Christmastime

I love Christmas every year that it rolls around, but there’s one particular Christmas that stands out from the rest.

 

Back in 2005 (hard to believe that’s over ten years ago), my family and I celebrated Christmas and New Years in Greece. It was a chance to spend some time with all of our relatives there, and also to see Greece at a very different time of year. When you hear of Greece, most people think of islands, or beaches, world famous sunsets, or ancient ruins. Souvlaki may also come to mind. But life is different during the winter months. At least, it felt that way to me after only having seen it in the summer months when the aforementioned are most prevalent.

It was like we were part of the country’s regular programming; where citizens were out and about getting ready for Christmas, rushing from one gathering or party to the next. The traditions we preserve and practice here at home were visible and alive everywhere, surrounding us like the richest chocolate around a hazelnut. The most memorable and meaningful part was that we got to experience Christmas the way my dad did growing up as a kid.  It was, without sounding childish or cliche, magical.

In amongst all of these lovely, festive moments, there were also some eye-opening parts of the trip. Like the fact that homes aren’t heated in the same way during the winter like our Canadian homes are. Let’s just say that when the firewood has been used up and it’s the middle of the night, you layer with every sweater and blanket in site! Or when we were driving up a narrow, village road that was covered in ice, we had to accept the fact that our little rental car couldn’t hack it (it seriously couldn’t; we spun out multiple times, and even lost control as we headed towards the roadside…with no guardrail!) But, my uncle’s old, Toyota pick-up truck could! Strap some chains around the tires and away you go, is how it’s done over there.

It was a trip to remember, in spite of the differences. The true gift in all of this was experiencing something so rich, and so cool with my parents and sisters, and with relatives that are so far away. Now that I have a family of my own, I can’t wait to experience something like this and create our own version of this in the future.

greece-december-16-2005-to-january-7-2006-013

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a holiday season full of love, laughter and lots of restful family time. See you in 2017!

xo! Kassey

//Posts are not sponsored and are my own opinions and experiences \\

Four Words

Salted. Caramel. Chocolate. Cake.

Back in July, we celebrated Alex’s birthday with this delicious cake.

 

I started this post shortly after making it in an effort to share it with all of you ASAP, but it has remained in my drafts until now. Oops! In any case, the end of September has me thinking back to our summer happenings, wondering how on earth it all went by so fast?! Without further ado, read on to feast your eyes on our new family favourite.

Thea has proven her interest in all things baking and cooking time and time again, and she makes the cutest little sous chef. Every time I’m working on something, she pulls up a chair right next to me and asks to help. To which I excitedly respond, “OK!!!!!”. So we donned our aprons and got to work following this recipe . We followed it as is, with the exception of the garnish on top of the cake at the very end. I had Chipits Skor Toffee Bits on hand and decided to go with those instead of the flaky sea salt. No regrets there.

 

 

Now, I need to tell you guys about a secret little ingredient. One that I’m definitely going to buy again because it’s so decadent, whether you’re adding it into a cake or drizzling it on top of ice cream. This Salted Caramel by local dynasty, Duchess Provisions, is the ultimate jar of heaven that ever lived in your pantry (next to Nutella, of course). It truly added to the richness of the frosting and the layers in between the cakes. Yes, you read that right – cakes. Three layers, in fact!

 

We are a family of four, but technically only three of us eat food that requires chewing, so there were definitely leftovers. Leftovers for days (which was just fine by me)! This birthday celebration was as delicious as it was cute, and I think we’re all waiting for an excuse to indulge in this cake again. Good thing Thanksgiving is coming up…

 

Back to how there are only a few days left in September – anyone else feel like this month serves as motivation to do new things? My to-do list is long, and sitting nicely at the top are things like checking out the brand new Rogers Place arena, brunching at Cafe Linnea, and take in as much of this beautiful fall weather and crunchy, golden leaves as we can. How about you?

Happy almost weekend!

 

//Posts are not sponsored and are my own opinions and experiences \\

Beating the Heat

What a summer! And I’m talking about the heat. It seems like our summers have gotten hotter, in general. Is it just me?! I always say that the really hot days are still too few to justify installing an air conditioning unit in our home. Except that those really hot days are increasing in frequency and temperature, and I’m about ready to bid our fans adieu, and just go for the real deal. I blame a few things for this (my Mediterranean-living, heat-loving friends and family are rolling their eyes right now, I just know it!). One: I think it comes with age. I not only have become less tolerant of heat, but I physically can’t handle it like I used to in my 20s. Gone are the days where I could spend hour after hour being a slave to the sun. I get the shakes, I get weak, and I turn into a big mess if I don’t have a hat, a bottle of water and some shade nearby. Sigh. Two: 95% of my day is now spent running after and keeping up with my two young girls. My pre-kid self might relish in these soaring temperatures a bit more. But kid wrangling and +30 degrees…I’m sweating just thinking about it.

Bottom line: I love summer, I really do. I just love it with cold water and even colder decaf, iced Americanos. Here’s what we’ve been up to and how we’re beating the heat:

A Rocky Mountain getaway back in June. That cool, mountain air was welcomed with open arms.

 

Lots of lake walks, refreshing slurpees every once in a while, and playing tour guide for my cousin who recently visited from North Carolina

I have also made it my goal to experiment with some different dinner recipes to limit my oven use on the exceptionally scorching days. So far, I’ve tried these summer rolls (a new family hit!) and a summer vegetable soup (very similar to this recipe).

Hope you’re enjoying the summer! Tell me about the ways your beating the heat and any tasty, summer dinner recipes you love 🙂

xo,

Kassey

2016 So Far

A couple of weeks into the new year, and I’m just now getting around to this post! I hope the holidays were full of family and good food, and that you’re all feeling recharged, rejuvenated, and ready to take on another great year.

I am still one week away from my due date, so anxious and excited would be the biggest understatements to describe how we’re feeling about the impending arrival of our fourth family member! I, especially, am feeling beyond ready to welcome this little bundle of a girl into our lives, because if I’m being honest – pregnant and toddler wrangling on the daily is plain … hard. I just continue to remind myself that I physically can’t be pregnant forever, and before long, we will all be getting acquainted and getting to know the latest and cutest addition to our family.

With so much excitement (and adjustment, no doubt) awaiting us in 2016, I am looking forward to taking it all in in somewhat of a scaled back way. I will probably be a little quieter on this space for the next couple of months, for no reason other than to just focus on us as a new family of four. Stick with me, though, as I will remain active on Instagram and Twitter. and of course try my best to get back on here with updates and photos when I can. I’m also looking forward to sharing some of the plans I’ve been working on for the work side of my life. But you’ll have to wait until spring/summer for that one 🙂

Here are a few photos from the last little while. Enjoy, and hope you’re having a great week!

 

We celebrated Thea turning two with a Minnie Mouse themed day!

|| Cake by Jacqueline at Cake Affair & topper designed by Justine Ma ||

This cookie decorating station was a hit, and super simple to whip up.

She was really into decorating this year, and surprisingly wasn’t too interested in dismantling any of the tree after the fact – thank goodness!

On Christmas Eve, we decided to head down to the Legislature Grounds, and we’re so glad we did. You can’t really tell from these photos, but it was an exceptionally cold evening. It was a short-lived visit, but the beauty sure made up for it!

Our last Christmas as a family of three! Something tells me that the exact picture of this time next year is going to look a whole lot different!!

xo,

Kassey

// Posts are not sponsored and are my own opinions and experiences \\

Showering the Bride!

Happy Monday and hello! I’ve been a bit absent around here lately, mostly because of a busy few months, plus it’s summer time and we’ve been out and about enjoying this heat. And there has been some intense heat in Edmonton so far!

Amidst our melting in this long stretch of +30 temperatures, we threw my little sister’s bridal shower last week, and we had the prettiest afternoon full of love, laughs and amazing food. We went with a sewing theme, as the soon-to-be Mrs. loves all things needlework and crafting. We included subtle details throughout the decor, like the spools of thread and buttons on the food cards pictured below, similar cake and cupcake decorations, complete with our favors – mini/emergency sewing kits that you can toss in your purse.

This beautiful wristlet was made by the talented girls at Fabloomosity. For all things floral that are every bit stunning as they are unique, you want to get in touch with these ladies. They’re a dream!

There’s something about small and intimate showers that makes for a perfect afternoon. We spent the day catching up, taking some girly pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Throw some delicious snacks in there, and well, it doesn’t really get much better than that.

And every shower needs a little duvet tester!

The big day is less than two months away, which is crazy to believe! That might just be what I love so much about weddings – that there are a few smaller events and celebrations that take place in advance of the wedding day, making it seem like you’re celebrating the couple for months and months.

Here’s to another couple of months of fun, spoiling and enjoyment. Have a great week!

xo,
Kassey

Easter Parts One & Two

For those who may not know, Easter is the biggest religious celebration for Greek Orthodox Christians (it’s bigger than Christmas). Growing up, we have always celebrated Orthodox Easter, with certain festivities and family gatherings spilling over onto Western Easter, depending on how close the two fall if it’s not on a year that they coincide completely. Confusing, I know! You can read about the differences and why they are sometimes celebrated on different days here.

This year, we celebrated both. Western, or Catholic Easter, presented an opportunity to get together with family for an outdoor egg hunt at my aunt and uncle’s farm. This was a place where my sisters and I spent a lot of time in our younger years and it was so fun to go back now with Theodora. It’s not hard to see that she had a lot of fun filling her basket with the help of her older cousins, pointing out where the eggs and other Easter goodies were hiding!

She was clearly done at this point. With the egg hunt, and all of the pictures!

Orthodox Easter, which was just this past weekend, consisted of a lot of church-going and looking forward to the meat-filled feast that would break our 40-day fast. This typically includes a big lamb roast, but because not everyone was in town for the weekend, we opted for hosting an equally satisfying, but simple, brunch on Sunday morning. I vowed to take more pictures throughout the weekend, but failed miserably, getting caught up in the busy-ness of everything. I did, however, manage to take a couple on my phone – of Thea’s outfits that we dressed her in for church. Priorities, right?! Here, friends, our Orthodox Easter in Thea’s #ootd, or Outfits of the Day.

One of my dreams is to one day celebrate Easter in Greece – to really experience the richness, beauty and mystery of the holiday. Until that time, we will continue with carrying out the traditions we knew and loved during our childhood, with a whole lot of fun along the way!

I hope you’re having a great week!

xo
Kassey

Also…

Although an old article, Rita Wilson’s take on Orthodox Easter is a really personal and beautiful read, if you haven’t come across it already.

Fun fact ~ It’s a sweet coincidence that I post on this topic today. Easter was my grandma’s absolute favourite holiday, and today is her birthday! Happy Birthday yiayia. You are still very much alive in my heart and memories ❤

Thanks, 2014. Hello, 2015!

I hope you all have had a restful, food-filled holiday with all of the family time your hearts can handle, and more! That is what the holidays are all about after all, right?

It has been not just a great holiday season for us, but a great year all around. We took in all of our firsts with Theodora, and got to enjoy an energetic Christmas morning full of laughs as we watched her destroy every piece of tissue paper she came across. Who needs toys?!

As we were nearing the holidays, I was really hoping to take a true break and unplug. It’s hard to do, since day to day life is full of digital distractions, but I was determined to completely scale back on laptop, tablet and cell phone time. And what a success; we did it! We had several festive events on our radar, which we managed to take in, but most of all, we just wanted to hang out with our families. Visiting with family and friends was of top priority, especially those that made it in from out of town, so we feel refreshed after having caught up with those that are dear to us, but live far away.

It should be all 365 days of the year, but at Christmas time we are reminded to acknowledge and count our blessings. Having just payed my respects at an old friend’s funeral yesterday, that reminder was especially clear to me. I do my best to recognize all of life’s blessings all throughout the year, even (especially) the tiny ones, but I will make sure that for 2015, I kick that up a notch.

For example, I’m going to institute a wear-matching-slippers ritual, like we did on Christmas morning:

Or take a regular stroll through the local zoo at night:

Have a snow day on a more regular basis:

Relish in all of the joy that this little one brings us:

Also worth mentioning – she not only got her two front (top) teeth for Christmas, but also mastered walking! This proud mom is filling in these milestones in the baby book!

As our 2014 chapter comes to a close, we excitedly await 2015 and all of the fun it has in store for us. We’ve got wedding festivities on the horizon, and the regular daily adventures that we call life, so that in itself is a blessing. Hug those you love extra tight, and I wish you all every joy and happiness in 2015. Oh, and ring in the New Year safely 🙂

xo,
Kassey

RIP JC ❤

Celebrating One Year of Theodora

Last weekend, we celebrated our not-so-little baby’s first birthday, and throughout that day, I found myself revisiting some advice I had received just before my wedding day. A friend of mine told me to make sure I took a moment to really look at what was happening around me to soak it in because of how fast it goes by. The same totally applied for Theodora’s birthday; on the day we celebrated with a few little friends, and the night before the party, too. I couldn’t believe that the heart-shaped rice crispy pops and tissue paper poufs I was making at 2:30 in the morning the night before were for our very own daughter!

(Don’t judge me, but I feel like I need to be honest here – I had the help of not only Alex in these preparations, but also a glass of wine. It tastes so much better in those wee hours of the morning!)

The afternoon was filled with exactly what we hoped for – laughter, tiny people chatter, singing and eating. Although too young to really remember this milestone birthday, we hope that these pictures will help Theodora understand how excited we were to celebrate her.

People warned me of this, and it’s true – the first year goes by at lightening speed. Everything is so new, and you’re stepping into the monumental responsibility of raising a child in the safest, healthiest and happiest way that you can. Here’s what has made us feel ok about how fast it went – we did our best to be in the moment, every step of the way. Whether those moments were at 2:00 am consoling cries, or the fourth time in the span of half an hour changing, yet, another diaper, we just reminded ourselves that this was part of the deal. And what incredible, priceless results this deal has yielded us.

Have a great (warm) week!

xo,
Kassey

Also, hello December and Cyber Monday! When did that happen?! Here’s a list of some of the best Cyber Monday sales to shop. A great head start to Christmas shopping, if you haven’t already started.

One way to do some Christmas shopping (or treat yourself) and support local businesses and artisans is to check out the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair. It runs again next weekend, December 5-7, and is VERY worth checking out!

Party Details
Cake topper and huge pink balloon: Confetti & Sparkle Party Shop
Cake: Cake Affair (delicious and amazing!)

Family Photos

Earlier this summer, we had family photos done, and I’m so excited to share some of them here with you. I thought it would be so fun to get a little fancied up for a few of the shots, and mix it up with a slightly more casual style. We worked with the ever so talented and fun Nicole Ashley and her team of ladies, Janna Huget and Stefanie Carlson. You may remember a mention of Nicole and her team in one of my very early posts where I shared our mother-daughter photos. Needless to say, I was so excited to work with these girls again. Not only do they produce photos meant for cherishing, but a few minutes with this crew is a guaranteed ab workout from all of the laughs!

While I initially took inspiration from my style icons (the Beckhams, the Royals, and Blake Lively), it was with the help of Janna’s savvy styling skills that helped the whole look and feel of our photos come together. Combine that with Stef’s mad skills in hair and makeup, my delicate and sparkly dress, a sharp suit and a tiny gold crown and we had all of the necessary ingredients to cook up the photos I had been dreaming of. And if I can just talk about this dress for a minute – I had every intention of leaving the tags on and returning it once we were done with the shoot. Until I tried it on. Seriously, every girl needs a dress like this in her life! I can’t wait to wear this beauty again.

It was hard not to post all of them here, because with every single one I say “No, THIS is my favourite”. So here are a few more. And so begins my task of deciding which ones to print for framing. It’s going to be a tough one…

Our Family

(dress by Adrianna Papell, no longer available. Similar here and here)

Hope you all are enjoying what marks the last of the summer long weekends! Have a great week.

xo,
Kassey

Summer Vacation…With Baby!

A couple of weeks ago, we took our very first family vacation with Theodora, and it was a success! Our travels took us down to Scottsdale, Arizona where we visited with aunts, uncles and cousins; some of which live there, and others who flew in from North Carolina and Texas. Those four days were packed and seemed to go by just as quickly as the trip snuck up on us, but it was all really enjoyable.

Here are a few photos of our time in Scottsdale. We were really fortunate in that my mom, dad and grandpa also made the trip down, so it was a big, fat, Greek family vacation of sorts – fun, eventful, and memorable! At the end of this post, I’ve also included a list and a few descriptions of what worked for us travelling with a little one.

The last time this crew of cousins assembled was three years ago, on the dance floor, at our wedding. So fun, and even more fun that we got to introduce them to Thea!

The last time this crew of cousins assembled was three years ago, on the dance floor, at our wedding. So fun, and even more fun that we got to introduce them to Thea!

Our first family photo! Seriously, we're really bad at finding someone to take a picture of all three of us, so we were really excited about this one!

Our first family photo! Seriously, we’re really bad at finding someone to take a picture of all three of us, so we were really excited about this one!

Grandparents, and great-grandpa too!

Grandparents, and great-grandpa too!

Travel Planning with Baby

First trip meant a first real flight for Theodora, and so we knew a bit lot of forethought was required. Here are a few things we considered in our planning and packing:

~ Flights
Fortunately, there are direct flights from Edmonton to Phoenix that just happened to align with our little one’s sleep times. While she was a little fussier on the way down (I think teething was partly to blame for this), the flight back departed Phoenix at 8:00 pm, and after a bit of being distracted and excited at the beginning of the flight, she slept the whole way home. Sweet dreams all around!

~ Take off and landing
Most of you with babies have probably already heard that to help alleviate some of the pressure on the ears, it’s a good idea to breast or bottle feed on take off and landing. In our case, this really helped, and specifically on the flight home, which was similar to her typical bed time routine, resulted in a cozy, three hour slumber.

~ Entertainment & Boredom Prevention
Lesson learned here – it’s a good idea to bring along a toy that is brand new and never-before-seen by your cute little bundle. Theodora is getting to the age, now, where some of her toys are becoming old news to her, especially when you have them on short rotations over the span of three hours! So, on a shopping trip to Nordstrom Rack, I picked up a toy cell phone that I hid until we were on the plane to come home. It was new and exciting for her, and kept her occupied until she fell asleep.

~ Gear: Feeding

Travel-friendly Feeding Gear

Counter clockwise: 1. Medella Harmony Manual Breast Pump, 2. Annabel Karmel Food Masher & Bowl, 3. Boon Squirt Spoon

Theodora is on solids now, and when we’re at home, I use my Baby Bullet. It isn’t the most practical gadget to bring along on a trip, though, so a combination of other smaller, travel-friendly pieces and caving into buying certain baby foods got us through the four days. I found it very handy to have my manual breast pump (pictured above) as I like to mix her cereals and other foods with breast milk as opposed to water. If I couldn’t pump conveniently and privately, I just used bottled or tap water, and whenever possible, I boiled it. The bowl and masher has also proven it’s worth in our house. I often use it at home, and make sure to throw it in my baby bag when we’re heading out, too, as it’s easy, compact, and you can mash a variety of fruits and vegatables. Lastly, and possibly my favourite among all of these is the Boon Squirt Spoon. Minimal mess and pretty error proof, this has a permanent spot in my baby bag, and as long as I have it filled with iron-fortified cereal, Thea will always have a healthy snack on the ready. Pour in a bit of breast milk/formula or water, give it a stir or shake, and squirt. It’s that easy!

When it came to buying baby food, I was hesitant at first, but convenience and the need to provide a bit more variety for Thea won. We ended up buying a few of those squish packs and used them sparingly, but Thea seemed to enjoy them.

~ Gear: Clothing
The desert heat that Arizona is famous for was something I was a bit nervous about. We knew we wouldn’t be spending a whole lot of time outside, but I was also thinking about the drastic temperature change from outside to the air-conditioned indoors. In addition to the basics, I always made sure to have a light sweater in our bag for Thea. Four days didn’t require us to pack all that much, and if there was anything we forgot, it was a good excuse to go shopping!

~ Gear: Products
Similar to clothing, we knew that if there were any products we forgot, we could easily buy them from a grocery or local drug store. For those emergency types of items, however, it was reassuring to have a little “cosmetics bag” for Thea, which consisted of things like infant tylenol, nail trimmer (this one by Zoli is a God send!), thermometer, brush/comb, Vitamin D drops, and sunscreen.

Diapers were a perfect example of something you just stock up on once you arrive. We packed enough to last us (and then some) for the time we would be at the airport and the actual flying time, and then just made a trip to Target once we had settled into our hotel.

Since coming home, I have come across a couple of other resources that I will definitely refer to next time we take a trip. Caz shares 17 Tips for Flying With Kids over on her blog, and I really liked her idea of a bag of goodies – perfect for trips longer than a three hour flight! I have a feeling that packing will only become more challenging as Thea gets older and more particular with her outfits, so I will be looking to Joy’s tips on packing for a family trip. If Thea ends up loving clothes even half as much as I do, we’re in trouble…

I hope this was helpful, and if you have any tips or suggestions you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear them!

xo,
Kassey