Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sowing the Seeds of Passions

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Pastimes This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes. ***

My husband and I have shared interests, such as music, movies, debating and great conversations, but we also have our individual passions. He is a true gamer and can get lost for hours in an engaging board or video game. My passions are anything crafty and garden related, and I’m happiest when I’ve made or grown something with my own hands. Not surprisingly, each of us was exposed to our passions in childhood with our families. 

Sometimes my husband wishes I was more willing to play a game with him, and I do on occasion because I know it makes him happy to spend time with me this way, and I always have fun when we do. But I would rather sit down beside him and knit something while he plays a game. Luckily he has found a group of people who share his love of games and he is able to spend time with them on a weekly basis. I also know that not only will he never join me in a crafty evening, but I probably wouldn’t want him to do so. And the garden is definitely my territory.

A crafty afternoon with my girls.

Now that my daughters are getting older and are exercising choice in how they spend their time, it is interesting to see how their interests are developing. Of course my husband and I would like our children to enjoy activities we like, but we want them to enjoy what they do rather than please us.

Luckily our girls are a morph of each of us. They love spending time with their dad playing board games, and my husband has started teaching our seven and nine year old how to play DC Comics Deck Building Game, his favourite at the moment. Recently I walked in on my four and seven year old playing Catan Junior, all on their own. It made me proud to know that there is a part of him in them, and he will have fellow gamers in the family in the future.

Playing Catan Junior, a great game.

Having three girls, I always assumed that they would enjoy crafting as much as I do. They love making a huge mess with scissors, glue, sparkles, felts, material and yarn. When they see me get out supplies they join me, ask questions and watch what I do. I have to save scraps and pieces for them to play with, and I have had to learn how to let go and allow them to use materials in their own creative way (it’s hard for a perfectionist). I have also learned that some things don’t stick right away, and I may just be planting seeds that will grow later when they are older. I have rediscovered a love of knitting, and two years ago I gave my girls their own needles and yarn. They have been slow to take it up, although my seven year old likes knitting a row or two every so often.

My little knittin' kitten. 

As for gardening, my girls like being outside with me, and are thrilled I have given them their own space in the garden to grow what they want. They love making observations about the different plant stages and insects they see. They are less enthusiastic about the daily and weekly care of the garden, but again, I must trust that I am planting seeds for their future interests.

My girls delight in the harvest as much as I do.

In the same way that I have been shaped by my crafty mother and green thumb grandmother, I know that my girls have been exposed to pastimes that may develop over their lives. Some will stick, others may develop later in life or not at all, but they are being shaped by us nonetheless.

Have your interests been shaped by your upbringing and family time from childhood?

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • 10 Hobbies For Families With Young Children — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama knows that finding hobbies families can do together (with young children in tow) isn't always the easiest of feats. She has compiled a list of 10 family friendly hobbies that children of all ages can enjoy and that won't break the bank!
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia's family at Sophelia's Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The 'Art' of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family's favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband's, will shape her children's passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • 10 Reasons I Love Thrifting With My ChildrenThat Mama Gretchen has always enjoyed shopping, but with a growing family she's become more frugal and thus, her little ones are now in tow on her thrift store adventures.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Spring Cleaning in the Garden

I took advantage of a sunny, warm afternoon this week to finally get started on my garden for the year. I have been avoiding getting out there partly due to the weather, but also because I have been overwhelmed by the task before me (and partly because I'm a little bit lazy). 

How can I resist a macro ladybug shot? 

My youngest, our little monster, joined me and "helped." It would have probably been easier without her input, but I'm trying to encourage my girls and have them feel like they are a part of what we grow and eat.

Pulling the wheelbarrow around for me is her job.

Despite initial trepidation, she liked getting dirty
shaking the soil off the weed roots.

It was much needed, both for the garden and me. The weeds had taken over where I didn't mulch in the fall and it was a big job. The fresh air and natural vitamin D after a long winter with lots of sickness was wonderful.

Our magnolia tree, which blooms three to five times a year.

My favourite spring flower, bleeding hearts.

I cleaned out all the raised beds except for the kale, which is beginning to bolt. I can't decide whether to let it go to seed and save the seeds or take them out to make way for new plants and freeze the kale. Then I started to clean up the back of the yard where I grow raspberries and flowers. There is still much to do but I am holding off because my amazing neighbour is going to patch up our dilapidated back fence until we can afford to replace it. Then I cut the lawn, which was not fun (push mower for the first cutting of the season = hard work).

Over the next couple of weeks I hope to add more soil and compost to the raised beds, clean out the pots, then plant some spring veggies.

I removed the mulch from the garlic bed. Looking good!

Still pretty rough looking - can you see the big hole in
the fence in the right corner? I hope to plant wild flowers
this year for low maintenance and to encourage pollinators.

Next up, get some seedlings started indoors!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Coming Out of the Darkness

Lately I have been feeling a bit down about my efforts (and struggles) to live a more eco conscious life. For each change I have tried to make into habit, I see five more behaviours that are questionable, or down right “bad” from a green point of view. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, preaching ways to be kinder on the Earth.

Then I read the news and feel even more depressed. In Canada it appears our government is at war with scientists who study global climate change and the environmental impact of development. Oil pipelines might be pushed through without thorough study. Closer to home, my provincial government is trying push through changes to parks and agricultural land to open them up to economic development. Never mind the images in the news of dangerous pollution in Asia from uninhibited industrial growth.

It is easy to get down about making a difference for the environment. Green Bean recently shared her thoughts about keeping hope alive in the face of pessimism

I was beginning to think that perhaps it doesn’t really matter if I use a plastic shopping bag on the rare occasion I forget to bring cloth bags, if I drive a minivan, or if I buy something with a huge carbon footprint because, well, I just want it. Reusable energy is too expensive to implement for the average homeowner, and I’m tired of wearing extra layers to keep warm in my own home. I’m tired of worrying about the ingredients in my food, the packaging it comes in, and how and where it was grown. I look around me and I don’t see other worrying about this. It’s all doom and gloom anyway, isn’t it? The climate change deniers are winning, aren’t they?

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth>>>

This Moment

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Earth Hour Lessons

We cheated and used battery powered
candles because we don't trust my four
year old around open flames. 
Earth Hour may not have a big impact world wide on reducing the amount of energy consumed, and many criticize it as a useless, largely symbolic act. I like to participate by turning off the lights and not using electrically powered devices and appliances for the hour between 8:30 and 9:30 for the conversations is starts with our children, and I like the personal challenge of finding something we can do that doesn't require electricity. It makes us more appreciative of our modern conveniences, helps us to see how reliant we are upon the electrical grid, and forces us to unplug, however briefly.

We brainstorm what we can do together to pass the time. Often times we play games together, but this year I was not up to it (sad event in the family this weekend). In the end we decided that we would just talk and tell stories together.

As always, challenges like this teach us something, and here is what I learned this year:

  • It is no surprise that we are very dependent upon our electronics for entertainment, especially in the evening. We had a debate about whether it was fair to listen to music or use our smart devices because they are not drawing power from the grid at that moment (even though they are charged from the electrical grid). In the end we opted to go electronic free to be in the spirit of the event. On an unrelated note, we have a solar device charger that we have taken camping with us (to ensure we have a charged camera) that works well, and I have often thought that in an emergency situation this is a good option.

  • I feel like we cheated because I looked around and saw all the appliances we still had plugged in, such as the refrigerator, furnace, hot water heater, television, computers, clock radios, lamps, etc. It is suggested that we unplug all appliances not in immediate use, and this is a goal for us. It is awkward, however, to have to find a lamp cord and plug it into the wall in the dark, and often times convenience win out. 

  • I am surprised how hard it was for us to tell entertaining, original stories to each other. Oral story telling is a dying art and I can vouch for this listening to my girls attempts to tell a story unrelated to a movie, video game or book that they have read. Inspiration comes from a variety of sources and there is nothing wrong with building on someone else's idea, but perhaps we should do more of this. Maybe I should be modeling some stories (which I actually find difficult myself) at bedtime like we used to do when they were little. 

  • It was reaffirmed for me, yet again, how tired I am of hearing about Minecraft because my daughters are a tad obsessed with the game. I am not carte blanche against video games for kids, and I would be a hypocrite to say my kids cannot have any screen time. Everything in moderation. But it feels like it is all they talk about. I want my girls to believe that I listen to them and want to hear what they have to share, even if it isn't interesting to me; listen to them now so that they'll talk to you when they're older kind of idea. But I'm sorry to say that sometimes it sounds like verbal diarrhea.

How did you participate during Earth Hour this year?

Saturday, 29 March 2014


One of her favourite spots, watching the birds in the yard.
Today we said goodbye to one of our cats, Shiva. She was the best cat I have ever known, so loving and friendly, and she will be dearly missed.

She suffered with what seemed like a sudden and rapidly progressing illness, and this was devastating to witness. We initially hoped that her treatments were having a positive effect on her health and we felt cautiously optimistic. It was, however, not to be permanent. Over the past couple of days it became evident that her poor body was shutting down, and it was time to let go.

I have decided to write this post to help me focus on all our happy, loving memories of Shiva, to help me forget her pain and suffering.

Eighteen years ago my husband (then boyfriend) and I went to an animal shelter to adopt a kitty. I was living on my own, the first time without a roommate, and I was lonely at nights and wanted a companion to come home to and love.

My daughters often ask me to share how Shiva came into our lives and it is a favourite family story.

When I first entered the cat area of the shelter Shiva was the first cat I saw. I was drawn to her partially because of her unusual markings of a tortoise shell cat. I loved her half and half, light and dark face. She was about four or five months old and had been rescued from the streets, so she was initially very skittish and leapt out of my arms when I held her. I continued around the room, looking at some of the other cats and kittens, but every time I went to pet another cat, Shiva would meow loudly and reach her paws out of her cage, trying to swat at me. I decided that she had chosen me so there was no need to hold another cat.

When my husband and I moved in together we had a blended family of cat children, and Shiva did not take kindly to sharing a home with his cat, Polly. Over the next few years a peace, or stalemate, was achieved, but it was at this point that a new cat, Charlie (a sort of wedding present, but that’s another story), joined our family. I like to joke that we had a blended kitty family of his, hers and ours.

As we brought human children into the family Shiva went through more adjustment periods. As cats can do, she would sniff the new baby, then turn her back on me for a few days, letting me know in no uncertain terms of my deep betrayal. Of course we always reached a new normal and she was happy with the loving attention from each daughter.

My middle daughter, who we say is part cat herself,
 had a special bond with Shiva.
Perhaps tolerating the loving attention is a better way of looking at it, because she was at the receiving end of what a casual observer might see as harassment. My girls loved her, and squeezed her, and hugged her, and pulled at her, and sat on her, but she never acted aggressively toward them. In fact, she was very gentle and had a way of letting my girls know they had gone too far without hurting them.

Everyone who met Shiva remarked on how friendly and loving she was when they came to our home. When the doorbell rang she would run to the door to greet visitors and would not stop meowing or rubbing up against them until they said hello and gave her some attention. Her favourite spot to sit was up behind people’s necks on the back of chairs and couches while purring loudly. We think that in some ways she thought she was a dog or person with her decidedly uncat-like friendliness with strangers and family alike.

Family Memories of Shiva:
  • When we were driving home with Shiva for the first time and she was purring very loudly, rubbing her face up against my husband's beard. 
  • "When Shiva would sleep on my feet when I was in bed,"- my oldest daughter.
  • "When Shiva would cuddle up beside me," - my middle daughter.
  • "When Shiva wasn't sick and was purring," - my youngest daughter.

Shiva was my first daughter, my furry daughter. When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter I had numerous vivid dreams that I was pregnant with Shiva. One such dream morphed into me giving birth to Shiva, then by accident kicking her off the end of the bed (where Shiva liked to sleep).

I have eighteen years of wonderful memories of our time with Shiva. She was the best cat I have ever met. I am her human mom and I am mourning her passing with my whole heart.

I love you Shiva.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Chocoholic Black Bean Brownies

I am a straight up chocoholic. If a sweet treat doesn't have chocolate, I don't see the point in having some, so I have been very intrigued by the black bean brownie recipes I have been seeing all over Pinterest and Facebook lately. I have made a pledge to try more gluten free recipes this year, not because I have gluten sensitivities, but for more general reasons like cutting back on carbs. I know that when I am cleansing I need to cut out wheat, and flours in general, so the idea of using black beans instead of a flour sounded perfect. The cherry on top was that I might get my family to eat more beans if they liked the brownies.

I am on spring break with my daughters and now that I have had sufficient time to de-stress I feel like tackling some items on my one little word "to make" list. We decided to have a home day today, which gave me the time to try making the brownies. I couldn't find a single recipe that I liked completely; some used sugar or brown sugar, others were vegan, using egg substitutes (I prefer eggs), and most called for canola oil, which I do not like using (it is a PUFA, poly-unsaturated fatty acid, read about why here). I knew I was going to have to substitute and mix & match recipes to get what I wanted, and cross my fingers everything would turn out.

I substituted coconut sugar for white and brown sugar, so feel free to use either in place of the coconut sugar. I like coconut sugar because it is low on the glycemic index and a healthier sweetener that can be used 1:1 in place of other sugars or sweeteners. However, I ran out and had to use some raw cane sugar (still sugar, but a little better because not as processed as white sugar). In place of the canola oil I used melted coconut oil, but I suppose olive oil could be used instead (it should be used only at lower temperatures).

The only unhealthy part was the chocolate chips which are a must!


  • 1 can (450 mL or 15 ounces) of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup of semisweet chocolate chips (I may have used more)
  • 3 tbsp of coconut oil (or oil of choice)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice: sugar, maple syrup, etc)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
* I try to use all organic ingredients when I have them, including vanilla extract and unsweetened cocoa. I also try to find fair trade cocoa and chocolate because of child slave labour in the chocolate farming industry.


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Some recipes blend the first three ingredients before adding the rest, but I skimmed too quickly and missed this part. As mine still turned out wonderfully I think I will stick with my mistake and declare it intentional.

  • Pour the mixture into a baking pan. I use stoneware so I do not need to coat mine with oil. I have learned, however, that if I use stoneware for baking I need to put it in the oven while I preheat it. While most people say that stoneware does not need to be preheated, I have found that it takes longer to cook and is less moist if I do not. 
  • I sprinkled many chocolate chips over the top for extra chocolatiness (I'm declaring this a word). 
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and type of baking dish you use. A knife should come out clean when inserted. 

My daughters, aged four, seven and nine loved it and kept asking for more squares. I think they may have sneaked a few behind my back because as of tonight there are only three squares left. 

This photo was taken a half an hour after I took them out
of the oven. Yes, I would say this was a hit.

Enjoy delicious, healthy, fibre filled brownie treats fit for a chocoholic!