Envisioning a Great New Year

How are you ringing in the new year?  As I've mentioned, I've been fighting a bad cold over the holidays.  For that reason, Corey and I are reluctantly cancelling our NYE plans for an evening of relaxation and rest.  I believe the agenda for tonight includes wearing sweats, sipping champagne, binge-watching Orange is the New Black on the couch and writing our goals for 2014.

Do you set goals or make resolutions for the new year?  I don't mean the vague "join a gym" or "read more" but real, specific goals?  A couple of years ago, Corey and I began putting our goals for the year in writing.  We chose specific categories (Financial, Business, Physical/Mental Health, Family/Relationships and Spiritual/Charity) and listed our attainable goals.  Then we revisited them monthly and wrote down smaller steps we could take each month to work towards them.

I'm not suggesting this method for everyone...  To be honest, Corey and I both thought it sounded a little fanatical at the time, but it was a fun exercise and we knew we were embarking on some big life changes so decided to give it a try.

As with most new year's resolutions, we didn't exactly stick to our plan perfectly.  Monthly checks were stretched to every other month... and then to every third month.  Still, our goals were in writing and posted in my office and we saw them daily... although by the fall we had stopped reading them.  By the end of the year, we were concerned about how much we had slipped and we were almost embarrassed to look at our list again.  Finally, we mustered the courage to take a look and we joked to each other about how far from our goals we probably were....

Then something amazing happened as we read them.  We realized that, not only had we reached almost all of our goals, almost every goal we didn't reach was within reach.  In fact, we easily polished off that list in the first half of the next year... the last item being our engagement. ;)

We're excited to try again this year and encourage you to try it too.  We were total skeptics but we will never again underestimate the power of putting goals in writing.

For those of you who are interested, here are a few articles about goal writing:

Set S.M.A.R.T. Resolutions in 2014

A Humorous Guide to Resolutions

A Good Reason NOT to Publicize Your Resolutions

I hope you all have a great evening and a terrific start to 2014!  Corey and I are looking forward to sharing many things, including our renovation progress, the final chapters of the condo saga and our wedding this summer.  In the short-term, I'm also a little excited for our non-plans this evening.

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Window Shopping

So, this month has been a wash as far as home renovations are concerned.  Between work, the holidays, a crazy ice strom and battling a nasty cold, it's been challenging to find the motivation to work on the house, let alone blog about it.

Still, we managed to check one major thing off our list earlier today... Drumroll, please...

Remember when Corey and I found a new window in our new/old house?  Yes, we literally found a window that we just hadn't noticed before.  Luckily, it happened to be in our washroom, which desperately needed a window for added light anyway!

Well, after receiving quotes from a few contractors, we reached an agreement with one and measurements were sent out for a custom window to be fabricated.  Our situation was a little challenging because the entire frame needed to be rebuilt.  While I wouldn't have minded widening the window, the studs would have needed to be moved and we really didn't want to worry about changing the width of the opening, so we decided that a smaller window would suffice.

After weeks of waiting, we finally had the window installed today.  It was a chilly day to remove the window for over an hour while he worked from outside the house...

... And it gave us a taste of what our bathroom might look like once our demolition is in full swing...

But the finished product was well worth it!

We had the installer temporarily affix the casing, although Corey will need to remove it again when he tiles the wall.

I love how easy it is to open and close and since our house is taller than our neighbour's house, from the tub we will have a nice view of the night sky!

Sometimes a little window can make a big impact!
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Happy Holidays

I know I've been delinquent in posting for a few weeks.  What can I say?  Busy work schedules, last minute shopping, holiday parties and a bad case of the flu have all drained my time.  

The ice storm in Toronto this week has left many without power, but we were lucky enough to continue work as usual.  Now, I'm nursing a cold, trying to find a Christmas movie to watch on Netflix and teaching myself to darn socks so that I can repair a hole caused by a splinter in our floor... Not exactly exciting, but we're keeping warm and busy.

We are awaiting our bathroom window installation and I have told Corey to use it as an excuse to take a well-deserved break from the renos in the meantime.

When I look back on this past year, I know that we have so much to be thankful for.  This truly was one of those years when so many things came together and Corey and I can't believe how different this Christmas feels when compared with our last Christmas in the condo.  

In the new year, I'll be back to posting more regularly and I hope to have many wedding and renovating updates to share.  For now, I'll leave you with the poem we included in our holiday cards this year:

T'was Christmas 2012, and we longed for a house.
Still living in our condo, Corey still not my spouse.
Two years on the board, lots of work, toil and sweat,
We were determined to sell our "unsellable" condo yet!

For Corey had hammered and drilled every inch,
With a healthy reserve fund, we prayed, a deal we could clinch.
But most things worth having require some time,
It took some work, but eventually, the property ladder we climbed.

We sold and we bought... the little house of our dreams.
We began renovating, making such a good team!
We were happy as clams, our hearts full of glee,
And then Corey surprised me, by getting down on one knee.

With clients, committees, renos and a wedding to plan,
I turned to Corey and said "No more projects!  They're banned!"
But my Corey, you know that his generosity abounds,
So don't be too surprised that we're now also fostering greyhounds.

There were no vacations this year, since we're saving our cents.
Okay, that's not true.  (If you count camping in tents!)
But still, this has been our most carefree year ever.
We can't wait to update you on our next big endeavour.

And so we leave you, dear friends with our warmest of wishes:

That your year be filled with love, health, happiness and other meaningful riches.

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Friday Reading: Part 14 (And Some Gift Ideas)

It's been such a crazy week, but I wanted to publish a couple of posts so you guys wouldn't think I'd fallen off the face of the earth.  Today I'm sharing my usual interesting links as well as some gift ideas.  I'm going to preface this by saying that this is less of a "gift guide" and more just a list of things that I want and things I wish I had time to bake.  

This list is sadly lacking in man-gifts, but who knows what dudes want, anyway?  Beer of the Month Club membership?  Tickets to some sort of sports game?  Who the heck knows?  We're having a pretty simple holiday, so Corey's mostly getting things like thermal socks.

I also forgot to share this sweet (albeit, blurry) picture that I took the morning of Corey's birthday.  Barkley sometimes greets us by jumping up and sort of expecting us to catch his front paws for a hug.  I was lucky to have my camera ready for this unexpected shot.  Isn't this the best birthday morning greeting?

collection of "feel good" stories.

Ways to brighten someone's day.

This is important to remember on those days when we feel less than gorgeous.

This video had me in stitches!


I love this diy gift and here's why I think it's particularly thoughtful:  Personally, I love baking but seldom have time.  Something like this would be such a great gift because most of the time-consuming work would be done for me!

These look so yummy... and easy!

I'm not usually a fan of sugar cookies, but I'd make an exception for these.

Corey and I love natural wood toys for children.  They're so simple and beautiful and such a nice departure from everything high-tech.  Here's a great list of sources.  Our personal favourite source is Plan Toys, and here's one of their biggest hits with toddlers.

While we're on the topic of gifts for children, I love these kits, which provide the materials for a child to make their own toy.

This mask does wonders for your skin.  Corey and I both love it.

I love this simple shoulder bag.  This company also makes reusable bags, that are so chic, I might actually remember to keep them in my purse.  One of these would make a great stocking stuffer... ahem, Corey.

These diy embellished gloves are so pretty!

I'm totally making these over the weekend.

I enjoyed this list of clever gifts.

... And this list of money saving gifts.

... But I will end with a list of easy and inexpensive ways to give to charity.

Have a wonderful weekend.  I'm working both days but we have some holiday parties to look forward to in the evenings.  We are hoping that Corey feels well enough next week to resume work on the bathroom.


My Top Ten Modern Christmas Movies

This past week has been a busy one, although we've barely touched the house.  I've been working almost every night and Corey's been fighting a cold, so our limited free time has been reading and watching movies by the tree... and not so much on busting out walls in the bathroom.  We're also waiting for the window we ordered, so that Corey can finish the insulation on that wall.

The plus side to all this is that we are now totally in the holiday spirit and all we want to do in our spare time is watch Christmas movies and drink hot cocoa!  While we usually don't have more than 20 minutes a night to watch something (and sometimes not even that!) I want to share my list of modern favourites.  I am aware that the "Christmas" status of some of these may be in question (I'm looking at you, Harry Potter.) but I'll explain my answers as I go.  Here they are, beginning with #10:

By the way, I thought of including old movies as well. but I just have too many favourites!  

10. Serendipity

Do you remember this movie?  It's the cheesiest of cheese, but it also has everything: romance, fate, snow, skating in New York and magic!  While it has nothing to do with Christmas, this movie always puts me in a festive mood.  This movie was also the reason I read 'Love in the Time of Cholera' the first time.

9.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Also, not a Christmas movie, but I think the holidays are the only times when we have time for a HP marathon.  There's also something about the castle, all the candles and the music that makes me think of the holidays.  Also, Harry's so brave and happy to have a "family" that it makes me cry.  I'm a huge sucker for a sappy ending.  It's also nice to see Daniel Radcliffe so sweet and innocent before he grew up and got naked for that weird play.  This movie always makes me believe that there is such a thing as magic.

8.  Little Women

I promise that there will eventually be some actual Christmas movies on my Christmas movie list but this is another movie that spans years but always seems appropriate to watch around the holidays.  Also, I have read the books and I know the ending, but I still wish each time that Laurie and Jo might end up together.  I adored Christian Bale before we knew he was so angry.

7.  The Muppet Christmas Carol

Don't laugh- this movie cracks me up!  The scene with Statler and Waldorf just kills me.  I haven't watched this in years but it's a favourite!  Seriously, just watch that scene.

6.  Love Actually

This is probably on every list but I still think it's a sweet movie.  First of all, it has Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and basically every other British actor I like.  The performance at the end is probably my favourite part.

5.  Miracle on 34th Street

Say what you will about remakes, but I think this one's a gem!  Mara Wilson is cute as a button and I love the courtroom scene!  Also, the way her eyes light up when she sees her mom wearing the ring... awww!  Seriously, even the preview makes me cry.  "I ask you which is worse: a lie that draws a smile, or a truth that draws a tear?" Can't. Even. Deal.

4.  The Holiday

I have already watched this one this year and I love pretty much everything about it!  It's a cheesy romantic comedy, but it leaves you feeling warm and tingly inside.

3.  The Family Man

If this movie doesn't make you weep, you are probably made of stone.  I tried to explain why I love it so much to Corey, but it was hard to articulate through the tears.  It's because *sob* he *sniff* thinks *sniff* he has everything... *sob* but he doesn't have *sniff sniff* looove!

2.  Elf

First of all, Will Ferrell is basically the most hilarious person in the world.  Add the rest of the awesome cast (including Zooey Deschanel before she was the hipster mascot) and some pretty Christmas songs and you already have a decent movie.  What pushes this over the top for me is that I always bust a gut laughing and it makes me want to answer my phone: "Buddy the elf.  What's your favourite colour?"

1.  The Family Stone

This isn't just my favourtie modern Christmas flick because Carrie Bradshaw's in it.  Okay, that helps, but I love their charming house and all the separate story lines.  This movie makes me want to have a huge family.  My favourite scene is the chase which ensues from the misunderstanding on Christmas morning.

Which movies make your list?


Festive Entrances

As you know, Corey and I celebrate both Jewish and Christian holidays at home.  While we've been lighting the Chanukkah candles each night, we've also been decorating for Christmas.  Our fist step was to make our entrance look festive.

There are so many pretty DIY wreaths on Pinterest... and one year, I may branch out (get it? branch...) and try one, but I was feeling sentimental this year and wanted something more traditional.

I inherited most of my DIY skills from my mom, who was always a little ahead of her time when it came to holiday decorations.  Growing up, one of my favourite holiday decor accessories was a set of three apothecary jars adorned with pretty tartan bows that my mom saved each year.  The largest was always filled with shiny red ornaments; the medium jar had candy canes and the smallest was filled with Chanukkah gelt so that we wouldn't forget that Christmas wasn't the only holiday celebrated this time of year.  Also, because chocolate coins are awesome!

Another fun tradition for us was decorating the wreath for the front door.  Each year, we bought a real wreath and my mom saved ribbons and ornaments in a box so that each year we could choose the ornaments and colour theme we wanted.  There are some beautiful modern wreaths that I could make, but somehow, the ritual of decorating a fragrant wreath with ribbons and baubles, seems more special.

I'm going to show you how we made ours, but I'm also going to leave you with lots of eye candy and other ideas I'd like to try one year!

We bought a basic pine wreath and gathered some ribbons and supplies.

To me, a door should jingle a little at this time of year, so I had to include some bells.

I clipped off the gaudy red bow that came with the wreath and affixed our own ornaments.  We had tons of wire lying around, but you can pick it up at any hardware store.  Just make sure it's fairly easy to bend.

I wanted the bells to hang from their own ribbon to give them a little more room to move...

I then wrapped the wreath in pretty wire ribbon.  Everything looks nice with wire ribbon tied to it!

And, this is probably a little strange, but I didn't feel right without a fake bird sitting on top.  Call it a weird tradition, but I'm sure we all have them. :)

It sparkles nicely at night!

So that's my traditional version, but here are some favourites from around the web:

I bookmarked this acorn wreath years ago.  I think it would also look nice spray painted in navy blue with a gold ribbon... and maybe a bird.

I think this ornament wreath is so pretty.  It's also fun and colourful enough that kids would like it too!

You know by now, that I like a little sparkle.  This glittery wreath would do the trick!  I especially love the understated colour of the bow.

This photo wreath is nostalgic and beautiful.  I think it would look beautiful indoors.

Oh Martha Stewart, you always know just what to do!  This bow tie wreath is stunning!  I'd love this in winter white with some faux red or purple berries scattered throughout.

This pine cone wreath actually looks simple enough that I may attempt to make one eventually.

Again, Martha thinks of everything!  I love the idea of this pretty gift wreath!

What do you think?  Which one is your favourite?


Holiday Decorating

I love this time of year!  This winter is shaping up to be my busiest yet in terms of work, but even with long hours and a house in total chaos, we've found time to start decorating for Christmas.

I'll admit that our renovations had me licking my wounds a bit.  There was even a part of me that thought we might be better off skipping the holiday decorations until next year when the house is in better shape.  Luckily, Corey insisted and it turned out that a little holiday decorating is exactly what we needed!

So, I'll show you the pictures, if you'll promise to excuse the unpainted walls and messy, unfinished rooms in the background.

First, we decided that the vintage candy dishes and apothecary jars we've been hoarding for the wedding will serve as fun accessories to bust out every Christmas.  Also, this way we don't feel guilty for not putting them away.  They look festive filled with scented pine cones.

They may look even better when filled with chocolate!

Our outdoor lights are up and we decorated a wreath.  I'll post about our outdoor decorations later but the neighbours all think we're total keeners!  ...Little do they know how many years we've been waiting for this little house!

The tree us up!  We found an inexpensive artificial black tree but we may have a real tree in the future.  Corey and I always find agreeing on holiday colour schemes to be a challenge.  He likes plenty of colours (especially traditional red and green) while I would be happier with a monochromatic theme.  We always end up compromising.

If you ignore the hideous room in the background, it's not a bad tree.

I bought some black sparkley fabric to serve as a tree skirt.  The gifts also make it look more festive.

Corey and I are actually quite modest when it comes to gifts.  We like to wrap things nicely, but for the most part, our gifts to each other are things we actually need like thermal socks and a new cutting board.  Over the past few months, when we've purchased something we needed, we've often decided to wait and wrap it for under the tree.  This way, it feels like we have tons for presents but we know we haven't gone nuts.

Our pièce de résistance is that box with the blue bow.  It was too big to wrap but it's something for the house (the family room, in fact) and we're very excited to open it.

Have you started your holiday shopping yet?  Personally, malls sort of freak me out at this time of year.  I always find that the music and hustle and bustle feels festive for about ten minutes... then I just feel overwhelmed and I want to be curled up at home reading a book.  It makes me want to do all my holiday shopping online.

Are you ever surprised by some of the crazy products out there?  While shopping for gifts, we came across this sexist gem below.

Now, I have nothing against girls learning to clean, but I should point out, that this was in the girls section, with no male alternative toy.  The gender stereotyping felt a little gross.  Also, when Corey and I have kids one day, if they want to clean, they can pick up a real broom and dustpan.  There's plenty of real dog hair and dust for them to sweep up at our house... No imagination required!

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