Saturday, 20 December 2014

Easy Christmas Memory Making


1. Have a snowflake-cutting party.

Items needed: Coffee filters (I used the smaller ones), scissors, and imagination.  This happened quite spontaneously at my house one day.  My friend was over for tea, with her four kids.  My daughter had spent a previous evening googling snowflake cutting patterns and cutting snowflakes, so I thought she and her BFF would like to cut a few together.  I gave them each a pair of scissors, and taught them how to fold for six points.  Before we knew it, all six kids, were blissfully snipping away around the table.  Making a big mess, but having a great time.  I only had four pairs of scissors, which they all shared, and the two moms were kept busy folding for the littler ones.  We went through half a pack of coffee filters Then we taped them all to our windows.

2. Wake the kids up with Christmas music.

I've been doing this all December.  I pick a station on Songza, turn it up, then go upstairs to wake up the kids.

3. Let them bake.

These pretzel kisses/hugs are so easy, and my kids (aged 7 and 5) did all the work except for getting them in and out of the oven  I also substituted the smarties on some with Skor pieces.  My daughter excitedly said, "Can we make these cookies every year?"

4. Snuggle up by the Christmas tree and read Christmas stories.

I actually haven't done this, my friend did.  Her kids fell asleep by the tree while their Daddy read to them.  What a sweet memory!  I must do this sometime in the next five days before The Day.

I'd love to hear some of your favourite ways to make memories with your kids during the holidays.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bits of a Pretty Christmas


We have had our Christmas tree up for over a month now.  That's one of the benefits of having a fake tree...and being Canadian.  Our thanksgiving is in early October, so we don't have to worry about mixing holidays.  I love having the tree up, and turning on just the Christmas lights when I get up each morning.  I'm not getting sick of it at all.  A huge part of Christmas for me is the anticipation and preparation.  That said, I am still looking forward to packing it all away.  I'd rather have my decorations up early, and take them down on Boxing Day than put them up late, and keep them up later.  I love starting the new year with a fresh clean start, and the house seems so much bigger when a 7-foot-tall tree is suddenly removed from it.  I may keep the white lights on the kitchen trees up longer.

(Don't forget: Today is the last day of the ScentSicles giveaway. Let me know if you're having trouble commenting on the blog.)









She woke up at 6am one day and said that she "needs" a costume for that same day.


Monday, 15 December 2014

Smells like Christmas - ScentSicles Review and Giveaway


When I was a kid, we didn't have a Christmas tree most of the time.  Or stockings.  So when I got married, I was determined that each Christmas we would have a REAL tree!  For our first Christmas we went to a garden centre and spent an arm and a leg (or it felt like that at the time with peanut-sized household income) on a cute little tree.  As unprepared as I was for the cost and the mess of needles, I reveled in the scent of pine (or was it spruce?) that filled our 400 square foot apartment.

The next year, we had a couple hundred more square feet of space in a different apartment, but we weren't allowed to to "store combustibles."  Meaning, no real tree for us.  So we reluctantly bought a fake tree to use for the two years we lived there.

Then we bought a townhouse, and as we were the owners, we could do what we liked!  Around the same time, we discovered Ikea's parking lot full of trussed-up trees for $20 each.  So I got my real tree smell!  Sure, the Ikea trees weren't exactly the most picturesque, but they were full, sturdy, cheap, and—most importantly—real.

Last year, my husband got fed up with the light stringing.  I don't blame him, it's an arduous job!  We put off even setting up our tree until mid-December because I wanted a real one, and he wanted a pre-lit one.  Eventually I relented and we started looking for a tree.  Long story short, we ended up getting a display tree that someone had returned because the lights on the middle section were coloured, while the top and bottom where white.  So we paid $30 for the mis-matched pre-lit tree and then discovered when we got it home that the only problem was that they'd put the plugs in the wrong way.  I think we got a deal.

But alas! It sure didn't smell like Christmas around here, and I coldn't find a tree-scented candle that didn't remind me of floor cleaner.  When I lamented that fact on Instagram, several people suggested ScentSicles to get the scent of a real tree in the house without having to burn a candle.
I have to admit, I'd seen ScentSicles in the stores, and rolled my eyes, thinking, "Why don't people just get a real tree? I bet those smell like chemicals."
Funny thing: the very same day I was complaining about my scentless tree, I got an email offering me the chance to review ScentSicles products.  So I said sure, why not?

My box of tree-scented items quickly arrived quickly, and the first thing I saw when I opened it up was an autographed picture of Lumber Jack.  I thought that was hilarious, and quickly snapped a picture to send to my chick-lit-author friend, and another friend who I knew would get a kick out of it.


So, I loaded up my tree with the recommended number of ScentSicles ornaments.  My first impression when I opened up the bottle was "Whoa!"  The scent was pretty overpowering, and I worried that it would be too much for our little house.  I was rather dubious that this experiment would be a success when I left to pick up my daughter from school.

Luckily, 30 minutes outside walking to and from school cleared my head, and as we walked in the front door, I was hit with the perfect Christmassy smell of White Winter Fir.  It's not overpowering, and—in the absence of any real greenery to compare it with—smells completely natural.


We also tried the Autosticks, and both myself and my husband really like them.  Rest assured, they don't smell like those tree-shaped car fresheners!  I get into my car and get hints of pine and maybe citrus, and it has certainly made Christmas shopping feel more Christmassy.  My favourite scent of the three they sent me is Snow Berry Wreath.  But I'm lacking any wreathes to tuck the short scented sprigs into.  I'll have to find somewhere discrete to stick them.  Like on top of the door casings in each room.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find I like the ScentSicles products.

ScentSicles has offered to send one of you a gift pack containing the scented ornaments, and the Autosticks.  It'll be a quick 2-day giveaway since Christmas is coming quickly.  Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: While I received free product in exchange for writing a review, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Good Mornings = Good Days



Yesterday, the kids' school had a PD day, so we didn't have to get up in the morning at any specific time.  I didn't have to make any lunches.  And I got up even earlier than usual.  Sleeping in does not make me feel good.  It sometimes gives me headaches.  What does make me feel good, however, is the quiet peaceful house early in the morning.  Just me, a mug of tea, and a twinkling Christmas tree.

It has taken me years to get back to this point of being able to wake up before my kids.  Even after they consistently slept through the night—even twelve or thirteen hours—they would wake up the instant I set foot outside my bedroom door.  Talk about frustrating!  All I wanted was half an hour of quiet time to myself, yet every attempt I made resulted in kids waking too early, and possibly being cranky all day.

Now, though, they can both read a clock.  At least well enough to determine what hour it is.  My 5-year-old sometimes gets the minutes and hours mixed up.  On weekends, when they are told to sleep, or play quietly in their rooms until 8:00, he'll sometimes come out at 6:58 or something, saying, "There's an eight on my clock!"  So I shoo him back to bed and he goes reluctantly.

Since the start of the school year, I've begun to add purpose and routine to my early mornings.  The first thing I do, after (usually) making my bed and coming downstairs, is put the kettle on (just call me Polly), then make my daughter's lunch for school.  I have only missed this on one day, and then I had to scramble to throw something together last minute before we ran out the door.  I don't intend to forget again.

Once my tea is steeped, and the school lunches and snacks are all packed away, and any homework or other school paper signed, I sit down with my bible and my hot tea—next to the Christmas tree these days.  A couple of months ago, I joined the Hello Mornings challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to build habits around three things: spending time with God, planning your day, and exercising.  I still haven't worked out the daily exercising habit, but the other two are going well.  When the 6-week challenge was over, I wasn't sure I would keep it up.  But my motivation now comes from a different source: an audience.

You see, when I finish my tea-making and lunch-packing, my husband is still home.  He likes quiet in the mornings too, so he doesn't interrupt the peaceful start of the day I need.   Unless he needs his shirt ironed, which I actually love to do for him.  But when the challenge ended, I had a choice.  It was the first Monday after, I had my tea in hand, and since he was using the computer, my choices were to grab my iPhone or grab my bible.  Well, I couldn't have Kevin seeing me slacking off, after six weeks of devoted devotions, now could I?

I'm still working on building other habits into my routine, because when I have a good, productive, peaceful early morning, I have a much better day.  I'm much less cranky.  And I have more patience for my kids, who seem to take positively forever to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and put on their outdoor gear.

And apparently, judging by today, I'm much more motivated to put my thoughts into a blog post when I've had an early morning.



Friday, 7 November 2014

Soaking it in


I have no words.  Nothing to share.  I'm empty.  At least that's how I've been feeling lately.  Not empty in a depressed and despondent way, but more in an "I need to be filled" way.  Which is a good place to be.  So I've been soaking in good things.  As if I'm dying of thirst.  I listen to back-to-back episodes of the Inspired to Action podcast as I fold laundry or cook dinner.  I just can't get enough of the advice and experiences shared by host Kat Lee and her guests.  I want to be a better mom.  I crave this.  And so I soak it in.

Have you ever been there?  So desperate to learn, to grow, that you feel you need to absorb as many good things as you can?  My column for FellowScript was a struggle to write this time, because I feel that right now I need to fill myself up before I can share and write.  But I wrote about my long-proven obsessiveness—voraciousness, I called it.  And at the moment, I'm obsessed with motherhood and marriage encouragement.

Podcast episodes I've been listening to:
Inspired to Action Episode 60 - Automating Motherhood with Kellye Peters
Inspired to Action Episode 57 - Learn to Say Your Best Yes with Lisa TerKeurst
Inspired to Action Episode 40 - How to Harness the Power of Habits (This one made me tear up...simply because I feel so lost in this area, and for a second I felt like I'll never be able to form the habits and routines that will help me get the most out of each day...or because of hormones)

Music I've been listening to:
Jen Stanbro, and my extensive collection of CCM Christmas CDs that I won in a giveaway one year.
(more about music in another post, maybe), and my daughter's christmas play.  She has speaking roles in both the church play and the school play.

What I've been reading:
Hello Mornings Challenge
Mom in the Mirror, by Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga (Emily Wierenga lives in the same province as me! And from what I've read and listened to from her on podcasts, she seems to be so sweet and caring, and I kind of hope I bump into her one day.)

What I've been watching (admittedly, not as edifying as it could be):
The Bletchley Circle
Midsomer Murders
All eight Harry Potter movies.  Yep.  I'm a nerd.  I actually didn't get the eighth one watched before my husband got back from a week visiting family on the other side of the country, so it's still on my to-do list.  And don't be surprised if I start speaking with a British accent.  I'm already thinking in British slang.  No one can beat the British for slang!




Saturday, 1 November 2014

Review: Adore Me #bustygirlproblems



I've hesitated to write this post, because, well, writing about my underwear might be a little TMI on a blog read by many of my friends and family (including my brother and ex-coworkers).  Although I've done it before (complete with photos).

I just couldn't keep this to myself.  Being on the busty side of things, yet otherwise small-ish, I've had a horrible time finding bras that fit.  I don't even bother shopping at the usual stores here, since they don't actually have my size.  Or if they do (like VS) they cost an arm and a leg.  So I took a risk and ordered one online a couple of years ago.  It fit perfectly!  But I haven't been able to find anything else comparable in price without paying a LOT extra for duty and shipping (comes with being Canadian).

Then I found Adore Me.  Hello, pretty bras? That actually fit? And don't look like the horrible white boxed bra that my mom bought me when I first started needing one?  That one was probably bullet-proof.

I have now ordered three from Adore Me, and I have to say, they have earned a loyal customer.  For the price and quality and colours!  I'm probably now a little bit addicted.   I loved the first one, from the second I opened the box.  And instantly felt grown up for wearing an actual "set" for the first time ever.  The second one I ordered didn't thrill me at first, but I think it was because I just wasn't used to the style.  I've since adjusted to it, although I still may move the straps in a bit.  I can't wait for number three to arrive!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are my own, and I received no compensation whatsoever for writing this post, not even free product.  Although the Adore Me links included are referral links, so if you sign up and buy something, I will get store credit.

In other news . . .



Thursday, 9 October 2014

Loving THIS Nest



I wrote this mid-August (with my phone, using one thumb).  I've since dealt with my mountain of junk in the laundry room (thanks to my husband's gentle prodding), and the kitchen has been reorganised and decluttered. The closet full of baby clothes is still waiting.  I'll have to stock up on podcasts and tackle it.



*****

I've been in a slump lately. Maybe for the past two years. I've been mired in discontentment and envy and maybe even bitterness.


I've forgotten that when I do things for my house, I love it more.
I've forgotten to take the time to do things for myself.
I've forgotten to take pleasure in beautifying my surroundings and instead focused on all the work that was staring me down.  That I just kept putting off because it was so overwhelming.

I never felt like I was caught up on the housework. Even when the house was clean, those nagging bits of remaining chaos disturbed me. The unused junk hiding in the kitchen cupboards, the seriously scary laundry room (that's not Mount Washmore...that's the beginning of Hoarders Peak!), and the closet still crammed with baby stuff and my baby is five years old.

I have just realized that maybe home decor isn't a luxury item in the budget. Maybe it is a necessity. Even birds put thought and care into their homes, as temporary as they are. They don't skimp on this year's nest, saving what they really want for the next one.  That's what I've been doing. I've been focusing on all the ways this duplex of ours is flawed, rather than on its beauty spots, or ways to improve it.

Slowly, I have been starting to put care into my home again. I was trying to be frugal and so I stopped finding this homes potential. But my sell-the-excess-so-I-can-get-what-I-really-want plan has made me realize that I can make this house beautiful. It can feel finished. And I now have a few dollars of leeway. I can buy that perfect thing that is exactly what I needed instead of hemming and hawing over whether I can really justify it and I could probably make something like that and what would Kevin say?

I recently bought some of those tie-on cushions for our kitchen chairs. I wasn't going to, because the were $13 each and I needed four and that's over $50... But then I remembered that I could use my stash, and my living room rug had cost less than half of what I planned for. So I bought them guiltlessly. Along with a couple of other things.

My rug makes me smile every time I look at it. My kitchen chairs, which were slightly too low for the table are now just right, and the annoying paper towel roll is now securely mounted in a cupboard and off the counter.

So, do you love this year's nest?  Or are you waiting for the next one?


Monday, 6 October 2014

A Season of Quiet



I was going to send my resume to a new publishing house here in town. But I didn't.

I was going to join The Nester with an October 31-day series. But I didn't.

I was going to have the first draft of a novel written by now. But I don't.

Instead, I find I'm desperately in need of a season (or two) of quiet. I've always been a something-and. A mom-and-writer-and-editor, etc. and although I haven't actively consulted God about it, I feel he's nudging me to strip away any extras.

I've never allowed myself to just be the simplest version of me. I'm always adding things to my life, and not juggling them very well at all. I've already cleared my life of most extra activities and commitments, but I find I haven't yet cleared my head (and I still have a couple of commitments that I can't wait to be finished with). I still want to be that famous novelist or busy editor or viral blogger. But why? I need to take a step back from even these possibly-God-given desires and rest. So that's what I'm planning to do.

I want to be just a mom.

Just a wife.

Just a homemaker

Just a friend.

Just for awhile.

I need to figure out the basic tenets of who I am supposed to be and what I want out of life. Then maybe I will know exactly which book I need to write. Maybe I'll be able to eke out some kind of household routine and start enjoying my home and being hospitable. Maybe. But even if none of that happens, maybe I just need to be still and know. I will continue blogging as I feel led, so y'all get to come along on my journey to stillness.




Thursday, 2 October 2014

Vintage Wooden Sign Tutorial


One of my dear friends had her second baby boy last week.  Since I made a sign for his big brother, I figured baby Riley needed one too!  I absolutely love how this one turned out!  And it didn't require purchasing anything at all...not even paint.  I had everything I needed, right down to the lemon ("Lemon?" you ask. Read on!) This is how I made it.

Step 1: Obtain a piece of raw wood.  In my case, it was an oval plaque that I think my mom gave me 12 years ago. Or something like that.

Step 2: Paint.  I used homemade milk paint (that's where the lemon comes in).  Let the paint dry.  No need to let it cure for two years like I did.

Step 3: Create your text on Pic Monkey or something similar and print it in an appropriate size.  Mine looked like this:
And ended up the perfect size for my little oval.

Step 4: Scribble on the back of the paper with a pencil. Lay the sheet pencil-side-down on your wood piece, then trace each letter with a pen.

Step 5: Outline and fill in the letters with a black sharpie.

Step 6: Rub on a coat of homemade furniture wax.  I did this before antiquing, because the milk paint is completely water soluable and would have been ruined.

Step 7: After a suitable amount of time (5 minutes in my case...I was running short on time), buff off the excess wax.

Step 8: Mix some brown paint with water to make a glaze, paint it on your piece, and rub off immediately.  I just used the same cloth I buffed the wax with.  To get a bit more of the stain off, and wear the letters down a bit, I dampened a corner of the cloth.

Step 9: Staple a ribbon on the back or otherwise attach a hanging device.



Monday, 22 September 2014

Podcasts and Productivity



I'm sure I've written here about a dozen different schemes I've tried to get a handle on my housekeeping.  That is one of my biggest struggles.  I don't enjoy cleaning my house, plus I didn't have a Martha-Stewart-esque example growing up, so I'm often oblivious to the dust piling up or the hot spots of clutter or the gross smudges of who-knows-what on the walls until right before we have someone over.

And having people over is happening less and less frequently.  But, quite accidentally, I may have discovered something that could help motivate me to get stuff done.

Podcasts!

Listening to something interesting gives my brain something to do as I'm scrubbing the bathroom or folding laundry.  And it's something that doesn't involve my eyes.  Have you ever noticed that folding laundry in front of the TV makes the task take three times longer?  I use a running armband while I listen, which keeps the phone secure and out of the way.

The two I've been listening to are The Art of Simple, and Sexy Marriage Radio.  And I'm looking for more shows, so feel free to post your favourites in the comments.

Unfortunately, my new-to-me iPhone 3 can't get any more iOS updates so I can't use iTunes' Podcasts app, and haven't yet found another free app that lets me manage podcasts.  So I've been listening on Safari.  Which mostly works fine.  When I'm ready to move on from this phone though, I'm pretty sure I'm switching to an Android phone.  Apple products are all too expensive, and they purposely make things outdated too quickly.  My iPod is only 2 years old and I can't get any new apps on it because of the iOS.

Ok, sorry for the rabbit trail there . . .

What podcasts do you listen to?  And what do you do while you're listening?

PS: Thanks to my friend Chelsey for letting me know about Canva, which is where I created the graphic for this post . . . too much fun!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Articles

A few people have asked to read the articles and columns I've written for FellowScript magazine.  Here are a couple of them.  I'll post the August column once the November issue comes out.  And maybe one of my other articles too.  Click on the image to zoom.  And if you have any ideas that I could write about for upcoming columns, let me know!




Saturday, 30 August 2014

Fall is Coming - Oh dear.

I was taking photos of my son's birthday party games, and this sunflower was right next to my face.
 I turned to take a picture, and this bee turned up!

I find it very hard to believe that summer is over (before my kids were in school, summer lasted until the official first day of fall...now it ends when school starts).  How can it be over when I have only checked one little thing off my summer fun to do list? (Raspberry picking.  It was so much fun, as usual!)

As I wait for school to start, I can't help but feel overwhelmed at all the stuff that I have to do in the next three months.


  1. My son starts Kindergarten.  That alone breaks up my day, since I have to go to the school three times instead of two.  My daughter is beginning grade two, and without her BFF, who she's been in the same class with for the past two years.
  2. My next editing contract begins.  I took the summer off, so now I'm back to work.
  3. I am determined to finish the novel I'm writing.  I am 31 years old, and have been trying to write a novel since I was 8.  I can do it, right?  Lucky for me, I have a cheerleader, a new friend who is a positively brilliant writer and will soon have her first book published.  I can't WAIT to tell you all about it.  She has been a wonderful encouragement to me.
  4. I have to get fit.  That involves walking and boxing.  The boxing will likely take up my new-found time to myself while my son is in Kindergarten, at least Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Unless I go in the evenings.  Which would take a lot of organisation on my part, to either be done with supper early, or have it cooking in the slow cooker while I go at 4:00.  I'll be walking to and from school as much as possible three times per day, which I'm quite looking forward to (as long as I don't think about the inevitable -30 days that are coming).  I walked every day when we were on vacation, and did not have any headaches.
  5. On top of all this, I signed up for a free university course on the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  It should be fun, but I may have to drop it if things get too stressful or I fall behind.  My family comes first, after all.


In order to do all this, I need to get my housekeeping sorted.  I'll probably try again with the same system as I had last year, reserving one weekday for each main thing (Monday for cleaning, Tuesday for editing, Wednesday for writing, etc.)

Wish me luck?  I am a little bit (ok, a lot) stressed out about all this.  Thank heavens soccer season isn't until the spring!

What are your plans for the fall?

PS: Let me know if anything in the new layout doesn't work for you.

New design

I suddenly decided today that I needed a new blog header.  This one is a lot closer to the look I want, which is great!  I will eventually turn it into an image map so the menu at the top and the social media icons will actually work, but my headache is coming back...



What do you think?  I'm way too much of a control freak to have someone else design my blog.  so I keep the template simple, and change the header whenever I feel inspired (or frustrated, for that matter).



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Diary of a Newlywed

I found this in my files today, and it made me laugh.  I was a 19-year-old newlywed when I wrote this, and I love the innocence and optimism I had.  It shows me that nothing much has change.  I struggle just as much now with keeping house now as I did then.  At the time, we lived in a 400 sqft apartment. (Although now I struggle a lot more with snacking).

November 15, 2002 It’s funny, the way I thought I would be living away from Mom.  I was sure I would be a TV junkie, and eat too much, get fat, etc.  But really, I only eat at meal times, except when Kevin is snacking with me, and I only watch TV when he turns it on.  I may watch a little at other times, but I’m not obsessed with it like I had feared.
I’m actually quite happy with my life.  I have a wonderful husband, who tries to do what makes me happy, or even just more comfortable, even if it does not come naturally.  I have a sweet little apartment that feels like home.  Though I long for a house, I’ve really got quite enough to handle right now as I learn to keep house. 
Learning to keep house.  That is hard!  I go to work, then come home and don’t feel like making supper, much less tidying the linen closet or sweeping the floor.  I am trying to get on a schedule, but I haven’t the energy, because I know that if I make a schedule, I will constantly feel guilty for not following it or getting behind.  There are really few things that need to be done, but I feel like I have to do them all by myself.  It’s not like Kevin refuses to help, he just really doesn’t know what is required.  I don’t think he knew that bathrooms need to be polished occasionally.  When we got married, the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned since he moved in and I did it.  True, it was only a month, but still.


You would think that after 12 years I'd have figured out the whole housekeeping thing.  But then I have tripled my square footage (more if you count the basement) and doubled my family size since then.  I still struggle with asking for help, from either Kevin or the kids.  Although both kids are getting really good at washing dishes.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is still battling the same things for the past decade!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Fairy Party Feature

After having successfully pulled off two very different fairy parties for my daughter over the past three years, I'm feeling a little like an expert on it.  Especially since one of my photos and fairy projects are featured in a fairy party web magazine!  Although browsing through all the other great ideas linked squashes the "expert" idea . . .


Check it out here.  I particularly love the "lost things" scavenger hunt idea, which would have fit in perfectly with the woodland fairy party.

If you missed my fairy party posts, find them here:

Woodland Fairies for a five-year-old

Rainbow Magic Fairies for a seven-year-old
We are winding down summer these last two weeks before my BABY goes to kindergarten!!!  He turned five on Monday, and we're having a Planes-themed party for a few of his friends on Friday (while also babysitting four kids for two or three days . . . why not, eh?  I told their parents that I don't guarantee they'll get any sleep.)

Tell me about your summer in the comments.  I'd love to hear about it!