Monday, December 29, 2008

Skating on the Lake

We have been making the most of this time off - trying to do things that we can only do now. Dean has taken Rhiannon sledding a couple of times, they've been to the matinée at the cheap theatre and today I took Rhiannon skating on the lake. It is only the fourth time in 15 winters that I have lived here that it is possible to skate on Kal Lake. It was a beautiful winter day and thanks to the -27 weather we have survived, -7 felt positively balmy! We were the only ones out and as we drove there, it started to snow huge flakes.

Here she is starting off on one of the cleared spaces.

And this picture doesn't really need any comment, does it? Her face says it all!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Young Photographer

Andrew really does have a good eye for photos. Since he was a little boy, he has appreciated a 'view'. It was something that we have always enjoyed together. He has often pointed them out to me. He especially seems to like the sunset view from his bedroom window. He shares what he considers to be the best of his photos at deviant art. You don't have to be a member to view them. Just follow this link. Knight in skinny jeans indeed... now if he would just pull them UP!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Crafting

As the rosy light of the dawn spreads across the sky this Boxing Day morning and the rest of my family still sleeps, I finally have time to read all the blogs I like to read. I am finally well-rested after late nights spent crafting and my marathon on Christmas Eve. Yesterday I had a 3 hour nap and then still went to bed at 11 and woke up 8 hours later. Ahhhhh, I needed that!

I am sitting here sipping delicious tea that a certain Pea sent me for Christmas (spicy orange mandarin... yum!) and I have time to show you what I made over Christmas.

This was my first completed gift. The pattern is from Son of Stitch and Bitch. I had to rip it 4 times. The first time I had completed up to the mouths of the skulls and realized that it was big enough to be the beginning of a sweater... and the other times, I just won't go into. Suffice it to say that once I started for the last time, it took me more than 20 hours to complete. It is the hardest thing I have ever knitted and by the time I was done, I had a puncture wound in my thumb! And I will complain about the pattern. There are several errors in it that contributed to my ripping. Luckily Kaetlyn loves it! Whew!

After I completed Kaetlyn's hat, I went crazy making things for my brother's children. I drew my 16-years-younger brother, Evan, for gifts this year. He sent me a ridiculous list of expensive store bought things. So I got him a store-bought gift but I couldn't resist making things for all his kids. I wish I had taken a picture of the sweet wee hat I made for his baby daughter or the little pouch I made to put it in from this how-to here. Or the elf hat I made his son from a pattern in "One Skein Wonders: 101 yarn store favourites". I adjusted the pattern to include some of my own designed fair-isle knitting... (thanks Elizabeth Zimmerman for the inspiration) And I sent his oldest daughter a little lip balm made from a recipe in "Dining on a Dime Recipe Book" And his wife I sent some hand cream from a recipe in "Organic At Home". And of course, a large portion of home made peanut brittle. It seemed like I couldn't stop making things for them all... I finally shipped it off on the bus on Dec 23... I also made hand cream, moisture bars (also from Organic at Home) and lip balm for stocking stuffers and gifts for several of my friends. After the first batch, I started experimenting with different essential oils. I made Dean an "orange and cinnamon" scented hand cream (he loves it) and my mil a lavender and bergamot scented one. Erin got 'citrus blossom' which was sweet orange, lemon, pink grapefruit and linden blossom... and many other combinations for others - too many to mention here.

After I finished all that, this was my next completed project... the night of the 23rd. I had started her several days before - I would work on her in the morning before Rhiannon got up for an hour or two. This is made from a Wee Wonderfuls Make-A-Long pattern for "Olive". However, her name is Melissa! And she was from Santa to Rhiannon who was so thrilled to receive her! She tells me that she can't thank me enough! Sweet! What every crafting Santa loves to hear!

Then on the morning of the 24th after only a few hours sleep, I started this. It is an Amy Butler pattern from her book "In Stitches" (it is one of the ones I showed you in the summer, Amy). It is an "Oversized Laundry Bag". Some might say a boring gift but luckily Erin loves it. I love the details that Amy Butler puts in her patterns. It might just be a laundry bag but it looks fantastic! You might remember that it matches what I made her last year. Between the outer layer and the lining, there is a layer of canvas and some very stiff interfacing in the bottom. It is beautiful and very sturdy. I even made the drawstring myself and I didn't need to purchase anything at all to make it. I had everything already in my stores! Once I finished that about about 10pm Christmas Eve (I worked on it between completing a season's worth of baking with Kaetlyn, cleaning the kitchen, living room and bathroom and decorating the Christmas Tree), it was time to start on Rhiannon's gift!

This gift idea comes from "Creative Family" by Amanda Blake Soule. It is a pencil roll made of pink wool felt. Rhiannon loves these super thick and very vibrant wooden colour pencils (that put Laurentian to shame - if you don't know them, get down to an artists store and get youself some!) You can see them here. They are Ferby Coloured Pencils by Lyra. We have been accumulating them from Opus in Kelowna. She had 40 of them but I managed to find 5 more colours she didn't have. We had worked together on a roll that fits 30 of them earlier in the fall. So here you see the 10 that don't fit in the first one and the 5 more I got her for Christmas along with space for 5 more. On the other side of the top it has her name in machine embroidery.

I must say that I love my old Bernina for this feature. I had the amazing good fortune when I was 21 and setting out to buy my own machine to get one out of the "Buy and Sell" in Vancouver. An old but top of the line Bernina that was exactly the same as my mother's (she had bought hers 20 years earlier). The woman I bought it from had used it only once to sew a button on. It is a wonderful old, mechanical machine with no plastic in it. I have never had it serviced. The tension is always perfect. And when I use the embroidery stitches like I did here, it is like having my mother sitting beside me... I remember the things she made for me and my siblings with the same stitches on them.

I finished Rhiannon's pencil roll at exactly 2:18am... I guess that was Christmas morning...And that completes my Christmas crafting. Don't worry, I didn't neglect the men in my life. For Dean we all went together and put money on a guitar (the V shaped one) he has been dreaming about and for Drew we all went together and bought him a digital camera (canon) for his creative expression - he takes amazing landscape/scenery photos - takes after his Auntie Laura.

And now my tea is cool and almost gone and the rosiness has faded to daylight and there are chickens and sheep who will be very excited to see me...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

We went from 0 to Christmas yesterday. I had almost no baking done but by supper we were over-loaded. I started yesterday morning at 5:15 am and I was finished by 2:18am. I couldn't help but ponder what I could accomplish in my life if I could get that much done everyday...

This is a photo that Andrew took of the moody weather yesterday.

Along with baking, I had cleaning and presents to finish making. And our tree wasn't decorated yet, either. We had a lot of fun decorating, cleaning, making and baking yesterday. That is heaven for me - to have all 4 of my children around me all working and playing together.

Here is what a nose ring is really good for... Kaetlyn decorated that heart when she was 3. Sparkly fabric paint makes everything look good... Most of our decorations are homemade and we love putting them up, laughing about some of them, marvelling at the charm of others... bickering about who gets to put it up, what part of the tree has too many decorations... and laughing a lot.

Is Kaetlyn drilling something there? Um... no... My electric beater broke some months earlier and I just couldn't bear the thought of mixing shortbread by hand...neccessity is the mother of invention, right?

I only have one problem now: I can't get the drill to let go of my mixer attachment...

And in the end, all efforts are completed and the magic of Christmas descends on our home.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Wonderland

So everyone, everywhere in Canada knows that this is a coooold winter - much colder than usual and here in the Okanagan is no exception. The weather we are having reminds me of growing up in Prince George. It is the coldest weather I have experienced in the 14 years I have lived here. But all this snow and cold does have its upside. We have had glorious sunshine that makes everything just look so beautiful. We are usually socked in with 'valley bottom' cloud about this time of year for days on end. I have to admit, the sunshine is nice! Here are some images from our winter wonderland.

The beauty bush becomes a winter cave....

The sun low on the southern horizon.

Waxy, red barberries under the snow

My sleeping garden.

Hope you can find the beauty in this snow and cold weather... that's all the pictures I could take.... my shutter wouldn't open anymore in that cold...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holy Night

Oh Holy Night
The stars are softly shining
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
As yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees!
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh Night Divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine

One thing that having animals does for me is that it makes me go outside when otherwise, I would stay huddled inside. Last night was one of those nights. I fed the sheep and chickens and changed their water under blazing stars on the longest night of the year. In the crisp, quiet cold, under the clear stars, I couldn't help but feel the sacredness of the moment. And I couldn't help but think of all the people in the Northern Hemisphere who celebrate this time of year in one way or another and all that combined energy that makes this cold, dark night so sacred.

Whether or not you believe in Jesus and whether or not you believe he was born, one thing is for sure, the biblical account of his birth did not happen in December. There would be no shepherds out with their flocks in December. Shepherds stay with their flocks in the spring during lambing season and when the lambs are small. Yet the birth of the Son is celebrated at this time of year when for us in cold places, when our Earth begins its journey back to the Sun.

For me, the natural world is sacred. It is there that I have had my spiritual experiences and there that I find the symbolism that sustains me. And to me, with my ENFP brain that sees connections in everything, in that cold night as I walked slowly back to the house under bright stars, I couldn't help but see parallels. For Christians Christ was born to end the dark night of sin - of separation from God. In the New Testament He proclaims himself as the Light and the Way. In my own anticipation of the rebirth of the sun and the return of longer days, warmth, gardening and the beach, I felt a deep excitement for the birth of the Sun anew. I couldn't help but see deeper and think of the 'dark night of the soul'. And think of how each of us when we dare to face the dark and the cold within ourselves and heal old patterns are also born again into the light. For me this has also been a cycle - not as regular as the the Sun's return every year and not as dramatic as the birth of Christ. Yet, for me, as significant and the journey I am on - to see myself and to love and accept myself. And to enter into that place is to enter into the Sun or the Son. Its all the same to me.

And so this song that I started my post with came to mind and I sang it as I walked back to the house and it seemed loaded with just the kind of parallel symbolism that was going through my mind.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For Auntie Amy

And this is what you do when you have no one to play a duet with you... play both parts yourself. Rhiannon wanted me to record this for you, Amy. So here it is:

Friday, December 19, 2008

What To Do When.... spend all your money on your bike and then quit your job and don't have enough money to get a ski pass....

Um... yes, that is our driveway.... our flat driveway....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet Frosty

Before the temperatures dipped to the -21 they are this morning, when a Northern girl like myself knew that snow at these temperatures would be no good for snowmen, Rhiannon and I managed to make this wee snowman. The snow was on the edge of not being sticky - those snowballs took a long time to roll. Frosty has black walnuts for eyes from our own yard, a carrot left over from the farmer's market and organic juice sweetened cranberries from Rancho Vignola for a mouth. And a Bryer's ice cream pail for a hat with mountain ash twigs for arms which you can't really see in this picture.

And for those of you who can't make it to Rhiannon's recital this Friday...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Funny Bone

We have been communicating with each other through e-mail about our Christmas plans. H ere is an exchange between Rhiannon and Drew that just cracks me up! Andrew wrote the original e-mail and Rhiannon answered in the large italics and then Drew responded again. Don't be drinking anything while you read it....

edited to add: for those of you who don't know, Rhiannon is 8 and Andrew is 15.
* * *
Hello family,

there's not much that i want that is under the budget, soo,
Hoddie's what is that ? a Hoodie, a zip up sweater with a hood , socks , boxxers , jeans ,you want clothes for christmas,get real.i am being real rhiannon i need clothes handle grips for my bike ,of course you wan't that. cellphone minutes for telus thats a bit expencive for me to buy for you.don't you think?and no it is not to expensive because it can be as little as $5, gift card for sun country cycleand where would we get that ?and you would get that at suncountry , any cunninlynguests C.D ,i'm not gonna get it if it has screaming music.its not screaming music rhiannon it is rap money umm,andrew thats not really a christmas present and you can earn it yourself.its always nice geting free money rhiannon .... i cant really think of anything elsoh come on.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gardening Year in Review

Last year for one of the first times in my life, I didn't have a hard time letting go of summer. Was it because I knew I would meet up with the sun again in Mexico in November? I don't think so, I think it was because I really felt I got everything I could out of summer - lots of swimming in the lake, lots of fruit, lots of satisfying garden, a bounteous harvest and a freezer and cold storage room full of summer tastes.

This year, I had a much harder time saying good bye to summer. The evidence is in the fact that there are still about 15 tomato stakes left in my garden and that I just planted my garlic last week.... I think I didn't get all I wanted out of summer. The strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apricot crops didn't do so well and mostly I have the leftovers of the previous year's great harvest of those things in my freezer. And with the super hot and then unseasonably cold weather, the above picture represents all the sugar pumpkins I got out of my garden along with the only Queensland Blue. Its a good thing I set out to grow a year's supply of squash or I wouldn't have any!

And this picture makes me laugh. I have never successfully grown onions but that didn't stop me from deciding to grow a year's supply of them, too. I had more than 52 onions started indoors at the prescribed 10 weeks before planting outside, which I have never done before. However, the results were not much different than usual. Most of them I didn't even bother to pick. This here one that is sitting on my window sill beside a chestnut, is my biggest onion. Most of them were about a third of that size. So, this year my goal is to learn HOW to grow onions. Clearly I don't know. It is my winter reading project that will start just after Christmas.
Tomato production was down this year, too. Although I had a few more plants than the year before, I didn't get near the same amount of tomatoes. It was that weird weather. And then I get shade sooner in the fall thanks to that hedge of elms I dream of cutting down... I had to buy some local tomatoes to add to my canned stash. But I am full of tomato dreams for next year already. I grew some really great tomatoes this year despite all that. I have decided there is little point in growing any tomato that isn't huge. Ahhhhh... it is hard to write about it and remember those gorgeous tomatoes with their striated orange, yellow and red.... they were sooooo delicious....

This is what keeps me going through the winter. This is a transplanted aloe vera plant that turned out to have a bunch of calendula seeds in the soil and they popped right up! I love that!

And this is one of my pomegranate trees who lost all of its leaves by July. It is sprouting leaves and branches. (you didn't kill it after all, Mary Sue;)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Good Bye

This post has been a hard one to write. It has taken me several tries - how to share how I feel and my memories without sounding maudlin or overwrought. This post is dedicated to my cousins, the Morrows and especially to my late cousin, David Lendrum Morrow V.

This has been a busy 2 weeks. Rhiannon has had long rehearsals for the orchestra she is in playing for the production of "A Christmas Carol". I have been preparing for the Armstrong Farmers Christmas Market where I sold my peanut brittle and hats today. Amidst all that flurry of industry I learned of the loss of my cousin, David Morrow. I cried and cried when I found out. Hard to believe he is gone at only 46 years old and more than 20 years since I had last seen him. Then during all this activity, he has been there in the back of my mind - a surge of grief, a funny memory....

Although David is my second cousin, our families were close when I was growing up. For a time they lived in Prince George near us when I was very young. His younger brother, Michael, who is the same age as me, I loved from before I can remember loving anyone. He was like my own self. They left PG for Boise, Idaho and then Orem, Utah after only a year or two and we didn't see each other very often but anytime we did, he brings those same pure childish emotions of love and joy. It survived even all those stinky athletic socks he and Shawn would stuff in my pillow when I lived with them. David and his older sister, Sher were gods the way only kind older cousins can be. Our visits were not often as so many miles seperated our families but when we lived in Cranbrook and they in Idaho, we saw each other a little more often. I can remember Mikey laying in his sleeping bag on the floor beside my bed, asking me to sing him song after song. He thought my voice was beautiful...

When I finished high school, I went to live with the Morrows in Orem while I attended BYU in neighbouring Provo for the next two years. David was playing baseball for BYU and he drove me to and from school whenever he wasn't travelling with his team. In those 2 years he became an older brother I never had. He was a great example of me to unfailing kindness. He listened to my troubles - whether they were my skin struggling to adjust to the Utah dryness or boyfriend worries. He took me to my first (and only) college football game (BYU vs. Bowling Green - what kind of University name is that, anyways?). He took me out to A&W for the super thick milkshakes that preceded Blizzards and pointed out Steve Young to me who was the quarterback for BYU just before he took BYU to number one and was drafted for more than a million dollars. He nick-named me "Drea" - the only nickname that has ever stuck. (I used to call him "Vid" but I don't think that one stuck...)

The first two years I spent away from home, I spent with the Morrows. These were formative years for me. I was with them through the death of their mother to breast cancer. Sometimes I cringe at the thought of my insensitive, self-centred 19 year old self. I hope the memories of me have softened over the years... Mine of this time are only good. I shared a room with my two younger cousins, Melanie and Shannon, right beside Michael and Shawn who would listen with their ears pressed to the vent for me to discover their stinky socks inside my pillow case or who would call through it, begging me to come and rub their feet. But of course there is the time I accidentally died Shawn's jock strap pink in the wash so it all worked out....

And so I light a candle for my cousin, David who passed away this summer from brain cancer. I didn't get a chance to say good bye before you left and so I say it now. Good bye, cousin. Your kindness and thoughtfulness were a lifeline to me. You have been an example of the best of what a man can be. When I think of you, I remember your laugh, your easy smile, your genuine compassion, your happy attitude. My heart goes out to your 5 sons and to Stephanie who must go on with out you and to Mel, Sher, Michael, Shawn, Melanie and Shannon..... Until we meet again....

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Studio

I've written about this room before. Originally this room would have been the front entrance to the house. The room that is now the kitchen was added on after the house was built 105 years ago. There's a stained glass window above the door so I imagine it was a sitting room or something like that.... a parlour? And what is now the living room must have been the kitchen. Or maybe what is now the main entry way was originally a lean-to kitchen? Who knows.

Anyways this great room that has the biggest windows in the house on all 3 sides - facing West, North and East has been grossly under utilized since we moved in 2 and a half years ago. First it was the place we shoved all the boxes we didn't know what to do with. And then everything we didn't know what to do with got shoved in there. The only one who spent much time in there was Rhiannon because the craft stuff was in there and it got to be a mess on top of a mess on top of a mess...

Then we started calling it the 'homeschooling room' as most of our books and resources along with all the craft stuff was in there. My very kind and generous friends came over last January and helped me rearrange the furniture in the living room and this room until we had it looking really great. I just had some last sorting and organizing to do...

In the meantime, Rhiannon moved back in for the craft supplies and eventually you couldn't walk through it any more. Piles of abandonned books on the floor, a layer of drawings and other crafts, tables piled with stuff...

And then some new clients called for counselling. I had been using the Inner Light Yoga space to do my counselling but it was less than ideal and if a client didn't show up, I had to pay for the space anyways not to mention the inconvenience of leaving home... So I decided that this room was going to become.... 'my studio'! It took me an entire week end to clean and organize it from getting the cobwebs down, washing the walls and windows and putting the winter storms up to re-organizing the books and making everything look tidy and inviting.

Now I'm in-love with this room. This is my favourite view - the view through the french doors from the living room. That is my pile of hats and latest wool purchases beside the chair. It is so calm and peaceful in there, I love to just sit there. Or write in my journal beside the window looking out on the apple orchard. Or work on the latest Inner World School project at my table.

Here is the view of the other end of the room that leads into the kitchen on the right. Another great place to sit and read a book as Rhiannon often does looking out over our backyard, under the weeping willow tree to the chicken coop. I'm loving it! When I do counselling, I pull out that floral chair and my rocking chair to the centre of the room and put a pot of tea and mugs on a maple chair that doubles as my tea table.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Update 4: Fall Pictures

These days with all the fancy stencil carved pumpkins, these are my favourites. The one on the left is the one Rhiannon carved and the one on the right is the one that Caleb carved. They spookily lit our porch on Halloween night.

My yellow yard courtesy of the maple tree.

Rhiannon on her way out the door on the first snow. It didn't stick to the ground but she had fun anyways.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Update3: The Chickens

Well, it seems I have finally pleased the chicken Gods. What was it? Paying $5 each for eight 2 - 4 year old chickens? Feeding them all last winter when I was only getting 0 - 1 egg a day? Willingly buying eggs weekly for the first 18 months of owning laying hens? Whatever it is, my days of 'egg drought' are finally over. And I was greatly blessed in my chick purchase this spring. I ordered 15 Ameraucanas and 10 Buff Orpingtons. They threw in a few extra so in the end I had 26 adult birds and of those only 8 were roosters. That is pretty good considering that the male/female ratio is supposed to be 50/50. So right now I have 24 laying hens (including what is left of my original flock - 4 old hens and then Fluffy who we hatched last summer and Edie who we hatched last January) .

I see this often. In fact I have even got 24 eggs in one day once. And now I get so many eggs that I am selling them and they are even paying for themselves. And Dean doesn't grumble everytime he picks up feed or has to buy eggs.... "why do we have those chickens.... I shouldn't have to buy eggs..." muttering under his breath.

And I have to say that I am so impressed. The first young hens started laying at only 4 months old. And by the time they were 5 months old pretty much everyone was laying. Considering they aren't supposed to start laying until 6 months old (which would have been October), I am very pleased. We're almost sick of eggs now... almost....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update 2: Hair Routine

So, I promised Pea and Bean this post in the summer. I don't know if it will work for you. Although we have similar curls, I think mine are drier than yours. But here it is. I have been doing the "Curly Girl" routine since shortly after Sarah's wedding when Katie told me about that. When was that? 4 or 5 years ago? Since then, shampoo has not come near my hair.

First of all, I now only clean my hair about twice a week. Sometimes it is only once a week but it is never more than 3. (see mom, in the end, it turns out you were right!) I found that using only conditioner was leaving a real build-up on my hair. For the first time in my dry-haired life, I was getting greasy hair. So my friend and hairdresser when she failed to talk me into using shampoo occasionally, told me to rinse it with baking soda and water.

Step 1: So before I get into the bath (I almost never shower) I hang my head over the shower and pour either a yogurt container with 2 Tablespoons of baking soda in it or for more greasy/sweaty weeks I use a gallon bucket and 4 Tablespoons of baking soda.

Step 2: after rinsing the baking soda out of my hair I use a scrub made of a rich conditioner (Riche by Curelle made in Vancouver) and brown suger. I use about half the amount of conditioner I usually do and then add 2 - 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar. I scrub my scalp with this. This is a recipe from the "Curly Girl" book.

Step 3: after risning the scrub out of my hair, I apply the light conditioner I use (Whenever by Kiss My Face) mixed with 1/2 a lemon (about 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice). Again I use about half the amount of conditioner that I usually do and add the lemon juice. If my hair has be especially tangly, I might apply some of the Riche just to the ends of my hair. Then I rinse it all out. This lemon juice recipe is also from the "Curly Girl" book.

If I wash my hair in the middle of the week, I will use just the light conditioner either by itself or mixed with lemon juice - whatever I think my hair needs. I don't use much product in my hair unless I am going out somewhere that requires dressing up on the evening. I also don't do much to help it dry curly, either unless I am going out. I am just more of a wash-and-go kinda girl. I'm not much into fiddly-farty kind of stuff. However, using the techniques in the Curly Girl books, I have got my hair to look pretty darn awesome, if I do say so myself. But most of the time I like my hair soft and flowy. And I must admit that I do occasionally use a hair pic kind of comb on my hair when it is just too knotty for my fingers.

What I would really like to do is learn how to make my own conditioner. All that packaging just seems so wasteful. And my grandmother who was known for her beautiful curly auburn hair didn't use any store bought products. How is it that in the space of 2 generations we have become so dependant on manufactured goods? My Gram once told me that she washed her hair once a week with an egg in the trough. I wonder what she did in the winter? I have actually tried an egg rinse a long time ago in the late '70's but I am just not so up for the cold rinse needed to get the egg out of the hair without cooking it... But that is my next step. Make my own conditioner. How hard can it be?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update 1: The Sheep

Okay, okay already. At least you are reading my blog, though! hehe! So, the sheep. So we started with 8 sheep with an intention to only have 4 for the winter. These are the ones we are keeping to breed - 3 ewes and 1 ram. Really it is 1 ewe, 2 ewe lambs and 1 ram lamb. At this point we have had the first 2 rams butchered. I sold one to a friend and the other we have been eating. I have to say that Icelandic lamb is the best lamb I have ever tasted. It truly is very mild flavoured. It is very tasty!

That was Oregano and Taragon. I must admit that we didn't take their slaughter easily. Dean had got especially attached to Oregano who was very sweet. He wanted to keep him as a pet.... We all felt sad saying good bye and we had some interesting conversations about the effects of domesticating animals - how unneeded males aren't eliminated in other ways, etc. How they are now so dependant on our intervention and management. As soon as they were dead, though, it was all business. The slaughter guy came to our house and did it here on our property. My homeschooling neighbours took the heads to dissect. That was a bit much for me. I could deal with the carcas but I didn't want to see their faces... I saved the skins which I have washed and are currently rolled up in my freezer waiting for a piece of plywood I can stretch them on... We have two more to be slaughtered - Bubba and Paprika (Pappy). Bubba will be going at the end of this week and Pappy will be around until the spring. He is just too small to be worth it.

So I am in-love with my sheep. I have been tethering them in the hayfield since August. Consequently they have become very tame. And since feeding them many apples, they now come running to me whenever I approach them. Renald is still a bit crusty but that's okay. You don't want a ram who is too friendly. Freya (the white one) jumps up on me like a dog, demanding apples. She can smell them hidden in my pockets! Draga is the sweetest. She will come when I call her name - come running from anywhere like a well trained dog. And she rubs against me to get petted and stays glued to my side when I am out there. Here she is running towards me. How appropriate that her names means 'precious one' in Croatian.

And Brida is just so beautiful. Sometimes I just stand and watch her from afar. She looks so wild and natural with her brown (moorrit) wool and her long horns. She is like the ancient Goddess to me. There is just something so primaevally female about her..... I know, I'm dramatic but that's how I feel when I look at her. I love her!

So breeding could be happening right now. I am not sure. Renald occasionally does that lip thing that rams do when they are sniffing out a female - they turn their top lips inside out and stretch their heads out in front of them. It is rather hilarious. So far no ewe seems especially impressed. They go on eating grass right beside him. I wouldn't mind if they don't breed quite yet. I would rather have April lambs.

I got them shorn at the beginning of September. Bags of wool! Beautiful lambs wool - so soft! And I have managed to work out a trade with a local spinner and mom in our homeschooling group. She is trading with me to clean and spin my wool! I am so excited! I'm going to have to make something great for myself! Unfortunately there will be no brown wool as Brida was shorn so late in the spring it wasn't long enough yet. But I have white and black!

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Okay, so it is really hard to get started blogging again when I haven't for so long. There is so much I want to tell you about what is happening right now but there is so much I want to tell you about the time that has passed since I last blogged that I don't. So my plan is to blog a week of updates and then get back to my regular schedule which is 1 - 5 blogs a week. Not so regular but then neither am I!

Right now it is early Saturday morning. An owl is hooting over my head. The darkness is starting to turn to grey and it is almost time to take the sheep out. For the last 2 months I have been tethering them in the hay field in front of their pen to eat the grass that is growing there. Then I will let the chickens out, feed them and fill up the waters. In my 'unroutine' life, this is my routine. Then maybe, sometime after breakfast, I'll sit down here at the computer again and write an update!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

22 Years of Motherhood

Today is my celebration as much as it is hers. Twenty-two years ago she emerged to make me a mother - my much yearned for and much dreamed about daughter.

She came home from Calgary for her birthday. When I complained that she was leaving too little time for me and spending it all with her friends, she granted me the privilege of making dinner for her and all her friends. It was supposed to be 6 friends but somehow there ended up to be about 15 or so. Good thing I made 2 huge lasagnes. No left overs. And every plate and bowl I own is now dirty.

They have just left and I am exhausted in a happy way. It was such a pleasure to have so many of her friends here and listen to them joke and laugh and see the distance between my daughter and I get smaller and smaller as she becomes more of an adult. This year we pass the half way point. She is now more than half my age. My house was full of their young confident energy.

Of course, I make them all watch videos of her talking and singing at age 4. She was so cute! And I watch her at her party, my incredibly beautiful daughter. Happy. Sparkling. Nothing could be a greater gift to me.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Political Ramblings

So, it is true, I am back online. I have been back online since my last post. The difficulty for me with lack of posting is that I have TOO MUCH to write about! Too many posts itching at my fingers. One just has to start somewhere!

So, another election. I am left feeling like an alien. Or maybe that is wishful thinking that I have someplace else to go other than here... I look around my community and I just can't believe that I think that much differently for those around me! These are my disappointments:

1. Elizabeth May didn't get into parliament. Why did she run against a Conservative cabinet minister? Why?! I wish she had run somewhere she could have been more likely to get in.
2. No Greens got in. I can't believe with our environment in the shape that it is in that more people didn't vote with that in mind.
3. Lowest ever voter turnout in Canadian history. I wonder what it would be like if everyone actually voted? That would be a very interesting thing to see. It saddens me to see my fellow Canadians become more and more apathetic.

And maybe I don't have the right to complain. Here is my true confession. For the first time since I reached the age of majority, I missed voting. I waited for Dean to come home from work. I thought the polls were open until 8pm. But no, they closed at 7 and we drove up at 7:15 as they were carrying the stations out of the school. I felt so terrible. Of course I blamed it on Dean and told him if the Green's lost by 2 votes, he had better feel guilty! They lost by a lot more than 2 here in red-neck-ville anyways.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Love the One You're With...

No, really, everything is fine with Dean. It's the apples. I have mostly had access to an Italian Prune plum since I lived in Sidney and was going to UVic. I have come to love their golden flesh. When I moved here, two years ago, there were 5 acres planted in plums. I picked bucket after bucket and dried them and froze them and made plum pie and plum crisp. I went into last winter with 5 gallon jars full of dried plums. And that doesn't count all the peanut butter jars full. Well, my landlady cut down most of the plum trees and put in a horse pasture! And then from the remaining plum trees, she allowed me to pick a total of 2 buckets. I have one gallon jar of dried plums, no pie, no crisp and no frozen plums for making upside down plum cake in the winter... But my landlady couldn't care less about the 14 apple trees in front of my house. Right now the ground is covered in Spartans. Normally I make a few apple crisps, a few pies, can 12 pints of applesauce and make some apple juice and some apple butter. That doesn't even use up the apples from ONE tree. So I have told myself that it is time to stop moping about the plums. I am going to have to actually buy some but it probably won't be the 300 lbs or so I am used to. This year is the year of the apple. So far I have 41 pints of applesauce. And 3 gallons of dried apples. I have made many apple crisps and I am about to make apple juice and apple butter today. And Abbie is going to send me a recipe for canned apple pie filling. And I am going to go systematically through my Betty Crocker Cookbook and make all her apple recipes. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


So, we are currently without internet. And they have to come to the house to fix it so it won't be on until this Friday and then I'll be on my way to Calgary for our annual end of summer fling. This will be the first year we won't be back-to-school shopping for anyone. We'll be chilling and hanging with our peeps!

Anyways, it is probably a good thing that we are not plugged in right now. There is so much to do at this time of year and I am already busier than usual. We have had company pretty steadily since the neices and nephews came in April. We've had only a week or two between visits or our own excursions. I have loved the company! But it has put me seriously behind on my food preservation.

It is interesting to see what our life is like without access to the world wide web. We read more books and talk more to each other and get more accomplished in general. I really have to learn to regulate myself better when we are hooked up again.

In the meantime I have discovered a fantastic knitting book by Cat Bordhi. It is called New Pathways for Sock Knitters. Laura, you have to get it or at least check it out of your library. (you, too, Joanne) It teaches you how to knit socks with 2 circular needles so you won't have to figure out all that dpn stuff and she is amazing. She takes complex knitting and reduces it to simply increasing and decreasing and her explanations are really, really good. I usually find written instructions difficult to say the least if I have never done it before but she is very clear and breaks it down. She suggests that you practise by knitting baby socks. H already has a pair of pink bamboo that I took to her last night. Right now I have another pair on the needles for Elizabeth in the same self striping yarn as Rhiannon's socks. What else do you do while sitting through swimming lessons?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What Cool Rainy Days Are Good For

Well, nothing shuts down a conversation like a political rant, right? Oh well, I hope that at least it made some of the few people who read my blog think for a bit. Not that you all don't already think. But maybe it will urge us toward more action.

But what cool rainy days are good for is finishing those socks I started in April on our bus trip to Vancouver. These are the first pair of socks that I have ever knit and it wasn't so bad! I did decide to knit them for Rhiannon who has the smallest feet in our family and I told her that I wasn't promising to finish them until October. So look! I'm early! And no, before you non-knitters or novice knitters ooh and ahh over all those colour changes I did, it is really no big deal. It is self striping yarn. I didn't do anything but knit and try really hard to knit it with the same tension on the second sock. I did have to pull that one out a couple of times and loosen up so that the pattern would match. They were done all except the kitchener stitch to join the toe of the second sock by May. Yesterday afternoon with the help of, I finished and Rhiannon couldn't wait to put them on...

And I have some pale blue bamboo for the next pair... what can I say? It was on sale... hush, Mary Sue about the size of my stash... I won't even tell you about the other wool I bought that was also on sale... But how could I resist mohair at $2.99 a ball? And that lovely Briggs and Little in that cool greeny brown? Or that dark blue all for $2.99 a skein...

And as Rhiannon rides off with her friend, I call after her, "be careful with those socks"...

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Last night Rhiannon and I went for a before-bed-swim after that 36 degree day. Then we went for a dilly bar at DQ. And so we were driving around and I turned on the radio to listen to Ideas. It may have been a rerun but it was about homelessness. While we were listening, they played excerpts from a conference on homelessness in Calgary earlier in the year. In particular, there was a particularly articulate and knowledgeable woman, Susan Scott, a journalist and author of two books who read aloud a letter she had written to a friend she called Clarissa. Susan Scott carefully explained the legislation and attitudes that have brought about our current problems with homelessness. It was heartrending to listen to. For me, it was all to real. For 5 years I worked with many people in this area who were sometimes couch surfing and usually one step away from being homeless. And listening to their stories, and learning about them as individuals, I realized that really, "but for the grace of God go I". What separated me from them was mostly circumstances and support. Often they had absolutely no supports in their lives. In that case, one little thing goes wrong and it can be a real domino effect.

Tears came to my eyes listening to this reality and thinking about these people whom I had come to care very deeply about who put a face on poverty for me. Tears came to my eyes as I contemplated our society and our country from this perspective. My heart was wrenched and my efforts seemed puny. I wished that in one broad stroke I could change all of that, set it right in an instant so that all this suffering could end.

And so my commitment and passion for what I strive to create with others at the Inner World School is renewed. I truly believe that by healing ourselves and then our families and communities is the only real way to heal the world. I believe that by children growing up with self confidence and understanding and compassion for themselves will we have the leaders for tomorrow that our world needs.

It is so convenient to look at China (the media's current favourite) or Afghanistan or Kosovo or wherever and point our judging finger and organize protests and march and boycott and speak out. There is nothing wrong with those efforts. It only seems to me that we get all passionate about issues that we don't understand all the complexities of and that exist in another society, in another culture half a world away where we can have so very little effect. What about right here? What about in our own communities where we can really do something? Where the effort required is more than an afternoon spent at a protest but where we can have a huge impact? What about in our own lives? Our own choices? What about our own politics? I think we are lulled into thinking about other places and find it so easy to judge instead of asking these hard questions and actually DOING something. It is easier to sign an online petition and think, "well, that's all I can do..." and feel somehow satisfied and as though we have done something than to really look at the heart wrenching problems and wrestle with the complexities and think and discuss and change. That takes real, deep effort and passion.

In the silence in the van after Ideas is over and I turn off the radio, my almost 8 year old daughter in the back seat says to me, "Mom, why is there money?" and I explain bartering and how we came to use money. And she says, "But why do we even have to barter and trade? Why don't we just share what we have? Why doesn't everyone share?" And answering her as honestly as I could, I talked a little about greed and the widespread fear that there will not be enough that leads to hoarding and I talked about trust. Mostly I think it is because we do not trust each other to genuinely care about one another that if we share, we will be left with not enough for ourselves. We don't trust that we are loved. And I don't think that is because others do not love us well enough. I think it is because we don't love ourselves enough. From there it all follows. When we learn to love ourselves as the mighty and powerful, graceful and compassionate, amazing people that we are, our love will flow.

That old commandment, "love thy neighbour as thyself" which is really two commands and the one naturally flows from the other.

So, I challenge you to think about your own community and your place in it. I challenge you to listen to the broadcast that I did last night that can be found here or

And listen, really listen what is said. If you don't have most of an hour to listen, listen just to Susan Scott's part. It starts at 15 minutes, 13 seconds and goes for about 10 minutes. Just listen.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Sweet. That is how I would describe the 10 day visit of my youngest sister. The days were sweet and easy and the time with her was sweet and that is how I would describe her - very sweet.

It is strange to have a sister 21 years younger. Six months older than my own daughter. Funny, that! My daughter who thinks I am unbearably strange and weird (although I think there is some strange pride as she delights in telling all her friends how weird I am) but makes a point in NOT being interested in my life; and then my sister of the same age who is so interested! We have never lived in the same house. And due to a few reasons which I won't go into here, she grew up without knowing me. And I missed out on her growing up. What a gift she gave me with this 10 day visit.

It was really so easy to have her here. We are interested in so many of the same things. We had great philosophical discussions and the sharing of good books read, long bike rides and lots of lake time. Rhiannon was especially in heaven. Here is an aunt who is totally on the same page - loves to read, draw, make music and swim! I must admit, the house seems particularly quiet without her beautiful, emotional piano playing. We all loved hearing her play. She seemed happy to spend hours teaching and playing her adoring niece different duets.

Here are some photographic highlights:

A bonus of having her here is that she drew her twin down for an action packed day. See proof - both 'fubs checking out my sheep! And at Jade Bay taking in some rays and spending some mermaid time. And I swear, Ben is the only person I know who can create a wake on a floaty!

We did lots with the three of us (actually 5 if you count Zeus and Jodi). Here we are for a picnic supper down at Cosen's Bay. Too cold for me to go in but nothing kept these two mermaids out!

Here we are on Friday night for a picnic supper of samosas from the farmer's market at Ellison Beach on Okanagan Lake. Too bad it was so windy! But we still had fun. We had an adventure of a rolling water bottle that took half an hour to find!

And here we are at the bay at Ellison, trying to get a group shot. Amy has a theory that some pictures are so bad, it is just wrong to delete them. Our attempts at a group shot were rather comical. The first time, we tried to run on the rocky beach without any kind of footwear and didn't make it in time for the picture. Next I accidentally set it on 2 seconds instead of 2 pictures so we have the big butt/little butt pic. We almost got it the second time and finally we did get it the way we wanted to. Rhiannon wanted us to put our arms up.

Here is a photo just before our last long bike ride.

I miss her. Its hard to think that after such a sweet visit, she is moving so very far away:( to Nova Scotia. But I have always wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean...

Thanks Amy for so kindly sharing yourself with me and my family!

Friday, August 01, 2008

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast....

So, my reflections about my Northern visit were this: Prince George looks the same as it always does. I can still find my way around everywhere. It does look a little worn down. Roads are not very well taken care of and building needing fresh paint. I loved how much the same my Aunt's house was. My family moved a lot so it is nice to have that touchstone in my life.

When I went through Smithers 9 years ago (the last time I was up there), it seemed virtually unchanged from when I had lived there 16 years previously. This time it had changed. Businesses had spread to the other side of the highway. It seemed 3x bigger. The main downtown still had that cute Bavarian theme thing going on but the new stuff was mostly urban sprawl. Still it was good to see Smithers thriving.

Now Terrace seemed very depressed. When I was growing up, there were 4 mills right in downtown. When I returned 9 years ago, there were 2. Now there were none. Half of the shops in downtown and the mall were empty. Disappointingly there was now a WalMart on the edge of town. But something that I really noticed was that the aboriginal population was much more prominent. Of course there have always been a lot of Natives in Terrace. But when I was growing up, it was still reeling from the fall out of the residential schools. I knew adults less than 10 years older than me who had experienced the horrors of these residential schools. I have heard stories first hand about how they were rounded up without even a chance to say good bye to their families, how they were treated like animals and worse. When I was growing up, there really were alot of Natives with alcohol problems. You really would see them lying around, their houses and yards a mess. This time, I could see that there has been a lot of healing from that. In fact, I hardly saw any white people. It seems that the First Nations up there are reclaiming their traditional lands, are succeeding in business, are thriving. I noticed in Burns Lake as we drove through. You could still see the outline of where the letters used to be for Lake District Secondary School. Instead were new lettering in some aboriginal language with an English translation underneath "community gathering place". Somehow I felt heartened by that.

It seemed a lot more different this time than it did 9 years ago. Although then it had been 16 years since I lived there and 10 years since I had been back, it was like stepping back in time. This time, time had moved on. It was different. Better and worse in different ways. And as much as my soul longs to see those places and smell those smells and feel the vibe up there, it was so obvious that you can never go home. Sometimes I wish I had never left but I don't really wish to go back. And I reflected a lot on the effects of moving so often as a child and what as a result I have tried to do by living here in Vernon. I have wanted my children to have what I didn't - to grow up in a place. To have people know them their whole lives. I have lived in Vernon here for 14 years. That is a big investment. It is a grounding force that keeps me here. The sunshine and the lakes and the growing climate and the ski hills all help. I like it that my children can be hanging at the skate park and be pretty sure that someone who knows their mother will likely see them... I think it helps to hold them in place to know that there are people who know them and care about them who notice them in the community.

The end result? I really have to visit up North more often. I miss it so much, I need to get my fix a little closer together than 9 years.... And I love where I live and I'm not going anywhere.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Regularly Scheduled Broadcast is Interupted

Because I am not finished talking about my holiday. The social commentary comes next. You knew that was coming, didn't you? But anyways, not today.

On Monday I had a nap. One of those naps that feel like you really cannot do anything else but sleep and when you sleep it is deep and so very hard to wake up. I had spent the morning helping a pregnant friend in her garden and the day before my young, fit sister and I had a looooooong bike ride. So as usually happens with late afternoon naps, even if they are unavoidable, I couldn't sleep. Amy and I watched my all time favourite movie, "Out of Africa" which she had never seen and I lay tossing and turning in bed from 2am to 3 with Dean occasionally issuing sleepy, grunty complaints about my restlessness. I started to wonder if my dear friend was in labour. Then Andrew was at the door, just after 3am and it was her! I rushed around, grabbing stuff and headed over there to be with her children. I tell you, the distance between my place and hers, has never seemed so very far apart!

It is hard to find words to describe her birth. There was such joy and excitement. I sat with her as she groaned through her contractions. In between her eyes were bright and full of the awesome wonder of bringing life into the world. Then she was ready for her children so I went with their dad to wake them up gently. They were both instantly caught up in the sacred joy of this moment. P sat on my lap and whispered to me about what was going on. A sat by her mother's head, with her eyes full of excitement.

Then when she wanted to be alone, we went into a nearby room where we could still hear what was going on. A ran to get some good stories. I read to them between groans. When we could hear Mary Sue groaning and moaning, we stopped and closed our eyes and sent her our love and support and imagined her opening up. P whispered "Mommy's opening up... My baby's coming". They were so well prepared for the sounds and the experience. Their parents were so calm and full of joy that there was absolutely no fear in them. What an honour to be with them through this experience.

Then it was time to return to see the actual birth. I watched with them as their new sister emerged into the world. She came up out of the water with her eyes open, looking right away at her big brother and sister. A instantly a mother bear. I swear when the midwife took the baby from Mary Sue for the first time as she was getting out of the tub and the baby squawked and fussed, A grew 10 feet in seconds and told them she didn't think the baby liked being moved around like that! But soon she was nestled on dad's bare chest and very content.

Upstairs into the family bed. A in peaceful excitement and P so excited he couldn't hold still but never farther than 10 feet from his new baby. I left them there as the new day dawned and the birds sang. All 5 of them in the family bed with such peace and joy. I know I have used those words a lot but that is how it was. It was a perfect birth. Mary Sue was so completely in that moment and her family was with her, loving her, completely believing in her and so excited to meet this new member of their family.

I have never been at a birth other than those of my own children. What a precious gift my friend gave to me to be there with her children, whom I adore to witness their new sister into their lives.

Isn't she incredibly beautiful?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Trip Reflections Part Three - Further West

The next morning we took it easy. I am always the first one up so I took the dogs and my journal to the beach. We were the only ones there except for the geese. I even found a wee patch of grass that wasn't covered in goose poop to sit on in the sun and write. Look at that? Isn't that a serene morning?

Kaetlyn wanted to see Terrace but Dean and Drew had had enough driving. So they hung out at Tyhee Lake and us girls headed another 2 hours Southwest. We stopped at all the spots. First one was Moricetown, just outside of Smithers. We got to watch some aboriginal fishermen catch salmon using only hand nets. Rhiannon walked down and put her hands in the Bulkley River. She put her hands in two of BC's great rivers on this trip.

It was a perfect day for a full view of the Seven Sisters.

And here is my first glimpse of the Skeena after 9 years...

Once we hit Terrace, first stop was here. The house I spent most of my teenage years in. The front yard used to be full of trees and shrubs and there were lots of flower beds. There are still 2 of the 4 cherry trees in the backyard.... and it is still white and green....

I went to see my jr high but it has been torn town. A new, very glamorous jr high now sits where the parking lot used to. They let me in to look around. Rhiannon and I walked on those same old streets that still looked the same!

We explored downtown to discover at least half of the stores empty, had ice cream and headed back to Smithers. Mission accomplished.
What was always spectacular about Terrace was not the shopping, anyways. It was the scenery - at the junction of 3 rivers (Nass, Kalum and Skeena) and with mountains on every side, it was green and majestic. I always felt so cradled, so safe inside that valley. Here is the view of two directions. I always remember it as beautiful there but every time I go back, I am in awe all over again at just how incredibly beautiful that spot is. It is easy to understand why the Tsiampsian have lived there for time immemorial.

The next morning we packed up again and headed toward home. Stopped in PG long enough to set off my Aunt's alarm and talk to the alarm company and the police.... We ended up in William's Lake for the night and ate delicious chicken at Bethany's place. We collected my youngest sister, Amy and squeezed into our van for the last stretch home. It got hotter and hotter as we got closer.