Saturday, November 27, 2010

All I want for Christmas

... is a good long bath.

Another coat of paint and then we tile. Closer, closer, ever closer but it's getting pretty stinky around here!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blessed meal

How is it that I've been gifted with a meal from someone I hardly know? I have been blessed by this friend-of-a-friend before.

I just had to accept the gift with grace, because we often don't deserve the things we've been given. At least I don't.

Through my drywalling friend (and there's another blessing I don't deserve), this friend-of-a-friend...

Hang on. This is too hard. She needs a name. Because I don't know how she feels about being named in this public (!) space, I'll call her...Deidre.

Start again.

So, through my drywalling friend, Deidre has been hearing about my bathroom reno. Knowing the stress that renos can cause, Deidre thought she'd forward a care package so that at least one meal this week would be off my mind. She's very generous and thoughtful that way. I can learn much from her. I still had to cook it, but it was easy to prepare. The main thing for me was that all of the thinking was done and all of the ingredients provided. It's the planning and thinking about meals that tires me out, so this was perfect.

Deidre has only met me on a few occasions, so she probably doesn't know that we don't really eat many lentils. It's one of those ingredients I'd love to love (like squash), but I haven't enjoyed them much in the past. I did, however, just buy some mixed lentils last week to try again. I keep trying.

The recipe included simply said "Lentils". I didn't know if I should expect it to be like a vegetable side dish, or soup or stew. Just "Lentils". Whatever. Like a good girl, I followed the instructions exactly. Still full of doubts about the taste, I made two big pork chops to accompany the dish in case we didn't like it or it needed something more to fill out the meal.

There was no need. This meal was awesome and filling and full of good nutrients. I ate my pieces of meat, but I won't bother next time. And there will definitely be a next time. I think we all had seconds, even a picky six year old and a guest who'd never had lentils, and Beth requested a bit saved for her lunch.

Our guest went home with the recipe, and enough cumin and lentils to make this for herself later. I can't give you the ingredients here, but here's the recipe:


2-3 cups red lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 - 28 oz can of tomatoes
1 box vegetable stock
cumin and coriander to taste
salt and pepper if you like

Wash and rinse the lentils.

Saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the washed lentils. Add
the rest of the ingredients.

Simmer until done (mine took about 1 1/2 hours). How easy is that? Eat and
enjoy, even if you don't think you like lentils. You will be converted.

We ended the meal with a cheesecake that our guest brought with her. Could things get any better? It was a great meal and I had nothing to do with it.

This is the bag it came in. It was almost perfect, but it should have said this:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Alice's Day

She doesn't know it, of course. Laura and I spent the day making Christmas presents for Alice.

Laura made a doll that looks inspired by a Cabbage Patch doll. She took a book out of the library at school with doll patterns and now all the girls in the class want to make them. She invited a friend over today and at the end of 3 hours, both girls had made cute dolls for their little sisters. I expected to be asked a lot of questions and they made them here because I'd be on hand to help them. They didn't need help. I love their independence!

Tomorrow the book goes back to the library for another friend to take home.

I wish I had thought to take a picture before Laura hid hers away and her friend took hers home.

Oh well. I do have this to share.

Alice wanted a bird wheat bag for Christmas, so this little guy is here to stay. It's the first cute wheat bag to find a home in our own house instead of being gifted away. Parts of this birdy are still the remains of the old orange and red felted sweaters I started hacking up last winter, and the brown is cashmere wool from a coat I made years ago. It feels lovely and warm. And that's before you put it in the microwave.
And now the kids are no longer allowed to view my site until after Christmas.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More learning

Remember these?

And these cute things?

Well, feel free to make them because they are really comfy and warm and easy to make. I just made myself another pair tonight while watching two episodes of House online.

However, I've made a slight change. I needed a new pair because I wore my last pair out very quickly. They are just felted sweaters after all, and not meant to be stepped on, slid over hardwood floors, stepping on and through the dust and debris that seem to cover our floors in spite of daily sweeping.

Leather soles. Hopefully that will work better.

I think I can save the cute tops of Laura's slippers and just re-sole them. If you've received a pair of these slippers as a gift, I apologize for their short life. Life is a learning process and sometimes I fall a bit short of perfection.

All the time actually. Expect it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pictureless Wednesday

I think the camera must be hiding in the girls' bedroom because I can't find it. It's been too long without a post though, so I'll do it pictureless.

I am so grateful for my daily visits with my plaster-experienced friend. The bathroom progresses a bit each day and she's teaching me patience. I'd love to do a thick coat of mud on the drywall, and just get 'er done, but she's teaching me the process of building the mud in thin layers, letting it dry, and building it up some more. Everyday it looks better and everyday we have a good visit and discuss parenting and God and life's challenges. My main challenge is lack of patience, I think!

After more than a week of no piano, we now have a lovely old Heintzman piano where the Australian Beale once stood. The sound and the feel are totally different and new keys are out of tune, but I love that I can sit and play a piece or two while onions fry, or in the minutes I have to wait for water to boil. I don't spend a lot of time playing, but I sit on the stool often throughout the day and I know my home will never truly be without a piano. I think Beth didn't mind the excuse at her lesson yesterday though.

Most of you know the story, but here's how the piano thing played out.

I've never been thrilled with the sound of my own piano, so I occasionally search Kijiji for old Bell or Heintzman pianos and dream of a better tone in my living room. On the other hand, I still have feelings for my Australian piano and wasn't/am not quite ready to sell it.

A good friend told me the drama that was playing out in her family. An old family piano was stuck in a spare bedroom, unable to be played in it's current location and no one really wanted it. But it couldn't leave the family either. I can totally understand that - I'm sentimental about mine too. The rational thing to do would be to sell it, but you can't always be rational. Especially when you involve family dynamics and history.

On loan (because selling it would mean a permanent "leaving of the family"), we are babysitting this Heintzman for now. If the family wants it back, they have only to let us know. And if they want to sell to us at some time in the future, that's an option too. For now though, no money has changed hands and no permanent decisions have been made. Works for everyone.

And my own piano? We couldn't very well fit two pianos in our house, so ours is on loan with the same arrangement. Our teacher's granddaugher really wanted to learn to play, but they couldn't afford a piano right now. She is now getting lessons and loves playing enough that they've had to make a new household rule. "No playing the piano until after the parents are out of bed".

I'm thrilled with the exchange. They have their spare bedroom back. I have better music in my home. And a little girl is learning to play the piano. Win/win/win.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The missing Beale

It was an odd feeling on Friday as our piano was taken away.

It felt kind of like it was being repossessed or something, like it wasn't really my own choice.

It was maybe a bit too fast. On Thursday a new home was found for my lovely Australian oak piano and on Friday it left. I think some adjustment time might have been nice, but a little girl was made very happy and I'm glad about that. I hope she learns to play beautiful music on it.

Although I've never loved the sound of this particular instrument, I played it a lot. I remember my Mom calling me in Melbourne just after Beth was born. I was playing this piano while Beth slept in her bassinet beside the seat. She could sleep through anything at that age. Later I wasn't able to play so often because she insisted on sitting on my lap and banging on the keys while I tried to play.
Laura and Alice have never shown a lot of interest, but they would let me accompany them in their choral concerts in the living room.
I think I've only lived without a piano for a few months since I was about 8. My electric keyboard was my first major purchase after moving away from home. We bought my first "real" piano as soon as we owned a house and thought we would settle down and stop moving. Then we prompted moved overseas and I bought this old Beale piano there because I knew I couldn't live for a few years there without a piano. Weight was not an issue in our overseas move back home, so the Beale travelled across the ocean to Canada in a wooden box that is now our kitchen bench.
It's a weird, empty feeling somehow to have it gone and I miss it already. It won't last long though. Plans are being made.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chicken Claws

One of the things I wanted to try to do during this bathroom reno is to practice the three R's (reduce, reuse and recycle).

In terms of recycling, I'll be bringing our toilet to the Architectural Clearing House because unchipped white toilet tanks are apparently in a bit of demand. The vanity was particle board and icky and not worthy of saving. Sometime you just have to rid the world of ugliness.

There wasn't really a way I could think to reduce, but we did buy a dual flush toilet. That should reduce water usage.

Mostly we are reusing. I managed to score some decent floor tiles at the Habitat Reuse store and I love the square porcelain sink from the ACH. The rest of the floor is the hardwood we dragged home from Victoria years ago from my sister's house when they painstakingly saved it from the landfill. It still looks great in our hallway and will be nice to continue into part of the bathroom. Thanks, Bon and Rodger!

And then there is our clawfoot tub that we found via Kijiji. Of course it needs a bit of work, but when I'm 81 I'll need a bit of work too. The enamel is still great, but the outside is being sanded and painted. And this is what the feet looked like.

Since they were painted originally, I was just going to do that again. I'm too cheap to get them gilded at $60/foot. In the end I decided to try a different route and sprayed them with automotive primer.

Already the detail of the claws shows up much better and the chipped paint shows up less. 81 year old paint turns out to very hard to sand smooth but the primer filled them in a bit.

Then I followed it up with a coat of chrome automotive paint. Here they are now.

The girls called them "chicken claw feet", but they're really eagle claws and a common enough foot for a tub. Since the tub will be a soft grey colour, I'm glad I made the decision to paint them metallic. The gloss makes the chips stand out more than the primer did, but it is an old tub and I don't mind if it looks old.
I can't wait to see the whole tub put together. I could use a bath right now. My feet are throbbing and I feel coated in sawdust and grime. It's all coming along and I like some of the process, but definitely not all of it. I'll be happy to have it done one day.

Friday, November 5, 2010


"If I die..." said Dave, chasing a snow pea around his plate with his
"When you die," said Kenny.
"Whatever," said Dave. "If I die. When I die. What's the difference?"
"Acceptance," said Kenny.

He's right.

We all knew that she would die, but we were still caught off guard when it happened. Yesterday Laura discovered her little gerbil, Ella, hadn't made it through her day. For a gerbil, she had reached her natural age span of about two years, but it still hurts a little girl to lose her first pet.

And it hurts a mother to see her little girl crying like that. It's a different cry than when she falls down, or when she's tired. It makes other people cry with her. Laura, Beth and I had a good cry after school.

After she calmed down, she said "Can you read me some Stuart McLean?"

She could have used the moment to get a trip to McDonald's or to eat some consolatory chocolate, but she asked for Stuart McLean. Laura, you know better than I what will make your heart feel better. A cuddle on the couch and some laughter. You're so wise.

The funeral is today after school. Laura will be painting a rock to place under our nanking cherry bush and then we'll only have Ella memories.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Full of Beans

I finally shelled my dried beans. I've never grown beans specifically for drying before, and I don't know yet how they taste. Another experiment in the garden this year.

Aren't they pretty?

They are a heritage variety called Speckled Cranberry Beans. I saved enough for a few plants next year too, although I think you have to save a full year's growth in order to harvest enough in the second year to make a few meals.

I'll make one pot of chili and see if we even like them. But I do like how they look and beauty is one of the reasons I garden.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another bag

I don't think I'm in tune with junior high fashion, but apparently Beth's friend loved her new purse.

Everything I make is developed sort of as I go. I don't have it all planned out when I start. I started with the sagey linen and the nice cream fabric, of perfect weight for the finished product. But they were boring when sewn together. And I didn't have a handle planned at all.
Laura braided the handle, using the two fabrics and a third with a flowery one just to add some colour.
It wasn't enough colour once braided, so I added the flower.

In the end, it was a purse I would use, and luckily so does the birthday girl.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A gathering of saints

Although we did mention All Saints Day at church, and I always think of Reformation Day and my grandparent's anniversary, it's still Halloween to us. Sacrilegious, maybe. Fun, definitely.

We went around our neighbourhood in a group. Two friends independently called us in the late afternoon deciding that it would be more fun to Trick or Treat together, so we went as a big group. It grew by one even before we left the door as one of Beth's friends showed up. Apparently our group looked better that her mom and three little siblings. The more the merrier!

By the end of the night Beth and another friend joined us too, but we missed taking any pictures of Pirate Beth and Professor Trelawney, and the Eskimoes fan who took this picture.

It just occurred to me - 11 girls and one boy by the end of the night. He was too young to care and way too young to think this was a good thing.

Hope your Halloween was good too!