Welcoming Christmas

Yes.
I just said Welcoming Christmas.
On November 14.
When I was a kid we celebrated both Canadian and US Thanksgiving, I’m a dual citizen and my dad grew up in the US so we just always did both. And traditionally, US Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season – so we followed that and put up our decorations and fake tree the last weekend in November. And everyone in Canada said WE WERE SO EARLY. “Not until December 1st!!” people would say.
NOW?
The clock strikes midnight on Halloween, and the page turns over into November and suddenly we’re all “GIMME MY EGGNOG LATTES!” and out comes the decor.
I mean, I’m not complaining. It’s my favourite time of year! I will definitely get my Christmas beverage from Starbucks when they are available, and bust out the Christmas playlist but in our family we usually wait until after Remembrance Day. And this year, our first Christmas event was literally the day after! I took my daughter to the Moscow Ballet’s Nutcracker performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.
This was a bucket list thing for me. Not only to see such an impressive ballet, and one I’ve ALWAYS wanted to see live, but to take my little girl, who is starting to adore dance, and watch it together. We got all “fancy” and dressed up and went with our good friends Jenny and Isla for a girl’s night on the town.
I am sure I’ll sound ridiculously sappy when I say that I was grinning from ear to ear and actually teared up several times during the event just simply because it was happening. I would look over at Livvie, who was perched on the end of her seat, captivated by the dancers. She would look excitedly over at me when she recognized a song that she’d heard before, or to say “the ballerinas are on their TIPPY toes!!”, or just to comment on how beautiful the costumes were. It was magical.
The performers were absolutely incredible and the strength and power they demonstrated was astounding. There were children in the performance – Livvie was quite impressed with that – and when I looked up the company, I read about a program called “Dance With Us” that actually gives local dance students from each city the show is performed in the opportunity to dance alongside the professional ballerinas and danseurs in the ballet company. They go through the auditioning process and rehearsals leading up to the show and then get to perform on stage. WOW! What an amazing experience for those littles!
So, I am not in a position to critique or really “review” this performance as I have nothing to compare it to (yet!) but I will say, I left that theatre on cloud 9, absolutely thrilled to have experienced it and I am positive it won’t be our last time seeing this show!
Now. On to tidying up my house to get ready to pull out those decorations. I’m ready!

Silas is One!

How does time go so quickly?? I seriously feel like it was just yesterday that we met this little guy and now we’ve celebrated a whole year (plus a month) with him! The first year felt like it went by quicker than the first year with twins. I’m not sure if it’s because we had school and all the busy that goes with that, or if it was because with just one baby things were a lot easier. Either way, it flew.
First birthdays are so bittersweet. Marking the end of that true “baby” stage and opening the doors to toddler life and the adventures to come. Silas means “of the woods” so I wanted to celebrate this milestone using that as our theme! I didn’t want a woodland animal type theme and wanted to keep things fairly simple and true to our many adventures and walks in the woods together. Which meant moss, ferns, and mushrooms!                
I printed my square month to month shots to use as part of our backdrop. All the images have some sort of greenery incorporated in the shot even 🙂

This AWESOME cake topper was from Little Sprout Creations. I just love how the white pops against the greenery! I made the cake myself (just a box mix, it had to be easy!) and the “moss” on top of the cake is just sugar cookies dyed green and placed upside-down in layers. Sprinkle some green cookie crumbs on top for texture and voila! Moss-topper! Found the original idea via pinterest here!

These cupcakes were similar – I used graham cracker cookie crumbs (bought them in store – WAY easier that way!) and dyed them green. That part was a bit tricky in a ziplock for it to blend together but it worked out alright in the end! Just a bit of icing and dip them into the crumb mixture and you get another great texture for the table!


Every party I plan has so many ideas I want to get to but can’t – these macarons were an example. I definitely wanted more than just 5 but this was literally all I could find before the party for some reason! I painted the ferns with a gel food colour and almond extract mixture to create an edible watercolor on the actual macarons. I SOOO wish I could’ve done more of these, it was so much fun!


Ok seriously. These were the talk of the party. Teeny little mushroom meringues! SOOOO easy, and so adorable. Just make a simple meringue cookie mixture (egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla) and bake in two sets of shapes – a fat blob for the tops and a skinny “hershey’s kiss” blob for the bottoms (these are technical terms people!) Once cooked and cooled, you carefully, gently make a little hole in the underside of the fat blob and pipe a drop of melted chocolate in. Let cool upside-down so the chocolate hardens and you end up with these adorable little mushroom cookies. I sprinkled a bit of cocoa powder on top of them to make them look more authentic. It was my absolute favourite Pinterest-Win of this party! Original recipe here!

For the twins’ birthday I had a Dr. Seuss theme so I got the Happy Birthday To You book for guests to sign as a keepsake. I found this gorgeous book at Spruce Collective in Abbotsford and chose it to be our guestbook.

What’s a party without a photobooth area? I looooved these hoops from Posie & Pine – they were such a gorgeous addition to the party area!


Happy Birthday to our Little Bear, our Bubba, our smiley little guy. You bring so much joy to our family and I can’t wait for the adventures we will get to have together!

Details:
Party Location: Rolley Lake, BC
Custom Cake Topper: Little Sprout Creations
Floral Hoops: Posie & Pine
Guestbook: Children’s Book from Spruce Collective
Photography: Amanda Gregor Photography 

Berry Beat Festival – My debut into the market world!

Well, the lead up was stressful but I did it! Or, I should say “we did it!” because I had some amazing help along the way. It pulled together and I was so proud of how it turned out, I had to share!

The view from outside my booth – with my Mama there to help me! 
Loved this letterboard from Letter Peddler – a Canadian letterboard company

You’ll see little critters my mom made – her little company is called Tunbridge Knits, and I will be carrying these adorable hand knit stuffed friends in my shop. They were a crowd favourite, people couldn’t stop talking about their detail and quality.

Shoutout to my amazing hubby who built my peg board wall for me. We were a little worried as we built it, the plywood was VERY splintery (so we may need an upgrade at some point) but it worked out in the end! I love that I can change the layout as I need! 
Samples on the table of my work! 
These were favourites too – the memory match games! Images were placed onto the wood and the outlines wood burned to finish. 
More cute little friends. My chair was tucked into the back corner there which seemed to work out great! And we were in a great spot that didn’t get too hot, especially on such a hot day like we had! 
Another favourite – Storytellers! These were scooped up by a few teachers actually, which made me feel pretty good! They encourage imagination by creating a story sequence based on whatever image is pulled from the bag! 
The Camping/Outdoor themed Storytellers! 
More setup shots.
I love this little mouse. I scooped up some of our wooden blocks that are decorating Silas’ room and waiting for him to be big enough to play with them! They made such a great little addition to the decor here! 

All in all it was a great experience. Since it was a 12 hour day I was absolutely EXHAUSTED by the end of it, and probably will feel the effects of it all week because I am not used to that much social interaction!! But I feel like I made some great connections, met some amazing people, and learned a little bit about prepping and running a booth at a market. It was a great debut, and I can’t wait to set this up again soon! (July 29/30 – mark your calendars!!)

HUGE THANK YOU again to my mom for bringing me last minute things I needed, bringing me lunch, and hanging out with me, to Erin for bringing me cold root beer treats and picking up our dinner and hanging out with me at my booth! To Bethany for watching my littles while I did some last minute running around the day before! To my hubby for the pegboard, the set up/tear down help, and support and encouragement of my little dreams. And to anyone who came, bought, or even just stopped by my booth to say hello, your support and encouragement means the world to me.

Stress, Worry, and Sunshine

So I guess if I’m going to have a blog, I should probably blog more, hey?
I don’t know about you but I often get in my own head too much. I analyze everything. I think “oh hey, I should blog about that!” and then I stop, because I think it’s not good enough to blog about. Or no one wants to hear it. But you know what? I love that people read this, but I didn’t actually create this space for anyone other than myself so I am just going to blog what I feel, as I feel it. Ok? Ok!

So this week I’ve been hustling HARD. Saturday is the Berry Beat Festival in Old Downtown Abbotsford and I signed up to be a vendor. I have had a few “What on earth was I thinking?” moments as I’ve been prepping for this. Firstly, it’s a 12 hour day. 12. Hours. How am I going to man a booth for 12 hours?! Will the baby come with me for a while? I’ve never been away from him for 12 hours so I’m hoping so. Also, it’s on my father in law’s birthday and I’m going to completely miss his party and the family gathering because I didn’t think that through at.all. Also – what if no one buys anything?! I’ve spent a lot on materials, a tent, a table, the vendor space … with absolutely zero experience. On the other hand, what if I sell out?? I can only make so much right now since everything is out of pocket, and being a 12 hour day that’s a long time to keep stock! I think that scenario is probably more wishful thinking, because selling out is a good problem to have, but I also don’t want my booth to look pathetic and empty!

I think I’m feeling the stress of these worries a bit more now that my maternity leave is officially over. I’ve chosen to stay home and work on this business and my photography business so I can be home with Silas and be available for my big kids – the cost of daycare just didn’t make sense with only working part time. But having no consistent, expected income is a scary thing. Props to all you entrepreneur mamas out there for sure! It’s hard work, and I’m leaning on God’s provision and working on separating wants from needs. This, my friends, is a difficult thing to do!

Anyways, it does kind of feel good to write out my worries. I know in the end it’s going to go whatever way it goes, but this hustle is real and it’s a tiny bit stressful! My big kids are currently at daycamp through the day, which helps me get some work done (though I wish so much I could have some peaceful time to myself in that comfy hammock on the patio!) and the sun is shining which is a real mood booster for sure! But the overwhelm is real and the to-do list long.

Anxiety is a bit of a beast. I’ve always struggled with this and I wish I could just snap my fingers and make it go away but for now I will take a break and a drink of ice cold water, breathe deeply, soak in the sunshine and remember that I am a child of God and I can cast my worries and anxiety on Him.

What do you do when you’re overcome with worry and anxiety?

How We Camp With Kids!

We love camping! So, we are definitely NOT back-country campers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a little “glamping” now and then! And hey, we’re in a tent so that’s gotta count for something, right? I get people asking all the time how we camp – first with twins and now with our 3rd little guy. Honestly, the first year we decided to try camping with our then 1-year-old twins I was pretty skeptical. We agreed to one night (our friends were staying for two) and we’d see how it went. Well, we loved it so much we ended up staying for the second night! That first year we borrowed a tent and advice from our friend Adel who also has twins (and has a fun blog here) and refine our process as the years went by. I thought I’d share our recent May Long Weekend camping experience with you here! Incidentally – we were camping at the site beside Adel with their twins too, which made for a very fun time!! 🙂

So first thing I usually do when we get to camp is set up our kitchen. There are some pretty amazing travel camping kitchens available but we just use this smaller costco folding table (complete with stain marks from when Jason stained the wood for our headboard…) and a drawer tower. That tower of drawers is usually stocked in our garage with the basics (camping cutlery, plastic dishes, odds and ends we might need) and I add in a few things from home that we use regularly (this time I added in the baby spoons, some sharper knives, etc) We have two dish bins – one for soapy water and one for rinsing water, and a dish rack to dry the dishes after. All the kitchen basics are here!

While we’re camping we usually bring some extra supplies for art, some toys to play with, and some books. Typically we bring a lot more than necessary but it’s nice to have some back up activities in case it rains and we’re stuck in the tent for a bit. Some of our favourites are lego, hot wheels (because you can make some pretty fun off road adventures out in the woods!), and even just bringing a glue stick and some paper for some nature collages is a great idea!

This year we camped beside the playground – which in THEORY is a great idea. Mom and Dad can hang out by the fire while the kids go play. But honestly, unless you’re there in the off season or during the week where other kids are at school, don’t do it. My kids would rather play in “the wild” as they call it, and there always seemed to be a handful of kids that play … kind of loudly… past dark. And when you have little ones trying to go to sleep, it’s a bit tricky.

That said!! I don’t have a photo of it – but I always bring our Conair sound machine. We got this thing from London Drugs when the twins were babies and I swear we’ve rarely turned it off since. It takes batteries and runs all night and for camping it just drowns out the “loud” quiet that happens and lulls the kids to sleep. Honestly, I love it too because I don’t wake up at every little sound in the night with it on!
  We always bring our bikes (and we usually bring one grown up bike – called our “camp bike” to follow the kids around or even to quickly run to the washroom block instead of walking)
We also bring our nature collectors! Jason loves finding salamanders for the kids to look at. Livvie was so proud of her pink one. She was so gentle when she returned it to its home too.

Here is our “castle” – a cabin tent we got on a crazy great sale at Costco in the US. Apparently it’s a 10-man but it suits us 5 just fine! The door has a pole in it that makes it swing open, and Jason, at 6’7″ can actually stand up tall in it. I am NOT a fan of the regular tent stoop and trying to get dressed, and the basic squishy-ness of a regular tent. It was fine when it was just the 2 of us, but as a family – nope! And since a tent trailer is not feasible at this time, we are quite happy with this little home away from home!

So on the left side of the tent is where we put the kids. All sides of that area actually zip down which is fantastic when we were camping in super hot locations and still needed the littles to nap. Back when we started we’d have the two playpens where their little beds are now and still enough room in the middle for them to play if we needed! Foam mats are a necessity and they make it so much easier to walk and hang out in there. The “shelves” that hold their clothes are just the fabric bins from ikea that fold flat when not in use, and it eliminates the messy bag and shows the kids what they still have left to wear! We bring a large wet bag that I’d gotten for cloth diapering to hold all the laundry as it’s dirtied. When we get home we just dump all of it into the wash!
This year we added the playpen and it really didn’t take up too much extra space. I even brought in a camping chair for the nighttime feeds that I knew Silas would need. The change table on the playpen was also incredibly handy to have!
We use our old rug for the other half of the tent too. Like the foam, it just helps save our feet and the tent floor!

How cute is he in his little sweater romper??? It was pretty cold May Long – and honestly, even in the summer it can get cold in a tent overnight, so I always say pack more warm things than you think you might need. Extra blankets and clothes for sure!

This is the view from the kids side to our side. Two twin air mattresses side by side is the equivalent of a king sized bed, AND has the added bonus of each of us having our own air mattress. Because no one likes being jolted awake in the night by someone getting up to use the bathroom! And having a ton of room in bed is always a great idea because you know those little ones are going to climb in with you in the morning! We use a king sized fitted sheet to hold the mattresses together and then just pile blankets on top!

Those ikea high chairs are GREAT for camping. The legs come off and the whole thing wipes off so easily. Also, check out my mother’s day present from costco this year – only the COMFIEST camp chair EVER. That thing is the best.

We are such glampers that we brought the hammock we got for Christmas. (Black Friday sale on Amazon!) … and why not?

Jason was such a good sport taking the kids out in shifts on the lake! Quite the upper body workout!

Good coffee is a necessity. I mean, you’re getting up with the sun and going all day. We brought our pourover coffee maker but we’ve also brought the starbucks via packets and our french press in the past. What’s important is that it’s there. LOL 🙂

Treat cereal! They get special cereal for camping and for Christmas time! It’s a highlight for sure!

I just had to add this because it was hilarious. Someone at the campsite started this old-school trend. They stuck an old plastic bottle into their rear tire which made their bike sound like a little motorbike. So of COURSE every child at that campsite ALSO needed one. There was a shortage of water bottles this weekend I think. And every time a kid went by on their bike it was loud and sounded like a hive of bees. But it was such old-school classic awesomeness that we couldn’t even be annoyed! Plus, you pretty much could always hear where the kids were!

Daddy/son bonding time – setting squirrel/chipmunk traps. Unsuccessful I might add.

Geocaching!! If you don’t do this, you are considered a “muggle” (non-geocacher) and I mustn’t speak of it. But it’s like treasure hunting, and it’s a lot of fun for the kids. Look it up! Many (dare I say, most) campsites have geocaches hidden. Go check out http://www.geocaching.com and sign up 🙂

So there you go – this is how we camp. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but it’s worth it for the tired kids, exhausted from playing outdoors from dawn until dusk! We’re still refining what we need vs. what we can live without, and honestly it changes year to year. But so far this works for us! I hope you can take something from this and if nothing else just try it out, even for one night! You might be surprised at how possible it really is!