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

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Old mother Hubbard has gone to the cupboard… and it is bare again.  With two teenage boys in the house, (and a tween girl who grazes constantly) there is regularly heard the complaint that there is nothing to eat in the house!  Honestly:  it’s often true.  Rightly or wrongly, I shop for groceries only once every two weeks.  I have a delivery of fresh veggies come to my door once a week (Shout out to mamaearth organics — fabulous company!)  and yeah, we have to pick up milk and bread sometimes… but grocery shopping  tends to be an event for me, rather than a  regular occurance.  To which I muse…adventuresinshopping

I was feeling ill this week… stuffy nose, fever, the whole deal… so grocery shopping got delayed again.  The household is feeling the pinch.  I am scrambling to think of things that will combine in some way to be edible enough to satisfy.  School lunches are the worst.  I try and come up with delightful healthy alternatives to jam sandwiches… but there is just no going with “colourful beetroot spinach wraps with avocado dressing” for picky teens.  And forget the organic alternatives and smiley face cookie cutter bread with strategically placed apple slices in their separately cooled containers.  I’m lucky they even remember their lunch bags, let alone read the love notes I dutifully sign with hearts and x’s and o’s to wish them a lovely day and to remember their memory verses….  okay — NOT.  I would love to be that Pinterest perfect, Instagrammable mom, but alas, I am not.  Cheese and crackers it is.  Packaged.  That I bought at the dollar store.abundance

Seriously though, I actually like to grocery shop.  As I said, it’s more of an adventure than a task for me.  I shop at a big store with lots of choices and housewares and a pharmacy too… so usually it is a one stop deal and a very full cart.  I once got asked if I owned a group home 🙂 and get many a strange look as I strategically pile the bags at the checkout.  I have it down to a fine science now, which scares the hubby, who refuses to help bag anymore.   (Don’t get him started on coupons either — there is no fury like a girl who price matches!)  Needless to say, the crew was not surprised on a recent trip south when I wanted to go to a place called Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati.  With over 200 000 square feet of shopping adventure… why not?!

With all its colourful and slightly kitchy displays, it was kinda fun to walk through this giant store and marvel at the simple abundance of food we have — cheeses, wines, fish, various cuts of meat, and candy!  The back of Jungle Jim’s even had little stores for various countries where you could find your “taste of home” if you needed to.  It had organic, gluten free, fresh, frozen and local.  We actually commented on the difference between American and Canadian groceries… we are way more apt to have international choices as our “normal” selections here in Canada.  At least in our big, diverse city, anyway. tasteofhome

So, as I sit here contemplating what on earth are we going to have for dinner (nope… still haven’t been shopping yet!) I am reminded of how blessed we are.  Sure, we complain.  But I can walk to the convenience store (convenience… ever notice that?!) to get a snack. Or stop and grab something “to go” on my way home, or spend the time and load my cart up to the hills with whatever I want.  We are richly, richly blessed at our house.  Many mothers pray they will scrape enough together to keep their beloveds from starving, let alone spend the time cookie cuttering their lunches into fun and colourful shapes.  According to world hunger stats, some 95 million people are undernourished in our world.  One in five children go to bed hungry.  Even here in Canada, where many fall below the extreme poverty line.  Yet, we waste one third of the food available to us.bugprotein

Did you enjoy your abundance last week celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family?  Did you bring your canned goods to the Food Bank Box during their fall harvest drive and feel good about it?  Oh my friends… like you,  I am guilty of gluttony in a world where convenience and abundance is so prevalent.  Where grocery shopping is an adventure, not a need.  Where I stack up my points and fill my cart with sales just because “I want”.  Let’s make the effort, together, to be conscious of our brothers and sisters who struggle.  Let’s be truly thankful for our abundance and not take it for granted.  Let us share and serve.  For the adventure may not be at Crazy Jungle Jim’s International Market — it might be right here, in our own hearts, when we light the flame within, and train our brains to be aware of, and provide for,  the needs of others.Jungle Jim's 2


REMINDER: 30 Days of Blessings is the brainchild of mittonmusings and has finally launched!  It’s our attempt to be conscious not only of the many ways we are blessed by God, but also to think of ways to bless others.   We will be starting our challenge Oct. 15th… but it is not too late to sign up!  Join us, visit our 30 Days of Blessings page to get started!30 Days of Blessings!

Extra! Extra! Read all About it!

Welcome to the special weekend edition of mittonmusings!  My weekend has been super busy already!  In fact, I am plum tired out ! (or is it plumb?… fruit or copper fixtures…neither get tired…I am confused…hmmn…will have to muse about strange idioms one day…)  Nevertheless!  I just wanted to let you in on the reason why I have been working so hard.  I am super excited that our 30 Days of Blessings! challenge is completed and ready to launch on Monday, Oct. 15th!  That is only two days away!

I have been working on and praying about it for some time now and really want it to fly!  To launch and soar from the nest to heights unknown — like a baby bird discovering it’s wings for the first time…. okay, okay, you get the picture…  Lemme just ask you to pray that all the learning curves work out and that the daily emails get sent as planned!  If you will remember, the purpose of starting this blog was to learn technology.  This challenge is a continuation of that goal, but has blossomed into a true heart ministry for me.  I have been promoting it like crazy around Facebook, and hoping that lots of friends sign up.  We’ve teamed up with my local church and they are backing me up as we reach our community here at home.   And so, please take this as your personal invitation to join us as well!  I would so love for my blogging community of friends to join in the fun.  30 Days of Blessings!Coming Monday!

The challenge will be a daily prompt or thought to help us focus on a way to be blessed or to bless others.  I have already learned so much through the preparation, that I can’t wait to see what will happen when we launch!  A word of caution though… be prepared for some spiritual push back… Satan doesn’t want to see our fruit flourish!  I have already been feeling the doubts creep in.  I’ve been emotionally scattered and tired.  Yet, I know that our great big God is in control, and He is just waiting to use us to make a big impact in our communities.  Will you join us?  Will you stand with me and take up the challenge?  Follow our link below to sign up, and we will see you on Monday!   Happy weekend from the Mitton crew 🙂


30 Days of Blessings!

Using our Gifts and Talents

A short post today for all my adoring fans.  Ya’ll are too stuffed with Canadian Thanksgiving Turkey anyway, right?  It’ll be short because a tonne of my energies have been working on our newly created 30 Days of Blessings! challenge!! Hurray!  Which got me thinking… why don’t we get tired of doing what we love?!

For any of you who have taken any kind of personality test or giftings survey, you will know that each of us were created with distinct personality types.  Introvert, extrovert, planner, partier, type A, type B — all those kinds of things.  Then, of course, we have certain talents and spiritual gifts as well.   Some of us are good at organizing, some – not so much.  There are the creative ones who work with their hands, and others who flourish in relationships and relate to people.  Some of us have our cat as a best friend.  I have actually studied a lot about this topic — especially with regards to learning styles and how we learn based on our personalities (perhaps another day I will enlighten you all about that!)  For now, let’s just say we are all different.Using our

It is because we are all different that life tends to flow rather well… we all fill in gaps that someone else has left behind.  God designed it that way!  Take for example, our 30 Days of Blessings endeavour… I have been thrilled to be tweaking photos and planning and promoting and writing up all the blurbs.  I love a project, and so I believe God has gifted me in administration…. I so adore a to-do list!  I don’t always get it all completed, of course, but I love to see the list!  My beloved, on the other hand, is a relationship guru.  He would rather spend time doing something with the family than sitting in front of a stack of papers.  So… we are trying to work on this venture together.  It’s been a learning curve, but he keeps me in checks and balances so that I don’t become a total hermit in front of the computer, and I give him a sticky note collection of what he needs to do next.  Somehow it works.

My encouragement for you on this post-thanksgiving day?  Be thankful that we are not all the same.  Rejoice that God has made you just the way you are, for just the thing He needs you to do, for just this perfect moment in time.  Delight in the fact that by working together we can achieve big things, my friends!  When you are in His will, and doing His work, there simply is no getting tired.  Not even after turkey dinner! 🙂


Want to use those gifts and talents to bless others?  Join us for the 30 Days of Blessings! challenge.  We start Oct. 15th, 2018.  Check out the 30 Days of Blessings page for sign up.30 Days of Blessings!

Apple Harvest

It’s apple harvest season!  Here in Ontario, we have an abundance of apples!  According to Ontario Apple Growers, there are 15 main varieties of apples grown on the nearly 16 000 acres of land dedicated to the production of the fall fruit.  The top five varieties are: MacIntosh, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious and Northern Spy.  My favourite happens to be MacIntosh.  They are smaller and a bit more tart.  Ohh! My mouth is watering just thinking about it… apple butter on warm toast, apples and peanut butter… apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp (is there a difference?) … apple sauce smothering a good farmer’s sausage…. Okay, Okay, I digress.

One of the neat things about living in Canada is when the cooler days of September begin to roll around, the farmer’s markets begin to pop up everywhere… with not only local apples, but an abundance of harvest goodies.    farmersmrkt We happened to frequent a few in the last couple of weeks, and the hubby and I marvelled at the people carting off huge bags full of peppers and tomatoes and colourful bouquets of flowers!  Rich, rich shades of golds and reds and deep pinks and chocolate browns.  Truly, our Creator has displayed His handiwork in the beauty of the harvest!

Now, I am a city girl born and raised in the suburbs… so I know I cannot comment on the work that encompasses the idea of “harvest”.  However, I am very thankful for the farmers who do provide me with the fruits of their labours!  Yet, I was reminded again, just today, that although we can plant a seed, water and tend it, and even though we hope and pray and wish it to grow…  only God can do the actual miracle of life thing.  I am fascinated, as a life scientist, by the idea of cloning and test tube creations.  I am thrilled by genetic codes, developmental biology and mutation, diversity and evolutionary principles.  We have learned to “create” so much… but not quite from scratch yet… we still need a starting point.  Apparently there are some 7 500 varieties of apples worldwide.  Just think about that.  A simple “apple” could conjure up 7 500 varieties.  Each one of those varieties then produce different actual fruits: some perfectly round, some bumpy, some red, some green and some yellow!  And, of course, they taste slightly different… tart, sweet, sour… wow… I am boggling my own mind.  So let’s move on….

Let’s think about the symbol of “apple” for a moment… for many of you (and for Google!) the first symbol that comes to mind is for apple computers and all things “i”.  Apparently Steve Jobs came up with the idea for apple from Newton and the idea of knowledge, gravity, the falling of the apple from the tree and all that.  Many educational institutions have adopted the apple for their symbol for this reason as well.  Education and the idea of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has promoted it as a symbol for health and growth and the furtherance of good futures.  The apple tends to have a slightly darker theory as well… especially in religious circles, as the “forbidden fruit” of lust, sin and the fall of man through Adam and Eve (although the Bible doesn’t say the forbidden fruit was an actual apple…).  Needless to say, the seemingly simple apple is not so simple… in fact, it is quite complex!complexapples

Personally, I have been thinking about apples in terms of their great diversity and abundance.  It symbolises the bounty of the harvest and the thankfulness for our many blessings.  Each one of us is different, with our own unique looks and tastes.  Yet, the bunch of us, as a whole, can make a significant impact for good in the world.  Or the opposite.  One rotten apple can ruin a whole basketful.  By blending a variety of apples, and adding just a bit of spice, you can create such rich and comforting delights.  So many foods blend well with the simplicity of an apple.  My grandpa used to say that apple pie without the cheese is like a hug without the squeeze… isn’t that cute?  There’s just something about an apple that evokes feeling blessed.

And so… it is with great delight, that I announce a new adventure at mittonmusings!  The new “apple of my eye” shall we say?  A new learning experience that (we hope) will not only have you feeling blessed, but present you with a chance to bless others!  With apples as our theme, we have developed a 30 day course (think random acts of kindness with gratitude journal) designed to give you a focus for the day:  with prompts for action, daily verses, and practical tips to strengthen your relationships with God and others.  Imagine it as that big bushel of harvested apples… each of us unique and different, harvested with comfort and care.  Then we get all shined up so that we can be passed around to enrich others, furthering health, knowledge and the furtherance of good futures!  All achieved within the comforts of home!

30 Days of Blessings!

Want to join us?  We’d love to have you!  See more information and get sign up information on our 30 Days of Blessings! page.  It’s absolutely free!  The adventure begins Oct. 15th! Don’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

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