Thursday, January 30, 2014

the winter of flannel sheets

This winter we discovered the joy of flannel sheets. And with the winter we've been having, it's none too soon. I don't ever remember having a cold snap this cold or this long.

I had actually experienced flannel sheets once or twice elsewhere before, so I always (unsuccessfully) looked for them at thrift stores over the past year. In the fall, I gave up on the thrift store hopes and bought a set new for our queen bed. From the first night I couldn't believe how much warmer I was. I didn't need the extra blanket I usually did. Amazing.

A couple weeks ago I found two matching flannel sheet sets for double mattresses, so now Eldest is getting some flannel love too, as can our guests (if we ever bring order back to our guest room).

I will never go back to regular sheets in the winter again.

Love is flannel sheets.
Funny thing: I drafted this last night, just before going to bed. When my husband got into bed, the first thing he said was, "I love these flannel sheets!" And then tonight as I tucked Eldest into his bed, the first thing he said was, "I LOVE sleeping in these flannel sheets."

Can you get a better endorsement than that? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tudor Monastery Farm!

Hurrah! Ruth Goodman and Peter Ginn have made another historical farming show: Tudor Monastery Farm. It's just the thing to get us through the rest of January and into February. I just love discovering the ingenuity of how people did things without the so-called mod cons. And Eldest and Youngest both love it too.

I had no idea how many uses they had for urine in the Tudor time and how they smelted lead was fascinating. I also discovered that Tudor gardeners encouraged weeds in their beds, because they ate them too or used them medicinally.

We're only four episodes in, but I can already heartily recommend it. We found it on youtube but some problem with the sound made the background music sound horrendous so we switched to

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

mistaken identities

I recently went to the thrift store, ostensibly to find a new bath mat and some dish cloths. (It's possible I may have also spent a lot of time in the children's book collection.) In the clear light of the next day, however, I discovered some mistaken identities.

There were lots of interesting things. I was excited to find a bright yellow blanket with one of those charming old labels from a wool mill, and the store's tag also said, "Wool blanket." But when I got it home and was showing my husband (I was a bit sheepish - ha), I noticed the label next to the charming label, which said it was 50 percent acrylic. What self-respecting wool mill uses acrylic?!? Well, it was probably the seventies… (I'll be returning it. I wouldn't mind keeping it but not for the price I paid.)

I picked up a green terry cloth bath mat and a yellow bath mat that was an unusual fabric. Both were labelled by the store "Bath mat." But when I looked at the yellow bath mat, I discovered a wee tag that said, "Hand Made by Freda McArthur." 


I have now realized that it's a hand-woven textile and quite ornate. I think it must be a baby blanket. I did think it was a bit big for a bath mat, but figured that couldn't hurt. But really, now that I know its true identity, it's far too nice for a bath mat.


I also picked up some dish cloths. This is how they looked in the store.
I thought it was just a clever way to package dish cloths.

I thought the maker was just being clever in its packaging, which had never really been opened. But when I got home and went to pull it apart, I realized the buttons were sewn through the whole thing.

Not only that:
But it's actually a wall hanging I think.
There are legs.

I'm thinking this is some kind of wallhanging or something? It's too much cloth to actually clean anything with when it's all together.

Ah well… this is one I think I'll be able to just dismantle and use it the way I'd planned.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Making sauerkraut

I made another batch of sauerkraut in December. I tasted it around Christmas but it had a bitterness to it that I thought might go away with more time. I was meaning to check it much sooner than now, but my hibernation interfered.

Anyways, I finally tasted it today and the bitterness was worse, if anything. It just doesn't taste yummy, and I'm a big enough sauerkraut fan that I just won't enjoy it. So off to the compost it goes.

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong. But I ended up with less cabbage than I expected and so the salt ratio may have been off. Also, one of the bags I used to weigh it down leaked and although I mixed up a lot of brine to fill the bags for just that eventuality, I also remember thinking I was just paranoid so I might have diluted one. I'm not sure.

Surprisingly, I'm not too bereft. I'll just have to pay attention to the details more next time. I know I'm capable, as I've done it before, so I'll do it again. And who knows? Maybe it was just the cabbage.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I've never been particularly nostalgic or melancholy when my kids reach milestones. I didn't even come close to crying when Eldest started kindergarten or walking or whatever. I find their growth exciting and I find I usually have to stop myself getting too far ahead of them, to what may come next.

But I'm feeling it today. Youngest is not a baby anymore. He still sleeps with us and nurses (especially overnight for the last week - sheesh!) but this morning he got up with Eldest and (by agreement we all made last night) they watched netflix and Eldest got snacks so my husband and I could both sleep in. What a luxury! 

Maybe my lack of nostalgia before now is really a symptom of just not seeing milestones, not seeing the doors closing on their past ways of being. But today I'm so aware that we're moving on to a new phase of parenting. Which is great and I've been looking forward to this and I feel a smidgen of relief even, to have made it here. 

But I'm also grieving a little that there will be no more babies in my arms -- not one of mine anyways. Ah well. I'm sure I'll get over it soon enough, and then I'll shake my head at the folly of even considering another baby.


Friday, January 24, 2014

dreams and stuff

I've been reading Callings: Finding and Following and Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy, for the third time. Because even after reading it twice, I still haven't sorted my life out. (I realize this is never a complete task, but I feel like I've been on the cusp of major life changes since the first time I read it in 2010 that are still unfolding). I'm going very slowly, mixing it with other books, sometimes just a paragraph or two at a time. I ponder these paragraphs, I sleep on them, and sometimes I dream about them.

Last week, I got to a section about dreamwork. It talks about how our unconscious mind is always a couple steps ahead of our conscious mind, and dreams can be a bridge between the two. Levoy says that sometimes the bridge is obvious, and he goes on to list a bunch of scenarios of waking life challenges and dreams that offer a pretty obvious response. I can't remember them all, except one: You're contemplating an impossible situation, and you dream that you can breathe underwater.

That night, I dreamed that we were at my parents' cottage by the lake. We were chatting with various people and the kids were playing and Youngest kept getting ever closer to the lake. We figured we'd just see what transpired, especially because if we run after him, he tends to run towards the very thing we want him to avoid. So we watched and he jumped in the link and immediately sank. I ran to the water and dove in. In the moment between my feet leaving the dock and my hands entering the water, I was aware that my shoes were still on and I worried they'd weigh me down. But I wasn't about to take the time to remove them.

I swam underwater and saw Youngest slowly sinking. I kept nearly reaching him but he kept sinking and getting further away from me. My breath was running out but there was no way I was going to take the time to get to the surface; he'd been under much longer than me already and I wasn't going to take any more time. And just at the most hopeless moment, I discovered I could breathe underwater.

"Aha!" I thought. "This is just like in the book." I woke up without having actually saved Youngest but with the knowledge that it was possible.

That was a few weeks ago and I haven't picked up the book since. I've been sinking into hibernation, escaping into tv shows after the kids go to bed or books or, for most recently, SouleMama's archive,  and avoiding walking to or from work. Ever since New Year's Eve, when my husband and I agreed to work towards moving to a farm, I've kind of shrunk from that vision. With the deep cold, I've started imagining the discomforts of living on a farm in this kind of cold. With the chickens here now, it doesn't take much imagination, as we're constantly changing their water and checking for eggs to catch them before they freeze. Anyways… I've been doubting. And hiding.

The other night I dreamed about the book again. Youngest has been waking a lot through the nights recently and nursing lots. The other night was another restless night when I had lots of disjointed and jumbled dreams. But one bit stays with me. I discovered the book, Callings, in a dirty puddle of I don't know what, pretty much completely destroyed. And I felt terrible for forgetting it and letting it be destroyed by my neglect.

In my waking life, I feel a bit stuck and adrift. I feel powerless to change anything and like I'm not moving forward. But after the second dream I remember that we are moving forward. We're about to start a kitchen reno to repair all the brokenness of our kitchen so that when we're ready we can sell the house more easily. And in the spring and summer, we'll start to explore farm properties to figure out what we can afford and more clearly what part of the province we want to be in. This is all progress. Not as fast as I would like but patience has never been my strong suit. As Anya said on Buffy, "I tried being patient but it took too long!"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year


This blog began with a New Year’s resolution. So I feel an obligation to update my plans for the year. But the funny thing is that I don’t feel that same energy to pursue a goal or a theme over the year. I don’t know if it’s some kind of exhaustion catching up with me or an awareness that my intentions don’t always matter that much. We spent a number of days over the holidays with the kids watching way more tv than we’d prefer and adults reading or cooking. Maybe it started with the ice storm that kept us indoors for a couple of days, although we had power pretty much the whole time. Or maybe we just really needed a massive injection of down time.

I feel like I spent the second half of last year focused really intensively on a number of goals at the same time as I worked full time. At times I felt very exhausted and powered through – I submitted two grant applications for a photography project in early December and taught a photography workshop one evening every second week from September to December. And we designed and built a chicken coop and started caring for actual, real-life chickens and they're still alive and even laying eggs.

Last year, my goal was to connect more with people and I kicked off the year with a New Year’s Day drop-in gathering. When my husband lost his job in April and I started working full-time, I basically lost the tenuous friendships I’d been pursuing. They were with people in the homeschooling community or with other at-home parentswho generally get together during weekdays. I suppose I could have seen them on weekends, but the energy required to organize those kinds of things seemed beyond me. I have made an effort to connect with my colleagues during working hours, but I don’t have the energy to extend those connections much outside of work hours.

All that to say that I didn’t make the progress I wanted to on my goal last year, so I’m tempted to continue pursuing it this year. But I’m also not that excited by the prospect. I think my lack of progress is largely due to the current circumstances of my life (full-time day job, still-nursing toddler with food intolerances that make gatherings over food or around/after bedtimes difficult, extremely introverted husband, my own needs for alone time and making photographs… I’m sure the list goes on.) And maybe I just need to relax a bit and just sink into the things that life throws at me.

When I reflect on the last six months of 2013, I really feel like I was striving the whole time and refusing to let anything go to make space for the full-time work. But I think I’m ready to let some of my personal goals go, with the knowledge that over the next couple of years my husband and I have plans to work towards another lifestyle.

I think my New Year’s Eve this year may have been the best I’ve had in my life, and it came when I relinquished any expectations of a good time and yet retained a desire to mark the occasion in some way. So after we got the kids to bed, my husband and I just hung out. No screens, no smart phones, no Internet (well, not until after midnight when I resumed my binge watching of Once Upon A Time). We didn’t even listen to music. Usually we try to live stream some kind of faraway celebration so that I can be sure we celebrate at just the right moment, but this year I just didn’t care about getting that moment right.

Instead, we talked about The Future, something that does not come naturally to my husband. We talked about the kinds of things that give our lives meaning and the kind of life we want to shape in the future. It was rather amazing.

And my little nursing toddler toddled in around 11:45 pm asking for milk, just as we were wrapping up the big conversation, and he was still on the boob when we noticed the clock said 12:05, and that seemed just right too. Maybe what I need to learn is a little more surrendering and a little less goal orientation. I'll still keep moving towards my overarching goals, but none of the big ones is likely to be reached in 2014. And I think I'll just keep moving forward as seems right in the moment and see what opportunities unfold as I go.