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

 

 

 

 

How to Stay Motivated (When you just want to eat chocolate covered almonds)

Okay, so here it is the middle of September, back to school has happened and the kick-offs are all around us.  Get involved! Join this! We need volunteers for this! We want to serve this year!  *Sigh*  I don’t know about you, but today I just wanna crawl back into a hole and eat my secret stash of chocolate covered almonds.  The whole bag.  By myself.  I’m supposed to start teaching Sunday School this week.  Our study group begins again.  We want to serve others and engage with family this year.  The kids will soon be starting lessons and clubs and the minivan will be put into overdrive as workshops start up again for me.  It’s usually a time when my organizational skills flourish and I get all excited for new beginnings… but I just ain’t feeling it.  Can I get an amen?  Anyone else struggling with feeling motivated?  Are you a leader and trying to recruit some volunteers but get the same five people for every ministry?  Or are you like me and feeling like the apostle Paul in Romans 7?  You want to do the things you know you should do, but you just don’t do them.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, as they say.

Okie dokie then.  Shall we muse together on how to start that spiritual flame under our unmotivated, ummm, slightly “fleshy” behinds and move forward?  Are you with me?  It will be no easy task, my friends… chocolate covered almonds have a big pull for me…

eatchocalmonds

Did you know that if you google motivation, there are almost    940 000 000 results?!  Obviously we are not alone here.  This is a big issue… and “how to stay awake” is in the top 5.  Maybe people are simply just tired.  Our flesh is weak.  Literally.  Highly motivated people quickly burn out if we don’t get proper rest.  Late nights and too many chocolate covered almonds don’t make for good servants.  We know this.  However, it’s a good place to start.  A strung out new mom who is caring for a colicky newborn might not be the best one to ask to head up the children’s ministry.  Just sayin’.  So our number 1 must be:  take care of the physical you.  Rest well.

My number 2 is:  pray about it.  Life is hard sometimes.  Only God knows our future and our past.  He has given you the gifts to move forward, and can heal the hurts from before.  Tell Him your frustrations.  Ask others to surround you with prayers as well.  If need be, seek Godly wisdom and prayers from professionals who might need to help in practical ways you cannot provide for yourself alone.  Those prayers may also be the catalyst in sending others your way!  Who knows, maybe someone is praying about how to serve you!  This intimacy with God often gives us clarity and focus.  Perhaps you will add some quiet meditation or praise and worship music to re-align your focus on “things above” versus the many distractions we have “here below.”  I often end up praying about what to blog about — because my thoughts are not always the ones that need to be said… and it often surprises me the direction that my muses take!

One of my biggest obstacles is being overwhelmed with the task at hand.  I look at the space around me and think, nope, too big, not worth the effort, where are my almonds?  Oh man, I struggle with this one.  I am task oriented, so if the task is too big, I can’t wrap my brain around it and quickly become unmotivated.  This is where I have to heed the words a very wise friend once told me… just do the next thing.  Say you want to live simply and clear the clutter.  Thinking about the whole house might be overwhelming.  Start with one drawer, or one closet, and then… do the next thing.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

planpurpose

That leads to the next big one… the plan. This is not new either, I am just reminding you (and me) that you have to plan for things to happen.  My husband and I often converse about this one… he hopes things will just fall into place, that his romantic gestures will sweep me off my feet and date night will spontaneously happen due to some great alignment of the universe.  But he knows that if he sets it up on the calendar, I am more likely to carve out that time with him to work on our relationship.  Some of us need this more than others.  Many volunteers quickly abandon their posts if there is no set plan.  Don’t forget that plans include your materials!  Some folks are overwhelmed with a disorganized, unkempt space.  Many are willing to cook at the pancake breakfast fundraiser… but if the kitchen is a disaster and there are no clean spatulas, it might be a no-go.

I Corinthians 15:58 reminds us that nothing we do is in vain.  The smallest efforts can lead to great things with God’s help.  However, I do think He wants us to set a distinct purpose behind our efforts.  Ever have your kids ask WHY?  Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to clean my room?  Why do we have to go to church?  Why is the sky blue?  If we don’t know why we are doing something, then it often loses its lustre and we become frustrated with the effort it takes.  Or it is simply not needed.  Do you run a program just because there has always been one?  Is it necessary?  There is a story about a new housewife who always trimmed the ends off her roast before cooking it.  One day she asked her grandmother: why?  Was it some ancient technique for a fine Sunday dinner?  Her grandmother replied that it was the only way a large roast would fit in her small roasting pan.  Yup, sometimes it’s helpful to know the purpose behind the plan.

Occasionally, we get motivated by an event/learning experience.  If you are new to mittonmusings, you will quickly discover that I am always up for learning something new.  I am eager to draw information from others.  To glean insight from another perspective or someone else’s life experience.  I had the privilege of sitting under some very learned people this summer… and was able to fill my brain with a tonne of things to spark my musings.  Our little blips of time on this planet are not enough to cover all that is possible.  God’s great big world is full of opportunities!

Having said that, it is a good reminder to me (and you!) to never take anyone for granted.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone to help directly — but don’t leave them there all alone!  A servant who gives of their time should never be ignored.  Encourage those around you who have accomplished even the smallest task.  It is a big motivator in taking the next bite of the proverbial elephant. motivatehearts Our youngest son was often overwhelmed with anxieties when attempting new tasks.  We knew that slow (and often painfully time consuming!) encouragement to “just do the next thing” allowed him to overcome his fears and often flourish at the task at hand.   By learning things and being encouraged by others, we often strengthen our own efforts, and can focus in on the real purposes behind our motivations.

Above all, our motivation should continue to guide us forward towards Heaven.  Matthew 6 tells us that no matter what we do, no matter what the goal is, or what steps we take to get there, the motivation we have is always based on where our hearts are.  The treasures at the end of the journey will be reflections of where our hearts were at the beginning.  Want to motivate others?  Encourage their hearts.  Want to motivate yourself?  Spend some time letting God change you from within.  Oh… and a few chocolate covered almonds can’t hurt._Store up treasures in Heaven, for where your treasure is your heart will be also_

 

 

 

 

Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made cookies today.  My kids are thrilled.  There are no green flakes, no oatmeal, no flax or anything healthy.  My kids know them as the cookies grandma makes… but they have a much deeper beginning than grandma.  If you’ve come looking for the recipe, you have to scroll down to the end… if you want to hear the story behind them… welcome aboard!  These are my childhood chocolate chip cookies, made from friendship, and love, and from a time long ago when I was young, free and a whole lot skinnier.oil&perfume

I grew up spending my childhood summers in the Kawarthas (Ontario) with my best friend.  Her trailer was next to mine and we were inseparable.  Literally, they called us the Bobbsey Twins… we were together every waking moment… and some sleepovers too!  We swam in the pool, crafted, pretended the park tires were grand stallions to ride and tame, and braided each other’s hair.  We spent countless hours out on the lake in a crazy little rubber dingy that had a slight leak.  Oh, how we laughed when that thing got all squishy and started to deflate under our weight.  I have such fond memories of painting plaster butterflies with sparkly glitter paint and taking our quarter (plus two cents for tax) over to the little ice cream place for a bag full of penny candy.  Hot lips and black ball jawbreakers.

We’d bring the candy back and load it up with our blankets and sleeping bags and set out under the trees for hours and hours of Barbies.  (Okay… don’t judge, Barbies were the thing back then…).  I think I was the only one with a Ken doll … but she had all the dresses.  The Barbies were our dream lives… oh, the Christmas when I got the huge Barbie camper thing… all yellow and with those stick on headlights and such… dreams, I tell ya…. kids these days have no idea with their X-Boxes and Netflix…. blah!

The cookies belonged to my best friend’s mom.  Mrs. G always had containers full of these chocolate chip cookies.  Always.  They were dished out with glasses of milk in those colourful tupperware tumblers of the early eighties.  Sometimes after hot dog lunches, sometimes after hours of Barbies, sometimes after coming in from the lake when the dingy had totally deflated.  There was always a cookie.  Kinda like a true friend — and her kind mom.There was always a cookie.

Time carried on and we gave up Barbies for boys and long chats on the phone.  She taught me how to shave my legs.  She taught me to whistle with my fingers.  She stood by me at my wedding.  We drifted apart some as our lives got busier — but I can still trust her with all my secrets.  I still eat her moms cookies.  Only now they are passed on to my own kids from grandma who got the recipe from Mrs. G so long ago (of course, I begged her for it).  My mom can probably make them by heart, but I still pull out the well worn orange recipe card to make mine.

I offer them to you, my new friends, sharing a different adventure in a different time.  I hope they make you think of your special friends, and make you smile at the joys God gives us through memories.

childhoodcookies

My Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening (I told you they are not “healthy”)         2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar — packed    (sugar… a kid’s dream…)

1/2 cup white sugar (yup, MORE)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt (I eliminate this because I am not supposed to have it — but grandma doesn’t)

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all purpose flour (but you can use any kind; use whole wheat if you must)

2 cups chocolate chips (don’t even measure… just dump)

Okay… now I am supposed to tell you how to make them… except my card is so worn I can barely read the instructions!  So.  I am sure you can find more detailed instructions on some foodie blog… but if you are up for the adventure and are willing to enjoy the experience (trust me baking is not that hard!) Here goes:  Heat up your oven to about 350-375 degrees fahrenheit.  Cream the shortening and sugars, add the rest of the dry stuff (except the chocolate chips!) and mix.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  At this point we end up eating some of the dough (yes… raw eggs and all!  I, so far, have survived all my childhood) and licking the spoons and beaters.  We also test a few of the chocolate chips.  If you are not using a non-stick surface, you should spray the cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  They spread a bit so give them some space.  If you want them to look “pretty” you can spoon and then roll the dough.  We just scoop and dump.  I can’t really tell you how much the batch makes, because it depends on how much dough you sample, and how big you spoon them!  It should give you a couple dozen.  I am sure Mrs. G made double or triple batches for all us teenagers.

Bake them about 8-10 minutes and let them sit for a bit, either on a cooling rack or alone (If they survive the wait… broken ones get eaten right away at my house).  Enjoy with a glass of milk.  And a best friend. 🙂


For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.  Peace be with you.  Your friends here send you their greetings.  Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.

3 John 1:14 (New Living Translation)

 

 

A Little Taste of Heaven

Recently, we took advantage of the fact that I was participating in a Summit that had me staying in the heart of downtown Toronto, to visit a unique treasure known as Kensington Market.  (By the way, the Summit gave me a tonne of great blog material — so I enjoyed it thoroughly!).  I have vague memories of visiting Kensington Market as a child in grade school.  The purpose of the school trip was to engage in “the cultural diversity of the city and participate in the richness of its culture”… or something like that.  As students, we were only allowed to buy something if we had not had it before.  I remember picking out a rich banana square from some Asian bakery (I always remember food details).  I could probably find a tonne of them now, not far from my own neighbourhood… but back then it was something different.  The class soon discovered a shop that had fresh sugar cane… and half of us came back sucking sweet juices out of the green, fibrous sticks.  It probably wasn’t that fresh after all, but we thought it was great and some old Jamaican guy made a profit that day!  We all pretended to be from the Islands and swayed along to Bob Marley songs as the school bus bumped along on the ride home.  I suppose the teachers accomplished their wishes.kensingtonwelcome

Our more recent “adult” trip (although we dragged along the younger two to …umm… engage in the cultural diversity of the city and participate in its richness of culture… ) was a unique clash of feasts for the senses.   We weren’t exactly sure where the market begins and ends, as it is spread over several blocks of residential and main streets tucked into allies and in between old homes and meeting houses.  We started along Spadina Avenue and its discount stores filled with cheap t-shirts and Canadian souvenirs.  I abandoned my family for a short moment as I ducked into a small art supply store to look around.

I am not much of an artist, but I love these little art supply shoppes, piled high with coloured pastels, a variety of brushes and canvases in various sizes.  It’s a little collection of whims, a peculiar example of diversity.  Such an eclectic mix of colours and textures, yet all designed for the creation of something beautiful.  Not to mention it just looks cool.  After finding my crew again… who had lost track of me… we headed along a side street.  A large, white truck was unloading cardboard boxes of ripe mangoes and the smell of the tropics hit us.  “Now,” says the hubby… “Now,  we have come to the right place.”  The marketplace store was filled with baskets of exotic fruits and veggies with their cardboard price signs scrawled in magic marker.  The hubby shares with the kids that this is the way he remembers shopping overseas.  He used to run as a kid to buy a glass-bottled Coca Cola — cool and icy.   We turn the corner again and weave our way through the crowds, taking in the sights — shoppes of authentic Mexican delights and street fairs,  an Indian spice shoppe with teas and incense.  We passed the middle eastern restaurant recommended to me at the Summit.  Organic whole food places have popped up everywhere… all those young, hippy, artsy types going green… secretly I am jealous and gaggle at the waste free containers of pantry staples.  A tiny bunch of champagne grapes would cost you $14 if you wanted such a luxury.diversity

I sneaked into a little organic print shop stocked with natural products and handmade cards.  Just for a minute.  The kids crossed over the street to a little park and splash pad to play a bit… because they know how mom easily gets distracted in craft shops and her minute takes forr-everrrr… (insert eye rolling from children and spouse here).  When I did join them, it was hot and my feet were beginning to swell up… so I rinsed them off in the splash pad and watched some cute little girl dash in and out among the random squirts and fountains… she was laughing so innocently and gleefully that it made me smile.

We wandered back and stopped for official Italian gelato… two flavours allowed, but the kids picked the familiar.  Hmmn.  Need to expand their thinking and get them out of their comfort zones more, methinks.  I took a few snapshots of the street art and allowed my senses to take in all the colours again.  I’m not a downtown girl, but every now and then ya gotta see some graffiti.Gelato

After my little getaway downtown I couldn’t help but think that I had a little glimpse of heaven in those few days.  Not only had I sat at the feet of some very learned men and women and gleaned insights on so many topics, but I worshiped with others with different styles and backgrounds unlike my own.  Then we took in the sights, sounds and smells of people who were craving cultural comforts of their native homes.  Others were clinging to social beliefs and political freedoms… organic, pesticide-free foods or animal rights.  Searching people who were clinging to their ideas of “goodness” in a fallen world. Even the artists were trying to express things through the colours splashed on walls and concrete planters.

Our heavenly Father has created us with such diversity… each with our own unique talents and gifts.  Even my own four, who have been raised in the same house with the same set of genes, are so different from one another.  It’s kinda like that art supply shop… our world is stacked to the ceiling with textures, colours and blank canvases that God has given us, and it is up to us to use them well.  To create something beautiful.  To display our wares and share our wealth with others.  The bible tells us (Matthew 25 and 1 Corinthians 12) that the Spirit gives us gifts and talents of all kinds and we are to use them “…for the common good…”  You can take that a variety of ways, I suppose, but I have to think that if it says we should use our gifts, then, by golly, we should use them! Please share your thoughts and talents with others… and never stop learning from those around you!artsupplies

I get kind of excited when I think about Heaven… not only to see Jesus face to face, but to walk down the streets of gold and chat with people from all over the world… to hear their stories of how they met Jesus, and what their traditions were.  To taste the food in Heaven (oh… can you imagine what gelato… or chocolate… will taste like in Heaven?!) And no one is going to argue which way is the right way… because we are all there already… face to face with our Saviour and fully aware of all that He has given us.  The rich diversity of colours and textures and shapes… simply for our pleasure.  Forever.  Hmmmn… as the old hymn says “what a day of rejoicing that will be…”

 

 


Have you been super excited to share in this adventure with me as we “muse” each week?!  We are so close to 100 followers!  How exciting!  Would you consider sharing with a few friends and ask them to join us?  I’ve got some fun changes coming and need as many friends to be a part of it as possible!  Thanks much!

 

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!!

 

 

 

A Restful Moment

Ever Feel Like You are on the Perpetual Hamster Wheel_Have you ever felt like you were on a perpetual hamster wheel?  Spinning ’round and ’round and never really getting anywhere?  Busy, but not much is getting accomplished.  That’s what I feel like I’ve been doing these last couple of weeks.  It’s a busy time of year at work and I have been up at the crack of dawn, travelling around, saving the world (a class at a time) through the wonders of hands-on science.   When I get home later, the dishes and laundry have piled up, and even though I try and get the house back in some semblance of order, it’s not really “clean” and all I really want to do is nap.  The kids are heading into exams, year end projects and track finals.  The oldest is already off preparing colour coded lists and organizing for her summer job.  My beloved has been holding down the fort and filling in by playing “domestic goddess” after work.  He is such a great help — tidying and getting the kids where they need to be.  I guess I will keep him. 🙂  We are all looking forward to the end of June and the beginning of summer holidays.

As a couple, we thought we might have gotten a little break last weekend when the two of us attended the AGC National Conference in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  He was going for work and I got to go as a delegate this year … which really means an excuse to follow him.  He has attended such conferences numerous times, so for my hubby, the extrovert he is, this weekend was connecting again with people he knows and shares memories with.  For the wallflower, introverted me, it was more smiling and nodding and 3 days of making small talk with people I don’t really know over scheduled, albeit wonderfully catered, coffee breaks. abide The days were full of business meetings, numbers and a lot of reports.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I have a weakness for meetings.  I actually like taking notes and hearing stories and love to see lists and goal setting trends and charts.  It’s the people I need to learn to love.  A few of the conference attendees (hubby included) found it difficult to sit for 8 hours straight and look at statistics.  Their answer to day long meetings?  Spend your free time climbing up and down seven flights of stairs and trekking through the Niagara escarpment along the raging Niagara river to take in the view.  Sorry… there are only so many wonders of the world you can see until it all just begins to look like moss covered rocks.

ApplewoodWhat I did enjoy was one quiet moment of reflection on the porch of our quaint little Bed & Breakfast in the beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake area not far from the conference.  A quiet retreat nestled in surrounding shade gardens complete with bird feeders and…. free range chickens!  (Did I mention I want chickens? You can read about my zoo here.) The inn is even within walking distance to a couple wineries — so we indulged in the luxury of a glass one night after a full day of meetings.  Applewood Hollow might be a bit on the higher end of the scale for an average conference attendee, but work was paying,  so we booked our two night stay complete with breakfasts in the little breakfast nook just outside our room.  Jane, our host,  makes a “to die for” rhubarb crisp and she swears her chickens make the freshest egg/asparagus quiche.  (It was yummy!)  The guest rooms are private and down the hall from the main house,  which is kind of nice for a small B&B. The bedrooms are in the loft overlooking the gardens.   Tastefully decorated and clean, the guest house is a very nice stay.  It would be a charming venue for an artist/writer/speaker looking to get away and work, or even a romantic anniversary getaway.  I recommend it.  One morning, I took advantage of the views, visited the chickens, snapped some photos, and watched a beautiful, big blue jay eat his breakfast at the feeder.  My heart was calmed and peace once again ensued as the hamster wheel slowed for that one brief moment.QuietMoment

Everybody has those times when they are busy.  Bogged down by all the “duties” of life and pie charts.  Even Jesus.  He travelled across the country attending “conferences” on hill tops… and thousands gathered to take in His words or experience His miraculous deeds.  He, too, got away from the people once and awhile and reflected on His purposes and re-focused.  I wonder if He liked asparagus quiche?  He tells us to refresh and renew, to reconnect with God, to find rest when we are weary (Matt. 11).  It is so good for our souls.

Are you feeling weary, my friend?  Drained by your to-do list and on the never ending treadmill of “catching up?”  Take heart.  Then take a break.  Breathe in the fresh air of reconnecting with God and the beauty of His nature.  If you get a chance, go visit Jane and her chickens at Applewood Hollow in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Say hello to my blue jay friend for me — and try the rhubarb crisp!