Sunday, September 26, 2010

Well, I have been finding some time to craft, now that I've dropped resumes off everywhere and have got on a few subbing lists and am just waiting to be called, for the moment, and not actively out looking for work for hours a day. So, my first task, I have decided, is to make a cover for my sewing machine. Two consecutive toddler boys has almost been the end of my sewing machine (I should take a picture of the poor beaten up girl for you sometime, but I can hardly bear it). I am afraid, with the sewing machine out in the living room on a desk now that my third, upcoming toddler will be the death of her. Thus, a sewing machine cover to hide away all the interesting levers and switches and bits that come off (there used to be little hinges attaching those bits, but no more). I wanted to make something pretty and fun, and I've been puttering around, improvisationally adding things to this for a few days now. Its 14 x 16, and should cover one side of my machine.
I've started on the other side, as well. These little Castle Peeps and all the flowery fabrics gave me the idea of making a maze out of the fabrics for the Peeps to be lost in. So I made some hedges and cut out some people, I just need to put them together.
If that is a disaster once its done, I have a backup plan involving wonky stars and orange oceans. We shall see . .
In the meantime, Little Miss Shabby has started up a fun Flikr group for fabric stacks. I had this one sitting around in my shelves, so I thought I would snap a photo of it:
This is a stack of jam-y fabrics that I hope to make into some sort of a toast quilt. Do you see it? Raspberry jam, butter, Nutella, grape jelly, marmalade, strawberry jam, almond butter and blueberry jam (which may be edited out, not sure yet). Yum. I'm thinking of using this block which sort of looks like toast popping out of a toaster to me. We shall see . . . its on my list of "things to do eventually" anyway.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Welcome to my Kitchen

So, for the last month and a bit, Dave and I have been working pretty intensively to get our house unpacked and settled. This involved, as I believe I mentioned, building a shed to house our storage, since we have tenants in the basement. Last week Dave's brother and Dad and friend came to visit and finished the outside of the shed and landscaped around it and started on the boys' fort in the back yard. They had lent Dave a bunch of expensive tools, including an air compressor and a nail gun, that he didn't want to leave out in the shed-without-a-door, so they have been sitting in our kitchen on a sheet for quite a while. Since they've left, Dave has put shelves in it, and so we've been finally getting things cleared out of the way and everything sort of in the place we want it. We also had a lot of built-in shelves and closets in our last house, so we've had to buy and put together a ton of Ikea shelving (since it fit our budget and we didn't have time to thrift - we needed to get that box forest in our living room unpacked onto something).

Our kitchen was also seriously lacking in counter space. As you can see, the one usable counter we had, under the cuboards next to the stove, was pretty much taken up with our microwave. We also wanted to put in a dishwasher, and there wasn't really space for it in the existing cupboards. So we solved both problems at once by buying one free standing cupboard unit from Ikea. It holds the dishwasher and gives us just the right amount of counter space to work on. This is especially great because now I have a work area where I have space to have my "helpers" up at the counter with me.

One of our space saving solutions that we are really happy with was this pot hanger. Our ceilings are 9ft high, so and this is over our counter, so it keeps the pots completely out of the way, but very much in reach. And it adds a bit of a kitchen-y feel that the room was lacking.
Along withe the lack of counters there was a lack of cupboard space. We solved this and decorated at the same time by putting up these shelves. We like them because they are pretty sturdy and the shelves are screwed into the posts, and the posts have 8 screws holding them into the wall, so no worries about kids knocking or pulling the shelves down. It also makes me happy to see all our cups and bowls, cannisters and tea things saying hello to me every time I walk into the kitchen. Our back door is just to the left of this photo, thus the shoes piled up on the floor. We're still working on that.
This is our table that has travelled with us since we moved from B.C. We love its chunky pine goodenss, and I like the chairs, although Dave has declared them uncomfortable and refuses to sit on them. We set up a little play corner fro Emma in here, and we hope to put up a shelf and bulletin board above it for the phone, notices, mail, and assorted other detritus that needs a spot to accumulate somewhere. I also need curtains, and I'm thinking something from this yummy fabric line would be great. I'd better decide fast, though, because this stuff is being snapped up like hot cakes.
This spot is going to have hooks with some hand made oven mitts and pot holders on it -- again, a mix of function and decoration. This window needs a curtain too, something that gives a little privacy and a little decoration. We thought all the windows had white vertical blinds on them, but discovered when moving in that many of them were actually wrecked by the previous owners' kids, and had been pulled up so Dave couldn't see the damage when he saw the house.
I also want to make some fabric baskets for this shelf, to put coasters, electronics, and other assorted useful things in. I'm excited because there's a place on Monkland street about 10 blocks from here that roasts its own coffee, so I'm hoping the guy might sell me some coffee sacks. I think burlap buckets would look fantastic in here.
The other sewing I want to do for this room is to make some table-y things. Table runners, so I'm not forced to steal my son's doll quilt when I want to put my coffee on the table, and some extra, fun placemats.

So, that's my new kitchen. Feel free to stop in for tea anytime.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Things my Kids have Said Lately . . .

After we had been in Montreal for about two weeks, I went on a walk to the drug store, just with Aaron, to buy some candy just for him, just because. As we were walking home, he looked up and said, "Well, Mom, the sky is still blue." Yes, things are a little different here.
The boys in their fort, which Dave has almost finished

The other day Aaron found some money on the floor. He said, "Mom, I am going to save this money for Emma's birthday. Then I will buy her a crown, so she can be a princess."

Andrew's top right front tooth is loose, and today he asked me, "When my tooth comes out, how much money will you give me?" To which I answered, "Probably a dollar." And he said, "A DOLLAR? No way! I want some CASH, you can't buy anything for a dollar." Sigh.

Emma LOVES swings

Emma is not saying much lately other than "Mom", "Em", and "Anon" (Aaron) and "Boon" (Spoon) and occasionally her favorite food "O-Gur" (Yogurt). But one thing she is doing that I LOVE is muttering "Dis, dis" as she points at things, very carefully with one finger. If I catch her doing it, I'll supply the name of "Dis" thing she is noticing. After my heart skips a beat, that is.
Emma's new favorite game -- take everything out of the container

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Afternoon Tea Quilt finished!

And photographed in on my lovely new front porch. I had been hoping to finish this quilt in time to give it to baby Clare as I drove through Winnipeg. Unfortunately, as things went crazy in that last week or so, I didn't get the binding done. So now it will have to be tucked in the mail. 
On the back is a gorgeous brown print from Moda's Art Nouveau, and a big swathe of these lovely Tina Givens' birds. I'm kind of regretting the pink binding, since I realized after I sewed all the binding on that I would have had enough fabric to use just the grey, which would have been a little less eye popping.

Free motion quilted in BIG swirls for speed and softness. How much do I love this brown and these tea cups (oh, and all the other fabrics in this baby). I know its going to a good home, so that makes it easier to send it off. I'm sure Clare will drag it around for years to come and have lots of tea parties on it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moving In

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of talking about my moving adventure, so let's cut to the chase. We drove a long way to Kirkland Lake. We stopped and visited family. We started driving again, and realized that Montreal was actually ANOTHER day's drive away -- yes, another 5 or so hrs. So we stopped in North Bay and camped and decided to tackle the drive the next day, which was Monday. We had heard word that we might be able to get the papers signed on Monday night, so that we could move in Tuesday, so we drove hard that day, too. It looked like this:

The big difference between the roads around Ottawa, our nation's capital, is that they are better roads. It wouldn't do to have really rutted roads leading into the Nation's Capital, would it? So the drive was a bit smoother. We hit Quebec, and the signs turned French, but still we were driving and driving, and then finally, we were driving into Montreal.

Driving into Montreal is kind of funny because, well, it is an island with a small mountain in the middle, you see. So there you are, driving down the highway past warehouses and Ikea and factories and all the things you expect to see at the edge of a city, but up ahead, in the distance, you can see Mount Royal, which is still covered in trees, and the dome of this huge old church

and all these skyscrapers:
It was pretty surreal and cool after all the months of hoping and planning and working towards this goal, to finally be where we had hoped to be.

We arrived and pulled in to the FEB Quebec Office where we were staying, we thought, for one night. It is a church mission organization office that has some rooms that are used to house students who come in from around Quebec to take weekend courses while they are church planting around the province. Here is Aaron, helping us move our stuff to the top floor:
Well, it ended up that the people we were buying the house from had gone on holidays, so all our plans had to change. We went and peeked at our house, but despite the fact that it was empty, we couldn't go inside.
Two days later, we finally got to move in. The kids and I ate breakfast while we waited for the papers to be signed:
And then we waited some more:

And finally, we got to move in! Because it took so long, we didn't get to paint before we moved in. Instead we had 3 hrs to empty the moving truck and get it back to U-Haul.
So,here it is, in all its unpacked glory. 
The entry way
The kitchen

The living room
It took us a few days to get things sorted. This is two days later, when my Brother-In-Law and his whole crew came to help us paint, unpack and build a shed:

As well as the adult help, we had all kinds of kid help. And fortunately all kinds of Grandparent help (of the take-the-kids-to-the-park-and-don't-come-back-for-two-hours kind).

Whew, what a whirlwind week.

It felt like such a dream. Dave and I have always wanted to live in a city, to own our own home, and he has always wanted to study at a really big institution. To have all those dreams come together at once has been amazing. We feel so blessed and excited and amazed every day. And because we're both a little cynical, we keep waiting for the shoe to drop any day now . . .

So far we've had a few setbacks -- the late move meant we didn't get our shed and the promised fort for the boys' built right away. It meant I didn't get my resumes out when schools were still getting organized for the fall. It meant we only got a few rooms painted instead of the whole house. But all in all, we've felt blessed and excited and been more than a little giddy that things seem to be coming together. Little by little, we are making this house our own, and beginning to feel at home in this fantastic city we have landed in.

Monday, September 13, 2010

On Permanence and Change (Moving Adventure Part 3) -- A rather long winded post that you may feel free to skip

This is Aaron and his new friend, Morwyn. She is, incidentally, the daughter of my best friend from high school, Lisa. We are at Centennial Park, where I remember going to the Ice Slides. The ice slides are basically a steep hill with two sets of wooden rails that run all the way down the hill. In the winter, they flood the spot between the rails so you can whip down the hill really fast. I was always too afraid to go down as a kid, and spent many winter birthday parties sitting miserably at the top of that hill. I remember biking down to this park with my friends when I was about 11 or 12 and playing in the nearby rapids and loosing my shoe and getting lost on busy roads (the highway maybe?) and eventually getting home no worse for wear except for a few bumps and bruises. Going there as an adult, I was amazed at what a great park it is. It has a train ride in the summer and sleigh rides in the winter, an old logger's camp and equiptment that you can wander through, an entry to some shallow rapids, two big hills (essential for winter), two sets of play equipment, and farm animals. Plus random bits of forest spread through everything.

The day before this, I went to Boulevard Lake with my Mom (I forgot my camera, sorry). I remember going to Boulevard Lake a lot as a kid with my parents. And I remember biking there to go swimming with my friends in the summer, and swimming across the whole lake and getting leeches on our ankles. I remember loosing a kite way over in the big field next to the park (which we didn't know belonged to the mental institute, just that it was free of overhead wires and therefore safe for kite flying) and following the string all the way to boulevard lake. I remember taking youth groups to play mini putt at the course here, and driving fast around the curvy road that follows the lake.

I remember shortly after I was married, the day before Dave was going to certify our little 1984 Dodge Colt, named Nigel, and sell him, I let Nigel roll into the Taco Bell behind our first appartment and created a, erm, large dent in the rear of the car. I had to go to Boulevard Lake and tell Dave, who was playing tennis, that I had just put a dent in the car. Only I couldn't bear to go without moral support, so first I went to Lisa's house and told her and Iain about it, and we laughed about the fact that the dent's apex was where we had applied a "push" sticker as a joke the year before. We didn't fess up to Taco Bell, but they found out it was us (I think the fact that my car neatly fit into the corner of their resteraunt might have been a hint) and charged me $50 to re-stucco the hole I had made. You can still see the difference in the stucco to this day.

We also went to the Hoito, the most famous restraunt in Thunder Bay. It started out as a Finnish Co-op where the bush camp workers could come in and get a hardy meal for a good price. Now it is a Thunder Bay staple, and everyone who has ever lived in Thunder Bay MUST go and eat Finnish pancakes at the Hoito when they visit, whether they ever ate them when they were in Thunder Bay or not.

The funny thing about the place that you grew up is that a lot of things stay the same. The landscape. The parks. The resteraunts. The backdrop of the place is so similar to what it was when I was a kid. But in the more intimate lives of the people I knew in Thunder Bay, so much has changed. We stayed at Lisa's Mom's house. Which is not the same house Lisa grew up in -- her Dad still lives in that house alone. We visited Lisa and her daughters, even though she actually lives in Columbia now and was just in town for the summer. We saw my Mom's new little house in a senior's complex. It is my first time being to a home that belongs only to my mother - the last time I was in Thunder Bay was for my Dad's funeral, and his bowl of nacho chips and the book he had been reading were still on the nightstand in the room where I was sleeping. I bumped into Jenn, one of my friends from highschool who now lives in Ottawa, and met her daughter who is a little older than Aaron. As well as bringing back memories, going home always causes me to reflect on who I have become since I last left.

This time I went through Thunder Bay with a mixed sense of hope and sadness. I missed my Dad. I was excited to be moving to a new stage of my life, but sorry that he never got to hear about it. I got to see my long time friend. It is good to spend time with people where so much does not need to be explained, where you can just pick up where you left off in your last visit and your last email. It was good to see my kids play with my Mom and enjoy visiting their Nana Cook. It was good to reflect on how much I've grown and changed since highschool -- hopefully keeping some of my creativity and fun loving ways, while becoming less impulsive and careless.

The day we left Thunder Bay and did another long day of driving towards my uncle's house, I felt a sense of going back in time. I had done this drive many times as a kid. I remember sitting in the back of whatever car we had at the time, half car sick, half reading, waiting to get to my Grandparents' house. I didn't get to see my Grandparents very often, but they were very special to me - I get my creativity and craftiness from this side of the family. My Grandmother was always making this or that, and knit me a pair of slippers for my birthday every year of my childhood. My Grandfather used to roam around the woods and ditches in Northern Ontario finding fossils and old bottles. He tried to build his own welding machine based on instructions in Popular Mechanics. He was curious about everything. I am glad that I know them, as I never knew my Grandparents on my Mom's side of the family. Driving that drive back to that place reminded me that in moving East I am not so much moving away, as I am moving back home, to my roots.

See the Magnificent Moose! (Or My Moving Adventure, Part Two).

First, does anyone else remember that line from Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail? Its in the credits at the beginning, when the subtitles turn into an advertisment for Sweden. Well, it kept running through my head as we drove through Northern Ontario. You see, there are two things you need to know. Firstly, Northern Ontario is big. Very big and very boring to drive through. Well, that's not entirely true. If you take Highway 17 from Thunder Bay to North Bay via Sault Ste Marie and Sudbury, it is a beautiful drive. If you take Highway 11, like we did, the view wears off. My family's homestead is in New Liskard area, and my uncle and my grandmother still live in the area. So we took Highway 11 so we could go and visit them. Unlike Highway 17, which is full of breathtaking views of Lake Superior and hair pin turns that keep you on your toes, Highway 11 is a drive that takes you mostly through working forest. The forest that is harvested and replanted for the pulp and paper industry. It is pretty much trees, and then some cut down trees, and then some smaller trees and then some bigger trees . . . and then some more trees. From Dryden (where we left off) to Thunder Bay is 5 (6?) hours of trees. Thunder Bay to Kirkland Lake is 10 hrs of trees, with a few farms here and there. Ten. hours.

The second thing you need to know about is moose. Magnificent Moose. Only in Northern Ontario, they are more like the Malevolent Moose Missiles. You see, somewhat like Northern Ontario itself, moose are big. Really big. Big enough that if you drive into one that is racing towards your headlights (moose apparently are very curious abut strange lights in the middle of the night) you will knock its legs out from under it and it will fall on your car and potentially crush you. In the same way, I imagine, that Australians who live by water probably hear stories of shark encounters, Canadians who live by big stretches of open woodland hear stories about moose encounters. And they always start with "And then it just appeared, out of the mist, and before I could even brake I hit it . . ."

The third thing you need to know (I know, I said two) is that I had promised my Mom that we would spend Thursday with her, since she was going to Winnipeg on Friday morning. So we had to get to Thunder Bay by Wed. night. So we drove. And drove. And drove into the dark, then into the dark and fog, along moose inhabited roads for many hours in the dark.

How does one keep oneself awake for hours and hours? Well, you write imaginary blog posts with titles like, "10 things to do to keep yourself awake while driving at night with no stero". And then realize that you are actually too tired to do numbers 4, 5 and 6 and give up making up things to do. #4 was: See how many words you can make by scrambling up the letters on the back of the U-Haul ad of the truck in front of you". Unfortunately, I couldn't actually concentrate well enough to play that fun game. So instead, you make up alliterative songs about moose and hope that the moose are so appauled at your ridiculous songs that they stay away from your fascinating headlights.

So, no, I didn't actually see a moose. They were offended by my singing, I think. Or by being labelled unfairly as Malevolent Missiles when they had never done a thing to me in all their moosely lives. In any case, they would have smacked into the U-Haul first, which was much sturdier than I, so I would have only had to watch my dearly beloved people and all my worldly goods go spinning out of control and into the forest on the road in front of me. Another fun thing to imagine during hours of endless quiet driving.

Oh, right. So around 2am, Thunder Bay time, we safely arrived in Thunder Bay. And a few nights later, at 11pm New Liskard time, we safely arrived in New Liskard to visit my uncle and aunt. And all was well.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Our Moving Adventure: Part 1

The adventure begins! We had been planning on leaving Tuesday, Aug. 10 in the early-ish morning, so that we could get to Winnipeg with time left to visit family before moving on to Thunder Bay. That was the plan, but we discovered that packing up all your worldly goods (how I do love that phrase "all my worldly goods") and cleaning the house after yourself is a huge task. At 10 am we still had all kinds of stuff spread out on the lawn in piles, and because Dave's motorbike had not sold, we had to get an extra trailer to attach to our moving truck to bring it along too. So we packed and cleaned and did little odd errands until finally, around 2pm, we finally got out of town. And this is how we travelled. Here is our truck (and Dave who needs to stop slouching like he's 80):

Here are the boys, with their DVD players (they also had sticker books and toys and snacks), travelling in the moving truck with Dad:
Here is Emma in the back of the car with me. We tried her forward facing for a couple of days, hoping it would make the trip better for her, but she didn't like it. I guess it felt to vulnerable.

After two days with lots of screaming (do you see the look of desperation? "Please, let me out!") I flipped her around and put a quilt in the window so she was shaded from the sun and the view, and she was much happier.
Well, with much stopping and starting and chattering over the walkee talkees, and several phone calls to report on our ridiculously slow progress to my brother, we finally got to Winnipeg at about 2am. Driving at night, by yourself, when you have been up since 6am and went to bed the night before at 2am on perfectly flat roads is pretty awful. Especially when the car stereo face has been stolen, so you can't even listen to any music. I had heard tell that introverts love this kind of space and silence, but I found it mind numbing.
Since we hadn't had a chance to visit the night before, we at least got to chat with my brother for a few hours. He was nice enough to skip a few hours of work, and we had coffee and breakfast together. Then we stopped by and said bye to Kym and Jeff and Sam (and to meet sweet little baby Clare) before we finally got out for the day. It was hot and the driving seemed to take forever.
As you get towards the Eastern end of Manitoba, the geography starts to change. Instead of open prairie fields and wide empty skies, you begin to get more forests. Before you've reached the Ontario border, the Northern Shield has come to greet you. I don't think I've ever felt happier to see birch trees and barren rock faces. The landscape was telling my heart that I was home.

I think that the geography we live in during our youth stays with us throughout our life. I know whenever I need solace I seek water -- usually a lake. The sound of the water lapping, or the banging together of freight cars, or the humm of a grain elevator all speak to me of home.

Similarly, driving through Eastern Manitoba and Northern Ontario set my heart singing. I was so excited to be reunited with the rugged terrain of my childhood. I remembered peeling bark off of birch trees to write notes and messages. I remembered clambering across open rock faces out at my cousins' acreage and scrabbling through the forest until I recognized the rocks and the trees and could find my way back to their house.

By the time we got to Kenora we were hot and desperately in need of a break. So despite being so very far behind schedule, we stopped at a little park with a beach on the edge of Lake of the Woods for a refreshing roam / swim. Everyone took what they needed to be refreshed from the stop. Dave had a nap. Andrew pretended he was an archeologist gathering ancient spears.

Aaron splashed in the water, squished the sand through his fingers and gloried in the coolness he felt.

Emma crawled through the water and her squirminess and frustration dissipated.
I reconnected with the water. It seems that whenever I find myself in a time of transition, I find the water. Watching my children play and letting my feet dig into the sand of a "real" lake was really restoring for me after the days of packing, sorting, and saying goodbyes.