November Hustle

IMG_0416

How did we get here?!  November already!  October was full of fall activities – pumpkin walk at the RBG and picking the perfect pumpkins to carve at this sweet little pumpkin patch were our favourites… well next to Halloween of course!  The kids loved dressing up and trekking house to house to collect treats.

This month making madness begins as I knit, crochet, sew and plan the perfect gifts for the people around me!  I’m hoping to involve Lilah and Max more in the process of spreading joy this year.  They both love to create and share as much as I do so I’m sure it will be a lot of fun for them!

Added in to the mix of my usual creating and mom life is planning a collaborative project with one of my dearest friends.  Since high school we imagined working side by side at some point so this is extra exciting.  It’s basically a dream come true for me and I can’t wait to watch it all unfold!

I also recently submitted my section for the Live Small Town Magazine’s Winter issue so stay tuned for that!

Lots of things going on my way this month, if you follow my instagram you will see bits and pieces as I go.

I hope that November treats you well!

JESSICA

 

 

 

Advertisements

Days like this

The other morning I was startled awake to Max’s cries.  He was sick and a mess so I sleepily stumbled in to the bedroom to assess the situation.  After getting him cleaned up and settled we headed back to sleep only to be woken up by the alarm clock for school 20min later.  Once again I picked myself out of bed and helped Lilah get ready for school and out the door in a timely fashion.

I’m not a morning person by any means.  I’m also not a night person since having kids… I fall somewhere in between.  10am until maybe 5pm is when I meet my best self.  All other hours have varying levels of exhaustion.  Having a sick child just adds another bump in the morning routine which lucky for us isn’t that smooth as is.

As hard as these days can be I am actually kind of thankful for them.  On these days several positives happen.  One being that I am forced to slow things down.  All plans get cancelled or rearranged and I’m ok with that.  It also gives me the time to snuggle and tend to whomever is under the weather and well… one day I know they won’t be so interested in having their mommy wipe their nose or tend to their fevers.

Kindness matters

FullSizeRender 23A year ago on October 18th was one of the hardest days of my life.  It was the day we had to say goodbye to my old boy Toby.  In what had already been a year packed full of heart ache with the loss of our old girl on the 4th of April, finding out that our time with Toby was limited and everything in between – I was pretty broken.  The thing is, to me, dogs are much more than just an animal.  They are my people and if I being completely honest I prefer them to most humans.  The unconditional love dogs offer us just can’t be replaced and so losing my companion of 16yrs changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Two days after Toby passed away I walked in to one of my favourite coffee shops – Cake and Loaf (who knew 😉 ).  I was trying my damnedest to keep it together but I just couldn’t.  Tears just fell despite my best efforts to keep them in and I told the lovely soul behind the counter about my loss.  I didn’t expect anything but what I received was irreplaceable. Sincere and heart felt condolences.  My feelings were validated and I felt human again for the first time since I said my goodbyes…  Really for the first time in the longest year of my life.

What this wonderful human did not know is that even before this moment she was already a part of my story.  I had been in many times before feeling wretched on the inside but smiling on the outside and was always treated with complete and authentic kindness.  It’s that kindness I received from her and some other fantastic staff that have kept me coming back especially on my worst days.  Those are the days when they really make a difference without even knowing it.

Life moves onward and things change but we make these connections with each other all of the time.  Sometimes they last only in that minute and others carry through for a life time.  I used to think I didn’t really need a whole bunch of friends and maybe that is so but one thing I have learned is how valuable our relationships with one another are, both big and small.  I know that my words and actions toward others really can make a difference because those of others have forever changed my life.

People come and go from one another life.  Sometimes we are pulled apart and separated for years only to find each other again at what seems to be just the right time.  Some people stay away forever while others never leave.  All of these moments matter though, all of these people matter.  They are part of our next painting, article or song – we carry them with us always in this beautiful chaotic life.

I never expected to find friendship while buying coffee but I most definitely did.

cbde7-jessica

 

 

CSA love + Matz Fruit Barn

IMG_9577

As some of you know I have been participating in Matchbox Garden’s CSA for a few years now.  I love the weekly drive out to Caledonia and throughout the summer the kids and I stop and wander along the river enjoying the scenery before we pick up our share.

The last two years Hanna has offered some bonus add ons such as Stasis Preserves, Lovell Spring’s Trout and Matz Fruit Barn (located in Port Dover this is a sweet little shop with a whole lot to offer).  As much as I would love to support ALL of them, I chose to add Matz Fruit Barn to our veggie share knowing the fruit would be devoured by us all!

The season started out with the usual rhubarb and strawberries and as the fruits cycled through we have had such a wide variety – from Gooseberries and raspberries to peaches and coronation grapes (a solid fave of mine) – there is always something for everyone!

Matchbox Garden experienced winter squash crop loss due to flooding in the spring so Matz will be providing it for the CSA shares!  So don’t be fooled by the name, there are loads of veggies available too!  The butternut squash from my share this week was huge and is about to become a great big batch of soup for dinner tonight and freezing for later!

One thing I really love about local farmers is how they work with one another when things like crop failure occur.  Because every year it happens on some level, after all we cannot control mother nature and she can be a finicky gal 😉 .

We are 3/4 of the way through the 2017 CSA season and I look forward to seeing what the last leg of our produce filled adventure sends our way!

If CSAs aren’t your thing I encourage you to check out Matz Fruit Barn directly, it is so important we support our local farms for a multitude of reasons and this is a gem among them!

Enjoy this lovely fall day!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Days + New Routine

FullSizeRender 22And just like that September is in full swing and fall routines have begun.  As much as I appreciate the consistency that comes with school days I would be lying if I said I am not missing the tiny voices -that drove me batty just last week 😉 – calling me repeatedly.  This year is especially strange since it’s the first time in over 6yrs I haven’t had a small child at my side day in and day out. I have already found myself asking the dog questions he cannot answer and pointing out adorable critters on our walks.  …Because my dog , Wally, finds humour in things like squirrels chasing each other through the trees as much as small children 😉 ….  Well he does show interest but that is just because he would love to pursue them on an instinctual level.

August seemed to fly by this year and the first day of school kind of snuck up on me.  One day we were planning our next adventure and the next we were waiting for the school bus!  Sending my son Max on the bus for his first day was REALLY hard.  He is still 3 and very small for his age.  The bus steps are his equivalent to climbing the escarpment for the rest of us.  But he did it and thankfully he didn’t look back because than he likely would have seen the tears in my eyes.

We are all fairing well though now that things are picking up and becoming more familiar to us all.  Max is finding JK a bit overwhelming so we are sending him part time for now with the support of his educators.  Making the transition a smooth and pleasant one for us all is our goal!

My daughter Lilah loves grade 1 so far though finds sitting a desk uncomfortable – because it is!  I think it’s awfully hard to concentrate when you’re sitting on something that feels like concrete but what do I know 😉 .  She loves the independence that comes with being in a primary grade and has made some new friends.

As  for me, I am regrouping right now and focusing on re-organizing all the things in the house – toys, books, clothes – pretty much everything I couldn’t do easily with the kids around.  My “to make” list keeps growing and with Christmas (yes I know it’s early) in the near future I have plenty to pass the childfree moments I now have.

The first week has now passed and we are all feeling thankful for the weekend to recharge.  Before we know it we will be in to a nice groove and I think we are off to a good start!

Happy back to school!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer eats year round

FullSizeRender 20

How is it almost September?  I seriously have no idea how this happened!  Well I do but you know what I mean.  With late summer comes some serious food storage business here, though this year I cut back on what I am saving based on last years experimentation.

I started in July with Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries – all of these I washed, flash froze and than popped in to freezer containers for use in smoothies and baked goods all winter long!

Corn and green beans were next on the list and those I froze as well.  Both of these I blanch which is a bit of a pain 😉 but really easy.  I prefer to use frozen kernels of corn in the winter vs cobs so I cut the corn off before blanching.  This also saves a lot of space in the freezer because there are no bulky cobs to accommodate.  Half of the green beans I cut to make things easier when it comes to soups and such.

*Not everyone blanches these things but I do, it helps preserve both the flavour and colour by stopping the enzymes in their tracks!  Do your research to see what is best and what meets food safety guidelines*

The last item I will be freezing is peppers, I’m expecting them soon!  They are really easy to store.  I just wash and cut them up in to desired sizes, toss them in to freezer containers and they are ready to add to chilis, soups, stews etc.  Last year was the first year I did this – Natalie and Stam Farms recommended it! – and I used them up rather quick it worked so well!

The only food I bothered canning this year was tomatoes!  33 jars of them to be exact.  I like to keep a large amount on hand because they are so versatile.  I didn’t add any herbs to them, I will add herbs I have dried from my garden and garlic I have saved from local farmers as needed.

As for where these foods I have stored came from?  All wonderful local places of course!  Most organic but not all – sometimes the budget just cannot reach an additional $30 for a bushel of something.  And this year things like tomatoes have really suffered thanks to late blight which also claimed the lives of all my plants so naturally the cost is going to be higher.

But for the most part the organic items I have gotten my hands on – with a little help from my friend Krista at Harrington Lane Farms 😉 – have been the same or better priced than the conventional bulk items.  Like the beans I just did.  Best beans ever.  SO GOOD!  And they were from a co-operative type farm system Guelph way.

I’m so happy that much of my summer favourites will be enjoyed by my family through much of winter.  It’s a true labour of love but as someone who believes strongly in supporting our local food growers I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way!

Happy Monday!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

 

For the love of hair + butterflies

IMG_9696

It was bright and cheery August morning, perfect for exploring nature so I headed out with the kids to the RBG to enjoy the gardens.  We walked past some gentlemen chatting on our way in to the gardens, said hello and carried on.

The gardens are exploding with life – full of butterflies, bees and other happy insects going from flower to flower carrying on as nature intended.  We are always on the look out for different bugs, plants and critters we haven’t noticed previously.  Today we took note in a wee little butterfly as it floated effortlessly (well in my mind – I imagine it actually takes a fair amount of effort on their part 😉 ) throughout mounds of summer blooms.

It was time for us to head on home so we said our goodbyes to the flowers, trees and insects and made our walk back to the truck.  We passed the same gentlemen as we returned and this time they commented on my sons hair.  He has a glorious mop of light blonde locks that he loves.  At first I thought they admired it but than it dawned on me that the general feeling was that I should be cutting it.  These men were not mean and I’m certain it wasn’t ill intended but it made me think of they way we as a society have raised our boys.

For the most part the reaction to my sons hair is really good.  I would say 95% of the time people genuinely love it and think it’s great that he has it exactly how he wants it.  But there is this other group of people who really feel I as a mom need to “put my foot down” and tell him his hair is unacceptable.  He is 3yrs old.  And even if he was 13yrs old, it is ultimately his hair and his body.  What am I supposed to tell him – your hair is too… too what?  Feminine?!  Because it is not.  And if that handful of people think there is something wrong with it, well than it’s on them and not me.

The sad reality is that when he starts school there is a very real chance some other child will make fun of his hair and he will want to cut it.  It hurts my heart to think of this possibility, to know that the words of his classmates will have an edge so powerful they just might alter how he perceives himself.

But this attitude is learned and we can change it.  It starts with acceptance.  Accepting that someone else’s attributes whether genetic or chosen do not affect your life in any possible way.  That long hair on a boy or short hair on a girl does not make one more feminine or masculine than the other.

So, I think back to that little butterfly and I envy it a little simply because it exists as it should fluttering about with no external criticism inhibiting it’s natural duties.  As humans I think we could all learn a lot from the butterflies that pass us by all summer long.  No matter their colour, size or shape they dance harmoniously over the gorgeous landscape.

If a butterfly choses to go left when the others go right it will be just fine.  And you know what?  So will my son and daughter and anyone else who goes against the grain (or with it!).  We are all in this together.

Go chase the butterflies!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

 

 

Honest Field Farms

 

IMG_9562I’ve been following Honest Field Farms (Erin, Ontario) for quite some time, I really enjoy their Instagram stories and watching their farming adventure unfold.  Also, being a dog lover, I really appreciate all the hard work Rosie the farm dog does 😉 .

This past week I was lucky enough to get my hands on a large CSA share so I too could experience all of the local deliciousness others get to throughout the growing season!  The entire experience was so pleasant – from communication to the beautiful bounty, it was all wonderful.  As an added bonus I was able to pick up my share from Harrington Lane Farms in Waterdown, which is always a favourite spot to shop.

This share included familiar items like carrots, cucumber and dill but also kohlrabi which I had zero experience with.  This is part of the CSA fun, trying things I would never consider, it forces me to get creative in the kitchen.  After some research, I decided to make fritters with them and they were so good!  Maybe next time I can convince my children to enjoy them too 😉 .

Honest Field Farms can be found at the Waterdown, Milton and Georgetown Farmers markets if CSAs are not your thing but if you are interested in a CSA program, this is definitely a farm worthy of your support.

Happy shopping!

cbde7-jessica

 

 

A sweet read and a child’s inspiration

Panda the Very Bad Cat and the beginnings of my daughter’s book 😉

Reading is something I have always loved to do.  I spent my summers reading book after book caught up in the worlds created by all kinds of amazing authors!  I knew that I wanted my children to grow up surrounded by books and stories, not only for literacy development but for creative inspiration.  There is nothing quite like the combo of a well written story and a readers imagination!

As a young girl I remember the time I met the author of Malcom’s Runaway Soap, Jo Ellen Bogart.  It was so exciting to listen to her tell the story she had written – I was in awe.  My signed copy was read over and over again until I had it memorized!  I never forgot that moment, it was the first time I felt like I too could be a writer some day.

Panda the Very Bad Cat written by Lacey Bakker, was gifted to my children by a dear friend and quickly became a favourite.  This past June the local school was hosting their annual open house and I saw Lacey’s name on the program!  I thought to myself how nice it would be if my daughter experienced that author to reader connection I did around her age.

The day of the open house my girl skipped off of the bus SUPER excited to tell me she met the author of Panda the Very Bad Cat and that Panda was a real cat.  This pure joy is like no other, it is marvellous to watch.  Markers and paper were an immediate request since she too was going to write a story about Wally the trouble maker 😉 .

I than told her that Lacey had gone to her school once, as did I.  The concept floored her.  This fantastic story was written by someone that I had once shared the same halls with and now she gets to walk them too.  Simply wonderful.

I’m so thankful my little girl was able to sit in on the Panda the Very Bad Cat reading, it meant the world to her and fuelled her love of books even more than I could have dreamed.  She still wants to be a writer and talks about that day in the gym as if it just happened.  

Check out Panda the Very Bad Cat if you haven’t already!  It is adorable.  Lacey also has a blog I will link below.  If you are a cat lover, you will really enjoy it!

Also… Lacey’s Pandamonium Publishing House just released a new book Unfrogged!  Unfrogged was written by another alumni of our grade/high school – Tamara Botting.  I haven’t had a chance to snag a copy yet, but I look forward to reading it!

If you happen to be an author of a children’s book, you are a hero in their mind.  That’s the miracle of childhood – They see all the greatness that as grown ups we tend to pass by.  And if you otherwise (or also!) write a blog, novels, fact or fiction – you are my hero, and very likely a hero to thousands of others too.

The gift of reading is incredible, it allows us to learn, grow… it makes us feel.  So read to your baby, toddler, child, cat, dog – read to yourself!  And if given the opportunity, let the writer know you enjoy their work.  I know as a newish blogger I love hearing from my readers!

Go grab a book and go read under a tree.

Happy Friday!

Stay tuned for Lacey Bakker’s book Deer Diary coming October 2017!

Blog link:
https://thekittycatclan.com

Summer update: creatures + herbs

It has been quite some time since I wrote last!  End of school + start of summer holidays left me searching for a new routine and I have finally found it!  Our days are now full of random play, various activities and outdoor wandering when it isn’t suffocatingly hot out.  I know – super weird for someone who loves the outdoors and growing things to despise the heat but I do.  I really dislike it.

Baby snapping turtle after release

Our yard seems to be home for quite the collection of creatures this summer!  If you follow along on Instagram you have already seen the adorable baby snapping turtle Wally found.  The kids really enjoyed caring for the wee one until we were able to release him on the river bank.  It was a great learning opportunity for us all!  Did you know it takes them 17-20yrs to mature?  Although they live to be 100+ years the population is declining greatly as majority are killed on the road or at the hands of humans long before they have even laid their first eggs.

There is a little garter snake living under our porch though I am the only one to see it thus far.  Garter snakes are awesome for pest control.  Country living means mice are abundant so we appreciate their help keeping mice out of the house!

Toad, our garden keeper

Toads galore can be found in and around the gardens.  There is a really large one that lives near our back steps that the kids always look for it when they head out back.  Toads are great at helping keep unwanted insects away – like mosquitoes.  No one needs those around!

And we can’t forget the furry creatures!  There are chipmunks are everywhere!  These adorable little critters are found playing games with each other all around our property.  Rabbits are always plentiful and we have seen some deer as well.

Though we aren’t really THAT removed from the city, it sure feels as though we are in our own little world as we watch all the little things happening around us.

On to growing things!

Mint, oregano and dill ready to dry

Though my gardens are nothing special this year I do have quite the herb collection.  Basil, peppermint (so much peppermint!), spearmint, chocolate mint, parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary and dill are all favourites in the garden.  I recently planted a couple lavender plants for both it’s beauty and scent!

All the herbs are fantastic fresh.  Sliced tomato – I can’t wait for fresh off the vine tomatoes! – cheese and genovese basil drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette is an easy dinner addition I love.  I’m also a hug fan of mint and honey added to mixed berries as dessert!  

dried lavender and thyme

I like to dry herbs as well for seasoning sauces and other delicious things all winter long.  Thyme, oregano and dill are my favourites to hang in the kitchen to dry.  Basil, sage, mints and rosemary I find dry much better in the small dehydrator I have.

This year is the first I have dried lavender and it seems to be doing well just hanging off the cupboard doors!  I plan to use it in teacher gifts for Christmas with my daughters help.

Our summer vacation has started out well, I look forward to mini day trips exploring new places and visiting favourites with my little humans and Wally in tow!

Happy July!