Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowHappy Halloween // Keeping WillowThis past weekend my mom came to visit.  She brought us pie and Founder’s beer and Madcap coffee and homemade almond bars.  I love my mom.  She took us to the Toronto Zoo, who was hosting a Halloween themed weekend.  I was dressed up like a mom, white sneakers and all (ok, ok, I just wore them because my toes go numb if I don’t wear supportive shoes) and my mom brought this super cute pumpkin costume for Willow.  It was a really neat way to celebrate Halloween without all of the crazy sugar crashes.  Not that we won’t take Willow around to a few houses today, just to show her off to the neighbors (ok, ok, so that we can have all her candy– she’s too young anyway). Willow was able to have a little visit with Rainbow Dash which, as you can see, didn’t go so well.  The zoo wasn’t crowded at all and we felt like we could really take our time observing.  If you’re ever in Toronto, you should find a chance to go.  I hope your Halloween is safe, fun and close to as cute as ours.  But it’s kind of hard to beat a panda.



Blog Crush

I’m not a huge blog reader.  I mean, I read blogs, I just don’t devote much of my day, really my week to keeping up on all the fantastic blogs that are out there.  But there are a few blogs, I swoon over.  These are blogs that as soon as they show up on Instagram or Twitter with a new post, I have read it within 3 minutes– because I love them that much.  Every word they say is riveting, their style inspiring or their food styling exquisite. And so I would like to feature some of my favorite blogs, in varying categories, that I obsess over.  They are blogs that inspire me, which in the end inspire this blog.  They are worth sharing with, drooling over and crushing on.

Local Milk

local milk // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowThis girl, Beth Kirby, she can cook.  And not only that, the way she writes about her experiences and ideas about food is enticing and captivating.  I love reading her posts almost as much as I love looking at her food pornography photography.  Each recipe is very unique.  You can tell Beth loves the craft of cooking and developing recipes.  I especially appreciate her baked goods.  I made her Chocolate Lavender Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream Frosting for a friend’s birthday, and it was probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever made.  Beth also helps coordinate regular Kinfolk events, that are truly beautiful, as well as teach food styling workshops in exotic places all over the planet.  Local Milk also has a fantastic instagram feed (well all of these blogs do).  You can follow it here.

Sprouted Kitchen

sprouted kitchen // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowBeautiful, fresh creations is all you see on Sprouted Kitchen.  This vegan, health conscious, food blog (written and photographed by Sara and Hugh Forte) is constantly creating drool worthy recipes that the vegan and carnivore alike would die for.  You can tell a lot of thought goes into these recipes, the colors, the textures, the flavor sensations, and the photography is beautiful.  My favorite part is, these are recipes that I will use regularly, not just something to save for a special occasion.  The icing on the cake, they have a new, beautiful baby.  Can’t resist tiny baby photos.  Follow this blog and eat a little healthier.  Their fantastic Instagram feed is here.


mothermag // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowMothermag is my new favorite thing.  It is the best motherhood blog, the most resourceful, classy and cultured.  I love this blog because it laughs at the stigma that moms are out-of-fashion, out-of-shape losers who have lost their life and identity in their children, not by saying it explicitly, but just by being awesome.  They have amazing fashion tips, breastfeeding advice, mom horoscopes, and regular interactions with pop culture.  This blog only started this year,  a collaboration of a bunch of amazing parenting bloggers, and has really been kicking it.  If you’re a mother, go here.  If you’re want to be a mother, go here.  You can follow them on Instagram here.


bleubirdAnother fantastic parenting blog, James Kicinski McCoy (also a collaborator for Mothermag) and her family are so– I hate to use such a cheap word, so I’ll put a profanity in front of it to make it seem more obtuse– damn cute! They just are.  Her and her four children are gorgeous, have great style and have a lot of fun.  James not only writes this blog, she is a product designer and photographer on top of homeschooling her four children with her husband.  She is an inspiring woman with great fashion sense and really great taste in children’s toys.  Bleubird also features some great recipes– one I’m meaning try is this gluten free, vegan donut recipe.  So whether you’re looking for some fashion advice or want to see some cute– I said it again– little people, this blog is the place for you.  You can follow Bleubird on Instagram here.

Wide Eyed Legless

wide eyed legless // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowSigh. I hesitated to share this one with you.  Not because this blog isn’t really fantastic, but because I want it all to myself.  Wide Eyed Legless (Madelynn Hackwith Furlong) has completely revolutionized my sense of style.  I mean of what style I have.  Wide Eyed Legless consistently curates a minimalist, monochromatic look that is refreshing and freeing. My favorite part about this blog is Madelynn’s posts about defining one’s style.  They are so practical and clear in helping you discover what your own style is and sticking with it.  After I started following this blog in February, I purged my closet, removing the clutter, and have stuck only to basics in neutral colors– mainly white and black– and have  embraced a minimalist approach to my look.  I even follow Madelynn’s own beauty secret for her hair, not washing it.  Pretty much, if I could afford her wardrobe, I would just copy everything she wears and maybe be her best friend.  Ok, this is getting weird, isn’t it?

All awkwardness aside, I highly recommend this blog and Madelynn’s Instagram feed is my favorite.  Such simple and refreshing images are the only thing that are featured.  Check it out.

A Merry Mishap

a merry mishap // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowI have been a little obsessed with interior spaces lately.  In particular modern, fresh and clean feeling spaces.  I am just a better person when I am in a well curated space.  And I’m obsessed with the color white (enough with the obsessions Stacy!).  Everything must be white! Except the couch, because there’s Willow. And the rug.  Ok, it’s really me, I spill on everything.  But I wish it were all white. A Merry Mishap, written and curated by this classy gal– and mother– Jennifer, is constantly filling my mind with more ideas for a more open and minimalist space. With a keen sense of Nordic taste, each post delivers.  Check out her feed on Instagram and keep on pinning these beautiful images.

In the end, if you don’t care at all about minimalism or adorable children (really?), that’s fine.  What I hope to display is what kinds of things move me and move me forward as I continue to press on in this whole blogging thing.  So follow some blogs, cook some great food, cloud your Instagram feed with even more people you don’t know, and get to know me and my taste a little bit more.  Happy reading!


Dinner, Staples

Frugal Food Series | Tip 4: Spices

At our wedding shower I received a box filled with 30, empty spice jars.  One of my family members remarked, “what on earth would you need 30 spice jars for?”  With a confused look, my response was, “yeah, 30 isn’t really enough, is it?”

I like spices you guys.  And in frugal cooking it can make all the difference between a very bland meal and a very fulfilling eating experience.  But when you have 30 empty spice jars to fill, herbs and spices can add up at the register.  Especially, if you like fancy things like I do (notice the 2 different kinds of fancy salts in the picture above from my collection of 8).

The reason I added empty spice jars to our registry is because I discovered the most economical way to buy spices.  In bulk.  If you are native to Grand Rapids, visiting your local, Harvest Health location, you will find an enormous variety of spices in bulk sized bags.  And they are cheap (like $1-3 a bag).  If you are native to Toronto, well then the bulk spice bag is not new to you.  I buy these bags, replenish my spice jars, and store them in the freezer to prolong their freshness.

Frugal Food Series | Tip 4: Spices // Keeping WillowFrugal Food Series | Tip 4: Spices // Keeping Willow

If you want to eat frugal and eat well, discover your spices.  Experiment and adapt.  Find them in bulk and rotate them frequently (once they’re a year old, they really lose their flavor).  It will change the way you eat and save you some dough at the market.

Below is a spice blend I use to make a lovely vegetable tagine.  Toss a couple tablespoons with a variety of veggies (eggplant, potatoes, onions, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes).  Sauté in a dutch oven for a few minutes.  Add a cup of stock and bake covered in the oven at 350°F for an hour.  Garnish with fresh mint or parsely (raisins, olives and almonds are good too) and serve with couscous or quinoa. Eating frugal is eating better!

Tagine Spice Blend
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground corriander
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cardamom




If you talked to me exactly 84 days ago, the thought of slipping me a valium in a margarita may have been a thought that crossed your mind.  Because I was not ok.  I was a hysteric, nervous wreck.  I had the knot the size of a softball in between my shoulder blades (just ask my husband, it was serious). I woke up unrested, in a pool of anxious sweat, and was breaking out all over my face.  With two weeks left before our scheduled move to the city of Toronto, we had no place to live, no job and no idea how we were going to get one of the latter.  No one would accept our tenant application, since we did not have our social insurance numbers or immigration paperwork yet.  People were hesitant to hire someone they only met over Skype.  We had friends who had a lot of trouble at immigration and had to go back to make adjustments on their permit applications.  What if we didn’t have enough money or Canada just didn’t like us?  I was scared.  Freaking out.  Everyone kept saying, “It will all come together in the end.”  And every time I wanted to scream back, “HOW DO YOU KNOW?!!  THAT IS JUST EMPTY REASSURANCE AND IT’S NOT MAKING ME FEEL BETTER!!!”

And then it did.  Just like that, within a matter of days, everything came together.  I found an apartment and a job.  Moving day came and we crossed the border without a hiccup.  We moved into our last minute, maybe-things-happened-in-a-shady, cash-under-the-table kind of way, apartment; and it was perfect– aside from the filth.  And we are putting food on the table.  We’re doing ok.  Willow is adjusting.  And though she’s been sick half a dozen times, there’s Canadian health care, so that’s great.  Had I known that we would be in this place 84 days ago, I would have chilled out a little bit.  Maybe I would have gone for a walk to listen to the cicadas and smell lavender in people’s front gardens– you know, appreciated the summer that was coming to a rapid close and crap like that.  But instead I wrapped my soul around a fundamental idea that everything was not ok and my whole life stopped.  Yeah, I wish I would have let my soul wrap around the idea that everyone else was telling me, that everything was going to be ok. But then again, if I hadn’t been so anxious, I may not have tried as hard to find the job and the home we needed so badly.

So my resulting feeling, in hindsight or this whole ordeal, is deep, profound gratitude.  Yeah, it sucked being anxious, packing up our entire lives and moving to another country.  But we were never alone or not looked after.  Everything came together when it very well could have all completely gone awry. And that’s amazing.  That’s worth celebrating.  And now,  I have this esoteric sense of peace. And all I want to do is…

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Thank you.




Here we are, my daughter and I, in our pajamas on a Saturday morning.  I was making a grocery list when she squeezed in next to me on the couch with “her” legal pad and started to color.  It was ridiculously, adorable and heart breaking, so Jazz took a photo.  And it was cute.  But it was also kind of scary.  She was copying me. And that forces me to think about who exactly it was that  she was copying and how that affects my role as a mother. Because I am a human being who has insecurities and flaws and baggage and fear.  I don’t want my daughter to have those things.  Can’t she just copy me when it’s cute?

This is no new epiphany or huge breakthrough that has brought me to my knees.  I already knew that parents set an example for their children.  But a simple reminder like this helps me to remember that I have control of the person my daughter is copying.  The things about myself that I don’t want her to copy, I can change.  I can move forward and conquer and gain confidence and get brave.  And maybe that’s what parenting is?  Being the kind of person you want your children to copy.  And out of all the sleepless nights, breastfeeding mishaps, potty training horrors and temper tantrums, being that kind of person is the most difficult task of parenting, by far.

So I leave you with one question.  Are you the kind of person you want your children to copy?