Library Makeover: Sneak Peek

Ugh. I am just DYING to share how amazing our “library” (aka: the small bedroom at the front of our house) looks now that we’ve redone the shelving.

Let me refresh your memory a little bit. Last fall we tackled the “How to disassemble Ikea” project – and by “we” and mean Ty. “We” successfully got that behemoth apart and shipped it off to a new home. Thank you Kijiji! I absolutely loved that unit and when we first bought our house it was #1 on my list of buys. Once it got installed and stocked however, it just looked soooo…. heavy.

406066_10100753780425361_2137445187_n

Gah. Talk about a beast. I thought I could live with it, but 2.5 years in I just couldn’t pretend to love it any longer. Sidenote: I totally think it’s ok to admit when you were wrong, especially when it comes to design. Sometimes we make creative decisions in the moment that just don’t play out like we thought. No shame here.

Once the room was empty, it was like looking at a blank canvas again. I immediately knew what needed to be done. It was ambitious but we both agreed that the only answer – the only choice we had to make the statement we wanted – was floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall shelves.

Guys. I’m obsessed. It looks amazing. As I said, I’m so pumped to share it. BUT. I want it to be absolutely perfect. There’s just a bit of fine-tuning to be done. So to whet your appetite a little in the meantime, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek. I like to think that I curated each and every one of the THIRTY-FIVE shelves before me. (HINT: I colour-coded the books like a lunatic!) I chose my favourite one – the yellow – to share with you today:

IMG_7068

 

Nailed it. I mean, come on. The owl mug alone is a showstopper. And we look pretty damn cute in that photo. In contrast the shelf below is pretty neutral (with an equally adorable photo of our eldest niece and nephew – love!) which I think really adds to the impact of the yellow.

IMG_7071

 

 

I can’t wait to show you the rest! In the meantime, I’m going to curl up in there with my latest read (The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith – I just started it, so no spoilers!) and admire my (colourful!!) handiwork.

– C

Gluten-free pizza

I’m all about the recipes right now. I’m just putting the finishing touches on my library make-over, which I want to be absolutely perfect before I share it with you guys. I’m on the hunt for two last frames for my artwork – apparently 8.5×11 is not a common size. If anyone sees a black and a matching white anywhere, let me know! Until then, all I’ve got is food.

Pizza. Is there any greater food? Don’t answer that. Pizza and a beer is our favourite way to spend a Friday night and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In an effort to both clean up our favourite food and save a little extra dosh, we’ve been on the hunt for a quick, easy and delicious crust that we can make ourselves. We’ve done cauliflower crust – delicious and clean, but time-consuming. Almond flour? A little too dense. Finally I think we’ve found it:

Tapioca flour.

I’ll be honest, I had not clue what that was. But thanks to my good friend the Google, I learned that it’s made from Yuca, or Cassava, which is a veg that we looooove. Win! We used this recipe right here as our base and then spiced it up and topped it with some super fresh and tasty stuff.  Feel free to do the same! The best thing about this recipe is that it’s super fast. In less than 30 minutes you’ve got yourself a face full of deliciousness, which works perfectly for us since we usually like to get in a workout on Friday nights as well.

photo

Ingredients:

  • 2 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 and a bit tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (note: spicy – that’s how we like it, but if you don’t, add less)
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • pesto (we used homemade from the summer – yum! or you can use store bought)
  • organic mozzarella cheese
  • red onion, finely sliced
  • kalamata olives, sliced
  • arugula
  • prosciutto
  • aioli (just mix some mayo, minced garlic and lemon juice together)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. It gets sticky. Don’t panic.
  2. Spread out on a backing sheet. You want to get it pretty thin.
  3. Spread a generous layer of pesto all over crust.
  4. Top with cheese, red onion and olives.
  5. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and top with a generous amount of arugula and prosciutto.
  7. Drizzle with aioli.
  8. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes to let the arugula wilt and the meat warm up.
  9. Slice, serve and DEVOUR.

Enjoy!

– C

Soup Series #3

I am not cut out for the kind of cold that we are dealing with today. Thank god I had the foresight to make soup on the weekend to bring for lunches throughout the week. This has to be by far, my favourite soup recipe to date: creamy roasted tomato. It’s adapted slightly from this one right here.

The first time I made it, it was with a friend using her Vitamix (which I now dream about, it was that amazing to use – but alas, my broke ass cannot afford one). Thankfully Santa really came through for me this Christmas and gifted me a pretty awesome Kitchenaid Immersion Blender. It doesn’t quite obliterate the soup the way the Vitamix does – it was unbelievably creamy! – but the added texture makes it taste somehow more “rustic”, which I really love.

Apologies in advance for the lack of awesome photos – it was too easy to make and too delicious to eat to stop for snaps!

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds Roma or plum tomatoes (use the scales at the store!) cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large red pepper (or whatever pepper you’ve got really) cut into quarters
  • 1 Spanish or sweet onion cut into quarters, or if it’s really large eighths
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic depending on how much you love garlic (I love it a lot), peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh basil torn into pieces

Directions:

This honestly couldn’t be any easier.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Take out a large roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil on the bottom. Add tomatoes, pepper, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt and combine.
  3. Place in oven for 30-40 minutes. Then stir and add basil.
  4. Put back in oven for another 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and blend until smooth.
  6. Serve immediately (perhaps with a fancy little grilled cheese for dipping, like I did below) or fill a couple of mason jars and save for later (as the soup cools, your jars will seal for longer shelf life)

IMG_9436

Enjoy!

– C

A New Year

Welp. It’s 2015.

I’ve spent the last few days listening to and reading other people’s resolutions. I’ve heard everything from eating cleaner and exercising more to investing more time in hobbies and swearing less. Although I’m not one to make my own resolutions very often, I do enjoy how keen and ambitious the people around me are at this time of year. Taking a page out of their book, I came up with a list of goals that I have for the upcoming 12 months:

1. Stress less. This is damn near impossible for me. I can go from 0 to 100 on the stress-o-meter in mere seconds. Instead of trying to work against my own biology on this one, I’m going to try to find more techniques for limiting or managing my anxiety once it rears it’s ugly head, rather than attempt to eliminate it all together. This Zen Doodle Colouring Book (for adults!) is top of my list of resources as is my old faithful Calming Jar.

2. Take a vacation. We haven’t been away on holidays since our trip to France in 2010. Despite my uptight exterior, I am quite the free spirit deep down (I am a Gemini afterall, it’s my prerogative to be so contrasting) and I’m just itching to get away and explore somewhere new. This year also marks Ty’s 30th birthday (FINALLY!), which could be just the excuse we need to pick up and leave.

3. Save more. In order for #2 to happen, I have to get back on track financially. Being out of work for so long put a serious dent in my savings and I have yet to get caught back up. I vow to make 2015 the year that all the effects of that dark time, including the financial impact, become a distant memory.

4. Spend more time at home on the weekends. We have a REALLY bad habit of waiting until the weekend to do all our running around: groceries, cleaning, shopping, etc. that by Monday morning we feel anything but relaxed and refreshed. Instead, I’d like to make more time during the week for these “chores” and free up the weekend to relax and really live: do yoga, read, go for long walks, cuddle on the sofa, work on DIY projects and recipes …

5. Exercise less. Wait – what?! I have become a six-days-a-week Crossfit-er. It’s not a terrible habit and for a long time it felt great. Lately though I’ve noticed it having the opposite effect and my overall performance at the gym has seen a decline. To (hopefully) reverse this I’m going to try to breakup my week a little bit more to allow my body more time to recover – after all, it’s not while we’re working out that we get stronger, it’s as our muscles repair that we make gains. I’m going to attempt Crossfit 4 days a week, Yoga 1-2 days and maybe if I can find a class that I like enough, toss back in one Spin class a week, we’ll see.

I’ll consider myself successful if I can get to a point where the above happens naturally, without me having to force it. For now though, it’s going to take some serious commitment and dedication – and perhaps a box of Crayolas – to get myself on track.

Let 2015 begin!

– C

On this day

Today is a meaningful day. It’s not an anniversary as such, but it holds quite a special place in my heart. No, in my soul.

On December 18, 2013 I was unemployed. I had been unemployed for 350 days. It was day #350 of 396 total. Day #350 of waking up with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Well, other than the gym anyway. Which is precisely where I was when I got two very important, life-changing phone calls that day. I say life-changing now, because that’s what distance and hindsight allow you to do, but they were also very perspective-changing for me. Which is why this day stands out to me even still now, a full year later.

Pause.

It’s important to the story for you to know that in the 349 days leading up to this one, I had sent out upwards of 150 resumes to various jobs ranging from entry-level to manager, local to deep downtown. Of those I had only been granted interviews to two. Of those two, only one led to a second interview. And ultimately, I didn’t get it. Needless to say I was feeling defeated on this day #350 and feeling useless, purposeless, rejected. My EI was set to run out at the end of December. I appeared to be completely un-jobworthy. The outlook was grim.

When I first got laid off and struggled to find something new I joked that “there’s always the Home Depot” (which incidentally is right across the street from my house). As the year progressed and the days ticked-over, this lighthearted joke gradually became more of a reality. Finally I resigned myself to that fate and applied in the hopes now that I would at least get on with them in time for the new year, so that I could continue to contribute to my household and not put all the financial burden on Ty to keep us afloat.

Unpause.

I remember vividly picking up my phone at the gym that morning and seeing two voicemails.  The first was from the Home Depot. Asking me to come in for an interview for a sales position. While I was still feeling a bit dejected from having to effectively “resort” to this ( *don’t hate!) I really tried to push those feelings down and ultimately felt over-the-moon that someone – ANYONE – wanted to interview me. The second message was another interview request. This one for a position I had applied to back in October and assumed had been filled. (*Spoiler alert: it’s the job I have now!) I couldn’t believe my luck. After so much radio silence, two calls in one day!

The interview process for the job I have now was lengthy and didn’t begin until January. In the meantime (and not many people actually know this, to be honest), I did what I had to do and took the job at the Depot. I went out and bought my safety shoes (so not cute bt-dub). I started training and began to look forward to my shifts because if nothing else, it got me out of the house and interacting with the world. Although I was still focused on trying to get the other job, I was equally as committed to the Home Depot and grateful to them for giving me a chance.

When I finally got the call from my current employer that I was hired – I cried. I took great pride in resigning from the Home Depot and returning my barely-used safety shoes to Walmart. I handed in my apron, my notepad and my locker key. I felt free. Free of the stress and the worry. Free of the defeat. In honour of that struggle and that sacrifice and that commitment to my family, I did hang on to one little souvenir from my time there: the “I’m in Training” badge that I never actually got a chance to wear on the floor.

I still have it. It’s the first thing I stuck to my message board wall at my new job. I see it every day and am reminded of how far I’ve come and where I could have easily ended up. I’m so fortunate to finally be doing a job that I love. A job that is so perfect for me. That allows me to be creative and have fun and do actual good, positive work to help other people. And it all started on this day last year with two phone calls, one right after the other, that changed my entire life. 

IMG_9374

It may sound cliché, but I learned from this to never give up. That no matter how bad things look, or get, great things can happen. Tonight I will raise a glass to that day, to it’s impact, to the hope it gave me. Cheers. – C

You know what really grinds my gears?

Well, it’s that time of year again – the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was on TV last night. I have not yet watched it myself, but I did PVR it and plan to enjoy it tonight with a glass of wine. I’m especially looking forward to that moment when Ariana Grande gets decked in the face by one of the angel’s wings.

arianagrande_vsfashionshow

Look at her – she looks completely terrified. Of the fluffy pink angel wing…

I find this day of the year to be a particularly interesting one. One where I wake up in the morning to a news feed flooded with posts conveying outrage at the objectification of women and the poor standard we are setting for our young girls. I am all for women’s rights, I really am. As a modern woman I am able to work and have children (but only if I want to) and perhaps most importantly wear pants – and these are all things that I’m grateful to have the right to do. So when I read this stuff online or hear it on the radio – that these models are “creating an unrealistic expectation of what a woman should look like” or that the show “warps our perspective of women” or “objectifies women” – I start to get my back up a little.

Confession time: I have body image issues. Shocking, I know. (< that’s sarcasm, btw – don’t we all?!) In fact, I’ll go on record as saying I have A LOT of body image issues. That being said, I can assure you that none of these issues comes from playing with Barbies as a child or from watching the VS Fashion Show as an adult. In my case, the real cause is a series of terribly hurtful things that have been said to me over the course of my life by a bunch of not-very-nice people (other kids, mostly).

I don’t watch the VS show for the models – to compare myself to them, or to make a laundry list of all the plastic surgery I need to start saving for so that I can one day look like them. No. I watch because I legit think it’s a good show. I enjoy the costumes. I really do. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of hard-working, super creative people putting that show together. I like seeing their take on things, like this outfit for example: a little drummer boy or maybe a nut cracker? Either way, it takes some imagination to come up with these things.

1384414583528_Victorias-Secret-2013-Runway-Show-02-Behati

 

And the models themselves? Hate them if you must (although realistically they are nothing more than moving mannequins), but they are a hard-working bunch. In their industry, being in this show is a big effing deal. Maybe just maybe they can serve as an example to young girls, that no matter what path you choose, if you work hard, you’ll get to the top.

And let’s be honest here. If you REALLY don’t like it and you REALLY can’t enjoy some element of it, then don’t watch it. They won’t really miss you, after all, last night’s show had millions of other viewers anyway.

Of course, this is just my opinion. We all get one. And the beauty of the internet is that we can all put ours out there for people to agree/disagree with it.

Love them or hate them… but be sure to love yourself xo

– C

DIY Marquee-inspired Star

The holiday season is here. I’ve already put up all my decorations, inside and out, and the tree. Looking for some inspiration? You can read my tips on holiday decorating from last year here.

I really think that part of the fun of the holidays is getting creative and making some of your own decorations. This year’s project is right on trend: marquee lights. I took my inspiration from a few posts I found on Pinterest:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 2.26.45 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 2.27.21 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 2.35.54 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 2.35.24 PM

Ultimately I’d like to make some letters to hang in the house somewhere – but, I thought I’d test the marquee waters first with something a little easier: a holiday star.

What I used:

What we did:

I printed out the shape that I wanted to use, cut it out and traced it on the MDF.

IMG_6561

Tyler then cut out the star using the jigsaw. Once we were happy with the shape, I marked out where to drill the holes for the lights. My string of lights has 30 bulbs, which means, 30 holes. I started on the perimeter of the start and worked my way in, trying to keep the holes equal distance apart.

IMG_6568

Then Tyler drilled the holes – can you see the pattern here? Teamwork, folks. I am an excellent project manager, and he excels at the labour. We’re really just playing to our strengths! Now, with the holes, you want to make sure that they are large enough for the to push the bulb holder thingies (technical term) through from the back, but not so large that the bulbs slide through once you put them back on. Tricky business and worth taking your time with. Once the holes were drilled, we painted. Ok, ok, Ty painted.

IMG_6570

Beautiful, yes? Once the paint is dry, you can start gluing on the trim. Using tin snips, Ty cut trim to the necessary length and attach to the back using “no more nails”. The nice thing about this product is that it goes on white, but dries clear, so you know when it’s done. Or more importantly, you know not to bloody touch it if it’s still white! We left it overnight to be safe.

IMG_6573

Now it’s time for the lights! I removed all the globes from the string of lights and inserted each holder through a hole, starting at the middle (where the battery pack will go) and working my way out. Once they are all through, we put the globes back on. A little screw in the back was added so that the battery pack had somewhere to hang and voilà!

IMG_6574 IMG_6575

There you have it. Your very own marquee-inspired light. Go ahead, ooh and aah – we sure did. It’s a great addition to this year’s seasonal decor.

IMG_6590

Try your own and let me know how it goes!

– C

 

Soup Series – #2

Soup! It’s warm, it’s delicious and it’s super easy to make. Last week, I shared my so-easy-anyone-can-do-it-even-you bone marrow broth. Today, I’m going to walk you through using that homemade broth to make a soup that is TO. DIE. FOR. Now, I’m going to apologize in advance for the lack of photos. We devoured this soup so quickly that snapping pics just wasn’t an option. So bare with me, and use your imagination! Here we go – Slow-cooker Spicy Sausage and Spinach Soup (Oh, the alliteration! *swoon*):

Ingredients:

  • your favourite spicy Italian sausage
  • 2 cups of beef stock (homemade – woo! or store-bought)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp seas salt
  • one full bunch of spinach with stems chopped off

Directions:

  1. Remove the casing from the sausage, tear into largish chunks and cook on medium heat in a pan with some oil.
  2. While your sausage is cooking, chop your onion and peppers and toss them into your slow-cooker with the tomatoes, minced garlic, chili powder, cumin and sea salt. Give a little stir to combine.
  3. Add the beef stock to the slow-cooker.
  4. When your sausage is done cooking (no more pink!) add it on top of the mixture. Don’t stir it in.
  5. Finally, layer your spinach on top of the sausage – again, don’t mix it! You want it to wilt throughout the cooking process.
  6. Set your slow-cooker for 6-8 hours. I like to leave mine overnight.
  7. When it’s done, stir well to combine the spinach and sausage into the soup.
  8. Enjoy!

This is the best pic I could get – at work, before I gobbled up the last of it. It doesn’t look pretty, but guys, honestly, so spicy and delicious! Try it!

photo 2

 

– C

Book Club

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my new job? I’m more than 9 months in and I honestly love it more and more every week. One of the things I love the most, that was severely lacking at my old job, is the people. I have 25+ coworkers and they are all seriously awesome. Case in point: a small group of us have started up a book club! I’m especially excited about this since I absolutely love reading, but don’t always find the time between working and coaching, etc. A book club seems like the perfect excuse to prioritize curling up with a nice hot cup of tea and a good book, especially with the cold weather upon us and the holidays right around the corner.

Of course, none of us really has any idea how a book club works. We had our inaugural meeting and picked the first book we’re going to read: The Rosie Project. We also all agreed that all subsequent meetings should involve some booze. Seems appropriate. Everything is more fun with a glass of wine or three. The book comes with some “book club” discussion questions in the back, which is sure to come in handy and help us stay on track. I’ve read only the first three chapters so far, but I already love it.

1443422665

Are you a part of a book club? Send your tips and tricks my way!

Happy reading!

– C

Soup series – #1

Fack. It’s cold out. I was not built for the cold. We hit up the Bradford Santa Claus parade on Saturday night and even with three shirts, a winter jacket, touque, mittens and boots, I barely survived. According to my doctor – because yes, I’ve checked in with him on why my fingers and toes go numb the minute the mercury drops – my heart is so focused on pumping blood to keep my vital organs warm (and up and running!) that it doesn’t have enough left to send to my extremities. Which means that when I’m told to just suck it up and put another pair of socks on, I have a defense. It’s my heart. It works so hard, you know. Cut it some slack and pour me another hot toddy.

My coping strategy right now – along with staying indoors as much as humanly possible – is living off of all the liquid hot that I can handle. Enter my soup series. I feel like soup is underrated. I know I myself have judged it as boring in the past, but I really think that if you get creative you can turn soup into a hearty meal that will fill your tummy and warm your soul.

Every great soup starts with a stock. Bone broth is honestly so easy to make! It’s also incredibly good for you, being so nutrient dense. Feel a winter cold coming on? Warm up some bone broth and sip those sniffles away. Below is my recipe for bone marrow broth. You can easily substitute the marrow for any other bones you can get your hands on – beef and chicken both work well.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large pieces of marrow
  • onion (cut into large chunks)
  • carrot (cut into large chunks)
  • celery (cut into large chunks)
  • garlic to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • water

Directions:

Toss everything in your crockpot, cover with water and set for anywhere from 10-24 hours (the longer you leave it, the tastier it gets) – like so:

photo 4

Once it’s done, scoop out the vegetables and you’re left with just the beautiful golden coloured broth. Stir in some more sea salt to taste. While it’s still hot, pour the broth into mason jars. As the liquid cools, the jars will seal and you can store your broth in the fridge or freezer until you need it.

photo 5

That’s it. So easy! You can enjoy it as is, or use it as a base for soup like I did with my spicy sausage soup – stay tuned for that recipe, it’s to die for!

– C