Out of all the crafty pursuits out here, there is one that has always eluded me – knitting. I love the idea of it and I can see why people enjoy it, but it was always a source of frustration for me. My Great Aunt and my Nana both would try to teach me whenever I asked, but every attempted scarf ended up getting just long enough to make a small dishtowel before I gave up. I would drop stitches, pick up extra stitches, completely forget the patterns.

how-to-knit-infinity-scarf
It had been a good five years since I last attempted to knit when my sister showed up last Christmas with new knitting needles and skeins of yarn for both of us to try to knit an infinity scarf. We watched videos online (really helpful), looked up pattern ideas and settled on this one. A simple scarf pattern with alternating knit and purl stitches.

knit-purl-stitches
The pattern of alternating knit and purl stitches (called a “Seed Stitch”) makes this cute “x” pattern with little bumps for texture.
We knitted through that holiday season and sometime last January it got tucked away with the Christmas stuff and I completely forgot about it…until I found it this year! I pulled it back out, practiced a few stitches and then got to work.

how-to-knit-infinity-scarf
Over the first two weeks of January I knitted whenever I was watching TV or relaxing, and it didn’t take long to really see it take shape. It was so enjoyable that the day after I finished it, I went out and bought two more skeins of yarn and circular needles to make a cowl scarf, which I did the following week. Now I’m attempting to make a slouchy hat, and then next up I’m going to give crocheting a try.

yarn-knitting-needles
To make this knit infinity scarf you need 1-2 skeins of wool, depending on the weight and how chunky you want it. You’ll also need knitting needles. I went with Boye knitting needles (10″ long, Size 11 / 8MM).

knitting
I’m linking to videos that I’ve found really helpful. You start off by casting on an odd number of stitches, and leaving a long tail. I ended up doing 33 stitches, which made my scarf 8.5 inches wide. Then you alternate a knit stitch and then a purl stitch, bring the yarn with you for each stitch. I continued doing the stitches until the end of each row, and then started the next one in the knit-purl stitch pattern. By alternating the stitches on an odd number of stitches, it gives the cross pattern.
Once the scarf started to get long, I would check the length by wrapping it around my neck twice and looking in a mirror to see how it was sitting. In the end I made it 72″ long.

casting-off-knitting-sewing
To finish the scarf, you cast off the stitches and then take the long tail that was left at the beginning and put it through a large needle. Fold the scarf in half so that the two ends meet and use the needle and yarn to stitch them together.

how-to-knit-infinity-scarf
I love how soft and cozy this scarf is, and it’s easy to wrap it around – perfect on a chilly day like today. Now that I’ve got the hang of it, I’d love to try making it in a few more colours or maybe a really chunky version.

how-to-knit-infinity-scarf
If you’re looking to try knitting and want a beginner project that you’ll love at the end, I urge you to give this one a try. Once you get the hang of the knit-purl stitch pattern, it goes fast!

Over the holidays, my mom and great aunt went to a fancy cheese shop in the city and there was a promotion where you got a tub of ricotta with your order. Well, it turns out that they bought so much cheese that they came home with FIVE tubs of ricotta. There is only so much lasagna you can make, so my mom passed some onto me and I decided to play around with making an updated tiramisu recipe. I did a test run of it at our New Years Eve cocktail party and it turned out really good.

The ricotta has all the great texture and taste of mascarpone cheese, but with a lower fat content. Instead of sugar in this recipe, I used Truvia Baking Blend. I’ve been using it more often lately for quick breads, muffins and cookies, to help reduce how much sugar we eat. I portioned out the servings into mini 4 oz mason jars I had from when I made Individual Mini Mason Jar Apple Crisps but you could also easily double or quadruple this recipe to use a glass casserole dish or to fill more jars.

What you’ll need:

Makes 6 (4 oz) small mason jars · Printable Version

  • 15 Nilla vanilla wafer cookies (or ladyfingers)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or 2 tbsp Truvia Baking Blend)
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 1 tbsp cocoa for dusting

whipping-ricotta-mixture
In a stand mixer, blend together ricotta, cream cheese, sugar (or Truvia Baking Blend) and 1 tsp of the coffee for 2-3 minutes.

mr-christies-nilla-vanilla-wafers
I always have a hard time finding ladyfingers that are peanut and nut free, so I used Nilla vanilla wafers instead, and I find that they taste even better with their mild vanilla flavour.

easy-individual-ricotta-tiramisu-jars
Meanwhile, soak cookies for 1-2 sec in remaining coffee, and place one in the bottom of each jar.

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This month has really made me feel like humans were meant to hibernate in January. I’ve been feeling slow and sluggish, with the urge to stay under the covers (with two cozy little dogs) as strong as ever. But life still goes on (even in the bitter cold months) and we all need to find ways to keep us motivated. Here are ten ways that I keep myself organized and on track, even when it’s really busy or out of control. Taking 10-15 minutes here and there to try any of these exercises will help get you not only motivated but clear your mind as well.

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1. Never Leave a Room Empty-Handed

basket-organizing
One of the easiest ways to stay on top of the clutter is to make sure that you always take something with you when you leave the room. If I really need to tidy up, I’ll grab a basket and toss in everything that doesn’t belong in a room, and go around to return it. If you live in a two storey house, leave a basket at the bottom of the stairs to toss in anything that needs to go back upstairs, and do the same at the top. It will save you many trips up and down to return things.

 

2. Do a Brain Dump

brain-dump-computer
On any given day I have hundreds of things I need to do, appointments to schedule, ideas that I’m worried I’ll forget or just any kind of general mind clutter. It can leave you feeling stressed, worried and disorganized.

The easiest thing is to do a brain dump. Take a pen and paper (or open a word document on your computer) and write it ALL down. Even little things that you don’t think are that important and break it down into steps if you need to. I usually do this about once a month and it always shocks me how many things I come up with that weren’t right in the forethought of my mind.

Now take that list and break it up into how you’re going to accomplish these thing: If they’re errands you need to do, book them in your calendar. If it’s a list of ideas, add them to a notebook. If it’s something crucial, highlight it and make it a priority. I usually pick 5 things from that list that I can do right away that day.

Releasing all that mental clutter will help free up your mind, and it gives you a solid list in front of you of things that need to be done. It can be daunting to see that list (and you probably can’t finish it all in a day!) but now you can break it up into manageable pieces and create a game plan to accomplish it.

 

2. Clean Out Your Purse and Wallet

kate-spade-purse-vera-bradley-wallet
Whenever I get really busy and stressed out, one of the first places that gets disorganized is my purse. Getting it back in shape is like a deep breath – and I usually find something in there that I didn’t even know I was looking for.

Take five minutes and empty everything out from all the pockets. Throw away gum wrappers, organize your lip balms, hair elastics, tissues etc into one pouch and file away any receipts you need. I also take this time to reorganize my wallet, putting together any gift cards, taking out loose change to go in our jar, double checking if coupons have expired and throwing out anything I don’t need.

Every time I do this, I’m always shocked by how much comes out of there. I did it the other morning and had a stack of receipts that I could throw out. I’d been dragging them around town all this time!

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Over the weekend Garrett and I got working on a project that had been on our minds for some time. We’ve been looking for a bench that would give the dogs a window seat to look out at the street below and give us some much needed storage. When we couldn’t find anything that fit the bill we decided to take the plunge and build it ourselves.

diy-window-seat-storage-bench
Ok, so you know how usually you go into a DIY project and you anticipate that something is going to go wrong or a measurement will be off or you forget something crucial at the store…none of that happened this time. We kept looking over at each other with these dumbfound faces saying “it really can’t be this easy”. Every time Garrett said that out loud I warned him it was jinxing us, but it never happened. This is hands down the easiest project that we’ve done together…and it made us excited about more projects to come in 2015.

behr-paint-new-year-new-colors
The drive to get the bench done this month came about when Behr Paint challenged the Behr DIY Experts to take on a project that we didn’t accomplish in 2014 or that we were excited to do in the New Year, using the 2015 Color Trends. The moment I read this, Garrett and I knew this was the perfect time to get our butts in gear and make the window seat a reality.

Psst - Behr Paint is also hosting a fun Pinterest contest right now where one winner will receive a $500 VISA gift card! To enter pin your favourite trend-inspired look (like maybe this project right here!) on Pinterest before Tuesday, January 27th, 2015. Then, copy and paste the link of the pin to this Facebook contest page and enter your information.

Ok, so I’m going to back up to earlier this year when we first noticed the need for something at the window. I was cleaning up the apartment and stacked the dogs’ beds on top of some boxes by the windows, while I washed the floor and came across this little scene. Two cozy little pooches, hanging out and watching the world go by. At first I thought it was a fluke…

…but then I caught them doing it again and again. Any time we had a box, a chair or even a basket of blankets by the window, there was a dog on it.

It became clear that our little guys really liked looking out this window (and thankfully didn’t bark very often while doing so), and the idea of a real window seat was born.

 

diy-window-seat-storage-bench
I measured out the window to see how wide we could go and how high we wanted it, so that the dogs could see out over the ledge. In the end we decided on 31″ across, 16-1/4″ inches deep at the top and 20″ tall with the cushion.

I knew I wanted to use this piece to add a little more colour and drama to our living room (which is otherwise beige, beige, beige). That’s when Behr Paint’s Blue Clay from the 2015 Color Trends caught my eye. It was a great moody colour with some real depth to it.

diy-window-seat-storage-bench
Then I was able to find light grey-green upholstery fabric for a steal ($4/meter!) to go with it and some seagrass baskets that I’ve had for a while.

For the wood we went with maple plywood. A 4 ft x 8 ft piece was $55, but it gave us everything we needed for this project and leftover pieces for other projects as well. I was able to draw out the cuts we needed to maximize the pieces leftover…

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While trying to figure out what to do for dinner last night I had three stipulations:

  1. I wasn’t leaving the house to get groceries so it had to be stuff that we already had in the fridge and cupboards.
  2. It couldn’t take longer than an hour to put together and have on the table.
  3. There had to be cheese involved…and only 2 cups because that’s what we had left. (see #1)

cheesy-chicken-broccoli-rice-skillet
Thankfully I was able to fulfill all three! This recipe was put together on the fly last night and it turned out so good that I just had to share it (poorly lit nighttime photos and all). You better believe I packed this in my lunch today!

Makes 6 servings · Printable Version
What you’ll need:

  • 1-1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice (about 1/2-2/3 cup dry rice; rice generally triples when cooked)
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli florets and stems, chopped
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 12-ounce can 2% or regular evaporated milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice according to package directions. In the last 7 minutes of cooking, add broccoli on top of the rice to allow it to steam. Replace the lid and continue to cook the rice.

Meanwhile, in a large oven-safe skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Place chicken in skillet and cook for 10 minutes. Flip chicken, cover with a lid, reduce to low and cook on the other side for another 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

(**I only needed two chicken breasts for this recipe but it made sense to cook up the whole pack and freeze the chopped up leftovers for future casseroles. I got 4 extra cups of cooked chicken for no extra work!)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring burner back up to medium and melt butter in skillet. Add onions, garlic and celery and saute until softened.

Pour in wine and stir to deglaze pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow wine to evaporate. Stir in flour and cook for one minute.

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