Friday, April 29, 2011

Flowers on Friday: Living Room

A close up of our little living room bouquet! The mercury glass style vase is from Home Outfitters, it's the same one we had on our dining room table for our dining room reveal!
Hope you like them, and THANK YOU so much for all the fantastic comments on our living room reveal, I had a smile on my face all day! You guys are the best!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Living Room REVEAL!!!! . . . . finally :)

Lee: Finally we're done the living room!
Ashli: For Now
Lee: pardon ? ? ?
Ashli: Nothing ;) hehe

We hung the last star this weekend and now the living room is done . . . for now. Like any die hard decorator I can't say any room is really DONE! because something will always come up . . . always. So I'll just say that for now we are very happy with the way our Living Room turned out.
This room is what Lee and I would look like if our marriage was a room :) Sounds crazy, hear me out!
  • Lee is the giant couch. 109 inches of couch to be exact, with a big chaise coming off the side. I would be the smaller white slipcovered chairs in front of the window.
  • Lee would be the Large end tables (made from Ikea Meltorp consoles, tutorial to come) and I would be the  side tables beside the white chairs.
  • Lee's the dark black frames above the fireplace, and I'm the glass lamps on the side tables.
  • Lee's the WAY to big for the room T.V. (just say'in) and I'd be the white t.v. console underneath. 
  • Lee's the dark hardwood floors, I'm the light carpet.
  • Lee's the coffee table and I'm the . . . . I just ran out of comparisons but you get the idea. 
It's not too manly, and not too feminine and while it might not grace the cover of a magazine, it's so US! 

A peek in to how my mind works:
I chose a white pillow for the couch to bring some of the white from the chairs to the couch.

I chose beige striped pillows for the chairs to bring the beige from the couch to the chairs.
I chose to paint the stars on the mantel blue to match the color of the pillow on the couch.
 Another explanation from my brain :) is the white ottoman, I really wanted a super casual, super comfy room to just kick back in. And you can't kick back with out putting your feet up. And our feet couldn't reach the coffee table from the chairs and so an Ottoman was necessary. I'm also Loving the extra storage it's giving us!

So in conclusion:
We love it now!
But never say never!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Heart Giveaways!!!! ~Curtainworks~

We're always interested in decorating our little manor in ways that reduce environmental impact. So we were super excited when we found Curtainworks and their new "Caress Voile Sheer",  made of REPREVE® fibers using 100% recycled materials, including used plastic beverage bottles. 
With Spring here it's the perfect time to lighten up your window treatments with a set of airy sheers.  

Here's what Curtainworks Sheers boast:
  • ·         Rod pocket construction
  • ·         Semi-sheer look that maintains privacy while still letting light in
  • ·         Color assortment includes gold, ivory and white for a wide array of design possibilities
  • ·         Offered in five lengths ranging from 63 – 120 inches; with a width of 59 inches
  • ·         Made from 55% REPREVE® /45% polyester; on average, one panel saves seven 16 oz. plastic bottles from a landfill

Now for the best part, imagine our excitement when they offered a set of their panels to one of our fabulous readers!!!! (that's you :) 
Here's the details:
  • Prize: A set of Caress Voile Sheer from Curtainworks.
  • Ships to: Anywhere in the United States (sorry to my fellow Canadians, we'll have a giveaway for everyone soon).
  • To Enter: Leave us a comment saying "Sheer Me"
  • Contest Closes: Friday, April 29th, 2011 at 11:59 pm   
 Good Luck Everyone!!! And thank you Curtainworks!!!

~We weren't paid or rewarded in any way for this post, we just Love these curtains and are very grateful to the people at Curtainworks for providing one of our readers with a set of beautiful sheers :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Salt Lamp Love

I've been looking at salt lamps for a while now, I first saw them when my Mother in Law, who is always in the know about everything natural, bought one for Lee's brothers birthday! It was one of those Mental Note moments, you know "note to self, buy a salt lamp".
Truth be told I kind of forgot about it, but while poking around on Amazon trying to reach the $25 mark to get some free shipping :) I stumbled upon the Himalayan Salt Lamps.
Here's how it looks turned off:
Televisions, computers and other electronic devices can produce 100-160 hz, our brains can produce only 8hz.. Meaning we are exposed to 20 times the frequency we are generally use to. The consequences of this vary from lack of concentration to insomnia to fatigue AND it's known to create an accumulation of free radicals in your body, known to cause Cancer.
Because computers and televisions emit the most hz salt lamps are most effective when kept within close proximity to them. Ours is on our TV stand, right below the TV.
Here's how it looks turned on:

Now on to how the salt lamp can help. A salt lamp is basically an ionizer, releasing negative ions into the air to bind with the excess positive ions released by electronics. By binding with the excess positive ions they create a more natural air quality. But unlike an ionizer the salt lamps is also used to reduce stress levels, to aid in meditation, and if you are unlucky enough to suffer from allergies it should help you by improving the air around you.

If your looking to get one of your own, or if you already have one, a few things to keep in mind would be:
  • Never sprinkle water on your salt lamp, it will already be a little damp because as it warms up it absorbs moisture in the air , but you still should never water your salt lamp.
  • For the same reason you shouldn't place your salt lamp outside.
  • If crystallization occurs wipe it down with a dry cloth not a wet one, I think I've made my point, they don't like water :)
  • It's recommended that you light your salt lamp every day and leave it on for as long as possible. 
  • and if you are planning on not using it for a while (ie. vacation) you should cover it with a bag to save it from humidity.
So those are all the reasons why we bought a salt lamp, well that and I had to beef up my amazon purchase to take advantage of their free shipping option. We both really like the lamp, in fact it's the first lamp Lee's ever "LOVED" he picked it up from the post office and asked me why I bought a rock, but as soon as I plugged it in he was enthralled, as was I. We spent the rest of the night in the living room staring blankly at the lamp and it's warm orange glow.
If your looking for a natural way to clean your air, or are looking to create a relaxing glow, or are suffering from any symptoms of EMP (electromagnetic pollution) consider a salt lamp! It's natural, it's pretty and it's super relaxing :)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cupcakes on Friday ? ? ? ?

Sorry about the missing post yesterday, we were busy with the LIVING ROOM! It's just about done :) So happy to finally have it finished! Although I'm already itching to make a couple new throw pillows for the armchairs :)  Look for the post new week!!!

But for today, we are missing flowers :( Well not really it's just you've already seen them, in our $50 hallway reveal :) I really mean $68 Hallway reveal! So I figured you wouldn't want to see them again!

So I changed it to Cupcakes on Friday!! Just this once :)
Lee's work was having a going away party for one of his coworkers so I thought Easter Cupcakes would be good! They're White Cupcakes with Confetti Sprinkles inside, and Vanilla frosting on top!! I was told they're like Easter in your Mouth! haha

I popped a little mini egg on top, because seriously who doesn't like mini eggs??


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Sewing Green

I LOVE this book! I checked it out from Library and I loved it so much I'm going to buy my own copy :) Well actually I'm going to use my Visa points for a gift card to buy a copy :)

Here's why I love this book so much. Instead of showing me a bunch of projects I'm no where near skilled enough to do, it shares simple easy projects. It encouraged me to spend LESS time in the fabric store and more time in the thrift store! The Sewing Green projects take old pieces and makes them new again! Like the Hostess Aprons made from old men's shirts :) LOVE that one!
Although sometimes the author verges on the side of Crazy Optimistic, for example, I am never going to find enough cashmere sweaters at Goodwill to make a blanket (I've only managed to find 2 my entire life), I still love the idea, a cashmere throw for under $20!!!
A couple of my Favorite projects would include, the snail on a log draft blocker:

The sandwich wrapper:

and the picnic blanket made from old towels and vinyl tablecloth.

She even has a pattern for produce bags :)

At the back of the book there's a little envelope full of patterns, and a lot of the pages have patterns printed on them, all you have to do is photo copy them at 200% cut them out and use them!

I'm not a great sewer, infact I wouldn't even say I'm a good sewer but all these projects seem really do-able and I can't wait to tackle the sandwich wrappers :) I'll let you know how it goes :)

p.s. I haven't in any way been compensated for this post. I just really really LOVE this book!
I hope you'll consider checking this one out! It's got some great photography in it too, in case you don't want to get your sew on, but like flipping through pretty pics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I must, I must, I must . . . . reduce my waste.

Usually I end I MUST, with . . . . increase my bust.  You know the little song. "I must, I must, I must increase my bust. The bigger, the better, the fuller the sweater!"
But I've given up on that dream and moved on to: " I must, reduce my waste", because that's actually something I can control :)
Here's what I'm doing:
  • Padded Bra's
  • Chicken Cutlets  
Wait we're talking about garbage:
  • I wasn't sure if I was going to write down buy fewer cans, because we recycle those, but they usually come in packaging of their own. Although if it's cardboard you can recycle that too so, I'm torn. Lee had a good point, all packaging whether it's recyclable or not, takes resources and energy to make, so we're cutting out cans.
  • No take-out. Take out containers create so much garbage!! One night of Chinese take-out is almost an entire bag of garbage
  • No Disposable razors. It's not so much the razors as it is the plastic packaging they come in. Or maybe I'll just stop shaving my legs all together ? ? ? ? probably not . . . . probably!
  • Buy milk in Glass Containers, not only good for the environment, but cute and retro too :)

  • Make my own laundry detergent. It's super easy, and you skip the huge plastic bottles. If you'd like our Laundry Soap recipe, follow the LINK.

  • No more plastic grocery bags. We've been bringing our own bags to the grocery store for years now, and I'm assuming you've been too. But now we'll be bringing our own produce bags with us. 

  • Cancelling our cataloge and magazine subscriptions. Except for Martha :) 
  • Really trying not to use paper towels. I'm not going to say we aren't going to use paper towels (because seriously I'm not cleaning up dog puke with anything else), but we're going to make a very conscious effort to reach for a dish towel to dry our hands instead!
  • Make my own household cleaners in old cleaner bottles (as soon as I run out I'll be sure to write a post full of recipes)
  • More good Old Home Cooking, package free :) You can peek through our meal plan monday's to see some of our recipes.
  • I'm really excited about this one: Make my own . . . . sandwich bags!!! Here's an example, tutorial to come! 

  • use bulk bins more. The plastic bag from Bulk Bins isn't great, but it's better then the plastic bag inside the cardboard box, in shrink wrap.
  • Use craigslist more! Although we use it a lot already :) Used goods, don't have packaging :) 
  • When we need to get rid of something, you know something that no one would buy, like an old kite or a ratty old chair, offer it for FREE on craigslist. We've had a lot of success doing this! Freecycle is also a good for this. And what ever we can keep out of the landfill is GREAT!
  • Re-use when ever possible
  • Re-use old clothes as rags
  • Re-use any old fabric or clothes and make a quilt (currently working on my first one, I'll let you know how it goes). 
  • Re-use old tin cans as pencil holders (I just really miss this idea from elementary school)

  • Borrow and Rent. Instead of buying a huge ladder you might only need once or twice is a waste, try renting it from Home Depot or you might be lucky and have a fabulous neighbor who has one. We've done this for everything from a ladder to a saw to a pick up truck.
  • Keep things in good repair. If you take care of your stuff, it's less likely to break and you won't need to buy a new one wrapped in packaging :)
  • And last COMPOST as you read in our previous post we've been composting!

So there it is, all of our plans, what's that they say about the best laid plans . . . eeeeek!

One thing I noticed while writing this post was that almost all of these tips will also save money! It's funny how these two different topics completely align with each other! All the changes we've been making have been sending ripples through the rest of our life. For example:
Cutting down on garbage = making more homemade meals= healthier us!
Cutting down on garbage = making our own laundry soap = saving money and healthier soaps for us!
Cutting down on garbage = re-using old clothes = made a quilt = warmer us = not having to buy a new quilt for winter = saving money!
I'm starting to like MATH!

Monday, April 18, 2011

$50 Hallway Challenge Complete!

If you've been following our $50 Hallway challenge you'll be happy to hear we've finally finished. If you haven't been following our $50 Hallway Challenge, you can catch it here and here. But to make a long story short, Lee bought me the console for Valentine's Day, and I was determined to finish off the hallway for less then $50!
I'll let you in on the final total at the end:
Here she is all dressed up. Because it was our upstairs hallway, I felt like I could go a little funkier! It didn't have to be soooo formal. only Lee, me and you guys will be seeing it.
I used a ladder as a blanket rack. I thought it would be nice to grab a throw on the way to bed on a particularly cold night. Or an overnight guest could grab one if they were cold. I'm hoping to make a few more quilts and display them on the ladder :) Easy to grab (FUNCTIONAL) and pretty quilts (FASHIONABLE).
The mirror is our old mirror from our old Dining room.
The frames are from Ikea, some we had, some we bought. All the artwork was bought for us from one very special friend who knows my taste and totally gets Lee's sense of humor.  If you'd like to know where specific prints came from shoot me an email and I'll forward it to her!
The hedgehog clock at the top is my very favorite little find. At $12 I couldn't resist picking it up! If you'd like one of you're very own, you can find it at the Real Canadian Superstore.
The plant is a rubber plant, super duper air purifier!
You might remember the little yellow tulip bouquet from our flowers on friday. He found his way up into the hallway, and I trapped him in a cage!!! :)
If you're looking to trap a bouquet of tulips for yourself you could pick up a cage like this one from Homesense.
So the final total:
We had to buy one of the larger Ikea Ribba frames at $12.99 (the other ones were leftover from our old dining room)
We had to buy one of the smaller Ikea Ribbea frames at $8.99
Mirror = free
Artwork = free
Rubber plant = $10.99 from Home Depot
Basket for rubber plant = $20.00 - 40% = $12.00
Tulip Cage $7.99 homesense
Tulips = $3.50
Hedgehog Clock $12.
Ladder for blankets = Free it was our old bookcase ladder, that originally started it's life as a Rexbo shelf.
Grand total:  $68.45
So I didn't make it :( Saddest face ever! I was really surprised I totally thought I was on track but it just kept adding up. Even with us having so many pieces already I still went over.

Winston Churchill once said:
"Success is never final; Failure is never fatal." 
I live another day!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Flowers on Friday: Delivered Flowers

Today's Flowers on Friday is totally accidental. A case of mistaken identity! or mistaken address !

I came home from Grocery Shopping on Monday, and was estatic to see we had flowers on our front door step! There's nothing quite like having delivered flowers!
My mind was racing trying to think of who they could be from, were they from Lee? were they from a neighbor, was it finally George Clooney?
I picked up the little basket and brought it inside, grabbed the card with as much enthusiasm as I've mustered in a long time, The note read:
"We are so sorry for your loss. Our deepest condolences."
My heart raced as I thought, who died??? Lee's okay I just spoke to him, I talked to my mom this morning everything seemed fine . . .
Then I realized it could be a mistake, read who it was addressed to and relaxed, a little sad no one sent me flowers, but very happy no one had to send me flowers :)
I phoned the flower company and had them come and pick them up, relieved they weren't for me.

Here they are, I hope they bring comfort to whom ever they were intended for.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reduce your Waste: Take the pledge!

We've decided that with the help of our new composter and our city's fantastic recycling program that we can reduce our garbage signifigantly! We are hoping to get our total garbage down to 1 kitchen sized bag per week, that's a 38L bag  of garbage.

Our composter will help, and we've purchased another recycling bin!
I just don't believe we need to make this much garbage and I think there's a lot of you who are with me!
It's going to take a lot more then just a new recycling bin and a composter. We're going to have to start looking at what we're buying and start purchasing products with less packaging. Less plastic, more cardboard and maybe instead of buying pudding cups, we could buy pudding mix, changes like that.

I think something we've lost is the belief that we can change big business, let's show companies that less packaging is what we want! (there is no reason for toothpaste to come in a cardboard box, it's in a tube people) hehe
Join us in making the pledge to reduce your waste. It doesn't have to be 1 bag a week, it can be whatever you feel you can do!
So grab a button, and let us know!

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It Does."
~William James

Compost bin???? What Compost bin??

This Compost Bin!!!!!
I knew when I had a yard of my very own that I would want to compost, some people dream of granite counters and shiny appliances, I dreamed of compost bins and rain barrels.

We felt it was important to keep it close to where we will be using it. I wasn't about to haul buckets of compost around! The problem with keeping it near the vegetable beds was that it was completely visible from the dining room and living room windows. NOT GOOD! But three 4 foot cedar tree's block the view and make a nice backdrop for the beds. Problem Solved :)We hid our little compost bin behind a hedge of cedars!

A compost bin is win win, it's good for the 'ol vegetable beds, a natural fertilizer, and it cuts down on our garbage, in fact the first week we reduced our garbage by 1/3.
Now would also be a good time to let you in on our "Garbage Goal" we'd like to get our garbage down to one kitchen sized garbage bag a week. We've given ourselves a time line to get it down by (these things don't happen overnight) by September 1st we're hoping we'll have 1 bag a week! Wish us luck, we're going to need it!

But back to our new compost bin!
 It's a EARTH MACHINE COMPOSTER. And possibly the best part: it only cost us $25. Our city provides compost bins at a reduced rate! and we were more then happy to take advantage of the deal! You should check if your city offers a similar program, my parents town also offers a similar program and a dear far away friend of ours also purchased their bin from their city!

Here's the little counter top crock we use to carry our scraps out to the bin. By "we" use to carry, I really mean "Lee" uses to carry. The division of labor in our house has been set in stone for a few years now, if it smells bad . . . it's Lee's job!

Backyard Composting – 10 Easy Steps

  1. Choose a flat, partly-sunny area with good drainage.
  2. Purchase a bin from your municipality or a store or build your own rodent-proof compost bin. Keeping a lid on your bin will help keep out rain and rodents.
    tip : The ideal compost bin size is one cubic metre in order to retain the heat it generates.
  3. Create a 6-10 cm base layer using straw, leaves, or woody brushy material to promote air circulation.
  4. Alternate layers of green (nitrogen-rich) and brown (carbon-rich) materials.
    tip : Chop up large materials for faster decomposition.
  5. Whenever you add a food scrap layer, top it off with a layer of brown material (5-8 cm). If you only use kitchen scraps (green material), your compost will likely be wet and break down more slowly.
    tip : In the fall, collect dry leaves into an old garbage container so that you can use them
  6. Mix bin contents every week or two. This aerates the materials and gets the bin heating up again, allowing them to decompose faster. Purchase an aerator tool or use an old ski pole or broom handle.
  7. Moisture content of the bin should be like a wrung-out dish rag. Only add water if it is very dry after mixing.
    tip : To maintain proper moisture content, balance the amount of green and brown
  8. Pile will shrink. Continue to add layers of green and brown materials until bin is almost full.
  9. Compost is generally ready to use after about 2-3 months; however, aging the compost for another 1-2 months is recommended.
    tip : If you have room, set up two composters so you can add to one bin as the other
    one matures.
  10. Harvest your compost when the compost at the bottom and centre is decomposed, full of healthy worms, and  moist. Dig out the compost with a shovel, using the door at the bottom of a commercial bin; or if you have built your own, remove the top new layers and dig the compost from the centre.

We hope you'll consider a little hidden compost bin of your own, it can reduce your garbage up to 30%. But what we're really hoping is that you might want to join in on our garbage pledge! It doesn't have to be 1 bag a week, it doesn't have to be two bags a week, just a pledge to reduce your garbage by whatever amount you see fit! Grab a badge and let us know!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vegetable beds!

Since we bought our house with the worlds tiniest backyard I've been determined to homestead to the max . . . yup I just wrote homestead to the max! WOW!
I've been reading a bit about the victory gardens wives use to build during the world wars. Little vegetable patches in their backyards. They were encouraged to grow their own vegetables to reduce pressure on the public food supply. And boost morale. This made victory gardens a huge part of life on the home front. I love the idea of growing your own food, and I think now is as good a time as any. There is so much concern over pesticide use, and food miles, and ethical treatment of workers. In your own vegetable patch, there are no food miles, no pesticides (if you choose) and the treatment of workers is usually pretty good :) Lee always gets a sandwich and a beer if he's been working in the yard.

I like keeping everything simple and on a small scale, which suits our life and our backyard perfectly. Our new vegetable beds are just that, simple and small :D
Here's the plan:
We have one bed that is 4 feet by 4 feet and another bed that has been cut on an angle to accommodate the fence.
The space between the two beds is just big enough to fit the lawn mower through.

We'll be using square foot gardening techniques, here's a really great book on the topic
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (and we'll also do another post about square foot gardening, just some basics later this month, :)
If you have a couple of small beds like we do, it's the BEST way to get the most yield out of them.
I am so excited to start planting and even more excited to start eating :)

Here's what's going in:
  • Pea's- I love fresh pea's off the vine, even the big ones that kind of taste like dirty socks :) I have fantasy's of growing so many fresh pea's that we sit on the front porch in our rockers shelling peas, then packaging them up and we'll have peas all winter. But in reality I eat them all straight out of the pod before they'd make it to the front porch. The white trellis's are for the Peas to climb up :)

  • Strawberries- I'm especially excited to put a bit of hay under each little bud :) It's the little things that make me excited haha
  • Radishes-Lee is a radish maniac!
  • Green onion- I eat them like they are going out of style. Especially with Pierogis and sour cream mmmmm . . . .
  • Beets- The entire triangle bed is going to be beets. That bed gets a fair amount of shade so beets will do well there. And I can't wait to pickle some this summer!
  • Lettuce- My mom says it's fool proof so I have to try it. We chose the BUTTERCRUNCH variety, that's the kind my mom and her neighbor grow.  I've had it and LOVE it. It's kind of like a cross between Green Leaf Lettuce and Romaine.
  • There will also be a tomato plant or two growing in containers against the house :) 
I hope you'll be inspired to Start a little victory garden of your own, because if we can do it in the tiny backyard we've got, I'm sure just about anyone can :)
I declare VICTORY over high prices, haha Just kidding, I'm a dork :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cord Labels!

Our "home entertainment corner" has one very overwhelmed power outlet! So we Lee decided we needed to get all those cords in order, and we I knew just what to do.

I picked up these little cord labels for $0.99 (we bought ours from an outlet store, but the container store carries them too). Since we have so many wires and they're all black we wanted to make sure we grabbed the right cord at the right time.

Each little plastic cases has a little cardboard picture inside. We've got, the TV, DVD, Reciever, Computer, and internet modem.

Lee bought the special Surge Protector Power Bar, this is important because:
"it will filter out any power spikes that could damage your equipment" ~says Lee
It costs around $40 but could save you hundreds on your replacement costs. . .  safety first! (I'm a dork)

This is one of those Bonus Points projects from around the house, not a must do, but a nice to have done sort of project :)
I'm outside in the yard today, and Lee will join me after work, pop back tomorrow for the worlds smallest backyard update! hehe

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meal Plan Monday: Budget Part Deux

Budget is such a huge consideration for our meal plans. Lee eats like a family of four, and I eat like a lady . . . a hungry lady. So really we're cooking for a family of 5 most nights. Seriously if the recipe says it feeds 4 it feeds the two of us.

I've recently jumped on the Coupon Clipping Bandwagon (Thank you Extreme Coupons on TLC) although it seems couponing in Canada isn't as easy, we don't have any double coupon days (none that I know of anyways). And Extreme Couponing doesn't really fit that well into our lifestyle either, who really needs 45 jars of mustard and 100 deodorant sticks??? I've also had a hard time finding coupons for organic products, but once and a while they do pop up and we take advantage :)

This option is my favorite because it tastes a lot better too. We almost always use our slow cooker to these cuts. It makes them super tender and so flavorful.
Which brings me to Monday's Dinner: Soooooo Easy!
Slow cooker Pot Roast
2 cans cream of Mushroom Soup
1 (1oz) package dry Onion Soup Mix
1 1/4 cups water
5-ish pound Beef Bottom Roast
A carrot or two (sliced into 2 inch chunks)
two or three small baby red potato (quartered)
a handful of pearl onions
Season Roast with salt and pepper and sear the meat on a frying pan, on all sides!
In the slow cooker mix together the soup, soup mix and water. Add the seared meat, and place the vegetable around it.
Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, or low for 8-9 hours.
So Good, So easy!

Another way we save is we cook vegetarian meals at least once a week! Meats expensive so we save a bit here. The best way to serve vegetarian meals is in ethnic recipes, I find a bunch of steamed vegetables way too bland so we make it into a curry or this week on Tuesday we're trying Serena from the Farm Chicks, Pon Pon Tofu! It looks really yummy and Lee and I both Love a little spice in our food.

This sounds more like a recipe then a way to save money, but, it's both! Borscht is a fabulous way to use up left over . . . . anything really. We cut a chunk off of Mondays Pot roast before we cook it and save it in the fridge, and use that for the meat in our Wednesday's Borscht. Some cabbage, some carrots, and left over pearl onions, beets (lots of beets) some mushrooms, what ever else might be in the fridge like, corn or green beans or spinach or kale.

A simple salad with some grilled chicken on top is so easy, so fast and super cost effective. This is what's for dinner on Thursday:
Here's our Cajun Chicken Salad Recipe.
2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Some reduced sodium Cajun Spice
~Coat chicken in Cajun spice and fry in a touch of olive oil or grill it on the BBQ
This is our favorite Salad Dressing! It's AMAZING (TRY IT!!!) Sorry about the generalizations, I make it out of memory
Make right in the salad bowl before you put the lettuce in
1-3 cloves of garlic (depending how much you like garlic)
about a tsp Dijon mustard
about a tbsp Worcestershire sauce
juice of half a lemon
about 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Whisk in 
about 5 or 6 tbsp's Extra virgin olive oil
Chop up a head of crisp romaine lettuce, add to bowl, toss salad together, top with a little grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. Top with Cajun chicken. 
It's our own super light version of a Cajun Chicken Caesar Salad

Eggs are cheap and good for you, and delicious!
Friday Dinner is Quiche Lorraine!

So that's how we're planning on saving money and feeding ourselves this week! If anyone has any other tips on how to save money on groceries, or any Canadian Coupon Tips we'd LOVE to hear them :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Flowers on Friday: How I construct a bouquet

I have received tons of emails ask me how I put together our Flowers on Friday . . . okay it's only tons if you consider 2 emails TONS, I do!
All of our bouquets are just simple grocery store bouquets, the mixed flower ones, all of our bouquets are under $10 in most cases well under $10.
Here's how I put them together:
First I take all the greenery, cut it to size and place in the container

Then add the biggest flower, in this case it would be the lilies

Then add the next largest flowers in this case the gerber daisies

And last I tuck in any tiny flowers or babies breath.

And here's how it looked on our Spring Fling Table

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mason Bee's

Since we now have a mini orchard in our backyard (yes I am most definitely exaggerating), we needed to ensure good pollination, so that we actually have something to harvest in the fall. Since I'm no good with a paint brush, whether it's on a canvas or pollinating flowers I thought I'd hire some outside help.
Since we're DIYers at heart this was a difficult decision to make but in the end it's what's best for the orchard :). hehe
Welcome to Mason Bee Manor:

There are so many options out there for homes, if you had wood beams outside you could simply drill some holes into it and wait for the bees to come. You could take a block of un-treated wood and drill some holes in that, or you could buy a little Mason Bee Manor like ours for around $20.

Mason Bee's are different the honey bees, they don't create honey or wax. Every female is a 'Layer', there is no Queen. Mason Bee's are solitary bees, they build their own little nests, although they do like to build them near each other. As with all solitary bees they are gentle and shy, they do still have a stinger but only use it when they are in serious danger. They are not territorial at all, so you don't have to worry about getting too close to their Manor.
Mason bees are the superstars of Pollination. While a honey bee may land on 700 flowers a day, it will only pollinate 30 of them. A mason bee will land on 1500 flowers a day and pollinate almost all of them. Plus Mason Bees thrive in colder weather, so even on cold rainy spring days they're out and about, while the honey bees sit cozy in their hive.
AND Mason Bees are super easy maintenance, once a year you pull out the old paper tubes, put them near their home and put new paper tubes in. It's a tiny amount of work with for a huge payoff.

So I hope you'll consider a little Mason Bee Manor for your backyard! 
Here's the little tube we've had sitting in our Fridge for the past couple weeks :)

We bought our little fella's from our local nursery, they weren't hard to find, I only had to call one nursery and they had them. And on the way home we passed another nursery with a sign "Mason Bee's In Stock" so I think they're fairly easy to find this time of year. Although if you already have Mason Bees in your area all you'll need is a home for them. I wasn't sure if we had any in this area so I bought a little 10 pack just in case.
 In case you're interested here's a little bit more info about the little fella's:
  • are one of many indigenous, solitary bees to the American continent They were pollinating fruit and flowers thousands of years before the first colonists brought the honey bee from Europe. 
  • They are called "mason" because they construct nests with walled-off chambers for each egg. 
  • They live for about 4-6 weeks in the late spring and early summer when the flowers and fruit trees start to bloom. 
  • After emerging from their cocoon and mating, the female goes to work laying eggs and collecting nectar and pollen for the brood .
  • They are a very good alternative for a back yard gardener that can do without all the work associated with the honey bee. 
Their Life cycle:
  • The blooming of the orchards is the sign for the Mason Bees to emerge from their cocoons. 
  • The male emerges first and the female a couple days later. After mating with the female the male dies and the female gets busy searching for a suitable nest. 
  • Once found, she starts collecting nectar and pollen to ensure the survival of the brood. A mixture of nectar and pollen is placed at the back of the hole and a female egg is laid on it. Then a wall of mud is constructed to secure the cell. 
  • She lays 4-5 female eggs in the same manner and in front a couple cells with males. 
  • After a brief life span of 4-6 weeks during which she lays some 40 eggs the mason bee dies. 
  • The larva start to feed and by the end of September the final moult has occurred and a complete adult bee rests in its own waterproof cocoon. 
  • The Mason will thus hibernate the winter away and wait for the coming of spring.


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