Wednesday, 31 August 2011

I'm a snob

There are certain things I'm realizing I can be very snobby about (my husband helps me come to these realizations, bless his heart).

1. maple syrup. I can not, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to buy anything other than REAL maple syrup. This comes from growing up with a maple bush in our back 40 and having my parents boil the sap each spring to make our own syrup. My husband Derek: he'd be fine with Aunt Jemima's any day.

2. pickles. I can not, for the life of me, understand why anyone would want to buy pickles. Aren't these something that you make, like with your grandmother's recipe? I made small sweet dill pickles yesterday. Derek informed me that they're not his favourite. His favourite? Store-bought huge dill pickles - the very sour kind.

Sweet Dill Gerkins

Pickling syrup:
¾ cup water
1 cup vinegar
¾ cup sugar
1 t pickling spice
¼ t turmeric

In each jar:
dill sprigs
garlic cloves (one per jar)

If you have a ½ bushel of cucumbers, multiply the above syrup recipe by 6.

Wash cucumbers well and clip of the ends. Place them in a bowl, covered in water, and sprinkle several tablespoons of pickling salt on top. Salt cucumbers overnight.

Heat syrup ingredients until boiling. Turn down heat to medium; heat cucumbers in syrup ‘til colour changes. Take out the pickles with a slotted spoon so that you can keep using the syrup to heat more cucumbers.

Put one clove of garlic and a sprig of dill in each sterilized jar. Add pickles. Pack tight to fit as many as you can in the jar. Add hot pickling syrup to jars until ¼” from top of jar. Sprinkle a bit of alum on the top to keep pickles crisp. Put lids on top. Process in canner for 10 minutes.

My 1/2 bushel of cucumbers made 20 jars of pickles - enough for one year.

3. jam/jelly. Do people really buy this in a store, and not just make it themselves from their backyard berries? Yes. Derek included.

4. pencil cases. An American friend informed me that they don't use pencil cases south of the border - can you imagine? Most of my pencil cases growing up were handmade - sewn by my mom. And I loved them. So I sewed a pencil case for my daughter last year - she picked the fabric. It turned out a bit small. Note to self: measure it against some long unsharpened pencil crayons (called "colored pencils" in the USA) before cutting and sewing. Apparently, through the course of the year, some friends and her art teacher commented that it was a small pencil case, so we're in the market for a new one before school starts. I found a plastic BOUGHT one that I'm not using much, and offered it to her because I wasn't sure about taking on a sewing project this week, even a tiny one like a pencil case. She was quite excited. But it pains me just a tiny bit to think of this impersonal case going to school. Homemade signifies loving care to me - to open and close something every day at school and remember home... what could be better?

last year's homemade case beside this year's plastic one

There are probably more things I'm snobby about, and maybe when Derek reads this about 2 months from now he can add to this list.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

lunch box ideas

Well, in exactly one week from this moment, I'll be busy packing lunches and urging kids on so that we're not late for the first day of school.

I started thinking about school lunches about a week ago. It's not my favourite thing to do - make lunches - but I always start September with a good attitude and some new ideas. So I'm trolling for lunch box treasures - tried and true, and new and inspiring.

Here's my list of tried and true lunchbox ideas (for daughter #1; we'll see what daughter #2 includes on her tried and true list this year):

* hummus and pita
* pasta with pesto in a thermos
* pancake, cut up, in a thermos with a side of maple syrup (in a container that's sealed in a ziploc bag just in case)
* salmon, tuna, or soy butter sandwiches
* hard-boiled eggs
* olives
* pickles
* fruit, sometimes cut up, or berries
* cut up veggies and dip
* granola bars
* banana bread
* leftover chicken noodle soup in a thermos with baguette to dip
* hot chocolate in a thermos (so good on a cold day :)
* mini muffins
* tortilla wraps - lots of options (banana/soy butter; chicken; salmon)
* nachos, sour cream, and salsa
* Baby Bel cheese
* yogurt

Here are some I want to try:

* French toast strips
* granola + yogurt + fruit (all in separate mini containers)
* grilled chicken strips with dipping sauce (honey-mustard or bbq)

With my kids, it's all about packing a bunch of little things. That's why I love these Bento lunch box ideas, inspired by the Japanese tradition. They look super cute, but I'm not sure how many mornings I'll have the patience to make their lunch boxes look like artistic masterpieces.

This is the closest I got one day last year, with this sad-looking mangled kiwi monkey and beat-up pear dog.

I drew inspiration from these books: One Lonely Seahorse, How Are You Peeling?, and Food For Thought, all by Saxton Freymann. Brilliant.

I'd love to hear your lunch ideas. What has worked for you?

Monday, 29 August 2011

where my feet take me

Some days - maybe particularly in the summer months - my feet take me to places of such beauty. And calm. When I let them. Like this past week, visiting relatives at a cottage on Lake Erie.

Morning sun shone over the lake, cicadas mixing with crickets along the well-worn path, and the lapping of soft waves on the shore. I could do this every morning - the feel of the hot sun on my skin mixed with frigid lake waters on my toes. The blue heron flying overhead. And water - as far as the eye can see.

I think that in the summer, I'm more willing to follow my feet. To take the time.

A little peek into where my feet took me in motion right here or right here below:

Lake Erie from Rebecca Seiling on Vimeo.

And in still right here:

To what places of beauty have your feet taken you this season?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

something God alone can see

monarch chrysalis, about to transform

pregnant belly, about to transform

I don't think I'll ever get tired of observing a caterpillar change to be a chrysalis, then a butterfly. I'm inspired by the total transformation - the miracle! - from one state to another. From crawling as a yellow-black-white larva to flying with orange and black wings.

What surprises are stirring inside my soul that only God can see? I want to look with God's eyes to see the potential transformation in others and in myself. Give me eyes to see the pregnant moments, the chrysalis wonder all around me.

A writer arrived at the monastery to write a book about the Master.

"People say you are a genius. Are you?" he asked.

"You might say so." said the Master, none too modestly.

"And what makes one a genius?" 

"The ability to recognize." 

"Recognize what?"

"The butterfly in a caterpillar: the eagle in an egg; the saint in a selfish human being."
- Anthony de Mello

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

I carry your heart

i carry your heart with me
(i carry it in my heart)

i am never without it
(anywhere i go you go, my dear;
and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate
(for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world
(for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root

and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;

which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart
(i carry it in my heart)
e. e. cummings

Monday, 22 August 2011


I just spent 3 glorious days at a lakeside cottage with 3 glorious friends and their families.

These are longtime friendships that I deeply cherish, but I'm not so great at keeping in touch. As we've grown up, some years have gone by with little to no contact. We're scattered all over the place - not living in the same town. Facebook has certainly improved things in that department, but I sometimes get a bit annoyed with myself for not keeping in better touch with friends that I love dearly.

If people don't live in my neighbourhood, or go to my church, or have kids that go to my kids' school, or share something else on a weekly basis, a long time can go by before we see each other. Life just goes on. But luckily, these are friendships where no apology is necessary - we can just pick up where we left off, and marvel at the ways we can still connect after all these years. Laughing. Deep conversations. Belly-flop and diving contests. Singing 80s tunes around the campfire. And more laughing.

But it makes me think about intentionality. When I'm intentional about it - actually contact someone and set a date, it's wonderful and we ask each other why we don't do more of it. What I put in is directly related to what I get out of a friendship - if I make an effort to connect, I'm infinitely blessed by our time together. So why don't I do it more often?
a portrait of us, from the knees on down
"The best mirror is an old friend." - George Herbert

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, 
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." - Anais Nin

How are you intentional about maintaining friendships? What do you do to keep in touch?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


"To leave the world a bit better, 
whether by a healthy child, 
a garden patch, 
or a redeemed social condition, 
to know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived 
that is to have succeeded."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

[some flowers from my Mom's successful garden patch]

May you succeed in touching even one life (or plant) today!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

10 ways to clear your mind

I'm on the same train of thought as last week's post on getting a new lease on life. Clearing my mind and getting a new lease on life seem quite similar. At one point yesterday afternoon, my mind was too full of details and I just felt off. My husband enthusiastically encouraged me to get myself out of the house and go for a walk before supper - even if it was just 10 minutes. And it worked! It was like it rebooted my mind and I could think more clearly. Too often I forget these little tricks. On this walk, I thought of other ways that I like to clear my mind. Here are some. Perhaps you have some to add too!

1. Turn off your computer. Get outside. Walk, bike, run, or just sit and listen to the birds, crickets, frogs, cicadas, rush of traffic. Jump in the water and float on your back.

2. Breathe. And think about it. In with the good, out with the bad (I learned this yesterday morning with my children at our church's VBS).

3. Hug someone. And mean it.

4. Drink some Nutella hot chocolate on a cool evening.

5. Write it down in a journal, letter, or scrap of paper to get the words out of your brain.

6. Create something with words, paper, fabric, paint, wood, leaves, flowers, yarn, fruit, pastry, chocolate, whatever.

7. Yell to the outdoors. This works really well if you live in the country and have few neighbours. In cities and towns, not so much.

8. Reboot your mind. Start a new train of thought and refuse to go down certain well-worn brain-paths.

9. Watch a great movie. Read a great book. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a wonderful one for both categories this summer. Laugh or cry, or better yet, both.

10. Pray like someone's really listening.

Monday, 15 August 2011

a pile of goo with new possibilities

While we've been learning about butterflies, I came across something interesting. In the chrysalis, the caterpillar becomes a pile of goo where “imaginal cells” start to appear. At first, the old caterpillar kills them off. But these clumps of imaginal cells keep forming, and eventually reach a critical mass so that they change the destiny of the caterpillar. A new consciousness being born...
a caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis

see the wings? getting ready to emerge
I’d like to think that each year I go through a cocooning stage, where I will be emerging as something new, but that TOGETHER with others we can be something new too - clustering to form a critical mass of imaginal cells. As I think ahead to September, I imagine the newness that may come - new projects, new routines, new beginnings. September feels way more like New Year's to me than January 1st does. Having been a student or a teacher for most of my life, that rhythm of beginning anew in September is just stuck in my brain. 

Sometimes I'm tempted to make a go of things by myself, not remembering that I can trust others to cluster around me - like these imaginal cells do. I am truly grateful to cluster with other “imaginal cells” and really BE the change - to tip that scale from the old caterpillar to the new butterfly being formed. 

If we see ourselves as imaginal discs working to build the butterfly of a better world, we will understand that we are launching a new ‘genome’ of values and practices to replace that of the current unsustainable system. We will also see how important it is to link with each other in the effort, to recognize how many different kinds of imaginal cells it will take to build a butterfly with all its capabilities and colors.
– Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D., evolution biologist, lecturer and author of EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution
So that’s me, or what I strive to be: a pile of goo with new possibilities, clustering with others to change. Care to jump in the goo too?

Friday, 12 August 2011

free food

Is there anything better than free food? Or food that you've foraged from your parents' gardens?

Here are my free fun food escapades for the week:

1. Raspberry Rosemary Red Currant Jelly

I used this recipe and added some raspberries and rosemary. Free, except for the white sugar and pectin.

red currants
picking red currants
raspberry red currant juice
2. Applesauce    Apples + water = pretty much free

currant bushes, corn fields and apple trees
mashing up the cooked apples into applesauce

What free foods do you forage for?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

prayer and fasting

One member of our family - our Afghan teenage daughter that I talked a bit about here - is fasting right now for the month of Ramadan. My revelation in yesterday's post was related to avoiding unpacking and other household duties. And observing someone in my house observe Ramadan highlights this even more: I lack self-discipline.

I don't think I've ever fasted. Have you? Maybe I have for one meal, but that just seems laughable. I told her this, and she did laugh. She said, "That's not hard at all! You could have a big breakfast and then a big supper and not really notice at all!"

Her day starts with prayers and breakfast at 3:00am, followed by a bit more sleeping, followed by a normal day, followed by supper at 8:40pm. No food, no water - nothing - until 8:40 in the evening. And I marvel at her self-discipline, especially in a house where no one else is fasting. Especially in this hot summer month.

For the past 3 evenings now, we've shared evening prayers together. She prays in Arabic - a beautiful chant-like prayer with kneeling and bowing. We watch and listen and follow, my daughters quiet, awed, eager participants. Since the first evening, they have begged to do these prayers together. Then we pray in English. First, the Aaronic blessing, then the Lord's prayer. It is a wonderful moment of faith-sharing in our family.
evening prayers
It's made me think about the things I'm disciplined about. And the list is very short.

1. Writing. I've become more disciplined in my writing over the last 5 months, thanks to this blogging habit. Most days I enjoy it, but there are some days when it does feel like work. That's when the discipline kicks in.
2. Making my bed. It's a bad, bad day if the bed hasn't been made. This is one area of the house where I insist on a small zone of calm and tidiness.
3. Eating. I eat every day without fail. I even eat good meals made from good ingredients most days.
4. Brushing teeth. I brush my teeth every day too.

Things I want to be more disciplined about:

1. Praying
2. Exercising
3. Thinking before talking (especially to family members)

And you? Where do you show self-discipline? Where do you not, and wish you would?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


One of the only things I hate about the summer is this: unpacking.

I love all of the little trips here and there - day trips, cottaging, camping, summer camp. But I'm just not good at unpacking.

We came back exactly one week ago from camp, and here is our clothing bag: untouched, unpacked for 7 whole days. Not even unzipped.

unpacked suitcase and laundry. always laundry.
What does this tell me about me?

1. I've got relatively little self discipline when it comes to putting things away. This goes for the whole house and its clutter problem - not just a suitcase here and there after holidays. This is how my self-talk goes when I look at the unpacked suitcase:

self to self: Do you feel like unpacking that now?
self to self: Not really.
self to self: OK.

And then I leave it. Until I need to leave on another trip, and then I just transfer the not dirty things to the next bag and keep the cycle going. Or until it drives me crazy enough that I have to unpack it. At that point, if I don't, my annoyance just might land on some undeserving member of my family. Misplaced annoyance. It should be directed toward the unpacked bag, but instead it's directed toward a person.

This is how I need to talk to myself in the future:

self to self: (loudly and bossily) UNPACK THAT BAG RIGHT NOW! YOU HAVE NO CHOICE!
self to self: (sheepishly, hanging head) ok.

I need to toughen up and command myself to do things. Not ask, tell. Because myself will always say no  if asked.

2. I have entirely too many clothes if I don't even miss what's packed in a bag for a whole week. I read in this crazy article that many women have about 100 items of clothing and wear only 30. The article also goes on to state that women think about shopping at about the same rate that men think about sex.

Well, not me. I'm not a "shop til you drop" kind of gal. But I do have a weakness for thrift stores.

I don't want to count the articles of clothing I have, but maybe it would be a good exercise. We counted the kids' stuffed animals last fall - there were about 100. And then they gave away half. It was good for them to actually hear a number, instead of just hearing their mom say "You have too many stuffed animals!"

I still own things that I haven't worn in a good 10 years. I have purged - many times. But then new things sneak in, and I need to purge again.

When we were on sabbatical in France last year, we only had a certain number of clothes - but it was enough. And it all fit in our dressers! Now I sometimes have to shove to get things in.

And you? How do you tame your clothing drawers? How fast do you unpack after holidays?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Harvesting the sun-ripened raspberries 

and sun-dried hay

"As long as the earth endures, 
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease." 
- Genesis 8:22

Monday, 8 August 2011

5 ways to get a new lease on life

1. Throw out all your underwear. Buy new ones. You'll feel like a million bucks. Trust me.

2. Find a monarch caterpillar. Put it in a container with a breathable lid. Feed it fresh milkweed each day, and empty out its poo. Keep it for about 3 weeks and watch it become a chrysalis, then transform into a butterfly. We've been doing this for the past couple of years, and it does not cease to amaze me. It's so inspirational and magical - a wonderful demonstration of letting go, resting, allowing change to come, and transforming into something altogether new.
caterpillars munching on milkweed
hanging and resting in a j-shape
getting ready for the chrysalis stage
3. Invite someone new over for dinner. See what you learn.

4. Plan a one-day stay-cation in your home town. Visit the sights like you're a tourist, seeing them for the first time. Learn some local history.

5. Buy a pack of Fun Dip and eat it all by yourself.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

morning fishing

Because it's the last month of summer holidays, I'm de-cluttering my blog posts for the month. Less words. Mostly images. So here is the first:

5:00 am fishing. 
Lake like glass, 
sun rising through clouds, 
fish nibbling, 
loon calling,
paddle dipping,
children sleeping, 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

summer camp

canoeing on Fraser Lake
Is there a more magical place than summer camp? And a better idea than family camp - where parents AND kids get to have fun together? And that it happens to be the place where my husband and I met?

We've been going to Fraser Lake's family camp for 6 years now. We all look forward to going, counting down the days. The ride there is beautiful, with an obligatory stop at Kawartha Dairy for ice cream. The days at family camp are full and fun - we stuff as much as we can into each day.

mother and daughter on the climbing tower

tie-dying fun
jumping off the water trampoline
the lake mid-day
crayfish hunting
dress up meals: Wild West theme
dragon boat crew
low ropes course
glorious sunsets
And I haven't even mentioned the millions of stars, the friends, the wonderful staff, the fun campfires with rousing songs, bracelet making, wagon rides to the treehouse, swimming off the barge in the middle of the lake, hunting for monarch caterpillars, spraining an ankle while playing basketball (Derek), getting 2 wasp stings in the raspberry patch (me), the clear glassy lake in the early morning, and the call of the loons every evening.