failures, heartaches, disappointments, yet somehow I know it will all be okay


we're men

"Do you want me to go in with you?" I asked as I dropped them off at the dance. This was Finn's first.
"NO!" Finn exclaimed. "We're men!"
And as he unbuckled himself from his booster seat, and he quietly admitted that he was a little nervous, I couldn't have felt more proud to send my two fine young men out into the world on their own.


we've reached stage smart ass

"Can I have the hot glue gun?" he asked.
"What do you need it for?" I asked back.
"For hot gluing," he smirked before grabbing the tool and heading to the basement.
I should have seen that coming.


sunday in the kitchen

 As the overwhelm of the season threatens to get the better of me, I pause in gratefulness for our abundance.



"Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans" - John Lennon

And so it has been with me - life. The everyday busyness of life that has kept me from this space...from completing a project I set out to complete before I turned 40. And now here I am...40. And life is still rolling along, project completed or not. And I'm okay with that. There was a time I would have beat myself up for not finishing something. But I'm 40 now. I'm done beating myself up over the silliest of things. I deserve better from myself. I'm over the guilt trips, the fear trips, the I'm-too-busy traps. It's time to live this beautiful, crazy life unbound. Here we go!


40 in 36

"You know what my greatest personal stumbling block is? My shyness." - Susan Lucci


40 in 37

My mom was the homemade-cookies kinda mom. No store-bought cookies were sent in our lunch pails - not until we were older and the time came when buying pre-packaged baked goods became cheaper than actually making them yourself. I was always envious of those kids who pulled out the crisp, black and white Oreo cookie from their Star Wars lunch pails. The dull, brown homemade peanut butter cookie that came out of my Holly Hobbie lunch pail certainly paled in comparison. Oh, what I wouldn't give to trade for one of those store-bought beauties? How far would I go to get me some mass-produced baking? I'd ditch my little brother in the streets of Hensall, that's how far!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and all the kids in the neighbourhood were outside playing in the cul-de-sac. It was the perfect spot to play - quiet, no traffic, all the parents could keep an eye out for our shenanigans. We must have grown bored with the game we were playing at the time - probably Dukes of Hazzard on our bikes - because one of the kids asked if I wanted to go back to his house for a snack, a snack I knew would have come from the store. Well, my little brother caught wind of this plan and wanted to come along. I had no interest in sharing this moment with him, so off we ran, leaving him in the dust. He tried to keep up, but we were older and faster. We left him in the dust. He finally caught up to us as we sat in the neighbour's kitchen eating Fudgee-os. Fudgee-os! Oh the rich, chocolately deliciousness. I had never had them before in my life and I enjoyed every bite as my brother kicked and cried at the front screen door. Completely ignoring him, I ate the last of the cookies before we waltzed out of the house, ready to play again. I can't stand the taste of Fudgee-os anymore - guilty?


40 in 38

"Friends will come and go, but you will always have your brothers and sisters." If I had a dollar for every time that phrase was repeated by either of my parents, I'd be a wealthy woman. This was one of their more subtle ways of guilting us into liking one another. To stop beating each other up, to stop being mean to one another, to stop fighting! With kids all growing and changing and being and trying to figure out how to just live together and not get lost in the shuffle, there were bound to be scuffles...lots of them! But of course, we didn't really get what they were trying to say to us - no matter how many times they said it, friends were way cooler than stinky, annoying brothers, and sometimes it was just plain entertaining to come up with new ways to push my sisters' buttons!

I'm the oldest of this family of five children. No, there was rarely a quiet moment in this house of three girls and two boys - but don't we look perfectly angelic in our Sunday best circa 1985? Don't be fooled. I'm sure the car ride home from this church family photo shoot left one of us in tears and another being ordered to his or her bedroom as soon as we got home. But we did love each other. I'm sure of that now. And while I spent many a brooding moment holed up in my room fantasizing what it would be like to be an only child, I now appreciate what my parents warned, you will always have your brothers and sisters and I'm pretty darn thankful to have mine. 

Now that I have two kids of my own who have known their fair share of battles, I honestly don't know how my parents survived us. And sometimes when I'm at my wits end, guess what I tell them?


40 in 39

My parents moved into a brand-spanking new home on a quiet cul-de-sac in the village of Hensall when I was about two. It's a beautiful, open-concept home that they still live in, although they are currently in the process of down-sizing. This space is central to most of my earlier memories, and despite the fact I almost died at the hands of this house, it will always be home.

Part of the open-concept design is a large, open stairwell that runs between the main floor and the basement. It's funny how memories blur together, isn't it? I remember a time when a family friend taught me how to slide down the banister of this great staircase. And I have in my mind that's what I was trying to do when I fell, but a two-year-old couldn't remember that, could they? Or am I remembering another moment? However it happened, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to climb the banister that separated the living room from the 9-foot drop into the basement. That's right, there was a time in my life when I actually had no fear! Down I went, landing on the basement floor. From the marks across my forehead, I apparently bounced off the edges of the wooden stairs before hitting the concrete floor at the bottom. Obviously I survived. And miraculously, I walked away with nothing but a mild concussion. My parents talk of having to keep me awake through the night and all the work that comes from caring for a concussed person. The rest of my family teases that knowing this happened to me explains so much! They're funny, aren't they?


40 in 40

I love hearing other people's stories. There's something about hearing snippets of a person's life that deepens that connection for me. I know as a child, I could not get enough of listening to family members tell their stories and memories of growing up. Some of them I had heard many times before, but that didn't matter to me. There was always a new detail added that I had never heard before or something that I had forgotten. I gobbled it all up! And I still do! 

In 40 days, I turn 40. I'm not sad or down about rolling into a new decade. I mean, the 30s were great and all, but oh so flipping exhausting with having babies and raising kids and losing jobs and just trying to keep my head above water. But as I look forward to this new decade that awaits me, I can't help but look back. I've spent some time over the last several months reflecting on my life. Not in a way that's filled with regrets and should-haves and wishes that I had made different choices. But simply reflecting on and remembering my stories. The events in my life that shaped me into the person that is ready to grab 40 by the horns. And with that, I'm embarking on a bit of a project. 40 stories in 40 days. Here it goes!

I was born Amy Rebecca Neilands on June 26, 1973. There was nothing hugely eventful about my birth, other than I came earlier than expected interrupting my mom's last day of work at Hensall Public School (impatient right from the get-go), and my dad missed the momentous occasion. This being my parents' first, I guess he was told there would be lots of time before I would arrive, so he figured he could finish up his golf game before heading to the hospital. Or so I've been told. I'm guessing it was a beautiful day if golf was on the agenda.(I stand corrected, he wasn't golfing but trying to get errands finished before their lives changed forever!)  And doesn't that look like a beautiful day when the above pic was taken of a first-time mom gazing lovingly at her first born? Of course, now that I'm all grown up and have been that first-time mom, I can almost read my mom's thoughts on that beautiful day. "Holy crap, now what?" Actually, she wouldn't have used such profanity...I'm the potty mouth. But that's a story for another time. 


the calm after the storm

The fighting is exhausting. Going out to cut the first of rhubarb lifted my spirits and I'm eagerly awaiting the quiet so I can put my feet up with red wine and fresh-baked muffin.


in bloom

Pausing to capture spring blooming all over made all the difference to my day.


sunday in the kitchen

"That's a lot of kale, you have there," said the older gentleman eyeing my over-flowing shopping cart. 

"I know," I exclaimed. "It's so good and it's on sale!" And with that, I happily made my way through the rest of the grocery store, looking forward to getting my four bunches of kale home so I could turn it into delicious salads, kale chips, stir fries, and more! 

I love kale. I eat it on a weekly basis and I know four bunches this week might be a bit excessive, but I have no doubt it will not be wasted! I've already made a batch of kale chips that are half eaten, and I can't wait to dig into this, my favourite salad, for supper! This recipe comes from a dear friend.
Wilted Kale Salad
1 bunch of kale chopped with a large middle stem removed
1/4 red onion
1 C sliced mushrooms
1 shredded carrot
1/3 C olive oil
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Prepare kale and red onion and place in large salad bowl. Heat oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add mushrooms and carrots and saute until mushrooms exude juice. Quickly add
balsamic vinegar to frying pan and cook for two minutes. Take off heat and stir in mustard. Quickly pour hot dressing over kale and mix well. The kale will turn bright green. Top with toasted sesame seeds.


sunday in the kitchen

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles M. Schulz
And with that quote in mind, I embarked on experimenting with chocolate in the kitchen today. Valentine's Day is coming up, after all, and there's nothing like a little chocolate treat to add to the love on this special day. Of course, the mention of working with chocolate in the kitchen had that wee Finn jumping at the opportunity to help out. And what we came up with was some dairy-free chocolate truffles that I know have no chance of lasting until the big day! 
In a medium-sized add:
2 C dairy-free chocolate chips
1/2 coconut fat (place can of full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours to allow fat to solidify. Open bottom of the can to drain off coconut water - save to use for soups, smoothies, etc. Scoop out creamy fat)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp of flavouring - we used orange flavouring for this batch. Peppermint would be a nice one too! Have some fun experimenting with different flavours!
Place bowl of ingredients over pot of boiling water - turn heat down to medium high. Stir ingredients as they are melting. Once fully melted and mixed together, remove from heat and refrigerate about 1-2 hours until solid.
Finn wanted to record the process....
but unfortunately we didn't realize there was no card in the camera until we were all done! We just might have to make some more for take two!
Once the chocolate has solidified, scoop chocolate and form into small balls and dredge in icing sugar. This is a messy process when your helper is 8-years-old.
All ready to eat...or box up for your Valentine!


sunday in the kitchen

I pulled a little potato love out from under my kitchen sink this afternoon. How perfect, I thought, as I peeled it and cut it into cubes, preparing it to give all its love to some homemade soup. Warming, nourishing, building, soup - the perfect meal on these cold winter days. I made two soups, actually. I love bulking it up to store away in the freezer for a ready-made meal when weekday nights get a bit hectic or to have on hand for quick lunches the whole week through. The first is a revision of a potato leek soup recipe G was handed down from his Gramma Z and the second is a sausage, kale, mung bean soup recipe I developed in the hopes mixing sausage with other goodness would entice that picky boy of mine to try something new. We'll see!
Potato, Leek and Bacon Soup
1/2 package of bacon
3 leeks
6 potatoes
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp curry
1/2 tsp paprika
6 C of soup stock
Slice up the bacon and fry up in a large soup pot. Remove bacon, leaving behind the bacon grease. Add onion, leek and garlic of pot and fry up until translucent. Add potatoes and spices, fry up for a few minuted before adding stock. Simmer until potatoes are soft. Puree soup and serve with a sprinkle of bacon on top.
Sausage, Kale and Mung Bean Soup
3 sausages with casing removed
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 C of dried mung beans soaked overnight
1/4 C spelt grains soaked overnight (optional)
6 C soup stock
1 tsp dried fennel seed
10 large leaves of kale sliced
Remove sausage from casing and fry up in large soup pot. Add onion and garlic and continue cooking until translucent. Add beans, grains and fennel, cooking a few minuted more before adding stock. Simmer until beans and grains are thoroughly cooked. Add kale before serving.


sunday in the kitchen

As long as I can remember I've known how to skate. I come from a skating family - a family that spent most of the winter at the ice rink. What else was there to do in Hensall in the dead of winter? If you were a boy, you played hockey. Everyone else went to the rink on a Saturday afternoon and skated around and around for an hour before the buzzer rang telling us it was time to leave the ice. I was always grateful to get off the ice so I could get off those skates my dad always seemed to tie just a little too tightly. It always felt so good to put my feet back into regular boots, to get full circulation back into my toes. And of course each visit to the arena ended with a visit to the concession stand where I could blow my 10 cents on a pack of rain-blo bubble gum - I always saved the red one for last.

G doesn't come from a skating family - he never really learned how to skate. So it is never really something we have taken up as a family. I've tried to teach my kids how to skate but they've never really liked it. But we certainly couldn't pass on the invitation to join my sister and her family for an afternoon skating party on a local pond. My kids love this place, and if it meant strapping their feet into skate, they were all over it! A funny thing happened, though. I seemingly forgot how to skate...or lost my confidence in my ability to skate! While I did manage one shaky ringer around the pond, I was just as happy to take off those tightly-tied skates in favour of my warm winter boots that give my toes lots of room to breathe. But those boys of mine, while a bit wobbly and prone to wiping out, spent the entire afternoon sliding back and forth between the ice and the fire for toasty snacks!

Of course every good skating party ends with a great Sunday dinner together for which I brought a classic grasshopper pie, made to suit the many changing dietary needs of those I love.

Vegan Grasshopper Pie
2 avocado
1 can coconut milk
1/3 C honey
1 tsp lemon
2 tsp pure mint extract
1/3 C dark chocolate chips melted for drizzling on top
Combine coconut milk and honey in a pot and boil at medium-high for about 1 minutes. Let cool before pouring into food processor with avocado, lemon juice and mint extract. Process until smooth. Pour into a pie crust - I used this grain-free recipe and added 1/4 C cocoa powder to the mixture. Top with drizzled melted chocolate and refrigerate until firm.


winter, we missed you

Snowshoes and snow boots, snow forts and frozen mitts, closed roads and windchills - winter, we're so glad you joined us this year!


sunday in the kitchen

We all survived our first week post-holidays and are all starting to feel like we're back into our pre-holidays rhythm. But there are some things we are still holding onto - like some of the flavours and foods we enjoyed over Christmas, including this delicious dairy-free candy cane ice cream we made quite a bit while we were off together. You see, I have a bit of a fondness for the PC brand candy cane ice cream that comes out each holiday season and with a new-to-us ice cream maker, I thought I would try and replicate that deliciousness for my dairy-free boy. It was such a hit, I couldn't tell you how many times we whipped up this treat, but it was enough to now know this recipe by heart! When I saw the natural candy canes on sale this week at the grocery store, I scooped up the last box so we could enjoy one last batch!
Candy Cane Chocolate Ripple Dairy-free Ice Cream
2 cans of coconut milk
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp mint extract
8 candy canes crushed
1/3 C dairy-free chocolate melted
Instructions may vary depending on your ice cream maker. Ours is hand-cranked in a drum that is pre-frozen for about 7 hours. So for ours, I pre-mixed the coconut milk, honey, crushed candy canes, and mint extract in a bowl before pouring it into the maker. 
It is a fun recipe for helpful little ones to participate in making.
 Once the mixture is in the ice cream maker, we stirred ours off and one for about 20 minutes. The instructions with the ice cream maker say to stir for about a minute and let it sit for a few minutes before stirring again.
The waiting between stirrings really is the hardest part!
While the kids were waiting and stirring and waiting and stirring, I melted the chocolate in a double boiler, or a bowl set over a pot of boiling water. Once the ice cream has become more solid, slowly pour in the chocolate while someone stirs the ice cream. The chocolate immediately solidifies and becomes nice and crackly.
All that's left is to scoop that goodness up and enjoy ever last drop!


this moment

searching for butterflies...
inspired by soulemama


it's a new year

On this first day of a brand new year, I spent it exactly as I resolved to spend the entire year - focused on keeping it simple.