Thursday, April 28, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing # 17

This week I tackled our top shelf in the master bedroom and the bathroom closet. The goal was to get the linens and towels organized and move the medicines out of the bathroom since medicines shouldn't be stored in the bathroom due to the high humidity.

Before: Top shelf of master bedroom (mostly unorganized linens)...Hmm...I see I need to do some more work in the closet, too!

After: Our winter duvet, memory love boxes, blank greeting cards, and medicines. Our old comforters that we don't use and extra blankets will now be stored under the bed in clear containers.

Before: Bathroom Closet ( some shelves look a little empty because I was washing the towels, which is why I figured it was a good day to organize it!)

Before: Bathroom Closet

After: I even learned the Martha Stewart way of folding a fitted took me a few tries. ha ha. Now our extra sheets and pillow cases are on one shelf rather than scattered here and there. Before this, some were in the hall closet & some on the master bedroom shelf. Now, all are on one shelf here in the bathroom.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit disappointed that my bathroom closet doesn't look a bit neater than this, but it seems rolling the towels just works better here as opposed to folding them. Also, we have quite the assortment of mismatched towels! At least everything has its place in there now and I can know where to go if I need to find towels & linens!

*Linking up to the 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge*

Bedtime Struggles & Successes

First...the bedtime struggles:

Anyone who knows us well knows we have had some major sleeping issues with our little Ellie. Almost from time time she was born, bedtimes and nap times have caused us problems. She only really started sleeping through the night around a year old and then about 2 weeks into that, she got extremely ill and then with all the hospital stays and traveling, she stopped sleeping through the night again. A few months later, we were back on track, however, bedtimes were still a big struggle. I honestly dreaded putting her down for her nap and for night as it was a battle nearly every single time. One night I spent 7 hours putting her to bed. Yes, you read that right. 7 HOURS. This girl just hates going to bed. I've read books, I've tried all sorts of methods, I did research. Nothing seemed to really work. Sure, some nights we would have a bit of success, but nothing lasting. She would go through phases where she'd go to bed fairly well at home, but then anytime we traveled somewhere, it was a nightmare. Often I would spend hours trying to put her to bed while everyone else played games or visited. Not fun is an understatement. Last weekend we ran into the same problem. This time, she went to bed surprisingly well, but then awoke around 1 a.m. with a terrible stomach ache (this is totally understandable). We got the stomach ache fixed and then the bedtime struggle really began. She wanted to play, not sleep. We tried letting her sleep with us. Nope. We tried letting her cry it out for awhile. Nope. I tried rocking her and cuddling her to sleep. Nope. We tried nearly everything. Finally, around 4:30 a.m. we (Ellie and I) crashed on the couch. She and I slept a grand total of 2 hours. We dabbled a bit in letting her sleep in a toddler bed to see if that would help, but after a few days and nights we gave that idea up for now. Now you know some of our bedtime struggles.

Now on to some bedtime successes...

The last method we recently tried was the Supernanny's (from that t.v. show) sleep separation technique. Basically, it goes something like this. Do your bedtime routine, kiss & cuddle, put them to bed. The first time they get up, go to them say "it's bedtime", give a short cuddle, then back to bed. The second time, you say "it's bedtime" with no cuddle. After that, you basically just ignore them while sitting close by so the child can see you. (If the child is no longer in a crib, you put them back in bed without speaking every time they get out). I did this with Ellie in her crib. For about a week, I would stay in her room until she fell asleep because she constantly would cry to get out of bed.The goal was to get to the point where she no longer put up a fuss when I put her down for bedtime. I didn't think this technique would work because I thought I'd then always have to stay in her room until she falls asleep, but I really tried to stick it out. This week, however, has been phenomenal at home! She has been telling me when she's tired "seepy" or "night night" or "bed," and now when I put her down, there hasn't even been a peep! The key is to wait until she is just tired but not overtired. Some nights, she is so tired that she wants to cut the bedtime story short and points to her bed, indicating she'd rather sleep instead. I am hoping and praying that this is going to be the new norm for us. Now, bedtimes are enjoyable rather than a battle. Of course, I know there will still be hiccups now and then, but I hope this becomes the normal routine. As for the toddler bed...well that can wait!

(Oh...and I chose a picture of a giraffe because that is one of Ellie's favourite animals. She cannot sleep without "Gerry Jaff". This morning she drew a little scribble on a paper, pointed to it, and said "Jaff" (giraffe).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Upcoming Guest Blog Post

If you check out my left sidebar, you'll notice the Summer Survival Guide 2011 button. I will be making a guest appearance on the Happily Domestic blog and be guest blogging for this event sometime during the month of May. I already have the post written up and will let you know when it will make its guest appearance. No hints on the subject quite yet. Stay tuned.... :-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recipe Index

This is my on-going recipe index of our family's favourite recipes. Some of the recipes do not have links yet because I haven't posted the recipe yet. I try to give credit where it's due, so if my recipe has been inspired by another recipe, I try to provide the original link for you with my recipe. Please bear with me as getting this all together will take some time. Happy cooking! :-)

& Dips

Golden Garlic Bread
Homemade Baked Pita Chips
Marshmallow Fruit Dip
Herb Veggie & Chip Dip
Baked Pita Chips

London Fog
Caramel Frappuccino
Chai Latte
Tutti Frutti Punch
Cappuccino Punch
Hot Chocolate
Yogurt Smoothies

Breads, Rolls, & Muffins
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Cheese Biscuits
Quick Cheese & Garlic Biscuits
Savoury Flax & Carrot Biscuits
No-Rise Thin Crust Pizza Dough
Buttermilk Pancakes
Pita Pockets
Blueberry Muffins
Rhubarb Crunch Muffins
Banana Chip Muffins
Buttermilk Pancakes
Cinnamon Rolls (Mom's recipe)Bold

Homemade Veggie Broth
Summa (Summer) Borscht
Kommst (Cabbage) Borscht
Beef Barley Soup
Black Bean Chili Soup
Easy Cream of Tomato Soup
Lemon Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Greek Salad
Mom's Cabbage Salad
Spinach & Strawberry Salad
Creamy Broccoli Salad

Vegetables & Side Dishes
Oven Fried Potato Wedges
Sweet Potato Fries
Garden Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Super Whipped Potatoes

Pasta & Pasta Sauces
Fettuccine Alfredo Sauce
Lemon Caper Sauce
Marinara Sauce
One Pot Mac n' Cheese
Spinach & Mushroom Penne Pasta Bake
Red & White Tortellini
Creamy Tomato Sauce

Sweet & Tangy BBQ Chicken Coleslaw Wrap
Greek Chicken Salad
Classic BLT

Chicken & Turkey
Chicken Enchiladas (freezeable)
Easy Chicken Parmesan (freezeable)
Zesty Chicken Oregano
Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken
White Chicken Chili
Easy Chicken Curry
Homemade Chicken Fingers
Chicken Macaroni Bake

Sweet & Sour Meatballs
Cheesy Meatloaf
Shepherd's Pie
Flatlander Chili
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
Cheesaroni Beef Casserole
Crockpot Roast (makes its own gravy)
Crockpot Beef Stroganoff
Crockpot Teriyaki Steak
Crockpot Swiss Steak
Crockpot Pomegranate Cranberry Beef
Crockpot Beef Burgandy

Crockpot Super Short Ribs

Tuna Macaroni Casserole
Spinach & Tomato Topped Salmon
Firecracker Salmon
Cookies & Squares
Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies (our absolute favourite cookie)
Soft Molasses Cookies
Sugar Cookies with Glace Icing
Caramel Toffee Square

Frozen Chocolate Mocha Dessert
Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake
Cookie Dough Cheesecake
Layered Lemon Dessert
Rhubarb Crisp
One Bowl Chocolate Pudding Cake

Canning & Other
Half Hour Jam

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mommy Moment Mondays

I thought I might try something new and blog about a "Mommy Moment" every Monday. There's bound to be something funny or interesting that happens during the week related to be a Mommy. Here's a funny Mommy Moment from this past week:

Last week we attempted to switch Ellie over from her crib to her toddler bed. We started with nap time as I was better prepared for a long drawn out battle in the afternoon than I would be at night time. The plan of action was to do her regular nap time routine, put her down and then every time she got out of bed, place her back in. Pretty simple. So, we started off and it took quite awhile to get her to stop getting out of bed every 10 seconds. Then, finally, she was staying in her bed, so I sat on the rocking chair beside her bed to wait there until she fell asleep. I was reading a book and nearly nodding off myself when suddenly someone's fingers were lightly rubbing my back and whispering, "Honey, Honnney, Honnnnnnneeey." I turned around and there was little Ellie standing on her bed reaching over to rub my back. It was nearly impossible not to laugh. Little Ellie has just started referring to me and her Daddy as "Honey." I guess she thought she could sweet talk me into letting her out of her bed ;-D. After a few days of the toddler bed, we decided to go back to the crib for a few more months. Hmm...maybe the sweet talking worked!

Menu Plan Monday (April 25, 2011)

I feel like we're going through a bit of a supper slump lately. I am struggling to figure out what meals to plan to keep things interesting but not too complicated or time-consuming. We're taking full advantage of using homemade pitas this week. There are a lack of recipe links this week since we're trying a few new recipes. Here's what we're planning on eating this week:

BoldSunday, April 24
Lunch: Nachos
Supper: Family gathering Resurrection Sunday meal

Monday, April 25
Lunch: Chicken Fingers & Fries (both from the freezer)
Supper: Thai Chicken Pita Wraps (using leftover chicken fingers)

Tuesday, April 26
Lunch: Whole Wheat Pasta in Marinara Sauce, Fruit
Supper: BBQ Beef on a Bun (NEW), Pasta Salad (NEW), Veggies & Dip

Wednesday, April 27

Thursday, April 28
Individual Pizzas (on pita bread), Veggies & Dip

Friday, April 29
Chicken Caesar Pita Wraps, Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday, April 30
Eating out

Honey Whole Wheat Bread
Homemade Pita Pockets
Half Hour Jam
Brownies (using a box mix)

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Friday, April 22, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Week 16

Tackling the Toys

If you have kids, you know just how out of control the toys can become. Before organizing these toys, I had the storage ottoman plus a giant wicker basket (not pictured) for the toys, plus free standing larger toys. I decided enough was enough because toys were taking over the living room! There were so many toys that the parts didn't go with the right things, which means the toys weren't even serving their purpose. So, during nap time, I dumped all the toys out and got to work, putting pieces with the right toy and purging toys Ellie has grown out of or ones that were just driving me plain old crazy! The big wicker basket is now storing Ellie's stuffed animals in her room rather than storing the excess toys in the living room. The puzzles are now in a separate container (not in the living room), so that the pieces will actually stay with the right puzzle. A big box was sent downstairs for storage, and a few toys were brought downstairs to play with when we go down there. I was sick of hauling toys up and down the stairs whenever we went down there, so now a few of her bigger toys (play kitchen and bounce & ride turtle) are down there and our living room is less cluttered with toys. Now, all the medium toys fit in the storage ottoman (a $20 purchase from Canadian tire), and a few larger toys are parked neatly in the corner. This is now the toy limit, so when new toys come in, old toys will either go to storage or in the donate pile. The best part? When I sit on the couch, I can't even see the toys when they are put away in the corner! Love that!

*Linking up to 52 Weeks of Organizing*

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fear & Trust

Fear is something I have always struggled with it seems. Fear of the unknown (to me). Fear of the "what ifs". Fear of losing a husband. Fear of losing a child.

You would think that after our whole ordeal with our daughter's health concerns last fall, I would be over this whole fear thing. And while it's true that I learned a great deal about trusting the Lord in all things through that situation, there are days where the fear is even stronger than before. It is a hard thing to explain. When I think back to the feelings I had when I thought I might lose our daughter, I can hardly bear it.

The moment we found out she had pneumonia and no neutrophils to fight it off. The moment Ellie's breathing became labored and her lips swelled up during an allergic reaction to the only antibiotic they could use, and I thought we would lose her, fighting very hard to be composed when I felt like screaming. The moment my heart sank when the pediatrician said it's been too long; she should have recovered by now. The moment my heart sank when I heard the first results of the bone marrow test. The week we lived thinking our daughter likely had leukemia.

Those were terrible, terrible days. I remember one Sunday our pastor preached a sermon on David and how David pleaded with God day and night to spare his son's life, even though God had told him his son would die as a result of David's sin with Bathsheba. I can honestly say I've been there. Not in the exact same way David was there, but I've had a taste of the feelings. I've pleaded with God to spare our daughter's life. I've laid on the floor beside her crib crying and begging God to heal her. I've had a taste of the desperation a parent feels when they are utterly helpless to do anything but pray.

The thing is, after all was said and done, the diagnosis was quite hopeful after all. Do you know that there are so many parents out there whose child's final diagnosis is not hopeful but is the absolute worst news in the whole world? That is something I cannot relate to. The thought of facing something like that causes such fear in me I cannot explain. can I write what I'm trying to say. If the fear & desperation I felt with our daughter was so close to unbearable when things ended up turning out okay, how would I possibly bear the circumstances if things had turned out differently? What if God had chosen to take her? I can't even fathom being able to cope with that. See, with each child you have, there is always the risk of losing that child. Of course, every child is a blessing, but that does not negate the fact there there will be some degree of pain involved, and even the possibility of nearly unbearable pain in the event that you lose that child, or worse, your child grows up to reject Christ. That is where fear really comes in for me. In a strange sense, I even fear having another child because of the possibility of losing that child. I believe the enemy puts that fear in me. Fear like that is not from God. Because with the possibility of another child is the possibility of another soul won to Christ, another missionary to preach Good News. Of course the Devil wouldn't want Christians to have more children if it means more soldiers for Christ. And of course, I would never, never, never trade having Ellie even if it meant escaping all the pain in the world. She is too great a blessing.

My heart breaks as I read stories of parents who have to bury their children. Although I cannot even come close to understanding what they are going through, I do believe the situation with our daughter has softened my heart and given me more compassion for those going through difficulty. And I believe that even when the worst thing imaginable happens, God gives you enough grace to get through. (On my sidebar is a link to a blog called Rainbows and Earthquakes, written by a relative who has recently lost her son. It is a testimony to how what God takes you to, He will bring you through.)

Going through all that with our family was a terrible place to be, but at the same time it was a wonderful place to be. See, during that time, I had no choice but to fully rely on God for strength. I prayed more during those days than I ever have in my whole life. I read my Bible more during those days than I ever have. God spoke to me through His Word and through whisperings to my heart. God is not distant; He is near, and He was especially near during those terrible days. It was incredible how he carried us through. And so, in that way, it was a wonderful place to be- Perhaps even the best place I have ever been, in that I had to trust the Lord more than I ever have.

I guess it really boils down to just one thing: trusting God.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Master Bedroom Makeover - Finished!

I am beyond thrilled to finally be finished the master bedroom makeover. I am so, so, so happy with the results! I was really going for a peaceful, calming, & restful feeling, and I think I've achieved that. Here are some before & after shots for you.

Before (Right after we first moved paint with no curtains, mismatched bedding, and makeshift nightstands)

Before x2: (makeshift curtains I sewed out of sheets, nasty purplish-brownish paint colour I unfortunately picked out, new bedding)


A few details:

Wall Colour: Beauti-tone paint colour matched to Benjamin Moore Moonshine

1) Micro gel duvet from Quilts Etc. to replace quilts & comforter
2) White duvet cover from Quilts Etc. (this was our biggest splurge - our Christmas present to each other this last year! It was actually on a good sale when we bought it, though.)
3) Bamboo sheet set from Quilts Etc. in Blue Sea (also a bit of a splurge)
4) Grey runner at foot of bed - made out of discount bedsheets from Walmart (from a failed attempt of making sheets into curtains)
5) Nightstands - $5 each from a garage sale. See the nightstand makeover here
6) Dresser - $25 second hand purchase. See the dresser makeover here
7) Round hurricane thingy on dresser - $10 from Winners
8) Art above bed - $12 each from Walmart
9) Curtains - from Walmart
10) Chandelier - from Rona (around $80)

*Linking up to Raising Homemakers*

*Linking up to We Did It Wednesdays

Cleaning Windows

I have been told I live in a cave. Really, I have been told that (I think by my Mom). Yes, I have a tendency to keep my blinds and curtains closed. I'm working on it. Slowly, letting the sun shine in is growing on me, especially with this horrifically long winter we have had. I've just got to get me some sunshine. Yes, it snowed again today. Yes, it made me kind of grumpy. Yes, I do fear we might just skip spring & summer altogether.

Imagine my horror when I pull up my blinds to see this nastiness. Gross. Mega, mega gross. I guess I need to pull up my blinds more often. Time to get down to spring window cleaning business.

Here's my window cleaning tip that most of you probably already know. Use a Q-tip. They are ever-so-handy to get into all those little cracks and corners. First, spray everything down with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. Then use your handy q-tip to clean away. Lastly, wipe everything (window pane, tracks, sills, etc.) down with some paper towel or a cloth. I also spray the blinds down with the solution and use an old sock to wipe them clean. It works for me. Now...if only if it would quit snowing, I could clean my outside windows...sigh. Anyone have any other window cleaning tips?

Much better!

Clean windows and window sills.

Since I've cleaned my windows, I've been enjoying pulling back the curtains and opening the blinds to let the sun shine in (okay, the day I wrote this post it was cloudy, but oh well). Maybe my cave days are over...if only the sun would shine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Toddler Ruffle Skirt (T-shirt upcycle)

I am a total rookie when it comes to sewing. I have not a clue what I'm doing 99% of the time, so I am very happy when I find awesome tutorials for easy, cute projects. I used this one from Sew Much Ado to create this ruffle skirt out of 2 old t-shirts. It is far from perfect, and I even messed up so badly that my fabric got caught in my sewing machine, which required me to dismantle my machine and put it back together. Ugh. That was not fun. Anyway, despite the imperfections, I think it turned out rather cute!

Linking up to Raising Homemakers

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (April 18, 2011)

Last week's firecracker salmon was a big hit with the hubby. I enjoyed it, too, so it's definitely a keeper. I adjusted the recipe a bit since I didn't have all the ingredients and marinated it overnight. I then baked it in a 400 F oven until it was done. I'll share my version of the recipe sometime.
It's a pretty simple week, meal-wise. Here's the plan for this week:

Sunday, April 17
Lunch: Easy Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup
Supper: Chicken fingers with spicy buffalo sauce (plum sauce for Ellie), fries, salad

Monday, April 18
Crockpot teriyaki steak, stir fry veggies, rice

Tuesday, April 19

Wednesday, April 20
Beef, bean, & cheese burritos, homemade sweet potato fries

Thursday, April 21
Simple pasta with marinara sauce, Caesar salad

Friday, April 22
Eating out

Saturday, April 23
Eating out

Honey whole wheat bread
Some type of cookie
Homemade tortillas (experimenting still with this)

*For more great meal ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday hosted by*

Friday, April 15, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Week 15

Last week I was on staycation, so I didn't post an organizing project for the challenge. However, that doesn't mean I wasn't busy working on things. In fact, some major progress was made in our disaster-of-a-basement. This past week, I've been working on more of a behind-the-scenes organizing project. It isn't something that is really "noticeable", but it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time - compiling a "love box" for me and my husband's keepsakes. Our keepsakes are badly disorganized. The biggest problem with our keepsakes is that very meaningful keepsakes were mixed up with not-so-meaningful keepsakes. The idea was to go through all my cards, notes, and keepsakes and pull out the ones my husband and I gave to each other and put them in a special memory box. While I did this, I also threw out things that were no longer meaningful. I found these 2 memory boxes for $5 each (regularly priced at $20 each) to serve as our "love boxes," one for my husband and one for me. These boxes only hold items exchanged between me and my husband. The top section holds things from our courting and engagement days and the bottom section from our married days.

**Did you catch a glimpse of our renovations...notice the new baseboard on the left and the old on the right**

Now I know where to look when I'm looking for special keepsakes from my husband. Previously they were scatterered here, there, and everywhere in different boxes. My keepsakes were organized according to year. However, after looking up some ways to organize keepsakes, I think I've decided a better way is to organize according to people, as in all the keepsakes from my parents together in a bundle, all the keepsakes from my children together in a bundle, etc. Then all of those will be stored together in a plastic container. I like that method much better, I think.

One other I was on the hunt for keepsakes, I found wedding/shower cards with my Christmas did that happen??? Now, I have all my wedding keepsakes together in one big plastic storage box. :-D.

Organizing... it's a process.

*linking up to 52 Weeks of Organizing Challenge*

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Letters to "Chubs" & "Wiff"

I've been working on putting together me and my husband's "love boxes," a compilation of all the cards, notes, love letters, and special mementos we've given each other since we first started courting. As I skimmed over some of the letters I wrote to my husband before we were married, I smiled often and blushed often. Sometimes I could hardly believe the things this smitten 16-year-old girl was writing! I often poured out my feelings and threw caution to the wind. At times, I had showed a lack of discretion that makes me blush now. I read one letter to my husband that I had addressed to "chubs." I was scratching my head at that one until I found another letter. In that one I had written that I could hardly wait until the day I could call my now-hubby husband instead of "chubs" and I could be called his wife instead of "wiff". Then I remembered how one day we were being silly and came up with these pet names chubs & wiff to stand in the place of husband & wife until we got married. You can laugh - it's okay! These are letters I will truly cherish.

Going through these letter left me often do I pour out my feelings to my husband now? While we were courting and engaged, I poured out my admiration for my now-husband often. I held nothing back. I was head-over-heels in love with this man, and I wanted him and all the world to know it. I wrote him poems, songs, and letters. I drew him silly pictures and sent him candy with messages written on them. While we were engaged, I wrote him a letter telling him how much I appreciated how he was working so hard to provide for us so we could get married. I praised him for his hard work ethic and determination. It got me thinking...when was the last time I poured out my admiration on my husband? Sure, I thank him for things all the time, but when was the last time I really showed him my admiration? Maybe it's time to get back to some of the youthfulness and playfulness of our courting days. Now when I want to show him my admiration, I can truly throw caution to the wind, without having to blush. Maybe it's time this 20-something-year-old took a few hints from the smitten 16-year-old I once was, and make sure my husband and the whole world knows just how much I love my man.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookie

Everyone has their favourite "go-to" chocolate chip cookie recipe. If you are looking for a buttery, soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie, this is it. This is by far our favourite cookie right now. To achieve the perfect soft & chewy texture, do not over bake these. Take them out when they are just barely starting to brown. You will think they are not done yet, but after you take them out, leave them on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and they will continue to "bake" after you take them out. If you over bake them, they will not stay chewy.

Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies - recipe adapted from here

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (slightly softened)
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1/2 cup mini Hershey chocolate kisses
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix sugars, butter, and egg until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture. The dough will be quite stiff. Stir in the almonds and chocolate. Drop by tablespoons (I use my cookie scoop) on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Do not overbake.

*Note: You can substitute chocolate chips for the mini kisses and white chocolate. Be sure to not over bake these*

*Linking up to We did it Wednesday
*Linking up to Raising Homemakers
*Linking up to Ask Ms. Recipe

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