Hosting a Fall Brunch

I love Chip and Joanna Gaines and all things Magnolia.  I wish my “fixer upper” house was as beautiful as theirs, but a little thing called my budget gets in the way far too often.  That, and hockey playing children.  Pooh.  But, a girl can dream, can’t she?!magnolia table's cookbook  Therefore, I was super excited when I found the Magnolia Table’s cookbook on sale!  I snapped it up and longingly poured through the pages.  Everything looked so yummy!  Down home, southern-Texas-hospitality yummy!  I needed an excuse to make some of these goodies!  Thus, the fall brunch was born!how to host brunch

I decided to have it on a Friday morning so that the kids were all occupied at school and since clean up day was Thursday, all would be neat and tidy for my guests!  I decided to go all out… handmade invitations, fancy china dishes, and little take home goodies.  If we were going southern hospitality in Canadian fall, by golly, we were gonna go big!  I got some tiny pumpkins and a matching orange Gerbera daisy.  This was my easy centerpiece with some strategically placed candles and fall leaves.  Easy and fall festive!  I wanted to make some cool gabled boxes as favours for my guests that I had seen on Pinterest, but I had to hand cut the template with my scissors — and they just weren’t turning out the way I wanted.  So, I scratched that idea, and went with these cute little boxes instead.  (see the tutorial here).  I decorated mine with some fall foliage and ribbon, filled them with either a teabag or a coffee pod, and we were good to go!  (As an aside, I am putting that gable box die cut on my Christmas list for the next time honey… hint hint…)fall brunch

My menu consisted of fresh fruits, yogurt, a coleslaw I made a few days before, bag o’kale salad,  a warmed up squash soup I had made earlier and frozen, and a few delightful recipes from the new cookbook:  a spinach and cheese quiche, roasted asparagus, baked brie and the star of the show: Joanna’s cinnamon squares!  A bunch of these were things my kids won’t eat, so I was happy to share… but the cinnamon squares were a hit with the whole household!  They are a labour of love… you have to let the dough rise and layer the filling by folding in layers of dough.  The book made it look easy and Ms. Gaines’ squares are beautifully symmetrical… mine were not quite as aesthetically pleasing… but did they ever taste yummy!  Coffee, juice and tea, and we were set for a delightful morning of meaningful conversation and fellowship!

I invited a variety of ladies… some neighbours, some from church, all of us at different stages of life, and we made introductions and chatted easily of education, our families, crafts, and how yummy the cinnamon squares were!  I hoped it was as delightful for my friends as it was for me!  I’m not always good at being social, (introvert that I am), so was stretched a bit to be the delightful hostess.  Yet, as I looked around the table, I was struck by how strong the women who gathered there were.  How each of them had significant influences on my life through their example, their mentor ship, their friendships, or a way they taught me personally through some action of theirs.  Unique ladies, and yet, here we were, gathered to enjoy a bond of good food and good conversation.  To celebrate nothing in particular, simply the joys of being invited to share at the table.friendship and coffee

Oh, my friends, it encouraged my heart to plan, and knead the dough, and bake, and tidy.  To laugh with friends and enjoy simple things like a warm cup of coffee.  We crave that time as moms, don’t we?  We were made for relationships.  Even introvert me.  Perhaps we have lost our old fashioned desire to connect the way women used to.  Before texts and meetings and running here and there.  Maybe the southern belles had it right.  Be a hostess.  Share a lemonade on the back porch.  Enjoy the company of a good friend.  Or get to know a new one.  And if ya’ll live way up in Canada, host a fall brunch with some warm soup and great cinnamon squares! It will make your heart glad.

 

How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish

Epic Felting Fail

Life is back into full swing here, and the lazy days of summer are dwindling away.  Unfortunately for me, that means less time for leisurely activities like crafting.  Before all that disappears though, I wanted to share with you one of my big crafting tragedies.  My epic fail.  My fibre flop.  My defeated disaster.  Perhaps it will encourage you.  If not, well, I might just make it to a Pinterest fail compilation, for “I nailed it”  — not.FELTFAIL

If you are a Pinterest junkie like me, you will know how easily one can be swayed by the allure of beautiful craft pieces, created by highly skilled individuals displaying their wares.  Or perhaps Instagram is your game… and a perfectly plated dish is drool worthy for you.  Maybe you play it old school and appreciate a fine, handmade quilt tucked away in some quaint antique store; or a fashionista who spends hours finding that perfect accent for your well coordinated outfit.  We are such fickle creatures, aren’t we?  We love to create, and often spend our entire lifetimes perfecting our work.

Which brings me back to my fail.  I recently discovered the delicate art of dry felting.  It involves stabbing raw or “roving” wool with a fine needle until it becomes “felted” or matted together.  By layering colours and textures, detailed works of art can become so lifelike, it is difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not… and the pieces are so adorably cute! I first featured some felting artistry at mittonmusings here.  So, eager to try something new, I found a little felting kit at my local craft store and attempted a rather wonky llama.  He’s not bad, but he doesn’t quite stand.  His little legs are not very sturdy.  Okay for a beginner, I suppose.  More recently, I attempted a petite pig with inspiration from a felting book I was pleased to discover down in the States.  It did not go as well.FELTBOOK

The book’s directions had me lay out all the various parts, and following the preliminary instructions for a “dog body” shape, my cute little piglet should have come together beautifully.  My wool was a little too pink — more candy floss shade — but I was going to blend in some browns and whites to make him him look more realistic.  I could do this, right? Several hours later, after stabbing away at my little foam block and folding and fluffing wool… I had all my shapes ready.

Well… my cotton candied porker was not too well proportioned … and he ended up looking like a sausage shaped cat with lopsided legs.  I attempted to give him a whimsical expression… but my features were too thick and my cat-pig ended up all drag-queen-gone-bad.  Epic fail.  My beloveds tried to encourage me with kind words… but we all managed a laugh as Mr. Pig joined Wonky Llama in my misfit menagerie of sad looking felted friends.  I am afraid it is back to the drawing board for me.Shapes all laid out...things so far so good...

What about you, my friend?  Ever attempt a “creation”?  Are you a fine artist? A crafter?  Are you a fabulous cook, or can you rebuild a car from scratch?  I would love to hear from you!

Alas, my fellow beginners… there is always a lesson in our trials!  Are you encouraged, as I am, that the Bible tells us God doesn’t make mistakes (unlike us!).  It says that God created…  and it was good.  I will say it again:  He doesn’t make mistakes.  No epic fails.  No beginner blunders.  Everything was perfect.  Just as He designed.  We recently visited the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio.  It was a helpful reminder in simply appreciating the vast diversity we have in this created world — from the tiniest creepy crawly to the towering dinosaur of yesteryear.  As a scientist, I can appreciate the subtle and profound differences in a world of creatures.  And I continue to be amazed as the various disciplines peel back the layers of this place that God called “good”.  Oh, my friends… We’ve barely scratched the surface!

But do you want to know what is even cooler than that?! He created us!  You and I were created in the image of the Almighty! He breathed life into dirt and “felted” us together — delicately weaving our personalities, our gifts, our talents, and our passions into something spectacular!  You have been perfectly crafted by the most talented artist of all!

So take heart.  If your llamas are a little wobbly, and your piggies are not quite pudgy… fear not.  Humans have to keep practicing.  God doesn’t.GODPRACTICE

 

 

 

 

Strawberries!

It’s berry season!  Despite it’s overgrown spread and lack of attention, our backyard raspberry bush is yielding some bumper crop this year.  We have also been loving the organic blueberries that come via our local farmers markets in summer.  We even tried some haskap berries via our basket of deliveries (Which I discovered aren’t really berries… but are still yummy!).  Hands down, though, our family is big on the fat, juicy delights of strawberries!  The youngest Mitton can down a bucketful in 10 seconds flat!  I love mine with cream or in a smoothie with some banana.  Mmmmnnn… nothing says summer in Canada more than berries!

A few weeks back, we went on our traditional “pick your own” strawberry expedition with grandma. We’ve been doing it for years.  In fact, I can’t ever remember not having a freezer full of strawberries — which is actually ironic because my mother, bless her heart… does not like strawberries. strawberry picking We used to laugh as kids when mom would replace one frozen bucket with another one she had just picked, even though last year’s produce didn’t get eaten.  You see… it’s tradition.  Please… bear with me as I break out in song with Tevye in my rendition of the Fiddler on the Roof’s opening song…dai, dai, dai… okay, enough of that.  Back to strawberries.

Now that I am a mature homemaker, devoted wife and mother, I have taken on the task of processing my own strawberries.  Let me tell you… this is no easy task!  This year we picked about 7 litres… enough for three batches of jam, two giant servings for eating and about 2 cups to put in the freezer for later (the tradition continues — except we eat ours).  The whole process is a very full day’s work.  This year the picking was hot and humid.  We went to the farm early and had our baskets filled in about an hour or so.  Then the real processing begins… washing and stemming the juicy morsels as the red, staining juice drips down my arms and everything turns slightly pink.  I pop a couple super cute berries into my mouth to compensate for the mess.  Then the waiting begins.  I make “no cook” freezer jam (just follow the packet of your favourite brand) which means adding sugar, stirring, waiting, stirring, timing, waiting, stirring and finally pouring.  Making three batches at a time is… well, time consuming.  One year, I didn’t get the timing quite right and I ended up with strawberry syrup instead of jam.  Which is just as yummy on ice cream as jam, so no worries.  After all the chopping, stirring, waiting and drippy messes… the pretty red jars head off to the freezer to be pulled out again in December for decorating and gift giving.  I think all the work is so worth it… and I hope our friends and family do to when they receive their jar come Christmastime!

All in all, the effort and toil brings joy and pleasure to others.  I suppose this is why such things become traditions.  My mom fills her freezer because it reminds her of her own mother.  My kids visit the farm because it’s an activity they love to do with grandma.  Our friends are beginning to expect a jar of strawberry jam at Christmastime.  Perhaps your church has a strawberry social in the summer with loads of strawberry shortcake topped with fluffy whip cream.   I have to agree with Tevye … traditions keep our balance.  It allows us to have some sort of constant expectation.  Often, it’s an enjoyable one that we look forward to… like strawberry freezer jam.  Perhaps the hard work involved makes it even more special.  And the beginnings of traditions… often unknown or lost through the years.  Which begs the question… is a traditional way the only way?

jamI ask because traditions can also be taken for granted… we do something a certain way because we have always done it that way.  Is it wrong?  Not necessarily.  God’s word is full of examples of traditional laws … many of which we still follow today.  They are given to us by God and therefore I deem them worthy of consideration and practice in my faith walk.  Many a saint has grown spiritually from using disciplines and routine.  The caution must come when tradition overtakes our desires to grow with God vs. religious tradition.  It’s about relationship not ritual.  I am not one for change.  Really.  I like things when they stay the same… even when it comes to church.  There is something to be said for tradition.  It keeps us balanced.  But I have learned that time does not wait for anyone.  The ebb and flow of society forces us to move along and find new balances.  Like Tevye, traditions will be challenged.  We must learn and be constantly examining why we believe the things we do… is it biblical or simply a tradition?  In thirty years will it be the same?  Should it be?  Does it need to be?  This being said, God doesn’t change.  He is our constant — kinda like the pectin in my strawberry jam.  He’s the gel that should be the catalyst in our mix.  As long as we add the right amount of sweetness, and allow for some time, a little chopping and stirring brings things back to a perfect consistency.  A flawless gift we can give to our friends and family.

Will you examine your practices and traditions along with me?  Do you simply do them the way you do for the sake of tradition?  Is it good?  Or do you have to examine your reasoning deeper?  Are you just replacing another freezer burnt bucket of thoughts for the same ones?  Becoming more Christlike is a journey, and we have to twist and turn and be pruned and challenged… only then will we produce the sweetest fruit worthy of passing on to others.  It’s work, but it’s worth it.

Worth the Work!

DIY Teacher’s Gifts: A Lesson in Gratitude

DIYTeacherGift

Okay, confession time.  I am not good at being grateful.  Oh,  I have manners and know when to say please and thank you and I’m sorry (I’m Canadian afterall!) but I am not so good at being full of gratitude.  Recently, I was having a discussion with some friends about this topic of gratitude and it triggered a thought… are my children truly thankful for all they have?  Am I truly thankful for all I have?!  I live in a wonderful country where I am free to post my feelings and thoughts on a blog such as this.  I have food on the table, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head.  We have two cars and a place we can enjoy in the summer.  Our family is truly blessed.  In fact, I think we have way too much!  I have to start sorting and sharing as soon as the hamster wheel slows down.  Gratitude is tricky.  Are words enough?  Do we need to repay the kindness of a gift with another, reciprocal gift?  How do we be good examples to our children and show kindness and exude gratitude without being caught in the cycle of looking like we want something in return?  I don’t have the answer to this one.  Leave me a comment if you have some insight!

What I do know, is that we gotta start somewhere!  So, I decided that after my friendly discussion and sudden enlightenment about my lack of proper parenting, I knew that I had to tackle some thank you gifts!  The end of the school year is a great time to make some gratitude filled, easy to make, teacher thank you gifts!  These ones were pretty frugal too… an added bonus!  #gratitudeWe started out with some simple, dollar-store clay pots and leftover plastic buckets from spring planting… and then decorated away with paints and stickers and ribbons — stuff I had hanging around from other projects.  The paint didn’t stick to the green plastic, so we used some fun stickers and ABC’s for those.  The youngest and I had a nice bonding time doing some crafting… and it was a great opportunity for me to encourage her.  She didn’t think her bee looked quite right… so we added whimsical googly eyes … with such a cute result!

Next, we spooned in some dirt and simply added cuttings from some of my overgrown house plants!  This not only served our purpose, but gave us another opportunity to discuss sharing and being thankful for what we already have!  Succulents are perfect for this, as you don’t need much preparation ahead of time… simply snip and stick in some soil… this kalanchoe we had was spreading and already had tiny root shoots… so was easy to transplant.  We also separated some herbs and a lovely purple shamrock plant.  In the end, we had six quick and easy (and almost free!) gifts… enough for three elementary teachers and a few great sunday school helpers!  Some hand made cards topped off the lesson in gratitude (hand written by the kids, of course!) and volila!

TeachersRSpecial

Teachers are very special people… and I am forever telling our four beloveds that teachers play a huge part in their lives!  Trust me… it is really hard to impart information to a large group of young people from diverse backgrounds who often don’t want to be sitting in that desk in front of you.  Especially when they come with a set of parents watching your every move.  Be kind to teachers.  They are human too.  They need some love and thanks after a full year in the classroom!

I’m not sure that my gratitude level has jumped too many degrees up the scale from this project… but at least it gave me a chance to chat a bit with the youngest two — and share some love around.  Perhaps it’s a start.  Perhaps it will “grow” on us as we practice more…. Sorry… couldn’t resist… some teacher taught me about puns once… aren’t you grateful? 🙂

 

P.S.  Once you have said “thank you” to your beloved teachers and said good-bye for another school year… keep following mittonmusings.com!  Click the follow button on the side bar … I have some exciting changes coming this summer!  You won’t want to miss it!!

 

 

 

Dinosaur Fossils: My First Guest Post!

 

Thanks so much for following along with me at mittonmusings.com!  I am encouraged by my steady increase in “followers” and am thoroughly enjoying the adventure.  Thank you for participating in the journey!  If you care to share, please pass on your favourite post via google+, facebook, bloglovin’, instagram or pinterest!  Drumroll… I am now tweeting on Twitter too!  You can also email your friends the link or follow along via wordpress reader!  Ha!  You can even TALK to others about it… how crazy would that be?! I am quickly learning that in the blog “underworld” (yes, it truly is another world lying in the shadows of a undiscovered realm of bloggers and writers in this thing we call the internet!) sharing is the biggest way that you can grow! As I learn to put myself  “out there”,  I am happy to announce that I have shared in my first guest post!  So… instead of posting another blog this week… please head on over to visit Anna at abrazoandcoze.com and read all about my easy dinosaur fossil craft!

 

dinodiy

I’ll be back next Tuesday with another muse about something close to my heart!  Until then, encourage one another, love deeply and smile a little.  🙂

 

The City Mouse and The Country Mouse (What’s your Comfort Zone?)

mouseDoes anyone remember an old story about the City Mouse and the Country Mouse?  Two mice who were friends decided to visit each other’s homes and soon discovered they had stepped out of their “comfort zones”.  The city mouse lived with too busy a lifestyle and dangers (like the cat!) were all around.  The country mouse had to work too hard to get any of the luxuries of home and enjoyed too much quiet.  They quickly realized that although their friend’s home was a “nice place to visit” they didn’t want to live there.

We are much the same.  I have always lived in the big city.  Okay… suburbs… but still a place where opportunities are, and culture and diversity are readily available.  And yet, I am drawn to the country.  I love the quiet of a forest.  I want chickens.  Fresh strawberries mean summer.  It’s quite fascinating to me how the grass is always greener on the other side (be it manicured lawns or manure filled fertilizer), and yet we fall back into what is familiar to us.  It takes a special person to step out in faith and go out of that familiar spot.  I wish I had just a bit more of it.

I wish I had just a little bit of that “chutzpah”. To live on the edge, just a tad, and dangle my feet in the unknown.  To be radically changed.  Just a bit.  Not too much. Because the fear of the unknown is too great.  That cat does not exhilarate the ride.  It makes me want to go home where it is safe.  How do we gather up that gumpshun and try new things?  Where do we get that radical faith?  Many of those in history labeled as “great in the faith” or “radical” didn’t think they were anyone special.  They just did what they had to do, and were rewarded for their efforts.

crazy Love

Radical People of Faith often just do what they have to do and are rewarded for their efforts.

Francis Chan is a speaker/author I have been hearing a lot from lately.  As I write this post, they are celebrating the life of Rev. Billy Graham in the United States.  These men of faith didn’t do anything extraordinary.  They just did what they felt God told them to do.  The city mouse and the country mouse went to visit each other because they cared about their friend, and wanted to share in their experiences.  Perhaps our efforts are built around our relationships.  We care about the rights of the poor or the oppressed so we stand up against the injustices.  We care about the next generation so we teach our children and love, foster and adopt the orphan.  We care about families so we do our best to nurture our marriages.  We care about our friends so we love our neighbours as ourselves and serve in our communities.

Maybe it’s not about stepping out of our comfort zones as much as deepening our relationships.  Our passions flourish when we use our gifts.  We get the guts to be radically different when we truly want to accomplish something that we believe in.  Sheeesh… I started a blog!  (I just had to ask for help doing an e-transfer last week! Talk about out of my element). (You can read more about why I started my blog in this post!) We stand up against that big, scary cat and then we go home and appreciate where we have come from.  We are renewed by familiarity.  Seeing things from another’s perspective is hard.  My hubby reminds me all the time to do this.  It’s not easy for me to cross out of my “happy place”. To go beyond the boundary and try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. But when I do… I am often rewarded beyond my expectations and find my faith stretched and strengthened.  It doesn’t seem like such an effort when it means a lot to me.  I think that is true for many who go out of their “comfort zone”.  Perhaps we all need to just put a smile on our face, make the first giant leap and go for it!

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Maybe it’s not about stepping out of our comfort zones as much as deepening our relationships.


Did you like the little mice in this week’s post?  They are “felted”… a new craft I just tried (hey… I stepped out!) and the pics are on our new Pinterest Board under “Things we Love”.  Be sure to check it out and give credit to the artizans who have mastered the work.  They are soo cute!