How Do You Handle Tough Times?

Life doesn’t always go the way we think it should. Sometimes it even feels like the twilight zone.

Handling the hiccups and the poop that tries to bury you can be downright overwhelming at times.

I am so grateful for my faith in God because I know He is faithful and will see me through any circumstance – no matter how intense it is.

Today I posted a little heart to heart – hopefully it helps even one person who watches.

6 Month Blogiversary

This week marks 6 months that I’ve been blogging. I had no idea what I was doing when I started (maybe I still don’t), but I feel like this has been good for me for a few reasons.

First, all of my life I have done things because either someone told me to, I was obligated to or it was just plain right. None of those are bad things, but I think it’s important to have a hobby or something that you do just because you simply enjoy it. That realization came to me when we had a mediator come into work and he asked me what I did on my spare time for fun. I sat there, unable to state any clear thing that I did simply for enjoyment.

After that wake-up call, I started to think about things that I enjoyed when I was younger – beauty, traveling, writing and laughing. That’s when I decided I would start a blog.

Second, I’m going to throw out the word endurance. I have this vivid childhood memory of my swim instructor telling me that I had great skills, but had to work on my endurance. I never knew that would stick with me until I realized that quitting things used to come easy to me. Now, any time I want to quit doing something, I run that phrase through my head and I evaluate if it’s my emotions talking or true logic. That swim instructor told me that after I failed the class by refusing to swim across the length of the pool. I literally swam to the middle of the pool and decided I couldn’t do it, so I stayed there for like 5 minutes treading water, pleading with him to not make me swim to the other side. Logic fail.

Third, I have become the most comfortable in my own skin since starting this. That kind of sounds strange, but confidence is something that so many people struggle with. When you put yourself out there, you run the risk of judgement from the peanut gallery. If you don’t want to be discouraged by negative comments, knowing why you are doing what you are doing is well worth it. It doesn’t totally take away the disappointment, but it does help you to push through and continue on. One of the things I say all the time, in anything you do – know your why.

Fourth, I feel like I’ve been able to connect to people who I would never have met if I wasn’t doing this. The internet is an amazing tool for connecting with people who you may never meet in everyday life. I’m grateful for these new connections and friends that I’ve made since starting my blog.

There are so many more reasons that I’m grateful for my blog and the blogging community, but these four are more than enough for me to keep going.

Thank you to all of you who enrich my life ❤

Rowena Francis YouTube Launch Video

Guys.

I am so excited to launch my YouTube channel!

I’ve actually been sitting on it for a few months now because I wasn’t even sure I knew what I was doing – or getting in to.

Let me tell you! It’s so much fun.

I started this blog because I needed something that I did just because I simply enjoyed it. No obligations. No frustrations. Just something I love.

Now imagine talking to a camera. It’s almost like therapy. Except no bill. You can say everything you’ve ever thought…then edit it out.

Genius. Pure genius.

With that, here’s my launch video:

Comment below with videos you’d like to see me do.

Summer Essentials | 2018

The weather here in Canada went straight from freezing to boiling, pretty much in the snap of a finger. We have been experiencing a heat wave and all of the peeps who complained about the cold are now doing the same about the heat.

Not me.

I love the heat. I feel like I’m no longer blending in with the milk bag (yeah, we have bags of milk in Canada) and I’m starting to get some colour back to my skin. I have even been able to wear my Too Faced Born This Way foundation!

Nonetheless, it makes me think of summer and all the essentials I will be stocking up on for this beautiful season.

Let’s get down to business. I need a pool in my backyard. I’ve been working on convincing Brian that this is an absolute summer essential, but so far it’s a no-go. Until then, I will have to make do with other avenues this summer.

Here are the items I will be bringing with me to the pool.

Sun Care

If we’re going to be out in the sun and water, a good sunscreen is in order. I always seem to gravitate toward Hawaiian Tropic and it’s probably because it smells like vacation in a bottle. I absolutely love the Silk Hydration after sun lotion.

This year I will also be trying something new – Sun Bum.

sunscreen Pictures
Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

Swimwear

Over the years I’ve been a bit of a swimsuit hoarder. However, every year I find it harder and harder to find a well-fitted suit that is cute, modest and comfortable. I have a long torso so it has always been a hassle to find a one-piece. Some places I have found decent swimsuits are la Vie en Rose and Target. I tried ordering from Asos, but even though I ordered the DD size, they were still about 2 sizes too small. If you know some great places for long torsos, comment below, I need to know.

swimsuit Pictures
Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Sunglasses

Having blue eyes have turned sunglasses from a cute accessory into an absolute necessity in my life. I just can’t function without them. I also have categories now as well, because, well, if you let the ocean try on your $500 pair of Fendi sunglasses, you might not get them back. Also, don’t let the ocean try on your swimsuit.

I now have a pair of Prada sunglasses that are kept safe and other less expensive pairs that I bring to the ocean with me. Aldo has some great finds and when I’m really desperate, there’s always Dollarama.

Sunglasses Pictures
Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

Hydration

There’s no point in being in the sun if it’s going to drain you and leave you with a headache.

Insert water here.

Yes, this is the time where you need to be super careful not to overheat or dehydrate. My favourite way to stay hydrated is with sparkling water. My kids call it rich people water. Maybe I do feel a bit fancy when I drink it, but it gives me the fizz I crave without draining the life out of my skin. Some of my favourites are Perrier, La Croix, and San Pellegrino.

hydration Pictures
Photo by Ashley Whitlatch on Unsplash

Entertainment

Whether you love to crank the tunes or dive into your favourite novel, you’re going to need some form of entertainment. I mean, kids are a great form of entertainment too, so go with what you’ve got.

Here is my current Spotify playlist (by jm5y). I throw this on anytime I’m working out, driving my Jeep, hanging with the cool kids or when I’m lounging by the pool.

Don’t forget to grab a speaker for your tunes. We have a speaker named Big Blue. He’s biting the dust, so this year we are bringing home Big Blue Party X. These are great because they are portable and water-resistant.

As far as books are concerned, my favourite authors are Richard L Mabry, M.D., John Bevere and this summer I’m going to read the If I Run Series by Terri Blackstock.

entertainment Pictures
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Pool

I’m totally adding this in because I’m fairly certain that my backyard is missing this vital part of my summer plan – a pool.

Yes, my parents have a pool. Yes, you’ll most likely find me there. No, that doesn’t excuse me from needing a pool.

Like I said, I’m working on convincing Brian that this is the absolute summer essential that we need, but so far he hasn’t seen it quite the same. I’m currently presenting him with the idea that he will no longer need to cut the grass (since it would obviously be cement).

Let’s just be real, although summer is officially starting tomorrow, I probably won’t be lounging by my own pool, in my own back yard. I will, however, probably be in my swimsuit, lathered with sunscreen, sipping my rich people water and working on writing while the kiddos jump and splash in my parents’ pool.

lounging Pictures
Photo by Anna Demianenko on Unsplash

Good times. Summer memories. I love everything about it. What are your plans this summer? Will you be lounging by the pool or heading to the beach? Comment below.

The Sweet Truth | Hershey’s Crunchers

***Disclaimer: These products were sent to me free of charge for testing purposes. Although they didn’t cost me anything, these are all our own opinions.

Who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail? I know I do. It’s like Christmas morning when I get to the mailbox and see that large red key in my slot. I know that means something was too big to fit in my slot.

Before we left for Niagara Falls, I decided to check the mail.

Sure enough, Christmas came.

This time it was chocolate. Hershey’s Crunchers, to be exact.

Crunchers Pictures

Sometimes companies (like Influenster) send out free products to be reviewed. I mean, twist my arm. Chocolate is a hard sell for me to review.

Ok, true, I haven’t really had sugar over the last 7 years, but I’m not opposed to eating some chocolate occasionally. You know, for testing purposes. Plus, I’m trying to learn how to do things in moderation. Quite possibly, this may be the best place to start.

This time around I incorporated my kids in my taste testings. It may have had a bit to do with the fact that they kept bringing me the bags to ask if they could have some.

Let’s just say, they know how to wear me down. Also, let’s be real here, kids have no problem giving their brutally honest opinions.

That being said, here are our reviews.

Cookies and Cream Crunchers
170g Bag
Per 15 pieces (40g)
200 Calories
9g Fat
17g Sugar
150mg Sodium

Vincent
Score 7/10
Straight up a seven out of ten. Nothing more, nothing less.

Violet
Score 10/10
It kind of tastes like smores, but without the marshmallow and with white chocolate. It tastes good. *said in a lingering giggle*

The Sweet Truth 1

Reese’s Crunchers
170g Bag
Per 14 pieces (40g)
200 Calories
11g Fat
17g Sugar
95mg Sodium

Vincent
Score 10/10
Those are good, but they make me drink a lot of water.

Violet
Score 9/10
They taste like Ferrero Rocher, but I think I like the cookies and cream better.

The Sweet Truth 2

Overall, Violet loved the Cookies and Cream Crunchers the best while Vincent loved the Reese’s Crunchers the best. Obviously, I needed to see who was right. Although, I admit, I’m a bit biased to anything with a peanut butter and chocolate combo. I was kind of shocked at my findings.

The sweet truth? I loved both of them. The Cookies and Cream Crunchers probably took the lead on it, though. Then, when I read that you could use them as ice cream toppers, that was it, I was sold on the Cookies and Cream ones.

Literally my only negative thing to say is that when they came, we were going through a heat wave and they melted. Although that may have taken away from the look of them and made it hard to determine the nutritional value (maybe that’s not a problem), it didn’t take away from the taste by any means.

Have you tried Hershey’s Crunchers? Let me know your thoughts below in the comments.

Puppy Love | Charles Whitford

Puppy LovePictures(Photo Credit Kenrick Mills on Unsplash)

I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but the thought of having a puppy seemed super cute. My emotions couldn’t help but be sucked into this whirlwind of puppy cuteness overload!

Then, I’d have this small sense of logic pop in my mind. Puppies are like babies and you are out of the baby stage.

Just like that, my decision was made.

Until…

Until my daughter dog sat (is that even a thing?) little Mya. She absolutely fell in love and her mind was made up. We were getting a dog.

I figured it would pass, but with every passing moment, her desire got stronger and stronger. She would go to my brother in law’s and pick up dog poop for him.

After 2 years of her persistence, I told her that if we could all agree on a breed, we would get a dog.

**My suggestion was a little sketch because I knew Brian and I disagreed terribly about dog breeds. So, I figured it would never happen.

One day, I was cooking dinner and I saw my daughter sneak downstairs with paper and a pen. I didn’t think much about it until she proudly marched up the stairs 15 minutes later and announced that we were getting a dog.

Confused, but not wanting to immediately burst her bubble, I sternly asked my hubby to join me in a friendly conversation in the bedroom.

Apparently, she did her research and found a dog she knew I would approve of. Then she put together her logical argument for her father in which she got him to say he approved of the dog.

It was finished.

We were getting a dog.

Coton de Tulear, to be exact.

Most people make me repeat it over again because they don’t recognize the breed.

The first breeder I talked to kept me on the phone for an hour grilling me about how I would care for the dog. It was the most intense interview I have ever had.

So, I kept looking. I didn’t know a lot about caring for a dog, but I did know that we had a promise to keep and that this was the only breed acceptable.

I’m so glad I kept looking because I found an absolutely amazing breeder just north of Toronto – Strawberry Cotons.

I fell in love with the pictures of the puppies and I put a deposit down.

This was really happening.

We were able to pick up the puppy and surprise our kids entirely.

Charles3

It’s now been 2 years since Charles became a part of our family and I can’t imagine how life was without him.

He is the most playful, energetic, loving and caring pups. On days when any of us are having a rough go, he will literally nudge you until you pick him up so he can hug you.

If I had to do it all over again, I would choose him every time. I love my daughter and her persistent logic, because without it our lives would be missing this piece.

She’s since started working on her logic for us having another baby…

Do you have a dog? Comment below on your favourite breed.

A Royal Wedding

Tea crumpets
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I bolted out of bed this morning, thinking I just missed the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Royal Weddings don’t come along all that often and although I believe people should have their privacy, I may be a teeny bit obsessed with anything Royal.

I was grateful to find out that I wasn’t late to the viewing, but rather a day early. So, with that I decided to plan a fantastic viewing party with my daughter where we will use words like crumpet and drink our tea with our pinkies in the air.

I might have to bribe her to get out of bed at 4am, but she’ll soon learn that it’s so worth it!

First things first.

We need a royal name.

I used this website to generate our royal names. I will absolutely expect anyone who interacts with us tomorrow to address us as follows:

Sedona Calhoun, Countess of London

Voila Calhoun, Lady of Windsor

Since it will be super early in the morning for us, I only have plans to stay snuggled in our pyjamas. However, if it wasn’t so early morning, we would be donning our Sunday finest complete with fascinators and five inch heels.

I will break out our treasured tea cups and saucers. I will steep the earl grey tea in the teapot and set it on a tray over a stunning white tablecloth. The scones will be arranged perfectly on a china plate.

Table set
Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Half of our living room will look like a bedroom.

Half of our living room will look like we are having high tea.

We are going to “ooh” and “ahh” over all the beautiful guests and mostly, we are going to watch an incredible vow of love between two people beginning an incredible journey.

It’s almost Wedding Day!

I know I’m just a small voice in a small town, but I want to extend my best wishes to the happy couple. May their years be blessed and their time together be cherished.

From my heart to theirs, Congratulations!

Will you be watching the Royal Wedding? Comment below.

Mother’s Day | 2018

Mother’s Day. It comes every year. Every year I feel a little more sentimental than the last. 2018 has been one of those periods of time where I’ve needed the comfort, love and support of a mother.

I am so thankful to have the privilege of having 3 beautiful mothers in my life. They have each deposited genuine things in my life for which I’m grateful. If I can live up to a fraction of who they are, I know it will leave a lasting impact on the precious lives with whom I’ve been entrusted.

Then there are those who aren’t my actual mothers, but have left an incredible impact on my future. These are women who pray for me, offer advice when I’m struggling as well as thriving and who care deeply for the well-being of my family.

Now picture all my friends and peers who are also mothers. I find we sharpen each other like iron sharpens iron. We learn from each other’s successes and failures. We pick each other up when the rough days come. We speak encouragement on days we just want to ‘move to Kentucky.’ There’s no judgment when it’s 3pm and pjs are still being donned. These are the women who I’m grateful to have beside me.

To my sisters. I was blessed to grow up close with my sister and then I’ve gained 6 beautiful ones as the years have grown on. Each of these women have a special place in my heart. They laugh with me, cry with me, get stronger with me. They love with me. 2018 is changing a few dynamics as distance tries to settle in. I’m grateful for these treasures and even if I don’t know how to pick up a phone, I do know how to text. Plus, I know how to vacation, so you won’t get tired of seeing my face.

Now to my daughter, who I pray will learn from all my struggles, pick up where I left off without missing a beat and soar to heights beyond her wildest dreams. When you become a mother, I pray you see your children as the most precious gifts that have ever been bestowed upon you. I can’t imagine how life was before you. My wildest dream in life was to be a wife and mother. I’m so grateful that I have been given that gift.

To all these women, to all the mothers, you are true superheroes. Let me be the one to say, Thank You.

Happy Mother’s Day!

How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster

I am literally beside myself! I have been counting down the payments until our mortgage was paid off.

Guess what!? Now is the time!

I haven’t always been amazing with my money. Actually, I kind of had a similar viewpoint as many other things in my life – all or nothing.

I spent the first 25 years of my life only buying the bare necessities. I loathed spending money. I mean, I dreaded it. Do you know, when we were newlyweds, I budgeted and spent $50 on groceries every other week. We ate a lot of pasta.

Then something happened.

I had a baby.

It was a girl.

I’m not even ashamed to say that we left the hospital and went straight to the mall. Who does that?!

That was almost 11 years ago.

If it wasn’t for my amazing husband who keeps me grounded with reality checks, I’d probably be in a terrible position financially.

He has taught me a thing or two about money – and that has helped us pay off our mortgage. We didn’t do anything fancy and we definitely didn’t win the lottery. We just chose to be wise with our financial decisions. None of our decisions caused us to be tight or lack in any way.

Here are some of the things we did to pay off our mortgage faster.

Pay The Mortgage Weekly
This was one of the best decisions we made. If nothing else, do this. Changing your payments to weekly will pay down the principal much faster than if your plan is bi-weekly or monthly. It really does make a difference.

Put A Plan Together
I’m sure everyone who is close to me is probably tired of hearing my payment plan for my mortgage. Especially over the last 2 years, I’ve been a bit obsessive with it. I knew the time frame I wanted to work in, so I made sure that everything lined up payment-wise. As the balance got smaller and smaller, it was easier to nail down an exact date.

Stay Put
I’ll be honest, it’s been quite tempting to upgrade our living arrangements. This booming market can get the best of anyone. I have a dream house that is within reach, but it would require incurring a bigger mortgage. I don’t want that. My house is sufficient. It serves all my needs (not necessarily all my wants). I’ve learned in life that it is much better to be content with what you have than to have the constant stress of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’

Make Extra Payments
Bear with me, I’m no mortgage specialist, but I do know there are rules you have to follow. If you want to avoid penalties, you have to stay within your payment allowance (I’m sure it’s not called that, but that’s my name for it). All we did was add an extra $30 to each payment. This made another great difference. Although this took a small sacrifice, it really didn’t make a difference in how we spent our money.

All of this was possible because we made smart choices along the way. As Dave Ramsey said, ‘Live like no one else today so you can live like no one else tomorrow.’

Great advice. We didn’t decorate our house immediately. We didn’t drive 2 cars. We didn’t have cable or all the latest gadgets. We didn’t always have internet and cell phones. We didn’t eat out or go on lavish vacations (until recently). We did live within our means. We did enjoy life. We did enjoy each other.

Now, we can sleep soundly in our house knowing that the strain of borrowing money has been lifted.