20 November 2014

Working Hard and Playing Hooky...

I've decided to take more time to work on my photography. Even though I spent a a year in photography school I didn't have as much time to practice as I would've liked. And then post move I've been so busy that I haven't taken much time to work on my photography.

I don't know why, but I tend to feel guilty taking time to do things I enjoy. I always feel like I should be finding extra work to do. I could always be doing laundry (why does laundry never end?), organizing something or washing the floors. I know practicing photography is useful (especially after spending the money to learn how to do it), but I like it so much that I feel like I should be doing something else. My husband's at work, the kids are at school. I shouldn't be enjoying myself...

My husband has been trying to convince me not to feel guilty and to take advantage of the time I have. This morning I decided to go out and take pictures of the beautiful mountains that surround us. When I stepped outside I realized that the sky was very overcast but I did see a bit of sun poking through the clouds so I went out anyway.

I really love the mountains. I missed them so much when we lived in the east. I was able to get a few shots that I was satisfied with considering the weather. I was planning on going alone. But, I brought along some company and enjoyed my time so much.

My seven and a half year old has been having a hard time going to school over the past few weeks. Every morning he dawdles and begs to stay home. Every morning I manage to get him off to school. The past two days he has been trying really hard to get ready and be on time without me having to drag/threaten/beg him. This morning he looked so cute. He came and told me he was ready. I told him how proud I was of him and that he was doing so much better. He just looked up at me and said (as he has every day this week). Mom, I only want some just me and you time. That's what he has been calling our one on one time for the past few years. He loves just me and you time. But, as one of four he doesn't get enough of it.

So today, I told him that I wanted just me and you time too. Watching his face light up and feeling his little arms around me and hearing his thank-you mommy's made me feel so happy. I know he shouldn't really miss school. But he's seven and a half already. Time passes so quickly. My kids are getting so big so fast. We had such a fun day together just hanging out. He even helped me with my "work"...

Normally, he doesn't like modelling for me. He made an exception for just me and you day. I love this toothless smile and I am so happy that I took the time to spend a day with him. Years from now I don't think the occasional day of missed school will be worth remembering... but a day of just me and you will hopefully never be forgotten.

17 November 2014

Confucius and my lack of perfection...

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop" - Confucius

When I started writing this blog I wanted to keep a journal of my life moving forward. I wanted a way to mark our family's progress so that when I looked back I would be able to see how far we had travelled - that each small step we took brought us to a more perfect future. I was hoping that with each decision we made we would be able to see a direct upward moving line.

That obviously hasn't happened. My life - as I suppose all life - has moved forward and backward, right and left (or east and west in my case) and has curved in all sorts of directions. I sometimes feel like I'm not moving forward at all and I get frustrated.

But, when I look back  I am reminded of how much we have learned over the past five years. Life has been very difficult at times and even though we've been working very hard we've not seen the results that I thought we would. We are not yet where I thought we would be. What I do see is growth and lots of room for improvement and that is a good thing.

This quote reminds me that even when progress is not speeding along as quickly as I would like it to - it is still there and that is what matters. It is important to relax a little and enjoy the journey - not to expect perfection so quickly because it may not arrive at all in my lifetime. I have to remind myself that a lack of perfection is no reason to give up but is an excellent reason to keep moving forward one tiny step at a time.

18 September 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

I've been having some fun with my cookbooks this month. I have been trying a lot of new recipes and using them for inspiration. I have been trying to make the best of a dysfunctional oven and so I have been spending some quality time with my stovetop. Most of my experiments have been successful with everyone enjoying them...a couple have only been enjoyed by the adults (like the Pioneer Woman's leek and potato pizza for some reason the kids took offence to this being called pizza - but I really liked it!)

One of the favourites this week was Butternut Squash soup. I was inspired with the idea after looking at "My Father's Daughter" by Gwyneth Paltrow but her recipe didn't scream out fall to me and I wanted something that did... so I took the idea of Butternut Squash soup and my general knowledge of soup making and created my own super easy and super yummy recipe. Everybody loved it and wanted more...

I started with a Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter in an enamelled cast iron pot over Medium high heat. I added 1 diced onion and two minced cloves of garlic. Stirred them around a bit just to sweat them a little. Then I added 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 diced granny smith apple (nothing says autumn to me like a crisp apple). 

I let these cook up for a minute or two - not letting anything brown (at least not very much). I added some salt and pepper and 1 large butternut squash - peeled, seeds removed and diced. I let these cook for another couple of minutes in the pot and then added a litre of chicken stock (I used store bought this time - I like the organic brand "Imagine" but you could use whatever you had on hand) and about two cups of water - just to make sure the squash was covered. 

The soup was brought to a boil and then simmered for 15 to 20 minutes. Just until the squash was tender. 

When all the veg were tender - I pureed the soup in a blender in three batches. Then just checked the seasoning and served. The soup is very flavourful and really creamy. It really tasted as if there was added cream...but their wasn't...I promise. 

I had a couple of leftover baked potatoes in the fridge from the night before so just for fun I thought I would make some potato croutons. 

I put about two Tbsp of butter in a cast iron pan and tossed in the potatoes that I had diced. I let them develop some colour on the bottom before flipping them over. When they were nearly ready I added some salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. 

The potatoes added a nice crispiness to the soup but had mixed results at my table. I heard everything from..."next time leave the potatoes out they distracted from the creaminess of the soup" to "the potatoes made it so much better". Personally, I could have it either way. The potatoes added a little more substance to the soup and I did like the contrast of textures.

Overall, the soup provided a pretty easy, satisfying meal for my family of six plus grandma and I will definitely be making this again.

07 September 2014

Views from my new neighbourhood...and a salad.

I am finally feeling settled in and I am loving the fall weather we have been having. I love the cool breeze while the sun is shining and just smelling fall in the air. I am hoping it lasts awhile but I have heard that winter comes on pretty quick in this part of the world. For now I am going to pretend that I didn't hear that and just enjoy fall while it lasts.

One of my favourite things about living in the Kootenays is the view. Almost in every direction there are views of the amazing BC mountains. I have discovered that the view from our backyard is kind of fabulous.

When a storm is approaching the light is amazing.

and there is a hammock...a hammock that is wonderful for lying in and looking up at the treetops and sky. I think I may like it here after all.

I hear there are a lot of trails to explore and outdoor activities to try... lots for us to discover over the coming years. 

This year, the kids and I have been enjoying exploring Fort Steele. I love history and this is probably one of the best places to learn about the history of the Kootenay region.

We get to learn while taking in the amazing views...

the kids get to run around outside... a lot...

and they get to hang out with farm animals.

Actually, I may be just as excited about the farm animals as the kids. 

Now that the boxes are nearly done we are having lots of fun exploring and spending time together while school is out. (Teacher strike here in BC - don't get me started on the school system in BC)

The hubby took his day off this week to build the boys a really cool triple bunk bed. They love it. It was set up in their room last night and we are almost finished setting up their room...should be done tomorrow. They are so excited. I love having a handy husband who can solve the problem of not enough room and just whip up a bed in a day out of a bunch of old two by fours. The boys now have a lot of floor space to play on.

I have started unpacking my cookbook collection...I've missed it. To celebrate I decided to try a new recipe...

something simple. Just a salad... but, so yummy!

I based it on an Ina Garten recipe..."Cape Cod Chopped Salad" from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics I didn't have all the ingredients for the salad so I had to make some substitutions and then I changed the dressing to go with my substitutions. 

Not sure what I call this one, but here is the recipe:

1 chicken breast - precooked and diced (I used a breast left over from a roast chicken)
1 large (double) handful of baby arugula
1 large (double) handful of mixed baby greens
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup pecan halves - toasted (I just dry toasted them in a cast iron skillet)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
6 oz. blue cheese - crumbled

In a large bowl toss the above ingredients.

In a small canning jar (I used a 500 ml. jar) pour in the following ingredients:

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
lemon zest from 1/3 large or 1/2 small lemon 
juice of 1/3 large or 1/2 lemon (approx. 2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste ( I used about 15 grinds of each)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

put the lid on the jar and shake vigourously. 

The recipe makes extra dressing. If dressing the entire salad I would suggest using half the recipe. Serve immediately after dressing and tossing or bring jar to the table and let everyone dress as desired. 

This served our family of six (all the kids ate it)...but we also had a cheese soufflĂ©...so without the soufflĂ© I would say it serves four. Although, it was so good I probably could have eaten the whole thing myself!  

28 August 2014

Blog Therapy

I am slowly unpacking all of our boxes and finding places for everything. Some things have been put into storage until we move...again. While I am grateful that we have a place to live I am not overly excited about being in another temporary position. Something about knowing that I will have to move again in the not too distant future makes me feel a little unmotivated about unpacking. 

Growing up - especially through my teen years - I often felt depressed. I have never been diagnosed with depression or anything I was just a bit of a glass is half empty girl. I had a tendency to focus on the negative. I wasn't completely crazy - there was negative. But, isn't there always? Over the past decade or so I have really tried to focus on the positive. I have made an effort to choose to see the good;  because even though there is a lot of negativity around - and it is not too difficult to find it all you need to do is turn on the evening news - there is also a lot of good.  Luckily, for the most part this has worked. The more I looked for the good things in life - the easier it was to find them. I have really tried to do what I feel is right and I have been led on an amazing journey where I have learned so much. I am truly grateful for all that I have and all that I have experienced. This past year has been a particularly good one for me. I haven't felt so happy in...maybe ever. I was almost giddy at times. Even though my family had challenges I felt like I could do anything. I laughed more than I have laughed in decades...or again maybe more than I ever have. I was busy and didn't accomplish all that I wanted to, but I learned so much, met so many great people and felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Earlier this year...I knew that where I needed to be was somewhere else. More accurately I knew that my family needed to be somewhere else and I needed to be with my family. As I prepared to move I felt content. I knew I was doing what I needed to do and that is always a great feeling for me to have. I love having the knowledge that I am doing the right thing. 

For some reason, as my family and I moved across country - for the fourth time in six years - and have come closer to family, friends and great Okanagan produce (I would like to say that last one is a joke but it is not - I was so excited to have fresh local peaches this year) I have not been able to shake off a feeling of disappointment, exhaustion, and sadness. 

I feel a little shallow because I know part of it is because we moved from a beautiful, large, Victorian home to a not quite so beautiful, small, basement suite. I know that shouldn't matter but for some reason it does. I find that all the little things that are going wrong have become extra irritating. Things like - the oven door doesn't close fully and the oven doesn't cook evenly, food becomes burnt in some areas while still raw in others -  I should just be grateful the stovetop works, right? But, I am more irritated than grateful. 

Normally, I really don't care what people think of me...but for some reason this time...I do. I feel embarrassed. I think maybe it is because I don't have a plan. I always have a plan. I always have a project I am working on. But, right now, I have nothing. My plan was to work on my photography and practice my cooking, which I suppose could explain my irritation at the basement suite (with very little natural light) and the oven that doesn't really work.  Maybe my concern isn't so much what others think of me it is what I am thinking of me...right now, it isn't good. 

I feel a little stagnated, when I like to always feel like I am moving forward. I have had three different plans for starting school this fall - two have been last minute and one of those I very nearly forced through. I know that is not right for me this year. But I feel a little panicked. Maybe it is because for the first time in nine years I won't be in school and for the first time since I've had kids I will be home while all of my kids will be in school. I am in a tiny basement suite and I can only do so much cleaning...

I just had a thought...maybe it is time to make jam.* 

I feel better already. 

Thanks for the therapy session...how much do I owe you?

*a pathetic little reference to TV... back when I used to watch TV... anyone remember the Friends episode where Monica has the jam plan? Except I don't live anywhere near a dock...or have a friend like Joey...so I may have to think of something else...

17 August 2014

summer...so far

This summer, like so many in my life has been hectic and a little crazy.

We started July with one of our favourite summer activities - Canada Day in Pugwash.

Celebrating Canada Day in Pugwash is a bit of a Nova Scotian tradition for us. It starts with a parade...

heavy on the pipe bands - we all love the pipe bands. Then lunch with one of our favourite ladies from church - she is always so generous in taking us in and feeding us...and then a visit to the highland games.

The highland games are always fun to watch. The boys are always impressed with the strength these men have and I think it is fun to watch a bunch of big guys twirling around in skirts. 

My mother-in-law is from Scotland so all the kids feel a little connected to their Scottish roots every time we visit the games. 

Some of my boys want to try it and prove to everyone that they are the strongest. See that blurry kid back there on the wrong side of the ropes heading for the pitch...the one who had to be moved out of the way before this guy could throw...that's right...he's mine. 

I've been trying to let the kids have a bit of fun whenever I can. I'm trying to loosen up a little and let them enjoy the little things in life more often. They only get to experience childhood once...

You would think this kid won the lottery when I caught him blowing bubbles in his milk and asked if I could take pictures of him. He obviously thought he was going to be in trouble. It made me wonder...how mean am I usually? Yes milk spilt all over the table and the kid...but he really had fun and I had another opportunity to teach him about cleaning up - win/win. 

I've been feeling little guilty because most of our summer has looked like this. My kids...especially my youngest...have spent so much of their lives living out of boxes. This summer we moved back to British Columbia...new city this time. I am hoping our moving days will soon be over. At least the big moves. 

The only thing that I like about moving is the opportunity it gives me for road trips! (and yes I do realize that it is probably much cheaper and a lot easier to just take a road trip - my entire life has been a little like choosing the shortest line in the grocery store...you know the one...that short line that always takes the longest to get through...a constant lesson in patience). 

I love driving across Canada. And it is a good thing I do because this was our fourth time doing it! 
On this trip we were able to stop and visit some new-old friends in Manitoba. The boys had so much fun - well, we all had fun, but my boys in particular had a great time. 

We all learned a little about shooting guns...

riding quads...

and catching frogs.

As always the trip was beautiful and we loved being back in the mountains. We missed them.

It has been two weeks since our arrival and I am exhausted. After cleaning our new home, unloading boxes, beginning to unpack, visiting family, and getting in some canning...I am ready for a vacation. 

Yesterday, we took the afternoon off to have a bit of family time at the local heritage village. 

It was kind of nice heading back in time for an afternoon. But, that is all the vacation I am going to get for awhile...more boxes are waiting to be unpacked and I refuse to be the family that lives amongst piles of boxes. Maybe I'll have time to sneak in a bit of fun next week...

01 July 2014

Macarons...and a lot of green

I've been super busy finishing up school projects - plus of course all the end of year stuff with my kids, working on house projects, and planning out what's next...etc.

The usual getting ready for summer around our house.

For my grad show we are using the theme of colour - I chose green. I also chose to photograph food for my final exhibit. 

I had a lot of fun planning and executing some green photo shoots. 

The shoot that I was most excited about was macarons.

I have been wanting to make macarons for a really long time but was feeling rather intimidated because I have read many times how difficult they are to make. I had been procrastinating making them in fear of failure. But, when the time came to plan out my grad exhibit I knew I wanted to do macarons.

Now I won't say they were easy...or that every cookie turned out perfectly...you can believe me when I say they didn't. But like most things they weren't as difficult as I thought they were going to be and I was really happy that I had enough good cookies for a photo shoot.

I actually learned an important lesson doing this shoot. When I first pulled the tray out of the oven and looked at my creations... I was disappointed. I saw a few cracks. I saw that not all the macarons had the oh so necessary feet...my first impulse was to declare myself a macaron failure.

But, then I stopped and looked a little closer. One of the biggest things I learned in photography school is to always look for the good. My teacher told us to try and see the best in people when doing a portrait - as a photographer your job is to make them look good, right?! I extended this to apply to my pathetic looking tray of macarons. As I looked I noticed that many of them did not crack and that some even had feet...good looking feet...even if they didn't always extend around the entire cookie...I only needed one good side! Maybe...I wasn't a total macaron failure after all!!!

I was actually able to get a few shots that I didn't hate - probably the biggest thing I learned in photography school (after learning how to look for the good) is how to see all the things I did wrong in my photos, which hopefully will just encourage me to keep practicing and get better but also has the side effect of making me dislike most of the photos I've taken. But for now - I was satisfied. I ended up with the best shot I could get with what I had to work with...and it gives me a starting off point to improve upon in my next macaron shoot!

As I finish off school this week I also hit the one year anniversary of our latest move. I have been looking back at all I have learned this year and I am so grateful that we were able to spend the year in the maritimes. I have made many memories and learned so much - obviously about photography but also about life. I had no idea that I still had so much to learn! I know without any doubt that I have been exactly where I needed to be. That really is the best feeling.

I've done a lot of thinking and praying and changing of plans this year as I have struggled to know what I should do next. I haven't had that same no doubt feeling as I have been planning my upcoming year. There have been things that seem like the right thing to do, but I just haven't been 100% sure.

Over the past few months the details have been slowly falling into place - it's actually taken most of the year - one little piece at a time. When I think I know, something changes. Frustrating at times but each decision evolves from the one before it and I have almost reached the point where everything feels right. I should have all the details worked out later this week...and will post again soon. What a crazy year it has been!

17 May 2014

Life in a Whirlwind

I just realized that it has been almost exactly six years since we packed up and moved our family of six from BC - driving across Canada - to Nova Scotia. We were so excited for our new adventure. I didn't even mind getting rid of most of my stuff.

Since then:

-we had the best summer of our lives exploring the maritime provinces and enjoying the incredible beauty that is found here.

-my husband spent two years commuting two hours in each direction to Halifax to attend school. We barely saw him. But, we were so excited when he received his Master's Degree.

-We then moved back to BC - driving across Canada - again getting rid of half of our stuff - and spent a year living in a 600 square foot cottage. It was a great experience and I'm really glad we did it. We were able to spend a lot of time with my family.

- We then moved to Vancouver (about a five hour distance from where we were). We were so excited for my hubby to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an architect.

- Our first week in Vancouver we both knew we were not supposed to be there - this was not the path for us. One semester later we moved back. We spent a year and a half living in the town we both went to high school in. My entire family (parents, sister and family, and brother and family) were all living in the same town at the same time. My kids were able to spend a lot of time with their cousins, which made me really happy.

- Last year we got rid of half of our stuff, packed the family up and moved back to Nova Scotia. My hubby taught at Acadia university over the summer and loved it. We were so excited for him to finally be starting a career he loved.

During all that time I worked on and completed my bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English, minoring in History.

I started a photography course in September while completing my bachelor's degree (I finished my BA at the end of October and received my degree in March).  I finish my photography course in July.

We've shared our home with exchange students over the past year and have enjoyed spending time with a 16 year old girl from Italy, an 11 year old boy from South Korea and a 13 year old boy from Colombia.

We've loved spending time with the missionaries from our church and have had them in our home for many, many meals over the past ten months.

Over the past six years we have learned so much, made many new friends and we have been able to spend a lot of time with old friends and family We have loved our many adventures and all of the things we have seen and experienced. I have felt the love of a Heavenly Father who has guided our path.

During this time we have also experienced many challenges, trials, and hardships. Our financial burdens have often been heavy. We have always pushed forward having a great desire to do what we feel is right for us. Over the past six years I have felt more joy than I have ever felt in my life. I have also felt a lot of fear and frustration and guilt.

My hubby has been out of work since October. This has been very difficult for him but he has been incredibly supportive of me and has (mostly) happily played the part of Mr. Mom while I have been at photography school. I have felt a lot of guilt studying photography, but for some reason we both feel strongly that this is something I should do. I have learned so much from this experience and not only about photography. This has been the first time I have daily left home and spent some time alone in fifteen years. My hubby has increased his appreciation of all mother's do...

We are currently planning and praying and trying to figure out what we should do next... I have been accepted into a Master's of Libraries and Information Systems program. I think this will be a good fit for me. It's an online program so I can do it from anywhere. I think I know what I'll be doing for the next two years. My hubby's career is not so clear. University jobs seem to be getting fewer and harder to get. He has been looking across the country and the few that have become available are very competitive. He couldn't find any available for the fall in his field. He has been looking into trucking...there seem to be more jobs available in that field than any other. But...he needs to upgrade his DL and courses cost money...so we're not quite sure what he is going to do yet.

We need to make some definite plans soon. Money has to come from somewhere...we're just not sure where yet. Right now I'm feeling a little scared...but, I do have faith that something will work out for us. Hopefully, soon. I've been feeling a lot of stress and varied emotions this week.

Mostly - today - I'm feeling a little tired.

26 April 2014


April has gone by so fast... here is a little of what I have been up to:

The first week in April my middle son had a birthday... as I was making cupcakes for him my oven died. DIED. Completely. After an hour in the oven I had raw cupcakes. The light was warm enough to activate the baking powder, which allowed them to ooze over the edges of the pan and develop a very thin, light crust on top...

but they were completely raw. The oven has been dying since we arrived here in July - but, it was waiting for a special moment to die completely. So, I improvised and bought cupcakes and added sprinkles.

Nobody noticed the difference.

 I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The kids all skipped school and we went to crystal palace - an indoor amusement park. It was nice to spend some time just with our family. It's been fun having exchange students but I miss spending time together just as a family.

We have a family birthday tradition of whoever's birthday it is, they get to choose what to have for dinner.

They can choose anything.

My daughter always chooses a big greek feast with leg of lamb. I look forward to it all year.

This year, my son challenged me.

He chose hotdogs.


I have never bought hotdogs in my life. I really don't like them. When they ask for them I will usually buy bison smokies...but hotdogs? Really? My poor deprived child was so excited when I served him real hotdogs.

It was the easiest meal I have ever made. I see the appeal. About ten minutes in the kitchen and dinner was served. But, I still am looking forward to that leg of lamb...

After the oven died - we had to special order a new one. Ours is natural gas and not many people here have natural gas - so, we had almost three weeks without an oven. The week our oven died there was a sale on BBQ's, so we bought a charcoal grill that neither my husband or I knew how to use. Lucky for us we knew a griling expert...

and my husband began his grill master training. He's still learning...but we are enjoying his attempts at perfection. 

We've been grilling a lot...pretending summer is coming...or at least spring... it snowed this week again.

Easter was pretty low key this year, but I had fun decorating eggs with the kids. 

We didn't get too fancy... just coloured them and then I bought some face stickers...

My six year old loved them and didn't want to eat his.

I've been busy with school and trying to practice everything I've learned. I think I'll need a few years of practice before I get really good at it but I am having fun.

The six year old was super excited this week when he lost his two front teeth at once. He looks older now.

This month I have been thinking about how quickly my kids are growing up. This is a strange year for me. This is the first year I have all my kids in school and it is the first time I am away from home going to school. I miss my family. I feel so blessed to have them. There really is no greater joy than being a mom. 

31 March 2014

Sugar Woods

While there are many things I love about living in the Maritimes there is one thing that I really dislike... 


or more accurately - the lack of it. Today I enjoyed another snow day (actually freezing rain day but there is still about two feet of snow in my yard). At this time of year I want to be feeling like farmer's market season is just ahead of me. But, everytime I think spring might be coming...I get another snow day. I do love snow days but tomorrow is April...April and it is supposed to snow...again. 

But, even though I really don't like this weather there is one thing about it that I do love...

maple syrup. Seriously...I know I have posted about Maple Syrup before but maple syrup could possibly be what I am most patriotic about. I love living near the sugar woods. 

Maple syrup is what gets me through a Nova Scotia spring with a smile on my face. Without this lousy spring weather of warming up and then freezing again we wouldn't have this sweet, yummy, perfect, goodness. 

I loved taking the family for a hike in the sugar woods this week.

Maple syrup is one of my favourite things about Nova Scotia so I guess I can't really complain about the weather.

This week we visited the Fenwick sugar woods. There are three camps we visited - no one was boiling syrup when we were there - but they were making maple leaves at one of the camps.

Once the thickened syrup is poured they have to work quickly...

It was so fun watching them work.

The sugar syrup set very quickly and after only a couple of minutes they were able to pop out the finished candy.

We of course had to buy some maple leaves from each of the camps to compare. The middle camp was the creamiest and my favourite. Although, with the only ingredient being maple syrup they all tasted very similar and were all delicious. We also bought and tasted maple cream, maple taffy and of course maple syrup.

After the woods we went back to our church for a pancake and sausage supper with maple syrup of course.

So good!