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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Weekend Away

We took a road trip to Ottawa over Easter weekend to spend time with family. Mother Nature was kind enough to get her freezing rain storm out of the way on Thursday (and to give the boys an extra, extra long weekend with the resulting school closures that day), so we were still able to make the drive on Friday as planned. The weekend was everything we'd been looking forward to: a chance to reconnect with loved ones, play, eat good food, and give our minds a change of pace and scenery as we begin to shake off winter and look to the promises of spring.

We put together an entire 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle whose pieces were spread out on the kitchen table when we arrived at my sister-in-law's house, inviting us to accept a challenge. (Well, actually, it was Matt, with his patience and calm, steadfast nature, who put together most of the puzzle; the rest of us helped here and there, adding pieces sporadically while we all chatted animatedly together.) We all went to cheer on my nephew at a hockey game he was playing in one morning, and I spent some time making Shrinky Dink jewellery with my niece and reading her bedtime stories, a favourite activity that I hadn't even realized how much I'd missed since our boys outgrew it. The kids played a lively game of baseball in a park one sunny afternoon, and we adults shared details about the worries and glad moments of our separate day-to-day lives. We helped the kids colour real Easter eggs, and watched them race around the house finding filled plastic ones and baskets stuffed with cheerful surprises. There was delicious chocolate, and scrumptious shared meals, and we spent a beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon walking on a trail in the woods, where the chickadees came and ate birdseed right out of the kids' hands.

As we rolled down the highway back towards Waterloo yesterday, Matt and the boys and I all agreed we were very glad we had made the long trip. It was a wonderful weekend. There are few things better than driving for hours and landing in a place where you still feel so much at home.

Friday, March 18, 2016

March Muffin Madness: Nut Butter, Banana and Jam Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

Today I'm sharing a recipe as part of a March Muffin Madness event that kicked off earlier this week and is hosted by my friend Shirley of Gluten Free Easily. Every day through April 5th, Shirley will be highlighting a delicious new gluten-free muffin recipe created by one of the twenty-two participating bloggers. (That's a lot of new muffin recipes for those of you who love muffins or who have kids who love them as much as mine do!) In addition, she's rounded up an amazing collection of prizes to send out to some lucky winners, both through daily giveaways and in a grand prize giveaway at the end of the event.

Find out more about March Muffin Madness here.

This was a perfect week for me to work on a new muffin recipe, as my boys have been home every day for the March Break, looking for things to do and things to eat! Will put his creative energy to good use and came up with the concept for the nut butter, banana and jam muffins featured here -- he thought the combination of his favourite breakfast flavours would make a great anytime snack. I agreed with him, and all four of us were super happy with the scrumptious muffins that resulted when I turned his idea into a recipe. These nutritious gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free muffins are versatile, too: they can be made with any kind of jam or nut butter to suit different preferences.

Nut Butter, Banana and Jam Muffins

For the jam:

2 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used a combination of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and dark sweet cherries)
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp ground chia seeds

For the muffins:

2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 cup certified pure oats, ground
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup natural nut butter, melted (I used cashew butter)
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water (stir and let stand for a minute or two to form a gel)
2 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed

For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup certified pure oats
1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used cashews)
1 tsp coconut palm sugar
a pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp natural nut butter, melted (I used cashew butter)

To make the jam, pulse the fresh or frozen berries in a food processor until they break down into small pieces. Spoon the berries into a saucepan and add the coconut palm sugar. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the berries for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Gradually stir the ground chia seeds into the hot berry mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally. Remove the thickened mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, then spoon the jam into a lidded glass container and place it in the fridge to continue to cool and set.

If you're pressed for time and would rather not make your own jam, you can use a good store-bought version instead. The homemade jam makes these muffins especially delicious, though!

Preheat the oven to 350 F, and fill a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. To make the muffins, combine the almond flour, ground oats, baking powder, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the melted nut butter, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in a smaller bowl. Add this mixture, the chia seed gel, and the mashed bananas to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well combined.

Spoon muffin batter into the prepared muffin tin so that each paper cup is just under half full. The batter will be thick, so press it down a little with the spoon so that it fully covers the bottom of each paper cup. Add a spoonful of the jam in the centre of each muffin.

Divide the remaining muffin batter between the twelve cups, using a spoon to spread out the batter so that the jam is covered.

To make the crumble topping, combine the oats, chopped nuts, coconut sugar, and sea salt in a bowl. Drizzle the melted nut butter over this mixture, and use a fork to mix the nut butter evenly into the other ingredients. Spoon the crumble topping over the tops of the muffins. Place the muffin tin in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool.

These nut butter, banana and jam muffins are sure to be enjoyed by anyone who wants to try a long-time favourite flavour combination in a new form.

Here's something else I think people will like: the grand prize giveway for March Muffin Madness has some exciting prizes for the lucky winners, including a half-gallon of Hidden Springs Vermont organic maple syrup, a 5-lb bag of Honeyville almond flour, a USA Bakeware 12-cup muffin pan, a Cuisinart ice cream maker, a Paderno World Cuisine vegetable slicer/spiralizer, a Crockpot casserole slow cooker, and an Instant Pot pressure cooker. The super grand prize is a Blendtec Designer 625 with Wildside+ and Twister jars! Take a look at all of the prizes and enter using the Rafflecopter box below for your chance to win -- you can enter daily. You can also earn additional entries for the grand prize giveaway by leaving a comment on any of the participating posts during the event. (There is a maximum of one comment entry per person per post.)

a Rafflecoptergiveaway

Lastly, head on over to Gluten Free Easily every day from now until April 5th to discover a yummy new muffin recipe and to enter the daily giveaways for cookbooks, resource books, subscriptions, and meal plans. March Muffin Madness indeed!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday afternoon hurdles

It was a pretty ordinary Sunday afternoon around here. I was in the kitchen testing out a new muffin recipe I'd developed, while Matt was upstairs assembling a vanity for the bathroom that's currently under renovation. Noah was building a prototype of an electric car out of Arduino, Lego EV3 parts, wires, nuts, bolts, and string, and Will was sprawled out nearby him on the living room floor, dreaming up ideas and mentally problem solving for the game he's programming using Scratch. At one point, Matt called out, "Hey, who wants to see some track and field implements for cats?!" He was holding up two small hurdle-looking structures made out of wooden slats and plastic supports, meant to be used as dividers in the new vanity drawer.

The next thing I knew, this was happening:

Yep, just an ordinary Sunday afternoon around here!

May your kids' March Break be filled with fun adventures, big or small. :)

Friday, March 11, 2016


You came running with breathless excitement into the house one recent afternoon, calling me to come quickly and see something fascinating you'd noticed while shooting hoops in the driveway. I grabbed my shoes and followed your fast-moving frame until you stopped just a few feet from the fence. You pointed and we both watched the empty space under one of the wooden boards for just a second, when a tiny brown mouse suddenly scurried into view, scratched at the grass frantically and then dashed back out of sight as quickly as she had come. We stood together for a long time watching the little creature repeat this same process over and over again, laughing with shared delight and appreciation for her focused efforts, imagining warmly the cozy nest being created somewhere just beyond our sight. These have always been some of my favourite moments with you, the ones when you draw me into the wonders of seeing the world through your keenly observant eyes, your curious mind, your tender heart.

You were lying at one end of the couch devouring a book the other day, your bare feet dangling over the edge of the cushion you had them propped up on. I was caught off guard by how long your feet suddenly looked to me -- it was as if overnight they had grown a practically impossible amount. From what I know of boys your age, your body will follow not far behind in a similarly shocking growth spurt; soon you will fill up so much more physical space with your sprawling limbs and ideas. I said this out loud to you, that I thought from your foot size you were going to get taller soon, and I could see in your eager smile this notion pleased you. You want to be taken seriously, to have your outer frame match the giant concepts and convictions you carry inside you.

When I asked you what you'd like to have for your celebratory birthday treat, you immediately dismissed the idea of cake. I should have known that cake would be far too predictable, too ordinary for your liking. You decided on banana splits, in proper dishes, with homemade brownies on the bottom, three different flavours of ice cream, and the bananas sliced in rounds, not lengthwise. You asked for strawberries, and whipped cream, and melted chocolate to drizzle over everything (if it wasn't too much trouble). Oh, and nuts. And sprinkles. And a cherry on top. I thought this was a perfect birthday treat for the ways that it's just like you: sweet, complex, and wonderful.

Happy 12th birthday, Will! Your dad and I feel so much joy watching you grow more extraordinary with each passing year. No matter how old or how big you get, I'll never grow tired of learning to see the beautiful, captivating world from your perspective.

Love, Mom  xoxo

Monday, March 7, 2016

Easter Basket Ideas for Tween/Teen Boys

They may be big kids now, but even tween- and teenaged boys appreciate a basket of fun surprises to hunt for on Easter morning. Here's a collection of ideas the Easter Bunny might like for the growing (and growing and growing!) boys in your house this year.

First row

Finger scooters: These tiny versions of real scooters are similar to Tech Deck finger skateboards, and are fun for guys who like to perform cool tricks with a quick flip of the hand.

Surf Sweets jelly beans: Made without artificial colours or flavours, and free of the ten most common allergens, these bright beans are a sweet Easter treat for kids of all ages.

Illuminating bands: Keep your tween/teen boys visible and safe with an LED slap band that can easily be worn on an arm or an ankle while kids are biking, walking, running, or skateboarding after dark.

Nike Elite basketball socks: According to my teen, these are the best socks ever for their comfort and performance. Many colour variations are available at sporting goods stores, and the Nike outlets in the States sometimes have cool patterned ones, too. (Noah wore a circuit-board patterned pair for good luck on the final day of his robotics competition this past weekend, and he and his team won the final and a spot at the World Championships in St. Louis in April! Definitely good socks.)

Second row

Colourful airplane-making paper: Give your tweens and teens who like to fold and fly paper airplanes a large assortment of paper patterns to work with. Instructions for four different plane styles are included; you can also find many design concepts with folding directions online.

Aerobie superdisc: This soft rimmed disc is an aerodynamic flyer and easy to use for players of all skill levels. Tossing it around with some buddies in a yard or a park is a fun way for guys to spend time being active outdoors.

Unique puzzle cubes: Tweens and teens who are familiar with Rubik's cubes might enjoy the challenge of other unique cube designs, ones that shift shape when turned and have interesting colour patterns. The inequilateral cube pictured above is only one of many available options for keeping your puzzle-solvers' brains sharp.

Third row

Precision screwdriver set: This is a very useful little gift for guys who like to tinker with electronics, or for those who wear glasses. You never know when the need for a small screwdriver might arise!

Drawstring gym bag: These handy nylon bags make carrying gym clothes to and from school or extra-curricular activities a cinch. (They're also useful for keeping smelly socks contained after a workout!)

Dark chocolate bunny: All-natural dark chocolate bunnies are a great choice for tweens and teens with food sensitivities. I've found the Barkley's one pictured above online; many health food stores carry dark chocolate bunny options, too.

Thing Explainer book (Complicated Stuff in Simple Words): A goldmine for guys who are interested in how things work, this book explains complex concepts using only drawings and the 1,000 most common words in the English language. Thing Explainer has kept my teen fascinated for hours.

Fourth row

Movie gift card: Make it easy for your tween or teen to enjoy a movie of his choice (without having to ask you for money!) by tucking a gift card to a local cinema in his Easter basket.

Waterproof notepad: Does your tween or teen claim to get his best ideas in the shower? This waterproof notepad, stuck to a shower wall, will make sure that he always has somewhere to write down those great ideas before they vanish.

Hacky sack:  Easy to throw in a backpack and take out anywhere, hacky sacks provide quick entertainment for tweens and teens who are looking for something active to do either alone or with a group.

If the Easter Bunny wants to be especially fun, he'll hide the baskets in almost impossible to find spots this year, just so your tween/teen boys realize that they don't know everything. ;)