Sunday, October 30, 2016

This Makeup is Delicious!

Would you eat your makeup? I would. I know exactly what is in it, because I made it myself with ingredients from the pantry.

Over past couple years I have experimented with going shampoo-free (or no-poo) for my hair, so I have gotten used to the idea of kitchen ingredients as beauty products. Apple cider vinegar, for example, makes a fantastic rinse that removes build-up of product and leaves my hair soft and shiny. It shouldn't have seemed strange then, when I saw a post in my newsfeed about making make-up (

The recipe that caught my eye was for a powder foundation. The ingredients were simple; arrowroot flour, and then a combination of cinnamon, cocoa and/or nutmeg to achieve the desired colour. It sound reasonable enough, but then I hesitated. Would it look "caked" on? Would I look like the mom in the cereal commercial who puts flour on her face to appear as though she has spent all day making those marshmallow cereal treats? Ultimately, I just had a hard time wrapping my head around going out for the day with food on my face.

My partner thought it was strange too. "Can you do that?" he asked. I had been asking myself the same thing. Then it dawned on me. Of course I can. Why is it any stranger than putting any number of chemicals mixed together in some factory on my face? Who is it that tells us we have to wear commercially manufactured makeup?

I went to the local bulk store for the ingredients and for under $0.50 I think I probably have enough to last a year. Then I got to mixing. I have a fair complexion, so I only needed a little cocoa and cinnamon. The thing that I really liked was I could keep trying it, and then add ingredients little by little until I had the perfect match for my skin tone. And it smells so good!

I have a powder brush that I really like, and a good brush is key to applying this makeup. You want to shake the excess powder off the brush before applying. Less is more. I find it evens out my skin, and it feels nice on. It can be a little drying, and you want to exfoliate first, or it can draw attention to problem areas (yes it can look a little flaky). However, I find the same to be true with any loose powder foundation.

I've been wearing it for a month now and I really like it. It is in  an airtight container and so far it still looks and smells great.  I felt nervous the first few days, still not able to shake the feeling that I was doing something wrong, or socially unacceptable.  Those feeling soon dissipated. Now it is just part of my routine and I love it. So that's my two cents worth. How about you? Have you ever made your own make-up or beauty product? Do you have any tips or recipes? A penny for your thoughts?

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Patriotism and Scaresquirrels

Have you seen the new Canada 150 bulbs? This beautiful tulip has been developed in the Netherlands to resemble the Canada flag, in celebration of our upcoming 150th birthday. You can get them exclusively at Home Hardware. They need to be planted this fall so that they will be in bloom coast to coast in time for the big party.

Feeling especially patriotic, I decided to plant a bag of these bulbs in my tiny front flower bed. Then as a pest deterrent, I put a garden ornament over where I had planted.  I was telling my friend who is a manager at the local Home Hardware that I had planted my bulbs, but that I was a little worried that they would just end up being squirrel food. She told me that she covered her plants with chicken wire.

"Oh my goodness, chicken WIRE!" I exclaimed.  "I covered mine with a METAL CHICKEN to keep the squirrels away." Chicken wire...metal chicken. I was so close. I wonder if it will still keep the squirrels away. I guess we will know in the spring. O Canada 150 tulips, the chicken stands on guard for thee.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Do You Believe In Magic? : Celebrating 100 Years of Dahl

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -- Roald Dahl (The Minpins)

Today is Roald Dahl Day. Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916. I grew up reading his books, and now my own children are discovering his fantastical stories for themselves. To mark the occasion I dressed up as Mrs. Silver from Esio Trot.

My daughter and I also made dream jars for the BFG.

Could I say that the pound of World's Finest chocolate covered almonds that I polished off this week were in honour of Willy Wonka? (No picture as they have been consumed in their entirety.)

I hope that sharing my love of these stories with my children has helped them to have glittering eyes. Like Annie Dillard's pennies, there are secrets and bits of magic in hidden in those unlikely places. Happy birthday Mr. Dahl. Thank you for the splendiferous stories.

Do you have a favourite Roald Dahl book or film adaptation? Is there a particular scene that made an impact on you as a child? Share in the comments below. A penny for your thoughts?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Let Them Climb

My son is a climber. He is happiest when he is up in a tree.  I couldn't figure out why there were smudges on the wall in the stairwell, until one day I caught him going up the stairs without touching the steps. He spread out, a hand and foot on each side, and was shimmying up the staircase. After he finished washing the walls, I decided I needed to find a more appropriate way for him to work on his climbing skills. The children have discovered a love for the sport of rock climbing.

They have climbed rock walls at parties and events. Their favourite place to climb though, is a climbing gym about an hour from our home. It is an amazing place with forty ropes and over eighty climbs, as well as a bouldering area. The centrepiece of the gym is the chimney. At 100' it is the highest indoor climb in Canada.

When you first arrive at the gym you are given a mini-lesson on how to tie the knots and belay. Since this most recent trip was only our second time at the gym, it was good to have a refresher. My mother came along so that both children could climb at the same time. At one point my mother commented it was getting hard on her shoulders doing the ropes. I reminded her that you aren't pulling the kids up the wall. They do the work, you just keep the rope tight.

They hadn't been climbing long when they started asking to climb the chimney. I was trying to avoid it. The first time they climbed the chimney was absolutely terrifying--for me. My daughter made it to the top using the ladder, but I made my son come back down when he was only halfway up when I heard a clink, followed by "Uh-oh." I panicked. He was only six at the time. He never forgave me.

Here is the thing about the chimney--you can't go in there with the climber. The person holding the ropes sits in a chair in the crawlspace just outside the chimney. You have to keep the rope taut, so that if the climber slips they don't bang around in there like the clapper of a bell, and you have to do it all by feel. After a staff member came and did a safety check, my boy began to climb.

It seemed to take forever, and the rope just kept piling at my feet. One hundred feet is a long way up there. He wanted to climb using the holds instead of the ladder. He only needed to use the ladder for a few rungs when he wasn't quite tall enough to reach a hold. Finally he called down excitedly that he was at the top and that the view was amazing. I asked if he was ready to come down, but he wanted to stay up there and enjoy the view a little longer. When he was ready I let him down. I was so proud. My daughter went next, and although I was still a little shaky, I think it gets easier every time.

I guess it's kind of like life. I won't always have them in my sight, as they go off and explore the world, but I can be their safety support system. We have to trust each other, and trust that there will be others in their lives that have the skills and expertise to challenge them and help them grow. I can't do the climbing for them, but I can keep the connection tight. And one day they will be climbing mountains.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Update: How Does Your Garden Grow? : All Is Fair in Homecraft and Horticulture

We have been enjoying the fruits of our labour from our community garden plot for many weeks now. This weekend, the gardening experience culminated in our trip to the fair. The children each chose a vegetable to enter in the horticulture category for their age group. They were so excited to pick vegetables that they planted as seeds, watered, weeded and cared for all summer. My son chose his beets while my daughter chose her carrots. Then we gathered up all of the crafts and works of art that they have been working on this summer, and headed to the fair. This has been a family tradition for years.

I have fond memories of entering projects in the fair when I was a child. It gave me something to do all summer and I must admit I was motivated by the extra spending money. I thought it would be a fun tradition to pass on to my children. They have been both entering projects in the fair since they were old enough to finger paint. I get in on the fun too, and usually enter some photography, crafts or baking. This year I couldn't bear to turn on the oven, so I entered photography and some artwork as well: a page from an advanced colouring book, a hand-crafted bookmark and a watercolour painting.

We always enjoy going back to the fair on Sunday to see all of the displays. I was surprised and a more than a little excited to see that my watercolour painting came in second place! Then came the realization that mine was the only entry in that category. I'm still feeling pretty good about it though--I mean, I could have come in third, or not even placed at all. Right?

The big moment though, was seeing how the children fared with their homegrown veggies. Since they were competing against each other in the "3 vegetables not already mentioned" category, they were very pleased to discover that the carrots placed first and the beets were second. They were happy to receive their ribbons from all their various projects, as well as envelopes with their prize money. We ended the night with the demolition derby and homemade taffy. There were flips and flames and all kinds of drama. Thankfully no one was hurt. It was quite a show. 

The only thing I don't like about the fair is that it is a sign that the summer will soon be coming to an end. But we have tried new things and acquired new skills, we have seeds from the garden to plant next year and we have next year's Prize Book. Maybe we'll get started now. Summer 2017 here we come!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In a Dry and Thirsty Land

This summer we have been enjoying day after day of beautiful, hot, sunny weather. The downside of this is that we are experiencing drought that is devastating crops and drying up wells. Citizens are being asked to conserve water, and just this week, the city reduced the hours at the splash pads. Driving around the countryside you will see dead lawns, stunted corn fields and dusty cars. There are total fire bans all over the region. We need rain and lots of it. It is no surprise that water is one of the main topics of conversation around town. We so often take for granted that living near lake Ontario we have an abundance of fresh water, and this season's drought has made us appreciate every drop so much more.

The other day we went to check on our community garden plot. While we have enjoyed all the veggies our garden has produced so far, we are a little disappointed that what we were hoping would be a bumper crop of tomatoes is succumbing to dry rot. We were able to get a good pick of beans and cherry tomatoes though. Then we were delighted and surprised when the skies opened up above us and we had a beautiful soak of rain over the garden. There were blue skies around us and it literally only rained in the couple of blocks surrounding the gardens. I enjoyed getting soaked in the refreshing rain too. We were so grateful.

Pouring rain on the garden with blue skies all around

We were also grateful to discover a swimming hole at a nearby conservation area. We had driven past the sign countless times but had never stopped. Not only are there great hiking trails with numerous geocaches, but the conservation area also boasts a quarry. The quarry is tested weekly for water quality. It was a refreshing way to cool off and we enjoyed watching the turtles have a swim too.

The Quarry: their own little oasis
Driving home we were all very thirsty, so we stopped to refill our water bottles at a spring by the highway. Although signs warn that the water is not for human consumption, many locals go there to collect jugs of the ever-flowing, cold, clear water from the artesian well. It may not be the legendary fountain of youth, but I do believe it might just be a spring of kindness and happiness. Any time we have stopped there, if there happens to be another person there we are met with good humour that's like a conspiratorial wink. Everyone insists that the other can go first, it is always a great day, and there is invariably a one-liner ("I put an extra quarter in the meter for you").  It might just be the happiest place on earth, or in the county at least. For all the advances in technology, social media and communications, people in a community coming together over a well to meet the most basic of human needs is still a strong source of connection and joy. It is timeless and universal.

Hopefully the rains come soon. In the meantime, my thoughts are with those who are suffering the effects of drought on their farms and businesses. Well, that's my two cents worth. How about you? How are you staying cool? Are you making changes to conserve more water? Or are you in a region dealing with flooding? A penny for your thoughts?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Road Trips and Rest Stops

Now that I am a parent, every destination seems so much further away. Gone are the days of driving straight through from point A to point B. I remember when my daughter was an infant, what should have been a two hour drive took closer to seven. That trip involved nursing in the car in a church parking lot, a diaper failure that necessitated finding a store to buy a whole new outfit...You get the picture. Now that the children are older, they still seem to need frequent stops, even for short trips.

Usually you can find a public washroom, but every now and then you are stuck stopping at a place where the facilities are for customers only. We've bought sandwiches, doughnuts, chocolate and gas, just for the use of the washroom. One time we had to leave a toll highway then buy something at the closest convenience store to achieve customer status. With the extra fee for getting back on the highway, it ended up being a $10.00 bathroom break. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.

The drive to my mother's house is just under an hour and a half. We have only made it there once without having to stop part way. Knowing that the rest breaks are inevitable, I have discovered all the places en route where we can stop to "freshen up." This weekend we were driving up and my son needed to stop. Of course he couldn't wait an extra five minutes to get to the next Tim Horton's. So we stopped at a cheese factory on the highway. I warned the children that this would be a "customers only" kind of place so while they used the facilities I went and made a purchase. They had a large display of curd, what my kids refer to as "squeaky cheese", made fresh the same day. We opened it up as soon as we were in the car. I must tell you it was the best paid bathroom break ever. It was the squeakiest curd we have ever eaten. If you have never had cheese curd, the squeakier it is on your teeth, the fresher it is.

The bag of curd only lasted a few blocks, and we were slightly giddy from the sheer delight of it all. It was then amidst the giggles and squeaks that my son exclaimed, "Look! Chicken swans!" I couldn't make sense of what he was saying. "What on earth is a chicken swan?" I asked him. "You know, they're like swans, but with black necks and white on them." He was of course referring to Canada geese, but we've decided we like the name chicken swans better. Oh for chicken swans and squeaky cheese; even if it takes a little longer to get places, I wouldn't trade my travelling companions for anything.

A bevy of chicken swans by the river