Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Best Toddler Winter Boots

Last winter my daughter was about a year and a half, she hated getting dressed in her snowsuit and boots to play outside.  Maybe its a difference in personality, gender or maybe its the boots but my son loves being outside.

They are more insulated & waterproof slippers than typical boots but my son who just started walking can also walk all dressed up in his snow gear. 

As we are now thinking about spring they are also on sale - a great thing to put away for next year.

Anyone else have favourite winter gear for kids?

- Lauren

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cooking with Steeped Tea

Recently I have started a gig as an Independent Steeped Tea Consultant. I have been spending even more time than usual drinking tea and learning more about the benefits of tea.

After smelling Steeped Tea's Herbal 'Hot Yoga' tea - I wanted to eat it, not drink it, so I adapted a recipe from the cookbook 'Cooking with Foods that fight Cancer' for Rice Pilaf. But instead of using the spices in the recipe - I just used a tablespoon of 'Hot Yoga' tea.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan
cook 1/2 cup chopped onion and add 1 tbsp of Hot Yoga tea
add 1 cup basmati rice (rinsed and drained)
stir to coat rice
add 2 cups of water (or stock)
reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until rice is cooked
remove from heat, add 1/4 cup raisins, 1/3 cup frozen peas and 2 tbsp sliced & toasted almonds

the full recipe is pretty easy, but I made it with only the tea (and no onion, raisins, peas or almonds) and it was delicious

for the full recipe, use the following spices instead of the tea
15 cardamon seeds, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 3 whole cloves, 3/4 tsp ground cumin, 2 cinnamon sticks and 3/4 tsp ground turmeric

unfortunately, I didn't take a pic, we were too busy eating it.


- Lauren

Monday, 17 June 2013

Home Made Deodorant

I stopped using 'conventional' deodorant a quite a few years ago. I have tried various natural brands but never found one that I loved.

I have found that the biggest thing was making sure I drink enough water.  Sure, we all stink if we have been doing some serious manual labour or working out but for the most part if I drink enough water I didn't usually wear anything.  I figured that since sometimes I can smell myself I can distinguish between needing or not needing deodorant (hopefully this is true and I don't offend anyone!).

Your body needs to sweat, that's how it gets rid of toxins.  Deodorant can block those pores, actually preventing your body from working properly.

Sometimes I do like to have some on hand and so I decided to make my own.  Its super easy and cheap. I used an old deodorant container for easier application. I just broke off the old deodorant stick, wiped it out with rubbing alcohol. After turning the knob back down, I used a spoon to fill the container and make a traditional curve on the top for easy use.

  • equal parts baking soda and cornstarch
  • add just enough coconut oil to make it all stick together
  • add a bunch of drops of tea tree essential oils

The trick is using the minimum amount of coconut oil.  Since coconut oil is liquid in the summer and solid in the winter, the consistency changes throughout the year which can be a little annoying.  But I now keep it in the fridge to solve any temperature fluctuations.

I have been using this long enough to say that you should try it too.

Anyone else making their own personal care products?

- Lauren

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Malm Bedframe Upgrade

MALM Bed frame IKEA Adjustable bed rails allow the use of mattresses of different heights.
As unconventional as it is, my daughter never slept in a crib, she transitioned from sleeping with mom and dad, occasionally in a basinet in our room to a double mattress on the floor. This worked great for us for over a year but then I was ready for the room to feel alittle more finished and alittle less ghetto-student-ish.

We chose ikea's low malm bedframe. It only raises the mattress about 6 inches off the floor which is great for a toddler and I didn't worry about her falling out of bed since it was still very low. (She fell off the mattress twice and after 3 months in the new bed - she hasn't fallen at all).

The only problem is that the side is open at the bottom. This led to alot of lost items underneath, and since its so low it was hard to reach under to retrieve things.

I cut some wood, and painted it black. Then screwed it in place (using the kreg jig to make pocket holes) under the bottom side ledge.

It's great, we can't loose toys/soothers/snacks/water bottle etc. There is only one problem - we should have screwed it further in - so that you can stand next to the bed and not hit your toes.

A quick readjustment (using mega blocks as a square to keep the wood the same distance and perpendicular) and now its perfect.

(I just need to fill in the old hole with black paint or maybe a sharpie will do the trick)

- Lauren

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

GF Baking Class.

For my mom's 65th birthday, my two sisters and I decided to surprise our Mom and give her an experiential gift, along with some time spent with us.  We decided to attend a cooking class together at a cooking studio in uptown Waterloo. You can check it out here.  

Before I go any further, I must pause and give all credit to my sisters who came up with the idea.  If it were up to me, I would have chosen something predictable like pedicures.  And here's the thing, our Mom LOVED it.  It was something that she would never (and I mean never) normally do and it was super fun for us to do together.  We laughed lots.  Hopefully we didn't distract the other 4 members of the class.  Who am I kidding?  I'm sure we did.  They probably hated us.

The funny thing was that this particular class was a gluten-free baking class.  To be totally honest, we picked it based on the day that worked best for us, more than on the focus of the class.  However, it completely worked out to my benefit as I am (mostly) gluten free. :)

Our menu consisted of:

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberries and Cinnamon Maple Syrup

Gluten-free Strawberry Scones with Lemon Curd

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Tart

Chocolate Souffle Cookies

Everything was delish.  One of my favourtite take-a-ways from the class was learning how to make my own batch of gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I can't wait to make it and substitute it in my favourtie recipes that call for wheat flour.   Not to mention, it's way cheaper than buying gluten-free all-purpose flour already made up and packaged.  I'll be making a trip to Bulk Barn this week :)

Here's the recipe:

1 1/4 cups of brown rice flour
1 1/4 cups of white rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 tsp. xantham gum

Turns out the day was a total success.  Even my nephew loved it!

p.s.  the homemade lemon curd was to die for!

- Carrie

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

DIY Kitchen Magnet Board

Even though kitchen renovation dreams are still dreams, I am continually tweaking things to make the room more functional - since I spend alot of time in the kitchen.

The fridge was becoming a catch-all and was getting really cluttered and starting to annoy me.

The fridge now is mostly photos and magnet letters - which are played with alot by my daughter.

And for lists, notes, money etc - I hung an old cookie sheet on the wall with a 3M picture hanger strip. I only learned about these recently from here and am loving them.

I also hung a family calendar and a tray on the wall and I think it looks great. Organized and alittle less cluttered.

The tray is awesome, but it's too big to fit in any cupboards. It usually just rested on the floor, leaning against the wall - this meant that whenever you wanted to use it, you usually also needed to clean it. Hanging the tray makes it accessible and it stays clean. The tray is hanging on two screws that stick out of the wall about an inch. There is a lip on the bottom of the tray and it hangs great - no issues so far.

(You may also notice we got a new french door - which leads to the basement and side door. I am loving it, It lets in light from the side door and also allows me to see outside from the kitchen.)

- Lauren

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Driveway Gate/Fence

Now that the nice weather is here, we are spending alot more time outside. The only problem is that I am so nervous about our driveway which is open to the backyard. My daughter wants to explore the driveway and I don't want her to. Combination of cars, plus its a shared driveway and on a busy street.

So a few weeks ago we built a gate/fence thing. For most of the time it will act as a fence, but when we want a full driveway the fence part also opens as a larger gate and then you can use the full driveway as usual. (we haven't actually tried opening the larger 'gate' and are unsure if it will actually open since the driveway isn't flat.....but we will figure that out when we need to)

One side (the gate) is attached to our house, and the other fence (larger gate) side is anchored by a massive planter. The planter itself is pretty heavy, plus we filled the bottom with rocks and the top has a planter in it - it is very heavy. We didn't want to attach it to our neighbours garage so this was what I came up with as an alternative. So far its just filled with sticks and fake spring blooms. Soon I will buy some hanging baskets to put in my planters, I find thats the cheapest/easiest thing for all my planters.

The fence is designed to match our deck railing, hopefully tying the two wooden structures together. Although the new fence is cedar and the old deck is pressure treated, it didn't really matter what we built the fence out of since it would look newer/better than the deck. I also chose to build a low and open fence instead of a tall and solid one since I didn't want to create privacy as much as safety. We enter our house through the back door and I didn't want guests to feel uncertain about coming through the gate.

Now we can be outside worry free, and my daughter has much more freedom to explore.

Plus it feels like our backyard has almost doubled in size, I never realized how much the driveway ate up our property - and we rarely have 5 cars in the driveway.

- Lauren

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Welcome Spring!

It doesn't feel like spring yet, but I thought a quick update to my winter wreath might help.

A simple switch of thick red (and very faded) ribbon for crisp white, and red berries to yellow forsythia blooms. 

- Lauren

Monday, 4 March 2013

Kitchen Chairs upgrade

We inherited some chairs awhile ago, and they were sturdier than our current ones at the time, so we considered it an upgrade.  There was only one problem : the fabric seats were not my ideal choice (not the worst thing in the world) however I hated the fact that they were also covered in plastic. It reminded me of a friend's house growing up - whose living room furniture had plastic on it. It just seemed weird to me. Plus they were the only blue thing in the room.

Anyways, once my daughter started eating at the table, and spilling at the table, I realized that maybe covering your chairs in plastic wasn't as bad as I first thought. Then I saw that ikea sells plastic coated fabric. With less than an hour of time and two small assistants, we had drastically transformed chairs!

Now I am one step closer to a kitchen that I don't hate.

I have been trying to decide what to do with the rest of the wooden table and chairs.
I plan to leave the table top wood, and paint the base. The only thing stopping me (other than two tiny assistants) is what colour, black? charcoal? red? And then do I paint the chairs to match?

Red table with black chairs? Black Table with red chairs? Red table with wooden chairs? Black table with wooden chairs? I really like the idea of red in there somewhere, I know it will be quite a bit of colour compared to what it is right now, but I imagine something will be painted black or charcoal - only because I know I have some paint in the basement.

- Lauren

Thursday, 24 January 2013

DIY Dryer Balls - more HomeMade Christmas

An amazing friend of mine is also onboard with homemade christmas gifts. This year she made dryer balls. As simple as they appear - I can only imagine the time commitment to make for multiple people!

Basically its a ball of matted wool - or rather four balls.

I have been using Nellies Dryer Balls for about a year and a half - they are recommended in the cloth diapering world. But they are starting to show some wear, some of the plastic nubs breaking off - which I have learned may be due to storing them in the dryer - which gets very cold in the winter and then when hard/cold plastic is banging around......they break. Also in comparison the felted ones are MUCH quieter than plastic.

I also got a small bottle of lavender essential oils to add to the balls - for those people who want/need their clothes to smell fresh and clean. I just added it and so far its a nice additional touch

There are lots of online tutorials if you want to make your own dryer balls or you can buy them on

Pros to using dryer balls
- decrease drying time
- decrease wrinkles
- reduce static
- safe for sensitive skin & cloth diapers (which recommend no fabric softeners etc which leave a coating on the materials)

Overall : Fantastic

- Lauren

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Customized TeaTowels - Homemade Christmas Gifts

For the past few years our family has tried to do mostly homemade gifts. Its been awesome. This year it was a combination of homemade and 'your favourite things' (ie inexpensive things you love that you want everyone else to have)

Keeping gifts in the $10ish range made things much more creative and thoughtful. Some highlights include  bacon jam, franks red hot, minstrels and roses chocolates, norwex cloths, cookbook, natural soap, cosmetics bag, HP sauce, caramel popcorn, pens, crocheted dish cloths, painted initials for my daughters room door, and I am sure I am forgetting a few others...

I came up with a homemade idea before we decided to do the 'fav things' and so continued along with my idea following a online tutorial on (a website where you can customize fabric).

Way back in september I asked my mom to handwrite a family recipe for me. She was a little confused since she knew I had a typed version but did so anyways without question. Then after scanning the recipe and creating a file to upload (took a little longer than I would have thought but in the end figured it out). Then I ordered my fabric and waited. I think it took about 6 weeks to arrive - this is the earliest I have ever started christmas projects!

Once the fabric arrived, I cut it up - 4 tea towels per yard of fabric. Folded the edges and sewed some straight seams. I also added a loop on the bag to hang from a hook.

This was super easy and everyone loved it. I think the total cost (with shipping) was around $7 each.

- Lauren

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mudroom Make Over : Part 1

I know that I am very fortunate to have a large entry to our house, room to take off wet/snowy coats/boots, room to keep the stroller inside etc but often it feels like a waste of space.

In attempts to finish up smaller house projects so that all renovation energy can be focused on the kitchen. I have started to do something with the entry room.

Its a room thats approximately 11 feet by 11 feet, it seems hard to focus just on storage of coats/shoes and all the other junk that accumulates as you enter/leave the house (grocery bags, tools, things to be returned, garden related items, etc). So I have decided that this room will hopefully also one day work as a home office type space, somewhere to sit, keep some files, store some books, crafty things, etc

Step one was trying to reduce the un-necessary stuff in this room, and then I painted it. My plan was to have this part finished in October. I still feel relatively on-track seeing as its not yet the middle of November, and lets be honest its hard to get stuff done during nap time.

Before Pics:

After Painting and a little rearranging/purging:
(ok, there is actually a little bit left to paint, and I actually didn't paint behind the blue storage unit.......but I am so close and I figured if I didn't post this right might have taken me another month!)

I also quickly painted the door charcoal grey. I love it..... from a distance, up close I know I will have to do a better second coat in the spring, when I can remove the glass insert to properly paint around the faux french door details.

Part 2 plans include:
- replacing the blue storage unit (which very clearly does not go in this room any more) with a wardrobe unit to store coats/shoes/hats etc as well as the vacuum I am sure more than I can imagine right now.
- An upgraded bench with storage (the shelves that are there now are just a place holder and are currently working quite well)
- a shelf to keep some of our books (ideally close to the ceiling to maximize use of wall space, plus they aren't accessed very often anyways so its ok if they aren't within arms reach. At least having them out on display will make them easier to access than having them in a pile on the floor of the spare room or still in boxes)
- lower hooks for my daughters coat and other bags etc.
- microwave relocated to the kitchen (although I have no idea where that will go exactly)

Part 3 plans (which might all be part of my dreams and not reality) include:
- removing the built-in closet (which is behind the door when you enter the room)
- adding a desk in its place with some built-in storage for files, and other office-y type stuff.

My hopes is to have Part 2 finished by Christmas. we will see how that goes seeing as its only 6 weeks away.

oh, and I want to replace the light fixture too, but I don't think I am willing to go out specifically to buy something so I will wait for awhile and see what comes of that.

- Lauren