The Summer List 2020

June 30, 2020

I started The Summer List back in 2012. The lists were much smaller when I started because my son was smaller and I didn't want to overwhelm him with too many activities. As he grew older, the lists grew longer...but this year is a bit different.

To say I'm not disappointed in the fact that we cannot do as many things as we have in past summers would be a lie, but I also know that a lot of them won't be doable as they are either not happening (The Jazz Festival, Folkfest and the Fringe Festival), they are not open yet (closed due to COVID-19) or I am not comfortable doing them until I have an idea of how the opening will go.

So we are having to think outside of the box this year. These are the ideas that we have come up with so far, and looking at previous lists in preparation for this post has given me some more ideas to add. Like everything else this year, we will adjust what we are doing as we learn more information. Roll with the summer, and find new ways to have fun!

What's on your list this summer?


Behind the Art: Light Bulb

June 29, 2020

Like all of my other wooden bezel brooches, this little light bulb came about after finding some beautiful wooden bezels at a shop called Art Base. Sometimes what happens is I come up with an idea that I believe to be absolutely amazing that everyone else will love, and it ends up being something that takes forever to sell and I cart them around to handmade markets for seven years. 

That said, I know that they are meant for the people that purchase them and that they will be loved in their new homes. At a market where I was selling my wares last winter, someone asked about a rabbit cameo brooch that I had drawn thinking it had already been sold. I had it with me, but I hadn't put it out on the table. They were so excited that I still had the brooch and purchased it that day!

This brooch is still looking for it's forever home, and that's okay. I drew this light bulb because I thought it was a cute idea. Just a simple little light bulb poking up from the bottom of the bezel. We don't know what it's lighting up, or where it's actually screwed in. I like leaving those kind of things open to interpretation.


The Shop: Pride Month and Beyond

June 28, 2020

Earlier this year, I did a thing. I created looks for the Simply the Best t-shirts and tank tops using the main characters from Schitt's Creek as my inspiration (if you follow along on Instagram you may have already seen them). It was a lot of fun coming up with the outfits for each character and putting them together along with hair and make-up (kudos to those who do this work on a regular basis as it is not easy work for one person).

Last year I announced that any purchases from the Schitt's Creek Inspired Items section of the shop would be donated to OUTSaskatoon, and I have continued to do that this year as well. Then I made another announcement at the beginning of June that I would be donating all of the profits from the purchase of any Schitt's Creek items in the shop to OUTSaskatoon. It is something that I continued this June, but failed to mention at the beginning of Pride Month.

So while I have been donating all of the profits from the sale of Schitt'e Creek items for the month of June, I want to let you know that I will continue into the month of July so that you can have an opportunity to help OUTSaskatoon to the max!


Talking about Racism with Children: Four Good Books to Start the Discussion

June 24, 2020

Don't Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Just over a year ago, my partner at work and I realised that we needed to do some teaching about our differences, especially skin colour, and talk about how we don't treat people differently based on the fact that they look different from ourselves. 

I went crazy in the book store trying to find books that were age appropriate (for 4-5 year-olds) that mentioned differences and made them into a positive thing. We wanted the books to spark a conversation so we could talk about the colours of our skin and teach the children that it is not okay to exclude people simply because of their skin colour.

The books that I found were We're Different, We're The Same and Happy in Our Skin. In the year and a half that I first purchased them, I have revisited them many times as we've had to circle back to this discussion time and again (it will never go away). 

Since then, I have been able to find more books at the library, including Don't Touch My Hair (a fantastic book about respecting people's bodies) and She Persisted (while not about race specifically, there are African American women mentioned in the book that started a discussion about slavery and race with my son).

**Please do not think that children do not see colour, because colour is exactly what they see. Their minds have the need to categorize things at this age, and unless we teach them that the categories they have created are incorrrect, they will stay that way. 

These four books have created a discussion both with my preschoolers and with my son at home. I highly recommend them if you are looking for books to start the discussion with your own little ones. However, this is an incredibly small list, and could use some improvement. 

Social Justice Books is an incredible resource that provides more than 60 carefully curated lists of multicultural and social justice books for children, young adults and educators. I learned about them from Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D on the Sesame Street/CNN racism town hall.

We're Different, We're The Same by Bobbi Kates and Joe Mathieu

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia


Behind the Art: It's Your Day Dad

May 30, 2020

While designing cards for Father's Day, I tried to be sensitive to the fact that some people may not have a connection to the person that they would call "Dad", so, in the past, I made cards that were a little more general that could be used for an uncle, grandfather, or a person in your life that has the role of "dad" but you don't necessarily call them "Dad".

A couple of years ago I decided to make a card that was specifically for dads, and uses the word right on the card. I guess I wanted to include the people that also have someone in their life that they call "Dad" (biological or not). Choices for all!!


What Will The Future Look Like Post-Quarantine

May 29, 2020

I keep wondering what the effects of this time of quarantine and social distancing is going to have on us and subsequent generations. In 20 years what will be be doing that we will look at it and say "This is because of Covid-19". There will most certainly be a lot of trauma from all of this (the cause of trauma doesn't have to be something severe like an attack or car's a lasting emotional response that will come from living through this time in history).

I think about the Depression Era and how it caused some people to began hoarding (not in the way we define it now) because they needed to keep everything out of necessity "just in case". You never knew when you'd be able to get something again, or if you'd ever have the money to purchase it again. My GG had so many items that a lot of people would deem unnecessary that he kept with the intention of using again, or because he thought there might be another use for them later (he still had butcher paper from when he purchased meat). In my family, we often use the term "pack rat".

This is a mindset that was most definitely passed on (my Grammie grew up during The Depression so she does this, too) and continues to this day. My mom keeps things "just in case" and I keep things "just in case" because you never know when you might need a piece of information from People's 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons, or when that little piece of string wrapped around a package that you ordered from a little shop eight years ago might come in handy.

These are the kinds of things that I am curious about. I wonder what memories and stories people, especially children, will tell that are connected to this time. How long will people continue to wear masks? Will there be people that have developed a fear of using public washrooms? Will the barriers between you and the cashiers stay there? Will children develop severe mysophobia, and will the numbers for anxiety skyrocket? 

Only time will answer these questions, but my hope is that solutions and support will be provided. We know so much more about mental health now than was known in the 1930s. What ripple effects  from this time are you curious about?


Read It: Becoming

May 27, 2020

If you look through the Read It label on the blog, you will see that I am a fan of autobiographies, and Becoming from Michelle Obama is another addition to the list. First off, I like how the title and author of the book can be a play on words depending on how you read it, and, secondly, I like how she gives us a taste of her entire life story in her voice (no one else's). It's not just about her time as First Lady of the United States, but also includes her childhood and early adult years, as well as her time with Barack before they began their journey to The White House.

What I appreciated most about the book was her candid approach to talking about what African American people go through daily, and her view of it from the perch of First Lady. She provided a lot of lessons for me, and did a lot of heavy work that she didn't need to do. I recognise that and thank her for it. She took situations and issues that I read about daily on Twitter (again where I am grateful for the people that do a lot of heavy work that they shouldn't have to do), and added another layer. 

One thing that stood out most for me was where she talked about her hospital job at the University of Chicago, and the work she did to connect the people inside the hospital to the people living just outside the hospital. I felt incredibly connected to what she was talking about in that section of the book as I work in a hospital in an area of the city that is considered undesirable. The work that she put in to her job to bring the two very different communities together is what I would love to see where I work, and it is what happens when there are people at the table that have those life experiences and understand that it's possible to bring it all together.

The other thing that stood out for me was her kindness. It was an overarching theme in the book. She may not have intended it to be there, but it was. She honestly seems like she has the kindest and caring heart. I had the privilege to see her in person (not up close) when she came to the city as part of a tour she was doing across Canada. It's not very often that someone of her calibre comes to my city so I jumped on that opportunity. It was an experience unlike any other, and, again, she just radiated kindness. That is really an inspiration for me. She is a level that I aspire to reach.


Mother's Day 2020: Ideas for Spending the Day at Home

May 07, 2020
I'm not going to lie, 100 percent of the things on this list are things that I would love to do on Mother's Day this year (or any day, really), but I wanted to give you some ideas of what to do while we are (for the most part) stuck inside this year. I live where there aren't many people and it is fairly easy to keep social distance, some people are not able to do that, so, with the idea that the weather could be bad, or you live in an area that makes it difficult to go outside, I wanted to come up with some really fun things to do at home with your mom, grandma, aunt...(if you're able to be with her this year).

First up is an ice cream parlour in your house. You could set up a sundae bar (Ha! On Sunday), or you could have some fun with it and make a little sign and some decorations. You choose. If you're not able to get the ingredients that you need to be able to have an ice cream shop in your house, you can always play pretend and use playdough.

This is an incredibly fancy fort and way better than anything that I could come up with myself, but The Kitchn has a fantastic list of ideas to help you build the perfect indoor fort. Personally, I would set up the fort in the area where the television is with the intention of using it for a special place to watch a movie.

This one is a classic, but I feel it's necessary to add to the list. It is a simple idea that children can do on their own, or with a bit of help if they need it (depending on age), and a lovely gesture for's one less thing she has to do in the day. It doesn't have to be fancy. If all you're able to do is give mom a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice, the love is there and she will feel it!


Behind the Art: Get Up and Grow

April 29, 2020

Get Up and Grow affirmation art print

Nearly six years ago this affirmation just popped into my head (like a flower, I guess), and I knew that I had to write it up. It was around the time that all of those wooden boards and posters of affirmations and popular positive quotations written in different typographical fonts were really popular at weddings and for baby rooms, etc. So I jumped on the wagon with a couple of affirmations that popped into my head along with some quotations and put them in the shop.


What We Love: Spring 2020

April 24, 2020

I'm not going to lie, one of my uniforms for life at home right now is a pair of my university's capri sweatpants that I got for Christmas last year (they have been my "get home, get comfy" pants ever since). This pair of pants from The Gap is the closest pair I could find to what I have.

I first learned about Ludovico Einaudi last year on CBC Radio where they played his song Life, and I was instantly hooked on the beauty of his music. Giorni Dispari is the latest song of his that I am in love with. My cousin and I were talking about piano music and she mentioned and Italian pianist that she enjoyed. I asked her if it was Ludovico and she said that it was, and had a couple of recommendations for songs of his that I should listen to. This was one of them. Sometimes you need a little calm and peace to listen to (it's like the comfy pants of music).

Sticking with the theme of "Comfy", this adorable hand-painted cat pillow from MosMea. would be the perfect cuddly buddy (if you don't already have one...or the one you have doesn't like to cuddle) for curling up on the sofa or in your bed while reading a book or watching some shows.


ElleSee Draws: The Quaranteeny Art Show

April 20, 2020

I have followed Tiny Art Show on Instagram for a while now (they do tiny art shows in unexpected places that are absolutely fabulous and you must check them out!), and with everything that's going on at the moment I finally had a chance to make my own Teeny Tiny Art Show as part of an at home competition that they are hosting.

My show was inspired by things that I love most in life, and I decided to host it outside on my backyard fence and patio for some local wildlife, as the rest of the world is not able to leave their houses at the moment.

It was so much fun to create these tiny pieces of art, and set everything up. It took me back to the world of my childhood where I would create small things for the animals and creatures living in my room. I loved that part of my childhood, so it was nice to get a piece of that back during this difficult time.


Now He is 9

April 12, 2020

Honestly, where has all of this time gone? It's incredibly hard for me to believe that this kind, considerate, intelligent, thoughtful, funny boy is one year away from being in the double digits. This birthday was a strange one (for obvious reasons), and so we tried our best to make it a special one. 

He requested these cupcakes from Julie over at Unblushing Co. We've been making them for years and they are one of two cake-like items that he will actually eat (the other is Texas Brownies made by his Grammie). This year he helped make them (check out the photos on Instagram), and he requested a sparkler instead of a candle.

We ordered pizza and watched a show of his choosing while eating, and family and friends requested Facetimes and phone calls all day...hopefully he knows that he's loved! When it was all over, I asked him if it was a good birthday, and he said that it was. When all of this is over and the world is settling back into the routine we used to know, we will hopefully be able to have a party to celebrate.

Bonus: If you look at last year's post (here) you'll see we haven't changed a bit. Haha!


ElleSee Paints: The Follow-Up to Self-Portraits for a Year

March 29, 2020

So for my 35th birthday year I planned on painting self-portraits each month as an art project where I would challenge myself to paint over the previous artwork and try new techniques an approaches to painting that I had not done before (find out why here).

While there were several months where I did not complete a portrait (I always forgot about it until the last hour before the beginning of the next month), and I have yet to paint the last self-portrait (the canvas is prepped with white paint), and I didn't really try any new techniques or styles in my painting (in most of the paintings the brush strokes look pretty much the same), but I did try to draw myself in different ways: closer, smaller mouth and bigger eyes, non-human...etc. That helped me to have a different approach to each self-portrait.

Would I do this again? Yes. I think I would. Though I forgot about it until the last minute every time, it was a lot of fun to get outside of my painting box (trees and landscapes) to try something new. What have you done lately that was outside of your regular box?


Behind the Art: Tetrahedron

March 21, 2020

While I was making Christmas gifts one year, I had some extra air-dry clay available that I decided to use to make some brooches for the shop that were a more affordable price point than the hand-drawn brooches set in a wooden bezel (see them here). I came up with a few shapes and designs, but decided I wanted to do something in a triangle shape without it being just a triangle that I cut out. So I looked-up three-dimensional triangles and found the tetrahedron

The Tetrahedron is one of my most favourite brooches that I have made, and, in true fashion of favourite-things-a-maker-has-made, it is one of the last to still be in the shop. If I'm being honest, all of my favourites are still in the shop. One of the hardest things as a maker is to think that you are coming up with the coolest ideas and creating the most amazing things only for them to not sell at all (or very rarely at a handmade market), but all you can do is keep moving along and hope that the next idea sticks better.


Our Favourite Children's Books and Toys

March 18, 2020

Favourite Books for Preschoolers

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak is a fan favourite with both my preschoolers at work, and my son at home. It is soooo silly that there is absolutely no way that a child would simply not love it.

I just discovered The Button Book by Sally Nicholls, and the children are loving it!! Not only is it a beautifully illustrated book (thank you Bethan Woollvin), but it is also very silly (are you sensing a theme here? Silly is good!) and the children love doing the activities prompted by the buttons (especially the green button...).

Favourite Books & Series for Older Kids

If your child is a fan of the Geronimo Stilton books, then the Kingdom of Fantasy series is a good one to check out. My son cannot get enough of it, and asks for a new book every birthday and Christmas. Even if you've never read any of the Geronimo Stilton books before, you don't need to worry about it as this series stands on it's own.

My son read The Wild Robot by Peter Brown with his class and absolutely loved it. He brought home the second book in the series called The Wild Robot Escapes from the school library, and when I read the back of the book I was instantly taken with the story and how much it reminded me of the dystopian fiction that I read in university. It is very well written.

Favourite Toys for Preschoolers

Right now, the absolute favourite, top-used, could-play-for-hours toy for my preschoolers at work is Duplo. This open-ended STEAM toy has so many possibilities, and creates so many opportunities for learning co-operative play.

Another incredibly popular toy at work is the blocks. Every child currently in my room enjoys playing with the blocks (regardless of gender). These blocks would be a good starting kit if you don't already have access to some.

Honestly, preschoolers are happy with any kind of open-ended toys: toys that they can build with, toys that they can dress-up with, toys that they can explore water and sand with. Loose parts are also amazing and they use their imaginations to come up with so many different ideas and ways to use them. The beauty of loose parts is that you can use anything from around your house (buttons, nuts and bolts, pinecones...the list goes on!).

Favourite Toys for Older Kids

GraviTrax are like a marble works for older children that provide lots of STEAM opportunities, while also giving them something fun to do. You can find the starter kit here, as well as multiple expansion packs (including a magnetic cannon!). 

Nothings beats a solid collection of art supplies (great for younger kids too!). Getting crafty and creative is also a great way to use some of the recycling and materials that might note be recyclable in your area.


The Shop is 9

March 08, 2020

This month is the shop's 9th birthday! It's unbelievable that we have reached this point, that so much time has passed and we have seen the shop grow and develop into what it is today. I still have so many dreams for the shop, so there's a long way to go on this winding road that Little Shop of ElleSee is taking, but I am so glad that you have been walking along with me (see the journey so far here). Whether you have been with me since the beginning, or have just joined in on the adventure, I have loved having you with me. You've made excellent company!


Thoughts: Kindness at Home

February 28, 2020

I've had these thoughts spinning around in my head for the past few days about how we spend the first few years of our children's lives keeping them hidden from the world, protecting them from all of the things that hurt us as children or continue to hurt us as adults, but we eventually reach a point where we have to send them out into the world and realise that there is nothing that we can do to stop people from hurting them. They are no longer in our protective bubbles, and aside from talking to teachers, etc, there are not many other options, making you feel so helpless.

But let me tell you, I've started to recognise that how I treat my child and what I do in my home matters during all of those school years where my son is trying to find his footing in the world. If I mock my child, or belittle my child, I am not setting him up for success, I am showing him that I am just as volatile as the world around him. I am no longer a safe place, and I am only making him feel even more alone. 

We may think that we are toughening our children up, getting them ready for the world out there, but of all the people in our children's lives, we should be the people that consistently show them kindness and lift them up, so that they know that home is a soft place to land at the end of a very long day.


Behind the Art: Love You Infinity

February 15, 2020

This card was inspired by those late night conversation good-byes that we have all had with our loved ones at some point in our relationship:

Back in the day, when my husband and I were still dating (this year was our 20 year dating anniversary!), we would tell each other "I love you", "I love you plus a thousand" etc. until we got to "I love you infinity" and the other person would say "I love you infinity plus one" and so on until we decided it was time to hang up the phone. Then we got smart and started saying "plus one to whatever you say" and that ended the back-and-forth for each conversation (though it was fun while it happened). 


6 Fun Valentine's Day Recipes and Activities to Do With Kids

February 13, 2020

This recipe for two-ingredient watermelon gelato would be a perfectly simple (and easy to make) treat for Valentine's Day.

If you'd like to make an entire meal for you and your little Valentine, I also found a recipe for the cutest heart-shaped pizzas and these yummy fruit skewers

These hearts are absolutely adorable and look so simple to make that I would have absolutely no problem making them (you don't even need a sewing machine!). They would also make a super cute DIY Valentine that would last forever.

If you're feeling extra crafty, check out this tutorial for an sweet little felt heart garland, and if you're not DIY inclined, this super fun activity that involves STEM is really fun to do with kids (and it works).


What We Love: Winter 2020

February 03, 2020

I have loved the work of Carole Epp since I first bought a small cup from her for my son when he was a very little boy. The cup didn't last long (as most things end up being dropped at that age), but I  repaired it as best I could, and bought another small mug for him when he was a little bit older. Then I asked for a mug for myself for Christmas, and it is one of my most favourite mugs to use for tea. 

The artwork on Carole's ceramic pieces for every day use is simple (yet speaks volumes) and you can tell that the work that she does for her community (not only as an artist, but as an activist as well) comes from the heart. She isn't afraid to say what is on her mind, and often talks about how art is political. She is an inspiration to me, and I love supporting her work.

When I heard Alicia Keys perform this song at the Grammys, and I have listened to it every day since. Not only does she have an amazing voice and message in this new song, but she is an inspiration to so many people. What a beautiful way to lift people up!

This letterboard that is big enough for an entire wall from Little w Studio is on my purchase list for my home. Not only are the letters and pieces of wood that hold the letters so well done and beautiful, but it would make a great focal point in any room. Plus, they have a really fun Instagram account that provides a lot of laughs and inspiration. You can find them here.


Eating Healthy for Picky Eaters: A Simple Salad

January 30, 2020

If you're trying to get on track with eating healthy, it can be quite difficult if you are not a huge fan of different kinds of foods (picky). So as I am finding my way along this winding path of taking care of my body, I want to share with you some foods that I eat as a picky eater myself, and how I am working towards getting the nutrients that my body needs as well as enjoying eating food (because not everyone wants to force themselves to eat cooked peas or quinoa).

I have always enjoyed simple salads that don't contain a lot of strange vegetables, but I have been expanding my palette and even tried kale at a restaurant recently (it was done well, and it was delicious). I am a raw vegetables kind of person, but I don't enjoy much more than cucumbers, carrots, radishes, and lettuce (pretty much any kind, but recently I've been eating something called a living lettuce). I've been adding dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds (a good fat) for some different textures (like I said...expanding my palette) and extra flavour. I do not use salad dressing.

If you're not a fan of some of these items, swap them out for a vegetable that you do enjoy. Don't make eating healthy something that's painful, because you won't be inspired to continue. If you don't want the pumpkin seeds, but like salad dressing, make yourself a vinaigrette out of a healthy oil so that you're still getting a good fat (the cranberries are just a flavour bonus for me).


Behind the Art: Tall Bird Loves Small Bird

January 26, 2020

This drawing was originally part of an anniversary card that I drew for my parents several years ago. Originally, I made a drawing of my mom (small bird) and my dad (tall bird) on a small piece of paper that I attached to a card (find the history of shop art here to see how I used to make cards), but before I gave it away, I scanned the art and made it into a little art print for the shop, and eventually into an anniversary card when I started purchasing the higher quality of paper. 

The card is very specific in it's purpose, but I like that the art print can be seen not only as spouses or partners, but as a parent and child relationship as well.


Child Development: The Importance of Teachable Moments

January 20, 2020

Teachable Moments are key instances throughout the life of your child when important social emotional concepts (see the five categories of social emotional learning) can be taught to your child. The trick is that they must be taught at that very moment, as waiting to talk about it until later loses the connection to the situation. 

It's important to understand that children live in the moment, in the now. If you wait to talk, your child's memory of the moment is less clear, and they aren't able to see how the lecture you're giving them relates to something that happened two hours ago that they've clearly already moved on from.

Let's say your child hits another child while at the park. You don't say anything about it until you get home about an hour later after your child has played in the sand, gone down the slide at least 30 times, you have pushed your child on the swing twice, and splashed in the puddles on the way home. Once home, your child has eaten a snack, and the two of you are now playing a game when you remember and you start talking about that time your child hit someone at the park. Your child has lived through multiple other moments since they hit the child and they are not going to be able to recall the moment  at the park properly.

As awkward as it may feel, use that moment right after your child has hit the other child to sit/squat/kneel at your child's level to talk them through what they have just done and why it's important to act differently next time, or not engage in the behaviour at all. If your child hits another child because a toy was taken away from them, take this opportunity to give them the words ("Hey! Give me back my toy!") to use next time instead of their hands. If your child randomly hits another child, use the moment to talk to them about how our hands are not for hitting, that hitting hurts, and give some examples of what they could do with their hands instead (build a sand castle, throw a ball, etc).

As your child gets older, the teachable moments you may be working with will become more complex. While a two-year-old might hit, bite, or take toys, a five-year-old might be telling another child that they are ugly or that they are going to go to their friend's house and hurt their friend's family. Where your child gets these ideas from is not important in the moment, what is important is that you step in and talk to them about empathy and what it means to be kind and care for others, and consider what it would feel like if someone said those things to them. Take the Teachable Moment by the hand and lead your child in the direction you would like them to go. You an dive into where the comments come from later on, or address it during the Teachable Moment.

If your child's behaviour reaches a point where you feel that you cannot properly help your child through it, do not hesitate to ask someone for support (including a mental health professional). As children get older and the social emotional moments that they encounter get increasingly more complicated, it can be difficult to figure out what to do to support them. There is no shame in asking for help.

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