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!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Savouring Summer

I realized today that it is already almost the end of July. I haven't thought much about what week or day or time it is lately, which is a real departure from my usual way of living, and therefore a sign that summer so far has been everything I like it to be.

We've been making the most of the long, sunny days over the past month, filling them with family and the kind of fun that only the warm summer months can provide.  Matt and the boys and I had an incredibly good time at the cottage on St. Joseph Island where we stayed for almost two weeks, close to our home town of Sault Ste. Marie. My extended family came to spend a weekend with us there, and we hung out all together in the fresh air, swimming and kayaking, creating giant bubbles with wands my sister-in-law Meg made, collecting and skipping rocks, eating, talking and catching up, playing cards, setting off sparklers under the dark evening sky (and being eating alive by mosquitoes!). This new tradition of a big family gathering at the cottage has quickly become one of my most favourite times of the year; being with the people dearest to me in such a beautiful natural environment happily fills up the part of me that really misses all of this the rest of the year.


















We've been back home now for several days, and we're appreciating the simple joys of summer close to home: trips to the farmers' market or picking fresh foods from our own gardens in the morning...


... and afternoons spent floating peacefully or playing lively games in the pool, reading, preparing delicious meals together as a family, and sometimes being silly. If we start to feel bored because our minds or bodies are idle for too long, we tackle projects we don't usually have time to work on during the busier months of the year. Noah's been trying to use pool noodles in such a way that he can walk on water




and the other day the boys built a roving device out of Lego Mindstorms EV3 that they can control from Will's iPad. They attached Noah's GoPro to it and drove it around the house, watching what the camera was recording on Noah's phone screen.  The constantly moving device caught the attention of the ever-curious Iris, who started following the moving camera everywhere, and we were all in hysterics watching her close-up furry face on the phone screen as she trotted behind the rover.

Matt and I have tackled a kitchen project, inspired by how much we enjoyed having ample space in which to prepare food together while we were at the cottage.  Our own kitchen is impossibly short on counter space and storage (we are forever crashing into each other as we try to reach crowded cupboards or find things in the one kitchen drawer!) and we've been tossing around some affordable options for dealing with the situation for awhile. On the weekend, I declared in a fit of kitchen rage that I could not make one more meal in that space the way it was, so we picked up an island at IKEA, and set it up in the eat-in area where we used to have a small table and chairs. (We've outgrown that table now that we have a long-legged teenager and a fidgety tween, anyway, so we're moving meals to the dining room from now on.) It's taking a bit of time to figure out the new arrangement (and moving things to the island has resulted in an entire clean-out and reorganization of every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen, dining room, and basement pantry!), but I'm already glad for the extra counter space, storage, and fun seating on stools that the island is providing.

 Poppy and Iris thought we set up the island for them.


Unfortunately for them, I had other ideas.

I am really glad that there is still a whole other month of summer for us to enjoy.  I definitely plan to make the most of it, too.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Quiet

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.