On Having a Daughter

Dearest Daughter,

Before I had you, when you were merely a hope and a dream, I thought “I want to be the perfect role model.” I wanted to show you strength, compassion, perseverance, self-confidence. I wanted you to see that pretty is more than surface and that woman is more than body. I wanted you to see that dreams are for the taking and your heart AND your brain will take you there. I wanted you to know deep connection. I wanted you to know passion for life. I wanted you to know love, trust and home.

And now that I have you in my life, I still want these things for you. Truely.

But, sweet girl, I also want for you to eat your lunch at school and not have a meltdown at 5:00 because you have nothing in your stomach. And I wish for you to make a choice – any choice – yogurt or fruit or both, dress or pants, outside or inside play - just make a choice. And I want for you to see that my telling you to sit up in your booster seat is about safety and not because I am “mean” or “unfair”. I think I would just like to eliminate “not fair” for the next little while. And I want you to wash your hands before touching every. single. surface.  And I want you to put your pyjamas on a hook. You don’t even have to turn them right side out. Just don’t shove them in some corner of your room where we can’t find them the next night. And I want you to learn that “Stop” means to “Stop” and not keep going until your parents lose it.  

And I want you to know that being 5 is hard. You are being told to be a big girl but you are given restrictions and rules and that can be confusing.

And I want you to know that we have so many struggles ahead of us. But struggle or not my love never falters. Not ever. Even when your mom loses it.

———–

Sarah Kay on Ted Talks with If I Should Have a Daughter http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a_daughter.html

Friday Love: One of a Kind Highlights

One of the aspects I love about running a shop full of handmade goodies is the odd trip outside of my city of Halifax to see what other artists are doing across the Canada. This past weekend I went to Toronto to see The One of a Kind Show and Sale (as well as peruse other shops and hangout with my best friend of 25 years). This massive show of art and craft is full of seriously unbelievable, amazing artists and craft persons that it could blow your mind. But with our heads attached and stomachs full of cupcakes and chocolates, we roamed aisle after aisle “ooooh”ing and “aah”ing. Here are some highlights:

Wonderchild Studios - Teeny tiny clay minatures can’t really describe the amazingness of this work. The artist (whose awesome story of sueing her former employer after they let her go during maternity leave and using the money to start her minature company) is so crazy talented that she creates itty bitty wee clay sculptures that can sit on the head of a push pin.

While we were both floored by the adorable “world’s tinest monkey in a bananamobile” and “world’s tinest bear in a picklemobile” framed sculptures, her family portraits on a minature scale made our mouths drop open. A commission by my friend is already in the works.

Kelly Grace - Last time we visited this show together, my friend and I fell hard for paintings done by Lawrence something or other (now THAT is gonna bug me). This trip we were all about the Kelly Grace. I have come across Kelly’s website before (as well as her husband Shaun Downey’s) but had yet to see her work in person. She did not disappoint. While I loved all her paintings – especially this bicycle one -

we were both taken with the date night mini paintings

and the mini movie paintings. This may have been b/c we are both in our mid thirties married with kids with very sweet memories of movie dates with our sweeties (before work, kids, commitments etc). Kelly’s savvy packaging was a popcorn bag. Smart.

Kukucaju – Being typical moms, when we are away from the kids and shopping, we see stuff for the kids. At the Kukucaju (don’t you love the name?) booth, we both exclaimed on numerous occassions, “this would be so cute for ___’s room”. Unfortunately our pocketbooks didn’t agree. The pricing was fantastic but at 2 and 3 kids per family, we had a hard time making the jump from complete adoration to ownership.

Shuyu Lu – Another artist that had us captivated was Shuyu Lu. She had some fun printed pillows and dolls but it was her double layered embroidery work that had us drooling.

I did come home with some sweet wooden toys for the kids from Thorpe Toys and a “vinyl record” coaster (though we will hang it for wall art) from Jacinthe BrindAmour in the awesome bear print shown on the bowl. I could have seriously bought everything she had.

I also met so many lovely artisans I have been reading the blogs of. Grace was so lovely.

Obsessively Interested in Everything

I came across another Intel video the other day and so while I fly home to Halifax, I give you this beautiful video of a great creative “visually curious” man Michael Wolff.

I love his thoughts early on in the video about packaging oneself to indicate to the world our authentic selves.

I love his muscles of creativity: curiosity, appreciation, and imagination.

I love his Pantone mug collection and the rainbow of umbrellas. Comeon!

Oh! and that meal he makes makes me drool.

“If you walk around with a head full of preoccupation, you are not going to notice anything in your visual life. I am obessively interested in everything.”

Friday Love – Painted Rainbow

Back when I was a tour guide taking highschool students to New York City for cultural tours, I had a conversation with an alternative highschool (read: art centered) student about graffiti. Even though my boyfriend, now husband, had done lots of graffiti work and I lived in a city, Toronto, filled with great street art, it took a high school student to point out the awesomeness of graffiti style art – its transient nature. Canvas paintings and sculptures are intended to hang for long periods of time. Graffiti is meant to be as long as it will be. The end result, the actual graffiti piece, is a very Zen medium. Creating graffiti is non-possessive because the wall doesn’t belong to the artist and it can’t be “owned” because of its public nature. And then there is the matter of anyone being able to cover it up. It only exists in the present. (Ironically graffiti is also very egoist, as in tagging, which is not very Zen.)

On a recent walk around downtown Dartmouth with a friend, we found some graffiti sanctioned walls and murals. I loved this wall that was basically a large tag rather than a “picture”. It was so colourful. The middle photo is like a candy coloured rainbow.

Got any great graffiti in your neighbourhood?

Oh and for the record, I feel strongly about the difference between street art/graffiti and what I would coin vandalism. For me vandalism is rooted in mean spiritedness and is random while graffiti is about making and has a determined place/intent.

Out with the Old

Wow – it has been awhile. Life has been a bit hectic. But this blog is something I really enjoy and so while I may not be back fulltime quite yet, I am making tracks.

I took this past Monday and began yet another faze of clearing out the closet. And what did I find?? A relic of the old me. I used to wear my Beetle Bailey Boots everywhere. Specifically these were my favorite dancing partners. The hilarious part is that they are steel-toed and really uncomfortable. But… look at those great purple laces!

It was time however for these boots to get walking. They are no longer “me”. I love the idea of them and all that the memories they bring back but as much as I might like the look of something, if it isn’t comfortable then it has to go.

Bye Bye Boots

Banner Celebration

This past week, my husband celebrated his 37th birthday. With our extras paired down to nil, there wasn’t a whole lot to spend on birthday treats this year. While there was a meal and cake and a present from the kiddos, I really wanted to celebrate my fella (without breaking the budget), so I took a page from Ruby Ellen of Cakies (the queen of adorable projects of love for her hubby and kids).

With some construction paper, string and some pens, I made a “37 Reasons We Love You” banner for the birthday boy.

My reasons ranged from “you are a great dad” to “you make me laugh” to “you let me control the remote”.

  

  

Hello Frugal – Come On In (Part Trois)

This is the third (and final) installment for my frugal series. I have already touched on the basics of food and clothing. This post will deal with elements of entertainment and gifts which can be big money suckers if you let them.

Entertainment:

  • Libraries are a great resource for books, videos, cds. Also libraries have great regular programming for kids and some even have Kid Corners with computers and/or toys.
  • Get outside – it really is the best playground. Kids love outdoor adventures. Hikes. Bike rides. Snow forts.
  • Check out the ‘hood. There is always lots of free stuff to check out if you look for them from trail walking groups to maple sugaring demos  to library talks to outdoor concerts
  • Make something with the kids – bake, paint, put on a play, dress up
  • Ok on those totally desperate days – when it has been raining freezy cold rain all weekend and the kids are sick of looking at your ugly mug and need diversion, we been know to hit up a few shops and restaurants where I know kids are welcome and I won’t feel guilty about not buying anything. In my area there is a Chapters with a great kids section (seriously fun – train tables, a kitchen, and giant tea cup reading nooks) and a couple McDonald’s with playlands. When we are visiting my folks in Ottawa, Ikea’s ballroom serves this purpose.

Gifts and Parties:

If you have kids, you have birthday parties marked all over the calendar. And then there are the parties for your kids. I once heard from a parent that birthday parties cost around $200  even if you are doing an “at home” party. Now I am no expert but that is crazy! My advice – scale it back. Scale back the invitees, scale back the food, scale back the favours. It may sound cruel but I speak from a little bit of experience.

  • The favours – most of that candy is trash and most of that plastic flimsy toy crap ends up broken or lost. Go for a simple gift like hair clips or playdough or homemade cookies. Get the kids involved in the making of favours, the thank you tag or the packaging of the favour.
  • The food – at E’s last birthday party I made cute heart sammies and put out a fruit tray. Just before everyone showed up I worried I didn’t have enough food. But true to form, the girls were too excited and too busy to eat – nevermind the fact that we had one girl who only wanted pineapple and another who only wanted strawberries and another who didn’t like cupcakes only cake… So the moral of the story is many kids are picky and you are not going to please ‘em so don’t go crazy.
  • The games – make sure you don’t jam pack the party with activities and games so there is time to just play with whatever (or jump up and down and scream and giggle). And games don’t have to cost a thing. There are a ton of games that can be played with little or no effort and/or using things around the house – “hot potato”, “duck duck goose”, “telephone” are good little kid games while “memory” and “the on-going story” are games for the older kid.
  • Invitees – follow my mom’s rule…invite only the number of kids equal to your child’s age. Turning five? Five kids. At some point though, you will wanna cap that. 

I find gift giving easiest when you think in terms of a theme that is appropriate for that age group. Here are some of our ideas for kid birthday party gifts:

  • Art kits: a sketchbook, a small box of pencil crayons or markers is the base of this gift. More art and craft things are added on as inspiration hits.
  • Science kits: you can buy made ones or you can make your own
  • Detective kits: pick a spy book as the base and then add things for disguise (mustaches) and a notebook.
  • A kite kit:
  • A sock monkey kit: there are lots of how-to books out there on making stuffed creatures, add a couple of cool socks, and a small sewing kit.
  • A jewellery making kit: a tuperware snap handled box with smaller containers of things like beads, jumprings, crimp beads, and then add a spool of medium gauge wire.

Other fallback gifts include board games and books or  “To Do” gifts like rock climbing gym or bowling gift certificates for the active kid and paint pottery gift certificates for the art kid.

Well…I hope this helped you and yours with some tips on frugal living. Feel free to add your tips in the comment section.

Hello Frugal – Come On In (Part Deux)

In my last post I began a wee series of posts on living frugally. This next “part” is about clothing. Before I launch into my tips for procuring clothing for you and the fam at low cost, let it be said that I am not a brand hound nor a high maintenance gal but I like good quality stylish clothes by (preferably) small-run and independent labels (not always cheap). And so…these are my ways to save.

  • Quality over quantity: A number of years back I used to indulge in a cheaper is better philosophy. Within a few washes my 2 for $25 shirts were piling and stretching and my Payless shoes were still hurting my feet months later. So I now I allow  myself the odd, “cheap” purchase and then really focus more on buying good quality key pieces that will last a very long time. See next point which is really just a continuation of this point.
  • Get away with less: I have been trying to think more consciously about how many of any one thing I might need. If I get a hole in a pair of socks does NOT mean I need a replacement. How many socks do I need? (I have a sock thing. I love ‘em – wooly, long, stripey, yummy socks.) See this great article on Slow Fashion where the author includes a cost per wear analysis.

  • Buy second hand. I did go through a physical shift lately where I realized I had lost some weight and my clothes were looking not so professional. Some consignment stores are good for brand names and more tailored items but some good scores can be found at Frenchy’s, The Salvation Army and Value Village if you have the time to look.
  • Watch for end of season sales: End of season sales are good ways to buy a few fun “on trend” cheap add-ons. There are some good buys for the kidlets at The Superstore (Joe Fresh) at the end of a season. Buy for next year if you prefer new.
  • Swap. A Swap party is a great excuse to clean your closet, inject your wardrobe with some new duds, and have a fun evening with friends.
  • Convert some of your goods. If there are things that no longer fit – can you bring them in? Can you let them out? Can you put a cool applique on it to make it more you or disguise the stain? Can you make your daughter a dress or you baby a pair of pants from one of your old shirts?
  • Take care of what you’ve got. For almost everything I own I follow this strategy: cold water wash, hang dry. My clothing lasts a long time. I also mend any small holes where/when I can.

Hello Frugal – Come On In (Part One)

Without giving you the boring details, the long and short of my family life is that I am in year three (still new) bricks and mortar retail shop selling handmade (not lucrative) and my husband works in Children’s Television Animation (when there is work to be had). This past year, A stayed home with Ollie on paternity leave when one contract finished up and the animation work well had dried up. We are by no means an example of how to live on less (because I am sure we make major mistakes. Seriously Gail Vaz-Oxlade would have a field-day with us.) But I think we do a lot of things right. And because I don’t think our situation is unique, I thought I would share some of our family’s tips on frugal living.

Part one is about food….

  • In general, we don’t buy fast food. The odd special adventure day, we take the kids to McDonald’s (but more for the playland than anything else). Let it be noted however, that McDonald’s gave away free coffee for a week in the fall and we loaded up once a day and this past week they gave away free biscuits and again, we took advantage.
  • We rarely buy packaged “convenience” foods. Instead we try to as much as we can to make from scratch – treats, muffins/loaves, bread crumbs, snacks like popcorn. A big bag of flour is cheaper than lotsa mini bags of mixes. A big bag of popcorn kernels is cheaper than lotsa little bags/boxes of popcorn. Plus it is better for you.

  • As much as possible, I try to have snacks and water with us whenever we are “going out”. I even have some things hidden in the car for emergencies. That way I can squash the “Iiiii’mmmm hunnnnnngryyyyyy” whinning and not waste money on emergency crap.
  • We grow food and herbs. This takes commitment but if you have young kids, they will also enjoy being part of the gardening adventure. Start small – a pot with some herbs and a pot of cherry tomatoes. Maybe add a bean pole to your flower garden. You don’t have to have huge vegetable beds to grow your own food.

  • We look at the flyers. We don’t drive around the city going to three or four different markets but we do watch the flyers and choose a supermarket that has many of the things we want/need on special.
  • We shop at Costco but VERY carefully. We discovered that Costco can have some great buys on certain food items but you really have to watch the price because you can often pay more or pay the same for not the same quality. Our favorite Costco buys: 3 bricks of tofu for $2.79 (at the supermarket it is that price for one brick if you are lucky), a massive bag of baby spinach (environmentally not a great idea but the price rocks) for around $3, two and a half dozen eggs (again not a local source and have some guilt here), jars of artichokes, beets and olives are pretty good, big things of extra-virgin olive oil are well priced as are my favorite garden burger. That all being said, I am not sure if I save money taking the $50 membership into consideration. I think so but I have never done the math.

  • I think I have figured out what my daughter will and won’t eat at school so that food is not wasted (and I don’t lose my mind). With that in mind I also only serve both kids smallish portions of any one thing (milk as an example) so that I am not wasting (if it tips over or if there is slurping/backwashing and then isn’t finish).
  • I try to plan out the week of meals so there is no last minute desire to just pick up a quick and dirty premade meal. The planning also allows me to double ingredients up in different ways. (Check out this adorable download for weekly planning by How About Orange.)
  • We primarily eat vegetarian which is cheaper than a meat-based diet.

  • When we can get there, we buy from farmers and farmer’s markets. In part this choice is ethical but this weekend I scored a huge squash for $2.50 – which was converted into a massive meal of squash risotto last evening and we still have 3/4 left for soup and ?? for the rest of the week.

Stay tuned for part 2 – clothing…

Funk

As in the mood not the music. It is probably the lack of sleep (seriously O what is up with the 3 am and then 6 am cry fests?). Or feeling guilty for being a working mom and not a stay-at-home mom. (It usually is just a whisper - today it is a roar.) Or the penny pinching. Or the slow business time. Or the freezing cold. Or not having had a moment to myself in forever. More than anyone of these, it is all of these. I overload myself. I always have. No matter how busy my life gets, I am always struggling to achieve a mindset that is this:

This gorgeous Halifax sunrise taken by Shelagh at Alice in Paris Loves Art and Tea is how I want to start each day: hopeful, bright, and ready.

But it doesn’t always happen that way. Like today.

And then I happened upon Ali Edwards blog where she talks about getting life to run smoothly and writes:  “I don’t want to always be working on trying to find that magic place where everything runs smoothly. I don’t want that to be my focus. I’d much rather simply focus on being engaged with my kids when it’s that time and engaged with my work when it’s that time and engaged with Chris when it’s that time and engaged with myself when it’s me time. I’m acutely aware when my attitude is heading downhill. I’m working on taking a deep breath and refocusing on what’s most important.” “It’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of always trying to find that elusive perfect balance when in reality what you have at any given time might be just right.”

Maybe life is not about waking up to the sunrise (of our mind). Maybe life is about being open to the calm, new light of sunrise, but knowing it is ok if we can’t find it right away.

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