Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Village Vibe

I really used to enjoy my early morning dog walks when our dog was still alive. Now I sometimes take those walks, just on my own. I love how when you have lived in the same place for awhile you get to know it well. You know which trees blossom early, which lilac has the purplest flowers, which gardens you would love to have, etc.

You also get to know your neighbours, you know how long your children can scream on the trampoline before one of them comes to complain, you know which one has chickens and you can get eggs in a pinch. (I even have one lovely neighbour who disposed of a dead rotting rat for me). You also know who you can call for a cup of sugar, or a cup of coffee or who you can drop all your children off to when your doctor's "receptionist" diagnoses your husband with a 'heart attack'. (Read: Torn muscle, after 3 hours at emerg!)

We have now lived in the same fantastic neighbourhood for over 2 years, that is alot for us, we who have moved more that a group of fugitives on the run from the law. We have moved about 13 times in 15 years!!!! I am now a wiz at packing, decluttering, not so much. Having been here, I am really enjoying the feeling of being a part of a community. We have made great friends. We have met some wonderful people. I enjoy watching the seasons ebb and flow. I know that during the winter we don't see everyone as much, but as the weather warms there will be plenty of afternoons in the Adirondacks sipping bubbly or g&ts. I know the sandbox will be full of children and the paddling pool will be the center point of the garden. I know I will clean up the mess from homemade lemonade while the children count their earnings. Those days are just around the corner, I can feel that.

As spring arrives and I begin to come out of the quagmire of January and February, I am finding more energy, more focus and a lot more motivation, now is a time where I could safely make resolutions. Perhaps, I should more deeply celebrate Chinese New Years, as it seems to resonate with my own internal calendar. And really I love the ideas of new starts, I even like to celebrate my Personal New Year on my birthday, and I feel like September is a sort of "New Year" and after all, couldn't we all use a few more chances, another chance to start fresh.

I also feel this is a great time to do some soul searching and really put into perspective the things for which we are most grateful. And as I create my list of gratitudes I find family and friends at the top. I feel very fortunate that I have a fantastic and supportive family and we live in a great community. I am often reminded that it takes a village to raise a child and I am so grateful to have found my 'village'.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

I have never really been one to celebrate Valentine's Day, I always sort of thought about it as one of the many commercially driven holidays, used to inspire sales of chocolate, flowers, cards and gifts, boost restaurant numbers and bring about a rebirth of unworn "grad" dresses. So I was somewhat surprised to find myself looking forward to this year's Valentine's day. I have actually been thinking about it for weeks now. Perusing one of my favourite sites for activities and crafts for my children and planning some baking.

I guess that in recent years, I have begun to look at Valentine's Day somewhat differently. In the midst of a year full of these out of control commercial holidays, one after the other. (Yesterday in the shops along side the Valentine's display, I saw the beginnings of the Easter display) I feel it is important to try and step back and try to take these celebrations back to their simplest meanings, and Valentine's is the celebration of love, and no one can argue with that. More love, bring it on.

This week we went to a small get together where our children exchange hand made Valentine cards and ate cupcakes, yesterday the girls and I walked back to Plenty and picked up some more chocolate, today we will try Corazon, a dark chocolate with the essence of vanilla and rose. I have also planned a nice dinner with my family and I will bake a cake, a chocolate one.

We began our morning with a family cuddle, all 6 of us in our big bed. There is a loving way to start your day. Then I made myself a coffee and climbed into a lavender bubbly tub and read a magazine. When I was done, I was treated to a breakfast of heart shaped pancakes.

Just now the children have shared some handmade Valentine's they made for us and each other. They are just so beautiful. I have now been converted to the beauty of Valentine's by finding the important meaning while not being sucked into a swirling vortex of unnecessary spending and gift buying, because really the best gift you can give is the gift of love and that cannot be bought. That and Valentine's Day is a wonderful excuse to eat more chocolate (though I have been unable to find out how chocolate made it's way into Valentine's Day).

A day of Love and Chocolate who could disagree with that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

If you haven't already visited my etsy store to check out my hand made creations, which you really should, you can leave a comment on the Kids in Victoria - Gift Wars posting and be entered for chance to win this beautiful, made by me pendant.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strategic Planning

While out for a walk by the ocean this morning, I was thinking about my 'career' and I remembered another of my favourite movie quotes, this one from the movie 'Say Anything' where John Cusack's character Lloyd says "A career? I've thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what's waiting out there for me, I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I dont want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I dont want to do that. My father's in the army. He wants me to join, but I can't work for that corporation, so what I've been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new far as career longevity, I dont really know. I cant figure it all out tonight, sir, so I'm just gonna hang with your daughter.".

I mean I know what my career is, I have produced four children, and I am in the process of trying to turn them into valuable world citizens. I don't kick box. Now as far as trying to generate a little income for my family outside of what I do full time, this is where I am at somewhat of a loss. I have always tried to live by the 'do something you love and try to find a way for that to make some money'. But seriously is anyone going to pay me to hang out with family and friends drinking coffee or cocktails. If so, tell me who and I will forward my CV. Though from the sounds of that job, I will only need references, and those, I have a plenty.

I love to make things, but I also don't want my 'love to make things' turn into a 'have to make things'. I had a conversation the other day with a friend who made some suggestions about my pottery. Making more sets, so people can know what I have and begin collecting. But I am just not so sure. I do sort of keep along the same lines, but I really do make the things that interest me. I love to make bowls and mugs and butter dishes and jewelry. But I really just like to go where the mood strikes me. Sort of one of kind pottery, but is this what people want. Really I am just doing some soul searching today.

I worry sometimes that I can either homeschool well, or be an artist well, but right now I feel like Jack of all Trades, Master of None. I am searching for that balance. That mythical place where we all eat healthy foods, exercise; physically, mentally, spiritually, creatively, and emotionally, as well as finding time for family and friends and also somehow having a fulfilling career.

I am on a journey, I am having some personal strategic planning time. I think I need a little more of a structured schedule. Perhaps even a business plan as well as a curriculum. This is a process and I will work it all out, but I can't figure it all out tonight, so for right now I am just going to hang with my family. I will figure it out, because, at the end of day, I much too big of a PollyAnna to think I can't have it all.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sharing is Caring

I had a wonderful day yesterday. Sofie and Jane have a friend who they usually play with all together, but yesterday Jane said she didn't feel like going to play. I quickly jumped at the chance to have some one on one time with Jane. I think it is so important to spend one on one time with your children if you can, it is so nice to have uninterrupted conversations and just to experience them on their own. Often some wonderful traits get to pop out when they have the full attention of one person. Jane was keen to join me and we set about planning our time together.

Hot chocolate seemed to be a good idea, not just any hot chocolate, but a good hot chocolate. I began researching where to get the best hot chocolate, I was thinking traditional mexican style hot chocolate. I have now heard Solstice cafe is the place to go, though I can't confirm as we never made it there. Instead, we decided to head down to a lovely little shop called Plenty. We heard they were doing chocolate and salt tastings, and also, a friend works their part time and I thought she may be there and she would definitely know the place to go for a good hot chocolate.

Jane is no ordinary chocolate chomping child. She is a bit of an epicurean. She carefully sampled the chocolates, decided on her favourites and then proceeded to sample the salts. And the chocolate and salt Plenty had to offer were fantastic. Jane and I settled on chocolate by Organicfair and our favourite being their Canadiana, a heavenly combo of 70% cacao dark chocolate with maple syrup, sundried apples and alder smoked salt. The perfect combination of sweet with a subtle salt. Funny enough my favourite salt was also a smoked salt, though Jane was not a big fan, but hey she is only 9.

After purchasing a couple bars of chocolate and some rootbeer candies, we proceeded to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, to have a wonder around and take in some of the wonderful art they have. They truly have an amazing collection and we particularily enjoyed the paper and textile creations of Sayaka Aikyama accompanied by the diary entries that inspired them. Again, so wonderful to have one on one time and really see where Jane's interests lie. She is an amazing artist and loves art very much, we really enjoyed the gallery.

We then proceeded toward home and stopped for a hot chocolate and a little snack at the Cornerstone Cafe, one of our favourite coffee spots. I enjoyed a chai latte and Jane got her much promised hot chocolate and it was a good one.

In the end we were both tired from the long walk, but happy, having enjoyed some wonderful treats and some great time together, just the two of us. And everyone else was happy as we brought chocolate back to share.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shovelling during a Snow Storm

I really loved the part of 'About A Boy' where Will discusses thinking of the day as units of time, not more than half an hour. Sometimes as my day goes by, I do think of it as just that, burning units of time. And I do wonder, where do all those units go, they seem to just fly by.

I look around my house that is pretty much in a constant state of looking as though it has been ransacked by burglars. (Though I am not sure what they would find; a handful of stale rice crackers and few headless play mobil men). If you have never seen my house in this state, I have some sad news for you, clearly we have not reached that place in our relationship where I am comfortable showing you the soft under belly of my true self.

I just don't know how one person (or even two) is supposed to do all this. I have begun to delegate certain responsibilities to the children, I think this is important on so many levels, not least of all, my sanity. But, in a given week I have 5 beds to change, 100 finger and toe nails to clip, numerous bottom wipes, (not all my own), 21 meals to prepare, more loads of laundry than I can count, at least 10 lessons to deliver and pick children up from and the list goes on. And at the end of this I am supposed to create time for myself and for my spouse.

I am not alone, fortunantely, but really, is it so bad if the tidying gets the designation of the last remaining, and somewhat versatile units of time. Lets just call them flex units. So I can tidy, or I can take my children to the park. Or, I can tidy or I can do a craft, or blog, or whatever. And I have always said that cleaning with children in the house is like shovelling during the snow storm.

So, as I sit here on my bed with two baskets of unfolded laundry, having spent a delightful morning playing here and on etsy, I remind myself, I have just used up 4 units of time, and they were flex units, so all is okay. And I promise I will not look back at the end of my life and say "Gee I wish I had spent less time with my family and more time cleaning."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blog Obsession

I was told this would happen. I would become obsessed with my blog, I would spend endless hours tweaking, reading, dreaming. On Saturday the narrative in my head played out like one endless blog post. I dreamed of blogger toolbars, and even photographed all my food, you never know what may be needed for future posts. I had to take a step back, focus. Even though I don't have a focus, I needed to take my mind out of blogtopia. I don't want to become one of those people who friends avoid, for fear of becoming part of my blog. Also, I have a family and that is priority number one.

So, I pushed back, tried to take a wee breather. But the problem with me is that sometimes out of sight really is out of mind. That and the procrastinator takes over. The blog has not been far from my mind, I just wasn't sure what to say. And even though I am not fully sure today, here I am. The old, jump and the net will appear. I am jumping. Where is my net?

I have been busy this past week, I feel the blogging is getting my creative juices flowing. I have been knitting and sculpting. And the children have been feeling the vibe also. Sofie and Jane went and did some needle felting and they even did some sculpting on their own. I love to see the creations they come home with. They are always so excited to share and the beauty comes through in their enthusiasm. It is always so special to have something you created with your own hands. And always special to have something made for you, or something you made for someone else.

This week in my knitting frenzy, I made a toque for Piper. I made one earlier in the week and was down to the last 3 rows when I realized it was a generous fit on my own head. So, I pulled it all apart and started again. It took me only one evening to finish it and you can pretty much watch a tv or have a conversation while you do it. The pattern is pretty simple. I use a soft cotton yarn from Knitwear Architects, but you could use what ever wool you like. I used a size 6mm (size 10) needle for a 3 year old head. If you use smaller needles you can make toques for smaller heads. Some experimentation may be necessary, but who doesn't know any little people who would love little hand made hat, if it winds up the wrong size.

So here is what I do.
Cast on 60 stitches on a circular needle.
You just work in knit for about 1.5 to 2 inches.
Then I just begin making a stripe pattern, a couple rows of one colour, one of the next, two of the original, etc. etc. I just go where the mood and colour takes me. I really don't think you can go wrong. I work 18 rows in the stripe pattern and then begin decreasing as follows.

Decrease Round 1: *k8, k2tog, rep from *

Decrease Round 2: *k7, k2tog, rep from *

Decrease Round 3: *k6, k2 tog, rep from *

Decrease Round 4: *k5, k2 tog, rep from *

At this point, you will likely need to transfer to double pointed needles.

Decrease Round 5: *k4, k2 tog, rep from *

Decrease Round 6: *k3, k2 tog, rep from *

Decrease Round 7: K2tog all the way around

Then run the wool through the remaining 6 stitches and tie off.

You could also make this toque in a solid colour if you don't feel comfortable with all the changing wool and having to make sure you are securing them as you knit so you don't wind up with a great gaping hole at the back.