Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How To... Clean Up Your House






So, Christmas has come and gone and in the space of about 4 days, my house has gone from 'we're expecting 20 people for Christmas dinner so the house better be clean' to 'Andrew has repeatedly told me to relax, don't worry about the mess. We'll clean it later.'


You know, we've been married for 6 years now, so my hubby knows a lot about me, but I guess he still hasn't figured out that it's the mess that stresses me out. When I see stuff laying around, and dishes piled up on the counter, and recycling piling up next to the front door, and toys strewn about the house... how can anyone kick back with a book on the couch surrounded by such chaos and be expected to relax? Now granted... I'm not the tidiest person in the world. But I'm definitely starting to feel the effects of 4 days without tidying up. So, I thought I'd do a little blog post about how to handle the post holiday clean up.

Step One: Gather your supplies.

For me this includes a garbage bag for garbage and items that can't be salvaged, and a box for items that I want to donate. depending on the room, I also have a vacuum cleaner, a swiffer and mop, and an all purpose green cleaner and cloth. I also have a huge glass of water with me. Cleaning makes me thirsty. Now put on some Tunes.


Step Two: Pick a room and start there.

I'm choosing to start with my living room because that's where I'm sitting at the moment. Survey the room and take in the mess. Then open all the windows. A cool room motivates me to clean faster and the fresh air is invigorating.


Step Three: Remove things that don't belong.

As I look around my living room, I can see laundry piled up on the corner of the couch, my Christmas craft project that I didn't finish in time for Christmas, dishes from breakfast, an air mattress, and packing material from opened Christmas presents. It's time to move all these items out of the living room and put them where they belong.


Step Four: Put away the things that do belong.

I can see toys strewn about the floor, DVDs that need to go back on the shelf. I have already made a mental note of the toys which will be going into the donation box. The boys were so blessed this year and received so many wonderful new toys. However, we have a little rule that we can only keep so many toys that can fit in our two toy shelves, so some things need to go.
You could stop now, and you'd have a 'tidy' house with everything in it's place. But we're going for a CLEAN house, so it's time to bust out the cleaner.


Step Five: Break out the green cleaner.

At this point, you should have clear floors, shelves, and seating area. Now, it's time to clean any messes you might have missed. Rueben has a penchant for dumping out his milk, and I don't always catch all his little spills. He also decided to draw all over the wall last week so it's those things that we need to clean now. Cleaning tip: If all else fails, use a baby wet wipe. Those pencil crayon marks came right off the wall with a wet wipe, some baking soda and a little elbow grease.


Step Six: Clean the floor.

Nothing says clean like a sparkling floor. Even in my messy house, if all I do is mop the floor, my house looks ten times cleaner. So that's the last step for me. In the living room we have an area rug, so if I just want to do an OK job, I vacuum. If I want to do a good job, I roll up the carpet and sweep under the rug. If I want to do an amazing job, I'll move the couches too. oh look, more toys to put away!

Step Seven: Repeat then relax.

Depending on how long it's taken me to do all those steps above, and how much time I have left before Andrew comes home with the boys, I might tackle another major room like the kitchen, or do a few less messy rooms, like the library and the dinning room. Afterwards, I brew a fresh cup of coffee, shower (all that cleaning is like a workout you know!) and plop down on the couch with my current read.

See, I went from this:

To this:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Nativity Song

video

Outerspace is out of space

I snuggled in with Ethan tonight at bedtime and began our nightly ritual of the bedtime story. The ritual began for us when Ethan was 2. I was pregnant with Rueben at the time and so we knew we would be needing to move Ethan out of the crib. We had taken one side of the rails off so he was using it as a sort of daybed. Thanks to the kindness of family, Ethan received brand new bunk beds for Christmas and it was finally convenient for me to lay down with Ethan and read to him at bedtime.


I really cherish the bedtime story. It gives us a chance to not only read a book (or books) together but to reflect on our day, talk about our adventures, and for me, to become more enlightened in the philosophies of the four year old boy. Tonight was no exception.


We pulled two books from his younger days off the shelf; 'Neighbourhood Numbers' and 'Mama and Me', both of which are baby Einstein books and have great rhythm and pictures. We got up to 8 which tells us that there are eight lighted windows in eight houses and eight stars in the sky. Well this led to a very interesting conversation about the universe and 'out of space' as Ethan calls it. He declared "I know a lot about Earth". He knew about oceans and mountains, rivers and trees and roads. He knew the sun was in the sky and the moon was in the sky and the stars to which I agreed and said yes, they are all in outer space. "No, they're not mom. At nighttime, the sun goes behind the walls of the earth. In the daytime, the sun blasts through the walls of the earth". So I now have a picture of what the concept of 'outer space' is to a four year old. It seems very obvious to him that the blue sky that we see overhead and which meets the earth at the horizon is like a wall. And the sun goes behind it at night when it's dark, and then bursts through it during the day when it's light. It makes sense.


We then move on to 'Mama and Me' which is a great little book about animal babes and moms. Each page begins "I am a baby (duck for example)" with a series of familial facts about how it interacts with it's mom. "I'm a good swimmer already, but my mommy leads the way. She knows the best places to swim". Each page also has real life photography of each animal. It's a great little book to get a conversation going. Ethan wanted to know what the tigers ate. Um, well, they eat smaller animals. "like ducks?" ah, sure. "What do ducks eat?" um, bugs and plants that they find... "what do bears eat?" berries and fish "Fish, eww, yuck!" you love fish!!! "eww, no I don't" you know all that sushi you love to eat... that's fish. "oh". Then he announced that his favorite animal is a giraffe because of their long necks, and mine is an elephant because of their trunks, and Rueben's is a jaggerbafersaul (um... a what?), oh mom, it's like a kind of dinosaur. What do dinosaurs eat?" hmm, how to proceed... well, some dinosaurs ate plants and some ate smaller dinosaurs, but that was a loooong time ago. They don't live on the earth anymore. "did they move into out-of-space?" I love how his brain works. And I look forward to many more enlightening conversations with him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The problem with baking cookies...



Is that someone HAS to eat them!
Check out Simplebites.net for the recipe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guilty!

You know, I said I wouldn't. I even made a list of other things to do so I wouldn't fall into this trap. I've started another craft project. I hang my head in shame while blaming Jill from the awesome blog Homemadebyjill. That's right... I take no responsibility for what happened. You just mosey on over to her blog and just try to not think about making all those super cute things that she cranks out. You just try.

So, she decided to do a 'sew-along' with her blog readers. The cutest little felt advent Christmas tree calendar would be the result of 4 weeks of sewing assignments. Well, I started a week late, and if you know me and crafts, I tend to start off gangbusters and crash and burn towards the end. I have 12 felt ornaments done, the tree is cut out but needs to be sewn to the backing piece, all my pockets are cut and stitched with the 24 numbers leading up to Christmas, but they too need to be stitched to the backing. I will post some pictures once I have something substantial to show.

I was really optimistic with this one, that I'd be able to get it done in time. Ah well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

She's Got Legs

And some pretty fantastic shoes. Florence and the Machine perform on SNL.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to... Grow a Winter Garden


A friend asked me how I made my winter garden grow? Well, it didn't really, and neither did hers, so I decided to do some research to find out how we can both be successful winter gardeners. A quick google search reveals a plethora of information.

1. Know your zone. Here in the lower mainland, we are zone 8. Knowing your zone helps you to know when to plant seedlings, when the typical first and last frost occur. Check here to see the characteristics of your zone.

2. Next, decide what you want to plant. Successful winter garden vegetables include carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, chard, beets, onions, leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts. Basically tubers, root vegetables that grow under the ground and hardy leaf greens like kale and chard.
(Photo: My cousins garden in France)

3. Lastly, know when to plant. The easy part of a summer garden is the fact that you can start planting as soon as the risk of frost has past. And you can keep planting throughout spring and summer. The trick with a winter garden is to know how long it will take for your seeds to mature (and there is huge variation from crop to crop) and then calculate when to plant.

For example, let's say I want to plant beets to harvest in the early fall. Beets take approximately 90 days to reach maturity, so I would want to plant by mid July for a mid October harvest.

Broccoli on the other hand only takes 30 days to reach maturity, so I could plant by mid September for mid October harvest.

For continuous crops, you could plant new seeds every two weeks just as you would a summer garden.

Here are some websites that I found to be helpful and informative. Check 'em out, then go out and plant some broccoli... it's not too late.

Old Farmers Almanac

Hume Seeds

Plant a Fall and Winter Garden

You Grow Girl - General Garden Blog for Urban Dwellers

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First...

Day of School. I know, it's a little late, but the pictures got lost in the shuffle of things. Better late than never!



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Not so spooky but completely awesome halloween costumes

I'll tell you what is scary... not getting a really good picture of these two munchkins in their costumes. They were so excited to go out trick or treating that they could barely stay still long enough for me to get a picture. OH Well... at least Ethan loved his costume.









Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary

It's amazing how quickly one year goes by. I realised a few days ago that the one year anniversary of our Vancouver house purchase had snuck past the radar unsuspectingly. Amidst the start of the school year for Ethan, dance classes, recent and impending visits from Andrew, and getting Halloween costumes finished, I didn't even pause to say 'happy first year back to Vancouversary'.

And what a year it's been. I became an aunt! Rueben met his auntie Andrea for the first time. We hosted our first Christmas dinner and christened 'the great dinning hall' (picture Andrew leaning back, hands up in front, eyes slightly closed, gesturing...). Ethan and Rueben experienced Hotel Lake and Sheridan Lake camping trips for the first time. For about two months after, ever lake we past was 'look, it's Hotel Lake'! We became landlords twice over (with better luck back in fsj...). Ethan started preschool and hip hop dance classes while I stepped back into my tap shoes (hello bedazzled 'all that jazz' number).

On the downside, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer and had a colonoscopy followed by chemo treatments. He has fared extremely well due to his amazing physical fitness (climbing Kilimanjaro is no easy feat, let alone when you're in your 50's). He has just recently been told by his Doc that he has only two rounds of chemo left before he's done with it. Excellent fantastic news.

I can't believe how much has changed in just one year, but I'm glad we made the decision to move back to the lower mainland. I do, however (and I can't believe I'm about to say this...) but I do miss Fort Saint John. It took me a long time to break out of my shell and make some good friends. I feel like this first year back to Vancouver was kind of like my first year in FSJ. Settling into the neighbourhood has been easy. Settling into friendships has been harder. I need to make a more concerted effort to make connections with people (beyond the baristas at Starbucks of course...) This will be my challenge for Vancouver: year 2.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

R.I.P Wasteful Halloweens | Seventh Generation

R.I.P Wasteful Halloweens Seventh Generation

Check out this article from the Seventh Generation Blog with tips and resources to celebrate a green and Earth friendly halloween. This year, Ethan decided he wanted to be Thomas the Tank Engine for halloween. His costume is coming together nicely. We found a big long box that will form the body of the train which we have painted blue. We painted some toilet paper rolls for the funnel and whistle. And for Thomas' face, we paper-mached a balloon which we will glue to the front of the box. I think it's going to look fantastic and I know Ethan will love it. And one of the best parts about it is that it only cost us a few dollars to make.

This year, Rueben is going to re-use one of Ethan's old costumes. Either a turtle (if the costume still fits) or Frankenstein's monster. Looking forward to some halloween fun!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Welcome great pumpkin









Well, it's autumn, and that means Halloween is right around the corner, which means it's time to carve pumpkins!!! Hooray!! I couldn't have been more excited when I found out that Ethan's preschool class was going on a field trip to the Hazelmere pumpkin patch. What a treat! It was so much fun.



We started our morning looking at some goats... Rueben was a bit reluctant to pet them and Ethan was not interested at all. Then we had a chat with one of the 'pumpkin farmers' who showed us different colored and shaped pumpkins. After the little lesson, we enjoyed a hayride through a spooky-ish forested area and were dropped off in front of a corn maze! It was so much fun zig zagging through the corn stalks with all my boys. We emerged on the other side into a huge pumpkin field where we decided exactly which pumpkins we would take home with us. Then once we had all made our selections, we boarded the hay wagons again for another little ride. Our morning ended with snacks and hot chocolate. What a fun way to spend the morning with Ethan and all his preschool mates. We happened to sit next to Ethan's best friend and train officionado Ty on the waggon ride. Ethan later pronounced "mom, I love playing trains with Ty. He's my favorite"! Who knew that the two little boys who argued over the trains on the first day of preschool would turn into best mates... OK, we all know that's how the greatest friendships begin! Here are some pictures from our little romp in the field.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Curse of the Half-finished Projects

In a dark green craft room... at the top of the stairs... tucked into boxes and bags... lurks something every crafter dreads... well, lurks something that this crafter dreads. It eats away at you, those voices whisper to you every time you check out craft blogs and the weekly Michaels sales flyer... "We're still here. You can't get away from us." It's the curse of the half-finished craft projects and the terror it produces is unparalleled.

My problem is that I love the feeling of starting a new project; The possibility, the creativity, the excitement are all things that I really enjoy. Inevitably though I loose steam and I end up either starting a new project or forgetting all about it. To break myself of this bad bad habit I am going to publicly declare my list of unfinished projects and try my darndest to not start any more projects (except for Christmas cards, naturally) until I've finished the others. So here we go...

1. Christmas quilt wall hanging. Started two years ago. I went on a day trip with a girlfriend Arlyn from Fort St John to nearby Grand Prairie in Alberta. We stopped in a fabric store and I found this great fabric which I thought would be a fabulous quilt. So, two years later, I've done all of the sewing, but had lofty ambitions for embellishing it by hand with sequins and shinny threads. Still not done.

2. Scrap booking. Started many years ago. My problem here is that I have several half finished scrapbooks from vacations 5 years ago, life milestones, baby books, and too many pictures that are yet to be developed. I just need to sit down and do it. This could absolutely be multi-tasked with TV watching. I need to schedule scrap booking into my weekly calendar. I am pleased to report that I did accomplish my one pager on my fall list. Hooray.

3. Cross-stitching. Started four years ago. I have two projects still to finish. One lullaby sampler that I started for Rueben when he was born. Ethan's turned out so well that I knew I had to do one for Rueben too. I also have a sampler that I started when we bought our house in Fort St John to commemorate our new house purchase. Four years and two houses later and I still have nothing to hang on the wall in the entryway.

4. Sewing Curtains. One year ago. I have all the fabric, just need to sit down and sew curtains for Ethan's room and the craft room. I also found a very cute pattern for a baby jean skirt that I want to make for my niece McKenzie. But I guess this one will need to wait.

5. Halloween costume. Two weeks ago. Ethan declared "I would like to be Thomas the Tank Engine for Halloween this year"! So, we have a large cardboard box, a papermached balloon with eyes, nose and cheeks. We have made a great start, but it's been sitting untouched for a few days and I worry that Ethan will end up going as a bed sheet ghost.

6. Christmas felt projects. I bought some coloured felt to make quaint handmade Christmas tree ornaments and throw pillows but never got around to making them.

Hopefully, I can finish most of these projects by Christmas this year, although in all honesty, I think the scrap booking will never get done.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

wordless


UPDATED! Fall List

Yes, I'm aware that I have already made a Master List of Goals for 2010. This is a more whimsical list, following the lead of Aimee from one of my favorite blogs, Underthehighchair.com, I've decided to create a 'must-do' list for fall 2010. So without further ado, and not much thought (sort of adds to the whimsy, no?), here is my list.

{DONE} 1. Go to a pumpkin patch with the boys to select a Halloween pumpkin

{DONE} 2. Get lost in a corn maze. I can't believe I'm 30 and have never been inside a corn maze!

{DONE} 3. Make and can some apple butter... cause the peach butter I made is off the chain

4. Loose another 10 pounds. This I give myself until Christmas, where I will probably write on my 2011 list 'loose those 10 pounds again.

{DONE} 5. Scrapbook at least one page. I mean, really, you think I could accomplish that, right? We'll see.

6. Finish the Christmas quilt I started 2 years ago.

7. Throw a dinner party. You know, a real grown up type party, with cocktails and whatnot.

{DONE} 8. Plant some winter veggies in some pots on the deck and see how they grow.

9. Take the boys for a walk in the rain and (gasp) let them get muddy. (oh, the horror. I can just see it now...)

10. Take more photographs. Really learn how to use my camera and maximize its potential.

So, we'll see how I do with these 10 items. What's on your list this fall?