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Thursday, April 28, 2016

No Toy, Cup or Bottle Left Behind

Who else has been loving this amazing warm Spring we've been having? It's been fun getting outside more and two of my favourite things to do during the warmer months are picnics and beach days. On days when the kids get restless or are grumpy, having the option to take them outside without layering up can help make the day go more smoothly. Everyone is usually in a much better mood after we've had some fresh air and sunshine and we've got some great parks nearby that Ari loves. 

I've shared some of my on- the- go must haves before and I always try to keep a bag packed with things like wipes, snacks, blankets, sunscreen, etc to save time getting out the door (I swear it sometimes takes longer to get ready than it does to actually do whatever it is we're doing!). Liam is currently in the drop/ push everything off the highchair phase, so basically anytime I give him something, he tosses it to see what happens (usually followed by a cheeky smile or a fit of giggles, so it's hard to resist playing along). Pair this with the general forgetfulness of mombrain and there's a good chance something will get behind (how often do you get home and realize something's missing?). 

To help wrangle some of the things I pack up to go, I've been testing out some items from HNY Baby including their Sippy Strap- an adjustable strap that fits around bottles/ cups and clips to highchairs, carseats, bags, etc- and the Toy Along- similar to the Sippy Strap, but for wrangling toys- and I love how handyand multi- purpose they are (you'll also see Liam rockin' one of their super soft bandana bibs in this post). Below are some photos of one of our recent picnics at Annieville Park in Delta where we put them to the test- scroll to the end of the post for some more info on HNY Baby and the products we've tried from them, and what I like about them.

Sippy Straps- These are compatible with all sippy cups and bottles. All you have to do is squeeze the release button to adjust the strap on one end (made from a non- slip fabric so it stays in place) and clip the other end onto a secure object (also adjustable- I think this would be perfect for older kids with water bottles and backpacks). I love that these make toting drinks easier and harder to lose. If you run out of space in your bag, just zip one of these around the strap and hang the cup.

Toy Along- These straps have two adjustable lengths with snaps so you can fasten one end around a toy and the other around a car seat, highchair, or bag like I did. Even though they're designed for toys I could see these having a lot of other uses. 

Trip Clips- These are super handy. These are adjustable straps with clips at each end, so you can do pretty much anything you want with them: turn a receiving blanket into a nursing or carseat cover, wrap up wet beach clothes in a towel and use as a handle, or turn a branch into a tent/ sun shield like what we did; I also like the idea of using them to attach mittens together for the Winter. The options are endless and something you'll always find a use for

What are your must haves for getting out the door with kids? 

Thank you to HNY Baby on collaborating on this post!

Help wrangle everything you need to get out the door with the kids- visit the HNY Baby website to see their full selection and order your favourites to have on hand this Summer. 
Follow HNY Baby on social media: InstagramFacebook 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Stay Calm & Knit on {Leo & Bea Giveaway}

If you've been drooling over the chunky knit blankets all over Instagram and Pinterest, you're not alone. I've been wanting to splurge on one for myself for a while, and when I saw this beauty by Leo & Bea at my friend Piya's shop, The Handpicked Home, I couldn't stop thinking about it. These blankets are gorgeous! And with Mother's Day coming up it's the perfect time to splurge on one for yourself or drop some hints to the hubby. 

But before I gush about these beautiful blankets too much, I should also mention that the lady behind the business, Dani, is one inspiring lady. Not only has she drawn creative inspiration from her late Mother who was an art teacher, she's also created a beautiful business out of a challenging experience. Instead of letting things get her down, she is full of energy and optimism which shines through (and why I gave this post the title I did). I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with Dani, and even more so as she has kindly offered up one of her beautiful blankets to giveaway to a blog reader. 

When you scroll down to enter, I hope you'll also take the time to read a little more about Dani and Leo & Bea (how she chose the name will tug at your heartstrings). My blanket from Leo & Bea is something special that I'd like to keep clean and free of stains (we all need something that is just our own, free from the evidence of crumbs and handprints kids leave everywhere) but I'm not going to let that stop me from enjoying lots of snuggles and cozying up with my loved ones in it, because life's about the moments and memories more than anything else. 

Here's a little about Danielle and why you'll fall even more in love with Leo & Bea
Danielle (or Dani as she likes to be called) lost both of her parents to Cancer, losing her Mom when she was 15 and her Dad when she was 25. Her Mom was an art teacher, and is the person who Dani draws inspiration from, helping her explore her new creative career. Originally from Nova Scotia, Dani moved to BC 15 years ago and taught herself to arm knit after being laid off from her career as an Optometric Technician, a position she'd help for 9 years. Instead of being discouraged, she took it as an opportunity to explore her creative side and created Leo & Bea, naming her business after her maternal grandparents, Leo and Beatrice. While she never knew her Nana, she has fond memories of her Grandfather who outlived his wife and only child, and who 'lived and loved with all his heart'. 

In addition to knitting and macrame, Dani also paints. It's during the time that she's creating that she feels close to her Mom, which is part of why she's so passionate about what she does. Her strong spirit and optimism shine through and I find her mantra a good reminder for when life gets challenging, something she's drawn upon after each of her parents' passing: Even when we fall down, it's forward. Dust yourself off and keep moving forward. When you see Dani's work, it's no surprise it's as beautiful as it is, given the person who created it. Sometimes you meet people who breath fresh air into things, and Dani is one of them, her positive energy is contagious. A big thank you to Dani for giving me the chance to get to know her and work together. This post has meant more to me than the photos show- it's given me a fresh perspective I really needed, and reminded me to take a step back to reflect on what I have to be grateful for.

If you'd like to see some of Dani's other beautiful work- including her arm knit blankets- visit Leo & Bea on Etsy and follow them on Instagram for workshop info, sales, contests, and more.

Want to wrap yourself up in one of these beautiful knits? 
Enter below for your chance to win one of Leo & Bea's arm knit blankets!

***Open to Canadian residents only***

Thursday, April 21, 2016

True North: Liam's 1st Birthday Party

I think there's a lot of pressure on parents these days to throw the perfect birthday party. Don't get me wrong, I love scrolling through Pinterest and getting party ideas, but I ultimately take what I see and try to narrow it down (I can't imagine planning a wedding with Pintersest and Instagram now, birthdays are crazy enough!). With Liam's first, I wanted to keep things simple but still pick a theme and have fun with it. I was determined to not overwhelm myself with DIYs and a never- ending list of ideas, which for the most part I think I succeeded at. I also kept the party smaller than I usually would have; even though I would have loved to invite a few more friends, keeping the guest count down helped the day go smoothly and kept the stress level low (it also kept the budget a little more manageable). 

I went with a 'True North' theme so I could repurpose most of the decor in his room and for future use, in addition to using items I already had instead of splurging on a bunch of new things that I probably wouldn't use again. While I love seeing styled dessert tables, I opted to bake him his cake myself and keep the sweets to a minimum. For better or worse, I pulled it off (you'll see it below- I fondly referred to it as my 'half- naked hot- mess cake' and it still makes me laugh) and I honestly liked loved how imperfect it was. Again, my focus being on enjoying the process and the party itself, rather than getting hung up on the details. I still had moments of frustration when things didn't go the way I hoped, and of course it's challenging being the host of birthday parties, since it can be tough to enjoy the moment and the company as you're running around. But overall it went well and I loved celebrating my little man's first birthday. I still can't believe the day has come and gone, but I loved how it rolled out, and I hope this is proof that a party doesn't have to be perfectly styled to be perfect. 

For favours I did a mini bean seed kit. Rather than send kids home with candy I gave them a cello bag with everything they needed to grow their own bean plant (just add dirt and water): In a seed pot I popped a bean in a smoothie straw that I'd cut in half, stapled at each end and covered in washi tape. I then had a friend bag them for me and tie them up with twine for a cute finishing touch (thanks again Bronwyn!)

I created a memory photo wall as a fun way to show how Liam has grown and changed over the past year. All this took was twine, washi tape, and paper clips. I picked some of my favourite photos and had them printed in squares for an Instagram- inspired photo wall. 

For food I did a make- your- own sandwich station with poutine and a trail mix bar, plus lots of fruit and veggies for snacking. I bundled wooden cutlery with a napkin and a paper bag so guests could scoop their trail mix and nosh at the party or take it to go. And to avoid mixing up cups there were little canvas tags and a sharpie so everyone could keep track of their drinks.

... And then there was the cake. I was going for a naked cake, layers and all, and what I ended up with was this creation. I'm no Martha, but I tried and even though it's not the prettiest thing, it tasted pretty good (and Liam liked it, which really is the most important thing I guess ;) ). I used vanilla frosting and tossed on shredded coconut to try and redeem my efforts (I'm even laughing as I type this!). It was fun whipping up the sponge cakes and having the chance to bake it from scratch. I didn't make it gluten/ dairy free just for a refreshing change and picked up some store- bought treats for Ari. I just didn't think I'd have the time/ energy to make two versions of a cake and I'm glad that I opted to simplify the baking to one option. 

... And if the birthday boy liked it, I guess that's what really matters?!?! <3

I still laugh when I think about that cake, and the day really went well thanks to the help of Will, my Mum, and a few good friends lending a hand, so overall I'd say it was a success. I've been reminded recently of how easily we can get caught up in the details and miss out on the bigger picture and even if this party wasn't styled up the wazoo, it was about celebrating this little human who has brought so much joy into our family and making some precious memories to look back on. Thanks to everyone who made his celebration so special, I'll look back fondly on Liam's first birthday because of those I got to share it with. 

Silver mylar balloon & birthday candles- Heather & Gem
Mountain paper garland, confetti & 'L' cake topper- Paper & Parties 
White wooden candle holders- From the Seeds
Plaid scarves (used as table runner & rug)- Montrose & George 
Liam's outfit- Bebe De Luxe/ Kewe Clothing & Paper Airplane 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Yummy Mummy Monday: Agate Rock Candy

Earth Day is just a few days away (April 22) so I thought it would be the perfect time to share about some nature- inspired books and a fun and edible activity to make with your kids inspired by one of my favourite children's authors. We discovered Dianna Hutts Aston's books at our local library this past Winter and have since added them to our book collection at home. Our favourites include A Butterfly is Patient, A Beetle is Shy, and A Rock is Lively, (this last book was the inspiration for today's activity). Her books are educational, teaching kids about nature with beautiful illustrations by Sylvia Long- scroll to the end of the post to see photos of these books- and are a great way to get kids interested in animals, bugs, and other elements of nature. 

I remember loving the illustrations of agate and other rocks when I came across A Rock is Lively and that I'd love to find a project to go along with it. So I had a scroll through Pinterest and found way too many beautiful agate crafts, but I wanted something that Ari could participate in. Then I came across the idea for making agate lollipops out of hard candy and thought it would be perfect. Ari helped pick out the candy at the grocery store and loved sampling the sweets as I got everything ready. When it came time to making the agate designs she also got to help sprinkle the crushed candy and loved seeing it melt in the oven. While she's still a little young to understand the finer details of how rocks are made, this would be a great opportunity to teach older kids about different kinds of rocks, what they're used for, and how they form (Aston's book is perfect to have on hand for this). I think these turned out great for a first attempt and I'd love to try making them again to perfect the designs a little more. See below for the materials and how- to. How will you teach your kids about Earth Day?

- various hard candy in your choice of colours, plus some white and clear (I also bought gummy candy to try and opted to skip it)
- parchment paper
- baking sheet
- scissors
- rolling pin or other heavy item to crush candy
- Optional: lollipop sticks (I found mine were too think to make into lollipops, but this would be such a cute idea if you could get yours thick enough)

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and pick out which colours you want to use (tip: look up pictures of agate slices online to help guide your designs)

2. Cut out agate slice shapes from parchment paper cutting them out a little bigger than the size you'd like. Then make 1/2" snips around the edge and fold up to create a rim around the shape. If you'd like a hole in the middle, poke a hole through the parchment and repeat the process on the inside edge.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your cut outs on top. In case any of the candy melts through your shapes this will protect your baking sheets and make clean up much easier.

4. Line up the candy you want to use between two pieces of parchment paper (mine ended up with some holes from the candy as I crushed it, so maybe double- up the parchment or place inside a ziploc bag to avoid making a sticky mess)

5. When the candy is crushed, sprinkle it in the parchment cutouts in the designs you'd like and bake in an oven for approx 10 minutes or until the candy has all melted. I checked the candy every few minutes to avoid having it discolour/ burn.

6. Remove from oven and allow to cool. You can use a wooden skewar to swirl the melted candy to change the designs a little before the candy cools completely

7. Remove from the parchment paper and enjoy!
I found the edges were a little rough on mine, so I'll snip around the edges a little closer next time to avoid having sharp folds in the paper that led to this. If you try this I'd love to hear how yours turned out!

And here are the 3 books I mentioned at the beginning of the post with photos of my favourite pages, the illustrations are really amazing and colourful. I enjoy reading these books as much as Ari and am hoping to add a few more by Dianna Hutts Aston to our home library later this year. All 3 titles are available through Raincoast Books.