A little local love

I need to do some gushing.

I know, I know, what else is new?

But no, seriously. Have you heard about Heather Baker of Photography by Heather? If you haven’t, you need to check out her space.

If you have, then you’ve been let in on one of the best small business owners Galt, Ontario has to offer.

Heather is an incredible family, child and event photographer, working in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and greater Toronto area. As a small business owner, she gives back to her community, promotes what she loves – especially other small business owners in the communities she works in – and really is just an all around kick-ass human being.

Between her heart, her gift for the perfect shot and her ability to put her subjects at ease, she’s an ace!

I have had the pleasure of working with Heather on multiple occasions, in many settings and she never ceases to impress me with her growth in her art.

She’s shot me (with a camera and lens of course) and my sisters, and caught one of our favourite moments to date in frame:

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I’ve worked with her in a more intimate setting as a gift for my future husband:

The 'Mike approved' blog shot - photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

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She’s captured Julia’s growing family at almost every stage since she opened her business:

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She was entrusted with Jacqui and Cody’s big day and once again caught some of the most memorable moments:

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I’ve known for a while that Heather would be trusted with many memories and milestones to come for my family.

Just a few weeks ago, she stole our hearts with her generosity with our engagement shoot. While we only have a sneak peak so far, I already know we will love every picture in our gallery.

When she offered to pull a mini-road trip to a special spot to get the kind of shoot we wanted, I was thrilled. While there were some cues, and a few tuckings of this hair and untucking of this shirt, it felt as though Michael and I were on a date, surrounded by love the whole time, instead of posing for a picture. I feel she invested in our relationship, in our memories and in her work.

From planning our session, right down to the very last shot, she took her time to make sure what she knew of Michael and I and how Michael and I feel about each other, would resonate through our photos and be very personal to us.

I am so very happy you were the one to mark a special milestone for Michael and I, Heather. I love our sneak peak:

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I could tell you more, but I really think you should just have a consult or book with her and find out for yourself. To contact Heather, please email her here. I also highly recommend following her here and making sure to like her here.

~ Toni

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The final lap

I realized yesterday that in a few short weeks, I will be entering into the very last year of my 20s.

I was sitting on Julia’s couch, gabbing about the accomplishment of partially teaching Isaac to say my name, my goal before my birthday, when it dawned on me that my deadline was now in terms of weeks, and much sooner than I thought. Julia was quick to point out that it was the last of the 20s, with a big grin.

The end of an era.

A milestone I have long looked forward to, truthfully.

People say that your thirties are totally different. But good different.

I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I kinda do feel a bit like a fine wine, slowly getting better over time.

I feel like this back half of my 20s have felt very…vivid, is the only word I can come up with in attempt to describe it.

The highs and the lows have all felt very vivid.

The balance of life, if you will, but with the good majorly out weighing the bad, thank God.

Michael proposed and we faced some of the tougher challenges of life together in these years – I’m so grateful for our friendship, love and passion for one another because it meant we faced them together and grew even stronger as a team. Go us! Some of those challenges would have been so much harder to face alone, almost unbearable for me.

I’ve been able to take some very negative more recent experiences in my career life, and cling desperately to the feeling I have in my soul that it’s all for a very specific reason. When you’re not listening to the tiny whisper in your soul, life has this funny way of redirecting until we ‘get it’.

I got it.

Well, I haven’t yet. But I know I’m well on my way, and leaps and bounds closer than I was a month ago.

I’m getting it.

I said to a long lost friend the other day that I am not who I was a few years ago because something amazing has a chance of happening when you hit rock bottom and are severely wounded in the process by some of the people that you cared for the most.

I was lucky enough to look around when I hit that proverbial bottom and in doing so realized that I came out clean with the people who truly matter sticking by me through it all.

Now that is a blessing of a bounce if you ask me. To know who is on your team no matter what kind of shitty day you’ll have to face is pretty fabulous.

The part about getting older that I love the most though, is the odd realization of how precious time is.

This will help you make time for the people that are important, that you care about, and give you the reasoning for saying “no” to the ones who just aren’t. The double edge sword of this is coming to the slow realization of who made exactly that decision about us, and determined we just weren’t worth the spending of precious time.

But it’s part of life, of growth, of growing up.

Letting people go is something most people, myself included, have had to face by this stage of life – whether by choice, or even harder, death. It’s the ache of what’s left behind, what almost happened, the words you wish you’d said sooner, the forgiveness you wish you’d given faster, the moments you wished you would have paid more attention to. Some, you never quite get over.

As I stride towards 30, I’m fighting for that balance between a heart that loves as wildly as my beautiful nieces and nephews, as cautiously as my jaded nature needs me to and a soul that always stays a little bit tender with some hope, no matter what.

I’m hoping that my ever increasing love of yoga will help to keep me more mindful, present and most importantly help me to remember to keep breathing – something I’ve been known to have trouble with. I feel like part of my rebuilding process from this latest bump in the road has to largely be attributed to my involvement with my practice.

My favourite breakthrough I’ve had with yoga so far is that my intense desire to be still should be fed.

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Psalm 46:10

Being still allows you to see and hear things that God wants you to know, but are too busy rushing around with daily responsibilities to hear.

It connects you back to your heart, forces you to take a listen. Can often help you to see.

Recently it helped me confront a situation that has been giving me all sorts of heartache without the fear of not being in control of the outcome – my usually crippling downfall.

How completely liberating.

To be totally honest, brazen if you will, with someone and then let go enough to accept whatever may come, doesn’t come naturally to me by any means. But over the past 5 years, I have realized this practice is so important for survival.

Couple that with the understanding that everyone in your life has only a certain amount of love to give you – for some people that means heaps and heaps of love, and for some that means it may leave you struggling to understand why they treat you the way they do. The kicker here is figuring out that you have the opportunity to either accept that love, or walk away from it. You get to truly choose if the way someone shows you love, and how much they are capable of giving, is acceptable to you. I find peace in the knowing it doesn’t reflect on your heart by any means and that often times it has nothing to do with you at all.

Hardest. Lesson. Ever.

I’m feeling better and better about this old soul of mine as I prepare to take this next lap around the sun, the final of my 20s. I feel like I am so much closer to where I want to be spiritually, physically and mentally, as a person – the truly important milestones.

I really can’t wait to learn what’s next.

~ Toni

The one year feat!

In the world of epilepsy they calendar milestones in years, although to an epileptic a day could feel like a year. For instance, you lose your license when you have uncontrolled seizures of any kind, something about automobiles and seizures not mixing? I am not sure, but the MTO in Ontario states that if a person has been seizure-free for a year then they may reapply for their license.

 To this epileptic this year was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am proud to announce I am one year seizure FREEEEE. 

I thought, what better time to look back on where I was a year ago?  Most people were starting school again and I was facing starting a new medication and talking about whether surgery was in order to further find out WHY I was not responding to any medication. There was a theory that was not very popular with my neurologist – I could be possibly be taking too much medication. It was a scary thought, to be over medicated. How could that even be? Modern medicine teaches doctors to treat symptoms, but what if it is a vicious cycle of treating a symptom that is being caused from a medication with more medication?

So I made a decision. I was going to get healthy on my own, sorry Doc!

I was going cold turkey, people. I was…what the fuck was I doing? I was being bold? I was being brave? I did it for me! For future babies!  For Cody!  For my family. I did it so when I called in sick to work, it would be simple – I was just sick, get better! Rather than “Are you home alone? Do you need me to come over? When will Cody be there? Does your mom know?” Hey, I am not complaining – I put this in place. I told my workplace what I needed medically and they were all in. I guess I am just that darn special! I did it for so many reasons and I kicked this year’s ass.

How? Well, I said no. I said no to a lot of things. I said no to when I knew it was too much to handle, I said no to trivial small things. I stopped sweating the small stuff, and it really is all small stuff. I said yes to me. I said yes to going to bed early if I was tired, I said yes to the cues my body was giving me. I said yes to spending more time with people who supported me instead of tearing me down. Who were looking out for my well-being as well as their own. I have an AMAZING support system all around me.

I started to watch what chemicals I was putting into my body in terms of processed foods. I said yes to more whole foods and tried to get rid of as much processed crap.

Let me tell you this journey was not easy. I am a people pleasing person, I like to do what you want me to do, I like being asked to do things and being leaned on. But when my own health became backseat, I had to kick everyone out of the bus.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS without the support of your neurologist. If you are reading this and think that this may be your case, then talk to your doctor first – do not throw out your medication because NO two epileptics are the same.

I commemorated my one year feat with a permanent reminder that I came out of the darkness – but I am not out of the woods yet. I am still very much an epileptic, and I can’t live life thinking I am invincible. Every decision I make, everywhere I go, everything I do, I am epileptic. I have epilepsy. BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE ME!

~ Jacqui

If you would like more information in regards to my journey, leave us a comment and I will be happy to email you.

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Brownie-licious

Here’s the thing about a house FULL of girls…chocolate is a must.

Elixir of life...with butter, which is also the elixir of life...so elixir of life SQUARED.

Elixir of life…with butter…which is also the elixir of life…so elixir of life SQUARED.

It’s there for you when you break up.

It's getting hot in here...so take off all your clothes...wait, wrong post.

It’s getting hot in here…so take off all your clothes…wait, wrong post.

It’s there for you when you birthday up.

Smoooooth

Smoooooth

It’s there for you to eat with coffee (or tea…or milk).

Way more than a spoonful, Ms. Poppins...WAY more.

Way more than a spoonful, Ms. Poppins…WAY more.

It’s there for you to spruce up your banana bread.

Chocolate, sugar, butter...what could go wrong?

Chocolate, sugar, butter…what could go wrong?

It can turn the greyest day to pure sunshine.

 

Chicken or egg? Who cares?! BROWNIES!

Chicken or egg? Who cares?! BROWNIES!

And apparently, if you eat the right kind, it’s GOOD for you (HOW AWESOME).

Vanilla and salt...ying and yang...yum and yummier

Vanilla and salt…ying and yang…yum and yummier

Chocolate is never that far out of reach in the Sisterhood and for good reason – it’s delicious and it’s delicious. Not to mention, delicious.

And the glue...flour...to keep everything together.

And the glue…flour…to keep everything together.

Before I got married and had babies, I found this delectable, decadent, fantastic brownie recipe that made the most delicious brownies of all time.

Are you ready, baby?

Are you ready, baby?

They became “The Brownies”, requested almost as much as my famous chocolate chip cookies (another recipe for another day), and reserved for the most special of occasions.

Oh....

Oh….

They are moist, not cakey, fully chocolatey, and absolutely unhealthy (no, seriously). They are also kind of expensive to make (8 eggs! 10 ounces of chocolate! 4 cups of sugar!)

...YEAH.

…YEAH.

They are best saved for that milestone celebration, for that fancy party, or for that much-needed, long-neglected, took-forever-to-schedule-and-now-we’re-here-6-months-later girls night.

Have a good sleep, dear brownie pan. We'll EAT you soon!

Have a good sleep, dear brownie pan. We’ll EAT you soon!

It is not a recipe to be taken lightly…but it is heavenly and worth every chop, stir, and patient waiting while they set in the oven.

Oookay...we're going to need a minute here. *DROOL*

Oookay…we’re going to need a minute here. *DROOL*

These are The Brownies. And they are the ones you’ve been waiting for. Now, excuse me while I have one with my morning coffee (just don’t tell Toni…).

Suggested serving. Trust me.

Suggested serving. Trust me.

~ Julia

The Brownies

  • Servings: 1-9x13 pan of fudgy goodness (however many squares you'd like!)
  • Difficulty: worth the effort
  • Print

Ingredients

10 oz unsweetened Baker’s chocolate
1 1/2 cups butter
8 eggs
4 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Directions

Grease 9×13 baking pan. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coarsely chop chocolate. Cut butter into cubes. Place both butter and chocolate in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is almost melted and there are still a few lumps. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until evenly blended. Set aside. Stir sugar into warm chocolate mixture until combined. Add eggs, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Gradually add flour and stir until just mixed. Pour the liquid heaven mixture (i.e. brownie batter) into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not with raw batter. Cool before cutting. Cut into as many squares as you’d like, or grab a fork and a friend. YUM.

Adapted from Chatelaine Speedy Fudge Brownie recipe

Great things may come!

Well, a lot has happened in seven days. Sadly, I have no prospects yet on the job front, but I am still looking.

However a lot of good things have come our way. Joe is doing amazing at work and his bosses are really impressed!
He comes home, and instead of just being tired he is so excited to tell me about his day, how it went, and all the things he got to learn. He really loves being in the mechanics field and I am so happy he has such an amazing boss, great work and that he gets to go there and love his job.

Now for the continuation of good news – Joe and I almost missed out on what this week is.

Today we will have been together for two and a half years, and I know that doesn’t sound big, but to me that is an awesome milestone! I love Joe more and more with each passing day and I am so glad that I have found my rock and partner for the rest of my life! This is a small milestone, especially when you look at how long Julia, Toni, and Jacqui have been with their guys, but to me this is big! I never thought I would find someone like Joe to love forever.

Now, the second thing! Joe’s 25th birthday is tomorrow! I am super excited, even if he is not. I have a small celebration in mind for Friday night, but it’s going to be a general weekend of whatever we feel like, which I know Joe will love.

Joe and I don’t really get to spend a lot of time together, which sucks, but the time we do spend together is wonderful. Jacqui once described herself as a Hunter’s Widow, and I have been described by Joe’s Aunt Linda as a Mechanic’s Widow.

“At least you know he’s not with another girl! Just another car!” is one of the frequent statements by Aunt Linda, and there is so much truth in those words. I can go by the shop on my way to handing out resumes and Joe hardly looks up because he’s right elbow deep in the work beside his boss; however I am not complaining – Joe loves his job, his boss, and his boss’s family, who have indeed become like family to us.

And although the time we spend together is sometimes short, it is never in short supply of love and laughter. I am so excited for our many milestone and his birthday, and the future we have together unfurling before us.

Me and Joe being Silly!

Me and Joe being silly!

Joe, here is to many more years, birthdays, and wonderful moments together!

I love you!

~ Andreah

To all the firsts

Well, it’s been a long weekend and a lot has happened.

It was our Sophie’s Birthday as you all know, so as I do for all family stuff I made my way back to my sisters.

It took a lot to get there, and anything that could go wrong did; however, I made it. I got to come back and see most of my sisters.

My first sister-selfie!

My first sister-selfie!

(Jacqui, I missed you more than words can describe).

I also got to witness some firsts in our family. Sophie got her first two-wheeler bike (with training wheels) and Lillian got her first tricycle (!) and both were bittersweet.

The bikes!

The bikes!

Well, it is a double-edged sword, moving away. On one hand I get a clean slate in a new town, but I’m far away from my family.

I get to go on a new adventure, but have to sacrifice those precious moments with my family, especially those firsts.

I get to start something new and start a new life with Joe, and have cultivated a new sort of family, but I am missing out on some of the new experiences that come with being an aunt.

The real thing I want to tell you all is that I don’t regret moving away, and yeah it does suck the big one that I am missing moments, but Julia said something to me a couple years ago that stuck with me. She said, “I love that you are one of my girls’ people, but I worry that you aren’t living your own life.”

And it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t. I didn’t date, barely went out with friends, and I was in a slump. I have definitely changed a lot from that moment to now. It did not, whatsoever, have anything to do with hanging out with Julia. Nothing, and I love and cherish every single moment and memory from that time with them. I regret nothing. I was just hiding.

So I stopped. I started dating, eventually found Joe, found some amazing friends that have stuck by me constantly no matter what, and I am working on happiness every day.

I do miss out on some firsts, but then I am experiencing a lot of my own firsts, and there is yet again a bittersweet edge to all of this – I get to have firsts of my own, but I miss out on others.

I am relearning how to keep the balance of family, friends, and love. I am learning new patience with myself while I experience all of this and while it feels like I am on the edge of brand new experiences, I know I still have that anchor of my love for everyone that’s in my life, past and present.

I love you all! Thank you for being my compass, my anchor, an my driving force. And thank you for letting me be able to experience the firsts with all your love and support.

I can’t wait till I am back for the next new experience, but I also can’t wait to tell you guys all about my own next adventure.

~Andreah