Turn treasures from your family vacation into a keepsake collage

I am so very proud of my newest collaboration with Vitamin Daily. I decided to write about summer vacations and how to make a decorative keepsake collage from findings that got picked up and made their way back home, as a collaborative art project the whole family can do. You can read the whole article here.

When we’re on vacation or just out somewhere, my eldest, Danika, is always walking with her head down, looking for wonderful little treasures from nature and I asked myself, how can we use these collections to create lovely visual reminders of the great time we had as a family?Findings from vacation for keepsake collage | Smocks & Shops

About our collaborative art piece (the backstory): My sister Sonya lives in Moncton with her man, Kevin, her little man, Zac and her furry four-legged man, Logan. Every summer we go there to visit and every summer, we spend a few days at their family’s seaside cottage in Cocagne. On this particular trip, bouncy castles, splash pads, fireworks, hermit crabs and provincial parks, were the order of the day week… Great, great memories.Vacation keepsake collage | Smocks & Shops

I didn’t use a shadow box. I really wanted the collage to leap out of the frame. To show off the textures and dimensions. Just by removing the glass, I was able to accomplish this effect. I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

I was inspired by examples I found on Pinterest. This series from Completely Coastal is my favourite. They used seaweed and driftwood in their collages. Love it.


Enjoy the read. I’ll keep you posted on my next collabs.

Breakfast banana bites

Three years ago, we bought our house in Beaconsfield, Quebec. I was 7 months pregnant with Danika when we (finally) found the one. It was the 22nd home (give or take) that our Agent showed us. I knew it was it, the second we walked in (well, actually, I knew it was it, when I saw the pictures on MLS.ca days before).GirlEatingBreakfastBananaChocolateChipMiniMuffin-SmocksandShops

One of the things I love most about living here is that we have close friends, Nick and Pam, who live a couple of streets away and their two little girls go to the same daycare as ours. It’s so awesome to think that the girls have already known each other since they were born and that they will continue to grow up together out here. That is just so incredibly special to me.BabyEatingBreakfastBananaChocolateChipMiniMuffin-SmocksandShops

So, over the years, our two families have had plenty of meals together for various occasions. At their house, ours, parks, pools, etc, etc. Pam is an amazing cook. She bakes these insane banana chocolate chip muffins that are so delicious and such a hit with the girls (with us adults too). I needed the recipe, tout de suite! And lucky for me, she happily obliged.

When I bake these, they last 3, 4 days at the most in our house. Everyone’s self control flies out the window, whether I include the chocolate chips or not. Over time, I tweaked the recipe a little to leave out some of the sugar and fats the original version called for. This has to be the healthiest banana chocolate chip muffin recipe I’ve ever come across.

As I started baking this batch, I felt it was finally time to immortalize the recipe online. BreakfastBananaChocolateChipMiniMuffins-SmocksandShops

2 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of rolled oats
1 tsp. of cinnamon
3/4 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1 pinch of salt
2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
3/4 cup of plain yogurt
1/2 cup of apple sauce
1/4 cup of maple syrup
2 tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup of dark chocolate chips (or more)

– Preheat oven to 350°c and spray or grease the muffin tray.
– Blend the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
– In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then add them to the dry.
– Combine the two with a wooden spoon, being careful not to over mix.
– Lastly, fold-in the chocolate chips.
– Spoon the batter into the mini muffin tray and bake 12-15 mins.
– Or, if you make normal size muffins, bake them for 18-20 minutes.BreakfastBananaChocolateChipMiniMuffins-SmocksandShops

A variance I came up with is to use pumpkin purée instead of the eggs. Simply substitute the 2 eggs in the recipe with 1/2 cup of pure pumpkin purée. Just as delish!BreakfastBananaChocolateChipMiniMuffins


Upcycled chalk bin for our backyard blackboard

Last summer Peter and I made a huge backyard blackboard for the girls from scrap pieces for plywood and a can of chalkboard spray paint. At the time, Mila was only 6 months old but Danika was 2 and really into drawing. Fast forward to today, the blackboard is used every time we’re in the yard, which lately, has been everyday.

I shopped around for chalk and even considered making some, but then I found these from Crayola (one day I’ll make some. I want to. This recipe from Hello, Wonderful looks super simple and cute). The colour variety of the Crayolas is what got me. They’re such beautiful and vibrant colours – and the price can’t be beat, either. Blackboard_and_sidewalk_chalk I really liked the box that the 48 chalk sticks came in. The flaps and handle were very convenient for carrying them around…. That is, until the girls and their friends started breaking the chalk sticks. Accidentally or not. LOL. With so many more pieces, nothing fit into the box anymore so I needed to find another solution.

Finding containers is easy, but me being me, I wanted to upcycle something we already had: Enter this ugly Christmas tin “basket” we’ve had kicking around the house, unused, for 2 years. I always loved the shape… just not the paint job.

But it’s nothing a can of spray paint can’t fix.


Can you believe Peter tried to get me to throw this crate away on numerous occasions? It’s so cute, right? I knew one day I’d find a great use for it… and BTW, I love aqua and red. One of my fav colour combos. Spray_Painted_Tin_Crate_For_Chalk_Container_By_Blackboard

What have you given new life to, by spray painting it?


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Rock collection storage box for kids

I love it when Danika expresses curiosity about something new. I love watching her discover the world around her. So naturally, I want to encourage her curiosity any way I can. You never know when something seemingly small might become a lifelong passion!Rock collection storage box for kids - Smocks & Shops

A couple of weekends ago, we were doing some yard work (Spring finally reared its head) and she went bananas when she found a particular tiny pebble. She must have lost – and found that pebble a dozen times that weekend. I thought, surely we could find better storage than pockets. Then I remembered the small plastic compartmentalized boxes I got from the dollar store I originally meant to use to organize my (messy and random) bead stash. Looking at it, it screamed “make me pretty” and I knew exactly what we needed to use. Washi tape! I think I’m more impressed with how it turned out than she is, but she loves that she has a cool little box to store whatever other tiny treasure she’ll find in the garden.


What you need:

  1. Plastic box with compartments – From hardware section of the dollar store
  2. Washi tape – Got mine from here, here and Target (when it was open)
  3. Mod Podge – From anywhere, like on Amazon here
  4. Krylon spray finish – From Amazon
  5. Rock collection – Danika’s collection started with a couple she found outside that she really liked went bananas over and this fun crystal mining discovery kit (I love that it comes with tiny magnifying glass). This weekend I’ll be giving her a simple Chakra kit I picked up from a local New Age shop, much like this one here

Rock collection storage box for kids - Smocks & Shops

How to:

  1. Before inviting your child to join you, I suggest pre-cutting the washi tape. I pre-cut a bunch of different pieces of washi and stuck them along the edge of the table we were sitting at. Danika could just grab whichever piece she wanted, at her pace and not have to wait for me to be done cutting (she sticks faster than I cut, lol).
  2. Once she was done applying as many pieces as she wanted all over the outside of the box, on both sides and the edges, she abandoned me to go play, which was fine. The next part was for mommies and daddies only anyway…
  3. Because not all washi tape stays stuck, I covered the box with a coat of Mod Podge to make sure nothing pealed up. I’ve written before (here) how I really don’t like how even though Mod Podge claims to be a finish, the surface stays sticky. Even after “curing” for a week. So here again, I top-coated the whole outside of the box with the Krylon spray. Be sure to spray outside or in a well ventilated space (the box will also smell at first but it goes away after 2 days).
  4. If you have a little plastic magnifying glass, you can create a little holder by drilling two tiny holes on the top of the box and passing elastic cord through it. I capped it off with a couple of glass beads I had in my stash.

Rock collection storage box for kids - Smocks & Shops

Don’t you just LOVE Washi tape? The colours and patterns remind me of candy wrappers. And I love how because the box is transparent, we see the tape through all sides. So pretty.

Washi tape for rock collection storage box for kids - Smocks & Shops

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10 Etsy toys for toddlers & pre-schoolers you need to check out

I love, love, love Etsy. In the last 4 years Etsy is by far the website where I’ve done the most shopping. I’ve created lists, started following even more awesome shops and I’m getting tons of ideas and inspiration for crafts and home decor. I love Etsy. You can follow me here. One of my favourite things to search for are cool and unique toys for the girls. Here’s a roundup of 10 of the girls’ favs (mine too):10 Etsy toys for toddlers & pre-schoolers you need to check out - Smocks & Shops #thingsorganizedneatly

  1. Wooden stacking dolls – Tinocchio – Made in Israel. Stacking toys are so important for toddlers. I love the simplicity in the design of these gals (yep, to us they’re girls). Every time Mila plays with them, Danika inevitably wants to also.
  2. Crowns – Felt Like Celebrating – Made in New Zealand. They each got their crown for their 1st birthdays. Danika wears hers all the time. Mila is getting used to hers.
  3. Pretend play camera – Little Sapling Toys – Made in USA. Danika loves to drop down on one knee and say “Over here… look at me…. say cheese…. click, click click… look!” Then she turns the camera to us, to show us the “viewfinder” like she’s seen us do with our real camera countless times. She’s so funny.
  4. Roadster – Hill Country Woodcraft – Made in USA. Mila loves this car. It rolls really well and the peg person is great for her hand-eye coordination.
  5. Little heart cars – Darlingling – Made in Canada. These have spent many night outside in the sandbox after hours of play. They’re still great. I love their colours.
  6. International peg dolls – I Got You Pegged – Made in USA. The girls line them up. Put them in a little pouch I made. Take them out, line them up again… I especially love the little Dutch girl, being half-Dutch myself.
  7. Doll – KraKracraft – Made in Slovenia. She was Danika’s reward for graduating to a big-girl bed. The owner of the shop is amazing. She could do anything! I told her I wanted the doll to be a little in Danika’s likeness, which colours and patterns she liked. She gave the doll those light blue eyes and blond hair with wispy little pig tails. When I placed my order, I was also still mourning the loss of my old girl Maya (she was my faithful, 4-legged baby, who got really, really sick), so I asked if it was possible to somehow include a brown dog (Maya was a beautiful chocolate lab). I couldn’t be happier with this whole experience. Danika calls her Dolly. She sleeps with her every single night without fail.
  8. I Spy bag – Chicks & Chickadees – Made in USA. This is one of those purchases I could have waiting a little longer to order and gift. Danika is only now starting to play with it but she’s had it a while. I actually stored it this week. I’ll take it out again later this summer. Nevertheless, I really love the personal touches. Her name is in there, as are some of Danika’s favourite things (animals, colours, etc).
  9. Finger puppets – Stay Awake & Play – Made in Canada. Always popular. These come out at least twice a week and have since the day we got them. Danika loves putting them on and singing Old McDonald to her sister waving (with great difficulty) the finger with the animal she’s on, which is what I used to sing and do for her. Still do.
  10. Memory game – 3Princesses – Made in Canada. The tiles themselves can be played with like blocks or dominos but now that Danika is old enough, we’re finally playing the memory game. We started with 2 pairs turned over, then 3. That’s where we’re at now. We’ll gradually increase the number of pairs as she gets used to playing. I love watching her grow and develop like this.

10 Etsy toys for toddlers & pre-schoolers you need to check out - Smocks & Shops  #thingsorganizedneatly

What about you? What have been your best handmade toy purchases on Etsy?

10 Etsy toys for toddlers & pre-schoolers you need to check out - Smocks & Shops #thingsorganizedneatly