Building a Business, Creativity, Etsy, side hustles

Start a Business on Maternity Leave, Etsy Edition.

Have you thought about how to start a business on maternity leave? today I present to you the etsy edition of starting a side business or what the cool kids are calling a “side hustle” these days. I’m not going to teach you how to do it, but rather prime your mindset and show you why it is totally doable. You can have a thriving Etsy store with kids.

I am often asked if it is easy (or even possible) to run an Etsy store with kids and my answer is… absolutely, because YOU are in control of your schedule, and how much you want to do, and how much you want to make. Etsy has been my creative hobby for a while now and I’ve been experimenting extensively with SEO, Marmalead, Pinterest and other methods to create a side income. 

Why is Etsy a really good option for side income?

-You can run your store ENTIRELY on your iPhone, and you can do it in big chunks of time, or little chunks in time.  There’s two approaches you can take to your work on Etsy:

The first approach is what I call the “Start to Finish” and this is great when you have 2-3 hour chunks of time (perhaps the kids are in daycare, or you are working with naptime.) You can see in this example that you flow through your work, from creation of an item, to fulfillment of orders/customer service.

The second approach is what I find most effective with 3 small children and that is the “By Category” approach to work.  What I do is one day a week, I go on a creating binge.  I’ll time naps or have my husband or mother in law cover the kids, all I need is 1-2 hours to make 7-8 pieces.  That is the one thing I do prefer to have little people out of the room for, because it takes incredible patience when your kids are picking up gemstone beads and dropping them all over the floor!!

Then I strategically break up listing items during the week. After tons of research and experimenting, I’ve found that if I list on certain days at certain times, a few new listings will generate some orders, as Etsy’s search bot prefers new listings.  I’ve found lunchtimes during the week, and evenings during the weekend work really well.  As you gain experience on Etsy you’ll be able to look at your traffic to see when it spikes in your store.  

I made the conscious decision to scale my Etsy store down with little kiddos, because of the stage of life I am in with 3 under 5 – so shipping for me is a random trip down to the post office here and there.  However, if you are dealing with multiple orders a week, it is great to set aside a shipping day and your little helps will LOVE going to the post office with you. 

For social media strategy my advice is to make it a total habit.  With a listing you should automatically PIN + POST.   Get into the practice of listing an item, then making a pinterest graphic using the free program (they have a free pinterest layout) and pinnning it.  Also, create an Instagram graphic in the same moment.  Again, both can be done with your iphone.  The apps I use most frequently are:

Photoshop for iPhone – Editing images before listing on Etsy 

Typorama – Great for Instagram (can add text)

Canva – Great for Pinterest Graphics 

Hope you enjoyed this quick blog post and if you’d like more Etsy success guides, please let me know in the comments, I have so much experience and information to share in this area! 

Book Club, Creativity, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality

Design your Own Parental Leave

wildflower (1)Welcome back from the long weekend, everybody!

A thought for you to meditate on today, as you go about your day.

Story telling versus story making.

Think about where you want to be in 5 years.  Are there changes you want?  I’m guessing the answer is YES.

So let me ask you this:  Will that future version of yourself, living that future life, still be walking around telling the same stories about yourself?  The world?  The way things are going?

Will you get there if you keep telling all of those old stories, that keep you where you are today? 

Or is it time to start writing some new ones?  How can you shift a little bit of your day?  Your thinking? The way you talk about yourself? What you commit to doing with a friend this week?  Start writing some new sentences.

It’s your story. Take the plot where you want it to, but remember to pick up the pen first.




Creativity, Essays, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

Organic Stores are a Better Deal Than Big Box Stores in Some Ways. You Just Have to Think Differently.

I’ve subscribed to Ramit Sethi for a while now and have been following his work.  I like his honesty and punchy emails. Today’s email was “10 extravagances people pay for.”  He had asked his readers to submit their answers to this question with an explanation.

There was one in particular I LOVED that made me stop and go hmmm!  That’s right! It caused a little shift in the way I see things.  I had this realization about 10 minutes ago and decided to share it.  It’s just a more flexible way of approaching our decisions as consumers.

You see, I prefer smaller, local stores with organic produce and lifestyle items, I love Community Natural Foods, Bite Groceria and Sunnyside Natural Market.  I don’t do full grocery shops there, our budget is a reality for us – but I always stop in if I am in the area, and do buy supplements, leafy greens, specialty items and the occasional 50% off lunch from there.  I really enjoy those stores.

Reading Sethi’s email today I had an “ah hah” moment.

So often we just think of our consumer choices in terms of money, money, money.  The number at the bottom of a bill.  Money dominates our thinking and it can cause scarcity thinking.  As soon as you start focusing exclusively on minimizing the money going out, and the cheapest deal possible, it’s sort of a race to the bottom in many ways.

We have to be careful to hit the right balance between living within our means + stretching ‘strategically’ versus racing to the bottom and developing a scarcity mindset.  We have to be careful to keep our brains flexible and come at things from different angles.  We need to remember when we make a decision, it’s not just about the object but it can also be about the experience.

There IS something to be said about looking at where we spend our money with a wider perspective than the numbers game.  Sethi nailed this point on the head.

Which response got me started on all of this thinking?  This one:

In response to the question “what are your extravagances?”

“I spend money on the shopping experience itself, because experiences, not stuff, make us happy.  My mom loves to brag about how her grapefruits were so much cheaper than mine – but I bought mine at the fancy market, with the lovely music, while she bagged her own groceries amidst screaming children.” 

I laughed reading this.  It is very true!  I hold nothing against screaming children.  But it totally gets you thinking differently and approaching a weekly chore from a completely different angle.

I digress….

The grocery shop is an experience.  It is more than dollar signs and groceries and just purchasing objects.  It’s an investment of your time and effort.  By racing to the bottom and going as cheap as you can, sometimes you’re not necessarily saving as much as you think.
The cheap store.  Stressful. Crowded. Further away.  Low-quality foods.  So, you’ve just spent an extra $10 return on gas, come home stressed out, spent longer because you bagged your own groceries, bought lower quality items and made an economic decision to support stores who are in the race to the bottom, more stuff for as cheap as possible (which has given rise to the factory farm situation btw!)  You throw stuff into the massive shopping cart indiscriminately and the subtle psychology of the clearance deals and pricing makes and bright yellow signs makes you spend way more than you planned to spend because “it was an amazing deal!”
The organic store.  Much more expensive, yes.  What if it is closer?  Less gas and time? High quality nutritionally dense foods you don’t need to eat in as high volume.  And the experience of a health food store? You come out smothered in nice lotions, essential oils, with a free Alive magazine.  It smells like incense and you come out all chilled out, relaxed and inspired to live healthy. You have a nice conversation with someone perusing the same vitamins shelf. You are more particular about what you choose and put more thought into your shop, because you know it’s expensive af and your cart is teensy.
Interesting, right?
The point of this article IS NOT to argue that one store is better than the other, I use both.  The point of this article is to say that nothing is as black and white, cut-and-dried as we think, and sometimes the race to the bottom, as much as we can get for as cheap as possible, is not the greatest option.  Sometimes it’s good to think about experiences and to cultivate good experiences.
What if we applied that thinking to everything we do in our day?
What if we decided to make a chore an enjoyable experience? What if we took the dishes and dropped a few scents of rosemary oil into the sink afterwards and breathed it in? What if we go to buy cat food from the pet store, take the kids and have fun snuggling bunnies?  What if we cultivate experiences in the ordinary every day things?
Whoever this respondent was, they are on to something.
To keep learning, growing and expanding is to continuously engage in these kinds of thinking exercises.
In addition to doing sudoku, or luminosity, what if we started the practice of thinking outside of the box when we evaluate our consumer decisions?  What if we start coming at it with the perspective of how much are we experiencing in addition to how much are we spending? 
Thoughts to ponder over morning coffee.
Thanks Ramit, for the brain food this morning.



Creativity, Essays, Happiness, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nutrition, Physical Wellness

An Explanation of Health Coaching – Repairing my Body After Three Babies (Part 1)

You may be familiar with professional coaching, which has been well established for some time now in the executive and leadership space. Coaching standards are high and we have an international body to regulate the quality, ethics, and professional standard of coaching (as well as coach training programs.)  I myself am a professional coach and I often write this blog from the perspective of a coach (on maternity leave of course!)

There are many facets of coaching – life, executive, leadership, athletics.  Though the context differs, and the names for each coaching tool vary according to the discipline, it is steeped in achieving a global shift in the way we see the world, act within our world, and define/get results.

Health coaching is a relatively new specialty and is rapidly gaining traction in North America. It is growing as an occupational field and is being increasingly employed by primary care centres. I am very excited about this, because it is a profound tool and there’s such a need for it. I’ll get into that later.

A brief review of research reveals that health coaching is receiving increased attention as a tool for patients, particularly in the realm of chronic diseases, behaviour modification and lifestyle change.  I listen to a fair number of podcasts and it comes up a ton in the auto-immune disease and chronic pain space as well.  This is where I really think health coaching is a game changer for people.

For today’s post, I wanted to write about health coaching from the perspective of a patient, to explain in easy-to-understand terms how health coaching has the potential to transform us.  I use a lot of coaching techniques on myself (which obviously is not as effective as hiring a coach) but I think by telling these stories, it can help give you a feel for what coaching is like, and ultimately I want to share with you some tools to make your maternity leave a time of wonderful growth & life elevation.

That’s always been my mission with The Great Maternity Leave blog.  

So this whole coaching thing, let’s get started.  First, there’s a lot out there.  It’s everywhere.  And I wanted to speak a little to what it is not.

It is definitely not what you see being sold on all of the facebook and instagram ads.  Many of them are qualified, fully certified coaches, but the majority of marketing approaches do give a shallow impression of coaching.   I call this au-courant marketing strategy “end-point marketing.”  What do I mean by that?

You probably know the ads: The pretty life coach skipping through the streets of Paris, umbrella in hand, talking about how she had no income a year ago and now she’s bringing in six figures – or the male “life hacker” coach, sitting with his laptop in after a workout, bring in passive income and clients, telling you how you, too can achieve this lifestyle design and reach this end point?  That to me, is end point marketing, which looks suspiciously like setting a lifestyle goal and achieving it.  The problem is, it does work, material displays of success are captured in an ad, but it’s harder to capture internal displays of success.

Unfortunately, the ads you see for coaches do not give anyone an understanding of how it works.  Coaching is a specific set of tools that you gain through working with a someone qualified.  You learn to use them and employ in your life with the coaches’ guidance. With practice and insight you are then able to shift your entire life with your new perspective, mindset and behaviours.

There are many coaching tools, and they are all designed help you to understand why you see things the way you do, how you can shift the way you see the world, and in turn make better choices and get different results in your life.  Coaching is all about gaining a deeper awareness, achieving permanent shifts in your world view, and becoming equipped with the ability continue this process throughout your life.

That leads to elevation of your life.

I also see a change in the goals that clients bring to the table.  A good coach will light a fire of potential in a client and once they throw off self-limiting beliefs and self-imposed restrictions, they realize the scope of their potential.  All of a sudden their old goals seem small and limited, and they reach for the stars with new goals that truly fit the person they see themselves becoming.  Everything elevates.  Let me tell you,  that is fun to see as a coach.

But all of this is pretty much impossible to capture in a 30 second Instagram video, or image on a Facebook boosted post.

I feel like endpoint marketing of coaching services doesn’t work.  Why?  You don’t help people by climbing up a mountain, and then waving at everybody else at the bottom and yelling ” you can be me!”  Personally, speaking, I’d be much more motivated by that coach who is grinding up the mountain alongside me, asking damn good questions that deepen my awareness of what is happening and offering me a fresh perspective that renews my resolve. I’ve never hired a coach off of an ad, but I have hired a coach off of following them for a few years, understanding their insights and deep inner workings of their mind.  The coaching process is so internal, that an external ad simply can’t capture that.

The journey of personal wellness and evolution in health is a deeply personal one that is not about your coach, and you wanting to get where your coach is – it’s about you.

So, now that we’ve established the difficulty of marketing coaching, and the impression that it currently gives in the social media marketplace, let’s take the opportunity to dive in and examine it in real-life.

For this article, I wanted to give a deeper understanding of the dots that health coaching connects, and what it can offer to someone looking to change their health.  I am going to write it in the context of my third maternity leave, which was about healing and regaining vitality and health.  Let me tell you, there were a lot of things in my body that needed fixing up after 3 babies in 4 years.

The Third Maternity Leave

Each of my three maternity leaves, I have assigned a theme or an overall goal. Maternity leave was first and foremost about my family and the beautiful new addition to our home, but I am also a passionate goal setter and advocate of ongoing personal growth and evolution, particularly for mothers.

My first maternity leave was embracing motherhood.

My second, embracing creativity.

My third maternity leave from 2017-2018 has been about repairing my body in the journey back to vitality and physical wellness.

Once I had recovered from childbirth and taken 8 weeks to settle into our new rhythm with 3 children (3, 2 and a newborn)  I began to take stock of my overall wellness.  I believe if you are going to take up growth and challenge in one area, it is good to make sure first that you have stability, and routine in another.

When you read about what a health coach does, there is often mention that a coach helps a client understand and set goals for themselves.  Personally, I think that this is only a sampling of the coaching process.  In my first coaching session with a client, it is about getting to know them, understanding their perspective, the way they see the world, and how they frame their current situation.  Simply through their dialogue, body language and way they answer questions I can gain an understanding of their grander narratives, world view and perspective.  We move into a discussion of goals and ideally, move to very specific goals, that are connected to very powerful and clear “whys.”

This is where coaching really gets going. This is when we start going deeper.

Now, on mat leave I didn’t have a health coach but being one myself, I used my own techniques on me, and instead of having a coach asking me questions, I bought a journal and it became my coach.  If you cannot afford a coach, this is absolutely something that you should do!

Invest in a nice journal and a nice pen, because in these pages you are going to write an entirely new chapter of your life.  

In the absence of a coach, one of the first things I did was a free-writing session.  I listed out how I was feeling, and everything that was bothering me.  It was an hour-long stream of consciousness that was barely legible.  If you haven’t tried free-writng or stream-of-consciousness writing, don’t be intimidated by it! I took 5 years to finally try it and I was surprised that after 10 minutes of forced journalling, the words starting flowing easily and fast onto the paper.  It’s quite cool to do.

I had to take the time (and physical space) to be in a quiet room, enter my own body, listen to it and really connect with the discomfort. I had to describe in detail the pain or symptoms.  It’s an unpleasant process, but I to enact lasting change, and connect with deep motivation, you must take time to connect with the pain and discomfort in your body, and make direct contact with your own suffering.

People often speak about needing to hit rock bottom, or that place where they decide they cannot suffer anymore.  This is very true.  Wanting to change doesn’t happen on a mental level. You can’t decide to change.  You also need to have a “that’s it!” moment in your body on a somatic level. Carve out some time in your day to go inside your own body.

Coming out of third childbirth there were a list of things I wanted to address, and just how much they were bothering me became quickly evident in my free writing journal entry.

-Pelvic organ prolapse & abdominal muscle separation

-Ongoing chronic backpain, severe fatigue, sciatica and digestive troubles (possible auto-immune condition)

-Large breasts causing issues with trail running (my passion!) and back pain.

-Nerve pain in foot

The next part of this process was understanding the mental layering that happens on top of the physical discomfort.

The outside perspective of a coach is very helpful, because they can offer observations of  patterns or themes that they are hearing or picking up in your dialogue.

We need to understand that we attach meaning to our symptoms.  By noticing them, we shed light on the fears, stress and disempowering beliefs that we carry.

What came up for me?

Symptom:  Nerve pain in foot.

Messaging:  Trail running is my passion and what if this doesn’t go away? What if I can’t run?   This is the key to my mental health and I don’t enjoy anything else as much as I enjoy running. I don’t want to find another sport. I’ve been so irresponsible with stretching, it’s probably my fault, I always have issues with my body, it seems like I just get injured when I run.

Symptom:  Chronic back pain and auto immune issues.

Messaging:  What if I can’t be a mom to my kids because I am too exhausted and need to sleep all of the time? Is my back going to get worse?  My pain levels are already really bad every day, I can’t handle more than this.  I don’t want to become disabled. I have housework to do!I Hate this housework! (cue deep feelings of resentment and victimhood)

Ick.  It’s hard just writing those down. I can feel my chest get tight just engaging with those messages and typing them on the screen here. I don’t want to feel that way anymore. I do. not. like. feeling. this. way.

By taking the time to engage with the internal chatter that is activated by our pain and symptoms, we can begin to separate the two out and regain control.

Pain is simply a message from our body that something is off and needs to be fixed. That is all it is.  It is a message running through our nervous system.  

However as humans, (oh, the joy of being human!) we have a multitude of ways of interpreting that pain message – in effective ways, but also in terribly ineffective ways. We have all sorts of internal chatter and stories and excuses that we add to that sore back or grouchy joint.

We humans take those simple pain messages and then filter them through layers and layers of life experiences, social and cultural conditioning, past experiences, cognitive biases, personality and our own internal dialogues. Most of them are irrelevant, or outdated or not even true!  Yet they completely influence and shape us.

Our pain comes out the other end looking much more complicated than “my Psoas muscle is tight and sore.”  There’s a deeper story about a victim mindset you have, or perhaps, a grand narrative that you are separate from your body and it is something to beat into submission (when it should be your ally.) .

This is one of the first things a coach can (and will) do.  They will carve the space, and time, in a session, for you to undertake a deeper examination of what is going on underneath those pain cues and symptoms.  When you book a session with a coach, the act of carving that tie out and paying for the session is a statement that this is sacred, and worth it.  That you are worth it.

What is your internal messaging?  What influences it?  Under the careful guidance of a coach, you will also have the opportunity to explore your fears, why you want to change, and if you feel up to it, you can go down the “what if?” road to truly develop deep and lasting motivation because that road leads into our deepest fears.

In our deepest fears live our deepest “whys.”

A coach has to be skilled in ensuring that a client is grounded (often through a meditation or guided visualization exercise) and that a safe space is created through conversation.  The client embarks on their own journey, but the coach acts as a guide, walking gently behind, asking effective and powerful questions, perhaps offering observations, and gently supporting as the client walks into their pain.

Equally important is the process of guiding a client out of the dark places, and then unraveling the disempowering beliefs.  Together, as partners, coach and client discredit them and build new, empowering ones in their stead.  This is another stage of the coaching process I’ll definitely go into in a later post.

This process is so, so important in the realm of our health, and I think this is why health coaches have huge potential as an ally and resource in primary care networks.

Many, many people go to a doctor with the best intentions to fix their health problems and address their symptoms.  In primary care, medicine can be administered and brief conversation ensues regarding the issue and potential resources to help the patient.  However, all too often with a diagnosis, or with a health problem, there is the big question of what happens after the appointment.  And, what is happening inside the patient after that appointment?  

I catch myself wondering about this all the time.  There is an awful lot that happens between a first appointment with the doctor, and the follow up.  At that first appointment for example, you get a diagnosis, possibly medication, possibly requisitions for further testing, and a list of things to do to improve your health.


What happens in that space between that appointment and the follow up? So much.  So much that explains why so many people don’t just go home and do what they are supposed to.  Why they are not motivated.  Why they have access to all of the information they need, but don’t act on it.

There is a big gap between the part of our lives the health professionals can touch, and the part of our lives that we ourselves can touch, and that bridge is coaching.

Too many people go down the “what if?” thinking with their health problems after that first appointment and get stuck there. They don’t climb out of the scary future scenarios and they don’t have the tools to make it a powerful motivator.

I saw so many people like this at the chronic pain clinic when I went through some of the worst times with my back. I felt myself going down that tunnel too.  I was in the vacuum of time outside of appointments. I sat with my symptoms and internal dialogue that really was not making things better. Disempowering beliefs began to take hold. That things won’t get better.  That this affects everything.  That it’s my fault.  That they don’t believe me.  These are all common disempowering beliefs of a chronic pain patient.  Did you know one of the most meaningful things a chronic pain patient experiences at a chronic pain clinic is the simple statement “we believe you.” 

Patients begin to see what is going wrong, don’t have the tools to loosen the hold of their deeply held beliefs connected to, (and probably accelerating) what is going wrong. They can’t identify where these beliefs originally came from, why they are not grounded in evidence, or how they can replace them.  Add into that physical pain, and the emotion of fear and it is a difficult place to climb out of.

Could you see how I was going down this tunnel in my own journal entries?

Did you notice that I kept writing “What if?”  I was stressing myself out based on “what if” scenarios, not even (real) scenarios.  And I was expanding those scenarios to “what if it affects my whole life.”  All of a sudden back pain became a question of not being able to be a  parent.  Wtf!

This right here is an “ah hah” moment or an insight.  In coaching, we call these “distinctions” – but I do like the Oprah sounding “ah hah” moment.

The moment of insight is so, so important.

As I read through my symptoms and the disempowering thoughts that they activated, I realized that I tended to focus on a few things:  That the problem was permanent, pervasive, global (in the words of Tony Robbins) – by global I mean I had a tendency of expanding the issue to broader areas of my life.

BAM.  That friends, is a coaching insight, a distinction, an “ah hah” moment.  My perception has shifted and I have a new way of seeing the issue at hand that instantly discredited my old thinking patterns.

When I am working with a client as a coach and this happens,  they often go quiet, break eye contact, retreat inside themselves and more often than not, lean back in their chair and look upward.  Behind these physical cues is some fascinating neuroscience.

On a functional MRI scan, when a coaching client has an insight or “ah hah” moment, their brain lights up like a christmas tree.  Did you know that?   As a coach we are trained to recognize that moment and help deepen that moment of insight – but with practice anyone can.  It shows up in someone’s body.  Their posture shifts, they sit back, and look away, breaking eye contact in order to go ‘inside’ and engage with that insight.

What’s happening?  When a person has a moment of insight, the brain produces a burst of alpha waves and the part that undertakes abstract, creative thinking kicks into high gear. Connections are made where there were no connections before, and the client will permanently see something in a different way.

Simultaneously, there is a reduction in the amount of visual information passed from visual processing areas to these higher creative areas of the brain, that perform more abstract thinking and problem solving.  it is exactly why, when asked a difficult question, we all have to take a moment and look away or break eye contact. Or when a character in a movie has a profound moment of realization, they look away with a far-away look.  their brain is changing.

If you’d like to read more about the science behind this process, check out this journal article from the Association of Psychological Science. 

What was my ah-hah moment from the process of examining my pain, thoughts and beliefs with a coaching perspective?

I now know that when I experience pain, it is a simple message that something needs to be adjusted.  What it is not is a harbringer of doom.  It is not going to ruin my life, or motherhood.  All I have to do in that moment is just deal with the symptom. I do not engage with the old disempowering dialogue that is frankly, lacking evidence and totally unhelpful because it activates more stress, making the pain worse. Don’t get my wrong, it still happens, but now I can sit back and observe it coming, like a runaway car, but I don’t get into that car.

When I had that insight, I could feel something different firing in my brain.  A new neural connection.

Each time I feel pain now, instead of engaging with my old dialogues and immediately worsening the symptoms and my own stress, I can step back and see my thoughts occuring – but not engage with them, because I know they are unhelpful, untrue, irrelevant and no longer serve my goals.

I’m not caught in a cycle of fear around my future, my ability to pick up my kids or a host of other thoughts, that will completely take over and make me forget about picking up the resistance band.

I am more motivated to go and do a corrective exercise if my back is sore, because that’s all it is. I can gently honour my old dialogues, see them for what they are – old and outdated and inaccurate – and continue onward with different insight, behaviour and actions (which include picking up that resistance band and doing the exercise.)


Creativity, Happiness, Kids Activities

What to do with a Baby and a Toddler in Calgary (in the winter) – Activities for families in Calgary, Family Fun in Calgary, Family Activities Calgary



A great list of 30 unique ideas for families with young children visiting Calgary during the winter – baby and toddler-friendly.


What authority do I have?  Well, I’m the mother of a 3 year old and a 1.5 year old.  We’re all pretty active and go stir crazy inside, though I confess – I DO like my crafternoons by the fireplace as well!  All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills in any winter activity are

All of these activities are tried, tested and true with my family.  If you want me to blog further or do a “field report”  on any of the experiences below, please leave a comment! We’re still learning a ton, especially about layering in winter.  Neither of us parents (Carina and Trevor) grew up with particularly outdoorsy families, and our skills / knowledge in any winter activity are pretty low.  But we have the right attitude and I think that’s all that matters!

XC skiing, skating, even toboganning.  Our skills are down there with our 3 year old – but that’s the joy!  We are experiencing all of this together and designing the family that we want to be.  

This is a good chance to comment on a sentence that stood out from a book I am reading, Tools of Titans (highlight recommended btw.) In one part of this book, there is a discussion on discovering who you are, versus creating who you are.

You don’t just go on living life and all of a sudden “discover” that you are a certain type of family or a certain type of parent.  It’s about designing and creating it, so that one day you “discover” you are precisely that.

And you know what?  This list of ideas all started with a pinterest board I started in 2010 that I titled “My Ideal Life” and in it, was an active, adventurous family.  I liked the idea.  Even though I hadn’t a clue whether I wanted kids, or how to do half of the activities on the board.  🙂

The biggest piece of advice I’d offer, especially with the outdoors activity stuff, is go into it with zero expectations.  Your kids may love it, or they may melt down 10 minutes in, and you find yourself driving 40 minutes back home, debating whether or not to surrender and just give them the damn iphone in the back seat to gain a moment of peace.  You may spend 20 minutes getting them into a snowsuit and then they announce they have to pee.  You may get to a hike and realize their snowboots are all of a sudden 2 sizes small, let alone impossible to get on when they do fit.  Been there, done all of that in the last two weeks.

The key is not to let expectations prevent you from doing things.  Because if there’s one thing we know as parents, our kids will also surprise us. One snow shoe could be terrible and leaving us questioning “why bother?”  Actually no, it’s more like “F*** why did we do this!” Yet, the following week, we have a magical time and our 3-year-old surprises us with her endurance and fortitude!

As you read every family blog where it seems they are out in these amazing winter adventures in and around Calgary, remember that there was a meltdown or two in there, and what seems like a day out, was probably just a short trip.  But regardless, they still did something epic and we still find ourselves looking at their instagram or facebook feed with admiration and a secret longing to design our lives more intentionally.

THAT is the goal of this post, to encourage you to stop liking others’ instagram posts and start creating your own – to embrace the beauty that is winter (sorry, I write this with ALL of the enthusiasm of a kid that didn’t grow up around snow and is still, to this day at 34, mesmerized by it.)   Design the type of life where you don’t have a ton of time to spend on Instagram liking other people’s photos and feeds, because you’re too busy creating your own adventures!

Alright, off of that soap box.  What is the point of today’s post?

I was asked by a work colleague for a list of ideas for a family visiting Calgary in January (deep winter!)  There are SO many on the internet and most of them are copied from the same few sources, so I tried to add some really unique ideas to this post, and went back through my own journals of what we’ve gotten up to in winter.   I will confess, my list does have a bit of an outdoor activity focus (assuming it’s above -15c, my threshold for enjoying winter with small children.)  I also believe that outdoor time buys you EXCELLENT NAPS AND APPETITES (read: you time!) so it’s a win-win situation. 

I hope this will give you some creative indoor and outdoor activity ideas when you are in Calgary with a baby and small toddler, as well as some fantastic bloggers to follow and websites to use as a resource.

Stay warm and have fun!


1.) Telus spark has an incredible section for young children, The Creative Kids Museum – with admission you have access to the main science centre (and) the childrens’ area.

2.)  Try out the lunchtime mom + baby yoga offered at the Holistic Institute of Health and Fertility in the south (Deer Run.)  Then, pop next door to the Cornerstone Cafe for the most amazing cafe food you’ll ever try (I love the vegetarian wrap.)

3.) Also in the same neighbourhood is a drop in yoga program, for both parents and toddlers OR toddlers unattended! – fish creek is also within a 5 minute drive, with Annie’s Cafe, and the Ice Caves (see list.)

4.)  Go west (1 hour) to Grotto Pond & Grotto Canyon on Highway 1A – this is a favourite destination of ours, because our children tend to tap out in the car before we get to Canmore (1 hour 20 min.)

Grotto Canyon and Pond are just a few minutes after Exshaw on Highway 1A.  YOu can take Highway 1 west most of the way until the 1X turnoff to Exshaw before Lac Des Arcs. Trail Peak Guide to Grotto Canyon


Skating with my 3 year old on grotto pond in December 2016!


Natural mountain lake skating at Grotto Pond (ice rink in centre, loop around outside)

Posts by Tanya Koob on Grotto Pond.for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

for Grotto canyon which is do-able for young children – so if your toddler or baby meltsdown, you have a plan B activity right there ready to go! We bought out sled along and skated with the kids in the sled, and then on the hike, we had b aby in a backpack and toddler walking.

5.) In Calgary, Bowness park / lagoon has amazing skating on the river and fire pits to warm up beside.A sweet cafe is nearby, and if you love alernative / health food stores, the Light Room in Bowness is worth visiting.  Post from Family Fun Canada.

6.) Delta Lodge at Kananaskis – Fantastic family friendly resort with an icerink outside of the hotel and a massive outdoor hot tub that kids love.  Right beside the ice rink is a rental place, with xc ski, snowshoe, walking and bike paths.  You can also rent chariots with winter attachments there for risk-free activities.  Great blog post.

7.) Calgary Zoo Lights – Until January 8th –  you can buy a day admission pass, go at 4pm and stay until the park closes and the zoolights switch on, or go later (after 5 and just pay for the zoolights portion)

8.) Nomad Gear Rentals bring the rental gear to you and fit your children!  Or if you want to stay in Calgary, use Nomad Gear Rentals to rent a variety of gear for yourself and the kids, and explore Fish Creek Park, especially the Ice water falls and caves near to Annie’s Café just off of Bow Bottom Trail.   We just used Nomad this past week to try our 3 year old out on xc skis for the first time and Andrel was lovely to work with.  Rates are competitive with other local rental shops!    Winter Rental List including skis, xc skis, fat bikes and snowshoes.

9.) To warm up, Calgary farmers’ market is a fantastic place to go with a playground area, and adults can enjoy coffee and eat food since the foodcourt is adjacent to the playground area. I highly recommend the spinach and leek gallette (gluten free) from the little fresh crepe place!  At the playground area you can access free fire truck and car-shaped strollers that fit either one or two kids!  Combine that with an ice cream or macaron and this is my secret to getting shopping done there!


10.) A beautiful forested part of fish creek is Bebo Grove (at the end of 24st SW) Reviews of Fish Creek Park and favourite spots on Yelp. 

11.) Toboganning at Confederation park or St. Andrews hill (near University of Calgary)  great blog post by Family Fun Canada (another great site to check out.)

12.) Grab hot drinks and drive by the spectacular Christmas lights at Spruce Meadows (deep south of city)  – on until January 8th.

13.) Indoor / outdoor winter crafts:  Winter Playdough sensory activity.  Make natural playdough, go outside and collect pine cones, pine needles, etc and bring them back and make pictures by pressing the items into the playdough and letting it dry.

14.) Go to Calgary Central Library (downtown) to visit a fire truck! there is a full sized firetruck in there (Engine 23) stacked with books. On Fridays they have readings for children by local firefighters.

15.) Also downtown:  Visit the lovely Devonian gardens on the upper floor of the core shopping centre, which also has a playground.

16.)  IMHO, the best wave pool is Southland leisure centre (great baby area and toddler slides) and you can pay for 1 hour. They also have drop-in times for the Kinder room, active play and tots for $5.20 per child.

17.) Snowshoe in west bragg creek with your family!  (baby in backpack, toddler in sled or kids’snowshoes you can rent)  – get a wrap and hot chocolate at cinnamon spoon.


Snowshoeing on New Years Day in West Bragg Creek with our 1.5 and 3 year old! (we plan on getting her some snowshoes!)


18.) Go for a walk and Make maple syrup taffy in the snow. Recipe here. 

19.)  Go to Plant in Inglewood and buy the jar of supplies to make your own terrarium – there is one they have for kids! Or you can pick your own plants, rocks, mini figurines (sweet little mushrooms and gnomes) for about $50 you’d get everything you need!  Great article on kids’ terrariums on CBC! 

20.) Fish Creek library has an incredible play area including a closed of area for babies, a stage with moving backdrops, costumes, reading forest and sensory toys for both toddlers and babies on the 2nd floor, it is worth a visit!  There seats for the adults to relax while the kids play!  It is across the parking lot from Southcentre mall.  The Calgary Public Library also has a rotating schedule of sing along, counting and stories  depending on which library in the city you go to.

21.) If you would like to shop, Southcentre mall in the south has a beautiful mall & there is a prechool where adults can drop off their children while they shop:  Or you can rent a police car or firetruck (one or two children capacity) with built-in smart screens to keep the kids entertained while you shop.  I recommend starting at Analog Coffee and also visiting Rocky Mountain soap company for amazing natural, toxin-free products produced locally in Canmore.  The lemongrass bubble bath and lavender bum / diaper spray  is a favourite in our household!

22.) Indoor Crafts: Put snow into a large tub, and have a “snow painting” activity, or pick up a snow painting kit from Canadian tire and go outside to create art (not the yellow snow kind!)

23.) Try out skiing or tubing at Canada Olympic Park, you can pay for certain amounts of time if you are not sure how your child will react to a.) skiing b.) cold.  The 2-hour preschool age package is $14.99, younger is free.  For equipment, 2 hour rentals for preschool age is $9.95. The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂  Rentals are

The foot pass is $9.99 for adults to use the magic carpet to get the little ones safely up the bunny hill / assist them  if you’re daring enough to try skiing with them 🙂

If they tap out on the ski hill, there is the bobsled track nearby or indoor skating in the Winsport complex.

24.)  Buy some snow shovels for kids from the loonie store and some “pretend” gemstones  or other treasures, draw a treasure map, and bury them in the snow for the kids to find with a bucket. The little ones love dropping.  Search ” winter activities, toddler” on pinterest to get started with an insane list of ideas and create your own activities / inspo board.  Pinterest is amazing for parents. Here is my own Kids’ Activities Board on Pinterest.

25.) Pick up a free copy of calgary’s child magazine at most grocery stores or anywhere where free magazines are distributed they have a great events listing and amazing lists of ideas for activities.


26.) Visit Gasoline Alley  at Heritage Park (especially if you have shiny car fans in your family) and the old tyme candy / toy stores in the central plaza, then lunch at the Selkirk grille.  Glenmore reservoir is also nearby, you can walk along the path there.

27.)  Grab lunch and watch planes take off from the YYC airport runway (there is a great viewing area at the end of the runway) – the Edward Laborde Airplane Watching Area 

28.)  If it is nice out, check out one of Calgary’s many great playgrounds, Calgary Playground review has an excellent list! 

29.)  Round up everybody and Go for Dim Sum – our favourite is the family friendly Central Grand Restaurant downtown in China town (kids will love the koi carp fish pond at the entrance where you can feed the fish.) Avenue magazine has a great article on dim sum op tions in Calgary and advice if you are new to the experience (and its delicious food) which is in a kid-friendly format of “little eats” and is bought to you via steaming bamboo pots on carts. Children can also choose their own desserts at the desert area.

30.)  Go to a loonie store, pick up little figurines (animals, etc.) and build a winter car race track (for the little guys) or a winter forest for the animals (get branches and stick them into the snow) – kids have fun scavenging for rocks, branches, etc.

Favourite Calgary bloggers or websites: Great outdoors activities ideas for families w/ young children and also reports on conditions from different areas.   Family adventures in the Canadian rockies is a facebook group worth joining with a great community happy to offer suggestions based on the area of the city you are in.

Calgary Playground Review 

Great infographic on dressing babies for cold weather

Building a Business, Creativity, Etsy, Life Hacks, side hustles, Technology, The Projects

Is It Possible to Start an Online Business With a Baby? YES! 15 Truths for Online Entrepreneur Success – With a Baby in Your Arms.



I’ve taken online courses, I’ve studied online entrepreneurs, I’ve read books and listened to more than 200 hours of podcasts. Most importantly, I’ve started acting on these lessons and am entering the world of online business in 2016.

The foundation was slowly built over maternity leave, and continues to be developed.  But the revenue is beginning to trickle in.  The potential is there, and now I am going from building mode to testing and refining mode.  I’ve tested a few models and it’s time to sit down and clarify the goals, and intensify my focus.

Most online entrepreneurship classes hammer home the whole niche thing.  As a multi-passionate I really, really struggled with this question.  I did not find my niche.  I just started putting a few ideas and business products out there, to see a.) what I enjoyed and b.) what gained traction.  I actually think this is the best way.  Most entrepreneurs get stuck at the start line because they feel like they have to have this entire formula figured out. What is your niche? What problem are you solving? What are you going to charge to solve it?  And so it goes. 

The sweet spot is developing a product that catches hold with your audience, and catches hold with you.  A and B above.

A few products that I developed started returning a revenue.  But I realized in working on some of them, that I wasn’t passionate enough to invest most of my time and focus in that one area. So I redirected my focus to the few that made me come alive – where I had a deeper well to draw from.  The thing is, you won’t know this answer (and cannot possibly know this) till you try it out.

So jump into online business with the intent to discover one type of product you like, and one type of product you don’t like.  I mean it.  Your goal is to have one success and one failure, at least!  There really is nothing to lose other than the time you put into it.

1.) Building an online business is a lot of small tasks.  They can drive you crazy unless you think about them as steps that get you closer to your goal.  One day is going to be about getting mail chimp set up.  Another day is just sorting out some nice typography for your instagram.  One day is going to be setting up / learning about Facebook ads.  Another day may be organizing receipts in your inbox.  Another day may be buying more storage in iCloud.  Acknowledge and learn to enjoy the satisfaction in completing these tasks, even if they are overwhelming and there’s a steep learning curve.  There’s a lot of them, so get over it.  It’s quite satisfying crossing them off in a journal or on your note taking app.

2.) Remember, anything you do, is one step closer to your goal.  While others are quitting at 3 months in, you are just taking one step at a time and being strategic.  The tortoise wins the race.  Most successful online entrepreneurs will tell you they were working at it a while before things took off.  I’m a big fan of the blunt truth talker Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – check out the infographic in his post showing his product development over six years!

You’ve got at least 40 years left on this earth. Don’t worry about it. Do it because you love it.  Don’t compare yourself to the entrepreneurs who have 70 hours a week, or even 20 to work on their projects and launches.  You are working very hard on a few precious hours per week.  Things will happen for you, but they will happen on your schedule.

4.) Ignorance is bliss, and it contributes to action.  Find some amazing people who are doing what you what to do.  Study how they do it, their webpage, their brand and learn from them.  But be cautious.  I do think that some over-confidence / ignorance is bliss.  Study others just enough to know how to do things well, but not too much.  As soon as you see how many people are doing what you are doi ng, you will become intimidated and discouraged.  When I started my successful Kickstarter campaign, I found two other campaigns I loved and made notes on their models. I focused only on a few successful ones and did not look at just how many children’s books are on Kickstarter.  I wouldn’t have started had I known how saturated Kickstarter is and how much better everyone else’s campaigns looked.  I’m so glad I ran a basic campaign (with much room to improve) and learnt from it, rather than never doing it because I was blocked by intimidation and the desire to do it perfectly. Block out the external noise and focus on what you need to do.

5.) Have a clear idea of what lifestyle you are working towards.  I use Pinterest to do some vision boarding. I have a board called “My goals // my life in progress” (yes, that’s my board right there!) and it is images of the lifestyle and rewards I want for myself and my family. Even as simple as pictures of someone standing in the window, sipping coffee – or a family photo of parents playing in the snow with the kids. I am constantly adding images to this board and it builds a powerful desire – deep within – to keep plugging away.

6.)  Make sure you enjoy your entrepreneurial journey and the project itself, as much as you’d enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Your project should be a “Hell yeah” project.  Actually, anything you do should be a “hell yeah or no” situation, as put forth by the fabulous writer Derek Sivers.  You cannot be an influencer in something you are not passionate about. People see straight through that. That’s why there is so much talk about #authenticity on the internet these days.

7.) You don’t necessarily have to take an online course. Most online entrepreneurs’ courses are simply repackaged and re-branded versions of content they have previously published. It is extra work to commit and dig through old content, but it is doable.  So really, we are talking about time vs. money.  If you want to spend less money, there’s more of a time investment on hunting down the information.  If you want to spend more money, you’ll cut some corners and avoid some mistakes other entrepreneurs made.  Eventually, both routes end up at the same destination.

8.)  That being said, the action of financially investing in a course and being part of a community is powerful.  Connecting with other students is a great framework if you are concerned about follow through and prefer team environments.  I also believe online courses are very helpful for those of us who are not skilled in the technical aspects of online business.  I’ve made wonderful connections in some entrepreneurs’ communities that I gained access through, as part of the course. The Smart Passive Income community, Kimra Luna’s #Freedomhackers and others.

9.)  Attend conferences and work outside of the house. Just get out there.  In the business world, networking, friendships, potential deals and closed deals happen outside of the office.  They don’t happen when you are sitting alone on a laptop in a room.  Get out there.  Attend a conference.  Yes, it’s $500 – $1000 to do, but trust me, that investment will pay itself off in a few years down the road with business that is generated as a result of the relationships you made at that conference, or as a result of the business improvements or renewed motivation you received from that event.  This one I have not done yet, and I have this conference on my bucket list.  I cannot wait to do this!  I’ve also added this one – Lewis Howes’ Summit of Greatness – to my pinterest board.

10.) Start saving receipts with the Wave app and creating a “receipts” category in your Gmail now.  There’s so many random little expenses with starting up online.  Cloud storage, random apps, Skype credits, Domain registration, etc.  It’s easy to forget about all of those expenses.

11.)  Don’t ever put too much weight on your total Instagram likes or comments.  80% of your Instagram activity will be hustlers.  Focus on the 5 or less people who you authentically connect on there.  And get unique with your hashtags.  What hashtags would you look for?  Don’t use the “most popular” hashtags.  It’s like dangling bait in the water – the sharks will come circling in.  I onced used #fitfam and #fitspiration and #postpartumweightloss – The Beach Body coaches that came running…..

12.)  Have your product researched and developed before you launch it.  If you arrive in the online business arena with a developed product, you will give less of a shit when the haters or non-supporters rear their ugly heads.  I had a hater a few weeks ago on Kickstarter.  A really unpleasant message that felt like a kick to the gut, initially.

If my children’s book wasn’t 90% complete, I would have taken his comments to heart.  The completion gave me immunity and the ability to pen back a professional letter addressing his trolling.  He wound up apologizing and pledging to the campaign.


13.)  Be mindful of phone time. If you want a great check in, have your partner take a photo of you holding the phone up in front of your face.  Look at that picture.  This is what your kids may see.  It’s really hard, I know, especially when you are excited about your work and are desparate to work on it!  I’ve realized that I have to be in a separate room or working during the kids’ sleep hours.  They don’t need or deserve the back of my phone in front of their face.

14.)  You are going to get up early or stay up late to work on your business.  My formula has been:  Nap when the baby and toddler nap at mid day, and then wake up super early a few days a week.  A great day is a 5-5:30 start so that I have 1.5 hours to get stuff done with a nice cup of coffee.  It sounds insane but I love what I do enough that it’s not hard to get up.  Wait.  That’s a great question!  Do you like it enough to get up at 5:30 am (or stay up until 2am) working on it?  It is shocking how much you can get done with 1.5 hours, trust me.

15.)  Filter all social media and read selectively.  Follow inspirational or helpful feeds.  Your time is precious as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to take a precious 30 minutes for an iPhone break, fill it with good things that inspire.  Also, stop reading all of those pages, blog posts, social media posts that talk about motherhood and “being too busy” “losing balance” blabllablablabla. You can get stuck in the travails of early motherhood and circle around in that loop, or you can climb above it.   Those are all legit opinions, and motherhood IS hard –  but will they serve your goals if you decide to take those opinions on and make them your own?  Or spend your time steeping in those messages?

Probably not.  Start hunting out and reading about success stories.