Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More and the Story of Stuff

Did you know it was World Water Day on Mar 22? I didn't and so I did nothing to observe it. But we did turn off the lights during Earth Hour. The kids think that's fun, but it makes me wish I owned an oil lantern to read by.

Here are a couple of videos I've enjoyed recently. If you haven't seen them yet, take a look.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Improvements

Last week we were reintroduced to the joys of laundry (although I didn't actually do any until today). It's something you take for granted when you have the ability to do it, but you quickly learn to appreciate it when your floor drain is plugged and you can't provide clean clothes for your family. How quickly can five people fill their laundry bins? We now know that it takes less than one week. I am so thankful that jackhammering up the basement floor was not necessary...yet. We do still need to do it, but the urgency is no longer there.

The other improvement is the first of two chairs.

Lovely, isn't it? This one was purchased for $10, and even while hideous, it is a well-made chair and suits our home. The other chair has equally gross old fabric covering it and was given to us by a friend.

So, last week I removed literally hundreds of staples and recovered it. Here's the finished product.

Last week a friend was over and saw the chair half done (the back was the new fabric, and the plaid was still on the seat) and she wasn't sure which fabric was the new one. I was a bit thrown by that, but I'm trying not to take it personally.
So, don't all rush to say "Ooo, I love it!" because I know my tastes are not universal. I could have gone to the Brick for something more neutral, but that's not my style. And really, what could I find in the Brick for $30? I'd be willing to guess that there would be no hard wood involved.

To me this is an improvement, and in the end, it's my living room that the chair will live in.

This is the first time I've ever made bias tape and covered piping. It turned out really well. I used this tutorial to create the bias tape and it was as easy as it looked.

It doesn't actually look so patterned. That's the glare of the flash making the contrast in the velvet shine. It's not a perfect job, but I'm not perfect and I've got another chair to practice on. I'm looking forward to having two pieces of matching furniture, and maybe some couch cushions to pull it all together. One step at a time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The ham bone speaks

But what does it say to you?

Here's what it used to say to me: "Snet." To which I would reply, "Yuck!"

What is snet, you ask? I think it's actually snert, but rightly or wrongly I pronounce it as snet. It's pea soup made by Dutchmen. It's very thick, very green, made with a ham bone and beyond that I don't know. I've blocked it out as a bad childhood memory. It probably didn't help my young impressionable mind that my siblings and I called it "snot".

Sounds appetising, no?


Some do like it, but it's not for me. So for years I threw the speaking ham bone away where it could freely say "snet" as loudly as it wanted from inside the garbage can. I was not listening.

But I learned something new this Christmas. My sister-in-law bought a beautiful double-smoked ham. I came home with her awesome idea implanted in my head and the actual ham bone to test it with. This particular ham bone was saying "chili", and within a week we ate the best chili I've ever made, made with the ham bone simmering away in the crockpot buried under the other chili ingredients.

Now ham bones no longer speak Dutch to me. They speak Spanish. Hola!

This week I bought a pork shoulder and I don't know why I'd never been introduced to one before. It smelled like ham and bacon as it cooked, tasted even better and the bone also spoke Spanish.

Into the deep skillet where the pork had cooked yesterday I threw some onions and then some ground beef. It still smelled like bacon. All day today the bone was immersed in the chili ingredients speaking lovely words like "C√≥mame, usted familia encantadora. ¡Delicioso!"

And it was!

What do your bones say?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vacola Jars

Much as I love Mason jars and Ball jars, I really love the Australian Vacola jars. They are very straight and kind of elegant with cool metal springy things on the top to keep the lids on. And mine are slightly green glass.

I've adopted these as my new yoghurt jars. Two of them are 1 litre in size so that works really well, but I do wish I had a really long handled spoon to reach the bottom easily with the tall thin one.

I first saw these jars at an expensive little boutique filled with homemade tomato sauce. I bought two of them in spite of the price because I loved the jars and thought I'd never see them again. It turned out that they were kind of the standard canning jars of Australia. Who knew?

I now have some 3" and 4" jars (which are great for granola) and they are scattered around my pantry, fridge and garden seed storage areas.

Where you will not find them is the cool room with anything actually canned in them. I don't trust the lack of "pop" sound. For canning, I need the reassuring pop of the mason jar lid to make sure that it's sealed. Plus I don't have enough lids or the rubber rings for inside the Vacola jar.

If there are any Aussies reading this, please send more jars and a pair of Rossi boots. I should have stocked up on a few things apparently. Thanks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stuff on my camera

My birthday gift from Yvon. Beautiful books, especially the cemetery one. They make me want to drive across the country stopping at every country graveyard and gorgeous church. Ideally there is a choir singing in each one.

Lunch at "The Dish & The Runaway Spoon" which surprised us by offering many locally supplied ingredients. And was yummy. AND I walked around town with no coat on. What a great way to celebrate my birthday!

I wish I had a picture of the raspberry cake I ate over that weekend. The whipping cream and raspberries meshed together to become almost a very fresh raspberry icecream that soaked through the cake a bit and tasted like spring. Thanks for that too!

And this is another birthday gift. The first pussy willows of the year in a beautiful vase. Again, more spring.

It's deceiving though. These come from the camera this morning. Obviously it's not quite spring yet. Nor is it ever spring really in March here, but we do get glimpses of it that give us hope and gear me up for gardening season.

There will be no laundry hanging out here for a bit now. We need to jackhammer part of our basement floor away and fix a wee problem with our laundry and kitchen drain in the floor before laundry will be done.

Sometimes I do wish we lived in a newer home, but those neighbourhoods probably wouldn't allow some of the things that I am getting away with in my backyard (!), nor the veggies in my front yard and maybe not even my clothes line. We'll stay where we are.
Look - it's my first completed knitting project! It's warm and fluffy and looks nice, even though the cables are very, hmmm, let's say "wavy". I don't know why they aren't straight, but that's what makes my work original.

I used to hate "networking". When I actually worked in a business setting, it generally meant keeping in touch with people for the sole purpose of benefitting from the relationship later. It seemed to me like keeping a relationship alive for the point of profit. It sounds sort of heartless and greedy and I didn't want to expend energy doing that. Generally marketing people are good at it. I'm not.
Networking with regards to gardening though, seems much more win/win. I get some seeds and give some, I pick some produce and give some, or advice goes both ways. Yesterday I talked to an aquaintance about his gardening needs and mine and just caught up a bit on what's going on with each other. And this is the result of that networking:

To me it represents food for my family without resorting to Chilean grown peppers and Mexican squash, and space to try some squash, more potatoes, onions, scallions and maybe celery, cut flowers, and climbing beans for drying. To him it probably means a rental property that he will not have to maintain. He won't have to cut the grass or design anything in particular, or buy large amounts of sod and keep it watered. It's not a done deal yet, but I will cry if his renters don't want me to garden here. (Are you reading this? Please don't make me cry!)
It was appropriate that this potential land came to my attention on Seedy Sunday. I drove past it and then went to listen to speakers talk about SPIN gardening, including children in garden (for educational and health benefits), and Guerilla Gardening. I came home with enthusiasm again for the gardening season and some seeds in my purse.
Hopefully my week will include some home improvements and my hands in some soil (but not outside, obviously).

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I picked up a box of sewing notions at a rummage sale ages ago. I bought it because the upholstery needle and strip of velcro alone were needed at the time and worth more than the 25 cents I paid for it. Anything else was a bonus if I ever used any of it.

Did you notice that there is no key for "cents" on the keyboard? At some point they must have decided that there was no need for it anymore. Well, "they" must not shop at thrift stores and rummage sales!

I used up the velcro and have used the upholstery needle, but I finally looked through the rest of the shoe box. Among the bits of scrappy junk, I also found this:

So many things to like about this. I love the packaging, the source of origin (not a "Made in China" in sight), the feel of the fine bias tape, and the fact that some other lady bought these things at a trip to her favourite fabric store at some distant time. I also like the thrift store chair they are sitting on, although it matches nothing in my living room. Nothing else matches either, so maybe that means it really does match my non-matching living room decor?

Inside the book of needles are just a few needles, and the descriptions of others.

It's interesting that the bookbinders needle is missing. Maybe that's what the flax thread was for. I've never seen flax thread before, but I can imagine it binding a book of lovely homemade paper. Maybe that's a project for my future, but I'll have to buy myself a bookbinders needle first. I don't know what a packing needle was for, but it's also missing. What's left is this upholstery needle and the pretty large carpet needle. I don't need that one in the foreseeable future. At first I laughed at anyone needing a sailmakers needle, but then I remembered my mom making a sail once. So that's not so remotely in the past after all.

I hope to never need this one:

I think it would take a certain amount of brute strength to get that thick needle through anything. It was thrown into the back of the package as if it needed no explanation. But it does.

So here's the question I had to ask myself this week. Should I should use the bias tape or flax thread? Would you? Or should I keep them for a shadowbox or display in my sewing room one day?

The other question is, will my sewing room ever really BE a sewing room? It's scattered with books and kid crafts and a dismantled chair, and an office for Alice built into the closet. She insisted on a place for her Barbie computer to compose music (her "work") and I allowed it for the time being.

One day that room with be mine though. ALL MINE! NO MORE COMPROMISES! BWAHAHAHA!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Birthday Gift

Inspired by the invitation of this party, I made a small chef's kit for a 6 year old.

Sometimes it's hard to think of what to make for kids who seem not to need anything, but this is a very grateful, sweet girl and I think she'll love this. The plan today is to laminate the empty menu and provide a dry-erase marker so that she can write her own menu and constantly change it. I don't think she reads yet, but I'm sure she can draw pictures of the food.

It looks better displayed on a live model and Alice was pleased to oblige.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life changes

On the eve of my birthday five years ago, I loved my job so much that I was working until midnight (NOT!). I had a deadline to meet and I was a sad, dedicated, underpaid employee.

I started to drive home through the empty, dark industrial area of a small town. I paused at an empty intersection of two empty streets, turned the corner and then paused at another empty intersection of two more empty streets. I turned onto the highway and sirens turned on behind me.

"Did you know that you rolled through not one, but two, stop signs just now?"


"Um, yes, I guess I did."

"Because it's midnight and you can see miles in all directions and it's very quiet out here, I'm going to let this go with a warning. Stop means stop. It doesn't mean slow down and look both ways. Oh, and your license expired three years ago tomorrow. If you don't renew that right away they will take it away and you'll have to take both the written and the driving test again."

Because it was after midnight, technically even my grace period had already expired. Driving home I was freaking out just a bit. How could I get to my job in the country without a license to drive a vehicle? I HAD to drive. So, on my birthday, I walked in the registry and got it renewed. No test, just a bit of a lecture.

Every five years you have to get it renewed. So here's my timeline:

Age 19 - got my license

Age 24 - renewed it

Age 29 - had it taken away because I got an Australian license.
You can only hold a permanent license in one country at a time.

Age 31 - Back in Canada. Got another license, but had no permanent
home in Canada. Living with friends, I gave their address as my
own. I think all reminders for renewal must have been sent
there. I didn't get them. How often do you think about little
things like that? And looking back, I wonder why they only gave me three
years before expiry that time.

Age 34 - Due for renewal, but missed it.

Age 37 - renewed three years late!

Age 42 (today!) - Am carrying a temporary license which was renewed

I was sure this year I wouldn't leave it until the last minute, and I didn't. The day before expiry I renewed it. See how much I've changed over the years? No more procrastination for me!

So, to get back to the title of this post, what was changed then? Well, I no longer work until midnight unless I want to. I no longer believe that things will totally fall apart if I don't do them myself or if I don't do them right now. And certainly no job I've ever held (besides mothering) is so important that I will give up loads of family and home time.

I think that for the first time in my life I have a job that I love. And I don't have bosses making me feel incompetent.

The other thing that has changed is that my body is falling apart. Every year it's a new thing (my back, my knees, my elbow...), but that's okay. Nothing is serious and I love my more laid-back life of being a mother and a homemaker. It's all good.

Happy birthday to me!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The demise of my yoghurt jar

The other day I found a bit of glass in my smoothie, so small that it could have been a strawberry seed. I searched all of the surfaces of my glass, but there were no chips.

Today I took a large piece of glass out of my granola with yoghurt. Hmm. The common ingredient was yoghurt. I didn't eat that bowl of granola and went to inspect the jar of yoghurt. No chips on the edges or on the glass lid. But I didn't trust it, emptied the remaining yohurt and filled the jar to rinse it out.

This reminds me of the peeing statue in Belgium. As you release the clasp, it clangs pretty hard against the side of the jar, but I wouldn't have though it was enough to break the glass. This makes me sad. It's my favourite yoghurt jar. I'll need to get a new pretty jar.

I've been making yoghurt this year. Not rocket science, but here's how I do it:

Boil 4 cups of water.

Add 1 cup of skim milk powder and stir.

Let it cool until you can hold a finger in the jar for 10 seconds without
flinching or burning.

Add 3 tbsp of thick yoghurt and mix it up.

Wrap your pretty jar (or plain mason if your jar now pees) in a towel and
place in a warm oven. I heat mine to 200c and the turn it off before
putting the jar in. Let it sit undisturbed overnight. If it's not
thick in the morning, take it out of the oven, heat the oven again, and put it
back for another 8 hours or so.

It's very easy and yummy. I use a thick Greek yohurt, and it needs to have active bacteria and no gelatin added. After the first batch you can use the last of your own yoghurt as the starter. After a few batches you'll need to buy some more Greek yoghurt though. It starts to get runny.

I like having something to look for when I go into thrift shops. I've got plenty of felted wool now, so I'll start eyeing the bottles.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stating the obvious

Yesterday Beth and I made a birthday present together. The request was changed from an art case to a bag to carry to and from violin lessons.

At first I thought, "Shoot - now I've got to figure out just how to do that when I already know how to make the art cases". It's always a bit more work when I've got to make up a pattern. However, we just used the basics of my huge orange purse, scaled it down and didn't include any of the pockets. Simple.

The bonus was that Beth sewed all of the pieces together. I just joined the lining to the exterior and added the handles.

When Alice saw it, she asked who it was for.

"Can't that poor child read yet?", you're probably asking yourself. Well, yes, she can (and very well, I might add). But it's not really that obvious. I mean, this is the bag that I use for my piano books.

The name on the bag isn't always an indication of the owner. It was a good question.

Also, we know two Ellas. One is a gerbil, but in Alice's mind the gerbil was a legimate answer to the question too. I'm not sure how that one plays out in her mind. Does the gerbil sleep in the bag? Chew the bag? Store her bedding in the bag? Host music classes in the bag?

Another very good question might be to ask why I am using a frayed, old bag of Alice's for my books when I can sew a perfectly pretty one for a child. I don't really know the answer for that. If I ever catch up with the needs of others, I'll start to sew something for myself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


What took place nine months ago? Was there a special occasion I missed? We seem to have a lot of birthday parties these days.

And so another creature is born. This time out of a baby's hooded towel (no longer used) and a weird fluffy hoodie destined for Goodwill. And this time I had a bit of help.

There's another party this Saturday. Even if I had wanted to just buy something, Laura has already explained to her friend that her mom is "not that kind of a shopper". I think she meant that I'd prefer to not shop at all. Now there's a bit of an expectation and a specific request for an art case.
I guess I've got another project for this week.