My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Vacation

So generally at some point in the summer I take a break from the blog of about a week or so. It gives me time to refresh and think up lots of new ideas to write about. However, I had so much going on this summer that I never really took a break from writing. I just had so much I wanted to share with all of you.

Now I’m beginning to get a bit of writer’s block. Back to school is such a busy time for me and most of the writing I’m doing consists of lesson planning and making assignments. So, in an effort to maintain balance in my life and be kind to my brain, I’m going to be taking the first week of school off from the blog. That means the next blog will publish on September 15th. Thanks for being understanding. You folks are such lovely readers!

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Back to School

The summer is winding down so it’s time to get ready to go back to school. I’ve planned my lessons and organized my classroom. I’ve updated my wardrobe and bought a new school bag. I’ve stocked the pantry with healthy school snacks and the freezer with homemade soups and casseroles to ease hectic days.

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Think the kids are the only ones who get nervous about back to school? Think again. No matter how well-prepared I am, I never feel fully ready for the first day of school. I still get stress dreams and I’m gnawed away by the feeling that I’m forgetting something. However, I’m not as anxious about it as I used to be. Now I feel more like I’m a performed about to go on stage. I get butterflies but they’re not debilitating.

If you have an anxious child, the return to school can be daunting. I wanted to share some of my best tips for the first day of school:

  1. Make sure your child has the school supplies they need. Contact your child’s teacher or school if you aren’t sure what to get. Get your child excited about picking out their new lunchbox or some pencil crayons just for them.
  2. Do not focus on worse case scenarios. These tend to start small, (what if no one sits with me at lunch?) and build to catastrophic, (what everyone hates me and I never make friends?) Instead, talk about the positive parts of school. Remind your child that it’s normal to feel nervous but that school can be a lot of fun if they’re open to the experience.
  3. Remind your child to say please and thank you and be kind to everyone in their class, even the teacher. Teachers are people too and we tend to smile more and speak more kindly when students are polite. You would expect no less of your children at home so make sure those good habit make it to the classroom.
  4. Start the day right with a healthy breakfast. Skip the sugar cereal and go for something with protein in it. Continue the day with a healthy lunch, high in protein and low in processed foods. Sugar and preservatives can heighten anxiety, (I speak from experience,) and can set your child up for a mid-afternoon sugar crash.
  5. Plan something fun for the end of the first day. A special meal, an after school snack or just some quality time together is something your child can look forward to all day. Plus then you know you’ll have a chance to discuss how your child’s day went.
  6. Don’t make the last part of summer all about school. Make sure you are balancing school prep time with fun summer time. That’s what I’ll be doing!

Happy end of summer!

Spinach Soup

So my little garden patch of spinach has been growing abundantly. That means there are some spinach recipes coming your way, starting with spinach soup. As a teacher I find the summer is a great time to stock the freezer and pantry with easy meals and preserves for the fall. This soup is easy, delicious and it freezes for up to six months. I suggest you freeze it in empty ice cream or yogurt containers, (but don’t microwave these containers as they are not microwave safe!) This might also make its way on to your summer menus as you can serve it chilled.

Here is the recipe from my trustworthy Harrowsmith's Cook book.

Here is the recipe from my trustworthy Harrowsmith’s Cookbook.

So here is the spinach from my garden. You can use regular or baby spinach. Baby spinach has a milder flavour.

Here is the spinach from my garden. You can use regular or baby spinach. Baby spinach has a milder flavour.

These are your ingredients. See recipe above for details.

These are your ingredients. See recipe above for details.

I used green onion in my soup but you can also use white, yellow or red onion. Choose the one you like best.

I used green onion in my soup but you can also use white, yellow or red onion. Choose the ones you like best.

Add

Add the spinach and when it wilts, add the peas and rice.

Give the a good saute.

Give everything a good stir.

Pour in the stock.

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.

Cover and

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the cream (or milk if you're going low-fat).

Add the cream (or milk if you’re going low fat).

I puree mine using a blender stick but you could batch blend it in a blender or food processor.

I puree mine using a blender stick but you could batch blend it in a blender or food processor.

Serve with sour cream and dill to garnish.

Serve with sour cream and dill to garnish.

Enjoy!

Refreshing Watermelon Mint Iced Tea

It is getting hot out there! Time for one of my favourite summer drinks! Last summer I picked up some watermelon mint loose-leaf tea from David’s Tea. I decided to use it for iced tea and it was so delicious I wanted to share my recipe with you.

INGREDIENTS:

1 heaping TBSP loose-leaf watermelon mint tea (you can swap in regular mint tea if you prefer.)

4-5 fresh mint leaves

Approximate 1/2 cup watermelon pieces

A teapot (I use a Ceylon iced tea container but any large container or teapot will do.)

A strainer or bag for the tea

2 TBSP honey (or more, to taste.)

Approximately 6-8 cups boiling water (depending on how large your teapot is.)

 INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Set up your kettle to boil the water.
  2. Put the tea into the strainer or pouch and then into your teapot/container.
  3. Add the mint and the watermelon to the teapot/container as well.001
  4. Pour in the boiled water and allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the tea, mint leaves and watermelon and stir in the honey.
  6. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  7. Half fill a glass with ice, pour in the iced tea and garnish with a mint leaf.

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If you make this once, you will be making it again all summer long. Stay cool out there!

 

Maybe I should have been a gift wrapper…

Recently my niece Eliina turned seven. When I asked her dad what she might like for her birthday, he suggested an Apple gift card or a sketch book. I felt weird about giving a seven-year old a gift card so I decided to get creative with the gift wrapping.

I started with the basic gift of a sketchbook, an Apple gift card and a chocolate bar. Like me, Eliina loves chocolate!

I started with the basic gift of a sketchbook, an Apple gift card and a chocolate bar. Like me, Eliina loves chocolate!

I added some fun stickers I found at a craft store.

I added some fun stickers I found at a craft store.

I personalized the back of the gift card.

I personalized the back of the gift card.

I stuck the gift card to the first page of the sketchbook and decorated with drawings and heart stickers.

I stuck the gift card to the first page of the sketchbook and decorated with drawings and heart stickers.

Finally, I wrapped the whole thing up and added a card, a bow and the chocolate bar. I went with a pink and purple colour scheme.

Finally, I wrapped the whole thing up and added a card, a bow and the chocolate bar. I went with a pink and purple colour scheme.

Eliina's mom sent me this photo after the party. Apparently Eliina wanted to get started on her art right away.

Eliina’s mom sent me this photo after the party. Apparently Eliina wanted to get started on her art right away.

So there is my gift and Eliina loved it! When you need to wrap a gift for someone, choose some small, personal touches to go with the main gift. Also, to make your gift wrapping look professional, choose one or two colours and coordinate all the elements to it. People may even think you had someone wrap it for you.

 

Art Assignment 33: Surface Test

I had my purple crayon. Now all I needed was some paper…

In my basement I found this weird roll of paper hanging from the beams in the ceiling. I decided to use that.

In my basement I found this weird roll of paper hanging from the beams in the ceiling. I decided to use that.

I like the wrinkled, irregular surface of the paper.

I like the wrinkled, irregular surface of the paper.

Detail 1.

Detail 1.

Detail 2.

Detail 2.

Detail 3.

Detail 3.

Detail 4.

Detail 4.

#theartassignment

Maple Cedar Planked Salmon

My husband forwarded me an email from the Liberal Party (he’s a member) that included Justin Trudeau’s favourite BBQ salmon recipe. To be fair, Trudeau found the recipe in Canadian Living so the credit goes to them. It is now a favourite for Nick and I as well.

I picked up Cedar planks from Rona.

I picked up Cedar planks from Rona.

You will need salmon, real maple syrup, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

You will need salmon, real maple syrup, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

 

Begin by soaking the cedar planks for at least 30 minutes in cold water.

Begin by soaking the cedar planks for at least 30 minutes in cold water.

Mix a bit of maple syrup into 2 TBSP of olive oil. It looks like the bowl is smiling!

Mix a bit of maple syrup into 2 TBSP of olive oil. It looks like the bowl is smiling!

Remove the plank from the water and pat dry. Brush both sides with the oil mixture.

Remove the plank from the water and pat dry. Brush both sides with the oil mixture.

When choosing salmon, the fish should be firm and pink with pale white lines throughout. It should not smell fishy or strong.

When choosing salmon, the fish should be firm and pink with pale white lines throughout. It should not smell fishy or strong.

Mix the maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper together.

Mix the maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper together.

Brush the fish with the syrup mixture.

Brush the fish with the syrup mixture.

Set your BBQ to medium and put the plank on the grill. I grilled some corn in the husk to go with it.

Set your BBQ to medium-high and put the plank on the grill. I grilled some corn in the husk to go with it.

Baste with the syrup mixture again halfway through.

Baste with the syrup mixture again halfway through.

Your fish will start to go a lovely light pink and you'll smell the maple sugar caramelizing.

Your fish will start to go a lovely light pink and you’ll smell the maple sugar caramelizing.

As it cooks, the sugar will burn on the board but not on the fish. This gives the salmon a smoky flavour.

As it cooks, the sugar will burn on the board but not on the fish. This gives the salmon a smoky flavour.

The salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork and looks like this.

The salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork and looks like this.

Time to serve it up. We ate on our back patio because it was so nice out.

Time to serve it up. We ate on our back patio because it was so nice out.

Look at that sexy salmon!

Look at that sexy salmon! Enjoy!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes (includes soaking)
Portion Size: 12 pieces
Ingredients

1-1/2 lb (680 g) salmon fillet
1/4 cup (60 mL) maple syrup
2 tbsp (30 mL) grainy Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper

Preparation

Soak one 12- x 7-inch (30 x 18 cm) untreated cedar plank in water for 30 minutes or for up to 24 hours; place salmon on top.

In small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper; brush half over salmon.

Place plank on grill over medium-high heat; close lid and cook, brushing once with remaining maple mixture, until fish flakes easily when tested, 20 to 25 minutes.

Art Assignment 32: Embarrassing Object

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The stuff in the back of the closet; the stuff that doesn’t fit. The things we hang onto even though we don’t need them. The negative things we say to ourselves. This is what embarrasses me most.

#theartassignment

Art Assignment 31: Become a Sci-Fi Character

Superhero name: Hush.

Real name: Tayce Jones.

Special abilities: Hush can naturally manipulate electronics without touching them, (e.g. turning on and off lights). She wears a psionics arm band that amplifies certain abilities.

First appearance: August 2015.

Group affiliation: Unaffiliated as her parents refused to let her attend Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Hush wears a psionics arm band that can easily be hidden under a sleeve. This is critical as she is extremely shy and self-conscious. She was brought up in a very conservative household, with strict rules placed on everything she did. She does her best to go unnoticed at school and at home.

Her armband allows her to power down all electronics within a one, five or ten kilometer range. She also has a button labelled ‘All’ but she has never pushed it and doesn’t intend to. Hush mainly uses her power to enforce a circle of silence around her. She is slowly learning that she can use this power for mischief, (sorry Ms. Harris, we can’t take the computer studies exam if there’s no power,) or for good, (look at how happy that little girl is now that she has her mother’s full attention).

Did You Know: Tayce is an accomplished artist but she hides her drawings from her mother. Her father and her art teacher quietly support her. Tayce hope to go to college to study art after high school.

#theartassignment

Am I finally turning the corner? 

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So I have been suffering through the process of coming off my antidepressants for almost a month. It has been much more difficult than I thought. Well actually, coming off the meds was fine. It was the two weeks after I stopped talking the pills that kicked my butt. In my last post, I mentioned a list of withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing, including brain zaps.

The good news: the brain zaps have pretty much stopped.

The bad news: my other withdrawal symptoms got really awful.

I started to have irrational anger. When it comes to anger, I may have a short fuse but it’s a quick explosion too. I get angry for may five or six minutes tops unless it’s something really serious. Lately though, everything seems to be making me mad. For example, I caught myself getting angry at one drive for running a red light, (how dare you endanger us all?) and cursing another for not running a red, (get out of my way, you slow-poke!) Poor Nick has born the brunt of my craziness with relative good humour, although when he laughs it just makes me angrier. The upside is that I generally recognize these bursts of emotion as irrational and can at least wait them out if I can’t get rid of them.

I have also been suffering horrible headaches and body aches almost every day. I get cramps in my legs and sharp pains in my back whether I sit, stand or lie down. I am still exercising but it takes all of my willpower to drag myself to the gym.

Finally, I had a few days where I’ve had some very negative thoughts I can’t seem to dismiss. Mostly, I feel sad and worthless. Again, I know these emotions and thoughts are just part of the withdrawal and not real. That doesn’t make it less exhausting to put up with.

Today was totally different. I felt almost normal. I didn’t wake up in pain or with nausea. I actually wanted to get out of bed and start the day. I was able to eat breakfast without gagging. In my Crossfit class I felt stronger than I had in days and I wasn’t totally exhausted by the end, (although I got a good sweat!)

Better than all of that, I enjoyed my day! I wasn’t just waiting for the day to end so I could crawl into bed. I hope this day wasn’t a fluke. Perhaps my withdrawal is finally winding down. I love feeling like myself again.

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