the action of thanksgiving

I read a book last year called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp that is centered around Christianity, but is applicable to everyone, religious or not. In the beginning of the book, the author reflects on her own childhood and subsequently how her life experience has taught her that there are sometimes horrible things that happen in life that are out of our control that become defining parts of our lives. Yes, the book is a bit intense, but it speaks on reality and has taught me the very valuable practice of true Thanksgiving.

The author then proceeds to share how through biblical study she realizes that the blessing always follows the act of thanksgiving. She decides to challenge herself to write a list of 1000 things that she notices that she is thankful for. Many of these things are very small like the iridescent glow of a bubble the sunlight lands on while she’s doing the dishes, and others are larger like her relationships with people.

After reading the book, I began to really take note of my daily environments and actively try to search for things that I am thankful for – like my daughter’s giggle when she blows a wooden train whistle, the feeling of holding both of my girls in my arms and watching Inside Out, the way my husband takes a moment to always kiss all three of us before leaving to work, a beautiful view I saw on my run, etc. I now keep a list of these things in my phone and when I am feeling down or have an off day, I take a look and realize how much I have.

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Annual Ornaments

I love Christmastime! And while some might argue that the most wonderful time of the year hasn’t quite arrived yet, our tree is up and ready! One of the reasons I was so looking forward to setting up our tree was because I was eager to add our annual ornaments and select new ones for this year. This annual tradition started the first Christmas Mr. Cowboy and I were married. We bought an ornament of a bride and groom and added it to our tree along with all the other sparkly and shiny “normal” ornaments. The year after that, we bought an ornament of a little house, signifying the first home we bought. Every year after that, we added a new ornament that symbolized something special from that year. I wrote the year on each ornament and our favorite part of decorating for Christmas quickly became pulling out these special ornaments and remembering each special year.


Our ornaments tell the story of our family…from the year of our wedding, to the addition of our sweet dog, to our first trip to New York City as a family of 3, we love the that you can see the highlights from our years together on our tree. The year Lil’ CB came home, our ornament was a family photo of the three of us. And this year, rightfully so, our ornament is a photo of our new family of four.

Once Lil’ CB was home, we began buying ornaments for him, too — choosing something that was especially memorable from that year for him or a milestone that he achieved. Initially, Mr. Cowboy and I chose his ornaments, but once he turned 4, he began very proudly choosing his own, and he’s got a nice little collection built up so far:

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My Nursing Must-Haves

Breastfeeding was probably the thing I knew least about when it came to parenting, and was the thing that gave me the most anxiety. When casually browsing online before Little Oats was born, I saw horror story after horror story about mangled nipples, terrible latches, tongue ties, low supply, and more. Then, there was the added pressure of sustaining a child on breastmilk – what if I couldn’t do it? Was I going to be a huge failure? Breastfeeding was something that I was extremely unfamiliar with; my sister and myself were formula fed for a number of reasons, and I hadn’t been around newborn babies or nursing mothers. Before Little Oats was born, I had nearly convinced myself to not even try, and just opt to formula feed from the beginning.

But then she arrived, and things went better than I could have expected. By about 4 weeks in, I couldn’t remember why breastfeeding had stressed me out; I had an extremely easy time with it, and I was incredibly grateful. When I got pregnant with Baby Oats, I didn’t give breastfeeding a second thought. I knew how to start, what to buy in preparation, and who to call if I needed help.

I know now that breastfeeding is incredibly difficult for some women, and that my journey was not necessarily typical. I’m grateful that things went so smoothly, both times. And now, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite things for breastfeeding; everything I’ve loved and needed over the last two years.

nursing must haves

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Putting our thankfulness on display

One of the things I really wanted to focus on this Thanksgiving season was acknowledging what we are grateful for and all of the wonderful things we have. Mr. Garland and I talked about just jotting down a quick list of what we’re thankful for, but I wanted to do something a little prettier. I had the idea to make a garland of everything we’re grateful for this year, and I love it so much that it’s definitely going to turn into a tradition!

DIY thankful leaf garland
First, I printed out these cute little leaf templates and handed them over to Jackson to color. I gave him a few fall-colored crayons and let him go to town. I had to fill in the areas that he missed (or where he just got bored), and then I spent an hour or so cutting them out. I tossed them in a bowl on the counter along with a sharpie, and Mr. Garland and I have spent the month grabbing a leaf and filling it out each morning.

DIY thankful leaf garland

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Zero Waste To-Go Kit: Mama Style

Let’s take a break from all the heavy emotional stuff and talk about something much more fun, green living! Zero Waste isn’t necessarily a new movement, but it’s been gaining popularity thanks to Bea Johnson and her advocation of her zero waste lifestyle. The basic principle is to generate zero waste flowing to the landfill; however far you choose to take that is up to your own personal interpretation. Some, like Bea, are able to produce only enough trash to fill one quart size mason jar a year. Yes, a year! I’m still floating somewhere in the middle, transitioning to the point where I don’t generate much garbage. I compost and recycle, and only fill up roughly one 20 gallon trash can each month. I’ve decided to push myself even further and cancel my trash service completely, striving to get down to a jar or so a month and using my parent’s can until I can eliminate my stream completely.

Today, my focus is on the to-go kit. One of the main principles of zero waste is to eliminate your consumption of single-use disposable plastics. It’s a misconception that we disdain all plastics; there are definitely some that are necessary for modern life and safety, such as hospital equipment and automobiles. It’s the disposable mindset and lifestyle of consumerism that is causing hefty damage to our planet. The Big Four are: water bottles, coffee cups, straws (and cutlery and drink lids), and shopping bags. So, what can we do to prevent ourselves from consuming these items? I put together a simple reusable “to-go kit” that makes sure I’m prepared (almost) every time we’re away from home to stem the tide of these seemingly endlessly supplied products.

My to-go kit includes:

Zero waste

1) Straws for fountain drinks (and also froyo!) | 2) Stainless steel tumblers | 3) Bamboo spoon/forks | 4) LunchBots Uno Stainless Steel Food Container for leftovers and the salad bar | 5) Eco LunchBox Oval container with dip canister

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Easy Fall Leaf Garland

Our mantle was looking a little “forever summer,” so I thought the girls and I could add a little fall feeling to it with a very easy fall leaf garland. I came across a few packages of leaves at the dollar store and instantly thought of stringing them up on our mantle. You’ll only need a few items and about 30 minutes to create one yourself and kids can definitely assist!



What you’ll need:

  • Fall Leaves all colors (I used two packs of 50 and had some left over. They can be purchased at the dollar store or craft store)
  • Needle
  • Clear plastic thread or fishing line
  • Scissors

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Party Games to Play This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and for my family that has always meant GAMES! Growing up, my family played a game we simply called “Marbles,” but it was basically a variation of Wahoo (which is basically a grownup version of Sorry). We played this almost exclusively at every family gathering…we played for hours upon hours and we loved it. Sometimes we would break out another game, but it was rare. Our family gatherings look a bit different nowadays and we’ve branched out a bit. Mr. Garland and I are huge board gamers so we have been slowly introducing my family to some new games. One category of game that we’ve recently been trying to build up a bit in our collection is party games. It’s hard to find good games that can be played with more than 4 or 5 people, but we have found some awesome ones that we go to again and again!

So, here are a few of our favorite games to play with a crowd!


1) Zombie Dice
Recommended for: Ages 10+, Play time: 15-30 minutes, Players: Unlimited
This one is another repeat from the family games post but it bears repeating because it’s a total crowd-pleaser. It’s similar to Farkle (another great party game!) but the theme is zombies. Who doesn’t love zombies?! Also, it can be played with any number of people which is awesome if you have a larger group!

2) Ultimate Werewolf
Recommended for: Ages 13+, Play time: Varies, at least 30 minutes, Players: Unlimited
I remember playing a variation of this game, Mafia, at slumber parties when I was a teenager, so I was thrilled (to say the least) when a friend first brought this out at a party. It requires a creative group who is willing to be a bit silly and one person who knows the game well enough to moderate (and it helps if that person has a creative, story-telling streak…it adds to the game a lot!). It’s perfect for a large crowd – you need at least 6 people to play. The game is played in two teams – the villagers and the werewolves, but you don’t know who exactly is on your team. The villagers are working to seek out the werewolves, while the werewolves are trying to slowly eliminate the villagers. It has a learning curve but if you have at least one person there who is familiar (or at least reads the rules beforehand), it’s a blast.

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