A Canning We Will Go + A Giveaway For You!

This month (and maybe next month too) we’re going to be having a #CanningParty courtesy of the loverly people at Bernardin. In preparation of our first jamming’ cannin’ party I want to give away coupons for $10 off the purchase of your own Bernardin Starter Kit. After our first canning party, we’ll have a draw for this Starter Kit, which retails for $49.99 (see link to Canadian Tire), so one of you can try your hand at preserving for the first time or if you’re a seasoned canner, maybe enjoy some new tools in your kitchen.

It's canning season and giveaway time! Free coupons and a canning starter kit - woo hooo!
Coupons! Save $10 off!

Want a coupon? Like and Share this post, and leave a comment (either here or on The Keswick Blog on Facebook with either your favourite thing to preserve or what you are most looking forward to trying to preserve this year. Ten people will be chosen at random and I’ll mail each of them a coupon out to whatever address provided to me. 🙂 Winners will be chosen next week, on July 11th, 2019.

Bernardin Start Kit Giveaway Preview
This could be yours! Everything you need to start canning and preserving all of the wonderful in-season produce we are currently enjoying.

We’ll start the entries for the Starter Kit next week once we have finished with the coupon draws, but here’s a preview of what could be coming your way. During the week of August 5th, I will either deliver (within Georgina) or make this available for pick up to the winner. Because of the size and weight of this kit, I will not be able to send it out via Canada Post or courier, as the cost would be prohibitive for me to cover. Details to follow next week!

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

As it turns out that like my mother before me, elephants make me cry.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

Long ago:

When I was young, on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on CBC (channel 5, cable 6 in Toronto), The Wonderful World of Disney would sometimes play a full-length movie, much to the delight of thousands of Canadian children. Escape from Witch Mountain, Herby The Love Bug, you know, well-loved Disney fare. Remember, this was before the days when every household had a VHS player and a video store rental membership, or even just cable. CBC was available to anyone with a t.v., rabbit ears and a working knob dial that turned to change channels.

It was on one of those Sunday evenings, that I remember seeing the animated full-feature movie, Dumbo for the first time. My mother watched it with me and (spoiler alert) when baby Dumbo went to see his mother in elephant jail and she pushed her trunk out between her cell bars to reach out to stroke and rock him gently, my mother lost it. I was shocked by her tears, and I remember laughing at her for being so silly. It was just a cartoon! I remember her starting to laugh too and she was still dabbing her eyes when she tried to explain to me that having a baby (me) had turned her into a weepy mess and just the idea of that poor baby elephant being separated from his mummy was just about the sadness thing ever and it just killed her every time she saw it. I listened without really understanding and eventually just shrugged and turned back to watch the rest of the film. But that moment stayed with me.

Present day:

My mornings start at 5:30a.m. I put my first small on the bus at 6:45 a.m. and my last on the bus at 8:40 a.m. Between the third and fourth departure, there is approximately 20 minutes. I have been using that time to read to small number four. We usually read a chapter from a book that is just for her (currently Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton), as the books we read at dinner time or bedtime are of interest to all four of them. This morning though we could not find her book in any of the usual places. So, rather than waste more our time looking, she (wisely and practically) suggested that we read her school library book about elephants. Great, we love elephants! Except that it was a book based on the true story of three female elephants (two born in the wild and one born in captivity) who were slowly dying at the Toronto Zoo and were (finally) allowed to go to a sanctuary in California in 2013. Remembering Dumbo, I understood my challenge almost at once.

I made it through the entire book, not a tear in sight. No lip-biting or quivering voice. Until the last sentence.

At the end of the story were a few pages about elephants, their statistics, needs, health and habits. The last few paragraphs were specifically about one of the elephants in the story who was relocated to California with her two friends. While she showed improvements at the sanctuary, it was, sadly, too late for her health to improve enough. She was 46 when she died (around mid-life) and that last bit, about how happy the author was that she (the elephant) was at least able to enjoy her last couple of years of captivity living comfortably, happily and closer to her natural environment broke me. I couldn’t make it through the sentence. Tears spilled over and my voice cracked. I had to stop reading. In that moment, I became my mother.

I did finally pull it together and finish the last seven or so words, and wiping my tears away looked at my girl and said “ah then, what a lovely story!” And while she looked a bit taken aback, she simply gave me a hug and nodded in agreement, putting the library book in her backpack to return to school.

I love that we have this precious time in the mornings together, a quiet moment without the chaos of our ‘real’ lives. I love that she loves animals, big and small, and that she actively seeks out opportunities to learn more about them. I love that she wants to include me in her learning. I love that rather than laughing at me (as I did to my mother), she sat quietly and cuddled in, understanding that it was genuine empathy and caring for that poor elephant and the tragedy of her life circumstances that was the cause of my tears and not merely silliness.

I have always read to my children and I have also always advocated for others to do the same. Aside from encouraging literacy (very important), it creates these precious moments of connection between a parent and child, whether that connection is based in empathy, humour or excitement stirred up by the story being read.

So,

If you like elephants, or you like crying in front of your children, or you like crying while reading about elephants to your bewildered children, here is a link to the book on Amazon.ca. The story itself is fine and the illustrations are lovely. It’s that last page you need to look out for.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

And today he would have turned 70 (fabulously, adorned in sequins, stilettos and feather boas, no doubt)

We get but one life. Four days ago it was my birthday (yay, me!). And today, the person who contributed 50% of my DNA would have turned 70 years old (and he would have lied about it smoothly, without guile or shame). He lived the holy hell out of the 42 years he was here with us. He blew mainstream society up, he opened minds, he got conversations started. He was unapologetic and determined to follow his dreams, on his terms. He looked at the way things were in his world, and what society told him that he needed to be and growled a resounding “NO.” He had the ability to make people furiously happy one moment and to the brink of irrational rage the next (a talent, it seems, I inherited, much to my mother’s chagrin).

He was ADHD personified, possessing that singular, obsessive hyper- focus on his passions, he was unstoppable by social norms or expectations. Pushing people’s buttons was a gift and he made good use of that gift at every opportunity, it would seem. He went where and when he wanted and he was stopped the only way he could be stopped. By the demons that lurked within.

At the end of the day, the only thing that truly has the power to stop us, to end us, are the demons we harbour inside ourselves. And his demons were even more powerful and larger-than-life than he was at the peak of his talent, career and life.

Craig, Carol, and Bette. They just don’t make stars like this anymore.

If we lived in a wish-based world, I would wish he had lived to see his grandchildren. I would wish that he had lived long enough to lie about being old enough to HAVE grandchildren. I would wish that my children could have experienced the incredible energy and talent their grandfather was and just how powerful his talents were, in part because he decided that he would be the best so he worked tirelessly perfecting his craft until he was the best. I would wish that I had been allowed more time with him – just as he was, after the stage lights dimmed and the curtain fell.

Alas, since we do not live in a wish-based world, I will take some time today to watch some of the YouTube videos of various live shows that people have generously uploaded over the years and be thankful that through my children, he lives on, in at least some small way.

~A.


Transition pains and birthday wishes

Lucky me. The New Year and my birthday conveniently occur with only five days between them. This means that I have barely the time it takes to eat a cheesecake before beginning (and failing at) New Year initiatives and deciding (and failing at) birthday initiatives. So, while earlier I blogged about my objectives for 2017, now I find myself trying to put words around more personal objectives and meanings as I pass into yet another (early) year of my 40’s.

It is my birthday on Friday, so the time to get this done is now as short as my skirts once were.

Turning 40 did not hurt. To be honest, it was painless because I did not (and do not) feel it. In my mind, I’m still the deranged, scattered, dippy teenage girl I was (except now I have a credit card, a car and a bunch of kids to drive around). Until now, I don’t think any age has really struck a chord with me. But this upcoming birthday has been bothering me, and I think that I have finally figured out why.

It is because this year, I feel very much like I am on the cusp of a brand new chapter and a whole new way of defining and living my life. And that is terrifying and exciting, devastating and energizing, mournful and celebratory, all at the same time (this may be a side effect of my basket case mental health status).

I have always prided myself on being smart and certain. Not muddled, not confused, not unsure. But muddled, confused and unsure is where I have been residing lately, during this ‘life’ changing of the guard, so to speak (and no, I’m not menopausal, thankyouverymuch).

This birthday is a milestone for me. It’s not a traditional milestone, it’s not 40, 45 or 50, but then, rarely in my life have I done things how and when I was supposed to. Chalk it up to a potent combination of the ‘nature and nurture’ forces from which I was created.

This year will be the year that I finally lay to rest my belief that ‘one more baby’ is reasonable, possible and ‘right’. This year I lay to rest my belief that my life circle and purpose is incomplete without mothering one more child. This year I move forward knowing that I have five beautiful, healthy, wonderful(ly infuriating) children who depend on me to help their worlds make sense and who also need me to  love them, protect them, feed them (possibly the most important item on this list), and mother them. Alas, this is the year that I stop thinking of my body in terms of its function and ability to produce and directly sustain the life of another and start thinking of it more as the irreplaceable, important and worthy entity for the sake of MY survival. To sustain MY life. Because my survival matters too.

Change has never been my forte. I am a planner, perhaps a bit of a control freak (as much as hippy-dippy and control freak go together, that is). I’ve been told (more than once) that I do not shift gears very easily or quickly, and as much as I dislike the sound of that or what it feels like it means about me, I have to begrudgingly admit that it is a true statement. I like things done my way. On my schedule. And I’m not terribly good at trilling “plot twist” and moving on when presented with an unplanned-for idea or event. But I am working on it. My personal goal for this year is to be better at plot twists and plan changes. Oh, I’m not giving up my lists, but this year their role will shift from that of an unforgiving dictator to more of a gentle guide for my days.

I’m looking forward to my birthday this year. I’m looking forward to doing the work that I need to do on myself, to be a different, if not better, version of me. I am looking forward to figuring out who I am and how I fit into this world now that my baby years are behind me and my future is still wide open.

~A.


Is his depth equal than or greater than my ditz?

A brief, recent, and real exchange with Paxton, age 7 1/2 years.

Pax, while eating his lunch: “In life, you just gotta have a lotta patience.”

Me, half listening: “Hmmmm? Yes, yes, you certainly do.”

Pax, finished his lunch and while leaving the table: “Yup. A lotta patience. You sure do gotta to have it.”

Time skips a beat and I look up from the sink where I had been washing dishes while he ate and watch his little frame retreat from the kitchen and head toward the living room (otherwise known as the Lego Promise Land). Um. Huh? Wait a minute. I realize that I’m really not sure what he was talking about. Was he talking about ME and my life (with kids, house, work, husband, kids, you know, the usual) and in his uniquely Paxton way, gently reminding me to have more patience because he had noticed that lately I was running short on it or was he talking about life and people, in general? Um, what exactly just happened here?

To put it into perspective for you, I will share that when I was seven years old, my biggest revelation was that the Polkaroo was really whichever fella (in a ridiculous costume) who was partnered up with the girl host in that any given episode and not some separate entity and that was why, time and time again, said otherwise happy dude would bemoan “What? Polkaroo was here? And I missed him again?”

Well, frig then. Either Pax is wise and deep beyond his years or I was just a total dud at being a seven-year-old. I’m really hoping that it’s the former rather than the latter. Because having to admit that your decline began before your eighth birthday is just sad but bragging that your kid is a philosophy prodigy is just bitchin’.

So, there you have it. Another Paxism and another life lesson on this second day of Spring 2016.

#ThisLittleDudeTho ????

???? #ThisLittleDudeTho #MySmallsTho ????

In life, you just gotta have a lot of patience.

Paxton, 7 years 6  months.


How the meaning behind all of those ‘Words of Wisdom’ becomes clear once we are too old for it to truly matter. And stuff.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Sir Winston Churchill

There are expressions that I have heard my whole life. Many of them you have probably heard as well. For the most part, I never gave them much thought and just accepted them as either not applying to me or as applying only for ‘old’ people (younger me was a much bigger asshole than older me is, believe it or not), or I would figure that I was already doing the right thing, so the expression was a nice pat on the back to me for possessing  awesomeness by nature. I was wrong. So very, very, wrong.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you, is TRUE. Assholio behaviour to others begets assholio behaviour back at you. And it sucks any way you slice it. So, a cure for this would be this new expression: Be nice or leave.

Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone (thanks, Grandma!) is TRUE! People gravitate towards happy people. People who smile. People who are friendly. Nobody goes out of their way to hang out with someone who is gloomy, negative or upset all the time. But, on the other hand, nobody goes out of their way to hang out with fake, artificially happy people, so find a way to be genuinely happy more often than not and good things will be sure to follow.

Misery loves company is also TRUE. So while is would appear to be a bit of a contradiction, misery really does love company. Miserable people love, need, and strive, to bring as many people down with them as possible. They feed off the misery of others to keep their own misery thriving. To ensure that they never have to make a change for the better or take a chance, they need more misery. Don’t be one of them.

You’re only young once is also, disappointingly TRUE as well. Best of all, young people are too young and stupid to full appreciate what this means which leads us to:

Youth is wasted on the young. Too. Fucking. True. Being young, I thought I knew everything. I was the coolest the know-it-all, I was infallible and living life with no regrets (while also making sure that I didn’t actually make any, you know, HUGE strides in life or taking any real chances, because, young and LOSER). You know what I say to that now? Idiot. Stupid, naive, twit. Youth was most definitely wasted on the young in my case. I’d do a much better job with it now, believe you me.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression is, TRUE. And that is also why I just keep blogging away. I blew any chance to gain respect or admiration for my writing with the first post I published, so, I have nothing to lose if I just keep on pounding away at this keyboard and hitting publish a little too often, do I?

Onward and upward we go, my friends.

~A.B.


January – wrapped up late. As happens

In keeping with my modus operandi the first monthly wrap up is a week late. Yay, me! Points for being absolutely and completely consistent and predictable. ????

But, on the unshitty side of that, I did actually learn a few things in January that I can now make note of so that I may be able to avoid having to learn them again. This month, I learned (remembered/was told/came to understand) that:

No matter how old we get, we need our parents to be parents and no matter how old our children get, we still need to parent them. The parent-child relationship is not an eighteen year commitment. It is a LIFETIME commitment. The relationship changes over time, the requirements on both side ebb and flow, as do the needs to be met, but the obligation, the instinct, the need to parent and have parents is eternal. My 21 year-old needs me just as much as my 11, 9, 7 or 5-year-old do, the only difference is that we now have to negotiate an adult-child-parent relationship. My baby he may always be, but a baby he is not. And when the shit hits the fan or I’m feeling completely lost and alone, I turn to my parents to help me, because who has cared for me and loved me for as long as they have? I have a husband who loves me, I have children who love me, and I am grateful  and blessed to have both. But I still need my parents (I think that this realization means that I will be required to officially turn in my ‘spoiled adolescent card’).

Neither the length or colour of my hair, the shape of my body, the fit of my clothes nor the wrinkles on my face are allowed to determine how good I look, how good I am, or how good I feel. And I am SO done with holding myself back because I need to wait until something fits, looks better, is smaller, smoother or brighter. In January, I wore, wait for it, Jean Jeggings for the first time in my life. They were a Christmas gift from Mr. K.B. I’m not sure if he really believed that I would ever wear them, but yes, with my fluffy body and my thick, too short legs, I ditched my beloved, tried and true track pants and walked around wearing Jeggings. And I didn’t wear a hoodie or knee-length sweater to cover it all up. I wore a regular length shirt. And you know what? The world did not implode. In fact, my husband LOVED it. And I felt good to try something new, to step outside my comfort zone, to be aware of the fact that this is the body that I have and I need to appreciate it for what it is NOW, not hate it for what it is not or resent it for what it should/could be. It’s healthy, it’s functional, it provides comfort and cuddles, hell, it has created and sustained LIFE. More than once. So, no more hating on it. Every scar, every pound, every line, wrinkle and stretch mark have been hard-won and I’m done hating on them, for they represent much of what my life has been about – my family.

It takes not one kilowatt of energy less* to be growly, frowny and grumpy than it does to be smiling, positive and encouraging. It really doesn’t. In the schools right now, the buzz word is ‘self-regulation’ and they are really pushing just how important it is that children learn how to self-regulate at as early an age as possible. I discounted this as something that I learned how to do long ago, so didn’t give it much thought for myself. But, as it turns out, not so much. I still have a lot of work to do to achieve true self-regulation of my emotions. And food. And emotions. And chocolate. Shit. You get the picture. But that’s okay, because I am aware of it now. And I am working on improving. So I don’t have to flagellate myself relentlessly when I screw something up or handle something like a three-year-old two hours past nap time. I can do it better next time. See? No more self-inflicted emotional bruises. Because, learning.

Well, this pretty much exhausts January 2016 for me. I learned a lot. I cried a lot. I thought a lot and I made lots and lots of lists. Because lists are my happy place. Even when I don’t cross everything off, I still love me a good list. Now, onward and upward into February. We have a whole extra day this month. I’m still trying to decide how I want to use it. Probably doing laundry. Because I’m fancy like that. ????????

~A

*Edited to change out the word ‘less’ for ‘more’ in the third lesson learned because who the hell wants to expend MORE energy being a growly grump than a positive ray of sunshine?


It takes a village, so thank you.

First off – thank you. Thank you for understanding that sometimes, the diabolical twins, Depression and Anxiety show up and while they are not invited guests, nor do I want them around, they appear nonetheless. Depression shows up at the least opportune times and takes over without warning or consultation. Depression and its sidekick Anxiety are lying, selfish bullies. Secondly, thank you for your suggestions and advice. I have read each message and taken something valuable away from each one. Thank you for hanging out and reading with and writing to me, even when I’m decidedly unfunny. And finally, thank you for sharing your stories with me and trusting me with your struggles.

It takes a village to raise a child. We’ve all heard that. What many of us, myself included, are slowly realizing is that it also takes a village to raise and maintain healthy, productive, involved and compassionate adults (who will in turn raise all those village children). Isolation is a killer. Semi self-isolation is a necessity for me at times, but I am unbelievably grateful to know that just beyond the horizon of sadness lies laughter and light, just waiting to welcome be back.

What brought Depression into my world this time? Who knows. I doubt it even matters. I do not know where my life will lead me. I do not know who I’ll meet along the way. I do not know who will stay or who will leave, but I do know that I will continue on this life journey, road-blocks, pitfalls, darkness and all. And I will continue to learn, hide, adventure, love, cry, laugh, fall and feel along the way.

~A.


Mid-way through November and still she rambles

I’ve been blogging up a storm. I just haven’t been finishing or publishing the posts. I’ve been getting lost in my own head perhaps. So today, it’s just a mini-post, mostly pictures with just a pinch of commentary. Nothing heavy. The sun is shining and it’s 8C. In November. In Canada. There’s no way that I’m going to be wearing my complainy-ranting bitch hat today. No sir. Not me. Imma gonna be happy today. I’ll have more than enough time to be miserable once winter shows up. 😉

A couple of snapshots from around here right now:

Borrowed from my most favourite place in town. Because I'm always looking to increase my happiness factor and decrease life-sucking bullshit quota.

Borrowed from my most favourite place in town. Because I’m always looking to increase my happiness factor and decrease my life-sucking bullshit quota.

My first lavender plant is still going strong. Every day I tell myself to clip some to dry or use and then I just marvel at how much bigger it is instead. But today may be the day I snip some. Any suggests how to make the best use of it? It smells divine. I may have too much. If you want some, bring your scissors 🙂

All of the YES to this one. Walmart finally got something right. And I got me some Juice Newton and Heart to keep me happy and calm while my kids do battle in the back of the van. Bliss is mine - and it only cost 5 bucks!

All of the YES to this one. Walmart finally got something right. And I got me some Juice Newton and Heart to keep me happy and calm while my kids do battle in the back of the van. Bliss is mine – and it only cost 5 bucks!

Do you even see this cat? She's totally trying to psych me out - pretending to be asleep, all the while cutting her eyes at me, just daring me to trip over her on the stairs. Honestly, Lucy Liu, the stairs are a terrible place to have a pretend nap.

Do you even see this cat? She’s totally trying to psych me out – pretending to be asleep, all the while cutting her eyes at me, just daring me to trip over her on the stairs. Honestly, Lucy Liu, the stairs are a terrible place to have a pretend nap.

My Cape Cod crow. He's usually inside by now, but I went to bring him in and noticed that he's enjoying a nice autumn snack of leaves. Apparently, my crow is vegan. Who have thunk it? Must be why he's so robust. Either way though, he'll be coming in soon, I don't want to press my luck keeping him alive under two and three foot snow drifts. His type is more beach bum than ski bunny, methinks.

This is my Cape Cod crow. He’s usually inside by now, but I went to bring him in and noticed that he’s enjoying a nice autumn snack of leaves. Apparently, my crow is vegan. Who have thunk it? Must be why he’s so robust. Either way though, he’ll be coming in soon, I don’t want to press my luck keeping him alive under two and three-foot snow drifts. His type is more beach bum than ski bunny, methinks.

And that’s my beautiful November day thus far. If we could just get about three more months of this type of winter, that would be aces.


Is it just me?

Is it just me or is this school year just not grooving yet? I cannot seem to fall into my lunch and snack making routine. I cannot get the hang of collecting and signing agendas, weeding through Lunch Lady ads, life insurance offers, and school lice alerts. Or maybe the letter ‘L’ is the problem.

Either way, signing forms in triplicate plus one (because I don’t know the right word for quadlicate or fourplit or signing the same form four times) and keeping the schools straight, being mindful to remember whose forms I’ve signed and who I’m waiting to receive forms from, along with which minion has or needs ‘indoor’ running shoes, new ‘outdoor’ running shoes all while checking to see if we’re nearing frost or desert temperatures on a daily basis so I can bark accurate dressing orders in the morning equates to me being officially ‘done’ with this whole school year thing. Five days into the year. (Note: I started this post over a week before it was finally published)

On the upside, my smalls are all happy with their friends (new and old) and their schools, classes and teachers. And so far (after day six now), there have been no catastrophic events that have led to any of my elementary school aged children to file for emancipation and leave home. So I do have that positive to cling to.

There was once a time when I LOVED back-to-school time both as a child and an adult. It was a time of new beginnings and new school supplies, clothes and books. It was a time of a ‘brand new me.’ Akin to New Years, I could make new resolutions, decide that “this year I’m going to xyz.” And I could relish in the list making, planning and minute details of creating this ‘new me.’

And now, I just want to freeze time and live in a bubble with my family. Shutting out the stresses, pressures and darkness of the world. I no longer want to change everything about myself. I no longer want to overhaul my whole everything. I want to grow, encourage and learn, but I want to do that with those whom I love. I don’t want to run myself ragged ensuring that I’ve properly declined life insurance for my five-year-old or remembered to recycle the offer of over-priced, nutritionally lacking delivered daily lunches.

But, instead of going on, and on, and on. I think I’ll just post some pictures and remind myself how fortunate and blessed that I am to have the people I have in my life and the opportunities that I have to enjoy said people. I probably just have the end-of-summer blues and I’ve screwed myself by not having ‘forget-about-it’ vices (Note to self: do look into a new vice at your earliest opportunity).

Watermelon smiles all around.

Watermelon smiles all around.

One of our three sunflowers <3

One of our three sunflowers <3 Next summer, I need to aim for one for each babe.

Another summer day, another playground to conquer.

Another summer day, another playground to conquer.

Hamming it up at the Rogers Store in town while we were replacing our modem to end our bandwidth drought. Gawd, I love this girl.

Hamming it up at the Rogers Store in town while we were replacing our modem to end our bandwidth drought. Gawd, I love this girl.

I carry these times and blessings around in my heart to carrying me through the dark moments, the sad days and the times when I really wonder what I’m really doing here.

And the weeks roll on.