Monday, November 29, 2010

MPM #30

Holy cow, it's November 29th! Can you believe that? Where did November go?!

This past week was good, except TroubleMaker was quite sick for most of it! Although I am glad I was able to take time off to stay home and take care of him (and nurse my cold back to normal). Our menu changed just a little bit as Saturday night I went for dinner with my super fantastic "other" Mother (aka Mom #2, aka the Woman who finally tamed my Dad). ;-) After the dinner, we attended Bedouin Bedlam and OMG, if I wasn't already totally addicted to my belly dancing class, I would be now and I'm wondering how I can sign up for MORE classes!! What a fantastic evening of dance!

The menu highlight from last week was the Bacon Cheeseburger Roll Ups and after a rather yummy lunch out with my Husband and TroubleMaker on Thursday, we bumped the menu around and I didn't try the Italian Chicken (if you did, let me know how it was). This week is all about yummy Winter comfort food... Enjoy!

November 29 to December 5

Monday Meat loaf with oven potatoes
Tuesday Bacon & cheese scrambled eggs on toast
Wednesday Crock pot Beef stew w/ biscuits
Thursday Chicken & Mushroom Linguine
Friday Tacos/taco salad
Saturday Pizza Party!
Sunday Crock pot meatballs on Spatchel

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We-Design-Day - Interview Yourself!

After our brief look at the History of Design on last week’s We-Design-Day, I’m anxious and really excited to work through the ‘process’ and get into construction phase of my project! But I know I have to slow down, plan carefully and prepare. The easiest way for a project to go off the rails is to get too ahead of one’s self and get lost in the excitement. It may seem long and labourious to work through and understand the steps but after we get through this project, the next one will fly by!

Since I’ve been doing what I do for several years, the process is pretty much automatic but as I decided to revise our original renovation plan to accommodate the numerous lifestyle changes we’ve had, I decided to go back to the beginning so I can share, explain and work through the design process step by step. This shouldn’t be taken as an exhaustive lesson – it’s just my understanding and observances of the process I use.

During my training, I learned a two phase, eight step approach – this isn’t necessarily the way all designers work but it is the method I know and have employed on the majority of my projects.

We’ll start by looking at “Phase One – Analysis”. The four steps noted in the above diagram are pretty simple; this phase is the programming and planning. It is all about learning the (design) problem, understanding the problem, defining the scope and establishing the parameters (of the project).

As I worked on this week’s edition, I contemplated the value of describing each of the steps mentioned above and then working through them… but since there are a myriad of good texts on the subject and a wealth of information already on the Internet; I decided to just work on the process here. If you’d like additional information, let me know as I’ve got some information written that I’d be happy to share.

When a person decides to make a change, it is obvious to them why. They are tired of the look, the function of the space doesn’t suit the present need or perhaps their family has changed and they need more space.

About five years ago, I started looking at making changes to the family room in our basement. I know I had floor plans and a preliminary budget and even had a mock-up of the colour boards but because it was so long ago our needs have changed.

We’ve gotten married, had a baby and my husband has changed careers. So many changes to our lives and our lifestyle make our initial plans out of date with our current needs! So I need to step back and reevaluate my plan. I’ve found that although I can do charts and checklists and matrices in my initial programming, one of the most effective tools I’ve ever used to tour the space with the homeowner (in the case of a residential project) or sit in a meeting room and discuss plans, ideas and ‘wish lists’ with commercial clients (and of course, tour a space if it’s a renovation). Spending ten minutes listening to someone can tell you an awful lot about a person and how they use and see a space.

So I ‘toured’ my basement with me, the homeowner. Below is that conversation…

“This is our basement – excuse the mess… it’s usually a little tidier!” I bend over to pick up a kid’s sock, a toy car and a piece of wooden train track. All of which I toss into a red plastic toy bin. “Ugh – the carpet, sorry – it’s a bad combination to have kids and carpet!” I look at design me and shrug. “This is the main space and this is the only TV in the house. We spend the majority of our time down here – watching TV, listening to music, playing with our son.”

”Is it just the three of you?” Design me asks.

“And our dog, of course! My Mom comes in every so often and my mother in law stays over at Christmas.”

”Do you have parties or entertain?”

“Oh no. Not really. Kids birthday parties, Christmas dinners and we hosted our wedding reception down here!”


“We play darts and a have a few drinks too – we’d like the area to be multi-use and heavy on the kid friendly. It has to be flexible too. Comfy for relaxing and pretty casual. Our cat breaks anything she can knock over. If you look in here, this is presently my husband’s office. He works from home and does all his photo editing and such here. As you can see, it’s full with his equipment and we’d like to move him to my office across the way and make this room part of the main room with my sewing and design studio and a family computer area.” I’d lead Design Me across the small hallway and open the door to my current office.

“This will hopefully be my husband’s new office space and table top photo studio. Oh – we also need to accommodate the odd photo shoot in the family room too… And we need prop storage. His main computer will be in here too. We also have a queen size inflatable bed we set up for guests as this room currently also doubles as a guest room.”

”Would you consider dual purpose furniture?”

“Uhm… Ideally, no – most of it is junk that breaks down after too few uses!”


So in just a few minutes, I’ve gleaned the following:

Kid friendly
Entertaining/games space
Toy storage
Sewing area/storage
Quiet office/small scale studio
Spare room/guest space

From the tour, I’ve also noted that the family has a lot of books and CD’s – all presently well stored but deconstructing the space will require a relocation of the books. They also have several guitars and an electronic piano – I’d ask more about both and how the family sees them in the space.

The thing I have learned in my years in the business is that for most renovation projects, the homeowners (or store/business owners) have a good idea of what they want but often lack the ability or even the desire to pull it all together and they second guess their choices and decisions. No one really knows how a space is used then those who interact with it daily. A designer can look at the space objectively as they have no attachment or preexisting ideas of how the space should be used. Pairing an open eye with the intimate knowledge the homeowners bring, often work very well in creating a well planned space that will fulfill the needs and goals of the client.

A designer can also bring a sense of reality to a project. From a home owner’s perspective, I want to pack in a whole bunch of stuff in what is really a fairly small and already defined space – more than the space can realistically handle. Adding too much will cause confusion, clutter and will not bring the relaxing environment the ‘client’ wants. This, I already know, is an answer I don’t want to hear – I want everything packed in, but it won’t work and I’ve been arguing with myself about it for too many years now.

So, take a tour of your space and see what you learn. Be “you” the homeowner and “you” the designer and see what your space tells you.

Next week, we’ll look at starting to sort out what you’ve learned and developing the program.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Life of Daydreams

While perusing the blogs over at The Organic Sister’s Inspiration Monday, this post got me thinking about how I’m just wading along in the water, waiting for my life to start happening. Like Cynthia at A Life Profound, I’m very tethered to reality and the obligations that I must uphold for my family, my son, and to keep my place in the world. But every single day, I dream. If I didn’t have my day dreams, I’m not sure how I could survive.

I day dream continually throughout my waking day – dreaming about all the things I can do when I get home, the writing I can do at my lunch hour and coffee breaks at work. I dream about our RV and camping. I dream about the aspirations and desires I have to start my own home-based business and how I have loftier ambitions to get back to designing with Blue Door Interiors (my design company).

I see inspiration here and wonder how I can make such beautiful art. I see my friend creating his own Graphic Novel and am inspired by his talent and his drive. I see my own husband’s beautiful photography and wish that he had time to do more.

I wish I had more time to do more baking of delectable treats with TroubleMaker. I wish I was more organized and that my house was tidier.

But then while surfing channels last night, TroubleMaker and I came across this and I got a face full of perspective and as my son swayed to the beat and tried to sing along, I realized I am here, I am alive - and so is my son. And we can continue to dream and plan...

And that, my friends, was the truest inspiration of my week.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MPM # 28

What a good week. I think I've 'invented' the best soup in the world - I tossed a bunch of stuff into a pot (as I usually do) to make my Minestrone and this week my friends, I hit the mark and I wrote it down!

Reviewing our menu this week, I 'chickened' out (hahahaha) and didn't make the Angel Chicken but we did try Beef with Snow Peas and it was good but do try the sodium reduced soy sauce as it was very salty (and I used none of the extra salt called for). We also decided we'd pair it with spring rolls and plum sauce to compliment the salty. Saturday night I went all out and made Ginger Beef, sweet & sour ribs and fried rice!

November 22 to 28

Monday Bacon Cheeseburger Roll Ups
Tuesday Fettuccine Alfredo with ham
Wednesday BBQ Beef Sandwiches
Thursday Chicken nuggets & fries
Friday Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Saturday KD & fishsticks
Sunday Italian Chicken (Slow Cooker)

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup milk (or cream)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt margarine and cream over low heat. Once melted add salt and pepper and then cheese. Heat well but do not boil. Serve over freshly cooked fettuccine noodles.

Italian Chicken
3 med chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut in half
1-15oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1- 14oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
1-9oz package frozen artichoke hearts
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 package vegetable soup mix
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup Italian salad dressing

1. Combine beans, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and soup mix in a large slow cooker. Place chicken on top. Stir together condensed soup and Italian dressing, pour over chicken, spreading evenly.
2. Cover; cook on low heat setting 5 to 5.5 hours. Transfer chicken to serving plates using tongs or slotted spook. Stir artichoke mixture in cooker, spoon over chicken on plates. Makes 8 servings.
Original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Ginger Beef
From the Best of Bridge: Grand Slam
1 lb. flank steak
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup water
vegetable oil
2/3 cup grated carrots
2 Tbsp. chopped green onion (or more to taste)
4 Tbsp.(1/4 cup) minced ginger root (or more)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. cooking wine – Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp hot chili oil or crushed red chili flakes

Slice steak while partially frozen into narrow strips. Mix beef and eggs. Dissolve cornstarch in water and mix with beef. Pour ample oil in wok. Heat to boiling hot, but not smoking. Add beef to oil, 1/4 at a time. Separate with a fork (or chopsticks if you’re talented) and cook, stirring frequently until crispy. Remove, drain and set aside. (This much can be done in advance)
Put 1 Tbsp. oil in wok. Add carrots, onion, ginger and garlic and stir fry over high heat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Sweet & Sour Spare Ribs
2 racks of short spare ribs
1/2 cup flour
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups vinegar
3 cups water

Combine flour, brown sugar, vinegar and water. Whisk to combine. Slice ribs into small individual pieces. Toss in sauce. Cook at 325 F for 2 to 3 hours until meat is done and receded from Bone. Can be halved and freezes well.

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We-Design-Day: Design 101 – A Guide to Interior Design

In conjunction with the changes I’m working on trying to make to my blog, I’ve been working on a couple of serial articles to share. One of which is a regular, weekly feature on interior design. My hope is to provide anyone with an interest a kind of “insider’s look” at small scale design and renovation projects. I’d like to share my knowledge and experience and make it a true ‘how to’ so I can help demystify an interesting and very popular vocation.

My intent is to share some of the history and principals of interior design and work through the process of a project from beginning to end. Having worked in the field for many years, I can provide insight on the construction process, how to hire a designer and general contractor, what to do when things go wrong and how to make changes on the ‘fly’.

So over the coming weeks, my company, Blue Door Interiors, will be sponsoring the “We-Design-Day ” articles and I’ll take you through the entire process of a (small) renovation project from conception to completion. Along the way, I’ll provide some Design 101 education, answer any questions you have, provide free tips and ideas and I’m planning a give-a-way or two as well!

Without further adieu, let’s get We-Design-Day underway!

When I decided to quit my ‘day job’ and return to school, I was 26 years old. I’d spent my late teens and early 20’s in the retail and middle management jobs and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I had the good fortune of being able to examine what I wanted to be when I “grew up” – I’d worked in a few different fields, had experience in what I liked (and didn’t like) and got to pick my profession. Most people don’t get that luxury so I am very thankful that my delinquent youth proved to be useful for something!

During my education and work experience, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my tastes, and my design style. I don’t follow fashion and I’m not a follower of trends. I firmly believe that the most appropriate solution for the problems I’ve faced in my career are generally the ones best suited to those who seek them.

And by that I mean it is certainly possible to design for today and accessorize with the latest trends and colours and I certainly can make your home look like the page of a magazine. But coupled with my love for interior design is a love for the environment and blending sustainable design with interior design for me go hand in hand – my first school project taught me that (I specified a compostable toilet, much to the horror of my professor)! I’m about function and form and reusing, reducing and even recycling when designing. We all want our homes to be a reflection of us and the way we live – good design can be attained by combining a good understanding of how a space functions and how the people who use the space live.

I’m about real design for real people.

This week, I’d like to share a few staple pieces of interior design information regarding the history, evolution and some definitions. My first year of design was tough. I’ve never memorized so many things in my life! Included in that memorization was the ‘definition’ of what Interior Design is… It only has changed a little bit from what I memorized and I see I’ve been ahead of my time as they now mention “sustainable design” in the definition.

Interior design is a multi-facet profession in which creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to achieve a built interior environment. These solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life and culture of the occupants and are aesthetically attractive. Designs are created in response to and coordinated with the building shell and acknowledge the physical location and social context of the project. Designs must adhere to code and regulatory requirements and encourage the principles of environmental sustainability. The interior design process follows a systematic and coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into the creative process, whereby the needs and the resources of the client are satisfied to produce and interior space the fulfills the project cools. Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public. Definition provided by the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification) NCIDQ

To find where “interior design” and “interior decoration” started, one must look a long way back in time… One could say it even started when the first people furnished their caves with pelts and painted the walls, although pelts were functional and the paintings area theorized to be everything from trance drawings by Shaman to methods of communication, it still improved the interior living spaces. When the first peoples started building shelter for themselves, it all began to take form. At that time, however, the exterior and the interior were thought of in unison and as “one” space. As we (man) evolved from grass huts, the building envelope (the exterior of the buildings) strongly influenced the interior shape and function of an area.

The common use of the term “Interior Design” was not accepted into popular use until after the Second World War. Prior to the Second World War, and only really dating back to the late 1800’s, the design of an interior was often encapsulated within the architecture of the building as a whole. Any application to interiors was commonly referred to as interior decoration and specifically regarded only the application of surface ornamentation, colour, furnishings and accessories.

After WWII, a divide began to take place between the ornamentation of a space and how the space worked. This split is where the shape of Interior Design truly began to emerge as a valid and respected part of the built environment (and more than just throw pillows and wall paper).

But today, throw pillows and wall paper are all still a part of it! But I think that’s enough information for one week… Come back for the next We-design-day next week when we start down the process of designing your own environment!

I'd like to give a special "shout" to Clever by Design for helping me so many years ago with my logo and company image! I'm so excited to finally be at a point in my life where I can again fly the banner of the Blue Door Interior name!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MPM # 27 - with recipes from this week and last week!

It's Sunday evening and we just finished the last meal of my MPM # 26. The meal was "Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya" (recipe below). It was not a hit - none of us enjoyed it (and my Husband and I do like Cajun). Friday's Chinese Takeout Lemon Chicken was well received but I found it bland and uninspired. Monday's "Meatloaf" turned into a Grilled Cheese night as I was sick in bed with a migraine. The hamburger was used on Tuesday on an impromptu "Salisbury Steak a la Corrie". Our pizza party was a great hit (as it always is) and the pizza was extra tasty this week (even if I thought the crust was going to be TOUGH). The minestrone soup is back on the menu this week as Mom, TroubleMaker and I went for a late lunch out on Thursday and our tummies were too full for soup!

I promised the recipe for my "Chicken Pita Wraps" and I've included it below too.

Here is what is on tap at our house this week. My glorious four day weekend is coming (too quickly) to an end but what can you do?

November 15 to 21

Monday Pork Medallions with Cranberry Stuffing
Tuesday Crock pot Angel Chicken with pasta
Wednesday Minestrone Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Thursday Beef with Snow Peas over rice
Friday to be determined
Saturday to be determined
Sunday Roast beef with potatoes & carrots

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya
1 lg onion, chopped
1 cup celery, sliced
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can chicken broth
1/2 can tomato paste
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tsp Cajun seasoning
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken, cut into 3/4" pieces
2 cups instant rice
8 oz cooked & deveined shrimp
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1. Combine onion, celery, tomatoes, broth and tomato paste. Add Worcestershire sauce and Cajun seasoning in a slow cooker. Stir in the chicken.
2. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours (or high for 2.5 to 3 hours). Stir in rice, shrimp and peppers. Cover and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Adapted from an original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Salisbury Steak a la Corrie
1 lb hamburger
1/2 roll (approx. 40 crackers) saltines
1 egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine above ingredients and form into 6 large, thin hamburger like patties.

Brown each side in a large frying pan. When browned, add two cans of Franco's Beef Gravy. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until patties are cooked through.

Serve on toasted Texas sliced bread.

Chicken Pita Wraps

3 med. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Season salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley
1/2 cup water
1/2 red pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 green pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 red onion, sliced into rings
1/4 cup Italian salad dressing

6 Greek style pitas
Crumbled feta
4 lg leaves of Romaine
2 or 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup Miracle Whip
1 to 2 tsp Minced garlic
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Combine all dressing ingredients well and refrigerate until dinner time.

1. Poach chicken in a large frying pan - when party cooked, sprinkle with seasonings to taste. Turn and season other side. Continue cooking until water evaporates and breasts brown slightly.

2. When cooked, slice into thin strips. Continue or refrigerate until dinner time.

3. Saute peppers and onions until tender, add chicken and warm. When nearly done, add dressing. Cover and heat through.

4. Warm pitas in oven. When warm, 'butter' pita with dressing, add chicken filling and top with fillings. Fold in half and enjoy!

Minestrone Soup

8 cups water
4 tbsp Beef or Vegetarian bouillon
14 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
1/2 cup onion, diced

14 oz can kidney beans or Three Bean chili beans
2 cups green beans

1 cup pasta
1.5 tsp salt
1.2 tsp pepper

1. Saute onions & celery. When tender, add stock & carrots. Simmer about 20 minutes (or until carrots are nearly tender). Add both types of beans, return to a boil and cook until green beans are tender.

2. Add pasta and salt & pepper. Cook until pasta is tender.

You can also add a can of diced tomatoes but you will need to adjust the seasonings and REDUCE the amount of water (by about 1.5 cups) to enhance the flavour.

Angel Chicken
3 med chicken breasts, boneless & skinless, cut in half
1 8oz package of sliced white mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1 0.7 ounce package of dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 10 ounce can of Golden mushroom soup
1/2 dry white wine
1/2 an 8 ounce tub of cream cheese with chive and onion

1. Place chicken and mushrooms in a crock pot. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, stir in dressing mix. Stir in soup, white wine and cream cheese until combined. Pour over chicken.

2. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

3. Serve chicken and sauce over rice or cooked Angel hair pasta

Original recipe from Better Homes & Garden's Special Interest Publication Slow Cooker Favourites 2008

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catching up - an apology!

This was one of those weeks - I was struck by my first and hopefully only migraine Monday afternoon... It rendered me powerless and paralyzed. I couldn't think, couldn't see and it hurt to even move a finger. The recipes for the week's menu sit unposted (I'm so sorry about that) and my design post slated for publishing Wednesday didn't get completed. Which also means my Thursday "Green" post isn't done either.

And then I went to log in to my Blog this morning only to find out my password has been changed - thankfully I set up alternative access and was able to recover my account.

So I will delay my design post and my green post and in light of it being Remembrance Day, thanks to our soldiers and our veterans - young, old and no longer with us - for their contribution.

Happy writing,
Brennan's Mom

Monday, November 8, 2010

MPM # 26

Welcome to another week! And what a sweet week it is - due to budgeting constraints at work, I get to have an extra (albeit unpaid) day off so it is a magnificent three day work week (as we Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day on the 11th of November)! And my Mom is coming to town on Wednesday... And it is finally SOUP weather! I didn't get to make my Corn Chowder last week as I apparently forgot we were out of CORN! Duh, for sure!

And my Husband got TroubleMaker's Halloween pictures processed so I can share those too!

We have a good menu this week - the past week's highlight was the Chicken Pita Wraps - a recipe, I'm proud to say, I completely made up as I went along. I'll share the recipe soon (I'm still documenting it).

Here is what is on tap at our house this week - I'll add the rest of the recipes tonight.

November 8 to 14

Monday Meatloaf & oven roasted vegetables
Tuesday Tuna melts & salad
Wednesday Perogies & Sausage
Thursday Minestrone soup & grilled cheese sandwiches
Friday Chinese Takeout Lemon Chicken
Saturday Pizza Party
Sunday Crockpot Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going (more) Green Thursday!

As some of you may have noticed, I added a “badge” to my site last week (see, that’s it there on the right)… “I’m taking baby steps!” it says – Sustainable Baby steps towards living a more ‘green’ lifestyle. Tara over at the The Organic Sister has recently launched a really interesting website site that introduces green at an beginner's level and has different ‘steps’ one can take (with associated badges) to implementing, living and understanding the benefit of going green.

I know, I know – many will roll their eyes at “green” and “global warming” and all that, but for me, it is really important. I’ve always likened myself to somewhat of a steward for Mother Earth living as consciously as I can and taking steps to reduce my impact on the planet on which I live. Throughout the course of my 36 years, I’ve had different levels of success and there are some things I have adopted as “routine” for my life.

Some of the “green” things we do:
Chemical & pesticide free yard care and gardening
Used cloth diapers, wipes and nursing pads when our son was an infant/baby/early toddler (he's been out of diapers for months now)
Don’t use any chemical household cleaners
“Freecycle” objects that have more life (furniture, clothing, toys, household goods)
Public transit (to work)

And I know there are more things we do but also more things we could be doing and that’s where I’d like to go. I want to learn more and I want to do more. I want to understand the marketing that goes in to products and understand the real impact – both financially and environmentally.

The one concept that I was introduced to when I first visited Sustainable Baby steps was the idea of greenwashing I have to admit, I’d never heard of it before and I was concerned that it was perhaps a “made up” term – especially when I saw the first item on the list…

Paper Towel.

There are a few things I really like in life and paper towel is one of them. Now, I’m not all “Yes! Paper towel!” but I love it in the kitchen for clean-up and wiping my hands when handling (raw) meat. I went home that night and suggested the possibility of the made up term to my husband – and my reason – paper towel.
He looked at me with just a hint of surprise in his eye.

“Paper towels are like (enter brand name floor dusting device). A broom or vacuum does a great job but people buy them anyway.”

And I took a moment and realized he was right. But what would I use? Perhaps the stack of 20 tea towels I have that get used one or two per week? I argued the laundry factor (and now I’ll admit, I do not do the laundry in our house – my husband does) but he said the cost would be less – especially when you pay $2 (or more) a roll.

And this got me thinking.

Paper towels
Plastic baggies
Garbage bags
Paper napkins
Feminine napkins
Toilet paper
Disposable dish cloths
Plastic wrap
Wax paper
Disposable baking sheets
Cotton balls
Cotton ear swabs
Drinking straws

Those are 15 things that are single use items currently used in my home. And although we don’t often use paper napkins (we switched to cloth two years ago) the rest we do use and I have been using without much thought for a very long time.

I can tell you I will never give up toilet paper that, my friends, was a great invention. But what can I give up?

As I finish my lunch today and toss six (yes, six) plastic sandwich baggies in the garbage I think that can be one of my first “baby steps”. We run our dishwasher every night so utilizing (even plastic) lunch containers for my carrot sticks and another for my crackers would really bare no serious hardship, perhaps that is one thing I can “green” this week.

Can I “Green” one thing a week? I certainly am going to try – I have to, especially if I want there to be a tomorrow for TroubleMaker!

Baby step # 1 – reduce the use of plastic food storage bags

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

All good design starts with an idea

Anyone who knows me will tell you I not only pile stuff, but I collect, keep and even hoard stuff. I’ve watched episodes of the hoarding show and I laugh and joke with my Mom that my step-dad is a hoarder… I didn’t realize I’m prone to condition until I started to try and sew the back pack I wanted to make for TroubleMaker.

A few weeks ago, he found a button – not just any button but a button of a backpack. I have a sewing room and as a former manager of a sewing supply warehouse, I have lots and lots of sewing stuff… One of my obsessions when I worked there was buttons. We had an entire warehouse of buttons – think of a design and I used to be able to go to the bin and find it for you. I loved buttons and would buy packages and boxes of discount buttons so I have a fairly substantial collection… Although I have tried (and with some success) to give away, freecycle and even garbage a few hundred pieces of my collection, I still have many and my son honed in on this one and began to beg me to make him a ‘backpack’.

Saturday afternoon, with TroubleMaker playing next door, I did just that.
I have not sewn anything since I tried (early in the summer) to make TroubleMaker and I matching aprons to cook in (meaning they are cut out and ready just not sewn together). Stacked on top of the cutting table are photo albums and various craft items from a few miscellaneous projects.

Stacked would indicated order. None is present so I need a different word.

Really, it’s all heaped and piled haphazardly and even the slightest jar to the table sends things sliding in a catastrophic landslide! I shoved stuff aside and laid out the fabric I selected to use. I moved a stack of junk off the ironing board (onto the floor – the only space left) and began to work. Part way through the project, I thought of an improvement and I started to hunt for a slider I wanted to use to make the straps adjustable. I know I had them somewhere but I gave up after 20 minutes or so and finished his backpack – with fixed straps.

More than a year ago – we (meaning me and my husband) decided it would be a good idea to some remodeling downstairs. One of the major changes we decided on was to move my sewing room out from the ‘third bedroom’ and move his ‘mini’ studio into my sewing room. We decided to tear down the wall that encloses his current office to open it to the family room so I can sew and craft while TroubleMaker plays. This will also allow my Husband to leave his equipment set-up and consolidate his prop storage to one room instead of two (and sometimes three).

This will also mean I have to be tidier, more organized and unable to leave projects strewn about. That scares all of us as I’m not known for my organizational skills nor am I known for my ability of keeping my stuff in one area. But perhaps if I have a well orchestrated plan and with plenty of purging, I can complete this dream. I have sketched out a custom built storage unit and I know how I’ll arrange the furniture in the newly (deconstructed) space. I have plans for keeping TroubleMaker’s toys together and new plans for prop storage.

Custom Designed Storage Unit

A place for everything and everything in its place is the only way this can work.

The only way…

Check back next Wednesday as I take you through the design process and share a colour rendering and new floor plan of the proposed space!

I'd also like to thank my Husband (Blackstone Images) for making the pictures look so good - he did a good job of hiding the absolute disaster that my sewing study is... Thank you!

Monday, November 1, 2010

MPM # 25 - recipes added!

Happy November! I love it when a new week starts on the first of the month... Makes me feel very organized. ;) Although I don't have my entire month planned yet, I do have the first couple of weeks. I need to get back to doing it monthly as I see a difference in the grocery bills when I do. By planning monthly, I do the "eat free" one week idea. I take one week of the month (usually the last or second to last week) and use up food we have in the house. This reduces our bill (save for milk and fresh food during the 'free' week) and uses up the food I have in the house. I hope to have November planned and ready before we do the weekly shop!

Our menu was good this week, the hi-light being the Beef & Bean Burritos
I added red & green peppers to the meat mixture for extra veggies and rolled up the burritos (with help from TroubleMaker) with cheese in the middle. I topped with more grated cheese and popped in the oven to melt. I also warmed the enchilada sauce before drizzling it over the rolled up burritos.

We did 'trick or treat' with TroubleMaker in his fabulous home-made Cheetah costume and yes, I have pictures and will post this week! He looked ADORABLE! I've already started to plan a party for next year's Halloween... I am SO excited! I love Halloween and my sister and I used to through parties every year - now I have a child and doing a party (in the afternoon) for the kids seems like a super way to spend the day!

I hope you all have a great week and I look forward to catching up with you again next week!

November 1 to 7

Monday Fettuccine Alfredo with Caesar Salad
TuesdayCorn Chowder Soup with crackers & cheese (my husband has a photo shoot that night so it's just me and Troublemaker)
Wednesday (leftovers) Slow Cooker Pork on Rice
Thursday Egg wraps with tater tots
Friday Sweet & Sour Turkey meatballs with fried rice
Saturday Chicken Pita Wraps
Sunday Crock pot roast beef with vegetables

Cereal, toast, bagels, muffins, Pancakes, Bacon & Eggs

For more great ideas, recipes and lots of links, check out the Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Have a super week and see you next week!

PS I will be adding the recipes later today and tomorrow... it's been one of those weekend where there was too much to be done and not enough Blogging time!

Fettuccine Alfredo
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup milk (or cream)
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Melt margarine and cream over low heat. Once melted add salt and pepper and then cheese. Heat well but do not boil. Serve over freshly cooked fettucine noodles.

Corn Chowder

1 tsp Oil
1 Onion, chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups Veggie broth (chicken is ok too)
2 cups frozen corn
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf (optional)
Pinch of thyme
1-1/2 cups of 1 or 2% milk
Salt and pepper to taste

•In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onions and garlic. Cook until softened.
•Add flour, cumin, & pepper flakes, stir until moistened.
•Add broth, veggies, and remaining spices.
•Cover and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
•Remove bay leaf and stir in milk.
•Cover and simmer 10 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste.
•For a heartier chowder, “mash” soup with potato masher when veggies are tender.

Makes 4, 1 cup servings.


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