Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dear High School Me:

There's so many things I wish you knew about you. Yes, you think you know who you are, but you really only see a glimpse of what you are becoming. So here's a few words of advice to get you through the next few years.

1. It's grade high school. Everyone feels like you. Relax.

2. Practise discipline and study hard. If you don't adopt this idea now, you may never learn how to apply yourself to your studies.

3. Make friends with your teachers. There's a greater chance you'll do better at their class.

4. That sarcastic wit that gets you in trouble now will come in very handy in your future career. Keep it in check while in school to keep yourself out of detention though.

5. You are not fat. In fact, you are the skinniest you will ever be. Enjoy it. 

6. Everyone isn't thinking about you nearly as much as you are thinking about yourself. 

7. Your parents are pretty cool. You should listen to them. And don't worry, they eventually loosen up when you smarten up.


8. Get involved! You aren't too cool for extra-curriculars! In fact, you might actually enjoy them!

9. The girls you admire and wish you were like them, they wish they were like someone else too. Be yourself and like who you are. 
10. The boy isn't worth it. 

11. Mingle! Get to know more people than just your circle. People you don't know or may not have interest in will one day become inspirational to you.
12. Life won't be what you expect it to be, and it'll be better than you could imagine.
13. ...but don't be in a rush to leave these years behind, they'll be some of the best memories you have.

With Love & Sincerity from Future You

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Out of the Blue

I haven't REALLY wrote a great blog lately. My new job has me running 11+ hours a day and usually by the end of the day it's difficult to keep up with my blog lists, let alone write one of my own. Not to say I haven't been thinking of fabulous topics, it's just my brain is about mush come 6:30pm. So I'm going to repost an interesting article I came across on Brian McLaren's blog. It's called "Why Young Christians Leave Church." It raises some interesting points. Feel free to comment below.

In other news, I felt the need this evening to have a relaxing bath. As I relaxed with a mud mask on my face, my kitten watched  the Lush bath balls roll by the edge of the tub. Just as I was finishing my short bath, I decided the kitten needed a bath as well. So I decided he should join me. Surprisingly, the kitten was not nearly as horrified with the idea as was my husband when I called him over to get a towel for the cat. And Chicago has been unusually and surprisingly docile since then!

Monday, 10 October 2011

My 2011 Thankfulness List

Inspired, yet again, by friends who make the most incredible "thankfulness" lists, I've taken to completing my own for the year. When I started the tradition 3 years ago, it was with a "not thankful list" which, in my opinion, was quite witty. But given lack of time and brain energy, and a plethora of blessings in my life...here goes it:

1. Teapots

2. My husband's friends that make him laugh.

3. How a celebration of my grandmother's 85 years of life brought our entire family together this summer for the first time in many, many years.

4. Our Saturday night small group that stretches my thinking and inspires learning.

5. Plushy new carpet to sink my toes into for our basement that just might get installed one day.

6. A high school experience that even 10 years later, I can think fondly upon.
7. The unknown.

8. Generosity.

9. Our Guatemala trip -learning and being inspired by Fe Viva & House of Refuge.

10. Awesome & amazing roommates for the last 3 years...

11. ...Not having anymore roommates (for now).

12. Working at GoodLife and teaching Les Mills that ensures I ALWAYS get in at least one workout a week.

13. My job at Lowe's - for both providing me with a salary, and a place for me to spend it.

14. For friends and family who stretch my thinking and ground my ideas.
15. My cousins Sarah & Lori- despite distance and lack of communication, we still have the strong familiar bond of  family when we get together.

16. Fall gardens that get me excited about spring.

17. Discovering how much I love my house.

18. Living close to my parents.

20. Chicago, our kitten. 

21. The blogosphere and the blogs I follow -Your dedication brings inspiration and ideas as well as gives me a place to memorialize my own thoughts and opinions. 

22. Homegrown veggies.

23. That as long as my parents have a pool, we'll never need one.

24. Articles like "Eating Sacred Cows" that provide clarity and increase my faith.

25. My husband, who is an example of patience, knowledge and graciousness to me.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Destruction Day

So, we recently decided to renovate a bit of our house, then we decided we would rather move, then we decided we'd rather stay and renovate just a little. Today was our first project! It took some conversation to get us started. (I'm the type that likes to jump in with little thought to all the steps along the way, while my husband likes to figure out all the details before making a move.) With a little bit of whining, tears, and emotional pleas, we went for it. (I was told it is unlikely that I'll ever win an argument by rational thought.)

 Our roommates came and offered us some sage advice and a little bit of muscle power. I invited the neighbour in to see what we were doing, and he helped take out the door frame and the last of the pieces we were having difficulty with. It took us about 5 hours from start to finishing the clean up. Here's the progression to finished product!

 The view from the kitchen before...

View from the kitchen after!
The living room before...  
The living room after!

Scott surveying the work!

We still have all the finishing details to do..., but I was so excited...I just had to show you!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

DIY Cabinet Hardware

So I would like to preface this post with, "I am not a DIY-er." I love the idea of DIY. I just don't have the attention to detail needed to complete projects in a truly "complete" manner. As always, I was inspired by AKA Designs' blog on 30-Minute Home Improvement Projects. Well, I can honestly say, it wasn't a 30 minute project, but, I had fun none the less. The part that took the longest was taking all the hinges and handles on and off the doors.

I read the blog on a Thursday morning while I was on my month of vacation between jobs. I thought to myself, "Well, I have nothing else planned today!..." 

So, I went to the local hardware store (who will remain nameless because here on in I believe EVERYONE should shop at Lowe's) to pick up some supplies. In total, it cost me $12 for the items I bought: spray paint & screws! (When I checked out the silver hinges, just to see the price difference, they were about $3 each. So I definitely saved a bundle).
Prior to my 30-minute home improvement project, my door handles and hinges were a nasty used-to-be brass colour. Here's a few pictures (that I can't seem to get rotated). The lighting makes the cabinets a more yellow tone than their actually taup-y colour.

I did my spray painting outside on our patio table. Note to all impatient DIY'ers...it's worth the extra 2 minutes to go get another garbage bag to cover the other half of the table before spray painting. Lesson definitely learned.

I also bought new silver screws to replace the nasty gold ones so I could reassemble the doors to the cabinets. That's also the reason why the post was delayed for 2 weeks....I was short 11 screws to finish the project! (Though some may say I was short a few more to even attempt the project).

All in all, it was a very easy thing and I'm happy I did it! (Though my husband didn't even notice till I pointed it out).

A final thought to remember when attempting: Despite your impatience to get the project done, it's probably worth the extra time to let the hinges dry completely before flipping them over or putting them back on the doors! Of course, I kind of knew that already,...but hey, I am who I am!

One final time. The before:

The after!

Next project coming up is repainting the rec room! Through many different paint samples thrown about our house, I think I've finally come to the decision of these two from Olympic:

Tightrope (for 2 of the larger walls)

and...Castile (for 2 smaller walls)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

You Got a Big Ego

On my way to work this morning, I started to think about what it will be like when I'm out of training and into my own store. I started thinking of some of the people I met already that I will be working with in my own store. I'm getting to a point in my career where I'm starting to see people's strengths and opportunities in a fairly quick manner. (Sometimes I can even surprise myself with my observations!)

Being in HR, as well as managing people, is truly a remarkable experience. People managers have the daily role to make those they look over more excellent colleagues, friends, workers, corporate citizens and individuals. They have the opportunity to get to know them and speak into their lives in a way not many others can. Most people managers certainly don't take these opportunities as they should. They don't get to know their people in order to be able to know how to lead them. Instead they throw all people into the same category, leading them the same way, and that often results in a few or a lot of  frustrated individuals in any team. But I digress...

As I thought about how I can develop and influence people, I asked myself, "Why do I want to develop and influence people?" This was my train of thought:

"I want to see them grow...so that they can develop others...so that others find satisfaction in their role working at our store...so that our store becomes a phenomenal place to work....so that our store becomes recognized in the company...so that I feel good...so that I become recognized..."

I stopped myself and went through the reasons again trying to find a different  outcome. I mulled over the thought of being quite selfishly motivated though at first my intentions seemed good. In my work, I truly want to do good for people. I value people. But when I dig deep, is it truly because I want to feel better about myself? 

How often in life do we do things but with a selfish intent? To feed our own ego? Does it count as selfish intent if we don't even know that that is the reason we are doing it?

Have you ever noticed when you do a "random act of kindness," like paying for the groceries of a person ahead of you in line who's card isn't working, it makes you feel good inside? The other person is thankful, but really, it's your own self that gets even more pumped up. And for good reason...it feels good to show kindness and goodness to others! Were we created like that? Or is it a product of society?

I think I have to chew on that one a little bit more. My brain is so full of new information from training and learning a new industry, I can't quite sort through all my thoughts yet.

In the mean time, I finally finished an amazing book that I heard about at a conference over a year ago. It's called "The 3 Signs of  a Miserable Job". It's a very easy and I'd say -powerful- read, in a novel form. This book is for anyone who manages people, or who is managed by someone! (Ha...that's most of us!) Check it out!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Under New Management

Three days left. Some people reply in shock at the fact that I have travelled 125km each way to work for 2 years. I've been happy to do so. Why? Because I love my job...and even more,...I loved my managers. I see job satisfaction as a 3-fold partnership: 
  1. The work that you carry out each day in terms of your responsibilities and accountabilities,
  2. The management and team that you have the opportunity to work with and learn from, and

  3. The organization as a whole in terms of their credibility, reliability and mission.

In my last two roles I have had the extreme pleasure to work for some amazing people. My direct managers have been inspirational. In a world where there is no lack of leadership and management books being read but often little transferrence of those principals in practise, I wanted to take a moment to honour 3 former bosses and reflect on the things they taught me.

In my previous role, my VP was a dynamic, pragmatic, and sensationally witty lady. Her sarcasm was very similar to mine and our conversations made me smile. Her breadth of knowledge, pragamatic leadership, execution of consistency in policy and her integrity are all strong memories I have of working for her. She taught me to look at people's intentions to give greater insight to their actions. This has always stuck with me. In HR, as in life, we can be quick to judge others by their behaviour, while we judge ourselves only by our intentions. We react to a wrong behaviour without considering many factors including:
  • Did the individual intend to cause harm?
  • Did they have enough training to know what the standard is?
  • Was there proper follow-up for when the standard wasn't being followed?
This business principal has had strong ripple effects in my personal life as well. I'm a work in progress, but the foundation is being laid.
I was really sad when my time working for her came to an end. I didn't think I'd find anyone as great as her to work for again. And then I joined a new company, my current company, where I worked for another inspirational VP.

He was very much different than my first VP in his leadership style. He was quite laid back (in a very good way) and had a very simple and direct way of relaying information. He always had a very stable spirit to him, even when times were tough. You rarely heard him speak negativity. The decisions he made he strived to make in the fairest way possible. He did not speak quickly, but carefully weighed options. He was not one to speak just to hear his own voice. He was also not a micro-manager; he was likely the complete opposite. Very often I would hear, "Show me your plan. We'll review it and I'll back you up." That type of leadership caused me to have to look at the big picture of my role over and over, evaluating priorities, jusitfying judgement calls, and making decisions that I may not have felt ready to make. But I grew so much in my role because of the faith that he had in me. Even if I didn't make the right call, he was not a "point a finger" boss, rather "let's learn how to do this better the next time" boss. 

I had great loyalty to him. I worried that since I had two great bosses in a row, my luck would run out. 

During my time at this company, I was promoted to a role that reported into a Sr. Manager. My Sr. Manager was formerly a co-worker that I really got along with. In fact, I thought I got along with him so well, that reporting to him worried me. I didn't know if our relationship would change when I became a direct report. To my great delight, it didn't change at all. 

Because he sat right beside me, it was very easy to have plenty of communication about both work situations and personal stories. I am easily distracted in my work day, mostly due to the fact that I enjoy "people" distractions. But, I recognize I also have the ability to be a distraction. He never made me feel like I was bugging him. My questions regarding work situations were always regarded with time and consideration. I learned so much about being straight-forward yet compassionate with people from hearing the many conversations he had with people. Sometimes I would be heavy on the straight-forward side and light on the compassion side. He would then joke, "I've created a monster." He coached  taught me how to have tough conversations to ensure fair outcomes. He continually provided me with learning opportunities to challenge and learn. I never felt like our friendship as colleagues turned into a formal boss-employee relationship. His care and concern for me to grow, both professionally and personally, was clear and evident to me.

In my (young) career I have been and continue to strive to be a very honest and real person. I try to admit to my mistakes and weakness because I greatly enjoy feedback, both positive in negative. It makes me a better colleague both personally and professionally. I've had bosses who have recognized that, used it to their advantage (in a good way) and we have all come out better for it. (*One thing to note: I've enjoyed feedback because I know it comes from a person who cares about me being a better individual for my own sake, not one who is pointing out my faults just for the their sake).
At the end of this week, I'll be moving on to a new role. The next journey is an exciting one for me as I'm getting out of the office and into retail operations. This is where I truly get to mimick all the great things I've loved about my previous managers to inspire, encourage, teach and grow the people who I will be working with. It's going to be a road filled with fabulous life lessons and great successes! I'm looking forward to every minute of the journey!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Guatemala Needs

In 3 weeks, my husband and I, along with three other fabulous women will be traveling to Guatemala to do 10 days of missions work. Our time there will be spent working with people in prison, working with women stuck in a lifestyle of prostitution, orphanages, and countless others.

We have been greatly blessed with people who have donated both their time and money to help us raise funds so we can go on the mission. 

Recently, we were given a list of items that our local host missionaries, Steve & Karla Stoffelson, would find useful for their ministry, for the local people they work with, as well as for themselves.


Please take a look at it. If you feel you would like to donate or purchase anything on this list that we could take with us, please let me know. Alternatively, if you aren't in the area, but would like to donate money for us to purchase items to give while we are down there, you can do so through Front & Center Ministries and get a tax receipt.

Here's the list:

Sound equipment
Musical instruments
Spanish study Bibles
Men’s clothing
-          Shirts small, med, large
-          Pants size 30-34
-          Shoes size 7-10
Bath/Pool Towels
Kitchen towels
Tooth brushes and tooth paste
Men’s deodorant
1 or 2L hot water heater
Electric Griddle (family size)
Pressure cooker 
Waffle maker
Plastic table cloths
Tupperware (plates, bowls, etc)
Small bathroom carpets (brown)
Long curtains (brown or beige)
Plastic flowers

Thanks for you love and support!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Sweet and Savoury Early Summer Eats

Summer is upon us, (though you wouldn't know it with today's cool weather) and the weekend is here. One thing I love about the weekend is making a mess in the kitchen whipping up some food items that I didn't have time to do during the busy work week. 

Today I will share with you 2 recipes that surprisingly turned out really well! I'm not a fan of following recipes to the "T', both because I usually don't have all the ingredients, or I think of some great additions and substitutions! My husband cautiously  humours me in trying my tasty creations, but he's a meat and potatoes guy and is usually just happy pouring bbq sauce over whatever food is on his plate! (I love him for it!)

This year, along with my parents, we are participating in a local CSA with Creekshore Farms. Last week's box of produce came with garlic scapes. 

I've never heard of garlic scapes before, but I have been determined to broaden my knowledge of such items and figure out how to use them creatively. I googled some recipes and found one that sounded just up my alley: Garlic Scape Basil Pesto. How could I resist! Especially since I've been wondering what to do with the large amount of basil that I've been growing in the garden this year! This recipe I actually stuck to pretty well...and other than adding a touch too much salt (recent bad habit) it was fabulous!!!


And after the savory pesto...it's of course...time for dessert! I found the recipe for Vegan Pistachio Almond Ice Cream on a blog I follow. It sounded delicious! Since I found out I have milk, egg, and gluten intolerance... I enjoy recipe ideas that I know will keep me feeling fabulous after I eat them. 

I forgot to buy an avocado, so I substituted it with 1/2 of cup of chia pudding. (Which is 2 tablespoons of chia seed in 1/2 cup of milk). I wanted to make sure to keep that creamy consistency and the chia seeds certainly did the trick! I also couldn't find unshelled, unsalted pistachios so I de-shelled a bag full while watching Made of Honour. *sigh Patrick Dempsey*.  I also added in a small handful of unsweetened shredded coconut. 

 I was SO! !!!! impressed that it turned out as sweet as it did! I've portioned half out for a friend and the other half is just for me! Tomorrow is supposed to be a warmer day and I'm looking forward to enjoying a bowl full of my new creation!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Attention Niagara Residents: Buy Local!

This isn't a blog about "organic"...that'll come at a later date with my thoughts on the issue... this is about buying local!

It's that time of the year where fruit and veggie stands are filling up with produce and patrons all over the region!

I've started taking a look at the food I buy in terms of where it comes from. To be honest, the idea is relatively new to me. But as I've read more and more information and blogs about local produce, I've become more a of proponent for buying local. Have you ever taken a look at the labels at a grocery store? Why are our local chains buying strawberries and cherries during the middle of the Niagara season from the USA or other countries? No offense to our southern friends, but we have farmers, some of which are our neighbours, that are having a hard time staying afloat let alone turning a profit.

I've decided it's time I stopped turning a blind eye to the map of my produce. Yes, this means saying "no" to the shiny big strawberries from a greenhouse in California and favouring the smaller local and likely more expensive ones. Why? Because I value our farmlands.

Have you ever driven through Niagara on the Lake during blossom time? How can you not appreciate the beauty! What a sweet opportunity it is to go down the street and get fresh picked corn, peaches and produce that haven't ever seen the inside of a freezer truck in order to ripen!

I read a blog about chains not selling local produce for an appropriate amount here and it really made me think. What value do I put on local produce?

So here's the challenge: Drop by your local farmer's market on a Saturday morning before going to the grocery store. See what you can find there FIRST! It takes more time, but your efforts will not be in vain... you are helping your neighbours, your city, and yourself!

Farmers feed families.

For more info check out the following blogs:

Eating Niagara - A website devoted to local eating and agriculture in the Niagara Region
Creekshore Farms (where I get my Organic CSA from!)
Tree & Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ageratum Giggles

In my flower pot making project, one of the plants I needed (according to the diagram) was "Ageratum." When I bought it, it really didn't look like much as it barely had any flowering growth on it.

As it continues to grow in a few hanging baskets, it has become one of my favourites. Every time I see it, it makes me smile. It's got these little light blue heads with little super soft hairs all over them. They are just funky. 
 That got me to wondering...I wonder if God kinda giggled when he created it. I mean, when you create an entire universe, you gotta get a bit funky with some of the flora and fauna, right? It's kind of like when you are decorating cookies, and it's all exciting at first, but around the 10th cookie, you start getting bored with the process and start making the christmas ball shaped cookies into orange christmas jack-o-lanterns....but I digress. I just imagine God shaping the little Ageratum and then calling some of the angels over and saying "Hey guys! Look at this one! Tee-hee!" (Yes, I know it's completely theologically incorrect, it's just how I see it playing out!)

I also think He probably did the same thing when he created this guy.

Monday, 23 May 2011

A Tour of My Backyard

What did you do this weekend? I'll let you in on what I did... one of my most favourite things... getting my fingers dirty in the garden. Well, I shouldn't say dirty dirty. I always wear gardening gloves. Something about squishy worms directly on my skin isn't exactly appealing. My yard isn't that big, but I've enjoyed every minute of learning to be a gardener. This weekend Scott and I put in all the pressure treated ties to give the gardens a more finished and clean look.

On Friday night I started off with my a trip to a few nurseries with my gardening partner in crime. (Side note: My gardening partner in crime is one of those friends who is a constant encouragement and makes your life seem more exciting because of her enthusiasm for the little things. She's awesome).

I found a few "planter" pictures that inspired me this year. Alot of my house falls under the "shade" category. So when I saw this picture of a planter called "Sizzle in the Shade", I was in love.

...and so I started my own version of it.

Can you see the parsley sneaking out from the back of the pot? It's made up of coleus, new guinea impatients, potato vine, begonia and a spike. That planter also inspired some of my hanging baskets...

I've hidden parsley, cilantro, rosemary, dill and basil in a number of my baskets and pots this year instead of having one big herb pot.

And this is the "sunny" pot, that I found. http://images.whiteflowerfarm.com/87150a.jpg (It wouldn't let me upload the picture). It's got a beautiful red spike, asperatum (which took us a while to find), a beautiful orange coleus, peach million bells and purple petunias. And this is the start of my version of it. I've included lobelia and snuck some rosemary in the back as well!

It inspired some of my "sunny" planters.


It's hard to see,...but the above planter has some basil that I started from seed back in march. I'm wishing it the best of luck as it transitions to the great outdoors.

Looking forward to watching them all grow into what I hope they can be! There's something really fun about building the baskets myself and watching them grow everyday! (Yes, everyday. Mock what you may...but it's these little things that make me happy. In contrast, when the animals get into my baskets, it makes me sad, almost personally offended).

And on top of all that...Scott and I finally got our front door painted as well as all the interior doors that we hung a few weeks ago! What a great and productive anniversary weekend!