Family Heirlooms According to a Purger

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Yesterday,while other families spent the day outdoors enjoying the soaring temperatures and sunshine followed by a festive display of fireworks, I spent it indoors doing something that gives me great pleasure.

Purging.

Closets, drawers and cupboards that is.

I delight in giving things the toss to the donation bin or garbage bin, it doesn’t matter; the high I get is the same. Thankfully, my partner in life shares my need for clutter-free living. Some extol the comfort they feel in keeping playbills and movie stubs, bric-a-brac and dated magazines, first teeth and hair clippings. I simply can’t relate.

Years ago we moved house and before any piece of paper, item of clothing or page of a book was packed, it had to pass muster. Do I really need this? Do I really want this? Have I looked at/used/wore/thought about it the past year? The past two years?

I held up a stack of my wedding programs. Toss. The pale blue cardstock littered the recycle bin save for one. A small shoebox overflowing with cards and letters was given the once over before dumping much of its contents in with the programs. I have saved a few items: baptismal outfits and meaningful, heart-felt cards and pictures (rarely get rejected), but for the most part, rightly or wrongly, I like to attach my emotions to people and memories and not to stuff.

I am not a complete Scrooge. I do own things that I care deeply about. Our champagne flutes that I carried around Europe on my back come to mind. Recently there was a casualty and our set of 6 diminished to the odd number of 5. My husband and I both looked at the cracked glass, and for a minute there was a moment we wished we could turn back the clock and be just a bit more careful, but it was short lived and I mitigated the blues by toasting the fun times we’d had with that glass.

The pottery my boys made, the hand-knitted blankets and sweaters, and my grandmother’s ring are among the material things that I own and would be sad to lose because they are truly irreplaceable.   I like to think that I have a carefully curated collection of material items from books to clothing that won’t burden my sons too terribly when I die.

I don’t expect the boys to keep much, and I’ve made the task an easy one. Just like my mother and grandmothers (all extremely Spartan women), I have little to bequeath.

But if I am to tell the tale of our family’s history through one object, it is one that is explicitly off-hands to curious, little fingers. It is the cake topper that adorned my grandparents’ wedding cake 67 years ago.

The bride and groom are stoic, with linked arms and pursed expressions, as if knowing that marriage and the years ahead are not made of taffeta and butter cream.

This small, ceramic figurine serves as a reminder of the long marriages that make up my family’s tree. Certainly they weren’t marriages without flaws and struggle. Certainly they weren’t marriages that were perfect or even near to, but certainly they were marriages built on something to last decades and serve as the foundation for a generous number of descendants.

When the time comes, many years from now, for my family tree to add branches, I will carefully pass the bride and groom down to my boys to serve as a symbol of unity, commitment and yup, hard work.

How To Preserve Photographs

On Tuesday, I wrote about preserving my family’s history. I spent countless hours creating a book using the bookmaking website, Blurb. Creating books isn’t for everyone. They are time consuming and don’t solve the problem of the boxes and boxes of loose photographs. I have such a box and I asked BLACKS for the best way to safeguard them. They sent me over their Platinum Shoebox.

It’s a genius service that saves you time and protects your irreplaceable photos.

Here’s how it works:

I send them my loose 300 prints (or 300 mounted slides or 300 negatives) and they send me back all of my prints in their original condition, a USB flash drive with all digital images of all the prints, a soft cover proof book, and hard cover Premium Layflat matte photo book.

In a few weeks, my photos will be organized and carefully arranged for my boys to view and enjoy for years to come.

But . . . I have to admit there is a part of me that’s apprehensive about putting my entire collection of old photos into the hands of stranger. It’s like putting your passport in the mail. I mustn’t let my mind wander the realm of possibilities . . .

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21 and unlike other sites that run their gift guides a week before, we wanted to give you ample time to suss out the perfect gifts for the dads in your life. Here are some of our favourites:

From Beth-Anne

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This is a luxury item that dads are unlikely to splurge on for themselves but if they are a music lover nothing compares. Whether they are used for intense workouts at the gym, running outdoors or walking to and from the office, these Bluetooth-enabled earphones are unbeatable. Powerbeats™ 2 Wireless earphones are available at Indigo, $219.95.

 

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I saw Dan Buettner featured on a popular news magazine show. He was visiting the Greek island of Ikaria, interviewing inhabitants and experts alike on the secrets to a long, healthy life. While the wisdom may not be surprising, it’s worth giving Dad the blueprints to longevity! The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest and The Blue Zones Solution: Eating And Living Like The World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner available at Indigo $12.24 and $21.05.

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I like giving t-shirts. Among my favourites are the ironic ones from places like Drake General Store or the city-scapes I found at the One of a Kind Show. We featured this shirt for the hockey-lover as part of Giving Guide in December and it was a favourite of our readers too. What do you think about this one from ebollo on Etsy? Not sure it would get much wear, but the message is indisputable!

I love the idea of giving experiences. For Mother’s Day, we went for a fancy-schmancy French dinner (no sweaties allowed!) and the boys truly impressed me with their manners (there may have been some threats uttered before we left the house) and the memory will stay with me much longer than anything material ever could. If the dad in your life is completely stressed out, get him a pass to a Restorative yoga class. The pace is gentle, slow and more relaxing than any massage, plus it’s good for him! The Culture Pearl has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the city.  Recently she wrote about her experience in a skydiving simulator but if that’s not his thing, a luxury car rental for the day may be!

From Nathalie:

You could have knocked me over with a feather when my brother told me about his date night spent painting a picture.  I had never heard of social painting, but I would have bet money he’d be the last person to do something like that.  He did, and he loved it.  Social painting is a guided lesson in painting in a group setting with cocktails and music and fun.  So, whether the dad in your life is artistic or not, look into a painting party.  Art Tonite has weekly sessions in various locations around Toronto.

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My boys paint ties for their dad every year.  It takes a special kind of man to wear these proudly, and my husband is one of them!  He gets lots of compliments.

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Real Canadian Superstores has some great gear for dads, like a portable bbq, perfect for camping or tailgate parties.  It folds up for easy transportation and storage.

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Parker, Tera Gear™ Two Burner Gas Grill ($199)

And for your back yard cook, a smoker.

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Knox, Tera Gear™ “34 Gas Smoker ($199)

I love the idea of these solar powered Mason jar lanterns for the Green Dad, available from Home Depot.  They look great in the daylight, too, as they are silvered and glitter in the sunlight.

Malibu Outdoor Solar Mason Jar Wingstack lifestyle

From  Carol

A unique and sure-winner for the beer-loving man, give him the gift of home brew!  Brew North is Toronto’s newest and best home brewing supply shop, carrying all the equipment, ingredients, and kits needed to make a really good beer whether you’re a novice or experienced brewer.

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And for more culinary delights, how about a taking a class on cheese tasting?  Enter night school for cheese fans at the Leslieville Cheese Market.  Fun, delicious, and perfect for a special night out.

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Creating a Family History Book

A few years ago the show Who Do You Think You Are? debuted on TLC. I tuned in mostly because family history, and not just mine, has always fascinated me. I remember my high school friend telling me stories about her German grandparents and their experience during WW2. I hung on her every word. Another friend shared with me her mother’s first love and how after decades they reconnected and rekindled their romance. When she tells the story, I picture her young mother, ever the Bohemian, with her long, tawny blonde tresses matching her long, tanned legs traipsing the English countryside with her beau. Recently a friend started to tell me about her family’s lengthy Parisian history and I made her stop so I could get myself a hot chocolate and really hunker down and listen to her stories.

I love hearing about where people have come from. The colourful characters that make up a family, the experience that turned the fortune of a family, how generations influence and hold power, consciously or unconsciously . . . I can’t get enough of it.

It didn’t take many episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? for me to fall down the rabbit hole at Ancestry.ca. I spent countless hours clicking through the website and more money than I care to admit on my membership. Every day I discovered something new about my family and the proof was there – a signature on a marriage certificate scrawled by my great-grandmother, a death certificate of baby only few living relatives know about, a census record indicating settlement in the exact neighbourhood my husband spent his childhood.

The information was plentiful and I knew that I wanted to preserve it for my own children. After researching the merits of several Etsy artists and their family trees, I knew that I wanted something more and a book, that I could design, was the best way for me to compile the information I had gathered.

I used the on-line book making website, Blurb, and had great success in creating my book. I am now in the final stages of editing and I feel ambivalent to hit publish. A family’s history is never really told. There are stories that have been buried long ago and stories that have yet to be told.

Family History

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I just finished reading Boston Girl by Anita Diamant and now find myself deep into Between Gods by Alison Pick. Both books have much in common: Judiasm, harrowing war stories and gutsy women trying to make sense of their personal unrest; albeit Diamant’s story is a fictional novel whereas Pick’s is a revealing memoir.

What I find most compelling, perhaps because I’m an Ancestry.ca junkie, is that both books tell a family’s history.

The theme for this month is exactly that – Family History. We will be delving into our pasts, exploring connections between then and now, and sharing tips for unearthing and organizing your own family history.

Dads play a central role in the family, and we’re grateful for the loving fathers in our lives. To honour these men, we will publish our annual Father’s Day Gift Guide that you will want to bookmark for next month’s celebration.

We are finally seeing the signs of spring! After a grueling winter with record-breaking stretches of extreme cold weather, we are thankful for the blossoms and buds. Nathalie takes beautiful photos on her daily walk that remind us to be mindful of the little joys in life. To see her pictures, follow us on Instagram.

June 28, 1988: The Mystery of the Murdered Kid

I wrote this for creative writing when I was in grade 2.  There are no illustrations, simply text because I was going for “novel” and not “picture book”.   I am surprised that psychological services were never called after I wrote this story.IMG_5742

June 28, 1988 Grade 2

The Mystery of the Murdered Kid

 Once in a land called Monster Berry-Chew, there was a monster called Monster Berry-Chew.

He liked to murder and to pick out the brains and cut off heads. When he cut his nails he didn’t use ordinary scissors. He cut his nails with huge chompers. Now let’s get on with the story.

A very long time ago there was a girl who was hiking. Her name was Sue. She found a cave, a big cave, a big big big cave. Inside the BIG cave was a coffin. She opened it and there was Monster Berry-Chew.

Then he murdered Sue. He got loose and murdered three girls he loved.

When he found out he had murdered the girls he loved, he was very upset because now he was all alone.

Then he found one poor family. He brought everybody back to life, with his powers.

One night the townspeople went to check on Monster Berry-Chew. The monster was not there. They searched and searched.

Then somebody said “He is not here and he won’t be murdering people anymore.”

“You are right,” said the townspeople.

The End.

 

Things We Wrote As Kids

i0rtniakXIz4Yn0zps01Rx1J8xM7l7geaPh2-3XLONs,FQ9NRKqjIe22hF7vnq2XzlIEjdb_1PtO710mORX8Ru0,4Vr5y7S3YzwLfvPnUcSvmWymSFPZpE57x_9J-3fiN64Podcasts are my new favourite thing. Nathalie and I lost hours of our life to Serial and I listen to Meditation Oasis on my walks back from school drop-off and tune into Ted Talks for inspiration. But when I need a laugh, I stream Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids.

The 60-minute podcasts are exactly what the title states. Grownups read excerpts of their journals, diaries, letters, stories and homework assignments they wrote when they were kids. In front of a live audience. Kudos to them! I don’t know if I would have the courage for public embarrassment.

Rather coincidently my mother dropped off a box of my school days treasures and among the folders are a considerable number of humiliating stories that I wrote while in elementary school. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly name my mother the GREATEST MOTHER EVER because not only did she keep a straight face when I read these aloud to her, she actually wrote supportive notes in the comments section. Bless her.

Without further ado, this week we pay homage to Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids and share with you, a piece of writing from our childhood.

If listening to people embarrass themselves is your thing, Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids is coming live to Detroit, Windsor and Toronto in May. Be sure to check their website for tour dates.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up.  It’s Sunday, May 10, and we’ve complied a go-to gift guide for mom whether she’s a glamorous grandma or green thumb, a book lover or a foodie . . . or maybe she’s everything all rolled in to one! Do you see something that catches your eye? Forward along to Dad or the kids . . .or better yet, wait for no one and treat yourself!

From Beth-Anne:

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Mist & Fix from Make Up For Ever is now part of my morning beauty routine. It’s a professional grade alcohol-free setting spray with the texture of water that improves your makeup’s staying power. It’s easy to use – hold it about 40 cm from your face and mist continuously for a few seconds and allow to dry. It smells glorious and leaves my face looking fresh and dewy. (starting at $14)

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This handmade pewter pendant is plated in silver and its message, Live Love Teach by Foxy Originals is the perfect way to describe and thank mom. ($20)

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Alex and Ani create and design eco-conscious jewelery. Their latest collection, Persephone is available at select Hudson’s Bay stores and features bracelets and charms with special meaning. My favourite is Guardian of Answers because aren’t moms the keeper of them?

from Nathalie:

I’m going to depart from my usual “Please don’t buy mothers anything with which to cook or clean” rule and say that I’d love to receive these sets of ombre bowls from President’s Choice and Real Canadian Superstore.  They have them in cool blues and hot reds and oranges, and the colours are just so juicy!

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Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

And, now that patio season is finally, finally here, you could gift a mother with this awesome retro cooler chest for the back yard or the beach.

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149 at Real Canadian Superstore

One of my favourite things to do in the yard with the kids is to roast marshmallows on the fire.  Somehow, spending an evening that way feels like the most luxurious kind of family time.   No hockey, homework or housework to attend to, just sharing the fire.  We saw this great Hampton Bay fire pit at The Home Depot spring preview.  ($79.98)

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I am asking for a gift of experience this Mother’s Day.  I want us all to go to the McMichael Gallery and look at art and hike the trails around the gallery.  I’d also recommend trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Emily Carr and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits, and to the Royal Ontario Museum.  If you think you will visit a museum multiple times, a membership is a wonderful gift.  (For our family of five, a membership costs what we’d pay for just two visits.)  We have family memberships at both museums, and, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  I get so much use and value out of our memberships.  It feels like true luxury to be able to just pop into the museum for a quick visit, and to see the exhibits multiple times makes me feel like royalty.  I have taken the kids to see the Basquiat twice already.  The first time we sketched, and the second time we used the play dough that all kids can get in a loot bag from the front desk when they go in.  I got to really attend to the art, and the kids kept busy with their interpretations.  Time spent together is the gift I love best.

Youngest's sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Youngest’s sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Middlest's interpretation in play dough.

Middlest’s interpretation in play dough.

 

From Carol

Almost four months ago, noticing I was depleted and in need of a recharge, my husband offered to hold the fort at home while I visit with favourite cousins in California this week.  In what goes down as good old fashioned mistake-making, I did not take him up on this.  At the time, I almost felt too tired to plan for this, and now I’m sitting here in Toronto feeling rather foolish.

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Most of the moms of young kids I know would really relish some free time.  Sometimes with their spouses, or their friends, or alone.  The best gift ever would be sorting out which of these the mom in questions needs most, and try to make it happen.  I bought a Buytopia getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Ontario with this in mind, and Groupon-type offers make short jaunts like this more affordable.

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But the truth is brunch at favourite local haunt (mine is Lady Marmalade on Queen Street East) would be perfectly splendid too.

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May is also the season of growing… if you know a mother who likes to garden, the handmade offerings at Spade and Feather are simple, well made, and gorgeous.  This handmade trug is my favourite: elegant and functional, a treat that will lift the spirits of anyone collecting the bounty of her plantings.

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And to boost that greenery along, Spade and Feather’s Wild Bee and Insect Houses translate the essential work of pollination into functional beauty for any garden.  I love them.

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Maximizing space is always on the minds of urban gardeners in particular, and these Felt Wall Planter Envelopes from Spade and Feather are a great option.  They’re eco-friendly (made from Eco-Felt, 100% recycled plastic), easy to hang, and make vertical gardening accessible to everyone.