Friday, April 30, 2010

This Moment

A Friday ritual: a single photo~no words~capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our Day

Today we did a little of this:


to make this:



No-Cook Playdough
2.5 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 packages koolaid powder
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water
3 Tbsp. oil

Combine dry ingredients, add wet, and mix till a dough forms. Add more flour if it's sticky. I usually divide it into two bowls and make two colours but today we went wild and made FOUR colours!

We also did some of this:

Violet "replanted" tulips.

I worked for awhile, then was thinking about Twig and Toadstool's fairy week...my kids aren't really into fairies but I started wondering what a garden would look like from a fairy's perspective, and then took these:




A walk to the mailbox revealed this:



Then we rounded the adventure off with some climbing,


and some lounging in the grass, getting some new freckles:


Now everyone is tired, a little scrappy and whiney, Daddy's going to be home soon, and dinner is ready. A good day, all told!

Refreshing

The task I find most tedious these days is making dinner. In the busy-ness of working part-time while running a home, raising children, and trying my hand at farming full-time, I find the day goes by before I think to ask "what should I make for dinner?" By four o'clock the options (beyond scrambled eggs or cheese toast) are limited.

So I went to our local library to get inspired, and found Jamie Oliver's "My Guide to Making You a Better Cook". I love his down-to-earth, you-can-do-it approach. I'm not easily daunted in the kitchen, and like my mother, am a "good cook" who just isn't overly fond of cooking.

There are lots of good recipes to add interest to staples like broccoli, squash, potatoes, and carrots.
Mmmm...parsley, garlic, orange zest, olive oil.


Oh, and big "knobs" of butter, with white wine, orange juice, and stock.

It baked really quickly and was enough of a change from our usual steamed carrot circles to refresh my attitude towards that daily task of making dinner. And the colours are just so pretty!

What will be on your table for dinner this evening?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Horse Love

We took a run over to our neighbours' farm to introduce "Stanley" to my husband and mom. This little colt was born on my dad's birthday (hence my nickname for him) and will be a week old tomorrow. He's just irresistible.
You can see his little tail wagging with nursey-bliss!

Here's a closer look at that wonderful, as-yet-unfurling tail:

I mean, seriously!!

We visited the herd afterwards, and my horse-lover was in her element. This often-intense, shrill-voiced, high-maintenance little woman was as serene as can be. We are presently in negotiations to bring Stanley home with us in August. Imagine the giggles? The frolicking? The wonderful memories of her first horse (even though we'll tell the kids he's "ours", I can't help but think of him as "hers")?

Someday this photo will be a treasured memento of her first love.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Making Progress

As we prepare to play musical bedrooms (turning the attic room where the kids sleep into our studio, move the kids into our bedroom, and move ourselves into the newly renovated room that was once a walk-in closet and a tiny bedroom), the time has come to purge and organize the ridiculous amount of STUFF that accumulates in a house with two creative adults and three small children in it.

While we move everything around, our upstairs sunporch has become the depository for yarn, wool, fabric, books, stationary, musical instruments, outgrown clothes, renovation and painting tools, etcetera.

Today's big step was to go up there, and start organizing. My yarn stash has been in bins since we moved in almost 2 years ago, and is showing signs of the many times I've ransacked it looking for something specific. The resultant little baskets of bits and bobs seem to be multiplying. So today I started putting it all together again, in hopes of eventually having it sorted in a permanent home (the studio!). Other bins are being filled with fabric, notions, UFOs (too many to mention here), and so on.


I also started (with giddy excitement) a bin for a yard sale. Homesteadboy and I will split the proceeds and put them towards whatever we want (a luxury when on a budget like ours)...this is great motivation for me to part with the STUFF I've held onto for years.

In the footsteps of my friend Ammerins, I have dubbed myself a procrasticleaner. But it's time to make this house a place that is simple, clean, and organized (as much as it can be with, as I've said, two creative parents and three small children in it!)

What progress are you making towards creating a space you love?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Passage

An anniversary is approaching for our family, one that feels more significant than any birthday could be.

At this point last year, we were struggling as a family. Our new baby was crying almost incessantly, was not gaining weight, and other little children (not-quite 2 and not-quite 4) were certainly feeling the change in the air. I was newly postpartum, the experienced breastfeeder of two previous children, and I was exhausted with trying to take care of these little people. I was trying everything I could to nurse this baby and could not figure out what was going wrong. Week after week, my heart was broken as we had her weighed, only to find that she'd gained mere ounces.

When she was 7 weeks old, we attended our last midwifery appointment. What was a heart murmur at birth had become a constant, very loud purr, and we were sent straight to our family doctor, who referred us to the Cardiology Unit of the closest children's hospital (in Ottawa, about a 140 km drive away).

When I think back to that time, it's a blur of too many: tears, movies, ice cream cones, raised voices, feelings. Feelings of frustration, confusion, exhaustion, rage, and mostly fear. We didn't know what was wrong, but it soon became apparent that there was, indeed, something wrong.

In this space I hope to walk back through those days, with my eyes open, with forgiveness in my heart for the mother I couldn't be at that time, with tenderness for the mother I was, just struggling along and doing my best, even though I was spread way too thin. With each post I'll share a photo that captures the days leading up to Margot's diagnosis, eventual surgery, and recovery. I look forward to passing through it once more before happily moving into a "new" year.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rich

When I get caught up in that feeling of "I wish" or "I want" (a better camera, more land, nicer "stuff", that CD, money to buy fabric/wool/stamps/books) I am always pleased when the universe presents me with proof of the abundance surrounding me.

Like: going out to close up the chickens, and my ears tuning in to the evening sounds: spring peepers singing, Canada geese calling and answering, the sleepy clucks of the chickens and quacks of the ducks, a cow lowing in a distant pasture;

Like: visiting my neighbour's farm to meet a 1-day-old foal, who not only is a baby horse but a baby MINIATURE horse: curly white silk of tail, fuzzy newborn mane, strong legs, and about as high as my knee, all told. I think he may just have to join our menagerie someday;


Like: bravely taking the three little ones out to a barbeque, bonfire, and birthday party last night, meeting lovely people, the kids giddy with the thrill of staying up to see the moon and stars, and birthday cupcakes with SPARKLERS!


Like: gazing at my oldest girl's sleeping face as she lay in my arms by the warmth of a fire, passing her and the sleeping baby off to other caring arms so we could play music, our sweet boy stubbornly resisting sleep 'though he was weaving from side to side on his chair;

Like: the rare pleasure of singing and playing music with my dear husband, firelight playing on features, cares and worries carried away by our voices raised in song.


What evidence of your own wealth can you find today?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Work Day

Although I fantasize about curling up with a book and staying in bed ALL DAY (one hour would even be nice), my favourite kind of Saturday is a work day, where everyone helps out to get those myriad little tasks done. I am presently reclaiming the garden directly in front of the homestead. Last summer, our littlest love underwent open-heart surgery, so all farm-related stuff was neglected as we showered our healing love on her.

Now I am taking the weeds to task, so to speak, as well as moving many perennials, in preparation of metamorphosing this bed from a flower plot to a vegetable plot. The chickens have enjoyed the hollyhocks, so Homesteadboy enclosed it all in chicken wire this morning, while I ruthlessly dug up dogwoods (dislike), and moved hostas, hollyhocks, and crocus bulbs (love!). Two little girls "helped", dirt-smeared faces, hands loving the damp darkness of soil, while one big boy was thrilled to use the wire-cutters.

My new clothesline is up, I've moved the piles of last year's dead brush to our compost, and now Homesteadboy is out enclosing a bigger run for the chickens, as the romanticism of full free-ranging is wearing thin. We all have a few new freckles, sore backs, dirty fingernails, and that feeling of complicity that comes with working together to make your home more beautiful.

Yes, it's a lot of work, and yes, we get frustrated when we get behind. But we chose this life, and seeing our children feeling useful and strong, getting dirty, learning skills, and being part of what makes this place work makes it worth it.

Good People

On Earth Day I had the pleasure of attending the GRAND OPENING of "Earth Rocks" in our little town.  Located in the front room of a rambling brick house, Earth Rocks provides many reasons to shop locally:

*a great selection of natural cleaning and beauty products, the majority of which are MADE IN CANADA
*very reasonable prices (I kept thinking I was misreading the price stickers)
*the proprietors, Meagan and Floyd, are what I deem GOOD PEOPLE: creative, funny, welcoming, as well as being dedicated and loving parents to their four children
*CHILD-FRIENDLY!

In one of my first posts, I confessed to shopping at Walmart. Just to clarify, we live in very-rural Ontario...we are a 45-min. drive to the closest movie theatre, shopping mall, and fast food outlet. This is intentional, and while I am a big supporter of local businesses, sometimes I just can't get what I need at our local shops.

HOWEVER, I can now strike "cleaning products" off my monthly-trip-into-town list! Please show your support if you're passing through Eganville, and pop in to Earth Rocks!

(Sorry about the poor resolution of the photo...it's one Meagan emailed to me...think the resizing may have tampered with the quality!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Moment

 Inspired by Soulemama, embraced by mama bloggers everywhere, a Friday ritual:  a single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This Morning


The rare treat of creamed-and-sugared coffee, an English muffin wth butter AND peanut butter, a GREAT book, instructions for our newly-acquired yard sale incubator, and a box of (hopefully fertile) duck eggs...looks like the perfect beginning to our day.

Plans include a lunch visit with a friend and her small baby (bliss!) and a trip into town to get some supplies at the Country Depot (thermostat, hygrometer, rubber gloves, and hopefully advice!). Hope yours is a productive and a good one.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Easy!

Once I'd quickly knit up one of these "Poems Easy Headbands" (pattern in this book) for myself, I knew I needed to make one for my girls. Violet is known to find all things knitted "itchy" (the horror!), so I usually try a new yarn each time, then inevitably pass the offending item down to Margot. Of course, this one was deemed itchy, so here it is on Margot. .

This is a delicious thick and thin yarn, where one ply is soft, woolly, and muted, and the other is almost iridescently bright. It creates really interesting results and is fun to knit as each stitch is a different colour. Find the details on my Ravelry page.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Knitty Gritty



I confess, I've been in a bit of a knitting slump since whipping up a couple of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jackets (pattern available here). Something about that pattern: its elegant design, creative engineering, angles and stripes and clever symmetrical buttonholes, has made it impossible for me to start anything else. So I have a basket full of cast-ons...that have become, alas, castoffs.

So, I have taken to knitting dishcloths. If you're not a knitter, OR have never been gifted a set of hand-knit dishcloths, please do not scoff. The charms of a knitted dishcloth are many. They're quick to make, practical, pretty, and offer endless opportunities for practising new stitch patterns. My kitchen is not tourquoise and fuschia; this was just made from bits and bobs I had left from making my girls' Two Summer Sundresses (to be revealed soon).

The pattern can be found in a marvellous book called Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne (http://www.masondixonknitting.com/). The yarn? $1.69 a ball at our local country store (the same place where I buy coveralls for my hubby, feed for my ducks and chickens, and Halloween wigs on sale). It's Bernat Handicrafter Cotton.

Can't wait to dirty this one up!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moments Like This



"Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensely, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn---and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb."

~Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (L'Elegance du Herisson)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Where I Am Today

After spending as much time as I can (which, admittedly, is minimal with the general chaos of my life) trying to post photos, seeing them come up small in the preview but posting blank with the little red "x", I've decided to just blog with words for now. Someday when this blog is famous you'll all look back and laugh at my newborn-blogger-self, stumbling around.

Things I'm thinking about today. Wanting my body to feel stronger...contemplating eating a cleaner diet. Wanting to stretch myself to be a better parent...contemplating unplugging the TV (we only watch movies, but still) and all that entails (needing to be more energetic, more "on", more organized and engaged with my kids). Maybe the first would lead to the second?

In my job as a kindergarten teacher, the children's day is full of all kinds of activity...indoor and outdoor play, hands-on learning, music and art and numeracy and literacy. It would never occur to me to put on a movie to get something done, because every moment is so precious, so full of potential for learning and growth. The kids at school are never bored because we just move from one activity to the next.

Of course, at school I don't have to clean the washrooms and floors, wash everyone's clothes, fold and put them away, prepare food for everyone...and the children are older than mine.

Still, I feel a change brewing...like it's time to come out of the cave I crawled into when my first child was born. The cave of I don't have the energy, I can't do that because I have a baby, and all the other things we tell ourselves when we're in survival mode.

I'm going to start with me: more sleep, better food, and I might even try to squeeze in a little walk here or there. And we'll see where that leads me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Faith and Patience

My mantra for parenting, and for most aspects of my life, is "Faith and patience". I chant it when the kids are all in their carseats and I can't find my keys, when the baby poops in the tub when I've just filled it, when my almost-3 year old girl asks the same question ad nauseum.

So it is fitting that, as I venture out into the world of blogging, I must chant "Faith-and-patience-faith-and-patience" when I can't seem to successfully post a picture. So far, no one is checking my progress; hopefully I'll get it right before anyone does! Bear with me, and watch this space, with...you guessed it: faith and patience.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Et Voila!


My son will be attending a birthday party for one of his classmates this weekend. I considered making something hand-made, but working part-time while raising three children under 5 interferes with my fantasies of unlimited crafting time. On our monthly trip to Walmart (yes, I admit it: I shop at Walmart), I wandered the toy aisles in search of a perfect birthday gift for a 5 year old girl.

I am in no way a toy snob, and yet, I was completely...repulsed. I know, that's a strong word. I felt dazed by the shelves and shelves of "perfect" femininity: cleavage, abnormally large eyes, endless fashion options. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't spend $15 on some mass-produced toy that provided little opportunity for imaginative play beyond "What will I wear today?"

So today, which is one of my precious days home with my little ones, I created a gift for Jude's friend. I got up before the kids to work on her face. I couldn't help reflecting on the hundreds of years of tradition in the stitching of a face onto a piece of fabric. Medieval moms, Victorian moms, Pioneer and wartime moms carefully crafted eyes, noses, mouths onto a precious scrap, creating a playmate for their children.

This pattern is so simple and quick to make (about 2 hours, and that's with all the interruptions of "I'm hungry!" "I had it first!" and "Can I help?") and can be found here; alternately, google "black apple doll". This site offers a tutorial and a pattern template. I used bits of fabric that I've gathered along the way, including the wonderful pink floral that arrived in a bag from my mother's friend's mother this week!

Even better than being simple, the end result is utterly charming. Choose eye and hair colours to "match" the lucky recipient and you will create a family treasure. My children cherish their own Black Apple dolls. I thank my friend Maureen for introducing these little sweeties to me!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

We have been chicken farmers for a whole ten days now, and tonight was the first time I went out to close their coop (my husband usually does this). I'm used to the cacophony of eager voices that greets me when I collect the eggs in the morning, expectant feathered critters crowding my ankles in hopes of kitchen scraps. As I approached the coop, I was disconcerted by the silence, until I opened the door and found Reason That I Love Chickens #216: 22* birds peacefully snoozing on the top of the door and nesting boxes, heads lolling, sweet clucky snores, oblivious to my presence. No wonder we need to keep the coop locked up at night; a weasel would have an easy time of disposing of prey this complacent.

I whispered "Thanks again for the eggs, and sleep tight, my dears", and closed the door as gently as I would for my children. After all, they have a long day of scratching and foraging tomorrow!

*we thought we had 20 hens and 2 roosters. 20+2=22, right? Well, tonight's head count totalled 23. I counted several times. We seem to have acquired an extra hen...