Monday, 20 February 2012

Everything...Is...Organized!

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     When you really think about it, this life that we're given is quite an incredible thing. We have the power to make our lives whatever we want them to be. We can decide if we want to be happy, miserable, cheerful or sad. We can decide what kind of person we want to be and how we want to use our life. It can sometimes feels like we don't have these options, since life will certainly throw us some pretty stressful, heartbreaking situations. But in the end, we have the ability to decide how we are going to react to each of the situations that we're forced to go through. I grew up with my parents always saying to me "You may not be able to control that this is happening, but you can decide how you are going to react to it". Wise words mom and dad. 
     My sister Val is a prime example of this. In the midst of an incredibly difficult, stressful situation, she is choosing to continue to live a life of joy, love and happiness. She is incredibly ill and has been completely bedridden for almost four years now. She lives in a hospital bed in her living room, hooked up to an IV and a feeding tube with her husband sleeping beside her at night. It's not any kind of life that she or any of us want for her (or her husband) and it's an absolutely heartbreaking situation in every way possible. However, out of this terrible situation she manages to always think of others, do sweet thoughtful things for those in her world and reminds everyone who she comes in contact with that life is too fragile and precious to waste. So when she told me that she wanted to get her living room more organized, I wasn't surprised. She is a proactive kind of person and has learned how to create a life for herself and her husband within the circumstances that she has been forced to live in (which is something that we can all learn from). So instead of living in something that she didn't want to be living in anymore..she chose to do something about it, and asked for the help. What a good lesson she teaches us all. Don't just think about doing it...actually go out and get it done (and if you can't do it yourself, ask for help).

Mya's favourite cuddle spot on Val...
        I knew that in organizing her surroundings, it also meant that it would make her feel like her world was more controlled, peaceful and happy...so what a privilege to be able to do this for her.  Mya and I spend the entire day with her every Tuesday looking after her since she requires 24hr care and help with meds, etc. (which is great since that also means that we had the time to start a big task like this and actually get it finished). So after mapping out a bit of a plan, we got to work. This pic below is the final product of organizing all of her card-making supplies.

        Val is a card-making queen, so she has a ton of card-making/scrapbooking/stamping supplies that she wanted all organized. It was important that we organized it in a specific way so that she could easily ask someone to bring one box or basket to her bed and it would contain everything that she needed. So after I made the biggest mess in the world all over her floor while sorting, categorizing and creating a variety of piles, we managed to get everything into order and neatly into nice little boxes. If you're looking to do something similar to this in your own home, this storage unit was from Ikea, along with the 2 large baskets and the 2 white boxes. The smaller plastic boxes are actually tackle boxes (yes, for fishing!) and they're from Canadian Tire. These tackle boxes are perfect for all of the little jewels and decorative pieces that you have when you're a card-maker/scrapbooker. I just made the little labels on Val's computer, backed them with green scrapbook paper and used packing tape to stick them to the containers.



I made little labels, wrapped them in packing tape and tied them to the boxes with pretty ribbon.

 If you're stuck like we were, where we didn't have enough storage containers/boxes when it was all said and done (and we didn't have the ability to just go out and buy more that day), here is a quick little trick:

    

      Use cardboard boxes and wrap them in scrapbook paper or pretty fabric. These are medicine boxes, but diaper boxes work really well since they're nice and sturdy--and easily accessible, especially if you've got little ones. If I had had more time I would have wrapped these boxes entirely in this scrapbook paper, but since you can really only see the front of these boxes on this particular shelf (until you pull them out), I decided that the front was better than nothing. Just use scissors to cut the flaps off of the top of the box and you're ready to wrap them.

     We also organized all of her clothes using another Ikea shelving unit, some baskets and some Dollarama plastic bins. I chose the same green/white/brown combo for the labels so that the room all coordinated. Again, I just wrapped the labels in packing tape, used a hole punch and strung ribbon through them and attached them to the containers. Val also had the fancy idea of using double sided tape to attach plastic bags to the insides of these wooden baskets so that her clothes wouldn't get snagged or caught on them. Brilliant.



      You walk into her living room now and it looks so good. Everything has a place, all of the nurses, PSW's and everyone else who cares for Val knows where everything is supposed to go and everything is easily accessible.

     Once I was finished at Val's house, I was even more inspired to continue to tackle my own house. Picking one space at a time, I started with my walk-in closet and managed to come up with almost 4 garbage bags full of clothes for Goodwill. My closet was just so overwhelming to me since I knew it would take FOREVER to go through. And really, I don't have the luxury of time anymore since apparently 16month olds don't really like to organize...it's really more fun to disorganize when you're a kid. Much more exciting. So it took me over a week to finish, but when I put Mya down to bed at night I'd just tackle one little part of my closet at a time. You can't see here in this pic because of the angle, but the closet continues back further where I have all my dresses, pants and shoes as well. So it was a big undertaking to even start this chore. But I did it. I just organized it so that all of my summer stuff is on one side, winter on the other, sweaters on top and jewelry is all nicely organized at the back. There's nothing too fancy about it, but it makes me happy to know that all of the clothes infront of me are clothes that fit, clothes that I will wear and I love that my jewelry is all organized too.

I also organized all of my cards that I keep in my closet--sorted them all and made little tags so they are now all easily accessible
       The next thing that I tackled was our cupboard in our kitchen that seems to hold all of the random things that we use on a daily basis. This cupboard was a disaster. It's where we keep the dog food, our tea towels, etc etc. and it always stressed me out whenever I opened it and couldn't find anything that I needed. So with a few Dollarama bins, some labels that I made (re-using the labels that I used for Jen and Jeff's baby shower), I also managed to finish this one while our sweetpea was fast asleep at night. It wasn't as difficult as my closet, so it only took maybe 2 nights to finish.


Ok, that's all! I need to go take a nap now after all of that. But my goodness does it ever feel good to have order in my house and it feels even better that I was able to bring order and peace to someone else's house. Goodnight!  

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Farm/Golf Cake

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Super easy Valentine's Day chocolate pretzel bites

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      Yesterday was a day that I've always wanted to have as a mom. Before having Mya, I'd always daydream about what it would be like to be a mother. I'd plan out ideas of what I wanted to do with my children, what experiences I wanted them to have and I'd think about the expectations that I'd have of myself once I became a mom. I always knew that I wanted to have children, and lots of them..(four, to be exact)--however, I still have to somehow try to convince Terry of that...and I always had an idea of what mothering meant to me from an early age. It's probably because I had such a great mom myself and I knew that I wanted to be that for my own children one day. So this weekend I got to experience with Mya what I deem as a necessity in one's childhood: baking.
     As a little girl, I still remember dragging a dining room chair into our kitchen, up to that tall counter, and standing on the seat so that I could reach the mixing bowl that my mom was holding. I got to stir, mix, measure and even crack the eggs into the cookie dough. I'd lick the spoon, with my nose pressed up against the glass on the oven as I watched the cookies slowly spread out and rise. To a kid, there's nothing like it. And I love how that smell of baking lingers throughout your house all day long.

        In anticipation of Valentine's Day, I thought it was only appropriate to use this occasion as a perfect excuse to get Mya to help me bake up some yummy treats. We made some delicious chocolate caramel cookies and some super easy pretzel bites. We started with the cookies, and I was surprised and thrilled that she was so interested in helping and watching each step of the process. I gave her an egg to hold (yes, anticipating that she would drop it or smash it..but she didn`t. She put the whole thing right into the bowl instead--knowing somehow that that`s exactly where it was supposed to go. One day she`ll get the whole cracking thing down pat).









 This picture melts my heart. She just stood there staring at those cookies..so patiently waiting for them to come out.


   
      I felt so productive that morning--all the cookies were baked before 8:30am and cookie testing was completed shortly after (the one good thing about never having the luxury of being able to sleep in anymore means that at least we get more hours in our day to get things done!). I would have liked to have continued on to making the pretzel bites, but Mya was so done being in the kitchen. We needed a change of scenery, so I saved those for the afternoon when she was sleeping.

      The pretzel bites are so easy, and so cute and fun. I thought I'd share how we made them so that others could whip them up for Valentine's Day. It`s like fake baking...you really can`t mess these up. Here is how we did it:

1) Buy a bag of Hershey Kisses, square or small twisted pretzels and Smarties.


2) Lay out all of the pretzels on a cookie sheet.

3) Place a kiss on top of each pretzel (I chose to use cookies n'cream Kisses so it`d be a nice colour contrast with the pink/red Smarties, but you can use any of your favourite kinds--just not caramel ones..you'll end up with a big caramel mess. Pic below to prove it).


4) Place in oven at 350 until the kisses begin to melt a bit (about 2-3mins).

5) Pull out of the oven and place a Smartie on top of each Kiss.


Let cool, and voila! You're done--easy as pie (and so cute and delicious!). I then just wrapped them up, tied a bow and put them in cute little boxes to give to my fellow kindie teachers for Valentine's Day.

HOWEVER...here is what happens when you use caramel Kisses (I learned this the hard way!). Big caramel disaster and the kisses don't melt properly. I had to literally scrape them off of the pan. On a positive note though, it just means Terry and I have to eat these ones!

      We put together a little Valentine's Day package for Mya's daycare ladies as well to thank them for taking such good care of her. Wrap anything up in a fancy box and all of a sudden your baking looks much more appealing. :) All of the boxes that I used were Martha Stewart and Wilton boxes (from Michaels craft store).


I love that holidays give me perfect excuses to do fun things like this.  It's these little moments, like baking with Mya, that I try to hold on to and cherish. Everyone will tell you that you need to treasure the times with your children, yet it's difficult to do when life is busy, stressful and crazy at times. But it's these little moments where I remind myself to actually live in the moment and breathe it all in. Really, it's these little wonderful moments that make life worth living...otherwise, what are we really doing each day?


What a lovely morning surprise--sparkly hearts!


     It's like Saturday morning when Terry and I looked out and saw the snow covered sidewalk and driveway. In a single night our world was covered in a blanket of thick snow. Usually my first instinct is to feel exhausted just looking at the snow that I'll have to shovel. But as we finished up our chocolate chip pancakes that morning, we got Mya all bundled up, I grabbed my camera and we had so much fun watching her stumble through the snow in her bulky snowsuit, looking like a walking marshmallow.
     

       Our dog tore up and down the driveway trying to catch all of the snow being thrown from our shovels and Mya watched intensely as we worked away at clearing a path on the sidewalk. Then the ride in the big blue shovel was the best of all. I laughed as I watched Terry run up and down the driveway pushing Mya as she was both stunned and giggling at the same time, probably not really understanding how she was actually moving.

     All of a sudden a normally mundane task turned into a fun little family activity. And what's even better is that on a break from the shovelling we grabbed our toboggan out of the shed and took Mya sledding down our little mini hill in our backyard. Oh, and Terry and I also took a few rides ourselves--just for kicks.





    

Terry showin' us how it's done...prepping for the speed of the huge hill.  

      When we came inside and stomped the snow off our boots, I said to Terry,  "These are the kinds of things that a childhood is made of". And his response to me was, "Yea, but we'll need to get hot chocolate with little marshmallows ready for her when we come inside next time". 
       This is why I married this man.
I hope you enjoy all the little moments in your life today!
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