On September 7th, we made some very important additions to our family! Introducing our new furry girls, Minka and Nina!
This little one is called Minka but we often just call her “the baby”.
We adopted her at 11 weeks old.
In order to introduce her slowly to our household and our other new cat, we put her in a harness with a leash so that we could keep track of her whereabouts. She is one fast little kitten!
That same day, we also adopted our beautiful new girl Nina. She is about a year and four months old in these first couple of photos.
Her grey coat and green eyes are stunning.
Our first night with Nina was so sweet and funny. While the baby was safely tucked in for the night in her temporary “kitten room”, we allowed Nina to come up to our bedroom with us. She had been sweet all day but not overly affectionate. We soon learned that all changes at nighttime! This cat may not want to sit on our laps but she definitely wants to sleep on our heads! She soon began to knead her paws on my neck, my face, my hair, etc, all the while purring loudly.
The first while was pretty rough in terms of the two kitties getting along. They fought so roughly and we just couldn’t tell if they were play-fighting or if it was for real. Plus, baby Minka had ear-mites so we did want to keep them mostly separated until her treatment was complete.
Fast forward to now – three weeks later – and the two girls have really hit their stride together. Minka, the kitten, is now free to roam the house day and night alongside her big sister Nina. They love to fight together but also love to groom and cuddle each other. We adore their love fests!
This condo in the living room is their favourite perch in the house. It has two sleeping areas but the highest one is the favourite of both of course. I quickly snapped this pic when Nina jumped up to the top where Minka was already curled.
While I still had my camera out, they rearranged themselves in that small area and began to groom each other. First, Nina groomed the kitten and then to my surprise, the baby began to clean Nina.
Such little lovey-dovey babies.
One of the best things about discontinuing my photography business is that I no longer have photo fatigue when it comes to my own family. Before, I honestly had no energy left to document my family’s milestones and growth, which is ironic because that’s actually the reason I loved photography in the first place!
Thankfully, my kiddos humour my now-rejuvenated passion for photographing them. Yesterday, after homework, we hopped in the car and went down by the river for a few casual snaps.
When I do portraits of Ren, I often have him remove his glasses to avoid lens glare. He does have non-glare lenses but it seems the glare still exists. Granted, if I ask him to lower his chin slightly, the glare will disappear but his natural head position is slightly more upward-facing and I have to constantly remind him to lower his chin. Plus, if he is wearing his glasses the glare is inevitable when I catch him in those cute and natural in-between moments of laughter. Argh! I think I’ll need to remember to have him remove the glasses at least part of the session in the future.
Today is actually an important day in our family history: nine years ago today, Paul and I received Ren’s adoption referral. He was soooo cute in those pictures. I’ll never forget that little shaved head, and his glorious smile that captured our hearts.
He’s never had a shaved head since, but his smile is as bright as ever.
And when he’s not smiling, he’s pulling off these GQ cover model looks that just crack me up. (See the third photo below in particular!)
And then there’s our girl.
She is fast becoming a young lady, and I’m not gonna lie: it makes this mama a little sad. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to see her becoming this amazing, confident, independent person; but she is less “mine” day by day, moment by moment. I know she’ll always be my girl but I guess I’m just going through a bit of a nostalgic, melancholy stage of motherhood. I’m sure that this too shall pass. In the meantime, she just laughs at my melodramatic ways!
This little session with the kiddos reminded me that I have no regrets giving up my business nearly a year ago. I’m just not cut out for that business, no matter how much I pushed myself to get over my “issues”, LOL. I’m much too hard on myself in general but especially when it comes to delivering for other people.
For example, when I’d edit a session for clients, my many concerns and insecurities about it could be summed up as, “Is this good enough?” Now, when I’m working on a session for my own family, it’s more like, “Wow, I actually got some good stuff here!” As in, what a delightful surprise! I may wish that I’d captured more poses or had more variety to my backgrounds but since it’s just for me and my own, it doesn’t really matter, because I have only my own expectations to manage.
I actually was super-lucky with all my clients and never had a single complaint but still, it was my own insecurities that got in my way. I know this, and I know I can’t always let those insecurities get the better of me, but I think this was not the fight I wanted to fight with myself.
Well, enough of those heavy reflections. It’s a gorgeous day outside and I’m going to head out there to clean up the yard a bit in the warm sunshine. Have a fantastic day, everyone!
This summer I finally got around to trying an idea that I’ve had for a long time: outdoor art. I usually have a few extra stretched canvases kicking around, and I’ve always wondered how they would hold up outdoors if I modpodged a print onto them and sealed them. Well the answer – so far – is that they’ve held up wonderfully!
I was inspired, of course, by the gorgeous photo gallery wrap canvases you can have printed professionally. However, even when you catch a great deal on them, they are still a little too expensive for my liking to experiment with them outdoors. So, using materials that I already had (for the most part), I made my own.
- Blank canvases. I used 12 x 12 stretched canvases from Michaels that were on sale for $6 each. I already had a couple, so that saved me extra money.
- Art prints or photos, printed on regular printer paper. I found succulent watercolour digital art on Etsy that I loved so I purchased it and downloaded it for my personal use. The seller is no longer offering this digital art or I’d provide the link; however, if you search Etsy you’ll no doubt find digital art you’ll love!
- Foamy paint brushes
- Weather sealant. I used what i already had from another project. It is meant for wood but worked well.
Once you know the size of your canvas, you need to get your art printed to that size. I played around with this visually in Photoshop first. I created a new document in the dimensions of my canvas (12 x 12) and then placed the digital art onto it. From there, I decided whether I wanted to show the full image of the succulents or just a portion, etc. For all but the middle canvas, I decided to have only part of the succulent shown on the canvas. Once I liked the placement of the art, I then saved it and had it printed at Staples in the desired size on regular paper (not photo paper).
I should mention that although my canvases are 12 x 12, I printed them on slightly smaller on 11 x 14 size paper. There was quite a price jump to the 12 x 18 paper, and I was trying to do this all on a budget. Since my art on the canvas wouldn’t be covering the entire thing anyway, I decided to cut out the succulents and modpodge them onto the canvas instead of simply cutting a 12 x 12 square (the size of the canvas) and modpodging that.
For those of you who haven’t used Modpodge before, don’t be alarmed when it goes on white or creates a ripple effect on your paper. It will dry white and smooth.
I did several coats of the Modpodge just to be on the safe side. I think I ended up doing at least three but it may have been four!
Lastly, I took the canvases outside and gave them three or so coats of a weather sealant. I made sure to spray the sides of the canvases as well.
And finally, they were done and ready to hang! Our fence is made up of narrow fir strips so rather than using nails in the thin wood, I used good ol’ 3M Command velcro strips. I’m happy to report that I’ve held strong ever since I hung them.
The end result
I was a little afraid that the paper might start to lift after a while or that that the canvases would show signs of mildew. After nearly three months, however, they are as good as new. I even had to wipe down the canvases a bit to remove some dust from neighbourhood construction, and they wiped up really nicely.
So that’s that! I’m so happy I gave this a try because it really livens up a boring stretch of fence just inside the entrance to our back yard. Now I’m dreaming about fun seasonal canvases I could do: Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something via these links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
I got on the e-reader bandwagon fairly early: I purchased my Amazon Kindle back in the spring of 2009, more than 8 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, I’ve converted my family to being Kindle users too. My husband reads his Kindle on the way to and from work on the train. My two kids (ages 11 and 10) both read nearly-exclusively on their Kindles as well (the exception being books from school or received as gifts from friends).
Now look, I get it: like most bibliophiles, I have savoured the weight of a book in my hand, the delicate feel of the pages beneath my fingertips, and the smell of the paper. It’s a beautiful sensory thing that can’t be underestimated. But you know what? I gave it up and I don’t regret it. And you won’t either once you experience all the benefits to switching to an e-reader.
When I bought my Kindle eight years ago, the main driver at the time was to eliminate clutter. Books, as much as I love them, do add clutter to a home no matter the systems you create to manage it. We had ample bookshelves but they would regularly become full and I had to constantly purge to make more room. My bedside table would always have a large stack of books on it, as would the floor beneath. The latter was the case whether I purchased the books or borrowed them from the library. For an avid reader, there will always be more than one book in the queue; hence, the stacks of books.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am not a neat-freak in any way. I actually WISH I were. My house is always full of various types of clutter: craft supplies, toys, games, clothes, etc. But clutter in the form of books was a type of clutter I could manage more effectively than simply making neater stacks or putting up more shelves. I could do away with the clutter completely, while still enjoying all the books I ever wanted. That simply wasn’t possible with other types of clutter we had in the form of toys, etc. So to me, it was a no-brainer.
Now, instead of having a stack of 4 – 5 books on each night stand, each person in my household has one Kindle (charging when not in use), with any number of books in the queue for that person to read once they are done their current book. One slim little Kindle each. And my bookshelves? They are still fairly full with books we want to keep but the contents aren’t on constant rotation anymore; the books that are there are there to stay.
Now I know that instant gratification isn’t always a good thing but in the case of books, it certainly is! I can’t emphasize how much I love being able to connect to the Amazon Kindle store after I’ve finished a book and immediately download the next one in a series, or search other titles by the same author and have them in my hands in a flash. Especially in the case of a series that you’ve just discovered, it allows you to stay in the author’s fictional world nearly uninterrupted. Unlike the library where there may be several holds on the book before you, you don’t have to wait and be patient. And yes, I know patience is a virtue but I strongly argue that in the case of reading, it’s completely unnecessary!
My children have always looked forward to getting the Scholastic book order forms from school, and interestingly enough, they still do! But now, instead of ordering through Scholastic, they peruse the order form and note what books they want next for their Kindles. If I’m feeling generous, we download them right then and there.
My children are very close in age and tend to enjoy the same books. They will often read a series together at the same time. I know it’s not a huge hardship for one to have to wait until the other is finished a book, but it is wonderfully convenient for them to both read the same book at the same time.
The Kindle’s slim profile and huge capacity allows you to go anywhere with ease.
My husband uses public transit to go to and from work each day, and he reads his Kindle on the way. He tends to read non-fiction which, in his pre-Kindle days, involved some pretty hefty books. He much prefers the lightweight Kindle for that reason, but also because he always has another book in the queue if he happens to finish his current one while in transit.
Since I purchased my Kindle back in 2009, my trusty little e-reader has accompanied me to China (twice), Hawaii, California (several times), Savannah, Georgia, and various places throughout Canada. I used to have to pack several novels for each trip, taking up precious space and weight. Now, I simply pre-load my Kindle with a ton of books, toss it in my carry-on, and I’m good to go! And the best part is that if I run out of books on my trip, I can just download more in an instant.
Easy on the eyes
From time to time, I’ve resorted to reading a book (or part thereof) on the Kindle app of my iPhone. While I’m happy to have access to my current novel on my phone (synced to my spot on my Kindle), it’s not easy on the eyes. Before long, I have to rest my eyes from the light or the screen glare. This is never the case with the Kindle itself. The screen is just like paper to my eyes.
No over-due fees or walks of shame!
Okay, so I have to confess that I’m not a good library user. When I’ve used the library in the past, I would often rack up late fees despite the handy feature they have of being able to extend your loan online. The problem was that I’d borrow a book, then get distracted by different books (from a friend or ones I purchased), and then before you know it, the library one would be past due. I really have no excuse for not extending the loan; I just wasn’t on top if it. Every time I borrowed from the library I’d vow to do better. And then I wouldn’t!
This is our family stack of Kindles. My Kindle with its red, worn cover, is at the bottom, topped by Ren’s (black cover), Claire’s (yellow cover decorated with washi tape and stickers) and lastly, Paul’s.
After 8 years of using my Kindle, I can unreservedly say that I do not regret making the switch. While I do fondly remember the sensations of turning pages and smelling the paper, I also now love clicking to turn my page (I think my kids have the swipe function on their newer Kindles?), and seeing a new title suddenly appear on my home page after purchasing a book.
Besides, the thing with books is that you get lost in them. Those momentary sensations of touch and smell, however wonderful, are just that: momentary. The words, the story, the emotions evoked by the author … that is what draws you in and stays with you. Not the physical thing you hold.
If you’ve been thinking about trying an e-reader, I encourage you to go for it. My ancient, second-generation Kindle is obviously obsolete these days or I’d point you to it. There are a few different options nowadays for Kindles, depending on whether you want a built-in light, 3G (in addition to the standard Wi-Fi), a charging cover, etc. They range from $79.99 up to $399.99 Canadian.
If I were to purchase a new one now, I’d go with the Kindle Paperwhite because it has a built-in light. (I sometimes like to read after Paul falls asleep.) Follow this link to see the Paperwhite on Amazon.ca: Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi
For the basic e-reader (no light, no 3G), I think the entry-level Kindle e-reader is awesome and has a great price point ($79.99). This is the version my kids have: Kindle E-reader – Black, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi
Do you already own an e-reader? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Please comment and tell me if I neglected to mention any of their advantages.
Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.
Whew, this week has been a busy one! The kids started school again on Tuesday, September 5, so it was a flurry here of preparation, haircuts, laundry and lunch-planning.
Our girl is now in Grade 6. How this ever happened, I’ll never know. Her first day of Kindergarten seems like yesterday! She is as sweet as ever but now has a maturity and a certain kind of confidence that only comes with experience.
Our boy is now in Grade 5. Ren is as gentle a soul as ever, full of imagination, humour and compassion.
He was fairly anxious about his first day of school this fall because he was switching from the Mandarin bilingual program at his school to the English-only stream. That means a whole new set of kids, on top of the usual stuff like a new teacher and new classroom.
I was relieved to hear at the end of the day that it all went better than he anticipated. All week, he’s been finding his usual friends (from the Mandarin program) at recess to play with, and his new class and teachers all seem to be a good fit. *Cue Mama’s sigh of relief*
Once the kids were back at school, I did a bit of cleaning, some errands and … drove around A LOT looking at a bunch of cats I saw online from the Humane Society and other local rescue organizations. I feel like my heart is literally aching for Kitsya – and I think it always will – but I also feel like our household would benefit greatly again from the joy a pet can bring. It’s been so quiet and lonely here since Kitsya died. Plus, we miss having a little friend to nurture, love, play with and worry about.
So … news on this topic will be announced shortly. Stay tuned!
These two beauties have been BFFs since they were less than a year old.
They are from the same city in China, and they are from the same city now. As far as we can determine, the girls didn’t cross paths until Forever Family Day when they were bussed in together (along with several other babies) from their home city to the provincial capital. And then Claire was placed in my and Paul’s arms, and Ava into Beth and James’.
Upon returning home from China, Claire and Ava became a constant in each other’s lives. Our photo albums and blogs are full of pictures of these two together. I could share so many sweet and hilarious pictures but I’ll save that for another time! For now, I’ll focus on the girls in matching dresses. Because that became a thing very early on.
In July of 2007, our first summer with the babies, we realized we had unintentionally purchased the same dress for the girls. It was a funny coincidence, and so we decided to document it with photos when we got together for a summer BBQ.
As far as getting a good photo went, it was a gong show. But it was still pretty cute just because they are cute.
Fast forward to November of 2008, when we deliberately bought matching dresses. This time, things went marginally better.
In February of 2010, to mark three years as BFFs, we went for it again. Not the greatest pictures ever, but so cute for the personalities you see shining through.
And then in May of 2011, Beth and I took some of our favourite pictures of the girls …
Beth and I both think something just magical happened that night, because the girls were so easy to photograph. Click here and here for the full blog posts.
By the way, the photo directly above really shows the height difference between the girls for most of their lives until recently. Claire had always followed her own curve on (or slightly below!) the growth chart until about a year and a half ago when she suddenly made a huge jump. Now, she and Ava are pretty much the same height.
Somehow we neglected to do any matching dress photo shoots from 2011 until now. I’m not sure why … time just got away on us. I’m so glad that Beth thought of it again this summer, so that we could mark the passage of time in our traditional way. It’s especially poignant because now the girls look like young women instead of little children.
Without further adieu, here are Claire and Ava, at nearly 11 1/2 years old.
Our girls weren’t so comfortable being all huggy and lovey-dovey anymore! They kept laughing when we asked them to put their arms around each other’s waist, or to hold hands. No matter, I love the photos of them laughing too. And I do think we were able to capture some sweet, close moments too, without too much obvious awkwardness!
Thank you, Claire and Ava, for a sweet night of awkward hugs and hysterical giggles! I’m signing off now to online shop for your next photo shoot (wink!).
Since I’m so behind on blogging, I’m using this post to document the original renovation to this room (back in late 2014) as well as the refresh that we just completed! Here goes!
How it looked on possession day
As with Ren’s room, Claire’s new room didn’t need a lot of work. We planned to simply change out the trim and hardwoods (to match the rest of the upper level), paint, and replace the light fixture.
In these photos you can also spy the old stair railing which we quickly had removed!There’s Claire’s hoodie in the closet 🙂
The room wasn’t bad at all. It’s a really good size but the purple paint (which was actually quite pretty) made the room feel very dark.
As for the light fixture, we planned to re-use the chandelier from the dining room. I had a new one planned for that room, and I love re-purposing things instead of sending them to the dump. Here’s the “before” of the chandelier:
I ended up adapting the chandelier by removing that bulbous thing at the bottom, painting it and then blinging it out with crystals I purchased online. You’ll see “after” pictures below.
Time for a decor refresh
When we first moved Claire’s things into this house, her room looked a lot different than it does now. I wish I took pictures of it then, so that I could show you the before and after of the “refresh”. However, I do have pictures of Claire’s room in our old house, which I’ve shared below to give you an idea of her colour scheme and furnishings when we first moved in:
It was cute – and we were both sentimentally attached to the “Sunbonnet Sue Through the Seasons” quilt my mom made – but last year, Claire decided she was ready for a change.
Planning and preparation
When we decided to refresh Claire’s room, we scoured the web for inspiration. Ultimately, we found our inspiration in cute bedding from Pottery Barn kids. The adorable eye-lashes on the yellow rose pillowcases cinched it for us, but we also fell in love with the sophisticated grey quilt that would see Claire through her teen years. Claire wanted to also incorporate teal which is one of her favourite colours, so we spray-painted her chandelier and various accessories / wall frames with some spray paint we bought at Michaels.
The Pottery Barn picture of her bedding also provided inspiration in the form of paint colour for Claire’s cherry-coloured bed frame. We had been wanting to paint it for years but didn’t have a clear vision for it. When we saw the Pottery Barn picture of her bedding on a black bed frame, voila! Being the middle of winter at the time, however, we had to hold off painting it until warmer weather. Fast forward to this summer, and the children’s absence (they are with their grandparents in Saskatoon) afforded Paul and I the opportunity to finally paint it.
We chose to spray-paint the bed instead of brushing / rolling it to avoid brush marks. Plus, it’s just super-easy and quick, as long as you have a space to work in. Here’s the bed in the garage before spray-painting it:
As with past furniture-painting projects, we used our trusty little Critter siphon spray gun. It’s very simple to use and provides great results.
Paul ended up doing the painting this time. He did several (4 – 5) very light coats. Doesn’t it look amazing?
Since the kids are away, we didn’t have to rush to get the bed back up in Claire’s room. We let it cure for a week in the garage before moving it back in, despite my excitement about setting up her room again.
Okay, so I should admit that before photographing Claire’s room for these pictures, I took out soooo much “stuff” it isn’t funny. And now when I look at these pictures, I see that I should have taken out even MORE stuff because it still looks cluttered. But hey, at least it’s somewhat realistic, right?
One thing I should have removed is the piece of paper on Claire’s hamper. She made a cute little name sign and put it there quite a while ago; I didn’t have the heart to remove it, even just for photos.
When we changed out Claire’s bedding last winter, we also created this little gallery wall for her above her bed.
If you look really closely at the picture on the top right of the gallery, you’ll see a print of a seal wearing a clown wig. Claire and I had searched Etsy for seal paintings or prints. This one makes her laugh hysterically, so it was the natural winner.
Gigglestuff made the cute little unicorn eye-glass holder sitting on Claire’s night table.
A close family friend, Alma, made the adorable afghan in the photo below. Can you see the kitties in the pattern? She gave it to Claire for Christmas when Claire was about a year and a half old, and we’ve all treasured it ever since.
This is the side of the room that still looks horribly cluttered …
It’s crazy because I seriously removed a ton of stuff before doing these pictures.
Claire still likes her American Girl and Maple Lea (the Canadian version) dolls. Last summer we set up this little “apartment” for her dolls which Claire then promptly decorated. Only one doll is pictured below because Claire took one with her to Saskatoon.
This little “room” is one of my favourites because of the cute pillows on the bed (couch?). Claire’s Auntie Marlene made the little donut (a tea party “treat” that Claire re-purposed as a doll pillow) and Claire herself made the other pillows.
Back to Claire’s room and some other angles …
It feels so good to have finally painted Claire’s bed AND photographed the entire room. Plus, I spent quite a bit of time re-organizing her dresser drawers and closet. I’m missing my kiddos like crazy but I’ve gotta say that it is a relief to tackle these long-standing items on my to-do list. A big thank you to Baba and Dido for giving the children a July to remember while at the same time affording me the chance to do these labour-intensive tasks. And now we finally have a room fit for our tween!
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