Finding My Groove in a New Space

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As I mentioned in my this post, we recently moved to a smaller house in search of some simplicity.  We loved our old home and our neighborhood, but for many reasons it had become more of a drain than time, energy, and money permitted.  Finally, this past fall we decided to take the plunge and look for something new, and got lucky pretty quickly in locating a new house that fits our family’s needs almost perfectly. It is indeed smaller and much more simple, but also beautiful and more streamlined.

I was pretty stoked about this, but one area I had some sadness over was our kitchen.  Our old kitchen had some quirks: funky vinyl tiles in various shades of green, counter appliances that needed to be placed at awkward angles, a beloved but unreliable propane range, and a sink wedged into the very corner of the cabinets on an angle. (Note to prospective home buyers: if you have never seen this before and come across it, run the other way or plan to change it.  Your back will thank you.)

But I loved it.  It was open and spacious, had a marvelous pantry with loads of space, looked out into the dining room, and a lovely view of the pine trees in our back yard, and the blue jays landing on our back deck in the spring and summer.  The things I loved more than made up for the flaws.

The kitchen and dining areas in our new place are vastly different.  There is no formal dining room, and the living room/family area runs into the eating space.  The official kitchen area is more of an adjacent area to this space then its own entity, and is much, MUCH smaller than what I had before.  I was looking forward to cutting down some of our possessions, but because cooking and food prep is something I enjoy so much, I worried that I would find it cramped and having trouble fitting in the things I use on an almost daily basis.

A few weeks into officially living in the new space, and slowly moving things in and adjusting in a Tetris-like fashion, I am pleased to say that in this case, simplicity is good.  Things I’m loving:

  • Instead of feeling cramped and frustrated, I feel like I have more space and ease of motion while in the kitchen. The kitchen is much newer and has more modern finishes. I have never been particularly hung up on “modern” finishes such as stainless steel, and was perfectly happy with our white appliances, vinyl floor, and country oak cabinets…but I have to admit it is nice to have spaces that are sleek, in good repair, and easier to clean.
  • Instead of the awkward spread of appliances we had before, I now have – surprisingly – pretty much the same amount of room to store items, but they are now at arm’s reach as I am in the process of cooking. I didn’t realize how much I went back and forth constantly in the past.
  • Just off the dining area, there is a bump-out room that houses the laundry area as well as ample room for a large set of shelves, which is serving the same purpose as our old pantry (that may be my favorite part).
  • The dishwasher is quieter. Not a huge issue for me, but yay for other members of my family.
  • The sink is in a straightforward spot that does not require back contortions to wash dishes.
  • The kitchen is perfectly placed so that I can keep an eye on R while she is playing in the living area or having her after-school snack.
  • The back wall of windows. There are three large windows – along with the back patio door – lining the wall of the living area/eating space, and the kitchen faces these.  So I have a full view of the backyard and there is lots of light, which will be especially awesome in the summer when R and I are home a lot together.

I know that like anything, there will a bit of a honeymoon period with this house, and eventually there will be things that I would like to change or that I might wish were different.  But in general, I think our new home is going to fit our needs as a family very well, and the kitchen space in particular I think will be much more efficient than I imagined it could be.  I am going to enjoy getting acquainted with it.

By Nature, We are Different

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In the scenery of spring

there is nothing superior

nothing inferior;

flowering branches

are by nature

some short

some long.

— Zen Proverb

Nothing is exactly the same in nature, including human beings.  We are not less than because of our body size, or shape, or color.  We simply are who we are.

Making Me Happy: November 2016

November Reds

Here are a few things that are making me smile this month.

1. Discovering a new walking trail.

I love walking outdoors, especially where it is quiet and woodsy, and there are several awesome walking trails that I use regularly.  Recently though, I found a new one by chance that I had no idea existed! (Kind of shocking since we have lived in this area for eight years.) It was a lovely surprise, though, and I have been making up for lost time.

2. Gorgeous fall colors – still!

September and October are probably my two favorite months of the year, and we lucked out this year with mostly beautiful weather to get outside.  However, November is here and I am happy to say that although the leaves are swiftly disappearing from the trees, the weather is still seasonably crispy and there are beautiful reds, golds, and yellows to take in.  It is pretty cliche to go on about the weather this time of year, but with good reason.

3. A fun free printable.

I have been enjoying poking around Short and Sweets, which is where I found this pretty free printable.  I need this reminder constantly.  And it pretty much sums up my feelings on doing any kind of creative work.

Joy Thief

By the way, if you Google this quote, a number of great free images pop up.

4. Trick-or-treating with the kiddo.

Up until this year, the kiddo’s feelings toward Halloween would be best described as ‘meh.’ Like a lot of preschoolers, she just has not had much interest.  She was content to put on her costume and enjoy a few spoils from friends and family, but that was about it.  This year though, with a better understanding of the occasion and Kindergarten classmates, it was a different story. It was a lot of fun to watch her get decked out in her black cat mask and tail and be excited to visit the houses in our neighborhood.

5. This Rainbow Chicken Salad from Pinch of Yum.

Rainbow chicken salad

With some bread on the side, this delicious salad was our dinner twice last week.  Preparing the chicken and dressing ahead of time meant it came together really quickly, and the components are also great if you have kids who might like those things served separately (ahem).  Just delicious goodness. I will be making it in the future, repeatedly.

What is making you happy this month?

Five Children’s Books We’ve Loved Lately

Extra Yarn

One of my favorite parts of being a parent is discovering cool books and authors that I might not have known about otherwise (Sandra Boynton, to wit). Once in a while we come across a book on a library excursion that we end up borrowing again and again.  Here are a couple we’ve loved recently that are in the preschool to early-grade-school range:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

About a little girl and a box of colourful, seemingly endless yarn she finds in a town that has become devoid of colour.  The story is sweet, it has a fairy tale quality to it (a random archduke shows up!), and the illustrations are beautiful. It is probably up there with my favorite children’s storybooks.

Froodle by Antoinette Portis

A little brown bird decides she is tired of making the same old sounds every day.  Clever and silly.

Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis

By the same author and illustrator of Froodle , Kindergarten Diary features daily diary entries from the perspective of a Kindergartener’s first month at school (especially relevant to our family right now).  Very cute and addresses some common fears. (The main character, Annalisa, also physically resembles a certain rough-and-rumble four-year-old I know.)

Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland

Our whole family loves Nicholas Oldland’s books; we’ve been hooked since getting Up the Creek a few years back.   They are hilarious and have a very distinctly Canadian feel. Big Bear Hug features a lovable black bear who loves hugging and spreading his love around, especially to trees. It’s curious to him that not everyone is receptive to being wrapped in his embrace.

Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond

My daughter has had three television loves: Bubble Guppies, Doc McStuffins, and The Pioneer Woman. :)   We love curling up together and watching Ree Drummond prepare recipes and showcase various goings on at her family’s ranch, especially the animals.  So when we stumbled across this series featuring the basset hound Charlie, who makes frequent appearances in the show, it was pretty exciting.  There are three books in the series and they are told from Charlie’s witty perspective. They also include a recipe at the end to try out. This first book in the series is a good place to start!

What are some of your favorite children’s books?

Homemade Happiness: Iced Coffee

Half-finished iced coffee

While I generally love all things coffee, I have never been a big fan of cold coffee drinks, especially those that are just regular coffee over ice.  I think to me, it feels counterproductive, as I am usually trying to consume my coffee before it gets to that state. (Many moms of small children likely feel me on this one.)

However, on a particularly humid day recently, I found myself ordering an iced coffee instead of my usual hot brew.  To my further surprise, I loved it! It got me wondering how easy it would be to make at home.

In my past experiences trying to reproduce lattes and the like, the results have been disappointing.  (The one exception to this has been the Oh She Glows version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which I would argue when made as instructed is even better than the original.) Recipes for iced coffee usually call for pre-made coffee concentrate, so I wasn’t sure how this would go.

I loved the way it turned out on the first try, and have made it several times since.

  1. Brew a cup of hot coffee as you normally would.  I use a vanilla-flavored decaf.
  2. Add any sweetener at this point so it can dissolve in the hot liquid.  I add about a teaspoon of honey.
  3. Refrigerate until the coffee has cooled to your liking.  I generally refrigerate overnight.  You could also use the freezer – just don’t forget to keep an eye on it!
  4. Pour the coffee over several ice cubes in a glass.  Add milk or cream to taste, and enjoy!

While pouring coffee over ice doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy, apparently a good iced coffee is more straightforward than I thought.  If you like them too, it is worth giving this super-simple method a try.  I have a feeling it will be adding some extra happiness to my summer!

Thinking About Time + Chalkboard Art

This one should really be tattooed on my forehead. But the chalkboard will do for now.
This one should really be tattooed on my forehead. But the chalkboard will do for now.

As my friend Sherrie mentioned in a recent post, when care of a small child is your full-time job, it is taunting the universe a bit to make any declaration as to how you will regularly spend your time. Particularly in regards to taking specific actions at specific times.

Such as making a statement, if only to myself, that I am going to try and post weekly on the blog. This was my intention when I first started out in January. I was able to keep up with this for a while, and I have more ideas for posts than I know what to do with. However, as any parent knows, a change in circumstances (as in the loss of naps in my case – RIP) means you need to work a little differently to work in what’s important to you. It is possible, it just requires some imagination and tweaking. Until there is finite time to regularly devote to writing, I will just have to squeeze it in where possible! I would much rather post less often than I would like than give up in frustration because I have set a standard I am not able to meet.

Speaking of tweaks, I intend to spend some time rethinking and sharpening the direction I would like the blog to go in. (Ahem. As time permits, of course. ) Over the next little while, I am going to continue to post what interests me and see what comes of that.

Recently I have been having a little fun with a chalkboard we put up in our kitchen/main hallway area.

Have Courage and Be Kind

It turns out that it not only brightens up the area quite a bit, but it’s nice to encounter a positive message each time I walk by. And it’s a reason for me to regularly play with coloured chalk and be creative in tiny chunks. Chalkboard art for the win!

Happy Friday, everyone!