Friday, 29 February 2008

Tomten is done

Phew! The Tomten Jacket is done.....except for a fastening on the front.

I decided to put my Sunrise Circle Jacket aside and get this finished. It only needed a sleeve. I found a window of opportunity yesterday afternoon, and then again in the evening at "knitting night" at a friend's house, and then I stayed up until after midnight crocheting along the front edges to neaten things off and disguise the strands on one edge where I carried the two colours up the side.

The Bernat Soy is OK to knit with, but a bit slippery especially on the aluminum needles, and I think I may have to block the jacket in the hope it'll even out my knitting. All this garter stitch did become a little tedious so I don't think I'll be making a second jacket after all.

I have three balls of the same yarn in blue, which I think I'll try knitting up on my Bond for a faster result.

After I finished the knitting on the Tomten last night,
I picked up the hand-holding mitten which has also been
languishing and completed a few more rounds.

STILL another individual mitten to knit.

I shall have to take this project to the arena today - that'll be another hour or so worked on it while the kids are skating and then I'll go back to the Sunrise.

Raw Score:
Tuesday 85%
Wednesday 83%
Thursday 85%
meeting my goal of minimum 80%

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Beans, beans, good for the heart....

Well, you know how it goes. Being British, Heinz baked beans were part of my childhood. (Navy beans in tomato sauce to the uninitiated.)

Sometimes, I'll buy the No Name beans - two of the kids really like them - but occasionally I'll try my own recipe to try and convert them to home-made (cos we all know that home-made is best, right?)

I bought this crock pot for $10 at the Sally Ann some time ago. I finally dragged it out of the cupboard and was glad to find that it does work and it was very handy for not only simmering the beans all afternoon (I love doing the preparation for a meal early in the day, it's so much better than leaving everything to the last minute) but also for keeping them warm so that latecomers to the table would still get hot food. (On a Taekwondo day, we often start eating dinner before R gets home from work to allow time for the food to settle before exerting ourselves in class. And the oldest is sometimes asleep when we eat dinner, as he keeps such odd hours these day.)

R and I liked this recipe, the kids were less keen! I'm posting it here anyway!!

Mum's baked beans

500 grams or about a pound of navy beans (small white beans)
one 13 oz can tomato paste (puree)
1 cup ketchup (I use PC organic)
2 tablespoons tamari
half teaspoon seasalt
quarter teaspoon black pepper
quarter teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
half teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (no anchovies)

Soak the beans overnight and cook the next day. I pressure-cooked mine for an hour.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a saucepan and warm through.

Combine the beans and sauce in a saucepan or slow cooker and simmer for 1 - 4 hours.


Oh how I love easy-to-make and yet ever-so-useful things. I can't seem to stop making these right now, even though the sun is shining and outside is calling. Want to know what they are for? Here is an explanation.

Quick and healthy snack

Here is a way to make a quick, healthy snack. (although it disappears pretty quickly too) A friend brought these to knitting night last week and shared with us how she makes them. One batch of almonds is coated in a few spoonfuls of maple syrup. The other is coated in coconut oil mixed with spices (I used chili powder, garlic, salt, and oregano). Then they are put in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until they are nicely roasted. The boys gobbled down the sweet ones pretty quickly - I barely managed to snag a tiny jarful to share with a friend, and hubby finished off all the spicy ones on a recent fishing day. He has requested that I make them even spicier next time, I think his thinking is that if they are super spicy then he won't eat so many at once and they will last longer.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Positive changes

I have decided to join Heather on her mission towards a complaint-free world so I am wearing this bracelet as a reminder to myself not to complain. (It's one I made some time ago with glass beads and stretchy clear elastic from Michaels.)

And another positive change I have made today is.....a haircut! I was near the salon this morning as I had something to mail. The little shopping plaza near my house (a few minutes walk) has a supermarket, post office, doctor, hairdresser, bakery and pharmacy. Last time I had my hair cut, I went to this salon for the first time and was pleased with the cut. However, as it grew out, the "sticky-out bits" over my ears were bothering me and I wanted to go shorter - so I called in and was able to make an appointment for this afternoon.

She spent ages cutting my hair just right - nice and short on the back and sides, a bit longer on the top - and I'm very happy with it. The kids faked screams when I got back home! At least, I THINK they were faked, they must be used to me with short hair by now!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Guess who's coming to town!

My raw percentages for the last few days were 75, 68, 68 and 79%. I want to state publicly that I am going to aim for 80% or better from now on, as that is more likely to keep me on track!

Why is that we can let the pounds creep on for 3 months but we want them off again in 3 days?

To change the subject completely, I had a newsletter in my email inbox today from my local yarn store. In April, Cat Bordhi is going to be leading two all-day classes, one for socks and one for moebius knitting. I have booked myself in for the moebius knitting class - I am treating myself from my "birthday money" (thanks mum).

This lady is an absolute genius in knitting design so I am looking forward to meeting her very much. Now I have to think about what yarn I am going to use for the class project. Decisions, decisions!

V neck vest is finished

The vest is finished! This is me attempting to take a photo of myself in the bathroom mirror.

I made this on my Bond knitting machine, with handknit ribbing around the edges. I used Red Heart Soft Touch in brown, teal, white and wine red.

I intended it to be snugger than this, but it fits OK as it is. I picked up three white T shirts at Value Village a few weeks ago that will work well with it, though I was hoping for a collared shirt. Oh well, maybe on my next thrifting trip...

Another chocolate cake

Yesterday was my husband's birthday and my son wanted to make him a cake. Unfortunately, the only ingredients I had was for a chocolate cake (I am taking a chocolate break, which is why I put unfortunately. Usually, I would be more like "Woohoo, chocolate cake!" Sort of silly for me to decide to take my chocolate break a couple of days before a birthday, wasn't it?)

So, my son and I whip up a cake and I have to say, this is the easiest cake recipe out there. It requires very few dishes to clean up and the ingredients are items most of us have sitting around all the time (meaning that really, you could make this cake every day if you chose to)

By the time I got a chance to take a photo of the cake, it looked like this:

Compared to Katherine's lovely chocolate cake photo, mine looks rather ravaged. However, you will notice that my husband has scraped the bottom of the pan clean (except for where my son's piece was cut at lunch time today). That is how tasty this cake is.

Here is the (slightly modified) recipe:

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup sugar (I know, so much sugar!!! Oh well, it's a birthday!)
1/2 tsp of salt
3/4 tsp baking soda

Put these ingredients in a glass baking pan and stir them up well. (Yes, that's right. No bowl to wash! Yay!)

To this add:
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (white vinegar works too)

Stir it up until well mixed and cook at 325 for about 35 minutes (maybe check it after 30 minutes just to be sure)

My husband came upstairs as the cake was cooling and he and L decided to ice it with some chocolate sauce that we picked up at the farmer's market and then break chocolate bar crumbles on top. Seeing this layer upon layer of chocolaty goodness was tough for my will power but I was strong... for about 5 minutes. Then I grabbed my husbands fork away and took a bite (or 2) of his piece. (I figured it doesn't count if it's not your piece of cake or your fork. Plus, it was important for me to taste it as I didn't want my family eating anything that tasted bad. Really, I'm a bit of a hero I think.) But don't feel bad for my husband having to share his piece of birthday cake. He ended up eating 3 more pieces, and then tried to nibble bits straight from the pan. Yes, that's my family. Not much for formality really, just give us some forks and we'll eat straight from the pan.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


I tend to sing a lot as I go about my daily round. If I have music on I can usually sing all the words to my favourite songs, but if unaccompanied, I tend to only recall a few lines, and sing them over and over. The other day, when I was distractedly singing bits of the Heatmiser song, my husband commented that perhaps there should be a rule that I should know more than 4 lines of a song before I can sing it aloud. Hmmmm, I wonder if he meant that to be a deterrent. One would think he would know me better than that by now. As I was singing bits of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang yesterday (such a happy song, and I was sooo happy), I got 'the look'. Well, I do so want to be an accommodating wife so, with a quick google search, I was able to learn ALL the words to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and with a little practice, I will be able to sing this lovely song to my dear hubby. All. Day. Long. :-)

**go on, click on the link and have a listen. (then it will be in your head too)

Friday, 22 February 2008

V neck vest

Unlike Heather, when I had a spare hour today, I headed down to my sewing room to get going on the machine-knitted V neck vest.

The back was finished a few days ago and has been "relaxing" (when you take it off the machine it's stretched out and needs to shrink a little). The bottom part of the front was done, but I needed to finish the V neck shaping. I'm very pleased that today I finished both sides of the V neck and have left the "live" stitches on spare yarn so I can do a three needle bind off at the shoulders.

It seems like it's been ages since I actually completed a project (having four on the go at once may have something to do with that)!

Using four colours meant that occasionally they became a little tangled and the yarn didn't flow as freely as it should have - in the photo below I am pointing to a white row which is definitely tighter than the others.

When the front piece has had a few days to relax, I'll sew the back and front together, pick up stitches around the neck, armholes and waist, and knit a few rows of ribbing with the brown yarn to finish it off.

Raw Score:
Wednesday 82%
Thursday 37% (oops)

It seems I just can't help myself

I really did try to wait. I refrained on the weekend, when my fingers were just itching to. When the sun shining down was calling me, making me want to be the dirt... raking...digging...something?...anything!
Yesterday it seemed that I Just Couldn't Wait Any Longer. And, since the ground is still mostly frozen, the roses were the logical choice.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

A favourite lunch

This is one of my favourite things to have for lunch in the winter, and one that the boys really enjoy too. It is a simple lentil soup made with our frozen stewed tomatoes, and some homemade grainy buns, preferably still warm from the oven.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

FSA testing

Heather has inspired me with all her letter-writing. I have drafted a letter to my local health food store about bulk products, and am ready to fax this one off to the Honorable Shirley Bond, Minister of Education. (This is my second post this evening - if you haven't already read my earlier one, then scroll down after you read this!)

Here it is, in its entirety.

The Hon Shirley Bond
Minister of Education

cc Mr E Vanderboom
Acting Inspector
Independent Schools

February 19th, 2008

Dear Madam

My children are enrolled with Wondertree’s Self Design program. They are currently in Grade 4 and 7 and as such have been forced to sit the FSA examinations this month.

I have many objections to these tests. I cannot speak for the children in the public schools, but expect that they are “taught to the test” and that most have a reasonable chance of getting through the 4.5 hours of numeracy and literacy testing with a “Meets Expectations” mark.

However, many children who learn at home are not taught specific skills at a specific age. In our home, we don’t say, “Oh, you’re in Grade 4, you have to learn this because you need to keep up with the public school kids.” My children learn things because they are interested in them and because they want to, and that could mean that they are “behind” in some subjects and “ahead” in others.

Being able to get through the mind-numbing tests that the Government has invented is not a true reflection of the child’s intelligence or ability.

Many of my fellow homeschooling parents were annoyed that the Grade 7 children were asked to write an article telling Grade 6 children how to make the most of their Grade 7 year. This was totally biased towards children in “bricks and mortar” schools, and I know that many of the homeschooled children, when faced with this topic, chose to write down the reasons why they would recommend that those poor Grade 6 kids should get out of school, get a life and spend their Grade 7 year homeschooling!

I have heard that the markers of the tests are praised for speed and do not spend much time actually reading what the children have written. This is very disrespectful to the children who have made an effort and spent much time writing something that is not going to be appreciated, just scanned briefly.

I have also heard that the marks given out are dependent upon the result that the Ministry wants to get. In other words, you set the “passing percentage” before the papers are marked. That is not an honest and fair way to go about things, it’s a way of ensuring that it makes it look like the schools are doing a good job which then makes you look good.

If my children had been in public school, I could have kept them home on the day(s) of the tests with no repercussions. However as a parent of children in a distributed learning program, I was told that I could not philosophically oppose the testing and refuse to let my children participate as I could then be asked to leave the program. I was also concerned that my refusal could cause problems for Self Design, possibly leading to a withdrawal of funding, which I certainly wouldn’t want, as I think they have the best program in the province and I want them to continue doing their good work. So I was stuck between a rock and a hard place and my children sat the tests.

Please do not reply to this with a form letter. If you cannot be bothered to write a personal response that refers to the points I have raised, I would prefer that you save the cost of the stamp.

Yours sincerely

Random blather

Cass at Shut Up I'm Counting wrote a great post here about homeschooling her daughters. Her philosophy is very similar to mine (but my boys are still "unschooling" - they don't use any textbooks/workbooks, though that's not to say they won't one day - if they want/need to).

Remember to watch for the lunar eclipse Wednesday night. The moon will turn red, perhaps with a flash of turquoise. Unfortunately it happens between 7 and 8pm in the evening Pacific time, which just happens to be the time I'll be at my Taekwondo class. I'm not sure whether the instructor will approve of me popping outside to take a look! Hopefully one of my fellow bloggers will get a photo and I can enjoy it vicariously.

One of the things keeping me on track with the
high percentage of raw food right now is this ---->

yes, you're seeing that right, and no, I know it's not raw. However it is a little something to sweeten the palate at the end of a meal and a reward to myself for maintaining my willpower during the day.

Natalia Rose, who wrote these two books (which I have borrowed from my local library), says that a little 70% dark chocolate is OK. Her philosophy is that we should choose foods based on their ability to pass quickly through the body. When we eat them, our body should be able to extract the maximum goodness out of them and then get them the hell out! She calls them "quick exit" foods. Dark chocolate is therefore acceptable. Chocolate cake made with white flour and white sugar is NOT!

In fact, for anyone interested in incorporating more living foods in their diet, her guidelines are very reasonable. She says you don't have to eat 100% raw to see the benefits, and you don't have to be vegan if you still want to include a little meat, fish or cheese (of the best possible quality) in your diet. The occasional glass of wine is OK too. She does stress the importance of combining foods for good digestion, and whilst I tend not to follow the "correct" food combining rules, I can understand the reasoning behind them. Starches and proteins require different stomach acidity and enzymes to digest. Fruits, when eaten alone, digest fast and pass quickly through the system. Eat them after a meal and they ferment.

Well, this was going to be just a few sentences and I can see that I have run on, so I will sign off now.

Raw Score:
Tuesday 81%

Stressed spelled backwards...

Of course you already know that the word 'stressed' is just desserts spelled backwards, right? Why be stressed when you can have this dessert with your tea today, like me? ;o)
I'm not sharing the original recipe here. What's the point? It's not like I actually follow the original recipe. I tend to modify recipes regularly and for once I actually wrote down the changes I made to the original recipe (aren't you impressed, Heather? I know you don't usually write down your recipe modifications, either ;o).

Tomato Chocolate Cake
Cream together the following ingredients:
1/2 cup Earth Balance (vegan margarine)
1&1/3 cup maple syrup (you can adjust the amount here to your taste)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup cold water
1 cup pureed tomatoes (I use my home canned ones)
Sift together the dry ingredients:
2&1/2 cups whole wheat flour*
1/2 cup dry cocoa powder
1 1/2tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
*depending upon the whole wheat flour you use, the batter may be quite thick - if this is the case you can add a little more liquid sweetner here or increase the amount of water. Try adding just a couple of tablespoons to see if you can thin out the batter a slight bit.*

Preheat oven to 350F

1. Mix dry ingredients into the creamy mixture until thoroughly combined.

2. Bake in a lightly oiled 9"x 13" pan for 35-40 minutes.

Frost if desired.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Let the sun shine in....

What a beautiful day! I woke earlier than usual to sun creeping around the edges of my blinds. It was so bright I thought I'd slept in late, but it was only 7.38am on a crisp and sunny Monday morning.

Monday is housework day around here. I usually write myself a To Do list, even though I know exactly what needs doing, because it just feels so GOOD to cross things OFF that list as I go.

It was a very pleasant minus four Celsius outside, so I turned the thermostat down and opened some doors and windows. What a treat to move some of the stale air out of the house. We like to have a wood fire in our family room on winter weekends so being able to give the house an airing today was perfect.The house was vacuumed (what I love about vacuuming is that the tidying gets done as I go and everything looks so much better), the bathrooms were cleaned, the plants were watered, a few loads of laundry were "processed" and I made up another bucket of laundry soap. All of the garbage was taken out along with the recyclables and it was all left at the top of the drive for collection tomorrow.

After all this activity, the doors and windows were closed up again and I looked at the thermostat - the temperature in the house (upstairs anyway) hadn't dropped below 17 degrees, thanks to the sunshine pouring in.

I had time this afternoon to try some Pilates on the exercise ball with the help of a library book I found on Saturday, and lifted a few weights (that activity has been sadly neglected recently but ideally I'd like to get into the habit of weight-training every other day).

I called my mechanic - the Festiva needs a new distributor and they have ordered one, so it should be back to health very soon.

Raw Score:
Saturday 75%

Sunday 70%

Monday 62%

Sunday, 17 February 2008

An awfully big adventure

No, Heather, I'm not talking about Alan. I'm talking about today, Sunday, when things didn't quite go to plan.....

My husband and I headed off as usual to do our health food store shopping today. We just had one kid in tow - the older two stayed home.

We were crossing Okanagan Lake bridge when the car...our little Festiva...that we've carefully maintained all these years...died! We hope it can be resuscitated because we're not ready to let it go yet.

There's something you should know about this bridge. It's a floating bridge, has been there since the 1950s, and has three lanes with lights above so that the direction of traffic can be changed, a guy who works in an office that sits over the traffic who keeps an eye on traffic flow, and a lifting mechanism for allowing sailboats with tall masts to go underneath from the north part of the lake to the south (or vice versa). This bridge, while conveniently saving a lot of driving should you wish to travel from Westbank to Kelowna without having to go the long way around, is nevertheless a cursed bridge. Everyone who has had to regularly cross this bridge knows that they will be stuck in a bottleneck or traffic jam at some time. The outside lanes are usually open to traffic in each direction, with the centre lane being closed or open either way depending on traffic flow.

An accident or breakdown on the bridge can cause tailbacks many kilometres long.

Have you guessed why I'm telling you this? Yes, my little car, that was just filled with gas yesterday and was up to date on its maintenance checkups, died right in the middle of that bridge. Thankfully there were two lanes open going into town, and the guy in the office quickly closed our lane to divert the cars to the centre lane. It was a Sunday afternoon so whilst there was a constant stream of traffic it wasn't as bad as if it had been rush hour on a Monday morning!

As soon as he realised what had happened, R put on the hazard lights and coasted to a stop. Almost immediately, a cyclist stopped and asked us if we wanted a push. I wound down my window and told him the problem, and that kind man, who I'd like to hug, lent me his cellphone while he got behind the car with R, and between them they pushed the car far enough that I was able to steer off the road, at the same time talking to BCAA on the phone.

About 15 minutes later, the tow truck arrived (another nice man) and dropped us off at the bus station on his way to our mechanic. Our poor little car will have to sit there overnight until it can get some attention tomorrow.

At the bus station, I was looking through my purse hoping for enough change to pay the bus fares for the three of us to get to the store on the other side of town. The bus was about to leave and when the driver found out why we were there, but that we didn't have the right coins to pay, he let us travel for free (yet another nice man). When we got off the bus, we were close to a bank, so we could get more cash to pay the bus fare for the trip home, and we did our shopping.

We were in the right place at the right time to get a bus back to downtown and were only charged for two adults, so S got to ride home for free. Because of the Sunday schedule, we ended up having a 20 minute walk after we got off the bus, but it was a sunny day, and though the temperature was only about 3 degrees, it felt warmer. Just as well, as we hadn't dressed particularly warmly, not expecting this drastic change of plans.

It's funny that I found myself at the bus station with only a fleece, no coat or gloves or hat, and I'm the one who always tells the kids, "Take your warm stuff, even if you don't wear it, you never know what might happen, if we were to break down you might need it."

A new bridge is being built right next to the current one. It should be opening in the next few months and the old one will be dismantled. My husband said we made history today, breaking down on the old bridge!

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Another of those useful articles drawn to my attention by my dear husband!

Have you ever noticed gals who sit their handbags on public toilet floors, then go directly to their dining tables and set it on the table? Happens a lot! It's not always the 'restaurant food' that causes stomach distress. Sometimes "what you don 't know will hurt you"!

Read on...

Mom got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their handbags down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up food. She always said that handbags are really dirty, because of where they have been.

It's something just about every woman carries with them. While we may know what's inside our handbags, do you have any idea what's on the outside? Women carry handbags everywhere; from the office to public toilets to the floor of the car. Most women won't be caught without their handbags, but did you ever stop to think about where your handbag goes during the day.

"I drive a school bus, so my handbag has been on the floor of the bus a lot," says one woman. "On the floor of my car, and in toilets."

"I put my handbag in grocery shopping carts and on the floor of the toilet," says another woman, "and of course in my home which should be clean."

We decided to find out if handbags harbour a lot of bacteria. We learned how to test them at Nelson Laboratories in Salt Lake, and then we set out to test the average woman's handbag.

Most women told us they didn't stop to think about what was on the bottom of their handbag. Most said at home they usually set their handbags on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is prepared.

Most of the ladies we talked to told us they wouldn't be surprised if their handbags were at least a little bit dirty. It turns out hand bags are so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist
who tested them was shocked.

Microbiologist Amy Karen of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the handbags tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria. Pseudomonas can cause eye infections, staphylococcus aurous can cause serious skin infections, and salmonella and e-coli found on the
handbags could make people very sick.

In one sampling, four of five handbags tested positive for salmonella, and that's not the worst of it. "There is faecal contamination on the handbags," says Amy. Leather or vinyl handbags tended to be cleaner than cloth handbags, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception.

The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contaminations of all. "Some type of faeces, or possibly vomit," says Amy.

So the moral of this story is that your handbag won't kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat.

Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don't put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen counter top. Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a pair of shoes.

"If you think about putting a pair of shoes onto your counter tops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your handbag on the counter tops." Your handbag has gone where individuals before you have sneezed, coughed, spat, urinated, emptied bowels, etc!

Do you really want to bring that home with you? The microbiologists at Nelson also said cleaning a handbag will help. Wash cloth handbags and use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of leather handbags.

Friday, 15 February 2008

My sons, the artists

Our homeschool support group met at the local Art Gallery this week. The children were to make prints.

They were given a sheet of black paper, a sheet of white cardstock, a piece of perspex, some oil pastels and some string and other textured bits and pieces.

There was a lot of explaining to be done, but they were all very attentive. They ranged in age from 8 to 12 and they all did a fantastic job of producing some amazing artwork.

First they drew shapes on their black paper. Next they cut out different shapes from their white card. Then the perspex was covered with gold ink using a roller, and the white shapes were arranged on top of the ink. They then had to bring everything over to the press, where the perspex and paper were layered and rolled through the press to make a print. After the first print was made, some of the white card and textured bits were removed and another "ghost" print was taken.

These were the results that we brought home. Neat, eh!

Happy knitting day

I was a happy camper the other night, staying up until 1am to finish one of the pieces on my Sunrise Circle Jacket.

When I picked up my knitting that evening, I was so close to finishing the left front that I just had to get to the bind off.

Then of course I wanted to make sure that the back and front pieces were going to go together properly, so I had to finish the last few rows of the back. I had left them because I was agonising about whether the back was going to be too long for me, and wondering whether I should be knitting the front in a smaller size, yada yada.

I laid the pieces out flat on the floor and they are looking good!

Here --------------> the two raglan edges are butted up against each other. Above I have laid the front on top of the back and folded the sleeve so I could measure the length of the sleeve from neck to wrist.

The sleeve may be a little longer than I'd like, even though I omitted the 1.5 inches of straight knitting that the pattern instructions stated after the sleeve shaping was finished. I won't really know until it's all sewn together.

I have cast on for the right sleeve and I'm looking forward to getting this finished soon.

Raw Score:
Wednesday 70%

Thursday 86%
Friday 83%

Foundation Skills Assessment

Here is a copy of the letter that I sent to our local paper. If it does get printed, then hopefully it won't be so edited that it no longer makes my point.

To the editor:
As the parent of a 12-year-old child, the title of Rick Thorpe's article (on page C6 of Sunday's Capital News) immediately caught my eye and I read the article with interest. Rick Thorpe states that the Foundation Skills Assessment is a valuable tool. He claims that the ministry of Education uses the results data, along with other information, to "help build a better education system." He reports that "the results give parents, teachers and schools a snapshot of how students are doing in reading, writing and math and help them make plans for improving student achievement." That may or may not be true, I believe it is not, but shouldn't teachers and schools, already know how students are doing in these subjects? Shouldn't it be utterly obvious from spending six hours a day, five days a week with a child, how well they are doing? Do we really need to spend the vast amounts of money these test cost to find out this information? Would the money not be better spent directly on improving learning in the schools, instead of on administering more tests?

There are so many points in his article that make me shake my head, but none bother me as much as this one where, in my opinion, he tries to make it sound like the government is doing parents a favour with the FSA. He says, " the FSA is a part of the government's accountability and responsibility to parents. Parents want to know how their children are doing in school and how they can help their child improve." I wonder if parents were aware that they needed the government's FSA to tell them how their children are doing in school. I've heard this line a few times as a defence or reasoning for the FSA, and I can't quite believe anyone would dare to say such a thing. I should think that most parents figure they know quite well how their children are doing, even without the report cards and parent-teacher interviews, let alone the FSA information - which, until this year, the results of which parents were not usually made aware until the next year, at which point they are only told whether their child is meeting, non-meeting, or exceeding expectations. If my child was in public school and it was implied to me that I needed the results of the FSA to tell me how my child was doing, I would be outraged.

Thankfully, my children are not in public school, and after our experience with the FSA this past week, I am more pleased than ever before that they are not. The only disadvantage that my children have by learning at home (with a DL independent school) is one that I have just realized this week, and it is that we do not have the arena in which to make our objections regarding the FSA public. Unlike public schools, independent schools risk losing their ministry funding if they do not comply with the government's policy that all students write this test. Were my children in public school I would have been very happy to refuse permission to have my 12-year-old write the FSA. I would have made it very clear that I did not agree with this kind of testing, and that I would not be a part of wasted tax payers' dollars by having him write it. I believe that there is no value in any child writing this particular exam. After hearing about and reading some details of the marking procedures for these tests, I now believe it is, not only an utter waste of time that could be better spent on actual learning but, an absolute disgrace to the ministry.

I would like to urge parents of public school students to find out more about FSA, and to decide if they believe that their children benefit from them. I would encourage parents to look further into this matter and find out about marking techniques. I believe that if public school parents took a stand against this kind of testing, if they refused to let their children write these tests, that the government would have to accept that decision. The FSA really has become little more than a power struggle, a political hot potato between the Ministry of Education and the BCTF. They have become about everything except the children, and I think that we parents need to stand up for and put our children's education first, because if we don't, who will?

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Here's an alternative to all the commercial romantic pink hearts-and-flowers stuff on February 14th - send an anti-Valentine's Day e-card to someone you love!

Happy Valentine's Day

On my kitchen table this morning.

Aaaww, so sweet, thinks I.

On the inside of the 12 year old's card.

Naff* knitting patterns

This is a comment that I left on Interweave Knits' online customer comment form last week:

"I was just looking through my Winter 2007 issue again.
I have a comment to make about two of the sweater patterns - the Bon Bon
Pullover and the Citrus Yoke Pullover. Both of these sweaters have
funnel necks. Now, it always seems to me that funnel necks are a bit of
a cheat - they are a good way to avoid shaping especially if you have a
complex pattern. But they NEVER fit well - you always get that bulge
just below the front neck that looks awful. If you can't get the models
to look good in these sweaters, then I can't see anyone else looking
good in them either. I'd like to see more beautifully designed and
well-fitting garments rather than see you waste your magazine space on
the funnel neck sort of design."

Nothing like a bit of feedback to help them with future issues, eh!

Knitting magazines are a mixed bag...I subscribe to Knitter's and Interweave, and I love getting them in the mail (shame they only come four times a year). They are full of photos of yummy yarns, knitting lessons, articles, patterns - though sometimes the patterns make me think, "Now who would actually WEAR that?" Obviously the designer thinks it's great, and the pattern will have been through a selection process by the editorial staff, and I know everyone has different tastes. But I still raise my eyebrows at some of the styles, especially in Vogue Knitting (you'd definitely have to be a stick-thin young model on the cutting edge of fashion to wear some of those designs).

Anyway, I did receive a reply today:

"Dear Nicola,

Thank you for taking the time to write us with your comments. We
appreciate your feedback.

I will be sure to pass on your suggestions to our editorial staff.

Best regards,

Debbie Blair
Knits Editorial Assistant"

I don't know if my comments will influence future decisions as to what Interweave includes in their magazine, but at least I've given them my opinion.

*Oh yes, if you're wondering what "naff" means, here's a link (I can't believe I found it on Wikipedia)!!!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Some things I've learned this week

1. When making bread, don't make so much at once that it exceeds the capacity of your largest mixing bowl!

Yesterday, I decided that it would be a good use of my time to make a double (8 loaf) batch of my usual bread recipe. I worked out that I could fill both shelves of my oven to the max with one lasagna pan, 2 small loaf pans and 4 large loaf pans.

I dumped a hell of a lot of flour into my huge stainless steel mixing bowl - then I added the rest of the ingredients. Let's just say that when I was adding the water, I was in danger of overflowing onto the worktop every time I stirred. However, it got worse when I tried to mix all of the water in and knead it. Waaaaaay too much dough - what a workout. I ended up having to split it into smaller dough balls to knead it. I did eventually wrestle it all back into the bowl for rising, and it all worked out in the end.

Note to self: stick to smaller quantities of dough.

2. The more I learn, the more I realise that I need to learn.

For example, in my Taekwondo classes this week, our 5th Dan instructor has been doing some back-to-the-basics instruction on very simple techniques, but I realised that I need to do some tweaking in some areas to really get my patterns to look good.

When you're a white belt, just starting out, you think you have a steep learning curve. You're struggling to learn all this new stuff and you look at the higher ranking students and think they know it all and it's easy for them. However, it's not, because as you work your way through the "gups" to black belt the expectations are higher and you have more to learn and memorise. As a black stripe, the instructor is looking very closely at my technique, fussing over every little hand and foot angle and speed and force of movement.

Going to classes with a mix of belt levels, I get to review a lot of the earlier material, which is a really good thing.

3. Washing up - I don't actually hate it!

This was a little epiphany this week. I have always said I hate washing dishes, but....I realised this week that I don't. I like the fact that the kitchen looks way better with clear countertops, I like having my hands in hot water when the weather is cold, I love looking out of my kitchen window at the sky and the trees and the snow and the lake while I'm standing there. We have a system now where the boys have to take turns putting away the dishes - of course they're supposed to do it in the evening after I've washed them, but usually it gets done the next day when they have drip-dried. OK, I can handle that.

A little bit of knitting for you today....this is what I achieved yesterday afternoon. Not a whole lot of length, considering this is on the Bond, but I am changing colours nearly every row and I have to keep untangling the strands of yarn and fiddling about with the carriage to change from one colour to the next.

This is going to be a sleeveless sweater vest, I guess you'd call it, with a V neck. My other name for it would be a nerd vest, because that's probably what I'll look like when I wear it! I saw one in the Yarn Girls book, Knits for all Seasons, and they had an excellent schematic in there that meant I could easily work out how to make it on the machine.

I tried a little swatch of their stripe pattern, but didn't like it, so figured out my own. I made it so that I could easily strand the colours up the side, which meant there had to be an even number of rows between stripes of the same colour. It doesn't work all the time, so I have strands coming from the outside AND the inside of the white, but the rest is working out.

You can't really tell what the stripes are going to look like - this is the back of the work - and it's really going to be a surprise for me too because I have to get under the table to try and see how it's going and then the light from the window is shining through the work and I can't get a good idea of how it looks!

I'm knitting this with the same yarn as the shrug - Red Heart Soft Touch - in chocolate, teal, wine and white. The ribbing at the V neck and armholes and waist will be in chocolate. I'll do that by hand.

Well, I think that's just about it for today - I will leave you with my Raw Score for the last couple of days and go and get the kids moving. We're going to the local Art Gallery today for a Printmaking session. I'll see if I can get some good photos to show you later.

Raw Score:
Monday 75%
Tuesday 87%

Mom can use a Jigsaw!

Sawdust, glue, power tools and laughter. That's what our afternoon was comprised of yesterday as my sons and I worked with my husband. We got to experience a taste of what a work day is for the bread winner in our family. I am in awe. It's one thing to hear about what your spouse does for a living. It is quite another to be there alongside trying to do it as well. Our previous forays into D's world had the three of us helping in the unwrapping of cabinets, hanging cabinet doors and adding drawer and door pulls to the finished kitchens as you can see in the following photos...

Yesterday, we helped in the construction end of things. We were helping to put together countertops in a multi-unit complex. D had various work stations set up for each us so that we formed a family assembly line.
Our oldest son has helped his dad before and has some experience with the power tools necessary to get the job done, but yesterday pushed his experience into uncharted waters. He now was to use the saw to cut angles into strips of wood that would be the reveal on the front edge of all the countertops. The angles had to be cut properly so that they would match perfectly at the countertop's corners. No gaps allowed! Then glue and use the pneumatic gun to pin the strips to the countertop edges.

Our youngest son was the build-up man. His job required securing the build-up materials to the underside of each counter top. More glue and the pneumatic gun for him to accomplish his task. D actually cut all the pieces that G would need, much to his son's delight. Those big saws are intimidating, dangerous and so noisy. Leave their operation to the expert.

I was given the task of cutting out sink holes in all the countertops for the kitchen and bathrooms in each unit. This was my first time using a jigsaw and provided much entertainment to the boys. Gloves, earmuffs and goggles on... then give 'er go! Sawdust flying I learned how to handle this noisy power tool, but not without some mistakes and definitely without the speed and skill my husband has.

The best part of the experience? Being together working towards a common goal and hearing from my husband that we really helped and that we managed to get more done than he'd thought we would. I know I also left with a better understanding and appreciation of the demands, skills and physicality of my husband's job. I wouldn't trade responsibilities with him even though I look forward to joining him on the job again soon.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Ahoy Teddy!

Check out Teddy in his authentic seaman's cap! What better to keep his head warm on those cool nights sailing the Pacific Ocean. In his free time, Teddy is working on a striped sock that he feels really brings out the brown of his nose. Just a couple more inches to go before the heel flap - go Teddy go!!
Well, it's not actually Teddy's cap. It's a birthday present for my husband and it fits his head a little better then it does Teddy's. Sort of. I made up the pattern myself and started decreasing when I was getting short of yarn. The decreases are a little funny because of the ribbing (which I have no idea how to decrease and made it up as I went along) and the length is a little funny because it's a little long to wear unfolded and a little short to fold up. Oh well, it's the love that went into it that really matters!
**An update on the blocking of my lovely hoodie sweater... I attempted to create my own way of blocking. I figured if I wore the sweater, the bottom hem would naturally unroll because of gravity. I wore it a couple of days last week, tugging at it whenever I remembered and no luck. It still rolls up (but it's very warm and cosy!) It looks like I will have to try the traditional blocking method of wetting and pinning it (sigh) and I had better hurry because I see grass peeking out from under the snow. (Yay!)

Monday, 11 February 2008

A letter

Dear Nature's Fare,

For sometime I have been meaning to write to you regarding a matter that is very important to me and, I believe, to the well-being of our Earth. For a few years now, my family and my friends' families have been working to reduce our use of plastic. One of the ways that we do this is by refilling our own containers with bulk products in order to avoid using new containers. We would love to see a few more bulk products in your store. Some things that I specifically would like to see are:

-Maple syrup and local honey
-Dr.Bronner's liquid castile soap (I have seen big refill jugs in the Kootenay Co-op in Nelson)
-An earth-friendly dish soap (such as Ecover which has big refill jugs available in other countries)
-Earth friendly/human health friendly shampoo
-Olive and/or grapeseed oil
-Bulk organic peanut butter (in other cities I have seen machines that actually grind the fresh peanuts right into your own jar, I've seen them for almonds too)
I have seen many of these products available in the bulk section of health food stores in other cities, and in those stores customers can bring in their own container, pre-weigh it, and then fill it with the product. I really do hope that you will consider these suggestions and I will hope to see these choices in your store one day soon.
On another note, I just wanted to let you know how pleased I am that you are opening a store in Westbank. On Friday I was in your new store in the Mission and I thought to myself how nice it would be if you opened a store on the Westside too, imagine how pleased I was to see your new store sign up on my way to the library the next day. Looking forward to shopping with you even more often, now that you will be closer to my home.

Thanks for your time,

Anyone else feel the same way? The more times they hear this, the more likely they are to do it.
One of my goals for this year was to stop Thinking about doing things, and just Do things. This letter was one small one of those things that I have been meaning to do. In order to motivate myself more, I have started a little blog to keep track of my goals as I achieve them, a sort-of simple living personal journal. I will, of course, still be posting with my friends here as I have so much fun connecting with them here as well as in person, but in case you are interested checking out some of my goals as I reach them, you can check here. *Just give me a few days to get some things done first, as I only just started. ;-)

Sunday, 10 February 2008

A good way to spend the morning

Since the sun is back at our house in the afternoons, I don't really need to go hiking in search of it. But, why not!
A little fun with the camera.
And a little fun for the boys too. And Nicola, look how great that hat looks.

Sunrise Circle Jacket - more progress

Following all of my internal dialogue as to gauge and sizing, I optimistically started on the left sleeve/front.

Very nifty shaping. At the same time as you shape the raglan part of the sleeve, you start increasing on one side to form the front of the jacket.

It's getting bigger and the rows are getting longer! I have my fingers crossed that when I finish the first sleeve/front, put it alongside the back and measure everything, I will be happy with it and I can whizz through the right sleeve/front certain that it's going to fit.

Raw Score:
Friday 50% (oops, pizza night)
Saturday 76%
Sunday 75%

Mini-wheat Bags

Yesterday I had some time all to myself and thought I would spend some of it sewing. As I was digging through the pile of mending on my sewing chair I came across E's wheat bag. He discovered a small hole in it last week, he often puts it in the microwave for just a little too long, and I think at some point the wheat must have burnt a bit of a hole into the flannel. It needed replacing anyway, the flannel was definitely worse for wear. This time I decided to use some unbleached cotton (I had some on hand from the yardage I had for making cloth shopping bags) to make a base bag, and then I would make a separate removable flannel cover. That way I would be able to launder the cover when needed. As I started to work on that I was thinking about a friend who had just broken her leg and was on couch rest. I couldn't think of anything I could do to ease her pain but I do want to help, so I thought I would make her some mini-wheat (ha ha, mini-wheat) bags to help ease some of her aches and pains. And soon, when she is all nicely healed, and feeling fantastic again, she can use them on the little ones in her life.

Now...better get back to E's wheat bag cover.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Now THAT's a lot of snow!

This photo was taken by my husband - he and oldest son were working out of town for a couple of days this week - this is what the snow looks like in Trail, BC!

Another good reason to go to Hawaii

Thrift stores!!! How could I have forgotten to mention that on this post?

When we are there we make sure to check out our favourite thrift stores. This year we found a few new ones too. In Kula, W found these Heelys for $1. They looked like they have never been used. They also found some great Lego for 50 cents, including 2 baseplates.
I found several skirts($2 each usually), here are some pics of most of them.
I love the fabric used for this wrap skirt - it has a very South American feel. I also got some shoes that I just couldn't pass up. These ones, for wearing with all those skirts.And these ones because they are Vegan Earth shoes ($3 - also look like they have never been worn) and because two years ago I finally had to get rid of my poor, sad, shabby, abused Birkenstocks because, after relegating them to "garden shoe" status years prior, they were in such bad shape that even the earthworms in my garden were embarrassed when I wore them.
S stocked up on Hawaiian shirts - pretty much a staple clothing item for him the last few years. could I pass this shirt up? Well, obviously I couldn't. Fun!!