Thursday, 28 February 2013

New Sponsor: Welcome Little Red Hearts!

little red hearts, violin, mama, teacher, music

I am pleased to announce that To a Pretty Life has a new sponsor!  Erika of Little Red Hearts is one of the sweetest, nicest people I know.  She is a violin teacher, a photographer, and a blogger.  Little Red Hearts is a blog full of sweet glimpses of her life at home with her husband and adorable daughter, her passion for music, and her clever creative projects (along with much more).

If you are thinking of sponsoring a blog, check out my Sponsors page.  I'm currently working on putting together a media kit, and my rates may change when it's ready, so reserve your spot on To a Pretty Life now!

How to Toast Homemade Bread

tutorial, toast, bread, homemade, baking how-to, diy

This morning, my kids requested toast for breakfast.  They never want toast.  And of course it happens on the day I only have Crusty Artisan Bread in the house.  Which was already sliced way too thick to fit in the toaster.  Homemade bread is not always the best for toasters.  If it's not too thick, it's often too crumbly.  So I figured out a way to toast bread and keep my kids satisfied today. (of course, if you have a little toaster oven, you could just use that.)

How to Toast Homemade Too-Thick Bread
  1. Move a rack to the very top slot in your oven.
  2. Turn the oven on to Broil, the highest setting (My oven only has High and Low settings for broil, but I think some have temperature settings).
  3. Place your sliced bread either directly on the rack or on a baking sheet.
  4. Watch your toast closely!  Once the oven is heated, it only takes 30 seconds to 1 minute to toast each side.
  5. Once the top is sufficiently toasted, flip each piece of bread over.
  6. Watch closely again!  
  7. When the second side is toasted, take the bread out of the oven and enjoy your delicious homemade toast! (Dont' forget to turn off your oven.  Since only the top element on, you won't be able to see the red that reminds you it's still on.  I'm infamous for leaving the oven on.)

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

How to Save Money...?

I am on a mission.  To save money.  My husband and I have never been extravagant, but I want to start saving more.  I don't really know what I'm doing, when it comes to frugal living, but I've made up a list of ways to save or make money.  One of those ways is to make my own bread.  Of course, homemade bread isn't going to save a whole lot of money, but every little bit helps to make a difference.

Today I made Simply So Good's Artisan Crusty Bread recipe, plain with no additions.  There's no rule saying I need to have typical sandwich bread.  I do have a wonderful normal white bread recipe too, thanks to my friend Jenn, so I'm sure we'll have way more variety than when I was just buying the same type of bread every week at the grocery store.

I can use any tips you have for a stay-at-home mom to save money!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Ode to Turquoise

teal, jug, book, vintage, transferware
Teal and White Thrift Store Finds
It's a lovely shade.  Halfway between calm blue and fresh green, it has numerous names.  Slightly to the green side, there's seafoam, mint, pistachio, and teal.  On the blue side, there's robin's egg, Tiffany, cerulean, aqua, and my favourite, turquoise.  Actually, I use the term turquoise for all but the lightest or greenest blue-greens.  And I love the colour.

turquoise, seafoam, mint, pistachio, teal, robin's egg, tiffany, cerulean, aqua

When I was a kid, my mom's favourite colour was teal.  Almost our entire house had some shade of teal or aqua sponge-painted on the walls in high-gloss (for durability and washability in a house with four kids).  The only exceptions were the bathroom (navy and forest green), and my younger siblings' bedroom (blue and peach).  Mom did a great job of giving each of us kids our own space in the limited footprint of a 3-bedroom duplex.  First she built chipboard-and-2x4 walls to separate our spaces, and bookshelves and narrow captain's beds to contain our stuff (She was the Ana White of 1990).  Then she brought home the lamps.  From Sears, I believe.  Actually, they were half-lamps, to be hung on the wall to conserve space.  They were perfect for our half-bedrooms, and each of us had our own colour.  I wanted the blue one, but my only brother got that one by default.  My older sister chose pink, I chose turquoise, and my unfortunate third-born younger sister was left with peach.

That was my first experience with this colour.  At that time, I was in love with the colour blue, but I didn't dislike my new lamp.  That was a good thing, since my nanny made me a beautiful handmade Dresden Plate quilt featuring the same colour.  Fast forward 15-20 years, and I found myself uncontrollably drawn to anything in the colour turquoise.  I claimed my favourite colour was blue or red or whatever.  But I would always come back to turquoise.  I couldn't resist it.  It wasn't 'til long after I'd painted my first turquoise kitchen that I started to think that maybe my real favourite colour was the one that filled half my wardrobe.
Now, I may be three years out of date, but I'm embracing my love for blue-green shades.  I switched my home's colour scheme from red/gold to turquoise/olive, and haven't looked back.  My kitchen is painted a lovely dirty-aqua called Glacier Stream, and my back entry has a saturated Smoked Turquoise on the ceiling and upper-third of the wall. Hmm...maybe my bedroom needs to be turquoise?  I've been unable to commit to a colour.

turquoise, painted, clothespins
Turquoise Clothespins

vinyl, seagull, decal, beach
Two Pirates and a Seagull

turquoise, mudroom, lockers, hooks
Mudroom Lockers: Ready for Accessorizing!

olive, green, turquoise
The Writer and the Rebel

sewing, blue, roses, olive, grandma, cotton
Grandma's Curtains

the wind in the willows, turquoise, book, puffin classics
Beautiful Books, Old and New

victorian, tea, party, pretty, spring, roses
A Spring Tea Party

turquoise, french, memo, board, photos
Big Girl Room: Memo Board

mudroom lockers
Mudroom Lockers: Ready for Accessorizing!

painted, cabinet, personification, story, turquoise, white
The Story of a Little White Cabinet

farmhouse, distressed, painted, wood, kitchen, aqua
Happily Distressed

aqua, milk paint, martha stewart, review
Martha's Homemade Milk Paint Recipe Review


Saturday, 23 February 2013

I Skipped Makeup 101

makeup, mabeline, cover girl, burt's bees

I never really was a teenager.  Or maybe I was more of a teenager than most.  Awkward, not fitting in anywhere, spending way more time with adults than anyone my own age, even when I went to high school.  Some of the students at my high school even thought I was a teacher (Because I walked quickly instead of shuffling through the halls?  Or perhaps because of the office-ish attire I wore because of my after-school work experience job).

Anyway, my point (if I have one) is that I never was able to figure out all the beauty/fashion/make-up tips that most girls help each other figure out when they're 14, 15, 16, etc.    My best friend lived an hour or so away, and our complexions are so drastically different (her: gorgeously olive, me: pale and rosy-pink) that we couldn't really share make-up like best friends do.  And my older sister was goth.  Me, I wore clear mascara 'til I was about 15, then I did my make-up like an old lady for quite a long time.  Which did not look good with my rather large deep-set eyes.  And deep dusty-rose lipstick...ugh.  It looked awful on me.

And yet my husband fell in love with me and chose to marry me.  What a good man he is.

It wasn't 'til I started blogging that I began to figure out the mysteries of make-up.  For the most part, I play it safe.  And thank heaven for you-tube.  Between fashion/beauty/real-life blogs and the occasional you-tube video, I'm finally beginning to go through make-up puberty.

I do my eye make-up like this with very few variations every single time.  I never use colour for my eyes.  I don't know how, really, so I play it safe with neutrals.  I like it.  I can make it a bit more dramatic if necessary, or tone it down.  Although I have been keeping my eyes open for a nice neutral pink that isn't either too shimmery or too dusty-rose.

As for lips...well, until recently, I've just ignored my lips, using Burts Bees pomegranate lip balm when necessary, but not attempting to add any colour or shine.  Then when I bought my sexy red shoes, I couldn't resist matching red lipstick.  Maybe that reveals just how immature I people even do that?  Or is matching lips and shoes too old-lady?  I don't know what I'm doing!  But I love that lipstick (L'Oreal Red Passion).  I was quite impressed that it didn't require any touching up even through a meal.  So I went looking for a subtler shade in the same brand and found a colour that a couple of friends have recommended (Dune).  I now use it regularly, or a tinted lip balm in a similar shade.

I can't even talk about foundations/powders.  Any time I've tried it, I've made a mess of it.  Either it looks flaky or wrinkled, or even if it goes on well, I don't look like myself.  My rosy-pink cheeks just can't be covered up, it seems.

Do you wear make up?  If so, when did you start to figure it out?  As a teen like normal people, or later like me?  Oh, and what mascara do you use?  I've mostly stuck with various cheap Cover Girl varieties, with a few forays into Mabeline, but I'm looking for something better.  I hate the one I'm currently's totally clumpy.

Makeup Monday

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Wild in the Rain

Zebra striped rain boots black and white and pink

Happy Valentine's Day to me!  I sent my husband a little photo hint of some polka-dot rain boots that I liked.  He couldn't find my size in the polka-dot ones, even after going to three separate stores (he must love me!), so he picked out these zebra print ones.  I love them!  They're fun and oh-so-comfortable.  And with a thick pair of socks, I bet they're warmer than my newly-leaky 4-year-old winter boots.

PS: I love the Jane Austen font I've been using for watermarking!

PPS: Hop over to facebook to vote on upcoming posts!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Blogging like it's 2008

Yeggie Award Nomination

I've been feeling, lately, as if my blogging was uninspired.  I post whenever I feel like it, but my life right now, while filled with cozy little family moments, has much more mess, mayhem, and migraines than I'd like and hasn't been inspiring much in the way of blogging.  We had a great weekend at the lake for the Family Day holiday, at which I took almost no pictures, and which generated one iffy blog post idea.

Then yesterday, as I was dealing with the pre-and-post-vacation mess, I got an email.  I sat down to read it, and was shocked and amazed and humbled that To a Pretty Life, at almost the end of its fifth year, has been shortlisted for a Yeggie Award, in the category of family and parenting.  Thank you so much!  I just about cried as I read the kind words you wrote about me and my blog.  It just goes to show me that even when I feel as if my writing and posting is sub-par, I'm still connecting with my readers.  And that is what it's all about.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped pecans.
Salmon filet

Mix first three ingredients and spread on top of salmon.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until done, which of course depends on the thickness of your salmon.  I think my temperature was set at 350 degrees Farenheit, but I'm not sure.  How's that for a precise recipe?

I was going to make my usual lemon-dil salmon, but my husband wanted something more interesting and suggested pecans.  I served it with rice and a cucumber and tomato salad drizzled with olive oil.

What is your favourite way to cook salmon?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Food Issues

breakfast body image health weight loss scale food

Most people, to look at me, wouldn't think I have food issues.  I'm average-sized, and I'm getting pretty good at dressing to hide my problem areas.   For most of my life, I had a healthy relationship with food.  Sure, I'd gain 5lbs each fall/winter.  But by spending a few weeks paying better attention to portion sizes, I could take care of that with very little effort.  That's not to say that I loved my body at the time.  In fact, I've always hated my abdomen, since I was 10 years old and asked my mom, "Why does my tummy stick out?"  She replied, "Well, you have to hold it in."  And my arms need work, and my leg muscles need definition, etc...

But food and me, we were ok.  Then I had kids.  The first pregnancy was relatively easy, and I made it through without too much weight to lose.  In fact all by seven pounds of it melted off in 2 weeks.  Second pregnancy: Not so easy.  I was ill, and had migraines nearly all the time, and suddenly my preference for sugary snacks became cravings.  I was huge, eventually weighing more than my husband for the last couple of weeks, and oh so uncomfortable.

No surprise that the kid resulting from that pregnancy is a little sugar-loving boy. One thing that no one tells you about pregnancy cravings is that they are dangerous!  I'm convinced that I now have a full-blown addiction to sugar.

So that's the back story.

Now, for the past two years, I've tried to curb this addiction.  I had great success with The Game On! Diet, and kept it up for quite a while.  But always, when the four weeks of the game ended, I'd completely crash for a good week and undo most of my hard work.  I was within 5 lbs of my goal weight when I got diet burn-out and quit.  I've had numerous other starts and stops, but honestly I can't keep up any restrictive food plan or diet or detox for more than about 3 days.  My last attempt was only a 3-day detox and I only made it 2.5 days.  Rather pathetic.

But in all this, I've learned something about myself: I can't handle temporary.  I can't handle restrictive.  But what I can handle is gradual.

So, for the past month or so (except for that one failed detox weekend), I've been slowly making changes.

  1. I try to eat something healthy for breakfast.  I still have my cup of tea (with no sweetener...the only good habit I kept from The Game), but instead of skipping breakfast, or snacking on something inappropriately sugary, I bought a big bag of grapefruit and a couple of grapefruit spoons.  It's the easiest thing to cut a grapefruit in half and grab a spoon.
  2. I grab my water bottle a lot more frequently.  It's nowhere near the 3 litres of water I drank while playing the game, but it's been enough to make me stop and think, "Am I really hungry?  Is there something that would satisfy me better than that cookie dough in the freezer?
  3. I've avoided baking as much as possible.  Yes, I love to bake.  But I can't handle having sweet stuff in the house.  So the only thing I've baked for a while is a weekly batch of peanut-butter oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies as requested by my husband.  And since they are "his" cookies, I don't quite feel free to eat them all as I would if I had baked my own preference.  For Monday night's bible study, instead of baking something like I normally would, I brought some grapes, a few kinds of crackers, and a block of cream cheese topped with red pepper jelly.  At this point in my life, I think I'd rather be healthy than be June Cleaver.  It is a pity though, since I've finally learned how to bake bread.
  4. I've stopped using my Wii Fit to weigh myself.  It's too precise.  It would be, "yay, I'm down 0.2 kg! I can splurge!", or "darn, I'm up 0.2 kg, gimme some sugar!"  I forgot that the number on the scale is not my goal.  My goal is to feel healthy.  To stop feeling painfully bloated every evening, to stop getting carb-induced migraines, to feel comfortable wearing jeans again, and to stop feeling exhausted every afternoon.  I'm only 29, I should not feel like I'm 79!  So instead, for the couple times per week I weigh myself, I use our horribly imprecise analog scale.  I have no idea of the exact number, but if I'm lucky, over the long term I'll see a general downward trend.

I have to say, it is rather nice to be free of the pressure to figure out exactly which kind of diet or food plan would actually work for me.  I hope to keep adding more healthy choices to my life, slowly.  Like maybe exercise?  That might be a good idea.

PS: Thank you to all the readers of The Feathered Nest who have been attempting to help me in my quest to find that house plan in their old Victoria magazines.  We've managed to rule out the two issues I thought it was in!  I'm sure I"ll find it eventually. (And thanks to my sweet friend Christine who emailed Dawn of The Feathered Nest about my quest)

PPS: Thanks to everyone who responded to my informal reader survey.  I love to hear back from everyone! I promise I'll have more project-type posts up soon.  It's a little difficult to get things done with an extra kid running around/napping, etc.  Or at least that's the excuse I've been using.

Friday, 8 February 2013


antique piano keys vintage heirloom

The other day I was thinking about my home.  And comparing.  And wishing.  And I longed for things to be finished.  Absolutely everything in our house needs to be either finished, fixed, tossed, or scrubbed.  I don't really know where to start.  I don't want to spend my days feeling guilt for all I've left unfinished or procrastinated.  I want to live in my home.  I want to look around and see peace, not chaos.  I want to be able to go on a family outing knowing that I'll be able to come home and rest, not come home and clean up the week's mess.

I know some of this is part of living with young kids.  And I can accept and live with that part.  But it's the things that I've put off for four years, like painting the rest of the walls, or cleaning the kitchen's ugly mini-blinds (or better yet, replacing them) that bother me.  I know I could have a relatively clean and peaceful home if I would only prioritise the art of homemaking instead of procrastinating the work of housekeeping.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

little photographer

This is my newest photographer.  He did a great job!  I blame the grainy photos below on the cloudy day, not the three-year-old who was behind the camera.

Old Navy polka dots grey gray boots

My favourite wear-almost-every-day skinny jeans have died.  It was a very sad day.  So now I need to replace them.  I was at Old Navy last week looking for plain shirts for my kids (to turn into batman shirts for half the price, or less than the official ones).  While there, I popped into a change room to try on some red skinny jeans.  They fit beautifully, and I loved them, especially with this polka-dot shirt, but I didn't want to spend $45 on them.  So with 10 minutes remaining before I had to leave for kindergarten pick-up, I found these grey cords on the sale rack in the same size as the red ones.  No time to try them on!  But they fit beautifully!  And now our entire family has grey cords for some reason.

Shirt and Pants: Old Navy
Boots: Sketchers
Belt: Tommy Hilfiger, stolen from my husband's closet
Bracelet: Peacock and Lime
Necklace: Orange Avocado 
(I sense an pattern in etsy shop names...)

(Of course my favourite boots would have looked better, but I didn't want to be over dressed for the hockey game we went to on Friday.)

pleated poppy