potted garden.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero~

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Well, the public libraries have been closed for COVID, and I live in an apartment condo, but I am turning to the bookshelves in our living room and my library book reading app to meet my book needs.

As for gardens, my husband and I are doing some backyard gardening with friends of ours who live nearby. And… we are growing a lovely little potted garden on our balcony!

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I planted some strawberries and tomatoes, lavender and rosemary, also a geranium, some thyme, basil, and cilantro from local greenhouses. Plus, I planted seeds to grow poppies, peas, spinach, arugula, baby carrots, and maybe some other things. (maybe I should have used some markers…?) We’ll see what comes up!

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As you can see, neither our balcony nor our potted plants can boast over-the-top aesthetic value. Still, I have to admit that growing these containers of food and flowers seems to be making me disproportionately happy. Looking out and seeing green life somehow cheers my soul more than it should. And our little garden has invited birds and bees to visit us on the balcony!

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I’m not the only one who finds joy in messing around with seeds, leaves, and dirt. It’s proven to lift our spirits in so many ways. Here are a couple articles that explain in some weirdly fascinating scientific detail (seratonin-producing soil bacteria, anyone?) just how growing any kind of garden can make us a little- or a lot- happier people.

Gardening: The Key To Health And Happiness

How Does Gardening Make You Happier?

We did prioritize south exposure when we bought this home. I can really relate to plants; I need sunshine to feel ok. But even if we were in an apartment across the hall, with a north-facing balcony, we could grow a garden of shade-loving plants. This simple pleasure is available to so many of us, and I’m grateful for the magic of growing gardens.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

food.

We have enough to eat. Every single day.

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Whether it’s a simple loaf of homemade sourdough bread or a delicious family dinner, we don’t face hunger we can’t solve. Not only do we have enough food to eat; we have variety, we have options. Our fridges, freezers, and pantries are so full that we have to be careful to use fresh spinach, frozen meat, and jars of olives before they sit too long and ‘go off’ or get freezer-burned (while we’re busy eating other food from our well-stocked kitchens).

It’s pretty easy for us to get ingredients or meals delivered, pick up our grocery orders at the store, or shop around supermarkets and farmers’ markets for everything we want and need- and then some. How many times have I gotten to the till with a full basket and had the cashier politely ask me if I found everything I was looking for today, only to respond sheepishly that I found plenty more than what I came in for. And I know I’m not alone.

On top of what we buy to eat, most of us can grow even more food. I grew up in the country with parents and grandparents who were avid gardeners. We all helped out with planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving vast quantities of vegetables and fruits- whether we felt so inclined- or not. It was ‘all-hands-on-deck’. And we raised our children the same way. We had some great times and some hefty harvests over the years. (Enormous zuchini, anyone?)

This spring we’re growing all the veggies we can, plus some herbs and strawberries, in garden boxes at our friends’ places and in containers on our apartment balcony. And thanks to COVID-19, lots more people in lots more places are growing their own food in 2020! Here’s a great news article I found about this ‘silver lining’ on the pandemic cloud.

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~buckwheat & berry muffins adapted from a favourite cookbook~

Not only do we have the means to buy and grow as much food as we can eat, but so many of us in our prosperous society find we can spend a small fortune on cookbooks, diet books (to advise us on various ways of not eating too much food), and dozens of helpful kitchen gadgets to make it more quick, easy, and fun to prepare our food!

We’re inundated with advice on how and why we should build healthy eating habits, as well as warnings about the negative functional impacts (on our energy, mood, and ability to learn, concentrate, and problem-solve creatively) of poor nutrition. All we have to do is follow through with our good intentions to eat well.

We don’t have to live with chronic hunger-induced brain fog, empty shelves and plates, or crying children whose hunger we can’t resolve. (click this link to see a compelling article from the World Food Program…)

“Every day too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 821 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night.”

There’s something most of us can do about this. We can find ways to share. And it starts with recognizing what we have and feeling gratitude for it…

So blessed,

Leah

Grace.

This is one fun girl; let me tell you.

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I’m feeling pretty blessed this week. I get to spend some sweet time with my cute niece, Grace. She’s being a good sport about going out to soak up some smiles from the sunshine with me day after day… We take walks and bike rides along the river; such a good time.

We decided to try making homemade perogies this week, since we both love cooking and baking. The recipe (if you can call it that) was super simple, and they turned super yummy! Here’s how we did it:

Homemade Perogies

Mix 2 cups of sour cream with just enough flour to make a smooth, soft, somewhat sticky dough. Knead it for a few seconds on a floured surface and cut into about 20 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then use a rolling pin to flatten it out into a thin little disc. 

For the filling: Boil 4 medium-sized(russet) potatoes, and mashed them with butter, shredded cheddar cheese, and bacon bits. Then put a little blob of this on each perogy,  fold it over, and pinch the curved edge closed tightly to seal. 

Set half of them in a large pot of boiling water, and gently stir as needed to make sure they don’t stick to each other or to the bottom of the pot. (Repeat with the other half once these first ones are finished). They’ll be floating when they’re done, in just a few minutes. We took them out shortly after this, and laid them in a serving dish with butter until we were ready to eat them with sour cream. Mmm.

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Grace is sweet, affectionate, and funny. I like playing with her gorgeous hair, laughing our way through a game of Dutch Blitz, and making sourdough bread for her to eat. We all enjoy her slightly cheeky sense of humour, and love having her come to visit!

So blessed,

Leah

camera phones.

Practical things. Like sending a friend pictures of seeds for our shared garden during a text conversation. How handy is it that we always have a camera on us?

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And how much handier is it that whatever image we capture at any given moment, we can instantly send or share it with anyone else?!

Clearly this picture never had the potential to change the world, but how many times have I been at the store and wondered if I was looking at or holding the right item. Not a problem; I just take a photo of it and send it to whoever I’m texting with or talking to. Right then and there.

This reminds me of a concept I’ve heard about; hedonic adaptation. This term just refers to the way we quickly absorb the waves of happiness that good things bring to our lives; at first we may be tickled pink to enjoy a new pleasure or convenience, but not for long. I’ve only had a camera phone in my hand for about half of my life, but it’s so easy for me to forget how much of a privilege it actually is.

And speaking of privilege… 😉 a couple months ago, shortly before COVID-19 closed things down, I treated myself to a gel manicure. My natural fingernails often behave like puff pastry and think they should shred and peel at the slightest provocation. I know; I need more collagen. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’d gone in to a nail studio for a quick fix. It was a busy place. While I was waiting, I took the opportunity to choose the colour I wanted, to save time once my appointment actually started. Snap. I was ready with my image when my nail technician asked. Just so. Then, as I was about to leave, I saw a sign which promised that if I posted a photo of my nails in the salon, I’d be entered in a draw for a free manicure. Accordingly, I quickly took a little picture of my much-improved hands, and posted it to my instagram feed, tagging the nail shop.

Again, not earth-shattering. Still, for every such innocuous example, there must be dozens out there of camera phones to the rescue on matters of much greater import.

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. Did I win the draw for a free manicure? This remains to be seen; there must still be a remote chance that I’ll get a call once business gets back underway. It’s possible…

white chocolate craisin cookies.

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. What we had planned was a visit to this dreamy nearby destination: Kananaskis Nordic Spa.

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-what we had in mind-

However, this is not to be. (Once again, thanks, COVID-19.) Instead, we exchanged cards and gifts at home, and we’re ordering in from our all-time favourite restaurant (NOtaBLE), which is now very local to us, since our move almost a year ago. I’m sure the dinner will be delicious, even though we’ll be enjoying it as take-out. Better not complain.

In the meantime, I wanted to make a treat for Kirby today. I asked him what he’d like, and he replied, without hesitation, that he’d love these cookies. I’ve adapted the recipe a bit, and here’s how it goes now:

White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

Cream 3/4 cup butter with 1 & 1/2 cups sugar. Beat in 2 eggs, and a teaspoon each of salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir in 2 & 1/2 cups flour, then 2 cups combined craisins and white chocolate chips. Bake in 1 tablespoon lumps on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, at 350 degrees F for about 9 minutes. Let cool a couple minutes before lifting them off the pan with a thin metal flipper. 

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-real life-

So, this isn’t quite the romantic spa getaway we had in mind. But, all things considered, it’s a pretty sweet anniversary anyway. Celebrating at home, yeah. But so grateful for what we have to celebrate at all. Plus, cookies. Mmm.

So blessed,

Leah

water.

“Water is life, and clean water means health.” ~Audrey Hepburn~

We are so rich; we have pure, fresh water. As much as we want, a few steps away. Flowing from the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. Pouring freely into our drinking glasses and bathtubs. We don’t have to choose between laundry and a shower; between cooking and gardening.

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In so many parts of the world, people have to trek long distances, collect dirty surface water, suffer illness and even death because they lack this one simple thing. Any day in which we wake up and drink as much clean water as we want, is a good day.

I found this recent, distressing article published by the World Health Organization:

1/3 of world’s people without safe drinking water…

As a world, we’re facing the COVID-19 pandemic. We know it’s highly infectious, but we can so easily protect ourselves, in large part by simply washing our hands. Ok, no problem. Suddenly we’re all lathering up more times in a day than ever before. So we use a little- or a lot- more soap and hand lotion than we’re used to going through. All righty.

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Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Do we appreciate what a privilege this is? All we have to do is be more mindful of handwashing. The clean water is there, waiting for us to turn the taps. It’s pure and we can run it warm. Meanwhile, billions of people- people just like us- have to face the threat of COVID-19 with little or no access to safe water.

Here’s an even more recent, and equally distressing news article:

Vulnerable countries could see 1 billion COVID cases…

It’s not just ventilators and face masks. It also comes down to water, or a lack thereof. While we do what we can every day to avoid wasting water, and donate a little of our income to help provide water to those most in need of it, let’s make sure we take a moment to really appreciate our next refreshing drink of water.

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. I use extra water from the kitchen and dining room to water my houseplants. Every little bit helps a little, right?

sourdough.

I first cultivated my rambunctious ‘starter’ culture years ago, and it’s still going strong. I haven’t named it until now, but I think I’ve just hit on the perfect appellation for this happy and healthy little creature; I’ll call it Baby.

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This is hardly an original thought, now that I think about it. My family and friends have teased me about my ‘bread babies’ for a few years. I can see why; both are soft and squishy, smell delightful, and are ever so satisfying to nurture. Both babies and Baby like to be touched and need to stretch, and grow especially well when tucked up in a cozy warm place for frequent naps. Both have within them innate qualities; given the right conditions and enough tender loving care, both turn out more wonderful than the mama or the baker can really take credit for…

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When my children were in high school and my house was full of my little dayhome children, I baked 2 loaves a day. At lunch hour, the house seemed to fill up with teenagers who obligingly devoured homemade sourdough bread, helped heartily by the half dozen cute little people who populated it all day with me. Those were the days…

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Sourdough baking is an addictive behaviour, as many will attest. I once saw a man’s twitter account introduction in which he described himself as a ‘pathological sourdough baker’. I could write an entire blog on the subject; many enthusiasts do. But I’ll stick to an occasional post here and there on the topic of my wild-yeasty friends and their exploits.

Again, this is another sweet and simple thing that enriches my life every day, including now, during the pandemic. It makes me happy; making it, seeing it grow, baking it, eating it, and sharing it.

So blessed,

Leah

 

easter egg nests.

If you are going to see any small children at Easter, and would like to make sure they love you forever, I highly recommend this very quick and simple (no-bake) recipe. Here are the ones I made yesterday…

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In fact, my adult children have openly confessed that they make and love to eat vast quantities of these fun little treats, even now. Little people may be the best excuse to prepare these crunchy and chocolatey delights, but they are by no means the only excuse.

So here’s the recipe:

Easter Egg Nests

Melt and stir together:

1/4 cup butter

2 tablespoons (corn) syrup or honey

1 1/2 cups pure chocolate chips

Mix in 4 cups of corn flakes. 

Spoon into muffin pans (with or without paper liners- they don’t stick either way).

Chill, pop out of tins (with a butter knife or small fork if you don’t have paper liners).

~No need to keep them cold once they’re set~

Serve to little people (or any people you have on hand)

Alternatively, you could try it the way I did these ones. I don’t recommend it, since it was a mistake, but we’re making the best of it and these are the richest ones ever…

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Unofficial Version

(for those ill-advised enough to want to replicate my yummy error):

Attempt to do it with milk chocolate chips, and slightly overheat it while doing other things in the kitchen. Try to stir in the corn flakes, with limited success. Melt a cup or two of pure chocolate chips and pour over to make it all stick together.

Clearly, even the original recipe is not for the faint of heart; nutritionally speaking. In these terms, this adaptation would be deemed a necessary evil. But no one’s complaining. Easter comes but once a year, and nobody here minds indulging in a rich (if childish) treat on special occasions.

So blessed,

Leah