Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DIY: An Easy, Fun, Meaningful Family Gift

It can be hard to come up with gifts for grandparents who seemingly have everything, and really just want a piece of the grandkids anyway.

With this in mind, we recently made this canvas for the Nonna in our life (hi!) and I think it turned out great! The bonus was that we were all able to participate, and in years to come it will server as a reminder of how small (and messy!) the kids hands were at this age.

Cool huh?
DIY kids handprint tree

We started with a blank canvas from the Dollar Store, and painted the background all over. Then I added the brown tree shape - you could make it as realistic or whimsical as you want, with as many branches as there are family members. The kids chose their own colours for their hand-prints, and those become the 'leaves'. It just so happened they ended up making a rainbow of colours... that was a total fluke (but neat, right?).

The phrase we went with - you could put anything, this was inspired by how the tree came out in our case:

   a little messy
      a little off-centre
          lots of love

What can I say... I was thinking on my feet! ;)

In any event it was hung at Nonna's house almost immediately and the kids are so proud to have been able to make something so neat for their grandmother. (I am annoyed that the lettering at the bottom ended up crooked... next time I'd put down some painter's tape to help guide me!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Digging in the Frozen Dirt

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's something about pulling fresh produce out of your garden in mid-November that just feels like cheating :) Cheating what, I don't know... mother nature?

Having all-but-forgotten my garden by this point, I'd been curious as to how the last few bits and bobs were doing out there. As the nighttime temps started to dip and frost descended upon us, I knew I should probably cover the garden "at some point", but just never got around to it. I still have carrots, green onions, gobs of leeks ("There's a leek in the boat!" hehehe), and a few bunches of romaine and parsley that I planted in late summer and were still somehow hanging on.

Then last week we had a huge dip in temps, everything froze and was covered in a nice crust of ice and snow. I figured, well that's it then -- I've missed my window. It was a good run, 2014. Thanks for the memories, and the leeks. See you in the Spring. (Sorry, abandoned carrots.)

Until I found myself in the kitchen one frosty evening, ready to make supper, and I pulled some carrots out of the fridge. They were just... meh. Having enjoyed fresh, REAL carrots from the garden all summer and fall, we've really been spoiled. Bagged carrots from the fridge now taste, I don't know, like orange sticks of crud basically.

It dawned on me that the ones in the garden might actually still be edible... So, out I went, flashlight in hand, like a thief in the night ready to pluck the little orange gems from their wintery slumber. Ignoring the fact that our neighbourhood is home to something like a dozen or a hundred bears. BEARS. Yes, real live freaking bears. Please don't let me get mauled to death for a few freaking carrots.

I hadn't really thought this through, obviously, since the ground was frozen down at least 3" and covered in that snow/ice crust. But... I was determined. There I was, in the cold and dark, flashlight in my mouth, digging in the frozen dirt with my bare hands. At one point I thought, okay this is just silly. This is not worth it for a few measly carrots. Plus I could get mauled to death out here.

But then, lo and behold, I pulled up a huge slab of frozen earth with about a dozen orange nubs sticking out of the bottom. How cool!! And the smell! Anyone who's pulled a carrot out of the dirt knows that smell -- it's heavenly.

Now, I realize I'm starting to sound like a total kook right now. But I'm telling you, there is still nothing like the smell of fresh carrots out of the ground! Especially half frozen ground! Totally cheating mother nature, right here!

Anyway I would have loved to snap a few pictures of the orange beauties all sticking out of the frozen slab of earth, but it was cold and dark and my fingers were numb... And that supper wasn't going to make itself.

Thankfully there are still at least a dozen carrots out there (and all the leeks. Honestly what am I going do with all those damn leeks??)... so maybe I'll have another chance. Until next time...

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Finding my Voice (and Learning to Shut Up)

When I was younger... much younger (back in the olden days, before the internet) I was a reserved, introverted, quiet loner of a kid. I know... you are all shocked to learn this (haha). Although, even those who knew me back then, and knew I was 'a bit shy', may be surprised to learn just how much it affected me growing up. I think I was pretty good at acting the part, even though internally I was an anxious wreck most of the time.

For some reason in a family full of hooligans (hi y'all!) I was blessed with the gift of social awkwardness. And by gift, I mean curse. It was awful, really -- I wanted to be out there, having fun, carrying on. I wanted to mug for the cameras and have it come easily and naturally. I wanted to have a bunch of friends that I could gab on the phone with for hours at a time. I wanted more than anything to be the type of person who actually ENJOYED that kind of thing. It seemed to me that those people were having a whole lot more fun than I was.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Mini Midsummer Garden Update

Mini garden update... We have carrots, peas, green onions and beans coming in. Tomatoes just starting to ripen, peppers and cukes inching along, leeks doing their thing to the side. Just planted more romaine and carrots for a fall harvest. Woop! Love summer!!!

Dirty carrots, and fingernails (and a couple of Sungolds)

Cali Wonder pepper... yum!

Tiny Tims... oh how I love these

Lemon Cukes. Yay finally got a cucumber to grow!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Few Things I Have Learned About Myself (As I Get Older)

It's funny to think about all the times in my 20's and early-30's I'd heard women say things about how they couldn't do certain things anymore, which things upset their stomach, "I can't lay on the floor or I'll never get up" etc.

I found it odd and couldn't relate, because nothing seemed to bother my stomach, give me black circles under my eyes, throw my back out... nothing was 'off limits' (other than staying up all night drinking... but even then it was a matter of staying in bed a few extra hours, a couple of Advil and a round of McD's to cure what ailed me). I always wondered if someday I would get to that point where my stomach couldn't handle things, I couldn't lift certain things for fear of throwing out my back, couldn't stay up all hours and just sleep it off the next day.

The answer is: YES. Getting (a little) older does do certain things to you. Now, I know if I ate a little better and exercised more (*cough* some *cough*) these things wouldn't as as much of an issue. Thing is, it sortof sneaks up on you, and you DON'T need to exercise or eat particularly well in your 20's and early 30's in order to feel okay. You just don't -- youth seems to take care of things for you. And even though I heard it 100 times or more, I really just didn't see this coming.

Anyway, I've learned a few things about myself lately. I know there will probably be plenty more to discover about myself as the years march on and things change, within and around me... but I thought it worth mentioning these new-found discoveries, for posterity if nothing else. How many more weird and wonderful things await me??

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Garden Update! Terrified of what's headed our way...

There was a point where I thought this year's garden was going to be a 'no go'. Almost all of the transplanted dudes were looking sad, limp, and pathetic. The seeds I sowed didn't' seem to be doing much of anything. I sighed and started thinking about heading to the garden centre and starting over from scratch.

But then... time, heat, sun and water (and a little bit of picking off bugs, pruning suckers, dusting with diatomaceous earth, spraying with epsom salt water, adding bonemeal, replanting plants pulled out by toddler hands...) worked their magic and lo and behold, a garden -- a real life garden -- emerged. Waa Laa!! 
End of June - lots of lettuce, peas just starting to shoot up (they now have mesh to climb)

Everything growing!
Things started to grow! The transplants bounced back! Well, all except the peppers, all the leaves fell off the pepper plants... not sure what happened there. But the tomato plants are miraculously all thriving! The lettuce went berserk, the peas shot up about 6" in a matter of days. Amazing :)

I can now see loads of little green tomatoes all over the plants, we've been enjoying romaine and leaf lettuce and green onions galore, and even some mystery greens that came as part of a mix and are delicious. I had my first sugar snap pea yesterday... incredible. I've picked a bunch of slugs out (and catapulted them into the woods), as well as a few weird grasshopper-looking dudes, but besides that things are rolling along. Things are happening, and it's good.


It couldn't have been that easy. No no no.

Now, just when we have all the lovely little baby veggies peeking their little heads out -- we're getting THIS nonsense:

A freaking hurricane.

I am literally sick to my stomach worrying about what this is going to do to my garden. I know there are so many other (valid) things to worry about and this really should not be one of them... but I will be so, so upset if we lose the garden after all this work, seeing these plants go from seed to huge plants to wilting and nearly dying after transplant to coming back in full force. All those little baby veggies just wanting to live and be FREE! And get EATEN! :)

Really though -- I don't know what to do about this. I don't know how to protect them. If I can manage it I will throw some plastic over the hoops and attach them as best I can but with gale-force winds and 50+ mm of rain, I'm not sure there's anything I CAN do.

I am going to cry.

Monday, June 02, 2014


It seems that every other week or so, I let my life  u n r a v e l ...

I start staying up too late searching for random things online ("how to compost", "calico kitten names", "Skylanders birthday party" - damn you, Pinterest) and watching The Bachelorette (insert ashamed face here). I'm all tired because of not enough sleep and no exercise, so I'm getting up late. I'm rushing to get hair brushed and people dressed and out the door, I'm late for work, tired all day, not getting my sh*t done, rushing to get the kids fed and and bags packed for whatever activity (so much for simplifying), and by the time evening rolls around I'm too tired to do anything but pack lunches and grab my phone to look up that thing I was supposed to do last week.

I know what I need to do... I know how to keep the train on the track. I just... tend to let things slip every now and then. It's amazing how quickly things can go from organized - schedules written on whiteboards, birthday presents bought, laundry in a reasonable state of doneness - to a COMPLETE HOT MESS of "Oh crap the soccer stuff is wet" and "what will we feed the kids - cheese strings and crackers is a good supper, right?".

The garden has been left to completely fend for itself - I have no idea if all my hard work has been for naught because I haven't really spent much time out there. We brought two adorable kittens home and still haven't named them (soon!). We have The Boy's 7th birthday party this weekend and I've done NOTHING to prepare. The Girl has been complaining of a toothache for several days and we still don't have a dentist appointment made. The weeds in our garden beds are taking over. And on and on it goes...


Time to get this train back on the damn track. It's abundantly clear to me that as The Mom, I can't just let things slip anymore. We used to have that luxury, when we had no kids, or even one little one, and could get away with snacks for supper and no laundry done. But with all these people relying on things moving in the right direction all the time, we just need to KEEP ON. Schedules written, clothes washed, things done in advance, sleep had, so The Mom can get up at the crack of dawn and get it all rolling for another day.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Garden Update: Busy Busy Busy!

The weather is warm, things are growing in the garden and I've been busy - which explains why I've been MIA on the blog... I've been outside (and preoccupied with bringing a pair of kittens home ^-.-^ )! But I wanted to give a quick update of what's going on out there so far... it's exciting stuff I tell ya.

I've got everything (!) planted in our raised beds already. I feel like a lot of the bulk of the work in the garden is now done... we're on to maintenance mode! We've taken the plastic off the beds as well, and will keep an eye on the temperatures at night, but hopefully now that it's JUNE we should be okay to let the plants fend for themselves.

What I've got planted:
- cucumbers (2 kinds) -- looking a little shocked to be out in the cold. Pretty sure I saw them shivering.
- peppers (2 kinds) -- looking decent but might need a spray of Epsom salt water. Leaves are yellow and droopy.
- tomatoes (4 kinds) -- not looking so great :( except the ones in the Kozy Coats which are doing awesome! I will definitely be using these next year.
- romaine, salad bowl lettuce, and spinach -- all growing super well. We've been sampling!
- carrots -- just starting to sprout - last year's seeds so not sure how they'll do?
- leeks & green onions -- growing slowly but surely
- peas -- also slow to get going... I'll try soaking the next bunch that I'll plant in a few weeks.
- bush beans - green and yellow -- just starting to sprout
- nasturtiums, cosimos and marigolds
- chives -- transplanted from another bed

This past weekend we installed our irrigation system of soaker hoses hooked up to a timer, and the deer- and bunny-repelling motion sensor sprinkler. It's quite the system we've got out there! I can only hope I've timed things right and none of the plants just up and die on me - although a few of them are looking like they won't make it. Aie aie aie. Live little plants, LIVE!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

All I Really Want for Mother's Day

They say Mother's Day is a day to spend with your mom, showing her how much you love her. Quality time with your kids. 

That's true -- if by kids you mean "grown ups" and you can treat mom to some brunch and good conversation. Let's face it -- when kids are little (under 25), they aren't a whole lot of fun to be around after about an hour.

So, what I really want for Mother's Day this year is a little break. I don't need flowers (but they are nice), and I don't want anyone to waste money on fancy cards -- the ones the kids made at daycare are just perfect.

I'd like it if the kids went to the other side of the bed in the morning, instead of mine. You are super cute and I love you, honey, but 6:30 on Sunday morning? You can go talk to dad thanks.

I'd love it if, after drinking hot, hot coffee and eating whatever breakfast has been prepared (I'm not picky! Cereal is fine!), I could guilt-free retire to the garden where I can putter about for as long as I want without listening for the baby monitor, breaking up arguments ("I had that stick first!!" There are a thousand sticks people!), or having to wipe off my hands to wipe someone's nose with my fingers. 

After puttering in the garden, I would love it if I could take a hot, hot shower completely alone without craning to hear if anyone is arguing, breaking stuff, or crying. I'd really like it if, when I got out of the shower, I didn't have an audience... But again, I'm not picky, as long as there isn't too much heckling.

Perhaps after I'm dressed, I could pat my clean, dressed, fed & watered children on the heads, kiss them goodbye and leave the house for a few hours, without an agenda. Alone. Without a list, or a diaper bag, or any expectations that when I return I will have accomplished a single thing. I might just run a few errands, stroll leisurely through store aisles completely unencumbered, or even try on some clothes. Who knows, maybe I'll even buy something!

And then, when I return, maybe supper is sorted out without my input, and heck maybe there could be a load of laundry on the go that I had nothing to do with? 

But really... All I want is to hug and kiss my kids, and know that they love me. Really. The rest? I guess I can wait until they are 25 and can treat me to brunch ;)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My May Garden To-Do List

We are soooooo close. MAN spring is taking its sweet time to warm up this year though! I am in zone 5b, and normally we are seeing leaf buds on the trees at least.

Despite the slowness of spring, May might be the busiest month in the garden - and it starts TOMORROW! There is so much to do - but the work now should pay off come July & August when things are flourishing (at least that's what I'm telling myself...). I have to contend with the black flies too, once they start - pesky little buggers!!

What I've done already:
  • Weeded raised veggie beds
  • Raked in a few bags of compost, and even worked in some used coffee grounds (one day I will make my own compost... one day...)
  • Threw in a bunch of worms I dug up elsewhere. Hopefully they are happily making their way through the beds now -- go worms! 
  • Beds were also covered with dark fabric, both as a weed deterrent and to try to warm up the soil
  • Sowed some spinach, green onion, leeks, and peas. Not sure how they will do as it's been so cold, but we'll see! Bit of an experiment with these.

My To Do list for the veggie garden for May:
  • Put out tomato cloches - I'm trying a few Kozy Coats this year and I'm told I can put them out before the plants, to try to warm the soil where the plants will go.
  • Cover hoops with light-weight plastic. I'm hoping I can warm up my raised beds by a few degrees, and get the seedlings out a few weeks early this year (May 15 versus June 1 for tomato and pepper plants).
  • Sow remaining cold-weather seeds like green leaf lettuce, romaine, more spinach, green onion, more peas
  • Build folding cucumber trellis - something like this but maybe not as tall
  • Start hardening seedlings off - second week of May
  • Hook up hoses and install irrigation hoses in beds. 
  • Plant out seedlings and plants started indoors - May 15 ish (under plastic), later for peppers. Include blood-meal in tomato holes. Give peppers a spray of epsom-salt water.
  • Sow all remaining seeds: beans, more green onions, more cucumbers, carrots, parsnips... 
  • Plant out flower seedlings started indoors
  • Set up trellis for cucumbers and supports for peas (these need to wait until the plastic covers are off - end of the month)
  • Once plastic is off: hook up motion-sensing sprinkler to ward off the deer

Outside the veggie garden: 
  • divide hostas and lillies
  • clean up and re-mulch flower beds
  • plant annuals
  • prune lilacs and forsythia once they're finished flowering
  • find somewhere to install a hammock and put it up, and then lay in it for a few hours. (Hahahaha)

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Seedling" Update: Check em Out!

Aka: Why I Really Need Mid-May to Arrive

To say that my "seedlings" have gone bononkers would be, well, an understatement. I know my last post (about my non-green babies) I said I wanted time to slow down... But honestly I just need the good weather to arrive and stay so I can get these puppies outside!! Until then, I'm tending to them as best I can. (I may have a FEW too many tomato and pepper plants. Maybe.)

Leeks, romaine, green onions, Tiny Tims
Cucumbers, Tiny Tims

Scotias, Little Sweeties, Yum yums, Early California Wonder
Early California Wonder (I think)

Most of the peppers and tomatoes stretching to the light

C'moooooooon May!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stop it, stop it, STOP.IT. Just STOP.

 - Gretchen Rubin
"Please, please just stop growing up. PLEASE. STOP."

This was me pleading with my 14-month-old this morning, after she had lovingly placed a drooly kiss on my cheek, and then slapped me in the face with both hands. As you do.

Despite the slapped cheeks - or possibly because of them? - I found myself looking at her with tears in my eyes and trying to stop time by hugging it out of her: if I hold on tight and squeeze, maybe I can stop the growing up. Please, honey. Seriously - please stop.

That goes for your brother and sister too.

I see them changing before my eyes and I don't like it. Not one bit. They're getting bigger. They're getting those "big kid" eyes - the ones that one minute are laughing because you said "boogie" (I didn't mean THAT! Oh nevermind.), and the next they're looking at you sideways because you said no treats after supper. The big kid eyes that tell you they know stuff. They're starting know some stuff that I don't know. The balance is shifting. I don't like this growing up business AT ALL.

It's the little things:

I no longer need to unfold The Girl's socks for her, or button up her one pair of button-up PJs. I don't know when this started.

I pull jeans out of the dryer and don't immediately know whose they are - mine or theirs?

The way The Boy asks if I can play Mario Kart with him, and when I tell him I can't right now, he shrugs and says, "That's okay." Wait - what? It's okay? Like, that's cool. Whatever mom. I'm cool. *shrug* No whining? No tantrum? When did this start?

The way The Girl brushes her hair away from her face while she's drawing.

The way Baby Girl nodded and said "Yes." when I asked her if she wanted another cracker. Excuse me? Since when do you nod and say "yes" like you're a teenager or something? (I was so distracted, I didn't even do the requisite parental "Yes... please?")

The time The Boy was telling a story and added, laughing, "It was so random."

You don't even notice these things evolving, just one day they are happening and it's all around you - your kids growing up, having the knowing eyes and shrugging and tossing of the hair - and you can't stop time the way you'd like. They just keep doing their thing and getting bigger and it's just... it's not cool, okay?

So, I'll take those slobbery kisses (baby drool does have that faintly sweet smell that you never thought you'd love, but you do...) and even the double chubby-hand face slaps. And I'll just keep trying to hug the growing up out of them. It's worth a shot, right?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Even a Dum-Dum Can Grow Yum-Yums

I am proof that even someone who knows (next to) nothing about gardening and plants can grow stuff.

In fact, even someone who starts their seeds far too early, keeps them in containers too small and forgets to water them sometimes can grow decent sized plants.

IN FACT, even after trying to kill half the plants by letting them grow up to touch the lights they are under and half of them burn and whither as a result, I still have somewhat healthy-looking plants. The Yum-yum peppers - which I admit I ordered based solely on their adorable name - are doing so well that even though they got scorched, they are still producing flower buds (which I plucked off... should I have done that?). So far I am loving the yum-yums!

Monday, April 14, 2014

THIS is why I don't plant tulips!

Ahhhh spring. Finally -- the bulbs I lovingly tucked into the ground in the Fall are popping up.

Daffodils, hyacinth, crocuses...

... Tulips.

Uhm. Tulips? Right. I forgot -- tulips are like candy to deer. Frikken deer.

Note to self: don't waste time planting tulips!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Simplify: Not That Simple! (But one thing you can start TODAY)

It turns out, simplifying one's life is not that simple.

It's one thing to say, "Get rid of half your stuff"... and would definitely lead to a simpler, easier to maintain lifestyle. Thing is, paring down your stuff takes time. Then you have to do something with it -- donate it all? Yard sale? Sell it online? All these things take time, planning, organization.

There's a huge limit on my time and energy these days... with three kids, meals, chores, activities, and just the basics of keeping a household running (somewhat) smoothly, there is very little time OR energy left over. I guess this whole simplifying thing is a process -- a  long one, with a bunch of steps. It can seem a bit intimidating at the outset (like exercising! which I'm also not doing much of these days!)...

However, there is one thing you (and I) can start doing TODAY that requires no advance planning, no tools or research, and no real adjustments of the schedule. Yet it's something that makes a HUGE difference in your life. Are you ready for it?...


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

April: The Month of Waiting

I'm told Spring is coming. It WILL come. It HAS to. We are nearly there...

April... Inside: I've got lovely little plants flourishing under grow lights. Outside: everything is sopping wet. It's still pretty cold and dark. Every morning going to the window to see if the clumps of snow have finally disappeared (answer: no... but we're close!). The ground is probably pretty frozen under all that mud and yuck.

The waiting is killing me.

Knowing how much work awaits me in the garden, I am itching to get a jump on it, but the weather this Spring just hasn't cooperated. As I'm limited to the weekends, it really depends on a few hours of sunshine at just the right time (in our house: baby's nap time!). Do you hear me Mother Nature?? I need some warmth and sun please! 

In the meantime, I've got thoughts of planning and decisions to make:

  • compost versus aged manure? Both? What about mulch? When can I put it all in the raised beds? Is there anything else I need to add (lime?? bonemeal??)
  • hoop tunnels versus cold frames?
  • when to start hardening off
  • what to use for supports for peas, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes...
  • when can I really start planting out the lettuce, leeks, onions, spinach...
  • can I convince The Hubs to build me a garden shed next to the house?
  • is this Spring really going to be as cold and crappy as the Almanac predicts?
Who knew veggie gardening would be so time consuming... and complex... and addictive?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Pics of my Green Babies

As promised, here they are… my little green lovelies! (Click for larger images) Mother Nature may be playing a cruel April Fool's joke on us (it's been snowing all day… enough already!!) but I've got these little guys tucked in and warm.

veggie seedlings
Doesn't get much more (Eastern) Canadian than Tim Horton's cups and Keith's beer box. Ha!

sweet pepper seedlings
So pretty

seedlings under grow lights
From left: Yum-yums, Tiny Tims, Little Sweeties, leeks, Scotias (crying to be repotted, which I did as soon as I drank more coffee!)

growing seedlings
Go to the light, green dudes.

Here's what I've got started so far:
  • Peppers: Yum-yums, Early California Wonder, California Wonder
  • Tomatoes: Tiny Tim, Little Sweetie, Scotia, Sungold
  • Leeks
  • Green onion (not yet sprouted)
My furnace room smells heavenly!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shooooooot. Two BIG things I did wrong!

So, I fear I may have really screwed up my garden already this year (and it's only March!).

Error #1
Somehow, I think I may have gotten my dates mixed up and started my tomato and pepper plants way too early. How did this happen? I thought I had everything all planned out... I honestly don't know how I jumped the gun like this.

I started the seeds back in February... Thing is, the pepper plants are starting to flower. Now, I don't know if this is really terrible, or if it's okay. From what I remember I needed to start them 6-8 weeks before last frost... but I can't put them out until at least mid-May (and that's with row covers and such). So... yeah. I'm still 6 weeks out NOW, and I've already got crazy growing plants in my furnace room! Ack! Is all lost? Can I keep the plants going under lights until they can go outside? I'll be quite upset if I lose all these adorable yummy little plants.

Consider this a big ole HEAD SLAP from the East Coast.
Just to be safe, I've decided to start a whole new round of pepper and tomato plants indoors. Just goes to show you, you shouldn't put all of your seedlings in one basket. You never know when an entire tray of seedlings will dry out or what have you.

Error #2
This is a biggie. I used Miracle-Gro seed starter. 

On the surface this might not seem like that big of a deal... but it turns out Miracle-Gro is owned by Scotts. Scotts is the company that knowingly sold poisoned birdseed to customers for over two years... And is apparently also in bed with Monsanto doing all kinds of nasty stuff that's affecting not only the bird population but bees as well.

We all know the bees need all the help they can get, and there's been a huge decline in the bee population around the world, including colony collapse disorder, or CCD. There are many theories about why this is but one major concern is the use of pesticides and pesticide-laden seeds, many of which can be found in the birdseed and grass seed sold by Scotts and Miracle-Gro.

Long story short... I screwed up. I can't recommend the use of Miracle-Gro and I certainly won't keep using their products going forward.

Onward and upward.

Monday, March 24, 2014

"Health Check": feeling duped by food labels

I've been on a bit of a mission for the past six months or so, to cut down on the amount of artificial crap (flavour, colour, etc) that we bring into the house. I had read some articles that indicated there may be a link between artificial stuff and children's behaviour, and that the presence of colouring in particular can mimic ADD- and ADHD-like behaviour in our kids.

Years ago, when it was just us and The Boy, we used to go out of our way to buy organic, whole foods, make our own baby food, keep his diet as healthy and natural as possible. I would frequent a local organic farmer's market each week and choose fruits and veggies that were in-season and local. I'd cart these things home and mash them all up and felt good about what I was feeding him.

Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the importance of whole, natural food. We had a couple more kids, working full time, commuting, weekends running around, etc etc... and life just got in the way. We started taking shortcuts when it came to meals and snacks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Simplify: Try Meditation (it's not just for kooks)

In my quest to live more simply, I decided to give meditation a try. You might wonder what meditation has to do with simplifying... isn't it just another "to-do", something else to get done in the run of a day? Who has the time?

meditating momAlso - isn't that for people who are a little... you know... kooky??

Let me tell you: it's not just for kooks. And it really DOES help with the quest to simplify, because for a short period of time the mind clutter is cleared away, like a breath of fresh air for your brain. It's actually pretty amazing.

I know, I know - it still sounds a little kooky. But, for someone who really doesn't know what they are doing and is just starting out, I can tell you it really does change your life. Or, at least your day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden 3.0 Has Begun! Get those seedlings going!

The snow is still flying and it's -11C outside, but inside where it's warm, Garden 3.0 is starting to sprout!

This is only the third year I'll be growing veggies in raised beds, and I'm still very much in learning and trial-and-error mode. Right now I'm focused on how to start seedlings.

You can save a lot of money by starting your own plants from seed ($2 - $3 for a packet of 20-40 seeds, instead of $3 - $5 for a single plant), plus it's a great feeling of accomplishment when you're able to harvest veggies that you started from seeds.

Here are a few things I've learned as a newbie about starting veggies from seed:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Getting a Handle on the Ever Loving Laundry

If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the piles and piles of laundry will disappear all too soon and that you will, to your surprise, miss them profoundly. – Thomas S. Monson
Umm... nope. I will NOT MISS THEM. (The piles I mean. The kids? Sure. The piles?... NOPE.)

It seems that with each new family member you add, the number of dirty clothes grows exponentially. It's truly amazing how much laundry a family of five can produce in just a matter of days. I think back wistfully to the days when I had a "laundry day"... it came around every other week or so, I'd gather up the sheets and a couple of towels, and my clothes and start a load or two. No biggie.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The Thing About Clutter, and My Quest to Simplify

On a whim last week I decided to give up social media for a month; and let me tell you, a week and a half in, I'm already seeing some positive effects. I'm no longer whipping out my phone to 'go online' anytime there's a lull, a break in conversation, a commercial, time to 'fill'. I'm not obsessively checking my notifications as though they're a to-do list to get through. I'm not concerned about capturing photos on my phone to post online or framing my thoughts in the form of a Facebook status update.

Mostly, I'm learning how to be present. To be HERE, now. To be okay in this moment, just this moment and nothing else. A big inspiration to me lately has been Leo Babauta's Zen Habits, and specifically his ideas for living simply, with intention, and putting energy into things that really matter.

I'm also learning that all that time spent online scrolling through newsfeed items is really a distraction from more important things, and a way to procrastinate. It was occupying more than just my down-time... it was ever-present in the back of my mind, it's what I turned to when I didn't want to complete a task or I was bored or just didn't want to think about all the things I SHOULD be doing.

Spending time online is a really easy way to avoid being in this moment; but not being in the moment is proving harmful for so many reasons: you're not with the people you are with. You're avoiding something. You're not clearing your mind - you are avoiding thinking about anything, giving yourself a way to not think at all and most of all, wasting time.

When I think of the distractions I've built into my own life, I realize they are just clutter. Social media, email, texts, blogs and news sites I've historically tried to keep up with... they are cluttering up my time, and my energy. They aren't all bad, but in large part they are taking away from what's really important. In fact, they are preventing me from thinking about what exactly IS important in the first place, and filling my time and my mind with clutter instead.

As a result of giving myself a little bit of time to THINK, just be for a few minutes at a time, I've realized that I've filled other parts of my life with clutter as well. I'm starting to wonder if we're serving our things and not the other way around. The piles of toys in our house could compete with a toy store. Outgrown and worn-out clothes are bursting from closets. There are stacks of papers and things that need to be dealt with. All this clutter, this keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, this acquiring of STUFF is taking away, not adding to my life and that of my family. We're spending time and energy (even if it's just mental energy) dealing with all the things, all the time. The more toys we have, the more we have to clean up. The more clothes we have, the more laundry we need to do. And so it goes.

SO... in addition to cutting back online, I'm on a new quest to cut back at home too: to let go of the things that are taking away, and make an effort to say no, and not to bring things in unless they serve to enrich my life and the things that are important. I'm on a quest to SIMPLIFY, so I - and my family - will have the time, and space, and energy to focus on what IS important:
  1. Family - time spent together
  2. Work - focused and productive
  3. Hobbies: gardening, painting
  4. Friends
  5. Self: physical and mental health
Even limiting that list to five items was difficult for me; I wanted to add all kinds of other things to it, but to be able to simplify and refocus, it had to be pared down to just five important things.

Right now, I'm just taking the very small step to identify what's important, and frame my decisions about what to keep and what to let go of based on whether it enriches or takes away from those five things. I'm not running home to throw everything out, or do a massive purge to give away all our worldly possessions (though a purge is coming!); I'm simply focusing on this list for the time being.

One small step at a time...

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Life without Facebook - Day 2

I accidentally replaced Facebook with Google+. Ooops! I know what you're thinking: nobody replaces Facebook with Google+ silly! I didn't think it was possible either, until I found myself scrolling through G+ just now.

I guess the month without includes G+ now too... They are both time wasters for the large part, and if you're hooked it's best to make a clean break I think.

In other news, I didn't even THINK about Facebook until after 9:30 this morning. 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Life Without Facebook

Every year, a friend of mine goes "offline" for Lent. Now, I am not religious at all, but every year I think, That's great! But there's no WAY I could do it. I depend way too heavily on my online interactions every day...

Which is exactly the reason I've decided to do the same this year.

An entire... month?

I won't lie, I am actually having heart palpitations about this right now. It's been exactly three hours since I made this decision, and I've fought the urge to check Facebook no less than a dozen times already.

I realize for a lot of people who aren't online all day, this may sound pretty ridiculous... But I am sadly one of the many Facebook addicts out there.

Just to give an idea of my mental state when I made this decision: my first thought when I made up my mind to do this on a whim this morning was, "But I haven't posted about my break to anyone." Meaning... I haven't prepared anyone for the devastating news that I would not be checking posts constantly, scrolling through my newsfeed, commenting on random things throughout the day, liking anything, for an entire month. How will anyone know what I'm up to? How will I know what everyone else is up to??

Clearly, I am way too caught up in the day-to-day goings-on on Facebook and other social media sites. (Who am I kidding - it's Facebook 98% of the time) I have wasted far, far too much time browsing, reading, checking, looking, mindlessly scrolling. FAR too much time.

So, there it is. Here we go, another digital diet, but this time it's a cold-turkey full-on break from Facebook. I will still be checking email and texts whenever they come in, and writing here, but besides that, you (hopefully) won't see me online in the next month. If I can stick to this.

It won't be that hard... will it?...

(In case anyone is wondering... I will share my blog posts on Facebook during this hiatus, but I can do that from my blog, so no cheating!)
Adios Facebook Amigos

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Baby Girl is 11 months old!

Seriously? Eleven months?? Ack! No!

Alas, it is so. The baby is growing before our very eyes... Opa says she is smart, "No, like really smart." Here's a short list of some of the amazing things she is doing lately... It's literally something new every day... I can barely keep up.
- signing 'milk', 'more', 'eat', 'all done', 'water' (with one finger), 'owie' (sortof), 'book' (sortof), shakes her head no and waves hi and bye.
- says dada, mama, more, hi, no, wow/woah, 'ah-ah' (my sound for stop/don't do that), na (Nonna), pa (Opa), ba (ball), and be-a (bear). She also makes a 'tte tte' sound and sortof tickles her own belly when she's being tickled or wants to be.
- growls like a bear - most animals in her world growl, apparently! - and sometimes says 'at at' when you ask what a duck says and 'fff' for a dog.
- crawling everywhere! Can't do steps yet so she's still contained to the Family Room (for now!)
- she will stand up holding onto furniture if you put her that way, and has started pulling up onto her knees 
- plays peekaboo (with her hand on the side of her head, haha)
- says 'brrr' when driving a toy truck/car
- still loves to dance, starts to boogie anytime music comes on, and has added a few moves to her repertoire (like shaking her hands in the air)
- starting to open and close doors (cabinets and big doors that aren't latched). Tricky when she crawls into a room, closes the door and then gets 'stuck' behind the door which has happened a few times!
- can roll a ball and chase after it.
- happiest if she can hold more than one toy in her hand at a time.
- started dropping food from her tray and will smile and say 'ah-ah' and shake her head no. Stinker.
- loves to read books before bed. She will be almost asleep nursing but if I say "Book?" she will pop right up and reach for the books on her shelf.
- fake coughs for attention and will 'laugh' when others laugh
- can point to her toes when asked and tries to put on her socks and shoes.
- sprouted her four bottom teeth all on the same day about a month ago (that was fun...), and is working in a few top teeth now.

She is such a joy. Happy 11-month birthday not-so-little one.

One word: toes!