Thursday, 31 October 2013

How to Dress up those Plants


Three years ago at Christmas, a lovely dark purple orchid was given to us as a gift.  It  had pretty purple and white blossoms, and brought so much colour to our winter days. We fell in love with orchids, and over the years have acquired a little collection. They are quite the interesting flower and so have a few neat facts for you.








 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




Did you know:

 

· Orchids have a symmetry like human faces. If a line is drawn in the middle of the blossom, the two halves are mirror images of each other.

· There are more then 25,000 different kinds of Orchids 

· Vanilla is a species of the orchid family. It is one of the most popular and widespread orchids.

· Orchids like to be together in a cluster, as it raises the humidity level. We call ours a little orchid family. : ) 

 



























































Our orchid family all live comfortably on a little table by our living room window. The cats like to perch in between them and soak up the sunshine. During the cold winter days, our orchids will all be in full bloom. Until then, Charlotte has found a way to dress up their planters, as they do look a little dull. She discovered this blog: Dutch Girl, where you can find easy steps to make your own fabric covered pots. Take a peek, pull out some fabric and have fun!

 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Shepherd's Pie with a Twist

When we were little and time was a pressing, our Mama would make us Shepherd's Pie. It was one of our favourite dinners, and we loved dosing it with Heinz ketchup of course. : ) After all we are partly French Canadian-which means that we did have our grandmama calling this 'pate chinoise' or translating as Chinese pate, which makes absolutely no sense, as Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie is European..perhaps our French ancestors were a bit geographically mixed up? Whatever the case our Mama has been making this dish for years, and this past weekend decided to make a fresh spin on it for a birthday party. We were going to a potluck and needed a dish to bring that was easy, could be made ahead, and also crowd pleasing : )

So Friday night she came up with...




























Shepherd's Pie with a Twist


2 lbs. of ground organic lean meat
6-8 russet potatoes peeled and cut in pieces
4-5 sweet potatoes peeled and cut in pieces
2 cups of frozen organic corn
2 cloves of minced garlic
3 cups of organic beef stock
6 TBSP of margarine or butter
1/2 cup of spelt flour
1TBSP of maple syrup
soya milk or milk
salt and pepper
spray oil for pan

In large pot add potatoes and cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender.

In another large pot add sweet potatoes and cover with water, bring to a boil until tender.

In a large pan sauté ground meat until fully cooked adding garlic half way. Drain extra fat.

In a small pot add stock and bring to a simmer, melt 3TBSP of margarine or butter and make a roux to thicken your stock making a gravy. Set aside.

Once potatoes are cooked drain and add salt, 1-2 TBSP of margarine or butter, and desired milk, mash, and set aside. Do the same for the sweet potatoes adding maple syrup, margarine, salt, and milk. Mash and set aside.

In a 9 inch by 13inch casserole dish add meat, then spread corn, add your gravy, layer sweet potatoes, then add your potatoes. Smooth out the top and run a fork to give it a ripple effect. Heat at 350 for 35-40 minutes and serve with a salad.


























Enjoy!




Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Words of Beauty

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting." Ralph Waldo Emmerson

In today's world of glamorized 'perfect' women who are altered, tweaked, and made just so, we sometimes have to ask: What does beauty mean to us? Who is beautiful?

After talking it over we feel that beauty is: First it is love in action.
For example it is in the sacrifices of our parents, our grandparents, our siblings, our priests, our friends, our loved ones.

"Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul." St Augustine

Second: A beautiful woman, man, child, is one who knows she/he is loved by God and so is one that loves in return. 

We searched and found a few wise words on the subject of beauty. Happy reading and share with us if you any thoughts/quotes! We love to hear from you.

PS: If you are looking for a wonderful magazine alternative to Cosmo and Glamour, check out: Verily






























"There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful than a woman being unapologetically herself ; comfortable in her physical imperfection. To me that is the essence of beauty. " Dr.Steve Maraboli

"A beauty is a woman you notice, a charmer is one who notices you." Adali E. Stevenson

"Beauty is not caused. It is." Emily Dickinson

"The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It's the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years." Audrey Hepburn






























"Beauty is not in the face, beauty is a  light in the heart." Kahil Gibran

"Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty-they merely move it from their faces into their hearts." Martin Bauxbaum

"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." Roald Dahl

































and one just to give us all a bit of inspiration:

"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they'd live alot differently." Calvin and Hobbes




Monday, 28 October 2013

Oh my gosh you were Homeschooled?


Charlotte was at College this weekend and a few older ladies asked where she went to school, she explained that she had been homeschooled. After many questions the ladies couldn't believe that Charlotte was socially okay, had friends, good jobs etc. So we decided to come up with a few answers to questions that we often get asked. : )


Here are some of Charlotte's homework assignments








































What about you? Have any homeschooling questions for us? Ask away in the comments. : )

How did you make friends? It must have been so lonely! 

Our parents made it a priority for all us to stay involved in activities. We met other large homeschooling families our age, and would get together for study days. Our mama started a chess club for homeschooled boys, and every week 30 or more boys would come over for popcorn and chess. Our neighbour who also homeschooled started a girl's group, where we played games, did crafts, wrote and directed elaborate plays, did unit studies etc. We all did swimming lessons, volunteered, babysat, and took music lessons. Our parents also strongly encouraged that we would build relationships with each other, as a family, and so we spent many homeschooling days, doing lessons together, teaching each other etc.

How did you learn? Who taught you? 

Our parents are both very creative, and always looked for other ways to make lessons approachable for us. Both of them were very hands on in their teaching methods. What worked for me during high school, wasn't necessarily the best for Elese, as she wanted more complicated science based courses. So our parents scoured the web and found an umbrella school out East, that sent Miss Curious Elese formaldehyde pigs, frogs etc and detailed videos how to dissect.
They also discovered that all of us learn on different levels and in different ways. While some us learned to read early, others didn't, and that's okay. There is not the same level of competition that there is in school. Our parents did very thorough unit studies for the younger kids, ordered correspondence courses for us older kids, and enrolled us in many different classes. Leah was fortunate enough to take part in an enriched University/homeschooling program that allowed her to take a few University classes at a young age and for a low charge.


How did you get into University? College?

It has been a different experience for each of us, and we joke that our parents should write a book on all that they have been through in compiling records, tests, writing evaluations etc. By doing correspondence with umbrella schools, we were able to have written evaluations, marks and test scores.
For Renee she took her SAT's, first went to a liberal Arts College in the States, and then to University of Ottawa, and to Lakehead. Elese put together a detailed portfolio and was accepted and graduated from the University of Ottawa. Zac went to public high school, and then to University. Leah was in the enriched program at University of Ottawa, and so made it easy for her to apply to University and then switch over to College. Last but not least, Miss Charlotte is currently also at Algonquin working towards a Creative Arts Certificate, and the hopes to go to Fine Arts College.


What did we love about being homeschooled? 

Our parents made homeschooling not just regimented to books and studying, but to learning how to interact with each other and the big world all around us. They made it fun and  most importantly we learned how to be together as a family unit. When we were all home, Mondays were called: 'Funday Monday'. Our parents would take us all to the library where we would spend a couple of hours perusing books, working on lessons and taking out 200 different books ( seriously we had the longest library list ever!), movies, cd's etc. After the library we would sometimes head to Wendy's and then off to an afternoon of swimming lessons at Dovercourt. All of us looked forward to Mondays, and it was a great way to be together as a family.

Now we proudly say yes, we were homeschooled. Yes our mama and papa were the primary educators, yes we did lessons and learned with our siblings, and we are grateful. So very, very grateful for our parent's sacrifices.

Friday, 25 October 2013

A Friday Ritual


One photo without explanation. A moment captured- a time to be still, to breathe and remember.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Creamiest Vegan Potato Leek Soup

It is getting colder here and with that comes mittens, scarves, hot chocolate and of course warm, delicious, hot soup! We love creamy soups, and love that our Mama can make this soup without any dairy whatsoever. The combination of the potatoes and the leeks are so savory, you will lick your spoon clean. There is nothing more comforting on a cold busy day, then homemade soup simmering on the stove.
If you need an easy dinner then this is the recipe for you! It's a quick and easy meal that you can serve alone or with homemade bread.
Do you have a favourite soup recipe?
Share with us!





























Creamy Potato Leek Soup

4 leeks sliced thin (Use the leek part that is white)
7-8 potatoes peeled and cut up
3 cloves of garlic chopped
4 cups of vegetable stock or chicken stock
3-4 cups of water
2 TBSP of olive oil or grape seed oil

1. Heat up oil in a large pot

2. Sauté the leeks for 5-8 minutes and add garlic, continue to sauté until leeks are translucent

3. Add stock and potatoes

4. Simmer until potatoes are cooked (about 35-40 minutes)

5. Using a hand blender or a stationary blender puree the soup until desired thickness

6. Enjoy with your favorite crusty bread!




Wednesday, 23 October 2013

We are grateful...

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good." Dr. Maya Angelou





























We are grateful for...

A fabulous Thanksgiving dinner last weekend, full of amazing food, baby cousins, a live music jam with Leah and a dear friend... it was such a fun evening! Our mama made delicious vegan stuffed eggplant rolls, our papa made a brine for the turkey and apparently it was the best and most moist turkey ever. He also won major awards with a Vegan and Wheat-free Sugar Pie! It was out of this world. So good we all had multiple servings and there was none left.

We are grateful for...

The amazing story of the Long brothers found here in this video clip. We have each watched it a few times over. It is so beautiful to hear and see such an empathetic heart found in Connor Long. We cried and think every single person should see this video, especially if you have boys, brothers etc. It is love pure and simple.

We are grateful for...

The joy of being able to tell you all that our family is growing! We cannot wait until April when we will become Aunties! : ) We are so so so excited and thrilled for our brother, his lovely wife, our sister and her handsome hubby. Two babies only days apart! So very exciting.

We are grateful for...

The full moons and sunshiney days we have been having here in O-town. Yes it is cooler today, but the glowing autumn sun makes up for it! As long as that snow holds off we will be happy.

We are grateful for...

All the amazing blogs that are out full of so many ideas and inspiration!  We just found and like this one..Fork and Beans is full of great vegan desserts and treats! And this one..The Glamorous Housewife! If you like vintage dressing and need some inspiration check it out. So many great ideas!

We are grateful for...

This very smart boy in the video of the Bronx Poetry Slam. He plays on words, rhymes and leaves you thinking. The poet explains how someone in his class pointed out that he was being brainwashed by his Jewish parents. Take a few minutes and listen, show it to your kids, friends etc.

We are grateful for...

Our fellow knitter who loaned all us all of  last year's copies of the magazine Taproot. It was very kind of her, as each magazine is like an art novel, full of pretty pictures and smart articles. We read them all and then subscribed. Our first one arrived today and we can't wait to check what's inside.





























What about you? Anything special you are grateful for?












Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Vegan and Gluten Free Kit Kat Bars

"I'm just making a cup of tea" says Suze. "D'you want one?"
"Oh, yes please! I say. "And a KitKat?" Suze grins.
"Definitely a KitKat"
~Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, by Sophie Kinsella





























We love the Shopaholic books as the author Sophia Kinsella makes Becky so lifelike, so real, and after reading this section you just want to go eat a whole bunch of KitKat bars.
For us though KitKat bars were a chocolate bar of the past.
Every year we pass by the aisles of Halloween treats and have to skip all the chocolate treats. Yes we can eat all the sugary candy, but what happens when we have a chocolate craving and only want a tiny bit?

This happens:
We spend hours searching online for new food blogs and other vegan/gf eaters who are busy converting recipes, creating delicious new versions of our favourite treats.
This past weekend Charlotte found a vegan and gluten free KitKat bar recipe here and it looked worth trying. We bought all the ingredients, and late Sunday afternoon got to work.

































The result:
A delicious chocolate, wafer bar with a vegan creamy filling that leaves you wondering how those amazing cashews get so creamy! It does a teeny bit of time as you are layering the Chex cereal to get that nice crunchy wafer, but oh so worth it!

Homemade Gluten and Dairy Free KitKat Bars
Total Time
1 hr
For Fluffy Chocolate Middle
  1. 1 c cashews
  2. 1/4 c raw cocoa powder
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. 2 tsp agave
  5. 3/4 c water
  6. 2 Tb melted coconut oil
Additional ingredients
  1. Rice Chex cereal
  2. 2 c melted non-dairy chocolate
Instructions
  1. For the Fluffy Chocolate: simply place all of the ingredients into a high speed blender until smooth and fluffy (takes 3-5 minutes). Place in the fridge while you are assembling everything else until needed.
  2. In an 8x8 parchment paper-lined pan, coat with a thin layer of chocolate.
  3. Line with Rice Chex cereal as seen in the picture above.
  4. In the 3rd layer, thinly coat with the fluffy chocolate middle. In order to even spread the mix, use the back of a spoon and GENTLY spread with an easy hand.
  5. Freeze for a good 20 minutes.
  6. Coat with another layer of Rice Chex. You don't have to, but I found it helpful to try to line them up as perfectly as possible, this way it was easier to cut straight through the vacant spots.
  7. Coat with the last layer with a thin layer chocolate (do not throw out the remainder chocolate--you will need it for dipping later) and place in the freezer. **Do not allow it to completely freeze because you will need to score the chocolate (remember the lesson from here about scoring: http://www.forkandbeans.com/2013/09/15/homemade-vegan-heath-bars/).
  8. Wait until the chocolate has *just* started to freeze and take a knife to mark where you will be making the incisions. Remember, I went along the lines of the empty gaps of the Rice Chex and made long vertical marks.Cut about half-way through. Freeze for another 20-30 minutes at least. If at any point the candy begins to melt again, simply place back into the freezer.
  9. Remove parchment paper out of the pan and cut through the candy completely.
  10. Melt the remainder chocolate if needed (make sure it's not piping hot!) Quickly dip the sides of the candy pieces into the chocolate for every piece and allow to set on a of parchment paper. Freeze again until set and then EAT!


Monday, 21 October 2013

Baby Knitting is in the House!



























We have babies on our brain lately, and LOVE that we can now announce that our sister Elese and her hubby Shaun are expecting in April AND our brother and his wife are also due a few days later.

Which means in the spring we will be proud Aunties! We are thrilled and so very very excited! Elese was over this weekend and let us have fun with her and her new baby bump.


































Our knitting lately has taken a shift now into the baby knitting world, and we love the cute creations that have been made. Our Mama pulled out her favourite knitting books and has been very busy.

What have we been making?
 First she made two Simple Hats from:




























































They are both made out of bamboo and cotton wool. Then she created the cutest rust coloured cardigan and matching hat. The cotton cardigan is The Garter Stitch Cardigan from:




























































After reading through a few hat patterns, she decided to make her own, out of the leftover wool. The adorable purple booties are also from Simple Knits and are her number one pattern for baby booties. They are easy to make and you can make them in an evening. The best is that they stay on baby's tiny feet. 





























I (Renee) made a teeny In threes: a baby cardigan  out of a cotton and linen blend. It was such a great and simple pattern I plan on making many more. The pattern is very clear and great to follow. 





























This past weekend we struck gold at the wool shop: Wool Tyme:. We found a huge variety of baby wool on SALE! They also had our favourite wool Mission Falls which sadly has been discontinued. We were able to stock up for the next batch of baby knitting. All that baby wool has made our little knitting hearts smile. : )
 Do you knitters have a favourite baby pattern? Share with us!

 





Friday, 18 October 2013

A Friday Ritual


Two photos without explanation. A moment captured- a time to be still, to breathe and remember.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Bit of Music Fun..

Do you remember the days of mixed tapes? Homemade cd mixes and all that fun jazz? While we are busy creating projects etc, we love to put on different music. It helps inspire and uplifts our spirits!
A few of our favourite gifts received are mixed cds. For a music lover it is candy for your ears! A whole entire cd of sweet tunes made just for you. Over the years we have made them with themes, for holidays, birthdays, and any old day. We aren't deejays, (although we just might one day, who knows?:) and don't specialize in song flow etc, but do love a great song, so have the following mellow sounding playlist for you to enjoy.

 Are you listening to anything fabulous these days? Share with us! We are always eager to listen to new tunes.






























Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Thai Coconut & Peanut Butter Curry

A few weeks ago my mama and I  came home from work to find the lovelies Miss Charlotte and Leah in the kitchen! Our little hearts soared when we heard they put together an amazing Thai Coconut & Peanut Butter Curry. In our family it is mostly our dad who is the one who can handle the heat, when it comes to spicy food. When we try to eat more spicier curries, this is what happens: our lips become on fire, our cheeks flame up and we can't taste anything more for a good three hours. Oh and of course there is the side effect of becoming a nice sweaty, nose running mess. : )
So unfortunately we stay away from overly spicy food and welcome curries that are sweet and tasty like this one. Charlotte and Leah found it on one of our favourite blogs: Chocolate Covered Katie























































The combination of coconut curry and peanuts is so delicious, you just might be tempted like us to lick every last drop. If you are looking for an easy, weekly dinner then try this recipe!

Thai Coconut & Peanut Butter Curry 
From Chocolate Covered Katie


  • 1 cup onion, chopped 
  • 3 small red bell peppers, sliced thin 
  • 8 oz a mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth 
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk – must be the canned type 
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (We used Braggs)
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch pure stevia, or 2 tbsp brown sugar (We used 3 tbsp. brown sugar)
  • 2-3 tbsp red curry paste (30-45g)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (can omit for a peanut-free curry) 
  • 4 cups broccoli florets 
  • 4 carrots or 3 small zucchini, in coins (We also added a head of cauliflower)  
  • 1 cup pineapple, chopped 
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves torn (dried basil works, but fresh is much better)
  • optional garnishes: cilantro, chopped peanuts 
  • (Your favourite rice, rice noodle etc. We used Jasmine rice)
Sauté first three ingredients in a large pot, in oil or oil spray, stirring every so often, 8 minutes or until onion begins to look translucent. Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine next eight ingredients in a large bowl, and stir until the curry paste and peanut butter are fully incorporated. Now add all remaining ingredients—including the sauce—to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cook on medium, uncovered, for 8-11 minutes (depending on your texture preference for veggies), stirring occasionally. Garnish if desired. Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Come take a walk with us...

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow." Helen Keller




 












































































In the midst of the busyness of Thanksgiving weekend, we were fortunate enough to go on a few lovely nature walks. One of our favourite activities to do when we need a bit of downtime, is bring the camera, scout out the area and snap some gorgeous pictures. The three of us were in Combermere and Charlotte gave us a tour of a hidden away chapel. The day was warm, the light was beautiful, and the inspiration was everywhere! After a steep hike up the hill we were greeted with a tiny, stone church. It is an icon of the past, complete with a wooden altar and pew. We couldn't stop taking different art photos! It was such fun.





































































































































Later during the weekend we took another walk down by the Ottawa river. We are very grateful to be only minutes away from sailboats, quaking ducks and pretty river rocks. The day was also extremely lovely, with fluffy white clouds and clear blue skies. We also managed to find a few colourful autumn leaves to our delight. For some reason this year we find our trees not as a vivid,  there seems to be more browns and yellows, and not so much fiery reds and oranges. Is it like that in your area?






























































































































































If you are feeling like you need to be art inspired, take your camera and go for a little stroll. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you! 
Enjoy the picture walk with us! Hope you all had a happy weekend full of turkey, family and friends.






























Curious about what to do after a nature walk? Our mama is a huge fan of nature journals. Check out:


 

and



Friday, 11 October 2013

A Friday Ritual


One photo without explanation. A moment captured- a time to be still, to breathe and remember.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, 10 October 2013

DIY Summer Meets Fall Bouquets

Ottawa is in the midst of a lovely Indian Summer and we say with huge exclamation: "Thank You GOD!!!!" We love that you can still wear flats without socks, get in the car and not have to defrost, go running without any base layers, and we absolutely love the flowers that are still blooming! Our mama's garden is in the midst of transitioning, and with that brings the last of the flowers. To soak up all that floral beauty, our talented Leah has been making gorgeous arrangements. If you are entertaining this coming Thanksgiving weekend, or are just wanting to jazz up that old vase, try a Summer Meets Fall Bouquet!

What you need:























































Vases, jars, posy ring, little bowl, whatever you want to place your flowers in : ) 
Classic summer flowers like daises, roses, geraniums, black eyed susans, etc. 
Branches from bushes that have gone red, or any Fall leaves, Pussy willows etc. 


What to do:


















































































Leah likes to start her bouquet with a large flower, or bushy flowers that have a large blossom. Use that as your base and build your arrangement around it. Place your more fragile and delicate flowers around the edges. If you are using a Fall branch, place it behind the center flower to give some height. Basically have fun and experiment! 





























Leah's birthday was the past week, and our creative dad and brother made her an amazing arrangement. They combined pinks, yellows, purples, and a tinge of red leaves. The result: A stunning centerpiece!