Friday, March 21, 2014

writing letters

a girlfriend of mine recently called to tell me she had been having some struggles in her personal life. my heart completely sank and ached so deeply - of course for her. for the complex challenges life brings and this difficult time in her life, but also a little bit for me. being in vancouver, away from home, from the comforts of deep-rooted friends and the majority of my family, has been hard. i am of course so beyond grateful for the friendships and 'family' we have made here. if we ever leave vancouver, i know i will feel the same way about these incredible friends, but i naturally miss the other important people in my life. 

whenever life gets sticky, you realize just how far away you actually are. the more time that passes, the fewer phone calls are made, texts shift from daily to weekly, and where was once a relationship of constant communication and co-dependance, is now a series of stories shared through random blog posts, facebook updates and instagram photos. MANY of my close friends have been dealing with their unfair share of hardships these past 12 months. its difficult knowing that life goes on- good or bad, whether you are there to be part of it or not, and i can count on both hands and feet how many times i have wished i could be beside some of my best friends when they needed nothing more than a supportive face to help them through. to be honest, i have sometimes felt trapped. knowing where i should be, but unable to afford to get there.

i do want to make the best of it though. make a bigger effort to bridge the distance more gracefully (rather than sulking and whining about it on my blog). a few weeks ago i received a letter in the mail. it was a bit of a surprise, and completely made my day. 3 pages of thoughts, ideas, stories and hopes from a dear friend far away. i was elated! before i could even get my shoes off, i had torn into the envelope, reading every handwritten word, then immediately, i made a big cup of tea and sat down to write my letter back. answering all her questions and sending a few more of my own. it felt special. connected even. and in that moment, i felt so much love. so i hope to spend some time writing a few more letters to some far away friends. spreading a little handwritten love with some of the incredible women in my life. but until then, this blog post is a love letter to all my beautiful friends. near or far, you all mean the world to me. xo

i think this quote says it perfectly-
'to send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.'  phyllis theroux

world down syndrome day

"The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become" - Goethe

In honor of World Down Syndrome Day,  I wanted to share a couple posts that have been resonating with me lately. Spreading a little more love and compassion is a lesson we can all take from.

Spread the Word to End the Word, By John C. McGinley

Embracing Nella: A Birth Story

Perfect: A Fathers letter to his Daughter (below)

E:60 - "Perfect" - Heath White from Toby Hershkowitz on Vimeo.

Monday, March 17, 2014

the sisterhood - julie letowski

'sisterhood - a bond between two or more women, not always related by blood. they always tell the truth, honor each other, and love each other deeply, like sisters.'

each january, i start fresh by making a vision board. compiling images and words that inspire me. sometimes things to work towards, but more often, things in my subconscious that seem to pour out onto the page. year after year i find a common theme repeating itself- images of chickens and goats and pigs and sprawling gardens, sunshine soaked land, and makeshift greenhouses. all reiterating this small hidden desire to have a farm someday. our own little homestead.

years ago i came across julie's blog. i initially fell in love with her sweet little family as, like us, she too had a son with wild and beautiful long blonde hair. but i soon came to understand that there were many more reasons i kept coming back to her little space on the web. firstly, she is a beautiful writer. clever, witty, and eloquently stated, but also authentic- so truthful and real. she is an amazing photographer- capturing the simple beauty of farm life in photos that leave your heart full to the brim every time. she shares amazing recipes (homemade herbal cough syrup and these amazing little cookbooks she published last year), but more importantly, she is proof that if you have a dream and want it bad enough, you can make it happen. the life julie and her family lead is by no means a simple one. it's busy, full of dedication and hardwork, and often times, heartache, but its also so very beautiful. rewarding, honest, soul-filling, and their direct contribution to the world becoming a better place. so for now, i live vicariously through julie's dreamy images and stories. she is my true inspiration, a living vision board if you will, and i am grateful to have her in my sisterhood. xo

name, occupation, location:
name: Julie
occupation: Mama, Farmer, Writer
location: Mid Coast Maine

something that makes your heart happy

What makes me most happy lately is seeing the way individually and as a family we're taking steps towards the life we want to lead, and finally realizing that it's a process not an immediate decision to assume the image I imagined homesteaders to have. Let me elaborate- when we first started our farming journey it felt like at times we had to do it all- we had to raise all of our food, make all of our own bread and yogurt and kefir and so on, and knit all of our woolens- which you should read that as I had to do all of those things because my husband still works off farm and has his farm plate quite full without me tossing knitting and fermenting on top! So, because we knew so little about all of these things we were taking on there was incredible stress, failure after failure, and just a general feeling of mediocrity. It took me a while but I did eventually realize that focusing on doing one thing well at a time lends itself much better to reaching these goals we are striving towards. Now I am making all of our own bread, I am making water kefir and kombucha, the majority of my son's winter wear I did hand knit and I am (so far) quite successfully implementing biodynamics into our upcoming growing season...but I didn't try to do all of those things in one week. I gave myself time and room- to learn, to fail, to figure it out. It's much more manageable that way and I can actually see signs of progress vs. constant obstacles, which is extremely happy heart making.

your all time favourite recipe
Asking my favorite recipe is like asking me to pick a favorite child. (Or at least I imagine that's what it would feel like as I only have one child!) Instead, I'll share a favorite cookbook because it has many of the recipes we keep in heavy rotation around here. It's called Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison. I feel like everyone has heard of her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone but no one talks about Local Flavors! It's organized seasonally and it's just so approachable, even for the beginning cook. There is a white bean, kale, and leek dish that you serve on crusty bread from that book and it is a much beloved staple in our house! Also- I'm super into Jim Lahey's no knead bread right now from his cookbook My Bread, although his method is widely discussed and can be found via a quick google!

your all time favourite photograph
Ooohh, all time favorite? As someone that takes pictures all day every day the pressure of that question is enough to kill! Haha, right now I'm loving a picture I took of my son, Gus, last summer. The sun was setting and he was hot and sticky from the day and he's pulling up the timothy grass. Right now- with the never ending ice and snow it's just the sort of thing I could spend hours staring at.

something in your home that you adore

Hmm.. Well what I really love is my home in general. I moved 11 times in the 9 years before we moved onto our farm last year and, as I'm sure you can imagine, I lacked a solid feeling of home. After a little more than a year of being here I'm really starting to feel like this place is mine and it's just such a unique house- I love it so much! From the old cookstove to the huge windows in every room that make gray winters tolerable to the wide pumpkin pine floors in our living room- this place is just so special. I feel very, very fortunate to live my life within these walls.

something on your wish list
A greenhouse. A really big, really sturdy, really affordable greenhouse!

something totally random about yourself
My husband and I moved in together on our first date! And here we are 7 years, 3 states, 2 weddings, and 1 kid later!

how people can connect with you
grab a cup of tea and spend some time digging around Julie's amazing website CINNAMON GIRL, peek her beautiful photos on instagram - @homesweethomestead, or drop her an email -

thank you so much, julie! it was so so lovely to spend the morning poking around your archives and getting so so excited for the upcoming growing season!

the sisterhood is a regular feature post intended to highlight inspiring women in this world. near or far, real life friends, internet buds, or beauties that have connecting through this blog. members of my sisterhood doing great things and worthy of a bit of our admiration, love and attention. if you are interested in joining, please get in touch!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the sisterhood - katie german

'sisterhood - a bond between two or more women, not always related by blood. they always tell the truth, honor each other, and love each other deeply, like sisters.'

this past fall, katie i spent exactly 3.5 hours together having dinner (and some seriously good ice cream!) as her and her husband passed through vancouver. it was the first time we had met, but immediately i knew i adored her. she is warm and funny, engaging and super interesting, smiley with a brain full of fascinating stories. (and it didn't hurt that we were dressed exactly the same.) so far, all boxes checked on the magical must-be-friends list! BUT wait... there's more! she's an urban farmer, beekeeper, food security advocate, teacher, scholar, world traveler, beautiful writer, beautiful soul... the list goes on, but i think you get the idea.!! 

name, occupation, location
Katie German, Schoolyard Farmer, Toronto. I run a farming program called School Grown – we grow food on the front & back yard of an east end Toronto high school and the rooftop of a downtown school. We provide summer jobs for high school students – they get paid full time work + two co-op credits working as urban farmers. We sell our food to restaurants and at a weekly farmers market throughout the season. It’s completely my dream job, a really wonderful mix of farming and youth work.

something that makes your heart happy
Young people farming. My heart is totally happy watching high school students run our market stand and confidently explain to a market shopper the difference in flavour between a sweet carmen pepper and a spicy tiburon poblano. Or when we took a trip to a local farm and our city kids walked the fields and were able to tell the farm manager that “it looks like you’ve got a flea beetle problem with your dinosaur kale.” Or when the conversation overheard when weeding a radish bed includes the high cost of good food and what we should do about income security. That’s the good stuff.

your all time favourite recipe
Sizzling vinegar egg. It is the easiest, simplest, cheapest yet most luxurious dish. It’s just what it sounds like – fry an egg, swish a little vinegar and butter in the pan, and pour it over your egg while it’s all still sizzling. Sometimes I throw some diced sweet onion into the mix. Best if you put that egg over toasted bread and some fresh greens. I think it’s originally a Deborah Madison recipe, but this blog also does it justice. One thing I really value learning from my parents was how to cook from scratch and as a result I don’t often use or follow recipes. Dishes like this are my most favourite. Simple ingredients, easy steps and delicious flavour. And I almost always have the ingredients on hand. It’s the kind of stuff we try and teach the students how to cook at the farm.

editors note: ummm, wow. how have i gone my whole life without eating this every single day? gah!
Image via The Yellow House
your all time favourite photograph
This picture from our wedding, it’s a sweet moment from right after the ceremony finished. It’s a simple photo but it stands out to me so much – it’s my partner Andrew hugging my best friend Carolyn, my mom hugging Andrew’s mom, and our other witness Chris tearing up. It’s so much honest love in one shot.

something in your home that you adore
I saw these kissing bobble heads in a thrift shop once and mentioned they were cute – Andrew snuck away and bought them. He actually does this often, he’s a real thoughtful gift giver.

something on your wish list
A bathtub! We’ve been living in a shower only home for much too long.

how people can connect with you
you can learn more about Katie's farm here or check out her personal blog here
or you can follow her on twitter: @katie_german

thank you so so much, katie! you are a divine and wonderful human being! xo

the sisterhood is a regular feature post intended to highlight inspiring women in this world. near or far, real life friends, internet buds, or beauties that have connecting through this blog. members of my sisterhood doing great things and worthy of a bit of our admiration, love and attention. if you are interested in joining, please get in touch!