Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Google Ads

When I first started this blog, I included ads on the side because I was curious how they worked. I'd been playing with a blog scheme with a friend that involved making money (if possible) and that may have involved blog ads.
It's interesting how they work. Google ads are smart cookies. When I posted about sewing machines, suddenly there were ads about fabrics and antique Singer parts. When I posted about gardening, seed sites showed up and tips on how to compost. When I posted about the kids, good parenting forums and child behavioural issue site showed up. Did it sense that I needed those things, or was it trying to backup my own awesome parenting skills with proven tactics? Or perhaps that your presence here suggests problems with your own children? Who's to know?
Anyway, it's been fun to see what shows up but it's not at all profitable and I didn't expect it to be.
I'm not allowed to click on the ads even when they interest me, and I'm not allowed to ask you to click on them. But I am going to! When I finally reach $10 in profit, I'd like to do a give-away. Mostly I want to do this because the silent lurkers may suddenly show themselves by entering my contest. I don't know who is visiting regulary from Colorado, and Texas and Washington, and someone in Australia. I'd like to know these things.
So click once in a while and I'll give back the proceeds to someone out there in the tiny group of readers!
(Editorial note: Okay, these are weird ads now, so you might want to wait until I have another post with different content so that the ads change.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dang Nibblets!

I was just sewing quietly in my sewing/office/music room, and I heard the kids happily playing a card game in the living room together.

"Do you have a Jack?"
"Nope. Go fish."
"Do you have a 9?"
"Dang Nibblets!! (giggle) Here you go."
"Do you have a 7?"
"Dang Nibblets! I just picked that up!"

Dang Nibblets? Where did they get that? Who cares - as long as they're happy! It's the first day of summer vacation and all is well so far. Happy children, productive me, and a garden waiting anxiously for some water from the sky.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Yvon tells me that my last post was a bit of a rant. I did apologize at the end for that, didn't I? Okay, I'll be more positive now.

It's been a couple of weeks of endings and I'm looking forward to summer holidays and spending more time with the kids doing unscheduled things. Like going to the park with a book, making s'mores at our favourite public firepit, camping, swimming in our own pool, going to the zoo -- I think you get it.

Beth and I had our final piano recital a couple of weeks ago. Beth's piece went well, and I stood out as being the only adult. That's impressive, right? It gave the other parents fodder for their motivating their children. "Remember that lady at the recital? It's okay to embarrass yourself in public. Even adults do it. Start early and you'll get used to it."

If you have too much time on your hands, you can listen to me here. You may find it boring or even humourous, but what it really highlights is that I've got about 9,700 more hours of practice before I'm ready to go on tour.

Choir also ended with a big splash. No, actually Beth's class ended with a splash today at the waterpark and her new sunglasses ended there as well. Sigh...

Back to choir though. We sang our way through a cantata of a Mennonite village's escape from the Ukraine into China and finally to our city. It was very moving and there were a number of guest Mennonites that day in the congregation. It was a story told to our choir director years ago ago. This village escaped in -40 degree weather on sleds across a river into China in 1930, the river not being totally frozen over and soldiers being within sight and yet not seeing the 200-odd people in the valley below them. Although their stories are different in many ways, there were also ESL students present from our classes because they truly understand persecution in more personal ways than many of us.

And ESL classes ended with a potluck lunch yesterday. These people can truly feed a feast to a crowd! The students arrive with various cultural dishes and each one seems to bring enough to feed a small army. Somehow it all gets eaten. I was still not hungry by suppertime. We may struggle to communicate with each other, but food is understood by all. I think I ate a dandelion onion cake and it was yummy!

I've got another potluck lunch for the ESL volunteer tomorrow. I need to have a potluck recipe book. Does anyone have a recommendation? I am truly running out of things to try. Tomorrow I'll be making my rosemary bread again.

Soccer is finally ending on Saturday. It's been fun and I'll let you know if Beth's team wins, because this game will clinch it. This has been the most fun season for us. In the past there have always been tears and yelling of "I HATE SOCCER WHY DO YOU MAKE ME PLAY!" but this has been great. The yelling has never, ever come from Beth so I think we've gotten the message pretty clearly now. Laura and Alice hate soccer. Got it. It only took three years. I attribute our slow learning curve to the brain's ability to block pain.

Tomorrow is the last day of school. I offered to make Alice's class a cake because all year she has been unable to eat the treats that arrive in class (because of her allergies). Laura heard me offer, and then she wanted one too. And I couldn't leave Beth's class out then, so I had to make cake for roughly 75 kids! Why do I do this?

It turned out to be fun actually. Laura decorated her two cakes by herself, with no help from me at all beyond making the icing.

We have something called "The Baker's Secret" in our house. It means that the baker gets to test the product, sample the cookie dough, lick the beaters, that kind of thing. Alice helped spread her icing just so she could partake of the "The Baker's Secret" and then dropped out of the game. And this was yummy lemon-y icing and worth sampling!

And the finished cakes (except the outline on Alice's - my batteries died and I can't take even one more picture). They are cheerful and yummy.

Beth has a Grade 4/5 split class and helped create the concept of the caterpillar (can you see him?) crawling from Grade 4 to 5, and the butterfly moving up to Grade 6. I like the colours, but I tell you, if I see a caterpillar on my flowers I stomp on him. I wouldn't want to be graduating from Grade 4. I'd be hiding if I were that caterpillar. I'd seriously consider crawling under that leaf.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gone but Never Forgotten

This is my Mom's title, but it could also be "Wasteful Endeavours" or "Now is the Time for Sadness" or numerous other things.

Mom emailed me this week to tell me that our childhood house has been torn down. We lived there for ten years, my most memorable childhood years from ages 7 - 17.

Now, it wasn't actually old. It was built in the 70's. Not a pretty time for home design or clothing or style in general, but this house was built with classic style, meant to stand and be lived in and loved in for a very long time. And it was beautiful.

The interior reflected the '70s while we were there and by the time we left even we knew that many of those things needed updating. A wall of gold-flecked mirror and spanish-theme red/gold/black shag carpets are not timeless. But those elements had disappeared since we moved out, to be replaced with all of the beautiful flooring, walls and bannisters that I'm sure Dad had in mind when he built it.

When he built it I'm sure he compromised some of his own style to accommodate a house full of children. We were all allowed to pick our own carpet and wallpapers for our rooms and the end result was that each room was entirely different -- blue and red sailboats in one room, mauve shag carpet in another, gold-flecked shag in another. I loved the purple room that I shared with my sister and I'm sure that was the intent.

The house was for sale a few years ago and I did have a walk through it again. Everything had improved with time, always with the vision that this was not a temporary home. It was gorgeous inside now with hardwood floors everywhere and the oak bannister following the curved staircases were exactly what I pictured always should have been there.

After returning from Holland once, Dad told us that he had carved his name in the closet of his childhood home there and had had a chance to look for it again many years later. It was still there. So we did that too before moving out. That house was meant to stand forever and I always thought I'd be able to return and find my name in the closet, maybe showing it to my children. It's not fair really.

Dad wouldn't look at it. It would have brought different memories for him, of recession and hard times, but he should be proud to know that those are not at all the things I remember from my years of living there. This is what I remember:

  • laughter
  • hide-and-seek games (new friends never thought to look for us inside the laundry chute where you could climb up a bit so your feet wouldn't show - that trick only ever worked once)
  • badminton in the yard - there were enough trees that we were sometimes sheltered from the endless wind
  • skiing on the paths behind the house
  • canoeing on the paths behind the house!
  • weiner-roasts with cousins at the fire pit
  • "camping out" in the playhouse
  • big dinners (with 9 people living there, there was no other kind!)
  • lots of overnight visitors
  • skating on the river behind the house
  • toboganning down the hill to end up on the frozen river
  • learning to ride my bike by being pushed down that same hill

...the list could go on. I was given everything I needed for a very good childhood.

I realize that my memories are of the building as a "home" and any new owner is looking at simply a "house". There's a big difference there. But even just as a "house" it was beautiful. This was not just a beautiful piece of property.

Although, the property was beautiful too. I sincerely hope they kept some of the trees. The old poplars near the river end of the lot, all of the now-mature fruit trees (different types of apples, plums, crabapples, and even grapes which covered the back of the garage when I last saw it), the willow in the front yard (that twig in the first picture was now 30 years old). Dad recovered that land from native riverlot mess and did an awesome job.

This could easily be a post about inconsiderate waste. Mom told me that they threw a $13,000 air conditioner into the hole before filling it up. Couldn't they have looked for a buyer or a charity who could use it or sell it? What else did they throw in there without considering what would leach through the soil to the river that was only feet away? Did they donate the hardwood flooring to someone? Anyone? Did they keep anything to re-use? I don't know the answers to that so I can't condemn them without knowing.

I'm going to stop now because I realize that this post is rambling about things which maybe matter only to my heart and not to you. And in the manner of my heart, it's jumping from point to point with seemingly no point whatsoever. My thoughts about this are scattered and upset. Sorry about that. I'll be better later. I do wish I could find more pictures of the house though.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer weekend

You've got to make the most of summer while it's here, because it's very short. Didn't we have snow a few weeks ago? We spent the weekend outside.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day. That was awesome because we had a very busy day of activity. It started out with a city-wide "Soccer Fun Day" and Beth's team had a game scheduled in the morning, followed by a hotdog lunch, castle jumping, and visiting with the clown. Beth even scored the winning goal! Whoo-hoo! They are now in the top of the standings with only one game left tonight.

We had to miss her team's actual party, but Alice got to go to a party in the West Edmonton Mall.

No, she didn't ride the roller coaster. What 5 year would? What sane person would? Well, okay, I've done it, but not since pregnancies have made my stomach queasy at the thought of even going on a swing at the playground. It's just not going to happen.

Then we went to the Easter Seals Relay while Alice played with her friends. Out of the city's teams, our team raised the third largest amount. Thanks to everyone who sponsored us!

The kids were smiling more at the start of our walk than the end, but I didn't think to get a picture of us until after we were a bit tired. It was really hot!

It's a nice walk through the park though, and the baby geese are always entertaining for the kids. This park is built on what used to be a landfill. Nice, eh? It smells better now than it has in the past.

They had a group of students giving foot massages and full massages in one tent. I really wanted a foot massage, but I felt sorry for them working on people's dirty, sweaty feet all day and couldn't do that to them. Laura took advantage of the hair-styling though. Isn't she lovely?
We've done the Easter Seals Relay for four years now. It gets more fun every year and I do hope to set up a tent there one day and stay overnight, doing one of the after-dark shifts. It's the only time of the year they allow tenting there and I'll bet the park is really beautiful at night.

After a free swim in the rec centre to cool off, we drove home all tired and clean. At some point one of the kids said "We didn't eat lunch or supper today!". Well, trust me, we did not starve. We ate constantly from the fruit and snacks in the company tent. We had a great, hot, summer day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Child's Understanding

The other day I was talking to a child about arranging for her to come to our place after school.

Her: You have to call my mom. Do you know her phone number?

Me: Not by memory, but I have her business card at home.

Her: Is it the one with the "Come travel with me" on it?

Me: I don't know if that's the one. Does she have more than one business card?

Her: Yes....she has tons of them!


Me: Hmmm, do they all look the same?

Her: Yes.

Me: Good, then that's the one I have.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yappy Dogs

It's been awhile since I've posted and it's certainly not that I've got nothing to say. I've always got plenty to say, you all know that!

But I've just been busier than usual. Rather than get into that, I've been asked about the outcome of the poodle skirts.

The poodles themselves turned out kind of cute. I created them as appliques and sewed them on with a large stitch so that they can easily be removed if the child doesn't like them.

I learned something about felt while making these. All felt is not created equal. They now make felt out of recycled pop bottles. Interesting. And a good thing to know before you take an iron to it. Luckily I had a piece of paper between the iron and the felt. I'm not sure why I even did that but God must have initiated the tiny voice in my head that day. I had to start again, but I still had a smooth, functioning iron.

They are quite pretty A-line skirts and I love the green linen-look fabric.

I'm not sure if it's okay to post pictures of people without asking their permission. Is that okay or is it an invasion of privacy? What's the protocol? In the absence of an answer, I'll pretend she's a juvenile criminal and I have to protect her/his identity.

All three girls liked the poodles. Laura said she'd be happy to wear it again with the poodle still there. Beth said the same, but for three weeks it lay scrunched in a plastic grocery bag on the floor of her closet. Lovingly tended. The juvie openly admitted to being unlikely to ever wear the skirt again, poodle or no poodle.

I made her mother pay for the skirt. Humph.

And, Mom, Laura and Beth did both wear their scarves to the event, but ripped them off as soon as they were backstage. They looked suitably retro for the event, sang and danced well. They are still singing the Locomotion song and Alice does a great version of "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog". It was a fun night.

And in other yappy dog news, we are babysitting two mutts for the rest of this week. They are not liking the interior of the garage at the moment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

European immigrants

I've got a lot of things going on in the garden. There are the flowers:

The vegetables:
And some herbs: (thanks for the oregano, D. - it's settling in nicely)

But this plant defies labels. A friend asked about this beautiful plant the other day.

It's an herb, a vegetable, and a flower. With all those wonderful attributes it must be hard to grow, right? That's one of the beautiful things about this gem - it's easy.
In case you want some of these rare beauties, they come from Europe originally but they've done very well here, even with our long winters and late springs. Mine have thrived in both sun and shade, in the vegetable garden, flowers and grass. If I can grow them, I'm sure you can too. I don't grow anything that isn't hardy to Zone 3 or 4.
And if that wasn't enough to sell you on these flowers, they naturalize in your lawn just beautifully.

I mean, who really thinks a large golf-green expanse of grass is beautiful? It needs some colour to liven it up. This is a mature patch, but it didn't take long at all to get there, even with the kids constantly trampling them. And they get accidently hit by the Weed-and-Feed killer regularly and still survive.
You won't find the seeds or plants in your local nursery, but just ask your neighbour's kids. I'm sure they'll be more than happy to blow some seeds over your fence for you to enjoy.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Creativity Blossoms

Yeah, the garden is starting to blossom, but I still have time for bits of creativity in other parts of my life too.

Continuing with my desire to make or buy homemade gifts for friends, I made this t-shirt this week for one of Beth's friends. I love these iron-on sheets for the printer. All of my free Photoshop trials have run out, so I have started using Gimp for some of this work. I haven't played too much with it, but this effect sort of suited Emma's slightly rebellious streak.

There are two birthdays next Saturday and I think I'll wimp out and buy things. I may change my mind, but I have no idea what to make for them. Two 6-year-old girls. Any ideas? Neither of them have my pencil/art cases yet, but one is quite definitely not crafty.

Although I "created" her a few years back, I wanted to show off Laura and her new "do". She's been growing her hair forever and it was lovely and long and fairly thick, but it was getting impossible to brush out and keep tangle-free. Hopefully this will work better. So far, she's been pain-free. And she looks as beautiful as ever.

And this is my new "do".

It's pretty much always a variation on the same theme, but because I wait so long to get it cut, it always looks like a drastic change. It's good and like Laura's, pain-free so far. And Mom, you'll be happy to note that there is still enough length in the back to see some curl.

I spent years hating the curls that only appear on the back of my head, but I've grown to like them. I'll never have long hair again though. I'm much too lazy for that.

And this is my latest tranformation of fabric stash to clothing in the closet this week. Neither of these fabrics actually come from the ones I shared back in March. There's a lot in my closet yet from shopping sprees further in the past (and some skeletons too, I'm sure). I've had the blouse fabric for so long that I consider this a free blouse. The skirt fabric comes from the Hutterite store. I can't actually imagine them wearing this. Would they make a matching head covering, I wonder?

I need a proper full-length mirror one of these days. I can't capture both my head and feet in this one. You've seen my head, so now you've got my feet.

While visiting my parents, Mom gave me her recipe for overnight buns. I made them once with plain white flour and it was a great success, so I tried it again with a multigrain flour and came up with this.

Sticky cinnamon buns (plus four loaves of bread for the week). The buns were a bit dry, but we still managed to eat 13 of them for breakfast this morning. They couldn't have been that bad.

And Laura saw beauty in this.

I preferred the buns themselves rather than the stickly pan, but it always interests me where she sees art.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Snow in Summer

The ground was covered in white stuff this morning. Although not unknown or even uncommon in Edmonton, it wasn't snow.

It was a very windy night last night and the neighbour's tree was shedding.

It's still this full of blossoms even after filling our yard with the white petals. It's very pretty right now.

Can you see the dried apples from last year? We've had free access to the apples from this tree every year, but there were a few worms on it last year so we didn't pick many. Even the birds didn't eat them all because it was pretty packed last year too. It never seems to have a "down" year. We'll be getting new neighbours this year and I'm not sure that our access rights were included on the bill of sale.

I've been picking lilacs from their tree as well this week. Stealing maybe, but technically they hang over our property. I'm not sure if they will allow that either, so I'm picking before they actually move in and we establish what our rights will be.

Here's a silly question. What's the best way to throw away a garbage pail?

For two weeks now I've left this broken garbage can out with the...well, with the garbage, but the friendly waste management people leave it behind. Maybe I'll write a big note on it next week "Please, please take me with you too!"

Public Service Announcement: If you use your garbage pail to transport sand, don't be impatient and drop it off the side of your vehicle. Wait until your husband comes home to help lift it, or empty it by the shovelful until it's a bit lighter to move gently. Your back will thank you, the driveway will be cleaner and your garbage pail will not become garbage itself.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Suzy Homemaker

I was at a potluck dinner the other night. I made garlic and rosemary bread and a simple puff pastry with apple pie filling. Nothing that took long and nothing fancy.

Another lady there said "Tell me you didn't bake this bread yourself!" Yes, I did. "How are we supposed to compete with Miss Suzy Homemaker who makes her own clothes and bakes her own bread??"

Is it a competition? I didn't realize that.

And also, why did I suddenly feel the need to defend myself?

My lifestyle has evolved into what it is over time. Some things that I do are choices that I've deliberately made, and others were thrust on me by need. But I love my life.

Why do I sew? In the past it was very tough to have a 35" inseam and matching long arms and find pants that are not unnatural capris, or blouses that should not have 3/4 length sleeves. It seems easier now to shop for clothes that fit, but I haven't always had the money to shop for specialty clothes. Now that the pants are more readily available, I've already gone through my learning curve and have mastered sewing pants. It's sometimes just easier and actually takes less time than shopping. But that's just me. Some people can buy off the rack. Lucky you.

Why do I bake bread? Because I got tired of questioning the bakeries, always asking if their mixes contained soy. And I am at home primarily, so a 2-hour batch of bread for the week isn't really that hard.

Why do I hang my clothes out to dry? When we shopped for a dryer we were told that there is no energy-efficient dryer. That's not true. I have a clothes lines that lowers my electricity bill. In the spring our clothes smell like lilacs without buying dryer sheets. We have less static cling in a city with very dry winters. Our house is humidified by the drying clothes in the basement during those long winters without buying or maintaining a humidifier. Yes, it takes more time, but I don't work out of the house (much).

I garden because groceries are expensive, but I also love to have my hands in the dirt and to watch plants spring to life, filling in the dark bare earth with green and colour.

I'm naturally drawn to the Suzy Homemaker skills. Economically, sometimes my reasoning is flawed, but I get satisfaction from those simple things.

This lady is a music teacher and great at gathering kids together, getting great music to come out of their mouths and teach them to clap in rhythm. I can't do that successfully. Why can't I allow this woman to teach my children to sing and she can enjoy my fresh bread without feeling like we're both lacking something?

Let's just enjoy the gifts of others and realize that we have to live in community in order to fill in the gaps in our own skills and talents. It's not a competition.