Friday, October 4, 2013

Living in an all-you-can-eat buffet

*i have lots of pics lined up to post but iphoto is not co-operating... sorry!!

I would like a lot of things in my life.  The obvious stuff of course... health, happiness, well adapted and happy children, to pass level 65 on Candy Crush, a donkey named Burrito and something salty.  There is one thing that I crave above most of those though... I would like to have LESS.  Right now I feel like we are living in the middle of an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Oh, you would like to watch a movie....choose from 10 zillion on Netflix.  Read a book? Good luck choosing one from the floor to ceiling bookshelves I have so craftily jammed packed.  A piece of fruit you ask... apple, pear, frozen strawberry or grapes?  Let's make a dress for Ava translates into, let's spend hours going through my excessive stash only to be more  lost than when we started.  While we haven't brought more into the house these last months, we really haven't worked on getting the excess stuff out.

I have a friend Kate, who is doing just that! She is working hard at sorting through junk drawers, closets, shelves and hooks to get rid of the excesses and organize those few items that she has deemed worthy of staying.  The quality items that are well made and well used make the cut.   Why is it that I am holding onto 6 pair of toddler scissors in our craft cabinet.... NOBODY USES THEM!  Kate's mission has been rubbing off on me a bit...sure, I do a little here and there, but I feel like I am only skiing the bunny hills at this point.

Enter The Minimalists, two INSPIRATIONAL men, who write a blog about living a more meaningful life with less "stuff"...right down to experimenting with less in their coffee.  They have written a book about living life more simply,  to be released January 2014, and will be starting 100 stop tour that month as well.  Would you like to go? Guess what..... the tickets are totally FREE!!!!! Isn't that nuts? And they are travelling all over the world.  Just click over to their blog , check it out and reserve yourself one.  I got two because I am bringing Sri along for the ride.  He is suspicious of this new "kick" I'm on. I think he is worried that one day, when he gets home from work, the kids and I will be sitting on the floor in an empty room eating bland popcorn and drinking water out of one cup because I have gotten rid of all the other ones.  Actually, that doesn't sound so bad.

Monday, September 30, 2013

flipping the sign to open

Those around me know that my life has changed DRAMATICALLY in the last 5 months and it must be said that I personally, have reacted rather DRAMATICALLY to these changes.  Without going into too much complaining and detail, I will say these changes involved having a difficult parenting summer and then watching BOTH of my babes march off to school in September.  I have not adjusted well up until this point (hence no blog posts... I was busy being a big baby!) but that all changes today.  So I welcome myself back to the land of blogging and social media, to making and making do, to having some time for myself and figuring out what the hell to do with it.

Challenge Update::
We are still following through with our challenge but have changed it up a bit.  Over the summer we allowed ourselves one "eat-out" meal a week.  We looked at this as an experience for all of us and a break for me from the kitchen that I was growing to resent.  With school starting and our family back to a bit of a routine I think we may switch our visits to restaurants to every other week.  Once a week seems a bit over indulgent.  We have however, held close to our resolve of not bringing unnecessary items into the house.  I am able to count 6 items in the last 5 months that we have bought (school uniforms, lunch bags, water bottles, a toilet brush, silicone baking cups to divide lunch snacks and an apple corer).    This challenge while not over, has made a huge impact on our family.  As a group, I find that we are more grateful for what we have.... we still have a long way to go.  We get involved in experiences  and meet people we otherwise wouldn't have.  We have learned that bartering is such a great way to interact with people, share what you have, learn of others talents and get what you need. WIN WIN!!!!   I often hear the kids mocking me "do we need it or want it?" but guess what....I've got them thinking about it.  That is way more than I can say for the way we thought about consuming/purchasing FIVE months ago.   I am proud of us.  Imagine what is waiting for us in the next 7 months!
I am off to trade 6 farm fresh eggs for a Hamilton Magazine.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

{this moment}

Joining amanda and friends in "this moment". I just loved plucking these juicy tomato hornworms from their cozy spot on the tomato plants at A New Leaf Farm.  Capturing a moment from the week that I want to cherish and hold onto.   
Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

i love making gifts!

I would like to start this post off by thanking everyone for their positive feedback to my last debbie downer post.  It really means a lot to me that you took the time to let me know that you support us on our journey. Thank you!
One of the guidelines to our challenge, is that instead of buying, we are going to give handmade gifts to friends and family.  I LOVE THIS!  I just love losing myself in making a gift for someone... especially when it involves using supplies I already have in my craft hoard.
This last month I have made 3 gifts (although I only have pics of 2...of course).

Gift one::
pic from
A mini marshmallow shooter for my nephew Isaiah.  I whipped up a little tote bag to carry all of the pieces in as well.  I have to say that it was super easy to make, cost a total of $8.00, and was a huge hit with the adult uncles.

Gift two::

A surprise room makeover for Ava.  I wish I had taken a before shot.... I have really been slacking on picture taking this month!  We painted her room April Blush, which she was dead set on.  We were able to find the shelving unit from Kijiji for $50 which included the baskets and magazine holders... super score!  I pieced the duvet cover together from my stash of fabic.... I think it looks adorable and it was really easy to whip up.  My grandmother generously donated an amazing light fixture (one i remember looking up at as a child) which makes an amazing bubble-like shadow on the wall.  Lastly, I hung a Sari I had over the window and Ava calls it a canopy.  It is not the Sears catalogue canopy bed of my childhood dreams but hey, the room is not mine!  Ava loves this room and keeps it super clean.  This was a gift well worth the effort and sweat... it was painted during the dreadful heat wave.

Gift three::
A Nancy Drew detective kit that Ava and I worked on for an 8 year old friend of ours.  We had so much fun putting this together.  We freezer paper stencilled the tote bag, collected detective essentials and made up a few fun envelopes and charts.  I know our friend loved receiving this and since the party, Ava is demanding one of her own.  She is running around the house creating and solving mysteries.  Knocking things over and then accusing random people of doing it.  Would you believe that she discovered that Ruby (our dog) was the culprit using up all of our Band-aids?  Thank goodness we have her around! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013


I can learn a lot from Ava about balance!

You may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't posted in this space for about a month.  Oh, you might say to yourself, "it's summer and she is probably out having fun with the kids at the pool or busy doing something creative with the kids".  NOT SO! Well, not completely so. While yes, I have been at the pool or being creative with my babes, it has been in such small increments that I don't even think it counts.  
I have been busy with the busyness of "making do".  In the last month I have taken our simple family challenge and kicked it up to crazy and unrealistic proportions.  

For the last month I have been trying to::

keep the house clean...while trying to constantly de-clutter,
keep groceries to a minimum.... i.e. be creative and make do with what we have,
throw a birthday party and re-docorate Ava's room within the confines of our challenge,
help out at the farm 2x/week,
be a mindful and present parent,
find free and fun activities for us to do as a family,
blog (it fell right off the list but i thought about it a lot),
cook ALL meals (it started to look like a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches),
keep convenience foods (crackers, chips, granola bars) to a minimum,
be fun and spontaneous,
have dinner parties and friends over to hang out,
try new activities with the family,
keep up with sewing and ongoing dress and duvet cover for Ava's birthday,
keep calm despite the increased bickering and horrid attitudes of Ava and Anthony,
keep Rao life fresh and exciting,
be a model of gratitude and appreciation for my family 

This weekend my list came crumbling down on me.  
The kind of landslide that left me in a heaping, crying, flailing mess on the couch (leaving Sri dumbfounded!).  Feeling like I was failing at every aspect of my life.  Feeling sorry for myself.  Guilty that I have dragged my kids into this insanity.  Angry at "our challenge" and angry with myself for turning it into this ridiculous and unattainable list of rules.  How did "hey, lets try to live more simply and live off of what we already have instead of buying more" turn into me running around like crazy to try and create a modern Little House on the Prairie life  while trying to juggle everything else.  

I need to sit down with my family and redefine the guidelines of this challenge.  I need to simplify the challenge to simplify within my own mind and not be so black and white about it all.   Any suggestions?  I would be happy to hear your opinion about how to make this process a little more enjoyable.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

a quick review of month TWO

the laying ladies... not all mine of course!
best soap EVER! (sorry for the blurry pic)
week 1 CSA boxes full and delicious

post haircut
trying to carry an egg on a spoon while getting shot with a water gun
This month we....
  *  have stuck to one big grocery shop a week...with a detailed list
  *  did not buy any non-consumable items
*  did purchase FIVE laying hens ($7.25 each) from the farm auction.  We are currently not permitted      to keep chickens in the city so they are living at A New Leaf Farm where we visit them weekly and
     collect their delicious eggs
*  spent $6 on a falafel sandwich (totally worth it) at La Luna restaurant where my book club was meeting.... we determined that one night out/month was a mental health NEED!
* traded some handmade baby clothes for some amazing handmade soap
*continued to volunteer labour hours at A New Leaf Farm in exchange for a weekly CSA box (awesome experience!!!!)
* found a free morning camp for the kids to attend for a week
* found a friend who was willing to cut Anthony's hair for free
* have been taking advantage of free picnics in our community 
* Ava went on class trip to African Lion's Safari for $20 but did not bring any money for trinkets and food...her choice.

I am so proud that we are finishing up month two of our twelve month challenge.  On the whole, this month was a lot more challenging than the first one.  It seemed we had more opportunities to spend and bring non-essentials into the house.  We really pulled together to try and make decisions as a family about these issues.  The kids have loved having a say and making the distinction between want and need....actually to the point of irritating me a bit!  I asked the kids if they thought I should get a tattoo and Ava came at me with "is it a want or a need mom?", obnoxious yes but I guess she's getting the point. Next month I think I am really going to try and focus on using up supplies that we have lying around the house and what is in the freezer.  Perhaps I will  be able to use this to cut groceries down to every other week for a while....we shall see.  

P.S if you are interested in a weekly CSA basket of delicious organic produce, check out a New Leaf Farm (Facebook page), they still have some spots available and THEY DELIVER and they are awesome!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

on my needles, or possibly yours

When I posted this picture a couple of weeks ago, I didn't even think that people would be interested in what I was knitting.  I was wrong! I have actually had quite a few people wanting to know. So here are the deets.    The simple answer is... the King Charles Brocade baby blanket (link also has free pattern).  The not-so simple answer is... the bane of my existence for the last 6 months.

No doubt that if you have spent more than 10 minutes sitting down with me I would have pulled this beauty out of my knitting bag and started working on it.  While I am loving the colour and the pattern, I am not loving how slow this knits up.  It is knit in a 23 row repeat, which I am totally unable to find any rhyme or reason to.  This makes it necessary to constantly consult the pattern and keep very good track of which row I am on.  I am not good at either of those things.  I have promised myself that I will not start a new knitting project until this is finished but I am having to push myself to even pick it up anymore.  I was looking through my stash of yarn to try and get motivated but I found that sunk me further into knitting despair.  Everything seemed so blah and boring.  
I found myself wanting something new and fresh.  
Insert a trip to my new local yarn shop, the Handknit Yarn Studio.
I walked around, touched everything, oohed and ahhed over everything else and reminded myself over and over of our challenge.  
I introduced myself to one of the delightful owners, Kate, and let her know that I while I was unable to purchase anything at the moment I would definitely be interested in knitting up some samples for them if they needed it.  Yay! two birds with one stone.  I would get to knit with some of the most beautiful yarn I have seen and put the product back out into the world....oh and NOT SPEND A CENT!  
This plan has encouraged me to complete this baby blanket.  I would like empty knitting needles should I be asked to knit some samples.  I feel like I am waiting to be called off the bench...I want to be ready for the game!
On the other hand, if someone out there would like this work in progress....IT IS YOURS.  Let me know (just leave a comment) and I will gladly send it your way.  You will just need to supply your own 4mm needles (I use circulars just for ease of transport).  
If you are in Hamilton or anywhere remotely close, visiting the Handknit Yarn Studio is a must.  You will not regret it.  You will feel inspired and ready to create the moment you step through the door.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

{that moment}

I was looking back at old pictures (still on my computer of course) I found this fantastic moment from June 2011 that I would like to remember FOREVER!  If you have a moment that you would like to share, leave a comment with a link bellow. I would love to see your moments!

Friday, June 14, 2013

{this moment}

Joining amanda and friends in "this moment"...capturing a moment from the week that I want to cherish and hold onto.   If you have a moment you would like to share, leave a comment with a link to it so we can check it out.  Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fun Fair/ Unfair?

We have been cruising along in this challenge of not-spending pretty successfully for the last month and a halfish.   I think the key to our success has been avoiding the risk of temptation.  We have been sticking to "safe" activities like hiking, swimming at my moms and hanging out with family and friends.  

Well let me assure you that last night our commitment to this lifestyle intention was tested and we were forced to make some very difficult and, as you can see from the above photos, very unpopular decisions.  
Last night, Ava's school held their annual Fun Fair.  She has been geared up about attending for days and I have been trying to prepare her for the fact that she can in fact go to the fair but because of our challenge she will not be able to spend any money there.  
That seemed to sit well with her until I picked her up after school.  Right away she started banging on to me about cotton candy and jumpy castles.  
With tears in her eyes she calmly said what I was dreading to hear "but all of my friends get to...".  Oh man, I knew it was coming but I really wasn't prepared.  Before starting "no-spending" (I really have to find a better name for our challenge...any suggestions?) the kids would have been able to have a reasonable but fairly unlimited amount of treats and rides and now I am forced to put my foot down.  While driving home Ava started to escalate.... flinging herself into full meltdown mode over cotton candy.   You would not have believed the drama.  I tried to calmly respond and allow her to have her freak out but oh my goodness it was almost comical.  
I really had to remind myself why it was important to stick to our decision because I was ready to give in...believe me.  I tried to point out that the fair was not about FOOD but about the fun of spending time with your friends.  I really felt like telling myself to shut up because I totally understood where she was coming from.  When I go to a fair, the first thing I am thinking of is funnel cake....I get it and obviously I see where she gets it from! 
 I needed to find some way to compromise without giving in.  Sri and I decided that she could have $2 to spend on "experiences" (like the jumpy castle)...not things/food and she could bring a snack if she felt like she would be hungry while there.  This seemed to sit well with her although she wasn't entirely convinced it was "fair".  

Here she is upon return from the fun fair.  She had a great time and was able to squeeze $2 more out of her father for more jumps in the bouncy castle.  When she came home she was so happy with herself for not asking for cotton candy..."I just ate my pears and ignored it".  I am proud of all of us! We stuck to our commitment and still had fun in the process.  This isn't easy but I can assure that has been totally worth it so far!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

just that kinda weekend

I'm so glad that we had a lazy, laid back, Guns & Roses kind of weekend because this upcoming week is going to be a killer.
Besides our usual social engagements (lunch at my grandma's), playdates and our day at the farm, I have made a to-do list for myself a mile long.  I need to prioritize, I know, but am overwhelmed at this point to even do that properly.

On the top of my list are:
                    1. find out why this red cabbage sauerkraut that I made as a gift went moldy

2. figure out what kind of frog/toads we have been watching grow from tadpoles in our little aquarium and what the heck do we do with them now?  They are so teeny tiny and the kids are a bit obsessed with them.  I have to admit they are a lot of fun to have around.

3. make myself a jersey dress with big pockets to wear over tights to work on the farm.  I'm thinking this would be the most comfortable outfit PLUS it would put me one step closer to actually being Laura Ingalls Wilder

4. make Ava's birthday invitations so that they can be hand-delivered on Father's Day.  I have pinned a few that I would love to make but don't have the supplies already in the house for.  The challenge is going to be making a great card from my craft stash.  

5. work with the kids to make Sri's Father's Day gift.  They already have some ideas but I am uncertain how they will actually work out.  Their ideas start off great but quickly deteriorate into the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.  

Wish me luck!

Friday, June 7, 2013

{these moments}

Okay I couldn't choose just ONE moment this had to be two!

Joining amanda and friends in "this moment"...capturing a moment from the week that I want to cherish and hold onto.   Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

this bountiful harvest

In all of my gardening experience (very little), nothing is sweeter than the first harvest of the season.  This is an even sweeter event because this beautifully soaking, freshly cut lettuce took ZERO effort.  It self-seeded from last year and was watered by mother nature.  I just sat by, watched and waited, like an animal stalking its prey, until the right moment to snip off some leaves.  This is going to make a delicious salad for lunch tomorrow with some goat cheese and dressed with a very light lemon vinaigrette.  I wish I could tell you what kind of lettuce this is but I don't keep a very good garden journal, actually I just scribble things on random pieces of paper with the intention of putting in a journal.  I vaguely remember hastily throwing the seeds into the container with Ava last year in an attempt to get her interested in gardening and forcing her to listen to another one of my rants on being more aware of the food that we eat...blah blah blah.  
Tomorrow as I shovel this lettuce into my mouth I will remember to be thankful for the ease with which it grew because I'm sure the rest of my garden won't let me off quite so easily.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

props....not my forte obviously

Ava has a school assignment due on Thursday.  Her first real assignment.  She is taking this VERY seriously!  She has to memorize the poem The Snowman by Shel Silverstein, recite it in front of the class and include props.

The Snowman
I made myself a snowman as perfect as could be
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me
I made it some pajamas and a pillow for it's head
Then, last night it ran away
But first -- it wet the bed.
Shel Silverstein

She has done a great job of the memorizing and is very hit or miss with her presentation.  I am trying to keep my nose out of this but it is soooo hard to not offer a suggestion here or there.... which really sends her over the edge!  She has however asked me for help with the props.  Okay, I'm sure that you can all imagine that my first inclination is to go WAY over the top and yes, I did go there.  My first suggestion was that we could dress Anthony up as a snowman and bring him into class... a bit ridiculous when I think of it now.  I have had some other not so elaborate ideas but they have ALL been shot down emphatically.  Ava is unable to even verbalize an idea at this point as she is in such a tizzy over the whole thing.   

This is where I come to you my faithful readers, please help out this poor idealess and in a creative rut family.  Your suggestions for props would be much appreciated by the whole family....Sri and Anthony are tired of hearing about this stinking snowman.  Remember that because of our "no buying challenge" we have to use what we have around the house (which is very well stocked in the craft supply department).  

I'm so excited to hear your ideas and will try to figure out how to post a video of Ava reciting the poem with her prop of choice (another instance where I just have to take it down a few notches).

Friday, May 31, 2013

this moment

Joining amanda and friends in "this moment"...capturing a moment from the week that I want to cherish and hold onto.   Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the loop hole

As a family, I think we have handled the challenge of not buying/bringing anything new into the house wonderfully.  We have the odd bump in the road but for the most part it has been a smooth ride for the last month.
Where we struggle is the food portion of our challenge.  When we laid out the "rules" for our up coming year we specified NO EATING OUT or buying food treats unless absolutely necessary.  We knew that this was going to be a hard one for us.  We typically ate one dinner out during the week (usually a Tuesday night at Fishers) and one meal on the weekend.  We all loved these meals because it was exciting and it gave me a break from the kitchen....which was a bonus for all involved!  The first week was a tough one and THEN we found a loop hole....of course we did!
Consumables were allowed!!! Groceries became our new friend.  Treats were added to the grocery list. Items we had never bought before were being put in the cart.  I have tried to gently discuss this with my partner in crime but he isn't really listening (do you blame him?).  I have three changes that I am going to make to try and solve this little problem.
1.  I am going to make a very specific grocery list.... instead of just writing "lunch treats" I am going to name them
2.   If I have time I am going to do the groceries myself.... that is half the battle!
3.  EXCITING NEWS! As a family, we are going to participate in a workshare at A New Leaf Farm.  We will receive organic produce in exchange for some labour around the farm one day a week.  We are all very excited about this and hopefully it will keep us a step further from the grocery store!  YAY!

Here are some pics that Anthony took of the farm today...our first visit!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

an affair in May

Ava designed and sewed the orange dress hanging up....I'm so proud
Ava's view from our tent

hand whittled toothpick......WHITTLED TOOTHPICK!

Gorgeous plants from Backyard Harvest
hand twisting yarn to make skipping ropes....this blew our minds!
On Saturday Ava and I were vendors at the Westdale Children's School Mayfair.    It takes place in an absolutely beautiful location and is one of the most peaceful/hippie-like events you could attend.  This is the third time I have been a part of the event and I have LOVED it every single time.  This year was very special to me because I got to spend the whole day with Ava.  We met so many interesting people and had fun catching up with friends that we haven't had the chance to see since the last Mayfair.  For the last two years I haven't really come home with any profits because I tended to spend it on goods at the fair.  I am so proud to announce that this year I did not purchase a thing.  We brought our own lunch and even resisted the temptation to barter for things that we wanted but didn't amazing box of wool roving.   I'm already looking forward to next year's Mayfair... I had better start working on some ponchos for Ava and I....we were sorely out of place without them.