Hello, and welcome back to The Christmas Calmdown, where we're planning ahead for a calm December! The Christmas Calmdown is co-hosted by myself and my cousin Ainsley of Pattycake Manners.

Oh my goodness. It's September 29. SEPTEMBER 29!!! That means two things...

One, that I'm late posting the September installment of "The Christmas Calmdown," and...

Two...in just a few short days, it's October. We're into the double digits.

In my wacky world, when the calendar flips to October and therefore "double digits," Christmas, well...it's just around the corner.  This is a cause for excitement, but for those of us who are trying to be organized, we become aware that "planning ahead" has transitioned into simply "planning." In short, it's time to put our best laid plans into action.

This is actually going to be a rather short post, because I want you to go find that Christmas Planner we discussed back in February and do some posting of your own. Go through it. Don't be discouraged if there are empty pages (I won't lie...mine isn't as full as I'd like it to be.) BUT, if you've been following along, you've been mentally taking stock and giving the holidays some advance consideration, probably more so than you ever have before. So, grab your favorite pen, and a hot cup of tea, and make your "Real" holiday "to do" list. 

In preparation for this post, I went back and read the earlier Calmdown posts. It really helped to get me on track with what I want to accomplish this holiday season. And, oh my goodness, we've covered a lot! Gifts, cards, cooking, making time for loved ones and pets...so many aspects to the holidays that we never really consider during the hustle and bustle. But this year, this year I really do feel calmer. As I read through the posts, I was mentally checking off items on my list. All those decisions that so often get made "last minute" are this year going to be well thought out with confidence. And so, over the next few weekends, I will be committing my "real" holiday to-do list to my planner. 

Because then? THEN the real fun begins! Stay tuned...we've still got three months to go!

It's Good to be Back!

Hello, lovelies! I'm back!

And, oh, how I've missed you! However, over the past few months, I've had a touch of writer's block and just a smidge of busy-ness. I am blessed to have found a job that I really enjoy, however working full time has left me with less time for my creative pursuits, blogging, and of course, personal time. So I took a few months to slack a bit and adjust. As regular readers may recall, Autumn is my time of rejuvenation, and as I suspected my creative juices are flowing and the urge to write has returned. 

First up, I have some housekeeping to attend to. The last few weeks were a bit of a whirl, and to my chagrin I missed posting the link to the August edition of The Christmas Calmdown. Ainsley prepared a wonderful post on holiday greetings, which you can read here.  You have my sincerest apologies for my tardiness. I will be posting the September edition on or around the 25th.

Next, a brief explanation of what I've been up while I've been neglecting Nesty (and all of you!). Well, despite the weather's best efforts, we did our best to enjoy the summer. We were blessed to have visitors (my husband's cousin and her family) and for a glorious long weekend in August we soaked up the joy of having family close by. We barbecued, enjoyed leisurely morning coffees on the patio (we had one of the only sunny weekends this summer while they were here!), had camp fires, and of course, this being Northern British Columbia, we fished!

Oh yes, that's me!
 This was my first time salmon fishing in BC, and I had a great time! I was equipped with a shiny new rod (not the pink one!), a fluffy pink marabou jig (the jig of choice that weekend, I didn't choose the colour. Really.) and tons of determination! After a terrible showing the first night, I had much better luck the next day! Above, I am posing with a Chum that I caught. Unfortunately, he was foul hooked so I couldn't keep him but I had quite a time bringing him in! We realized about half-way through the battle that my reel was on the wrong side of the rod for right-handed me...check out my fighting face below!

 Luckily a few folks caught some keepers, and our freezer is filling up nicely. Thanks to some very generous friends, we had some lovely salmon in our freezer to serve to our guests; I used this recipe to grill one on the barbecue and it was fantastic! We are hoping to smoke some salmon over the next few weeks, which of course I'll tell you all about!

We are looking forward to Fall and some holiday time. I have been trying out new recipes and am planning a few new features for Nesty. One of them is a "brown bag lunch" series, while the other will be meal solutions for busy households. Now that we are both working full-time, meal planning is becoming more important. So I'm coming up with some solutions which I'll be sharing here. Look forward to "fix it and freeze it" meal solutions as well as lots of slow-cooker recipes. I'm also looking forward to crafting and decorating for the upcoming holiday season. 

Finally, I got a new camera, so Nesty will become much more visual once again! I'm really enjoying capturing the beauty of "Super, Natural British Columbia" on camera again! For those of you who enjoy my tales of life in Northern BC, there should be more of those coming up soon! The bears are back, as well as lots of other wildlife, so I'll be keeping my camera close at hand as we go adventuring this Fall.

Folks, it's great to be back! Have a great week!!!

The Christmas Calmdown–Christmas in July!

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First things first...I want to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas in July! Did you know that there's only five months to go!? But there's no need for you to panic, is there, because YOU, smart reader, are planning ahead with us for a calm December! And we're pleased as can be to have you along!
This month, you get a treat. Think of it as a little Christmas in July gift from Ainsley and I. This month, instead of making a plan, or starting a budget, I’m going to encourage you to take some time to capture the Christmas spirit. It can be as simple as listening to your Christmas playlist (with headphones on if you don’t want to explain yourself, but I encourage heartfelt carolling). If it’s not too hot where you are, or you have AC, why not whip up a batch of your family’s favourite Christmas cookies. Slip a  classic Christmas movie into the player, or dig out a Christmas romance and curl up by the (camp) fire and get lost in the holiday spirit.
A favourite tradition of mine is to purchase ornaments throughout the year and put them away until it’s time to decorate the tree. It’s just like Christmas morning (see what I did there?) when I dig them out of the drawer or cabinet they’ve been hiding in and finally let them join my collection. Over the years I’ve acquired a cast iron pan complete with eggs and bacon, a fanciful bonbon from a candy store, and many, many sea themed ornaments.
Got some time on your hands? Now is a perfect time to do some holiday crafting. Why not work on a quilted tree skirt or new stockings while at the cabin this summer? Christmas 2010 photos still on your craft room table? Enjoy a staycation scrapbooking weekend!
Or, if you’re like me, you maysometimes rely on the internet to help visions of sugarplums dance through your head when times are busy. I’ve just joined Pinterest (Nestygirl, if you’re interested in following me) and my first board is Vacation Inspired Christmas Ornaments; hey, a girl can dream that she’s Hawaii or Paris bound, can’t she?
However you choose to enjoy your Christmas in July, be sure to do just that, enjoy it. And let the magic start to grow…because before you know it, Fall will be here (can’t wait!), and with it, the mad, wonderful, headlong rush into the holiday season. I can taste the turkey now! See you next month!
The Christmas Calmdown is a monthly series co-hosted by Kim of Nesty and Ainsley of Pattycake Manners. We’re planning ahead for a calm December, and you can, too! By doing a little bit each month, we’re looking forward to Bailey’s by treelight come December, not mall madness, air-tight schedules, and smokin’ credit cards! So grab a button and join us, it’s never too late to Calmdown!

The Christmas Calmdown - A "How To" for "Handmade"

Hi everyone!  It's time for another installment of The Christmas Calmdown! Today we'll be moseying on over to visit my cousin Ains at Pattycake Manners, where she will be guiding us through  "A 'How To' for 'Handmade."  I'm really excited about this post because I totally botched the handmade mission this past December...as loyal followers will remember! Even if you aren't following the Calmdown month to month, anyone who is planning a handmade holiday should check out her post. Be sure to tell her I said "hi!"

I'll be back soon with some fresh Nesty content!

The Road to My Craftroom is Paved With Good Intentions...

During our recent move, a friend pointed out that a lot of our furniture looked like stuff that came from Grandma's house. I didn't take offense, because he's right.  Over the years we have collected an eclectic bunch of furnishings, and while we have inherited a few pieces (some, yes, from Grandma's house) most are pieces we have by choice, either rescued from family purges or purchased at antique shops, second hand stores, or auctions.

But that's a post for a different time...

A few pieces were acquired / rescued / kept because of their potential.  And, OK, yes, a large dose of sentimentality. These items are the ones that we are going to "re-finish." "Re-finishing" is right up there with "make a cover for," "make potpourri out of," and "send to Goodwill" on the big list of GREAT IDEAS BUT WHO ARE YOU KIDDING?

For two of these items (a vanity and a sideboard) our procrastination has not been a big deal.  These items are functional, albeit covered by several generations of paint.  You see, our predecessors' had the good sense to know that they were too busy to "re-do" furniture, choosing instead to slap on a fresh coat of paint when an item needed freshening up.  I really think the distressed trend from several years ago came to be because a group of crafty folks gave up on trying to remove 100 years worth of various paints and said, "Oh for Pete's sake, just leave it like that."  As Kermit once sang, "Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it..." and shabby chic was born...

But I digress.  The third item on deck for "re-finishing" is an antique Singer sewing machine and case, purchased in, wait for it! 1996.  To re-finish.  Oh yes.

It lived in my parent's barn for several years, until one day my parents (who actually do re-finish things) were working on their own projects and stripped it for me.  Then, it went back into the barn for another few years, after which my dear Dad declared that he needed the space and I would need to pick up my squatter.  By now I was married with my own place and should have picked it up years earlier, but it seemed happy living with my parents.  And so, we brought it home, with plans to "re-finish" it. 

It's moved four times since then, each time elicited curses and curiosity from our movers, be they paid or volunteer.  Turns out everyone wants an old Singer to "re-finish".

And so, it's on deck, once again this summer, for some love.  IF I get this project rolling it will definitely be post fodder, so no more about my poor, neglected Singer for now.  Because all this talk about procrastination projects has got me thinking about what's lurking in my craft room bins...

Oh don't be smug.  Despite all the picture perfect craft room shots you've posted, I KNOW with certainty that those pics were taken AFTER a clean-up.  I know this because I do the same thing.  For all we moan about it, we are secretly proud of our stashes; after all, we wouldn't need craft rooms if everything fit neatly into one box, now would we?  And yet, for all I love my room 'o treasures, I do occasionally feel a twinge of guilt and regret for the Lost Projects, those that really didn't make it out of the starting gate, but who live in hope of one day breaking free from their Rubbermaids, and maybe, just maybe, experiencing the joys of completion.

We'll see...

In the spirit of being honest, here is a by-no-means complete list of the Lost Projects, complete with approximate start date and a guesstimate as to their likelihood of being completed.  Here we go:
  • Embroidery floss, needles, hoops, and patterns Last used - Superficially, as a play prop in the early ought's. Voluntarily, for a week in 1996 (bad year for starting things, apparently). Vocationally, for two summers in the mid 2000's.                                                              Odds of Completion - It's looking good!  Inspired by retro styles, I've been considering stitching up some cute atomic accented pieces on pillows, aprons, pot holders and the like.  Stay tuned...
  • Ancient Cutlery and Rubber Mallet (for making funky silverware jewelery)                                        Last Used - The Millennium.                                          Odds of being Used Again - Not good.  Turns out pounding a fork into a bracelet is a lot harder than it looks.  So many people do this well, I'd rather just support them.  And my husband took the mallet for his tool box years ago. 

  • Crochet hook and cotton yarn                                  Last used - To crochet - About nine months ago.  As a knitting tool - About 4 months ago.                                 Odds of completion - Guardedly optimistic. I prefer knitting, but I think I could get into crocheting with a bit more instruction. 
  • Tatting Spool                                                                     Last Used - Never                                                           Odds of completion - Never.  Tatted lace is not something I aspire to learn.  The spool came into my possession after my Aunt Irene, an amazingly talented crafter, passed.  I keep it out of sentiment and as a piece of inspiration from a simpler time where quality meant doing it yourself.
  • Half of one man's sock (on needles) - I decided, one cold January night, that my  husband needed real wool socks for those cold nights on the job.                                                                                      Last used - One cold, February night. It's now June.  He wore McGregor's for the rest of those cold, Winter nights.   Odds of completion - Actually, pretty good!  I love to knit, his socks just got put on the back burner when I started looking for work, and a new house, simultaneously.

I could keep going, but for the sake of time and my self-esteem I will stop now.  Why, you might ask, are the supplies for these Lost Projects still in my possession?  Well, I might get to them someday!  But more so, I like bumping into them, so to speak, when I'm rummaging through a bin of fabric or a box of beads.  Seeing those forks and spoons, for example, reminds me of the "Little White Church" that I grew up next to, that was the spiritual home to my ancestors and that I thrilled to enter as a child (it was a rare treat reserved for Fall Fairs, Vacation Bible School, and the occasional wedding.) I got the cutlery at an auction of the church's contents just before it was demolished, breaking our hearts even as we knew it was necessary. I'll find a use for them (shadow box, wind chimes?) but in the meantime they take up little room and do no harm. And so they will stay, along with many other Lost Projects and their supplies.  When I need to purge, there is plenty of fabric and scrap-booking stuff that, while lovely, until it is formed into a memory, holds little emotional meaning for me.  

And so of course, dear readers, I turn the podium to you.  What are your Lost Projects?  Come now, don't be shy, I'm sure there must be some doozies out there somewhere!  If I can admit to hauling a sewing machine around for 15 years, you can tell me about your taxidermy projects or plastic canvas nightmares.  Out with it!!!

Manic Mondays - How to Avoid

One of my good friends always plays the best 80's station when we come to visit.  Last night while hanging out I heard the familiar opening bars of that classic Bangles hit, Manic Monday. With it stuck in my head today, the irony was not lost that when I first heard this song I really had no idea just how manic a Monday morning could be.  At the time I'm sure I thought it sheer torture to have to get up and go to school; years later I long for the luxury of having a closest of clothes that someone else bought and laundered for me, a tasty, balanced lunch handed to me, and a personal life coach / manager to make sure all the items on my to-do list were crossed off , thus preventing embarrassment in front of management, er, the teacher.  Thank you, Mom.

Our transition from gnarly students who think we have it rough to first-time workers learning the ropes of life, to our current occupations as all-grown-ups, Monday is an omnipresent factor in the daily grind.  I like to take the "It's a brand new week!" approach as opposed to "I don't like Mondays;" after all, if Monday morning never comes, neither can Friday afternoon.  But I will admit, a bad start on Monday can set you back, if not for the week than at least for the day.

I'm a gal who needs to be organized about my weekly prep.  I can feel the ominous rising of a bad week ahead if on Sunday night my week's clothes aren't laundered, my lunch isn't prepped, and my butt isn't in bed by 11:30 at the latest. For me, a manic Monday begins at 12:01 AM. And so, I make sure I have my ducks in a row on Sunday night.  No Sunday flu for me; I'm blessed with a job I love and so as long as I'm tucked in with my book, blogs or magazine and a cup of tea at a decent hour, it's all good for the week. And since I am an organized sort, I rarely head to bed without being properly prepared.

Of course, there's more to the week than Sunday night. With two whole days, it's easy to start the week on top of your game, but somewhere around Wednesday things go off the rails. Along the way I've discovered a few tricks to make my work week prep a bit more streamlined.  I may not use all of these every night / day (respectively), but even utilizing a few can make all the difference.  Have you considered...
  • Smart snacks - I do my very best to be green, but I have to balance that with not wasting food and making sure we eat healthy. In another post I'm going to address packaging waste and how to fight it, but for the sake of this post I'm just going to stick to topic.  With two adults working full time on opposite shifts, sometimes single serve just makes sense.  Yogurt and cheese are two products that I've started purchasing in single serve form.  The simple truth is that we're both more likely to grab these healthy snacks if it's easy and convenient.  Fruit, juice, and granola bars are other examples of good-for-you grab and go snacks.
  • Easy meals - I love a big, delicious sandwich, but in truth, how many sandwiches make it to lunch time looking and tasting nearly as good as they did when first assembled?  Enter the wrap.  There's lots of awesome combos that can be made in advance and still taste fresh, and in my experience wraps don't seem to get as soggy as bread. For wraps and more, I look forward to Real Simple's bag lunch idea every month for fresh lunch options; in fact I'm planning to start posting about out these, and other lunch recipes in the near future. I also find Everyday With Rachel Ray a good source of lunch ideas, especially when they point to options for using dinner time leftovers for the next day's lunch.  I also often lean on a big pot of soup, chili, or goulash to get us through a week of meals.  And although nothing is as good as fresh and homemade, having a few pre-made frozen options tucked into the freezer is never a bad idea. Finally, when you find yourself down to the end of a pot of soup or stew (or you get tired of it before it runs out) don't throw it away!  Invest in a few freezer and microwave friendly bowl sized containers and freeze your leftovers - you've just made you own single serve frozen meals!
  • Type A Appliances - You know that friend who gets everything done well, quickly, and in style?  Make your appliances be that for you.  On Friday you heard all about my new morning saver, the Tassimo single serve coffee maker. If single serve isn't your thing, consider a coffee maker with a timer; you can set it for 15 minutes before you wake up, saving you having to fumble around with filters and grounds first thing in the morning, not to mention the aroma alone will get you out of bed!  Speaking of getting out of bed, if that's an issue, put your alarm clock across the room from your bed so that you actually have to get up to turn it off; I find I'm less likely to hit "snooze" when I do this.  Dish washers also have timers, and a friend was telling me about her new Roomba vacuum that can be set to go whenever you want.  After all, what would be better after a Manic Monday than clean dishes and floors?  Bread machines and slow-cookers can make mealtimes much easier, so much so that you may be tempted to toss your takeout menus. And make your downtime work for you; I once pointed out to a friend that while I was sipping wine on the patio on Saturday night I was also washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking a roast and baking bread!
  • Can-do Clothes - When wardrobe planning, keep care instructions in mind.  Yes, we all want quality, but a few career wear items that can go in the washer and dryer and don't require ironing can be a life-saver. Anyone who's realized they have an entire work wardrobe of hand wash only clothes knows what I mean. Many new washing machines have a hand-wash feature, something I'm loving right now for my dress pants and delicate tops.
  • PM Beauty Prep - As much as I love my morning shower, sometimes it's worth it to get it out of the way the night before.  The challenge I faced with this was my hair, which definitely looks better when it's freshly blow-dried.  A little research  revealed night before coif ideas that transition well for a sleep loving modern career gal.  I'm loving sleep-friendly foam rollers, for example.  With very little effort in the morning I have bouncy waves that last all day.  Of course, there's always the ponytail, but a sad old elastic holding back limp, lifeless hair doesn't spell success.  Look for pony tail clips with teeth that separate your hair for added bounce.  Even a bar clip will make your pony look more professional. A touch of make up and you'll look like you put in way more effort than you did!  All without sacrificing...
  • Sweet, sweet sleep - Elusive, isn't it?  Yet it's so essential.  Identify how much you need (everyone is different) and do everything in your power to achieve it.  Plan, plan, plan so that you can work at gearing down to a relaxed state before bed-time.  I totally understand that life, children, pets, shift work, and not enough hours in a day make this goal difficult to achieve, but if there is one area you can focus on to improve that will make a huge difference in your health and work performance, this is it.

None of this is rocket science, of course, but sometime we get into work-a-day ruts and reading how someone else organizes their time can give us a new idea that can save precious morning minutes.  To that end, what do YOU do to avoid the dreaded Manic Monday?

And so, darling readers, it's time to take my own advice and hop to my Sunday night prep.  After all, 12:01 AM and a Manic Monday are only 6 hours away! Nighty night!