pumpkins rebecca1

Grow Your Own Jack-o-Lanterns

This article & photography by Rebecca Cuttler originally appeared on her Blog AbundantCITY

We get over 500 trick-or treaters every year. Last year, we hit a new record at 531.  We figure that our neighbourhood must be the Halloweeniest place on earth.

We live in Strathcona, a tiny pocket near downtown Vancouver known for its old wooden rowhouses, wedged right in between Canada’s poorest postal code and one of its most affluent. Rumour has it that parents from other neighbourhoods import their kids into our area for Halloween. The whole neighbourhood gets busy, but somehow our house is situated on the absolute nexus of trick-or-treating mayhem. We seem to get even more than people across the street.

We get trick or-treaters with all kinds of stories. Like the 40-year-old fairy princess who insisted on us giving her candy because she had just escaped from a cult that didn’t permit her to celebrate holidays. And the kids we almost turned away because they didn’t have costumes, until the oldest sister pleaded to us, “please, we just moved here from Africa and this is our first Halloween.” We get everything from spoiled toddlers who somehow manage to wander inside our house, to the children of drug addicts who still manage to put a costume together.

There are the kids who don’t say thank you. And the kids who ask for more candy, or who just try to grab it out of our bowl. It’s crazy to look out over our street on Halloween (not to mention the local tradition of setting off fireworks on Halloween, something that seems to only happen in Vancouver) and see the swarms of people.

tally rebeccaWith so many trick-or treaters, we can’t even close our door. Or eat dinner. We just sit on our front porch and give out candy as a continuous stream of kids marches up to our door. We use a tag-team system where Jason gives out candy and I stand beside him with a clipboard and make tallies to keep track of the numbers.

Being health-conscious people, Halloween always poses a bit of a moral dilemma.  High-fructose corn syrup-filled crap seems to be the only option when it comes to the mini-sized bars we need for Halloween. Jason and I don’t feel great about giving it out, but we also could never imagine missing out on this amazingly fun ritual.

Organic chocolate producers, I implore you to start making Halloween candies. I know there might not be a huge market for it — after all, Halloween candy is for other people’s kids, so who cares.  But seriously, I do not want to have to give my money to the evil giant candy conglomerates again. At least half of our candies last year were from a French chocolatier that doesn’t use corn syrup or palm oil. They were marketed as more adult candy, but the kids seemed to really love them.

Recently, I’ve met some parents who have boycotted the whole trick-or-treating thing.  It made me think a bit about what I’d do in their situation.  Most Halloween candy truly is crap.  No one should eat it.  But Halloween is also a wonderful tradition.  I think that, on some level, being allowed to trick-or-treat (in an otherwise super-healthy household) when I was little taught me self-discipline.  It was the one time of year when I got to eat that much candy, and I learned to make it last.  It was also a very interesting opportunity to connect with neighbours, to peer inside other people’s houses, to exercise my fear response.

I almost forgot, this post is supposed to be about how you can grow your own Jack-O-Lanterns.

This year, our backyard farm patch yielded five perfect little sugar pumpkins. They aren’t the jack-o-lantern type, but they’re perfect for baking (rather than pie, I like to roast them in cubes and combine them with lentils, winter greens and goat cheese, like this). They are too thick-walled, and too precious, for us to carve, so we are going to display the whole pumpkins outside.

Right now isn’t the time to plant pumpkins, but it’s a great time to think about incorporating them into your garden design plan. Pumpkins are easy to grow, but they take up A LOT of space in your garden and suck a ton of nutrients out of the soil. They also require full sunlight.

Hugelkutur Bed







Back in June, I had the good fortune to get a tour of the gardens at Hollyhock’s campus on Cortes Island, where pumpkins are grown in a big hugelkultur bed. This soil-building permaculture technique uses decaying wood to build biomass and deliver nutrients to plants. I haven’t built a hugelkultur bed yet, but in these dreary fall months, I plan to take some time to get outside, reconnect with the garden, and dream about the possibilities for spring.

rebeccaJoin Rebecca’s Hollyhock Vancouver 2015 program on growing food in the city, Urban Garden Abundance. For more info and to reserve a spot on the early sign-up list, visit AbundantCITY.



International Facilitation Week, 2014

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, Visualpun.ch

Around the world, business and community leaders will be attending conferences and workshops during this coming week, to focus on the power of facilitation.

We are all involved in meetings in our everyday lives, whether it be in the home, in the office, in our community work, in our Strata  Councils, in our crafts and family activities.  Meetings can be charged with emotions, time constraints, budget challenges, political contentions, environmental concerns, legal implications.  As meeting facilitators, we navigate discussions through facilitation skills.  Facilitation is like a compass, moving in the right direction through problem solving, action and understanding.

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mom & daughter1

Help! I’m Too Exhausted to Be the Mom I Want to Be

This piece by Anne-Sophie Dumetz originally appeared on her blog
Up Your Game

“I feel miserable, but I’m too busy to change.”

These are the words I heard from a mom who was overworked, under-slept, and unable to find a way out of her stressful life.

So, what’s happening here?

When you know you’re not well, and you choose to ignore it, it’s bound to get worse.

So why is resist the change?

When this happens, a piece of you is afraid because changing would mean becoming someone else.
Leaving the comfort zone.  And that’s always scary.

And you’re you now. You’re loved now, so why become someone else?

Because you’re not happy being you.

How do we go from…

“I’m overwhelmed by my life, I can’t find time to sleep let alone take care of myself fully… it feels like nobody cares.”


“I feel at peace with my life and my choices.  I’m rested, energized and
I’m excited about my life and all the wonderful people and opportunities that come my way!”

The answer: It takes a lot of courage, commitment, determination and support.

Because the self-sabotaging voices WILL come up to drag you back into your comfort zone.
I’ve heard them often, and still do at times.

Keeping with the self-sabotaging mentality is also going to keep you exactly where you’re stuck.

And the solution will never be served up on a silver platter.

As you stretch beyond your comfort zone, you’ll hear voices deep inside like this:

“What If I don’t like who I become once I have time to take care of myself?”

“What if nobody loves me as much when I give less of myself to everyone?”

“What if I can’t  become someone who’s relaxed and easy-going and who consistently feels great?”

Valid questions that are all based on the fears of change.
In truth, these objections only prevent you from creating what’s really possible for you… and really being all of you.

They’re a voice inside that wants to keep you feeling ‘SAFE’, and it can be thought of as self-love.

But is it really self-love to put everyone else first, feel constantly tired,
never take true care of yourself and park your dreams until you have time, someday?

Are you really taking care of others by not taking care of yourself? No.

When I did that, I ended up burned out, sick, miserable, unable to show up in my life.

I was robbing my kids of their true mom, myself of my own life and everyone else of what I could really offer.

That voice was not self-love.
It was fear and self-loathing, plain and simple.
When that voice shows up, it’s the voice that says, “You’re not good enough to live your dreams. You’re not a good enough mom. You can’t make it. Not now. Not on your own’.

It’s really easy to feel hopeless and stay stuck.

So what’s a mom gotta do?

It’s a 3-step process:

Step 1: Accept that change is good: It’s the only way to be. 

It’s what gets you from A to B and beyond.

Change is how we got here: From a single cell, into a full-fledged living and breathing human being. It’s what creates butterflies and blooms, effortlessly. Shedding cocoons and seeds, growing wings, stems and petals, without struggle or resistance. Change is nature’s way of growing us into whom we’re meant to be. All we need to do is trust. Lean in and learn to love it and magic will unfold.

Step 2: Thank those voices for their concern, and tell them ‘I’m OK, I’ve got this‘. They’ll learn to quiet. Trust me.

Step 3: Get solid, committed, knowledgeable support you trust.

When you want to change, you’ll need solid support to remind you why you’re doing this in the long term, and to also give you the tools to move forward. To remind you of your beauty.

And remember you can’t change what you don’t see. Lack of clarity is a deal breaker in this process.

You have to get clear on why you want to change, where you’re going, and what’s in your way.

The best place to start as a parent is to identify what freedom blocker is making you feel trapped and overwhelmed. All that’s required is an open heart, good questions, and support to lead you through it.




PS: I can help you get started on this process now. Apply for a complimentary discovery session now.


57-Anne-Sophie-Edit-300x198Anne-Sophie Dumetz helps moms and dads who juggle a busy career and home life to find their freedom again. She’s on a mission to help millions of parents become great at life and parenting, to build world one heart and home at a time as Game-Changing Parents.

Photo courtesy of Justin Van Leeuwen.



Maple Pumpkin Ricotta Cheesecake

Entirely maple-sweetened (don’t worry, we won’t ask you to tap
your trees!) and creamy without the calories. This is slow food
at its finest, folks! You’ll need an overnight to make the yogurt
cheese, and like any cheesecake, this is best prepared the morning
before serving or even the night before (uh oh, super-slow food)
and chilled to reach its most perfect and pleasing texture. Consider
garnishing with a warm chocolate sauce or a couple of slices of
candied ginger. Continue reading

Hollyhock exists to inspire, nourish and support people who are making the world better. Our learning centres are located on Cortes Island and Vancouver, BC.