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5 Ways To Get Organized This Spring

There’s something in the air . . . The birds are back and singing their song, the tulips are out and the days are getting luxuriously longer. Spring, finally! After a loooooong winter hunkered down inside, you know the time is right to give your home a freshening up.

But, you hesitate. For many, the prospect of spring cleaning can be daunting at the best times. This year, we’ve been spending more time at home—working in the spare room, pouring over schoolwork at the kitchen table, binge-watching TV, receiving online shopping deliveries, and preparing and eating every meal at home. This might just mean that you’re finding there is more “stuff” than usual to organize before your home can shake off its winter doldrums and let the sun shine in.

Here are 5 tips to de-clutter the house this Spring

The tips will not only get your home summer-ready, but they will help you put a plan in place to keep the clutter at bay all year round.

1. Look at the big picture

Every year, it’s helpful to evaluate if you are using your space the best way you can to meet your needs. Especially if you are experiencing any life transitions, maybe you need to change it up and reimagine your home. Are the kids needing more privacy or moving out soon? Are you working more at home? Are you entertaining less? Spending more social times outdoors? Maybe the spare room can be turned into an office, the formal dining room can be transformed into an area for games and puzzles. Could a much-needed desk—or painter’s easel or craft table—be tucked into an alcove? Perhaps some more formal work and “going-out” clothes and shoes can be stored (or given away) to create more closet space for household supplies (or comfy clothes!). Perhaps a room divider is needed to create private spaces. Pretend you are moving in to your house for the first time—how would you use the space?

Next, consider your biggest organizational problem areas. For example, does your front hall seem to attract clutter? Is your home office a magnet for paper? Do you have jam-packed junk drawers or cluttered, disorganized closets? Most individuals and families have organizational problem areas. Reflect (but don’t get bogged down!) on what those areas are, and write it down. Tackle those first: They will be the hardest, but getting them done will inspire you to keep going—the rest will be a breeze.

Also, this is the time to consider getting help—either from inspirational books or blogs on the joy of decluttering, or from professional organizers. Especially if you are experiencing a life transition, like kids moving out, expanding your outdoor living space or setting up a home office, an outside view (even if it’s just from a friend) can shed new light and be a source of fresh ideas.

If your “big picture” exercise above made you realize you need more storage, pick up baskets, containers or anything else you will need before starting in on spring organization.

2. Call in the team

When it comes to spring decluttering, there’s no reason to go it alone! Gather around the kitchen table and have a family meeting over lunch! Check out some Country Harvest™ sandwich recipes here for some further inspiration! Get everyone’s input and buy-in so they feel included. Ask which chores they prefer.

Country Harvest Tip 2 for Getting Organized - Mother and 3 children looking at a white board with chores

Schedule a big weekend organizing blitz—and plan to keep your place organized all year round (See how in our next tip). Ask youngsters what will help keep them motivated and on-track every week—A white board? A gold-star system? An allowance? Other rewards? Even smaller children will want to help and will have ideas for how they can best keep their rooms organized and their toys and belongings tucked away.

3. Get organized in 15-minute bursts

One reason our homes can become far-from-organized is because it can seem too time-consuming and, let’s face it, completely overwhelming to keep on top of the clutter. Besides, with the weather getting better, who wants to spend time inside tidying?

The 15-minute organizing plan is an all-year-round maintenance plan. And it works for your initial big clean, too. For your initial spring blitz, do all rooms over the course of the weekend. For this initial sweep, it might take longer than 15 minutes for your organizational problem areas. That’s OK! The idea is to get everything into shape this spring, so that all year round, you (and family members) will keep the house organized by doing 15-minute passes through just one or two rooms a day, covering all rooms every week. Simple.

After all, it’s usually easy to find 15 minutes, and it’s less daunting than planning an afternoon of cleaning. Plus, knowing you’ve only got 15 minutes makes you focus and stay on task.

How do you do it?

  • Gather a garbage bag, a recycling bin, and a catch-all container. (For your initial spring clean, you might want to add a bin for what you want to donate or give away.)
  • Set a timer. This helps you keep focused and on task, and ensures the task doesn’t expand to take more time.

For most rooms:

  • Pass through the room for items than don’t belong there and put them in your catch-all container.
  • Pick up any papers, catalogues or magazines that haven’t been used for a month or more and put them in the recycling bin. Throw away any unneeded non-recyclable items.
  • Straighten any books or other items on surfaces that need rearranging. (With books, consider whether you need to keep them. Libraries or shelters often take books.)
  • Return items from catch-all to where they belong. Or, place them all in a predetermined common area for family members to retrieve and put away.
  • Fold any blankets and straighten any pillows or cushions.
    Organize remotes in one place and return them there. Unwind and tuck away any stray electronics cords and put away any electronics into their designated home.

For bedrooms and bathrooms: To the above, add a laundry hamper at the doorway to toss dirty clothes. Grab some hangers to hang up clean clothes.

For kitchens: Focus on countertops where out-of-place items seem to migrate. Open the fridge, toss what is out-of-date and put items in their proper storage area. In the pantry or cabinets, straighten items so cans, jars and spices are easy to quickly find.

For cleaning: Take the 15-minute approach to cleaning tasks, too. If you’re keeping the clutter under control, then vacuuming several rooms can easily be done in 15 minutes. Same with dusting or mopping the floor.

As you go about your 15-minute routine, establish that every item has a place, a spot in a drawer, on a shelf, in a cupboard. If an item keeps turning up in the wrong spot, maybe it needs a new home.

4. Take breaks and fuel and up!

Come spring cleaning weekend, make sure you are well-rested and have set aside the time you need. Turn on your favourite music and get moving! Keep energy and spirits high by taking breaks and fueling up with wholesome and healthy meals. It will keep you and any helpers energized and on-task.

Help seize the day with a hearty breakfast of avo toast made with Country Harvest™ Ancient Grains topped with romaine lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, avocado and poached eggs. Delish. Or kick start the morning with your favourite slice of Country Harvest™ toast. Top it with spinach, scrambled eggs, tomato, goat cheese—and a drizzle of sriracha for a burst of flavour.

Do the troops need a reward for a job well-done? Layer Country Harvest™ Ancient Grains toast with natural peanut butter and banana slices dipped in dark chocolate for a delicious and wholesome sweet treat.

close us shot of two slices of Country Harvest Ancient Grain slices, spread with peanut butter and topped with dark chocolate dipped banana slices

Image credit to @Toastieee

For lunch, try a healthy bagel sandwich. Or, opt for our Veggie & Hummus Sandwich on our Sunflower, Flax and Hemp Country Harvest™ Grains+ Energy loaf. Here’s the recipe.

Close up image of a sandwich made with Country Harvest Grains+ Energy topped with avocado, tomatoes, hummus and spinach

Veggie & Hummus Sandwich

Ingredients:

Directions:
1. Toast slice of loaf if desired.
2. Spread both slices with hummus, then layer on baby spinach, sliced avocado, sliced tomatoes, sliced red onions, and sliced carrots.
3. Slice sandwich in half and serve.

5. Don’t forget the outdoors

You’ll be spending a lot of time outside this spring and summer. Whether you have an extensive back yard, a deck or a balcony, it’s an extension of your living space. Turn it into a low-stress, low-clutter oasis by giving it a spring tune up.

• Think ahead about how you will be using your outdoor space and organize accordingly. Keep everything you need for outdoor living close together. For example, keep garden tools and BBQ utensils in a shed or part of the garage. Keep a colourful container by the door for rubber boots or flipflops. Hang hats and tuck sunscreen, bug spray and citronella candles in a cupboard near the back door. Stash a blanket or two if you or your guests are planning on lingering outside in the evenings.

• Decide which dinnerware, glasses and cutlery can go outside and keep them together. Choose where any cushions that need to come in from the rain will be stashed for easy access.

• Survey your yard and patio (and shed and garage, if you have them) for clutter. Use a garbage bag and a recycling bin and decide to toss, recycle, repurpose or donate items in your yard: old hoses, toys, planters, pots, birdhouses, lighting, furniture, tools, rakes, etc. Get rid of any dead branches and rake up any leftover leaves.

• Sweep and wash down your walkways, deck, patio or balcony.

• Wash cushions for outdoor furniture and put them outside to dry. Wipe down your patio umbrella.

• Make sure yard equipment, like the lawn mower and garden tools, are tuned up, clean and ready for duty.

• Don’t forget the windows and sliding glass doors. Bring the outside in with crystal-clear windows. Wipe down window sills as well and dust and clean blinds, curtains and screens.

• Wipe down any other surfaces.

• Voila! You now have a clean slate to add some decorative plants and flowers and plan for a summer of outdoor living activities.

 

 

 

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4 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables

When you’re already dealing with hundreds of other things like getting the kids to and from school, managing a full work day, ordering your groceries online and folding what can feel like endless piles of laundry, finding ways to make healthier meals for the kids can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that you’re not alone and coming up better meal choices for the kids is something that many parents continue to deal with (no matter how old they get!). Here’s some even better news! We have 5 great tips to help you bring some more vegetables and grains to the table that even your picky eaters are sure to love.

4 Ways to Serve the Kids Better Options at Mealtime

1.  Food Should Be Fun!

So, when you think healthy you may think piling up plates with boiled vegetables or serving up finger friendly vegetables raw. But mealtime can be a lot of fun with some small and quick changes to your meal plan.

A great way to present vegetables (cooked or raw) to the kids is with kebab skewers. They are simple to make and can be made with anything that you have in the fridge from broccoli to carrots to cauliflower and more. If you’re cooking up a stir fry for yourself, you can chop up some extra veggies and store them in the fridge to help save some time as well. Make it even more engaging for the kids by letting them create their skewer.

As well as being a great addition to dinner meals, skewers are also great for snack time or lunchtime and can be changed up with fruits, cold cuts, and small pieces of your favourite Country Harvest™ bread, loaf or bagels.

You can also add a bit of fun to meal time with games. Try assigning points to certain vegetables like 2 points for broccoli and 3 for corn. Then when they’ve completed their meal and their points they can use them towards a dessert! While every meal shouldn’t have a game or reward attached to it, this may be a great way to help kids try new vegetables that they otherwise may turn their nose up to.

2. Get Saucy

Remember ketchup? As a kid (and even now) you may have added it to everything from fries to eggs to macaroni and cheese or more! Sauces are a great way to mask some of the flavours that kids may not yet be ready for in vegetables as well as provide another way to hide some actual vegetables! A soft steamed carrot may not be as exciting as a crunchy baby carrot with a yummy dip. Broccoli on its own can definitely lack luster but what if it was accompanied by some melted cheese? Pasta is always a kid favourite but with just plain tomato sauce, it can be hard to amplify with more vegetables. That’s when it’s time to get out the blender or your food processor! Boil or sauté some vegetables, mix them in with your sauce and blend until it’s the right texture for your pasta dish. Not only will they enjoy one of their favourite meals but you’re sure to feel super accomplished as you watch them gobble up tons of healthy vegetables along the way.

3. Smoothies

Time for that blender or food processor to come out again! A great way to get some goodness into the kids, and yourself for that matter, are with easy to make smoothies. They take minutes to make, can include all their favourite flavours and mask some added vegetables or fruits that you want to include as well. Smoothies are also an easy way to have the kids participate in the kitchen by having them choose their ingredients, adding them in and watching their creations come to life!

These are an easy travel snack when you’re bringing them home from school or running to a quick appointment and a super-fast way to get tons of great nutrients into their bellies without having to sit at the table and watch until they’ve chewed every last bite down.

If you’re looking to save even more time, grab some frozen fruits and vegetables on your next trip to the grocery store or prep the night before so that everything is ready to go the next day.

Try this easy smoothie recipe.

Ingredients:
½ cup of orange juice
½ cup of vanilla yogurt
¼ cup steamed carrots
2-3 spinach leaves
¼ cup of strawberries (or blueberries)

Simply add all the ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve in a cup with a reusable straw, serve in a bowl topped with granola or yes, even sprinkles if they create the excitement you need.

4. Who’s Ready for Soup?

Making homemade soups are a fast way to get meals on the table as well as get the kids to enjoy some additional vegetables for the day.  If your kids are a bit older and enjoy chunkier soups with more texture, you can simply add a range of chopped vegetables to your chicken noodle soup.  If you need to make something a little smoother then pureed soups are the answer!  From butternut squash to mushroom, broccoli or carrot, the options are truly endless. Complete the meal with slices of Country Harvest™ No Sugar Added White with Whole Grains, toasted with garlic spread to give them something hearty to dip into their soups as well.

Check out these other great recipes for you to enjoy alongside your soup creations.

Getting anyone to try something new can be challenging so try not to get too discouraged if your little ones continue to refuse certain vegetables during meal time.  Remember to consistently try and introduce new foods, change them up and talk about what they like or don’t like to help you find something better suited for their current tastes!  Over time you may be surprised as they begin asking for their new favourite vegetables to become part of meal time.

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5 Quick Ways to Enjoy Your Bagel

What’s not to love about a bagel?  It’s fun, it’s filling and it can be enjoyed sweet or savoury any time of day.  Whether you like your bagels warm or toasted, for breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner, here are 5 delicious ideas to enjoy your next bagel.

Fast Recipes Featuring the Bagel

You know what they say-“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  While toasting up your favourite bagel and topping it with butter or cream cheese may be a go to for most, breakfasts this easy to make Egg (less) Salad Bagelwich is a great way to bring some more substance to your morning meal.  While we love this recipe with tofu in place of eggs, you can easily substitute out the tofu for scrambled eggs and still enjoy a hearty breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Check out the full recipe here featuring the Country Harvest™ Everything Bagel.

EGG (LESS) SALAD BAGELWICH

Lunchtime can always feel a bit rushed especially if you’re still working from home and the kids are e-learning.  Once their meal is ready to go you may find yourself with just a few minutes left before your next call.  The good news is that this Waldorf Chicken Salad Bagel recipe is quick enough to still ensure that you have a healthy meal that doesn’t consist of finishing off the kids’ leftovers or diving into a bag of chips!

Get ahead of the game and prepare your chicken salad the night before making it super quick to pile it on top of your perfectly toasted Country Harvest™ 14 Grains Bagel before rushing back to your computer.

Check out the full recipe here.

WALDORF CHICKEN SALAD BAGEL

If you’re in the mood for a light lunch that still packs a punch try adding some fresh ingredients to a Country Harvest™ 14 Grains Bagel.  Simple additions like chickpeas, spinach, peppers and avocado on top of your toasted bagel can provide a wholesome and filling lunch without spending tons of time in the kitchen.

Close up shot of Country Harvest 14 Grain Bagel topped with chickpeas, spinach leaves, red onion and slices of red peppers

Grilling season is around the corner but heading to your local steakhouse for an afternoon lunch on the patio may still be something you’re not ready for.  No worries, this light yet filling open-face steakhouse bagel sandwich is sure to set the mood from your own backyard.  Featuring the Country Harvest™ Everything Bagel, this lunch time bagel recipe is a great option for the whole family.

Check out the full recipe here.

OPEN-FACE STEAKHOUSE BAGEL SANDWICH

The list wouldn’t be complete without something sweet to top your bagel!  Not only is this a great breakfast option but makes for an indulgent snack for you and the kids.  Adapt this snack-time favourite made on Country Harvest™ Ancient Grains and natural peanut butter by substituting in Country Harvest™ Whole Wheat Sesame bagel or even the Country Harvest™ Flax and Quinoa bagel. Simply melt milk or dark chocolate and dip cut up slices of ripe bananas before setting to dry on parchment paper.  Once you’re ready toast up your bagel, top with natural peanut butter and top with as many chocolate covered banana slices as you want before diving into this delicious treat.

Image credit to Instagram user @tostieee

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6 ways to take some “Me Time” this Mother’s Day

If there was ever a time that shouts “Me Time,” it’s Mother’s Day! But we all know it can be difficult to slow down, breath and take time for ourselves. With many Canadians still working from home these days and running a household 24/7, it can be even harder to turn off the technology, turn away from our tasks, and focus on ourselves. If you have kids learning from home, it can be even tougher! There is homework to help with, chauffeuring to do, and the kitchen to clean (again). With a bit of planning, you can put all that aside for a weekend (It really should be Mother’s Weekend, not Mother’s Day!) and focus on YOU—what you love to do and how you best decompress. Here are some ideas to reenergize, refresh and make your Mother’s Day restorative this year.

1. Set the Stage

Our lives are busy and sometimes the weekend becomes the time to catch up on chores, replenish the pantry and do yard work. Don’t let Mother’s Day turn into “To-do Day”! No matter what you decide to do on your special day (see our top suggestions below), set the stage with a clean, uncluttered house. That’s a gift in and of itself! Consider hiring an individual or service right before the weekend. Don’t want to hire help? Have family members do a big clean to set the place in order so you won’t have to lift a finger. Check out our 5 ways to get organized this spring. While you’re at it, have them bring in your favourite foods, replenish the fridge (or wine rack) with your favourite beverages—and perhaps buy some fresh flowers. Pick up any supplies that you will need to create your perfect day. Consider also having the grass cut and the yard work done to avoid the stress of any noisy lawn mowers or garden tools on the weekend—and so the outdoors is as inviting as a beautiful oasis. If you have any must-do emails or phone calls to make, why not put them behind you on Friday? Then you can (mostly) turn off the technology and set yourself up for a tranquil “me” weekend.

2. Stream away

Have a movie night (or afternoon)! Sometimes household movie and TV show tastes are not in sync—and as a mom, let’s face it, you often go along to keep the family happy. But if there is any day when you get to decide, it’s Mother’s Day! Maybe you often watch action/adventure or sports shows when really you’re longing for a rom-com or a hair-stand-on-end mystery. Or maybe you’d love nothing more than to binge-watch house-hunting shows, travelogues or steamy romance movies. On Mother’s Day, you get to unapologetically choose!

When making your flick picks, consider a comedy for a super-relaxing mental health re-set. Studies show laughter is healthy—it lowers stress hormones and increases the happy ones. Get into movie-watching mode with your favourite comfy clothes (or stay in your pyjamas). Want to take it up a notch? Do a comedy (or chick flick) movie marathon! Put your feet up and break out the popcorn or other treats. Or better yet, ask your family to make you a delicious sandwich or assemble your favourite healthy snacks. Check out some easy to make recipes to guide them towards here.

3. Indulge in a breakfast buffet

Having breakfast in bed is a traditional Mother’s Day treat, but this year, why not ask your family to create a breakfast buffet featuring an array of scrumptious offerings (and no crumbs in bed). Request that the kitchen be shiny clean and the coffee on. (And perhaps a vase of your favourite flowers on the table wouldn’t be too much to ask for?!) Put your phone and laptop away and indulge—perhaps with a novel or magazine and some soft music. If the weather is nice enough, take you feast outdoors. Feel the fresh air on your cheek, breath in the scents of spring, listen to the birds, watch the clouds drift by or check out the new buds on the trees. If you really must, grab your phone and spend an uninterrupted hour on TikTok-again, it’s your day and no one is judging!

For the buffet, request your favourite fruit, yogurt and granola. Or maybe it’s time to try something a little different? Choose one of delicious bagels, like raisin cinnamon, oats and honey, sesame, everything, original or 14 grain. Or, for a delicious and wholesome sweet treat, try topping Country Harvest™ Ancient Grains toasted loaf with natural peanut butter and banana slices dipped in dark chocolate. Or, get your wholesome grains with Country Harvest™ No Sugar Added 100% Whole Wheat loaf. Top it with cream cheese or coconut yogurt, and fresh strawberries—a refreshing spring indulgence that’s healthy, too.

Want something truly special? Try Peanut Butter Stuffed French Toast! It all starts with Country Harvest™ No Sugar Added White with Whole Grains loaf—and ends with an unexpected ingredient—peanut butter. It’s delicious with a little kick of decadence—perfect for your special weekend (er. . . day)! Click here for the full recipe.

For bagel-sandwich-lovers, check out our recipe for Egg(less) Bagelwich. It starts with a toasted Everything Bagel and ends with melt-in-your mouth bagelwich.

Toast
Toast

4. Take a walk down memory lane

Remember those photo albums collecting dust? We often get so busy that we go for years without looking at old photos. Pull out your wedding album and remember how you felt right before you walked down the aisle. Or, look at old photos from high school, college or university. What are your cherished memories from that time? Maybe you have photos of your children as babies. Remember how you felt when you first became a mom. (If you want to tell a few stories and have a few laughs, ask your kids or partner to look with you.) The years go by fast, but memories (and photos) mean you can always relive special times. Brew a cup of your favourite herbal tea or pour a glass of wine and take a fresh and leisurely look. If the mood strikes, do some reflective journaling. Want a further throw-back experience? Cue up your most-loved tunes from back in the day.

5. Go MIA

Sometimes, time out of the house alone can be just the tonic you need. If you miss country drives, with the windows open, blasting your favourite playlist, why not head out on the open road. (Bonus points if you have someone clean your car beforehand!) Consider stopping at a favourite waterfront, forest lookout or quaint town for window-shopping. On the other hand, if you’re always behind the wheel or stuck in traffic, leave the car behind and get out on your bike. Beforehand, have your family wash it and tune it up for spring. With tires filled and chain oiled, you’re ready to grab your helmet, water bottle, a healthy snack and go! Head to some local trails or take a slow pedal around the neighbourhood. Not a cyclist? Go for a contemplative stroll in the woods or take the pooch out for a power walk to the park. Exercise, animals and the outdoors (especially if it’s sunny) are a powerful combo to set your mind and ease and help with feelings of well-being. Craving some company? It’s OK to invite someone along, too, to share your “me time.”

5. Custom-make a lazy afternoon

We all love a spa day, and you can make it special even at home. This Mother’s Day, why not make an afternoon of it? It’s your choice what you do with your time. Start out with a supply of your favourite products and treatments and see where the afternoon takes you. Perhaps a steamy, candle-lit bath with some special soaps is what you need to relax and refresh. Light a scented candle and play your favourite soothing music. Pamper yourself with a self-massage using a scented lotion and then put on a silky robe. Give yourself a manicure and paint your fingers and toes with a brand-new, bright spring-time colour. To stretch out your lazy afternoon, flip through a magazine, journal, colour in an adult colouring book—or take a leisurely and luxurious nap. Make sure dinner is taken care of so that body and mind can truly unwind.