Plodding progress

pexels-photo-129264Earlier this year I wrote about how life and “progress” can feel very slow sometimes. I’ve been thinking about that and also reflecting on the book, Ordinary, I read in preparation for my first child. Yes, lot’s of reflecting, as usual. (Have I mentioned I’m pregnant with #2 and he’s coming any time in the next 2-ish weeks?)

Jack just turned 2 a couple weeks ago. Two! I’ve been a mom for two years! I haven’t learned this much about life and myself since University. My personal growth in the last five months alone is a bit shocking to me, and it’s all been slow plodding. So often I have felt like I’m not moving in any direction, but looking back at the last year, I certainly have grown.

Just like the thesis of Ordinary says, the normal patterns of the Christian life bring natural growth; you don’t have to strive and strain.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve learned to do my dishes regularly. My house is generally speaking tidier more often. Of course, soon baby will come and throw a wrench in everything again. The pattern will continue, I’ll get the hang of things again – this time with a bigger load, and then baby 3 will arrive etc.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’m learning to chill out and not try to rush everything all the time because it turns out that I’m still growing. Except with less stress.

The universe of DIY

So I’ve been into body care DIYs lately. Soap, face wash, bubble baths and the like. The other day my husband came out of the bathroom with the handsoap in hand and demanded, “What’s this?”

“It’s soap. It works. Use it.”

“Did you make it?” he asked suspiciously.

“Yes. It works. Use it.”

He reluctantly used it and I heard some complaints later about weird soap. “Why can’t you just buy stuff like a normal person?” he wanted to know.

This is a good question.

Cosmetics and our health

I’ve had various health issues most of my life, starting when I was a teenager. Since discovering some of the causes a few years ago, it has made me a lot more aware of what I put into my body. Learning the impacts of too many antibiotics and other medications on my body has made me realize how complex an ecosystem our body is. It’s also an amazing thing that can heal itself if given the right environment. Reducing stress in our lives can bring tremendous change, eating better can bring so much more energy, but also removing certain chemical stressors that we don’t know are or could be impacting our health is something I’m interested more in.

Canadians are fairly lucky in that our government does a pretty good job at monitoring what is helpful and harmful for its citizens. However, we don’t always know everything there is to know about every substance we interact with. I remember growing up watching commercials that advertised laundry detergent without phosphates, because they had recently been banned due to the realization it was harming the environment. From what I can see, Canada sits between the US and the EU when it comes to food and drug regulations. The US is much more lax on these things, and the EU far more strict.

When it comes to cosmetics, the EU has 1,400 substances banned, Canada has about 500 banned, while the US has only 11 banned. My husband pointed out that the EU is complicated in that sometimes it bans things for trade purposes, so that they are more economically self-sustainable. So maybe these numbers are a bit skewed. According to David Suzuki and a few other concerned parties, there are at least 12 substances that we should be more aware of that we are putting in and on our bodies because they are suspected to disrupt hormones and/or interfere with reproduction and/or lead to cancer.

Everything Causes Cancer

For awhile I had the attitude that we’re all going to die of cancer so why don’t we just live our lives. While that may be fine for me to decide for my self, if there are simple ways to reduce the negative impact on the lives of my family and children, then I’m going to do what I can.

Replacing my soaps, shampoos, and the makeup I wear each day is pretty simple. In most cases it’s really simple and cheap as well (makeup is less cheap, but I’m finding cheaper alternatives). It’s much simpler than doing a diet overhaul. I’m certainly making my choices. I do eat at McDonald’s. I’m by no means a total granola mom who doesn’t feed her kids sugar, and snacks on only veggies.

Want to give some DIYs a try?

diyHere are a few of the simplest cosmetic DIYs to try if you want. Finding the containers is the trickiest part. You can reuse other soap containers or you can buy them at well.ca.

Note: when it comes to essential oils, please make wise choices. Many are not safe for children under 2 or while pregnant or breastfeeding or can interact with various medications including SSRIs and blood thinners. To learn more check out Using EOs Safely.

Just want to buy safebuyiyr alternatives?

I started by splurging on BeautyCounter, because I was relieved I found a legit brand that I didn’t need to research. But the cost felt too high for me to really invest. If you can afford it, BeautyCounter is a great option (this links to my friend Emily‘s store). After enjoying the products (because they’re great), I was motivated to find less expensive alternatives. It turns out there are some really great ones! Some end up being cheaper than making yourself once you buy all of the containers etc, or they’re comparable in price.

  • Andalou Naturals body care. You can buy this at Loblaws/Provigo in the organic/health food section or well.ca where it’s currently linked to. It’s also at my local health food store. They’re FANTASTIC face washes and creams.
  • Physicians Formula makeup. You can also buy this at Loblaws/Provigo in the organic section or on well.ca.

There really are a lot of options once you start looking into it. More importantly, looking into it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I looked to see what was at the health section at Provigo, then checked my local health store, and looked at well.ca. Then I compared them to the Environmental Working Group’s “Skindeep” database that rates the cosmetic. An easier option is to browse what you want on the “Green” section of well.ca, then check a product’s rating on the EWG database.

Have a recipe to share? A product you love? A fear you have? Want to share more information? Comment away!

Things I Love: My Life Simplifiers

Loving La

Lately, I’ve been pretty thankful for a few things in my life that make my life simpler and help me enjoy life more. They range from nail polishes to washing machines but every one of them has made my life go smoother and taken less time out of my day in the long run. Let me share these (semi) life-changing things with you. And no, no one is paying me to say any of this.

Porter & Charles Combi 9-6

This is one of my most prized possessions these days. Yes, it’s my washing machine. But it’s also my dryer. Most North Americans don’t know this type of product exists, but it’s somewhat common in Europe where space is much more limited. My mother-in-law was forced to buy one when she had to replace her old stackable set because she was too short to reach the buttons on the new stackables and that’s all she had room for. It took her a little getting used to, but she suggested I try it out in my new place because I only have a small closet for my laundry space.

Guys, it’s the greatest! Most people ask me how long a cycle takes and how much it can hold. I certainly do more loads than I used to because the barrel is smaller, but I’m also surprised at how much this little guy can fit. For us, it’s perfect. I’m in the stage of life where it’s easiest for me to do a load of laundry every day. I don’t have that many clothes anyway, so it works well. The longest a load has taken for me (very large, 90ºC water, full dry) has been 6 hours. Yes, that sounds long but when you put it in at the beginning of the day (or in the middle of the night) and when you return it’s all finished with no risk of forgetting to switch the load into the dryer, it’s really not that bad. The fastest wash setting is 12 minutes, meant to do one or two items that you’d need to wear again that day perhaps. There have been times when I have had a ton of laundry to do after coming home from trips or just procrastinating with my loads. It really wasn’t that hard to get through all our laundry in one day + night. It’s quite flexible.

I even do my cloth diapers in it and it’s fantastic. I do a cold rinse with the 12 minute wash setting (because it’s faster than the actual rinse setting), then flick it on to the saved setting that washes them in 90ºC water and rinses 3x. Done! Love.

For people with small living spaces, smaller families or the habit of doing laundry regularly, it’s an excellent option.

GelMoment DIY manicure set

Last year I was introduced to GelMoment by my mom. It’s a DIY gel nail polish system that is free of the top 5 toxins usually found in nail polishes and gel polishes. And get this: it lasts for at least 2 weeks! Women, rejoice!

I have been a nail biter all of my life. The only thing that gets me to actually stop is a nice layer of nail polish. But regular nail polishes that chip or wear off in a couple days is no real defense. No one really wants to do their nails every other day to keep it fresh, and few can afford regular manicures. Lately drug stores have been selling gel polishes for pretty cheap, but you’re still exposing yourselves to wicked chemicals. Have you smelled those polishes before?

But with Gel Moment, I can give myself a glorious manicure that will last me 2 weeks and have no concern for my pregnancy or kids in the room. The stuff doesn’t even smell! It’s magic. If you live in the Montreal area, I’m having a nail party in a few weeks so message me and I’ll send you the details.

Simplified Planner

I bought one of these right before I had Jack. This thing helped me stay sane during that first year. I loved the way the pages were laid out and BEAUTIFUL. It has a space to write out your meal plan, fill in your daily schedule etc. I always keep my daily schedule in my phone calendar, but I wrote out what was happening with my little guy in that section. It helped me keep track of his patterns in those early months. I also kept track of things I was thankful for each day. It was super helpful. Did I mention BEAUTIFUL?

Even though they’re pricey, it was worth it for me to buy another one to help me stay on top of all my tasks this next baby (did I mention I’m pregnant again? I should blog more). I was so pleased to find out that Chapters/Indigo carries Emily Ley products online, which ends up being much cheaper than buying directly from her website for us Canadians. Woo! I also love Chapters.

Nespresso machine + milk frother

Probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received, was last year for my birthday. Willy splurged (big time!) on this set for me. Our latte machine that we were gifted for our wedding had been broken for over a year by this point. As I finished opening it and, mouth still agape, he explained, “With this, I can see you chasing after a toddler and bouncing a baby on your hip and still being able to get a latte in your day.” I LOVE THAT GUY.

I’ve been pretty impressed with the calibre of espresso the machine produces. Much better quality than a Keurig or Tassimo, that’s for sure. It’s certainly not as precise and haut game as an espresso pulled by a $10, 000 latte machine from your local third wave coffee joint, but it’s quite good. Also, it works at the push of a button (or 2 if you want steamed milk as well).

Scentsy scents filling my home.

This one doesn’t make my life simpler, but it does make my life more enjoyable. In the dead of winter when there was no way we were leaving our house during the day, my mood was lifted high with the smell of Spring Symphony floating through my kitchen. When you spend so much time in your home, you have to do things to help make it enjoyable and lovely. For me, this is one of those things. I didn’t use it during my first trimester because I was so sensitive to smells, but now that I’ve got it back on and it’s a dream. I’ve been using it long enough that I have some standard scents I use: Ambrosia, Pink Haze, Spring Symphony, Summer Holiday, Very Peary Pumpkin in the Fall, and Eskimo Kiss in the Winter.

What are yours?

That’s it! I’d love to hear if you have things that make your life much simpler, whether it’s a kitchen gadget you use regularly or an app on your phone. Leave a comment!

How’s that working for you?

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Not my actual house.

I’m not a very tidy person. My room was always a mess, but I almost always knew where things were. My mom would beg me to clean it and I would refuse every time, making it into a huge argument. Most times after I tidied, I could never find my things again. I haven’t really outgrown this, but I have learned a few things about it (I always have more things than places to put them, which is why everything is a mess; I’m lazy to tidy until things get so bad and then I’m so overwhelmed and feel unable to fix it… These two things are probably worth a few blogposts in themselves).

Having an 18 month old has been teaching me about how much stuff I have and how much it is always out. Since he can now climb up on chairs and access the dining table (which is a notorious “hot spot” of cluttered items waiting to be put away), suddenly it seems there are no safe places for our junk.
I’m finally realizing that my “system” of “crap everywhere” is starting to cause me more grief than the small time it could take to put it away. For a solid 29 years, I got away with leaving my junk all over. As Dr. Phil always asked, “How’s that working for you?” It worked. But now my papers, books, wallets, purses are being put at risk of being torn, eaten, pulled apart, or coloured on.
To be sure, we haven’t mastered this; we still have quite a ways to go. And despite these #toddlerdays being really difficult and trying, things are a lot easier when there’s nothing for him to get into. And that’s on me!

Gettin the groove back

I don't know who the artist is!

I don’t know who the artist is!

Life is starting to feel a lot more settled. I’ve been back to work (part-time) for a month and we’re starting to find the rhythm of me working. The feelings of being overwhelmed are gone, I’m adjusting to my “baby” boy walking and transitioning to being a toddler, and I feel like I actually have some time to myself again.

We love our new place. It feels gigantic and yet, it doesn’t take a million years to clean/tidy. Part of this, I think, has to do with how much I got rid of before we moved. I’ve been thinking a lot about housekeeping and the “zen” of tidying lately. I downloaded The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up because the entire internet is freaking out about it.  On Amazon.com it has over six thousand reviews and it’s still rated 4.5 stars. As I’ve been reading through it slowly, there are some things I’ve accidentally applied as we moved and as we had been feeling increasingly squished in the 800 square feet of our previous apartment.

Rather than obsessively colouring all the time, I started reading a bit again and I picked up my crochet. Though life is intense with a pre-toddler, a marriage to maintain, a house to not let fall into squalor, and friends to enjoy…. I’m finding a flow.

My new obsession

If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Facebook at all lately, you’ll know that I got into colouring this summer. I first saw an article about how it’s the new thing for adults (mostly women), and I immediately knew I’d love it. But I didn’t go out and get a book because I had just spent a bunch of money on sewing. I have this tendency to start projects and not really finish them — you may have noticed this as you’ve followed this blog.

Finally back in July, I was feeling pretty crappy and in need of a vacation from my life and I was staying at my in-laws. I was perusing a Chapters and I just went for it. It had been months since I was ogling these books.

I started colouring and I don’t think I stopped for weeks. Those few weeks I was at my in-laws it was basically all I did every waking moment. I would nap Jack, change him, feed him, and otherwise let my in-laws play with him any other time he was awake. Call it neglect, or self-care, or whatever, this mama got a holiday and it was BLISS.

Most of these colouring books claim they’re for stress, or zen, or mindfulness or whatever. There’s lots of articles claiming about the anti-stress benefits of colouring and why so many people are taking it up. I’ve heard of girls getting together to having colouring parties, and other people like me do it while watching TV or in church (It helps me focus!).

Why do I like it?

1. It keeps my hands busy

I enjoy doing two things at once- watching TV and colouring, listening to podcasts and crocheting, listening to music while cooking. Colouring is a great mix for TV and podcasts because I don’t need to focus so much on the craft, unlike crochet. I may have coloured with a friend while FaceTiming before….

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2. It helps me think

One of the surprising benefits for me was how much I ended up thinking and processing while I was colouring. If I sat quietly and focused on the colouring, I would think through hall kinds of different life problems etc.

3. It stimulates my creative side

I’m a creative type who likes pretty things and so this has been the perfect fit for me. It doesn’t require too much concentration (like crochet) and I have all kinds of control over it because it’s easy (unlike sewing. Or it has yet to become as easy as colouring). I was never great at doodling because things didn’t always come out pretty. But I can colour nicely!

4. It’s helping me learn to just be.

As I sit and colour, it’s challenging me because I’m not doing anything important. I’m not changing the world, raising a child OR worrying about not doing these things. I get to sit quitely, enjoy life and beauty, and just be. It’s really good for my soul.
Some of my favourite books are:
midnfulness
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It’s pocked sized so its easy to stick in your purse and do on the go. I only have a few more pages and I’ll be done this one!
stained glass 11325250_491167211043419_1419628379_n
This one is based on actual stained glass windows in churches and libraries. There is a legend at the back of the book to tell you where each is from. I usually look up the original on google images and copy the actual stained glass.

Try it out!

Chapters/Indigo have a great selection that you can check out online. And if you’re a dude that thinks it might be fun, don’t fret. There’s one on cities and a new one on Game of Thrones just announced. Or you can find some free printables online to test drive the idea. I prefer using markers but lots of people use pencil crayons (apparently this is a Canadian term? I guess it’s coloured pencils for my neighbours to the south).
Enjoy!
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