Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chocolat Chaud, Abuelita Style

I don't know about you, but I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and chocolate is my absolute favourite. I've heard of some crazy people who don't like it, but none of them live in our house! A short while ago, a new Chinese-Mexican food market opened up in a plaza within walking distance of us, I'll admit, I found this combination a bit different, but who am I to poopoo two of my most liked food styles married together? I mean hello! Taquitos and Dimsum under one roof? I'm IN!!! 

Not only do they have a hot foods restau section, but are stocked with delicious condiments, foods, drinks and teas of all sorts you can take home and enjoy. Lo and behold, as I was perusing the shelves, I stumbled on the unmistakable yellow packaging of Abuelita hot chocolate. (sadly, I've yet to source it on a Canadian site, but I wonder if they'd carry it in specialty shoppes, like the one I found it at) OMG! If you've never tasted this stuff, do yourself a favour and go find some! Some might find it a slightly acquired flavour, because it has an added little je-ne-sais-quoi added to it, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it tastes like cinnamon to me. At any rate, we all love it, so when the kids see me pull out my little chocolate pot out (Total thrift store score. It might actually be a vintage gravy pot, but it works for so many different uses, that when they see it, it's the chocolate pot LOL!), they know what's coming. 

It's become a bit of a ritual, where everyone likes to gather around the stove, and watch the process of the big sugary chocolate puck dropping into the pot, and melting as I stir with the mini ladle.

Isn't it pretty? Oh and it smells heavenly! Chocolatey and spicy at the same time. I love that you can see the large sugar crystals sitting on the surface.

Now, you certainly don't need a special pot to make this in, you could use any small sauce pan you have on hand, or if you need to, you could use a large glass 4-cup measuring cup in a microwave. Here I filled my little pot with about 2.5 cups of water, which I brought to a slow boil; you don't want this to bubble over, or else the bottom of the pot gets too hot, and the puck will burn to the bottom a bit, so when you start seeing the water rolling on the top, bring the heat down to low-medium.


Look at that little nugget, she just has to see absolutely everything! 
I have to hold her back so she won't get too close and burn herself. 
You should see these kids when I'm making pancakes! Ha! Ha! ha!!!


Mmmmm! Mmmmmm! This is gonna be gooooooood!!!

The narrow spout makes pouring a little messy, but hey, who care, nothing a little wipe from a cloth won't fix, am I right? ;)

I mix in a little bit of almond milk in before serving, as it makes just a bit cooler for the kids, who simply don't have the patience to wait for it to cool.
So there you have it, a bit more involved than just stirring some ready-made powder in your cup, but man, is it worth it! 

Tell me, what is your favourite treat to share with your littles? What treat do you enjoy that brings back memories from your own childhood? 
Let me know if you try this, and what you think of it. 

TTFN Dolls!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Mom Comes To Town

This post is so long overdue, but, better late than never, eh? ;)

Most know that my Mom is from out of town. She still lives in the Province of Quebec, and I do get to visit there from time to time, but with the two newest littles, that hasn't been as easy for me in the last few years. 
So she's been the one coming down a few times a year to spend time with our little family. Luckily, we are both tekkie enough to know how to operate Facetime and Skype, and we still get to see each other almost daily. Isn't technology wonderful? Here we are, a good 7 hour drive away from each other, but she still gets to see her grand kids growing, which we both love so  much. 
It's amazing how used to it the kids get to it too, and so funny seeing the littlests' reactions whenever she decides to visit. It's total confusion, like, wait, this is Nana from the screen, how'd she get out of the screen? LOL! 

Anyway, here are a few shots from her visit last October, just before Halloween. It's always nice having her around during holidays of birthdays, as it makes them feel that much more special. On this visit, we did our usual errands all over town, especially to places we can't always readily get to, because we don't have a vehicle, and traveling with 3 kids - even though one is a teen, the other two are still in car seats, or in a stroller - isn't always easy.
But this time, we did something special, we brought ALL the kids to a local pumpkin patch, and it was fun, until the wind picked up, and everyone started whining about the cold. Heh, October is funny that way.

Fall has such a way with colours. I love how the leaves start changing, and morning dew has a tendency to frost. It always makes for such interesting photo opportunities. I'm not sure what this plant is, but it's a type of vine, and the berries almost looked like grapes, but don't quite grow the same way. I thought they were perhaps elderberry? 


Mom and I have a bit of a tradition when she visits. Whenever possible, she likes to keep it a secret, so that at the end of the school day, she can surprise the kids by picking them up at school (I'm with her, of course, as since Mom doesn't live here, she's not on the approved pick up list). But on this day, it truly was a surprise for Didi to unexpectedly have her Nana pick her up. It would be difficult for the teachers to NOT know who she is, what with Didi running up to her yelling "NANA! NANA! NANA!" Ha! Ha!

 It was so balmy and sunny that day, that the little bees were still busy collecting pollen from the fall flowers. Here is one thoroughly inspecting our garlic chives, which I really hope will make a comeback this Spring, since I love using them in so many dishes.

The boy stayed home with Daddy one day, and it was just us girls all piled into Nana's car, and we headed to our local Outlet Mall, which we commemorated with a carfie, of course. Always a fun place to go for some fun shopping, and of course, stopping at the HUMONGOUS Bass Pro Shop there - between my Mom and Darling, we never seem to be able to avoid that place ;) It's always interesting though, there's no shortage of different ourdoorsy stuff to see. The littles are particularly fond of the huge aquarium of indigenous fish at the back. The tank is so big, and I believe they try to mimic the fish' natural habitat as best they can (if wild fish had a huge glass screen on one side where humans could just gawk at them...).

As usual, Mimi had to do the back-to-back stance with Nana, to see just how tall she's gotten. Mimi, not Nana, cause Nana stopped growing a long time ago, and all of her 4'11" have been Mimi's measure for years. She knew she'd be a 'big girl' the moment she surpassed her Nana in height! LOL! (For the record, it took her almost 11 years.)

Yay! It's pumpkin patch time! They had these awesome carts with huge wheels which made carting the kids and pumpkins around much easier, but of course, the signs indicating that these were not intended for children was not very visible from the parking lot, which is where another visitor gave us this one at, which incidentally, carried his pumpkins, and daughter... 
Good thing I always bring a stroller when we head out. 

Can you see my big girl under those bleachers? She was convinced the BEST of the best pumpkins were hiding under there, so I let her go on a great pumpkin hunt ;)

The Itty Bitties enjoying their short-lived heavy duty cart ride :D
It was such a perfect setup, Mom had some awesome picnic blankets in her trunk, which we used to pad the bottom of the cart, and create some padding at the back for the kids to lean up against.

I don't know about you, but I just love these awesome little gourds. They come in such a variety of shapes and sizes. If I'm not mistaken, I do believe I retrieved some seeds from these, to try and grow some for ourselves this year. 
Which reminds me, we really should get on top of starting some seeds for our garden soon. With our son being a bit bigger, I think gardening will be a little easier for me this year. And watching littles play in the garden  and teaching them about growing your own food is always so much fun.

On Nana's last day, we got to kick some pretty, colourful leaves all the way to school. It's always sad to say goodbye to Nana, but, we always know she'll be back in just a few months. 

Which, as of today, is in just weeks, as she's decided that this year, Mother's Day was going to be an extra special celebration for us, and that we will be spending it together. 
Can't wait to see you in May Mama!

 TTFN Dolls! 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Yuletide 2016

Though neither my husband or myself are much into celebrating secular holidays, we do try to put a bit more effort in a few for the children's sake. I used to go all out as far as decorating goes, but after a few mishaps with the littles and the cats, I decided I'd put off decorating a full tree for a few years. 
One of our cats decided the tree looked like a fabulous perch a few years back, and Didi almost toppled our large tree onto herself when she was around Ryker's age! LOL! Yeah, my old heart just can't handle it, so I decided to hold off until everyone has learned their manners ;) 
This winter has been rather mild, so Didi has been enjoying spending some time playing outside. I'd love to say that I take the kids out in the snow, but alas, I wasn't made for it. Frankly, I'm more of a toes in the sand kinda gal. But, thank goodness Daddy loves it as much as they do, so they get to play all the reindeer games they want.

Oh our pretty pretty girl. I can't believe how fast the years have gone. It feels like it was just yesterday when she was doing the can-can in my belly. She started school this September, and oh my goodness, have we EVER been sick! I swear, she's brought home every single germ she's come in contact with! It's maddening, it feels like we just can't get better, but the two week break certainly did give us some reprieve. Her classroom had a little party on the last day of school, and our family (ahem: Me!) was responsible for making a fruit platter for them. I decided to go for some Fruit Kabobs, to make it easier for the teachers to dole them out, and keep the room clean. 
They were very easy to put together, merely requiring a little more preparation the night before (just cut up the fruit and spray them with lemon water to avoid oxidizing), then assemble, and snip off the sharp end before sending them off, to prevent any of the smalls from hurting stabbing themselves (or let's be honest, each other! Ha! Ha!) with them. 

I decided to add a sweet treat for each child, and the teachers, by making some snowman soup packets. 
I enrolled our Mimi for this one, who enjoyed using her artistic skills to draw the faces on these bad boys with some black icing, then helping me assemble them. As luck would have it, our local Bulk Barn keeps seasonal (Halloween) coloured Candy Corn in stock off season, so I was able to buy a fresh back to create these guys' "carrot" noses.

I received a text from the teacher the day of, claiming that the treats were a hit with the kids! 
Sure feels good when hard work and effort pay off ;)
So as I mentioned, we don't put a Yule tree up, and I really do miss it, but I did find a reasonable facsimile, at IKEA of all places (really, why am I surprised?), it was my Mom who found it actually. It's a large fabric panel (size of a large curtain, really), printed with the image of a perfect evergreen. I can't really decorate it, unless I wanted to poke holes in it with the ornament wires, but I do let the kids have fun by adorning it with seasonal stickers. It's funny not having a tree to put the gifts under, but it works for us. For now. 

The kids certainly don't seem affect by it ;) This little darling had been asking for a teddy bear for months, so imagine her surprise when she found out that the biggest box on display was for her. I'll never forget her squeeeee when out popped a huge bear, almost exactly her size! 
Ryker sure loved the pretty present wrappings too, as you can see, the bows didn't stand a chance with this little guy around. But his absolute favourite, was rolling around in the big pile of crumpled paper, ribbons and bows after everyone was done tearing through them. It was the cutest thing.

Everybody piled up on daddy for a big Cuddle Puddle on the kitchen floor. If you look closely, you can see Ryker's little leg peeking out from under Didi :D
Oh and this was, by far, Ryker's absolute favourite present: A little red wagon from Nana Jo and her hubby Denis. It'll be so fun to pile the kiddos in and take them on quick rides. The wagon came with the regular plastic wheels, but also, some sleigh skis for traveling through snow. Those will be nice to have on those very snowy days, but I was happy to see that the company also carries extra accessories for this, like an awning, and a plastic cover, to protect them from the sun and elements. Oh, and a set of large pneumatic tires, which we'll be ordering, because we think those will definitely make the ride smoother. 

I certainly hope you had a wonderful holiday season, surrounded by loved ones, and maybe a little treat or two ;)

TTFN Dolls!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Which Came First, The Goose, Or The Egg?

I haven't been blogging much lately, what with a teen and two littles keeping me rather busy. I had been contemplating starting again, but wasn't sure what to write about. Then this past week, something happened that I just needed to get off my chest, and apparently, that was exactly the shove I needed. (Thank you antagonist!)

I, Julie A Harper, was accused of copying. Now, I've been called many things in my time. Artistic, Clever, Creative, Honest, Kind, Sarcastic, Supportive, but never, ever a copy cat. Like ever!

I had the pleasure of being harassed on my own facebook page by a woman who has it firmly in her head that I have usurped her 'branding'. Problem is, as hard as I might, I really don't see how I could have, because I had no clue who she was, until she started this. Wait, that's not entirely true, I did encounter an Instagram account about one years ago that started using my own #LaTzigane hashtag. I'll admit, I was surprised at the time, because I really thought my business name was original, but La Tzigane really merely means 'The Gypsy" in old French, so I didn't make much of it. It was only a matter of time before someone else caught on.

Full Disclosure: I've decided to share the whole debacle right here on my blog, why? 
Because I have nothing to hide!  
So without further ado, here is how it all started.
(Notice the threat to "visit me" in the first bubble...)

It should be noted that I have personally contacted Etsy, and was informed that Sylvie is not associated with Etsy in any way, and she does not have the ability or authority to do anything at all regarding my shop. At all. I could not even find either a personal or seller's account for her either.

*You can see some backtracking here, when she realizes my image was uploaded August 7th 2015, and not February 5th 2016. Keep this date in mind...*

The issue is that she is going on and on and ON about how I am stealing her branding. Starting with my logo, and my etsy banner, both of which I designed myself, from my very own ideas :) She challenged me to divulge where MY inspiration came from, after publicly sharing an image on my business page from her PERSONAL page (you can refer to the fourth image from the top above to verify), of a beautiful 1877 poster where she got hers. **
This was another screen grab she shared from her own personal page, dated November 14th, 2014, where she claims this will be her future boutique. Which, as far as I can ascertain, was at least 5 years after I opened my own facebook business page. It should be noted that at this point, she hadn't even opened a business page yet, and since I did not know her, there is no way I could have just surfed her page and "stolen her idea".

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but, simply cropping a small part of an image, and using as your own, is not only NOT inspiration, it is, in fact, stealing. And yes, I know that the copyright laws only cover items up to 100 years, but it still did not fall under the rule of inspiration. In her mind though, it did.

Now, I will share exactly what inspired my designs.
At the end of 2014, I had been thinking about changing my branding, and started doodling some ideas, by hand, in a sketch book. Yup, I kicked it back old school! ;) And then I noticed through my IG feed that there was a sudden uptick of deer antlers floating by in all manner of decor, and this really caught my eye. My whole family, Mom and Dad's side, have been hunters and gatherers. Hunting and fishing for wild meat, farming for meat, eggs, and dairy, and planting humongous gardens, for canning, preserving, and freezing. I have wonderful memories of late summer harvests En Famille, where everyone gathered together at a specific house, to harvest whatever crop had been planted that year, and all the women got together to prepare, chop, grate, peel, stew, can, bake, it was amazing. I still remember the aromas wafting out the windows from all the cooking. And the meals. Oh, the meals. We never used disposable plates or napkins. We lined up the picnic tables outside, my great aunts would lug out baskets filled with table ware, cloth napkins, and tablecloths and blankets. The cloths were spread on the tables, the blankets on the grass under the trees, and one single table held all the dishes and flatware, and the food was spread on the rest of the tables, buffet style. It was, well, magical. We didn't have cellphones or iPads to keep us entertained then. We all talked amongst ourselves, the kids played together, ran around, our swing was a board and two ropes hanging from a branch, we swam in the duck pond (and learned to remove leeches with a salt shaker), the old men played horseshoe, the ladies played old maid, or "Vitesse" (a really fun card game that I'd love to learn to play again). Yes, it was magical. But I digress.

The hunting part may not have been as magical in the gathering sense, but still required a lot of family involvement. It was mostly the men, but my Mom, and at least one of my Aunts used to join them, and all of us kids were introduced to it, it was a way of life. I remember my dad bringing home mallards, Canada geese, moose, deer, grouse, pheasant, beaver, racoons, rabbits, turkeys, coyote, wolves. And no, we didn't eat all of these, but most of the animal was used. Times were indeed different then. Dad's favorite hunting method has always been archery. He believed it was a noble way of hunting, that it was actual sport, where the hunter needed to be cunning and patient to catch their prey. And every year, he waited, and got that perfect trophy. He has a wall filled with antlers to prove it. And these animals fed our family for months.

Dad's Trophy Wall

A closeup. 

Mon Papa.

I'm 44 now, and haven't lived at home for many years, but Dad likes to bestow Nature's gifts upon me on occasion, because he knows I appreciate and love them. I revere them not only because they come from him, but because they are made of Her, The Great Mother, who just as she provides Nature and greenery for her animal children, provides the same Nature, greenery, and animals for our own sustenance.

La Tzigane is Olde French for "The Gypsy", a moniker given to me by my maternal grandmother, who called me her 'petite gitane', or her 'petite bohemienne', for my wild and carefree heart. I was different. I was me. And she recognized it. And she loved me. As a child I was always dancing, whirling around, I'd twirl my skirt, wrap my head in scarves, sneak into my Nana's bedroom, and try on her special jewelry, admiring how the stones shone when the light hit them. This is where my business name came from, and the styling was reminiscent of those turn of the century dancers, Ysadora Duncan, and Ruth St. Denis, the Mothers of Modern Dance. I actually styled some of my original shots from old photos of Ruth. I didn't copy them, mind you. Just used them as inspiration. Here are a two photos I posted on my FB page a few years back, to show then where my inspiration was born from. The one on the left is of Ruth St Denis, the one on the right, yours truly! 

While pregnant with my son, I put my etsy sop in vacation mode, and figured this would be a good time to give it a new look. It became incredibly important to me to implement my History into my logo. And I had to somehow incorporate the antlers. I had a few pairs here, and started arranging them like frames on my table. Round, oval, just two together, then, I suddenly noticed that if I took this large pair, and placed them upside down above that smaller pair, Oh my goodness, "IS THAT A HEART?!" Yes, I could definitely see a heart shape there! And how perfect was it that a heart, the greatest symbol of Love, could be formed simply by placing 4 deer antlers together. The rest then just started falling into place. All these ideas started rolling in my head, what other natural items could be incorporated as symbols of my history?  Feathers? Flowers? Leaves? I scoured photos in my own family albums for things that would bring back childhood memories. I remembered walks in my grandmother's garden, on beaches, in fields and forests. And I remembered what a little collector I was, bringing home rocks, shells, sticks, flowers and leaves to press, bugs, bones and feathers to display, and this is who I still am to this day. I literally have vases designated for my feathery finds displayed in my home.

My mind hummed with ideas, I scribbled, I erased, I crumpled, I started over with something different. And then it all suddenly fit. The antlers, in the shape of a heart, would represent not only my history, but my family frame. The morning glories on the bottom, which my father grows every year, two beautiful blooms which represent my husband and myself, in constant state of budding, blossoming, closing, evolving, their vines intertwined with the antlers, holding them together. The feathers, our children. Not only ours together, but my son from a previous relationship, who passed away just shy of his third birthday. He's a little to the side, in the upper corner, as a symbol of his  ascendance. That is the deep representation of my logo. My Story. My History.

Dad's morning glories, winding themselves around old discarded practice arrows he likes to keep around. A nod to where I got my magpie tendencies I suppose.

The rest, well, as far as branding goes, it all has to be cohesive, doesn't it? You can't just throw myriad images together willy-nilly and hope for the best, it has to all tie in together. And as Mr. Thompson used to tell us in Computer Graphic Design class, "KISS", as in, Keep It Simple Sweetheart (only he never said sweetheart! LOL!).  So I just broke down my own logo, and found ways to tie it all together, starting with the font, and added that little arrow as a nod to my story above, and because I thought it was cute. And to be honest, to have some person harass and bully me to change what came from my heart, and accuse me of copying them, and calling my work '"cheap", and myself "delusional" (hello pot, have you met kettle?), was downright classless! 

I mean, clearly, I'm clever and talented enough to execute my own beaded jewelry, crochet and knit wares -every single item in my shop right now was made of my own two hands, NOTHING is outsourced, I excelled at life drawing and graphic design, and graduated with a diploma in Visual Arts and Graphic Design from the NCAAT, but I can't be creative bough to come up with my own branding? Not to mention that I come from a long line of creatives. Oil painting, millinery, sewing, crochet, knitting, whittling, pottery, sculpting, wood turning, sketching, music, I was exposed to it all firsthand. The generation before mine believed that if you couldn't purchase it, you made it, and this was definitely passed on to me. 

I mean, I suppose it would be easy for someone to just judge me by their own actions, and think that everyone is just like them. If SHE simply cropped an image to suit her needs and pass it off as her own, it's definitely possible she thought I did the same. In fact, I'm pretty sure she does. But I didn't, for the simple fact that I never needed to.

Her logo on the bottom right made its first appearance in IG on November 14, 2015, mine (bottom right), made its first appearance as my cover photo on my Facebook page on February 17th 2015, my logo only appeared on my Etsy shop on August 7th 15, because my shop was on Vacation Mode before then, due to my self-imposed Maternity Leave. (Remind me again, don't those two months come before November???) 

This is her website's home page, which doesn't lead anywhere.

Her Facebook page was started in January 2016.
Whereas mine is from 2009.

** Disclaimer: I feel that since this person has already posted her attack publicly on my Facebook page, I am within my rights to share them here. These are screen grabs, none of the dialogue has been changed. The whole conversation can still be made available on my page if need be, I have simply hidden them, because frankly, it was starting to look spammy...

TTFN Dolls!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

What a wonderful weekend we've had. It started out a tad gloomy, but the weather changed to balmy sunlight, and stayed that way for the duration of our last long weekend as a family before Winter's cold turns the corner. 
As some of you know, this was Canadian Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays! For how it gathers family of course, but mainly, FOOD! ;) I love me some turkey with all the fixings. And I love our tradition. Both Darling and I's families live far away, so it's always been just Us, save for once or twice, where we were invited to someone else's place, or family was visiting. Truth be told, we are generally homebodies, and to prefer a quieter gathering to a loud, free-for-all bash. I always wind up eating wayyyyyy too much at those! LOL!

I spent all day Saturday cooking and prepping the yummy goodies, while Darling caught up on outside gardening and laundry. (He is a GEM!)

Saturday was this little nugget's 10th Weekversary.
I don't know if it's just me, but I swear, the hours, days, weeks, are all a blur. I am doing my best to soak up every moment with these littles of ours, but frankly, there just aren't enough hours in one day to drink it all in.
Oh but look at this wee man, isn't he a gem? He's at such a fun stage right now, discovering his hands, and his voice. So much coo'ing and smiling. It is mind-boggling to see these little ones come into their personalities.

Ah, yes, my homemade stuffing. I refuse to use that MSG laden prepared stuff. So a few years ago, I bit the bullet, and searched out stuffing recipes, tweaked it a bit here and there, and came up with the perfect combination that pleased my family's taste buds.

Me and my babies. Such a warm, raw moment captured by Darling. 
I do complain on occasion that I'd love a bit more Me time, alone, where I don't feel responsible for anyone else's stomach or needs, just for a short while... But the moment I get it, all I do is think of them. I miss them and wonder what they're up to? Wondering if they need anything, because it always seems that when I'm around, nobody can find what they're looking for! Ha! Ha!

We kept it really simple. Wait, "I" kept it really simple! LOL! It's one thing to be busy in the kitchen all day, and being able to get it all done. But I am surrounded by tiny assistants, whom we affectionately refer to as "Insistants", a term coined by Mimi when she was a tiny thing trying to help me, and declared "But I want to be your INSISTANT!!! I love it when kids come up with their own expressions.

Turkey, stuffing, corn, creamy mashed potatoes, gravy, and loads of cranberry sauce (berries IN, thank you!) A perfect late lunch/early dinner meal. 
Which we ate two days in a row! Thanksgiving leftovers ROCK!

Our meal was accompanied with a delicious glass of Fontana Vidal from Riverview Winery , a deliciously sweet, fruity wine. Dangerously delicious in my opinion. This Mama is NOT a habitual drinker, but this was going down way too nicely for someone who hadn't had wine in, wow, about 4 years? I'm a cheap date! LOL!

Good to the very last crumb!!!

And what Thanksgiving meal would be complete without a piece of pumpkin pie, loaded with coconut whipped cream? 
Or as Didi likes to call it "Porcupie"
Add that one to the list of favourite kids' expressions! 

Seriously, we had to hide the pie!

Sunday Pancake Breakfast. Weekday mornings are always such a blur here. Darling rushing around getting ready for work. Mimi in a complete haze, trying her best to remember everything she needs for school. And me, with a needy Didi who wants everything right and now, and a tiny little man who just wants his boobie breakfast, well... Sometimes I don't even get to sit down to my first sip of coffee until 10:00am!
But on weekend mornings, nobody's rushing around. Music is playing, and Mama's in the kitchen, doing what she loves the most: Cooking! My Buttermilk Pancakes are always a hit, and I've had to learn to triple my batch in order to have some left over to freeze as toaster pancakes on those rushed weekday mornings. This has sort of backfired, because then the family eats WAY more than their fair share, seeing as there's a big pile in front of them.

It was an absolutely wonderful long holiday weekend. Lots of activity, lots of work, and lots of LOVE!
And now? Well now we prepare for Halloween!!! 

TTFN Darlings!