Casual Friday + A Week of Mondays

At times over the last 7 days, it felt like I was living through a week of Mondays.

Garfield says it best…

But let’s start off with some excellent news: the kitchen plumbing has been fixed and it has been wonderful to hear the dishwasher whirring or to hand-wash dishes in the sink and have all the water disappear when I pull the plug.

The plumbing success capped off a wonderful end to last week – an intense but productive string of work events, beautiful sunshine, and a fun adventure with friends on Friday evening (see below).

The bad news? After the highs of Friday, the next few days felt like repeated thudding along at ground level.

Levi came down with a bug over the weekend – some congestion and coughing. Rapid tests keep coming back negative (for every family member) so, thankfully, this appears to be “only a cold” but we have negative testing requirements for some upcoming travel; the last minute chance of plans being completely upended by the virus is an ever-present reality in this new pandemic world that leaves me with a general sense of unease.

Levi was easy to entertain while home from school – he was energetic and in a great mood (the best kind of “sick”). He skunked me in so many games of Sorry it’s depressing (and I was trying very hard to win). But it also meant the days lacked structure and left me feeling… restless.

And then there was The Big Banking Kerfuffle. We did what, many times in the past, has been a fairly routine banking procedure to maximize a bonus interest promotion. When we got to the end of the process, we received an error message which told us to try again. So we resubmitted the form – successfully this time – and printed off the reference number. And then we received two e-mail confirmations. As in, despite the error, the original transfer had happened. Cue phone calls – lots of them – to solve the issue. We were reassured Worst Case Scenario wouldn’t happen. Multiple times. By multiple different bank representatives. And then Worst Case Scenario did happen…which caused layers and layers of headaches and more phone calls. It was decidedly unpleasant. Eventually, two trips to the bank and various account contortions temporarily solved the issue, but it still isn’t fully resolved. The whole thing is figureoutable…but it also really sucked.

The next round of renovations, which keep getting delayed, are tentatively set to take place while we’re away on a short family vacation. Part of me is relieved, as being around during renovations is my idea of a living nightmare. But, another part of me is very anxious. There are hundreds of little decisions that have to be made on the fly and while I hate making said decisions, I also don’t like to think of them being made without me. We have done everything we can to prepare in advance. But it still feels unsettling to the control-freak-stress-about-everything side of my personality.

Okay – enough with the complaining. Nothing remotely “bad” happened this week and we’re fine. Just sometimes life feels decidedly unfun and this whole being-a-grownup thing can seem very overrated. Know what I mean?

READING | After a string of sub-par books, I’ve had a set of relatively good reads over the last few weeks (no 5/5 books, but most fell into the 4/5 range).

I’ve been called melancholic by friends and naturally tend toward what Cain describes as a bittersweet temperament. I love how she captures my feelings about beautiful and joyous things feeling tinged with, well, melancholy – not out of sorrow, but a loving ache or longing.

In fact, you could say that what orients a person to the bittersweet is a heightened awareness of finality. Children splashing joyfully in puddles bring tears to grandparents’ eyes because they know that one day the children will grow up and grow old (and they won’t be there to see it). But those aren’t tears of sorrow, exactly; at heart, they’re tears of love. (Bittersweet)

I read two “anti-diet” books. They exist on a spectrum of intuitive eating, but even eschew that term/movement as being too restrictive. I’m not going to unpack things further here, but both of these books are interesting reads if you’ve struggled with food, weight, and body image.

I have lived my entire life believing (and I still live in a culture that believes) that the only way I would be able to accept my body would be, ironically, to change it. (Project Body Love)

I am not anti-goals. I’ve got goals. But I am anti-expecting-external-goals-to-actually-make-you-happy. That raise will not solve all of your problems at work. Falling in love does not erase self-doubt or feelings of loneliness…We have to look at what we are really searching for underneath the goal. If what you’re really seeking from weight loss is more kindness to yourself and a cute new shirt…you need to be willing to give those things to yourself now…The way you seek out a goal is the state you will still be in once you get there. (The F*ck It Diet, emphasis mine)

While All We Want fell a bit flat for me (didn’t love the structure or writing style), I can’t stop thinking about the issues it raised surrounding consumerism and wellbeing/happiness. It left me feeling very sad about how we humans care for this earth God created. I also thought a lot about hypocrisy; I mentioned reading a book recently where the author discussed – at length – her disdain for single-use cups (even approaching strangers at cafes to berate them) but then hops on an airplane to reach various hiking destinations. Last weekend I caught up on some blog posts from an “influencer” I used to read years ago (before she started “influencing”). Her content has become more and more sponsored/tailored for SEO, but she talks at length about eating “cleanly” and using only “clean” products for personal care and home maintenance. But then she mentioned ordering a huge number of clothes online, expressly highlighting her plan to “just return whatever doesn’t work” which necessitates generation of additional fossil fuels and other forms of waste. Even people that claim to be focused on prioritizing the planet (e.g. clean products, eat-local) only seem to (in most cases) take things as far as it works for their lifestyle and brand. And I don’t necessarily take offense to this UNLESS they go out of their way to discuss how much they prioritize environmental causes. They’re environmentally conscious… when it’s convenient. End rant. (To be fair I do this same thing in various areas in my own life; I have no right to cast stones in this argument, it’s just something that has been nagging at me lately.)

The book didn’t necessarily help me process any of the above, but left me thinking about all related issues from various perspectives.

A shattered bedroom window, a lost wedding ring, even a scuffed sneaker can make us feel vulnerable because our self-hood partly resides in what we claim as our own…[Corporations] encourage this intimacy between ourselves and our things. They encourage us to pour some part of ourselves into each possession: if those possessions are lost, we are prompted to feel “a sense of shrinkage of our personality, a partial conversion of ourselves to nothingness.” Perhaps each of these miniature losses is an intimation of that greater loss – our death, when we lose our most valuable treasure, the body. Perhaps it hurts so much to lose a coffee mug, a book, a toy, because it reminds us that nothing material is everlasting and we will one day forfeit even our flesh and bone. (All We Want)

This quote raises some interesting points; as it relates to my faith, I would take it one step further with the following verses in Matthew 6: 19-20. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Stanley Tucci book was both hilarious (I laughed out loud a lot) and heartbreaking. I considered this book in a new light knowing that reader Katie works with his father-in-law and has met Stanley Tucci (Tucci is now married to Felicity Blunt, sister of Emily Blunt – who is wife to John Krasinski, aka Jim Halpert). How cool!

But perhaps the most precious heirlooms are family recipes. Like a physical heirloom, they remind us from whom and where we came and give others, in a bite, the story of another people from another place and another time. (Taste)

I didn’t love Island of the Blue Dolphins. I know this is a revered classic, but I found it sad and…tedious compared to, say, The Swiss Family Robinson which I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. But perhaps that’s because I came to this book late in life; I know someone who adores this book but has a deep sentimental attachment to it from her youth.

“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?” His voice dropped to a whisper. “But here’s the secret: in between, we need others as well.” (Tuesday’s with Morrie)

Picture books have not been stellar lately but we checked out Snowflake Bentley…again. We’ve been reading this book for years and it is one of my favourite picture books of all time. I love the re-telling of this true (albeit heartbreaking) story.

WATCHING+ENJOYING | Meltdown (a Netflix docuseries about the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island). Julia (the HBO dramatized series about Julia Child). And we just finished Masterpiece’s All Creatures Great and Small (fans of the Harry Potter movies, actor Matthew Lewis – who plays Neville Longbottom – is in this series). The latter was…simple, heartwarming and entertaining.

JOYFINDING | The cardinal right outside the window as I type this. I’m not sure why we’ve seen a sudden uptick in these beautiful red birds (climate change?), but they are lovely.

The playdoh creations the kids made one afternoon for over an hour. Together. No fighting. It was amazing.

The Arts for Kids hub projects the kids made one afternoon for over an hour. With new oil pastels they had to share. No fighting. It was miraculous.

Family walks; especially the stretch where Levi and I did mental math for 25 minutes per his request.

I won’t tell you how many Keto Mug Cakes (this recipe) I made during the week. Okay, I’ll tell you. I made one every single day and they were delicious (topped with a spoonful – or two – of peanut butter which melts into a pool of liquid peanut butter gold).

EXERCISE | Daily walks. I only ran once this week – Levi was home from school multiple days and all the hassles of being a grownup sapped my energy. But, John and I managed to fit in one long run together yesterday and it was great! Years ago, when I was running more regularly, I had a favourite route which was 8.34 km (how’s that for specific; I’m sure the distance varied slightly, but this is the number that stuck in mind). My goal this year was to work up to running that same route. Check.

THRIFTING | A pair of sneakers at a local consignment store. In like-new condition; $25 – $12 credit (from clothes I’ve consigned) = $15 (taxes included) for new sneakers!

ADVENTURING | Last Thursday, about an hour after we’d returned from visiting an abandoned textile factory and old railway cars, and about 5 hours after we’d returned from our long hike to Cape Split, a friend texted to see if our family was up for a “playdate” after she finished work on Friday.

I knew Friday was going to be nuts at work, and it had already been a busy week (what with all the water pouring out onto the kitchen floor). I waffled, wanting to say no but also remembering this friend, and her husband, are some of the best adventurers we know.

So we said yes. And she suggested Medford Beach.

Several years ago John and I visited these local rock formations (about 20 minutes from our home), and we’ve been planning to take the kids ever since. Last Friday ended up being the perfect opportunity; the tide was perfectly aligned for an early evening/post-work adventure. We had the beach and formations to ourselves and the weather was ideal.

After exploring for a few hours we all came back to our place and heated up waffles (this recipe, always) and played JustOne.

And then I did laundry on Saturday morning, for obvious reasons.

I love this picture John captured of the kids. The beautiful formations + their candid smiles.

Below are two throwback pictures from the last time John and I visited; sadly the archway of the bottom formation has eroded in the last few years.

And that’s all from me. Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend – with nary a plumbing or banking debacle.

And here’s to a Friday that feels…like a Friday (not a Monday).

Summer Break/Posting Schedule

It’s not actually summer yet, as the periodic frigid mornings are quick to remind me. But, in Canada, Monday (an observed holiday) marks the unofficial start of summer. The seasonal shops are opening, people are testing lawnmowers that have overwintered in backyard sheds, and I’ve loaded a tote with bug spray, a picnic blanket and sunscreen into the trunk of our car.

And me…well I’m going to use the onset of this pseudo-summer as an impetus to pull back from regular (as in five-days-a-week) posting. I thought of setting a MWF schedule, but summer is all about flexibility so I’m forcing myself out of my imagined comfort zone to say: “I’ll show up when I can. And I hope you stick around and continue to join me here!”

Our family has a happy mix of fun adventures and low-key home days planned for the summer and I want to savour it all. This too shall pass – the sabbatical, the kids being at this stage, the beautiful Canadian summer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Casual Friday post and have something cued up for Monday and then…we’ll see where the sunshine takes us.

Thanks to everyone who shows up to this space and for supporting me (and the community of readers that gather here) with such practical and thoughtful comments.

Header photo by Rafael Cisneros Méndez on Unsplash

The First Imperfection is the Hardest

I’m always a sucker for the pretty sneakers. My latest set? A pastel pink pair with white soles.

At first, I selected walking routes based on the weather report. Really. For months I tiptoed around puddles and groaned when I saw some new hazard come my way.

But their demise was inevitable; I’d known this the moment I checked out at the sporting goods store. Sure enough, eventually, I came across unavoidable mud and went running on a trail that turned my soles gray.

And then, magically, it was okay. I didn’t have to tiptoe around perfection anymore because it was gone. From that moment on, walks got easier. There was an unmistakable sense of liberation…because surviving that first imperfection was the hardest.

There is also a demerit hidden in here because the “new” pair I reference in this post is actually a year old and needs to be replaced. I’ve been wearing my orthotics (gold star!) and have it on my radar to replace them soon. But then I’ll want to keep those sneakers in pristine shape and the cycle will repeat itself…


PPS. Let’s Talk About Perfection

Header photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Am I Tackling a Branch or a Root?

I don’t subscribe to many newsletters, but if I could only choose one to receive it would be James Clear’s 3-2-1 Thursday.

I’ve taken so many quotes from this weekly (short-but-insightful) collection of thoughts. From a recent newsletter, the following:

Remove the branches of a thorn bush today and you’ll avoid a scrape this year. But next year, you’ll face the same problem again.

Remove the root of the bush today, and the entire plant will die.

Are you solving problems at the branch level or the root level?

James Clear

I read this on a day I was literally cutting back thorn bushes and lamenting my lack of proper tools to get at/destroy the roots. I was doing all sorts of unpleasant work but was limited to a temporary solution (removing the branches). It blanketed the entire task with a sense of resigned defeat because the roots – the most important area for me to address – were still thriving below the surface.

In life when something is routinely frustrating or gets in the way of my productivity or life satisfaction how often do I try to tackle the problem “above ground” at the branch level? (That was a rhetorical question, by the way, to which I sheepishly answer: often.)

Am I willing to endure the misery (usually short-lived) of tackling the issue at the root? Though, if I’m being honest, I’m not always able to differentiate between a branch and a root…

As for those pesky real-life thorns on our property (that have now punctured/ruined two soccer balls), we have plans for a backhoe to come and remove them at the root.

Is there anything you’re currently attacking at the branch level that you’d like to eradicate further down, at the roots?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Abandoning Books, TBR Lists, and Other Reading Miscellany

These posts are always fun to pull together. I love to read and, it appears, many others in the world do too. Plus the “quirks” surrounding reading habits can be downright fascinating (and polarizing – like the fact my father often reads the end of a book…first).

Here is another assortment of reading miscellany I’ve been pondering lately.

Do You have a reading schedule/plan?

I do not maintain a To-Be-Read (TBR) list. For a few years I categorized books as Want to Read on Goodreads but now, if I’m interested in a book, I just go ahead and put it on hold at the library. If it’s not compelling enough to order right away, I don’t keep it on my radar.

While in principle I think it sounds great to have a TBR list, I’m just too lazy (?) to keep track of another list, and enjoy the serendipity of ordering things as they cross my radar.

If I have too many books of interest vying for my attention, I suspend a subset of holds so I don’t have a huge influx at once.

(Also, the new integrated library system in my area has resulted in an overhaul of the online ordering platform and it is very easy to mark books as “Save for Later.” I still don’t consider this an official TBR list since there is no advance planning of what I’ll read/when.)

do you envision a character’s appearance?

I often finish books without generating a clear image of the main characters. At all. Despite repeated passages devoted to defining characteristics, I might have no idea by the end if the main character is tall or short, blonde or brunette (I know Anne of Green Gables has red hair, of course; more on Anne below). When I read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – a book loaded with rich descriptions – I didn’t have a single character fully formed in my mind.

Then there is Dirk Pitt. If one series of books were to capture my reading patterns as a teenager, they would be these Clive Cussler classics. My Dad had an entire shelf full of Dirk Pitt novels (with any swear words scratched out, which only made me more determined to find out what was being said). I had a clear picture in my mind of what Dirk Pitt (and Al Giordino) looked and sounded like. Then I saw the character portrayed by Matthew McConaughey in Sahara and never enjoyed the books nearly as much after that point. Matthew McConaughey did not match up with my character visualization of Dirk Pitt (nor did Steve Zahn or Penélope Cruz).

Now Anne (from Anne of Green Gables) looks, without a doubt, exactly like Meghan Follows. I watched the movies before I read the books and have such a clear picture of Anne as Meghan.

Atticus Finch is Gregory Peck.

But then Laura Ingalls is not Melissa Gilbert; Pa is not Michael Landon – for Little House on the Prairie books, my visualizations are based entirely on the Garth Williams illustrations.

I don’t have a concrete picture of Pollyanna or the Count from A Gentleman in Moscow (though Anna looks exactly like Cate Blanchett) or Jane Eyre. I’ve read The Boxcar Children a dozen times, but have no idea what Henry, Jessie, Violet or Benny look like.

musical connections to books

This might seem weird, but I have distinct musical memories tied to several books.

Nancy Drew = Clair de Lune. I have no idea why this connection exists; perhaps I was reading an especially memorable Nancy Drew book when this song was playing? Every time I hear this song it makes me think of Nancy Drew (and, by virtue, my entire childhood).

Here’s a more unsettling connection. The Christmas song Up on the Housetop reminds me of Richard Ramirez. As in the American serial killer. In high school, I read a book about Ramirez. In July. When I happened to get a new Christmas CD and listened to it on repeat. (Still in July.) It was the first time I had heard Up on the Housetop, so it is forever linked with that specific reading memory. Needless to say, Up On The Housetop does not get much airtime in my house.

She Will Be Loved (Maroon 5) = Harry Potter. When I was in high school, Saturday afternoons were spent listening to Casey Kasem’s countdown and reading Harry Potter. And She Will Be Loved was on…a lot. Hence the link.

Home (Michael Buble) = Animal Physiology. I used to sit on my bedroom window seat at Dot’s and study while the radio played. When Home was a big hit, I was taking Animal Physiology (and other courses too; I’m not sure why the link was formed between this song and Animal Physiology). To this day if I hear the song I feel slightly anxious, like I’ve forgotten a term paper deadline.

abandoning books

I recently went through a rough patch with books and ended up abandoning several of the worst offenders. I used to record these as DNF (Did Not Finish) in my reading spreadsheet, but lately I’ve stopped using that tracking system and have just relied on Goodreads where I only rate/record books I finish.

I’m much more likely to stop reading a book now than I was in previous years…but I still skim most books to the end. (I don’t count books that I have ordered, brought home, and decide right away are not a good fit as DNF. Those are “Did Not Start” and I just put them right back in the bag of returns for the library.)

books I wish I’D written

Modern Fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow, The Dutch House

Classic Fiction: Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Swiss Family Robinson

YA Fiction: The Boxcar Children (my kids favourite book), Because of Winn-Dixie, All-of-a-Kind-Family, Harry Potter, The Trolley Car Family (my favourite children’s book)

Non-fiction: The Happiness Project (this book changed my life), Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand is an incredible writer; her personal story is equally captivating)

Picture books: All the good ones. Seriously. I love picture books and think truly gifted authors/illustrators are creative geniuses.

Any reading habit you’d like to change

This isn’t a habit, per se, but I do wish I could retain more information about fiction. I tend to forget the plots and characters very quickly. Some of this is because I skim, perhaps, but mostly it’s just how I’m wired. I do the same thing with movies. I could literally watch a Marvel movie one night and the next morning forget major plot elements. It’s a bit shameful. I’d be worried about my memory, but I have an excellent recall for many other things, so it’s simply not something I prioritize. But I do feel jealous when friends and family quote lines from movies or books at length.

Maybe this is part of the reason I feel compelled copy down so many quotes from books (though I already tend to remember specific quotes/concepts from non-fiction books much more readily than fiction)?

I love reader responses on these posts, so please share all the details about your quirks! What book(s) do you wish you’d written? Do you follow a specific reading list/plan? Any surprising musical links to books about serial killers?

PS: Do You Read the Last Chapter First? And Other Questions for Readers… + Do You Judge a Book By Its Cover (I Do) + More Questions for Readers

Header photo by Konstantin Dyadyun on Unsplash

Casual Friday + A Hike and Water Woes

Well. That was a week.

After this post goes up, I have a full day of quarterly meetings + quarterly and annual reports are also due…but then comes the weekend and I. Am. Ready.

I tend to start these Casual Friday posts with the “biggest” news of the week; last week, the fact I washed my sheets got top billing. But where to start this time? Being late to a funeral? Plumbing issues? Or…wait for it…The Knitter came over for supper and sat in my living room and…KNITTED. The Knitter. In my home. Knitting. (She is absolutely lovely, by the way. And a fabulously creative/talented knitter.)

Some highlights/lowlights from the week…


Each Christmas we organize a scavenger hunt for the kids; most recently it led them to a personalized coupon book. Levi used most of his “coupons” immediately, but Abby has been much slower to claim hers. Friday she asked to cash in a “Get Out of School for Lunch” coupon. It wasn’t anything elaborate – she asked for Subway and was back to school just as the lunch recess bell was ringing. But it was special to carve out that time together (without Levi) in the middle of an ordinary school day.


I’ve already filled you in on Chopped, but Saturday was eventful in other ways, too.

The mother and stepfather of a close friend recently passed away and the visitation was scheduled for Saturday morning. The event was being hosted almost 2 hours away and was to start at 10 am. While we’re very close to our friend (and the rest of his immediate family), we had not met his parents and I thought it wouldn’t be appropriate to arrive first thing. So when we were planning our departure time I suggested we arrive at 10:30; when we pulled up to the church at 10:35 (after getting stuck behind a very slow-moving vehicle), we opened the door to discover it was a joint visitation and memorial service. And we were 35 minutes late to the memorial service. Everyone was so kind about my error and their response made me appreciate the loving nature of these friends even more.

Home in time to prep for Chopped.

And then the kitchen sink started backing up. This has been happening since Christmas (perhaps related to the water fiasco during renovations – readers might recall the day I discovered water had leaked all over my WRAPPED Christmas gifts in our guest closet). We’ve taken the pipes apart (no blockage), we’ve used Draino, baking soda and vinegar, hot water. You name it, we’ve tried it.

But this time the sink wasn’t draining at all. In fact, BOTH sinks were full of water; I decided I should use the release valve. John warned me not to – he told me the bucket I had under the drain pipe wouldn’t be big enough to hold all the water. I believe he said, and I quote: “I don’t think that would be a good idea.

Did I listen?

Hint: I spent the next 15 minutes mopping water up from the floor and cabinet on my hands and knees.

So, no I did not listen. And 10 gold stars to my husband for not once saying “I told you so.

This was all happening right before guests arrived for an enormous cooking event. Every pot and frying pan was dirty, the counters were covered in stuff, and I had things baking in the oven. And NO WORKING SINK. And WATER ALL OVER THE FLOOR.

(Yes, I was overwhelmed.)

I did dishes all evening in a little basin, making trips to the laundry sink over and over again or dumping the water in the backyard.

When the final course was served and the kids were occupied, the adults sat down to talk and I turned on the dishwasher. Though we’ve had recurrent issues with sink drainage, it has never impacted the dishwasher.

An hour later I walked out to the kitchen to find BOTH sinks were full to the top (another 1/2 inch and our floors would have been covered with water). Apparently this time the dishwasher was impacted…

So I bailed water out of the sinks (it was also now leaking into the cupboard below; on the bright side, that cabinet has never been cleaner) and called it a night.

Saturday was quite an adventure.

SUNDAY | Mother’s Day.

I got in a picture with the kids (relatively rare!) and we went to church. Abby (unbeknownst to me) had volunteered to hand out flowers; it was such a nice surprise to see my girl waiting to give me a flower.

Abby also bought me Twizzlers (my binge candy which I only get a few times a year) and The Best Card Ever. Seriously. It has hamsters with placards spelling Mom and it lights up and sings. (And the back of the card says: #BestCardEver which makes it official.)

En route home, I discovered that I had misplaced my debit card and spent lunchtime (delicious Chopped leftovers) calling the bank to cancel my card. Sigh.

Ready for a dose of honesty/vulnerability? I’m especially conscious of my shortcomings as a mother on Mother’s Day. Highlighting my role – and the importance of it – just makes me aware of all the ways I’m screwing up. (My family is absolutely wonderful and go out of their way to make me feel special on Mother’s Day which, admittedly, also makes me feel guilty).

Do my kids have extraordinary lives? Yes. Do I put tremendous effort into loving them and being intentional in how I raise them? Yes. Does it feel like an overwhelming responsibility and that there is no way to do it all right but I want to do it all right? Yes. Do I (ironically, perhaps) feel unequipped and like a complete imposter in my role as a mother on this day devoted to mothering? Yes.

Earl Grey with oat milk + a book and some music.

I was wallowing in these feelings when I snuck away to my favourite coffee shop. I started reading Bittersweet by Susan Cain and it could not have been more fitting. I realize I feel a deep sense of longing on Mother’s Day. A desperate (bittersweet) longing to do what is best for my kids, knowing how hard it is to balance their needs and wants and my desire to raise independent, empathetic children while caring for my own needs.

A deep longing for them to stay small enough so I can tuck them in and kiss tiny cheeks while longing for them to be more independent and just let me read my book in peace. A longing for them to make wise choices; a longing to protect them from the hardships of growing up. It’s a deep soul ache to see my kids thrive and motherhood feels heavy and light, euphoric and boring, contrived and natural. Basically, motherhood is a non-stop emotional rollercoaster (for me). And then I put pressure on myself to feel rapturous on Mother’s Day. By the time I reached the end of my tea, I decided: I don’t have to feel warm fuzzies on Mother’s Day. I get them dozens of other times throughout the year and it’s okay for this day to feel, well, bittersweet.

Meanwhile, the small humans that made me a mother were off living their best life (John took them on an epic woods 10 km+ woods hike).


  • A 5 km run (felt great). A 6 km run (felt even better). I think I hate running every spring when I start to ramp back up but, in reality, I mostly just hate the first 2 km.
  • A doctor’s appointment for a Pap Smear (PSA: please, please get pap smears and mammograms; I know women whose lives have been saved by regular screening. Make scheduling these appointments – if you’re due/overdue – a gold star this week).
  • I also hadn’t had a tetanus booster since…Grade 10? So the doctor gave me a tetanus shot while I was there (adults need boosters every 10 years).
  • As mentioned, The Knitter (and The Knitter’s Husband; their kids were busy at extracurriculars) came for supper.
  • 10 minutes in the bank sorted out the problem with my missing debit card.
  • We read a great picture book:
Room on the Broom is a classic for obvious reasons, but I kept thinking about The Happiness of a Dog With a Ball in Its Mouth all week. Such a sweet read with lovely illustrations.
This true for anyone else’s kids? The falling part is embarrassing and hurts, but the scab/scar becomes a treasured battle scar they want to show everyone. Everyone.
Mic drop.


John and I hiked Cape Split. It’s a favourite local trail (I blogged about it before), but we haven’t been in several years (pre-pandemic) and they have added on a whole new loop. Ahead of my busy work day Friday, I took most of Thursday off for adventuring. The views are always lovely. We spotted snails, a rabbit, and hundreds (!) of trillium flowers (also known as wood lilies). And at the end of the trail, a red squirrel became very curious about our snack!

I fit in a few hours of work after the hike, and then we headed off with the kids for some more adventuring.

For 35 years I’ve driven by an abandoned textile factory; it’s a bit of a local icon, and one portion of the factory was recently demolished. We finally got up close (well, as close as the safety barriers would allow).

I turned around and saw Levi blowing dandelion seeds – I remember loving to do this as a kid!

We also explored some abandoned train cars on an old railway track. There is something hauntingly beautiful and sad about seeing nature take over man-made objects left to rust in the wild.

As I watched the kids run wild I couldn’t help but think…while they fight a lot (I remember posting about this before and several people chimed in that their kids rarely/don’t fight…this is NOT our reality), they really are great little adventurers! They love to explore and have eagle eyes for spotting interesting things when we’re out and about. Levi, for instance, was convinced he saw a “baby lion by the side of the road” on our drive home. We were unable to confirm this sighting, but I’m expecting it’s highly unlikely in rural Canada?

Home for mini pizzas. We have these a few times a month and they are so good. Mini Naan bread, pizza sauce, pepperoni, fresh basil, and pre-shredded cheese (broiled on low for about 5 minutes). So good. So easy (and the leftovers reheat well). Can’t recommend this meal enough.

And that’s a wrap from me. Happy weekending folks.

Header photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Chopped: Frost Family Edition (Or, I Made Chocolate Curls)

I made homemade chocolate curls last weekend and it wasn’t a big deal (so easy, who knew?!). But still, I MADE chocolate curls. Gold star?

Several years ago we went through a period of watching The Food Network as a family. Abby, in particular, couldn’t get enough of Beat Bobby Flay and The Pioneer Woman. But her favourite show was Chopped.

The premise is simple: four competitors start by making an appetizer. The catch? Their workstation contains a basket with secret ingredients which have to be incorporated/highlighted in their dish. And these secret ingredients can be downright strange. Gummy bears and chicken in an entrée, hotdogs and pecans in a dessert. After each course, one chef is eliminated until two people remain to battle it out over dessert.

Abby loved this show (every iteration, but especially Chopped Junior).

At some point, we introduced a few elements into special cooking challenges at home. Abby and I would choose a “secret ingredient” for dessert and allow 15 minutes to prepare something for John and Levi. Other times we had informal judging – no winner, but an elaborate meal for which family members were invited to offer critiques and compliments.

Then, in early 2020, just before COVID shut down the world, we jumped in with two feet. My parents were overwintering locally and offered to serve as judges. We paired off into teams (John + Levi; Elisabeth + Abby) and printed off scoring cards. We planned for weeks, shopped covertly so the opposing team didn’t catch wind of our menu, and covered the French door to our dining room with butcher paper (so my parents couldn’t spy on the kitchen prep).

From start to finish it was a lot of work, but Abby was in rapture and my parents couldn’t stop raving about the food. I’ll admit – it was delicious food. But did I mention all the work?

For several years we had a reward system in our house called “Warm Fuzzies” – a glass jar filled with (fuzzy) multi-coloured pom-poms. If someone did or said something encouraging or kind, we would add a warm fuzzy. If someone was deliberately unkind or rude, we would take one away. The kids worked steadily toward a goal – most recently, to host another Chopped competition.

They reached that goal over a year ago by accruing 40 Warm Fuzzies…and we only got around to fulfilling our promise last Saturday. #PandemicLife. But, better late than never.

We invited a neighbour couple (the ones who bake the kids cookies, offer us fresh produce from their garden, and bought the whole neighbourhood a basketball hoop and set it up in our driveway; for long-time readers, this is also the couple who leave Christmas lights up for our benefit, help shovel our driveway, and have PB & Banana sandwiches each Friday so, basically the sweetest neighbours ever) to assign the secret ingredients and judge the resulting dishes. (We made things a bit easier with just a single ingredient set for each course.)

John and Abby teamed up, which left me paired with Levi.

I tend to be the killjoy in this sort of event as I find it exhausting to juggle so many dishes while worrying about presentation (Oh, and did I remember to clean the bathroom for our guests?), all while working as a team with a CHILD who has very strong opinions about what they want to do (and, if I’m being completely honest here, I just want to do it all myself and win the competition). The prep, the shopping, the execution, the managing expectations. It’s a lot.

But I survived and it was great.

The secret ingredient selections were: cheese in the appetizer, bacon in the entrée, and chocolate in the dessert.

We had the table set with score cards (again, judged blind – they didn’t know who was paired with whom) and menus.

We weren’t judged on the drinks, but each team made a punch that was similar in taste and appearance, so here’s a representative picture.

How do people make their hands not look weird in pictures? Does anyone else feel self-conscious of their hands in pictures? I never think about my hands in real life, but “picture hands” just always feel…strange looking to me.

And here’s how it all played out:

John + Abby’s Menu (Abby designed/coloured their menu; gold star to her):

Oops. I only took a picture of the front page of their menu…

Appetizer: Tomato bisque + a trifecta of grilled cheese

Appetizer; this was one of the best tomato soups I have EVER had. And each strip of grilled cheese had a different flavour/cheese profile. Also, didn’t they nail the presentation?

Entrée: Beef tenderloin, bacon-wrapped scallops, garlic/onion/bacon mashed potatoes, grilled red pepper, and green beans with hollandaise.

We don’t eat much red meat, but John got an incredible cut of local beef tenderloin from the butcher and it was…delicious.

Dessert: A layered ice-cream cake.

Sadly you can’t see the layers in this homemade ice-cream cake; a chocolate crumb base, peanut butter cups, Skor bits, homemade chocolate sauce and lots of ice-cream. It was so good!

Levi + Elisabeth’s Menu:

Giving credit where credit is due – Abby coloured the flowers.

Appetizer: A three-cheese buttermilk biscuit topped with smoked paprika and dill cream cheese, smoked salmon and Parmesan crisps.

This was our weakest dish; everything tasted great, but the presentation was lacking colour, and – I’ll talk about this tomorrow – 15 minutes before this picture was taken I was cleaning up a torrent of water on the kitchen floor on my hands and knees, so was rather distracted). Maybe the monochromatic look is in?

Entrée: Bacon-wrapped asparagus, bacon cornbread bites, and bacon/chicken alfredo. The homemade alfredo sauce was the bomb.

This was so good!

Dessert: A chocolate panda (Nutella + PB filled) lava cake, with an ice cream head, and chocolate curl limbs.

This panda won the competition. Literally. Levi and I ended up winning by several points and it was all due to the panda dessert which was, I’m the first to admit, entirely Levi’s idea. He has been working for WEEKS on a panda project in school and this was the one thing he insisted on incorporating into our meal. It turned out about 100 times better than I imagined. I was going to do the ice cream head off to the side of the lava cake as an afterthought. But as we were plating, Abby (gold star to her for so generously helping her opponents) suggested we make a complete panda. Levi was so, so proud. And, it was delicious (though, I ask, could a chocolate lava cake NOT be delicious?)!

The raspberry was an afterthought as the peanut butter filling was leaking and made a hole at the top of the cake which we covered with a raspberry, forming a very adorable “belly button.”

Prepping the ice cream heads the day before!

And that’s enough Chopped for a few years. Lots of fun (and delicious leftovers), but also…exhausting!

Three cheers to the kids for being such great sports. Three cheers to John for loving to cook so much and encouraging and organizing so much of this event. And three cheers to our neighbours who were genuinely delighted by the whole experience and the most enthusiastic participants we could have hoped for (they very sweetly brought us a long thank-you note the next day and actually showed up to the “competition” with a plate of their famous cookies).

Anyone hungry? (Aside from vegan/vegetarian readers – sorry!).

Header photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Sometimes I Just Have to Live With the (False) Guilt

Years ago, after the birth of one of my babies, I went to see a postpartum specialist. All the emotions and exhaustion of motherhood felt manageable – until they didn’t.

I only saw this therapist a handful of times and, have to admit, we didn’t click. She was lovely, but I left each appointment feeling…about the same as when I went in. But she introduced to me a concept that I still think of regularly: The Passengers on My Bus.

Fairly quickly (within minutes of my first session) we identified the fact that Guilt is a primary emotion for me. I feel Guilt about eating the last piece of cake, Guilt over forgetting to call my sister on her birthday, Guilt over saying no when my children ask for one more snuggle, Guilt over career choices, Guilt over staying up late to finish a good book.

Guilt, Guilt, Guilt.

The therapist suggested I start visualizing my life as playing out on a public bus. (Stay with me here, it starts to make sense – I promise. I hope?).

I get to sit in the driver’s seat, map in hand. There are Detours scattered around the city but, for the most part, I get to pick the stops along the way to my destination. I set the speed and choose the route. I can even design the aesthetics of the bus. Sounds good so far, right?

But here’s the rub. I don’t get much say over who comes aboard as a passenger.

She told me to picture Guilt as another regular passenger, coming along for the ride. Guilt will come and go. So, for the most part, I have to make peace with Guilt and live with its presence.

A few weeks ago the kids were beside themselves over something I said they could or couldn’t do. (I can’t remember specifics but it likely involved treats or screens or the status of their weekend sleepover or heading out to look for a neighbourhood playmate 5 minutes before bedtime.)

I immediately felt guilt over my response even though I knew it was the right response in this situation. So I stopped and told myself: “Elisabeth, you’re just going to have to live with this guilt.

I can spend all sorts of time and mental energy trying to banish Guilt, but most of the time that approach is futile. And I don’t want to remove Guilt from my life entirely; sometimes Guilt will tell me something useful, direct me around a pothole in my blind spot.

What I really want to work on is minimizing the space I provide to False Guilt. I want to feel confident in the decisions I make; when I prioritize my own well-being over saying “yes” to someone else, I don’t have to feel Guilt. As a mother, I almost always need to put my own life jacket on first (which, in turn, usually allows me to be more present and engaged with my kids in the long run).

Hopefully, over time, Guilt will learn to take a different route through the city and avoid my bus. But I know that there will be (many) times I pull up to a bus stop and find Guilt waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. Sometimes I’ll panic. Sometimes I’ll try to wrestle Guilt off the bus. Sometimes I might temporarily give Guilt the front seat, giving it a turn at the wheel. But I’m working at saying: “Oh. Hi, Guilt. How are you today? Please find a seat at the back.

With any luck, Guilt will skulk off without much fuss and I’ll get back to driving the bus.

Thoughts? Do you struggle with feelings of guilt even when you know the guilt is misplaced? What “passengers” do you wish would stop causing a commotion on your “bus”?

Header photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash