Friday, January 29, 2010
Current pregnancy craving: apples. Must be very crisp and on the tart side. Also: curry. And sweets of all description, but that's nothing new. It was the same when I was pregnant with Bear. With Miss B, I had mad cravings for a certain popular variety of fried chicken, the purveyor of which goes by its initials so as to distract from the "fried" part. I would go in, order chicken - just chicken, no fries, no coleslaw - and an orange soda. Gack! I couldn't get enough. That, and toaster waffles. And ice cream. I was living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories at the time, and I didn't have a freezer, so I would keep my waffles and ice cream in a bucket outside my shack, with a piece of wood over the top and a big rock on that, to keep the foxes out. True story.
It's been a crazy week. A dear friend of mine lost one of her parents to cancer on Monday, and it's been so terribly heartbreaking. This person was a very well-loved and well-respected member of the community, and was adored by all of us. I had no idea of the extent of the illness - the battle was kept quite private - and so it's been a real shock. I'm entering that age, now, when my peers are losing grandparents and parents with a greater and greater frequency. We're also having babies with greater frequency, and I know it's all this big circle of life thing, but that doesn't make it any less sad. January has been a month of loss for so many people I know. People are either losing family members or people they didn't know but whom they held dear - Kate McGarrigle, Paul Quarrington (with whom I was supposed to do a reading this spring - weird feeling, that), now J.D. Salinger. Lhasa, P.K. Page, Howard Zinn. All in one month. Just strange. I wonder what it means?
I went to the funeral yesterday, where on top of all the feelings of loss and sadness, I had to make my way through the mysterious rituals of Roman Catholicism as a completely ignorant heathen. I always feel like a knob at religious ceremonies, because I'm usually one of maybe three people who have no idea when to do the standing and the sitting and the kneeling, and there are all these bits where the priest says something and you say something back, and all that. But it was beautiful, once I stopped being so self-conscious. Incense and stained glass and a very sweet priest who said some really nice things, and flowers everywhere. Lovely music (even if I didn't know the words).
Incidentally, despite being an ignorant ass as to church protocol, I do have a degree in religious studies, with a Catholic studies minor, no less, it's just that I spent my time studying the minutiae of 17th century theology and various sorts of imagery in late-Renaissance poetry of conversion, rather than the ins and outs of the contemporary Catholic funeral mass. Ah, when theory meets practice.
At the same time, Hubby C and I have been preparing for a big board meeting at work, and there's been a seemingly infinite amount of paperwork to prepare. I love our little mom-and-pop literary journal shop, especially the parts where we get to sit around and talk about poetry, and plan exciting events, and dream big about upcoming issues of the journal. The financial statements and the workflow charts and the operations plans are considerably less fun, but they've got to be done, and we've been at them all week.
And so there's been no sewing, no crafts-closet-organizing, no baking, no adventuring, very little picture-taking. Lots of sniffling over sadness and hair-pulling over paperwork frustration, and the worst pork chops I've ever eaten (oh, the recipe promised big things, but they were empty, empty promises).
Monday, January 25, 2010
First: the photos.
My favourite, most well-worn shoes. I have a friend who says they remind him of bacon.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Not that I'm bothering with much today. Or over the last couple days. Bear is teething and snuffly and miserable. I've got that sinus headache again, with the added joy of one very squirmy belly-dwelling baby-to-be doing somersaults all day and all night. For anyone who has never experienced this particular phenomenon: the word "kicking" in no way describes the actual choreography of the unborn child. "Underwater breakdancing" would be more accurate, or perhaps "sub-aquatic martial arts." Oh, sure, it's all kinds of lovely, until you really think about it, and then it's kind of creepy and gross. And I say this as a mother of two children to whom I am hopelessly devoted. Their antics are much more adorable when they're on the outside.
Miss B was home yesterday, as the schools were closed for a rather anticlimactic snow day. Because the government has shut down so many of the rural schools, kids from the smaller communities come into town by bus. If there's any chance of bad road conditions by three in the afternoon, they close the schools rather than risk sending buses out on dodgy roads. Which makes sense, of course, but it means that the kids miss a lot of school without the reward of awesome snowfalls. You kind of want a snow day to be a snow day, you know?
So many projects on hold right now - I've just had no energy for days, and young Bear has been so clingy and whiny that I can't even get anything done when I'm up and about. If you're awaiting reports on the winter coat, or that maternity skirt tutorial, or anything else, be patient. I haven't forgotten. It will happen, just not today.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I've just sent photos and a description over to the folks at Craft Hope so that they can add this sweet little dress to their shop. It will probably be a few days before the dress is listed, because the item donations are coming in fast and furious over there. In case you haven't heard, all the proceeds from the shop are going to Doctors Without Borders for their relief work in Haiti. As of Monday, they were closing in on the $10 000 mark. How cool is that?
Monday, January 18, 2010
The farmer gave us each a slip of the tree to take home, with the instructions to stick it in some soil in a pot, put it in a warm place, and cover it with a plastic bag until it rooted.
I did. The leaves turned moldy and fell off, but the stick rooted.
Then it grew some leaves - the first one appeared the morning Bear was born.
Then the leaves fell off.
Then it grew more leaves. And then those fell off.
And now there's a new leaf. What's going to happen to this one?
Every so often someone will look at my fig twig, in one of its leafless phases, and say, "You know, your stick is dead." And I reply to them, "No, it's not dead, it's dormant." I am convinced that one of these days I really will have figs. Perhaps I will live out my retirement under the shade of a fig tree. It's worth a shot, no?
The last few days here have been all about organizing, streamlining, downsizing, making life easier and things more efficient here at our place. It grosses me out that in a world where so many people have so little, one of my biggest complaints is that we have too much. How did it come to this? Our house is littered with things, mostly junk things we don't need. The birthday party loot bag favours, the "craft supplies" picked up en masse at the dollar store (there's a limit to the number of sparkly plastic stick-on "jewels" that any six-year-old can handle), the very important information that the utility companies - even the ones we don't use - manage to squeak into our mailbox because if it's in an envelope it's not technically a flyer. Gah! It makes me nuts. And we're not even "stuff" people. We don't have electronic gadgets that require endless attachments and cables and adapters, save one digital camera and a battery charger. No mp3 players, no handheld gaming devices, one cell phone that seems to have been misplaced some months ago (I'd never even used the thing). And even without all this gadgetry, we're still knee-deep in crap.
I blame globalization, I really do. The constant flow of cheap goods from developing countries means that there's no reason not to buy something a child asks you for. Or that you think a child might enjoy. No reason other than good sense. You can buy soft toys and books that make noises and all this stuff for under ten dollars at any drug store or mega grocery shop, or wherever. And fine, it's nice to bring a toy or something when you visit someone with a kid, but when you take into account that everyone who comes over is also bringing something - and not something meaningful, but something picked up as an afterthought on the way past the "seasonal" section at Shoppers Drug Mart - that adds up to a lot of toys. And the result is that children fail to develop any sense of the value of their belongings, because every time they turn around someone else is giving them something for no apparent reason.
Can you tell this is a pet issue of mine?
Every day I see a dozen things that Miss B would "love" to have. Love for about five minutes, until she moves on to something else and forgets about it, or it breaks. Sure, I can afford them financially, but does that mean I should buy them? No! Birthdays, Christmas, a special celebration like a new sibling or a great personal achievement, fine. But isn't one well-chosen, well-made present better than ten generic, mass-produced ones?
Of all the things Miss B has, almost all of which have been given to her by people other than her parents, let me tell you which ones get the most use:
1. cardboard cut-out old-fashioned key on a string that Hubby C made for her one day when she was going on an adventure of some sort, and which has been in rotation ever since,
2. a raft-like object made of pieces of wood with wire threaded through them that my mother made for her house rabbit (the "raft" bends to make a little cave-like hideout), and which serves as a cave, cage, boat, and any number of other things for Miss B's dolls and other creatures, and
3. a paper cup wrapped in pink hockey tape that Miss B has been using as a mobile phone.
Seriously. And yet, we have a storage closet full of stuff I pulled out of her room last week. It looks like this:
The easel at the back is new and actually does get used, it's just that it can really only be brought out in the absence of Bear. Everything else is arts and crafts supplies that are going to be categorized, packed into sensible containers, and arranged in the shelves there on the left. The closet has a lot of potential as crafts and games storage, it's just a matter of weeding through the crap and sifting out what's really worth keeping. Anything that might be useful to someone other than me is going in the "to donate" bin, and anything that's of no use to anyone (which, I fear, might describe much of it) is getting tossed.
In the mean time, we're going to have to establish some rules about what comes into the house. I've a tried a "one item in, one item out" policy, but we've been bad at sticking to it. It's coming back, though. And then there's "what Grandma/Dad/whoever buys, Grandma/Dad/whoever keeps." Honestly, whenever she comes back from a visit with her dad, the child brings half a thrift store with her. Not meaningful gifts, just stuff she looked at, and then it was bought for her. I think I can say with some certainty that we have enough fairy wings, flower baskets, and dress-up jewellery to outfit a preschool. And the activity books, oh the single-use throw-away activity books! It has to stop!
So there you have it. Once the arts and crafts and games closet is dealt with, then we can move on to Bear's room. And then to my sewing room (ack!). And the basement.
Honestly, how do people get organized? And how do they stay that way? I spend an inordinate amount of time reading craft blogs, and people always have these lovely, tidy, organized spaces, and their kids' rooms look like film sets. I've been assuming that three minutes after the photos are taken, there are broken crayons all over the floor and corn flakes covering every visible surface, just like at my house. If I hang on to that belief, it makes me feel much, much better.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
I've read articles about Haiti in which interviewees described having experienced some of the most atrocious acts that human beings can commit against one another. Women and children are, of course, particularly vulnerable in countries like Haiti. The poverty, the violence, the sheer depth of human suffering in that country is incomprehensible to me.
And yet, people carry on. They live, fall in love, care for their children and their ill and their elderly, they mourn their dead and miss their relatives who have emigrated to other countries in search of a new life. All while hungry and poor and very often ill themselves. People still make music and art. They still have spiritual lives and dignity. Some people have big dreams and some have small ones, some people strive toward something better and some are swallowed by despair. People continue to be human.
Human strength, especially in such circumstances, absolutely blows my mind.
When I read about SouleMama's Caps for Cap-Haitien project this summer, I thought, "Wow, that would be a really good thing to do." But I didn't do it. Yesterday, hearing about the earthquake, it was one of the first things I thought about.
Right now, I'm eager to send money along for relief efforts - that's what's most needed at the moment, while the damage is still being tallied and while people are desperate for food and water and medical attention. Once the clean-up begins, though, I'm planning to find a way to help using the skills and resources I have. I'm not in a position to fly to Haiti and immunize people or set up water purification systems or rebuild houses, but I can sew hats or blankets or dollies or dresses (or overalls) here at home and get them to the people who are helping out on the ground.
I posted the suggestion on Facebook this morning that some of us start a craft group to work on a project for the people in the earthquake zone, and almost instantly I had a dozen people saying, "Count me in," and "Have sewing machine, will travel." I don't think it would be difficult to get three times that many in this small city alone. Now it's just a matter of waiting for word on the best way to help out.
I'll be watching for news of any Mama To Mama mobilization, and I've just learned that Craft Hope is setting up an Etsy shop to help Doctors Without Borders.
I've also just sent a cheque to Partners in Health, but there are many other organizations doing good work in Haiti, too: Oxfam and the Red Cross are two I would trust (and Doctors Without Borders, as well). I'm not a church person, but if you are your church may already have programs in place in Haiti.
I'm very pleased to hear that my province's premier has pledged one million dollars to the Haitian relief effort. That's pretty great. He made a comment on the radio saying that he recognized the adage that "of he to whom much is given, much is required." We are so lucky here. And I'm talking as someone whose household income doesn't even come close to reaching the poverty line recognized by my country. We may be broke, but we're not poor. Much has been given to us.
Anyway, if you would like to help out with the relief effort, either with money or with your hands (or with both), do consider some of the organizations I've linked to. Or if you know of another group doing good work, please feel free to leave their website or phone number in the comments. And of you're in St. John's and want to join me and the rest of the willing and eager folks who will be gathering with sewing machines and scissors when the time comes, drop me a line and let me know how to get in touch with you.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go hug everyone in my house.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Pumpkin-buckwheat muffins with chocolate chips and pecans.
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate Ghirardelli ones)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin, or line with papers.
In a skillet over medium-low heat, toast pecans until fragrant, stirring frequently. Nuts can scorch very easily, so keep a close eye on them. Once toasted, remove pecans to a small bowl and set aside (if you leave them in the hot pan they may burn).
In a medium bowl, combine pumpkin, sugars, butter, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, soda, spices, salt, and xanthan gum. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into muffin cups; batter will be thick, and cups will be fairly full. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until tops of muffins spring back when touched. Remove from oven and let muffins cool in tin about 10 minutes, then remove muffins to a rack to cool further.
Like most muffins (especially gluten-free ones), these are best slightly warm. Day-old muffins can be wrapped in foil or parchment and reheated in the oven.
I'm tagging these as "breakfast," although of course if you didn't want chocolate chips in your breakfast you could leave them out and add more nuts, or some raisins or chopped figs or something. I don't mind a bit of chocolate in the morning, myself.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
And finally, Tara Bradbury's Mushy Peas site somehow escaped my notice for a little while, although I'm not sure how. Tara's another friend of mine from way back. She's a journalist and a photographer and last year she had an adorable baby. She's been making cute baby things for a while now, the most famed of which - or whom - is the infamous Munkeh (scroll down, you'll find him). Munkeh will be returning to St. John's kid-stuff emporium Gingersnap in short order, I am standing eagerly in line for him.
I am always amazed and humbled by the talent of the craftspeople I meet in blogland and in the real world. And I love that you never know who your next craft idol is going to be: maybe the mom whose kid is in your dance class, maybe an old junior-high-school mate. What a world, hey?
Monday, January 11, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Now, Sara is a friend of mine, and someone I've known for a long time; we went to high school together, we're both writers, and we both live in St. John's. So I know a few things about her. These include, but are not limited to the following:
- Her first novel, Skin Room, is heartbreaking and beautiful and you should probably read it (if you like heartbreaking, beautiful novels). There are a few words about it here. It won the Percy Janes First Novel Award and the Fresh Fish Award.
- In addition to being a novelist, she is also a theatre-maker of growing renown. Her most recent production, The (In)Complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland (And Labrador) was voted Best Theatre Production in the Scope's Best of St. John's Awards in December.
- She is also - seriously - a clown. And she is one of only a handful of few people trained to teach Pochinko Clown Through Mask techniques. One of her recurring improvisations involves reading people's fortunes through (vegan) luncheon meats as the Weiner Shaman.
- Oh, she's an arts administrator, too.
- She has a greenhouse and is eager to grow things in it.
I'm completely serious. Don't you all have friends from high school who went on to become novelist-dramaturge-clown-administrator-horticulturalists?
Anyway, I'm excited to make something for Sara. I'll let my brain do some percolating, and I'll let you all know what I've come up with once the package is safely in her hands.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Sorry I've been quiet over the last couple days. Just more of the same, only much more, since we've cut Bear's nap frequency down to one a day. Which means that he requires much more entertaining. Hubby C's had lots of work to do, so I've been primary Bear-wrangler around here.
My adventure of the day involved the quest for fabric and appropriate winter outerwear. I've never needed winter maternity clothes before; both Miss B and Bear have birthdays at the end of September, which means I've been able to breeze through my pregnancies thus far without having to deal with the hellishiness of trying to wrap a coat around an expanding belly. It hadn't even occurred to me that I might need such a thing as a winter coat until I saw the very industrious Megan Neilsen's post. And then I was all, like, "Oh crap."
I know I could just pick up a giant parka somewhere and walk around like a sleeping bag trying to steal a large watermelon, but winter is very long here, and I can't bear the thought of looking like a formless down-filled lump for the next four months. I just can't. I've sworn to myself - and I know this is horribly vain - that I will not wear maternity clothes I don't like this time around. When I was pregnant with Miss B, I lived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and I had to cobble together a maternity wardrobe from whatever was on offer at Walmart and Reitmans, plus a couple key items from a friend who had lost a great deal of weight. It was pretty bleak. I did it, but I didn't like it. With Bear I had a few key items that I loved, and a lot of borrowed clothing that I liked well enough, but that wasn't really me. I hate having to wear clothes that I wouldn't ordinarily choose just because I happen to be a little medicine-ball-ish around the midriff.
So this time, with my recent refashioning experience and my newly-discovered ability to see the potential in otherwise ill-fitting or unflattering clothing, I have pledged to go through the remainder of my pregnancy in comfort and style. Without spending a lot of money. Or any, if I can swing it.
Which is why I spent $7 of my hard-earned cash on this ridiculous coat at the Salvation Army this morning:
I estimate that it must have belonged to a man of at least 6'4", who got a great deal of use out of it. The cuffs and collar are a little worn, but I'll be cutting them down anyway. Look at me! I look like a little kid dressing up in her dad's work clothes. What a dork.
The double-breasted-ness and giant pockets mean that there is a lot of material to work with. It's a lovely soft wool and I think I can make something lovely, or at least functional, out of it. And, if not, a lot of stuffed animals.
I'm considering lining it with this stash material, given to me by a friend who was cleaning out her sewing stuff. I'm not sure it will work out, bit I'll give it a try. That dark burgundy colour is not a favourite of mine, so I think I'll have to do some brightening-up. (Pardon the wrinkles.)
The question now is whether to get started on this before I tackle the simple but rather tedious task of making Bear some new diapers. The ones we bought were cheap and are showing their cheapness. I hate velcro, I really do. It's fine if you hang it to dry, but if you chuck a bunch of velcro-tab diapers in the dryer, they all come out in a lump. Trying to extract one is like trying to remove one candy from a bowl of satin mix. And I think I probably spend as much time picking hair and fluff out of the pokey part of the velcro as I do actually changing Bear. Anyway, the diapers I can afford to buy suck, and the ones that work I can't afford, and the smell of disposable diapers makes me ill. So I'll be cutting and sewing an awful lot over the next couple days. When Miss B was a baby I used the poorly-named but otherwise excellent PooPockets pattern. I used the same three dozen diapers from the day she was born until she was in training pants. Now, I just have to do it again. And then again in a few months. Yeesh.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Oh, and if you're moved to write or phone Mayor Dennis O'Keefe to suggest he review the snow-clearing issue, I'm sure he would be more than thrilled to hear from you!
Monday, January 4, 2010
100th post giveaway!
Leave a comment and I will toss your name into the hat (literal or metaphorical hat, depending on how many comments I get) for the chance to win a... something, made by me, especially for you.
If I don't know you, leave a link to your blog/photostream/whatever so I can learn a thing or two about you. If you don't have a blog/photostream/whatever, tell me a few things about yourself in your comment.
It's Monday now, so I'll leave this open until bedtime on Friday, January 8th. I'll call bedtime 10:00 pm Newfoundland time, which is 8:30 pm Eastern. Give me a week from then to get your special surprise giveaway package ready, and it will be in the mail, on its way to you, anywhere in the world. Tell all your friends!
As for this guy here:
Well, he didn't exactly sleep all night, but he slept a little better, as did I. I'm still imagining a world with uninterrupted stretches of slumber. I know it will happen some day. That's the difference between going through these things with a first child and with a second. The first time around, you really don't know if the insanity and the sleep deprivation is ever going to end. After that, you know there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Mind you, with a third kiddo on the way I can't exactly see the light, but I know it's there. Somewhere. Like, in the year 2020. If I'm lucky.
In very sad news, I learned today that Montreal-based singer Lhasa de Sela died on New Year's eve. How heartbreaking. She was only 37. I'm not familiar with her more recent work, but her album La Llorona is a favourite record of mine. This is a bit of live footage of her performing La Celestina, a song from that album:
Such a loss.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
You know what's crazy? Most of us who have kids are going to, one of these days, be subjected to the question, "were you seriously alive in the 1900s?"
Yup. The future is now. It came without flying cars, it came without robot maids and jet packs, but it came just the same. Holy crap.
Our New Year's Eve celebrations were lovely, subdued, and just perfect for us. Hubby C and I decided a few days ago that we would have a nice, fancy dinner at home, and by the time dinner rolled around, the plan had morphed into turning the dining room into a snazzy restaurant, donning our best clothes (chic black dresses and gold shoes for the ladies, a vest and tie for the gentleman of the house, and a shirt without arrowroot cookie goo dried on to it for the Bear). A checkered tablecloth, some candles, and a little Serge Gainsbourg on the stereo, and Chez Callanan became the most sophisticated bistro in town.
Dinner was coq au vin, which occupies a space of fanciness in my mind, probably because that's what French food would have been in the 1980s (and I can only imagine that it would have been on the menu at Jack's Bistro on Three's Company, which, I am somewhat disturbed to realize, was probably my earliest culinary influence). Despite what I had always imagined, coq au vin is actually really easy. I found the recipe in a book of one-pot meals. Enough said. Aside from being insanely delicious, it has the following to commend it:
- it uses chicken thighs, which are pretty cheap,
- you get to douse it in brandy and then set it on fire, which is rad, and
- it involves the word "coq", which, to a couple of anglophones with really mature senses of humour, is comedy gold.
Dessert, you ask? Oh, just a batch of chocolate soufflé. Which is - and I'm not at all exaggerating - dead easy. I used this recipe, the better part of a slab of President's Choice 70% cacao dark chocolate (which was on sale in the post-Christmas chocolate purge), and I baked them in my new cute and sturdy coffee cups. I didn't manage to get a photo of them at the time they came out of the oven, but here's how the spoils looked this morning:
I have some uncooked soufflé left in the fridge (I added extra egg whites to the recipe for lift, and then ended up with way too much batter), and I'll try to make those during daylight hours so I can get a decent photo for you. But if you picture what chocolate soufflé should look like, it's pretty much that. They all rose up beautifully, despite my crappy (but soon to be rolled down the hill to its death) oven and its refusal to hold a steady temperature.
After dinner Miss B and I retired to the living room for some knitting while Hubby C put Bear to sleep. Miss B eventually passed out on the chesterfield waiting for the fireworks. The city moved the location of the official fireworks, so we can't watch them from our neighbourhood, but there are usually a bunch of, um, "unofficial" displays in the hills on the other side of the harbour, and we can see those perfectly from our place. We tried to wake up Miss B when they started, but she wasn't quite lucid enough to enjoy the magic of some dudes setting off illegal fireworks in their backyards. Maybe next year.
Today we have two fragile, overtired children, the eldest watching Christmas specials in the living room, and the youngest napping. Hubby C is in no great shape either, after having been up with a screamy, teething Bear most of the night. I came out if it all relatively unscathed, so at least one of us is in a decent enough state to look after the rest.
I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, really. To be honest, this past year has gone so well, I think I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. If I could make a little more money doing it (just enough to pay the bills on time, mind you), I'd be even happier, but the fact is that life is better than it has ever been. When I think of the way things were four and five and six years ago, I could cry for the utter crappiness of it. But right now, it's all perfect, in its imperfect way, which is more than good enough for me.
To the future!