Classic Christmas Decor
Christmas is my favourite holiday by far! And although red is one of my least favourite colours, I tolerate it for the sake of festive Christmas decor. I’ve stepped outside of the traditional Christmas colour scheme box a few times, but always end up going back to my classic beloved red and green theme.
Canadian Christmas Finds
I have a ton of Christmas decor already, but there is always room for a few upgrades right!? I’ve been browsing around and thought I’d share some of my affordable favourite finds!
1. Boxwood Berry Wreath from Canadian Tire
2. Ceramic Farm Canister from Wal-Mart
3. Burlap Charger Plate from Wal-Mart
4. Plaid Stocking from Jysk
5. Plaid Dinner Plate from Wal-Mart
6. Appetizer Plate from Wal-Mart
7. Pre-Lit Eucalyptus Leaves Garland from Canadian Tire
8. White Chunky Knit 19″ Stocking from Wal-Mart
9. 24″ Galvanized Potted Tree Mug from Canadian Tire
10. Candleholder from Jysk
11. 3-Tier Marble Tray from Canadian Tire
12. Checkered Tree Bucket from Jysk
13. Wicker Tree Bucket from Jysk
Searching for a Console Table
I’ve been searching online for a console table for our living room wall forever. The biggest problem was that it needed to be at least seven feet long so it was wider than the wall sconces. For an item that was at the bottom of our priority list of things to spend money on, I just wasn’t coming up with anything budget friendly online.
That lead me to explore DIY options. I wanted something that I could build mostly on my own without requiring too much assistance from my husband because he was much too busy working on more important things like our master closet! I found tons of ideas on Pinterest that I considered replicating.
It wasn’t until we took a load of trash to the local landfill and I spotted a frame of some sort at the top of the scrap metal pile. There it was, in amongst old appliances, bicycles and junk… exactly what I needed. It was the perfect length and depth. I have no idea what it used to be.
My supplies were simple: a couple cans of spray paint, some driftwood boards from Home Depot and four casters. Less than $100 total.
The overall frame height was only 24 inches. I wanted it to be at least 30-32 inches high to be proper console height. Affordable Princess Auto casters to the rescue once again, raising my project to the perfect height! I sprayed my slightly rusted “recycled” metal frame and ugly caster wheels in flat soft iron by Rust-oleum. Then it was assembly time!
I am excited that I was able to turn trash into a useful furniture piece. It may not look expensive or fancy or perfect but it will do the job for now!
Decorate and Style
The best part: I’m looking forward to adding decor to this empty console table and big blank wall. Maybe a tall mirror… maybe a DIY farmhouse sign or two… maybe a few large vases… check out my instagram feed soon to see how I style it!
We’ve taken some time this week to work on stocking up the freezer for back to school. Nothing fancy. Just some quick and easy lunch items that we can use in a pinch. The best part is that I can freeze all of it. Quite often Monday morning rolls around and our weekend was way too busy to even think about lunches so these will be our go-to items when we don’t make it to the grocery store.
Turkey and Cheese Buns
So easy. Less than 10 minutes to make a dozen buns! These will be a lifesaver for school lunches and for an on-the-go snack or meal. We just wrapped them all individually, threw them inside a large freezer bag and done!
English Muffin Mini Pizzas
I am hoping these mini pizzas taste as good cold as they do warm! They’ll make for excellent after school snacks if not. We used our favourite store bought pizza sauce, pepperoni, salami and mozzarella.
Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
I’ve made these a few times and the kids gobble em up. I decided to make them larger so they could be the main part of the lunch, instead of bite size snacks. We spread mayo all over, squeezed out some mustard and layered on the ham and cheese. I highly recommend adding the mustard if your kids will eat it! Adds lots of extra flavour.
Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins
I followed this super simple and fast recipe by Mom to Mom Nutrition. The only addition I made was sprinkling a tiny amount of cinnamon and brown sugar on top before baking to make these muffins more appealing to the kids. Unfortunately, they looked too good… and were delicious! Only half of these ones made it to the freezer once the kids were done snacking.
Apple Oat Greek Yogurt Mini Muffins
This healthy recipe worked perfect for mini muffins! A convenient snack to throw in school lunches when we are short on ideas.
Bring on back to school!
I’d love to hear how you prepare ahead for school lunches! I hope some of these quick and easy ideas help you out as you ease back into the school routine.
I purchased two nightstands to stage our master bedroom before our bungalow went up for sale in Whitecourt, AB. Because of a fantastic realtor who lived on the crescent behind us, our house didn’t even go on the market! She had it sold before we had a chance to list, all while we were away in Disneyworld. The nightstands, along with most of our other belongings went into storage while we started building our craftsman in the country.
DIY nightstands get some love…
One of drawers got a bit of water damage on it during it’s long stint in storage. Not a big deal, but still required a little TLC.
I wasn’t super excited about having to repair the dang things before I could paint them so they sat in the garage collecting dust for quite a while. Until one day I was looking for something in Lowe’s and walked by these rolls of veneer and decided it was time to tackle the nightstands.
Fixin’ em up!
Such a quick and easy thing to do I can’t believe I didn’t do it months ago! A quick iron, trim and sand and it was almost as good as new.
The top needed some water bubbles buffed out. The mouse sander took care of that in just a few minutes. And finally I was all set to paint.
And finally… some fresh paint…
I chose to use Annie Sloan Old White because I had it on hand. I wanted a bright neutral to go against a dark wall.
Two coats of chalk paint is all it needed to cover nicely. Instead of using furniture wax for my last step, I decided to spray it with a clear coat. The only time I use wax is if I am wanting to distress the edges and give a piece an antique look. My favourite spray is the Varathane Diamond Wood Finish. It goes on super fast and leaves a nice protective finish over my projects so I don’t have to worry about the surface getting damaged.
I anticipate our new mattress will sit quite high off the ground so I wanted to add a bit of height to my nightstands without adding a lot of cost.
An accidental find…
Because I am the errand-runner for my busy husband, I was unlucky enough to visit Princess Auto one day to grab him a few supplies. I accidentally hustled down the wrong aisle and happened to see a bunch of casters and couldn’t believe how cheap they were. I believe the ones I chose were on sale for $1.39. Sold! Who knew I’d be coming home with goodies for myself from Princess Auto.
So here my nightstands sit, against my navy shiplap, lonely and waiting for a bed to fill the space between them. But the best part… they are finished! Not sitting in a heap of dust taking up space in our garage anymore! Fresh paint. New pulls from Home Sense and cost effective casters from Princess Auto.
I am attempting to make use of all the furniture pieces we already have around our house, garage and in storage. My preference is to paint, stain, repair or re-do instead of buying new. By doing this I hope to save on a bunch of pieces in order to splurge on a few new furniture items. The next DIY on my list is turning some old side tables into glossy black beauties for our master sitting room!
How To Get Your Kids Involved In Planning (and making!) School Lunches
Back To School!
It’s almost that time of year again… back to school! And with BTS comes the dreaded… school lunches.
I was tired of food coming home from school un-eaten and getting chucked into the garbage because it had gone bad. I was sick of listening to kids complain that they didn’t like what was in their lunch. I was upset that I was putting effort into lunches and they just didn’t appreciate it. So last fall I came up with a plan!
Everyone Gets a Turn
The kids and I each take turns preparing school lunches. Three of them plus one of me = each of us prepare lunches for one week per month. The person on lunch duty for the week is responsible for choosing what they make. Usually on the Friday or Sunday before a new week starts, I ask what is required for groceries and then they take it from there.
Why it Works for Us
It gives the kids a whole new perspective and appreciation for school lunches.
They love that they get to choose the food.
And they sure enjoy three weeks off after preparing lunches for one week.
Much less food comes home at the end of the day.
It forces them to think about each other. If Cooper puts mustard on Keira’s sandwich when he knows she doesn’t like it, then he can bet she is going to put cheese in his sandwich the following week because she knows Cooper doesn’t like cheese in his sandwich! It only took them a few weeks to realize that if they considered each other when packing lunches, then the thoughtfulness would be returned in the following weeks.
Improving our plan…
Looking back on the past school year, the only thing my school lunch plan lacked was: What the heck to put in the lunches!?
I created this list of all the school lunch items my kids like to eat. Coming up with something other than sandwiches is a struggle at times. Nuts are not allowed. And microwaves are not available at school anymore.
I will print it, laminate it and hang it inside one of the cabinet doors. This way we can take a quick peek at it when we need some inspiration. I think it will save tons of time planning each week and it’ll help with having fresh ideas instead of the same old thing week after week. With a brief glance at this list it shouldn’t be hard to come up with a grocery list.
With the way I have organized/categorized our list, the kids can pick one item from each category. Five items per lunch is plenty enough food for them for an average day at school.
Enjoy this free download: schoollunchplanningcraftsmaninthecountry
Please let me know if your family has any school lunch strategies or tips! I’d love to hear about how you do school lunches.
Happy Back to School! And happy lunch making!
Why are we so tough on our kids? Because we want them to grow into darn decent humans! That’s why.
Do we expect a lot from them? Absolutely.
Chores? Heck yes.
Are they capable of working hard? You bet.
Is building a strong family unit important to us? Unbelievably.
Have our children financially contributed towards vacations in the past? For sure.
Are they allowed to have any fun? It’s frowned upon. I kid. I kid. Work hard to play harder right?
Recently it was brought to my attention that the parents of my daughter’s friend called my husband and I ‘uptight’. When my daughter first told me this, I was offended. But once I thought about it, I decided I was going to take it as a compliment. I’d rather be called an uptight parent than a complacent parent. I’d rather have rules in place that my children accept and respect than have my children grow up without responsibilities or discipline.
The things we teach them to do for themselves will guide them towards becoming strong, independent, caring and hopefully wise individuals. And all those things will help them become the very best they can be.
Yup they do chores. And lots of them.
Who cleans the toilet in our house? The one that makes the biggest mess of it – Cooper, our eight year old. He takes two cleaning wipes and two paper towel and off he goes. That boy gets the toilet spotless. Because what’s worse than cleaning the toilet? Cleaning the toilet twice! When it comes to scrubbing the inside of the toilet bowl, that is my job. This mama is not having two big sisters chased around the house with a wet toilet brush. No way.
They always seem find a way to make chores interesting. From dusting the furniture one minute to pretending to be an animal with a fuzzy tail the next. From vacuuming the floor to vacuuming each other. From spraying sinks to spraying the dog! From folding laundry to trying on dad’s clothes. But with a little persuasion (sometimes a lot!) the job eventually gets done.
Keira puts a bit more effort into her chores now. She has learnt the hard way that the faster she gets done, the more free time she will have. She loves to drag her feet but she is slowly realizing the benefit of just completing what is expected of her and moving on with her day.
After cleaning her room without being asked, Keira walked out and said to me “You’re right mom. Having a clean room does feel good”. Um… Heck YES girl! Mountain climbed. Messaged delivered. Gold star. Adding this triumph to my very short ‘mom win’ list immediately.
This past September I made a school lunch schedule. Each of the kids plus myself were assigned one week per month of making school lunches. If it was Presley’s week, she’d give me a list of groceries she needed and then she was responsible each evening for preparing lunches for herself and her siblings. One week her food request included take-out pizza from Panago, strawberries and carrots. Hmmm – lazy! But smart! So pizza, strawberries and carrots is what she got and that is what they ate in their lunches for the majority of her week.
The four of us maintained our lunch making schedule throughout most of the school year. Success! But then came June and any hankering for creative and nutricious lunches was been replaced by 98 cent lunchables from Walmart and watermelon slices. June school lunches will never be equal to September school lunches. And that’s just the way it is. To improve this process for the upcoming school year, I will hang up a list of lunch items that they can take a quick look at for inspiration.
In our house, bedrooms have to be spotless before friends can come over. Since the kids were toddlers, they’ve been expected to help tidy up before a play-date AND as soon as it’s over. It was always amazing to me the massive amount of toys a couple of preschoolers could haul out in such a short time.
STRONG FAMILY UNIT
Naturally, kids are selfish. They can’t help it. It just is what it is. It is my job to make sure they don’t become selfish adults. Or at least try my hardest! It is one of our biggest parenting struggles right now… Teaching them that they are not the only ones that have needs and feelings. Attempting to make them realize that life doesn’t revolve around only themselves. Demonstrating that if they want stuff done for them that they need to be willing to do stuff for others. The importance of this issue increases as we quickly approach the teen years! We are hoping that by maintaining a strong family unit, we will survive raising three teenagers and come out even stronger in the end.
Just like my husband and I save up for vacations, the kids do too. Whether their earnings go towards souvenirs, treats, or airfare, we all save together as a family. For our last big holiday, each of the kids had to save up and contribute $200.00 towards the trip. Obviously this a pretty tiny amount of money compared to what a Hawaiian vacation for five costs, but to the kids, $200 is a lot of money when it is their own. And it took a long time for them to save that much! But they all did it and they were all proud of themselves.
My husband constantly reminds me that our kids will only be little for a short time and before we know it they’ll be grown and moving out. As frustrating as some days get, I am trying my best to relax and not sweat the small stuff.
As important as it is to raise respectful, considerate and generous humans, it is also so important to enjoy every moment and make the moments count.
Our master suite is nearing completion. This space was put on hold while we finished other projects in and around our craftsman in the country. I am excited to finally be back up there and making a bit of progress.
Stairway & Railing
It will still be a wait before we start using our master suite due to the extensive railing project ahead. The supplies have arrived and we are prepared for the considerable amount of time required for staining, painting and installing. Once we have railing in, it will transform our master suite into a safe! and well deserved space that we look forward to enjoying. But first, summer. Sweet, short Saskatchewan summer. First comes camping, beaching, paddle boarding, travelling and yard work. Then comes railing! I might actually look forward to fall this year.
The feature wall in our soon-to-be master bedroom has been navy (Hale Navy – Benjamin Moore) for a couple of years. We decided to join the millions of ship lap lovers and give it a go. The subtle change is good enough for us! Initially I had planned to add a very intricate diamond detail using thin strips of trim but settled for simple ship lap, in-stock at Home Depot. And of course our king bed will cover the majority of the wall. So I think we made the right decision to go with quick and easy ship lap rather than yet another time consuming custom feature. I have a couple of old nightstands in the garage that I will be repairing and painting soon for this room, hopefully becoming my first DIY blog post!
We are currently in the process of painting doors. We chose Iron Mountain by Benjamin Moore in a glossy pearl finish. Once those are complete and installed we will start on the laundry chute cabinet and media cabinet on either side of the fireplace in the master sitting area. Black granite counters are cut and waiting to finish off the cabinets. I’m hoping I can talk Mike into some open shelves above too.
Our shower awaits a husband in juuuuust the right mood to apply the messy grout. The tile installation took several hours and way too many trips up and down the stairs to the tile saw, but the end result is perfection. All that cardio was just an added bonus! Once the grout is done we can choose some glass walls and a glass door. Some day soon(ish) I won’t have to share a bathroom with my children and that excites me more than you could imagine.
The gold (eek!) sink taps are in. Mirrors and wall sconces will complete this side of the bathroom. I cannot wait to get all those drawers filled and organized and not have tiny hands all up in my stuff anymore.
I opted out of posting a photo of the current state of our messy, full of boxes (and a tub) walk-in closet. Our closet plan/design is a combination of Ikea Komplement products that we’ve purchased and some custom additions – made by Mike – my handy husband (and stained or painted by me because I am super helpful). It’s been more than a while since I’ve had a real closet so the completion of that room cannot come soon enough.
I’m beyond excited to share our finished master suite with you. But I’m even more excited to actually live in it! Watch for update pics on my instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/brooke_craftsmaninthecountry/
Bekki + Travis
Canmore, Alberta, Canada
To my sister on her wedding day…
Today you will say I do to the ginger of your dreams. Savor every second of it. Revel in the devotion that you and Travis share. Get high on the love from your family and friends. Appreciate the yummy food and terrible dancing. Enjoy all of the laughs that will be had and all of the happy tears that will be shed.
I am honored to support and share the beginning of this new chapter in your life. Your nieces and nephew are thrilled to take part in your special day. As for Mike, he is just pleased to blend into the background. We couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting for your wedding day.
I’m so glad you found someone who gives you the same butterflies that you get when you see your food coming at a restaurant. Travis may annoy you, say dumb stuff, make you really mad, but you’ll never find anyone who loves you more than he does.
You two will undoubtedly navigate your marriage together freckled hand in freckled hand. And knowing the two of you, it’s going to be a fun, adventurous and passionate experience. From big sister to little sister, my marriage advice is simple: Pay attention to each other. Look after each other. Respect each other. Love each other. That’s all.
I wish only the best future for you and Travis. I just know it’s going to be a big bright one! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your wedding day, for loving my crazy kids, for putting up with Mike, and for constantly being there. Cheers to a lifetime of happiness.
You’ll always be my favorite sister.
Responsibility and Appreciation – Building Life Skills
Our three little darlings recently had a five day weekend. In an attempt to provide them with just an ounce of appreciation towards the process of meal time, I devised a plan.
The Big Idea
They were each responsible for one full day of cooking. At eight, almost ten and close to twelve years old, I know they are capable of preparing a simple meal with minimal assistance and supervision.
I sat them down with a notepad and they each got to work making a menu of their choosing and a grocery list. One breakfast, lunch and supper each. With a quick inventory of the fridge and freezer, I challenged them to use up what we already had on hand.
The girls even stepped it up a notch and planned one dessert for their day. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t think about making each kid pay for their groceries too, because I did! But… baby steps people.
The Great Grocery Shop
The majority of my shopping is done while all of the small fries are in school. I don’t even feel the need to explain why… I know you know. But, in the spirit of a Friday off school and teaching a little gratefulness, the four of us headed to the grocery store.
We fumbled our way up and down isles, some isles more than once, fulfilling lists. With three impatient kids reading off what they required, none knowing where things were located, it was a bit hectic but we survived. By the time we had completed our grocery run they were ready for lunch and the playground.
Responsibility and Appreciation
If you are thinking it was nice for me to have three days off from the kitchen and put my feet up while someone else did the cooking… very funny. Not quite. I said minimal assistance and supervision. And lets not forget about the mess. Lots of mess. But this valuable life lesson was soooo worth the mess. I stayed back as mush as possible, only stepping in when necessary – like the moment my daughter went to get the huge BBQ spatula to flip her pancakes. And when my son was eating more salami than he was putting on his pizzas. And when Presley wouldn’t get off her butt to make supper.
I came in the house from working outside to find my oldest hadn’t pre-heated the oven 20 minutes earlier like she was instructed. I turned the oven on, but then caught myself in a teachable moment and turned it off. Realizing – nope – this was not part of the lesson. I found her lounging downstairs without a care in the world, too lazy to go up and turn on the oven. So I sat on the edge of her bed and gave her a small taste of her own medicine. “I’m starving.” “When will supper be ready?” “What are you making?” She smirked and proceeded upstairs to make delicious chicken wraps that we finally got to eat at almost 7:30pm.
My middle mite was enthusiastic about her day of cooking. The other two, not as much. But they did what was expected of them with only a little persuasion.
Weekend in Review
Moving forward, my hope is that they respect the effort that goes into planning, shopping and mealtime. We will definitely do this again. Maybe make it a regular thing. It is important to my husband and I that our children grow up to be hard working, non-entitled individuals. This five day weekend may not have been the adventurous and exciting weekend the kids had hoped for. And even though they don’t realize it yet, I am positive that this weekend of cooking and family time will, in some small way, assist in molding successful adults.
Finding the ideal balance for a healthy lifestyle is tough. The struggle is real. Food is just so delicious and exercise can be torture. Apparently you have to eat healthy and workout more than once to get in shape… this is so cruel and unfair 😉
In the past, I have taken kickboxing classes, step classes, spin classes and bootcamps. I actually enjoyed many of them. Nothing like leaving it up to an instructor to force you to work your behind off for an hour! I attended classes for about three years on and off.
I was also suffering through cardio a few times per week. Sometimes it would be the elliptical, sometimes I’d row or run. I do not dig lengthy cardio sessions. I’ve completed a few 5km races and a 10km race. My training schedules appeared decent on paper, but once my feet hit the gravel or that dang treadmill, running didn’t feel so pleasant. I wanted to like it. I tried to like it, I really did. But a few hours of gratification after crossing the finish line just wasn’t worth it for me.
I felt good about attending fitness classes and adding in cardio. But I wasn’t seeing any results. I thought that if I wanted to lose pounds, cardio was a must. I knew that diet was a big part of my lack of progress. So in an attempt to monitor my calories, I began to meal prep. I decided to ditch the classes and cardio and pick up some weights.
Every Monday I cook. I make a menu, buy groceries and fill the fridge with four to five days worth of healthy eats for myself and my husband. Breakfast, lunch, supper and usually two snacks.
The past six months we’ve been carb cycling. I highly recommend carb cycling. I went old school – borrowed all the books I could find at the library and did my research. Once I had a good understanding of what exactly carb cycling was and how it works, I purchased the book that was most helpful. Extreme Transformation by Chris & Heidi Powell. I use the recipes in this book almost every week so it was worth the buy!
One of the best things about carb cycling is that it’s not a short-term diet, it can become a permanent lifestyle change. The concept allows you to eat carbs without adding body fat. Carb cycling helps you burn fat as fuel. Also, if you are looking for mega health inspiration, I urge you to check out Carter Good on Instagram for a ton of nutrition and fat loss information through comparisons.
Switching to the weight room was an intimidating learning experience. But luckily I have a patient and knowledgeable husband who has been doing it for years. Putting my time and energy into strength training instead of cardio was when I finally found what I’d been looking for: Results. Progress. Muscle. I actually look forward to going to the gym now. I really love it.
I did not completely eliminate cardio. One or two times per week I suck it up and do approximately 12-15 minutes of HIIT (high intensity interval training). I generally alternate between two minutes of walking and one minute of full-out sprinting on the treadmill. I don’t particularly enjoy it, but it’s short and sweet and gets the heart rate fluctuating. HGTV helps!
I was fortunate to be gifted 12-half hour sessions with Ashley, a certified personal trainer. Having a degree in Kinesiology she certainly knows her stuff! I learned oodles of exercises I can now use in my day to day training. Additionally, Ashley provided me with the confidence I needed so I could get out there and achieve my fitness goals. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with her if you are in need of some motivation and an awesome personal trainer! You can find her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yxefitness/ or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apyxefitness/
Commonly, most gym-goers focus on one or two body parts per trip to the gym. I found I was not gaining as much muscle as I had hoped. I’d have a sick child at home for the day and wouldn’t make it to the gym. Or all the kids would have a random day off school. Or I would have an appointment or too many errands. Or, or, or. Too often, almost two weeks would go by and I hadn’t worked on a certain muscle group (somehow leg day never got left behind – this girl craves a good leg day), making progress nearly impossible. After months of little success and too often deviating from my routine, I started lifting full body each and every time I went to the gym. Switching to full body workouts as well as implementing some TUT (time under tension) is what personally made the difference, finally. TUT refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. A decent book for someone just looking for a place to start, that focusses on full body exercise, is The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Weird title, but good workouts.
I am FAR from a fitness expert, still learning as I go. The above are some changes that I’ve slowly made over that last couple of years. The combination of all these changes are what has made a difference in MY fitness journey.
Consistency is king.
Find what YOU love. Do what works for YOU. Don’t give up. Be patient. Be active. Be healthy. Hustle for that muscle.