Sunday, November 29, 2009

Natural Family Column

I am delighted to be publishing a regular column in Natural Life Magazine called "Natural Family." My article about breast cancer will appear in the upcoming winter issue. The magazine is a Canadian bi-monthly publication covering issues such as the environment, natural parenting, and life learning.

Here's the link:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Brockville Santa Claus Parade

Oh! The Brockville Santa Claus Parade!
There are some things that make a parade no matter where you are...

marching bands

the famous Shriners' mini-vehicles (how did that tradition start, anyway?)

the propeller blades were a little unnerving...


antique cars

and, of course....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Waiting for Winter

The splendor of fall ends.

Trees rest.

Fire waits.

Animals sleep.

Red subsides to brown.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sad Suction

Okay, enough's enough. We've had this vacuum for almost a decade and it has failed us from the start. It's never really worked properly. Mike has fixed it many times and we've taken it to the repair shop on several occasions. I think it just doesn't work anymore.

At the same time, I've been to landfill sites enough times to be able to picture it just lying in a pile of garbage. I think that's why I'm such a pack-rat. I don't keep it for me. I just can't picture this stuff outside in the dump. So much plastic...

How many times do we fix something that just won't work properly? Why can't appliances last they did in the previous generation? Now, things are designed to break and we go back to buy more, often from the same company.

I've never been particularly hard on this vaccuum. We don't even have carpet. Now, it sounds like a jet taking off--with rocks grinding in the engine. And the suction is sad. The other day it passed over the same piece of lint over and over without picking it up. Honestly...

So, do I pay to fix this AGAIN or do we chuck it? Maybe someone will take it for parts. Who knows? All I know is that a vacuum that isn't even used on carpet should last longer than ten years.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ivy Lea

What a day to be outside! It's funny. When we got the invitation to go for a walk in Ivy Lea Provincial Park, I hestitated, looking around at my crazy house. For a moment, I thought of saying we had too much to do. But, I didn't. Thank goodness. So, the house is still crazy but we had a really great day. The house will be a mess forever, but days like today are to be savoured.

how satisfying to throw rocks in the river

"Hurry up, Mom!"

"Which one should I throw?"

my boy still loves the sand...still throws it at people way too much...

my happy boys

this is sooooo Shari...quiet resolve...caring and calm...

beauty...makes me think of Mrs. Harvey, my favourite teacher

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to be a perfect mom...or a good one, at least...

There was a sign in a store the other day--you know, the ones that look tole-painted but are made in China and say things like "Today is filled with the hopes of tomorrow." While they're all lovely sentiments, I find I don't really pay attention to what they say. Well, the other day I smiled when I saw this sign. Maybe this is a common cliche, but I liked it.

There is no one way to be a perfect mother, but there are a billion ways to be a good one.

Ah-ha. That's it.

In the early days of Kieran's life, when it felt like advice flowed as freely as the breastmilk he refused to drink, I remember thinking that I really sucked. I would certainly be rotten mother. As I fought against the instincts that told me to keep trying to nurse, to let my baby sleep beside me, to answer his cries, I remember one day stopping in my tracks and realizing something that has carried me through some pretty tough parenting moments.

There are many ways to raise a child.

What works for one person, doesn't work for another. What helps one child sleep sends another into a frenzy. One baby might nurse like they've discovered the nectar of the gods, while another (like mine) will scream and arch for two weeks until he makes up his mind about the whole situation.

I'm not against getting advice. Much of the advice from other moms has helped me greatly. But, as Jackie says, it's not all or nothing.

So...I've been thinking about what makes me a good mom. How often do we truly pat ourselves on the back?

This is what I cherish in my own mothering, because these things work for our family...

I stay with my child until he falls asleep.

I count his blessings with him every night--and I try REALLY hard not to react when he says he's thankful for shopping...

I read to my son.

I try not to "teach" him things--I do things with him and hope he'll glean the skills.

I bake with him.

We go for aimless walks around the neighbourhood.

I sing to him...poor little soul.

I feed him good food.

I make sure he gets his rest.

I hug him...a lot.

We do lots of art...and I try not to take over...sigh...

I repeat his feelings to him...and I don't insist that he be happy and agreeable all the time.

I laugh with him.

Of course, the list of things that make me feel guilty is much longer. But after making this list, I feel pretty darn good that I'm doing okay. Do it now. Make a little list of the ways you're a good parent. It's important to know what we're doing right. We need something to hold onto when we get clocked in the side of the head with an airborne Lightning McQueen or accidentally drive down the road with the car door open.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wig Gig

I attended my first "Wig Gig" last night. It was a get-together for all of Shari's close friends and family to raise funds for her to purchase a high-quality wig to use while she undergoes chemotherapy. Shari was glowing thanks to a combination of everyone's generosity, the silliness of the crazy wigs people were wearing, and the supportive feeling that having a tribe of strong women to laugh and cry with provides.

It reminds me that friends and family are such an important part of healing. Thanks to everyone who hosted, participated, and donated. What a great idea!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gratitude and Optimism


A little boy counts his blessings...

Thank you for my family.

Thank you for my cat.

Thank you for my neighbourhood.

Thank you for sleeping.

Thank you for sideways walking on the balance beam.


My niece won the "Optimism Award" in her Senior Kindergarten class. My brother told me this story as an example of this quality.

Briana was drawing at the kitchen table. Her intention to make a Christmas tree was thwarted when she realized she'd drawn the triangle upside down.

"Oh well, Mommy. It can be an ice cream cone now."

Aw...the glass sure is half full...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ghost Chair

I heard Kieran chattering away in the living room this morning...
"Findley doesn't like the ghost chair."
Ghost chair?

Oh, the ghost chair.

To be three-going-on-four...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where the Wild Cans Are...

This is my third blog making reference to Where the Wild Things Are. I love it. In honour of the upcoming St. Mary Canned Food Drive, Kieran and I designed these little monsters.

Okay, as with most mother-child art projects, I took over a bit. I let Kieran stick on the eyes. Then, I found myself adjusting and re-arranging to the point where my son was a spectator. Sigh. Must work on that...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Island Images

Now that my novel is finished and has been sent off into the agent/publishing world for consideration, I find myself missing the daily question of what my characters will do next. I still have lots of images that my friend, Tina, took for me this summer since we couldn't get to the island. They served as inspiration for me when I needed that sense of place and just couldn't picture it.

the church in Donaldston

a red island road

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Riser...

Parenting a pre-schooler is like joining the army. I do more before 9:00 am than most people do in a day. I was awakened at 4:45 am on Sunday by a "little mouse" who claimed it was time to get up. Almost an hour of cajoling later, he finally pulled me out of bed. Pre-child, I would sleep until 10:00am on a Sunday morning. Wow. Those days are gone. For now.

So, before the sun even rose, we got to work trying out two recipes from my new Baby Cakes cookbook. Since becoming gluten-free and sugar-free, I've desperately missed banana bread and corn bread. And so the experimenting began.

The thing I like about these recipes is that the ingredients are whole foods. Some gf cookbooks I've tried have dubious ingredients. I also have mixed feelings about chick pea flour. I know it's healthy and it works well for texture, but sometimes, it feels like I'm eating a "banana flavoured dry crumbly felafel" instead of banana bread.

Sunday morning felt like real baking. The house was filled with that smell, that baking smell. When we came back from our walk, there were two lovely things cooling on the stove--just like old times.

My boy helped me mix. Everytime I'd put another item into the bowl, he'd stir softly and whisper, "ingredients."

And the results made me weep. Well, not quite, but almost.

The banana bread is moist and holds together beautifully. The corn bread...well, I think it's worthy to accompany my chili. That's something that has been missing from my life for the past three years. A good cornbread recipe to go with my chili. Yay!

Now, I think this Erin McKenna woman is a genius. I'm grateful that she spent the time to test all of these recipes for those of us who struggle in isolation, trying to find good things to replace our comfort foods.

So, if you're gluten-free and want to decrease the refined sugar in your diet...need I say more. It is vegan but I don't see any reason why you couldn't replace rice milk with dairy milk, if that's what you prefer. I followed the recipes closely because I wanted to see how they worked.

New Writing:

Make sure you check my two new links. You can read my columns in The Brockville Voice by clicking on the link to the left.

I also set up a link to my story "Getting Set," which was published in the Brockville Recorder and Times on Saturday.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

St. Lawrence Sunday

Anyone who lives in Brockville will be familiar with St. Lawrence Park. It's my favourite park in town. I can almost hear the picnickers in the 1920s, enjoying the shade of the trees and the cool of the river. We often head there for a few hours on a Sunday or even take a short visit after work. We've seen people painting, doing Tai Chi, swimming, kayaking, and driving model cars. Last year at this time, Kieran loved to run around in the gazebo.

"Kieran. Gazebo. Happy."

So we met up with our good friends, the Gardiners, and walked on over for some sunshine and a play. Then, across the field, we saw the good ol' Mulville Boys running towards us.

modes of transportation
view from the 1920s gazebo

three-year-old Zen meditation

"Mommy, come see!"
very serious truck business

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Hookin'

Made you look. My girls and I have taken up hooking. It's cheap, easy, and we can do it at home. Yes, I'm talking about rug-hooking.

The summer before last, while on the island, I went with my mother and sister-in-laws to see a traditional rug-hooking studio. The pieces they made were so beautiful, I decided I'd like to learn. Along with two other friends, I signed up for a course at Picket Fence Fabrics in Brockville. Our first project is a "Welcome" sign. I thought it would be funny to pick a more random word like "Surprise." Everyone seemed to want to stick with "Welcome." So predictable...sigh...

We're hoping to move into using recycled fabrics to make rugs..."upcycling!"

Here's Jackie working away at my place (wearing the beautiful sweater she made). She's a bit of a hooking prodigy, having sped past Shari and me. I'm still only on the "O" and Shari's on the "M."

In this photo, Jackie's rug looks a little frightening, like she's writing "OMEN" in blood.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Stress. There's lots of it this fall.

Every now and then, I get really worked up.

Then, I take a deep breath.

I remember that fear makes us do silly things--at least, it makes me do silly things.

I take a few drops of Bach Rescue Remedy (a homeopathic medicine for stress). Our whole family uses it when Kieran has a seizure. It works. I've even heard a rumour that Jennifer Aniston uses it--hey, we all copied her hairstyle back in 1994-ish...

When homeopathy doesn't work...

There's always wine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Welcome Back Friends

I unpacked more boxes this weekend. As I mentioned in my column two weeks ago, I love my books. I hadn't seen my cookbooks in months so it was lovely to be back in their company. We even have a new book on the shelf. Welcome Baby Cakes!

There's a story behind so many of these. Chantal gave me ExtraVeganZa--some of her dishes are in the photos because it's her friend's book. Klaudia gave me The Compassionate Cook, which contains my all-time favourite chilli recipe. Anyone who knows me has tried it. A Great Bowl of Soup was a birthday gift from Shari--I love the tomato-lentil soup. I found Cooking With the Dead in a used bookstore one summer when I was feeling particularly crunchy. Then, there's my Moosewood Cookbooks: samosas, butternut squash soup, zippy cheese sauce, Moosewood Brownies ( old gluten guzzling days). The famous BUDDHA'S JEWELS can be found between these pages. That's another story.

Mike bought The Joy of Cooking when we first met because he wanted to cook for me.

I'm still waiting.

Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Halloween

Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year. Last night was perfect. Friends came over for pizza before we headed out trick-or-treating. The wind settled a little and the rain stopped about twenty minutes before our monkey, dinosaur, Darth Vader, and kangaroo burst out the door. Dry leaves crunched beneath our feet and clouds tumbled across the moon as we ran from house to house.

Special occasions usually mean lots of treats--treats containing sugar and gluten. We avoid both things in our house because we find Kieran does better without them. Sooo...we have to be creative. And creative we were yesterday. My boy and I were up early mixing and measuring, making all kinds of yummy things to celebrate Halloween.

I'm not going to lie. Switching to a gluten-free, sugar-free diet sucked at first. I love to bake but found flour combinations and xanthan gum unsatisfying. While I still miss truly stretchy dough, I'm starting to gain more confidence in baking without my traditional ingredients. I also find chick pea flour to be more satisfying than wheat flour. If I have a muffin made with chick pea flour for breakfast, I'm sustained longer.

A good friend of mine recently switched over to a gluten-free diet. She bought me a new cookbook called Baby Cakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery by Erin McKenna. Love it! Yesterday, I roasted a small pie pumpkin and had just enough puree to make pumpkin-spice muffins and pumpkin gingerbread. There's even a recipe for icing--I haven't tried it yet but it's on my list. I'm so happy to be baking for my son, finally. These recipes work. And trust me, because gluten-free ingredients are so expensive, when a recipe doesn't work, I growl.

Here's a collection of ingredients I used to make my muffins and gingerbread. As you can see, they aren't really in-line with a 100-Mile Diet approach. However, we can now get buckwheat flour close by and honey can be used in many recipes in place of sugar with a bit of tweaking. Here's some new ingredients I've been using that certainly aren't local but I couldn't live without:
Agave Nectar: natural sweetener produced in Mexico and used in tequila. It's sweeter and more fluid than honey. It takes longer to absorb into the bloodstream so it doesn't spike your blood sugar the same way as refined sugar.
Coconut Oil: what a great find! It must be cold-pressed to maintain its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. I keep reading about the boundless health benefits of this oil--it's even been compared to breast milk. After I work with it, my hands (which spend most of the cold months chapped and bleeding) are actually soft and healthy. Imagine what it does to our insides.
Now, you're probably wondering what we give out for treats. This year, I found tiny play dough tubs for the little kids. We also gave out chips and chocolate bars. If we're going to eat sugar, it better be accompanied by chocolate. Mike actually gave out a bag of organic raisins. I'm waiting for our house to get egged.