Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I wish I could post more...

Seriously, where did the fall go?? Or 2011 in its entirety? The year has been a bit of a whirlwind. A wonderful, chaotic, amazing, enriching, trying, beautiful year. For half of the year I barely slept, for the other half I've been trying to sort out allergies with my kids. But, I think I've come out ahead (truth be told I've lost count, but it kind of feels like a small victory to have survived this year?!)

So, exactly *why* I'm not able to update this blog as often as I'd like, you ask? Well, it really boils down to two things:

1. Thing One, and 

2. Thing Two

 These precious little creatures light up our lives every day -- even those days when we are up before the crack of dawn...

They make mundane tasks like taking a bath a true adventure >>>

Their little personalities have exploded and provided many laughs, smiles, and the occasional tears too! They certainly have developed their own sense of style that they are very particular about. Thing Two, for example, has worn Cookie Monster and Fire Trucks almost exclusively for a good part of the year. Gives mommy a good shopping challenge!

The bee hats have also been particularly popular - not quite the pumpkin patch pictures I was hoping for - but certainly captures the spirit of the outing! 

They want to help with everything and have their own views on what 'help' is -- such as using a range of kitchen utensils to set up our Christmas tree :)


So, as much as I would love to blog more, these two things have kept: me running; my heart warm; my eyes wet; my pride overflowing; my coffee cup full. I'm still around, and have a couple of posts in queue that I really do want to get to... after I go and snuggle my boys. :) Happy holidays!


Friday, 16 September 2011

Pantry Overhaul

I get why kitchen makeovers are popular and get high return on investment: people spend alot of time in the kitchen. I for sure do. And we're going to take a crack at making some modest updates to it this winter - but that's for another post. This one is about one specific aspect of my kitchen: the pantry.

The challenge in our current house really boils down to space. I have a small pantry that seems to explode every few months, despite my best efforts at keeping it organized. But this fall, organizing is taking on a whole new level, as I'm turning over my pantry to be gluten free...

So to rewind a bit: My youngest son is allergic to cow's milk, and has bad eczema. After a very successful visit to the naturopath (Dr. Jennifer Luck in Ottawa, who I've been very impressed with and would recommend!), we did a blood test to see what else he might be sensitive to. My biggest lesson in this process was probably that I will never send my husband to a doctor's appointment for the kids again. Upon his return, I asked, "So how did it go? What were the results?". His response: "Oh, good, as we assumed. He's only allergic to milk and gluten."... and wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and oh, peanuts. Now, he actually isn't allergic to all of these things - he has an intolerance/sensitivity to all of these items. His only true allergy is to cow's milk. But still.

This news was major. Bigger than his milk allergy, which I've learned to deal with quite easily and without much apparent adjustment to my kitchen and our cooking. But gluten/wheat? This is huge. No pasta - which both my kids love. No regular cereal. No crackers, pancakes, pizza. Or, at least in the form that we were accustomed to.

So off I went to research, investigate, learn -- and figure out how to transform my pantry. And that I did. In the matter of a few days, I first and foremost spoke w/ a few friends that are gluten-free in their house, and their help has been invaluable! And then off I went to purchase cookbooks, add RSS feeds to my homepage, and sign up to kids allergy forums. And then, to tackle my pantry.

I spent a couple of days going out and sourcing a few of the key ingredients that friends had suggested - different types of flour, good brands of rice/corn/other pasta, gluten-free cereals, and endless other products that I had no idea contained gluten. And then, I opened the door to my pantry, and shelf by shelf, I cleared, cleaned and changed over the products.

Our top shelf is home to all of our cereal boxes. And my boys love their cereal. So I knew that all of the wheat-based, tasty cereals they loved had to leave (my boys includes my husband - he was very sad to see his Mini Wheats go). But, the good news is - they were replace-able! And some of them actually don't taste half bad! We are still experimenting on this front - my biggest challenge to date is finding something that is not too sugary yet still tastes too. Chex gluten-free happens to be my favourite so far.

The shelf that holds all of our baking essentials was probably my biggest challenge, and the hardest for me to turn over. Bye-bye to simple, tried and true recipes for banana muffins, chocolate chip cookies and birthday cakes & cupcakes. :( I'm not quite over it yet. Not that I bake all that much, but I do enjoy it when I do. And I can't say that I've ventured into the new world of gluten-free baking yet - although I am set now, with my chick pea, rice, and potato flour. And I've forgotten a few other types that I purchased. I blame the wine I'm sipping as I'm writing this. :)

And finally, it was an excuse to clean out and reorganize my canned goods and other items. And it was probably just time to do that again anyways. I can't say that I'm finished. I need another trip to Storage Solutions to get some additional containers for my flour, and for better storage of other misc. items. But overall I'm happy. I wish I took a before picture, but here's my after - and it's a big improvement.

And more importantly - I think the change is making a difference for my son. And for all of us. Eating gluten free has its challenges, but it also forces some more healthy decisions in our diet. Not that we were eating poorly before. But not as good as we could or should. At least I know that any investment in our kitchen will be even more well founded, given the extra time I'm now spending in it cooking. :)

Friday, 12 August 2011

the Murphy Bed

So I admit, this is wayyyy old news at our house. But it was one of our major purchases in our 'sleep investment' this year, and a bit part of our house re-org. Thus, I think it is still worthy of a mention here.

We live in a 3+ bedroom house. It is comfy, a decent size, but by no means big. Especially when you have a 2yr old that has a set of lungs!! So this winter, we decided that we needed to take action, and fast, if we wanted to continue to function at all. Our three bedrooms are all tucked in very nice and tightly beside each other, so we figured we needed to put a bed in our basement, without sacrificing space (back to the size comment). We had fairly recently purchased a couch for down there, so a pull out was really out of the question. So, I started to explore the murphy bed option.

When I first shared with my friends that we were going to get a murphy bed installed, I must admit I got several odd looks. It seems that 'murphy bed' has a bit of a hangover from its past, where it perhaps was not the most elegantly designed piece of furniture in the house. Let me put those perceptions to rest. I  scoured the net and came up with many great options. Murphy beds today can look like part of your wall cabinetry - sleek and unnoticeable.

I narrowed it down to a fairly specific design (if you haven't heard of I highly recommend it) that would be built into our wall and shopped it around town. I landed on a version from the Guest Room which has recently opened in Westboro. And, well, below I share the before and after pics:

Before: I really was not a fan of these cabinets. Practical but ugly.

After! Few finishing touches still required here but overall this is the look. Much more modern! 

And the best part? The bed is super comfortable! We've used it for nights we know are going to be rough with the kids, or if one of us has to travel early the next morning, and of course for guests too. It was money well spent!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My Pin Board

So I *just* discovered pinterest a couple of weeks back -- what a fabulous tool, I am a huge fan!! I was really just waiting for an easy to use service to come along and help me organize all of my design ideas, kids stuff, and other cool randomness that I run into through my online browsing, which I admit, I do a fair bit of!

Mostly I'm pinning ideas for our cottage right now, as we are chipping away at little (or big) projects up there right now - but this is my favourite pin so far - it is going up on my cottage wall!

Source: At Home with Kim Vallee

Summer is definitely here in full force and we are reveling in it and escaping up to the cottage as much as possible. The week can therefore be a bit of a doozy - such as this week, as I scramble to pull together my son's birthday festivities! (Which I've also been using pinterest for - I've pinned a few cute cookie monsters up there too!). However, I have decided that moving forward, my darling husband will be responsible for the birthday gift shopping for the boys, and I will stick to the party planning, which is much more my forte, hehe!

Anyways, here is my Pinterest board, which will continue to grow, and hopefully soon I'll be able to add some pics of the work that these pins have inspired!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Lego Storage

OK I've been so busy organizing that I haven't had time to post! Ha, that's my story anyways! I have so much to update... but my first order is to share a great find for Lego storage! Check out the Swoop Bag - a play mat turned storage bin for lots of little parts!

I'm loving this idea and am definitely going to get one for our Lego (our current bin is packed to the brim!) and I also think this would work perfectly for the many toys around our cottage!

I came across this idea from a great blog that I follow - she also has a list of other Lego storage products & ideas: Jerri's Organizing & Decluttering news - worth a read!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Cleaning up the Inbox

I thought we had a good system for our emails - I had a hotmail account to sign up for interesting deals, newsletters, etc., and we had a personal account for actual correspondence with family and friends. Then along came group buying sites - and this turned our email system upside down! It started off with sending some groupon sites for our Christmas holiday to our personal email - because we were both interested in these deals, and it was an email that we both read more frequently. Then somehow my husband's flyers started to creep in the inbox too, and one extra newsletter here and there later -- things started getting lost in the clutter, and emails from friends have started to go missing and unread. Not cool.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, one of the group buying sites that I signed up for ended up being a scam (or so we think). We got our money back from the gift card we attempted to purchase (fyi the site was - but, they had my email and password. Not cool. So I decided to close down my hotmail, and start fresh.

Which means starting fresh with our other email too. Which means doing some electronic house cleaning.

So, our new approach is going to be: our home email (which is shared) is for just that - email. And then my hubby and I will each have our own seperate emails to use to sign up for interesting and relevant deals, newsletters, etc. - but he won't need to sift through all the groupons and etsy emails, and I won't need to wade through his Globe & Mail financial report updates (although I probably should!).

And, since I've closed my hotmail account, I'm starting with a clean slate and have to go and add anything I want to receive again. But, it was probably time to do it anyways, considering I've had my hotmail account since undergrad and there were some 2000 unread emails in my inbox. :)

So, organization can extend beyond the physical house! Feels good!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The defacto storage unit

I think that every parent owns at least one piece of Ikea Expedit shelving. It meets all of the key criteria for toy storage: good storage space for small pieces, looks modern & clean, and is a decent price point (because let's face it - we want to have something that looks good but we know the wear & tear that kids and toys will have on it!). We have two of their units - a large one (4x4?) downstairs, and today we purchased the 1x5 for upstairs. Because toys have taken over our house.

Now the interesting thing is though, that there are limited options for the storage containers that you can insert. I'm not a huge fan of the plastic ones that Ikea sells, and the wicker ones I think will scratch the shelving too much (we've had lots of issues w/ wicker baskets and our floors -- look nice but they've done a good number in a couple rooms!). I went on a bit of a search for a nice basket that would fit it -- and came up a bit short. However, I didn't have a lot of time to invest, I will admit - as I wanted the unit set up this weekend. I did manage to come up w/ some cute cloth Reisenthel boxes at Storage Solutions -they don't fit perfectly but they have lids on them, and so they look nice and neat. I just thought, this MUST be a market opportunity for someone, to produce some alternative storage boxes for the Ikea Expedit shelving, that are a perfect fit?!

Here's how it turned out!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

My first post

It has been 20 months since my second son was born. He was a wonderful surprise - a little miracle that we were hoping and planning for, but after struggling to conceive our first son, it was a true shocker to get preggers on our first attempt the second time around! And so, 20 months ago, life changed, for the second time, but in a much bigger way, at least for me. Keeping organized and on top of things has been MUCH more of a challenge. And so I spend alot of my time trying to figure out how to better organize and manage our home and our life to stay... well, sane.

I subscribe to alot of blogs - for parenting/mom tips, home reno tips, cooking (and batch cooking!), local events, work topics... the list goes on. All to say, I am constantly on the lookout for other great ideas, on a wide array of topics.

So what do I think that I can add to the blogosphere? I am hoping that I can share some of the things that I am doing as a working mom, in a bursting house, to keep all the ball in the air. I plan to blog on household organization, clutter, and cleaning, on juggling schedules, and on trying to eat healthier and live more naturally while being on the run. I hope that some of my ideas will be helpful to some of you out there!