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!