Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Kids school lunch ideas

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"I don't know why this is so difficult", I said about a million times as I stared at Mya's lunch pail just days before she started Kindergarten back in September.

I had everything else as prepared as I could have, but the lunch situation was stressing me out. Seriously. I don't know why it felt so difficult, but it did. And I realize now that the problem was that there were WAY too many options. Too many containers to choose from. Too many lunch pails to pick from. Too many types of Tupperware, too many fancy high-tech lunch systems, Bento Boxes...too much of just about everything.

So after finally giving up after standing in Walmart staring at literally a WALL of lunch container options and discussing with a stranger mom about why she loved or didn't love each and every one of them...I walked to the cash register with a couple simple small tupperware containers in my hands--and questioned myself the whole way there. Why is this so complicated?? 

BUT, the good news is that after a few months of school now, I can officially say that I love what we're using. It's simple. It was cheap. Mya can manage her whole lunch independently without needing to ask for help from a teacher and, well it's not rocket science. I don't know why I thought that it was.

We bought her two fabric lunch pails (just in case one gets left at school or needs a good cleaning), several small Tupperware containers that she can open and close herself, a few ziplock sandwich bags and a cute ice pack. That's it. Voila. Simple.

But, what's happening now is that I'm running out of ideas. It's not about the millions of container choices, the Bento Boxes or the fancy lunch system options anymore...it's about the food. We were on a roll for the first couple of months, switching up lunch ideas, adding new food items or recipes to her lunch each day. But it feels like I'm coming to a standstill...needing new ideas to spice things up a bit, and keep lunch (and food choices) interesting so she'll actually eat it.

So, I figured what's better than me sharing my lunch ideas, and you sharing yours. But first of all...here is our lunch system that we decided on. Just simple. A few small tupperware containers...


a cute little icepack...

and a standard lunch pail, that you can buy anywhere. 




And the food? Well, here are some of the staples that she gets in her lunch each day.

Homemade muffins (thanks to my wonderful mother who is the queen of muffins with hidden veggies and other healthy stuff in them). *As a side note, this recipe that I posted a while ago is a great muffin recipe that is delicious and has hidden veggies in it, but it also has peanut butter in it--so great for an after school snack or breakfast option.

Anyways, each day Mya's lunch pail will be full of things like cheese slices...


turkey bites, hummus and veggies...




dried apricots, apples or bananas...



mini wraps filled with cream cheese, chicken or turkey...




sometimes I'll make little sandwiches out of these mini pitas too.



A variety of fruit is always a staple... 


 and she loves yogurt and apple sauce for lunch too.

I'll put together a little mixture of dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and throw them in a container...


    and she usually gets some kind of crackers or mini rice cakes tucked into her lunch pail too.

What do you pack in your kids lunches?? I need to steal some new ideas...so please share! :)

Erica xo


Friday, 21 November 2014

Fireplace remodel on the cheap

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This is going to be quick. I have so much to do tonight, and so little time between when the kids fall asleep and when I crash myself. But I thought I'd post a little something to provide a little fireplace inspiration to others out there who have blast from the past 80's fireplaces, like ours used to be.

When we moved into our new house, all four of the bathrooms and especially our fireplace just screamed 80's. But the problem was that we had already spent our renovation money on the big stuff--the new hardwood floors that we put down throughout the entire upstairs, the huge supporting wall that we took down beside our dining room, the fancy-pants removable pool fence that cost us a fortune--but which was completely necessary for me to be able to sleep at night...and the fact that we painted our entire house from top to bottom. Sooo...that left us with four terribly ugly bathrooms (one of them that we've recently transformed though--but more on that later) and a fireplace that definitely needed some major TLC. But, knowing that we didn't have it in the budget to transform the fireplace the way that we wanted to (with beautiful tile, etc)...I decided that I could still transform this beast into something a lot more appealing, but without spending much money at all. So, I did a little research, talked to a bunch of paint stores and then Terry and I put the kids to bed and got to work.

Here is what we started with.

       

Beautifully dated brass doors...orange tile and a light wood top meant that we had a lot of work to do.


But, in only a few simple steps, we literally had a new fireplace. And I think we spent about $45 total. My kind of project.


Then add a bit of garland, lights and vases with Christmas greenery and sticks--and you've got yourself a fireplace that Santa will surely want to visit.


So, here is what we did:

We started by cleaning the brick. Use any brush with rough bristles, I was told. So of course I didn't have one on hand, but wanted to get started asap, so I grabbed a new dustpan and brush that I just happened to have in my house, and the brush worked perfectly. I just grabbed a bucket of warm, soapy water, and started scrubbing--getting all the little bits off of the brick.
Then we let it dry for 24hrs.

Then, once it was completely dry, we started the painfully time-consuming process of using a paint brush to paint every last inch of this thing. We used a semi-gloss white paint and spent one night jabbing the paint brush into the millions of crevices and doing a first coat around every inch that was either brick or wood. If your brick gets hot though on your particular fireplace, you will need to use a heat-resistant paint.

     Be prepared to destroy your paintbrushes, so just get a couple cheap ones from the dollar store because they will be wrecked by the brick after only a few minutes of using them.

This is what it will look like (below) after one coat of using a paintbrush. You will probably want to use painters tape and tape around your walls and floors, as it's hard to cut and smash your paintbrush into the cracks at the same time.



The next night, we took a paintbrush again to get in between the bricks, but then used a roller to roll over the entire fireplace. This took another two coats to get it to look like it does now.




THEN...just when you think you're all done...you've got to deal with that ugly brass insert...remember what it looked like before?...



...well, all you need is a dad who will come over and figure out how to get the insert out of there (thanks dad!), and a bottle of heat-resistant FLAT black spray paint.


Then take it outside, cover the glass part with newspaper (tape the newspaper down), then lay your insert on the ground and do soft, light sprays across the whole thing until it looks exactly how you want it to look.
Then get your dad to pop that thing back in...and you've got yourself a brand new fireplace insert, for just a few dollars.

Then, add some pretty festive decor...and you'll be in love.







 *p.s. I used Command hooks to secure the garland--just stick them to the wall and use string tied around the garland to fasten it in place.




Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Erica xo

Monday, 10 November 2014

Easiest (and cheapest!) DIY Christmas wreath ever...and a walk down memory lane

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I'm always shocked when I see the growing number of pageviews each day on this little blog o' mine, but what's also great is that I'm able to see what people are searching for from old posts that I wrote long ago. So when I started to see the unbelievable amount of people who were searching for my DIY Christmas wreath recently, I figured that I'd make it a little easier for you, and re-post it again. This is seriously the easiest wreath ever to make and so super cheap--my kind of crafting.



My little DIY wreath has now shockingly been pinned on Pinterest almost 20 thousand times, which really just means that it's EASY (and pretty of course). So if you'd like to try it yourself, here is the post that I wrote almost 2 years ago...when Carter was just a couple of months old, when Mya was a brand new big sister and when we were still living in our beautiful old house.  
 
So here you go...a little walk down memory lane for me, and a great Christmas wreath idea for you...

********

     When November 1st rolled around, I took one look at Terry and said "Guess what day it is today?". He raised one eyebrow, took a deep (overly dramatic) breath and replied "I know, I know...Christmas decorating time".

     He knows me so well (and consequently puts up, and plays along, with my absolute love of holidays...Christmas in particular). With a little convincing, he made me wait at least a week and a half before starting to pull out the bins of Christmas decorations.

     Our house though has now exploded Christmas...and I couldn't be happier.





Click here to see how I made this particular wreath last year.







     For the past couple of years, we've always decorated our tree while sipping on hot chocolate and listening to Christmas music. It's become our little tradition, and (very intentionally) adds that added extra bit of magic to the whole process...while hopefully making good lasting memories for the kiddos.



     Okay...so this year we didn't exactly listen to Christmas music. I wasn't on the ball like previous years. Instead I ran around the house saying "Where the heck is that Christmas CD?!" about eight million times before I gave up and decided that cranking up the radio would have to do. We turned our afternoon of tree decorating into a mini dance party, swinging and dancing around the living room to Ne-Yo and Beyonce.

"Single Ladies" won out "Jingle Bells" this year, and I don't think Mya minded at all.

And for the record, I would like a new Christmas CD for Christmas this year.



With Christmas sparkling throughout our house, I managed to sneak a half hour away when Mya was in bed and Terry was snuggling with Carter and figured out how to make one more special addition to our house. This wreath literally only took me about 30 minutes to make and cost me a  whole $6!



 
    All you need is a metal coat hanger, about 80 Christmas balls (different sizes and preferably 3 different colours), some ribbon and a glue gun. I bought all of these balls last year at the end of the season, so they were on clearance for only $2.44 a box!


So, start out by shaping your coat hanger into a circle...as best as you can.



     Check your Christmas balls and see if you can easily pull off the silver hookie parts at the top of each ball. If you can pull them off easily, yank them off and hot glue gun them back onto the balls (this is a critical part--you'll end up spending forever making this wreath if you don't glue them down since they'll start popping off once you string them onto the wire). Mine were already stuck really well (I couldn't pull them off for the life of me), so I skipped this step.


      Start stringing the balls onto the wire, making sure to space out the colours appropriately and fill in the spaces with the smallest balls. As you go, you'll get to a point (around this point in the picture below) where you'll think "This isn't looking right..I must be doing something wrong"..but keep going! Don't think too much as you string them on (the quicker you work the better it will look, promise). I was thinking too much at first and ended up pulling half of the balls off--so just go for it!


See...looking better already.



Once you have filled up the wire completely, take your hot glue gun and glue both ends of the wire together, so that it stays in the shape of a circle and the balls don't fall off.


If you leave the natural hook of the hanger in it's proper shape, you can use that to hang it on your door (like this pic below).


I then added ribbon (the kind with the wire in it so that it keeps it shape) and glued it onto the wreath with the glue gun.


Voila! Done! The great thing too about this wreath is that if you use it for a couple of years and then get tired of it, you can just cut the wire and string all of the balls off and use them elsewhere all over again.

 Enjoy!

Erica xo


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