Thursday, July 28, 2016

Little letters {To my daughter on your seventh birthday}




Little Miss A,

There are so many things I want to tell you, so many ways I could count the ways I love you, but I'm not sure a whole life time will fit it all in. Today you are seven year old and you have your whole amazing life before you. Quite often I find myself selfishly praying that I get to see it all, that I get to grow old with you and that you never know a day without my love. 

I don't want to miss a second of loving you.

I also don't want to miss any of these memories we are making.

The days are flying by however and I wonder if when I am grey haired and I reach for your sweet hand, like we always find ourselves doing, that I will be able to accurately recall these busy love filled days. I hope that I am able to remember you as you are today, seven years old, and that I am able to remind you of how you have always been completely adored.

So my hope is that this love letter and the others I have written you over the years will serve as something you can look back on with admiration at where you have come from and how you have grown.

Truth be told, I am in shock that the last seven years have whipped by us. They have been a blur and yet details about you and your life and personality stand out so raw and beautifully it is as if the world is in fast motion and yet you are at the center of it, day in and day out, calm as can be, easy going, deeply caring and unscathed by the crazy that surrounds us.

You are a sister to two boys after all and your parents never stop creating and changing the home you live in. There is a lot of crazy around you. This past year was a busy one and out of all of us it was actually quite difficult for you.

We moved houses and you reminded us all, as you do when you are persistent and wish to be heard, that you didn't want to move from your childhood bedroom where all your memories lived. You are deeply sentimental for a newly seven year old little lady and I often think that an old soul lives within you. You have always been that way. From birth you had a peace about you and a knowledge that only recently became a little know-it-all-ness....but of course only with your brothers and when you are trying to point out the right way to do something or the faster way to do something or the better way to do something. You are quite possibly a quiet genius. I suppose that makes total sense since you are very intuitive while silently soaking in the world around you. You are both parts meek and bold and I dig that about you. You can be poised and pretty much perfect in nature and then you throw us a curve ball when you are really passionate about something because there is no way of stopping your drive and enthusiasm.

Your independence is admirable. I often say you really didn't need parenting. Even from an infant you were a complete joy to be around. You have never been demanding and you have always been easily soothed or appeased. You enjoy the simple things in life and remark about them too, like how you love when the sun soaks into your skin on a hot summers day, how you appreciate guzzling down a big glass of water after running around the yard with your brothers, how you love the smell of my pillow and freshly laundered clothing, how you marvel at our kitty cats soft whiskers, how you comment on every single pink sunset and how you've decided that frogs smell like grass and grass smells like heaven and how the whole world is a gorgeous place through your eyes

You notice the little things in life and especially the little creatures around you too. You dote on our pets and loved hand raising baby chicks this spring. You were guaranteed to always be snuggling a chicken or walking around the house carrying our kitty like an infant. Your loving giving and caring side is also shown to your little brother in many picture worthy moments. Although he is the same size as you at this point in life, you don't seem to notice. You don't hesitate to pick him up when he falls, to help him get dressed in the morning, to help him locate his missing shoe (every day!!) and you even brush his little teeth for him. We call you "little Mama" and you are quite happy to be just that.

You love helping with household chores and your most absolute favorite thing to help with is organizing. You can't keep a clean room for the life of you, but you do love a good messy cupboard to sort. You are much like your Mama in this way. Creativity blooms every where you go and it is very difficult for creatives to also be neat and tidy at all times. Your bedroom floor is littered with art supplies and markers and a plethora of papers. Your newest obsession is making art collections and you are pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself. I am particularly partial to your abstract line of paintings that you choose to complete with bright colors smack dab in the middle of stark white paper. They are graphic and unusual and we all take turns guessing what they remind us of when you are done and proudly showing them off. Your collection of dress designs actually makes me tear up with pride. I can't really wrap my mind around the fact that a little girl that was made from part of little ole me me can have such an eye for texture and color and style. We talk  a lot about you designing a real life outfit one day and with your determination, and ingenuity I know you will find a way.

This year you turn seven and you are still in the middle of the innocence and sweetness of childhood. You value the company of adults though and love listening and being a part of grown up conversations . You spent a good part of your recesses in grade one walking and talking with your teachers. When I asked you why you preferred their company over playing with girls your own age, you said you had "lots in common with them", and girlfriend, I think you do too. You are wise beyond your years, appreciate the selection at Homesence and can plan a mean party even if it's just a pretend one where we set up the table and cut flowers from the garden and it's just for you and me and your doll collection. Often you're my little sidekick and I'm honored to have you following me around the house and around town.

I love you more than you'll ever know and I am so very proud of who you are. The funny thing is, I believe it wasn't really because of all I have done to mother you because you never really needed much guidance. Your heart is a beauty. You are too, but I'll never stop telling you that a pretty heart is better than your outward beauty. But goodness me, you ARE adorable. You have freckles right now that dust your nose and make your green eyes stand out. You lost your first tooth recently but still have that unique gap in your top teeth that I think is the cutest little detail about your seven year old little girl face. I know you will change a lot this year. I know more teeth will be tucked under pillows and you'll leave detailed notes on every door in the house pointing the tooth fairy in the right direction, because you often snuggle up with your Mama or bunk up with your brothers because sleeping alone is no fun.

There will be lots of inevitable changes this year but I want to always remember your hilarious little girl giggle, your fine wispy hair, the way your wee limbs are so slight but can carry your own body weight in the form of your little brother around, the way you speak matter-a-factly, the way you prance around in frilly dresses and tutus with leggings or jeans with knocked out knee holes in them underneath so you can be discreet when you show off with the cartwheels you've mastered.

I want to remember your little hand in mine when you sneak into my bed in the night and the way you rub the hair off my face and kiss me on the nose. The way you love everything and everyone around you so deeply that you inspire me to do so too.

My Audrey, my girl, my sidekick, my daughter, my friend, today on your seventh birthday and forever and ever I hope you know how much you are adored. And if you ever need reminded, I hope you can look back at these words and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you were one of the three best decisions your Daddy and Mommy ever made. You've changed our lives for the better in every way and we are grateful to God for this front row seat to the love story that is your childhood.

Much love my girl,

Mama


Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Make Natural and Safe Cleaning Products for Your Home

We just got back from a week long vacation. It was magical and long overdue. Typically my hubs and I only have one day a week to spend as a family together. We work a lot, for the time being, because with so many renovations happening around here, we love the outcome of overtime. ;) Also, my fellow entrepreneurs know that when you run your own business, you quickly accept that overtime is mandatory in the beginning.  ;)

So we returned home late last night, tired and exhausted, however we were immediately bright eyed and bushy tailed when welcomed into a clean and sparkling house!


I love that.

I love coming home to all things familiar along with enjoying a clean and spotless kitchen sink, table tops that are still sparkling and a coffee table that is as neat and tidy as when we left it last week.

this little estate natural cleaning product recipes

There is something lovely and peaceful about walking into a tidy home that is ready to rest your weary head. Also, a decluttered coffee tables to prop your tired feet up on. ;)


Before we left I whipped up some of my favorite natural cleaners from items I already had on hand. As always when I do this I feel great that the cleaning solutions I am using are chemical free and all natural. What better time than to get the kids involved too!?


You don't need anything fancy to create green products you feel good about using in your house. Say hi to inviting inexpensive effective cleaners into your home, and goodbye to chemical residue and outrageous product prices. 

Also if you are an oil aficionado or enthusiast this post if for you and your friends!

I wrote an article for Leon's Hello Sunshine: A Guide For a Bright and Happy Home that shared some of my natural cleaning tips and how you too can keep your wood furniture fresh and chemical free with green homemade cleaners and polishes. (To see the direct article flip to page 48!!)


Do you guys use natural cleaners? Have you ever made your own? I would love to try some new recipes if you cared to share!

Photos courtesy of Red Suitcase Photography







Monday, July 11, 2016

Breakfast Television Live Television Segment with Leon's Furniture {and a behind the scenes look!}

Once upon a time, myself and my five siblings along with my charismatic mother and father decided that we would mimic the Von Traps and the Partridge family and so we created a traveling music group. We sang in three part harmony and four part harmony and wore matching plaid (read: unsightly) outfits to solidify our authenticity. We took family bonding to a whole new level in the 80's.

Thank goodness YouTube wasn't around yet!

After surviving those awkward preteen years on the stage, I never imagined I would happily find myself in front of the camera again. But, perhaps, I need to high five my siblings and squeeze my parents for those years of singing background vocals, because those times made my most recent Live television appearance an exciting and happily anticipated time.


This past week I had the amazing opportunity to discuss Leon's Furniture's 90 page digital look book on Breakfast Television.

We wanted to share a tiny bit of the look book with their audience and decided the best spot in the house was on the roof top patio at BT where the set is full of lovely Leon's furniture.

With summer here in full force, we wanted to offer some tried and true tips and tricks on how to be a part of the summer parties the television audience might be hosting.

We all want to host fun parties and open our doors to our family and friends, but how on earth do we avoid getting stuck in the kitchen all day or hunting down the items our guests might need, or getting pegged as the bar tender??

Simple!


PREPARATION!!

Just like our look book suggests, on pages 14 and 15 on how to get your patio party ready, we decided to take our own advice and do so at Breakfast Television.



Here is a little behind the scenes action of the patio getting prepped for a party.





 In preparation for the show I prepped singular serving foods, a custom drink, made sure our set was weather proof with some essentials and decorated with flowers.


As a busy Mama, my party tips are tried and tested. They are always easy and are simple enough so the whole family can get involved!


Once the whole BT patio set was beautified it was time to meet with Frankie Flowers himself. I crossed my fingers the flower expert would approve of the way we were glamming up a grocery store bouquet and as expected he was just as authentic in real life as he seems on television.

(You can read in depth all of my other tips and tricks for decorating with fresh blooms over at Hello Sunshine: a guide to your bright and happy home.)


After a few minutes of setting up our party by putting into action my tips on how to be a part of the next party you're planning, it was time for our LIVE segment.


The knowledgeable BT staff were great to work with.



In a few minutes we were READY....


SET....


GO!


Here's some behind the scenes snaps you didn't get to see from the segment.



Party planning has always been my thing, so you can imagine who much fun it was to prep a party for television! It was such a fun opportunity to share my tried and true tips on how to prep a patio party and how to be a part of your next summer soiree!


 My supportive hubby and little sister came along for the early morning ride into the big city.
(They didn't even complain that their supportive duties included helping me take all of the party essentials from our home town of Guelph Ontario to Toronto and wayyyyyy up to the roof top patio.)

#ittakesavillage


And of course social media guru and wind swept hair model Autumn Hatchey was there for guidance, support and a few good laughs.


  
I love that the Hello Yellow digital look book is filled cover to cover with inspiring but simple ways to make our homes bright and happy this summer.

In the end, don't we all just want to get back to the important things in life? Like connecting in authentic and awesome ways with our friends and family, opening our doors to our loved ones and making laidback lovely memories in our homes?


To check out all of summer party planning tips you can see them all in this 90 page digital look book.

HELLO SUNSHINE


In case you missed the LIVE Breakfast Television segment with myself, Bethany Gier and Frank Ferragine brought to you by Leon's Furniture, you can check out the link here:

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Smoked Tofu Summer Salad Recipe

Summer salads are the best.

They are a go to around here, especially when we want to spend more time at the beach and less time in the kitchen.

The benefits of a salad for dinner is that it can get whipped together super fast, it's preparation doesn't require one hanging around a hot stove on a hot day AND by periodically filling dinner plates up with greens, you'll be able to maintain your summer body all summer long. ;)


But sometimes you need that extra little bit to make your salad feel like an actual meal.  


You know what I mean right?  

That extra bit of chew or crunch that takes your salad from an ordinary lunch salad and turns it into a DINNER salad.

If you're vegan or vegetarian, or looking for plant based meal options this addition will be one you'll love. 


Here is the extra bit of goodness your salad needs.

 

SMOKED TOFU SUMMER SALAD

5 cups of baby arugula and baby kale
1 cup of chopped asparagus
1 cup of baby tomatoes
Half a package of smoked tofu
1/2 cup of vegan mozzarella or regular mozza if your diet allows


DRESSING:

                                              1-1/2 cups mayonnaise or vegan mayo                                       
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1 garlic clove, minced


(Blend all ingredients and toss salad with dressing)


If you've never tried smoked tofu it is a game changer.

Our kids have decided it smells like bacon and tastes like it too. ;)


If the kids approve, than I say this one is good enough for the recipe box.

Or, nowadays, for our beloved Pinterest board.


 How do you guys like to take your salads to the next level?

Friday, July 01, 2016

How to Party Proof Your Patio

Happy Canada day to all our Canadian friends and family!
I hope your day is filled with relaxation and celebrations with all your favorite people and a side of your favorite foods.


We love to celebrate every holiday with our little family but we also love to include others into our celebratory parties. Of course this means trying to perfect party planning when opening our home to our nearest and dearest.


Over time, our parties have expanded to include three of our own busy children and our guest's families and over time I have longed to calm the chaos and to really be a part of our parties.

After all, I want to enjoy the events we are commemorating but most of all I want to enjoy the people that fill our home for special occasions.


I've recently joined with Leon's Furniture as a contributor in their digital publication Hello Sunshine, it is an inspiring look book full of tips and tricks to help you truly enjoy your home.


 I have shared all of my tried and true tips on how to get your patio party ready over at Hello Sunshine, a guide for your bright and happy home.

Check out pages 14 and 15 for the inside scoop!


Happy long weekend lovelies. I hope your parties are as sweet and refreshing as cold popsicles on a hot summers day. :)


Monday, June 27, 2016

Canadian Bloggers Summer Home Tour {Plus our dining room reveal!}

I'm so excited to join an inspiring group of ladies today for the Canadian Summer Home Tour!

In Canada summer is lonnnnnggg awaited and around here so are our finished spaces!

Around This Little Estate we are constantly renovating our fixer upper. Last fall we took everything apart and we have been slowly putting things back together. Anyone who has ever tackled a renovation, big or small, knows that renos take love, care and TIME.

After a lot of waiting and months of eating picnics on the floors around here, I can't wait to show you our recently finished dining room!

We are a family that loves to eat. We love to talk about eating, we like to cook home cooked food and we like to linger around the dinner table after eating. So, when we moved from the suburbs to the outskirts of town we knew we needed to renovate a space that was conducive to our eating habits.


We knew we needed a dining room.



In an open concept room however, a dining "room" isn't exactly what you get. But we desperately wanted to create a dining space for our family. We did so by smashing down walls and more walls and more walls. ;)




The result is an open space in the middle of our home that perfectly fits our refinished dining room table and recovered chairs.




I had only hoped that we would one day have a space that could hold our seven foot table and by opening up the space we finally do!



In our new dining area we have ample space to maneuver around our dining table. Something that was so important to me. I wanted the room to flowwwwwww.

Our kids make sure there's enough space by playing tag around it whenever they can -- preferably at dinner time when they are suppose to be seated.

#momlife



 Our dining area is open to our living room and our (unfinished) kitchen. The kids dig that they can eat cereal from the table while watching morning cartoons and I love that our dining room table now doubles as an office, craft station and eating area.




We literally JUST finished this space. In fact, we still have some little odds and ends to finish, BUT, we will take any excuse to set a pretty table.



Around here, Monday dinners are good enough to celebrate!

When you have had your dining table covered with tools and dry wall dust for 9 months, you leap at the chance to celebrate the little things with a pretty meal together.



After being in the thick of DIY and renovations since 2007 (with our previous home) we realize a table free of clutter is an exciting opportunity to decorate and make things pretty.



However, we have learned that our budget ends up going to electrical things and dry wall things and there is limited leftover funds to decorate with.

But that doesn't stop us.



We know that a simple grocery store bouquet displayed in a unique manner can add interest and drama to a table scape.

 


We also know that bringing natural elements in, like rocks collected from a beach vacation, is a pretty simple way to add a lot of interest to a table - without spending a penny!



To make a bigger impact with our bouquet we simply broke it up and placed singular blooms in vintage vases at staggered heights. Something so simple you can even get the kids involved in your summer table decorating.


To make sure our dining space is cozy and inviting we paired two wing back chairs on either end of the table. For those moments when we want to linger longer over dinner. :)

#ignorethedishes


We knew our space also needed a sideboard for housing helpful napkins to aid in children's spills and to hold extra things.


This piece was one that I was happy to welcome into this space. It was one of the first pieces I transformed with paint and new pulls. You can see when it lived in our old family room as an entertainment unit by visiting HERE.



Our new dining area is one that we are just getting to enjoy sans dry wall dust. ;) I cant wait to really break it in with an official dinner party!




Beyond that space we have our newly finished living room.
We are loving that we can watch Sunday's game from the table now!
 

Or that we can all spread around the space and still feel together.




But best of all these pretty couches are staying finger print free because little ones are sometimes learning to stay seated when eating.

#sometimes
#Hallelujah
#itsthelittlethings





Tufted sofa source can be seen HERE.

You can see the whole living room reveal HERE.




We are loving having closed and open storage in an open concept space.

Where else are you going to hide all the kids toys!?



Incorporating furniture that also has storage was a must for us.


What's hiding under there? Who knows!!

All I know is that in an open concept space, where family and stylish d├ęcor live as one, hidden storage is a life saver!

Now we are off to finish our kitchen so we can finally host our friends and family again!



Though, this girl, with the puppy dog eyes, insists that summers are best enjoyed outside with the grill full of mouth watering goodness.

This awesome summer weather and that look in her eyes is kinda convincing us too!

Summers are fleeting and we are planning on enjoying every square inch of this home, inside and out, finished or not!

I hope you enjoyed looking around today. We loved giving you a glimpse into what we were up to all winter long. ;)



Picture credit: Red Suitcase Photography
 
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