Friday, February 27, 2009

It is Well

For the longest time this winter was too cold to get outside and do anything with the kids.

Then it warmed up a bit and I managed to go skating a few times with them. Every year I get out a few times and I must say that I'm not very comfortable on skates. It's a lot of weight to balance on two thin blades and two little ankles. And I haven't really skated much since the hockey players took over our rink as a kid.

Anyway, one lovely Sunday I fell on my tailbone (remember the bruised butt post?) and the next weekend I landed on both knees in an icy pile of snow on the side of the rink. My tailbone seems to be slowly getting better, but one knee...not so much.

I'm not looking for a diagnosis here. I can't see anything wrong in my xray and I'll have to wait for the bone scan results as well.

As I watched the bone scan revealing itself on the computer screen today, I started to marvel about how well and detailed our bodies are designed. It's amazing that God would piece together all those little bones and make them function as a complete unit. And to make my pieces different than yours, unique to me alone. Not only that, but there is grand plan for each of my bones - how they will age and degenerate and that plan is unique to me as well.

The degenating part isn't great, I know. There were bright spots along my spine and in my feet that showed arthritis and my tailbone was glowing brighter than anywhere else. That doesn't worry me really. The bone scan was to investigate my knee. But if God will go to those lengths to plan my physical structure, how much more does He care about what the scan doesn't pick up -- my soul?

I got into the van and this song was playing on my CD player.

It Is Well With My Soul

All is going to be just fine. My knee doesn't really matter in the Grand Scheme.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Have you taken the pledge?

I read probably more blogs than I should, mostly looking for answers to practical questions or looking for project inspiration. Many of the crafty blogs have a gadget on the side that says "I took the Handmade Pledge" This means that they will buy handmade for themselves and others.

I try to do that with gifts because it feeds my crafty urges, my desire to give gifts with personal touches, and yes, my cheapness. Frugal sounds better. I haven't fully taken the pledge though because I'm stuck sometimes. Either for time or inspiration or ability.
This week we have three birthday parties to attend and I managed to make all of the gifts. Yay me!

This is for a little girl who picked it out for herself at a garage sale or thrift shop and I remade it to fit her. She loved the fabric because of the sparkly beads throughout. How pretty!

However, it was an adult size and needed a lot of adjustments. I like how it turned out and I hope she does too. I also hope that she waits for warmer weather to wear it. It's been snowing for three days now.

Because all three of my girls are attending her party, I thought she needed another gift as well, so I made three. It actually took that many attempts to really get it right because I'm a trial-and-error type of seamstress and I rarely have a pattern.

The first one in orange reminded me why I don't like to sew with vinyl. I'm hoping that an 8-year old won't look closely at the stitches. It is the most durable of the three though.

The second and third attempts went much better and I'm so happy that I'm done today. One whole day before the first of the parties.

Maybe my life isn't that chaotic. I'm still looking for a better blog name. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

True Love

gim·crack: n. A cheap and showy object of little or
no use; a gewgaw.

The girls and I looked up this word when I came across it in Vanity Fair because I had no idea what they were talking about. I'm not a fan of gimcrackery and these may be the closest things to gimcracks in our house (outside of the girls' rooms).

A few months ago a friend gave me these charming salt and pepper shakers, thinking of me because of their inherent Dutch-ness. Aren't they cute? I love them.

I tried to find some information about them. There have been versions of them around since at least the 1930's, kissing on spice racks and beside the garden gnomes in a more romantic setting outside. I thought it must be true love between these two, but look again.

Is he rolling his eyes?? This may have been a one-sided relationship for years and years!

How sad. 70-odd years of pleading for a kiss from an eye-rolling beau. I still prefer to think it's true love and I'll overlook his expression.

Try as I might, I couldn't take a good photo of our old shakers. They are just not very photogenic and I'm happy to have filled them with less useful herbs since the kissing couple has entered my home.

I have filled my new little lady salt shaker, but my husband prefers his pepper fresh-ground. That means that my set is neither gimcrack or gewgaw. They are very useful and very sweet.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Every year we have a Pajama Party. Pajamas were never involved, but we were to wear comfortable clothes and watch movies all weekend while eating junk food. Lots of violence, Arnie and a few girlie flicks thrown in.

Then kids came along. A couple of us had to entertain the kids and watch Disney movies. And one of us had to bring the kids home early to sleep. One year I drew the short straw and had to take the girls to their beds. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and cleanliness of someone else's home, watching a whole season of Corner Gas while the girls slept. When you live with a baby, sometimes that's all you need for happiness.

We've also evolved over the years from movies and junk food to junk movies and awesome food. And this year we didn't even pretend it was about the movies at all.

The adults didn't even watch one. And it wasn't about the kids. They entertained themselves for the most part. It was about good company, conversation, laughter and food. I did eat some Cheetos and was appropriately given a hard time about it, but for the most part I saved myself for the lemon posset, fried chicken, croquettes, lamb and orange chocolate pie.

I didn't take pictures of the breakfasts, but I should have. Apple waffles with maple syrup and yoghurt and carmel sauce. Yum! And biscuits (with or without gravy), poached eggs and spicy cheesy potatoes.

The food was distinctly adult, but does that smiling face with the fried cheese look like she's suffering?

I can't wait until next year. What new recipes will we get to try? Is it possible to top this years' menus? I'm willing to try.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

In which she baked and baked. And then she baked again.

I'm working under the assumption that homemade cookes are slightly better for you than Cheetos. I may be mistaken, but it's whole wheat after all! Surely that makes up for the sugar and butter.

I'm anticipating a wonderful weekend with friends. When friends congregate, food is consumed in great quantity. And I must say it is always great quality as well with this particular crowd, but the planned activities also call for a fair bit of crunchy, addictive junk food and Cheetos are my particular vice.

I'm going to eat the baking instead if I can. And save my appetite for the deep-fried goodness of croquettes and the possibility of marinated lamb kebabs.

I have to keep looking for the site that tells me that all of these things are exactly the right recipe for successful weight loss. You know, something like "Cheetos are now discovered to be the wonder food" and "deep frying your food blocks your body's ability to turn fat into fat".

Maybe that will be next week. For now, I'm going to enjoy my weekend. Laugh a lot, eat a lot, and visit with friends.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Club

As an attempt to read a few books outside of our normal comfortable range, my husband and I have joined a book club at a local library.

We've chosen our comfortable books because we enjoy them obviously. Almost always. Without wasting a great deal of precious time discovering that we don't like them. I often read books recommended by friends who know what my tolerances are for sex, pain, graphic detail, and general ugliness. It's a very low tolerance and this system works for me.

I guess it doesn't hurt to grow a little and try new things, but the successes this year have been few with the book club. Things are looking up.

I love Amy Tan. The other book was recommended by a lady in the club and I've always wondered about Salman Rushdie.

Last night we discussed The Birth House by Ami McKay and I loved the story and the writing. It was a nice change after the violence of Beirut and the crime and neurosurgical detail of Saturday.

I had a history with this book. A few years back I read The Birth House for the first time while camping. It was also a library book. One of the girls' best memories from that summer was the storm we experienced in southern Saskatchewan.

We're tenters, and one night tent was threatening to blow over and it was really raining. The girls are focussing on "Trustworthiness" at school right now and this tent had not yet earned our trust. My cousin wisely suggested that maybe a tent under a tall tree wasn't the best thing in a thunder storm. We carried our sleeping girls through the rain to share my cousin's tent trailer.

11 people in a tent trailer. Did we sleep at all? Would you? The kids actually did, waking up and wondering where they were in the morning.

After trooping back to our tent, we learned that the tent had survived and everything in it was dry.

Until later that day when I wanted to sit in the sun and enjoy my book. My sodden, water soaked The Birth House book. It had acted like a sponge in the corner of the tent, soaking up all the water that had managed to make it's way into the tent.

I finished the book, carefully turning the wet pages so they wouldn't tear, and then tried to dry it out. After paying the $30 penalty from the library, I thought maybe I could keep it and read it again. 'Twas not to be.

I'm terrible with my treatment of books. This is an extreme example, but don't ever lend them to me without knowing how "loved" they will look when returned.

This was a book we read a few months back in the club and I did enjoy it. I even started reading it a second time while I had it in my possession from the library. Well, now I can finish it...again! I won a draw last night and this is what came home with me. Yay me!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So much to learn

Once a week I volunteer for ESL classes.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a teacher. I make coffee and then fill in as needed. Sometimes I just take a struggling student and try to have a conversation, or go over their homework with them. One day it would be nice to be of more help and to have the right skills to further their language skills.

There were almost too many volunteers this morning under a new structure we're trying, so I had time to watch and learn from two amazing volunteer teachers. One was for the higher-level students and I learned about the four types of nouns.

Did you know there were four types of nouns? I'm just glad she didn't put me on the spot and ask me what they were. I now know: Proper, common, abstract and collective nouns. And now you know. (Hey, I am a teacher!)

The other teacher taught the early literacy class. She is so great and able to get all of the students involved. Last week she brought them into the gym and taught them the past, present and future tenses of run, jump and sing. Apparently they all sang together in the gym.

Both of these teachers are in their mid-80s and I can only pray that I have as much energy and enthusiasm when I'm their age. I suspect that after 40 more years of this I will have the shrunk the gap between their current knowledge and mine, and I'll also have the inability to get out of bed.

I will not be publicizing this blog to the ESL students. They would learn nothing hear and they wood see two many terrible examples of bad writing skills.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Late again

I should know better.

I should always leave a bit extra time to get anywhere. You never know who is going to be driving in front of you.

I even had time. My husband left the house with the girls about 30 minutes before I had to leave. That gave me time to tidy the house a bit and even get some reading done. Reading, unfortunately always takes me longer than I plan on. Especially when it's a good book.

Normally I don't like starting new books, but this book has characters I know from past books so it's easy to get into it. Alexander McCall Smith -- I always think of him as a woman because he writes so very well from the woman's perspective. So I call him "she". She has written a few books about the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and they are quite innocent and humourous. My mom would like them - there's no sex or bad language.

Anyway. I read too long and had only just enough time to get there in time.

I think the car in front of me had two things in it: an out-of-town driver and a GPS thingy. Many blocks before the traffic circle she slowed to a crawl and stayed there, as if by delaying the dreaded traffic circle it would be easier to navigate around it. I should tell you that I love traffic circles. They work if everyone knows how to use them, but out-of-towners seem more than a little intimidated.

All around the circle I was talking this lady as if my parents were driving beside me (out-of-towners, you know).

Signal, no, no, don't switch lanes!...okay, you're doing fine...don't slow down anymore, 30 is already WAY to slow...signal, no, no, don't switch lanes! drive out. Yay! Good job. Now speed up so I can get to choir on time!

By this time her GPS must have told her about the winding road going to the river valley. Shoot. She never got above 45 km/hr even in the 60 zone and I was late for choir.

Again. Sigh...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sans Boeter

I had a busy day today, but after my meetings were over I had about an hour to get some baking done.

I’d even planned it somewhat in advance (what a unique concept!). I wanted to make Boeterkoek for a Seniors’ Tea on Thursday. Boeterkoek reminds me of my Grandma, so even though these seniors were not Dutch or know what Boeterkoek was, it seemed fitting for the event.

I was totally ready. Almond extract was delivered to me door this morning by a friend because I had run out. Boeterkoek means “Butter Cake” in Dutch and my butter was nice and soft.

I was given this great recipe by my friend Rosa. Both of us are of Dutch heritage, but I apologize for the spelling errors – we were both born in Canada. Boeter is not in our everyday language!

What’s wrong with this recipe though? Hmm… flour (check), sugar (check), eggs (check), baking powder (check), sugar (check), almond extract (check).

I had to pick up the phone.

“Umm, Rosa, how much butter is there supposed to be in your Boeterkoek recipe?” Of course – 1 pound. I should have known that sugar wouldn’t be measured in pounds by my Canadian friend.

And wouldn't appear twice in the recipe!

There. That’s better. There was only one other glitch in my baking today. I used the egg whites, put the yolks down the kitchen drain, and then needed 2 yolks to brush on the top. Oops. I fixed that by breaking another egg and putting the white down the drain. Wasteful, yes, but still the same tasty result.

My grandma would have made these in pie tins and put one half almond on each wedge of cake. I am always rushed and even though it’s not as pretty, a 9x13 pan allows us to sample all of the curved edges that I cut off.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Day of Rest

It was a day of rest in that I didn't do any work, but it went against me somehow.

(Incidentally, I don't like reading pictureless posts much, but that's what this is. Sorry.)

The day started as Sundays always do. We slept in just a bit too late, rushed to eat and look presentable to the public, and then arrived a bit late for my choir practice. Nothing new there.

After the service the girls and I played air hockey and waited...and waited...and waited...for Yvon to finish up, and I decided that two vehicles are Sundays will be the plan from now on. What I should have been planning was how I was going to get home, eat and get back to the church in time for a concert. I ended up having only 15 minutes to cook and eat.

Whatever. Again, that's nothing new. Just poor planning on my part.

I was looking forward to an afternoon listening to the pipe organ played by a friend from my past. We used to sing together about 10 years ago. During the years since, he has managed to get his doctorate in music from Yale, winning awards and played organs all over the place. And me? I'm still singing in the same choir, and done nothing more academically or musically. That's clearly not my gift.

It is definitely his gift though. I sat with other choral members whom I rarely see and was proud to hear him play with such passion, as if I had something to do with getting him to this point. It was a great concert. And I don't even rank pipe organs high on my instrumental list.

Getting back to my point about the day of rest. I did nothing but sit from 10:00 to 5:30 p.m. yesterday, learning and listening and enjoying myself a great deal.

All while sitting on hard chairs and pews. On the butt that I'd bruised last week skating! Oww!

Days of rest are only good if you don't literally have a pain in the butt!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


We all have them, but at one point in our lives we had very little and they slowly built up.

When I was growing up, we weren't allowed to play on Saturdays until we'd done some cleaning in the house. The tasks never got very big and I don't remember doing much more than cleaning my half of the bedroom and dusting a few other areas in the house. I hated being assigned the iron banisters going up the stairs.

We don't have this routine in our house really. Sometimes the fun stuff and the swimming lessons happen first, but the kids do all have some work to do. And some of it is fun and voluntary.

Laura has voluntarily accepted a few tasks. She likes to mop (a handy thing, because I don't!). Today we have a clean kitchen floor!

Both older girls have taken a liking to gardening, especially the exciting part of seeding and then watching the seeds start to germinate. Interest wanes a bit with the daily watering and misting, comes back again when the plants go into the ground outside, and then later the weeding becomes an unwanted chore. But each year the interest lasts longer and I'm happy to share my love of gardening with them.

Laura also has a new responsibility: Ella the gerbil.

Laura makes sure she's fed, played with, exercised in her ball, and ALWAYS makes sure she is carried out to the kitchen to spend the night. For a little thing, Ella is very noisy at night and does not make a good bedroom companion. Good night, little Ella!

And good night responsibilities. Tomorrow is a day of rest.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Lunchin' Ladies

Or is that Luncheon Ladies?

In any case, that's what we were today. Once my youngest started school I thought I'd have plenty of time for things like going out for lunch with friends. To places my kids wouldn't enjoy. To places where the noise of kids is not appreciated.

I never do it though. I'm busy. Or I think I'm too busy, when in reality I have a huge "to do" list in my head and only a couple of things get checked off each day. Often I don't get ahead at all. I just get the meals and snacks prepared, laundry done and tidy up the messes made yesterday.

Today I managed to work for a couple of hours, and then enjoyed the better part of the day with a friend. Why not have fun if otherwise I'm just feeling guilty about my non-productivity?

We looked at clothing too expensive and impractical to buy, I tasted interesting cheese and even bought some. It's a good friend indeed who can enter a cheese shop and share opinions while being lactose-intolerant herself!

Aren't the cheeses pretty?

And we ate.

We ate lovely food in a wonderful old house. We filled up with conversation that never runs out, and we filled up with food we couldn't or wouldn't make at home.

I was reminded of a hilarious dinner with my sister and my wine-tasting partners in Penticton when we finished the meal with coffee and these little Orzo candies, but that's a story that I can't translate well into print. Maybe another day.

And we promised we'd do it again next month for my birthday. Maybe there will be an excuse every month.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beth and Swiss Cheese Crackers

It's a mystery why she wants to fill her body with a box of crackers just before bed.

Maybe it's something she's learned from me. Yum!

Dumpster Digging

I never thought I'd go dumpster digging, but it has a lot going for it and I won't say I'll never do it again.

Maybe this needs a bit of explanation because this is not something I would normally do, or do every day. But each day is different around here, and that's just what today called for.

I've been reading a lot about living more simply, living with more environmental awareness, and yes, living frugally (i.e. cheaply). That doesn't necessarily mean finding things in dumpsters, but that was my experience.

This week our old stove was determined to start a fire, starting with one very bright spot in the oven element. Luckily, I caught it in time and turned the stove off, and was happy knowing that we still had our trusty toaster oven. In reality, I use it more often than the oven anyway and thought we had time to shop around for a sale. While voicing this very thought out loud to my lovely husband, I was watching three loaves of bread rising.

"How do you plan to bake that bread?"

" The way I always..... Oh, right. Hmm..."

I headed off to my friends house to borrow their 350 degree heat source and provide their home with the wonderful yeasty smell of fresh bread, and realized that we needed the oven more than I thought. Last night we baked 3 dozen cookies for an event - 9 cookies at a time in the toaster oven.

Fast track to today.

I bought a new element for the oven without any problem and thought I'd fix the other little stove problem at the same time. For some time now we've been operating with three burners because one of those x-shaped supports under the burner snapped on the fourth element. Unfortunately, they don't make them anymore.

Why? Do stoves not need them anymore? Who knows. I think it's one of those built-in obsolence things. But there's no way I want to spend $1100 on a new oven just because of little unavailable parts.

After two more stops looking for them (the local ECO Station and another old appliance graveyard), I ended up dumpster diving at a scrap metal dealership. And found two free x-shaped supports! Yay! Actually one is totally misshapen, but I grabbed it because what if another one of ours breaks?

Hopefully our new-old stove will have another few years of life left and I've saved $1100.

I also saved the landfill one big appliance. All in all, a satisfying experience!