Sunday, April 06, 2014

A gallery wall

I am the worst for letting things pile up.  Laundry, dishes, paperwork, home projects, etc.  Thankfully I've matured and now pay all my bills on time.  

So, I am happy to say that we recently checked off our most recent home project from the list: creating a gallery wall in our den.

Over the past few years, Derek and I have been collecting pictures from the different cities we've visited together.  And with the addition of a few gifts from family and friends we had the perfect amount to create our gallery.

But then I needed frames.  And it seemed like a big investment to purchase 10+ frames.  So I sat on the project for another year or so, when finally I mentioned shopping for frames to a friend of mine.

She said "FRAMES?!  I've got frames for days!"  And I went over to her house where she proceeded to pull out 2 large storage bins full of picture frames and I had my pick!  I'm one lucky girl, I tell you.

With no more excuses, and renewed enthusiasm, I started out by framing all of my pictures in the various black frames.  And then I played around to create some type of an arrangement that I liked.  

I have never done a gallery wall, so I found the layout idea below the easiest to work with.  Just create an imaginary horizontal line through the gallery of pictures and then hang the frames above and below the line.  It still has that casual look, but with some symmetry.  

I am super happy with the way it turned out, and I like how the arrangement will allow me to add more pieces as time goes on.  I think some non-frame additions like a a gold W from Chapters would look awesome, for example.

As for tips and tricks on hanging pictures; I've got none.

Basically I measured how long the gallery of pictures would be and tried to leave the same distance open on each side.  I tried to follow some instructions on hanging the frames, but they didn't work.  There are at least 2 nail holes for every picture I hung.  

My friend Lisa would cringe.  

But it doesn't bother me.  They are hidden.  And if they're coming down it's because I'm painting and hanging something new.  They can be fixed at that point.

If you are looking for tips, check these out.  And if you're looking for gallery ideas check out a ton of templates and layout ideas here.

Here are some more detail shots for fun!

The painting is one Derek's uncle did year's ago.  And the kissing orca whale picture was a gift from my sister.

Here's a map of Maui we picked up at a market while on our honeymoon.  

Neither of us have our degrees framed, but my aunt and uncle, Marie-France and Jacques, gave me the personalized picture above which has different buildings from Acadia University and the details of my degree. 

I'm so happy we finally completed this project.  This is the wall that stares back at us every time we open the front door to our home, so the fact that it now has some colour and personality literally makes me giddy.  

Going forward I think I would like to add a sleek floor lamp for reading and a cozy rug with a small ottoman or coffee table.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

My whole30 experience

If you work with me or ate a meal with me between January 6 and February 4, 2014 you will know that I participated in the whole30 challenge.

Maybe you've seen the term floating around the internet or discussed it with friends.  I won't get into the details, but if you're interested, I encourage you to check it out here.

The gist of the whole30 is to eat healthy, natural food that comes from the earth.  This includes any type of protein (ideally of the highest quality), tons of veggies and a good amount of fruit, nuts, seeds and oils to get some healthy fats....and basically that's it.  Oh and coffee.  I was allowed coffee.  Thank god.

Now for what I wasn't allowed...sugar, any type of grain (even quinoa!), legumes, white potatoes, dairy, soy, alcohol or anything processed.

I was excited to begin the whole30, especially after the Christmas season.  Those 5 weeks of celebrations and social gatherings really did me in.  Also - last year I was wearing my wedding dress on NYE...that  meant no stuffing,  let alone seconds.

Come January, just felt off.  My clothes were uncomfortable.  I needed to get back to feeling like myself and I knew I wanted to do something more serious than just telling myself to eat healthier.

I began the whole30 January 6, which was the same week I began a 12-week kettlebell jam session with Jackie at the Fitness Fusion gym I go to.  If I am working out I'm more likely to eat healthier and vice versa, so it just made sense.

What I called "the weekend before day #1" was a good one.  I had to finish all that cheese, wine and chocolate leftover from celebrating our anniversary!  I also did a lot of food prep - my number 1 piece of advice if you want to succeed.

Here are some of my favourite recipes:

I recorded my journey in this pretty pink journal.  I enjoy keeping journals to write down my goals, successes, failures and feelings.  It's never been something I've done consistently, but I will say that I loved sitting down to write in my journal every morning or evening.

Throughout the 30 days I felt great because I was so in control, plus my food and exercise choices were making me feel so great.  I usually sleep pretty well and have a good energy level, but on the whole30 it was even better.

I was rarely hungry - you can basically eat as much as you want.  I tried my best to eat 3 meals a day plus a couple healthy snacks.  I found this easier to accomplish weekdays when I was in my routine.  I am all over the place weekends so my only rule was that when I did eat, it had to be whole30 compliant.

Also, I experienced zero PMS.  Derek and I were thankful for that :)

Not every part of my whole30 experience was positive though.  It was emotionally tough when I couldn't eat a piece of my bff's 30th birthday cake or sip gulp a celebratory glass of champers.  I usually love eating out at restaurants, but it can be pretty boring when the choices are so slim.  It got boring.  But on the flip side I was forced to spend more time in the kitchen and came up with some great new recipes.  Speaking of the kitchen, we became close.  There's a lot of food prep and cooking involved - it's required if you want to succeed.  Unless you're Oprah and have a personal chef.

We don't have a scale, so I didn't weigh myself.  I didn't take measurements out of laziness, but I did snap before and after photos.  I was inspired to do this by Jessica at What I Wore.  Although numbers have an impact, there's nothing like a good before and after.

Although I didn't take measurements of any kind throughout the 30 days, I knew I was progressing just by the way I felt at the gym and the way my clothes fit.

Side note: it's way more fun getting dressed in the morning when you are comfortable in your clothing and are pumped about your outfit.  Another fact: the whole30 may result in my clothing shopping.

Now for what I'll call "the month after day #30".  The plan was to reintegrate the foods I had been restricting one at a time, recording any side effects and generally just being aware of what I was eating and how it made me feel.  Well things didn't really go according to plan.  My first meal included wine, pasta and chocolate.  Oops!

I had made some good habits that I wanted to keep too: packing my lunch every day, drinking more water, portion control, no late night eating, always eating an energy packed breakfast.  Although some stuck, others didn't.

So after 30 days "off" I'm hopping back on the whole30 train for another go.  I think the timing is perfect because it will bring me to the end of my kettlebell jam session.  I'm also running the 1/2 marathon at the end of May, so dropping a few LBs isn't a bad idea either - the lighter you are the easier it is to run.

I'm heading into the "weekend before day #1" and I'm pretty excited.  I've already savoured some red wine and ben & jerry's.  Sunday is dedicated to food prep, so I've been having fun researching recipes.  I've also been announcing my plans to my colleagues, friends and family over the past week.  I find it's as important to get other people as emotionally psyched as yourself!

So wish me luck and stay tuned for a spring edition of my progress/success!

Speaking of spring...we have to keep in mind that it doesn't officially arrive until March 20th.  So in the mean time I guess we can look forward to more of this.

that's our St.Patrick's day garland, btw

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Winter wonderland

If you live anywhere near Ottawa you've no doubt seen the winter wonderland pictures on facebook, twitter and instagram. Along with the appropriate #hashtags obviously.  #snowday!

Here's what I woke up to this morning.

Personally; I love the snow.  I've been getting excited for Christmas over the last couple weeks, so this is just the cherry on my ice cream whipped cream on my hot chocolate.

I do realize that our weather poses some challenges and can be annoying, not to mention dangerous.  However, I also fully embrace the fact that I live in Ottawa, and this is my reality.  I love the changing seasons, especially the first snowfall.

There is something so magical about being surrounded by white, fluffy snow.  It quiets city sounds, forces us to move a little slower, and also makes for a great playground!

There is also nothing more romantic than being in a cozy restaurant with your lover, while big fluffy snowflakes fall outside the window.

I may be biased, but I don't think this moment would have been as romantic without the snow!

Ok, enough with the sappiness.  Even though you know I love it.  Let's chat about winter, the activities I love, and how the 4+ months of snowy weather can actually be fun and enjoyable.  Not to mention magical and romantic. #Obviously.

One of my favourite aspects of winter is that I get to revisit some of the restaurants I've been ignoring during the warmer months.  I'm all about ambiance and some places are just better certain times of year.  Prime example: the New Edinburgh Pub, our neighborhood watering hole.  Amazing roof top patio with great views for summer time.  But I try to avoid its so/so indoor dining room in the winter.  

A couple of our favourite winter spots include: 
Chez Lucien.  This is the perfect French pub for a rainy afternoon bowl of soup, or any meal during the winter.  It's dark and cozy with lots of wood decor.    
Ahora.  The obnoxiously bright decor in this Mexican restaurant is enough to warm you up.  But the margaritas and delicious food is even better.  

Of course winter time is also the perfect time to eat-in while sharing the perfect bottle of red wine...with your lover.  #Obviously.

As for outdoor activities, the list is never ending, but my all time favourite is skating on the canal.  For one, it's FREE!  And free things are the best things.  Secondly, it's an excellent way to get fresh air and exercise when were spending so much time inside.  

Skating parties are the best birthday parties!

Since Derek and I both have offices downtown, we often go skating right after work which is super convenient.  Stopping for a well-deserved bite to eat and drink at one of the restaurants mentioned above makes for a perfect winter evening in my books!

We are also really close to the Gatineau Park, which is full of trails that are open for snowshoeing, hiking, cross country and downhill skiing in the winter.  I will admit, we've never done anything except enjoy a couple evenings of night skiing at Fortune.  It's less convenient, plus the activities are either more expensive or require equipment we don't own.  

That's not to say I don't have ambitions to get up there every year.  This year I would love to try cross country skiing.  

And if the weather is just a little too harsh, or you've had enough fresh air all summer, inside is fun too!  Beware though - cabin fever does exist and will come out of nowhere.  To avoid this, try changing up your scenery while still keeping toasty and dry.  Here are some options:

  • Visit the library or Chapters in search of a new good read then hit up your favourite coffee shop once you've found it!
  • Take in a museum or art gallery.  
  • Go bowling!  This may sound lame, but Derek and I went bowling together last week and had a blast.  We spent an hour playing a couple games with a pitcher of beer - perfect winter indoor activity.
  • Learn something new.  Check out the small businesses in your neighborhood - they may just offer more than you know.  Wabi Sabi, a fabulous yarn shop in Hintonburg, offers many courses on knitting, sewing, felting and more!
  • Plan a trip.  There's nothing more exciting than planning a trip.  Derek and I spend hours researching and planning many trips, almost all of which aren't realistic.  It's still fun to dream.  But it's even more fun if you're counting down the days!
  • Treat yourself at the nordik spa.  This is something that everyone must do once in their life.  It's amazing and wonderful and I can't say enough good things.  Just go and experience it for yourself.  It's open year round, but the winter is a very unique experience.
  • Plan a party and invite your friends over.  It's better to suffer the cold together, right?  Choose some delicious cocktail recipes and get tipsy.  

So there are a few of my suggestions.  If all else fails, turn up the Bob Marley and dream of summer. Time goes by so fast these days that it's basically right around the corner.

Tell me - how do you spend your winter months?  Hibernating by the fire, or braving the elements?  Let me know!

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Kitchen organizing or "I wonder what's behind the ketchup?"

The other night I had my girlfriend over for a sleepover (true fact: I love sleepovers.)  At one point during the evening, it dawned on me that I needed to share my newly organized laundry closet.  I was so proud of the clean-up I had done a few weeks ago.

Let's just say she wasn't as excited as I was.  For one, the closet isn't much to write home about, as you can see here:

I tried to explain how bad it had been (and it was bad), but she said that she figured it had always been organized. She never would have thought differently.

I guess that's the beauty of closed doors.  Even though I know the disaster that lays behind them, my guests have no clue.

I've been slowly gaining motivation to organize different areas in our home.  Most recently I tackled 2 of our kitchen cupboards.

Here is what I started with:

Let's get a little closer shall we...

And we can't forget the upper cabinet.

So these 2 cupboards basically make up my pantry.  I just got used to pulling out the few items that were in the front, and then balancing them on top of the mess when I put them away.  I had no idea what was even in the backs of my cupboards. So bad.  Makes me cringe.  

First step to organizing...make another mess!

I tried to sort food as I removed it from the cupboards.  My main piles were breakfast food, snacks, canned/bottled food, baking items and carbs (quinoa/rice/pasta/beans).  

During this process I realized I had doubles of several types of food - both of which were opened.  Food I didn't even know I had.  This is the cycle that unorganized cupboards cause.  You end up buying things you already have thus creating more clutter.  You also waste money.

Since my "pantry" isn't very user friendly I tried to add some functionality to the space, and the first group of food I tackled was the baking items.  Who knew I had all these baking ingredients?  I didn't!  Maybe I'll actually try baking something now...

I had this cute little striped canvas basket that was actually storing Derek's CDs.  I think the CDs are at least 10 years old and we need to host a throw back party.  DJ Derek can provide the jams.

I was able to coral all my baking supplies here, keeping them together - perfect!

Next step...get all those carbs together.  The carbs that will be feeding us through to the spring I might add.

The cupboards are pretty deep (which is nice!)  However it makes it difficult to get to the items in the back.  Enter this cute wooden crate my mom bought me.

I even lined it with some pretty napkins I had on hand.

I stuffed all that food in there so that it's easy to just pull it out from the back.  

For the upper cabinets I just tried my best to just keep like items together.

I had an extra tin which I used to store things like chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, and oatmeal which I use to make my new favourite breakfast: overnight oats.  

In the end, it was pretty great because I actually gained (almost) one whole empty shelf!

My baking supplies along with a basket of tea towels and dish cloths are stored on the microwave cart right beside the kitchen.

*side note: I've since tossed the dirty flower water and actually changed the Christmas art that has been hanging since December, 2012.*

This whole process took about an hour and a half and I'm so happy I finally took the time to do it.  It also felt as though I was going shopping in my own kitchen.  I honestly had no idea I had all this food.  I'm hoping the systems I've put in place are easy to maintain and that my cupboards continue looking this way.

Next up...the front hallway closet.  Which isn't actually too bad, and has some good storage and organization systems going on, but just needs a refresher.

And because who doesn't want to look at beautifully designed and organized spaces, here's some inspiration I have for some areas of our home.

I love the shelving and lighting this closet offers.  The shelves are pretty bare, but some baskets and clear containers are all I would need to organize our laundry closet.

This type of industrial shelving would work well as an alternative to customized wooden built-ins which are what I'm really dreaming of for the laundry closet.

Using the door (and vertical space) is always such a great idea.  I've never done anything like this.  I'm always worried about the caddie not being secured properly and having it bang around.  I also love the idea of painting (or wallpapering) the inside of the door.

What are your organizing tips?  I'm always looking for great storage solutions for small spaces!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A special day

I wanted to write a blog post today because today is a special day; my birthday!

First of all, let me say that I had a fabulous weekend celebrating.  Friends and family made it out to a picnic in the park hosted by my lovely husband (I helped with details of course!)  The weather was beautiful, guests brought delicious food to share, we played games, drank mason jar mojitos and just had a great time.

My friends and family spoiled me with lovely gifts, and I was so touched to receive little items donned with honeybees!

I got adorable honeybee thumbtacks...a honeybee mug....honeybee measuring spoons and even a hive soap dispenser.

It seems as though the honeybee has really become my signature logo!

Over the last few months, while this blog has been steadily collecting dust, although never completely forgotten, my friends and family have been asking me when I'll be writing again.  I just smile and say I have lots of ideas and not a lot of time.  Which is true (I have SO many ideas!) but we all know about those hours during the week spent on facebook, pinterest or watching tv that could be converted into doing something more productive.

So, because it's my birthday, which also happens to mark the beginning of the last year in my twenties, and the fact that I love making fresh starts this time of year (must be the back to school feeling), I've decided to prioritize blogging once again.

It's something I love doing, but I realize it's also something my friends and family really enjoy too!

I've obviously got a whole list of priorities for my last year as a twenty-something-year-old that I plan on sharing, so stay tuned!

In the mean time, I'm off to enjoy this lovely Tuesday evening with the man of my dreams (who even sent me flowers to work today!)