Monday, May 25, 2015

DIY Pretty Pastel Rainbow Picnic Table Makeover

Ever since I brought our picnic table home, I've wanted to paint it funky colours.  I searched and searched the internet for the perfect idea.

Then I came across the blog Little Miss Momma.   I was completely inspired by her picnic table, so I did something very similar.  Make sure you head on over to her blog and check out her table!

Here's how I did mine:

I lightly sanded the table with a hand-sander.  Then i started spray painting the benches with some white spray paint I bought.

Which turned out to be a waste of time and money because I ran out of spray paint so I had to go over it with some white acrylic paint.  

I should probably consider painting my deck, but hey, it's not as fun. ;)

That's right, I used acrylic paint.  From the dollar store.  Everything I read online seems to suggest if you use acrylic paint outdoors and then use an outdoor sealer on top of it, it should last.  Ask me in a few years if it's true. ;)

So, I basically just painted each board the colour I wanted, and the bottom white. I was on the third board when it started raining.  While it was sunny out.  You can NEVER trust Canadian weather forecasts. But I don't blame the weather people.  I blame Canada and it's weird, messed up weather.  Only in Canada can you wear shorts one day and winter hats and mittens the next.


 At first I decided to paint the edges of the boards white:

But then I changed my mind and painted the edges different colours:

I then sprayed two coats of sealer over it.  I still have to touch up some of the white, which I'll probably never get around to, but I am pretty happy with it!  Ashley from Little Miss Momma distressed her table, and I really like the look of it, but I also figured I have three small kids who will distress the table all on their own over time! :)

After it was all said and done I begged my Facebook friends to let me come to their house and pick Lilacs from their trees.  I always get all worried that I'll pick flowers from what I think is public property, only to be chased by an angry homeowner wearing a bathrobe and chasing me with a broom!  Anyways, because I have awesome friends, I got some offers from people to allow me to steal some of their lilacs.

See? Flowers make it so much prettier. ;)  

I'm excited for some projects I have in mind this week, one being a barnboard type sign and the other is painting my front door teal!  So stay tuned for posts about that. :)

Peace & Love. ;)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Review of Letchworth State Park in New York

When I think of New York, I think of the Statue of Liberty, or the Big Apple, or the movie Home Alone (who can forget the pigeon lady??).  Not that I've ever been to see any of those things personally.
What I don't think about when I think about the state of New York is beautiful and natural surroundings, waterfalls, camping, and the great outdoors.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was looking for a place to camp for the May long weekend and came across Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY.  The pictures online blew me away.  I had to check it out.

Letchworth is known as "The Grand Canyon of the East."  Three major waterfalls flow over the cliffs through the gorge, and some cliffs are as high as 600 feet.  There are 66 miles of hiking trails. Hot air balloon rides are available over the amazing scenery.  (of course, we didn't do that due to cost, and three small children, but maybe one day).

We camped in our tent trailer.  At first when we got there I was a little disappointed at how open our campsite was, with few trees.  This turned out to not be a problem in the end because it was a very quiet weekend there, and there were few sites full near us, especially on Sunday night when most Americans packed up because Monday was not a holiday for them.  The campground had mostly Canadians that night.  Had we camped at our side of the border the campgrounds would have been packed as the May long weekend in Canada is known for camping. So camping across the border on May long weekend turned out to be the best idea ever!

Even though our campsite didn't have a lot of trees, I walked up the road to discover there were many sites that had more trees and privacy, equivalent to the provincial parks in Canada.  so part of it is knowing which campsites to book!

Now, I don't know if it was just luck on our part, or if it is typical of the State parks in the US, but the campground was super quiet during quiet hours (10 p.m. - 7 a.m.).  You could hear people having a good time, but everyone was pretty respectful of those around them. It made for some great sleeps while we were there.

Once we got there we didn't waste any time exploring.  We took the kids on the trails to see the waterfalls.

There were tons of stairs to all these waterfalls.  The kids are used to hiking while we camp so they did great, but be aware that this is NOT stroller friendly, and a serious workout!  Definitely worth it though!

This bridge to the lower falls was one of my favorite spots.  Look how beautiful it is!

We spent a lot of time looking at the gorge as well.

It was breathtaking!  However, with two active boys, holding our hand was a must.  The barriers are not very tall in many areas, and though beautiful, it can be very dangerous.  There HAVE been people who have slipped and fallen into the gorge, and you can imagine most falls end in a fatality.  Just last October a 14 year old boy died here when he slipped.  So if you check out Letchworth, be VERY safe, obey ALL signs, and stay on the trails.  

One of the other things I found very strange, but awesome, was that there were NO mosquitos or black flies!  I don't know if this is common there, or just the time of year, but we didn't use our bug spray once!  

And of course, at the end of our trip I had a new bumper sticker to add to my collection.

Letchworth State Park should be on your bucket list!  You won't regret it.  

Peace & Love! :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DIY Clothespin Sunburst

This is one of my favorite wall hangings that I have in my house. It brings out the hippie in me. :) And it is SO easy to make!

All you need is some embroidery hoops ( I found mine at the thrift store), clothespins, and some wire.

1.  Clip on the clothespins to the embroidery hoops.  You can use whatever sizes you want.  

2.  Once you attach the clothespins, spray paint each layer the colour you want.  Once dry, flip them over and paint the other side.  As you can see I chose yellow, orange, and red, but you could do all one colour or any colours you want.

3.  Once completely dry, attach each hoop to the other with a piece of wire.  

4.  Hang it up and admire your work!

You could probably even add a mirror in the middle if you wanted. :)

See? Easy Peasy. :)

Peace & Love. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Travelling Across Canada

Sunshine Coast, BC

A couple years ago we took our three kids, then 6 and under on a road trip of a lifetime for us.  We packed up our van, hitched up our old, 1982 tent trailer, and drove from Ontario to Vancouver, BC.  I had never been to see the mountains, and my husband had only saw it when he was 4.  It was amazing!  But given it was our first HUGE trip, we definitely learned some things.  Here are a few things we would do differently, had we known.

1.  Take our time.  My goal was to get to the farthest point I could -Vancouver.  My family didn't travel much growing up, and I was desperate to see as much as I could on our trip.  The problem with that plan is that while my husband wanted to see so much more in the stops we did make, I was always rushing us to try and get to the next point.  Looking back, i feel like we missed out on just enjoying some really great moments and experiencing some really cool things had we just stayed put in some areas.

Jasper, Alberta
2.  Travel with a HARD top trailer.  I love our little tent trailer.  We nicknamed it the "Dandelion."  But there were two problems with travelling that far with a tent trailer.  First, it was a lot of work to set up and take down constantly, as we stayed only one or two nights at most campgrounds.  Secondly, when we wanted to stay free in Walmart parking lots we didn't feel like we should because we were one step up from a tent.  The only time we stayed in a Walmart parking lot was in Edmonton when we drove too late, were going to get a hotel room but discovered we couldn't find a room as it was a busy night in the city.  Which leads me to my next point.

Jasper, Alberta
3.  Stop sooner than later to set up camp.  We ended up in the Walmart parking lot in Edmonton because of me.  My husband tried to stop at a few very cheap sites on the way, but I was uncomfortable with them, due to the fact that I have read too many stories. ;)  Now, had we had a hardtop trailer with a bathroom where no one had to leave the trailer all night, I might have been more comfortable with this.  But in the end, I definitely wasn't super comfortable being in a parking lot with a tent trailer but at that point had no choice!

4.  Look for hidden costs.   I thought we got this awesome deal in Vancouver that was a package with a hotel and a bunch of free tickets to attractions around the city.  However, I didn't realize how much we would pay for parking.  Or food in some of these places.  One place was charging 12 dollars for a burger...just THE BURGER, no fries or anything!!!!  And I couldn't believe how expensive parking was EVERYWHERE!!!!!!In the end, we ended up paying way more money than we intended.
Johnston's Canyon, Alberta, Canada

5.  Enjoy the smaller places.  It can be fun to find yourself in the middle of it all, the bustling big cities where all the tourism action is happening.  But I found that we really enjoyed a lot of the smaller places we drove through.  And I still regret not taking time to explore those smaller places more.  Also, it was always less stressful with the kids in smaller locations.  I didn't have to worry about losing sight of them in the middle of a large crowd.

6.  Find a way, and GO!!!  Travelling across Canada was a last minute decision for us.  We were working at a camp in Manitoba, 24 hours away from home, when we were supposed to move to another local farm and work as Woofers.  My husband hurt his back and we knew we would be useless at the farm.  But we still had all this extra time.  We figured we were halfway to BC already, might as well go now!  I couldn't believe I had waited all these years to was beautiful and amazing and you just feel so close to God in the middle of all his creation!!!!  Right now we can't go as far, but we are taking weekend trips closer to home, and planning for something bigger as soon as we have the money saved up.  


7. Bring at least one extra sleeping bag.  My one year old at the time got sick in the middle of the night while we were away.  He threw up all over the sleeping bag.  Oh, did I mention he was sleeping next to me??  Of course, laundry facilities were closed at that time of night at the campground.  All I could do was throw the sleeping bag off of the bed, wash down the other stuff by hand, and wait till morning.  And sleep without any blankets.  When it comes to kids, ALWAYS bring an extra blanket.

8.  Pack light, but pack twice as much extra underwear and bottoms for your kids.  My kids, once they are potty trained, don't have accidents.  Even at night.  But all of a sudden, routine has changed, and there are a lot of outhouses we end up using, which, turns out, my children despise. (I don't really jump for joy when using an outhouse, either.)  So, while travelling, in an effort to avoid trips to the outhouses, my kids had a few accidents.  I've learned to pack extra unmentionables for them now. ;)

I would love to share in a future post some of my favorite places we visited so that you don't miss them either!  What are your favorite places to travel or some amazing attractions you've been? Share in the comments, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, May 11, 2015

How You Can Save Money With Swagbucks

See this beautiful picnic table???

We bought it brand new (in a kit) for $25.00.  The retail price was $80.00  Want to know how I worked my magic??

So, first of all, I did have a $10 coupon I got online for Home Depot, where we purchased the table from.    That leaves us with $45 dollars of savings somewhere.

I use a program called SWAGBUCKS.  It is an online program where you get points for doing things such as:

1.Internet searches
2.Shopping online
3. Surveys
4.Referring your friends
5. Games
6. Codes given through their blog/twitter/etc.
7. Daily polls
8.  And much, much more!

Some people are super hardcore with their Swagbucks account.  I am not overly committed because of time, but I do try to visit the Swagbucks page at least once a day and spend 5 minutes doing a few things to earn points.

When you reach certain levels of points, you can redeem them for things like gift cards, and even paypal money.  There are a bunch of different options when it comes to gift cards, such as things like Home Depot, or one of my personal favorites, Starbucks.

So for that beautiful picnic table, I saved $45 dollars worth of Swagbucks that I redeemed for Home Depot gift cards.  Had I been a little more patient, I could have saved enough to get the table for free.  But the weather got warm and I really wanted a place for the family to eat outside at! :)

Want to start saving?  Click here to get your own Swagbucks account!  

Do you use Swagbucks?  What kinds of things have you used your Swagbucks points for?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mango Infused Sun Tea (Sweetened with Honey!)

Sun Tea.

Just those words alone make me feel happy.  You see, I'm Canadian.  And Canadian winters are LONG.  And even though we finally have warm Spring days, the cold winter weather is still burned into my memory.  And I. JUST. WANT. TO. FORGET.

Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of winter activities, but ever since I started carting around three little ones, well, winter has been less than pleasant.

So when I hear the words "Sun Tea", it makes me downright giddy.  Because sun tea requires sun, and if there is sun then there is warmth. and boy does that feel good on my skin.;)  Vitamin D, how I've missed you!

I love sitting on the back porch while the kids are playing, and the sun tea is brewing.  And that is exactly what I did this week.

(I swear I see a tiger's face in that floating tea bag.  That might be a sign that it's too late to blog and I should be in bed instead. ;) )

Mango Infused Sun Tea

5 Orange pekoe tea bags
1/2 cup of honey
1 mango, chopped up

Fill your pitcher with water and put in 5 tea bags.  I use Orange Pekoe but you could use any kind.  Herbal teas work well, too.  I used a glass pitcher and sealed some cling wrap onto the top with an elastic.  I feel like using glass instead of a plastic jug in the heat is most likely a better option.  Many people use mason jars.

Let it "brew" in the sun for a few hours.  I left mine out for about 3 hours.  Avoid letting it sit out longer than 4 hours or it may become bitter.

Stir in half a cup of honey (or sweetener of your choice.)  Refrigerate until chilled.

Add the mango chopped up.  Let it sit in your fridge overnight or for 8 hours or so to allow the mango flavor to infuse the tea.

If you prefer, you can strain the mango out of it before you drink it.  Or you might have one of those really cool infuser pitchers already.  I just leave the mango in it.

ENJOY! :)  

*I realize there is some debate on whether sun tea is safe bacteria-wise. For me, I am not concerned about it as people have been making sun tea for generations, but please do your own research on the subject and decide what's best for you and your family.  Some ways to avoid bacteria growth is by not leaving it out in the sun too long, and not to add sweeteners to it until AFTER it has brewed and is ready for the refrigerator.

Peace & Love :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Section Plate Life Hack

Sometimes simple ideas can be life changing for moms.  If there is something that can tone down the chaos in my house, I'm all for it.  A few years ago I came across this amazing idea.

Section Plates.

Wait!  Stay with me.  I know, who writes a post about section plates, right?  Well, years ago I used to read this blog called Green and Crunchy written by woman named Sheri.  Sadly, the blog is no longer, but she had the prettiest section plates for her kids.  Her blog basically made you fall in love with plates divided into little circles, squares, and triangles.

Well, my section plates aren't as pretty, but they have made lunch time easier around here.  How you ask?  Do you ever have lunchtime roll around and you have no plan and your little munchkins are starting to whine for some food?

Yeah, that never happens here either.  *ahem.*

And sometimes, my kids just don't want another peanut butter and jam sandwich.  So I take out my trusty section plates, and just start raiding my cupboards and filling the various sections until every section is full.

It is a must to fill every section, or your three year old will point to the empty section and refuse to eat until every spot is full.

Or if you want a larger variety, use an ice cube tray.  Add a green smoothie and lunch is made!

Simple, yet easy fix when you just don't know what to make for lunch. ;)

Do you use section plates for your kids?

Peace & Love. :)

Monday, May 4, 2015

7 Reasons Living Below Your Means Makes Life Easier and More Enjoyable

Living below your means can sound scary and impossible.  But I truly believe in many cases it is possible, and in the end will leave you feeling happier.  We have had times we lived below our means and times we haven't.  We are now, once again living below our means, not by much, mind you due to where we are in our life (a career change, and starting over in some areas of our lives) but even a little bit makes a huge difference.  Here are the reasons I believe you should live below your means.

1.  In case of a crisis.  Life is unpredictable.  We don't know if tomorrow we will have a health crisis, or a house fire, or an accident.  Even though more than likely an event like that will cause strain financially no matter where you are in life, the impact will be less if you are in a better financial position.

2.  In case of emergency.  Your furnace can break or your car can die.  Having no emergency fund or room to budge in your budget can send you into sheer panic during one of these events.  Trust me, I know by experience.

3. To save up for items with no stress of debt payments afterwards.  If you are living below your means, chances are, when you have your eye on something such as a trip or new furniture, you will save first before you buy, rather than vice versa.  This will allow you to actually enjoy the furniture or trip without wondering how you are going to pay for it after it is all said and done.

4. To give to others.  We have been on the receiving end of people giving many, many times.  Recently, friends of ours had a house fire.  We instantly wanted to help, and unlike other times before where we didn't know how we would help because of financial difficulties, because we are in a bit of a better position now we were able to help at least a little bit without hesitation.

5. To pay off debt.  We ALL want to pay off our debt.  We all hate having debt hanging over our heads.  Although we still have a long way to go, I have seen a huge progress in the last year for us as we continue to live below our means.

6.  To Get a good night's sleep.  You know how nice it is to go to sleep and not worry on how you are going buy groceries this month?  I've been on both ends, and let me tell you, I love the peace it brings me to be able to know that I don't have to figure out how to feed my family.

7.  So that panic won't set in when the economy struggles.  We have recently planned a camping trip to the US.  The Canadian dollar is not doing well.  Although I wish it was better, we didn't have to stress about our trip because we have financially planned within our means. Gas costs go up and down, food groceries continue to rise, and taxes never seem to drop.  Living below your means makes it easier to handle these financial pressures.

Of course, I must admit, I still panic a bit when hydro goes up, (which in Ontario seems to feel like every ten minutes sometimes)! I'm still a work in progress. :)

Just because you live below your means doesn't mean you won't face financial hardship.  Like I said, a crisis could happen in an instant leaving you in a tough spot.  Things happen in all our lives that are sometimes inside our control and sometimes outside of our control when it comes to our financial situation.  All we can do is try our best to plan and prepare for those moments and work towards being in a better position with our finances. 

And sometimes, there are absolutely no other places in your budget to cut, the only way to improve financially is to make more income.  I get it, we've been there.  Sometimes career changes, or other tough decisions are conversations that need to be had, and changes need to be made.  And it's never easy to make big changes in our lives.  But when it seems to big to handle, just work on taking the NEXT step.

Although we've always had a more frugal lifestyle than others, it doesn't mean we've always made the best choices (we are human, after all!)  And because of some of our choices along as well as other events out of our control we are digging ourselves out of a hole much deeper than we ever wanted to be in.  But for the first time in our life I feel like we finally have some real control over our situation and I hope to keep working towards financial freedom, no matter how long it may take or how slow it may feel sometimes! 

Even slow progress is progress! Remember that.

Peace & Love. :)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Free Camping Checklist Printable

We love to go camping.  We have a little, very old 1982 tent trailer we named "The Dandelion" that both us and our kids have grown to love (even if my husband has to sleep on an angle to fit on the bed due to the fact that he is 6'2.)

Years ago when we really started getting into camping, for one of our first trips we went with another family who had more camping trips than us under their belt.

It's a good thing too, because we forgot so many things.  Had they not been there to borrow multiple items from, we would have bought new pots, pans, can openers, spatulas, and who knows what else at the local, very expensive camp store.

We were amateurs.  It was embarrassing how unprepared we were.

Fast forward a few years later, and here we are, preparing to have our first camping trip of the year in just a few weeks. We've learned how to pack properly, and last year our camping endeavors were well planned. We've improved our camping knowledge, and I've made a camping checklist to share with you all so you can avoid making the same mistakes we did! :)

Because no matter what they say, leaves can not replace toilet paper.

To get this checklist, smiley faces and all, click HERE and print.  :)

Peace & Love. :)


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