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!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wedding invitations and registries

Do you remember when we discussed the evolution of wedding invitations?

After reading through your comments, and discussing the idea with friends and family, we decided that the wedding website route was perfect for us.

And here's why:

1) Everyone we were inviting to the wedding used email (even Derek's grandmother is on facebook);
2) I had some extra information I wanted to provide about our wedding events, and to do it all via paper invites would have been bulky/expensive;
3) I love blogging, and for me, putting together the website was like working on a second blog!

Since I agree with the fact that it's fun to receive something other than a bill or flyer in the mail we did send postcard style save the dates to our wedding guests.  We used one of our favourite engagement shoot photos and purchased them save the dates through an Etsy vendor, Wedding Paper Genie for about $100 plus the postage.

We were very happy with how they turned out.  The message was simple and to the point.  I think having the calendar on the back helped remind people that our wedding would take place on a Monday night, which was a detail people tended not to think about.  

Although it may not have been extremely obvious, we included our wedding website at the bottom, indicating that it was where you could find the "formal" invitation.  Most people got it.

Feel free to check out our website.  I am really happy with the way it turned out.  It was super fun to put our "love story" into writing, and share some details about our friends and family members in the wedding party.  I even slightly hinted to guests about a dress code.  And like I said before, everyone looked smashing!

You can also visit the honeyfund registry we put together which was our gift registry towards the honeymoon.  I think everyone enjoyed looking through the items to see where we were staying and things we were planning on doing in Hawaii.  I especially liked that I could include links so that when guests clicked on the item they were re-directed to the actual hotel/restaurant/snorkel rental website.

As for my feedback on; I found it very user friendly.  I was able to track the RSVPs easily and send follow-up emails through the website.  I received positive comments from our wedding guests and only had to follow-up on a few RSVPs, which I hear is normal anyways.

I was happy we skipped the formal paper invites and thankful we decided to send the postcard save the dates so that people had something to hold on to as a "keep sake".

We also had really great success with  Although it wasn't free, like our wedding website, since we paid the $40 to upgrade our site with pretty pictures, it was still worth it.  

I would highly recommend both sites to anyone interested in putting together a wedding website or setting-up a honeymoon registry.

So what are your thoughts on wedding invitations?  Do you prefer the more traditional invitation or are you getting on board with the online trend?  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wedding details - hotel guest welcome bags

I knew that I wanted to do a little something special for our wedding guests who had booked rooms at The Arc for the night.  Just a little "thanks!" for making such an effort to celebrate with us!

A hotel "welcome bag" seemed like the perfect idea, and The Arc was great and agreed to hand out a bag to each guest as they checked in.

I purchased the bags from Pritchard Packaging, the same place we got our coffee bags, and picked up 50 for 49 cents each!  


As for what I included in each bag:

-a couple "Christmas" oranges
-chocolate covered blueberries/cranberries 
-mixed nuts
-chocolate liqeur
-an itinerary for the night and a little thank you note

*other items I considered/wanted to include were: individual packages of Advil/Tylenol, a water bottle, mini bottles of booze and a can of pop to make a cocktail....

My mom found the cute "Happily Ever After" ribbon and couldn't help herself.

This is also one of those projects in which I enlisted the help of my MOH, Ashley (thanks for sharing your Costco card and setting up such a great assembly line!), and my brother and sister who put the finishing touches on the bags by adding tissue and ribbons.

I apologize for the creased bags.  These are photos of our leftover bags which have been crumpled in my closet until only recently.  Thank goodness the Christmas oranges only turned rock hard instead of stinky and moldy.  (which explains why they didn't make the photo)

As for our little thank-you note, it read something like this:

Thank you so much for joining us on our wedding night to celebrate!
Please make yourself at home, enjoy a little snack and prepare yourself for the night ahead!
We can't wait to see you at the wedding,
Love Meaghan & Derek

I also included the itinerary for the evening along with details on the New Year's Day Brunch.

This was a very small detail that didn't require too much prep, organization or money.  I probably spent about $100 on packing 30 bags.  And even though people may not have eaten all the snacks, I would be a happy lady to know that one person devoured the chocolate when they returned to their hotel room that night (early morning), or rolled over and grabbed the orange to quench their thirst on New Year's Day.

I always notice those seemingly little things that people do to make me feel comfortable and welcome when I am a visitor.  And in the end I just wanted to provide one more little thank you to our guests, who really made our wedding night so memorable and fun!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dining (and kitchen and living room) lighting

The title of my post implies that when we add something to the "dining room" it's actually also in the kitchen and living room.

This is one of the major bonuses of decorating a small space, in my opinion!

I may or may not have mentioned that our dining area is equipped with a light socket, and after months of saving up our ZONE gift cards (thank you friends and family for the birthday, house warming and wedding gifts!) we had enough to purchase a ceiling light!  

Originally I was really excited about this guy:

And after receiving approval from friends and colleagues that it was the right choice it was time to introduce Derek to the amethyst pendant.  He really liked it, but also wanted to look around for himself, which is when he stumbled upon this guy:

Even though it was not my first choice, I really liked it (not to mention it's fun when Derek gets involved with decorating).  What I liked even better was the fact that it was 40% off, which meant we would have leftover gift cards that we could potentially put towards these amazing stools.  

Meet Bill:

I love the white leather/wood combo and the chrome base.  The best part is that you can adjust their height, which I think is super convenient for different counter/table heights and personal preference.  

Before making the lighting purchase I wanted to make sure it was the right size.  I knew there was information out there regarding what size your dining light should be based on the size of the room and table and after a little research here I learned that:

  • A dining light should be no wider than the width of the table minus 12 inches (this is a general calculation for all table sizes FYI).
  • Although the dining light is a great focal point, you don't want an overbearing fixture over your table.

The dimensions of our table are 63 X 35.5 inches and the light is 20 X 20 inches.  I am just 3.5 inches away from going over the size limit based on the general calculation rule, and definitely don't think it will be overbearing.  Success!

I was quick to pop into ZONE a couple days later and placed my order for our new light. 

Derek and I have never installed a light before (a reason we're probably still alive) and we would also like to install a dimmer switch.  I think the plan is to invite over some handier friends who have this experience and offer them a nice dinner with wine in exchange for their skills and maybe a tutorial for the next time (read: our bedroom ceiling light).  I will let you know how the lighting installation goes!

As for those stools; they are next on our home purchase list.  But at $165 a pop X 2 we will need to save a few more pennies.   

It felt great to knock off a purchase from the list I put together all about showing our home some love (especially since I got to use gift cards!)  I'm looking forward to moving forward with a few more projects and updates, especially now that the weather is getting warmer and I can move out to the balcony do get stuff done (not to mention set it up for outdoor use which will be a project in itself!)

Even though I spend less time indoors during the summer, this weather is inspiring me for home decorating. Is it just me or is this fresh air energizing?!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wedding wear

Wedding attire was a huge deal for me when planning the wedding.  I loved researching the trends, colour pallets and styles.  Once we decided on our New Year's Eve date and confirmed our venue, I knew that a combination of metallic tones and formal holiday style would be perfect.

With 5 bridesmaids, living in cities near and far, I decided that having the girls choose their own dresses would be best.  I gave them creative reign with a few specifics to work with:

  • cocktail length
  • any metallic tone (gold, silver, bronze...) or a festive holiday colour

I wanted the girls look like they were dressed for a festive, New Year's Eve, cocktail party.  I also wanted a combination of colours, so basically first come, first served with colour/tone selection.  All of my bridesmaids are beautiful women who each have their own unique and personalized style.  They always look gorgeous and I had no doubt they would look their best the day of their wedding.

And what is one of the most important aspects to looking good?  Feeling comfortable in what you are wearing, I say.  It made me happy that everyone wore a dress she loved and felt amazing in.

The end result, and the process of dress buying, went very smoothly.  Lisa decided to wear black dress she already owned and splurge on shoes instead.  Ashley and Jenny scored amazing consignment store deals, and Danielle and Sacha went the classic department store route, finding their dresses at The Bay and Nordstrom.

Check them out in order from left to right: Sacha, Jenny, Lisa, Danielle and Ashley.

It was a perfect combination.  And I love that Ashley's stood out with the brightest colour as Maid of Honour.

Aren't they amazing!?  Eeeek!  It makes me excited just looking at these pictures!  

And here are the girls....such beauties.

A little shoe shot.

All the dresses complimented each other and matched with mine perfectly.

I love how our matching red lips and classic hairstyles pulled all of our looks together.

The boys and Derek looked smashing.  We decided to go with black suits (everyone just wore their own) and as a gift we purchased a tie for each groomsmen to wear at the wedding.  We provided their last names to my dad's kilt maker, and she got back to us with all their family tartans, so they each wore a unique tie which added to to Scottish theme.  I also think combining tartans is so Christmas-y!

We also included a little bit of Derek's personality and his obsession with socks...or maybe it's my obsession since I'm the one buying them....  Each of the groomsmen wore some funky Moxy Maus socks that we purchased from Stroked Ego, a favourite men's store of mine. 

Derek looked great in his three-piece suit from Indochino which we ordered online for a great price.  

And here's everyone together now!

Our families fit right in with their sparkle and tartan.  They all looked fabulous!

Derek and I spent some time downtown and on Parliament Hill for about an hour before the wedding.  It was one of my favourite times of the whole day.  We were giddy with excitement, and I definitely had butterflies knowing that we would be officially married in a couple hours.  

It was busy downtown - a Monday during rush hour - everyone leaving work and the tourists visiting the Parliament Buildings were congratulating us and wishing us well.  It was a really surreal experience and just such a happy moment.  I loved that Derek and I were able to share this time together, just the two of us, during our busy day. This is one of the main reasons I am fully on board with the First Look. 

As for our outdoor outfits, I switched from my Kate Spades into my Sorrels and added a faux-fur stole (rented for $40 from Rag Time, a vintage clothing store in Ottawa) with long leather gloves.  So fun!

I am very happy with how all of the wedding ensembles turned out.  Everyone looked great, and the clothing really fit the party.  I may be biased and still have honeymoon coloured glasses, but I think we all look very classic and timeless.  

Here's hoping I don't cringe in 20 years when showing our children our wedding photos!

*all photos are courtesy of amazing photographers, Steph and Neil from Stem Photography.