Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Bright New Day

I awoke yesterday to a dull, dreary day. It was warm, but the sun refused to shine through my window.

And it wasn't the sun's fault. It was shining, but the 1980's version of a low-e window refused to let it into the house through it's icky film, broken seal and reflective coating.

But NOW...

Look at the difference a window can make? It's lovely! It's inspiring!

When asked if they saw any difference in the living room, two out of three girls (plus one neighbour) thought I had cleaned the room.

It just LOOKS a lot cleaner because it's not so drab in here. I was amazed by many things yesterday.

How much snow had to be removed from the ground in order to work there.
How terribly the old window was put in (it was attached to nothing on the top and held in place by the moldings and exterior framing)
How little difference there was between "no glass" and "good glass".
How quickly two men with the right ability can put in a big bay window. Here about 9:30 and gone by 12:00.

Just for the record, Mom, the installer asked if I had ever been able to remove the screens before. I told I did it once to please my mother and clean them (I think you did it, actually). After he almost had to break the molding and screen to get it out, I asked him to write you a note explaining that I'm not a terrible housekeeper, it just was nearly impossible to do!

Sitting with my papadams in the bright living room, I was inspired to start a few projects. This is what I made yesterday.

The red lunch bag was purchased and apparently can't be washed without disintegrating into it's layers of fabric and foam. So I used it to create two others that should not disintegrate.

The pink one is a bit wonky, but it was my first try and it has a really nice weight to it.

Next up this week: Once more birthday party to host and the first seedlings to plant. Yay!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


My first job of the day, before I get to shower or eat, is to make lunches for the girls.

I must say that I've always hated this job, but it does get a bit easier with time. I've got a bit of a formula. A sandwich (usually cheese and a meat if I've got one that they like), fruit, and something sweet or dessert-ish. It's that "dessert-ish" thing that tends to stump me. Because Yvon and I are wheat-free these days, I haven't been baking as much. The incentive of keeping the whining down isn't as strong as my own desire for something sweet. I'll have to adjust that because it's not their fault I break out in a rash with wheat!

These are today's lunches, always in order of youngest to oldest so that I don't accidentally give Beth bologna (ooo, ick!) or give Alice non-vanilla yogurt. Laura's lunches always seem the easiest. Anyway, I've put some effort into giving litterless lunches with as little processing as possible. This annoys the kids. We regularly have this conversation when I start needing ideas.

"What do other kids have in their lunches?"
"Do you mean non-processed, non-packaged and non-branded things?"
"Well, yes, of course that's what I mean."

It's always so helpful to have those chats.

Notice the little Mason jars in the photo? I bought most of my Tupperware in a nesting phase of my life around when Beth was born, almost 12 years ago. I know that Tupperware has a life warranty, but I also know that I'll never go to the trouble of replacing the warped lids that no longer seal. I'd probably have to lie about my microwaving practices to some nice lady.

So, Mason jars always seal. It seemed a bit weird at first, but I started using the smallest jars for yoghurt and canned fruits and raisins and just about everything. Even smoothies in the next size up (1 cup). They always work, so I bought two dozen just recently.

Last year I made some sandwich bags from something likely not food-friendly and they've started to look ratty anyway after one year. With a tip from a friend, I made new ones with cotton and lined with recycled food-friendly plastics. My favourites are lined with cereal bag plastic (I don't buy it anymore, but Yvon regularly does - he isn't a fan of my oatmeal or granola).

This one is lined with Chipits bag, complete with ziplock opening. I like that. I never throw good ziplock bags away.

I really wanted this one to work. It's a Cheetos bag (there are some processed foods I will never be without!), but chip bags of all kinds tear when you sew them. Cereal bags don't.

I'm happy with my lunch packaging, but if you've got food ideas, I'd love to hear them. Next year the school is becoming an APPLE school (Alberta Project Promoting Active Living and healthy Eating). Being the only parent representative on the committee, it would be nice if my lunches set some sort of example.
Later editorial note: I was wrong - that's a Hickory Sticks foil bag. However, the Cheetos bags ripped too. Bummer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Possible Cause

This is the possible cause of my current pain.

Lovely, isn't it? I'm almost tempted to sit in those lawn chairs and enjoy the sunshine.


This is a bit misleading though. The kids spent a lot of time digging and piling snow in the centre. After a few days a crust formed on the top and they dug an igloo out of it. This is something I would never have thought of. After yesterday's snowfall the entrance is almost invisible now. It'll have to be dug out again.

Misleading or not, it's still mighty deep and I helped shovel a bit of it yesterday.

These piles look more realistic than the level of snow on the garage roof, but both are true.

Enough already!!

Whatever your normal is

This is how I feel today.

And I had a bunch of things to do on my list, including preparing for yet another birthday. Sorry, Alice! I had a lot planned but it's tough to function like this.
"Get back to normal. Whatever your normal is." Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Friday, January 14, 2011

That's so random

Random thoughts for today:

  1. In spite of yesterday's post, I'm not really too bummed about my height or weight. On the whole, I like my height. I hate shopping for it but that's how I feel about shopping anyway. My weight isn't great, but if it stayed where it is I'd be okay with it. It's the upward trend that isn't good.
  2. I'm not done with Christmas this year. Usually I need to take down the tree right away and pack away the music. This year I'm still enjoying playing carols on the piano and on the CD, and I'm listening to Stuart McLean's Christmas concert right now.
  3. I saw more family than usual over Christmas and it was a very good thing. We always see Yvon's family, but this year we saw some of mine too. It was great for my kids to get together with their cousins and play for hours. It was great for me to sit by the table with my sisters-in-law talking and always wishing we knew each other better, saw each other more often. It was great to see two of my brothers too and briefly visit with my brother-in-law and sister.
  4. 10 years ago I had a three-day-old baby girl in my arms. Wow. That seems like forever ago, and yet it went quickly too. She was lovely then and she's lovely now.
  5. She has two new holes in her ears.
  6. Two years ago I stopped buying kleenex, except for the mandatory boxes that appear on the school supply lists. I don't miss them. I prefer hankies for allergies and colds, I can mop up spilled coffee before it travels from our pew to the front of the church (is it supposed to be level? It's not), I can wipe sticky rib sauce or honey from fingers without ripping the fabric or having any of it stick to the stickiness. It's a good thing.
  7. Yvon and I have started a gluten-free existence. He feels better, my eczema has almost gone away, and it hasn't been that hard. On Laura's birthday I discovered this and it's an awesome cake. Diet changes aren't all that hard when you stay home and cook mostly from scratch anyway. Breads will be a problem for me though. I miss yeasty bread.
  8. A few years ago I stopped buying most crackers. My diet with Curves made me start looking at the fat content of crackers and it's not good. And our favourites all seemed to have soy protein in them, except for Stoned Wheat Thins. I'll miss those, but today I made these in a few minutes and they are really good. Very filling.
  9. Eating real food is generally more filling than processed food. Next week Rosa and I are going to watch Food Inc. together and go out for lunch to a restaurant that serves mostly local food. I'm looking forward to it.

And that's it for today. I'm going to try to do more paid work this year so I'd better do that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life in Comparison

It's a pity I do this, but I do. I live my life in comparison to others. Not so much in terms of "keeping up with the Joneses" because I'm not really very materialistic, but I do that a bit too. However, look at this.

I took this picture a few minutes ago. There are days when I feel overweight based on the fact that I've gained 40-45 pounds since I got married 16 years ago. And on the fact that my knees and back do have some problems and the doctor has suggested that less weight on them would help. And I don't think he meant that I should stop carrying Alice or hauling my own groceries.

But when I look at this picture I don't feel like I should apply to be the next Biggest Loser.

It's when I go shopping that I feel most overweight. I hate the plus-size section. I'd love to be a happy size 16. For many of you that would be huge, but that leads me to the next picture.

I'm a freakin' fat giant!! And this is actually how all of you must see me. Only I see me alone. Everyone else in the world sees me beside other normal people. We do see each other in relation to the world around us. And the world around me is much, much smaller than I am.

In the future, all pictures of me must be taken alone, or beside mountains and tall trees. I either have to lose some weight or live a life of unbroken illusion, the illusion that I too am normal. Sigh...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

January Bathroom Update

It's still moving along.

We've had our 14 days off of progress in order to travel and visit and celebrate Christmas and the New Years. But that's over now and work has to continue again. Everyday something has to get done in there to keep it moving.

It looks kind of artsy right now with the door leaning against the wall. I like that, but it can't stay that way. It needs shortening, hanging, frosting and painting. I think I'll hold off on the frosting until the last step in case I like the glass clear and don't care if people see my toothbrush and Q-tips and brushes. That way I'll be able to see the aluminum backing better too.

So, while I like the looks of it now, clearly it's not very functional yet.

The vanity is missing a little something. And so is the bathtub. The toilet, however, is up and running. If you have no privacy issues, that is. The door is not on it's hinges yet.

It's a small room, so getting a shot of the vanity, mirror and lights was not easy. This is my angular attempt at fighting the Victorian look that the clawfoot bath so often is associated with. This is not a Victorian house and I am not trying to turn it into one. I'm hoping the straight edges and stainless steel make it look a bit more modern. I'm particularly pleased with the silvered frame I painted onto the existing mirror. It goes well with the vanity legs and light fixture.

Today's task for moving forward was to cut the vanity top and shorten the French door, but the vanity is really heavy and I think I'll wait until Yvon is home to drag it to the kitchen (our construction workshop area for the cold months). That still counts as "today".

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas bags

One of the blogs I read throughout November was "Sew Mama Sew". Every day in November they featured tutorials for great Christmas presents to sew, and a few to bake or make. That's where I found the caramel recipe, marshmellows and the hot chocolate cubes. I've read all of the November posts from the past years as well.

They offered up a challenge to make grocery bags as gift wrap instead of buying paper. These are the facts they quoted as motivation: US consumers generate 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bag waste during the holiday season alone and the US goes through 100 billion single-use plastic grocery bags every year.

What they didn't mention is that fabric takes a lot of resources to make, sometimes child or cheap labour and energy. I decided not to buy any fabric but to use stash fabrics that were at risk of being thrown away. Or that other people "threw" in my direction because they were never going to use it.

We needed a few grocery bags to replace ones that have gotten wrecked by washing too often or slashed with skate blades or simply fell apart over the years, but we didn't really need many. Bags are scattered all over the house with various things though and we always seem to need more.

Here are some of my bags/wrapping paper.

This was from an old suit jacket from the thrift store. I kept the pocket intact and it became a purse for Laura, with a matching hat. I stuck the hat in it and rolled the bag so you couldn't tell what it was. This is an odd picture of the simple rectangle that it is.

She loves hats. And she also loves her new cowboy boots (hand-me-downs from a friend at church - thanks!!).

Although Beth had a bag made specifically for her piano books in the past, she tends to use that one for other things and had her music in a plastic bag. Now she has a new one.

These are just grocery bags. They are wrinkled up from use already and they work well and took only minutes to make.

Yvon laughed when he saw his old jeans used this way, but later that same night we saw kids' purses just like it being raffled off at the school Christmas concert. This may become a book bag or something because it's too small for groceries. Or it may be used for indoor shoes for church, or indoor shoes for Guides, or games when camping, or book in the car, or... Well, like I said, bags are everywhere in this house. It'll get used.

Beth also got a hat out of those jeans. These were kind of fun to make. The girls love them, but don't quite know where to wear them. They aren't allowed hats on in school. They'll figure it out.

And this is my favourite.

A friend gave me the top fabric sample as a potential for upholstering my living room chairs. I'd have loved that, but was way too cheap to pay the $30/meter it costs (or something in that line). This was a good use for the sample though and it's truly all I had of it.

I didn't take pictures, but I also had some simple rectangles of gauzy stuff for caramels and other small gifts, and some specific Christmassy fabric bags that went back into our gift wrap storage for re-use next year.

We didn't succeed in not buying any paper. We did pick up one roll from IKEA and I felt bad about it, but didn't have time to deal with the one present we needed it for.

Sometimes I take up these challenges for environmental reasons, but usually it's because it's pretty easy to do, cheap and practical. Who doesn't need bags?