Friday, 30 October 2015

Autumn Leaf Crafts

I am so excited to share these amazing finds for fall crafting. There's nothing more beautiful than the colours of autumn leaves as they change. I can't wait to try some of these gorgeous autumn leaf crafts with my boys!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Simple Celebrations

Celebrating big events and major milestones with friends and family is one of the great joys in life – a chance to get together with the people we love, a chance to spoil them, a chance to indulge ourselves, a chance to step outside our normal everyday for a special occasion. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas; birthdays, baby showers, graduation parties, weddings. There are so many occasions to celebrate and splurge – and it’s also very easy to go overboard with those celebrations.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping a celebration simple. Good food, good friends, good conversation; that’s all you need. Custom cakes and themed decor are fun, but not necessary (look who’s talking!) and coordinated flowers and centrepieces and take-home gifts for guests are extras it’s easy to get carried away with.
Weddings are one of the worst offenders as far as over planning and over spending and unnecessary extravagance. Expensive banquet halls, food and drink for hundreds of guests, couture bridal gowns and coordinated bridesmaid dresses and tuxes, custom caked and sculpted centrepieces and designer decorated tablescapes, bombonniere and flowers and photographers and DJ’s.
A wedding is a wonderful occasion to celebrate, but often much of the meaning is lost as the bride and groom and their families get mired down in details for months and even years leading up to the big day – and then they’re left neck-deep in bills.
When did weddings become such a circus?
My brother and sister-in-law got married this weekend, and it was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. It was also one of the simplest.
Invitations were emailed to the forty guests less than a month in advance. The bride and her two bridesmaids bought their beautiful lace dresses off the rack in a single afternoon at a bridal shop. The only flowers were the rose petals their daughter carried in a basket. The ceremony was held in a gazebo in a downtown park, the gorgeous fall foliage the only decor. The reception was at a swanky west end restaurant, a comfortable cocktail hour around the posh bar, a delicious dinner served at long banquet-style tables, the tables pushed against the walls after dinner for dancing and drinks. The bride’s cousin sang their first dance song and the rest of the evening’s music came from their iPod.
It was simple, and it was beautiful.
We went simple for our own wedding, too – a few dozen of our nearest and dearest in the private party room of our favourite posh bistro on the historic main street of the town we grew up in, a simple ceremony at the front of the room before dinner, a few calla lilies and custom cupcakes with hand-made chocolates for our few little spurges. Lots of good food and good drink and good times with good friends and family.
It was simple compared to the extravagance we so often see with weddings, but it was beautiful and it was perfect.
The big events in life should be marked by celebrations, but those celebrations don’t have to be extravagant to be special. Sometimes it’s the simple celebrations that we enjoy and remember the most – and those celebrations are certainly easier on our wallets.
Do you have a story to share of celebration expenses gone crazy? Do you have any cost-saving tips for party planning?

Originally published as "Simple Celebrations" on my weekly column at

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Creative Costumes: Homemade Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner. Giant gourds are piled up outside every market, farmers' fields are filled with families picking out the perfect pumpkin, pop-up shops are open on every corner filled floor to ceiling with ghosts and ghouls and goblins and gravestones and creepy cobweb decorations and stores are filled with costumes for sale. 

Kids can find almost any costume imaginable - cute, cuddly, scary, unique, favourite characters from movies and tv - all designed down to the last detail, ready-to-buy and ready-to-wear. But store-bought costumes can often be expensive - and, since, so often they end up only being worn once, wasteful.

Why not make your child's Halloween costume at home? 

With three children to dress up for Halloween we have gone through many, many costumes over the years. We have gone both the store-bought and the homemade route, depending on what the boys wanted to be and what we could find, and I have to say that some of our very favourite family Halloween costumes of all time are the ones we made ourselves.

We've store-bought pumpkin costumes, dinosaurs, a ladybug and a fireman; Star Wars characters, Transformers, Ninja Turtles and the Mario Brothers. All adorable. couldn't find a coordinating Mario Brothers costume for my youngest, so the year our older two boys dressed up as Mario and Luigi I made a Mario Brothers mushroom costume out of dollar store items. Inverted plastic serving bowls covered in felt and sewn to the hood of my youngest's snowsuit: a five dollar Mario mushroom costume!

One year the boys wanted to dress up as pirates. I cut outgrown black pants into ragged, jagged edges between the ankle and the knee and chopped an old black and white t-shirt into striped sashes. They wore plain black or red t-shirts and open white button-downs with rolled-up sleeves. Pirate hats and bandanas, eye patches and earrings and medallions and beads from our dress-up chest and eye pencil "scars" across their cheeks and foreheads: homemade pirates using everything we already had at home.

Another year they dressed as ninjas. Plain black trackpants and hoodies under a little black bathrobe. Plain black masks and gloves. Ninja swords crossed on the back and tied with a high-waisted belt: homemade ninjas using everything we already had at home. 

Creeper costume, Minecraft, Halloween, homemade costumeAnd my favourite homemade costume by far was the Minecraft Creeper costume I made for my eldest last year. I wrapped cardboard boxes in plastic dollar store tablecloths and glued on a few dozen paint chips in various shades of green to mimic that pixelated video game look. (Creeper Costume photos and instructions.)

Consider making your child's costume at home this Halloween. Be creative! Think crafty, raid your closets and crawlspaces, explore your local dollar store. Use your imagination - sometimes the most amazing costumes are the ones we make ourselves.

Do you have ideas for awesome, inexpensive homemade costumes? Please share!

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Creative Halloween Pumpkin Crafts

Halloween is right around the corner. Here are some fantastic ideas for some creative Halloween pumpkin crafts to decorate your home for the holiday. Happy Halloween crafting!

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Monday, 12 October 2015

Giving Thanks

For most of the year, much of what I write is devoted to family finance and matters of money: spending, saving, paying down debt and frugal living. We talk about what to spend our money on and how to save on what we spend, we talk about saving for the future, we talk about paying off loans, we talk about wants and needs and choices and priorities as we all try to make sense of our money matters and keep our finances in order.
This weekend, let’s not worry about money or think about what we want but instead focus on what we have and give thanks.
I am thankful for a warm, cozy home and good food on my table and a family to share it with. I'm thankful for this amazing community I live in, for good friends and neighbours and always feeling safe and loved. I'm thankful for my husband and children who make me fall more in love with them every single day.
No matter how many things I have or don’t have, how many things I think I want or need, I have everything in my family. I am lucky, and I am thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you – I hope you have as much to be thankful for this holiday as I do.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Thanksgiving Crafts and Decor

It's time for Thanksgiving crafting! Time to fill the home with autumn colours and decor and keep your kids' hands busy making fun fall crafts. Here are some of my favourite finds for this year.

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Turkey crafts

Monday, 5 October 2015

Self-Employment: Is it for you?

For many, the idea of self-employment is the ultimate dream: control over your own hours, answering to no-one but yourself, working from home or designing your own office space, potentially unlimited earning potential, master of your own destiny. But self-employment isn’t for everyone, even if you have a brilliant business idea.
Do you have a sound business plan? Do you have industry knowledge and experience? Do you have the necessary education and qualifications? Do you have contacts in the industry? Do you have the resources necessary for a start-up? How long can you go without another source of income? Are you prepared for your business to fail?
How will you handle the bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, online presence? Where will you operate your business from? Will you have employees? Do you need insurance? Are you familiar with all pertinent tax laws?
Are you the sort of person who is able to work well independently? It’s all well and good to say you want to be your own boss, but are you the sort of person who is capable of working efficiently and productively without some sort of supervision or a system of checks and balances?
Are you prepared to work endless hours, odd hours, nights and weekends and early morning meetings and middle of the night emails, to work the hours and fill the roles of several different people for nowhere near enough pay, at least for the first little while? Are you prepared to constantly have to hustle?
I have been both an employee and self-employed. As I struggled with the choices and decisions I had to make over my return to work outside the home once my youngest started kindergarten this fall, one of the biggest decisions was whether to revive my once successful fitness company or to return to the recreation industry as an employee. In the end, for me, it came down to what would work best for where we are in our lives right now as a family.
For now, I need a job with regular hours within the school day so that I don’t miss out on any time with my kids. I need a steady, regular paycheque and I need to know exactly how much will be coming in and when. I need a job I don’t have to take home with me – my volunteer commitments, my kids’ sports, their after-school activities and my freelance work all take up too much time and are too important to sacrifice.
None of those needs are compatible with being self-employed; so for now I’m back to being an employee.
Being self-employed can be incredibly rewarding: working in a job that you love, working for yourself, knowing that how successful your business is and how successful you are is directly tied to how much you put in to it. But being self-employed is also incredibly risky and takes a lot of hard work.
Are you self-employed? Have you ever been self-employed, or do you dream of working for yourself one day?

Originally published as "Self-Employment: Is it for you?" on my weekly column at

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Friday, 2 October 2015

Re-Purposing: Use What You Have!

We're always looking for ways to save when we're shopping, whether it's coupon clipping and price matching on our weekly grocery shop or discount store shopping for the kids' clothes and shoes or comparing prices and seeking out sales on housewares we need or home decor items we want. Saving money on the things we want and need is a great way to stay within budget - and sometimes leave a little bit left over! Before hitting the stores for home items you've been looking for, consider re-using items you already have around the house. Re-purposing is a fantastic way to save.

Consider using a kids' bedroom dresser with the drawers removed as a bookshelf in the playroom or a bookshelf as an entertainment unit or TV stand for the family room. A quick sanding and a simple coat of paint can give new life to old or battered furniture.

Try thinking about the things you own in a different way - that crystal salad bowl you received as a wedding gift that sits collecting dust on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard would look lovely on a coffee table filled with fruit. The Mason jars left over from the strawberry jam your grandma gives you every year would be the perfect solution to organize all those pouches and envelopes of spices and baking supplies in the pantry.

If your decor is feeling stale and you've been wanting to change things up, before you go shopping try moving things around to a new space in your home: could the throw pillows on your bed work in the family room? could that armchair in the corner of the family room move to the basement and the chaise from the bedroom work in its place? Switch up vases and photos and table lamps. Swap out collections. See if you can give the items you already own new life just by finding them a new home or a new purpose.

Re-purposed bookcase bar area, bar, stemware, crystal, wineOur dining room drink cabinet / dry bar is actually an inexpensive bookshelf that once lived in the kids' playroom. We fitted it with glass-front doors, topped it with a decorative mirror (formerly a resident of our front hall) and filled it with all our crystal, stemware, and decanters. (And booze - of course booze.) Voila - a cute little corner bar using furniture we already had.

What are some ways that you have saved by re-purposing items you already own? Please share your ideas!

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