12.12.19

Our Nest Ready for Christmas 2019!

Every year I decorate a bit different from the year before, even though we use all the same decorations, so I figured I'd share another Christmas Home Tour! I really loved our home last Christmas and was planning to do everything the exact same but a few things changed my plan.


First of all, this year we got our first real Christmas tree! We have had years with no tree and years with a tiny Charlie Brown-style fake tree, but never a real tree. Our tiny tree always fit well in our little living room but finding a real tree in the exact size and shape would be tricky and I was already secretly dreaming of a real tree. We visited Jean-Talon market a few weeks ago and I saw the tree lots and was seriously coveting those gorgeous scented trees! They smell amazing and I love the uniqueness of a real tree (fake trees are too perfect!) So we went for it this year and gave our little fake tree to our church, who will use it every year for Christmas decor. 


 We named our real tree Trevor the Tree and the kids have already planned next year's to be named Thea (always using a T name, obviously!) haha! Trevor is a bit larger so couldn't fit in our living room but I love him tucked in the usually-dark corner of our dining nook. The mirror reflects him into the kitchen and our bedroom and we can see his lights from the whole house.

With the tree elsewhere I used the extra space in our living room for our growing Christmas book collection which is at 25 books! I've only ever bought them secondhand and patiently added to our collection for years and our kids love seeing them again every year. 


The overall look is wood, white, with pops of green and red. The red is mainly from our poinsettia which was a gift from our friends from the girl's school. I love it so much I'll have to buy one every December from now on! I love our eclectic bunch of candles on the mantle and our thrifted wooden nutcrackers with the Ikea garland. 


 Every year I love choosing my favourite carol lyrics for our quote board and this year I went with O Holy Night which I've learned this year was actually originally written in French! Minuit, Chretiens is a famous French Christmas carol and was translated to O Holy Night in the late 1800's. In celebrating Advent every December we're preparing our hearts to really grasp the Christmas message, so we sing songs and read scripture and pray prayers to that end every night, or as many nights as we're able. O Holy Night's lyrics capture that desire and anticipation so beautifully,

"Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, 'til he appeared and the soul felt it's worth"


 Decorating a home for five people in 1,000 square feet is definitely a challenge every year! After just a few weeks the added decor can feel like clutter so this year I cut back on decorating a lot. I didn't buy anything new, aside from a few ornaments for the tree, but I gave away a lot to really streamline my style and our possessions. We have a small countdown board in the kitchen and our dining table is Advent-central with our Advent cards from She Reads Truth, our candles (the brass holder was thrifted and I just love it!) and our basket of all of our French and English Bibles which stays there year round. There are some meaningful additions but not a ton.


 Decorating our home for Christmas has become a favourite ritual. I've had years with way more decorations and years without even a tree. My conscience has shifted on the matter but the basic desire to make this season meaningful and Christ-centred has never changed. I find these decorations warm my heart and help add the anticipation I already feel, but you don't need decorations for that! They're merry and bright, but Christ coming to save us is plenty enough to lift our spirits!

Oli's Birthday Party + Outside-The-Box Friendships

A couple of weeks ago we hosted Oli's birthday party and it was so much fun! We don't always have big birthday parties for our kids and there have been many years where we just did a smaller affair or even simply a family celebration, but this year being Oli's first year at a new school we wanted to meet as many of his friends as possible. Mad Science offered to come and provide the entertainment which was a dream come true for our STEM-loving boy!


Oli is now attending a school for children who are gifted in maths and science, but he's always been drawn to equations, potions, building, and electricity since he was very young. Living in a small urban condo makes hosting big parties really tricky, especially when the weather is too cold to have the party at the nearby park (which is what we have always done for our August and September born girls). When Mad Science reached out and offered to host his birthday party I was so thrilled! Not only are their parties the exact thing Oli and his friends are hugely interested in, but it provided educational entertainment for all of the kids for an hour and a half! The rest of the time was spent opening presents and eating (of course!) 


Oli invited 9 guests to his birthday party (two adult friends who he looks up to, two friends from church, a friend from his old school, and five friends from his new school). This year's birthday party was a big deal for Oli being the new kid, so we wanted him to be able to invite several kids from his class. But we also wanted him to feel free to invite anyone he loved and respected and not worry if they were from his new school specifically. When he suggested friends from his old school and our church we weren't surprised, but when he mentioned two adult friends (also friends of ours who we know from our church) we thought it was so neat! We have many friends who don't have kids of their own but who play a spiritual parental role in the lives of our kids and I think that's such a beautiful thing. We've also always encouraged our kids to think outside the box with friendship - you don't only have to be friends with kids who are the same gender or age, you can have faraway friends who you write letters to and friends at other schools, the important thing is that you love and respect your friends and choose friends who love and respect you. 


Having Mad Science come in freed Brad and I up to spend time getting to know the kids from Oli's new school whereas otherwise we would have been preoccupied with organizing the party, running games and activities and tidying up. Eric, our Mad Scientist, was incredible with the kids and learned all of their names throughout the course of the party. He held their attention for the entire time with fascinating experiments and activities and each child took home their self-made bouncy ball made from the chemical reaction of polymers.


In booking the party parents can select different scientific themes with the option to include an add-on activity such as dry ice or cotton candy. The kids (and frankly the adults too!) were mesmerized by the glasses we wore that cut the colour from any light and the dry ice was such a hit! You can see all of the experiments in the videos I took during the persentation by visiting the archived stories on my Instagram. Mad Science is available throughout North America and caters to science-loving kids ages 5-12. Thank you so much Mad Science for the unforgettable birthday party!


The post was written in collaboration 
All opinions are 100% my own.
To book a collab, contact me!

26.11.19

Travel Hacking 2.0

As some of you know, over the years our family has been able to take some pretty amazing trips with our kids through maximising Aeroplan points. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive an e-mail or DM about how our family manages to travel internationally on a budget so I’ve asked Brad (the master travel planner in our family!) to explain things in more detail. He did write up a post a couple of years ago that I know was helpful for so many of you (I love e-mails from strangers telling me they’ve made it to Madrid/Hong-Kong/Reykjavik/etc thanks to our points tricks!) but since the points program with Aeroplan has changed somewhat, here’s the updated version.



The Aeroplan points program isn’t *quite* what it used to be with the reward points and some of the advantages having been curtailed. While it’s no longer the free travel it used to be, it’s still nonetheless heavily discounted travel, which makes all the difference when you’re buying five plane tickets for every family trip!

Essentially, the trick is to sign up for certain credit cards which offer huge amounts of Aeroplan points as a sign-up bonus, which we then redeem for flights. All we end up paying is the credit card annual fee and the flight taxes. When done properly, it’s saved us tons of money on our flights. I know this can feel super complicated, so here are some concrete examples.  

Let’s say you wanted two return tickets to Europe, say from Toronto to Copenhagen next June. Google Flights says it would cost $1,888.  

Yet the Aeroplan points that you get from two Amex credit cards would bring that cost down to $1,028.92 ($499 and $250 in fees for the Amex Business Platinum and Business Gold credit cards + $279.92 in flight taxes).

Not a bad way to save $850!

Here’s a favourite travel hack of ours:  A little known fact about Aeroplan is that it allows you to add a second destination to your itinerary at no extra cost. That’s right, a completely different city in a completely different country – completely free! (more on that below).

So if you wanted to buy one ticket from Montreal to Tokyo next July, and spend a week in Taiwan on the way, with the Amex Business Platinum card the cost would only be $689 (the annual fee of $499 + $190 in flight taxes). If you had to book that with cash, however, according to Google Flights that ticket would cost $1,602. Here you’re saving $913!

Last example:  How about Edmonton to Hawaii in February, but first stopping in San Francisco for a week? $450 with Aeroplan points ($250 Amex Business Gold annual fee + $200 in flight taxes) vs $1,034 in cash.



There’s a few other advanced tricks I’ll mention later, but for now probably the only question is, So what’s the catch? (Because there’s always a catch!)

The catch is, you need to be able to spend significant amounts on these credit cards in the first three months. These cards require you to put between $5,000 and $7,000 worth in purchases on the cards in order to qualify for the bonus points.

For most of us, these are very large amounts of money. But with some strategic planning, we’ve been able to do it many times over the years without increasing our household budget. The easiest solution is to time your credit card application with an upcoming major expense, such as a home renovation, tuition costs, or new appliances. Combined with regular spending, this allows you to reach these minimum spending amounts pretty easily. However, even without these kinds of huge purchases, we’ve found some tricks that make it possible (see below for a list).

So if travel hacking sounds like something you’re up for, I’ve put together a handy step-by-step guide that simplifies the process.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The first thing to do is to check your credit score. Every credit card application you make lowers your score by about 5-7 points. Now, that’s out of a total of 900 possible points, so it’s not a huge number, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Some other quick thoughts on credit for those interested:
  • A score represents a moment in time and can change based on your behaviour.
  • Missed or late payments or lots of maxed out credit accounts will lower your score.
  • The best way to increase your score is to pay back debts on time and consistently.
  • Scores typically range from 400 to 900, and 'good' scores are usually 660 and higher; anything over 750 is considered 'excellent'. So whether it’s 750 or 850 doesn’t really make a difference. For an institution like a bank or credit union looking at your credit, anything over 725 is a no-brainer.

If it might help allay your fears, I don't know how many credit cards I've applied for in the past few years, and Equifax tells me my score is 761.

Here's two great ways to get your credit score for free:

www.borrowell.com/free-credit-score

Also, if you don't already have an Aeroplan membership you can get one here (it's free).

Ok, let's get started!



STEP 1 - GETTING YOUR POINTS

In order to rack up the necessary points for your dream trip, you have to follow these steps:


  1. Apply for a given card
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirements for the card
  3. Wait for the points to appear in your account (they say it can take up to 8 weeks but I usually see them within a few days)
  4. Cancel the card before the second year begins so you don’t pay the annual fee twice

These steps will lead you through applying for various American Express credit cards, whose points are transferable 1:1 to Aeroplan. (So when I use the term 'points', I'm referring to both Aeroplan points and Amex points, since they have the same value.)

Links to Credit Cards to Apply For:

Ok, start dreaming: where do you want to go? Figure out how many points you'll need, and then apply for the cards to make it happen.

In addition to the examples I mentioned above, here’s a brief list:

Anywhere in North America: 25,000 points
Mexico: 40,000 points
Hawaii: 45,000 points
Europe: 60,000 points

All for round-trip flights! (And don’t forget in every case you can add another destination on the way for free!)

(You can see the whole award chart here.)

Now let's take the first step: applying for cards!

Note: if you decide to sign up for a card, make sure you use the links below! You get thousands of extra points per card for doing so!

AMERICAN EXPRESS BUSINESS GOLD REWARDS CARD – 30,000 points (40,000 if you use this link!)
  • $250 annual fee 
  • You need to provide a business name - but it doesn't need to be an officially registered business. It can be anything that allows you to make money - even if it's not currently doing so.
  • For example, I have sold the odd used book on Amazon. So I used my Amazon selling name as my "business" name and it worked perfectly. An eBay seller account would work as well. Have a blog? You can use that. It's really flexible and still ethical, which is important to us!
  • When it asks for ‘Annual Business Revenue’, I just tell the truth: $50, $20, sometimes $0! They don’t seem to mind that my business isn’t very profitable :)
  • You also get 1 point per dollar spent on the card, so after meeting the minimum spending requirement (more on that below), you'll have 45,000 points, enough for Hawaii!

AMERICAN EXPRESS BUSINESS PLATINUM CARD - 40,000 points (75,000 if you use this link!)
  • $499 annual fee
  • Same as the above card for the business name
  • Except this card gives 1.25 points per dollar spent, meaning after meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’ll have 83,750 points, which is just shy of the 90,000 needed to get to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Indonesia!!!


It’s fun to dream, but those fees (especially if you’re doing for both cards) are not insignificant.

So the key to travel hacking is to maximize the value of the flights you’re getting for free (spending $499 for a card that will give you enough points to book a free flight from Toronto to Dublin that you can buy with cash for $650 is obviously less than stellar value).

So what are some tricks we use to get the optimal value from these points?

The easiest one, as I already mentioned, is adding a free stopover (which I’ll explain how to do below). But here’s two more:

a) Sweet Spots

The Aeroplan points system is based on regions: a set number of points is required for travel within a large geographical area. But within a given area, the cities towards the periphery naturally yield the best value since they are furthest from your point of departure.

For example, Toronto and San Francisco couldn’t be further apart in North America and yet you can get to San Fran for only 25,000 points (the same that it would cost you to go from Toronto to Regina). So with the Amex Business Gold you can get a flight that usually costs upwards of $800 for only $320 ($250 + $70 tax) and leaving you only 5000 points shy of being able do the entire trip again.

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, you could fly from Toronto to Whitehorse or Yellowknife, which despite being insanely far away (and costing $800+ for a ticket) is also available for only 25,000 points return.

If you’re located in Quebec you’re even more lucky, as everything in the Maritimes is considered ‘short-haul’, meaning those flights cost a mere 15,000 points. So to fly Montreal to St. John’s, instead of paying $600 per ticket, with the Amex Business Gold card you could get THREE tickets for just $771.31 (the annual fee of $250 + $173.77 in taxes per flight).


b) Living the High Life

But by far the best value with Aeroplan points is to redeem them for ridiculously expensive Business Class flights. If luxury travel is your thing (or you’d like it to be!) you can enjoy a luxury experience wining and dining in the sky (while the rest of us struggle for elbow room in coach!) that would normally be unaffordable.

So instead of forking out $4,079 (!) next June for a trip from Vancouver to Rome, you would only need to pay $915.83 ($499 and $250 for the two cards annual fees + $166.83 in flight taxes).

Whether you actually value that business class flight at $4,079 is another story, but the fact that there’s a way to save $3,000 on a flight is pretty unreal. With three kids, we’ve never done this before but it’s always been a dream! 



STEP 2 - MEETING THE SPENDING REQUIREMENT

As I mentioned, these cards require some significant spending before they'll dish out the points: $5000 for the Business Gold card, and $7000 for the Business Platinum card, all within the first three months of having the card.

These are huge amounts for us, but these are some tricks we’ve used to help accelerate the process without actually increasing our household spending:
  • You can overpay your utility bills (internet and cell phone, for example) and essentially pay for a year of service upfront. So a $720 cell phone payment will result in an account credit that will be used to pay your $60/month bill for a year.
  • Some businesses won't take Amex, but almost every online retailer will. Between Old Navy, Gap, Paypal, Airbnb, and Amazon, we can put a lot of money on our Amex cards just through regular spending.
  • Donations: if you give monthly to an organization, an option is to cancel the donations for a year and simply make a one-time donation. So you cancel your $100/month donation for six months and make a $600 donation. (But don’t forget to restart the monthly donations after!)
  • Offer to put big purchases for a group on your card. A friend of ours put some big costs for his brother's wedding on his card, his brother paid him back, and he was able to hit his minimum spend in one shot!
  • Some other great sources for our Amex spending: all gas stations, TD and RBC insurance, Home Depot, Walmart and Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix. 


STEP 3 - SPENDING YOUR POINTS

First, you convert your points:

Since you’re working towards an Aeroplan flight reward, you need to convert your American Express points to Aeroplan miles (they transfer 1:1). Thankfully, this is super easy. Go to the Rewards section after you log in to Amex, and find the link for "Rewards", and then “Transfer my points.”

The conversion from Amex points (called ‘Membership Rewards’ points) to Aeroplan is instantaneous – however, you must first register your Aeroplan account, and that can take a few days. So plan accordingly!

Then, the fun part: booking your flight!

But wait. You might have heard about the dreaded taxes that accompany a reward flight booking. It’s true. And really, it’s ridiculous that a “free” flight isn’t actually free. In particular, there is often a ‘fuel surcharge’ levied which can be $500-$600 alone. So the taxes can amount to almost the full price of the actual flight! Which would mean this was all a colossal waste of time.

But I learned of an ingenious workaround: different airlines charge different levels of fees and taxes. And some airlines charge very little!

Want to know which ones? Here is a list of some of the airlines that you can book with your Aeroplan points in order to avoid the most obscene of the reward flight surcharges:

United Airlines
Swiss Airlines
Brussels Airlines
TAP Airlines (great for Portugal)
EVA Air (great for South East Asia
Egypt Air
Aegean Air (for Greece!)
SAS (for Scandanavia)
Copa Airlines (for South America)
Avianca Arlines (also for South America)
Air New Zealand
Air India
Turkish Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines
Shenzhen Airlines
Singapore Airlines
South African Airways

When flying with these airlines, our flight taxes generally range from $70 to $150 per ticket. Considering the actual price of these flights I usually pay these taxes with a smile on my face :)


There are two ways to redeem your Aeroplan points for a flight:

  1. Online through your Aeroplan account page
  2. Over the phone with an Aeroplan agent

Most of the time, you should be able to find your preferred flight on the Aeroplan website. When booking, you have three choices: round trip, one way, and multi-city. If you’re looking to include a stopover, multi-city is what you want. (The Aeroplan website has great info on how to book this type of flight, but if you have any problems I would be happy to help.)

If your itinerary is quite complex there’s a chance you’ll need to call Aeroplan to book it. (Note that they charge $35 for this. Which is why it’s always preferable to find it on Aeroplan’s website if you can!)

STEP 4 - PROFIT!

That's it! It might sound complex but you get the hang of it real quick. If you have any questions I’d be happy to help, so just ask them below in the comments and I’ll reply there.

30.10.19

My Top Parenting Resources


I'm on my 10th year as a mom, and I've been in the learning process all ten of these years. Any honest parent will tell you they've never truly "arrived" as a parent. Every season of motherhood is different and brings new challenges and requires new knowledge and wisdom, so just as soon as you think you understand your kids well or have it figured out, don't worry, everything will change! This keeps us parents humble and always learning, and if we hope to be wise, it means being open to growing and learning.

I love this picture by my friend Camille!

I know I've often heard the advice that you don't need advice. Totally an oxymoron, haha! But also I don't agree. We all come into parenting with assumptions, habits, and baggage from our own childhood - some good and some bad. If we never seek advice from others, we're still heavily influenced by others because our upbringing influences us positively and negatively. Seeking advice is so important! Yes, there's something to be said for mother's intuition and your gut instincts, but I firmly believe that there's so much to be gained by asking for help and advice. For my part, I have devoured Parenting books, podcasts, sermons, and tools these ten years and I plan to continue doing so as long as I have children (and grandchildren). I've often been asked to share some favourite books or podcasts on Parenting so I thought I'd arrange everything into one post which I'll update as I discover new resources. If you want to find them on Amazon or to listen to them, click on the links I put in the text and you'll be directed there.

The following have heavily influenced my parenting over the years and I strongly recommend them to you!

This series of talks has influenced my parenting more than all of the following books combined. I first discovered this resource when we were travelling in France with two babies under age two. I was desperate for some wisdom as our sweet babies were growing into defiant toddlers before our eyes and the added element of being abroad seemed to multiply the stress of it all. One night I did a deep dive into googling all the church websites that I knew of who might have Parenting sermons or talks and I found this series by Jen Wilkin and her husband. This was before Jen Wilkin was a best selling author and national speaker and I didn't know her from anyone, but just a few minutes into the first talk Brad and I knew this would be a foundational resource for us. I have listened to every talk so many times I've lost count and they have taught me so much from disciplining and training a toddler to discussing sex with my kids as they grew older. Like every resource I'll be listing here I am not saying it's infallible. On a personal level, we didn't do everything they did or agree with every bit of advice (example: we didn't spank our kids and we didn't do Santa Claus), but even so I strongly recommend it as one of the very best Parenting resources! The six talks are Shared Faith, Shared Affection & Time, Shared Language, Shared Expectations - Responsibility, Shared Expectations - Obedience, and The Big Picture. Clear your schedule and listen to these talks! 


If I could choose one book to give to a mom or dad, this would be it. I love Paul Tripp (not to be confused with his brother Ted who also writes on parenting but isn't my favourite) and his constant focus on the gospel. Parenting can easily become moralism and a power struggle without this focus! In Parenting, Paul Tripp uses humble, honest examples from his own life and casts a hope-filled vision for the task before us. He brings us back again and again to the grace God lavishly bestows on us and sets the reader on the right path for parenting.


The Risen Motherhood Podcast

I so badly wish this podcast existed when I was a new mom! It is only a couple of years old but I've been listening to it since the beginning and have loved every episode. Laura and Emily are sisters-in-law and friends and between them have eight kids, including children with special needs. You might remember Laura as a guest writer in my A Day In HER Life series! These women are wise beyond their years and teach on every aspect of parenting from postpartum body image to potty training to marriage struggles all with an eye for the redeeming grace and love of Christ. I have found these 20 minute episodes so helpful and refreshing, and their new book is like a best of compilation of my favourite episodes in written form. Such a great thing to pop on if you're driving or doing chores and the book makes a lovely gift to a first-time mom! My favourite podcast episodes have been the interview with Ruth Chou Simmons, Coffee, Wine & Social Media: Mom, What's Your Crutch?, and the interview with Sally Clarkson.


Sally Clarkson - The Ministry of Motherhood and The Mission of Motherhood

I really love Sally Clarkson! I was given these two books as a young mom and found them so encouraging and helpful both in seeing the important role I had as a mother and the potential and hope for my kid's future. I find Sally Clarkson so wise - she was a missionary in Communist Europe before having four kids in her 30s and 40s. She wrote her first book at 40 as she wanted to really live and learn before writing which I really respect. She's a woman who deeply values tradition, place, and ritual. She reads widely and it shows in her writings. She also has a podcast that I listen to occasionally but these two are my favourite Parenting books of hers.



Gloria Furman is a mom of five and church-planter's wife in Dubai, UAE. She studied at the same seminary as Brad and really knows her theology along with being a passionate primary caregiver to her children. She's such a hero to me, honestly! Missional Motherhood is for all women, even those not yet moms and those who mentor younger women and Treasuring Christ is particularly helpful when you're in the "little years" and needing a nudge to focus on what matters.


Gary Ezzo - Becoming Babywise

This resource is a bit controversial because it's essentially a sleep training manual, which I know some people are not a fan of, but for us we saw this method and this book as such a gift! Having three kids within three years, I would never have survived without sleep and Becoming Babywise gives both babies and their parents the gift of sleep. I've written a lot about what I learned from this book so I'll just share those links here or you can just enter "babywise" in the search engine at the bottom left side of my blog. Babywise had all three of our kids sleeping twelve hours a night without waking by four months old. TWELVE HOURS. In addition to sleeping from 7-7, Babywise helps babies nap very consistently for two hours each nap. The predictability and stability that this brings gave us the energy to keep having babies and to thrive as parents so I can't say enough about it. Of course, it's not for everyone and is really hard (you need to leave your baby to cry it out for nap times, though never at night), but it's well worth it!


The Jesus Storybook Bible

This is the best children's Bible out there! Unlike many kid's Bibles that focus on the moralism, The Jesus Storybook Bible points kids to Jesus in every story from Genesis to Revelation. We started reading this Bible together when I was pregnant with Lily and several times the stories brought tears to both me and Brad's eyes. Ten years on and we're still reading it with out kids and they're still reading it themselves. Our English copy is patched together with tape and the French copy is starting to fall apart too! Our church gives a French copy to every new family at the birth of their first child and I recommend it to every Christian family!



The New City Catechism

This is such a great book and app to help your kid's memorize truths from scripture! We use the app form and put it on the "kids" setting, which has the same questions as the "adult" setting but has more concise answers. Our kids really enjoy doing the questions and answers and I love what they've learned through them. The app is really ideal for on the go teaching moments like when you're stuck in traffic or in a long line at the grocery store.


The Boy Mom Podcast

This is a new discovery for me and I'm absolutely loving the wisdom and helpfulness in each episode! Monica Swanson is a mom of four boys from ages 9-21 who lives in Hawaii and wrote the book Boy Mom. I started following Monica's blog years ago and always appreciated her musings on motherhood, especially since she's a step ahead of me with older kids. It's called The Boy Mom Podcast but it's definitely for all parents! 99% of the content is applicable to my daughters too.  I especially loved the episodes Raising Sons with Boundaries and Freedoms and Raising Boys in a Digital World with Ruth Chou Simons. Monica talks in a laid back way with a lifetime of experience and a deep love for God. She's a mom who I admire so much, and listening to her podcast honestly feels like listening to a friend over coffee!


16.10.19

Re-making Traditions + the *PERFECT* Roast Chicken

Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas on it's way means traditions are swirling around in my mind, both the warm fuzzy feelings associated with the familiar and the fond as well as the slightly negative aspects of tradition. Negative traditions? Can there really be such a thing? Aren't traditions something we continue doing because we love them and want to mark our lives by such cornerstones? In theory. However traditions can also be laden with guilt or leave us feeling un-creative. We might do the same thing year after year because we feel we must or can't think of any alternative. Breaking away from traditions can potentially cause hurt feelings of other family members who wish to continue. I'm by nature a traditional person but not necessarily a sentimental one, so I love the idea of annual traditions and rhythms that I can predict and look forward to, but I don't necessarily feel I must continue with what we've done in the past, especially if it doesn't feel special. When Brad and I got married and moved eight hours away from my family we were given the perfect scenario to re-think all of the traditions we've grown up with and decide which we'd keep for ourselves and which we'd re-think as a married couple. We both brought some traditions into our marriage and left many too. In recent years as our babies have grown up into children we've honed in on traditions, making some new ones each year as they can now remember for themselves what they loved from the years prior. For example, Brad and I both grew up with turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving and Santa Claus at Christmas and our kids are being raised with neither.


At first we felt a bit rebellious and strange stepping out of the traditions we've grown up with, especially given our happy childhoods, but we realized that continuing with traditions simply because they've always been done without thought to our personal beliefs, tastes, interests didn't make any sense. This past Thanksgiving when I said on Instagram that we weren't doing a turkey and indeed that we didn't enjoy turkey dinner, I received a barrage of comments insisting that we go ahead with the meal, including many comments listing the benefits of the leftovers (the soups! the sandwiches!) None of which were convincing as we don't like turkey. I wasn't offended by the comments at all, but I do find it interesting how the tradition of turkey at Thanksgiving is so ingrained that it's noteworthy when a family opts for an irregular meal during the October long weekend.


This Thanksgiving, and in fact typically once a week in the colder months, we enjoyed a whole roast chicken, which I have to say is a million times tastier than turkey. Cooking a whole bird was very intimidating to me as a new cook, but after years and years it's become one of my favourite comfort foods. I love the small size compared to turkey (very conducive to condo life!). A roast chicken is one of my favourite meals to bring to a new mom or a friend who's in need of a hand. It's just the perfect meal! Le Creuset generously sent me their new Oblong Casserole to try out this Fall and though countless dishes can be made and served in this dish, to me it's life calling is to be a vessel for roast chicken!


I've tried tons of recipes over the years but I've finally settled on what I think is *the best*. This recipe cooks low and slow for starters. 300 degrees for 2.5 hours! But the oven time is completely hands off (no basting as with turkey). Also you'll create the most amazing butter and herb spread and place it beneath the skin, directly on the chicken meat. You'll fill the cavity with a pierced lemon and herbs and cook your bird atop whatever root vegetables you fancy (raddishes, potatoes, carrots). I promise you, the result is incredible!
  1. Clean your bird with water, including inside the cavity, and dry it with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 300 and clean and chop vegetables
  3. Toss vegetables in olive oil or knobs of butter, lemon zest, and salt then place at the bottom of your roasting dish (I used the Le Creuset oblong casserole which is the perfect size!)
  4. Make your herb butter spread: in a blender or by hand, combine 1/4 c room temperature butter and a few glugs of olive oil with salt, pepper, lemon zest from one lemon, 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint and 1/4 cup chopped parsley or basil. 
5. Spread the herb butter mixture all over the bird, including underneath the skin of the breasts (see picture below) This will guarantee the strongest flavouring on the meat and not just on the skin. If you gently pull the skin at the entrance of the cavity, you'll see that it seperates easily and without tearing from the meat beneath. Push the herb butter mixture all the way to the back of the bird, covering the whole top (breasts) of the bird. 
6. Stuff the bird's cavity with a lemon that's been pierced a few times with a sharp knife, which will allow more juice to come out, and whatever herbs you have leftover from your herb butter mixture. 
7. Top with a final sprinkling of salt and pepper and put in the oven for 2.5 hours, or until meat thermometer reads cooked. 

I hope you try this recipe! The meat will be falling off the bone and so infused with flavour and your vegetables will be perfectly seasoned and ready to serve. 


One chicken typically serves 3-4 people, depending on how much meat you're serving. If we're eating with the kids we'll make two which leaves leftovers for curry chicken salad sandwiches. I save the drippings in the fridge to use instead of oil when cooking vegetables the week afterwards, and make bone broth with the carcass. Maybe I'll have tempted you to re-think turkey with this recipe, or maybe not, but I hope you enjoy it and also feel the freedom to create your own family rhythms! 

This post was written in collaboration with 
Le Creuset Canadaa brand I've admired  years. 
All opinions are 100% my own.
To book a collaboration, contact me!

28.9.19

"How do you do it? Do you believe in balance?"

I was so honoured to be interviewed by my friend Hailey Andresen on her amazing blog Household Mag this month and I wanted to share my answers to her questions here as well in case you missed the interview. Her first question is one I've heard in some shape or form for many years and it honestly grieves me to hear it. I'm not a perfect mom and I definitely don't do "it all" whatever "all" is! Here's the question and my response in long form. I'll post the other questions as time allows and I hope they're a blessing for you!


Hailey: As a mom of one, almost two, I am always amazed at how you juggle life with three kiddos, always seem to have your hands in something creative and from what I can tell have a deep, connected relationship with your husband and a healthy relationship with yourself too. So my question to you is, how do you do it? Do you believe in balance?

Me: Ha! No. Honestly, it’s a myth. I think social media has made us believe in the Super Mom idea too strongly, when in reality every mom is doing her best and some have higher capacities than others. I’m an extrovert and I have a high capacity for projects and people, but I also have friends who give their true 100% and have less going on, and we’re both doing great work. I will say that boundaries are so essential and we are a family who are not afraid to lay them down and write out rules that work for us and stick with them.

Juggling three kids who attend two schools for example, meant that we made a firm rule on extra-curriculars – they can do one at a time, or none at all. I know a lot of families whose kids are in three or more activities and I know for us that would be too hectic. We wouldn’t be able to prioritize family game night (Fridays), meals together as a family (ideally four times a week) or church every Sunday with our kids if they were in every activity, so we say no to a lot. Because my husband works longer hours than average (and often evenings and weekends), I stay home to manage the home, along with various side hussels’ as time allows. It wasn’t a choice I was brought up with or ever thought I’d make, but for the sake of family harmony (dare I say balance!?) it made sense for one of us to work significantly less if the other had to work significantly more.

I think families feel a lot of pressure these days to always be achieving and doing and we’ve made a conscious effort to reject that notion. For example, we did zero activities with our kids outside the home before age three. No baby enrichment classes or mom and tot groups of any kind. Not only did we save money to put towards travel, but we also had a very relaxed pace at home as our three little ones were growing up. Three kids in three years forces you to choose what’s important!



books I read summer + 09/19

Time to catch us all up on some recent and not so recent reads. As suspected, summer turned out to be a time of fewer books completed as generally I have almost no alone time (all three are home all summer and they don't do day camps or the like so I'm with them all day every day). As much as I love reading, I love summer with my kids way more, so don't feel sorry for me :)
I'm also starting to include Amazon affiliate links to these posts, so click on the links  if you'd like to buy any of them and you'll be directed to Amazon's page. I've gone back to link all of the books I've previously posted in this serious, so you can find those books here.  It will make for one easy stop for you to find the titles I've mentioned in various blog posts, but also give me a small (very small) percentage of Amazon's sales. If you buy anything from my Amazon links (books or otherwise), you'll pay the same as you would on Amazon, but Amazon gives me a small cut of their profits for curating the items for you guys. I've gone back and linked previous Books I've Read Thanks for going this route and helping continue to support this blog! Here's my updates links for the books I read in MayAprilMarchFebruary, and January.

I thought I'd make September and summer all in one post because I haven't finished too many. But smaller quantity is not a mark of smaller quality as this list includes one of my favourite (maybe my favourite!) modern fiction book OF ALL TIME. Read on!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - I read this in Greece and even though I'd seen the movie it was such a pleasure. A quick read but so full of charm. WWII themed books often draw me in but the quaint book club on the British isle of Guernsey and every character therein were why I loved it. Lovely characters and story.

Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - Oh this biography! It was so powerful and beautiful. What a life Corrie ten Boom had and how she lived was such an inspiration! Christian biographies are some of my favourite means to learn about God and inspire my faith. I find biographies are like theology with skin on, a living walking person pointing us to Jesus. Corrie ten Boom's life is worth reading about and emulating. The book shows us her living testimony in Holland hiding Jews, in Germany at a concentration camp, and afterwards rehabilitating ex-servicemen from both sides of WWII with the grace of the gospel. A must read whether you're Christian or not!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - this is THE ONE guys! I'm not typically over the moon for modern fiction. Historical fiction is more my jam (if not classics) but I loved Eleanor Oliphant so much! First of all, the characters are gold. Unassuming and rich characters that are so normal and natural you feel like you might know them in real life. Also the heroine, Eleanor Oliphant is a delight! She's brave and honest and broken and I love cheering for her throughout the book. I want to own a paper copy, seeing as it's one of my favourite modern fiction pieces ever, but I do also recommend the audiobook because it was so perfectly narrated with all the various Scottish and English accents. I'm honestly so sad it's over!

The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley - My friend Matt who has put a lot of thought and practice into the spiritual disciplines (and written about them here!) recommended this book to me and I knew based on his life which I admire and his fine book selections that it was a must read. I listened to it on Scribd over the course of two days and have begun putting some of the practices into my daily routine (no phone before scripture, fasting from something for 24 hours every month, limiting media to four hours per week, etc). Earley never makes the reader feel pressure or guilt, he simply invites you to a simpler, more free life with these disciplines. The gospel is woven throughout this book as well as personal tales of his life as a missionary in China and later a corporate lawyer.  


6.9.19

Sustainable + Ethical options for ALL

By now I know readers of this blog know I value a variety of things when shopping for my kid's clothing and my own. Style, trends, quality, price point, manufacturing, and keeping things minimal all matter, and often they're not all possible in one garment. Sustainability and ethical options are always a top priority and I share those garments often in my Instagram feed but I realize buying brands that are made ethically are not always possible and it can create a growing pressure on parents. The ability to compare ourselves to others is highlighted on social media and I know that's a risk every time I share a new ethically made brand or thrifted treasure. In an effort to help all of us on a pressure-free journey towards sustainable and ethical shopping, I thought I'd provide as many ways as I can think of towards that goal. Some of these options won't work for your budget or schedule and THATS OKAY. Hear me reader, I know we're all doing our best. I've included as many options as possible because I think we can all take steps towards sustainability in our wardrobes, but what one does might not work for another and we can be satisfied with our efforts at the end of the day. I hope this list encourages you and inspires you in ways maybe you haven't thought of, and that you don't feel pressure of judgement from my ideas. 

photo from a recent trip to Villagae des Valeurs, credit: Neal Hardie

Sustainable + Ethical Options for ALL

1. Shop less. Use the clothes you have. Quite simple, but we all have felt the tug to buy a new piece of clothing when we don't need it at all. I buy new clothing (new and used) often, so I'm preaching to myself here! The best way to buy sustainable and ethical is to not to buy at all. 

2. Care well for your clothing. Similar to not buying at all, but with the focus more on keeping your clothing wearable. This includes washing well, using good stain remover quickly so stains don't set in and ruin a garment, hanging most things to dry to prolong their life (the dryer really is hard on clothing!), not washing clothes unless they're dirty (all washing is taxing on a garment), replacing fallen buttons and mending small rips, and repurposing old pieces (I've done this by making shorts from pants, hemming dresses to make shirts, distressing my own jeans, etc).

3. Accept hand-me-downs, participate in stuff swaps. I love a good stuff swap and am planning one for a few weeks from now! Donating old clothing is always wise but it's even more fun to see a friend make use of your castaways. Also don't feel any shame in accepting hand-me-downs! I've loved receiving clothing and furniture (even our TV!) from generous friends and family who were finished with them. 

4. Buy Used. Thrifting is a serious passion for me! My schedule is very flexible and my kids even love joining me, so I don't have trouble visiting a thrift store for 30 minutes on a Saturday of 15 minutes during the week. I have found some of my favourite garments at thrift stores! I love that it prolongs the life of a garment and costs significantly less than buying new. I'm always asked where I go thrifting and I'm happy to share. My mainstay is Village des Valeurs (Value Village) because their stores are so clean and well organized. I also visit Renaissance and Armee du Salut, but have less luck at those places for kids clothing. Aside from thrift stores I'll sometimes buy things on Marketplace, Kijiji, Craigslist, or Varage Sale, and my new favourite kid's clothing site, Boutique Mini-Cycle. (see below)

5. Boutique Mini-Cycle. I love this site! They sell new and used high quality kid's clothing and they guarantee to buy back everything you buy from them. I've sold many of our higher end pieces to Boutique Mini-Cycle recently, so head over and check our their pre-loved section! See more about them here.

6. Buy ethical at the end of season when sales are big. Timing purchases for end of season can save enough to make ethical and sustainable brands possible for some budgets. Some of my favourite ethical shops that have amazing end of season sales are Lou Wolf and Les Petits Voyous.

7. Ask for ethical and sustainable clothing as gifts. Often our kid's grandparents will ask for some gift ideas for the kids and I'll often include ethical brands that might not work for our budget that month. My parents have bought the girls dresses that are ethically made for Christmas or birthdays, for example.

8. Make fast fashion slower. This one is really important as I assume most of us are not ready to never again shop at Old Navy, Gap, Zara, or HM. Yes these brands are fast fashion and unethical, but sometimes it's what we can afford and the ease of online shopping wins out. How can you slow down these purchases? Commit to keeping and re-purposing these pieces for several years, buy fewer pieces (yay, capsule wardrobes!), choose eco-friendly materials like denim and cotton instead of synthetic ones that don't biodegrade, give these pieces away to friends or charities when you're finished, etc. 

9. Consider cost per wear. When looking at the price tags of ethical clothing it's easy to be discouraged. If you're buying quality pieces though, they should last for a very long time (most ethical pieces are also very well made, unlike fast fashion which is mass produces and not built to last). For girls, I especially love skirts and dresses because they seem to last for two years per sister. Anything I know they'll wear for a long time and can be handed down is more justifiable financially. This means I'll more likely buy ethical clothing for my oldest daughter because she can hand everything down to her sister. Little sister gets fewer ethical pieces if she needs something new as cost-per-wear will be higher. 

10. Buy timeless styles + neutrals. Speaking of handing down pieces to other siblings, a sure fire way to keep your clothing for a long time it so make sure it works for both boys and girls and is outside of trends. Neutrals match everything and never go out of style, same with basic stripes. Oli wears quite a lot of Lily's old clothing (sweat pants, sweat shirts, skinny jeans, t-shirts) and in turn, he's handed all of those items down further to Chloe. 

Have I missed anything? I hope this was helpful!