Healthy Happy Kids Initiative

Have you ever met someone who you knew…somehow you knew already?

That is what happened when I met Fiona. On a fate-made day when I was actually trying not to be in Chapters (but my kids insisted they just wanted to pop in for ‘Ooooone second Mommy!’) I met this beautiful and talented soul.

Fate had stepped in a few weeks earlier when I happened to be walking our new puppy in a park I hardly ever went to. As the introvert I tend to be – I generally don’t chit chat with people I don’t know but ended up talking to an amazing lady walking her dog. Who it turns out (but, of course) has know my most incredible mother-in-law (and my hubby!). I should meet her relative, she tells me. ‘She writes kids books too!’. Oh – how nice, I thought. ‘On…Mindfulness’. Whaaaaa? Guess who that person was? Yup. Fiona.

I scooped up her amazing book (Click to check it out) and we became fast friends. And now she has invited me along on her amazing project – The Healthy Happy Kids Initiative with her other equally beautiful and talented sisters.

The Healthy Happy Kids Initiative was born out of the girls heartfelt mission to “support the familial whole in working together to create and maintain a healthy, happy life.” The approach is to provide workshops, information, resources and support to address the physical body and the mind.

Ciara Gossen of Bendy Buddha Yoga Inc will be teaching children’s Yoga, Julie Williams is the certified Nutritionist tacking all the food and nutrition and Lisa Williams is a Respiratory Therapist at the Children’s Hospital who is teaching the art of deep breathing. Fiona and I team up to teach aspects of the mind – Fiona with her vast and deep knowledge of all things Mind and me… communicating those things to the littles.

I am so happy to be working with these girls, I truly believe in it. Please check out the website to see much more details and workshop dates!

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Kickstarter!

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The time has come! Mindful 1,2,3 is finally complete and ready to go to print. I am so excited to see it come to life. To make this happen in hardcover form, I will need your help. I have launched a Kickstarter campaign that is live until Sept 12, 2016.

If you support this campaign, you will be able to pre-order the book and get lots of extra goodies as a thank you.

This book is truly a dream come true. As the second publication from Sweet Clover Studios, I spent a lot of time making sure it was as meaningful, purposely designed and still had original content from Mindful ABCs. This book keeps within the same style and feel – but it is more interactive and based on counting, numbers and sequencing.

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It will be a perfect companion to Mindful ABCs but can also stand alone as a classroom teaching tool or mindful moment between you and a little one. It prompts the reader to be present in their bodies. Notice colour. Make wishes. Breathe. Mindful123promoBlinksFrom my years of experience with children, I added little details like the counting dots at the bottom of the page to encourage engagement and create anticipation. I use numerical representations as well as words to further the comprehension. Mindful123promoNUmber10The last thing I want to say about this book, for now, is that I truly believe that it will help introduce mindful concepts into the lives of students, individuals, teachers, and parents. I hope you enjoy!

Please click the link to see more! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/458811859/childrens-book-mindful-123

 

UPDATE: Well guys, we did it! Mindful 1,2,3 is going to be published in hardcover! Please stay tuned for more details.

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Mindfulness Challenge

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Yes, it may sound strange to ‘challenge’ yourself to something as non-competitive in nature as mindfulness. But here’s the deal: Mindfulness happens when you are aware, in the moment. So my hope (along with Kerry Burki whom I will shortly introduce) is to collectively bring awareness to a moment for you, in your life for 7 days. It’s for all of us to take a moment and focus on something specific for each day.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to contribute an article and free printable to Kerry’s Magazine called Mindful moments. Based on the concepts of the article – Kerry and I have created a 7 Day Mindfulness Challenge on Instagram starting on Sunday, August 28th.

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Here are the details outlined by Kerry:

Starting on Sunday you will be prompted to share a photo each day related to our daily themes using the hashtag #mindfulmoments2016 and #kerrymag.

Here is the challenge schedule:

Sunday: Gratitude – share a photo of something you are grateful for today

Monday: Love – share a photo related to love

Tuesday: Giggles – share a photo of you laughing or something or someone who gets you laughing

Wednesday: Knowing – share a photo of how you tap into your inner knowing

Thursday: Nature – share a photo of the beautiful outdoors

Friday: Create – share of photo of something you are making wither for work, fun, or with your kids

Saturday: Release – share a photo and describe something negative you are releasing from your life today

If you participate each day, you will be entered to win:

In order to win and for us to find and follow your photos, please use the hashtags #mindfulmoments2016 and #kerrymag. You also need to be following both @kerry_burkiand @sweet_clover_studios on Instagram to win. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, September 6th 2016.

I really hope you will participate and also check out what Kerry is doing and why I chose to partner with her. She is a yoga teacher, successful business woman (Waste Not Paper and Handmade Success), Intuitive Life Coach and owner of an amazing magazine. See? Amazing right?

So I hope to see you and all the moments you will be finding for a full week! Kerry and I will be sharing moments from our lives too. Can’t wait!

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Favourite Kids Books

I have a real, true love of Children’s literature. Before I even became an author/illustrator. Before I had children of my own. Before I even started working with children professionally. I would far prefer to look at the Children’s section in a book store than anywhere else.

This goes back as far as I can remember actually. I still have memories from my childhood, going to the library and feeling such an sense of excitement and possibility for what I would find. I remember feeling like I won the lottery one time when there was 5 or 6 books in a series that I loved. Now – I get the same enjoyment finding books for my kids that I know they will LOVE. Either way – I can truly appreciate what wonderful material others are putting out into the world. As an ode to my appreciation, I dedicate this post to some of my favourite kids books.

The list is long, but for this post I am choosing to include: Peter H Reynolds, Oliver Jeffers, Kathry Otoshi and Todd Parr. All whom (funny enough) write and illustrate the books I am mentioning here.

Ish. Ya – ‘Ish’ is one of many thoughtful and deeply impactful books by Peter H Reynolds. Somehow he is able to talk about meaningful subject matter while maintaining light story that kids can really relate too. My kids in particular laughed out loud and this one, gave me the teary wide-eyed ‘I can’t believe she did that!’ look and asked me to read it over and over. Which I gladly do.

 

 

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There are many books Peter H Reynolds has written so I encourage you to check out his collection. While you are at it, make sure ‘The North Star’ gets a peek. I figured, any book that encourages children to ‘Ask yourself…’ if one I want to read to my kids. Heck – I want to read it myself. The first time I read it I was actually hunkered down in the corner of Chapters with a lump in my throat. I meant to just pick it up and skim through the pages but every page I landed on struck me so deeply that I had to read all if it right then and there.

Now, on to Oliver Jeffers. The ever creative, always surprising, one-of-a-kind Irishman. Run to any store and you will surely get enjoyment out of his books. His illustrations is where he particularly gets me – they are SO magical. Even his website (for children) is so fun, you’d have a hard time getting me away from it.
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Two of my favourites here are ‘Stuck’ and ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’. They are charming. Creative. And as seems to be Oliver’s style – a fresh and fun way to communicate. His humour is something I really admire and hope to incorporate in books in my future. Because there really is nothing better than hearing a little one laugh.

Now – Kathryn Otoshi. She has written an ‘everyone-in-the-world-needs-to-read-and-own-this-book’ book. Yup. The one I am referring to is ‘One’. I chose to feature a few of the interior pages so you can get a feel for the story. Amazing right?

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The illustrations remain this simple through the entire store which I think is amazing. She communicates, expresses so beautifully. I seriously think it contains life lessons which everyone could benefit from. This one is usually at major book stores but if not you can always check her out hereTamaraHackettBlogOne2Now, last but not least- Todd Parr. He is a brilliant dude. His illustrations are completely simple and recognizable as his – totally relating to his readers. His concepts cover big topics from the ‘Peace Book’ to the ‘Earth Book’ (Pictured Below). Then get to the most personal level of feelings in ‘The Feelings Book’ and ‘The I’m Not Scared Book’.  He seems unafraid to tackle all sorts of family situations – never making the books with a heavy spirit about them.

I love sharing them because they are easy to read (Yea for not being overly wordy!), compassion filled and purposeful. Todd writes directly to the little reader at the end of all his books – like a literary mentor, always encouraging children in different ways. Todd – I never tire of your books.

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Lastly, I just wanted to mention that I am just sharing this from my heart. It is not a sponsored post and I am not being persuaded by anyone to mention these amazing authors/illustrators. Just me. Not giving formal reviews. Just your friend (who has read a LOT), mentioning a few of my favourite kids books. Hope you enjoy!

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Connections

I talk about connections. Lots. Like…my-business-wouldn’t-exist without it type-thing.

So to clarify what exactly I am talking about, I thought a little post would be helpful to express what I mean when I say ‘Creating connections is what I do’ on my homepage.

To start – I’d like to share that I am a total introvert. So ‘creating connections’ is not all about getting out there. No – it’s more than that. Yes – becoming a business owner has forced me out of my comfort zone. Creating connections with actual people (Shocking – I know!) which I am certain I would not have made it this far without. From my accountability partner who I talk to almost every single day, to local Magazines (Hello, Dote!), and countless local business owners who are incredible inspirations. Those are true connections which I would help at the drop of a hat, gladly.

You probably expected that I would talk about those types of connections, right? But – there is even more. When I talk about connections, I am including connecting to yourself. Your likes, wants, purpose. Connecting with your child. Connecting to a design which evokes a feeling of happiness or joy. Connecting with nature. Connecting with literature. Connecting with the moment.

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Sometimes these things happen naturally and I love that. Mostly (I noticed) when I choose to ‘be here’. Be in the moment.

I live for moments when I see my kids find that connection. When my little girl will say something about a character in a book and say ‘That is just like ME!’ – I know she is making a connection.

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Whenever I am creating a story, an image, a design I think about these connections. I think about making a reading space feel special by designing a nature inspired pillow (Kids, Nature, Moment…see?). I think about a little one connecting with their feelings with the books I write. I think about how my work in the world will hopefully strengthen the connection I have with my own little one – even when she is trying to be mad at me…like in the photo above.

Basically, I hope that whatever I create can be some sort of bridge or support to connections in whatever way my consumer (including the littles) needs.

 

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Canadian Creators

I am really happy to be from Canada. I am the type who would take a forest adventure and mountain view over a beach any day (Well, most days. An occasional one would be nice though…).

Point is – there is a lot to appreciate in our own back yard. A lot of diversity in every way I can imagine. Even the weather from one end of the city to the other can be vastly different! The people, the interests and talents, the backgrounds and stories. I love to find out about it all.

As an author and illustrator who is often working alone, it hasn’t always been easy to find out about these other creatives.  Luckily, I found Little Blue Canoe. Kelly, (who runs the show around there) hand picks and curates Canadian products from artisans, craftspeople and designers. She’s like…the best. Somehow makes online shopping personal. She features stuff you feel like your best friend spent hours searching for and brought it to your front door for you.

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Photo courtesy of Little Blue Canoe

Gratefully, I got to be part of the Little Blue Canoe family with Mindful ABCs being featured on the blog and in the Baby & Kids ‘Play’ section. I am so proud to be amongst these other creators and hope you will check it out too.

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Painting Principles

I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember. From making rocks into rainbows on our family camping trips to Friday nights with my best friend in high school. It’s become such a comfort, an extension of myself.

I’ve spent time painting on every sort of medium you can imagine. From the Stairwells of the Calgary Tower (It was a fundraiser…not graffiti, I promise) to a 12 Foot Canvas. And of course the occasional pumpkin to share in the halloween fun with my little ones. Whether it be acrylic, watercolour, oil or (gulp) tempra – a few things have really helped me along the way.

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Interrupting yourself by constantly getting up to fetch missing items is one of the biggest obstacles to really progressing. I believe that there really is a ‘flow’ that happens when you sit down and commit to some creative time. ‘Flow’ meaning…a mode that feels like time doesn’t exist. It’s where you are so involved in it that you don’t notice yourself getting hungry. To get there faster – I have always found it better to do all my pitter pattering around and set everything up before. I would consider having the following things within reach to set up for a successful painting session.

  • Anything personal care (Drinks – tea and ice water are personal must-haves, kleenex, pillows, slippers, phone, hand cream, lip gloss…). I am sure you get the point. For me – thinking about these things and not having them close by becomes a distraction. Because I have everything I need, then thinking..’oh, what if my hands get dry’ – is not a excuse to get up. I can get going with my project.
  • Paints, paintbrush, paper towel, tape, 2 jugs of water, proper lighting, palette, paper, cloth – all the actual tool-y type things. Because…you will need them!
  • Inspiration. Unfortunately, getting stuck is always a possibility. So, when I say that you should be setting up ‘Inspiration’ it’s things like this: Colour references, Paintings you love, styles you like, magazines, books, photos, pinterest boards. Anything that you can reference that may give you a jumping off point for what you are working on.

As an example – below you will see some watercolour art cards from Fringe Studio. Seeing these cards are actually the inspiration for my Watercolour workshop I’m teaching through Crafted  on March 13th, 2016 (Note: This particular workshop is now sold out but please check back for future times). This class with use techniques featured in the cards but (of course) will not be exactly the same. I am using textured cards, an emerald colour palette (similar to the one posted below this image) and shape building. Even though I was inspired from these cards – I was able to develop the class with my experiences and skills to it. That is why I always suggest having some inspiring things in your set up.

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The last thing I want to mention – (especially when working with watercolours) is the need for ‘play’. Painting is a dynamic medium and it changes and moves depending on the consistency, brushes, dry time, mixture of colours and so much more. As an example – the below image is some spheres I was created for examples for my watercolour workshop.  When I was painting them..I actually thought I was going to garbage them. But… knowing what I know about paint, I kept them. And to my surprise – I actually ended up loving them. I kept playing, trying and seeing how they changed once they were beside others like them and the composition that they made up together. That, is the magic of painting.

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Because I have experienced so much joy with painting and want the same for you, that is why I am teaching all my secrets to creating the work that I do (Including everything I did to create the illustrations of Mindful ABCs). My hope is that you will have as much fun as I do and be able to create something that is uniquely you. If you would like to hear more – or create images like the one below by LamArtStudio, click the images above or make sure and sign up to my mailing list below.

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Painting by LamArtStudio – click image to visit etsy store. (Inspiration for class!)

 

Note: The workshop mentioned in this particular post is now sold out so please sign up to make sure you are informed of upcoming events in the future!

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The Kids Meet the Book

Getting new books (from the library or otherwise) is a regular occurrence in our home. So when I asked my kids if they wanted to read a new one – they were totally up for it. Cuddled up on the couch, one little one on each side I turned the first page of my newest book and waited to see how all of us would feel as it unfolded.

I resisted saying “HEY, LOOK WHAT I DID!”. Instead, I just began. And what happened was more than I had ever hoped or expected.

“A is for appreciation aaaand ant”, I began.

First came squeals of ‘Ooooh look at the cute little ant!’ from my daughter, who is 3.

I don’t think it took long for my son (aged 6) to realize it was my book, but he didn’t say a word about it.  He just gave me a little smile a few pages in that made me know, he knew. He had sat beside me for every animal I had painted and seen the computer screen many times as I formatted the file before printing. He just sat, head rested on my shoulder and listened.

As we went along I would ask questions like “Do you guys know what ‘grateful’ means?” (after we had gotten to the letter G). Then, “When was the last time you guys felt ‘happiness‘? The conversations that came out of those pages were like magic to me. They were fun. Easy. And the best excuse ever to tell them how sitting there with them in that moment made me happy and grateful.

It was what I had hoped for, not just for my family but for anyone who had my book in their hands. The thought of opening those conversations and experiencing those feelings on purpose was why I had kept going.  Through doubt, fear and any other excuse I could throw at it, it was here now.

We talked about sea urchins and inspiration.

My son brought the book right up to his nose to look at the colours melting together inside the letters.

I saw my daughter put both hands on her heart, close her little eyes, smile and take a deep breath feeling joy as I read the page for J.

I heard her tell me about a little dream she had in her heart that I had never known about.

I listened to my son realize that he had actually had an experience of ‘knowing’ in his life. Aaand that the word had a silent ‘k’.

After the book my husband eagerly said ‘Do you know who wrote that??’. My boy knew but my girl nearly jumped off the couch when she found out. She sqeezed my neck so hard I thought I was going to black out, but didn’t want to move. It was so worth it.

Then, I got to show them the two tiny turtles on the dedication page. “Dedicated to my little ones”, I said. For you guys.

So, over my lifetime of wanting to publish a children’s book, many years of working front-line with children, writing classes, stacks and stacks of filled watercolor paper, practice and rejection letters, I am so happy to say today that I did it. I introduced my kids and my heart to the ‘knowing’ that it has finally happened.

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Photo courtesy of Norman Leong Photography

 

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