2. This One

This one, no matter the circumstances, is able to bring a smile to my face and joy into my life.

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Weekends at the cottage are a time for dividing cooking and clean-up duties.  One night the Husband and I cook, and my brother and his wife clean up and we switch the next night.  Tonight, the Husband and I were on cooking detail.  I don’t think there is anything better in the whole world than being in the kitchen together (ok maybe if the kids are in the kitchen with us and helping out . . . that’s pretty much perfection).  And the cherry on top tonight?  We made a recipe that we used to make back in the day, before kids, when we had dinner parties with friends.  The kind of dinner parties that could stretch late into the night because no one had to get home to babysitters/nannies/in-laws.

The recipe you ask?  Well, it’s Gourmet’s Island Pork Tenderloin.  We made it without the Tobasco tonight so the kids could eat it as well.  And the best part of this dish???  Using the leftovers, as a side, or mixed right in to some scrambled eggs.

And of course, the best side for the pork??  Ginger coconut rice.  In fact, the rice, with a generous spoonful of the sauce from the pork poured over it???  Just make it.  You’ll be in heaven.

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Ginger Coconut Rice

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • chopped green onions (the green parts only)

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil and add in the grated ginger on medium-high heat.  Stir until the ginger is fragrant.
  2. Add in the water, coconut milk and rice and stir to combine.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir.
  4. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the rice is cooked.  I am rather unorthodox about how I cook my rice, I will lift the lid of the pot and stir it all up, checking on how much liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat once the rice is cooked to your preferred level of doneness – garnish with the green onions.

1. When the Past Becomes the Present

My most treasured childhood memories are from the summers my family spent at a family owned resort on Lake of Bays.  While the property seemed vast to me at the time – it did boast a field (where we played family games of baseball after dinner each night), a tennis court, a small beach, a big dock (complete with a slide and a diving tower), and a variety of cottages (each one distinctly different from the others and all inhabited by a seemingly routine set of families each summer).  Each member of the family that owned it, a melange of brothers, sisters and their spouses, specialized in something different around the resort.  Ross was an unbelievable gardener (I think it’s because of his gardens that I have an affinity for dahlias to this day) and master of maple syrup (yup, there was a bona fide sugar shack a ways up the road from the resort – the perfect destination for family morning walks) but also took care of the marina that was part of the resort.  Helen was in charge of the office and all the bookkeeping.  Doug and Don helped out with a variety of things, including maintaining the little “pop shop” – there were a few fridges kept in a small building filled with every flavour of soda – guests could walk in, take what they liked, and record their purchases in a small binder atop one of the fridges – I still associate the sugary sweet taste of cream soda with summer up north.  And then there was Lillian.  She was the baker – and that’s all I’ll say on her now, because she will be the focus of an entire post in a few days.

Anyway, my point in telling you all this is so that you get a sense of this place.  It was big enough, but safe enough that my parents allowed my brother and I to really test our independence when we were up there.  Trips to get a pop to go with our lunch first started out with mom or dad accompanying us, but then as we learned to write, progressed to us being allowed to go alone.

One gorgeous sunny summer day, after a trip into town to get groceries, my dad returned to the cottage with 2 inflatable dinghies – one for me and one for my brother.  I vaguely recall us naming them, but can’t for the life of me remember what we named them.  These boats were quite possibly the best thing to happen to us in our young lives.  We spent hours in these things – Paddling about, jumping in them, out of them, turning them over and jumping off them.

And then, as only a nine-year old girl would, I decided to use mine to “escape”.  I was / am an avid reader, and I decided that nothing would be better than to sit in my boat anchored off the shore reading whatever novel it was I was engrossed in at the time.  And so I prepared.  I sliced some peaches and threw them into a container.  I found a suitable rock and some rope and tied the rope around the rock, and tied the rope to the boat.  I piled my peaches, book, “anchor” and nine-year old self into the boat and rowed off shore just far enough for my anchor to work and my parents not to call me back to shore.

Several minutes into my great escape, I realized my plans had been foiled.  Rocks and rubber dinghies do not mix well.  My anchor had torn a small hole in the bottom of the boat, and my raft was taking on water.  I returned to shore and shed copious amount of tears as my boat was taken out to the garbage.  The fact that my brother still had his boat only added to my bruised ego.

Fast forward 30 years.  As I was swimming with the kids at the only family cottage my kids know, I saw my dad approaching with what looked like my old rubber dinghy.  Sure enough, it was!  To see my kids paddling about, jumping in, jumping out, and jumping of the same boat my brother and I had done the same with (my brother’s a good egg – while I know the arguments over sharing the boat weren’t always the nicest, he was good about letting me have some turns with his boat – so long as an anchor never went close to it!) made my heart sing with joy.

The Next 100 Days!?!

You know what I loved?  I LOVED my #100daysoflookingtothesky project.  I REALLY loved it.  But, like I said the other day, that project has run its course.  I’ll never look at the sky the same way again, and I’ll still reach for my phone every time I see something beautiful up above, but it’s time to do something different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I originally intended this blog to be, and what I’d like to spend my days doing over the next little bit, and how I could get a little more connected to my One Little Word this year as it’s already more than half over!  Over the next little bit, I’ll be celebrating a few millstones too . . . the 5 year anniversary of my surgery (the Husband thinks this is a bigger deal than the 5 year all-clear I just got) and soon after the start of the new year, I’ll be turning 40 (yikes!).  Never mind that there are about a million and one little things/projects that I’d like to explore!

So I’ve come up with this . . .

#100morselsofjoy

Yup.  Starting tomorrow I’m going to be embarking on another 100 day project.  And this time, I’m going to focus on one thing a day that brings me joy.  Could be something small, and mundane, or big and exciting.  Either way, I can’t wait to get started on this new project.  My intention is to post a picture of whatever my morsel of joy is that day and to do a quick blog post about it too.

Please feel free to join me on this project, and add any photos you want to #100morselsofjoy.  Or, just follow along as I find bits of joy here and there!

Now, to jump start this new project, I thought I’d share a repair that brings my family lots of delicious joy … while I am very much a proponent of clean eating, I have also aways said that there are times in one’s life for treats.  Summer holidays at the cottage are PRECISELY the time for a few treats.  And today, the kids and I got to a little baking in my favourite kitchen.  And we made . . . Smartie cookies.  I like to do a quick search before I post “old” family recipes – just to see if anyone has ideas on how to improve on my recipe, or to see if it’s something other people actually make.  A search of Smartie cookies yielded some interesting results – namely more recipes for cookies like this seem to come out of the UK than the US . . .

Anyway, these cookies are a cottage staple for our family for years.  Everyone loves them and it’s hard to keep them around for long!  I hope you enjoy them!

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Smartie Cookies

  • Servings: 50 or so
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • smarties (today we used 400g in total)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375.  If you can, use the “Bake Convection” setting on your oven so that you can put all the trays of cookies in at once to cook . . .cuts down on baking time!
  2. In the bowl of stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until everything is well combined.
  3. While the mixer is running, put the smarties into a large Ziploc bag and beat them with a rolling pin to smash them up a bit.  This step is totally unnecessary, I just like it when the chocolate inside the smarties gets melty and gooey . . .
  4. Add in the flour and mix until it is just combined.
  5. Dump in the smarties and give the whole thing one last mix.
  6. Shape the dough into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet.  These cookies don’t spread too much, so you can get quite a few on a tray (at least 20).  Using your hand, flatten them out (so that they’re about 1/2′ thick) and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!

 

Finding A Rhythm for Life

I read a post the other day about finding a rhythm for the summer and it struck a chord with me.  Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we focused on finding a rhythm as opposed to using brute force to cram everything into our lives??

Let me elaborate . . .

Lately it feels to me as though life is just one big pressure cooker.  There’s pressure to keep up, to get ahead, to be better, to be stronger, to do more, to have more.  And as much as I feel like this applies to adults, it extends down to our kids too.  Summer isn’t a break from routine, it’s a time for routines to ramp up; without the hassle of school and homework, just think of all the time that can be dedicated to things like hockey!  and tennis!  and music!  And I say this not in a reproachful way, as I found myself driving between a baseball diamond, a tennis court, and a skating rink today, and I’ve entertained thoughts of having the piano teacher come to our house over the next few weeks so that the older one can “keep up” with his piano and the younger one can “get started” before the school year.  Rather, I’m saying this because I find myself caught up in it all too.

But here’s the thing.  Rushing from one activity to another isn’t bringing immeasurably more happiness to my kids, or to me.  Which has me wondering if this ridiculous pace that we all seem to be living our lives at is doing any of us any good.

I will admit that this has been playing on my mind for a few weeks now.  All the while several things have happened . . . the Pokemon Go app came out, and with it the satirical Chardonnay Go app for moms.  I’ll speak the former first.  We had the pleasure of visiting one of our most favourite museums two weekends ago, The Henry Ford.  If you haven’t been there, you absolutely MUST go.  It is the most phenomenal museum we have ever been to – it truly does have something for everyone, young, old, girls, boys . . . it’s so good we live 4 hours away and have a membership.  But I digress.  While we were visiting Thomas Edison’s workshop and listening to a docent explain and demonstrate the first phonograph invented by Edison, another family wandered up, and while the adults listened, the kids didn’t once look up from their iPhone screens and their Pokemon game.

And now for the later – I wish I could say that the idea of the Chardonnay Go app is outlandish.  But from the way my contemporaries discuss their absolute need for at least one glass of wine at night, it seems downright plausible.

So, what does any of this have to do with finding a rhythm for our lives?  Well, this . . . At what point did we, collectively, fall into this mindset where “more is better” to the point that we are happier letting our kids interact with computer generated images on family outings than with each other, and as parents, we need alcohol on a nightly basis to wind down from the craziness of our daily lives?

When we stop and listen to the daily rhythms our bodies are asking us for, and our kids might, if they could articulate it, ask us for, our lives would look quite different.  Slowing down allows for time to cook good food – if we’re not rushing out of the house to get to early morning practices, everyone can have a good, nourishing breakfast.  And after school, when we’re not running around to a million and one different after school activities, we have time to prepare proper meals, possibly even all together.  When we eat properly, real, unprocessed foods, free from sugar and chemical additives, we all feel better; and more importantly, behave better.

And when we’re not rushing around to activities, the kids have time to pursue things they’re interested in.  Which means less nagging (pleading, prodding, and then possibly yelling & screaming) for the kids to get ready, and get out the door.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating a complete lack of activities for kids – I’m simply suggesting that we have the courage to scale back on what we think the kids “need” to do and focus on what they really want to do.  As I plan out the upcoming school year, I’m trying to do just that.  While my son enjoys hockey, he doesn’t love it – so rather than force the issue, and enrol him in all manner of power skating classes, he’s playing house league hockey once a week.  And the little one, while she could be doing all sorts of different classes, we’re going to stick to the things she loves – dance and skating.  And in their down time, they can play, read things they want to read, not just what they need to read for homework, and have fun.

When I’m not rushing around to activities, I have time to pursue things I’m interested in, and I have time to spend with the kids guiding them as they pursue what they’re interested in.  And when the kids are more engaged with me, and the Husband, we get fewer and fewer requests from the kids to use technology.  And while my kids don’t play Pokemon, maybe with more human connection, we’d collectively find the idea of hunting for images far less appealing than spending time with each other.  Which in turn should lead to a lot less stress (and for those that are currently inclined, a lot less dependence on alcohol to relax).  And when we’re eating better, and more relaxed . . . well, by definition, we’re healthier and much less susceptible to all the bugs that start to fly around in the fall.   (I won’t even bother touching on the stress that a sick child can cause to a tightly packed family schedule!)

And so, as I embark on some vacation time with the kids up north, I’m going to experiment with this concept of rhythm.  I’m going to listen to the kids, and to what my body is telling me.  And hopefully by the time this vacation is over, we’ll all be accustomed to the rhythms of our lives, and we’ll be able to continue this way of life into the new school year.

 

 

 

The End of My #the100dayproject

As I went to sleep last night, I was excited.  I brought the kids to the cottage with me, and I could not wait to take the last of my 100 photos of the sky up north.  I was hoping for a gorgeous sunrise photo – the kind that I seem only to be able to capture from the rocky shores of Georgian Bay.

I was woken up by the first kid at 5:45 – the older one, anxious to see the highlights of the Jays game from the night before was up and begging to turn on the tv.  As I opened my eyes and looked out the window . . . all I saw were clouds.  I resigned myself to the idea that I would simply take a photo later in the day – maybe of a gorgeous sunset instead – and went on with my morning activities – like making coffee and breakfast for the kids.

As I was puttering around the kitchen, I looked out the window only to see my sunrise.  What had been an overcast sky had turned into one with just a few clouds and the sun miraculously rising through them.  It was gorgeous.  And with hushed instructions NOT to wake granny & granddad and to wait for me to get back, I ran out the door to try and capture my photo.

But not matter how hard I tried, I could NOT capture what I had seen out of the kitchen window.  All I got was this:

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I returned defeated yet again, and got back to assembling breakfast.

As I set the table and sat down with the kids, I looked out and down towards the Bay.  For the second time this morning, I grabbed my phone, issued hushed instruction to the kids to behave, not to move, and to WAIT till I got back, I ran down to the water, and was able to capture this:

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And once again, I was reminded that things don’t always work out the way you hope or expect them to.  And that sometimes, that’s for the best.  I didn’t get a perfect photo of the sun rising this morning.  But I did capture an image that I absolutely love.

And why is it that I love this photo so much?  Because it perfectly captures both the light and the dark.  Like some of the other photos I’ve shared, it’s a reminder (to me, anyway), there there is always light after the dark (or that there really is always a silver lining to every cloud).

But more than anything this morning, I was reminded of the concept of perspective.  Throughout this project, all I’ve had to do to capture a really interesting image, was to turn a quarter turn, walk a few extra steps, or simply try to look at the sky from a different angle.  Today, I was looking, and hoping and expecting to find my perfect photo in one direction, when all I had to do was look in the opposite direction to find it, my joy for the day.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…………….

If I’m to be really honest, I’m sad that this 100 days has come to a close.  I have genuinely looked forward to taking these sky photos every day, and while some days the quotes I used just appeared to me, other days I spent a thoroughly enjoyable few moments looking for the perfect quote to use.  I have loved taking a few moments out of every day to look up at the sky, to pause whatever it was that I was doing, and spend a little, even it was only 60 seconds, by myself.  While I’ve thought about continuing this project for another 100 days, I don’t want to spoil the magic of these past 100 days.  And so, with this I’m saying goodbye to this project and I’m off to figure out something to challenge myself with next . . .

 

 

 

Up on the Watershed

Without fail, at around this time of year, I find myself listening to old Indigo Girls songs. And by listening, I mean keeping a selection of about ten songs on repeat whenever I’m in the car, usually promoting the kids to remark “Mom, you must REALLY like these songs”.  And the answer is yes, yes I do really like those songs . . . there’s something soothing about a song that you can still find meaning in 25 years later.

This past weekend, I was flipping through this month’s edition of Elle Canada and came across an article about Camp.  With the chaos going on around me, I must admit, I didn’t read the intro or the by-line, but I didn’t have to, to know that the author was written about my old camp (you can see the article here).  While the author has a totally different view than mine on what life at camp was like, it prompted me to think a little . . . and to start my annual Indigo Girls play-a-thon (if anyone went to an all-girls’ camp in the 90’s, or even knew anyone who went to an all-girls’ camp in the 90’s, Indigo Girls weren’t just a recurring theme – they were part of the very fabric of camp life).

As I was driving around yesterday running errands and attempting to figure out my life’s purpose, the song Watershed came on.  There are 2 lines in the song that get me every time I hear it:

“Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh”

and

“You can stand there and agonize till your agony’s your heaviest load”

I’ve written about it before, and I hate to be a bore, but the last few weeks, well month, really, have been a time of letting go for me, and moving past everything that has defined the last 5 years of my life.  The planner, list-maker, and do-er in me is starting to get antsy – I don’t have a clear path as to where I’m going, or what I’ll be doing next.  As close friends have been finding and following their passions, I’ve been spinning my wheels, “agonizing” if you will about what my passion is going to be, and when i’m going to figure out what that passion is.

Yup, seems even stupider in writing that it does in my head.

Anyway, as I stand up here on my own little watershed, waiting for change to come, I’m going to do my best to remember that five years from now, I will be laughing at all of this.

And on that happy little note, I’m going to sign off to get back to what I was doing before sitting down to jot this little post . . . cleaning out the basement (I’d love to say once and for all, but really this is becoming an annual thing).

xoxo

PS.  I had an amazing conversation last night with a close friend – she’s one of the people in my life that’s just decided to follow their passion – anyway, as we were talking, I looked up at the sky and saw this . . . rays of sun & cloud shining out in celebration!  AC, I’m SO happy for you.

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