THE PERFECT HOLIDAY CHEESECAKE

Desserts are front and center at any holiday occasion. Cookies and tarts, fruits cakes and mousse, and of course my favorite–cheesecake!

I don’t make cheesecake often because for one thing it’s freaking expensive, and two it is SO decadent that I cannot keep it in the house, so I limit them to holidays. Mini egg cheesecake for Easter, pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving and cranberry cheesecake for Christmas. This year though, I am whipping up a new one for you!

This rich and creamy dessert is sure to please even the pickiest eater. Perfect for potlucks, make them into bars for a cookie exchange, or as the perfect end to a holiday feast, this cheesecake will get you ALL the love this Christmas!

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup crushed pecans

1/3 caup butter

3 tbsp brown sugar

Filling

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs, separated

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon

1 tsp vanilla

Topping

2 tbsp butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cups crushed pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan begin melting butter. Using a food processor, pulse together pecans and graham crackers and stir into melted butter.

Spread graham cracker crumbs evenly over the bottom of a prepped  9 inch springform pan. Press down firmly and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, whip egg whites with two tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, egg yolks, lemon and vanilla. Next, gently fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture.

Before pouring filling over your crust, wrap the bottom of the pan in tin foil as it will bake in a water bath. Hold the pan an few inches off the counter and drop it two or three times to smooth the surface and remove air bubbles.

Place in a dish (I used a casserole dish) roughly filled with two inches of water. Bake in the oven. After 30-35 minutes, turn off the oven and open the front door to release some heat. Close door and allow cheesecake to set in the oven for another 30 minutes or until the edges begin to round.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the pecan toffee topping.

For the topping:

In a medium saucepan, lightly toast pecans. Set aside and continue with your sauce by melting the butter into that now preheated pan. Be careful to cook on a low temperature as to not burn your butter. Once melted, add in brown sugar. Whisk until your sauce becomes silky and smooth. You are going to want to let this boil approximately two minutes while stirring on occasion. Add in your cream and whisk. Let simmer two minutes to allow sauce to become sticky. Remove from heat, fold in crushed pecans.

Add to the top of your cheesecake, serve, sit back, and enjoy all the oohs and yums that are sure to follow!

   

    

 

CHRISTMAS ADVENT

December has always been an exciting  time. The magic of the season, the community spirit and the extra special time shared together as a family are all reasons why I love this time of year. Now that I have a child, and one who is beginning to see the magic for herself, I am so excited to share traditions and experiences that I have known and loved.

To make the most of the season, I have made a list of all the things I cannot wait to do with my little family!

Photo by Ashley Bryce Photography

1- Write a Letter to Santa : I know some people do this in November, but I like to save this for December 1st. Our Elf, Sparkle, arrives with a special envelope for a letter and of course the story of why she’s here. While yes, Christmas should be about presence over presents, like it or not, presents are a part of it. We limit gifts throughout the year and much prefer to receive experiences (stay tuned for some of our favorite gifts of experiences), but the excitement of Santa is something I am excited to share with her, and I love that she can choose something she really wants. 🙂

2- Sponsor a Senior : I love this program sponsored by London Drugs, and is one of the many ways to teach community spirit as well as show the importance of giving not just receiving. Each London Drugs location partners with a local senior center. At the front of the store is a tree with many tags. Grab a tag that lists the senior you are sponsoring, go around and select the items on the list and fill a stocking!

3- Holiday Photos : In case you hadn’t noticed, I love themed photo shoots and every Christmas I set up a holiday shoot for my little love. It’s fun, it’s an adorable keepsake and I use the photos for holiday cards, gifts and calendars.

4- Decorate the Tree : Decorating the Christmas tree is always a blast in our house. Reminiscing about favorite ornaments, rocking around the Christmas tree to our favorite tunes and drinking our favorite holiday drinks, this tradition is full of fun and family tradition.

5- Make Holiday Cards : I know the internet is taking over the world, but I am one of those people that still loves to send out holiday cards. I make my own, write a special note and send them in (gasp) regular post! I still think there is something special about a hand written note and although the price of postage sucks, it’s the thought that counts, right?

6- Watch the Polar Express, drink hot chocolate and make sugar snowflakes (Recipe coming soon on the blog)

7- Ride the Polar Express : I love love love the Polar Express and am so excited about this experience. My daughter LOVES trains and each ride includes a cookie, music and hot chocolate!

8- Visit Santa : While not all kids are thrilled about sitting on Santa’s lap…and to be fair when you think about it we tell kids to be afraid of strangers, but then tell them to sit on a stranger’s lap…but it is a must in our family. Bonus when Santa plays along and mimics the child’s behavior in the photo! Last year my daughter cried so Santa cried whereas my friend’s daughter slept so Santa slept–too cute!

9- Read the Grinch Who Stole Christmas : We actually try and read a holiday themed book each night. Our elf brings us a basket of wrapped books as an advent calendar. Every day we unwrap a book, cuddle up on the couch and read a holiday classic!

10- Bake Cookies: Passing on family recipes is one of my favorite things to do with my kiddo. While some of our recipes are family secrets that I promised never to share, sugar cookies are another holiday hit! I love these because my daughter can cut the shapes out herself and really feels like she’s contributing.

11- Christmas Craft : We love getting crafty together and there is no better way than with a themed craft! Stay tuned to the blog to find out what this year’s craft is!

12- Cookie Decorating : Now that the cookies are baked, cooled and ready it is time to decorate! While I do a lot of the decorating myself as my kiddo cannot hold her attention long enough to work through the batch, this is a fun activity that she is proud to share.

13- Donate Used Toys & Clothes : Many places accept gently used clothes, books, and toys around the holidays that are passed on to families in need.

14- Walking in a Christmas Wonderland : A lot of communities have begun decorating parks, lakes and peers with beautiful light displays. This is an easy last minute or a plan ahead activity that gets you out in the crisp air, and enjoying the community spirit.

15- VanDusen Gardens : This outdoor light display is truly magical. I love Christmas lights, I think there is something so beautiful about them, and as lame as it sounds, I think they are pure magic. VanDusen Gardens is truly breathtaking, and perfectly captures the magic of the season!

16- Watch a Favorite Christmas Movie : Maybe The Grinch, Charlie Brown Christmas, Jingle all the Way, etc. Cozy up on the couch in your pajamas, pop some popcorn and enjoy a cup of apple cider together.

17- Make a Snow Angel : Okay, so living in Vancouver this one gets a little trickier, but if this year is anything like last year (which they are predicting it will be) there should be at least one or two occasions for it. If not, there are always snow covered locations like Grouse Mountain–or if you’re feeling courageous Whistler–that will give you the snow fix you’ve been waiting for all year!

18- Visit a Senior Center : With all the baking we’ve done this season we love to share the goodies. We take some goodies to a local senior center along with some cards to spread some holiday cheer.

19- Bright Lights at Stanley Park : So many beautiful lights and displays in the heart of Stanley Park. Admission is by donation and the train is an added fee but totally worth it!

20- Make an Ornament : A tradition is to get a new ornament each year, but I love the idea of having my Little Love make her own addition to the tree and give as presents to the Grandparents. It’s been a bit tricky to create ornaments that aren’t in your face kid made, but they are always cherished.

21- Holiday Drive : This is probably one of my favorite traditions. Piling in the car, picking up a holiday drink, blasting some Christmas tunes, drive around and see all the beautiful Christmas light displays that your wonderful neighbors have created.

22- Build a Gingerbread House : Let’s face it, these things rarely get eaten, but they are always the perfect addition to any holiday decor!

23- Have Yourself a Merry Friendly Christmas : Not just a time to connect with family, Christmas is also a time to share with friends. We love to invite friends over for games and tapas and celebrate the season.

24-Christmas Eve traditions! An easy night of games, tapas, family, setting out cookies for Santa, and ending the night with a reading of The Night Before Christmas.

25- Christmas Day! Oh I cannot wait for Christmas day!! Seeing her little face shine as she walks in the room to see that Santa has visited. The amazing food, the carols, the family togetherness, all of it!

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to hear them – andrea.aresse@gmail.com

Tis the season to share holiday magic with the ones you love the most!

Roasted Veggie Bowl

I love veggies, and I love a meal that incorporates lots of them. I love prepping lunches for the week because with a busy schedule it becomes too easy to grab a less nutritious lunch…if you’re lucky to grab a lunch at all!

Roasted veggie bowls are an easy way to pack a lot of nutrients into a simple meal. I usually make this up on a Sunday and divide it into containers for the week. Of course you can choose to add a protein like chicken to this bowl, but I find it is delicious and filling enough as is.

Prep time : 15 minutes

Cook time : 40 minutes

Serving : Approximately 5 portions

Ingredients

1 large yam

1 large red onion

2 zucchini

1 yellow pepper

1 small red cabbage

2 cups of preferred grain (I chose brown rice for this one)

1 clove crushed garlic

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp pepper

Sauce

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 tsp dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut up all vegetables. I chose to cube most of the veggies except for the cabbage which I cut into strips. Toss all veggies in apple cider vinegar, garlic and pepper.

Lay out on a prepped cooking sheet. I use parchment paper to reduce sticking and help with clean up. Bake in oven for approximately 40 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

In the meantime cook your grains.

While this is tasty enough on its own, you can choose to add the optional sauce. Simple to make, all you need is to mix the dill with the Greek yogurt and voila!

Portion out into containers for the week, or serve and enjoy right away.

 

WHEN A MOM BREAKS

Two years ago, September pulled me into darkness. The floor broke beneath me and I free fell with an anchor tied to my ankles. It was terrifying, it was painful, but it also showed me the unbelievable strength that can be found in struggle.

Fast forward to last month, and you may have noticed that blogging was virtually non existent on my end. Well, October was another roller coaster month. Granted not nearly as horrific as 2015, but hard non the less. You know the picture of the Cat in the Hat balancing on a ball holding twelve thousand things in his hand? That was me. Between being busy creating products for this month’s launch, attending seminars to further my professional development, taking on a seasonal night shift, dealing with extreme mom guilt and attempting to keep an active toddler happy despite the nightly sobbed question of “why are you leaving me?” October was hard. Add to it a heart filled by some really great news only to be turned around and shattered by a heartbreaking diagnosis, and I was still okay because I had to be…and then I met Neil Patrick Harris and my life imploded.

One of the things I learned at one of the seminars I attended was that in a crisis you can either look for the danger or the opportunity, but what was left out was that you also need to process your feelings. You need to allow yourself to break before picking yourself back up and being that ultimate beacon of strength people are depending on you to be. Sweeping things under the rug only feeds into the eye of the storm of emotions swirling beneath the surface.

Meeting NPH was like that final rush of adrenaline before your body begins to process the trauma of the car crash. The surge of energy overwhelmed my already shaken carbonation and just like the can of pop you foolishly put in the freezer, I exploded. All the emotions, all the heart aches, all the pressures I had been putting on myself, everything I had kept bottled up came rushing out in a very public, very embarrassing way.

When a mom breaks there’s not only the emotions from the why, but a horrible bout of guilt for not being enough. That awful feeling of not attaining the ridiculous illusion of motherhood perfection that is expected of you. While of course those expectations are bullshit, it’s still something that aches through you.

For me, the way I process emotions and work through struggles is through writing which was something I did not allow myself to do last month. I wasn’t brave. I was honestly afraid of what would come out and what I would be forced to deal with. Writing keeps me sane. It keeps me self aware, it allows me to let go of the toxic negativity that can easily build beneath the surface if left untouched, and it really allows me to let go, move on, and focus on the positives.

I hate the feeling of becoming a geyser. It really doesn’t do any good for anyone–especially me. I love that I found something that works to keep myself in check, and that helps me through the struggles, but I need to actually do it. I need to fit time in my day to actually take care of myself so that I can actually properly and effectively take care of others.

Strength isn’t about never breaking. It’s about picking yourself up, and finding a way to move forward. Strength isn’t about burying emotions, it’s about making sense out of hardships, clearing your mind to be able to face a problem head on.

The fact that you break isn’t what makes you weak, the only weakness is when you use that break as an excuse to not get back up again.

October broke me, but believe it when I say that November is going to see me rise.

RAINBOW MACAWRONGS

Today marks the first birthday of my best friend Tibby’s rainbow baby! It is wild to think that a year has gone by so quickly, and it is definitely a different experience watching a friend’s child grow. As quickly as time has flown with my little one, not seeing P everyday definitely makes the developments go by in a blink. One minute she’s a newborn, the next she’s a wild child walking around like a boss!

I remember living this day a year ago. The anticipation, the worry, and the sweet excitement when that little Squish (stubborn like her mother with two days of labor) entered the world! Not only was a child born, but a best friend too. When we got the invite to the hospital (because you WAIT to be invited, you don’t invite yourself) we packed up our own Little Love. With a special outfit on and a gift in hand, we were ready to introduce this future generation on BFFs.

On the weekend we celebrated P’s birthday. Tibby decided on a rainbow theme for her rainbow baby. It was beautiful! She made a wonderful rainbow cake, and decorated in colors as vibrant as her. Tibby asked me to make some macarons for the party, and then informed me of a nut allergy. Well, that kind of eliminated the macarons since they are almond based, so I decided to make up some macaWRONGS!

I started with my absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe–honestly, with Halloween parties and Christmas parties on the horizon, you are going to want to save this one. It is easy, makes a ton of cookies, and is oh so tasty! Next, I added a filling and sprinkles to create the illusion of a macaron, and I am THRILLED with how they turned out!

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup softened butter

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

5 cups all purpose flour

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp salt

Filling

1/4 cup softened butter

2 cups icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tbsp milk

Rainbow Sprinkles

Directions

In a large mixer with a paddle, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at a time and vanilla. Slowly add in dry ingredients until well mixed.

                     

Wrap all dough in plastic wrap and chill for a minimum of 2 hours. I usually chill over night as I like my kiddo to help with the steps, and it gets to be a bit much to do all in one day.

Once chilled, I separated out the dough and added coloring. Though I always prefer gel food coloring, I used liquid today as it was what I had available.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pull apart into smaller balls and combine all dough.

This will give you that really beautiful jeweled swirl.

Coat counter in a layer of flour to prevent dough from sticking. Roll out dough to roughly 1/4 inch thick. Using a circular cutter (I found a shot glass was the perfect size for this) begin cutting out dough.

When placing it on a prepped baking sheet, your spacing can be pretty close as the cookies should not expand much; however, if your dough is beginning to feel too soft and warm, consider rechilling it to ensure the shapes are kept.

Bake for 6 – 8 minutes.

Use this opportunity to mix the filling. Begin by creaming the butter with the vanilla and milk. Slowly add in icing sugar and mix until smooth.

Once cooled, begin matching cookies. Add a dollop of icing to the center of one cookie and smoosh together. Roll the edges in sprinkles.

Serve and enjoy!

APPLE PIE…FOR DINNER?

I know everyone focuses on pumpkins this time of year, but apples are definitely where it’s at. Apple cider, apple muffins, apple pie. They can be sweet, yet oh so savory! Bonus, your kids will love the whimsy of this dish.

Now I’m not a big pork fan. Out of all the meats it’s honestly the thing I love the least, but I have been making a lot of effort to branch out, expand my taste buds and try new things. After all, I can’t be telling my child to not be a picky eater while I’m sitting over here being, well, a picky eater.

As everyone knows apples go great with pork, and so I decided to combine something I love with something I don’t to see if I could make it into something tolerable. Well, let me tell you, this dish ended up ACTUALLY being so tasty, that I’ve already adapted it.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for apple pie dinner.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Lean ground pork

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion (chopped)

3 cloves ground garlic

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

Pepper to taste

2 apples (I’ve used gala and pink lady in the past)

1 pie crust

Optional- 1/4 cup goat cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large sauce pan over medium heat begin cooking pork, oil, onion and garlic. Use this time to wash and cube one of the apples. Half way through cooking, add apple cider vinegar, apple sauce and cubed apples. Reduce heat and cover pan until completely cooked.

While you’re waiting, thinly slice the second apple.

Pie assembly: empty contents of the pan into the pie shell. For a more savory dish, spread a layer of goat cheese in pie crust prior to adding filling. Cover in apple slices.

                     

Cook in oven for 18 minutes or until pie shell is completely cooked.

Serve with salad, rice or other preferred side.

Alternative

If you’re looking for a lighter option, try stuffing apples instead of a pie shell. Cook similar to stuffed peppers. My hubby and I are having a debate on which way is best, let me know what you think!

                     

HUSH LITTLE BABY

Dear Imperfect Stranger,

I’m going to ask a favor. It’s pretty big, and might seem damn near impossible, but I believe in you. Would you mind kindly shutting the hell up?

The fact that my child is not a big talker should really be no concern to you, so repeatedly telling me that she NEEDS to talk and that I SHOULD be making her talk is extremely aggravating. I know I’ve asked you in passing to butt out of my child’s speech, but apparently I was being too subtle.

Silly me.

If you do your own due diligence and look at the charts, you will see the incredible range there is for children  to hit milestones. There are of course indicators of possible delays or issues, but who are you to diagnose my child in the five seconds you’ve spent with them?

As always, it comes back to trust. Trust that I am on top of my child’s development and that I am not hiding under the covers wishing. Trust that I am aware of the fact that my child is not very vocal, and that perhaps I have already looked into it, and am taking the appropriate actions. Trust in my ability to parent before bringing in the cavalry, and lynching me for a snapshot.

Sanctimommies and know it alls are too dominant in our society today. Mothers should not feel the need to explain themselves or their parenting to an absolutely Imperfect Stranger because trust me, as easily as you are able to nit pick a snapshot of my day is as easily as I could nit pick yours.

With a sincere desire to see the good in all, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that your “advice” is coming from a place of concern, a place of encouragement, and not a place of high horsery; however, this is the only tip your delivery will be receiving today. Quit being a Buttinski, focus a little more on your own little darling who, as luck would have it, is currently over in the corner pushing another child out of the way of the play kitchen, and leave the doctoring to my child’s actual doctor.

Am I so excited to hear the absolutely crazy shit that will come out of my child’s mouth? YES! Is speech encouraged through activities, reading time and learning? Every damn day. Is my child more of an observer and a listener than a talker? Yup. Has all this been discussed with her doctor and are we currently awaiting an appointment with a speech therapist for due diligence? Hell yes because despite what you are implying with your critique, I am, in fact, not an ostrich with my head in the sand.

Imperfect Stranger, I do have hope that you and I can one day come to a mutual respect, but in the mean time it would be a big help if you could just mind your own business, or take a cue from my little listener and just be quiet.

Hush little baby…

XoXo

 

HOLY HELL, I’M A MOM

Okay, so I know I’m a mom. After all, I WAS there when the ten pound medieval flail exited my body, but every now and again I am hit with the realization of “Holy crap, I’m actually a mom, and THIS is actually mom life!”

As amazing as it is to be a mother, it involves doing things you never hoped, never dreamed, never conceived you’d be having to do. Motherhood illusions and naive expectations are constantly being shattered by the realities of what really goes into being a mom.

For instance…

Last night, out of nowhere during our nightly snuggles, my lovable little bug managed to projectile more vomit than Sheila on the Santa Clarita Diet–for real, sour milk everywhere! As disgusting as it was, that was not the thing on my mind. The thing on my mind was my poor, confused child.

Without hesitation, everyone around sprung into action. We tag teamed stripping down our exorcist, cleaning up the couch, and destenchifying the air. In a matter of minutes, the laundry was in and all signs of undigested dinner had been erased.

Growing up I have a vivid memory of my mom. I was five years old and had just come home from a surgery. Before being discharged and despite being nauseous from the anesthetic, the nurses gave me a delicious purple Popsicle which of course I devoured.

Well cut to being at home sitting in a rocking chair and the nausea overcame me. I turned to the side and began throwing up. Why has this memory stuck with me all these years? Well because it contains my mom swooping in and cupping my purple puke in her hands–SO GROSS!

That memory has vividly stuck with me, and growing up I could never understand how she could do that because I never understood being a mom.

Now I can.

In the span of two hours I had been thrown up on three times, my husband drenched once, and I had climbed into a lukewarm bath to both clean and cradle my sickened daughter.

After finally getting her to bed, I woke up to the horror of a broken diaper…I will let you fill in that blank.

Do I now understand how my mom could ever catch my vomit in her hands? Yup. Despite the bowls that we had strategically placed, did I at one point have to use myself as a human shield last night? Yuck and yes. Did I give my poo covered child a much needed hug this morning because she was feeling so awful about the mess? You bet I did, because mom life is not all sunshine and rainbows my friends. Mom life is about being there for your child no matter what…it also involves dealing with far more crap than ever thought possible.

Despite the wardrobe change and a shower do I still feel as though there are lingering bodily fluids on me? Yes, but I couldn’t care less because if being a waste disposal system is what my daughter needed from me, that’s the kind of mom she got. I might cringe thinking about it, but that sure as hell doesn’t stop me from doing it.

Now, I’m not saying we need to make this a habit or anything, but holy moly, I’m a mommy, and being a mom means that sometimes (let’s face it most of the time) you need to set aside your ego, suppress your own nausea and be the calm in the storm.

…and take advantage of those naps to rubba dub scrub away the absolute ick of your day!

 

ARE YOU THERE BOOBS? IT’S ME, ANDREA

The other day I was talking with my BFF, and as is the norm now, our discussion turned to “For real, WHAT happened to our bodies?” We were reminiscing about the good old days prebody apocalypse and laughing about the realities of what I affectionately refer to as Deflategate.

Now Tibby is far more of a fit mom than my 30 minute workout DVDs allow me to be, but hearing her say “it’s just not the same” definitely makes me feel a little less alone on this island (aka social media) in a sea of mommy illusions.

News flash: Growing a human inside of you will alter you. It’s inevitable. Even those fit moms you see under headlines of “no excuses” will have some part of them forever lost to the miracle of child birth. Tibby being involved with bikini competitions and what not will tell you the same (phewf). Smoke and mirrors are not just for magic shows my friends, so just relax and stop allowing yourself to feel the pressure of illusions.

The thing we probably laugh the most about are our boobs. When we were young and naive with the perkiness of fresh curves it was hard to understand why anyone would ever get a boob job. I mean who needs a triple G anyways? That to me just seemed like way too much maintenance and I felt like they would always just be getting in the way. Well cut to losing those postpartimplants you got before your little leech drained you dry, and laying on your back flat chested with your boobs in your armpits,  and it’s safe to say your perspective will change.

For the record I’m all about loving the skin you’re in. I’m a big advocate in the flawsome mindset. That being said, I can now completely understand the appeal of a little lift. While I personally might not feel the need to look like a Barbie when I leave my doctor’s office, who am I to judge the people that do? Recently, I was able to get veneers on two of my teeth. I remember talking to my mom as young as eleven about my teeth and how much I hated them. I can lose weight, I can grow my hair out, I can do this, or that to alter my appearance if that’s what I feel like, but no matter what, I couldn’t change my teeth, so I can understand and appreciate the fact that some people may feel like seeking help.

Honestly, I cannot tell you how many laughs Tibby and I have had over our boobs. The fact that I can fit an entire fist in my once overflowing cup is astounding to me. You know those weight loss pictures you see of people standing in their starting point jeans? Yea, it’s like that except WAY less empowering when it’s a shrunken cup. The fact that I wake up in the morning not knowing if I should be looking for a bra or a belt is laughable, but one of the many joys that, once again, people choose to omit from their motherhood narratives.

Do I love my new boobs? Not as much as I liked them before. Will I be rushing to get a boob job tomorrow? Nope. Am I siphoning money away now just in case I change my mind later? I was a Girl Scout after all and as the motto goes it’s important to always be prepared.

The moral of the story is to not judge what you don’t understand. Young and naive Andrea didn’t understand the need or desire for perky boobs because I was a freaking teenager and had them. Now that I’m a little older, I get it. No judgement. No thinking anyone needs to alter their body with smoke and mirrors, but an understanding that if that’s what’s going to make someone happy then who am I to be a judge or juror. Having my teeth done was amazing. It’s a perceived flaw that I no longer see when I look in the mirror or at photos. It made me happy, and yea it increased my confidence. It was an area of insecurity that is no longer an issue and I could not be happier with the decision. That being said, it was not an overnight decision, and remember, like the Tweety Bird you got on your ass in high school, it’s a decision that is easily reversed.

Motherhood can leave you with what feels like a stranger in the mirror. It’s important to find a way to love what you have, laugh at what you had, and do what works for you. So fair well tatas of old, and hello flap jacks! I guess my boobs were just an easy price to pay for the best treasure in the world.

LEARNING STATION-SIMPLE HACKS TO MAXIMIZE FUNCTION

I am a BIG fan of maximizing our living area and finding the most function in a tiniest spaces.

I’ve shared with you my toddler art station already:

Toddler Art Station

Now I am sharing with you my Learning Station! I call it a Learning Station because you can never be too old OR too young to learn. I’m in absolute love with this desk area because it is so versatile. I can use it for so many things from blogging to crafting, and it is a place where I can lead educational activities for my kiddo too!

I had been searching long and hard for just the right desk for the area. As we are limited on space, I decided the best place (the only place) for a desk was the hallway. As a result, I needed to find a narrow one.

I found a lot of great desks online, but as luck would have it, this gem appeared on a mom group bidding site I belong to, and I snatched it right up. Steal of a deal! It was a dark brown when I bought it, but I repainted it to white because for my personal aesthetic I feel better when things are light and bright.

Next came the task of making it as functional as possible. My goal was to create a suitable space for a not only a blogger and DIYer, but a creative and busy two year old as well. I started with a basket. It is a perfect home to all those miscellaneous items that end up at your desk. Things that are needed, just not at all times: paper clips, highlighters, post it notes, etc. It also doubles as a platform for my computer which, in the long run, will save my neck and posture. To finish it off, I added some flowers to bring a little life to it, but also to hide the chaos within!

                     

My pen/book planter is actually a decorative shelf turned upside down. It neatly keeps things away from my work space, and I love that, just like the basket, it can be easily moved to create a larger surface.

                     

Borrowing from my art station hack, I covered the top with a layer of white erase adhesive paper. I cannot encourage this enough for a desk! It is not only perfect for  notes and to do lists, but it is a great place for hang man and tic tac toe.

                     

On the wall I have both a white erase weekly and monthly calendar. It is great to organize your thoughts, and every successful person I have talked to has said how important it is to write down your goals–or promises as my mentor would say–to stay focused and on track. Deadlines and planning easily accessible to better manage your time. I have also attached a little inspiration, and have the means to display either photos or my daughter’s artwork.

To fill the space beside my desk, I found this awesome organizer. I love it because each drawer clips closed which eliminates the loss of what’s inside. I call this my daughter’s “busy tower” because each drawer houses an educational activity I know she will love.

                     

At the end of the day, you’re going to increase productivity the better you feel. It’s important to find the right desk for your needs. Things need to be accessible, but the clutter needs to be managed. Limit the distractions. Make it comfortable. Find ways to showcase accomplishments because you should be taking pride in your work. Be creative, think outside the box, and design a space that’s right for you.

Hopefully you found some tips and tricks to increase productivity and truly enable that love of learning!

If you’ve loved my look, but don’t have time to drive around hunting for those “just right” items, I highly recommend Wayfair. Similar items to all that I have shown you, shipped straight to your door!

XoXo