Monday, June 4, 2012

Reclining and Massaging

We went searching for a new couch last week.

The boys fell in love with this love seat.  Plans were already being made about eating breakfast here while watching a show.  Whose juice would go in which cupholder.  Look pretty comfortable, don't they?  We didn't get that one.

This is the other piece of furniture they loved -- a massaging mattress.

In Keegan's words, he was "totally digging" this bed.  I won't tell you what Quinn said about the bed.  Oh heck.  Okay, I will but you have to promise not to judge us.  He said it was very relaxing.  For his weiner.  Yep, makes me proud somedays.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shaking it Up

Life has been busy lately.  In the quest to find balance, my presence in blogland has been, well, almost non-existent.   It was a combination of running out of time each day and a loss of my blogging mojo.  I have been wanting to come back.  Mulling it over.  I realized today that in order to get my mojo back, I was going to have to shake things up a bit.  sounds much more dramatic than it actually is.  In the past, I felt each post had to have a theme around which to navigate.  I blame it on taking too many English lit courses.  (On an aside, it's kind of funny that I misspelled the word "English" twice and "misspelled" once.)  No grand themes or posts which I feel I have to compose mentally in preparation -- unless I feel like it.  Just random shots of my day.  Let's start, shall we.

Love roasted beets. Love them.

Quinoa?  So far, not a huge fan but I am hoping that if I throw in some roasted beets, I may appreciate this power-house grain a little more.

Just snuck a forkful.  Pretty tasty.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Learning from Him

He tends to attack most things in life with an unbridled energy, even a game of hopscotch. As a result, he sometimes wipes out but he always jumps up with a smile. Lessons I need to learn from my six year old.  

And don't worry.  It looks much worse than it was.  His timing as I took the photo was impeccable.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Little Catching Up

I am in awe of how quickly time is passing these days.  In my head, I have planned many posts but they just don't seem to be able to find the time to make their way down to my fingertips.  Instead of trying to write those posts, I thought I would just show you in one post what has been keeping me busy.  A little catch up, if you will and then I can start anew.

Several new soaps have been made:

Kindred -- red clay, lavender and tea tree.

Breathe -- eucalyptus and lemon.

Penelope -- lavender and lemongrass

I have even redesigned the packaging for my soaps.

To be honest, the "soap thing" has been keeping me busier than I had originally planned but not more than I had hoped.  Does that make sense?  Either way, I am continuing to make soap and it makes me happy.

I have also managed to squeeze in a few road trips with friends.

First, about a month ago, two friends and I made a short road trip to what is now our yarn and fabric sanctuary  -- Stitch.  Here are a few photos to help explain why we love it so much.

See?  Pretty.  I dare you to visit and not want to knit and sew.

Then there was our 3rd annual road trip to Niagara Falls to visit friends we only see once a year.  Once we see them, it seems like it was only last week.

There was a little knitting for our newest family member.

And a little reading, of course.

Oh and perhaps a little stitching.

And that brings us to May 3rd.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Outlander-Inspired Soaps

When I first began making soap, I would say that I was largely inspired by my kitchen.  Lately, I find many of the soaps coming out of my soap kitchen are inspired by the books I love. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have become a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's series of Outlander books since picking up the first book just over a year ago.  So it should come as no surprise that Jamie and Claire, the main characters in the series, have inspired their own soaps.

Claire's Soap
  Claire's soap is a rustic , earthy soap.  The ingredients were specially chosen to reflect Claire's status as a medical woman, her knowledge of medicinal herbs and her love of gardening.  I infused the olive oil with comfrey, a plant that Claire put to good use when treating her patients.  Rhassoul clay represents the earth from which she gathered her plants.  Since Claire understood the healing power of honey, I added a good helping of honey.  I finished it off with a fresh blend of rosemary, lemongrass and cedarwood essential oils.

On to Jamie's soap . . .

Jamie's Oatmeal Soap

Oh Jamie.  I have a little secret.  I have a crush on a fictional character.  His name is Jamie and he is a red-headed Scotsman from the 18th century.  Okay, so it's not actually a big secret.  Even Mike knows and has come to terms with the fact that if Jamie should suddenly walk out from the pages of the book, I would have to leave him.  Yep, Diana Gabaldon is that good when it comes to making characters come alive.  (I have a feeling I am not the only woman in the world who would compete for Jamie's attention.)  She is also wickedly good at describing physical attributes and smells.  I knew I had to make a Jamie soap but it took awhile to design it, more specifically, its scent.  I knew it was going to be a beer soap with a good helping of oatmeal or  "parritch".    But the scent?  I couldn't just throw anything together.  It had to smell like Jamie, you know?  After weeks of thinking, I decided upon an earthy blend of patchouli, rosemary and orange.  I couldn't be happier witth his soap.

Both Jamie and Claire soaps are sold out at the moment but new batches are curing as I type.  However, there is a chance for you to win a bar of each soap.  Theresa of Outlander Kitchen is hosting a giveaway on her blog.  I encourage you to visit her and not only for the soap.  Theresa is a professional chef who develops recipes based upon the food found in the books. It's a brilliant idea and a great read.  Her latest recipe :  hearty Sheperd's Pie.   Giveaway ends 9 pm PST, Wednesday April 18.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Take that, Man

To phrase it nicely, I am frugal.  I hate adding to shipping costs by buying  bubble wrap envelopes.  I especially don't like it if I think there is a chance that I can do it myself.

Well, I found a link and I am trying to make it myself.  If it works out, I'll share it with you.  Not only am I upcycling and saving money, I also feel like I'm sticking it to The Man.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Peek at my Table

Last Friday, I did my first craft show of the year.  I thought I would show a few photos of my display.

Before Christmas, I noticed at busy shows that my soaps were getting a little man-handled.  The brown paper packaging was my attempt to protect the soap but I actually really like the look.  The brown paper is the perfect background for the bird stamp.  When possible, I am recycling/upcycling brown paper.  On top of each soap pile is a little sample, available for smelling.  It should be noted that children love, I mean, love smelling soap.

For months, various friends have recommended placing a little dish of coffee beans on my table as a way to cleanse the sense of smell for those who like to smell all the soaps numerous times before making their decision.  It was a great idea but each show, my table would remain bean-less. . . until last Friday.  maybe I was just waiting for the perfect little blue cup.

My favourite addition to my table is my new chalkboard mirror.  New to me, that is.  The mirror is a $10 find from a local thrift store.  A couple of coats of paint, some chalkboard paint and a little swipe of sandpaper.  (More to come on the process at a later date.)  Have I mentioned how much I love this mirror?  Held up by my vintage suitcases, of course.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Good Monday Morning

Look what I found on the street curb Monday morning.  Just waiting for me to drive by and claim it.

This was my first time claiming something I have found on the side of the road.  I have always felt a little weird doing it but this time I really wanted this.  Of course, it didn't fit in the car so Mike and I had to walk about two blocks, not far at all, each way.  I have to admit the way home seemed a little longer but I wasn't about to complain since this had been my idea.  Quinn complained for me instead when he fell down and skinned his knee, yelling, "I didn't even want to come and get it!"

When I initially saw it, I immediately thought of using it as a display unit for my soaps when I do craft shows.  However, I realized as a tried unsuccessfully to squeeze it into the trunk that that wasn't going to happen.  I believe the previous owners used it as a potting table so it is a little dirty.  Nothing that a good wash can't take care of.  A little TLC.  I have plans.

To make the morning even better, when we returned home, I learned that I had won a hand dipped indigo-dyed tote bag from bookhou.  Can a Monday morning get any better?!  I made Quinnie high-five me which he did because by this time he had forgotten about his scraped knee.

As much as I want to start cleaning my find, my spare moments this week are going to be spent preparing for the Mamas and Chicks show this Friday, March 30th in Oshawa.  It's my first show of the year and I am really looking forward to it.  If you're in the area, pop in and say hi.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pacing Ourselves

We seem to move at different paces when we are in the woods.  Well, the three of them dash along the path, on a mission to get as far as they can.  I saunter along behind.

Looking.  Listening.

Regardless of our pace, eventually we all stop to take it all in.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Space of My Own

In the clutter that makes up life with two Lego-obsessed boys and two parents who aren't the best at putting away said clutter, I have managed to carve out a space to call my own.  A space where I can store soaping supplies, cure soap, package soap.  It sounds very utilitarian and it kind of is but it is also more.    Although located in the basement, it has a beautiful sunny window.  Nestled among the buckets of vegetable butters and jars of oils are little bits of things I like to look at although I also like to look at jars of herbal-infused oils.  I thought I would share some of my studio with you.

dried lemon and lime slices

soaps curing
packaged and ready to go
thrift store find.  I'm looking forward to displaying my skin care products on it  at the first show of the season
essential oils
monster-in-progress and my aunt's vintage suitcases
a small collection

The pretty tea cup watercolour is by the talented Char.  Some of her custom artwork can be found here.  I'm hoping to pick up another one the next time I see her.  (Hint, hint, Char.)

So there you have it.  A peek into the place where I spend the part of the day not spent with the boys.  I think it's important to have a space, if not a room, of one's own.  How about you?  Do you have your own space?  If so, what do you do there?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In a Name

A lot of thought goes into names, you know.  I think of the time we spent choosing names for the boys before they were born.  I think of the names we had chosen if we had had a little girl.  I even think of the time I spent thinking of the perfect name for my stuffies when I was a little girl.  Big decisions because once a name is chosen, it so rarely is changed.

My name has always been my name.  I can't imagine having any other name.  When Mike and I were married almost 14 years (!) ago, I chose not to change my surname for several reasons.  First, I am a feminist.  Not the man-hating type.  The type who believes in equal rights for both sexes.  I simply did not understand why I should have to change my last name.  Mike agreed.  Phew or that would not have been a good way to start off "happily ever after."  Secondly, I hate paperwork.  Do you know how many forms I would have had to fill out for something I didn't want to do in the first place?  I neatly sidestepped that little pile of bureaucracy.  (I had no idea that I couldn't spell "bureaucracy" until this very moment.)  And thirdly.  Well, the third reason is the sentimental reason.  My birth father has not been a part of my life since I was 18 months old.  Aside from my height and my freckles, my surname is kind of the only thing he gave me.  So there you go.  Why i still have the name I was born with it.

A lot of thought also went into choosing a name (On a Branch) for my soaps.  There have been times when I have regretted the name, most often when I compare myself (shameful thing to do by the way) to other soap companies whose cute, perky names bounce and roll off your tongue.  (Can something bounce and roll at the same time?)  Then I remember the moment when the name came to me.  I happened to look out the window and saw a sparrow perched in a tree and realized, as the wind blew, how tenuous his grasp seemed to me and yet, there he sat. Rooted firmly but ready to fly at any moment.  It was how I felt at that moment.  i think it is how I feel most days.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Each Day

I am a positive person and since I became a mother, I think I have taken an even more positive outlook on life -- an "enjoy the moment" outlook, you might say.  For example, there will always be dishes to wash but a  little boy may not always want to read a book with me.   There may be numerous household expenses, some yet to be known, but I have my two boys and husband, a beautifully worn home and food on the table.  But it wasn't until this morning, when  Margie shared this video, that I realized how much I had been taking for granted.

It was the words ( to paraphrase) "live each day as if it were your first and your last" that really struck home with me.  Everyone has heard something similar -- live each day as if it were your last -- but those words never really rang true with me.  For me, they implied jumping out of a plane or some other such activity for which I have no desire to experience.  I like to live simply and quietly so why, on the last day, would I want to live differently?  But to live each day as if it were your first and last?  Well, that is to live quietly and simply but with your eyes open.  Taking it all in as it is given to you.  That's something I could use a little more of.

The boys watched some of the video with me, mostly the time-lapse photography.  They weren't too interested in listening to the words.  A part of me wanted to tell them, "Hey, this is what he's saying . . ." and then I thought, maybe I don't need to tell them.  Maybe that is how kids live each day anyways.  And rather than telling them what was meant, they can see me living each day like that as well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Me in February

I almost didn't post my monthly self-portrait.  I kind of wasn't in the mood.  I thought:  "No one is going to remember your little monthly self-portrait pledge."  That didn't seem to matter.  I remember early January and really wanting to take monthly self-portraits.  So, thanks to an extra day this month, I present "Me in February."

Perhaps it should also be entitled "Me at 41" since I celebrated my birthday earlier this month.  At 41, this is the longest my hair has been since I was 4 years old.  Part of me thinks, "At 41, aren't I suppose to be going with a more mature, less bohemian hair style?"  The other part of me can't stop playing with my hair.  I love my long hair and have become very attached to it.  With regards to hair, my mantra used to be, "It's only hair. It will always grow back."  Not so much anymore.

No scarf this time.  I was tempted to run inside and wrap a scarf around my neck.  Not so you would think me oh-so-chic.  More as I hiding spot.

Any-hoo, hopefully the March self-portrait will have a little more green in the background.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When Life Hands You Mushy Oatmeal . . .

make oatmeal muffins.

Last night, I decided to make oatmeal in the slow cooker.  Well, I did, as plan, wake up to a big pot of steaming oatmeal but it wan't quite what I had expected.  Maybe I should say it was what I expected, it was not what I had hoped.  I like my oatmeal to have a certain amount of texture.  The oatmeal that I woke up to this morning was very soft, mushy, even a little slimy.  Not at all appetizing.  I was now left with a big pot of gloppy oatmeal and an aversion to throwing out said oatmeal.

After a quick internet search and a little tweaking of ingredients, we were making muffins.

Leftover Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
*1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
*4 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal
1 teaspoon vanilla
a handful of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin tin.

Combine ground flax seed with 6 tablespoons water and set aside.

In a large bow, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder.   In another bowl, mix together the coconut oil, flax seed mixture, oatmeal and vanilla.  Add oatmeal mixture to flour mixture and combine just until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes until top is set and toothpick comes out clean.

*The use of coconut oil and flax seed oil makes these muffins vegan (if you do not add the chocolate chips).  You can un-veganize the muffins by using 2 eggs, lightly beaten, in place of the flax seed and 1/2 cup butter, melted, in place of the coconut oil.

These are moist muffins.  The first time I made them I feared they were not baked completely.  Let them rest for an extra few minutes before tasting and trust the muffins.  The first time Mike saw the muffins, he had a doubtful look on his face because the muffins are kind of flat.  "Is it okay to eat them?"  Yep.  They are odd yet delicious.  Ignore that resounding endorsement.  They really are good.

So you knew what to do when life handed you lemons.  Now you know what to do with that leftover mass of oatmeal.  Enjoy.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Home Again

We have returned from a family vacation.  We visited my parents who decided to join the ranks of the "snow birds" and spend the winter in Florida.  I had heard tell of such snowbirding activity but didn't really understand it.  Well, after spending two weeks in Florida in the middle of February, I get it.  Here are a few highlights.

It was good to see that the magic of "It's a Small World" and Peter Pan and friends was not lost on our Star Wars-loving boys.

New York City built from Lego Blocks

Cocoa Beach, Florida

While away, our crazy little guy celebrated his 6th birthday.

Before we left, I swore that we would return home dressed appropriately for the Canadian weather, not like those silly people you see  in the airport returning  from south dressed for the warm weather they just left behind.  Well, two weeks is a long time, certainly long enough to forget that it is still February in Canada.  While we were not dressed in flip flops and shorts and I was not sporting braids in my hair (feel free to kick me if you should ever see me emulating Bo Derek), we were not prepared for the welcome that February had planned for us.  We were the silly family running across the tarmac in short sleeves as the sleet coated our hair.  I have to admit the grey skies and sleet put us in a bit of a funk for awhile yesterday but today finds us settling in to our normal days once again.