February 28, 2013

Anticipation



Rest assured, I am not announcing my own pregnancy. Rather, one of my very good friends from university and her husband {another one of my close university friends} are expecting their first child. Their due date is very quickly approaching, as they are expecting their little bundle of joy on Sunday!

I can't even articulate how excited I am for the arrival of this little baby. My friends are the first couple in my group of my university friends to have a baby, so it's huge for all of us, not just the expectant parents. However, my good friends currently live in Quebec, so unfortunately it will be quite the road trip in order to meet their little bundle of joy when she arrives, and the winter road conditions won't make this any better. Nonetheless, I {along with my husband} will be making the trip east to celebrate with our friends and welcome their little daughter into the world!

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

February 27, 2013

The Colour and The Shape


























My new condo is presenting somewhat of a design/decorating challenge for my husband and I. Not only do we have a very small amount of space with which we have to cram everything we currently own, but we have to make it look good while doing so. As a result, we will have to part with many of our much-loved furniture pieces, as they simply will not fit, or they do not offer us the combined comfort and functionality that we need. For instance, we are now in the market for a great-looking queen size bed frame that has shelving underneath. This is not as easy to find as one might think, as most of these styles of beds are made for children and thus come in bright colours and sizes no larger than a twin. Not exactly what we're looking for.

On top of these more logistical challenges comes the actual styling and decorating. Both my husband and I love industrial style, so thankfully we agree on the general theme to follow. However, we have also recognized that this style is characterized by blacks and greys and metallics - which can be quite boring if they are the only colours present in the condo - but we have no idea what other colours to mix in. I am trying to consider all angles; I want the condo to have a definite industrial-style feeling, and I think this will be well-achieved through some of our new furniture, lighting, and wall-hangings. But at the same time I don't want it to be cold. I have seen several images on Pintrest that emulate industrial style well, but the spaces always look so cold and almost clinical. Though sometimes pretty, this is not the feeling that I want for my home. That being said, the logical step would be to bring in warmer colours through throw blankets, pillows, and perhaps even a few decorative items placed throughout.

Currently we are looking to purchase a light grey sectional couch as a means of lightening up the more dark and drab colours associated with this style, and I think this is a great start. However, then I am left wondering what colour{s} of throw pillows I should place on the couch, and tie in throughout the room with decorative items. Currently, corals and yellows are great colours to match with grey, but my husband isn't really into either colour, and truth be told, I'm not sure that I would love either colour on an everyday long-term basis. I am also considering red and orange and white {and associated shades in between} as I am currently loving these colours as they are warm and bright. But I am also concerned that my love of them will be fleeting, and while I love them now, in six months time I may regret this choice. I guess this is why I typically end up sticking to neutral colours; they are timeless and I don't often regret them.

But I am tired of being neutral, and I want to mix in colour. This I know for sure, even if I can't figure out what colour or colours to incorporate. So readers, I need your help. Have any of you ever struggled with this problem? What colours did you eventually choose to adorn your home? Do you still like them or do you regret your choices? Any and all feedback would be so greatly appreciated!

Photo Credit: Stylizimo Blog

February 25, 2013

Quick Chicken Dinner



There are many days when I get home from work and I am exhausted and not at all in the mood to cook. At all. Given that I am more of a baker than a chef anyways, on a normal day cooking dinner is not one of my favourite tasks. But I have to eat, so in order to try and make the dinner hour as painless as possible I have been trying to put together some healthy and quick recipes that I can whip up after a long and tiring day. One such recipe is commonly referred to in my house as "quick chicken dinner". It has very few ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes to cook {if you time everything right}. The great thing about this recipe - other than it's ease and it's short prep time - is that it can be modified in order to accommodate what you have and/or don't have available in your kitchen at any given time. Here is the recipe for my most-common rendition of this meal:


Quick Chicken Dinner

Serves: 2-3

2 medium-sized chicken breasts
1 cup penne pasta
2 cups frozen vegetables
2-3 tbsp herb & garlic cream cheese

1. Start boiling the water for the pasta. While the pasta is boiling, cut the {thawed} chicken breasts into cubes that are no larger than 2cm by 2cm.

2. Heat a large skillet to medium heat and add the chicken, once cubed. Cook the chicken until it is white all over and the middle is cooked through.

3. At this point the water should be boiled; add the pasta and cook only long enough for the pasta to become al dante in texture, approximately 8 minutes in length. Any longer and the pasta will turn out mushy.

4. Add the frozen vegetables to the chicken and follow the directions on the bag. However, be aware that the vegetables may cook slightly faster than the directions indicate.

5. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the pasta into the chicken and vegetable mix. Once evenly mixed in, add in 2-3 tbsp cream cheese. Mix thoroughly and allow to cook for another minute in order to let flavours combine. Serve while hot.


Photo Credit: Life's Ambrosia

February 24, 2013

All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun



Earlier this week I talk about being bed ridden due to my painful back issues. I am sad to report that though my back is improving, I am still laid flat out. I want so badly to get up and go for a walk. Also, I pinned a really awesome leg workout that I am itching to try, but I will have to wait.

Compounding this sense of cabin fever is the fact that my house officially sold this week, and our lease agreement for our condo went through. We are officially moving! I literally have cabin fever sitting in my house - now that I know we are moving I just want to move already. I want to get settled into our new neighbourhood, and even though it is freezing cold outside, I want to walk around and explore the sites and new places that we will call 'home'. We are moving to downtown Toronto {hence the picture on this post}, and I am so excited to once again call Toronto my hometown. And I can't wait to be back in the big city atmosphere - though I dearly love my current neighbourhood, it is really boring. So we're out of here: Time for a big city adventure!

Now, if I could only get off the couch...

Photo Credit: Ottawa Bus Gallery on Flickr

February 20, 2013

Bed Rest Blues


























About 15 years ago I injured my back/spine very badly. Since that time I have had numerous problems with it, which has resulted in several trips to the doctor's office, a few sleepless nights in the emergency room, and many hours spent at physio enduring treatments that range from exercising to massage to acupuncture. Though I have recovered from my injury, I have been informed that I have four permanently herniated disks and arthritis in the associated vertebrae, which will never completely heal. Most of the time this isn't a problem for me, but once in a while the area becomes aggravated and I am confined to my bed while the swelling in my spine slowly eases.

Sadly, this week has been one of those weeks: I slipped and fell when shoveling the driveway last week {something that I shouldn't have been doing in the first place, so kind of my fault}. Initially when I fell my shoulder and wrist were very sore, as they took the brunt of my fall - when you have a chronic injury of this kind you learn very quickly how to fall to protect your back, but it's often at the expense of other body parts. So based on the pain and stiffness in my arm and the lack thereof in my back, I thought I had saved myself from the inevitable back pain.

But this past weekend it started. It creeped in slowly with some mild stiffness and some tingling in my lower calves {nerve pain is often displaced - so I have learned}. But as the weekend wore on so did my pain, increasing bit by bit until it became a full-on nightmare. Due to a cocktail of muscle relaxants, nerve-blockers, and good old-fashioned Advil, I have been able to function {if barely} this week. Due to a hectic work schedule I have not been able to take time off, and I have suffered through a few meetings and several hours in the car. However, in my down-time I am literally laying down flat on my back, as this is the only way that I am able to obtain any relief from my aches and pains. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how horribly boring this is, as well as how frustrating it is to lay around thinking of all the things you should/need to be doing instead. I know I should enjoy this reprieve from the busy pace of everyday life while I have it - after all, how many times have I complained that I wish I could just sit/lay down and do nothing? But the grass is always greener I guess...

Photo Credit: Babble

February 17, 2013

You Can't Always Go Home



























I have huge news: My husband and I are selling our house and moving to the city! While this is incredibly exciting news, it is also quite stressful. We put our house on the market on Friday, and since that time we have barely been home. Yesterday I left the house at 8:25am as we had a showing at 8:30 {ughhh so early} and then I wasn't able to go back home until 5:00pm, as there were six other showings and an open house booked throughout the day. Today hasn't been quite as packed full of showings, but there have been at least four of them, meaning that I haven't been able to spend much time at home either. To pass the time I have been seeing friends and frequenting many malls and coffee shops.

While I have always dreamed of being one of those people who seem to spend endless time in the couches at a coffee shop, I am not enjoying this quite as much as I thought I would. Living my life on other people's schedule really isn't ideal, as it takes a lot of planning and adjustment. First of all, my husband and I had to figure out what to do with our dog, as we can't bring her to hang out in the coffee shop with us, nor can we leave her at home {thank you to gracious our family that it currently looking after her!}. Secondly, we had to be selective in the places that we chose to go; we couldn't be too far away in case we needed to return home to deal with an offer or any other real estate-related concern. But, living in the suburbs doesn't allow for many interesting places to go, and none of them so far have allowed us the creature comforts of home. Even though I haven't done much, the stress of being kicked out of my home and the impending life change have made me tired. But no naps in the coffee shop...

Photo Credit: Bergreen Barometer

February 14, 2013

My Funny Valentine



























I don't really like Valentine's Day. To me it seems to be such a useless holiday in the sense that it holds no true value. It is hyped up to be a day where couples shower each other with love and sentiment, but we all know it's not genuine. It's simply a holiday that was initially invented with good intent, but much like Christmas it has been twisted into something else entirely. To me, Valentine's Day is nothing more than a cash grab for companies like Hallmark and Hershey's.

So I boycott it. I will ohhh and ahhh over everyone else's sweet presents and nice gifts, but I don't take part. It's not that I am excluded - and trust me, Valentine's Day can be VERY exclusionary to the single ladies {and gentlemen} out there - but rather that I have made the choice to exclude myself. I don't think that love and affection should be shown in such a commercial way, and I really dislike the expectations {and oft-resulting disappointment} that come with a fake holiday such as this. It becomes a pissing contest of sorts; who got the bigger box of chocolates, who got roses, and whose boyfriend/husband did the best job at buying an elaborate gift. We all know that the men aren't out there buying us things for Valentine's Day because they want to, they are doing it because they feel they have to. This sense of obligation is what robs what once was a well-intended day of celebration from it's authenticity.

In order to restore some semblance of true affection into the 'holiday', my husband and I have created our own celebration of sorts. Rather that partaking in the over-priced chocolate, balloons, flowers, and fancy dinners, my husband and I totally forget about the fact that Valentine's Day is anything special. Aside from the obligatory "Valentine's Day" wish to each other as we leave for work in the morning, we don't even think twice about it. The magic starts the next day, on February 15th. We go to work like any other normal day, but when we get home we go out the grocery store and purchase some left-over clearance-priced Valentine's Day candy and/or chocolate. It's really nothing special, but there is something nice in knowing that we have our own little tradition for the day after Valentine's Day that actually has some meaning.

Photo Credit: Love Graffiti on Tumblr

February 11, 2013

Currently Craving Chocolate Cupcakes



Ohhh maaannnn I am craving chocolate cupcakes right now. I have eaten dinner and I am not the tiniest bit hungry, but for some reason I am obsessed with the though of a chocolate cupcake. So obsessed in fact, that I actually considered driving to the bakery down the street to buy one. And given the fact that it's cold out, my town is currently coated in three feet of snow, and I have my pj's on, the fact that I am even considering this says something big. I want a chocolate cupcake so bad!

Fighting my urges, I decided that there must be some way that I can satisfy my craving without making a trip to the bakery or the grocery store for some baking supplies {yes, I am that desperate that I would bake cupcakes at 9 o'clock at night} or ruining my waistline. So I tried looking at a bunch of pictures of delectable chocolate cupcakes - which ended up inspiring this post - but didn't do anything to satisfy my craving. I though at first it was working, as some of the cupcakes looked really sugary which turned my stomach, but then the super rich ones {like the one pictured above} kind of made my craving worse. Clearly this wasn't the answer.

Next I thought about other chocolate substitutions that I could use which might give me the same taste as a chocolate cupcake, such as making hot chocolate. But as I was putting the kettle on in order to boil the water I realized that this isn't actually what I wanted; part of my craving was to actually bite into the cupcake and taste the creamy icing and the spongy cake intermingle. This is clearly not something that a mug of hot chocolate could achieve.

Still trying to avoid venturing out into the night and contributing to my muffin top, I googled "craving chocolate" in order to see if there were any other suitable suggestions for dealing with a crazy chocolate craving that I hadn't thought of. There were actually a lot of suggestions, but most of them simply recommended substituting unhealthy chocolate items with more-healthy items such as chocolate covered rice cakes. No thank you. I thought I might actually be onto something when I found a website titled "7 Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Chocolate Cravings". This website was also sadly disappointing as some of the suggestions suggest that the authors of this website have never had a chocolate craving in their life. "Wait a little"? "Drink water?" These authors must be joking.

Out of options, I don't really know what to do now. I want so badly to eat a chocolate cupcake, but I know I really don't need it. Also, I have this nagging feeling that as soon as I take one bite, I suddenly won't want a chocolate cupcake anymore. Perhaps it's now just become the thrill of the chase. Anyways, for now I will sit here and fight the urge to devour the delicious. But if you or anyone you know have chocolate cupcakes and are willing to share... Please help a girl out!

Photo Credit: Sweet Serendipity

Integrity of Purpose



Photo Credit: This & That with iPiccy

February 10, 2013

Penny Pinching


























This week in Canada the penny - our one cent currency - was officially halted in production. Apparently, it had become too expensive to manufacture the penny, and it reportedly cost more to make a penny than a penny is worth. This change in Canadian currently has obvious implications for the way we spend out money and the way that things are priced. Though the penny remains valid as Canadian currency and will be excepted at stores and banks, it is officially being phased out of circulation. In order to accommodate this change, the Canadian government has provided guidelines for stores and other retailers with respect to altering their prices in order to help phase out the use of pennies. No longer will Canadians have to pay prices that would require the use of a penny; this means that prices will be rounded wither up or down in order to ensure that they end in 0.05. Officially, it has been declared that all prices ending in 0.01 or 0.02 will be rounded down to 0.00, and all prices ending in 0.03 and 0.04 will be rounded up to 0.05.

We all know that with any big change comes confusion. Though you would think that this policy is pretty straight-forward, there are clearly some concerns in application. On Monday, when this change officially rolled out, several prominent country-wide grocery store chains refused to accept the penny, but still charged customers prices that did not follow the round-up or round-down policy. This basically forced customers to over-pay for their products. On Thursday, I attended a large national brand sandwich shop, and was informed that my lunch came to a total of $5.35. When I informed the cashier that I would be paying via my debt card, she apparently changed her mind, and re-informed me that the price of my lunch was $5.37. I don't care about the extra two cents that I was required to pay, but the fact that my method of payment changed the price of my lunch stuck me as strange.

I am sure that all of this confusion will be sorted out within the coming weeks, as stores and retailers will make more sense of the government polices and will be able to implement them seamlessly. However, this change leaves me with a problem of my own: The large penny collection that I have at home. Both my husband and I were avid penny collectors as children, and as a result we have a mountain of pennies stored in various containers around the house. Initially I thought that perhaps I should hold onto all of these pennies, as they would likely increase in value since they are no longer in production. However, the general consensus is that pennies will be nothing special, and they really won't increase at all. In fact, it's likely that they will decrease and only be as worth as much as the tiny bit of copper used to make them. So, my options are as follows: I could keep holing onto this collection and never spend it, or I could roll them and deposit them at the bank. Or I could be that person at the grocery store. You know the one I mean: The one who brings a massive bag of change to the store during the Saturday morning grocery rush, and proceeds to enter the express lane and dump and count this copious amount of coin on the conveyor belt, thus ruining any notion of express for anyone in line behind them. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that we are going to be seeing a lot of these people in the very near future...

Photo Credit: Skeptikai

February 6, 2013

10 Warm Dates for Cold Winter Nights


























With Valentine's Day just around the corner it seemed fitting to write this post now. There are certainly more than 15 great date night ideas out there, but these are some of my favourites. As my husband and I are still trying to watch our wallets, I am particularly fond of these date night ideas as they are relatively cheap, and in some instances they are virtually free!

1. Have a Movie Night
I don't know about you, but there is an extensive movie collection in my house. My husband is a movie collector, and I won't lie - we both enjoy scrounging through the $5 bin movie bin with the hopes of finding a "good" one for cheap. Over the years we have amassed a massive movie collection that just begs to be watched. So rather than splurging to go to the theater, why not stay in {and stay warm} at home with an old favourite.

2. Make Hot Chocolate
Despite my chocolate obsession, I am not the biggest fan of coffee shop hot chocolate. I find it to be too sweet or too tart  or too sticky, or lumpy; it's just never right. However, making homemade hot chocolate is a fun date night activity, and it allows picky hot chocolate connoisseurs like me the ability to control the sweetness or the amount of lumps in the drink. Or, try a variation on the original, such as a vanilla hot chocolate!

3. Play a Board Game
Nothing like a little friendly competition, right? This is also a great date night when hosting other couples, because it is such a versatile idea {in that you can play individuals, teams, etc} and most everyone loves board games. This idea can also be great fun when combined with #6 below!

4. Make a Charcuterie Plate
You have to eat dinner, so why not make it a little unusual and interesting with a charcuterie plate for two. The price of this 'date' will be dependent on how much of a gourmand you are, as in if you only eat the most high-end meats and cheeses then this could very easily become a pricey date night very quickly. But checking out the deli section of your grocery store as well as store-brand cheeses can make a charcuterie quite affordable, and delicious! If you need some inspiration, check out my Fig and Brie Appetizer recipe for an easy go-to for getting your plate started.

5. Skip Dinner, Have Dessert
Not the most healthy of dates, this one is certainly one of my favourites, in moderation of course. How many times have you sat in a restaurant and taken a sneak peek at the dessert menu before you even considered your entree? Maybe it's just me, but I do this all the time. So as something out of the ordinary {and much cheaper than having a full course dinner and dessert} why not skip dinner and go straight for the good stuff!

6. Play a Drinking Game
Though not the most healthy or cheap {not to mention socially responsible} idea, playing a drinking game with your date can be a fun date idea to bring out your competitive sides. When my husband and I were in university we chose to play a round of beer pong just the two of us, and it was great fun to change the game based on the setting and the number of participants. This idea can also be added into other date night ideas, such as having a movie night {#1 above} in order to spice things up.

7. Have Dinner in a "Hole-in-the-Wall" Restaurant
When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we made a point of walking about the city in order to find the restaurants that were not frequented by tourists. There is a saying, that you should eat where the locals eat, and we did just that. We ended up finding some amazing little restaurants that we would have otherwise missed, and had some of the best food of our lives as a result. So why not try taking a walk or drive through a part of your city that is known for it's diverse restaurants and pick one you have never been to before. Also keep in mind that some of the best restaurants are often the ones that look the worst from the outside!

8. Snuggle Up by the Fire
Not a glamorous date by any means, but one of the most comfortable! Put on a warm sweater, grab a blanket, and perhaps make a hot chocolate or hot vanilla {as suggested in #2} and enjoy the warm of the fire and the pleasure of each other's company.

9. Take a Cooking Class
Another great idea for getting out of the house while staying warm, taking a cooking class is a perfect winter date night activity. Not only are you and your date able to spend some great time together, but you will likely learn how to make a great dinner that you can make at home {which is another great date idea}.

10. Get to Know Your Neighbours
Perhaps by now you are getting a little bored of hanging out just the two of you? Why not invite your neighbours over for a drink {and perhaps a second rendition of the charcuterie plate mentioned in #4}. You and your date will get to enjoy each other's company, but you will also {hopefully!} make friends and find another couple that you will be able to "double date" with in the future.

Photo Credit: Green Wedding Shoes

February 4, 2013

It's Just Not Clicking

























I love photography. There are {few} things in the world as satisfying to me as taking the perfect picture, or capturing something on film in a way that is unusual or different; it is a never-ending challenge for me and my lens to capture something in a way that offers a new or unusual perspective. But lately I haven't been taking many pictures. In fact, I honestly can't remember the last time that I took my camera out of the case and took pictures just for the fun of it. For that matter, I can't remember the last time that I used my camera at all.

Looking back on my albums from the past several years, most of my photographs center around friends and travel. It's been a long time since I have hung out with my friends in a new or exciting situation that would warrant pictures being taken {Starbucks dates don't qualify haha} and I haven't been able to travel anywhere in a very long time {unless you count my daily commute into the city}. I will admit that there have been several times where I have been driving along the highway and various pieces of scenery will strike me as photogenic, but unfortunately I don't have my camera on me, and better yet, I can't stop in the middle of the highway to take the photo. It's such unfortunate timing.

I have read several articles and blog posts that offer advice on what to do when you have lost your sense of inspiration, but frankly, I haven't found these articles to be very helpful. I also thought that perhaps participating in a photo-a-day type of challenge might help me get out of this drought, but even that seems unappealing to me at the moment. Part of the problem I think is that I have nothing new to photograph, and I feel like all of my everyday objects are too mundane to make a nice picture. I guess that's the point of a photo-a-day challenge, to force you to look at everyday objects in a new way, but I am so uninspired that even that seems boring. Call it a rut I guess.

Photo Credit: Jarvie Studios Blog

February 3, 2013

Pin of the Week: On Hold
























As many of my dedicated readers know, each Sunday morning I have been posting images that I have found on Pintrest in a weekly feature called "Pin of the Week". I started this feature last September when I was pinning like it was my job, and I was obsessed with everything Pintrest. Since then I have faithfully been pinning and writing about some of my favourite pins each Sunday morning without fail.

But more recently I have found that I have been becoming somewhat bored with Pin of the Week; there are lots of things that I am pinning {outfits galore!} but nothing that really makes a great article or something interesting to talk about. I mean, really, how much can I babble on about a great outfit combo or a paint color? Some people certainly can {as there are lots of fashion and design blogs out there} but I am finding it increasingly difficult to do that on such a frequent basis, while making the information fresh and relevant.

So I have decided that for the meantime I will be putting the weekly Pin of the Week feature on hold. That's not to say that this will not resurface again soon {as I am always looking for a new project or hobby and need some pinspiration} but right now I am going to shelf this feature.  This is not to say that I have stopped pinning, and I will likely continue to do so without fail. So keep following me on Pintrest, and happy pinning!

Photo Credit: Pintrest for the Profesional
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