Saturday, 31 March 2007

The colours of Spring

I may not be as enthusiastic a gardener as Heather, but the sun and warmth have drawn me outside the last couple of days to rake and pull out lots of dead stuff left from last autumn. Above are the buds on one of my apricot trees (and the sky really is that blue, not retouched)!

Below, a solitary violet (I remember mowing over that spot last year and am very glad they are growing again). On the right, my forsythia.

And lastly a tiny daffodil - there is a group of them near my back door - I think the bulbs were somewhat displaced last year when the contractor dug a trench to connect our house up to the sewer.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Most of the time I don't think too much about how different my boys' lives are from those of most children in North America, but every once in a while it occurs to me how very lucky they are. Yesterday was warm and sunny...a beautiful kind of day that really let us know that Spring was here. Were my kids sitting in desks, only able to get a glimpse of this gorgeous day through the classroom window? No, they were not. This is how they decided to spend the day.

They gathered sketch books, felts, magazines, books, Lego, a camera, carving knives, a tape player and a tape of The Tale of Despereaux and off they went to listen, build, carve, read, draw and photograph. They cracked walnuts for me and snacked on some. E picked a bouquet of violets for me. They had a wonderful afternoon.
On days like this I feel so glad for them that they have this opportunity to be at just home.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Textile Junkie Scores at Thrift Store

I was at the thrift store yesterday. I had to go because it was sale day. Now on sale day it's not like everything in the whole store is marked down to $1.49 - that's just the price for adult clothes but I wander through every aisle in my search. Good thing I did this yesterday! In the above photo on the right you see a portion of the completed scrappy quilt top I've sewn and on the left is the fabric I found yesterday while thrifting which is to become the quilt's backing. This bit of goodness to finish my project just happens to be the top sheet for a bedding set. It's in great shape, is 100% cotton and best of has the colourway I've been wanting to go with the scrappy quilt top and all for waaaaaaay less than the yardage would've been at a retail store. Love it!
This is a shot of the men's shirts I've added to my ever growing collection that will be cut up for another quilt top. All except the top two shirts are 100% cotton. The two shirts on the top of the stack contain linen - so I'm thinking of making some bags from them, as I don't care to use them for a quilt. Added bonus is all the buttons I will have from these shirts - the nicest ones are on the red linen shirt. I didn't even pay $1.49 for each of these shirts as some were in the clearance centre for .49 ! You can't even buy the buttons needed to make these shirts for that price retail, let alone the yardage I will have from the shirts.
Here is another fun find from yesterday. Wool sweaters that I want to felt! I have been wanting to find some for quite awhile now, but yesterday the search finally paid off and led me to these... my ideas range from making these into sweater totes or slippers and even the possibility of kitchen hot pads/oven mitts or perhaps a coaster set.

Oh, if you're keeping track, (well, actually it's because Samantha did see me with my thrifted loot yesterday and knows these photos don't add up to the burgeoning collection I had on the front seat of my car...) I will admit to having other finds from yesterday. Some shirts for my sons to wear, a lovely skort and shirt for myself (just so you know I don't cut up everything that I buy at the thrift store) and a huge bag of polyester batting that I will be using for the stuffed dinosaur and stuffed monkeys I'm making as gifts... (still can't believe how cheap that batting was!)
All in all, I couldn't be happier with sale day at the thrift store. Lots of creative sewing on my docket thanks to the above finds making this textile junkie quite pleased.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The Unlucky Thrifter Goes Thrifting...

and gets lucky! It was the Sally Ann's clearance day sale today so all adult clothes were $1.49. I couldn't think of a better time to pick up some flannel shirts for camping and gardening. I brought an offering to the store (a big bag from my weekend de-cluttering) in hopes that it would change my thrifting luck. I found 4 large men flannel shirts (one with the original tag still on!) that will be perfect for summer - yes, I know I'm weird. I wear big flannel shirts in the summer but they protect my pale skin from burning while I'm outside. I also found some summer jammies and two flow-y summer dresses. All 7 items cost me a little over $10.00!
Unfortunately, my son is at an age were it seems to be impossible to find used pants for him. I'm sure all eight year olds have the talent of wearing the knees out of their pants in a record amount of time and I just can't bring myself to pay full price.

Feeling a bit peckish?

Since healthy snacks play a pretty important part in our household, I thought I would include a post of a snack that we really enjoy. I call these Energy Orbs (I used to call them energy balls but since watching Long Way Round, I can't refer to anything we eat as balls anymore -don't ask!). They are made by processing a variety of dried fruits, seeds and nuts together with some cinnamon and a bit of orange juice. I have used all different combinations but I prefer to keep the flavor predominantly of dates and almonds with that hint of cinnamon and orange. For these ones I used about equal amounts of dates and almonds ground together, added some ground raisins, a bit of oat bran, cinnamon and orange juice. I then rolled them in ground flax seeds. ( I usually like to use carob powder but didn't have any handy, ground coconut is also nice) We keep them in the freezer and they make a handy snack for park days and hikes. Why, they're so good even the dog likes 'em. ;-)

I also completed one sock made with Regia Classic color from Funknits shop on Quadra Island. Yes, yes I know, still have to knit another one before it can be considered a FO, but any knitting progress feels good right now so I am pleased. Anyway, here's a picture of it.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Garlic overload

I wasn't going to bother posting tonight - tomato soup, salad and garlic bread didn't seem interesting enough. However, this is a very successful meal in our house because everyone eats it (amazing)! And it WAS good.

The soup is my own recipe so I will give you the details....

1 onion, chopped
1 large can whole or diced tomatoes
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 vegetable stock cubes
4 cups water
1 teaspoon oregano
half teaspoon basil
quarter teaspoon each of tarragon, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Throw everything except the garlic into a pot, bring to the boil and simmer for, say, 30 minutes (I use my pressure cooker and do it for 10). Remove from the heat, add the garlic, put in the stick blender, and blend until smooth.

The trick of adding the garlic at the end was one I learned from Heather, and it makes a very tasty soup. I also added some olive and flax oil this time, along with the garlic.

The garlic bread was easy - I had made a batch of four loaves in the morning, so I mixed up some Earth Balance Buttery Spread (the BEST butter alternative I have ever tasted) with four cloves of crushed garlic and some dried parsley, sliced and toasted the bread, and spread the garlic "butter" on top. It was really good!

The bread recipe is also my own - it's very simple and it takes only about 2 hours to make a big batch. You need
16 cups wholewheat flour
4 tablespoons dried yeast (bread machine-type instant yeast)
8 tablespoons sweetener (sugar, Sucanat, maple syrup)
4 teaspoons seasalt
8 tablespoons oil
warm water (I think I used about 5 cups)

Put everything except the water into a very large mixing bowl. I have a stainless steel one which is perfect because it can safely go into a warm oven. Add enough water to make a dough that is not too dry and not too sticky. You want all the flour to be incorporated. Knead briefly, cover the bowl with a damp teatowel and put it in a warm place for an hour. I turn the knob on my oven to "Bake" but I don't turn up the temperature dial - the oven warms up a little, then I turn it off when I put in the bowl.

After an hour, the dough has risen nearly to the top of the bowl (so allow for that when deciding what size bowl to use). Tip it out onto a countertop, knead briefly, divide into four and shape it so it will fit into the baking pans that you are using. I have four rectangular loaf pans that I line with baking parchment. Place the dough into the pans. Meanwhile, I have warmed the oven up a little again, so that when I put the pans back in, the dough will rise quickly a second time. (I make sure that the oven rack is positioned in the centre of the oven so there's plenty of headroom.)

Leave the dough to rise for 20 minutes, then, with the loaves already in the oven, turn your oven on to 350 degrees F. Set your timer for 40 minutes. At the end of that time, you should have perfectly baked bread - turn it out of the pan and tap it on the bottom - if it sounds hollow, then it's done.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Simple Dinner and Dessert

This enticed me outside for the whole afternoon, enjoying the sunshine while tidying up the yard and keeping an eye out for more signs of spring - such as these little beauties. Knowing that once outside, I would not want to have to either take time away from enjoying the fresh air and sunshine nor would I want to wait for supper... I simply put veggie chili in the crockpot for supper. I cooked a pot of wild/brown rice blend at lunchtime and put it in the fridge until time for supper to be served with the chili. Cooking and cooling the rice ahead of time makes sense because: 1. it saves time; 2. it cools the piping hot chili down enough that the family doesn't end up losing the skin off their tongues as they gobble down their dinner! I'm happy to say that dinner tonite was simple and filling. I served homemade 9- grain bread (which I brushed with olive oil and minced garlic before placing in the oven under the broil element to lightly toast it) alongside the rice & chili. Very simple and best of all ready to eat when we came in starving from outside.

I also decided to treat the boys with a favourite dessert tonite. (This just supports my son J's statement that I always serve the "good stuff" when we have friends over. So, I guess this pudding was made in your honour, L!) Sorry about the sideways photo - I was in a hurry to get the shot before the boys got a hold of the pudding and inhaled it. Chocolate stove top pudding made with soymilk and maple syrup is always a hit at this house and it is very easy to make. I love simple meals.

Mmmmm, Lentil Soup!

This is another weekly favourite in our house. I always make a big pot so I have leftovers for the next day (or for the rest of the week when my husband is out of town). Here is my simple recipe:
Heat up some chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil.
6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 dried lentils (rinsed)
1 tbsp Braggs (or tamari soy sauce)
some potatoes (Yukon Gold is best)
some pepper
That's it! Cook for about an hour to an hour and a half - until your potatoes and lentils are cooked. You can add in other veggies too - my original recipe called for carrots and parsnips. We prefer our veggies raw though, so we have a veggie plate with our dinner. Sometimes I add in some leftover brown rice which makes it a lot more stew-like.

What a blog hog!

Three posts in one day! My friends are going to be accusing me of being a blog hog! Anyway, we had an early dinner today, so here's a photo...

Three, potato and lentil. The potato salad was really easy - just cooked and cooled potatoes mixed with bought vegan "mayonnaise" (Vegenaise). I used organic russets, but Yukon Gold would be better for holding together. And I would have added chunks of raw garlic if I hadn't been going to a Taekwondo class straight afterwards! And I like fresh parsley too, but the kids don't, so I left it out.

The warm lentil salad is a recipe passed on by my mum-in-law, who I believe found it on the label of a can of lentils! Here's the recipe...

Saute one onion, chopped up small, in olive oil until soft. Add brown lentils (one large can, drained, or cook your own), 2 tablespoons chopped green olives, 2 tablespoons capers, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley and three tablespoons of good vinegar. Bring to boil, stirring, take it off the heat and serve warm. If you're using home-cooked lentils, add some seasalt.


A Finished Object! My Lion Suede backpack is done, only because I decided to crochet the cord with a double strand of yarn and a 10mm crochet hook! I know that if I had had to knit 55 inches of i-cord, it would still be waiting...and waiting...and waiting to be done. I used a wooden napkin ring for the two strands of cord to go through at the centre back (finding a bead with a big enough hole would have been difficult) and a wooden button for the closure, both from Michaels.

A colourful dinner...

Last night, we enjoyed home-made subs. I bought the Winnipeg Rye sub buns from my local bakery. The dough is vegan but they usually put an egg wash on the top before baking, so I ordered three dozen without the egg wash. That will last a couple of meals, so I put the unused buns into the freezer.

This a really easy dinner - there's no cooking involved and everyone gets what they want - no whining!

In the bowls are shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumber, black olives, grated carrot and daikon, sundried tomatoes, dill pickles and jalapeno pepper. We also add mustard and salad dressing.

Hubby and teen can eat four of these! Younger sons three, me, two. Well, I could eat three, but I'd regret it later - bread is not a friend of mine, though that doesn't stop me from caving in to the temptation.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Ten Pet Peeves!

Just because I feel like it, I thought I'd post the following list - I am sure that I could think of many more, but when I reached ten I decided I'd stop there and start on a "what makes me happy" list - just for balance!

1. The word "gotten".....I HATE this word, it's an American aberration, and as far as I am concerned it should not exist.

2. Morning radio presenters telling me that it's sunny and I have to wear my sunglasses and sunblock. (a) I will not be told what to wear and (b) sunlight is GOOD for you.

3. Apostrophes in the wrong place - gah!

4. Telemarketers ('nuff said).

5. The neighbours' dogs barking at me when I venture out into my own back yard. It's MY yard, dammit, and I'll go empty my compost bucket ANY time I want, so SHUT UP!

6. Children making themselves a snack and leaving everything out, lids off, crumbs everywhere, etc etc blah blah.

7. Being kept waiting when I have an appointment - MY time is just as valuable as anybody else's.

8. People knocking on the front door when there's a perfectly good doorbell.

9. My mum telling me "don't overdo it" when I tell her I am weight-training. What, does she think I'm going to go straight into a killing routine without working up to it? I'm an adult, for crying out loud, and I know my body's limits.

10. People parking in the road when there's room for ten cars in the driveway!

OK, Katherine, Samantha and Heather, it's your turn. I want to hear what your pet peeves are. I shall go away now and make my "happy" list.

What's for dinner?

This was our dinner last night. It didn't last long, so either it was incredibly good or the boys were very hungry from running around outside all day.

The filling is made of ricotta cheese, a can of chickpeas, garlic, onion, one egg, a bit of parmesan if you like and whatever spices you like. I run it through the food processor until it is smooth. I use a plastic bag, with a corner snipped off, to put the filling into the cannelloni shells- icing bag style. (S is usually the ones who makes cannelloni, and the first time he did it (years ago)he was filling them by trying to stuff the filling in with a spoon handle, boy he was not impressed when I came along and showed him what to do and took about 3 minutes to fill all the rest when it had taken him ages to fill a few) I use the kind of cannelloni that is oven-ready so you don't need to boil them. Just completely cover them with pasta sauce and then bake. The only thing to remember is to add quite a bit of water to the pasta sauce so that the cannelloni shells will turn out tender. It is actually a fairly quick dinner. I use the whole box of shells, it makes a 9 by 13 pan and also another smaller pan. We had 5 cannelloni left. ;-(

We also have salad, or veggies and dip, most every night. I like us to have as much raw food as possible. The buns have a bit of earth balance with garlic on them and then are toasted in the oven - we are all big eaters and sometimes just need this to fill us up. The salad dressing is made in the blender. It is oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard, dill, garlic, a bit of sweetener, salt, pepper and paprika.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Food, Glorious Food

I love food (as those who know me already know) so the request for us to post about the delicious vegetarian meals we eat was not only a great idea, but also an excuse to try some new meals! The above, however, is one of our staple meals that we eat every week. Soft tacos!
The first picture is of the pressed taco (you can buy them at stores but they are so easy to make - corn masa and warm water. The press is about $25 but it will last a lifetime). The second picture is the pressed taco frying up (R made me include this shot. He is the taco chef and very proud of his work). The last picture is my dinner! (I tucked the lettuce back in when I picked it up)
We load up our tacos with smooshed black beans, brown rice, salsa, avocado, and lettuce. They are soooo good!!

What's for dinner?

We have had a request from a blog fan (!) to post some of our vegan/ vegetarian meals in order to inspire those wishing to cut back on the meat/dairy in their diet.

This was tonight's fare - brown rice, lettuce salad with home made dressing and hemp seeds sprinkled on top, scrambled tofu (from a recipe in Garden of Vegan which includes onions, mushrooms and salsa) and a green stir fry (snap peas, bok choy, broccoli, onion and soysauce).

We make our own dressing in a lidded jug which makes it quicker to throw together a salad. We have salad EVERY day with dinner...sometimes it's just lettuce, sometimes it has tomatoes, cucumber, peppers etc. Use your favourite oil - maybe a combination of olive and flax - and your favourite vinegar - apple cider or red wine perhaps. The basic proportions are 3 parts oil to one part vinegar. Then add as much crushed garlic, herbs, mustard, nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pepper as you like. It keeps for ages in the fridge and is way better than the shop-bought stuff with all those artificial additives.

I should add that with five of us in our family, it is almost impossible to produce a meal that everyone will eat without complaint! All of us ate the salad, three ate the tofu, two ate the rice and two the stir fry (did you guess it was the adults who ate the rice and veggies?). Middle son went and helped himself to bananas and soy yogurt to fill himself up!

That really TICKS me off....

Nope, this isn't a rant. Last night, we had a new Canadian experience - finding a TICK in S's hair! When we went out on Wednesday, S must have picked up a tick on his clothes. He had a bath that night, so I'm assuming it crawled in afterwards - maybe he left his clothes on his bed, I don't know!

Late last night, we were relaxing in the family room - we'd been watching Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest (Cap'n Jack Sparrow and Will Turner are so...well, you, I digress) and the embers of the fire were dying down and S was draped across my lap (you know how you get to the stage when you're tired but getting ready for bed is too much work). He was running his fingers through my hair, which I love, and I was doing the same to him - when I suddenly felt a bump, right on the top of his head. Eeeeek, it was a tick, very much alive and very much attached.

K ran upstairs for tweezers while I did a quick search on the 'net - the Internet does have its uses - and Googled "how to remove a tick". Perfect, a site that showed exactly what to do. I used the tweezers to grab the tick right next to the scalp and pulled it out (along with a couple of S's hairs) then swabbed the site with alcohol. I put the tick into a small amount of alcohol as the site recommended keeping it in case you need to show it to a doctor. The tick took quite a long time to keel over and die - though I'm sure it died happy, falling down drunk!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Treasures From Russia

Sorry I have been missing from the posting frenzy lately! I am enjoying some time with my husband (R) before he goes back to Russia (in less then two weeks). I thought I would share some of the treasures he brought back from his first trip.
Could any Hockey fan not buy a handpainted matryoshka of their favourite team? Not likely! I'm surprised he only came back with one set...
The handmade flower is from Maslaneetsa - an annual festival to welcome Spring. It fared pretty well on the 30 hour journey home.
The yarn is from a small shop in Zeleznogorsk. R tells quite the tale of long dark hallways travelled to find me yarn.
R also came home speaking words from a new language and is teaching us a little every day.


Have you seen this DVD (it stars Alan Rickman)? No, I thought not...because it does not appear to be available in Canada yet (but it stars Alan Rickman). Now why is it that a movie filmed in Canada (and starring Alan Rickman) is available in the UK, (where Alan Rickman lives) but not here? That hardly seems fair, does it? Why should Brits (who already have a chance to possibly see Alan Rickman in person) get to see this movie while we, here in Canada( who love Alan Rickman) do not? I don't know either, but if you do know anywhere in Canada that rents/sells this movie, please, please tell me. I'm about to try to convince my friends ( who are lukewarm in their Alan admiration) to accompany me to a film festival where they are showing this (sure to please Alan Rickman fans) movie. Since in the past, I have had to tolerate relentless some teasing about the, ahem, quality of some of the (Alan Rickman) movies I have chosen for Alan Rickman movie night, I am a little wary of dragging them off to a film festival to see what is said to be a somewhat poorly directed (but obviously stupendously acted) movie. If you have any info. about it or would just like to leave some lovely comments about Alan Rickman anything, please do so.

If you want to see a trailer, click here.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Proof that I do use up fabric I buy

In between sewing some things for others this week, I found a use for some of the thrifted fabric I posted about a little while ago. This busy, bright print was not something I would normally buy, but I have been inspired by retro fabric lately and decided to give this trend a try. The apron and hot pad are from Amy Butler's book In Stitches. The oven mitt is my own design. Besides using my thrift store fabric find I gave new purpose to a wool winter coat by making it into the oven mitt which is lined with the thrifted print. By putting my new kitchen gear to good use, I should be able to cut down the risk of burning my fingers and ingredient splattered clothes... but then I think this set would make a friend a nice gift and if I keep it I'll only end up burning bits of the hot pad and getting stains on the apron... guess I'm back to using the ratty threadbare hot pads. Just need to stock up on bandaids and stain remover ;o)

Oh, and I also managed to find time this week to wander through a couple of thrift stores (can't let my project to-do pile get too small!!) and found this fabric that I'm considering making into a summery dress. I know, I know, I just find fabric so hard to resist buying. It's crazy because at the moment my dining room looks like a fabric store disaster zone (this is what happens when I tire of packing everything up every evening because it only makes each sewing project longer to complete if I have to keep putting everything away all the time.) Lucky for me, my husband and sons seem to understand my need to create with fabric and just avoid that particular room. Well, actually it's not much of a choice because with all the stuff I've managed to cram in that room - you can't really move around easily. Anyways, back to the dress idea. That won't happen too soon as I have several projects in the works before I will get to this one, but it's nice to dream of the warm days ahead and something that will look nice while keeping me cool. Ha! Who am I kidding? At the rate I'm going, if this dress gets made it likely won't be for this summer!

Mad Cowboy...and I'm mad too!

Last night we watched Mad Cowboy:The Documentary, talk about not a good thing to watch when you already have a stuffed up head and a headache. Even though I left the room or turned away from the disturbing bits I still ended blubbering and giving myself an even worse headache. I would not recommend this for kids. It is, for me, just heartbreaking to watch. It is heartbreaking to see what we are doing to our land, our animals and even our people, with what our agriculture practices have become. Whenever I see something about the way animals are slaughtered I am just left thinking - how can people do it? I don't understand. I don't wish to make anyone defensive by saying that. I don't actually mean it in a particularly judging way, I just don't get it. I'm also not talking about people who raise and kill animals in a more humane way. What I am talking about is the way the majority of meat is raised in our continent and how people can do it. Literally! How do they go to a job everyday where that is what they do, day in and day out? I cannot fathom it. Do they just become numb to the atrocities? It makes me so sad to think that some people have to live doing that.

If you've not heard of Howard Lyman he is the ex-cattle rancher who was taken to court with Oprah Winfrey over their statements about how beef is raised. He has two books at our local library, Mad Cowboy and No More Bull. I've just requested that they purchase the documentary too ( if anyone is interested maybe you could also suggest it and they might be more likely to get it). And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

What did you do all day?

Recently I received an emailed joke titled What Did You Do All Day? It described a husband coming home to a disaster in his house; he walked through the house, past all manner of messes to finally find his wife, the mother of his children, sitting in bed reading. When he asked her what could possibly be the matter, were the kids O.K, what on earth had happened in their house, she answered him thus. "You know how you always ask me what I do all day, I did not do it."

I thought that was very funny indeed, especially all the details about the messes the joke described. I could almost picture the family's day taking place. Now, my husband is way too evolved to ever ask such a question of me (or maybe he is smart enough to be very afraid to ever ask?) but if he did want to know, today I could certainly show him by way of our own messes. I have been sick and have decided to not even care about getting to my usual daily round of tidying...and believe shows depressingly quickly around here. Possibly the fact that I have 4 dogs running round my backyard, with wet feet, in and out of my newly fluffed and composted garden beds(aaargh) and then trying to come into my house via the backporch is adding to this mess?? The muddy tracks which march through my kitchen don't look like my own dog's prints but I suppose they could be. Serves me right for agreeing to such nonsense as 3 extra dogs.

*and now maybe the joke is on me, because as I look at these pictures I realize that it doen't look any messier than usual really, except for the extra dog prints. Oh my!

On a happier note - I think this is somewhat how the backsplash in my kitchen will look. S has been convinced to use the rocks( ha ha ha, ve haf our vays) and so now we just need to figure out a way to put them on. Any ideas would be welcome. ;-)

The first day of Spring

Yesterday, I enjoyed a walk along an unexplored (by me) part of my city. The temperature was perfect for hiking and biking - not too cold or warm - the sun shone rather weakly, but it was there - and I was accompanied by a couple of friends, our children, a dog, and the rushing of the creek. The two teens above (Katherine's and my sons - WHEN did they get so big) prefer to experience the outdoors on two wheels. After our hike, my son insisted on visiting the bike shop to buy himself a Camelbak. Now he's all set to go out for long rides.

This was one of my reasons for hiking in this area - Layer Cake Mountain - a perfect example of layers of rock laid down by ancient volcanic activity.

The canyon walls were sheer, the rock formations fascinating, the caves VERY interesting to young boys! Shame about the graffiti - AND the rusting rotting heap of a Chevy Nova which we assume reached its final resting place by being pushed over the cliff above, which rose a few hundred feet above our heads.

The icy patches in the foreground show that winter's fingers are still trying to hold on where the sun can't reach.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

The power of women...

I had the honour to attend a Blessingway last night. A friend is expecting twins, very soon, and had a ceremony surrounded by supportive female friends and family. The rituals included each person who came giving a bead to be threaded onto a necklace for the labouring mother to wear. We also drew around our hands onto a white T shirt to remind her of our support during her labour. Each of us painted a design onto her belly with henna. And we laid our hands on her belly while singing a song of welcome to her babies - it was awesome, in the real sense of the word, to feel the babies moving under my hand. J is so calm, centred and beautiful in her pregnancy and I know that she and her babies will have a wonderful birth experience.

Writing about last night reminded me of something I wrote recently. It was written for a friend, who in turn writes articles for a local newspaper. My friend edited it a little, but below is my original version, as it seems appropriate.


Women need women. Often, we sail through our teens and early twenties, focused on the opposite sex. Other women are seen as rivals, competitors in the race to get the guy or the promotion or whatever.

Pregnancy is a time when that attitude starts to change. Only other women have experienced what you are going through. You are drawn towards mothers or mothers-to-be, needing to ask questions and be reassured that what you’re going through is normal, whether it is the emotional or physical upheaval of creating a child.

Women used to be surrounded by their family, their village of elders and peers, they were never left alone to face their fears or muddle through. Many of us now live far away from our immediate family and have to create a new community in our town or city of choice.

Being a parent brings an instant connection with other parents. Joining a playgroup, attending La Leche League meetings, just bumping into others at a park and striking up a conversation - you have something in common. Deciding to homeschool my children brought me into contact with a whole new crowd. All of us have that common thread.

Knitting is another activity that brings people together. Knitting can be challenging and frustrating to learn. You can teach yourself from a book but it is much more pleasant to learn from a friend, sitting next to you to guide you through the steps. When the movements become easier, knitting is a relaxing and soothing activity, the repetitiveness and rhythm of the stitches can be meditative. You are creating something beautiful from simple tools and materials. When you are part of a group of knitting friends, you can show them the progress you are making and your finished projects and have them share in your achievements.

To quote a friend, ”Knitting with friends is combining the love of creativity with the love and joys of companionship.”

And another friend, ”A discussion with a person who shares your interest is more two - way and alive, it is like a springboard and the enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, ideas abound and it is just great fun.”

Kate Jacobs’ new novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club, is very timely. Knitting has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the last couple of years. New yarns, knitting books and related paraphernalia have flooded the stores and many new knitters are clicking away. It’s cool to knit...and hopefully some of those who start just because it’s cool will continue to knit because they are hooked - in love with the art, the yarns, the creativity, the rhythm. My “knitting club” meets officially on a Monday - once a month, there’s a place for friends to come and knit - but of course we knit all the time, whenever we can, because it’s addictive!

Three friends and I have started a blog. It’s a lot of fun.... we post pictures of our knitting, write about our successes and challenges, but we also write about many other subjects on which we each have our own opinion. Even when our opinions are different, we still have those common threads holding us together....we’re women, we knit, we homeschool our children....we have a strong bond.

Women do need women - of all ages. Most of my friends are in their 30s and 40s, but I treasure my relationship with a wise woman in her seventies who will listen to me and offer words of wisdom when needed.

Monday, 19 March 2007


Yesterday was one of my favorite kind of days. We spent almost all of it, not only outside - which is good, but in the garden - which is great. We have had this garden for eight years. In those eight years we have done a lot of work to improve it, and to make it easier to work with. I can tell you that the hard work has really paid off. Yesterday I was able to get all the beds, save two, ready for planting. One of them I just didn't get to because I was getting a very sore throat and the other needs to have its side fixed. It used to take ages to get them all ready for planting so this was quite exciting to me.

I am a big fan of garden beds, I love that there is no need for tilling(and the worms love this too), the soil does not get compacted from walking on, the pathways are easy to see and stay on (for kids and dogs). I love the way the beds look and I love how intensely they can be planted. Over the last few years I have been trying to do some mulching a la Ruth Stout style - except with grass clippings or leaves because they are free and readily available to me - and this seems to have paid off too. I have way less weeds out there right now then I would normally have. I remember when I first moved in here, I would go to bed at night and see an imprint of a Hairy Crab grass weed on the back of my eyelids because I had been staring at it all day while trying to pull it all out.

So the beds are ready and now I just need to get out there and plant.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

The water cure

My husband forwarded this information to me today - I think it's so amazing that the cure to many people's health problems could really be this simple, and I wanted to spread the word in the hope it'll help someone.

Water prevents and helps to cure heartburn.
Heartburn is a signal of water shortage in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. It is a major thirst signal of the human body. The use of antacids or tablet medications in the treatment of this pain does not correct dehydration, and the body continues to suffer as a result of its water shortage. Not recognizing heartburn as a sign of dehydration and treating it with antacids and pill medications will, in time, produce inflammation of the stomach and duodenum, hiatal hernia, ulceration, and eventually cancers in the gastrointestinal tract, including the liver and pancreas.

Water prevents and helps to cure arthritis.
Rheumatoid joint pain - arthritis - is a signal of water shortage in the painful joint. It can affect the young as well as the old. The use of pain-killers does not cure the problem, but exposes the person to further damage from pain medications. Intake of water and small amounts of salt will cure this problem.

Water prevents and helps to cure back pain.
Low back pain and ankylosing arthritis of the spine are signs of water shortage in the spinal column and discs - the water cushions that support the weight of the body. These conditions should be treated with increased water intake - not a commercial treatment, but a very effective one.

Not recognizing arthritis and low back pain as signs of dehydration in the joint cavities and treating them with pain-killers, manipulation, acupuncture, and eventually surgery will, in time, produce osteoarthritis when the cartilage cells in the joints have eventually all died. It will produce deformity of the spine. It will produce crippling deformities of the limbs. Pain medications have their own life-threatening complications.

Water prevents and helps to cure angina.
Heart pain - angina - is a sign of water shortage in the heart/lung axis. It should be treated with increased water intake until the patient is free of pain and independent of medications. Medical supervision is prudent. However, increased water intake is angina's cure.

Water prevents and helps to cure migraines.
Migraine headache is a sign of water need by the brain and the eyes. It will totally clear up if dehydration is prevented from establishing in the body. The type of dehydration that causes migraine might eventually cause inflammation of the back of the eye and possibly loss of eye sight.

Water prevents and helps to cure colitis.
Colitis pain is a signal of water shortage in the large gut. It is associated with constipation because the large intestine constricts to squeeze the last drop of water from the excrements - thus the lack of water lubrication.

Not recognizing colitis pain as a sign of dehydration will cause persistent constipation. Later in life, it will cause fecal impacting: it can cause diverticulitis, hemorrhoids and polyps, and appreciably increases the possibility of developing cancer of the colon and rectum.

Water and salt prevent and helps to cure asthma.
Asthma, which also affects 14 million children and kills several thousand of them every year, is a complication of dehydration in the body. It is caused by the drought management programs of the body. In asthma free passage of air is obstructed so that water does not leave the body in the form of vapor - the winter steam. Increased water intake will prevent asthma attacks. Asthmatics need also to take more salt to break the mucus plugs in the lungs that obstruct the free flow of air in and out of the air sacs.

Not recognizing asthma as the indicator of dehydration in the body of a growing child not only will sentence many thousands of children to die every year, but will permit irreversible genetic damage to establish in the remaining 14 million asthmatic children.

Water prevents and helps to cure high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a state of adaptation of the body to a generalized drought, when there is not enough water to fill all the blood vessels that diffuse water into vital cells. As part of the mechanism of reverse osmosis, when water from the blood serum is filtered and injected into important cells through minute holes in their membranes, extra pressure is needed for the "injection process." Just as we inject I.V. "water" in hospitals, so the body injects water into tens of trillions of cells all at the same time. Water and some salt intake will bring blood pressure back to normal!

Not recognizing hypertension as one of the major indicators of dehydration in the human body, and treating it with diuretics that further dehydrate the body will, in time, cause blockage by cholesterol of the heart arteries and the arteries that go to the brain. It will cause heart attacks and small or massive strokes that paralyze. It will eventually cause kidney disease. It will cause brain damage and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Water prevents and helps to cure early adult-onset diabetes.
Adult-onset diabetes is another adaptive state to severe dehydration of the human body. To have adequate water in circulation and for the brain's priority water needs, the release of insulin is inhibited to prevent insulin from pushing water into all body cells. In diabetes, only some cells get survival rations of water. Water and some salt will reverse adult-onset diabetes in its early stages.

Not recognizing adult-onset diabetes as a complication of dehydration will, in time, cause massive damage to the blood vessels all over the body. It will cause eventual loss of the toes, feet and legs from gangrene. It will cause eye damage, even blindness.

Water lowers blood cholesterol.
High cholesterol levels are an indicator of early drought management by the body. Cholesterol is a clay-like material that is poured in the gaps of some cell membranes to safeguard them against losing their vital water content to the osmotically more powerful blood circulating in their vicinity. Cholesterol, apart from being used to manufacture nerve cell membranes and hormones, is also used as a "shield" against water taxation of other vital cells that would normally exchange water through their cell membranes.

Nature and learning

I am a collector of words. Doesn't matter if they have been spoken or written, or if they originate from someone famous or not. All that really matters is that they have impacted me in some way and made me think a little more deeply. I have a journal where I keep collecting these quotes from others and every so often I like to thumb through the pages and spend time reacquainting myself with these shared thoughts.
Today, I want to share a quotation that ties into recent thoughts concerning Nature and children. Even though this was written many years ago, it has its application to this day; in my opinion.

"I believe every child has hidden away somewhere in his being noble capacities which may be quickened and developed if we go about it in the right way; but shall never properly develop the higher natures of our little ones while we continue to fill their minds with the so-called rudiments. Mathematics will never make them loving, nor will the accurate knowledge of the size and shape of the world help them to appreciate its beauties. Let us lead them during the first years to find their greatest pleasure in Nature. Let them run in the fields, learn about animals, and observe real things. Children will educate themselves under right conditions. They require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction." ~Anne Sullivan

Monday, 12 March 2007

And some not so good things....

You know that saying, you can't go home again. That really hit home for me this past weekend when we went to Vancouver. I grew up in a very small community about an hour east of Vancouver. It was a beautiful spot to grow up, surrounded by friends, families that we knew, open spaces and massive cedar trees. There was such strong sense of community. I remember having the freedom to explore the woods, to play games with my friends, to ride our bikes wherever, there was a feeling of safety and confidence. I loved it and I love my childhood memories. There were blackberries, huckleberries and salmonberries everywhere, there were wild flowers to pick. There were huge ferns which we pretended were arrows, great spots to make forts, creeks full of rainwater to play in, and just a feeling of always being connected to the seasons, to the weather, to nature.

When my parents sold my childhood home a few years ago I was very sad, but I felt quite pleased to know that they had sold it to a group of Buddhist nuns to use as their home and as a Buddhist centre. For some reason I thought that this would mean the property would stay much as it was - for a number of years "city folk" had been moving into the area and chopping down all the old trees, clearing out the properties, planting lawns and building massive houses and I was hopeful that this would not be the fate of "our" property. On our way home from Vancouver yesterday, we drove past my old home. Many tears later we drove on and I think it will be some time before we drive by again. It was barely recognizable, not only had they chopped down almost all the trees (all the huge old ones were gone for sure) they had painted our old cedar house colors that are...let's just say not found in nature. Of course I know it is not my place to say anything but good grief...what were they thinking? It had always been stained a natural color that blended nicely with its treed surroundings. You couldn't even see it from the street, now (with no trees left surrounding it and it's garish paint job) you can't help but see it. What a sickening feeling when somewhere you loved so dearly seems destroyed. Do you know what I mean?

S and I talked about why people would choose to move out to this wooded area and then proceed to chop everything down and try to make it into a typical city suburb. He thinks that people are afraid of nature, afraid that maybe one of the huge old trees will come down on their house, afraid that the deer will come and eat their ornamental shrubs they have planted to replace all the trees, afraid of power outages caused by big trees limbs coming down, afraid that bears will come and get into their garbage. It is true that all these things could happen but if you are completely opposed to that, why not stay in the city. Yes, these things do sometimes happen but I don't believe that I would consider these things all negative. Power outages were a regular part of my childhood and they were also a fantastic opportunity for a special family time. We gathered around the fireplace, lit the coal oil lamps and played games. We cooked on the fire and these memories make a up a special part of my childhood. The outages made me appreciate the power all the more when it was on and it also made me realize that one could get by with out it. We were on well water out there, and often it would go dry in the summer, this could be a pain when we had to drive to fill our tanks with water but it also gave me a life-long appreciation for running water.

When we started up the hill towards my old house I started having a sinking feeling as I saw massive houses looming over the side of a hill that used to be all trees. Closer to my old home, I saw that another person had decided to cut down all the trees on their 5 acre property, and another, and another. I could see from the street all the way down the Fraser river - when I was little we could not even tell that the Fraser was down there because we couldn't see it through the woods. Every time someone else cuts all their trees it makes the trees left standing more vulnerable to winds. It is getting so that there aren't a lot left. It is getting so that the people who choose to leave their trees standing are suffering the consequences of other people cutting them down; when the winds blow, their trees are not protected by lots of other trees and so are more likely to blow down. I wonder where people think all the rain water will go when they cut down all the plants and trees that used to absorb it. I wonder where they think all the rain water will go when they plow over the moss and fern covered soil and put in pavement. This weekend we could see evidence of this problem everywhere we went, there were roads flooded here and there, all the ditches along the sides of the roads were filled, fields were filled with water.

The whole feel of the area is changing and that makes me very sad. I like to think that children now could enjoy the same simple pleasures as I did, but I worry that there will not be any of these things left. I wonder how we can expect to teach children to respect nature when some of them don't really understand what nature is, how can they when they are never immersed in it. I don't think that you can get the same feeling for, or love of, nature when it is not an intimate part of your life....can you? I don't know. I'm just a person from the "sticks" , raised with an inherent respect for and love of nature, who consistently, naively, and most often, wrongly believes that people will put nature first, that we will do what is best for the Earth. My husband can't believe that I don't "get" it, he can't believe that I am surprised each time I see something like this, that I keep believing that people will slow down and appreciate nature; in this instance I am happy to remain naive. It is strange because when it comes to other things I can really be quite cynical. However, I want to be the kind of person who is surprised when people treat the Earth this way, I choose to remain hopeful.

This is what my neighborhood looked like a few years ago(and yes, that is me with very red eyes from blubbering while I was helping my folks move), now imagine this street with most of the trees gone. I'd rather not.

And here is a tree down across the road just after leaving my old house. This will continue to happen because of so many people cutting down surrounding trees but most people won't stop to think that maybe they should stop cutting the trees, instead they will just think that they had better cut more. Hmmm, so it seems maybe I am becoming cynical, S will be so proud. ;-(

Some good things about Vancouver...

Whenever we go to Vancouver we have to do certain things. One is Science World - this is always a hit the boys, and S and I, love it. We also like to go to Nat's Pizza because they sell delicious fresh pizza by the slice and they carry lots of choices for us veggies. I love to go to the Bodhi Choi Heung Buddhist restaurant for dinner because for a very reasonable price you can get a decent, healthy, and delicious vegetarian dinner. S likes to stop at MEC and Lee Valley and I love to hit the thrift stores. This time I found a great yarn bargain.

Nine balls worth of sock yarn in exactly the color I wanted for the boys, all for a bargain price of $5.99 - not each, %5.99 for all 9 balls. That will make a whole lotta socks. There was quite a bit of yarn at this store - the Sally Ann on North Road, in case anyone is from that area. It was hard to pick which to bring home, but I settled on the sock yarn and these.
I wonder if Vancouverites realize just how rainy it is there. That may seem like a silly question but I lived there for 19 years - half my life- and if you had asked me I would have thought that yes, it is rainy but nothing too out of the ordinary. Now that I have spent some years in other places I find it difficult to imagine that I was ever able to tolerate the rain for so long. Cuz really, there is rain....and then there is Lower Mainland rain. You know?

A guest blogger...

One of our homelearning friends sent out a wonderful message to our support group, Learners Unlimited, last week, which, with her permission, I am posting here.

To the learners who put up with me every week...and even when I don't come for many weeks, you still put up with me.
Thank you so much for your faithful support. Your warm smiles and chatter around Ann's table two days ago gave me a gift to take home like no other. It was thoughts and ideas, support for teaching my children, love and respect for me as a person.

Thank you,

My thought for the day (inspired by a photo of the children who attended our recent Science Day, taken by Heather):

I've decided there is no such thing as unschooling. Better to call the unschooling movement "perpetualschool" or "perpetualdiscovery". As the name Learners Unlimited suggests, we are hopelessly addicted to learning. To be honest, we should refer to our weekly gatherings as Learners Anonymous, since what we really do is help each other with our hopeless learning addiction....As a matter of fact, my own indulgence sometimes leaves me too intoxicated to get to the support meetings. A sad case to be sure, of a 20 year addiction to home learning with my children.... We as a group have given up high paying jobs, many of our personal goals, sometimes our reputation and often our sanity in order to pass on our wonderful addiction of learning and discovery to our unsuspecting children. A noble cause indeed!

Friday, 9 March 2007

Spring is Sprung

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where the boidies is

The boid is on the wing
But that's absoid
The wing is on the boid!

Just a little poem that my mum always used to come out with - I feel it my duty to pass these nuggets of wisdom on to my own children!!!

Actually, I do think that Spring really is here - the sun is shining, the pruning man is in my yard (unlike Heather, I pay someone to do my pruning), I have all my windows open to finally clear the stale winter air from the house, and I am eagerly anticipating the return of green leaves to my fruit trees, although not the yardwork that Spring brings with it!

Above is the view from my back deck - bare walnut branches soon to be refoliated (is that a word?). And below....yes, my cotton fibre has arrived! No mystery what I will be doing later today...

What's this? A post about homelearning?

We decided to put labels on our posts and this got me to thinking about a couple of things. One is why is it that 4 moms of children who do not go to school have so few posts under the "homelearning" label and the other is about how much I normally loathe labels of any kind. So, it seemed to me like those two things could be put together into some kind of post, sort of like a "two birds with one stone" kind of thing. So here goes. {warning: the following post may seem like nonsense to you, if you don't like any of the ideas presented below, feel free to think that it is a load of hogwash written by a (slightly)crazy woman}

I have never liked labels for people and I won't give them to myself. When people ask us about our style of homelearning (a subject for which there are many kinds of labels) I don't like to answer with any of the typical labels. I find them limiting for our family and I don't like to limit us in any way. IF I had to choose a label (which, in fact, I don't), I guess I would say....."No, I refuse to choose a label." Ha ha! Instead I think I would invent my own way of describing what we do, actually I would steal it from the title of a Leo Buscaglia book that I like. I would say that we are Living, Loving and Learning homelearners - and then I might also say, "So there!" Actually I wouldn't, I'm much too polite (snort, snort) but I would like very much to say that and not have people look at me like I am insane.

We do tend to have a rhythm to our days but it is never a hard and fast thing. Yes, generally we do math, that is the only "must-have" workbook that we do on a regular basis. So to some (not all, I know, I know) "unschoolers" this would kick us out of the "unschooler" camp. Usually we do "learny" type things in the morning - and by "learny" I simply mean things that other people (i.e - your in-laws) would consider as school-ish. We might read from Story of the World - a chronological history book that my boys love. We will for sure be reading loads of books from the library - fiction and non-fiction. The boys may do some writing in a story they are working on or on some comics that they are making. Likely we will get out some kind of "science" type book from the stack of library books we have and read about animals, plants, Earth, the solar system, or whatever else the boys are interested in. We sit together on the couch ( or outside, if the weather is agreeable), reading and talking about what we are learning from the books, sharing our opinions and other information that we might have on the topic. My kids don't sit at the table and do workbooks for every subject so that would have us not belonging to the "school at home" group. We don't do Latin or a number of other things that would have us in the Classical homeschooling group. The thing is, we don't care. It makes no difference to us in what we do. We decide what works for us, and then we do it.

I wonder about the time that a person could spend, thinking about what kind of homelearner they are, what that entails, what they should or should not be doing and I think.....AAAARGH! I would wish for other people, new to homelearning, that they don't allow themselves to get caught up in this, as I have seen people do. I would wish that parents just do what they can see works best for their child and for themselves, and not worry about what other people may think is right or wrong - no matter how knowledgeable that person seems. I remember when we first got connected to the internet , I thought it would be interesting to go to some homelearning forums to see what people had to say but I found that we didn't really do things the way other people did and that I did not really want to. I didn't want to be drawn into discussions on what kind of homeschooler I was. I thought that the time I could spend researching different methods of homelearning, different curriculum, different ideas and ideals would all take away from the time I could be spending just being with my boys - just living, loving and learning with my boys. And I didn't need anybody else to tell me how to do that.

More Thrifting

Along with Heather, I am a thrift store enthusiast. As per her request, I'm sharing some of my latest "finds". The latest treasure hunt at the thrift store led me to these fabrics. The two patterns on the left are actually valances that will soon be remade into something else, while the other rather wild prints were yardage neatly wrapped and awaiting their first "life" (I will post the items as I make them).
I love looking for items at the thrift store that I can remake - that's why I grabbed the valances this time around and why I buy up garments for either the lovely fabric they're sewn from or for their buttons (although I do buy things for myself or family members to wear...I'm not always chopping things up).
My whole treasure hunt technique at the thrift stores is basically lead by sighting some fabric that I find interesting. To me, it makes sense and I save cents by looking for fabric at the thrift stores. So many creative possibilities and definitely one of a kind items. Plus when you need to experiment with ideas and designs I would rather pay less for the fabric as I perfect my ideas. The glorious afternoon I spent wandering through the local thrift store stirred my imagination and this time I went home with some "finds" and even left a few behind for another day... unless Heather gets there first....

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A Tale of Two Thrift Stores

In an ongoing effort to clear out clutter and simplify things even more around here, I have not been allowing myself any trips to the thrift stores in town since before Christmas (the one I went to while we were in Maui doesn't count, it is obviously exempt from any such ban as we were on holiday then and that makes everything O.K). Since I have cleared out most of the excess from my laundry room – now to be known as the creating room - I thought it might be time to lift my self-imposed ban. After all I had fixed two of the hand-me down sewing machines and now I needed some inspiring fabric to create something with. Besides that, we are headed to Vancouver and I love the thrift stores there, a ban was simply out of the question.

So today I was heading into town for our weekly homelearners get-together and decided that we would have a look. We went to a store that I am slowly becoming disenchanted with as I find they are getting more expensive, when I thrift I want to find serious bargains, I want treasures for 25 cents, you know? So $5 for jeans doesn't do it for me, $3 is my max. usually. I like to find balls of yarn for 50 cents - although I am willing to pay $1. So imagine my surprise when I willingly paid $7.50 for a roll of fabric(O.K, it was 5 metres, but still), and $5 each for 2 boxes of thread. A king's ransom for such things really, but the fabric was just right for the cover I have been wanting to make for an old manky footstool that I have had sitting around for years. The boxes of thread had 12 spools each of lovely colors and they were wooden spools, which are what we always had when I learned to sew, and I convinced myself that I could do something with the spools after I had used up the thread. I had to think long and hard about getting these items as they were much more than what I would normally pay at a thrift store, and then some little voice in my head said, "Get a grip woman, not only would they cost way more new but you actually would have to take the boys to the fabric store….the dreaded fabric store and search through row upon row of fabric." Now I can tell you that not only is that not appealing to my boys but strangely, it is not appealing to me (many a Saturday and week-days after school I spent following my mom around fabric stores and I still remember very clearly how much I loathed it. In fact I still tease her about my hard-done-by-childhood today). Actually I have to admit that I also heard my husband's voice inside my head saying "Get a grip woman", as well, except he didn't say it nearly so nicely. I tend to drive him round the bend with my thriftiness sometimes. So I decided to ante up and get the goods. I did get a wool sweater to felt for $1.49 though and another roll of fabric for $1, so that made up for it.
And since I had so considerately saved my poor boys from a trip to the dreaded fabric store I figured they could deal with a quick hit at one more thrift store. This is a store where great yarn bargains are to be had and I found all of these lovely hoops, with which to do this, and won't that make my cleared out I mean, my creating room look lovely.