Something Old & Something New, Part II

Just Married!  Isn't love grand?
As promised, today I am continuing my three part series on homespun, heartfelt weddings!  Today I would like to introduce you to Ainsley and Eric Latwaitis, who will be celebrating their 10th Anniversary on June 30! 

Ainsley and I had a bit of a giggle when I requested some photos of her wedding.  Unlike my sister Jamie's wedding (profiled on Monday) which took place just last year, ten and eleven years ago when she and I had our weddings, digital photography was virtually unheard of!  After our weddings, we had to wait for the photographer to develop the pictures.  We even had to wait for snapshots; back then, Nova Scotia didn't have Sunday shopping, so we had to wait until Monday to get our film developed!  And so, to accommodate my request, she had to scan a few pictures for me.  Subsequently, there won't be quite as many pictures of Eric and Ains as there were of Jamie and Mike!

Ainsley and her bridesmaids by the garden. (That's me on the left!)
Ainsley's mother Dale is a floral designer, and she, Jamie, and myself have all been lucky to have her creations at our weddings.  Ainsley's bouquet was a wildly beautiful hand tied creation of sunflowers, white and purple accent flowers, and raffia. Simply gorgeous!  Flowers featured often throughout the celebration, which is fitting since Ainsley is an accomplished gardener with a diploma in ornamental horticulture from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.  Decor for the ceremony and reception was in the form of potted plants and seasonal hanging baskets.  The bridesmaids also carried hand-tied bouquets featuring the same flowers as the bride's bouquet.  After the ceremony, the children attending were given dried flower petals to toss instead of confetti or rice.  These petals had been lovingly gathered and dried by family and friends just for the event.  This is an idea I really love because it is ecologically sound unlike paper confetti which just causes litter (despite how pretty and fun it is) and rice which can be dangerous if consumed by birds. Flower petals just dissolve away over time.

Young guests tossing dried flower petals.
The flowers continued with the wedding favours; guests were delighted to take home hand stamped packets of sunflower seeds!  And what wedding would be complete without cake!  Ainsley and Eric sent their guests home with fruitcake made by family members.  This is a lovely old tradition; we have photos of aunties and nannies making wedding fruitcakes and in this day of cupcakes, molding chocolate and ganache, it always makes me smile when I see fruitcake at a wedding.

The lovely bride with her bouquet!


Ainsley and Eric's wedding ceremony was held in Eric's hometown in his family's church, St. Stephen's.  The ceremony was beautiful and featured readings by family members.  After the ceremony, the wedding party and guests gathered at the home of the bride's aunt and uncle in her family's hometown for a barn party!  A white wedding tent extended the barn area and provided the perfect place for the happy couple to celebrate with family and friends.  As guests were arriving and mingling, the wedding photos were taken.  They were composed against a natural setting using a garden bench and a small garden planted for the occasion as a backdrop.  The effect, as you can see, was beautiful and timeless.

After the photos the party really got started.  After a delicious catered dinner guests nibbled on sweets prepared by family members.  The music for the dance was specially selected by the bride and groom and had the desired effect of getting everyone on the dance floor!  The barn setting, with its vintage signs and bales of straw worked its charm and everyone was relaxed, happy and in the mood to celebrate!  It was a
wonderful beginning for a happy couple who have continued to live in
happiness together for almost ten years!  Congratulations, Eric & Ains! 

Friday is my third and final post in this series and will feature a wedding that is very special to me - my own!  I really loved our wedding and the special touches we incorporated to make it our own, and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

Something Old & Something New...

What a week this is gearing up to be!  After the hilarity of April Fool's Day everyone will be buoyed to the end of the week by the prospect of a four day weekend!!!

And of course, with April comes the promise of warmer weather.  The first day of Spring may fall in March, but for many April 1 marks the beginning of the Spring & Summer season.  And after a three month break from frivolity, we are ready to celebrate again.  Bring on the showers, graduations, and weddings!

For anyone with a major event happening in June, July, or August, April marks the time when you really need to start getting your ducks in a row.  If it's a university graduation you're facing, then right about now you are putting the final touches on a thesis and cramming for finals.  A June high school graduation means that if you haven't picked out your prom dress yet, you'd better hurry up!!! And if you're getting married, then you are probably blissfully scanning items into a registry in anticipation of your shower.  Regardless of the event, there's lots to do, plan, and look forward to.

This post is the first of three about weddings, specifically, homespun weddings.  Weddings have really evolved over the last decade, thanks to increased reporting on celebrity nuptial trends, the internet, and magazines such as Wedding Bells  and The Knot.   While brides were once dependent upon tradition and family dictates input to determine what a proper wedding should entail,  thanks to these magazines and their websites, they can query anything from cakes to etiquette concerns as well as search the very latest trends in vows, apparel, and decor.

The great thing about this?  Anything goes!  Brides and grooms are free to have the event of their dreams and to celebrate their day (and indeed, their life together) any way they choose!  And what we're seeing is fabulous!  In fact (and this is just my personal observation) to me it seems that, since the rules of engagement have loosened up, the grooms are getting more involved and are happy to do so!

A trend (or lack thereof) that I personally love is that, once the stale traditions started evaporating, brides began seeking out unique, traditional and homespun elements to include in their special day.  What I love about this is that from the most elegant of weddings to the downright down home, there is always a way to bring in some meaning and tug at the heartstrings.  I've recently started following Jenna MacNeil's blog My Bridal Bouquet.  Jenna and I met a few years ago when we were both working for the Suas e! International Choral Festival.  A few months ago she announced her engagement and is planning a summer wedding (Congrats!). Instead of a  traditional floral bouquet, she has found a stylish and meaningful alternative.  I want you to visit her blog so that's all I'm going to say, but it's absolutely one of my all-time favorite wedding ideas!

I could go on and on about all the nifty things I've seen at weddings over the last few years, but instead, I'm going to showcase three weddings in particular that totally embraced the idea of having a personalized wedding full of homespun, homemade and heartfelt delights!

Just Married!  Jamie & Mike share a smile.
Today I'm introducing you to my sister Jamie Crane and her husband Mike MacSween.  They were married on July 11, 2009.  When it comes to weddings, you can't get much more homespun than theirs, which took place on the beautiful property of their lovely home. Jamie and Mike were engaged when they bought their house and they were contemplating a destination wedding to Cuba.  When my mother, her best friend, and I saw their home and property for the first time, we all agreed it would be the perfect place for a wedding!  It literally looks like it belongs in a story book.  However, since we aren't busy bodies, we kept that to ourselves.  We were of course delighted when, a short time later, Jamie and Mike announced that they would be having their wedding at home.  Their house has a delightful history filled with love, family, and devotion, but that's a post for another time.  The property borders on Mike's childhood home so it really was a homespun wedding all around!

Unfortunately,  I wasn't able to attend their wedding as I had just relocated to BC a few months before and logistically I couldn't make it happen.  But I was home for most of the planning meetings and was familiar with many of the ideas she was hoping to incorporate.  In the days following the wedding I waited impatiently patiently for pictures!  All joking aside, for such a busy gal Jamie got her pictures out very quickly and I had a great time (and a few sniffles) looking over each and every one.

Look close!  Those are cowboy boots on the bride!
Beside the obvious fact that their wedding was held at home, there were many other factors that made Jamie & Mike's wedding unique and heartfelt.  Jamie and her children are all avid riders and love all things western and equestrian.  This theme presented itself subtly throughout the event, from the quilt covered hay bales for seating to the bride's cowboy booted feet.

Wedding Cake with Floral Accents
  All of the decor and landscaping was designed and executed by family.  Our Aunt Dale, a floral designer, and her daughter Ainsley (of Patty Cake Manners) were responsible for the flowers and many of the decorative touches.  Our family is very blessed to have many creative people, and Aunt Dale's floral creations have set the style for many family celebrations, including all three of the weddings I will be featuring over the next few posts.  Jamie's bouquet was a joyful explosion of sunflowers, daisies, and ferns tied up with raffia.  The bridesmaids carried bunches of white daisies, also tied with raffia.  Throughout the property the theme of sunflowers and daisies continued, with pink and cream rose accents, in arrangements, on the cake, and in corsages and boutonnieres.  The effect was charming yet still stylish, relaxed enough to fit the theme of the wedding yet modern like the couple.

Here Comes the Bride!
Jamie & Mike's home and property was picture perfect for the flow of the day.  Conversation areas of outdoor furniture dotted the area and provided comfortable, shady seating for those who required it.  A large white wedding tent accommodated the catering area as well as the dance floor. Once the ceremony began, the wedding party left the house by the front door, walked up the lawn and down an aisle formed by quilt covered hay bales to a bower built by our father and his best friend out of found wood. The ceremony took place under this bower in the fresh air surrounded by family and friends.  The signing of the register took place on a barrel decorated with a floral arrangement (see photo above). After the ceremony, guests could mingle the property and enjoy a home cooked wedding feast of barbecued chicken and salads.  Gifts were gathered in a wheelbarrow inside the tent.
Conversation Area
 Jamie and Mike also assigned a camping area where guests could pitch their tents and spend the night. This "tent village" was a very popular idea and many guests took them up on this suggestion.

In the days leading up to the wedding, the couple, along with their family and friends were busy with preparations, including cooking, decorating, building, assembling, rehearsing, you name it!  Add to the fact that Jamie and Mike are both very busy people professionally and that their wedding took place the same weekend as one of their daughter's main horse shows, and they were really going full tilt all weekend!  And yet, in all the hundreds of pictures from their wedding and the days leading up to it, I don't think there was one where everyone wasn't smiling.  Indeed, there are many where everyone is laughing.  And I think that is the best indicator of a successful wedding; a happy, content couple enjoying their day with their guests.  Indeed, true to form as a well organized "saddle mom" Jamie was up bright and early the next morning and left her tent villagers soundly sleeping off the effects of the night
Bridesmaids Ashley & Ainsley
before as she and her daughter headed to the horse show.

I'll leave you with a few more images of Jamie & Mike's wedding.  On Wednesday, I'll be featuring the wedding of Eric & Ainsley Latwaitis (she of Patty Cake Manners) which took place almost 10 years ago!  Time flies when you're having fun!




Make time for Hugs!  Jamie & Mike under their bower.


Good Morning, Campers!  The Tent Village.
Hay Bales waiting for quilts, and guests!
Wheelbarrows full of gifts!  It's good to be Jamie & Mike!

Relocation is Everything...

Hi Everyone!

I'm doing an extra post today to let you know that this week we're moving!  It's just a move across town (whew!) but of course it will mean that our internet will be temporarily unavailable.  I have great faith in my internet service provider, but just in case I have scheduled posts ready for the next two weeks.  And I think you'll really enjoy them!  This week I'm doing a three part series on homespun, heartfelt weddings.  And next week I'm embracing all things Spring, starting with a Retro Recipes segment on Monday, a "garden" post on Wednesday, and a Great Green Spring Cleaning Challenge update on Friday.

In the event that Nesty experiences "Technical Difficulties" and the posts do not appear as planned, you have my sincere apologies in advance!  As a contingency plan, I've prepared a list of my favorite blogs for you to check out; heck, check them out anyway!  I love discovering a new blog!!

These are all great blogs, and run from fairly new blogs to well established to downright famous (Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman is being made into a feature film starring Reese Witherspoon!).  There's a little bit of everything in that list, and any of the blogs in my blog roll are great, too!  Check out a new blog, you'll be amazed at what's out there!

Wish me luck with the move and I'll be back soon!  Happy Easter!

Earth Hour 2010

Happy Friday, everyone!  Alright, so I haven't actually worked in almost a year, and my husband works shift work, so Fridays aren't even usually the start of our weekends.  And yet, I still wake up Friday mornings with that excited something's going to happen feeling!  Often, all that happens is that the flyers arrive, but that's still something!


This weekend, however, something is going to happen - Earth Hour!  In case you aren't familiar, Earth Hour is an event where people across the world turn their lights off for 1 hour at 8:30 PM to demonstrate that they are demanding action on climate change.  In preparation for Earth Hour 2010, I decided to check out the official website, http://earthhourcanada.org/earthhour/    This website has lots of great news and information about Earth Hour, including the following facts that the WWF would like you to know about the event:

5 Things we want the world to know about Earth Hour
  1. We can solve 3/4 of climate change by changing the energy we use.
    First step is cutting down our use. Do those lights really have to be on? Can the computers be turned off at night? Think before you switch on.
  2. 10 million Canadians care about leadership on climate change.
    Every person who participates in Earth Hour is sending a clear and inspiring message to our leaders to take further action needed to help our planet.
  3. We're in the hot seat this summer - and it's not on the beach!
    Canada is hosting the G8 and G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto in June, and climate change is on the agenda. Let's show the world what we are capable of.
  4. Wildlife's best hope is avoiding 2 degrees Celsius.
    Global warming is already threatening our coral reefs, the base of ocean life. If we can limit the warming, we can stop 1/3 of species from risking extinction.
  5. WWF wants to help you make every hour Earth Hour.
    There's a big growing community online of people wanting to do more and looking for support. Join us at http://community.wwf.ca
                        (taken from earthhourcanada.org)

Candles, Earth Hour 2009
My husband and I observed Earth Hour together for the first time in 2008.  We made an event of it by picking up takeout and eating by candlelight.  We had a lot of fun, and ended up leaving the lights off for awhile after Earth Hour had officially ended.  Have you ever noticed that there's something fun about the lights being off?  I know it's probably wrong, but I secretly love a power outage!  Reading or playing games by candlelight, stumbling around with flash lights, there's just something exciting and adventurous about that!  And so, last year, when my husband was away, I decided that I would still celebrate Earth Hour on my own!

Molly, Eco-Dog
I made sure I had plenty of candles, snacks, and a bottle of wine.  I actually got really into it and did some Earth Hour "decorating" around the house.  As 8:30 approached, I started turning off lights, the television, the stereo, the computer.  Just the process of turning everything off was an eye-opener as to how much electricity just one woman can use! Finally, the fur babies and I settled into the den for an hour of candlelight and quiet reflection.

Earth Hour Decor
We rarely take a moment to just "be," let alone a whole hour.  Even the previous year we had been chatting, eating, playing backgammon.  This year, I was on my own in a silent apartment dimly lit by candles.  It was a wonderful meditative experience, and I had a lot to ponder!  In a few days I would quit my job and board a plane to Regina, where I would watch my husband graduate from the RCMP Training Academy at Depot Division.  We would return home and, just a few short days later, drive away from our beloved Cape Breton Island and travel across Canada to our new home in an unknown town called Kitimat in British Columbia.  Suddenly, an exercise in advocating for change had evolved into a personal exercise in contemplating change. As the candles flickered, the clock passed to 9:30 and Earth Hour ended, my whole world was about to change...
Our New Home!
What a difference a year makes!  Graduation and our trip across Canada passed in a whirl, but we had a fabulous time!  We adore Kitimat and have settled in and made many great new friends.  And while I have left one career behind (at least for now) I have started writing again and am looking into other options.  As Earth Hour 2010 approaches, a whole new world is opening up for me and my family, and we are loving every minute of it!

As part of our new life we have been working towards capturing the spirit of Earth Hour every day with a dedication to a greener lifestyle and an appreciation of the natural beauty that surrounds us.  Traveling across Canada showed us how incredibly beautiful our home and native land truly is, and how much there is to lose if we do not do our part to protect it!

And so, no matter how you choose to observe it, I hope your Earth Hour is inspiring!  Have a wonderful weekend!

I Feel Pretty!

My new apron!!
I think that some of my favorite gifts over the years have been ones that allowed me to be creative.  This Christmas, I was very spoiled!  From my mother I received a box full of Stampin Up card making and scrapbook supplies.  From my husband's aunt I received a ball of gorgeous Kochoron wool, bamboo knitting needles, and a "Knit Kit;" everything I needed to knit a beautiful scarf.  These goodies came from Baadeck Yarns in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. And from my sister I received everything I needed to make a funky, vintage inspired apron.

Don't you just love rick rack!
These gifts have kept me busy over the last few months.  I made the scarf first, followed by some cards; you've seen or heard about these projects in previous posts.  More recently I made the apron.  I used to sew a lot, but haven't in recent years.  Sewing can be time-consuming and messy, and without a dedicated place to work, projects often didn't get finished.  But now, with my new craft room, I wouldn't have that issue.  I didn't have to worry about bits of fabric and thread on the floor or leaving fabric draped over chairs because I could just shut the door! And so, once my craft room was completed, I decided to sew my apron.

Contrasting Bow!
The apron pattern was McCalls's Pattern M5825 Apron and Oven Mitt by Jan Lutz, the Apron Lady.  I set to work cutting out the pattern pieces I would use.  Next it was time to pin the pattern and cut the fabric. Fabric is sold in two widths, 115 cm and 150 cm.  When you are preparing to pin your pattern, make sure you use the layout for the width you are using.  The pattern uses a contrast for the ties and bow, so my sister chose a funky floral and coordinating stripe called All That Jazz by Sheri Small.  It was a great idea to pick two fabrics from the same line because the colours matched perfectly.

Contrasting Pocket!

I finished most of the apron in one evening.  I made a few changes.  I added a contrast to the end of the ties, and I decided to make the patch pockets in a contrast as well. I was really pleased with the results!   The other change I made was on the neck ties; the pattern called for a button hole, but since I don't have much experience with button holes I used velcro tabs and sewed the button on top instead.  My mom made this suggestion and it worked perfectly.  If I made the apron again, I would adjust it so that the neck ties were either long enough to actually tie, or were sewn into place.  I found it difficult to find the perfect place to place the velcro.  Also, I am going to make the bib a bit longer so it will have a bit more of a custom fit.

Contrast on Ties!
Velcro Tabs!
I'm looking forward to trying out some of the other patterns.  We were sorting through some old clothes the other day and found some items that I am planning to recyle into sewing projects.  There is one that will make an awesome short apron that I'm really excited to try!  I am also looking forward to recyling an old sun dress into the underskirt of another apron featured in this collection!


I'm feeling all inspired now to host a dinner party or wield a feather duster...there's just something about aprons!

Tinky likes my apron, too!



The Great Green Spring Cleaning Challenge, Part III

Happy Monday!

I was so inspired after preparing the homemade cleansers and writing Friday's post that I couldn't wait to make a few more preparations!  I attacked the bathroom on Friday and I was so impressed with the results!  For the bathroom, I used the tub and tile cleaner from the Natural Home Cleaning Recipes website (the paste, not the spray).  I was blown away by how shiny and clean it made the tub!  I love the scent of tea tree!  It is one of those scents that just smells clean!  I used my homemade tea tree all-purpose cleanser on the surfaces and bathtub shelves and was impressed with how well it cut through grime and soap.  I also find that these cleansers make surfaces very shiny, not dull like some cleaners do.  I used the toilet bowl cleaner method detailed on Natural Home Cleaning Recipes as well, and it did a super job.  I love anything that fizzes!!  For the floors, I used my usual combo of dish soap, vinegar and hot water. 

One thing I have discovered is that any of the recipes that calls for baking soda will require you to rinse well, and often you will have to go back after everything is dry and polish away any soda residue.  As well, sometimes you need to use a little extra "elbow grease" than with store bought solutions (although, so far that hasn't been the case for me.)

Now, part of the challenge was that I wouldn't use aerosol air fresheners or spray fabric freshener.  As someone with pets, these were hard to give up.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a big fan of pretty smells!  So I was interested in finding some green alternatives.

I found a recipe for Basic Room Air Freshener on Back-to-Basics Cleaning's website.  This recipe was really easy to prepare and it smells really great!  I made cinnamon vanilla for the kitchen and lemon vanilla for the bathroom.  The only issue with them is that, because they contain baking soda, they will leave residue on surfaces when they are sprayed,but it's no problem to go and polish off the residue.  I have found some formulas that use vodka and no baking soda, so I will give them a try and let you know how they worked in a future post.

A number of websites I looked at suggested using coffee beans or grounds as a natural air freshener.  Since we always buy whole bean coffee, I just took a few small dishes and filled them with French Roast beans and placed them between some primulas I have on my window sill.  They look cute and funky and smell great!  Plants are highly recommended.  And of course, one of the easiest and least expensive (not to mention healthy) things you can do to freshener the air in your house is to open the windows!

By now I was truly inspired!  What else could I concoct?  Fabric freshener!  I found this recipe on Answers.Com. I didn't have vodka on hand so I just combined everything else and it smelled quite pretty!  Again, when I get some vodka I will try that formula and let you know how it works.  And of course, as I mentioned in previous psots, please proceed with caution and make sure that what you are using won't hurt yourself, your family, or your home and belongings!

I'm so pleased with how fresh and clean and healthy my home feels since I've started this challenge!  I'll be taking a break from reporting on this challenge for a few posts (I have so much to share with you!  I've been busy!) but don't worry!  I'm looking forward to sharing the whole Great Green Spring Cleaning Challenge with you!  Stay tuned!

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza - Part II

It's time to evict the snowmen.

This shouldn't be a big deal. They've been hanging out in my porch since November.  My plan, as per usual, was to leave their display intact until the end of February.  Truth be told, the weather was so springy they were looking out of place at the beginning of February, and yet here we are at Mid-March and they are still keeping residence.  

I'm afraid to take them down.  

Snowmen in Residence
In much the same way that washing your car, planning a stay-cation, or putting laundry on the line will bring on rain, I'm afraid that if I put my snowmen into hibernation, the snow will come back.  I love snow, I really do, but now that the grass, bulbs, and rhubarb are firmly committed to making an appearance, I'd kind of like it if the snow stayed away.

And so, as part of my Spring Cleaning Extravaganza, I will be facing the snow demon and putting the snowmen away.  And, as promised, I'm ready to share my plan of attack as well as an exciting (well, to me!) challenge I'm integrating into the Spring Cleaning Extravaganza!!!

 In previous posts I have discussed how my husband and I are taking steps to "go green." A few weeks ago I was e-chatting with Ainsley at Patty Cake Manners about this very subject, and she mentioned that she often prepares her own natural household cleanser.  This got me thinking about the things we use to clean our house, the chemicals they contain, and the waste produced by many convenience cleaning items. Indeed, I had planned to go out and stock up on many of these very items, in the name of Spring Cleaning; surely such an endeavor justified a few less than green products?

Or maybe, just maybe, it deserved something a little bit more...

And so, the Spring Cleaning Extravaganza is now The Great Green Spring Cleaning Extravaganza!  My challenge is to complete my spring cleaning using "green" products and methods.  This means avoiding (hopefully altogether):
  • Paper towels
  • Electrostatic cleaning cloths
  • Disposable wipes and floor cleaners
  • Store bought cleansers (unless at least 95% natural, and biodegradable)
  • Aerosol sprays (including fabric and air fresheners)
To get this fun-fest started, I googled.  There's a huge amount of information out there!  After some research , I had recipes for the following:
  • All purpose cleanser
  • Oven Cleaner
  • Microwave Cleaner
  • Tub & Tile Cleaner
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Mirror Cleaner
There are a lot of great websites out there on this topic. I referenced the Natural Healthy Home Cleaning Tips website a lot.   I really liked that they placed a strong emphasis on safety when using home made products.  There seems to be a misconception that anything "natural" is automatically gentle and harmless.  Not so!!! Make sure you exercise caution to protect yourself, your family, and your home and possessions.  Follow the recipes; now is not the time to become a mad scientist!!!  Also, be very aware of manufacturer's instructions and warranty requirements when dealing with your home, furniture, and possessions.  You are all smart people!  It will totally defeat the purpose of this exercise if you poison yourself and ruin your floors!  As well, I'm not publishing recipes because I would like you to actually visit the websites people work so hard on.

Moving right along, I composed a shopping list.  Ingredients and supplies included but aren't limited to:
Some of my new cleaning supplies!
  • Borax
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Laundry Detergent Powder
  • Essential Oils
  • Liquid Castile Soap
  • Spray bottles
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Black and white newspapers
  • Salt
  • Lemons
The only ingredient I wasn't able to find was liquid castile soap (if anyone in the Kitimat area can suggest a source I would appreciate it). I did purchase a bottle of unscented 95% pure dishwashing soap,which I will use as a mild soap for cleaning.  The laundry detergent isn't natural but it's in one of the recipes for oven cleaner that I found.  My plan with the oven is to start with the greenest recipe and move up to the one with the detergent if required.  I'll keep you posted.  The only cleaning items I'm leaving alone are those used for laundry and dishes.   As well, papertowels are allowed for cleaning up after pets.

I was so excited that I whipped up three bottles of all purpose cleanser; cinnamon for the kitchen, tea tree for the bathroom, and lemon for everywhere else.  They did a great job and smelled fabulous!  Be sure to research before you use an essential oil as some are stronger than others and can be caustic.  My enthusiasm continued so I also washed the kitchen and living room floors.  I've been going green with them for years, using a mix of hot water, vinegar and dish soap.  I took a microfiber cloth, wet it with the solution, wrung it out lightly,  and used it with the broom that came with my electrostatic broom system.  It worked great!  The microfiber clothes I'm using have a net cloth over them that provides a light scrubbing action.  I used baking soda to scour the kitchen sink.  When I was finished the rooms looked and smelled great but without that artificial, chemical clean smell that makes us sneeze.

And so, it's time to make a plan for the Great Green Spring Cleaning Extravaganza!  Here is what I hope to achieve:

Kitchen:
  • Floors & Walls
  • Fridge
  • Cupboards (empty, wipe down, sort and discard items that aren't being used)
  • Oven
  • Sink
  • Microwave
  • Surfaces
  • Drains
Living Room:
  • Floors & Walls
  • Upholstery
  • Dust
  • Sort & Discard
Bedroom:
  • Floors & Walls
  • Closet
  • Sort & Discard Clothes; launder and put away winter things; start bringing out warm weather items.
  • Sort bedroom linens and switch to warmer weather sheets.
Bathroom:
  • Floors & Walls
  • Fixtures (tub, toilet, sink)
  • Sort and purge health & beauty products
  • Sort bathroom linens; take old towels to humane society; make list of new items needed
  • Drains
Craft Room:
  • Floors & Walls
  • Dust
  • Sort items and donate items to goodwill / second hand store
Hall:
  • Floors & Walls
Storage Room:
  • Sort storage, discard and donate!
  • Floors & Walls
  • Make into a study for my husband!!!
My only time frame for this work is to have it completed by the May long weekend.  Hopefully it will be completed earlier but that's my realistic goal! I hope to be gardening by the May long weekend so it seems like a good time to get the inside of the house finished!  I'll be updating from time to time.  

If you have a tip please share it in the comments! I love comments!

Spring Ritual Part I

It's felt like Spring for weeks now, and soon the calendar will agree.  And so I am preparing to begin practicing a ritual that is old and steeped in time and tradition.  It will require assembling tools and materials, and will probably involve some muttered oaths.  I will don my ceremonial garb and commence tomorrow with the dawn...

Spring Cleaning.

Alright, alright, so the tools and materials are mops and brooms, and my ceremonial garb is my sweatpants (I'm pretty sure they're "holey").  The oaths will figure themselves out as I go along.   But no one can argue that spring cleaning is a ritual.  It is categorized among the many things we like the idea of but seldom do.  This list includes (but is not limited to "Christmas Cards" "Home Preserving" and of course "_______________ Cleaning (insert season/event of your choice).  All of these things are of course wonderful if you can achieve them, but often they make people feel guilty if they cannot. 

We all know that in days gone by, a number of factors combined to explain why our ancestors did all these lovely little rituals, year after year.  Gender inequality, stale tradition, and societal expectation combined to form a household to do list that was an exercise in failure for many.  And so, homespun activities that we embrace today as charming and retro were the cause of many, many people (namely housewives) feeling that they were falling short.  While there are many women who no doubt enjoyed their role as domestic goddesses (thanks to Nigella Lawson for that fabulous term!) my heart goes out to the ones who were meant for something different.  Note I don't say better.  I have a personal beef with anyone who criticizes people who follow their hearts and dreams, and for many that means staying at home. 

These days, busy and or unique lifestyles have contributed to many of these housekeeping rituals being put out to pasture.  In most homes both adults work, but it's perfectly acceptable as a lifestyle choice if one doesn't.  In my case, circumstance and geography have combined to put us in a place where I can't work in my field, and so I am taking some time to decide where I'm going next.  I'm currently a unique hybrid, a feminist domestic engineer with her eye on other prizes.  And I'm thrilled that we have evolved to a point where:
  • No one blinks at the concept of a stay at home dad.
  • We cheerfully compare the size of our dust bunnies instead of how frequently we scrub our floors.
  • Recipes that can be prepared in a matter of minutes with a handful of ingredients are shared and celebrated!
  • We are just as happy to hear that our gal pals have received a promotion as we would be over the news they were engaged or pregnant.
We are also in a place where we enjoy the positive parts of tradition while leaving the negative behind.  We can pick and choose what we want to do.  And so, since I have the time and inclination, I'm embarking on Spring cleaning.  In my next post I'll detail my plan of attack and a progress report, as well as details on the tools and products I've used.

Till next time, celebrate who you are, what you've done, and where you've come from!

    Retro Recipes - Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing

    Happy Monday!

    I'm starting something new at Nesty - Retro Recipes!  These posts will feature a classic recipe that has stood the test of time and made people happy for generations!  Recipes you have probably enjoyed at home, for Sunday dinner, to comfort, and to celebrate!

    For my first Retro Recipe post, I'm featuring a classic Cape Breton recipe, Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing.
    Chocolate Cake with Boiled Icing, Mmmmmm!
    I'm going to assume that all of you have had chocolate cake (if not, my sympathies).  It's entirely possible that you've never had boiled icing, though.  If that's the case, you're really missing out.  It's an East Coast classic, and every family has at least one cook who makes "the best chocolate cake with boiled icing ever."  I can remember watching my Aunt Irene make it for family birthdays.  My family is blessed with several ace bakers who all make fabulous versions of this delectable dessert, and I make a not too shabby version myself.

    For the uninitiated, boiled icing is made by combining brown sugar, egg whites, cold water and a bit of salt in a double boiler and beating the mixture until it forms peaks.  Recipes vary from cook to cook, and some include vanilla. (Please share your version in the comments!) You may be familiar with a similar icing known as White Mountain Frosting, which follows a similar method but uses white sugar and corn syrup instead of brown sugar.  Boiled Icing is one of those recipes which is a multi-sensory experience, something you taste with your nose before you actually take a bite.  The frosting has a wonderfully sweet fragrance which combines with the deep chocolately scent of the cake to form a mouthwatering perfume.  The cake is visually pleasing too; if the frosting is properly made, its light peaks will float high above the dark chocolate cake.  Indeed, at home, if you see a chocolate cake with boiled icing in a restaurant's dessert case, there is little doubt that you will be ordering a slice.

    A note about chocolate cake.  As I mentioned above, while I'm sure all of you have had chocolate cake, it's possible you may have never had chocolate cake from scratch.  Mixes and store boughts have their place, but if you've never made a chocolate cake from scratch it's time to muster your courage and give it a try.  I promise it's really not that hard and the results will absolutely be worth the effort.

    I was going to post a link to a recipe, but I wasn't able to find one online.  Funny, but my experience has been that the best versions of this recipe have been handed down on handwritten notes and recipe cards for generations.  The recipe I have been using with great success (and the one pictured above) is the recipe from the Cedar House Restaurant and Bakery as it appears in Cape Breton Tastes, Recipes from Cape Breton's Best Restaurants with Gary Walsh.  My husband received a copy of this book as a going away gift last year and it is a wonderful collection of recipes from some of Cape Breton's best restaurants and features glorious photography of Cape Breton by award winning photographer Warren Gordon.  I will continue to try and get a recipe for this frosting that isn't copy written (this may involve asking a family member to send me theirs!).

    When it comes to cooking, be brave.  Everyone starts somewhere!  My best advice to beginner cooks it to pick up a copy of a really good general purpose cookbook (like the Betty Crocker Cookbook or The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook).  These books have every basic recipe you could ever need, from meatballs to chocolate cake.  Pick a recipe and make it a few times, and before you know it you'll be adding your own twist to it.  Just have fun. These cookbooks often cover the very basics, such as cooking techniques for different kinds of food; I still rely on Betty Crocker's vegetable charts.  My other bit of advice is this; you can't love cooking if you don't love food and you can't love food if you don't eat it!  Again, be brave!  Try something different on a menu.  Pick up Thai dumplings from the freezer instead of egg rolls or spring rolls.  Use pesto on your pasta instead of tomato sauce.  When you start challenging your palate you will gain inspiration to cook and create.  And even if you never learn to truly love cooking, by learning the basics you will be able to prepare many simple, yet delicious and satisfying meals at home.

    Part of the purpose for starting Retro Recipes is to focus on how simple to prepare many classic recipes actually are. For example, although there's nothing quite like Sunday dinner at home, you'd be amazed at how easy it actually is to prepare roast beef, chicken, or turkey.  (I really believe the vegetables are more work!)

    If there's a Retro Recipe you'd like me to feature, let me know!  I love a challenge and I love new recipes!

    Two more things before I go!  First, it has come to my attention that some of you are experiencing difficulty posting comments to Nesty.  I have made some adjustments to my settings and have successfully received a comment, so I believe the problem is fixed.  However, if you experience difficulty commenting, please let me know!  You can email me at nestyblog@gmail.com.

    And finally, a great new blog for you to check out!  My cousin Ainsley has started Patty-Cake Manners, and she has lots of great stories about her family's adventures in the North, as well as her hobbies and interests.  Ainsley is a talented scrapbooker, cardmaker, quilter, and gardener, and was published in the current issue of Canadian Scrapbooker magazine.  So go on over and check out her blog!

    Have a great week!

    Priceless Miss Molly

    I am happy to report that my cold is on the mend!  However, I wasn't the only sicky in our house this week.  Miss Molly was under the weather, too.

    Molly relaxing in one of her favorite spots
    We've had our girl for almost 4 years, and in all that time she's had almost rude good health.  Being a mutt, she doesn't experience any genetic weaknesses.  And for all that she looks like a stuffed animal, she is tough and rugged and ready for any adventure.  However, lately she has been experiencing some flare ups of wax in her right ear.  We gave her some over the counter ear drops, and for a while her ear cleared up.  But about a week ago it came back and it was clear to us that this time she was in real discomfort.  It was time to see the vet.

    Molly was due for her needles and de-wormer, so we called and made an appointment for her to have a check up and get her vaccines.  And so Monday we went.  Now, Molly is a sweetie, and everyone loves her, but she is definitely goofy.  She is thrilled to meet people and thinks everyone is her friend.  What's really funny about Molly is that at home she is a major couch potatoe, laid back and lazy.  But take her outside and she becomes a different creature.  Take her to a new place and she really lays on the "charm."  And so as we entered the office she started scrabling around, panting and whining.  She was quite interested in all the other animals, and I was pleased that she admired them from afar.

    Molly's appointment went well.  She now weighs 33 pounds.  She was very good while she had her temperature taken and didn't even blink when she got her two needles.  All in all, she's a healthy girl but she does have a waxy ear that requires treatment and a follow up appointment.  I went home with ear cleaner, medication, and her de-wormer pills. 

    Once we got home, Molly was very mopey for the rest of the day, which I understand is normal after a round of vaccines.  By the next day she was more like herself.  That evening, we got ready to give her her de-worming pills.  THAT was hilarious.  We wrapped the pills in chicken and baloney and offered them to her.  She took the offered "treat" and tucked in.  We sat back, confident that our plan had worked and that she would unsuspectingly gobble up her pills.

    We were wrong.  With shocking efficiency, the pill quarters we had buried in meat began popping out the side of her mouth.  It took several attemps and lots of ingenuity to fianally get the pills down her throat.  And then we got to clean her ear.  You've probably guessed we aren't in Molly's good books this week.

    Molly and a few of her favorite toys.
    I don't like it when I look at Molly and know that she is unhappy with me. It breaks my heart when she has to have her ear cleaned.  She is actually really good about it all things considered, but we have to hold her still and she whines and shakes sometimes.  And yet, it really is one of those cases where you have to do something because you love someone, even if they don't understand it at the time.  It's the same logic behind not giving our dogs every tasty treat they beg for even though it would make them very happy; we don't want them to gain weight, and develop diabetes later in life.   In short, we make a choice to give up the immediate gratification of pleasing our pets for the long term joy of seeing them lead happy, healthy lives.

    I gained some brownie points when I took her for a big walk with some of our friends and their dogs.  As the week has progressed, her ear has improved, and Monday she will go for her follow-up.  I'm looking forward to the day that her ear is free of the wax that causes her so much discomfort.  We've learned that this is often caused by a food allergy, and are paying even closer attention to what she is eating.   

    Sometimes people imply that we are crazy for the love and attention we give our pets.  A few years ago when Phelts was very ill and had made several very costly trips to the vet, an acquaintance implied that an animal wasn't worth the expense.  In my opinion, the amount we spend on them is a pittance compared to what they give back.  And their connection to us borders on the psychic;  for years, Phelts has run to the door just before my husband is due home from work.  Whenever I have a migraine (and they can last for hours if not days) Molly will stay with me, leaving only when she is told to go outside to relieve herself, or to have a quick bite.  No one tells her to do this, she just does it.  And last year, when my husband was coming home after being away for six months, she did the strangest and sweetest thing of all.  She was agitated all day, but about an hour before his plane was due to land, she laid at the top of the stairs to our apartment.  And just before the car pulled up in front of the house, she started to whine.  I have no idea how she knew; she'd seemed to give up looking for him months ago.  And yet something in her knew that her master, her pack leader, was coming home.
    And to me, devotion like that is worth the cost of a vet bill.

    Good Medicine

    Bleh.  I woke up Monday morning with a scratchy throat and the sniffles.  I had really hoped that it was an allergy, but by Tuesday morning, I knew.  I had a cold.

    Colds are like the paper cuts of illnesses; trifling on the large scale but a real pain if you're suffering from one.  No one likes to complain when they have a cold because there's always going to be someone with a "real" illness, like the flu, suffering, and a cold sounds like a walk in the park in comparison.  However, I have a cold, and I don't feel good, and I'm giving all us cold sufferers out there permission to feel sorry for ourselves for one full minute...

    Now that we have that out of our systems, I'll move right along to the gist of this post, how we treat our common ailments.  Now before I begin, I'm going to assume that you are all sensible people who go to the doctor when you're really sick.  What I'm referring to are the homespun ways our moms and grandmothers (and dads and papas too!) used to make us feel better when we were sick.

    Chicken soup is the gold standard of homespun remedies.  I read an article once on how it actually does have healing properties, but I can't remember where that article was.  I'm not sure of the science behind chicken soup, but whether it's homemade or from a can, sipping on it always makes you feel better. In our house we actually had turkey soup more than chicken soup, but the magic was still there.  My theory is that we have it in our heads that the soup will make us feel better and that once we begin ingesting it, something is being done and wellness cannot be far behind!

    Ginger ale for upset tummies.  I still send my husband for ginger ale when I am sick to my stomach.  Ginger, of course, is well known for its tummy taming abilities.  Anyone who's ever nibbled candied ginger or sipped ginger tea on an airplane or on a long car ride can attest to that.  But ginger ale (and for some it must be flat) seems to have a power all its own.  When one thinks about it, ginger ale is soda, and soda is made of water, sugars, and salt.  When we are sick to our stomachs, we are generally depleted of these elements so ginger ale would replace them.  In the days before sports drinks and electrolyte replacement products, ginger ale would be an affordable and practical way to rehydrate and replenish.  I can remember drinking hot jello (basically jello that hasn't set) as a child when I was sick; which would follow the same principal.

    Ice cream and popsicles for sore throats.  Can you remember as a child sitting home sick waiting for your mom or dad to get home with your special supply of sick popsicles?  And how the minute you took that first lick you felt better?  More often than not, I think the real magic of these "remedies" lay in the fact that you felt comforted knowing that someone else had taken over and that you were being cared for. 

    The real medicine is, of course, love.  It sounds quaint, but I really think there's something to it.  When we are sick we feel weak, and vulnerable, and that makes us touchy.  A bowl of soup from a loved one makes us feel like we are worthy of care and less of a pain.

    It's hard, the first time you are sick on your own.  I can remember getting a terrible flu while living in residence in Halifax during university and having to get myself up and out to the pharmacy.  As I scanned the shelves looking for my favorite hot lemon remedy,  I saw that there was a chicken soup flavoured version.  Ug, not the same at all!!  I did, however, pick up a few tins of chunky chicken noodle soup.  While it was not quite the same as homemade, I did feel a bit better once I ate it.

    As an adult, you develop your "sick day" routine.  This is once you've past the point in life where you feel lost and alone because your mommy isn't there for you, and you realize that you can get yourself through a cold, flu, throat infection, or tummy bug.  For me, it's sleeping as long as I can, and once I'm up, snuggling on the sofa with a blanket and my fur babies.  I drink lots of tea and generally just take it easy.  I also indulge in daytime TV; we don't usually turn the TV on during the day so it's like a little sick day "treat" to watch Oprah and her other daytime pals.

    As adults, we also find ourselves taking on the role of caretaker to other sick folk.  Obviously we care for our spouses and children, but there's our friends and extended family, too.  Often its just a "thinking of you" gift and the offer of help, but it means so much.  I've had friends bring me flowers, candy, and trashy magazines.  Last year, when my husband was away it was Mom who once again came to my aid during a migraine with, you guessed it, a jar of turkey soup (it heals headaches too, you know!) And here's a little "random act of kindness tip"; if you really want to do something nice for someone with the sniffles and sneezes, buy them a box of premium tissues, like the ones with menthol or lotion infused in them.

    At the end of the day, no matter what your age, and whether you are caring for someone, being cared for, or even caring for yourself, these rituals have one basic purpose.  They let the patient know that, at least to one person, even your cold is worthy of their time and caring.

    Happy Feet!

    Well, there was big excitement around here lately!  After many long nights, close calls, and muttered cusses, I've done it!

    I've finished my first pair of socks!

    I was very happy to have achieved this because every time I've attempted to learn to knit, it was the thought of home-made socks and mittens that I had in mind.  As I've mentioned before, all my previous attempts at learning to knit ended a few short centimeters off the end of a needle.  But this time something clicked and I actually started finishing projects.  Every time I would complete a project I felt a bit more like I would actually achieve my goal of toasty warm hands and feet.  

    Anyone who's ever learned to knit understands the process involved.  Most people start with a simple project, like a scarf or a dish cloth, something that can be worked simply on two needles using basic stitches and techniques.  You'll struggle with stitch tension, trying heroically to scrape squeaky tight stitches off one needle to another. In time you will master the basics and then perhaps move on to using a round needle (LOVE round needles!) and make a toque.  Now, the round needles are tons of fun, but if you're anything like me, ambition will start to pick at you and you will want to take the plunge and try socks and mittens.  And that means one thing - knitting on four needles.

    In all honestly, prior to learning how to knit I couldn't wrap my head around how people knit on four needles.  I thought surely that these folks must have hands possessed by magical wool-working craft fairies that showed their fingers where to go.  It makes no sense!!! And yet, it does!  It really does and once you've been properly shown how, there's no turning back!  It's great!

    So, I decided to start with socks.  In retrospect, mittens may have been easier to start with.  There is actually more to knitting socks then just mastering knitting on four needles.  You will also have to learn to "turn the heel" and form the toe using "kitchener stitch."  "Turning the heel" went swimmingly for me despite a few errors with a technique know as "slip slip knit" or "SSK."  Let's just say that it's a small miracle that I have socks.  The toe, not so good.  One piece of advice that I kept hearing was to look up videos of techniques on YouTube.  I chose not to do that for sock number one, but did check out a few for sock number two. I found two great videos from Craft TV for both SSK and Kitchener stitch.  I still had some trouble with the Kitchener stitch so I am going to get a little help with it for my second pair. 

    I have some great wool for my next pair; SRK On Your Toes DK Boot Sock Yarn with Aloe Vera by Kertzer.  It's 75% superwash wool and 25% nylon, so it should make a nice, weighty sock that will wear well and be comfy.  It's a pretty red (actually, it's two reds twisted together!) called "Fireside".  I've only gotten a couple of inches knit on the leg of the first sock but it's looking very "old school," like socks I might've had as a kid.  I like that it's heavier because I wear Doc Martens a lot and I find they need a heavier sock.

    My first socks!
    My first socks, pictured here, are worked using Patons Kroy Socks in Mulberry Stripes.  This wool is a lighter weight so it makes a more traditional feeling sock in terms of thickness.  It comes in a variety of self-patterning stripes and jacquards, as well as some solids.  Working with the self-patterning stripe wool was fun but I would suggest a solid for a first time sock maker as I had to be conscious of where I started my sock so that the socks would match.  As you can see in the photo, when I messed up the toe I messed up the pattern. However, these are my first socks and while they aren't perfect, I'm quite proud of them!  I was pleased to get them finished; some friends were telling me about "second sock syndrome" which occurs once you've finished sock number one and never get back to finishing sock number two! I can understand this; I was so excited when I finished that first sock, mistakes and all, and then I had to pick up and start all over again!  But I did, and now I have cute cozy Mulberry Stripe socks to keep my feet warm!  


    By fall, I mean to have a drawer-full!

    A Room of My Own...

    I struggled with the title of this post, really I did.  It's so, so cliched, and yet I couldn't think of anything more appropriate.

    I have a room of my own!!

    It's a craft room, a place for all my scrapping, sewing, knitting, and everything else supplies, so I have a place to create.  It's a place for my computer, so I have somewhere to work on my blogging.  It has a beautiful big window with a fabulous view of the mountains, so I have a place to think, to dream.

    I love it!

    It's not perfect yet.  I still have to hang some art and put a few more touches on it to make it really me.  But it is neat and tidy and operational, and finally, after all these months, I have all my stuff organized and in one place.  What shall I do first?  I have a ton of scrapping to get caught up on, so I could do that.  My sister sent me a vintage apron pattern and some funky fabric for Christmas, that would be a great project! Hmmmmm...

    It's a funny thing, when a grown up gets their "own room."  As kids living in our parent's homes, we live for the day we get our own space.  Just having a door to close on the rest of the world seems like the greatest thing ever.  Many of us then moved out, either to apartments or dorms.  Even if we had room-mates, there was still a sense that this was our own space.  And finally, for some of us, getting married or "moving in" with a significant other.  While this is all sunshine and rainbows at the time, and we still wouldn't change it for anything,  there's a part of you that soon realizes that you really, really miss having your own space!!!

    I've had some really funny conversations with people about this concept.  Anyone who's shared a small apartment with a romantic partner knows the challenges that can present!  In time, we move on to larger apartments or even houses, but lucky is the gal who can claim her own space!

    In our present home, we are lucky to have three "bedrooms."  Well, one is a bedroom but the others are earmarked for other uses. When we first moved in I decided to make one of the rooms into a craft room, however it never evolved much past a computer room.  A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend who had recently made a knitting room for herself and I was so inspired that I decided to finish my space!  The other room is going to be a study for my husband; unfortunately (for him) his room is the last to be done and is currently holding a lot of storage.  But, the study is our next project and I'm sure that before long we will both be blissfully content in our very own rooms.

    The dogs have claimed the sofa for themselves, after all.  Where else could we go?

    Wide Open Windows

    I can't believe this weather!

    When we found out we were moving to Kitimat, one of the first things we did was look up the weather statistics on Environment Canada's website.  According to them, we could expect a lot of rain, and a lot of snow.  Cool, damp summers.  Mild, snowy winters.  Did I mention the snow?

    We arrived in May, and everything seemed normal.  In fact, the weather was very similar to home.  Over the next few weeks, we had your typical spring combo of sun and rain.  Everything got nice and green.  However, also much like home, it didn't get particularly warm.  Since we weren't expecting it to, this didn't bother us.  Spring turned into summer.  July was much the same.  And then August came in a great wave of heat that didn't move for weeks.

    It was unbelievable.  I am a firm believer that if you are going to live in Canada, you should resign yourself to weird weather and not complain, but this heat was too too much!  Everyone assured us that it wasn't normal and to "enjoy it" because next summer would be wet and cold for sure!  And hey, soon it would be snowing and then we'd wish we had some sun.

    Well, it did snow soon after.  By late August there was a definite chill, and it snowed before Halloween, and on many days after.  December was cold and bright, with lots of snow.  And then it was January and it warmed up.  February and it was still warming up.  Well, Monday was March 1 and there is almost no snow left, my rhubarb is coming up, my lilac has buds on it, and if I stick my head out the window, I'm sure I can smell barbeque on the air.

    What is going on?

    I'm not complaining, especially if what the locals say is true and this year is a one off.  I had my windows wide open all day, and the house felt and smelled great! There's just one thing...

    The Yorkie is a barker.

    With all the windows open, he could hear everything in the neighborhood.  Our neighborhood is made up of crescents and cul de sacs; add to that the fact that we are surrounded by mountains, and sound really carries.  So, off and on all day, there would be furious little outbursts because someone dared to start their car!  Or walk by the house!  Or heaven forbid shut their front door!

    Lemmy arrived in September, when our "wide open window" days were drawing to a close.  Lately, we are discovering more and more what sets him off.  But for every "trigger" we discover, there are more and more mysteries.  Just now, for example, he was sitting on my lap, perfectly content, and then he glanced out the window.  He visibly bristled and launched off my lap and headed for the living room at a flat run.  I don't know what he saw, there's nothing out the window but our yard, and right now there's not much to see there.

    Ah well.  For all the times he spends barking, there are more times that he just sits contentedly and watches or sleeps.  He's perfection in the car and we suspect he'll be really easy to take on a plane (something I couldn't imagine doing with Molly even if she were small enough.  She'd want to sit on the pilot's lap.)  I'm hoping that as "wide open window" season progresses, the "threats" he perceives in our back yard and beyond will cease to bother him and we can all sit quietly together and enjoy the breeze.

    Ready Your Nest!

    I love my little nest.  Not to say that I don't enjoy travel, or a good outing. It's just that I also really enjoy being home.  I spend a lot of time feathering my nest so it is cozy, clean, and pleasant to be in.  And so, I take any threat to my happy little home seriously, and try to be prepared.

    By now you should know that early Saturday morning, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Chile.  In addition to the death and destruction it caused in Chile, it also triggered a tsunami with the potential to threaten other countries situated around the Pacific Ocean. 

    As I read about the events on CBC  I quickly learned that coastal British Columbia was under advisory for a lower grade tsunami. (An advisory is the lowest level of warning for a tsunami.) After an initial freak out (no one likes to hear the word "tsunami" no matter what the threat level) I realized how lucky I was to be situated here.  Thanks to our geographic situation, if a tsunami hit the coast, the water level here would be very low.

    And so, I calmed myself down and decided to do something practical.  I made a plan.  Plans are my friends.  No matter how minimal the threat may be compared to other areas, weather warnings should always be taken seriously.  The article I had read said that persons living in coastal areas should stay away from areas such as beaches and marinas.  So, even though my house is quite a distance from these areas, it is still in a low lying "tsunami zone" meaning that flooding could occur if the waves were large enough.  To be safe, I made arrangements for my dogs and I to go to an area at a higher elevation during the time the tsunami could occur. When we left, we took something with us; our basic emergency kit.

    After watching the devastation in areas such as New Orleans, Indonesia and Thailand, and more recently Haiti and Chile, emergency preparedness has become a household word.  Emergency kits and plans, however, are one of those things that everyone says they're going to get but rarely do.  A few years ago we decided to do more than talk about it and started preparing.

    Get Prepared , the government of Canada's website on emergency preparedness, is an excellent resource. It describes clearly the three steps Canadians need to take to be prepared for an emergency (They are; Know the Risks; Have a Plan; Get a Kit).

    Know the Risks means that different areas have different risk factors.  For example,our area is at risk for flooding and tsunamis.  Back East, hurricanes, tropical storms, wind, and severe winter storms were risk factors.  Some parts of Canada experience forest fires frequently.  So it is prudent for people to be familiar with the kind of risks they could potentially face in their area.  If you are relocating, check Get Prepared to find out what the risk factors are in your new locale.

    Make a Plan means just that, decide what you are going to do in case of an emergency.  This may sound obvious but how many of you know exactly what to do if disaster strikes?  The thing about emergencies is that they aren't considerate; they don't wait for everyone to be home, bags packed, with a full tank of gas.  They don't consider the elderly, latch key kids, and persons with physical challenges.  They just rush in and cause chaos.  Which is why it is so important for each household to have a plan for their specific requirements. Having a plan also means knowing what safety precautions to take and how to execute them.  I was surprised to read on Get Prepared that everyone should know how to turn off their gas and their electricity.  Makes sense, but despite our many discussions, this had never come up. I have no idea how to turn off our gas, but I'll make sure I find out!

    And finally, Get a Kit.  You'll be surprised how simple a basic kit is to put together (you probably have most of the items in your house right now).  However, there's a bit more to being really prepared than meets the eye.  Get Prepared advises that emergency kits should contain enough supplies to keep your household going for the first 72 hours of the disaster, since emergency crews will be dealing with the most serious cases first.  One of the items that really got me thinking was water.  Obviously it's probably the most important item, yet do you realize how much water you are supposed to have stored?  Two liters per day per person.  That's six liters per person for 72 hours.  You can do the math for your family but that's a lot of water!  One thing I like to bear in mind with emergency kits is to have one that is portable.  Our Jeep is stocked with lots of emergency supplies, but what if we had to evacuate on foot or leave our vehicle?  The kit I took with me today held all the items on Get Prepared's Basic Emergency kit list.  Our home and our vehicle have additional supplies.  You can assemble your kit yourself or you can purchase one, but the important thing is to get one!!

    By 3:30 on Saturday I was back home, sipping tea and working on this post.  The advisory had come and gone without incident in our area.  The sun was shining and it felt more like May than February. Some people may think me silly for taking my dogs and my kit and heading for higher ground, but I look at it three ways.  One, better safe than sorry.  Two, it was a good "drill" for what to do if there was a more serious threat.  And three, it got me thinking about our own emergency plan and what we can do to improve it.

    Thinking of and praying for the people of Chile.  God Bless.