Categories
Lifestyle

New Year’s Resolution: How to Budget and Actually Stick to it

It’s that time of the year again – time to make some goals and (hopefully) stick to them. I realized I have quite a few goals in mind for this year. 2017 was a huge year for me: got married, got a second puppy, left retail, started CrossFit, lost 20 pounds, posted non-singing related videos to YouTube…just to name a few highlights! I’ve felt more like “me” this year than I have in a very, very long time and it feels great. Now that I’ve had some down-time and an actual “Christmas Break”, I’ve been able to sit down and really think about what I want to accomplish this year. It is crazy how much your body needs decompression time. Time to just figure -ish out, without distractions.

While I have some lofty goals this year, one that I really want to tackle is more of a challenge. I’m going to challenge myself to have a No-Spend January and see how I do! Don’t worry – I’m not going to leave our household to go starving or without the necessities. But that’s just it – we’re only spending on things we absolutely need. Crazy, I know. Here’s some tips and strategies on how to knock this challenge out of the park!

1. Set a Budget

The most important part to this challenge is setting a budget and sticking to it. Make some ground rules for what you are willing to be flexible on and ensure (if there’s more than one of you doing this) that you both have set limits to what you can spend and on what category.

I made a list of negotiables and non-negotiables. This helped me prioritize what was actually a necessity and what was more of a luxury.

Then, I took the income that both my husband and I will be making for the month of January. We both get paid bi-weekly, so I made the budget based on what bills were due and how much money we needed to set aside for that.

Next came the groceries. Since we are both heading into the New Year with nutrition being our resolution, groceries are going to be a much easier budget to manage. I just purchased The Everything Guide to Macronutrients by Matt Dustin, that has so many great recipes. So the goal is to pick out recipes each week and only purchase the ingredients required. This is not only going to cut down on our food waste, but it’s going to keep us on track (both nutritionally and financially). This is what we are spending our money on this month:

  • Bills

  • Groceries

  • Pets (Yearly shots + food)

  • Transportation

Those are the only categories that we will be spending on this month! Scary. I know. But since we wrote down our list of priorities and we know within each other those categories how much we will be spending, we will be able to manage. Keeping the categories broad also helps to keep spending more flexible, which will be easier to stick to.

2. Eliminate Temptation

I’m the type of person that goes into the store for one thing and comes out with ten other things and forgets to get what I came into the store for in the first place. Sound familiar? I am soooo tempted by the shiny packaging or the feeling of a new piece of clothing. I will 100% convince myself that I need something – when I actually don’t. So to fight this, I’m going to be completely avoiding stores/malls all month long. Now that I’m out of retail, this is going to be easier for me than in the past.

I’m also going to go through and organize what I already own so that I have plenty of options. However, I’ve recently been ordering more and more from online and it’s so dangerous. To tackle this, I’m unsubscribing from email lists from stores that I love to shop at so that I won’t be tempted by a deal. Out of sight, out of mind kind of deal.

3. Make your own coffee

This has to be one of my worst habits. I really love lattes and fancy coffee drinks that are $$$$$$ expensive. That daily coffee adds up. Even if I switch to just regular coffee, the cost that I spend on coffee per month is embarrassing. I’m lucky enough to work in an office that has a pretty great kitchen and coffee is made every morning. If you don’t have that luxury, then grab some re-usable mugs (I purchased the Starbucks reusable cups and LOVE them – they are lightweight, and super inexpensive), brew some coffee in the morning and take it to go! Trust me, if you track how much you spend in one month on coffee, I know you’ll be shocked!

4. Bring your lunch!

There are so many amazing recipes and meal prep ideas for lunch now-a-days that there really isn’t any excuse not to bring your lunch. I realized that I was spending all of this money on groceries and then turning around and spending more money on more food. Not only were we being wasteful in spending extra money, we were being wasteful with our food, since what we didn’t eat in the fridge went straight to the garbage. Sometimes it feels weird being the only person at your work or school to bring food, but ultimately it is so much better for your wallet and for your body!

5. Cash, only.

Once you’ve set your budget, take out the cash you’ll be spending. This way you literally only have the cash that you have on you and will need to stick to your budget. For some reason, I am so much more conscious about how I am spending my money when it’s cash. The bigger the bill – the better! Anytime I would get money as gifts, it was always so much harder for me to spend larger bills, so I would ultimately just put them into a savings jar (a good habit, that I want to continue doing!).

 

It can seem really daunting not spending any money or sticking to a budget. I’m doing this because when I dug into the last 3 months of my spending – it was shocking. I was spending way too much money on things I did not need. This challenge is to really see what I can do with less and be happy with what I have right now.

What are some of your resolutions for the new year?

 

Categories
Holidays

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

I had never really been a fan of Gingerbread anything (sorry!)…I always found the spice was a little too nice and it never really tasted that good. I’m realizing as I’m getting older (sigh) that my taste-buds are changing and things I never used to like, or be drawn to, I’m giving another try – and liking them! To my surprise this Christmas season, Gingerbread Cookies happened to be one of those things.

Follow along to see some snaps on making and decorating the Gingerbread Cookies! The recipe below was adapted from Gimme Some Oven. I didn’t include the icing sugar recipe, since I prefer to use the already pre-made and pre-coloured icing from the grocery store or bulk barn!

A very special thank you to @MagicInColours Photography for the great shots! You can follow her on Facebook to see more of her work or if you’re in the GTA and want some shots taken – get in touch with her there!

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Ingredients:

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • Icing + Sprinkles/Decorations

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and molasses, and beat on medium speed until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal portions, and form them each into a ball.  Then flatten each ball into a 1-inch thick disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F.  Unwrap the dough and place it on a large, lightly-floured hard surface.  Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough evenly until it is approximately 1/4-inch thick.  Then use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes, re-rolling the dough as needed to cut out more.  Transfer to parchment-covered baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Once the cookies are room temperature, DECORATE!

 
Don’t have the time to whip up this recipe? Check out my fast (and easy) holiday baking favourites here!

Merry Christmas!

lxiv

Categories
Lifestyle

Recipe: Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Last week, I was in the mood for baking! I feel like after Christmas time everyone goes on a baking hiatus from sweet baked overload. Now that the spring weather is slowly creeping in, it felt like the right time to make something yummy.  After searching Pinterest for what seemed like hours, I finally found this recipe: Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Um, yes please! I used Sally’s Baking Addiction’s recipe, but did change a few things.

For instance, I used Funfetti Cake Mix instead of vanilla and did not add white chocolate chips. I didn’t need to chill the dough either, it was thick enough that I was able to just roll the dough onto the baking sheet. However, Sally’s technique with rolling the dough more vertically worked really well and I will definitely continue doing that in the future! A couple of additional tips: If you’re using the funfetti cake mix, don’t use as many sprinkles! And two, use parchment paper instead of just an ungreased cookie sheet. The cookies came out much more fluffy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 and 1/4 cup Funfetti cake mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, cake mix, and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Mix the melted butter and sugars together. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.
  3. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and sprinkles. Mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough!
  4. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Scoop rounded balls of dough onto baking sheet. *This is where you can see Sally’s Baking Addiction’s great tip!*
  6. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until edges are slightly browned.
  7. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Happy Baking!

lxiv

Categories
Decor Lifestyle

Bedroom Refresh: DIY Wall Art

Hello!

Thank you for all patiently waiting as it has been quite some time since I have blogged. Not going to lie, I felt a little uninspired after Christmas and didn’t quite know what to blog about. With the weather getting warmer (It’s currently 12 degrees here in Toronto!!), I felt inspired to change some things up in the house to give the space some new life.

I am not an artist by any means – I couldn’t draw to save my life, but being crafty – well that I can do! I’ve been searching for new art to put in our apartment to give the space some life, but haven’t found anything that I loved. I’m also incredibly indecisive when it comes to decor, so spending upwards of $200 on a canvas that I wasn’t head over heels about was just not realistic. The one thing I knew for sure was that I loved water colour! Light bulb moment – I could DIY that myself. See the photos below to see how it turned out!

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Originally I had the grey pillows on the bed, but to pick up more of the blue from the canvas, I switched them out for the baby blue pillows that you see in the other photos!

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All you need to recreate a similar DIY is:

  • Canvas
  • Acrylic paint
  • Water
  • Paintbrush

I mixed 1 part paint with 3 parts water in a cup and painted! I was still able to get deeper saturation of colour by simply adding more paint directly on the canvas where I wanted it, then used water to blend it out. I’m no expert at water colour painting, but there are plenty of tutorials online. I just kept painting until I was happy with the final product. There was truly no rhyme or reason for how I achieved the final look.

Happy Painting!
lxiv

Categories
Decor Holidays Lifestyle Photography

12 Days of Christmas: The Toronto Christmas Market #tcm16

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I always found it so interesting that people tend to already live in such amazing cities or towns but choose to travel around the world. I have lived in Toronto my entire life and have to admit that I do not know my city very well when it comes to what makes people want to travel here. I’ve been making a serious effort to explore my city and to visit some amazing places at home! This year, I was determined to go to The Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. So, my finance, fur-baby and I ventured out on the coldest night (so far) and explored!

I was so happy to discover that dogs are allowed and welcomed at The Christmas Market! Ace was definitely a crowd pleaser in his cute little Christmas sweater. We couldn’t get very far without stopping for people who wanted to say hello to our handsome little fellow.

Our first stop (no doubt) was a Grilled Cheese station. I can’t even express in words on this blog how yummy our grilled cheese was. We ordered “Christmas Dinner” grilled cheese, which was turkey, cranberry sauce and brie. I promise to post about how to make this amazing sandwich. I have a few favourite food groups and grilled cheese is absolutely one of them!

We wandered around some more, looking at the different markets and new light displays. Overall it was a beautiful sight. I just wish there was a few more things to do…as it got a tad boring by the end and only ended spending just over an hour there. I think it would have been too cold to stay any longer anyways!

But, it’s definitely worth checking out and will certainly put you in the Christmas spirit!

Next on my Christmas Market list is Nathan Philips Square (somewhere I also have never visited!!).

Take a look at some of the photos I snapped (in between trying to keep my fingers warm – I definitely need the touch gloves for Christmas).

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What are some of your favourite places to visit during the Holidays?

Merry Christmas!
lxiv

Categories
Crafts Holidays Lifestyle

12 Days of Christmas: How to Wrap the Perfect Gift

Now that my Christmas shopping list has been checked once and almost twice, it’s time to start wrapping them! I love selecting beautifully designed wrapping paper, tying the gifts with ribbon and finishing it all off with a bow! After the final touches, I add my homemade gift tags so that I know who gets what! Gift wrapping is not always easy, so I’m showing you my tips and tricks on how to wrap the most beautiful gift!

What you’ll need:

  • Wrapping paper of your choice
  • Box
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Ribbons and Bows (optional)
  • Candle and hot chocolate for a festive touch (also, optional!)

img_1826Step 1: Roll out your wrapping paper and place your box on top. Ensure that your paper completely covers the box.

img_1827img_1829Step 2: Once you have measured, make the first cut length-wise.

img_1831Step 3: You will now make your second cut to ensure that the wrapping paper will not be too wide to make your fold for the sides of the box. My rule of thumb is that the sides of your paper should hit at approximately half of the height of the box.

img_1834Step 4: Ensure that the box is flipped upside down. Then take the longer side of the paper, fold around the box and tape to secure in the middle. Repeat with other side.

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img_1836Step 5: Turn the box so that one side is facing you. Fold down the top edge.

img_1838Step 6: Now take the right corner and fold towards the center (follow the folds that will naturally be made from Step 5). The top and right edges of the box should be smooth. Repeat for the left side.

img_1839img_1840Step 7: To make a nice, crisp point on the bottom, you can fold the excess paper (the paper that sticks out beyond the nice line you created) underneath the one fold, or you can just simply cut it out.

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Step 8: Fold the bottom point upwards towards the center and secure with tape!

img_1843Step 9: Repeat steps 5-8 on the other side!

Step 10: Final step is to use ribbons and bows to add your special touches!

img_1845img_1848Attach the tag to the gift by using the ribbon you added, or simply tape it on the box. I chose to leave extra ribbon, cut it in half and use that to tie a small knot!

img_1850img_1851There you have it! I chose to attach the bows and ribbon onto the “side” of the box to make that the top since it was a cube. However, you would normally flip the box over (especially with a rectangular shape) so that the side without any folds or tape is on top. You can repeat the same steps for any shape or size. The most important step is measuring the paper to your gift box!

What’s your wrapping style? Do you like to decorate with ribbons and bows? Or do you prefer a gift bag and some tissue paper? Let me know in the comments below.

lxiv

Categories
Crafts Holidays Lifestyle

12 Days of Christmas: Holiday Gift Tags DIY

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Every time I go to buy Christmas tags for all of my thoughtfully purchased gifts, I can’t get over the price tag! Tags are SO EXPENSIVE! I’m not just being frugal….I genuinely think that they are overpriced (yes, I know you can get some at the Dollar store…but they aren’t as pretty!). My sister and I decided last year that we were going to try to make our own tags! We loved the way they turned out, so I’m going to share how to make them with you!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • Bristol board (white…or whatever colour you want)
  • White glue
  • Loose glitter
  • Foam brushes
  • Paint
  • Paint brush
  • Pencil
  • Sissors
  • Hole punch
  • Hairspray (yes, hairspray!)

Step 1: Trace out a tag template (you can find them on Pinterest for free or just hand-draw your own. Cut out the template and use this to trace onto the rest of the bristol board.

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Step 2: Cut out each tag.

Step 3: Paint each tag with the colour paint of your choosing! We chose gold as it made the tags look like they had a wood grain finish! No need to be precise – and this WILL get messy! Make sure the one side is completely dry before painting the other side of the tag.

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Step 4: Once the tags are dry, use the foam brush to apply the white glue where you want your glitter to go. We opted to only apply the glitter to the bottom of the tag. However, we have done polka-dots or other designs in the past!

Step 5: Apply the glitter! Ensure that the glue you applied is completely covered by the glitter. Tap off any excess.

*TIP* We used a plastic bag to “catch” the loose glitter so that we didn’t waste any and so that there wasn’t as big of a mess!

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Step 6: Hairspray! With an aerosol can of hairspray, spray the tags where you applied the glitter to ensure it stays in place and sets the glitter.

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Step 7: Last but not least, hole punch where you will want your ribbon or string to go through.

Simple but cute DIY and easy to get the whole family involved!

Alternatively, you can use the glitter paper that I mentioned in my Garland DIY post and cut out the tag templates. You can still paint it if you would like or leave it white!

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Stay tuned for the next 12 Days of Christmas post where I show you how to wrap the perfect gift with these tags!

Let me know if you’re going to try this DIY! I’d love to see your creations in the comments below!

lxiv

Categories
Holidays Lifestyle

12 Days of Christmas: Easy Christmas Fudge

I love to bake during the Holiday season, but sometimes I don’t have all day to dedicate to baking. This was the case a couple of days ago before I hosted my “Cookies, Cocktails and Christmas Cheer” party with my cousins and aunts! I wanted to still make something home made, but didn’t have the time to make a full assortment of holiday baked goods. Solution? Easy and quick to make treats that will impress your guests! First up for Post #2 of #12DaysOfChristmas is Cookies & Cream Fudge!

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This recipe is only 3 ingredients! Yes, you read that correctly! So simply and such a crowd favourite! I followed the recipe from Hidden Ponies Blog, check out her version of the recipe here.

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What you’ll need:

  • 8″x 8″ round or square baking dish (I used round since that’s what I had and it worked just as good!)
  • Large bowl
  • Parchment paper
  • Spatula
  • Ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 package Oreo Cookies (approx 20 Cookies), chopped

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, add the chocolate chips and can of condensed milk.
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  2. Place in microwave for 45 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir. img_1924
  3. Place back in microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir.
  4. Repeat step 3 until the mixture is smooth. DO NOT OVER MICROWAVE! (I only needed to repeat step 3 once!).
  5. Chop Oreo cookies. img_1926
  6. Add half of the chopped cookies to the bowl and combine.
  7. Line baking dish with parchment paper and pour mixture into dish.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining cookies on top of the mixture in the baking dish. Press down lightly to ensure they are firmly in the mixture. img_1931
  9. Place uncovered in the fridge overnight.
  10. Remove from dish, cut into pieces and serve!

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That’s it! Do you have a favourite fudge flavour? Or easy to make holiday recipe? Let me comments below!

lxiv

Categories
Lifestyle Photography

Our Fall Adventure

I’ve always grown up with dogs as part of the family. When we lost our family dog, Bear, five years ago, it was one of the hardest things I had to go through. He had been in my life since I was six years old.  Always there to greet us when we got home from school to show his unconditional love. I had always pictured my life with a dog in it, and when it wasn’t, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something missing.

We adopted Ace two years ago this coming December. I cannot tell you how much joy he has brought to our life, but more importantly how amazing it feels to love something so unconditionally. Taking care of a dog has been a lot of work and has taken a lot of patience. And I mean a lot of patience. But our training is finally paying off. Everyday there’s something new and everyday his personality shows us something new.

My favourite time of the year is Fall and dare I say Winter! I love being outdoors hiking and exploring with my fiancé and our pup. I’ve always had an attachment to nature and country-like settings as it reminds me of spending my childhood, spending summers up north at my Grandparents house.

Take a look to see our little mini photo shoot by Magic in Colours Photography.

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Ontario is so beautiful during this season. How do you enjoy fall? Let me know in the comments below!

lxiv

Categories
Crafts Decor Holidays Lifestyle

Must Have Items for Fall Decor

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With October in full swing, I wanted to show you some of my fall decor pieces that I purchased this year to decorate our home. I like to find a good deal – so most (if not all of these pieces) were found at local vintage shops, Winners or the good old local Dollarstore! I like to change accessories throughout our space since I am constantly switching things up! I can’t help but be a little indecisive with decorating. There are just too many different options and I happen to love them all. So finding great deals on items are definitely worth it for me.

Below are my Top 6 Must Have Items for fall decorating!

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1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

1. YouTube Fall Tutorials

I love browsing YouTube to get inspired for upcoming seasons! I usually skim through until I see a thumbnail that grabs my attention and then eventually end up on a never-ending spiral of YouTube videos.

2. Fake Florals

I purchased those potted plants at The Real Canadian Superstore at the end of last season, but you can find similar ones at Ikea or your local craft or dollarstore. I opt for fake flowers because I can re-use them year after year for different purposes. Real flowers are costly and they do not last as long! This way I can have the look all season long without having to constantly purchase new flowers.

3. Scented Candles

These are a definite MUST HAVE item for any season. I purchased my “Pumpkin Clove” candle last year from Anthropologie along with the mercury votives. If you’re looking for a great scent, their Pumpkin Souflee Candle by Boulangerie is the perfect scent for fall.

4. Fall Garland

Adding a string of garland is an easy way to spruce up your home without going overboard. Best part again is that they can be reused in so many different capacities. I used my garland on our TV stand, but you can use it on your table, above a doorway – anywhere really!

5. Fall Table Runner

This year I decided to purchase a table runner instead of a full table cloth. I love the natural wood of our dining table and wanted that warmth to show through. I purchased the table runner at my local Homesense. They always have so many options to choose from to suit your colour story.

6. Fall Prints

I find a lot of my prints online for free from Pinterest, where the artist has allowed people to print and share them as long as they do not sell them or make any profit from them! Like I said, I change things up often, so it makes more sense to print them at home than to spend a lot of money on prints that I will eventually recycle. You can get the Fall Compass Print here and the Thankful Print here.

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Frames from Ikea.
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Print from Chicfetti.com

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I love changing up our home for fall. The crispness of the weather, wool sweaters, hot apple cider, warm blankets, scented candles and the changing leaves are just a few things I love about Fall, so it just makes sense to give my home that same inspired feeling!

What are some must have fall decor items on your list?

PS. Here’s a cozy little fall inspired picture with the pup!

lxiv