Odds & sods

We had our final inspection for the garage and mudroom last week, and everything passed. (Yes, this means our missing door arrived.) Our contractors are done. That feels like a nice way to wrap up the month.

When I look back over August, this seems like a long month. Time is still flying in the weird pandemic time warp that we’re in. But a lot has happened–including a lot of tragedy around the world.

I’m working on being thoughtful in my own choices. Being kind and generous as much as I can. Finding simple joy in family, friends, the farm and Ellie.

Here are some of the things that have made me think or given us joy this month.

Canada is going to have a federal election on Sept. 20. After all of the outcry about residential schools just a couple of months ago, I’m disappointed to hear very little about Indigenous communities in the campaign so far. On the topic of making thoughtful choices, this election is important for me.

The Olympics seems like a long time ago. I didn’t watch a lot, but I’m glad I caught this inspirational story.

This series made me think about what I share of Ellie online

Matt’s Mom got these sticker mosaic puzzles for Ellie and they’ve been a huge hit.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

Ever wonder what happens to things thrift stores don’t sell? This book made me think about what I bring into our home and how to reduce the impact our “stuff” has on the world.

Some we love, some we hate, some we eat

Do you feel like you have a purpose? It can make you healthier and happier.

I’ve lost count of how many loaves of zucchini bread we’ve baked this year. This chocolate one is still Ellie’s favourite, but I think this lemon one is mine (I cut the icing in half).

Any favourite summer reads to share? Or summer bakes? What’s been thought-provoking for you recently? How are you balancing the weight of the world with finding joy?

Seven years of solar panels

Seven years ago, Matt and I decided to put solar panels on the barn. We felt like it would be a good investment (mostly Matt) and a way to do our part for the environment (mostly me). I feel like we’re fulfilling both of these goals.

Every spring (or summer when I forget), I run the numbers for our panels. Here is this year’s solar report.

If you need to get caught up, here are all of the previous updates and other details:

This year the panels generated the second largest amount of power ever. We made $5,036.38. (We’re hooked into the grid, and the province pays us $0.396 per kWh). We haven’t been over $5,000 since 2016-17. I wonder if this is perhaps an ominous sign that there are more sunny days due to global warming. I am happy that we have the solar panels to counteract our carbon footprint just a little.

Every year, we come out ahead in terms of what we spent on electricity versus what we made. This year, the total was $2,485.63 spent. With $5,036.38 earned, we had a $2,550.75 profit.

I always like to see how close we are to finally earning as much as we spent to install the panels ($40,727.46). This year, we’re three-quarters of the way there. $32,164.07 or 79% over the last seven years. I had originally estimated it would take 8.5 years to pay off the panels, and we seem to be on track for that.

Living at the farm, we’re close to nature and I feel strongly our environmental impact. I am grateful for the money the solar panels generate, and I’m grateful that we were able to make this choice for the planet.

Does anyone else track their utility bills and compare each year? How are you “going green” at your house?

Odds & sods

Thank you for the support on my last post. I appreciate the acceptance and kindness very much.

We started this month with a cottage get-away and we spent yesterday lakeside in cottage country as well. Those felt like pretty good ways to start and end the month.

In between, we’ve been enjoying Matt’s parents’ pool, picnics and playgrounds. Lots of time outside (we’re thisclose to 500 hours), a second cut of hay, and lots of fun.

We’ve reconnected a bit with our families, which has been nice after not seeing so many people for more than a year. I am finally fully vaccinated, but we’re still being pretty cautious about where we go.

And we moved Ralph outside. Ellie and I were both feeling a bit allergic at times, so it was time for Ralph to remember she’s an outdoor cat. We set her up in the new garage, and she’s adjusted very well.

Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing so far this summer.

The Weight of Ink was enlightening (somewhat over my head) and so compelling. I couldn’t put it down.

DYK tape measures weren’t a thing til the 1950s? And prior to that they cost the equivalent of about $300 in today’s money? I love the projects, information and advice in The Family Handyman magazine. The 70th anniversary issue was a lot of fun.

How to fall in love with your home in 30 days Chris Loves Julia’s summer school has been so inspiring. I’ve kept up with the challenges each week in my own small way.

7 questions you should ask before hiring a contractor (some I wish I’d asked our contractor before starting the garage)

I finished patching drywall in the living room and kitchen, and I referenced this tutorial this week as I was preparing to paint.

While it seems wonky to be having the Olympics during a pandemic, I am looking forward to watching some of the competition.

As July winds down, I’m working to wrap up some projects (treehouse railing, painting the living room, articles for the fall issue of a magazine I write for). I’m also crossing everything that the doors for the garage and mudroom finally come in this week. And I’m figuring out how we can get away at least a couple more times to soak up as much summer as possible.

What was July like for you? How has summer been for you? Anyone else doing summer school–official or not? What books or magazines are on your summer reading list?

Odds & sods

And just like that it’s the last day of May. This is always one of my favourite times at the farm. The property is so green and everything is beautiful. A little shaggy as we still haven’t gotten into a regular mowing schedule, but I can see the possibilities.

The past month felt full. The garage and treehouse are two fun projects at home. I started a couple more new projects for work. We had Matt’s Dad’s birthday, Mother’s Day and Victoria Day. I also got my first dose of vaccine.

Most days are a juggle, but I am so grateful to be able to be here with Ellie. We work hard and have lots of fun.

Here are some of the things I wanted to share in this month’s round-up.

A mass grave of 215 children was discovered at a residential school in Kamloops. (See those photos above? Some of the children were Ellie’s age.) Treatment of Indigenous peoples is a shameful part of Canada. I hope that the current sentiments lead to some true reconciliation.

Our favourite library book this month

Battle against the gypsy moths continues. So far we’ve scraped egg masses, squished caterpillars by hand and wrapped the tree trunks with sticky tape. Here’s another trap I’m going to try.

Rose quartz and brass cabinet hardware. My Mom’s planning on painting her bathroom pink. How about switching the hardware too, Mom?

An amazing vegan spaghetti sauce (don’t scrimp on the fennel)

How was May for you?

Odds & sods

When we first moved to the farm, a row of forsythia bushes beside the driveshed were covered in blooms at the beginning of April. Since then, I’ve measured the progress of spring by the forsythia.

The forsythia flowers arrived last week–the most flowers we’ve had in years. Unfortunately, right after they arrived, snow returned. So I’m not sure that forsythia is my best measure of spring this year.

Here are some other things that caught my attention this month.

Have house prices gone crazy where you are too? Farmhouse sells for $1,115,000 over asking

I haven’t been able to listen to music since before Matt died. The other week I found this song. I still cry, but I love it.

Mesmerizing

I went waaaay back in my recipe archives to make this pasta last week, and it was so good. (I omitted the pepper and added tomatoes, artichokes and spinach to up the veggie quotient).

Mudroom inspiration for coloured cabinets and large-scale rough stone tiles.

Sources: Hali MacDonald in House & Home (left), Jeffrey Dungan (right)

We’re finishing off April by picking the mudroom tile and paying taxes (worse than snow in the spring). We have a bunch of outdoor projects underway here, so I’m hoping that warm, sunny days return soon.

How was April for you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? Are you cooking any retro recipes?

Odds & sods

March felt very full. The garage reno kicked off, spring arrived (with all of its assorted projects and adrenaline), sap was running, syrup was boiling, taxes were prepped, we spent nearly 100 hours outside (94 so far and three days to go), and daily life continued.

We also marked Matt’s birthday. I’ve made him a birthday cake for 23 years in a row, and I’m not ready to give it up. Plus, Ellie loves to bake and a cake is a way for her to connect with her Daddy. By her decree, his cake was exactly the same as hers from her birthday last month.

I am starting March’s round-up with an excerpt from a beautiful book that I read this month. It reminded me to find space in our full days, in my full mind, in our full life:

“I am my silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world… I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.”

Embers by Richard Wagamese

Here are some other links that have given me space, helped me deal with our world and find balance with the clamour of living:

Simple formula for bystander intervention

A better measure of success

I have mudrooms on my mind. Sarah Richardson does too.

Farmhouse Facelift It’s nice to see farms and functional makeovers on HGTV. Plus the hosts were a few years behind me in school.

Rethinking kindergarten readiness

I hope that you are doing well and have had a good month. We are looking ahead to a full Easter weekend (accompanied by three birthdays). There will be some hikes, egg hunts, traditional meals, new menus, candy, memories and fun.

Has March been full for you? How do you find space in your life? Do you make time to sit in silence?

A sweet family tradition

On a whim, I decided to tap our trees a few weeks ago. It turned out to be exactly the right time. Just a few days later, the sap started to run.

Making syrup was something Matt liked to do. I didn’t tap trees last spring, but this year I decided I wanted to share the experience with Ellie.

We also need to replenish our stash. Matt started making Ellie a waffle in the morning, and it’s still her breakfast of choice.

Ellie has been in on every part of syrup making so far. Drilling the trees, collecting the sap, eating the sap right from the tree.

As I strain the sap, she inspects the cloth for dirt. Then as it’s boiling in the pot, she calls, “Use the ‘mometer!” (Our first batch of syrup burnt when we were distracted watching Frozen.)

She holds the strainer as I pour the finished syrup into jars and then swipes her finger around the bottom of the pan to lick up the sweet drips left behind.

Syrup making became a fun tradition for Matt and me, and I’m having more fun carrying this on with Ellie.

Do you have any spring traditions in your family? What family traditions are you sharing with your kids?

Odds & sods

How is 2021 going for you so far?

This month feels like it flew by.

Ontario is in lockdown again, but Ellie and I have been sticking pretty close to home anyways. Fortunately we’ve been bubbled with my Mom and Matt’s parents all the way along, so we’re still able to see some people and have help when we need it.

Our January highlights are celebrating my Mom’s birthday (complete with singing Happy Birthday over Zoom), skating with Ellie (she was a bit wobbly and nervous, but thinks hockey will be easier), some new clients and extra projects at work (and late nights as a result) and lots and lots of playing.

Like everyone, we’re doing the juggle. And we’re doing okay. I hope that you are as well.

Here are some other highlights that I came across this month.

It took me three tries to get through this book the first time I read it to Ellie. I still don’t make it sometimes, but I keep trying because it’s such a beautiful story. I see so much of Matt and her in it.

Setting a goal to spend 1,000 hours outside has been so motivating and made me much more conscious of how we spend our time. Also, we’ve had a lot of fun.

Junkyard playgrounds

The woman behind Peter Rabbit

Anyone can be a millionaire

What does it take to blow $10,000 a year?

When you dig yourself into a hole. And someone hauls you out.

I hope you’ve had a better month than that poor excavator. Is anyone else trying to spend more time outside this year? Paying more attention to finances this year? Reading any good books?

Word of the year: Focus

Hello. Happy new year. I hope that you are well and had a nice holiday.

Over the last three years, I’ve enjoyed figuring out a word of the year.

The word gives me some guidance for the year ahead. It reflects my mood and some of the things that are on my mind.

When I was pregnant with Ellie, my word was balance as I wanted to hang on to who I was and be open to who I was going to become. When we were in the depths of Matt’s illness, my word was slow. I was trying to savour moments with Matt and Ellie and not rush through our time together. Last year my word was resolve, as I was trying to figure out how to keep it together and keep moving forward.

This year the word that keeps coming into my head is focus.

I want to focus on what is most important to me. Ellie, this farm, myself, family, friends, my work. Knowing what I value means I know where to put my energy and time. By being focused, I give myself permission to spend extra time playing with Ellie, prioritize a home project or connect with a friend. I can also say no to things that don’t fit with what’s most important.

I also want to be focused in the moment. There are a lot of thoughts in my head and the to-do list is long. I am often rushing, distracted and multi-tasking. In simple tasks like tidying up from meals, I flit between loading the dishwasher, putting food away and clearing the table. Several times I’ve walked past the dining room an hour after we ate and discovered I left the orange juice or milk on the table rather than returning it to the fridge. I’ve learned I do better if I can focus on one thing–clearing the table–and then move onto the next. This goes for more complex tasks too, whether it’s work or Ellie.

My word of the year isn’t at the forefront of my mind every day. But it’s enough of a reminder most of the time to help me focus on what matters most and how I want to be.

What are you feeling as we begin 2021? Anyone else seeking focus or balance or to slow down or resolve?

Merry Christmas

This has been a year of love and joy. Of challenges too, absolutely. But love and joy have prevailed.

We are going to be soaking in all of the love and joy–and working through more challenges, I’m sure–for the rest of this month. I will be back with more posts in the new year.

I wish you love, joy and peace this holiday.