Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

I love traditions and I especially love seasonal traditions that bring people together. For the last seven years I’ve participated in a cookie exchange with work friends and it has always been fun.

The whole process of finding the perfect recipe always started weeks in advance and I’d scour the Martha Stewart website for ‘the perfect Christmas cookie’. I always made sure to buy the good ingredients, like the fancy french butter or the Callebeaut chocolate in those huge chunks. I never skimped and poured love (and butter!) into dozens and dozens of cookies.

In fact, by my calculations I’ve made over 140 dozen cookies for this special cookie exchange. That’s a lot of cookies! However, this is my first official year that I’ve opted out. There will not be an influx of cookies coming and going from the kitchen this year.

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Chocolate hazelnut biscotti

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Sugar cookies (made with the fanciest french butter!) and lightly glazed.

I decided this year that I will bake a few dozen treats with my kids and let that be enough. I made a conscious decision not to add too many extra events into this month because current life is full enough. As much as I loved being part of the Christmas Cookie Exchange, it feels okay to not be involved this year too.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

In the 7 years that I’ve been baking for this cookie exchange I’ve made a variety of tasty cookies. I think my favourite were my Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies that had a hint of chilli powder mixed in to give a tiny bit of heat to the chocolate. They were soft and moist and full of chocolate flavour.

Last year was a good baking year for me. I went with the classic chocolate chip cookie and jazzed it up by dipping it in melted Callebaut chocolate and topping it with a toasted pecan. They were a bit labour intensive, all that dipping and drying, but they were flavourful and delicious.

Do you participate in any baking exchanges over the holidays? 

 

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Parenting Around The Clock

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December 7, 2016 // Parenting

My husband is away for work right now, which means a lot more hustle and bustle from me but it’s nothing I can’t handle. However, I wasn’t expecting my four year old to start having trouble sleeping at night, but she is. Which means we are all over tired.

The two of us have been meeting multiple times each night this past week. It always starts out with a quiet little whisper of “mama….”  and a curly haired shadow lurking beside my bed in the dark. We have had sobbing and flat out refusals to go back to her own bed and lots of, ‘SHH!! You will wake everyone up!’ from a bleary eyed me.

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As a seasoned mama I know that these wake ups are because she needs  reassurance that I’m there and that things are okay.  I’ve always been sensitive to my kids needs for parenting around the clock and for the most part I just go with the flow. Meet their needs, stick to routine and hope for the best.

I’m no stranger to night wake ups but it’s usually the youngest one calling out, either with teething pain, random issues or those weird sleep cries you can’t explain but that still wake you up. I’m okay with the nighttime parenting of a toddler but I do feel a  little more exasperated with with nighttime parenting of big kids. Especially, when those night wake ups are repetitive and don’t end in a peaceful back to bed sleep.

For now she slumbers in her own bed but I can guarantee that I will hear little footsteps coming to find me at some point over the night. In preparation, I’ve made her a little bed nest just for her on my bedroom floor right next to me. I’m hoping this will help her feel comforted and ultimately I’m hoping it helps her to stay asleep!

 

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Today we waved goodbye to my husband, who headed up to Whistler mountain for a week long work retreat, and said a big HELLO to some big fluffy white flakes. Today also happened to be a scheduled day off from school for the big kids and the snow couldn’t have come at a better time.

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I can probably count actual snow days on one hand since I’ve been living here the last fourteen years. In fact, unless you are a skiing/snow boarding family most Vancouverites don’t have proper snow attire. It’s commonplace to see Vancouver kids out in the snow wearing their rain boots!

We had to make a makeshift snow day outfit for Lizzy. Complete with an old handmade toque and some leg warmers over her pants for an extra layer of warmth. We didn’t have snow boots or snow pants on hand so she stayed cozy in her stroller holding snow balls in her mittens and watching the big kids.

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There was the time in ’08  that we had a big dump of snow back right over Christmas. I had just one tiny baby and it was the most snow I had ever seen, leaving the city to come to a total halt.  Then there was the snow day that happened the afternoon Josie came home from the hospital as a newborn. I can vividly remember the blast of arctic air as we hurried from hospital to the car to drive home and feeling a little nervous on the roads with my bundle of joy in her carseat.

You can never count on snow sticking around the city for any length of time so you have to take full advantage of the white stuff at first flake. Which means my big kids went out with their dad to catch some flakes as soon as they woke up this morning. In total we went out three different times over eight hours and the last time it was hard to find enough snow to make a snow ball.

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I love seeing how my West Coast kids react to snow! I am positive that my oldest would go out in shorts and frolic and have the best time of his life and never feel the cold. My middle was interested and enjoyed it for five minutes but despite many layers, she was too cold to want to keep going. The littlest just wanted to sit and hold the snow ball that her brother made her and  I just enjoyed watching them have their happy moments.

 

 

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I love receiving mail and I don’t mean the electronic kind. It’s the enveloped, stamped, addressed and posted type of mail that makes me happy. Nothing makes my heart soar as much as opening our community mailbox in the condo lobby and finding a card or two inside.

I’ve also always been that person who enjoys sending off thank you notes or random cards of cheer to friends through out the year. However, I’ve found that with each passing year things have shifted to more of an on line presence and less snail mail is sent out.

It’s the enveloped, stamped, addressed and posted type of mail that makes me happy.

Now it’s common place to thank people for gifts by sending out a text message and send people well wishes via Facebook. We use our social media feed to wish special people in our lives a ‘Happy Birthday!’ and forgo sending out paper cards. I miss holding that paper card in my hands and having it on display to help celebrate whatever occasion it may be.

Every Christmas I’ve sent out cards and posted them off with a hint of excitement thinking about the cards that might come in return. I love the whole process of choosing Christmas cards and lose myself in browsing endlessly on line. If I was a crafty person I am sure I’d love to put together my own paper cards.

In the past I’ve done the personalized photo cards and adore switching from my regular address labels to my Christmas ones. Last year I sent off about 50 hand written cards to family and friends and was sent about 10 in return.

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I think our current social media use definitely makes it easier to send out mass greetings. Each year the exchange of the classic Christmas card seems more and more on the decline. However, I still enjoy keeping with traditions and going the old fashion paper route.

Are people forgoing the tradition of sending out Christmas cards in lieu of sending out a big ‘Merry Christmas!’  through social media? 

Back in 2008 when my first was an infant who cried nonstop and didn’t sleep more than 45 minutes in a row. I didn’t put up a Christmas tree that year cause I was so exhausted but I did send out a pile of cards. I stood dancing with him in a soft carrier, writing out cards on our mantle. I didn’t have to do it but I did because it was important to me.

It took me a lot longer than usual but the stack of cards were posted in the mail and it felt great to be able to continue on with that tradition despite feeling so busy and tired.
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Receiving cards in the mail helps me feel connected to people that I might not see regularly and even those that I do. Every single Christmas one of my dear Canadian cousins, who I don’t see regularly, sends my family the most brilliant Christmas card. I love feeling this connection!

If you’re wavering about sending out Christmas cards this year get motivated and hop back on the postage train!

Go read up on the history of sending out Christmas cards.

 

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We are currently on a little holiday to celebrate US Thanksgiving with my husband’s side of the family. It’s our third year in a row coming and the kids get so excited to see their cousins and celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister in law’s mom’s place in Scottsdale.

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If you’ve been following me over on Instagram you will have seen the sunshine and horseback riding and all of the happy faces. Sunshine is definitely a mood booster and being outside is a great way to spend a holiday away from Raincouver.

This time around we opted out of checking luggage and decided against bringing a stroller. Having little kids definitely makes it easier to minimally pack, smaller bodies equals tinier clothing, and so all three kids had 5-6 outfits all rolled up into one wheeled carry on bag.

Not having to bring big jackets or boots definitely helped to keep things simple for us. This basically confirms to me that I should only book holidays that involve sunshine. We decided to bring just enough diapers and wipes to get us through the first day and we went to the shop and bought just enough to use while we were away from home. In the past I would fill a suitcase with diapers and I’ve learned my lesson about lugging them around.

We haven’t checked a stroller on a flight for awhile now. I think the last family holiday where we flew and brought a stroller was back when Josie was under two and we went to Hawaii. We haven’t felt that we’ve missed it and it’s been nice not having to tote it around.

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Luckily my littlest really loves to go in the carrier and so we brought our Becco to use to get around and sight see and even at family events. The big bonus is that naps can happen on the go and in the carrier, so it’s not a big deal if we’re out and we can easily stay on top of those important toddler naps!

Things that I did pack!

  • My flat iron
  • A total of three different pairs of shoes for me including my ankle boots!
  • Two lap tops, one iPad and my husband’s large Cannon camera
  • Two boxes of Canadian cookies to give as gifts

In the rush of coming off of three day shifts there were a few things that I did forget to pack, like my toothbrush, but nothing that a quick trip to the shops couldn’t remedy.

Do you carry on or check your luggage for short holidays? We would have had to pay for each checked bag, so we decided to see if carrying on would work for us and it did. Any longer of a trip and checking a bag would have been necessary for sure.ee

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When friends and family ask me how I do life with work and three kids I dislike saying, ‘Oh, I’m so busy‘. Our days are filled up to the brim from the moment the first kid wakes up till the moment the last one falls asleep. Each day is always bursting with fullness and too often the routine of taking care of my tiny people often means I let my own needs just slide away.

Of course, I try to meet my basic needs and sometimes I actually get breakfast and I’m usually dressed in weather appropriate outfits. On the outside I might look like I have it all together but I’m human and my need to thrive isn’t fulfilled solely on grabbing breakfast on the fly and making it through.

Today I booked a babysitter for the entire day and I am not working. This is huge. To say that I’m giddy with excitement is an understatement. Having a few moments to focus on myself has left me feeling like I can literally catch my breath. Even if it is just for a moment.

I really wanted to make the most of my ‘free time’ and not do the 101 things on my to do list that are for other people. Usually when I have a minute to spare I end up using the time to check something off of my to do list and it most certainly involves my kids or cleaning up messes.

Buy a gift for a classmate’s birthday party. Remember to fill out that permission form. Book the doctors appointment. Make snacks for the class party. The list goes on. Life is full.

First up I booked myself in to see my massage therapist. Massage is something that I absolutely love, besides giving my painful hips and shoulders a moment of relief it also involves one hour of me laying still. Something that my consistently full life craves.

I’ve got a lunch date booked with one of my favourite girlfriends and I’m looking forward to savouring each bite without being interrupted for an emergency trip to the washroom or mopping up spilled drinks. Mamas, you know how it is.

Each day is always bursting with fullness and too often the routine of taking care of my tiny people often means I let my own needs just slide away.

I’m finishing up this day with a trip to the Circle Craft Christmas Market and there will probably be a little hot latte sipping. I’m crossing my fingers to find some cute personalized Christmas ornaments for the kids. Which one may argue is something on my TO DO list but it is also something that will make me happy.
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While I’m out and about and when my mind starts to wander to the TO DO list that’s always simmering away in my brain, I’m going to temporarily shut it down and allow myself to be in the moment. There will be no guilt for allowing myself to fill up my hypothetical cup. I will enjoy the time on my own knowing that the hours will truly pass by quicker than expected.

 

 

 

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When I find something that I really love I have no problem wanting to tell the world about it! Which is why I’m excited to once again collaborate with Wheat Kid Clothing and their Danish designed clothing for children.

The current colour palette offered over on their on line shop was the first thing that caught my eye. I fell in love with the muted purples, soft pinks and perfect greys. The patterns on the toddler clothing isn’t over powering and the girly dresses showcase the right amount of timeless feminine touch.

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Recently Wheat Canada sent Josie a warm jacket, beanie and mittens for our upcoming Winter. We loved how soft the jacket was and truly appreciated the tiny details like the inner cuffs with thumb holes on the sleeves.

Josie is wearing the Merle coat which is Wheat Canada’s down jacket that’s machine washable. She’s in a size 4 coat, the fit is true to size and the design allows some room to grow! The quality is there so I am sure her little sister will also be able to wear this jacket in the future.

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If you want to get in on the Wheat Canada love you are in luck! Wheat Canada is giving one reader a gift of $75 to use over on their on line shop. Plus they are hosting their Vancouver pop up shop that starts November 7-19th so you can go in person and check out their selection and see exactly what I’m talking about.

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Full disclosure: Wheat Canada gave me products in order to collaborate for this giveaway and review. However, I only ever share products that I truly love and recommend. 

Coat: Down Jacket Merle

Hat: Beanie Marisa Melange Grey

Mittens: Heather Rose

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The other night I was sitting on my bed getting the kids ready for bed and I caught myself humming a Christmas song. I know. It’s not even Halloween and here I am thinking ahead to the holidays. I’ve even bought a couple of presents and have been busy daydreaming about how this year I will plan for all fun and no stress.

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We are just on the cusp of seasons changing, which means  Christmas markets are starting to happen! Namely, Vancouver’s Circle Craft Christmas Market which I’ve been lucky enough to attend for the past seven out of eight years and I have big plans to hit it up again this year.

When: November 9-13th

Where: Vancouver Convention Centre West

Tickets: Buy on line before November 9th and get $2.00 off

My favourite part of wandering around the market is finding artisan gifts for the special people on my list. Plus the lights and music and massive Christmas trees definitely get me pepped up for the season ahead.

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I’ve got two tickets to giveaway to one lucky reader. All you have to do is enter below! The winner can pick up the tickets at Will Call and enjoy the market on whichever date works for you.
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My family of five, and our dog, live in a 1200 square foot condo with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a den in downtown Vancouver. Over the years of apartment living I have probably heard all of the remarks about living in a small space. Most people appear shocked and like to ask, ‘so when will you guys move?’.

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It seems many people believe that in order to thrive as a family you need a big house. The idea that less space can actually be more makes some people a little uncomfortable and confused. One thing that I know we are doing right as a family is that we are thriving! We live a purposeful life with a minimalist approach and our ‘stuff’ doesn’t own us.

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This is how we do it:

The two big kids share a bedroom with bunk beds and their closet is converted into an organized catchall for toys and games and some clothing. Two big drawers under the bunk bed can be pulled out for special personalized collections. Currently you will find My Little Ponies and Shopkins in one and Lego and Transformers in the other.

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When a new toy comes in we always make sure there is a space for it and if not, then something gets donated or given away. We don’t accumulate a lot of excess and that is on purpose.

I never bought a change table for any of my babies. This fact is surprising to many people who come to visit us or come to take care of my kids. I have always used foldable washable changing pads and have had a basket of diapers/wipes/creams that moved around with me as needed.

 

“For our family of five living a minimalist styled life in a condo continues to work for us because we make it work”

 

Each kid gets one of something and not more. They have one bike each, one warm Winter coat each, one pair of everyday shoes each, etc. Since we don’t have the space to pack away a variety of different fashions the answer is to have just one good quality thing. I will fork over the dollars if I know the item is to be made well and not disposable.

Can you believe my 8 year old has had the same Peekaboo Beans hoodie for over a year? It wasn’t cheap but it washes up so well and I bought it big knowing we’d just have the one. Amazingly, he hasn’t misplaced it at school!

We don’t have different everyday dishes and fancy occasional dishes. There’s no room for a China cabinet that would house stuff only to be taken out on special occasions. Instead, we use our Denby dishes that we got at our wedding ten years ago as our everyday meal dishes.

Once in awhile I do wish for an extra bedroom or a private space to relax in away from everyone. However, I know that ultimately my kids would still hunt me down and find me even if we had a huge house with many rooms. Kids are smart like that!

I like that our Costco robot vacuum can clean our floors without needing a battery charge and less space means less for me to clean. For our family of five living a minimalist styled life in a condo continues to work for us because we make it work. We don’t have any plans to move anytime soon and enjoy spending time together at home and in the city we’ve come to love.

 

 

 

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Happy Friday! I have a guest post up over on One Smiley Monkey. I put together my mama brain and my nurse brain and reviewed a Pump and Go system for all of you pumping mamas out there.

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