About aplaceonthelake

I try not to define myself by anyone of these things (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts) but I am a 30-something, veterinarian, new mom, wife, pet owner, home renovator, aspiring cook, arts and crafter, who can't sit still and needs more things to do so I started this blog kind of person.

Reflections on My First Year as a Mother…

Today, June 5, 2012, is a year to the day that I brought my brand new baby boy home from the hospital. It seemed like a good time to reflect on the past year, the bitter and the sweet.

What an incredible year this has been. No one can EVER prepare you for the monumental changes in your life that occur when you become a mother. They are huge; the kind of changes that alter your very being. I have done a good job of hiding those changes externally, but internally, I do truly feel like a completely different person than before I had a child. I now feel like my life has happened in 2 phases; B.C. (Before Children)- the ego-centric, self-developing versions of myself, and A.D. (After Delivery)- the absolute focus on my child version of me. Both have had their ups and downs, their challenges and rewards, but the rewards with my A.D. self seem so much sweeter. When I look back over the year that has been my first as a mother, every part feels filled with highlights, lowlights and lessons.

From the day of Finlay’s birth (I so deperately wanted to have a natural childbirth and felt like I had failed, but then I having my beautiful, baby boy born healthy and thriving);

To struggling though the early days of nursing (gut wrenching pain and trauma from him being tongue tied and figuring out that something was wrong and getting it fixed) and now having nursing becoming the most worderful, bonding experience (that we still love to do together today);

To the early days of counting everything (every poop, every pee, every feeding, amount of sleep, any activity) to relaxing into my ultimate momma-groove where I chucked out the “expert advice” and mothered by feel, by instinct (I could never imagine how rewarding it would be to develop such a keen instinct for my child);

To embracing attachment parenting (skin-to-skin, co-sleeping, baby wearing, nursing, cloth diapering, baby-led weaning) and being able to shrug off any strange or silly looks that I got;

To the sleepless nights (of which there were, and still will be, so many. Most of which were self-induced from motherhood anxiety and insomnia) and realizing just how little sleep you need to truly function on;

To living through Finlay’s napless phase and realizing I can now add child entertainer to my resume (now he sleeps so well I can barely remember the months where he refused. Boy, we did a lot of baking, playing, singing, travelling/driving and activities together to get through that time!);

To the solid food drama (of cat-food like meat purees and vegetable pastes (no wonder he hated that so much) which told me, once again, to listen to my instincts and do something different (despite public health and doctors opinions) which led us to baby-led weaning which was such a wonderful gift;

To the uncertainty about childcare and having to face the reality of daycare and that other people would play a key role in my child’s development (ultimately, this was far harder on me than him as we found a wonderful place that he loves) and realizing that I could still be a good mother (perhaps even a better mother) even if I was working;

To learning not to wish for my son to be older or able to do things that he can’t now (that those things would happen soon enough) and that every phase in his development comes with pros and cons and need to be nurtured and celebrated;

To finally watching Finlay grow from a little baby into a little boy and realizing that I can’t stop or slow down this clock, so I must embrace and cherish every day as it truly is a special gift.

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What a year this has been for both of us!

The High Cost of Things

I guess I have to start off with an apology. I really haven’t had much time to dedicate to my blog as of late and sadly, it has gone a bit dormant. When I realized that it had been almost 3 weeks since I wrote last I felt kind of sad. I have enjoyed blogging immensely. It has been such a nice way to connect with my friends and family, and it’s nice to be journaling again, but with my new job, it’s simply been too difficult to make it a priority. I am working for a software company which allows me the flexibility to work from home, and the work is the kind that can be picked away at here and there, and it is also paid out hourly. This means, though, that every hour I spend working on my blog is an hour I could have been paid. So that brings us to the point of today’s topic: money and its equivalent in time.

Years ago someone gave me sage advice to help curb the urge to spend. It’s maybe the best financial advice I ever received! They told me to look at every item in a store, not by the dollar value on the price tag, but by how many hours of your life you would have had to have worked to pay for it. This was like a light bulb going off for me. I make a decent wage, but I value my time off and so when you start looking at items as costing you hours in your day it’s amazing how much less you want to buy something. A new pair of shoes that costs $150 doesn’t seem too bad until you realize that’s more than a half day’s work (or for someone on minimum wage, almost 2 entire days) and that doesn’t take into account deductions! Would I have rather had the morning off to spend with my family and friends or the new pair of shoes? And then if you start looking at fancy, designer brands you realize how much less you care about them. It’s one thing to shell out a half days work for a pair of reasonably priced, good quality shoes that you can wear for a couple of years. It’s an entirely different beast to shell out a week’s salary on a pair of beaded designer pumps that you can wear once or twice before they go out of style. I know with certainty how much I value a week of vacation. WAY MORE THAN A PAIR OF SHOES!!!!

If you break it down further, it’s kind of like when you’re doing price comparisons in the grocery store.  I’m sure most people know that there’s small print on the price tag that tells you how much you spend per unit. For example you’re comparing a 900g bag of pasta to a 400g bag and it tells you the price per gram. Well, I start to think about everything in terms of the price (measured by hours of my life I have to spend at work) per amount of use. So those $150 shoes that I’ll wear every day for two years only cost me about 20 cents per wear, which is negligible in terms of hours at work(especially if I need the shoes). The crazy expensive shoes that you wear twice (We’ll look at the most expensive shoes I’ve ever seen as an example. These were $300 per shoe. Seriously….who knew you could buy a single shoe, but it’s true! I’m sure that somewhere out there even more expensive shoes exist)  are now $300 per wear (or 1-2 days of work without deductions!). Considering those shoes will probably only stay on your feet for an hour or two, the shoes cost more money per hour than some lawyers do!

Looking at buying things this way has really added perspective. $25 for a new toy for Finlay or take an hour off to spend time with him? Spend $200 on an ipod or take the day off? I’d love the ipod, but how much am I going to use it anyway? How much would I like to have more time off to be with Finlay, or my husband, or my friends?! It all comes down to priorities. I think as a whole, people definitely need to ask themselves every time they buy something, “Do I really need this?” “Is this worth as much or more than the time it takes to earn the money to pay for this?” One rule of thumb that I wish I followed more is to walk away from every purchase, no matter how badly you want it or think you need it. Go home, mull it over and if the next day you still think it’s worth it, then go buy it.

As a vet, I would see people constantly refusing treatment for their pets because it was too expensive, but they were driving Hummers, or carrying Coach bags, or had beautifully manicured gel nails. Thank goodness in Canada we don’t have to pay for our own or our children’s health care. I shudder to think about what things people would put ahead of health.  “Nah Doc, I don’t really need my pinky finger, but reattach my thumb, I use it for texting on my iphone and I’m locked into a 3 year contract.” Anyway, as usual, I digress. On that note, I have come full circle. While blogging may not make me any money, it is something I enjoy, and so perhaps instead of spending frivolously on an ipod, I’ll work a little less and spend a little more time doing the things I enjoy. Because, after all, “the most important things in life aren’t things.” So, hopefully I’ll see you back here sooner, rather than later.

Another Great Bread Machine Recipe – Seedy Hearth Bread

Mmmm! Hearty Country Seed Breads

Since returning to work, albeit part-time, I am looking for faster ways to continue my homemade only bread eating habit. I love bread, but I hate buying it. It’s expensive if it’s made well, and it’s crappy if it’s cheap. While on my maternity leave I explored the world of artisan bread baking and fell in love. Anything aritisinal though conjures up images of hours of loving labour being poured into the craft, and while I love making beautiful hearth breads, I now have better things to do than babysit rising dough. This is where the trusty bread machine comes in. While I’m less than thrilled with baking bread in the bread machine (I hate the shape of the loaves and the divot in the bottom of it left from the paddle spoke, or even worse, the paddle if I forget to remove it before the cook cycle starts) I do love the bread machine’s dough function. So here is my favourite bread machine modified hearth bread recipe, and it tastes nearly as good as if I kneaded it for 20 minutes by hand. This makes 2 small 1lb round loaves or 1 big 2lb loaf.

water 1 cup
apple juice 1/3 cup
skim milk  powder 1/4 cup (I used buttermilk powder)
salt 1 1/2 tsp.
honey 3 tbsp.
shortening 3 tbsp.
whole wheat flour 1 1/4 cups
all-purpose flour
or bread flour
2 1/3 cups (I used 2c all-purpose flour and 1/3 c wheat germ)
flax seeds, ground 1/3 cup
sunflower seeds,
raw & unsalted
1/4 cup
sesame seeds 2 tbsp. (I did 1 tbsp sesame seeds and 1 tbsp poppy seeds. You can do whatever you want as long as the total is the same.)
bread machine yeast 2 tsp.

Measure ingredients into baking pan according to your bread machine’s manufacturer. Select the Dough Cycle (unless you plan to bake this in your machine and then select whole wheat cycle for a large 2lb loaf).

Tip: Keep your seeds and nuts from becoming rancid by storing them in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer.

Now I did this on the dough cycle and then took it out and divided it into two rounds and covered it and let it rise for ~60 mins (until double) I scored the loaves with a cross and then baked at 375F for ~35 min (give or take 5 min on either side depending on your oven. Longer for a big 2lb loaf. Loaf is done when brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom). ENJOY!!!!

p.s.- This recipe is adapted from a recipe on the Healthy Picnics Website where you can find many other great bread machine recipes too.

Beauty All Around – Nature Appreciation on Canada’s East Coast

If you live in Canada’s Maritime provinces you got to experience some incredible weather this week. Records were shattered across the region with all time highs recorded 3 days in a row. While this may have some negative implications in terms of climate change, it certainly was an enjoyable preview of sunny days to come. Many people donned short-sleeves and got outside, myself included.

Off to the Farmer's Market

Saturday was the start of the sunny skies and Jarrod, Finlay and I headed into town to enjoy the weekend farmer’s market.

On the boardwalk at Greenwich National Park

Sunday found us all taking a hike through Greenwich National Park. Finlay got to experience his first outdoor picnic on the boardwalk. We are so lucky to have Greenwich in our backyard. It really is a beautiful spot year-round (the summer is when it shines, but fall and spring have a lot to offer, and the snowshoeing there in the winter is nice too) and it’s less than 20 minutes from our house.

Finlay and Mommy enjoy a picnic on the boardwalk!

Tuesday night walk.

Tuesday was simply gorgeous and Jarrod, Finlay and I headed out for a wonderful walk before supper to check out the beach and dunes by our property. .

Tuesday Beach Walk

While the time change was a bit hard on the system, it sure is nice to have the extra daylight to enjoy the evenings when Jarrod gets home from work!

Wednesday's Sunset

Wednesday found me in the office, but Jarrod and Finlay headed out for a wonderful day in Mt. Stewart. See Jarrod’s Blog Post. We had a lovely sunset Wednesday night (“Red Sky at Night….Sailor’s Delight!”)

One of "our" eagles!

Thursday was the star of the show! Temperatures hit 24C (which is a nice Summer day here on PEI, except this is March!). Finlay and I went to his baby playgroup with all the car windows down. When Finlay took his afternoon nap, I sat on the deck doing work. I was startled by screeching and put down my periodicals to find our 2 eagles soaring overhead. We have seen this couple many times before as they live just down the way from us. Occasionally, we’ve caught them fighting for territory with the osprey that lives on the lake. But this day was special as I had my camera handy and was able to capture a few close-ups.

The eagles nestled together on the island.

They were so close to me, that I could see individual feathers! They ended up flying to “Ram Island” just a few meters off of our property and settled down for what I can only guess to be mating rituals. I caught a few pictures with the telephoto lens, but it doesn’t do justice to the snuggling that they were doing. Yesterday night was capped off with yet another stunning sunset.

Thursday's Sunset!

And then today we re-entered reality. I bundled Finlay up for a walk today. We made it to the top of our road. Windswept and frozen, we decided it was too cold to venture any further and turned around and went back inside.     Snow is in the forecast for the weekend. That’s just how spring goes in the Maritimes. I guess I should just be thankful for the few glorious days we had!

"You're right Finlay...I don't need my sunglasses today. Brr!"

Spring is in the air

There may still be snow on the ground here on Prince Edward Island but when the seed catalogues start coming in the mail, my focus turns to spring. This year, I am particularly excited. We’re in a new place, which means a new garden.

Jarrod and I have been avid gardeners over the years. Every where we have gone we have grown a garden. As university students, we had a balcony garden complete with window boxes full strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes and patio planters full of vegetables. We even had a raspberry plant in a large planter.  We planted raised beds in Fort Frances, Ontario (a climate comparable to Winnepeg) and grew an abundance of fruit, veggies and flowers. We experimented with “Square Foot Gardening,” fruit trees, and an “edible landscape” complete with a front yard planted with corn in BC (our best growing climate yet). When we came to PEI in 2010 though, we didn’t move into our home until July (too late to start a garden) and last summer with a new baby due in May, we opted not to plant a garden. That’s two summers in a row that I didn’t get to experience the joy of growing my own food and getting my hands dirty in soil. So, now I have the itch and I have it in a big way.

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I’m really excited about this year’s garden and on so many different levels. For starters, we haven’t had a garden in a while, so this feels like a fresh start; a chance to incorporate ideas of old (and new) into an awesome space. Also, I really feel like I’m in my forever home. We’ve moved around a lot. Since I met Jarrod in 1996 (at the ripe “old” age of 18) we have moved a total of fourteen times! Honestly, it’s crazy how much we’ve moved, but that’s the life of a university student (which accounted for the first seven moves through nine years of school). The other seven moves can be chalked up to, “itchy feet” (and I’m talking about the feeling of needing to see the country before settling in one spot, and not a fungal infection!). A little part of me was always so sad to move away from the gardens we planned, planted and nurtured in all of the various places we have been. So, knowing that I’ll get to reap the rewards of my gardening labours for decades (hopefully) is extremely exciting. Plus, investing in more expensive plants, trees and gardening structures (like a greenhouse, cold frames, trellises, etc) seems more realistic. Lastly, but not leastly, I feel like I have the perfect spot! We have 5 acres of our own to do what we want with. We live on a South facing lot beside a lake on some of the most fertile soil in the country.  It’s really a gardeners Mecca! If you remember the feeling of being a kid with the Sears Wishbook at Christmas time, then you know how I’m feeling right now….PUMPED!

So, I’m starting to plan and a book I’m finding extremely useful is Niki Jabbour’s “The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.” (I read my Mother’s copy and then thought it was so great that I ordered a copy for myself). Our hope is to incorporate raised beds,cold frames, mini hoop tunnels and poly tunnels, cloches, and hopefully a greenhouse (although, that probably won’t make it into this year’s budget). I’d love to get back to the point of growing a lot of my own food. From a health, budget, and common sense standpoint growing your own food makes sense. Forget the 100 mile diet.When you grow your own food, your practicing the zero mile diet. You know where your food came from, what it took to produce it and I strongly believe you can taste the love and care you put into the effort.

While this year’s plan is to start with some veggies and fruit, the sky is the limit. With a little bit of work and some luck I’d really like to grow most (if not all) of our produce, grow some grains to mill into flours (although these are temperamental….we grew grains in BC, which has a much longer growing season and even there, it was only moderately successful), raise chickens for eggs, and work up to a semi-sustainable system that we can survive off of. You may think that I’m a back-to-the-lander, and while I respect those values immensely and love the idea, it’s not practical for me. I still cherish the finer things in life (like chocolate and cheese). I can’t ever imagine getting into a full scale dairy production and cocoa beans simply don’t grow on PEI (sadly!). Additionally, as an animal lover who still eats meat, I don’t think I could raise my own livestock for consumption. It’s hard to eat your pet cow or pet pig, and sadly they’d all become pets with names to boot. I know and appreciate where my steaks, bacon, chicken and chops come from, but it’s one of those situations where ignorance is bliss. Rightly or wrongly, if I don’t personally, know the animal who gave their life for my dinner, then I’m happier to eat them.  So, I’ll still be frequenting my farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and food boutiques, but with an open mind and total respect for where the food came from, what it took to make it and the animals and people who played such a huge role in bringing it to my plate.

Happy growing to all and here’s to a plentiful 2012 gardening season!!!

A Good Screw: Performing Manly Jobs Around the House

While Jarrod was away, I decided to step into a manly role around the house, break out the power drill and get some projects done. First off we needed to baby proof, so I assembled and installed the baby gate. Secondly, I had been wanting to put in an indoor retractable clothesline, so that I could use the dryer less to save energy. Lastly, I wanted to install some hooks on our closet doors to hang bathrobes, towels, etc.

My New Clothesline

I gathered up all of my supplies and got to work. First up was the clothesline. It went up relatively easily. I’m a little concerned with how cheap it is and hopefully it holds up over time, but so far so good. Now the goal had been to anchor it into the studs, so I pulled out my trusty (insert laugh here) stud finder and drilled my holes.

I'm hoping this will save some money on the electric bill!

One problem….on the first wall there wasn’t a stud where the finder said there would be. Let’s hope those drywall plugs do their job! On the opposite wall my stud finder worked and I hit wood. 50% success rate in finding studs. Sounds more like a dating site than a household project. Anyway, with the closthes line installed I got a load of laundry hung and it seemed to work just fine. I think though, that I’ll reserve heavy items for the railing.

The new baby gate

Second project, the baby gate. The instructions included were actually in English and pretty good. It went together relatively easily. The only problem I encountered was installer error (I forgot to use a level to check for straightness before installing the latch) so my gate is a bit akimbo but functionally sound.

The last project, however, which sounds like the easiest (seriously, how hard can hanging hooks be?) had me seeing red! By this point, I was a pro with the drill. I measured my doors so that I had the hooks centered, marked

Cheap, broken screws!

the holes to be drilled, drilled pilot holes into the wood and then attempted to drill in my screws. This is where I failed. The screws were Phillips (i.e. “X” screws or “star” screws) which are about the MOST USELESS screws invented. They strip really easily especially when they’re made of cheap metal (as these were). As soon as they started to strip I stopped with the drill and started to hand

Note that the head of the bottom screw is broken off!

tighten them. They were SO cheap though, that the snapped in half with the shaft of the screw buried in the wood and the head of the screw in my hand. Grrrr. I was able to pry 2 of the 4 screws out with pliers. The 3rd and 4th however are a lost cause. I then replaced them with less cheap screws that I could screw the rest of the way in. The other 2 hooks had the same el- cheapo screws and so I decided right off the bat NOT to use them. I went digging around in our “loose screw jar” and found 4 small screws that would do the trick on the remaining hook. One problem….they were stupid Phillips screws again.

Stripped, useless screws!

Now I don’t know who this Phillip guy was, but clearly he was an idiot. His screws are useless and always strip. Now I have 2 stripped screws only half embedded in the wood and are too stripped to drill in or twist out. I’ll have to grab the pliers and remove them. This project, which should have taken 10 minutes tops, cost me the entire evening and I still haven’t got it finished. You see, what I need is a good screw (mind out of the gutter people). Now when it comes to reliable screwing, you should always count on a Canadian to get the job done. Seriously. The Robertson screw (aka the square) is the best out there (initially invented in 1908 by P.L. Robertson from Milton, ON). While it can be annoying, because you need a screwdriver that fits it perfectly (as there are several sizes), it does not tend to strip. So, now I’m off in search of an old-fashioned, trusty Canadian screw to unscrew my initial screw screw-up.

Committing to Bliss

When I was pregnant, I read a really powerful book recommended to me by my very cool ex-doctor from B.C. (she was only my ex-doc because we moved away. If I could have cloned her and brought her with me to PEI, I would have in a heartbeat!) called, “Birthing From Within.” The concept of the book is to help birth in awareness and to understand and embrace what is happening to your body during the processes of pregnancy, labour, delivery and postpartum. It’s a pretty awesome book and I connected with its ideologies immediately. One of the postpartum exercises was about following your bliss. Bliss, as it turns out, can be rather challenging to come by after the birth of a child, and so the book provides an exercise to help.

As Pam England (the author of Birthing from Within) writes,  “Too many parents at the end of their baby’s first year, or even eighteen years later, realize that they gave up the things they loved to do and that gave them bliss when they became parents. Becoming a conscious parent does require sacrifice, and it also requires modeling for our children how to live creative, balanced lives.”

The goal is to do the exercise before the birth of your child so you remember what bliss actually feels like (wink). I think this is a valuable exercise for everyone. We should probably start with a definition of bliss so we’re all on the same page.

bliss/blis/

Noun:
  1. Perfect happiness; great joy.
  2. Something providing such happiness

Okay, now that we have that laid out, the goal is now to brainstorm what are the moments/things/experiences that give you bliss. From there you are to commit to a timeline as to when (with the goal being within the first year or so) you are going to follow through on 3 of these things.  My 3 things were:

  1. Take in a breathtaking view somewhere scenic and new (within the first year).
  2. Plant a vegetable garden to start growing my own food (Spring 2012)
  3. Go on a nature filled overnight camping trip with my husband and son (Summer 2012).

So far, I’ve accomplished the first (albeit that it has been here on PEI), I’m seriously planning the second (upcoming gardening blog post to follow!) and I’m loosely planning the 3rd (I’m feeling an overnight canoe-camping trip in my summer plans).

To that end, I recently got back from a 5 day trip to NS to visit my parents. I had gone for several reasons. For starters, my husband was away over-seas and it’s always nice to have an extra set (or two) of hands to help look after Fin. Secondly, I wanted to take the opportunity to see my folks (and let them see Finlay) before starting back into the routine of work. Finally, a trip to “the big city” always allows me to pick up a few things that I can’t get here on PEI. And this is where my, “Follow Your Bliss Path” took an interesting turn. For starters, I got inspired by a trip to MEC to commit to my 3rd bliss goal. I bought a book on being in the wilderness with babies (called, “Babes in the Woods”) and started to really think about the logistics of an overnight camping trip with Finlay. After some preliminary reading, I think it’s completely feasible to plan for a close to home over-nighter this summer. Also, I purchased a yoga DVD.

I like yoga a lot. I did it semi-regularly (at home) prior to getting pregnant, and even attempted some challenging programs with success (like the P90X Yoga, which if you’ve never tried it, is a killer!). During my pregnancy I did prenatal yoga (again via DVD at home- I’m not much for going to classes with others. I know I could benefit a lot from an instructor, but I am bad at sticking to schedules and the idea of paying for classes that I may not be able to go to just isn’t in my nature). Anyway, I digress…I had decided that I wanted to try to get back into Yoga and was looking for something a little bit less intense than P90X and also a program that had some more diversity. I read a recent review article in Canadian Living on Eoin Finn’s Blissology Project and it sounded great, so I decided to pick up a copy from the Lululemon store in Halifax.

Here’s where the everything comes together. Eoin’s program is not just about yoga. It’s all about following your bliss. I have only done the Friday yoga program and meditation, but I’ve got to say, so far I’m pumped.  While I like Pam England’s concept about planning for future bliss, this was even better because I got to feel bliss in an unplanned, unadulterated form today. When Finlay went down for his nap this morning, I slipped in the “Friday” DVD (There’s a different program for each day of the week- LOVE!). It was a hugely pleasant surprise. The program was challenging (especially for my postpartum, lacking exercise body!) and it’ll be a while until I’m fully able to participate, but I like where it’s going and I love the philosophy behind it, so much so that I decided to sign up for the free Commit to Bliss 4 week challenge. I came away from the workout super charged, feeling great and committed to living in bliss not just 3 times a year, but EVERY day. On the one hand, I’m looking forward to getting into some form of physical shape, but more so, the mental workouts provided are what have me really excited. The idea of practicing yoga daily, taking time for daily meditation, focusing on appreciating the world around me, eating in awareness, and being thankful for what I have really resonate with me. Anyway, this is starting to sound like a sales pitch (which it’s not….I paid for my DVD in full and have no affiliation with Blissology, not to mention I have only looked at a sixth of the program so far) but I just wanted to share this in order to remind everyone (myself included) how important it is to step out of the bog that so often becomes our life and to follow your bliss as frequently as possible.

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
~Joseph Campbell