Wednesday, 3 August 2016

World Wednesday: Quinoa

Would anyone care to share their favourite quinoa recipe? My repertoire is too small.

Although I knew that this seed was a good gluten-free grain replacement, I had no idea what a protein powerhouse it was until my midwife recommended it during pregnancy. My body craves protein like water. It's what I miss the most if lacking in a meal.

And a little goes a long way, so quinoa is definitely worth taking advantage of! We buy ours from Costco, the organic Ancient Grains brand. 
But quinoa is sooooo bland and boring when cooked on its own. It needs a lot of flavour to back it up!

Our favourite (and pretty much only) quinoa dish is Mexican quinoa, basically a meatless chili. Beans, tomatoes, corn and quinoa all cooked together in a pan with lots of spices. Avocado can be a nice addition, although Ben doesn't like it. But he will happily eat Mexican quinoa as long as there is cheese on top!

I occasionally use quinoa to bolster up chicken soup as well, or mix a little with some veggie for the baby, but there ends my use of it.

I know Pinterest could yield hundreds of suggestions, but if anyone has a well known and loved recipe I would love to hear it and to benefit from your experience! :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

World Wednesday: Kleenex Boxes

I wonder who gets to design Kleenex boxes as their job?

Maybe it's because of the allergies that have plagued me half my life, requiring frequent trips for tissues, but I have often noticed the really beautiful designs that show up on the functional Kleenex box. Quirky patterns, rich colours, photographs that focus in on the detailed heart of a flower - so many different artistic displays on each new batch of boxes.

When pennies are tight I make do with trusty old toilet paper, but I do enjoy buying a few boxes of Kleenex to have around the house, and I honestly stand there for several minutes trying to decide which of the pretty designs I'm going to choose!

How delightful that such a mundane space can be turned into it's own miniature canvas and bring an unexpected beauty to corners of a room. :)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Touch of Colour Tuesday: Painted Cookies Recipe

     Today I'm sharing an Easter tradition that I grew up with - painted sugar cookies. These add a splash of bright colour among our Paschal treats and are delicious too! I usually double (or triple, or quadruple) the recipe, as my brothers are cookie hoovers.

       Cookie Ingredients:

       1 cup butter
       2/3 cup sugar
       1 egg
       1 tsp vanilla
       2 1/2 cup flour
       1 tsp baking powder
       1/2 tsp salt

   Paint Ingredients:

       1 egg yolk
       1 tbsp water
       food colouring

     To begin, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in your egg and vanilla before adding the dry ingredients. Mix dough thoroughly and roll to about 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.

Cut cookies and fill baking sheets!

To make the paint, combine egg yolk with one tbsp of water and divide it into small containers. A muffin tin works well for holding the different colours as well. 
Use as many drops of food colouring as it takes to reach your desired colours. This year I had neon yellow, pink, purple, blue and green.

Paint all your cookies before putting them in the oven.

Bake at 350° for approximately 13-15 mins, or until slightly golden brown on the edges.

Leftover dough makes great taste-test cookies!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Surrexit Christus Alleluia!

Happy Easter! The strife is o'er, hope is renewed, and we are celebrating with all the food and drink and music and joy we can muster.

Perrin watching Daddy make a pussy-willow bough at Babcia and Dziadzia's house.
Our basket for the food blessing.

Ben made a lovely early breakfast for the two of us <3

And the warmth and sunshine made for the best sap flow yet!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Good Friday: On Fear and Not Carrying the Wrong Cross

In Fr. John Lacey's Good Friday service homily, he pointed out that we will always have our crosses whether or not we believe in Christ or choose to carry them.

It was actually a relief for me to be reminded of this. When I hear the phrase "carry your cross", I tend to strongly resist. I suppose I think that somehow, if I say yes, that is what will allow suffering to be heaped upon me. Accepting any cross Christ gives me? - my mind jumps to the most extreme versions of what that could entail: concentration camps, martyrdom, or (worst of all) losing my child - um, no I'm not ok with any of that, thanks.

But in reality, both good and bad things will happen in my life regardless of whether or not I choose to place them in God's hands.

In fact, I realized that the cross Christ wants me to carry isn't usually as heavy as the one I cut out for myself. What I am actually asked to deal with is the real things that are happening in my life, whether that means not-being-asleep at 3am when I really want to be, or financial setbacks, or family conflict. There is pain involved, but it is by no means crushing me. Now I know that some people are experiencing much much greater, more excruciating things, and that maybe at some point I might have to as well. But that's where I have to have the faith that God will give us only what we can bear (knowing how small and weak we are), and try my best to support those with the hardest burdens.

What I am not meant to be carrying is the fear of All Of The Things. All the possibilities that my brain cooks up to worry itself over but that have no bearing in reality. These root me in fear, rather than love. I waste my limited energy resources trying to carry a cross that doesn't even exist, while getting distracted from the actual needs of the moment that do.

There is only one cross that contains every human suffering, and it is His.

Holy Thursday: The Triduum Begins

This year was our first Holy Thursday supper just as our own little family. Special but quiet, saving up energy for the full weekend ahead.

We had some lovely homegrown lamb (thanks to brother-in-law Joe) and delicious coffee-flavoured wine (thanks to brother-in-law Nicholas), rice, peas, and a rich buttery bread.

I thought especially this year how grateful I am for all the good priests out there. The Fathers who bear with the suspicion and discredit brought upon because of those who have failed, and who keep serving us anyways.

And we managed to make it to Mass despite the sleet and freezing rain. Ah, Ontario spring. :P

Monday, 21 March 2016

Mindful Monday: Screen Addiction Confession

I am coming to the realization that I am addicted to screens. My phone and laptop are like silent sirens, constantly calling to my subconscious, reminding me that they are oh-so-available, and without even thinking about it I am drawn back again and again.

It's been hovering in the back of my mind to write this for a while, except the weakness is so strong (oxymoron much?) that I haven't even been sure if I want to change. I know that I want to - want to.

A couple days ago I sat down on the floor by our sliding glass door to eat my lunch and realized with horror that I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten by myself without a screen in front of my face.

Ben and I eat sit down meals together (which, btw, would be one of my top pieces of marriage advice), but when he's away or eating lunch at work, my go-to is a seat on the couch with the laptop. A sandwich in one hand, typing or browsing with the other. The baby is usually playing on his mat or tucked beside me with some toys.

But I wish I could say this was only at lunch. 

For the very few things I actually have to check online (email, weather, Facebook, Pinterest), I spend a surprising amount of time checking them. I even find myself staring at the empty browser wondering what else I can come up with to look at. Over and over throughout the day, I put myself to some task or pursuit, but before I know it, there I am back at the computer again. Even my Lenten resolution to make a difference in this area wasted away to the bare minimum of its initial form.

Why is it so addictive? I suppose because it is just so effortless. Most other activities take at least a bit of brain power or elbow grease, whether designing a piece of art, washing dishes, or even singing! Looking at a screen is the easiest, laziest, most passive pastime. So much so that it becomes a default, a resting spot in between anything that requires more exertion. 

The addiction is also fuelled by conditioning to constant entertainment. I grab my phone to "have something to do" while eating my cereal or nursing the baby, and forget to simply immerse myself in eating my cereal, and nursing the baby!

In my heart, I don't do it :) I'm not "that type of person", haha. I've always been one to sing the praises of real life, and to remonstrate with my brothers for their hours of gaming. Yet here I am. 
It's time to be honest with myself. This addiction looks so innocent, yet it steals from everything: productivity, the cleanliness and order of our home, my relationships with Ben and Perrin, prayer, exercise... It even eats away at my peace of mind, for after spending a while online I feel discouraged and guilty.

I don't think I'm a hopeless case, or that I should stop using the devices. Nor am I alone. This whole generation has its task cut out to find balance in such an abundant availability of digital reality. What I do need to do is start being really mindful about my screen use. Pare down to only the useful, not the wasteful. Make a conscious decision to put it down, away, out of my mind, to take a deep breath, and to open myself fully to the world around me. Hopefully putting this out there in written words will help my resolve :)

So here's to embracing life! There is so much wonderful life to be lived. The air is fresh and chilly, full of health and the promise of spring, if only we take the chance to breathe it. The chicken is such fun to watch, trotting around the yard, paying calls to the bunnies and investigating the compost pile. There are new spices in the cupboard to tweak an old recipe. Who knows what interesting conversations might result from just relaxing with the husband? And there is that round, bright baby face right beside me, waiting to laugh at the first sight of fun, ready to be delighted when I turn to him, watching for attention and affection and all the neat things I can help him to experience. 

Hopefully in time, when I remember to check my email, pulling out the laptop from some forgotten corner and dusting it off, I will find that even before I am finished, the bugle call of real life has summoned me back into its wholeness.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Thoughtful Thursday: Security Continued

Hmm, I said I was going to continue with my thoughts on security, but life picked me up and ran away with me.

I'll just sum up in a few points what I had meant to say...

Why, to live a happy, fulfilled, truly Christian life, do I have to give up on security?

First reason: Futility! For one thing, I have no real control over any of it - it is unrealistic to think that I do. It's ok, and right, to plan responsibly, but not as if that will be the deciding factor for what happens next. Life is an adventure, and extremely unpredictable!

Second reason: Generosity! I have a constant desire to be generous and a constant struggle to carry it out. The world was made for us all, and in God's design, no one was to go cold or hungry. What I have is not truly my own, it's all been given to me to use in love, for myself AND for others. My faith is nothing without a willingness to give and share, especially with the poor. Hoarding is counterproductive to generosity.

Third reason: Freedom! Always thinking about security and calculating and stashing away leads one into a very narrow frame of mind. Life becomes a servant to material goods, rather than the other way around. It's a type of imprisonment, really. After all, who was more carefree, wealthy Prince John, or homeless Robin Hood?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Wishful Thinking Story

It had been winter for too long.

Perrin didn't know the feel of warm sunshine or green grass. 

But Perrin's Mummy had an idea. 
She went to the cupboard and pulled out a bottle she had been saving.

The label read "Spring".

They took it out into the cold and poured one drop on the snow.

Up popped a dandelion!

"Oh good, it still works", said Mummy. 

They went back inside and packed a basket with all their favourite treats. Then, going to a patch of ground, Mummy began to sprinkle Spring all over!

And there in the warm sun and green grass, they had a picnic.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Seasonal Sunday: Dreaming of Summer...

Mmm. I needed that.

   In reality, it is mid-February and -34 degrees when I woke up this morning. The insides of all our windows have ice formations piled up at the bottom from frozen condensation. We didn't go to Mass cause the car wouldn't start. The rabbits have frost-coated whiskers. 

   It's also Valentine's Day, however, so there's a little extra cheer to warm the deepest winter. Ben got up early with the baby (who seems to have decided that sleep is optional to existence) and I had left little corny Star Wars valentines stuck about the house for him. "Yoda one for me" on his i-watch, "You R2 cute" on the shaving cream, and "Ewok my world" stuck to the steering wheel. Thanks Pinterest :D
   His kind acts of service to me today have been to fix the home button on my phone and do all the piles of dishes in the kitchen. What a dear man.
   We're also going to have our first baby-free date for supper, as my mom is coming over to babysit for a couple of hours. Hooray! Hopefully our car will start by then. 

   On the animal front, we are daily taking small bunnies out to Wanda for feeding and bringing them back inside to stay warm. We hadn't intended to breed this winter, but we accidentally left one of the boys from the last batch in with his mother too long. Oops :/ I am calling them Oedipus Rex bunnies.

    Fox went out on a chilly night, prayed for the moon to give him light, and we sadly have only one chicken left as a result. Hence I have had to start buying store eggs again. Boo hoo. 

    Peregrine is growing by leaps and bounds, and I am also very excited for warm weather to return so that I can bring him outside more. His interest in his surroundings is continually expanding. 

    We just need to wait it out. This too shall pass, and spring will come again! It always does :)

Monday, 8 February 2016

Mindful Monday: Ode to Mindful Motherhood


  Remember to smile - smile when 5 am brings unexpected baby chatter, soft hands pawing at my face, the first cup of tea sooner than planned.

    Remember to enjoy - enjoy the brand new sounds being discovered, the explorative "mum mum" which one day will mean me, the delight which flashes into his eyes when I answer back.

   Remember to laugh - laugh when a eruption of spit up drenches us once again. What's a bit more laundry compared to keeping our home joyful?

   Remember to focus - focus on now. Don't get lost in the never-neverlands of fear, selfishness or sticky virtual-webbiness. Open eyes - open heart! This is my life! This is real!

   Remember what I am thankful for - self-pity and resentment are my enemies (especially when it comes to sleep, or lack thereof!), gratitude is my friend. I am thankful for all the other lovely things which ease the tiredness: food and drink, cuddles, music, schedule flexibility. Thankful that it's my first child and I know I'm still just learning. Thankful for my supportive Ben and all his good cheer. Thankful that I get to be "working out my salvation" in the best way I can imagine.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

World Wednesday: Keats Creative Addition

    One really great thing about university was how it motivated me to finish projects. Having a deadline and upcoming critique often inspired me to polish up assignments to a much greater extent than I ever have with writings begun on a personal whim.

   On that note, here's a poem I wrote in my second year at OLSWA which I think really benefited from the rigour of school.

This is a creative addition for Keats, inspired chiefly by his concise language and rich imagery. John Keats was part of the second generation of romantic poets, and besides his emphasis on self, nature, and senses, his poetry also incorporated deeper reflection about reality. Following in the train of “Ode to a Nightingale”, I explored in this poem the lyric speaker’s sadness over morality and desire to know what death truly is. He despairs of man’s ability to understand death through reason and believes instead that imagination can transcend time and discover truth. But even imagination might not be enough . . .

On A Winter Glade
I halt as sorrow hurls against my breast
And jolts me from the hurry-beaten way
And does my feelings like my breath arrest
To spy a glint amid Erebus grey:
A forest glade enclosed in polished glass
And white new-felled; its statue chambers poise
In an eternal stance and bid me thus
To stay and not to pass,
Forsaking all the jostle and the noise
Of jaded rush, our futile business.

O see the laden boughs like brittle edge
Of flaking crust; see glittering facets sheer,
And icicles poised flawless from a ledge
In stillness never broken by the fear
That plagues the ticking toil of running days,
Corrupting pleasure found in love and life,
The bridal blush, the gift of infant birth,
Each fleeting as a phase,
Marking transient respite from the strife,
Then puffed away like lingering echomirth.

A bitter biting breeze attacks my heart;
Its pinching stings my cheek with cold despair
And threatens newfound hush to tear apart
When life takes on consistency of air:
Each field of beggars topples in a blow
While kings and pharaohs bow, their scepters fail;
Death in a mighty rampage rages on
With shining scythe of woe.
I look to check his stride - to no avail,
His step will hasten to my side anon.

Who is this monarch dread that treads the earth,
And looks upon protest with mirthful scorn?
Our books have sought to view his baffling girth,
Our brains to probe the essence of his thorn.
Yet ever brains meet soil ere thought is done,
And books turn dust, ere ever page is turned
And man abandons such a hopeless quest
With resolution none,
Relinquishing the truth that he has yearned
For long, he holds his head and craves his rest.

Yet silence of this winter gives me cause
To hope; to try imagination’s spell,
To steal intimate into a pause,
Arrive where reason failed, and excel,
Suspending the rotation of the world.
Here Cupid’s darts themselves are pierced with frost,
Here Jupiter’s bolt frozen in mid flight.
My very tears are pearled
And hang immobile; not a gem is lost,
Beheld forever under crystal light.

Here sheets enclose a feather bed of snows
Where Hades’ crown is lately set aside;
He lies, fell beauty, naked in repose,
Throughout whose sleep must ruin, idle, bide.
Cool marble are his lips and mighty brow
His hoary hair a mass of stone-cold coils.
I look on him with wonderment beguiled,
This pale king that now
Heart’s-eye is victor o’er, so stern and royal,
This giant Death, defenseless as a child.

At last to know the face I hold in awe!
To understand the captor, caught alone!
Whether to flee his great embrace so raw
Or seek oblivion tendered at his throne?
If he be tyrant or deliverer?
If he in truth bear such an iron fist,
Or rather gentle hush to stem our moan?
No more shall I demur:
I reach slow hand toward his wan cheek, kissed
with rime – one moment – soon all will be known . . .

Yet wait! What if my warm touch break the spell?
Or sunbeams stretch and yawn, come out to play?
Might not a flush of springtime in this dell
the picture shiver, melt, and fade away?
I hesitate and waver in alarm,
And see my spirit’s firm foundation quake,
That sculpture such as this cannot enthrall
With everlasting charm.
Look! Even now I see a droplet wake,

And slip along a branching arm and fall.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Touch of Colour Tuesday: "Paint Me a Starry Sky"

   I am re-designating Tuesdays :D They are now days for a painting or drawing, whether old or new. This one is from 2012.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Seasonal Sunday: Deep Winter Duvet

   Outside the fluffy white blanket is growing, and we are cozied up indoors. It's a very indoorsy time of year. Sipping lots of hot drinks, watching tv shows, cuddling with Mr. Droolface. Enjoying family time. Almost the only times I venture out into the cold are my twice-daily trips to take care of the chickens and bunnies, who are huddled under heatlamps in their own small houses.

  I do miss sunshine and long walks, but they will come again. So for now, it's time to embrace the season of hibernation - unless you are one of those admirable folks out cross-country skiing or such like. Then enjoy yourselves and I'll see you inside sometime!

   Ben's newest toy is an i-watch, which he found for a steal price. He's been itching to get one of those around his wrist since they were announced, so he's as happy as a clam trying out all it's features.

   And Perrin is growing quickly. All that boob milk is like a powerful elixir, even more potent than Treebeard's ent water. I had to put away all his cute little 0-3 month clothing a while back, reminding myself that it will probably be worn by another baby some time in the future, that way I don't get too sad about it.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Self-Care Saturday: Adult Colouring

    For my birthday, my mom got me The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Colouring Book by Johanna Basford. She didn't know it was on my wishlist!

   This bestseller is at the forefront of a new trend of adult colouring books. It seems tons of others besides myself find it therapeutic to colour inside the lines. Especially to those who aren't artistic themselves, or those who simply don't have time or energy to produce original art at certain times, it gives the satisfaction of orderliness and the nourishment of producing something beautiful in the real world. Seeing the colours blossom in front of you without having to do a whole lot of creative work.

   Of course I don't intend that a colouring book should be a replacement for my own artwork, but at certain times (like stages of baby-induced sleep deprivation), I just need something mindless yet soothing to refresh myself. And Facebook does not quite fit the bill.

   Here is the first page I've been working on, stealing a couple minutes here and there in my day to make it spring to life. I'm really enjoying it!

Monday, 11 January 2016

Mindful Monday: Enjoy the Process


   Checklists. I love checklists. And without mine, some important stuff would never be remembered. Sometimes I need them for daily things, like feeding the animals, or even remembering to drink water. Sometimes they are checklists of reminders for Ben (while trying to avoid nagging, of course), but things that would easily slip both our minds if I didn't have them written down, like needing to call the mechanic. And then there are the once-in-a-while projects - cleaning the fridge, polishing silver items - to remember when there are scraps of spare time (haha).

   Also there is a great satisfaction to checking off what's been done. Finished. Completed. Nicely tied up with a ribbon on top. Mmmmm - check!
   A large part of me is driven by what is accomplished in a day. How much is getting done.

   As I'm sure you can guess what I'm about to say, however, this has a few dangers. Here are the three that strike me the most:

1. Never letting myself be finished.

   If I have the idea that I can only be satisfied and enjoy life when everything is done, then I'd probably be better off just giving up altogether. The only way that could happen is if I could somehow freeze time just when the house is pristine, the bellies full and the baby asleep. And then nobody ever eat again. Or move, cause dust might collect.

2. Forgetting what has already been accomplished.

    One day I had the idea to make myself a "done" list, rather than a "to do" list, cause I find once things are done, they vanish out of my mind and all I see is all that's left. It can get discouraging. I didn't make that list, but I think it would be a good exercise. To write down each thing you accomplish as you do it, and then at the end of the day to have a positive list of your successes, rather than only thinking of what didn't happen. I need to give myself credit for all the hard work I do, not just beat myself up for what I can't get to.

3. Not living in the present.

   This is the worst of the lot, I think. Checklists can tempt one to be far too goal oriented and miss the present moment. I read a blog post about type A (likes to have things under control) women married to type B (laid back) men, and how they can complement each other, if they appreciate their differences. The author said that type B sees life as a video, rather than a snapshot of what currently needs to be fixed. They know everything will happen in it's time and that it is all a part of just living.

   I'd like to get on that page, if I can. Not that I want to stop making lists. They are extremely useful and often enjoyable. But I don't want them to stop me from appreciating life while it is being lived. Some projects being started, others being finished. Some messes being cleaned while others are being made. Enjoying the experience of being right in the middle of this big crazy life with the people I love. Enjoying the process. From that viewpoint, a day spent (like today) holding a sick congested baby upright so he can breathe, getting my husband fed, and sharing some laughs together, is just as good as a day where I check off my whole list.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

World Wednesday: Circumcision

   I learned something fascinating a few weeks ago on the subject of circumcision.

   I didn't learn it from Robin Hood Men in Tights though. The Hippie Housewife was listing reasons on her blog why circumcising baby boys is not beneficial. I have read and heard many similar arguments before, especially from followers of attachment parenting and similar parenting styles. Primarily that it is a traumatic procedure and has lasting bad effects by leaving the penis without it's natural protection.

   The practice of circumcision is much less common today than it was in previous generations, as many parents are recognizing it as unnecessary and damaging. My husband and I never even considered circumcising our newborn son (not that I blame mothers and fathers who have in the past, thinking it was just what you were supposed to do).

 As a Roman Catholic, whose faith heritage originates in Judaism, I always wondered about why God required circumsicion as a covenant sign in the old testament. I thought it might have to do with a practical health reason (like how he commanded the Israelites not to eat pork, as one could easily get sick from eating it in those days), but apparently that is not the case. Many sources I have read say there is no health benefit to circumcision. In that case it seems like a cruel thing for God to require, and not very affirming of the goodness of his creation.

   On the other hand, traditional Jewish circumcision, as I learned, is much less painful than modern medical circumcision. It always took place on the 8th day after birth, when blood clotting is highest, and they supplied the child with means of comfort. It was also a clean sharp cut rather than a clamp.

   What I was even more interested to learn was that it originally did not mean what we think of, which is the full removal of the foreskin, it was just a little "clip at the tip", waaaaay less traumatic or destructive.

    I definitely can't claim comprehensive knowledge of the history or details, but I did find THIS interesting scholarly article concerning how the custom came to change in Jewish history. The author, Rubin Nissan, says that periah, "the splitting and peeling back of the mucosal membrane of the foreskin, thus fully uncovering the glans penis", was not the command given to Abraham by God. He suggests it is an interpretation put forward by the rabbis at at time when Jews were assimilating into gentile nations unnoticed by disguising their circumcision. In order to keep Jewish identity distinct, the rabbis required full periah as part of the law.

   Nissan says it is important to distinguish between the "sacred and unchanging" text of the Torah on which Judaism is founded and the social contexts which have changed and modified in response to culture.

   This makes a lot more sense to me, that circumcision as we know it was not the requirement of our loving God, but a change in practice brought about by people because of their social situation.

   I'm still not quite sure why God would have chosen to ask even the minimal circumcision of his people; it's something I take on faith, like many other difficult aspects of Christianity, trusting that his reasons are greater than my understanding. But learning things like this aspect of history help me to remember that when I am tempted to make a quick judgement, the truth might not always be as it first appears.