sisters kayaking together

What I Learned This Summer

It’s time for another quarterly list of What I Learned, this time for summer 2019. Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and friends quarterly is one of the things I look forward to every three months. Please join me as we talk about various things we are learning, whether silly and fun or informative and serious. It seems this quarter has more than it’s share of unpronounceable words and food related items.

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1. I learned a new word, “tchotchke”, and discovered it’s meaning.

I don’t remember where I even heard this word now, but when I did I looked up it’s meaning and found it to define a knickknack or trinket. If you listen to the pronunciation of the word, it sounds like exactly what it is. I currently have a love-hate affair with “tchotchkes”, as my sentimental side seems to attach happy memories to objects, while my orderly (OCD?) side is frustrated with the amount of clutter I still need to go through in my home.

2. I discovered garlic scapes and learned how to cook with them.

Garlic scapes

Early this summer, at one of my first work days at my one-day-a-week farm-stand job, I discovered and acquired my first garlic scapes. I found out that they are the stalks that grow from garlic bulbs, and are usually harvested in order to allow the plant to send its energy into growing the garlic. They have a mild garlic flavor and crisp texture, and last well when refrigerated.

Many have discovered that scapes are not just rubbish to be thrown away, but tasty shoots that can be cooked and enjoyed as a special “free” treat from the plant (although if you purchase them, they aren’t necessarily cheap).

I brought home my garlic scapes and hurriedly researched ways to use them. This article has some nice ideas, while this one boasts some different ones. Suggestions include everything from scape pesto to soups to sauteing them on their own or in a stir-fry. I finally settled on this Garlic Scape Frittata recipe from Cedar Mountain Farm in Vermont. It was easy and delicious!

Garlic Scape Fritatta

3. I read that the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream is determined by concentration and consistency.

When searching for substitutions recently for these products, the same article assured me that I could use the cream from the top of a can of coconut milk as coconut cream in my recipe. I also discovered that you can make coconut whipped cream using the cream from canned coconut milk (although I did not chill my milk; I simply scooped out the thick cream, and I think I used my usual pure maple syrup as a sweetener).

4. Do you actually know how to correctly pronounce “ciabatta” bread?

This is another one of those words that I can read on paper just fine…until someone asks me to read it out loud from a menu. So I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and listened to the voice recording to get it just right.

Although I have a variety of nationalities in my make-up, can you tell that not one of them is Italian?

5. Our recent participation at the Soulfest in New Hampshire got me thinking about the first Christian music festivals, and how they impacted my life.

I have fond and life-changing memories of some of the very earliest Jesus (music) festivals that I attended with my parents in the early and later seventies (and probably into the eighties).

My first church was known for being quite conservative, so when my parents got information about a “Jesus festival” and decided to take some youth (with their pastor’s blessing) to an event with thousands of people joining together to learn and listen to all sorts of Christian music, it was a transformative experience for them, myself and many of the youth. My sister and I were fortunate enough to tag along for many years while Dad and Mom took many of our Christian youth to these encouraging and motivating celebrations.

Participating in several inspiring days of Christian music, teaching and fellowship with literally thousands (and even hundreds of thousands at the largest ones!), are experiences that I will never forget. Some of our favorite Christian artists and bands were there, including many of the founders of Christian rock.

The majority of the original Jesus festivals we attended were held at the Agape Farm in Pennsylvania, where similar Creation festivals are still held to this day. We’ve been blessed to attend other Christian music festivals in Virginia, NY state, and for several years here in New England, as well.

Phil Keaggy

At this summer’s Soulfest, my husband and I were tickled pink (an expression I almost never use, but it feels like the right way to describe how we were feeling) to see none other than early Christian rock music and guitarist legend, Phil Keaggy! It was a small venue, so we were able to get up really close and personal. We were both grinning from ear to ear as we heard and enjoyed many songs from our much younger days, bringing us back emotionally to the joys of our youth. I was almost moved to tears to see this amazingly talented, humble and gifted artist again and listen as he made his guitar sing. I realized that it was not only the music that moved me, but the recognition and remembrance of my own history and Christian heritage. It was a highlight of the festival for sure!

If you ever feel outnumbered or insignificant in your faith, attending one of these events will no doubt encourage and inspire you, too.

Soulfest 2019
Switchfoot
For King and Country
Candlelight Service

6. New England is home to two species of cottontail rabbits.

We usually enjoy any number of bunnies in our yard. Here is what Mass Audubon has to say about my wild pets:

Massachusetts is home to two species of rabbit, the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and the eastern cottontail (S. floridanus). The latter was introduced into the state before 1900 and is now the most common rabbit in Massachusetts. The native wild New England cottontail, probably as a consequence of this competition, has become rare throughout the region. 

https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/mammals/cottontail-rabbits/about

7. I finally confirmed why you truly should NOT reheat coffee (and the best way to reheat if necessary).

If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out these sources:

“Coffee is a one-time use kind of deal. You make it, you drink it and if it gets cold, you make some more. Reheating reorganizes the chemical makeup of the coffee and totally ruins the flavor profile. Some things just don’t work to reheat, and coffee is one of them. It’s always best just to brew a fresh cup.

https://www.tastingtable.com/cook/national/reheat-coffee-microwave-leftover-lacolombe-Caribou

The best way to reheat your coffee is by heating it up on the stove top on low temperature.

https://www.thedailymeal.com/drink/best-way-reheat-coffee

But really, just don’t do it.

8. We actually do like overnight oats after all.

Several years ago when my sons were young and I had to make four lunches for all of us each night, I also found out about overnight oats. I stayed up even later filling little mason jars with oats, fruit, yogurt and such to make convenient breakfasts for myself and my guys, trying every flavor imaginable and admittedly, pushing us over the edge a bit. I still liked them after a time, but realized that either my three men did not, or were simply sick of them from having them too much.

Fast-forward to this summer, when the night before leaving on vacation I discovered I had purchased too many strawberries and blueberries to eat before we left (and since we were visiting my parents in Canada, we could NOT take them across the border). I had seen some new overnight oats recipes from one of my favorite cooking blogs, and since they’re portable and last several days, I decided to give them a try.

Well, we either just liked these particular recipes better or just had enough of a break to appreciate them. We preferred the consistency and my husband particularly enjoyed them warmed up (which we had not realized was an option before). Give these recipes for Strawberry Shortcake and Blueberry Muffin overnight oats a try. The strawberry recipe tastes equally lovely with fresh peaches. (Oh, and I just found one for Peanut Butter and Jelly Overnight Oats that I want to try now, too!)

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Making overnight oats

9. Faith and family is everything.

See that picture of my sister and I kayaking up above? It really exemplifies our personalities (she as younger with arms enthusiastically raised; I as older just smiling quietly), represents the fun we enjoyed together, and reminds me how much I need and appreciate my family.

It’s been a year of ups and downs in our family, and especially living 500 miles away from my parents (and the same from my only sister and family), I realize more and more how much they mean to me.

I am also even more convinced that I absolutely depend upon my faith.

I’m thankful for the good and happy and hilarious times that help us through the scary, dark or uncertain ones.

I trust in a God who knows and cares for us all, and who provides my every need, even when I can’t understand the circumstances.

I will enjoy the memories new and old that make up the story of my life, and be grateful for every moment I’m given.

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Thanks for reading along with me as I share some of the things I’m learning this summer. Yes, it drives me a bit crazy to stop at an uneven 9, but summer isn’t officially over yet, so maybe I’ll learn at least one more thing before it’s all said and done.

And by now my coffee is lukewarm, but of course I’m resisting the urge to put it in the microwave. ūüėČ

What things are you learning this summer?

Blue sky with clouds and snowy branches

What I Learned This Winter

Blue sky with clouds and snowy branches

It’s one of my favorite times again, where I join Emily P. Freeman’s link-up about what we learned this past season. What a wonderful habit of recording and reflecting on things I’ve learned, both silly and serious and somewhere in between.

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10 Things I Learned This Winter:

1. The “January blues” is a real thing. – I often struggle with the end of the holidays and the transition into the new year, but I guess there’s an official condition known as the “January blues”. It’s similar to, but not the same as Seasonal Affective Disorder. That means that many people struggle with this same thing. It’s OK to recognize if you also have a difficult time with this post-holiday time of year. That is how we start to find a way to make things better

2. I just had to know how to open a paper potato bag.– Have you ever wondered how to open those paper bags that are closed with a row of string stitched across the top? In the summer and fall I spend one day a week working at a farm stand at a local farm. One of the tricky little things I’ve run across is this type of closure on a huge fifty pound bag of potatoes. No one seems to know how to unravel the string, and it’s certainly not obvious.

So finally I decided one day this winter that there must be a way to open this type of sewn paper sack without going crazy or getting completely frustrated. I found several videos and written explanations online, but this one is one of the nicest and easiest to follow.

The solution seems simple enough, but the real test will be the next time I’m confronted by one of those bags. You’re welcome.

3. This February was the first time I had ever heard of “Galentine’s” Day. – This imaginary holiday has apparently been around for almost ten years, but I had never heard of it. If you’re out of the loop just like me, Galentine’s Day is a special day to celebrate our female friendships on February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day. So if you’d like an excuse to shower your friends with appreciation and affection, by all means go for it. But if you are tired of trying to keep up with yet another “pretend” holiday, feel free to skip it, too.

Heart made of Lindor truffles.

4. I learned how to clear a drain naturally. – I’ve heard it said that you can clean almost anything with baking soda and/or vinegar. Well, recently I discovered that it just may be true.

We have a home with older pipes which seem to get clogged regularly. Over the years, we’ve had to spend money and dump too many gallons of toxic drain openers down our bathroom sinks, just to keep things running smoothly. One sink in particular was giving us a lot of trouble lately, so after several chemical treatments without luck, I decided to find out if there were any natural solutions.

One of the suggestions is to pour baking soda and then vinegar into the drain, followed by boiling water. (You can read about this idea here.) I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to see the water fizz and bubble and at least look like it was doing something. After a couple of tries, my husband came home and plunged the sink. This sink that had standing water in it for weeks was suddenly clear. I’d like to think it’s because of my natural remedy, but it could have been the plunging, or both. Only time will tell.

5. It’s possible that late people are more successful and live longer. – At least that’s what I read in an article in Southern Living. They suggest that those who are usually late are living more in the moment or are optimistically assuming that they can get more done in a certain time. I hate to disagree with the scientific evidence presented, but for me being late hasn’t seemed to be that beneficial. I’ve struggled with lateness over the years and worked hard to make improvements. The only thing I’ve felt in those times when I fall back into lateness is more stress and possibly embarrassment, as well as some degree of guilt or concern for those I’m causing to wait. I think I’ll take my chances and find success and fulfillment in other ways.

6. Pretzels were first brought to North America by the Pennsylvania Dutch. – While the earliest pretzels were made in Germany, years later in the 1700’s the Pennsylvania Dutch brought them to America. Pennsylvania is still first in production and consumption of pretzels in North America.

As a child, I had a best friend who came from Pennsylvania, and after several years in Canada living as my neighbor, their family moved back to that state. In subsequent years, my parents would drive me to Pennsylvania to spend a few days with my friend, while they enjoyed some vacation time in a nearby motel. I still remember visiting a local pretzel factory and have always thought that Pennsylvania makes some of the best pretzels. I think I was right.

7. I learned how simple it is to take a screen shot on my Android phone. – On my new phone, all I have to do is hold down the volume down and power buttons at the same time and the photo is saved to my gallery. Who knew? (Maybe you did, but it was news to me.)

8. I wasn’t using enough salt in my pasta cooking water. – According to Cooks Country magazine, their suggested ratio is 4 quarts of water to 1 tablespoon salt. And for all my years of cooking I’ve only added a sprinkle or at most maybe a teaspoon. Here’s to better pasta!

9.”I can care without carrying.” – In one of my recent quiet times, I was struck with how difficult it is as caring people to feel the burden of the needs and problems of those around us. As parents, we often feel the difficulties and fears of our children almost as strongly as they do themselves. Empathy and compassion are useful at times and can help others know they are cared for and not alone, but we cannot live in a state of constantly carrying everyone’s burdens as well as our own.

As I was thinking and praying about this, this phrase came into my mind: “I can care without carrying.” I think this simple statement will help to remind me that there are ways to show care and help someone without picking up and adding their burdens to my own.

10. I need a little “winter” before I can fully enjoy spring. – This has been an interesting winter. While many parts of the country seemed to get doses of winter dumped on them, here in New England it there’s been very little snow. We had some really cold days, but many unseasonably mild days mixed in. What little snow we had either melted away the next day or turned to rain and disappeared.

During one such storm in late January I turned on our Christmas lights, ran out of the house around midnight in my robe and slippers and snapped some pretty snow photos with my colored lights. By the next morning, it had turned to rain.

Christmas lights in fluffy, late January snow.
My Christmas lights in fluffy snowflakes around midnight.
Close-up of Christmas lights in late January snow.
Christmas lights in a pretty, late January snow.

We just had a couple of snow days this past week in March, and we had about fourteen inches of snow which is staying on the ground. As satisfying as it was to get a “real” snowstorm, I am now officially ready for spring.

view from window after snowstorm
The view from our bedroom window.
Our home in the snow.
Our home after the March 2019 snowstorm.

Thanks for joining me for another quarter of what I learned.

What have you been learning lately?

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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. ūüôā

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 ‚ÄĒ 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. ūüôā

 

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 negativity,¬†I’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?

*****

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.

*****

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‚Äôs obvious to you, the jaded library patron, wasn‚Äôt so obvious in the era before Melvil Dewey. Once a creative genius comes up with an innovation, a century later everyone thinks it‚Äôs obvious. If you think it‚Äôs 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! ūüėČ

 

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

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.

 

*****

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.

*****

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.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! ūüėČ

 

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.) ūüôā

 

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?

*****