Thursday, January 31, 2013

Misdirected Energy

There's a joke that goes through email-osophere about a person who is busy all day and doesn't get anything done.

Something like this:  She starts to take out the garbage, and notices the bag of chicken feed beside the garbage can.  She puts the garbage down and goes to feed the chickens.  She sees a couple of eggs, puts down the feed and brings the eggs to the kitchen.  Suddenly hungry, she goes to make an omelet and finds she has no green onions.  She goes to the garden to pick some onions and starts weeding a few unwanted weeds, etc., etc.  At the end of the day the garbage still hasn't really been taken out. 

Sometimes my day is like that.

I read a few emails and have started being inundated with messages from Fly Lady, the lady who keeps telling people to organize and clean and declutter bit by bit, so that it doesn't overwhelm at any point.  One of her daily must-dos is to shine her sink.  Do the dishes and leave the counters and sink clean.  I generally do that as soon as the kids go off to school and everyone's breakfast is done.

So I did that.  Alice was at school, Yvon went to visit a relative in the hospital, Beth was still sleeping and Laura and I were up. 

After the dishes were done, I wanted to find my coconut oil and try making lip balm for a friend (and us).  I searched in vain through my messy cupboard and didn't find it.  Once half of the contents were already on the counter, I thought I'd organize just one shelf.  That way things wouldn't fall all over me and maybe I'd find the missing coconut oil.

I forgot to take a before picture because I wasn't really planning to make a big thing of this project.  However, this is how my shelf looked when it was done.

I found a LOT of cornmeal, and some of my gluten free ingredients come in little bags that fall all over the place.  I didn't actually find a lot of old food that needed discarding, but this much packaging came from that one little shelf.

No coconut oil was discovered and I was ready to quit, but Laura wanted to take on a shelf and by this time Beth was awake and willing to take on the tea shelf.  Who am I to turn down volunteer help?  They emptied the shelves onto the counter and table, leaving this:

 I actually left the house to do an errand and came home to this:

 Nice!  And a table full of packaging and garbage.  Everything is now labelled and in containers that don't topple on you when you search for something.  Some of them have extra information on them like "Unknown Chinese Tea - try if you dare!", "Beans, beans, the magical fruit", "Weak - only Mom likes it".  Some miscellaneous teas went into this modified tea tin.

 I don't know what's with Alice's face here, but this is kind of how I felt when (after all that organizing), we never did find the coconut oil!

Here's a before and after comparison (minus the before for the bottom shelf).

So, no lip balm experiment for today.  It looks like I might have to organize another shelf in another pantry before I can get to that project. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drapes - finally!

I can't have you thinking that I'm still obsessing about the possibility of a job.  I might be, but there are other things going on as well.

Isn't this exciting?  I've thought about having drapes in this bay window since we moved into the house.  We have improper window coverings all over the house, often opting for no coverings.  In this room, that is rather cold looking in the winter, and probably cold in temperature as well.  For a while we had one wide roman blind that didn't really work there.  It was messy looking and visually distracting.

Over Christmas we had some curtain rods donated to us and they seem to work well.  They solved my indecision about what to do with this window. It works, I think, and it's still plenty bright in the room.  I took that picture at night, and you can see how the un-draped window acts as a huge mirror in the room.   This is a big improvement.

If you've been in our home, you might see two other new things - the table and carpet.

The carpet also adds to the warmth.  It doesn't solve my cold feet, but that must be a genetic thing.  However, it's fairly plush, a bit less busy than the one we borrowed from Mom and Dad, and the colors aren't bad.  A bit off of both the couch and chair, but also the price was right.  $100 from a closing-out sale.  That'll do!

And the table is beautiful!  In front of the creator, I had admired one that a friend was gifted with, and a few months later he told me that my table was almost done.  What?!  I didn't ask for a table!  I never would have expected him to make me a table.  I'd take a picture of his handcrafted stamp on the underside, but I've been sworn to secrecy so that others won't swamp him with requests.  All I can say is - thank you, thank you!   

And just so you know, we don't always have a colour-coordinated book on the table.  That's just a notebook Alice was working in this morning.  Just coincidence, I assure you. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Working thoughts

I should have finished the curtains by now for the living room, but I'm sitting here today thinking about work.

There are so many blogs that almost preach about the benefits of staying home with your family, or even if you don't have kids, just creating the space that is your home.  The peace that comes of having creating and maintaining a comfortable place full of love and fresh smells, nutritious food, gardening and generally providing for your family.

I'm all for that too, but there is one major drawback:  money.  I don't know of any dentist that will take carrots in trade for services, or a utility company that will take a homemade purse in exchange for natural gas.

Yvon works, of course, but as the girls get older their expenses are going up.  They shower more (yay!), they want to ski, or go to a movie, rent another instrument or take piano lessons.  It adds up pretty quickly and it's really hard to say no to healthy pursuits like music.  I increasingly make them pay for their own entertainment or clothing they don't "need".

I started a job just before Christmas that has it's boring moments, but it is flexible and pays all right.  Essentially the job is to supervise exam writing at a local college, providing a quiet or private space for people who need extra time and minimal distractions.  Sometimes it means reading the questions aloud for a student with a slight reading disability (dyslexia, or sight issues or just focus problems).  I enjoy the work and it doesn't really interfere with my life at home.   I've got six weeks of 4-hour days coming where I'll sit through classes with a deaf/hard of hearing man, writing his notes for him.  Maybe I'll learn a new trade!  It will never pay off our mortgage and buying a new vehicle would be a slow process, but it eases up considerably on the other finances.

Over Christmas an opportunity came up for a full-time admin position elsewhere with a friend.  I dream about taking warm holidays with my family, paying off debts quickly, braces for the two kids who need them, benefits and a pension plan.  Today is my interview and I'm not going into it with the right frame of mind.

There is a huge price to pay for me to enter a full-time job. I know many many people do it (it is the norm), but I can't imagine it.  Driving in rush hour, moving swimming and piano lessons to evenings, doing all laundry, grocery, gardening, crafting in the evenings (realistically I'd have to cut down on a lot of that), fewer field trips, cooking quickly, eating in a rush, hopefully not bringing work stresses home.  It's been a few years since I did all of that and I don't think I was a nice person to be around at the time.

Can I do that?  Am I ready for that?  There are so many good things about working full time, but they are all financial.  I don't know if I can do it.  Luckily my husband appreciates all that I do at home and doesn't think I'm just being lazy and selfish.   We'll see how it goes today.  It will be good interviewing practice, if nothing else.

Update:  I think the interview went well and now I'm suddenly very interested!  But are they?? 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Another bedroom upgrade

I'm playing catch-up here.  We were without a camera for a few months and some things need a picture. 

This was Beth's Mother's Day gift to me, but I finally saw it finished in October.

I love it!  It was worth the wait.  Thanks, Beth!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not in the plans

Two of the girls were away at Guide Camp.  I thought that meant we could enjoy a quiet weekend with just our oldest daughter.  Maybe wake late, do a bit of shopping.  I don't know exactly. 

Sleep in?  For no known reason I woke fairly early.  Maybe because I could hear that our overnight guest was up and unlikely to help herself to coffee or breakfast.

So I got up.  We visited for a bit, had an unsatisfying breakfast and took a look at some furniture she had to donate to Goodwill. 

Did we have need of a solid wood dresser?  Yeah, maybe.  And a clean mattress (ie. not pee-stained from earlier years)?  Yeah, that might smell better than one we had. 

Once we cleared room for the dresser (which would give more drawer space and storage than our current setup), we were looking at this.

 I had to pile a bunch of stuff on the bed in order to vacuum the floor.  It doesn't always look quite this bad.  I could have swept and vacuumed, put everything back on the floor to put the new mattress down, but I saw this as an opportunity to fill garbage bags. 

This is unfortunately the normal state of her closet.  With her away at camp, this was our chance to get rid of junk. 

It's by no means a lovely, reorganized makeover, but it's way, way, WAY better!  The container on her dresser was all that we asked "permission" to discard.  Two garbage bags left the room, and I have a small pile of Goodwill items to donate. 

I know that I would have felt my space was invaded if my mother had ever done this to my room.  I don't think we were ever allowed to let it get so full of paper and half-finished crafts, school work and "precious" little things.  I couldn't bring myself to tidy up her artwork wall, and we'll look for new non-pink fabric together for new curtains. 

In the picture, I see that I should have swept under her bed.  We'll be keeping our eyes out for a proper wooden bed.  This one was supposed to be a captains bed, but the drawers were so cheaply built that they feel apart very quickly.  The bottom support stops us from using the valuable underbed space properly. 

This is the view of her desk area.  She needs to organize some of her own pretty things and the gerbil cage should go on the other side of the room, but that's a small detail. 

I still have work to do in her closet before I take an "after" picture there.  The biggest mess there are the linens that we store there.  I wish I had a good solution for storing stuffies.  Her reading chair is holding a big bag of them and they can't stay there. 

For now, Alice should have a place for almost everything, and a lot fewer things to find places for.   And I've gained six drawers for my use too.  I really have to work on the fabric situation.  Something for me to fill my time this week. 

And yes, Beth and I did actually get a bit of shopping in, coming home with drapes for our living room.  After only 12 years, I'm hoping for a bit of window insulation in our living room.  Yay!

Ruffly Girliness

It's not like me at all to have just a girly purse, but I am a girl after all.  I'm entitled to a few frills.

Made from soft suede, using all recycled materials, including the zippers and handle hardware.  It began life as a suede skirt and I think I took the hardware off a non-functioning backpack. 

Oh, the inside wasn't recycled, but it was donated by a friend and I love it.   I have a matching grocery bag.

I've already found a flaw in the purse though.  While girly and pretty and soft, it's not big enough for a book!  Oh no!  I always seem to have a book with me.  What to do, what to do....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Free buttermilk

Superstore was clearing out its whipping cream.  It wasn't near expiry, but they must have thought people will now be acting on resolutions to lose weight and whipping cream doesn't factor in well. 

$0.94 / 500 ml.  Not a great bargain, but good enough.

$3 gave me 1+ pounds of butter plus two pints of buttermilk.

It's like saying "If you run your mixer for 15 minutes, we'll give you two pints of free buttermilk". I'll take it!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Daily harvest

Finally.  After a month of providing light and heat, we are getting some happy feedback from the ladies.  Usually five a day.

All slightly different and we're just guessing at who is laying which colour.  It's tough to catch them in the act.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I'm glad they prefer homemade, as I probably wouldn't be so good about providing it if it was battle to get them to eat it.  At least I generally know where the ingredients came from and how much is in there.

We made awesome fries in our new fryer last week (don't worry - the novelty I'm sure will wear off before we become statistics).  Problem - We ran out of both ketchup and mayonnaise.  

 First up:  Ketchup. Not hard.  I used Julie's recipe again.

It's definitely different than Heintz, but in a good way.  Would you ever consider using purchased ketchup as pizza topping?  No, I thought not.  This one you can, so if you make too much there are many uses for it.  

Next:  Mayo.  

I like to use our own eggs, and this recipe only uses one whole egg and one extra yolk.  It's a big egg though.

I didn't realize until this closeup shot of my jar that it has developed a crack!  I need some Aussie to send me a case of Vacola jars in different sizes.  Are there any readers out there?   Maybe I'll have to appeal to the Down to Earth forum and see I can make a friend or two.

There.  All stocked once again.  Fries for supper again?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How we spent our holidays

This is the Christmas present that has seen most of our time this season.  What a great game!

Settlers of Catan - Seafarers

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In our future

Not right away, but I do see one of these in our future. 

We babysat Bird Bird for a few days to see if I would show any signs of an allergic reaction.  Nothing, and he was kind of fun to have around.  He isn't messy, makes lovely cheeping noises, can say his name (and so, theoretically, can be taught to say other things), sits on my shoulder or the top of the laptop, reacts positively to the piano playing (the sax created one moment of fear, but then was fine too).

I think it could be fun to have a pet who actually likes us.  The chickens are functional and tolerate us because we feed them, the gerbils really are trying to escape from our attention all the time, and the fish...well, he's just a wet fish.  We'll see. 

Bird Bird, it was fun to have you in the house!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone!  Are you still there?!  Do I still have a few readers?  I don't blame you if you've gone awol as well.  But I'm happy to hear from those of you who still check.

I'm back, but I don't make resolutions so I promise nothing about posting regularly.  I do really miss having this little record of what we do in this house.  Without it, it seems sometimes as if we do nothing.  I know that can't be true, but we have just finished an extraordinarily lazy Christmas break.  

There's always a bit of crafting.  These snowflakes are all that is left of our Christmas decorations.  The kids said that they are snowflakes, suitable for about 8 months of the year.  I love them, so I let them stay.  

Beth was sick over most of the holidays, so it wasn't perhaps as busy as usual.  No toboganning, skiing, or skating.  We were hoping to do those things with Beth when she got better.  She's finally better, but now she's in school.  That could have been timed better.  Maybe we needed the rest.

We didn't suffer for food though.  We hosted two small parties, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, and that gave us the excuse to buy special cheeses and use our new deep fryer to make these yummy treats.

Croquettes!  And these were exactly as I remember them from childhood.  Grandpa's croquettes, except gluten free.  I've increased my wheat intake a lot, but Yvon really can't.  When you make rock hard GF biscuits, croquettes are an awesome use for those breadcrumbs.  Just so I don't lose the recipe, this is the one I used and it worked perfectly. Next time I'll double the batch to freeze some but I didn't know it would be so worth it!


    1 lb ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, whatever)

Make a roux:
    2 Tbsp butter
    4 Tbsp flour

Slowly add:
     1/2 c milk
     1/2 c broth

     Browned meat
     1/2 tsp chilli powder
     1/2 tsp paprika
     1 tsp curry (I didn't have this)
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/4 tsp pepper
     1 tsp worchestershire sauce
     1 tsp parsley

Cool in your fridge or freezer until stiff enough to form balls.  I set the pan outside in the snow for an hour or so.

Form balls quickly.  Flour, dip in beaten egg and then bread crumbs.  Deep fry until golden.  
Of course we had Oliebollen to go with them and those turned out great too.  I didn't try the wheat ones, but the gluten free ones were perfect.  No picture for some reason, but before I lose the recipe, here is my grandpa's oliebollen recipe too.  Thanks to my sister for testing the recipe and sharing it before Christmas!

Grandpas' Oliebollen

2 tbsp. yeast
3 tbsp. sugar
½ cup lukewarm milk
3 eggs, well beaten
½ tsp. vanilla
1cup beer (optional – or use water)
1 tbsp. salt
4 cups flour
3 apples, peeled and diced
2 cups raisins or currants

Soak together yeast, sugar and the 1/2 cup milk for 10 minutes. Mix with eggs, remaining milk, and vanilla, salt and beer. Beat in flour, proceeding slowly. Add raisins and apples. Cover bowl and let dough rise for 1 ½ hrs. Drop by teaspoonful into hot oil. Turn, if necessary. Remove from oil. Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.

And the ones we're more likely to eat around here:

Gluten Free Oliebollen (from

225 g GF bread mix
5 g dry yeast
65 g sugar
200 ml lukewarm water
75 ml lukewarm milk
1 egg

 Mix everything together (don't worry if it looks too thin - it'll work).  Let rise for 1 hour.  Drop spoonfuls into hot oil, turning once.  You can add apples and raisins after the rise if you like.  Always sprinkle with icing sugar. 
Do we have to wait until next New Years to eat these again, or can I can them apple fritters and get away with it?  Silly Dutch tradition!