2022 Family-Friendly Christmas Outings around YVR

It is no secret that anything Christmas related is my JAM! I love the smells, the treats, the songs… I can even withstand an immense amount of cold if it means I get to walk around and look at twinkle lights. So because I love Vancouver Christmas (and you) I have compiled my list of favourite Family-Friendly Christmas Outings around YVR.

Capilano Suspension Bridge- Canyon Lights: 

Where: 3735 Capilano Road, North Vancouver, BC

When: November 19, 2022 – January 22, 2023

Park Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tickets: 

Adult tickets: $62.95

Senior tickets: $57.95

Student tickets (18+): $49.95

Youth tickets (13-17): $34.95

Child tickets (6-12): $24.95

Drink hot chocolate as you wander through the glowing rainforest that is Canyon Lights. There’s something for everyone (unless you’re not into heights… then I would suggest you skip this one). This is a must-see for visitors to Vancouver, and BC Residents enjoy admission for one full year from the date of purchase for the price of one day’s regular admission. 

Burnaby Village Museum- Heritage Christmas: 

Where: 6501 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC 

When: November 26-December 18, 2022

Monday-Friday, 1-5:30 pm*

Saturday-Sunday, 1-9 pm

*December 5, 1-4 pm

December 19, 2022-January 2, 2023

Daily, 1-9 pm

Closed December 24 and 25

Tickets:

Gate admission is free. 

Burnaby Village Museum is the sweetest little step back in time, and its Christmas events are that much more special. Scavenger hunts, live music, and visits from Father Christmas, you don’t want to miss this FREE event. 

Museum of Surrey:

Where: 17710 56a Ave, Surrey, BC

When: November 26, 2022- December 18, 2022

Kick Off event: November 25, 2022 1:00-4:00pm

Tickets:

FREE Event

Donations Accepted: While admission is free, MOS is collecting new, unopened toys and non-perishable food donations for the Cloverdale Community Hamper. Leave yours at the front desk before touring the trees.

I always love events at the Museum of Surrey. They always have crafts for the kiddos, this event will have a visit from Santa, and of course a viewing of all the Christmas trees decorated by local Cloverdale businesses. 

Vandusen Gardens- Festival of Lights:

Where: 5251 Oak Street, Vancouver, British Columbia 

When: November 25, 2022- January 2, 2023

4:00 pm – 10:00 pm daily (Last entry 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm)

Tickets:

Tickets are not sold on sight:

Adult (19-64)- $21.00

Senior (65+): $15.50

Child (5-12): $11.00

Children 4 & under: FREE

This event always feels so magical. Make sure to bundle up for a beautiful stroll around 15 acres of over one million lights. And don’t worry, if you get chilly you can get cozy with warm beverages and snacks. This event is outdoors, rain or shine… I’d say snow but it’s Vancouver and rain feels far more likely.

Christmas Night Train:

Where: Bear Creek Park

When: December 1st-31st (6-9pm)

Tickets: $12.60 per person (children under 2 are free)

This event is super kiddo friendly; think, the kid version of Vandusen Gardens, with the added bonus of a Christmas train. Beautiful light displays, and pictures with Santa… who could ask for anything more? Santa Express happens as a separate event, so be sure to book tickets for the appropriate events. Check their website for more details.

Arts Nursery:

Where: 8940 192ST, Surrey, BC, Canada

When: Holiday Premiere- Saturday November 19th and November 20th 11am-4pm

Free Admission

Celebrate the Arts Nursery Seasonal Collections with hot chocolate in hand, live music, cookies, workshop demos, and of course shot holiday decor, gifts, greenery & plants. There will also be people and pet photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4th, 11am-4pm (by donation, proceeds going to Dhana Metta Animal Rescue.

Lights at Lafarge Lake : 

Where: Lafarge Lake

When: Kick-Off- Saturday, Nov. 26 from 5 – 8 p.m. at Town Centre Park

Tickets: Free Admission

This beautiful, free event is a great opportunity to take in the views at Lafarge Lake and of course, see all the light displays. I’ve only been once and I remember it being lovely and incredibly cold so bundle up.

Vancouver Christmas Market:

Where: Jack Poole Plaza-1055 Canada Place Vancouver, BC.

When: Nov 12 – 25: open 4 pm to 9:30 pm (Fr and Sat until 10:00 pm)

Nov 26 – Dec 23: open 11:30 am to 9:30 pm (Fr and Sat until 10:00 pm)

Dec 24: open 11:30 am to 6:00 pm

Tickets:

Kids 0-6: Free

Adult (18-64): $17.99-$21.99 (check dates online)

Youth (7-17): $9.99-$13.99 (check dates online)

Senior (65+): $14.99-$18.99 (check dates online)

Annual Pass: $35.99

Give me all the food and german drinks and sweets, the Vancouver Christmas Market will get you in all the feels! My fav is the carousel (I can’t wait to take little girl on it this year). Check out their website as they have more details about parking deals etc. 

Fly Over Christmas:

Where: 201 – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC V6C 3E1

When: November 7, 2022- December 31, 2022

Tickets:

Adult: $25-$33 (check dates online)

Children 12 and under: $10 off the adult price

Mainland Winter Market: 

Where: West Coast Gardens- 1420 172 St, Surrey, BC

When: Weekends, Nov 12-Dec 18

9am-5pm Saturdays

10am– 5pm Sundays

Tickets: 

VIP Tickets- $12.95

Pictures with Santa- $29.95

Food & Toy Drive Donations encouraged

I am super excited for this market and privileged to be one of their social media ambassadors. Come check out this beautiful market filled with local creator booths, food trucks, Santa photos, gift wrapping and even some local children’s book authors joining the market for readings. Check them out on social media for updates as each weekend has unique, special features to enjoy.

Bright Nights in Stanley Park: 

Where: Pipeline Road in Stanley Park 

When: December 1, 2022 to January 1, 2023

4pm to 10pm

Monday, December 5, Tuesday, December 6, and Sunday December 25

Tickets: By Donation

Bright Nights has been my longest running Christmas Tradition. I have gone with friends, students and their families, church groups, and most recently my sweet baby girl and my hubs. Though this year the Christmas Train will not be running, they will still have tons of light displays, food, drinks, entertainment, with all of the proceeds going towards the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund. 

Are you going to be indulging in holiday events this year? Let me know if you have a favourite Christmas event in YVR that I need to check out. 

Top 5 Fall Family Activities (that aren’t scary & won’t break the bank) around YVR

I love all that Fall has to offer and I also love the cutesy side of Halloween. I also love not spending all of my money trying to show my kid a good time, can I get an amen?  If you are looking for fun (not scary and not super costly) activities for your family this October, I have got you covered. 

Loft Country Farms

We visited Loft Country Farms for the first time this year and it was SO much fun! Honestly, I didn’t expect there would be so much to do and see, but we probably could have spent the whole day there. Pony rides, panning for gems, petting zoo, gourmet hot dogs and desserts, a western shootout, wagon rides, tractor rides, and of course the pumpkin patch. As a mom with a potty training 3 year old, I also really appreciated the cleanliness of their washrooms (let’s be real: this is something I appreciate with or without a kid lol). 

Online Pricing:
General Admission (Ages 3 and up) – $13.50 
Family Admission (2 parents and their children) – $54

They also have season passes available. 

Location: 2640 248 St, Langley, BC V4W 2R2

Laity Pumpkin Patch

It’s been a couple years since we have visited Laity Pumpkin Patch so we’re really excited to check it out again this year. 

Public Admission Rates

Weekend/Holiday Rate: $12.00 each (ages 3 and up) – incl. GST & ticket fees

Weekday Rate: $9.00 each (ages 3 and up) – incl. GST
(please note: Mon, Oct 10th and Fri, Oct 21st are holiday rates)

Ages 2 and under – Free (with paying adult)

South location: 12725 Laity St, Maple Ridge, BC V4R 2P2

North location: 21145 128 Ave, Maple Ridge, BC V4R 2R9

Art Knapps Surrey:

This one was a cute little surprise! You can buy pumpkins, visit their candy story, ride their train, and even partake in some mini-golf! The train rides are only $3.50 a person, and run every half-hour. They do have some “scary-ish” decorations (my kiddo was not into the giant sparkly purple spider… but it was all pretty tame). 

Location: 4391 King George Blvd, Surrey, BC V3Z 1G6

Circus Osorio

Okay this is not fall specific, but a super fun outing around town this October. Tickets are $25 for adults, and each adult ticket comes with 2 free kids tickets (under 10). October 13, 2022 – October 17, 2022

Location: Coquitlam B.C. Coquitlam Centre – 2929 Barnet Highway, Coquitlam BC V3B 5R5

Arts Nursery Scarecrow Stroll

This is such a great FREE activity to enjoy with the kiddos (I mean, “Free” if you don’t buy yourself a ton of houseplants and pumpkins). 60+ Scarecrows to see, a pumpkin patch, and of course so many beautiful plants. We went during the week and there was an Ice Cream truck on site, but word on the street is the weekend has live music and food trucks. Open from 9:00am-6:00pm Mon-Sat, and 9am-5pm Sundays from Sep 24-Oct 31

Location: 8940 192nd Street, Surrey, BC, Canada, V4N 3W8

If you want to stay up to date on fun family activities around Greater Vancouver Area make sure to follow me on Instagram & TikTok @theashleyrhapsody

Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

I have read every mom-blog that exists about toddler travel, and lived vicariously through others while I awaited our time to finally travel with the kid.

This past week we finally got a chance to travel (for work, but also with the whole family, so I’ll take it). I’m glad we got a little travel-taster with a short domestic flight before we do a big international trip.

Here’s what helped with the kid :

Car seat bag: I bought a car seat bag on Amazon that has handles on it and backpack straps. It was tremendously helpful and helped to keep our car seat clean. My friend also put a little backpack filled with diapers inside her car seat to make extra space on her carry-on and I marveled at the brilliance. I’ll for sure do that next time.

Snacks and Containers: I went to the dollar store and got some wonderful snack containers. I didn’t do all my shopping in the container section though; our dollar store has a crafting section and they had some wonderful little divided containers. We packed berries and other fruit in the divided containers, and dry snacks in the stackable ones. Next time though, I will only put dry fruit in the divided containers; I put pineapple in one and it got leaky. Which leads me to my favorite travel item for every family member.

Glad Press’N Seal: I’m telling you this is one of my favorite travel hacks that I’ve used for years. I’ve never had to clean up shampoo messes because of it! Use Glad Press’N Seal to cover the lids of any container that could leak. When you arrive, remove it and save it for the trip home; it’s far sturdier and reusable than Saran Wrap.

Umbrella Stroller: No big sell here. We almost didn’t bring it because we didn’t know how helpful it would be. It was helpful even though we were pretty close to everything. Toddlers are tricky creatures who sometimes need to be confined. That’s all on that.

iPad: Wow, ground breaking stuff Ashley! Kids like technology?! Shhhh don’t give away all your secrets. But seriously, I downloaded girlfriends favorite shows from Netflix and Disney + and it saved the day several times. I brought colouring and toys, but sometimes you face problems only Peppa Pig and Bluey can fix. I also love the case we have; it stands up on its own, has handles, and packs easily.

Play Pen: listen, I know this one won’t be a necessity for everyone. However, in 2020 we stayed at a hotel where the kid got lice from sleeping in the hotel’s crib. After that our own playpen became a necessity. Another option is bring garbage bags to wrap the crib mattress in and bring your own bedding. Trust no one.

Colouring: I love the Melissa & Doug Water Wow sets because I don’t need to bring a ton of markers or colouring books. Once the sheets dry, they’re ready to use again.

Here’s my Amazon list of some of the go-to products I mentioned and more: https://www.amazon.ca/shop/theashleyrhapsody/list/2YHVIA7P051KW?ref=cm_sw_em_r_inf_list_own_theashleyrhapsody_mw_OUPSuo81FrTSo

When it came to the actual flight, girlfriend did pretty well, however her ears were really bothering her during take-off and landing. I brought lollipops for her but messed up the timing, so by the time we were actually taking off or landing it was done. Any tips for plugged and popping kiddo ears?

Hope this was helpful amidst all the other many blogs about traveling kiddos. I know because I’ve read them. All of them.

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

I thought becoming a mother would redeem “Mother’s Day” for me, but my feelings around it have not really changed. 

“Mother’s Day” is a rough one for me. 

I don’t see my mother anymore. I haven’t seen her since I was a few months pregnant. Our relationship began to deteriorate when my parent’s got divorced, got worse through my teenage years, and finally imploded in my thirties. 

I know my mother did her best. I know she loves me. I love her. I did not create these boundaries in our relationship because I don’t love her. 

I haven’t spoken about motherhood on this platform much. I’ve hesitated because anytime I’ve ever mentioned my own mother in the past, even in veiled references, it turned into a fight between her and I. 

You know that expression, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, I feel like, in my writing life, the expression is “if you can’t write about your mother, you can’t write about anything at all.” Not because every story is about her. Not because I have all of these terrible things to say, but because now that I have become a mother myself, I’ve discovered that mother’s are woven into everything. I can’t avoid writing about my mother, anymore than I can avoid being reminded of her. Mother’s, as a people group, shape all of us; even the absence of a mother. It is not merely “Mother’s Day” that rattles at the gates of our emotions, but it’s the everyday things that either remind us how utterly helpless we’d be without them, or how desperately we long for a mother-figure. 

It is for these reasons I haven’t written in over a year. I haven’t allowed myself to write about motherhood, in fear I would reveal my own mother-wound and further unravel pieces of myself.

But I am no longer just someone’s daughter, I am now a mother myself, and I want room to talk about my own motherhood. I want wide open spaces to express the beautiful, messy work of parenting without feeling like I’m betraying the system.

So, I give myself permission to acknowledge “mothers;” my own, myself, and all the spaces in between. 

A Gentle Birth: Suubi’s Birth Story

“How has your ‘Gentle Project’ been going since the baby, Ashley?” I am condescendingly asked. “Are you up to your eyeballs in cloth diapers and compost?” Serves me right for being drawn to such smart ass friends. 

Yes, since having baby, my blogging for the Gentle Project has taken a bit of a back seat. I arrogantly thought babies just slept and ate all day so surely I would be able to commit to writing… but alas…

With that said, part of my Gentle Project was also about being gentle with myself; my heart, my emotions, and my body. The season of pregnancy, the experience of childbirth, and my survival through postpartum has indeed been a crash course in self-care and gentleness. In that spirit, I wanted to use my final Gentle Project post to share about my birth experience, what I have learned about self-care and the power of gentle thoughts.

Not-So-Gentle Birth Ideas

“Gentle” was never a word I associated with childbirth. In fact, I had never met anyone who, in my opinion, was more afraid of childbirth than me. Fear was a HUGE struggle for me long before I was even pregnant. Television, movies, and other people’s horror stories contributed to me believing that birth was a nightmare women had to survive, as opposed to a natural activity our bodies knew how to perform.

Fast forward to postpartum-me and I can confidently say I enjoyed my childbirth experience. I would even go as far as using the term “gentle.” My pregnancy wasn’t perfect, my birthing experience wasn’t perfect, but I did indeed enjoy it. 

My running joke during pregnancy was that I felt great until I visited a doctor and they told me all the things that were potentially wrong with me. With every doctors visit we would learn of something new detected in my blood or something seen in a sonogram, I would panic, and then the next appointment they would say they couldn’t find any problems… so I never knew what to expect, other than that I was expecting.

I started reading and researching about pregnancy and childbirth, even though my doctor told me never to Google anything ever. What can I say? I’m a rebel. A lot of what I read was SO negative and scary, I started understanding why my doctor discouraged me from my internet research, but in fairness, the doctors were just as scary. 

Hypnobirthing and Other Gentle Things

Somewhere around the 12 week mark, a dear friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of hypnobirthing, and encouraged me to listen to a podcast from Russel Brand (yes, that Russel Brand) where he interviews a woman by the name of Katharine Graves about Hypnobirthing. 

There were three factors in me having a gentle pregnancy and birth: a supportive partner, my “doula” friend, and hypnobirthing! When I first heard about Hypnobirthing I summoned images of a stage performer hypnotizing audience members into clucking like chickens and embarrassing themselves. Then as I started learning more about it I summoned images of crunchy hippies lighting serenity candles, and braiding their armpit hair. I remained a skeptic for a long time, even when seeing it’s benefits during pregnancy, but after coming out on the other side of childbirth, I’m happy to report there was nothing crunchy, hippy, or stage performer about it. I could go on and on about what hypnobirthing is, but that would be a different (really long) blog post. If you want more info go to the experts here. 

Upon the discovery of hypnobirthing I immediately changed my approach to birth. Instead of being an experience I had to “endure,” I started looking at it as the amazing life-changing, life-starting experience it is. I started shutting people down when they’d see my swollen belly and feel inclined to tell me about their traumatic labour experience (everyone from the well meaning ladies at work, to random strangers in the grocery store. I also grabbed a stranger-woman’s boob in the grocery store when she grabbed my pregnant belly… but that’s a story for another time. Well, actually, that’s pretty much the whole story. I’m not into unsolicited touch. The end.) I stopped watching TV shows when birth was being depicted as a screaming, bloody, horror show, and I was also careful with how I spoke about pregnancy and birth. 

IMG_0787
The day before I went into labour (featuring cute pregnant belly: great to compliment, not recommended to touch without asking.)

Funny enough, I found a lot of people struggled with me speaking positively about birth. Many felt inclined to “take me down a peg” when I spoke about what I enjoyed about pregnancy or what I looked forward to in birth. I quickly learned that complaining was far more socially acceptable than being positive. 

Suubi’s birth was an amazing experience. It did not go as I planned, but I was prepared for my plans to change and to go with the flow… so in that way, it went according to plan. 

I planned and hoped for a short labour, no drugs, and natural delivery. That was the dream. I was hoping to be like those women who feel a sneeze coming on and then whoop, a baby.

IMG_2270
One’s high on gas, the other one is high on life.

IMG_2273
My birth team, clearly having a blast.

I laboured for a few more hours than expected (48 more hours actually), and after successfully dilating to seven centimetres, ended up having an “emergency” cesarian section (“emergency” is in quotes because it did not feel like an emergency; we calmly came to the conclusion that c-section was the best route, and 8 hours later, there we were). KmyXVl2BTqy1Mbk7oTJC2Q

Though Suubi’s birth turned out a lot different than I planned, anything I was able to have some control over went beautifully. My time labouring at home was peaceful and quiet. The people who surrounded me were positive, encouraging, and empowering. I listened to music, cracked jokes, and felt an absolute gentleness around the whole experience.

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Hypnobirthing helped me not only in pregnancy, and labour, it also helped me during postpartum. It taught me how to speak and think kindly about my body, my feelings, and my baby. It taught me to be  prepared with close friends to support me and check in on me. Most importantly, it assured me that I know what’s best for myself and my child, and that I am allowed to advocate for my own care.

Living Gently 

I recognize, statistically, that the experience of birth for many women can be quite scary and dangerous. I recognize the privilege I have to live where I do, with the medical care I have, in the skin I have. It is not lost on me the absolute blessing [miracle] it is to have a healthy baby and an incredibly supportive husband.

I wrote this post out probably about 14 times. I was meant to post this in December but kept second guessing myself. I didn’t want to feel like I was rubbing salt in the wound for anyone. I didn’t want to trigger those who have struggled. 

But I also think about pre-pregnancy me. I think about the YEARS I spent fearing something that turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. I know how much I needed to hear from somebody that birth could be gentle and not terrifying. I know that not everyone’s experience can be guaranteed, but if I have learned anything from this year of The Gentle Project it’s that there is no harm in attempting to live more kindly, and more gently, no matter how imperfectly. 

“Just wait…”

“Just wait…” and other horrendous things people say to pregnant women

Pregnancy has acquainted me with a phrase I have grown to hate: “just wait!” 

Let me take you back a few steps so you can understand why this simple phrase makes my stomach turn. 

Before becoming pregnant, and I’d say even going back to when I was a child, I absolutely feared pregnancy and childbirth. I used to tell my parents that if I was to ever have a child it would be through adoption because there was no way I was letting THAT happen to my body. 

When I began exploring careers based around childcare my fear only intensified, not because of the children themselves but because of the ongoing exposure I often had to pregnant women. I heard all the horror stories.

Oh the ripping… and the tearing… and the leaking… 

It was all too much for me, and I came to the resolve that if my destiny was to always be “fun Auntie Ashley,” I’d be alright with it. 

Then of course I fell madly in love, got married, and here I am, 38 weeks pregnant.   

Boundaries and other things people love. 

I have had to set up some serious boundaries around my pregnancy, and not the boundaries I expected I’d have to put up. I thought my biggest struggle would be people giving me unsolicited touches in the grocery store, and though that has happened once or twice, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as people’s traumatic story-telling inclinations. Any woman who has ever had a negative pregnancy or birthing experience merely has to gaze upon my swollen belly, and all of a sudden I’m sitting front row for the re-telling of their birthing story. Instead of flicking hands away from my belly button, I have found myself stopping women (and sometimes men) mid-sentence to say, “I’m sorry, maybe this is a better story for me to hear after baby comes.” 

Here’s where the “just wait…” comes in. 

I have been working very hard to keep myself in a positive space about pregnancy and birth (hynobirthing is hugely to thank, but more on that later) but I have noticed a pattern develop. 

Whenever I am asked, “how are you feeling?” (or any variation of that) and I respond positively, the response is almost immediately receive is, “well, just wait…”

Person: “How are you liking maternity clothes?” 

Ashley: “Great! Stretchy and comfortable; I’m thinking about transitioning to maternity pants full time.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you’re further along; you’ll be sick of them.”

 

Person: “Being pregnant in the summer is the WORST.” 

Ashley: “Oh, it’s actually not that bad. We have air conditioning, so I’ve been more than comfortable.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until it gets hotter and you get more pregnant. You’ll swell up and it’ll be awful.” 

 

Person: “How are you sleeping?”

Ashley: “Pretty good. I’m on summer vacation so if I need to nap, I take one. It’s awesome.” 

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you have a newborn. You’ll never sleep again.”

 

Person: “What’s your birth plan?” 

Ashley: “I’m hoping to try natural, and see how we do.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you’re begging for an epidural, because you know it hurts right?” 

Needless to say I avoid talking pregnancy and childbirth with a lot of people because it’s depressing AF. 

I’m a “7” on the Enneagram; don’t hate me because I’m a positive enthusiastIMG_0669.jpg

I am not delusional ; I understand things can be challenging. I also understand I have had a unique experience in that becoming pregnant was not a struggle, and my pregnancy itself has been pretty peaceful. But I don’t think these factors make my experience any less valuable, or un-shareable. I don’t want to live my life in an “Eeyore” state of mind: “it’s not raining now, but it will some day soon.”

I know things aren’t always easy, but I kind of wish more people could have leaned towards the positive side of the “just waits…”

 

Ashley: “I felt the baby kick!”

Person: “Well just wait until you look at her for the first time!” 

 

Ashley: “I’m trying to be positive about childbirth”

Person: “Well just wait until you see what your body can do; it’s amazing!”

 

Ashley: “I think my pregnant body is adorable!”

Person: ”Well just wait until you see all of the beautifully weird and wonderful things it does to sustain your baby; it’s a miracle!” 

 

Just wait until you see how beautiful all of this life is. Just wait for the joy, the excitement, the giggles, and the new adventures. Just wait! 

SO in celebration of our due date nearing, and soon getting to meet our little bundle, I’d love to hear your POSITIVE “Just Waits…” 

Let me have it. 

Imperfectly Gentle

Honestly friends, I have felt the pressure over the past couple months to keep up with my Gentle Project. Not so much from any specific challenge, but because I have been attempting to abide by every change, and every “rule” I have made for myself since January. 

With every long shower, or animal product I use, I feel a giant wave of guilt… like I’m failing my project.

I read this great quote the other day that provided me with some grace: 

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne Marie Bonneau

This is a great reminder, and provides me with some perspective. I’m not looking for perfection, I’m looking to try… to DO. I’m looking to do SOMETHING not necessarily EVERYTHING.

In the spirit of doing “SOMETHING,” here are some of the little things I have learned that have really stuck with me since January:

  1. Little changes DO make a big difference: I have noticed this particularly when it comes to my eating. My goal was to be living a fully vegan lifestyle by this time of the year. I have yet to reach that goal.

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    Delicious Vegan Fair from the Rolling Cashew

    My pregnancy food aversions were/are REAL, and I got to the point that I figured eating some animal products is better than not eating anything at all. With that said, I was able to make small, consistent changes to my diet that are moving me in the right direction. Dairy has been surprisingly easy to limit (Almond milk instead of milk, Earth Balance instead of butter etc.), making an effort to find more delicious vegetarian and vegan meals, and education about Vegan-ism and it’s affect on the planet have all been great ways to implement meaningful change. I have also sought out some amazing Vancouver Vegan restaurants and food trucks. Understanding my options has really helped make me make more plant-based choices.

  2. Spend more, get more: As much as I love an inexpensive pair of jeans from Old Navy, or some cheap, easy basics from H&M, they inevitably fall apart quickly, and only fit well enough for me to think “Meh, good enough.” When I plan, save, and purchase more expensive, ethically made clothing items they fit better, last longer, usually end up supporting local entrepreneurs, and reducing that good ol’ global footprint. AND by buying better quality clothing, I’m not getting rid of as much clothing and, again, reducing that global footprint of mine. 
  3. Second-Hand Wonders: I have never been a Thrift Store, second-hand shopper. In the past I’ve even had a bit of attitude about it. However, over this year I have had a change of heart and have come to really appreciate second-hand wonders. I have found some wonderful maternity clothes and lots of things for the baby’s room at stores like Value Village, and local stores like “For the Love of Thrifting,” and I am discovering the pure joy in finding a score of a deal on items that I would have spent a fortune on brand new. 
  4. Clean Cleaning: Some of my “Gentle Project” goals have indeed fallen by the wayside (why can’t I remember my freaking reusable bags when I go grocery shopping? WHY?!), but one that has not? IMG_0462Making my own hand soaps and house cleaners! It has saved me SO much money and it is so easy it’s dumb! I had a moment of weakness a month ago, and used a chemically product to clean the bathroom and could literally feel my lungs burning, even hours later. Totally wasn’t worth it. I’m sticking with my natural products from now on. For my hand soap I use Dr. Bronners Soap as my base, and Young Living Essential Oils as antibacterial and for the lovely smell. For my all purpose cleaner I use Young Livings Thieves cleaner with water.
  5. Social Media: Social media acts as a constant reminder of the things I don’t have and “need.” I swear my Instagram account knew I was pregnant before I had a chance to tell my husband. Before I knew it I had ads for diapers, baby clothes, and must-have items to be a loving parent who truly cares about their child. To make matters worse, it’s not only the ads that pop up on social media, but also some of the people I like to follow the most. I have had to take some time to reevaluate who I follow, and how often they pop up on my feed in an effort to set up some boundaries for myself and keep myself from feeling burdened by the things I want. If every second post someone puts up is #sponsored I know I need to take a hard look on how it’s affecting me. 

IMG_0313For the rest of the summer, I am going to be sharing a little about pregnancy, and childbirth, but I am also not setting the bar super high because, ya know, #firsttimemom. I had never imagined pregnancy or birth as something “gentle,” however I’ve really changed my outlook after learning more about Hypnobirthing, and it has really helped my anxiety and fear throughout pregnancy.

I also appreciate that the topic of pregnancy, and children can be very triggering for some. Though I will try to share our journey in the most inclusive, sensitive way possible, I understand if some need to take a step back from those posts. 

I would also love to continue to hear from you: how do you try to live gently? What are some of your small, imperfect steps in living a more environmentally conscious life? 

Spring: Gentle Cleaning and Conscious Shopping

These past couple months have been INSANE! In all good ways, but INSANE none the less. I have been the musical director for a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream-coat” and shows began this month! It has been SO much fun, but definitely all consuming. When I haven’t been obsessing about the musical, I’ve been preoccupied with all things BABY! I have really tried not to be “that” person that finds out they’re pregnant and talks about nothing else, and the musical has definitely helped me bring balance in that area, but alas, I get home from a long day at work, and can’t help but think and plan for baby. 

Speaking of baby… this is not related to anything “Gentle Project”, but just for fun, here are a few pictures from our Gender Reveal last month:  

The good thing about becoming mildly baby obsessed has been that it ties in nicely with my March and April projects. Learning more about chemical-free cleaning, and organizing seems timely.

So with no further adieu, here are 5 easy ways to keep your house clean, organized, and chemical free: 

  1. Stay Organized: I find when everything in my home has a place, it is far easier to keep the house clean. Tidying becomes quick when every item in my home has a place, and quick surface cleaning becomes a breeze. I have become a fan (as many have) of all things Marie Kondo; I find many of her tips and tricks very practical and easy. What do you love? Keep it! What doesn’t make you happy? Get rid of it! What you keep? Have a place for it! Marie Kondo’s Netflix series “Tidying Up” is worth the watch; it’s like a not-as-gross “Hoarders.”

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    I went to Ikea and got a few closet organizers– I am slightly obsessed now.

    One of the things I love about her style of cleaning and organizing is how specific she is about having a place for everything. Little boxes and jars designated for everything! This way of tidying hasn’t just help me stay organized, but it has made it so much easier to clean the house quickly.

  2. Keep it simple: One of the most helpful discoveries I made this month was the Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living. Add a small capful to a spray bottle with water and use it on literally EVERYTHING! I used it to clean the kitchen counters, the shower, and even my washing machine on the clean cycle. Having one cleaner (and one that is chemical-free no less) has really helped me clean more often. I also really enjoy not worrying about what I’m breathing in while I clean. 
  3. Fresh Air: Such a simple, small thing to change, but keeping the air in the house fresh inspires me to keep the house itself fresh and clean. Our beautiful weather lately has been a great excuse to open the windows, and breakout the diffuser to freshen our home up. I have been slowly ridding our house of harmful, harshly scented candles as well, and instead using my diffuser from Saje. 
  4. Norwex: I don’t sell Norwex, or Young Living, but both companies have products I really enjoy. I’ve slowly started acquiring some Norwex cloths and I find they work stupendously to clean the house, completely free of ANY cleaning products. I want to expand my collection, especially with a baby on the way. 
  5. Less stuff = More time: I am a ruthless purger of things! But I wasn’t always; I used to have SO many sentimental items that I could never dream of letting go. I changed after I spent some time in Uganda. It wasn’t necessarily my time in a third-world-country that made me turn from my selfish first-world ways and purge my excess belongings. Truth be told, it was the fact that my time back and forth in Uganda (and the fact that I was never sure where I was going to land) caused me to evaluate my stuff more carefully. I found myself asking, “is this thing worth packing, shipping, and unpacking, potentially several times?” Most of my things inspired a resounding NO! I still apply this concept to my life now that my husband and I are settled in Canada, and I must say that having less stuff does not solely benefit ones ability to travel. Having less stuff in our house truly causes us to have more time. It’s good to be clean and organized of course but nearly impossible when there’s stuff consuming every corner of your house. Less stuff means we have more time to things other than clean.

Gentle Cleaning has also caused me to ask some questions (that I fear are dumb, but I’m going to ask them anyway):

  1. Where do you bring old chemicals that you want to get rid of? 
  2. Do you have any solutions for an inexpensive, chemical-free, freshly “scented” (or at least leaves your clothes fresh feeling) laundry detergent? I want to try Saje’s dryer balls and get rid of those toxic dryer sheets… but all the other laundry detergent that’s “natural” seems crazy expensive. Any great suggestions? 
  3. What about car-washing? Anything environmentally friendly for washing the car? 
  4. Coming into the new season of parenthood, how do you stay clean and organized with a baby? And don’t say it’s impossible! How do you control toy accumulation? Organize laundry? Clean your floors easily?

Now, here’s the temptation I often have once everything in my home is clean and organized: I want to shop! There’s space for things, empty hangers, and time to kill… why not indulge in a little shopping? And to take it further, THERE’S A BABY COMING! I NEED ALL THE THINGS! I don’t, but you know, first baby! Who knows what I need? So I should just get it all right?! 

Which leads me to my April project: Gentle Shopping. 

My Rules for April: 

  1. No impulse shopping or mall-wandering 
  2. Learn about “Fast Fashion”
  3. My mantra for the month, “I have everything I need.” 
  4. Learn some DIY’s for things I’d usually buy
  5. There is no baby here yet, I don’t need to buy baby things this month. Say it again ASHLEY! You don’t need to buy any baby things this month! 
  6. Maintain the habits I’ve developed thus far:
    1. Reducing household waste
    2. Make more vegan adaptations to my diet
    3. Continue to rid our house of all chemical based cleaning products

Know of any great resources when it comes to Gentle Cleaning, or Conscious consuming? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

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March: Gentle Cleaning Rules for the Month

I know, I know, I need to conclude my February Vegan month still! If you follow me on social media, you will have seen my husband and I recently announced we are expecting a little Halfrican™ bundle in August. I wanted to wait on talking about being Vegan because I REALLY wanted to address what it’s been like being Vegan for the month AND being pregnant (spoiler alert: it’s been a real treat). It made it hard to talk about vegan pregnancy before actually announcing that I’m pregnant. So look forward to that coming soon. IMG_9122

Meanwhile, it’s March which means new month, new project! 

This month I am going to venture into Gentle Cleaning. I am going to overhaul our house and see what I can do to get as many cleaning chemicals out as possible. I am also going to clean like I’ve never cleaned before… which I am beyond excited about. I can highly identify with Monica on “Friends”… except the episode where she has a secret closet where she keeps all her mess, I can not handle that business. And before you say “Oh, you must be nesting,” I am not. My love for cleaning and organizing is just me on a normal day. Same thing with my love for naps and snacking… completely unrelated to pregnancy, it’s just how I roll. 

All throughout my high school days, I worked at a wonderful fish market to which I credit for teaching me how to clean. There I learned how to sweep effectively, how to clean sharpie off of a counter top, how to wash dishes by hand and, most importantly, bleach everything! I became accustomed to associating the sensation of something being “clean” with the smell of bleach, and have carried this into adulthood. However, my house is not a fish market, and does not require the same amount of disinfecting. So this month, I shall teach myself new ways! 

Here are my Gentle Cleaning goals for the month: 

  1. Replace household cleaning chemicals with natural solutions
  2. Experiment with different DIY cleaners
  3. Clean, Organize, Purge! 
  4. Continue to reduce household waste
  5. Continue to explore new Vegan recipes

As I have for the past two months, I’d love any tips and resources from those who are wiser than I. Let me have it; what do I need to know about chemical free cleaning? 

Gentle Eating: Mid-Month Update

My Vegan month has been eventful thus far. 

I must confess, I’ve slipped up a few times. 

I went to A&W for a Beyond Meat burger and was very conscientious about stating boldly “NO CHEESE” at the drive-thru window. Then, about half way through eating the burger, I realized it was riddled with mayo. Oops. 

Last week, in a famished blur, I saw one of my students with a giant bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. Before I could even think about Vegan anything I found myself making intense eye contact with said student and muttering, “What’s good?” as I reached out my cupped hands for Cheetos.  

In the same way I discovered mindfulness during my January of “Gentle Waste,” I’ve been realizing how much more mindful I need to be to find success living a Vegan lifestyle. No hazy brained adventures to the drive-thru in the morning, every restaurant visit requires very diligent reading of menus beforehand, and cooking at home requires a great deal more creativity and thought. 49864750_340699400105138_4016678476353372160_n

But with that said, when I put thought into my meals, I don’t feel that I am making huge sacrifices with my eating. One of the first things people said to me when they found out I was going to eat Vegan for the month was, “Sooo, you’re going to eat lettuce?” At that time I would ignorantly respond, “Yeah, I guess so,” however now I know that’s not always the case. Vegans are a creative lot and whether it be “burgers” or “cream” sauces, or “cheese,” I have been able to find delicious replacements for most things. I would choke a salmon with my bare hands for some sushi right now though. I do not have the patience or the time to be rolling my own sushi rolls. That’s another kind of extra that I’m just not. 

Stay tuned to my Instagram account as later this month I will have special Instagram live interviews with some talented Vegans.

For those interested, here are some great recipes and references I have discovered so far.

I found this TED Talk from Erin Ireland fascinating. Vegan or dedicated carnivore will find this a useful watch.

Plant Based News has been an interesting resource:

https://www.plantbasednews.org/?fbclid=IwAR0aP4eRC2fRx1cfDqh3dVqbiRir2GUt93ODlhju49zXFPQAXvDGZ8FEe8k

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https://olivesfordinner.com/2015/03/carrot-lox.html

http://itstodiefor.ca/the-best-soft-and-gooey-cinnamon-buns-by-indian-rock-vegans/

Erin Ireland’s version of the Virtuous Pie “Stranger Wings” Pizza (This is one of my absolute favourites): http://itstodiefor.ca/buffalo-cauliflower-wing-pizza/

One of my favourite websites for Vegan recipes is: https://ohsheglows.com

Here’s a link to my “VEGAN” board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.ca/theashleyrhapsody/vegan/