a week unconnected

Last week I did a week-long social media fast and it was everything I hoped it would be and more! Inspired by Andy Crouch's excellent book The Tech-Wise Family, I'd like to make this an annual thing, along with one day each week of complete smartphone freedom. For anyone feeling the tug to disconnect from their phones, specifically social media, I can't recommend it enough. Here's what I learned:

  1. I am addicted to my phone and you probably are too.

    There, I said it. When I didn't have my favourite apps to check (Feedly for blog reading, Instagram for inspiration and social connection, Whatsapp for gabbing with my girls) I would still unconsciously grab my phone to check them. My hand would just go to my phone during even a minute of free time. When I woke up and many times throughout the day I found myself reaching for my favourite apps even though I knew I was taking the weeks off. I'm addicted! Here's a little test to see if you're addicted to your phone... take it if you dare! I did and it told me what I already know...
  2. The time I spend on social media takes me away from the people and habits that matter most.

    This was a hard realization, especially this summer when I've been with my never-napping kids from about 7am-10pm, all day, every day. It's one thing if I'm using up my own time to kick back and enjoy some of the many benefits that social media offers (and I do believe there are many, especially for moms with young kids!!), but it's quite another when being on social media takes me away from real life quality time with my family, or the disciplines and habits I care most about cultivating (early bedtimes, using my time wisely, getting chores done, reading my Bible daily, reading various other books daily, etc.) When I didn't have the option to be on social media last week, those other areas in my life flourished! Waking up early to be in the Word was actually spent in the Word, not quickly sidelined by checking e-mail or Instagram. Being with my kids meant they had my undivided attention - no buzzing notifications to interrupt me.
  3. Social Media shapes my contentment and I need to be careful with it.

    I love social media and won't be quitting anytime soon, but I know I need to be careful about what images and ideas I'm allowing free reign on my mind and heart. I follow around 300 people on Instagram and every single one is carefully considered. I follow friends who I love and want to keep up with, I follow strangers who inspire me in a multitude of ways (whether it's their creativity, their cooking skills, their parenting wisdom, their faith journey, their shared interests with mine - travel, urban living, literature, or simply their artistic expression in photography. But there was a time when I followed a lot of accounts that led to me feeling jealous, discontent, or judgemental. After a week away, I deleted many more accounts because I had a fresh perspective on how those images were shaping me and I wanted to clear things out. I highly recommend regularly purging your follow list!
  4. Real life is 100% better, every time.

    Here's the tricky reality for me - My closest friends and all of my family all live at least 7 hours away by car, if not plane rides away. To say that I don't need social media to connect with these precious people and to easily share my life with them would be nonsense. That said, I've often spent so much time connecting with my friends online and relying on those relationships to encourage me, fill my tank, and meet my needs at the expense of the relationships I have right in front of me in my own city. Last week our family was at Family Camp at Camp des Bouleaux and we were surrounded by new people for the whole week. We dove into those new friendships and had deep and meaningful conversations every hour. Now that I'm home and keeping up with those new friends on Instagram I see such a stark contrast of what real life vs. Instagram provides. Real life is better! The dept of those connections can't be reproduced, though of course we'll try.
  5. Old school communication is so meaningful!

    One of the women I grew close with last week at Family Camp isn't on social media at all. At first I was baffled, "Oh... so, I guess we won't be able to keep in touch very much", I offered when she told me this. Her reply was so obvious, but to someone entrenched in the online world, I guess I couldn't see it: "We'll have the kids become pen pals! And when's your birthday so I can send you a card? And lets plan a road trip girls weekend! And we can always text or call!"... right. Sure, it would be nice if she had Instagram so I could see her and her sweet kids every day, but this forces me to lean into old school communication that actually requires I get off the couch and to the post office, and causes my children to put real effort into cards and drawings for their friends, not to mention the anticipation and joy that comes from receiving mail. 
The only downside to putting my apps and phone away for the week was that I didn't always have my phone to take pictures. Most of my pictures on Instagram and this blog are taken with my smartphone, which I never had on me during my fast. I did manage to take the picture above of the setting sun on our last night up in Grand Remous, Quebec, and maybe that's all I needed to take in the end. 


The best kiddo-safe sunscreen + 3 great runners up

We all want our kiddos to be safe in the sun, and sunscreen is absolutely a must for every child over 6 months of age, but what's the best and safest option? There are countless mineral sunscreens on the market, and now we have such better options than the heavily frangranced lotions and propane fueled Aerosol sprays of yore. Here's a run down of four excellent mineral sunscreens for your little ones this summer (and of course for you, too!), their specs, and my favourite of the batch!

Today I'm comparing four mineral sunscreens, all available at Snuggle Bugz (both in store and online). We'll look at Baby Bum, Substance, Green Beaver, and Thinkbaby. All of these lotions come in other formats as well, such as facial sticks (which are awesome!) and non-Aerosol sprays. Here are my findings:

Baby Bum
- SPF 30
- Water resistant 80 minutes
- Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 22%

- SPF 30
- Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 20%
- Canadian company

Green Beaver
- SPF 40
- Water resistant 40 minutes
- Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 8%, Titanium Dioxide 8%
- Canadian company

- SPF 50+
- Water resistant 80 minutes
- Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 20%
- Top rated on ewg.org skin deep app

As I said, these are all excellent options. We tested every brand and found that none were greasy and all smelled nice (thanks to natural ingredients like jojoba oil and calendula). Though the brands have varying SPF options, the difference between SPF 30 and 50 is actually a lot smaller than you might think. In fact, SPF 50 only offers an extra 1.3% of UVB protection to your skin than SPF 30 does!*
So for me, SPF 30 or higher is great, but I am not overly swayed in seeing SPF 50 on a sunscreen.

So which brand was the best? After comparing all four, Thinkbaby gets a nod for being top rated on EWG.org's Skin Deep app, which is one of my favourite places to check the safety of cosmetics, and Green Beaver gets a high five for being the only other Canadian company aside from the winner...Substance!

Substance sunscreen is the only certified organic option of the lot, which will be important for some. I'm not overly picky about organic sunscreen, given that the mineral sunscreens are already all chemical-free. What really won me over was the large format available -  6oz / 180ml compared to the other brands offering only half that size! Many mineral sunscreens are smaller format, but with three kids who love to be outside every day, I need large bottles. Substance was also the same price point as the other brands, even though the size was nearly double! So the best value, a Canadian company, and an non-greasy, long-lasting kiddo-safe sunscreen makes Substance my favourite. You can't go wrong with any of these options though, so I encourage you to check them out. Also visit Snuggle Bugz to see the other formats of these great brands!

This post was written in collaboration with Snuggle Bugz,
a store and site that I have personally chosen for years. 
All opinions here are 100% my own. 
To book a collaboration, contact me!

* SPF 50 vs 30, Honesty For Your Skin


Shop Quebec - Vestibule Mini

A few weeks ago, on Clover's first official day of summer vacation (my older two still had school for one more day), I was invited to the opening of Vestibule Mini, the kiddos version of Montreal design dynamo, Vestibule. It was the loveliest morning with my youngest girl and the shop was absolutely beautiful!

photo credit: Laurie-Anne Thot
Chloe ate breakfast right before we left to walk over to Vestibule Mini (nice that it's just down the street from us!) but that didn't stop her from eating basically every snack they has laid out at the shop, lol! I think she ate two croissants, grapes, cheese, and fresh orange juice. Oh to be four again!

Vestibule Mini gifted me this beautiful Quebec vinyl print on wooden rails (only available in store) at the opening and I'm so in love! They have tons of sweet kid's room decor. I also picked up these magnetic wooden rails for hanging up the kids art work. Just the perfect touch to a kid's oasis!

Vestibule Mini - 5170 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal or online at www.boutiquevestibule.com/mini


The Best Picnic Meal - Hamburger Salad!

In the summer months we love to stay outside as long as we can. It keeps the house clean and the kids tired, not to mention it's the best time of year to get to know our neighbours! I love picnics in the park with friends and we usually have about one per week in the summer months, but packing food for a picnic can be tricky. There aren't barbecues at our local park, so anything BBQed is out which is a real shame because what is summer if not the time of year I can turn my oven off and cook outside!? Also, I only eat burgers in the summer months so they're a treat I don't like to miss out on, even if there is no BBQ in sight. Hence, Hamburger Salad.

This salad tasted just like a hamburger! It's filling and salty and juicy and sour. It has meat and carbs and veggies and pickles, just like a burger, but in salad form. So you can put it all in one container for the beach or park. It's also a great meal to bring to a potluck or to a friend who could use a hand tonight.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef, seasoned with Montreal steak spice and mustard powder. Optional add ins are welcome and we could go on forever - onion powder, ground pepper, garlic, chili flakes... you do you. Just season that meat nicely, as you'd like your burger to taste. 
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 romaine heart (about 2.5 cups chopped lettuce)
  • tomatoes
  • red onion
  • pickles

Mix together the juice of two lemon with olive oil (equal parts, which will depend on how much juice your lemon yields), add garlic, grainy mustard, salt and pepper.

  • As your seasoned meat is cooking, chop your pickles, tomatoes, lettuce and onion. 
  • When the meat is almost cooked, pour the dry couscous into the frying pan with your meat. It will soak up the fat and taste so good! Then add about 1/2 cup water and put a lid on the frying pan for 2 minutes. If your frying pan is too large for a lid, use a cookie sheet.
  • Once your meat and couscous is cooked (it cooks so quickly so stay nearby!), set aside to slightly cool. Once cooled down slightly (you just don't want it boiling hot), mix in the chopped veggies and pour over the dressing.