humorous and heartfelt stories ~ healthy recipes made without gluten, dairy, or eggs ~ ideas for living well

My youngest son Will has an endearing little habit of filling his pockets with the many "treasures" he encounters in his daily adventures. I don't always understand the value he sees in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks can one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one is beautiful and important. His habit got me thinking about how life is just like that on a larger scale; we gather up the precious bits of our many experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you will find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pocket. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


This past Sunday morning, bright and early, Matt and the boys and I stuffed the back of our vehicle with food and summer gear and set off on an eight hour road trip up the highway towards home. We’re renting our friends’ beautiful cottage on St. Joseph Island again for part of the summer, where we can be closer to family, and nature, and a different kind of fun. It makes me happy that my boys now find that long drive on northern roads as exciting and nostalgic as I do.

It is quiet here on the Island. The cottage is nestled among trees at the end of a long gravel driveway and boat traffic on the lake is light. We do not have t.v. here, and our wireless connection is limited and sporadic.  It’s refreshing to be temporarily cut off from the constant noise of everyday life that sometimes distracts us from what really matters most to us.

In this peaceful environment we hear mostly the gentle lapping of the lake's water against smooth stones, the wind rustling the lush green leaves of the trees, and songbirds calling cheerfully to one another from their sheltered perches. When we're still, we're rewarded with visits from gentle, wild creatures: a doe who paused right outside the front window this morning to gaze quizzically at us, a family of Mergansers bobbing playfully along the shore this afternoon. The sun warms our skin during the day, and in the early mornings and evenings we bask in the happy glow of simple human pleasures, like Will snuggling under a favourite soft blanket to read peacefully, or Noah taking advantage of the quiet hour after his brother has gone to bed to have thoughtful conversations with his dad and me.

The noise we sometimes hear here is of our own creation. We play rowdy games of Pictionary after dinner and make up ridiculous songs about the funny cat graphics on one of Noah’s t-shirts. Will’s imagination runs wild in this place, evident in the lively character called Walter he’s suddenly invented, who looks exactly like Will but speaks with an outlandish accent and has a riotously clever sense of humour (which only Will, and not the dimwitted Walter, realizes). Noah entertains us with songs on his ukulele, and when the wind picks up in the afternoons and the waves crash mightily against the shore, there are shouts of glee from everyone who dares brave the chilly water.

It struck me this morning, as I watched the early beams of the rising sun dance across the rippling lake, that this beautiful scene, set against the backdrop of majestic evergreens and rock formations, happens every single day, regardless of who is paying attention. It seems such a stroke of good fortune that any of us are here to witness such a breathtaking bit of wonder.

If things seem to be all crickets around this blog this month, it is not because I have nothing to say. Quietness is very rarely empty. Rather, I'm enjoying a chance to find the remarkable treasures hidden within the quiet. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Banana Split Muffins (gluten-free, vegan)

About a year and a half ago, I was invited to participate in a March Muffin Madness event hosted by my blogger friend Shirley of gfe. When I asked the boys to help me brainstorm ideas for a new muffin recipe to share with her readers, they offered their usual suggestion of "Make something with chocolate!". I decided to indulge them by creating a banana split muffin recipe that was both decadent and healthy. The muffins were a huge hit at our house, and I received many enthusiastic comments about them from readers who were eager to try them out. Shirley recently suggested to me that I give my banana split muffin recipe a home on my own site now as well, so today I'm sharing it in full here. If you missed trying these muffins the first time around, now is the perfect opportunity, since fresh, sweet strawberries and cherries are both in season!

Banana Split Muffins

  • 2½ cups blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup certified pure gluten-free oats, ground
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water (stir and let stand for a minute to form a gel)
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • ½ cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • ½ cup chopped sweet dark cherries
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • 12 fresh banana slices, plus some extra chopped walnuts and dark chocolate for sprinkling on top of the muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and fill a 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, ground oats, sea salt, and baking soda.
  2. Whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla in a smaller bowl, and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine. (The mixture will be somewhat dry and crumbly.)
  3. Add the mashed bananas and the chia seed gel to the mixture and stir until a thick, uniform batter forms. Fold in the strawberries, cherries, walnuts, and dark chocolate.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 lined muffin cups. Place a banana slice on the top of each muffin and sprinkle some additional chopped walnuts and dark chocolate on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool and serve.

Baking muffins is a great way to pass time with the kids on a rainy summer day. (That's exactly what we've been up to this afternoon at our house!) These banana split muffins make a delicious breakfast treat to share with family and friends on happy summer mornings.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Etsy: Summer Treasures

I love the way that long summer days and lightened summer schedules give us time for discovering happy little treasures. This morning's find at our house was two baskets' worth of sweet black raspberries that were growing wild in the tangled mess of weeds that have lined the construction site on the other side of our back fence for several years now. I've often found the existence of that overgrown lot to be a nuisance, but I was glad for it today when I spotted the sweet offerings of the thorny vines that had pushed their way through the fence into our garden. We've been enjoying juicy, sunkissed raspberries by the handful all day today.

The summer months are full of treasures waiting to be found with a bit of exploring. Today I'd like to share with you some of the beautiful handmade ones I've discovered on Etsy recently.  I think these items, from creative artisans in countries all over the world, sum up much of what makes summer so enjoyable.  (Click on the highlighted text to find out more about each item.)

Porcelain Berry Basket from Heirloom Home Studio

Pretty, lightweight Turkish Cotton Beach Towels from Havlum

Negril Beach Chair from Gallant and Jones

Vintage Map Journals, perfect for summer travels, from Handmade Books By Kate

Rainbow Sailboats, for little adventurers, from Mama May I

Striped Tote Bag from Bayan Hippo

Scrabble Tile Pillow Covers from Dirtsastudio (fun cottage decor!)

Bangle Charm Bracelet from Imprinted Designs

Caravan Tea Towel from Emma Allard Smith

Ceramic Honey Pot and Dipper from Stuck in the Mud Pottery

Milan Straw Summer Fedora from HatsNCompany

You may want to do some exploring of your own on Etsy's online global marketplace this summer. Who knows what other lovely treasures you'll find....

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Canada Day, in photos

Cute little cousin swinging in a hammock chair

A pause for a smile between cartwheels and walkovers

Dancing brothers

A beautiful butterfly that let us all know Grandma was with us, too

Strawberry mango guacamole from the oh she glows cookbook

Warming up in the sunshine

Sweet little swimmer

Wacky water moves

Lemon strawberry shortcakes with fresh local berries

Digging in

Sparkler celebration

So happy and fortunate to live in such a beautiful country, and to have such a wonderful family to celebrate with.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Naturally Sweet Strawberry Lemonade

Summer vacation got off to a bit of a false start this past weekend.  Matt and the boys and I were very much looking forward to a couple of days of having nothing specific to do after school finished for the year on Friday; we planned to spend most of our time enjoying the sunshine and water in our backyard. We ended up enjoying water all right, in the form of copious amounts of rain that fell all weekend long. The sun was nowhere in sight, and the rain brought with it some crazy winds that picked up our patio table and threw it upside down, smashing the glass top into a gazillion little pieces all over our deck.

We still made the most of an otherwise quiet family weekend, though -- we played board games, and worked on solving puzzle cubes (Noah and Will are both hooked on the Pyraminx these days), and baked, and went shopping for a replacement patio table (one without a glass top!)  And today, the warm sun came back out and our summer got off to a wonderful, real start.

Hot summer days call for tall, cool glasses of refreshing drinks, and one of my favourites has always been pink lemonade.  What I don't love about most of the store-bought varieties of this tasty summer thirst-quencher, though, is the excessive amount of sugar they contain.  I've discovered that it's very easy to make my own lemonade at home, using real fruit rather than sugar as the starring ingredient. Fresh strawberries (especially the deliciously sweet Ontario ones that are in season now) add a pretty pink hue as well as a wonderful flavour to this lemonade, and real lemon juice, sweetened with only a tablespoon of honey, makes sure it still has a nice bit of pucker power!

Strawberry Lemonade

3/4 cup fresh ripe strawberries
juice of two lemons (approximately 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed juice)
6 cups of cold water
1 tbsp honey
ice, lemon slices

Wash and hull the strawberries, and place them in the jar of a blender with one cup of the cold water. Blend on high speed until the strawberries are completely pureed. Strain the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve (to remove any seeds), into a tall pitcher.

Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice, the remaining five cups of cold water, and the honey to the pitcher, and stir the lemonade with a long spoon.  Finish off the lemonade with a handful of ice cubes and some lemon slices before serving.

If your family is used to a sweeter lemonade, try playing around with more strawberries, and a little less lemon juice at first.  (My guys love lemons, so they are very happy with a more tart version.) I hope you'll find this lemonade a great option for staying cool and hydrated this summer.  :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Step Away From the Snowsuits!!

This morning I tucked the last of this year's school lunches into the boys' backpacks as they prepared to head out the door. When Will hoisted his nearly empty bag over his shoulder, his face glowed with surprise over how light his backpack suddenly felt. (I had finally convinced him to free it of its long-held, burdensome contents yesterday, when I took a peek inside and saw that his pencil collection had continued to grow exponentially over the past several weeks.) "I feel so free!" he exclaimed with delight.

I've been feeling exactly the same way all day. The past month has been insanely busy for our family, and though most of our pursuits and engagements have been happy ones, the hectic schedule carried a certain heaviness with it as we rushed about everywhere and tried not to forget anything. I've felt as though I'm floating on the air today, knowing that the next two months will allow us all time to breathe, to slow down, to enjoy.

That feeling was momentarily suspended when I walked into Costco late this morning and saw what was brazenly displayed across numerous large tables in the centre aisles: snowsuits. Their bright colours and patterns had a certain allure, I won't lie, but I immediately saw them for what they are: hulking, cumbersome beasts who are trying to suck the joy out of summer before it even really begins.

The sight of the snowsuits made me surprisingly irate, probably because it spoke to me of the rush our society always seems to be in these days.  We barely have time to even recognize where we are before we're being pressured to move headlong into the next thing.  I am a planner by nature, and deeply appreciate the value of being prepared (just ask my family -- I could be a poster child for the Scouts organization), but there is no part of me that wants to buy a snowsuit now when the summer sun has barely kissed my skin.

Today I want to savour the sounds of kids laughing and splashing in cool water, and of birds singing sweetly in the tree branches that overhang our backyard deck.  I want to spend quiet mornings with my bare feet dangling from the hammock chair, my mind lost in the enticing pages of a good book, and evenings tossing a frisbee around with my boys under the lingering sun while the warm breeze dances all around us. I want to putter in my gardens, and dig in to the fresh, vibrant bounty of summer foods whose taste is at their delicious peak. Today I'm not rushing headlong into anything; I'm going to stay and relish summer, such a short and wonderfully sweet season.

I marched defiantly past the snowsuit tables in Costco this morning, and staged a personal protest of their existence by buying more giant pool noodles for all of us to play with instead. May your summer be a joyful, relaxing, and snowsuit-free one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Endings, and Exciting Beginnings

Noah graduated from Grade 8 on Monday afternoon.  He looked so handsome and grown up all dressed in his suit and vest and tie, and I was a beaming, proud mom as I watched him accept his diploma from his teachers, thinking of all that he has accomplished over the course of his elementary school years, and of what an extraordinary young man he has become. I was not as emotional as I thought I might feel over this significant milestone in my son's life, though; it felt exciting rather than sad to see him take this last step before moving on to high school full time next September.  I think I went through all of the natural feelings of wistfulness and worry last summer as Noah prepared to take two Grade 9 courses a year early. Now, after seeing how happy that positive experience has made him, I feel mostly eager for his opportunity to have more room to grow next year.  I think he feels the same way.

There are many changes happening in Noah's life right now. Last weekend he swam his last meet as an age group swimmer with Club Warriors. He has decided to leave competitive swimming next year, a sport he has worked very hard at and enjoyed for a long time, so that he can pursue his varied other interests in high school. He also finished his last TriGator triathlon last weekend (an event that he has loved over the years) now that he's reached the final year of eligibility age-wise. But these goodbyes are not melancholy ones, either, because there are exciting new opportunities already lined up to take their place. Noah plans to join the cross-country and track teams in high school next year, and he'll continue to swim, though with his school team instead. He wants to join the school triathlon club, and is also enthusiastic about being part of the robotics team, a challenge that is well-matched to the way his mind likes to work. At the TriGator this year, Noah volunteered in the pool area before he competed in his own race later in the day, marshalling swimmers and helping little ones in the water, and next year he looks forward to being able to volunteer for the entire event. He has also just landed himself his very first job: come September, he will be an intro level coach to swimmers at Club Warriors, which will allow him to still be involved in an organization that has meant so much to him.

In the midst of all of these potentially sad transitions, I am filled with happiness for Noah. I know that he will take on these new opportunities and challenges with the same courage I've seen him show so many times at the pool over the last several years: he'll dive right in, with strength, grace, and determination to reach further and become better.

Congratulations, Noah, on everything you've achieved through your talents, hard work, and positive attitude, and best wishes for everything that is to come! We are all so incredibly proud of you.  xoxo