Tuesday, 27 December 2016

There is nothing quite like time to make you think.  Even though Christmas holidays are still a busy time with dinner parties and events, the routine is different.  There are more moments of reflection and connection with those close to us. 

I have honestly been feeling like our life is a blur at times.  We have had a few more things thrown our way lately so I have mostly been just trying to keep the wheels from falling off... and a few times they almost did.  I am finding myself reminiscing and missing the times when our children were very young.  I know this is cliché, but life was so much more simple then.  Issues were small and easy to manage.  I lacked sleep (of which was not easy for us because we love our sleep) but I could function and felt mostly confident... now I don't feel nearly as strong.  We are heading into unknown waters of parenting and I just hope and pray our boat stays upright. 

One lesson I am learning is to trust my own judgement, my husband's and children's judgement.  They are the most important people in my life... everyone else will come and go but they need to trust me and know I will always be here for them.  Sometimes I get all caught up and forget that. 

I want to step into 2017 with a much more clear focus... take the good with the bad.  Know that life is not always easy but it is good.  Trust God that he has a plan for me and that I can turn to him when I don't know what to do or say.  Teach those same things to our children.  I want to relax a little more and try not to overeact as much.  Make room for those really important to me and not worry about all of the rest... I have a very full life so now is not the time to be spreading myself too thin.  From this, I feel a sense of calm come over me.  I have so many other goals for 2017 but this needs to remain the big picture... I am turning 40 this year but I don't want that to be my focus for change.  I hope to change and tweak a few things so I feel better about myself and who I am but mostly I just want to accept who I am, who we are as a family and know that I can trust in myself. 

How about that for New Years Resolutions? 
This photo was taken a few years ago but gives me a nice warm feeling.

The McGregor Family Annual Christmas Letter

The McGregor Family Annual Christmas Letter

Our Favourite Things of 2016
At the end of each year, Ian and I like to summarize and highlight the past year.  Again this year we decided to ask each one of our children to list some of their favourite parts.  It shows a little repetition but that doesn't surprise me.  Happy Reading!

Jean (8 years old, grade 3, dancer and sings): 

1.       Walt Disney World trip; February:  She loved the ride “It’s a Small World”, she saw Mary Poppins and got to give Marie (from Aristocats) a big hug!  (this made a perfect picture).

2.       After WDW, we spent a few days with Grandma and Grandpa McGregor.  Jean loved being there especially playing mini golf, shuffleboard and swimming. Our van broke down on our way to Florida so we took a ride in a tow truck and taxi and got to stay in a very nice hotel.  (Let’s just say, this was NOT a hightlight of mine but it’s sweet to know that the kids thought it was great!)

3.       We put in a pool this summer.

4.       Our annual camping trip with friends to Bon Echo park in August. 

5.       We travelled to the International Plowing Match this September with the whole McGregor family and met up with the Peterson/Currie/Garner crew for the day.  We stayed over in a hotel as well which Jean loved!

6.       Her 8th birthday party was a lot of fun especially the piñata!

Alex (10 years old, grade 5, hockey player)

1.      Walt Disney World trip; loved Epcot’s scavenger hunt around the world.  We didn’t realize just how much fun the kids had at Epcot travelling through the countries but it was a quiet, calm and relaxing activity… we sure loved it to!

2.       Saved up his money for his first ipad.

3.       Going to summer hockey camp in Ottawa with a good friend.

4.       Our annual camping trip to BonEcho with the Costello’s and Collins families.

5.       His 10th birthday party in October.

6.       Making a new, good friend at school.

Grace (12 years old, grade 7, dancer, singer, student council… this list could go on and on!)

1.      Disney – she loved it all!  She especially loved Boma, an African restaurant with AMAZING food and great service.

2.       She loves having our own pool and going night swimming.

3.       Camping with Grandma and Grandpa Garner and bringing a friend with her.

4.       Her 12 birthday party!

5.       Going to her first “away” summer camp, OELC (leadership camp). 

6.       Grade 7: having some new opportunities such as student council and sports teams. 

Ian: I am still doing what I love and feel lucky that I can make a living at working the land and growing crops alongside my family . It was another great year both on and off the farm. Yields were higher than expected despite all the dry weather we had throughout the growing season, which was an added bonus. Our family was able to take part in many different activities throughout the year as you can see from the all the highlighted events for 2016.  I look forward to the upcoming Christmas break and all the visiting, eating and relaxing with family and friends that goes with it.  Take care and all the best for 2017!!

Deb:  I don’t have enough space to sum up how amazing this past year has been.  I am a busy mom and I help to run a very large farm business!  I don’t have enough time but I really do try to savour as much as I can… our Florida vacation is always a highlight.  It brings me immense joy to plan and plan and then re-plan when mishaps happen like a delayed arrival to Florida (see above).   A big highlight is that we put in our pool… I treasure the memories we have already made and look forward to many years of summer fun!  I have had a lot of “fun” this fall; I have taken quite a few mini-trips (Quebec City, Plowing Match, London, quilting retreat, hockey tournament, shopping in the US) and each one has been awesome.  Ian and I spend much of our time running the roads of Renfrew County for our kids (and all summer long for the business).   I am very, very proud of our kids… there are always new challenges but Grace, Alex and Jean each have a good heart so we must be doing something right!  The days go by way too fast… I am REALLY looking forward to Christmas break where I hope to hunker down as much as I can.  Winter is here… stay warm!
This is our version of the "dab"... obviously I need to work on my technique!

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Quilt That Just Kept on Giving

This is the quilt that has been hanging around for a while... it's not one of my longest projects but it is one that I started, still loved but never quite got to finishing it until this fall.  I loved the fabric.  I think it was the first jelly roll I bought (those of you in the quilting world know what this means; those of you who are not, well it's not food but just as sweet and tempting as it sounds). 
Anyways, I quickly pieced the top of the quilt.  Then it sat for a while.  I wanted it to be much larger (it's a bed quilt for my oldest daughter) so I added borders.  Then I added more borders.  Oh boy... it then started to become a bit tedious.  


 Then it sat for even longer, folded up on top of everything but then new fabric started piling up on top of it.  THEN Grace started wondering when was I ever going to finish her quilt  I began to worry that she might even hate the colours by the time it made it to her room finished. 


 I love quick projects so I took some of the leftover fabric and made a table runner for her dresser and two pillowcases to match.  Still no quilt for her bed though. 

So finally I made a date with my living room floor and sandwiched the quilt (again the relationship to food... imagine a fabric sandwich... backing fabric, quilt batting and then the pieced quilt top... makes sense?)  There was no turning back once I started this process because eventually there would be people home that would be stepping all over it so I got down on my hands and knees and got it done!!  Phew.  Folded it up and set it aside... again.
 I blogged about my recent quilt retreat (read about it here) and first on my quilting agenda was to finish this quilt.  Seriously.  No other quilting was going to be done until this quilt was "quilted" and then binding attached.    Initially I was having some trouble with my sewing machine and free-motion quilting but luckily there just happened to be some "experts" close by so once I figured out the mistakes I was making, I was on my way.  Wine by my side (in a non-spill cup of course) and I was done before I knew it. 

I was so happy with the finished product.  I don't think it would have been as nice if I finished it... well... way back when I bought the fabric.  This one was a labour of love and learning.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photographs but I needed help so two held it up for me (with some pizazz of course) and one was behind the camera.  The sun was setting so the lighting was strange as well.  This goes down in the books as a funny memory!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Quilting Retreat in Cornwall, Fall 2016

This is what I have been looking forward to for quite some time... actually ever since I went on my first quilting retreat, I looked forward to my second (one a half years ago).  The room doesn't look like much but it was all mine for 3 nights.  My life is super busy so this was my chance to recharge, fill my cup up and create a few things.  

First up was finishing this quilt for my oldest daughter, Grace.  I had been putting off the quilting part since the last time I was working on it, I was very frustrated.  I knew that if I could devote some time and space to it, I could be happy with it.  I attached the binding but didn't have the right thread to finish it off, so it's still not complete BUT that's the easy part. 

One of the best things about going to a quilting retreat is learning new things.  I consider myself to be an intermediate/experienced quilter but I tend to sit in my comfort zone.  I find I revert to the familiar when it comes to completing a project.  This time I learned about a little gadget my sewing machine came with... one of those things that has just stayed in my tool box but some of the other ladies showed me the gadget and how to use it and voila, something so easy to use just made my quilting even easier!

That little metal bar is helping to guide my quilting in equal lines.

My newest Christmas quilt:  it's not very big so will most likely go on our kitchen table or be used as a wall hanging.  I bought the fabric collection as a pack of 5" squares and added the white and red border. 

I added this little label while I was attaching the binding.  I also learned about another attachment to my sewing machine that helps me put the binding on with more accuracy.  I borrowed the bi-level foot from another quilter but plan on buying one of my own.  There were a few Pfaff sewing machine experts on our retreat which came in very handy!
On the second day in Cornwall, I went for a run on the beautiful path along the waterfront.  I am glad I did because the food was plentiful and the desserts were irresistible.  I did put in a lot of walking as the place is quite large but taking time to run was fantastic.  

Sometimes it is hard for "mommy" to leave home.  Even though my kids are getting older (12 years, 10 years and almost 8 years old) they don't want me to leave.  I left to a very sad little 8 year old so I decided to make her an apron (I bought the fabric a few months ago with these intentions).  Since I could devote the time it didn't take long at all to finish. (pattern from The School of Sewing book).

The last project I could squeeze in was to work on these blocks:

I started this last spring and have put it to the bottom of my pile for a while now but once I pulled them out, I didn't want to stop... but I had to.  By noon on the last day, I needed to pack up and head home.  I am happy to say I am halfway done the blocks for this bright and cheery quilt. 

Nancy from Sew Inspired, a local quilt shop, organizes a quilting retreat each year.  She puts in a lot of work to make it a success and this one was no exception.  I made some new friends, got reacquainted with another, learned that age does not matter when it comes to doing what you love, laughed a lot and had some time to myself.  It was awesome.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Happy 10th Birthday to Alex

Alexander John Denniston McGregor... 10 Years Old

This kid. 
He is amazing.
I must admit I am a bit partial to this boy... he is my baby boy.  I wish he wasn't 10 already.  Each year is special and I love each stage as much as the next but he is so cuddly and used to love to sit on my lap, in my arms and those days are ending. 
We are very proud of him.  He is kind, thoughtful, creative and very smart.  He loves sports and hockey is his favourite.  He is the middle kid between two sisters and is a good brother to them but LOVES that he has two boy cousins he can spend a lot of time with... they are like brothers to him.
This summer he worked a little bit more for the farm including picking onions and working at the farmers' market.  He is also mowing the lawn now (a recent project).  He likes to drive and wants his own 4-wheeler very badly...
What I love the most about Alex is that he is very warm and friendly.  He makes friends everywhere we go (on vacation, camping, at parks) and he will play with anyone.  He loves babies and toddlers but enjoys the company of anyone who will play with him (lego, imaginary games, video games, sports).  We also find him playing on his own a lot to.  He is a very content kid.
And now he is 10 years old. 

Happy 10th Birthday to Alex

Alexander John Denniston McGregor... 10 Years Old

This kid. 
He is amazing.
I must admit I am a bit partial to this boy... he is my baby boy.  I wish he wasn't 10 already.  Each year is special and I love each stage as much as the next but he is so cuddly and used to love to sit on my lap, in my arms and those days are ending. 
We are very proud of him.  He is kind, thoughtful, creative and very smart.  He loves sports and hockey is his favourite.  He is the middle kid between two sisters and is a good brother to them but LOVES that he has two boy cousins he can spend a lot of time with... they are like brothers to him.
This summer he worked a little bit more for the farm including picking onions and working at the farmers' market.  He is also mowing the lawn now (a recent project).  He likes to drive and wants his own 4-wheeler very badly...
What I love the most about Alex is that he is very warm and friendly.  He makes friends everywhere we go (on vacation, camping, at parks) and he will play with anyone.  He loves babies and toddlers but enjoys the company of anyone who will play with him (lego, imaginary games, video games, sports).  We also find him playing on his own a lot to.  He is a very content kid.
And now he is 10 years old.  

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Jean and Mrs. Simons

The other day our kids brought home their report cards.  I take report cards with a grain of salt... I have written report cards in my past teaching career and I understand that it only explains a small part of the school year.  These documents don't say everything about how your child has really succeeded in class or how their overall year has gone.  What we pay attention to is the work they do throughout the year, the conversations we have with the teachers all year long and how they are doing when we work with them on assignments and weekly work.  We pay attention when they talk about their days at school and we try to encourage them to enjoy school and make each day count.  We also encourage them to work hard.

All that being said, as I was saying, I opened up our youngest daughter's report card, began reading through it and burst into tears.  She stood there staring at me and asked me what was wrong.  Nothing was wrong; I was just so happy and proud.  Unfortunately academics do not come easily for Jean.  She comes after two older siblings who are strong students; one has an amazing work ethic and the other is just naturally intelligent with a great memory.  Jean has not had an easy time learning to read and we know the struggle is not over but her report card and documents from her teacher show us that she has reached her grade level in language arts.  She has come a long, long way and I AM SO PROUD OF HER.  She has worked hard through evenings of reading with us, working with her tutor (of which she did not want to... nothing to do with her tutor but she did not like the fact that she had to go when her older brother and sister did not) and being constantly encouraged to practice practice practice. 

I think her teacher, Mrs. Simons, has been the best influence and cheerleader for Jean.  We have been blessed to have Mrs. Simons understand from early in grade 1 and all the way to the end of grade 2 (Jean has been in her class for two years) that we are willing to do whatever it takes to help Jean along.  She wasn't going to necessarily get extra help at school because she was not the "weakest" in her class so it was going to have to be a team effort of parent/teacher/tutor to give Jean the tools to be successful.  I kept thinking that if we don't work on this with her now she will fall through the cracks... and we are not willing to go down that road.  As grade two ends, we cannot say enough about Mrs. Simons... it brings me to tears thinking about how much she cares about Jean and all of her students.  I am sad to end our relationship with her but happy that Jean benefited from her as a teacher.

Jean has so much "life" in her.  She has so many talents and is passionate about what she loves.  She is creative and spunky.  She makes people look twice at her and brings a smile to their face.  I know she will go far and make us very proud.  She already has and she is only 7 1/2 years old.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Farmhouse Bedroom Makeover

True story... we picked shamrock green for our bedroom colour 14 years ago.  Why?  Well, first, we did not realize that it would be so shamrock-like.  Second, bold colours were stylish back then.  Lastly, we did not know what we were doing and how long it would actually take.  Yup.  We were newbies at living in a big, old home that we would have to take care of all by ourselves.  Pretty much as soon as we were done, we did not like it.  Skip ahead many years and I found myself devoting some time to making a big change. 
I don't really like home renovations.  I don't like the process of painting and it isn't easy in our century home.  Many of the rooms are still made of lath and plaster so the walls are wonky, pitted and filled with cracks.  Our bedroom is quite large with it's own staircase so it was daunting but once I devoted some serious time to it, I started to see some progress.  There was no going back.  I listened to my favourite podcasts during the day and actually enjoyed myself. 
I started with the staircase which was the most difficult and tedious.

Not only did I have to paint walls but cupboard doors as well. 
I don't know how long these hooks have been here but they are useful.

The quilt hanging is one of my baby quilts... almost 39 years old.

Handprint art we made in 2012.

I am so happy with the colour... it is bright but still cozy.  I bought some fabric to make new pillow shams and possibly a few other accent pieces.  My plan is to paint the side tables next fall but overall I like the look I achieved.  We are no-fuss people, our bedroom is generally a catch-all for laundry and kids.  The kids think our bed is perfect for running and jumping on and Ian is not known for putting his things away so I wanted the whole thing to feel simple and easy to maintain. 

Note:  The quilt folded on our bed was a gift from Ian's Grandma McGregor.  She made it many years ago and we love having it in our room. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Feeling Proud

Photo by Rhonda McMaster
The past few weeks have been a whirl wind for this kid! 
We (her parents aka personal drivers) have noticed that she loves being involved, wants to try new things and wants to perform and play.  She loves a challenge and works hard to succeed.  All of these things make being her parent totally amazing and I am just going to brag... just for a bit. 

Grace began taking voice lessons this year and when given the opportunity to perform/compete in the Renfrew Music Festival, she was definitely enthusiastic.  This is no easy feat... it's hard work and can be very intimidating singing in front of an adjudicator.  She placed first in her duet and second in her solo.  She was very proud and happy and then relieved it was all over!

She also volunteered as a mascot for the National Broomball Championship held in Arnprior.  She was assigned a team from Manitoba and went to most of their games representing the community and her school.  This was a great opportunity and we were very proud of her for volunteering her time.
Grace with some of her friends and some of the Manitoba broomball team.

To top it all off, Grace had three dance competitions in April. 

There is a saying: "If you want something done, ask a busy person."  I know that is true because I am most productive when kept busy.  Deadlines are always good things to have.  Grace is the same and in between all of those activities, her grades remained high and she kept up with her school work.  I noticed she has learned to manage her time very well... something that took me a longer time to learn! 
She continues to take on challenges and opportunities.  She has joined a basketball league and has 3 dance exams in June.  Her summer will be a little less busy but she will continue to work with her Grandpa and Aunt at the Carp Farmers' Market and then she has an amazing opportunity to attend a leadership camp (away from home!) at the end of the summer. 
She makes me want to be 11 turning 12 again... those are such great years!

Monday, 11 April 2016

A Country Music Night To Remember

I became a country music fan a long time ago. 
It wasn't because my parents were big country fans (although back in the 1980s there was a lot less choice in music and I think many people were fans of all genres back then) but they were big music fans.  We listened to music loudly and danced all over the house.  This is a very happy memory of mine.  My dad loved good music and good sound systems so when he played music, it was heard and we all joined in the fun of listening.
I actually became a country music fan while sitting on a big yellow bus, with my friend, listening with her walkman and sharing the earphones.  I remember she introduced me to Garth Brooks.  After that, I was hooked on to country music.
I took that new love and, as most teenagers do, I became immersed in my new love.  As time went on, Garth Brook's music was one of my favourites; I had most of his albums but I also fell for Tim McGraw and loved LeeAnn Womack, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba (of course), Brooks and Dunn and my absolute favourite... Trisha Yearwood.

I sang with Trisha all the time, knew all the words to all of her songs and what I really loved was she didn't act or look like she was perfect.  Her songs were filled with meaning and a voice that was awesome.  She carried herself well and was a real person... failed first marriage and struggles with her weight (although I thought she always looked amazing) and carried on with her music. 

I have been fortunate to have been able to attend quite a few concerts.  I have been to some really good ones: Reba was memorable, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift were truly entertaining, Eric Church and Jason Aldean are amazing but my most recent concert was seeing Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood.  What a show!

We were lucky enough to be invited by friends to join them in the suite they reserved; it was fairly high up but the seats were awesome and honestly I barely socialized with anyone other than my husband because I was really into it!  I danced and sang through the whole entire concert and did not want it to end when it did.  Garth was everything I wanted him to be; he is an amazing performer.  There was nothing flashy, no dancers all over the stage and limited bright lights. Garth and his band just sang and played an amazing show.  His wife, Trisha, came out singing a duet and then he took a much-needed break while she sang a few of her wonderful songs.  My night was complete when she sang "She's in Love With the Boy" which was one of my favourite songs as a teenager.  I probably played it over and over and over... I took a short video of that song to show my sister but had to stop because I just needed to watch her on stage not take time recording.  Garth came back on and continued to play more of "the old stuff" as he put it and we sang and danced some more.

This concert will go down as one of the best. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Just a Little of Everything This March Break

This year I was in the mood for a quiet March Break.  We had been travelling quite a bit this winter and I just felt like staying at home, planning some last minute activities and not packing my suitcase. 
It did not turn out as planned but it was better.  
A ride out to the bush is always fun on the back of the truck.
Aunt Margy is reminiscing about when she was a girl growing up here
 and when her own dad was making maple syrup.
 This year we tapped a few trees after taking a break for a few years.  In the past, Ian has tapped many, many trees and made quite a bit of maple syrup.  He found that he would still be finishing up syrup season when he should be working on machinery to get ready for spring planting.  As a result, we had no maple syrup from our own trees for a few years and I understood why but I missed it nonetheless.  This winter I convinced him to just tap a few trees, maybe 40, and just do a little bit for ourselves.  It's hard not to have hundreds of taps when there are so many trees around but we needed it to be manageable so that he wouldn't be over-run with sap.  I love having our own syrup but what I really love is a good reason to spend time outside, in the bush, when winter is disappearing and the sun is getting warmer.  We have had a few visitors out to our bush to which is always a lot of fun including Aunt Margy and Uncle Mark; we had them over for a dinner party at the beginning of March Break. 
At the beginning of the week, the kids and I went on a road trip to St. Anne de la Parade in Quebec with some friends.  Four moms and twelve kids for two nights in a beautiful, old, country home.

Doesn't everyone take a photo in Costco with their kids? 
We were actually mistaken for a class on a school trip!

We love spending time together and this was one of the rare moments we had of peace and quiet.
Photo Credit:  Gemma Robillard
Once we got home, we hosted a small St. Patrick's Day dinner party and the rest of the week was filled with playdates, shopping, sleepovers, birthday parties, and crafting.

The girls love making videos and they have a "fake" YouTube channel where
they talk about all sorts of things: fashion, hair, crafts etc. 
March Break provides time for them to do all things fun!

Thankfully no one has taken my photo with my new toy but during March Break
my new treadmill was delivered to me and Ian took a few hours to put it altogether.

I did find a little bit of time for finishing up a small sewing project but our week was jam-packed and filled with fun.  There are times I worry we are too busy and sometimes we are but I have to step back and be VERY thankful to be blessed with so many friends and family members that include us in their life.  Making connections and memories is what is important and we had a very memorable week!