tin cans for herbs

Recycled herb planters and an upcycled wooden ladder garden display

My father has always been an avid ‘dumpster diver’. Not quite literally, but as far back as I can remember, he’s always eyed other people’s end-of-driveway trash and scouted for reusable items. Call it resourceful, frugal or ‘green’, he’s made some surprisingly good finds in his time.

Naturally, he passed on a similar love of upcycling to my sisters and I, as this post is proof. On a recent morning I swerved and stopped the car in front of two garbage cans, hopped out,  and opened my hatchback. A distressed, paint-splotched wooden step ladder was tiredly leaning up against one of the bins, awaiting crunch time in the garbage truck.

Thinking of the obvious potential of this find, I quickly loaded the ladder into the car, and sped away. On the way home, I recalled a few projects I had seen on Pinterest. There was this bookshelf, which isn’t one bit safe for my house with small children, and this garden planter, minus the moldy boots. (It’s just my opinion, but workboots are one thing of which world needs less upcycling…)

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Spring cleaning the kitchen (homemade lemon-scented cleaner)

spring cleaning with natural ingredients on simplebites.net

If anyone thinks that my kitchen is always spotless, with perfectly polished stemware, gleaming counters, and an neat silverware drawer, think again. Like you, I also battle paper clutter, have charcoal buildup on the bottom of my oven, and that silverware drawer? Full of crumbs.

Oh, and there’s a daily collision of dishes in the sink.

sink and sunshine

Honestly, it was the fresh tulips and the sunshine that saved me that day. I’m holding out for Spring, but she is toying with us up here.

I had hoped to tackle a few problem areas in the kitchen last week over spring break, but who was I kidding? Instead we had unseasonably warm weather and I kept busy with three kiddos. We went tobogganing, lunched with friends, and hiked through the forest looking for signs of spring.

We also cooked together, a lot, and we planned for and partied through, Clara’s first birthday. Cleaning, as per usual, got bumped to the back burner.

Do you carry out a deep clean in your kitchen each spring? I rather feel as though I should, but I can never settle on that ‘free’ day to follow through. To be fair, I keep my pantry and (most) cupboards in tip-top shape, thanks to containerization and storing food in jars, so they are not the problem. I also stay on top of refrigerator organization, although the front door and handle are on the sticky side. Again.

My obvious trouble zones are the stove/oven, cupboard fronts and counter-top sprawl, windows, and those pesky Tupperware drawers – I have two, so twice the mess.

These areas cannot afford to be ignored, so I’ve decided to tackle them one at a time, here and there over the next month. I can surely fit 20 minutes of cleaning into my day, into my week, and I challenge you to do the same.

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Tips for how to travel to Mexico with kids

Traveling with kids in Mexico

Nearly 15 years ago, my older brother Josh and I embarked on a 3-month backpacking trip through South East Asia and Mediterranean Europe; we had plenty of adventures over those weeks. This month, traveling together for the first time since those Birkenstock-wearing, hitch-hiking days, we reunited in a developing country – but on this trip, we had our spouses and children along for the experience.

I have plenty of travel experience under my belt, which is why I noticed early on that this trip felt different. For the first time, I was seeing a foreign country through the eyes of my children, and in a sense, anew.

Our little ones are at a perfect age for traveling. Noah is our avid reader, happy to spend an entire flight with his nose in a chapter book. Mateo is our happy-go-lucky free-spirit, happy to skip along holding my hand. And little Clara is still content in a Snugli and completely portable, as she sleeps anywhere cradled in-arms.

Traveling in Mexico with Kids

Although we’re not quite ready to embark on a round-the-world adventure like our friends Ryan & Stephanie with their four kids, we do hope to keep traveling with our three because we feel it is an important investment into their future. For one thing, it opens their young minds to sights, sounds, smells and experiences that can never be learned through schooling or a slew of Planet Earth DVD’s.

We Wimbushes aren’t really the type to book an all-inclusive vacation at a resort (although I understand the appeal) as we like to closely experience the culture of a foreign country and introduce it to our children. During this trip we bartered for handmade wares at the bustling city market, selected our daily avocados and bananas alongside the locals at the produce stand, and stood in line for goat tacos and cinnamon-sugar coated churros from the street carts.

Traveling with kids in Mexico

Our reunion in Mexico, together also with my two sisters and their families, was so utterly fantastic, that I couldn’t not share a mere snapshot of our time with you. I kept my big camera handy and jotted a few notes down here and there from my favorite experiences, like yesterday’s story of finding magic in a small tortilla factory.

Although I was on a nearly-full digital vacation, I found I missed writing, and every so often, a nugget of useful information would nestle itself in a mental file folder labeled “Mexico”.

Hopefully, there’s enough of those nuggets assembled here and in the posts to come to give you some takeaway and encourage you to travel with your kids.

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Sunday dinner: save time with my favorite oven to table cookware

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Danny and I inherited an old lidded bean pot from his mother, the likes of which can be found in most any antique shop across Quebec. No doubt this brown stoneware pot has slow-cooked countless batches of baked beans, and delivered them to the table to be served up in rustic style. It is this oven to table method for feeding the family that I embrace wholeheartedly.

Since Sunday dinner is truly more about bringing family and friends together over a meal instead of trying to impress, there’s no need to dirty your fancy serving dishes for the occasion, should you have any (I don’t!).  I am willing to guess you’d rather go for an afternoon walk in the snow or take a snooze with the cat instead of washing extra dishes.

Oven to table cookware is one practical solution to help save time and effort spent on Sunday dinners. Whether your style is stoneware, enamelware, or vintage Pyrex, there is sure to be a collection of cook- and bake-ware that is pretty enough for the dinner table. Now, you’ll still need a salad bowl and a bread basket, but there’s no reason why the main and side dishes can’t be served up straight from the oven.

Over the years, I’ve put together a respectable collection of oven to table cook- and bake-ware that serves our family well. It’s somewhat of a motley collection, but the pans are very functional, and I can recommend any one them for your kitchen collection.

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How to tune-up your kitchen for 2013: 9 easy steps

It feels like we’re having a record winter for snow and I haven’t been interested in going anywhere unless I absolutely have to. Today, unfortunately, I’m slotted for the dentist’s chair and a double extraction, but you can be sure that the rest of the weekend will be quiet.

By the way, thank you for all the tips on Facebook for my post-op recovery. No straws. I got it.

Being snowed in means that I’ve had some time to organize my kitchen for the new year. Nothing too drastic, more of a tune-up than an overhaul, but much needed all the same.

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