fields with cows and Adirondack chairs

What I Learned this Summer

fields with cows and Adirondack chairs

My sister’s cow pasture and garden at Laird Family Farm. 🙂

It’s time again to write about What We Learned and link up with Emily P. Freeman‘s post to share what we learned this summer. This is one of my favorite times to reflect back on the important, fun or even meaningless things I have learned over the past quarter of the year.

1 Tom Longboat is recognized as “Canada’s greatest long-distance runner”.

Being a Canadian (who just happens to live happily in the US) who has never been into sports, I had never heard of Tom Longboat.

But one day Google alerted me to the facts that he was a long-distance runner who used innovative training, became the first member of a First Nations community to win the Boston Marathon, and was even inducted into Canada’s Hall of Fame.

2.  I have mostly decided that using Borax is safe.

Many people use Borax to make their own home cleaning and other “natural” products.

In the ongoing debate about whether or not Borax is a safe product to use, I think I agree with this blog post. The author clearly and thoroughly lays out many facts and arguments to think about when deciding if you wish to use this product.

If you have questions, give it a read and decide for yourself.

3. The official Bullet Journal website offers their own journal for purchase, as well as a bullet journal app.

I’ve been using my bullet journal off and on now (and trying to get back to using it regularly again!) for a couple of years. It’s my best solution to the quest for a method of planning that allows for both practical record-keeping as well as inspirational thought and creativity. Basically, it can be whatever the owner wants and needs it to be.

While there are many variations and embellishments to this planning format, the original bullet journal is where many of us started.

Now they have their own journal available for purchase as well as a companion app, if that’s your cup of tea.

4. I looked up the difference between naturopathic & integrative medicine.

In the quest to learn more about more “natural” methods of caring for ourselves and our loved ones it’s good to have an understanding of the different methods and ideologies out there.

I wanted to learn more about two of these ideas, namely naturopathy and
Integrative Medicine. Rather than attempt to reword their definitions (or risk plagiarism!), I thought it most helpful to include these quotes and links to more information from the professionals:

Natural medicine can also be referred to as naturopathy; it is a form of alternative medicine which involves homeopathy, herbalism, acupuncture, diet and lifestyle counselling, and more…

The ideology behind natural medicine revolves around vitalism and self-healing, meaning naturopaths will tend to advise their patients to avoid modern medicines, pharmacological drugs, vaccinations and medical operations.

Integrative Medicine (IM) is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.

5. Here’s the real, scientific explanation for how to best cook rice in a pressure cooker.

If you own a modern pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot, most likely one of the first foods you learned to cook is rice. As simple as it seems, I’ve found as many different ideas as there are varieties of rice.

The following article is really helpful to give you some practical tips and explain the science behind how cooking rice in a slow cooker actually works:

https://instantpot.com/how-to-cook-perfect-rice-in-an-electric-pressure-cooker/

6. I looked up the meaning of the word catharsis.

My Dad recently bought a small sailboat whose given name was Catharis. Naturally, we were curious to find out it’s meaning. Vocabulary.com suggests:

Use the noun catharsis to refer to the experience a person can have of releasing emotional tension and feeling refreshed afterwards. 

Perfect name for a sailboat!

7. You can not only eat broccoli stems, but also the leaves.

According to this article, not only can you eat your broccoli leaves, but they are as nutritious as kale.

8. MyJoe is a great little gem!

Some time back, we had to replace our dying Kuerig coffee maker. We were not sure we wanted to continue to go the k-cup route, especially because I wasn’t particularly thrilled with some newer models forcing you to either use affiliated brands or resort to the hack. (Who did they think they were fooling?)

After doing our due diligence and asking around, we decided on a coffee making system that allows one to brew different sizes of cups or caraffes, as well as brew over ice or make specialty drinks.

While it’s a lot of fun and overall we love it, I missed the variety of specially flavored coffees I had previously enjoyed in k-cups. So I found and purchased this little hand brewer, which has proven to be a cheap but effective solution to my flavored coffee fetish.

What’s more, MyJoe is small and only requires hot water to brew, so it can be used in powerless situations such as enjoying camping or enduring a power outage.

9. Southern Florida or the Everglades is the only place in the world where one can find both crocs and gators.

You can read more on that scary fact here, or review the differences between crocodiles and alligators here.

Personally, I’m just staying away from anything bigger than my cats with that many sharp teeth.

10. There may not be an ideal substitution for cilantro.

But many of us are still looking for one.

The herb cilantro seems to be either loved or hated. Many even claim it tastes like soap. (Which may be a matter of genes?)

While I don’t think it tastes anything like soap, I myself and my family members do not really care for it’s flavor.

Some acceptable common substitutions are basil, celery leaves or dill, or even mint leaf. Other more exotic ideas are Thai basil or Mexican papalo (although I wouldn’t know what they looked like or where to find them). Flat leaf or Italian parsley can be used in a pinch, but some say it’s not appropriate, as it has quite a different flavor.

11. Shreddies, the popular Canadian breakfast cereal, was first produced by Nabisco in Niagara Falls, Ontario in 1939.

That’s within twenty minutes from where I grew up, so no wonder it’s one of the few cereals we almost always had in the house. At that time, there was only the original flavor, but now it is available in several special variations, such as honey or banana bread.

It was later produced in the UK, and apparently there has been some controversy in Australia, where it has been both sold privately “on a kind of breakfast cereal black market” and smuggled from the UK in people’s suitcases.

12. I really enjoy whooping it up with the young people at a good Christian concert.

We recently attended SoulFest, a popular Christian music festival held in nearby New Hampshire. My family has always loved music and my parents have kept their love of all kinds of music into their senior years, including rock and other louder, more rhythmic genres.

I noticed we weren’t the only (or the oldest) people in the crowd, but I also observed that most of the others in the “revival pit” (up front, right near the stage) were significantly younger.

 

 

I must admit, I had a blast, kept myself moving or clapping, and even jumped around a bit.

 

 

 

 

13. I’ve made peace with the idea that I don’t have to go on scary roller coasters anymore.

When I was a teenager, I learned the frightening fun of riding roller coasters. We would go to our favorite Canada’s Wonderland theme park at least once every summer. There were the smooth metal ones that looped around or traveled in a corkscrew and the old wooden coasters that throttled us down high slopes like a freight train.

The last and most challenging coaster I rode was a stand-up version, and I must say, that was scary enough for me at that youthful age.

My sister told of a time in recent years (now that we are both middle aged adults), where she rode as a partner to a young person when she was helping to supervise the youth group. She realized as they climbed higher that it was not as fun as it used to be. What made things worse, when she looked up she discovered that they hadn’t even made it half way up the climb!

Later, she would find out that the roller coasters of today are much taller than the ones we thought were high. You can read about the new heights and even experience the ride through videos, but I think my roller coaster days are done, even though they say the rides are also more safe as well.

After starting to experience some vertigo a few years ago and admittedly finding the idea of riding coasters more terrifying than fun anymore, I think I’m OK with being done with scary and physically demanding rides.

I no longer have anything to prove.

I’ve been in labor twice, watched my husband go through heart bypass surgery, and generally seen life for over 52 years…so I think I’m good.


So what have you been learning lately???

 

 

 

Tim Horton's iced coffee and sandals

How to Take a Vacation

Tim Horton's iced coffee and sandals

Today I’m linking up with the folks at Five Minute Friday, where we are writing on the prompt vacation.

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What is a vacation?

It’s a special break that can be taken near or far away. It can be a brand new adventure in a place we’ve never been, or coming “home” to someplace familiar, already filled with pleasant memories.

A vacation can be enjoyed with family, friends, or even by oneself.

Some folks take “staycations” at home, but I find this to be difficult for me, as it’s hard to wrestle my thoughts and hands away from the many responsibilities there. But enjoying our homes in a different way, perhaps with no work and less technology, and doing things we don’t normally do there can be refreshing. Or we can venture out for day trips and explore the world around where we live.

Some people travel to different countries; many to explore new places and different cultures, but some of us cross borders to return to the familiar; such as our first family and home or a special place we like to visit regularly.

Wherever you decide to take it; whatever you decide to do (or not to do, which is also important!), I believe that vacations are important.

We need to set aside intentional times to stop, rest, relax, explore, admire, bask, play, think, or not think. We need to allow our minds and bodies and even our emotions to rest and be rejuvenated.

There isn’t any one way to take a break; there is no magic formula or time or place.

A vacation allows us to enjoy a different type of rest and fun, and then come back home with renewed energy and motivation for our everyday lives.

I thank God for vacations!

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Bougainvillea flowers and hummingbird feeder

What I Learned this Spring

I’m always thankful for the opportunity to join in Emily P. Freeman’s What We Learned link-up each quarter. It’s a good way to stop and reflect on some of the useful or just plain interesting things that I’ve been learning.

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Bougainvillea flowers and hummingbird feeder

 

Here are 8 different things I’ve learned this spring:

 

1. I guess carageenan is best to be avoided, after all.

After revisiting my note in preparation for this post which stated, “Carageenan may be safe after all (and perhaps even provide health benefits?)”, I cannot see any information that proves this point. Embarrassingly, I have no idea where I read this information, and in further studying it, I agree with most of the reputable sources that I can find that agree that carageenan is best to be avoided.

It’s a thickening agent made from seaweed and is used in many foods, even many that are considered healthy or organic, as well as toothpaste. It has also been used to treat some illnesses.

Both practitioner and teacher of integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, and well-known doctor of natural medicine (as well as chiropractic and clinical nutritionist), Dr. Axe conclude that carageenan is best to be avoided, as it is linked to too many negative health risks. It is said to at least possibly be responsible for health problems such as digestive issues, inflammation, diabetes and even cancer.

Even WebMd uses wording such as “likely safe” and “possibly unsafe” in their description of the side affects and safety of carageenan.

There’s been a lot of conflicting information bouncing around over the years, apparently, but for now I’m going to read more labels and attempt to avoid this questionable ingredient when possible.

Here is a nice list of food products that do and do not contain carageenan to guide us in our grocery shopping.

 

2. Love really does make the world go round.

It may have been a phrase in a popular old song, but relationships really do seem to be the key to true happiness in life.

In a comprehensive, 75-year Harvard study, tracking factors such as intelligence levels, alcohol intake, relationships and income, one of the conclusions is that love is “the key to happiness”.

“That’s right, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth — love is everything. A person can have all the luxuries in the world, but without love, they mean very little.”

Knowing the importance of love in relation to happiness should help us to prioritize our important relationships all the more.

 

3. SPAM turns 80 this year!

This much-loved or intensely-hated canned pork “delicacy” has been around now for an official eighty years!

Watch this video to learn everything you ever wanted (or didn’t want) to know about the history of SPAM:

 

 

 

4. I just learned about the hair highlighting process of balayage, and had it done to my hair.

Recently I asked my hairdresser if we could do something a little different for my hair (beyond the “normal” coloring to cover my many grays, along with a trim), and she suggested some highlighting. I hadn’t had highlighting since the days when I only had a few gray hairs…so quite awhile ago!

So when she mentioned doing balayage, at first I had to ask her to repeat it, and then I needed to know what it was. It is a more modern, and more importantly more natural process to highlight hair. (You can read all about it here and see more samples.)

“Balayage is a French word meaning ‘to sweep’ or ‘to paint’. It allows for a sun-kissed natural-looking hair colour, similar to what nature gives us as children.”

It is rather a work of art, I think, and one nice feature is that each person’s results will be different every time, yet an agreeable look can be achieved to compliment the person’s features, coloring and hair style.

my new hair highlights

my hair highlights

my hair highlightsmy bayalage highlights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m quite happy with the results (although it was difficult to capture the full colors on camera).

 

 

5. I can find no proof that the “pinch test” for 100% silicone is accurate.

I have some cute  and handy silicone baking cups that I use sometimes in place of paper muffin cups, and silicone bake-ware has become more popular elsewhere than in my kitchen. One of the things that is, frankly, driving me a bit crazy, is all the hoopla about doing the “silicone pinch test” to see if your silicone pieces are 100% silicone.

The idea is that if you pinch and twist your silicone and see any white, your silicone is not pure; if the item is 100% silicone it will remain fully colored.

The frustrating thing is that although I can find multitudes of statements stating that this is a true test, from personal reviewers to many of the companies that make and sell these products, I have as yet to find one shred of evidence explaining whether this is true or not. I have also found several examples from companies stating that the test is just an internet myth; I even recall one company stating that they could provide copies of their tests or certifications.

My conclusion? Although the internet is an amazing and wonderful tool, sometimes it can still leave you empty-handing or just plain confused.

I think I’ll just continue to use my little silicone baking cups at my own risk.

I need a little adventure in my life, anyway. 🙂

 

6. Negativity actually rewires your brain.

OK. I admit it.

Sometimes I complain too much.

It’s something I’ve worked at, but it tends to be my natural response too often. And although I’ve always known it can be toxic to myself and others around me, after reading an article on How complaining rewires your brain for negativityI’m more convinced (or convicted!) than ever!

 

“Your brain loves efficiency and doesn’t like to work any harder than it has to. When you repeat a behavior, such as complaining, your neurons branch out to each other to ease the flow of information. This makes it much easier to repeat that behavior in the future — so easy, in fact, that you might not even realize you’re doing it.”

 

That’s the bad news, and there’s more.

Complaining also damages other areas of your brain, and is bad for your health.

The good news is, we can choose to curb this destructive habit.

 

 “There are two things you can do when you feel the need to complain. One is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. That is, when you feel like complaining, shift your attention to something that you’re grateful for. Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the right thing to do; it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood and energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels. Any time you experience negative or pessimistic thoughts, use this as a cue to shift gears and to think about something positive. In time, a positive attitude will become a way of life. 

The second thing you can do — and only when you have something that is truly worth complaining about — is to engage in solution-oriented complaining. “

 

I, for one, am going to continue on my quest (and ask God to help me) to turn my negative thoughts and words into gratitude.

 

7. Rumor has it that we can get a discount on coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts if we bring our own cup and order a “refill”.

Here is one of the many posts I discovered that claim that this favorite coffee and donut chain will give you a cheaper price on hot or iced coffee if you purchase a refill.

I have seen different prices listed for this “refill” order, and have as yet to ask at my local coffee shop to see if they provide this service. I also need to check to see if we need to purchase one of their brand name cups to receive this discount.

I’ll be asking next time I stop in for a coffee, as it’s certainly worth a try.

 

8. Actors Daniel Lissing and Erin Krakow of my favorite When Calls the Heart Canadian television series have done some singing together, and it’s really nice.

Are there any more “Hearties” out there?

Those of us who know and love this family-friendly, inspirational television series based on Janette Oke’s popular books have also come to love and appreciate the actors who make the story come to life.

I came across some music performed by Daniel Lissing and Erin Krakow (who play Mountie Jack and his sweetheart teacher, Elizabeth Thatcher), and I especially like this song.

I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.

 

 

 

Well, that sums up what I’ve been learning this spring. It seems that the busier I am the less I remember to stop and notice things I’m learning.

I hope you’ve enjoyed or learned something yourself from my list.

What have you been learning?

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afternoon sun shining through winter trees

What I Learned This Winter

afternoon sun shining through winter trees

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman’s What We Learned link-up, where we are invited to come together to share the interesting things we’ve learned, whether serious, silly or somewhere in between. Here’s a list of some of the things I learned this winter.

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1. I have officially joined the Instant Pot craze.

OK. Maybe I’m not quite crazy, but I am growing more and more fond of my Instant Pot almost daily. There seems to be almost a “cult following” of this incredible machine.

Thinking back to what made me take the plunge on this past Black Friday Amazon sale, I have to admit that I don’t love to cook (although I truly love baking!), especially when I feel tired or short on time. And I liked the idea that I might be able to pull together a last-minute meal even with frozen meat.

Enter my new Instant Pot Duo 8 qt.

There is a learning curve to this machine (and I’m sure there will continue to be much more to learn and explore), but already in the past few months, I’ve grown to love the speed, convenience and variety of uses for my pressure cooker. I have already discovered several new meal ideas to be made all in one pot that will remain family favorites, and hope to share more on my blog as we go along.

making homemade yogurt in my Instant Pot

First try for making homemade yogurt.

 

pasta meal in Instant Pot

“Mystery pasta & meatballs”, made from a variety of leftovers combined (a mystery because I will never be able to repeat it).

2.  Smart people know and remind themselves of how much they do not know.

This interesting article suggests that although it’s clearly helpful to read books and put what you’ve learned into practice, it’s also beneficial just to have many books on your bookshelf. For real?

books I'm reading

I love to purchase good books and have every intention of reading them (in fact, it’s one of my goals for this year), but often by the time all is said and done, I own a lot more than I actually ever finish reading.

The author suggests that having lots of good books keeps our desire to learn aflame and encourages us that we have much to learn and far to grow.

So just maybe this little book fetish of mine is not so frivolous after all.

 

 

small book pile3. I just read how (& why) the Dewey Decimal System came to be.

I have a part-time job I really enjoy as a library assistant. As such, I’d still never given a lot of thought to the Dewey Decimal System, and why most libraries choose to arrange books in this way.

One day at work, my supervisor came out with a statement that numbers were used because they are more intuitive/easier to remember than letters.

That thought intrigued me, and though I cannot find the research to substantiate that exact idea, it did lead me to read the interesting story of Melvil Dewey and how he came to design the Dewey Decimal System. The author writes,

“What’s obvious to you, the jaded library patron, wasn’t so obvious in the era before Melvil Dewey. Once a creative genius comes up with an innovation, a century later everyone thinks it’s obvious. If you think it’s so easy, you come up with a system for classifying all knowledge that ever was and ever will be.”

I’m just glad Dewey did this work, and didn’t leave the arranging of much of the world’s books to me.

 

4. There are many interesting and unknown facts about my most favorite holiday (Christmas).

I’ve always loved Christmas, and have always made it’s celebration a highlight of our year. Since I’ve been celebrating for over 50 years now, I’d like to consider myself an expert on the holiday and it’s traditions.

But in reading these “18 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Holidays”, I’ve discovered that there are still many facts about the origin of common Christmas traditions that I did not know. While I’m certainly not surprised that “Americans ship an unbelievable amount of gifts” (I’m quite sure over half of them arrive on our online-ordering-loving doorstep), I was surprised and intrigued to learn that in Canada, “Santa has his own zip code”, “Xmas doesn’t remove Christ from Christmas” (the letter “X” comes from the Greek alphabet and relates to Christ), “Mistletoe was believed to be an aphrodisiac”, and that “Rudolph was almost named Reginald”.

 

5. The latest road conditions can be obtained by calling 511.

We all know to call 911 in an emergency, and most of us have called 411 when we needed directory assistance (although perhaps our “more modern” friends have only relied on the internet for most information?), but until now, I had never heard that there is indeed a 511 call as well. This is the number for America’s Traveler Information. By calling this number, drivers can receive “up-to-the-minute travel and traffic information”.

Good to know.

 

6. A male ballerina is called a ballerino.

I never realized that the word to describe a male ballet dancer is “ballerino”, although after we went to our first performance of The Nutcracker, my friend & I (and especially our husbands who attended with us), will forever have pictures of “men in tights” etched in our minds.

Also interesting to note, is that these titles actually refer to more specific ranks of dancers and that French and Italian have their own names for male and female ballet dancers as well.

 

hot drinks and snowpeople

7. I want to celebrate Christmastide.

I love Christmas!

This Christmas season, I learned something new & wonderful in one of my devotional readings. In Loving My Actual Christmas: An Advent Devotional by Alexandra Kuykendall, the author explains:

“Did you know that the church calendar has an extended Christmas season built into it? We call this stretch of days Christmastide. This period begins on Christmas morning and goes for twelve days, ending on January 6 with Epiphany and the arrival of the magi to the Baby Jesus.”

In fact, I can really relate to how the author feels about this special celebration, although I too have never officially participated in Christmastide. But my family has always found a way to stretch out the Christmas celebration and make this time of year last a little longer. What better way than to celebrate for twelve days after?

If you wish to know more about Christmastide, here’s some more great information that will help to explain more details.

 

Christmas tree and cat

 

8. It’s more environmentally responsible to get a live Christmas tree than use an artificial one.

Well, there’s a bit more to it than that, which you can read here. I, for one, am glad to finally hear some good information in defense of one of my favorite holiday traditions.

And here’s a bit more Christmas tree trivia: after doing a bit more research, I also found out that the first artificial trees were made by a toilet brush company out of their brush bristles.

I may never look at an artificial tree the same again! 😉

 

9. Cooking in a pressure cooker is actually a more healthy way to cook. 🙂

In reference to my point #1, I am happy to have learned that pressure cooking is indeed healthy. I could try to explain the details and convince you in my own words, but I think I’ll suggest you read this very thorough article instead:

According to studies, pressure cooking retains more nutrients than any other type of cooking, it makes grains and legumes easier to digest, increases the digestibility of protein, and can be a good choice for a quick, healthy meal, instead of resorting to packaged, processed foods or take-out.

Just one more reason to love my IP! (That’s short for “Instant Pot”, which you would know if you can relate to point #1)

 

10. Gerber hired their first Gerber Baby with Downs syndrome.

Most of us have grown up recognizing the company’s trademark Gerber Baby.

Since 2010, the Gerber company has held a contest and chosen a special baby to be their “Spokesbaby”. For 2018, baby Lucas Warren has been chosen, and is the first baby picked with Downs syndrome. He captured the hearts of the Gerber team, and there are hopes that this choice will encourage positive change for those with disabilities.

I’m quite sure that if you watch this video, you’ll fall in love with him, too. ♥

 

11. L L Bean is changing (down-grading?) their return policy.

After many, many years of boasting one of the very best return policies out there, L L Bean has decided to change their return policy.  This decision seems to be mainly based on the fact that a small percentage of customers have somewhat taken advantage of their excellent policy. The company suggests that this change won’t affect most of their loyal customers, and I’m not sure exactly how it will affect my future relationship with them, but I guess time will tell.

 

12. I just learned about the benefits of weighted blankets.

I had never even heard of a weighted blanket until very recently.

Hearing that they may help relieve various symptoms affecting sleep, such as stress & anxiety, ADD/ADHD, sleep disorders, PTSD and even autism, makes me curious to try one. They are said to trigger the release of serotonin and melatonin, chemicals which reduce stress and improve sleep.

Sounds like a fairly risk-free idea to help improve one’s sleep!

 

 

 

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir Canadian Ice Dancing Olympic Champions

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir – Canadian Olympic Ice Dance Champions

 

13. The 2018 Winter Olympics gave me my first glimpse of K-pop music.

K-pop stands for “Korean Pop Music”, and my first introduction to this modern form of music was watching the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics this February. It’s an interesting combination of various musical styles and genres and utilizes audiovisual effects. I found it quite different and entertaining.

 

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Thanks for reading my list of What I’ve Learned this winter. If you made it to the end of the post, I hope you enjoyed reading and maybe learned something new, too.

 

 

 

Herbs in the Snow

A Year to Simplify

Today I’m writing again to join some friends over at the Five Minute Friday link-up. Things have been sparse for me with blog posts these past couple of months, first with my husband’s surgery, then the full-on rush of the wonderful holiday season, complicated with a bit of sickness. But I’m dying to write and today’s word prompt simplify has special meaning for me this year.

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Herbs in the Snow

As the old year quickly came to a close and a new year dawned before me, I started to think about a word to be my focus for this year. This is a habit I did not adhere to the first time I heard about it, but it has grown on me and become my new norm.

It’s hard for me, as a naturally logic and facts-based person, to feel like I can hear God speaking to me. Most often I plan, trust and pray and then do what seems like the right thing. It often feels as if I am making my own practical decisions, but I know that in many ways God is always directing my steps.

I’m also learning not to ignore those fleeting thoughts that seem like I just “made them up” or that seem to have come at random, and realize that often they are indeed from my heavenly Father. If we’ve given our lives to God and are attempting to follow him, I believe that he will direct even our passing thoughts. He will also use our circumstances to help direct our decisions.

So as I began to mull over thoughts of rest and the phrase, “let it go” came to mind, I wondered if maybe I had hit on something.

Then in an (In)Courage post a link was given to a short quiz at Dayspring to help determine our word of the year. It’s kind of interesting that the post spoke of just needing “simple” sometimes, and after completing 7 quick questions, the word simplicity was chosen for me. I knew that it seemed awfully simple, and almost seemed too easy, but the more I thought about it, that is precisely the point.

You see, I naturally tend to over-complicate things. It seems to be a by-product of the cautious, detailed, often perfectionist part of my personality. I’ve been attempting to simplify in many areas of life over the past few years, so much so that I named my blog Simply Flourishing Home.

So I’ve decided that SIMPLIFY will definitely be my word for 2018.

What could I intentionally simplify in order to live a more flourishing life of joy, peace and productivity?

I can simplify tasks and projects instead of putting them off due to overwhelm.

Cleaning and organizing my home in a more simple, if imperfect way would still bless my family and those who enter.

When I feel hurt or wronged by others, sometimes I can simply choose to forgive and let the offence and pain go freely.

If I make simple meals of real foods, we will eat meals that are healthy and less stressful.

When I have a decision to make, I can consider my options, do a little research if necessary, ask advice where appropriate, and then simply ask God to show me the best choice, without laboring unnecessarily.

My exercise will remain more consistent and enjoyable as I continue to use a simple plan, rather than feel a need to push myself so hard that I am filled with dread.

I hope to more easily let go of things to declutter my home and make it a place of peace and simplicity.

I can employ my right to say a simple “no” more easily, so that my “yeses” will be more filled with joy and conviction.

This Christmas, I decided to embrace simplicity and do a lot less, which felt less stressful and more joyful.

 

When it comes down to it, most of the time doing something simply is better and more satisfying than trying to do things perfectly, then either failing or not getting around to them at all.

So this year with God’s help, I will endeavor to simplify my life.

And in return, I believe I will simply be more joyful, less stressed, and more able to do the things that are important to me. I may simply become more of who God made me to be.

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St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

What I Learned this Fall

 

 

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

It’s one of the times I look forward to each quarter when I pause to look back and share what I’ve learned with you. I’m especially thankful to be linking up to Emily Freeman’s What We Learned post along with many other bloggers.

Life has been a bit crazy around here, what with the almost sudden need for my husband to have bypass surgery just over a month ago. Thankfully he’s recovering nicely and we’re getting a little closer to “normal” again, but needless to say many things have been shelved for the past few weeks. I’ve so wanted to write on my blog so many times and only managed once.

I’ve probably learned more in this intense time than I’ve had time to record, but perhaps this will help me to process some of my experiences as I write.

And so I’m thrilled to be able to share with you today some of the things I’ve been learning this fall, whether serious or silly.

*****

 homemade iced coffee

1. Iced coffee was NOT invented in the US (or New England, for that matter!).

For how much folks around here love  are utterly devoted to their iced coffee, I thought for sure that it was invented in the US, and surely somewhere in New England, but it isn’t true.

The first “iced coffee” beverage was probably invented in Algeria, and the iced coffee we know and love today in the United States came much later.

 

2. I will usually fit an activity or responsibility into whatever time-frame I have available.

I guess I’ve been learning this my whole life.

It started back in college when I would stay up some nights and write (freehand, of course; computers were rather new and hardly used), a term paper in one copy, because I had left it until the last minute, forcing me to get the job done in the most efficient manner.

Recently, I’ve been cranking out my quarterly posts in record time, causing this “recovering perfectionist” to throw caution to the wind and just do it, as life has been full these past few months.

 

3. I’m learning how to brew good coffee in a french press.

With the sudden “death” of our Kuerig coffee maker, I temporarily used my French press to make coffee several times. While I am certainly not a pro, I found some good help and succeeded in making some decent coffee before purchasing our new coffee system. My French press skills may still come in handy when we are without power or a decent machine.

I found an article containing a great detailed description of French press coffee brewing methods, and for a more simple approach, I found a handy guide. I used both in my quest for good French press coffee.

Bodum French press

4. I learned the difference between licence and license. 

“Licence” is a noun, while “license” is a verb. According to this article, it’s very similar to the difference between practice and practise (although not in the USA, where “practice” is used for both noun and verb). I feel like I must have been taught this in English grammar class at some point, though I don’t claim to remember.

 

5. I knew that almonds were good for you, but now I understand why.

In this article, Dr. Axe shares the details of why this nut is such a popular healthy snack. Almonds contain healthy fat and boast many other significant health benefits. Raw almonds (and almond butter) are probably my favorite snack along with an apple or some dried fruit.

 

6. I learned about wheat pellets.

I had never heard of this popular Mexican snack food, but something caused me to look it up online. It is made of puffed wheat and often flavored. I have yet to try such a snack, but if so many people like it, it might be worth trying. This blog post contains some helpful information along with some personal experience if you’d like to learn how to prepare this interesting snack.

 

Boat in the golden hours

7. The best lighting for most outdoor photography takes place during the Golden Hour.

I’ve been taught years ago that the best lighting for outdoor picture-taking is just after sunrise or just before sunset, but just recently learned that photographers have given it a name: the golden hour. Bright sunlight looks nice in real life, but it can be difficult to get a nice photo in such harsh, bright light. In the golden hour, the light is softer and warmer, and you’ll find it easier to get beautiful photographs in this light.

Pumpkins in the golden hours

8.  I was 10 when “Slime” was invented.

In 1976, Slime was born. This sticky, slimy, fun substance was thought up by some brilliant mind at Mattel, and was originally green in color and sold in a little green trash can. Over the years many variations were invented (such as Slime with worms), and people have even figured out how to produce their own Slime.

 

9. Jon Bryant is a Canadian musician I’d like to listen to.

I heard this song by singer and songwriter Jon Bryant, and learned he’s a Canadian based in the Maritimes.

From the sounds of this lovely piece, I think I’d enjoy listening to more of his music.

 

10. I researched a little more about the health benefits of oats.

I also learned the differences between some of the different types, such as steel cut and rolled oats. This page from LiveStrong contains several posts explaining everything from the different forms of oats, to health and nutrition benefits, to how to prepare them. I have been including oats in many of my breakfasts and enjoy eating them in many different forms, such as baked oatmeal, overnight oats, and breakfast cookies.

 

11. Here’s the “miracle” method of removing clear oil/grease spots from clean laundry.

In a recent phone conversation with my dear sister, we got on to the topic of laundry, more specifically those pesky little “grease” spots that seem to appear on too many freshly laundered items. I’m still not sure exactly where they all come from, but now I know one solution! (Thanks, Becca!)

Simply take an old (cleaned) toothbrush and gently work a little baking soda into the clear grease stain. Leave it in for about five minutes. Then brush out the powder with your toothbrush and either shake to remove more particles (or rewash if it’s hard to remove).

That’s it! I’ve tried this several times since she shared this simple trick, and am happy to say that it works like a charm. Good-bye you greasy little spots!

 

12. You can make decent mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.

On this year’s unique Thanksgiving Day celebration I was commissioned to make mashed potatoes for about 30 people. Since this year the job would fall mainly to me (with help from my sons while my husband was recovering from surgery),  I began to search the internet for ideas for making potatoes for large crowds and/or in advance, and came across several methods for making them in a crock pot.

The beauty of using a slow cooker is that you can make them ahead of time and they’ll stay nice and warm. The other big draw for me was that they can all be made in one pot, without the need to drain and wash multiple pots and sieves.

So I pulled out my two trusty slow cookers and set out to cook about 15 pounds of potatoes.

After perusing and pinning several recipes to consider, I finally settled on this more basic, but good slow cooker mashed potato recipe.

Making mashed potatoes in the slow cooker

Making mashed potatoes in the crock-pot

13. I finally learned the history behind why (my) part of Canada (and a few other parts of the world) enjoy their milk packaged in bags.

For a good part of my growing up years in Canada and to this day on our visits to Canada, I’ve had milk served from a plastic bag in a little plastic pitcher.

It wasn’t always this way; I do remember having a milk box for delivery of jugs (plastic, I think), but later it was mostly sold in bags. I don’t remember the change and certainly hadn’t thought up why this practice began. I guess it had mostly to do with converting to the metric system (which also happened in my growing up years).

I did always wonder if it was a practice for all of Canada, or more limited to the area where I grew up (in the Niagara Peninsula). Since my sister posted about this on Facebook, we were able to glean responses from many folks from all different locations. We discovered that it is not used in all of Canada, but even more surprisingly, that some rare parts of the United States and even different countries such as South Africa sell milk in bags as well!

I guess it’s really true that great minds think alike! 😉

 

14. I really can depend on my GPS and drive in difficult places.

Since my husband’s bypass surgery “adventure”, I’ve had to learn to depend on my GPS and drive where I’m not comfortable. I had friends go with me and even drive me on hard days, but am proud that I progressed beyond my driving comfort zone.

 

15. God provides the people we need just when we need them.

You can read more details in my last post, but it was confirmed to us again and again through this traumatic event that friends, family, acquaintances, and medical staff come through when you need them. We had such support in both prayer and practical ways all along this interesting journey. My natural family is far away so they could only pray and chat with me, but those who are near us surprised us with their love and help. We are truly thankful.

 

*****

 

 

Algonquin Park area lake dock

What I Learned This Summer

Where, oh where did the summer go?

Isn’t that the same question we usually ask at the end of August or when the calendar flips to September? It’s been good, I wish it had seemed longer, but I’m thankful all the same.

Here’s a list of some things I learned along the way, in no particular order. I’m pleased to link up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned list again this quarter. Enjoy!

 

13 Things I Learned (June to August 2017):

 

 

 1. I learned the definition of “saccharine”.

It’s meaning of relating to or resembling sugar,or being sickly sweet leads me to the obvious conclusion that this must be where the name of a common (but not healthy, in my opinion), non-sugar sweetener, “saccharin” comes from.

 

2. You can eat radish greens.

When I acquired some nice-looking fresh radishes, I set about checking to see if the greens (like so many others, such as beets), are edible. It turns out they most certainly are, and here are some nice recipes, too.

I remember my Grandmother teaching us as children that there were certain weeds, found right in our yard or “accidentally” in our vegetable garden, that were also good to eat.

One that I thought I remembered her telling me about is Pigweed, but when I look at the pictures online I learned that the one I was actually thinking of is called Lamb’s Quarters.

Maybe our ancestors were wise to realize that while ridding their gardens of unwanted weeds, they were actually harvesting something healthy to eat.

 

3. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to type with all the correct fingers of one hand when you’re missing use of just one finger in the other hand.

I found this out the hard way when I cut the tendon on my left index finger this spring. It was some time before I could use my finger to type on a keyboard, even after the bandage and splints came off. (I’m still in the recuperating process, more than four months later!)

less hustle more grace

You would think that one could simply use all 9 remaining healthy fingers to type, and simply not use the one that didn’t work, but apparently my brain thought otherwise. I could either type normally with my right hand and pick out the letters with the left, or I could simply type with just one finger (like a kid who doesn’t know how to type yet). I became quite adept at pecking out the letters surprisingly quickly, but was relieved when I got enough strength and flexibility to carefully use my index finger to type again.

The brain is an amazing (and scary) thing!

 

4. I tasted my first cucamelon.

Last summer and fall I had the privilege of working on a local farm for several months. I planted, dead-headed and watered plants early in the season, and ended with helping to run the farm-stand when the vegetables began to be ready to harvest and sell. This year, although I have another wonderful job that I love at the library, I still have a day to work at the farm stand, a job I find rather peaceful and pleasant.

My farm boss and friend gave me a handful of these little fruits to try (and share with my family). Cucamelons look like tiny watermelons, but taste like a cucumber. I thought they tasted rather “pickle-y”, but they were fun to try. I love learning about and tasting new foods!

 

5. While visiting my sister this summer, she taught me the best method to keep berries fresh the longest.

We went strawberry picking and used this method, which she had learned and tried with great success. Using white vinegar to clean the berries and storing them carefully lined between layers of paper towels really does help to keep fresh berries for much longer than I had ever seen. Give it a try!

 

6. While the most calls are made on Mother’s Day, the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.

While writing a short post awhile back, I learned this interesting fact. Do you remember, especially before cell phones, when collect calls were more prevalent? I’m sure I’m dating myself, but it was fun to revisit this method of communication.

It’s interesting to note that apparently people consider it important to take care of mom on her special day, but that they still rely on good old dad when it comes to needing assistance.

 

7. I heard a good tip for for making zucchini lasagna less watery.

I’m not quite sure where she learned this tip, but my sister told me that you can remove the excess liquid in your zucchini lasagna with a turkey baster, reduce it, and use the resulting thickened liquid it as a yummy lasagna sauce.

I may just try it!

 

8. (Apparently) Costco is a great place to work.

We recently joined Costco in order to purchase my new hearing aides. It’s one of those wholesale clubs where you can buy quality items at a good price, as well as many food and grocery items usually in bulk.

As a side note (and I’m not getting any commissions for this), it was a blessing to find that Costco offers great quality hearing aides at a fraction of the cost of most other vendors. (I’ve had a slight hearing loss since about second grade, and have worn hearing aides for close to fifteen years now. )

So we purchased our membership and drove a little farther than usual to take advantage of this deal.

As I was looking at some information about the store, I learned that Costco seems to be a great place to work! They appear to have figured out that if you treat (and pay) your employees well, it’s more profitable in the long run.

It’s just one more reason I’m happy to support this business.

 

9. Forelle pears are beautiful and tasty!

At one of our trips to the above mentioned warehouse store (see #8), we purchased some pears I had never heard of before. It turns out Forelles are a new favorite of mine, with their crisp but sweet flavor. I’m thinking they are more rare (and the following article supports this), as I’ve never seen them before or since.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for this delicious variety in the future!

 

10. I learned about the importance of “Whitespace”.

For many years now, my church has had the privilege of being a host site for a well-known leadership conference. When we are able to participate, we enjoy hearing from many amazing and wise leaders from many walks of life speaking on a variety of helpful subjects.

One of the seminars that impacted me the most was Juliet Funt’s teaching on Whitespace. I truly believe that this idea, along with so many others about “leadership”, could positively impact not only our workplaces and businesses, but our churches, homes, and families as well.

It shouldn’t be surprising that creating space in which to slow down and process information will cause us to be more creative and productive.

 

 

11. You can freeze string beans (and many other veggies) WITHOUT blanching first.

Did you know that you can freeze string beans without blanching first?

When I was growing up on two acres my family grew a large vegetable garden. Consequently, my mother filled a huge chest freezer with the products of our labours, to be enjoyed all year long. Corn, beans, beets, tomatoes, and strawberries were just a few of the things we enjoyed, even through the winters.

Back in the day as I recall, before freezing, produce had to be blanched. I was taught it was a necessary step, lightly cooking the vegetables in boiling water before putting them in the freezer.

As an adult, I keep learning that many of the vegetables I thought needed to be blanched first can certainly be frozen as is, without blanching!

Here’s a helpful post to fill you in on all the details of blanching string beans.

Anything that can save us valuable time and energy and still produce a safe and healthy product is a win-win in my books!

 

12. I clarified why I’m stuck somewhere between metric and Imperial systems.

I grew up with my family in Ontario, Canada, and consequently, at some point was caught up the the transition from the older Imperial system of measurement to that of the metric system. When I became an adult, I went across the border to attend bible college in New York state. There I met and married my American husband, and reside with him and our sons in New England, where he grew up.

I’ve had to use both metric and Imperial over my lifetime, and I find myself feeling confused and not completely on top of either system.

I remember learning metric in school and can easily work with this system on paper, but think mostly in terms of old Imperial measurements when it comes to lengths and distances. I’ve driven in both countries, so am familiar with both kilometers and miles, but understand distances in miles better. As for temperatures, apart from the more obvious freezing point (0 degrees Celsius), and boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) of water, in day to day life I only recognize temperatures in Fahrenheit. I have been told, but never remember the corresponding temperatures in Celsius.

So why do I find myself in such a quandary?

I recently looked up exactly when Canada made this change from one system to another, and low and behold, it all happened to me from the ages of about five to ten or eleven years old! 

No wonder I am so confused! Right through much of my formative years, I was in the middle of a giant, country-wide transition!

I’m not sure if it makes my reality any better, but at least I know I have a reason for knowing bits and pieces of each system, and being a master of neither.

 

13. I really NEED quiet times of peace, especially in nature.

I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and being in nature.

I grew up with a big, two-acre yard in the countryside, with farms and space around me. I also had a father who was a teacher and a mother who worked at home for most of my childhood, and because of this, we were able to do so much in the summer, including a long camping vacation (or sometimes more than one!).

As a married adult, my husband and I, and subsequently our family have always valued and loved most our quiet vacations spent in nature. We love being near or on water, and my favorite places are in what I would affectionately call, “cottage country” (or “up north”), where one can drive for miles through areas of trees and lakes.

One of my most favourite places on the planet (if not the most favourite!), is a large provincial park in northern Ontario known as Algonquin. I grew up going to this area for many of our vacations, then brought my husband there and eventually our kids. It’s a bit of a drive, but we love to spend vacation time there as often as life allows, often being joined by my parents and sometimes my sister and her family.

Even when home, I find that a simple hike in the woods, sitting by or boating on a quiet lake, or even enjoying the ambiance of a campfire are some of my favorite past-times. But not only that; I’m recognizing more and more that these types of activities bring life to my soul.

I cannot accurately describe the feeling I get when I am able to soak up the peace and beauty that nature provides. Something within me calms, rejuvenates, and releases a contented sigh.

On the way home from our early vacation to a cottage in Algonquin this summer, I was trying to express to my husband how much I’m realizing that I actually need these peaceful and life-giving experiences.

I want to intentionally include them more often, even daily in little ways. Things like taking the time to sit outside in the sun, walking peacefully through falling snow, or even sitting in my kitchen with a hot beverage in hand, gazing out of my window can bring needed revitalization in the midst of everyday life.

I’m so thankful for the blessing of God’s creation and times of peace and solitude.

 

Cottage neighbour's boat near Algonquin

 

Adirondack chairs at lakeside campfire

 

peaceful evening boat ride

 

Colourful evening skies on Oxtongue Lake

 

Wilderness lake near Algonquin

 

Flower on the water taken from canoe

 

fox near Algonquin road

 

firepit at Oxtongue Lake cottage

 

Morning quiet time view from cottage dock on Oxtongue Lake

 

*****

I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve learned this summer. Perhaps you learned a little something new or even something about yourself!

 

tubing at Darien Lake with family

The Serious Value of Play

Today’s short post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the prompt of the day is “play“.

*****

tubing at Darien Lake with family

Lazy River ride at Darien Lakes amusement park. (Yes, that’s me on the right.) 🙂

 

Children love to play.

So why is it that as adults, we find it so difficult to stop, let loose, and relax or have some fun?

I know we’re busy, especially if you have a spouse and/or a family. Our culture seems to thrive (or thinks it does) on being busy.

Perhaps you’ve learned along with me that we have to make time for the things that are really important to us. It will not just happen.

And I’ll bet that most of us as adults don’t appreciate the serious value of play.

Playing or enjoying leisure time and activities does much to relieve stress, helps our bodies (and minds, and emotions, etc.) to heal, allows us time to create and imagine, and rejuvenates us. It helps us to simply enjoy life.

Play and rest from work give us needed strength and renewed motivation to tackle our responsibilities, pressures, difficulties and joys with new vigor, both physically and mentally.

My personality tends to easily get caught up in getting things done, but when I don’t take time to stop and rest and enjoy my life, an important inner need is not met.

We just returned from a wonderful family vacation.

The weather was far from perfect, but we played indoors while it rained, enjoyed simply being together, and made a point of taking advantage of every sunny moment. We even went out to play under the clouds almost every time the rain stopped.

I was talking to my husband on the way home about how we need to work on taking time each day (even if it can only be a little), and more often each week or month to do fun things both individually and as a family.

My online Pilates group has a monthly health mission, and for July our assignment is to find time to play.

I know I need to purposefully create precious pockets of time (both big and little) to do things that refresh me and bring life to my body, mind and soul.

So forgive me if I sound like a kindergarten child, but I need to ask you a question.

Do you want to come out and play?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

The Worth of a Father

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

Dad watching his upside-down daughters (I’m the older one), as we climbed a mountain trail on family vacation.

Today I’m joining the crowd at the Five Minute Friday link-up (a little later, obviously, since it’s Sunday already). The word prompt for this week is “worth“, and I’d like to dedicate my writing on this Father’s Day to my own father, and to include mention of some other important fathers in my life.

Special thanks to my sister for providing me digital copies of several old family slides mostly taken by my mother of us as children. They have brought me joy today and reminded me of many special childhood memories.

I may be pushing the five minute mark again just a bit (OK, a lot, but it’s important!), but will keep things mostly unedited in the spirit of the challenge.

Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad!

*****

What is the worth of a father?

It can’t be put onto words, but the value of a good father is reflected in his children and in how he affects the lives of those around him.

My Dad & I many years ago

Dad & baby Ann (many years ago!)

We can mostly agree that while a good father influences others for good, in the same way a father can negatively impact his children for the rest of their lives.  We’ve all seen examples of children who really struggle in areas of life or sometimes need inner healing as adults from the turmoil of a poor father-child relationship (whether “negative” or just nonexistent).

I’m thankful for my own good father, as well as some other special fathers in my life. Though imperfect, they have impacted those in their lives in a positive way.

My husband is a wonderful father to our now almost grown sons. He has led them through his life and changed them with his love. He manages to keep us all laughing and enjoying life in the process.

My husband’s late father loved his family and fought for them, both in family life and in the Second World War. His life ended after a valiant fight with cancer, but the honor of his memory and the love he shared will always bless his family as well as many others.

My sister’s husband showed up just at the right time, to “rescue” her after the death of her first young husband, and has brought much joy and love into her life, as well as being a superb father to their three sons. He is a gifted musician, and also “fathers” many other lives in his role as an associate pastor.

My husband’s sister also married a wonderful man, who has been not only father to their now-grown son, but has always been one to reach out and care for our family. He would do anything to help out using his talents in construction and house-building, and he has cared tirelessly for his wife for years.

Even though my father’s father (my grandfather) endured the fear and hardship of becoming blind as a young man, he was truly one of the happiest, most fun (even silly!) people I’ve ever met! He always found fun in each circumstance, and “saw” more than most of us with two properly functioning eyes. He would often jokingly respond in our conversations with the words, “I see”, accompanied by a smile and his usually peaceful demeanor. Even though he couldn’t provide for his family in the traditional sense, he gave them an exceptional example of joy and courage, and even creativity. He wrote and performed folk music for many years, even performing before the Queen Mother when she visited Ontario many years ago.

Now I’d like to focus for a few minutes on my own father on this Father’s Day.

My Dad was a big part of many of the family memories growing up that were shared in the post I dedicated to my mom.

Dad played a lot with us when we were children, and we enjoyed his being silly with us through the years. Laughter and fun seem to follow wherever Dad goes. He spent much time outdoors with us, either teaching us about gardening or playing in our large, two-acre yard, or taking us camping as a family (often twice in a summer; one of the perks of being in the teaching profession).

Dad pumping water for my sister and I to drink

Enjoying a cool camp drink.

He was always teaching us, whether it was the facts of science, the wonders of nature, or the things of God. I often had my English corrected in our home, but even if I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I now realize the benefit of knowing how to speak correctly.

Dad was a lover of animals, whether that meant teaching us how to care for and enjoy our pets (mainly cats), instilling in us an appreciation for the animals of nature, or on rare occasions, having to “help” an animal by making the difficult decision to let them go.

Once when I was caring for my best friend’s hamster while she was on vacation, my dad was a great support to me. I walked into a room to find that yes, one of our cats had somehow got into the cage and killed her hamster. Although they were both peacefully laying on the floor, I was devastated at what had happened to my friend’s pet, especially under my care. I’ll never forget how Dad came and gently picked up the hamster, stroking his fur as we prayed (just in case God saw fit to bring him back to life).

We often had the benefit of enjoying his class pet at home (usually a hamster, but including chickens and other animals), to care for it over school vacations.

My mother did most of the Christmas shopping, but as a young girl, I vividly remember some of the special gifts that Dad picked out especially for me. He would buy us just one more thing that was just from him, even though the shopping was supposed to be finished. One such gift was a special scented soap (Yardley, I believe), in a yellow case that he chose for me one year. We also made it a fun habit to work on a craft sort of project since we all had time off during the holidays, even though many times it sat unfinished when school started again.

Dad liked to take impromptu drives to look at nearby Niagara Falls and then eat at Joey’s Pizza, and we sometimes drove the almost two hours to watch airplanes take off and land at the Toronto airport. We also drove to many provinces and states during our summer camping trips.

climbing a dam wall with my dad

Dad, Rebecca, and I climbing a water dam. Kind of depicts our personalities…

I have some fond memories of helping Dad to decorate his school classroom and make copies on the ditto machine. We also grew up drawing on the clean side of the many extra school papers that Dad brought home for us to use.

He has apologized to me as an adult, for trying to make me “too perfect”, to which I generally joyfully respond, “Well, you succeeded!” I never felt my parents were too strict; but rather raised me lovingly with firm values that I have carried with me all of my life. I appreciate the many times Dad would humble himself to apologize when he felt that he had failed, a practice that I have learned to do with my own children.

In my adult life, my dad has continued to be a support to myself and our family.

When my mother had cancer, dad loved her and served her well, learning to do many of the household chores that she usually did as a stay-at-home mom. Later he was a tremendous support to my sister and her first young husband throughout his battle with Hodgkin’s disease. He also thoughtfully cared for both of my grandmothers as they aged, often driving them to their appointments. He has been, and remains a faithful friend to many.

We still have a lot of fun together, and my father continues to be a support to us all. He has managed to remain sensitive to our hurts and griefs, yet always maintains an attitude of unshakable faith and almost childlike trust, through all of our difficult times. I know he has prayed for us throughout these many years.

He has kept himself “young” over the years by participating in magnificent church plays and singing in choirs and worship teams (carrying on in his musical father’s footsteps), by remaining active physically (riding a motorcycle and more recently a scooter); he’s participated in missions trips and run several businesses from home since retirement, and still enjoys driving a small school bus (enjoying the fun of the school children without all the grading and disciplining of running a classroom).

He continues to grow and learn and become a better husband, even as a senior. He has taken steps to overcome fears such as height phobia (such as flying in a friend’s little airplane and driving on scary mountain roads with steep drop-offs), as well as shown me that we can learn to not let anxiety (about medical things and blood), rule our thinking and emotions. When I was a child, he completed his Masters degree at night school while being a full-time teacher during the day, and still managed to spend ample time with his family.

I’m sure I will think of more I would like to share, but suffice it to say that I’m proud to be my father’s daughter. I am thankful that God placed me in this family, and that now my own family has been sharing in the blessing of knowing my dad.

Thank-you for the worth and value you’ve added to our lives, Dad!

You have helped us to appreciate both the silly and the important things of life. We look forward to continuing to learn, grow and love together, as we add to the special family memories we share.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

What I Learned this Spring – March to May 2017

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

Welcome to another collection of What I Learned, an assortment of things I’ve noticed or learned that are serious, silly, interesting or emotional. It’s been a busy spring, and I’m grateful to have another opportunity to link up with Emily P. Freeman on her quarterly What I Learned page.

I’ve somehow managed to record quite a collection of miscellaneous points (20 in all!), but since my finger is still healing from a tendon injury and typing remains tedious, I’ll attempt to work against my natural inclination to detail, and be concise. Links will often be provided for you to peruse further information. I hope you enjoy this read, and learn a little or laugh a little with me.

*****

potted mint

 

1. Mint really likes growing in a pot on my windowsill.

I enjoy growing fresh herbs, and have tried to keep some on my windowsill throughout the colder months, as well as planted some in my outdoor garden in the warmer weather. Previously, I put the herbs on my sunny windowsill in their original little green plastic pots. They lasted for awhile, but eventually died, not surviving the winter.

Last summer I worked on a local farm and took advantage of that resource, probably outdoing myself with the number of herbs I purchased or received. I turned a small garden at the end of my driveway into an herb garden, and proceeded to re-pot others to try once more to help them survive the winter.

Well, I think I either chose more cooperative herbs and/or they just needed more growing room, as they mostly made it through the cold months in their roomy pots. In fact, my mint in particular (chocolate mint and spearmint) looks really happy and thriving.

indoor herbs in sunlight

 

And to top it all off, most of my herbs (the perennials) came up again in my garden early this spring!

 

herb garden in early spring

herbs outdoors in late spring

 

2. We tried a Galia melon for the first time and liked it.

While grocery shopping with a friend at Trader Joe’s this spring, I saw a melon that looked very similar to a cantaloupe, but is called a Galia melon. The inside was lighter in color, and the flavor mild. My thoughts were that the flavor seems to be somewhere between a cantaloupe and a honeydew.  According to this post, I guess I was very accurate! It was the first time we had ever tried or even heard of a Galia melon, but it was tasty!

 

3. I finally learned the meaning of the word “paroxysmal”.

I’ve had some dealings with that unpleasant condition known as “vertigo” over the past few years. The type I have been diagnosed with and treated for is known as BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It’s basically a condition of dizziness caused by crystals in the inner ear becoming dislodged and moving into one of the semicircular canals, causing a feeling of dizziness when the head is moved.

Although I’ve known the name of the condition for some time now, I never understood the meaning of the word, “paroxysmal” in the title. A paroxysm is “a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of disease, usually recurring periodically”, which helps to explain the sudden and intense nature of this condition.

Thankfully there are treatments available to help ease or eliminate the symptoms, and most therapists or doctors will teach their patients to do these exercises at home. I’m sure thankful for these medical helps.

 

4. I’ve learned of a cheaper and therefore appealing online mattress company.

After experiencing confusing and less than satisfactory mattress shopping, Tuft & Needle was started by two men.  Their aim is to cut out the middlemen and unnecessary expenses, while still delivering a high quality product. It is delivered to your door in a compact box, and the mattress will expand once opened. They even give you 100 nights to test your new mattress!

Sounds like a product worth checking out!

 

5. The Baikal seal is the only true freshwater seal species.

One of the smallest types of types of seals and the only seal species that live exclusively in fresh water, the Baikal seal lives in the waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

 

6. I’m not sure the story about babies being raised without affection and dying is even true.

Haven’t you heard about a so-called experiment in which a group of babies had all their physical needs met but were not shown affection, and the result being that many of them died? Well, according to this writer, we’re not the only ones who have been told such an account. But apparently the tale is lacking solid sources. As I began to look into it, it appears that although there is evidence that humans need physical affection, there doesn’t seem to be an account of such an experiment.

How do these stories get started and passed around for so long?

 

7. There is a scientific reason why orange juice tastes bitter after brushing your teeth.

It is thought that it’s because of sodium laureth sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in most toothpastes. Apparently sodium laureth sulfate suppresses or reduces the taste receptors that allow us to taste something as “sweet”.

It could be another reason to use a more “natural” toothpaste.

 

8. I’m learning a bit about how to care for succulents.

After purchasing two cute little succulents in pretty handmade clay pots from some local high school students, I realized that I know little about how to care for them. I found a blog, Succulents and Sunshine, that seems to be a great resource if you are interested in growing this type of plant.

plants from high school sale

 

9. The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing natural wonder.

It’s hard to believe that this amazing set of rock formations on the north east tip of Ireland was created as a result of volcanic action. It looks like a truly remarkable place!

image of the Giant's Causeway

 

10. I’ve been waiting far too long between coats of nail polish.

I’m no professional when it comes to painting nails, but I do like to keep my toenails colored during the warm months when they are exposed. I’ve always thought that it was necessary to wait a long time (like 20-30 minutes?), between coats of nail polish. Well, it seems I’ve been completely wasting my time! According to one nail expert, two minutes is all you need!

I also found this article useful for more nail polish mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

11. Sharp knives really are considered more safe to use than dull ones (but they’re still scary).

I really don’t want to dwell on this topic (I didn’t even want to look at a sharp knife for some time after it happened), but since I cut my tendon on my left index finger and had to have surgery recently, I had to do just a little research to see if sharp knives really are more dangerous. The incident happened when I slipped while cutting watermelon, and resulted in my having to return to the hospital for surgery to repair the severed tendon.

I had at least one person tell me that they learned that you should keep your knives a little on the dull side. I had always heard the opposite, and interestingly enough, the knife that hurt me had only been sharpened a couple of weeks before.

After watching this short video and reading this article, I still think having sharp knives is the better way to go. But needless to say, I will never again handle a knife without caution and respect, and encourage us all to learn and practice safe knife use techniques!

index finger in splint and bandage

 

12.  It’s amazing how many wonderful and useful things you actually can do with one hand…..and how many simple things you can’t!

As a result of my injury, surgery, and current recovery process of my index finger, I have been amazed and frustrated by how much I depend on the use of one little finger! It’s interesting to see what jobs I have adapted to quite easily, while so many tasks require more mobility and/or strength than I have yet regained and remain difficult.

Never would I have imagined the work and inconvenience caused by a simple mistake in the kitchen! I won’t take it lightly when someone mentions that they are in physical therapy (now that I know how much time, effort and discomfort are often involved!) And as I progress in my therapy, I am growing more appreciative of simply having a body that works normally.

injured finger

 

13. I now know the meaning of “fractionated” coconut oil (sort of).

I won’t even begin to try to explain the details on this one, but will refer you to the “experts”. This article does a great job explaining what fractionated coconut oil is along with it’s uses. Fractionated coconut oil is defined nicely in this post , which is also informative in comparing it with extra virgin coconut oil. Here it is in a nutshell, according to the same post:

“Basically, it is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature, and extends the product’s shelf life.”

 

14. Chiffonade is a special technique used to thinly slice basil and other leafy green herbs and vegetables.

This method is used to slice basil (or other leafy greens) into pretty, thin, ribbon-like strips by stacking and rolling the leaves. You can read more details and view helpful photos here.

 

15. I have discovered that there are no federal laws governing food expiration dates.

This interesting article in the Los Angeles Times taught me that there no federal laws governing food expiration dates, many dates are not based on science, and that the resulting confusion leads to a lot of food waste (about 40 %!).

This is frustrating, to say the least!

 

16. Thankfully, cherries are really healthy!

I’ve always loved cherries. they are one of my favorite fruits! Over the years, I’ve been pleased to discover that these sweet, tasty treats have many health benefits as well. So when it comes to cherries, eat up!

 

17. Baby butter beans is another name for Lima beans.

A recent recipe I was making called for “baby butter beans“, which I had never heard of. It turns out that this is simply another name for Lima beans.

 

18. After 50 years, I’m still a bit of a “wimp” when it comes to injuries and medical procedures.

As mentioned in the above points (#11 & 12), I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience with injuring my finger. I have always found  injuries and certain medical procedures frightening. I have had to learn to relax, believe the truth and trust the doctors and medical experts who have cared for me, but it hasn’t been easy.

I thought I had come so far (and I have), but like many weaknesses in our lives, I still have a way to go. It was disappointing to me to still feel so afraid and nervous at so many points in this process, yet I’m also encouraged as I see myself growing to trust God more and learning how to better deal with difficult circumstances. I guess we never really stop learning and growing.

 

19. I really liked sharing a different little part of my life with my (far-away) sister.

Recently, I participated in another free challenge offered by Robin Long of The Balanced Life. I have been enjoying doing her Pilates workouts for over a year now, so much so that I joined the Sisterhood (her online subscription service) and have found it to be a wonderful part of my fitness and health journey.

My dear sister and I live about 500 miles apart, and as a result, we don’t often get to participate together in many of the daily activities that we love. I invited her to join us for a free, simple healthy eating challenge, and it was so fun being able to connect online with my sister and do this challenge together. It was also special to “share” some of the community and resources that I hold dear and find so helpful and enjoyable in my life, as well as to have my many online friends (“sisters”) “meet” my own flesh and blood sibling.

I’m so glad we could do this together!

my new mug

 

20. It feels strange to have my youngest child graduate from high school (but good, too).

We just celebrated the high school graduation of my youngest child (my second son). I’m not even sure it has totally sunk in yet. It has been strange and wonderful and bittersweet all at once.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when he was in his first week of kindergarten. I was waking him to get ready for school, and he said something like, “You mean I have to do this again???” I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but I was thinking, “Only about another 12 years!”

Well, here we are.

my son's graduation

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the many things I’ve learned this spring. Life is full of wonder and changes and growth, and I’m happy to be able to remember some of these things and share them with you.

*****

What have you been learning?