20 November 2012

November Comfort.

Last week I celebrated my favourite November tradition.

In November, Christmas arrives a little early to our kitchen...

Every year as I am stocking my cupboards with jars filled with the bounty of the local harvest - I stop -and for a change of pace print out the current seasons nuts and dried fruit order from Rancho Vignola

I love them. They only sell wholesale and have a short window for ordering - just a few weeks in September as the new crops are being harvested. After I make my dream list and then cut it down to my really want list and then to my almost there list and finally to my what I can afford list I send it in and then wait...patiently... until delivery arrives in November. I LOVE Rancho Vignola day!

I love hauling the boxes into the kitchen and pulling out the large bags of nuts, seeds and dried fruits! I love filling jars and stocking my cupboards to bursting. I love the feeling of November. The freezers are full...the cupboards are full...Christmas baking will soon start with fruitcakes made from the freshest of nuts and dried fruits...

As soon as it arrives I conduct a little taste test. The kids try everything from Flax seeds and Hemp hearts...to Brazil nuts and Medjool dates. Some are loved by all and some appreciated by only a few...but we all love trying everything and picking our favourites. It's a mini November Thanksgiving in Canada (for those who don't know - and I know there are people who don't - up here in Canada most of the harvest comes early so we celebrate Thanksgiving in October).

Since I have been feeling so comforted knowing I have food for the winter, this week I decided to make my ultimate comfort food.

I chopped the onions, cabbage, celery, peppers, carrots, potatoes and dill (how I love the smell of fresh dill) and grated the beets and made my granny's borscht. 

As I stir the pot I tell my kids the story my granny used to tell of not being able to wait for the borscht when she was two and how she pulled the borscht pot down on herself. I tell them how when I was little I used to rub my finger along the scars on her neck that mingled with the wrinkles. Granny was already old when I was young...she was two in 1913.

 I think about granny's borscht frozen in old pickle jars in her freezer...(there was always borscht at granny's house). I think about my great grandmother and imagine her learning this recipe from her mother in Russia many, many years ago. I think about me as a small infant taking my first tastes of food from a bowl of borscht made with love and wonder how many generations of my family have tasted this borscht and how many of us found comfort and warmth. I think about my dad in a small restaurant in Grand Forks and the smile on his face as he tastes a bowl of borscht declaring it is just like his mom's. I wonder how many families share this recipe. I love sharing it with my children and listening to them ask for a bowl of "granny soup". I love that flavours can be transported across generations tying family together. I wonder how many more generations will find comfort in the flavours of granny's borscht...I lastly think with gratitude of my mother and silently thank her for patiently watching granny and writing down her recipe...life just wouldn't be the same without it.

30 October 2012


This past Saturday I had the opportunity to do something that I have been wanting to do for years...

I met with a group of people who came together to make cheese...


It was so fun watching the magic occur after the rennet was added.

The cheese came together quite quickly. I was surprised by how easy it was. Why haven't I done this yet? One reason was a lack of rennet (which I now have and so there are no excuses!) and the other was I suppose a fear of the unknown...what if I mess it up? what if it is really hard? One thing I have learned over the past few years is that few things are as difficult as they seem and the only way I can really mess things up is by not trying them at all.

The ball on the left is the one made by me... it was delicious! I can't wait to make some at home...and see what else I can try.

18 October 2012

My little piece of heaven...

Today I hugged my kids a little tighter.

This morning I accompanied my youngest to the pumpkin patch with his class.

There is something about watching five year olds find the perfect pumpkin.

so proud of himself.

And then I took one too many photos...

and things became silly. I love every picture of his silly face.

I smiled at his eagerness to line up for the bus many minutes before anyone else. Today was his first time on a school bus and he was so excited.

I was so grateful as I watched him. Grateful that I could be there. Grateful that I have been able to stay home with my kids while they are little. Grateful for all the time I have had with them.

When I returned to the school it was recess and my middle son's eyes lit up when he saw me and he ran over to me for a hug. I was so happy to have that hug. So grateful to receive a hug even though his friends were watching. He said he hadn't been feeling well and was wanting to come home and miraculously I arrived just as he was wishing that he could go home. I brought him home and bundled him up on the couch with a movie. It felt so good to see his happy face and hear his little voice saying "Thank you so much for coming to get me mommy".

I anxiously awaited the end of school so I could pick up the two boys who were still at school.

My daughter agreed to babysit while I ran down to the school to get them. On the way there I thought about how big she is getting. How much she has matured over the past months and what a help and a friend she is to me.

 We are busy planning our third annual girls day for November and we are really looking forward to it. 
She is growing up so fast and it really freaks me out that she has so few years left at home. My babies are growing up so fast!

After school I decided to surprise the kids with a treat and made chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate with whipping cream. While I baked I let the boys play video games...

They were so happy... Thursday is not one of their regular days to play. They played until I called them to the table for a treat.

I loved watching how happy they were. Today has been cool and drizzling...warm cookies and hot chocolate was much appreciated. 

They were so happy and really it required very little effort on my part. We get so caught up in the day to day routines it was nice to spoil them a little. I wanted them to know how grateful I am for them. How much I love them and how I am not just about nagging them to do homework, and clean their rooms, and hurry up because we are going to be late...I need to bring more fun into our lives. 

At least once in awhile. We do that during the holidays but during the school year everyone is always so busy that sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy each other. 

I was reminded of that over the past couple of days as I read "Heaven is Here" by Stephanie Nielson. Her story is so heartbreaking and inspiring. Reading it made me want to hug my kids a little tighter each day and reminded me what a privilege it is to be a mother. How lucky I am to have been blessed with four beautiful children. Today I am filled with gratitude for a wonderful husband who works so hard to  take care of his family and who really loves me. I sometimes forget how rare that is. After fifteen years we are still best friends and even more in love than the day we were married. He is so good to me and I am so happy that I have him. My family means so much to me and even though I tell them every day, I don't always take the time to show them. 

Thank you NieNie for reminding me that Heaven IS here. I think I will appreciate my life and express my gratitude just a little bit more after reading your book. 

If you haven't read it yet...go out and buy it. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not being affected by her powerful message of hope and gratitude. On a side note... it also made me want to get out and run. If she can...I really have no excuse.

16 October 2012

New Classes

Today I registered for my first e-class.

I have been looking at it for awhile.

Hosted by one of my favourite bloggers (and bag makers)...

Jeanne Oliver.

I am so excited to take the class and hopeful that I will get something out of it.

I hesitated in registering for weeks.

The course is on creating a "Creatively Made Home"...

Those who know me know that I move... a lot.

I have been married fifteen years and have moved ten times... four times in the past four years. I find it so hard to make the houses I live in my home. I am always so busy with school and packing or unpacking (not to mention four kids) that I seem to find very little time to decorate or do much to create a homey feel. I hope Jeanne and crew can give me lots of ideas and help me out.

And on a side note...

Today I received a VERY large box full of textbooks.

My next four classes start November 1st. Four courses... and a couple of them are the classes that I didn't really want to take, but needed to in order to fulfill graduation requirements. I am a little nervous about the amount of reading I have to do. There are a lot of books and not one, but two of the classes came with reading files in the neighbourhood of one thousand pages...each. Glancing over it I think I have more than ten thousand pages to read by the end of February... and thirteen essays...and four exams...my head hurts just thinking about it... as Scarlett so wisely said "I'll think of it tomorrow".

Tonight, I will think about the e-course instead and go to sleep with a smile.

Class starts next week!

01 October 2012

Food and Farm Tour

Saturday afternoon my family and I were able to sneak out for a little bit and take in part of the food and farm tour that was happening in our area.

We had a pretty busy week-end and so I wasn't able to visit all of the farms and see everything I wanted to; but, what we did see was awesome.

I love open farm days...this Saturday was a self-guided driving tour to visit the participating farms. We stayed so long at the farms we visited that we only were able to see two...yes, two.

The first farm we visited was a pumpkin patch that works on the honour system. I loved it. The patch was huge and the kids were able to run along the wide road path and look in at all the pumpkins. They were so excited. I loved looking at all the funky gourds and even picked a few corn stalks for the front porch.

After checking out the prices...I loaded up on gourds and pumpkins...now I just have to figure out what to do with them. I picked out a number of sugar pumpkins so I see some pies in my future.

The second farm was a beautiful old orchard filled with big trees (not one of the new orchards that look almost as if they are growing grapes with little trees espaliered along wires).

The view from the orchard was beautiful. It was tucked away in the back of a property... I had no idea it was even there. It can't be seen from the road. What a great surprise at the end of a very long driveway.

They had many varieties of pears and apples - many of them very old - some I have never heard of. The farmer was the fourth generation to run the orchard which was started just after his family bought the land in 1910.

I walked away from the tours with mixed feelings. I was so happy that we were able to go and walk around and learn more about local agriculture. Wandering around outdoors, looking at food growing is my happy place. I love it. I loved that the kids were outside and learning about where food comes from (or at least should come from). I loved picking an apple off the tree and crunching into one of the best tasting apples I have ever had and listening to my kids rave about how good they tasted.

But, I was a little sad too...first because I had to leave wishing I had a place of my own where I could go out and pick an apple every day while they were in season. Second - listening to the farmer say that he will be the last generation in his family on the orchard because he wants his son to go to university and get a real job. He explained how working on the farm generates so little income and made me wish that more people would pay attention to their food choices.

Fresh local food tastes so much better and in many cases is cheaper than what can be purchased at the store and even if it does cost a little more it is so much better for all of us.

12 September 2012

First Day of School

My baby started school this year.

I miss him already.

They lost him twice the first day.

I warned the teacher that he would be a flight risk. Being the fourth child, he is a little more independent than the other kids. I told his teacher that if he gets bored he will go and find something more interesting to do. If he is really bored, he may decide to go home. He does know how to get home from school.

When I asked him why he left his class, he told me "You left me there a really, really long time. You shouldn't do that. I just missed you, missed you, missed you."

I think it will take him a while to get used to the idea that school is different. I am still not 100% convinced that school is the best thing for him...it is all about conformity. I like his independence. I like that he can entertain himself. I know that there is a time and a place, but sometimes school really tries to knock that independence and individuality out of kids.

 I have really struggled to find a balance between listening, doing what is right and maintaining the ability to choose for yourself. I really noticed with my oldest that the more time she spent in school the more she lost the ability to choose for herself. She is always waiting for someone to tell her what she is supposed to do next. How she is supposed to write or draw. She lost a lot of her imagination. I am working on getting her to relearn how to use her imagination again and make her own decisions. She is slowly improving but it is a lot of work. I have been working on my boys. I would homeschool, but the boys want to go to school.

The second day of school went much better and my boy did not get lost once. He told me he would never do it again. When I picked him up after the second day, he didn't see me and I was able to watch him go to his locker, get his backpack, change his shoes and put on his vest. He looked so big and he knew exactly what he was supposed to do. When he came home I read him a story and stopped before the end and had him draw out what he thought would happen...his idea was awesome.

29 August 2012

Procrastination and a Plan

I am still alive over here.

I have been taking one class this summer and have been busy finishing off my final four essays before my two month break from school.

I am taking the history of global labour and aside from learning a few things I didn't know about the slave trade, it has been...well, I'll just say that it isn't my favourite class. Taking a class that I am not really enjoying during the summer while my kids are home has been a little challenging and has given me opportunity to work on perfecting my procrastination talent. I look at it as part of my education towards becoming a writer. I am now really good at working under pressure with a deadline looming in front of me. Not only that, but I have also completed a few lingering projects that needed doing...procrastination does have some benefits. On the downside I have two more essays to write by Friday night.

One of the great paradoxes of my life ~ I love to write, but I will do almost anything to get out of doing it. I still haven't figured that one out.

I am also finalizing some of my future plans. My hubby promised me a nice long talk once his show was in place in the gallery... and I did not forget the promise. We always intended our stay in the Okanagan to be temporary. There were a few moments when we thought we might stay. Some days being close to family and friends is really tempting. But, deep down we know that is not our path.

Nothing is really finalized yet, but we have had some great discussions about what we want out of life and where we want to be in 5, 10, 20 years. We spent a few minutes despairing not knowing how to get there and wishing we were independently wealthy so we could be where we want to be NOW. The desire was strong enough that I actually bought a lottery ticket. Spending a few days dreaming about the what if? was a fun experiment. But, when the "you are not a winner" started flashing across the screen I quickly came back to reality.

We are formulating plans that we are both really excited about. They are not perfect but they will take us towards the life we want. As I often remind my kids ~ If you want a clean room, you have to clean it. (unless you have enough money or Tom Sawyer smarts to get somebody to do it for you). I think we have found something that will give us some of what we want now and will help take us towards getting everything we want. Things are looking pretty good. I just have to finish off these essays, do a little more research and hopefully by the end of the year our plans will be finalized!

I'll keep you posted.

16 August 2012

Random Summer Happenings...

Just thought I would post a few random photos from the past three weeks (not necessarily in chronological order)...

My second son spent a week at "British Football" camp and LOVED it. He had so much fun, learned a lot and really enjoyed the last day when they brought costumes from home for their coaches to wear.

I was really happy that the weather co-operated and what is traditionally the hottest week of the year was a little cooler than normal. We walked to the camp each day and I was able to stay and watch him and enjoy his water breaks with him. Being the third of four kids, we have had very little one on one time together. We both really enjoyed our "just me and you" time.

about two and a half weeks ago, my town had a crazy, freak wind/rain/hail/thunder storm. First came LOTS of rain, followed by hail. This photo is the beginning of the hail. By the end the boots were covered.

Our power was out for almost twelve hours. I was very thankful that we had a barbeque. I lovingly sent my amazing hubby out to grill up some burgers for dinner. Notice the lake forming in our backyard...

I celebrated my 39th birthday...I am now officially the same age that my dad says he is. I use the term "celebrated" loosely. July was crazy busy as usual...maybe next year will be the year that I actually do something other than pack, move, write essays or exams on my birthday. I think I better tell the hubby to start planning something. I have never really been big on birthday celebrations - my own anyway - but, maybe 40 will be my year.

The biggest excitement we have had is my husband's solo show opened at the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

He has been working on it for months and has kept him very busy.

The show is on now until October 11th.

The opening went well...although, I didn't stay the entire time. I'm not mentioning any names, but a child or maybe two of mine became a little restless as the night went on...

we left after an hour. It would have been great to spend the evening with my husband. Get out and have some adult time. But, I really wanted the kids to experience the art opening. I'll get my time when they are grown. I want them to have memories of attending their dad's shows. This is the third opening they have attended. The hubby has had three solo shows. (If you count his grad show). I didn't see the inside of an art gallery until I was an adult. I love that they have seen famous - and not at all famous - original works of art. My hubby lets them touch the paintings, - his paintings, not other artists'...just thought I should clarify that point - feeling the different textures. I don't think they really appreciate it now, but I am hoping they will when they get older.

Other than that and a few hikes, beach visits, and playing in the back yard...the rest of our summer has consisted of trying to avoid the heat. Our family isn't really big on the above thirty weather ...hmm... another pro for my Nova Scotia list....

This week, we have started thinking about school supplies...I better get some soon...many of the stores are already prepping for christmas, if I wait too much longer there may not be any school supplies left.
That really annoys me...christmas? Really? It's AUGUST! The past few years as I have tried to shop for Hallowe'en mid-October I have failed to find anything but Christmas supplies. It really puts me off shopping. The one benefit of having little cash this summer...I have stepped into the mall only once and I can honestly say that I don't miss it.

I am going to enjoy a few more hikes, beach visits and plenty of barbeques over the next few weeks...

Happy Summer!

09 August 2012


Right now, this is what I miss the most...

Rustico Beach, Prince Edward Island

Northport Beach, Nova Scotia

Blomidon, Nova Scotia

Somewhere along the Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (The word Green comes to mind...but I really can't remember the name of this exact spot.)

Joggins, Nova Scotia

When my hubby decided to leave architecture school, we decided to go back to Nova Scotia. The reason we returned to BC was so he could do his Masters of Architecture at UBC.

Our experience in Vancouver taught us how much we missed Nova Scotia. When we left Vancouver, we returned to the Okanagan because the hubby had a show booked at a local art gallery that he needed to do some paintings for and because we had to move only a few weeks after making the decision to leave Vancouver. Moving across Canada with little notice at Christmas was not appealing.

We decided that we would move in August after the show opened.

His show opened last week.

I am still in BC.

Things haven't worked out exactly as we planned. We need to save a few more pennies before we can pack up and go. The hubby also needs a day job in Nova Scotia. ( I am still in school so I am leaving the day job to him).

Because things haven't worked out exactly as we planned...I think we are here for another year.

Staying has some good points. I do love BC...

but this week I am feeling VERY homesick. I feel like I have been on an extended vacation that is dragging on a lot longer than I want it to. Do you know that feeling?

Home...funny how Nova Scotia feels like home to me. I only lived there for just over two years in my nearing forty years of life.

If you have the time I'll tell you a little story...

I grew up in a smallish town not far from Vancouver. I loved it. It was home to me. I had family, friends and lived in a great house on five acres outside the city; my granny lived in town - walking distance to everywhere I needed to go.

Unexpectedly (to me anyway) my parents decided to move to the Okanagan - to a very small town. VERY small town. Nothing was really within walking distance, unless you count the fish and game club. I was fifteen when we moved. I hated it. I couldn't wait to leave. As soon as I was eighteen, I did. I moved around a lot.

When the hubby and I became engaged (over fifteen years ago) we realized that we could go anywhere and do anything. I was working as a travel agent and brought home dozens of brochures from tourist boards all over the world. We read through them all looking for a perfect place to live. We researched for weeks, searching the internet for additional information on our favourite places.

For a reason that I no longer remember, we chose Prince Edward Island...probably because it had pretty much everything on our must have list and we could stay in Canada avoiding mountains of paperwork.

In hindsight, I think I was looking for a home. In all the moving I had done in the previous decade, I hadn't really felt at home anywhere. Something was missing. I didn't know what, but I wanted to find it.

After we married...we stayed where we were. We had a mortgage to pay and moving to a place we had never been seemed a little too risky. My husband became my home. I was so happy to be married to him that it didn't matter too much where we lived.

Less than a year after we married I was offered a trip to New Brunswick - three nights, all expenses paid, packed itinerary - by the New Brunswick Tourist Board. I was very excited to go and had an amazing time. I loved everything about that trip and I am sure that I bored everybody by announcing "I want to live here" every stop we made. I called my husband every night trying to figure out a way that he could just meet me there so I didn't have to leave.

I can still vividly picture my last night there. I went for a walk late at night around the grounds of the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. It was a beautiful night. I could hear piano music softly escaping through the open windows of the hotel. I could smell the ocean. I stood outside for a long time with a cool breeze blowing over me. Even though the breeze was cool, I remember feeling very warm and thinking "this feels like home - I don't want to leave". I remember crying and smiling at the same time. I hadn't felt like that in such a long time. I felt safe, comforted and happy... and then my mind would remind me I was leaving in a few short hours and the crying would start up again.

Ten years later, my family and I moved to Nova Scotia so my hubby could do his Masters of Fine Arts degree. The second I arrived I felt that feeling of home again. I had felt at home often with my hubby and kids. They were home to me, but I hadn't experienced that feeling about a place until I returned to the Maritimes. I missed it. When I look back my two years in Nova Scotia were probably the best two years I have ever had. Even though we struggled a lot (with long commutes - that's another long story - and financial problems) we had so much fun and grew so close as a family.

I know that Nova Scotia is not perfect and that there are many people who will look at me like I am crazy for wanting to live there instead of BC. I love so many things about BC and there are things that I don't like about Nova Scotia.

But, for a reason unknown to me,  the Maritimes are my home. I love Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and have spent many hours exploring all three. Right now, I could list dozens of activities I want to do and places I still want to see or go back to that would keep me busy for decades. The list I have for BC is comparitively short. I was born and raised in BC and could live here happily all my life if I didn't constantly feel like I needed to go home.

Hopefully, someday soon, I will.

21 July 2012

Saturday Mornings...

I love Saturdays.

We try to spend our mornings doing something fun as a family and then having a relaxing afternoon.

Today we hit one of our favourite trails for a morning hike...

I love hiking with my family.

This time of year, everything is pretty dry and brown, but the views are always beautiful.

I love exploring the same trails in different seasons and seeing how things change.

I love talking with my kids about what is growing, blooming and surviving.

I love that I get to exercise and spend time with my family at the same time.

The kids particularly enjoy this hike; because, this is where the trail ends...

After hiking for close to two hours a swim in the lake is always a good idea...

With four kids ranging in age from five to twelve and a half it is always difficult to find activities that everybody likes to do. Especially since my oldest is my only daughter and her three younger brothers like to claim the rights of the majority as often as they can. I love that going for a hike is something we can all do together and that makes us all happy... from my youngest child to my oldest...

As I watch my kids having fun together, I find myself wishing that all of my days could be spent with my family...just enjoying each other's company.