Friday 27 June 2008

Vegan Martha

In case anybody missed it, baked goods are a vital part of life around these parts. Most of the time, we go for good. As in, it may not have eggs, or dairy, or even vegan margarine (there's someone, a friend, who is trying to take me over to the dark side with Earth Balance margarine and shortening, and oh boy, does the margarine make a tasty buttercream icing, so yes, I confess to trying it, and yes, it still continues to freak me out and will not be part of our fridge family except for weddings, which I don't see coming around again anytime soon...anyway...)

Where was I? Oh yes, none of the above right? But it still has to make me weak in the knees, or else what's the point? But besides perusing the vegan blogs and reading "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" like it's some kind of food bible/porn, the baking daring has remained for others.

But what to do about Martha? Because it's sad, so sad, to leaf through my "Cookie" magazines and know that there's nary a vegan cookie in there and that Martha's arteries, which by now must be made of butter, are so much stronger than mine, which are merely human.

I couldn't take it anymore. Knowing that my ultimate goal was Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies (which will be my undoing someday in a spectacular they-found-her-on-an-apartment-rooftop-naked-covered
-in-nothing-but-crumbs-from-a-batch-of-these-cookies kind of way), I started with another recipe, the Classic Oatmeal Cookie recipe, so that if it was a disaster it wouldn't be too hard to bear.

(See those? That's my cookie nirvana. And that's from the Martha website - my cookies never look like that)

Subbed 2/3 cup canola oil for the 1 cup butter. Subbed 2 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp hot water (mix and let sit a couple minutes until gooey) for every egg. Subbed chocolate chips for whatever they thought would be a good idea to add, obviously. Found that the dough wasn't sticky enough to make cookies (unless packing them into shape like little flat snowballs or something), so instead spread the dough between two pans to make bar cookies. Baked for 18 minutes.

Dear-goodness-on-what-the? Oh, they were good. Very, very good. I am now a brazen substituting queen and no recipe is safe, now (except maybe shortbread).

And yes, I realise that this post could have been written: made cookies. substituted these items. turned out good. ug.

Except that baked goods make me swoon. And the idea of vegan chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies may, in fact, inspire an entire novel...

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Punk Rock Girl

Today she painted a rose black. There's hope for this pink-loving-pretty-living girl yet...

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Vignettes from a Wedding: I Remember Early Mornings

The wedding was on summer solstice, which is a lovely way to celebrate, I think. However, these pictures are not from the actual wedding morning because of course, there were other things to do besides take pictures, like watch in awe as Mr. S. packed what certainly looked like two trips worth of stuff into the van so it could make but one. So these pictures are of the early morning, my favourite part of the day, the day before solstice.

The stillness is what thrills me. A couple of birds, everyone else asleep, the air still fresh from it's night's rest. I didn't get very much sleep the past week, but those early early mornings were certainly worth it. And all the stuff that got done.

In keeping with an entirely different mood, I have a confession to make. Coffee. So, so much coffee. Double, triple espressos. People bringing it for me, me making it. It didn't matter. Somehow it got to me.

And it was good.

So now I know how you all get everything done, and don't pretend it's not true. I have found you out.

Vignettes from a Wedding: Family from Afar

(That's a picture that I snuck of my Auntie Jan teaching Safiya how to play baseball. They had a great time together....)

There are many variations on the how-much-help spectrum that any parent gets, from single mother isolated to kids with more than one mom or dad or both, plus all the extended family. Mr. S. and I both have very supportive families, it's just that they're supportive from afar: they're all in another part of the province or country. And when this is what you know, it's o.k., you figure out a way, and in many ways it's great because when Safiya was born, Mr. S. and I had to figure out very quickly how we were going to do this, mostly by ourselves (the whole babysitter thing, which is something we've never done, is an entirely different matter).

And then this weekend happened. We shared a house with my Mom and my aunts and uncles. I think Mr. S.'s exact words were: "This isn't parenting. Heck, if it was like this all the time, I'd have four kids!"

His point being, I think, that there is the physical aspect of family life that is impossible to escape (and I think there's something a little wrong with wanting to, because it's also one of the most blessed things about family life). Everybody only has so many hands to carry things or play, mouths to tell stories, backs for piggy-back, ears to hear, brains to think. So, the more the merrier, as it were.

And it was pretty merry. My aunts, especially, have that inclination towards laughter and silliness that is infectious. I loved being around them as a kid, and I saw that same happiness in Safiya's eyes this weekend.

Now, how do we get them to move, with their entire families, to Toronto? Think, think.....

Vignettes from a Wedding: In Praise of Machinery

Being a Luddite with respect to certain aspects of everyday living has its advantages most of the time. Except when preparing food for a wedding, albeit a small one, by one's self. (Which is not entirely true, as the bride's family generously took care of the meat (obviously), and I had a lot of help with many different wedding prep tasks.) However, most of the food was made (in excess, Mr. S. notes) by myself. Hence, here is my ode to modern-day machinery:

Oh food processor,
How I love thy swirling blades.
Thy carbon footprint may be
a giant amongst small counter-top appliances,
But thy usefulness endears you
Deeply to my heart.

Your raucous caw
Will never compare
to the sweet zen of the grater.
And yet,
When your siren call fills the kitchen air,
It gives me shivers of delight.

I don't think that one will end up on a quilt.....tea towel maybe? ;-)

And a Good Time Was Had by All

The ceremony was short, sweet, and endearing. The couple was gorgeous. The smiles were so plentiful that it brought cheer to passers-by at the park. Oh, and Safiya got special flower girl shoes from her "new" auntie :-)

It doesn't seem like just yesterday that my littlest brother was, well, little. I can remember in detail a lot of out life together, and like in any good relationship, it's been a journey worth walking. The wedding on Saturday was fun, as family weddings should be, and I hope that they drink from that kind of happiness often and deeply.

Congratulations, you two.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Lessons at Breakfast

This morning Safiya insisted that she didn't want anything for breakfast (note: she'd already snagged a chocolate cupcake from the counter :-) and I insisted she had to eat something. And then in my best Mom voice, I said "if you don't pick something, then I'll pick it for you."

And then, close beside me I heard her say in a small voice:

"But...I don't want you to choose my life for me..."

Wow. When did that happen? This is in the middle of a morning that also includes questions as to why can't we go into the television and have a conversation with Toopy and Binoo, and did I know that dragons are faster than wildebeest who are faster than plankton? And then she throws that at me. Relentless, she followed it up with:

"Everybody's life is different, right?"

She picked fried purple cabbage and I had humble pie.

Monday 16 June 2008

The Buttons

When I was 15, my Mom took me and my friend Carolyn to the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival. It was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen, especially as it was in the big bad city of Toronto. We were giddy with excitement, and I can still remember the decadent fabric Carolyn picked out for a pair of skinny pants she later made. She was so, well, cool. You see, Carolyn had a serger...

Out of everything there, what caught my eye were these buttons. Just simple ceramic hearts, but being a daughter of Fabricland (almost 20 years ago, mind you), the idea that buttons could be made out of something other than plastic, and occasionally wood, was a delightful surprise. I kept them, thinking that they would be reserved for something really special.

And almost twenty years later, they found a special spot on a dress for a beloved girl. Perfect.

Sunday 15 June 2008

For Mr. S.

As I write, Safiya and Mr. S. are doing the exact same thing as in this picture, a favourite of mine, taken seemingly so long ago. Watching soccer. It's the phenomenal last few minutes of the Turkey/Czech game of the Euro Cup, and they're drawing even me in :-) "Why did he card someone on the bench?" Safiya asks, puzzled. Awesome.

I'm lucky to be parenting with someone who is an awesome father, in every aspect. He is patient, involved, intensely devoted, and can make up terrific stories. He can talk Safiya through fears and anxiety, find an explanation for most anything (true or not ;-), and will handily teach her everything she needs to know for life; practical jokes, an appreciation for flatulence, bikes, how to relax, and then a little gardening to boot. And, of course, "what's the worst that can happen?" Will she need anything else? Doubtful.

Except, of course, knowing that her father will always have her back.

Happy Father's Day, my love.

Head Above Water, Isn't the Sky a Pretty Colour....

Well, it's been a little busy and for once it has felt o.k. to be away from this space for a couple of days, which seems important, all of the sudden. The past little while has been good. There was the Leslieville Tree Festival on June 7th:

If you're a Torontonian crafter looking to start doing fairs, I highly recommend it. Leslieville has great foot traffic, the set-up has a good flow, the table fee is quite reasonable ($25!), and any festival that comes with music and a pile of compost is alright by me :-)

Right after that Safiya and I left for the week to go up north with friends. We missed Mr. S., but it was really good to get away and commune with the horseflies and blackflies and mosquitos and no-see-ums.....Poor Safiya looks afflicted.....But honestly, it was precious time spent with a great friend and kids galore, so Safiya and I both came back home very happy campers....Of course, my camera's batteries died the first day (and I was too lazy to recharge them), so the only pictures I have are the ones that Safiya took of her friend Finn's beloved Thomas the Tank Engine, and I'm going to post it here, if only selfishly to invoke memories of that week, so there :-) A week of playing, gabbing, snuggling, reading, eating, some sleep, a hike in the woods, and very very very muddy children.....

We got back, threw all our stuff on the floor, and I promptly started making cupcakes. My little brother is getting married next Saturday (yay!), and - gulp! - I'm catering the wedding! Thank goodness it's a small elegant get-together outdoors and not a 200 plate dinner (to which I wouldn't have agreed anyway, 'cause although I love my little brother to bits, I'm not that crazy :-) So , there's going to be baking and cooking galore for the next week, and I'll probably be away from here until after that....

And of course I left my extra batteries and charger up north, so I can't show you the latest development (and no, I'm not pregnant!). So, all this sewing, and does Safiya have any clothes? Of course not! Because Mama, despite the smock and the skirt a year ago (both made without having to read a pattern), manages very well making things that are variations on squares, but is afraid of patterns. Patterns contain lingo.

Yesterday, seized by this-shoemaker's-daughter-having-no-shoes-thing-is-too-ridiculous, I used a pattern to make a dress. And then shorts. And, as I said to Mr. S.,

"Dude! I can make clothes!"

I think I'm hooked, and now a whole new world of sewing awaits!


Monday 9 June 2008

Waiting for Beauty

There was never such an anxious awaiting as for these peonies. We planted them last fall, and being new at the whole thing were very worried at the phrase "if planted too deeply, peonies will not bloom" in the instructions. I used my ruler, I really did. Then they were late coming up - we waited and waited...and all of the sudden in the middle of April:

I've never been so excited about a plant before! One of the kinds that we planted is called "Zuzu", which is my brother's nickname for Safiya. Such a little thing, flowers; how is it that they stir us so deeply? But it's too hot and humid here to wax philosophical....right now it will suffice just to enjoy them while we have them.

Thursday 5 June 2008

Winding Down, Winding Up

Often after a period of intensity, there is a letting out, a kind of flopping of self. Feeling a need to retreat and hide from the repercussions of exclusively crafting for days on end (namely a foodless house and a fabric-covered basement), we went to visit family. When I go back there, the place comforts me. Out in the country, with space and green and lack of concrete, it soothes the soul.

And I wish it was just that. Having to admit that interacting with beloved family is not the comfort that you always wish it were is hard. Having your soul ruffled by the people you love most (and not through any "fault" of our own, it just being what family is sometimes) makes me feel, well, old. And tired. I'm struggling with growing into the concept that soul-soothing really is my own responsibility.

Ah, well. Onward and upward, eh? And in the meantime she grows onward and upward too.

That's Safiya busy taking maple keys and planting them in the peach orchard. Don't worry, we put proper pants on her before we went out. I packed that dress thinking that it fit her at the end of last summer, so.......ha! Clearly they grow at exponential rates when you're not looking....

I think I hear the siren call of sewing new summer clothes.....

Tuesday 3 June 2008

It Was Not a Craft Show

I was up to my ears for a while, there! The Children's Trunk Show was lovely. The organizers were lovely, the space was very very lovely. There were a couple of glitches with the "Green Room" idea (nobody knew where we were - no signs! and nothing like nibbles and drinks to entice people in on the Thursday gala night, so it was a bit lonely for a while...) but Friday was so packed that there was a stroller traffic jam wherever one looked. When we were setting up, the people next to me very kindly asked how many trade shows I had done before....Ummmm.....this is a trade show? Yikes! Ignorance is bliss, 'cause I would have been even more nervous!

So thank you to all of the people who came by - your encouraging words are why I love to do craft shows. And a few quick thoughts on the definition of success: if I make back the cost of my table, good. If I meet a lot of nice people and have some interesting conversations, good. If I get a lot of work done while sitting at my table, good. Anything beyond that is extra :-)

my rather heaped up and untidy table
(sorry about the graininess - there a lot of hurried photo taking that day...)

That being said, I did work my behind off. Six quilts, five wool blankets, the usual truckload of capes and beanbags, some legwarmers, cutlery rolls.....whew! And looky here! I've been hoarding the silk saris I found last year for too long, and finally worked up the gumption to cut into them - eeep!

Cuddly, cuddly felted merino wool and silk. Scrumptious and so enjoyable to make. There wasn't much balance before this show, but there was some delicious immersion into just making stuff....maybe, just maybe I didn't want to be balanced? Hmmmmm.........