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Let’s Talk Clothes, Part 2: Optimizing

You can check out Part 1: Minimizing of my “Let’s Talk Clothes” series here. In this post I’ll share the process I’ve been through to optimize my wardrobe.

I’ve minimized… now what!?

I wish I made a note of how many pieces of clothing I donated/sold… I think I’d surprise myself! After getting rid of the clothing that was no longer serving its purpose, I didn’t have much left. My body (and life) has changed so much postpartum that many of my clothes didn’t fit well or didn’t suit my new lifestyle. I was left with around 30 pieces of clothing in my closet that fit well and that I love.

I took them all out of my closet and spread them out on my bed in categories (dresses, pants, tops, etc.) I set aside any items that I wouldn’t need for the spring/summer season. I tried everything else on in “oufits” to see which items went well with one another. Throughout this process I made a list of clothing items that I would need to compliment what I already had, or fill in any gaps of particular items I needed.

I was VERY specific. This was the list I came up with:

  • white/brown/beige tank top x2
  • brown button-up cropped sweater
  • long beige/neutral tee x2
  • lounge pants
  • dress with sleeves
  • brown oxford-style shoes

I was intentional in choosing items and colours that would fit with what I already had and be used to make multiple outfits. They’re also items of clothing that can be layered and dressed up/down, so they will work for many occasions and seasons.


The Search

Anytime I need something, I always check for secondhand options first: thrift shops, Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, etc. Why? Because it’s better to buy something that has already been produced than to buy something new—better for your wallet AND the planet. (Read more about the benefits of buying secondhand here)

I was able to find two items secondhand: a brown button-up cropped sweater and a dress with sleeves. That left me in need of a few staple pieces that I was having a hard time finding secondhand.

This is where my major dilemma came in, and I am going to be 100% honest with you…

I am ALL FOR supporting sustainable, ethical brands. We vote with our dollars, and I want mine to support great companies! However, I am a stay-at-home mom and we are scraping by on one income. We have a very small amount of disposable income. I had been saving up for a few more expensive items: a swimsuit from Jessica Rey, shoes from Adelisa & Co., and a dress from Not Perfect Linen. I searched for all of the items I needed from ethical brands, but because I needed quite a few items to create a functional wardrobe, I simply could not afford to spend double or triple. Do I feel good about it? Absolutely not. I felt so guilty purchasing some items from fast fashion companies, but I also couldn’t justify credit card debt that I wouldn’t be able to pay off in the near future in order to purchase similar items.

Now that I have a basic capsule wardrobe that I can add items to seasonally, my goal is to plan for specific items I’ll need, so I have time to save money to purchase higher quality items from more sustainable and ethical fashion brands, and also more time to search for specific items secondhand.

Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Here is my summer capsule wardrobe:

  1. Linen Mama dress in small checks (sleeves)
  2. White/black patterned cotton dress (sleeveless)
  3. Cream cotton ruffle dress (sleeves)
  4. Grey/pale lavender cotton button-up dress (sleeveless)
  5. Linen sleeveless jumpsuit
  6. Sage cotton maxi skirt
  7. Grey tights
  8. Black leggings
  9. Brown skinny stretch pants
  10. Rust wide-leg linen pants
  11. Beige tapered-leg linen pants
  12. Long taupe hoodie
  13. Beige linen shorts
  14. Brown cropped button-up sweater
  15. White ribbed sweater
  16. Beige/Brown sweater
  17. Long Rust button-up sweater
  18. Oversized beige/taupe tee
  19. Ribbed beige tee
  20. Wine tank top
  21. Rust tank top
  22. Beige knit tank top
  23. White/Taupe tank top with buttons
  24. Brown sol shoes
  25. Brown sandals
  26. Brown flats
  27. Brown boots
  28. Black flip-flops
  29. Grey rain jacket
  30. Dark green cotton jacket
  31. Bracelet/Watch (gifted)
  32. NPL Sydney dress in amber yellow (birthday gift that is still on its way, but I’m counting it)
  33. NPL volume dress in creamy brown (birthday gift that is still on its way, but I’m counting it)

Excluded from the list: pajamas & loungewear, bathing suit, clothes used exclusively for workouts/hikes.

Of my 33 items, 19 were already in my wardrobe before I minimized it.

I’m interested to see how I fare with this wardrobe from June-August. I know there will be SO many occasions where I am tempted to buy new clothes, but I will try to stay strong and keep to my capsule (let’s hope I’ve selected it well…)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of clothes, so feel free to leave a comment below, or chat with me over on Instagram, where I’ll be sharing my outfits, thoughts, etc.

I’ve also started a group chat for anyone who wants to participate in the Project 333 challenge with us! Anyone is welcome, whether you are planning to try it, are giving it a try, or have already had some experience with it and/or capsule wardrobes.

Thanks for reading!

Let’s Talk Clothes, Part 1: Minimizing

I’m working my way through a few personal goals related to slow living, minimalism, and more sustainable living.

It has been, and will continue to be, an ongoing process. I’m constantly learning, growing, and changing. Though there are many ways I can do better, I am embracing my imperfect journey and trying my best.

An important aspect of this for me is clothing, which I’m going to chat about today! It also happens to be Fashion Revolution week—perfect timing to start this series of posts.

Where I started

I had a closet stuffed to the brim with clothes, but only a few pieces that I truly loved, that fit well, and that I wore regularly.

I spent way too long staring at my clothes thinking, hmmm what should I wear….

I usually bought clothing on a whim, or when there were sales on — buying whatever I liked the look of with no regard to whether I actually needed that item of clothing.

I gave NO thought to what the clothes I bought were made of, where they were made, who made them, etc.

I had:

  • clothes that I’d never worn with tags still on them
  • clothes that didn’t fit quite right (or at all)
  • clothes that didn’t look flattering on me
  • clothes that I didn’t feel comfortable in but liked the look of
  • clothes that didn’t go with anything else in my closet (no pants to match a top, a dress that needed a different kind of bra, etc.)
  • clothes that I was saving for a specific time or event
  • clothes that I hadn’t worn in ages
  • + just TOO MANY clothes

My process:

First, I took every single item from my closet and made three piles, trying items on as needed:

The “yes” pile: fits well, wear regularly and LOVE — would not want to live without it

The “maybe” pile: fits but don’t wear often, not the most flattering, like it but don’t LOVE it, saving for a time when…

The “no” pile: doesn’t fit well/not flattering, haven’t worn in ages.

Next, I went through my “maybe” pile, tried items on, and either put them into the “no” pile or put them back in my closet for a “trial” period.

The majority of my maybe pile ended up in my no pile, OR I kept it for a few weeks, noticed that I really had no desire to wear it, and either donated or sold it. I still have a few pieces “on trial” right now.

My advice: be ruthless! At the beginning it is HARD to let go of things, especially clothes. We often buy clothes that we *wish* would fit us well, look nice on us, or that we hope to have an occasion to wear one day…

If you don’t wear it often, if it doesn’t fit well, and if you don’t LOVE it, toss it in the no pile. You should feel happy to wear the clothes you own.

For me, one of the hardest parts was getting rid of clothes that I hadn’t worn in awhile and was “saving” for the future.

I’m currently a stay-at-home mom, and will be for at least another year and a few months. I had a lot of clothing that I used to wear for work but hadn’t touched since late pregnancy.

Why was I holding on to them?

Because one day I’ll have the need for them again!

But who knows WHEN that will be, whether they’ll fit, or if I’ll even like them whenever that time comes.


Instead of taking up valuable space in my closet, I can either sell them and make money to put towards pieces of clothing that I need right NOW, or donate them so someone else can enjoy them.

Paring Down

Yup… I pared my closet down even further after this!

Again, I took every item out of my closet, but this time I sorted them into piles based on type: sweaters, pants, camisoles, dresses, etc.

I went through each pile and took out any items of clothing that were similar. For example: somehow I had FOUR beige sweater/cardigans. I had absolutely no need for four pieces of clothing so similar, so I chose my favourite one to keep and said farewell to the rest of them.

I also tried everything on again to make sure I absolutely loved it, felt comfortable wearing it, and had corresponding pieces to make complete outfits.

At this point, I realized there were a few key items that I was missing from my wardrobe that would complete certain outfits or compliment other pieces I absolutely loved. So, I made a very specific list of items I needed to add to my wardrobe, with the spring and summer seasons in mind.

The Results

I’ve repeated this process above about 3-4 times since January (it’s now mid-April). I definitely needed to do it several times to become more comfortable in embracing my evolving personal style and understanding the clothes that I love and that serve a purpose in my life right now.

I now have 30 items of clothing in my closet (including activewear, but excluding pajamas and footwear). I’m guessing is about 1/4 of what I had before??? I wish I’d have kept track, because it would be so interesting to know!

What I CAN tell you is that:

  • I don’t feel stressed out or weighed down when I look in my closet for something to wear.
  • It takes a lot less time to get dressed.
  • Everything fits well and goes well together.
  • I love all the clothes I wear.
  • I have soooo much more closet space.
  • I feel more confident.

Stay tuned for my next post, where we move from chatting about minimizing to optimizing. We’ll chat intentional purchasing, capsule wardrobes, and more! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of clothes, so feel free to leave a comment below, or chat with me over on Instagram.

Maybe the clothes I no longer need will be new favourites for you! You can shop my closet on Poshmark. If you’re outside of Canada and see something you love, feel free to contact me and I can get a shipping quote for you.

Autumn Book Recommendations

I am a mood reader, and my book choices are undoubtedly influenced by the weather and seasons. Autumn is my favourite season—it’s the perfect time to reach for those dark, twisted, and moody reads. I tend to gravitate towards classics, gothic horror, and historical witchy reads at this time of year.

Here are some books I’ve enjoyed that I think are perfect for the autumn season. I’ve broken them up by genre, but some were hard to place and definitely fit in more than one category:

Classics

Horror

Mystery/Thriller

Historical Fiction

Historical/Fantasy

Dark Academia

Middle Grade


My Autumn TBR

Here is the list of books that I hope to read this autumn:

I’m also determined to read some Stephen King at some point — I can’t believe I still haven’t yet!


What are some books you think are perfect to read in autumn? See any favourites on my list!?

Book Review | The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

You hide in the herd. You wait. And you never forget.

I’ll preface my thoughts with the fact that I don’t typically read horror. I consider myself a “chicken” with an overactive imagination, so I’ve steered clear of horror movies AND books—until I saw the cover and description for The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.

“Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.”

Something about it intrigued me, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. The story starts off a bit slow, but I loved getting to know Lewis and his sense of humour. Slow-building suspense and social commentary lead up to a shocking, brutal, and bloody twist at the end of the first half. To be honest I almost abandoned it at that point. I was taken aback because blood and gore are out of my comfort zone. I frantically tried to explain to my husband the entire plot up to that point—I needed someone to share in my shock. I put the book aside for a few days, but it lingered in my mind. I just. couldn’t. stop. thinking about it. So I dove back in.


I was surprised when the perspective shifted halfway through the book, but I found that it kept me engaged. Throughout the novel all of the characters felt so real to me: flawed and memorable. I still get chills thinking about this story, and it is one that will continue to stand out in my mind. It is certainly unlike anything I’ve read before.

To sum up, I’d describe it as a unique, terrifying, and memorable novel from a master storyteller. It’s probably not for everyone, but if you’re intrigued, I definitely encourage you to check it out!

Thank you to NetGalley for the advanced copy—all opinions are my own.


Have you read any good horror novels lately? Or do you typically shy away from anything “scary”?

Book Review | Being Lolita: A Memoir by Alisson Wood

WOW!  This is one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve read.  Unique, poignant, and impactful—I could NOT put this book down.


Synopsis:

“‘Have you ever read Lolita?’

So begins seventeen-year-old Alisson’s metamorphosis from student to lover and then victim. A lonely and vulnerable high school senior, Alisson finds solace only in her writing—and in a young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. North. He praises her as a special and gifted writer, and she blossoms under his support and his vision for her future.

Mr. North gives Alisson a copy of Lolita to read, telling her it is a beautiful story about love. The book soon becomes the backdrop to a relationship that blooms from a simple crush into a forbidden romance, with Mr. North convincing her that theirs is a love affair rivaled only by Nabokov’s masterpiece. But as time progresses and his hold on her tightens, Alisson is forced to evaluate how much of that narrative is actually a disturbing fiction.

In the wake of what becomes a deeply abusive relationship, Alisson is faced again and again with the story of her past, from rereading Lolita in college, to working with teenage girls, to becoming a professor of creative writing. It is only with that distance and perspective that she understands the ultimate power language has had on her—and how to harness that power to tell her own true story.”


I am in awe of the courage and vulnerability it took for Alisson to share her story.  She delves into the dark and disturbing in a poetic and beautifully written memoir. It reads like a literary novel—which kept me enthralled despite the uncomfortable subject matter.

I found the incorporation and examination of Nabokov’s Lolita fascinating. It was expertly interwoven alongside Alisson’s own experiences.  I also love her discussion surrounding language and its impact.  Her choice to refer to Nick as “the teacher” is the perfect example of the power of words—a constant reminder to the reader of the power dynamics within their relationship.

I ended up feeling utterly connected to this novel in so many ways: as I recall my own experiences as a teenage girl; as a woman who has experienced dysfunctional relationships; as a high school teacher; and now, as a mother with a daughter.  So many aspects of Alisson’s story resonated with me.  I was going to say that this is a must-read for young women, but it should really be read by everyone who can handle the content. It speaks to current societal discussions of gender, power, consent and language.

A huge thank you to Alisson for reaching out and sending me an advanced copy of Being Lolita.  She writes: “To create something beautiful from something so terrible is my deepest desire.”  And that she has: a raw, enthralling, and impactful memoir.  She is a true inspiration.

Trigger warnings: sexual & verbal abuse, pedophilia, depression


What are some memoirs that you would recommend reading?

Our Vintage Bookish Wedding

This has been a long time coming, considering we were married in August of 2018. It was honestly the best day ever! We had such an amazing time and had so much fun celebrating with our family and friends. We didn’t want to spend much on our wedding, so many of the items were rented, thrifted, or DIY. I always love seeing the little details of other peoples’ weddings, so here’s ours!

Venue: Lac Le Jeune Wilderness Resort

Flowers: Wild Roots Flowers & Gifts

Photography: Sherry Thiessen Photography

Hair: Anjera Hair Design

Makeup: Brooke Ambler

My best vintage find to date was definitely my wedding dress! I came across it one day when my Mom and I were browsing a small boutique in Chase. I wasn’t engaged at the time—in fact, Ryan and I had just started dating, and he was back in England after his first visit to Canada. While browsing the racks, I saw this gorgeous lace wedding dress from the 1950’s. I called Mom over to show her and said something to the effect of, “Wow, this is exactly what I’d want my wedding dress to look like.” She and the shop owner urged me to try it on, even though I had no need for a wedding dress at the time. It fit perfectly and was just over $200… so Mom said, “Well I think we should just buy it, and if you don’t use it you can just sell it.” So we did! Needless to say, my Dad and Grandparents were surprised when we returned from a trip uptown with a wedding dress. If I remember correctly, I also casually told Ryan via text that I had bought a vintage wedding dress… hahah. I’m surprised that didn’t scare him off…

Engagement ring and wedding band from MinimalVS
Lace Satin Shoes from Amazon

We didn’t really choose “colours” or have a “theme” for our wedding. If Ryan had to plan it, it probably would have been soccer-themed… hahah. As you’ll see, I’m a sucker for anything lace and vintage, which suited the “rustic” setting well. Of course I had to add old books wherever possible—and a splash of Harry Potter!

I’ve always known I wanted to be wed outside, surrounded by trees. We were so fortunate to have the perfect weather and setting for our ceremony. On the morning of our wedding, we were woken up by a HUGE clap of thunder at 7am, which was followed by an absolute DOWNPOUR. Thankfully it cleared up for the ceremony. I walked down the aisle to “A Thousand Years” (Christina Perri covered by the Piano Guys), which still makes me tear up today. I definitely didn’t expect to be so emotional! I’m pretty sure I started crying as soon as Dad and I started walking down the aisle.

We chose to incorporate the ancient tradition of handfasting into our ceremony—which is where the phrase “tying the knot” comes from! With each vow we made to one another, my brother and Ryan’s sister draped a ribbon over our hands. With our hands bound together, we sealed the vows by knotting the ribbons in some fancy way that I definitely couldn’t remember how to do today. We still have our knot of ribbons and lace up in our room as a reminder of the vows we made to one another. After we were handfast we also exchanged rings.

We were showered with rose petals as we walked down the aisle as husband and wife—to a song from Harry Potter of course! (Harry’s Wondrous World)

This Golden Snitch is actually the ring case that Ryan proposed with two years earlier!

I may be obsessed with lace, old books, antique silver, and succulents! Our centerpieces are definitely a reflection of that. I designed the Chapter Table Signs (available here) and made a holder for them out of old wine corks. Mom made little jars of her absolutely delicious huckleberry jam for our favours, and we made these cute little “Jam Packed with Love” labels for the tops of the jars.

We selected an assortment of my Grandma’s old bells to put on each table with the sign: “Ring the bell for kisses from the new Mr & Mrs.” In hindsight maybe that wasn’t a great idea… lots of bell-ringing and kisses!

Our “Honeydukes” candy table was SO much fun to put together! I created the sign, and we collected dishes from family members, dollar stores and thrift stores. I designed or found signs for the candies:

  • Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (jelly beans)
  • Tangy Trevors (gummy frogs)
  • Licorice wands (licorice sticks)
  • Jelly Slugs (gummy worms)
  • Alohomora Charms (sour keys)
  • Dumbledore’s Lemon Drops (lemon drops)
  • Fizzing Whizbees (sour candies)
  • Acid Pops (lollipops)
  • Salt Water Taffy
  • Fainting Fancies (fuzzy peaches)
  • Exploding Bonbons (assorted bonbons)

Download the document with the labels I used here.

We also made Ferrero Rocher Golden Snitches. Oh my goodness it took AGES to cut all those wings out, but they turned out so cute! Visit this blog for the free printable wings.

I would 100% recommend doing a polaroid photo guestbook! We still love looking at all of the photos, and it was a fun excuse to display all of our vintage cameras too.

A lovely old suitcase for cards, but it’s that succulent-filled book that really steals the show—thanks to my crafty Mom!

We’re actually that nerdy couple who practiced our “first dance” beforehand. Choosing the song for it was SO difficult. We settled on a classic: Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley. It was honestly so much fun doing our little “routine”—complete with a dip and kiss at the end!


Hope you enjoyed a little peek at our special day! A huge thank you to my cousin Sherry for the photos, and for everyone who helped to make our day amazing. If you have any questions feel free to comment below or DM me on Instagram.

Simple & Sustainable Personal Care

As part of my “simple and sustainable” posts, I’m going to start with “me” by delving in to personal care and cosmetics. I’ve been making an effort to simplify personal care for quite a few years now—before I had a household, child, or even partner to consider. When I first started learning about all of the chemicals and toxins in cosmetics and personal care products, I was horrified. Read more here. I set out to ensure that I was avoiding harmful ingredients.

My Goals:

  • Use fewer products
  • Use simple, natural, sustainable products free of harmful chemicals and toxins
  • Decrease waste (especially plastic)
  • Save money
  • Support eco-conscious businesses

Over the past few years I’ve been great at using fewer and more natural and sustainable products. The next challenge I’m giving myself is to move to products with less/no waste. Even though we recycle all of the packaging we currently use, it’s still better to not use it in the first place.

Natural Skin Care

I’ve always had ridiculously sensitive skin, and I’ve struggled to find skin care products that don’t cause my face to break out. I’ve finally discovered an easy, inexpensive, and natural skin care routine that works well for me.

In the morning and evening I cleanse my face by using a Norwex body cloth, followed by raw honey. After removing any makeup with oil (jojoba/coconut/olive) I love using the exfoliating side of the cloth to cleanse and gently exfoliate. I slather and massage my face (still wet) with raw honey. I soak a regular facecloth in hot water, wring it out so it’s just damp, and place it over my face until it cools—this part feels ohhhh so good! Then I wash off the remaining honey. Why honey? It’s naturally antibacterial and also helps to regulate our skin’s natural oils and pH. You can also eat it… so that’s cool too.

After cleansing, I apply my homemade “toner” (witch hazel & lavender essential oil) with a reusable makeup round. I just buy a bottle of witch hazel (make sure to get a pure version without any alcohol added) and add a few drops of lavender oil.

I moisturize with a small amount of jojoba oil or my homemade aloe moisturizer, depending on how dry my skin is. I’ll typically use jojoba oil at night and the aloe moisturizer in the morning.

For a nice deep cleanse, once per week I apply a Calcium Bentonite Clay mask. I buy the “Indian Healing Clay” brand and mix it with Apple Cider Vinegar (I find that it works better than water). I especially love applying this mask and popping my head in to the room to terrify Ryan… hehe.

Hair

I have long and incredibly thick hair. I stopped dying it and went au natural about 7 years ago, mainly because it was expensive and inconvenient to maintain while traveling. I’m so happy I stopped, because my hair has been much healthier since—plus I don’t have to spend a fortune on it.

I tend to switch up my shampoo and conditioner regularly, and I’ve tried countless natural, toxin-free products. My current favourite is the Attitude brand shampoo and conditioner. They are EWG verified, and I love how soft, shiny, and healthy they keep my hair. They’ve also started selling their products in bulk, recyclable packaging to decrease plastic, which is awesome!

I’d like to switch to a natural “bar” shampoo and conditioner to cut plastic packaging altogether, but I’ve yet to experiment with any (aside from LUSH products I used while traveling). Right now I have my eye on these two from Boreal Folk and Life UNpacked

…but I just got some of the Attitude shampoo in bulk, so I’ll have to wait until that’s almost gone!

Body

Cleansing & Moisturizing

To cleanse, I buy natural soaps (most made locally), and I use a soap exfoliating bag. I also make my own body lotion (the aloe moisturizer recipe above) and oil. When I was pregnant I made my own “belly oil,” which I also use to moisturize if my skin needs some extra TLC. I mixed the following oils (in who knows what for quantity…): jojoba, avocado, vitamin e, and argan. I also love my bamboo dry brush!

Deodorant

For deodorant, I used to use Saje spray deodorant, which worked well throughout the winter, but it did NOT suffice when I was pregnant last summer. For me, Native deodorant seems to work the best. I’d still like to explore deodorant options with more minimal packaging…

Shaving

I have yet to try out more sustainable plastic-free razors. I have my eye on a few, but haven’t committed yet. I have a few more razor cartridges to go before I need to make my decision. These are two I’m considering:

I’m afraid I’ll end up cutting myself with these though! Haha… I’ll keep you updated on this one.

Makeup

Ugh – this is the area that I really struggle with. I’ve had a hard time finding a more natural makeup that I really love and that isn’t ridiculously expensive. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that if I want to buy and wear makeup, I will have to pay more for a quality product. I’m currently using mostly Mineral Fusion, with a few products from BareMinerals. If you have any natural makeup recommendations I am all ears!


I’ll definitely keep you up to date with my goals and I’ll share any awesome new products or ideas with you in regards to simple, natural, and sustainable personal care. I’d love to know YOURS as well! Drop a comment below, or DM me on Instagram to chat.

Stay tuned for my upcoming posts that will focus on simple and sustainable for household and baby!

Reading Wrap-up | January & February

Wow! Is it just me, or did February fly by? It usually drags on for me, but this year I can’t believe it’s already over. I didn’t post a January wrap-up, so I’ll combine both months.

I had a surprisingly great reading month in February, because I’ve found the secret to keeping my reading motivation: curating a book subscription box! We’ve been a bit slow to find the perfect pick for our April box. We were struggling to find recent releases that intrigued us. At the end of January we came up with a list of a few to read and decide between. I ended up reading three contenders this month, and I loved all of them! I’ll include the runners-up, but will leave the featured novel out—just in case any of our subscribers are reading and want to keep it a surprise.

Total Number of Books: 8
Total Number of Pages: 2,747
Average Pages per Book: 343
Average Rating: 4.4

I’ve linked the titles to Goodreads so you can read the synopsis, and I’ll just provide a few of my thoughts:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

★★★★★

I’ll start by saying that I think this is one of those “adore or despise” novels. I happen to love it. It has become a favourite that I’ll definitely read again. I don’t typically make notes while I read, but I found myself frequently scrambling for a paper or my phone to jot down a line… or an entire paragraph. I just adore Tartt’s elegant prose and the dark academia vibes of this novel. Dark, twisted, and almost satirical— it’s a story that begs to be savoured and read slowly by candlelight on a dark, stormy evening.

The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies

★★★★☆

I knew a little bit about the Montessori philosophy before reading this. I skimmed through some parts of it, but found it interesting overall. I like the practical suggestions for creating a toddler-friendly home as well as engaging activities using everyday items.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

★★★★☆

“Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids.” I think I’ll eventually write a full review on this one, because I just have too much to say. I definitely connected with this book. It offered solid advice and suggestions for living a more simple and slow life, and the author discussed how that can benefit a child’s development.

The Other People by C.J. Tudor

★★★★☆

Perfectly creepy and un-put-downable! This was one of the contenders for our April book box. I breezed through this mystery/thriller, which had the perfect amount of suspense for me. I was drawn in from the first chapter and anxiously kept turning the pages—theorizing, desperate to “solve” the mystery. I thought I had it figured out, and I was right about one part. The gradual unraveling and final “reveal” was mostly satisfying, but there were a few aspects of the story that I didn’t feel were explained well enough in the ending, which bumped it down to 4 stars for me.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

★★★★☆

This is a middle-grade series by one of my favourite authors. I’m typically drawn to anything “dark” with history, hauntings, and suspense. Having said that, I am also such a chicken when it comes to anything “scary.” I definitely could not have handled these without nightmares as a child or teenager—I was creeped out enough as an adult! I love that this story is set in Edinburgh, which is one of my FAVOURITE cities in the world. It was neat to revisit many of the places I’ve been in the city, and I love Schwab’s concept of “the Veil.” As a middle-grade novel, the characters and plot lack the complexity of her YA/adult novels, but I still loved it and didn’t feel like the language was overly simplistic. It was a quick, perfectly creepy read for me!

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

★★★★☆

I found this one significantly scarier than City of Ghosts. There’s something about a “child” ghost that just CREEPS ME OUT! I legitimately could not read this past dusk or if I was home alone. While I didn’t love the setting of Paris as much as Edinburgh, I did find the plot more engaging, suspenseful and intense compared to City of Ghosts. I cannot wait for the next book in this series—set in New Orleans—coming in September 2020.

The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne

★★★⭑☆ (3.5)

This was another contender for our April book box. I adore historical fiction, so I was bound to enjoy this novel set before and during WWII. It definitely covers a lesser-known part of this time period, and I love how it centers around two sisters who are essentially “split” between the two sides of war. It is rife with historic details and packed with emotion. The story and perspectives do shift frequently—often when you really don’t want them to—which was annoying at times, but also kept me reading because I needed to find out what happened! I feel a bit torn about this one because at some points it jumped around too much and it felt overly detailed… but then the history nerd in me loved the inclusion of those details, and the end did tie everything together nicely.


How many books did you read in February? If you had to recommend ONE book you’ve read so far this year, which would it be!?

Thanks for reading!

Living Slowly, Simply & Sustainably

Having a child changes you in so many ways. It has certainly prompted me to examine my life and see everything in a new light. Every day we’re making choices that impact her life and the world she’s growing up in. I feel a tremendous obligation to be informed and to make the best choices I can, for us.

“Minimalism” is a buzz word right now. People are pushing back against consumer culture and are opting for a simpler life. “Slow living” has also emerged as a movement—challenging society’s “norm” of living a busy, fast-paced, stressful life. In line with these two movements is sustainability: living our lives in a way that conserves resources and lessens our impact on the natural world.

After examining what I value and the dreams I have for Ellie and for our family, I’m making an conscious effort to live more slowly, simply, and sustainably. Many aspects of our lives already reflect these concepts, while others need some work. I’ll share my thoughts, experiences, and tips along the way, and I’d love to hear about yours as well!

Living Slowly

Time.

Some days it seems to crawl at a snail’s pace, while others flies by in the blink of an eye. For me, living slowly is about taking time to be present in the moment, focusing on what brings me joy, and dedicating more time to what makes my heart full.

I’ve always gravitated towards a “slower” life. I’m an introvert and a “homebody.” I enjoy my quiet time at home—reading a book, crafting, playing board games, or cooking and enjoying a meal together. We’re also lucky to live in a rural area, removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, and surrounded by nature—a constant reminder to slow down and appreciate life.

Even though we live a fairly calm and “slow” life, I am a dreamer with a busy mind. I constantly find my mind wandering—reliving memories, making a mental to-do list, worrying, or planning for the future. If there’s anything we can learn from children, it is to be present in the moment. Countless times throughout the day, Ellie will reach her chubby, dimpled little hands up to my face. She loves to feel every part of it and just stare into my eyes. In these moments—as she’s pulling my cheeks, scratching my eyelid, or grabbing my nose—I am fully present. I’m not thinking of anything; I’m in that moment with her. I live for those little moments, and they remind me that whatever I had on my “to do” list really isn’t that important. We are her world, and the most important thing we can do is be fully present with her as she learns, develops, and explores her world.


Living Simply

Stuff.

Most of our homes are filled to the brim with it—hidden away in drawers, stuffed in overflowing closets. Even though we make an effort every few months to have a good “clear-out,” I know we still have too much stuff. I might need to re-watch some Tidying up with Marie Kondo for inspiration on this one.

One of my current reads is Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne. As I read, I find myself constantly nodding my head thinking: yes, this makes so much sense! His premise is that our busy, fast-paced and stressful lives, filled with “too much stuff, to many choices, and too little time,” are interfering with the space and freedom children need to explore the world and develop.

His ideas about simplifying our lives certainly extend beyond just simplifying and de-cluttering our spaces; He also discusses things like slow living, creating rhythm in our daily lives, and limiting exposure to media. I’ve only read about half of the book so far, but I’m loving it. When I’m finished, I’ll definitely be discussing it more in depth on here.

Living Sustainably

Impact.

There’s so much overlap between living slowly, simply, and sustainably. Embracing slow and simple living steers us away from simply relying on what is fastest, cheapest, or most convenient, and urges us to reflect on the impact of our choices.

This is an area I definitely need to work on. There are so many things we already do well (cooking healthy meals, eliminating chemicals, using cloth bags, using natural products, etc.), but I am definitely still working on a mindset shift—Amazon Prime is just way too convenient for me.


I’m looking forward to diving deeper into these topics as we try to apply them to our lives.

I’d love to hear from you: what are some ideas and tips you have for living more slowly, simply, and sustainably? Are there particular areas you do well/struggle with?

From Bump to Birth

Oh, hello! This is my first post to my revamped blog that is not about books. To say I’m incredibly nervous is an understatement. I’ve decided to open up and share some of my thoughts and experiences surrounding pregnancy, labour, and birth. After Ellie’s birth, I found that so many friends and acquaintances opened up to me about their own experiences. It’s not often that we talk about these topics. Be gentle.

Ellie is two and a half months old now, so I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on labour, birth, and our first few months together.  Okay, so she’s actually five months old now, but that’s how long ago I started writing this post… ohhh #momlife.

When I was pregnant I loved reading about other mama’s experiences. Writing is also therapeutic for me, so I’m sharing this with hopes that someone out there will find it helpful, mildly interesting, or regrettably relatable.

I have always wanted children, but have always been TERRIFIED of pregnancy and birth.  I was also one of those people who scoffed at women posting photos of their baby bumps.  Who would want to share a pregnant belly on social media!? HAH… that was me. I became that woman.  And I feel no shame. I didn’t understand how pregnancy itself is such an experience. I mean… the morning all-day sickness is the WORST.  Not to mention that near the end I was so uncomfortable that I resorted to waddling my way to the nearest lake or pool just to feel weightless for awhile.

I need to clarify here that I did NOT have a cute little baby bump. Every time I would see the Instagram ads of women and their adorable, tiny baby bumps and look to see how many weeks pregnant they were, I had to restrain myself from throwing my phone at the wall.  My bump was MASSIVE. I had to restrain myself from whacking a stranger over the head every time I was asked, “are you sure it’s not twins!?” Yes, I am sure. I am also very aware of how large my belly is, BECAUSE IT IS ATTACHED TO ME! By the way, no judgment if you are/were one of those mamas with a cute little bump… I am just insanely jealous.

It’s more than just a belly though — there’s a TINY HUMAN in there, and that’s a freaking miracle! There is nothing like feeling your baby kick, move around, or hiccup inside of you.  Before the rest of the world meets that little munchkin, you are already getting to know them, and that is special! Now I see pregnancy photos or #bumpies and smile. It’s pretty darn amazing what your body can do, so flaunt those baby bumps!

Yeah, it’s no wonder that bump was so big. She was born at a whopping 9lbs 8oz.

I’m a planner. An organizer.  I like to know everything before jumping in.  This is why I knew I needed to prepare myself for labour and birth. I couldn’t just show up at the hospital and “wing it.”  Again… jealous if that’s your jam. I bought WAY too many books on pregnancy and childbirth, and they pretty much contained the same information.  If I were to do it over again, I’d skip most of the pregnancy books and use an app to track my little bean’s development instead. You can pretty much look anything up online anyways. I downloaded three of those baby tracker apps… again, they all had pretty much the same information! I just realized that I am definitely a “Monica” *sigh* who always wished she was a “Rachel.”

The ONE book I would recommend is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  If you’re at all interested in natural birth, or just want to be awed by what the female body is capable of, it is an excellent read.  It definitely helped me to develop more positive feelings towards labour and birth.  

Oh, and follow Pregnant Chicken. You won’t regret it!

The Value of a Doula

I desperately wanted a midwife, but I applied and wasn’t able to get one.  I also didn’t have a family doctor, so we went to the maternity clinic at the nearest hospital.  We saw different doctors each time we were in, and they rotated through the labour and delivery ward.  While the doctors were excellent at caring for the medical side of things, I knew that I needed more than that.  One of the best decisions we made was hiring a doula. Suvannah (from Stork to Cradle) is such a kind soul and is AMAZING at what she does.  I don’t have many friends who have been through pregnancy, labour, and birth, so it was nice to have someone to chat with and who has an insane amount of experience and knowledge.  We had two prenatal sessions with her, she was with us for the labour and birth, and she came to check up on us postpartum as well. There are so many choices you have regarding birth, and I didn’t even know about a lot of them until we discussed them with our doula. I know that my husband also really appreciated having her with us, as it took some of the pressure off of him.

The Importance of Mindset

There are so many options out there to help prepare for labour and birth.  Because we live in a rural area it was a hassle to drive into the city for classes; however, even if I lived in the city now I would 100% recommend The Positive Birth Company.  I am positive that my pregnancy, labour, birth, and recovery would have been a lot more challenging if I hadn’t completed their digital pack, which is a series of hypnobirthing videos. Even if you think “hypnobirthing” isn’t something you think you’d be interested in, the videos on the actual science behind labour are fascinating.  It helps to actually know what happens to your body and to have strategies for staying calm and relaxed. After the video series and meetings with our doula, I actually felt excited about labour and birth. I made some positive affirmation cards (available here) and really worked to maintain a positive mindset right up to the end (as uncomfortable and “overdue” as I was).

Discussing Birth Preferences

Deciding our birth preferences together was SO valuable and empowering. Suvannah had a comprehensive worksheet for us to go through, which allowed us to research, discuss, and note our preferences. From that, we created a one-page document which went in my file. I don’t think our personal copy was even taken out of my hospital bag, but the value was in discussing everything beforehand so that when we had to make decisions during labour (when my mind was not functioning), it was a lot easier.  If you want to see what our birth preference sheet looked like, let me know and I can send you a copy.
Our preferences, based on the research we had done, were to have the most natural labour and birth possible. We didn’t want medication or intervention unless deemed necessary, which leads perfectly to…

Going with the Flow

Yeah, I know this one is easier said than done!  Here’s where my “Monica” mind had to just let go.

While it’s valuable to know your birth preferences, there are so many things that are completely out of our control when it comes to labour and birth. I had to work hard (with many reminders from my husband) to remain calm and recognize that fact.

I tested positive for Group B Strep, which meant that I would need IV antibiotics every few hours after my waters broke.  I was hoping that my labour would start and progress without my waters breaking so that I wouldn’t have to go to the hospital until I was in active labour.  Of course, my waters breaking was the first thing to happen and we had to head to the hospital right away. There was also meconium in the fluid— EW, that little baby pooped inside me!  My desire to labour mostly at home (well, my best friend’s home) flew out the window.

After I was admitted to the maternity ward, we went for hours with surges barely intensifying and no dilation.  The doctors were worried about infection and recommended induction. I was so conflicted about what to do, but we discussed it and agreed that it was the best decision for us.  So much for no intervention… haha.

Labour without any pain medication was the one thing that did go to “plan,” and I am still so proud of myself for sticking to my preferences. It honestly wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I managed to stay calm and relaxed by focusing on my breathing and visualizations. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like more of a warrior!

As a side note: I should mention that I am incredibly squeamish and have low pain tolerance. Allow me to illustrate: when I was eight, I passed out after getting my ears pierced; I can’t even watch the “surgical” parts in Grey’s Anatomy, and I’ve passed out on many occasions from seeing blood or getting my blood taken.

After three hours of pushing in every position imaginable, our little munchkin was not budging.  Apparently, she was head down but facing my side — not surprising considering she had been sunny-side-up before I went into labour.  I was exhausted at this point, and we were worried about infection or baby becoming distressed if we continued with no progress. At the doctor’s recommendation, we opted for a cesarean.

To be honest, the next few hours were a complete blur. I still don’t have very clear memories — only snippets. I was just relieved to have our baby earthside.

This was taken on our second or third day (?) in the hospital after I finally was catheter-free and “able” to have a shower — by which I mean my husband rinsed me off and washed my hair with the removable showerhead. It felt luxurious though!

Acknowledging ALL the Thoughts & Emotions

My labour and birth ended up being entirely different from what I had anticipated, which is probably the case with many women’s experiences. For the first few days, I was so wrapped up in everything that I had little time to mentally or emotionally process it.  I was in the hospital for three days after birth, and the recovery was brutal.  

Breastfeeding was a huge challenge from the beginning.  Ellie struggled to latch, and I was in pain. She would just scream inconsolably whenever we tried.  I kept wondering: if we’d had immediate skin-to-skin after birth would that have made a difference? Was this my fault? If I had kept pushing, and not opted for a cesarean, would she have come on her own? I also felt incredibly guilty that I didn’t really feel “present” at her birth or for the hours following.

She lost more than 10% of her birth weight and we had to start feeding her formula with a syringe.  This made me feel even more guilty. Wasn’t breastfeeding supposed to be natural and easy? Why wasn’t it working? What was I doing wrong? I felt incredibly discouraged, and I hadn’t anticipated it being so difficult to feed my baby.


It was a bittersweet feeling when we were finally able to leave the hospital. How could we take this precious and fragile little bundle out of this safety bubble and on the road!?  I started tearing up as soon as we walked out of the hospital doors. How were we supposed to care for this small being on our own? How would we know what to do?  The hour-and-a-half drive home was both painful and terrifying.

For weeks afterwards, I had flashbacks of birth and recovery and had to ask my husband to fill in a lot of the blank spots.  I still felt so much guilt about not giving birth to my baby “naturally,” and not being successful with breastfeeding right away.   
I was feeling guilty, scared, disappointed, and overwhelmed. On top of that, I was recovering from major surgery. Along with those emotional lows were complete highs. I was awed and amazed that we created such a perfect little human. My heart fluttered when she opened her eyes, and I cried a river of happy tears with her in my arms. I constantly found myself thinking: I shouldn’t feel guilty, disappointed, or scared. I should just be happy and grateful that we’re both fine. But I soon realized and had to mentally remind myself on so many occasions, that I was completely justified in feeling guilty, disappointed, overwhelmed, etc. Yes, I tried to focus on the positive, but I also needed to acknowledge and work through the negative.

Invaluable Support Network

I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the huge amount of support that I had at home in those first few weeks. My husband is an absolute rock star! We were also lucky to have my parents staying with us. They helped to make meals, clean, do laundry, and be there for both physical and emotional support.  This was crucial for me, as it was certainly not a quick or easy recovery, and caring for a newborn is incredibly demanding.

I also spent a lot of time on the Positive Birth Company Facebook Group, which you have access to with both the Hypnobirthing and Postpartum video courses. When I was up at night with a screaming newborn, I could interact with other women around the world who were going through the same struggles; we could share our experiences and knowledge with one another conveniently. 

We took advantage of the free breastfeeding clinic offered nearby, and I’m so happy that we did, as we’re still going strong five months in! I had friends and relatives from near and far checking in on me and asking not only how Ellie was doing, but how I was doing. My mental and physical recovery was a lot easier thanks to an amazing support network — so thank you to all of you!


It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up about things that aren’t often talked about. I still feel pangs of guilt and jealousy when I see other mama’s “natural” birth photos or stories. I constantly have to remind myself that my experience and story isn’t something to be ashamed of. Looking into Ellie’s eyes reassures me that I’d go through it all over again if I had to. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it’s our story.


I’d love to know your thoughts, questions, and comments below. Let me know if there is anything you’d like to hear more about.

Stay tuned for a creative “c-section” piece I’m working on—which is going to take a lot of courage to share with you…

Thanks for reading!