When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, September 27, 2013

In quiet little corners

As I was folding laundry in the family room one recent evening, I suddenly noticed Will nimbly climbing over the back of the big lounge chair to stuff himself into the snug little corner between the chair and the place where the two walls meet.

"Aw, Will," I said, with more than a hint of exasperation in my voice.  "Please don't go back there again.  You're going to knock the pictures off the wall."

"But Mom!" he exclaimed in a pleading and passionate tone.  "There's something really great back here!"

Something about his enthusiasm made me relent with a shake of my head and say nothing further as I watched him disappear behind the cushioned chair back.  While I continued smoothing wrinkles out of shirts and jeans and placing them in neat piles in front of me, random musical sounds drifted up from the little keyboard Will had taken back there with him and I paid attention with a sudden interest and curiosity.  I remembered the many times he had tucked himself into that corner before with a book or a project, or with nothing at all but the intention of hiding on one of us and hopefully scaring us or making us laugh when we walked into the room.  Although I had never thought about it before, I now wondered what everything looked like to him from his special spot back there, how it made him feel to be tucked away out of view in that quiet little corner of his own.  I suddenly felt the urge to go back there myself to see if I could feel and understand the "something really great" that he had found.

I had a "corner" of my own when I was growing up; it was a narrow spot on my bedroom floor that existed between my bed and my dresser.  The distance between the two pieces of furniture was just right so that I could sit comfortably on the carpet with my back pressed against the wooden waterbed frame, knees bent, with the balls of my feet pressed against the dresser.  When I think about it I can still experience exactly how it felt to sit in that space; it was snug and familiar and reassuring.  I spent hours there over the years, reading, thinking, talking on the phone with friends, agonizing over difficult decisions, crying, laughing, dreaming.  I realize now that probably no one else in the world knows what it feels like to sit in that place like I did, and no one ever will. 

We all have quiet little corners that are ours alone, don't we?  They exist not only in the physical spaces we go to for personal reflection or rejuvenation, but also in the unseen folds of our hearts where we've stored all of our own individual experiences, our greatest joys and our deepest hurts.  Our "corners" give us a perspective on life that is astonishing in its uniqueness; each one of us views the world and everything that happens in it from a complexly different angle.  These kinds of private spaces are important -- there is comfort and meaning in their familiarity. Watching Will climb over the chair into a world completely unknown to me made me think, though, how life can be so much richer still when we wonder what it really feels like to be in someone else's little corner.  There's so much potential for discovering something really great back there.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thank you!

I am happy to say this morning that Pocketfuls has once again claimed a spot among the top 25 blogs in the Circle of Moms Canadian Moms blogger contest, which ended last evening.  A very big thank you to all of you who showed your support for me by voting over the past several weeks.  I hope you'll continue to find this space a worthy place of spending some of your time as I share new stories, ideas, and recipes in the months to come.  I really appreciate each and every one of you!  :)

xo Lisa

Friday, September 20, 2013

Catching up

In only a few short weeks of being back into the thick of things, the leisurely pace and feeling of summer days have already become something of a distant memory.  We hit the ground running right after Labour Day, and our family is now fully immersed in school and work and extra-curricular activities, and all of the details and busy-ness that accompany these things.  In some ways it feels good to have a calendar full of plans again.  I think despite the tiredness we feel when our alarms first wake us in the dark mornings, we all generally feel re-energized now that we have rediscovered our purposes;  new ideas and experiences are igniting sparks within us all.

One of the things I'm enjoying now that I have more time to myself during the day again is the chance to share stories with friends over a walk or a cup of tea.  It's always so nice to catch up together on the fascinating, the important, the challenging, and the funny details of our daily lives.  And because it's Friday and a good day for this sort of thing, I thought I'd share a virtual cup of tea with all of you and fill you in on some of the interesting goings-on of our family in recent weeks. 

Our Little Free Library is open for business:  A few months ago, I wrote here about how excited I was that the Little Free Library movement had caught on in Kitchener-Waterloo.  I went ahead shortly afterwards and ordered a kit to build a library of our own, and one rainy summer afternoon, Noah and Will and I constructed it.  (This was a brave move on my part, as I do not usually build stuff with wood and screws and tools, and Matt was not home to help.  However, the boys and I managed very well once I got past the trip to the daunting fastener aisle of Canadian Tire to buy the right screws!)

After we built the little house, I stained it, Matt shingled it and then performed the Herculean task of driving a huge metal stake into the rock-hard ground in our front yard to hold a post for it, and our little library was born.  I've filled it with a wide variety of books for young people, ones that we were willing to part with from our own collection or that I bought second-hand.  It has been so much fun in recent weeks to watch curious passersby stop to find out what the little house is all about -- I've seen people cross the road to our side and take pictures of the library with their phones, and people driving slowly right up close to it so that they can read the library sign.  With the exception of one neighbour who knocked on our door, asked us what the little box was for, and then when I excitedly explained the library to her, looked at me like I had six heads and asked me with scorn what I had put it there for, the response from people has been very positive.  The kids on our street and some of the boys' friends have borrowed some books and left new ones in their place, and we've really enjoyed chatting with the families who have come by to tell us what a wonderful thing they think the library is.  I hope word of our little library will spread around the neighbourhood in the months to come and that many people will get great enjoyment from it.

Extra-curricular activities:  This past week the boys started the sports and activities they've chosen for the year, and they were both very eager to participate once again in things that excite them and allow them to grow in wonderful ways.  Noah returned for another year of competitive swimming with his team, a sport which he loves.  It is a big commitment for him this year, as he has six practices a week (three weekday evenings, two weekday mornings that begin at 5:30am!!!, and Sunday mornings at 7am), plus meets some weekends, but he is happy to take on the challenges that a new swim season will bring.  Will has decided to take a boys' hip hop class this year, which I think is a perfect activity for him, and his report after the first class was that it was AWESOME and that he wished it was more than just one class a week.  He is also doing some Saturday morning workshops in Lego Robotics (very cool!).  The skills he learns there should come in handy now that he and Noah have both been selected to be on the First Lego League team at their school this fall.  (I'm hoping that Will can also teach me what he learns, since I've agreed to be a parent volunteer for the school team!)  I'm so glad that the boys have such engaging and fun learning opportunities ahead of them.

Stocking the freezer:   I saw this little guy running around collecting nuts and things in our backyard earlier this week and had to laugh when I realized that I've been doing much the same thing recently. 

Something about the cooler weather always gives me an overwhelming urge to bake and cook and put delicious things in the freezer for cozy meals and snacks that we can enjoy later in the fall and winter months.  I've frozen some grated giant zucchinis from our garden to use in muffins, some roasted tomatoes to use in pasta dishes, and I'm going to save some large bunches of fresh basil by chopping them and freezing them in ice cube trays with a bit of water.  (Thanks for the tip, Mom!)  We plan to go apple picking with my aunt Christina and her family this weekend (one of our favourite fall outings!), so there will be applesauce to make, and soon I'll be roasting pumpkins to use in cookies and soups.  Spending time in the kitchen always seems more enjoyable to me this time of year; the warmth from the oven takes the chill off of fall mornings and the delicious smells make our home seem that much more inviting.  Do you get this same drive to create a store of yummy foods this time of year?

Fall clothes shopping:  It's funny how September goes:  one week everyone is still happily wearing shorts and t-shirts and flip-flops and running around carefree in the sun as if summer weather will last forever, and then suddenly one day the temperature plummets and we all go scrambling to find jeans that still fit and sweaters that will keep our teeth from chattering in the chilly breeze.  I always find it a bit daunting in the seasons that the boys suddenly both sprout up a size and they need a whole new wardrobe, especially now that they have much more particular opinions about what they will and will not wear.  In my multiple trips to the mall this week to find the things we need, I came across a pullover that I just had to buy for Will:

Why this particular shirt, you ask?  When Will was very young, he had an imaginary friend that we heard about all of the time, a guy who had a very full life of exciting adventures that Will made up for him.  His name was Big Mike.  :)

New glasses for Noah:  Our annual appointment with the optometrist last week revealed that Noah's eyeglasses prescription had changed a little (for the better, actually -- his eye sight has been slowly improving as he grows taller, which is interesting and happy news!).  I took him to pick out some new glasses frames and was so impressed with how mature and capable he was when he spoke with the optician.  He knew exactly what he was looking for, and I smiled with a mixture of pride and wistfulness as he chose a handsome pair of frames from the adults' wall for the first time.  He is growing up right before my eyes, and while he and I might not always view things in the same ways these days, I can see so very clearly what a wonderful young man he is becoming.

That's about it, in a nutshell.  (Thanks to our squirrel friends, there are lots of those in our yard right now, too!)   I'd love to hear what's new with you and your family this fall.  Keep the conversation going by leaving me a comment below.  Happy weekend, all!

Thanks so very much for all of your support so far in the Circle of Moms Top 25 Canadian Moms blogger contest!  I am really excited to currently be in the #19 spot.  There are only five days of voting left, and many of the blogs are very close together in the number of votes -- please keep your votes coming in here these last few days to keep me in the top 25!  I really appreciate it (and I promise once this is over that I won't bother you again for a long time.)  :)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tomato Bonanza! (Roasted tomatoes and a delicious gluten-free, vegan pasta dish)

Way back in June I planted two teeny little grape tomato plants, one that would bear red fruit and one that would bear yellow, in one of our new vegetable gardens.  I carefully placed a little wire tomato cage around each plant to offer it support as it grew, and then waited, eagerly anticipating eating the sweet, juicy tomatoes in salads during late summer.  Fast forward a few months, and those teeny little grape tomato plants have turned into an enormous tomato plant jungle that threatens to swallow me whole every time I go out to gather the ripe red and yellow fruits.  Matt and I had to add an additional eight bamboo stakes to the garden mid-summer just to hold up the green branches that stretch six feet up and eight feet out, and despite having already given away baskets full of tomatoes to friends, we still have way more tomatoes than we know what to do with sitting on our kitchen counter.  (And there are still hundreds more ripening in the garden....)

While reading through Chatelaine magazine recently, I found instructions for roasting tomatoes and realized that would be a great way to use some of our crop.  Roasting tomatoes is simple and greatly intensifies the fruits' already delicious flavour, and once they are roasted, the tomatoes can be stored in jars in the freezer and used throughout the winter in pasta dishes or salads, or on pizzas and sandwiches.  I roasted two full pans of our tomatoes this morning, and then used some of them (along with some white kidney beans and some of our garden kale) to create a hearty pasta dish for lunch.  Mmmm, mmm, good!

How to Roast Tomatoes:

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Slice grape or cherry tomatoes in half (quarter larger tomatoes) and place them cut side up in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt and pepper to taste.  Roast them for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. 
Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, White Kidney Beans, and Kale (gluten-free, vegan)
1 454g package of penne (I used gluten-free brown rice pasta)
1 bunch of kale (washed, trimmed, and chopped)
1 540ml can of white kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
approximately 2 cups roasted grape or cherry tomatoes
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
zest of one lemon

Cook pasta according to package directions, then strain.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add kale to hot pan, stirring occasionally, and cook until kale is almost wilted.  Stir in beans and garlic and cook for a minute or two, or until the beans are warm.  Add in cooked pasta, roasted tomatoes, and lemon zest and toss gently until all ingredients are combined.  Serve and enjoy! 
We loved this simple pasta dish -- it was full of flavour and very satisfying, and it didn't take long to make at all!  I'm really glad to have yet another way to enjoy that unbelievably huge tomato crop of ours that doesn't seem to have an end in sight....
Thanks very much for your votes so far in the Top 25 Canadian Moms blogger contest!  You can continue to vote once per day here, every day until September 25th.  I'd love to claim one of the top 25 spots again this year, but I'll need your continued support to get there.  :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013


When I was a child, my birthday was one of the days I looked forward to most out of the whole year.  I often celebrated with a party (big family ones when I was small, made up of a group of fun and loving relatives, and friend ones as I got older, made up of a group of fun-loving, giggling girls).  It felt special to be celebrated in this way on the day I was born, to be surrounded by those I cared most about while they sang and I closed my eyes and made a wish for the coming year.

I'm turning 41 today, an age that is mature and dignified and does not call for crazy all-night bubble blowing contests with wads of pink gum in my parents' basement, or frenzied treasure hunts in search of the coveted Avon Hello Sunshine girls' perfume bottle prize to celebrate it properly.  (Aside:  My mom was one of the best birthday party planners ever!  I say this in part because it's true, and in part because I am trying to ensure through flattery on days like today that the photos she took of a flat-chested twelve-year-old me wearing a black lace bra [over my shirt] that I was [un]lucky enough to pull out in her famous "Pass the Clothes Bag" birthday party game don't ever get posted publicly.  Love you, Mom!)  These days I prefer a more low-key birthday, with time to enjoy the company of my little family and to reflect gratefully on the many blessings that make my every day beautiful in some way.

My three guys know this about me, and their kind, sweet hearts came up with the perfect little things to put a smile on my face for my birthday.  Yesterday, a few hours after everyone else had gone to work or school, I left home to go to a yoga class.  When I opened the front door upon my return, I was instantly greeted by the delicious smell of sweet, chocolate-y goodness wafting through our house.  My first thought was, "Mmm, baking!", followed instantly by, "Wait, did I bake something this morning?" (because I am old now, and easily forget things, as is evidenced by the facts that I had overdue library books this week for the first time in my whole life, and that I had to go back to the grocery store yesterday because I forgot to buy one of the main things I went there for).  A quick investigation revealed a cake cooling on the dining room table (which I realized I had not baked), but there was no evidence of any people or messes or dishes.  I realized that Matt had come home from work while I was out so he could bake me a birthday cake without me being anywhere near the kitchen.  He had found the recipe for a gluten and dairy-free cake by looking through my cookbooks and, all on his own, whipped up something that looked delicious.  The thoughtfulness behind his sweet gesture warmed my heart for the whole day.

This morning, I figured that the boys, in the regular school-day morning rush, would probably not remember that it was my birthday, but I was totally wrong.  Noah came downstairs without saying anything, but when I handed him his toast, he handed me from behind his back a card he had made.  We have a long-standing joke between us about the lunch fairy, whom I've often wished aloud would swoop in in the evenings and make lunches for the boys for the next day for school.  I loved his sense of humour in his card:

Will came into the kitchen wearing a smile and holding out his own handmade card for me.  I complimented him warmly on how lovely the flower was he had drawn for me, and how nice the letters were, and then burst out laughing when I read the inside of his card:

Apparently, somebody watches too many insurance commercials on The Weather Network. 
These little personal shows of affection from my three guys make me feel every bit as special as I did when I was a kid celebrating my birthday.  Tonight the four of us will sit down together to enjoy a meal that Matt is planning for me.  When he and the boys bring out the cake and sing, I'll close my eyes, not to make a wish, but to pause and feel so very thankful that the things really worth wishing for, I already have. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Apple cinnamon chips (gluten-free, vegan)

Despite the fact that it brings an end to summer holidays, September is one of my favourite months of the year.  It has a welcome, pleasant crispness to it:  in the cool evening breeze, in the leaves that turn brightly coloured and then crunchy after falling to the ground, in the cheerful red apples that are available in abundance during this season.  Once I accept that summer has passed, I find myself truly enjoying the subtle changes in temperature, in landscape, and in what we eat this time of year, as we move towards more homey and comforting foods with warm, fragrant spices.

Yesterday morning I headed out in a downpour to Martin's Family Fruit Farm to buy some freshly picked apples, one of our family's favourite early fall fruits.  While I was there, I was reminded of their apple chips, a yummy, crispy little snack made only from apples and sold there in packages.  I decided, once I arrived home with two large baskets of apples, to try my hand at making apple chips myself.  It was very easy to do (I used just apples and a little cinnamon as ingredients), and everyone here has been enjoying them very much!

Apple Cinnamon Chips  

6 apples (I used a mixture of Ginger Gold and MacIntosh, but I think any variety of apple will work)
ground cinnamon, to taste

Preheat oven to 225 F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Wash and dry apples.  If you have an apple corer or are good with a small, sharp knife, remove the cores from the apples.  (If not, don't worry -- you can do what I did and easily remove the centre from each slice of apple afterwards.) 

Turn an apple onto its side and slice its top off.  Keeping the apple on its side, cut it into uniformly thin slices until you get to the end of the apple.  Repeat this process with the remaining apples.

If you haven't yet cored the apples, cut out the centre of each slice using very small cookie cutter.  (I used a flower shape, for fun!)

Place the apple slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets, and sprinkle them with a little ground cinnamon.  Pop them in the oven and bake them for three hours.  (After an hour and a half, flip the apple slices over and sprinkle cinnamon on the second side before baking them for the remaining time.)

Remove pans from the oven and let the apple chips cool before serving.  (They will get a little crispier as they cool.)

I still really love the simple pleasure of biting into a crunchy, delicious fresh apple this time of year, but turning apple slices into chips results in something a little different and fun.  Baking the apples really intensifies their flavour, and the cinnamon adds a nice bit of spice.  Also, if you make these, your house will smell delicious for hours.  :)  Enjoy!

If you haven't already voted for Pocketfuls today in the Top 25 Canadian Moms blogger contest, I'd love it if you'd pop over to Circle of Moms to vote now!  (Click here.)  Thanks so much for your support!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Please vote :)

Well, we've survived the first week back to school!  After several days of both great excitement and great frustration about new teachers and classes and routines (and lost hours of sleep for me, spent thinking and worrying), we're all definitely ready for a fun and relaxing weekend around here.  This will just be a quick post this afternoon to ask a favour of you.

Pocketfuls has been nominated for the Circle of Moms Top 25 Canadian Moms blogger contest 2013, and I need your votes to help me rise to one of the top spots again this year.  If you enjoy what you read here, please consider clicking on the pink "Vote for me" button you'll find in my sidebar, and then vote for Pocketfuls on the contest page.  You may vote once per day every day between now and September 25th.   The added bonus of clicking on the button is that you may also discover some other great blogs to read and enjoy!  :)  Thanks in advance for your support -- I really appreciate it.

I hope all of the kids have had a great first week back at school.  Happy weekend all!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A starry night sky

Matt and the boys and I spent most of the last week of summer holidays up north in the Sault area, visiting family and celebrating the wedding of my brother and his finacee.  The time spent with loved ones we don't see very often was wonderful, and the wedding was a truly lovely, fun, and meaningful event, set on the sandy shores of Lake Huron at the summer camp where Frank and Meg met and where many of us spent time as kids and teenagers.

Late into the dark evening hours the night of the wedding, I sat on the beach by a crackling campfire with other guests who were singing and playing instruments, and I looked up in peaceful awe at the myriad of stars that twinkled quietly in the sky above us.  I had one of those powerful moments of feeling then, a realization that I had looked up at these exact same stars in this exact same space so many years ago, and that in that time since, so much had changed, and yet in some ways, nothing much had changed at all.  We are all older now, and wear on us the marks of our successes and failures in our pursuits, in our relationships, in parenthood, in life, but somehow under those stars I felt that in spirit, I was still that same fourteen year old girl who years ago was right there, finding her own way in a world full of both heartache and joyful wonder.  And it was warm and comforting to be surrounded again by so many of the loving hearts and faces who have played such an important role in helping me become who I am today. 

The wedding was an absolutely perfect end to the summer, and we enjoyed ourselves so much that shifting gears into back-to-school mode just two days later seemed sudden and honestly, sad.  There were anxious tears, and grumblings, and butterflies in stomachs on Sunday and Monday, but the boys got off to school smoothly yesterday and now we're all (well, some of us still more than others) excited to embrace the adventures of a new season.  I hope that this year will take each of the boys on the path they want to go, so that when they grow up and find themselves one night looking up at a breathtakingly beautiful sky full of stars, they too will feel a deep sense of peace and contentment.