Monday, July 26, 2010

Fun in your backyard

This year has been a thrifty year for us as a family. With hubby's hours at work cut back for most of the summer and us fixing up our money pit, uh,, property up north, money has been tight. And while we both like to travel, with two small children, it not only gets expensive very quickly, it is also a lot of work.

Our solution? Playing in the great backyard of Ontario. There are so many local places that we hit for little or no money that have greatly entertained the kids and us. These are the places that we hit pretty much every week, on the way up to the cabin.

Oshawa Zoo:
What an amazing place. The family that runs this farm/zoo has such dedication, and you can tell around every fence post. The whole place totally caters to the family. At admission you can buy bags of popcorn to feed to the animals, who take it from your hand so gently it makes you want to climb the fence and hug them (but don't, I'm pretty sure that would be frowned upon). While you can pet and feed the animals, as the sign says, please remember that all animals can bite, so fingers enter at their own risk. But the animals are so friendly and want the popcorn so much, most of them stick their head through the fence to say hello! Alexander could stand with the sheep for HOURS. Last time we were there, he asked if there were chairs, lol.
To find out more about the zoo visit their website:

Port Perry:
Small town just north east of Toronto, family friendly with lots of fairs and festivals and hoopla to fill a summer of free fun. There is always something going on, and when there isn't there is the great waterfront park for the kids to play.

Linton's Farm Market:
This is the market that I hit most often, as it is on the way to the cabin. They have yummy fresh veggies and a great play area for Alexander. We haven't done the U-pick yet, but plan to in the fall. They pick fresh each day so everything that is pre picked is soooooooo yummy.

Toronto/Mississauga Parks:
Toronto has some great parks, and the fact that we live a 10 minute walk away from High Park is wonderful. For $5, Alexander is in seventh heaven on the trackless train ride, totally mesmerized the entire time. Thirty five minutes well spent in our book. We have so many local smaller parks that we have problems deciding in the morning which one to hit, but most often end up at the one with the most shade.
The city parks in Mississauga are a new discovery for me and look AMAZING! We have yet to get there, but are going tonight and have a big picnic planned at one this long weekend. Many offer picnic areas with BBQs and water sources (great for washing off dirty little children), and this weekend we are hitting one that has a beach as well. Alexander is super excited about that!

That is the short list. While I really envy the people who travel further, I am really happy that we can feel like every weekend is a mini vacation. I think we put more thought in to our weekends because we don't go anywhere else. We make an effort to make every weekend special, which makes the weekends where we can just sit with our feet up and read a book that much more special.

Unfortunately, and I have to bring this up, all this weekend fun is wreaking havoc with my clean and tidy house. Typically, the house looks like a bomb hit it when we leave because while I'm busy getting everything packed the kids are busy taking out every toy imaginable. My husband usually goes up a day before us so he isn't there to watch the kids. And when we come back we are so wiped that we just leave everything lying in the dining room. I obviously need to get a different system going because this one is NOT working.

And that is what I'll be doing tonight. My New Summer Schedule! I was hoping that capitalization would make it sound more fun. Nope.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Before and After: Office

Christmas came early this year and both of the children napped this afternoon, so I got to do last minute things and take the after pictures! So here they are. There are MANY pictures, mainly because there were so many areas that needed working on, and because it wasn't just the office that had to be done.

Because of the nature of our home, pretty much all of our rooms, save the kitchen and bathroom, are multi-purpose rooms. Which also meant they were multi chapter rooms when reading the organizing book. At first when I started I was really hard on myself because everything was taking so long, but with two rooms now looking really nice I am so happy that I stuck with it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, there are still little things that need to be done, and I will state those tasks with the pictures. My main focus was getting the office done, but it trickled out to the dining room and the living room as well, so there are minor things that still need to be done that pertain to those two rooms.

Here we go!!

Before: Bookshelves


After: Bookshelves



Before: Desk area


After: Desk area

Everything that was in the desk drawers has been filed, dumped or re-purposed. The drawers are now used to store all of my craft supplies :)


Before: New computer area

To make room for my treadmill, I had to get rid of the desk. Which was really a blessing in disguise because for me, any open desk space is a place for papers to collect. So I used this hutch in the dining room as our new computer station.

After: New computer area

There is just enough room to house the bills that need to be paid, and the pouch they go in when they are paid. Everything else gets filed in my newly organized filing cabinets!

Inside the hutch. The bottom shelf is full of stuff we have to take to the cottage (batteries, candles, flashlights etc) so that shelf hasn't been completed yet because our cabin isn't finished yet. What was originally in this hutch was all of my corning-ware, which I have now stored in the storage space in the dining bench, with the ones I use the most now in the kitchen.


Before: Filing Cabinet

Ok, so I didn't think to take pictures of inside the filing cabinet, but this is what the area around it looked like. This was what took me the longest to do, getting all the papers organized and filed correctly. To start I had to go through all the files and dump the papers I didn't need, and then re label and organize the files and papers left over.

After: Filing cabinet

Not much difference, but trust me, the insides look pretty, lol

Before: Bike area

No, we never used the bike, lol.

After: Bike area

I'm happy to report that I have been using the bike every other day for the past two weeks, and the treadmill on the days that I don't use the bike. I just sit or walk, gazing lovingly at my newly cleaned room. Well, actually, until yesterday there were still piles of books and magazines lying around, but you get the picture.

Well, that's it! I'm pretty proud of myself, even if it took me two and a half months, lol. It was well worth the wait. The pictures are from odd angles because the room is an L shape, but I hope they show all the work that went in to the room.

The one thing I learned from this room? I hate paper, I love my books, and there are many things I enjoy doing that I totally forgot about, probably because of the mess. Ok, that is three things. And there are more now that I thought about it, but those are the most important.

Thanks for looking! I'll be back later this week to tell you what the next room is going to be!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

sick sick sick sick sick

Yup, if you haven't guess it yet, I'm sick.

Strep. Blech.

But being sick has made me realize how far I have come in this endeavor to be a more organized and clean person.

Even though my skin hurt to touch, every bone and muscle in my body ached, I had a fever of 103.7 and I was exhausted beyond what I have felt in a very long time, I still had to make sure that all the daily chores were done at the end of the day. Kitchen cleaned, all toys put away correctly, mail opened and filed appropriately, dining room table cleared of all the stuff that it accumulates. It all still had to be done even though I was on death's door.

Ok. I dramatize. Just a wee bit.

But normally what would have happened is I would have used that as an excuse to leave the mess and deal with it another day, which would have made it twice as bad and it would either take for ever to do or I would avoid doing it again.

Now, granted, I do need to pay credit to my WONDERFUL husband for letting me order him around, uh, direct him :) He did most of the work for me, except for the kitchen because I'm now totally anal when it comes to cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day. But when you are stuck on the couch, you need to learn to delegate.

The other thing that shocked me is I didn't enjoy delegating AT ALL. Pre-project, I was all about getting someone else to clean my stuff. And I didn't care how it was done, I just wanted it done. (I guess that is how I got in to this mess of a house, lol). I have always been a particular person and I have now developed a method of keeping house. My way. And I will admit that I went around today fixing little things here and there. I mean seriously, how hard is it to put a book right side up on the shelf and somewhat sized tall to short? Re-reading that sentence, kind of makes me sound crazy. Eh, oh well.

My point is, I let all of them go and let him do his thing (under my "direction") and was SO grateful because I really needed the help.

Teensy Weensy step for mankind, ginormous step for Marina.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Some cleaning and household tips

Here are some things I have learned or discovered along the way so far.

1. If you have a carpet that is well walked on and you have problems getting all the fluff and fur off, vacuum diagonally instead of back and forth. This causes the fibers to be pulled in a direction they aren't typically and loosens those stubborn fluffs.

2. When cleaning your bathtub or shower, do it after you have showered. The steam loosens all the dirt and you shouldn't have to scrub (well, unless it has been a long time).

3. GreenWorks cleaning products by Clorox work really well. I have used the all purpose cleaner, the bathroom cleaner and the dish soap and all have done a really good job. I really like the fact that it has almost a non-scent, very light and goes away so quickly.

4. Have to clean your ceiling fan? Get two damp clothes. Put one on the blade closest to the light and use the other to push the dirt toward it. This keeps all the dust from falling off the front and because the cloth is damp, all the crud sticks. I have tried this with the damp cloth sitting at the tip of the blade and pulled everything away from the light but for some reason the dirt still falls of the edges. It think it might have something to do with the fact that we only use the fans in the summer, so they only ever turn in one direction? I don't know, but I do know that it works.

5. Use milk and bread tags to label the many wires that accumulate behind your entertainment system and computer desk. I can thank Martha for this idea :)

6. Baking soda and soda water lift fresh spills off carpet instantly. OxyClean powder with soda water does it even faster. Some people call soda water club soda.

7. Magic Eraser by Mr Clean takes off paint. You may not be able to see it in normal lighting, but when the sun shines across the wall, you can see where you used the Magic. Vim, on the other hand, because it has no abrasives, works just as well without the ghost evidence.

8. The bozo who decided that not all Crayola markers will be made washable should be shot. The "Original" ones, that don't say washable on the box, are really original. I come from a place that never knew a non-washable crayola marker, therefor didn't think to look for the washable logo. Fool me once, shame on me... Not a fun lesson to learn.

The grand unveiling of my office will be on Thursday!! I am super proud of this one. There should be another post between now and then though, so maybe I'll give you a sneak peak :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What June Cleaver had that I do not

And that would be kids that are over three years old, lol.

I LOVE my kids beyond belief, but having two young ones does take its toll on the whole "role of the housewife" thing. They just plain get in the way of getting anything productive done in a shortish amount of time. Which is fine. They are supposed to need me, they are young and I take every day in with my whole heart because I know that these days go by too quickly and the time will come that I will look back and want these days to live again.

But getting stuff done? Yeah, there are days that it just doesn't happen. At all. And so I get back to the title of this entry. I think being a housewife is much easier when your kids are older. I betcha June Cleaver's house looked like a bomb went off when Beaver was little. Especially since he was so good at getting in to trouble when he was older, lol.

So, ... how to find a balance.

I have always hated that word, balance. You hear it and see it everywhere mom's are discussed. That we need to find a balance between work, kids, marriage and ourselves. I think there will never be a balance in my life because my kids will always come first and knock everything else off the scale, and I'm fine with that because like I said before, this is such a short time of their life span and mine.

So how have I found balance?

I call it the 10 minute tidy! (idea stolen from Big Comfy Couch's ten second tidy)

Before I play, I take 10 minutes to clean something. I set the timer so that Alexander knows that there will be an end and away I go. What ever I get done, gets done, what ever doesn't gets left until the next tidy time.

There are three in the day, morning, afternoon and evening. And this seems to be working, so far. In all honesty, I've only been doing this for three days. But it has given me the best of both worlds, Alexander still gets the best of me, my house gets and stays clean and tidy, and I don't feel overwhelmed by the whole thing. I do get kind of annoyed sometimes when I really get in to it, but 10 minutes is 10 minutes and I can always get back to it later, or after the kids go to sleep. (I think I'm still convincing myself of this, lol)

We'll see how long it lasts. I'm one week away from being finished with the office and am SO happy with the results. I can't find my camera cord so all before pictures will be posted with after pictures, but I'm really excited to show them off. I thought the kitchen was a transformation, but this is just amazing!

I'll leave it at that, build some suspense :)