A Great Last Minute Gift Idea

I came home to an early Christmas present sent to me by my mother-in-law: a tea subscription from Amoda Tea! As a tea lover, I thought that was 9065506985_c300e77bed_zsuch a great gift idea. Their website says, “hand-picked tea samples delivered right to your door each month”. My first monthly sample box included a herbal, white, black and green tea. I can’t wait to give them all a try.

A tea subscription box never crossed my mind as a gift idea, and I thought it was such a great, original idea- especially if you have a hard to buy for person in your life.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

 

On Homesickness During the Holidays

 

Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for my hometown of Edmonton.

14181416367_4be45649bf_z

Source

I can’t pinpoint what, exactly, is making me feel these waves of homesickness. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been a while since I’ve been amongst old friends. Or maybe it’s the nostalgia of the holidays. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it is a simple fact of life that I will always define “home” as the place I grew up, and not the place I live.

Or maybe I’m just bad at living away from home.

I have a complicated relationship with being away from Alberta. On one hand, I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore a new city and meet new people. If I hadn’t lived in Kamloops, for instance, I would have never discovered my love for the outdoors. And, without living in Oakville, I would have never discovered how cathartic it is to live near a big body of water like Lake Ontario. Also- there’s no denying it- I’m grateful to live in a place with a shorter winter than Edmonton can offer.

IMG_4078

But the truth is l also feel conflicted about living away from home. That somehow I’ve compromised my values. I value family and I often feel sad that my children won’t experience what it is to have family close by. The ease of feeling connected to those you love when you see them regularly. It’s no coincidence that the Aunt I feel closest to, for instance, is the one I grew up living in the same city as.

But I also value adventure and the opportunity to explore new places and see new things. Living in a new city innately provides this opportunity.

These values of adventure and of family feel like opposing forces at times; for instance, when we are thinking about where to go on vacation. It is always a difficult decision about whether to explore new territory, or go visit family somewhere. With finite funds, the decisions become ridden with guilt and I often feel at odds with myself.

We had good reasons for moving here but I guess I’m still waiting for the moment when my values feel aligned with my decisions and I walk through the door and feel that I am “home”.

Until then, whenever I feel homesick, I ask myself one simple question: “If you could make the choice again, would you have doubts if you said no?“. The answer is always “yes”. Only when I ask myself that question do I feel I’m exactly where I need to be.

Do you live away from home? How do you deal with homesickness?

 

 

Erin’s Cookies

 

Growing up, going to my friend Erin’s house was pretty awesome. There were always fresh-baked monster cookies in the house and a mini-fridge full of pop. Like, every kind of pop- even Nestea. At the time, this was quite the novelty for me.

Erin seems to have continued the tradition of always having fresh-baked goods in the house, which I love. A while back (a serious while back since we haven’t lived in the same province in a year and a half!), I went to her house and she had made the most delicious cookies. I asked for the recipe and I thought I’d share it here today in case anyone still has their Christmas baking to do like me.

DSC_0394

Source

Warning: These are incredibly addictive.

Erin’s Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup corn flakes
  • 1 cup rice krispies
  • 1 package chocolate chips (I typically use just a cup or so, not a full package)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  • Cream butter and sugar
  • Add egg and vanilla
  • Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt
  • Stir in cereals and chocolate chips
  • Drop onto greased baking sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes

I hope everyone is having a great week!

Header image source

Our Christmas Traditions

Growing up, my hobbies included visiting show homes with my Mom, reading home decorating magazines, and watching A LOT of Trading Spaces on TLC.

I assumed, then, that when I grew up (still debatable), my home would look like those I had seen in the magazines, modern and full of coordinated furnishings and colour schemes. This would extend to the holiday season, of course, where my Christmas tree would be beautifully adorned with themed and coordinated ornaments. In other words, in my mind, my living room would look like this:

bhg Christmas Tree

Source

When I married my husband, however, we inherited a large sum of Christmas decorations that were not meant for designer consumption. Examples:

Christmas Decorations.jpg

At first I was perturbed since I doubted that Sarah Richardson had a South Park character hanging on her Christmas tree, but then I decided to just embrace my husband’s family tradition of the wacky tree and go forth. Every year now, we exchange a decidedly un-Martha Stewart ornament in our stockings and now our children are included in this tradition. We have a variety of super heros, Star Wars characters and Muppets hanging on our tree, plus some ornaments we’ve collected in our travels. It’s become our little family tradition.

Christmas Tree

 

Last year, we didn’t have any family visit at Christmas and I decided that we should start forging some more holiday traditions. That way, if my kids didn’t remember Christmases with a lot of family and friends around, at least they would remember their Christmases as filled with strong traditions. So, we decided on a few things we’ll do every Christmas Eve and they are:

  • Give the kids a new book and pyjamas the night before Christmas
  • Make homemade pizza
  • Watch A Muppet Family Christmas

I guess the cool thing about having your own family is that you can decide how you want to make your memories. We decided to combine some from our childhood with some new ones for our little foursome, even if it means I have a South Park character hanging on my tree.

What are your holiday traditions? Do you eat or drink anything special? I’d love to hear!

 

 

Pinterest Worthy Christmas Crafts for the Non-Pinterest Mom

I am not a Pinterest Mom.

You know that crafty and coordinated Mom, whose home is thoughtfully and creatively decorated for each holiday? No, that’s not me. Every once in a while, I feel the urge to make it me but then other priorities win out and my hot glue gun takes a back seat for another year.

“Maybe this Christmas will be different,” I say to myself, as I scroll through Pinterest’s carefully curated photos of domestic bliss.

And, if it is to be different this year, here are five easy crafts that even I think I could manage:

PicMonkey DIY Collage

(Source: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5)

Honeycomb Wreath – Side Benefit: It’s a great way to up-cycle old toilet paper rolls!

Red Ribbon Star – I think the hardest part of this project would be finding the right piece of wood. An easy project that provides a lot of decorating impact.

Baby Sock Advent Calendar – An adorable idea and a great alternative to purchasing a pre-made advent calendar every year. All that’s involved is a little bit of shopping.

Christmas Countdown Paper Chain – Because cutting out paper is definitely something I can do. Though I can’t promise I’ll cut straight.

Homemade Holiday Candles – Turns out making a candle is a lot easier than I thought. These would make great gifts as well.

Have you made any Christmas crafts this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

Header image via Flickr

Closet Desk Project

Recently, my parents came to Oakville to visit. That means it’s that time of the year when I order copious amounts of Ikea furniture in the hopes my Dad will put it all together for me. My Dad is a perfectionist so I prefer his handiwork to my husband’s (sorry, Paul).

10946608_1545914099006173_846945782_n
Nothing like “vacation”

Over the past year and a half that we have owned our 1960s home, we have done a lot of work to it, including undertaking some large renovations, but my son’s room has remained untouched. At age 5, he had outgrown the “kiddie” furniture still in his room and it was time to reorganize the space to improve its functionality.

Back in February my Dad had helped me turn our guest room closet into an office nook, and I knew a closet desk would work just as well in my son’s room. His closet was becoming a dumping ground for miscellaneous items, so turning it into a desk area makes much better use of the space.

10979724_1414646495500432_266328739_n
Our guest room closet turned office nook

I wish I had some “before” pictures of my son’s room but I can tell you his room is 100% more functional after turning his closet into a desk area and adding more storage along the wall.

Closet Desk

 

Shelves

I’m so pleased with the result.

Thanks to my parents for all the planning, building, reorganizing and errand running they did while on their “vacation”. You brought my vision to life and I am so thankful!

Now if only I could solve the storage problems in my own room…

P.S. Here was my inspiration for doing a closet desk in the first place!

 

My Favourite Childhood Dessert

My Aunt is famous for her desserts.

Growing up, I’d always look forward to going to her house for dinner and couldn’t wait to see what was for dessert. Chocolate and peanut butter ribbon loaf. Butter brickle pie. Oreo ice cream pie. I loved them all. But I especially loved her pistachio dessert.

This is one of those desserts where I actually feel embarrassed purchasing some of the ingredients. (Side note: Do you judge people by what they have in their grocery cart? Because I do.) But the shame of purchasing cool whip and pistachio pudding mix in all its artificial glory is worth it for this delicious crowd-pleasing dessert. It’s an indulgent one and pretty old school, but so good.

Collage Cool Whip

Auntie Val’s Pistachio Dessert

Bottom Layer

  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. almond extract

Mix together bottom layer ingredients and press into a greased 9” x 13” pan. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown. Cool.

Second Layer

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups cool whip

Mix ingredients and spread all over cooled crust.

Third Layer

  • 2 packages instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 2-½ cups milk

Mix together, following directions on pudding package. Spread over cream cheese mixture.

Top Layer

Spread cool whip or whipped cream over top. Top with toasted almonds. Refrigerate overnight. Freezes well.

(Note: Recipe can be halved for a 9” pie plate or square pan)

I wasn’t sure of the origins of this dessert but it looks like it was adapted from a Kraft recipe.

What was your favourite dessert as a child?

Pictures from Kraft website