Thursday, 29 January 2009

Tonight I Hunger

Tonight I look at this picture and think that there could be nothing more exquisite than that beetle. It lives, along with myriad upon myriad of other fascinating things, in something called the Tree of Life Web Project.

Except that of course, it doesn't. So far tonight I've watched a couple of short clips; a swan eating grass, a malaria sporozoite inside a human liver cell... As I watched that swan eat and move there was a familiar ache in my heart that is rooted in my now normalised disconnection from nature. "Really? So that's how a swan moves?" I'd forgotten.

The website is amazing, and I am grateful for people doing that kind of work so that I can have the opportunity to immerse myself in it, and I look forward to sharing it with Safiya tomorrow. But it is bittersweet, isn't it? Because the beetle isn't really there.

Safiya asked the other day if reptiles have belly buttons. We've talked about it together, she's had some hypotheses (including umbilical cords with pointy ends to get through the shell to the embryo), she's talked about it with someone else (who is an obstetrician), and we've mentioned getting books out from the library or looking it up on the web.

Just now it occurred to me how ridiculous and sad it is that my first thought was not:

"Why don't we check out a couple of reptiles?"

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Lengthening Long Johns: Yet Another Use for Sweater Sleeves

Safiya is growing tall like a lovely weed, so her ankles are poking out the bottom of her long johns like, well, legs poking out the bottom of too-short long johns. They fit her otherwise, so enter the old sweater sleeves, once again! This took about ten minutes.

1. Fold up the cuff of the long johns:

2. Pick a sweater that has been felted only a little, or not at all, so that there's some give, and make sure that the sweater sleeve cuff will be the right size to be comfy around the ankles. Cut the sleeves however long you need. Slip over the turned-up long johns, with the cut edge of the sweater matching the end of the cuff. Match the seams and pin, evenly gathering and pinning any extra fabric:

3. Sew about a 1/4" seam. I used a straight stitch, loose-ish tension, and a walking foot, which is perfect for knits. (Sorry about the blurry picture!) Notice the direction of the pins now; you kind of have to flip the leg around and make sure that you don't sew the leg shut! :-)

4. Obviously the cuff edge is finished and the sweater sleeve edge is not. I didn't zig-zag finish the seam, though, just in case I someday want to remove the know, just in case there's anymore kids around here....someday, maybe..... It should hold up because we wash woolens gently. So there you have it:

A longer leg!

If she keeps growing this fast she'll have rainbow coloured long john legs soon!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Other than anecdotes and a shout-out here and there, I rarely talk about my friends. I don't really ever discuss friends with other friends, because I'm painfully aware that I could represent them wrongly, or unfairly, and that would be disloyal. Or only flatteringly and gushing, which would be unfair and disloyal as well, I suppose, because no true friend wants to exist in only one dimension. There is a seeming ease, a swimmingness that others have in their friendships that I think I lack, genetically speaking :-) It's not for want of sentiment or spirit or feelings, it's just that I'm perhaps a little odd (anyone who knows me can keep what their thinking to themselves right now.....) and a lot of the times that makes for an awkward fit.

Sometimes I luck out. I have a twin friend (we know this because our husbands have the same birthday...what more evidence could you want? That, and she wants to buy bulk flour with me, which I think a big step in our relationship.....) This is comforting, because now I know that I'm not alone in the weird universe. She is very important to me. There are many knowing glances in the time we spend together, and living is effortless with her. If we ever move, our proximity to their family will be a concern.

There are old friends, you know, the good ones; the ones who you haven't talked to for forever, or they've moved across the country (or world!), and yet when you connect again it's as if no time has passed (which reminds me, I need to make a phone call or two...) Or, they're the friends who always call when you're sick, or who call for no other reason than to tell you a really bad joke (and you laugh).

There are family friends. People who were as accursed or as lucky as you to be born or marry into the same family and who know what's going on and what the threads are and who don't need a whole lot of explanation, who can read between the bloglines, and who will always be there, because they just refuse to go away :-)

Then there are friends who are in flux - the ones that you've experienced major things with - it changes your relationship, makes you tentative again, and it feels like the relationship is metamorphosing, waiting.....

Other friends you meet because you're on the same path; the family strings are vibrating at the same frequency and there's someone there who quickly understands when you need help, that it's o.k. to ask you for help, who can laugh with familiarity at the ridiculous things your four-year-old says, and share in the bounty and the crap that life throws at you.

Obviously delineating people into categories is artificial; many of my friends cross boundaries, dip in and out of the pools I've just described, many are un-categorizable. All are important. But it does let me lead you to this last bit; new friends.

Most of the people I meet now meet Safiya and I together. There are very few instances when we are apart. It's a package deal, which is great, because "like me, like my kid". It's true. I certainly wouldn't hold it against anyone if they're uncomfortable around children, that would be extremely unfair, but practically speaking it makes it very unlikely that we'd be able to spend any amount of time together.

Even within the Toronto craft world, once in a while I'll show up at a show without Safiya and then, as my friend Katharine said, it's feels like I'm walking around giving people an incomplete picture, like I should have a sign stuck on my forehead that says "I'm really Safiya's Mama...." Granted, she has three kids, so her sign would have much more impact than mine (and be larger, so, more silly :-) but still.....

Oh yes, that last category of friends....

New friends. People who, by their presence, allow room for trying something you might not have before. Now, some of these may come to fruition, and some may remain acquaintances, which is the way it goes, but in the beginning they are all people who you witness taking much-appreciated chances about friendship, and for whom you're willing to be just a little bit vulnerable. Who you unwittingly test.....are they wildly talented and encouraging? Do they have a fabric stash or some other appropriate obsession like picking fruit in the middle of the city? Do they like Scrabble? Do you wish you could meet them in real life, not just in blog-land? (and there's lots of you!) Are they just enough weird? What are the important people in their life like? Will they go out of their way for some really lovely chocolate? Is there laughter in their life? Everyone has their own list. (My list is very long, and not everyone I know has a blog-link, but I'm thinking of you ;-)

Do they get down on the floor and paint collaborative pictures of dinosaurs with your four-year-old?

If the answer to any of these is "yes", then I may have lucked out :-)

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Like MacGyver, Except with Felt

We're on our hurried way to visit friends. Mr. S. is packing the bag, Safiya is running away from her jacket, and I.....drop my cherished new glass belt buckle from nanotopia onto the ceramic floor.....

There are no other belts. I need a belt. No time to change. Quick, what to do, what to do? Ah ha! Time enough for a quick seam, a quick....

....belt cozy.

Oh yes, MacGyver has nothing on me and felt, baby.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Time Again

You can stop time. There's a button for that.

Someone asked me recently when I write. When I haven't taken an unintentional blogging break, these days I write in the evening, mostly. Right now it's 3:36pm and Safiya is playing with a friend and there are a million other things to be done, but I'm here. Not making dinner, not un-decorating the solstice tree, not making things for the "Love and Rummage" trunk show coming up. Not sorting out rotten apples.


Here is a good place. It used to be that here was when time really did stop. I started writing back when Safiya still napped. Because as every parent knows, when you have but one child, naps are "free time". There are no obligations during naps. I could have sat on my behind and scratched every once in a while. Naps are catch-up. Those lovely liquid golden light afternoons when the house was quiet and with a sigh you sank into the couch, feet up, and closed your eyes briefly, drinking it in....

Maybe I romanticise a bit. Obviously, Safiya doesn't nap anymore, and hasn't for a while. So the words come at night, or in the middle of the afternoon, or while she watches the Zaboomafoo DVD from the library for the umpteenth time. But they still come. Sometimes they don't come for a while. I find it amazing that other blogs are so reliable. It's an admirable quality and one that, as a parent, mystifies me. She doesn't nap anymore. Our worlds change. Our timing changes. Our needs change. Here will change.

I suppose that's because here is personal. I like being here. In fact sometimes, when a post is done and it feels good, I'm not ashamed to say that I'll go back and re-read it. More than once. I'll go back an hour later and read it again. Maybe out loud. And even better, I get to converse with you out there to boot.

But part of it is, as they say, making time.

Part of getting older is learning how to make time stop. Or how to let it slide right around you. How to catch it in your hand when needed.

Time as partner, not adversary.


Addendum: It is now 10:20 on Sunday night and I've finally finished this post. We've had a full day of cleaning, a friend's birthday party, and family to visit in the evening. As of today, the apples are sorted, the tree is un-solsticed, and the laundry has been caught up on. In fact, the dishes are done (thanks to Mr. S.) and there's even an apple cake in the fridge.

So it changes, so it goes......

Monday, 5 January 2009

Let's Start the Year with Crepes

Happy fifth day of the New Year! To start off the year right, I want to thank everyone who sent warm wishes through here recently; each of those was a wonderful gift, and I'm so fortunate to be surrounded by you lovely people.

Now, to dive right in. There is a reason why the empty plate in the mundane scene above is important. I ate a stack of crepes. And then I called Mr. S. at work to tell him that I'd eaten a stack of crepes.

Mr. S. is now used to me randomly calling him at work with news like this. That's because this past fall I'd finally figured out why I've had almost daily stomachaches since my early teens. Stomachaches sometimes so severe that when Mr. S. and I were first together he would insist that I needed to go the hospital and I would insist that I was fine and that it happened all the time and it was no big deal.

I've got celiac disease. (We're still testing, but it's pretty sure.) I haven't said anything about it here yet because I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to talk about the crying in the kitchen, the confidence shattered (if I can make vegan Mennonite food, I can bake anything, right?), the frustration over all the work done to eat local, over the fact that there is no way that rice is local to Toronto, and the throwing of the stupid cookbooks with their serious recommendations that I shouldn't try baking until at least 6 months after stopping eating gluten so that I wouldn't remember what bread really tastes like.

After the success with crepes this morning, I was ready, and more importantly, I felt moved to say something, just in case there's someone else out there throwing cookbooks and eating only naked salads at restaurants (gluten is in f-in' everything). In case there's just one other vegan-gluten intolerant-locavore out there, just to say that it will be o.k. (Bear with me here while I sound like a bad 80's self-help book....)

It will be o.k. mostly because of amazing people like Karina at Gluten-Free-Goddess. (Thank the heavens for the internet.) It will be o.k. because buckwheat, chickpea flour, and corn are local, and because quinoa and amaranth someday could be. It will be o.k. because right now rice is my medicine, and I'm pretty sure no-one's advocating local medicine (thank goodness!) And, very importantly, it will be o.k. because Pizza Pizza has a gluten free crust.

I was always so tired, fuzzy-headed, and worse, always always fighting that ball of irritability in my core. I had cramps, stomachaches, and Mr. S.'s favourite, gas that would gas a skunk out of an outhouse :-) For the first, oh, 16 days after starting to not eat gluten, I would call Mr. S. at work: "Guess what?" What? "I don't have a stomachache today!" and I'd gleefully hang up.

So, to finally share the celebration, here's the crepe recipe, adapted from Veganomicon (which is kind of ironic, because it was the hours of agony back in July after the chickpea cutlets, made from vital wheat gluten, that tipped me off):

the amazing incredible gluten free vegan buckwheat crepes

1 1/2 cups soy or rice milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I keep a homemade blend of 1/2 brown rice flour, then arrowroot/sorghum/tapioca/quinoa flour to make up the other half - you generally need some starch and some protein when making a blend)
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 Tablespoon arrowroot flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine everything, whisk/beat until smooth. Pour into an airtight container (I use a large jar for easy pouring) and let sit in the fridge, preferably overnight. When ready to cook the crepes, stir briefly (or shake the jar) if ingredients have separated.

This batter will be more viscous than usual wheat based batter. They say that when making crepes, the first crepe or two must be sacrificed, but we have a trick that works well (on our well-seasoned cast iron pan, anyway). When the pan is nice and hot (medium to medium-high heat, depending on your stove - a sprinkle of water should dance), add a little oil (a teaspoon) and coat the pan using a pastry brush. The bristles get sacrificed a bit, but the crepes will never stick and seem to always cook evenly, even on the first go.

Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup in the pan, swirl around, then cook until there are bubbles showing and the top is mostly dry - the edges should be starting to lift. Flip, cook a little more, and voila! Perfect crepes!


And for a good laugh (mixed with a few tears) for all you proud food freaks out there (of any ilk), I just found this list. Enjoy, and happy eating!