Category Archives: TIPS & TRICKS

New Year’s Resolution: 365 Reasons to Give Thanks

The ball dropped. Did you see it? Within a quick ten second countdown, the clocks struck midnight and we were once again faced with a new year. Besides the cliche horn-blowing and excessive hugging, I always love those first few moments of the new year. It marks a simplicity that I cherish. For those first few moments, the complicated build-up of the past twelve months seems to disappear and I am once again greeted with a fresh start that is liberating and unknown. Even though it is really just another day, the new year gives us the opportunity to start anew. It’s magical, really.

I always make a New Year’s Resolution. Sure, it’s cliche to do so, but it doesn’t have to be. In past years, I have made those typical resolutions–exercise more, start a new hobby, go on a diet–and like many others, I have failed to keep them. But for the past 4 years, I have challenged myself to make more practical resolutions that will make me a better person. Resolutions that are actually tough to do, but will reward my character. Change my thinking. Inspire me to become a more joyful person. And I’m happy to say that I have been pretty good at keeping those resolutions. So much so, that I look forward to not only making, but keeping them each year.

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My first “real” resolution was to be more optimistic. It was inspired by a thought I had one summer when I realized that I was putting too many expectations on myself, and instead wasn’t appreciating the moments that came–how they came. I realized that being happy required removing any expectations from particular experiences and instead finding that great parts that just happened. That year, I obviously still had my down days but I was generally a more joyful person. I learned to appreciate friends, moments, tough times. Life. That resolution changed my entire attitude.

The next year, my resolution was to devote more personal time to be spent with Jesus. This resolution scared me. It was vague and quite challenging. I had never really had a relationship with God that was so personal–before I just spent lots of time going to church, hearing messages, attending youth group, and listening to other people talk about how God spoke to them. But I knew that I needed a more personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. I didn’t know how to tackle this resolution, but I quickly became really keen on journalling and reading straight from the Bible. It was an incredible year. I look back on it now and realize how imperative it was in making me who I am today. I learned so much about Jesus and myself in that year that I don’t even think I could express it in words.

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Last year, my resolution took a way more practical approach. A friend introduced me to this incredible book called “Everyday Justice” by Julie Clawson. As I read through the book, my heart was stirred by the way in which our everyday choices impact so many people around the world–people we are called to love. It exposed me to the horrors that other people face because of the clothes I buy, the food I consume, and the waste I produce. I was heartbroken but also inspired. As a result, I challenged myself to go an entire year without buying any new clothing. Not because I wanted to save money (which I did–double bonus!), but because I wanted to force myself to own up to my impacts and research how I could change them. By the end of the year, I had made some clothing purchases, but the majority of them were from thrift stores or places I had extensively researched and knew were fair to those who produced them. I also had developed a new hobby in sewing as I even opted to make some of my own clothing here and there. It was an incredible experience and I know I will never go back to just buying the most cost efficient (for me) shirt I can find.

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So that brings me here. 2013. I thought about this year’s resolution for quite some time, as I wanted an equally practical and spiritual challenge. I am once again intimidated by this year’s challenge, as it requires a daily commitment. But I am also excited and inspired by it. So this year, I am going to attempt to do a photo challenge called

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My resolution is to take at least one photo every single day that represents something I am thankful for. There are a couple of reasons why I chose this resolution. First of all, I don’t exactly pride myself on my photography skills (if you could even call them that). But like many other things, I know that learning good photography requires time, experience, and experimentation. It is something I enjoy and am definitely interested in learning more about, so I made a resolution that forces me to use my camera. Second of all, I chose this resolution because I’ve come to realize that the majority of my prayer time with God is spent asking. I want to take the moments to quiet my mind and just praise God for his faithfulness. Photographing, editing, and writing about these things that I am thankful for will hopefully give me that time to simply thank Jesus.

I have decided to keep myself accountable for this resolution by posting my photos on here. I have created a page under the ABOUT section that is specifically designated for this challenge. I will update it as frequently as I can with the photographs I have captured.

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I can’t wait to see what I learn from this year’s resolution. It is such a blessing to be able to challenge ourselves to grow and evolve and learn. I know there are great things in store for all of us in the year ahead. Bring it on, 2013.

What are your resolutions? What have some of your past resolutions been?

Happy New Year, everyone. May you experience joy in new ways in this year ahead!

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Trick or Treat: Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween night is finally here. As I scrambled to get my pumpkin carved before all the little ghouls and witches arrived, I realized that these opportunities don’t come around every day. Pumpkin season is almost over, so I’ve got to enjoy every last flavour of pumpkin while I can! I easily separated the seeds from the carving “guts” and set them aside.

For some reason, I have always had some pre-conceived idea that toasted pumpkin seeds were tricky to make. I’ve tried making them in the past and was never quite satisfied. But this time it was different. The seeds toasted really nicely and quickly and were crunching between my teeth before I could even say “Happy Halloween”.

TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

As you “gut” your pumpkin, separate the seeds as best as you can. Place them in a bowl. Place them in a strainer and run them under water for a while, separating all the pumpkin bits and strings. Measure the pumpkin seeds. In a medium saucepan, for every 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, add 2 cups of water and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Strain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking pan with olive oil and lay the seeds out as evenly as possible. Place on the highest rack in the oven and toast for 10-15 minutes or until seeds are slightly browned. Remove from oven. Allow to cool. Transfer to a small serving dish or air tight container.

That’s it–so easy, right? They’re crunchy and can be adorned with any flavours that suit your taste. Perhaps cinnamon and sugar? Maybe some taco spice? The flavour possibilities are so versatile and endless.

I hope you all have a wonderfully Happy Halloween! Don’t do too much tricking, and certainly don’t eat too many treats (even though it’s so tempting).

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Notecards, Invites, and Letters, Oh My!

Hola Amigos! Have you ever been to one of those fun little “parties” at someone else’s home where a bunch of women get together, socialize, eat, and shop for tupperware, candles, candies, cosmetics, or kitchenware? As a child, I used to dream about the days when I would get to go with my mom to one of these suburban “house” parties. Well, guess what? Now I get to host one! And much to my pleasure, the title of host comes along with the opportunity to do all the fun party preparations (including making the invitations)! So I am going to share with you a dandy little post about

Making notecards, invitations, and other special occasion cards is one of my favourite things to do. In my opinion, homemade cards show love and care to the people they are specially made for. Quite honestly, homemade cards are a very enjoyable way to release some creative energy and to share the love! My crazy-one-man-assembly-line invitation making has inspired me to share with you some easy and practical ways to create your very own customized stationary.

I transformed my “customized stationary” into invitations for my party but this is a similar approach I take for making everyday notecards to have on hand. I like making a large batch at one time so I don’t have to pull out all of my supplies every time I need a card. I make them in basic colours so when I have a recipient in mind, I can just add a few extra decorations that are special for that person. One my favourite combinations are black and white patterned paper with a colour highlight. Black and white matches everything so it makes a great “base” paper for your customized stationary. However, depending on the time of year you can use holiday or season themed papers as your base paper.

If you’re adventurous enough, you can make your own card base. I prefer to buy pre-made blank cards because they come with envelopes and are more convenient. I then cut out a bunch of appropriately sized blocks of paper in various patterns. This allows very easy access to “grab and glue” to the base cards.

I like using unique scissors and shapes to create special features on the cards like this “curvy” edge. For my invitations I wanted uniformity, but when I make “everyday” stationary, I like to play around with placement and colour. Not one card looks the same as another. The perfectionist in me always notices some that I don’t like as much as others, but that is to be expected when playing around and trying different things.

When I’m all finished, I have a big stack of customized cards that are easily accessible for life’s little moments. They are great for sending encouraging little notes, adapting into birthday cards, or transforming into invitations. I did this by adding a few words on the front and the invite information on the inside. I even added a little stamp to fill the inside.

Creating your own customized stationary is one of the easiest things because it is completely up to you how they turn out. There are no expectations and so they always turn out wonderfully. Some things you may want to consider using is different patterned paper, recycled goods, unique scissors, punches, stamps, markers, ink pads, stickers, or add-on decals. Play around with paper shapes and colours. Experiment with making your own card bases and envelopes (for unique shapes) and using pre-made cards. Card-making can get pretty expensive but it doesn’t have to be. You can use old wrapping papers, scraps of paper, and recycled cards. It’s just a fun way to be a little bit creative and show a little bit of personalized love in a time and culture when mass-produced cards are chosen for convinience. Your customized stationary can be convenient too though.

Good luck on creating your very own stationary. Let me know how it goes!

If you are a little more daring, check out this challenge!

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Sustainable Living: Thrifting Fabrics

I am pleased to present to you A SMILE EACH DAY‘s very first Sustainable Living post!

When the ball dropped this past New Year’s Eve, millions of people around the world made their annual New Year’s resolution. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions (after all, who says we have to wait for a New Year to make changes in our lives?), but this year I decided to take on the challenge of making a change. Although the typical “exercise more” and “eat less” resolutions could be beneficial for me (let’s just say I’d rather be knitting than attempting to balance on a giant yoga ball), I wanted to attempt something that would not only challenge me but also test my creative energies.

As a result, I committed myself to at least one year of not buying any new clothing. I am a self-professed shopaholic, so this challenge seemed daunting at the turn of the new year. But there are a few reasons for my decision to do this.

I believe in justice. I have been reading a book (you can expect both a review and recommendation of it when I finish) about what it means to truly extend love to other people in this world. The author notes that justice doesn’t just mean “punishment for wrongs” but also means “healing and restoration”. I am privileged and lucky to live in a free country where the value of my labour is appreciated, but not everyone in the world has that privilege. Many children, women, and men are treated improperly and violently as they create the many “things” that we, North Americans, consume. I believe that if I have the privilege to live in a country where I have the freedom to choose what I consume, I am responsible to understand the effects of that consumption. This can be hard to do, but it is a worth-while process. I want to show love to the people who are often forced to make the clothing that I purchase for such a “cheap” price.

Another reason why I chose to take on this challenge is for environmental reasons. I am not a perfect environmentalist, but I think that being conscious about the impact our choices have on the natural environment is important. Our earth is a shared space–it’s selfish to have a “consume consume consume” mentality. The earth is our temporary home and we need to preserve it for future generations.

Finally, I took on this challenge for creative purposes. I have always been a craft-enthusiast and hands-on kind of person, but this challenge has forced me to take that to new levels. I have learned how to knit (after all, I need to feed my scarf addiction somehow), dabbled in sewing, and even took on some re-fashioning! My challenge even inspired me to start this blog and share my creative endeavours in the cyber-world.

So, that leads me here. In taking on my challenge, I set a few parameters before I began. First of all, I set myself a small budget for emergencies. This can be used to buy things that are absolutely needed, such as a work uniform. Secondly, I am allowing myself to buy new undergarments and shoes. This doesn’t mean that I will be buying a ton of these things, but for sanitary reasons, I don’t want someone’s old shoes or undies. Finally, I am allowing myself to thrift shop. Although this is buying clothes, it is also recycling. Not to mention, most thrift shops are operated to support charitable organizations. So after the longest intro ever (sorry about that!), let’s get to what this post is actually all about…

 Thrifting fabrics is something that I have just recently been exposed to. Although it is a somewhat new concept for me, I have fully jumped on the bandwagon. It is inspiring, thrilling, and (as this post’s title suggests) sustainable! So I have written this post to encourage a little fabric thrifting on your part. That is, if you are willing to open yourself up to it.

Thrifting fabrics is exactly what it implies–finding pieces of fabric from a thrift store and using that material to make your projects. This includes any material you may find within the walls of a thrift store, such as clothing, table cloths, towels, bags, blankets, bed sheets, curtains, or even just old scraps of material that someone has donated.

  1. THE THREE R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle): The process of thrifting fabrics is fufilling all three of the well known R’s. You are reducing your consumption of new materials, reusing someone else’s waste, and recycling what was old and making it new! These three practices are environmentally friendly and all three of them are preventing those items from finding their place in a landfill.
  2. TREASURED GOLD: In my opinion, thrifting fabrics is like being on a treasure hunt. You know there are treasures out there but you just have to find them! Entering a thrift store is exhilerating because it is up to you to locate the best find. Scrounging the clothes racks for the best patterns and materials is exciting. When you find that perfect fabric your mood is instantly elevated to a point that can only be surpassed after you realize the piece is only a couple bucks (which leads me to my next point).
  3. COST EFFICIENT: Let’s face it, fabric can get pretty pricey. But when you thrift an old shirt or a lace tablecloth, you are getting a major bang for your buck. Most thrift stores just want to keep their items circulating. They price things appropriately to keep the goods selling.
  4. CREATIVE CHALLENGE: Thrifting fabric can sometimes put you in stressful creative circumstances. You have to understand how certain items can be used to maximize what they have to offer. This is a positive challenge though. It helps to get your creative juices flowing and keeps you sharp on your problem solving skills!
  5. GIVE BACK: Most thrift stores are operated by non-profit organizations or at least strive to give most of their profits to a worthy cause. As opposed to putting your money in the hands of big-time corporations, wouldn’t you rather that your money helped someone or something in need? As far as I’m concerned, thrifting fabrics kills two birds with one stone–it serves your creative itch AND does a little good.

There really isn’t a lot of skill that goes along with thrifting fabrics, but I thought I would share a few of the tips and tricks that I have learned through my experiences…

Know What You’re Looking For. Either make a list or mentally remember what projects you want to tackle. This will allow you to have a direction to your hunting. It is easy to go into a thrift store and waste hours scrounging every rack. But if you have a direction, you are less likely to waste your time and energy. Consider what types of fabrics you are looking for how they will be used. In the end, this will save you both time and money.

Bigger Really Is Better. The bigger the piece of fabric is, the better the deal. Look through the table cloth section and the plus-size section. These pieces are great for re-fashioning and for larger projects that require more material.

Be Picky. If something isn’t quite what you’re looking for, don’t get it. Some questions to consider are “How can I use this?”, “Is there anything I don’t like about this piece of fabric?”, “How will the material hold up if I cut through it/will it fray?”. If the fabric isn’t exactly what you want, don’t buy it.

Set a Limit. I usually set a financial limit of four dollars on any one single item. Sometimes you find an awesome item but it is priced at $9.00 or more. This is NOT worth it so move on. Also, set a limit on the number of items you can buy. It is pointless to buy lots and lots of items if you don’t have a purpose for them in mind. Don’t over-do it.

Always Wash Your Finds. It is a myth that thrift stores are “festering with bed bugs and diseases”, but still take precautions and wash your items before you use them. Sometimes, your item may have a stain on it and washing it helps to get that out. It’s just easier to work with items that you know are fresh and clean.

The More You Go, The Better You Get. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find any great pieces right away. Keep going back and challenging yourself. On any given trip you will not be able to find all of the items on your list. But keep going and learn what processes of hunting work for you.

Understand Your Thrift Store. Do some research about the thrift stores you are choosing. See what organizations they support and choose whether that is something you want to put your money towards. Sometimes, smaller thrift stores give more of their proceeds to a non-profit. Be choosy about what you support.

Try your hand at one of these DIY’s or UPCYCLE’s featured on my blog using thrifted fabrics.

    

There you have it. I hope that after reading this, you feel more confident about thrifting fabrics and the possibilities that it can bring to your crafting and re-fashioning endeavours. Don’t be afraid to give it a try. Crafting doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead, it can be cost-efficient, thrilling, unique, and sustainable! There are ways to have creative hobbies and still be conscious of and sensitive to environmental concerns. And that is one of the most important things as inhabitants on this planet. After all…

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” (Native American Proverb)

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope that you are willing to adopt sustainability in your hobbies. Many blessings on your future projects!

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