Friday, September 28, 2012

Easy Halloween Wreath

I wanted to show you the Halloween wreath that I made for my front door.  It looks pretty plain and basic, right?  Well, check it out up close!

And even closer!

I got the idea from a Martha Stewart magazine two years ago, however, she used snakes.  I used to see packages of snakes all the time at the dollar store and ever since I saw her wreath I have not been able to find snakes anywhere.  Last week I was looking for snakes at Walmart when I found packages of spiders.  I figured, why not!  So I bought a cheap $5 grapevine wreath and a couple of packages of spiders.

I had the black spray paint in the basement so I didn't even have to buy that.  Now I want you to know that I am not crafty at all!  I want to be crafty and I admire women who seem to find the time to put together fabulous creations using a little imagination and an incredible amount of talent.  It's not that I can't do some things; I can knit and quilt but I never have the patience to finish a project.  I believe I come by that honestly though.  My mother is still working on that baby sweater for my now 21 year old son.  Maybe someday Mom!

Anyway, I digress.  I hot glued spiders all over the wreath.  I started by placing the big ones and then moved down to the medium ones and filled in all the spaces with the tiny ones.

I then spray painted the whole thing black.

One thing that I noticed when gluing on all the spiders was that I was making a huge mess with all the strings of hot glue.  Then it hit me that they look just like spider webs.  So, after the paint dried, I got out the hot glue gun again and, using a toothpick, I made hot glue spider webs all over the wreath (they were hard to catch in a photograph).

The whole project took very little time and, even better, very little money!

I think it looks lovely hanging on the front door.

Are you crafty?  Have you made any Halloween decorations?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Decorating For Fall

Welcome to my favourite room in my house.  What's ironic is that this "room" is actually outside of the house.  It's my front porch! 

The front porch is probably one of the key features of Victorian architecture that really needs to make a comeback.  In this high-tech world that we live in, a front porch helps keep us in touch with our neighbors.  It's more than just a transitional space from the street into the home.  It's an open-air parlor that can be suitably furnished for entertaining and allowing family members to get a daily dose of fresh air.

I love sitting on the porch, reading a good book, watching friends and neighbors walk by.  Most years we even end up having a "porch cat" to keep us company.  Sometimes it's a neighbor's cat that comes to sit with us, sometimes it's a stray that we feed.  We had Mortimer, a stray cat that got out as a kitten when his owners were moving, come for about 3 years.  We could not get close enough to pet him but if we were sitting quietly he would sit within a couple of feet and purr as we told him what a good kitty he was.  We were not the only neighbors that fed him either.  He was one of the fattest stray cats I had ever seen!

This weekend I got the urge to do some fall decorating.  I will tell you right now that I am not a Halloween person.  I think that most people fall into two categories; Halloween people and Christmas people.  I am firmly in the latter and view Halloween as something that cuts into my Christmas decorating time.  However, fall is my favourite time of year and I wanted to make the porch look special.

It started out rather bare.  I had Mr. P take down the lovely hanging baskets last week (they were starting to die off).  But it didn't take long to transform it into a lovely fall room.

  We added a bale of straw (I had no idea that bales of straw were so messy when I first had this idea!) and a few little Halloween decorations.  I made the flower arrangement with some cheap flowers from Walmart and the dollar store.  I think they turned out pretty good.

I added a couple of large mums on the pillars because it just doesn't look like fall without some mums.

I always keep a couple of throws just inside the front door in case anyone gets cold.  Even in the summer, after the sun has gone down, it can be a little cool.

With a scary wreath on the front door (more about that in my next post) the porch was complete.  After dinner I took the time to put my feet up and enjoy a nice, homemade, pumpkin spice latte.

With the throw around my shoulders and a cup of something warm and wonderful it was the perfect ending for a long day!

To test my theory - Are you a Halloween person or a Christmas person?

Note:  That is my home pictured at the top of the blog but since that picture was taken we've made a few minor changes.  We removed the rotted spindles on the balcony and replaced them with some ornamental cresting.  We searched long and hard for it and ended up driving 4 1/2 hours one way to pick it up.  While there we found that awesome gate!  We couldn't say no so we bought it too and brought it home.  Mr. P had a point when he said that we couldn't put up a gate with no fence on either side, so I had Mr. P build one out of gas piping that we painted black.  I think it sets off the corner perfectly now.

The gate used to have lights on it but someone broke them off one night this past spring.  One of the pitfalls of living so close to downtown.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Quest For The Elusive Flip Fold

Have you seen the Flip Fold Laundry Folder?  If not, check out this video.

Before the Flip Fold I had been folding my T-shirts like this:

However, the one sleeve was never tucked in perfectly.  And then I found the Flip Fold!

I first saw this awesome contraption on The Big Bang Theory and have wanted one ever since! 

I began to look in earnest for the Flip Fold.   I checked out several stores here in Canada only to discover that the Flip Fold is not sold here.  So I began to check online.  The Container Store sells Flip Folds but they are also not in Canada and quite far from where I live.  However, I discovered that The Container Store now ships to Canada.  Yeah!  The Flip Fold was $24.99 but with shipping and handling it came to over $72.00!  A bit much just to fold the laundry!

It was time for a cross-border shopping trip.  I don't live too far from Port Huron, MI and so Mr. P and I went on a foreign quest for a Flip Fold.  We looked all over Port Huron and couldn't find one anywhere.  I came home dejected, my dreams of having perfectly organized clothes crushed!

I checked out Youtube where I discovered that I could make my very own Flip Fold out of cardboard.  It looked so easy!

It wasn't very pretty and it was really flimsy.  All in all I would say it was a complete fail!  Back to the drawing board.

Mr. P came up with a wonderful idea of putting together a Flip Fold out of plexi-glass.  It's a sturdier plastic and he could drill holes in it for air flow when I was done.  I went to the hardware store with all of my dimensions so that they could cut the pieces for me.  Thank goodness before they made the first cut they told me that the sheet of plexi-glass would cost $65 plus taxes.  I might as well pay for one to be shipped from the US for that much money!

I wandered around the hardware store seeing if I could find something that I could make a Flip Fold out of when I came across this:

This is a 2' x 4' piece of plastic grating that goes over florescent lights in a drop ceiling.  It had built in air holes and was made of sturdy plastic.  Best of all, it was $15.99!  One sheet was enough to make my Flip Fold.  I picked up some "Duck Tape" in some bright colours at Hobby Lobby and I was in business.

I decided that the easiest way to cut the plastic would probably be with some pruning shears from my gardening drawer.  They were meant to cut through some rather thick branches so I figured that they should work quite well on my Flip Fold.  I was right!  However, the plastic did fly all over the room when I cut it.

I cut four pieces; two pieces 28 3/4" long and 10 1/2" wide, one piece 13 1/2" long and 11" wide and one piece 15" long and 11" wide.  I was able to measure the 28 3/4" along the length of the grate and still had enough length left at the end for the 15" on one half and 13 1/2" on the other.  These measurements are rough as I followed the squares and cut in between them.

I then covered all the edges with duct tape so that my clothes would not snag on any rough edges.

Now it is time to join them.  Take the smallest square (13 1/2 x 11) and place it beside one of the 28 3/4 long pieces near the top.  Fold it over so that it lays on top and tape the outside.  Open it up and tape the inside seam.

Now attach the other long piece to the other side of the short one making sure to fold it over first so that the tape has enough give for your Flip Fold to fold easily.  Once you have both sides securely attached, attach the 15" piece to the bottom of the 13 1/2" piece.  This one does not get attached to the longer, side pieces just the centre one.

Once all the pieces are attached you have a knock-off Flip Fold!

It worked beautifully!

I am really pleased with how it turned out.  And, with that bright orange tape, if I get tired of folding clothes with it, I can always use it to direct traffic!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Putting a Huge Dent in Your Christmas Grocery Bill

Christmas is expensive!  There are gifts to buy, parties to attend and so much food that there is a reason so many people start a diet at the beginning of the New Year.  We just can't stand the sight of any more food!

And let's face it, in this economy, food is expensive.  All the baking supplies for your Christmas cookies, the turkey, all the sides and, the most expensive of all, all those snacks that we have on hand for parties and "just in case".  For the past few years I have started buying grocery store gift cards each time I go grocery shopping.  I start in September and by the time Christmas rolls around I can usually cover that one large bill just before the holiday starts.  Sometimes I even have enough left over that I can treat my family to an extra-special dinner on New Year's that I might not normally splurge on (lobster!).

Even just a $10 gift card each week from now until Christmas will net you $140 towards that huge holiday shopping bill.  Some weeks I can only manage the $10 card but if I run into a week where I don't need as much in groceries, I will splurge on a $25 card.

While it is much too early to start thinking about what you are going to be making this Christmas, buying the gift cards allows you buy whatever you want when it's time to stock up for the holidays.

(Last holiday tip for a while, I promise!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

11 Tips For Parting With Your Clothes

11 Tips For Parting With Your Clothes
1. Apply the one in - one out rule.  Each time you buy something new be sure to choose something else in your closet to get rid of.
2.  If you have an article of clothing that has been waiting to be mended for quite a while, get rid of it.  You've done without it this long.
3.  If you haven't worn something in the past year it is time to let it go.  A year is good because it covers all the seasons.  Try turning your hangers around backwards.  When you wear an item put it back the way you normally would.  This will show you exactly what you have not worn recently.
4.  Don't keep all of your "skinny clothes".  I'm not saying get rid of all of them but, when you do finally get back into shape, styles will have changed and you will want to get new things that make you feel as fabulous as you look.
5.  Don't keep something that annoys you each time you wear it.  Perhaps it rides up in the back or the sleeves are too long.  Get rid of it.
6.  Are you like me and hate to iron?  How many clothes do you have in your ironing pile right now?  How long have they been there?  Maybe it's time to let them go.
7.  Do you have a fabulous shirt but never wear it because you don't have anything to wear it with?  That matching article of clothing is not going to magically appear so perhaps it's time to let it go.
8.  Do you have articles of clothes that you are keeping just for sentimental reasons?  Designate one box for these items (baby clothes, wedding dress, etc.) and only keep what can fit in the box.
9.  Some people begin to feel strong ties to their clothes once they pick them up and hold them.  (Oh look at this, I wore that on our first date!  I can't get rid of that!)  Try sitting in a chair on the other side of the room while someone else holds your clothes up for you to make a decision.  You maintain some detachment from them making letting go easier.
10.  Try everything on!  Don't just hold it up to you and declare that it is too pretty to get rid of.  By trying it on you may remember that you don't wear it because the zipper catches or the sleeves are too short.
11.  Gather all like items together.  You may discover that you have 14 black tee-shirts or 12 pairs of blue jeans.  Choose the ones that look and feel the best on you and let the rest go.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Countdown To Christmas!


As of today there are only 101 days until Christmas!  Now before you start swearing at me I want you to know that I don't expect you to run out and do your Christmas shopping now.  I just want to direct you to a web site that will send you emails each day from today until Christmas to help you prepare for the holiday. 

For the past couple of years I have been getting 101 Days to Christmas emails and some of them have been very handy.  I love the Christmas Planner printables.  What I like is that you only print off the pages that are pertinent to you. 

Another good Christmas planning site is Flylady.  She starts at a much more reasonable time of mid-October and wants you to be prepared for the holidays by December 1st.  She likens it to going on a cruise for the month of December.  While others are running around, stressed to the max, she wants you to have the time to spend with your family.  Perhaps making cookies with the kids or going for a drive to look at all the lights.

Today I want to add my own Christmas planning tip.  If you are planning on having any sort of renovations done to your home before Christmas, now is the time to start arranging it.  It's time to call the contractors, plumbers, drywallers, etc. and set up a time before November to get your project done.  Please do not wait until the beginning of December to call your plumber for a bathroom renovation.  Mr. P runs a plumbing company and every year we get a few people that call just a couple of weeks before Christmas wanting to have their bathroom renovated.  They want it finished by Christmas Eve.  He has never been able to do it.  He's too busy installing new taps and other minor repairs that people have left until the last minute before their own celebration.

Get these renovation projects done by the beginning of November so that you are not adding to the stress of the season.  You don't want to be on a ladder, painting the dining room the night before Thanksgiving because you left it too late!  And I don't want your home to look like this on Christmas morning!

(We are renovating our youngest son's room.  There will be before and after photos in later blog posts when it is all done.)

Make a list of all the projects that you would like to have done around the house and then choose the most important ones.  Remember that many of these things were good enough last year and they will be good enough this year.  That particular tip has been learned through years of experience (we're having a party, let's paint the kitchen cabinets!).  I always want to renovate something before a big party!

Does anyone else feel as though, as soon as the kids head back to school, someone has yelled, "On your mark, get set, go!" to all the rest of us?  Now until January is truly the busiest time of the year!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pear Clafoutis

Fall is in the air and I have been itching to use my oven again.  It was too hot over the summer to heat up the kitchen by baking but, now that the weather has cooled a little, it's time to start making some of our favourite desserts.  My family loves this maple-flavoured Pear Clafoutis and since pears are in season right now, I thought I would share this great recipe with you.

(I forgot to add the eggs into the picture.)


4 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup light cream (5%)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 large Bosc pears (You can use any kind of pear but it must be ripe.  The clafoutis does not cook long enough for unripened pears to become soft)

Butter one deep-dish pie plate.

In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients except for the pears and whisk until smooth.

Peel, core and slice the 4 pears.  I like to leave them in halves then slice and arrange them nicely in the pie plate.

Give the egg mixture another good whisk and then pour over the pears.

Place in a 325 oven for 1 hour. It should look like this when it is done.

Allow to cool to room temperature.  Can be served at room temperature or chilled.

Now pour a nice cup of tea and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chronically Disorganized vs. Hoarder

One of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics is the rule of entropy, the tendency of all matter to drift toward disorder and chaos.  I have to admit that all matter in my home seems to be following this rule a little too well!  But the question is, how much disorder and chaos is too much?

That line is very personal.  My idea of clean and tidy can be totally different than yours.  However, for some people clean and tidy is a far off dream that seems unachievable.  Their homes are chronically in disorder and chaos.

People who are chronically disorganized (CD) are often late for meetings, their homes are cluttered with storage areas filled to capacity.  They often lose important documents and other items such as their wallets or keys.  They appear to have no organizing systems in place and this lack of organization can affect not only their home life but can also put their jobs in jeopardy.

According to Wikipedia, hoarding is "a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value".

There are many factors that can cause chronic disorganization and hoarding.  The Institute of Challenging Disorganization states that, "Clutter, in general, chronic or not chronic, is only a symptom of what is really going on in an individuals life".  Some things that can cause these symptoms are depression, ADD, mental health issues, life trauma, and many more.

There is a difference between someone who is chronically disorganized and a hoarder - All hoarders are chronically disorganized but not all chronically disorganized people are hoarders.  Someone who is CD can get rid of things and clutter does not totally debilitate their lives like it does with hoarders.  Hoarders are often in denial and are reluctant to discuss their situation.

The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has a free download for a Clutter - Hoarding Scale.  If you or someone you love has a problem with excess clutter check it out (it says add to cart but it is completely free).

Sometimes going in and cleaning everything up is merely treating the symptom and not the cause.  Treat the cause and the symptom (clutter) will take care of itself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Are You FLYing?

Are you living in CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)?  Did you know that, "A load a day keeps Mount Washmore away"?  Have you ever swished and swiped or maybe done a 27 Fling Boogie?  I'm sure that most of my readers have already guessed that I am talking about Flylady.  If you don't know who Flylady is then read on.

Marla Cilley, known as Flylady to her followers, is an organizing and time management expert that offers her system of getting your house and your life in order for free on the Internet.  That's right, Flylady is FREE! 

As a professional organizer I highly recommend Flylady to my clients that are chronically disorganized.  Have you ever seen those TV shows where the host and a crew go into a person's home and get it all cleaned up in 3 days time?  Many times, when there is a follow-up show, a lot of the participants have regressed back to their old way of doing things.  I want to shout at the TV that the host should at least direct these poor people to Flylady!  Even in my own job, I go in and I help someone get organized.  I put systems into place that will help someone maintain what we have accomplished but it is then left up to the customer to do the daily tasks to keep their home organized.  This is where Flylady comes in.

Flylady advocates making small, manageable changes in your daily life that will eventually lead to huge changes overall.  She does this by sending out daily reminders in the form of emails.  Your first job is to shine your sink.  It may seem like an odd place to start but you have to start somewhere and Flylady gives you that spot.  When I joined Flylady almost 5 years ago I was amazed at how that shiny sink in the morning really did make me smile. 

Eventually, Flylady asks you add more to your routines.  She wants you to get dressed each morning, do one load of laundry each day, do a quick "swish and swipe" of your bathroom and a few other things that will help you get your home in order.

One of the things that I love about Flylady is that she wants you to do these things at your own pace and in your own time.  As she says, "Your home did not get messy day and it's not going to get clean in a day".  She wants you to change her routines to suit your life.  She simply gives you the basics. 

The only drawback to Flylady is the shear volume of emails that you can receive in a day.  Don't be afraid to delete any that aren't relevant to you.  I always delete anything that is a testimonial for one of the products that Flylady sells (she does this in order to continue to offer her service for free).  It's not that I don't like Flylady's products, because I do and have ordered a few, but I will order what I need when I'm ready.  I also delete the Flykids Challenges.  They are no longer relevant to my life.  Some days, when I'm busy, I delete everything that comes in from Flylady.  Don't worry if you do that as many of the emails are recycled and the subject will always come up again.

I also highly recommend that you join the Flylady community.  I joined a local Flying group on Yahoo.  I've made some great friends.  We support each other and encourage each other in our efforts to FLY (Finally Loving Yourself).  Many of us will put our to-do lists online for the entire group to see and at the end of the day we check off what we have accomplished, usually to a round of accolades from other group members.  Some Yahoo groups are quiet.  My group has had a few from outside our area join in because our group is much more active.  Not only do we communicate online with each other, we also have Flycoffees, Flydinners and recently, some of the group have begun Flywalks on Sunday afternoons.

If your local group is not active, Flylady's Facebook page is always available.  If you don't want your Facebook friends to see your daily activity on Flylady's page then start a new Facebook page under another name and post that way.  I see a lot of people on there that include Flying in their names in some way.

Please check out Flylady for yourself.  You can find her by clicking here or by clicking the link at the side of the page.

Are you a Flybaby?  How has Flylady helped you?

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Delicious, Versatile Meatball

I think we all have those crazy nights when it seems almost impossible to get dinner on the table.  For myself, I had two boys in hockey, I was President of my childrens' PTA, one child in soccer, the other in baseball, one took guitar lessons, Mr. P coached two hockey teams and sat on the Minor Hockey board all while running a business with never-ending working hours.  As you can see, life can get pretty hectic in our household!

One of my saving graces was to have a few batches of meatballs made up in advance and frozen so that they were ready in minutes.  When I was too tired to fix much else or I had to get the kids fed in a hurry, quite often meatballs were our meal of choice.  Mostly because they are so versatile. 

A favourite in our house is Meatball Soup.  I saute some celery, carrots and onions, add in some chicken stock, noodles and meatballs and we have a hearty dinner that everyone loves.  Another favourite is Meatball Subs.  I heat up some meatballs in some spaghetti sauce and put them on a bun, shred some mozzarella cheese on top and put them under the broiler for a minute.  Sometimes I would use hot dog buns since that would be all that I had on hand.  We also do Spaghetti and Meatballs.  Using angel hair pasta makes this meal extremely quick to put together.  Much faster than going to a fast food joint for take out!  Of course, we also enjoy eating meatballs on their own with boiled potatoes, gravy and whatever vegetable I have in the freezer.  There are just so many other ways that you can use up some pre-made meatballs.  You could cover them in BBQ sauce and heat them in the crock pot (this is also great to take to a potluck!) or Ikea has a fabulous mustard, cream sauce mix that tastes wonderful poured over meatballs.  Like I said, meatballs are very versatile!

Here is my recipe for meatballs.  I love this recipe not only because there is lots of cheese in it but also because I can sneak in a serving of spinach without my family realizing it.



3 lbs of lean ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 pkg. of frozen, chopped spinach with all the water squeezed out
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all of the ingredients above.

Shape into small balls.

I found this great little ice cream scoop a couple of years ago.  It makes forming meatballs so much easier and they are a uniform size so that they cook evenly.  I had been looking for one of these for a while and when I finally found one I scooped it up (no pun intended)!

Place meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes.

They should be lightly browned and the cheese should be oozing out when they are done.

After letting them cool a little, I put them in large ziplock bags and placed them in the freezer.

I ended up making 2 batches and each batch made 80 meatballs.  I am now ready for when one of those crazy nights hits and, best of all, I don't have to feed my family fast food.

What is your go-to meal on a hectic night?