Monday, December 31, 2012

Grocery Shopping For Carless Folks

One of the most common questions I get from friends and family is about how I manage with groceries, seeing as how I have no car and live in an area that is still being developed (cmooon grocery companies- you need to open one here!).

I think learning to grocery shop when you live in a condo like mine is a good skill to learn, especially for people who have never tried it before, so I thought I would share some tips.

Here is the thing- it is at least 1km in any direction for me to get groceries. The only local option is a small convenience type store just down the street- great for occasional items but too pricy for everyday shopping. For the bigger stores nearby, 1km is a bit of a distance to walk carrying groceries, plus they tend to be "urban" themed grocery stores, which means super high prices and terrible selection!!

So how do I manage to fill my fridge with yummy goods (and not mooch car rides off people?). Here is my method:

1. Get a granny cart
I know what you are thinking- "Casey, I would look like a fool with one of those". Yes, you would. Until you leave the store with your groceries all comfortably snuggled in there (in reusable bags of course- just tie the handles to secure). Cause once you are rolling along and you see everyone else struggling to carry home food- you will be laughing!! I only really use mine in the summer, however, because it is too heavy to lift up the streetcar steps and is better suited to a bit of a walk on a nice day.

2. Get small, reusable bags

I have two bags that fold into tiny pouches that I can toss into my purse. Don't get the kind that need to fold up in a special way- get the kind with pouches! Especially pouches that are connected so you won't lose them (or you can sew into the lining).

3. Find the best store for you!
I actually go to a grocery store no where near my condo. I found out there was a No Frills (cheap groceries!) just off the subway on my way home from work. I simply get off, buy my groceries, hop back on, and bring them home in the warmth of transit! This can also mean being strategic about where you shop. I love me some Coke Zero, but there is no way I am dragging home a case from some far away grocery store (unless I have my granny cart). I choose to buy cases of pop at the small, expensive, corner store near me. Sometimes the higher price is worth saving the effort.

4. Shop often
I try to go once every week or once every 2 weeks (I am only one person so groceries last me awhile). My arms can only carry so much so if I go often I will have less to carry on each trip- just enough food to last me until the next time.

5. Plan meals and shop smart!
If you are buying too many groceries, you will being dragging home items that eventually you will throw out because they go bad. Make no sense. I am not the best meal planner, but I often have one or two dishes that I want to make and I buy those ingredients, plus some basics to make up the other meals that week. I also stay away from a lot of canned/frozen goods because they are heavy and bulky! Same goes for juice and milk (and sadly, cantaloupes)- too heavy to carry so I just don't bother.

You know, in many European cities people go daily to buy fresh foods. That is why their fridges and cupboards seem to be so small. I also think that is why they are so healthy! I might not be the healthiest eater in the world (hello Coke Zero sitting right beside the laptop right now) but the fact that I can't carry home lots of prepackaged stuff I think helps me eat a lot better. And I save a lot of money by making meals myself!

And yes, I know there are also options for places that deliver groceries, but I enjoy walking around the store, being inspired, seeing what's on sale, and verifying my produce health myself. 

Have you ever lived without a car? How did you get groceries?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Come Check Out My Crib

For my niece's first real Christmas (she was a wee little 4 week old last year and slept through it) I wanted to get her something classic that would last her for years to come. When I was at the One of a Kind Show in early December I found this great booth with handmade wooden toys. His prices were amazing, considering how expensive all the other goods seem to be there, so I knew I had found my man.

I finally decided on a toy crib for a babydoll, because I always enjoyed playing mommy when I was a little girl. Maddy is a little young for pretend play, but considering she has a whole year of growing up to do before her next birthday, I thought she might enjoy it by the summer or fall.

I picked out a beautiful plain wood crib. I had played with the idea of painting the crib, but it was beautiful in it's simplicity so I decided to make it some vibrant bedding! We can't have baby going cold, can we?

I started out with a fitted sheet for the base of the crib. In order to get the sheet to stay on, I made and attached straps that secure underneath! My goal was also to have washable and interchangeable sheets for this crib (if she ends up playing with this one day, I plan on making her some more sets.)

I wanted the blanket to have some weight to it, like a real blanket, so I cut up an old (washed!) hand towel that was stained and therefore slated to be tossed.

Then I sewed it between two pieces of fabric so that it was kind of like a poor man's baby quilt. It turned out great and because it is stuffed with a towel (sewed in place!), it can be quickly tossed in the wash!

For the pillow, I just sewed two small pieces together and stuffed it with cotton.

Doesn't baby look comfy-cozy?? Despite the fact that in all these pictures I had her in the crib upside down. sigh. haha

By the way- when did dolls become so hard to find? I first went to Walmart but they only had these life-like dolls that were TERRIFYING. So I went to Toys R Us and they had a whole bunch of dolls that "did" something or dolls that were for older kids. I just wanted a nice doll, that did nothing, and was a reasonable price! I was so thankful to finally find this one reasonably-priced doll for ages 0+ .

Maddy was super excited to get this amazing present from her Auntie Casey! First she bit Baby's face, then she walked around chewing Baby's hand for a bit, and then she used the crib as a step stool to climb on Grandpa's coffee table to get to the stuff she wasn't allowed to touch. Success all around! :P

I can't wait until she is older so we can play baby dolls together :) Second childhood for me!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Owl Be Home for Christmas

Hmm....I think there is a trend in the gifts I got from some friends this year....

Cuteness level in the condo has just increased threefold :)

I am spending time with family today and I hope you get the chance to do the same!

Are you hitting the shops today?? I think I am going to avoid that craziness!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Time For Love

I am not a religious person. I have no problems with other peoples' religious beliefs and I do think there is more to this world than meets the eye, but I just don't really connect with organized religion. I only go to church on Christmas Eve, and that is more to support my mother, who is in the choir, and to belt out a few classic Christmas carols.

But I love Christmas.

I love the feeling I get when I give a gift to another person and see their eyes light up when they open it. I love spending time with my family. I love how it seems like the one day a year that we are all so friendly and giving to our fellow man. I wish everyday could be Christmas, but I know the specialness of this time is more cherished because it only comes once a year.

A lot of people get bogged down with the daunting task of shopping for gifts, wrapping all those presents, decorating the house, organizing who is going where for dinner, and HOW long does that turkey need to be cooked for? I don't think Christmas needs the pressure that we put on ourselves. This year, I challenge you just to "be" today. Just be with your family and friends. Just be in the moment and soak in the spirit of the season. The gifts, the decorating, the delicious turkey- they are not what makes this season so wonderful. What matters is opening up your heart and your arms to those around you.

So today, if you find a little time between all the craziness of the day, give someone a hug and tell them you love them. Or maybe call a relative or friend who couldn't join you today. Sometimes a friendly word is the best gift we can give.

Love you all,
Merry Christmas,


Monday, December 24, 2012

A Condo Carol

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through my condo-house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a computer mouse
The Christmas cards were hung by the chalk-chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The throw pillows were nestled all snug on my bed,
While visions of new decor danced in my head.
With the TV turned off and the presents all wrapped
I had just settled in for a long winter's nap

When out on the balcony there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Rolled up the Ikea blinds, let out a gasp!

The moon on the top of the gas station below,
Gave the lustre of mid-October because there is still no snow.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the streetcar stop! to the top of the rooftop patio wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the balcony the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the balcony
The prancing and pawing of each cramped-in pony.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the AC vent came St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with Billy Bishop Airport soot
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And despite my no-smoking rule, the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Handed me a pile of design mags, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the window he goes!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Whether you live in a condo, apartment, house, castle, or even a hotel tonight, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas tomorrow! 

PS- I hope you enjoyed this viewing of the 6 trees (ok, 5.5, since one is tiny) that I decorated this year! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stomach Bugs Suck

I am down and out with some sort of stomach bug. My thermometer can't decide if I have a fever or not, so I don't even get the satisfaction of saying I am really sick. I'm just feeling blah.

I had a post planned today, but I never made it to the store to collect the supplies I needed. Maybe tomorrow!

Peace out, peeps!

PS- send soup

PPS- I will probably be better by tomorrow so maybe send chocolate and candy instead?

PPPS- If the world ends tomorrow, pretend my last post on here was way better than this.

PPPPS- here is an old picture of my cat wearing a bow tie, if that helps improve this post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Put a Cork on It!

My fridge has been collecting way too much cute photos of babies, engaged couples, and a lot of appointment cards. Now, I like to have this stuff around to smile at (and remember appointments with)...but I really prefer the look of a clean, white fridge. With a small condo, you really have to stay on top of visual clutter.

So I decided to not take a before photo of my fridge (because I am an awesome blogger) and decided to make me a cork board!

Now, I found this perfect-sized cork board at the dollar store (for $3, it is clearly part of their upscale collection), but the dark wood trim wasn't really working for me. This is where a normal DIY blogger would bust out the sand paper, primers, spray paints etc. But I just sat down one day and started painting it with $1 craft paint. Cause that's how I roll, yo.

Holy crabapples- it actually worked! It took about 4 thin and even coats, but it turned out perfect and is solidly white now. I thought about redoing the cork, but:
a) I don't like busy backgrounds on cork boards (makes it look too busy when you pin stuff)
b) The cork was not removable to try fabric
c) Frankly, I just liked the cork colour with the white trim. It's all earthy and simple

I decided to hang it on the side of my upper cabinets on the way into the kitchen because I pass that spot a million times a day. I used Command brand picture-hanging strips with the velcro lock. No damage to the cabinet was key in this project.

I quickly bleeped out any personal details, in case you were wondering what all the blurry circles were. I think I need a bigger frame already!!

But it looks (and functions) great and now I have a clean and visual-clutter-free fridge!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Easy Peasy Gift Tags

See this present?

It is a Christmas gift for my dad! I ran into a problem though- there was no little tag to write his name on, and I didn't want to stick a label to a bag because they can be reused year after year!

Solution- make my own quick and easy tag!

I had this pile of cardstock lying around. I wish I had had more vibrant colours, but what can you do? 

I then used my peel and stick gift tags for wrapped gifts and stuck it to the cardstock and cut it out! Then I cut a little hole in the corner and secured with ribbon!

In a couple of minutes I had a cute, homemade tag to adorn my gifts- At no extra cost! The best part is that you can customize the tags to match any gift bag or gift tag. If you have special scrapbooking scissors that cut patterns, you can really have some fun with these! Maybe the next ones I will throw some glitter on! :)

Happy Wrapping Everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reindeer Cupcakes!

My mother and stepdad were holding a Christmas dinner with just them and the kids (with spouses and cute new babies too). I volunteered to bring some dessert since I love an excuse to bake! I used to make cookies or cupcakes a lot and bring them into my old office...but now I work in an office with only 3 people (including me!) so I don't have much of an excuse to bust out the hand mixer these days.

I love to bake, but sometimes I prefer to play with decorating and don't bother to bake from scratch. These cupcakes fell into that category!

Your favourite cupcake mix! (I used chocolate since reindeer are brown)
Your favourite chocolate icing
M&Ms for eyes
Swedish berries for noses
Pretzels for antlers!

I wanted to also use chocolate sprinkles to make a "fur like" appearance, but alas, I couldn't find any at the store! I also recommend getting a big bag of pretzels. It takes a lot of attempts to break a piece into an antler-like shape. You can see some of these ones have some awkward antlers, but hey- no two reindeer are the same, right?

Have you been doing any holiday baking?

Edit: I made these on Saturday and put them in the fridge until Sunday night dinner. When we went to eat them, the pretzels had gone stale. I recommend leaving them off until ready to serve!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Like It, Love it, Loathe It: Christmas Edition!

Hello! Welcome to the 2nd edition of "Like It, Love It, Loathe It". In this series I am covering things I somewhat enjoy, love with all my heart, and absolutely hate, that I have come across in my day-to-day life. And since it is the Christmas season (coming to an end too soon!) I thought I would theme today's collection. Ready? Let's Go!

Like It:
Christmas Specials

I loooove the Christmas Specials on TV. Except all I have been able to find for the past couple of weeks is made-for-TV cruddy movies. Where are all the Christmas classics?! I mean, my dad has them on DVD, but I love the thrill of catching a favourite on TV. One time I have caught Charlie Brown's Christmas, but I think that was technically in November still! Oh and I always seem to find Frosty the Snowman, but that one is kinda "meh" to me.

Most importantly: Where is my Muppets Christmas Carol?

This is well known to be the all time best Christmas movie ever and I keep hoping to catch it. No luck. I am going to have to watch it Christmas Eve at my dads (he has that on DVD too- he gets me.)

Love It:
This gift bag I found at Winners:

Hahahahaha this thing SLEIGHED me. Get it? Sleighed? Christmas puns are amazing. I seriously could not pass up this bag. I actually do not have a gift that fits in it...but darn it I am going to make it happen!! Whoever gets the "Chillin' with my Snowmies" bag- I love you the most. I should have bought a second one to frame. For serious.

Loathe It:
The Eaton Centre Christmas Tree
What IS this thing? This is a TREE? I think someone got mistaken and accidentally built a giant cocktail umbrella. I haaaate this thing. Someone needs to teach the Eaton Centre how to embrace modern design without hiring Lady Gaga. Bah.

Anyone have any early Christmas plans for this weekend? I am having dinner at mom's and I am planning a super cool dessert that I can't wait to blog about (if they turn out!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

If It Ain't Bokeh, Don't Fix It!

I have seen a lot of people playing with Bokeh on their cameras- such a fun thing to do with Christmas Lights!!

Now you may be wondering what bokeh is- I thought the same thing. The effect looks like this:
Via Honey We're Home
I thought it might be fun to play with this effect with my Christmas tree too...buuut I decided to steal the idea of this picture I pinned!

How fun is that? To start out with, I taped two pieces of cardstock together so that the paper would not show light through. I then stenciled out my tree. I really didn't know what size to make it. I think I should have made it a bit bigger because it blocked out a bit too much of the photos I took.

I then cut it out, but I was too lazy to attach it to my lens (I didn't want to tape it) so I held it on tightly with my hand.

I then attached my best lens for these types of shots- my 35mm. I think a 50mm works best, but I don't have one of those. I set my lens focus to manual and then I stood as far back from my tree as I could (#smallcondoproblems). I focused in on something close to me so that the tree would be in the background (not the focal point). But since I was on manual focus mode I did not have to have that object in the foreground and I tried to capture my tree.

Make sure you are on the lowest aperture value (I was using F1.8) and snap away!

Now I was just kind of playing around and I didn't get any shots I looooved (I blame small condo and the fact that my 35mm doesn't do great room shots!!) but here is what I did get- it actually worked pretty well!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

This post will probably be a short one because I just got home from the office end-of-year dinner and I am hankering to get to bed. But I thought I would pose this question, because it is interesting to me- do you make (and/or keep) new years resolutions?

I find the whole concept kind of strange, because I think you should try to better yourself daily, not just because it is suddenly a new year. So I don't often think of goals like "spend more time with family", "save more" or "lose weight", because I think those are honourable things that shouldn't have to wait for a new year to be started. Plus many people have no idea how to make their goals for 2013.

A goal needs to be definable. You cannot just say "I want to lose weight". You need to express how much weight, what the deadlines are, what your action plan is. Without these, a goal is just a dream.

As this year draws to a close, I am reminded of what I chose to focus on previous years. In 2011, I wanted to learn to drink beer (which came in handy in Oktoberfest of that year). In 2012, I wanted to learn to like wine (and I think I have accomplished this too!).

They may seem like silly goals, but to someone who didn't drink beer or wine, they were social skills I knew I needed to master. I couldn't keep going out for social gatherings and not pitching in for the pitcher of beer. And I couldn't keep attending nice office dinners and not partaking in the sharing of a bottle of wine. They were important to me!

So as I look down 2013, I am wondering what goal to choose for next year. I like to pick something (usually a life skill) that is simple, fun, and important to my future. Something that maybe I have put off for years. I often pick a skill that I think I will appreciate years down the road. I'll let you know in the new year what I decide. Maybe having this blog will make me stick to it.

Have you given any thought to this yet? What are you thinking you would like to master next year?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Maximize Shelf Space in the Kitchen

I originally was working on a project for today's post, but my printer is being evil (it is 8.5 years old, which is like 162 in printer years, so I am hardly surprised). Sooo I decided to do a quick, fun, update on how I manage to live in a tiny kitchen!

Now, the biggest drawback to a small kitchen is not lack of floor space, but lack of cupboard space. In fact, I actually have a large kitchen compared to many of my neighbours here in the condo (I look at the real estate ads and compare units constantly). Regardless of how tiny your condo kitchen is, you have the maximize space!

I already showed these two great ideas:
Under Cabinet Storage
Knife Rack
I should also share the wisdom in only owning a few pots and pans, so that they fit in the drawer under the oven. I even slide my baking trays in the gap over the fridge!

But here is the easiest tip I can offer to storing all the dishes you own, because having a dishwasher means you won't wash them a lot...meaning you own a dishes.

 Cheap freezer racks!

I stole one of these racks out of my freezer and I think I got the other from the dollar store (if you can't find them in the kitchen aisle, try looking for a locker shelf in school supplies. This way I can quickly grab a plate or mug off the bottom and not have to lift 5 lbs of dishware to do so. 

And since I don't think I have ever shown it, here is my other cupboard:

Yup, I do not own a lot of dried goods. I can't even fathom owning a whole pantry since I barely fill this little cupboard up! I tend to grocery shop once a week so I just buy the ingredients I need for the week. Plus I store a lot of stuff in my fridge, since my fridge is so ginormous compared to my cupboard space.

Do you have a small kitchen? How do you store your dishes and food in it?

Also- does anyone else have an evil printer? grrr...
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