Monday, February 28, 2011

De-clutter Your Space

Here we are at the last day in February! Today's idea could just as well have been the first idea at the start of the month, giving you 28 days to de-clutter a portion of your space a little each day.

But since we're starting a brand new month tomorrow, why not de-clutter a small area today, creating room in your life for March. If you don't have time to tackle a whole room, or even a closet, starting with a single junk drawer is just as good. The main thing is to begin. The sense of accomplishment you get from the results of even a small investment of your time will encourage you to turn to other areas of your space.

So, we say goodbye to February. I hope that some of the ideas I've shared with you have helped make the month pass more quickly and with less angst.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Give the Gift of Kindness

There's no better way to feel good than to pay a small kindness to someone. Whether it's helping someone carry heavy parcels, or paying the toll fee for the car behind you, acts of kindness bring pleasure to both the giver and receiver. Often it's the small gestures, given to complete strangers that surprise the most. Large or small, to strangers or loved ones, why not give it a try today? You'll be surprised how it elevates your mood.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Build a Quinzee

Quinzees are great fun and much easier to make than igloos. Kids just love them and the walls are so thin that there is no danger if they collapse. They are an amazing shelter, are made with only snow, and they really do keep you warm. Knowing how to make a quinzee can save your life. There are lots of sites out there that give detailed instructions with photos, but here is a quick rundown.
1. Pile snow into a mound the size that you would like the finished quinzee to be.
2. Let the snow "settle" for a couple of hours.
3. Scoop out the snow, working, back, up and around. Clear out all the scooped-out snow as you work.
4. Snow should be scooped out until the wall thickness is about an inch all around. You will be able to see light through the snow.
5. Enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Take in Some Art

Pay a visit to an art gallery for a little inspiration. With so little colour outside, artwork provides us with some much needed visual stimulation. If you don't have a gallery near you or can't get to one, enjoy works in an artbook.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take Comfort

For all of us there are some foods that bring comfort. What those foods are differs from person to person. Perhaps it's a food you enjoyed in childhood, like ice cream, rice pudding or custard. For others it might be fresh baked bread or pie. Some prefer something savoury such as chicken in a cream sauce or a plate of spaggetti with homemade sauce.

Whatever it is you find the most comforting, why not allow yourself a wee indulgence?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Up the Cosiness Factor

Add a little cosiness to your day by re-purposing an old sweater. Even if you are not crafty, these projects are easy to do. So turn a cast-off or second-hand sweater into a cosy hot water bottle cover, warm leggings, and a knit cover to keep your hot beverages warm.

Detach the sleeves to make instant leg warmers; or cut a piece from the bottom of the sleeve, hem one end and roll-up the other to make a drink warmer. Not only will it keep your drinks hot a little longer, but it will also protect your hands when you use a glass for hot beverages. Use the torso fo the hotwater bottle cover. Place a hotwater bottle into the sweater, positioning the neck of the bottle into the turtleneck. Measure and cut around the bottle allowing for seams. Turn the sweater inside out, sew up the seams at the sides and add velcro at bottom to slide the hotwater bottle in and out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Travel the World

Tired of the daily grind? Take a voyage around the world without the accompanying hassles. Savour the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of another culture by visitng a restaurant whose cuisine is different from your own. Try to find one whose food, decor and music creates the ambience of their culture.

If you're on a budget, or love to cook, consult a cookbook and try some new dishes. Add to the theme of the meal by selecting background music and setting your table to reflect the featured country. You can travel somewhere different once a week or daily, no passport required!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eat Somewhere New

They say change is as good as a rest so why not eat somewhere new? No, I'm not suggesting trying a new restaurant, I mean enjoying a meal somewhere different in your home. Most people eat in either the kitchen or dining room. Why not try some place else? If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, try moving a table in front of a blazing fire. If you don't have a fireplace, then how about a large window with a nice view? Setting the table with candles, some elegant linens, perhaps a flower or two and your best china, can make the usual seem unusual. Eating your evening meal in a new location will make it seem like a special occasion.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Make Maple Syrup Taffy

Making maple syrup taffy is so easy, delicious and fun! It's a great winter activity that children will love.

To make: Boil 1 cup of maple syrup in a pot on the stove, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage. To test, let a drop of hot syrup fall into a glass of cold water. If the syrup forms a soft ball at the bottom of the glass, it's ready. Pour a small amount in a line on clean snow or crushed ice. Roll syrup around a spoon or popsicle stick. Eat and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Savour a Pot of Homemade Soup

I arrived home today after work only to find that the electricity was out. With all my family at various activities, I let myself into the house and made my way through the dark to the kitchen where I discovered that my husband had left a collection of candles, flashlights and a kerosene lantern for me on the kitchen table. After lighting the lantern and a wide assortment of candles, I was delighted to find that there was homemade turkey vegetable soup waiting in a large pot for me. And even better it was still hot. My husband had it cooking on our gas stove, turning it off only when he left for a fitness session.

As I sat at the kitchen table eating the soup by the light of the candles and lantern I realized that it was too dark to allow me to read. It gave me a whole new appreciation for those who lived before the invention of electricity. Imagine how many activities had to be curtailed with the setting of the sun. No wonder people lived more in tune with the seasons, taking their cue from the changing light levels, going to bed earlier as the dark advanced and getting up earlier to take advantage of the light.

What a comfort it was to have that hot soup. Soup is one of my favourites at any time, but especially on winter days. And nothing beats homemade soup. There are countless great recipes out there for soup and it really is quite simple to cook up a pot. I hope that you'll enjoy some too this winter. Soup's on!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Move Things Around

Moving your furniture around is a no cost way to make a change to your living space. Working with things I already had, I changed my living room a little. In this corner of the room, I not only moved the furniture around and changed the artwork, but I also created a less cluttered feel by eliminating some of the objects altogether. The change has really lightened the look of the room, and my spirits too.

Moving things around is an easy way to create a change during a month where we often feel stuck or stagnant. Play a little, see things in new ways, don't be afraid to try new placements. If they don't work, keep moving things around until you attain a result that pleases you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Visit a Greenhouse

Visit a greenhouse or indoor nursery for a green oasis in our present snowy desert. Starved for summer's greenery, having a short reprieve among the plants of a greenhouse can lift the spirits.

With this in mind I made my way to a lovely tropical greenhouse, housed in an old Victorian-like structure. Imagine my disappointment and shock when I found it empty. With further dismay I learned that it had closed for repairs in the fall of 2008, to open in winter of 2009. Obviously, the work has stopped for one reason or another. A small haven, for those of us who are garden-deprived in the midst of winter, has been lost. If you are lucky enough to have a public greenhouse in your city, why not pay it a visit?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Take Off the Chill with a Hot Drink

Hot drinks can take the chill off the coldest day. How about some Mexican hot chocolate? It's easy, just prepare a mug of hot chocolate as you normally would, and add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a pinch of chili powder. Stir.

If chocolate isn't your thing (is that even possible?) why not try a vanilla steamer? Heat up a mug of milk and add a teaspoon of vanilla and perhaps a sprinkle of ground nutmeg. Sweeten to taste. For a white hot chocolate, add some shavings of white chocolate to the vanilla steamer recipe and stir until melted.

Other possibilities to consider are hot apple cider, chai tea or any other hot beverage that you fancy.

Won't you join me in a hot drink? We're past the half-way mark in February and that's definitely something to raise a mug too!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Enjoy a Valentine

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Fear not, there is still time to create a little Valentine magic with this simple idea. It is as easy as cutting out some paper hearts... just like you did in primary school. I used origami paper, but any pretty paper will do: wrapping paper, leftover wallpaper, stationery, whatever you have on hand. You may need to glue your paper to card stock to stiffen your hearts, but that is as complicated as it gets. Pierce the heart, thread a cord or ribbon through, and hang. You could also use these as gift tags. Lovely and easy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Indulge in Chocolate

One of the benefits of Valentine's Day falling in February is that there's lots of chocolate around. I can't think of a month where chocolate is more welcome. So indulge a little. A small amount of good chocolate goes a long way

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Behold the Beauty Beneath

We tend to miss the lusciousness of summertime trees dressed in their green finery. But stripped to the bone, they reveal their essence, the bare beauty beneath.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Exercise Outdoors

Whether it's skating, skiing, tobogganing or some other winter activity, try to get out in the air and get some exercise. Sunshine, fresh air and physical exertion all help to combat the "February blues".

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take a Walk

Take a walk in the sunshine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stay in Touch

When it's cold and gloomy oustside, we tend to spend more and more time indoors. To ease the isolation, stay in touch by writing a "real" letter to someone you care about. The recipient will be pleased and surprised to receive this thoughtful gift. If you know someone who is housebound, a letter can bring a much needed connection. Imagine their delight in knowing that you were thinking of them. It will make both of you feel good. So think about who you know who might really be touched by your efforts. Perhaps it's not someone who is housebound but who is feeling low or going through a rough patch. After all it is February!

The act of writing a letter can be a creative act in many ways and a means of expression, so gather together all your stationery. Choose what feels right for your mood or the recipient. If you have coloured pens and stickers, get them out too. Want to go the extra mile? Then seal the envelope with sealing wax and use pretty postage stamps to provide the finishing touch.

This thoughtful gesture is all the more meaningful in this age of e-mailing, when letters on paper are such a rare and uncommon pleasure.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make a Snowman

How long has it been since you made a snowman? Whether it's a snow person, snow pet or any other snow sculpture, this traditional winter activity gets you outdoors to do something creative. As long as you have the right type of snow, this needn't take all afternoon. The simple traditional snowman requires little more time and effort than rolling three balls and adding decorative details with the use of items from around the house. But the old-fashioned result is so warm and comforting.

Try to place your cheery character in view of a window so that you can check on him from inside whenever you need a little pick-me-up. Snow figures are guaranteed to make you smile.

This charming fellow was made by a neighbour. It's time for me to get a little fresh air and make one of my own! Won't you join me?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Listen to the Sounds of Summer

It seems to me that part of the trouble with winter is not only that we are colour-deprived, but a lot of the sounds from nature are stifled in this season. That blanket of snow muffles a lot of what we normally hear, there are less birds about, no insects, no rainstorms. Out on a woodland trail it can be stunningly quiet.

So why not re-introduce some of those wonderful sounds from nature that we associate with the summer: rain, thunderstorms, ocean surf, and streams to name just a few. There are lots of recordings available of these evocative sounds. Take some time to relax and meditate. Lie down or take a bath while you listen to some of your favourite soothing, calming summer sounds from nature. Close your eyes and allow yourself to visualize the images to go with what you are hearing. Allow yourself to drift away to summer for awhile.

So what will it be? Birds and insects in a sunny meadow or the gurgling water of a fast-running stream?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Luxuriate in the Bath

On cold February afternoons or evenings enough can't be said for the merits of taking a long leisurely bath. Deliciously warm or steamy hot, it's your choice... but take the time to add a little atmosphere. Light some candles and add a little aromatherapy by adding fragrance to the water. The choices are endless: bath oils, a drop of your favourite perfume or essential oil, or go natural and drop a few lemon or orange slices into the water, perhaps some dried lavender or another herb. Whatever you find the most pleasant.

Lower the lights and enjoy the scented air. Close your eyes and let the day's tensions melt away. Hot baths are great for reducing achy stiff joints and sore muscles. They can soothe, relax, invigorate or refresh... a welcome antidote to the cold and monotony of February days.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Escape into a Good Story

Reading can be a wonderful pastime at any time of the year, but in the winter it can provide a much-needed escape. When you're feeling stuck in a season filled with cold dull days, books can transport you to another place. Whether that place is new to you or somewhere you've been before, the choice is as simple as the book you reach for.

Movies, too, can help you feel like you've been away, enabling you to "travel" somewhere exotic for a short time.

A good story (in a book or movie) that's set in some far-off destination is an affordable and easy way to get away. Don't overlook your local library as a free source for some armchair travelling. Bon voyage!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feed the Birds

Feed the birds! If you haven't already got a birdfeeder outside your window, you might want to consider putting one up. What a pleasure to watch the birds come to feed. Being indoors, you have a toasty perch from which to watch our feathered friends. It makes for moments of delight throughout the day, especially when a cardinal, bluejay or some other flashy species stops by. And it makes you feel just plain good to have provided an energy source when the temperatures plummet and food gathering becomes difficult for these wee creatures.

The chickadees are frequent visitors and become comfortable enough to take seed from your hand. Children love this!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time to Celebrate!

Time to celebrate! It's the Chinese New Year and 2011 is the year of the Rabbit. Which means that we're in for a time of diplomacy, peace, harmony, luck and prosperity.

The colour and pageantry that accompanies the Chinese New Year couldn't come at a better time. And if you're fortunate enough to live in a city that has a Chinatown, there will be all sorts of events to celebrate this most important of Chinese holidays for you to attend. Check your local listings as they will surely spill into the coming weekend.

Pictured here is the Ottawa Chinatown Royal Arch completed in October 2010. The blue central panel reads "Ottawa Chinatown". This beautiful arch was painted by artisans from Beijing.

Because it is the year of the Rabbit, I couldn't resist buying some creamy White Rabbit candies to share. I was first introduced to these yummy sweets in high school when my friend, Heather, took me to her parents' grocery store in Montreal's Chinatown.

Aren't the red "Lee See" envelopes gorgeous! Traditionally, money is placed into these envelopes to be given away for luck.