Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Countdown - food

People have lots of options on the meaning of Christmas. Some put the Christ in it, some are driven by intense consumerism. There's love and peace and joy and friends and family...but the fastest way to most people's hearts is through their stomachs. Food is a uniting force. And I like to cook. Thus, Christmas is food. For me it is entertaining and feeding my family and friends, filling their tummies with food and their hearts with love.

So, the Christmas Menu (all gluten and dairy free)

Breakfast- coffee and cranberry-cardamom bread.

Brunch- avocados on toast with lobster bathed in a lemon-wine cream sauce with poached eggs and bacon.

Snacks- mocha-hazelnut naniamo bars, butter tart squares, rum balls, shortbread etcetera.
Dinner- coconut and butternut squash soup, herb and honey roasted turkey with sherry gravey, herbed mashed potatoes, bacony kale, maple sausage and chestnut stuffing, sweet and sour carrots.

Dessert- really? You're still hungry? Good thing there are plenty more sweets.

Oye. Couch. Blanket. Finnegan. Zzzzzzzzzzz

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, best of the season. (Ps, drop me a line if you want a recipe!)


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Countdown: Decorating

My day job has been creeping into my evenings and weekends as I traipse across our fair country and back (and forth and back) again.  This type of thing tends to limit the extra time I want to spend in front of a computer.  It also tends to put a bit of a damper on my energy levels...hence the somewhat spotty blog posting of late.  But, our household enthusiasm for Christmas is starting to give me a jolt, and between trips, I've been busily preparing for the jolliest of times.

Jeff and I are both pretty nuts for the holidays.  Jeff's holiday muse is Clark Griswold.  He's about half-way through putting them up.  The weather has been pretty wicked here, so lights are not as far along this year as usual.  And me, well, I take the indoors to a whole new level of granny chic-bohemian-crazy gypsy-kitschiness. 

The towels are exchanged for Christmas towels, the photos are exchanged for holiday themed 'art', garlands are hung in each doorway and decorations are stuffed in every nook and cranny.

I love my reindeer.  They're the first ones up and the last ones down every year.

This year I decorated our upstairs tree with the ornaments I've been creating for my Etsy shop.  It's a fun little tree.

Downstairs, our tree is stuffed with ornament that have taken many years to collect.  Like the rest of the decor in the house, the only 'theme' is, OH! PRETTY!.

Finnegan and Bastet tend to roll with these changes.  Bastet likes to curl up under the Christmas tree and pretend she's out doors.  Finnegan just tends to ignore it, unless he is being decorated as well.  Poor little wiener.   
Ummm, yeah, so could you just stick to the trees?  Thanks.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

4:20 - the not fun one.

Finnegan- also not a morning person
There is nothing pleasant about a 4:20am alarm. It doesn't matter how soft the music is, or how gentle the kisses - 4:20am is rude.

I've never been a morning person. I was probably one of the few kids who actually celebrated Christmas that had to be roused in order to allow the festivities to start. Equally, no matter how exciting the reason for the 4:20 wake-up, I can never find one that makes me excited. Yesterday's reason for 4:20am was not overly exciting. I travelled somewhere new, but any curiosity or interest was being tempered by the temperature. It was and continues to be -32c, before any measurable windchill. I also find that rude. 4:20am and -32c. My capacity for accepting or tolerating any other rudeness this week will be significantly compromised.

I only remember one real instance of anticipatory excitement around 4:20am. It was once upon a time, when my sister and I used to visit our grandparents during the summer in Deep Bay. And it was before my pre-teen brain made the morning an impossibility to face. My grandpa used to get up before dawn to go fishing. He had a comfortable though basic Bayliner. I would hear him in the kitchen, and I would creep down the stairs. We would eat cornflakes and he would let me put sugar on mine (a great luxury I was not normally afforded at home). I would pull on my jacket and Grandpa would buckle my life jacket over top. We would then trudge towards the wharf just as the sun was coming up. Grandpa said that the sun hitting the water woke the fish up and made them hungry. It made sense to me. I usually fell back asleep, curled up on a bench until the sun woke me up and made me hungry. Quite often there were other types of forbidden treats in the boat, like powdered doughnuts or cookies, which I snacked on while the lines were set.

This is still my morning face.  Jeff sees this pout fairly regularly.
And remember, I wanted to be there.  Imagined how I looked yesterday.
A couple of spring salmon later, and lots of quiet bobbing around Denman and Hornby Islands, Grandpa and I would head back to the house, where folks would just be waking. Grandpa would clean the fish with a couple of eagles watching carefully from nearby, and then he'd make us pancakes on the griddle. The whole day was still laid out before us.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Life on the edge

I am a water baby. Born under the sign of the crab on the west coast of Vancouver Island, salt water courses through my blood. Rain, salt air and fog are essential life forces. Isolation and standing on the edge of the known bring me comfort.

I am here, next human is here-ish. Perfect. I like my personal space.
View Larger Map

For university, I chose to bust out on my own by moving to Montreal. Rain became snow, salt air was only constructed through the over zealous snow removal and fog was either really steam or self induced through hangover. Isolation was cultural and anonymity, and the were no edges. Montreal is the middle. But I still found the sea. Most people studied at home or the library (or didn't study), but I found my haven at the Biodome. Sure, my intertidal zone was a little too sterile, but it was one of the few places I could ground myself.

During the summers I went back to Ucluelet, back to the edge, to stare off the side of the continent. The summers recharged me, and the lack of anonymity often left me eager to escape to my cultural isolation.

Halifax is a nice balance. There's enough of a population base that you can remain somewhat anonymous, but it is situated on the edge. This past weekend, I craved that edge. Jeff, Finnegan and I went for a walk to stare off the side of the continent. I feel recharged.

We are here, next human is here-ish.  Perfect. We need out personal space.
View Larger Map
And over there is Muxia.  It's a long swim.

The sea at our feet and the sun on our faces.  Batteries are recharging.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Throwback Thursday - Halloween Edition

Halloween was always a big deal in our house.  Before we were born to the time we were around 3 and 1 respectively, my parents had raging Halloween parties of legendary proportions.  The photographic evidence of these parties show a lot of creative costumes (as well as other things that I am sure makes my elders extremely happy that they happened prior to the Internet revolution).  Back in those days, people didn't buy their costumes, they made them.  There was no Halloween Superstore or Value Village, especially not in Ucluelet, but this did not stop folks from going all out.

For our costumes, my sister and I were lucky enough that my mum had a great deal of cleverness.  Our requests generally fell on the classic side of the Halloween spectrum, but our mum did not fail to make some memorable costumes.

The Classic Halloween Jack-o-lantern:

Am I not terrifying.  Look at my scary face!


The Wicked Queen of Halloween.  Mum was not really sure what to do with this request, but I was delighted by the result.  It remained one of my favourites:
That is one smug looking queen.  And one nose-picky ghost.
The Classic Witch.  As you can see, my sister (2 years younger) ended up as a Jack-o-lantern two years after me...
Note the lack of colour on my ears. 
Pretty sure this is a direct result of orange paint coming out of my ears for days after my Wicked Queen days!

A horrible creepy crawly spider.  Probably would have been more effective with my scary face rather than a smile.
I could have only wished to be a terrifying as this dog.
I still love playing dress-up, and if there is a Halloween costume contest to be had, I do enjoy throwing my hat in the ring.  This Frida Kahlo costume did me well for a couple of years:
Say cheese, monkey.
But mostly I look forward to dressing my own little beasties in costumes one day.  Until then, Finnegan has been my guinea pig.

Doctor Whoiener
Dogtor "Bones" McCoy

Damn it Jim, I'm a dachshund, not a doctor.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

People are complicated.

I want my blog to be a space of lightness and whimsy, because as we see time and again, there is plenty of darkness out there. I need to make an exception though, and like John Oliver, I promise that if you make it all the way through, lightness and whimsy will follow.  The last few days have been weird for me. I have been silently raging about the public discourse on the events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi. And following a nasty bout of depression that left me incapacitated for 3 months, I made a pact with myself and with Jeff to avoid any silent raging that may lead me down that rabbit hole again.

When I was in elementary school, I was inappropriately touched by a teacher. While there were other kids present, no other adult witnessed it. I was teased by the other students for years, but I didn't ever say anything to an adult about it because 1) I was scared that I would be punished, 2) I felt that the teasing of my peers meant that I should suck it up, and 3) everyone noted how much they liked this teacher, how much he had done for the school and the athletics program, and I was a bookish, quiet, 8 year old girl who was in said athletics programs. I was also in a classroom full of girls that sought out his lap during storytelling and hugged him before the weekend. Who would listen to me?

When I moved on to grade 4, he was made the grade 4 teacher. It was a horrible year for me. The next year he left the school. Soon after, my parents divorced and I was able to retreat further into my books, trying for all the world to become invisible. I put on weight and wore baggy clothes. I hated myself and my body. By the time I was in my late teens, I was ready to talk to someone about it. But being ready to talk doesn't mean that others are ready to listen. Action, it seemed, was my only recourse. If he had done these things to me, I should file a police report, I shouldn't allow him to do it to others, I should do the responsible thing. But instead, I shut up. I didn't want to talk to the police, and though I was made to feel that my silence made me an accomplice somehow to his potential predation of others, I also couldn't face him and the community as an accuser. I already hated myself, I didn't need anyone else to hate me too.  Besides, I had already seen him several years after the fact at a science fair with some female students. They buzzed around him, much like some of my peers had, and I rushed to the toilets to vomit. A court case? No way.

In my first month in my first year of university, I ended up in a very dark place after a date with a significantly older student left me lost and confused in a suburban Montreal apartment. I had consented to the date, and I had consented to watching the hockey game at his place, but I did not consent to what happened next. How could I have been so naive? How could I have been so stupid? Now I had no money, no way to get home, even if I had known where I was and how to get to my dorm (Remember the time before cellphones? Yep, this was then). So, is it rape if he drives you home afterwards? Maybe there was just something about me. I was the common denominator.

Jump to my late 20s. My mum forwards me a newspaper article about the teacher being arrested because of a number of recent and current students accusations of sexual misconduct. The RCMP were seeking witnesses and other victims.  Twenty years had passed for me, but in that instant, I was 8, I was vulnerable and I was terrified. Was this the time to take action? Ultimately I chose to come forward, but not for myself. After years of disordered eating, self harm and a destructive relationship, I had finally stopped hating myself and punishing myself for things that were not my fault. I needed to help give these girls a voice, to show them that life can go on. I needed to sit on that stand as a 'well educated, professional woman' because anything less, it seems, makes you at best unreliable and suspect, or at worst somehow deserving. I needed to sit there as someone that makes a living sparring with lawyers, and walk the world through why this man, a community pillar, a great teacher and a skilled coach was also, in fact, a very bad man.  Even though the process took 6 years, and had me fly across the country, I stuck with it. And even though there were something like 14 counts, ranging from aggravated sexual assault to sexual interference, all but one was dismissed - mine. Was it because the others did not happen? The judge stated that she believed something happened, but the burden of proof that was required was only met in my case. Because I spend my days sparring with lawyers as an educated, professional woman, I was able to get justice. But you will never see me going through that again for my university 'date'.

All this to say, we don't ever know the whole story. All this to say, the system is skewed. All this to say, that in this day and age, if that teacher had posted to Facebook that a jilted former student who didn't make the relay team was going to start a smear campaign against him and that all that really happened was that we used to role play parts from "Lolita"...would it have made him more sympathetic in this story?

Life is complicated, people are complicated. Here is a video of Finnegan as a puppy being adorable.  It is not complicated.



Monday, 20 October 2014

The Leather Anniversary (More mushy than S&M)

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever

Three years ago today, Jeff and I had our last date before our wedding.  Our shared love of indie music was one of the things that drew us together (our first date was to see Olenka and the Autumn Lovers in a weird little venue that only had tea available to patrons).  This week in Halifax is the annual Pop Explosion Festival, and in 2011, we were happy to sneak out of the house for a couple of hours on our own to see Dan Mangan play.  Due to weather, he wasn't even sure if he and his band were going to make it from Newfoundland, where they had played the night before.  They rushed straight from the airport to the stage, and as such, didn't have the time to do a proper sound check.  The show was still very good, but near the end of the night, Dan finally unleashed his voice and used the venue to full effect. The rafters of St Matthew's Church grabbed his vocals and threw them heavenward.  The resonate sound was astonishing.  Afterwards, Jeff and I jumped in puddles and wandered by the waterfront, thick with fog and mist, and had a small reprieve from the stress of wedding planning.  No matter how small and casual your wedding, no matter how relaxed it all is - it is not, not one moment of it, relaxing.

On October 22, we stood in our very own backyard and stated in front of family and friends that the rest of our lives together didn't seem long enough for all the things we want to do.  As I was saying to my dear friend Elle last week, it's a pretty neat thing to have such an awesome memory embedded into your own backyard.  I stare at the spot under the apple tree daily.  And every few weeks we renew our commitment to each other, and all the things we want to do by reminding each other that we cannot wait to spend 60 more years together. 

Every time, 60.

Here's to 60 more years my love.

(I accept, and am grateful, that Jeff is more likely to quote Sir Lancelot the Brave than anything by Lord Tennyson.)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Nova Scotia Dreamin

All the leaves are gorgeous and the skies are blue.  We went for a walk on an October day.

It was 25C, and I though we saw a couple of big dogs, they were utter sweethearts.  So, warm and safe. 

And I believe that there is no better temple then the outdoors, when we see all the earth's systems working together to make this planet habitable. 

Thus ends my weird Mamas and Papas post. 
Nova Scotia in October - amazing.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Throwback Thursday - evolution of a crafter

I've been a crafter for a long time.  It probably started with Brownies.  I was obsessed with badges, and many of the badges for both Brownies and Girl Guides required making things.

Ta-wit-ta-wit-ta-woo, give me all the badges.
My collector's badge project.  Later made into landscapes and creatures

Success!  So many badges.
 I set up my first craft shop when I was about 8.  It was a roadside stand out front of my grandparent's house in Deep Bay, B.C.  They had a gorgeous property on the water where my sister and I were often shipped for a week of our summer vacations.  It was heavenly.  Besides raiding gardens and swimming in the bath-warm water of the Georgia Straight, I tried my luck as an entrepreneur.  My first endeavour - a joke stand, a dime a joke, was a bust.  I had but one pity sale.  Lemonade was too cliche, so I decided arts and crafts were a better fit.  I borrowed my grandfather's hot glue gun and began creating little statues out of driftwood, clam shells, seaweed and other found-objects.  They were a hit.  The strategic location of my stand - just outside the entrance of a campground, was a definite bonus.

For Christmas that year, I was given a glue gun.  It was the best Christmas present ever, and I still have and use it.

Crafter's manifesto...
High school art class - an excuse to stare
at pictures of Mikhail Baryshnikov to study his...form.

I was the queen of posters, and my science projects and history displays had as much style as substance.  I also took on roles in year book and photography to feed my inner need for creativity. 

Ancient things in an ancient lab - I had though archaeology involved more whips and horseback riding.
In university, this side of me took a hit as the projects undertaken were focused more on writing, though I did manage a job in the archaeology lab that had me photographing and sketching artifacts.

I taught myself how to knit in my twenties and got back into sewing at the same time.  I've never stopped sketching or writing, and crochet has now exploded in my life as my go to tactile therapy.

And so concludes this little trip down memory lane.  To my Brownie compatriots, you are welcome for posting that exceptional photo of us.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Old enough to know better

I started thrifting at a very young age.  My grandmother was a classic garage sale junkie.  It was always a treat to get to do the rounds with her on Saturday mornings in her bubble car (in actuality, an AMC Pacer).  One lesson I took from those early thrifting sessions, and subsequent obsession with all things vintage was know what you want.

In my experience, there are 4 types of things for sale at a junk/yard/garage/thrift/basement/estate sale:

1) Junk.  Junk can move in various places on this list at any given time, but disregard junk.  Buying and storing Junk makes you a hoarder.

2) Dime a dozen.  Things that are a dime a dozen are not bad, they could be useful but they can also be found elsewhere at anytime.  The key here is knowing your dime a dozen.  If it is being sold for a dime, this is too much -  you should be able to get at least a dozen for a dime.  Also, buy it only when you need it, because you can get it at any time.  See, simple.

3) Treasure.  If there is a treasure and you need or want said treasure, do not walk away, do not turn your back...don't even blink.  A treasure is rare, and though you may be one of the few that thinks it is a treasure, it is guaranteed if you take your eyes off of it, it will be gone when you look back.

4) The bonus.  The bonus is tricky.  The bonus is something that falls in between junk and treasure.  It's not something you see often, like crap taxidermy, or a statue of Joseph, Mary and pre-teen Jesus standing in a clam shell surrounded by fibre optic lights.
Reach out and touch faith.
Easily classified as junk by some, it could also be the quirky key to your kitchy Christmas decor.  The best policy for the bonus is to assess price, space and spousal reaction, and decide 'do I take this and take the time to decide if it is junk or treasure (a slippery slope towards hoarding)' or 'do I leave this and consider it, safe in the knowledge that if it is meant to be, it will be here waiting'.  It's a tough one.

And sometimes you misjudge and leave that perfectly indescribable thing only to realise that your happiness will now be somewhat diminished knowing that it exists and it slipped through your fingers.  I recently made such an error.  It was a glorious, hot pink, hand knit sweater, emblazoned with a large grey and white sheepdog with a perfect pink tongue lolling out to one side.  This sweater should never be worn, not even (especially not) ironically.  But its re-imaginings are endless.  Alas, it is not meant to be.  A rookie mistake.

Thankfully on my latest thrifting adventure, my disappointment was tempered by a couple of nifty finds in the Halloween fashions.  I have noted a decline in the past few years that the number of stunning vintage dresses to be found at the local value village.  I had assumed that this was due to an upturn in the number of curators of vintage goods on the interwebs (my favourites are here and here).  However, what I discovered this weekend is that many of these dresses are now deemed 'seasonal' and only make an appearance for a limited time in September and October.  So I grabbed two beauties and a thinker.
Airing out that distinct perfume de value village - stale cigs and mothballs

They are both in exceptional shape...not a mark on them.  I haven't yet decided if I will place them into my own wardrobe rotation, or if I will expand in some small measure of vintage things on my etsy shop.

So 1970s that not even the 70s wanted it.
The 3rd was a thinker.  Well made, cute fabric, god awful shape.  The bodice is quite wearable though, and in cutting half a metre of fabric out of the middle, I think I can make a slightly A-line, pleated, knee length skirt with pockets and a zipper.  I am merely an adequate seamstress with big ideas however, so we will see if I botch it or not.  For $3.99, I deem the experiment worth it.
No regrets!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Random wine thoughts

I use to sleep with a notebook beside my bed to jot down the brilliant ideas I got whole drifting in the grey zone between awake and asleep.
I would classify this as Finnegan's grey zone. But his grey zone lasts minutes, if not seconds.
There have been some good ones, infinitely better than Flaming Globes of Zigmund. I've had brainstorms about briefing notes, brainwaves about decorating, insightful observations about the human condition, thoughts about garments to sew, places to see, weekend plans etc, etc. Alas, in doing so, I was also exiting the grey zone and re-entering awake. And once in awake, my brain does not like returning to the grey zone, let alone allow me to travel to asleep. Thus brilliance also led to wicked insomnia. Extended insomnia leads straight down the path to crazy-town (see the Bloggess for some exceptional insights into this condition). 

In trying to contain the crazy, I decided that sleep > brilliant ideas, and I banished electronics and writing implements for my bedside...antique bentwood chair that serves as a table. Sleep has now been easier (though still not consistent), but late night brilliance is left to my sleep addled brain to try to remember the next day. As such, my ideas are hardly fully formed and often forgotten all together. Case in point, last night I thought of a poignant and hilarious blog entry. But today you get this.

Happy Friday!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Dirt under the fingernails

Summer Columbine - self planted.
I broke myself this weekend. It was one of those stunning fall weekends that allow to cling to summer hope. Sunny skies and 25c. It was perfect for tackling the slightly neglected backyard. In general, I find our backyard an oasis. Sure, it's a little rustic. Yep, that's a patch of buttercups, and over there are some dandelions, and under that tree there is a haven for clover, but you know what, bees like clover. 
Finnegan is a fan of the backyard too.

However, in late August, things start to die. And not the pretty fade or the bright explosion of colour die, but ugly death throws die. And in my OCD brain, something snapped. I couldn't handle it for another season, couldn't face the death and decay of the winter until their spindly corpses get covered by the snow, so I started to pull weeds. At first it was meant to be a clean up, but then it became a war. And when to roots went deeper, so did I, and soon it was trench warfare. The roots went under rocks, so I dug up the rocks. And the rocks became small boulders, so I dug up the boulders. And then I tried to pick up my broken body and saw a giant hole. And it was three hours later, and I hadn't had any water and it was 25c, and I'm crazy.
Three loads of dirt and rocks galore.

This weekend, I will rebuild the bed with nice, weed-free soil and use the boulders as stabilising walls.  I will plant bulbs that will announce the coming of next year's spring, and save space for a new bunch of perennials that will flow through the summer like a symphony of colour.  But this week, I will ice and heat and take ibuprofen and marvel at the hole in the backyard.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Fleet of Foxes - craft room update

It's been a busy couple of weeks, what with getting the Etsy shop up and running, travelling to Ottawa and now being sick (the last two often go hand in hand). I've been taking a bit of a mental break...a break from thinking. Thinking can be exhausting, and when I'm already exhausted, the thinking tends to be less productive. But this does not translate into idleness. My hands still go even when my brain doesn't.  So here are a couple of the projects I've been working on:

For my birthday this year, we went camping and driving around the Northumberland shore.
Umm, is that bacon?  I like bacon.  Give me the bacon.
We also popped into a couple of artisan businesses, such as the Seafoam Lavender Farm,
Smells like heaven.  Unfortunately, frolicking was frowned upon.  Sniffing was okay.
the Tatamagouche Brewery
Frolicking was looked upon favourably.

Cosy, soft beret, perfect for fall, and making you all green with envy.

and the Lismore Sheep Farm. The lavender oil I bought became this, the beer Jeff bought was declared delicious, and this week, the yummy yarn I purchased without any concrete plan became this:
I've also been making a small army of adorable woodland creatures. I think they will become Christmas ornaments and possibly a child's mobile. I'll keep you posted.

Finally, I've been hooking some new boot cuffs. I heard fairly resoundingly that folks were pretty keen on these, my first crochet project. As such, I thought I'd try some additional stitches to get something new and fun going.

Happy Friday!