Having a Newborn in the Pandemic

Perhaps some of you reading this are pregnant or hope to be pregnant, and the pandemic has brought about concerns greater than the typical pregnancy or conception worries. Maybe some of you are new moms, facing all of the firsts in a Covid-era seperated from the "village" that you assumed would be your help. I have many friends who have conceived and given birth since Covid-19 arrived on Canadian shores in early March, and one of them was brave enough to share her story for a video series my church has recently produced. 

Noemie was one of my first friends in Montreal, and was a key member of my "village" as I was pregnant with Oli and Chloe. She would take Lily for playdates when I needed to nap, often cooked meals for our family, and even showed up with a bottle of wine when all three of my kids contracted lice! I was delighted to hear that she was pregnant with her first baby and dreamed of the many ways I would support her as she supported me. Then Covid hit.  Visits, babysitting, and special deliveries brightened the hazy newborn days for me, and for first time moms during this pandemic, they've been lost. This is worthy of our grief. Noemie shares her experience in the French video below. I hope you'll watch it, and I hope it brings comfort to any who are in the same situation. Hugs to all the mamas. XO


The Kids' Shared Tween Room!

As always, our three kids, girls and a boy, happily share a room. I know this is scandalous to some, but it works for our fam! Over the years our kids have grown incredibly close and I think it's in large part thanks to them sharing their toys, books, and space constantly. Some day we do hope to move to a slightly larger apartment in the city and have three bedrooms, which would provide a bedroom for two of the kids to share, and one solo kid room, but that's not happening any time soon. Our kids understand this, and any of their friends who have siblings share a room too - it's city life! But as they get older we have made a few changes which culminated in this bedroom makeover with the goal to keep them as happy as possible in their shared space.

Decorating for a shared room with girls and a boy has it's challenges, but typically my style is quite neutral anyway, so it works for us. I've always aimed to keep their furniture and bedding white and let them add colour with their favourite objects, toys, and artwork. To see the kids' room before this makeover, see here. We used to have grey and white striped walls (which I painted nine years ago!) and mainly white bedding and furniture. It felt very personal and bright, but it was starting to feel a bit kidd-ish, especially since the kids' room hadn't seem any major changes since the kids were toddlers. Lily in particular, who is about to turn 10, has started wishing her bedroom was a bit more grown up. Oli, who's almost 9, is easygoing about their room, but he's starting homeschooling in the Fall so I was interested in making some sort of desk corner for his work during the day. Chloe, who is almost 7 didn't care what I did as long as I kept a place for her stuffed animals and her owl collection ♡

The biggest change was painting over the grey stripes with a warm white (Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace). I didn't realize what terrible shape the walls were in until I painted over the countless scuffs and stains. Nine years and three kids can do a lot of damage! Painting the trim was so gratifying! It's such an easy chore and makes a huge difference. 

Another big change was the kids' bedding. I teamed up with Maison Tess to try out their new kid's line of Muslin bedding. I'm usually kind of colour-phobic and keep things as neutral as possible, but their colours are so beautiful!! We chose the Amber Muslin Duvet Cover for Oli's bottom bunk and the Rose Muslin Duvet Cover for Lily's top bunk, both with a Whisper White Muslin pillowcases. Since the floor trundle bed isn't seen during the day, we've planned to keep our regular white duvet there. 

These duvet covers are incredibly soft and look even better with several washings. They're so soft we have no need for a flat sheet and even on hot nights the kids insist on using their duvets! You may remember that Brad and I also use Maison Tess linens so we already knew we'd love the product. They're handmade in Portugal and the quality is unmatched. I also love Maison Tess for being a women-led Montreal small business. Initially I wanted linen for the kids' room because it's what we have and we love it, but Muslin is truly the perfect kid's fabric. It feels like every kid's favourite blanket!

I also reorganized the kids' books and bought two new bookshelves to house their growing library. Tip: Making stacks of large book series saves a lot of space on the shelves and it's sometimes easier on the eyes than the rainbow coloured spines 😂

The large chest of drawers holds all of our Playmobil and some of our boardgames. Each child also has their own drawer for their personal treasures. Their closet keeps all of their clothing, costumes, and countless bins of Lego. The mirror on top is a new addition, something I found for $10 last summer while thrifting. It makes the room look larger and Lily especially loves it! The tall book shelf with two drawers is where the play food and doll clothes live. It may look like they have no toys, but they have a fair bit, just tucked away. I assure you, during the day it's never this clean, but we have a rule that around 3pm each day they need to pick up their room. With three kids in one room, it's impossible to keep it clean for long, but I also figure with three pairs of hands, the work to keep it clean should be light. 

This makeover took 12 hours and was a whirlwind (it's amazing what you can do when childcare is incredibly scarce and you find yourself with a few hours of it!) I painted the first coat of paint when a friend of ours offered to take the kids out for ice cream and some park time for a couple of hours. While the paint was drying, I fed the kids dinner, hung out with them, and tucked them in on our pull-out couch. With the help of Melatonin, they were all asleep very early (6:30pm) and far from their bedroom. I finished the second coat of paint at 8:30pm. I then painted the trim and did some touch-ups on their mid-century desk while the paint was drying. by 10:30pm the paint was fairly dry so I started moving the furniture around a bit and cleaned the floors where I'd dripped paint. Their new duvet covers were stuffed, beds were made, all furniture was placed and the room was cleaned by 1:00am. The next day I was literally limping! I didn't realize it at the time but painting is hard work!! I was in rough shape for the next 24 hours, but it was worth it to finish a burdensome project so quickly and surprise the kids in the morning. 

I'm thrilled with the end result and so are the kids! Their room feels more mature, organized, and fresh and at little cost of money or time. We still have another two or three years in this apartment before we'll be ready to leave and I think they'll be happy in this tween space until then. 


Bunk beds, floating shelf, two bookcases, white lamp on desk, circle rug - Ikea

Oval couch (actually an ottoman covered with a spare linen sheet) - thrifted 

White chest of drawers - Goldtex Kids (see here for post)

Top and bottom bunk linens - Maison Tess kid's collection (coming Summer 2020!)

Bird wall art, mirror, accessories on dresser, Chloe's owls, most books - thrifted

Mid-century desk - roadside find (see here for the transformation!)

Desk chair - Prunelle (similar also on Amazon, Structube, etc)

Top bunk dress pillow - H&M Home

Bottom bunk dress pillow - Indigo

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


Selah Paper

Today I wanted to share a small shop and dear friend that I know you'll love as much as I do - Selah Paper. Selah Paper is led by the creative genius Sarah Kim, who's soul is in every work of art she creates, and now she's selling scripture prints and compassion cards that I find not only beautiful but deeply moving. She was kind enough to send me a print of my choosing last week, along with some of her sympathy cards and I'm so grateful. 

Sarah is someone I met on Instagram (This may sound strange, but there are some true gems on there if you're willing to go beyond liking a picture and actually engage!) and she's been a constant encouragement to my faith these few years. She regularly creates calligraphy of what Bible verses she's studying at the moment and she very vulnerably shared the loss of her son earlier this year. This is a woman who isn't just making art, but sharing her soul and anyone who follows her is richer for it. 

Her prints make the perfect housewarming, wedding, or baby shower gift and the cards are a must for anyone who's ever found themselves at a loss of what to say to a grieving friend. We chose the Joshua 24:15 print in 8 x 10, which declares, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" as a daily reminder of why we live and our deepest prayer for our children. 

G I V E A W A Y !

Today through Sunday I'm running a giveaway on Instagram that you'll want to check out. Selah Paper is giving away two scripture prints of your choice - one for you to keep and another for you to use to bless a friend. To enter you must be following me (@emmorrice) and @selahpaper on Instagram, and then tag a friend in the comments. That will give you one entry, but you can have additional entries by tagging more friends in additional comments (each comment = another entry). Sharing the original giveaway post in your Instagram stories will also give 10 additional entries! The winner will be announced on Sunday evening. 

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


Going Back to Work After 10 Years At Home

When I began my maternity leave with Lily I had no idea that I'd be home as the primary caregiver for my children for the next decade. And now, ten years after becoming a mom for the first time, I'm working outside the home again.

The kids and I out for ice cream with my work friends
(both girls are wearing shorts from Mini-Cycle and Oli's t-shirt is from them, too!)

We always took me being a stay-at-home-mom one year at a time, so all I knew at the start was that I'd be home for the next 12 months, thanks to the generous maternity leave offered by the Canadian government. I had a double university degree and a job I loved, plus, as an extrovert I enjoyed spending my days with dozens of people in a professional capacity. However, we'd always lived frugally and always wanted several kids in a small span of time, both of which led us to being a one income family and me as the primary caregiver. 

I learned I was pregnant with Oli when Lily was just four months old, so instead of going back to work after my maternity leave ended, I was preparing to give birth again. Without any nearby family to step in, we were raising two babies on our own. Both Brad and I working 40+ hours a week on top of caring for our babies would have been extremely chaotic. Totally possible (and I know it's done all the time), but not what we wanted if we had the choice. My income was missed, but Brad's increased a bit and we weren't spending anything on childcare on top of finding other ways to save money (cloth diapering, buying only used clothing, and living quite simply saved us thousands). 

While I wasn't making money, I was incredibly fulfilled with Motherhood. I loved our comforting routine, the flexibility we had without work or daycare, and being there for every little moment. I loved that I was the main influence in our children's lives and that they too were together all day, forging an incredible bond. And surprisingly, I didn't miss work at all. I've always been ambitious, so when I became a mother my ambition just pivoted to our kids and our home from my previous work.  

Chloe came along less than two years after Oli, completing our family, and for a couple of years we had all three children at home together. It was loud, chaotic, exhausting, and wonderful. Lily started kindergarten at age five and I began taking on writing work and growing this blog to the place where I was accepting sponsorships and collaborations when they felt right for me and my message. Writing and blog work continued for the next five years, as it does today, but that was all working from home and easy to fit in around naps and quiet times. Even when Chloe began kindergarten last year, our schedule was quite full and the kids still needed me a great deal. Adjusting to school in a new language, extra-curriculars, church involvement, volunteering, and keeping our home kept us all busy, and Brad was by then working quite long hours. 

For ten years Brad and I never once questioned our decision for me to pull back professionally and be a full-time homemaker. But as the kids grew and our life settled into a routine, we both began to see time that I could invest outward again. Over the past year we had many discussions about what it would look like for me to take on work outside the home. I wasn't looking to work full time and I wanted evenings and weekends off. Ideally, I'd find something that was precisely when the kids were in school (9-3) and that was a great fit for me personally, lining up with my values. This felt like a unicorn of a job posting and not one I'd likely find, but that's exactly what happened when I was offered a job with Boutique Mini-Cycle

You've read about Boutique Mini-Cycle on the blog, and know I love to shop secondhand and local. Their business model lines up perfectly with things I'm passionate about  - sustainability, thrifting, reusing, capsule wardrobes, and simple design. For those who don't know, Boutique Mini-Cycle is a Montreal-based children's clothing shop that sells sustainably made and high quality brands, as well as secondhand clothing. Their new and used clothes are all beautifully designed and well made (no fast fashion!) and they guarantee to buy back the clothes you buy from them when you're finished with them. The best past was that upon being hired I was given the choice to work as much or as little as I'd like when in the office, so I could coordinate with Brad and the kid's schedules. I now work every Monday (Brad's day off) from 9-4 at Boutique Mini-Cycle taking pictures, organizing and valuing secondhand pieces and then another ten hours from home creating content for their site.  

While it's just part-time, it's been a big shift for our family. I have less time with Brad, missing the whole day that he's off (he works the other six days a week), so we need to be more intentional about guarding our evenings together, but on the plus side, Brad gets more quality time with the kids. I enjoy my work so much that it often feels like a break from regular life (especially the past three months of homeschooling). My colleagues are lovely and the work environment is so positive and stress-free. The added income is a huge bonus too, as we look forward to paying for braces and semi-private highschool in the years to come.

I had initially thought that starting in September when the kids were back at school would be the best time to look for a job, but when I was offered employment during the Pandemic I jumped at the opportunity to be out of the house for a day each week (with social distancing measures in the office, to be sure). I am a homebody and love being with my kids, and for the past ten years I've had no regrets as a stay-at-home-mom, but this new season feels like the perfect fit for our family and I'm so ready to take the next steps. 


Summer Learning Bundle!

By now I know we're all *quite* over distance education, endless zoom calls, and makeshift homeschooling. I've learned so much by homeschooling through a pandemic, but I can't wait to shift to a more relaxed and natural style of teaching my kids through the summer months. 

I've written before about summer learning loss, and teachers assure me (as well as overwhelming research) that kids lose acquired knowledge over the summer months if they aren't mentally stimulated. I discovered this Summer Learning Bundle and wanted to share it with you, as we'll be using it this summer to encourage curiosity and learning. It involves poetry, nature journals, crafts, literacy and math boosting games, and so much more. 

This certainly does not look like homeschooling all summer (can I get a NO THANK YOU!?) but it involves incorporating words, numbers, language, and critical thinking into the relaxing summer days when you can. I have no schedule in the summer - we follow the sun and are often out of the house from breakfast until bedtime, so if you're picturing us around the table studying all summer, trust me that's NOT what I have in mind here! I always pack some books, spare paper and pencils in my backpack when we set out, and I'll definitely be printing a few sheets from the bundle each time.

There are resources from 30 different contributors from all over the world and it's valued at $500, but this week it's going for $25! It's only available for one week so if you're interested make sure you grab it by Sunday, June 21! 

full disclosure: I received a free copy of the Summer Learning Bundle to test out. All opinions are 100% my own.


Transitioning from a shared kid's room to a shared tween room *plans*

Our kid's shared room has always been my favourite room in the house, from when it hosted two under two, to a trundle bed and a crib, to the triple bunk they've enjoyed for the past several years. I know many of you visit this blog for tips on room sharing, co-ed decor ideas, and toy organization, which are all things I have in mind as we enter into this next chapter: a shared tween room.

Tweens, by definition aren't quite teenagers (in no rush, thank you!), but aren't little kids anymore either. Children, ages 9-12 fall into this tween category, and while only Lily is the only official tween, Oli is entering into tweenhood in October and Chloe just always does everything the olders do. My point is, my kids are growing up and slowly outgrowing their space. 

We don't have the option to give them separate rooms, so that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the layout, style, furniture, and general theme of their room. Recently, it's been feeling a little too kid-ish. My plan is to give their room a mini makeover to usher them into the tween years. 

Transitioning from a shared kid's room to a shared tween room for us means a few key changes:

  • Sorting through all of their toys and stuffed animals and deciding what to keep and what to donate.

    Thanks to Covid-19, we've cleared out all of our closets, toys, and bookshelves and are just waiting for the thrift stores to re-open so we can donate our bags full. The kids have outgrown a lot of things that we'll be selling (Calico Critters, Lego), too. I love that at their ages my kids still love imaginative play with stuffed animals, Lego, and Playmobil so we'll still be keeping a good amount, but definitely less than we've had in past years.
  • Giving the room a fresh start by painting the walls and baseboards all white

    We painted the entire interior of our condo when we moved in, almost nine years ago, but many rooms are ready for a fresh coat, and none more than the kids' room! I have loved the grey and white stripes we did, but there are endless scuffs and stains on their walls from nine years of life. Since I'm considering some more colour in the kids' bedding, I will definitely paint the walls bright white so keep is from being too busy.

  • New bedding for the two main bunks

    Since our floor bunk (the mattress under the bottom bunk) is never seen in the day, we won't spring for new bedding for that bed as a way to save money. We alternate who sleeps where regularly, so no one will feel left out not getting new bedding, don't worry! With all of the furniture and the walls being white, I'd love to get some duvet covers and pillow cases with a pop of colour (until now we've always had white bedding, but in the past have had pops of colour in painted rocking chairs, art, etc). I really love the combination of amber and dusty rose and I think it can work well with a co-ed shared space.

  • Larger toy and book storage

    This will make a big difference! With little ones, I love using baskets everywhere for storage. We have baskets of books literally all over our kid's room, but they're becoming annoying and aren't putting much of a dent in our massive library. With kids who read as much as mine do, I need more book storage and it's time to ditch the little baskets everywhere.

  • Personal spaces for each kid

    Personal space is obviously not our highest value with five people living in a tiny two bedroom condo, but I still think it's important. I believe in any space you can have personal space, and I'll be looking to add some personal touches to different areas of the room for each kid. Bulletin boards are a great place to start! I definitely don't believe every child needs their own bedroom (I'm an adult and I don't have my own room!), but would like to find ways to make this shared space feel like theirs for each of my kids.
This will be a very gradual project so don't expect a reveal any time soon. I can't do much until Ikea opens up again (or at least until their curbside pickup opens again, because shipping is quite expensive for a large bookshelf) and the weather suits to have our windows all open for a paint job. Hopefully this summer we'll be able to tackle it all!


What I've Learned Homeschooling in a Pandemic

If you'd asked me before March 12th what I'd rather avoid, homeschooling might have topped living through a pandemic. At the very least, both ideas gave a similarly negative notion. From the beginning of my parenting journey, which is approaching a decade, I've felt passionate about our family being active members in the community, and teaching this value to our children early on, beginning with public education.

Before COVID-19, all three of our kids were in public schools in Montreal (to my European friends, this means free, government-funded); our girls were in grades one and four at our neighbourhood catchment school, and our son was in grade two at a "gifted" school a couple of neighbourhoods away. There we befriended the neighbourhood kids, teachers and parents. We invited teachers over for lunch, got to know dozens of families, and had friendships go from saying "bonjour!" at school drop off to crying together over the death of a parent or being the last ones in a restaraunt nearing midnight. 

Long story short, we love our local school! We love that our neighbours all send their children there, and that most of the teachers also live locally. We've spent hundreds of hours as classroom volunteers, field trip parents, and special guests in the classrooms of our kids and have placed a very high value on our own friendships with fellow school parents. These are our people and we love them and this is exactly the place where we see our children and our family. 

Had the pandemic not have forced our hand, we would not have homeschooled our children, but still, I'm grateful for the opportunity. I understand that homeschooling in a pandemic is different in many ways than regular homeschooling - the confinement being the largest aspect - but what I have learned during this season will stay with me as a parent and has informed future decisions. 

photo by @camdgenereux

We typically start homeschooling right after breakfast and I teach for one to two hours per child. Some days this can happen simultaneously, which makes our "school day" really short and sweet. Other days, it's a six hour day of running frantically from child to child constantly reorienting myself between subject matter and learning style. 

The learning curve was incredibly steep at first, I don't mind admitting. I love change and yet also have a knack for structure so I welcomed the new season of homeschooling and quickly formed a routine. That first week was exciting and fairly smooth with all of us enjoying it. The seamless bliss was not to last, however. The second week I began to doubt myself and felt a lot of anxiety with three different teachers (at two different schools) e-mailing countless documents of ideas, suggestions, and instructions. There were more resources available than we could ever get through or benefit from, and sifting through it all was a very unpleasant task. Here in Quebec, homeschooling has technically been called "optional" during the confinement, yet the teachers have been sending countless documents, websites, apps, and new platforms for learning almost daily. I had to decipher what was necessary (numbers, words, and in our case, the French language) between what was optional (class Zoom meetings, interactive projects and activities) and then choose what I would prioritize for my three students. It was overwhelming.

On week three, I think I hit my groove, at least for a while (remember Brad and I's parenting motto? Nothing is too good, or too bad, for too long!) I'll share more specifics about our homeschooling days in another post, but briefly, I found a schedule that worked best for us (homeschooling from after breakfast until lunch, with the afternoon free for physical activities and reading) and narrowed in on what I wanted my kids to work on academically during this season. I bought some math workbooks online for the kids and have made up reading and writing projects for my older two, and focused on fluidity and ease in reading French with Chloe. 

What I've loved the most about homeschooling is the simplicity of schedule and quality time together. We are always intentional about our kids not being over-scheduled, and yet still life seems chaotic most days because of the school schedule. The girls leave the house at 8:10am for school, then I drive thirty minutes to Oli's school, drop him off, and drive 30 minutes home. In a few hours, the girls come home for lunch and an hour, then return. At 3:30pm I'm driving another thirty minutes to pick up Oli while the girls walk home to Brad. Oli and I are home at 4:30pm and then everyone does homework, most days until supper. Then it's the race to have time together, take showers and baths, and get to bed early enough so the early wake up isn't too painful. Educating them at home is so peaceful, so much less hurry and stress, and we're always together. 

Sounds glorious right? But that last bit about always being together can certainly fall into the category of challenges too. Having my three, who are so close in age, all home together means I'm not worried about "social interaction" one bit. It's not safe right now for them to play with their friends and none of them are really interested in Zoom calls, but the constant togetherness can pose challenges. I also find it hard to teach my kids things I'm not passionate about. All parents are teachers from day one, but the lessons and habits we instill in our children usually matter a great deal to us. We care about their character, their behaviour, and their worldviews. I also care a great deal about literature, so I love teaching them to read and helping them find books they'll love and characters they'll identify with. Am I passionate about science and math? Not so much. Thankfully Brad really loves those subjects, so when he's able to take a short break from work he'll often pop in and offer a lesson on electricity or fractions. But what if he weren't available, or neither of us were capable to teach those subjects well? Homeschooling is tricky in that respect. Thankfully at grades 1 and 4, and a gifted grade 2 (which is closer to grade 5), I can still handle their subjects and provide them with satisfactory teaching and help. Daily I think about how blessed we are to have kids in these fairly early grades during the Pandemic. They're old enough to learn independently (most of the time!) and young enough that if this semester doesn't go so well, they'll have plenty of time to bounce back from our mistakes! 

To close, I'll just add that I know it's a significant privilege that I've been able to be homeschooling my kids during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Though I do still take on some work from home, I've been able to be home with my kids and invest in their learning. We've had the money to buy extra school supplies and my mental health is strong enough to deal with the daily changing realities while teaching three grades. I know this is an enormous blessing and not one that every family has, and I'm thankful. I have made many mistakes, and most days I feel I've failed my kids in some way, but there have been more opportunities to invest in my kids' character and their relationships with one another than I ever could have dreamed. 

Back when I had a newborn, a two year old and a three year old, I was just surviving. We had two years of all three kids at home before Lily started Kindergarten at age five, and most of those years were a blur. These days homeschooling in a Pandemic have felt like a gift, and in some ways, like I'm getting back those years that felt lost, when we were all together but I was so dead tired I didn't enjoy them as much as I wish.  This season at home has been precious and I'm sure the sibling relationships of my kids are stronger for it, we're more connected as a family because of it, and I'm enjoying motherhood and homemaking more than ever as a direct result. The schools are set to open one week from today but remain optional as social distancing will be in full effect for the rest of the school year. We decided easily to keep them at home for the remainder of the school year, because though hard, it's been that lovely. I long for normalcy to return but I know I will grieve the end of this wild and unique season when it's over. 


HOME TOUR 2020 living + dining rooms

As we all heed the expert's advice during the Coronavirus pandemic and STAY HOME!, I've spent more time than usual in these two rooms, which really are one big room. Our home is "open concept" in that the living and dining rooms as well as the kitchen are all openly connected. There are no doors, which helps with limited natural light. Every room (besides bathrooms and bedrooms) being connected also helps our small space feel a bit larger. Over the past month of being mostly home I've thought a lot about the style of my home as I clean and organize and purge items we no longer love or use. What works in my home may not work in yours, or simply just not appeal to you, so I'm not pretending to give advice - simply sharing what I've done and why.

First of all, in such a small, yet open space I felt like we needed to go with one neutral, light colour throughout. I decided on light grey but sometimes wish it was white (and I'll probably choose white for our next home). Either way, the light neutral works and I'm happy with it! 

I also like keeping a decor theme or vibe the same for every room so it's more the style of my home and not room by room. It simplifies everything and I think makes the home seem more calm and organized, though especially these days it's rarely either for long! Pieces you'll find in both rooms often have a lot of white, black, beige, grey, and natural materials such as wild flowers, rocks, paper, and wood. 

Our home is a big mixture of old and new, and I love mixing the two. Some examples of old: my collection of vintage tea cups are all thrifted or were inherited, the 50 and 100 year old hymnals and books of common prayer were thrifted and adorn our shelves and the big thrifted basket on the dining table (which also holds our English and French Bibles), the teak mid-century modern side table in the living room that I bought off Craigslist several years ago, and the knit doily which adorns our round wooden table in the right corner of our dining nook. 

Of course, we do have some new items as well. The Structube metal mirror, our oval dining table and beech wishbone chairs from Montreal furniture store Prunelle (see more about that collaboration and learn more about them here), the white Eames-style chairs from Amazon, the glass hanging pendants in the dining room from West Elm, the Ikea lamps throughout, the round wooden table was a gift from Bois et Cuir, and our white rug in the living room from Rugs.ca

As much as I do aim to keep these spaces clean and I love an orderly home (gosh that was easier before the Pandemic brought us all home 24/7!), I want to fill these rooms with useful items. These rooms are for living after all! You'll always find tons of books in both rooms, and the basket of Bibles and hymals never leaves our dining table so we can always grab them. There's always a chess board nearby for Oli and Brad's duals, and the white metal cabinet (Ikea) which supports our TV is full of boardgames. There's also a black metal basket on the floor in the dining room that houses all of our family yearbooks and albums from our trips over the years, which someone always seems to be looking through. 

Let's talk about art. I've collected many pieces over the years, mainly from secondhand shops. My theory is that it takes years to have the art you love and best reflects you, so don't try to rush it. When we first got married I was in such a hurry to make our house put together and "finished" that I threw up anything - regardless of it was my style (what was my style anyway?) or reflected us. The longer I gave myself, the happier I am with the end result. We have never spent a ton on art (I'd love to, we just can't afford to), but I've found some real treasures over the years. The geometric watercolour above our TV was made by me, the South Pole map hanging in the dining room was a gift from Bold Tuesday, the black and white flower sketch on the shelf above my couch was a gift from Juniper Print Shop, as was the pink NYC buildings print, which I had printed by Photo Wall in a collaboration. Juniper Print Shop is a great budget-friendly option which I've used long after our collaboration. You download the prints that you buy, so you can print them to be whatever size you want. Every print is the same price (around $25) and there are so many gorgeous options! On the top shelf above the couch there's a framed book cover that reminded me so much of our neighbourhood. Do you ever buy books just for the cover? When thrifting, I love looking for beautiful old books that I can frame or use as decorations. There's also a print of Eve being comforted by a pregnant Mary that I gave to Brad for Christmas this year, by Scott Erickson.

Adding meaningful touches are what makes a home different from a hotel room, but it's not necessarily my style to have family photos on every wall or a lot of trinkets, so the way I aimed to do this was by adding a few meaningful pieces here and there. The teacups are heirlooms and speak to my deep love for all things British. The pussy willows on the fireplace were picked by my kids last March on a visit to Morgan's family farm. The Eve and Mary print is a remake or an older piece that Brad has loved for years. He's often pulled up the original image online at Christmas or Easter and it's always moved him greatly, so when I saw Scott Erickson's version which fit so well in our home, I knew it would be the perfect gift. The old books and hymnals speak to our faith and the various quotes on our letter board above the couch speaks to our values. I'll also rotate in some small pieces from recent vacations every few months, too. You can see a black sculpture from the Greek Island of Milos.

I do love the "open concept" though it poses some challenges, namely that we're always together and there isn't much alone space! From the front door you can see right through to the back door. From Brad's office, which is in our entryway, you can hear the TV. From the living room you can smell what's cooking in the kitchen. Noise and smells and chaos travel as fast as the children who tear through this home day after day. I'm not trying to complain, just being realistic about what a space like this means. I never want to paint a picture of perfection on here!

Despite the challenges, I do love our small home. We're five people in just over 1,000 square feet, sharing two bedrooms and two bathrooms with no garage or basement, and we truly use every centimeter of space. In 2-3 years we'll be hoping to move to a slightly bigger three bedroom condo in our neighbourhood and will miss this space enormously. Honestly, if we had just one more bedroom and maybe 500 square feet more, I'd want to live here forever!

Up next, a kitchen tour! Thanks for reading and looking!


let's bake Rugelach!

Rugelach is a delicious Jewish pastry and very easy to make at home! I first learned in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, but have since made several modifications so thought it was time to post my version here. Where we live we have many Jewish bakeries, which is probably why I've rarely ventured to bake my own Jewish delicacies. The thought being, why bother making my own if theirs are so good? For that reason as well, you'll never catch me baking my own bagels. I live way too chose to Saint Viateur Bagels for that! (Technically closer to Fairmont Bagel, but if you know Montreal, you know we're split down the middle about which bagel joint is the true best). But back to rugelach.

Rugelach, pronounced roo-guh-lack, is sometimes filled with chocolate, but I always choose fruity-filled sweets over chocolate. Am I weird? The dough is a mixture of cream cheese and butter, which makes it incredibly easy to roll out. This recipe makes two balls of dough, which roll out to make 12 rugelach each. Once your dough comes together, separate into two balls and roll each ball into a large circle. Once rolled thin, spread your favourite jam all over the top of the circle in a thin layer. Too thick of a jam layer will make your rugelach unravel in the oven and just explode with jam, so as tempting as it is, limit the jam layer to two tablespoons! 

Slice your jammed circle from top to bottom, left to right, and then twice more in equal portions in each quarter. This is hard to explain without a picture, I admit, but essentially, you're cutting to reveal 12 individual triangles. You'll then roll the triangles inward from the outer edge of the circle. They'll look like little croissants filled with jam and taste even better!



1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
pinch salt
  • Cream together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated
  • Then add the flour and salt until a large ball of dough forms. 
  • Flatten each dough ball into a disc shape. Cut in two and individually wrap each dough disc for one hour or up to two days.

    You could also freeze the dough discs to use another day - just thaw them at room temperature when you're ready to bake your rugelach.

Whatever jam you like most! We used raspberry but my favourite is rhubarb or peach


Whisk an egg and glaze each rugelach. This won't use the entire egg, but I suggest save it in a small jar in your fridge for the next baked good, because all pastries are best topped with an egg glaze! Especially scones, but I digress...


Lastly, top with some raw sugar for an added crunch which is the best pairing with the super soft dough!

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, let fully cool, and enjoy!


Two Weeks In: Testing Oli for Covid-19, Quarantine, and the Goodness of God

What a week we've had! For the world, of course, it's been a week. But in our little nest, too.

On Saturday March 21, Oli developed a little dry cough. It was intermittent and didn't wake him at night, so we didn't think much of it. By afternoon the following day, his cough was constant and a fever developed. I called our province's COVID-19 line (18776444545  in case you need it!) and were advised to have him tested for Covid-19. 

A test was scheduled for later in the week and in the meantime Oli would need to be quarantined in our home to protect the rest of our family. Of course, we'd already been exposed to his virus, if it was Covid-19, as we've learned someone may be contagious for days before they present symptoms, but contagion increases once symptoms present, so he was more contagious now that he was sick. So, to protect ourselves and our girls (especially Chloe who had suffered pneumonia just last month), we made the impossible choice to section him off in our bedroom until further notice. The rest of us would be under strict quarantine, not leaving the house until test results came through.

We delivered his meals wearing masks, we passed him notes under the door, we wore gloves to take his temperature, we washed the door knob and our hands dozens of times a day, and we desperately missed our boy. Meanwhile, Oli was sick and suffering all alone. It was the most counter-intuitive thing, keeping such distance from our boy when he needed us the most. Absolutely heartbreaking leaving him alone when all I wanted to do was hug him, stroke his hair, rub his back.

The next day (Monday), we learned of a walk-in testing clinic that had just opened downtown with absolutely enormous capacity. Run by 300 nurses, the clinic could test up to 3,000 people a day and they would test anyone presenting symptoms or who had travelled. I drove down with Oli and we were seen and tested all within thirty minutes. Quick, clean, efficient, and free. I know other provinces in Canada are only testing people who have travelled internationally and there's a severe shortage of tests in the USA and other countries, so we felt incredibly lucky. We were promised results in 24-72 hours, and headed back to our quarantined home hopeful.

Oli was often up in the night with coughing fits this week, and since Brad was sleeping on the couch, he was closest to him and spent some truly special moments with him in the wee hours. Donning his mask, Brad would go in to offer Oli some Tylenol, honey for his throat, and prayer and at one point Oli even said to Brad that he felt so close to God as he was suffering. He said he'd never prayed so much in his entire life! Being all alone had driven him to God. As a parent, I felt I was doing the very worst thing, even as I understood it best for the rest of the family, and yet even in that, God was doing a good work in Oli's heart. God was teaching Oli of his comfort, his presence, and his friendship when we couldn't give ours.

On Wednesday morning we still had no results, but thankfully a friend who works in healthcare was able to look up Oli's information and read his test results for us - negative. Negative! Our sick boy does not have Covid-19, but even if he did, God is good. 

Oli is still sick, but no longer in strict isolation. Brad and I can move back into our bedroom (hallelujah!) and the girls have their brother back. We've just been on the phone with Oli's pediatrician and a prescription for antibiotics has been sent to our pharmacy to treat probable bronchitis.  Our strict quarantine is over, and if needed, Brad or I can go to the store to get supplies or go on a run for fresh air. Glorious! What freedoms we'd taken for granted just a week ago!

We will still be intensely social-distancing, now more than ever, after this scare, but we aren't prisoners in our own home. We won't be seeing any other people except a meter apart, and only if necessary. We won't be allowing the kids outside except in a nature-context like hiking in Bois de Liesse (more on that soon!) and we'll continue catching up with friends and family on Whatsapp and Zoom. The pandemic is just ramping up in most parts of the world and it's far from over here in Canada, but this personal crisis is thankfully over.

Thank you everyone for your concern, prayers, thoughts, and porch deliveries this past week! Let's continue to take care of one another.