Thursday, November 15, 2012

All I Want for Christmas...

A waterproof picnic blanket in a bold and/or retro pattern like these from Portland's PoBa.

A gift certificate to any upstanding stationery store such as The Regional Assembly of Text or Buchan's.

I'll take any number and any combination of these mugs from Dahlhaus Ceramics. I have never coveted pottery like this before; it makes my heart ache. Available at Shiny Fuzzy Muddy Dec 8 & 9 at Heritage Hall on Main St.

A gift certificate with Victory Gardens to help me spend the $100 I need to get a free consultation to better plan and expedite my garden next spring.

A gift certificate to any of these Vancouver restaurants that I've been wanting to visit: Wildebeest, The Acorn, or Fray.

A gift certificate towards having my couch cleaned by Roya's Carpet Care because they have the best reviews on Yelp and decent prices, they use eco-friendly products, and I want my once-beige couch to look as pristine as the one in the picture on their website (see above). Baby drool begone!

Tickets to a show of any kind (concert, ballet, theatre, etc)
Pedicure gift certificate
Books on local history
Smartwool socks

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blog O'clock

I found these lovelyvintage clocks
over at Sadie Olive's Etsy shop.
It's blog o'clock. That is, it's 10:30pm and I've been sitting at this computer for nearly three hours since I put the boys to bed. I've got a rare night to myself and I fully intended (in fact, looked forward) to creative time tonight. However, my desire to think big and grow a business and stay in the loop and maintain my marketable skills pressured me into working instead.

Working for Edgewise that is. It's writing, it's editing, it's Facebook, it's Twitter, it's looking at dozens of fabulous artists' websites - I'm working on a press release for Shiny Fuzzy Muddy. It's working for myself. And yes, I'm really trying to complain here.

It's just that I was beginning to think that I might be able to free up my evenings for my creative endeavors and maybe even read one of the many books piled on my bedside table. I haven't even gotten halfway through my much anticipated copy of Stephen Fry's "The Ode Less Traveled" and it's nearly time to return it to the library; the same goes for "Vancouver: Stories of a City". Fortunately I own "Vancouver's First Century", though I'm not even a third of the way into that one - the introduction was such a pleasantly intricate and entertaining surprise that I think I'll have to go back and start over, when I have time of course.

My bedside milieu is not
quite so serene.
Then there are the two parenting books that are getting dusty and really should be returned to their shelf. Maybe I'll have a chance to read up on Dr. Sears' take on disciplining a preschooler and "What to Expect the Toddler Years" once my boys are in school.

That - right there at the end of the last sentence - was a completely ridiculous but rather representative thought not unlike others I have daily about all the wonderful things I'll do once the boys start school. It's only three or four years away (IF we don't have more kids)! Now rationally I know this is akin to all the wonderful things I was going to do on mat leave - other than take care of one teeny tiny baby and his or her teeny tiny needs - but the thoughts still occur.

Back to the bedside table. There are also a few food magazines kicking around, literally. The toddler knocked them off the table yesterday and they've been on the floor since; I keep writing 'meal planning' on my to do list and I keep just scraping by with one idea a day. I really do have the best intentions as the magazines on the floor can attest to.

Getting back to how I am able to afford to work - if you don't have young children that statement may seem like an oxymoron, but I assure you time is not money, it's much more valuable than money (though there isn't enough of either as far as I'm concerned). I can afford six hours a week to tentatively dip my toe in the lake of non-familial (aka: paid) childcare. I'm giving the granny nanny a brief respite, or at least I'm not solely relying on her, while testing out the world of the nanny share two mornings a week.

In theory, the goals that these six hours of childcare a week are going to allow me are to further my business, find a mentor, blog more, and possibly even plan more than one meal at a time. I'll keep you posted.

"A house without books is like a room
without windows" Heinrich Mann

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Love Me a Good Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine can make or break a vacation, settle a late night or a rushed bedtime, and generally make the day to night transition smoother. A routine gives a sense of familiarity and comfort and it can be taken and used anywhere - on a road trip where the kids are strapped into car seats in the back seat at bedtime, on an airplane with children on your lap and strangers all around who are hyper sensitive to sound, or in a foreign hotel room or distant relatives' guest room. I've taken to memorizing my favorite rhymes and songs so that I don't even need light or books to read so long as I am within earshot.

When I sing to my kids at bedtime I tend to always fall back on the same old songs. There's the predictable and wonderful "May There Always be Sunshine", (we fill in the names of the people in our family or who we saw that day). There's the somewhat unlikely "Brokedown Palace" by the Grateful Dead; it's pretty cute to hear a two year old sing "listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul"! And then there's the unlikely two verses of the hymn "How Great Thou Art"; it's a long story, suffice it to say it's a fond memory thing.

There have been some new additions to my repertoire since attending baby time at the library for two years straight. I've appropriated the short but sweet ditties that can be repeated as much or as little as the situation requires. You know how it is; sometimes you need a short little four-liner to get your toddler through book closed, light off, and into bed so you can get out the door and other times you need something simple enough that you can repeat it until your wakeful baby returns to slumber while you're still half asleep yourself.

Sailing, sailing over the ocean
Sailing, sailing over the sea
Sailing, sailing over the water
Sail back home to me.

Tall trees, warm fire,
strong wind, rushing water.
I feel it in my body.
I feel it in my soul.

Do do mon petit
Do do mon petit
Do do mon petit
Et bonne nuit, et bonne nuit.

Some nights I just can't bring about a singing voice and so I've started memorizing stories. So far I've committed to memory "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown - who hasn't? "The Big Red Barn" by the same author, "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" by Eugene Field, a dozen R L Stevenson poems (which I adore), more than a dozen traditional sleepy time rhymes from anonymous sources, and one beloved poem by Shirley Hughes titled "Alfie Weather" but which I call "Benny Weather."

If you're not already acquainted with Shirley
Hughes and Alfie get yourself to the children's
section of the nearest library!
Alfie Weather

Whether the weather is sunny
Or whether it's drenching with rain -
A river along the garden path,
A sea of mud in the lane;
Any old weather is Alfie weather,
He doesn't really mind,
Even the sort that nips his toes
Or the steamed-up-windows kind.
Sooner or later the clouds will set sail -
Maybe after tea...
Sooner or later the sun will come out,
And so will he.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Working for the 'Hood

It's a whole lot better than working for the man and there are decent perks too. Since moving to my current neighbourhood and staying home full-time with my two kids I haven't been able to get involved enough in the local goings-on. I like to feel like I'm making a difference and being active on a super local level lets me see the change my efforts make; it's more gratifying than vacuuming! I've also really honed my clip art skills as you can see below.

Here's a sample of a few of the projects I've help organize.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Right Back at Ya'

Thanks to Lisa over at The Sprog for naming me and my Mighty Little Acorns in her List of 10 Compliments to her bloggy buddies. It's good to be appreciated!

If you haven't checked out The Sprog (and my listmates) I'm sure you will enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

This Week's Books

The Stars Will Still Shine by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

"This new year the sky will still be there..."
Here is another book that reads like a poem and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Rylant has a talent for unassuming language that packs a sentimental punch. This book reminds us of the big picture through small details. It is at once hopeful and reassuring making it a great nighttime read.

The illustrations portray the highlights of a childhood year as an adult might remember them: beach days with ice cream cones, reading curled up on a couch next to the fireplace, swinging on a swing in a tree, eating peaches and making pies. Along with these happy times there may be darker times, but the author assures us that in grey, winter cities there can be colorful flowers, even dark nights have light, and despite obstacles in our lives the "sky will still be there / there stars will still shine / birds will fly over us / church bells will chime".

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Diane Goode

This biographical story about the author's childhood in rural Appalachia was a favorite of mine as a child. My mom always called me a "mountain girl" when I was young in the mountains. I still identify with that part of me despite having lived in the city for the past seven years. I can't help but feel that this is only a temporary home and that if I stay here too long I will disappoint a part of myself and possibly my parents who chose to bring me up in a rural area.

As a girl it was clear to me that this story took place a little earlier in time and a little ways away in distance, but nonetheless, I could relate to shelling peas from the garden, warming up by the wood stove, drinking hot cocoa, and reveling in the still evening air of the mountains.

It concerns me that my kids won't relate to this book as I did, not being raised in a small town in the mountains. On the flipside, I imagine they will find themselves in other books that will make an impression deep enough they'll remember a few of the words and illustrations when they're adults living far from home.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Local Orchard

I never would have guessed how much local fruit I'd be eating living in my central city location. This August I picked, ate, shared, baked, and froze a bowl of superb yellow plums, a handful of Italian prune plums, a couple buckets of blackberries, three colanders heaped with red Santa Rosa plums, 150 apples, and at least two dozen bunches of the best green grapes I've ever eaten - and all grown within one square block of my house! 

In our backyard we have two apple trees. Last year we had two dozen apples from the big tree and maybe two edible ones from the small tree. We pruned the trees last fall and this summer we got 100 apples off the big one and 50 off the small one!

Doin' it homesteader style
We ate and baked with the gorgeous 100 apples from the big tree but, other than giving the somewhat scabby little apples to my younger son for teething toys, I figured sauce was the solution. I was able to borrow from a neighbour (who's also a friend) an apple saucer (well, that's what I call it). She had it from her mother (who's also a neighbour) who used to use it in her homesteading days. 

I covered the apples in water, brought them to a boil, simmered them until the flesh was soft and the peels cracked, then tossed them in the apple saucer and sauced 'em. I added back in half the cooking water to lengthen the sauce (and not waste that pink gold - yes, the apple cooking water was a lovely pink lemonade color) and my boys ate it up right away. I got two mason jars out of two dozen of the worst apples and I feel right pleased about it!

Last meal ever eaten out of that tea cup;
he broke it on his way to the dishwasher.
Fortunately, no apple sauce was harmed.

Apples, sauce, and a prime example of
applesauce coma after two helpings.

Apparently our wall color is a dead ringer for homemade applesauce.
Put that on your paint chip Benjamin Moore!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Family Mathematics

My husband and I knew we wanted more than one child before we'd had our first. (Heck, I knew I wanted more than one child before I had a husband!) We didn't exactly anticipate having another quite as soon as we did; some loving friends with a child the same age as our first told us that we were crazy when we announced the second pregnancy. In truth, it wasn't a mental condition but an illness of the heart; we'd been bitten by the love bug. Our 7 month old was sleeping through the night, was a good eater, had never had a fever nor a diaper rash, and the unpredictable early days were quickly becoming a distant memory.

Now as a mother of two tots I find myself having an internal daily debate about whether or not we should have a third. The overwhelming argument for is the simple equation that another child equals more love. There was a time when I wondered how I could ever love another as much as my first, but the most mind-blowing part of parenting is that one's capacity for love grows with each child. And then there is that child's potential love to both put into the world and to draw out of others which perpetually raises the world love-o-meter too. It may sound hokey, but, honestly, what's wrong with more love? (Well, besides the increased work and stress and money and landfill space it takes to raise that little love machine.)

Our #2 has rather seamlessly fit into our family. It helps that so much of the world is set up for foursomes: cars, dinner tables, board games, roller coasters - not that we've taken him on any amusement park rides as of yet. In my experience, the second baby is easier simply because I'm more relaxed; I hardly check in with parenting books and have visited the doctor for check-ups less often too. The second learns to "deal" as the firstborn sometimes takes precedence (i.e.: when the older one is about to run into oncoming traffic the younger one might just have to cry while safely buckled into the stroller parked with the brake on well out of harm's way). 

Of course, we already had all the baby paraphernalia, all we had to get was a second car seat and a double stroller (see previous post). Personally, I don't miss alcohol much as I never got back into the habit after the first, so I kind of forget what I'm missing now that it's more than three years on the wagon. And, let's face it, breastfeeding is a wonderful bonding and cuddling experience and the cuddles are a top reason to do it all over again. 

On the downside, getting a family of four out the door, to the dinner table, or into bed takes more time, though at least with two kids there is still a parent to wrangle each child. Also, with each subsequent baby, there is the fear (and the fact) of losing further touch with the working world and one's career and personal aspirations. 

One mom friend of mine recently returned to her job after her second maternity leave ended and she found work to be a welcome change of pace. She said it was a luxury to be able to focus on something without being disturbed by persistent whining... for the first week. Soon her decent job became "same old" all over again. As for myself, as someone who decided not to return to the ol' 9-5 and is choosing to keep my kids at home and out of daycare for a little while longer than mat leave allows, I try to keep one or two toes in the working world so that I don't end up with a big gap on my resume. Despite knowing the truth of it, "stay at home mom" just doesn't cut it when explaining what you did for those "unemployed" years. 

My hubby and I are in agreement not only about our kids not going to daycare right away but also about the benefit of siblings. We each value our sibling relationships so much that we couldn't deprive our kids of it. 

When all is said and done, the truly unpredictable baby days (the first 3 or 5 months of a wee one's life) are challenging because of the lack of sleep and readjusting to it all, but I honestly believe that if I had five kids or nine it would be the same: I would make it work. I figure I will not ever regret having another but I might actually regret not having one if I don't.

Monday, September 17, 2012

First Comes Love...

Then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage, and then another one 17 months later and now you need a double stroller.

There was a time not so long ago when I disdained (and very possibly even mocked) the owners of double strollers. I mean, really, they are worse than motorized mobility scooters; they take up as much space and often contain crying babies. As with so many things in life, watch what you laugh at because you too may be laughable one day.

What I'm driving these days, the 2011 Baby Jogger City Select

While this new stroller felt conspicuous and ego-tastic for the first week, as with many aspects of motherhood, it soon came to be essential, and not long after that, taken for granted.

A Brooklyn neighbourhood proposed turning bike
lanes to stroller lanes; local moms were quoted saying the
lane wouldn't be wide enough for their double strollers. 
I could tell you that this is the best double stroller out there - if you don't mind the price tag - for many reasons. It has ample shade canopies (a surprisingly hard thing to find), serious storage space underneath, foam-filled tires (air-filled are prone to punctures), it accommodates multiple configurations (both kids facing forward, backward, facing each other, facing away from each other, et cetra), you can add on pieces like trays, rain covers, bassinets, et cetra, and it easily converts to a single stroller. All this to say that the real clincher for me was that it is not a double wide stroller. I just don't think I could handle bumping pedestrians off the sidewalk constantly. I mean, have you ever been on the receiving end of one of those bad boys? Proponents of the side by side strollers can be heard saying, "It's only as wide as a wheelchair!" as though it's a selling feature. But I've seen the dismay cross the face of oncoming walkers when they see the wide load of a double wide stroller and twenty sticky fingers rolling in their direction. 

After having my first baby I remember feeling as though I would never again be able to leave the house to go grocery shopping. Now I've grown so accustomed to my big stroller that I find myself wondering how I will ever grocery shop once the kids have outgrown it. Carrying shopping bags by hand? Or worse, driving to get groceries? Give me my 34 pound baby-mobile any day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ponytail No Longer

I did it. I chopped my hair off. It's not the first time nor is it that last time, but considering long hair is my default setting, it feels darn good - cathartic really.

I pretty much walked into Bye Napoleon and said to Jenn (my hair's new bff), "I'll take one of these please" and walked out an hour later smiling ear to ear.

I wanted this cut

Or this



It's hair like this that caused me to delay
cutting mine for so many months. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

This Week's Book

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger

I just discovered this author and book (published in 2008) and yet the latter feels comfortably familiar while keeping me turning the pages.  I'd call it an instant classic but I'm willing to bet someone out there has already dubbed it thus.

The Little Yellow Leaf had me at the cover. While title is sweet as are the illustrations, I also admire the font, the colour palette, and I that the entire book jacket is one image so that when the book is being read an onlooker sees the big picture.

Upon first read I liked the story and it's quaint clarity as well as the previously mentioned comfy yet fresh quality of the art that comes, in part, from the use of collage with hints of text, textbook graphics, foolscap and graph paper. (I wondered where the term foolscap came from - I'd always thought it was "full scap" surely due to some grade school teacher's pronunciation - so I looked it up. Just follow the link to learn more.)

In case you were unsure which
little yellow leaf is our protagonist...

After a couple more reads I see now just how much the artwork adds to the tale. The author/illustrator is an expert at perspective. The tree itself appears straightforward but if you look closely (the images you see here don't do the book justice) there are words in them there trees, literally! Throughout the story we see the little yellow leaf's oak tree in different light, weather, and from different distances and angles.

Brilliant perspective: view of the
oak tree from above

Once the leaves are airborne the fields far below are a patchwork quilt of understated colors and patterns, but they are not simply a two dimensional backdrop, the fields have hills at their edge and sky beyond so that the viewer is not looking straight down on the field but is there, in the air with the leaves.

Collage patchwork quilt of fields and hills

This book is whimsical, homey, and full of hope; now to go find more from this author!

Friday, August 10, 2012

August is Enchanting

Dear Blog,

I think we can all agree that summer is lovely, if too fleeting. By now we've strung together a few weeks of sunshine and surely there's more to come, but already the nights are getting dark noticeably earlier.

The green (and purple and yellow) beans are coming in, our first blackberries are turning our fingers purple, the apples have just begun to fall, and a generous neighbour has made deliveries of heaping bowls of local blueberries and a baker's dozen of Fraser Valley corn still wet with dew. We've spray parked, sprinklered, and road tripped. We've pool dipped, BBQ-ed, and picnicked. we've eaten peaches on beaches, scraped our knees, and had one good summer storm complete with thunder and lightening.

It was a chat at a preschooler's recent birthday party with Lisa Corriveau of that put my fingers in motion and my rear end in my desk chair and now I am ready to come back to you again... real soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, August is enchanting. Wish you were here.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Seasonal Hiatus

It appears that every Spring I would rather be in my garden than at my desk so this year I'm giving official notice, in writing, that I will see you all back here again when the green leaves turn a little more golden and I've got a lot more dirt under my nails.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Unearthing Local History

Last week I got in my first gardening days of the year. I spent hours weeding dandelions, pruning the hydrangea, planting poppies, bachelor buttons, violas, and scarlet runner beans, training the clematis, turning over the garden and getting the greens in. During this process I found countless rusty nails, a handful of porcelain chips, a couple unbelievably large rusted bolts (how could I not have come across these before?), and a four inch shard of glass. (And that's nothing compared to the bent spoon and hockey puck I found last year!)

All this takes me back to my last house where I found similar items in a similar veggie patch every spring, despite turning over the soil and double digging that dirt and sifting out the roots and rocks for five years. And then there's my parents' garden where my mom found (and likely continues to find) random flotsam from bygone eras and previous tenants since we moved in two and a half decades ago.

I enjoy thinking about this stuff. The people who lived and breathed and cried and laughed right where I am sitting now and their way of life and their trail of breadcrumbs that leads me back to them. I like thinking about what it would have been like in my neighborhood when you could still find creeks with fish in them, alleyways with outhouses, and streets with streetcars.

It's my sincere case of nostalgia that causes me to find this as fascinating as I do and so I got a kick out of it when there was a knock at my door one afternoon last week. Assuming it was a mom friend and her girls come for our play date I invited the knocker in verbally from down the hall. To my surprise a middle-aged man opened my door. Apparently he was friends with the boys who grew up in my house in the 70s. He was able to enlighten me as to the stains on my hardwood floors (black Scottie dogs), the pink 1961 license plate nailed to the ceiling of the garage (three boys lived here and worked on dirt bikes and hot rods) and that hockey puck I found beneath a dead rhododendron in my garden (alley hockey and errant pucks).

In this vein, here is a poem I wrote a few year's back after visiting a dear friend's father who found some nifty odds and ends while renovating his house in small-town Ontario.


Lynn’s old house hid countless relics.
During renovations he found newspapers
and a dozen shoes in the walls.
Four coins in the crossbeams for luck. 
Outside, after the thaw, there were daffodil bulbs
in the grass, a marsh, and a rowboat in the field.

Bridget O’Neil had been buried for a hundred and thirty years
when her scribbler turned up behind the stairs,
one guilt-ridden Victorian phrase per page
copied meticulously in her nine year old cursive.

The O’Neils had seven children
and a summer kitchen.
They bought the land from the Burns,
the Protestants, not the Catholic Byrnes.
Those veins of vanity ran deep enough 
to provoke a bar fight ending with a nose bite; 
bank embezzlement settled the score.
Touted tales told by cattle farmers
at the barley houses on the ridge.

This has always been a one-horse town,
though back then it had a one-room schoolhouse
and the hardware store sold two sizes of men’s pants,
34 and 42; muddy farmyards never minded suspenders.
Driveways have always meandered into the mist
and the creek in the ditch is nothing new. 
The same dandelions work at uprooting the house.

“Barnacle Bill” on the victrola, a nail for a needle,
and yes, black cherry pie on the sill.
A night in Erinsville yields more
than five toads crossing the road.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Thomas the Tank Engine Dilemma

By guest blogger Daniella Fast 

It was not an all-star mom moment: holding my nine month old while dragging my screaming two-and-a-half year old out of a friend's house.  A month later my friend's little boy still remembers when "Thaniel" didn’t want to go home.  Nathaniel had been having way too much fun with the Thomas the Tank Engine train set table; it even had Cranky the crane. Maybe my timing for making an exit was off, maybe he was extremely exhausted, or maybe my little boy was experiencing the first stages of toy obsession.

Before having children, my husband and I spent a year abroad experiencing the world. One of our stops was in Northern Kenya in a small village called Gatab. My husband made a trip with a German doctor to Nolpilipili, a neighbouring village a day's hike away. Their task was to complete a water line that would eliminate the village mamas' burden of walking an entire day to fetch water. Knowing that there was a schoolhouse in the village, my husband and the doctor decided to bring a new soccer ball for the children. Immediately after the ball was handed over a full blown soccer match ensued. That one ball brought a day of laughter and enjoyment to those children.

After Kenya we flew to Ethiopia, landing in the capital, Addis Ababa. As if this wasn't far enough from home already, we proceeded to travel north for two weeks to the village of Debark. From here we took a day’s drive to a tiny village near the Simien Mountains and trekked 10 hours into the mountains on foot to find ourselves right in the middle of nowhere. Here, our group was greeted by children playing a simple game of "Bao". Their game board was two parallel lines of holes dug into the ground and their game pieces were rocks. I won’t get into how the game was played, the point is that it kept the children entertained for hours: a simple game played with a handful of rocks.

Getting back to my screaming little boy…. He didn't want to leave that day because he was excited by the toys that his friend’s house had to offer. Making matters worse in my mind, he often requests to go to his friends' houses because he loves their array of trucks, ride-on toys, and train sets. It saddens me that he isn’t content with what he has, especially after seeing how little other children have. I realize that we live where we live and I also, as a teacher, understand that toys develop physical, cognitive, and emotional processes. However, one still needs to stop and think about where the line is between materialism and encouraging developmental skills via toys. On one hand, I want my child to learn and develop; on the other hand, I don’t want to foster selfishness and discontent with what he has. 

I hope that over time I can help my little guy leave someone’s house content with the time he had playing with their toys. I want him to know that it’s not the toys that he takes with him that will give him joy. I want him to know that he has a creative mind capable of entertaining himself wherever he is, with whatever he has. The photo on the right shows three African boys I met on the coast of Zanzibar – it has a prominent place on my family room wall. I found these boys using scraps of garbage they gathered on the beach to build an amazing, fully functioning sailboat. They are daily reminders to me to teach contentment and simple creativity to my children.