18.1.21

Mini-Cycle Moving Sale (up to 65% off!)

It's no secret that one of my favourite places to shop for my kids is Boutique Mini-Cycle. So much love for this Montreal small business! I wanted to let you all know of a huge sale they're having right now - up to 65% off!! - as they're moving to a larger studio in a few weeks.



I love their dual model of selling high quality new clothing and secondhand pieces. You guys know I love thrifting, so usually I buy from their secondhand or "recycle" section. With the thrift stores all closed in Montreal due to lockdown, Mini-Cycle is the only place you can buy secondhand clothes (safely online!) at the moment. The Moving Sale makes the price of ethically-made and durable clothing more within reach so I hope many of you will take advantage of it! 

(Lily and Oli are both wearing top to bottom Mini-Cycle in this pic!)

12.1.21

Family Photos (from Autumn 2020)

This past Autumn we were so blessed to have my friend Camille take our photos. I'm so thankful to have these place markers for our history, to remember what it looked like having kids ages 7, 9, and 10 and how we all appeared the year of 2020. Every year I feel like we stay more or less the same, until I look at our annual family photos and see that so much indeed has happened and we are utterly changed. 



We love this season so much. Our kids are at an incredible stage where they're independent enough to go to the park together without a parent and have become quite helpful around the house, yet still require a tuck in each night and play make believe. It's the best of both worlds and if we could, we'd freeze time. The truth is, every year it gets better as a parent, so I know better than to think it's all down hill from here. We're starting to enjoy the same activities with our kids and the same books and movies. It's wonderful and awe-inspiring to think we're raising our dearest friends. 


Like many of you, 2020 tested our limits as a family. We faced disappointments, felt boredom and loneliness and fear, made due with no child care and online learning, and got even closer than usual in our two-bedroom condo where we spent all of our days, safe at home

We attended Covid funerals and cancelled best laid plans for vacations and the holidays. The family in these photos is not perfect and has failed one another numerous times, but gosh we love each other. And we left 2020 stronger together. 




Thank you Camille for these shots!

6.1.21

the January donut (and thoughts on rhythms, heaven, health, and balance)

I call these the January donut 🍩, not because it's a month for resolutions and dieting and self-loathing, heck no. I've just always been someone who is happy with change and goes in opposing directions often as a result. Hence, quite healthy food this month.


In December I go hard into celebrating, because Christmas is truly the most celebratory holidays and for good reason! We ought to eat, drink, and be merry then of all times, because our weary souls rejoice in the little Lord Jesus coming to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found (yes, that run on sentence was a mash up if several Christmastide carols, I hope you noticed). So yes, celebrating and feasting is not just OK it's utterly appropriate. 

And now we're here at the closing of Christmastide and my body is craving a change. Sweets and booze and roasts and carbs and rich fare are meant to be treats, appreciated by the partakers. If you don't think that's Biblical, I invite you to read Revelation and see what Christians believe heaven will be like! 

This side of heaven though, there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing" and I'm feeling the effects of a month of plenty. Craving fresh vegetables and whole foods, eschewing desserts and alcohol for a few weeks. Anyone else feel this way in January? As I said, this is not a resolution or a diet, it's balance.


January donuts are a must! 

Mix together: 
2 eggs 🥚🥚
1/4 cup maple syrup 🍁
1/4 cup coconut oil 🥥
1/2 cup Greek yogurt 🥛
1 cup grated carrot 🥕
1 banana 🍌
1/4 cup oats 🌾
1 cup flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder ⚪
1 tablespoon vanilla extract 🟤

Pipe into a donut pan or muffin tins, bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so (this will depend on your oven so keep an eye out), top with vanilla Greek yogurt, and enjoy. 

16.12.20

Combating Screen Addition and Our Love of Board Games

This Christmas, like every other in our recent family history, we're giving our kids several board games. Growing up I wasn't particularly into board games and might have joked that they should be called bored games on more than one occasion 😅, but I've come to love them, partly because we've found some truly exciting and fun games, and because I know how great they are for kids and families. 



Spending too much time on screens is linked to poor sleep habits, social problems, attention issues, difficulty regulating emotions, and general lethargy.  Educators have noticed that children who spend more time on screens have lower grades, enjoy reading less, and have trouble staying on track than their peers who have less screen exposure. What troubles me more than any of this is how little research has been conducted on the long-term impact of screens and social media on children and teens. Anyone born in the last 20 years is truly a guinea pig when it comes to screens and we just don't know the full scope of what it does to kids. With all that in mind, Brad and I have been cautious with introducing screens to our kids and tried to limit them significantly in favour of imaginative play, reading, physical activity, and board games. 

As a family, we'll definitely spend our fair share of time snuggled up on the couch watching Christmas movies over the break, but generally screen time is limited to 1-2 hours on weekends. Our kids don't play video games, they don't use e-mail, they don't have personal devices, and they don't watch a lot of popular media. I know screens aren't going anywhere and with online learning being a real part of our lives it's unrealistic to not allow our children any access to them, but we do everything we can to be wise about how much we allow and the context for screens in our home. 

Our kids genuinely don't feel they're missing out because we've been able to find some great activities and hobbies for them. I wanted to talk about board games in this post specifically as I know many of you will be looking for gift ideas this week! As I said, I haven't always been a board game fan because I find the super strategy ones too intense and not social enough (I'm more of a charades girl myself!), but Brad has always been a fan and over the years he's done lots of research on playability to find games I'll like and that work with our kids ages (now, 7-10). Here's a list of our favourite board games. It's going to be a long winter and I know we'll be playing them quite often! Maybe you'll find one for your family as well :) 

  • Azul (my absolute fav and great for kids and adults alike!)
  • Ticket to Ride Europe (the original is very fun but the Europe version is more complicated with tunnels and ferries, plus we love the European cities!)
  • Stone Age (such a beautiful, tactile game of civilizations)
  • Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle (this is one of the kids' Christmas gifts and they're going to be obsessed!)
  • Dix It (for the social players like me this ones great!)
  • Caverna (a strategy game about building and decorating your own cave)

This year we had the good fortune to work with Asmodee Games, which is easily our favourite Game company. They make all of our favourites and they gifted us a few on this list, others, also by Asmodee, we purchased ourselves because we really love them!


Honestly, for any parents worrying that their kids are growing dependent on screens, the best advice I can give you is to provide them exciting, engaging alternatives. With the pandemic a lot of extra curriculars have been cancelled so there's more time at home than ever, but board games are a great option. Playing together, we have more family conversation than watching films allows, and we're finding it's a wonderful way to make memories and bond as a family. 

This post was in collaboration with Asmodee Games.
All opinions are 100% my own.
To book a collaboration, contact me!

26.11.20

How We Came to Celebrate Advent, What It Means to Us, and How to Get Started

Are you familiar with the Advent season? Are you wondering how early to begin with your small children, or how to engage your older ones? Are you wondering if it's too late to start Advent or that it would be too complicated? Friends, I'd love to help by sharing our experience. 


I was not raised celebrating the season of Advent. The chocolate Advent calendars which always began on December 1st were as close as I got to the season. Many years later when Brad and I both became Christians, and eventually became parents, we knew we wanted to mark Christmas with joyful celebration and profound reflection so we thought a lot about how we'd do that with a young family. Early on, we decided not to include Santa in our Christmas festivities (though we have always given presents and most years we've had a tree). It wasn't for many more years though, that we'd incorporate Advent into our Christmas Festivities. 

Advent is the season preceding Christmas and is marked by celebrating the four Sundays before December 25th. For this reason, the date of Advent is always changing (it's Sunday, November 29th this year). Most liturgical churches celebrate Advent (think Anglican, Catholic, etc) but few Evangelical churches do, though that's changing. I believe our generation's desire for deeper roots and the comfort of traditions is what's leading many Evangelical churches and Christians to begin celebrating Advent. It's certainly what has drawn me in these past few years, but I digress. Advent is leading up to Christmas and aims to awaken joy and anticipation for the day of days, Christmas! When Christians all over the world celebrate the dawn of Salvation. The beginning of the greatest story ever told. The birth of the King.

There are countless ways one can celebrate Advent. Some celebrate Advent only on the four Sundays before December 25th, others (like us) celebrate every day of Advent, or every few days when schedules allow (also us). We intend to gather around the table and celebrate Advent every evening, but some days we run out of time or someone is ill or we're too tired and we say without guilt, tomorrow! Advent is a reminder of God's grace to us, so please don't let it turn into an obligation or source of guilt. If you miss a night, pick it up the next. If you miss a week, pick it up the next. If you're missing many evenings, consider that you've over-complicated Advent and simplify. 

 

For my family, Advent always includes the lighting of candles, the singing of a Christmas carol 
(which truly are the best worship songs ever written!) and the reading of scripture and memorizing of scripture (one naturally leads to the other), and is generally 10 minutes per day.

The symbolism of lighting four candles progressively through Advent is beautiful and tactile and one of my favourite parts! Young children are always in awe of flames, made even more special if other lights are dimmed, so as long as they are seated a safe distance away, I suggest using candles even from a young age. You don't need to spend a lot of money on a candleholder either. I've owned three over the years - two were thrifted for a few dollars and another was a $10 Ikea bargain. Or use whatever candles you have on hand. The point is light - representing Christ, the light of the world. We light one candle the first week, then the second week we light the first week's candle and the second candle, and so on. When all four candles are blazing, our hearts are too! It's a beautiful way to anticipate Christmas. 

The singing of carols began as a desire to teach our kids the lyrics to all the classics, especially since our church is French so they weren't learning them there. As our kids have grown it's sweet to hear them sing every word of some of our most cherished carols, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Silent Night. I found an old Hymn book secondhand that has a whole Christmas section, so we sing from that but you could do any simple Google search to find the lyrics to your favourites. We choose a few each Advent and rotate through them until everyone knows the words. This is especially great for little ones who can't read but after repeated listening can memorize. 


Reading and memorizing scripture is the third aspect of Advent for us, and each year we change the passage. One year we read John 1:1-12 every day of Advent and by the second week my kids were finishing my sentences and eventually knew it all by heart. There were no drills or contests, simply the daily practice of reading the Bible. Other years we've read the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah (which were all fulfilled by Jesus Christ) or Romans 5:1-11, which isn't particularly Christmas-sy but is focused completely on the gospel. You could choose any passage! For us, the importance was just being in the Word together, taking it to heart, and focusing on the eternal promises of God in a season that highlights such temporary joys. 

Our kids were 3, 5, and 6 when we celebrated Advent for the first time. Inspired by a thoughtful mom friend (hi Brit!), I found a candle holder at a thrift store for a few dollars and bought some secondhand children's books that focused on the nativity. We gathered around the candles, lighting one each week and read a story. Later we'd add Christmas hymns and scripture, and the story would be read during other times in the day. It was simple, even with young kids, and oh so meaningful. 

Christmas so often seems to sneak up on us, doesn't it? The week before we're often frantic, racing to bake and buy and decorate, and the truth is, in all of this activity our faith can often take a back seat. The aim of Advent is to delight our hearts in Christ, who came at Christmas to save us from our sins. Starting a full four weeks ahead of Christmas gives us ample time to linger with the Christmas story, meditate on scripture, and form new habits. I don't know about you, but I'm terrible at waiting. Advent turns my impatience into joyful reflection with these small acts of lighting a candle and singing a carol. Advent has become in itself something we look forward to, which makes Christmas seem much richer and longer a holiday. 


Advent teaches us to wait well; refocusing our hearts on the real meaning of Christmas, lessening the power that temporary treasures have on our hearts, and savour the saviour. This year is our forth year celebrating Advent and these last four Christmases have truly been the best ones. We arrive at the tree on Christmas morning not looking for the gifts to fill us, but with hearts already full of joy and worship. Jesus Christ is our greatest gift and Advent builds our affections so well.

 ps - Tomorrow I'll be sharing some of my favourite tools (devotionals, games, books) that I bring out at Advent each year and help enrich the season, if you'd like some more practical suggestions!

19.11.20

We've Never Done "Santa" and the Kids Are Alright!

We're that family that doesn't do Santa at Christmastime. The more I talk about this online, the more I realize there are actually many families like ours, and at the very least, there are many families out there with a bit of dissonance around the whole thing. If you'd like to read a detailed post on why we don't do Santa, see here, and if you'd like to read my most recent musings on why it's been a great decision for us, see here. I can now say, as a parent of kids who are past the Santa age (they're 7, 9, and 10) that it was the right decision for us and our kids are quite alright!




Today I wanted to tackle a few often asked questions. Especially with all three being school aged how did they handle the Santa secret with their peers, and how did we navigate the many Santa-themed activities they do at school, and aren't they feeling a bit left out?

Keeping The Secret 

We've always insisted that our kids don't spoil the secret for others. It's the choice of every individual family and we're not about to have our kids hurting feelings over a fun tradition. That said, last year two of our kids were asked head on from peers if they believed in Santa. This is where it gets awkward, because we don't want them to lie for obvious reasons. 

We've taught the kids to say, "I personally don't believe in Santa, but you can believe whatever you want!" 
They don't say why they don't believe (because we told them the truth!) as that would probably convince their peers and we have no interest in making other kids not believe in something that's special for them. I think it's so important for kids to learn from a young age that it's okay to have opposing beliefs and to communicate them respectfully. 

Santa Themed Activities

Our kids have all attended public school with the exception of Oli beginning homeschool this year. This means come December, every craft has a Santa theme and every song is about him. Honestly, I just let it go. Our kids know full well that he's not real but it's fun to participate in these songs and crafts at school. As with many things in life, they've learned that they won't always share the beliefs of their peers and that doesn't mean they need to break fellowship with them or be offended by everything.



Feeling Left Out? 

I'm often asked if our kids are left out by the lack of "magic" that Santa provides for the Holidays. I can say confidently that this has never been the case for our kids! As Christians, Christmas is magic because God became man and dwelt among us, and because that miracle means life everlasting for all who love him. There is nothing more magical than this beautiful news! We focus our hearts on the joys of the season beginning with Advent (this year it's November 29th, fyi!) and for the next four weeks we're constantly coming back to encouraging Bible verses and our favourite Christmas songs. The anticipation that Advent provides to Christmas is amazing and makes the Holiday last longer. I'll be writing about Advent this week for anyone interested!

This may go without saying, but our kids still receive gifts on Christmas morning like any other Santa-believing children. They're not missing out! The added benefit is that instead of them thinking the gifts came from a fictitious character, they understand that they came from their parents who love them, and they can practice gratitude practically. Our kids look forward to Advent and Christmas all year round and have the fondest memories of our Christmas traditions. 

To be honest I'm glad we're past the Santa years (generally by grade 2 kids no longer believe in him, from what I understand) so it's no longer a *thing*. We have no regrets in not including Santa in our Christmas festivities and we've been able to teach so many life lessons as a result. We've been able to magnify the importance of Christmas as Christians and not get distracted by competing narratives, our kids have learned to speak confidently about their beliefs in a respectful way, and they've learned that there will be many times in life that they don't see the world the same way as their friends - and they can be both bold and loving in those times and maintain fellowship despite differences. 

29.10.20

Oli is 9!

Our darling Oliboy is 9 today! His creativity, curiosity, and care never cease to amaze us. We couldn't have asked for (or even imagined!) a better fit to be the centre of our kid sandwich. He encourages and protects and teaches his sisters so much, and makes our job as parents sweet. No child is perfect, but gosh he's a good egg. 



For his birthday he cared most about the food - so his father's son! He asked for an English breakfast in the morning (sausage and bacon with his eggs), Schwartz smoked meat for lunch, and shrimp tacos tonight for supper. 



For gifts he asked the girls for secondhand books and pistachios with the shell on (he insisted on that as he likes the challenge, lol!), which they happily found and spent their own money on. Seriously, that was his wish list. Easily pleased, brimming with gratitude, always eager for new experiences  and clever beyond his years. So grateful for our boy, and just can't believe he's already 9! 

Big thank you to Boutique Mini-Cycle for the beautiful and durable Fluff Coat that he's wearing here!

28.10.20

Autumn Spice Cookies!

I was *so tempted* to call these pumpkin spice cookies, even though there's no pumpkin in them whatsoever, because most things that carry that monkier don't have any either, but I resisted the urge. 



Autumn spice seemed perfect, because though I find the flavours of cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon comforting and nostalgic, I don't want to taste them in April or July. They're cold weather flavours, those warming spices, and made for Autumn. These cookies too are made for Autumn. 



You don't need turtlenecks, sweaters, and squirrels, but goodness they are perfect for a Fall cookie! The essential is really the warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. The glaze is tasty but completely optional. Enjoying these cookies on a cold day with hot tea is a must!

Autumn Spice Cookies

Wet Ingredients
1 C butter, softened
1 C granulated sugar 
1 large egg
1.5 ts vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
3 C flour
1.5 ts baking soda
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/2 ts nutmeg
1/2 ts cardamom
pinch salt

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350, line cookie sheets with parchment paper
2. Mix together the wet ingredients and in a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients
3. Combine wet and dry ingredients until a ball forms
4. Roll our in batches and using cookie cutters, make your shapes. Another option is to simply make small balls and press them flat
5. Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes

(optional) Glaze:
3 tb icing sugar
1 tb 35% cream
1/4 ts of combinced spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom)
- whisk all together and drizzle on cooled cookies

Happy Autumn, friends!

16.10.20

What I Love About Our Kitchen & What I'd Change

Anytime I'm in a home, the room I'm most eager to see and the one I'm likely to spend the most amount of time in is the same - the kitchen. It's truly the heart of the home in my opinion. I love standing around a kitchen, glass of wine in hand, chatting away while something delicious is cooking. That's my ideal way to spend an evening with friends (Remember when friends could come over for supper? In Montreal, that's still a distant memory with Covid restrictions, but at least they're fond memories).



One day I dream of designing my own kitchen and making all the choices. Perhaps when we move in a couple of years to a slightly larger flat in the same neighbourhood. Anything larger than our current house in this neighbourhood will be a big price jump so we'll probably have to go fixer-upper style. Meaning I might get to realize this dream! Thinking ahead, and just because I love kitchens, I'm always noting what I like and don't like in a kitchen. My own kitchen being my case study, here are the things I know I love and those I just don't. 



WHAT I LOVE

I love a white kitchen. Food and spices and grains and cookbooks bring the colour I want - keep the rest white, I say! White cabinets will probably always be my choice.

I love our subway backsplash. We had it done years ago and it made a huge difference! 

I love that our kitchen is open. There are only three walls with the other "side" left open to the rest of our open concept home. 

I love having an island with stools. It's a natural place for the kids to take most of their meals, for homeschooling Oli, and for meal prep overflow. Under the island is also where I store our compost bin, recycling, and garbage (not shown) and a huge tub of our all purpose flour (shown).

I love our magnetic knife strip.

I love how I display my cookbooks.

I love having clear canisters for grains and flours (buying in bulk saves packaging and money, plus it's pretty).

I love displaying my favourite tea pots and dishes (I'd love real open shelving, but since we aren't able to renovate this kitchen I removed the doors from our cabinets).

I love how there are a lot of drawers.

I love our appliances. We bought the stove and fridge secondhand off kijiji when we moved and have never had a problem. We won't move them though.

I love that we installed under cabinet lighting (cheap, from Ikea, provides a lot of light!)

I love our sink faucet - the head is extendable so the entire sink gets clean as well as large awkward things like big pots. Couldn't ever go back to a stiff faucet!

I love how we hang our pots and pans to save space and for ease.

I love our Montreal print (by Bess Callard)


Ahh, that felt good. I should do this more - listing all the things I love about something. Especially when that something is a kitchen I can find myself complaining about from time to time. Highly recommend! And definitely start with what you love, because next up is less peachy.

THINGS I'D CHANGE

I'd change the corner sink - it's so depressing washing dishes in a literal corner! No view, no space, no light. Whyyy??

I'd change to a gas stove in a heartbeat.

I'd change the range hood, as ours works very poorly (or maybe we just have bad ventilation living on the second floor or a triplex?)

I'd change the countertops in a flash. White or pale grey quartz, please.

I'd change our corner cabinets. The foldable doors are wobbly and awkward and corner cabinets are never used to their potential as the far apex of the corner is just way too far back! 

I'd change our cabinet faces to shaker style - ours are more traditional with some moulding that isn't my jam.

I'd change our island from the Ikea unit we currently have to a built in, real deal, matching countertops to the kitchen, island. I'd also make the island a bit longer so we could fit three stools across the one side.

The most major change I'd make is natural light! I really really want my kitchen of dreams to have a window. Seems like not much to ask, but you must consider that we live in a classic Montreal triplex, which means windows on the front and back only. But a girl can dream...

I loved hearing from you on this Instagram post all the things you'd change and love about your kitchens. Keep the comments coming over there!

29.9.20

Autumnal Terracotta Vase DIY x Astilbe

My interest in the terracotta painting trend started small. One lamp, some simple black paint, and some baking powder. But all along I had my sights set on buying some autumnal hued paint and going to town on a collection of vases, which is exactly what I did with a couple of girlfriends last week. 



Mixing 1 tablespoon of baking powder with about 1/2 cup paint makes the paint thicker and more textured and gives a matte finish reminiscent of terracotta pottery. It's incredibly easy and transforms your old vases - such a gratifying project! 

                    

I loved this project because it combined my three decorating loves: buying secondhand, DIY, and shopping small. All of our vases were bought for $0.99-$3.99 secondhand and then we filled the painted vessels with gorgeous dried florals from local florist dry bar Astilbe

                   

It was hard to choose just two colours of paint from the many autumnal shades available, but we wanted to keep things simple, so finally I narrowed it down to one terracotta orange and one warm dusty rose. At most paint stores, you can buy a sample size of any paint colour for $5 and between three of us one small sample size in each colour was enough to paint a dozen vases of varying sizes. Since we were also splitting the cost between us, this project was incredibly affordable! I should add that I had white paint and paint brushes on hand.


I was so pleased with how my vases turned out! I filled each one with dried florals from Asilbe which I'd chosen earlier that day, and I have to say it was a very hard decision! Asilbe is typically an events florist, but in our Covid world, they've pivoted to focus more on their boutique, which has the widest array of dried florals I've ever seen! Their dry bar has all sizes and types of dried florals, and you can make your own bouquet with as much or as little. I was after some pampas grass and a few delicate florals to add to smaller vases. Astilbe did not disappoint! 

                 

I love the pops of warm colour that these vases add to our mostly monochromatic home. A really fun project to do with girlfriends and a must for affordable Fall decor!