Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Summer Family Checklist - go on a picnic!

Last week were finally able to check off our first Summer Family activity! Go on a picnic. We spent a beautiful Wednesday morning at a local Provincial Nature Park that has picnic areas, and a fresh water river. Amazingly it was our first trip to this watering hole. The kids loved it! It was a great day for a picnic and a refreshing swim in the river.

We brought along all the traditional picnic essentials, except the wicker basket. That would have really made the experience. I put together a little checklist of picnic essentials when bringing a group of kids.

1.A blanket. It's not a picnic without one.
2.Paper towels, napkins or baby wipes (my recommendation) for sticky hands.
3.Drinks in cups with lids, or juice packs. Spills are frequent and hard to avoid during picnics.
4.Snacks that don't require much preparation or mess. Sandwiches (peanut butter and jam with the crust cut off if you're looking to feel nostalgic), crackers, pre-cut fruit, granola bars, chips etc.
5.Paper plates and utensils if you are eating something a little more elaborate.

Everyone loves a picnic and an outdoor swim! This was a great way to kick-off our Summer checklist!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Post Vacation & Summer Family Checklist

After a fun-filled trip to PEI we're home and slowly easing back into our normal routine. Don't you hate that feeling of the post-vacation blues? The reality wake-up call that you really can't continue to eat out at restaurants, spend lots of money, and hold onto that "who cares Im on vacation" attitude. There's something invigorating about being on vacation, and coming home is almost like a let down. I think we're all feeling that today. And the dark, rainy weather certainly isn't helping! I came across a few tips to help you ease back into regular life, especially with kids. Most of these I've tried to adapt into the end of our vacation.

1. Give yourself a "rest day". Book off the day after you return. No work, no school. Just give yourself a day to rest, unpack, do laundry and mentally prepare yourself for reality.
2. Plan a fun, but easy activity with your kids. Baking cookies, or renting a movie you've never seen. You don't want to overdo it on your "rest day" but it's nice to give yourself and your kids something to look forward to and make them forget about all the fun they just left behind.
3. When you're packing to come home, do your best to make the unpacking as smooth as possible. Put all the dirty clothes together in a bag so they're ready for the wash and pack everyone's clothes separately so clean clothes are easier to put back in drawers. I've been guilty of just tossing everything in the suitcase and telling myself I'll worry about it when I get home. I've discovered that when I get home is NOT when I want to worry about organizing clothes, garbage and laundry.

Aside from a few disappointments from Mother Nature, we did have a wonderful time, squeezed in everything we could and took lots of photos to remember such a great weekend! We revisited some of our favourite stomping grounds and indulged in the some of the best treats PEI has to offer!

We managed to check off one of our activities on our Summer Family check-list! Ride the PEI Ferry!
This has always been so much fun for our kids, and I look forward to it as well. It's such an excitement for them to drive up onto the ferry, then run upstairs to explore the boat. We can eat at the restaurant, play arcade games, and sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous view. To end our trip,we took the last boat of the day, so a gorgeous sunset was our background for our sail home.

I'd love to hear about some of your Prince Edward Island experiences!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Friday Funday - Prince Edward Island

When I was a kid PEI was a smaller version of Disneyland. It was a magical, storybook place hidden away on an island. It was like a whole other world to me. I loved riding the ferry, driving along all the farms, and quaint villages. It felt like one big amusement park surrounded by the ocean.
Everything was just better in PEI. Drinks came in glass bottles, the ice cream tasted creamier, and life seemed more slow paced. Vacation in PEI meant Cows Ice Cream, lobster suppers, staying at a cozy cottage, and visiting the many theme parks on the island. We're big fans of Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea. It's fun to visit and see some of the places you recognize from television.
Of course things may feel differently for those who live there. I've only ever gone to PEI for vacation so all my visits had a free-spirited vacation feel to them. I still feel a little of that magic just thinking about the island.
There's still something about the feeling you get when you first see the Wood Islands lighthouse. It's still so exciting to me, and I'm 31. PEI has so much beauty and history that you fall in love with over and over again. It still holds a nostalgic place in my heart, and now I see my kids making room for PEI in theirs.

This Friday Funday will be spent in PEI ! We are headed there today for the weekend.
Mike and I have been taking our kids there every summer since we met, even if it was just for a day. We always take the ferry instead of the Confederation Bridge, visit Cows Ice Cream, and Shining Waters Fun Park .
We've taken in other attractions like Anne of Green Gables, Ripley's Believe it or not, and the Cavendish Boardwalk. It's fun to visit new attractions each year. On our last trip to PEI we visited the Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately, no one actually went inside the mansion and my husband is still upset over it. We did visit the water gardens and a few rides they had set up there. We also took a trip to the Cavendish Beach in the evening and it was beautiful!

At Green Gables circa 2008

Mike with Lily and Madison on the Charlottetown waterfront
Visiting Cows Ice Cream last year

There are still some attractions on the island we haven't visited that are on my list:
Avonlea Village
Grandpa's Antique Photo Studio

I've only ever driven from Wood Islands, through Charlottetown and as far as Summerside, so I would love to someday take a complete tour of the whole island.

I'm hoping for sun all weekend! It's not looking like it, maybe stay tuned for a blog post on how to enjoy PEI without ever going outside?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Snack drawers

Now that all my kids are home on summer vacation, there is alot of snacking going on. Seriously, they eat every hour, it's exhausting for a mom of 4. They want a snack while they're watching a movie, a snack to take outside, and a snack to have on the way to the beach. Making up snacks is alot of work, and depending on what the snack is, the cleanup can be just as tiresome.

Two words. Snack drawers.

Why didn't I think of this before? Having ready made snacks available for the kids is a fast and easy way for them to feed their hunger, without having to lift any of my fingers. I usually do have the pantry stocked with things like granola bars, and single serving packages of goldfish. But I wanted to have some healthier options and more of a variety. I wanted snacks that were easy to eat, and didn't cause much mess. Taking an hour on grocery day to make up a week's worth of snacks is time well spent. Then I don't have to worry about making snacks until next grocery day.

For the fridge, I put together ziploc bags of all their favourite fruits and veggies. Grapes, blueberries, strawberries and carrots. Yogurt tubes are a great idea, because you don't need utensils and they can eat them with just one hand while on the run. We keep ours in the freezer to keep them cold for hot days. I always stock up on juice packs when they are on sale, they're an easy drink for kids to grab on the go.

For the pantry, I still bought the single serving goldfish packages, apple sauce and granola bars. I also put together some baggies of dry cereal and popped popcorn.

More ideas for your drawers:
Raisin boxes
Trail mix
Pretzel sticks
Fruit cups
Cheese sticks

I'm all about making life easier !

Monday, 22 July 2013

My love for abandoned houses

As a stay-at-home mom / caregiver, I sometimes feel a little sheltered from the rest of the world. Being stuck in a houseful of kids averaging the age of 3, I like to try to mentally escape the daily activity of diapers and cartoons. During the kid's quiet-time the internet allows me to do so. It's an amazing thing. I can basically travel the world without leaving my kitchen. Obviously it's nowhere near actually experiencing the world for yourself, but it's the best this small-town mother of 4, who is terrified of flying, is going to get.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about abandoned houses, which I find fascinating. I often drive by old farm houses that are falling apart, and in need of some critical landscaping, and I'm immediately intrigued by their stories. So I spent some time googling around to see what I could stumble upon. I found pictures, articles, and stories all about houses and buildings that the owners had left and never returned to them. Some houses I came across still had the tables set for meals, and the beds made. Now that's me. If I ever have to leave for more than a day you better believe my house will be tidy and the beds made (just incase). I want to know who lived in those houses, and where did they go? What made them leave in such a hurry? I was fascinated at the houses that stood today, basically, in a time warp. I love antique home furnishings, dishware, and decor. It was so neat to catch a glimpse of someone's life so long ago.

Photographer Niki Feijen's pictures circulated on Facebook not too long ago and amazed me! He took pictures of abandoned farm houses and decaying buildings. Here are a few:

Someone left without their shoes and coat, seriously what happened here?

This table is still set for tea, amazing.

 The rest of his work can be viewed here .

 After searching around it led me to an even more fascinating topic, abandoned cities! Could it get any better? A whole city deserted, left to the elements and animals, and some areas practically left completely in tact as the day it was abandoned.
The Ukrainian town of Pripyat has always fascinated me, so it didn't surprise me that it made the list of the world's 10 creepiest abandoned cities. Obviously the story behind the evacuation is well known, but the pictures still make it hard to believe an entire city can be so desolate and quiet.

Many of the cities I came across were old gold rush ghost towns. They were just as fascinating because some have been preserved since the 19th century. With real live saloons still in tact, decorated just like in the movies, and houses with oil lamps and wash basins.

These places are just so amazing that I had to share them. Perhaps it will inspire others to explore some of these places as well. Someday I'd love to go on an actual abandoned house/city tour, and personally catch a glimpse of these historic structures for myself.

If you have any abandoned homes to share with me, I'd love to see them!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday Fundays - Just the girls

Happy Fun Friday!
I decided to spend the day with just my 2 older girls instead of my regular "adult only" Fridays. I spend alot of time with Lily and Noah while Madison and Jessee are off to school and daycamp, so it was nice for a little change. Instead of discussing Buzz Lightyear and singing Old Macdonald, I was able to grow up a little and do some more "tween" activities which I do enjoy.
The girls decided they wanted pedicures for grading, and we finally decided today would be the best day for it.

They chose purple sparkles for their toes, and pink for me. The girls were very relaxed, and Jessee even commented on the "spa" music playing in the background. It was a great way to spend the morning, just the 3 of us :)

Every girl needs a little pampering now and then, how do you relax?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Project Organize

Like I've mentioned before.. I don't mind clutter if I can't see it. I have a alot of drawers and cupboards in my kitchen which makes for a great burrow for junk. If I'm quickly cleaning I might throw a few items in a drawer and worry about putting them away later, or maybe I'll stash some objects in there that I think I'll use at a later time. I never do.
Having a drawer full of junk especially makes it hard for me, and my kids to find things. Batteries (we're always looking for batteries!!) flashlights, extension cords. I'll send someone to the "junk drawer" to find something and it's emptied on the kitchen floor in an even bigger mess and they never find what they're looking for.

One thing I'm not short on is empty wipes containers. I like to save them thinking they'll come in handy someday, they're durable, have a pop up top and if I'm paying almost $4 a tub I might as well get some real use out of it. Hence, my idea to use them in my project. Perfect. I'm a genius.

Some other great organizers I've found around the house are ice cub trays, small empty chocolate boxes, egg cartons,utensil trays and shoe boxes.

While cleaning out this drawer I realized it's been a really, really, really long time since I've actually looked in here. I found a VHS tape of the movie White Fang that Jessee bought for Mike for Christmas last year at a church sale. Unfortunately it's not his kind of movie, and we don't own a VHS player. Although I just read that the wolfdog in the film is the same wolfdog in the movie The Journey of Natty Gann which was a favourite movie of mine as a kid. Maybe it's not such a bad movie after all?
I tried to talk Jessee out of it and pick something else, but she was so determined that he would "just love it" that I couldn't argue anymore. The look of pride on her face when he opened it Christmas morning was worth the waste of a toonie. I guess I didn't have the heart to toss it. Also among the chaos was an old Birthday card the kids and I gave to Mike. You'll notice it's signed "baby x" which is what we lovingly called Noah before we found out the gender (note: he's 2 years old now) do I have a hoarding issue?

I love that I can find everything now!

Here are some inspirations for more drawer organizing:

Please tell me I'm not the only mom out there who somehow feels a little more put together knowing that one of my drawers is.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Weekend Family Fun & Summer Camp

Our weekend road trip was a success. We scheduled pit stops when the kids got bored and loud, and we brought lots of snacks, books and games to keep them busy in between. We stopped for a traditional "new to us" park play (somewhere outside Halifax) that gave them a chance to get out and stretch their legs, and explore a cool new park!

There were a few tears, whines and "are we there yet's" but we all managed to get through the long, boring drive in 1 piece.
Of course, we stopped at our kid's favorite, McDonald's for supper(with a playplace hooray!) and a very impromptu,sunset swim at the falls at Victoria Park. Without towels or swimsuits. Luckily I had enough extra, dry clothes packed and used mine and Mike's sweaters as towels (aren't parents supposed to suffer so that our kids are comfortable). Our road trips always seem to lead us in a completely opposite direction that what we plan and pack for, but that's what makes it more fun! Random family fun turns out to be the most fun and memorable!
Unfortunately my camera battery died before all this random fun took place, and I have no pictures to document! I'm still having trouble getting over this even today.

On Sunday I sent my oldest daughter to camp for 3 days. The first time she's ever been away from home that long without a family member. I went to the same camp when I was younger, and enjoyed every minute of it, so I know she will too! This is a huge milestone for her and for me. It means she's really and truly growing up and that I have to somehow accept that fact. I think going away to camp is a traditional right of passage on the road to growing up. It feels like yesterday this beautiful, animated 9 year old used to be a delicate, helpless baby that I would cradle, and rock to sleep. It hasn't hit me until now that she isn't a baby anymore, and this is a whole new step in life that I'm dealing with. She of course settled in with no problems, and actually pushed me out the door. I guess this means she'll be fine? But will I?

I sent a little notebook with her with a note from me, and lots of space to write about all the fun she's having. We sent some mail for her to receive while she's there so she won't miss us and I made sure to reassure her that she wasn't missing a thing at home!

I'd love to hear your camp stories!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Friday Fundays - Road Trip Prep

It finally happened. I didn't think it ever would, but it did. And I don't know how to handle it.

Blogger's block.

Here I am on Thursday night, the kids are asleep, my tea is steeping and I'm ready to start my blog for tomorrow's Friday Funday! However, it's an hour later and I have nothing fun to write about. No ideas, no witty comments, no pictures. I thought I could write about my plans for the day. I could write that it's my mother-in law's birthday, that the sun is shining, or that I'm avidly considering taking a nap after lunch. But I didn't have enough material to fill a whole blog, and is that really what you want to read about?
What does one do when they encounter this problem? I actually googled it and there was a "Getting through Blogger's Block for Dummies" The internet is a wondrous thing. There were lots of interesting ideas, but none that really inspired me.
My husband's advice? Skip tomorrow's blog posting. What kind of advice is that? Disappoint my fans? I'm kind of joking about that, but I do have an aunt who sends me threatening messages if I miss a post or don't post early enough in the day for her to read.

After hours of thinking, backspacing and several rejected ideas from my 9 year old, I've decided I'm just going to post some inspirational pictures that will properly narrate our weekend. We're planning a road trip to the south shore for a family reunion. It's at least a 3 hour drive, and with kids, bathroom breaks, and pit stops I imagine we'll be driving all morning.

Our worst road trip was to Prince Edward Island 2 years ago.We drove in February so we had to take the Confederation Bridge, instead of the Ferry. It took us 5 hours, Lily threw up twice, and not one Tim Hortons had lemon doughnuts. I'm hoping (praying even?) this trip will be a bit better.

Here's a few pictures from previous road trips we've embarked on:

Nothing tops a road trip like sleeping kids...ahhh so quiet

Pit stops are a must

Always bring some sort of entertainment

I'd love to hear some entertaining road trip stories and suggestions!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Backyard Birthday Party

Lily turned 4 on Saturday, but since it was Lobster Carnival we had to plan her party for after the busy weekend. We were all pretty worn out from the weekend and spent a good chunk of our money so I was looking to throw Lily a very low-key and thrifty party. Since she's only turning 4, and she already celebrated with her preschool class last week, I kept the guest list to just family and her cousins.
Keeping with the low-key party theme, our backyard was the host to a Strawberry Shortcake themed celebration (her favourite show!) It all depended on the weather, and it didn't let me down. It was a beautiful evening. No bugs, a small breeze and an amazing sunset as our backdrop. My aunt brought some pink spray-on hair dye for the girls (like Strawberry Shortcake).

I relied on Pinterest and Google for some game ideas that I could put together with what I had at home. I set up a nature scavenger hunt to find things I knew would be in the backyard. It was a hit! Kids love scavenger hunts! We teamed up and wasted a good 30 minutes running all over the yard. I brought out some pillow cases for potato sack races and guests of all ages hopped up and down the grass. 

We played music all night, and the kids danced all over the yard. Lily received some finger paints and paper as a present, so we set up a paint station for some of the kids and they created some amazing masterpieces. 
We fed our guests the typical pizza, chips and pop! No one complained of course. And Strawberry Shortcake themed cupcakes. Because my time was limited, I had the cake and cupcakes made, and they couldn't have turned out more fabulous! I said I wanted Strawberry Shortcake, and I got it!


We topped the party off with sparklers, and a bonfire with marshmallows. We sent our little guests home with suckers, sticky hands, and huge smiles on their faces! I was amazed at how little it took to keep everyone happy and entertained. And how small a budget I worked with. Who needs a rental space when you've got a backyard and sun?

I'd love to hear your backyard party ideas!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Bedroom Curtains

After a very hot and sunny weekend, I'm grateful for these long anticipated window coverings.

We renovated our bedroom well before Christmas and I've been very slow at setting it up. I still don't have any lamps on our bedside tables. Part of the reason is my fear of kids breaking them, but everytime I walk in  the room I see how empty it still is.Finally, I took care of our windows. For 6 months I've been falling asleep to the view of a tinkerbell blanket and a ripped sheet covering my windows. Yuck! It was finally time to do something about that.
I really took my time finding the right window coverings. I wasn't sure if I wanted blinds, or curtains, or both. Our bedroom has skylights so there is a lot of light coming in so I wanted something I could easily block out the sun if I needed to. Plus buying 6 window panels can get expensive! 

Then out of nowhere, Walmart had a curtain sale! It was fate! I couldn't leave empty handed.
Our bedroom has 3 windows. I bought curtains for 2 of them because one window is located right above our bed, and I need more time to figure out a plan for that window.

I'll admit I didn't splurge on curtain rods. I'd love some big, chunky white curtain rods, like these:

However, I settled for some older rods I had sitting in the basement (f-r-e-e). I hung the curtain rod higher above the window to make the ceiling appear higher and the window bigger. Our bed has a large headboard the same shade as the new curtains, and I feel like it's too much brown if I continue the same window treatments. Also it's attached to the wall, so there isn't much room for curtains behind it. Window treatment,  yes, but the same ones as the other 2 windows? Or maybe a different pattern as a focal point? I'm still deciding.

I can't have this any longer !

Here are some similar bedrooms I've been inspired by:

Lamps are next!
What kind of window treatments are in your bedroom?

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