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.

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?


This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

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

This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

Are you happy?

That is one of Danika’s favourite things to ask. Especially when she senses she’s in hot water. As in, we’re all sitting at the table and she’s not eating what she’s meant to. We inevitably get frustrated, after our repeated attempts at getting her to even just *try* the broccoli or the carrots fail miserably. Oh and bear in mind that these are all foods she’s actually eaten gobs of ever since she started solids and even declared these to be some of her favourites at one time or another, but now can’t stand the sight of them in her bowl or plate… And no! We must resist! We. must. not. bribe. her. with. chocolate… Again… [sigh] #fail.

So when she senses our frustration, cheeky munchkin that she is, she suddenly starts bombarding us with the same question over and over and over again. “Mommy, are you happy? Daddy are you happy? Mila is happy. Mommy are you happy? Are you happy Daddy? I think Mila is happy. Are you happy Mommy?” and on and on and on she goes, even though we actually do answer her. Cute, eh? So how can we stay upset… It’s impossible. Peter and I crack a smile at each other when she’s not looking.

AreYouHappy 8 x 10 poster

Anyhow, to commemorate her “how-to-avoid-eating-my-food-and-still-get-chocolate” question, I created a little printable poster (8 x 10 inches) and desktop background image (1280 x 720 pixels). Feel free to save and use.

Are you Happy? Desktop background image

27 non-candy Easter egg stuffer ideas for pre-schoolers

Truth be told, I’m always scouting for small toys and accessories that would make great age-appropriate stocking stuffers at Christmas, Easter egg stuffers and road trip supplies. I store them in a box in the basement until the right time comes. I buy these throughout the year to take advantage of sales (especially liquidations) and impromptu visits to our local dollar store that odly enough, yields some pretty cool and unexpected finds.

When scouting for small toys or if you want to give a few different ones, the idea is to think outside the “packaging” so-to-speak: You don’t have to use every piece of the puzzle (unless it’s part of the Easter Egg hunt game), or all the beads, or all the glow-in-the-dark stars… Open the packaging and just put a couple of the pieces in the eggs. Once the hunt is over, bring out the rest of the packages. We keep all tiny toys in a small cardboard suitcases that the girls love carrying around.

Here’s a collection of items my eldest daughter (now 3) received last year (and still plays with) and some new ones she will find in her Easter eggs this year*.


  1. Coloured hair elastics – From the dollar store
  2. Peppa Pig characters – From eBay and Amazon (In Canada, Peppa Pig sets aren’t sold at Toys R Us but you can find them in the US)
  3. Easter version of the Barrel of Monkeys game but with bunnies – From the dollar store
  4. Plus-Plus connecting pieces to make 3D & 2D objects  – Modern Karibou (purchased during a sale) but also on Amazon
  5. Holztiger wooden bunny – From Ava’s Appletree in Toronto (I got a few from this shop because they had the best online selection in Canada)
  6. Piggy Paint 3D nail art – purchased on Well.ca on sale after Christmas but I have also seen them on Amazon
  7. Glitter for crafts – Michael’s or dollar store
  8. Lottie Doll outfit – These are a fav in our house. Purchased a couple of outfits in a toy store closeout sale but I have also seen them on Amazon
  9. Fairytale Finger tattoos – purchased during a closeout sale of a local toy store but also saw them on Amazon
  10. Vintage Strawberry Shortcake figurines – From my own collection – my mom had the forethought to stash many of our cool toys – but I have seen many on Etsy
  11. My daughter has a couple of finger puppet sets – We love this Etsy shop Stay Awake and Play I think they make the best and cutest felt finger puppets
  12. Bracelet and necklace set (on an elastic) – purchased during a closeout sale of a local toy store but have seen them in many toys shops near the cash
  13. Zipper charms – From Gap kids (saw them at the cash)
  14. Bubble Guppies Puzzle – From dollar store but any you think your child will like, which has pieces small enough to fit into eggs will be perfect
  15. Play-Doh – dollar store
  16. Little felt doll – handmade by moi
  17. EOS lip balm – From any drug store. My daughter *loves* lip balms but the shape of these ones are, I find, the best for her little hands. She can open and close it herself easily
  18. Kiss Naturals lip balm making kit – I’ve been waiting until my daughter was old enough to give her this set. I know she will love making these and gifting her friends with her creations
  19. Charlie and Lola peg people – My daughter *loves* Chartlie and Lola but finding merchandise on this side of the ocean is futile. I turned to Etsy and found Tiny Clementine who makes these adorable miniatures
  20. Schleich figurines – I’m a huge believer in teaching my girls what animals really look like, instead of the cute cartoon-look other figurines take on. These are a bit of an investment, yes, but I have also found tons of used ones online (Kijiji for us in Canada or eBay). I trust Schleich because they have been around for decades and I’m not worried when my little one puts the figurines in her mouth either.
  21. Djeco wooden patisserie set – purchased during a closeout sale of a local toy store but saw them on Amazon too
  22. Wind-up hopping bunny – Have seen them in many toy stores near the cash area
  23. Wooden beads – from Michael’s – Came in a bucket!
  24. Felt sea creatures for magnet fishing game – handmade by moi
  25. Mini Slinky – From the dollar store
  26. Wind-up flipping lady bug – Have seen them in many toy stores near the cash area
  27. Glow in the dark stars – My eldest already has a “gallaxy” spiralling above her bed. These ones will be for my youngest. Got them at Michael’s. What I love is that during the day they recharge with daylight and as the night progresses, they glow less and less so it’s not a distraction for Zzzzzs

So there you have it. What are some chocolate and candy-less options you are including in your kids’ Easter eggs?

Easter egg stuffer ideas


* This post contains some affiliate links to Amazon and Well.ca.