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Sort, Organize, Repeat

“Do you want to purge your closet?” That might be one of the most daunting sentences to many of us. Weirdly, however, it is one of my favourites! I believe it stems from my years working in the retail industry as a Visual Merchandising Manager. When I started that career, I didn’t even know there was a job that paid me to style AND organize an entire store. Purging your closet should not cast an overwhelming feeling upon you, but a liberating one. Our closet should be a place of tranquility and peace. Nobody should dread getting dressed in the mornings, or ever have to say, “Ugh, I have nothing to wear” when you are staring into a room stuffed with clothes. it is probably because your closet is just packed full of shirts, pants, shoes, belts and jackets that have gone out of style or, as some like to call an “organized chaos”. Or certain pieces have been buried deep in the back that you’ve forgotten about. Maybe you have just run out of space and your closet is just too cluttered and you are procrastinating on the task of reorganizing. Fret no more! Here are a few solutions that can get you feeling great about your closet space. Give it time Set aside time on a weekend, where you do not have prior engagements or appointments. You do not want to feel rushed, but you also do not want to spend 12 hours going through your closet. Find a bulk of time, say two hours, to tackle it. Section out your closet and pencil it into your agenda. Having it written down somewhere allows you to hold yourself accountable. Do not feel like you have to do your entire closet in one sitting - purging can be spread out. Pile it up Prior to starting, have boxes or bins with labels: keep, donate, toss. A new category I started using this year is “alter”. Having these distinct piles allows for clearer choices as you rummage through your closet. Keep = staple pieces (great fitting jeans, little black dress, structured blazer) Donate = items that you may have outgrown or a style/item that does not spark joy Toss = items that are not salvageable (does not fit you or anyone you know; was a super trendy piece that nobody else would wear; super worn out) Alter = items that are in great condition, but just need a small adjustment (may have a tiny hole or rip which can be easily sewn; jeans that fit amazingly, but just need a bit of tailoring at the hem) To hang or not to hang? As it is, hanging everything just seems like the easier method when organizing clothes. Though, there are certain items that should never be on a hanger. Knitwear is delicate and should always be folded. If you do not have a dresser, you can hang them but in a very specific manner. This method of hanging ensures it does not stretch out the fabric or cause the shoulders to have “hanger hoops”. (Basically, indentations of where the hanger lived on the sweater.) Save it by shaving it! Since we live in a country where our winters last at least half the year, our closets are full of sweaters. We live in attires that are cozy and warm. Do you ever notice, though, that with each wear of a sweater, it starts to form these tiny balls of fabric? The term for that is pilling. I despise it when that happens to my knitwear, but it is inevitable for some fabrics, even on your most beloved cashmere knits! Pilling tends to make the sweater look super old and worn out. Instead of constantly buying new sweaters, purchase a fabric shaver. It is inexpensive, lasts for a very long while and its end result? It makes your knitwear look brand new! Just like Kondo Many of you have probably heard of Marie Kondo - she has become an international household name for all things which spark joy. When I purge my closet, I use her method of asking, “Does it spark joy”? Essentially, as you pick up each item, does it spark joy in you within the first few seconds. If it does not - toss! A great rule of thumb I adhere to is if I have not worn it within the past year, it goes into the ‘donation’ pile. It goes into the ‘toss’ pile if I really cannot salvage it anymore. Marie Kondo has a super easy technique in folding every article of clothing, down to socks and underwear. Her folding technique allows for a very clear and organized manner in sorting your closet and dresser. Learn the technique on her YouTube channel. Runway ready Purging your closet also allows you to put on your own fashion show, even if it is just for yourself! Having fresh eyes on all the items you own helps create new outfits without actually spending money. Often, my train of thought while I purge my closet is “Ohh I DO have a (insert article of clothing here)!” That right there, saved me $60! If you have siblings, they can be your audience, as well as your fashion consultant. They could also benefit from the clothes you decided not to keep. One last quick tip! Try the “reverse hanger trick”. Whenever you pull something off a hanger from your closet, put it back but reverse the hanger. As the weeks and months go by, you’ll notice which items you wear often and ones you do not. So the next time you purge, it will be a lot easier to declutter!

Spruce Up Your Table

Small hacks to elevate your dinner space There are some days when you feel creative juices just flowing through you and you need to find an outlet. Why not put your creative energy into elevating your dinner table? Mealtimes together with the family are always special; you share great conversation, advice and laughs. You get to catch up with everybody on their day, news they may have to share and just strengthen those personal bonds. Here are some ideas for making those times around the dining table even more special: Herb It Up Use rosemary as foliage on the napkins or the plate itself. These herbs are available at any grocery store and usually come in multiple sprigs. You can make them into mini wreaths or use as single sprigs. They are so versatile and can be used as decoration in various ways: Tuck them into a napkin ring. Lay a sprig flat in the centre of the dinner plate or folded napkin. Make mini wreaths. Cut a sprig in half and place one in the empty beverage glass. You Can Sit with Us At weddings, guests are given assigned seating at each table. Why not recreate that special detail and make place cards for the family? Get creative and find fun paper or stationery you may have in your home. From wrapping paper, colored construction paper or cardboard boxes. You can also start from scratch and use blank paper and get to painting! This can even jump start your calligraphy skills. What’s on the Menu? Ever heard of the website Canva? It is an online graphic design platform with a basic free level of membership. The design of what, you may ask? The design of anything you can think of - from presentations, to Instagram stories, to business cards! It is such an easy website to navigate through with a million templates. Jump in there and create menus! You can download your design for free and print them at home. Place one menu on each plate and it’s like you’ve transported yourself to a fine dining restaurant! Elevating your mealtimes doesn’t mean you have to spend a whole whack of money on decorations or fancy flower arrangements. Putting in lots of love and attention to the small details truly goes a long way.

Seven Things I Learnt from My Mom

Written by Dianne Moniz (nee Crooc) Moms are undeniably awesome. And as it turns out, they DO know best. I got married in October 2019 to my better half, Gavin. We had a beautiful and highly emotional wedding, witnessed by our nearest & dearest. Yes, there were lots of tears! The reality of leaving my childhood home only really dawned on me as I ever-so-slowly started to pack up my room. I knew it was inevitable that I would leave my parents and start a family with my new husband, but I thought I had more time at home! My parents have been married 34 years and were dating for 4 years prior to that. In total, they have been together for 38 years. If you ran into my parents on the street, you would think they were newlyweds! They have kept the spark alive and strong all these years. They have both taught me different things, seeing as their personalities are so different, yet complementary to each other. I’m sharing a few lessons my mom taught me, which I have used in my married life. 1. Your home is your haven. Where you reside isn’t only the four walls and roof over your head; it’s a palace of joy. Everything should have a home. A well organized and clean home allows for a clear headspace, even on the days that get you down. When we were younger, my brothers and I thought our mom was so strict when one of the rules of the home was to put things back in their place. We could not have anything just laying around. I only appreciated this rule when I started getting into my merchandising role in the retail industry, where I had to style and organize the store in a very aesthetically pleasing manner. Now, I have the same rule in our home and Gavin is still getting used to it! 2. Trendy doesn’t suit everyone. In my younger years, I shopped until I dropped - all of my income into everything that was new and trendy. I was very much into loud colours, bold prints and eccentric styles. I was not very keen on art itself, so I used clothes as a way to express myself. Shopping was like my own personal art form. My mom always said to me, “Just because it’s trendy, doesn’t mean it suits you.” I very much disagreed and continued to spend my hard-earned money on clothes, which would only last one season; sometimes, only one wash! It was not until I was in my early 20’s that I had a complete switch in fashion mentality. I changed my entire wardrobe with classic and elegant pieces that would outlast every trend. 3. Always represent yourself well. Representing yourself well isn’t a form of narcissism but is actually self-care. It is the way you present yourself to the world: what do you want it to say about you? Not only does this apply to how you represent yourself outside the home, but also at home. When I used to live with my parents, my mom would poke fun at how I looked with my mismatched jammies and super worn-out oversized t-shirts. She said I should put in as much effort in my home attire, as I do in my professional outfits. It is just as important to keep yourself looking prim and proper, in and out of the home - especially when starting in a new home with my husband. 4. Share your talents, share your love. My mom loves to host guests at home! She likes sharing her home and her talents, especially because she is a fantastic cook! Having friends and family over also strengthens our relationships and deepens bonds. Food is such a gift and being able to share it is such a joy. My mom’s strong culinary skills allowed our family to have such close relations, as it was her way of expressing her love. She has passed this love of hosting onto me! As I learnt to cook, I knew I wanted to share the wealth with family and friends. She is also the reason I know how to make a killer charcuterie board and set a table beautifully. 5. Never go to bed angry. This saying is cliché, because it is true. Regardless, it is one of the most important “rules” to live by. Going to bed in a sour mood doesn’t help anyone; you end and start the day in a negative state of mind. It’s also an unhealthy way to live! Life is too short to be or stay mad. Who wants their slumber ruined anyway? 6. Learn to spend your money on experiences. The aforementioned shopping spree always led my mom to remind me that my money should be saved for experiences and travel. She always taught me not to be materialistic. There is a whole world to explore and cultures to learn about! The best thing your money can buy is travel. You have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different country, learn a new language and experience a brand new culture! These are where your fondest memories lie. 7. Don’t be afraid to apologize. Whenever I got into an argument with any member of my family, I always refused to speak to them first. I had this bad habit - let’s call it pride - where I thought if I initiated the apology I “lost” the fight. My mom taught me that apologizing does not mean you have lost the fight. Instead, you have won in valuing the relationship over your ego. It opens the way to forgiveness and allows you to start the healing process faster. My mom has taught me so much that I could write a novel! She is fierce, strong and truly amazing. It’s difficult to find accurate adjectives to describe her; sometimes I feel they just do not do her justice. It is difficult to sum up how extraordinary my relationship is with my mom. Take my advice - never take your mom for granted. She is your best teacher and your best friend.

DIY Message Boards (Videos)

Here are three video tutorials to help you build your own message board using picture frames, clothes pins, cloth, and twine. Looking for a way to keep everyone in the know? Try making your own message board and setting it up in a central location - either in an entrance way, on a bedroom door, or in the kitchen. You can write your messages and post them on your own time to keep everyone in the house updated. Message Board (Cloth Back) Message Board (Clothes Pins) Message Board (Whiteboard)

Sweet Somethings to Say: “Thank You!"

From about two months ago, news reports of a sudden increase in demand for flour, yeast and other baking products reflected the way in which many tried to deal with the situation they found themselves in. Pictures - both of successes and failures - of home-baked goods were featured on social media. Everyone was cooking and baking at home since they could not leave the house. It was one thing they could, at least, manage and control, unlike the circumstances of the current pandemic and the various social restrictions that were put into place for authorities. It is one thing to bake for the sake of baking, and of course quite another to aim for Food Network-pizzazz and flair. Either one might have merits, but they tend to focus on the wrong thing. I have always believed that the joy of cooking is exponentially increased when it is done for and shared with others. The focus shifts to other, rather than oneself, and the need to help those who need it the most. (It has always been a challenge to resist a hungry person.) Cooking for someone else is a great way to show affection and respect - an act of service that recognises the dignity of another human being and their basic need to for physical sustenance. The Sugar Maple Cookery Club (originally of Mississauga, Ontario) was founded on this belief back in 2003. Now located in Scarborough, Ontario, it still operates based on is belief, among other equally worthy principles. Club mom, Mrs. Ina Rocha, had her twin daughters, Anne and Therese (pictured below, baking thank you gifts for frontline workers) attending the monthly club activities until March of this year. Then the pandemic took over life as we knew it, and there has not been an actual live, in-person session of the girls club since then. However, Ina saw an opportunity to engage her daughters and other girls in the service of community, while showing gratitude to a group of people whose very work entails the care and management of those who are sick of COVID-19 in hospital. Scarborough General in the east-end of Toronto is one such hospital. Ina told other club moms about her initiative: to bake some goodies at home and package them for distribution at Scarborough General Hospital, where Ina’s mom, Angie Simon, works. Angie knew that her co-workers would greatly appreciate the gesture of gratitude and effort to honour their work. On May 22nd, Thursday, different families dropped off their home-baked sweet somethings at Ina’s house. About seven families participated and it was a delicious collection of culinary creations which found their way to Scarborough General Hospital on Friday, May 23rd, into the hands of some of the most hard-working people this side of Toronto. Thank you-cards made by the girls were given with the sweets, and these cards were proudly posted on the hospital’s bulletin board for all to see. Everybody appreciates being recognised for the work they do. It does not take much to say a sincere thank you. Who knew that a blondie or a cookie could make people so happy? Then again, it wasn’t really about just the cookies and the cakes, but more so the grateful act of affection to those who care selflessly for others. It’s the kind of gift that just keeps on giving, long after the sweets have been consumed. Joy remains in the hearts of those who have received, as well as (or probably even more so) for those who have given.

Just Add Flower

Flowers aren't just to be admired out in the garden, park or countryside. They can brighten up your home and your mood! Flowers have been shown to have extraordinary power over us, affecting our moods and improving our health and work performance. As a young girl, I distinctly remembered my father bringing home a bouquet of flowers for my mother, either for special occasions or just because. It didn’t just make my mom happy, it also made me happy. The simple joy it brought my mom uplifted me. As our weather turns warmer, local garden centres have opened giving us the opportunity to bring our local crops home. Having flowers in your home boosts your mood, adds to decor and is a wonderful sign of affection for your household. Choosing low maintenance flowers can also spruce up your home. Orchids and succulents are low maintenance plants that only require once a week of care! To Vase or Not to Vase How can you bring flowers into your home in other ways than just a pretty vase? Here are 4 ways: Use unique vases: old wine bottles, mason jars, unused teacups or empty candle jars. Use hanging planters. There are many ways to make your own with things you can find at home. Change up your rooms. The most conventional rooms to place a vase of flowers are in the living or dining room. Why not try putting blooms in the kitchen or bathroom? Pressed or dried flowers. It’s sad to see your gorgeous blooms once they start wilting; however, you can still preserve them by drying them out. Go even further and press your flowers. They can be framed as works of art too! Floral TLC My friend, Joanne, is the owner of a small local business in Toronto, June Bloom Events, which specializes in florals and wedding/event planning. Joanne actually created and designed the florals for my wedding! She shared some tips on caring for your blooms when you bring them home. Remove extra foliage/leaves from the stems. You don’t want these submerged in the water, as can cause bacteria and contaminate it, ruining your blooms. Give the stem an angle cut, which allows for the blooms to drink more water. Make sure your water isn’t too cold. It is good if it is, a bit cooler than room temperature. Change the water every other day and give the stems a fresh angled cut. Joy in Blooms Having flowers in your home does a lot more than simply enhance the aesthetics of a room. Blooms can be stress relievers, mood boosters and memory triggers. Lavender can even help you get a good night’s sleep! Schedule a visit to your local garden centre and bask in the beauty of the local plant crop. You don’t necessarily have to have a green thumb to enjoy walking around. You never know - it could spark the hidden gardener or florist in you!

To all you mothers out there: thank you!

There is an old proverb that goes like this: “A man may work from sun to sun, but woman’s work is never done.” Never is this truer than with mothers. If you are listening to this and nodding your head, perhaps you are a mother yourself, or you are thinking of your own mom. In any case, every one of us has a mother, and we know without a doubt how motherhood is a 24/7 kind of gig. To start with, what kind of humanity would there be without mothers? Probably not much to speak of or write about. Would we all be spores? However, mothers do exist and what a gift they are to humanity! A woman is a mother from the time of her child’s conception, and from that very moment on, her heart beats for more than just herself. This phenomenon goes on for the rest of her life, regardless of how old she and her child become. She remains herself yet, lives for more than herself. An expectant mother bears within her a life other than her own: a being who depends on her for everything. This same dependent being - once born – becomes the unofficial, undeclared and definitive extension of his or her mother. A mother constantly thinks of her child’s well-being, her instinct to protect her offspring kicking into high gear. You could say that when her child sneezes or coughs, a mother’s finely tuned extrasensory perception scours the known universe for the cause of said sneeze or cough. When her child gets hurt, a mother feels the pain, whether it be a skinned knee or a broken heart. She aches for her child. A mother also rejoices for her child and is the world’s greatest horn tooter and drum beater for her kids. She is happy when her child is happy. When does motherhood end? Well - it doesn’t. Once a mother, always a mother – and thank God for that! We are so grateful for mothers – for all of you who bore sons and daughters! Although there may be days when it might seem it is thankless and dull, perhaps tedious or tiresome, repetitive or infuriating – these are the days that make up the weeks and the months and the years that we call our lives. What are the gems that make up our real treasures on earth? It is a mother’s gentle nudge and third reminder; the hug that comes at the end of a long, tiring day; the reprimand that goes unsaid at our feeble apology and that rush to forgive. It is the hand that reaches out to feel one’s forehead when one looks flushed; the nose that knows the smell of beer on someone’s breath a mile away; the eyes that always seem to see the best that one can possibly be. When each of us was born, God worked it out so that it would be to someone who would care for us and teach us how to live and to love. A mother’s arms are an extension of God’s own, and it is through her that we could begin to understand just how much we are loved by God Himself. To all you mothers out there: thank you! Thank you for welcoming the souls you have been blessed with and caring for your children. Yours is not simply a job or a task. It is a vocation – you were called to become mothers and you said yes! Your work is never done because your “work” is to love. You love us when you feed and clothe us, listen and talk to us, share in our sorrows and our joys, help us to know that we are not alone, and we are truly loved for who we are. Without you, where would we be? Every family has an original essential worker, and mothers – that is you. The world is kinder and better for all that you are and all that you do!

Brighten up Mom's Breakfast Setting: A Beginner's Guide to Table Setting

Mother’s Day is here! Even though this is the one official day for celebrating mothers, we can celebrate them 365 days a year! The simplest gestures can go a long way to brighten up their day! Small attention to details really help. Special table setting, floral arrangements or even fresh pancakes can help bring a smile to your mother. Essentials for a table setting: Serving plates + serving cutlery Dinner plates Flatware – knives, forks, and spoons Glassware – beverage glasses (include wine glasses for parents!) Linens - a runner or tablecloth, napkins (helps elevate the look of the table) Placemats (protects table or tablecloth from stains/food spills) Coasters (prevents moisture from staying on the table) Drink up When serving beverages, use a pitcher and place it on its own coaster or trivet - a side plate can be used here. It prevents any liquid spillage onto your beautiful linens. Elevate your ordinary water by serving it in a glass pitcher and adding lemon and cucumber; it’s super refreshing and keeps you hydrated without the calories! Making it Mason You can use mason jars as beverage glasses! It adds a hint of rustic feel to your table. They’re widely available and come in many different sizes; check out Amazon.ca or at your local dollar store. If you don’t have mason jars lying around the house, look for empty candle, jam or pasta sauce jars - they work just as well!

The mason jars are so versatile and can be used as centrepieces for a unique setting! Fill the jars with some water and pop in a tea light candle. The candles will float and add a romantic feeling to your table’s look. You can spruce it up with dried florals, like pampas grass or eucalyptus branches - they can be faux or real from your local garden centre or florist! At Your Service All dishes served should be in their own serving plates or bowls, depending on what they are. Ensure to always include serving cutlery with them, to ease serving onto your own plates. They can be placed right next to or inside the serving plates. What Flowers are For To truly add that extra elevated table setting, include a floral arrangement in a vase. Not only does it add levels and volumes to the table, but having flowers in your home uplifts your spirits! It’s not an essential piece to your table, though it is a wonderful extra that acts as a sign of affection for everyone around the table.

Time for Kindness

It is very likely that, a few months ago, none of us could have imagined being in the situation we are in right now. We're right smack dab in the midst of a global pandemic, practically all manner of commerce and socialization outside of the home at a standstill, resulting in the dynamic and necessary evolution of the human experience in the virtual and online world. It is a “new normal” which does not feel normal at all, but right now, it is the reality of our current existence. It is, however, not a time to lose hope or give in to worrying about things we cannot do anything about. We do our best with the things we can manage and for which we are responsible. Wash your hands well for 20 seconds. If you are sick, stay home. If you can, work from home. If you do not have any essential things to do outside, stay at home. Just stay at home. For many of us, we are currently living a bigger part of our lives online: for work, education, keeping informed and up-to-date with the news, communication, getting together with family and friends – even for worship. As difficult as it has been for all of us to suddenly change how we normally live and do things, it is good to remember that all these measures are for the safety and well-being of others. This is one of the beautiful and unexpected gifts of this unique time in history: that what we are being asked to do by staying home is so simple yet so meaningful because of the sacrifices it entails and the difference our actions make. We may never have an opportunity like this again – this chance to slow down and stop, spend extended periods of time with family members, who would have normally been either a blur in our life’s peripheral vision, or rushing around with us as we pack in one activity after another into a 24-hour day. Now, all of a sudden, we have been afforded this stretch of precious time to be with them. This is another unexpected blessing of this moment in time. There is no intention to minimize the critical nature of this pandemic. In fact, the very nature of the reason for this extended period of time with the family underscores the importance of every single person, within and outside the home. Every single one is uniquely important and makes a difference. We may not have chosen to be in this situation, but how we deal with it is within our measure of control. Let us choose to do what we must with hope and peace, cognizant of the real people for whom we personally care and those behind the numbers and statistics that can be overwhelming at times. Let us care for every single person we can. This is itself a gift. These present times have been likened, at times, to being at war and the conditions of urgency and emergency that have evolved and continue to be in place. It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. When we spend our days and nights at home, staying put and just waiting for news of what is happening outside, it feels like a foxhole. This is certainly a good time to reconnect with God, if those communication lines have been left unattended for a bit. Adversity can be fertile ground for growing in one’s faith, and if there was ever a good time to do so – keeping in mind that there are never any bad times at all – this is it.

Many, if not all parents, want their children to grow up to be good human beings: responsible, caring, loving people who make a positive impact on those around them and in the world in general. As parents, we try to look for the very best for our children in terms of education, food, clothing, experiences, etc. Yet, the kind of “training” and learning that our children need cannot be bought or special-ordered online or anywhere else. It is in the home we build for our family that our children learn, from when they are very young and through the years as they grow up, those things that make them into the kind of people that make our world a better place to live in.

One of those “things” is compassion, which is more than just feeling sorry or sad for the unfortunate circumstances or situation of someone else’s pain or misery. To be compassionate is to put others first, looking for ways to help alleviate the pain they feel. Compassion draws on our shared humanity and is akin to both wisdom and justice. We do not have to go through a painful experience necessarily to want to help another who is undergoing a hurtful moment. We want to help them and we do so out of this sense of compassion. Who is the best teacher for our children? Look in the mirror and meet your child’s teacher! As parents, we put already tend to put our children first. Let us encourage them by our example as their parents, as how we treat those around us: spouse, siblings, parents, friends. Our actions – out of compassion and kindness – speak louder than any words we can ever say.

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