Tuesday, 29 December 2020

2020 Lessons Learned

Hey y’all. It’s been a minute. If you’ve been keeping up with me on Instagram, or Instagram stories in particular, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling to keep afloat these last few months. Between moving, Benny being a toddler, home Renos, lapsed work contracts that all needed to be fulfilled at the same time and - you know - the full-blown global crisis we’ve all been dealing with, it’s been a lot. I’ve had to let go of certain things in my life in order to keep my head above water and unfortunately one of those things has been my blog. 

That being said, I couldn’t let the year go by without publishing my annual end-of-year posts: my lessons learned and my goals for the upcoming year. This year’s 2020 lessons learned will be tough to summarize and put into words because I feel like this damn year has been serving me lessons on the daily. I can truly say that I’m not the same person exiting the year as I was entering and while it was a tough transition, I’m leaving the year a better person than I started. 2020 has stripped away at everything that I thought were givens in life, exposed the material possessions that I hid behind to form an identity and has truly shown me both my biggest strengths and glaring flaws. It’s been difficult and it’s been challenging, but it’s also been beautiful as well. My ego checked, my sense of gratitude restored and my mind opened. What a hell of a year. 

Here are my biggest lessons of 2020. 

Listen to understand, not to react. 

This is a doozy. Remember when I mentioned about getting my ego checked? Through the course of the year, we’ve seen the world change in ways that we all could have never imagined and with this change removed all of the distractions we allowed to cloud our vision along the way. When the Black Lives Matter movement came into the spotlight, my eyes were opened to what oppression exists within our own society, which I had naively taken for a racial Europa. I learned about privilege, being anti-racist and white fragility - the last one showing me some glaring truths about my behavior and mentality so far. It was the first time that I was able to truly listen and [try to] understand instead of react with ego and defensiveness. And at 35 years old, that’s pretty sad. 

I’m far from perfect and I still have a lot of work to unlearn my behaviors, but I’m really trying to check my ego at the door and resist the urge to react to situations with anger, defensiveness and using my own very specific life examples as arguments. I’m looking forward to continuing the work in the new year. 

The Perfect Timing Doesn’t Exist. 

This lessons coincides with a very big life milestone that we checked this year, and it was the purchase of our very first house. 

Now, if you were to have known Brian and I in the last 10 years then you will have heard us ripping into the Toronto real estate market. We were both convinced that housing was absolutely ridiculous in the city and that a crash was inevitable. We would study real estate data, read articles that agreed with our views and scoff at those that opposed it. Our plan was to continue to save for a sizable down payment and purchase a property in the city once prices had come down, living with a very small mortgage or even mortgage free. I’ll pause for you to stop laughing. 

Well, after having Benny and trying to make a very small condo with with 2 adults, a baby and a dog work, we threw in the towel and decided to go ahead and start looking for houses. After a few months of house hunting in the city, changing our minds multiple times (from larger condos to two story lofts to eventually houses) we ended up purchasing our very first property in Toronto. We figured that the market had held for so long that it was maybe unshakable. 

Then, exactly a week to the date we bought our first place, the entire world shut down from Covid. To us, a real estate crash was inevitable. 

To say that we were crushed would be an understatement. I know that I felt incredibly stupid for having what we had been prophesying for years happen right after making a commitment. It was a pretty dark time, and added to the already stressful situation of trying to navigate our first lockdown. 

Anyways, long story short, against all odds the housing market held and the crash that we have anticipated as inevitable was avoided (for now at least.) All of that worry and bruised ego for no reason. 

The whole point of this ramble, and the lesson that I’ve taken away from the experience, is that there truly is no such thing as perfect timing. You can try to predict the future as much as you want, but ultimately it’s out of your control and you shouldn’t let what could-be dictate the course of your life. I learned a lesson about risk, and how sometimes taking a risk isn’t such a bad thing. 

Ultimately I’m happy that we waited to buy since we were in a much better position to truly understand what we needed in a property with a child. Would we have been better off financially if we had gotten into the market years earlier? Maybe. Probably. Who knows, you truly can never predict. But I’m learning to trust my gut more, take a chance, make decisions based on myself and my family and less on trying to find the perfect timing to move forward. 

The Perfect Parent Doesn’t Exist. 

Can I tell you a shameful secret? I honestly thought that I had this whole parenting thing nailed at the beginning of 2020. Blessed with a very chilled newborn who loved to sleep and an easygoing, calm baby, I honestly thought that I had the whole motherhood work/life/personal thing on lock and wondered why I ever believed people when they said that parenting was hard. I got ready everyday, showered regularly, wore nice outfits and was killing it at work. Parenting is easy!

Then the pandemic hit, and the village that I had relied on (heavily) to help out with Benny was cut off. Our condo all of a sudden became very small. And then - bam - Benny started crawling andI couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Not even for a second. 

Multitasking became a thing of the past, and I had to scramble to try to get everything done in a day while also wrangling a toddler. It was exhausting and pretty impossible for me. I understood how women struggle with the loss of their identity when they have kids because my entire life was consumed. 

In the end we found a new routine that helps to give me a little more balance, plus having the extra space has made a world of a difference in everyone’s happiness. I’m grateful for the time that I’m able to spend with Benny, and I feel like the whole situation has made me into a much less judgmental parent. I get that ‘this too shall pass’ goes for both the hard and easy times and we’re all just doing our best. 

There’s Beauty in a Slow Life

I fully admit that I subscribed to the culture of ‘busy.’ I was most comfortable in the chaos and felt as though a jammed packed schedule was synonymous with happiness and success. Needless to say, the pandemic really turned that view on its head for me. It took a while, but I’ve really had my eyes opened to the beauty and tranquility that comes with a slower pace of life. How when you cut out all of the noise, you can really see and appreciate what’s most important in life. Family, connecting with yourself and others, good food and laughter. 

Of course the biggest lesson I think that we all took away from this year is that health is truly wealth and to never take your health for granted. I’ve always known this, especially from working in funeral services, but this year really hit it home for me. I think that all of our eyes have been opened. 

So that’s it! My biggest lessons learned in an entire year of lessons, so much so that I could never truly articulate. 2020 is one for the books, that’s for sure. I’m taking everyday as it comes, and look forward to keeping all of the lessons close to heart as we move along. 

What do you guys think? What were some of your biggest lessons learned this year? Did 2020 turn your entire world upside down as well? Let me know!

Xo Joëlle 


Monday, 12 October 2020

Fall Activities with a Toddler (Downloadable List)


The weather has officially changed here in Ontario and there's no denying that Fall has arrived. As someone who feels like their best self in the summer, there's always a certain anxiety when the weather starts to cool and the colours on the trees start to change - especially this year! In the age of Covid, living in a partially locked down city and knowing that I'll be spending a lot more time indoors at home with a toddler has made this Fall season particualrly poignant. 

Instead of letting my thoughts get away from me, I've decided to fully embrace the season and dive into some toddler-friendly activities head on and have created a list to keep me focused! 

Wanting to start the autumn season strong, and start tacking my list, Benny and I took to the local pumpkin patch to explore and have some fun. You guys - maybe it's the curmudgeon in me, but I was not expecting to have as much fun as we did! Benny absolutely loved the pumpkin patch, and had a blast toddling around to all of the different sized pumpkins. We went through the corn maze and Benny was laughing hysterically as the wind blew threw the corn stalks and made funny noises. It was overall a 10/10 afternoon, and was a great and inexpensive way to spend some time outdoors while supporting a local farm.

If you're on the fence about wether bringing your toddler to a pumpkin patch is worth the stress of getting out the door, I say give it a try! We all had a blast, and I'll cherish the photos and memories forever.

I'm really excited to start completing tasks on our Fall Activities with a Toddler List and making the best of the changing seasons! 

What are you most excited for with Fall? Any activities that you have planned? Let me know!

xo Joëlle


Thursday, 17 September 2020

Beauty & Skincare Favourites with BeautySense.ca


It's not secret that I love beauty and skincare. From a young age, I've been virtually obsessed with makeup. Now that I'm in my thirties that obsession with all things beauty has extended into skincare, hair and body care products. I'm starting to realize that your canvas is just as important as the makeup you apply, and how investing in good products can make a world of a difference. That being said, there is certainly no shortage of selection on the market and the amount of products and retailers available can be overwhelming. For that reason I've rounded up my holy grail, tried and true beauty products that actually achieve results from me, all available from BeautySense.ca

Have you heard of BeautySense.ca? BeautySense is a 100% Canadian owned and operated Montreal-based spa that also offers a wide variety of products online from curated and trusted beauty brands. I was turned on to the online retailer and was blown away by their selection; in fact, I had no trouble locating my favourite hair, makeup and skincare products from their online site! Shipping is incredibly quick and, the best part, because BeautySense.ca is a Canadian beauty boutique there are no duties. I'm so excited to have found a Canadian retailer for my beauty needs.

So what are my holy grail products that I was able to find, you ask? Here are my top picks from BeautySense.ca. Products that I've been using for years that have guaranteed results for me.

Esthederm: Intensive Hyaluronic Cream

Now that I'm 35 years old, I need to be very diligent with ensuring that my skin is properly hydrated and moisturized - otherwise, I notice a big difference. Night creams are so important, and the Esthederm Intensive Hyaluronic Cream is hands down the best, and most effective night cream that I've ever tried. It provides your skin with hyaluronic acid and immediately moisturizes your skin. For me, I notice the biggest difference in my fine lines: it's almost as if my skin is being plumped from the inside out. If you're in the market for a new night cream, or are preparing for the upcoming dry winter season, then I would highly recommend to add the Esthederm Intensive Hyaluronic Cream to your cart.

OLAPLEX: No.3 Hair Perfector

Have you tried Olaplex? If you're someone like me who chemically processes their hair and uses lots of heat styling on it, then you're going to want to try this. Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector is a revolutionary at-home hair treatment that visibly strengthens hair and reduces breakage. This is a product that is typically used in professional hair salons, especially when chemically lightening hair, and now you can use this hair treatment at home too! The difference this one product makes to my hair is almost too good to describe - it makes my hair look and feel as though I have never dyed it! For real! Olaplex is one of those products where the hype is very much warranted, and I'm so happy that I'm able to purchase it from Beautysense.ca.

RMS Beauty: Champagne Rosé Luminizer

If you're familiar with my Youtube and IGTV videos where I go through my makeup routine, you'll know that I absolutely love the RMS Beauty Luminizers. I call this product 'youth in a jar' and with good reason: it literally gives your skin that glowing from within look to it. The RMS Luminizers are not sticky, glittery or greasy. They apply seamlessly and almost melt into your skin, leaving you with a very natural and etherial glow. I've been a fan since I first started using them almost 3 years ago, and am so happy that I'll now be able to shop them from BeautySense.ca.

Bioderma: Photoderm Autobronzant Moisturizing Tanning Spray

While I am now very aware of the damaging effects of the sun and have turned into someone who goes out of her way to avoid sitting in the sun, I still love a good tan. Having tanned skin makes me feel more confident, so I need to look at sunless options to get a glow. The Bioderma Photoderm Autobronzant Moisturizing Tanning Spray is a great option for those of us looking for a sunless bronze. I really like the spray application of this product, and the fact that you're able to build up a gradual tan. If you're missing the summer season already, the definitely pick this up from Beautysense.ca

With so many options available to us in the world of beauty products, I hope that I can help to narrow down to what has worked for me, and products that I keep restocking again and again. In a time where shopping Canadian is so important, I'm really happy that all of my favourites and then some can be found on Beautysense.ca.

What do you guys think? What are some of your holy grail beauty products? Have you shopped at BeautySense.ca before? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

Thank you Beautysense.ca for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.


Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Benny's Boho Nursery Reveal!

gender neutral boho nursery

 The time has finally come for me to share Benny's colourful boho-in-the-city nursery! We've come a long way from his small space condo nursery that was essentially our den and I'm so pleased how everything has evolved. Benny's room now is bright, spacious and full of personality and great energy - much like Benny himself! Although it's not totally done yet, (we're still waiting to rip out those damn carpets to put in hardwood) I'm really happy with the point the nursery is at now.

To be honest, even though we moved from a 750 square foot condo into a house in the city, we haven't bought much furniture. Benny's room is a great example - we actually repurposed all of his old nursery furniture from the condo, as well as added a wooden engineering chair that we preciously had in our condo's living room. Instead of buying new furniture (especially when his current furniture was perfectly fine) we instead opted to update and fill his space with some key accessories. Coupled with a fresh coat of paint (our trusty Benjamin Moore 'Simply White') and the room transformed before our eyes.

Take a look at Benny's nursery and allow me to show you what we used to update and make the room his own - without buying any new furniture.

Boho nursery tour

alpaca themed nursery

toronto home nursery reveal

nursery reveal

alpaca removable wallpaper

Let's talk about this absolutely adorable alpaca wallpaper from Anewall. I've been a huge fan of Anewall since seeing them in the nurseries of some of my favourite design accounts and blogger friends. I mean what's not to love - their wallpaper designs are so beautiful and add just the right amount of personality to any room! When I saw that they did an alpaca print, I knew that it would look perfect in Benny's nursery. It's cute, colourful and very gender neutral.

Although there are 3 different wallpaper options to select from with Anewall, we chose to go with the removable vinyl wallpaper. It's a bit more difficult to install (okay - a lot more difficult although to be fair, we were warned) but it makes me relieved to know that should we want to update the space in a few years time that removing the wallpaper won't be a nightmare. Plus, the removable options makes it perfect if you're renting!

I honestly think that having the alpaca print wallpaper as a focal point in Benny's nursery makes the room. I could not be happier with our decision, and am already scouting out other locations to wallpaper throughout our home.

washable mint green rug Lorena canals

If you've spoken to me since we've moved into our new place, you've probably heard me complain about the carpets. I just really hate the carpets, lol. With at least a few more months before we get our hardwood installed, I knew that I had to find a solution for the carpet in Benny's room. Enter this gorgeous, mint green rug from Lorena Canals, available at West Coast Kids. It's soft, comfy, adds the perfect amount of colour to Benny's nursery and - here's the best part - it's 100% cotton and machine washable. Cue the hallelujahs! I'm so happy with the look and quality of Lorena Canals pieces and am so excited to have this rug add some fun and colour to Benny's boho nursery.

wooden toys in gender neutral nursery

vintage car west coast kids nursery reveal

One of the things that I love the most about Benny's nursery is the size - it's massive (for Toronto standards, and especially after coming from 750 square feet.) Because of how large the room is, there is lots of room for a toy area in the corner. Although most of his toys are in his playroom in the basement, I like having a few things for Benny to play with in his room; it really helps when I'm trying to get stuff done in the nursery. Now I'm not opposed to big, bright and loud toys but I wanted the room to maintain a calm energy so I am very selective about what toys stay in the nursery - they need to be cute but also practical.

With that in mind, you know that this Vilac Toys vintage car from West Coast Kids had me at hello. You guys - it's perfect! Not only is it the most beautiful child's toy that I've ever seen, but it's also incredibly practical too. Benny loves this car! It's the cutest thing to see him zooming around his nursery in this car, all while laughing and giggling away. Vilac Toys has been building toys since 1911, and it shows in the detail and quality. Not only is this vintage car a beautiful piece for Benny's nursery now, but it will also transition nicely into his room decor as he grows. Love all around.

Pehr counting sheep mobile nursery styled

mother and son nursery reveal

It's amazing what little details can do for a space. Even with Benny's nursery, I wanted every element to be a mix of both beautiful design and practicality - not a small feat when looking for baby accessories. That's why I've always loved Pehr. Not only are the pieces simple and beautiful, but the company itself is really something that I can get behind - both Canadian and female run! 

I chose to go with the Pehr Stripes Away Hamper, Stripes Away Crib Sheet and finally was able to hang the Pehr Counting Sheep mobile that Benny received from his baby shower from family. I love them all, and they all add the perfect amount of colour and detail to Benny's nursery.

ikea kids bookshelf nursery

cuddle and kind doll

That's it! Benny's colourful, boho, city nursery is finally complete (for now) and ready to be enjoyed for years to come. Let me know what you think of how it turned out!

xo Joëlle

Items In Photos:


Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Tips For Taking Photos With A Baby Or Toddler


Honestly, where has the time gone? If you don't follow me on Instagram, you will have missed that my little baby Benny is now a one year old and has morphed into a full-fledged toddler overnight. Gone are the days of sleepy baby and sitting him down without much movement. Now this guy is literally anywhere and everywhere: crawling, standing, climbing - basically, just trying his best to keep mama on her toes.

All this to say that taking photos of and with a toddler is no-joke. Wether it's indoors or outdoors, local or on a trip, it doesn't seem to make things easier. Toddlers are just hellbent on being difficult to photograph.

Well, I will not be deterred! I love documenting Benny's life and our adventures via photos and hope to continue for as long as he will allow me. Even though taking photos with a toddler comes with its challenges, I have a few tips and tricks that I keep in my back pocket to make things a little easier. Here's how I get photos with my one year old (mostly) without losing my mind.

1. Bring A Variety Of Snacks 

The concept of snacks is definitely not groundbreaking when dealing with a toddler, but I try to pack as many different varieties as I can. If I know that we're going to be away from he house for an extended period of time, even just going to a park to snap a few photos, I load up on snacks and drinks. My trick is to bring a few different varieties of snacks and even a variety of drinks if I can. With Benny, if he starts to become fussy when we're out and taking photos, it's mostly because he's bored. Having a variety of different snacks and drinks keeps his attention for longer, and also makes sure that he's full, hydrated and happy. A win-win all around. 

Some of my favourite snacks to pack:

  • Arrowroot cookies
  • Puffs (usually the savoury kind for some variety)
  • Whole fruits (bananas travel well)
  • Purée packs 
  • Juice boxes
  • Water bottles with ice

2. Take Breaks

Going back to toddlers becoming fussy because of boredom, I've learned to operate on a much slower timeline with trying to get photos with a busy baby. That means taking 5 fairly often to eat some snacks, sing songs, play with toys and generally just change up the activity for a bit. A break can even be putting the camera down to look at a tractor for half and hour (been there.) I basically operate on a very relaxed timeline and try to give into the fact that there will be many breaks between photos - and that's okay.

3. Consider Videos Instead

Sometimes, try as I may, I cannot get Benny to sit still long enough to take a cute photo. What can I say, the man is on the move. Rather than stress out about getting the perfect photo when it may not be a possibility, I turn to video instead. Honestly, having a video camera in the form of your phone on you at all times is such a blessing with active toddlers! I love capturing clips of Benny and our everyday life and adventures with video. It may not be the picture-perfect memory that I was hoping for, but its such a beautiful and realistic snapshot of what life is like during that moment in time. 

4. Hire A Professional

Honestly, the biggest takeaway here is to hire a professional photographer when you really want some beautiful photos of your toddler. Not only is it so refreshing to have someone with you who is just as invested in getting good photos of your little one as you are, but as a bonus you can get some photos together too! I've honestly have never spent more money on photographers as I have this year with Benny, and I feel like it's all been money well spent. 

That's it! These are all of my tips for getting photos with my busy baby. I know they're nothing groundbreaking, but honestly they've been working for me. Taking photos with a toddler can be a lot of extra work, but the memories you have to look back on are worth it.

What do you guys think? What is your go-to method for getting photos with your busy babies and toddlers? Let me know!

xo Joëlle

All photos by Laura Clarke Photography 

Blogger Template Created by pipdig