A Thankful visit to Transvaal Farm

Hello again, my friends! We just got back from a wonderful, long Victoria Day weekend. We opened up our tiny trailer and got our first real taste of summer — despite the fact that it was still quite chilly. Oh my, we are so ready for some warmer weather over here!

Which got me thinking about all things vacation. Therefore, I wanted to throwback to a few weeks ago, when I took a lovely, little “mini-vacation” with a couple of good friends. We had an awesome time together — simply enjoying each other’s company, with no set agendas, just doing whatever tickled our fancy (which was a whole lot of shopping!) We journeyed to little town called St. Marys, near Stratford, Ontario (Canada!) and spend a few days in a wonderful little place called Transvaal Farm.

The guest house, situated on 50 acres of rural farmland, was quaint — and perfect for the girls’ getaway. The home features two bedrooms, a lovely sitting area, and a country kitchenette, allowing us to save some money by cooking our evening meals in-house (all the more cash for shopping!) Our host, Cindy, and her working partners, were eager to show us around, and we reveled in the delights of the goats… and you guessed it… CHICKENS! (I don’t know what it is with me and chickens, right now….but I am lovin’ them!)

Although not a true bed and breakfast, our hosts delighted us with a stocked fridge full of fresh goat cheese, delectable, baked artisan bread and treats… and, of course, farm fresh eggs! We even got to gather our own eggs, direct from the coop, one day! We visited during off season, so many of the garden’s goodness’s were not yet available, but I’ve been told that the property boasts a lovely variety of fresh veggies all summer long. I did see quite a few rhubarb patches, too! I understand that Cindy hosts some wonderful classes on all things good and yummy, as well. I encourage you to check it out!

Our felted owls
Our crazy little felted owls!

The girlfriends and I spent our days touring around the surrounding cities, thrifting (I was on the hunt for glass bottles!!) enjoying cafe lunches, and quaint little gift shops. We found boundless treasures and laughed and chatted for hours. We even tried our hand at some felted owls one night. Which led to a deluge of giggles at our own inadequacies! But, the fireplace was warm, and the company was even warmer. It was such a refreshing time for me!

I am so blessed. Indeed, I must remember to be thankful. To take time to reflect and thank God for the bountiful blessings He provides — warm beds, nourishing food, a bountiful earth full of good things, and lasting relationships with friends who bring such value to my life. I must remember to be thankful that I am blessed enough, financially, to take time away from working, to be a bit frivolous with my time. I must remember to be thankful for a family that is home waiting for me to share my joys upon my return (and to hear me talk about chickens… again!)

Have you made your blessings list? Have you taken the time to indulge in a few days with no agenda, to laugh with friends and collect fresh chicken eggs? To pet the barn cats and enjoy lattes at a quaint, small town cafe? To find treasures hidden away in a thrift shoppe? Oh, may you enjoy coming home again to the faces of your beloveds, because your absence has made your heart grow fonder. Be blessed, my friend — and be thankful.

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!

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!