Thursday, 31 January 2008

Little Bits of Goodness

"What do you want for lunch?"


My favourite version is a little canola oil with garlic powder, a little salt, and garam masala. Mmmmmmm. Safiya takes hers simple; oil, a little salt, by the handful :-)

Today was busy with a couple of projects on the go, but I just had to share this recent thrift find:

It's a real wool hockey sweater! The quality is superb, it felted up beautifully, and the tag on the inside says "Chateau Sweaters: Made in Kitchener". Cool. And do you see on the shoulder?

C for captain! This is destined to be something really awesome, but I can't figure out what....yet :-)

Monday, 28 January 2008

Scenes from Away and a Pleasant Surprise Which Leads to a Little Reading

Two incidents gladdened my heart while I was out of town, like blossoms brought forth from the branch above. The first occurred in my favourite bakery/cafe The Pie Plate. During lunch bits and pieces of the conversation next to us drifted over (it's a small place in a small town). I heard the words "off-grid" and "sustainable" and "yurt". When a book was pulled out on yurts, I couldn't resist interrupting (i.e. blurting across the table): "that is sooo cool!" Conversation ensued, and I found myself meeting others who were of a like mind with regards to sustainable living. This was highly surprising, given the conservative nature of my hometown environs.

The second was even more delightful. I had the chance to catch up with an old friend and her new husband over dinner. Now this friend is probably the sweetest person I've ever met, so I knew dinner would be enjoyable regardless (and my Mom was babysitting so yay! adult conversation!) I hadn't met her husband yet and it had been a couple of years since she and I spent time together, so at first we exchanged autobiographies and caught up as people do. And then over the course of the evening one thing led to another and someone said "peak oil" and there was a pause and an inward gasp and each of us realised that we weren't the only crazy ones in the room.

And then the conversation really got going. And it was good. The great thing about it is that, on the surface, you would never think it to look at this couple. Which sounds superficial, but I'm not going to apologize. They are lovely, professional, upper-middle class, church-going folk from a fairly conservative town. That is the limited description that a passer-by would get. If they were off-grid vegans, well.....

So, peak-everything is everyone's concern. Isn't that nice?

And they were kind enough to lend me Jane Jacobs' book Dark Age Ahead (here's an interview with her by Jim Kunstler). That to top off the ridiculous number of books I got from the library, after having gone through Sharon's list of books, the "best books about nearly everything".

The librarian left a message at our house asking if i could please come and pick up the box of books that were being held for me. When I picked them up, she merrily asked me to show her pictures of my garden when it's done.

What a nice idea! But the real question is, does she want pictures of the composting toilet as well? :-)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

It Could be Worse

I have not been languishing on the couch for two weeks. Shortly after recovering, Safiya and I went out of town to hang out with Nana, who is Mr. S.'s grandmother, and who lives with my Father-in-law usually, but he went on a well-deserved vacation. So we Nana-sat for a week-and-a-half. Nana can take care of herself, but she's at that stage in her life where if she falls, there needs to be someone there to help her right away - someone to check in on her every day at least.

One of Mr. S.'s favourite utterances is "it could be worse!" Hence the book above, which is a charming re-telling of the folk tale where a small house is crowded with too many people getting on eachother's nerves and then the wise one in the village advises them to bring in all their farm animals and then eventually tells them to remove all the animals and hey presto! the house isn't quite as crowded as it was before and everyone is happy.

With the house closing in on me in the middle of January, fighting sickness, and tired, as I told a friend, of the perpetual twilight of the city, I was craving darkness and quiet and room to breathe. Nana-sitting? Perfect. They live on the outskirts of a major town, in a quiet condo/townhouse/subdivision arrangement, but close enough to the countryside.

Ahhhhhh, how useful a change of scenery can be. For realising how good you have it, that is. I forgot about the driving. There is no public transit where Nana lives, so the car it is - for everything. Not even a corner store. And everyone drives, so there's noone outside to acknowledge even if you did go for a walk to....nowhere. And the sameness of said subdivision could make you cry - the unmoving facades of identical houses staring back, unblinking, when you hopefully look out the window in search of scenery. The isolation is oppressive.

We did enjoy visiting, sharing everyday rhythms with Nana, watching game shows, watching her thoroughly enjoy harassing me about what are you going to eat? (she wouldn't touch anything I made - claimed that the only thing I eat is seeds :-) and listening to her mutter about how I don't understand any of her language (enough to understand the swearing, Nana! :-) I brought the dictionaries to translate, we even managed a shopping list together, and we laughed at my ineptness.

But I'm glad to be home. Home where a quick errand outdoors gives me the opportunity to chat for 5 minutes with my neighbour and say hi to another. Home where the kids walk to school, gaggles of them laughing and their parents haranguing them up the sidewalk. Home where I can use my legs to get around, for which I am rewarded a healthy glow instead of a car-induced headache.

Thank goodness for a little perspective. It could be worse!

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Antitode

Still recovering on the couch. And the antidote to "Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?"

Clearly, "All About Eve"!

Be Afraid

Yesterday, sitting on the couch, sick, Mr. S. and Safiya out for a walk, I watched for the first time "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". I think it worsened my condition. The acting is brutally good, but what toxic characters. So now I'm recovering, trying to get George and Martha out of my mind.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Little Girls and Why I'm Off Dr. Suess

My mother doesn't know that the lovely anthology of Dr. Suess that she gave Safiya for her second Christmas has been "disappeared". A year ago, as we began to read more Dr. Suess to her, there dawned on me a growing realisation that there were no, but no, female characters in his books. It grew more and more infuriating and uncomfortable the more we read. The absence of "she" (even in the pictures) made even me as the narrator feel cast out from the world, and I wondered what how this misrepresentation is processed by children. Feeling slightly crazy and tired of having to change pronouns all the time, telling nobody, we disappeared what for many is quintessential children's literature.

Today I splurged and picked up "Fearless Girls, Wise Woman and Beloved Sisters", by Kathleen Ragan. It's not a picture book (no illustrations), but an anthology of folk tales from around the world. On the way home, I read one of the tales to Safiya, and she sat and listened as the subway train swayed. Anxious to read more, I was leafing through the book and happened upon this, in the introduction (and if you use the link above you can preview some of the book, including part of the introduction):

"The more I read, the more uncomfortable I became. I couldn't find any female characters in these books. I found myself changing the pronouns from male to female when I read the stories to her."

She goes on in detail how she researched the books by...Dr. Suess. So we're not crazy. However, that's not the real point. Her introduction does better justice to the point than I can (and it's hardly Suess-bashing for all you Suess-lovers out there), so I'm just going to point the way to this lovely book.

And then there's this:

Nothing more wholesome than an apple, a glass of orange juice, and reading "Little House in the Big Woods" aloud, right? We started reading these aloud to Safiya last summer (she plays quietly and any time I stop because I suspect her interest might be waning, her little head whips up and she says "But why did you stop Mama? Don't stop reading!" And so I don't...) But oh my the racism (although when a child, my brain only picked up the opposite from these stories, somehow), the strict gender roles, the authoritarian obedience. I loved these stories when I was a child, and they are someone's story, so we edit some of it out, sure that when she can read she'll find her way. Maybe the story will just change slowly.

But this? I think I'll just rip this page out :-)

Just a little editing....

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Yesterday the world was thick with beautiful, heavy snow. The kind that is good for snowballs and sledding, and makes trees look like strange sea anemones waving gently in the wind. Inside, however, it's toasty and warm:

The first window quilt is up, with others underway. Nothing fancy (nor ironed :-), just a piece of thick wool sandwiched between cottons, hung up with cup hooks. I used bias tape for the loops 'cause I'm lazy and I've yet to add the bottom loops so that you can actually do up the quilt to look out the window. This one is in the spare room, currently occupied by my law-student brother-in-law (I'm working from most drafty to least). It's reversible, and I put a not-quite-sure-it-matches-but-making-do-with-stash print on the other side in the event that this room gets transformed into a room for Safiya some day.

A newly thrifted bedspread was going to be cut up to make a window quilt for the main bedroom and to cover a small extra blanket, but when I brought it up, it was just too too pretty to cut up.

And so it will stay, spared the scissors, to warm our toes and cheer my heart.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


Happy New Year! It is a beautiful snowy day outside, and I'm starting the new year celebrating. A blanket long overdue for dear friends is finally done! Hooray! The top is made from a combination of felted and non-felted wool sweaters, and the back is a soft brushed cotton.

It's their wedding gift, made to reflect their love of climbing....grey::bedrock, brown::soil, green::grass, more greys::mountains, blue::sky. The red thread at the bottom is the thread that binds two together. I once heard of a belief that when two future loves are born, they each are bound at the waist with a thread that connects them, no matter how far apart they are. As time goes on, the thread becomes shorter and shorter and finally draws them together.

I hope the New Year finds you drawing close to those you love.