Beauty In The Busy

Finding beauty, laughter, and thoughtfulness in my busy day-to-day life.

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Getting creative

I am really good at pinning creative ideas, and even better at buying supplies for creative projects to do with my kids, but I’m really BAD at actually completing these projects. Sometimes I’m even bad at starting them! I like the idea of it, I’m full of good intentions, but following through on those creative ideas is another matter.


(Oh, I’ll make more things, all right, but I won’t stop pinning!)

This week was my second consecutive week of vacation, and while we were kept busy for the first week with a fun camping trip with some family, I found myself starting to experience some boredom and cabin fever come week 2. As it’s mid-August, the kids are also starting to get squirrelly and spend more time in front of screens than I would like. We don’t have a lot of disposable income for day trips, and the weather has less than reliable anyways. So although I’ve been having a good time with all the extra baking and cooking I’ve been doing, I decided it was time to get a bit crafty with the kids for a change. I went rummaging through Kitten’s cupboard and dug out all of our rarely-used craft supplies.

Our first project was Woodsies. I bought these on a whim one day at the Dollar Store and then never followed through on showing the kids what to do with them. I used to love crafting with these as a kid! Basically, you have a bag of random, assorted wooden shapes, and you can assemble them into whatever shapes you like using glue, then paint them.


This kept me and the kids busy for a good hour. I’d show you a picture of what we created, including a bunny, an eyeball, a person, a flower, and a frog, but we didn’t put them in a safe place soon enough and so they’ve been scattered, lost, and/or broken! Oops! I knew I should have put magnets on the back and stuck them on the fridge!

Next, we tacked a project that had been sitting in the cupboard for over a year! Shameful, I know! I had gotten a kit for making 2 stepping stones, so we went to the Dollar Store and and picked out some decorations (shells and stones), and moulds (2 foil cake pans). Easy and cheap! We mixed the cement in an old toy bucket, (the dust caused some widespread gagging…pour slowly!) poured it into the moulds, jiggled them to smooth out the top, and then popped the resulting air bubbles with a pencil. Then, the kids got to work pushing in the shells, decorative stones, and their handprints! I tried to write the date on them, but I did it when the cement was still too wet, so it slowly filled in. Oh well! They’ve been drying for a few days now so I’m going to pop them out of the moulds and place them in the yard. A nice keepsake, I think!

stepping stones

For our last project, we needed just a couple of plain ceramic mugs and an assortment of colourful permanent markers, again, all from the Dollar Store. Are you sensing a theme here?


This project was quick and easy and I got the idea from Pinterest. I was intending to have the kids decorate plates, but we could only find plastic plates, so we just got the mugs instead. Just as cute! The kids had fun drawing and writing on their mugs, and then I baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. This makes the decorations permanent and washable. Some of the colours faded with the baking process, but no biggie! Overall, they turned out great and the kids love using the mugs they decorated themselves. I’m thinking this project would be a great future gift idea from the kids to family/friends.


Here’s what typically annoys me about doing crafts and stops me from following through: I feel like it always takes longer to set up, referee the process, and then clean up then it does for the kids to actually enjoy completing the project! But…I will admit….these crafts saved a couple of days from boredom-induced madness, and now we have some lovely keepsakes to remember our time together! Totally worth the trouble!

I gotta do this more often!

Got any other great, thrifty, and not-too-messy craft ideas? Share!



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Chill Pills

When someone I’m with is freaking out about something, I can usually be counted on to tell them to “Take a chill pill!” This is perhaps not politically correct from a mental health perspective, but since I myself take daily anxiety meds, I’m allowed, right? OK, not really. But anyways, I do think it’s important that everyone know what their most effective “chill pills” are, and I’m not talking about Xanax or Ativan. I’m talking about the things that we can do for ourselves to help ourselves relax, take a load off, and go to our happy place.

Here’s a list of my favourite chill pills, likely missing some things, and in no particular order, because that’s how I roll:

1. Knowing what you love to do and carving out the time to do it.

Have a hobby! It can be as common (knitting! baking! gardening!) or as completely random (making pet rocks! playing the ukelele!) as you want. Who cares? It’s just something you enjoy doing whenever you do it. In a previous post, I said that I believe that the key to success is finding a healthy balance between hard work and relaxation/fun time. Working hard is a necessity to get by in this world, and it builds character, grows hair on your chest, yadayadayada. However, making sure to carve out time every day for rest/relaxation and FUN is equally important, in my opinion. It keeps you young, keeps you smiling, and why not enjoy life as much as possible? It’s short. Squeeze the enjoyment out of it!


2. Take care of yourself physically: Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep.

Well, I don’t have issues getting enough sleep. I LOOOOVVVES me my sleep. I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, sometimes fall asleep while watching TV, movies, or reading, and there are few things in life I enjoy as much as a spontaneous afternoon nap. Okay, so, seriously, I might have sleep apnea and I’m going to get that looked into! But I digress.

Exercising regularly and eating healthy don’t come AS easily to me, but I’m doing so much better than a few months ago! As a result, I feel better, not just physically, but emotionally. Every little change you make counts!


3. Take care of yourself emotionally: see the doctor and get counseling if you need to!

Seriously, if you’re feeling down in the dumps for more than a few weeks, thinking thoughts that are scary or just “not you”, worrying, obsessing, etc….take care of it! There is so much more understanding and support when it comes to  mental health now than there used to be. There are so many ways you can get help and I speak from experience when I say that getting help can CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Stop dilly-dallying and trying to tough it out on your own, and go talk to someone already!


4. Take care of yourself spiritually.

Who or what feeds your soul? Seek it out! I’m not doing great in the churchgoing department at this juncture in my life for a variety of reasons, but I’m working on getting back in that groove. For now, praying remains my happy place. I find peace while talking to God. I also find serenity when surrounding myself in God’s creation. For others, it might be reading Scriptures or meditation. Whatever it is, don’t forget:


5. Foster relationships with family and friends.

Few things are more satisfying than a meal, old stories, and lots of new laughs shared with family and/or close friends. And just as important as having someone to share good times with is having a couple of trusted shoulders to cry on when need be. Don’t let your world shrink too much; always leave room and time to share yourself, and be there for those you love. Loneliness sucks. Gaining and maintaining relationships may take some effort, but it’s always worth it.

My long-time friend and fellow blogger!

My long-time friend and fellow blogger!

6. Teach your kids independence.

Life is tough and sometimes we grown-ups need a break! And sometimes we parents forget that our little ones are growing bigger and more capable by the day. I teach my children how to help out around the house not only because it benefits them in teaching them life skills and responsibility, shapes their character, and keeps them busy and out of trouble, but also because FRIG, why should Carter and I be doing all of this work by ourselves?! We certainly didn’t MAKE all this mess ourselves! LOL. But seriously, more hands make for lighter work. In our family, I often emphasize to the kids that we are a team and must work together! Not only are they expected to tidy up after themselves, but my kids also help out by setting and clearing the table, folding and putting away their laundry, keeping their rooms clean, putting clean dishes away, helping take care of the dog, etc. Some days I ask very little of them and they spend most of their time playing, or they have homework they need to do first and foremost, but every now and then, if we’re exhausted and having a rough time, I’ll just tell be honest with them about it, and ask that they step up more than usual and really help Momma and Daddy out. And they do! Not necessarily without some whining and struggle, but we always get past that eventually. And it’s great for all of us: a weight off our shoulders while we recuperate, and a chance for them to grow in responsibility and learning to care for others, and be proud of their accomplishments at the end of the day.


7. Try to keep on top of daily chores.

We all need a lazy day here and there where we don’t do much, if anything, at all. But rare is the day that I don’t do at least SOMETHING in the way of keeping that omnipresent laundry moving through the system, and rare is the day that I don’t do a basic main-floor-tidy-up, or at least most of the dishes (sometimes I just can’t bring myself to do those last few disgusting pots and pans! Nothing wrong with a good overnight soaking!). Because when even the basics start to pile up, I will start to feel very overwhelmed very quickly. So for me, doing the bare minimum on a tough day is easier on me in the long run than doing nothing at all. Dishes+laundry+tidy=still sane!


8. Give yourself a break!

No one’s house is clean all the time. A night of vegging out in front of the TV isn’t going to damage your kids for life. Screw the pot roast: we’re ordering pizza or having cereal for dinner! Sometimes you just have to pick your battles and let the non-life-threatening things slide while you catch your breath and enjoy some downtime.

keep calm

9. Escape!

One of my favourite happy places is anywhere but here. It’s not as terrible as it sounds, though.  Sometimes when I need to chill, the best thing I can do is get out of my own head and my own life’s problems altogether for a while: I’ll lose myself in a good book, watch some smut (because other people’s problems are so much more entertaining than our own!) or a good movie, or daydream/plan. And when I say plan, I don’t mean problem-solve, I mean, mentally plan that fantasy trip to Europe we’re gonna take someday…or that tour-the-country-in-a-mobile-home retirement plan that Carter and I chat about sometimes. Also, stepping out of the here and now can give you a little perspective! Like, while planning your dream retirement, you might think, “When I’m 75, I’m not going to remember hardly anything about what happened the year that I was 32!” Or when watching the Walking Dead, you might think, “See? Things aren’t so bad for me after all!”


10. Get some fresh air.

I rarely feel better than I do when I’ve been outside, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. I find it very grounding and humbling to get away from our petty people-problems and be reminded of  where (Who) it all comes from by surrounding myself with the greatness, the intricacy, and the beauty of nature.




11. Something funny. Anything funny!

Humour is definitely the fuel that keeps me going sometimes. Don’t be afraid to be silly, and laugh at yourself! Sometimes when I need a quick emotional pick-me-up I’ll watch a funny sitcom, or browse the humour boards on Pinterest until I get the giggles. Never do I feel better than when I’m laughing, and it’s rare that I can’t find SOMETHING to laugh about.


So how about you? What are your favourite chill pills?






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The Change Continues…

I’m right in the middle of enjoying two lovely weeks of vacation. This has meant more sleep, less stress, more time with family and friends, and less time on the road. It’s also meant more time to enjoy getting back into one of my favourite hobbies; baking!

I’ve really fallen off the home baking/cooking bandwagon a lot in the last few months as work hours and stress have increased. Carter helped by taking over a lot of the cooking, but baking definitely took a backseat. Okay, it pretty much just didn’t happen. Having some more time to myself lately as well as cultivating our new interest in healthy eating has meant that I’ve finally gotten my butt back in the kitchen, and I’m loving it!


This morning, while out blueberry picking with Kitten and my sister, my sister offered us a “chocolate bar.” She wouldn’t tell us what was in it until we tried it. We tried it and loved it! Turns out, she had made some chocolate date bars. When she described the ingredients, I recognized them from Pinterest recipes I’ve seen for homemade “Lara” bars. They seemed to me like something that health fanatics SAY taste delicious, but are disgusting to those of us who actually enjoy sweets in all their sinful glory! Well, I was wrong! These things are amazing!


As soon as I got home (after stopping off at the grocery store for some dates and seeds), I did some poking around on Pinterest, and ended up making my own homemade Lara bars, with a nut-free twist, as I enjoy not dying (I have a nut and legume allergy).

I used this recipe as my guide:

Homemade Chocolate Lara Bars by Ellaphant Eats

Instead of almonds and pecans, I used a mixture of mostly sunflower seeds with some large-flake oats, shredded coconut, and even a handful of banana chips. The mixture was a coming out a bit dry, so I just added a date at a time to the food processor while it was running until it became the sticky dough that the recipe described. The bars ended up being moist, fudge-textured, naturally sweet, and chocolatey, and everyone in my family loved them and wanted more than one; even fussy Frog! Score! I despise raisins and prunes and as a result have always turned my nose up at any recipe containing dates, expecting the product to taste like a giant pureed raisin (barf), but this recipe has converted me. I’ve pinned a few more homemade Lara bar recipes for future reference and am excited that there are many variables and flavours possible, all made from healthy, whole ingredients, no added oils or sweeteners, and whipped up in ten minutes or less, with no actual baking required! I think these will become a regular healthy snack option in my household.  Next time I’m going to try to make them with cocoa instead of chocolate chips to amp up the health factor; but I was trying to ease the family in gently. 🙂

chocolate lara bars

Try them; you might also be surprised at just how delicious healthy can be!