29 April 2011

Royal Wedding

I love history (one of my majors) and was very happy to witness a little this morning...

my daughter and I decided to have a little all night party (my mother who went to bed early joined us at one) to witness William and Catherine exchange vows...but only I lasted until the kisses on the balcony!

The wedding was beautiful...

My mother and daughter are asleep and I am heading over to look after three busy boys...I hope I make it through the day...I am not handling all-nighters as well as I used to...but so happy that I did it!

27 April 2011

Happy thoughts...

As I finish my second week without internet access at home...

I am really trying to keep Happy thoughts front and centre. One of the downfalls of our small house experiment is that we do not have our own phone line/internet service. We are borrowing wireless services from my father's shop. Most of the time it works great...lately, not so much.

In addition to the faulty internet service, my camera has decided that it does not wish to download photos onto my computer...

I am in need of upgrading...my computer, camera and internet connection. I must admit to feeling a little frustrated when computer tasks that should take five minutes instead take an hour or more. But, I am practicing my deep breathing...

I am borrowing my mother's computer and browsing through some photos that I sent her from our little drive around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton a year and a half ago...Happy thoughts indeed.

23 April 2011

Prayer, Faith and positive thinking

Just thought I would share some good news...

I am still having technical difficulties and am again borrowing a computer that happened to have a photo I took travelling across Canada on it that I thought would be appropriate since we are on the move again...

A little while ago I wrote about the good news we received regarding my hubby's acceptance to the Master of Architecture program at UBC...you can read about it here.

Today we are the recipients of more good news!!!

One of the concerns I had about our move was finding a place to live...while we were in Nova Scotia my hubby commuted almost daily over 200km each way (a two to two and a half hour drive) to school...long story...

Needless to say, he did not want to commute again.

 Moving to Vancouver is a little challenging as Vancouver is the most expensive city to live in in Canada and the West End of Vancouver where UBC is located is one of the (if not the) most expensive areas of the city. Living in a cheaper area of the city or in a neighbouring community would include at times a lengthy commute and/or could also be a little bit of a scary area to live in...my daughter still remembers the last time we drove through east van...and the woman dressed as a fairy skipping down the sidewalk jumping over the people that were sleeping and/or passed out on the sidewalk...since this is the only memory she has kept of Vancouver it has been fun trying to convince her that Vancouver can be a really nice place to live! We REALLY were hoping to get into campus housing.

UBC has a really nice community of townhouses for student families at a significantly lower price than the usual rent in the area. After receiving my husband's student number we applied...and found out that we were 19th on a waitlist for 42 townhouses that would accommodate our large family (they have restrictions on family sizes in their units...with four children we could only apply for a four bedroom townhouse). We were a little nervous...19th...of 42 and not all 42 would become vacant this year. They advised us that most families wait about a year to get housing...

We prayed...and decided that we would be positive. Keep our attitude of forward thinking...

When my husband wanted to get his master's degree in fine arts he picked the one school he really wanted to go to and applied to that school only. They took in nine students and they had hundreds of applications. He was waitlisted. We stayed positive and decided to move across the country anyway - knowing that something would work out...even if he had to wait another year...we knew he would get in. Two weeks after the deadline passed for getting in off of the waitlist and two days before we were set to move, my hubby received an urgent email that the school had decided to open an extra space for him. They wanted him there. When he decided to go to Architecture school, we looked at many different schools. He really wanted to go to UBC. He applied to UBC only...they took in 65 students...they had hundreds of applications...he got in. We were 19th on a waitlist for housing...we had no plan B. Less than a week after they received our application they contacted us with an offer. They had an opening for two weeks from now...could we take it?....

We will have to pay a few extra months rent...BUT...we got what we wanted!

We are doing the happy dance at our house again. It is such a relief to know that we won't have to be so far apart and my husband is really happy to be within walking distance of classes!

This Easter season I am so thankful for prayer and faith...and for always getting what we need.

Happy Easter!

21 April 2011

Technical difficulties

The lack of posts this week have been due to technical difficulties.

I have been without internet service for nearly a week and it is starting to drive me a little crazy.

I have quickly borrowed a computer to check my emails and make a quick post just so you know I haven't deserted my blog. I am hoping to have the problem fixed shortly. In the meantime I have been taking a little computer break.

I have started packing for our summer move...and adding more boxes of books (just what every mover wants right? more boxes of books!) My husband's back is not thanking me. But, I really couldn't help it there was a large used book sale for the local museum and art gallery...and I think it is really important to support the arts! So I had to buy large quantities of books (just in case I have failed to get the point across previously...I really love books). I will now need a new book case and so my frugal buy may get a little more expensive; but it is still worth it to me.

In Nova Scotia we had a very large living room and a wall of books. Looking at that wall always made me feel so happy. I love that I can pick up a book off of my own library shelf on almost any subject that interests me. I suppose I am a little old fashioned...but I would much prefer to do my research from books (especially vintage books) than from the internet. And I love having books on hand when I need to write an essay rather than having to order them from the library and wait (a nod to my modern need for instant gratification). So this week I have had a boost from adding a number of very cool vintage books to my collection as well as a number of history, literature, architecture and art books...with a few cookbooks thrown in as well...due to some camera difficulties as well...no pictures yet.

Maybe that is one of the reasons I love books so much...they are so reliable with no technical difficulties.

Happy Easter!

14 April 2011

Finding my Passion...

Last month  I mentioned I was reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. One quote that she includes in her book is something I have been thinking about for a number of years and has been on my mind this week.

It is simply this:

"I can DO ANYTHING I want, but I can't DO EVERYTHING I want".

I agree completely.

As I have mentioned previously, my husband has always wanted to be an Architect; he has worked really hard over the past seven years and has completed his BFA and MFA and will be starting his MArch degree in August. He has been focused and driven and aside from family time, he hasn't had time to really do anything else. I think fulfilling dreams are like that...they require a lot of time and effort, but if it is something you love doing the work is very rewarding.

 I have been working on my BA for five years majoring in both History and English. But, I am undecided about what I want to do with it. Unlike my hubby, I have not had just one thing that I have always wanted to do. (Sometimes I really wish I did; decision-making would be SO much easier!) I couldn't even pick one major! I love many things and have bits and pieces of many hobbies that I wish I had more time for. I think it is finally sinking in that I do not have time to do all of them really well. I think all of us, at some point have to ask ourselves this: do I want to be mediocre at a lot of things or do I want to be really good at one or two? Personally, I don't like mediocre. I like doing a lot of things but when I don't have time to learn to do them well I get frustrated. I really want to narrow down my passions to just a couple and then take the time to do them well. I have known this for years, but I haven't been able to narrow them down.

Over the past year (or two) I have been really thinking about what I am the most passionate about. What is it that I want to do with my life. I don't want to wait until my kids leave home to decide what I want to be when I grow up...I know that whatever I choose to do, if I work hard I will be successful.

I like to write, I keep a daily journal and have dozens of notebooks full of things I jot down...but, nothing very polished ( I am working on this. The English portion of my degree began as a love of literature and I have taken a number of literature classes. But, during the second half of my degree I am trying to cram in all the creative writing classes I can. While I have always known that I LOVE to read, I didn't realize until a year or so ago how much I love to write, even though it is something I have always done).

I am also finding that I really love taking pictures (although I am not very good at it yet...a few days ago I went into the local camera shop and oggled the canon 7D for a while...but for now I do not have the $$$ and I think I need to finish paying for my degree first). I also really love to cook and if I were fifteen years younger and did not have four kids I would love to be a chef; however, I do not want to be a chef at my age and with a family...but, I really do want to learn to be a great cook...cooking school is something that is very appealing to me.

As of now my priorities are this...my family: spending time with my kids while they are still at home and still want to spend time with me...supporting my husband in fulfilling his dream and trying to find time for us to spend together...and finishing my degree (which I hope to complete by early 2013...yes it is taking me a very long time, mostly due to priority number one). I have been trying to master my little point and shoot camera...and I do have that beautiful 7D on my wish list...I practice my cooking as much as I can and cook something from scratch nearly every day (Last night it was pizza... I made the crust and the sauce as always, but I would really love to add making the cheese...maybe next pay day I will order some rennet...)and the past two mornings I have been working on a blackberries and cream scone recipe ( I found some really nice frozen berries). Not quite ready to share yet...maybe when the fresh berries come in...

I think over the past few months I have narrowed my "really want to do" list to three things:
1. writing
2. photography
3. food ( although I am also really interested in agriculture, the family farm and self sufficiency...which is kind of number 4).

I know, that is four things not one or two. But, that is as narrow as I can go for now...I keep thinking that maybe I can find a way to make them all work together...do you think so?

11 April 2011

Childish Things

I remember when I was young, listening to the radio with my mother. It seemed as if every song that came on was her "favourite song", or at least every other song was. I thought she was crazy. How could so many songs be her "favourite"; it didn't make any sense.

Now I understand. The more I read, the more quotes I find that I love. I have many, many favourites. My favourite can change at any moment depending on my mood. They may not all be my very favourite at this moment but have been a favourite at different times of my life. I love them and carry them with me.

Today, I thought I would write down my new favourite quote...for this moment anyway.

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
~ C.S. Lewis

 I was an early reader and read the Little House on the Prairie series, Charlotte's Web and others when I was six and seven. When I was ten I read Sweet Valley High books. At 11 and 12 and 13 I collected Stephen King and V.C. Andrews novels and I would stay up reading until the early morning hours because I was too frightened to go to sleep.

As an adult some of my favourite books are the Anne of Green Gables series (which I read for the first time when I was pregnant with my daughter), Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Little Princess, Harry Potter and many others. I read to my kids everyday and have loved exploring some of the literature I missed out on (or that wasn't available) when I was younger.

Photo Courtesy of William Rance

As I watch my 11 year old try desperately to seem more grown up: refusing to be in the room if a cartoon is on (because they are SO stupid), and not wanting to read "baby books" (anything with pictures) to her brothers because they are SO beneath her. I am reminded of my 11 year old self and how hard those pre-teen and teen years could be and how desperately I wanted to be an adult. I am grateful for age and the wisdom I have gained to know that it is okay to stand out and be different and it is also okay to just be a kid sometimes no matter what your age is.

09 April 2011

Saturday Morning

I enjoy being outside with my boys on Saturday mornings.

When we found out how easy it was to do the morning chores around my dad's barn, we offered to take the week-end shift. Saturday and Sunday mornings we head out to feed the cows.

There is just something about heading out first thing in the morning, before breakfast...

I love the fresh air and walking around the barn yard.

I love that my boys are learning that sometimes we need to put the needs of other creatures before our own.

They are learning that animals that were previously a little scary...are just creatures sharing this earth with us and while they deserve respect they too can show gratitude.

They are also learning that sometimes other creatures are just as scared and/or as curious of us as we are of them...

I have learned to love walking around and thinking about the history that is in this old barn.

I love looking at all the textures and colours. I make plans in my head of what I would do if it was mine...

That is one thing my hubby and I do for fun...what would we do if this was ours...we do that everywhere we go...and then we move on...by the time we get our own place we will have intellectually renovated so many places we will know exactly what we want.

For now, I want to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and walking around this old farmstead...in four months we will be in the city and I know I am going to miss this.

07 April 2011

pancake breakfast

My family loves pancakes.

When we were in Nova Scotia every Tuesday would be pancake day. My husband did not have classes that day and would be at home and because we had so little time together during the week as a family we would pick the kids up from school for lunch on Tuesday and we would eat pancakes. Everyone looked forward to pancake day...pancakes in the middle of the day and the surprise of what kind of pancakes would be on the table that week; my hubby and the kids loved being home from school for lunch and I loved having everyone together. Pancake day is one of our great memories from Nova Scotia.

This morning the six year old and the three year old both requested pancakes for breakfast. I was happy to accommodate the request. (Did I ever mention how much I LOVE not having to rush off to school in the morning?) So, I threw together some ingredients and ended up with school morning pancakes...

In a medium sized bowl mix together:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup ground walnuts (just whizz some walnuts up in the food processor)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

In a smaller bowl whisk together:

2 eggs
2 Tbsp canola oil (or any other oil you prefer)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla (optional; we like vanilla...)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry...

While you are mixing batter...have the griddle (or frying pan if you do not have a griddle) heating on the stove (I preheated mine at medium to medium low but I have a cast iron griddle...experiment with what works best for you and your stove). Lightly grease griddle/pan.

I used a 1/2 cup scoop to scoop batter onto griddle.

When the bubbles have popped and the edges begin to cook, flip pancakes over.

Serve with butter and pure maple syrup (while most of the food I cook is rustic comfort type food, I still am a bit of a food snob and insist on pure maple syrup...there really is no substitute. But, if you choose something else...I won't know about it and I'll just pretend that everybody is using the good stuff...you are right?)

This is my current favourite. The darker the syrup the stronger the maple flavour.

In my house...

a stronger maple flavour is so much better!

Happy pancake day!

06 April 2011


I have been waiting patiently to see trees with leaves...

they are coming...

I hope.

My hubby called. He is working about 20 minutes away from here.

It is snowing there.

Doesn't mother nature know that it is April?

04 April 2011

Monday Bliss

Today my middle son is six...(April is a big month for birthdays in our family).

I was a little stressed trying to think about what we could do today...we did a birthday party a week and a half ago and a big family dinner on Saturday...I was pretty happy when he crawled into bed with me this morning and asked if he could PLEASE have a pajama day today...wear his pjs all day and just play, watch TV, read stories...relax! I...the trying so hard to be the perfect mother...said "of course" and then said a little thank-you! under my breath.

This week-end has been SO busy. My sister and her family left on Friday, a few hours later my husband's family arrived...Saturday, my oldest son had his first fencing lesson...

immediately followed by his baptism and then following that a family dinner for 17 that I hosted for my number two son's birthday...Sunday we had church and then said good-bye to my hubby's family... and the cat who six months ago was abondoned in my dad's workshop and I felt too sorry for it to let my mom put it in the barn with the scary barn cats...

He is going to live at Grandma's house. I had a few unhappy kids to comfort Sunday night. But, the cat had to go. For those of you just joining us...we live in a 600 square foot cottage...all six of us...adding a cat to the mix borders on crazy...although an argument could be made that 6 people in 600 square feet while homeschooling is full immersion crazy already...I do understand that argument. Mostly it is good...the cat pushed it a little over the top.

But, like Julia Donaldson's "A Squash and a Squeeze" taking out the cat has made our little cottage roomier already. The kids all seem to have recovered this morning and so...

Today is bliss. A day to relax...just me and my kids...no A.M. fighting over whose turn it is to hold the cat...just us...nowhere to go...everyone is getting along...and I have time to sit and cuddle my little boy who is now six and getting bigger everyday.

I love these moments.

01 April 2011

100th birthday

Today would have been my granny's 100th birthday.

She was born 1 April, 1911 and passed away in September six years ago. I still miss her. She was such a big part of my life. You can read about her here.

Last night we had a little family dinner in her honour. My mom, sister, sister in law and daughter cooked up a Russian dinner: a big bowl of borscht (cabbage based not beet), we made varenyky (perogies), and for dessert pyrahi. 

Pyrahi are probably my favourite dessert. When strawberries and raspberries were in season, Granny and I would spend almost every week-end in her garden picking berries and then making pyrahi. Strawberry were my favourite.

I have so many memories of being out with granny in her garden. I can still picture her in her straw hat with the funny rubber worm on the rim, her old green sweatshirt, old blue addidas running shoes and her little wooden stool (which now sits next to my bed holding my current bedtime reads). She would tie an ice cream pail around her waist and pick until it was full. Her pail would always fill much faster than mine would; probably because I ate more than I saved.

We would pick a bright red tomato or two before going in for lunch. We would have amazing tomato sandwiches with toasted bread with butter and a big glob of mayonnaise and pile on very thick slices of sun warmed tomato...salt...pepper...I can still taste them.

After lunch she would pull out her glass rolling pin with the screwtop lid on the side and start the batch of pyrahi. I loved watching her make pyrahi...mostly because I knew what the afternoon snack would be. Her hands would move so fast rolling little balls of dough and rolling out circles. The strawberries and/or raspberries would be simmering on the stove making the kitchen smell amazing. She would place a dollop of berries in the centre of a round of dough and quickly spin and pinch all the way around until she had made a perfect little purse...she would let me make one or two and she would smile when each time I found it nearly impossible to make a neat little purse shape. I usually just helped rolling the balls.

I would wait patiently for them to come out of the oven...then granny would pour melted butter over the top and we would eat...yes, melted butter. My granny ate more butter than anybody I have ever met. I don't think she cooked anything with less than a half cup of butter; which is probably why all her food tasted SO good. (These days I skip the melted butter as these are just as delicious on their own).

Granny once tried to have her recipe published but the cookbook it was supposed to be in never materialized. Today on her 100th birthday, I thought I would publish it for her. They are a little finicky to make...but so yummy to eat...and so full of memories for me.

Granny's Pyrahi


In a medium bowl mix together:

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

add 1/4 cup butter

work butter into flour mixture with your fingers (like working a crumble); I have also used cold butter and cut it in fine - like pastry - both work.

In a small bowl whisk 2 eggs and add 1 1/2 cups cream.

Add cream and egg mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine. Form into a soft ball.


Various fillings can be used. Granny preferred strawberry and raspberry. She also made pyrahi with hamburger and onions...but you can use your imagination...peaches, blueberries, blackberries...you get the idea.

Granny always used fresh berries and cooked them on the stovetop with a little tapioca (you can also use corn starch) and sugar if needed. Of course it was all done to taste and I unfortunately haven't made them enough to figure out the exact amounts needed. I would suggest about six cups of chopped strawberries before cooking (if you have leftovers it makes an excellent topping for blintze or pancakes). I used about a tablespoon of corn starch as a thickener.

It is best to make the filling first and let cool while you make the dough. Also preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Divide dough into 36 sections and roll each section into a ball.

With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a round...

or if you have troubles...like I do...a roundish shape is fine. You want them to be as thin as you can get them...but they still need to hold the filling without splitting open...which does happen sometimes. They take a bit of practice.

Place about a tablespoon of filling in the centre of the dough, bring the sides up and pinch into a purse shape, leaving a little air hole on top for steam to escape...

and place on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes or until they are starting to turn golden brown on the tips and the bottom.

These are good warm out of the oven and just as good the next day. I only make them about once every few years, but, after this week I think I should make them more often. I want to be able to make them perfectly like granny did; maybe by the time I am a grandmother I will.


Happy 100th Birthday Granny!