• Dairy Free Advent Calendar Hack*

    I love advent calendars.

    I have several all throughout my house–a snowman whose nose moves around like a clock, a Santa with a candy cane that moves each day of the month, a felt Christmas tree with decorations… and of course, I’ve always had a chocolate one. As a kid, I loved running down the stairs in the morning, looking for the door with the right number, popping out the chocolate then trying to decipher which holiday symbol it was from the vague chocolate mold.

    We used to do them for the kids, but with the onset of their dairy sensitivities, the usual chocolate advent calendars are off the table. I still wanted them to be able to hunt for the right door and have a treat calendar, so I thought I’d just pop over to the store and pick up a non-chocolate one.

    NOPE.

    I found advent calendars with every kind of chocolate under the sun–Lindor, Kinder, Reeces, Hershey–but no candy based ones. I thought for sure I’d find one with Swedish berries or fuzzy peaches, but apparently this is not a thing. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing the look of disappointment on their faces if I had to tell them they couldn’t have their advent calendars this year… so I decided to get creative.

    If I couldn’t buy a chocolate-free calendar, I’d make one.

    I picked up two of the cheap $1 chocolate calendars and a tub of gummy bears from Walmart, then went home and got to work. I carefully opened the top and slid out the tray of chocolates.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Then I popped them all out and tossed them in a container so that the tray was totally empty, like this:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Then I put a gummy bear in each of the slots, slid the tray back in and resealed the top. Voila! Two homemade dairy free advent calendars for my dairy free babies.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    It was WAY easier then I thought it would be. I had both calendars done in less than 15 minutes, and the kids were SO excited to see them on top of the fridge when they got home from school. I feel so badly that there’s already so many treats and foods they can’t eat, so I’m glad that I could at least preserve this for them.

    Just three more sleeps until they get to find their first door! How is it almost December already?!

     

     

  • Beautycounter Lipstick Review*

    A little over a week ago, a friend of mine posted a giveaway for some Beautycounter Lipstick she was selling. I have several friends who sell products from home so these posts aren’t unusual, and I often enter them… but I never win anything. Seriously. If you want a surefire way to lose a raffle, just put my name on the ticket.

    I enter them anyway as I keep hoping that someday my luck will change… and it finally did! My name was drawn last Monday and I won a Beautycounter Colour Intense Lipstick of my choice. It was a Christmas miracle.

    In April.

    I’ve been interested in learning little more about Beautycounter as I watched her posts, as they claim to “rigorously screen for safety” and have an enormous “never list” of questionable or harmful chemicals that they never use as ingredients in their products. This appealed to me, and I’ve been curious to try their products… it just takes me forever to commit to something.

         

    My friend contacted me right away to let me know I’d won, and after I chose my colour she promised to get things moving right away. I figured I’d get it in a couple of weeks and was thrilled about having something to look forward to in the mail.

    As it turns out, it arrived in a lovely box by THURSDAY. I was super impressed with how quickly it arrived, though my jaw dropped a little when I saw what it was worth. I have a confession to make: I am so cheap when it comes to make up. I hate spending money on it. But as I’ve gotten older the more conscious I’ve become about what I’m putting on my body and I’m slooooowly adjusting to the idea of spending more to get a higher quality and earth friendly product.


    So, when I saw the price (just under $60 CAD after taxes and shipping) my eyebrows went sky high but I was excited to try it.

    I chose the colour 9 to 5, as I didn’t have anything like it in my personal Lipsense collection. I was a Lipsense distributor for most of last year and love the product, but found it too challenging to keep up the business while I was taking my courses this year so I decided to let it go.

          

    I finally got a chance to wear it yesterday. It is a gorgeous shade, but after a year of using a wand to apply my Lipsense I had such a hard time adjusting to a regular lipstick tube again! I felt like I was trying to apply it with mittens on.

    It was not graceful.

    After a few indelicate attempts, I finally got the hang of it and it went on so nicely. You need very little product on, I loved the colour immediately. This is only one coat of 9 – 5:


    It’s like an earthy mauve colour that I fell in love with immediately… and I have to admit, as much as I love Lipsense, it was really nice to not have to apply a gloss on top.

    It also felt amazing on my lips. Once you get the hang of the tube (for non lipstick wearers like me) it goes on really smoothly and almost has a creamy feeling as it goes on. It feels like you’re moisturizing your lips as you apply it, which is kind of neat. It says it is long lasting and colour intense, so I expected the dry feeling to settle in the longer I wore it, but it never did. I didn’t need to gloss or use balm at all the entire time I wore it.

    I applied it at 9am, then headed out for church. I was initially afraid of colour transfer, as that was the whole reason I fell in love with Lipsense in the first place. As I was applying my Beautycounter lipstick I did notice that it *could* wipe off if I wasn’t careful… but after the colour set it barely moved at all. I kissed my kids and didn’t leave huge kiss marks on their foreheads, which I take as a win.

    I spent the next several hours visiting with friends, chatting during discussions, eating delicious warm bread (Thank you Crystal!!!) and enjoying my morning. I didn’t reapply or touch up my lipstick at all during that time. I got home around 2pm, and was pleasantly surprised to see that quite a bit of the lipstick was still on.

    The intensity of the colour had faded, but it was definitely still there. It hadn’t smudged or worn off in places, and even my water line was still pretty intact. If I had touched up even once it would have been good to go for several more hours. And best of all, my lips didn’t even feel remotely dry. It still felt like I had applied a moisturizer to them, which I was a huge fan of.

    So, then I went to take it off. I have to admit, as much as I love Lipsense, this was my one beef with the product: I hate removing it. I find the Senegence Oops remover makes my lips SO dry, and I was never able to find a decent replacement for it.

    I geared up for a battle to get this colour off, but it simply wiped away with a damp cloth.

    It was magical.

    I’m not going to lie: a bit of pigment stayed on my lips for a while, but they still felt so smooth and lovely I didn’t mind at all.

    So, in my opinion, Beautycounter Colour Intense Lipstick is a huge win. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again, and I’m already perusing through the catalogue to see which product I’d like to try next!

    {I am not a Beautycounter distributor and have no affiliation with the company. I’m just a happy contest winner who wanted to spread the good news.}

  • That Time I Carried a Desk Up a Flight of Stairs by Myself*

    I AM SO EXCITED.

    I have long been lamenting the fact that I don’t have a proper space to sit down and write. I have a laptop, so technically I can write anywhere, but I have really missed having a desk.

    Three years ago I sold my big desk from my student days to make room for Ruby’s nursery. I didn’t mind as I certainly didn’t need such a big desk anymore, and I downsized to a smaller table-style desk once I started teaching again. It was in my living room, but as we then needed the extra space for Ruby’s play corner and I was trying to do most of my marking at work, my desk was banished to the basement.

    It’s been sitting there, sad and lonely, ever since.

    I’ve never been a big fan of sitting on the couch with my laptop, so lately days will go by before I even turn it on… which does very little to help my desire to write.

    So, today I did something about it. As I stood in my kitchen pondering where on earth I could find space for my desk, a light turned on: my kitchen! Why had I never thought of this before?! I use my computer to find and make recipes ALL THE TIME, and I am constantly shuffling it between the living room, my counters, or the kitchen table. I have always been jealous of people who have a little computer nook in the kitchen, so I decided to make my own. I spent about an hour rearranging my pantry, microwave stand, table and high chair to try and find a combination that would create enough space for my desk… and after a few tries I was pretty sure I had it.

    I spent about a minute reflecting on the fact that I should probably wait for the Hubster to help me haul the desk up a flight of stairs, but that idea quickly flew out the window.

    Note to future self: it is almost always easier to move furniture up stairs where there are two people involved.

    I began to inch the desk up the basement stairs one step at a time. I was several steps up when I definitely decided that it was probably a terrible idea for me to be moving this desk up a flight of stairs alone.

    Then I realized that I was stuck behind the desk. As I precariously balanced the desk on a step, I contemplated how bad it might be if I missed my footing and the desk (and I) fell back down the stairs. So, seeing that my options were rather limited, I decided there was only one choice. Press on!

    (My choice may also have been affected by the fact that Hank was sitting in the living room and was starting to fuss for me. Oops.)

    I inched the desk up the stairs and around the corner through the door (that part was fun) and lived to tell the tale! And now here I am at my little kitchen nook. I’m still playing around with things a little so it’s not “picture ready” yet, but I am SO happy. I made a new recipe for dinner and I didn’t have to share counter space with my laptop, and here I am, writing at a desk again! Huzzah!

    My heart is so happy. It’s the little things, lovelies.

    Life is good.

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  • Mïrka’s Borscht*

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    If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that I was feeling a little “Polish” on the weekend. I had cravings for some very specific foods, and was overwhelmed with the desire to make it myself.

    It’s not my fault, really.

    Last spring my coworkers introduced me to the best Polish perogies I have ever eaten in my life.

    No really. The best ever.  I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about them.

    And then, on our last trip up north, Spart took me to this amazing little Polish deli. It was home to all kinds of deliciousness, but she bought a container of borscht and forced me to try it.

    I haven’t ever really been keen on beets, so I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of “beet soup”, but she promised perogies as well so I played along.

    It was love at first bite.

    The ingredient list and color were initially a little frightening, but the flavours blend together marvelously. Thus, my love affair with Polish food was officially born.

    In the past two years I’ve discovered a real love of cooking, and I especially love taking on new challenges. I’ve had wild cravings all through this pregnancy, and I have not stopped thinking about perogies and borscht since I had it last.

    So, last weekend I decided it was time to put on my apron and get’er done.

    A friend of mine was kind enough to share her borscht recipe with me, and after I made it and shared a photo of the final product on Facebook, I had a number of requests for the recipe. It is absolutely delicious and so filling–you will want to take a huge helping but will find that you’re full after just a small bowl.

    It’s magical.

    So, without any further ado…

    Mïrka’s Borscht*

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    Ingredients: 

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped finely
    2 medium beetroot, cubed
    2 medium carrots, julienned
    2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 bay leaf
    6 cups vegetable broth
    1 sm (6oz?) can tomato paste
    2 small potatoes, cubed

    1 tsp sugar1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy based pot.  Add the onions, carrots, beets, cabbage, bay leaf and garlic.  Cook for approximately 5-10 minutes until vegetables have softened and cooked down.2. Add stock and tomato paste and bring to boil over high heat.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for half an hour.3. Add potatoes and cook for further hour (until potatoes and beets are tender).  Add tsp of sugar.  The borscht should be slightly sweet.4. Serve in large bowls with dollop of sour cream and finely chopped dill.

    Now then. You don’t have to, but since I’m a little crazy with textures while I’m pregnant, I decided to purée the soup and I am SO glad that I did. It was perfection.

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    Bon appétit!
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  • Feeling Inspired*

    {via: http://www.debbiewhite.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/do-what-you-love2.jpg}

    I had a conversation with a new friend at work today, and it has left me feeling so… inspired.

    She teaches full time and has two small children, and she also runs a really neat side business making clever baby products. I mean–seriously?? I find it hard to find the time to devote 30 minutes to write here some days, and yet I know some incredible women who somehow find the time to run these creative businesses from their homes.

    And I think it’s awesome.

    While I love the idea of actually creating something tangible, I know that my creative outlet is writing. While I’m sure I could learn the skills, I’ve never found the same joy that I do in writing anywhere else.

    That being said, I think I’m pretty blessed to be surrounded by incredibly smart people who have worked hard to share their passions and talents and build them into a business. I love that handmade and homemade products are finding their way back into the main stream, and I try to shop that way when I can.

    I had an idea today, and I am really, really excited about it.

    I would love to spend a few days featuring some of the talented people I’ve met–either in real life or through my blog–and share their stories and businesses with you! They are all so different, and I hope that you’ll feel a tiny piece of the inspiration I feel after “meeting” them.

    I think it’s so neat that I actually know people who took an idea and poured their hearts into it until it blossomed into a business.

    So. It’s coming. I’ve already started contacting a few people, but I’m sure that there are so many that I don’t even know about yet! If you have created your own small business, or know someone who has, please contact me and let me know! I’m hoping to spend several days sharing them with you, and if they are willing, maybe find a few coupons or giveaways for you in the process. :)

    Stay tuned, lovelies. Inspiration is coming.

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