Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday Yummies

Happy Wednesday!

Here is a recipe that I came across and whipped out the crockpot. It hit the spot on a cool fall night and made enough for leftovers. I made tea biscuits to go with it. Yummy! From my table to yours...enjoy.

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

- 1-2 lbs cube steak, cut into one-inch pieces; or 1-2 lbs stew beef, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 cans condensed mushroom soup
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
- 1 14 oz can beef broth
- 8 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream

In the crockpot, combine the meat, soup, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, salt and pepper and beef broth. Cook on low for 5-6 hours (or on high for 3). Stir in cream cheese and sour cream about half an hour before serving, stirring every ten minutes or so.

Serve over cooked egg noodles or rice.

Keep it beautiful.

Monday, September 24, 2012

OPERATION: Playroom Organization 101

Is it just me, or do you feel like you are constantly tidying. Honestly, there are days where I feel like a human garbage constantly picking up, sorting and organizing! Most of the time I'm tidying up after the kids but also for Mr. Fix-it and myself. Mr. Fix-it is actually a pretty tidy guy, but there are always empty glasses to collect from rooms, random socks hanging around and I admit my clothes can get OUT.OF.CONTROL!

This weekend in particular, the kid's messy playroom was staring at me. Its amazing how many toys you can collect over a short period of time. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be random toys in all different places. From toys that neither kids play with anymore, to random pieces just hanging out looking for their mates, to broken crayons...something had to be done!

Enter...Operation: playroom organization 101!

Tip #1:

Do this with stealth. If my big guy saw me going through all his toys and puting some of them in the Goodwill bag...yikes...wouldn't go over well. So, while the boys and Mr. Fix-it were at the park, my stealth mission began.

Its amazing how fast this process can go actually. Either your kids play with something or they don't. Will they miss it or notice it if its gone? If the answer is no...then off to another home it goes.

To start sorting, I just kept sorting items on my dining room table...

Tip #2:

Drawers/bins/baskets are key. Ikea has some cute playroom organization bins, desks and cupboards. Perfect for all those dinky cars, princess jewels and Tonka trucks.

Or pirate swords...

Tip #3:

Create areas of play. If your child loves wearing costumes and playing dress up, then put them all together. Mr. Fix-it drilled a few hooks into the wall at the level that the kids could reach and I hung up all their costumes there.

Does your child like to draw? Paint? Add a little mini table just the right size for them. That way they can sit and create their masterpieces.

Tip #4:

Organize the art supplies. The randomness of the art supplies is what got me to organize the playroom. They were everywhere. See photo!

I bought this little drawer set at Walmart. Its perfect for all the paper, paint, stickers, glitter, felt etc.

The Dollarstore had these clear plastic containers that fit the odds and ends perfectly. Voila!! fresh.fabulous.sophisticated and ORGANIZED art drawers!

Tip #5:

Set up an IN/OUT network. Our big guy hadn't played with the Duplo blocks in awhile but wasn't ready to part with them because I know they will be perfect for our little guy I put them in a Tupperware bin in the basement and filled the bin in the playroom with something else. When our big guy is looking for them again...VOILA, out come the blocks.

So, when the playroom is starting to get out of control and driving you crazy, organize stealthly!!

Today is my first day back to work. Gulp!

Keep it Beautiful.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

A Year Already?

Happy Friday everyone!

This Friday is a special one for me. My little guy turned a year yesterday which maternity leave comes to an end today. Monday, I return to work. GASP!

Its hard to believe that a year ago, our little guy came into our lives at 8:29am. I've had an incredible maternity leave with my two little guys. Our big guy was in preschool three mornings a week, which gave me the luxury of having alone time with the baby while our big guy had the opportunity to meet so many neighbourhood friends that he now goes to school with. He and his little posse travel in this cute little pack and I just love that they'll always have eachother in the neighbourhood.

I also had the opportunity of meeting more moms in the neighbourhood that have become some of my closest friends. You can't beat that!

The times that my big guy wasn't at preschool I will cherish forever. Now that he's started Kindergarten, I feel so blessed to have been able to spend full days and afternoons hanging out, doing crafts, baking, playing pirates, digging in the dirt and playing hockey with my big guy. Alot happens between the age of 3-4, and I was so lucky to be able to see him grow through this year and see how caring and affectionate he is to his baby brother. "I'm practicing to be a Daddy" he says.

Of course, my little guy...melts my heart in cuteness. He's our little tub of butter that just goes with the flow. He and his brother love eachother and roll around like baby cubs. In Canada, we are so lucky to be able to have a full year with our babies. It gives parents the opportunity to not only share the leave if they choose, but have a whole year of watching their babe's grow. Fantastic.

So...I'm feeling a bit bittersweet about today. I really do love to be home with my kids. Its busy, fresh, chaotic and fantastic. However, there is a part of me that is looking forward to getting out of my yoga pants and into some dressy clothes for work. I'm looking forward to having a cup of tea all by myself, with no interuptions. I'm looking forward to not having to clean up the kitchen four times a day and working on challenging files at the office and working with my coworkers.

However, I'll miss my kids! This week our big guy has been at school and I've been transitioning my little guy to daycare, so I've had a couple of days to myself and I miss the boys terribly. Many working moms struggle with "mommy guilt". Should I be home when my kids come home from school? Why do I have someone else taking care of my baby when I could be doing that?

I often wish that I could be a stay-at-home mom, BUT there are many rewards of a working mom. Your mind is challenged, I'm using my degrees and the financial rewards are important to me. I love to go on vacations, buy pretty things, go out for dinner and give my family what we want and desire for.

I digress. So please bear with me for the next few weeks while we try to juggle with our new schedules, juggling the kids to school and daycare, trying to get out the door on time and surviving the dinner chaos. Fingers crossed! I'm looking forward to our projects in the house, sharing them with you and keeping things beautiful.

One tip I have for you working moms or busy stay-at-home moms is meal planning. I've done it for the last couple of years but this summer ditched it for eating out and random picnics. I pulled out my mini calendar last night and did a quick monthly plan. Normally I only plan for a week but figure its good to have an idea.

Tuesdays are free - we eat out at the pub after our big guy's soccer
Weekends - usually Friday or Saturday we order in or go out.

Meal planning is a great way to:
- stay organized
- know what your having for dinner in the morning...AND
- prevents you from staring at the fridge when you get home at 5pm with hungry kids at your feet.

Wish me luck!

Life is beautiful. Keep it fresh.fabulous.sophisticated.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

School Lunches

Today is our big guy's first official day of Junior Kindergarten. How did that happen?

What a big boy! The only tears were from me. He seemed so big this morning when he was eating his breakfast at the table next to his baby brother, yet so small when he blew me a kiss and walked through the big school doors that closed behind him and my heart sank. And so, a new journey begins.

With the start of school, comes the start of making lunches! We all find ourselves halfway through the day thinking..."what am I going to make for dinner?" and trying to think up creative ideas instead of the same ole options. School lunches often have the same feeling and its tougher if you have a picky eater. My big guy is one of those picky eaters. My big guy has been going to daycare for the past two weeks so here are my two weeks of lunch ideas but I would LOVE to hear from you in the comments with your ideas (especially if you aren't just starting out making school lunches for your little guys).

The lunch box/bag:
Long gone are the days where kids carried their lunches in paper bags. Now there are a zillion options to keep your kids lunches cold, hot and not squished. You need something that can fit in their backpacks or has a little handle on it that they can carry in hand.

This is what our big guy's lunch goes in. You can order at Raspberry Kids but I got mine on Bank Street in the Glebe at Ready.Set.Go.

I really like that the bag is machine washable!

I also bought this little pack of cutlery (it comes in a little case for easy storage in the lunch bag). They're the perfect size for little fingers:

The water bottle.
When I was a kid, everyone had juice packs. Now in the classrooms, juice packs are few to be seen. With schools trying to be garbage free, most kids carry their water bottle everywhere and likely its filled with water. Also, with the BPA scare, parents are opting to give their little ones stainless steel or glass (no so practical) water bottles. You can find some super cute ones out there. SIGG makes great ones!

Again, with the BPA worry, parents are opting to pack their kid's lunches in something other than cheap throw away containers. I'm a fan of glass but honestly, if I packed everything in glass containers our big guys bag would way a ton! My friend Suzanne found some snazzy silicone containers at Winners that are also collapsable which are great. I found some BPA free plastic containers at Winners that come with little freezer packs that clip into the lids. Perfecto! Honestly, Winners and Homesense have lots of container options!! These containers also have cool skateboarders on it so my big guy thinks their super cool. Bonus!

Here are some container ideas:

Pottery Barn

The lunch:

Obviously, its a no brainer that healthy food = healthy minds, healthy kids. I still always throw in a little treat here and there (ie: a cookie or randomly last night before bed my big guy asked if I could put a marshmallow in his lunch?!) My big guy is a bit of a grazer so if he doesn't want a sandwich that day I make a bunch of little things for him to eat. Here are some options:

- cheese cubes
- grapes
- strawberries
- yogurt
- granola bar
- banana
- apple sauce
- baby carrots
- super peppers (red peppers but in our house they're called super peppers)
- cucumber slices
- hummus
- goldfish dad makes the BEST sandwiches. We always had yummy sandwiches at school but with my picky eater, my sandwich options seem to be slim. Cheese sandwich, cheese and ham, cheese with super peppers etc. Sometimes I swich up the bread for a wrap but I would love to hear your ideas for sandwiches. Due to so many allergies, the days where you could whip up a peanut butter and jam sandwich are gone!

One thing I've started to do is make lunch skewers...they're fun and you may get your kids to try new things if they're on a cool stick. You could mx and match veggies, fruit, meat etc.

Leftovers are also a great thing to pack. Its quick, easy and nice to have a hot lunch once and awhile. One of my big guy's favourites is:

super peppers (all different colours), carrots and tofu veggie burger...all chopped up super teeny tiny. Add it to some noodles with shredded cheese over it to melt. Its a winner in our house.

Cookie cutters are a great way to make your kids sandwiches, fruit and cheese into fun shapes:

How can you make lunches healthier:

•Try thin breads, wraps, pitas, english muffins or mini bagels instead of plain old bread. If using bread, choose 100 precent whole grain.
•Substitute chips for veggie chips, goldfish crackers, whole grain crackers, pretzels, mini rice cakes or pita chips.
•Even better, use bite size veggies for crunch factor. A little sour cream and ranch seasoning.

There are some great sites out there for school lunch ideas:

Hundred Days of real Food
Once a Month Mom

Finally, the LOVE NOTE:

Everyday my mum would write my brother and I a "love" note in our lunches. So, I've started to do it too. It literally takes seconds to do but its so worth it and will make your kid's feel warm and fuzzy. You can use little pieces of paper or post-it notes. I keep little recipe cards in my top drawer with a few markers and stickers. Everyday your write a small note to your little one. Today mine said...WOW what a big boy you are! Have a great 1st day at school. I'll be thinking of you all day. I love you. Love, Mummy. I added a couple little stickers and VOILA...a LOVE NOTE.

I hope to write one everyday until my kids go away to school ;) One day, he may want to hide it from his friends (not sure its super cool to get a love note from your mom when you're a teenager) but I hope it makes his heart smile. And, when he's in University, my love notes will come in the form of care packages ;)

I hope this has given you some ideas for school lunches and would love to hear your ideas!!

Keep it Beautiful.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

House Tour Preview

The Glebe House Tour is coming up this weekend (Sunday September 16th) and I had an opportunity to take a sneak peak in one of the homes on the tour. I was invited into an eclectic home where the family has fused old and new.

Built around the turn of the century, the current owners did some modernizing when they took possession two years ago, including refinishing the hardwood floors with an eco-friendly matte finish, painting the house throughout with Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White and overhauling lighting and wiring the house for sound – true music lovers! The kitchen was completely renovated, along with other touches throughout the home and their love of art can be seen in each room.

Something I thought was a cool idea, is they painted the doors the same colour on each floor (grey on the main floor, chartreuse on the second floor, and cobalt blue on the third). The use of these bright colours added vibrancy and depth against the white walls.

Dining Room

To me, the highlight of this room was the gorgeous original ceiling beams. The owners drywalled in between them which creates a smooth finish. Beautiful.

The chandelier is also a show piece. Its from an Italian designer and the light is called “The Sky Garden”...see how the inside of the light is so detailed? It reflects beautifully.

Living Room

The insert fireplace is gorgeous. Its detail and marble surround is one of the show stoppers in the room.


The kitchen is lovely. Ikea cabinets meet gorgeous granite countertops and backsplash. The sink...ooh la la...its huge and deep. I'm a big believer in having an oversized sink in your kitchen. In my mind, its a really good investment when renovating. You're always using the sink and in this home, the owners purchased a cover piece that can sit over the sink for extra counter space.

Check out this faucet by Kohler...its like jewellry.

Upstairs the stereo system continues throughout. The owners love music so their Bang & Olufsen stereo system is state of the art and balances the music beautifully. In most of the rooms there is this cool little gadget on the walls. One little touch and instant music :)

The den is an eclectic combination of built-in bookcases, old meets new furniture and artwork by a Montreal artist. I really like the rug by NYC designer Madeline Weinrib.

The baby's nursery was super cute and I liked how the owners combined patterns and colours. This urban feel wallpaper is both cool and adorable against the mobile...

Thank you so much to the home owners for letting me explore their home. This is just a sneak peak, so if you're in Ottawa, make sure to get your Glebe House Tour tickets today! I'll be volunteering at one of the homes. Its a really nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon, in one of Ottawa's most beautiful neighbourhoods, you're sure to be inspired by the designs and I know you'll see some fresh.fabulous.sophisticated homes.

Have a great day!

Keep it Beautiful,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Kids Birthday Parties

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to our big guy...Happy Birthday to you!

A couple of weeks ago our big guy turned 4! Four is definitely an age that they "get" their birthday and want to celebrate with their friends. Birthday parties can be as small as celebrating with your immediate family or with hundreds of people...have you seen "My Big Sweet 16 Birthday" tv show? Its crazyness.

There is something about having kids parties at home that I love. My parents always did a great job at my brother and my birthday parties and having it at home just felt special.

With the internet and Pinterest, your birthday party options are endless!! Here are some ideas for your kids...

- super hero party
- princess or prince party
- pirate party
- bug hunt party
- sesame street party
- slumber party
- girls/boys rule party
- beach party
- favourite character party
- ballerina party
- cowboy party
- spa party
- cookie decorating party
- firetruck party
- dance party
- luau party
- t-shirt decorating party
- jungle party
- dinosaur party
- star wars party
- sports party

HONESTLY...the list can go on and on!!!

I like to have a theme to the birthday...I find it makes things easy when planning. The theme could be as simple as coordinated colours.

This year, our big guy wanted a "Carnival" party. So, out when the invites...I ordered the printable version from Etsy and printed them out at Staples. It was fun for our big guy to drop them off at his friend's houses.

These are the sample templates that I ordered from:

The big day arrived and my parents were here to to celebrate their "Bubby's" birthday and helped us out immensly.

Birthdays dont have to be complicated for kids to have fun...

We gave each child a bucket when they arrived. After each game they played, they got a prize and kept them in their buckets. There were five games and a "candy toss" (this is something that my mum did at my birthday as a kid). Essentially I had a basket full of candy and threw it up in the air all over the backyard and the kids ran to catch the candy and collect them in their buckets. In the end, they had prizes and candy = lootbag.

Clearly my signs aren't fancy. If you're looking for professional signs, has tons that you can order for your party....

For our big guy's 3rd birthday he had a "pirate" theme....

For his 2nd birthday, it was a "fire truck" theme....

For his 1st birthday, "elmo" was the man....

A good tip to remember is, if you have a child that's born in the late Spring or Summer...great for having outside parties...BUT be prepared if it rains. For our big guy's third birthday, it rained and I had invited so many kids and parents that our house was packed to the gills and totally crazy.

So, this year I narrowed down the invites to 10 (plus parents), just in case it rained and we had to move it inside. dont always have to make the birthday cake but if you're up for the challenge, it really isn't hard (unless you want it to look like a professional job, you may want to stick to the professionals). The internet has tons of cool ideas that you can do!!!

Loot a kid, this is one of the best parts of the party. There are lots of ways to create cute lootbags without filling them with junk that parents dread bringing home. The party store has a TON of cute little gizmos. For example, if you're having a party at the beginning of the summer, why not use a sand bucket to hold the loot bag stuff? This way the kids will be able to use the bucket for the summer.

...remember that this is a birthday party for kids, so think about what they would want to eat. Any parents that are there to help out or hang out will likely eat what you're serving. Pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, chips, veggies and fruit are usually good options. We always have beer and wine on hand to help keep the parents sane ;)

Throwing a birthday party at home is fun and personal. There is definitely a time and a place to send the kids to the movies for a party or head to the bowling alley (especially if your kids are born in the winter!!). If all else fails, whether you're celebrating with family or friends, blow up a ton of balloons and VOILA...instant party space!!

Keep it Beautiful.

Happy Weekend,

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