2017 Garden Finale (almost)

I seriously sucked at updating the garden posts this year! I just looked back to find my last garden post – August 20 – seriously?! That’s terrible but since today is Nov 1 I figured I better do one last recap to finish it off, be prepared for a picture heavy long post!  We do still have tomatoes in the greenhouse but only because I’ve been far too lazy to get out and harvest the plants and now the weather is changing to negative temperatures daily.  Our yard is also a disaster – as is the case most years, honestly I think by the time October hits I’ve been in garden mode for so long that I find it hard to finish strong.  Though this year is much better than last year in that regard! Who knows, maybe I’ll get a burst of energy and inspiration and just get it done this week.

The end of August was pretty good for the garden.  I harvested the onions, braided them and hung them to dry.  They weren’t great onions – small and lots of blemishes, there was a lot of them but they only lasted a few weeks.  We started to get more and more ripe tomatoes and I had the idea to freeze them separated into their varieties.  That worked well for a bit but eventually I gave up that idea and just picked them all together.

September was the end of the garden and the beginning of canning season and it was busy! We harvested everything but the greenhouse.  Our tomato harvest is up over 200 lbs and we are still getting about 7-8 lbs every 4-5 days from the greenhouse.  I’ll do a separate post once I clear the greenhouse out with the harvest totals and my garden takeaways this year.  On top of what we harvested from our garden we also went and picked well over 100 lbs of crabapples – of which I probably only preserved half of because I couldn’t get to them fast enough and they spoiled.  I made unsweetened and sweetened apple sauce, apple juice concentrate and am in the process of making apple cider vinegar.  September was also when the frost started coming and instead of picking everything when it started I decided to cover everything for several nights.  In the end I’m not sure how much of a difference that made but I didn’t mind doing it and I knew that there was going to be more good weather.

Last but not least – October! This is really all tomatoes with a pepper thrown in for good measure from the greenhouse.

That concludes the 2017 garden year! It wasn’t what I expected or hoped for but I’m satisfied with how it turned out anyways.  Always lots of lessons learned and I’m going to do a bit of reflecting on that in a couple (or few) weeks once I’ve fully reached hibernation mode!

 

DIY Bathroom Scrub


Happy Sunday friends!

Yesterday I managed to get my whole house clean (save the floors which I did today), it had been far too long since my bathrooms had a good scrub.  As I was cleaning using the products I make myself I thought that it was about time I start to share some of my tried and true DIY and toxic free living recipes with you.

I’m going to start with one of my very favourites – my husband was even blown away after seeing how powerful this is! This scrub is amazing for showers, tubs, sinks, stove tops or really anything that needs a good scrub.  I use this once every month or two on our shower when I notice the hard water spots building up.  My all purpose cleaner (which I’ll share soon) keeps the build up at bay for the most part but every so often it needs a bit more of a cleaning. When using this on the shower I make sure to clean it right before I’m going to have a shower.  I scoop it out with a wet sponge, scrub the walls and then to rinse off I just jump into the shower – because of the peppermint oil I use I get a wonderfully invigorating wake up shower at the same time as getting a sparkling clean shower!  I’ve used this on tough to clean bath tub, dull and stained kitchen sinks, caked on and burnt food on stove tops and it’s worked amazing every time.

The recipe:

1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 Tbsp Dr.Bronner’s Castile Soap (I like non-scented so I can add my own scents)
Enough distilled water to make a paste (you can alternatively boil water and let it cool down)
10 drops each lemon and peppermint oil (or essential oil of your choosing)

Add everything to a glass jar and mix well.

Give it a try and let me know what you think! If you don’t have any essential oils (and want to try them out) feel free to contact me via e-mail or leave me a comment and I’ll give you some more info.  If you want to know why I use essential oils check out this post.

Sugar Free Kids


When Ezekiel was a baby I was adamant that he would not eat candy or processed sugar.  Most people thought I was nuts, extreme and unrealistic (and still do to some extent!).  I received so many comments and questions when I would talk about our (mostly my) decision to not introduce sugar into Ezekiel’s diet and those comments and questions were not always positive.  Regardless (and maybe in spite of those people) I maintained Ezekiel’s sugar free diet for a long time.  I would make him treats at home that were made with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  At parties my friends always had healthier options and those are what I would offer to him to eat (before he could really understand what cake/candy was). Sometimes they would even have a whole section just for Ezekiel with dried fruit and nuts – yes I do have the best friends ever!

Over the last couple years sugar and treats slowly entered into our house and Ezekiel’s diet.  It started with my husband bringing home “treats” or buying Ezekiel treats when they went out together and those treats always involved sugar.  Then he would bring home bags of treats (gummy bears, marshmallows etc) and I began allowing a treat a day after quiet time.  These past 3-4 months it started to become an expectation in Ezekiel’s brain that he needed a treat and instead of correct that expectation we just gave into it.  When we were out he would start to demand a treat, when my husband would come home the first question Ezekiel had was if he had brought home a treat.  Then a few weeks ago Ezekiel started waking much earlier than he had ever woke, he started having trouble calming down for quiet time, his behaviour though not awful was out of character for him.

None of these things are inherently bad and can easily be explained away by Ezekiel getting older and hitting different stages of life but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something else was happening.  Two weeks ago I just got fed up with the constant questioning for treats, with the inability to listen to my instructions, with the lack of awareness of his behaviour and really just his expectation that he deserved a treat.  He was beginning to act entitled and that was REALLY bothering me.  It probably bothered me the most because I was the person to blame for that behaviour.  In some ways I felt helpless to change it.  I wasn’t sure how I could correct that behaviour through my parenting in a way that Ezekiel would understand.  Then one day I had a lightbulb moment – maybe sugar was to blame for some of this behaviour!

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us – and I’m not talking about fruit or naturally occurring sugars but those sugars that are added to all our foods, those manmade sugars that tell our brain we need MORE MORE MORE. I could sit and read and write about the impact of sugar on our bodies all day – the topic is complex and has so many variables to it but the bottom line is that too much sugar has negative effects on our bodies in many ways.  Of course our bodies do need sugar to function and as a form of energy but the sugar that is added to packaged food and that is made by “man” is probably not going to do anything good for your body.

So, arming myself with this knowledge and allowing my frustration with myself and our situation with Ezekiel to be known I sat down with my husband and just said no more sugar – don’t bring treats, and start saying no more often and let’s see how this helps our situation. Now let me be clear that if you were to spend a day with us and observe Ezekiel you probably would not have picked up on the subtle little behaviours.  Overall he was still a very well behaved child because that’s his demeanour.  His nature has always been calm, he has always had an inclination to be obedient, he has always been very rational and for that I am eternally grateful.  Regardless, I knew that something was off and I knew that I needed to try my hardest to correct it now rather than wait.  So we completely cut out sugar about two weeks ago and I’m telling you the change has been drastic for us!

I sat down with him and we talked about his behaviour and about how sugar in certain treats can be bad for us by making us act in a way that isn’t the best.  We talked about how we were going to stop eating treats but that we could bake something that he would like using something sweet that wasn’t as bad for us.  We talked about balance and food and growing big and strong by eating food that would give our bodies the things it needed.  These were all conversations we had been having with him for a couple years but I took it one step farther by saying we were getting rid of all treats (for now).  He grasped the main concepts and for about a week we continued the conversation as he processed it.  The way he processes is by thinking about it and then bringing up little things that he’s been thinking about several times over a period of time.

The first couple days he asked for treats, then he stopped asking for treats and began asking for a muffin, then he stopped asking for anything sugar related at all.  This in and of itself was a HUGE win but it wasn’t the only change we’ve seen.  He started to say please and thank you unprompted, he started to offer to help in every situation (did you spill mom? Let me clean that up for you).  Although he still has energy and loves to bounce around, play and sing, he’s not so out of control when he’s running around playing.  Quiet times are now just that, instead of jumping up and down and roughing housing with toys he’s sitting quietly reading books or building with his blocks and sometimes even falling asleep again.

Perhaps the most surprising for me because I didn’t attribute this behaviour to sugar is that he is far less anxious about being alone on any level of our house.  For quite a few months he’s been crazy about always needing someone on the same level as him.  He would refuse to go up and down the stairs unless there was someone with him. It was something that was incredibly frustrating for us because he would desperately want something from a different level we were on but refuse to go alone to get it and then if we were busy and couldn’t help him he would have an emotional meltdown.  Even if you started to go down the stairs before him he would burst into tears – no exaggeration – the moment you stepped on that first stair.  It was bizarre and I kept blaming my husband because he used to play hide and seek with Ezekiel and then jump out and scare him (something I actually enjoy doing to my husband lol).  When we stopped sugar he began going upstairs and playing by himself for BIG chunks of time – praise the LORD! When I go down the stairs he’ll stay upstairs and play.  When Eden needs to be fed or changed in the middle of our meal he is 100% OK to stay and finish eating while I take care of Eden.  It is truly incredible and has really solidified my belief that sugar and kids are a bad idea.

Now, is it totally sustainable? I know that’s a question people are going to ask and going to challenge because it’s one I’ve been confronted with before.

Here’s my answer.

When you can connect actions with behaviours in a way that is easy to understand your child can begin to grasp consequences.  We’ve been talking about food with Ezekiel for a long time, it’s something we deeply value and so it’s a constant conversation in our house.  I think because of this constant discussion Ezekiel finds it easier to grasp the concept that there are foods that are really good for us and there are foods that are not so good for us.  He understands that we try and eat the majority of good food and rarely eat the food that isn’t as good.  I also believe that this constant ongoing discussion will help Ezekiel to make good decisions for himself when we are not with him as he grows older.

We’ve already seen this in action.  The other day Ezekiel was looking in the freezer to get some frozen mango – his treat of choice lately – and found a stray gummy bear that fell from the top of the fridge before I threw them away.  He asked if he could eat it and in a moment of weakness (I really didn’t want to have an argument in that moment) I agreed.  The resulting behaviour over the next 2-3 hours was crazy.  In a period of 20 minutes he had burst into tears 4 times! I sat down with him and we talked about how sugar was making him feel and he was able to grasp the concept a little bit more than before.

So, will we be a strict 100% no sugar, no candy family?

No we won’t, but those instances will be few and far between and they will be reserved for very special occasions.  When Ezekiel asks for candy in a store we will stop and talk about how candy makes us feel and brainstorm something else we might like to eat instead that will nourish our bodies and minds.

It won’t be perfect – life never is, but I will strive to provide my kids with the best possible food so that their bodies can be as healthy as possible.

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Practicing Positive


Good Friday Morning!

We’ve had quite the night and morning!

My non-cuddly baby has decided over the course of yesterday and today that she must be touching me at all times to be sleeping.  Last night she had to be cuddled up to me just so or she would wake up screaming.  This morning she wouldn’t settled to sleep in her crib and had to be on me at all times.  I just got her settled in the crib by putting her on her tummy – which is so unlike her because she normally hates her tummy.  Anyways, I woke up this morning an hour later than usual with my neck so sore and my head pounding (all fixed with a bit of oils!). I came downstairs to find my coffee machine had malfunctioned (AKA I didn’t put the pot under it just perfectly) so the coffee grounds were in the coffee and everywhere around it and it had spilled all over the coffee bar. My to-do lists this week haven’t been getting done so today it’s one huge long list that won’t get done yet again.

A couple weeks ago today would have totally been a write off in my mind. It would have made me irritable and impatient therefore ruining my kids days as well.  I would have moped around doing things here and there but not completing any of it and all the while grumbling and using a tone of voice that makes me cringe every time I use it.  I would have internally been screaming about the injustice of it all. A couple weeks ago today would have been the worst day ever (exaggeration much?), but I’ve been trying really hard to be intentional with my thought processes.  I’ve been acknowledging the negatives – yes the day has started out on the wrong foot, yes it’s not how I would have liked it to start.  After quickly acknowledging the crap I replace it with all the good – and there is a lot of good to be seen if only you take some time to look.

Todays list of good includes things like getting all the cuddle time in after thinking I’d never be able to cuddle my baby again.  Ezekiel is being amazing, playing quietly and entertaining himself while I have been trying to calm a fussy baby.  He’s using words like “delighted” (“I was delighted to clean up that mess I made by accident” – that’s an actual quote! Who is this kid??) and making my heart melt several times a day.  We had to cancel our plans today which sucks but it also gives me a big chunk of time to be productive and get some things done (water plants, clean the front closet, do dishes, fold laundry, make tomato sauce, clean floors …..).  Cancelled plans also means I get some time to cuddle without worrying about getting out the door, relax in my PJ’s all day, bake some muffins, put some effort into supper tonight (seriously lacking in that department lately).

I’ve found that practicing gratitude by focusing on the good instead of the bad has completely changed my day to day life.  It’s made me a much more patient mother and wife.  It’s helped me to breathe deep and embrace the moments of the day.  It’s helped me to think more clearly, dream a little more and understand that there is so much beauty in the imperfections of our days.  I’ve slowed down internally, my mind doesn’t race about all the things I want to accomplish and by slowing down internally I actually find I become more productive.  By focusing on the positives I’ve learned to stop and watch when Ezekiel says “Hey mom! Look at this!” and by stopping and watching I am acknowledging him as a person, as someone who is proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think that’s crucial to empowering the next generation.  I no longer glance for half a second and say “that’s great,” instead I put the dishes down look him in the eye and say, “Wow! You are really getting good at…..” I’ve noticed that this small change has made him less dependent on me and more independent when he’s playing.  Practicing gratitude has changed not only my day but the days of my little people as well and it’s shown me the impact of my actions on those around me.

I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult practice to implement consistently.  It’s so much easier to allow the negative to envelope me but the reward of this practice is unbelievable.  So today as you go about your day and the negative tries to invade your thoughts and actions I urge you to acknowledge them, let them go and replace them with positive thoughts.  I promise you that by practicing this you will not only change your day to day life but you will impact every person you come in contact with and little by little people’s lives will change around you.

Becoming Oily


I’ve been wanting to start writing a lot more about my journey with essential oils – why I love them, how I got started, and how we are using them.  As always I don’t really write unless I get a spark of inspiration and today that inspiration is coming from my husband jumping on my oily band wagon! So before the inspiration fades I’m going to just hammer out a post in true “Ashley” fashion.

I’ve been using essential oils for about 3.5 years now – ever since Ezekiel was a baby.  I’ve written before about how I really started to focus on wellness when he was a baby.  I’ve been back and forth on this wellness journey – one step forward a couple back, two steps forward one back and it goes on and on.  I’ve found beauty in this journey and I have no shame about my set backs because each one has taught me something new.  So anyways, when Ezekiel was a baby I ordered a starter kit from Young Living.  I chose Young Living after researching other companies and realizing that their Seed to Seal process was and is far superior to any other company out there.  I guess the gardener/farmer in me just really resonates with planting a seed, growing that seed and preserving the amazing product that comes from that, but I don’t think you need to be a farmer or gardener to appreciate knowing EXACTLY where the product is coming from and how it got there.

After receiving my starter kit I basically only used my oils for diffusing in replacement of candles as well as for all my own cleaning products.  I didn’t dive any deeper into the science of the oils or how they could really support our bodies and our health.  My main purpose in using them was to eliminate some toxins in our home, to have cleaning products that I could use while my small son could be right beside me helping and I wasn’t worried about him putting anything in his mouth or touching the products.

Fast forward to this past year, and specifically the last few months and I’ve been diving deep into the health portion of essential oils and I am BLOWN AWAY at just how incredible these little bottles are and how they are changing our lives.  I’m not going to share all of the ways here right now – that post would be far too long.  Here’s the thing: there is actual science behind these oils.  They may not be researched much in western medicine (but we are getting there!) but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t true science in the oils.  I used to think they were a bit “hokey” but since starting to learn the actual science I’m 100% a believer in these oils.  The same science that applies to any drug also applies to oils but oils are FAR superior!

Please don’t get me wrong – I am in no way saying we should all ditch the drugs we are on and use only essential oils.  I am currently taking two prescription medications and I will not be replacing those with essential oils but I WILL be supporting my body and all it’s systems with essential oils especially my immune system.  My husband is hoping to reduce the amount of prescription drugs he is taking by starting to eat healthier and use essential oils to support his body as well because the drugs he is currently taking definitely can be reduced by lifestyle changes.

So don’t think that just because I’m a bit more crunchy than before that I’m swearing off western medicine – not true and I don’t think that will ever be true of me.  What I am saying is that the less toxins and man made and manufactured things we put into our bodies the healthier we will be.  I’m so excited to be on this journey and the more changes I see in myself and my family the more I want to share!

If you have ANY questions at all PLEASE connect with me, I have so much more to share and I’ll be doing that on the blog from time to time but I really love a good one on one chat!

You can find me on Facebook or Instagram (m_l_ashley) or E-mail me at joyofsimplicityblog@gmail.com

Are you currently an oil user? Have they changed your life like they have changed mine??

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.