Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We-Design-Day: Mr. TroubleMaker, take down that wall!

Today, excitement happens! Today is Day One of our scheduled six day basement renovation. It is the culmination of six years of planning, 2MB worth of drawing’s, 25 shopping trips, 42 hours searching Kijiji for used items to reduce costs, scope creep, scope reduction, budget cuts, budget additions followed by more cuts. We’ve had a baby, three job changes and one career change but finally, after seven years in our home, we are ready.

Our “Crew” consists of five bodies. Our “boss” is a three year old, hammer swinging terror affectionately named “TroubleMaker”. The labourer is my super patient, extra awesome husband to whom I affectionately call “Hunny Bunny” but because that is neither macho or indicative of his role, we’ll just call him “The Thinker”. The brains of the group is truly my husband but since I’m the designer and manager of this little project, I’d take the title but I know full well that any issues we run into and all the hard stuff will be thought out and planned by my husband. Although the cat and dog have no official role, Max will not like the renovation at all and will likely hide and the cat will do her thing to supervise and get in the way by climbing all the ladders and give us hell from the top rung.

Before the wall came down

We assembled all of our gear prior to starting. Over breakfast, TroubleMaker and I made a list. A list of the tools we needed and the steps we'd take to bring the wall down. Don't forget your safety gear - hearing, eye and body protection. Sure you're doing it at home but that's all the more reason to wear the proper personal protective equipment!


Our son is a machine. He was right in the thick of everything and being a great "halper". He pried, he hauled, he hammered.

The boy and his tools

It was difficult to convince him that he did not need to take any other walls down. He rationalized to us that the other walls were old and therefore, should be replaced. Perhaps he was reading his Dad's blog about things getting older and wearing out!

TroubleMaker Helping

It took us about 5 hours to get it all down and hauled out of the basement. We are right on and maybe even a little ahead of schedule!

Taking it down

One comment I will make is that it took an amazing amount of brute force to get it down. We've noticed a few "funny" things with the construction in our home... It, in most aspects, is great however there are a few things that are "amateur handyman" about the place. The 6" spikes used to nail the wood together... The patch job of the 2x4's used to build this wall are a story themselves. More than half of them had been sawed through at some point before being made into the wall. To compensate, another 2x4 was butted up against it and nailed in place (again with 6" spikes) for stability. The ceiling varies up to 4 inches depending on where you measure it and it all slopes downhill!

Finished Product

Tomorrow is "Day One" of construction. Now that we've got a better view of what we're up against, it means a trip to the home store to get supplies. We are going to piece the carpet and lay our wood floor over it and we are faced with enclosing the handyman special bulkhead and rehanging the entire t-bar ceiling in the studio space. I had hoped to be able to patch it but do to the gross difference in the height, the only option is to remove it and rehang it flush to the adjacent space.

Remember earlier when I said that my awesome husband would likely think us out of any dilemma? Well, he did. I was confused on how we'd move the light switch. It will be re-installed in a few weeks when my step Dad comes and does some electrical for us but we needed to move it in order to take the wall down.

Try as I might, I didn't know how we'd get the wire out of the wood. I was prepared to get a saw and carefully saw through the wood until we broke through to the hole the wire was in. It didn't seem like the safest solution but the only one I would know how to do.

Thankfully, "The Thinker" was there and talked me out of it. Turns out it was a simple turn of a few screws and viola, the wires were disconnected from the box and slipped through. Betcha that saved us a trip to the emergency room!

Although we'll be completing the bulk of the project in the next few days, I'll be featuring each portion of the renovation on the upcoming We-Design-Day features. Thank you for stopping by and we'll see you again next week!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Cooking Blues Solutions?


I like to cook and I enjoy my time in the kitchen but sometimes, the idea that I will cook more than 1000 more dinners until I die can be a little much to take... Mostly because I get tired of thinking of things to make and although I enjoy new meals, I like to try and fit meals into my plan that are quick and easy and don't often require too many 'special' ingredients. I like to keep costs low and tastes high.

How do you keep your menu plan interesting and diverse? I like to include plenty of vegetable servings with dinner and keep it nutritionally balanced but I struggle... This week, I'm trying something different - although I had developed my Menu Planning Program, I was finding it less than stellar because I had to scroll from a laundry list of recipes which allowed me the option to get too picky and give up before I got started.

As I was perusing the local university bookstore, I came across an index binder Photobucket
Courtesy of and as part of my participation in the 52 Week Organizing Project with Laura at the one of my 'to do' items is to do something with my recipes... Although I did manage to binderize them a couple years ago, the binder was too small and now it's over flowing!

But when I saw that index card binder, I thought it would be a perfect solution to my recipe problem. I have packages and packages of index cards (which I'll now admit, I can't find) but I saw this and thought it was the perfect solution... Except that still means I need to type up all my recipes (which I started in 2009 but have yet to finish) and print them and since this plan didn't materialize after my first attempt, the likelihood of me completing it this time was also slim.

But it planted a seed of how to ease my menu planning doldrums! But for this week, I'm back to scratching my head trying to come up with something (since I fell off my usual monthly planning) for this week. At least I've only got 1057 more dinners to plan!

July 25 to 31

Monday TroubleMaker's first "sleepover" - my husband and I doing a "YOYO" or a "Choose your own adventure" night!
Tuesday Brown Sugar Meatloaf
Wednesday Chicken Parmigiana
Thursday Blue Ribbon Chili with Cornbread muffins
Friday Pizza Pops (handmade - recipe review to follow)
Saturday Nachos
Sunday Chicken and Alfredo Broccoli

Thank you for stopping by and check out Menu Plan Monday for more meal planning ideas!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Light a candle and help them find their way home...

It has been an emotional day - battles were fought - some were won and others saw no winners.

Ryan Nadeau is still missing and his wife's desk sits empty. Our office is filled with hushed whispers and clucking tongues and although everyone on the floor knows, no one speaks of it. Ryan's brother in law has been at work and although his mood is fair - an inexplicable sadness still falls over him like a grey storm cloud.


What can we do?

Essentially, nothing. Posters are circulating and are being posted in our city and beyond. Articles are being written and news broadcasts carry his photo and interviews with Amanda. Keeping his face out there, his story current is all anyone can do at this point in time. They family has done and continues to do everything they can. Friends, coworkers and strangers are uniting for a common cause: bringing Ryan home.

We all ask, how does a person just disappear? How can a person cease to exist? No trace. No record. Erased.

I don't know all the details of Ryan's disappearance but I understand how people can be lost, even when they are right beside you.

Today, after a few of us returned from posting Ryan's missing person posters around the campus, I had an email from a friend of a friend. She and I had been in contact because our mutual friend, Nire, has been on a slow and steady decline into mental illness. Or perhaps it was a rapid decline and we just didn't see it. Or we saw it and pretended it wasn't there.

I've known for a while something was "off" with Nire. I've known her for 23 years. She's been my best friend and big sister, confident and support network. Three years ago, as I was embroiled in being a new mother, something went seriously wrong for her. As her story started to unfold, it sounded like she'd found love. I was unsure if it was reciprocated but as time passed, it seemed to have potential.

But things changed. Our conversations began to get muddled - she'd speak of one thing and the next time, she'd repeat the tale but with a different ending or middle... Then the object of her affection became a dark, seemingly heartless jerk who was toying with her heart and emotions. Not being clear with her, sending her mixed messages. Professing feelings but hiding from her.

Slowly things slid further. Messages, conspiracies and accusations of everyone betraying her. It was nonsense and ramblings of a crazy person. I remember telling her that it sounded crazy and couldn't be possible. She said she realized how it sounded but she was certain it was fact.

I'd speak to her again a few weeks later and she sounded like she'd come back to reality. The next conversation with her was again, nonsense.


I ask myself now why I didn't act then. I knew there was a problem - something was wrong... I knew I was only one friend of many - could I be imaging things? Why did no one else seemed concerned by her behaviour? What could I do? She was holding her job and although she'd been more-or-less demoted, she admitted an addiction to Facebook caused some issues at work. Her son didn't seem concerned. Maybe I was the crazy one?

More time passed and then odd emails started appearing from her. Accusing things - odd statements like "Corrie, quit fighting, she's my mother". When questioned, she said several coworkers were standing outside her cubicle talking about 'the game' (what she'd started to call the entire conspiracy) and she'd found out a long time ago that the only way to end these games was to email someone else involved.

I contacted her older brother. He was useless. Absolutely and utterly useless. I understand they aren't close. I understand they live two different lives. But as a family member and human being, shouldn't he have been concerned?

I contacted three of her other friends. One called me back and yelled at me. Literally reduced me to tears. One offered help, but didn't know what to do and her other "old time friend" was concerned but didn't know what to do either.

I called around to different agencies looking for help. Short of the police or an adult crisis unit, I was powerless to do anything. I had resigned myself to just sit tight, talk to her son and wait.

Her son said everything was "fine" and that his Mom had just been really lonely. At that point, I decided that perhaps I should just be her friend - listen to her, support her and try to steer her towards some professional help (which I had been doing since I first realized that something was wrong). I knew that everyone else in her life had been pushed out of it because they all told her she was crazy and needed help. I knew that I was one of the only people left and I could get her to talk and as crazy as she sounded and as draining as it was, I knew that I had to keep in contact with her in case things went south.

And as I spoke to her step mother today and to the mutual friend, I realized just how easy it is to disappear. To vanish and not even have anyone notice...

So tonight, my head is filled with thoughts. Of Ryan and his family, of Nire and her family. Of the people wandering the streets, lost - no matter what the cause.

Let's all light a candle and help at least one of them find their way home.


We-Design-Day: A Renovation Break

Last week, I was all prepared to commence the Great Demolition.

It did not happen. Sometimes I have a tendency to over schedule myself, my fantastic memory also occasionally forgets previous commitments, thus leaving me double booked! So instead of driving myself around a bend trying to get it all done, I bumped the demolition. As it was, I still had too many things booked on Saturday but I know now there is not possible way I would have gotten any demolition done.

I did however get to Ikea to get all the additional furnishings needed and I scored some flooring for a fantastic price! Brand new flooring, I might add, for $14 a box (which covers 24 square feet). It’s not funky linoleum or cork liked I’d hoped but it will be functional and clean and will allow me to put money towards extra furniture and better lighting!

The demolition is planned for the last week of the month. I’m planning to take three days off work to get it done. This will give me six days off (in a row) to complete the demolition, building and finishing the space.

This week, I’m featuring a great Upcycled Interior Chic project! I found the plan on Ana White and imagine my surprise when I blog I read and follow built the exact same plan – scaled down to fit any interior!

The genius of this plan is the availability of the materials needed to build it. It is a classic example of taking something that doesn’t always have a second use and making a fabulous piece of furniture out of it! The cost is minimal (often free) and it can be a grand or as simple as you decided. It is solid wood and if you’re lucky (and it fits your décor), it often looks antiqued or aged naturally! If your taste is more modern – it’ll take paint or stain and you can match it to other pieces in your home.

Are you excited yet? I am. I can’t wait for my neighbours to free up the five or so pallets they have in their yard!

Yes. Pallets. Typical, everyday crate-like resting places for goods being shipped anywhere and everywhere. Not a commercial shipper? No problem! Scout out the back of any industrial area in your city and there are likely stacks and stacks of good and broken pallets behind the rows of warehouse doors. Pallets are a dime a dozen (unless they are the fancy blue ones – those are hot commodities and you could get beat up trying to take one of those) but the usual pallets that a local big box store receives it’s good on are likely fair game. Furthermore, many companies can’t get rid of these things fast enough. When I worked in a warehouse, we’d spend hours calling companies trying to get someone to come take the hundreds of pallets away!

Check Kijiji, Craigslist or join a local Freecycle site and find them there.

So what do you do? Well, someone was kind enough to post the plans on how to build a full book shelf and Courtney from Cooking Up a Family built the most awesome wall mounted magazine rack!

Picture from Cooking Up a Family, used with permission

The uses for old pallets is endless… Coffee tables, tea carts, islands, picnic tables, dollhouses – the list is endless for this upcycled project!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Summer Heat

It's summer.

Like really summer. We've had three days of full sunshine. So much sunshine that our sad, soggy vegetables (that didn't die in the June frost) are blooming even though they haven't grown much in weeks.

It also means it is hot. Really hot. Sticky hot.

I don't like being hot.

But today's post is not about my like or dislike of heat. It's about food. Food that one can prepare and eat without charbroiling one's family by turning the house into a sweat lodge.

This is how our week is looking.

July 18 to July 24

Monday: Craquelin et fromages avec crudités
Tuesday: Tuna Salad sandwiches with tossed salad
Wednesday: Roast Turkey sandwiches with tomato cucumber salad
Thursday: Falafel Stuffed Pitas
Friday: Hot dogs and burgers with Caesar salad and chips
Saturday: Grilled chicken bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on Ciabatta bread with Greek salad
Sunday: Alberta Cheese steak Sandwiches

I can almost taste the Cheese steak sandwiches - I 'invented' the recipe last year and it was amazing. I'm drooling just thinking about it! And for those who are wondering, yes, I'm going to roast a turkey (breast) roast. My Mom borrowed my counter top roaster, but I figure if I do it on low in the oven with the fans going, it should be too bad? We'll see... At the moment, I just feel like eating left over Sesame Noodles with chicken bouillon and curling up for a nap.

This week, I'm linking up to Joy in My Kitchen as she is graciously hosting the Menu Plan Monday while Laura enjoys a vacation! Thanks for popping by and did you check out my review of the Taste of Thailand?


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: Meals in Review

Ahhhh. Thailand... I do believe it is highly unlikely that I'll ever travel to this beautiful island, so I must obtain the culture through ready and culinary experiments! Thankfully, with the globalization of the world, I am no longer required to have the traditional North American fare but can recreate exotic dishes from around the globe with a simple trip to a grocery store!


The special celebratory dinner I had planned was a range of dishes I had not really prepared before. I have done the typical Chinese dinner and have Teriyakied with the best of them... But blending the flavours as required by Thai food, was one I doubted.

I do not like cilantro. Moreover, cilantro makes me wheeze. Badly. I don't think it's an allergy, per se, many things make me wheeze and I'll suffer and eat anyway, however, I don't especially enjoy the taste of cilantro so I always substitute... Cilantro (come parsley) coupled with mint perplexed me.

When we moved to our house, we had a mint patch. I daresay we had a mint field as it had taken over the East flower bed. Lots of digging, some tilling, hand weeding and finally an application of herbicide seems to have killed it all... For which I was just a little sorry for but considering mint is readily available all he time, the hassle of thinning out an out of control mint patch coupled with the nauseating scent of 'skunky' mint smell, I was just as happy to buy a bunch at the store...

But I digress...

After an hour long trip to the store, TroubleMaker and I had assembled the cast of what would eventually be our delectable dinner!

A Taste of Thailand: The Menu
Thai Satay
Thai Cabbage Salad
Sesame Thai Noodles (a last minute substitution)
Thai Iced Tea
Coconut Pudding with mango and fresh coconut for dessert

The reviews work like this:
I'll tell you the selection criteria. I'll tell you what I did different from the way the recipe is written and then I'll rate three ways: ease of prep, taste and whether I'll include the recipe in my regular rotation... Simple enough, hey?

Item 1: Peanut Satay
  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

  • short cooking time

What I did different
I used a different barbecue sauce (Diana's Original). I marinated the chicken in half the sauce for four hours. I baked in my oven (we were out of propane for the barbecue) and we used the reserved sauce as "dipping sauce". Also, I did about half of the chicken in a commercially prepared President's Choice "Taste of Thailand, Sweet Thai Chili sauce. Again marinated for four hours and used extra for dipping.

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 5

Everyone loved both types although I think the general thought was the Peanut was better and less "prepared" tasting.

Item 2: Thai Cabbage Salad
  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

  • short resting time

What I did different
I used parsley instead of cilantro. I prepped the salad, tossed it and refrigerated it for about an hour or so before dinner. I added more carrots - not sure how much, just more and I also added more of the cabbage.

NOTE: Napa cabbage is a Asian cabbage that looks similar to Bok Choy but more leafy. I have a head of regular cabbage in the fridge as we purchased it by mistake (thinking that perhaps, Napa Cabbage was in reference to it being grown in the Napa Valley. Keep in mind we are Canadian and have learned to now google foreign to us ingredients)

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 2

This was an enormous hit with my mother in law. I didn't mind it, TroubleMaker tried it and declared it tasted funny (he didn't like the flavour of the dressing or the fact he got a huge hunk of red onion). My husband said it was "Ok" but he wasn't fond of it. I think it gave a very clear illustration of Thai food. It was good, mildly spicy, had an interesting flavour and amazing colour and texture.

Item 3: Sesame Thai Noodles
  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

  • short cooking time

What I did different
I added 1/2 cup shredded carrot. I omitted the shrimp paste. I used more red pepper.

Ease of Prep: 4
Make again: 3

Again, my mother in law loved it. TroubleMaker didn't mind it but preferred to eat the plain noodles (I cooked too many noodles) with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. My husband seemed to like them but I think he said they were 'lacking' something. I too found them a bit bland and I think I would have liked them less spicy.

Item 4: Thai Iced Tea
  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

What I did different
I could not find the Jasmine Essence. So I used Jasmine tea. I also couldn't find anything but the Orange Pekoe but I found a bag of lemon grass and assana in a mixed box of Asian teas I had at home. I reduced the sugar and increased the lime. I also quadrupled it.

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 2

I didn't like it but drank it anyway. It tasted bitter (maybe it was the Lemongrass?) and I find too many teas don't provide much in the way of flavour and it always tastes like I'm drinking coloured water. TroubleMaker didn't like it. My husband wasn't impressed either. However, my mother in law loved it and thought it was so refreshing - she asked for the recipe. :)

Item 5: Coconut Pudding
  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

  • Wouldn't melt on the drive home

I took a box of vanilla instant pudding and made it by substituting a half cup of milk with fresh coconut milk. I used Dream Whip made in the same bowl. I toasted 1/2 cup of a blend of sweetened and unsweetened coconut.

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 2

It was a perfect 'dessert' after such a flavour unique meal. It capped the dinner well. We served the pudding with fresh coconut and sliced mango. We also had cashew cookies. TroubleMaker didn't like it but everyone else did. I wouldn't likely make this again for us, but if I was to make this type of dinner again, it is, in my opinion, a perfect finish for Thai food. It had a gentle sweetness that didn't over power and it was cleansing.


Thanks for checking out the recipe review - I hope you enjoyed it and I welcome your questions and feedback. Thanks for stopping in and look for the next review - coming to you again the day after we have the meal.

I'd like to extend a huge thank you to my (photographer) husband for capturing the amazing images of the food. I love them! Thank you! All images copyright Blackstone Images. Use only with permission.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing: An Amazing Accomplishment!

This weekend, I. No.

This past weekend, we accomplished something I didn't really think was possible. We accomplished the impossible.

First, it was a team effort. I could not have done any of the work if it hadn't been for my wonderful son and my amazing husband. Everyone was involved.


This was my husband's office. This is the area that will be opened up to the rest of the family room. The picture above is of my husband going through 20 years of filing. Tax records dating back to 1990. Instruction manuals for tools that have not been in his possession for nearly 20 years. Every certificate our dog has earned in his 11 years (which always makes people ask why he is so unobedient if he's been so well trained). The receipt for my sewing machine (it was a gift from him in 1999). There was more - lots more.


There are three more full garbage/recycling bags to go out next week. Plus we've got two large boxes (and an armful) of items to be posted on our local Earthcycle group. Did I mention that I haven't actually gone through my stuff yet? That will happen after the renovation and I know just how much space I've got left.

I also believe we've got the only three year old who understands the importance of 'shredding the evidence'. ;) I'm not sure, but could this be proof of his future as a politician?


No one was harmed during the cleaning of this space. The dog couldn't find a place to lay down and the cat decided it was safer upstairs and we only lost TroubleMaker in the piles once.


I enacted Laura's PROCESS. It just so happened I had so much stuff that I literally buried the rest of the family room under my mountains of stuff. I actually exclaimed to my husband "Can you imagine if I was a real hoarder and our whole house looked like this!"

There was only a very narrow path to the laundry room and the stairs leading up to the main floor.


You can ask my husband why there is a toboggan in the middle of that picture... Since it arrived in the mail last November, it has been in my office. I'm not really sure why but since there is was so many things piled in my space, I honestly didn't realize there was a toboggan in there until we started emptying the room.

After almost an entire morning, we did something I thought was not possible. I had no idea it could be done and I'm still surprised when I looked at the pictures. We did it. We actually did it...


Just in case you don't remember just what this space looked like when I started it... Here is a refresher...


I also just realized I never took a picture of the third angle. It was SO bad that even I felt I had to hide my shame!

Can you believe the change?


I know, I know... You're wondering if the rest of the family room still looks like an episode of the Hoarders... I am proud to report it does not. I absolutely refused to stop working on the Saturday until we could find places to sit. Because we are going to be taking down walls, all of my stuff has been packed into boxes and bins and it stacked in the back corner of the room that's coming down. I will cover it with drop cloths and start the demolition this coming weekend.

By Sunday afternoon, my husband was set back up in his "new" office space and continued purging his files. He went from a four drawer vertical file to a two drawer file cabinet! He's got enough space in his new digs for a reading nook and a third desk! We'll be putting the finishing touches on his space next week.

I'm not sure how I top this week's project. I am so proud of me and my boys - this was an enormous undertaking and means significant change for our entire house. Because my studio will be open to the family room, it necessitates me to pare down my mini-craft/design store to a reasonable collection and also will force me to work and live more organized! Thanks to the PROCESS, we were able to effectively empty two spaces, purge, purge, purge and then put it all back together again in a way that will work for our family!

Although I'm not really sure where the toboggan went... Probably to the same place the pair of eyeglasses I had to return... If you see them, please call...

To see more super work and for more information about Laura's PROCESS, check out the Org Junkie's 52 Weeks of Organizing!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We-Design-Day: Bringin' Down the House!

This past weekend was BUSY. My husband, son and I worked non-stop all day Saturday and Sunday preparing for the upcoming demolition…

Yes, you read that correctly. DEMOLITION! After months of dragging my feet, doing a little bit at a time, we dove in head first and tackled the hardest part of the project... Cleaning out my space!

My stuff is all packed away and in the back corner of the room we are demolishing. My husband is (very happily, maybe too happily) settling into his new office space. Houston, we have liftoff clearance, start the countdown!

The next things we need to look at is how to start our demolition project. I’m all about processes and safety. This likely comes from being married to a (former) computer programmer. He is all about process. He doesn’t like surprises and he wants a detailed flow-chart like map of what we are doing.

It’s a good thing he met me when I was young and still trainable!

Many people run head long into a demo project without a plan in mind… My sister lived without a kitchen for two or three years (and I still wouldn’t call what she has a kitchen). Her husband decided to take it all down. My brother in law is super at demolition. Many parts of their house have been demolished (as was his parents’ house) but few projects have been seen through to completion. My sister and her husband are like that – they go with the flow and enjoy their lives.

I’m about order and structure and controlled chaos. I plan, make lists, change my mind, make another list, plan some more and then start. I’ve also come to realize that I can get distracted easily… Did you know my original plan for the first We-Design-Day project (this project) had a 12 week schedule? As soon as I hit a roadblock, I started planning something else… The foyer project, for one… And last week, I came home with specifications for how I’d renovate the garage!

But the hardest part (for me) is out of the way and this Saturday morning, I’ll be assembling my tools and that wall will be coming down!

I’m a Safety Girl and I believe in the right tools for the job. Let’s walk through what we need to do before getting started.

Having taken a close and detailed look at the space, I know one of the walls coming down has no power or plumbing in it. The other wall has a light switch that we will be reusing. Don’t forget to look at your ceiling too – what is there for vents, lighting and other hazards? Since I’m working with a dropped (or T-Bar ceiling), I can pop the tiles out along the wall and take a look to see if there are any other things I should be aware of that I can’t see.

To do this job, I will likely need the following tools:

Gloves, masks, closed shoes
Pry bar, screw drivers, hammers
Supplemental Lighting (as we’ll be turning off the lighting to our basement and half of the main floor (our house is very oddly wired)
Drop cloths
Garbage bags

The first thing we'll do is run in the supplemental power and set up our temporary lights. Because we know our basement is creatively wired, we already know that in order to turn off the power in this area, takes all the basement lights, the living room and part of the master bedroom off line as well.

Once we get that in place, we'll switch the breaker for the area we are working in off. We'll test a couple outlets and the lights and then the fun begins!

After donning our safety gear, I'll start prying away the wood panelling. I'm hoping it comes off with ease. Once I get it all removed, I'll do the drywall inside the office.

When I have a clear view of the studs, they'll start coming down too. I need to see how they are attached before I take them out.

I'll confess I've never demolished anything before so a lot of this will be a learn as I go project... but we'll document and share the demo with you next week!

Until then, have a great week and thanks for popping by!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Forty in Three!

Tomorrow, I turn 37. I’m not sure where the years have gone or how I ended up with so much grey hair (which, I admit, I have recently coloured – but it had more to do with eradicating the Fruitopia orange colour it had turned) but there is no denying, that this chicky was hatched all those years ago.

I share my birthday with a few famous people… Harrison Ford, Julius Caesar, Patrick Stewart, Cheech Marin, and Canadian R&B Singer, Deborah Cox (same year even). Lots of famous people died this day too – including an inspirational and legendary photographer, Yousuf Karsh. In 1985, the world witnessed “Live Aid” – a globally broadcast concert/festival to aid starving nations in Africa and in 1942, three German U-boats shot and sunk merchant ships in (Gulf of) the St. Lawrence and in 1974, John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” was number one on the music charts.

Now, I’m not one of those people who subscribe to a life’s purpose or think that my life has a deep meaning. Ideally, of course, I’d like to be deep and important and change something on this Earth, but the reality of the situation is 99 percent of us just exist. We are no more destined to change anything other than our socks… But I thought it would be fun to make a list (even though I said I wouldn’t) of things to do before 40… Now I’ve Googled a few lists and they have things like:

Travel alone
Balance a check book
Ride a horse
Get married
Get divorced
Have a baby
Start a blog
Buy a car
Get your heart broken
Be scared witless and do it anyway

I also found another list that you added one point for each thing you’ve done – I got 27 (it was a list of 50). I’ve found that I’ve done a lot of the things people list (I had a misspent youth) and some of them don’t hold much interest for me (travelling to places like France or Italy or getting a tattoo).

So what should be on my list? What should be on anyone’s “List”?

The only things I believe should be on these lists are things that have meaning for you. We could all take a cookie cutter approach and check off the things that meant something to someone else, but I prefer the personalized approach. A list (like this) shouldn’t be a competition or entrance fee to an elusive club. We all have birthdays, we all get older. That is a given. The things we do with our life, well, that’s individual. What holds meaning for me may be meaningless to someone else. I think a list like this is meant more to be like a record keeper. A place to layout and establish goals.

What are my goals? I’m not entirely clear but I do know that my life’s endeavors are more important that what can be rattled off in an hour’s lunch break! I’m going to work on my list over the coming months and see what it is I hope to accomplish before I turn 40!

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - A Week to Celebrate!

It's another Sunday night and I'm just relaxing and watching a piece on a local cable show about the historic homes in my City... Remember this house? Well, we've just learned that we may have been able to get funding to help restore it... Oh well! We're making some great changes to our boring, early 80's bungalow!

Did you catch my recipe review? I've got a new series of recipes on tap this week that I'll post a review on next Sunday!

This week, I'll be celebrating my birthday and the boys are ordering in dinner for me (yum)! We've also been celebrating this weekend as not only are we making headway in our renovation project but I've been offered a new position at work! And the party will continue next weekend as we will be hosting my mother-in-law and our good friend for a joint birthday celebration (our friend's birthday is Tuesday and mine is Wednesday)! What's on your menu this week? Have you checked out everything playing a long with Laura from the Organizing Junkie? Thanks for stopping by - see you again next week!

July 11 to July 17

Monday: Cajun Chicken Caesar Pita Wraps
Tuesday: Gramma's Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
Wednesday: My Birthday! The boys are ordering in Chinese for me!
Thursday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Spinach Salad
Friday: Nuggets & Fries
Saturday: A Taste of Thailand featuring Thai Cabbage Salad, Thai Satays, steamed rice, Thai Iced Tea with mango ice cream for dessert!
Sunday: Hamburgers and chips

Note: Underlined menu items have the recipes posted below.

Spinach Salad
5 cups baby spinach, torn to bite size pieces
4 large white mushrooms, sliced
2 to 4 hard boiled eggs, diced
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

4 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix well - until sugar is dissolved

Mix salad ingredients well - tossing with 2 to 4 tsp of Olive Oil. Coat with dressing and toss again.

Friday, July 8, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing: A Family Affair

As a Mom, I'm extra proud to write my post this week. Over at the Org Junkie, Laura posted about getting your kids involved in the organizing and cleaning process, and well, that is one thing we've done and done extra well!

My son is a helper. I don't know why, but from the time he started walking, he wanted to be involved with everything we do. And I don't think that this is unusual, but I think our approach towards his interest was. Initially, we started letting him help empty the dishwasher. He'd hand plates or silverware to us to put away. As he got taller, he'd do the silverware himself. It didn't (and still doesn't) always get put in the right bin in the drawer but his sense of pride and accomplishment made neither of us worry about the little details.


His curiosity grew and we fostered it. Want to wash clothes? Ok... Want to help vacuum and mop? Ok... Dust, making beds, changing sheets, cooking, baking and yard work can all be added to his resume. He cleans bathrooms, windows and mirrors.


We made the fortunate decision years ago to do away with all harsh cleaning chemicals and toxic yard care products so allowing him to help weed, cut the lawn (we use a reel mower) and dig dandelions was easy. The one modification we did make to our cleaning ritual was to give him a bottle of clean water to spray to clean the bathroom - although we used just vinegar and water, we quickly learned that anyone under two years will spray it in their eyes.


I've gotten a few comments and questions about allowing my son to cook and bake. Firstly, when I started back to work, he needed "Mommy time" when I got home each night. We'd play or cuddle for 10 minutes or so before we started to prepare the (preplanned) meal. And then, together, we started to cook.

Was it time consuming? For sure! Did he listen? Not always and we occasionally ended up with a few unexpected additions to our food but ask him now to get any ingredient and he knows where it is and what it looks like (this has really come in handy since he and his Dad have taken to baking while I'm at work)!


We've had muffins with nearly a full bottle of vanilla and cookies with an extra shake of baking soda. He loves to add spice and does so whenever he can. We've had flour everywhere and he's learned it's not wise to blow on the dry ingredients with your eyes open. More than a few eggs have ended up on the floor and there has only been a couple times were we've eaten egg shells. Cocoa is very sticky and it doesn't wipe well. Extra yeast just makes things puffier and guess how many holes you can poke in a pizza crust before Mommy gets mad? He slices and dices (but please, not the strawberries), stirs and measures. Although he has his own special knife (made and purchased specifically for little kids) he's moving up to small pairing knives because his just frustrates him because it doesn't cut like mine.


We've learned just how much water to put in a mop bucket of a two year old and as he's gotten older, he can have a regular full bucket because he knows he can't slop water everywhere. He vacuums like a machine and actually came home from our holidays, grabbed the duster and began dusting. He told us the house was 'very dusty'.


I've been asked if others can borrow him so they can teach their children (young and adult) - I love that he loves helping and I'm hoping that by involving him in the family matters that he'll learn to be organized in a way I am not!

I'm going to try the Scavenger Hunt Laura wrote about over at Organizing Your Way and see if we can't get into a regular tidy-up the toys routine!

This weekend I'm heading back into the Trenches and will be finishing one of my big tasks... Thanks for stopping by and remember to get your kids involved today to teach them good things for tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

We-Design-Day: Mother Nature's Canvas

Written on June 27 while on holidays in Jasper National Park, Jasper, Alberta Canada
All images can be clicked on to show the full size image. All images copyright Blackstone Images.

Have you ever been told "OH! That clashes!" or "It doesn't go together!"?

As we walked along the high banks of the Athabasca River today, I looked at the world around me.

Photobucket The Athabasca River

The icy blue-white of the rushing river, the mottled brown silt shores, boulders of grey flecked with rusty orange... Rocks of green ,pink and black. Green trees, blue juniper berries, moss and grass green sprinkled with pink, yellow, white and red wild flowers.

Photobucket Alberta's Provincial Flower (the wild rose)

It was an eclectic rainbow of colours. All mashed together in the most pristine and perfect landscapes I've ever witnessed. It all wen "together" like each colour was hand selected by Mother Nature herself. Of course she didn't, but her work is perfection.

Photobucket Dead tree in the campground

Have you ever considered colouring your world with the beauty of nature? Sprinkling the room with bursts of sunshine yellow, dots of reds, pinks on a canvas of browns and blues? There are so many exquisite colours in nature - why don't more of them make it onto our walls and fabrics?

If you live North of the 49th parallel like I do, it's dark here a lot. The cold grey November skies would look less bleak in a yellow kitchen! In our previous home, I painted my kitchen yellow. Baby chick yellow. it was bright, sunny and warm. And I know we spent many years enjoying that kitchen and the colour. Everyone commented what a bold choice it was to make. I paired it with crisp white cabinets and accented it all with a dark crisp green. It wasn't a designers dream - I wasn't a designer at the time - I just liked colour and I enjoyed the way the room made me feel.

Photobucket Yellow Wildflower (see the tiny hornet?)

Colour is a personal choice. But before discounting a colour, take a look outside your window and see how Mother Nature has painted the landscapes around you. Much inspiration can be found by just stopping and soaking up the beauty around us.

Photobucket TroubleMaker hamming it up!

Menu Plan Monday - Recipe Review!

I decided it would be nice to review the "new recipes" I try on my Menu Plans. Nothing bothers me more than trying a recipe and wondering if it is good or not. Taste is subjective, of course, and everyone's cooking skills vary.

This week, I changed our Meal Plan up on the fly. I had planned another dish - a cold tortellini Caesar Salad - but late in the afternoon, I just wasn't feeling (or tasting it)... So I jumped online and did a couple of quick, random searches.

Often when I change my mind like this, I use words like "quick" or "easy" because I want something PRONTO and do not want to spend days prepping and cooking my meal. We are fortunate that no one in our house has food allergies or any serious "dislikes" of food (well, I don't like tomatoes, but that's weird story - you'll see why in a second).

I decided on Tortellini in Creamy Tomato Mushroom Sauce for the main course. The selection criteria included:

  • had the ingredients on hand

  • minimal work

  • simple and easy to put together

  • short cooking time

I didn't want the standard Caesar Salad to accompany the dish - we'd just a Caesar Salad on Sunday (for dinner) and it felt like a bread. But I dislike the waiting times for usual yeast breads. Then I found this Soft Bread Sticks. It doesn't have yeast, reviews were good and I read a few of the comments so I could incorporate the tastes of my family.

I got home at 4:50 and started cooking with in 10 minutes (so 5).

I commenced the sauce first. Because I am not a tomato fan, I like to cook tomato things a little longer so they break down more and get mushy.

Tomato Cream Sauce
What I did differently:
- Used only about 1/4 of an onion, finely diced. Our dog generally always has a small bit of our dinner on his kibble and onions are toxic for dogs.
- Used one can (398mL) of diced tomatoes with their juices. We further cut them up with scissors.
- Used a can of sliced mushrooms, drained and rinsed. It struck me as weird to have 'shrooms in this sauce. After making it mushrooms, I will, in future completely omit them as they add no benefit to the recipe taste wise.
- Added 1/2 a yellow pepper, diced. Next time, I will add more peppers. Probably a whole red and yellow pepper.
- I added 1 to 2 tablespoons of DRIED basil and 2 tsp of DRIED oregano in place of the fresh.
- I added about a can full of 1% milk instead of the 1 cup of Evaporated milk. I may have added a touch more too because it thickened quickly and we like our sauce a little thinner.
- Added more salt - about 1/2 tsp? I season a lot to taste.
- Used a blend of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano Cheese. This is the one I used. It is expensive ($6.99 for the canister shown, but I do feel it is worth it).
- Used tortellini instead of ravioli

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 5

Soft Bread Sticks
What I did differently:
- Scaled the recipe for 8 servings (all ingredients below are based on the up scaled number of servings)
- Used only 1/2 a tablespoon of sugar
- Used 1 to 2 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of dried oregano
- Melted more margarine (oh, yes, I used marg instead of butter)
- Hand kneaded the dough until I got a sticky dough. TroubleMaker helped. he likes to toss it on the counter.
- Rolled the dough into "snakes"
- Poured about 1/2 the marg in the bottom of my cookie sheet
- Placed the "snakes" on the sheet and brushed them with the rest of the melted marg
- Sprinkled very generously with garlic powder, black pepper and oregano. And finally, added a sprinkle of the same cheese mixture used in the pasta sauce.
- Baked at 455 for 14 minutes. My oven is SLOW and doesn't heat properly so most people wouldn't' have to cook this long.

Ease of Prep: 5
Make again: 5

These were the best "no yeast" bread stick I've ever eaten. They had a bread like texture and taste. They are even better cold the next day. I was amazed at the simplicity and taste and would highly recommend this recipe!

Overall, the recipes tried last night were simple, easy and quick. Because I always cook with my three year old, it takes longer but we were seated and eating by 6 o'clock. If I didn't have my little helper, we probably would have saved 20 minutes.

Because I just decided to do this as I was eating last night's leftovers for lunch, I neglected to take a picture of these recipes. I will be more diligent in the future!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Should Recognition be your Ignition?

I think we all get days like today... Mine just happened to be a Monday. I don't blame you, Monday, but really, was it necessary to make today, today?

I get down - really down sometimes. And I don't know why I call it "down" - truly, it's just a low in my depressed state. I guess it's like my Gramma's depression being called "nerves" - suicide attempts and hospitalization and they just called it "nerves"... Go figure...

Anyway, today was one of those days. Just bleak and grey and lonely and sad and the cool kid stole my candy kind of days. Cold pizza and grapefruit couldn't cheer today up. Chips may have helped but it never occurred to me to go find any... None the less, it seems when I get these lows, people I know post inspirational quotes on their Facebook status.

You were born an original. Don't die a copy.
~ John Mason

This made me sadder still. I don't know why - perhaps because I struggle with my identity : Who I am versus who I want to be versus who I think I should be. The phrase "Authentic Self" keeps popping into my head. On one hand, I believe that phrase is junk. Authentic self - how can one be anything but authentic... Then on the other hand, I think I don't think I understand this - because if I do, I'm truly one of the most unauthentic people I know. I am the image of who everyone thinks I should be... Which is the key descriptor of "Fictional Self".

Where did I get lost? Or did I? Was my shining, new self tarnished by childhood drama? Do I blame my parents (FYI - I don't - just theorizing here)? Television? Media? A plugged-in world? Was I suppressed, oppressed and depressed? How did I get here? Bad choices, uninformed choices? Why did I chose to lead my life as the vision of how others see me (or is it just how I think others see me)? How do I be more 'me' without offending, upsetting or destroying all that is my life now?

Dr. Phil seems to think he has the answers. Or at least if I buy his book, I will have them (in complete detail, his website just has teasers). Like this one:

1. Did you at one time listen carefully to your innermost voice? Describe this moment. When was it and what was the circumstance? Do you suspect that somehow, somewhere along the way, you have lost contact with it?

Yes. The last time I heard a voice, I was taken away... In all seriousness, don't we quell the inner voice during childhood? Don't say this, don't do that - we all tell our children. And when they ask why, we say "Well, we don't do x or y because..." enter the fallacy here. In reality, we don't play with our penis at the dinner table because it's rude. We don't say to Mommy "Why do you have this lump?" when he's pointing out one of the many rolls of baby fat you haven't lost yet because it'll hurt her feelings. We can all argue why these two examples aren't done - we'll say it isn't nice or polite or what good people do.

Reality is, all of it is a convention set up by someone else. It isn't how any of us start out living our lives. Kids call things as they see them. They are authentic because they haven't been told different.

My son is very social. Embarrassingly social. His father and I are introverted. Having our son speak to every person imaginable causes a high level of anxiety in both my husband and me. I don't like talking to people I don't know... Mostly because I'm afraid of looking stupid and of bothering them. I'm not sure of my husband's motivation but I know mine. My skin crawls when I have to talk to people I don't know. My hands sweat, I get nervous. It bugs the hell out of me.

But I have a social, outgoing, gregarious child who must - must say hi and bye to everyone he sees. Everyone. I'm not exaggerating. We stopped in to buy a drink and a snack on our way home, he had to talk to the store clerks and the two other patrons in the store. Grocery shopping on Sunday, every person we saw, he greeted with a smile and a "Hi!" When they don't answer, he says it louder. And when they still don't answer, he says "Mommy, why didn't that man/woman hear me?!"

I've started telling him "Some people aren't as friendly as you." I say it in my normal speaking voice. I also have never shushed him for doing it.

You see, what he is doing is fine. There isn't anything wrong with talking to people. Looking at people or asking questions. I like that he's outgoing. I like that he's confident and believes in himself. I like his authenticity and I'm not going to go out of my way to hamper that.

Sure, I'll tell him not to play with his penis at the table, but I will not shush his innermost voice. Even if it's my feelings he hurts. When he asked if my rolls contained more Mummy milk I just told him that every person is different and special and we should celebrate and encourage those differences.

He then likened the differences to dinosaurs - specifically dinosaur excrement... (this video will only play for those in the USA - YouTube has poor quality videos of the same episode).

So where was I going with this? I don't know. I started off sad and melancholy and thought I'd wax poetic about life and the great tragedies... But as I started to examine this idea of self, I looked to my inspiration - my son - and it's like the light found me. His innocence and youth are my guides and although I don't know the answers or even my path forward, I know that I'll find the way.

Here are a few other points to ponder. They all got me sad today but rereading them tonight, I don't feel quite the same way. Maybe it's because I'm wearing my three year old goggles. ;)

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another. ~James Matthew Barrie

There is just one life for each of us: our own. ~Euripides

There are only two great tragedies in life: one is never getting what you want. The second IS getting what you want. ~ Oscar Wilde

And just in case you are wondering, the title of this post is from The Northern Pikes Big Blue Sky.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Summer has come!

NOTE: July 6 Update... I decided to try something new - I changed the meal Tuesday (as I was not feeling what I planned) and thought it would be nice to post a "New Recipe Review" the day after it was tried. I will be labelling all "new" recipe selections so check back the day after the meal was scheduled for a review!

Ahhhh... I feel all zen and relaxed and refreshed. Our holidays were absolutely amazing! We ate like kings (thanks to my Dad and step-Mom for keeping our bellies filled and the dishes done), slept like giants, and made like sloths for seven incredible days. There wasn't a care in the world except wondering what snack to eat next.

That's not 100% true - I dug more dirt and piled rocks and sticks and pine needles that I've ever done in my life. I chased balls, named squirrels and explained that Jasper was not home to dinosaurs and had to give a brief geography lesson to my three year old on why we could not just drive to see the big T-Rex he climbed to the top of last year. I wrote and wrote and wrote (posts coming soon) and had time to think, reflect and appreciate nature at it's finest. I even had time for a little shopping in town with my Mom (who drove up for the day).

My husband was perfecting the art of photographing wildlife. Thankfully, the wildlife was unusually cooperative! Twelve black bears, many mountain goats, elk - mommies, babies and bucks and even a few deer posed for his camera. He even got some amazing shots of people cliff diving! Once he gets them processed, I'll post them in the coming weeks along with the posts I wrote (on paper, no less, while we were camping).

It's going to be a tough week - getting back into the groove of getting up at 6am but I feel positive and recharged - my holiday was just what I needed!

It's July here - the only month I've not seen snow in (well, I have - at higher elevations - but none has fallen on my grass during this month) - which means it's HOT. I like summer because I get to experiment with all kinds of new salads and sandwich combinations and foods that don't require me to turn on my oven! Well, except for today because we ran out of propane for the BBQ as I was toasting the garlic buns for dinner! Here is all our yummy salad and barbecue goodness for the coming week!

July 4 to July 10

Monday: Chicken Salad Sandwiches with veggies & dip
Tuesday: Tortellini in Creamy Tomato Mushroom Sauce with Bread Sticks
Wednesday: Waldorf Tuna Sandwiches & Raspberry Salad
Thursday: BBQ Pork chops with Spinach Salad
Friday: Weeknight Lasagna Toss
Saturday: Hamburgers
Sunday: Chicken Burgers

Note: Underlined menu items have the recipes posted below.

Thanks for popping in and for more fabulous menu planning ideas, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Raspberry Salad
Lettuce - combination of leaf, head and red leaf lettuce
Craisins (optional)
Pine nuts
Snap peas
Baby carrots

Toss all ingredients together and use Kraft's Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing to dress to taste.

Spinach Salad
5 cups baby spinach, torn to bite size pieces
4 large white mushrooms, sliced
2 to 4 hard boiled eggs, diced
4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

4 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix well - until sugar is dissolved

Mix salad ingredients well - tossing with 2 to 4 tsp of Olive Oil. Coat with dressing and toss again.


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