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 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'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. 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 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.


Erica xo

Friday, 31 October 2014

Ooey Gooey Homemade Mac and Cheese

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So this week has been a bit of a blur. The flu has been running rampant through our house, knocking me right out, and knocking Mya out for a couple of days too. But she's now completely recovered, and I'm just on the mend. But Halloween comes whether we're sick or not.

Tonight is one of those nights that is fun, exciting, spooky and (my favourite part) will make memories for your kids that they just won't forget. But it's also a night that always feels a bit rushed, getting the kids home from school and daycare, getting dinner made and filling up their bellies with something other than candy before they go out and stock up on all the good stuff. So, I thought it was only appropriate to share a quick and easy dinner recipe that you could make before heading out to trick or treat tonight...and (the best part), your kids will actually eat it!    

It's Terry's mom's homemade mac and cheese.

We absolutely LOVE it.

And the great thing about mac and cheese is that the kids love it too. So I decided that it was about time to learn how to make her famous dish since I was trying to track down yummy, easy recipes that I could make large batches of and freeze. So, I thought it was only appropriate to share this delicious recipe, since I technically stole it myself.

So with Judy by my side the other week, she took me through each part of the recipe step by step, and we came away with the most delicious ooey, gooey mac and cheese that you'll ever taste. I promise. And (bonus!) it's not full of all of that bright powdered cheese that I usually use for the mac and cheese in this household.

So, if you want to try it yourself here is how you do it: *These measurements are all approximate, so if you want to add a little more or a little less it won't hurt!

1/4 cups melted butter
1 onion diced
salt and pepper to taste
approx  1/2 cup of flour (or until melted butter thickens up)
4-5 cups of milk
3 cups grated cheese (I used marble, but you can choose whatever you prefer)
4-5 cups of elbow noodles (or throw the whole bag in like I did and once you've made your sauce you can add however many noodles you want and just freeze the leftover noodles for an even quicker meal next time!)
Bread crumbs (as much or as little as you prefer as a topping)

Add butter and onions to large pot on stove and cook until onions are translucent and soft.

Then slowly add your flour, mixing until it looks like the picture below (where the moisture from the butter is soaked up and you have almost a paste surrounding your onions).

In a separate pot, boil your noddles until soft. Drain water and place to the side for later.

Shred your cheese and place to the side for later.

Pour milk SLOWLY into the pot with the onion and flour paste, keeping it on medium heat, stirring constantly. Then start adding your cheese slowly, stirring constantly.  

Once it starts to boil just a little and the cheese is melted, start slowly adding your noodles until it's as ooey gooey as you like it (I like a lot of sauce on my pasta, so I added less noodles).

Judy, the master mac and cheese expert, showing me how it's done. 

Keep stirring until completely mixed together.

Pour noodles into large baking dish

Pour a thick layer of bread crumbs over entire dish

Put in oven at 350 for approx 20-30 minutes. The sauce will get thick and ooey gooey as it cooks. Once cooked, let it sit for a few minutes on the counter to thicken up even more, then serve. I also sauteed up some green beans as a side dish, and voila--easy dinner!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Erica xo

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Loss and get aways

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I didn't even know how important this past week was until I started seeing Facebook posts, telling me that this particular day actually exists. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day was October 15th and as I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw how many other people share a story similar to ours it brought me back to all of the same feelings of loss that we experienced not too long ago.

I couldn't figure out why I was so upset as September came to an end. I was extra emotional, finding myself wiping away tears in the silence of my car, waking up sad, going to bed sad, just feeling utter sadness. I remember feeling like my only real distraction from this dark space was going to work every day--being so incredibly distracted by the 27 little four and five year olds who needed every ounce of me that there was no time at all for my own thoughts anymore. But then the moment that I left, got into my car and back to reality I found myself upset and sad once again. What is happening to me?? I remember thinking to myself. I don't do this. I don't usually ever feel this way. And if I do, I'm usually able to quickly focus on something great and get over the hump. My family noticed it. Terry noticed it. And finally I confessed to Terry late one night what was going on.

My due date was quickly approaching--my OLD due date.

I wasn't expecting to have to go through mourning all over again at this point. I wasn't prepared for the flood of emotions to come creeping back into my life once again, as if we just lost the baby this week...not six months ago. But it's happening. And I debated about writing about it, but then decided that maybe it might be helpful to others who have experienced this same know and be prepared that this might happen to you too. Because I never expected it. But it's difficult, because you start to realize that at this point your hospital bags would have been packed, your belly would have been beautifully huge, your nursery would have been completely finished, and in a couple short weeks you would have been holding your precious little baby in your arms. And it hits you, hard.

I somehow expected too that since I'm pregnant again that it would ease those feelings. That it wouldn't feel so awful. That the sadness would be replaced by the fact that we're so so grateful to be carrying another child. That we know how lucky we are, so we would somehow then move on faster from the loss that we experienced before. But it's not true. Not true at all. We're beyond thrilled about this new pregnancy and so incredibly grateful...but still so sad thinking about the baby that we lost.

I haven't wanted to explain it or talk about it with anyone, including Terry and my own family, since if I talk about it it becomes real all over again and I knew a breakdown would be imminent. But a couple minutes ago, Terry came and hung over my shoulder and asked me what I was writing about...and the flood gates opened once again.  

So we're at Blue Mountain right now. Just Terry and I. Because when your daughter is a mess and you just don't know what to do, you quickly come up with a plan to send her and her hubby away, just the two of them. You book a beautiful chalet for them, book a couples massage and take their two sweet children for a weekend away at Nana and Papa's house (and you of course do the same for Jen and Jeff sometime, since everything is always always equal of course). You tell them to relax, sit by the fireplace, read a book, go for a swim, walk through the village hand in hand, eat out, order a drink other than water for dinner and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the quiet mountains.  

So that's exactly what we've been doing.

Our beautiful chalet that we're staying in...well, a section of it. 

I've been reading my trashy magazines, catching up on the latest celebrity gossip...

and we've made frequent visits to the hot tub, me sitting on the edge with my feet just dangling in (since over-heating this baby isn't exactly on the list of things to do this weekend) and Terry fully enjoying the blissful heat and relaxation...both options still wonderfully peaceful. We've walked through the village, indulging in delicious pieces of fudge and warm glasses of hot chocolate with whip cream. We've sat by the fireplace each morning, eating huge delicious breakfasts that we didn't have to make ourselves, while sipping on orange juice. We laid side by side for a couples massage at the spa and scoped out every possible fireplace in this place to sit by, because there is absolutely nothing more peaceful and relaxing than sitting by a roaring fire. And it doesn't even matter that the weather is frigidly cold and rainy, or that I have bronchitis and can't get through a few sentences without coughing up a lung--because we've been placed in this little paradise, and it's therefore hard to feel anything but happiness while here. Sometimes a break from reality is necessary to pull you out of grief and start fresh again.

Thank you mom and dad for such an amazing time away. We'll do the same for our kids one day when they really need it too--we promise.

Speaking of which, we're missing them like crazy...time to get packed up and head home to see those two sweet little faces.

Happy Sunday everyone, and love to all of those parents who have experienced loss and who are grieving (or who have grieved) the same way that we have.

Love Erica xo  


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