Words To Live By:

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won't wait while you finish the work."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pre-Christmas Wrap-Up... we've survived and we're a little bit humbler.

We have survived the pre-Christmas chaos.  Other than forgetting to buy bacon for Christmas morning (how could I forget the bacon?!?), we are wrapped, ready, and feeling relieved!  I'm also waiting for Amazon in conjunction with CanadaPost to do their thing - one last little gift that slipped my mind and is headed to our doorstep (guaranteed delivery by 8 pm tomorrow - nothing like last minute.)

The boys are on Christmas break.  All my Wisdom & Whimsy orders have been picked up or delivered.  Toy and food drive contributions have been dropped off.  Outstanding clerical duties have been tied up (I hope!) We skipped one big family get-together to take advantage of a much-needed early night on Friday.  Saturday we visited with our in-town relatives on Kevin's side to exchange gifts with the kids and talk with the adults.  Sunday found us hosting my side of the family with so many smiles and giggles and yummy goodies (great turkey, Mom, and the potato soup... delicious if I do say so myself!)  I'm still finding bits of wrapping paper in the cushions.

Kevin & I don't do much for each other at Christmas.  I share my love, he shares his warmth.  This was a concession we made to economizing.... I miss my stocking, but I'm all grown up.  I can handle it.   The boys, however, like to pick out presents for both of us.  Usually I will take them shopping for Kev, and he will take them out for me.  He always makes it sound torturous... and I laugh til I'm blue in the face.  We're kind to each other like that.  He never seems to quite understand that I shop with them regularly... and there's a reason I try to do it while they are at school.

This year, we found ourselves short of time.  I still managed to take them shopping for Daddy... but it didn't quite happen in reverse.  So I took them shopping for me... and felt incredibly awkward.  They chose Shoppers Drug Mart and I tried to not peek.... and then in my effort to shop local and support small business as well, we went to a unique local shop called Coach House Studio.

Coach House Studio features artists and crafters, as well as some other home-and-gift type goods.  Most of it's up my alley... and they have customer service down to a fine art.  Seriously... that means so much to me. A smile. Friendly chit chat.  Assistance when you want it.  Space when you need it. And such an amazing variety of constantly changing goods.... I could browse all day.  The pricing is fair - you have a good range so you don't have to break the bank (although you most definitely could.)  An amazing selection of big & small ticket items for anyone who likes warm & cozy.  

Yesterday the clerk working took the time to help two little boys find mom a gift.  She suggested we walk through the store - jot down ideas or they could remember.... and afterwards, she helped the boys select an item or two, wrapped them before mom could pay, and still managed to keep us under budget.  The boys are THRILLED about their choices.... and I have to say I'm a little excited as well.  Not because I NEED anything... but their excitement was contagious.  I had to keep reminding J not to ruin the surprise... wrapping paper hit the ceiling when they got home and I think they used an entire roll of tape.  But, they were oh-so happy!

In our pre-Christmas chaos, we also had our annual trip to SickKids.  J had been putting together a box of toys and such to donate.  We picked up some small items from the bargain bins at Target.  Kevin & Kaleb hauled it in (while Justin & I ran to our appointment... we were close to being late).... only to find out that people are so incredibly generous SickKids was turning away donations.  I was a little disappointed for him... he seemed to be okay with donating them local though, so we added them to the Operation Scugog bin close to home.   We had good news during our appointment (better ranges than last year) and were told he's a relatively healthy kid.  (We knew that.)

On the way home, we encountered another giving/learning opportunity.   While approaching the on-ramp to the DVP, we saw a homeless man holding his cardboard sign.  My kids are sheltered.  We don't see a lot of social issues like this in our small rural community - yes, there are needs and we encourage generosity... but homelessness isn't as visible.   We didn't have any spare change or cash on hand... and in all honestly, we probably wouldn't have passed it on.  However, mom packed a snack bag for the trip to the hospital that we really didn't touch - granola bars, clementines, a couple of juice boxes.  Nothing exciting. Nothing big.  But sitting at that intersection waiting for the light to change, I at first dismissed the need... and then it hit me.  Why not?  We didn't need it... we were heading to a meal out. So we rolled down the window and passed him the snacks.  Nothing big.... but his gratitude.

Oh, his gratitude was humbling.... and it was an opportunity to discuss and teach... and maybe create just a little more caring in the future generation.   As we drove away I was teary eyed - it's so easy to think we have it bad... but there are so many who have it worse.  It's easy to sit in judgement.... but we never know the whole story.  The questions started... we gave simple, honest answers. We asked questions ourselves... and the boys, they learned.  We may have brought a brief moment of gratitude to a stranger.... but I think we all realised how fortunate we are... and how easy a small gesture can bring a smile.  Hopefully it's a lesson they remember... and the next time they see a need, they don't ignore it, but try to creatively be a blessing.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hurry, Scurry, Fret & Worry

This time of year it's so easy to get caught up in the need-tos... need to do this, need to go there, need to find that, etc.  A season that should be reflective of all the good and joy around us become one big anxiety-ridden to-do list.  The joy gets sucked out of everything and things become an obligation that we just can't wait to be over.  We stress about the bills.  We fret about the food. We worry about the shopping list. We scurry to get it all done.

But how much are we missing amongst the bustle? How many small moments and big treasures are unappreciated or undiscovered because we're stuck just trying to do it all.  How many times do we lose sight of the true gifts around us?

Today I read a devotional with an excerpt from Max Lucado's In The Manger and it hit close to home.  We're no different than millions of people for thousands of year.  Sometimes it's so easy to let everyday life get in the way of an extraordinary life - a life where the truly important things are anticipated and enjoyed.

This statement resonated with me - not just on the "religious" side of things... but also when I think of the other precious gifts around me - my family, my friends, time spent together, memories in the small moments:  "Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival—missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it simply because they weren’t looking."

So amidst my own hustle and bustle,  I'm going to make a conscious effort to not just hang on or coast through while scratching off items on my list.   I'm going to keep my eyes open and watch for the extraordinary among the ordinary and recognize those special gifts... and maybe take the time to smile instead of getting impatient with the overwhelmed cashier.  Give a hug to my kids when they least expect it.  Enjoy the fact we're all snuggled on the couch watching another episode of some superhero show instead of bemoaning all that I have yet to do.  There is so much to discover when you keep your eyes open.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Give generously... and without a grudging heart

Today, I was looking for a verse for a custom project someone requested.  While browsing some keywords, I stumbled across this Scripture - unrelated to the project - but it struck a chord with me nonetheless.

Deuteronomy 15:10&11
"Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.  
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."

I have been seeing the Pay-It Forward and Random Acts of Kindness initiatives all over lately. They're amazing - really, truly are - but shouldn't giving and kindness be a part of our everyday life? Shouldn't we be teaching our children to look beyond their own little bubbles and reach out to those around them?   How many times do we pass the food bank collection box, say "no" to a charity, or think "I can't afford to...."  

We all have time (precious as it may be.)  We have strengths, gifts, and talents.  We have money - you can always eke out something.   Yes, it's easy - especially this time of year to either A) support a cause because it's expected.... or B) ignore extraneous giving because things are tight.  I want to encourage you to make giving and kindness a part of your lifestyle though - to remember that no matter how bad you think you have it, there is someone out there who is suffering worse.  

See pantry basics at a fantastic price?  Pick up a few extra and toss them in the food drive box even when it's not a major holiday.   Have extra toys lying around (we always get a duplicate of something) from a birthday?  Pass it along to a toy drive, hospital, or family in need.  Use some reward miles to redeem for a gift card that can be used by a family in your church.  Buy a coffee for the person who looks extremely stressed out in the line behind you at Tim Hortons.  Call up a nursing home and see if they have visiting hours.  Donate books to your local school or library.  Spend an hour cleaning kennels at your local humane society.  Find out if your local NICU accepts knit hats and blankets.  Donate socks and soap to a homeless shelter.   One of our favourites:  pick a name off a holiday tree (usually in a local store.) Everyone chooses a gift for the selected name.

Elderly neighbour house bound?  Go for a visit and bring some home baked goodies.   Young mom feeling overwhelmed?  Offer to babysit so she can go to the salon or get some groceries.  Friend who doesn't have a license?  Make a date to hit the mall so they can get some holiday shopping done.

Think outside the box when it comes to helping others in your family, your circle of acquaintances, your community.   Giving doesn't have to be big to be generous - it just has to be heartfelt and done happily.  Giving can be time. Giving can be action.  Giving can be financial.   Remember... it's more blessed to give than to receive.  Make it an everyday thing!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nativity Family Ornaments: Kid-crafted

Today was a lazy day.  As in we sat around in our pajamas, ignored the to-do list, and just spent enjoyed some down time together.  Some of us (read: those over the age of 18) had a sleep in, ate a yummy breakfast (bacon, eggs, and fresh biscuits), slowly did some chores, and just didn't worry about the rest.  My dishes are done.  A few loads of laundry made it through. Following on yesterday's theme, just decided to "be".  We've all been out-of-sorts and a little stressed out and I think some days relaxation is just what the doctor ordered.

Kevin & the boys popped by a vendor event at our church last weekend.  A friend of mine was there with her son who had his own table at the event selling Perler bead ornaments beside me.  Kaleb came home with a head full of ideas about how he can make things and sell them at my table with me.  The crafter and entrepreneur in me jumped up and down inside with excitement.  The slightly more neurotic realist wondered how we would actually carry this out without 1) either of us tearing our our hair and 2) coming up with ideas that he could manage with limited supervision.  I figure if he's selling his product, he should be spending at least equal time putting it together.

We browsed Google and Pinterest all week to come up with some reasonable ideas.  We hit Michales to pick up supplies.  We (he) learned that sometimes it's easy to get so excited about a project that the whole of it becomes overwhelming. ("Mom, I need to just think about one thing at a time.  My head hurts because there are so many ideas in there.") So today we took some time between video games, movies, and an AMAZING game of Simpsons Clue to put together his first batch of creations.

Behold, Kaleb and his Nativity Family Ornaments:

Yeah, he's pretty cute!  He was so proud of himself for using the drill to put holes in all his stars.  Justin got in on the action using "wire cutters" to trim our wire to length.  Kaleb added the wires to the stars and twisted together. Mom manned the hot glue gun... but then he stuck the pieces together.  This basket full of goodies is his end result.  He's planning on coming to my next show with me and selling these ornaments.  We're still working on the whole process of understanding that he has to pay for the supplies out of his sales.  Overall though, one proud mama here... love this kid!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Making Memories

It's been FOREVER since I've last blogged (with the exception of the random posts that are always rumbling in my head.)  It's not that I don't mean well... it's just that I'm a bit of a procrastinator.  My later never quite seems to show up and then flies by entirely.   I think this is just a side effect of too many balls in the air as well - something gets missed, no?

In spite of the busy-ness (wait!  Is that right? Or is it bus-i-ness? Let's just call it chaos), I think it's important to spend time with a family - to balance, regroup, and remember that the little things are important.  We don't always have to be go, go, go... and in all honestly, the days go by so fast, we need to "be" together before it's too late and they're off having little ones of their own (yikes!)

With this in mind, and my whole scheme to shop local, support small business, etc. with the holidays approaching, I'm still guilty of shopping from some of the big box stores and internet retailers, because let's face it, money talks and we're all on a budget.   I like to mix it up - for little girls, I think it's a bit easier to go the whole handmade, shop local gamut... Frozen princess tutu anyone?  With little boys who aren't so little anymore, I find it's a bit harder.  So I'm the mom... and the aunt... that I'm sure the kids dread getting presents from because I want to build the brain (books and puzzles), encourage togetherness (board games or family passes) and spark creativity (Lego and craft kits).  

That's where family game nights and the geniuses at Hasbro capture my attention.  I'm also a fan of the 4-gift Christmas (something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read) but we'll be shaking it up a little because most often the need and wear categories are the same and that didn't fly so well last Christmas.  This year I'm using this version as my guideline rule: Something you want, something to read, something to share, something you need...

I've already been sale watching and picked up some classics for our family to play. Battleship and Twister are our latest acquisitions and we may have picked up two extra boxes to give to certain other little boys on our gift list.   My boys love Sorry & Trouble when they're at Oma's so Santa picked up that on sale as well.   Battleship battles with Daddy become intense.  I'm surprised that no one leaves the table wounded... but it's also full of laughter and light-hearted accusations of cheating because they usually trounce Daddy's butt!  Simon also made it to our wish list this year... and today, we had a fun surprise waiting in the mailbox.

I signed up for Influenster a few months back - it's a product for review social media based experience.  If you qualify for a campaign, you get to try something out (VoxBox) and blast your friends and followers online with all the deets.  Here is where our surprise comes in.  We qualified for the Influenster Hasbro Gaming VoxBox.... which is right up our alley, all things considered.  

J has been home "sick" with me today.... so he's been hanging around while I've had to run some essential errands (doctor's appointments, etc.)   We even managed to pop by the post office where our very first VoxBox was waiting!  We took it home and he opened it with enthusiasm - they love mail because it's still exciting and doesn't contain any bills yet. Ha!

And what was in the box, you ask?  Our very own Monopoly Junior to play and enjoy.   I just spent 30 minutes with the youngest playing a highly competitive game (he owned more than half the board and bankrupt me with enthusiasm!)  We may have to work on good sportsmanship.... It was a half hour that could have been spent replying to client emails, putting away laundry, vacuuming my floors... but you know what?  It was a half hour that I can't put a price on... because for 30 minutes he forgot about his headache, he laughed, we made memories, and we were together. Quality. Family. Time.

Don't let life overwhelm you.  Take time for what's important.  Also, don't let gift giving overwhelm you.  Gift giving is about more than the price tag.  Supporting all the local entrepreneurs isn't always practical.  So I say do what you can - shop local when it's feasible.  But also, do what you have to.... and just remember that giving the gift of fun, togetherness, and making memories is worth more than you can imagine!  The classics are classics for a reason.




Monday, July 28, 2014

Satisfaction

So, uh, has anyone else noticed I haven't posted anything in 5 months?  Funny how things slip to the side....

Today we are midway through our summer break and enjoying 12 degree weather.  I'm wearing pants and a hoodie and not bemoaning the lack of air conditioning at all.  (On those 30 plus days, you could live in another province and hear me bemoaning profusely as I melt into a puddle on the floor.)   In between scrubbing toilets, painting signs, and folding laundry, I've been cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and some sweetheart cowboys.   I've also been half-heartedly planning a grocery list and maybe giving dinner some thought.

Thoughts of food make me think of the garden.... and without the sweltering sun, it's actually pleasant to go out and putter.  I love seeing the results of my early labour.  I love being able to grab what I need with a quick pop outside the door.  Am I crazy about pulling thistles or finding a big fat spider in my sink after washing the romaine?  Not a chance... but the smell of dirt and fresh basil rank right up there with a good book and a great cup of tea on the list of simple pleasures that soothe my soul. 

When it comes to my flower beds and planters, I'm hopeless.  They look fantastic with the first bloom of spring, but about this time of year, they're weedy, scraggly, and overgrown.   My herbs and veggies though?  While maybe not so pretty, the consumable garden always gives me a sense of satisfaction.  

This is the first year I've put in a veggie garden here and I'm having mixed luck.  My lettuce, chard, tomatoes, beans and zucchini are thriving.   My broccoli, cucumber, peppers, and cantaloupe are putting up a fight.   I started my seeds way back when and they all died.  I didn't get to the local greenhouse until late in the season.  My repurposed rose bed has a ton more weeds than my old garden boxes.  The bugs are having a field day with some of my plants.

For me, gardening is an exercise in patience and some days leaves me feeling that no matter the quality or quantity of labour invested, it's all a matter of luck.  Strangely enough, I don't find it frustrating... because many days there has been something homegrown on the table, because next year is another chance to try again, and maybe I'll even convince the kids that, yes, lettuce from the grocery store was grown in the dirt and no, fresh-from-the-ground isn't poisoning you. I'm already playing with a bigger layout in my head for the future... while the perfect zucchini sitting on the counter does indeed leave me feeling satisfied.

Friday, February 28, 2014

No Soup For You

With Old Man Winter stubbornly holding us in his bitter grip, we've been eating a lot of warm-me up meals... stews, soups, and the like.  Especially soups.  My boys DETEST potatoes not cooked in a french fry form - we eat a lot of oven fries.  In spite of this aversion, they will eat a bowl of creamy potato soup (we call it vegetable soup) and ask for seconds.  This is big stuff in the battle of the mealtime, although Kaleb might be cluing in - the last time I made it did not go over nearly as well..  (NOTE:  The following sentence may kill your appetite.  Kaleb has actually vomited his mashed potatoes on the dinner table - I think it's a texture thing - definitely disgusting.)  Growing up, soup was always Chicken Noodle or Dutch Meatball.  Both delicious, but well, predictable.  My mom would, on occasion, make a batch of split pea... blech, no thanks!

A friend from In R Dream posted a photo on instagram the other day of a coconut squash soup she made, recipe from The Naked Label.  I couldn't find the exact recipe (most likely because I don't own the Get Naked In The Kitchen cookbook.)  I have, however, made butternut squash soup in the past.  And the craving for a yummy creamy soup just would not go away.  I picked up my squash at the grocery store yesterday and now have this just-for-me soup simmering on the stove.  My house smells delicious.  My stomach will not stop growling. I might share a bowl with Kevin if he's nice.

If you're anything like me soup and stew recipes change every time you make them.  Use what you have on hand, cross your fingers & hope for the best.  Here is my recipe for Curry Coconut Squash soup, the way I made it this time around. 

Curry Coconut Squash Soup

Ingredients:  
1 tbsp. butter
1 onion
2 jalapeños
1 large butternut squash
3-4 tbsp curry spices (to taste)
1 tbsp. cinnamon honey butter (or honey, and cinnamon)
1/3 cup - 1/2 cup apple juice
4 cups chicken broth (reduce for a thicker soup)
1 can coconut milk

Directions:
Chop up that onion and those jalapeños while melting your butter (or oil) in a soup pot.  Sauté until tender, sprinkle with curry spices (I used Epicure Mango Curry Dip).   Peel & seed your squash, cut into cubes.  Add apple sauce to pan and scrape up any bits from the bottom.  Add your remaining ingredients.  I would like to point out that most recipes use honey...not honey butter... I'm aware of this, I just grabbed the wrong jar and it was too late to go back.  It works.    Stir everything together and bring to a boil.  Reduce hit, cover, and simmer on low 25 minutes or so - until your butternut squash is tender.  Your broth itself will taste delicious at this point... if it doesn't, add your favourite seasoning.  If you want to bring this soup all together, you'll need to purée in small batches with a blender or food processor.  Be careful, heat tends to make the lid blow off your blender.  Big mess.  I speak from experience.  If you find your soup too thick, add more liquid - milk, cream, chicken broth.  Once puréed to desired texture & consistency, dish up and enjoy!  This will warm you from the inside and leave Old Man Winter out in the cold.  If you're feeling selfish, keep it that pot to yourself and repeat the Seinfeld line with conviction:  "No Soup For You."

EDIT:  After I pureed this beautiful, delicious soup, I found it slightly runny.  I didn't use a very large squash and probably added wee bit too much broth.  It's still tasty though!