Some Recent Reads and my Running list of To-Reads

Today I thought I’d share some recent personal development books I’ve read and also what’s on my next-to-read list because I know I’m personally always looking for new reads myself! And before you completely write this post off, thinking to yourself, “how on earth does she find time to read?” let me tell you, I have the same struggles as any other mama out there. I do love to read but I often can not seem to find the time to. And it takes me 4 times as long to get through a book as it used to! However, over the past year, I’ve truly come to see the benefits of doing personal development on a regular basis and I also value the importance of modelling a love of literature to my kids so it’s become a priority. And I just make time for it. Even if it’s just 15-20 min. a handful of times a week.

The books I’m sharing below are quite the variety as they range in topics from Business, to Marriage, to Prayer, to Minimalism but they were all great reads so I wanted to share!

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The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy – This was one of the first books I read last year and was a big reason for WHY I continued to make reading a regular habit. It’s based on the principle that our decisions and habits shape our destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either push you towards the life you desire or to disaster by default. It’s little changes over time that lead to great results. 

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – I read this one in the summer and basically its about how those of us who lead may not always understand the impact that our leadership roles have on those we lead. Essentially we need to focus on helping each other instead of “one-upping” each other.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo– This book really got me started on my journey towards minimalism. A must read if you want to de-clutter your home but have no idea where to start. So good!

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg– LOVED this one. Might be my favourite read of the year actually. It really changed so much for me in my entrepreneurial journey. It’s written like a novel and is the story of an young man who is searching for success. He learns from a successful business man who was willing to give him his time if he just followed the principles he gave, that changing his focus from getting to giving – putting others interests first and continually adding value to their lives, ultimately leads to unexpected returns.

You and Me Forever by Francis Chan – I actually haven’t finished this one yet but from what I have read, it’s amazing. It’s not like your typical marriage book…it talks about how marriage is not forever, it’s until death do us part. Then come eternal rewards and or regrets depending on how we spend our lives. It looks at marriage in light of eternity and it really shifts the way we see one of the most important relationships in our life. It’s a great book to read together with your spouse and I think that’s why I put it on pause. I wanted to make time to sit down and read it together with Ron.

People Over Profit by Dale Partridge – I started following Dale about 8 months ago and just love his startup camp podcast and his daily motivation on social media so I had to grab this book. It’s another great read for entrepreneurs as it really stresses how powerful and far love, care and respect can go when running a business. He shows strong evidence of how companies who value people over profit are actually more profitable.

Fervant by Priscilla Shirer – This past fall our woman’s bible study at my church did Priscilla’s Armour of God study and I heard that this one was great as well so I grabbed it and absolutely loved it. It really changed the way I look at prayer… not only my own prayer life but we also began to implement strong prayer habits within our family.

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist – I’m currently reading this book!  I’m 3 chapters in and feel like I could have written it myself. It’s so relevant to where I’m at right now…not only wanting to de-clutter and minimize the material things in my life but also my schedule, my calendar, and the day-to-day things I say yes to. I would highly recommend it to EVERYONE!

Books I want to Read Next:

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Contagious by Jonah Berger

Grace Not Perfection – Emily Ley

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Make it Happen by Laura Casey

The Joy of Less – Francine Jay

Essentialism  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – By GregMckeown

Garden City  by John Mark Comer

 

Happy Reading!

natalie-xo-1

 

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A Big Decision for Our Family…

Where you lead I will follow. So much easier said than done right? Right. It’s a scary thing to commit to following wherever He takes us no matter what. Terrifying actually. Because what if it has nothing to do with the dreams and visions we have for ourselves? For our future? For our family?
I want to share something with you that is really scary for me. Scary because although I feel such a peace about this big decision we’ve made for our family, there are still days when I have my doubts. Days when I don’t think I’m cut out to do it. Days when I don’t think I’ll have the patience or I’ll completely regret my decision all together.
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Besides running my photography business, I’ve jumped around from project to project over the past few years. From writing a blog with a friend, to fitness coaching, to actually beginning the planning stages of opening a coffee shop (HA!)…to a million other ideas that I had in the works. But since this past August, when I quit coaching because I felt I was being called out of it (even though it was something I loved), I really felt that the Lord was strongly telling me to wait on Him. To take nothing else on over the next 6 months except for the remaining shoots I had booked. This was hard you guys. Especially when you’re a dreamer and a planner like me. I’m constantly dreaming up new goals and business ideas I want to pursue. I’m a creative, and an entrepreneur at heart. It’s HARD for me to sit still.  But while I’ve been working at de-cluttering and minimizing our home, I felt so strongly that we were also to start getting rid of the clutter in our lives, the busyness of our calendar, the over-committing to things that weren’t important or weren’t lining up with where He wanted us to be as a family. I felt I was being called to really just pause and seek what He had in store for me next. And see, what I thought was coming, was totally not what God had coming. I thought He wanted me to take a time out because He was preparing me for this huge business opportunity that was going to present itself any day now. I was anxiously looking out for anything that I thought might be a sign of what I was supposed to jump into next. While a couple ideas and collaborating opportunities came up, each one slowly fizzled out and I continued to  patiently not so patiently wait. It was a hard season for me and my closest friends and family all know this. It was so hard for me to just be. But at the same time, it was the absolute best thing and now I know, the most God-orchestrated thing ever. I spent more time reading, listening to podcasts, more intentional time with my kids, my family and friends. With a push from my best friend, I started to attend our weekly woman’s bible study at church while the twins are in pre-school – time that I normally spent “getting things done”. 
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Right before Christmas, I stumbled upon a quote by Andy Stanley that said “Your greatest accomplishment may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” I remember smiling to myself and thinking…aw that’s nice. While raising my children is so important to me, it surely wouldn’t be my biggest accomplishment. I had SO many big business ideas and I was waiting on God to tell me which one to go after so I could get moving and start making things happen again. It was around this time (before and around the Christmas holidays) that there began to be talk of registering the kids in school for next year. All my friends with kids the same age were talking about it, taking tours and filling out registration forms. I started to feel really anxious as we were currently trying to decide between 3 different school options and I didn’t feel a peace about any of them. While homeschooling had crossed my mind in the past, (after all, I was homeschooled growing up and a few of my close friends have been considering it for a while) it sure wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Especially with a new babe on the way, arriving right before the school year begins. I was picturing my life with so much free time to be able to work on new projects while the twins were in full-day school and my newborn napped.
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But that quote I read at the end of the year continued to stick in my head. I saw it pop up a few more times and I still had no idea why. “Your greatest accomplishment may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” Ah.
At a play date with our best friends one afternoon in early January, Britt and I got chatting about school options for next year and she was telling me she was still very much considering home-schooling. Hmmm homeschooling. This was the first time I really thought about it in a long time. While we had casually chatted about it in the past, I intently listened to her tell me about the reasons they were strongly considering it and I remember leaving that day feeling a bigger peace about this crazy idea of homeschooling then any of the other school options we had. But no, that was crazy. I still didn’t believe it was the right thing for us. But of course, I got home and couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started to look up other homeschooling mama’s on instagram, started reading homeschooling blogs and listening to homeschooling podcasts. I did a lot of research over the next couple weeks while having lengthy discussions with my husband and praying about it too. Of course I began to run into more moms who homeschooled or were considering homeschooling for next year…coincidentally or maybe God was strategically putting them in my path…who knows!  Some other crazy things fell into place around that time as well…like Ron getting a promotion at work, meaning my monthly income can be a little more flexible.
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SO. You guessed it. With a lot of careful consideration and prayer over the past month, we’ve made the decision to homeschool next year. And as I said above, the idea still scares me. I’m definitely more excited then scared but on the days when I want to pull my hair out now, I think Lord what are you asking me to do?!?!  But I’m trusting that since He’s placed this desire on my heart and made it clear in so many ways, that He will be my strength when I don’t think I have it in me. I’m trusting that this is the right decision for our family even when it feels like it’s not. Who know’s what else He has in store for me in the months and years to come but I know without a doubt now why I was supposed to wait and not start anything else. It was definitely not what was on my own agenda but I am choosing to follow where He is leading and put my desires and dreams on hold to pursue what I feel He is calling me to at this time. I will continue to run my photography business but will take minimal bookings. We don’t know how long we will do it. Maybe just kindergarten or maybe all the way through elementary school but we’ll take it one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time. I am going to share some of the reason’s I have come to feel so passionately about homeschooling in a second post because I didn’t realize how long this would get! But I’m excited to share this journey with you so thanks for reading and following a long!
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 p.s. how cute is this shirt by Rosalynne Love as a constant reminder of all of this?! You can check out more of her awesome products here! 
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15 Weeks

How Far Along: I’m 15 and a half weeks and can’t believe how fast the time is going! I remember the weeks going by so slow before we announced and now it feels like our babe will be here before we know it! We heard babies heart beating loud and clear at our midwife appointment this morn. The twins were so excited to finally be able to hear it, and of course I was too!

Size: The baby is the size of an apple and definitely growing every day! My belly is pretty small when I first wake up in the morning but get a good breakfast in there, and I am SO pregnant.

Weight Gain: Ok guys. I feel really hesitant to post this here because I’m slightly embarrassed by it but I’ve already gained 12 lbs just in first trimester :S :S ugh. See I think I’m frustrated because I had worked so hard the past year to get in shape and was so ambitious and excited about having a fit and healthy pregnancy. I had planned to keep up with my workout routine and maintain a healthy balanced diet. Well that worked out well for the first 5 weeks? And then it went downhill from there. And Christmas didn’t help. As I mentioned in my last pregnancy post, I had aversions to most veggies, meat and even some fruits for the longest time. Things are starting to get better so I hope everything balances out (including my weight ha!) I’ve been slowly getting back into a workout routine a few times a week and trying to bring all the healthy greens back into my diet because I know that’s important for both me and baby. But it definitely hasn’t gone the way I planned and I just have to be ok with that.

Sleep: I’ve been sleeping fine (except when the twins still wake me up once and while). And then I sometimes have trouble getting back to sleep.

Symptoms: I get morning sickness the odd day here and there but I haven’t actually been sick yet. I’ll just feel super nauseous while putting on my makeup or making the twins breakfast and I’ll have to grab a glass of water and just lay down for a few minutes until it passes. Sometimes the smells of certain foods make me feel sick but again not the point of actually being sick. The biggest thing I’m still battling is the migraines. I seem to get about one a week that lasts around 3 days. 🙁 We think it’s mostly tension related as I have A LOT of tightness in my neck and shoulders. So I’ve gotten two massages this week in hopes that it will start to relieve some of that and Ron has me doing a daily stretch routine as well. Hoping they let up soon because it’s not fun caring for noisy two three year olds while your head is non-stop pounding. I think that’s it for symptoms except for being exhausted. I’ve made it past 8 pm a handful of times the past couple weeks though so I think I may be starting to get some of that second trimester energy back woot!

Movement: Yes I’ve already felt movement! I started to feel little flutters for the first time around 12.5 weeks but wasn’t sure if it was just gas bubbles or I was just imagining it. But the flutters have been pretty consistent since then and my midwife told me today it’s totally possible as you feel it much sooner in your second pregnancy. Ron even felt a little kick on the outside the other night when we both had our hands on my belly in silence for a while. So surreal and probably my favourite part of pregnancy…feeling that little life inside of me move and kick around.

Food Cravings: Mostly still sweet things. I was definitely having too much chocolate in first trimester so now I’ve started to replace it with a bowl of fruit or an apple and peanut butter. And ok total disclosure here: I went through a about 2 weeks of eating Mcdonalds. Like full out big macs and fries you guys…totally gross and not like me at all. I don’t even know what got into me but I literally couldn’t stop myself from driving through the drive through and ordering. Thank goodness that is over. Our family has actually been moving towards a plant based diet since then and I’ll be sharing more about that in another post!

Stretch Marks: Just the same old ones as last time, becoming more pronounced as my belly grows!

Names: We don’t have anything definite yet but we do have a running list which we will probably nail down as soon as we find out the gender…which is in just 3 WEEKS! EEEEK!!!

So I think that’s about it for 15 weeks. I’m so anxious to get working on the nursery and have been reluctantly resisting the urge to buy all the cute baby things. Can it just be July already?!?!

haha thanks so much for reading!!!

natalie-xo-1

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Minimizing the Kitchen

I promised I’d be sharing each room as we work on purging/organizing and living with as little as possible. With what we have gotten rid of already, it’s been so freeing and there is still SO much more to go. I had no idea how long the process would take. At first I’d be like “Today during naptime, I will do the kitchen!” Well 3 hours and 2 cupboards later….not so much. But then again, I was not only purging things but also transferring spices, cereals etc., to different bottles and containers as well as labeling them so it was quite a time consuming task. But SO so worth it you guys. I’ve found that as we’re purging, organizing at the same time has been KEY. I don’t want to just slowly replace the empty space from the things we purged with new stuff. That would totally defeat the purpose. The idea is to live with LESS going forward so if everything has it’s own spot and we have everything we need, it will be easier to not buy anything more. Make sense?!

So here’s what we organized/got ride of:

Cereals: Storage containers can be EXPENSIVE but you’d be surprised how much the dollar store has! Most of my mine are from there! 🙂 Putting our cereal, oatmeal, rice, etc., into containers has been so helpful! Just love how organized it is and we can easily see what we need more of for our grocery shop each week.

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Tons of mismatched glasses and mugs. How many do you REALLY need?! We each have our fav mug that we use on a daily basis, so why do we need like 10 more each? We basically cut our collection in half. And I got rid of like 20 mason jars that had just been collecting dust in another cupboard. I used them for punch for parties and such in the past but haven’t used them in so long and I don’t plan on pickling or jamming anytime soon so off they went! (Don’t worry, we have another cupboard beside with all the dishes we KEPT, not pictured! But those empty shelves in this photo were filled with all the ones we never used!)

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Tupperware. As you can see we now have a small stash in the photo below. It used to be stored in the huge corner cupboard. We had SO much we never used and a lot of it was mis-matched but we were just keeping it in case we found the right lid? Ron’s the only one that takes food to go on a daily basis and we just need a couple containers for packing away left overs. NOT a million.

blog-photos-8-of-12Canned goods/boxed foods. We had a lot of stuff that was sitting in our pantry cupboard that was expired and a ton that I knew we would never use. So for a clean fresh start, we donated the good stuff to a local food bank and got rid of the rest.

Again, all the jars and containers are from Dollarama and the plastic white bins on the bottom shelf actually come with little scoops! Perfect for flour, sugar, etc., blog-photos-5-of-12

And this is so super embarrassing but just to be real and show you what things looked really like BEFORE…maybe it will be a little relatable or maybe we were just living like complete slobs. Either way, below is the very same cupboard before we made the spice drawer pictured below and got rid of so many things.

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Extra serving dishes/pots and pans – we didn’t have a huge over supply of these but there were a few things we have never used sitting in cupboards collecting dust so off they went.

Dish rags and towels – don’t need a hundred of these. Thats what our washing machine is for. We kept a minimal stash in a small drawer. blog-photos-7-of-12Spices – Our spice collection was so out of control. We had them all in the bags they came in stuffed in baskets in a cupboard (as pictured above). I used to actually think that was organized because they were all in one basket (the spice basket) but it was not a good system. We had quite a few doubles because we never knew what we had and would often accidentally re-buy things for new recipes. I had to do a lot of combining/throwing some of it out and Ron made this awesome DIY spice rack that literally took 20 min to put together. It’s in the drawer right beside our stove now so easy and accessible for cooking! The bottles are from the Dollarama!

blog-photos-4-of-12The kids dishes – ok this was a big one! We had like 30 plastic spoons. What?! We run our dishwasher daily so we definitely could afford to lose some of those. Same with plastic cups, bowls, and plates. I don’t how that collection piled up so fast! (I blame it on all the cute dishes at Target when it was still here!) We kept the twins 3 plates and bowls each. Enough to go around if we have a play date with friends and enough to get through all meals and snacks on an average day. Same with the cups!

blog-photos-6-of-12This drawer used to be our “mismatch drawer” All this stuff was just in there loose and things were always getting stuck or tangled together. Now, everything has a spot. A basket for cookie cutters, a basket for clips, and two baskets for measuring and other cooking tools. blog-photos-2-of-2

Appliances you’re not using – There were a couple big things we hadn’t used in YEARS that were taking up so much space in our cupboards. One of them was a portable grill Ron used in university but never once since then (it took up a third of the space under our kitchen sink). We also had a old blender that still worked but was cracked (not sure why were keeping it…again, just in case? We have a brand new one!) Also a couple gimmicky items that had been given to us around our wedding or showers and we had never touched. Getting rid of those larger things gave us so much more SPACE!

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Our kitchen makes me so happy now instead of stressing me out! I would always get so flustered when cooking dinner because I could never find things or nothing fit when I was trying to put it back. I was convinced we had outgrown it and I needed a much bigger one. But nope, just needed to get rid of a whole lot of un-used items and make sure that EVERYTHING has a spot.

Sooo if this has inspired you in the least bit, happy kitchen purging/organizing! Thanks so much for reading!

natalie-xo-1

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

This muffin recipe is one of our absolute favourites! It’s one a friend sent me a while back and it’s right from the Ambitious Kitchen ! They’re so moist and delicious and the best part is that they’re HEALTHY (minus a few chocolate chips of course!) Like most toddlers, the twins LOVE to bake with me. They’re always asking me what I’m up to in the kitchen and whether they can help or not so I try to intentionally plan a few meals through the week that they can help with. We had a play date yesterday afternoon so we made a batch of these muffins together in the morn!

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INGREDIENTS
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 small to medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1/2 cup mini or regular chocolate chips (I like mini)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and generously spray inside of liners with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Squeeze shredded zucchini of excess water with a paper towel! This is an important step.
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon; set aside.
  4. In bowl of an electric mixer, add mashed banana, oil, honey, vanilla and eggs; mix until smooth. Add in zucchini, applesauce, and yogurt and beat again until well combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Remember not to over mix the batter — we want moist muffins! Gently fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.
  5. Evenly divide batter into muffin cups. The batter will probably reach the top of each muffin liner, but that’s okay — we’re making big muffins! Alternatively you can reduce the size and bake 15 muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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Enjoy!! And thanks so much for reading! xo

natalie-xo-1

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