Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Decorating On Budget and In Style

People give me strange looks when I tell them I plan a theme for my Christmas tree.  Every year since I have been married we have gotten a real Christmas tree.  Here are some of my tips for great Christmas decorating:

1. Start the year before!  I know you have heard it many times but it is always a good idea to start purchasing ornaments right after Christmas.  Last year we got those huge glass balls for $3.00 from $13.00.  You can't beat savings like that.

2. Purchase one theme a year.  Every year I add a new colour scheme to my collection.  This year it was pink in honour of having a girl.  Because I have added collections for about 10 years now I had a lot of other decorations to add to the tree without blowing my budget.  Here is a break down for this years budget:
Tree 33.00
Decorations 24.00
That's it!

The only time my husband is allowed to touch my tree!

3. Picking a tree.  Home Depot starts selling real Christmas trees on November 25th.  Every year I try to be there on the first day.  On this day you get the best trees.  Don't get fooled into thinking all trees are alike either.  The store clerk told me that there are variations in each category.  So I always pick through the bunch looking for the biggest and fattest tree!

4. Repurpose.  Since our budget is tight I try to repurpose decorations.  This year I took our fall wreath and added some Christmas tree branches and some green balls to make a brand new wreath.  The wreath cost me nothing. I also use old wreaths and strip them of their bling and start from scratch.

5. Think outside the tree! This year my theme was "A Woman's Dressing Table".  Sounds crazy doesn't it?  I try to come up with themes that are a little different.  I used glass, crystals, feathers, and pink to bring this tree to life.  I figure this tree is the only thing in my home that I can dress from head to toe without needing to adjust it to anyone's taste but my own.  My husband and children will tell you that the tree is my little project.  My children know to enjoy it - from a distance.

6. Set a special place aside to revisit the reason behind the decorating.  As I put out the nativity scene I used it as an opportunity to go over the Christmas story with my children.  I am really glad I started this little tradition.

I only use glass ornaments.  I love the look and feel of them.  However they are a bit of a hazard where children are concerned.  My children never touch the tree.  Except for this time that my brother-in-law and his family were over and we turned around to find our babies chewing on a glass ornament.  Horror! Amazingly no one was hurt and they were cut free. Yikes! My brother-in-law lectured me about using glass ornaments and later sent me a child-safe ornament. (Which I have never used!)  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas for Boys!

So this Christmas I am considering something that will go against everything I have said in the last 5 years. I am not only eating my words but I am taking big gulp full’s of them. We are considering getting a Wii for our children.  My son is home schooled and very active.  It takes huge amounts of energy to keep him stimulated and attentive.  Sometimes I can’t seem to fill our days with enough activity.  Other days I find myself chasing him as we run up and down every wall in our house. My son needs a way to get out some energy while I continue to mother the other three or catch my breath.  

This holiday season Peace on Earth takes on a whole new meaning at our house.  Join me at Blissfully Domestic and read about my journey into video-hood!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Is UP!

I made The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon buns- I heart them!
Outside my window...It is black as night even though we are in the wee hours of the morning.
I am thinking...about the piles of laundry I have waiting for me around the house.  My mother has given me 3 hours this morning to put it all away.  I just can't seem to stay on top of the house work.

I am thankful for...24 hours with my best friend and her new baby (last Monday)!
Isn't she beautiful?

Love all around!

Beautiful mommy, beautiful baby!

The happy girls!

From the learning rooms...we have been on holidays for a few days.  (One of the perks of homeschooling) 
Yesterday we got back to our routine and Cohen moved up a level in reading.  I am so proud of him.  His printing is so much better and his love of science is so encouraging.
From the kitchen...Waffles! Waffles! Waffles! I have discovered my new favourite food! I have also discovered celery root. I can't wait to by more to put in soups! 

I am wearing...pyjamas and loving it! 
I am menu for my New Years Eve party.  It will be small but I am really looking forward to hanging out with my closest friends and our family.

I am reading...blogs.  I love "The Little Apartment." Such cute ideas!
I am hoping...To get our real tree tomorrow!
Around the house...laundry piles are waiting for me!

One of my favorite things...CHRISTMAS MUSIC!
A few plans for the rest of the week:
1. Decorate the house for Christmas
2. Decorate the house for Christmas
3. Decorate the house for Christmas

Here are some pictures from my first trade show- She Made It! It was a lot of hard work but worth it.  I loved bringing this group of women together to promote their products.  I learned a lot about taking risks, starting a business and encouraging others.  What a blessing this event was to me!
Epicure Selections with Hilda

African Soles- Awesome project!!!


Marianne's Face painting. (That's Hannah- our little tiger!)

Heritage Makers- awesome publishing!

Hats by Jackie

African Soles 

Lucky 7 Designs

Melissa from Mummy Nuggle?

Crystal from Wee Ones

Karla from Avon! 

Thanks ladies for participating in such an awesome day!

What's up with you?

I got these starters from blog. !

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Better Late!

Their superhero capes from Little Ra's.  They loved them!

I spent the first 7 years of my life in the Caribbean on a little island called Dominica.  I had never heard of Halloween and when we moved here we still didn't celebrate it.  So when I had kids I struggled with this whole idea of Halloween.  I am still not sure what my thoughts are - so I went ahead and used the amazing costumes that my friend gave us.  Just perfect for our family.  I guess it was time to hang up the Spiderman pyjamas my son had been using as a costume!  

Yes! I know I am a little late in posting this but these pictures disappeared for a week and I just found them.  When they vanished I thought it was a sign or something! Crazy- I know.

The spicy little pumpkin!

Best Zebra face-ever!

All the candy they didn't get to eat!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

She Made It!

Last night I was invited to a trade show where women shared their products and services while I sipped on a girly drink.  It was really lovely.  I am in the midst of planning my own trade show with a similar concept.  Lately I have been feeling a little unmotivated and discouraged about my newest venture.  Last night I was reminded why I started this in the first place.

I love meeting women who have a story.  And because every woman has a story, I couldn't help but want to soak in every bit of it.  As I went from booth to booth I heard the stories of how women got inspired to start their business and what keeps them going.  There were a few that didn't sell much but that didn't seem to hinder their passion and joy for their craft.  I learned that sometimes pursuing your dream takes hard work that doesn't always pay off right away.  Listening to theses women I saw that creativity bursts through life in so many different ways.  I was reminded about why I started Marmee's Circle.  Women with creativity and determination are awe-inspiring!

Meeting Melissa from Mummy Nuggle was one of the highlights of the evening.  Melissa has twin girls and sews beautiful aprons (for both ladies and girls) along with some dresses and other pretty things.  We chatted about the late nights and desire to constantly defend our choices.  Both of us left the teaching world to stay home with our children.  We also share a common faith.  Meeting Melissa was the highlight of the evening because she had such a pleasant attitude that radiated from all the sweet touches on her products.  This is what I call awe-inspiring.  I look at these women and their determination (with twins, careers, tight budgets, late late nights) and I am in awe and inspired to do more and do it better.

So I am going full speed with She Made It!  Because when a woman makes it, it makes such a difference in so many lives!

What dream are you reminded to hold on to?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Planned to the Plate

I posted pictures of my old kitchen a few days ago.  It was so easy to be presentable with those perfectly white planned to the plate cabinets.  When I designed it I made sure everything had a place and there was not much to distract anyone from it's beauty.  I remember when we first completed the kitchen I would come down the stairs just to stare at it.  The white cabinets and nearly naked counter tops gave me such peace.  They were little pats on the back that I was doing something right!

Now I find reminders of my inability to find a place for everything- even egg carton creatures!

 We had another home school family over for the day.  It's great when you meet people who you can just hang out with.  While the kids (all 7 of them) played (very well) the moms chit chatted about home school, church, cooking, home decor... I apologized continually for my lack of "perfect nestiness" and my getting sorted while she was over.  I was a little distracted because I felt that I should have had the chocolate-banana-coconut-walnut (exhale) bread baked before they arrived.  I was initially thrown because I wanted to have the fruit washed and set out in my white matching trays.  I was a bit off put because I wanted the croissant sandwich station to be sorted and plated before the kidlets were hungry.  So I apologized, heart sinking and disappointments lingering.

I asked my friend why I couldn't be like The Nester or the Pioneer Woman or  any other perfectly held together bloggy mom on the planet.  Why do I have stacks of stuff, piles of papers, and baskets of crafts laying about.  Why can't things find a home in my home.  I felt like a two year old throwing a tantrum...Why? NO FAIR! HMMM!

So the grace fell out of her mouth and drifted on to my heart.  She reminded me of the baby that still cried for me, the other 3 that can't be left out of sight and the banana bread that shared a little of itself through my oven vent.  She gave me permission to live in a little chaos- for now.  I needed that. Thank you Ms. S!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cooking B.K. (Before Kids)

My old kitchen...Oh how i miss thee! I almost forgot we have napkin rings!

Remnants of my B.K. life!

When I visit the Pioneer Woman's blog I salivate, not only because of her delicious looking food but because of the seemingly domestic bliss she lives in.  I love cooking, trying new recipes, creating menus that require pen to paper and numerous trips to grocery stores that crisscross towns.

Due to our full young family and single income I find it difficult to indulge in my favourite past time.  The feeling of excitement as I anxiously poured through my various cook books and magazines is indescribable.  I loved planning a meal based on deliciously frivolous criteria.  For a shower for a colleague during the holiday season I decided to make a green and white menu.  Everything had to be naturally green and white.  I even found fresh white asparagus!!! Good times!

Another favourite before kids cooking memory was taking cooking classes at the local LCBO.  For my American friends that is where Canadians get their alcohol.  My friend and I learned how to cook an entire menu Parisian style. 

My favourite spot...I had to leave behind!

Holidays were especially delicious at our house.  I used to make Valentine's dinner for my husband which included mini lemon meringues in lemons! Oh the good old days.  Then I had a year where I was obsessed with creme brule.  I even bought a mini hand held torch.  I was intense!  That same year I made  a ice cream cake covered in baked meringue icing. (Another Martha Stewart favourite!)  Then I decided to make homemade ice cream for Christmas gifts! True joy!

There was the Julia Child baking phase where I baked croissants, focaccia, cinnamon rolls, bagels to my hearts and my husband's content.  These required trips to the back rooms of grocery stores to find fresh yeast.  I had to do a lot of convincing to let them sell it to me.  Fun times! Truly! One day I will be able to indulge in real vanilla beans, unbottled Parmesan cheese, and black truffle oils again... one day!

Pardon my trip down memory lane but I just miss the good old days where I could go to great lengths to make a meal spectacular. For now the basics will have to do. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just Wading Around

I try to get some quiet time before I get the kids up to reflect and pray- a little.  Today I came across some words of wisdom.  Each morning I visit the Proverbs 31 Ministries.  I usually find inspirational devotions that motivate me to stay on track.  Today was no exception! I just wanted to share this simple but true statement form Marybeth's post.  
I wanted to be a mother but I didn't want the sleepless nights and being stretched to the point of breaking. I wanted to be married but I didn't want to learn how to get along with another person day in and day out, to discover what sacrifice really means. I wanted to be a novelist but I didn't want to have to work so hard to make it happen. I wanted to lose weight but I didn't want to exercise daily or control my cravings. I wanted what I wanted, and God used those desires to build my character along the way, and draw me closer to Him in the process.
Sometimes when you are in the middle of a storm your only focus is how to get out and survive that storm.  Lately that has been my mindset.  How to I get through marriage difficulties, challenges with my children and financial worries.  I just want to get to the other side unscathed!  Marybeth reminded me that the wading is where I will learn the most. I have the potential to grow some fruit and nourish the lives that rely on me.  The opportunity to really shine is greater in this darkness.

I am looking forward to coming out the other end today but I am also going to take a new look at my challenges! How about you?