Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When an 11 yr old cooks

I didn't have time to cook anything and asked Laura and her friend if they could prepare supper while we were at piano lessons.  It could be anything.  Forget about gluten-free, it could even be just dessert as long as some fruit were involved. 

This is what we came home to. 

Menus and flowers.  And a waitress to take our orders.

We were treated to smoothies of our choice, an appetizer of a fresh chocolate cookie, ginger ale or water in fancy glasses. 

Gluten-free brownies and an open-face smore.

And finished with a sundae of our choice as well.  I chose saskatoon with smarties.

Maybe not the healthiest of suppers, but it contained fruit and dairy, and if you count the chickpeas in the brownie, even some veggies and protein.  And does this look like an unhappy face?

That's what I thought. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Needs vs. Wants

I think that's what this post is about.  There are a lot of posts about this scattered around blogland, particularly on the frugal or sustainability or frugal sustainability blogs.  Do we really need a new sweater or do we just want one?  Do we need to replace our stained stove or does it work just fine?  Do we need electricity or could we find ways to do things more manually?  (I need electricity, but that's perhaps just because I've had it all of my life and it would take a major lifestyle change and knowledge to change that).

I find that when friends come to visit, the conversation often turns to what's new in our lives.  New stuff usually.   I have a newly painted bedroom, a quilt started, a bunch of things in progress for our sale in April, but really no new stuff. 

When I hear conversation like that, my tendency is to want new stuff.  Is that just me?  It's pretty immature and the jealousy fades quickly.   I hope my kids don't feel that way all the time.  I hope that we're raising them to just work harder for things and to question whether they need it at all.  I could be justifying our lifestyle choices here, but I don't want our children to grow up feeling deprived.  I've chosen not to work for these years when they are young for many reasons and I'm having a fairly good time.  Are they?  Or would they rather we had a bit of disposable income? 

Wants or desires shouldn't be totally forgotten though either.  The other conversation that comes up is travel.  Partly because those are the big things that take place when we're all apart from each other.  I used to be more jealous of that too.  We can't travel to exotic places.  We can't afford it, and it's not the same travel experience to do it with children anyway.

I still really enjoy the travel that we can afford.  We drive around our province camping and seeing new things. 

I missed my annual trip to the Okanagan this year and I should have gone.  It's my only travel without the family and it's a retreat that my brain and body need (or just want?).  Time for adult conversation, silliness, no set bedtimes or wakeup calls, we eat when we're hungry, walk when we're restless, swim when the water beckons. 

The garden was much slower to mature this year, so in early September I was still in the middle of canning and processing and felt a bit like it really couldn't be abandoned for the luxury of this trip. 

I won't let that happen again.  I didn't feel like I needed the holiday at the time, but now I'm feeling it. It's not a luxury, it's Therapy.  And that's an awesome vineyard, by the way, Therapy Vineyards.

 And if my fellow travellers are reading this post, thanks for the postcard!  I'll be joining you this year for sure and adding to our chocolatey, cheesey, winey memories. 

Yvon and I haven't been away together without kids since Beth was born almost 13 years ago.  But we are going now!  In two weeks we'll get five days in the mountains with no children.  I'm mostly looking forward to the train ride, but the whole experience should be awesome.  Our kids aren't tough to be with, but it's just different to be alone with your spouse.  Hopefully we'll get sun and exercise and relaxation and come home ready to jump back into life as we know it. 

So, is travel a want or a need?  And is alone-time a want or a need?  Maybe it depends on each individual or on our life situation.  Right now I'd just call it a strong desire for me.  And postcards written in the heat of Okanagan just intensify it.  :-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Food and Community

Every month I help coordinate a potluck dinner at our community league, followed by some activity that is usually physical.  I'm not sure why this monthly event is attended by so few people, but those who come always have a good time.  We may just have to move it into rotating homes for the three regular families.  It's much cosier in our houses.

However, we soldier on.

Last night we had four families there and it was tough to get some of us to leave the hall at 8:00 to get the kids to bed.

The food is always fabulous, but I go for the people.  The kids all play with each other, and it's one of my only interactions with little kids.  The one girl so proudly can now pronounce my name that she comes to talk with me all the time.  It's really cute. 

And the activities vary a lot.  Last night wasn't so "active" and I wasn't even that thrilled with the idea.  Making cards?  I really don't like scrapbooking and stamping. 

Or maybe I think I don't like it, because I was far from done by 8:00 and we planned a Saturday to get together and continue where we left off. 

Here's my work. 

I wasn't allowed to look at what the girls did but I should see a couple of cards on my birthday this year! 

If you want to read an article about our event, last month an interviewer from a student newsite came to eat with us and report on the evening.  I thought some of my comments were taken a bit out of context, but it's not terrible.  Read it here:  West Edmonton Local 

Next month we are making Psanky (Ukranian Easter Eggs).  After that I hope we can get outside for a bike ride or playing badminton on the tennis court.  The idea is to do something active, but we're a crafty group of attendees.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Let's start at the very beginning

I didn't commit to daily postings, did I?  Yeah, that's not gonna happen.

Thursdays are so busy, but I go a head start on my tasks this morning and had chicken and pasta sauce bubbling away by the time Beth called at 8:00 for her oboe to be brought to school. 

Today's activities include a sewing lesson for a young girl.  I'm finding it tough to teach someone who self-taught for a while and now thinks she can jump into the hard stuff without truly knowing the basics.  I do that myself a lot.  Sometimes all it takes is a failed project or two for me to realize that learning from the beginning is a good thing.

I think the current project we are working on is going to be one of those failures.  While it might make her come to her senses and start with simple projects that I recommend, I don't actually want to see her fail. 

Instead of working with easy-to-sew cotton, she took a commissioned project from her dad.  A pouch made of thick denim, lots of pockets and fairly large.  And, being raised frugally and in a recycle-friendly home, she insisted on it being made out of old jeans.   Poop.  The machine is having difficulty, the fabric is slightly small, there are many layers and it's not great.  I do hope it works out in the end, but it's not been an easy learning experience for her. 

Next time, a simple cotton project.  With a pattern.  And new materials. 

So that's what I'm looking forward to today.  What are your plans?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tiny Beaded Creatures

Just before the girls' birthday we were gifted with a bag full of books and crafts. 

This one in particular has gotten a lot of use lately.  I love Klutz Books. 

They are so well designed, including all of the right materials and clear directions. 

When we hung these charming mermaids in the fish bowl, our beta fish wasn't so impressed.  Being territorial, he checked them out closely and we removed them before he started trying to eat them. 

We're not positive what we'll do with them all.  We thought of earrings, but some of the designs are a bit too big.  These dragonflies might work as earrings.

The other thought was to include them in the Spring Sale where we've rented a table.  The idea was to attach them to some copper bookmarks. 

I'm not sure I can part with them all.  We may just have to buy some more seed beads and keep creating.  They are so cute!

Thanks for all the well-received baskets of gifts!  I'm not sure who loves them more, me or the girls.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Treasure Bowl

You can't even see the bowl, but it's there.  Under all of the treasures that can't be thrown away. 

This is the bowl where the puzzle piece goes when I pick find it under the couch and no longer know what puzzle it goes to, where I put the bead that belongs to the necklace that fell apart but will be remade, the stickers and the lip gloss from a treat bag but I don't know which child it belongs to.   It's like my kitchen junk drawer, but in my living room. 

I know I should have done this ages ago.  I clean out the bowl periodically (every year or so) and I could call it procrastination, but there is actually some reasoning behind my behaviour.  Method to my madness, you might say.  And the reason is this.

If I wait long enough, I truly don't remember what the bits and pieces belong to and the notes and valentines aren't special anymore and I can throw things away without feeling like anyone thinks it's treasure anymore.

This one of the notes that I still had to keep because it's very recent.  The girls are supposed to pick their fabric choice and a friend will make them a surprise out of it.  They haven't placed their orders yet.

Oo, look!  You can see the bowl now.

So many of the items end up in the garbage, but others are delivered to their rightful places all around the house.  Polly Pocket pieces and spools of thread, scissors (! we can never find scissors around here and now I know why!), crayons and markers.

Almost done.   This is all the was left after all was sorted, redistributed and thrown away.

A page from a Narnia book that will be missed when they get there,

a pile of notebooks (kids never have too many notebooks),

three coasters, an ornament from a friend, and a coax cable part. 

Yay, me!  I then brought all of our overflowing games to the basement, threw out the dead poinsettia, and dismantled my Christmas centerpiece that was dropping dry greens all over the floor.  The living room is looking so much better.

I should have taken a before picture of this scene, but imagine it with an overflowing bowl and the floor underneath was totally piled with games.  Now if only the girls would sell all of their Girl Guide cookies and almonds I'd be down to the basket which I don't mind and the bin of electronic stuff we use daily.

Was your Saturday productive?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Split Pea Soup

The only thing better than a bowl of soup on a cold day, is a bowl of soup made by someone else

Growing up, we were treated to a Dutch recipe of pea soup called snert.  We called it snot because it was green, and we didn't like it.  I know that I didn't like the thickness of the soup, and maybe that skewed my perception of it, or maybe my tastebuds are maturing.

This soup is fabulous, made by my friend and brought to my house because most of her family doesn't like it.  My kids do.  

And why isn't it green? I didn't ask.  Maybe she uses yellow split peas.  According to the web, the only difference between yellow and green split peas is the colour.  That might make the difference between a child calling it snot and snert though.  And maybe the difference between a child trying it or not.  That's a big difference really.

As far as I can tell, the other big difference is the thickness.  This version is thin and souplike.  The one I grew up with was really thick.  

So, make it the way you like by switching out the green peas for yellow, or adding more or less water to thin it out, but this is the soup I've been enjoying for two straight days now.  I'll have to try my mom's soup again one day. I'll probably love it now.

      Her Mom's Pea Soup

      2 cups dried peas
      ham (however much you have, and the bone if you have that too)
      1 carrot
      1 celery stock
      1 onion, sauteed
      1 bay leaf
      1 potato
      salt and pepper to taste

      Boil the peas in 10 cups of water for 5 minutes with the ham bone.  Leave to soak for 1 hour.

      Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the veggies are soft.  Remove the bone and eat!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


This is a sweet video in honour of Valentine's Day.  Thanks for sharing it, Coralee!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Now I feel like I have to post something even if I'm not thinking about terribly much.  It doesn't really mean nothing is in my thoughts though.

Tonight there are a few things going on around here.  Guides and Brownies are having a potluck supper tonight to celebrate their various ancestral backgrounds.  So, what should I make? 

Meat and potatoes would be the normal Dutch meal.  Blah.  Boerenkole?  Potatoes with green bits doesn't have univeral appeal with other people's kids.  Hmmm.   Oliebolen was suggested by the kids, but I don't have a deep fryer.  Croquettes?  Same hinderance.  Boterkoek?  Desserts are always loved, and something so full of butter should appeal to everyone.

Then there is their French heritage.  Pancakes with maple syrup?  Hard to cook and bring.  Split pea soup?  Even I say "yuck" to that.  Tourtierre?  Again, I say yuck because I've never liked the traditional spices in that and I shouldn't experiment on others with my first attempt.  Hmm.  Laura voted for French Fries.  Not exactly Quebecois french, unless I turn it into poutine.  There's a thought.

At Christmas my kids were granted their Metis status.  We've raised them with none of that cultural background simply because Yvon was not raised that way either.  I wouldn't say there was a lack of pride in that part of their family background, but certainly no emphasis.  However, bannock would be easy to bring.  

So, boterkoek and either bannock or poutine.  We'll see what the afternoon brings. 

And tonight I've been asked by Beth's principal to either speak to the open house attendees at the school about our experience with late French immersion or just be a contact for potential students to talk to.  I hate public speaking so I've opted for the second option.  Really I'd rather attend choir practice, but last year I wished for some parents to talk to about the challenges that late immersion might bring, or some reassurance that this is a good thing to do.  I'll suck it up and be that parent tonight.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Increased postings

Rosa informed me yesterday that she is going to post every day.  Every day!  I should maybe try that too, but I know I won't have something to post every day.  Does that mean I have nothing on my mind worth sharing?  Maybe it's a blank hole in there sometimes. 

So here's what I'm thinking this morning. 

If kids want their stuff to be private, they shouldn't leave it on the kitchen table. 

And if they don't want me to read their books, they shouldn't leave them lying on the couch, open.  I may just lose their page. 

That ties in nicely, actually to what Beth wrote in her notebook on the table.  (They aren't very private thoughts, so I'm sharing them today without permission.  I'll ask later and apologize if I must)

The book lying open was Alice's, called "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech.  It's written in poetry (or short lines) in the words of an elementary school boy.  The boy doesn't like poetry at the beginning of the book and struggles to understand it.  Here's an example of his writing:

     I don't understand
     the poem about
     the red wheelbarrow
     and the white chickens
     and why so much
     depends upon

     If that is a poem
     about the red wheelbarrow
     and the white chickens
     then any words
     can be a poem.
     You've just go to

That's generally how I feel about poetry too.  Usually the lines and the thoughts behind them are so compressed into a few words that I just don't get them.  And is everything in short lines considered a poem?  Are there no rules?

     this a poem?
     A short

Beth writes similar poems, but I do actually like them and maybe because I know her well, I understand the thoughts behind them without much explanation required.  Or maybe she expresses herself well.  This is from her notebook:

         The Bookmark
         The golden stick
         That puts off thoughts of fantasy,

         The Bookmark
         The marker
         That holds together the flow of thoughts
         and dreams
         The Bookmark
         The remote
         That presses the pause button for the movie
         in your head.

         "I'm sorry.  I accidently lost your place."

         Flipping pages
         Searching for landmarks
         Finding checkpoints
         Retracing steps

         Found it.

         Read on.

I hope she continues writing as she grows up, and I hope the topics don't get so private that she stops reading them to me and sharing.

And Alice, I hope I haven't lost your place in your book.  Use a bookmark next time! :-)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

All freshness and light

Okay, so I managed to get some alone time this week and it was good.  And what did I do with it?

Exercising.  Even on a Friday night!  I am finally starting to feel like the exercising is starting to benefit.  I've been exercising with a friend 3x a week since September.  It's been time-consuming and kind of fun, but I'm not losing any weight whatsoever.  While that's disappointing, I've lately been waking in the morning being "aware" of my muscles.  Not sore exactly, just like I can feel muscles in my arms and the back of my thighs.  I'm thinking that's a good thing. 

And I've been painting. This is what my one wall looked like in our room.

It wasn't always that streaky - that's after I sanded a couple of areas, but that's truly how dark and shiny it was.  I understand the color.  Forest Green was popular at one time, but why did they paint all of the walls and ceilings in high gloss?  And why did it take 11 years for me to change it?  Maybe that's the most important question.

And this was our very lovely ceiling light.

Only one halogen light worked in the fixture and we could hardly see into our closet in the morning.

And this is what the room looks like now. 

Sooooo much better!  In the late afternoon the room actually glows.  It's so pretty.  And at night it's nice too.  And notice the matching white bedside tables?  Nice! 

All is far from done though.  The "white" walls are far from white and they are still glossy.  So far the room hasn't cost anything because I had the yellow left over from Beth's room two years ago.  I don't have any white though. 

I am planning to buy the good low-VOC stuff like the yellow.  That stuff is fabulous to work with.  It didn't drip anywhere, even though I did the ceiling without covering the bed.  I'm not saying I recommend that, but I'm just saying that the biggest mess you're likely to make with this paint is if you step on the lid.  Benjamin Moore Aura.  Buy it.  You won't regret it. 

Okay, so all is going smoothly so far, except this. 

Not only is the wire not centred in the ceiling, but it also doesn't have a light box.  I need one for my new fixture, so that means finding a beam, cutting a hole and moving the wires to it.  Nothing that I've done before and I'm a bit hesitant, although I know the concept is simple.  Finding the beam is what is currently stopping me from cutting the new hole where I want it.  I have a nice new fixture from the Habitat Store ($12.50!).  Hopefully this week I'll try it.  Then I have some holes to fill, prime and paint.  

Oh yeah.  And I noticed that my knees and legs are stronger this year by the ease in which I climbed on and off the stool while painting the ceiling and getting on and off the floor cutting in at the baseboards. 

None of my other activities were done alone.  Two choir practices, a community league meeting, potluck at the school, serving a meal to the innercity needy, a games party last night, a child's birthday party, making soup for 40 people at church, a sewing lesson, piano lessons for the girls. 

One day I'll remember these busy days with fondness.  For now, I look forward to laying on my bed, alone, in the late afternoon with a good book and silence in the house.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Selfish time

It's been an odd week, child-wise.  Sometimes I feel like I don't get any time to myself.  It's not true really.  I get lots of time after the kids are in bed, and sometimes they all go to school, but it just seems like they are stealing my time when it doesn't work that way.  It's selfish of me, but I love my lonely times.

Monday and Tuesday turned out to be PD days for Beth.  Originally I thought, "It'll be nice to spend two days alone with Beth."  Then I remembered that I exercise on Monday mornings out of the house and that seems to take all morning.  And in the afternoon I had agreed to teach a young friend how to sew by whipping up a small project together.  With that young friend came her mother and sister, and then my other two girls were suddenly home from school.  No alone time with Beth. 

And then I vaguely remembered that I may have checked a box on a field trip form saying that I could maybe volunteer to accompany them.  "Did I say I'd spend Tuesday at the museum with your class?" I asked, hoping that she'd say no.  "Yeah! And the teacher told everyone that you'd be there!!"  Shoot.  6 hours spend in the museum with 8-year-olds learning about rocks and minerals.  I don't even like rocks and minerals.  No alone time with Beth.

Wednesday.  Alone at last, I thought!  Nope.  Beth went to school and called from the school before classes even started, asking for a ride home because she was sick.  So, some alone time with Beth maybe, but she spent it in bed and I tried to be quiet in the house for her sake.  Wednesday always involves one extra child after school, Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders' meetings, one dog to be walked and my own choir practice.  We quite happily managed getting Alice to Brownies and walked the dog.  Quickly made supper and prepared to go to Guides, a Pathfinder's ceremony, and if the ceremony was quick, I could still make it to choir practice.  That was not to be.  Not this week. 

On the way to Pathfinders (which Beth thought she was well enough to attend), her finger unexpected turned yellow.

Yellow!! Like it was dipped to her second knuckle in dusty yellow powdered paint.  Change in plans!  Maybe an evening at the hospital was in order instead.   We were quite freaked out actually.  I wish I'd thought to take a picture, but it looked like this (only on one finger though).

We are happily ignorant of many medical things, but sometimes it would be nice to know when freaking out is justified. 

Anyway, it went away and tingled a bit after Beth breathed warm air on her finger, so we stayed home, but I also skipped choir in case it happened again so that Yvon wouldn't have to drag the whole family to emerg.  It didn't happen again and we had time to Google and self-diagnose.  It sounds like a clear case of Renauld's Syndrome.  Nothing much to worry about, but we've got to schedule a physical for her and make sure a doctor knows.  

Thursday:  Beth was still not feeling great and stayed home.  By noon, all kids were home (they have a half-day on Thursdays) and I had two extra kids.  I do love having the kids home with me, and I love that our home is a place that friends like to hang out in, but is it selfish to wish they would all go outside for a few hours and leave me alone?  I just wanted to be alone!!  Instead, I took them skating while I exercised at the community hall with two friends.  Then a meeting at night that I didn't feel like attending.

Friday:  PD day for Laura and Alice.  Beth did have school but STILL wasn't feeling well enough for a full-day field trip that would have been awesome.  Amazingly, she was fine to go skiing at night.  It's my own fault, but I offered to take the girls skiing, and bring one extra friend as well.  By this time in the week I didn't want to do that anymore.  I just wanted some time to myself. 

Here's hoping for a quieter week this week.  Maybe with some alone time built into it somewhere.  For one thing, I'm forcing Beth to go to school.  There was a lot of social activity over the weekend during which she felt just fine, so school should be just fine too.  Maybe we'll get to spend quality time together at a doctor's appointment and have her finger issues checked out.  Sounds like fun, no?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Changing light

I always go into a bit of a slump after the Christmas gift-making.  Only the deadline of Christmas keeps me going through that, because the lack of light in this country kind of gets me down.  I don't necessarily stop creating, but my heart isn't always in it.

The light is increasing and changing and I love it!  And it only gets better as well.  The weather feels like spring too (unseasonably, so I'd better not start looking for tulips) and now I'm jumping into projects with a bit more energy. 

This was a tiny project for a birthday present. 

I found this nice little notebook for a ridiculously cheap price.  I do love paper - recycled paper, notebooks, the feel of good writing paper.  I don't actually write, but I'm attracted to the stationery section of stores. 

This little girl does like to write.  Stories and journals, mostly.  I didn't want to cover the nice cover with a notebook cover though, so I just made a little slipcover for the back of the notebook to carry a few pens.

The big project occupying my mind these days is our master bedroom.  I hesitate to call it that because that brings visions of a much larger space than what I'm talking about.  Our room is a typical 1960 bungalow bedroom with only room for our bedside tables, bed and two dressers, and just enough room to walk around them.  So  without budget for anything new, I am mainly painting a lot of things.  We've been in this house for over 10 years now and our room is the last to have anything done to it.  It's still got a feature wall of lovely dark forest green.  When we moved in, I knew it would have to go, but every room seemed to have priority.

It's finally time.  And I've got a real deadline to help me keep it moving.  By the middle of March, we are having a friend stay in our house for a full days while Yvon and I go on a short holiday.  I can't have her stay in our room as it is. 

Over the years we've managed to find two bedside tables that are identical except in their paint treatments.  And one still has the sewing machine inside.  I've never even tried it to see if it works. 

Goodbye mismatched tables.  And hello two matching white ones.

Yvon won't let me use them for a few days until they are properly cured, but I'm dying to move them back into our space.  Two more pieces need to be painted too. 

The whole room needs to be whitened and brightened.  The forest green is becoming either apple-y green or yellow (we have leftovers of each from other projects and I just have to check on their status.  Dried up and crusty?  Or fresh and ready to use?  How much is there?)   And I have some lighting ideas in mind, but not sure what I'll find that's cheap.  I love going to the Habitat store, so that'll be my first stop on Monday.

And this...

I didn't think this was my year to quilt, but that's what my brain is constantly dreaming of.  I'm starting simply though.  More of a pieced duvet cover.  And I shouldn't have to spend a penny on this.  We've got the duvet, the white that makes up most of the cover, and certainly lots of scrappy bits for color.  I can't wait to see it all come together! 

No quilter will be allowed to ever see it.  It's a mess of mismatched corners, but it makes me happy.

How are your brighter days going?