Happy Maps Giveaway – where is your happy place?

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This is a sponsored post. All opinions expressed below are my own. 


When Mer and I moved into this house we agreed that we’d hold off until we committed to buying or hanging any artwork. Back at the apartment I bought and hung so many pieces that we didn’t really love that we eventually ended up damaging the walls by rotating the pieces so often because it never looked or felt “right”. When we packed up and said goodbye to the apartment we also said goodbye to the artwork – those pieces although lovely to look at had really no meaning to us.

I’ve realized that I’m happiest surrounded by things I love. Whether it’s my favorite pillow, quilt or picture frame – each of those items has some strong emotional value attached to it that brings me peace and happiness. I just love walking up our staircase and seeing our partially completed picture wall. Each image is a reminder of a moment in time that marked our lives in some significant way. Each image is a reminder of a happy moment that we get to relive for a brief second every time we walk past. Sometimes I catch myself stopping to just take all those moments in.

When Happy Maps generously offered to provide one of you fine folks A Happy Map I jumped on the opportunity to host a giveaway. Happy Maps literally encompasses everything Mer and I have been searching for in artwork- personal, nostalgic and beautiful.

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If you’ve never heard about Happy Maps I highly suggest you go explore their website. But, before you head over there let me tell you a little bit about the company that is creating individualized prints that preserve special moments in your life.

Happy Maps tells your unique story!

They are personalized maps that include a map (color of your choice), latitude / longitude co-ordinates of your location of choosing, date and a special saying acknowledging both the time and place of the moment you’re honoring. How cool is that? They make awesome gifts for loved ones, friends, weddings, rainbow babies (!!!) and any other special moment or occasion you want to cherish forever.

There really is no better type of art work is there?

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For my own Happy Map I’d likely choose the hospital where baby girl was born as our location – date it with her birthday and inscribe it with the quote “the day our family was finally complete”.

Aren’t these just beautiful?

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What’s super interesting about Happy Maps is the backstory about how this concept came to be.I’m such a sucker for a good backstory and couldn’t help but smile when I read about Enrick Bui’s (the creative authority behind Happy Map’s) innovative creation as a gift to friends who were getting married.

What a lovely, thoughtful and creative idea!

To enter for a chance to win a Happy Map of your own, leave a comment below telling me what location you’d choose for your very own Happy Map and why!

Giveaway closes on Sunday March 12th at 6pm EST.

Winner will be chosen at random and announced on Monday March 13th and will receive a customized Happy Map (no frame).


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Highs & Lows – Week of February 13

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This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission (~4%) if you make a purchase using the links to any of the products mentioned below.


The week just flew by. It seems that as soon as Monday rolls around life is on fast forward as we cruise through the week to Friday right? We’re pretty much on a fixed schedule around these parts when it comes to day to day life which although kinda boring helps keep me stay organized and top of Margs’ needs and all the household stuff that needs doing. Mer has been up earlier than usual these days (thank you winter snowpocalyse) to head to work and is usually arriving very late into the evening thanks to traffic and snow mayhem so I’ve been sorta parenting solo all week.

On that note, I found it really helpful to talk about my highs & lows last week so I decided that I’d make this a recurring series on This Tiny Blue House. I really enjoyed sharing both my ups and downs with you fine folks but more importantly I loved reading yours.

So here we go – installment two!

Highs

[1] Valentine’s day was literally amazing. I woke up at 7am to find baby missing from her cot. I stomped down the stairs (my hips and feet are still messed up from bed rest) to find Mer and Margs sleeping on the couch. I promptly woke him up and told him he was going to be late for work (Mer is a sleepy sleepy guy – not a morning person at all) when he kindly informed me that he took the day off to be home with me and baby for the fine consumer holiday we call Valentine’s day.  So, not only did I get to sleep in but I got to take a nap late afternoon and lounge around with my 2 favorite people. It’s all about simple pleasures folks!

[2] Sleep training is working (most nights) and by consequence my sleep habits are improving too! Margs  usually only wakes up one time per night (a bottle of water and a back rub usually helps her fall back asleep promptly) but spends the entire night in her cot. This is such a game changer for us. Not only do we get to sleep in the same bed again but we’re both getting far better sleep. We’re just crossing our fingers that she doesn’t revert back to wanting to co-sleep.

[3] Mer surprised me with a Valentine’s day gift this year. At first I sorta looked at him strangely when he appeared with this red bag with hearts shmeared all over it. When I opened it I found this Weekly Planner and the coolest oversized mug. So, although we never buy gifts he decided to break the rules and buy me an agenda so I could have a place to keep track of all my blog post ideas (I suppose he was fed up of finding scraps of paper everywhere). The mug is precious and he bought it to replace my giant mug that we had to retire recently after our cat nose bumped it right off the counter.

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* I love love love this Weekly Planner. First, it’s huge which means there is tons of space to brainstorm, doodle and jot down ideas. Second, it’s super cheap as far as planners go – Mer told me that he had looked at a few at Walmart and Staples and that they were all in the price range of 20-30$. At roughly 8$ this is totally worth the money especially if you combine it with another item or two to score free shipping.

Lows

[1] Snow. Folks, it has snowed so so much over the last week. On Monday we got 30 cm of snow – the wet heavy kind that makes shoveling really hard. Then, on Wednesday we got another 20 or so centimeters making the grand total somewhere in the ballpark of 50 cm. It’s enough now, my body seriously cannot handle shoveling any more snow. We’re also stuck putting it on our property because this suburb doesn’t pick up snow – there’s honestly no room left on our front lawn. If you come driving down our street you cannot even see our front door – that’s how much snow has accumulated. We’re starting to get a little nervous about the spring thaw – flooding is a huge concern for us right now because this much snow is going to create a ton of water.

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[2] Locking myself out of my fucking house, not one but TWICE this week. So this house has a fancy key pad on the front door which means that I don’t have to worry about forgetting my keys (one of my recurring bad habits). Well, wouldn’t you know that the key pad refuses to work in -10 degree weather or colder. The first time we thought it was the batteries so we swapped them out – then it happened again. Needless to say I’m going to make it a point to bring my keys with me from now on. Thankfully, Mer was on his way home both times so Margs and I weren’t stuck outside in the cold for too too long.

[3] Dirty laundry. We’ve been dealing with blow outs pretty much all week. The extra bottle of water at night time means that Margs’ diapers are extra wet in the morning. I’ve been washing sheets, blankets and her cot mattress protector basically every single day this week. I’ll take it though – if it means she’ll sleep through the night in her cot and not in our bed, I’ll just deal. Eventually we’re hoping she wont need the extra bottle which will reduce her output at night time. There’s no way I’m waking my baby to change her in the middle of the night and risking having to put her back to sleep.

What are your highs and lows for this fine week of February 13th?

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A day trip to Montreal & a few cheap date night options

Over the weekend Mer and I were treated to a day off so we could head out on an adventure just the two of us. We’re really strange when it comes to spending time away from Margs. We often complain that we need a break but when a break is so generously offered to us all we can think about is rushing through our “free” time so we can be reunited with Margs.

One weekend a few months back we literally drove around aimlessly because we had no idea what to do with ourselves while Margs spent the afternoon with her grandparents. She adores being there because she gets spoiled rotten so we have absolutely no excuse for not relaxing and enjoying our time away. I’m embarrassed to admit that we ended up doing our weekly grocery and running a few errands that day- exciting stuff hunh?

Mer surprised me this weekend by organizing babysitting with his parents so we could do something together. He knew I’d had a rough week and that my anxiety was running pretty high so he decided we’d take a break and do something fun.

He came up with a plan to drive a few hours to Montreal so that we’d be forced to enjoy our time away from Margs and not pull our usual stunt and rush back to pick her up.

It was so so nice to spend the day exploring the city despite the freezing cold.

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Our first stop was Misoya Ramen on Bishop street. Mer had a visa gift card that he’d received from work for his birthday that we never got around to using so he decided we’d go out for lunch. We’d been wanting to try Ramen for the first time and figured Sunday was a perfect opportunity to do so since there were so many great Ramen shops around. We also rarely eat out so it was an extra special treat. We really scaled back on eating restaurant food way back when we were tackling our debt problem and we’ve gotten so used to eating at home that we rarely order in or eat out – we’ve sort of eliminated it from  our lifestyle. So, this was an extra fun opportunity to eat delicious food and catch up on non-parenting things.

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It was delicious!

We purposely ordered different bowls so we could share. I went with a Komemiso broth (savoury) while Mer opted for a Momemiso (full bodied flavor). They were both quite good although my Komemiso was a tad saltier than I would have liked so if we had to repeat this meal I’d opt for the Momemiso instead. I plan to try and recreate this meal at home in the near future – I’m researching how to put together the broth because there’s got to be a way to recreate this meal without paying restaurant prices.<—– frugal mindset folks.

Why date nights saved my marriage

During the time we were trying to conceive, Mer and I really struggled. We love each other dearly but grieving and the heartache of losing 3 pregnancies really took its toll on our relationship. Mer often felt like he couldn’t grieve because he needed to support me in my grief (disclosed to me in therapy). There were times that we felt like our lives were consumed with trying to conceive and we really forgot to nurture our relationship and focus on rebuilding and rekindling the “us” which felt lost in this world of medical intervention and timed intercourse. It was really hard and at some points I questioned if our relationship would survive. Our day to day life just felt so incredibly scheduled and forced.

It survived, thanks to our therapist who suggested we go on date nights to help refocus our energy on rebuilding the parts of our relationship that were broken down from years of heartache and loss. She suggested we schedule time to get to know each other again (because life experiences shaped and changed us along the way) and focus on strengthening our relationship by having fun which sadly really wasn’t part of our lives for such a long long time.

Thankfully, we stuck to it and we really enjoy our special time together whether that be once per week or once per month (now, we aim for once per month). We shut off our phones, we don’t check facebook, instagram or twitter and just spend time catching up on things that we might not get the time to discuss on a day to day basis. It’s really quite amazing how much goes unsaid when you’re busy tending to a house, a job, a kid and other adult responsibilities so it was so so nice to catch up.

Date nights are expensive though or at least initially they were. When we scaled back our monthly budget we feared that we’d have to eliminate our date nights altogether because spending 50$+ at a restaurant just wouldn’t work for us anymore. We came up with a few budget friendly date nights that we not only really enjoy but work well with our budget and frugal lifestyle.

A few tips to enjoy your date night without spending a fortune

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Change your date night mind set. Date nights don’t have to cost money. This is where we struggled in the beginning – what are 2 people supposed to do without spending cash? Well, we got creative and we found a bunch of fun, entertaining and otherwise awesome activities to do on date nights without spending much money. Walks, hikes, skating, swimming, free music festivals, free comedy shows, free firework displays, free cooking lessons – there are so many options out there that don’t require you spend a ton of money – often you can even find free options. We researched a ton and explored what was available to us in our area. Since moving, we’ve actually made a bunch of new friends by attending various free activities offered by our township. We love finding new things to do and often Mer will send me an email letting me know that he found something super cool for us to do together. Just yesterday he let me know that there’s a free tour of a local museum – we’ve penciled that in for our next date night.

Get moving – We were stuck in a very conservative mindset that date nights had to include dinner and a movie because that’s what we used to do when we dated before getting married. As much as I like to dine out and catch a movie, these activities get pricey and catching a movie actually prevents us from connecting and chatting which is the point of “dating” anyway. So,we’ve made a conscious effort to try things like walking, hiking, swimming and biking together. I can’t tell you how much fun we have biking through small rural towns about an hour away from where we live. We drive down dirt roads and revel at the beauty of the country side. Mer actually installed a large wicker basket on my bike so I can haul a small picnic with us – it’s such a fun and inexpensive way to spend some quality time together.

Enjoy each other – we tend to focus on picking dates that maximize the amount of quality time we spend together without distraction. Our daily lives are quite busy and leave little time to just sit and “be” so we tend to opt to do things that offer us an opportunity to talk and communicate. For us, enjoying each other can come in the form of sitting by a bonfire, sipping a beer and just chatting or taking a long walk through the forest behind our home. Thankfully we’ve been able to create a separation between the belief that spending money on elaborate evenings out is the only way to date thus focusing on quality time instead which often costs no money at all.

Plan & Budget ahead – we do spend money on dates occasionally. Although we’d much prefer to have a free date that’s just not always possible. Last summer for example there was a new restaurant opening up in our town and we decided that we’d love to attend the opening. So, we budgeted ahead and set aside a small amount of cash to allow for this luxury. More often than not, every third date costs us a little cash. By budgeting ahead and planning for it we’re far more conscious of how much we spend when out and enjoy this extra luxury so much more.

What some of our date nights have looked like

  • Walks through the forest with steaming cups of homemade hot chocolate
  • Drives to our favorite spot in gorgeous St-Donat to walk the lakefront beach
  • Watching free fireworks competitions while munching on homemade appetizers
  • Staying in and cooking an awesome meal together with no phones, t.v or other distractions (the last time we did this we experimented with different types of curry)
  • Skating on a frozen pond (I’m clumsy and can’t really skate but Mer holds my hand and we have a few good laughs)
  • Free outdoor music festivals in the warm summer months
  • Sipping wine by our homemade fire pit in the backyard
  • Renting a pedal boat at a local beach and spending hours floating and chatting (approx 5$)
  • Thrifting without actually buying anything. Mer and I are both history buffs so we love visiting thrift shops and antique shops to discuss the treasures we come across.
  • Pick your own produce in the summer. We love to spend days at a local farm supplementing our garden goods. We once spent an entire day picking broccoli rab to freeze for the winter.

Do you make time for dates with your partner?

What’s the most recent “date” you’ve been on?

Any cheap and budget friendly date ideas you’d like to add to the list?

 

 

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The best parenting advice I’ve ever gotten

Parenting is hard. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I don’t have all the answers and some days I feel like I don’t have any answers. It’s that hard – I swear. One moment you feel like you’ve got everything figured out and the next something happens that leaves you asking yourself “what the hell do I do now?”.

I roll my eyes when people give me fool proof parenting advice. I chuckle every time I read a blog post from a mum who claims to have all the answers. I roll my eyes and chuckle when mums tell me they’ve never doubted their parenting because I don’t buy that hogwash for a second.

The thing about parenting (for me anyway) is that it’s all about trial and error. I try something – it works – I do it again. I try something- it fails – I revaluate and then try something else. Kids are tough. Parenting is even tougher. It’s not easy and I’ll never lie to you and tell you I’ve got it all figured out because I don’t and I doubt I ever will.

While sorting through a few of Margs’ boxes that were left unpacked from the move I came across this.

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A handwritten note from a dear friend congratulating us on the birth of our daughter. At the time, I read it and didn’t give much thought to the “don’t forget to take time for yourself”. I had a newborn, I was getting zero sleep and I was just so overwhelmed with life that taking time for myself seemed absolutely impossible.

The thing is, this is probably the best piece of advice I’ve been given. Actually, it is the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given. Within weeks of Margs’ birth I started to feel trapped. I felt feelings of resentment and frustration at the neediness of this child that I fought so hard to bring into the world. I felt isolated and alone and most importantly I felt like I didn’t love my child enough. It was rough – really rough and I’ll admit that I cried a ton. One day, I even asked Mer “what have we done?”. He understood and admitted that he had similar feelings.

Bringing home a baby was rough on us. I’ll speak for myself (although Mer had similar feelings because we discussed it at length) when I say that I loved Margs the moment she was born but I wasn’t in love with her. I wasn’t smitten the way most new mommas appear to be. It took time to get to know her and fall in love with her- and I’m okay with that.

At around the 3 month mark I was really at my breaking point. I spent my days cooped up indoors (it was the dead of winter) with little to no interaction with the outside world (I should have started a blog hunh?) and my feelings of isolation and entrapment intensified – then, I remembered my good friends suggestion to take time for yourself.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I do this every day. I try to but some days when Margsy is extra fussy or other obligations get in the way I just can’t. That’s what being a momma is all about I guess. But, most days I find a 20 minute reprieve from my role as mom and do something I enjoy. Some days that looks like a hot bath, others it’s listening to music with ear buds so I can tune out what’s going on around me, reading, coloring mandalas, walking, meditating, baking or running a few errands. You get the point.

That 20 minutes of “me” time restores my mental energy and it also makes me a better mum to Margs. It helps me refocus and be more present – it helps me step out of my identity as a mum and just be Jenny for 20 or so minutes which allows me the time to channel and attend to my own emotional needs.

What’s the best and worst parenting advice you’ve ever received?