided that I'll only add in the amazing recipes - nobody wants to make a recipe that's 'okay.' And maybe one of these days, some of the recipes I pick will be online somewhere so I can link to them instead of re-typing them!

Last week:
  • Sunday: Steak and Baked Potato with stir-fried veggies – This is a standing favourite in our house and, as usual, was delicious. Mr. E has this BBQ thing down J
  • Monday: Salad with Chicken – We cooked the chicken the day before so this was a quick and easy dinner before a night of activities. Salt and pepper chicken is a staple in our house – quick and easy. We make a few breasts on Sundays, so we have a quick and easy dinner or lunch. (Roast the chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet for about 20 – 25 minutes at 350°). We made a quick balsamic vinaigrette and called it dinner.
  • Tuesday: Pork Tenderloin with Succotash – Mr. E to the BBQ rescue again J And who can resist a dinner that has succotash in it? Doesn't it remind you of Sylvester in Looney Tunes (please tell me that someone else remembers that he used to say "sufferin' succotash")?

  •  Wednesday: Cheese Stuffed Shells – This didn't happen due to timing. I had plans to prep this on Tuesday night and pop it in the oven when we got home, but that didn't happen. So, the boys had tortellini (their all-time favourite pasta) and I had leftovers.
  • Thursday: Turkey Pasta Casserole – I originally thought this would work, but we decided to switch this meal to Friday (it took a while to cook). And then I was too tired to cook on Friday, so we ordered pizza. This is real life for us – very little goes according to plan.
  • Friday: Sauteed Fish Sticks – So we made these on Thursday night instead. After pulverizing the fish in the food processor, they turned out pretty well. They didn't stick together as well as the picture in the magazine, but everyone said they were a keeper!
  • Saturday: Spaghetti and Meatballs – a family favourite J You can't go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs around here. And with home-made sauce and whole wheat pasta, it's really healthy.
Here's the recipe I'm going to share this week:

Sauteed Fish Sticks
*recipe originally published in Clean Eating magazine, April/May 2011.

A few slices of whole-grain bread (to make into bread crumbs)
1 egg
¾ lb boneless, skinless tilapia fillet

Crack egg into a medium bowl. Chop tilapia as finely as possible (I discovered the food processor worked best) and add to egg. Add ¼ cup bread crumbs to tilapia mixture, then use hands to thoroughly combine.

Divide fish mixture into 8 equal portions, 2 ½ inches long. Pour another ¼ cup bread crumbs into a large or flat-bottomed bowl. Dredge each stick in bread crumbs, pressing lightly to coat both sides.

Heat 1 ½ tsp oil in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add fish sticks to pan and cook, covered for 4 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Use heatproof tongs to gently flip sticks over and cook for another 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.

I also made oven french fries to go with these - fish and chips!J

So far, so good on this goal of mine - let's see how long I can keep it going.


Saturday, 14 January 2012

2012 Goals - The Rest of Them

As I finished writing my 2012 Home Goals, I thought about the goals I have - or have thought about, for other aspects of my life. I'm always thinking about life (see my word for the year here), trying to improve myself and coming up with wacky ideas. So here are some other goals that I've been thinking about:

Build a Better Blog:  There are so many bloggers that have been doing this for a lot longer than I have. I'm just starting out and realize I have a LOT to learn. So, I want to learn and absorb the best of what's out there, and make this blog more user-friendly and more 'me.' Who knows, I may get more people wanting to hear about what goes on around here.

Take Better Pictures:  I have a good camera, and good lenses, and darling Mr. E bought me a tripod for Christmas. So I have no excuse for not taking great pictures - other than operator inexperience. I have several friends who are fantastic photographers, and there are a lot of resources that can show me how to get better. And I have four reluctant semi-willing participants who can be my subjects while I practice.
Improve my Photo Editing:  I have a basic knowledge of photo editing - I can crop, brighten, change to black and white. Part of my full-time job involves using Adobe, so I have the latest version of Photoshop to use - and no idea how to do anything other than the basics. I'd like to change that this year.
Take More Time for Me:  I am positive that every Mom in the world has this as a goal - and I'm just as positive that most of those Mom's don't achieve it. I know that's me - I don't put myself first very often, and I really should. I'm happier, more relaxed and a better Mom and wife when I take time for myself. That doesn't have to be much - a few hours of window shopping, lunch with a girlfriend, a pedicure - just a bit of time to recharge on a regular basis.
Scrapbook More:  Part of taking time for me is spending time on activities I love. Scrapbooking is one of them. I have dozens, if not hundreds, of photos with stories I want to tell, but I never seem to have the time. I need to make the time.
More Reading, Less TV:   With less and less on TV that we like to watch, this shouldn't be too hard to do (doesn't it seem like most shows are repeats, over and over again?). This past week, we've started reading before heading to bed, and it's a nice relaxing way to end the day.
Let It Go:  Both at home and at work.  We have pre-teens in the house and they try my patience - this will only get worse if I can't learn to let things go and figure out 'which hill I am going to die on.' This will be a very hard one for me since I'm a bit of a control freak. If I don't, I'll go crazy though - and nobody wants me crazy. Trust me on this.
52 Projects:  I have ideas, lots of them. There are so many projects I'd like to complete that would improve our home. I'm not a Pinterest person yet, so these have been organized into a binder. If I can do one project a week, I'll have 52 completed projects this year. Some of them are small and easy to do, and some of them will take more time. Let's see how much time I actually have for this one.
Organize and De-clutter:  Our house is definitely a home - there is a lot of stuff that has accumulated over the years. Some of it makes our lives easier, but some of it just takes up space. Our neighbourhood has a community garage sale in June - I'd like to participate this year.

Be Healthier:  Eat less and exercise more. And eat healthy foods. Most of the time. We have a crazy schedule - in 2012, we start off with kid activities three nights a week. Trying to prepare healthy meals every night is challenging, and trying to fit exercise in every day is tough too. I'm working on the healthy meals (I talked about it here) and have started running a few days a week.

Looking at this list, it seems overwhelming - especially in a life that is consumed with kids' activities three nights a week, spending time with a wonderful husband, and - oh yeah - a full time job. But, having lofty ambition is what helps us to achieve more than we thought we could.

Either that - or whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I guess I'll see which one it turns out to be. :)

So, here's to 2012. I know it will be a good one!


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

2012 Home Goals

The blog world is a great place for ideas, inspiration and support - and a written reminder of what you've committed to! There's nothing like a good kick in the pants to keep you motivated :)

The Nester asked for bloggers to post their 2012 home goals on her site - what a great way to see what others are doing, and to get some inspiration from the amazing bloggers out there.

So, here goes mine:

My main goal for our home is to update the kitchen. Many people would love our kitchen, I know - it's big,  has lots of cupboards and counter space, and is truly the heart of our home.

But . . . I don't love it.

I don't even have a picture to show you - that's now much I don't love it. (Oh, and the fact that the light at night is terrible - although that would make it look worse and you'd totally understand why I don't love it)

What I like:
  • the space  - it's a big kitchen with lots of cabinets, a huge island and 9 foot ceilings
  • the stainless steel appliances - other than the hood fan over the stove
  • the walk-in pantry - the VERY disorganized pantry
  • it's the heart of our home - when we have people over, they sit at the island while I work in the kitchen.
What I don't like:
the orange-y oak cupboards - the kitchen looks very dated
the black backsplash tile - they absorb light and make everything look dark
the green laminate countertops - yup. Enough said about those.
And the fact that it's so incredibly dark - even with massive west-facing windows, it is a dark space.

You can see most of what I'm talking about in this picture:

We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I really want it to reflect my our tastes - on a budget of course.

While this isn't exactly what I want, it's close:

from Canadian House and Home website
White cabinets on the walls, and a dark island - gorgeous!

Mr. E and I have talked about it and we are going to tackle painting the cabinets and island, and install a new backsplash. We're going to splurge on a new countertop too - but get someone who knows what they're doing to do that part! I found some great tips and tricks at Young House Love - so fingers crossed that it's as easy as they make it look.

That's my main house goal for 2012. Working full time and having two boys in a variety of evening activities doesn't leave a lot of time for major projects. And this won't be a quick or easy project, I'm sure (but don't tell Mr. E that ;))

But, if we have some 'free' time, the other home project that I'd love to tackle is adding 'lockers' to the laundry/mud room to make it more useable, like this idea from Ana White:

I'll keep my fingers crossed and see how much we can accomplish in 2012!


Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Healthy New Year

After the holidays (with it's seemingly never ending supply of sweets, drinks and large meals), most people naturally make a resolution to eat healthier and exercise more.

I'm no different.

I've been a subscriber to Clean Eating magazine for a few years now, and they have some AMAZING recipes in each issue. So, as part of our goal to eat healthier, I made a wild and crazy promise to the family:

'I won't cook the same meal for dinner for three months!'

Yup - I made this wild and crazy promise to the family. They don't usually believe me when I say things like that, but after I thought about it, it still made sense to me. I had two years worth of Clean Eating magazines, so why not start with those first?

So, I did.

I spent a few afternoons during my vacation going through those magazines, tearing out recipes that appealed to me. It was a pretty impressive pile:

(Don't you just love the 'sign here' tabs that I got from work? Mr. E uses those to show me which recipes he thinks look good - a lot of tabs get used - the recipes look that good :))

Using a menu planner form I found online (the one I found came from Menu For Moms, but I've seen others), I planned out my week:

There were three recipes that came from Clean Eating magazines last week: Cashew Chicken with Vegetables, Mushroom and Beef Stew, and Spinach, Chicken and Mushroom Dinner Crepes. And of course, none of them are on the Clean Eating website. Trust me when I tell you they were delicious :)

One week down, eleven to go!


Saturday, 7 January 2012

So Long, My Friend

But it's definitely not good-bye.

About a year and a half ago, I found the most beautiful purse - at TJ Maxx in Whitefish, no less.

A rich red leather with gorgeous stitching, and a handle long enough to put over my shoulder.

Oh yeah, and it's also got this:

My purse is an authentic Kate Spade. I love Kate Spade. Love her. I love everything she's made. I still remember a purse at the Kate Spade store in Houston that I didn't buy. I browse her online store regularly - it's good that they don't ship to Canada or I'd have a lot more than one purse. 

So, when I saw this purse at TJ Maxx, I carried it with me around the store, so nobody else could have it.

But, as much as I love this purse, it has its challenges. 

It is the size of an envelope. I can put my wallet, my keys, my blackberry - and that's it. There's no room for anything else. 

And being a working mom, that makes it a challenge sometimes.

For the New Year, I have decided I am going to try and document life more - that means taking my 'purse camera' with me wherever I go. This obviously won't work with my little red beauty.

So, I'm going to lovingly pad her with tissue paper and delicately store my Kate Spade purse away. 

And try this one instead. It's cute, isn't it?



Thursday, 5 January 2012

Cooking with the Boys

I'm not exactly sure what the long term effects on the boys will be, but they were avid watchers of the Nate Show while we were hanging out over the winter holidays.  They thought the home-made pizza pockets looked like fun.

So guess what? That's what we made for dinner the next night. :)

Here are Aidan's hands chopping the pepperoni (he refused to let me take his picture, so this is the best I got)
The boys had fun rolling out the dough
And, we ended up with these masterpieces:

They were really tasty and somehow we ended up with ten large pizza pockets - more than the recipe said we would. That's okay though - they re-heat really well too :)

All in all, that was a fun afternoon. Shared time with my boys who are growing up way too fast.


Monday, 2 January 2012

My Word for the Year - Choose

As I plan my year and try to figure out what I want to do, where I want to end up and who I want to be, one word kept popping up - Choose. It seems so appropriate so I am going to adopt it and use it to guide all my actions in 2012.

For instance, I can choose:

- to get upset about a messy house, or relax and enjoy life;
- where I spend my time, and with whom;
- what I eat and how often I exercise; and ultimately
- to be happy or not.

I see this word as an internal rudder, guiding me as I make decisions. Too often, I have chosen to take the easy road, the one that leads to anger and frustration.

So today I choose to become a better person in 2012.

Wish me luck.


The Lettered Cottage

(sigh - I had originally posted this on Jan 2 - but I am re-posting it today because I really have no idea what I'm doing! :) Anyway, I've linked up to Layla at the Lettered Cottage, along with other wonderful ladies who all have words for 2012. I wish all of them the best of luck!)