Guest Post: Karen Jones on Sending Her Son to University

Three weeks before the university drop-off date, I bumped into a girlfriend, Sue, whose son went off to an out-of-town school last September. She asked me how I was feeling….”Are you ready for drop-off?”

I quickly dove into a confident explanation about how I had my “breakdown” during the university tour process in March. My 18 year old son, Chris, would be completely creeped-out to learn that I would go into his room at night, stand over him, and stare at him until dime-sized teardrops fell onto his face, causing him to stir. Never before in my life had I cried such massive, heavy teardrops. After confidential disclosure to other parents, I discovered that I am not the only mother who has done the creepy-nighttime-bawl-over-your-kid’s-face thing. Chris is an amazing young man and we have always been close, even through the challenging but typical ups and downs of the mid-teen years, because we have always respected one another’s needs. Chris has been a significant source of my personal happiness. I pointed out to Sue that of late, Chris has been very pumped about going off to Queen’s to study his passion, engineering. I also explained how I have taken on a healthy, positive, and upbeat attitude as my feelings of sadness have been completely overshadowed by sheer excitement for Chris. Sue looked back at me, expressionless. After an uncomfortable five seconds of silence and solid eye contact, she leaned over and whispered into my ear, “You’re going to be a disaster”.

Two weeks before drop-off I was sufficiently distracted with “the list”. A pile including bed linens, toiletries and organizer bins was slowly growing in our hallway, looking more and more, as each day passed, like a mountain of disaster relief supplies. I was definitely becoming obsessive about “the list” and panicked at the thought of overlooking something. It was like Chris was heading off to a remote land far away for an entire year, with no money and where there were no stores. I also seemed to be imagining that Chris would be living in a room the size of a gymnasium with ample space to store “necessary” extras such as emergency medical supplies (the Kingston General Hospital is literally steps away from his residence), cold temperature survival gear, a full selection of dried-good food inventory, and of course, the spare, extra-padded desk chair. I was also collecting lists from other moms for comparison. My work paid off as I discovered I had forgotten about zip-lock baggies. (Yes, this is how crazy a peri-menopausal, over-protective, control-freak mom can get when her first is leaving the nest). One day, I found myself in the grocery store, excitedly texting Chris, “I found 3-ply tissues for you…3 ply is the best you can buy…and I searched for ones that come in non-flowery boxes”, to which he replied with the all too-familiar words, “Oh gaaawwwwd, Mom…STOP! ” Yes, I was sufficiently distracted by the list.

One week before drop-off, I began collecting advice from “experienced” university parents. The resounding opinion about drop-off day was, “Have your breakdown in the car…not in front of your child.” I also learned, for whatever reason, that all “newbie” university moms were obsessed with the whole bedding situation (I mean linens…not “bedding” as in the verb…to which I could dedicate an entire separate article covering moms’ concerns). Early Saturday morning, I announced to my husband that our goal for the weekend was to find a good mattress topper for Chris’s bed. “A WHAT?”, he replied, “Are you serious?…I went to university with a duffle bag full of clothes and a blanket…he’s going to get laughed out of the residence” (Fast forward to drop-off day…the garbage bin was full of mattress topper wrappings.) Yes, things had changed in the world of mom-preps-child-for-uni. Chris was nicely set-up with a vinyl-free, non-dust-permeable mattress pad, two sets of organic cotton sheets (500 thread count, no less), a 3” memory-foam mattress topper, down pillows, down comforter (extra-warm), and a duvet cover set. I still don’t quite understand why it was so important for his bed at university to be significantly more comfortable and exquisite than his bed at home…it just had to be. In my mind, this was somehow going to be the substitute for my comfort and care.

Two days before drop-off, I felt remarkably calm and content. Chris gave us our instructions…“Mom, please don’t make a scene. And when we get to my room, just leave everything…I will set it up myself”, to which I replied, “I won’t make a scene, but there is no way I am leaving without making your bed…no negotiation on this, Christopher”. We had a deal.

One day before drop-off, I started to unravel. At precisely 4:00pm, while setting the table for dinner the tears started. I hid from Chris most of that evening and got extra hugs from his younger brother and sister.

On the day of drop-off, the excitement on campus was palpable. Chris’s room was cozy and everything was organized in an hour although he left the zip-lock baggies in the trunk of the car when I wasn’t looking. It was a quick goodbye. I was so excited for what lay ahead of him and gave him a tight squeeze. He pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my head to cover my eyes, for fear of a scene.   As I got in the car, the tears flowed. My sister called during our drive home to check on me (an experienced mom who knew the exact moment to offer support), but I couldn’t speak to her. That first night was utterly dreary and depressing. I texted with other newbie moms and they were all upset.   I realized that for the first time in 18 years, I would no longer have any idea about what he was doing, when he would make it back to his room to sleep at night, and I no longer had the right to text him as frequently, to ask. It was the strangest feeling – a complete loss of control. I was feeling very sorry for myself, and I already missed him. My husband was very quiet. He asked me not to talk about Chris being gone because he didn’t want to think about it. I’m pretty sure I saw him wipe a tear from his eye before turning over in bed to go to sleep that night. The next day came and went exactly the way experienced moms said it would. I was upset when I woke up, and then I was fine for a bit, and then I would spontaneously cry, and then I was fine. There was simply no pattern or trigger; instead, it was random sobbing and sadness. The only thing I came to expect was that I could burst into tears at any moment.

My world brightened after Chris called for the first time…on day two (I know…it was frosh week and we were lucky). After I heard his voice, full of excitement, and his rambling words highlighted by “amazing”, “unbelievable”, “so much fun”, “party”, “so dope”, “party”…and the clincher “absolutely everyone is so incredibly warm and friendly”, I felt a wave of joy wash over me. My son was happy. I could trade not seeing him for a month or so for that happy, happy voice. And before he hung up, he exclaimed, “oh ya mom…my bed…it’s SO comfortable!”. I knew then, that “drop-off” had gone incredibly well and I would join the ranks of “experienced” moms who survived.

Karen and Andrew Jones with their son, Chris, after high school graduation last spring.

Karen and Andrew Jones with their son, Chris, after high school graduation last spring.

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Guest Post: Laura Brown-Bowers on Sending Her Daughter to Kindergarten

As I get ready for all the fresh faces to enter my classroom this year, I can’t help but be completely distracted. “Distracted” might not be the best word. How about FREAKED OUT!

IMG_2453 (2)You see, my 3 ¾ year old daughter is going off to Kindergarten for the first time this September. My little, precious, bright eyed, feisty Beatrice is heading off on her own educational journey, and I will not be there to hold her hand at the very beginning. Instead, I will be greeting children who have done this before, many times. I have been an educator for 10 years, but it was not until or only when I had my child that I realized the amount of trust that parents put into my hands each and every day. For 10 months I see their children more often than they do, and it is my job to provide a space where the students will continue to grow and develop their love of learning. I need to make learning magical.

As Beatrice heads off to school, I am looking at that job and that magic from a new angle. Will my daughter enjoy learning at school? Will she find it exciting? Will she struggle? Will she develop a sense of trust with her teachers? Will her teachers see what I see and nurture her strengths? Change is huge for all of us, but I can’t help thinking how monumental this will be for Beatrice. As I said before, I can’t be there to hold her hand on this first day of school, but hopefully she knows that I am there to support her and set any teacher straight who doesn’t meet my standards come parent-teacher interview time. My husband has already said that I won’t be allowed to attend.

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Laura Brown-Bowers lives live with her husband, daughter, and 4 month old baby bump in the west end of Toronto.  She loves to paint, walk in the woods, and eat good food.

 

Defining Motherhood

Brandie Weikle, a long-time parenting editor and writer created The New Family to speak to a new generation of parents. The blog is a resource for today’s modern family and the 1,000 Families Project was born from Brandie’s own modern family and is an inspiring collection of stories highlighting the many ways we can be a family.

Today my story is featured on The New Family and I am grateful for the opportunity. Writing this essay allowed me to reflect on my experiences as a mother and how I define motherhood for myself.   Thank you Brandie!

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I always knew that I wanted to have children, but I didn’t know that I wanted to be a mother until my first son was 5 months old.

I was a child of the eighties and early nineties. Latchkey kids were commonplace; I can’t remember a single mother who wasn’t juggling work with raising a family. A frozen pizza pocket and a reminder note to take the dog for a walk is what greeted most of us after school. The few moms who were not bringing home the bacon were buried deep in text books studying for a Masters degree in nursing, social work or education.

When I learned that I was pregnant for the first time, I was heady, simply thrilled that I was growing a life, a little boy half me and half my husband. While I debated the merits of cloth diapers versus disposable, and formula feeding over breastmilk, I never once doubted my plan to return to teaching the fifth grade just ten months after my son was born.

I had gulped down the Kool-Aid, just as many of my key-wearing friends had done. I consumed every ounce, licked every drip.

To continue reading, click here.

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Beth-Anne with her son, age 5 months.

Guest Post: Kristi Ashcroft: “These things they go away; Replaced by Everyday” — R.E.M., Nightswimming

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To my three boys,

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow it’s over. When the school bell rang on June 27, and we were staring ahead at 65 days of unscheduled, unstructured time at our rustic cottage on somewhat remote Manitoulin Island, it seemed both daunting and exhilarating. We all claimed this was what we wanted. But, with no camps booked for any of you this summer, with Dad’s work schedule requiring him in Toronto more than at the cottage, and with few good friends nearby, I felt like I was embarking on a tight rope across a wide chasm. With just the right balance, it could be great. Or it could go another way.

I admit, the bickering almost undid me. “Stop it”, “Owwwwww”, “Mommmmmmmmmm”, “He started it”, “Stop copying me”, “He pinched (kicked, punched, scratched, poked) me”, “He cheated”, “That’s mine”, “I hate you”, “You don’t even know what 45 plus 56 is”, “You suck at hockey,” “You’re an idiot”, “What?”, “What did I do?”.

And that was before breakfast.

I vacillated between refereeing, cajoling, bribing, punishing, peace-brokering, distracting, and out and out losing my mind. None of those strategies seemed to be particularly or consistently effective. One morning, out of fury over some territorial conflict involving a pillow fort, you my littlest one, managed to strip off your pull-up from the night before and bonk your eldest brother over the head with it, thereby causing the diaper to explode and sending pee-soaked polymers across the room where they settled like a yellow-tinged snow. We were only about two weeks into summer and my coffee hadn’t even finished brewing. I promptly declared summer cancelled, and in a further fit of hyperbole, threatened to sell the cottage and use the proceeds to send each of you to summer camp, separately, in perpetuity. Because clearly we couldn’t survive summer together.

But we plodded on. The memories of the fighting do eventually fade to white noise. We can all now laugh at the diaper snow story, and you each delight in regaling others with your part in it. And thank goodness I didn’t throw in the towel. There is so much I would have missed.

First, I would have missed our talks: talks that don’t get cut short or interrupted because there’s a brother to pick up or a practice to get to; talks that stem from your questions, fears or curiosities. We talked about wolves and tornadoes and cancer and dying a lot this summer, though I can’t really explain why those themes recurred. Our “where did I come from” talk started after you learned about an initiative to repopulate the Great Lakes with sturgeon, and I found myself in the somewhat awkward position of having to compare and contrast fish procreation with the human variety. You were captivated by stories of when you were young, and of when we were young, creating a trove of family lore that I hope will stay with you and eventually be retold by you.

We had time to focus on things that often get swept aside during the busy seasons, like manners. You had the chance to hone your skills of being a good guest, a good host and a good neighbour. I don’t want to jinx it, but this summer may have paved the way for 2014 to be declared “The Year Everyone Started Holding Their Fork Correctly,” although I’m guessing you guys won’t remember it that way.

You had more freedom and I got to give it to you. You could ride way ahead on your bike, wander the woods with your brothers, or burst outside on a whim without a corresponding admonition from your mother to “stop at the stop sign”, or “slow down”. I loved observing how you handled the mutually reinforcing responsibility and independence. I also loved that I almost never heard myself say “Hurry up”, “Time to go” or “We’re late.”

I had a chance to shed my roles as chauffeur, guidance counsellor, tutor, nag-in-chief and disciplinarian, and to have the opportunity to just DO things with you. Do things WITH you. The nights we kayaked out past the point so we could see the sun set. The quiet mornings when we felt like we were the first ones to make ripples in the water with our paddles. The bike rides that we’d finish with sprints, pretending we were chasing down a hockey player from the other team who was on a breakaway. The walks where we noticed all the things we miss when we drive that same stretch of country lane. The swims, the saunas and then more swims. The time I got up on water skis for the first time and saw you all cheering me on from the boat. Moms don’t get cheers very often, and we don’t necessarily expect or need them. But when we do get woo-hoos and high fives from our kids, it is incredibly special.

I loved all the games we played together. (OK, except Junior Monopoly. I actually hated Junior Monopoly, with its skewed economics where you’re either enjoying an immediate 100% return on investment, or suffering expropriation of your properties with the mere draw of a Chance card, thereby leaving all participants somewhere on the spectrum between indifferent and incensed by the end of the game). But matching wits with you in Connect Four or Qwirkle, playing series after series of Crazy Eights and Uno, and watching your logical minds at work cracking codes in Mastermind were some of my favourite indoor moments of the summer.

I relished the opportunity to watch you be you. Your true natures reveal themselves when you are responsible for combatting your own boredom. I noticed, without judgment, who was more likely to reach for his hockey stick and who was more likely to work a puzzle. I watched as you would spend hours in character as imaginary brothers who are 12- and 11-years-old, respectively, undertaking no end of wild adventures, Stanley Cup quests, and other complicated plot lines. I was intrigued to hear your takes on the books you read, and was sometimes surprised at which ones you loved and which were just OK. I noticed which friends from school you mentioned and which issues from home permeated our summer bubble. I made a mental note of these for when we return home and other factors sometimes muddy our priorities.

I stopped myself on more than one occasion this summer and wished I could bottle these moments, or that I could hit the pause button and keep you at ages 4, 6 and 8, picking raspberries, catching frogs, chasing sea gulls, digging in mud, jumping on trampolines and letting me read stories to you. The summer felt fleeting, perhaps because I don’t know if conditions will ever permit us to have another 65-day spell like this one.

But now it’s time. Tomorrow I send you back to your real worlds of school and sports and social lives. You’re blonder, taller and tanner than when you left. But I think you’re changed in less visible albeit more permanent ways as well. I know I am. I hope we get to do this again sometime.

Love, Mom

Kristi has a degree in Economics from Princeton University and worked for eight years at a Wall Street firm in New York and London.  She and her husband settled in Toronto, and she is now a stay-at-home mom to three busy boys ages 4, 6 and 8.

Crispy Fish Tacos from EmmaEats

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Our guest for today is fellow Savvy Storyteller Liz from EmmaEats . . . and Katie too! Liz is a busy mom of two, so she knows first hand that time is at a premium. Somehow she manages to create delicious recipes that are big on taste but don’t require tons of prep. Liz and I have something in common; we both have kids with nut allergies. Her collection of recipes is nut-free, allowing me to just follow along without worrying about substitutions. Follow Liz on Food Gawker or Taste Spotting for meal inspiration or her blog, EmmaEats, for good food for busy families.

These Crispy Fish Tacos, adapted from LCBO’s Fried Fish Sandwiches, are perfect for an alfresco summer family dinner.

Crispy Fish Tacos
(serves 4)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-5 tilapia fillets, cut in half into two strips (~1 lb)
  • salt and black pepper
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • tortillas (optional, to serve)
  • Zesty Avocado Dip (optional, to serve – recipe follows)
  • chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (to serve)
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional, to serve)
  • Chipotle sauce (optional, to serve)
In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, oregano, paprika, cumin, coriander, white pepper and cayenne. Salt and pepper the tilapia and rub the seasoning mix over all sides of each strip. Drizzle with lime juice and let marinate for 15-30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F.
Setup a workstation with egg in one platter and panko breadcrumbs in another.
Dredge each tilapia piece through the egg first and then through the breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
When all of the pieces are breaded, bake in the preheated oven for ~20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking. The fish should be flaky and opaque with a crispy and golden exterior.
Serve in warmed tortillas, topped with Zesty Avocado Dip, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers with a dollop of sour cream or drizzled with chipotle sauce.
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Zesty Avocado Dip
(serves 4)
  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Halve the avocados and roughly mash the flesh with the garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or over Crispy Fish Tacos.

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce by Dinner With Julie

Our guest for today is Julie Van Rosendaal food writer, stylist and columnist frequently featured in Parents Canada, Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, a contributor to the online cooking series Good Bite and co-host of It’s Just Food on Viva Network.

Julie is a real foodie and her passion for good food goes beyond simply enjoying it. She shares it. Her blog, Dinner With Julie, is a compilation of recipes that run the gamut from appetizers to dessert, all indexed for easy search and execution. But here’s the thing. Even though she’s an accomplished gastronome, she’s a real mom. She knows that even with our best intentions to meal plan, we end up staring into the fridge trying to make sense of a disjointed collection of potential ingredients . . .some approaching their expiration date. She knows this, because she’s one of us.

For one less worry, bookmark her blog to figure out what’s for dinner or follow her on Instagram for meal inspiration.

Thank you Julie for sharing your recipe for Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. A summer condiment that is the perfect pairing for grilled meats and may even be sourced from your garden. Just remember, only the stalk of a rhubarb plant can be eaten, the leaves are poisonous.
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

2-3 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup water
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pure maple or golden syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, until soft; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer; cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender or cool and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use as you would any barbecue sauce – on grilled meats, in baked beans or drizzled on burgers.

Makes about 2 cups.

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How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

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How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

Coffee

Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

Cocktails

Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

Tablecloth

Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

Grilled Pineapple With Cinnamon Coconut Sugar

Jo-Anna of A Pretty Life and fellow Savvy Storyteller is our guest for today. Jo-Anna is a mom of three striving to live a more simple life. Her blog offers easy recipes, simple DIYs and housekeeping tips. Jo-Anna’s regular posts are always polished to perfection with gorgeous photographs and accessible suggestions but it’s her holiday posts that really wow!

For housekeeping pointers, help in the garden and figuring out what to make for the potluck, visit A Pretty Life and for simply beautiful inspiration follow Jo-Anna on Instagram.

Today Jo-Anna shares with us her mouth-watering recipe for Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon Coconut Sugar. To view the recipe click here.

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Summer Salads with Jane’s Adventure In Dinner

We’re excited to have Jane from Jane’s Adventure In Dinner as our guest today. Jane’s blog is a go-to for everything from appetizers to desserts. She’s passionate about food like no other, but as a busy mom she also understands that recipes need to be both delicious and do-able. Regardless of your cooking level (ahem, I am still a beginner after all of these years) Jane is the best teacher and you’re in capable hands with her step-by-step instruction . . .accompanied by gorgeous photos!

Today Jane shares simple salads that are perfect for the hot days of summer. Be sure to follow Jane’s website for meal inspiration and instruction. You won’t be disappointed.

Jane’s Summer Salad

I start with a nice big plate and drizzle it with 2 tsp. balsamic glaze.

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I added a layer (about 1 ½ cups) of spring greens.

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I took a firm pear (I’m a sucker for Anjou) and cut it into 6 wedges. I took out the core and started to lay it on the greens.

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Add 3 T Roquefort (or your favourite blue cheese) to the centre. Don’t like blue cheese? How about some Boursin or an herby cream cheese?

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Fold the pear pieces back together, top with toasted walnuts and drizzle with a really good quality olive oil.

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Drizzle on a bit more glaze . . .

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And add cracked pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Classic Salad Update

We seem to just live off the bbq in the summer.

I love to cook but I really like to keep the house cool and I’m not a huge fan of running the air conditioning all the time.

We’ve gotten used to having our little 1950’s bungalow vent itself for the most part and even though it’s lots bigger after the reno (yes, I promise to finally get all the pictures together this summer, I’ve got 1000’s) we designed the build to allow for our original airflow.

Having said that, if the oven is on all the time then nothing can keep the house cool so bbq it is.

I’ve been playing with a number of salad recipes lately that I’ll be sharing with everyone in the next couple of weeks but this is one that we’ve now had at least six times since I was happy with the recipe.

Hope you love it too.

To serve four adults for an appetizer start with four romaine hearts cut in half.

Bring them to room temperature, drizzle with olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves and lots of crushed, crunchy black pepper.

Let sit for 30 minutes.

Grill on high on each side JUST until a little charred.  This is about 30 seconds a side.

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While your one and only is grilling your lettuce (thinking that you are totally mental with your weird cooking ideas), crisp pancetta (I got super thin pieces that you blink at and they are cooked), or cook four really good pieces of bacon and crumble.

Put your yummy lettuce on a platter and top with; bacon/pancetta, slivers of parmesan, chunky croutons…

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drizzle with lemon juice.

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Plate one half per person (trust me, folks will be back for the other half) with plenty of pancetta and drizzle with balsamic glaze (you can find this all over the place OR boil balsamic until it is half its volume).

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