Monday, February 27, 2012

late february morning

I make this trip every day, out the door, across the porch, and down the snowy path to the chicken coop.
Jupiter comes when he hears the door open, hoping for some more food or a scratch and a pet.
 In the cold air, I find these gifts from our hens, still warm, clean and beautiful.
 I give them gifts of scraps in exchange for their eggs, and they pick every last cantaloupe seed from the bowl.
King Henry inspects the bowl first, then urges the ladies up for a taste.

I can't imagine anything in an art gallery pleasing my eyes more than the stripes on that bowl, the bars on those hens, and that sunlight playing on the textures of old wood.

Yes, honey...I'll do the chores today, and gladly.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Play Oasis

In the midst of the toy messes created by three smallish children, I have created a play oasis. The labelled toy baskets I lovingly sort day after day inevitably end up crammed with random objects that have nothing to do with the labels: old kleenex, discarded socks, bread I feel compelled to protect one area of my house from chaos.

On our living room coffee table (which is an old farm table with the legs sawed off), I have four containers. One is  wire egg basket that holds our wood tree-blocks. The other three are fulled wool bowls made for me by a dear friend, containing: smooth river stones (purchased in a net bag at the local Dollar Store), rainbow blocks, and wooden farm animals. 
. It is very clear what goes where, and the only rule is that what is on the table stays on the table. 
Somehow, this order appeals to my very disorderly children. I like to think it gives them a sense of predictability and security, to know what goes where.
The natural textures of these play things draw the eyes and hands of children and adults alike. They invite us to touch, smell, build, stack, rub, tumble, imagine, play.

There's something kind of zen about it all. The moments when my children play here are always peaceful. And I'm grateful for those moments of peace. 

One could even suggest that it gives us a sense of balance.

Friday, February 24, 2012

::this moment::goat kiss

{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.
*photo by my son, Jude.

Please stop by Little Homestead in the Desert to read an interview she did with me for her "In Her Shoes" series. 

You can alos pop by to view more moments and to share a link to your own!

Hope your weekend brings lots of kisses.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the way we eat, part 2

I'm honoured to be a featured guest on Little Homestead in the Desert's In Her Shoes series...please pop by KC's blog and leave a comment...even better, become a follower of her lovely blog!

At dinnertime, we go through phases where things are peaceful, we light candles, say grace, talk about the good things in our day, and everyone eats what's on their plates.

We're not in that phase right now. We're in the getting-out-of-your-seat-ten-times, arguing-over-who-sits-beside-mommy, spilling-at-least-one-drink, refusing-to-eat, treat-bribing phase.
It's stressful. And like every mother, in the midst of my exasperation I'm trying to be flexible, open-minded, and resourceful while also trying to make sure my children get the nutrition they need to grow.

Let's face it. Women are busy working outside the home, blogging, trying to keep up with decorating magazines and some weird concept they we about what our lives "should" be like. We nurture our hobbies, have interests and passions, and need more hours in the day.
So, why do we kill ourselves every day creating a meal that a lot of our kids refuse to eat? It creates a shift in the day's energy when daddy gets home and turns into a 1950s disciplinarian; we hear things coming out of our mouths that make us shake our heads (e.g. "You are not leaving this table till you eat what's on your plate"...can anyone say, "Future eating disorder"?) Someone always ends up crying, I get a knot in my stomach and wolf down my food just to get it over with. It's not fun or relaxing or enjoyable for anyone, to be honest.

There are many layers to my discomfort with this normal family ritual. My children have gradually gotten into the habit of expecting a treat after dinner. Christmas kind of oozes into the many celebrations of late Winter/Spring (Valentine's Day, Easter, and all five of our birthdays). It seems we're always celebrating something, and with celebrating comes treats. 
While promising a treat if your child eats their dinner up works in the short term, it intuitively feels wrong. But what mother hasn't fought her intuition in order to get her child to eat, sleep in her own bed, etc? Sometimes bribes and threats are all a girl has going for her.

I've decided I'm done with it. I'm going to experiment next week. Six small meals: 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m, with room for one more where needed. What's the difference? Do we hold on  to this notion of eating a big evening meal because our foremothers did it? 

This pattern of eating small meals throughout the day resonates with my own levels of hunger. It seems to me that by feeding my kids this way, I might help to regulate their blood sugar so that they will eventually stop craving the treats that have become a habit for them, and skip the daily "witching hour" which coincidentally corresponds with the time of day when I'm trying to make dinner. 
Because what is it that we really want? I know what I want: healthy children with healthy eating habits. By 4 o'clock, everyone is cranky and hungry and clamouring for a snack. I'm stressed and trying to get dinner ready at the worst time of day in terms of my children's moods, putting them off, promising that dinner will be ready "soon". I'm teaching them to ignore their hunger to eat at a prescribed (and admittedly arbitrary) time. 
Here are the ideas I've come up with for mini-meals:

*smoothies made with berries, bananas, nut butter, kefir or milk
*granola/cereal with milk
*mini-pitas with tuna salad
*ham slices rolled around pickles!
*scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
*hummus and veggies
*fruit and almonds
*crackers with cheese
*toast with nut butter
*cold chicken with steamed veggies
*dried fruit
*homemade muffins/energy balls/healthy cookies

With a bit of planning and preparation, it seems like it might actually be easier to have lots of little things on hand rather than feeling this pressure to cook a "meal".

How do you feel about this? This might be one of those unexpectedly inflammatory posts. A dear friend who is a mother of five does not feed her children snacks. They eat three meals a day, and because they don't have snacks, they eat what they're fed. I can see how that kind of system would be necessary when feeding seven people seven days a week. I know people who feel the ritual of sitting together as a family is vitally important (and I would agree). Please be assured that we will enjoy these mini-meals together, around the kitchen table as always. 

But can't we sit around a tapas plate taking the foods we prefer, listening to our own bodies when they tell us we've had enough, learning to not eat whatever is on our plate just because it's there? It seems to me that teaching our children to savour and enjoy their food will teach them much more about healthy eating than making them eat "one more bite" will. I trust my children's abilities to decide when they are satisfied; if they are offered only (or mostly) healthy fare, it seems that there would be nothing more to worry about.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, eating habits, and ideas for mini-meals. It can't hurt to try it out, can it? I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Yarn Along, Interrupted

Joining in with Ginny over at Small Things for this week's Yarn Along.
Last week I accidentally linked to the previous week's Yarn Along (oops) which meant that many of you may have missed an introduction to my rainbow sock! I finished the first one and have started the second. My feline friends decided that the cable of my beautiful Addi needle was yummy, so it now has tooth marks along its length. Which snags the stitches as I pull it through (I use the Magic Loop method for socks). One of my cats hopped up on the couch last night, picked up the ball of yarn with the needles stuck into it, and walked away all nonchalantly, like he'd just bagged the biggest mouse of the year.

If knitting and reading go together, I'd like to add cats into the mix. How many of you knitters out there have a cat, in spite of their yarn-tangling, needle-mangling tendencies?

It seems only fitting that as I set up my little photo session, stacking books (always one non-fiction and one fiction), some friends arrived to join in the shoot. 


 Nickolas spies his favourite chew-toy: my Addi Turbo needle.
Or perhaps it's money advice he's seeking?

I received "It's Your Money" by Gail Vaz-Oxlade as a birthday gift. It's hard to face facts when it comes to money woes, but I'm opening my heart to learning about how to truly become a woman of independent means.

 Rosie comes along to pose. She's more into the historical-fiction-dramatic-romance of Diana Gabaldon's latest book, "The Scottish Prisoner". 

For those of you who have read the Outlander series, this book takes place after the Battle of Culloden, when Jamie is a prisoner-of-war working at Helwater as an indentured servant. Intrigue, poetry, horses, lost love, has all the ingredients of a great tale.

For those of you who haven't read the Outlander series, get thee to a bookstore!
 The grey yarn is a skein my globetrotting father brought home from New Zealand. With the inspiration of my friend at Wabi Sabi Wanderings, I'm making a Plain Vest for Violet. She's likely to find it itchy, as she finds all things knitted, but I keep trying.
Pop by Ginny's Yarn Along to add a link to your post, or to check out what others are reading/knitting!

the way they eat

An interesting topic came up in our house this past weekend. Jude mentioned that his friends at school "look at him weird" when he eats his lunch. He doesn't always express himself clearly, so gentle probing and questions directed at getting him to clarify are par for the course in a conversation with Jude. He has mentioned in the past that he feels shy about his lunch, so after the subsequent conversation on Saturday, I brought it up again as we drove out to the goat farm.

We make an effort to create school lunches that are as "normal" as possible when feeding a child with food sensitivities. We don't go in for lots of treats, but I do try to include homemade cookies or muffins when I can. His little containers are full of berries, cut-up fruit and veggies, hummus, rice crackers, gluten-free salami, etc. The main course is usually leftovers from dinner: meat and potatoes, soup, pizza. 

While we drove, we had a conversation:

"What is it that the other kids have that's different from your lunch?"
"Fruit loops and stuff like that. In shiny plastic".
(long pause while I thought out my next words)
"Do you know why we don't buy stuff like that?"
"Because we don't have enough money?"

Wow. Little ears pick up every conversation their parents have, don't they?

I explained to him that packaged foods actually cost less than good whole foods, but that we buy those healthy things because we want his body to be healthy. I tried to explain in terms he'd understand. I talked about the cells in our bodies, and how certain things can change our cells so they can't do their jobs anymore. We talked about smoking, chemicals, dye and additives in food. I reassured him that his lunch was full of FOOD: things that had grown on trees or walked on the earth, and that his body would be healthier because of it.

I reassured him that the way we eat is a CHOICE we've made as parents.

It pains me to think of him growing up feeling self-conscious or "different". I worry that it will all backfire when he's an adult and can finally make his own choices about what to eat, and decides he wants the packaged stuff. I worry that he doesn't understand my motivation or the effort it takes to make a lunch from scratch every evening instead of just throwing in a bunch of pre-packaged crap.

We arrived at the goat farm, and we each learned to milk.

As we were leaving, I said, "Jude, your lunch may be different from your friends' lunches. But I'll bet none of them have milked a goat before!"

His face shone with pride, and I knew that, for now, it's all good.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

::this moment::cat in the hat

{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.
Stop by Amanda's blog to visit more moments!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

gap-toothed grin

Just when I thought he couldn't get any cuter, Jude started losing his teeth. 
There are three gone so far, with more wiggly ones waiting to come out. I could say it's bittersweet when I think back on that long-ago January around a friend's kitchen table, when he was gumming away on my thumb and I felt that first sharp tooth in his baby-gums. 

But it's mostly sweet. The hesitating and probing and wiggling. My sneaky attempts at getting him to bite an apple. My memories of lying in bed through those tooth-losing years, wiggling and wiggling while I read my way through Nancy Drew until my mouth was full of adult teeth. 

The surprise on his face when the more-than-ready teeth pull out with little pain.

The tooth fairy who, like a ninja, creeps into the room of three sleeping children, across creaking floorboards, to exchange the tooth for a toonie.

She also leaves teeny-tiny notes, which are what he really loves, and takes to school to show his friends. It's not really about the money. In fact, after the latest tooth came out, it was placed on the kitchen table then shaken off with the crumbs. He hasn't even mentioned the money. But I think tonight, the tooth fairy will pay another visit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Yarn Along: early morning edition

It's 6:30 a.m. and I have kids to rouse and ready for school, and myself to prepare for a day of work teaching little ones. But here I am, just the same, because who can resist the call to share what one is knitting and reading? Hop on over to Ginny's Small Things to share your own, and to visit other Yarn Alongs.
Knitting socks is yet another obsession. There's something luxurious about creating a sock that fits YOU's like secretly wearing saucy lingerie under your jeans. I almost feel guilty spending so much time and effort on something for myself to wear. On my feet

I said almost

I received Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Peace and Plenty" as a birthday gift. Like Simple Abundance, it's a gently encouraging kind of book, chronicling her spiral into financial disaster and how she's steadily climbing out. It's full of thrifty tips and little wisdoms for these economically challenging times.

It is a work day for me, and it's got to begin now; however, I do hope to find a moment in the day to visit YOUR Yarn Alongs. Thanks for visiting mine!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

going natural

(Counterclockwise, from top left: Deodorant, Coconut Oil Body Butter, Peppermint Toothpaste, and Shea Butter Body Cream, before it set)
I took Violet to the optometrist last week because she'd been blinking a lot, squeezing her eyes shut every time. I was worried about her eyesight. Turns out, her eyes are just dry. Not unusual at this time of year, as we heat our home with wood. My skin and hair are always dry  and I'm always trying products that fail to give me that deeply moisturized feeling I crave. My elbows, feet, hands, and face are the worst. Itchy, dry skin...a sure sign of a long winter.

I had already made homemade toothpaste, thanks to Crooked Moon Mama's great posts on the subject. 

With a bit of web searching, I came across this oh-so-simple recipe for coconut oil body butter. Two ingredients only! We already use coconut oil for massage, so it wasn't much of a leap to whip it up with some lemon oil for a nice sunny scent.

Now, this homemade deodorant, I absolutely love. Please note: removing chemicals from deodorant means it's NOT an anti-perspirant (I think sweating is kinda important anyway, don't you?). Your pits won't be dry. But they'll be softly-scented. I try to give my pits a wash daily whether I take a bath or not, and especially in the winter when I'm not sweating profusely, this stuff is soft, gentle, and does the trick just fine. I always feel kind of unsettled about shaving my pits then rubbing chemicals all over I'm opening a door to all kinds of problems (read: breast cancer?). I just feel better using this homemade stuff, and scenting it just the way I like. It goes on beautifully, and I find myself acting like this... (watch it till the end...)

Finally, I tried this Shea Butter Body Cream. It smells divine but didn't solidify, even when the house is cold first thing in the morning when the fire's died down. Still, it quenches my skin's thirst and makes me delectably soft!

Buy a few ingredients from your local natural food store: shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil, cocoa butter, baking soda, and a few beautiful essential oils, and you can save yourself a pile of money, AND give yourself the peace of mind that comes with knowing exactly what you're putting on your (and your children's) skin.

I have to say, it was an amazing feeling to be measuring and mixing and pouring these gorgeous ingredients into clean jars, hands slippery and soft from the oils. I hope to add more to my repertoire soon: lip balm, massage bars, and so on. I'll keep you posted. 

Do you make any of your body care items by hand? Which recipes/books are your favourites?

Sunday, February 12, 2012


At fifteen, I loved a boy named John. I listened to Cat Stevens. I wore this Guatemalan woven hoodie with weird knitted, leather-soled slippers (I think we called them Afghani Freedom Fighters). Oh my goodness. 

At eighteen, I loved Andrew. I listened to the Chieftains and the Grateful Dead. I think I had a pair of red jeans...can that be right?? I think I had red suede boots to match. I was getting ready to graduate high school. 

At twenty-one, I loved a boy named Scott. I listened to Neil Young and Toots and the Maytals. I wore a brown Indian cotton sundress with Birkenstocks. I was preparing to go to Northern Ireland. 

At twenty-seven, I met a boy named Robin. We fast-danced to Sublime and Dave Matthews and slow-danced to Nina Simone. I can't remember what I wore because when I think of that time, I just remember music, dancing, and being so in love. Then the plans began in earnest: a house purchase, a wedding, a baby, then another, then another. 

Now I'm thirty-eight. 

I woke up on my birthday to the padding of little feet, the smiles and joy of my children wishing me a happy birthday. They proudly gave me their hand-painted cards, each revealing the beautiful developmental stages they are in. I unwrapped three pairs of earrings and three beaded necklaces, all made by little hands. What bountiful gifts!

My husband brought in the CD player, and a hand-painted card containing a mixed CD. I lay back with a mug of Earl Grey tea, and just listened with joy to the music he chose just for me, and wondered at where my life has brought me so far. 
At thirty-eight, I love a man named Robin. I also love our three children. I listen to Joel Plaskett, Amelia Curran, Lynn Miles, Feist, Blitzen Trapper, Bon Iver, and all those musicians I loved at fifteen, eighteen, twenty-one, and so on. I love my handknit socks and my yoga pants. As for plans, I can say that at thirty-eight, I feel the possibilities opening up before me as much as I did at fifteen.

For now, I'll just take more of the same, please.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Harvest Moon By Hand's Diary of 5

Just visited Harvest Moon By Hand and thought this was a nice way to begin the day.

I am seeing...a clean kitchen, winter morning sun shining through the windows, and three teenaged cats wrestling and pouncing on balloons.

I am smelling...the scent of burning wood in the kitchen woodstove.

I am hearing...the furnace fan, kitty chirps, the fire rumbling the stove.

I tasted...a strawberry cupcake with buttercream icing and Earl Grey tea.

I am feeling...slightly tired, and ready for a day of quiet knitting and playing with my children.

Your turn...what are your senses sharing with you this morning?

Friday, February 10, 2012

{this moment}: the pianist

{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.
If you feel inspired to share your own moment, or to see more from others, visit Soulemama's blog.

Have an inspired weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Show 'Em the Love

I whipped these up in about half an hour, using fabric and paper scraps. Thanks to this blogging mama for the idea!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Love Tree

I was born two days before Valentine's Day. My memories of this day are entwined with the taste of cinnamon hearts on a white birthday cake, my sisters waving red and pink balloons at me as I got off the school bus, and all those construction paper heart crafts we used to make at school. I also loved those little punch-out "seals" our teachers used to stick on our papers with lace and violets and hearts. And paper doilies? Love 'em.

I love Valentine's Day. It bugs me when people rant about commercialism and consumerism because in my mind, no one is forcing anyone to go out and buy a dozen roses or a box of chocolates or Hallmark cards. In my mind, there is nothing bad about a day where we focus our hearts on love. We should and do express our love every day, but in this house, we'll take any and every excuse for a party: decorations, homemade cards, love letters, and heart-shaped cupcakes with pink icing. I say YES to all of the above.

Still, I don't have time to create heart-shaped quilted pot-holders or knit a pile of heart pillows. Holiday decor in this house must be a)quick, b)simple, and c) thrifty.

I had my kids help me generate a list of people and animals we love. It went something like this: 

Me: Margot, who is someone you love?
Margot: Nanny.
Me: Violet, who do you love? 
Violet: Sarah and Jamie.
Me: Margot, who else do you love?
Margot: Nanny.

(Margot and my mom have a real thing going's DEEP love).

After lots of prompting and thinking, we came up with this list:
I used my tag-punch, but you could just cut rectangles of paper. I used a silver pen to write every person/animal on our list on the tags. Then, I hole-punched them, threaded a ribbon through them, and let the girls hang them on a branch we found outside.
Voila! Simple, and thrifty, and so eloquent.

I hope your Love Tree is positively bedecked with tags bearing the names of loved ones!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chicken Coop Surprise

 We've been fortunate in our chicken farming experiences, in that our hens continue laying faithfully throughout the dark days of winter. I hear of farms where there are few eggs to be had when the daylight hours are scarce. We collect every day at about ten o'clock, wash any really dirty eggs (which are few and far between), and plan the week's egg meals. 

Sometimes this daily rhythm is shaken up by a surprise, like this tiny egg we found the other day. The girls were delighted, and Jude was convinced that there was a wee little chicken inside it. Then they decided we should fry it up. Jude ate it with ketchup and claimed it tasted just right. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Portraits on a Snowy Day

Our farm is small by Ottawa Valley standards, where 100 acres seems to be a minimum requirement for using the title, farm. We have just under four acres; for us, it is just enough. We have fenced pastures, a few good barns, a pond, and a rough cedar bush that is just the right size for our small children's explorations and adventures. The smallest one doesn't last long out there (seeing as how the snow is up to her chest), so I trade places with Daddy when he brings her in for her nap.
 I find a few snowy wood-folk out amongst the old cedars; these children are made of sturdier stuff, and would play all day in the snow if hot chocolate didn't call their names from time to time.
 This one smiles shyly for the camera, and my heart is captured once again, as deeply as it was on the day I met her for the very first time.
 And of course, the barn cat follows us on all outdoor adventures, hoping for a rub around the ears. He always gets lots of loving when we're outside with him.
I am flooded by memories of my own childhood:  endless wanders out to "the bush" behind our house, following trails we created with our travels to landmarks we'd named: Dead Man's Tree, Rabbit Hill, Mayflower Field, The Great Pine. I remember our dad taking us on winter hikes to the old mining property in Quebec where he spent his childhood; he'd make a fire, and we'd cook hotdogs and warm up hot chocolate. I remember steering myself, on skates, around poplar trees and grassy mounds on the edges of a frozen lake.

I've always been more of a stay-inside-and-knit kinda gal, while others go on outdoor adventures. This winter, though, something has shifted in me. I'm craving the joy of skating on an outdoor rink at night. I want to make a fire in the snow and cook lunch for my children. I want the roses to be on my cheeks and the snow in my hair, too.