The season to show your skin is almost upon us – temperatures rise, pants get swapped out for shorts and boots take their place in the closet while the sandals get ready for their days in the sun. It’s a time to celebrate, to lean back and feel the warmth on your face – but warmth and sun is no fun with dry, cracked winter skin!
Canada’s often extreme weather conditions, especially over the wintertime, can leave skin suffering long after the season has passed. When it comes to dryness, I have three main problem areas – my hands, my heels, and my lips! It often feels like no matter how many products I layer on to keep the dryness at bay, I just don’t see the results. And unfortunately for Summer, dry sensitive skin seems to run in the family – any weather changes or shift in our environment turns us both into flaky, itchy messes!
But finding Flexitol this past year finally turned my cracked painful problem areas into smooth skin that I actually want to show off, and their children’s line Happy Little Bodies has worked wonders for Summer too! Created in Australia over 20 years ago, Flexitol’s product line is specifically formulated to improve dry skin quick, and provide visible long-lasting results.
I am really neglectful when it comes to caring for my feet, and I can’t remember a time in the recent past where I didn’t go to sleep with dry, itchy, painful heels after a long day of running around. Over the years I’ve tried so many different creams and tools to try and soothe my nightly burning heels – I’ve asked for help at pedicures, slathered my feet in slippery lotion and special socks, the WORKS, but nothing ever seemed to penetrate the problem and provide any relief. I felt like I was constantly just scratching the surface – literally, just scratching at my heels endlessly!
Honestly I expected Flexitol’s heel balm to be another failed attempt, but it turned out to be a total game changer! What makes it different? This formula has 25% Urea, the highest formulation available, which means it moisturizes and exfoliates all at once, breaking down dead skin without any scrubbing or scraping. Plus it’s not slippery or greasy and absorbs super quickly, so I don’t have to worry about slipping around after application (no special socks needed!) I’ve been using Flexitol’s heel balm every night when I get into bed for a few months now, and my burning hot itchy heels are officially a thing of the past!
Suffering from dry, cracked hand-sanitizer exhausted hands? I think we’re probably all in the same boat on this one. I constantly struggled with keeping my hands hydrated over the past year (and then some) until I found Flexitol’s Rapid Relief Hand Balm. Formulated with vitamin E and 10% Urea, this isn’t your average hand cream – I saw a visible improvement almost immediately when I started carrying this cream in my bag and using it daily.
No matter what the season, I always seen to have chapped, dry, peeling lips. I even struggle to wear lipstick because it applies unevenly and gets chunky! Flexitol’s Lip Balm is the #1 selling balm in pharmacies across Australia, and my lips and I are happy to report that it’s worth the hype. Just like every other Flexitol product I’ve tried, this formula really works, and continues to work long after you apply!
With natural ingredients like Jojoba seed oil and Colloidal Oatmeal, Flexitol’s moisturising lotion for little bodies is extremely gentle, but super effective. It’s clinically tested to provide 24 hours of moisturization from just one application, which makes it the ideal product for a busy mom. It also helps to soothe itching caused by bug bites, rashes, poison ivy, and more – definitely a must have for Summer’s summer fun!
Flexitol is now available at Amazon.ca – shop the full line here!
This post was a part of a paid campaign with Flexitol, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice.
When I mention my unique journey to motherhood, I’m almost always met with assumptions. Specifically assumptions about how I got pregnant in the first place. So today, on Mother’s Day, I’ve teamed up with Mosie Baby to share more details about at-home insemination, and how the Mosie Kit could help you conceive on your own terms!
When people hear a woman purposefully chose to have a baby on her own, they picture Jennifer Lopez in The Backup Plan, Leslie Mann’s character in How to Be Single or even Jane from Jane the Virgin (though obviously, in her case, the insemination wasn’t intentional). All of these pregnancy journeys started out and came to fruition in a fertility clinic, with a patient waiting on a table, legs spread and ready for semen delivered via someone in a lab coat.
Even when I knew Single Motherhood by Choice was the path I wanted to pursue, I knew the process I’d seen depicted in the media was not the path for me.
When I pictured getting pregnant, even if it wasn’t the “traditional way”, I pictured being at home, comfortable and relaxed, with candles and crystals and music and all of my favourite things surrounding me. My vision was much more Jennifer Anniston in The Switch than J-lo or Jane. I think because the majority of my more serious, long-term relationships have been with trans* people, queer folks, or other women, I had already put a lot of thought into how I’d like to conceive if “the old fashioned way” wasn’t an option. Back then I pictured a turkey baster might be my instrument of choice, but later I’d read about hopeful parents using everything from various plastic medical syringes, to menstrual cups (which as you may know, is what I ended up trying!) There was nothing on the market really specifically aimed at home insemination (for couples who are TTC, same-sex couples, or single parents by choice) until Mosie Baby came along!
Mosie Baby was created by a couple who were trying to conceive for over two years; two years of invasive tests and costly procedures, that all added up to more unknowns and no results. Before their first IUI appointment (for those who are unfamiliar, IUI is a medical procedure where semen is injected directly into the uterus to optimize chances of a successful pregnancy) they decided to go rogue and inseminate with a syringe together at home. As Maureen (the co-founder) says on their site, “It was obvious that traditional syringes weren’t made for the vagina”, so this crafty couple created the first Mosie Syringe, and soon after created the first Mosie baby, their son!
Though I didn’t personally use Mosie when I was TTC, I couldn’t love this brand and everything they stand for more. Their kits are delivered in subtle, nondescript packaging for privacy, and the designs inside are colourful and inviting. A clinical study has found Mosie “as effective as IUI and timed intercourse” (source here), but the cost is a fraction of what you might pay for a clinical IUI, and it’s totally safe to try from the comfort of your own home. They have truly thought of everything, including super accurate pregnancy tests and ovulation tests to help with tracking and timing – so if you’re a single mom by choice like me, you just need to source your sperm! (If you don’t have someone in your life who is willing to donate, you can always checkout a site like coparents.com)
Most of all, I love that Mosie is providing an accessible alternative for so many couples and single people who are trying to conceive, and challenging the assumptions and taboos surrounding at-home insemination along the way. I’ve received so many messages asking how costly buying donor sperm was and what the selection was like, what clinic I used, and how I navigated the system on my own – the assumption is almost always that I spent an arm and a leg to get pregnant in a medical setting, and when I clarify that was not the case, I often feel judged or like my story is somehow less legitimate. One person even asked outright if my pregnancy was actually just an accident! Though using a fertility clinic and paying for testing, drugs and procedures is the only option for many people who are TTC, it doesn’t need to be the first plan of action in so many cases, including mine. Mosie Baby not only makes the path I chose more legitimate, it normalizes looking outside the doctor’s office for fertility solutions, with a healthy dose of cheerful positive branding in a realm that can so often feel hopeless.
A few of the reasons home insemination felt right for me //
I wanted to avoid medical intervention /
I haven’t opened up too much about this in all the years I’ve been writing this blog, perhaps because it feels too vulnerable, but I struggle with childhood medical trauma. Growing up I had chronic UTI infections and spent a lot of time undergoing really invasive tests, checks and procedures. I am extremely anxious in any medical situation, especially anything that involves me laying on a table and opening my legs for a doctor, so avoiding that route when it came to making a baby was a big priority.
I wanted to have a relationship with my donor /
Many folks choose to purchase donor sperm because they want as little attachment as possible, but personally I wanted to know my donor and have a relationship with him in real life. When I think ahead to Summer growing up and asking questions about the other person that provided the “missing ingredient” to bring her into the world, I don’t want the donor to be a mystery or someone unreachable.
I wanted the process to feel as natural as possible /
Obviously getting pregnant without a partner automatically made my journey to motherhood somewhat abnormal, but I still wanted the moment sperm met egg to feel intimate and special. At-home insemination where I felt safe and in control was an amazing way to make conception comfortable – I just wish I’d known about Mosie Baby!
A few reasons you might want to try Mosie Baby //
You haven’t had any luck getting pregnant with intercourse
You are in a same sex relationship or have a trans* partner
You are on the path to becoming a Single Mom by Choice
You want to avoid costly fertility clinic bills and invasive procedures if possible
The list goes on and on! If you’re interested in trying out Mosie Baby, or know someone who might, click here to order.
This post was a part of a paid campaign with Mosie Baby, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact your doctor if you have questions about fertility.
For many years, Mother’s Day was a holiday that made me feel left out, a reminder of everything I wanted and couldn’t attain (take this as a reminder to reach out to friends who are yearning for a child, struggling with infertility, or who have recently lost their moms on May 9th!)
Now that I do have a daughter of my own, I believe more than ever that it’s important to shower the moms and mom-type-figures in our lives with a little bit of extra love one day a year – this job is TOUGH, unpaid, and so often thankless. I’m also a big supporter of any excuse to eat extra special food, and spend time with family, and give gifts!
Gifting is my love language, and though I’ve been slacking on blog gift guides since becoming a mom, I truly love putting them together. This gift guide features so many of my favourite products, and most of them are from Canadian small businesses too! But first…
Pre-done gift sets to consider //
With all the shipping delays and added stress this year, a curated gift set could be the way to go! Four different versions caught my attenton:
I’ve had a love affair with The Cross for so many years, and it’s no surprise their Mother’s Day gift boxes this year check all the boxes for all different kinds of moms. They were kind enough to send me the “Cooking Mom Box“, a sweet little set that includes a ceramic berry bowl, tea towel and beautiful bottle of hand soap. There are four options created to fit any budget and spoil any mom on your list!
This Canadian company puts together gorgeous into a seasonal box that’s delivered to you! You can sign up for a whole year, or purchase an individual box to keep or gift to someone else. They were kind enough to send me their spring box and it would make such a perfect surprise delivered to your favourite mama’s door.
This awesome box from mental-health focused Toronto store Crying out Loud is the perfect way to remind the moms in your life to take a moment for themselves! Plus a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mamas for Mamas to support moms and caregivers in need! Find all three options here.
I’ve been wishing I had this piece published on the blog for over two years now, so it’s about time I’ve finally done it! One of the best parts of sharing my story so publicly has been the ongoing messages I still receive from others who are considering becoming single parents by choice too. It feels like every other day I’m connecting with new people who have just stumbled across my account and are either seeking advice, or hoping to delve deeper into the details of my story. With every new DM or email I kick myself for not yet having created a resource with all of the information I’ve put out into the world about my experience in one convenient place. So here it is. You’re welcome future Alyssa!
Now aside from wanting to put all of the links related to my story in an updated roundup post, it also felt like a good opportunity to do a little update and circle back to some of my opinions from early on that have shifted over the past two years and nine months (give or take). Like everyone loves to remind expecting parents, there’s no way to know how much having a baby changes everything, and that rule definitely applies to single parents by choice too! Here’s a bit on what I’ve learned, and a touch of advice for those who’d like to take it too.
It’s ok to have boundaries //
When I first started trying to get pregnant, I was so eager to share my story. I felt so empowered and proud of myself for taking my dreams into my own hands, and I assumed my “why” would really resonate with people who had similar dreams. What I didn’t expect was the focus on the “how” that came hand in hand with sharing my news, and as my story picked up steam, the questions only got more personal. Truth be told I was caught totally off guard, like I was being asked to validate my story by proving that I went about getting pregnant the “right” way. When I was open about using a known donor instead of a clinic, the scrutiny only intensified.
Let me be clear – there is no correct way to become a single mom by choice! Whether you purchase sperm and go through a clinic to be inseminated, DIY getting a known donor’s semen into your body with something you read about on the internet (oh hey menstrual cup), or have wildly enjoyable sex with your (consenting!!!) next door neighbour, you are just as much a SMBC as anyone else who made the choice to dive into parenthood without a partner. I recently had a follower ask via DM’s if Summer was actually even planned because I got pregnant outside of a clinical setting, and though I was a bit offended, it solidified the judgement I’d felt in the passive remarks and endless questions I’ve received since announcing my “non-traditional” pregnancy.
In retrospect, I wish I’d kept the door shut when it came to that part of my journey – it felt private and too sacred to share, but I panicked and answered the questions in the moment as best as I could for fear if I didn’t, those asking would assume I was covering up an accident. No one asks heterosexual couples exactly how they got pregnant – imagine asking someone if they needed clinical help conceiving with their husband? Or what position they were in the moment they conceived? You wouldn’t, because it’s private! Just because the way you got pregnant isn’t “the norm”, or wasn’t necessarily with someone you romantically love, doesn’t mean you owe anyone an explanation! Especially because sharing details when a known donor is involved could jeopardize anonymity. When I get similar questions about DIY insemination now I advise doing your own research online, speaking to your doctor, and following one golden rule: whatever way you feel most comfortable getting semen into your body will probably work just fine!
*not totally related but I recently came across this cute new syringe product specifically created for at-home inseminations and I love that a brand is making that route more accessible / acceptable!
You can prepare, but you won’t ever be fully prepared //
This point applies to ALL parents, not just the SMBC / SPBC folks. I did everything I could think of to prep for having a baby, and for the first few months, it worked. Aside from my unexpected c-section, life with a newborn was blissful – I could work whenever I wanted, she slept very well from day one thanks to the SNOO, I was free to go pretty much anywhere I wanted with her strapped into a carrier on my body, she napped on the go when necessary and breastfed on demand.
But once she started moving, so many of my plans went out the window – a lot of the support systems I had carefully put in place fell through and I hadn’t really made arrangements for daycare or a nanny because I didn’t think I’d need it as someone who works from home and has such a flexible job. The reality is, being a mom is a full time job. Period. Even with a career path I had specifically chased because it was so well suited to being a solo mom while still making a living, I learned the hard way how truly impossible it is to work full time and mother full time without some form of childcare in place. I would call this my biggest blind spot when it came to planning for single parenthood, and I’m still struggling to find a balance that works for us (suggestions welcome – I’ve been on a waitlist for the only affordable daycare I could find over a year and there’s still no availability in sight!)
There’s no such thing as “too soon to tell” //
So much about my journey to motherhood was not traditional, but I did stick to the old “wait until you’re out of the first trimester” to share my pregnancy news, and looking back I wish I’d had the bravery to break that taboo. First off, I think it does birthing people a huge disservice to encourage the isolating practice of keeping a pregnancy secret, when that person is likely to need support and understanding, especially in the case the pregnancy doesn’t make it to term. In other words, we don’t expect parents to stay quiet about miscarriages anymore, so why is it still the norm to keep pregnancies a secret “just in case”?
Building on this point, I also wish I’d had the courage to share how much I wanted children before I started trying. As someone who hasn’t had many long term relationships and spent a lot of her time single, I often felt like my desire to be a mom was misplaced because it’s frowned upon to be open about parenting dreams when you’re single, especially in the hetero world. In an effort to avoid being labelled “baby crazy” and turning off potential partners, I mostly kept quiet about how much I wanted to be a mom, and looking back I regret keeping my goals to myself until they were well underway. I say, let’s normalize people, especially young single women, being open about wanting kids without it being attached to the word “crazy” or becoming a deterrent. If it’s acceptable for women to be anything they want, motherhood shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. It should be just as celebrated to talk openly about wanting to be a mom as it is to talk openly about wanting to run your own business, or be a basketball player, or whatever you care deeply about doing!
Acknowledging my Privilege //
I’m constantly learning, and over the past couple of years I’ve re-examined the way I originally discussed my path to parenthood. When it comes to this conversation it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is able to make this decision, and that I was able to make it for myself from a place of privilege. Yes I worked hard to get here, yes I built my career on my own and saved up to be able to support myself, but that doesn’t mean being white, cisgender, and non-disabled didn’t impact my ability to make this decision in the first place, and that should always have been a part of the dialogue.
Ready for more? Scroll down for every link related to my story that I could find…
Over the years I’ve written about going more and more natural with my beauty routine, but I think it’s safe to say almost all of us have those few “dirty” products that we have loved for most of our lifetime and can’t quite bear to give up.
My move to Vancouver prompted so much change and improvement in my life, providing a push to drop bad habits and move forward with a clean slate. Before my boxes had even arrived at the new apartment I had started to mentally detox my world, and that included rethinking the toxic products I hadn’t yet let go of and swapping them out for healthier, more eco-friendly alternatives.
I had a lot of fun shooting and styling all of my new favourite natural products, and I’m happy to share them alongside little reviews of why they work best for me!
I tried David’s original toothpaste a couple years ago and absolutely loved it, so I was delighted to find they’ve released 3 more new flavours since! This brand works so well, has a beautiful design, and the “key” that comes with each tube really ensures every last drop gets used up. After a lot of brushing and careful comparison I decided the Spearmint is my top pick – it’s a perfect sweeter mint that really makes my teeth feel clean. Charcoal is my lowest rated only because I found the darker paste colour really messy in/around the bathroom sinks.
I have tried SO many natural deodorants since realizing just how toxic the typical drugstore brands can be, but no brand has ever blown me away quite like Nala Care. A Canadian company created by a mother/daughter duo right here in Vancouver, this deodorant actually stands up to the mom sweat (who knew being a mom made you SO sweaty all the time?) They’ve just launched two limited edition holiday scents, Winter Mint and Winter Spice (spice is my favourite!) which both use Copaiba oil, a cannabinoid like CBD that can apparently evoke feelings of calm just from smelling the deodorant? SO cool! Use code PASTEL20 for 20% off your cart through the end of December.
I’m a big fan of Detox Mode and I was really excited to try their take on a natural deodorant. They make two formulations, “Feeling Altogether” which is the classic, and “Feeling Free” which is baking soda-free and created specifically for sensitive skin. I loved how both versions smell, but unfortunately the classic irritated my skin – the baking soda was too much for me, but I passed it on to my parents and they both swear by it! I ended up using the Feeling Free daily until there was nothing left – the lavender scent was just right, and it worked fairly well to keep my mom sweat at bay, though some days I did need to reapply.
This. Mascara. Is. Life. Changing. In case it isn’t already clear, I have really sensitive skin, but I also find myself sensitive to beauty products, especially around my eyes. I love big dramatic lashes, but with COVID and single mom life I haven’t done extensions in ages, and instead I’ve been on the hunt for a mascara that has the same effect. There have been a few drugstore brands that worked, but my eyes were always so itchy and irritated that nothing was left on my lashes by the end of the day, and I’d be counting down the seconds till I could get the remaining crumbs off.
If you’re looking for a 100% natural product with big impact, this is the one! It’s flake-free, non-irritating, loaded with lots of nutrients that help “feed” your lashes, and the dual-sided brush gives dramatic results every time. The only catch – they do use beeswax, so the product isn’t vegan.
I was *very* hesitant to give up my beloved Stila long-lasting liquid eyeliner pen, a product I’ve been devoted to for years. I have really oily eyelids, and as I mentioned, sensitive eyes, so once I found something that worked for me I didn’t want to give it up.
Luckily this natural formula is the perfect replacement. Not only does it go on easily (I love the brush!) but it really stays – it lasted through a cry test AND stayed relatively in place even after a night of sleep!
Simple and easy to use, this brow gel creates big impact with minimal effort and has quickly become one of my makeup bag must-haves! I went with Medium Brown but for the summertime I’d definitely switch to Blonde for a less intense look.
Toronto-brand Evio creates all natural beauty products infused with hemp seed oil at a great low price point. While this product makes my lashes look noticeably thicker, feels nice and light, doesn’t irritate my eyes, and even stood up to a cry test without getting too messy. My one complaint is how sticky it stays on the lashes for quite some time – it’s definitely slow to dry which isn’t ideal for someone who moves as quickly as I do!
I love this liquid liner – it’s super dark with great solid lines on the first application, but I had a hard time getting a handle on using the pen tip, and I did find it smudged a tiny bit easier than the Beauty Counter formula.
I LOVE this soap. My boyfriend LOVES this soap. Summer LOVES this soap. I may need to order the massive 128oz refill jug because we all LOVE this soap so much! The uplifting scent of sweet almond, bergamot, and cedar wood is the perfect addition to coveted time in the shower, and the consistency is the ideal marriage of oily/moisturizing and soapy/cleansing. Best of all, the glass bottle is recyclable if you don’t choose to refill (but I can almost guarantee you will!)
This niche product probably deserves a category of it’s own because it’s for a specific area (the area between your legs), but since I use it daily in the shower I’m including it here alongside the Impossible Soap. I’ve been interested in trying a soap specifically for intimate areas for ages because I’m so sensitive in that zone and very prone to irritation and infections, and I wish I’d made the switch sooner. No itching or burning, this gentle soap includes aloe and cucumber, and makes me feel super clean. There’s no scientific evidence, but I genuinely believe it’s made a big impact in helping to prevent yeast infections, something I’ve struggled with for years. Thank you Lady Suite!
I’ve also got their Botanical Oil on my radar to use post-shave – has anyone tried it?
Let me first be transparent and say I’m instantly sold on anything that involves Earl Grey. Brewing a cup of tea is one of my daily calming rituals, and infusing my post-shower moisturizing routine with the sweet scent of black tea and bergamot made it feel like a whole new ritual too. With Aloe, Jojoba, Shea Butter and Tamarind Seed, this body lotion is a truly luxurious experience that’s much needed these cold winter months.
I’m a long-time fan of Province Apothecary and everything they do – I had my first facial with Julie over 6 years ago and I’ve been hooked on her beautiful natural brand since. Their makeup remover oil cleanser is one of my daily must-haves and the only thing I can use on my eyes without irritating them. I use it with my reusable cotton rounds, which I also highly recommend incorporating to help reduce your eco impact.
I love Beauty Counter’s Counterstart Cococream Cleanser as a backup cleanser to have in the shower, but it isn’t ideal for eye makeup removal, and I prefer to use a product that does both at the same time when I can!
These day and night serums are incredible in every way, and handmade in Ontario by the coolest lady duo! I especially love the night formula for bedtime – I swear I wake up with clearer, softer skin every morning!
I honestly didn’t even think about the amount of waste a traditional razor creates until I started seeing beautifully crafted safety razors pop up on my Instagram feed. The Well Kept razor is definitely an investment, but it’s plastic-free and the replacement blades cost less than a dollar ($15 for 20!) which makes it totally worth it in my opinion. Plus, they’re a women-owned small business based right here in Vancouver, and their entire collection is seriously gorgeous! I was definitely a bit nervous to make the switch, but Well Kept advises reframing shaving as a slow, mindful act of self care, and not only did my razor give me the closest, smoothest shave I’ve even had, but I really appreciated the change of pace in my routine. They also sell beautiful bath milks, agave exfoliating cloths (a great alternative to plastic loofas), natural sea sponges and more!
I’ve already shared in great detail how great Hannahpads have been – especially since my period came back postpartum! Such a great eco-friendly solution for overnights. I also upgraded my menstrual cup post-baby to the Saalt cup, and I’ve been absolutely loving it in comparison to the other cups I’ve tried. Most importantly, this one locks in place and opens properly much easier than other brands! I am interested in trying their soft cup at some point to test if it’s even more comfortable than the original, and their cute period panties are on my wishlist too.
The season for sunscreen may have mostly come to an end but I couldn’t leave out my absolute favourite sunscreen find of 2020. Countersun is the ultimate natural sunscreen – it rubs in easily with no white residue, it smells great, it’s water resistant for up to 40 minutes, and it’s safe for the whole family so you don’t have to pack separate sunscreen if you have kids! I like the spray best for quick and easy toddler application, but there’s also a stick (great for faces) and a traditional lotion.
Again, not exactly the season for this product, but we loved Cardea Auset’s chemical-free bug repellant spray so much this past summer that I had to include it. Created with essential oils, this spray leaves a somewhat pleasant scent, and it really worked in the BC wilderness!
Let me know your favourites in the comments below!