Friday, March 27

A Practical Wedding

Last year while I was planning our wedding there was one website that became rather essential. A Practical Wedding is a wealth of inspiration, knowledge and advice and I also immensely enjoyed the book of the same name written by Meg Keene, editor-in-chief.

After our photos came back I wanted to submit our wedding to my favorite resource and my patience has been rewarded today as our wedding has finally been posted! It feels pretty good to see us up there, and of course my ego doesn't mind all the kind comments. I hope that someone sees our post and is inspired to hire one of our amazing vendors (Genevieve Renee Photographie, Amy Robertson Makeup for example), or try a pink dress. ;)

If you want to check out the post, you can find it on their website here!

Monday, March 16

Spring Wardrobe 2015 - Planning

The Capsule Wardrobe. It's a thing. In fact, it's a rather big thing sweeping the blogging world right now and there's a reason why everyone is so excited about it. Capsule Wardrobes:
  • Help you budget
  • Help you refine your personal style
  • Help you avoid consumerism and be happy with less
  • Help you stay organized
  • Help you pack for travel
Living more minimally, and on a budget, were two big reasons why I want to try a capsule wardrobe. Of course, I've already confessed to blowing my February clothing budget sky high, so you know I bought some new pieces. When shopping for spring I categorized my expenses into Basics and Statements. Basics should be:
  • Neutral in colour
  • Classic  in design
  • A bigger initial investment (generally)
  • Versatile
The one big item I wanted this season was a pair of distressed black skinny jeans. I found the jeans of my dreams on sale at JCrew. They're the 'Lookout Highrise Jean' and they're amazing. I've never purchased expensive jeans before but the difference is definitely telling, this is my third pair of skinny jeans and the only one I'm keeping. Not only are they comfortable (what?) they're flattering to my fuller midsection and look great with everything. I also purchased a pair of white cropped jeans (they were on sale for $15)  which should look great with a lot, and a new white T. The grey maxi dress is an upgrade from a wardrobe staple I purchased a couple years ago. This one is a little more expensive and I think will hold up longer and look great. Since I made these graphics I also added a great chambray tunic/shirt that I think will get tuns of wear.
Statement pieces aren't necessary loud or flashy, I categorize them as pieces that:
  • Are colourful 
  • Will punch up a basic outfit
  • Are of a different colour or cut then you would usually purchase
  • Might not last as long/be in fashion for as long
  • You spend less money on initially 
I purchased a few items from that JCrew sale to fit this category. A new comfy T that's not quite a basic, a couple of transitional weather sweaters in spring colours, a grey ruched skirt that's going to look great with everything. Also, this linen dress. I'm obviously thrilled about this linen blend dress: it has a lining, is beautifully made and looks amazing. I've been in love with this (almost exact) dress from Madewell for at least two years but never wanted to spend over $100. Well I got this one from Old Navy for $25. I've never owned a denim vest before but I can already tell you I absolutely love it. I expect to get a lot of wear out of this vest. 
And the rest:

Obviously I'm carrying over quite a few items from my existing closet. I'm tending towards simple, comfy pieces in neutral colours with pops of purple and olive green. I want to make sure that I have enough tops to mix in, and a good variance of comfort and classy (for my office worker day life). The dresses I chose can be mixed in for day wear, or worn out in the evening depending on how they're accessorized. This is the one category that might inflate a little as I plan my wardrobe.
Who else is interested in/already doing a capsule wardrobe? What pieces do you think you need to be successful?

I know for me, weather is big factor. In Edmonton the weather can be quite volatile and subject to dramatic change. I might need to pull out a pair of shorts, I might also need my parka still. It's hard to say. I'm getting a little antsy just looking at these bare legged models wearing my dresses. I can't wait for the day to come when I have to shave my legs because leggings are no longer required.

Saturday at Deermound Park

 Lola isn't a big fan of being in the car... at all. In fact, she's so opposed to it that last weekend when we put her in the car to go to my parents house she threw up before we had even closed the door, let alone started moving. Poor thing. So it was a little funny when we got her in the car to go to the park on Saturday. She was fine at first, normal levels of anxiety, but as we drove past our usual dog park and continued on she began to get excited about the trip. Maybe it was that the weather allowed us to roll the windows down, maybe it's because she didn't have to wear a jacket to stay warm, but she was happy. She stood up with her paws on the console between Nick and I and started to smile.

Deermound Dog Park isn't exactly close by, it's in Sherwood Park and we're in North Edmonton so it's a bit of a drive -- but it's worth it. The park is absolutely massive, with huge wide open fields to run in and a collection of well used hiking trails through a wooded area that actually feels like legit forest. It's like being on my parents rural acreage an hour and a half out of the city, it's like being in the woods behind my grandparents house when I was a kid. Lola gets to experience nature in a way she can't in the city, and I love seeing her so happy. She absolutely thrives and it's awesome! Something about a dog getting to take in so many new and exciting smells just tires them out like nothing else.

Lola and Lola's 'frienemy' Halo, haha.
 After our romp in the park with friends Beth and pup Halo (who loves Lola and wants so badly to play with her even though Lola apparently doesn't know how to play), came back to our house for pie (since it was pie day) and a movie. Weekend Perfection.
 IRL Note: this was before our car didn't want to start and then did start and then we discovered we had driven over our friends phone which got dropped on the pavement. SO little disasters, but there's something about people who can role with the punches that make life easy. So thanks Beth, and thanks to puppies. It's so important not to let the little bad things eclipse life's awesome moments.




Friday, March 13

IRL: Month Two

As you might know, in January my husband and I began our journey into the world of budget spending, organizing and meal planning in the quest to better our lives and secure our future! That sounded weird... true, but weird. In a quest to have money in the bank and clean floors? That sounds better.

With March about to bloom (hopefully) I wanted to recap our second month of this project and share a bit about what we're learning.

  • Budgeting Apps can be tricky. We've been using Better Haves (a budgeting app for couples, we're both on android). Better Haves is based on the envelope system, but unlike in real life, you can go over your allotted amount and into negative numbers and when you do, there is no prompt to transfer money from other envelopes to cover your negative balance SO we've ended up over $200 in one category but still showing we have positive numbers in other categories. This didn't really click for me until I started wondering why I had no money in my account but the app says I should still have $100 for groceries. Duh, Kaitlyn, you spent your grocery money on clothes you idiot. SO, in conclusion, it doesn't work if you're not actually sitting down with the app and balancing it frequently to make sure you're using it correctly. Lesson learned. 
  • Websites that auto-fill your Visa information are the devil. Nine times out of ten if I have to reach for my Visa and fish it out of my wallet and type it all in I will decide not to make the purchase. If my Visa number is auto-filled it's too easy to spend mindlessly! I'm removing my Visa number from everywhere I shop online.
  • Emails about clothing sales are also the spending devil. I blew my monthly clothes budget out of the water in February and I definitely blame sale emails. I get it in my head I need to buy all the things because of the great deals, but it all adds up. Of course I don't want to get rid of these emails completely, when I am in the market for something it pays to know what's on sale, but I needed to do something to keep myself from spending all the time. I recently discovered that in outlook (Hotmail) you can right click on an email sender and create a "rule" for all emails from that sender. I went through my emails and created rules for all of the places I get subscriber coupons (GAP is my biggest weakness because they have sales basically every week). From now on, GAP and JCrew and ASOS emails will automatically go into a separate folder so I won't see them in my inbox. That way, if I'm shopping for something I can go to that folder and see if there are any sales, but I won't be tempted to spend money if I'm not specifically shopping for clothes. 
Zucchini cakes with salad and beans.
  • Meal planning can be hard. We struggled occasionally with meal planning, mostly because my up and down battle with creativity. An extra challenge for us is that our weekly game night with friends has recently added a few members, thus increasing the cost of food and requiring me to find a new host of recipes to feed more people. My biggest resource for meal planning is pinterest of course, and I find that ignoring the fancy recipes on pinterest and focusing more on easy, common ingredients is helping me cook affordable meals all week. 
  • On that note, my biggest discovery - cauliflower. Cauliflower is crazy versatile! I have made pan fried cauliflower 'nuggets', butter 'chicken' cauliflower, and whole roasted cauliflower. Still want to try cauliflower crust pizza, and cauliflower rice. Also awesome and versatile? Zucchini. I've been making a lot of zucchini cakes (like crab cakes, not like chocolate cake) and serving them with sour cream and veggies. I've also been keeping pizza crusts frozen, and assembling stir fry beef in portioned bags with sauce at the beginning of the month. I can get 2-4 stir fry's out of one package of beef strips, and I can make a pizza out of what ever is in the fridge if I'm having a lazy night. Recently made beet and walnut pesto to use as a pizza base with Kale and sausage and it blew me away. So good! 
Progress being made on my office/den.
  • As for organizing, I've been continuing to do my best to follow Marie Kondo's method from "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up". Not all of her tips have worked for me, but many of them are indeed life changing. So far the best tips from her book have been:
    • Creating a central pile of all storage baskets collected during cleaning. All of my baskets and bins are sitting together in a pile waiting to find homes and as I see a need, I can put them to good use. It's tempting to use storage bins everywhere and for everything but I've certainly found that they become a hiding place for clutter, so thinking really hard about how to use them is making my space more organized. 
    • Purging first. I'm currently working on my office/den and the first step was purging all the clutter. During this process, my closet, desk and dresser sat empty. With everything out in the open I was able to get rid of the maximum amount of clutter. Once I knew what I was keeping, I had to think very long and hard about how I wanted to use these storage places for maximum utility. Only then did I start filling these storage areas back up. This way, everything has a real designated place and clutter doesn't continue to pile up.
    • Folding. I cannot tell you how much I love Marie Kondos folding method! It truly does make folding and putting away laundry a more joyous task. I actually enjoy filing my husbands shirts (and underwear, mens underwear folds up so nicely! Haha). I used to make him put away all his own laundry but seriously, we're both so much more organized when I do it. 
    • What brings you joy? One of the things I've done during this time of organizing is purge a lot of books. I love books, I love to read, but honestly I didn't get a lot of joy from looking at all the books we owned. In most cases, I prefer to have my books on my Kobo for easy reading and storing. One thing that we have way too many of is board games, and we never had a good way to sore them so I purged a lot of books from our living room and stored our board games in plain sight on our book cases. Honestly, board games are not the most fun to look at. They aren't calming or pretty, but we get a lot of joy and we spend so much time enjoying them with friends and family that I prefer to have bookcases overflowing with board games then books I read once a year or read once and forgot about. Bonus: when we're asking guests what they want to play they can see our collection now at a glance.
    • On that note, Nick has been cleaning his den and organizing as I do the rest of the house and the other day he came to me with a painting I did for him when we were dating. "See, I told you I didn't lose it!". If this was the only result of all of our hard work I would still be so so grateful. Having that precious artwork I made with my own hands, and find so much joy in viewing, is what organizing is about, no?

Wednesday, March 4

Family Portrait 2015

It's a bit of a tradition to take a family portrait in February. Something about Valentines day tends to me make me extra grateful for the sweet family I have, and commemorating it gives me something to remind me of that feeling all year round.
Valentines Day 2013
Valentines Day 2014
End of February (a little late) 2015


Tuesday, March 3

The Honest Company - Essentials Bundle Review

I've heard a lot about the Honest Company and their business model and product innovation over the last couple of years and have been waiting for an opportunity to try them out. A little over a month ago a great discount ended up in my inbox and I jumped at the chance to use it.

Since the bundles are the best value, I set about choosing the products I wanted for my first shipment. I chose the Essentials bundle which allows you to choose five products for 35.95 and add up to three additional products at a 25% discount. Since I had a promo code I ordered all 8 products.

Unboxing: First Look
From Cleaning I chose the laundry detergent, laundry stain remover, multi surface cleaner, dishwasher packs, and floor cleaner (which comes in a spray bottle for spot cleaning spills, brilliant!). The other products I chose were the hair and body wash (which I heard great things about for all ages), the new spray deodorant, and the air and linen spray in vanilla lavender. 

 There is a fifteen dollar surcharge to ship internationally, but with my discount it still came to about $45 total. The detergent did end up spilling slightly on it's way to me, but everything was very well packaged and I think the only reason this happened was because it arrived frozen solid! In the process of freezing and melting and expanding and blah blah it did seep out of the cap a little and make a bit of a mess, but I don't think I lost very much.

I was so surprised and pleased to find they also included a free bonus item! An adorable snow flake cookie cutter AND the organic cookie mix to go with it. That in itself is at least a five dollar value so I was very touched.

Cookies! The mix, instructions and cookie cutter were packaged in a cute muslin bag.
At this point I've had the opportunity to try all the products and I don't think there's a single one I don't like .

The stain remover and deodorant.
The spray deodorant was a very interesting experience, haha, I've never used anything other then the powder stick kind from the drug store. I feel like I need to get used to spraying (super cold) liquid on my pits, but it seems to work and smells great and I think that in the summer it will be very refreshing. The stain remover is quickly becoming my favorite item! I've been using it to pre-treat many items, especially white clothes, before washing. I had a sweater with stains that had been through the wash a couple times previously and when I washed it with this sprayed on it came completely clean. I was very impressed.

The fabric and room spray.
 The linen spray has a very strong vanilla scent, actually it smells just like a London Fog Latte so I'm kinda hooked. I went all around the house spraying it everywhere, but I've been using it regularly in our bedroom to help us fall asleep. I really like the shampoo and body wash! I feel like it's an amazingly versatile formula. As a body wash, my skin felt protected and moisturized after, and it seemed to do a great job making my hair feel clean and fresh. Like many sulfate free shampoos it doesn't work up a great lather, and I did feel like I used a lot of it to get my whole  head (I have a lot of hair) but I think worth it for how good  my scalp felt afterwards. I also found another strange use for this shampoo but you'll have to wait and see in another post.

Shampoo and body wash -- an essential from the collection.
The dishwasher packs and laundry detergent both seem to work very well. I haven't had any trouble with my clothes, or dishes, coming beautifully clean.  The laundry detergent especially will become a staple in my house, I love the scent and it really does work wonderfully. The multipurpose cleaner I have been using in the bathroom. I think I'll be purchasing the tub and tile cleaner next for this purpose, as the multipurpose cleaner seems a little out of it's depth when used this way. I love the way it smells, but it has almost an oily feel to it and I don't know if it's best used on my granite vanity top. I think I will try and use it elsewhere before making a final judgement on this product.

 Technically this is a subscription service, but unlike other such subscriptions Honest has a very intuitive and, yes, honest, method for dealing with unsubscribing/skipping months. On my account/bundles page next to The Essential bundle all I had to do was choose a date from the drop down menu to indicate that I wouldn't be needing another bundle for awhile. I chose to indicate three months from my subscription date, but that was arbitrary. It appears you can choose any date in the future to continue your service. This is great if you happen to be a young married couple with no children who don't need diapers every month, or go through their cleaning products too quickly. This also means that you could ensure you always have their products on hand by checking an earlier date. Just estimate how long your products will last and subscribe from there.

I've already planned my next shipment for mid April. I'm tempted to try a whole bundle of new products, but  I might need to restock my dishwasher packs and laundry detergent. For sure I want to try the Oxy Boost packs for laundry and the tub and tile cleaner for the bathroom. There's something so wonderful about knowing you're choosing the best products for  your home. I really believe in this company and hope to have a long happy relationship with them.

If you have small kids, are expecting a child, or just want to use safe, green products around your home I would highly recommend the Honest Company.

PS. This post (and my side bar) contains my referral link for The Honest Company, they provide their subscribers a $20 credit when someone uses this link to make a purchase.

Tuesday, February 17

Small Changes

These past few months I've been taking baby steps on the journey towards 'minimalism'. I read Marie Kondo's book on Tidying Up, and it lit a bit of a fire under me to pare down my belongings and start enjoying my space to the fullest. So I began the purge. It's slow going sadly, life still must go on, but progress is gradually being made.

Shortly after my purge began, I purchased my first cleaning bundle from The Honest Company. Their natural, beautiful products helped me discover the joy in cleaning my home! Smelling the scents of orange and lavender instead of musty house smell makes me want to clean all the time!

Here's a few 'in progress' snaps of the house:
 
 First, the bathroom! This is my first real success story. Haha. See the little makeup caddy on the vanity in the first picture? That's now all the makeup I own. I'm not even a little sad about cleaning out an eleven year old makeup collection since discovering that it has an expiry date and eleven years is actually way too long to keep an eyeshadow pallet you never use.

I cleaned out under the cabinet and a nearby closet and moved all of our bathroom cleaning supplies and such over the toilet along with our towels. They're now living in a little DIY my dad helped with, two baskets from Winners screwed to the wall. This makes a huge difference in space! I also like that guests can immediately see where the extra TP is. ;) A small purchase that made a huge difference was the mesh shower organizer, there's now nothing sitting on the edge of our tub and I love it.

On the back of the toilet is another wire basket with some extra bits like a pretty candle, body cream and a place for our toothpaste to live instead of on the counter. They're all safely contained in dip dyed mason jars we did for our wedding. Marie Kondo talks about removing brand labels from your products and I did that with the cream, it actually does make it look nicer and more calming!  She also talks about using found objects for organization instead of spending money on fancy organizers, so I'm happy to say (almost) all of the organizers in the bathroom are ones I already owned and moved from somewhere else where they were sitting idle! She would probably dock me marks for that shower organizer, but it doesn't make sense to throw out products we're still using. Eventually I hope we can pare down our shower products considerably.

 
 Still in the works, I'm slowly getting through all the junk previously 'stored' in our spare room. It's quite the victory that you can see the floor in the above photo! Some of what's left needs to be given away, and some of it organized and stored. The closet, seen above, is actually a pretty proud moment for me. The very bottom used to house all of our Christmas decor, and now the entire closet sits empty (scattered contents are placeholders only, haha) waiting for me to organize it. The top of the closet now neatly stores all of our luggage! What a big difference, let me tell you, as our suitcases used to live in the bottom of our bedroom closet. I was quite amazed and pleased that I could fit them all up there. I also stuffed larger items we don't need often (like an old rug I haven't decided where to put yet, and my lace tablecloth collection from our wedding) into the suitcases. The trick is going to be remembering what's inside them without pulling them down everytime I forget...

My goal for this room is to clear it out almost completely so that we can put a small day bed in there. One day it will have to be a nursery so the dresser is about all that I want to stay. I'm thinking about selling my little sewing desk, even though it's perfect for my sewing machine Marie Kondo would probably ask why I don't carry my sewing machine to the dining table when I want to use it, since the rest of the time this desk just collects junk. Sad, because it's sew cute! (harhar).
And my last victory! This little Ikea sofa has been sitting in it's box since it was delivered about six months ago. Not a joke. Nick insisted he would hate it so he refused to put it together. Well I was tired of having a functionless box and no sofa so I started it's assembly on my own. Nick helped in the end. As predicted by me, the sofa fits perfectly in the room and although he will not be winning any awards for comfort, he provides a very nice spot for friends and animals to sit while Nick is on the computer. I love it, and the room looks so so much better (and closer to being done!) then it did a week ago.

Tommy has one more week to go before he gets full run of the house again (he's been in isolation with a broken toe) hence all the cat stuff in the picture! 

That's about it! Other small changes so far include moving Nicks board game collection from an overfilled cupboard in the kitchen to the bookshelves in the living room. Much better. Now my stand mixer has somewhere to live and guests can see the whole board game collection at a glance. Also in that newly re-purposed cupboard are all of my baking pans, neatly standing in a rack for that purpose. I'm kinda geeking out about this solution considering they used to all live in the very back of a corner cabinet and the frequent refrain was "NICK where are my cookie sheets??" because they would stack and hide each other from view. No longer!

Victory shall soon be mine!

Valentines Day Weekend

 
This is the first year I can remember when Valentines day has miraculously fallen on not only a Saturday, but a long weekend. Somehow, this made it seem even more special as  we were able to enjoy each other for a full three days with romance full on our minds.

For the last couple weeks I've been subtly and not so subtly hinting that all I wanted for V day was some locally made, gourmet doughnuts. We originally planned on brunch, followed by a shopping spree at Ikea, but sadly we both slipped up and kinda spent our Ikea money. Saving that for later, we headed out of the house around noon for brunch. Nick  surprised me with a trip downtown to pick up doughnuts from Moonshine doughnuts. He bought a full dozen and got full points. They were delicious! Strawberry Champagne, Caramel & Balsamic, Almond Earl Grey and Quadruple Chocolate. I was kinda not so secretly in love with the Almond Earl Grey. 

For brunch,  I indulged my sweet tooth further with the Raspberry Crisp french toast from Tutti Fruity. Nick likes the Celine's Special. After brunch we spent some time chatting with my mum (she traded us some doughnuts for homemade scones, as you can see they invaded the doughnut box a bit). For dinner we cooked up some coconut crusted tilapia and sauteed Swiss chard. I made raw strawberry ice box cake for dessert (just big enough for two!). We watched Castle and had a great time!

It was a warm sort of wintery weekend filled with fresh, fluffy snow and sunny, warm afternoons. We took advantage on Sunday and took Lola to the park. She had an absolutely grand time! Running zig zags, being brave, rolling and diving into the snow. She's quite the snow dog, and oh so cute in her little pink dog hoodie from Amazon. We saw Kingsmen in the afternoon (loved it, though it's occasionally too crude), and spent some time with my sister and her boyfriend. Monday we had a great lunch with our two families, and spent the evening with friends! 

I know Nick and I will always look back on this weekend fondly, it was kinda perfect. There's nothing quite like spending time with all of the people you love the most, and doing the things that make you happy. <3  

One thing we didn't do this year was take our annual family portrait! It will have to wait till next weekend as there isn't enough natural light in the house after work quite yet. I'm still however, determined to keep up the tradition, even if we're a little late.

Tuesday, February 10

For: February 2015

Lo is a nickname my friend Beth coined for Lola. She was just tiny and new and I hadn't thought yet about nicknames or 'pet names' haha. Once I heard it it caught on, little Lo. Beths dog is named Halo and when I get home from work I say "Hey Lo" and Nick chides, "Wrong dog".

This month I am seriously coveting this shirt tail skirt from GAP, but I can't decide if I want it in dark navy or camel brown. The dark navy might be more prone to hair (and my dog is blonde, hello!) but more versatile in my wardrobe. Decisions.

The other thing I can't stop thinking about is the laundry sorter from IKEA. Up until recently we had a big three section laundry sorter that took up way too much room. This one is tall, but the footprint is very small. It's going to live in Nick's den and help me stay organized! I can't wait! We gave away our old laundry sorter as part of my New Year Purging and slow trudging move towards minimalism, and having piles of laundry with no where to go forced me to .... actually launder them. This is the first time in my adult life all of my laundry is done, even the sheets and the duvet cover. Even the towels. I have every single shirt, sock and underwear item washed and folded. It's like an adult-y miracle.

For Valentines day Nick is going to take me to IKEA, bless him. I can't wait to share our den makeover soon on the blog, the other day I finally assembled Nick's little IKEA sofa and it's completely changed the function of the room. Having somewhere for friends to sit and watch youtube videos ... is apparently what it was always missing. Still some tidying to do, continual work on the laundry closet, and Tommy (did I mention our cat broke his toe?) has a couple weeks more isolation in this room before we can kick out his litter box and get it nice and clean. Right now there is a wealth of cat toys in the den, haha, and Tommy has been the one enjoying the new couch the most.

February

Friday, January 30

IRL: Keep Going

Just popping in to say, guess what, January is almost over! Just a day and a half left to go. If any of you are trying to keep New Years Resolutions, keep chugging!

 A huge part of being successful is creating habits. You want to work out more, you have to put in the work until it becomes a habit, eventually it will suck less. Right?

Right now we're heading into our fourth week of budgeting and meal planning and let me tell you, it's a bit of a struggle. That's totally normal.

I've made, count it, one meal from our meal plan this week. The rest of the week we've been defaulting to some old standby's, pasta pasta and more pasta. I ran out of frozen pre-made dinners so my laziness has been answered with Mac 'N Cheese. Meanwhile, the groceries we actually bought with the list that I agonized over for days are languishing in the fridge. Not acceptable.

Equally frustrating, I'm on a huge organization kick and cleaning our house like mad (why I have no energy to cook) and I might have slipped up and spent a wad of cash on house stuff. I don't regret anything, but I wish I could have purged first and then saved for the storage solutions. I have a major desire going on for this awesome laundry solution I devised. Did you know that you can purchase items from Ikea online? I do. It's a problem. It's a serious struggle for me whenever I think about waiting a whole 'nother week to click "check out" but I know that it would be against the rules to put it on my visa. 

Anyway, the struggle is real and I just wanted to provide some realness to encourage you to keep going.

To forming better habits! *clink glasses*

Here's an encouraging printable for you: