Sunday 16 May 2010

They Get Big Fast and a Sewing Confession

My midwife's only real rule for postpartum is, which she directed to me, but stated while looking squarely at Mr. S., "No cooking, cleaning, or laundry for 10 to 12 days".

I don't see sewing on that list, do you? ;-)

So, a skirt that should have really only taken a half hour finally gets finished (10 minutes at a time, using this free pattern from Oliver + S) by a Mama grateful, nay overjoyed, that her ankles aren't swollen like bloated baobob trees anymore. I did promise Safiya that I'd finish the skirt.

Having such a tiny baby around makes it just a little bittersweet that Safiya is so grown up.

That's a girl in that picture, you know? A real girl. And I said to Mr. S. this morning, the funny thing about having a boy, for all my "boys wear pink" and "we don't do the princess thing" (not the Disney version, anyway) just makes me want to sew a bunch of skirts for Safiya. Lots and lots of skirts.

That is, in between sleeping and diapers and feeding and not sleeping and spending inordinate amounts of time adoring this sweetness:

You didn't think I could get through a post without a picture of him, did you? :-)

Tuesday 11 May 2010

The Bump Arrives!

We are cozy at home, now the four of us. Safiya is happy to announce that Zinadine arrived yesterday at 4:40am after a rather intense and dramatic 5 hour labour. He's tired now, and is going to have a nap. And a feed. And a nap. And a feed.....nap, feed, nap, feed. It's a hard life, being just over a day old :-)

Sunday 2 May 2010

Getting Ready to Bloom

Today is a day of sun and warm breeze and, of unexpected peas!

Everything at our house is getting ready to bloom...

Including me!

Content, I have to laugh at a sidewalk chalk game that Safiya made up, 'cause it's something that I'm whispering to The Bump all the time now:

So Start!

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Preparing for The Bump: Puddle Pads

One of the best investments that Mr. S. and I ever made was in our bed. After a lifetime of foam and springs, our hand-made 100% wool bed by Shepherd's Dream really was a dream. It's warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We don't use air conditioning, and the wool bed keeps us so cool and dry during hot muggy summer nights.

To protect it I use big thrifted wool blankets, which I just put down on top of the mattress under the fitted sheet, but considering how many accidents, leaks, and general wetness that accompanies newborns, I wanted something easily changed but still effective. We have two wool puddle pads that we got way back when we got the bed, when Safiya was still a babe, but they're now a little out of our price range (they were well worth the initial cost, though - over the years they've washed beautifully, stayed thick, cozy, and soft, and absorbed wetness and odour very well).

So I thought I'd just make a little stack of puddle pads for on top of the sheets, planning to whisk away the top ones as they get wet. Thrifted wool blankets run about ten dollars around these parts, and after felting them I can get four puddle pads from one (I just cut them and zig-zagged the edges). They're not as thick and luxurious as the ones from Shepherd's Dream, and the weave is a bit looser, but at about $2.50 each, I can afford to double them up....actually, I can afford to sixteen-uple them up, which would be the equivalent cost :-)

Cozy, cozy! One more thing ready for The Bump...

Monday 26 April 2010

What to Do With All Those Scraps?

When I was little my Mom always had a little plastic bag taped to the side of her sewing machine table for the inevitable snippets and scraps that come with sewing so that she could easily collect them for the garbage.

As with any next generation, I went bigger and badder :-)

That big swing-top can sits snug against my sewing machine table and ever since I've started to seriously sew, it's been patiently engulfing all the little scraps and threads that are too small for my other scrap bins (yep - there are two more totes, one for wovens and one for knits/felt - those scraps are saved for projects like beanbags and blankets).

I choose to use mostly natural fabrics, which really wouldn't be a problem in the garbage since they would decompose pretty easily, but I use thrifted polyester-cotton thread and fabric some, and the idea of my craft resulting in bits of plastic sitting around forever and making their way into the food chain makes me shudder too much to sew a straight seam, so I've been collecting it (while trying to get away from the whole polyester thing in the first place). But what to do with all those scraps?

My pregnant self tried to take a nap outside the other day, and was quickly and uncomfortably made aware of the dearth of outside cushions in this house.

So, Safiya and I sewed up a giant cushion from cotton canvas that I had, and stuffed away!

Oh, if you decide to do something like this, make sure you check your scraps thoroughly. Some things we found that would be unpleasant to sit on:

And hey - there's my bag of yellow embroidery thread that I thought I lost last year!

There will be grommets on each corner so that I can hang it up for storage, and some kind of colourful cover is in the works, but it's pretty functional as it is. A couple of years' worth of scraps handily dealt with in one afternoon. It's a bit lumpy, but certainly comfortable enough:

And yes, I'm really only delaying the inevitable, because that cushion someday will meet it's demise, but let's hope it has a long and nap-filled life...

Saturday 24 April 2010

Story Dice for Ursa

Once upon a time there was a friend of Safiya's named Ursa who liked to make up stories and who was having a seventh birthday.

Fortunately, Safiya's Mama was blessed with a solitary morning. This was because Safiya and Mr. S. had gone to proctor an exam at the university (it was Safiya's job to hand out the exams and remind everyone not to cheat). Safiya's Mama enjoyed her blissful morning by gathering up some supplies and leisurely crafting a birthday present for Ursa, having been inspired by some ideas for story dice that she saw posted on The Crafty Crow, by The Small Object, and by fo`ne`tic`lee speaking. It involved using her rather rusty drawing skills, but she approached the task with courage.

A house, ant, hot air balloon, orange shoes, green cat, blue elephant, clothesline, hopscotch, tree, paintbrush, bicycle, wings, wheelbarrow, mountain, rainclouds, stars, red purse, and birthday cake (with seven candles!) later, Safiya's Mama was quite pleased. She added some beeswax polish, a little sewn book (made from lined paper and a wallpaper sample from Farrow and Ball), a draw-string bag and ta-da!

A little bag of endless story possibilities, just waiting to come out!

Friday 23 April 2010

It's the Little Things...

Mr. S. walked into the kitchen last weekend only to discover my nine-months-pregnant-almost-due self perched on top of a stool, cleaning the top of the fridge.

" many days have we got, then?" he said. You see, the last time 'round I did perfectly reasonably things like scrub the inside of the washing machine and the dishwasher right before Safiya was born. So Mr. S. is, understandably, a little freaked out :-)

Of course, impending baby is a great motivator, so there have been lots of little things accomplished lately, which is awesome. Like handles on the kitchen cabinets:

Like me finally sewing curtains for the bedroom (thanks to my friend Sandra who passed the raw goods on for me to work with!):

Like, having given up on being able to tie running shoes and degenerated into Euro-not-cool-in-any-way style 'cause I just didn't care anymore:

to redeeming myself with a $5.99-Value-Village bit of slip-on relief and cuteness:

Now, if I could just figure out how to get nailpolish onto those far-away toes......

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Safiya's Doll

This is not some horrible doll-torture picture. It is the loving process of adding the final touches to a very special addition to Safiya's world.

A while ago Safiya came to me with a request. She wanted a doll, nay longed for a doll. A proper doll that she could practise on for when The Bump arrives. She has a fair amount of stuffed animals (ahem, thank you, extended family...), but we'd not ventured into doll territory yet. Fortunately my friend Katharine had recently made Waldorf dolls for her kids using kits from Weir Dolls and Crafts, and had reported very favourably on the whole process.

Safiya and I chose the components together, and in this case, considering the imminent arrival of The Bump (we're now at about a week-ish to go....) and my propensity for procrastination and the whole I've-never-done-this-before thing, I chose a pre-stuffed head, pre-sewn fabric body parts, and partially assembled hair.

Safiya's growing excitement was infectious, and it was satisfying, trying this new thing. We stuffed and talked and planned and sewed. And I came to appreciate the instructions that were stated with regards to attaching the head to the body: "This will be difficult..."

Right, I thought smugly, that's for people who don't sew. Ha! It was hard! Which is good :-)

And when she was done, Safiya took her in her arms tenderly and named her Charlotte.

She looks happy to be here, and is well-loved, like any new addition to our family.

Monday 19 April 2010

Dark Days Past and a Light for Uncle Larry

Right now, I can hear the trickling of a neighbour's backyard pond, the quiet weightless exhale of a beautiful spring evening, the occasional twitter of a bird prolonging the day in trees just starting to green and the photo above of Safiya and Mr. S. seems from another age altogether.

However, it was only a little over six weeks ago that that picture was taken at my Aunt and Uncle's house. Six weeks ago when my Uncle Larry, a beloved fixture in our family, suddenly died of a heart attack at the workplace that he and my Aunt Ruth have shared for many many years. He was 52.

A year ago I posted a little bit about my aunt and uncle and how much the example of their lives had influenced me. They were a real couple - they lived for eachother and because they lived fairly far from family, they had had to work life out together, and writing all this in past tense hurts so much. But distance and time looses the tongue, about which I'm glad because my Uncle Larry deserves much more than a few words even though that's all I've got right now.

He was funny. He was a prankster and delightfully, unabashedly crazy, which probably made him the sanest, most evenly keeled person in our family. He was generous. He was tender and attentive to kids, which, given his coarse joking and bossing around revealed more about our preconceptions than it did about his personality. He would call. Very often it's only the women that maintain ties in a family, but not just my Aunt Ruth called - Larry called. He called when I had cancer. He called when Safiya was born. He called my grandparents, his in-laws, daily. Just to see how they were doing.

He could be a pain in the ass and we loved him for it. ("Oh, Larry..." with a smile and a roll of the eyes was a favourite refrain of my Aunt's.) Unafraid, approachable, and a great salesman, he and Ruth would have yard sales where most stuff on the yard was priced at a few pennies; Larry wasn't interested in the money, he was more interested in having a gab with whoever came by. Every single person who paid their respects in my Aunt and Uncle's small town (and there were so so many - you could tell when shift change was at the factory where he and my Aunt worked because there would be a hundred-person line-up at the funeral home) didn't offer a generic condolence; each one had a specific story, a particular anecdote that made us laugh through our tears. How could a person in dying make it such a rich experience for the rest of us left behind?

He did it easily, just by living.

We love you Uncle Larry, and you are greatly missed...

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Tea, Colds, and Scrabble...

Snots and sniffles and an earache or two have been the order of the days (and nights) for the past two weeks here. First Safiya, then me. The general wearing down has led to us parsing out our days into small bouts of chores, leisurely cooking, and long bouts of sitting and watching the snow melt.

We did brave the weather last week for three rounds of sledding, though. We haven't had real winter weather for months, and she was so excited when we got a proper snow ("now it's really winter") that I just stuffed my coat pockets with handkerchiefs and gamely followed her lead. Now it's all melting and there's talk of planting peas....

Safiya is the one who suggested the Scrabble today. Spelling, reading, strategy, adding, and multiplication all in the guise of a game that I can do while nursing a cup of lemon and honey tea? Done!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Works in Progress...

My sock (yes, still the first one :-)

My freezer project happily underway; food for when The Bump arrives (so far we've got curry, spaghetti sauce, cookies, pancakes, soups, and some slices of the amazing toasted walnut and sundried tomato polenta that Mr. S. made on Friday...)

The Bump :-) A little over 2 months to go and all of the sudden, there seems so little time...

Friday 19 February 2010

Shop Update!

In defiance of the snow and cold, I'm thinking warmer weather and hoping you are too! I've listed a couple of cutlery rolls in my shop, and I'm looking forward to sending them out with dreams of picnics with lots of yummy food and sunny days....

And for fighting off the cold now or for the chilly spring days coming up, Safiya gamely modeled some of the new legwarmers/leggings for me, trying to sneak her favourites away in between :-)


Wednesday 17 February 2010

More Root Vegetables, Please!

It's that time of year. I long for the farmers' markets. Our box of (mostly local) produce comes and I haul turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, storage apples, carrots and so on into the kitchen....and then stare at the abundance for a while.

One of my standbys is The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein, which, beyond having fantastic easily veganised recipes suitable for a northern climate, is a wonderful read full of food history and stories. It's a cuddle up in the bleak weather treat.

However, looking for new inspiration and building on my experience with the best salad ever a couple of years ago (a strawberry and onion chutney at an Indian restaurant), lately I've found that one of the most delightful ways to face root vegetables is east. A lot of south asian cuisine actually lends itself really well to root vegetables other than the usual potatoes and carrots. Try turnips simmered in a tomato based sauce with Indian spices and you'll see what I mean. This might be obvious for a lot of people, but it was such a welcome discovery for me that I'm kicking myself for not being more adventurous with my rutabagas sooner :-)

So, I introduce to you my very own grated celery root and apple salad with black mustard seed dressing:


1 smallish celery root, peeled and grated
4-5 medium apples, cored and thinly sliced
juice from half a lemon
1 or 2 green onions, chopped
about 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

Toast a couple of teaspoons of black mustard seeds in a couple of tablespoons of oil (I used canola) until they start popping (remove before they explode all over your kitchen!) and pour the warm dressing on top on the salad. Mix well and salt to taste.


Monday 15 February 2010

The 1900 House and Making Toothpaste

Safiya is enamoured of The 1900 House. I took the DVD's out of the library one day, intending them for myself, and one day when I wasn't feeling particularly well, I popped it in. In general Safiya is adverse to unfamiliar media, but when they started talking about not having electricity and having to use the outhouse outside, she peaked around the corner and said "watcha' watchin'?"

And so starts Homeschooling History 101 :-)

One of the things which I do on-and-off but which Safiya now helps with with increased fervor after watching the show (a gazillion times) is making toothpaste. She likes to raise her eyebrows at the idea of having to brush your teeth with just baking soda - yucccch!, and thinks our recipe is greatly improved over what they did in the 1900's (after having tried the plain baking soda :-) She actually prefers it to the fruity kids' toothpaste that she had.

Here's the recipe, adapted from my well-worn copy of Jackie French's Natural Solutions:

3 parts baking soda
2 parts calcium carbonate (which I easily ordered from the pharmacy)
1 part vegetable glycerin
drops of peppermint essential oil, as desired

Mix well. Store in whatever way is easiest for you.

The first time she made it with me we decided to use an old, well-cleaned toothpaste tube and then duct-tape the end, which worked o.k. at the beginning, but then it leaked a bit at the end.

This time we wracked our brains and found a better solution. We increased the amount of glycerin to make it a bit more runny and reused old honey bears! Perfect!

Oh, and we're well on our way with the reality-tv-show based history curriculum. We've gone through Frontier House (she's trying to convince Mr. S. to keep chickens for eggs in our backyard) and are starting Manor House (originally The Edwardian Country House). This is proper education, right? ;-)

Thursday 4 February 2010

Preparing for The Bump: Food

Our freezer, which was on a power bar (brilliant, I know), was turned off accidentally (I blame the cats, as they can't defend themselves). There was very little to rescue by the time we noticed what was going on. So, start all over again, right?

Thinking ahead to the very likely scenario of our family resorting to all-takeout-all-the-time when The Bump is born, and realising that in reality I prefer the taste (and cost!) of our homemade food, I've implemented a little planning that's actually been pretty easy so far.

Anything that I can make double batches of that freezes easily I'm doing now. This also has the added benefit of me not having to negotiate take-out ingredients, especially when I'll be tired with new baby and my defenses are down and I'm inclined to say "whatever, I don't care, I just need to eat something, damn the consequences!" :-)

Now, Mr. S. is a great cook, and I'll be able to rely on him to cook for us too, but some of this has to do with budget as well. I'm really really looking forward to the four months that he's taking in paternity leave, and wouldn't change that for the world. It also means that there will be a cut in funds to be creatively confronted for those four months, which is fine by me.

And it allows me to start playing in a small way with something I just learned from one of the new people who helps cook in our community kitchen for the free lunches on Tuesdays. We always prepare really good food with enough options so that no matter who walks in, there will be something to eat for them, carnivores and vegan celiac freaks like me alike. We do have budget and availability to consider, and we're trying to do what little we can to ease people into to the idea of eating seasonally and frugally. But then this new person (who is a phenomenal cook) comes in and starts asking if we have things like cream and cheese and sour cream! The decadence! The cost! :-) However, he made a really good point: Everyone deserves the best food we can possibly make, presented in a manner pleasing to the eye, because that's a way of feeding people too. So we've been making a little extra effort with presentation, which makes a bigger impact, even on me as a cook, than I imagined. We all know this, right? Any menu at a good restaurant teases you with the description and presentation of the food, not just what shows up on your plate. "Smoked chipotle chili" sounds better than just "chili". And that extra effort shows respect and consideration for the person eating the food.

So, after all that, what's the point? I guess when I look into my freezer, instead of trying to navigate unlabeled food of dubious origin dumped unceremoniously in a rush before it goes bad in the fridge, I think it'll be nicer to see things like this:

Even the cooks need to nourish their souls :-)

Tuesday 2 February 2010

...And Then There Are Socks

Isn't that a lovely scene? Indulgent and practical at the same time - the perfect combination. I really loved this class. Nevermind that coffee and yarn and needles was included; two hours on each of two Saturdays in the warm sunshine at the front of The Purple Purl and ta-da! my fear of knitting socks is a thing of the past, courtesy of Kate Atherly, our instructor. (She's the Technical Editor for Socks at Knitty - I love that there is such a person). I wish I had taken a picture of the inspiring, decadent pile of hand-knit socks that she brought with her - they were gorgeous! And, she showed us how to calculate the pattern for custom-fit socks - be still my beating heart (and ginormous feet!)

She was patient ("oh, that's o.k. - the swatch was really supposed to be ribbing instead of garter stitch, but why don't you go ahead and work a few rows while I talk about this next thing"), straightforward and helpful ("you're really twisted up here, I'll just rip out this little bit and get you started again"), and observant ("hmmmm, I'm not sure about your purl stitch - if you try it this way, you find your knit stitch easier to do). This is why, for me and knitting, a class is the way to go :-)

I like the light in this next photo, because really, it's a sacred moment, me actually having knit that much of a sock (and that photo is a day or two old, so there's almost double that now :-)....

I also learned that I cannot knit socks and talk at the same time, although I'm working on it. Also, fitting knitting into the day is a skill in and of itself. But I love the portability of knitting, and that even if I only put a few rows on each day, socks work up pretty quickly. And did I mention that I love wool socks? I'm committed, now...thanks Kate!

There Are Socks...

These are my favourite socks. Wollen, warm, cozy, cushiony - they are the perfect cold weather socks. Consigned to the back of the sock drawer (if Mr. S. detects holey socks he chucks them!), they lay there forlorn until, inspired by Becky's darning post, I decided to rescue them.

I probably could have winged it, but I approach any new skill with hesitation (what if I mess up darning socks? what horrible unremovable mistakes could result?), so I used a Very Instructive Video.

This is my fuzzy in-process-shot (having no darning mushroom around, I instead availed myself of a lightbulb):

And this is my not-much-better results shot (black-on-black yarn doesn't show well, sorry, but look - no hole!):

And now they are cozy-comfy on my feet again! Oh thrift, how I love thee.....