Monday, October 20, 2014

Life can be overwhelming sometimes.

I'm feeling a bit low today. I'm having a day of too many and too much.

Too many meetings to attend or run.

Too many lunches to prepare.

Too much housework left undone.

Too many appointments to schedule and go to.

Too much homework & piano practise to supervise.

Too many papers to sign.

Too many documents to read.

Too many phones that all ring and chirp with notifications of constant calls, emails, texts and messages. 3 to be exact.

Too many expectations and obligations.

You know what would be lovely? A day at home - with no reason or need to leave the house or sit in front of a computer. What bliss!

Pinterest Project - Fail or Nail?

Pinterest simultaneously inspires and discourages.  It inspires you to try new things, but discourages you when you realize that you have neither the skills nor the resources to achieve the picture perfect results of the idea you just pinned.

In spite of almost guaranteed failure, I decided to try my hand at a piece of "art".

I still had several large spaces on walls that needed some kind of art work.  I spotted this one on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  I purchased the canvas from Michael's, using a 40% off coupon - $25.  I had previously purchased a whole bunch of little paint pots on clearance from Totem in the colours of our living room, $1/each.  The only other expenses were the Frog Tape painters tape and the white paint that I had to purchase, full-price, from Home Depot, $4.99. Mike had a lot of little foam paintbrushes for me to use. I spent roughly $50 on this project.

I painted the colours in various layers over the space of about a week.  Then I let it dry thoroughly. I spent one Saturday afternoon carefully taping the herringbone pattern while listening to "Serial" on NPR.  Unfortunately, even using the expensive Frog Tape wasn't enough to prevent some bleeding around the edges of the tape.  Thankfully, I have a very steady-handed husband who patiently touched up the worst of it.

I don't think it looks that bad.

This is my favourite view - the view when laying on the couch!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kitchen Renovation - Before

Let me preface this with two things:

1. I realize that renovating a home is a real luxury, and that all my complaints about the inconvenience, cost, and hassle of a renovation is truly a first-world problem.

I am extremely grateful for the modern conveniences I enjoy in comparison to most people in the world.  I spent 2 months cooking for a Junior Forest Rangers camp in the forest one summer.  Cooking for 15+ people everyday required a generator to be started, water hauled in and out and determining how long our fridge & freezer would keep things cold without electricity.  I had no toaster and no small appliances. I did everything by hand - chopping, mixing, etc. So I don't take for granted the ability to walk into a room and flip a light switch or turn on a tap for drinkable water.

2. Yes, I've read this blog post about kitchen renovations. We're renovating anyways.

We always knew that we would renovate our kitchen someday.  We bought our home because it fit our three most important criteria:

1. It was near our children's elementary school - from our oldest starting kindergarten to our youngest finishing grade 6, we have 10 years at this school and we wanted to be near enough to walk.
2. Three bedrooms on the same floor.
3. The kitchen looks into the backyard and the back door opens into the backyard, not a side door.  I wanted to be able to see the kids playing as I worked in the kitchen.

We (by we, I mean my husband, Mike) have already completed an extensive list of upgrades, repairs and customizing in our house such as replacing eaves troughs, new hot water tank, new baseboards through much of the house, painting... the list could go on and on.  But we knew the day was coming when we were going to have to bite the bullet and do the kitchen.  We also knew that we weren't going to do it ourselves.  As handy as my husband is, he had no desire to come home from his full-time job and then spend every evening and weekend working on our kitchen for months and months.  And I had no desire to live in a construction zone for months either.  So we met with contractors and got estimates and hired a contractor and wrote a giant cheque.  Then we spent what has felt like an eternity making decisions.  I'm down to picking a window (after our original choice fell through) and choosing between 2 knobs, then I'm done.  I've used up all my decision making skills for about 5 years.

We're looking at starting demolition of the existing kitchen in a week.  It can't come soon enough.  I have nightmares about the renovation every night, mixed in with content from the show "The Strain" which makes for some very disturbing nightmares. I've agonized over almost every decision after researching it to death.  Sometimes I think life would be easier without so many options.

Anyways, here are our goals for the new kitchen:

1. Increased storage.  When we looked at the house before purchasing, I thought that the cabinet space looked adequate.  It wasn't until I was unpacking that I realized that the person we had bought the house from was a bachelor who owned a restaurant - of course it had looked spacious, he didn't have any small appliances because he didn't cook!  I also had failed to account for the fact that our house in Castor had 2 pantries and this house had none.  I keep a lot of stuff in my downstairs storage room and every cupboard is crammed full.

2. Increased counter top work space.  I don't even have enough counter space to properly roll out cinnamon buns.

3. Cupboard and countertops with better functionality.  The cabinets we have are shallow and have awkward styling that makes it difficult to access the contents easily.  The countertops are shorter than standard height, which might not make a difference to some people, but I'm 5'10" and my husband is 6'2", so I often end up with a sore back after spending a day in the kitchen.

4. Better flow between the kitchen and dining room, and more space for a larger table.  Right now we have a table in our kitchen.  We were using the dining room as a playroom until just recently.  We will be removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room and will use our dining room for it's original purpose.  We currently don't have the room to host many people for sit down meals, we're hoping that this renovation will change that.

The following "before" pictures are not staged, so what you see if a fairly accurate depiction of our kitchen most of the time.  I haven't cleared away the rubble, or removed things so that it looks nicer.  The only thing I did do was wait until my husband was at work and my kids were at school to take the pictures, otherwise there would be crumbs, keys, dishes, papers from the school, discarded socks, lunch bags and backpacks EVERYWHERE!

Also, what you can't see in these pictures is the gouges in the laminate flooring, the rippled edges of laminate where water obviously sat for too long (don't put laminate in a kitchen!), the grout between the tile that comes out in chunks if I'm not careful when wiping the counter, the big gaps in the countertop melamine, the easily seen brush strokes on the walls that were painted with two different finishes of the same colour, satin and then patch jobs done with glossy!

Hopefully within a month or so I'll be able to show you some after pictures.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Creamy Rice Pudding Recipe

Remember when I said in my last post that I felt guilty about buying certain foods that I knew I could prepare myself?  That guilt propelled me into making one of them. It helps that it only requires 3 ingredients. Yes, you heard me correctly, just 3 ingredients that most people will have in their kitchens anyways.

This recipe for rice pudding seems crazy.  You only use 1 cup of long-grain white rice for 2 litres of milk. The trick is that you add the milk in stages, much like risotto, and the rice just keeps getting bigger and bigger. The first time I made it I had to call my Grandma Strom and ask her if I had copied the recipe down incorrectly, it seemed impossible.  But, my terrible handwriting, while nearly illegible, was accurate.

Creamy Rice Pudding

1 cup long grain white rice - I use Thai Jasmine rice as it's my favourite and I always have it in the house.
2 litres of homogenized milk
1/2 cup of sweetener - I like to use local honey, but you can also use white sugar.

Rinse and drain rice until the water runs clear.  In a thick bottom pot combine rice and just enough water to cover the rice.  Bring to a boil and cook until the water is absorbed.  Add 1 litre of milk.  Let simmer until milk is almost absorbed, then add the remainder of the milk.  Stir frequently.  The longer it cooks, the more milk will be needed.  In the last half hour of cooking (you'll have to guess at this point, who knows when it's the last half hour of cooking until it's the end of cooking?!) add the sugar and continue to stir.  Remember that it will thicken as it cools.  I like to put mine into individual size Tupperware containers and store in the fridge for my kids to grab when they need a snack.  The pudding also freezes well.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Home-made Guilt

Things I feel guilty about not making from scratch when I know I can make them better, more nutritious, and cheaper than buying them:
• bread
• naan
• frozen waffles
• yogurt
• rice pudding