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August 27, 2012 / missjandme

Where Have We Been? (with soapy love and a Giveaway!)

Well, Miss J and I had a very eventful summer, and I’ve woefully neglected the blog despite ample subject matter. I’m going to try to get up to date with our vacation and some of the fun we’ve been up to. Truth is, I was under the weather for a whiel, and that sort of knocked me off my game, but I’m mostly back to myself now. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than by helping a friend (and you all in the process.)

Kenna of Amathia Soapworks has been a dear friend of mine for years. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some of her earliest soapmaking efforts years ago, and now count myself amongst her most dedicated customers as she takes her business to the next level. We have tried nearly every one of her new products as they’ve been released. Current faves for me are:


Detox (Dead Sea Mud) for an amazingly clean but not tight-feeling face

Moxie for a sweet-smelling day (I know it’s Cucumber Jasmine, but it makes me smell like CANDY, I tell you)

or Clarity (Rosemary Mint) for when I need a real energy boost in the shower.

Miss J switches between:

Aphrodite (Cherry Blossom Peach)

and Siren (Lavender Patchouli)

Aphrodite is specifically known around here for being the soap the other little girls want to borrow when we get it out in the showers after swimming lessons! I am continually impressed by the attention to detail that Kenna puts into her business. Her soaps are made with high-quality, well-sourced ingredients. She offers fragranced and essential oil-scented lines for those with sensitivities. She uses eco-friendly packaging and is involved with charitable works. And to me, the best part is knowing that a woman who is living her dream, and supporting her family while doing it, put her heart and soul into each and every product she sells. That’s worth so much more than a machine made, chemical-laden bar of soap.

Amathia Soapworks is offering a “try it first” giveaway from their new skin care line, and let me tell you – I got an advance whiff of this stuff and it is fabulous! I would love to be the lucky winner that gets to walk around smelling that amazing, especially before anyone else can, but I want you to have that chance too!

Go to Amathia Soapworks – Try Our New Skin Benefit Moisturizer Before Anyone Else Can! and enter Kenna’s super-easy giveaway. And while you’re there, buy a bar of soap. Or 3. You will NOT regret it.

(All photos are copright Kendra Cote and Amathia Soapworks. My bars are too well used to take nice pictures of!)

July 5, 2012 / missjandme

How Does My Garden Grow? pt 2

I haven’t been posting much lately because Miss J is out of town on grandparent visits, so we haven’t been up to many adventures!

I did want to update a bit on the continuing adventure that is our garden. I haven’t been checking on it as much as I should because I’ve been very busy lately, and also it’s been very VERY hot. I went today to do a bit of weeding and check up on things and found blossoms on all my cherry tomato plants, on my 4 pickling cuke bushes and on several of my bean plants!

And THAT is today’s lunch! Plucked fresh from my garden and carried home to munch. Delicious!

I can’t wait until next week when Miss J comes home from her visit – she will be so excited by the tomatoes, and by the wee little strawberries growing outside our back door!

June 25, 2012 / missjandme

Bubble Snakes Revisited

So after the bubble snake fiasco, I assumed that Miss J would never want to touch the bubble snake blowers again, but it was surprisingly easy to convince her.

Friday evening she had an early bath because we’d gotten quite dirty at our garden (which is coming along nicely and will be the subject of a new post soon!) So even though she was in her PJs, I suggested bubble snakes, and she quickly agreed.

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A neighbour girl saw some of our bubble snakes float by her house (a good 100 metres or more away!) and came to investigate, so we let her play too. I particularly included the last photo to show how tall Miss J is getting – R is 10 years old! We got a couple good gusts of wind, and a couple of our bubble clumps went up, up and away over the houses at the end of our lot. Miss J is sure some of them must have made it all the way to the library!

I think I need to tweak the bubble solution a bit, or possibly change the fabric on the blowers. The longest snake we managed was just 24 inches or so – cool, but not much of a snake. Our next time, we’ll try colour. You just dot the food colouring onto the blower after the bubble solution, and the bubbles come out coloured!

Miss J had a great time and has asked a few times since about doing bubble snakes again. I’m going to chalk up this project as a resounding success!

June 21, 2012 / missjandme

Pinterest Bites Back

I love Pinterest, don’t get me wrong. But it certainly has its flaws. For one thing, I’ve seen misinformation being passed around far faster than can be done via Facebook or email. For another, it’s a complete time suck. And yes, that’s about me and not their fault, but hey.

Today I experienced a whole new level of Pinterest fail.

Miss J and I set out to do one of the projects I’d pinned for us. It was going to be so easy, so fun. I was going to have so many wonderful pictures to share.

 

So here’s the project – Bubble Snakes! Look at the lovely family having such a fun time.

So Miss J and I scrounged up a couple of water bottles (luckily we had a couple in the recycling from a long car trip last weekend where we’d finished off our water from home – we almost never buy bottled water.) She gleefully combed her sock drawer for a pair that were too stained or too small – how pleased was she to provide a pair that was, in fact, both? We cut and duct taped – we got out our giant jug of homemade bubble solution.

Prepped and ready, we started blowing bubble snakes. Shrieks of gleeful laughter ensued as the wind started to blow them back on our heads and floated the pieces around the yard. And that’s when it all went wrong. Miss J got a little confused. She sucked instead of blowing.

After ten minutes at the kitchen sink rinsing and spitting and wiping and crying, Miss J was unwilling and unable to go back to our fun activity. I plopped her on the couch with a big glass of water for her ouchie throat, and cleaned up all our equipment. Thirty seconds of bubble snakes.

Maybe I should have thought to tell her not to suck on it, but she’s been blowing bubbles for years. I never thought that a five and a half year old would need to be told to blow into a bubble blower, instead of sucking in. Maybe I should blame myself for her distress. But me, I’m going to blame Pinterest.

And now I’m going to log back in and look for our next – hopefully less dangerous – project.

Follow Me on Pinterest

June 12, 2012 / missjandme

How Does My Garden Grow?

Well, not a lot yet. But, it is finally growing! Miss J and I visited on Sunday and there were sprouts or smallplants in nearly every row. the only thingsthat don’t appear to have sprouted yet are our watermelon seeds and garlic sets.

These pics were taken with my Blackberry on May 21st – the first is the infamous mud puddle that was formed when the hoses attached to the water pump, which is directly on the corner of my plot, were leaking as people watered their newly planted plots for hours. The second is my plot on that day, tomato and cuke seedlings in and probably some carrot seeds and not much else planted.

Mud Puddle

Garden - May 21

The next pictures were taken on June 7th. Most of my cuke seedlings died, and we’ve re-seeded in those rows twice now, so we should get a more extended crop out of that mishap. We also planted 4 pickling cuke seedlings we bought at a nursery, and those are doing well.

It doesn’t look like much yet, but there are so many things finally coming up that I’m actuallystarting to feel good about it. At least I should be eating something other than tomatoes this summer!

Oh, and here’s a couple bonus Miss J shots from our stop at the playground on the way home from the garden that day.

June 6, 2012 / missjandme

A Little Dose of Miss J

I thought I’d share a bit about Miss J – she’s growing and changing so quickly that I like to document the little things.

  • In the last month or so, she’s taken to calling me Mimi instead of Mommy. She thought up a nickname for me all by herself and was so proud. It makes my heart swell every time she says it.
  • We are on a Star Wars timeout right now – Miss J got so obsessed that we had to hide our DVDs and her SW toys for a bit so she can talk about something else.
  • We bought some lovely fresh local strawberries at the Farmer’s Market last weekend, and Miss J is mad because they’re “too little.” I’m hoping to teach her why they’re better.
  • Miss J is reading at what I’d guess is a 2nd or 3rd grade level. Last night at bedtime she read our whole book. Our library has an extensive selection of levelled readers, and she’s able to read fairly well in even the level 4 books, although she gets frustrated easily with the harder vocabulary.
  • Miss J’s imaginary kids are going strong, but the names have morphed dramatically – what was once a collection of made-up alien names has changed to familiar names, kids from school, family members, etc. I’m hoping this progression helps her let go of the imaginary friends in time. But for the time being, I’m just dealing with them, although they’re always getting into trouble. And constantly reminding her not to yell at them in public.

Here are a few photos of Miss J from our trip to a local playground yesterday.

Saucer swinging

Happy face

Silly girl

Lazy swinger

The last one is my favourite – I had told her that I was getting tired of pushing her in this big, heavy swing and she was shouting “That’s why you have two arms, Mimi! Use the other one!” (I was pushing with one hand because I was holding her water bottle in the other. Sassy girl!)

We have made a decision to enroll Miss J in an every day SK program next year, mainly to allow her the deeper French Immersion, and so I will be treasuring our days off together and the little outings we go on. Even just a walk over to our garden turns into a little adventure with Miss J, because she is constantly amazed by things that I take for granted, like bugs and flowers and little things we see along our path. She’s helping me look at the world with new eyes!

June 1, 2012 / missjandme

The Messy Kitchen Epiphany

I had an epiphany this morning. (As an aside, doesn’t my post title sound like an episode of Big Bang?) I was doing dishes. Again. And wiping up counters. Again. And then Miss J finished her yogurt and handed me the bowl and I was picking up the dish scrubbie. Again.

And I was moping about it. Again. About the untidiness of the dirty dishes in the sink and the clean dishes on the counter and how the juicer and the tea kettle and the compost pail were cluttering things up.

And that’s when I realized – you can only keep a completely beautiful kitchen if you’re not feeding your family from it. I mean, I can keep it tidy and clean. But I can’t keep it perfect. It won’t look like a magazine spread or an IKEA commercial. I’m preparing 2-3 meals and countless drinks and snacks in it daily. I’m making bread and yogurt from scratch. I’m fermenting kefir and kombucha and sourdough starters. I have oils and spices within easy reach. I have canisters of flour and sugar that I open regularly.

So I decided that I’m going to take joy from this. From the fact that I’m feeding my family the best, most nourishing meals I can. From the fact that my daughter knows that she can open our fridge and find freshly washed berries to munch on. From our silly fridge magnet collection. From the way my body feels better when I drink my probiotic drinks. From the noises Miss J makes when she’s devouring homemade yogurt (did I mention I don’t even like yogurt that much?) From the sweetness of the fresh juice. From the familiarity and comfort.

Today I found joy in my messy kitchen. Will you tell me where you found joy?

May 29, 2012 / missjandme

Enjoying Good Customer Service (plus bonus recipes!)

I’ve been trying to write this post for two days, but I kept running into technical difficulties and kidmergencies. So now, here we go.

I’ve worked in customer service in varying forms for most of my working life, so I really appreciate when a company or service provider gives good service. I understand how hard that can be sometimes, so I value good service more than ever.

Water Bottles

These are Miss J’s water bottles. The animal print was Grama’s and was gifted to her. I bought the other two, the purple specifically for her first day of school and the pink because I found it on a clearance rack for a very good price. As you can see, there are 3 bottles and only 1 lid. Which is broken.

Broken Lid

There’s nothing wrong with the bottles. And the lids all broke through our own actions. One shattered when I dropped it in the parking lot at home. This one got bitten by a certain Miss. And the third had the pull up part of the spout pulled directly off while she was drinking from it.

So I looked up the company that makes the bottles SubZero/Eco-Highway, sister companies that manufacture all three of the bottles. On their websites, I found replacement caps, even in the flip top style I prefer. However, at $4.99 each plus tax and shipping, I was looking at a grand total of $31.59 to replace the three caps. I can guarantee that this is more than the original cost of the three bottles!

I debated just throwing the bottles out and buying new, but it hurts me to do something so wasteful. I decided to email the company and ask if there are any retail locations where the replacement caps are available, thinking the $15 for the caps would hurt, but that I could stomach it rather than discard the bottles. So I used their Contact Us page, and sent a simple message explaining that while we love our bottles, we’re having trouble with the lids and could they tell me if there’s somewhere to buy them retail. And this is where it gets good.

Text of the email I got back from an actual person:

Sorry for all the problems your bottles are causing. We are committed to
our customers and producing products that meet high standards. I do have a
couple flip caps for you. Please send me your mailing address and I will send you
a couple free of charge. If at all possible, could you email me some
pictures of the broken tops I can take to our quality control team to see
how we can improve as well?

Best Regards,
Ryan

(This is why I took pictures of the bottles, by the way.) I sent my address and the photos above back to Ryan at SubZero, and a few days later I got a box in the mail with three beautiful new bottle lids in it!

I can’t say enough how impressed I was with the very quick responses I received from this company, and the fact that they replaced these items free of charge, even after I explained that we had physically broken all these lids. There was no manufacturing flaws, no spontaneous breakage. I dropped one, and Miss J bit the other two, plain and simple. The fact that, in this day and age, this company cared enough about my satisfaction and my concerns about waste to give me free product makes me feel really good about doing business with them. I know that next time I need a new water bottle I’ll be looking for a SubZero bottle, and I hope you will too.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________-

Bonus recipes? Yes! I did a couple quick recipe adjusts recently for our dinners, and wanted to share them.

Mustard Rub

1 tbsp grainy mustard (original recipe called for Creole mustard, which I’d never heard of)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
scant half tsp each dry thyme, marjoram, and chives

Mix well and rub over roast before placing in the oven. I used this on a 2.5 lbish riast and it covered well, gave a nice tenderness and flavour to the meat. Adapted from a recipe I found on Cooks.com. Would probably also work well on pork tenderloin or even a chicken you’re going to roast. (I want to try that now!)

Quick Greek Marinade
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch each of dry oregano, thyme, and marjoram

I was defrosting some chicken breasts that were already portioned in a zipper bag, so I just mixed this up and poured in the bag a ccouple hours before I wanted to cook. I grilled these and they were fabulous! Miss J didn’t even put bbq sauce on her meat, which is a thing right now. Adapted from a salad dressing recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

Hope you get a chance to try these out! Please tell me how it turns out for you.

May 26, 2012 / missjandme

Yard Saling

I had planned to post today about a really great customer service experience I had this week, but I couldn’t resist a chance to share the awesome haul we made today.

Earlier in the week, J and I noticed a sign at a local realtor stating that there would be a charity yard sale today. We headed out there as soon as we were all ready, and for a $5 donation we brought home a really cool change sorting bank (not a necessity, but since we’re constantly scrouging for the right change to help Miss J split her allowance amongst her Spend/Save/Share/Invest jars it seemed useful) and a cooling rack for the kitchen (I apparently discarded mine in the Great House Selling Purge of 2011) – but Miss J made out the best, bringing home a Darth Vader suit and mask, and a multi-coloured lightsaber!

Our next couple stops yielded a really cute curio shelf for $3 – another couple bucks for paint and I’ll have a lovely display for some of my treasures. The next couple were not so hot, and we got only a few books and a colouring book (Star Wars again!) for Miss J.

But then! We happened past a community sale at a local nursery school. Miss J got her face painted, plus a few little Star Wars character toys – and I got a juicer! This is a roughly $80 machine, which I got for $20, brand new in a sealed package! I’ve been wanting to try juicing, but afraid to invest the money in the equipment. This is perfect, this is a really good juicer, and I’ll have a goood chance to try it out for such a small investment. It does seem to be a discontinued model, because Amazon was the only place I could find it, but that won’t be a problem for me.

We visited a neighbourhood where a number of folks were having sales in close proximity. We got a couple of games for Miss J’s Leapster for a very good price, a couple odds and ends toys, and a really cool clock to help her learn to tell time analog. She’s very literal, as 5-year-olds tend to be, and will argue with me if I say it’s 10 to 3 – “It’s 2:49, Momma!” I also found a ribbon board in a pretty dark blue to match her room – I was going to try making one but it was a buck. Now Miss J will have a place to display all her postcards and fortune cookie fortunes we’ve been saving.

All in all, we had a fruitful morning. My goal for future yard saling is to restrain Miss J a bit more, as we’re getting into a bad habit of bringing home random stuff we don’t need. I’m also on the lookout for a dresser, as I’d like to replace ours. We actually spotted a lovely one today, but it was sadly already sold. Oh well, one will turn up sooner or later.

May 25, 2012 / missjandme

Gardening 101

Gardening 101.

That’s what most of the last 3 weeks have been for me.

Miss J and I started some tomato and cucumber seedlings in our kitchen, and I naively thought we’d just pop them into our small flowerbeds at home. It quickly became apparent that we didn’t have anything near the space we’d need. Since we live in military rental housing, we don’t have the option to dig new beds, so I started looking at options. There are community gardens at the Library/Civic Centre, but it’s just over a kilometer away, and I really couldn’t see myself dragging a cranky kid there and back daily. I finally discovered that there are also community garden beds at the local community centre, which is substantially closer. After visiting a few offices for applications, etc. we became the proud owners (well, borrowers, I suppose) of plot #12 in the South Side Community Gardens. Best of all, it’s even free this year!

The garden is planted and ready now. I managed to escape without blisters (probably thanks to the fact that my shovels are very old – they were J’s grandfather’s – and worn smooth, so no rough edges to hurt me) but I did get a little sunburn, my favourite was the backs of my knees from the bottom of my shorts to about mid-calf. I did all the digging and seeding by hand. I learned a LOT and I’m about to make some notes for my future self:

  • rent a rototiller! Digging rows in a 15×30 plot by hand was crazy.
  • bring spare clothes or plastic sheeting for Miss J’s car seat. We drove over to the garden with tools one day, and she fell in a mud puddle and got soaked/filthy. Funny as hell, but we were very lucky she’d left a hoodie in the van that I could have her sit on to go home.
  • seed tapes! I saw a blog post about making these yourself, which I of course can’t find. Instructions here, though.
  • don’t dig separate spot for multiple rows of the same veg (I dug three tiny little rows for carrots when I could have planted them all on one larger row.)

We’ve also planted some perennials at home, as the community garden is tilled each year and so they can’t be grown there. I sacrificed a full flowerbed for strawberries (Miss J’s fave!) and we have a planter box of thyme, oregano and chives. I also planted a planter box of Calendula, for the beauty of the flowers and also their medicinal value. I just picked up some rosemary seeds, and I have a planter I can use for those.

All in all, I’m feeling very satisfied with this accomplishment. The hardest work is done, and all we have left to do is Water, Weed and Wait for our harvest!