How to have the perfect wedding

In this day and age, many modern brides scour the world wide web in search of the elusive "perfect wedding" - looking at everything from "10 things brides wish they did at their weddings" to "all you need for the perfect wedding planner book." Having recently been a bride myself I would like to share with you all my thoughts on having the perfect wedding. My day was blissful. 

 Photo credit: Clara Cecilia 

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia 

 Photo Credit: Clara Cecilia 

Photo Credit: Clara Cecilia 

I hope you read that first paragraph in a cheesy 50's advertisers voice, I know that's how I wrote it. Reality is, there's no perfect formula for the perfect day. The fact that nothing majorly bad happened on my wedding day was a blessing, but it's usually the embarrassing catastrophes that become stories told to generations. The lack of embarrassing catastrophe was totally out of my control, and if something had happened, it would have been out of my control. 

Want my advice on how to have the perfect wedding? Don't take it too seriously. If you're planning a wedding and you aren't having fun, ask yourself if what you're doing is really important. But so you don't feel totally lied to, I do have some tips on how to do that:  

Remember what it's about: A wedding is about you (if you're a bride) and your husband. It's a celebration of your decision to make two lives one. The dress, the cake, the flowers and the reception are all extras. When things started to get crazy for me the week before the wedding, I would take a minute and remember that it was about me and him. If no one else was impressed that wasn't my problem. 

 Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Pick a second priority and base your planning decisions around it: This is a good way to decide on budget priorities and helped me stay on track emotionally as well. As decisions got more and more detailed (are these the flowers we want on the pews? We have to choose between periwinkle and tiffany blue!) I always had to go back to our priority number 2 - for us it was about people. I tried to make decisions based on the people in my life. To me it was more important that the pews were full of friends and family than that there were flowers placed on them, and whenever I noticed that the blue wasn't perfect I thought to myself, "Will it hurt anyone's feelings if the blue's don't match?" For us, the second priority was honouring the people in our lives, and knowing that reduced a lot of stress. 

It will not kill you to go without: Can't decide on wedding favours? Go without. Don't have the perfect backdrop for your head table? Go without. Can't afford an open bar? Go without! If you cannot afford to have a lavish wedding and it's stressing you out, just don't! Have a potluck wedding in a community hall if that's all you want or can afford. Wedding etiquette is often marketing, because weddings are big business. If all the extras are overwhelming, don't do them! I had some people helping with my wedding that ended up doing a bunch of things I had decided to go without anyway. Maybe you will too! 

Don't be afraid to let go of your vision: To make room for something better! I had so many people in my life, all of whom had successfully gotten married, who were giving me advice and offering their help - even as far as cutting down trees and harvesting pussy willow branches so we could make a magical scene to say our "I do's," and their input was a blessing for sure. Some things required a firm "no," but overall, allowing others into my "vision" made my day so much better as they thought of things I couldn't think of and they did things I hadn't really thought of doing. 

 Totally set up by friends, aunts and moms. Photo credit: Clara Cecilia 

Totally set up by friends, aunts and moms. Photo credit: Clara Cecilia 

Attitude? Gratitude! It may sound cheesy, but seriously - bridezilla is a stereotype for a reason. Weddings can be really stressful for a bride - everyone puts her wants and whims first and sometimes it's a lot of pressure to have the final say. I have to admit, the most stressed I got in the process was when everyone wanted my opinion on EVERYTHING but weren't actually listening to it (we all survived). But in the end, on the day, it was beautiful and I could not have had such a great wedding if it hadn't been for all those people and voices that had been stressing me out before. So say thank you, and smile. Remember that they're only trying to help and extend as much grace as you can.

So what if the day isn't "exactly what you always wanted" movies and pinterest are highly edited. Be thankful that you get to marry the man of your dreams and for all the help (even misguided) that you received, and remember to have fun! Weddings are fun, and if you're having fun your guests will enjoy laughing at you - good times make good weddings. 

 Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

  Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

  Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

  Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Photo credit: Clara Cecilia

Have any more advice for modern brides? Comment! 






The Trouble with Trends (Welcome Megan!)

Super excited about today's post! My best friend and partner in not-crime (#betterplans) has agreed to partner with me on this business/blogging venture. Looking forward to many excellent future posts. Without further ado... 

Hi everyone!

My name is Megan, and you may have caught a mention of me in Katie’s last blog post — something about me liking to keep my room clean. I do have to admit, though — while I’m a little particular about the cleanliness of my room, the kitchen in my house is a whole other story. 


Anyway, Katie and I have been friends since we were 11 years old. One of the many things we have in common is our love for ethical products and thrifting. My parents never took us to Value Village for clothing when we were growing up, but ever since I went with Katie and her mom in Junior High, I’ve been hooked.


I believe in thrifting because a) it is a great way to live sustainably by repurposing old clothing, b) you are not supporting the fast fashion industry, which employs workers overseas who are forced to labour in terrible conditions for long hours and not enough money to live on, and c) there is nothing like the thrill of the hunt! I have lost track of the many designer items I have found (read: Fossil and Coach bags, brands found at Aritzia and Anthropologie, lululemon, ect) at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost!

 Almost completely thrifted outfit! Denim jacket, lace dress, lulu crops and Fossil bag all thrifted!

Almost completely thrifted outfit! Denim jacket, lace dress, lulu crops and Fossil bag all thrifted!

While I always keep an eye out on the shoe racks at secondhand stores, I haven’t had a lot of luck so far in trying to find a pair of deep red shoes for a certain event at the end of April (did I mention I am the maid of honour for Katie’s upcoming wedding?!). So, the other day, I was browsing the Internet, and I came across this pair.

 That’ll be $168!!

That’ll be $168!!

So, I did what any other normal person would do and sent my bestie a screenshot of the offending footwear. At that point, we’d already talked about taking turns writing blog posts, but after I sent her the image, I knew exactly what I wanted my first post to be about.


I know everyone has their preferences and someone might really love this particular type of footwear, but to me, this is a very trendy sort of shoe that would only be in style for a season or two.


For clothing, lately the trends have been culottes, ponchos/blanket scarves and rompers (even romper culottes!), to name a few. I would like to say that I believe trends have their place in fashion, but I think it is important for people to find their unique, individual styles. 


For instance, other trends lately have been chambray and leggings. While I do not condone wearing leggings as pants (#leggingsarenotpants), I believe chambray and leggings (worn with a shirt covering your rear end, of course) can be staples in anyone’s wardrobe and something that could even be part of a minimalist wardrobe, paired and worn with many things.


While I admit to being somewhat of a minimalist myself, some of my favourites pieces of clothing are ones I can wear over and over again with different things. I recently read an article that listed many staples for any wardrobe, and I couldn’t agree more. These items of clothing involve a pair of black pumps (or for me, flats), dark wash skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, a leather jacket, and so on. 

 Footwear from a local company that sells ethical, custom-made shoes. A perfect staple for the summer!

Footwear from a local company that sells ethical, custom-made shoes. A perfect staple for the summer!

Some people dress more trendy than others, but I really think there is a way to have your own style without having to ditch your whole wardrobe every time there is a new trend. I think one of the best things of the 2010 decade is that while there may be trends, more and more people are dressing how they want. Do you have a boho-vibe to your clothing? Or maybe you’re a little more preppy, hippy or formal? All seem to go nowadays. I hope this trend (ha! See what I did there?) continues, because the less trends = less clothing thrown away when they go out of style = less amount of stuff ending up in landfills. 


However, if you really like trends, you could try to incorporate a few more trendy items into your wardrobe while keeping the core items the same. Or, better yet, for those types of clothing that are re-making its rounds if they were popular years ago, you might be able to find it at a thrift store — which is a win-win in my books!


And, of course, if one day you fall out of love with that ______ (insert name of trendy item of clothing here), donate it! The opportunities are endless — give to a Cerebral Palsy association, a privately-owned thrift store, or go ahead and fill up your donation card at a large secondhand store such as Value Village. The benefits are endless!

- Megan

Annnddd... We're live!

So... it's a start. 

A small collection on Etsy, which WILL be expanded and made into something more. But IT'S A START! 

I started something. 

And so far, it's the starting that's been the hardest. 

For the sake of being completely honest on this blog I feel that I do have to be somewhat vulnerable here. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 

Why? Because, what right do I have to even attempt to start a business? And a blog? What do I have to say? 

Even though it's something I'm passionate about, even though it's something that I'm almost always thinking about - I'm still so often crippled with doubt. I've done more research than anyone should about how entrepreneurs thinks, what their personalities are, what they do with their time. I've tried to change myself to match the "6 things Entrepreneurs Do" and the "10 Habits of Successful People" (Watching Netflix and TV are not on the list, sad to say) . I did all the research, but when I met and spoke with entrepreneurs, I began to realize that they don't really fit the moulds the internet has them in. In fact, they're all just people, they have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else. They probably do watch Netflix occasionally, on the rare occasions that they have time (gasp!). So what's the difference between me and them? I'm not totally sure, but taking a dream and starting something out of it did come to mind. That's when I did research on how to become a self-starter - here's a tip, don't. It's garbage, I didn't find a single useful resource, all of them were just a bit obvious. I just hadn't done any of the things they said because... duh, I wasn't a self starter. 

 I decided enough was enough, I gave myself 30 days, and got a friend involved. I decided that by March 1st I would have 5 designs on Etsy. That's half their recommendation for starting a shop, but for me it wasn't about getting out of the gate strong, it was that there was so much fear and angst about getting out of the gate AT ALL, that I knew if I tried to start big I would just keep putting it off forever. 

So I did it. I kept it small but I DID IT. I started my little shop, despite fear and uncertainty, despite the fact that I don't know what right I have to start a business or believe that my dreams can actually become reality. I've kind of acknowledged that I won't know until I try. That walking on water starts with stepping out of the boat, some questions just can't be answered until a risk has been taken, so I stopped trying to answer them, and decided to take a risk. 

What can I say about Winterberry? Right now it's a small shop on Etsy, but it has lots of heart. 

We're dedicated to making ethically produced clothing accessible to all people. We're passionate about people being able to find their own style, instead of mindlessly following trends. We love inner beauty and creative expression. We love quality fabrics and clothes that aren't designed to fall apart in the wash. We love comfy/cute, and think you should to, because we're real people - we get tired and we have lazy days, we get creative and have super productive days. There are days that we clean our houses and days we don't (well, days I don't, I think Megan keeps a tight ship). 

And we're live. 

Let me know what you think about my shop! If you subscribe to my blog you can have 20% off a purchase, and as always, you know I love custom! It's one thing to design clothes that I want to wear, but it's a totally different challenge to design clothes for others. 

What I've been up to

Hey internet, It's been a while! How are you doing? 

That's great. Me? Oh, I've been pretty busy lately (sorry we haven't talked in a while). 

Though I have been mostly focused on getting wedding planning and projects done, I've also been working on getting a collection ready for this Spring! Super exciting. 


What mostly wedding stuff you ask? Great question! 

As a designer extraordinaire I felt it was both fun and necessary to make my own wedding dress! 

That's the general idea of what it looks like, I'll go into more detail about my wedding dress adventures after my wedding. Currently *mostly* completed, just a lot of hand sewing lace. 


I've also used my own tutorial for the "convertible dress" to make my bridesmaid dresses (all of which are already out of my possession, so no pics till after the wedding). I love the idea of convertible dresses for bridesmaids because they're affordable, cute, easy to size and fit (stretchy), comfortable, and can be worn as many different ways as you have maids (unless you have like ten or something crazy). 

Something else I've made for the bridesmaids- that I do have in my possession- is clutch purses they'll be carrying instead of bouquets. 

I love this idea for several reasons, first off they're much longer lasting than a bouquet and much more practical, allowing for the bridesmaids to carry things at a wedding (what!?!), secondly, adorable, and thirdly if you're willing and wanting to put the work into making them they're really very affordable, I made 5 clutches and only needed to buy half a yard of the self fabric and half a yard of the lining... which by the way is almost my favourite part... 

So adorable and affordable! Yay! This absolutely adorable clutch pattern can be found here:, thanks other bloggers for being awesome! 

Those are the complete (and almost complete) wedding adventures so far. I'm sure I'll have many more to write about in the future as well! The more I think about it the more there is to do! 


I'll admit it, the wedding's been on my mind lately, and occupying most of my crafty, artsy adventure times, but other exciting news is the collection that I've been working on! Hoping to have that out ASAP for people to see and purchase things from! 

Want to see how legit my design process is? Check out these incredible drawings! 

I like to think of this totally legit design process as "organized chaos" or "the earth was formless and void..." - though being totally honest, I pretty much design things once they start to become three dimensional. I find that working with the fabric and the pattern is really where I make important design decisions, and things are able to evolve. 

So yeah, that's what I've been up to! Hope everyone is having a great February and will have a great March soon! 



Love birds cake topper

This is a story of a little DIY that began as a disaster, and became beautiful. 

These cute little love birds are the first of many mini cake toppers I'm making for my wedding (Minor freak out!!!). The most interesting thing about them is that they were almost a total write off. 

This is what they looked like when I first finished them. 


Maybe not necessarily ugly, but not at all what I wanted to see on a wedding cake. 

You see, on this project I fell pray to a classic blunder (shameless movie reference). I got so eager to play with a new crafting toy - polymer clay - that I dove into it without giving it a lot of time or a lot of thought. 

This was a huge mistake.

The colours were wrong, I ended up getting the polymer clay dirty, and I didn't look into how to actually use polymer clay well enough to know how to make these birds, I thought I would be able to figure it out, and I sort of did. 

So yeah, I figured it out, but still wasn't overly happy with them. 

That being said, I still wasn't ready to give up, and decided to touch them up a bit. 

A fresh coat of paint... 


Adding a little props: 

By starting with a cross base and hot gluing squares at different angles around it I had a cute little birds nest in about an hour. 

And then my project went from "Meh" to something I will be proud to show off on my wedding day! I think I will add a base to the bottom of the nest, so it's a little more stable and so the sticks stay away from the cake, but overall I'm very happy with them now, and they've joined my growing army of cake toppers! 

So, let's talk about what we learned today: 

First off - do everything you can to make sure your projects will turn out the way you want BEFORE you start them... diving in rarely brings about great results. 

When you DO make a mistake, don't just give up, sometimes making it work is possible, fun, and rewarding! 

Have you ever saved a DIY project? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section! 


An Invitation (to the larger story)


A little over a month ago I got engaged. 

It was around a time that I was learning about asking God for themes. For example: God, what do you have for me today? Or, God, what is the theme of my year? My Summer? My fall? 

This has been an interesting exercise, and it has added richness to my experiences and events, any day can change when you feel that the theme of your day is God's love or God's covering. 

So when I said yes to the famous question, I also asked God what the theme of my relationship was. 


He gave me the same answer that he gave the night I came home from our first date: My relationship/engagement/soon-to-be-marriage is an invitation to the larger story. 

Some of you may not know what this means, the main reason for that being that this was God speaking to my own heart, or to my own grid of understanding. Story has a huge impact on my life, I love to read and to write epic stories, I love to watch larger stories as they unfold in movies and on television. The bigger the better - Lord of the Rings is still my cherished, all time favourite film and book, and how I see life is through story (thanks in large part to the books of John Eldridge). 


You see, every person you have ever met, every person you will never meet, but see on the sidewalk or in the mall - all of us are living stories, just as complex as yours, and, I would like to argue, some of them as dangerous as the hobbit's experience in Lord of the Rings. 

We are all part of a story. But which story is it? 

The way I see it there are two stories we can be living out of, perhaps there are more, but for now lets keep it to these two.

 1. You are the hero of your story, and the writer, and the editor. Everything you do is about your life, your happiness or your sadness, your journey. 
This story is the one we fall into naturally, why shouldn't we pursue our own happiness? Why shouldn't we take charge of our own lives or try to pursue our own dreams?
There may be nothing wrong with you living your own story, but the more I have tried to pursue my own dreams and happiness for my own sake, the smaller my story has gotten (ironic, isn't it?).

Someone hurts us, and the smaller story tells us to hold onto a grudge, to let bitterness fester in us, and to dance away from burning bridges (a sentiment I have seen around the internet more than once). You don't feel like doing what you know you should, it doesn't make you "happy" to be uncomfortable, so instead you choose comfort - in some cases it's staying home, in others it's going out, either way it's distracting yourself from the issues in your life. Either way, the choice to be "comfortable" or "happy" can easily lead to addiction, or failure in jobs, relationships and all sorts of other things. Or, your method of self-soothing is to work harder, get out of the pit of despair and earn your way to security - financially or relationally, and this may work for a time, except for the almost inevitable burnout, mid-life crisis (or for millennial's a quarter life crisis) or simply finding that whenever you are able to look up at your life, all you see is a shell of a life you wanted, and that you aren't really "happy" at all. The ending of the small story is a smaller life - on the inside if not on the outside as well. 

2. Jesus is the hero of the story, proven by his work already done on the cross, God is the conquering hero, coming into a world at war and rescuing the hearts of the lost and the broken. We are called to fight with him. Everything is about helping Jesus in an epic battle, towards a certain victory. 
Sounds enticing, doesn't it? Sounds like a novel, or an epic series of fantasy books. Sounds hard too, and "what do I get out of this anyway?" 
The funny thing about living the larger story? You get everything. 


"If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." Matthew 16:25

It's a biblical principle that's hard to understand sometimes, but the simple fact is, if we live for Christ instead of ourselves, we get glorified lives anyway. God doesn't take us and wear us out into nothing, that would be useless to him, and against the love he has for us, God glorifies us, he sanctifies us, he makes us into his likeness, which is why we were created in the first place. I have literally never met someone who regretted giving their whole lives to serving God. I have met women who have given up families to be missionaries in Africa, back in the 50's when people didn't do things like that. I've met people who have willingly given up high paying careers to live lives of prayer and teaching, and they would never go back. Living the larger story, living for Christ, allows the life of Christ in, so that we aren't doing life alone, the best part is, we already know the end of the larger story, it's the wedding feast of the lamb. When all the world gets returned to the way God made it, when WE become exactly who we were made to be. No more death or sin or sickness. All will be whole again. 

The larger story is in so many ways preferable. 

And yet... 

And yet, I have "believed" in Jesus since I was 6, I have known about the larger story for years, and I am still a shadow of what I should be. I still spend hours hiding in my room, watching TV and knowing I ought to be doing something else, because the alternative is "hard" or "uncomfortable." 

That's why this is an invitation. For you and me. To live the larger story. 

This blog post is a response to an invitation that God gave me to live the larger story. How will it glorify him? I don't know! But in being obedient I hope that taking one step will lead to others, perhaps clearer. 

My saying "yes" when a man asked me to marry him was an invitation to the larger story. How will my marriage glorify God? I don't know! But I believe that God saying it is an invitation means that it will, somehow. 

We won't all get it right until the wedding feast of the lamb. But what invitations are in front of you today? Will you say yes to them, even if they don't make sense right now? Going to the gym is another way I feel invited to the larger story, but I honestly have no idea how it glorifies God. They aren't always obvious, but are we being obedient? 

God is after our YES. It's how HE can begin to breath the larger story into US. 

What invitations do you need to say "yes" to? 

Shot glass candles

I'm not a huge fan of shot glasses, I'm not a huge fan of mason jars (gasp!)... but when you find mini-mason jar shot glasses!?!? One word - Adorable!!

The problem? I don't use shot glasses, shot glasses stay in my cupboard and collect dust.

The Solution? Shot glass candles! 


This simple and fun project turns shot glasses into adorable little candles, so that they're out for everyone to see, instead of hiding in a cupboard. 

Shot glasses (preferably super cute ones) 
Candles - I used 2 taper candles and 1 tea light, which fit three shot glasses very well
Long skinny sticks of some kind - I used fondue forks
Liquid measuring cup (optional) 


Melt your candles - this can be done in the microwave, but I thought melting them on the stove seemed less likely to end in tears and disaster, so that's what I did. I used minimum to low heat, and everything went smoothly. 

Once my candles were melted, I fished the wicks out of my saucepan, measured how much wick I would need for each candle (make sure to add the space needed for a knot) then cut the wick and tied it to my fondue forks, centring the wicks in each shot glass. 

 After prepping all 4 of these glasses I changed my mind and went for 3 - if anyone was wondering. 

After prepping all 4 of these glasses I changed my mind and went for 3 - if anyone was wondering. 

Once the wicks were centred, it was pretty simple to pour the melted wax into the shot glasses;  avoiding mess-and-disaster being something I like, I chose to pour the wax into a glass liquid measuring cup first, so there could be more of a controlled pour. 

Once the wax is poured give it time to cool - it's easy to tell when the wax is cooled enough since it changes colour and becomes opaque - then simply cut the wick knot from the wick in your candle and your done! 

So easy, so cute! And now I have adorable candles gracing my desk!  

A truly great idea for fun, novelty shot glasses. 



Framed Chalkboard Calendar

Trouble getting organized? Slightly obsessed with chalkboard paint? Planning on going to college/university/trade school/getting a new office in the fall? Well have I got a project for you!! 

A simple second hand frame into a beautiful, framed chalkboard calendar, so you can keep all of your important dates organized in style!

  Sigh,  love it! Such a nice addition to my li'l desk nook! 

Sigh,  love it! Such a nice addition to my li'l desk nook! 

This is a really simple DIY project, but I recommend planning a few days to get it done, just to let your paint dry completely before starting a new colour, so maybe don't (ahem...) start painting it in the middle of your floor in your room (like somebody may have done...). Don't worry though, really doesn't take much time, aside from waiting for it to dry. 


For me, this project started with the frame, I had been on the lookout for the perfect frame for quite a while, and totally lucked out on this baby!

I found it at a second hand furniture store for $10, I love the shape of the frame, and the size. The major bonus was that this frame will had glass in it, which most of the other frames at the store did not.  I didn't have a problem painting on the glass after I sanded it with a rough sand paper and  I wasn't worried about the outdated colour at all, it just gave me an excuse to spray paint.

This time around I decided to sand and paint the glass that came with the frame, but another cool idea is to buy a magnetic board and paint a chalkboard calendar on that, so you have magnets AND chalkboard to work with (oh the possibilities!!), but maybe for another day... 

Once I had found the frame, the project went smoothly, it was my first foray into the world of chalkboard paint, which was really easy to work with, my only recommendation is to make sure you mix your paint and grout really well, or your surface will end up lumpy. 

Old Large frame with Glass 
Spray Paint (if you want to paint the frame) 
Rough sand paper 
Ruler, preferably with a right angle
Fine tipped sharpie 
3-5 latex paints with a matte finish 
Non-sanded tile grout 
Paint brushes (I used the foam ones, they worked great) 
Painters green tape 

Fine finishing sand paper 


If you're planning on painting the glass in the frame, I recommend tracing the frame onto the glass before removing it, so you have an accurate representation of how much of the glass you'll actually SEE when the calendar is put in the frame, just for better measurement, which will make more even squares. Once that is done, remove the glass from the frame. 

If you don't like the colour of the frame, this is a good time to paint it. I chose dark brown to go with the rest of the frames in my room. Go outside and follow the directions on the spray can. 


 Spray paint outside... take pictures inside where it will dry safely and away from dust and bugs. 

Spray paint outside... take pictures inside where it will dry safely and away from dust and bugs. 

Set your frame aside to dry and it's time to get started on the calendar!


I used the recommended latex, matte wall paint (craft paint may work, but I wanted to play it safe first time 'round), and as you can see I bought the tiny little tester pots, which are much more affordable than a half gallon of paint. The non-sanded tile grout did not come in smaller quantities. Oh  well, guess I have grout now, just in case! 

 This is what a paint tester pot and some tile grout look like. 

This is what a paint tester pot and some tile grout look like. 

To turn your paint into chalkboard paint, simply mix in 2 tablespoons of the non-sanded tile grout into the paint. By mix, I mean MIX AND MIX AND MIX AND MIX, make sure it is as smooth as you can possibly make it. If you think you've mixed it well enough, keep mixing it. 

 Seriously, mix this baby up! Shake it! Shake it REAL GOOD! 

Seriously, mix this baby up! Shake it! Shake it REAL GOOD! 

Once you've made your chalkboard paint, you're ready to make a calendar! 


The first thing you'll want to do is SAND THE GLASS! Do it! If you don't your paint will come off! SAND IT! 

Once's that's done, measure and mark out the lines you want for your calendar. For this I measured inside the lines marked out by the frame and divided that measurement by 7 which gave me the only dimension I needed - because a calendar is 7 units by 5 so I just made perfect squares and had a little bit of room left at the top to mark the days and weeks.

  If you have a right angle ruler, it helps a lot to ensure your lines are crisp and square. 

If you have a right angle ruler, it helps a lot to ensure your lines are crisp and square. 

Once all of your squares are marked off, it's time to start taping. The calendar has 35 squares that need to be painted, so if you are using 4 paint colours each colour should have either 8 or 9 squares. I chose to do 8 squares with my darker colours, and 9 with my lighter colours, mostly because I wanted the month part of the calendar to be dark, but you can do whatever you think would look best (if you choose 5 colours then each colour gets 7 squares, which would be even all around). 

Tape off 8 or 9 squares, depending on how many of your first colour you want. 

 I coloured the top of the glass last, so just taped it off at the very beginning. 

I coloured the top of the glass last, so just taped it off at the very beginning. 

As soon as you have all your squares marked off, paint them with your first colour, the foam paint brushes worked well for this project, just make sure your watching the texture, I tried to do all of my squares with as few brush strokes as possible. 

 If your calendar looks like this right now, you're doing it right. 

If your calendar looks like this right now, you're doing it right. 

Wait for your first paint colour to DRY COMPLETELY, then apply a second coat if necessary, and let that dry completely! There is a very real possibility you will have to tape over it to paint your very next colour. Patience is your friend on this project. 

Once it is completely dry, tape off the squares of your next colour. I wanted my calendar to be totally random, which actually took a lot of planning - a pattern may actually have been easier if that's the aesthetic you prefer. To make a random pattern I had to do a few of my colours in two sets, allowing the first few to dry and then taping over them so I could paint the rest, as you can see in the picture below. 

 Pro tip: Plan ahead so none of your colours end up next to each other, diagonal is fine. Also notice that the top row has none of the colour that's on the top of the glass? Not a happy accident. 

Pro tip: Plan ahead so none of your colours end up next to each other, diagonal is fine. Also notice that the top row has none of the colour that's on the top of the glass? Not a happy accident. 

Repeat the drying/re-taping process until all of the squares on your calendar are painted. 

You should have something that looks like this: 

  Notice that it's not perfect? No problem! I just waited till all of the squares were covered and then did some careful touch ups. No one would be the wiser if I didn't publish that information ;).

Notice that it's not perfect? No problem! I just waited till all of the squares were covered and then did some careful touch ups. No one would be the wiser if I didn't publish that information ;).

Once your calendar is as perfect as it's ever going to be, wait for it to dry completely again, sand it down with fine sand paper, CAREFULLY wipe off the dust and just as carefully put it back in your fabulously spray painted frame. 

Write the month, days and whatever else you shouldn't forget on your brand new calendar! Then stand back and admire. Look how organized you are! 

Becoming Secure in 4 Simple Steps

This post should really be called "How to become secure in 4 messy and time consuming steps that bleed into each other and will end up taking a lifetime!"  Sorry if you thought this would be easy, but I promise the steps are simple. Four little truths to cling to in the midst of day to day life. Important because I don't think I know a single honest woman who has said she is totally secure. In fact, when we are  honest, most of the women I speak to - between the ages of 15 and 50 - say they wish they were more secure, so without further ado, here are my four SIMPLE steps to security. 


Maybe you think you know lots of girls who are secure with themselves, prettier than you, better at doing make-up and putting together nice outfits, funnier, more organized, more "together" but you thinking this is often the result of our tendency to compare our innermost reality, all the junk that we carry around with us, with their outermost presentation. In other words, we compare our ugly to the beautiful that they carefully construct every day before they leave the house. I really realized this one day when a young friend said they assumed was confident, outgoing and secure, moreover, she called me cool! "Really?" I'll be honest, it took me off guard. "You think I'm secure? You think I have my life together? Where did you get THAT idea?" I had to chew on that for quite a while. It is a good first step to realize that many of the people in your life probably see you the same way you see them, that is, in a better place or as a better person - wishing they were more like you, in one way or another.  Because basically we all think most "normal people" have a better inner reality than ourselves. We all put on a brave face and pretend, so the first step is to stop assuming most people in your life have it better than you, or worse than you, basically just to stop comparing in general. It does nothing for us but keep us from being ourselves or being comfortable with who we are. 


If you don't think there is anyone in your life who loves you, it is because you have the wrong perspective. In High School I firmly believed that no one cared about me, so I hid a lot of my personality from the few friends that I had. It was easier to feel safe that way, just believing I had no friends, and nothing to offer them anyway. It's been 6 years now (eek!!) and it's taken that long for me to realize that there are always people in our lives who will care about us, if we let ourselves open up. Maybe not a lot of people, maybe not the "significant other" that we all think we need in our lives, but everyone is looking for connection and relationship, if your offer that there will be people who come around you. Even if you don't offer right now, or feel like you don't offer, there are probably people who love you anyway. It may take you looking beyond the hurt of the past and trying to see your present for what it really is, because there's a very good chance it is better than you think it is.  I ran into an acquaintance from high school recently, and what I expected to be an awkward exchange was actually a very pleasant encounter from a person who remembered me fondly, perhaps if I had been more comfortable with myself back then, or believed I had something to offer, she would not have been an acquaintance, but a friend. 

There's still something even more important than knowing that people our there love you, because people are not the main source of love in life. People will let you down, it's just a reality of being the beautiful messes that we are. We screw up all the time. But even if every person as let you down, and even if there wasn't a single person in my life who loved me, the source of all love is still the same, in my life, in the lives of others, in the whole world. Your main source of love is from God. God loves us so much he died for us. If you don't feel like God loves you, remember that he proved it on the cross, no matter what you've done or what's happened to you, he died for you. He longs to let him love us, but we must take the time, and we must be vulnerable enough that he can. Once I begin to experience the love of God, that is when I begin to love myself - to know that I am a beautiful creation, loved by God - is to know that I can be myself and still be perfectly and completely loved. God's love is so much more than enough, I can tell you from experience, and even when I forget that, it's still there waiting for me to return. If you want to be secure, you must cling to God, to his love and to the reality of who you are to him (Read Psalm 139 if you aren't sure what that is). 


As stereotypical of a phrase as this may seem, I have only begun to understand it in my own life.  I hope someday it will affect you as much as it has affected me. I recently decided to make a change in my life, to go from a steady job where I had recently been promoted, to the pursuit of a dream that had been long held but little pursued. But first I decided to work at a summer camp, which required my quitting. Telling my boss was not easy, and though it went well, I heard later that the boss had been saying that I did not show the commitment I promised, that I was flaky and could not be trusted, that I was being incredibly rude to quit after so recently being promoted. Hearing that that was their opinion was an arrow in my heart. For a year and a half I had been working to impress these people, pouring more of myself into this job than I should have, showing more dedication than I should have, all in an effort to prove something to them, and to myself. 

But that day I realized something extremely important, this opinion that had been made of me made no difference to who I actually was. They did not know my heart, my dreams, or the life I wanted to lead. Once I did leave that position, their opinion would literally have no bearing on my life at all, it would be a memory, without the power to wound or determine who I really was. The opinions of others really do only control us as long as we let them. The choice to follow our hearts will leave many people scratching their heads, and shouting accusations at us, but continue on, leaving them behind as you do, because what they say and what they think - it simply doesn't matter. 

I would like to tell you that after I had this revelation I became the most secure person on the planet, but that simply is not true. This is a realization that only comes with time, and will continue to grow in me as I continue to believe in it's truth. I have had several unhealthy dating relationships where I have sought my approval from the men I liked/dated. When the first one left I was a certified mess, thinking I would never get over him I wasted so much of my time pining over a person who was not worthy of the weight I gave him. But I forgave him, I followed my heart to a new season of life, and I did move on. When the second man left I was a mess again, I had thought he was the one, but again, I put far too much weight on his approval of me and spent most of our relationship trying to be someone he wanted, not who I was. When we broke up I was devastated, but I knew, even in the midst of the pain, that I would recover - because I had in the past. The relationship I am in now is much healthier, I have finally learned that his approval is not the end all, be all to my identity or security (at least, I know this most days). 

 It is the same for friendships lost, or for work situations that change. In other words, security takes living to develop. It takes pain, it takes process. It takes us being hurt by people, and recovering, to realize how little the opinions of those who mean us harm really do matter. People will try to control you by withholding their good opinion, and if you are desperate for their approval it will work. But remember that their are people who love you, there are more friends and more jobs and more things you can do. Stepping out from the approval of others is terrifying, but every time you choose to do so you get a little better, you heal a little faster and you  move on a little more secure. 


I decided this was so essential to the last point that it deserves it's own step. Because we can move on from hurt and never heal, we can harbour resentment, burn bridges and become grumpy, cynical shadows of our true selves, burning bridges and saying we are secure when what we really are is cold and guarded. 

This is so important I will say it again: Forgive, forgive, forgive!! 

Forgive yourself, forgive people who have hurt you. You will not be free of their opinion (or of your own in some cases) until you FORGIVE. When we harbour bitterness all we are doing is letting their opinion, their words, or their actions still control our lives. To forgive is not so much to release them, as to release ourselves from them. It is an act of saying, "I will let God judge you. I do not have the right to do so." Because quite simply, unless you are a mind reader, or know their hearts as deeply as God does, you cannot judge. I personally do not want to, that's a lot of responsibility. 

When it comes to forgiving ourselves I think this can be so hard because of the reality of the importance of step 1, the simple fact that I compare my bad stuff to others good stuff, and then respond by trying to be better, by discipline that never works, vows that are never fulfilled and a whole heaping spoonful of self pity that leads to nothing but binge watching Netflix and wasting so much time hiding from the real world and my real self. To forgive ourselves is to stop comparing ourselves to others, and more importantly comparing our real selves to this made up perfect-person who we think we should be. To let ourselves be messy people on a long journey. Maybe then we'll give ourselves enough breath to be true, and secure. Our selves - without interference from our brains, telling us who we ought to be. Just a thought, from someone who has tried to self improve about a million different ways. P.s. it hasn't worked. 


So, there are my simple steps to becoming secure, let me know if you have anymore thoughts! I do think these steps are simple, even if they take a lifetime to perfect. But that's okay, because we're all beautiful messes, and if we keep picking ourselves up, I fully believe we'll get there, eventually! 






Urban Missionaries Series: Grace Choo

This woman is truly inspiring. profile pic Maybe just to me, because she is doing almost exactly what I hope to do someday.

That is, working in business in a way that's not just for making money, but makes a real difference in people's lives.

Saying no to the temptation to simply producing profits, and instead choosing to invest in lives.

But I'm giving too much away, I'll let the interview tell you the rest.


Who are you?

I'm Grace Choo, I live in Edmonton and have a number of passions, one of them (and the reason for this interview) is social entrepreneurship - building businesses for the good of humanity.


Favourite dessert?

Tiramisu - I really like coffee and it's a really good blend!

What's your mission here in Edmonton?

I am a board member with a non-profit called Ainembabazi, what we do is support children's education in Uganda, this is the non-profit side, we do this through social enterprise, I use my business acumen to build businesses that are sustainable and will be fair trade in the future. Right now we're developing Made with Love, which is a line of exclusive accessories from Uganda, such as scarves earrings, clutches, bags and baskets.

Int Women's Day 002



Why did you start?

When I was younger I felt a calling to be a full time missionary, but when I was getting closer to university age I didn't really feel God was calling me in that direction, which was conflicting - should I go to seminary or business school? Because I wasn't 100% convicted I decided to go to business school, and then I went to U of A school of business and really enjoyed it.

In my second year I felt very disillusioned about how we make profit, all my courses were just about the bottom line, do everything you need do to make money. I thought to myself "do I really want to spend the rest of my life working so hard so I can make shareholders richer? Is that the end goal? How does that work with Kingdom purposes?" So I got pretty disillusioned, I wasn't sure if I was going to finish my business education, then somehow God sent people around me who helped me understand more aspects of business. There was a little revolution on campus of people learning that they could make a difference with their education, mine being business. That's when I got really involved with learning about social entrepreneurship, and social responsibility, I started going to a class about all that and and that's really where I feel like God has called me, using my business skills, but at the same time infusing the social aspects - like social justice, fair trade, sustainability and green initiatives.   I've been involved with this non-profit for two years, and I've been involved with Made With Love for a year. This is what I've always felt to do, bring the triple bottom line together.



How did you get started?

I joined Ainembabazi two years ago, and every year we would go to Just Christmas and sell the products we got shipped from Uganda and I thought "why can't we make this bigger? If these products are something that we believe in, genuinely from Uganda, artisan products, and people here really like them, why can't we market it that way?" I thought of the idea of using private parties. If tupperware can be successful just selling plastic, why can't we sell usable and fashionable as well as socially responsible? Where your product actually makes a difference in the life of a child. So we decided to bring more products to sell through private parties, office parties and look into retail.

What's the hardest part?

Having a team that really believes in the mission, and is really committed even though we are all volunteers. We have staff in Uganda - on the ground working in the schools, but in Canada we are all volunteers, we have to find marketing, photographers, models and designers who are all volunteers. It can be really challenging as a non-profit to start something on a volunteer basis.

What is the most rewarding?

Knowing that all the profit goes towards Ainembabazi, and knowing exactly where that money goes. I've visited the schools, I visited children we support, I went to the community where we offer micro-credit lending, and met the parents who's health we are taking care of. I think that can be the beauty of a small non-profit; admin cost is fairly low, so the money really goes to the project. Even in Canada, if we build a water tank we can immediately have a picture of that, or if we build a teachers quarters so the teachers don't have to walk two miles to get to school, we know about it. It's just those little things we see - the monetary profit that is generated really changes lives.



How have you seen God at work?

God has given me this passion, a lot of people ask why I don't volunteer my time with a Christian organization and I say, "well, God can use us in any organization," so I see that God is using me here, where people are purely interested for social justice reasons. For myself, I see that I am representing God in this ministry where we are changing lives, and continuing to see the little wins that we have, every time something is built, or having our first female university student, and just going, "wow, God can even use a small organization  to do that."

How would you like to see God move going forward?

I would really love to build Made with Love as a brand in Canada, to get into retail stores and to start our own website. And to see a team of volunteers that are committed to come together, to have a really strong team that really cares so we can see our organization flourish.

How can people support you?

A few ways, if you're interested in volunteering your time we definitely have positions that are open - marketing and promotions, a sales team, managing the supply chain, business operations, managing the website, all of that would be open. We could also really use prayer. Or leave a comment if you want to have a private party to sell Made with Love, I'll give you Grace's e-mail so you can get in touch!



Patriotic Patchwork Pillows

  patriotic patchwork pillowsI will be the first to admit, there are some projects that almost do you in - this was one of them -

- That being said, I think it's one of my favourite DIY's to date, and I do  LOOVVEE my new decorative flag pillows, which I think go nicely with my Kenyan quilt, which is basically the design inspiration for my room (it's from a sweet company called Amani Ya Juu, check them out!).



I like how the pillows pull blues from the quilt and add red to the room, which is very green, blue and brown otherwise. I was also inspired to make them from my duel American/Canadian heritage. When I saw some American and Canadian flag pillows at a home goods store I thought it would be super cute to have both side by side. The Union Jack was a later addition. I love the UK and lived there for a time, and in design odd numbers look better than even numbers anyway.



1. Drafting patterns for these was pretty easy, the ratio of a flag is a "perfect rectangle" (two squares put together) and it's not hard to find the right shapes and images online, I printed out a maple leaf and a star and used them for pattern pieces, for the rest  I just used a clear ruler to replicate - as best I could realistically - the flags, drawing on my base rectangle patten piece and basically eye balling the right ratios.

2. The fun/challenging part of this project was the patchwork.

Because I wanted the patches to have a piecy and random feel I couldn't patch them together like I would a quilt. What I ended up doing was basically appliquéing the triangular scrap pieces on a base layer material. This became even more complicated when I decided to iron and pin down every singe piece so it had a seam allowance and did not fray. IMG_0259


I started by doing a rough sketch of the pattern pieces on the base material, and using that as a guide for where to place the patches.



You can see how I did that most clearly on this one, which I used to make all of the red parts of the Union Jack.

Once the patches were all pinned I used the button hole setting on my sewing machine to applique the patches down to the base material.

3. After that was done the rest was pretty straightforward.

I simply put the pattern piece back down on the new patchwork material and cut it out, patches and all, and appliqued them onto the flag base material, which did take some fancy sewing work, especially for the stars and the maple leaf, but if you take your time it should work great.



4. As a little extra I decided to add a tiny heart to the back of one of the pillows, which adds a little personal touch and tells a bit of a story. IMG_0382IMG_0380







In summary:

The steps to this project were pretty simple, I never had a hard time figuring out what my next step would be for it, but it certainly was not an easy project, each pillow took well over ten hours, between the careful placing and pinning of the scrap fabric and the appliquéing required I would not recommend this project for beginners, it would be easier to use one quilting fabric for your flag pieces instead of the patchwork effect, and it would still look pretty sweet - I just love patchwork and being over ambitious.

The other thing that would have made it easier is making all three at the same time, making enough of the "patchwork material" for all three pillows would have saved A LOT of time and would have been more efficient.

The Canadian flag was the easiest and the Union Jack was the hardest, so if you're worried about your sewing level I would recommend making a Canadian pillow.

IMG_0384Hope you enjoyed this fun, challenging and time consuming (but totally worth it) little project! I'm sure I'll feel a surge of nationalistic joy every time I look at my bed, couch or wherever else they may end up. God bless America, Canada and the UK!

(p.s. If there are any quilters out there who know an easier way to make random patches, let me know!)




Urban Missionaries series: Clara Hildebrand


Urban Missionary: Clara Cecelia Hildebrand

One of the most inspiring people I know is Clara Hildebrand.

clara photo 1

It's not her house decorating/DIY skills (which are amazing), her photography (which is BREATHTAKING), or anything about what she does, Clara is simply a beautiful person, I have rarely met someone so warm or inviting, or someone I have felt at home with so quickly.

caleb and clara

She was one of the first people I wanted to ask to do this series for me, and I was so excited when she said yes!

I hope you are all inspired by this beautiful woman and the amazing work she is doing in Edmonton.

clara photo 2

Who are you? 

Hi! I’m Clara Hildebrand

Favourite dessert? 

 Oh man, this is probably the toughest question of the lot… Right now, I’d have to say pecan pie and everything matcha related.

 What is your mission in Edmonton? 

 I work at Hope Mission as a Case Manager for Wellspring, which is a year-long women’s addictions recovery program.

 Why did you start? 

 I had the privilege of going on a Mission Trip to Vancouver, East Hastings back in 2011, and felt drawn to Inner City ministries. My academic training is more for international relations and I imagined myself working for an international NGO, but I really felt God impressing on me the importance of building into my own city and close community. When I graduated from the U of A, I interned with Hope Mission for 3 months and was just amazed at the work that was being done here. I fell more and more in love with what Hope Mission stood for and really believed in their biblical vision and mandate, which is  to serve, strengthen, and uplift men, women, youth, and children in the inner city through the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

 How did you start? 

I started simply by looking up local non-profits in Edmonton that were using a biblical mandate to serve local communities. I fell upon Hope Mission, saw their internship program and signed up! The internship was a great place for me to begin, because I got to experience several different departments in Hope Mission and see what they did and the different roles they played in the city. I fell in love with the women’s program though, and was ecstatic when I was offered a full-time job as my internship ended.

 What’s the best part? 

Since we are a one-year live-in recovery program, I get to know our clients really well. And then as a case manager, I have a caseload of about 10 ladies that I work with during their one-year stay, so I get even closer to those women, because I have the privilege of hearing their stories and working through their struggles with them. This is the best part of my job – that I have the privilege and honour of hearing women share their hearts and their life stories and that I get to see them discover freedom and hope as they allow Jesus to start transforming their lives in ways they never knew were possible. The women here that come to know and accept Jesus have such raw, pure faith. It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see in a church, because they are so keenly aware of their helplessness and weakness. And then to be able to teach Bible class every morning and see these helpless, weak women who begin to see themselves through Christ’s eyes and begin a transformational process? It’s just incredible. Incredible and totally humbling.

What’s the hardest part? 

The hardest part of my job is linked to the best part. Because I get to know the women so intimately and am working so closely with them, when they relapse it’s incredibly difficult. It’s easy to feel defeated, discouraged, and to doubt the work that I’m doing here. When you’ve had the privilege of seeing someone begin to transform into the woman that God created them to be, it makes it that much more difficult to let them go in the event that they relapse and are discharged from the program. I’ve seen former clients back out on the streets and using and it’s so hard to know who they really are and see them so stuck and imprisoned by their addiction and not living out the life that God desires them to have.

I firmly believe that the substance abuse that these women are recovering from is just the very tip of the iceberg for them. Their addictions were simply a band-aid fix for a deeper emotional, spiritual wound that needs healing. When you work with someone through those deep wounds from their past and begin to hear their stories, it can be emotionally draining to feel like all the conversations you’ve had, all the classes you’ve taught, and all the groundwork that you’ve seen gained is now tossed to the side because their primary concern is getting their next fix again, because they’re too afraid to face the real issues.

It’s also incredibly hard to recognize that there’s nothing more or less that I could have or should have done that might have changed the outcome. The first step in the 12 steps is that, “we admitted we were powerless,” and this is a step that I have to remind myself of continually as well.

The amazing thing is, I had a God moment several months ago, where I was challenged in my doubt and discouragement. I was sitting in my office after a particularly hard day and I was just frustrated, discouraged, and so doubt-ridden. And then almost audibly, I heard God ask me,

“Do you trust me?”

To which, my initial response was, “of course I do or I wouldn’t be here.” Only to realize that I wasn’t fully trusting Him. I had this pride in my heart that told me that what I teach, the work I do, the conversations I had with my clients were what was keeping them safe and believing in themselves. So when there was a relapse, I took it personally and began to doubt myself and my work. When really, all God asks from me is to give it my all 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and to trust that when I’m not here, God is still working… constantly. He doesn’t stop and go home. He’s using other people to plant seeds, nurture them, and reap the harvest, and I need to trust that the small part that I’ve been asked to do is really, all that I am asked and required to do. That God can work with my 40 hour workday and do so much more with it than I could busting my butt, worrying constantly, and being emotionally drained by this job, which could easily extend past 40 hours and often does, since I’m working with people.

 How have you seen God at work? 

Oh dear, this is going to sound super cheesy, but I see God at work all the time. Maybe I don’t see him at work when I do paperwork… but in just about every other area of my job, God’s work is so clearly visible.


Women coming into our program, them staying past even their first week here, having women who relapsed come back again and try again, seeing them working on themselves, getting excited about Bible class, learning to connect the dots of how different experiences led to the different choices they made in life – leading them into addiction and now into recovery, my one-on-one sessions with women, seeing them graduate and get jobs and their own apartments,working with incredible staff who love our clients and love Jesus, the list just goes on and on and I could tell you story after story of how God has worked in individual lives and hearts.   

 How would you like to see God work? 

I want to see more and more women come to know the freedom the hope that Jesus is offering. More than clean time, this is what our focus is - that each and every woman that enters our doors will hear the gospel and have a personal encounter with Christ that leaves them hungry and thirsty for more. It’s why our program is called “Wellspring” – our name comes from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who was offered living water and walked away from that personal encounter with Jesus with joy and hope.

 How can people support you? 

Prayer! And lots and lots of it. Saturating Hope Mission, our staff, our clients, and the work that we’re doing here with prayer would be so dearly appreciated. 

If you want more information on Hope mission check out their website

And check out Clara's awesome photography too!


The Urban Missionaries Series: Aaron Albu

So, I've been thinking a lot about a new favourite word in the Christian vocabulary: missional.To be missional involves no less than making Christianity a way of life, making evangelism just one step in a whole lifestyle of discipleship and makes our walk with God something that we must do together, not just something reserved for Sunday mornings, words we say, and choosing to live a moral lifestyle. Trying to live missionally has been one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging things I have done in my life. It constantly takes me out of my comfort zone and it puts flesh on faith.

And it's hard. To live a life of discipleship, where our focus is no make disciples, it's saying that God comes first and we come second. It's saying we're forgetting our comfort, we're letting go of our own dreams and ambitions. It goes against everything that culture and self tell us to do.

At least, it's hard at first. - The spirit in us is the same spirit who lived in Jesus, who inspired the apostles to radical lives, and not one of them ever regretted giving everything up for following God. This life is crazy and counter cultural, but I am more and more convinced that it is the only life worth living.

Until then, it's the first step that always seems to be the hardest. We feel convicted, we repent, we may cry, we make a choice, we decide to do it... then Monday morning comes and we go to work/school, and suddenly all of our attitudes shift back to the current that our life already flows down. We forget, we complain, we isolate, we loose sight of God and of our mission.

I'm getting tired of loosing sight.

So I decided to do something, something small and maybe something that's a little crazy. I wanted to ask the question - who's already doing this? What are they doing and how's it working? Maybe I won't find the answers to my personal calling by asking, but if this life that I live is by faith and in fellowship with other believers than I think knowing the callings or ministries of others can only help. It doesn't just put flesh on our faith, but on the faith and walks of those around us. How are practical and impactful ways to change the world around us? Who are those missionaries that don't have to leave Edmonton to make a difference? Those people who live ordinary lives for an extraordinary God? I wanted to try and find out, just by asking people in Edmonton, starting with my own home church. A search for Urban Missionaries, hoping to put a finger on God's pulse, to see where his heart beats... Even if it's places I am somewhat uncomfortable, like sports!

Urban Missionary:

Name: Aaron Albu (an Athlete in Action!)

Favourite dessert? Ice cream. I would have to say my favourite flavour of ice cream is Chocolate peanut butter... probably?

What is it that you do missionally? I work for Athletes in Action, a division of Power to Change. It's basically working in missions wherever you live, Athletes in Action hires people who want to be involved in pro sports chaplency, leading bible study groups for anyone from University teams to CFL or NHL teams, or you can work with them on university campuses, mentoring university athletes. You can also work at their summer sports camps. There's a really big need for AIA, there are not many organizations for athletes, who can struggle with identity and easily find themselves defined by their skill. Once athletes are no longer competing they can struggle with depression, and with life circumstances, as they no longer identify as these pro athletes. How I'm involved is mainly in the office, doing a lot of fundraising stuff and online work. The missionaries get monthly support which I help them track. I also help them track their "insights" - how many bible studies they've done or outreach events or how many people they mentor. In the past I've helped with discipleship groups on the U of A campus, with the football and hockey teams.

Are there overseas missions opportunities? The people who work for AIA focus mainly on home based missions, most people are just working in their own backyard - whether that be the University, or their team or just mentoring and discipling or camps in the community. There is the option to go overseas as well, you can get an international placement in a different country (AIA is in over 60 countries). Or last summer I was able to go to Brazil on a soccer tour. We would play against mens teams, sometimes semi-professional, sometimes amateur. After the game we would buy snacks and refreshments and share our faith with the other teams. They were really willing to listen,  teams of Canadians or Americans coming over to play sports against them is really rare, so it really fosters a good environment to open up and share our faith. The people really wonder why we're doing what we're doing. We try to make the point that we love soccer, and we believe people can be united by soccer, but we wouldn't be here just for soccer, we're here because we love Jesus more.

Do you see sports as a good way to share your faith? I think it's a hobby for a lot of people, so it's a good gathering method, and a way to get people to relax. There are groups that do recreational games where believers bring their friends and it creates a good community that hopefully becomes something more.

How did you get started with AIA? I got started on Campus at the U of A, I went there in 2010, I was part of the student group that met on Monday nights, basically people talked about the issues of faith and sports, like how do you compete to the best of your ability while still believing and trusting in God, and not being performance oriented. Which isn't just an issue for athletes, but for lots of people - they want to be known for what they do instead of letting God take that, like you don't have to perform for God. I got involved with that more in more and became a student leader in my second year, so I would help run the Monday night meetings, and bible discussions and other groups. This September I started as a full time volunteer. I'm now hoping to rase support to work for them on a part time basis.

Did you play a varsity sport? I played soccer at Kings college for two years.  When I transferred to U of A I did not continue to play soccer. There were a lot of things going on in my life at the time, so I could have tried out but I didn't.

What's the most challenging part of being involved in AIA? You really really want to do well - the purpose of it is really empowering, because I know I'm making a difference for the kingdom. But the challenge is when you think you're going to change someone, you have to let God do his work as well, and know that he is sovereign. Sometimes you have to realize that God is in control and will change a person whether you say the right things or not, or whether you influence them or not. Right now a challenge is trying to make it an actual living. I can't continue at this pace without making money, so I'm starting to raise support to cover my basic needs.

What's the most fulfilling part of being involved in AIA? I was just thinking about this the other day, my boss and I were trying to figure out what motivates people to try to get by on donations, what really makes someone want to do missions? I think it is just the whole kingdom picture of seeing lives changed, and being able to assist in that process however God calls you to. I think what I see as really rewarding is when I see someone living a life away from the gospel and slowly you see them start living their lives differently. AIA focuses on long term relationship building, some people are friends with those they mentored years or even decades ago, it's definitely a lifelong process. It's not "convert and move on" but it's a relationship building ministry that focuses on making disciples, getting the people you're discipling to the point where they're discipling others.

How have you seen God at work? I've seen numerous circumstances of people on the hockey team or the football team come to Christ, lots of people who grew up in the church but stopped going in High School and kind of turned away, I've seen them come back and embrace faith again. I guess I could talk about myself: I was pretty similar to those people, I grew up going to church with my parents but in high school I fell off, I would call myself a Christian but my actions didn't represent that at all so after my first couple years of college no one that met me would describe me as a Christian. I was rude, I slept with my girlfriend, I would drink every weekend, I wasn't living a Christian life at all. It's not like AIA changed that when I first started going, God was working in my life, but it was the one on one mentoring that I got when I transferred to the U of A - meeting for coffee once a week or whenever we could. Just kind of guiding me through what it looks like to be mentored and how I actually wanted to take this thing seriously. It was a time of need and I was kind of like "what am I doing with my life" and AIA was definitely there and guided me along the process and softened my heart towards what God was doing in my life.

How can people help you? There are a lot of different ways to get involved. AIA as a whole has a lot of needs in everything from HR to business, to camping and coaching. With our summer camps there are a lot of ways to get involved. There's a lot of events every year, like the Grey Cup breakfast that people can volunteer for every year and lots of overseas missions that they can support or even go on.

Thanks Aaron! I love organizations like AIA because it focuses on what people are already doing and what they already love. To love God does not mean that we must be less who we are, but more!

Advent Ornaments

This year, as I thought about Christmas I reflected on advent, it's importance and the value of taking time out of our Decembers to remember why we celebrate Christmas. 
I thought about how we often put our tree up on the first Sunday of Advent, and I figured it would be fun to have themed ornaments for each Sunday, to reflect the different weeks as a way to remember the bible story. 
It didn't happen quite that way... 
BUT I did manage to get the ornaments made before Christmas!! 
Each one represents a different part of the story, a different character and how the different themes of advent would have effected them. The images are those parts of the story, and on the back is a bible verse. 
Hope was the first one that came to my mind (possibly because it was the first week of advent...). For me, the characters that embody hope are the Wisemen, biblically we know very little about them except that they were from the East, brought expensive gifts, and knew the prophecies about Christ. 
How much hope would it take to embark on a long and dangerous journey with an expensive gift for a baby? What did they think and feel on that trek? How did they feel when they saw the star that foretold his coming? 
It amazes me that not only did they see the signs and know what to look for, but also that they followed the star.  They believed in Christ so deeply, they were so full of hope that the baby they saw would change the world, that they took an amazing journey and will be remembered for it forever. 

While shepherds watched their flocks by night... A boring old night job, maybe lonely, definitely not glamorous or powerful in any way. If anyone needed something to be joyful about I bet it was these guys. I can't even imagine the excitement that seeing an angel would produce, especially one saying "good news!" And they didn't just see one! 
I love that God chose shepherds to share the birth of Christ with, the wisemen came to him, he got the shepherds, Christ was born for ALL people, which in and of itself is a reason to celebrate! 

Do I assume that Mary's birth was painless and her baby was perfect? No, I do not, and I also don't think she walked an easy road, being an unmarried teen mom 2000 years ago. But "Mary treasured up all of these things, and pondered them in her heart." The common image of Mary is one of peace and tranquility, and I think there's a reason for that, through it all, Mary's posture was one of obedience to God. She was not worried about what Joseph would think, she didn't ask why it couldn't be a married women, or even to wait till SHE was married, she simply said, "let it be as you have said." Peace is not about what's going on around us, but where are roots our planted. Mary's had grown deeply into God. 
Above all, put on Love. 
God is Love. 
Faith, hope and Love. 
A cross is not a typical Christmas emblem, but I felt I would be cheating my original intent without remembering. 
For the cross was why Jesus came to the manger. 
Christmas is not an isolated event, it was a step that the son of God himself took, a desperate move into enemy territory. 
For us. 
For you and me, the manger was a step to the cross, God himself came down to save us.  
If you ever, EVER feel like God can't or doesn't or won't love you, for whatever circumstance or sin, IT. IS. A. LIE. 
The manger and the cross prove that. 
He already has come for you, he was born a baby on Christmas day, he died for your sins, he rose again, it was for you. It was for love. 
Making the ornaments was quite simple, I found a great link to baking soda dough recipes on-line ( and used a mug to make perfect circles in the dough, and used a straw to punch a hole in them for the string. 
The images and bible verses were all done on Adobe illustrator, but it would be easy to do them by hand or find clip art. 
Once the ornaments were dry I used Mod Podge to put them on, which worked really well. I had to sand the ornaments on the sides and the backs, they did not come out evenly, but my family is insisting that they look good anyway. And I very much recommend the coloured boarders, the clay looks perfectly white until it's right up against paper! 
In summary, this is a simple DIY that would be good to do with kids (or just by yourself, whatever). And when you have them at the beginning of December NEXT year you can put them up on the Advent day and reflect a bit on the reasons we celebrate Christmas. 
Happy Holidays!! 

Chocolate Nougat Pretzels

What's salty and sweet and a great little Christmas snack? You may have guessed Chocolate Nougat Pretzels from the title of this blog!!

Seriously though, tasty.

Also quite simple to make, though it is time consuming dipping a large amount of pretzels into a large amount of nougat, then a large amount of chocolate. But their fun! Bite sized! Very unhealthy!
(Also a cameo of our awesome seasonal snowman plates)
The basic concept is rather simple, take pretzel sticks, dip them in nougat, let them freeze overnight than dip them in chocolate, but it is something I've never seen before and is a very tasty sweet/salty combo. If you feel REALLY ambitious, I was thinking of adding caramel, maybe next time. 

Chocolate Nougat Pretzels: 
Bag of Pretzels 
Nougat Ingredients: (nougat recipe is from here:

1/4 cup butter 

1 cup sugar 

1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cup salted peanuts chopped, roughly chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups chocolate chips (give or take) 
Nougat: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved and bring to a boil. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in fluff, peanut butter and vanilla, stirring until smooth. 
Once your nougat is done, dip your pretzels, covering 3/4 or so, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Let the nougat pretzels freeze overnight 
Melt chocolate chips in the  microwave, and dip your nougat covered pretzels in the chocolate. 
(pro tip: The nougat is very sticky and will not come off the parchment unless completely frozen, I found that it was easier to do the chocolate dipping in smaller batches, leaving a majority of my nougat dipped pretzels in the freezer, just, you know, chillin') 
Refrigerate until chocolate hardens

Mini Christmas stockings

Hello Christmas crafting season! 
I must say one of my favourite parts of the Christmas season is the copious amounts of crafting that lend themselves to the festivities. 
Homemade presents, 
Homemade decorations, 
Homemade candles 
Homemade ornaments.
The list goes on and on! 
Last year I decided to take some felt and reimagine the typical Christmas stocking. The size of my family and the ages that we are make gift card sized stockings just a little more practical. 
The other nice thing about these mini stockings is that they're all customized to my family members, aww :). 
You'll need: 
Felt - I only used three colours, Red, Green and White 

Embroidery floss - For mine I used Yellow, Green, White or Red. 
Sewing needle 
Pins (optional) 
For the pattern I simply placed a gift card on a sheet of paper and made a stocking shape that I liked around it. Just make sure you have a bit of a seam allowance.  It's more important that all of the stockings are the same size and shape. The other pattern piece that I used was a long and skinny rectangle to make a loop for hanging them up. 
Other than that all of the pattern pieces were done in pencil on the felt itself. 
(just like this snowman)
Then you just have to make sure that you cut carefully around it. 
To do the appliquéing onto the stockings I used a blanket stitch. For embroidery I pretty much just did free hand, sometimes you just have to experiment! 
I used a blanket stitch again to attach the two sides of the stocking together, and when I got to the top I simply included the small rectangle (folded over) in the blanket stitch. 
Easy and fun and it adds a nice personal touch to your Christmas decor. 

Pecapple pie

It's not a spelling error... it's not a new Pokemon... it's the greatest pie mash-up ever made! Perfect for giving thanks, or any other holiday that may be coming up in the next three months! Looks great next to pumpkin pie AND versatile enough to be had on a snowman plate without looking out of place!

It is rare that such earth shattering, mind blowing and taste bud tingling inspiration comes upon us, but yes, this recipe was a pure stroke of genius!

... by my mother...

Which makes this a family recipe! Her brilliant idea was to add apples to my grandma's amazing Pecan Pie recipe. The corn syrup and brown sugar combination makes it very similar to caramel, and adding apples to it makes it basically a caramel apple with crust, that's easy to eat (alternate name: Caramapple Pie).

Pecapple Pie:

Your favourite lovingly and laboriously made pie crust (Or a store bought pie crust, no judgement here.)
2/3 cups of sugar
1/3 cups of butter, melted
1 cup of corn syrup (oh yeah.)
1/2 teaspoons of salt
3 eggs
3 apples, peeled and cut into your favourite shape for a pie
1 cup of pecans

pre-heat oven to 375
Mix all ingredients in a bowl (except for the pie crust)
pour goopy mess into your pie crust, Pecan pie is an open faced pie, like pumpkin. The Pecans float to the top and make a type of shell.
bake at 375 for an hour or "until pie doesn't jiggle" (I told you, this is a family recipe)

So easy right? Pecan pie has been a family tradition for us, mostly because it's SO EASY and SO GOOD, adding apples just makes it legendary.

It was so good I feel obligated to put pictures of my food on the internet!! 

Um, I may need to work on my food photography. But still, looks nummy right? Right?... may have to try it for yourself ;) 
This one is pumpkin, but it's cute :). Happy holiday season everyone!