Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Build-Up to Christmas and My (Newly) Lowered Expectations


I approached the few weeks leading up to Christmas like a madwoman, creating list upon list of all the tasks that needed to be done. I had a shopping list, a housecleaning list, a list of blog posts that needed to be up before Christmas, a list of freelance articles due and a general to-do list. I did things that didn't need to be done at Christmastime, like having the bedroom carpets cleaned (which of course "necessitated" hours of purging closets and drawers). I am that person who sorts the pantry and cleans the area under the kitchen sink when guests are coming over. Tell me I'm not alone.

I crossed pretty much everything off those lists, including "find Jolene's collar." (That one took a while, seeing as she managed to misplace it out in the backyard, no doubt while poking her head through the fence in the hopes of getting a treat from our neighbour.) With apologies to my brother-in-law, we finally gave him a gift for his birthday (which was in September). Things were looking good. I never did make my own seitan or finish reading Ian McEwan's new novel. But that was what this post-Christmas week was to be for.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Heart New York - A Road Trip Video


One year I really hope to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve in New York City. I just think the city must be so beautiful at this time of year, with all the lights and hustle and bustle. While we won't be going to New York City this Christmas, we did go for five fun-filled days as a family back in August.

My husband volunteered to make a brief video encapsulating our New York City road trip (which we hashtagged #nycroadtrippin on Instagram). I didn't realize it would take him four months to make the video, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Special Features & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #15


Hey there! I'm a bit late with my Vintage Bliss Tuesdays post because, well, it's almost Christmas. I've cleaned the house, I've done the shopping, but now I have baking and gift-wrapping to do! In the spirit of this most wonderful season, I'm sharing a look at some of the Christmas-related goodies that people linked up at last week's party. (I only wish I could get these gals to decorate my house!)

I love Diana's country cupboard, all decked out with vintage Christmas stockings and other goodies. So sweet. Penny's sideboard is beautifully dressed for Christmas too. She recently added some pieces of Cuthbertson to her Christmas dinnerware. And, while I'm accustomed to snow at Christmas, I think I could pass it up for one year to go picnicking at Meg's Australian paradise of a home.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Products We Love - Nature's Path (Recipe & Giveaway)


Every week there's at least one Nature’s Path product on my grocery list. The kids rely on their favourite Nature's Path EnviroKidz cereals to get them going on busy mornings. My daughter and I also love the instant hot oatmeal packets. And don't even get me started on that Love Crunch cereal (freeze dried berries and chocolate, oh my)!

Nature's Path is a family-run, sustainably driven, organic food company. They believe that healthy foods don't need to be boring or tasteless. I can tell you from personal experience that none of their products could be described that way! Plus, Nature's Path voluntarily has their products third-party certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified. The Nature's Path family also lobbies to keep GMOs out of our food supply. The company sources 78 per cent of their ingredients in North America. When they have to get ingredients elsewhere, they choose suppliers who believe in organic agriculture and sustainability. All of their organic cocoa is fair trade. And many of their products are gluten-free (while still being delicious!).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gifts for Dogs: BEHAVIOUR AIDS FROM THE COMPANY OF ANIMALS (Giveaway)


BEHAVIOUR AIDS FOR DOGS


I am in the camp that believes your companion animals deserve treats at Christmas too. Sure, they don't know it's Christmas, but they are part of the family and they should share in the extra love that gets spread around during the holiday season. It could be as simple as picking up some of their favourite yummy treats. 

Our beagle mix rescue dog, Jolene, received a few gifts from The Company of Animals this year to help with some of her quirkier habits. World-renowned animal psychologist Dr. Roger Mugford founded The Company of Animals in 1979. The company is based on a 100-acre working farm in Surrey, England - it's home to the Training and Behavior Centre, which specializes in dog training, among other things. Therefore, The Company Of Animals is in a unique position to research and develop new products to help resolve pet-related behaviour and training problems. They strive to develop products that help owners and their pets enrich their lives together.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

School Lunches Made Simple


Of all the many things that I love about Christmas vacation, not having to make school lunches is pretty high on the list. On the face of it, you wouldn't think it's such a difficult task. But when you consider picky eaters, the desire to provide healthy, portable lunches and the necessity of packing nut-free snacks, the day-to-day of it can become quite tedious.

If you have some time off work this month (or maybe a patient grandmother around to help with the kids), it might just be a good time to re-consider how you handle school lunches in the new year. In that spirit, I recently re-organized my lunch cupboard. By the way, actually having a lunch cupboard is my top tip for making lunch preparation simpler.

Gifts for Her: ACCESSORIES, INTIMATES OR MAKEUP BOXES FROM WANTABLE (Giveaway)


ACCESSORIES, INTIMATES OR MAKEUP BOXES


Wantable

If you are a regular reader, you know by now how much I love my Wantable boxes. That's why I asked Wantable if they would partner with me to give away a box to one lucky reader this holiday season. If you're not familiar with Wantable, the company sells accessories, intimates or cosmetics boxes, curated just for you based on your preferences. There's also a new fitness category, currently only available in the U.S. Whatever category you choose, you get a fun surprise box of goodies in your snail mail. You can buy just one box or get a discounted price by subscribing for monthly boxes.

I think it's a great holiday gift idea for any woman on your list (including yourself) who could use a little extra pampering this winter. My December accessories collection did not disappoint. Wantable accessory boxes can hold anything from jewelry to sunglasses to scarves. This month I received a large statement necklace, two pairs of earrings and a bracelet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gifts for All: SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S & ACCESSORIES FROM STAPLES





SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S & ACCESSORIES
Staples.ca

My husband's birthday happens to fall just a couple of weeks before Christmas, which means I have to think of not one, but two major gifts to get for him in December. Gift number one, the birthday gift, was easy. The two of us were previously "sharing" a tablet, but he would often accuse me of hogging it. (I can't deny it - I like to read magazines at night on my tablet.) So he was thrilled to get this
8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S. I have to admit it's super cool and I kinda wish I could keep it for myself. What really makes it stand out from its competitors is the crystal-clear screen and ultra-thin (only 6.6mm), lightweight design. It's very sleek and high-tech looking.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is ideal for watching a movie, reading a magazine, browsing Instagram, reading a book or playing a game. I am not skilled in techno-speak, but apparently what makes the screen look so fab is the Super AMOLED display. It has clearer contrast, more vivid colours and resolution that is twice as good as an HDTV! That last detail is the kind of stuff that's thrilling for the male folk among us, if my husband is any indication.

What I Ate Wednesday - A Day of Eats


I knew that Christmas was coming. I really did. Yet somehow I didn't schedule all my shopping, cleaning (and blog posts) efficiently. Let's not even talk about the baking! Lots to be done all around! But I'm looking forward to a lot of rest and chilling with family and friends too. Maybe reading a couple of novels. Wouldn't that be incredible?

Anyway, my last-minute tasks mean I didn't snap many food photos at all this week, so I'm just sharing a look at everything I ate yesterday. I went to the health food store after I dropped the kids off at school in the morning. I hadn't eaten anything, and you know what they say - don't go grocery shopping while you're hungry! Needless to say, I bought lots of stuff, including Gardein breakfast sandwiches. I've been wanting to try them for a while, but they are pricey and you know how groceries add up. But I needed a quick breakfast yesterday, so there you are. The sandwich (complete with vegan patty and vegan cheese slice) was pretty great for a quick breakfast. The patty is a little more spiced than I would like though.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Housecleaning Made Easy with the Dyson Digital Slim™ DC62 Cordless Vacuum


The more children and pets you have in your home, the more mess there is to clean up. Add to that the fact that those very same children and pets require care and attention that prevents you from spending a lot of time cleaning and you've got a challenge on your hands. Are you with me? So, in between walking the dogs, taking the children to appointments and activities, work, grocery shopping and making dinner, there's some housecleaning to be done.

When I moved to this house seven years ago, I was delighted to have central vac. But it turns out that in actual fact that long vacuum tube is quite unwieldy and inconvenient - not the ideal thing to grab when the cereal gets knocked over or one thousand bracelet beads get dropped on the floor. And that big ole vacuum rarely got put away, so people were constantly tripping on the hose (or using it like a tightrope in the case of the kids). Having heard great things about Dyson products from family members and friends, I turned to them to help me with my vacuuming challenges.

Special Features & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #14


I thought I'd do things a little differently for this week's Vintage Bliss Tuesday. Instead of showing you more of my vintage, inherited and thrifty items, I am featuring a few goodies that were linked up at last week's party. There were so many great things that it was hard to choose, but I narrowed it down to these four items that really spoke to my heart.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Shopping - The Teacher Gift


This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CollectiveBias


Despite having the best of intentions, I always end up doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. To me, Christmas is about the kids most of all, and they are always at the top of my list. Then there are gifts for my husband, parents, sister and in-laws (in no particular order - ha ha). Sadly, it’s often not until the night before the last day of school that something clicks in my head and I realize I have yet to buy gifts for teachers.

Teacher gifts aren't the easiest gifts to buy, because generally you don't know that much about your children's teachers. (I think that's why I put off shopping for them and then end up grabbing gift cards at the last minute.) But teachers deserve special treats at Christmas. After all, they provide education, care and attention to our children throughout the year. And what's more important than that?

50 Mouthwatering Vegan Christmas Dinner Recipes


Photo credits (clockwise from top left):  Coconut and Berries, It Doesn't Taste Like ChickenHealthy.Happy.Life., The Pretty Bee, Wonky Wonderful and An Unrefined Vegan.


With Christmas dinner on the horizon, I turned to my vegan blogging friends for inspiration. Sure, I could always throw a vegan roast in the oven, make mashed potatoes and a couple of veggie sides and call it a day. But there are so many more inventive and delicious options for vegan holiday fare. Just browse through this mouthwatering collection of vegan recipes and you'll see.

There are ideas here for everything from starters through to dessert. Honestly, I want to make them all! (Or, ideally, have someone else make them all. A giant, real-life vegan potluck would be awesome.) Many of them are gluten free, not to mention healthy and full of the most nourishing ingredients. It's comfort food. It's festive, holiday food. And it's not just for vegans! Try a few of these recipes and you're sure to discover some new family faves.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Tree Farm


The Christmas tree farm has to be one of my favourite places on earth. So much so that on this last visit I briefly considered giving up our home and buying a property like the one the tree farm sits on. They have a little lake behind their home that's dotted with canoes and surrounded by a forest. Tempting.

But, for the moment, I'll just hang onto these photos from our recent visit to Horton Tree Farms. We go to the home farm every year for our Christmas tree. People have told me of fancier places with Christmas goods for sale, but I like the search for the perfect tree to be free of consumerism (except for paying for the tree of course!).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gifts for All: POSTERJACK PHOTO ART


PHOTO ART GIFTS

Posterjack

We have been in our current home for seven years now, and most of our walls are filled with artwork, family photos and assorted other decorative items. But we have one space that has been awaiting something large and suitably wonderful. As we walk down the staircase from the second floor, we face a large blank wall. And it has been bugging me...until now. Posterjack has helped me create the perfect photo art to fill that pesky wall.

I wanted the wall to hold a family photo, but not just any family photo. It had to be something that brightened our days, brought back fond memories and just generally made us all feel good. I immediately thought of one of my favourite family photos - I took it on a vacation to Nova Scotia several years ago. As the kiddos walked up the hill at the Fortress of Louisbourg, my little guy reached out gently and took his sister's hand to help her with the climb. This tired mother's heart was happy. And I caught it on film! Posterjack, Canada's photo art experts, turned one of my favourite pictures into a 48-inch by 36-inch posterboard. At that size, you sure can't miss this image. Even when we're sleepy-eyed while coming down those stairs in the morning, it will serve as a great reminder of this special moment of sibling harmony (and hopefully encourage many more harmonious moments!)

What I Ate Wednesday

Isa Does It marbled banana bread

Have you started your holiday baking yet? I feel like it's too early, and here's why. If I make cookies and squares now for Christmas, I.will.eat.them.all.before.Christmas. Even if I put them in the freezer. I mean how long does it actually take for cookies to defrost. Seconds, right?

Nevertheless, I have done a bit of baking this week. All of which, naturally, was soon eaten. Not just by me, thankfully. I have a family to feed. I relied on Isa Does It for several recipes this week. Like this marbled banana bread, above. (Clearly I don't know how to "marble.") Love, love, love the cookbook, but have to say this isn't my fave recipe.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Favourite Vase & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #13


I didn't do any thrifting at all this week, so I thought I'd share a couple of pics of one of my favourite vases. I bought this large, grey vase years ago from an antique store on Locke Street in Hamilton, Ontario. It says W. Germany on the bottom, which I thought was kind of cool. I also liked the battle scenes - of horses, shields and arrows - depicted on the sides. Beyond that, I don't know anything about this vase.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gifts for Her: PIXIE MOOD VEGAN HANDBAGS (Giveaway)


STYLISH VEGAN HANDBAGS

Pixie Mood

Need a holiday gift idea for a friend, wife, mother (or how about a treat for yourself)? You can't go wrong with a stylish handbag. Especially if the bag was made without harming our animal friends. Pixie Mood is a vegan-friendly, Canadian accessories brand whose products are made with cruelty-free materials such as cotton, canvas, sequins, vegan leather, polyester, straw, cork, faux 
suede, faux wool, wool-less felt and jute. 
Pixie Mood makes use of Polyurethane (PU-leather), which is higher quality and has less environmental impact than other synthetic leathers like vinyl or PVC.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Make-Ahead Meal Ideas for An Easier, Healthier Week


Meal planning for the week on Sunday is always a great idea. It means you still have groceries and ideas by the time Wednesday roles around. What's even better? Actually making your meals for the week ahead of time! While it can't always be done (busy weekends and all), it means a beautifully easy week if you prepare at least a couple of your dinners on the weekend.

Like most families, we try to be efficient with our time and our budget wherever possible. Making meals in large quantities on the weekend accomplishes both. No more going for takeout in frustration come Thursday, or heading to the grocery store for the third time because there are no ingredients for dinner.

Whether it’s a big pot of soup or homemade Italian pasta sauce, we use a selection of Rubbermaid storage containers with Easy Find Lids to portion out meals, ingredients and snacks into suitable amounts to use throughout the week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday, Wine & A Holiday Party


This weekend was a bit of a party weekend for us - more about the wine, beer and good company than the food. Our friends had a holiday party on Saturday night. Our kind host is a wine enthusiast, so I brought along this lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from PondView Estate Winery, a family-owned winery in the Niagara Region.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Quick Weeknight Chili & The Vegetarian's Complete Quinoa Cookbook (Recipe & Book Review)

Quick Weeknight Chili from The Vegetarian's Complete Quinoa Cookbook

By now most of us are aware that quinoa is a superfood. It is one of the plant world's few complete proteins, providing all of the essential amino acids that your body requires. It's versatile too - it can be used in place of grains like rice or millet, in spite of the fact that quinoa is actually a seed, a pseudo-cereal that is eaten and cooked like a grain.

But how often do you use quinoa in your daily life and in how many ways? I tend to have it only about once or twice a month and I usually use it as a base for a stir-fry or as a simple side dish. Enter The Vegetarian's Complete Quinoa Cookbook. With this book, we can now use our favourite power food in 130 recipes that take us right through from breakfast to dinner and beyond to dessert (yes, quinoa desserts!).

Blue Pottery & Vintage Bliss Tuesdays Linky Party #12


Here is the final pair of items I found at Goodwill on my last visit. I discovered two pieces of blue pottery, marked Arden Pottery. According to this page, the pottery comes from Arden, Ontario, a picturesque village on Big Clear Lake. My favourite piece is this candle holder, probably because it has a clear use and the light shines nicely through the holes.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Foster Fail and A Sweet Dog In Need of a Home


I'm officially a dog fostering failure. And this is one instance where I'm happy to fail. When I decided to foster a dog, everybody told me I would want to keep him. But I insisted I could help more dogs by allowing them to move on to other homes.

It turns out my friends and family knew me best. I took one look at sweet little Ace and I fell in love. I defy you to see him and not want to take him home with you. He is that cute. Ace was abandoned, sad and afraid when Our Angels Dog Rescue pulled him out of a pound in Kentucky. (Yes, our little guy is American.) The family who nurtured him before he came to Canada says that he was the most fearful dog they had helped this year. And they have helped lots of dogs.

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