Bedroom Makeover #1

I had a lot of fun with this room… it was nothing terrible to begin with, but I knew if I put it off it would be a long time before I’d get to it. So off we went, spur of the moment, the second Saturday after moving in, and bought paint.

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the only before picture I thought to take 🙂

I knew I wanted to go with a nautical theme, because I wanted the room to appeal to an older boy as well–I didn’t want anything too juvenile. Dan had a frame with a sailboat and different knots inside, and that’s kind of where I started.

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From there it was pretty easy. I didn’t want a solid navy wall but thought that a striped wall would look nice. We struggled with calculating stripe width when we did this in the basement of our old house, but this was very simple since we did all the stripes equal sizes.

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The anchor rug was a buy off of Rugs.ca. I much prefer buying things online, but I always get a little nervous especially for bigger purchases like this. I am very happy with the rug though: nice and plush, and the colours were exactly as I had pictured. And the curtains, which you can hardly see… the cheapest curtains on Walmart.ca, haha! They were the perfect colour, and blackout the room considerably well. (It’s not a bright room to begin with.)

dsc_0164My mom had one square of this sailboat material in her scrap bin, so it was perfect to sew into a decorative little pillow.

dsc_0161Thanks to my sister-in-law, I also received this large anchor for decor-perfect for the bedroom! I looked around for a model sailboat to buy, but they were all quite pricey. I didn’t want to spend any more money on the room, so after looking for some inspiration on pinterest, I hauled to the backyard with a saw and chopped down some dead birch branches. The sails are more scrap material, so I ended up spending $0 as opposed to at least $30 for a “real” model. I may still make a little flag for the top, and a little pendant banner for one sail, but all in good time 😉

dsc_0157Final result! I found the quilt on clearance at Quilts Etc, but they only carried in queen size. After looking for something similar at a ton of different stores, I decided to go with the Queen size one anyway, and I think it works fine! I’m not sure how well you can see the design, but it is pictures of various sailboats. Anyway, that’s it! It was a lot of fun picking stuff out for a “big kid” room. Eventually, when the budget allows, I’d like to also get a nautical map, or an old world map, for the wall. But for now, I think I’m done with the room.

 

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All the Light We Cannot See (Book Review)

I read some really great books this summer. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of not-good books out there. I thought I’d write up a few reviews of the good ones I’ve read this summer for any of my readers who are looking for new material to dig into.

I’ve got a variety of genres that I’ll be reviewing, so if you’re not into fiction, don’t despair, there’s more to come. The first book I’m reviewing is the most recent one I’ve read, and one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. By the way, I use the word reviewing very lightly. I suppose I am more recommending, as I am not getting too deep into themes etc.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Genre: historical fiction

Recommended for age 18+

531 pages (It’s long!)

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All the Light We Cannot See is a story about a blind girl living in France, and an orphaned German boy whose extraordinary technical skills land him in training academy for Hitler Youth. Their stories intersect in the citadel of Saint-Malo. I don’t want to divulge much of the plot should you choose to read it 🙂

From the book cover: “Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.”

This would be a fantastic novel for a book club! I found I wanted to read it slowly to enjoy the beautiful imagery, but I was compelled to read quickly, spurred on by the suspense.

There is rough language in this book, but it is not excessive or glorified.

My favourite part of reading this novel was the unpredictability. I was never at the point where I just knew how it was going to turn out. The characters are very real, and relatable. I would rate it at 4.5/5 stars 😉 (One part I didn’t like was surrounding a jewel called the “Sea of Flames”. It wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t sure if the story was going to go all science-fiction-y on me; it doesn’t, so now you can enjoy it, knowing that 😉

Here are two short excerpts to give you an idea of the writing style:

Zero

7 August 1944

Leaflets

At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country.
The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars.

—–

From The Girl

She eases open the left-hand shutter and runs her fingers up the slats of the right. A sheet of paper has lodged there.
She holds it to her nose. It smells of fresh ink. Gasoline, maybe. The paper is crisp; it has not been outside long.
Marie-Laure hesitates at the window in her stocking feet, her bedroom behind her, seashells arranged along the top of the armoire, pebbles along the baseboards. Her can stands in the corner; her big Braille novel waits facedown on the bed. The drone of the airplanes grows.

Let me know if you read it, or have read it!

*Feel free to comment with what you’re reading! I’d love to hear some suggestions since my book list has depleted 🙂

Raspberry-Cantaloupe Salad

In this hot weather, the last thing I feel like doing is standing over the stove and cooking. (Well, actually, I’d rather cook than go for a run in the heat, but you get my point.) Usually by the time 5 o’clock rolls around, none of us has much of an appetite. On days like this, I am super thankful for my veggie garden. I love just going out to the garden and cutting some fresh lettuce, picking a couple snow peas, and grabbing a few Swiss chard leaves.

I toss it all into a salad, with whatever else I have in the house, and cook up some chicken to complete the meal. If you have teenagers, or very large appetites, this probably wouldn’t cut it, even on a hot, humid, appetite-less day, but it works for us, and we love it!

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For whatever reason, I used to despise making salads. Lettuce or spinach would regularly go to waste in the fridge. A big part of my increased interest in salad is the fact that I can get many of the ingredients right from my backyard.
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For this salad, I included:

~cantaloupe
~raspberries
~coined baby carrots
~chopped red onion
~cucumber (home grown from Dan’s parents!)
~baby romaine (from our garden!)
~a few leaves of Swiss Chard (from our garden, variety is called ‘Bright Lights’)
~the last of my snowpeas (not many)
~simple pan-fried (in a generous amount of butter!) chicken breast, cut into strips, lightly seasoned
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Top with croutons and salad dressing of your choice! The raspberry vinaigrette went extremely well with the salad, adding a nice amount of acidity to complement everything else. Next time, I would probably add a touch of feta cheese as well, but alas, I was out!
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And this is my new little frame and print beside the kitchen table, just ready to remind the kids (and us) especially at mealtimes when they are ready to say, “I don’t like that!” (We are getting nearer and nearer that stage, although our kids are generally excellent eaters.)
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The kiddies’ version of the salad 🙂 As a side note, this is a nice meal for toddlers to feed themselves: little mess, and lots of sweet flavours.

Anyway, that’s my idea of a low-prep, fresh summer meal! What do you eat on these hot, sticky days?

Prayer of a Parent

Here’s a recycled poem which I wrote a year ago.
Enjoy!

My Red Leather Notebook

Precious in my eyes, this little one

Whose bright smiles cheer the day.

Precious in His eyes, this little one

Whose soul will never pass away.

Oh make me, Lord, to be so weighed down

With the burden of his soul.

To tell him that Christ, His life laid down

To make the broken sinner whole.

Help me to keep a view of life

That sees eternity over time;

Lead this child in the paths of eternal life

Whose little hand I hold in mine.

A quick poem based on the Ryle quote below:

“Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills…

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Consider the Lilies of the Field

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Consider the Lilies of the Field by Christina Rosetti

FLOWERS preach to us if we will hear:–
The rose saith in the dewy morn:
I am most fair;
Yet all my loveliness is born
Upon a thorn.
The poppy saith amid the corn:
Let but my scarlet head appear
And I am held in scorn;
Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
Within my cup of curious dyes.
The lilies say: Behold how we
Preach without words of purity.
The violets whisper from the shade
Which their own leaves have made:
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read.
But not alone the fairest flowers:
The merest grass
Along the roadside where we pass,
Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
Tell of His love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.

 

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How does my garden grow?

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I have a long history of killing houseplants. Or at least, failing to keep them alive and thriving. Nevertheless, I wanted to try my hand at vegetable gardening.

When that first little seedling poked it heads above ground, I was ecstatic.

I truly had expected nothing to grow. To my surprise, most of the planted seeds sprouted, and grew, and thrived! I had a little lesson in transplanting, and ended up just starting over with some seeds directly in the garden.

My snow peas were one of the ones I did not have to start over (although I did plant more from seed). The transplanted ones are thriving now, and I was so happy to pick some of the first snow peas this week!
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I thought my transplanted tomatoes had died after we had a late frost, but I left them planted anyway. Today I discovered that they are definitely growing and actually look much healthier than the ones I planted from the garden centre. They are, however, quite a bit smaller, so we’ll see what happens.

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I did some reading on vegetable gardening before I planted everything, so I had some basic knowledge, but now I just water, weed, and wait. I’m surprised at how much I could fit into the (relatively) small space that we set aside for the garden.

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This experimental summer is giving me great hope for the future. It’s even inspiring me to buy a few houseplants again, though I haven’t dared to, yet. Maybe in a few years, I’ll have a thriving vegetable garden, and indoor plants as well! 😉
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Lowly Worm Birthday Party (part 2)

Part one here.

I had high hopes of making party hats for all the kids, but that fell through when I couldn’t find cheap enough material to do so. So I decided to make one only for the birthday boy-it is based on Lowly’s hat. It lasted just long enough to get a couple pictures and that was it. I also used some scrap material to make a bow tie to match Lowly’s. I used a snap, so you can’t adjust the size, but it worked out just fine.

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I wanted to have at least one little game planned for the kids to do, since we were going to have a house full both days (14 kids the first day, 13 the second day). I printed off the high-quality Lowly picture full size (about 34 inches) and then taped it to a green background. I cut off his bow-tie, made a knock-off version of the birthday boy’s, and put tape over all the pages. The kids had great fun playing a spinoff of a classic party game–Pin the Bow-tie on Lowly. I hadn’t planned it, but it was handy that I had taped it because we just used a dry erase marker to put an initial where each kid had pinned the bow-tie.
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I think someone was peeking when this picture was taken 😉

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I had originally planned to do cupcake toppers, so I had made these little flags. I still wanted to use them, so I displayed them in little jars with our other decorations, and then popped one into each child’s goody ‘bag’ on their way out the door.

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Each flag said “Noah is 1!” on one side, and had a little picture of Lowly doing something on the other.

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With help from family, I collected 21 toilet paper tubes. I was originally looking for flip top tube containers, but couldn’t find any, and my wise sister-in-law suggested the toilet paper tubes. So I collected them, painted them, glued felt to the bottom, and used pipe cleaners for handles. Ta-da! I also printed little stickers that said, “Thank you for coming to Noah’s birthday party!”
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I printed off some colouring pages I found online, along with activities I found at randomhousekids.com. I tried to colour coordinate for age, so the blue tubes had harder pictures and an activity, like a maze, or connect the dot puzzle, and the yellow tubes just had one simple picture to colour. Along with the pictures, I put 3 or 4 crayons, a couple Rocket rolls, and a sucker. I wanted it to be simple, but with a bit of candy too, of course!

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I found this basket at a liquidation store for $3 and thought it was super cute.

This is a picture of the little decoration display on the piano.

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All in all, it was a ton of fun, but I must say I’m glad the next birthday is 6 months away! Just enough time to recover from this one and start planning for the next 😉

Lowly Worm birthday party (part 1)

It was a long, cold winter, so I spent a lot of time looking forward to Noah’s first birthday party. It would have been a lot of work if I tried to do it all in the week before, but since I spread it over about 3 months, it was just fun 🙂 Many of my ideas stemmed from this blog post. I also got my lovely large high quality Lowly image to print from the same blog 🙂 I had made the invitations already, so Lowly was a bit pixelly, but after I used a Sharpie to do some outlining, it improved quite nicely 🙂IMG_20150409_133636

There are not many Lowly worm cake ideas to go on, so I was pretty much on my own for that. (In hindsight this wasn’t so much a Busytown Birthday, as a Lowly Worm party, but oh well!

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With some assistance from my talented mother, we managed to create a cake that at least resembled Lowly. (My two year old could see it, but one of my nephews informed me that it didn’t really look like Lowly, but the icing was very delicious! 🙂 ) We did the party in two rounds, so the first day I served cupcakes, and the second day we had cake.

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I decided on apple cupcakes since they were nice and simple, and fit in with the theme (Lowly’s apple car).

I was pleased to find these cheap paper plates that matched nicely with the colour scheme!

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I also whipped up this decorative garland (and yes, I mean whipped up, it was so easy!)

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I will post part 2 tomorrow, hopefully, with the rest of the decorations 🙂 It’s so much fun planning a themed birthday party, but if you have to spend a pile of money, it’s not quite so enjoyable. I can confidently say that I spent less than $20 on everything, much of which is reusable for future parties!

Stay tuned for the rest of the pictures tomorrow 🙂

Move Aside, Dutch Pancakes

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across thisweekfordinner.com.

Among other delicious recipe ideas, I found a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding. I’d read about it in James Herriot books, but never thought to try it. It is more commonly eaten with roast beef (I believe) than the way I’m going to share, but trust me, this is delicious stuff.

All you do is take your basic Dutch pancake recipe, and blend the ingredients together. (Don’t quote me on this, but the ratios seem very similar. The ingredients are identical.)

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Cut a chunk of butter (salted is best) a little small than 1/4 cup and toss in a 9×13 pan. Put it in the hot oven.
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When it begins to bubble, like so ^^^ 🙂 pour your blended ingredients into the pan.
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Now it looks like that ^^ and you are wondering (I was, anyway) how this is all going to work out..
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Ta-Da! It worked out! The true colour is a lovely golden brown, not the bland stuff you see in the picture.
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For best results, top with homemade Ontario-strawberry jam! It’s a hit all around. Serve with fresh fruit to round the meal off a little. It’s probably more of a dessert, but no one here has any problems with letting it pass for dinner every once in a while. 😉

Not the healthiest, but hey, you can’t beat the deliciousness. So much less work than Dutch pancakes and (sorry, Dutch heritage) much better tasting. Plus no smoking up the house. Or maybe that’s just me. The smoke alarm going off at dinner time is a sure sign I’ve been making pancakes.

Anyway, that’s my version of the recipe. The real one I followed is here. As she notes, the recipe is easily halved. I have usually done it in an 8×8 pan, but last time did a 9×13. We had leftovers, so I’m curious how it will reheat.

Spice Rack Bookshelves

While looking for bookshelf ideas for the reading nook, I came across this Ikea Spice Rack idea.
I originally had wanted to do rain gutter book shelves, like this:


I thought this would be more customizable for length, and Ikea is a bit far away for us, so it seemed easier. But it proved to just be a big pain, and more expensive!
So off we trekked to Ikea. We spent a couple hours there, and found a lot of handy things, but no spice racks! We should have just found someone to ask, but by the time we thought of that, we were all the way through the store, so we just left it.

At home, we checked online, and discovered there were indeed 250ish spice racks stocked at our particular Ikea! Oops. Instead of making the big trip again, we ordered them online.

Anyway, after all that, we had a perfectly timed snow day yesterday which gave us time to put them up. We decided to hold off hanging them up in the reading nook for a few months, and hung 3 in a bedroom upstairs. Nap time is more like book-time around here, so this was a nice solution to keeping the books a little neater upstairs.

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We decided not to paint them, because, well, let’s be honest here, less work! But also because I like the plain wood colour. We may paint the two shelves for in the reading nook, but that project is at a standstill for now 🙂 The spice racks are small, so you can only fit about 5 books on each shelf, but I like that the kids can see the covers, instead of hauling 30 books off the shelf to find the one they’re looking for. This was also a very affordable solution, only $5 or so per shelf. And if you’re smarter than us, you can save the extra $15 shipping cost 😉