Moving Challenges ~ Counting to 1,000 ~ Winter Ski Vacation

This has been an amazing move for our family and the months since we left Maine last May and then arrived here in Gaspé last fall have been full to the brim with blessings.

Honestly, it's like I've been given a gift - the gift of dreams coming true and creating the life we want for our family.

We live surrounded by beauty. I spend every day with my husband and I love it. I'm home with my kids, I'm writing more. I could go on.

But life is far from easy and perfect (there ain't no heaven on earth) and there are struggles and challenges in the everyday. I'd like to share a few of these because I like being real and also because FIMBY is a family life chronicle and I want to record these memories.

Stuff I'm struggling with right now

The grocery budget. Oh my goodness the grocery budget, which I've blown (by a lot) three months in a row now. It's killing me (the family tightwad & money manager). Thank goodness it's not killing my husband who is working hard to support this habit of family has, called eating.

If someone has some real whole-food, gluten-free, plant-based, living-in-a northern-climate-and-rural-area-where-food-is-expensive tips for saving money on the grocery bill I'd love to hear them.

Keep in mind the only processed stuff we eat is rice cakes and salsa (ok, a few more but you get the idea), I cook our food from scratch, I already shop at the cheapest place in town for my produce, we don't eat animals (can't cut that out to save $$), I buy in bulk everything I'm able to, I've already lowered my organic standards, and there isn't coupons for most of what we eat.

The challenge of learning French. We moved to a French speaking province (four of the five of us don't speak French - yet). There are days I am SO excited about this amazing opportunity to learn a second language. If I had a bucket list this would be on it.

Then there's days when the reality of being a minority is lonely. But this is mostly ok since I honestly appreciate knowing what this feels like and the people here are warm, friendly and eager to help me learn the language. 

No homeschool community. Nada. I knew this going in, but I had hope there might be homeschoolers hidden somewhere. I still have hope, but it is waning. 

This is not such a big deal for me personally. I am strong and independent minded, I've been homeschooling for years and have confidence. Also, I have a growing community of friends I've met online. For our children though, it's more difficult. We have a strong family but friends matter also. 

The lack of good library services. We used to visit the library every week. We regularly had 40-50 library books in our home at one time. Now we we have about 15 and they are mostly French graphic novels. Cool books, but not what we're used to.

This is a huge learning curve for me. I finally accepted the fact that we are going to be a book buying family, mostly electronic as we don't want to accumulate books in our attempts at small scale family living. But this is hard and potentially expensive, and a big mental adjustment for me.

Banking, insurance, financial record keeping from a year of transitioning to self employment, living in two different countries, and three separate states/provinces. Need I say more.

Growing children. Navigating the beginning waters of transition to scholar/young adulthood for Celine is exciting but scaring and unnerving for me, and probably for her. I want to do this thing called motherhood to the best of my ability and these are biggie years we're headed into. And transition to anything is never easy.

Moving, specifically from a small urban city in the US to a small village in Canada. There is less "stuff" available here. This is mostly a good thing, we didn't move here for stuff but for quality of life. There is a local culture here that hasn't been swallowed by big box stores. We love that!

But along with no big box stores comes less stuff available in general. And although I've never shopped at Target and it's been years since I've been in a Wal-Mart, etc. I'm having to re-learn everything I'm used to buying and sourcing for our family's needs. 

When we lived in the US we got used to the good life of easy online ordering. There is no Amazon prime here, shipping is expensive and there is just less available, even online. Big adjustment for our family.

Along these lines I'd really appreciate it if Canadian readers could tip me off to where to buy health/organic foods, herbs, household goods (looking for a funnel right now) and just good Canadian online shopping in general.

 

Please.

Change.

That's the word for all of it. The difficulty in the move has been the change.

And when I struggle in this place of "why did I bring all this change upon myself - willingly?!" I try, try, try to turn my heart to gratitude.

Winter Intention Biggie ~ Gratitude

Gratitude is a huge theme for me right now. Because I am so blessed and when I lose sight of that I need to bring myself back to that place - pronto.

Just this morning while editing this post (I do let myself get distracted by e-mail while writing sometimes) I got another e-mail from a friend pointing me in this direction. The universe is sending me this message, over and over again. I need to tune in and listen.

Cultivating gratitude, specifically, writing down the blessings in my life is one of my most important winter intentions.

When I originally shared that I was reading Ann's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are I was a bit dismissive with this comment:

"I'm halfway through and I have not found it to be a life changing read for me (at least not yet) but it's an excellent reminder for the life I'm trying to life. I've been practicing the discipline of noticing everyday glory and grace in my life, especially beauty, for years now. Ann's books is pushing me into a deeper practice of grace, thanksgiving, and joy - eucharisteo."

At that point last fall the book had not been as transformational as I was expecting. After all the press and hoopla it received I was expecting... something more? It took some getting used to Ann's prose and really, I know this stuff in my head. But the more I read I questioned - do I live it in my heart?

As I read I felt challenged to kick it up a notch. But not only that, I was struck with the reality that of how life changing gratitude really is.

And so I'm trying to be more diligent in writing the graces, blessings and gifts in my life.

I'm a writer, this makes perfect sense to me. I write to process and understand. Writing one thousand gifts seems daunting but I need to do it to keep my focus in the right place. Otherwise, my "gaze" wanders to the grocery budget, the bank account balance, my library frustrations.

It's a spiritual discipline I need to grow - not the writing (though that's helpful), but the right heart attitude. I'm starting to work my way thoughtfully through Mindset for Moms and it's a continuation of this same theme (though written much differently than Ann's book). I'm excited to be bringing that book to you here at FIMBY in a few weeks.

Next up... the nitty gritty of the rest of my winter intentions. Where I talk about finances, food, and friends. 

{All the photos in this post (and the next) on winter intentions are from our January ski vacation. Realizing I probably won't get around to writing a post dedicated to that trip (now there's a story - the situation, the stress, the utter relief and relaxation) I'm working photos of that trip into a few posts.}

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Amanda

    Amanda on Feb. 3, 2012, 2:31 p.m.

    Lee Valley tools has extensive catalogs for gardening/hardware/etc. I saw a funnel in their gardening catalog, which you can find online. I believe they are a Canadian company, also. www.leevalley.com

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 4:12 p.m.

      Thanks Amanda - and you don't even live in the frozen North. Or I guess you do, just not the north, north (smile).

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  • Cath

    Cath on Feb. 3, 2012, 2:47 p.m.

    I was going to say Lee Valley as well -- that's where I got my canning funnel!

    The Canadian Organic Growers site has a few links I thought you might try for organic products (either CSAs or even on-line companies (see below).

    Bonne chance!

    Carrefour bioalimentaire du Québec www.carrefouralimentaire.com -- Ministère de l'Agriculture et des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec. The site is bilingual (French and English). A directory of 3200 companies. Search keys available: Kosher food, Organic food, ... For Quebec businesses only.

    Le Bottin Équiterre www.equiterre.org -- a database with many search keys like biologique (organic), ASC (CSA), local, équitable (fair trade).

    La fédération d'agriculture biologique du Québec (FABQ) www.fabqbio.ca -- click on "Entrez dans le site", click on "Produits Bio" and you get a list of about 100 organic producers.

    CARTV Directory of Québec Certified Organic Products http://www.quebecorganicproducts.info

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  • Kika@embracingimperfection

    Kika@embracingimperfection on Feb. 3, 2012, 3:01 p.m.

    Welcome to my world of trying to eat healthy in a cold, expensive, plastic wrapped small town :) I did mention well.ca before (Dr.Bronners, organic non-bleached feminine hygeine stuff, etc.). For my favorite herbs, lotion making type stuff, etc., I end up ordering once/year from Mountain Rose Herbs. The shipping is ridiculous but I can't find what I want in Canada. I've ordered some kitchen type things from TheBay.ca. Sometimes for clothing like undies, socks, pj bottoms, etc., we order through old navy - online. They often have 35-50% off deals that I receive via email. We can order from MEC online, can you in Quebec? For art supplies I mostly order through DickBlick. Of course i scope out etsy when I need gifts/things for my home. but otherwise we head once in a while to the nearest city, long list in hand to find what we need. My preference is finding everything possible online.

    I am about halfway through my list of "1000 things" inspired by Ann's book. I tend to add to it in spurts rather than on a daily or weekly basis. The actual practice of choosing gratitude can be life-changing, I think. But like you said, we actually have to DO IT. Make that effort. Choose that attitude.

    Last night I wrote a little about my heart and mothering a biracial family - about risking for love. And I thought of you. I think you risked for love in this move and pursuit of family dreams/goals. It looks different than my life but I wonder if it boils down to the same choice/determination to follow your heart no matter the cost.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 4:10 p.m.

      I feel your pain friend. Yep, MEC in Quebec - Damien takes care of all our clothes. Have you ordered through DeSerres before? They have excellent box stores but a big online presence also. They are a Canadian art store and I"m sure they're in Edm. We discovered them in Halifax by using a gift certificate an aunt sent the kids to welcome them back to Canada (smile). I'm doing a big online order there today, free shipping for $75 order. The kids have been "shopping" there all week and e-mailing me their requests. I read your post first thing this morning (loved it). Risking for love. You're right, our move was all about that.

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  • Constance

    Constance on Feb. 3, 2012, 3:09 p.m.

    Golda's Kitchen is reliable and they have a lot of funnels available online! http://www.goldaskitchen.com/index.ihtml

    I did a search for herbs,Canada and found this place: http://www.richters.com/ I haven't tried them but it looks like a good site. I don't live far from them and they're actually the herbs that I see in our grocery store. Quite a few places came up when I did the search.

    I understand your problems with the budget. Everything costs more here (and I don't even live in a rural area where it's worse). Plus the cost of food is going up in general. To be honest, I order clothes and other things from the U.S. from a store that has free shipping to Canada and it's usually cheaper, even with paying duty (for that quality of products). You're already doing so much to keep your food budget down that I don't know what I can add! Maybe eat more beans and legumes?

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 3:57 p.m.

      We still order from LL. Bean - great shipping to Canada! You betcha' - beans & lentils - on the menu every day!

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  • Stacy

    Stacy on Feb. 3, 2012, 3:49 p.m.

    That does sound challenging! Wonderful, but challenging. I guess the best things are.

    The pictures are stunning. What a beautiful place.

    I hope you find some good tips for shopping in Canada. That has got to be tough.

    I admire your courage to go and do, even when it's difficult.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 4 p.m.

      Not all of Canada is like this. I don't want to give the false impression that Canada is the hicks and people live in Igloo's. The major centers have the best of everything and lots of shopping options. We used to live in a large Canadian city before we moved to the US and I never experienced shopping challenges there. We also didn't experience the everyday beauty we do here. The biggest center close to us is six or seven hours away! And Montreal, where you buy anything you want, is 9 hours away.

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  • Melissa

    Melissa on Feb. 3, 2012, 4:53 p.m.

    Online shopping...hmmm...

    Amazon.ca is slowly building up its offerings of housewares etc. They have a variety of products, including funnels, that are either sold and shipped directly by them or through stores, i.e. Golda's Kitchen. One of the things I like about amazon.ca is that if your order is over $25 you will likely qualify for free shipping. So if you need to order books and household stuff etc. that can work in your favour.

    Bookcloseouts.ca has an Amazon storefront, but you are better off ordering directly from them as Amazon charges shipping per item bought from storefronts. They sell publishers' overstock and it's not uncommon for me to find books there that I can in the store. They do have regular sales, will send you a discount code for your next order (they like to include it on the bookmarks sent with each package), and sometimes they have free shipping promos.

    Richters is great for live herb plants, but they won't travel well by courier. The seeds, when you are settled in somewhere and want to plant a garden, are of great quality and they are worth ordering from.

    A related story that has something that build off of...years ago I kept kosher and knew of a family that lived in a remote area, and kept vegan kosher. Which is challenging if you don't live in larger centre. Once a month or so they made a trip into Toronto and stocked up on the stuff they couldn't find locally. Not just foodstuffs, but anything they needed. At the same time they made it a point to connect with community that they didn't have living in a rural community. If your long-term plan is to stay in the area, maybe your next home will need to have a larger area for pantry and freezer storage. You could plan for trips to larger towns where you could pick up supplies and at the same time seek out other homeschoolers or english language resources....maybe make long weekends of the trips? Plan for hiking/exploring on the first day and do all your shopping on the day you start back?

    You've probably already thought of that...but just in case.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 5 p.m.

      Totally the plan is for both - regular forays to bigger centers (we do love city amenities) & more food storage. We don't need much living space but do need storage space for food and gear.  Thanks by the way for the ideas!

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  • Granola Girl

    Granola Girl on Feb. 3, 2012, 5:45 p.m.

    Have you guys considered InterLibrary Loans (ILL's in most places)? When I worked in the shipping and receiving department of our regional library we were shipping stuff to Canada all the time. There is a large Hispanic community in our small town, and though the library has some resources, it doesn't have many. Many use ILLs to bring in books from Mexico, Ecuador, and Central America.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 5:50 p.m.

      I've taken things as far as I can with my local library - we get stuff from Nova Scotia (it also costs us). I'm not sure that there is much else available to me library wise. When you worked in a library could non-residents of your region join the library and reserve books? That's what I'm trying to figure out now. If there is someway I can be a non-resident library member of a large English speaking library consortium, like Toronto or something, and then I can access more e-books that way. Shipping in Canada is wicked expensive. It's cheaper to buy the kindle edition than to get it through a library that has to mail it to you. Mailing it there and back costs more than the book.

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      • Granola Girl

        Granola Girl on Feb. 4, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

        I'd try an American university. Often times they will allow you to check out stuff if you have the right connections to the school (something tells me you might know of an American college where you might have a few connections). Here they usually mail for free. Often times they will lend books to people who are not enrolled and do not necessary have residency. The library used to do this all the time with the colleges and visa-verse. I cannot say it is necessarily in the rules, but it happened regularly.

        Many times you can try the ASI - American Schools International. They have American language schools all over the world. My mother and many of my other school co-workers now teach for them all over. They talk about military and other families using their supplies to homeschool their kids. My mother is now a literacy specialist (not the librarian as she was before) in Dubai. They allow American families to have library cards to homeschool their kids. Another co-worker had the same thing happen in Germany. I don't know if it is standard policy, but they do it. ASI is also prek-12 so you don't have to worry about your kids aging out of the service. I know in the U.S. ANY citizen can receive a library card from a public school. You have to show ID and might get a little hassle at first, but it is fully legal since tax dollars pay for all the books. You could see if the local school has the same deal up there. It wouldn't help you as an adult much, but it might work well for the kids.

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      • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex

        Michelle @ The Parent Vortex on Feb. 5, 2012, 4:57 a.m.

        Here in BC we have a province-wide interlibrary loan system, with paper books, audiobooks and ebooks available. Maybe something like this is available in Quebec?

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  • Marian

    Marian on Feb. 3, 2012, 5:47 p.m.

    Dear Renee, Maybe their is a possibility to learn french at home from a local person in your neighbourhood. In return you can teach english to that person or to her/his child/ children. So you do a sort of change-out without paying, it is in your own house and maybe when their is the possiblity to teach a child or children english, your children has also the oppertunity to make contact with other children. Or maybe you can change the french lessons with a creative course or maybe creative writing or journalling. These are just ideas; i was thinking about your live and your choices and i was thinking about the way i would try to do things when i was in your situation. I love your blog, your way of life and your beautiful pictures. Greetings from thre Netherlands, Marian

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 5:53 p.m.

      ... conversational partner type relationships, yes, we are looking into that.  Nearly everyone we meet also speaks English so we are getting by quite well. It's just the lack of English books that are a real pain.  (Ps. thanks for contributing, all the way from the Netherlands).

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  • Erin

    Erin on Feb. 4, 2012, 8:12 a.m.

    Starting from ground zero in the winter is tough on the grocery budget. How do people around you get their food? For us, there are three basic categories: Pantry stuff, preserved stuff, and buy frequently stuff. We minimize costs by making the last category as small as possible - stocking up on staples every few months from a cheaper location (usually when we have to travel anyway), and putting garden veggies, berries, and fish in the chest freezer throughout the summer. Actually, we can eat kale from the garden all year long by digging it out from the snow, and I've gotten good at making a very large number of meals contain kale in some form. Most of what I buy on a week to week basis is some fruit and eggs and a few veggies. And the eggs and veggies I could get away from if I had chickens, a root cellar and a larger garden (which some folks here do). Perhaps you just have to get through this winter, and then have a more reasonable budget next winter when you have time to accumulate food? Also, I do accept some of the higher costs as a price for living here. Some things are quite cheap (housing), and the lack of stores cuts down on arbitrary spending a lot. But the things that come from far away really just are more expensive.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 4, 2012, 11:12 a.m.

      In response to Erin (comment threading woes) We eat vast(?) quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables, more than the average family and that's what really hits us in living "north". And lots of berries (having to buy those now). Even Maine was better because although lots was shipped in there (it's no tropical growing zone) it was still cheaper. I had an excellent discounted produce place where I bought banana boxes full of produce each week. I also used to belong to buying clubs for my pantry stuff but having just moved I haven't gotten into that yet again, too much to do at one time.  It's just the transition and change - during winter, with no garden and no freezer or pantry supply that is hard. I don't think this will be our situation forever. But with growing children, who eat and eat, the grocery budget never goes down. 

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      • Erin

        Erin on Feb. 6, 2012, 11:14 p.m.

        We eat a lot of produce too (though we have a smaller family, so I'm sure less than you) - just less of it is fresh this time of year. Don't discount frozen veggies. Home-frozen from the garden (or farmers market) is wonderful (root cellars are good too - don't have one yet), but in the absence of that, supermarket frozen might be an OK alternative to reduce the budget of flying it fresh from who-knows-where. I find that my frozen veggies are often tastier this time of year than what gets shipped in "fresh" from the other end of the world. And if you're going to have any sort of garden in the summer - plant as much kale as you can. If your family is willing to eat it, it is truly the year-round miracle veggie of the north, that will keep you happily in salads in February for basically zero cost.

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        • renee

          renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 11:40 p.m.

          Eating lots of those too (frozen veggies that is). We LOVE kale. And you're right, it's an amazing winter crop. Not sure where we will be living and what kind of garden opportunities I'll have this summer/fall. I didn't have much luck growing a winter crop of kale in Maine. It didn't die, we could harvest from it in spring, but it didn't produce anything during the winter. Can you eat winter kale raw in salads? Or do you braise it a bit? Do you recommend a variety- Russian or something else? Are you using a frame of some sort?  I'm a gardener so I do know a bit about growing food but never had a lot of success with growing the amount our family needed to make it worth the effort. I guess you're talking a really big kale crop.  I've read about winter kale crops but talking to people who really do it, with success, in the north is something I need to do if I'm going to attempt it again. What works, what doesn't etc. 

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          • Erin

            Erin on Feb. 8, 2012, 8:23 p.m.

            Well, I don't think we get enough sun to get anything to actually GROW in the winter w/o lights. But we're much farther north than you, so in a greenhouse/cold frame you might have better luck. It would at least extend the season. One easy way to give plants a head start is the white row cover you can get in garden catalogs, but it won't help once the snow falls. All I did was plant about 58 square feet in kale in the summer (mostly Winterbor variety, with some Dwarf Siberian). 58 square feet makes A LOT of kale if the soil and sun are good. I just pick the lower leaves from the plant throughout the summer and eat/preserve them, then leave the rest to dig up from the snow and eat in the winter. And you can just use them raw in salads that way, just let any ice chunks melt off and you're good to go. I'm not sure we could have a big salad every day of the winter with just that much kale though (we have far more salad than we can possibly eat in the summer). You'd probably need more area. Or to mix it up with root cellared cabbage, etc...

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            • renee

              renee on Feb. 9, 2012, 12:18 p.m.

              Feeling a bit foolish. Yes, of course nothing really grows in winter does it? Unless like you say you have a greenhouse and/or lights.  I'm a little slow on the uptake but I am piecing this together now. You plant lots of kale in summer, eat it - lower leaves. The snow falls and buries the plants - the plants are dormant at this point, not growing but the leaves are still edible. You dig out the leaves and eat those during the winter. Kale, all year round w/o lights or greenhouse.  When I planted kale in Maine it was more as an experiment. And there was a very, very small amount. We didn't eat any of it (it would have fed us for one or two meals tops) because I wanted to see if it could over-winter.  Local cabbage is available here all winter. Yeah.. for hearty winter crops.   

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              • Melissa

                Melissa on Feb. 9, 2012, 5:44 p.m.

                Several weeks ago I linked to an article that skimmed some aspects of winter gardening. If you are considering planning a crop of veggies for winter harvest and want more in depth information, take a look at a book by Eliot Coleman 'The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses'. There is a Kindle version of the book.

                Kale is biennial, so if you planted it before frost, harvested it over the winter, but left enough of the plant above grade for new leaves to form in the spring (just a bit of the stalk is all you really need to leave), you actually have a plant producing well ahead of other greens. The frost sweetens the flavour so that can be an added bonus.

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                • renee

                  renee on Feb. 9, 2012, 6:55 p.m.

                  Eliot is a Mainer and I'm somewhat familiar with his work through my involvement with Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA). While living in Maine I had a very small urban garden lot and contented myself to support local farmers vs. growing much of our own. I am not sure the direction my gardening will take here. It really depends on how much adventuring we end up doing. The plan is to as much of that as possible, which does cut into the summer gardening season. I'm giving thought to what it might look like to be an adventurer-traveler/gardener-grower. Can I be both? Even since writing this post I've found more local goodies that have the potential to lower the grocery bill. I think writing my angst helped kick my butt into gear a bit and then the response from people familiar with the Quebec farm and producer scene has really helped. I actually feel much more hopeful about it all than I did even one week ago (smile). Kale is a wonder plant. I just love it. It's so perfect for us north growers. Thanks for the info. Everyone here is so helpful!

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  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Feb. 4, 2012, 3:02 a.m.

    Renee, I have a few good tips for you I think (as you know, we lived in Quebec and Yukon all our life.

    1-FOOD (produce, bulk and natural cleaning products). By far the best way to have good deals is to join an ordering group. In the Yukon, we did it through Horizon distributors, but it was only for dry goods. In Quebec, we were part of a group that ordered every week from Gaétan Bono (one of the two company that distributes organic produce) and it was almost half the price of what we found in the stores. Some friends started a group in our area too and that created a whole community around it, they even contacted local farmers to add eggs, poultry, fish, cheese, etc. I would be happy to put you in contact with these two groups so you could maybe start your own...

    2 - BOOKS, we order through Amazon.ca for new books, but use Bookmooch a lot. Do you know this book exchange network? It has been a really money saver for us! I highly recommend it!

    3 - ORDERING, the best tip I can give you is to get the adress of the closest mail depot in the States. I don't know exactly where you live, but you probably can cross the border in a couple of hours, no? That's what we did both in the Yukon and Qc and they charged ridiculusly small fee (like $3 per box) and you have an address in the States (so we ordered through Amazon.com, iherbs (lots of whole food and raw products there!) and much much more for our supplements, car parts, wooden toys, etc.). We have an adress I could give you in Derby Line, but this is too far from where you live I guess (I don't know exactly where you are, but look into this... This is the BEST way to save money in Canada!).

    4 - Also, did you join a CSA?

    5 - Oh it sucks that you did not connect with homeschooling families... They are there, they are just flying under the radar... There is a bunch of homeschoolers near Rimouski. I don't know where you are but I could ask them if they know anybody in your area... As far as the language barrier goes, I am right there with you... We are going through the same thing here in Costa Rica and it is challenging... We need lots and lots of patience...

    Write to me personnally (cforest(at)hotmail(dot)come) as I would love to give you more tips!

    Love,

    Catxx

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 4, 2012, 11:21 a.m.

      In response to Catherine (since comment threading isn't working so hot) A buying club is really the answer to my pantry woes, but I can only do so much at one time and that takes organizing power and knowing people. I did buying clubs in Maine - belonged to them, organized them, founded them, etc. We're five hours from the border and with the cost of gas and the time there would have to be significant savings in the purchases to do deliveries there.  CSA - in the summer I will be joining a local one.  Seriously, no homeschoolers. Very few people have ever even heard of homeschooling. Thankfully, we find ourselves in a bilingual pocket of the peninsula. The town we live in has English roots and most everyone here speaks English as well as French. But drive 15 down the road... totally different story (smile).

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  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:36 p.m.

    Wow, so much great help here in the comments.

    Renee, yes, those things do seem very frustrating. It is great that you continue to keep a grateful heart through it all. And just think, all the adversity just makes the story that much more interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 4, 2012, 2:17 a.m.

    What I am hearing is an opportunity. Maybe you could start a used book store/book exchange/ natural foods coffee/internet shop? Maybe I am dreaming, but if something is missing in your community, you might be able to enrich the community and your pocketbook by providing a local service/product.

    MOM

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  • Ellen

    Ellen on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:58 p.m.

    I feel your 'shipping pain'! I grew up in Ontario, but my mother's family members are mostly in the States, so we go there semi-frequently and I'm pretty aware of the cost difference in many areas. Honestly, I tend to stockpile things in my Amazon cart and wait until our yearly trip to see my aunt, when I get it all shipped to her. Everything from books to natural cosmetic ingredients and kitchen ware. I even buy a year's worth of coconut oil, natural dishsoap, and other essentials when we go. Even on years when we are iffy about making the trip, I consider that an excellent reason to be motivated to go. It's teaching me the value of waiting!

    It is possible to have packages shipped to UPS stores in border towns, where many charge only a small fee to hold packages. A stockpile trip there could be worth it. Or even just to Montreal.

    I also order many ingredients from Canwax, a soap and candle supply place near Toronto. https://canwax.3dcartstores.com/ You can manipulate your order amount and weights to see what is most worthwhile for shipping. But that's where I get lye, butters, etc. I have a local source for beeswax, which I would guess would be true near you... it did take me a while to find mine, though!

    I order a significant portion of our dry goods, including wheat berries, etc, from www.mountainpath.com. They deliver to Montreal, which might be worth it if you are doing a yearly or so trip there and want to stock up. If your order is over $300, delivery is free - if you're really stocking, hitting $300 is not hard at all.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:19 p.m.

      (this is meant in reply to Ellen) $300 for groceries is nothing (smile). Thanks for all the tips. Do you run into duty problems when crossing the border? Also, freezer stocking is totally in the plan and is how I usually operate. But moving - twice - last year wiped it out. I'm starting at ground zero, in the winter. 

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      • renee

        renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:26 p.m.

        Thank you for the Mountain Path link - totally looking into it!  I just love you guys and all your ideas. 

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      • Ellen

        Ellen on Feb. 3, 2012, 9:35 p.m.

        I have had no border problems yet. Often I am waved through, even if I am over the limit. it seems to be very much of the discretion of each guard. That being said, because there is a reasonable limit per person, if we go as a family we get some good limit leeway even if you just run over for a quick day. If you stay overnight 1 night, the limit goes up considerably. That would be something to consider if you are really ordering a lot.

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  • MJP

    MJP on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:03 p.m.

    A couple of things to add...

    • You can get a non-resident card at the Ottawa Public Library for $100 per year for a family. They have e-books - you could check out the selection online first to see if it is worth your while: http://biblioottawalibrary.ca
    • A non-resident card at Toronto Public Libray is $30 for three months

    • I've just recently discovered Canada Post's Comparison Shopper website http://www.canadapost.ca/shopper/. It finds Cdn and US online sources for all kinds of items, displays prices in Cdn dollars, includes shipping costs in its prices, and tracks price history so you can see when certain sites usually have sales etc. It probably won't help with things like herbs and food, but might be useful for clothing and outdoor gear.

    Hope that helps! MJP (in Ottawa)

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:29 p.m.

      Thank you, this is very helpful. Especially the library stuff. That's what I was thinking... Toronto or Ottawa. Check out their e-book selection and then decide where and if to get a non-resident card. I've already started a couple weeks ago but got discouraged with the selections : (

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      • MJP

        MJP on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:40 p.m.

        Yes - the selection is a bit sparse right now, at least in Ottawa. And it tends to be mostly "mainstream" fiction or pop-culture focused. Hopefully it will improve over the next couple of years!

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        • Melissa

          Melissa on Feb. 3, 2012, 9:42 p.m.

          The TPL (Toronto Public Library) has much of the same e-resources, with extras like Safari Tech ebooks and a reference section... at least I think those are different from the Ottawa library...only took a quick look to compare but it could be that they are just organized and presented differently.

          TPL http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/books-video-music/downloads-ebooks/

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        • renee

          renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 3:11 a.m.

          I don't know if anyone is still reading these comment threads (there's a lot in here) but Ottawa has a fabulous free service TumbleTalkingBooks. http://biblioottawalibrary.ca/en/main/find/download/how Check out Audio Cloud. It's actually available through other libraries also, I just found it on Ottawa's site. Can't download to a device though, but hundreds of free quality classics and modern (Guardians of Ga'hoole type) stories.  We wil be spending some time here. Thanks for the Ottawa tip off MJP? or Melissa.

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  • Ellen

    Ellen on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:04 p.m.

    The other thing I meant to mention is that I offset a lot of our plant-based costs through preserving. Obviously you can't start this right now, but a lot of our family's vegetable nutrition is coming from the tomatoes I bought in 25kg boxes in August and canned into quart jars. Also applesauce, peaches, salsa, jams and butters, pickles, and LOTS of frozen veggies. Some from our garden, some purchased organic, some purchased conventional, depending on how realistic the prices were. In the long term, growing or buying in-season produce and preserving it might be the most sustainable option for you in that location. I find that a beans-and-rice-with-tomatoes-and-frozen-spinach, etc meal can be very satisfying with applesauce for dessert! And very inexpensive.

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  • Sarah

    Sarah on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:24 p.m.

    As for your book buying issue.

    I heard this initially through my in-laws who live in BC, but if you own a Kobo Reader you can actually BORROW books from a library! For three weeks!

    As your neighbour in New Brunswick, my husband and I each got ourselves Kobos this year for Xmas and low and behold....we can borrow books from any library in NB online!

    So seeing as you can do this in bumpkin NB and across the country in BC...I don't see how Quebec wouldn't offer it.

    It would mean that you could essentially borrow books from a big library in Montreal (which would undoubtedly offer more English), without leaving your home!

    [Another bonus of owing a Kobo(unlike Kindle)is that you are able to download an EPUB version of the book you purchased and are then able to share books. So when I bought a trilogy that my husband also wanted to read, it arrived into my Kobo account and I also downloaded the Epub version into our Adobe Digital Editions, and my husband could then put it onto his Kobo too! (and visa-versa).]

    So I am not sure if this is a feasible option for you, but something worth checking out!

    All you would need would be a Quebec Library card, which you probably already have, or you could order online...as my husband did here.

    Hope this helps! Sarah Your neighbour in NB

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:29 p.m.

      I have to look into this. But I need the books to be in English. And don't the libraries have to own the books to begin with, for you to borrow. If the library doesn't own the book, you can't borrow it. Right? I'm still figuring this all out, sorry if they are dumb questions. As it is, we still borrow English epub's using our Nova Scotia library card (from when we lived there and still maintain a mailing address). But the library has to own those books to begin with. You can't just access any book you want. See what I mean?

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      • renee

        renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:30 p.m.

        I just re-read your comment about joining a Montreal library. Not sure if I can do this but I need to look into it. 

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      • renee

        renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:42 p.m.

        Meant to say we read MOBI's on our Kindle. (Damien tells me you can "translate" from one to the other, though). Steep learning curve for me here. Paper book girl that I am.

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  • Sarah

    Sarah on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

    Yeah, the kicker is if the library owns the books that you wish to borrow--in English. But you can always look up the libraries online right now to see what they already have available to borrow and can always request books, right?

    A start anyway :-)

    That way you can see if it is worth the purchase of a Kobo. May not be, but...here's hoping!

    I know that our NB card allows to borrow books anywhere in NB, so the following ought to be true in QC, which means having access to libraries which have a greater English variety--like Montreal?

    Or if you have your Nova Scotia library card and are able to borrow library books online in NS via your Kobo...you are golden!

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

      Yes... but only if the library has the books and so far, from the what I've found in the NS system, there isn't a lot. At least not the books we read. But yes, I get now where you are going with this.

      Investigate the Montreal library, see what they have for English e-book holdings.

      See if my local library card can access that library (you'd think it could, but trust me, things are different in QC!)

      Buy and use whatever reader works for the most number of books available to me for free through the library system.

      Order, reserve and read scads and scads of free books through the library system!

      I have actually worked this whole plan out in my mind already. But I keep getting stuck at certain points. And when I reach points of frustration I set the problem down for another day. And the fact still remains that we simply cannot access what we used to and we do have to buy more books now that we did before. Which isn't saying much really since we used to buy hardly any books. We were barebones personal library people, having access to an excellent, completely free library system (local, state holds and reserves, the whole thing). Thank you for your input Sarah.  I really appreciate it. You don't happen to know any homeschoolers in the Gaspe do you?? (smile)  

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      • Melissa

        Melissa on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:08 p.m.

        I see comments about owning a Kobo Reader to borrow books from the library. I have a Kobo ereader, but I can and do borrow ebooks from the library without it. They are not exclusive things. To clarify based on my own experience in case someone believes they need to own a specific device for library or Kobo eBooks etc.

        • libraries typically use an app like Overdrive Media (which can be loaded onto phones, desktops, laptops, and readers that allow the install) - how you read the ebook is up to you - I have Overdrive Media on my laptop, phone and ereader and use whichever device is handy to me on a given day. I have more than one ebook reader app too. Doesn't have to be Kobo.

        • the Kobo App, which you can also use to read library ebooks downloaded through Overdrive Media etc., can be installed on phones, desktops, laptops, and readers that allow the install

        • Kobo eReaders, are nice to have in non-US countries where you are not limited by location as on a Kindle and tied to the Amazon.com site

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        • Sarah

          Sarah on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

          Cool!

          I am all new to this technology (and I am talking 1 month new!)

          Thanks for the information Melissa!

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        • renee

          renee on Feb. 3, 2012, 7:24 p.m.

          Great info. Thank you! We have american accounts, etc.. so we can easily get Kindle books from amazon.com. We do it all the time. And there is a much larger selection there. So I am leaning to the Kindle for myself. I'm buying my own e-reader this month. 

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  • Pat in NH

    Pat in NH on Feb. 4, 2012, 12:43 p.m.

    Hi, Renee, I'm wondering if you considered growing sprouts? I haven't priced the seeds, but these could be a useful addition to your fresh diet.

    Also, I am pretty sure you will have heard of this: Amazon.com has their premium service where the customer pays about $80 a year, and gets reduced shipping and also there's a lending library of Kindle books, among the subscribers. If for some reason this isn't (yet) available in Canada, perhaps you could add your voice to others to request it. I think it's called Amazon Prime?

    And, to be Captain Obvious, and display my Recent Reader status on your blog, I'd like to heartily recommend Julia Cameron's books on creativity, which from the gist of your posts I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that you've read. "The Artist's Way" is the first one, and they are excellent, one and all. Channelling creativity, overcoming fears and one's own reluctance to create, and structuring the creative life.

    That reminds me, I took your suggestion and downloaded "The Flinch" as a free Kindle book. Thanks for the idea. I read about 3 chapters and was assured that I have been doing that (getting PAST the flinch) all along, to the point of one person referring to my style as "Implosion Therapy". I led a very insular childhood life, and young adulthood, but the latter was punctuated with some interesting adventures. I have health limitations, or goodness knows where I'd have ended up, in my attainments. So, I found something I am NOT afflicted with, nice to see for a change.

    I love finding your snowy posts in my email, thanks for sharing your lovely days. (and for putting me on to your Mom's blog, too!) Best, Pat in New Hampshire

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 3:15 a.m.

      Amazon Prime isn't available for shipping to Canada (I wish) and there isn't enough Kindle titles (yet) to warrant a membership just for the lending library. But thank you for the idea. One day we'll catch up here in the north country.  You know... thank you for being Captain Obvious - I have not read that book yet! And my mom even owns it (I think, or did at one point). I need to add it my to-read list.  I'm working through my flinches - I have many!

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  • Claudia

    Claudia on Feb. 4, 2012, 1:28 p.m.

    My heart goes out to you, Renee. We faced the same problems when we lived in NB, and the situation was bad enough to send us packing up for home as soon as we got the chance. In the 3 years we lived up there, it just didn't get easier for us.

    We were fortunate that we lived much closer to the US border, and we quickly realized that stocking up on trips made the most sense for us. So much of what we use--mostly food--just wasn't available north of the border, so every camping trip and so forth found us with a car full of bags from Trader Joes or Hannaford on the return trip. We felt so dumb doing it, but we simply had to. It wasn't a comfortable lifestyle for us for sure.

    I wish I had great advice, but we never did find local resources to fit our needs, whether it be food (oh the price! and the awful excuse for produce! I shed many many tears in the produce aisle of our grocery store, and a few actual mental breakdowns as well.), homeschooling (we were, literally, the only people in our community who homeschooled), the lack of general necessary stuff, the severe lack of good (modern!) books at the library (or bookstore for that matter)...ouch! :(

    I sincerely hope it gets better for you and that it doesn't take long to find your groove. I had been completely unprepared for how a simple border could make so much difference to our quality of life, but I hope for you that you have an easier transition with your homecoming.

    ((hugs))

    Claudia

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 4, 2012, 2:36 p.m.

      It's not a Canada/US thing. There is a lot available near urban Canadian centers. Those of us in the beautiful, more remote areas just need to be more resourceful (smile). Just be clear, there are many ways we have found our groove and found a better groove - I think most of my posts this winter communicate that.   Damien has a total can-do attitude about life and I love what that perspective brings to our life together. I am learning from him and want to teach our kids the same. We researched this area first to make sure it had the most important things we valued in life and it did. The rest we said "we'll figure out" and we still maintain that attitude. And honestly, for all the reasons I've shared on the blog and more, we feel strongly this is where we are supposed to be in this season of life. But it is not without challenges, and that's all I was trying to communicate in this post. You know, coming back to Canada has never felt, nor was it intended as a homecoming. I'm not a strongly patriotic person. Maine felt just as much like home to me as Canada did, just in a different way. But a home without freedom isn't really home, so we moved. We're not particularly rooted people (we're adventurers). And we're not looking for "home" so much as a place we can live out our dreams and values. It's sounds strange so I hold back from talking about it much but it's a different perspective on life than looking for that one true place you belong. Does that make any sense?  Anyway, please don't misunderstand this post. I am in a very good place with a lot of life but it's not perfect and I have struggles. And I honestly can't stand it (that was a bit strong) - makes me squirm a whole heck of a lot when people feel sorry for me, please don't (smile) but I appreciate your hugs.

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  • Ailsa

    Ailsa on Feb. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

    What a lovely blog. I felt like I was there with you as you write so beautifully. Love your photos. Keep up the great work! Happy days from very hot Perth, Western Australia!

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  • Andrew

    Andrew on Feb. 6, 2012, 1:50 a.m.

    I didn't have time to read all the comments, so maybe it's been mentioned above but have you tried http://www.speervilleflourmill.ca/ We are part of buying group here in NB. I know they ship to Nova Scotia because our mid wife ordered from them there. So I can't see why they wouldn't ship to you being even closer than Lunenberg. They also offer incentives on shipping if you order X amount of goods. They have everything from Flour to Toms of Maine toothpaste.

    Also the library system here is much like someone had mentioned in BC. Our local library is ok, great to browse but if you really want something you just go online and order it and it's delivered to your library. I know nothing about Quebec libraries though, just NB NS and Ont.

    We are headed close to your neck of the woods for skiing this week, just shy of Rimouski. I hope the snow is as good as it looks in your pictures. I know you are close to the Chic Chocs, that's a spring trip for us if we can pull it together.

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    • Andrew

      Andrew on Feb. 6, 2012, 1:56 a.m.

      Just wanted to ask, where is this hill with all those quaint chalets? That looks like a whole lot of fun to me.

      A.

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 2:19 a.m.

      This wasn't mentioned yet, so thank you. I bought speerville stuff in NS. There's a lot of Quebec goods (companies like Speerville), I just have to figure out how to source them. But I'm going to look into it, Thank you. I am used to excellent intrastate and intraprovincial library lending, using the method you describe - online book reservations and local library pick up. I've done that for years. Limited interlibrary loan is available - for a fee. I have to investigate it more but it's not the selection I was used to in Maine or NS. That's ok. We're figuring it out (smile).  

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 2:23 a.m.

      If you're coming to the Chic Chocs to ski in spring you should give us a heads up and we can go skiing together. We love to meet up with people. Contact me if you're interested.     

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      • Andrew

        Andrew on Feb. 6, 2012, 1:32 p.m.

        Pin Rouge, yes! it looked kinda familiar but I was there many, many years ago.

        I will let you know if we make the trek north for some spring skiing.

        A.

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  • Lee

    Lee on Feb. 6, 2012, 5:39 p.m.

    Hi Renee, I've been reading awhile but not really commented. Something you might like to try (though it's consumes a tiny bit of your precious space!) is hydroponics. It can be super simple, I've grown a winter's worth of lettuce, for two, in a standard blue recycling box. There are lots of on-line resources and it might make a good homeschool project to do the research. But at it's most simple you need a waterproof box, some vermiculite, some plugs and hose and a water resovoir. Depending on how much sun there is where you set up, you might need a light of some kind. Mesclun mix greens grow well this way, I've had luck with a number of herbs and I know lots of people do tomatoes. It won't likely fulfill all your greenery needs but it could help cut down the bill... Good luck!

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    • renee

      renee on Feb. 6, 2012, 5:46 p.m.

      That's a neat idea. Maybe next winter as a small science project? We eat a lot of fresh greens, we'd need a lot of space for that. A winter greenhouse is probably more the size we would need (smile).

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on Feb. 6, 2012, 5:48 p.m.

    Hi Renee

    I second the sprouting suggestion. It can be quite simple to use the jar method. My home-schooled children love to help with them.

    Mum's has good quality sprouts and free shipping over a certain order amount:

    http://sprouting.com/canstore/enter.html

    At about the same time you moved up to Canada we moved from Canada to Colorado. It does take a while to settle and find your groove.

    Zoe

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