07 September 2014

Views from my new neighbourhood...and a salad.

I am finally feeling settled in and I am loving the fall weather we have been having. I love the cool breeze while the sun is shining and just smelling fall in the air. I am hoping it lasts awhile but I have heard that winter comes on pretty quick in this part of the world. For now I am going to pretend that I didn't hear that and just enjoy fall while it lasts.

One of my favourite things about living in the Kootenays is the view. Almost in every direction there are views of the amazing BC mountains. I have discovered that the view from our backyard is kind of fabulous.

When a storm is approaching the light is amazing.

and there is a hammock...a hammock that is wonderful for lying in and looking up at the treetops and sky. I think I may like it here after all.

I hear there are a lot of trails to explore and outdoor activities to try... lots for us to discover over the coming years. 

This year, the kids and I have been enjoying exploring Fort Steele. I love history and this is probably one of the best places to learn about the history of the Kootenay region.

We get to learn while taking in the amazing views...

the kids get to run around outside... a lot...

and they get to hang out with farm animals.

Actually, I may be just as excited about the farm animals as the kids. 

Now that the boxes are nearly done we are having lots of fun exploring and spending time together while school is out. (Teacher strike here in BC - don't get me started on the school system in BC)

The hubby took his day off this week to build the boys a really cool triple bunk bed. They love it. It was set up in their room last night and we are almost finished setting up their room...should be done tomorrow. They are so excited. I love having a handy husband who can solve the problem of not enough room and just whip up a bed in a day out of a bunch of old two by fours. The boys now have a lot of floor space to play on.

I have started unpacking my cookbook collection...I've missed it. To celebrate I decided to try a new recipe...

something simple. Just a salad... but, so yummy!

I based it on an Ina Garten recipe..."Cape Cod Chopped Salad" from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics I didn't have all the ingredients for the salad so I had to make some substitutions and then I changed the dressing to go with my substitutions. 

Not sure what I call this one, but here is the recipe:

1 chicken breast - precooked and diced (I used a breast left over from a roast chicken)
1 large (double) handful of baby arugula
1 large (double) handful of mixed baby greens
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup pecan halves - toasted (I just dry toasted them in a cast iron skillet)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
6 oz. blue cheese - crumbled

In a large bowl toss the above ingredients.

In a small canning jar (I used a 500 ml. jar) pour in the following ingredients:

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
lemon zest from 1/3 large or 1/2 small lemon 
juice of 1/3 large or 1/2 lemon (approx. 2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste ( I used about 15 grinds of each)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

put the lid on the jar and shake vigourously. 

The recipe makes extra dressing. If dressing the entire salad I would suggest using half the recipe. Serve immediately after dressing and tossing or bring jar to the table and let everyone dress as desired. 

This served our family of six (all the kids ate it)...but we also had a cheese soufflĂ©...so without the soufflĂ© I would say it serves four. Although, it was so good I probably could have eaten the whole thing myself!  

28 August 2014

Blog Therapy

I am slowly unpacking all of our boxes and finding places for everything. Some things have been put into storage until we move...again. While I am grateful that we have a place to live I am not overly excited about being in another temporary position. Something about knowing that I will have to move again in the not too distant future makes me feel a little unmotivated about unpacking. 

Growing up - especially through my teen years - I often felt depressed. I have never been diagnosed with depression or anything I was just a bit of a glass is half empty girl. I had a tendency to focus on the negative. I wasn't completely crazy - there was negative. But, isn't there always? Over the past decade or so I have really tried to focus on the positive. I have made an effort to choose to see the good;  because even though there is a lot of negativity around - and it is not too difficult to find it all you need to do is turn on the evening news - there is also a lot of good.  Luckily, for the most part this has worked. The more I looked for the good things in life - the easier it was to find them. I have really tried to do what I feel is right and I have been led on an amazing journey where I have learned so much. I am truly grateful for all that I have and all that I have experienced. This past year has been a particularly good one for me. I haven't felt so happy in...maybe ever. I was almost giddy at times. Even though my family had challenges I felt like I could do anything. I laughed more than I have laughed in decades...or again maybe more than I ever have. I was busy and didn't accomplish all that I wanted to, but I learned so much, met so many great people and felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Earlier this year...I knew that where I needed to be was somewhere else. More accurately I knew that my family needed to be somewhere else and I needed to be with my family. As I prepared to move I felt content. I knew I was doing what I needed to do and that is always a great feeling for me to have. I love having the knowledge that I am doing the right thing. 

For some reason, as my family and I moved across country - for the fourth time in six years - and have come closer to family, friends and great Okanagan produce (I would like to say that last one is a joke but it is not - I was so excited to have fresh local peaches this year) I have not been able to shake off a feeling of disappointment, exhaustion, and sadness. 

I feel a little shallow because I know part of it is because we moved from a beautiful, large, Victorian home to a not quite so beautiful, small, basement suite. I know that shouldn't matter but for some reason it does. I find that all the little things that are going wrong have become extra irritating. Things like - the oven door doesn't close fully and the oven doesn't cook evenly, food becomes burnt in some areas while still raw in others -  I should just be grateful the stovetop works, right? But, I am more irritated than grateful. 

Normally, I really don't care what people think of me...but for some reason this time...I do. I feel embarrassed. I think maybe it is because I don't have a plan. I always have a plan. I always have a project I am working on. But, right now, I have nothing. My plan was to work on my photography and practice my cooking, which I suppose could explain my irritation at the basement suite (with very little natural light) and the oven that doesn't really work.  Maybe my concern isn't so much what others think of me it is what I am thinking of me...right now, it isn't good. 

I feel a little stagnated, when I like to always feel like I am moving forward. I have had three different plans for starting school this fall - two have been last minute and one of those I very nearly forced through. I know that is not right for me this year. But I feel a little panicked. Maybe it is because for the first time in nine years I won't be in school and for the first time since I've had kids I will be home while all of my kids will be in school. I am in a tiny basement suite and I can only do so much cleaning...

I just had a thought...maybe it is time to make jam.* 

I feel better already. 

Thanks for the therapy session...how much do I owe you?

*a pathetic little reference to TV... back when I used to watch TV... anyone remember the Friends episode where Monica has the jam plan? Except I don't live anywhere near a dock...or have a friend like Joey...so I may have to think of something else...

17 August 2014

summer...so far

This summer, like so many in my life has been hectic and a little crazy.

We started July with one of our favourite summer activities - Canada Day in Pugwash.

Celebrating Canada Day in Pugwash is a bit of a Nova Scotian tradition for us. It starts with a parade...

heavy on the pipe bands - we all love the pipe bands. Then lunch with one of our favourite ladies from church - she is always so generous in taking us in and feeding us...and then a visit to the highland games.

The highland games are always fun to watch. The boys are always impressed with the strength these men have and I think it is fun to watch a bunch of big guys twirling around in skirts. 

My mother-in-law is from Scotland so all the kids feel a little connected to their Scottish roots every time we visit the games. 

Some of my boys want to try it and prove to everyone that they are the strongest. See that blurry kid back there on the wrong side of the ropes heading for the pitch...the one who had to be moved out of the way before this guy could throw...that's right...he's mine. 

I've been trying to let the kids have a bit of fun whenever I can. I'm trying to loosen up a little and let them enjoy the little things in life more often. They only get to experience childhood once...

You would think this kid won the lottery when I caught him blowing bubbles in his milk and asked if I could take pictures of him. He obviously thought he was going to be in trouble. It made me wonder...how mean am I usually? Yes milk spilt all over the table and the kid...but he really had fun and I had another opportunity to teach him about cleaning up - win/win. 

I've been feeling little guilty because most of our summer has looked like this. My kids...especially my youngest...have spent so much of their lives living out of boxes. This summer we moved back to British Columbia...new city this time. I am hoping our moving days will soon be over. At least the big moves. 

The only thing that I like about moving is the opportunity it gives me for road trips! (and yes I do realize that it is probably much cheaper and a lot easier to just take a road trip - my entire life has been a little like choosing the shortest line in the grocery store...you know the one...that short line that always takes the longest to get through...a constant lesson in patience). 

I love driving across Canada. And it is a good thing I do because this was our fourth time doing it! 
On this trip we were able to stop and visit some new-old friends in Manitoba. The boys had so much fun - well, we all had fun, but my boys in particular had a great time. 

We all learned a little about shooting guns...

riding quads...

and catching frogs.

As always the trip was beautiful and we loved being back in the mountains. We missed them.

It has been two weeks since our arrival and I am exhausted. After cleaning our new home, unloading boxes, beginning to unpack, visiting family, and getting in some canning...I am ready for a vacation. 

Yesterday, we took the afternoon off to have a bit of family time at the local heritage village. 

It was kind of nice heading back in time for an afternoon. But, that is all the vacation I am going to get for awhile...more boxes are waiting to be unpacked and I refuse to be the family that lives amongst piles of boxes. Maybe I'll have time to sneak in a bit of fun next week...

01 July 2014

Macarons...and a lot of green

I've been super busy finishing up school projects - plus of course all the end of year stuff with my kids, working on house projects, and planning out what's next...etc.

The usual getting ready for summer around our house.

For my grad show we are using the theme of colour - I chose green. I also chose to photograph food for my final exhibit. 

I had a lot of fun planning and executing some green photo shoots. 

The shoot that I was most excited about was macarons.

I have been wanting to make macarons for a really long time but was feeling rather intimidated because I have read many times how difficult they are to make. I had been procrastinating making them in fear of failure. But, when the time came to plan out my grad exhibit I knew I wanted to do macarons.

Now I won't say they were easy...or that every cookie turned out perfectly...you can believe me when I say they didn't. But like most things they weren't as difficult as I thought they were going to be and I was really happy that I had enough good cookies for a photo shoot.

I actually learned an important lesson doing this shoot. When I first pulled the tray out of the oven and looked at my creations... I was disappointed. I saw a few cracks. I saw that not all the macarons had the oh so necessary feet...my first impulse was to declare myself a macaron failure.

But, then I stopped and looked a little closer. One of the biggest things I learned in photography school is to always look for the good. My teacher told us to try and see the best in people when doing a portrait - as a photographer your job is to make them look good, right?! I extended this to apply to my pathetic looking tray of macarons. As I looked I noticed that many of them did not crack and that some even had feet...good looking feet...even if they didn't always extend around the entire cookie...I only needed one good side! Maybe...I wasn't a total macaron failure after all!!!

I was actually able to get a few shots that I didn't hate - probably the biggest thing I learned in photography school (after learning how to look for the good) is how to see all the things I did wrong in my photos, which hopefully will just encourage me to keep practicing and get better but also has the side effect of making me dislike most of the photos I've taken. But for now - I was satisfied. I ended up with the best shot I could get with what I had to work with...and it gives me a starting off point to improve upon in my next macaron shoot!

As I finish off school this week I also hit the one year anniversary of our latest move. I have been looking back at all I have learned this year and I am so grateful that we were able to spend the year in the maritimes. I have made many memories and learned so much - obviously about photography but also about life. I had no idea that I still had so much to learn! I know without any doubt that I have been exactly where I needed to be. That really is the best feeling.

I've done a lot of thinking and praying and changing of plans this year as I have struggled to know what I should do next. I haven't had that same no doubt feeling as I have been planning my upcoming year. There have been things that seem like the right thing to do, but I just haven't been 100% sure.

Over the past few months the details have been slowly falling into place - it's actually taken most of the year - one little piece at a time. When I think I know, something changes. Frustrating at times but each decision evolves from the one before it and I have almost reached the point where everything feels right. I should have all the details worked out later this week...and will post again soon. What a crazy year it has been!