Remembering

Ellie and I at the Remembrance Day ceremony

Before my Dad died, maybe even before I was pregnant with Ellie, I said to Matt one night how sad I was that if we ever had children they would never know their grandfather. My Dad’s Parkinson’s was progressing, and coupled with dementia he wasn’t himself anymore. Matt said, “There is more than one way to know someone.” My wise husband.

So I make sure to tell Ellie about her grandfather and teach her some of the things that my Dad taught me.

Today is an important day for our family and part of the tradition I want to pass on to Ellie. Remembrance Day.

This is the day when I think about my grandfather, another man that I want Ellie to know.

The annual Remembrance Day service at the legion in my hometown is something I shared with my Dad every year. It was different this year.

My Dad was not there in person.

But we went with Ellie. And we talk to her over the day about her grandfather and great grandfather. We will carry on the tradition with her.

I feel my Dad’s spirit every day. So he was there still. And so was Ellie.

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New chickens (again) in Illinois

If you follow Sarah in Illinois on Instagram, you might have seen that some new feathered ladies joined her flock. Sarah seems to be on a quest to have all the chickens–or all the eggs in every colour possible. Read on to meet her new hens.

Back in June, my cousin Emma sent me a message with a picture of her new chicks.

In the message she said that 3 of them were Leghorns if I wanted them. I had mentioned to her over the last several months that I wanted a few Leghorns, but I didn’t want to raise them from chicks. Since she was raising some for herself she said adding a couple Leghorns wasn’t a big deal.

She sent me updates occasionally.

And two weeks ago I went to pick them up.

The 45 minute drive home was either very stressful or very relaxing because one of them laid an egg in the dog crate!

I had everything planned out for the integration into the flock. I divided the run so that the chickens could see and smell each other but not hurt each other.

Then I planned to put them in the coop inside the dog crate every evening.

Well I didn’t make the divider in the run tall enough because Blitz ran towards the chickens and scared one over the divider.

I could have immediately grabbed it and put it back in the separate section, but I decided to wait to see how the chickens would react. So what did they do? All seven chickens ran into the coop and hid from this new smaller chicken.

I had a couple days vacation, so I made a point to go out several times a day to make sure that none of the chickens was injured.

The first night the new chickens roosted up on the dog crate opposite the roost.

After a few days they all started roosting together.

I can’t say that after two weeks all of the chickens are “friends,” but honestly the integration has gone really smoothly. I do occasionally see one chicken picking on another, but the new chickens are very fast so they spend a lot of time playing hide and seek.

And it turns out, one of the chickens is not a Leghorn. It looks like it might be an Easter Egger! Instead of yellow legs like Leghorns have:

It has grayish-green legs.

What does this mean? Well, to me absolutely nothing. I just think of it as a bonus. Easter Eggers can actually lay almost any color egg depending on what they have been bred with, so for me it is like waiting for Christmas morning to see what happens. The two Leghorns have been laying tiny little pure white eggs. As they get older the eggs will get bigger.

Two years ago I thought I would like to raise chickens and started with 4. I now have 10 and I can’t say that I’m done. I’m thinking next I will add Araucana–they lay blue eggs! ūüėČ

Chickens seem to work out very well for you, Sarah. I’m glad to hear the birds integrated so smoothly. It’s great to see how much you enjoy your flock and their eggs. I admit, I love the idea of having Araucanas someday, so I say go for it!

A baby, a cat and a peck of potatoes

Basket of potatoes

Against all odds, we have a harvest this year.

The best description for the garden this year was neglected. Back in the spring, Matt planted some potatoes. That was about the last time that we went into the garden. His parents took pity on us and weeded a few sections. But I had given up on picking anything this year.

Then one grey afternoon a few weeks ago, Matt decided to see what he could find.

Digging for potatoes

Accompanied by Ralph, the potato sniffing cat, and Ellie, the potato inspecting baby, they uncovered some bounty.

Ralph looking for potatoes

(Despite appearances, the baby is not freaked out by the potato.)

Baby admiring a freshly harvested potato

We celebrated the harvest with breakfast for dinner–complete with super fresh hashbrowns.

White and purple potatoes on the cutting board

There weren’t as many as we’ve had in past years, but there are enough for a few meals and some seed potatoes for next year. Because we’re not giving up. We will try again next year and hope that we have more potatoes than weeds this time around. Maybe we’ll put the cat and the baby¬†to work earlier in the season next time.

Odds & sods

We’re at the last post of October.

Are you ready for Hallowe’en? Our Hallowe’en is going to be pretty low key. We’re having dinner with my sister and her kids, and then our little goblin will be going to bed at her regular time while her cousins go trick or treating (candy is definitely not on Ellie’s safe foods list).

Our road is not safe for walking, especially after dark, and even if it was the scarcity of houses makes the effort not worth the return for trick or treaters.

A highlight of our celebrations will be admiring cute pumpkin bum.

Jack o' lantern on Ellie's bum

I’m wrapping up the month by sharing another round-up of some of the odds and sods that I’ve been thinking about, that have caught my eye or that we’ve been working on around the farm.

I love discovering new blogs through the One Room Challenge. This season there is a great diversity of projects.¬† Here are a few that I’m following. Are you participating? Or watching any rooms in particular?

  • House of Brinson¬†– A very old house, with very serious issues.
  • Old Home Love – A fancy room for a little girl.
  • SG Style – A small space. So much DIY.
  • Jewels at Home – I was drawn in less by the project (a teen boy’s room) than I was by the blog itself: a woman named Julie who is using the same blog template as me. I found my blog twin!
  • Schroedl Interiors – A slightly quirky room that’s going to become a super cute library (with fun whale wallpaper)

I’m still sorting out my daily Mom style. I try to make a point every day of doing my hair (to justify paying for my haircut) and putting on earrings (don’t feel dressed without them). Beyond that, my uniform is jeans and T-shirts (or turtlenecks as the weather gets colder) with the occasional button down or drapey cardigan.

I’d like to feel a little more polished (although perhaps not as fancy as the picture above). Two new-ish to me blogs and one old favourite are helping me find style inspiration. What helps you feel prepared for the day?

  • I devoured Emily’s blog when I first found it. I love her style, her sewing skills and how she thinks and writes about it all. I’ve read a lot about wardrobes and how to make your clothes work together, but her approach of thinking of clothes as a collection was a lightbulb moment for me.
  • Putting Me Together has made me think about some of my clothes in different ways and try new colour or shape combinations. It’s a great source for casual Mom-wear that still looks put-together.
  • Another ah-ha moment for me was listening to Sherry talk about her wardrobe (aka uniform) on Young House Love Has A Podcast. Her GPA analogy and wanting to fill her closet only with straight A clothing clicked for me. (She also wrote a post.) I started the closet clean out and quickly filled a garbage bag. I have more to go, but I feel like I’ve started to boost my GPA.

Gerrard Gethings portrait

I’ve kept journals for a very long time. They’ve taken different forms over the years and for the past little while this blog has been my journal. At the end of September I started using a pen and notebook again. I was inspired after hearing about The Kindness Journal on In The Storyhouse Podcast¬†(episode 15, if you’re interested). The prompts are quick and truly help me to focus on the good things that happened each day. Do you journal?

My writing elsewhere:

Have a good week, everyone. If you’re celebrating Hallowe’en, have fun, be safe and enjoy your treats.

Garden wrap-up from Illinois

Sarah in Illinois has shared periodic updates about her vegetable garden over the summer. Now it’s time for her final report, also known as the medal ceremony.

For the third year in a row I would like to sum up how well our garden produced. Unfortunately overall our garden did poorly. While I was complaining about this to Steve he said that some years are just like that, you can do everything correctly but weather doesn’t always cooperate.

As I have in years past 2016 and 2017, I’ll rank my results in the style of the Olympics.

Gold Medal Winners

Kale – Our Kale did wonderfully this year. My step-daughter and I love kale chips and we made a few batches and could have made plenty more.

Broccoli – Steve was in question whether 8 broccoli plants were too many. The answer was no. We had so much fresh broccoli and as much as we eat, we could have used a few more plants. Side note: our favorite way to eat it is coated in olive oil and seasoning and grilled.

Tomatillos – After two years of nothing, I finally got a very productive tomatillo plant. I did learn to make salsa verde and have decided that tomatillos will now be a staple in our garden.

Sunflowers – I didn’t plant any this year for some reason but it worked out because we had several volunteers!

Silver Medal Winners

Tomatoes – Our tomatoes acted so strangely this year. They flowered and came on quickly, then they stayed green for much much longer than normal. Then they flowered again and produced red tomatoes. Not our best year for them, but we still had plenty fresh from the garden.

Green Peppers – After planting about 12 plants, I figured we would have more peppers than we could use. But honestly, we really didn’t have that many. Then when I finally found peppers on the plants they were really soft and past being ripe.

Jalapenos – I was able to gather just a couple jalapenos this year. Much different than the overabundance last year.

Cucumbers – Somehow I only planted pickling cucumbers this year, even after specifically buying different varieties. This is the first year we did not grow our vines up a fence. I would like to bring that back next year.

Bronze Medal Winners

Sugar Snap Peas – I think I picked less than a dozen pods. But stay tuned for a fall planting post from me in the future.

Potatoes – We were able to dig up two messes of potatoes. One was used for fried potatoes and one was used to potato salad for a family get-together.

Blueberries – This is literally all that I picked, but the bushes are new and I have high hopes for next year.

Radishes – I picked a few, but only a few.

DNF “Did Not Finish (produce)”

Brussel Sprouts – I think the area of the garden that these were planted stayed too wet all year. The plants looked okay but they did not produce any heads at all.

Carrots – Nothing. Not even a sprout.

Cherry trees – Ugh! Deer enjoyed my cherry trees. So much so that both trees died. That should be a post on it’s own. I will have to formulate a new plan and buy new trees in the spring.

Cauliflower – The plants looked nice and green but did not produce a single head.

Zucchini – Nothing came up at all.

Expecting to have all gold medals winners is unreasonable but I really would like to not have anything in the DNF category. I’m making notes and hope that next year is even more successful.

How did your garden do this year? Anyone else feel like this year was worse than normal?

I feel like our entire garden was DNF this year, Sarah (#blamethebaby). So I take solace from your results! (And you have my sympathies.) I’m hoping we might yet find some potatoes in amongst the weeds.

How to make hidden bookends

A love of reading is something I’m working hard to instill in Ellie. As she amasses more and more books, we’re already running out of space on the bookshelf in her nursery. You saw in¬†my post last week that I relocated part of her collection to the top of the dresser in the little nook.

Wood tray on a white dresser

I didn’t want chunky bookends taking up space on the dresser. We have enough going on here already and didn’t need more clutter. But the books needed some help to stay upright. I had an idea to make invisible bookends.

I was inspired by these basic metal bookends that you see at the library.

Metal bookend

So I swung into a local store that specializes in materials for exteriors (siding, flashing, soffit, trough) and picked up some step flashing (picked up being literal since the man working the counter gave the pieces to me for free). Step flashing is small L-shaped pieces of metal typically used around chimneys. You could likely do this project with regular aluminum that you bend into an L yourself, but I liked skipping that step with the flashing.

Step flashing

This project uses just one piece of flashing and one tool, snips. Super simple.

Step flashing with snips

Once at home, I used the very technical technique of holding a book up to the flashing to determine where to cut it.

How to make a hidden bookend

I used snips to cut the aluminum roughly in half. I got two bookends out of one piece of flashing with a little piece of metal left over. (This was another mama-daughter project–appropriate since it’s her room.)

Making bookends while wearing the baby

One end of the L tucks inside the cover of the book, and the other tail rests under the books. The weight of the books stabilizes the bookend and holds everything in place.

Hidden metal bookend

Hidden metal bookend

Obviously, these Beatrix Potter books are small and light. I tested the bookends with some larger books–another well-loved collection that Ellie and I will be reading soon–and everything stayed steady.

How to make a hidden bookend

Sometimes bookends are an opportunity to make a style statement. Other times you want to keep things quiet and simple–or save space on your bookshelf. That’s a time for invisible bookends.

How to make hidden bookends

What’s your bookend style? Do you have a spot where you could use hidden bookends? What were some of your kids’ favourite series to read? What DIY projects do you do with your children?

The power of trays

Styling the top of a little dresser

I’ve never known what to do with the top of the little dresser in the nook in Ellie’s room. The dresser itself is still filled with Mama and Daddy things–tools, notepaper, stamps. Initially the top held only the lamp my grandfather made for my childhood bedroom. But like most flat surfaces, the rest of the top has attracted… stuff.

I needed a way to corral the stuff. At the thrift store, I found a shallow wooden tray. I didn’t love the colour, so I sanded it down to bare wood. (This is how we DIY around here these days.)

Sanding while Ellie supervises

After the sanding, the tray looked a bit dough bowl-esque, which I loved. But I could still see the red undertones in the wood. I picked a stain (Puritan Pine) that I hoped had gold undertones. The colour wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I slapped on a layer of grey to tone it down a wee bit.

In the nursery, we have a bunch of wood tones: golden wood floors and side table, neutral unfinished wood frames on the pictures and shadowbox, grey stain on the dresser. My slapdash approach turned out to be a pretty close match to the dresser.

Wood tray on the wood dresser

The best part of it all is that now I have a spot to stash stuff–the power of trays. The tray holds Ellie’s sunglasses, a footprint we made when she was just two months old (!), nail clippers and an acorn that her Daddy picked up for her at a picnic–and soon enough she’ll be picking up her own bits and bobs.

Wood tray in the nursery

The tray, combined with some overcrowding on Ellie’s bookshelf, was a catalyst to finally style the top of the dresser.¬†I added her collection of Beatrix Potter books and now I’m really happy with how the dresser looks and works (although I do wish the figurines shelf was a titch higher). I’ll be sharing how those books magically stand upright in an upcoming post.

Wood tray on a white dresser

The tray is simple and small, but it’s very functional. And it looks nice too.

Any other tray fans out there? Who else has issues with flat surfaces? What bits and bobs do your kids collect?

Wildflower watching

Sarah in Illinois has a good reminder today to stop and smell the flowers.

As I drive to and from work every day, my mind tends to wander. Most of the time I am thinking about what chores I need to do, how my day at work went or what I have scheduled next in my planner. However, lately I am trying to slow down a bit and enjoy my commute.

Compared to most people, I am guessing my commute is relatively short. My work is 12 miles from my house but only 4 miles is highway. So 8 miles is rural back roads where there is plenty of beautiful scenery to look at.

My eye was drawn last week to this bunch of purple flowers:

I decided that one day I was going to stop and gather some for a bouquet for the house. But when I stopped I couldn’t believe how many butterflies and bees were all over it.

I just couldn’t bring myself to take some of their food. I decided they needed it more than I did and I would just enjoy it from afar.

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Then I really started paying attention to other wildflowers along my drive.

Rudbeckia laciniata

I was so pleasantly surprised to see the roadsides are full of color.

Symphyotrichum ericoides

Giant Goldenrod Solidago gigantea

Erigeron strigosus

So here is a mini challenge for you this week: On your drive to work or school or wherever you may be headed, look around (safely, of course paying attention to the road is the most important thing) and tell us what you see that maybe you haven’t before. It may not be wildflowers but I bet there is something beautiful to report back here to us.

Sidenote: I did my best to identify these plants, but if anyone believes I have incorrectly labeled one feel free to correct me!

Thanks for the challenge, Sarah. We’ve been seeing herons, which is very special for us. They represent my Dad for me, and make us feel peace, hope and love. I think heron season is likely over now for the winter, but they’ve been so helpful to us through the last few months.

Thanksgiving

Ellie holding a red leaf against the blue sky

Hello everyone. Happy Monday. Today is a special Monday for my fellow Canadians and me. It’s Thanksgiving, so I’m taking a moment to reflect on all of the things I am grateful for. Thank you all for reading and following along with our lives.

Today, I am especially thankful for…

My husband, my daughter, my dog and my cat. You are all the best, and I’m amazed that I’m so lucky to have all of you in my life.

My Mom, my sisters and brothers. Tough times bring us closer together.

My Dad. Herons and monarchs and other signs that tell us he’s still with us.

Matt’s family, our extended families, my friends. To feel so loved and supported is amazing.

This special farm that we get to call home.

Skilled and caring doctors, nurses and midwives. Modern medical science.

Mexican food. Italian food. Seafood. Dark chocolate. Dill pickle chips. Really, all food.

A hot shower, a good night’s sleep (never take that for granted) and lazy mornings.

Writing and how it helps me to process my thoughts, make a living and document our lives.

Whatever you are doing today I hope that you have a wonderful day.

Tomatillo harvest and salsa verde

Sarah has been trying for the past few years to grow tomatillos in her garden in Illinois. This year, she finally has a success story–and a recipe–to share.

I have had an ongoing battle with trying to produce tomatillos.

Two years ago I planted seeds directly into the garden and nothing broke through the ground.

Last year, I grew one beautiful plant, but I was not aware that tomatillos need two separate plants for cross-pollination.

This year I tried one more time. I made sure to plant several seeds and two came up. They grew very close together so they looked like one plant but I made very sure that there were two separate plants growing. I marked it clearly so no one accidentally clipped it with the tiller. And I waited.

The plants looked so healthy and the telltale little lanterns started sprouting from almost every branch. This is exactly what I ended up with last year but the difference is, this year I could feel little spheres filling out inside the lanterns.

I knew they were ready when they burst trough the husks.

As soon as I had a few ready I knew I wanted to make tomatillo salsa (sometimes called salsa verde). (See Sarah’s post on how she made her harvest basket.)

I found this recipe for Tomatillo Salsa Verde. This author suggests a few different ways to either roast, boil or broil the tomatillos. I chose to broil them following her steps.

I then combined all of the ingredients in my food processor.

In my first batch I used lemon juice instead of lime only because we didn’t have any on hand. The second time I used lime juice like the recipe suggested. Honestly, I really preferred the lemon juice version but both were great.

Even though the garden overall has been disappointing this year, I feel accomplished by finally having a successful tomatillo harvest. They will become a staple in my garden planning from now on.

Anyone have experience with tomatillos? Or maybe a preferred recipe to use them with?

I have zero experience with tomatillos, whether growing, cooking or eating them. I wouldn’t mind trying though. Wanna send some of that salsa my way, Sarah?