Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Taste of Air - Book Review

What would you do if you learned that your mother was living a second life in another town?

Nell receives a phone call one day from a hospital in Vermont letting her know that her mother has been admitted to their ICU, but Nell is confused because her mother lives in a senior's community in Massachusetts. And her mother no longer drives. What is she doing in Vermont? How did she get there?

As Nell sees her mother in the hospital, weak and unable to really speak, Nell learns from those around that her mother has a complete second life, complete with a lakeside cottage, car, neighbours, Fall Festivals, and even her own puppy.

As her mother remains in the hospital, Nell and her sister Bridget begin unraveling the secrets of this other life.

I really enjoyed reading The Taste of Air! It pulled me in from the very first page and had the perfect balance of secrets and suspense to keep me going. To give you a taste, you can read chapter one here.

Timelines from Nell, Bridget, and their mother Mary interweave throughout the novel, slowly revealing pieces of a complicated puzzle. I always love novels where the characters' stories steadily merge together at the end, and I found the three women's different lives easy to follow.

The Taste of Air is about love, longing, family, friendship, impossible choices, and the internal struggle we all face to find a space that we can call our own.

If you enjoy books about family secrets, then you will absolutely enjoy The Taste of Air. An excellent way to spend some of those Amazon gift cards you may have received over the holidays :)

"What we do for ourselves and for each other."
- Gail Cleare, The Taste of Air


Disclaimer - I was sent a copy of The Taste of Air courtesy of the author. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. You can connect with Gail Cleare on her website, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard - Book Review

Under the Influence is the newest release by Joyce Maynard.

Helen is at her absolute lowest. Her marriage has failed and her drinking has cost her custody of her only son, Ollie, whom she now only sees briefly on weekends. While at an art gallery, Helen meets Ava and Swift Havilland and is immediately pulled into their lives. She takes on small jobs for them, and they take her under their wing by inviting her to lavish parties, providing her with an extraordinary home to use when her son is visiting, and promising to help her regain custody of Ollie. However, things that seem too good to be true generally are and when it comes time to pay up for all of the Havilland's generosity, Helen may not be able to comply with their demands.

When Wally Lamb calls a book "riveting" that sets some high expectations, and this book did not disappoint. Under the Influence was completely captivating.

I was pulled in right from the very first page. It is a story about friendship, family, envy, and escape. Under the Influence was a book that I mentally carried around with me, even when I was not reading it.

Helen is so desperate for attention and love that it's hard not to understand why she was so pulled to the Havillands. They have everything, and they are more than happy to share it with her, as long as she continues to do their bidding. This story kept me engaged because the reader knows that somewhere along the line, Helen is going to be asked to pay up in a major way for all of the opportunities that she has been given by Ava and Swift, but what will be the cost?

I enjoyed the writing style and the storyline very much. There were twists and turns along the way that kept me thinking. I felt there was just enough suspense to keep me interested without the terrified feeling that comes along with psychological thrillers.

Under the Influence is available for purchase from Amazon or HarperCollins.  You can also connect with the author, Joyce Maynard, on her website or on Facebook.

Part of the reason I love participating in promotional book tours is that I often get to learn about authors that are new to me, and that I possibly would have not otherwise known. This was my first Joyce Maynard novel, and it will not be my last. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary copy of Under the Influence from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To see what other bloggers had to say about this book, you can check out the full book tour.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Novel Editions - December 2016 Review + Coupon Code

Novel Editions is a new Canadian book box subscription. Each Novel Editions box includes a newly released fiction novel and 3 or 4 other bookish goodies.

Cost - $44.99 + shipping (currently they only ship within Canada)
Use the code SPLENDIDLIFE10 to receive 10% off the January Novel Editions box. Their next theme is Enchantment.

The theme for the December box was Literary Rebels.

Inside the box was a book, beautifully wrapped...

.... along with a number of other wonderful treats!

I love beautiful stationery, so I know I will put the notecards to good use. And I've already been using the brass bookmark actively because while I love beautiful bookmarks, I'm always sad when they inevitably get bent or creased. That will not happen with this feather bookmark. Even my four year old declared it "so beautiful, Mommy" when he saw it in my book.

Literary candles are so popular right now! In this sampler there are 12 scented tea lights with themes like Pemberley Park, Aged Page, Walden Woods, and Café au Library.

The book featured this month is The Ballroom by Anna Hope. I heard about this book a few months ago, and added it to my Goodreads to be read list. I've heard it's really captivating. I was looking forward to reading it before, but now I'm even more excited because I can't wait to see how all of the items chosen tie into the novel. Feathers will play a role somewhere I'm sure!!

Novel Editions also prepares a monthly book club guide for their selected books with ideas for creating the right atmosphere, preparing themed food, and discussion questions. You can join the Novel Editions Book Club group on Facebook and also look forward to discussions with the authors themselves!

Head on over to the Novel Editions website to subscribe. They offer 1 month, 3 month, or 6 month subscriptions. Remember to use the code SPLENDIDLIFE10 to receive 10% off your January box! Be sure to tell them you saw this post too!


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary Novel Editions box for review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Miracle on 5th Avenue - Book Review

I just loved Sleepless in Manhattan by Sarah Morgan when I read it earlier this summer and have been waiting not so patiently for the next instalments to come out to find out what happens next with Paige's friends Frankie and Eva. Frankie's story can be found in the second book of the series, Sunset in Central Park.

Sarah Morgan definitely saved the best for last with her story of Eva and Lucas in the Miracle on 5th Avenue. In this holiday-themed romance, hopeless romantic Eva ends up stranded at Lucas' penthouse apartment during an epic NYC snowstorm. The world is waiting for Lucas' next great crime horror novel which is due shortly for publication. The only problem? He feels completely blocked and hasn't yet written a single word. While Eva is stranded at his place, decorating for Christmas, and cooking up a storm, her presence starts to inspire Lucas to write again...and when Eva finds out what exactly Lucas has been writing about her, she's not likely to be too pleased!

Sarah Morgan is one author who always keeps me up late reading her books. I loved so much about Miracle on 5th Avenue. It has romance, books, Christmas, Tiffany's, and even a little Pretty Woman parallel within the story. Basically all of my favourites!

I found Eva's optimism to be infectious, and her positivity really made me feel so happy while I was reading this book. She and Lucas were excellent together. All of Sarah Morgan's books are the perfect combination of sweet and sexy, and I certainly look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

And just for fun, I want to share my favourite quotation from the book. Especially since lately I feel like I'm a little "extra curvy".

"Extra curvy?...Is that like extra strong coffee? In other words, more of the part that's already good?" 
- Lucas Blade

It's impossible not to love him!


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary copy of Miracle on 5th Avenue from the publisher and TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To see what other bloggers had to say about this lovely book, check out the full book tour here.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Does Writing In Books Ruin Them?

Do you write in your books?

This was a question I asked on Facebook last week, and I was actually surprised with the answers I got back.

" A prof once told me a book well crumpled is a book well loved because it shows just how often you've read it..."

"I do not feel that you are defacing the book, you are just making it more special to you..."

" I feel conflicted about this too, but lately have been highlighting passages that resonate with me in books I am learning from."

"I always read with a pencil near by. I write in the margins and put brackets around passages I want to remember. I don't see it as defacing a book, I think it's a compliment to the author."

I was totally expecting all of my friends to tell me that they absolutely would never write in their books, but instead almost every comment was in support of marking up the pages.

I feel so conflicted about this. Other than university textbooks, I almost never wrote in books. On rare occasions I would underline (in very light pencil) something that stood out to me.

But now that I've been reading so much more, I find so many beautiful lines that jump out at me. It almost feel like I'm being ungrateful to leave them unnoticed. I want that line or phrase or paragraph to know that it has connected with me. Maybe it made me laugh, maybe it gave me pause to think, or most likely, maybe it put words to a feeling I've had and could never quite explain.

When we buy almost anything we aim to keep it looking as new as possible for as long as possible. But does the same rule hold true for books?

Bookshelves of pristine hardcovers organized by size and colour are beautiful. But I think I'm going to give myself permission to love the insides of books a little more than I have in the past. I love the idea of making a book more uniquely mine in this way, and I'm looking forward to flipping through my books in the future and having these beautiful words stand out to me again and again.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

NAIT, Miracles, and the (Almost) Million Dollar Baby {Guest Post}

Today I have another special guest bravely sharing her miracle baby story. My friend and colleauge, Kerry-Ann Grant, had a baby with NAIT disease. This basically means that, while pregnant, her own antibodies could attack the baby's which could lead to terrifying consequences when the baby was born. NAIT is not a common disease, as you will learn, but Kerry-Ann and I both wanted to share her story to raise awareness to this rare condition and bring comfort to anyone else who is dealing with NAIT. Welcome, Kerry-Ann! 

People say babies are miracles and it's true: every single baby born into this world is a miracle. I knew this was going to be especially true for my baby. If he made it, he'd be considered a medical miracle on top of just being an everyday miracle. You see, even before my husband and I were married, even before we were engaged, I knew that any potential child of mine would have a 50% chance of having a disease called NAIT. 

NAIT stands for Neonatal Alloimmune Thrombocytopenia. It's a shit-ass disease. According to the organization naitbabies.orgNAIT is characterized by the destruction of platelets in the fetus or newborn in response to certain platelet antigens that the fetus has inherited paternally but are not present in the mother. The mother sees these antigens as ‘foreign’ and may respond by producing antibodies against these intruders. Antibodies, an important part of the body’s immune system, may cross the placenta, enter the baby’s bloodstream and destroy her unborn baby’s platelets. Spontaneous bleeding into the brain ICH (intracranial hemorrhage) or other major organs may occur putting the baby at serious risk of death or permanent brain damage causing lifelong disabilities.”

Like I said, it’s a shit-ass disease. 

We did the testing to find out if our baby would have this disease and, yep, he would. That was a pretty awful day. I remember getting the call at school from the hospital with our results. I told my partner it was fine, he didn’t need to be there. It was just a phone call. They were either going to say, “No, your child wouldn’t be affected or yes, your child would be affected.” Easy. I got this. I was prepared. I knew it was 50/50. 

Wrong, I wasn’t prepared. When the nurse told me over the phone that not only did we have to deal with NAIT, but it turned out that I was in that 2% of the world’s population that had a double negative platelet type. I think I stopped breathing. About 86% of the world’s population has double positive platelets, 12% have positive/negative platelet type and 2% have double negative. 

2%: that’s what it boiled down to. 

The nurse asked if I had any questions and that an appointment had been set up for us to meet the maternal fetal specialist, Dr. Greg Ryan. Although, I think I stopped listening after I heard, “Yes, you will have a child who is affected.” I walked across the hall to a colleague and told her I was leaving. I was crying. I was in a trance. I don’t really think I even thought about my kids (I teach Grade 3) who were in French class or something. I just grabbed my purse and walked out.

I drove home somehow and then stopped the engine in the garage and continued crying my eyes out. I don’t know how long I sat there crying, but eventually Blake (my husband) came out to find me. I’ll never forget that day in October because it was one of the worst days of my life finding out that my baby would have this disease. It was also the day I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I had found my life partner. 

Blake opened the car door and pulled me out. He knew what this meant. He kept saying, “It’s okay. We can do this. We’ve got this. I’m going to be with you every step of the way.” He asked me to marry him exactly a month later. He knew what he was getting into, and he loved me anyway.

NAIT only effects about 2% of the world’s population so it’s pretty darn rare. I have never met anyone that knows about NAIT except people in my family and others I have met through NAIT organizations, and Dr. Ryan, our NAIT specialist who treated us. Any of the doctors or nurses that we had to see through a triage department (because that happened a lot) had never heard of NAIT. I got so sick of explaining to the doctors what NAIT was, what they should be looking for when they were doing the ultrasound, what could be happening to our baby, my husband and I practically had a script that we memorized and could spit out automatically each time we ended up there.

So here’s what my pregnancy looked like. It didn’t look “normal” or what any of my friends’ pregnancies looked like. But it was my pregnancy and my baby, and damn, I was going to try to make this pregnancy look like any other pregnancy. I got real good at self-talk and really good at putting on a smile. I fully completely adopted the method of “fake it ‘till you make it.” I believed that if I remained positive, up beat, optimistic, Caleb could fight this. We could win. He would win. I kept saying things like, “You will arrive healthy. You are a warrior. You’ve got this. I’m here with you every step of the way.” Kind of like what Blake said to me back in the garage all those months ago.

After we got pregnant, I was monitored pretty regularly. For my first 19 weeks, I either had an ultrasound, blood work or a combination of both at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto every week or two. We had met with Dr. Ryan multiple times now and had a game plan. I would begin treatment starting at 20 weeks pregnant. Because this was my first pregnancy, Dr. Ryan explained that my body didn’t really know what was going on. It was like a “slow learner” (his words, not mine). My body knew something crazy was going on “like what the heck are these positive platelets doing running around my body,” but it didn’t know what to do about it yet.

At exactly my 20th week of pregnancy, I began my first IVIG treatment. Platelets regenerate every seven – 10 days so every seventh day I had another treatment. My treatments always happened on a Friday. Wednesday ultrasound, Friday treatment. It became our thing. 

IVIG stands for intravenous immunoglobulin. Basically, the doctors had figured out that this IVIG treatment, which is taken from over a 1000 blood donations, somehow helps the body fight back. They aren’t completely sure yet if the IVIG blocked the antigens that my body was creating to attack the babies platelets or if the IVIG put a kind of bubble around the babies platelets or even something else. What they did know was that women who received this treatment had a much higher chance of delivering a healthy baby. 

And that’s what we did. Every Friday, we’d set off at 8am to be ready to start treatment by 9am. We left the hospital between 4pm and 5pm to head back home. The treatment was long. They inserted an intravenous line into the tops of my hands, alternating each week. They did this so my veins would have a chance to recover each week. By the end of it, my veins had “collapsed,” and it was nearly impossible to get the needle in each week. But we soldiered on. I was hooked up to fetal monitoring each week so Nurse Sue (who became an incredibly important person in our journey) could monitor Caleb during the seven-hour to eight-hour treatment. It often produced vomiting, migraines, and always, exhaustion. It wasn’t fun. I cried every week during them at least once. But every time, I also got this huge rush of strength and pride. At least I was doing something to help Caleb fight. I began to feel like a warrior myself. I began to believe that Caleb knew what was happening and he was up for the fight. We could do this together. We could kick NAIT on its ass. Blake came with me for every treatment but two. My mom came, my mother-in-law came and my friends came. I was never alone, not for one minute. I was blessed.

Each treatment costs between $12,000 – $15,000 (Canadian). Each Friday, that’s how much it cost for Caleb to have a chance at survival. That price tag was just for the weekly treatment. There were separate costs for the in utero samples we needed, the times we ended up in triage, the steroid injections, the blood work, the extra nurses assigned to me and to Caleb. I live in Canada so every single penny was covered with our health care.  People joked that Caleb was going to be the million-dollar baby, and it was close.

By the time our son was born, I had had over 10 blood tests, 16 IVIG treatments, 25 IV’s put in, about 15 ultrasounds, four trips to triage, two fetal procedures, around 13 appointments with specialist doctors, and began to feel that the seventh floor of Mount Sinai was our second home.

There were a lot of scary days and nights for us. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy. During that time, I really learned what faith was. We had to have it in spades. We chose Caleb’s name solely because it means faith. 

During my second in utero fetal procedure where they were trying to figure out what Caleb’s platelet count was (on average you should have a platelet count of 150 000 – 400 000) we were yet again prepared to deliver Caleb. My first procedure was at week 30. I was given a steroid shot for Caleb’s lungs in case today was the day, and I was sedated so Dr. Ryan could do the procedure. That probably was the most frightened I’ve ever been in my life. I knew there was a strong chance that if something went wrong during the procedure or Caleb’s counts were too low, they would be “taking the baby” (again, their words not mine.) 

Being inside a “procedure room” in the hospital and having Dr. Ryan, a teaching fellow, an anestiologist, three nurses, and Blake all “work” on me was so surreal. After Dr. Ryan got a blood sample from Caleb’s liver (he was suppose to get the sample from the umbilical cord but Caleb was in an awkward position so he couldn’t), he literally hands the sample to a “runner” who runs down to the lab and they process the blood right away. About three minutes later the phone rings. Dr. Ryan answers and says, “Okay, is that confirmed? Did you test again? Okay, sending down another sample to double check.” He hangs up the phone and turns to me and says, “No baby for you today. 279.” 

279,000 platelets. That’s how many platelets Caleb had in his little body at that exact moment. 279,000. Never had there been a sweeter number. 

We continued our plan: seven more weeks of treatments, one more fetal blood sample and one more count of great numbers. Dr. Ryan told us after the second in utero blood sample Caleb had seven days to come naturally or I would be induced. Babies who have NAIT walk a fine balance between being in utero long enough to grow and develop properly with being in utero too long where the anti-bodies that the mother creates can harm the baby. Caleb’s time was up. The treatment appeared to have worked, but now we had seven days because who knew what would happen after the seventh day when his platelets begin to regenerate.

I was induced on my birthday, August 11th. The greatest gift I’ve ever received. It was a crazy labour due to our circumstances and Caleb taking his sweet ole time. He was born at 4:31 am on August 12th

Before the umbilical cord was even cut, they had taken a blood sample from the cord and from his heel. Another runner ran. Three minutes later the phone rang. 264 000. 

It was the first real time in over nine months where I exhaled. 

Caleb spent his first week having multiple blood tests just to make sure his platelets were steady and wouldn’t drop. We knew that between 7 – 10 days we would be out of the woods. It took me about six months to really trust that. 

On his ninth day of life, we had a celebration of life for Caleb.  Over 60 friends and family and Nurse Sue, who so lovingly cared for me during all those treatments, came to meet Caleb. 

The almost million-dollar baby.

So why have I shared my story? Because NAIT can be detected by a simple blood test. So many babies’ lives could have been saved. So many babies could have been born without life-altering disabilities. So many mothers and fathers could have been saved the suffering of losing a child.

I was lucky. I knew my baby might have NAIT because my sister’s children did. So I got tested. But because NAIT is such a rare disease they don’t do any screening for NAIT when you get pregnant. That’s what many of us are fighting for. I belong to an organization called (check us out), and we are slowly trying to spread awareness. Two percent doesn’t seem like a lot, but, if it was your baby, two percent is everything. We have people all around the world – Australia, Canada, UK, Germany that are trying to spread the word. NAIT doesn’t discriminate. Most people don’t find out about NAIT until they’ve lost a baby or sometimes, even more tragically, more than one baby. If your baby suffers an ICH (intracranial hemorrhage) in utero, many doctors don’t even know why or that it could have been caused by NAIT. If you think you or someone you know might be affected by NAIT, you can go to these websites to get more information.

You could also call your local hospital and ask to be connected with a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist. If you live in a big city, your chances of someone knowing about NAIT are greater but the above websites can help you find doctors in your area that can help. 

And you can always contact me at

Caleb Ryan Grant-Lambert just celebrated his 5th birthday. And yes, his middle name is for Dr. Greg Ryan, who helped us get our miracle.

Love from one proud mama,
Kerry-Ann Grant

Monday, 14 November 2016

My Etsy Holiday Gift Guide {for pretty much anyone on your list}

When it comes to the holidays, I can swing drastically between a laissez-faire, leave the dishes in the sink and pass me a glass of wine relaxed attitude, and then feeling totally overwhelmed and ready to snap. I suppose my husband finds it all to be part of my charm :)

One thing that helps me make it through the holidays in one piece is ordering as many gifts as possible online. I avoid the mall, and then beautiful, unique gifts arrive at my house ready to be shared with my friends and family. Etsy is one of my favourite places to shop online. Below I've put together my favourite ideas for anyone on your shopping list this year!

Gifts For Her

(your wife, mother, babysitter, or your BFF)

Etsy always has one of a kind style items that are sure to glean compliments each time they are worn. I love this t-shirt and beanie because they both look so cozy and beautiful!

I have a weakness for all things bookish and Parisian, so I actually own both of these items and love them so much. (These Paris notecards are also my favourites).

One of the things Etsy does particularly well is share luxurious handmade skincare products. These make great gifts because they are not always the type of products someone would buy for themselves regularly and instead become a really special treat.

Gifts For Him 

(your husband, father, grandpa, brother-in-law)

The shaving kit from OrangeFuzz is one of my favourite gifts for the men in my life. I've gifted it to my husband and brother-in-law each more than once because they've repeatedly requested it. The shaving kit comes with their signature Cedarwood Guinness beer soap (which my dad also loves). I promise, you cannot go wrong with these!

Personalized gifts are always wonderful ideas because they are so meaningful and will be cherished for many years to come. If you have a little one just learning to write, getting a keychain engraved with their exact message would be such a wonderful surprise for any father or grandpa. Also, we have that exact hammer set and the quality is excellent!

Gifts For The Littles

Etsy has the absolute best t-shirts for little ones. Our son gets loads of hand me downs, so it's fun to leave room in the children's clothing budget for one or two shirts you'd never find in the mall.  I've been eying this Lettuce Turnip The Beet one for awhile, and the other set is super adorable (and perfect for a lazy parenting day haha!)

These two toys are perfect for inspiring creative play! Nature-based learning is a growing theme in elementary school learning, and these wooden blocks help bring some of that outdoor play home. The play silks are so fun because they really can be anything! Blankets, clothing for toys, fire, water, etc. I prefer purchasing toys that can "do" more than one thing, and the possibilities for these are endless. 

For even more wonderful gift ideas, be sure to check out Etsy's Editor Picks as well!


Monday, 7 November 2016

Beaulitful Reads Box October 2016

I love The Bookish Box (curated by Appraising Pages), and when I saw that they were coming out with a romance-themed book box I knew I had to try it out, even just once!

Beaulitful Reads is a newish monthly subscription box and book club that will feature a new adult or chick-lit romance novel each month. Also included are a few high-quality bookish goodies.

Cost $24/month + shipping. There is a small discount if you prepay for 3 months.

This month the book featured is Beautiful by Christina Lauren. It also came with a signed bookplate! Here's a blurb about the Beautiful:

After walking in on her boyfriend shagging another girl in their place, Pippa Bay Cox ditches London for the States to go on a drunken road trip with Ruby Miller and some of her Beautiful friends.

Scaling the career ladder is the default way to deal with heartbreak—and to just deal—for Jensen Bergstrom. Absolutely buried by his drive and workload, he rarely takes time for himself. But when his sister Hanna convinces him to join the gang on a two-week wine tour, he has a rare moment of cutting loose. Of course, it’s only once he’s committed that he realizes the strange girl he met briefly on the plane is coming along, too. She might be too much for him…or he might realize his life has become too small and needs her to make it bigger, crazier.

With this circle of friends there’s always something going on: from Chloe and Sara’s unexpected personality swaps to Will’s new domestic side to Bennett’s text message barrage and George’s own happily-ever-after. In short, their adventures in love, friendship, and hilarity are nothing short of Beautiful.

I've been reading a ton of romance lately, and this book is highly reviewed on Amazon, so I'm looking forward to reading this one!

Beaulitful Reads also has its own Facebook group for organized book club discussions with the authors about their featured books.

Along with the book Beautiful, the Beaulitful Reads box this month included a silver ampersand bracelet and an extra large stemless book club wine glass.

I've actually been craving a stemless wine glass for awhile now, but haven't picked any up because I have perfectly functioning regular wine glasses at home, so I am so excited to have received one in this month's box!! Plus I'm super impressed that it was packaged well enough to be shipped to me without breaking.

I always think the value of the boxes by Appraising Pages are excellent because the items are such high quality, and with Beaulitful Reads they've also clearly done research to ensure that the books featured are extremely enjoyable.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Diaper Drive 2016!

While we all know that November/Movember is the month of the moustache, I'm taking things in a different direction for the next 30 days.

Sebastian may be well passed the diaper stage, but I still remember the extraordinary expense they cost us each month. I've done this once before, and I'm determined again to help out mothers in need by donating diapers to The Diaper Bank and raising awareness about the need for diaper donations.

The Diaper Bank of Toronto shares some pretty startling facts about the need for diapers. Here are a few:
  • 1 in 5 Canadian moms have experienced diaper need. (In Toronto, the number is closer to 1 in 4.)
  • 24% of Canadian moms cut back on clothing so they can buy diapers. Even worse, 16% cut back on food.
  • Babies are kept in wet and dirty diapers for extended periods of time, leading to increased fussiness and irritation. In extreme cases, babies are using diapers for a full day or disposable diapers that have been cleaned or dried out.
  • This may also lead to babies who cry more, have worse diaper rash, and may be at greater risk for developing infections.
  • A mother's physical and emotional well-being suffers. They report feeling guilty, stressed, like a 'bad mother', frustrated, and anxious.  
The Diaper Bank says that "providing clean diapers provides moms with a sense of pride, joy and connection to their children."

Two years ago I held my first diaper drive with the goal of collecting 1000 diapers. Thanks to the generosity of my friends and family, I was able to collect and donate 1402!! So this year I'm aiming higher. My goal is to collect 1500 diapers for donation by November 30th.

The diapers can be new packages, opened packages, or even just loose diapers. Any size will do. Unfortunately, cloth diapers are not realistic alternatives for families experiencing diaper need so only disposable diapers are accepted by the Diaper Bank.

If you'd like to participate (and I hope you do!), you can give the diapers right to Rob or I when you see us, pass them along to someone who will be seeing one of us this month, or you can drop them off at the door of our house if we're not there. I love doing this drive in November because I'm so happy to know that a few more moms in the city will be able to spend less time worrying about diapers over the upcoming holidays and be able to spend more time making amazing memories with their little ones. 

So bring me your diapers (or even plan your own diaper drive) and help a mother out! 


PS - If you are in the US, check out the National Diaper Bank Network for information on how you can donate as well!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Setting Up a #creativetable For The Little Makers In Your Home

I'm not the most creative when it comes to playing and designing. Or at least, I often feel like I'm not. If someone was to give me a bunch of art supplies, I would probably panic if I didn't have direct instructions on what to build or make or feel overwhelmed by looking at an end product that seemed impossible to achieve.

And when I'm playing with Sebastian, sometimes I feel that same "uncreativeness". So instead of scanning Pinterest with projects that look totally over the top, I've been making more of an effort to think of creative play from the perspective of the maker movement. I discovered this amazing book by Rachelle Doorley. It's called Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors - 55 Playful Experiments that Encourage Tinkering, Curiosity, and Creative Thinking.

One of my favourite things is that this book is specifically designed for children between the ages of 2 and 6. At this age children may not exactly wander into their craft supplies and start creating on their own, but they will happily play if given a little nudge. An invitation.

A play invitation is basically setting out a specific number of art or building supplies for your child to encourage exploration.

Then, and this is the hardest part, once everything is set up and your child comes to play, keep your mouth shut. You are not there to direct their play, just to give them an offering to begin. "I wonder what would happen if...."

And once Sebastian dives into an invitation, I get to enjoy my tea while it's still hot.

There are no specific end projects in mind with each invitation. We never know what the result of our play will look like. Rather, the goal is to give our children the space to discover, to create, and to explore.

As he was playing with glue and paper (above) Sebastian said to be, "I'm making a volcano. This is the lava." It is so amazing to watch how he sees the world.

Giving children the space to explore and discover (without getting all up in their business) allows them to develop into the best kind of adults: innovative ones.

Here's how to set up your own super easy #creativetable at home

If you can setup an uncluttered space in your home, that is ideal. We've turned the sunroom beside our kitchen into a craft room and even added a chalkboard wall as a bonus. Then we went to Ikea and got this table with these chairs and this amazing utility cart

You can search #creativetable on Instagram to find loads of play invitation ideas, and I strongly suggest picking up the Tinkerlab book. It has so many fantastic ideas of how to stock your creative play space (such as stickers, washi tape, crayons, glue, ribbon, or even container of corks which is the perfect reason to drink more wine). I also make sure there is a package of baby wipes nearby for quick cleanup.

The invitations described in the book are so simple to prepare. I promise! And this is coming from a non-crafty person. They are easy to set up, and they build upon each other as you progress through each section for older makers.

Tinkerlab is divided into sections on designing, building, concocting and discovering. The invitations described are often the perfect blend of art and science without any of the pressure to create a perfect product at the end. 

Sebastian and I have enjoyed exploring with invitations we try in the book, and I've seen it inspire him to create the invitation again more independently now that he has a few ideas to work with. This is an excellent book to add to your home library.

"Regardless of the outcome...a good creative experience is one that gives children the opportunity to solve problems and think independently. When a child exercises flexible thinking in a project without a predetermined outcome, then the experience is a success." - Rachelle Doorley, Tinkerlab


Friday, 16 September 2016

The Things We Wish Were True - Book Review + Giveaway

"Did life add to or take away from who we are at sixteen?"  This one line from Marybeth Mayhew Whalen's new book, The Things We Wish Were True, has really stayed with me. I think because it really connects all of the themes from this story: trust, friendship, courage, secrets, loss, change. Both as an adult and as a sixteen year old we face these aspects of life. But what happened in between?

This is what we see when Jencey returns home after a failed marriage to her small town in The Things We Wish Were True. Take one suburb, add a number of distinctive small-town characters, along with a near tragedy at the local swimming pool, and secrets are bound to be revealed. Both within their community and within their own homes, things aren't always what they seem for the townspeople of Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. But maybe not all of these secrets are really so terrible. Maybe some of our relationships have to hit rock bottom before they can rise again.

The narrative shifts to focus on different characters for each chapter, and I enjoy books told from multiple perspectives. The writing is excellent. Whalen is able to tell the stories of very distinct adults, as well as give a clear voice to a young child in an uncomplicated way that flows seamlessly. And as the book progresses, all of the puzzle pieces and characters fit together in a satisfying, though not "tidy" way.

I always find it fascinating to hear how authors come up for ideas for their books. For The Things We Wish Were True, the author shares that this story was inspired by a real near-drowning in her own neighbourhood, and how that event united and changed their community.

I was engaged from the beginning and though the book is about a near-drowning, as well as suburban "secrets", it is not a thriller. The Things We Wish Were True was very well-paced, interesting, and anyone interested in contemporary or women's fiction will very much enjoy reading this book.

Check out this @asplendidmessylife Instagram post to enter to win a copy of The Things We Wish Were True. Giveaway ends Tuesday, September 20, 2016.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of The Things We Wish Were True from the author and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To hear what other bloggers had to say about this great book, visit the whole book tour here.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Am I Not Really A Mother?

This is not easy for me to write.

I have so many friends having second babies. I love them and their little ones dearly. But it just leaves me with so many questions.

Does having "only" one child mean I'm not really a mother?

Does it mean I'm taking it easy?

Do I not have a full and beautiful life?

Do I not have sleepless nights or early mornings?

Do I not work hard to balance my career, marriage, friendships, and family?

Do I not cry sometimes because I feel overwhelmed?

Does having "only" one child mean I am weaker?

I have to believe the answer to that last question is no, but it's hard not to feel that way sometimes. It's hard not to yearn when things don't go as planned. My mind knows this is best for my family, but when will my heart catch up?

I wrestle with these questions.

Maybe some of you do too.


Monday, 29 August 2016

August Romance Reveal Book Box Review

I'm super excited to be trying out the Romance Reveal Book Box today! The Romance Reveal Box is perfect for lovers of contemporary romance. Each box includes two signed paperback romance novels, bookish treats, and even a few non-bookish goodies.

Cost is $24.95 USD + shipping.

The books included this month were:

Broken Love by Jillian Dodd

After years of crushing and many failed seduction attempts, Palmer Montlake had finally scored the sexy Cade Crawford. Both a little drunk when they got back to her place, they were frantic with need, their desire intense. But as the night progressed, the hot-mess hookup morphed to sweet lovemaking. The kind neither had ever experienced. But they were destined for heartbreak.

Will they get a second chance? Or will they be left with a broken love?

The Sapphire Affair by Lauren Blakey

Bounty hunter Jake Harlowe knows how to track a criminal. So when a group of swindled shareholders hire him to trail their former CEO, Jake expects a quick trip to the Cayman Islands to close another case. Until a devastatingly beautiful woman gets in the way.

Along with the books there were a few product samples (the candies and nail polish) along with some promotional material from other authors. Green isn't exactly my jam for nail polish, but I saw that everyone received different colours, so this was just the luck of the draw.

The button that says My Book Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours from Harper Sloan is really cute, and the lip balm from Elizabeth Johns is genius because I will actually carry this around with me, use it tons, and hopefully remember to check out her books! Plus Lauren Blakely sent, what is now, my new favourite magnet ;)

These books sound like so much fun! I love second chance romance stories and both covers are smoking hot!  Unsigned paperback copies of these books retail at about $20 CAD each, so the value of this box is great. I was actually impressed that they are such new releases as well. The books were just published in June and July 2016.

The Romance Reveal Box is such a fun way to find out about new romance authors. Making sure that each book sent is signed by the author is a special touch that you don't often see in book subscription boxes!


Disclaimer - I was sent a complementary Romance Reveal Book Box for review. All thoughts, opinions, and cravings for romance novels are entirely my own.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Fresh Brewed - Book Review and Givewaway

Fresh Brewed is the second book in Pamela Ford's Continental Breakfast Club series.

Bree has been looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation with her friends Allie and Megan for months. Both to enjoy the summer after a busy teaching year and as a distraction from thinking about her ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, a hurricane thwarts their plans leaving their hotel damaged and the girls without a place to stay. While Bree and her friends try to decide what to do, they meet and befriend Kristen. Kristen is headed for a vacation at her family's beach house and invites the girls to come along.  The catch - Bree needs to pretend to be Kristen's brother's girlfriend, which should be pretty simple considering the brother, Ethan, won't even be there.

Bree discovers that playing the role of fake girlfriend for Kristen's family is not really as easy as it sounds. Everyone is asking questions, especially Kristen's other gorgeous brother, Adam. Bree's description of a head over heels in love, romantic, Ethan just does not fit the heartbreaker his family has always known. And what is going to happen when unexpectedly Ethan shows up? He knows nothing about this charade!

Just like, Over Easy, Fresh Brewed is an exceptionally charming read. There are laugh out loud moments and moments of sweetness which make for the perfect chick lit (Best enjoyed with a cup of coffee or on decks with heart cutouts).

I have completely fallen in love with the characters from The Continental Breakfast Club! They are always fun, funny, and highly entertaining. The friendships and relationships that form feel real and heartwarming. Fresh Brewed is a fast-paced read that I enjoyed probably even more than the first book. The reader is drawn immediately into the story and can't help but root for Bree to sort out all of these hilarious antics. Fresh Brewed is the perfect light literature to enjoy while we soak up the end of summer!

If you missed my review of Book 1 in The Continental Breakfast Club series, Over Easy, you can check it out here. Book 3, Honey Glazed, is due out in September (and I can't wait to order my copy!). All three books can be read as standalone novels.

Fresh Brewed is available for purchase here from Amazon.


About the author
Pamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully signing over the romance, and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-after with plenty of plot - and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer - and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.

You can connect with Pamela Ford on GoodreadsFacebookTwitter, and her website.

Disclaimer – I received a copy of Fresh Brewed from the author and iRead Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To check out what other bloggers had to say about The Continental Breakfast Club series, here is the full book tour. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Over Easy - Book Review + Author Interview

What is the best way to meet eligible men? At the gym? In a coffee shop? How about dropping in on a continental breakfast at a fancy hotel? That's the new plan for friends Allie, Bree, and Megan.

After exhausting their typical avenues to try and meet "the one", Allie, Bree, and Megan decide they need to do something creative, so Megan suggests they get dressed up and sneak into the continental breakfast of a posh hotel nearby. They would find men travelling on business, and it's a well-known fact that men always wear their wedding rings at continental breakfast, so the girls could quickly determine marital status. Thus, The Continental Breakfast Club was formed.

Feeling confident, Allie goes first, walks into breakfast. She sits down and strikes up a conversation with Colin Hughes. Allie things things are going well, and they make a date to see each other at a local bar that evening. Allie has no idea that Colin is a jewel thief and thinks she is his contact!

Instead of finding true love, Allie, Bree, Megan, and innocent bystander, Jax, find themselves in the middle of a jewel heist, and everyone is certain that Allie has the missing million dollar diamond.

Who really is Colin? Who else is after these jewels? Where is the missing diamond? And, most importantly, can Allie really find her happily ever after?

"But the stars were twinkling love, and the breeze was whispering romance, and I knew I should say something before it all got too awkward." - Allie, Over Easy

Over Easy was such a delightful read! Calamities and misadventures follow Allie and her friends wherever they go throughout this laugh out loud book. Part mystery, part chick lit, part suspense, part romance, The Continental Breakfast Club is sure to please anyone who love fun, quirky characters! Over Easy is also a fun read for dog-lovers. Allie is a dog-groomer, and her dogs play a key role in the story.

I love reading stories that have tight girlfriends working together, and this story definitely delivers in that respect. Allie, Bree, and Megan are wonderful, and their friendship feels so genuine. Pamela Ford's writing is funny, sweet, and very engaging. Over Easy is a quick read, perfect for the end of the summer or any weekend getaway. While reading this book, I kept thinking that Over Easy would make a hilarious and adorable romantic comedy movie!

Over Easy is book #1 of The Continental Breakfast Club series, can be read as a standalone novel, and is available for purchase here from Amazon. It's currently free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

I'm reading Fresh Brewed next so stay tuned for an upcoming review of the next book in this series!


About the author
Pamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully signing over the romance, and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-after with plenty of plot - and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer - and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.

You can connect with Pamela Ford on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Author Interview With Pamela Ford

There’s an old saying, “Write what you know.” Does that mean you know all about fencing stolen jewels?
No, thank goodness! But, I grew up in a family that had a great sense of humor, with a group of girlfriends who were always laughing. And I have three daughters who also embrace their “silly” sides. So writing screwball romantic comedy comes pretty easily to me!

What do you find is the hardest thing about writing?
Ha! It’s all hard. Although, once I started learning more about plotting; setting each character’s GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict); and determining turning points and black moment, the process got easier. I’ve found that doing more work up front on the book’s skeleton makes it easier to write the story. But, a lot of the time, it’s still hard!

What is your favorite motivational saying?
Sometimes you just have to take the leap and make your wings on the way down. (Kobi Yamada)

What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop letting yourself get waylaid by other projects. Years disappear more quickly than you can even imagine, so stay focused on your goal and on making your dream become reality.

How much of your plots and/or characters are drawn from your own life?
Plot ideas will come to me in all sorts of ways, but typically not from my own life. Sometimes I’ll borrow a scene from my life, or an interesting character trait from someone, but I never model any characters directly after people I know.

What are five words you would like to be remembered by as an author?
Funny, inspiring, entertaining, unique, compelling

Do you have a favorite childhood book?
I had lots of favorites, but there was one book I enjoyed so much that it would come to mind even when I was an adult. Unfortunately, while I hadn’t ever forgotten the book’s basic premise, I had forgotten the title. Several years ago, I finally posted the question on a librarian website, and the answers came rolling in. The title was: The Great and Terrible Quest. I immediately checked it out of the library and read it again!

Disclaimer – I received a copy of Over Easy from the author and iRead Book Tours in exchange for my review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. To check out what other bloggers had to say about Over Easy here is the full book tour. Enjoy!