Custom Illustrations: Artful and Creative Childhood Heirlooms


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Illustration by Stephanie Ball

Over the last year or so a few talented illustrators and artists have drawn and painted portraits of Ro and Sen. These gifts has been such a delight and treasure for us, that I wanted to share them here in case you may be looking for a creative gift idea, something that won’t end up in the charity bin or will only last for a certain age span.

If you are going to give a material gift to someone then make it something worthwhile, something that will become an heirloom. The artworks below certainly will.

Stephanie Ball | @pianobythesea | email:
Joana Oliveira | @mydailydoodling |

Cecelia Contreras | @migamigaceci |

Kellie Diguanco | @kelliedigs | email:

Lauren Noel | @ladynoel_designs |

Cheng Kulai | @chengkulai | email: 


 Sara Goetz | @sarahgoetz |

Faustine Badrichani | @wooln_ny |

With Faustine’s illustration we printed it onto canvas paper and the children painted it with watercolours to make unique holiday cards for friends and family.


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How to Make Easter Egg Bath Bombs with Flowers + Essential Oils

natural easter egg bath bomb diy with flowers

I freely admit that the naturally dyed Easter eggs I see on Instagram (these ones!) and Pinterest (these ones!) have me feeling a little underwhelmed with our own vegan Easter crafting traditions. For a few years now, I’ve wanted to naturally dye wooden eggs but haven’t found an economical source for the wooden eggs. We’ve been making our own bath and beauty products for the last year or so (deodorants, creams, toothpaste and so on) and it occurred to me when I was getting our Easter decorations out that the plastic Easter eggs we use for the egg hunt would make perfect bath bomb moulds, so I decided to try it out with the kids. And, low and behold we found our Easter egg, vegan friendly, crafting tradition! (Note: After years of frustration related to buying aluminum wrapped chocolates, I decided to buy reusable plastic eggs that I could fill with dried fruits and other treats, rather than put aluminum foil into landfill).

Making the bath bombs was really easy and a super fun activity for the children. They got their hands into some dough, designed their own scents from mixing essential oils, and crumbled dried flowers. A sensory and very satisfying experience! The bombs smell great, are healthy for sensitive skin and soothing for the soul. On top of this, you can make the bombs with common household ingredients that are likely to be in your pantry or available at the grocery store.

natural easter egg bath bomb diy with flowers dried

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

Here’s how we made them:

  1. In a bowl combine: 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of potato starch (you can also use corn starch or cream of tartar), 6 tablespoons of Epsom Salts (you can also use sea salt).
  2. If you want to make different scented bombs, then separate the mixture evenly into a few bowls — we separated into four bowls.
  3. Crumble approximately 2 teaspoons of dried flowers into each bowl. We did different combinations to get different colours. For example, a pink egg from wild roses, and a green egg from blue hydrangea. Make sure to finely crumble the flowers because the bits will go down the drain in your bath so you don’t want to clog it up. Although, as Ro said: “It would be the nicest clog ever!”
  4. Add 7-10 drops of your favourite essential oils to each bowl. I use Do Terra essential oils which are very high quality (pure) so I didn’t need many drops, if you use a more conventional essential oil you may need a few more drops to get a strong enough scent. We used lavender, wild orange, balance, serenity, citrus bliss, eucalyptus and melaleuca in different combinations.
    • Lavender, balance and serenity are calming.
    • Wild orange and citrus bliss are energizing and refreshing.
    • Eucalyptus is great for opening up the air ways especially if you have congestion or a cold.
    • Melaleuca, also known as tea tree, is a natural anti-septic, is soothing and smells great.
    •  I’ve included links above to purchase from Amazon, but if you are interested in opening an account with DoTerra to get oils at a significant discount email me:
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of melted (liquid) coconut oil to each dry mixture, if separated into four bowls. (Overall you would add 6-8 tablespoons to the entire mixture).
  6. Using a spray bottle or a teaspoon to very slowly add water and mix, only add water until the mixture is crumbly but will hold together if you squeeze it in your hand. At this point it can be pressed into your egg moulds. Pack the moulds fully and firmly so that as they dry they will hold shape. I let ours dry in the egg mould for 2 days although 1 day was probably enough.
  7. Gently open the moulds. A few of our eggs crumbled from over excited hands, so be careful.

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

No surprise, the children couldn’t wait for Easter to use the bath bombs. We found they worked really nicely. They didn’t fizz around (you need to add citric acid to the recipe if you want fizz, but citric acid can be hard on the skin so I don’t add it to my recipe) but they smelled really good and easily melted into the bath water. The crumbled flowers floated to the surface of the bath and made the bath water extra fancy. The coconut oil was soothing on the skin and the essential oils gave off a delightful and calming aroma. Overall, the bombs were a success.

natural easter egg bath bomb diy dried flowers essential oils

If you have any questions about how we made the bath bombs please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer. For an amazing tutorial to make naturally dyed wooden eggs visit Fareisle Blog here.


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Children’s Art Prints by Tuta & Coco

On the Christmas of Ro’s second year, a family friend made us and our extended family a custom photo calendar featuring photos of Ro that he’d taken and gathered from family. This was nine years ago when photo calendars were not yet readily available. It was a simple, but very thoughtful gift, and ended up stealing the show Christmas morning. Everyone enjoyed pouring over the photos he’d selected and reminiscing about Ro’s development over the year (children change so much in a year at that age). The calendar was enjoyed that day, and everyday for the rest of the year.

As someone who, for a long time has felt dis-ease with excess and has had a hard time with Christmas mornings, seeing the lovely gifts exchanged and knowing that many will not be loved for long, it struck me how loved the calendar was. So, each year since then we have given this same present to everyone in our family and circle of friends: a photo calendar covering our life in the last year. That’s it. Simple gift, but one they will enjoy the whole year.

I’ve thought more than once that I’d like to make a calendar that features the children’s art work but wasn’t sure how to. This year when I found a local shop, Tuta & Coco, out of Montreal, that produces high-quality prints and paper products from children’s artwork I was really excited to put my idea into print. Working with Tuta & Coco was a breeze, I sent them scans of the art work (thank you Dad for scanning all those drawings and paintings!), Tuta & Coco then processed the digital files and emailed me drafts of the calendar until I was happy with it and then they printed it. The work was done.

The hard part came before when I was sifting through and selecting which artwork to include…while I’m minimal in many ways saving my children’s artwork is definitely a weakness. Hashtag understatement of the year.

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It was a lovely surprise to find when the calendar arrived that each month was it’s own print (separate sheets), the calendar is held together on a small handmade wooden clipboard, so after a month has passed you can continue to enjoy the print off the clipboard (there’s no perforation to ruin the print). The clipboard is a nice clean design. And, in Sen’s opinion the clipboard is “Amazing mama! But, do I have to wait until the end of all these months to use it for me?” Seriously, it is the cutest tiny clipboard!

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I absolutely love that all aspects of the calendar product will remain useful and loved after the year has gone by. The prints can be taped to the wall, used as postcards or any number of other ways. The clipboard is a fun and functional small size, especially good for children to use, and will be great to bring along in the summer for sketching out in the wild.

One final cool thing with the calendars is that you can start with any month, since each sheet is separate. This means you can give the calendar to anyone (including yourself) starting in any month of the year. Bonus!

You can find Tuta & Coco’s shop here, they ship worldwide. You can also find them on Instagram here and Pinterest here. **This is not a sponsored post, just sharing a cool find 🙂

Tuta & Coco kindly included a favourite piece of artwork from Ro and Sen in their children’s gallery on their site, which the children are pretty proud about!

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Such Wild Grace egg in hand

Slow Living: Create

What a beautiful month it was for the Slow Living Project, with our focus on creativity we saw so many inspired moments shared through the #slowliving_create hashtag. Melanie and I have picked some of our favourites to share on our blogs (see Melanie’s here). The images were not only beautiful, but more importantly captured the spirit of creativity and creation in a slow and intentional way, whether it was bringing creativity to breakfast or a simple moment on the beach, slowly working away at a creative project over days and weeks, or bringing slow intentional creativity to our time with our children.

I absolutely love the symbolism of creativity here, and goodness knows you can’t rush an egg. Photo by Leah @sangthebird

Such Wild Grace egg in hand

The slow and creative process of naturally dyed yarn and gathering flowers. Photo by Fleur @teaandfleur

Fleur Lyon

Slow afternoons mother and son collaborating in the art studio. Photo by Kaylan @emeraldhomestead

Creative breakfasts: there are opportunities to be creative all day long. Photo by Erin @ekwetzel

A creative project can take a year or just a few minutes, but it always gives back to the soul. Photo by Katrien @growingwildthings

Stunning images of slow creation throughout Faith’s gallery, demonstrating a seasoned understanding and interconnection with creativity and slow intentional living. Photo and artwork by Faith @faithevanssills



Photo by @faithevanssills

Illustration of a slow creative family, a drawing that is part of a slow artistic project to create homesteading colouring sheets. Illustration and photo by Michelle @danceypantsdisco

Like an egg, you can’t rush a flower. Patience to wait for the right day to gather flowers and creative talent to know how to bring a vision to life. Photo by Kaity @fareisle

Photo by @fareisle

Creative photography captured ‘slow’ perfectly in this stunning image. Photo by Ali @ali_dover

A slow project made from found and gathered items. When you work with what is available you can’t have a pre-determined end result, the slow creative process leads the way. Macrame and photo by Alana @alanadorothy

Stunning floral mask and photo by Mer @mer_mag. It is worth visiting this photo on her gallery because her caption captured my sentiments exactly about slow creativity and working with natural objects as art materials. Excerpt: “Nature give back to you in ways that paper can’t…nature is a living thing that shares some of its life with you…working with flowers there is a delicacy involved…a limited timeframe…[but] you can’t force nature.”

Photo by @mer_mag

Congratulations to those who were selected for the blog, and thank you very much to everyone who has added their creative moments to the hashtag. Every image left us with something to think about and some sort of inspiration. As with last month’s theme ‘explore’, there’s no reason to stop using the hashtag on your images, you never know who or what it might inspire or lead to.

Now, on to October’s theme. This month with fall in full swing in the northern hemisphere and spring bursting forth in the southern hemisphere, we wanted a theme that could capture the colour and beauty of these seasons. So, for October our theme is ‘bloom and harvest’, using the hashtag #slowliving_bloomandharvest. Please feel free to join in and add the hashtag to your images that fit the theme. As usual, we will curate a collection of our favourites at the end of the month to share on Instagram, our blogs, and *new* on our Pinterest board ‘Slow Living Moments’. If you are on Pinterest come find us there: Danielle ‘hippieidisguise’ and Melanie ‘geoffreyngrace’.

Thank you, again, and if you’d like to read about last month’s theme ‘explore’ you can find it here.

Let’s be friends! Please come find me in other places:

Interview with a Minimalist: Carina

There is so much goodness in this interview that I just don’t know where to start. Carina, who I’ve interviewed before for my Inspiring Mothers series, is a minimalist and mother of two. She is an artist who paints and illustrates, and also works in arts outreach. Her story is particularly inspiring because it was a significant life event that brought about an “aha” moment. In that moment all that was truly important to her became crystal clear. I love that while years have passed since her epiphany it’s effect hasn’t grown dim. She has managed to continue to draw from this experience in order to cultivate a life of purpose, enjoyment, adventure, and fun. A life filled to the brim with moments and memories. There are so many nuggets of wisdom packed into her answers, read slowly and enjoy!

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Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?

My name is Carina. I am passionate about the arts and the outdoors, and making memories around these two things with my family. I am a big advocate for accessible art experiences, supporting local creatives and businesses, and connecting communities. I adore painting and illustration, and encouraging my kids’ love of art, stories, and adventure. We are lucky to live so close to the ocean, the mountains, and everything in between. We all love camping, my husband fly fishes, and my kids and I are crazy about surfing. I’m also passionate about the community of rad women that my bestie Bree and I have connected with through our west coast lifestyle site

How many children do you have and what are they like?

I have two children, and they are so wonderfully different from each other.

My daughter Finn is 9 years old, with a blanket of long dark hair, usually under a wide-brimmed hat and framed by long feather earrings. She is a fast-friend-maker, an incredibly observant girl, and can often be found blissfully reading and writing stories. Appropriately, she wants to be both a published author and an actor (“they don’t call them actresses anymore mom”).

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My son Augustus (Gus) is a cheerful, golden-haired sweetheart. He loves to choreograph dance videos, and is happily curious about everything from how the body works, to the life-cycle of plants and animals. He is a cuddler, and feels things deeply, especially when he thinks that a friend has been wronged – he will always come to your rescue! He adores his sister Finn. And when she gives him the time of day, he is on cloud nine.

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What part of the world do you live in?

I live in Vancouver,  in an area of the city called Mount Pleasant – very aptly named. It’s an idyllic little urban community, where I also work, where my children go to school, and where we spend time with friends. I love that we are able to be so local and connected in a big city. I grew up in a very tiny town, and it reminds me of that way of life – minus the horses tethered to the school fence and the tractors parked in driveways.

Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?

There is no certainty; there is only adventure.” – Roberto Assagioli

Change is constant, and once you realize that it’s exciting, not scary, you can embrace it once it happens, and enjoy the ride – or least see the importance of some of those journeys of learning.

Good for her, not for me.” – Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Everyone has their own way of doing things that work for them, and that’s wonderful. It doesn’t mean that we have to feel bad if it doesn’t work for us.

You are an artist, what inspires your work? Do you have issues with keeping the amount of art supplies you have in check?

That is a tough one! My art has changed so much over the years. When I was doing my first degree years ago, I was working in photography, and soundscapes with video and audio installations. Yes, super avant garde stuff – ha! I really felt like I needed to be loud and cinematic so people could hear what I was trying to say, which had a lot to do with being a new mother, and trying to define who this new person was that I had become. I realize now that I can be a mother, and also be an individual at the same time, and that being ambitious doesn’t mean that I am a bad parent.

Currently, I am back to the drawing and painting I fell in love with as a child, but with more experience (both in years and technique). I love the ‘low-fi” – ness of it. I don’t need a large desk of technical equipment to create a painting or illustration.

In terms of my own art supplies, my style is quite minimal (how appropriate!), and I do keep my art supplies minimal as well. I will not buy another palette of watercolours until something has actually run out, and I won’t stock up on ten versions of a similar paintbrush; because I just don’t need it. I do find it hard when I’m actually in an art supply store – I always get that surge of excitement of all the possibilities. However, I have enough experience to now know that if I surround myself with too much, I get overwhelmed with choices, and will not allow myself to fully commit to one project. This rings true for me in finishing a painting, and also in other areas of my life.

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I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?

I would say that minimalism is a way of life for me. It’s not just about living materially small in our 750 square foot apartment, but also how our little family approaches life. Maybe a few examples might be the best way to answer:

  • When I find myself feeling anxious about the week’s tasks, errands, etc. I start to look for the path of least resistance.  I am working on saying “no” more often and accepting that when I am stressed out at all the things I need to do, it’s because I chose to do them. So if I can cancel some unnecessary meetings downtown, or find gymnastics classes for Gus closer to home so we’re not driving across town three times a week after work, that keeps things simpler and less stressful.
  • I rarely bring in something new into our home unless it is really going to make us smile – like a local artist’s work, or a carefully curated collection of shells the kids have found at the beach. I try to buy local and sustainable as much as possible, and I pare down anything that has too many multiples. I take things to consign or to the thrift store at least once each season. There’s no need to have more than four towels in our tiny linen closet, and the kids don’t need 16 pairs of socks each.
  • When thinking about how to spend our money, after all the bills are paid, we always look to what experiences we want to have, not what things we want to buy. Cyrus ties his own flies for fishing, and will update a rod or reel. I recently was able to get my own wetsuit for surfing, and one day hope to have my own board. The kids really want to go to Playland this summer, and have a goal to do that at the end of August. More traditional activities can be expensive in Vancouver, so when we’re all on board with saving money to achieve these goals, it makes it exciting to have something to look forward to and more meaningful when you get there.

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What is your story? How did you get started on a minimalist path? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?

I have always been a fan of simple living, but my two big leaps into minimalism were when my husband and I separated, and when I took a trip to India.

When I finished my Master’s Degree in 2011, my husband and I separated for 2 ½ years. It was hard and painful, but also a really powerful experience. When we split our things, I realized that the only thing I wanted were the pictures of the kids, and the only thing I needed was a home to raise my kids in.  Nothing else mattered. What I also quickly discovered though was how much I needed my friends and my family. I have always been a fast-friend-maker (like Finn), but I was floored by how the good people around me rallied without judgement, helped dry my tears, fill my cupboards, and made me feel whole again. That was an important time in my life for sure. I learned how resilient I was, how everyone has a story, and how love truly is all you need. Happily, we are all together again, and we both had similar epiphanies about how we wanted to live as a family – and we haven’t looked back!

In 2012, I took a trip to India to do research on art and architecture there for my PhD. When I got there, all the naivety I had about being a worldly traveller went right out the window and I went into full culture shock. It is a country that continuously saturates every sense to a dizzying level. I saw very small children, barely clothed and dirty, that were so hungry they were peeling paint off buildings to eat. You quickly realize just how fortunate you are by accident of where you are born. I also saw a lot of happiness in India, from children who had almost nothing. Their delight in finding a bridge to jump off into cooling waters filled the air with laughter and joy. It is easy to see in such a place of contrast how unnecessary all our extra things are, and how fortunate we are to have access to simple amenities and health care.


Are there people you look to as minimalist role models?

I think that I inherited some of that Scandinavian minimalism from my Swedish father. He was always big on saving for our trips to Sweden to visit family, and we went on many camping and road trips as a family. My childhood was filled with amazing adventures, and I am so thankful for that. I’ve also been influenced by my thoughtful Italian mother, who always emphasizes keeping things that bring you joy, and discarding things that do not – especially when those things are attached to a past you need to get rid of.


Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?

I have read The Minimalists, and The Japanese Art of Tidying, both interesting books but I am still waiting for someone to come out with a book that addresses how to be minimalist with children, and without a huge cash reserve that allows you to immediately drop your daytime job without worrying about putting food on the table.

I love Alison Mazurek, who lives right here in Vancouver with her adorable little boy in a 600 square foot apartment about 4 blocks away from me!  She has her own blog and is also a contributor to Peaks & Harbours. She has a similar mindset in that she takes to the outdoors when things feel small, and focuses on quality local goods over a quantity of “things.”

In what ways/areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals/values? What is your weakness?

Books! Both for myself and for the kids. I’m trying to be better at going to the library for my reading fix, and encouraging the kids to do the same. It’s a work-in-progress!

Does your household abide by minimalism or is this more a focus for yourself? Why?

I think we all abide by minimalism. We do not purchase toys or extra gadgets for our kids unless it’s a birthday, or Christmas, etc. Pokemon was a big craze for them a few months ago, and they saved their money and bought all their Pokemon card packs and binders themselves. Of course, we will help them here and there with allowance money. When Gus decided he was not interested anymore in his Thomas the Tank Engine set a couple of years ago, he took pictures of them all lined up, put them on Craigslist, boxed them up, and handed them over to the guy that bought them (He was four!). He beamed with pride, and took that money to get his first Star Wars Lego kit. I do find that they are less and less interested in amassing the newest trendy toy. I think Gus has more money saved in his piggy bank than I do! Because he’s not sure what he wants to spend it on, and so he doesn’t. Finn will always buy more books, but we will also go to the library, because her piggy bank just can’t keep up with her insatiable appetite for more stories.


Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?

Honestly, it’s been such a positive experience that I can’t think of any time that we’ve come into conflict about it. Once and a while, the kids briefly lament that other parents have bought their kids an entire American Doll set complete with a giant wardrobe, and I say how nice that is, and how if it’s that important we can work towards it. More often than not, the novelty quickly wears off and they forget they ever asked for it.

Have you had any positive or constructive (or negative) experiences with friends or family related to minimalism?

I have had nothing but positive experiences! When people come over, if they are parents I usually find them peeking into a doorway wondering if I’ve hid the kids’ toys there – ha! They are amazed, and then excited, that our small apartment is so light and welcoming, without it wanting anything.

In what ways has minimalism improved your life?

I think that when you pare down the extraneous things, you live your life more honestly and genuinely. An example I would give is when I finally gave away all my textbooks from university that I knew I was only keeping to be impressive. I had so many books that I had on display because I felt like they represented all my years of hard work, and would show visitors how educated I was. I think it was really me feeling unsure of myself. When I finally admitted that I was probably never again going to pick up that 1000 page book on psychoanalytical theories, or the multi-volume text on Ancient Greek political systems, what was left was a real representation of who I was and what I actually found interesting. Books on art, funny stories, and beautiful illustrations. It feels amazing, and I don’t mind whether visitors notice that or not.


What have been some unexpected experiences you’ve had with minimalism?

I am a less anxious person after really embracing minimalism. I used to struggle with anxiety in my early to late twenties. When things become pared down at home, and I focused on positive relationships, I became more confident in myself and the anxiety just melted away. It’s an ongoing process for sure, but I can definitely say that myself and my children, we are all much more chill and content living this way.

What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?

If you haven’t used something in a year, chances are you’re never going to use it. When I’ve felt overwhelmed with picking through the kids’ things (especially the bits of impossibly tiny accessories for toys), I will dump an entire drawer that they haven’t opened in a while, into a tupperware bin with a lid, and stow it away for a few months. They never ask where those things have gone. And when I feel like it’s been long enough, I organize things out into thrift store and consignment store, and they will get the money from their toys.

Do you have any goals for this year or the next few that you want to share?

My big goal that I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now – but am finally in a place to attack it, is creating albums out of pictures of the kids’ artwork. When you live in a small space, it’s tough to store pieces of different sizes without crushing and damaging them, and it’s hard to pull out an enormous box and go through it in a way that doesn’t create a giant mess. My goal is to take pictures of their favourites, and make them into a book. This way they can look at them easily, show them to friends, and be proud of their work for years to come.

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Thank you Carina! Readers: you can find Carina on Instagram @carinamarienilsson; on her outstanding lifestyle site; or her personal site


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Summer Lists: Sun, Sand and Strawberries

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Urban adventures

That first day of summer vacation is amazing, right? There is so much time ahead of you, so much excitement and anticipation about all the fun and adventure that will be had.

My mind always spins a bit with all the things I want to do with children during my few weeks off with them. So, a few years ago Ro and I decided to make ‘Summer Lists’ of our top 10 things we didn’t want to finish the summer without doing. I don’t like to pack our days with activities, but I do want to make sure that we feel as though we’ve had the chance to do our favourite things, and while summer is a time to relax, we still have a sense of accomplishment, even if our accomplishment is making a mud pie. The lists worked really well as a way to orient our summer, with just ten things each, it left time for serendipitous activities, and on days when there was nothing obvious to do we turned to our lists. With a sense of success that first year, we’ve continued making them each year since — however, without limiting ourselves to ten things.

Our five weeks together start next week, so with that in mind we worked on finalizing our lists last weekend.

Summer List Bucket Watercolour

This is Sen’s first year making a list. We talked, in the weeks leading up to summer vacation, about all the things he loves about summer and these activities turned into his list:

  • build a sand castle
  • make a mud pie
  • ride a zoom boat
  • visit a cottage
  • go to Gramma and Grampa’s beach house
  • collect shells
  • make a toy boat out of supplies
  • save animals
  • eat pizza at the park
  • go camping
  • sleep in a tent
  • eat s’mores
  • dance a lot
  • play hop scotch
  • make brownies
  • build a fort
  • swim everyday

And he wanted to make sure we left some room on the page to add things as we go. No problem, Sen!

Ro really enjoys making her list each summer. It’s like a Christmas list, but way more exciting, because she is imagining memories instead of things. The first few years I had to talk her off of things like “take a trip to Paris” because this is too far outside our means, so I expected the same this year, but was happily surprised there was no trip to Bora Bora or a theme park on her list.

Summer Bucket List Watercolour

Ro’s list:

  • make strawberry rhubarb turnovers
  • dye hair with beets
  • visit NYC
  • write a book
  • go to a water park
  • wear a rainbow outfit
  • read Nimona to mom and Sen for bedtime
  • get a mani-pedi
  • surprise a stranger with a bouquet of flowers
  • leave cookies on neighbours porch
  • go to Gramma’s cottage and get a pie from the pie shop
  • cross the Rideau River
  • get dad to make the treehouse
  • make a stick fort
  • do some sewing
  • make a doll
  • learn a new way to draw
  • learn to write with right hand

Once Ro had finished her list she realized she had forgotten to include “make kale chips.” Noted!

And finally for my list. There is nothing extravagant on mine, it is mostly filled with simple activities, but things that will fill the summer with fun and my heart with memories.

Summer Bucket List Watercolour Flowers

My list:

  • go strawberry picking
  • try paddle boarding
  • organize an IG meetup
  • press flowers
  • keep a nature journal
  • wander
  • get lost
  • swim in an ocean, a lake and a river
  • visit Nantucket
  • watch the clouds
  • take the kids stargazing
  • find a new wildflower field
  • visit a farm
  • sail paper boats at the pond
  • visit Philadelphia
  • send snail mail
  • explore a new part of the city
  • spread love

For those of you who are paying keen attention, I included “organize an IG meet-up” on my list. Anyone living in the Ottawa area, or who will be in Ottawa on July 9th (2015), is welcome to meet up with us (me, Ro and Sen) for an informal picnic and play at Vincent Massey Park. I will be posting more details later this week, but wanted to make the date known so those who are interested can plan to be there. Please send me an email or leave a comment below if you are interested in meeting up, and especially if you have ideas for the meet-up, in terms of activities, food and so on. While my inclination is to keep things minimal, simple food and free play, it may also be nice to have something special to mark the event. Please be in touch!

What’s on your summer list? I would love to hear, leave a comment below or on Instagram.

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Drawing a Day

On the first day of summer vacation I gave Ro and Sen each a fresh new sketchbook, a small soft covered one that was easily portable so they could take them around town to parks and on our daily adventures. Ever since I can remember an empty sketchbook was a thing of delight to me, offering endless possibilities of how it would be filled, how it would become “my” sketchbook. I was happy to see that both Ro and Sen were excited at the prospect of empty pages waiting to become records of their creativity.

Drawing a day project

I am definitely a parent who believes wholeheartedly in the benefits of unstructured play and days without plans aside from walking out the front door. At the same time, I recognize that children can crave structure and that summer time is a chance to develop those skills in your children that may not be cultivated at school. So, in the interest of creating a beautiful record of our days and in helping the children see how practicing something daily could be very rewarding, I set the children the task of doing one drawing a day over the summer.

The task was fairly open ended: draw anything. Draw something you see at the park, draw something from your imagination. Just draw.

Sen, being just a young 3 years at the time, had never had his own desire to draw, as Ro did at the same age. But, Sen does love a good challenge, so he happily set to drawing whatever happened to come to mind: a tractor or the popsicle he had just eaten. As the summer went on, he had days where he just wanted to scratch some colour on the page and have it done with so he could run and jump in the pool. And other days (when the pool wasn’t there to jump in) I could see him scanning his surroundings looking for inspiration. Tip: if you want your children to do something they may not be naturally inclined to do, make sure it’s more interesting than other options available to them, like a pool.

Sen’s drawing of a popsicle – most days Sen would carefully draw something, taking his time to thoughtfully shape his drawing, and then once the shape was done he would (un)ceremoniously colour it in, leaving it looking like a scribble, as you see here.

My favourite drawing of Sen’s was from a day we sat at a pond in our neighbourhood and Sen excitedly knew exactly what he wanted to draw. It may not seem remarkable, perhaps, but it was remarkable to me. And it was for him, because he didn’t need anyone to feed him ideas, he had his own. He couldn’t wait to sit down with his pencil and put his idea on paper. “No looking until it’s done, Mama!” But…I may have snuck a little peek. And what I saw were long green lines. Ah, yes, I thought, he’s inspired by the park, by the beautiful grass. A moment of self-approval washed over me for being that parent who inspires their child to draw the beauty of nature. “It’s done, Mama, you can look.” “Wow, Sen, that is beautiful grass. Good for you.” “No, Mama, it’s very long green hair!”

Ro, on the other hand, loves to draw. This past summer she was very interested in learning to draw from photos. Being intrigued by the curious Instagram app (that her mom paid a little too much attention to…), she asked if she could look through the photos there for inspiration on the days that we were doing drawings at home. As she scrolled through my Instagram feed, she began to understand why I was so drawn to it, with all the inspiration and creativity found in little 3X3 squares.

She ended up doing a few drawings over the summer that were inspired by photographs she saw on Instagram. I found it really interesting that she naturally chose photos from artists. A drawing I particularly liked was a fern study inspired by a photograph by artist Kajsa Wallin who goes by @kawaspics on Instagram. For this drawing, she had to really slow down and focus on the small differences between the leaves from different varieties of ferns.

On another day she drew dream catchers inspired by artist Faith Evans-Sills, who you can find as @faithevanssills on Instagram.

It might seem that way sometimes, but Instagram isn’t the only source of inspiration (note: read in sarcastic tone of voice). Something I try to do often is talk with Ro about inspiring historical figures like artists, peacemakers, politicians, and environmentalists. But just as important is talking with her about how we are all capable of great things and of inspiring others to action. One of these everyday people is Paulie Eaborn who is the creator of the Pray4Trax necklace. After hearing about the necklaces, I wanted share the story with Ro. These handmade, child safe necklaces are sold to raise money to support a boy named Trax, who is living with cystic fibrosis. Paulie and her son Tysi, have never met Trax or his mom Kassi, but they knew they wanted to help. What started as a small project selling necklaces to raise funds for Trax’s treatment, turned into a wave of support for Trax and awareness of the disease. And perhaps, most importantly, reminded us how one small action can have a huge impact. Tysi and Trax’s story really moved Ro, and she wanted to see the necklaces right away so she could draw them.

With my thoughts already, and always, drifting toward summer vacation, I am looking forward to renewing this activity while off with the children. Ro’s drawing technique has really evolved over the last few months, and Sen has finally found his own organic interest in drawing (mostly robots and ninjas, in case you were curious). I can hardly wait to see how they will fill their notebooks this summer, recording our days through the simple ritual of pencil to paper. Whether the rewards of last summer’s practice were felt by Ro and Sen, I’m not sure, I think that realization will take longer to come. And so, another summer of drawing it is!


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