#yeg Spotlight: Holiday Gift Guide 2015

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and I’m excited once again to share my list of a few local favourites that I will be shopping and gifting for the holidays (you can check out my round up of last year’s locals here, who are producing wonderful things yet again this year!)

I know not everyone gets excited about Christmas music immediately following Halloween, or the decorations popping up faster than you can say “boo!”. But, truth be told, I am totally one of those people that has Christmas movies and mugs on rotation all year round. Regardless of where you stand on the Christmas excitement meter, the task of shopping for the holidays can be daunting; even dreadful at times. But if you’re making a commitment to shop locally, and that’s something you enjoy anyway, then I hope to inspire even the slightest bit of cheer with my collection below.

Clockwise:

Transcend Coffee Subscription
Coffee. Delivered to your house. Need I say more?! This local shop has made gift-giving to the serious coffee lover so much easier. You select the type of subscription you want, length of time you wish to send coffee to the recipient’s home, and Transcend takes care of the rest of the logistics. I have almost signed myself up many times…

The Skinny
For all of those impeccably dressed little ones in your life. This shop carries everything from cute and modern swaddle blankets to outfits that make you want to request the same in adult sizes. All of the shop’s items are curated by the lovely (in every sense of the word) Erinn, and can be shopped either online or from their trendy, underground storefront in Vacancy Hall of the Mercer Warehouse.

Top Knot Style
I recently gifted one of these luxurious and beautiful cowls to my sister for her birthday, and it’s taking everything in me not to order one of everything else for myself and the rest of my family! All hand made, right here in Edmonton!

Pura Botanicals
I have yet to experience the beauty and serenity of Pura’s brand new space located on 124 Street, but what I know from pictures and experiences of friends of mine that have been, I can’t wait to discover more. Eco-friendly, sustainable, and effective skin care is a gift everyone must experience, right?

Berg and Betts
Stylish accessories made from the heart. This local company truly works magic with their hands as they transform scrap leathers into beautiful watches of various styles, and tassle necklaces that are highly coveted by any fashion girl at heart.

I don’t want to end this post without mentioning the holiday markets, because that is where you can get your hands on even more uniquely Edmonton goods:

Make It Edmonton – November 26-29
Cory Christopher Christmas Market – now until December 20
Royal Bison – November 27-29 + December 4-6
Shop the Loft – December 12

It’s fun and exciting to me to find that perfect holiday gift for the special people in our lives, but it’s giving, in general, that excites me the most. In keeping with our family tradition of giving back, this year we have decided to donate to the organizations that will be supporting Syrian refugees coming to Edmonton. An unavoidable issue in the news these days, this is something that lives very close to my heart. Maybe it’s because I’m the daughter, granddaughter and niece of immigrants, who faced similar struggles (though the circumstances for coming here were different, in some cases). Or maybe it’s because we have a young family of our own and can’t help but see our own daughter in the faces of the young children and their families on the treacherous journey to a better life. Either way, if my family’s contributions help make even the slightest difference, then it’s something we’re ready to dive right into. Here are the links to some information we found helpful, and where/how to donate:

Direct help in Edmonton: Mennonite Centre for Newcomers

Canadian Red Cross

UNHCR Canada – The UN Refugee Agency

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a great week! xo

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

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A Summer Recap

Yesterday started out as a rainy, September day, and it made me think “Hey, this would be a good time to reflect on how we spent our summer”. There’s no time like the present to share that with you, right?!

In short, it seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye, as the summer months tend to do. It was a busy one for us, but we managed to get away on a couple of small trips (pictures to follow below), enjoyed a lot of what was happening here in Edmonton, excitedly planned and celebrated my sister’s wedding (stay tuned for photos from the very talented Carmyn Joy), and all the while, I am growing baby #2. Surprise! Depending on whether you follow along on either my personal or blog Instagram accounts, you may have seen a few photos revealing a rapidly growing bump. We are SO excited to be expanding our family, and with another baby GIRL!!! This pregnancy has brought along its fair share of sickness and next-to-nothing energy levels, but thankfully I have left that behind in the first trimester and am happy to be feeling more like myself these days (save for a bad back).Life is going to get a whole lot girlier around here, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. January can’t come soon enough!

Back to the recap. Back in June, we took a trip down to Calgary for the annual Greek Festival that the community puts on. This trip was twofold – partly to perform with my Greek dance group and partly to have a little family getaway.

Here’s the dancing gang, Kyklos (that’s me in the top row, third from the left)

At the Calgary Zoo, trying to snap a picture with Thea before she runs away (something she loves doing nowadays)

Grabbing a coffee at the famously rich and satisfying Phil & Sebastian in Chinook Centre

We took the road down south again later on in the summer and spent August long weekend in Canmore. This was the first time I had spent actual, dedicated time in the town, and it didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love. It’s scenic, quaint, and has something for everyone. We can’t wait to go back, and perhaps experience what winter in the Rocky Mountains is like (mental note: sign the family up for skiing lessons first!)

While in Canmore, we hiked the Grassi Lakes trail which came highly recommended from a few friends. Despite not making it all the way to the top (thanks to my pregnant huffing and puffing!), we are so glad we did what we could. It was a scorcher of a day, so to conquer what we did was a pretty great feat! Here are some of the views we encountered along the way.

It was another great one for the books! We have said this more frequently in recent years, especially since starting a family of our own, but there’s something so cool and fulfilling when you can dive in and explore the gems within your own province; your own backyard, so to speak. And to think there’s so much more of this great province to uncover.

With summer officially behind us, I am ready to embrace the cooler temperatures and all of the beauty that fall brings. Oh, and Starbucks’ pumpkin scones 🙂

Happy Wednesday…xo

Talking about: French Immersion

Discussions between spouses once you have kids become injected wth things you never thought you would talk about in your day-to-day. Not that we don’t chat about the things we used to before! It’s just that now, our conversations include things like “did you read the latest anti-vaccination article going viral on Facebook?” or “The Baby Centre email I got today talked about tantrums – what good timing, hey?” In the last few months, we’ve revisited the topic of immersion programs and whether or not that’s a road we want to go down when it comes time to enroll Theodora in school.

Initially, each of us were split on the subject. I was all for it, coming from the perspective that the younger you can expose a child to other languages the better. They are sponges at these young ages, after all. Alex, on the other hand, was a little more hesitant, more so from a practicality point of view – what language would we choose, and would she realistically use it?

I grew up in a bilingual household with Greek being my first language. As a result of this, my fluency today is all thanks to those early years of listening, learning and speaking the language, and my French studies came to me quite easily and enjoyably in my school years. My French now is nowhere near being able to strike up a conversation, but I could probably get by. And this isn’t to say that my current level of Greek couldn’t use any improvement; it definitely could. But it has really cemented for me how important it is to start as early as possible if I want our child to pick up on a second language. Since I’m with Theodora 95% of each day, I’ve been speaking to her in Greek pretty much from day one in hopes of hearing her little voice speak a word or two in the near future.

We have decided to go with it and have chosen French immersion as our program of choice (we’re ahead of the game, I know, but her school days will be here before we know it, I’m sure – sob, sob!). Now, maybe part way through, she’ll hate it and ask to participate in the regular stream, at which point we will of course discuss and proceed accordingly. Not everyone is a languages person, and we would hate to place that kind of pressure on her. On the other hand, maybe that will be her normal and she’ll embrace it like a champ! I am also of the firm belief that the more languages you know or are exposed to, the easier they come.

Time will tell, but I’m curious – have any of you with kids had similar discussions? If you have enrolled your kids in an immersion program, has it been valuable? Have you had to re-learn the language yourself in order to help with assignments?! Clearly we have a bit more homework to do…no pun intended 😉

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!)

New Job: Mom

November 24, 2014. This is the day that I would have technically returned to work after maternity leave. Except I’m continuing my at- home journey with Theodora, and to be honest with you, there’s no place I’d rather be.

It was an unexpectedly difficult decision because I was in a job that I absolutely loved. For the last eight years, I worked for a business school managing a portfolio of professional development programs. My colleagues were amazing. My boss and people I reported to – even more amazing. And the people I got to meet and interact with on a daily basis were a true gift. I think a person’s years of development can be loosely compartmentalized into childhood, teen years, and adult years, and I spent most of my formative adult years in this place. A place I was very proud to call my day time home. The downtown pod that I happily walked into every day was brimming with intellect, energy, ideas, and style . It was impossible not to be a fashionable group being only steps away from some of the best shopping destinations in the city. When I became pregnant and people would ask me if I planned to return to work, my response was always “of course!”. It wasn’t a question of “if”; rather it was a question of capacity (full time versus part time).

And then Theodora was born, and everything changed, almost instantly. I was amazed at how quickly my heart swelled with a love I never understood until she was in my arms. Just like that, we were beginning this new chapter as a family of three. When we left the hospital and jumped into our roles as parents, I kept thinking back to something my dad had told me many years ago. My parents always believed that I would excel at anything I put my mind to, whether it was education, work or any other life passion. But my dad also said that among my drive to succeed, he always saw me as a person deeply rooted in family. Now maybe it was my stellar performance as the oldest child (this is where you all can laugh), or maybe it was his compiled observations of me growing up, mirroring the values and morals that he and my mom raised me with. Either way, this strong, magnetic pull I was feeling towards our brand new daughter suddenly became so much more clear. This was what I wanted my next job to be: mom.

The thought processes and discussions that ensued between Alex and I were lengthy, and were revisited time, and time, and time again. This was no easy decision that could be made in a day, despite how sure I was so early on. We weighed the financial impacts, as well as the impacts this would have on my career long term. From the many angles we looked at it, and despite a couple of moments of fear, one thing remained clear all along: this was the decision that felt right for our family, and for me.

My job was something that I knew very well; however, my new mom job continues to prove that I still have a lot to learn. Thank goodness for my mom, who is always there to listen to my questions, and always very kind and gracious with her answers, no matter how silly I might sound. As a person who thrives in a busy environment and loves having something to do all of the time, motherhood is a great fit! Yet, that only occupies a portion of my brain that is all things baby, growth, development, and the next foods to introduce. I still crave being able to use the other part that reminds me of a time when the creative, business juices flowed freely! In an attempt to keep that part of my brain chugging along, I have made a bit of a promise to myself. I will do what I can to stay current, whether it’s by taking on similar projects from home, volunteering, or staying in touch with my former colleagues and see how that might work out (actually, that last point is a given, cause I just like my former day time family too much). And maybe some of these won’t work at this time, which is okay too, because this is not intended to be a permanent circumstance (I plan on, and look forward to, going back to work one day!).

There is something very cool and meaningful about one chapter coming to a natural close, with the next one opening. I’m so excited, and I feel so very lucky to be able to do this. Countless times, I have heard how fleeting these little moments are, so to be able to spend this time with Theodora means the world to Alex and I. Not only have our families rooted for us in this decision we have made, but I have been completely overwhelmed (in the best way) by the words of congratulations and support I have received from my former colleagues.

Feeling so lucky, with a very full heart.

xo,
Kassey