14.12.18

the pre-Christmas purge + a peek at the kid's shared room

Two weeks before Christmas is prime time to do a whole house purge, but if you don't have the time with the added festive events filling up the calendars, just do one room: your kids'.  Think about it. The kids are about to receive a slew of new toys, books, and clothes for Christmas. Where's it all going to go? What's going to be seriously used and enjoyed this winter, and what needs to go to make room for new additions? 





 Our family is kind of tricky too because all three of our kids have Autumnal birthdays, so they recently all received many new toys and books only a couple of months ago (and in some cases, a couple of weeks ago!) I often suggest giving experiences instead of material things for the holidays, but even so, the reality is, our kids will receive many material things this year (many from us, too!). While I'm thrilled for the zoo membership that the kids will be getting this year, I'm also excited to see my girls love on their new dolls and Oli build his new bridge suspension kit and snuggle up with all of their new books. Material things aren't bad, but they need to serve us, be enjoyed by us, and used by us, or there's no point.

  
 

 


With all this in mind, we did our annual pre-Christmas purge at the end of November and the kid's room was so tidy afterwards that I decided to snap a few pics. A large amount of my blog traffic comes from people looking for resources in room sharing, three kids to a room, and minimalist family tips, so even though I feel like I shared their room not too long ago, here's another look. The List of Countries is a huge hit and the newest addition to their room. Bold Tuesday sent it to me along with a few other maps that are in our living room. It's no secret that our family loves to travel, so it felt like the perfect blend of educational art and wanderlust. I like adding art to the kid's room that isn't necessarily children's art - this is a simple black and white graphic but I think it's perfect for a kid's room!

 

Their room is always evolving as the three tiny inhabitants in it are as well. The kiddies really are growing before our eyes and their room reflects a bit of the spurt we've experienced recently. They have fewer toys and a heaps more books than in the past, and they recently donated all of their puzzles and many of their stuffed animals. Involving them in the purge is so important! It gives them a vision for owning less, and reminds them that they rarely play with excess, but when they have the right amount of toys that have long playability, they're better entertained and have less to clean up!

 

Their room is a bit lighter heading into the Holidays which is exactly where it should be. We don't give our kids a ton of gifts, but when you combine three sets of grandparents, doting aunts and uncles, and our recent birthdays, it can get to be a lot, so I love doing a good purge before we're in the thick of it. Of course, I always suggest giving your old things to friends who might use them (especially clothes  - find a friend with younger kids and bless her with your favourite too-small pieces of clothing!) and if no one you know is in need, donate to your local thrift shop. 

I'm always asked where I go thrifting and the answer is - EVERYWHERE, haha! In Montreal, I recommend Village des Valeurs (Savers), Renaissance (Good Will), and Armee du Salut (Salvation Army) and in my neighbourhood there's also Le Chainon, a great local feet on the ground charity that helps women in dire need. Happy purging and giving :)

11.12.18

Our Nest Ready For Christmas!

As promised, here's a peek at our Christmas decor this year!


Every year it's a little bit different, and every year I think I love it best - that's true this year again! I love how we've pared down this year. As I mentioned in my last post, we didn't buy any new decorations, and in fact, ended up donating a few of our decorations along the way. 


I love all sorts of Christmas decor - rustic and classic red and green, bright and colourful, modern and minimalist; it's all glorious! This year ours was decidedly minimal with a lot of white and natural pieces (woods, metals, oranges, greenery). I think we've struck a balance that really suits our home and our hearts which has taken years to accomplish. We've done years without a tree at all for fear of letting the material side of the holidays take too much precedence. We've done years with more decorations where we've gone over budget getting new things, chasing that false idea of perfection. I feel like we're finally in a place where we have some cherished Christmas decorations that are meaningful to us (mostly thrifted), but it's not distracting or all-consuming both in our mindset nor in the space taken up in our little nest. 


I love little touches that you might even miss if you pass too quickly - like the little trees in the floating houses and the framed map of the North Pole. The North Pole print is from Bold Tuesday, a company I worked with last month. When I chose that print I totally had Christmas in mind, even though we don't even do Santa haha!


Here are a few shots of the whole living area. You'll notice we don't have a lot of space (this is basically it, folks!) so we didn't want decorations to take over. We also use the back door regularly, so it can get cluttered quickly, even as I have the kids clear their backpacks and snow gear away every day after school.


Here's a closer look at our tree - these ornaments are mostly thrifted and from my childhood with a few new ones that we've bought for the kids each year. I especially love the blue and white ones which we picked up in Amsterdam years ago and the 1950's vintage ornaments that I found at the thrift store!


I also love the kids to have a bit of Christmas decor in their shared room. A few kid-friendly decorations like their own small tree and a plastic nativity set make for fun play that they look forward to every year, even now that they're a bit older! Whenever friends come over to play, the nativity set is the first thing they play with! So interesting to see that curiosity in little kids. I also find keeping Christmas books for only the month of December does make them so special! Since December 1 we've been reading our favourite Christmas books (you can see them all in the BOOKS stories archive on my Instagram) and watching Frosty, Rudolph, and The Grinch. New Christmas programs that we've fallen for this year are the Storybots Christmas, Angela's Christmas, and Shrek Christmas, all on Netflix. 


Even our bedroom has a little sparkle! But the garland on our bed only lasted a night, haha! It's the same garland that is now on the fireplace. I couldn't decide on a pillow so I put it to the Instgram stories community and landed on the plaid after all. I have the red one on the grey chair in my room though, so it's still being used.


Here's one last little look at a few touches. I really loved dressing our home up for the holidays but am always conscious of not letting the material side of decorating become too important. As a creative type, I love design and decor, and it helps me build traditions for my family and create an atmosphere for celebrating. Such a hard balance when we don't want our minds distracted away from Christ and his coming at Christmastime. I'd love to hear how you decorate (or don't!) at the holidays, and feel free to send me links to your own holiday tours in the comments or over on Instagram!


30.11.18

no-spend Christmas + a two happy results from the experiment

This year I wanted to try something new as we prepare our home and hearts for Christmas. I've always loved an Advent reading plan (see here and here and here for past Advent examples) and steering our attentions away from gifts and Santa Claus and towards Christ (see here for why we don't do Santa), but there was one area I was still letting get away - our budget. 

This year I decided to spend nothing on Christmas-themed things and non-essentials. Brad and I have never given each other gifts for Christmas and we've always made sure that the gifts weren't our kid's favourite part about the holiday, but the over-spending in other areas needed to stop. 


Vowing not to spend anything beyond a modest gift budget this season I'm realizing how much I overspend every year on all things Christmas - new décor, ornaments, wrapping supplies, Christmas themed books, Advent-related materials, and more. All the things I spend money on during the holidays are good things. We are Christmas people! Of course we can justify another Advent book ($25), the tradition of giving the kids a new ornament every year ($30), some new decorations ($40), and supplies ($50) for all the festivities.  But do we need any of it? In fact, I wonder if sometimes these good things have distracted me.

It's not even about the money at the end of the day. Sure, this experiment has probably saved me $150 or more, but it's been more about stepping away from consuming at a time of year when my attentions so easily drift from the manger in Bethlehem towards materialism. The conscious decision to not allow for extra spending this year has reminded me that the joy of the season isn't because of a beautifully decorated house or the latest Advent book, or the sweetest new ornaments. Christmas joy comes from Christ, God who became man to come and save us. The rest - the traditions and decorations and goods that come together to create the background for this joy are meaningful, but they aren't the true source of our joy. 

Apart from our focus being off consuming this season, which is reason enough to celebrate, I've noticed two lovely results in this experiment - flourishing creativity and bolstered minimalism. I used to get a real thrill out of creating but over the years, and after three kids, I find I rarely have time to create with my hands. Sure, I exercise creativity on my Instagram account and in cooking or decorating my home, but actual DIY projects are hard to come by in our home these days. Well not having the ability to buy anything new, but still loving change, has lead to a few little DIY projects this year using only things we already have. The nativity set above is an example - it was the barn of another set which has really colourful plastic figurines, and the white ceramic set never had a barn. I love the white and wood pairing and would never have thought of it if I weren't stretching my creativity as a result of this spending freeze. 

A fresh resolve towards minimalism is another welcome change. As I've slowly been taking out all of our Christmas decor this week, I've actually come across various pieces that we don't need and given them to friends. I'm so tempted all the time to buy new things (even from thrift stores or Dollarama which cost next to nothing), when in reality I have too much and would do better to work with what I have and pare down. One purging trick I always use is to bring everything out of my closet and really examine it before putting it back in my closet. Looking at my closet I may think I wear everything, but in taking everything out, trying pieces on, taking a closer look, I almost always set aside a few pieces for charity before putting everything back. It's the same with Christmas decorations, I've learned! Even before looking through our Christmas stock I was finding myself tempted at the shops to buy a few more pieces to deck our halls, and instead we have fewer goods than before. 

I'm not saying I'll stick to the spending ban every Christmas, but this year it's been so refreshing and helpful. It's helped us break poor spending habits, organize and minimize our holiday goods, create meaningful decorations with what we have, save money, and mostly, not focus on our stuff but on Immanuel - God with us. Maybe our wallets will be a bit freer to open and give, our home will be less cluttered to invite others in, and our hearts will be more focused on what really matters. 

7.11.18

Mélange

Hi friends! There are so many things that have interested me or inspired me online lately, so I thought I'd share a few favourites, plus some random thoughts and updates from me!
  • How did you feel about your childbirth experience? I loved this brave question and the thoughtful article which answers it - Are We Asking Too Much of Our Birth Stories?
  • Why you should stop wearing shoes in your house! I find most Canadians are shoes off people, but every once in a while a guest will stroll in with their shoes on and I kind of die a little inside!
  • Do you put any faith in the Enneagram? Several well informed friends have been talking about this personality test for over a year, so finally I figured I'd take a few free tests that I could find online. I took four tests and every one said I was equal parts 1 and 3 with an 8 wing. A really beautiful resource for learning more is the Sleeping At Last podcast, where he shares interesting facts and fears and strengths of each type but then fully elaborates with a bespoke song for each type. I cried listening to the One song because I felt so completely understood! Even that Ones have trouble accepting grace and are tempted to earn God's favour. I can't wait to learn more and see how this understanding can help me better know myself and others. 
  • I'm so excited that this sweet family is adopting again! Elsie gives a thorough Q + A for their second adoption that I enjoyed reading. 
  • Oli and Chloe are wearing these sweaters every few days and they look so darn cute!
  • This soup is out of this world. I've made it a few times recently! And in the Instantpot too - so easy. 


5.11.18

Plaid for Fall!


Maybe it's my British soul, or my new found love for Harry Potter and his house head, Professor McgGonagall, or maybe plaid is just timeless and has always been perfect for Fall? Either way, I am obsessed with plaid and jumped at the chance to partner with Vero Moda this Autumn to try some of their gorgeous transition coats.


Montreal, and really all of Canada is so diverse in it's weather that it's really tricky to limit outerwear. Even someone like me who has a capsule wardrobe for myself and my kids can easily justify several coats for all the types of weather we experience. I have a jean jacket and a beige trench coat and love both, but come late October, early November, they aren't warm enough. My winter parka is also too warm for these transition months. Vero Moda asked me if I'd like to try a few of their coats this season and I was looking for that exact coat - the one which would take me from late October until just before Christmas, and then again in late February until early April. Those awkward months where a thin jacket won't do and a down-filled coat is over-kill. 


I absolutely love this plaid coat! The rest of my outfit was thrifted - the bright blue denim skirt, braided belt, and ribbed stripe top. I'll be sharing the other choices I made in the following weeks. Thank you, Vero Moda for partnering with me on this series! 

1.11.18

Shop Québec - Daily Story + Kid's Story

Daily Story is a company I discovered on Instagram a few months ago and I immediately knew their sweaters would be perfect for our Fall capsule wardrobes. This Montreal-based company has a small collection every season of the perfect wardrobe staples, and recently they launched Kid's Story, their adorable kid's line!

When I had the opportunity to collaborate with Daily Story recently, I was so excited. Their sweaters are my favourite! As many of you saw on my Instagram stories, I chose the over-sized crew neck with stripes that had a tiny message if you look closely - you're not the only one. I love that! Looks like a classic Fall sweater, with a little hint of empathy too. 

For the kids I knew the second I saw their Bel humain de demain sweaters that I wanted them for my beautiful little humans. They stock up to size 8, but heads up they do run a bit small. In some stores Lily can wear a size 8, but here Oli is wearing an 8 and Chloe is wearing a 6. My sweater is the perfect over-sized fit in a small, but the kids fit snug, which I don't mind at all - it looks like a very thick and cozy long sleeve tee, which is fun!


31.10.18

Oli is 7 and Harry Potter!

Since Oli's birthday and Halloween are within a couple days of each other, I give you THE BOY WHO LIVED! 


I can't believe our boy has turned seven! I probably say that every year with all of my kids, but we really have seen Oli thrive this past year and seven feels like a big step. He is an awesome boy and our girls are so blessed to have him as the Oreo to their cookie! It's quite amazing to think back to that ultrasound seven years ago when I found out we were having a boy and how disappointed I was. I had always wanted all girls - that was my family growing up and I was frankly terrified of boys. I've never been more thankful for unanswered prayer. 

I thank God regularly for not giving me what I had asked for, what I thought I wanted. Oli is a living example of God's ways being better than our own. And in the end, he's the sweetest, most caring and gentle boy I know. He is still fun and rough and active and he needs way less sleep than his sisters (in short, he's a mini-Brad through and through), but he's not anything close to what I feared when I imagined having boys. He is such a gift and we just love him to pieces! He loves Harry Potter (obviously), robotics, building and creating, swimming, tennis, and giving back rubs. I'm serious! Brad will be working in his office and Oli will sneak up and start rubbing his back, or I'll be washing the dishes and I'll suddenly have a stool behind me and Oli standing atop of it ready to massage. This boy! How did we get so lucky? 

30.10.18

A Weekend in Montreal with my BFF (and mini BFFs)

Last week my BFF (and E and E) Morgan and her three kiddos came up to Montreal to spend a few days with us. We were all in heaven! Both of our husbands work long hours and couldn't join in for the festivities but neither us of has ever shied away from a solo eight hour drive with kids. Not an easy trip, but worth it to see your dearest friend and her children who are also your God-children. You may remember our twelve hour road trip that she and I (and our combined five kids) took two summers ago to PEI as proof of our craziness.


My kids were in school during the days, so I was able to invest fully in Morgan and the kids, which was a real treat. For the first few years that I had kids, Morgan was an enormous help to me, as she was at the time new to Montreal and only working part time. She would join me for those long parenting days, jump in and wash the dishes or fold the laundry, she would always have one of my kids on her hip, and together she and I (and my babies) explored and fell in love with Montreal. It was complete heartbreak when her husband's work transferred them to Hamilton, Ontario (eight hours away!), and just when they had started their own little family, too. But this friendship is one for the ages, and we don't let eight hours get in our way. And when we are together, now it's not only our relationship that we nurture but our relationship with one another's kids, and the sweet friendships that our kids share. 


Since Morgan's three are much younger than mine (her oldest is a year younger than Clover), I have absolutely zero baby things to lend them when they come. Thankfully Snuggle Bugz, my life-long go-to for all things baby, sent me a few things to help with my house guests, and it was perfect timing too as the weather just started dipping below zero in Montreal the week they arrived! They sent us the warmest (Hottest? Seriously they're that toasty) all-gear foot muffs from 7 AM Enfant for the boys and a Moby wrap for baby Honey. It's always a bit worrisome once the weather gets cold where little ones are concerned. It's hard to know if they're warm enough, but yet I'm also a huge advocate for getting outside every day, especially with kids, which is why I love gear like the 7 AM Enfant foot muff. It fits in almost any stroller or car seat, which is super handy! I can't think of any gear that would have been put to better use for their visit as our absolute favourite thing to do is get out with our kids and explore, no matter the temperatures. Especially in a city like Montreal where there's always a fun park to explore and a warm cafe to tuck into nearby once you need some warming up. It reminded me of Morgan and I's early days exploring Montreal with my three, except this time it was with hers. 


We stopped by Parc Laurier and a new cafe on Laurier Est called Méchants Pinsons that was lovely. The staff were so knowledgeable, heaps of beans to choose from, and delicious food options. A lot of cafes only have croissants to nibble on with your latte, and while I love a croissant sometimes you want something sweet or more substantial. I chose a few sweet treats for us to share - a pumpkin tart, a chocolate ravioli, and a lemon scone (the scone was the winner but they were all delicious), and Morgan grabbed a sandwich and some cookies for Ace and Finn. I kept Honey in the Moby wrap the whole time, just savouring my snuggles with her. I loved babywearing all of my kids and we did so straight through the toddler years. When we were in Iceland, Chloe was three and we were so glad to have a carrier for hiking and cave exploring! But those days are long gone for me, so I loved being able to relive them with Morgan's little babe. 


Of course we didn't manage a single picture of the two of us, but that's to be expected with six kids and wanting to spend our short time together away from our phones! Morgan's visit was such a treat but of course, way too short! We loved having her and her darling children with us for a few days and everyone cried as they drove off, but we're already planning the next trip and of course we keep in touch with audio and video messages on Whatsapp almost daily. Sigh. Friendships like this one don't come along every day. 

(By the way, Honey's bibs that she was wearing all week were also from Snuggle Bugz for those who have asked!)
This post was in collaboration with Snuggle Bugz
a company I've supported personally for years.
All opinions are 100% my own. 
To book a collaboration, contact me. 


22.10.18

VEGAN Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Ok so let me start by saying I'm not a fan of *most* vegan recipes. There always seems to be something missing - a richness, a smoothness, a girth that animal fats so aptly bring to the table. The secret here is silken tofu (the extra soft kind). It covers for eggs and cream and has the perfect texture without even trying! Every other vegan dessert I've had uses coconut oil for this purpose, and I find coconut oil to be too dominate of a flavour - it just takes over in the vegan recipes I've tried, such that if there were coconut oil in this recipe you'd hardly taste the chocolate or peanut butter. Coconut is fine and all, but vegan recipes that use coconut oil just taste like pure coconut even when that's not the flavour profile of the recipe at all. All that to say, I've tried many vegan recipes over the years even though I'm not a vegan, and this one is the FIRST that I can hands down say tastes legitimately amazing - the same or maybe even better than a dairy infused counterpart. Are you ready to be convinced that not all vegan desserts taste like coconutty health foods? Good! Here we go.



Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

The recipe is so darn easy, you really just need a good blender (or food processor). Blend together the following ingredients:
  • 1.5 cups silken tofu
  • 1.5 cups melted chocolate (I used a mix of dark and milk chocolate and melted it using the double boiler method)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate soy milk (but any milk would do - vanilla, dairy, almond, cashew, etc)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (but any nut butter would do - almond, cashew, etc)
Blend up that goodness and pour it into a prepared pie dish and then let it sit for a good while - ideally make it a day in advance but if you can't wait that long, pop it in the freezer for an hour and then the fridge for another hour and you're probably set. 

As for pie crust, I chose the non-vegan option of blending a package of oatmeal cookies together with 1/3 cup melted butter (because remember I have a thing against coconut oil), which I baked at 375 with pie weights for 10 minutes, then chilled before adding my delicious chocolate peanut butter pie filling. By pie weights, I mean I poured some dry lentils onto a piece of parchment paper which was placed on top of the pie. This helps the sides of the pie crust cook in place instead of melting down towards the middle. You can actually buy pie weights, but any dry pasta or bean will work perfectly. To be truly vegan I think the store-bought graham cracker crusts are made with oil, so you could go that route. 

The texture of this no-bake pie is uh-mazing and it's so rich, you'd swear it was full of 35% cream. Let me know if you try it!

19.10.18

10 YEARS!

As of yesterday, our marriage is ten whole years old and I'm proud of how far we've come as a couple. We did not have an easy first few years having dated long distance and for not very long. We didn't live together until we were married and both have very strong personalities, so there was a lot of learning and forgiving to do in those early years! We had explosive arguments and said things that fill us with regret to this day, but all along we held fast to the vows we made on that cold October morning and trusted that God knit us together and wouldn't desert us.



We aren't married today because it's the easiest option, or because marriage always makes us happy, or because the person we married treats us like gold every day of our lives (I'm sadly not that great of a wife, I'm afraid).  God's design for marriage is to mimic his deep, abiding, forgiving, protective love for his "bride", the church. We fail at representing that symbolism on a daily basis, but it still keeps us with our eyes off of ourselves and onto a greater thing, with a greater purpose. I can tell you this; I'm a better woman for being Brad's wife and he's a better man for being my husband. We are better together, and that's the whole point. Today I'm so thankful for marriage and for my groom, and for ten years of sharpening and bettering and supporting one another. As the old exhortation goes, what God has joined together let no man put asunder.