Last Day of Favourites

Today is the last day of the “Birthday Favourites” series, which means you have until tonight to comment and get your name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card! Share your favourite things and give me some ideas on new things to try next!

Today should be especially easy to comment on, because we’re covering the odds and ends – I was able to group most things into nice, tidy themes each day for the last two weeks, but today is all the random stuff that didn’t fit in anywhere else! Here are a few things I’m loving:

Balance Bike

Ben’s parents bought Everett a balance bike (Amazon affiliate link) for Christmas, and he is loving it! It’s been really fun and interesting to watch him develop his skills on it, and every single time I watch him coasting along with his little feet up in the air, I say to Ben, “I wish we’d had a balance bike for the girls!!”

Seriously, all those hours Ben spent running alongside the girls on their bikes, all hunched over and awkward, and all their fear about falling – all avoided! Everett is teaching himself how to ride a bike, and I would love it if there were other parenting hurdles that could be avoided this painlessly and easily.;)

Vitamin B 100

This one’s for the ladies! If anyone out there is having trouble with monthly cycles, get yourself a bottle of Vitamin B 100!

I’m going to get really open and honest here, so if you’re uncomfortable with the details, please feel free to skip ahead!! When my cycle returned after Everett was born, it came back as the Cycle of Death. It was horrible beyond anything I’d ever experienced –  I had outrageous cramps, it was very heavy, over a week long, and kept getting longer in between, to the point where I was only getting it every 40 days or more, which is just far too long.

When I asked my naturopath about it, he immediately said, “Vitamin B 100!” He said it’s helped every single woman who’s complained to him about issues with her cycle. I completely trust his advice, but I wasn’t expecting it to help immediately. Well, after only two weeks of taking B 100, my period came exactly on time. Each month, it’s gotten better – shorter, lighter, NO CRAMPS at all (which I can hardly believe is even possible), and very consistent.

I had a little trouble finding B 100 – it’s different than B Complete 100 mg, which someone said was the same thing. My naturopath said it must be B 100, so I finally ordered it online here.

Ebates

Do you guys use this?! I’d heard about Ebates a bunch of times, but didn’t really know what was involved. I’m so glad I finally looked into it, because it could not be easier.

Basically, you sign up for an Ebates account (here), and every time you buy something online, you go to Ebates first, search for the store you want (there are 750 stores), and click through Ebates to start shopping. It takes you to the page you would normally shop at, but when you click through from Ebates, you get a percentage of what you spend added to your Ebates account. It’s not a huge amount, but it adds up over time, and you’re doing next to nothing to get this money. All you have to do is remember to go through Ebates whenever you shop. We do most of our shopping online, mostly from Amazon, American Eagle, Old Navy, Gap, and Indigo, so I love it that we’re getting a bit of money back for purchases we’d be making anyway!

And that’s it! Now you know what I’ve been enjoying this year. Let me know what’s been bringing a little bit of joy to your life recently! I’ll be back on Monday to share the winner of the Amazon gift card.:)

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Morning Routine

A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this series so far! I’ve been sharing my favourite things of the year in honour of my birthday, and anyone who comments on these posts will be entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. I have loved reading everything you’ve had to contribute! If you have any favourite things to share or thoughts on the topics of these last two weeks, please feel free to comment! You have until Friday, July 21!

This was the year I got serious about my morning routine. It’s so hard – I totally get it. Having young kids who wake up early makes it very hard to wake up even earlier. For the longest time, I just couldn’t do it.

But, as I’ve been talking about a lot this week, I’m an introvert, and waking up at the same time as Everett and having no personal time to get my day started on the right track was not working well, and I knew it was time for a change. I decided to start waking up just 15 minutes earlier than when Everett usually woke up. Even that felt super hard, but I knew in my head that 15 minutes wouldn’t make a huge difference in my energy levels, even if my body felt like it was a bad idea!

I stayed there for a long time – 15 minutes wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to drink some water and read my Bible for a little bit before Everett woke up. I don’t know how long I would have kept things there, if God hadn’t given me a big nudge! For some bizarre reason, I suddenly went through a phase last fall where I woke up at 5:30am, every single morning for a week or two! Oh my word, I was so tired! But I could not fall asleep again, so finally, I just gave up and climbed out of bed. I didn’t want to be out of bed that early, but I tried to make the most of it, since it was happening anyway!

It turned out to be amazing. I had all the time I needed for morning devotions, and I got my exercising done before the kids were up. By the time I went back to sleeping normally, I was hooked. I craved that alone time each morning, so I asked Ben to start setting my alarm 20 minutes earlier, with the intention of working my way earlier very gradually. Finally, I told him one day that I was ready to wake up at 6:30, and he cheerfully told me I’d already been waking up at 6:30 for a few weeks, because he’d kept setting it earlier and earlier without telling me! I guess I stumbled out of bed so bleary-eyed, I never looked at a clock!

Fortunately, my body has adjusted, and I usually wake up before the alarm now, happy to get out of bed at 6:30am. There was a time in my life when I would NEVER have thought that would happen, but here we are, and it’s been one of the biggest turning points of my life this last year. I start my day with intention, I get more alone time, my relationship with God has grown because I’m spending more time with Him each day, and I’m exercising very consistently. It’s been a process, but totally worth it!

So here’s how I start my day:

  • Drink two cups of water first thing, and take any supplements I need to on an empty stomach
  • Read my Bible and write in my Five Year Prayer Journal, which is a new thing I started this year
  • Exercise for 45 minutes, or as long as I can until Everett wakes up, while listening to a message (which I shared in my post on podcasts)
  • To keep my mind coming back to where I want it to be throughout the day, I use an app that has an hourly beep. I got this idea from a Bridgetown podcast on hourly prayer, and it’s been so good! Every time I hear that beep, it’s such a great reminder to pray about whatever is on my mind right at that moment. I’ve found it to be very helpful for keeping my thoughts more on track.

That’s all been working well, but my goal for this next year will be to get more sleep! I listened to a great podcast this week called “Why Sleep is More Important Than Diet and Exercise Combined”, and it was a huge kick in the pants!! Yikes, I have some work to do. It’s pretty amazing how much sleep impacts absolutely everything, so I’m setting out to improve my evening routine, and get to bed earlier. I’m excited to see how this will go!

Do you have a consistent morning and evening routine? What works well for you?

 

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For the Love of Introverts

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Today’s favourites are related to the post I shared yesterday on personality types. As I mentioned, I’m an introvert and I love my alone time!! But as a homeschooling mom of three kids, it can be hard to recharge, so today I’m going to share three things which have been really helpful this year. If you’re an extrovert, take notes, because you’re bound to have an introvert in your life who could benefit from these things, too!! (affiliate links included)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book has been showing up everywhere, and for good reason – it is AMAZING!! It’s such a good read for anyone, extrovert or introvert. It’s been crazy for me to read the ways in which our culture is built for extroverts. I’ve actually needed to read this book slowly, because I need to give my mind time to keep up with all the shifts that happen as I read it! I’m constantly recognizing ways in which I give in to pressures around me, or how I’m parenting my own little introvert in ways that aren’t helpful or healthy, but it’s just the way things have always been done.

Susan Cain has done a phenomenal job researching this book, and it is so well written. Her interviews are fascinating, and she questions many things we consider normal, but are really geared for extroverts, and make introverts miserable and uncomfortable. I keep realizing how much I’ve come to accept being uncomfortable! It’s hard for me to be honest and stand up for myself, and say no to things which don’t work well for my personality type. No, I’d rather not shake hands with complete strangers in church. (No offense!) No, I’d rather not answer my phone…like, ever. (I bet an introvert invented texting!) No, I’d rather not work with a group of people on anything I could just do it by myself.

As I shared in yesterday’s post, I truly love people, and I don’t like to be alone all the time. But there are certain interactions (small talk, gossip, strained conversation, etc.) that drain me quickly, while deeper conversations about topics which interest and inspire me are life-giving. It’s interesting to think of ways to recover from energy-sucking interactions, and add in more of the life-giving ones.

This book is great for introverts who want to find out what’s awesome about being an introvert, and for extroverts who need to grow in their appreciation for all that introverts are capable of, and why we need them to keep things balanced.

Headphones

Best purchase of the year. All of my kids looooooove listening to music, but most of the time, I just want it to be quiet and peaceful. I don’t like multi-tasking, so my favourite time to listen to music is when no one else is around, and I don’t have to listen to people talking to me and listen to music.

We’ve struggled with my low noise threshold for years, but finally figured out that headphones would save the day for everybody. It’s been the best thing ever – I have my peace and quiet, and my kids take turns listening to as much music as their little hearts desire. They think it’s far more fun to listen to music with headphones than without, so it’s suddenly become a special treat, and great entertainment.

Podcast Episode: How Personality Types Manage Energy

I used to think being alone was enough to recharge me, but listening to this podcast episode was very eye-opening. There are 16 different personality types (take the test here), and each type recharges in a different way. Each one has it’s greatest area of strength, and when we utilize that strength, we are recharged. For me, that strength is thinking! Specifically, it’s thinking about how my day is going, noticing patterns in my kids’ behaviour, trying to think up solutions to make our home run better and keep everybody in a healthier place. When I have the chance to be alone, I make myself set aside the phone or the book or whatever would distract me, and I just think. At first it felt weird and like I should be doing something more productive, but it’s been amazing for me! I could think for hours. However, there are also times when I need to get out of my head, and so the best way for my type (INFJ) to balance out is to do something that physically connects me to the moment of enjoyment, like yoga, a walk, or a hot shower.

But that’s just my type. There’s a type that recharges by going back to a familiar book or movie, and a type that feels most rested when they’re learning, so listening to a podcast feels very restful. Extroverts feel energized and refreshed by different types of social interactions. There are many different ways to recharge, and it makes a lot of sense to get intentional about it. When we just blindly stumble along and do whatever feels good, we could be wasting valuable down time that’s not leaving us recharged. This episode is definitely worth listening to, for all personality types!!

Alright, let me hear it – what are your favourite ways to recharge? What gives you energy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feed Me

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Other years, I’ve always included new foods in my list of favourites, but I don’t know if I tried a lot of new things this year. My food favourites this time around have more to do with how I get the food on the table, instead of what the food actually is!

Have a Plan

As I shared in January, I took an online course called “Grocery Budget Bootcamp“, which I loved, and it was super useful for getting me to be more intentional about what we were buying, as well as planning our meals. Taking the course made me realize how much stress can flair up in our home when I don’t have a plan for what we’re eating. I was consistent with planning suppers, but breakfast and lunch were more up in the air, and every single morning, around 11am, Anika (who LOVES to know what the plan is) would ask, “What’s for lunch?” And every day at 11:01am, I would get really grumpy. That may seem ridiculous, but she asked the same (legitimate) question every single day, always in the middle of our homeschooling morning, when I didn’t want to be thinking about food, and it stressed me out. Then she’d get stressed out, because there was no plan, and then everybody was grumpy. By the time we were finished with school for the morning and I had the head space to think about lunch, it was late, and everybody was even more grumpy because they were also hungry at that point. It was a disaster every time, until I finally figured out that all our problems were solved by simply coming up with a weekly menu which included breakfast and lunch. Our mornings went smoother, everyone was happier and less stressed, and we are eating better meals with more variety.

Prep Ahead

The other wonderful thing that happened this last year was that I started making smoothie packs to stick in the freezer. I usually have two green smoothies a day, so every morning and every afternoon, I was cutting and peeling vegetables. It was time consuming, and our cutting boards, knives, and peelers were always dirty. I’d seen the idea of smoothie packs on Pinterest, but I didn’t think it would work for my smoothies, because of the type of vegetables I was using – I’d never heard of freezing cucumbers! Well, it turns out you can! And freezing spinach is SUPER easy – we just buy the huge bags at Costco and put them straight in the freezer. Freezing avocados also works really well, so I was set.

A few major benefits have come out of this – my smoothie can be prepared so much faster now that my freezer is full of smoothie packs, the kitchen doesn’t get as messy, and we can buy all those vegetables at the lowest price. The Grocery Budget Bootcamp taught me the importance of grocery sale patterns – fresh produce doesn’t go on sale super often, but every few months, there will be a sale on cucumbers, peppers, or avocados. When one of those things is on sale, we buy enough to last for one or two months’ worth of smoothies. It’s ended up saving us a ton of money to do it this way, and all it took was a little bit of research to find out which vegetables work well to freeze.

I’ve never explored freezer meals, but this makes me think it’s something I need to look into…

Alright, I want to hear all your tips – what are your best tricks for getting fed in the easiest, fastest way possible? Do you like to have a plan? Prep ahead of time? Give me all the food advice!!

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Get Moving

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

This was the year I stopped sitting so much. For anyone who’s been reading my blog for awhile, you are probably aware  that I’ve dealt with a lot of pain in my back and hips over the years, and although I’ve made significant progress recently, it just wasn’t enough. I was still experiencing more pain than I wanted to, and just when I felt as though I was gaining ground, little things would set it off again – sitting too long in the car when we’d drive to the lake for the weekend, or a really bad chair at a restaurant.

When I would express my frustration to my muscle therapist, he would say things like “Bring your own chair!” or “Don’t sit down!” He always had an answer for everything, but it didn’t always feel very practical or doable – how was I going to bring my own chair everywhere?! We finally came up with a solution that’s worked well – I never sit longer than 20 minutes, and when I do sit, I use an Obus Forme cushion. (I have a seat cushion and a back rest – affiliate links) These things are amazing – the first time I sat on one, it felt like my whole body breathed this huge sigh of relief. I was finally comfortable! I can take it with me wherever I need to go. People give me strange looks and wonder what I’m carrying around, but I’m learning to get over that. No back pain is worth suffering on a bad chair, so people can stare all they want. I use it for driving, and around the house as well. My kids are always choosing to sit on it when I’m not, so I’m not the only one who finds it comfy! It’s a great solution for anyone who regularly needs to sit somewhere uncomfortable, or anyone who is wanted to sit with better posture.

Whenever I do sit down, I’ve gotten in the habit of looking at a clock to time myself, and I change position every 20 minutes. I found it interesting to learn that the standing desk craze is not actually the answer to problems with sitting – my muscle therapist explained to me that no position is great indefinitely. We need to change between standing and sitting, and it’s even better if we can stretch and move around. Standing desks are only a good idea if you have a high stool so you can regularly change your position.

The long car rides to the lake in the summer are still tough for me, but if I stretch before we leave, halfway there, and once we arrive, I can keep it under control. So if you’re ever driving to the Whiteshell, and you see someone doing yoga in the ditch, it will be me. Ben takes the kids exploring in the bush, and I work out my stiff muscles on my yoga mat.

exploring/yoga break on the side of the road

Here’s the thing – I’m not the only one who needs to be taking extreme measures. Have you heard the expression “Sitting is the new smoking”? My muscle therapist says everyone needs to get up and move every 20 minutes. Now that my body has gotten used to this habit, it feels horrible to me when I sit for long periods of time. I can’t believe how quickly my muscles tighten up. We weren’t made to sit around for hours at a time, and yet that’s what our culture does. Our world has been built for sitting – restaurants, movie theatres, church, work, school, everything. People just sit, all day long.

Trying to work against this has proven to be really hard for me this last year! It has to always be on my mind, and I need to get creative about it. In the beginning, I used an app on my phone as a reminder. I’ll always choose a seat in the back row so I can switch back and forth between sitting and standing. Ben and I even went to see a movie recently, using the same strategy! Constantly changing position in a movie theatre was a bit of an inconvenience, though – I prefer Netflix at home so I can freely move about as needed! Restaurants are also tough, because there’s not really room for standing, but when there’s a bar stool option (The Keg’s outdoor patio, for example!), the table is the perfect height for sitting or standing! The waitress thought I was weird, and asked if I was alright, but once again, my personal comfort has to come before being “socially acceptable”. And really, what’s it going to take for this to be the socially acceptable way? I like to imagine what life would be like if everyone was making the same effort to stand and move. Maybe someday, public places will- be more standing-friendly, who knows?! Ben is curious if we’ll have standing cars in the future.:)

In the meantime, Ben’s creative problem-solving skills have been very useful in helping me figure out how to take uncomfortable sitting scenarios, and come up with ways to get me moving.

And of course, going for daily walks, yoga before bed in the evenings, and stretching throughout the day are all important habits which greatly increase my comfort, and get me moving.

What are your favourite ways to get active? Does it come naturally to you, or do you need to work at it?

Podcast Favourites

 

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

This was the year of the podcast for me. I’ve been enjoying them for awhile, but this year I started listening to them a lot more – while I’m making supper, cleaning bathrooms, or driving to appointments in the city. There are a few I listen to just for fun and interest sake during the day, and a bunch of church podcasts that I listen to after I do my devotions in the morning, while I’m exercising. It’s such a fantastic way to get my thoughts going in the direction I want them to for the rest of the day.

I use the app Podcast Addict, and at the beginning of the week, I look through all the new episodes from my favourite sources, and download any that sound interesting, so my listening material is ready to go anytime I’m driving somewhere by myself.

Here’s my list of favourites…

For Spiritual Growth:

Bridgetown Church – I have two churches! The one we go to each week, and then Bridgetown! I love, love, love the teaching on this podcast. The sermons are so good! This podcast has helped shape my thoughts on spending time with God and spiritual growth in significant ways this past year. I just finished the series on Prayer, which was fantastic, and before that, I really enjoyed the series “Dealing With Your Past”, “Silence and Solitude”, and “Practicing the Way”.

 

Life Church – I haven’t been listening to this one as much since discovering Bridgetown, but I still really like Craig Groesel’s teaching. “Words to Live By” was fantastic, as well as the “Making Change” series, starting with “Part 1 – Less is More“.

 

 

The Meeting House – Ben and I have been listening to Bruxy Cavey’s teaching for many years now, and I still love it as much as ever. It’s not as easy for me to listen to as Bridgetown or Life Church – I guess there are many different teaching styles, and this is just a bit of a heavier one, but still really good. I recently enjoyed the series called “Simple Minded”, starting with “Part 1 – the Brain That Wouldn’t Die“.

For Fun or Personal Growth:

Chris Loves Julia – This is my favourite podcast, by the couple who writes my favourite decorating blog! I love Julia’s decorating style, so I’ve been reading their blog for a couple of years, but I just started listening to their podcast this last winter, and it’s very funny and entertaining, plus I just love decorating stuff. It’s a fun one! I tried really hard to find a favourite episode, but couldn’t – they’re all interesting to me! I laugh every time. You could try the most recent one: Our Home’s Dirty Little Secrets and Living in the Path of Totality

 

Young House Love – This one’s also an entertaining decorating podcast, with interesting interviews, and I really like hearing about their favourite household finds and stuff they’re enjoying. I’ve listened to every episode, but of course some of my favourites involved decluttering, like Why We Got Rid of Half the Toys in Our House or When Someone You Love Gives You Something You Don’t

 

 

The Minimalists – My friend Natalie got me hooked on this one, when we were doing our decluttering challenge back in February, and it’s very motivating to listen to when I’m cleaning out closets and cupboards, because it just makes me want to get rid of stuff! I’m in the middle of listening to “Overwhelm“, and next up will be the “Shopping” episode!

 

 

Getting Things Done I already linked to this one when I shared about bullet journaling and being efficient about getting things done. The two episodes which got me hooked were Part 1 and Part 2 of David Allen’s Keynote in Milan.

 

 

 

Personality Hacker – This one covers a ton of information about personality type tools like Myers Briggs or the Enneagram. It’s been a huge source of personal growth in my life – I’ll be writing more about that another day, but for now I’ll just say that if you’ve ever wanted to know anything about Myers Briggs, this is a very educational podcost. My recent favourite is: “How to Get Out of a Bad Mood

 

The Road Back to You – This podcast focuses on the Enneagram tool, which I love. I don’t understand it as well as Myers Briggs yet, but I’ve found this podcast (and their book by the same name) incredibly beautiful and healing. It’s made me cry numerous times, because I feel so understood! Deep pain from the past is drawn to the surface and healed when I’m listening to this one! I love it. As far as which episodes to listen to, I would recommend finding out what enneagram type you are, and then listening to any episode that have to do with your type.

 

So much good stuff to listen to! I just love podcasts. I told Ben it’s my new secret dream to do a podcast with him, but he just looked at me blankly and wanted to know what we would talk about. I said I didn’t know, and he said that wouldn’t make a very good podcast, so I guess that’s the death of my dream!!

Do you listen to any podcasts? Share your favourites – I’m always interested in trying something new! Or tell me what kind of podcast Ben and I can do so my dream can live again!?!

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Get Comfy

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

I don’t know if it’s part of aging, or just learning to pay more attention, but I find that I’m increasingly drawn to comfort over style. If I can have both, that’s fantastic, but if only one is an option, it’s getting more and more tempting to go for comfort!!

In my twenties, I would always choose cute shoes over comfort. I would buy the shirts that made me feel stylish, even though I didn’t really like how it felt to wear them. But now, I just don’t care enough anymore. I still want to look nice, but I have to be comfortable – it’s a non-negotiable! I no longer own any heels, there’s only comfortable fabrics in my closet, and I’m much more careful how I shop. It’s worth the extra effort to feel good.

Here are my three favourite comfy purchases of the year:

Toms

I’ve finally found great shoes that work with insoles! I’ve had a really hard time finding good shoes over the years, so these make me happy every single time I put them on. I find the original style of Toms too flat and don’t have enough support for my foot, but I’m loving these:

Wireless Bras

Not sure if any men actually read my blog (besides my dad!), so I apologize to anyone feeling awkward out there, but it needs to be said – underwire bras are a terrible idea. If I think about sticking wire anywhere else in my clothing, it seems like a really dumb thing to do, and yet women do it all the time. Who started this?!

I used to have a really hard time finding anything wireless and comfortable – I remember going into a store, asking where the wireless bras were, and being told they didn’t have any. Fortunately, there are a ton of great options now. Not only are wireless bras A LOT more comfortable, they also allow more lymph flow, and there is some research which suggests that greater lymph flow to remove toxins lowers the risk of breast cancer.

I found two different styles of wireless bras from La Senza which I really love (here and here) – they are outrageously comfortable, stay in place perfectly, and are great for wearing while exercising, which I do throughout the day, so I need an everyday bra that works for whatever activity I’m doing. (There’s even a 20% sale happening online right now!)

Yoga Pants

Okay, I didn’t discover yoga pants just this year, but this was the year I finally ordered multiples of my favourite pair. I was always waiting for the good ones to be clean on laundry day, and wearing uncomfortable stuff in the meantime, until it finally hit me – buy enough pairs of yoga pants so that there’s always a clean pair of my favourites. Nothing fancy, just cheap Old Navy active wear, but these fit me perfectly and I wear them all the time.

We also ordered multiples of Ben’s favourite pair of socks, and my friend does it with her favourite brand of notebook. Figure out what you love, and then get a lot of it! That might sound strange coming from someone who loves decluttering, but I believe in keeping only what you love and use. If you love and use something all the time, get multiples! For me, it’s yoga pants.:)

And while we’re on the topic of yoga pants, have you seen this video? Everybody loves it at our house, especially when Everett sings along and does the little “Oooh” part!:)

What are your favourite comfy clothing items? Any multiplies around your house because you just love them so much?

 

 

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