1 Oct

Homemade salsa and canned summer!

General

Posted by: Andre Houle

Salsa Time!
I don’t know about you, but nothing beats homemade salsa! And guess what time of year it is? It’s salsa making time!
Every year we look forward to seeing how big our fall haul will be, in anticipation of how many batches of salsa we’re going to get. If you know the slogan for a very famous hot sauce, then you’ll know that that’s precisely the same slogan we use for what we do with our salsa. And I mean that literally.
Need to spice up a casserole? Just add salsa. Need to make eggs less boring, just add salsa. Got chips? Well we have salsa for that affliction too. It gussies up everything.
If you’ve never indulged in homemade salsa, I highly recommend that you try it! It’s wonderful. Once you try it though, you may be permanently hooked.
There’s nothing like fresh garden tomatoes, and turning them into salsas, soups or sauces because you have far too many, is a lost art. It’s worth the time and effort and experiencing some of that delectable downhome comfort during the winter months is beyond refreshing when unable to eat less of the fresh produce some of us are privy to during the summer months. I’m a little obsessed with my tomatoes and I am trying desperately to revive the enthusiasm for these hobbies.
I was actually surprised to see how many decided to take up gardening this year. I suppose with having many people home this summer, it really shouldn’t have surprised me. The surprise really hit me when the time came for me to buy my own seeds and I couldn’t find any, as everything was sold out.
It now makes me wonder how many are going to take the next step and do a little canning or pickling. If you haven’t but have considered it, try it! I think you’ll be surprised.
As for me, I usually use many green tomatoes in my salsa, and I even smoke them in my smoker. If you’ve yet to try smoked tomatoes, well, maybe I shouldn’t say anything! All I can say is, my kitchen is about to be very busy and my supply of canned summer is about to be replenished!

17 Sep

Fall Freedoms

General

Posted by: Andre Houle

I see the fall breeze has blown into town, and with it the beautiful colours of the season. I love fall. Like really love fall.
Actually, I love every season for all different reasons, but there’s something about the beauty that this season brings that I seem relish in so much more. It’s calming and serene and it feels so peaceful. And quiet, I love the quiet.
Actually, the quiet is because school is back in! Yipee! Wow, and I thought the leaves brought all the silence…how wrong I was!
I’m kidding…maybe. I must admit, having the girls underfoot for months on end has been challenging. I never thought I’d see the day that the world would be closed, and my kids would be back at home all of the time, just like when they were little.
I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with our daughters and I wouldn’t change a thing. That said, once both were in school full time, I had a taste of the freedom I’d had for quite a few years prior and honestly, there’s no feeling like it. I could go to the grocery store any time I wanted and nearly instantaneously. I only had to pack up myself and go.
Ask any parent about having to make a ‘quick trip’ (the ultimate oxymoron when you have children) to the grocery store because you forgot the milk a day earlier at your usual big grocery haul for the week. I’d often be reduced to reasoning, bribing and begging in order to get the girls dressed so we could go. All of that was just to get them dressed. Now that they’re older, we’re at the age and stage where Andre and I stand and at the door waiting, while our oldest gets prettied up, if she joins us when we go somewhere.
Sigh, teenagers. With this return to school, I’ve finally regained the freedom to do the things that I want or need to do somewhat. With that, I am trying to regain my energy and gusto so I can continue on with the many things I’d started prior to the lockdown.
I had no idea what that time meant to me. Despite the fact that the girls had school work to do on their own, I felt guilty for some strange reason for doing the things that I’d normally do when they weren’t at home. I don’t know if that was just because it’s me, or if I felt compelled to be constantly engaged because they really didn’t want to busy themselves with anything other than technology. Try as I might, they always seemed to turn to that first…kids these days hey?
Who knew how having the kids back at home would affect my life. I can’t imagine if my kids had been younger…I can only imagine the challenges at each age and stage. All said and done, here’s to having a few moments of normalcy in this crazy life!

16 Apr

Coaxing Spring

General

Posted by: Andre Houle

Guest Post by Lisa Houle.

 

I love plants. All plants, especially flowers. And even more especially, plants that produce the wonderful gifts of bounty in my garden. Like my grandparents, I usually break out the potting soil and seeds in the dead of winter, to begin the coaxing of spring. And I, much like my grandparents were, a little overzealous in the application of how many seeds I start growing.

Every year, I begin my tomato plants right from seed. And every year, without fail, I end up swearing that I’ll never plant that many again, because I didn’t need that many to begin with and they’ve taken over the entire house by the beginning of April. We generally end up with no room to sit in our living room, and our kitchen table usually becomes strewn with lanky, tall, delicate tomato and other assorted plants, just waiting to be transplanted when the weather is warm enough.

The most intriguing part of my day revolves around these little sprouts. Seeing what’s popped up overnight and what decided to grow throughout the day. It’s exciting, especially when growing things I’ve never grown before. I know, it’s probably like watching paint dry for many folks, but for me, it’s always been a wonder.

Last summer, I decided to spend less time worrying about the plants, and more time with my sister. Having family gatherings here is difficult as it is because our home isn’t very big and having all of those plants around, makes it that much smaller. I did go to the greenhouse, hoping to have a better yield in addition to the spare time because my plants never seemed to turn out the vast amounts my grandparents did. Sadly, the greenhouse plants fared no better.

This year, I’ve decided to start them earlier than I have in the past in the hopes that my plants will be nice and hardy instead of the usual 18 inch whippy twigs I produce. I’m already starting to putter out on the watering, but the vast majority of my plants are up already and that’s what’s keeping me going. Spring should hopefully be here soon, and with it, gardening season. After being cooped up for so many months, I’m looking forward to it.

25 Mar

How the Kindness of Others Drastically Changed My Life

General

Posted by: Andre Houle

With everything that has been going on in regards to the world basically shutting down, I wanted to share a story about the kindness of others and how it has affected my life. I hope this inspires many of you, or lets you know that kind acts truly make the world go round.

As many of you know, my daughter Kylee was diagnosed and treated for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 4 years ago. What many don’t know or realize, is that our family wouldn’t have survived without the kindness of others. We were fortunate that Kylee’s treatment was a short but chaotic 9 weeks total, not including the month and a half prior to diagnose and stage it. If I’m honest, it was the most arduous and harrowing months of our life up until that point, and our heads were left spinning for a long time afterwards.

You see, the world doesn’t stop when yours does. I see many people experiencing this for the first time, but the world is shutting down with you and at the same time right now. It’s dizzying, uncertain and scary for many, but we are all experiencing this together. When we were dealing with Kylee’s illness, the world was still in full swing, dragging us with it despite the fact that our feet had quit moving.

We struggled to maintain any kind of normalcy that we’d had prior to this because when faced with that kind of stress, your brain goes into overdrive and can only focus on one thing, fear. It was especially difficult when we still had no idea what we were dealing with. That, by far, has been one of the most desperate times in my life. You’re in the dark, and you have no idea what’s to come, and there isn’t even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I felt completely hopeless and at the mercy of life itself.

When everyday heroes come to call

One day, in the middle of this chaos, my wife, Lisa, while waiting to pick our girls up from school, was approached by a mom, whose child was friends with Kylee (who we didn’t know well at that time). She knew, by the look on Lisa’s face (as she told us later) that something was horribly wrong. She asked Lisa how things were going, and at that point, Lisa was beyond herself and just let out that our pediatrician thought Kylee may have cancer, but that it hadn’t been confirmed yet. Only our family knew any of the details at that time.

Lisa’s mind wasn’t what it normally was, and she wouldn’t usually say anything unless she had all of the facts, but she says that she was broken beyond broken at that point. The sentence just spilled out without a second thought. She said she’d never want to put anyone into that type of situation without warning because how could anyone overcome the shock of that situation and try to be even remotely understanding? I’d be caught completely off-guard, that’s for sure. But not this mom.

This amazing mom, she gives me hope. And hope, is a hard thing to come by most days. She reached out to us, when many would shy away. Cancer is not an easy thing to talk about, let alone when a child is affected. And, that’s okay, because it is hard.

We had no choice but to continue moving forward in the diagnosis process and subsequent staging and planning of treatment. The closest family we had at that time, was either a 4 hour drive away or a one hour flight, and we hadn’t really made too many friends in the community at that time. As word began trickling out, more people began reaching out. It’s all a blur, so my details are fuzzy, but this one mom, took it upon herself to reach out to all of the friends in her circle, and she formed a cavalry like none I’d ever seen.

A cavalry like no other

She reached out to us, often asking how we were doing, and any updates that we may have for her, especially around treatment dates and times. We hardly knew one another, but we knew she was very quiet and very kind. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to reach out, but I will be forever grateful for her doing that. We heard from our amazing neighbors, co-workers and friends, even the ones we don’t get together with often, as well. These amazing humans, are real life miracle workers.

Every week, for 9 weeks, without fail, that one mom (and she’s not just a mom by the way, she’s more than amazing) that we were still getting to know, arranged for her ‘mom army’ (her cavalry), to make meals to last us for more than an entire week. We would have chemotherapy on Monday, and on Tuesday, she was at our door with a feast made for a King, in addition to the many gifts and cards for absolutely anything we or our girls could ever need, filled with thoughts of kindness and well wishes on top of it all.

Many, extended their kindness and engaged us, when they couldn’t afford any of it for themselves. Their completely selfless acts were the most compassionate gifts we’ve ever received.  I can remember the first time our ‘mom’ arrived on our doorstep. The overwhelming emotions I’d felt in that moment, were the first real feelings I’d had besides fear over the past few weeks. I was in utter shock at what she brought over, followed by immense gratitude and even relief because we didn’t feel so alone. Such a powerful moment in my life. I will never forget that feeling.

The selfless acts that just kept snowballing

Our friends, co-workers and neighbors, did the same things too. Week after week, they jumped in and helped with letting our dog out on treatment days, picking Tristen up from school and keeping her until we got home from other appointments, taking over my work files and leaving pre-made home cooked meals for us in the fridge along with a great many other things. Our friends also went above and beyond, even bringing entire meals and goodies right to the hospital when Kylee had her first round of chemotherapy. Their company was greatly appreciated, and made us feel somewhat ‘normal’ again. The endless support we had was staggering.

Kindness was extended to us in every way humanly possible during that time. It didn’t take one moment to realize the impact of our situation and how it resonated in others. It was answered with the amazing qualities that only humanity brings. These amazing human beings were balancing busy families and lives of their own, while keeping ours afloat. They worked tirelessly and relentlessly, never letting our heads dip below the surface. They gave us the gift of their time, and that my friends, can never be repaid in kind. It’s the ultimate gift.

These people, just like you and I, were our life line. Many of which, were complete strangers to us at that time. I will honestly say, they are the reason we survived our daughter having cancer. Community, cooperation, selflessness, compassion and empathy are very powerful things. My family and I have been a direct beneficiary of these gifts, and believe in this and the many other qualities of kindness wholeheartedly.

Everyone has something to give

These are the true riches of the world that can only come from a living being. We try to give as much back as we can, often volunteering and doing whatever we can to help out. We did a lot of this prior to Kylee’s illness, and will continue to implement it throughout our life. We know that we will never, NEVER, be able to express our gratitude enough to the amazing people that reached out and supported us during our time of need. For that, we will keep paying it forward as often as we can. I highly encourage others to do the same.

You won’t regret it, and the recipients of your gift, will never forget it and will flourish because of it. Life is a garden, you only get out of it, what you put into it. I hope, that in this time, I have inspired you to give where and when you can because there are many who desperately need the kindness of others right now.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share how drastically our life was affected by normal, everyday humans, just like you and I. I want to say thank you, again, to all of you out there, you know who you are. Know that we think of you daily, and are beyond grateful for your very existence.

 

An article that shows how everything is connected…  The Fibonacci Sequence is everywhere – even the troubled stock market