$125 Jo Totes Camera Bag Giveaway!

I've been spending a lot of time on Instagram this year. I love photography and I love meeting other moms- this is my favourite social media to use. It’s so fun to peek into some of the best (& craziest) parts of your lives, through the photos you choose to share there, and I love to read your comments on my posts, sharing your thoughts and experiences!

I was pretty excited when I reached 10k followers there recently and to celebrate this milestone, I’ve teamed up with one of my favourite photography-related brands, Jo Totes, to offer you a giveaway!

Their camera bags are gorgeous (if you read my blog, you know I’ve reviewed several of them & I’m a big fan!). They can be used for lots of things other than camera equipment, too. Pictured above is their Allison bag in butterscotch. I LOVE the colour and the size is awesome for everyday use!

I made a video all about it so you can see it up close and in detail:

Top 10 Posts of 2016

While gathering the top 10 posts published in 2016, I noticed a theme. A lot of them are related to our trip to Florida in January! That may be because those posts were up the longest, so they had more time to get more traffic, or it may be because Florida and Disney World are pretty darn awesome. ;)  

I really hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season (it's not over yet- New Year's Eve is around the corner!) and that 2017 will bring fabulous things into your life! I wonder what the top posts for 2017 will be! :)

Click the "Read More" button below, to see the top posts on this blog from 2016!

RESP Gift Certificate- How to Make it a Fun Gift!

Here's how to give an RESP Gift Certificate and actually make it a fun gift!

As Christmas time approaches, we're all thinking about how we can give to others. I see the malls fill, my shopping list grows, and I watch the traffic build on my Non-Toy Gift Ideas blog post! As parents, we know all too well that toys seem to have a way of multiplying! You start out with a small collection of baby toys in a little basket in the corner of your nursery, and then you blink and you've got bedrooms and playrooms bursting at the seams if you're not careful! I know parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends are looking for non-toy gift ideas this time of year, and today I'll share one with you that you may not have thought of, as well as some ideas for how you can make it a fun gift – even though it's meant for the future.

We've been talking about education savings plans on the blog lately. I've shared why I think RESPs are important and our experience looking for an RESP provider. So let's say you've decided to start an RESP, you've chosen a provider, and you're on your way to saving for your child's future education. Did you know that your friends and family can contribute to your child's RESPs, too?

RESP Gift Certificate

Eye Found It! Free Printable Christmas Game

Today I have a cute free printable Christmas game for you called "Eye Found It". This is another fabulous printable that was created for the #LightTheWorld Service Initiative (encouraging people to find 25 ways to serve in 25 days). This one was created by Sam from thekiwiintheclouds.com.

This would be a great gift for a child to give to another child, or for anyone to give to a person who they would like to spend some quality time with.  It's so simple to make- just print and cut out!

Instructions for how to play the game are included in the printable!

You can download this free printable kit here.

Access other free Christmas printables from the #LighttheWorld campaign here.

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8th Birthday Fun!

We recently celebrated Katrina's 8th birthday and I want to document it here, to remember some of the little things we did to make her day special.  I had been feeling sick for nearly 2 weeks prior to her birthday, so Ken was a huge help in making things happen for her!

Ken woke up early and made pancakes, including this special "8 Pancake" and we brought it to her in bed, singing Happy Birthday. :)

Katrina loves Pop Rocks candy. The day before her birthday, she solemnly told Ken that she was going to put her last package of Pop Rocks (from Halloween) in her lunch for her birthday. That night, Ken & I sat up, taping 100 little packages of Pop Rocks candy to a string, to hang on her "birthday tree". I love how it turned out and it was totally worth her reaction in the morning! :)  

Free Printable Christmas Thank You Cards for Kids & Adults

Christmas is a time for giving and there are so many things that we can give. No matter what you give to someone you love this year, no matter your budget, perhaps the most meaningful thing you can give is your true thoughts and feelings in the form of a note or letter. As part of the #LightTheWorld Service Initiative (encouraging people to find 25 ways to serve in 25 days), Melissa Esplin created these beautiful holiday themed thank you cards.

These are great for kids, because they have a blank area where children too young to write can draw a picture.  There's also a lined version with dotted lines for children still learning to print, and of course the blank one can be used for older children or adults to write a message, but that's not all that's included in this free kit!

December 2016 Sharing Time

Welcome to the December Link Party!

See below for the Link Party and add your best posts, and check out the ones that are shared!

Service Jar - A Gift to the Savior

Christmas time is the time of year that I think we feel the spirit of giving the most. We are thinking about what Jesus did for us and we want to give to others around us. Have you heard about the Worldwide Day of Service on December 1st? There's a short video that explains a little about the Worldwide Day of Service. The idea is to serve whomever you would like in whatever way you would like!

Free Printable Kit

In light of Christmas time and the Worldwide Day of Service, today I'm sharing this free printable activity, created by Collette at My Computer Is My Canvas, that you can use with your family while you are serving others.  I like the idea of teaching our children that when we serve others, we are giving a gift to the Savior.

Christmas Service Jar

Ways to Serve Others

The kit comes with a whole list of 100 ways to serve others, including ways to serve others in the community, ways to serve your family, and ideas for helping others at school.

The idea is to use those for inspiration (and come up with your own ideas) and perform as many acts of service as you would like.  Write them down on the little strips of paper and fill a jar as a gift for Jesus.  I think putting this under the tree is one thing that will help our families to remember why we are celebrating Christmas.

Fitness For Moms (My First Impressions of Orangetheory Fitness)

After my first pregnancy, I felt weak and out of shape so I decided to join a gym with the goal of getting stronger. I loved the strength and endurance that I managed to acquire during my 6 months of attending that gym but I lost motivation.  An open gym leaves you to choose what to do, for how long, and at what intensity and I became frustrated with trying to put together my own workout plan. Hiring a personal trainer at the gym was out of my budget and so I stopped going. Over the last 10 years I have made several attempts at getting fit on my own with little success.

Motherhood & Fitness

I want strength and endurance for myself, as an individual, but also as a mother. I have found myself sitting on a bench at the park, observing my children, instead of running and playing with them for fear that I’ll strain myself or because I just don’t feel like I have the energy to run for long. 

New Fitness Goals

Just under two months ago, I started an Instagram account to document my new goal to go for a 20-minute walk, 5 times per week in October. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but it was a big improvement for me and I was very happy to have completed it, but I was ready for something more. I was very excited when I got the opportunity to try out Orangetheory Fitness. The more I learned about it, the more it seemed to be exactly what I needed.

What is Orangetheory Fitness?

If you’re not familiar with Orangetheory Fitness, it’s like a cross between a gym, a fitness class, and a personal trainer, and you use a heart rate monitor to track your progress. I was a little intimidated about it at first because it sounded like a pretty intense full body workout but it's supposed to be great for all fitness levels, so I went for it!

Education Savings Week Twitter Party!

Did you know that this is Education Savings Week? It's a great time to become empowered with more knowledge about saving for your children's education! Heritage Education Funds is celebrating with a twitter party this Thursday and I'll be co-hosting!

If you've enjoyed my recent posts about RESPs, you'll be excited about this twitter party because we'll be sharing tips and information about saving for your child's education and giving away over $700 in prizes! Be sure to RSVP below to be eligible to win!

$400 Holiday Cash Giveaway

It's that time of year again... time to make your list and check it twice and we want you to have some extra money to make your Holidays a little easier!
 Jen from Ninjamommers and Jennifer from 1Heart1Family have brought together an amazing group of Canadian Bloggers to offer you a spectacular giveaway. What would you say to $400 USD PayPal cash?! 
This giveaway runs from November 14th- November 28th at 11:59pm EST so hurry and enter for your chance to win and use the Hashtag #HoHoHolidayCash when sharing with your friends!

Just fill out the form below to enter for your chance to win!

Happy Holiday prep. time everybody!!!
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How We Got Started with RESPs

How We Got Started with RESPs
The right provider can make all the difference

Thinking about our kids' future education before they even started school is one of the best financial decisions we have made (but it's never too late to start)! I wrote a bit about that in a previous post with the promise of sharing more details with you, so I'm back today to share the story of how we decided what to do when we were starting out.

Talia & Katrina, each on her first day of Kindergarten

Where to Start

You can set up an RESP through a bank, trust company, or mutual fund dealer, but there are also other RESP providers who focus exclusively on RESPs.  When we started looking into creating an RESP, we did some research and decided to go with a group plan provider because they manage your investment for you and they seemed to be able to provide the best return for our investment (as with all investments, there are no guarantees). We settled on two companies that we wanted to get more information about. Both companies sent representatives to our home but we had two very different experiences with them.

November 2016 Sharing Time

Welcome to the November Link Party!

See below for the Link Party and add your best posts, and check out the ones that are shared!

What My Trip to the Spa Taught Me About Being a Better Mom

The weather was perfect. It was slightly warmer than room temperature with a gentle breeze. The sky was blue with a few fluffy white clouds in it. My mom and I had just spent some time relaxing in an outdoor hot tub.  Snuggled up in our soft spa robes, we walked out to the beautiful grounds behind the spa and lay on padded, reclined chairs to dry in the sun and enjoy the beautiful view.

I could feel stress leaving my body as I felt permitted to take the time to relax, to take in the beauty in the nature around me and to just "be". We surveyed the scene in front of us and noticed a couple of hammocks blowing in the breeze across the field. We quickly agreed that we wanted to go to them. We walked across the gorgeous gardens and got settled in the hammocks.


Do you use Instagram? I have been having a great time over there for a few months now. It is a great place to get to know other people with similar interests and it tends to be more interactive in the comments than blogs are these days. (That said, I would love to see more interaction in the comments of my blog, but it seems that people are more active that way on social media where they are already signed in and ready to go).  If you're on Instagram, please do come and hang out with me in the comments of my Instagram! I love to hear from readers and get to know you better!

If you have an Instagram account you'd like to share, please go ahead and leave your instagram name in the comments of this post, or come say hi on my Instagram!  I'm @raisingmemories over there. :)

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Taking Time to Think About Their Future

During our childhood my siblings and I used to ask our parents to tell us stories from when they were younger. We heard about my father's family who immigrated to Canada when he was just 3 years old and how they adjusted to being in a new country, learning the language, and starting a business. I recall tales about my mother's childhood in the country, and plenty of accounts of the adventures she had when she went away to University. Those stories are the first things that made me want to go to university and I kept that goal as I got older.

I did go to university and received a Bachelor's Degree. My husband also attended university and received a Bachelor's Degree, a Master's Degree, and is coming up on completing his PhD. We know as well as anyone that post secondary education is expensive and we want to help our children to be able to afford it if they choose to attend when the time comes for them.

Ken & I at Graduation for my Bachelor of Arts & his Bachelor or Science

Years ago, we decided that we wanted to start a savings plan for our girls' education. In the U.S. you have 529 Plans that are tax-advantaged savings plans sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions. In Canada, we have RESPs (Registered Education Savings Plans), which are tax-sheltered plans that can help you save for a child's post-secondary education and give access to grants like the CESG (Canada Education Savings Grant); money that the government will add to your child's RESP on top of what you put into the plan.

When we decided we wanted to start RESPs for our girls, we looked into several different providers. We even had interviews in our home with representatives from different companies before deciding on Heritage Education Funds. This is a topic that we think is really important for parents to know about because it can make a huge difference for you and your kids in the future! The cost of education is increasing and the job market is getting more competitive, with many jobs requiring a higher education. The sooner you decide to start an RESP, the more you'll make on your investment, so it's a good idea to start learning about them as early as possible.

Life is busy when you're raising kids and it's easy to push something like this to the bottom of your list of things to do. Over the next several months, I'll be sharing our experience with RESPs, why they're a good financial investment, and some of the products that Heritage offers. Right now, we're on track to nearly quadruple our initial investment and that's not even taking into account the immediate (and future) tax benefits... but more on that in a future post!

In the meantime, you can start learning more about RESPs and Heritage Education Funds' plans by visiting www.heritageresp.com.

Have you had any experience with RESPs or 529 plans?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Heritage Education Funds. All opinions shared are my own.

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General Conference Topic Summary Wall

Twice a year, our church holds a general conference meeting. We listen to talks given by church leaders that give guidance and inspiration. Like many inspirational events, it's easy to come away from Conference weekend feeling motivated and inspired (but to have that motivation fade with time). I want to teach my children (by both example and experience) that we listen to conference because we want to learn and that once we learn, it is important to apply what we have learned.

I came up with an idea this time that I'm excited about because I think it's working really well for us:

I had the idea to make a General Conference Wall before last conference but it required a bit of preparation; the photos didn't arrive in time and I wasn't as prepared so it didn't come together. I'm so happy with the way it has worked this time that I wanted to share it here in case it inspires someone else to find a way to help their family.

October 2016 Sharing Time

Welcome to the October Link Party!

See below for the Link Party and add your best posts, and check out the ones that are shared!

Back to School Clothes Haul & a Contest!

I loved back to school shopping when I was younger! It was an opportunity to go out and get some new things and usually to have a mommy daughter date in the process. This year I spent some time with each of my daughters, looking for clothes for the Fall.  We're still on the hunt for some things, but with a special contest going on, I wanted to share with you what we found at Carter's | OshKosh. They've got a lot of cute, colourful clothes right now and we've always been happy with their quality and durability so they're a favourite place to shop! Make sure you read to the end of the post because you don't want to miss the contest!

Talia is headed straight into those tween years and her tastes are changing. I was quite happy to be able to find cute shirts with sayings on them that she liked and I found appropriate.  The "Best Day Ever" shirt in the photo above was one of her picks along with this "Free Spirit" shirt with gold accents.  She styled it with her own jean jacket, some new moccasins, and a pair of OshKosh Moto Jeggings.

Pastel Pink, Purple, and Turquoise Toddler Bedroom with House Bed!

A couple of years ago I shared my niece's pink and gray nursery with you. Since then, my brother-in-law built the coolest toddler bed for her and her nursery transformed into a pastel pink, lilac, and turquoise toddler girl's room! My sister is expecting their second baby now so this bedroom will become a nursery once again. I went over to her house to document Tori's toddler room before that happened and because there are so many cute DIY projects and inspirational ideas within this room, I knew I would want to share it with you along with a bit about how she created some of the pieces in the room (or where she found them).

pastel toddler house bed

Lamp: Rona
House Toddler Bed: Homemade by my brother-in-law
(He used Restoration Hardware's Cabin Bed for inspiration)
Rug: Homesense
Chandelier: Details in the Nursery blog post
Tassel Banner: Handmade by my sister with tissue paper

Staying Safe in the Sun with Cabana Life Swimwear

This is the story of how Cabana Life Swimwear gave me the freedom to be in the sun more!

There have been summers when I have avoided the heat. I have stayed inside, out of the sun probably too much. This summer was not like that. As I look back on our summer vacation from school, I feel that we made the most of the beautiful weather. We went to the beach several times, swam in pools, threw water balloons, jumped in bounce houses and puddles and danced in the rain.

Most of this happened outside, in full sun. We are a fair skinned family and burn easily so sun protection is important to us! We have had some ups and downs this summer thanks to the sun and today I'm going to share some photos and little stories with you about it all.

Cabana Life Swimwear

September 2016 Sharing Time

Happy September! In all of the excitement/craziness of back-to-school and summer vacation ending, I forgot to post this month's sharing time at the start of this week!  Hopefully you'll find it now even if you came looking for it over the weekend!  Hope you're all having a great start to your school year!

Welcome to the September Link Party!

See below for the Link Party and add your best posts, and check out the ones that are shared!

The Dyson Cool Fan Competes in the Fan Olympics!

We live in a home without central air conditioning, so we have to get by during the hot days of summer with just two window air conditioners and some strategically placed fans. We often worry about our kids being cool enough in their bedroom on hot nights! Until recently, we had been making due with a couple of (very awkward) standing fans and a table-top fan. They are SO in the way and I'm always stubbing my toes on them or trying to move them, only to have the top come off of the base. I was getting SO tired of the situation!  This summer we had the opportunity to compare a Dyson Cool Fan with our regular blade fans and it couldn't have come at a better time! We decided to make the comparison process into a fun event...

Blade Fan vs. Dyson Fan

Fan Olympics

We're in the Olympic zone at our house right now, so we did some "Fan Olympics", putting our regular blade fan into competition with the 12" Dyson Cool Fan.

How to Manage Summer Break Screen Time

I've been hanging out on Instagram a lot this summer and I mentioned something in a post over there about how we've been managing screen time this summer. I've had several requests to share this in more detail, so here you are!

Ideas for Controlling Kids Screen Time

I was inspired by an idea that someone shared on facebook where they created a list of things that their kids needed to accomplish before they would be allowed to watch any T.V. or movies or play on a computer/tablet/phone... any "screen time".

I made our own list, similar to the one that was shared (I wish I knew who to credit for the original idea). I changed a few things, and added some things and here's what our list looked like in the end:

August 2016 Sharing Time

Welcome to the August Link Party!

See below for the Link Party and add your best posts, and check out the ones that are shared!

Learning About Pulleys

For her first Science Fair, Katrina did a project on Basic Mechanics- specifically focusing on Pulleys. We wanted to make it fun, so Ken actually built a pulley system for her to demonstrate with and we thought it would be fun to share with you here. :)

I'll include instructions for how we made ours after I show you the poster she made:

Sharing Childhood Memories & Making New Ones at Port Dover

Summer Holidays during my childhood were all about playing outside with my siblings and friends. "Screen Time" wasn't a term I had ever heard; we rarely watched movies at home as kids and we didn't even have a computer until I was a teenager (smart phones and tablets didn't even exist)! Childhood summers are different for my kids, but I'm doing my best to limit screen time and expose them to the same kind of outside fun and freedom that I experienced as a kid.

Last week, Ken took a day off from writing his thesis and we all went to the beach! A couple of other families met us there and we had a great day together. This was particularly fun for me because we went to Port Dover where I remember going with my family when I was little. It brought back so many great memories.

A Mother-Daughters Getaway at The Grand Hotel & Suites in Toronto

We had a few surprises for my mom for her birthday this year. First, the party was a surprise. Second, we flew my sister, Hilary, to Canada to be here for the party. It had been 2 years since she was here last so we were really excited to see her! Third, my sisters & I took her on a girls' getaway to Toronto for a couple of days while my sister was in town!

My mom has often mentioned how she would love to do a "girlcation". We only had a few days with Hilary in town, so we packed them full with the party, Father's Day, more visiting with family, and this two-day getaway!

On our first day, we drove in to Toronto early to do some shopping at the Eaton Centre Mall. The mall is a 7-minute walk from The Grand Hotel & Suites where we would be staying. Parking fees in Toronto can really add up so we were really happy to be able to park at The Grand's underground parking earlier in the day, before we even checked in to our room.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I love to share photos and details from the story of our experiences. Here's a glimpse of the entry when you walk into the hotel. I wish I could've shown you a wider view because the ceilings were very tall and it was just gorgeous!

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