in memory of bridget

It is with absolute sadness that I write today that my beautiful soul of a sister-in-law passed away. I cannot imagine what it will be like without her. She was always there when we went to visit Geoffrey’s family, and came to every event and occasion that we invited her to. She was one of Remy’s favourite people, and had already spoiled Wilder rotten in the few months that she knew him. We will certainly continue to always talk about her and keep her memory alive.

Here is a snippet of Bridget’s short but full life, as taken from her memorial card:

“Bridget was an A+ student throughout her school years and received a scholarship to the U of S. She worked very hard on continuing her education via online learning and studied many different areas including Art, Environmental Science and Nutrition.

“As Bridget’s health began to fail she was less able to be away from their family home, so she developed her passion for horticulture … Bridget was very successful in planning small and large gardens on the farm and these became her haven of peace and tranquility.

“Bridget was addicted to the Food Network and spent many hours planning and preparing exotic meals and snacks … She would not miss the annual Taste of Saskatchewan food festival on Saskatoon’s riverbank and always tried as many new dishes as humanly possible.

“Bridget took some beautiful pictures and was so good at editing photography and creating movies that she was the extended families expert. She loved paper crafts, scrapbooking and making personal cards for every occasion and would send unique works of art to her relatives and friends … She had many pen pals all over the world that she kept in contact with through hand written letters.

“Bridget’s quiet and dry sense of humour kept everyone on their toes.

“In restaurants Bridget always took note of people who ate alone especially seniors or those who appeared to have less than her. She would pay for their meal anonymously. She always put everyone else first. She always stood up for the underdog and advocated and supported them. Bridget might have been small but she had a huge heart.

“The love of her life was her 3 year old niece Remy. Bridget had an amazing relationship with her, and Remy was very much in love with “Aunty B” as they spent time playing, crafting and laughing. Bridget’s life may have been short lived on earth but the lives she touched in her short time was awe-inspiring.

“Bridget struggled with her health since she was 5 years old. Her complicated medical condition was so rare; one doctor said that if the cause were ever discovered, they would probably name it after her … She was very strong willed and determined not to let any obstacles get in her way and had proven the doctors wrong many times.

“Bridget taught us so much; Love one another- Do not judge others- Be humble- Treat everyone with patience and kindness- Don’t dwell on what you can’t control- If it doesn’t help, don’t say it- Forgive each other and lastly- Consider organ donation, talk about it and let your family know your wishes.”

You can get a better sense of Bridget by visiting her colourful and creative blog here.

Rest in peace, Bridge. We miss you.

Emory

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our acreage: gardens

When we first moved out here, we didn’t have a garden. Geoffrey and I talked about making a large vegetable garden somewhere in our yard, but we couldn’t agree on where. What we did agree on was waiting at least a full year to think about it and get a feeling for where it would work best before we went ahead and dug up the grass. Then the snow began to melt.

What we noticed first was a small square perimeter of wood in our front yard. As the snow melted more, we began to see sand. Once it completely disappeared, we were left with an old 8′ x 8′ sandbox that had clearly been neglected. Not wanting to keep it a sandbox because of all the stray cats and wildlife around here, I eventually chose for it to become my rock garden.

I envisioned a desert-inspired garden with lots of cacti and rocks. I asked many people what I should do to transform this sandbox into a usable, grow-able space and was given lots of ideas. My sister-in-law was the most knowledgeable, so I listened mostly to her. The first thing I did was stain the wood. I chose a darker colour called “Coffee” thinking that it would contrast our light grey house nicely. I went in blind since I had no idea what exterior theme we would eventually go with- modern, western, etc. I therefore aimed for a slightly more modern look.

Next I dug several 1′ x 1′ holes. I think I started with around seventeen. Then I filled them with soil. It was still too cold to plant anything, so for days I just stared out the window at these holes. To me, it looked much too cluttered. I decided to fill those holes back in with sand and dig new ones. This time I ended up with ten. Much better.

Over the next few weeks, I set about getting everything planted in my garden. I started by propagating a few cacti that were growing in our home. Right away it was clear that they weren’t going to survive. (I was too excited and planted them too early.) Then my next door neighbour gave me thyme to put in my garden. I thought, ‘OK, this will be a thyme and cacti rock garden’. A few days later I went to a greenhouse and came back not with cacti but bell peppers, white onions, succulents, and red Canadian roses. Clearly my desert-inspired garden was slowly becoming a vegetable/flower garden. Oh well!

Have you ever tried growing green onion in water from food scraps? It is ridiculously easy, even for a brown thumb like me! After you buy some from the grocery store and consume the dark green part of the vegetable, take the leftover part (the white bulb with roots attached) and put it in a glass of water. Be sure to change the water every day or every second day. Almost instantly you will see new growth occur. I did this for about two weeks before I transplanted them into my garden. That’s when they really took off! They are over 3 feet tall. I have never seen green onion quite like this before. Geoff and I still laugh about how massive they are.

To finish it off, I purchased large river stones to cover the sand. I think that it took around eight bags. Then I bought small smooth pebbles to fill in the gaps. I found the large rocks to line the plant holes along the dirt roads that we walk on everyday.

After filling my rock garden with all of the plants and vegetables that I could think of, I felt like that it began to look a little disorganized. Somewhere along the way I lost my vision of a minimalist cacti haven. Following advice from my mother-in-law and mum to start a garden along the garage, I decided to do just that. I removed the rhubarb from the rock garden, then the sunflower plant, then the white onions, then the peppers, and put them in my new garden that Geoff made for me by rototilling a long and narrow patch. We also added the peonies that we took from our other house. Garden thieves.

I tended to that second garden for a few weeks before I began to notice that every night animals were digging in it. After a lengthy search on Pinterest, I found simple and practical fence options that one could DIY in a matter of a few days. Back I went to Geoffrey, asking him to now build a fence around our spontaneous little garden. He was probably hesitant at first, but once I showed him the pictures, he became very excited and said that he would love to do it.

As an added treat, I took the kids to visit an out-of-town friend for two days. Armed with music, beer, and hot weather, he constructed the cutest darn fence that we have ever had. He used cement, chicken wire, and treated 2′ x 4’s and posts. Then I laid down mulch.

We finished it off by adding hinges and a latch on the gate. Beautiful and practical. Yet, we weren’t done.

Once I saw how lovely the treated lumber looked, I knew that my slightly-modern outdoor theme was now out the window. Rustic was the way to go for our acreage. This meant that I wanted to change the stained wood that housed my rock garden. I sent Geoffrey back to Home Depot for treated 2′ x 6’s. He went and picked them up, then came home and replaced the wood, making it much taller as well. I love the way it turned out. This rock garden will forever remind me of my sister-in-law.

Next year we have plans for raised flower beds in an enclosure along the sunnier side of the garage. Until then, these are our acreage gardens.

Emory

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recipe: vegan tomato pasta

I made this recipe because once in awhile, my husband and I both love pasta accompanied by thick sauces, and I was in the mood for something without dairy. I didn’t even know that creamy vegan sauces existed (but wasn’t surprised)! I was quite happy to find this one. In all honesty, it was pretty good for a first attempt. It tasted a bit like a healthier version of an Alfredo sauce. If anything, it has only inspired me to search out and try more vegan options.

Creamy Vegan Tomato Pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pasta of choice
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup Spanish yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
⅓ cup olive oil
1 ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
4 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
salt
pepper

Steps:

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the pasta to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the grape tomatoes and add them to a heated skillet with oil. Dice the onions and add them as well. Cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes or cooked to personal preference.

2. Once pasta and tomatoes are cooked through, put almond milk in a separate saucepan. Begin stirring over medium heat. Mince the garlic and add it to the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then slowly add the flour, continually stirring. Cook on low for 5 more minutes to let thicken. Once it looks ready, taste it again. Add more spice if desired.

3. Put pasta and tomatoes on a plate and pour sauce over top. Sprinkle with pepper or vegan Parmesan cheese if so craved. Serve warm.

Emory

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zero waste (part two)

” … [W]hen we say ‘we threw something away,’ what do we really mean? … After all, our discards don’t just evaporate because the garbageman whisked them off. Our waste end up in our landfills, spoiling our precious environment, leaching toxic compounds into our air and soil, wasting the resources used to create the discarded goods, and costing us billions of dollars each year in processing.”

Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson

Above is how the second chapter of Zero Waste Home begins, detailing why eliminating our waste output is imperative. As gathered by the title, this is my second post in my newest zero waste series. In the first post, I discussed composting for the first time, utilizing a clothesline, our septic field, and collecting rainwater. Looking back, I focused on reducing our waste outdoors. This time, I will examine bringing it indoors- from recycling, to phasing out paper towels, and cleaning products.

Let’s begin with recycling. I am fortunate enough to have access to bins in the city where we can take everything there to recycle without having to sort it out beforehand. This has made going from recycling nothing only a few months ago, to now recycling practically everything! Geoffrey and I always have cardboard boxes or reusable bags in our home that are dedicated to these items. A couple of times every month we drop them off at the depot on one of our trips into town.

These depots accept all paper, plastics, aluminum foil, tin cans, milk jugs, cartons, glass bottles, jars, and bagged plastic bags. The only items that they don’t accept are hazardous materials, electronics, clothes, food, and tires. Having a depot located on the side of town that are closest to makes this an incredibly easy and rewarding experience.

We also have a collection of recyclable bottles in the bottom of our pantry that we drop off at SARCAN.

Let’s move on to cleaning supplies- or more specifically, vinegar. Growing up, my mum had always used vinegar and water as a cleaner, so by default when I moved out on my own, I did as well. Yet, I didn’t realize the power of vinegar or how all-purpose it is until only recently! In Zero Waste Home, it lists what vinegar can be used for and how to use it. For example, vinegar can be used as: an adhesive remover, bathroom cleaner, colour set, drain cleaner, eraser sponge, flower food, glass cleaner, herbicide, insect repellent, jewelry cleaner, kitchen cleaner, laundry booster, mildew remover, nicotine stain remover, odor neutralizer, pet repellent, quick mop, rust remover, stain remover, toilet cleaner, upholstery freshener, vinyl cleaner, and wood renewer. Simply dilute 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1 cup water (for added scent, you can also add citrus peels to vinegar several weeks before diluting it).

Of those, I was using it as a bathroom and kitchen cleaner, pouring it down my drains with baking soda, pouring it over weeds to kill them, in my laundry to boost colour, in bowls to eliminate odors, on my floors when I washed them, and to clean my windows- all without a second thought. It really is just an incredibly simple and versatile cleaner to have on hand! (I will return to window cleaning in a moment.)

Now if I am writing about cleaning products, at some point I need to address the elephant in the room. That is the notion of paper towels. Paper towels are a huge zero waste problem. In my research I found that paper products account for roughly 25% of landfill waste. Additionally, the US produces over 3000 tonnes of paper towel waste each day, which significantly increases methane gas. Cutting out paper towel would save trees, water, the atmosphere, and us money!

Until very recently, I was horrible when it came to buying and using paper towels. Being somewhat of a germophobe, I proudly used an entire roll every two days. I used to think more paper towel equaled a cleaner home. I loved the idea of spraying something down, wiping it with those fresh white sheets, and then throwing them out and thus getting rid of the dirt. Now, I shudder at the idea.

When I began this journey a few months ago, I knew that I would have to eventually stop buying paper towel. I was anxious and a little grossed out at the thought of using rags to clean up my dirtiest messes, and then having to touch and wash said rags with our clothes that we wore. I know what you’re thinking, ‘princess, get over yourself’. So one morning I purchased one more six-pack of paper towel with our groceries, and announced to Geoff that it would be our last. I also told him to start collecting every piece of old clothing in order to cut it up into rags. We went through one roll, then two rolls, then slowly went through the third and fourth. Then somewhere along the lines, I completely stopped using them. In all honesty, I can’t even tell you when I did this. Opening our kitchen drawer and grabbing a rag to clean quickly and seamlessly became second nature. I thought that it would be such a hard transition having to break a thirty-year habit, but it really was one of the most natural things that I have done in a long time. We still have those last two rolls laying around our home, but I have no intention on ever using them.

So how do we keep our windows clean? Guys, have you ever used newspaper for this job? If you haven’t, please switch now! I didn’t believe people when I heard and read that it kept your windows streak-free. I thought that it would certainly leave ink or bits of paper behind. I was so wrong. It’s thickness and durability make for a wonderful texture to clean your windows (using vinegar and water for the cleaning agent, of course). I have never had clearer windows. Afterwards, you have the added bonus of throwing the newspaper in the recycling bin. I hope to never, ever return to paper towel and Windex.

If anyone was needing tips for ditching paper towel, you can find a cute and helpful website here.

Please join me on my next zero waste post in just a few weeks!

Emory

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eight months old

Wilder is eight months old today! Here are some recent developments in his little world.

He is mastering feeding himself finger food. From large rice cakes to tiny peas, he quite easily brings the food from the table to his hands to his mouth. In actuality, he prefers food that hasn’t been blended in our blender!

He loves to play ball with Remy. They sit on the floor across from one another rolling a ball back and forth. I posted a picture of them doing this on Instagram the other day. I also have a video of Remy doing it when she was around the same age.

He is also on the verge of crawling. When he is seated, he leans forward and puts his weight on his hands, rocking back and forth. If only he would swing his legs under and then go! He does the backwards crawl that Remy did, though. Pushing himself across rooms, and usually getting trapped under furniture.

Eight months. How is it possible that the time is passing this quickly?

Emory

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  • Welcome, friends! My name is Emory. I am a wife and mother to three (two on earth and one in heaven). This is our life on the Canadian prairies.
    email: helloscarlettblog@outlook.com

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