The Baby Bird and the Snail: Nature Storyboarding Acts of Kindness

Collected natural treasures nest story of bird and snail

Today is International World Wildlife Day, last year I shared some ideas about how we can help conserve and protect wild plants and animals. I hope you’ll read that post when you’ve got the time.

This year, in honour of World Wildlife Day, I am sharing a story Ro wrote and storyboarded when she was 8. It is a story of a baby bird who lost her mother and made a new friend, the snail. The image she created that inspired the story is shown above (my photo, her arrangement).

During the warmer seasons, when snow and ice do not cover the ground we are always picking up little pieces of beauty as we walk about the city from one place to another. We are, as many of you know, pedestrians by default. Being walkers, slowly moving through the city, we always come home with a variety of pretties: feathers, shells, pinecones, flower petals, and so on. One day when we came home Ro decided to story board with the treasures. Ever since she was quite young she had played with a felt story board, which she loved. On this summer day, she decided to translate this activity into a new context using natural treasures. To begin, she used some white chalk to make a framed background on our porch and then went to work creating. When she was satisfied with her creation she called me over and shared her story.

The beauty she had created visually, and more significantly the beauty of the story itself, was so touching I had to take a few photos and transcribe the story. It’s been 3 years now, and finally, the right day has arrived to share.

Here is Ro’s story:

The Baby Bird and the Snail

“One day a baby bird’s mother went out as usual to find food, but did not return. An accident took her life.

The baby bird was heartbroken and cried in the nest for many days.

Others heard the cries and figured out what happened, so they began bringing gifts of food and beauty to sustain the baby bird.

The nest became surrounded in gifts, but still the baby bird did not emerge.

And so, a young snail decided to risk it’s own life and go into the nest to comfort the bird.

The bird was so touched by this (risky) act of kindness that she realized others cared for her and that she would have a friend to go through life with.

The end.”

I hope this story will touch your heart, inspire acts of kindness and connection across species and ways of life, and that you’ll be inspired to create beauty with natural, sustainable materials.

Today is World Wildlife Day, so hug a tree, kiss an animal, and love all life. Find, make and share the beauty of the natural world and simple acts of kindness. Raise yourself, raise others, raise positive change. Together we can raise a generation of global guardians.

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2015 Moment of the Year

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Last year, when my blog was still brand new, I shared some of my favourite photos from 2014 from people I follow on Instagram. I love photography for what it can capture that our eye misses, the way in which it aids and embellishes our memories, and for its beauty. But photography, for me, is never about honing technical skill or developing expertise with an apparatus. This approach to photography makes the skill and the photo objects in themselves, often demanding more value than the content of the photo or the memory it captures. I’m always much more drawn to photography that tells a story, that captures a moment rather than constructing one. In this sense I don’t concern myself with improving my photography skills, I want my photos to be organic and to capture something real. This means that I don’t capture much of our life indoors, because the lighting is too low in our home and I would need to improve my skills to capture moments in the way I experience them. In contrast, when photographing my children outdoors I feel as though the photo captures the moment as I experienced it. All this to say, as way of an introduction, that my favourite photo from 2015 is my favourite because it organically captured a number of ideas that are important to me; they are themes in my photography and the ideas I strive to convey in the photography and writing I share here and on Instagram. These themes are: sibling love, nature connection, and minimalist fun.

In the last week of 2015, I began looking through my roll of photos from the past year, rediscovering moments shared with the children and Matt, remembering fun times at home, in our city and while travelling. I collaged some favourites of each child, which I like to do as a way of tracking their change over the year and honing in on their dominant personality characteristics. Ro inspires me with her innate connection to the natural world; we all have that connection, but she feels it deeply and honestly. She inspires me with her creativity, her kindness, her compassion for all life of earth and for her organic way of being. She knows who she is and she lives it every minute of the day.

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Sen grew up a lot in the last year, he’s still my baby, but he’s very much a child most days. I’m still grateful everyday for our surprise pregnancy that brought him into our life. His birth brought everything that was important to us into very sharp focus; that’s what struggles do, and I’m so thankful for him and that struggle. Over the last year, Sen has shown his sweet character each day. He’s full of wonder, innocence, adventure, belly laughs and pure brilliance.

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Capturing siblings moments of interaction, shared space, love and laughs is something I strive for. I want Ro and Sen to have a record of their adventures together and how they got along. I have a hard time with the notion that sibling rivalry is a normal aspect of sibling relationships, and so I strive to ensure that I capture them happily co-existing. I also try my hardest to ensure they are in a space that keeps both of them happy, which is almost always an unstructured natural space. Has anyone else noticed how arguments and conflict evaporate when you take your children into the great outdoors? Somewhere without play structures and curated fun, somewhere where their curiosity and imagination are ignited, and perhaps, even, an inherent biological disposition to get along in the wild kicks in?

And so, my favourite moment of 2015, is captured in an image, it was a fleeting perfect moment. In that photo sibling love shines strong, Ro and Sen are connecting with each other and the moment, enjoying each other’s company, experiencing more joy than any toy or thing will ever bring them, doing so with their bodies hugged up against the ground, the earth, connected physically to the planet that sustains them. When I see my children enjoying life to the fullest out in nature without toys or gear or gadgets, but simply relating to each other or reflecting inwardly, I feel as though I’ve accomplished something great. Allowing them to experience first hand that all they need in life are good relationships, the rest is decoration. True happiness never comes from things, it comes from within and from our relationships. When they experience this happiness in the natural world, more often, more easily, they feel drawn to it, collect fond memories of time in natural spaces, and feel that nature is part of them. It is only natural then that they should seek to protect and nourish that which sustains them and their happiness.

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In a sense, there were many moments of the year in 2015, when exactly these things were happening. But by luck I captured an image of it. One that set me on a path of reflection, asking myself what is it that I understand in an embodied, unconscious way, but can’t articulate? How do I describe what I know to be the value, the story, of this image? Capturing what the eye often misses, my camera caught one of the many moments of the year and helped me articulate embodied knowledge.

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When in Rome: The Ottawa Edition

In the news! I was by asked my friends (Carina and Bree) over at Peaks & Harbours to contribute to their series “When in Rome” where they profile cities in terms of their fun, artful, adventurous and family-friendly activities. Sounds like a great resource, right?!

We live a pedestrian lifestyle, so we are out and about walking around Ottawa every weekend, rain or shine, sun or snow. Ottawa is bursting with natural beauty, art experiences and adventure, so it was pretty hard to pick my favourite three spots to share. If you know me well, maybe you can guess…

Find out here.

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image   A Day in New York City

image   Visiting Philadelphia

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Summer Trip Part 2: A Day in NYC

We arrived in New York City around 6:30 pm on Sunday, after a 9 hour train ride that started in St. Albans, Vermont (photos of Part 1 are here). Tuckered out from our long day, we did a little walking around Times Square and then retired to the room we had rented on the border of Chinatown and Soho.

The next morning, with 10 hours until our bus ride to Philadelphia the kids woke up early, excited to explore the city.  We kept true to our modus operandi in Ottawa, walk out the door and see what the city has to offer. But first a peek out the window…image

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…finding greenery wherever we go, Soho had a number of beautiful ivy covered walls.

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…on our way to market for breakfast we stopped to play at Union Square Park, a nostalgic place for us, as the children played there three years ago when we visited.

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…outside Union Square park there is a fantastic farmers market where we grabbed fresh fruit for breakfast, and, of course, enjoyed the flowers and colours inspiration.

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…walking past the Flat Iron Building on our way to the flower district (is that’s what it’s called?)

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…plants in the alleys of the flower district, Ro found a fallen hibiscus and put it in her hair.

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…colour and texture inspiration sitting on the sidewalk.

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…headed back to our room to pick up our bags for our bus trip, walking back slowly via the High Line.

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…it was a hot day, popsicles for a late afternoon lunch. Ro had hibiscus and Sen had lemonade.

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…getting wet in this fun water feature on the High Line, the kids also played here three years ago when we visited. Ahhh, memories.

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…Sen trying to keep up with his summer list “Swim Every Day” commitment, laying down in a half inch of water. I’ll allow it!

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…off the High Line, walking through Soho and inspired by the texture and pattern of this grate.

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…quick stop in at Purl Soho, enjoying the colours, patterns, textures, and Ro in search of the perfect teal colour for her mood board for the dress she is designing with Mimolab.

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…Sen fascinated by the winder.

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…she found the perfect teal colour.

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…and now to grab our bags, rush over to the bus terminal, on our way to Philadephia. Stay tuned for Part 3.

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Clothing details: Sen’s honey bee organic underwear from Underables; Sen’s swim bottom from Gardner and the Gang; Sen’s striped romper from Little Heirloom; Ro’s top from American Apparel and skirt from Little Heirloom; we all wear Salt Water Sandals from Mini Mioche.

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Mindfulness & Making a Flower Crown

I had planned on sharing photos, of our recent trip to the United States, in chronological order. But as I was biking home from work today, I was struck very strongly with the urge to share our experience making a flower crown with Kaity Ferrell while we were in Nantucket, which happened closer to the end our trip. I hadn’t planned on writing a post about making a flower crown, since it was a spontaneous activity, but it was such a lovely, mindful learning experience that I wanted to give it it’s own space on the blog.
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Now, first off, for those of you who don’t know me very well, I do not let my children pick flowers, pluck leaves from trees, tear at grass, or in anyway take the lives of plants needlessly or for aesthetic reasons. This is not because I have any special knowledge of what a plant death is like, but out of an interest in living consistently and holistically, as much as possible. We do not eat animals or animal products, and limit the inclusion of animal fibers in our wardrobe, including them only when they are the more environmentally friendly option. We do this because we don’t think it is our human right to take life. Animal life or plant life. Having said this, we know that, however mindfully and carefully we tread upon this earth, we do take lives. We eat plants plentifully to nourish ourselves. And we certainly indavertently and accidentally take the lives of countless animals, mainly insects, as we go about our lives. However, when we had children we decided that we wanted to be as consistent as possible with our children in terms of the belief that taking a life is not a given right, a life should not be taken lightly, and a life should never ever be something we take “just because we can,” because we are a dominant species. Picking a flower is easy to do, a young child can do it with little effort. If and when our children do take lives we want them to be mindful about it and always limit it as much as possible. Enough of a diversion into our flower politics…on to making a crown.

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When we arrived on the island of Nantucket our first host, the absolutely divine, Kaity Ferrell, along with her son Iley, greeted us at the port. Their big smiles and sweet souls wrapped hugs around us as though we’d been friends forever. It was a beautiful welcome. Kaity took us to a favourite beach and then after some time in the sun and a dip in the ocean we returned to her beautiful, simple homestead.

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I am not someone who plans their day, even while on travel. I really like to be spontaneous and go with the flow of where things take me. So, of course, upon arriving at Kaity’s we had no particular idea of how we would occupy our time. While Sen and Iley set to playing with Lego, Ro and I were curious to see Kaity’s garden, where she grows fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Given that Kaity’s garden is source of ingredients for her foods and the goods she sells, we were surprised by how much space was afforded to growing flowers. I asked Kaity what she used them for and if she sold them at the farmers market. She replied “I sell some, not many, but they are just beautiful to have around, right?” Yes! I felt a little silly for assuming that she would necessarily pick or cut them for her products and goods.

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As Ro and I admired a bouquet of flowers, that was now a few days old, sitting on Kaity’s dining table, Kaity suggested that we make a flower crown. Not surprisingly, we have never made one, since we would never happen to find and collect enough fallen flowers (with stems intact) on a given day to make one. In that moment, I instantly felt as though this was the right time and place to make a flower crown. Kaity’s reverence and connection to her garden and the lives she grows there assured me that if ever there was a time and place for respectful, mindful picking, it would be done here, with Kaity as our guide. My intuition also told me this experience would deepen Ro’s respect for plant life and wouldn’t lead to a slippery slope of picking flowers for aesthetic purposes.

Ro and I followed Kaity around her garden as she gently cut a few flowers, naming them as she did and talking about her experience growing them. Once she had a small bouquet cut, she sat with Ro and started to braid the flowers, explaining to Ro how to continue the braid and how to handle the flowers with care. Ro took the flower braid and continued until all the flowers had been used. Then Kaity looped the braid back on itself and tied it securely with some kitchen string. The braid was the exact right length for Ro’s head, with no wasted flowers. It was as if it was meant to be! But I also knew there was some sort of deep embodied knowledge in Kaity that allowed her to know exactly how many flowers to cut, and how the braid would come together.

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Overall the experience of making a crown with Kaity was wonderful. While on an intellectual level, I have to admit that cutting flowers was a conflicted experience for me. On a bodily level I feel at peace with the experience. Ro wore the crown for the rest of the day and evening, and Sen, without any prompting asked to wear it too! We saved the crown during the rest of our travels gingerly protecting it in our picnic basket, and it will, in its dried form, hang on the wall in Ro’s room (see it here), as a reminder of our experience with Kaity, but also as a reminder to live mindfully and with respect for all life.

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Thank you very much, Kaity, for hosting us in Nantucket and for sharing your positive energy and kindness with us. Readers: you can read more about Kaity in my interview with her here and please find her on Instagram @fareisle and on her awesome website www.fareisle.com and her blog here.

Clothing details: Canadian-made merino tops worn by Ro and Sen by Luv Mother; Ro’s plaid tunic by Kids on the Moon; Ro’s dijon skirt from Little Heirloom; Sen’s organic striped leggings by Mabo; Ro’s sandals from Mini Mioche.

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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 www.peaksandharbours.com.

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.

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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.

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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 www.600sqft.com 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.

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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.

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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 www.peaksandharbours.com; or her personal site www.carinamarienilsson.com.

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Summer Lists: Of Sun, Sand and Strawberries

Hippie in Disguise Ottawa River Wildflowers

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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Hippie in Disguise ro and sen Chassin Rideau Canal

Talking Motherhood and Minimalist Fun with boy+girl

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In the news! I was interviewed by boy+girl as part of their series on motherhood. I loved doing this interview, because they asked really great questions that got me thinking more deeply about life and career and pushed me to open me up more on the topic of motherhood and my own struggles. You’ll also hear about my personal style, the aesthetic of my home, where I want to live internationally and lots more. Please check it out. And a few excerpts to whet your appetite…

On motherhood:

“Feeling in a deep and embodied way what unconditional love means: it is a gift. The challenge that comes with that is the vulnerability you feel knowing that unconditional love ultimately means loss. Motherhood has given me the gift and reason to live life fully.”

On personal style:

“My style is classic with bohemian mixed in, and, as much as possible, sustainable. I avoid fashion trends because fast fashion leads to waste.”

Advice to my 20 something self:

“Follow your passions and don’t worry about being practical!”

I hope you’ll skip over there to have a read.

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Urban Adventures or Wanderlust with Kids

With spring weather around the corner, the children and I are getting excited for our first urban adventure of the year. We’re pedestrians year round, walking almost everywhere we travel to in the city; however, in the cold weather months the walking is more for the purpose of transportation than it is an activity unto itself. In the winter we walk with a destination in mind. In the spring, summer and fall, walking is the destination. Wander, weave, flounder and flow, the streets, alleys and parks around us form a patchwork of sights, sounds, smells and sensations underfoot.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve craved walking: wandering without purpose throughout the city, the countryside, just exploring and waiting for the unexpected to present itself. I suppose I had wanderlust, though I certainly hadn’t heard of the term when I was a young teen who wished to spend her off hours wandering aimlessly, rather than shopping or hanging out at coffee shops. It seems wrong to say “aimlessly” or “without purpose;” certainly the walking restocked my energies and delivered inspiration by way of silhouettes, architecture, graffiti, street performers, weeds growing rampant under a loading dock.

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Sen’s rabbit tee by KLT works and organic harem pants by Mini Mioche

Aside from wanderlust, my environmental preoccupations motivate me to move around in the least harmful way I can. Using my own motor is not only healthy for me, but healthier for the planet. When I met my husband, Matt, he was similarly disenchanted with moving himself through space using anything other than his own body as a motor. He loved to explore and find new spots in the city and its rural outskirts. However, he wanted to move and explore by bicycle. He had no interest in going for an after dinner walk, or leaving an hour early for school so we could take a meandering detour to get to class. We spent many years separately doing our own after dinner ritual. Now after a decade or so I’ve worn him down…or rather he’s learned to love a good wander. He still rides his bicycle at least three times a day though!

We live in the downtown of our city, so there is a lot to discover within walking distance. And by walking distance, I mean we can walk somewhere (at a child’s pace) in 2 to 3 hours or less. Most often, we spend more time getting somewhere than the time we actually spend there, because the walk is just as enjoyable. This ‘breaks’ the common rule that when you drive on a trip somewhere you need to spend at least triple the time there to make the ‘car time’ worth it. Unless, of course, you are a road tripper, and the drive is the destination. But I digress….

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Sen’s monochrome rainbow tee by Sweet Luka Mo

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One of the first thoughts I had when I learned I was pregnant was that I would have a new excuse to spend hours wandering the city while pushing my baby in the pram — which is a very common way to ‘nap’ your child where we lived at the time. As my children got older I wanted to find a way to nurture a love for wandering, admittedly to serve my own interests, but also because I think there is a lot to learn from wandering. Both learning from the space in which you wander, but also to learning about ourselves. Wandering cultivates a sense of curiosity in and reverence for the mundane, which I think are necessary capacities to develop and nurture, particularly in a fast-paced and over-stimulated world. I could go on and on about all the positive things that wandering teaches us, but I will save some for future posts, since I’ll be posting about our urban adventures over the coming weeks and months. (I need to save some goodies so you’ll come back for more!)

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While off with the children for a few weeks during the last two summers, we would alternate days at the pool park, with a picnic to last us the day, and days wandering the city. At first, Ro would ask “when will be there?” She was focused on a particular destination: the river, the bakery, the gallery. But over time, she began to enjoy the walks themselves and became a more keen observer, looking down streets and alleys, finding dirt paths that could be interesting, and taking an interest in leading us toward discovery.

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Sen’s owl raglan by Pop Kids USA and organic striped leggings by Sweet Luka Mo

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For Sen, being much younger, he still very much lives in the moment, so he enjoyed the wandering and didn’t expect to “get somewhere.” He especially enjoyed our walks when I called them adventures. “What will we discover today, Sen?” I found it really helped, for both children, to give them a few things to look for: a flower they’ve never seen before, a sculpture, a spot for a picnic. It gave them an orientation for the walk and raised their sense of observation. As the summer went on, they no longer needed prompts from me, they would just let loose and see what struck their fancy as they walked along a sidewalk or path. I was very happy to see they had come to love wandering. So much so, that at times I found myself trying to usher them along more quickly, for they wished to stop to greet every snail crossing the sidewalk or count all the different varieties of wild flower on a hill — not to mention the childhood classic: picking up every single stick to bring home. Perhaps I’d gotten a little too much of a good thing going. But seriously, I couldn’t fault the activity of letting children roam, discovering, spending endless hours outdoors, learning the map of their city through the movements of their own body. We have gotten to a point where can be a great distance from home and Ro can always lead us back. And Sen can lead us about half the time. As a parent of urban children, I think it is a great asset for a young child to know how to navigate the city themselves.

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All in all, I’m pretty happy that my children enjoy my favourite pastime. But more importantly, I see the great benefits wandering provides them. Chief among these is appreciation for the path as much as the destination, which brings about the potential to reframe everything we do.

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Photo 9-26-2014, 3 42 39 PM

Sen’s organic leggings by Mini Mioche

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