I Dream of Clones

magnets-i-dreamed-my-whole-house-was-cleanAnne Taintor is my hands-down favourite satirist of motherhood and the life of a woman.  (Seriously, click that link and look at her gallery of images.  Time well spent.)

Sadly, she has not yet captured my dream with her witty one-liners: clones for the whole family.

It’s that time of year when folks are asking, “What would you/the kids/your husband like for Christmas?”

I’m sorely lacking in imagination with my answers because, frankly, I want for nothing but time.

How can you make my dreams come true?  Clone me.  Better yet, clone me, my husband and my three kids multiple times so that one husband can drive one kid to hockey while the same kid stays home and gets his homework done and the same husband drives a different kid to hockey and I stay home and supervise homework and attend both hockey games and the third kid’s basketball game and I cook a huge brunch and we all sleep in and enjoy a pajama day.

We have a lot on our plates, but you know what?  We don’t want to give any of it up.  The kids can’t wait to get out the door to hockey, whether it’s morning or night, and while the enthusiasm might be slightly more muted for the academic extracurriculars, they like those, too.  They aren’t complaining about being overscheduled.

Overscheduled is what we appear to be when you look at the bulging calendar, but the word implies an unwelcome burden and zombie kids but none of what we choose to stuff the calendar with is unwelcome and the kids are thriving.  Our lives are bountiful and filled with welcome plenty.  I struggle so with acknowledging all that welcome plenty at the same time as feeling frazzled from so much running around.  I am a homebody, and I crave my quiet nights, but I do not want to say no.  I do not want to trim or cut or axe or delete.  I want us all home and sitting around the dinner table together and I want us all tucked into our beds on time and I want time for my kids to really get pleasurably absorbed in a project and I want them to play epic games of Minecraft/tag/cards/whatever without watching the clock and I want us all at the rink, four cheering on the fifth, and I want to experience that fabled feeling of being in the moment when the moments only seem to come hurtling at me at 100 mph.

So, what is my dream for Christmas?  The impossible dream: I dream of clones.

Remembrance Day Books: For children, youth and you

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. – by John McCrae, 1915

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A Poppy is to Remember by Heather Patterson

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In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield

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On Juno Beach: Canada’s D Day Heroes by Hugh Brewster

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The Kids Book of Canada at War by Elizabeth MacLeod

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Hanna’s Suitcase – Karen Levine

For older children:

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The Bite of the Mango – by Mariatu Kamara with Susan McClelland

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Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees by Deborah Ellis

For more suggestions visit The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, a wonderful resource!

For You:

Some of my favourite war stories told by some of my favourite Canadian authors.

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Far To Go by Alison Pick

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The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

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Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

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Hanna’s Diary by Hanna Spencer

 

Decorating Your Home for the Holidays

It may seem early to our readers around the world, but in Canada the day after Halloween marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. Gift guides and wish-books from retailers arrive in the mailbox, and the windows of shops are decorated with garland, glitter and the occasional tree. Even Starbucks has replaced their white cups with their traditional, red holiday ones.

We’ve barely put away the ghoulish masks and spooky ghosts and my boys are asking when we’re going to put up the Christmas tree. I try to be all zen about it and remind them that the holidays are weeks away but there is no denying that those weeks are going to pass in the blink of an eye and the bulk of holiday happiness resides squarely upon my shoulders.

So whether you celebrate Christmas or just like to create a cozy home for winter, here is a round up of my favourite items from Indigo, President Choice Home and The Home Depot.

Indigo

I love these copper mule mugs. They add sparkle and shine to the table and can be used at any festive meal.

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These Woodland Cabin napkins are reminiscent of Kurt Cobain and the grunge era, but there is something undeniably Canadian about this print.

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Cake plates are my new favourite tabletop accessories. Last month we did a post on DIY flower arrangements and used this wooden pedestal as the focus point. Additionally they are a great way to display ornaments, treasures and of course desserts.

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medium marble and wood pedestal Dessert plates are an inexpensive way to add whimsy to a table. These ribbon plates are less than $35 but if you wanted to choose something with more longevity, consider the New Year’s Eve Countdown plates that could do double-duty for a birthday celebration.

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Snow globes have come a long way from tacky tourist souvenirs. These globes would standout on any mantle or atop a stack of books arranged on the coffee table.

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Last year I bought some festive pillows on a whim, successfully transforming my living room into a Christmas-y nook. Santa is not for everyone, but these current designs have staying power and will last long past his visit.

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PC Home

I was amazed to learn how much of the PC Home line is designed in Toronto. The creative minds behind the 2014 Holiday collection were on hand to answer questions at the holiday preview and to be honest, I was impressed by both their ingenuity and their desire to create products for every day life. They get that people are clumsy and Waterford crystal chips. They understand that Santa mugs are irresistible to little hands. Above all, they understand that we want beautiful, functional design for our home at a reasonable price.  All the items here are available at Real Canadian Superstore and select Loblaw banner stores.

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My sister-in-law does a cookie exchange with her friends every year and this tin would be ideal as the chalkboard surface allows for the giver to write a message on the lid.

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My most favourite holiday accessory is this faux crystal glassware set. The bowls and the glassware are so well crafted you’ll be amazed when you discover it’s plastic! So stop worrying about chipping your finery, lay this out for Christmas dinner and pull it out again come patio season.

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PC Home outdid themselves when it comes to ornaments.   Beautiful colour palates from muted pastels, to icy jewel tones and classic holiday. For the price, I’ve seen nothing comparable.

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Home Depot

Usually I am opposed to chotchkies but the holidays are the time to bring them all out! Go hog-wild! Clutter-up them surfaces! These are a few that I am clearing space for this year.

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But it’s this tree that has me trying to reconfigure my living room.  Imagine two of these book-ending a sleek, modern fireplace. . . .hmmmm, maybe it’s time for a new fireplace.

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Sadly, I am not on the payroll so I didn’t receive a penny for these recommendations. However, I was invited to their holiday preview events and they were a lot of fun! For more images of what’s new and in stores, follow 4Mothers on Instagram.

How-To: Fall Tablescapes Made Easy

Toronto has a plethora of great restaurants. Whatever you’ve got a hankering for; chances are you can find it among the city’s thriving foodie scene. In the past few months I have eaten out a lot and with November looming and the holiday parties about to start, I want to change gears, simplify and return to the “dinner party”.

I love eating at friends’ houses and hosting at ours as much as I do patronizing Toronto’s finest restos.   It’s fun to play the host, decorate the table and fuss with the menu. My partner-in-crime is a fabulous cook (thank goodness one of us is!) and so while he handles everything in the kitchen, the table is left up to me.

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Here’s my take on a casual dinner setting. I never buy “all new”, instead I prefer to buy versatile pieces to add to my collection and re-purpose what I already have in my cupboards. The napkin is 100% linen and adds some whimsy to the table. Ideal for Thanksgiving, but it works for any meal because aren’t we always thankful to break bread with loved ones?

The chalkboard napkin rings work double duty as place cards and writing the guest’s name is the perfect job for little helpers.

I love fresh flowers on the table, but we all know the cost of larger arrangements can quickly burst the budget. A trick that an event planner once taught me was to create several smaller arrangements using cheaper flowers (think mums, carnations, baby’s breath, daisies) for the bulk of the display and then add a few stems of a more expensive bloom. Baby food jars, mason jars, small glasses are all easy, affordable vessels that can be dressed up with spray-paint, ribbon, twine or left as is. I am crushing on these green mason jars!

My glassware is a mason jar with a handle and instead of a traditional wine glass I opted for a terra cotta wine chalice.

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I swapped out my everyday flatware for a gold set that works well with this ivory plate and matching “thankful” bowl. I like the weight of this dinnerware – it’s rustic and reminds me of the harvest.

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To increase the “wow factor”, I traded the dinnerware for a bone white plate and an inexpensive gold charger from the party store. Here’s a tip: share! My sisters-in-law and I shuttle serving dishes, chargers and linens back and forth from each other’s house whenever one of us is hosting a dinner. It cuts down on the cost, and you can have more fun setting the table.

The stem-less wine glasses go well with these liqueur ones that add a pop of colour to the table. Indigo has a collection of reasonably priced linen napkins in a variety of colours. This barn-red reminds me of the autumn leaves but will work on a holiday table too.

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For a centerpiece I took a pumpkin from my son’s collection (where does he keep getting these from?), a pinecone from our Christmas stock and a stem of hydrangea. I grouped them together on a white cake plate for a more polished look, but I really like how the cluster looks earthier on this wooden pedestal.

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My grandmother’s china is one of my most favourite possessions and it has taken me a long time to get over my fear of shattering a plate. Every time I use it, I think of her and I know that she wouldn’t want me to keep it the cupboard like some sort of shrine, so I use it. I am sure there will be a day when a bowl gets chipped, and I am sure that I will feel a pang of sadness or guilt, but at least the set is being used.

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Here’s a more glam setting complete with a silver charger and matching napkin ring. My best Waterford crystal red and white wine glasses (not many have survived the ten years since my wedding registry) and champagne flutes (that I trekked home from a European back-pack adventure more than 12 years ago).

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Instead of a cake plate, I used the same cluster and placed in my great-aunt’s crystal bowl – that usually holds oranges on the kitchen table.

Here are some tabletop accessories that would make a nice addition to any collection.

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Linen napkins from Madderroot via Etsy

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Linen napkins from RecoverMeDesign via Etsy

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Linen napkins from Rosyeco via Etsy

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Copper napkin rings from Indigo

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Skull napkin rings from Pottery Barn

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DIY Hand-dotted glassware via 4Mothers

Thank you Indigo, for sending over the plate, bowl, gold flatware, linen napkins and wooden pedestal. We sure do love your store! Indigo didn’t pay me to write this post or to use their products . . . yup, I just really like ‘em.

 

Halloween Reads Giveaway

For the past few years, we have done a modified version of an advent calendar for Halloween.  (Read more about it here.)  In the two weeks leading up to the big day, we read one spooky tale a night from our box of Halloween books.  This year, we are happy to offer your littlest readers a trio of Halloween picture books.  Please leave us a comment, and we will draw for a winner on Friday, October 17th.  Canadian and American readers only, please.  Thanks to Sourcebooks for the bookish goodness!
 
Happy Halloween! By Lillian Jaine

It’s Halloween night, and Count von Count is dozing off in front of his fireplace. Suddenly, he hears someone knocking at his castle door, but when he opens the door, nobody’s there! Could it be a spooky Halloween spirit playing a trick on him, or is it something less sinister? Join Count, Elmo, and all of the Sesame friends as they celebrate Halloween!

 

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A Halloween Scare by Eric James

It’s Halloween night, and creatures and critters from near and far are starting to gather outside the front door. And now here comes a whole army of monsters, on broomsticks, buses, and bikes, all clamoring in the darkness. What is it they want? Are they coming for you?

This humorous, creative story is the perfect Halloween adventure for children and parents to share.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Time! by Erzsi Deák

The day the cows strolled down Main Street in fancy hats…Evy didn’t notice.

What was Evy doing?

Evy is so focused on watching her garden grow that she misses all the silliness going on around her—pigs DANCING, donkeys FLYING, and sheep HAVING A PICNIC.

But after Evy’s spent all year taking care of her garden, everyone’s invited to pumpkin time!

 

Packing it in

013We took ourselves off to the first Toronto Flower Market of 2014 as the first stop on my Day Before Mother’s Day Extravaganza.  The idea was to spend the whole day together in vacation mode.  I planned a full day of events with my beloved and our boys, stopping off at various places around the city:

  • the flower market
  • Type Books
  • (unplanned detour to) the ER at Sick Kids with Eldest who broke a bone in his hand the day before, the swelling of which I could no longer ignore, though I had managed to ridicule his claim that it was broken on Friday night.  (“Hell, no, I’m not taking you to the ER on a Friday night.  It will be packed.  If that hand was broken you’d be writhing in pain, child.  Put some ice on it.”)
  • ate falafel and humble pie for lunch
  • bought one-handed food for Eldest who is now sporting a cast (see above re: humble pie)
  • the Science Rendezvous at UofT, where the kids exploded gummie bears, crawled through the blood vessels of the heart, and made frothing toothpaste
  • street basketball
  • gelato
  • soccer in the park
  • dinner at Sports Café to watch the Habs game

It occurred to me that I was packing an enormous amount of fun into a single day, and that aside from ignoring my children’s broken bones, I am quite possibly the most amazing mother on earth, but then I realized that, minus the ER, some folks just call that an ordinary weekend day.  Some folks just head out the door in the morning, and don’t come home until the day is done.  These are People Who Know How to Have Fun.

I enjoyed being one of those people for a day, packing it in.  Not my usual speed at all, but that’s what holidays are for.

Guest Post: Roseanne Carrara on Ruins & Mezes: Touring the Eastern Mediterranean and Morocco

Each year, for March Break , I adapt a famous story for the kids, substituting animals for the title characters, and changing the settings as need be. Each tale sets us longing for travel. One dream: to trace the faces of Easter Island’s Moai statues beneath the moonlight, as do the bears in our version of the Bible’s Jacob & Esau story, The Coronation of the Easter Bunny Bear. Another: to visit the churches, greens, and pubs of Ireland frequented, secretly, by A Study in Emerald’s leading snake, Sir Lochrann Holmes and his buddy McUaitson. Three: an eco-tour of B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, whose funds would support the health of the wild salmon population while opposing the trophy hunting of bears, black, white, and grizzly. Maybe, we’d even glimpse a rare white mooksgm’ol, the inspiration for Ahma, the Spirit Bear, our treatment of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Nothing, however, has gotten me closer to phoning a travel agency or booking online than this year’s Bearicles, our take on Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The kids and I spent hours mapping the eastern cities of the Ancient Mediterranean (Tyre, Antioch, Ephesus, Tarsus), comparing them to a current map (Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Turkey), and plotting a long, eventful trip of our own! Forays into Mediterranean cooking inspired us all the more. To complement the story, we made Lebanese manakish (flatbreads), Syrian ma’amool cookies, Turkish pide (pizzas), lemony Greek calamari , and baklava! I even went “West” one evening by myself, making a complicated Moroccan tagine. For the kids and I, it was “ruins” and “mezes” (little tastes) all week.

So if money, vacation time, and social and political upheaval were nothing to worry about, my ideal family get-away would be a historical and culinary tour of the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Jerusalem) with an extended lay-over in Morocco on the way back home!

1. First stop, Greece, for a view of the Acropolis  and an Epitourean experience in Athens. We’d have a taste of loukomades, a wind around the spice and seafood stalls of the Varvakeios market, and an Ancient Greek dinner. Our next sleep might be in Mytilini, Lesvos , where we’d tour the Medieval Castle, the Ouzo factories, and have a fish feast in the old harbor.

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Ruins of Ephesus

2. Then, Turkey, where the perfect tour has already been planned for us by Truffle Pig. We’d get lost in the streets of Istanbul, visit the Blue Mosque and Topkapi palace, balloon around Capadocia, and visit the ruins of Ephesus, especially the Temple of Artemis, featured prominently in Bearicles. Then, off to Gaziantep for cooking lessons and lots of experimenting with Turkish flavours and food!

3. After a look at the Roman ruins of Apamea , Syria, we might tackle a week-long tour such as this : a taste of baklava and a visit to the souk al-Tanabel market in Damascus, a Bedouin dinner in the desert near the ruins of Palymyra, and dinner and a few cooking tips in the “gastronomic capital,” Aleppo.

4. Next up, Lebanon, with a sure stop at the Temple of Jupiter in the ruins at Ba’albeck. This Taste of Lebanon Culinary Journey offers what we’re after: a seven day journey in which we’d sample Lebanese cuisine, learn how to make sujuk sausage, kibbeh, and Arabic bread, and pay a visit to both a sweets castle and spice fields for za’atar.

5. Our last stop in the East is Israel. First, a glimpse of the ruins of the Knight’s Castle in Arsuf. We’d follow this up with a serious tour of Jeruslaem, including, of course, the Western Wall . We’d love to finish up with one of Tali Freidman’s culinary tours of Jersualem’s famous Mahane-Yehuda market.

Turkish Spices6. Last stop, a long lay-over in Morocco, North-Western Africa, where we’d visit the famous Casablanca, ride camels, explore the ancient medinas of Fes, get lost in the spice markets. This would be the ultimate place for a serious family culinary tour, hosted, ideally, by the inspiring Peggy Markel . In Marrakesch, the Atlas Mountains, and Essouaria, we’d learn to cook in the famed tagine, bake bread in wood-fired ovens, eat figs, and see how argan nuts are collected and used for oil.

I can just see us passing through customs after a few good months of travel: bags full of spice jars, pockets filled with sand and rocks, four sizes of tagine, a selection of metal tea pots and cups (for the bears, of course), bottles of ouzo and olive and argan oils, dried salted fish wrapped in paper, silk scarves, wicker hats, sketches of ruins and the sea, stretched waistbands, tanned, happy faces, yes, and hands, four pairs of them, blessed with the ability to re-create most everything we’d tasted in the Mediterranean we’d come to know.

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Roseanne Carrara blogs at The Lunchbox Season  and Summer of Funner . These also have a Facebook Page. Her professional site is In Defense of Burning .

 

 

Vacation of our Dreams, Times Three

untitledEldest wants to go to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Middlest wants to go on an African safari.  Youngest wants to go to Disney.

Me?  Any and all of the above, with just one child at a time.

If time is a parent’s most precious resource, quality time alone with each child is even more hard to come by.  In the vacations of my dreams, I get to take one child on his own on a life-changing adventure.  And since I’d be more than happy to do all of the above, I’ll let the kids decide.

I am a traveller who is pretty well wed to her itinerary.  I like to plan carefully, cover as much ground as humanly possible, and leave with no regrets of opportunities missed or sights unseen.  One of my favourite passages from Jennifer Coburn’s We’ll Always Have Paris comes after she and her daughter have decided on a whim to do things out of order, swapping the days for museum visits.  After going through the Museum of Modern Art in Rome, she says to her daughter,

 “There isn’t a piece in here that I am not one hundred percent in love with….”

“Aren’t you glad we changed the days?” Katie asked.

“We didn’t change the days; we let the days change us.”

Days that change us is what I’m after.  I’m willing to step outside of my safety zone to do that.

I’d also love to step out of my usual roles.  I am the voice of Chores and Homework and The Almighty Clock.  I am the Referee.  I’d really like not to be The Referee.  Yes, a dream vacation would free me up from the roles that pin me down.

Aside from the benefit of not having to be on sibling rivalry duty, time alone with each boy would make the vacation our own special thing.  I love having our own special thing.  My boys all know that I love them, but there’s no substitute for a private joke, a special treat or an amazing memory for cementing that love.

Oh, I’m loving this dreaming so much I just want to go off and plan it!  Not Kilimanjaro, maybe, but local hike.  Not a safari, but a trip to the zoo.  Not Disney, but Canada’s Wonderland is on our doorstep.  Some in-our-own-back-yard special things.

Acts of Kindness: We Followed Through

015Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

In the spirit of the holiday, we decided to write briefly today about acts of kindness we have been meaning to perform, and have recently finally performed.  If, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we took a few steps heavenwards this week by following through on our good intentions.  We met in January to discuss our editorial calendar for the next few months, and thought that planning this post would put into motion all of our good intentions when it comes to committing random acts of kindness.  Resolutions met!  Here are some other wonderful stories of random acts of kindness.

Nathalie

For two years I’ve been carrying around a bookmark from The Children’s Book Bank, a charity close to my heart, but, apparently, not close to the top of my to do list, because for those same two years I’ve had bags of books waiting, waiting, waiting to be taken to them.  The Children’s Book Bank collects and distributes gently used children’s books and distributes them free of charge to children who might not otherwise have a chance to own their own books.  Today, they are getting a few dozen more to distribute.

Since Valentine’s Day also happens to be International Book Giving Day, won’t you please join me in hauling a bag of books to your local book bank, school, shelter or charity?  It will make my terrible procrastination feel a bit less weighty if I know I have at least added to my haul by encouraging others to give, too!

Beth-Anne

I find the term “random of acts of kindness” difficult to define.  Buying an unsuspecting person a cup of coffee is both random and kind and not to mention surprising for the recipient.  I am sure that the receiver goes about their day with an extra spring in their step, not from the caffeine but from the generosity of a stranger.

But in my books most random acts of kindness fall squarely in the “be a good human” column and sadly, being the receiver of a “good human act” is often just as random, kind and surprising as someone buying you a cup of coffee.

Being a kind human isn’t that difficult.  It’s the little things: shoveling a neighbour’s walk, bringing in your neighbour’s trash bins, sending an out-of-the-blue email to a friend letting them know how fabulous you think they are or waving a polite thank you when someone gives you the right-of-way.  These are the things that make people feel appreciated and feeling good is contagious.

In the midst of the polar vortex, with the sidewalk slick with inches-thick ice, I happened upon an elderly woman pushing her grocery buggy tentatively on the sidewalk, using the handle for balance.  I pulled my car to the side, much to the confusion of my son, and rushed to the woman’s side.  Together we navigated the buggy to a stretch of cleared sidewalk where it was safe for her to make her way home.

The woman was shocked that I had stopped my car to help her and her thank you was so genuine, it reminded me of the weight those words can carry.  However, it was what she said next that filled me with a deep sense of gratitude: God bless you!

I am not an overly religious person, but it was the way she said those words, with such feeling and authenticity that made me feel worthy, appreciated and valued.

Carol

I’m into honesty (maybe a bit too much), so I’ll tell you that I googled “random acts of kindness” when 4Mothers decided to write about it.  At first I considered this a testimony to how lost the art of kindness may be, that I needed to “research” examples.  As it turns out though, most suggestions for performing random acts of kindness is just a long way of saying “good”.

To put a little extra intention into “good”, I took into account the distinction of today, and tried to think of who might benefit from a good valentine but wouldn’t ordinarily receive one from me.  Two people came to mind:  a friend whose husband has gone overseas to say goodbye to his ailing sister, and a friend whose long-term relationship is ending and for whom the day will not be especially celebratory.

With the help of my oldest son, I made a three-layer peppermint bark (not nearly as well as the first time I tried it, I might add), but with enough heart that I hope it’s decent enough to be given away.  I have no idea whether this sugar treat will be eaten by the intended recipients, although their children may enjoy them well enough.  But it almost doesn’t matter; in truth, it’s me who needs to give them something, and whatever its contents, I hope the package tells them that someone is holding them in their thoughts.

It’s this that makes me wonder whether an act of kindness can ever really be random.  What creates the kindness is the intention behind it, whether it’s long pre-meditated or spontaneous.  It’s the difference between good luck (also nice) and a good turn.

And the icing on the peppermint bark is realizing consciously and joyfully how much kindness is sent my way, be it an unexpected card in the mail, the woman at the restaurant who commented on how well-behaved my boys were (true story), the pediatrician who cast no impatient glances when those same boys crawled all over her office and my youngest threw a slipper at (and hit) her, and the driver who didn’t honk even though I probably shouldn’t have made that turn.

With this in mind, we wish you lovely valentine vibrations that we hope will carry you through the day and well beyond.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Stuffed Pork Chops: Skip the restaurant and stay home this Valentine’s Day

Untitled4Mothers welcomes Jillian as our guest for the day.  Jillian is a mother to her 10 month old daughter and an Air Force wife.  She is currently taking a year long break from her job as a news anchor.  Jillian blogs about her love for food, entertaining, travel and fitness at News Anchor to Homemaker.

My husband and I will be celebrating our seventh Valentine’s Day together this year.  I’ll never forget our first.  We were in college and I came home to a home-cooked meal…it was awful.  He made a shrimp dish, but he must have forgotten every spice in the recipe because it was pretty bland. To be honest though, I was so head over heels I didn’t care.  After dinner, he took me to the surprise part of the date at his apartment complex.  We pulled up to an outdoor fire place and  taped above it was a note that read, “Reserved”, signed by management.  He informed me he was “management.”  He was afraid someone would take his idea, so he made it look more official.  Smart guy!  He opened the trunk of his beat-up 4Runner and took out a blanket, champagne (one of his older friends must have bought it for him) and an assortment of chocolates.  It was perfect.

Thinking of our first Valentine’s Day together got me thinking about our favorite restaurant in our old college town, Athens, GA.  If you’re ever in Athens, then you should stop by The Last Resort Grill.  They used to make a dish similar to this.  It would be a great option for you and your sweetheart this February 14th.  Just my humble opinion of course!

Spinach Stuffed Pork Chop:

Prep: 10 Minutes

Total: 20 Minutes

2 Pork Chops, with a pocket cut

8 oz. Spinach, chopped, cooked and well-drained

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Splash of Chardonnay, divided

2-3 Tbs. Butter, divided

Directions:

Drain your cooked spinach and pat very dry.  Toss into a pan with a splash of chardonnay and about 1 tablespoon (or less) of butter. Cook for a couple minutes then stuff the pork chop with the spinach. Season pork chop with Sea Salt and Cracked pepper.  In a pan, melt more butter and add a more chardonnay. Cook your pork chops for several minutes on each side.

Sweet Potato Mash:

2 Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled.

2 Tablespoons of Butter

1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon of Brown Augar

1/4 Cup of Milk

Directions:

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash in butter, syrup and sugar, then mash with milk until desired consistency.

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