Flowers and Memories: Mom’s Tenth Deathiversary

On the day of Mom’s memorial service in January 2008, most of my five siblings and their partners, our three nieces and I had lunch together, then took fresh flowers down to the end of the Goderich beach Cove. It was a very mild January, which meant the lake was open and we could walk out on the boulder break wall, away from anyone else that might have been visiting the beach on a midweek winter afternoon.

We huddled together in our funeral clothes, said some words and prayers, then we each took a flower or two, stepped closer to the water and tossed them in. Most of us didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, so in a sense we did it as we dropped those flowers into Lake Huron and watched them float away.

In the years that followed, we had a few other such memorial gatherings. including the one I wrote about in a post called First Deathiversary.

Tonight, we gathered again, this time to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Mom’s death.

Our group has grown since that first private memorial. It now includes two new partners, five more kids, and Dad. His presence alone is resounding evidence of the change that a decade has brought our family. Ten years ago, Mom and he had been divorced for a few years, and had a contentious relationship. And I wanted nothing to do with him. But here we are — Mom’s gone and I once again have a relationship with my father.

As we stood in the cold winter dusk on the Menesetung Bridge above the Maitland River facing Lake Huron, we talked about what it was like as young adults to lose our mother and mother-in-law. We were issued a notice to vacate Mom’s low-income rental unit by the end of the month, and we had two weeks to pack up the place that had been home for about 10 years. My second youngest brother, who was still a teenager, was forced to move, and never did finish high school. I had to find an apartment, buy a car, get insurance, and do all that adult stuff for the first time in my life. My sister-in-law Laura recalled someone saying to her at Mom’s funeral that losing a parent is tough at any age, and how she wanted to respond that they were wrong, that losing a parent young has to be tougher.

Losing our youngest brother 18 months later was a sort of bookend on an extended season of grief, undoubtedly the worst season in any of our lives.

A family without a mother is kind of like a rudderless boat. We’re all floating, but some of us still feel a bit lost in the ocean of life without Mom. She was the pillar of our lives, the anchor. We try to take care of each other, but we can’t do it as well as she would have. Without her advice and gentle guidance, we can only hope that we are growing into people she would have been proud of.

As much as we don’t want to get mired in sadness and grief, we also don’t want to forget. We mention her to her grandkids, because we want her legacy to live on. We mourn the fact that they will never know their Nana and she will never know them, but we tell them about her and in doing so bring her memory to life.

We think of all those happy and heartbreaking moments we’ve lived without Mom there to walk beside us. The weddings. The funerals. The babies. The graduations. The moves and renovations. The fights, the reunions.

Being a mother now myself, I can’t imagine missing out on all of those moments. A decade of moments. A lifetime of moments.

Now, back home, as I wind down this evening of memories and get ready to join my husband and baby son in bed, I look forward to what our commemorative gathering will look like ten years from now. More partners, more babies, more flowers: more love!


Photo by Peter Koopmans, taken on Menesetung Bridge overlooking the Maitland River as it flows past the Goderich salt mine and into Lake Huron

Our house, June 2017

Renovators don’t have time to be bloggers…

…but enough people have told me that I should blog our experience that I think perhaps I should try anyway.

And, honestly, the catharsis of writing has been pulling me back toward these virtual pages for some time now. I’ve missed the chance to wax philosophical about life.

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Evolution of a street view

My now-husband (Yep, that happened. Perhaps I’ll write about that next.) Johnathan and I purchased an early 20th-century cottage-style home in December 2014 and started renovating it January 2015. We moved in two months later, and the adventure continues!

In case you were wondering whether you should ever take on a reno project, here are the qualities that qualify you:

  • ambition
  • handy skills (hammer skills, screwdriver skills, holding-things-over-your-head-for-extended-periods-of-time skills, vacuuming skills, living in filthy dust pile skills)
  • ability to project stress into some other outlet (running, gardening, blogging, coffee-drinking)
  • substantial core strength, or the time to let back injuries heal
  • ability to give up any semblance of a social life indefinitely… unless your friends and family count helping you demolish or build things as quality time
  • ability to forsake any life issue or topic of conversation that does not directly involve a) renovations; b) paying for renovations; c) surviving renovations
  • notable capacity to withstand stress, time constraints, and unforeseeable complications

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Kitchen panoramas. Summer 2015, February 2016 (our whole main floor was in the kitchen while we refinished the hardwood floors), Spring 2016

It’s sort of hard to describe how I feel about renovations… On the one hand I kind of feel like we are 

Undertaking a fairly major reno project qualifies you to inform other suckers about certain realities:

  • Never assume drywall mudders/tapers will be available when the sun is shining (aka summer): EVERYONE else wants their skills and you’ll be last on the list
  • Like the idea of having a claw foot or other standalone tub? Great! Stick with that. DON’T under any circumstances try to make that tub into a shower! Unless you love spending way too much money and encountering unnecessary frustrations, in which case go right ahead.
  • There will always be someone in your life (or on Facebook) who has a better way to do something or wants to know why you aren’t using their favourite tools or thinks you installed that tile wrong. Ignore them. Unless they’re the contractor you hired, in which case they still may not be right!
  • You do need an entirely separate wardrobe for reno clothes. You’ll probably find that some of the clothes you’d been keeping but didn’t wear very often get turned into reno clothes and stored on the top shelf of a dark closet. Don’t worry, the rips in that hideous tee-shirt won’t matter. Unless your in-laws happen to come over to surprise you. Or the electrician decides to just walk in the back door.
  • There WILL be times when you think (or scream): “I hate this house!”
  • New appliances and fixtures are not immune to getting covered with drywall dust.
  • Stores you once felt distinctly “meh” about will become very familiar to you (::ahem:: Home Depot), and you probably won’t hate it.
  • You will have to live with seeing your own mistakes every day. Maybe they wouldn’t bother everyone so much, but for two perfectionists, we sort of live in fear of what we’re going to screw up next.
  • Chances are nothing will turn out quite like you had imagined. Sometimes it’s for the best, sometimes not so much.
  • You will become an over-user of phrases such as, “It’ll do,” “Good enough,” “Oh well” and “Next time.”

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Old main floor bathroom on left, new on right. We liked the colour, but everything else had to go!
In case you have been completely discouraged by this fairly scathing review of renovating your house yourself, don’t be. Contrary to what I may have led you to believe, Johnathan and I are actually quite proud of the transformation we’ve been able to affect on our little house, and every. single. visitor over the past couple of years can attest to us eagerly dragging them around for a tour of what’s changed since their last visit.

It’s a crap-ton of work, and in some stages, the cleanup itself is fairly overwhelming, but in the end, it’s worth it.

No, really.


(Most of this post was originally written in November 2016)

(Also, please forgive the iPhone pictures – it’s the best I’ve got right now!)

Change and stuff 

My last post was September 2014. 20-bloody-14! Like, where do I even begin to catch you up with life since then?! 

How about I give it to you in the simplest of terms? 

  1. Johnathan and I bought a house. 
  2. We started renovating that house. 
  3. We moved in. 
  4. We continued renovating. 
  5. We got engaged. 
  6. We continued renovating. 
  7. We got married. 
  8. We continued renovating. 
  9. We got pregnant. 
  10. We continued renovating. 
  11. I got laid off. 
  12. We continued renovating. 
  13. We had a baby. 
  14. We continued renovating. 

And now you’re caught up. 

Don’t be fooled — there was a whole lot of living and even dying in between, but we can’t get bogged down in that now. 

Side note: my last draft post was titled “Renovators don’t have time to be bloggers.”  Seriously though. At least, when you’re working full-time, that is. 

I think that post may just see the light of day yet… it makes some good points about the realities of renovating. 

The realities of blogging while being a mommy include dictating this post on my iPhone as my 2 1/2 month old flails around while suctioned onto one of the most tender parts of my body. Also known as fighting sleep while nursing. That and getting interrupted multiple times to deal with another person’s poop. 

In the interest of moving on from allowing draft posts to stack up for years (literally years! WTF?!) and actually being the blogger that this website claims that I am, my last order of business for this post will be adding a photo from our wedding for your viewing pleasure. 

Photo credit: Holly Dalton Photography

5 Great Paleo Recipes for Early Fall

5 Great Paleo Recipes for Early Fall

1: PaleOMG; 2: Against All Grain; 3: Detoxinista

These are the Paleo recipes we loved this summer and will continue to use as long as the grill isn’t covered by snow! These recipes maximize fresh ingredients and flavour “wow”s:

One. 4th of July Triple Protein Burger – PaleOMG

We haven’t decked out this burger quite like Juli has in this recipe (though why exactly, I’m not sure – it looks delish!). Mostly, we use her spice combo to wow our taste buds and our guests, whether or not we add cheese and bacon to the burgers. You’ll never want to add egg or bread crumbs to your homemade burger patties again!

Two. Grain-free Hamburger Buns – Against all Grain

Pair those burgers with these simple and tasty grain-free burger buns by Against All Grain. They don’t take long to make and they taste great.

Three. Grilled Zucchini –

This is the recipe we started with, but now I just sort of throw whatever into a ramekin with grapeseed or avocado oil. I always include salt and fresh pepper, and usually garlic powder and some dried chili flakes for a bit of kick. Or Italian seasoning. Then I brush the mixture generously onto both sides of the sliced zucchini and lay the slices onto a hot grill. I’m pretty sure I won over my non-zucchini-lover with this one!

Four. Flourless Chocolate Cake with whipped cream and berries – Detoxinista

You couldn’t imagine a simpler, richer, healthier, more moist, more chocolatey cake! We’ve served this to a few different non-Paleo groups and people have always gobbled up seconds! My favourite way to serve it is alongside some whipped cream (either with coconut milk or good-quality heavy cream) and fresh berries.

Five. Perfectly Seasoned Chicken – Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan

All of these recipes are simple, but this is the simplest and easiest to remember by far. And you will use it over and over and over and over! It’s great for both BBQ and oven cooking.

Grab your room-temp chicken (breasts or thighs, whatever) and generously (and I do mean generously!) sprinkle the following on all sides:

  • salt
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • freshly ground pepper

Oven: Place seasoned chicken pieces either on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a glass or ceramic baking dish. Roast uncovered at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes.

BBQ: Place seasoned chicken pieces on preheated grill at approximately 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Flip after 7-10 minutes to get grill marks on the other side and for even cooking.

There you have them: five easy, Paleo, and fool-proof recipes that your guests will be raving about and begging you for! You’re welcome.

Happy eating!

I am [modern] woman; Watch me cook

Sarah in Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn garden - by Amy Eaton

Housewife has become a dirty word for my generation. It hearkens back to another time, when gender equality was virtually nonexistent.

But now, even in this fairly gender-equal era, I want to stay at home. I want to work from home, cook, clean, garden, decorate. I want to be a “housewife”.

Sure, I was raised conservatively, and yes, my mother was a homemaker (less offensive but still sounds outdated) for most of my life. Yes, I always wondered if she would have preferred to have a career besides being a mother to six, if given the choice. She didn’t.

The best parts of my week generally always have to do with cooking something well, trying a new recipe, planting and harvesting vegetables, feeling a sense of accomplishment after cleaning the house or doing laundry.

The hardest parts of my week are trying to cram everything into evenings and weekends: extracurricular work, special cleaning projects, ongoing laundry and dishes, meal planning and prep, exercise, dog-walking, quality time with my man, not to speak of time with friends and family, and, of course, keeping up with pop culture as everyone is expected to do.

For some (many?) women, being a career professional is no doubt a life stage they are happy with and settled into. Proud of, even.

But I’m in the camp that would like the chance to check emails on the porch with coffee; to have the time to grow a big vegetable garden, and to preserve the extras; to clean the house and do the grocery shopping and walk the dog and make dinner before my man gets home, so we can enjoy our evening together; to just pop into the kitchen to make a fresh lunch; to start dinner more than 20 minutes before I want to eat it.

Is this my middle-class privileged pipe dream? Maybe so, but I haven’t given up on it yet.


Photo by Amy Eaton of Winsome and Whimsy Photography. Taken at Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn, Almonte, Ontario.

It’s Independence Day!

To all the American friends, family, and followers that I am happy to call mine, happy Independence Day! May your day be full of picnics and fireworks, red, white and blue, and pride in the things that make your nation great.

Paleo: It’s Back! (Bonus: our favourite Paleo recipes)


I know, I know. It’s been aaaaaaaaaages. There are no excuses, but when you have a full-time job and a man and a dog and a house and you co-own a website that showcases the best things to see, do, and buy in rural Ontario, well, your blog moves to the back burner. For years. And years.

But today I decided to grace you with my presence because I wanted to tell you that I’ve gone Paleo. Again. This time, apparently, for good. Or at least for the foreseeable future.

Something’s Gotta Give
After gaining and losing and gaining and losing my “freshman fifteen,” then moving in with Johnathan and doing my last (read: super-stressful) year of school and getting a “big girl” job, etc., those fifteen became more like thirty and nothing was fitting anymore and I decided (again) that enough was enough. I declared that, as of the first Monday in February, I was going to start another Whole30.

YES, I knew that prepping and cleaning would take a lot of time and energy. YES, I knew healthy food would cost more. But I was adamant. Johnathan agreed that he would eat what I cooked (taking into consideration that he doesn’t like to eat everything that I like to eat) and go along for the ride.

So the adventure began… 8 weeks ago. Feels like forever, but for many Paleo-eaters, it’s only the very beginning.

The Return of Real Food
I started cooking Whole30-friendly dishes for both of us: no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no potatoes, no corn, no additives or preservatives, and no dairy for me. As the month went by, my would-be Whole30 turned into Paleo as I found recipes that used honey or maple syrup and made “Paleo-ified” desserts and tortillas and other such indulgences. Johnathan kept his cheese and coffee cream and I started meal planning.

And here we are. We’ve each lost roughly 15 pounds (we don’t own a scale, so the actual amount is a mystery to everyone), our taste in food is changing, and we feel great!

Striving for Balance
At the end of our first month, we decided to “eat socially,” but to stay Paleo during the week. We have few friends and zero family members on special diets, and we don’t want to be “those people” that refuse to eat what is served. Okay, we did that a bit during our first month, but not anymore.

Yes, we may pay the price for it, and we try to make clean food choices when possible, but we are determined to be polite about it.

On our Table…
In case you’re here more for the “Paleo” tag and less for my story, here are some of the Paleo recipes that we LOVE and make often:

That Coffee Cake Banana Bread will definitely make you say “Paleo? OMG!”

‘Til next time…

Please register to be an organ donor

Have a heart?

Become an organ donor

In the last 10 years, five people have died in my mother’s-side extended family. Serious medical conditions in others have caused us time and again to consider the Great Beyond.

Now, an uncle, who happens to be one of the sweetest and humblest men I know, has been put on the heart transplant list. Thanks to medication, his heart functions. Barely.

All I ask is that you seriously consider becoming an organ donor, in the interest of my mother’s brother, his wife, his kids, and his grandson, not to mention all of us nieces and nephews and siblings and in-laws who love him.

Please. Visit (Ontario) or (USA). Talk to your loved ones. And consider helping to save up to 8 lives! And please… don’t take too long: my uncle is waiting!

Thank you.

Whole30 Egg Salad


I’m just going to jump in cold with this one, even though I haven’t written anything fresh here for over a year (don’t judge).

I’ve had a request for my exact Whole30 egg salad recipe, so I am happily acquiescing. I didn’t actually know my exact recipe, so I had to make it the other day to come up with an approximation that would work.

Without further ado, Whole30-compliant egg salad:

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (make your own with this recipe)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. paprika
sprinkle dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and dig in!

Optional (and flavourful) add-ins: onion (of any type), celery or cucumber (for a bit of crunch), avocado! This last one should really not be in the optional section, because avocado makes everything better!

Adjust proportions to taste. Get creative. Try omitting the Dijon and paprika and adding curry powder or paste.

And let me know how you make out or what your other ideas are!

Whip it! How to Make {heathy} Mayonnaise.

This post is a Pinterest hit these days. I may not be actively blogging, but Pinterest and avid Paleo and Whole30-ers out there are passing it around like a virus!
Healthy mayo: it’s a thing!

A Transparent Life

I say may-uh-NAYze instead of MAY-uh-nayze. Does that make me weird?

Not that anybody but my boyfriend cares. He likes to make fun of me a wee tiny bit about it. Okay, truth is he doesn’t care, either.

Where was I?

As part of my newly turned-over healthy leaf, I am not eating any of the six store-bought salad dressings in my fridge. But I am eating lots of salad.

Last week, I made my own balsamic vinaigrette, tried it, enjoyed it, then promptly started wishing for other dressings. Specifically,  creamy dressings like Caesar and ranch.

(Mysteriously, I can’t find the recipe that I used for the balsamic vinaigrette, but here’s a great guide to dressings the Paleo way)

Now that I’d done hours upon hours of Internet research into Whole30 recipes, I was pretty sure that I could concoct something.

Most of those somethings started with mayonnaise.

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