Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Cleaning: In the Closet

I have closet envy. I wish my closet was as neat and organized as Emerson's.  While I love my house, one of the downers is the fact that all of the closets are not very big.  The closet in our room is used only by me-- Doug prefers to fold and stash in a drawer rather than hang.  Even for just my clothes, the closet is bit on the small side.  And while I try my best to keep it neat and organized, it usually starts to looks like this.

I actually have a quite legitimate reason for having a messy closet-- I have a hard time reaching the folded items on the top shelf since only one of my arms is useful above shoulder height.  So whenever I want to put a stack of folded clothes up on the shelf I have to put each item up one at a time with my right hand.  This is annoying, yes.  But not as annoying as when I try to take items down from shelf.  Say I want a pair of jeans that are on the bottom of the stack.  I try my best to one-handedly wiggle it out from the pile but alas, the entire pile usually ends up falling on top of me and all over the floor.  How's that for annoying!!!  So over the past few weeks, I've been brainstorming ways to temporarily make my closet a bit more user friendly.  I say temporary, because at some point down the road Doug would like to build some custom shelves and drawers in here.  But for now, I've come up with this...

So, instead of precarious piles I stashed all of my folded items in these bins I picked up at Ikea.  They are $4.00 a piece and are meant for toy storage so they're really sturdy and have a nice wide ledge around the top.  I sorted and purged my clothes, then categorized the folded items and stashed them in the bins.  Now when I need a pair of jeans, I just reach up and grab the 'jeans' bin with my one arm, find the pair I want, and put it back on the shelf!  I'm giving myself a one-armed pat on the back right now as I write this :)

My next brilliant idea occurred when I spotted an extra set of cleats at the very top of the closet.  When we moved in there was only one shelf at the top of the closet... but extra cleats at the top meant that I could add another shelf!  A loooong time ago I told Doug about my findings and asked if we had any extra lengths of melamine shelving in the garage that could be used to construct an additional shelf.  He said that there were a few options.  Conversation finished and forgotten.  Fast forward a few months.  Doug is folding laundry while I'm watching TV one evening (bless his soul :)  He starts trying to put stuff away in my closet-- disaster zone.  All of a sudden, without saying a word Doug's running down the stairs to the garage.  I hear the saw.  2 minutes later he's running back up the stairs with a piece of shelving and puts it in place.  Problem solved.  It really was that easy.

So now I have an extra shelf to stash out of season clothing and stuff that doesn't fit (I hold onto jeans of every size-- just in case).  This set of drawers has been in my closet for some time now.  We picked it up at MCC for $10 a few years ago, gave it a coat of white paint, added some new hardware and now it gives me a bit more storage in my crazy small closet.

The green boxes were a last minute addition... I stole them from the office to stash a few accessories.

And then I got all crazy and decided that the hangers should all match.  So anything that wasn't white is now in the guest room closet downstairs.  It's all about the details people.

As you all know, I care about the price tag.  So how much did this mini-closet makeover cost?

$16.00 for the four white storage bins
$0 for the extra shelf (scrap material from the garage)
$0 for the green boxes (already had them)
$0 for the white hangers
I'm not counting the dresser since I've had it forever.

Grand total?  $16.00.
Minimizing my frustration level?  Priceless.

Sidenote:  After purging the closet of clothes I no longer wear yesterday, I put up a few items for sale on craigslist.  I've already made $70.  So this closet makeover was actually a money maker :)

Sidenote #2:  Maybe I should have sold my old stuff before commencing with this closet makeover.... I would have had more to work with....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Adventures in Dairy Free Cooking: Macaroni & Cheese... or so you think

This may look like macaroni and cheese, but it most definitely is not.  

My diet has been dairy-free for almost 2 weeks now, and I'm starting to get used to planning and cooking dairy free meals.  The one thing that's been in the back of my mind for the past few days is how I'm going to make kid friendly dairy free food for Emerson when she's old enough to eat "real" food.  As I've been thinking about the best way to provide dairy free options for her, I've decided that I am not about to start making 2 of everything-- one with dairy and one without.  While I will still have regular milk, cheese, and yogurt in the house for Caleb, trying to make as many of our meals dairy free is really the best option-- especially since Doug is lactose intolerant.  So, I figured it's time to start practicing now.

Over the weekend I was enjoying some yummy (dairy free) butternut squash soup from Trader Joe's... as I was eating it I thought to myself, "this is the same consistency and color as the 'cheese' sauce you put in macaroni and cheese... hmmmm."  At lunch time today, I decided to give it a try.  As I was cooking the macaroni, I whipped up a fake, dairy free cheese sauce.  Here's what I put in it:

1 Tbsp vegan Becel
2 Tbsp Tofutti (a tofu substitute for cream cheese)
Sea Salt
Onion Powder
Enough Butternut Squash soup to make 1 cup of sauce
1 Tbsp steamed carrot puree

I whisked it all together over med heat until it was smooth and cheesy looking-- the pureed carrots were a last minute addition.  As I was about to pour it over the macaroni I decided that it wasn't orange enough.  I remembered that I had made some carrot baby food for Emerson, so I pulled 1 serving of carrots out of the freezer, warmed it up, and stirred it in.  I strategically decided to let Caleb enjoy his lunch while watching some cartoons-- I figured that if he was distracted while eating he would be less inclined to notice that his mac and cheese tasted a bit different.

Results?  I thought it tasted pretty good!  It doesn't taste exactly like KD, but it's pretty close... and healthier.  Caleb?  He didn't notice.  He ate the whole bowl.

I felt so sneaky.  Then I felt a bit guilty for being so deceptive and whipped up a batch of Rice Krispie squares and offered Caleb a piece... he didn't want it!!  Fine with me.  Glad you enjoyed your mac & tofu squash... more Rice Krispie squares for me!!

I'm going to go ahead and call this dairy free cooking experiment a success :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just in time for Monday

I've said it before...
Blogs and coffee are a great combination...

That's why I decided to add a few favorites of mine... blogs I like to read when I need a bit of inspiration.  With my morning coffee... of course.  (the links are on the left... in case you're wondering)

Happy Monday!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Friday Friday

Ahhhh.... it's Friday.  Even though I'm currently on a break from work (maybe I should say "work") Friday is still a day of excitement and expectation!  I just love the sound of the word... Friday.  Friday.

Well now, I thought I'd share a few fun things from the week.

First up, Emerson and I have had a lot of fun in the kitchen together lately.  Grooveshark + jolly jumper + dairy free cooking experiments = some pretty great dance parties.  It's hip hop Sunday at church this week... we've been practicing our moves.  Now, just gotta find the perfect outfits...

Next up.  I'm not entirely sure what to call these creatures, but whatever they are, Caleb and I made them.  We had a bit of a scavenger hunt around the yard yesterday and found a bunch of smooth rocks and pine cones.  Then we colored the rocks with crayons and glued googly eyes and pom poms to them with my glue gun.  Yes, I just said glue gun.  I found a cheap mini glue gun at Zellers for $3.00 and couldn't help myself.  It's definitely taken craft time to the next level.  These little guys have endured much creative play over the past two days... a couple of them may be missing an eye or two...

And then... I found this cute little garden stool at Home Sense for my living room.  I saw it and knew it would look so pretty in my house.  When I brought it home, Doug looked at the stool... then he looked at me with this expression on his face that said "what on EARTH is this?"  I quickly jumped in and told him exactly why I bought it.  "So Doug, picture this-- the kids are in bed and you're on the couch watching TV with a snack in hand-- instead of having to reach ALL the way down to the floor you can just move this little stool over to the edge of the couch and you instantly have a place to rest your snack!  So as you see, this is a portable snack holder."  Doug's response?  Awesome!  Great purchase.  So maybe that wasn't really the first and foremost reason in my mind, and I'm pretty sure he saw right through my reasoning, but I'm glad that we'll both be able to appreciate this new addition to the living room.

And one more thing that makes me happy-- we made a trip across the border last night for a bit of shopping and I picked up my favorite kitchen hand soap-- only in a new scent!  I actually didn't buy it for the new scent-- just the packaging... it's pink.

Have a good weekend everybody!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's finally Spring (at least for today)

Doug had a super long work day yesterday-- so he was able to take the morning off today!  Great timing... the sun was out and Caleb was itching to get outside.  So we rolled out of bed at somewhat later hour, (when I say 'later' I mean 'not at the crack of dawn') brewed some coffee, packed up the kids, and went to Mill Lake for the morning.

Actually I forgot one thing-- we went to the park AFTER Doug decided to give Caleb a buzz cut.  Every so often the boys disappear and I hear Caleb's screams coming from the basement bathroom-- ah, the sounds of haircutting.  Granted, Caleb's not screaming because his hair is being cut-- nope.  He's screaming because he doesn't like to step on his hair that's all over the floor.

So, once the buzz cut was complete, we went to the park.  It was a beautiful morning.  Especially with my coffee close at hand.  And wouldn't you know... I'm still wearing my pajama's underneath those layers.  It's been a lazy kind of day...

Awww... Mom.  Really.  Not in front of the other kids!

This kid missed his Dad yesterday.

I know exactly what Eme's thinking right here... "what is this strange warm breeze I feel on my face?  I've never felt this before..."  It's called Spring honey.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just Words

These three gems from Caleb totally brightened my day...

Caleb sneezes.  "Oh Mommy, I achoo-ed all over the couch."

As we're looking at a book: "Look Mommy, there's a double rainbow all the way across the sky."  (This is only funny if you've seen the clip on youtube)

And, apparently clothing was optional at our house today.  I guess I must have missed the memo.  As Caleb and I were eating dinner together at the table-- he's only wearing underwear-- Caleb says, "I'm starting to get cold... *sigh*... I guess I should probably put my socks on."  You think?!

If only I could be that funny without trying.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Look what my Mommy FINALLY finished!!

Now Emerson has yet another chair to be photographed in.  Please excuse the fact that my daughter is not fully clothed.  Her dress was unfortunately abandoned early on today... it looked better than it smelled...

Classic Emerson puppy-dog expression... tongue out.

So after two and a half months... the chair is finally complete!  While there are a few spots that I wish looked a little bit better, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.  Let me tell you... upholstering a tufted wing chair is not an easy project to attempt.  But I guess if you can figure out a really hard project, the next ones will just be that much easier.. right?  That's what I keep telling myself...

Here are a few pictures of the finished product...

The plan is to have the chair in the living room for a while... so that I can enjoy it!  Then I'm thinking that it will become my office chair.  Now I need to find just the right throw pillow for this chair...

Blue looks good...

But then again, so does the pink floral...  Decisions, decisions.  What's a girl to do?

** Update**

Just in case you're curious-- here are a few other upholstery projects I've completed more recently!

Girly Wing Chair
Upholstered Headboard

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yup. I like it a lot.

As I enjoy my morning coffee, I like to flip through a few of my favorite blogs.  Blogs and coffee... what a great combination.  One of my daily reads is Young House Love-- if you haven't heard of it or checked it out-- you must.  The blog is written by a young couple who document the ups and downs of renovating and decorating a house.  They're funny, quirky, and have some fun projects that are worth checking out.  Today's post was about this awesome gallery wall they put up in their hallway.

As soon as I saw the pictures I thought about the all white gallery wall I put up in our hallway-- same idea... only this one is way more awesome.  I love it.  It almost makes me want to add more to my wall. Hmmm....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The past 24 hrs...

Let me recap the highlights of the past 24 hours for you...

1.  Superstore treasure hunt #2 took place-- again with much success.  As you will observe in the picture below Caleb also enjoyed other things from his Superstore experience.

2.  I had the pleasure of hanging out with my niece and nephews last night.  The child to adult ratio was a bit extreme at a few moments (5 to 1 in case you're wondering) but in the end we all had quite a bit of fun.  After dinner  we had a pajama popcorn movie party.  I naively put a blanket down on my living room area rug with the hopes of avoiding vacuuming.  As can be imagined-- the kids didn't sit as still as this picture depicts.

3.  Instead the living room scene usually looked something like this when I poked my head around the corner.  The fact that I put in the movie Happy Feet and showed them how to do a penguin dance probably didn't help the cause.  Instead of worrying about the vacuuming situation I decided to join them.  No, there are no pictures of me demonstrating penguin dance.  And yes, I did have to vacuum.  Correction... Doug vacuumed.

4.  I took the kids shopping this morning and I'm happy to say that I managed to shop in Home Sense with both kids and still avoid major disaster.  The promise of visiting the toy section proved to be all the bribery I needed.

5.  I had a proud mommy moment-- as we were exiting Home Sense Caleb had to put back the toy truck he had been holding... I could tell that he REALLY wanted the truck.  But he managed to keep his cool, quietly put it back on the shelf, and walk away.  When we got back into the car he pulled his hat down over his eyes and had a good cry-- the thought of another boy buying the truck was pretty devastating.  But he managed to pull himself together... the thought of snacks in Costco sure helped.

6.  This was the first time I've let both kids ride up front in the cart.  I was THAT mom... constantly giggling, exclaiming over how cute they were, taking pictures, etc.

7.  As you may or may not have noticed-- I've been taking pictures of the kids with my new iphone :)  It's way too much fun... now that I have a camera with me everywhere I go... watch out.

8.  I had a teenage girl tell me that she liked my jacket while we were shopping this morning.  Apparently my mom on the go, post baby, only shop online and at Superstore to avoid malls with 2 kids at all costs wardrobe isn't as lame as I thought.  Sweet!

9.  As I was walking in the front door I discovered the first spring time bloom in my front flower bed.

10.  Then I checked the mail and saw that I got a new magazine in the mail.  Now the kids are napping, I'm drinking coke zero, and the sun is shining.  It's a good day :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Take Two

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (see here) Emerson did not have a good first experience with solid food.  She broke out in major hives, was crying and uncomfortable, and generally hated the whole experience.  For about two months now, she's had the worst rash all over her face.  I've done everything possible to make it go away-- using hydrocortisone cream on the really bad areas (as per dr's orders), moisturizing with glaxal base cream several times a day, washing all of her clothes and bedding with super sensitive detergent and rinsing everything twice... anything that I could think of.  The rash has gotten better, but it's still there.  Emerson's been to the doctor a few times regarding the issue and he suggested that I hold off on giving her any solids until she could get in to see an allergy specialist.  So, we've been waiting.  We finally met with the specialist yesterday, and we've got some answers!  He did some allergy testing and determined that Emerson's allergic to dairy and peanuts.  The doctor was actually quite surprised at how severely she reacted when the tests were conducted-- especially when you consider that she's had such little contact with any sort of food.  I suspected that she may be allergic to something, but I didn't think it would be this serious.  There aren't really a whole lot of allergies in our family-- Caleb has asthma and is allergic to pet hair/fur, I also am allergic to most pet hair, hay, and taking out the trash... and as far as I can see Doug is only allergic to making the bed.  But, we're going to have to make a few changes at our house.  We'll be tossing our peanut butter and I will be putting myself on a dairy-free diet as I'm still breastfeeding.... goodbye cheese... *tear*

I do feel a bit sad for my little lady... but I am also relieved to have some answers!  I managed to find a dairy-free rice cereal at Superstore and gave it to Emerson for the first time yesterday.  Success!!  She LOVED it.  She was so happy and wanted to keep eating and eating.... and best of all... no hives!!  I was so proud of her.

If any of you moms out there have experience with dairy or peanut allergies... I would like your advice!  What are the best dairy substitutes?  Any good recipes or resources I should check out?  Help and suggestions would be much appreciated!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Just trying to keep everyone happy...

I'm not gonna lie, I can't wait for the weekend to start.  Today my patience has been tested from the moment I woke up-- probably because Caleb decided to start the day an hour earlier than usual.  And then he woke his sister up.  This led to a fun filled morning with two cranky kids, as you can imagine.  At one point today I felt like I was going to lose my cool-- so I announced that I was giving myself a time out.  Caleb looked at me strangely and said "You can't do that!"  But I did.  I went and sat in his room for a few minutes, regained my composure, put a big smile on my face and made him the best lunch ever.

So, lately I've been doing my best to keep the kids happy... so that I'm happy.  It all started yesterday.  I had to make a trip to Superstore to pick up a few groceries.  Caleb usually groans when I tell him we're going to Superstore-- I really don't blame him-- that place makes me feel grouchy too.  This time I decided to try and make it fun-- I told Caleb that we were going to have a treasure hunt in Superstore!  Over the past few weeks I've been cutting out pictures of grocery items that we often pick up at the store.  I pulled out the pictures of a few items we needed and told Caleb that he had to make a list of the things we had to hunt for at Superstore.  He glued them to a piece of paper and off we went.  On the drive over to the store he kept shouting from the backseat, "I'M SO EXCITED!!"  The moment we walked through the door he was looking left, right, up, down trying to find the things on his list... when an item was discovered, he was able to use his marker-- I tried to get him to draw and "X" over the item... he insisted on drawing a circle around the picture.  You win Caleb.

Finding diapers.  How exciting.  Emerson watched from the sidelines and even managed the swipe the list from Caleb a few times.  The treasure hunt was a big success... Caleb's begging to do it again.  I think I'm going to pick up an official looking little clipboard for him so that he can monitor his list in style.

So that was yesterday!  This morning we didn't end up leaving the house.  That would have been a disaster waiting to happen with grouchy kids.  Instead we did some activities at home-- the activities started early.  By 7:30 am we were already coloring... believe it or not.

Then I decided that we were going to do some baking.  After looking through my recipes I decided that we were going to bake gingersnaps again-- since they required the least amount of eggs ( guess I should have put that on the list yesterday :)  And really, what else am I going to eat for breakfast on a day like today?  Ginersnaps it is.  Caleb was most helpful.  He decided that he really wanted to wash the dishes.  His technique was quite unusual...  instead of scrubbing the dirty dishes with a cloth, he insisted on pouring water on them.

As you can imagine, this did not end well.

So towels on the floor it is.  Dishwashing ended when I started a bubble fight with the suds.  Once cookie baking was finished we were all a little happier, maybe a bit cleaner due to the suds, and my floor had been unintentionally washed by Caleb.

This little missy sat on the sidelines and watched-- sometimes quiet, sometimes crying.

And now they're sleeping... finally.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Granny Glam

Phase one of introducing pink to Emerson's room in now complete.
I still have a few more things to add, but I thought I'd give you a quick update!

The Keep Calm poster is in place.  A couple of people have asked where I got it.  I ordered the poster from the KeepCalmPosters shop on Etsy.  There were lots of different colors to choose from-- I went with Raspberry Kisses in the 13x19 size.  I already had a frame for it at home (found in the as is section at Ikea for 10 bucks)-- all I needed was a custom cut matte to fit the poster.  I went to Michaels, and it was going to be $40 to have it cut-- too much in my books.  So I picked up a $10 "cut your own matte", used my 40% coupon, and gave it to Doug to figure out.  He did a fabulous job!  When it came time to hang it up Doug thought that we should put it over the change table... he figured that it would be a good reminder when we're in the midst of tackling a nasty diaper.  But in the end we both agreed that it worked better on this wall.

I picked up this cute little gold number at Home Sense and popped in Emerson's ultrasound picture.

My next project was to DIY a crib sheet.  I feel like I've looked everywhere to find a crib sheet that I like, and I can never find anything.  Last week I was in Zellers and found a twin sheet set in this granny-ish floral print for $19.99.  I thought it was so cute.  I brought it home, cut down the flat sheet, sewed in some elastic around the bottom and made a sheet to fit Emerson's crib.  It was so easy-- why have I not done this yet?!!  I plan to save the  original fitted sheet and pillow case for later when she moves into a real bed.  I figure I have enough fabric left over to make a couple of throw pillows too.  As I was cutting it out I thought to myself, "this room is totally going to be granny glam."  I love it!

That's all I have for now!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Stairs

Can you tell that I'm starting to run out of rooms to blog about?

Our entryway is probably my least favorite room of the house... because it's so incredibly tiny.  Picture Doug and I struggling to enter the house with the kids, our bags and Emerson's carseat while trying to kick off wet boots, shrug off jackets, and not bump into each other.  Meanwhile, Caleb has found the light switch for our exterior lights and is flicking them on, off, on, off.... sending an SOS message to the entire neighborhood... the Toews family is home!  Much frustration has been expressed during these episodes, as can be imagined.  But, even though our entryway is not great from a practical standpoint, it does LOOK better nowadays thanks to a much needed makeover.

Here are some of the before pictures...

Wow.  Now there's an ugly room.

The carpet on the stairs had seen better days.  During the pre-renovation days we let Caleb run around in his boots... and apparently nothing else.  It was a hot day.

Today, the entryway looks much better .  We started by painting and ripping the nasty carpet off the stairs.  Then we couldn't decide what to put back onto the stairs.  We debated between hardwood and carpet for several months... meanwhile had bare plywood for stairs.  That was a dream come true with a 2 year old just learning to walk up and down stairs on his own.  Finally, we opted to go for the carpet... even though I'm not really a fan.  In the end it's the safest option for kids... and it was a kind of nice to hire someone to finish the stairs rather than do it ourselves for a change!  We also added style and rail wall panelling to the stairs and entryway to give the room a bit more interest.  Here's the one side of the stairs...

And the other side.

Laying tile on the landing would have probably been the most durable option, but we had a couple of extra boxes of laminate so we decided to just go with it.  I put down a pretty large seagrass mat by the door and it's protected the floor really well.  When it came time to pick the color of carpet for the stairs, I decided to go for a color that picked up the same natural looking tones of the seagrass mat instead of matching the grey-ish tones of the paint color (the color above the panelling)... and I love the end result.  I envisioned sand at the beach when I picked the color... and it turned out great!

And let me just give a big thank you to Caleb for straightening/organizing the shoes for me.  It's one of his "jobs" at our house... and for some reason it's one of his favorites :)

Last year I picked up these hooks and had Doug hang them up for me in the entryway.  Having a place to hang our coats (even though it's not all that big) has made a huge difference.  We only keep the jackets and footwear that we use on a daily basis by the door... everything else is stashed in a basement closet.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for summer.  I am so ready to say goodbye to jackets and hello to flip flops!  And I think my entryway feels the same...