Guest Write

Friday, October 24, 2014

DIY Squash Flower Bouquets






There are plenty of reasons to celebrate with friends and family during the fall season. It seems between Thanksgiving and New Years there are tons of holiday parties to host or attend. This cute floral arrangement uses seasonal squash and flowers and can be used as a centerpiece during your Thanksgiving feast or a fun gift to give to a friend or loved one this autumn.
This is a simple floral project that will take less than an hour to complete. Each squash only cost about $1 each and the flowers came from a simple bouquet from the grocery store. The total cost is less than $20.

Supplies:
Squash, pumpkin or other autumn veggies
Flowers
Optional: glass or plastic containers small enough to fit inside the hollowed out squash


Start by taking your squash and cutting a hole in the top like you are carving a Halloween pumpkin. Take a spoon and scoop out the squash guts and seeds. If you like you can clean off the seeds and bake them in the oven for a tasty treat. Check out my recipe for curried pumpkin seeds I wrote a couple years back.
Next, if you can find a small enough container to fit inside the carved out squash I recommend you place your flowers and water inside this container and place it into your hollowed out squash. I couldn’t find one small enough so I just filled up the squash with water and started arranging my flowers right into the hole. You could also use floral foam and stick the flower stems into the foam for extra stability.
The flowers I used were actually a bouquet I bought from the grocery store for $12. I trimmed the stems of the flowers I wanted to use and had enough to make three bouquets worth with a few extra flowers left over.
The arrangement will last several days. The squash will start to get mushy if it is left out for a couple days so make sure your make your squash bouquets the night before your need them. After the squash has passed its prime you can compost it and transfer the flowers to another small vase.
Of course if you don’t like to get your hands dirty www.freshflowers.com.au/ can send a gorgeous arrangement on your behalf or check out these other fun flower arrangement ideas from my Pinterest page.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Make your own Chalkboard




Home d├ęcor items can be expensive. You can save a lot of money by crafting your own art projects and up-cycling old items into something new for your home. Thrift stores are full of outdated and out of style objects that can be transformed into something beautiful and functional with a little imagination and some elbow grease. One item that can be found over and over again at the second hand store is mirrors. You can transform someone’s outdated retro mirror into a functional, trendy chalkboard with just a few inexpensive items from the hardware store. Chalkboard signs hung in your home office, front entry way or kids rooms are always popular and easy enough to DIY in just one afternoon.

Supplies:

  • Mirror
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paint brushes or foam rollers
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Craft paint or spray paint

Since I am challenging myself to a "Buy Nothing" month this September I actually was able to make this chalkboard only using supplies I already had around the house. The old mirror was donated from a family member and we already had the paint and other supplies from other craft projects! 




First clean your mirror with glass cleaner making sure to remove all dust and residue from the glass. If you plan to paint the frame of the mirror your should give it a light sanding with fine grit sandpaper and wipe it down as well to remove any dust or old paint. In addition to old mirrors, glass picture frames with an interesting frame can be made into a chalkboard too! 


Follow the directions on the chalkboard paint container. You will probably need to apply 2-3 coats of the chalkboard paint in order to get it thick enough. Make sure to let it dry for several hours between each coat to avoid peeling. Apply paint with either a small foam roller or small paintbrush making sure to use long even strokes.

Once the chalkboard paint is dry you can paint the frame if you like. Make sure to tape off and cover the chalkboard area to avoid getting the paint on this area. Use the appropriate paint or spray paint for the surface that you are coloring. Apply 2-3 coats of this paint as well allowing it to fully dry between coats.

Once the chalkboard paint is fully dry and you are ready to hang it on a wall make sure your are hanging it onto screws that are screwed into the studs (use a stud finder) or use screw anchors if you are drilling  into just the drywall. Once your chalkboard is hung you will need to prep the chalkboard surface before writing on it. Do this by rubbing chalk over the entire surface of the chalkboard and erasing it. Then you are ready to use your new chalkboard for making lists, writing notes or leaving sweet messages for your loved ones


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Comfort Food: Clean Chocolate Pudding






This blog post is for the ladies. It’s time for some girl talk.  Let’s talk about “that time of the month.”  I don’t know about you but when I get my period I usually want to hide in bed all day and pretty much become a hermit from the rest of the world. Aside from needing more rest I always feel the need for more self-care and I like to take a little time to make myself feel more comfortable. I think many of us get food cravings during the time of our period and of course I love to eat chocolate to make myself feel better. As many of you know, I have been on a journey for the past year trying to lose the weight I put on when I was pregnant. I have lost all the baby weight but I am still working out and trying to eat clean. I don’t want to sabotage all my hard work and progress by pigging out on junk food. It’s difficult when you are craving sweets and chocolate to resist candy bars and other treats. Today I am going to share a recipe for chocolate pudding. It’s not regular chocolate pudding though, its protein packed “clean” pudding. This is a great treat when you want something a little sweet, a little chocolaty but without refined sugar or preservatives. It's a little thicker than normal pudding. It's almost like mousse and it is very rich. 
Ingredients: 
2 Medium bananas
5 Tbs Nut butter. You can use peanut, almond or cashew
½ cup of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
6 Tbs of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of stevia
2 scoop of protein powder (I used vanilla cream flavor but you could use any kind)
Directions: 
Chop up the bananas into small pieces and blend them in the blender or use egg beaters to make them as smooth as possible. Add the nut butter, melted coconut oil and vanilla extract and blend until smooth.
Next add the dry ingredients and continue to blend making sure there are no lumps.
Let the pudding chill in the fridge for a least 30 minutes so the oil firms up. The longer you let it chill the better.
Portion the pudding out into small bowls. Garnish with berries and small mint leaves if you like. This recipe makes 4 servings. 
Recipe adapted from healthyhabits.ca   
What do you do to help comfort yourself during the time of your period?
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Buy Nothing Month


If you don't have a picture that fits your blog post subject matter. A photo of your pet pig is always acceptable

I will be the first to admit it, I tend to waste a lot of money on things I don't need. My husband and I are pretty stable financially and we don't live paycheck to paycheck so if I am out and about and I see something that I want in a store or online I will usually buy it without too much thought or worry. Don't get me wrong- we can be extremely frugal. Most of the dinners that I bring with me to work lately are frozen Weight Watchers meals from Dollar Tree! So while we are cheap and buy many things used or on sale I don't feel too much guilt about the occasional indulgence.

I recently read a few articles online about people who practice "Buy Nothing" days. It's about as simple as it sounds. Aside from basic needs like food and your bills you don't purchase anyhing! One couple I read about even did a "Buy Nothing" Year. I have decided I would like to try a "Buy Nothing" Month. I am trying to pay off the car I bought last January as quickly as possible. I have a 5 year loan but my goal was to have half of my loan paid by this September. I am almost there but have fallen a little behind. I am wondering, how much money can I save if I don't waste money on little things like coffee on the way to work? Or drive through meals when I am too lazy to cook? I love shopping at thrift stores and tend to pick up random knick-knacks that I don't need and I definitely have an addiction to shopping for just about everything on Amazon with my Prime membership.

The month of September will be my Buy Nothing month. Here is a list of things I am allowed to purchase

  • food from the grocery store- no coffee or quick dinners from the drive thru
  • gas
  • all bills will be paid of course. This includes my gym membership and cell phone bills both of  which I am on a contract. 
Here is where things get tricky. I like going out for dinner with my husband occasionally  and we have been trying to make an effort to go on more date nights so I'm not sure how this will fit in with Buy Nothing Month. Is is cheating if he pays since this is something I am doing this alone?

Also, I have been trying to take more time for myself to relax and wanted to get a massage or my nails done in the next month. I am not sure how this will fit in. I really wanted to get in some self pampering!

I think the trickiest part may be trying not to spend money on things for my home. We just did a lot of work on the garden and painted the porch. I wanted to maybe plant more flowers and plants and keep the progress going. 

I guess I am going to have to think creatively about these things. What can I get for free off Craigslist? What fun activites can we do without buying anything?

I will keep tally of how much money I saved and let know you how it ended up working out for me. Do I have the willpower to say no to all those little purchases? Will I have to hide my debit card?

If you have any tips for me please share in the comments!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Front Yard Makeover



It's been a busy summer and once again I have to apologize for not posting as much as I used to on this blog. I have the same old excuses, my baby and my job take up so much of my time these days I don't have a lot of time to work on this blog like I used to. I will be trying to post something new every Friday from this point. I think I can handle one blog post a week.


My parents and my sister came over last week to visit for a few day from British Columbia (where I am originally from) They helped us out with a ton of yard work. Today I am going to show you the progress we made on the front of the house. Here are some before pictures from last April.


The front walkway when we moved in was almost completely grown over. There were a few paver stones lined with wood pieces but it was overtaken by grass. Five years later we are finally getting around to redoing this area. I wanted a nice pathway leading up the the house. I wanted rocks so that we wouldn't get our pants wet from the wet grass every time we walked from the cars into the house.

We ordered some stones and had them delivered a couple days before my family came over to help. We already had a number of large stones from the previous owners of the house. We had to dig a lot of them out of the ground because so much grass had grown around them.

Work in progress. Lots of heavy lifting

First we lined up the larger stones on each side of where the walkway would be. Then my sister and mom dug up all the grass and layed down landscaping fabric. Then we had to transport the small stones over in a wheel barrow over to the walkway and spread them around. Obviously it was pretty back breaking. My sister and Mom did most of the work.

We also cleaned up the garden in the front yard. We weeded and added new flowers under the front windows and along the right side. The little plants we added are ground cover and they will hopefully take over most of that area so that grass doesn't grow again. 

Here are the after photos:






So far a huge improvement but there is lots left to do. I still want to paint the front porch and add some more flowers and garden area as painting the fence.
What do you think?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wash Your Face...With Honey!




I love making my own skincare and beauty products. I  feel like a little scientist mixing all sorts of ingredients together in the kitchen to use on my body. I prefer to use more natural ingredients and wrote all about the Oil Cleansing Method a couple years ago. I have a new ingredient added to my routine, in the morning I wash my face with honey!

Honey is naturally antibacterial and is actually really great to cleanse your skin with if your have acne. The key is to use raw local honey. Look for locally produced honey at the grocery store. Any kind will do. Just avoid the over processed pasteurized honey. It doesn't have the antibacterial properties as the local honey and is almost like using corn syrup to wash your face. No good. 

Cleansing the skin with honey is as simple as taking a teaspoon of honey and rubbing onto your skin.  Just rinse it off with warm water. It's gentle on the skin and completely natural and chemical free.

You can add other ingredients to the honey to customize it if you like. Essential oils are great to add or other foods like cinnamon or baking soda for a little bit of exfoliation.

Honey won't remove make up so at night I use the Oil Cleansing Method. I just rub a little oil on my skin and steam with with hot water on a face cloth. Honey cleansing is great in the morning before you do your makeup. I prefer to rub it into my skin before I get into the shower and let it sit for a few minutes then I rinse it off in the shower.You can literally just keep the container of honey in the bathroom and squeeze a little out when you wash your face. It's that simple.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Ikea Rast Makeover







I am in the process of redecorating my bedroom. I never completely finished decorating it when I was getting ready for the Do It Yourself Magazine photo shoot a couple years back. When we were getting ready for the shoot I quickly painted the wall behind the bedroom and made an upholstered headboard but I was so rushed I didn't have the time to think about what I really wanted. I decided I hated the grey wall and painted it blue. It's time to change everything else up a bit too.

Our nightstands were mismatched hand me down furniture from family members and I wanted new ones. I had some specific criteria in mind. I wanted dark wood and they needed to have 3 drawers so that I could store our socks, under ware and my bras. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have been so set on the 3 drawer thing but I was and so it is what it is. I scoured online and realized that 3 drawer dark wood nightstands are not only rare (most only have two drawers) but really expensive. I hit up the thrift store weekly but the thrift store Gods did not smile upon me. Then I discovered the Ikea Rast on Pinterest, a simple 3 drawer pine dresser that many, many bloggers are making over and "hacking" They only cost about $40 each so I saw this as the perfect solution. I bought two and stained them dark.

Ikea rast before


The stain I bought is Varathane Stain and Poly. The color is called Kona. I had never stained wood before and this product was actually really easy to use. If you want to try staining wood for the first time but are a little weary this is a great project. It's super simple and a great way to get your toes a little wet.

You are supposed to sand the wood before staining but the pine wood felt so smooth that I didn't bother. You are also supposed to sand between coats but I didn't think that it needed it.

Here is another shot of the after


The bedroom is super dark so it's really difficult to take photos. There is one Rast on each side of the bed. In retrospect I wish I had done a lighter wood stain but I can always try to sand it down and try again later. I may also try adding some wood trim and adding some feet to the dressers. I will share the updates when I do them and I will show off the whole bedroom when it's done.