Sunday, June 27, 2010

Code words

I hab a code. A vewy bad code.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Down to earth

I know that not everyone has the time to make or do everything themselves. Or even the interest to do so. I know that I am very blessed to be able to work a few hours at home every month, leaving the rest of the time to take care of my family and household the way I love to do. I also know that I should work more hours than I do and that more of that time could be spent cleaning. Whatever. We all have our weaknesses. I have many.

One of my favourite blogs is Down to Earth, written by a lady that I'd love to have living on my street so that I could ask her questions daily. Although she and her husband grow most of their own food lives on their city plot (I must say that a city plot in Australia can be large and they have very different bylaws about poulty and livestock, and they can garden year-round), she totally understands that you can start living simply by starting with small things. Making your own hankies or knitting a dishcloth, then moving into making your own cleansers and bread, or just cutting back on pre-made packaged food.

She also knows that "living simply" isn't necessarily simple. It takes more time and effort, but it takes simple thought and simple products and goes back to the basics. It's about being deliberate about what we do, what we eat or clean with, how we dry our clothes and save our rain water. It is very "Down to Earth". Rhonda-Jean wrote a very good post this morning if you are interested.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More of what goes on

Heart of the City festival - who knew Laura could do that?

We've been spending a lot of time at "end of year" events lately and frankly, although we choose our activities because they are fun, I'm happy to be easing into summer. Over the last couple of weeks, we've done the following:

  • end of year Guides party
  • end of year choir party
  • end of year piano recital (luckily Yvon forgot the camera so you don't get to hear us this year!)
  • end of year choral worship service
  • end of year Sunday school musical
  • church summer picnic
  • picniced by ourselves at our favourite climbing tree
  • celebrated Father's Day
  • attended a "Heart of the City" festival

Our climbing tree

Alice's first time at bat (church picnic)

Not my father, but the father of my children

We also managed to fit a friend's birthday party into our weekend, our annual Easter Seals Walk, and a silent auction/desert fundraiser for Haiti.

Birthday present - restauranteur set

Easter Seals Walk

Just looking at this would have had me reaching for my hanky in the past. It doesn't seem to effect me like it used to.

The kids only have one full week of school left too and it's mostly field trips. Beth told me that their whole curriculum has been covered now so I suggested she start summer early and stain the fence with me. They are only reviewing this week. I'll bet I could spend one hour every day with her doing that and she'd have the rest of the day free. Well, free to work for me that is! These last days of school are always a waste of time for everyone (although I don't know the teacher's perspective - maybe there's a reason to keep the kids that I don't know about). I'm going on a field trip this week to a working farm with Alice and they all go watersliding on the last day of school.

We've kept the summer relatively free of scheduled events so that we could respond to spontaneity a bit, although I noticed the calendar starting to fill up. That's okay. I'm looking forward to it. The pool will hopefully go up this week (with a solar heating system - yay!) and the weather is perfect for it right now. I can't wait to start floating in it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The way we spent our day

It's not like the fence doesn't need staining, or that birthday gift doesn't need to be made, or supper made, or the garden needing weeding, or the elder tree cut to the ground, or the house needing cleaning, or everyone's hungry, or it's Father's Day on Sunday and we have no gift purchased or made, or that Alice's bed head needs to be dealt with, or I need to build more pea supports, or homework needs to be done.

None of that is more important than this.

This is how we spent our afternoon.

Visit Songdrops for many more of the same stuff.

Waste some of your precious time too. It'll make me feel less lazy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another use for the pasta machine

Sometimes the kids like wraps better than sandwiches and it's a nice change for us too. This is one bread product that tends not to be laced with soy flour so I could go out and buy them. However, it stabs me in my cheap little heart when they take one bite, move on to their fruit and I have to deal with the leftovers after it's sat in their lunchboxes all day.

So, I started making my own. They turn out great, use very few ingredients and no rising time. But I'm not good at rolling the dough. I've seen Mexican women on tv rolling one while fying one, but I'm not quick enough to do that. They only fry for 1 minute. I thought I'd try the pasta machine and it does the job just great. You can't make a circle, but who said a wrap had to be a circle? We're used to irregular foods in this house.

So, roll them if you don't have a fancy schmancy pasta machine like I do. They don't take long at all and they taste good enough to eat with just melted butter on them when warm.

Whole Wheat Tortillas

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup warm milk

Mix the wet ingredients first and then slowly add the dry until you're happy with the texture. Knead it for a few minutes, mostly to work in a bit more flour. The dough should be fairly dry and elastic-y.

Cut into 8 small balls of equal size. Roll them out as thinly as possible, or cheat and use the pasta roller (we went to setting 5 on ours).

In a dry skillet, fry each side for about 30 seconds. It should puff
up just a little.

Done. It should stay pliable in a plastic bag. I doubled the recipe or we would have finished them off as snacks yesterday and still been without lunch wraps for school today.

Friday, June 11, 2010

An unexpected guest

When I picked up Beth from her friend's house yesterday I told her there was a surprise waiting in the house.

"Did you finish the chairs?""Yes, but it's not that."
"Is it cookies? With chocolate?""Yes, but it's not that either."
I think she asked about baklava too.
"You won't ever expect this in our house. So you can stop guessing."
"Is it electronic? Is it a Wii?!?""No, we aren't getting a Wii, and no it's not electronic, although it sounds like it has a motor."

She gave up.

Everyone seems to be either a cat person or a dog person. I'm a dog person.

I like dogs, preferrably of the larger varieties. Cats kind of scare me. They look at you as if they are up to something, or that they know something I don't know. Something sinister that I don't even want to know.

I scare cats out of the garden all the time, but they look back at me as if to say "Are you so naive that you don't know I'll just come back as soon as you go back into the house?" One spring they kept sleeping in my Snow in Summer plants and I kept a super soaker by our bedroom window to shoot them out when the wailing began at night. I also poked shishkabob skewers into the soil in the plants to make them a little less comfy.

It doesn't really matter whether I'm a cat or dog person because I'm allergic to both. We're not getting either a dog or a cat. Although the kids know that, it doesn't stop them for asking for a pet.

But this isn't a dog or a cat. It's a kitten. Kittens are different. They are sweet, soft, innocent, cuddly. I found one in the raspberry bushes yesterday that really looked like it needed food, warmth and fellowship. If it was still there when the girls came home from school, and IF it voluntarily came into the house we would help the little thing out a bit.

"Please??" It asked. With eyes like that, I think the kitten knew the answer to that question. "I"m so cute I'm irresistable," it thought.

"Can we keep her? Please?" she asked.

She's going to say no, she thought. Laura prepared herself for refusal because her mom is mean. And her mom is allergic to this cutey. The kitten didn't know these things about me.

But seriously, do I look mean? Is hatred shown on my face? Nope. The kitten stayed in the house, was fed and cuddled and watched over. He did spend the night outside because Alice was rubbing her eyes (and now I am too) and I thought I'd give it one more chance to find his mother.

This morning he was waiting by the door and came right back in.

He looks as if he's made himself at home, but he leaves tonight to go to a friend's house. Maybe we can continue a long distance relationship of some sort.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Before and After

I've spent way too long looking for the perfect chairs to go on my front patio. I don't actually sit there often and I always claim that it's because I don't like my chairs. This is what I've had on the patio for the past, oh, four years or so.

I had trouble finding that picture because I avoid the chairs in my pictures.
Now, don't get me wrong I am very grateful for the donation of these chairs. We couldn't afford to buy anything decent at the time and they have been very useful. However, the same things that the kids like about them is what makes them annoying to me.
Pro: The cushions come off easily for storage.
Con: The cushions fall off easily.
Pro: The cushions make excellent forts. (We have eight of them, I think)
Con: The cushions suffocate the grass when left all over the back yard.
Pro: The chairs stack nicely in the garage.
Con: After being climbed on, the chairs are tough to un-stack.
Con: They always appear dry, but it's deceiving. There is no matching "Pro" for this one. No one likes a wet butt.
Con: They're ugly.
Con: Some of the cushions don't fit properly.
Con: They aren't that comfortable.
Con: They're ugly.
Not that we can afford much better than free chairs now, I didn't want to go another summer without relaxing with a book and some coffee on my patio. I went shopping and I like the shape and feel of Adirondack chairs, but we can't afford wooden ones. I thought I was prepared to buy some resin ones, but in the end I couldn't do it. $25 for plastic that probably wouldn't last long. Plastic. I think that's what got me.
I ended up at Goodwill on Tuesday and returned on Wednesday to buy these chairs.
A quick trip to Fabricland revealed that the outdoor fabric I've been eyeing for my dining room chairs was on half price.
Determined that this would not be another chair recovering project that goes on forever and another addition to my fabric stash, I didn't go to bed last night until the first chair looked like this.

The second chair was finished today. I do want to add some outdoor varnish to the wood. but otherwise they are done. 24 hours and about $25 each. I can live with that.

Now I wait for the sun to come out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gardening 2010

I've been putting in most of my gardens in the last two weeks and I'm just about done. I still have a small area to prepare for more tomatoes and I'm adding two grape vines as well.

This is the new garden that a new friend put in for me.

Originally Rosa and I were going to use the whole backyard of a friend's rental property, but time was passing and we didn't have appropriate soil by the end of May. In our heads we both started working on new plans in case that didn't pan out. Although the property was still available in the end, I think we both wanted to be closer to home and maybe that was a bit ambitious anyway.

So, this little plot is quite small, but I packed a lot of vegetables into it. I think the long end is 4' x 15' or so. It's been low maintenance so far because it's all fresh weedless soil and until my seedlings are obvious I don't want to pull anything. Intermingling flowers with veggies and succession planting makes it more difficult to tell what's what.

And this is my own front yard.

The big bush removal created quite a bit of new space but also a lack of privacy for my patio area. The tripods are for cucumbers and beans, and there are three short rows of corn to create that same sheltered area though, once they start to climb. It's a deep garden, so I had to move a bunch of heavy stones to create paths through it. I love the way it looks right now.

one new strawberry patch

Over the winter I tried not to buy many veggies. That may have meant some boring options at the end, but I wanted to be able to estimate our needs a bit better. We ran out of Taber corn just last week I think (I bought one large bag in season last year), brocolli ran out a few months ago, we still have some packages of beans, and the carrots were gone ages ago and those were mostly donated by others anyway. Kale and swiss chard are still in the freezer because other than in pasta and boerenkole (sp?), we don't like those frozen. I love the swiss chard fresh and in pesto though so I'm growing some again. I've only bought a few potatoes, but again ours were mostly donated. My own crop was tiny and will be again this year. Potatoes take space that I still don't have. It's a priority thing.

Wherever there was space I put more carrots this year. Hopefully I can keep us in stock through the winter this time. And I added snap peas and snow peas, hopefully enough to freeze some. And fava beans and cranberry pole beans. I don't actually know if I like those, but I wanted to have a few dried beans this year.

Shallots - I've never grown them before

A few of the things we had to buy all winter were onions, garlic and celery. I'm trying all of those this year and we'll see how that goes. I'm not holding my breath for the celery. I'm also growing a lot of parley this year because I put it in everything.

The boring, rectangular back garden

The raspberries in the alley, with a new fenceboard border and a compost pile waiting for stain

The yard looks terrible from the back. I picked up stain yesterday to redo the fence, and maybe if I make the green on the playhouse match the fence, it won't stick out so much. The kids love it, but there is much about the back yard that I will change once they are all teens.

the right side of the front yard - there's a lot growing there already but you can't see it without walking the paths
A few potatoes and tomatoes under the living room window

A look at the yard last year reminds me how things will all fill in and look great by August.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Maybe not

Update: Maybe they can't ride their bikes. Maybe the hill gave them confidence that they no longer have. It's been frustrating for me, but I have to remember that it's even more frustrating for the girls trying to balance, steer, kick-off and pedal.

But it is very frustrating for me and this is all about me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lessons from the Past

One of the blogs I read has a subtitle in it's header: Preparing for the future by relying on the past. It's messages are always deeper and more thought out than mine, but here's my take on it today and how the past helped me last night.

I have two girls of bike-riding age who were terrified of their bikes. They both (generally-speaking) wanted to learn to ride them, but when the moment came to climb onto the seat they would break down in tears and refuse to try.

My past may have had something to do with that fear. Here's how I remember learning to ride.

I don't know how old I was, but I remember the bike. It was baby blue, and being the fourth child, a few of us kids had used it as our first two-wheeler. It definitely had no fancy schmancy gears and it's questionable whether or not it had brakes. I can't remember how I stopped. Probably by putting my feet on the ground because I know I was too big for the bike when I learned.

Our back yard sloped down fairly sleeply, with a trail and trees at the bottom of the yard, and a path my dad created to the river to launch our canoe. In the winter when the shallow river was frozen, we could toboggan all the way from the top of the hill to the ice on the river.

The same could be done with a bike in the summer, but we weren't stupid! Compared to today's standards we lived with less supervision and were therefore more reckless, but not actually stupid. There would have been time to stop or turn off onto the trail.

My big brother figured it was time I learned to ride and pushed me down the hill on the blue bike.

"How did you stop? Did you fall? Did you hurt yourself?" asked my kids.

Honestly, I don't remember, so it must not have been traumatic. I told them this story to make them think they were lucky to have parents who would teach them safely to ride on the grass in the school field, or carefully holding onto the seat and handle bars while they tried on the sidewalk. No big brother pushed them down a hill.

This tactic wasn't working though. Beth had been motivated enough to teach herself once we bribed her with a toy she really wanted. That wasn't working on Laura or Alice.

So last night we pushed them down a hill. Forget safety and love. I wanted them to ride their bikes, to lessen the pain in my back, to JUST GET IT OVER WITH!

No one fell. No one can scare my future grandchildren with stories of abusive, unloving parents. And two kids learned to pedal and stay upright within a few minutes. Yay!

I'm hoping that this summer the whole family will be able to take short rides together. Without screaming, without falling and without training wheels.