Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Simple Living Lesson #2 - Underneath

Welcome to week two of my Simple Living Lessons series. Were you here for week one? The first lesson in the Simple Living: Thirty Days to Less Stuff and More Life series had us explore our vision for simple living. Everyone is going to have a different definition of Simple Living, and it was so helpful to actually map it out for our family.

This week called for an actual challenge! The challenge is called "Underneath." Can you guess what part of my life I had to explore? You got it - my underwear drawer!! The theory is that if the condition of your undergarments is in chaos, then it's likely that the rest of our wardrobe is in chaos too.

I took a look through the knickers and cleared out and uncomfy or ugly pairs. If I haven't worn them in a year, they went out. Same went for the sock drawer. Since I wear flip flops or sandals as often as possible, I really only needed about 10 pairs each of dress and white socks. I tried on all of the bras and bathing suits and donated any that I don't wear regularly.

For "extra credit" I am going through Miss A's and Miss E's socks and undies drawers too - they each have socks and tights that they have grown out of that need to go.
I know that the intention of this week's challenge is to spur us on to examine the rest of our wardrobes, and I'm sure that is a project that I will be undertaking later on in the series.
The last time I cleared out my closet I was hugely successful, but never actually extended the clothing purge to the socks and undies part of the wardrobe collection. Now that I am organized "underneath" my mornings should flow just a little bit easier.

Please check back for next weeks' lesson called "QUIET." Not sure I'll have much success with a challenge called Quiet with two crazy monkeys hopped up on Halloween candy, but I am certainly willing to try!
I am going to tie some of the Simple Living lessons in with another challenge I have put on myself lately - purging 40 bags of stuff from our house in 40 days. Hope you'll check in and see the progress!!

How was your week? Did you map out your Simple Living plan? Will you take some time to organize from "underneath" this week? Good luck!!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Menu Plan Monday - October 29, 2012

What an amazing weekend.!My beautiful niece turns one this week, and we all got together to celebrate her with a spooky book party. It was a great theme! All of the guests brought our favorite books for Audrey, and we were served a buffet of mini foods! We had sliders, little pizzas, mini cupcakes and an amazing pumpkin shaped carrot cake.

Sunday was spent carving pumpkins! Miss A wants to enter a contest at school for the cutest pumpkin, so a Hello Kitty pumpkin was in order!
The girls are so looking forward to Halloween this week! They can't wait to wear their LaLaLoopsy costumes and go door to door for candy!!
I am so excited to try out a new cookbook this week! I preordered Jessica Fisher's Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, and it came in the mail last week! I can't wait to try out some new freezer meals to stock up for the winter!

On the Menu this week:
Monday: Butter chicken, rice and tortilla "naan" bread
Tuesday: Pizza night!
Wednesday: Recipe from my new cookbook!! Stuffed Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti
Thursday: Fish tacos with tex mex rice
Friday: Brinner!! Bacon and eggs for the hubs and I, pancakes for the kids!
Saturday: Teriyaki salmon, rice and veggies
Sunday: Celebrating a friends birthday! Dinner out!!

I will be linking up my menu plan with OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday - you should check it out!!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

40 Bags in 40 Days

Pinterest!! You all encompassing, totally addicting place of inspiration! You have done it again! Totally sucked me in! Have you ever typed “Organize” into the Pinterest search box just to see what you get? Here’s what I got: This-Crazy-Idea-That-Could-Just-Work!

The plan is to fill forty bags with excess “stuff” from our home to purge in forty days. I have mapped out forty places in the house where I can search for items to send out of the house. Some bags will be filled with donatable items, and will be sent off for a good cause. Other places, well I'm sure a good few bags on this purge will be filled with actual trash/recycling - you know old lotions and creams that need to be tossed, paper, paper and more paper that keeps creeping into the house... you know the drill, right? 

I have tried to do big purges before (quite successfully if I do say so myself!!) but this idea seems like it might be a fun (maybe?) way to coincide with the Simple Living Lessons that I am working through week by week.
Toy purge pile from a previous exodus from the house!
For the first week of the planned 40 bags in 40 days, I am going to tackle:
1. My "unmentionables" drawers (socks and undies)
2. B's "unmentionables" drawers (socks and undies)
3. Miss A's drawers
4. Miss E's drawers
5. The drawers and cupboards in the master bathroom

I'm sure hoping that I'll be able to sort it all out in the order of the list. We'll see how it goes!! Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Caramel Apple Spiced Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Aaahhh.. The Quest continues! 
I decided earlier this year to embark on the Quest for the Perfect Cupcake. It has been a great adventure, with some classic cupcakes (Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting), some strange (Dr. Pepper) and some perfectly perfect (Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Turtle Cupcakes). I also tested out Pink Lemonade Cupcakes and Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.

When I first put the quest out there I asked for some suggestions. Apple cupcakes were on the request list - and with autumn upon us, Caramel Apple Spiced Cupcakes were definitely on the menu.
I found the basis for this cupcake on Pinterest. It was set up as a cake, but turning the recipe into cupcakes was an easy fix.
I know that I really should have made my own caramel for this recipe, and in the future I probably will (using the recipe from my Turtle Cupcakes) but I just did not have time this weekend. Store bought (gasp!) caramel ice cream topping to the rescue!
Caramel Apple Spiced Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream and Toffee Bits
Adapted from The Great Cake Company
Makes 48 regular cupcakes
Caramel Apple Spiced Cupcakes
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tsp Apple Pie Spice (I use this one)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups applesauce
Caramel Dessert Topping
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line your cupcakes tins for 48 cupcakes. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and apple pie spice into a large bowl.
In your mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 more minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix all ingredients until well combined.
Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for about ten minutes. 
Spoon about 1 tsp of caramel topping onto each cupcake. Spread around using the back of a spoon. Leave the caramel topped cupcakes to cool completely while you make the icing.
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
8 cups icing sugar (I know, it sounds like a lot, but it's for 48 cupcakes!!)
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup caramel dessert topping
Skor bits, for decoration
Cream the butter until creamy add vanilla and beat until smooth. Add icing sugar one cup at a time. The mixture will be dry, so add milk 1 tbsp at a time until icing smooths out. Add the caramel dessert topping and mix until well combined.
Using a Wilton 1M tip, swirl icing onto the top of each caramel topped cupcake. Sprinkle the iced cupcakes with Skor bits.
I brought these cupcakes in to work and they were gone!! If you make them, let me know how they turn out!!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Simple Living Lesson 1 - Dream

This is the first week in my Simple Living Lessons Challenge. After reading Lorilee Lippincott`s Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life. I plan on working my way through the book and showing my journey here, with you!

The first lesson in the book asks us to DREAM - to imagine what we would like our life to be; how we would like to spend our time, what we would define as success...
Alright, here goes:
Home? I would like my home to reflect my family - cozy, uncomplicated and full of love. I have been on a minimalish journey for some time now, and our home is starting to reflect just that. No longer are we surrounded by things that don`t make us happy or clutter our lives. Sure I would love to have an I Heart Organized home, but for now, we are definitely on the right track!
Time? Here's wher I need to put in some work. Ideally I would like to unschedule our lives a little bit - it seems like every day is book from now until the end of time! I do try my best to schedule our time doing things we enjoy with people we love be we could definitely do with some more down time.
Success? This is a funny one. I was actually having a discussion about this at work last week. All of the "living" blogs that I read tell you to find your passion and then find a way to make it your job or your life's work. I disagree. I wholeheartedly believe that you can work at a job that you enjoy without it being your passion - as long as what you do ALLOWS you to fit in your passion, I think you are successful.
For me? I am so blessed to be able to work part time so I can spend extra time with my passion - my husband and my girls. 
Gratutitious shot of my girls, they make me smile so much every day!
The fact that I get to do what I do makes my life a success... so far!

Phew! That was sure a long post! I'm so glad I got it all down on paper though, it makes me realize how lucky I am!  Next week the challenge is called "Underneath" and involves your unmentionables drawer. Should be interesting!!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Menu Plan Monday - October 22,2012

What an amazing weekend!! We did a Fall photo shoot with the fantastic Alana Joy Photography on Saturday - the weather even held out for us! It may have been freezing cold, but the cloudy skies and lack of rain made for some amazing photos. When we get them back I'll be sure to share them with you. Anyone out here in the lower mainland should really book photos with her, she does a great job!
Soaking wet, in the pouring rain, but still a smile on her sweet face!
Last week Miss A and her classmates went on a field trip to Dave's Orchard. The weather was less than lovely that day, but it didn`t matter. She and her little buddies had a great time picking vegetables and learning about farm life. This week`s menu plan will include the veggies she brought home! Corn, potatoes, carrots, turnips, apples and pears. Oh how I love fall!
On the Menu This Week:
Monday - Shake n Bake chicken, rice and Rachel Salad
Tuesday - Roasted root veggies (from the field trip!!), corn and roasted ham
Wednesday - Lasagne Wednesday!
Thursday - Guinness Brats, scalloped potatoes and beans
Friday - Pizza and Rachel Salad
Saturday - Eating at the THREE parties we have that day!
Sunday - Teriyaki Salmon, rice and vegetables
I will be linking up my menu plan with Org Junkie`s Menu Plan Monday. Stop by and check it out for tons of recipe ideas!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Simple Living Challenge

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to review an awesome book: Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life. It is a fantastic book with a ton of great ideas. The author calls her book the crash course on how to simplify your life.
I was lucky enough to be able to give away three copies of Lorilee Lippincott's book to some loyal blog readers - I hope Mandeep, Erin and Fiona are enjoying it!!

I love the book and all of Lorilee's ideas in the book so much that I am going to work my way through the book, one challenge at a time. The challenge is set in the book to accomplish all of the tasks in 30-60 minute assignments, one for each day of the month. I know that I don't have time in the day to commit to completing in a month, so I'll take on one challenge a week!
the view from my running route...
Each week I will pose the challenge for the week and my suggestions on way to make the challenge successful. The challenges in Simple Living range from easy things like simplifying your email inbox or your junk drawer to really hard things like examining and simplifying your budget.
aaaah, the simple life....
I hope that some of you (or all of you!!) will follow along and challenge yourselves to live your life more simply. I can say for myself that trying to live in a more intentional way has given me great happiness. I spend more time with those I love, doing the things I love - and it's amazing.
Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

New Directions, A New Plan

Hello again! Remember me? I used to be pretty good about blogging - I would work, parent, bake, organize and play all while taking pictures - then let all of you hear about it!
During the summer? I fell off the blogging map a bit - Gorgeous weather made for lots of outside play time (not complaining about that!!) and activities (lots from the Summer of Fun Chart!). It also meant no baking or organizing. Seriously - who wants to turn on the oven or empty and sort out a closet when it's 30C outside and there is a waterpark to visit?!
The weather in my neighbourhood today!
After a ridiculously amazing month of September, Fall has finally arrived here! With Fall come cooler temps and lots and lots of rain. What does that mean for us? More inside play time - and time to cook, bake and organize once again!
I also finally decided to put together a plan and a schedule for my little blog. Instead of just flying by the seat of my pants and posting whatever came to me on any given day, I'm hoping to set a (fairly) regular blogging plan.

I'm hoping to post:
Mondays - Menu Plan Monday (this is the one vein of posting that I actually kept up with through the summer!)
Tuesdays - Simple Living Lessons - more about this tomorrow!!
Wednesdays - Recipe Day! Be it a cookie, cupcake, freezer meal, breakfast or other easy recipe, I'll hopefully be able to post one awesome new recipe per week.
Thursdays - Organizing Post
Friday - Sunday - Lifestyle Post - might be a family photo, a craft, who knows??

I even made up a calendar from here to the end of the year with the plan set out for each week. To keep me on track and motivated, I am starting two challenges where I will post progress updates each week.
Hopefully you will like the direction the blog is heading and that you all will keep reading! I certainly LOVE all of the blog love you give me, both on the Facebook page and on the blog itself.
Thanks for reading!!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Menu Plan Monday - October 15, 2012

Well it seems that fall has finally arrived here in the lower mainland of BC. The last two days have been rainy and grey and miserable - perfect weather for fall! I may actually get some organizing and cooking done this week!!
We spent the weekend at a friends wedding, where there were a few rays of sunshine so the bride and groom could take some lovely photos.
Our plans for the pumpkin patch had to be cancelled because of the massive amount of rain that fell on Sunday.
This week I am planning on trying a new crock pot recipe, if it turns out as fantastic as it looked on pinterest, I'll share it with you!
On the Menu
Monday - Pineapple chicken, stir fried veggies and quinoa
Tuesday - Freezer Cooking Day! Chicken Tetrazzini is on the menu, and we'll have some for dinner.
Wednesday - Turkey Meatloaf, perogies, beans and salad
Thursday - Teriyaki salmon, steamed veggies and rice
Friday - Pumpkin carving event at church, pizza for dinner!
Saturday - Tortellini with boursin sauce and prawns
Sunday - Pumpkin Patch Day! Dinner with friends after!

I will be linking up to Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday - stop by and check it out!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Half Marathon Highlights

September 30 was a B-I-G day for me. After months spent training - running around my neighbourhood, up and down hills, and all the way to boot camp, I worked myself up to running my very first half marathon! 21.1 KM! 13.1 MILES!! In other words a really, really long way!!
My race day gear, all lined up and ready to go!!
I didn't have high expectations for the race. I really just wanted to finish the race and hopefully run most of the race. Guess what?! I DID! Although my running speed is about as fast as most speed walkers (by the end, it was as fast as 80 year old women walking!), I managed to traverse 21.1km around the Surrey Half Marathon route.
I managed to rope the hubs into running the race too. His time was obviously faster than mine - by an HOUR! But either way, we both crossed the finish line!!
Before the race, I ran into my good friend Kim, who was running a relay of the full marathon with three other amazing women! It was great to see a smiling face to cheer me on... I had psyched myself out a LOT before the race.
Along the way were people cheering us on, including this little girl holding a sign of encouragement for all of the random strangers running past her. Each mile marker station was manned by a different country or cultural group. It was so fantastic to have Korean dancers, German musicians, Palestinian dancers, and drummers from the India station. Even more inspiring was the Philippine's station - they brought group of patients in wheel chairs to cheer on the runners. It was definitely an emotional day!
Next along the route were my favourite cheerleaders of all! My in-laws brought the girls to cheer me on, right near the end of the race when I needed some extra encouragement to pull through the last 5km.
As I was coming up to the finish line - FINALLY!! - There were some friendly faces to greet me! Thanks Kelly and Zarina! My husband finished a full hour before me, and spent that hour cheering the next runners on until I finally crossed the finish line!
Here we are post-race! I can't believe we actually ran a 21.1KM race! There were lots of post-race recovery stations, but we couldn't even stop to enjoy them - we had to shower, kiss our babies and catch a flight to Hawaii!! More on that later this week!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Breakfast for Dinner - Easy Quiche Recipe

Tonight we had the most amazing dinner! It's one that I have been planning to make for a while now. I was so looking forward to it, that I mentioned it at work, and THREE of my co-workers asked for the recipe. One girl even made it tonight too!!
I've made this recipe before and though the original recipe calls for Swiss cheese, I had cheddar on hand, so that's what I used. Really, anything could be added to this recipe to enhance it, but it's delicious all on its own!
The "crust" on this recipe is made from two of my absolute favorite ingredients - bacon and cheese!! Delicious, crumbled bacon and shredded cheddar cheese co-mingled in glorious melty goodness. You seriously have to try this recipe. Less than 45 minutes from preparation of the ingredients to serving this cheesy, bacony (I know it's not a word, but it really should be!)plate of goodness.

Breakfast for Dinner - Easy Quiche Recipe
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
8 slices of bacon
4 ounced shredded cheddar cheese
2 tbsp melted butter
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped onion, or use this
1 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Cook bacon until evenly browned. Drain, crumble and set aside. Feel free to taste test at this point!
Preheat oven to 375F and lightly grease a 9" pie plate.
OK here is the best part... you ready? Combine the shredded cheese and the crumbled, still warm bacon together in the bottom of the pie plate and lightly press down. This is going to become your quiche "crust." You can thank me anytime.....
Combine eggs, butter, onion, salt and pepper, flour and milk and whisk until smooth. Pour into pie plate on top of your "crust."
Bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until quiche is set in the middle.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! I know I had fun making and eating it tonight!! I LOVE breakfast for dinner!! And bonus! This will make a great lunch reheated tomorrow!!


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