Sunday, May 30, 2010

Glad

Glad is a funny word. It's not quite as happy as the word "happy". It makes me think of that white-haired Glad Man, selling garbage bags. It implies a sense of equal parts joy and relief.

So, I am glad to see the tail end of May. It has been a lovely month, but it's been awhile since I've been this busy. Mother's Day, two of my children's birthday parties, a visit from a longtime, faraway friend, trying to get the garden in, a baby shower. Do you ever look back over the month's calendar and marvel that you survived? Not only survived, but managed to do it all? If you managed even just some of it with a smile on your face, good on you! So, tomorrow I will wish a Happy Birthday to my dear friend Maureen at Twig and Toadstool, and look forward to a wonderful, crafty celebration with some marvellous women tomorrow night

And fun and full as it was, I bid a glad farewell to May.

Here are some of the highlights of the past weekend:

My beautiful, brilliant, and compassionate friend Gillian Jerome was on a poetry reading tour of Ontario and agreed to stop by our little local library to promote her book, Red Nest. We have been friends for 20 years, and don't see each other as often as we'd like, but when we do manage a visit, it's like it always is with good, old friends: like we just saw each other yesterday. It was so lovely to spend an evening discussing poetry, language, literacy, and the arts in general.

Last week's heat wave brought on the simultaneous blooming of dozens of clematis...this climbing plant holds a place of honour in the garden, and there are so many flowers, I don't even mind that Violet picks at least one a day!
Our school had a fundraiser on Friday. This photo of Margot just cracks me up; the slide was maybe 5 feet long but the perspective of the pic and the look on her face suggest that it is much more daunting!

Saturday was a day for errands: groceries, co-op for duck and chicken feed, return books and DVDs to the library (and alas, pay my fines), drop off Jude's swimming registration...this impressive list is even more impressive when you consider the fact that all three of my kids are still in car seats of one kind or another. When they started begging for a visit to the park, my mind wanted to say "No", as I just wanted to get everything done. But, my heart told them, "Yes"; we picked up some picnic-like food while we grocery shopped, and they had a long play. It was a good reminder to me to always consider the kids when I have a to-do list a mile long in my head.

With the busy-ness of this past month, I'll admit, I forgot about the shower I was supposed to attend today, until yesterday. And by now you'll know that running to Walmart for a generic baby gift was not an option. I found this pattern on Ravelry for a sweet little cardigan called "Baby Sophisticate". After the kids went to bed, I pulled a knitting all-nighter. I finished the second sleeve and the collar this morning, and gave it as a gift this afternoon! I'm exhausted, but very satisfied with the results of my night's labour. It's the first top-down sweater I've made, and I see more in my future. Those faint-of-heart knitting friends of mine (you know who you are)...you could do this! And I'll show you how!

Check out tomorrow's post to find out what else I made this past weekend, for my Twig and Toadstool friend's birthday!

Thursday, May 27, 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.

First Beach Day



Monday was Canada's commemoration of Queen Victoria's birthday. We call it May Two Four weekend, because it falls around the 24th, AND people usually head to the lake with a TWO FOUR of beer. I giggle at this every year. If you're from the Ottawa Valley, you might even call it a Two Fer.

3 years ago on May 24, I was almost a week overdue with Violet. We headed to our favourite beach because I was restless, the house was as clean and prepared as it would ever be, and we wanted Jude to have some fun. Robin splashed with then-two-year-old Jude while I bared my belly to the sun and whispered welcoming words to our baby. I took a walk through the woods, looked at tiny tree toads with Jude, and hoped the exercise might bring things along. Violet was born the next day.


This year, the holiday fell on the 24th, so we once again headed to the same beach for the first time this year. What a joy to remember the day before Violet's birth, and enjoy our own rebirth as a summer time family. After putting in a winter in rural Ontario, that hot sand, warm water, and bright sunlight feels like Heaven. Heaven, I tell you!

Not to mention that this beach, a pristine, private, and secretive place, is the go-to destination for most of our friends and their kids! It's always a joy to walk down that winding forest path, emerging onto the beach, and saying, "Oh, look! So-and-so's here!" Off the kids go to find their chums. Watermelon and cold beers are passed around, boogie-boards and buckets are shared, and the kids play till the sun goes  down. I love these beach days/evenings, when everyone goes to bed with sand in their toes and bums, a bit freckled and sun-kissed, blessedly exhausted from lots of water, sun, and play.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wash Wednesday

The colours of these items just caught my eye. Remember the scene in "American Beauty" where the reclusive boy next-door shows a film he took of a plastic bag caught in a wind current? That's all I could think of as I took these pictures...the beauty of their changing shapes in the wind.

The scarf...oh, dear scarf. My lovely friend Agnes, knitting and gardening mentor, who was a pioneer in her own right though maybe not in the way you'd expect, gave me this scarf. It was given to her by an Indian co-worker, about 40-odd years ago; she used the sari fabric to make a lovely tailored dress (fitted bodice, full skirt) that I now have in my closet. This scarf was a tacked-on embellishment on the dress. I took it off and wear it wrapped around my hair all the time (see Garlandy Goodness post!). It's especially precious as Agnes is now in the hospital. More on that another day.

The dress I picked up before I was married, before I had kids. I just couldn't resist it, and hoped I'd someday have a little someone in my life who would wear it. And what do you know? It fits Violet to a tee.

Two very special, very ordinary garments, side by side on a beautiful breezy day. Hope this week brings lots more wonderful clothesline weather!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Miss Violet Pearl Turns Three!

Three years ago today I gave birth to our first daughter. It sounds so simple...we can forget all that birth entails when we bake the birthday cake and tell our child to make a wish! Early labour...the excitement of knowing that sometime soon you'll meet your long-awaited (and in my case, overdue) baby, making those last-minute arrangements for your toddler, the drive to wherever you give birth (in our case, in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house), and accepting the inevitable work that lies ahead.


Then the many circuits around my mom's beautiful garden to get things going, renting a silly movie and knitting to distract from what was to come (I still can't believe my belly was that big), the excitement of my sisters as they arrived for the birth, the beautifully-prepared room, and eventually, that spiralling in to myself. I like to labour alone, with a cool cloth over my eyes, and no noise, scents, or physical contact. My mom set my husband to cutting the lawn, and running to the store for groceries; he was happy to have the distraction!

My sister is a doula and recognized the shift in my breathing and birth sounds; she called our midwife and suggested she come very soon. I tend to go very quickly after transition, and sure enough, when our midwife arrived at 6:35pm, I was starting to feel ready to push. By 6:53 pm, after 3 pushes, our first little daughter was born. We were all a little shocked by how quickly she arrived, and thrilled to welcome the newest wee girl to our clan.

We basked in the love and care of my sisters and mom for that first week. These pictures were taken when Violet Pearl was 3 days old. Notice the little Johnny-Jump-Up behind her ear!



Now our little miss is THREE! She was only 21 months old when Margot was born, and it has pained me to see her struggle with the challenges of being an older sibling. She has wicked tantrums, is so stubborn and single-minded, and screams and cries so loudly we sometimes put her out on the porch till she stops. I work at compensating for the way my attention was taken from her by a sick baby at that important time in her life. We spend a lot of time together now.

She loves books and cuddling on my lap with her blanket. She loves talking to her toy horses and dolls. She loves the beach. She is a picky eater, and wears clothes that are size 24 months. She talks in her sleep. A lot. She scratches and bites her big brother and ignores her little sister. She is a mama's girl. She drives her father crazy because they're so much alike, and melts his heart when she cups his face in her tiny palms and smooches him slowly on the lips, her eyes closed. She loves to be naked.

This wonderful, star-filled, powerful little woman of mine. How I love you and celebrate the day you came into our family! You make me laugh and smile every day, and to be honest, you also infuriate, perplex, and worry me every day. I am so excited to see who you turn out to be someday.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making Peace

My dear husband whisked the kids away for the afternoon yesterday so I could get some real work done. After FINALLY finishing painting the window frames in what will be the kids' room (I started them when I was pregnant with Margot), I cleaned the room, planted my peas (very late this year!), and even managed a LONG bubble bath with a good book in hand.

When my loves arrived home, the little ones were all asleep. Two were carried up to bed with no trouble, but Margot woke up and was NOT happy. I came down in pyjamas and damp hair, to cuddle her in hopes of getting her to sleep. It occurred to me that these days are numbered, when I will rock a babe in this rocking chair handcrafted for me by a former high school teacher, with a tree that grew on the street I walked down every day on my way to school. The street is called Truelove...so many wonderful connections! We were wrapped in a quilt that mom picked up at an auction sale and gave me for my birthday.

By the time he got the camera out, I was feeding her; my first reaction was, "Just wait till I'm done giving her her bottle". As soon as I heard myself, I realised that I'm still making peace with the losses of the past year, namely, my breastfeeding relationship with my youngest, and presumably last child.

Some of you know bits of the story, others the whole story. After a great start, and great weight gain in the first week, things started to deteriorate. At first, my midwife guessed that it was due to the busyness of our house; every time I sat down to nurse, two other little ones who were needing mama love clambered up, storybooks in hand, invariably elbowing the baby, disrupting that delicate beginning.


So I climbed into bed for "The 24-hour Cure"...24 blissed-out hours to cuddle skin-to-skin with my newborn, to really explore her for the first time. She nursed really well, but would bring it all back up soon after, which was heartbreaking. I knew I had lots of milk, I knew that her latch was perfect, and I'd been doing this almost constantly for the past 4 years! What could be wrong? We saw breastfeeding consultants, my mom came to help with the older kids to try to get things on track, and my sister, who is a breastfeeding counsellor, was on call every day.

And still, she didn't gain weight. We knew she had a heart murmur, but everyone I spoke to said it had nothing to do with our breastfeeding complications. In May we learned she'd need heart surgery.
Finally, after seeing this picture taken at her Baptism,everything came into sharp focus: my girl was in trouble. Suddenly, I saw how sick she was, how tiny, how sunken. She cried almost constantly, and was only happy when sucking on someone's baby finger. It sounds crazy to me now, but anyone who has had a colicky baby or a sick baby or a baby that just cries a lot, knows that you do whatever you have to do to give them peace.

A day or two after this, my mom and sister were visiting and finally I couldn't listen to her crying anymore. I knew she was hungry and that for whatever reason, breastfeeding was difficult for her. So, with many tears, I handed mom a bottle. That may be the day my heart broke. Everyone was thrilled to see the baby able to drink, and to see her immediately settle down. Such a hard day for me, fill with many mixed feelings.
It was a long road from then till the surgery, and Margot, if not exactly thriving, was not struggling as much as she had been. I went on automatic pilot at about this point...the days were a blur of pumping, pasteurizing the milk (because, if life wasn't busy enough, my milk has high levels of an enzyme that causes it to turn "sour" very quickly, so I had to simmer it before freezing it), trying to give the other kids what they needed, trying to rest, trying to prepare for the surgery...

I was assured that after the surgery, Margot would be able to nurse like a champ. I was told that 80% of the calories she was taking in went to making her heart and lungs work, which is why she was gaining so slowly, and that breastfeeding takes much more work than bottle feeding. I held onto the hope that I could begin repairing this nursing relationship after the surgery.

We were able to see her an hour after the surgery was done, and the next day, once some of the tubes, lines, etc. had been removed, I carefully nursed my girl:
What joy! I looked ahead to nursing her into her toddler years, when nothing cures a bump, a trip, a tumble like the comfort of mama's milk. We'd been through the worst together, and had survived.

After about a week of exclusively nursing, Margot started fussing a lot; I recognized the signs that she was not getting enough from me. While this is the most common myth related to breastfeeding, and one of the main reasons women stop so early, my milk supply really was depleted from stress and the difficulty I'd had in finding time to pump. I think at this point, the fight had gone out of me. I just wanted my child to be fed, and healthy. I made a decision which up until that point had been unthinkable: I would bottlefeed my last child.

The experience has been so intense. My mother has been able to help me so much, and is able to care for Margot in ways she wasn't able to with the older two. I've been able to spend time with my older children and have some time to myself. I am less exhausted than I was while nursing the other two. Returning to work was exciting rather than stressful.

Still, I can't think about what I've lost too much without crying. I know I need to cry about it a bit more. Comments made by family and friends, intended to comfort, have been painful, namely: "She's thriving now and that's all that matters". But, as most mothers know, we have so little time to think about, indulge, and process our own pain...there's always something to be done, and I think there's a bit of fear that if I start really trying to process that time in my life, the joys and losses, it may be hard to stop crying. There's guilt too, even though I rationalize that it wasn't my fault. I felt like I had to explain when bottlefeeding in public: I was a breastfeeding mother! I know what's best for my child! I did my best!

I really had to review the judgments I've made in the past, once I felt like I might be judged. I have grown and learned so much in the past year. Mostly, I know that I did do my best. 

So, I retracted my statement to my husband last night and realised that it is not important WHAT we feed our child. What is important is how we feed them: in our arms, with lots of eye contact, cuddling, smiling, and whispered endearments. Margot has never been propped up alone with a bottle. Every bottle has been given to her in the many arms that love her: mine, my husband's, my mother's, my sisters', and even her siblings'. So in a way, she has something that the other children didn't: a whole community of people to feed her. It's not what I'd envisioned, but I know now that my best was good enough.

I know that I will treasure this photo someday. I will look past that plastic bottle, and all I'll see is the love in my eyes, and in hers. And I will miss these days so much.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Balancing Act

I've had a headache every evening for the past week. I'm one of those people that automatically thinks, "Brain tumour!" when I get a twinge anywhere above my chest. But today I realised: I'm just exhausted. Ex. Haust. Ed. (that could be Latin for "a mother's work is never done").

I've been feeling a little spacey, a little more impatient with my kids, a little distracted and overwhelmed with the demands of teaching kindergarten, managing a home, raising little ones, and all the many tasks of living in the country. When I saw that my husband had forgotten to grab the movie rentals (that are now 3 days late) AGAIN, I thought my head was going to explode. That's perhaps irrational, to roar and curse because you're going to pay a late fine.

It's just that, sometimes in your life as a woman and/or a mother, something small like that can topple your precariously-balanced sanity. When the running commentary in your mind sounds like this: "pick up vanilla extract for Violet's birthday party, finish reading assessments for senior kindergarten, fill car with gas, get estimated cost of class trip to principal, remember to bring potatoes to school for bumblebee art, figure out why that duck is limping, where are my keys???, oh, don't forget to pop cheque for swimming lessons in Helen's mailbox", having to deal with getting the movies back to the store just pushes it all past manageable.

Manageable? Who am I kidding? I'm exhausted. I have about 15 tasks spinning in my head at any given moment. When I fall into bed at night, I barely have time to marvel at the enormous accomplishments of the day (as I type, beautiful raspberry cupcakes are baking in the oven...a Martha Stewart recipe, no less!!) before I'm completely passed out.

Blogging is yet another task, albeit a gratifying and enjoyable one, that I've imagined is something I MUST do. Some days I find myself staying up late experimenting with a knitting design because I feel like I should be posting more tutorials. Or as I make dinner, thinking, "I should take a picture of this". I've noticed that I am increasingly perceiving and experiencing a lot of moments through the lens of my camera, or thinking "I should put this on the blog!" Of course, when you have moments like these, how could you think of NOT grabbing the camera?


This is our May long weekend. We are celebrating Violet's birthday tomorrow, I've reserved Sunday to finally get the clothes all sorted and prepare for the GREAT BEDROOM SHUFFLE, and Monday is the day...we'll finally start resuming a sense of order in our upstairs. I also hope to shout less, cuddle and play more, and take each moment as it comes.

And so, as a step towards retaining my sanity and preserving my health, I am going to take a break from blogging on weekends. I need to reduce the distractions in my life to take care of myself. I can be somewhat compulsive about things like this (I feel that since I've started out posting almost every day, my huge following (haha!) expect it, and may not check in anymore if I take a few days "off". Then I wonder...why am I blogging? I need that reminder now and then that it's a FUN creative outlet. It's not a competition, it's not a job (yet!), and it's not meant to add more pressure to my already-full life.

What step can you take to release some of the pressure you put on yourself as a mom/woman?

Best and Worst

Here's the best  moment of this past week:

I always dreamed of having a farm when I was little. My best days were spent at the farms of friends or cousins, leaping around in the hayloft or petting calves. So when I see my little farmer taking such delight in the daily tasks of feeding and watering, collecting eggs, dragging an empty water bucket behind her...my heart just marvels at the realisation of my childhood dream. I experience a child's joy through her eyes.

The worst moment? Ummm...Jude saying, as I got out of the tub, "Look at your big fat bum, mom!" Haha.

No, the worst moments are the most human moments. There are a few. Telling the kids to SHUT. UP. all my attempts at peace-making, mediating, and refereeing having failed. When they're in the mood to scrap, they're completely irrational. And then, I'm completely irrational. Yelling at your kids is not effective parenting. But boy, it shocks them enough to stop them from fighting, even if it's just for a moment. And it sure releases some pent up stress, which is probably why they do it too. Tomorrow I'll try to be more patient. I'll be a better role model. But this past week: I shouted. Lots.

Each week I'll try to share my best and worst, partly because it feels good to get it off my chest (as a step towards forgiving myself for not being Supermom), and partly because I want give an honest representation. You KNOW it's not all crafts and gardening and clotheslines here. But sometimes it's easy to imagine that what you see on a blog is the whole truth, and not just a wee little, wonderful, snippet of my day.

So...go ahead and own the best AND worst parts of your day. It's all about balance, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Things We've Handed Down




This week I've been remembering how, when we moved here in August 2008, I was newly pregnant. I started back to full time work (just coming off my mat leave with Violet) three days after we moved in. I was desperate to feel settled, and with my mom's help, took on the task of preparing the garden for planting the following spring. I was dreaming big: Margot was due in March, and the older two were not quite 2 and 4. But I thought that just throwing in a few carrots, peas, beets, and lettuce would be a healthy step towards really feeling at home.

Naturally, by the time Spring was really into full swing, and we were dealing with a sick child, the grass and weeds had already undone what mom and I had accomplished. Still, I persisted; I had a friend come over to care for the kids while I went out to reclaim the garden AGAIN. Those of you with children and a new baby will understand how absolutely priceless it is to have an hour alone doing something you love: knitting, having a bath, gardening. You must choose your activity carefully, as the next free hour might be months in coming! I felt like I was not only reclaiming my garden, but a part of myself.

I weeded and planted. Then we got Margot's diagnosis. The garden was neglected. While we were in the hospital, three former work friends, now retired, appeared like garden fairies and weeded it AGAIN. But once I got home, life was as busy as ever. So I finally had to concede defeat. The weeds had won the battle...but not the war.

Late this past winter, I had a rebellious and revolutionary thought: what if I just didn't garden at all this summer? What if I just took a break, and supported the local farmers' markets? Who would know? Who would care? Our family doctor, God bless him, tells his young mom patients that it is near impossible to raise children AND a garden. This was doctor's advice I just wouldn't question!

But of course, as the May long weekend approaches, which in our part of the world is the starting line for planting any frost-sensitive plants (our gardening deadline...if you're not well into it by then, it's not really worth your time), my green thumbs start twiddling with boredom...and then I just can't help myself! So, yesterday, I braved the blackflies and hot sun. My kids (miraculously) entertained themselves for A WHOLE HOUR in the potting shed and on the play structure. I made some real progress! Of course, the chickens have been scratching it up for the past month and that's been quite helpful. In the picture above, you can see how far gone one end is; yes, that green overgrowth is my garden. There are loads of perennial herbs, rhubarb, spring onions, and asparagus. Oh, and many more weeds.
But I have a little helper; she is so much closer to the ground than I am! I turn the weeds up, and she pulls them and shakes them off.

How satisfying is it to reclaim your territory?

Here's what I accomplished. It looks like I'll be planting a garden, after all!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wash Wednesday

When I was in my early 20s, I spent a summer in Whistler, BC. There was a bylaw forbidding clotheslines. Having grown up in a rural area where you knew the colours and sizes of all your neighbours' undies, this was unfathomable to me. They were forbidding people to use the wind and sun to dry their clothes, because it was offensive to tourists? Huh?

I have happily hung my clothes on a line ever since. My fondest memories include that pre-birth washing of yellow and green baby clothes and diapers, hanging them out, and carefully folding them in preparation of the birth. Then the rural equivalent of a birth announcement in the newspaper: little pink or blue garments strung across the yard. And the nursing bras and postpartum undies, of course.

This picture was taken last summer, in July. We spent the last week of June in the hospital, and I took this very commonplace picture because everything I saw, all the ordinary little things in my life~ my garden, the wading pool, the play structure, and the clothesline~took on a new sheen. I still feel happy when I look at it.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Let's face it: as good as black bean dip tastes, it is UGLY. Greyish-purple, with green flecks if you add cilantro...people just don't reach for it first, you know? But I make it all the time because I have THE best recipe.

Cilantro Black Bean Dip
2 cups cooked black beans (or 1 19-oz. can, drained and rinsed)
2/3 cup packed chopped cilantro (leaves AND stems)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. flax seed OR olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt (or less - I add this last, as canned beans tend to be kind of salty)
1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper powder or cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Throw all in a blender or food processor and whiz it up! Add a drizzle of water if you prefer a thinner dip. This recipe is from Jae Steele's "Get It Ripe".

Now, just to make it more appetizing, I take a page from my friend Shanti's (at Twig and Toadstool) page by adding some pretty pepper garnishes. It's still kinda UGLY, but it sure tastes nice.

Now for the Good and the Bad:

I try to follow the KISS principle as much as possible (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is partly because to do anything else would be near impossible with my three small kids, farm life, addictive knitting habit, and part time job. But mostly it's a rebellion against the "Better Mother" disease that afflicts our society. Like, I'm better because I made a homemade cake. No, I'm better because I used only organic ingredients. No, I'M better because I got all the ingredients from my own farm. And on and on. I don't think women really think like this. But our society does TRY to create this sense of competition amongst mothers, and encourages our imaginings that women DO think like this. I used to love Mothering magazine but increasingly found myself with a vague sense of...failure when I read it. What? I have to make BENTO lunches for my child now? I've cancelled my subscription.

Honestly, we do enough. We have enough. We ARE enough. I had to remind myself of this yet again during a recent visit to Michael's, a huge craft store. A staff member was demonstrating a Cricut machine FOR FONDANT ICING. This is a groovy, retro-style, shiny red appliance that is digitally programmed to cut out scrapbook-type shapes from overpriced sheets of dry fondant icing. My head almost exploded. I blurted out, in a horror-movie-terrified-whisper-that-turns-into-a-shout, "This. is. INSANE!!!!!!"

Heads turned. The demonstrator levelled her gaze at me. "Why?", she asked. I tried to explain. About mothers. About how busy we are, how hard we work, how hard we try to make sure everyone is happy, fulfilled, loved, nurtured, has healthy food, does neat crafts and has lots of outside time, and has regular bowel movements. And now we have to turn out professional looking cakes on a $500 machine that we'll use 4 or 5 times a year until it malfunctions and we have to figure out where to put it??

Yes, I maybe overreacted. What makes me quake is that women buy into this, and maybe feel inferior if they can't afford one, or even if they just buy a cake mix to keep it simple.

Anyway, in rebellion (and also because I wanted to have a backup plan), I bought a Duncan Hines cake mix for Jude's birthday cupcakes. The morning of, however, he declared he wanted a CAKE. In our house, there are about 3 cakes worth baking. I'll share the other two some other day, but here is the Good in this post:

Decadent Chocolate Cake
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Grease and flour a 10" tube pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, pour boiling water over chocolate and butter to melt. Stir in vanilla and sugar. Whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, and blend well. Combine baking soda and sour cream, then whisk into chocolate mixture. Sift flour and baking soda together; stir into batter. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/4 of egg whites into batter, to lighten, then fold in the rest. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-50 min. until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then turn onto plate to cool completely before frosting.

Now, to put over the top, ice it with this icing:

In a heavy saucepan, combine 2 Tbsp. butter, and 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips over low heat. Whisk until melted. Add 6 Tbsp. whipping cream, 1 1/4 cups icing sugar (sifted), and 1 tsp. vanilla. Cool. Frost cake. Garnish with flowers, berries, nuts, etc.

And here it is: The Good. The very, very good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Work Day

It's 6:15 and I should be doing lots of things. Laying out Jude's clothes for school. Getting myself dressed. Starting ahead on breakfast so that when the wee ones get up, I won't have that scrambling to do (I love unintentional puns).
I don't complain about Mondays. I teach kindergarten. I am entrusted with stimulating the learning and creativity of 20 4-6 year olds. We learn letters! We learn about number 5! We sing and play and write and solve conflicts. It's very gratifying.

It's not always perfect, and I have inevitable moments of impatience and irritation. What inspires me are two (actually, four) people: Mrs. Van Woezik, my own kindergarten teacher (who I loved partly because her name rhymed with "music"); her voice was soft, she smiled a lot, and she had pretty eyes. Add to that these three little people who will go out into the care of other adults in the next few years. I strive to respect and cherish my students the way I hope my own children are respected and cherished. "Love" is a word that may seem too strong for use in a school system (and there's NO hugging allowed). But there is love in my classroom. It's the love of a teacher for her students, an adult for the children in her community, and the love of a mother for her own children. And just so you know, I do give hugs when asked.

Margot in pigtails for the first time...moving too quick for me to focus.

Violet at bedtime, saying "What about me?" when she saw the camera in my hand! What about her, indeed.

And Jude, putting off the inevitable moment of having to go to bed after his birthday weekend. He was on a dinosaur adventure...see his protective (St. Patrick's Day?) googles, and his feather duster weapon? Here he explains to me how to find the dinosaurs, and what to do with them. The weapon, it turns out, was not for harming or killing the dinos. Just for tickling them.

What teacher do you remember with love, and why?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Garlandy Goodness!

On Friday I had the pleasure of joining my dear women friends for a crafternoon. We strung beads (glass, wooden, and paper), pompoms, and mirrors on fishing line. Why, you might ask? To which we would answer, why not?

I have happily nestled into a community of womenfolk who share my lifelong passion for all things crafty; we all embrace any opportunity to socialize. If we can throw some beads or yarn into the mix, we've got it made!

Here's the Garland Goddess (me!), modelling her wares.

Visit the blogs of these wonderful friends at Twig and Toadstool and Wabi Sabi Wanderings for a garland tutorial, beautiful photos, and daily inspiration. I am blessed to count these women among my friends.
(photo credits: Maureen at Twig and Toadstool).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Welcome Home, Tiny Star

"And the child came gently to the
Warm embrace of family
And they kissed the child and sang
A welcome song.
Promising to nurture, guide, and
Celebrate this precious new life.
And their joyful song was heard
In every grateful home
By sunlight and twilight
In this moment and all moments:
We are glad you are alive.
You belong here with us.
Welcome home, tiny star".

Today we celebrate the fifth birthday of our oldest child, Jude River. I laboured all day at my cousin's house in Ottawa, and at 3:45 pm my husband, midwife, sisters, and I welcomed this sweet little boy into our world. He cried and cried, and we sang and rejoiced at his lovely dark hair, long feet, and healthy voice.

Today this beautiful boy loves Spiderman, Transformers, his toolbox, dragons, climbing trees, writing messages, helping his dad, cuddling with his mom, fighting with one sister and giggling with the other.

When he crawled into bed with us early this morning, we wished him a happy birthday and he said, "I'm 5 now?", the wonder in his voice capturing all the potential magic of the year that lies ahead. He curled against me, long skinny arms, pale skin, little boy chest, and freckled nose, and my breath was taken as it was when I held his small, slippery body for the first time. 

Six years ago I had no idea he'd come into my life, and today I can't imagine my life without him.






Thursday, May 13, 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.

Inheritance


Living on a farm, it is impossible to ignore the legacy of the people who came before: the patina of time and the elements on the outbuildings,



and the many beautiful, handmade implements we find in odd places. 


I feel a connection most strongly when performing the tasks traditionally left to the farm women: tending to my hens and collecting their eggs, making jelly from our 100 year old apple trees, and checking on the progress of the garden.



When I came home from work the other day, I found a jar of lilacs on the kitchen table, picked by my mother. I imagine a woman years and years ago, planting a cutting she'd got from a neighbour, just to make her front step look pretty. That cutting is now a veritable tree, beside the stone foundation where the original homestead stood.

It does not escape me that our stay here is temporary, and that by planting lupines by the farm gate, I send a message through the years to future homesteaders who might wonder about the woman who took the time to plant something just because it looks pretty.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fanciful

Every child believes in, and hopes to someday see, a fairy amongst the flowers in her mother's garden. I think we carry those secret wishes with us into adulthood, which is why these photos bring me such utter delight!

This little lady was spotted hanging out amongst the tulips.

I snuck up to get a closer look at that pretty little embroidered dress!

And realised she was my sister in style when I noticed those red boots.

I mentioned earlier this week a fantastic book I picked up in Ottawa. Here it is:
The photos are completely whimsical, the materials totally accessible, and the instructions clear and concise. Up next: a wee Viking for Jude's upcoming birthday. This little redhead will be Violet's birthday gift in a couple of weeks.