Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Back to Work I Go!

by Lindsay

Once upon a time there was a mother who loved being at home with her three children. This mother knew that her time at home was temporary and that maternity leave would come to an end however she did not know how hard it would be. Yes, that's right. The third time returning to work after maternity leave would be the hardest. So, almost a month ago, that mother turned in her comfy clothes and ponytail for her dress pants and cardigan and went back to work.

The rest is a haze. Seriously, by the end of the day I am exhausted, the house is still a mess and I'm too tired to even catch up with friends by reading their facebook posts let alone actually see anyone face to face. But this story has a silver lining.

I requested to work part time which is almost unheard of in my mostly male profession. Approvals had to go up three levels of management, all men. I still can't believe they said yes! I am now officially working a 0.7 which means I will work three days one week and four days the next. I really think I am so lucky.

While I was off, I'd made some huge changes to my family's diet and one of my fears about returning to work was that I would fall back into some old habits. Mainly, that I would buy more pre-packaged, processed, and take out foods. I try to practice moderation on those types of foods for a few reasons. One is that I believe a whole food diet is the best choice for me and second is that it costs a lot more than making things from scratch. So I've decided the only way to succeed is to be prepared.

One day while making some pancakes, I decided to pre-mix a few extra bags with the dry ingredients. I also threw together a few bags for hamburger buns / dinner rolls (minus the yeast). I'm not going to suggest making bread is fast now, but if you've ever eaten a fresh bun out of the oven I'm sure you understand why I do it.

Getting back into the work routine is hard. The best tip I've gotten so far is to dress your kids for the next day after bath time, instead of putting them in pajamas. My first thought was "What?", and then it clued in. My kids wear comfy cotton shorts and t-shirts every day and there pajamas don't get dirty anyway. Genius, right? Thank you cousin Theresa.

Do you have any tips on being more efficient with cooking, cleaning, etc.?  Please share.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Handmixed Home and Body Products

by Lindsay:

Have you ever noticed that a lot of the cleaning and body product companies claiming to be more "natural" use people names in their brand name? I guess the marketing groups at Tom's of Maine and Jason Naturals decided that the consumer would imagine an actual person intimately involved in mixing these products. Well, I'm about to get a whole lot more intimate with my own products because I'm going to mix them all myself. 

All of my children struggle with skin reactions, rashes and irritations. Nothing as extreme or painful as the Google images I find while self-diagnosing our conditions but enough to make me stop and think "What is irritating their skin and how can I help them"? Recently, my 1 year old baby Emmett, who we thought was going to escape my "bad skin" gene broke out in head to toe eczema. I am using medication to get it under control but this flare up has also renewed my interest in natural ingredient home and body products.

I have already switched to using vinegar for most of my cleaning work but I still have too many chemicals in the house like laundry and dishwasher detergents and stain removers. I would also like to replace all body products with fragrance free easy to read ingredient versions. I am seeing a whole lot more of these options on store shelves which is awesome but I have a really hard time paying $6 for toothpaste when the main ingredient is baking soda. 

After doing a quick search I decided to buy the following ingredients:
- Castile Soap ($17.99/944ml) Ouch!
- Rubbing alcohol ($2.49/500ml)
- Washing Soda ($5.97/3kg)
- White Vinegar (I already had this but I guess $5.00/4L)
- Baking Soda ($3.28/2kg)
- Vegetable Glycerine Bars ($1.99 each)
- Peppermint Oil ($2.09/3.7ml)
- Tea Tree Oil (I already had this but I guess $10/10ml bottle)

Total $48.81 (will make lots and lots of stuff)

Hopefully these items will get me well on my way. Just so I don't get too overwhelmed, I'm going to replace things as they run out and share the recipes as I go along. I would really love any recipes or suggestions that you have. Maybe you have a tip for getting food stains of kid's clothes or maybe you just want to warn me that making your own deodorant just isn't worth it. Either way, I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Emmett's Handmade Sensory Book

by: Lindsay

I've challenged myself to make or buy handmade gifts this year. Recently, my baby Emmett turned one and I made him his very own sensory book. Here it is.
Emmett's Sensory Book
I have to admit Wyatt and Emmett already had one. Their older sister Hailey made them a very special book last Christmas. It is pretty awesome. She embroidered their names on it and made different pages for counting and shapes. She even made a mailbox page and included a handful of postcards inside. It does belong to both boys however Wyatt has kind of laid claim to it and keeps it in his room. That is why I though their was a place for a second book just for Emmett.

Hailey's Sensory Book
I used Hailey's book as inspiration (can you believe she was only twelve when she made this book?) and got many great ideas on Pinterest from here and here and here.

What did you do with your old sentimental baby clothes? Did you pass them on to a new baby, use them for crafting or make cleaning rags? I did all three but my favourites ended up in this book.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Blanket for my Sister

Post by: Lindsay

I'm not a quilter, I'm a blanket maker. Yes, there is a difference. A quilter has the patience to sew scraps of fabrics together into detailed designs. Blanket makers prefer large blocks and quick results. This is the blanket I made for my sister Lenore's birthday in keeping with my 2013 handmade gift challenge.

Lenore's Blanket
When Lenore and her husband Jack were married almost two years ago she DIY'd all of the decorations. The tables had different fabrics that looked good together but were different enough not to be too matchy-matchy.

Lucky for me, Lenore was willing to give me her wedding fabric and turn it into a useful blanket filled with memories from her special day. I cut the fabric down into 4 1/2" by 11" rectangles and then pieced them together in a subway pattern. The final blanket is 42" by 60", hopefully a good lap size.

A present for Auntie Lenore

I had to sneak my tulips into this picture. They are my flower garden superstars right now. Happy (belated) birthday Lenore, hope you like your blanket.

P.S. I have three children but somehow Wyatt is the only one around at picture time. I'll try to mix it up next time.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Snakes Snakes Everywhere

Our winters are long and summers are short here in good ol' Manitoba. Last year Lindsay and I decided that because of the short summers, and no holiday time for myself, we wanted to jam pack our weekends with as much fun as we could handle. This coming summer will be no exception and I thought I would share our first summer excursion.

We spent the day at narcisse snake pits. This Manitoba wonder contains North Americas largest congregation of snakes in one place. Our climate doesn't fair well for reptiles to thrive all year long. The red-sided garter snake has adapted to the cold winters in an underground tunnel paradise formed in the limestone rich area. Snakes travel from all around in the fall and find solace and warmth underground. Then when the spring air warms they emerge and spend about a week um ah well.. lets just say assuring their existence. Even if you are not a big snake fan, we would recommend, at least once, experiencing this phenomenon.

Hailey was the only on brave enough to catch and hold one of the snakes.

Wyatt was amazed with all the snakes slithering around.

View of one of four pits.This pit was by far the most active.

Mating Ball of Red-Sided Garter Snakes.
End of the trail. Lots of fun had by all.

 What kind of fun things have do you do over the summer months? Anything big planned this summer?


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Garden Update: Seedlings and Soaker Hose

Happy Mother's day to all the mommas out there. Hope you were spoiled rotten today!

It's been a really long winter here in Manitoba. The weather has finally come around and I was able to get outside for some long overdue gardening. Jay and I put these raised cedar beds in 3 summers ago in the only sunny part of our yard. I like raised bed gardening because:

1. I like clean lines and contained dirt.
2. I don't have to bend over as far to take care of the plants.
3. I have minimal weeds so far. I know this can get worse over the years.
4. I can plant things really close together because I don't need walkways.

Garden Beds with New Soaker Hose
This year I decided to add a soaker hose. Our summers can get pretty hot and dry here and it just makes sense to water more efficiently. I'm also pretty lazy so this can be a huge time saver. Those little white specks in the dirt are actually egg shells. I guess they weren't fully composted when I added it to the garden last Fall.

Basil and Sweet Peppers

The first round of basil and sweet peppers I planted didn't germinate. I had them in peat pots and I think they dried out (I'm a lazy waterer, see reason I got a soaker hose above). This second round was started in plastic pots (I reuse them) and they are all doing great.

These tomato plants are taking off. I have 3 different varieties of shorter season plants, Carbon and Anna Russian (both heirlooms) and a hybrid cherry tumbler.

I ordered all my new seeds this year from Heritage Harvest Seed. They are a Manitoba mail order business specializing in heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs. I chose them so that I have the option to save my own seeds to replant next year.

What are you growing this year? Do you have a preference for heirloom, organic or non-GMO seeds? Do you think it's important for kids to know where their food comes from?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Chest Freezer Organization

I recently signed up for a meat subscription service with the local family business Harborside Farms. Over the next year we will receive half a cow (quarterly installments), half a pig (quarterly as well), a dozen chickens and one turkey (fall delivery), 4 dozen eggs per month as well as a number of farm goodies like bacon, sausage, honey and maple syrup. Yum!

Freezer Before
Did I mention I have a small chest freezer? Jay's grandma gave us this freezer when she moved out of her house and it's been really great. It never bothered me before that it didn't have any wire baskets or dividers. Now that I've ordered all this meat I started wondering how I would store it in here. I imagined dinners would be sort of like picking names out of a hat except that I would be picking brown paper packages out of the freezer. "Tonight we are having...drumroll...pork chops!"

So I did what I always do in situations like this, I went to Google and Pinterest for inspiration. I found lots of great ideas for upright freezers but all the chest freezers seemed to be organized by putting food into boxes or milk crates and stacking them in there. I actually bought two different types of containers and brought them home to try but didn't like either of them. There was so much wasted space and I didn't like the idea of pulling out a bunch of containers to get at the stuff on the bottom. I'm pretty lazy by the way.

Then I had my Aha! moment. I decided to make dividers out of leftover 3/4" plywood. First I asked my husband to cut the pieces on the table saw. The pieces were:
1 piece - 18" x 26"
2 pieces - 18" by 9"
3 pieces - 18" by 7"

Adding Dividers
I had originally planned to screw the boards together but the pieces were so snug Jay had to hammer them in place. Now I can quickly remove a board or move it over to make room for larger items or make bigger spaces.

Finally, I made some labels and stapled them on to the edge of the plywood so that whoever is in there can quickly find what they are looking for.

Freezer After
The best part of this project is that it was FREE! You can see the pink 50% off sticker on my loaf of bread so you know I love a good deal. I also think this makes the best use of space. If you're wondering why I didn't make the compartments even deeper (they are 18" right now), it's because I thought it would be difficult to reach in and get things at the bottom and I also want to find some of those wire baskets that slide along the top edge of the freezer.

I'm really happy with how this turned out but the real test will be when the meat delivery starts next month. Hopefully I will have enough room for everything. If not, do you want to come over for a Barbeque?