Monday, July 18, 2016

Lost: 1 worry bear, 1 week, 1 batch of jelly

This weekend, the CBC-Manitoba ran my piece, Bottling Sunshine:Canning teaches mom essential coping skills.    Aspects of that essay summarized this past few days.  To start, last weekend my crew had their first lemonade stand.  This required at least one grown-up on duty the whole time, as neither of my twins can pour a full pitcher of lemonade yet, nor make change.  (they just turned five, that's understandable!)  After I worked behind scene and made the lemonade and cut up the watermelon, I discovered that my lovely professor had been filling up the spare moments (there were a lot of them) by picking more Nanking cherries from our yard.

(We also then caught one of the twins eating the watermelon and then putting it back in the container for customers...but that is another story. :)

We pick these cherries every year from our yard.  The boys love to help.  Usually, I make them into a jam, but this year, I decided to try a jelly instead.  After an ill-fated trip to Canadian Tire to find a jelly strainer, I rigged one up with cheese cloth and a colander instead. (This piece of equipment is also called a chinois, but since that seemed terribly embarrassing --who came up with that name?! It's inherently problematic in our bilingual world... when I asked a customer service person for it--hint, she was Asian--I decided we wouldn't be calling it that anymore.  She was gracious about it, btw, as she also was frustrated that the store didn't have one.  Who comes up with these terms for kitchen tools?! Ahhh!)

By the time everyone was done picking, eating, and wearing cherry juice all over their shirts, faces and hands, we had what amounted to something like 14 quarts of cherries.  Yeah.  I know this quantity because I used the largest slow cooker to soften them, in two batches (by boiling, you can get rid of the pits more easily).  The first batch of jelly did not become jelly.  It became roughly 10 cups of cherry sauce.  Turns out our particular cherries are oddly acidic or low in pectin or something, so I re-canned them with more pectin.  It was a colossal pain to redo, but then I ended up with 9 cups of jelly...and a lot of pulp.

For the first time, I figured out how to successfully do fruit roll in our dehydrator.  It was pretty easy, actually.  Roughly 6 cups of chopped fruit/pulp, then you puree it in a blender, add honey or sweetener if you want (I did banana and honey because cherry pulp is sour!) and then you sort of paint it on parchment paper and pop it in the dehydrator.  It took 10 hours at 135F, cooking on our front porch while we slept.  Since the natural fruit roll that we usually buy is $7.50CDN a package, this struck me as a good idea.

Unfortunately?  Fortunately? I had to do more jelly the next day (all that extra picking!) so we ended up with 17 cups of jelly and two batches of fruit roll.  If I never see another cherry this year?  It will be too soon.  Getty Stewart's cookbook was a huge help, as always, in dealing with this quirky prairie fruit.  I think I am grateful for her cookbook every summer!

In other news, you may remember a certain twin's Worry Bear?  Alas, Worry bear #2--the first one pictured here--is MIA or perhaps, RIP.  The good news about the travelling day camp is that you go new and interesting places every day.  The bad news is that between the swimming pool, the parks, the hikes, other adventures and a certain pair of shallow pants' pockets, we lost this guy last week.  We did have Worry Bear #1 as back up, but he just wasn't adequate.  Not squishy enough, not comforting enough...something wasn't right.  The loss of #2 was a little traumatic.

Yup.  You guessed it, I also spent several hours knitting worry bear #3.  This one is out of Rowan Pure Wool dk, a superwash yarn, and I stuffed it with Cheviot wool, so at least it won't felt if it ends up in the washing machine and dryer...again.

My mom said I might as well memorize the pattern, which was funny, because I make it up as I go along.  No two worry bears are alike.  Hmm.  I wonder if anyone else needs a worry bear pattern?

I also produced three challahs, 1 loaf of spelt bread, 1 banana chocolate chip loaf, and numerous other things for meals and snacks last week.  This travelling camp makes people ravenous, and packing twin healthy lunches and snacks takes a lot of time.

All this foodie and textile production--doing and redoing (my life story right now)-- hopefully lines us up for a smoother time this week.  No canning scheduled right now, because there are 5 medical appointments/tests scheduled for two of us (me and one twin) this week.  Six if you count next Monday.  Luckily, the Professor will manage a twin appointment or two so I don't have to do them all.

So, nothing deeply meaningful is happening over here...I squeeze in work where I can...but at the same time, every bottle canned, every fruit roll, every new worry bear produced? In some ways, I am taking ahold of traditional age-old women's tasks, (with significant help from the Professor) and making them new and full of love for folks in my household.  I'd argue that I do it differently, in a more feminist construct, but the love is love--it's not gendered.  It's the same, every time, no matter what we call it.

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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Hey-remember me?!

 Sometimes time gets away from us, right?  Last summer, my kids said their favorite parts of summer were playing in the yard, splashing at the local wading pools, and spending time with Mommy.  I realized that there was something to that.  Despite the hassle of being on 'mom-duty' non-stop during unscheduled vacation time? Free time to play is important.  We all need more of it.  I sure do.

My plan involved summer camp in July (that is happening now), a visit from grandparents (my parents, aka Didi and Bop) and a lot of free time, too.  At the same time, it became clear that we've all needed a round of medical appointments.  Call it a tune-up. Or an overhaul, whatever, we need some "fixing." We had a little less than two weeks off between the end of preschool and the beginning of camp.

To summarize, we had four days last work week before Canada Day. There were also four medical appointments.  I was extremely grateful for the help of two extra adults (grandparents) whose trip from Virginia coincided with all this.

It's also coincided with me feeling generally yucky.  Early in June, I went to the doctor for a 9:15 AM appointment, feeling swollen and sore and out of whack.  Our Professor/the twin's dad was out of the country, beginning field research in Colorado, in the Rockies.  I was managing two dogs and twins on my own.  I dropped off the preschoolers, walked to the doctor's, and passed out there.

No really.  I lost consciousness.

So, when I came back to myself, vomiting and being generally mortified, I got a ride to the hospital in an ambulance.  My twins got an unexpected Monday night sleepover with the preschool director's family.  Another friend took care of my dogs.  A third friend sat with me at the hospital.  The Professor booked a flight home and cut his week of field research short..with only one day in the field.  At 10:30 that night, I came home from the hospital--nobody really knew what happened, hopefully it was a fluke.  I spent several days just resting as much as I could.  I was extremely grateful for all the help I received--thank goodness for all these friends!

However, I still don't feel great, and since then, I've had another appointment, more blood work, and look forward to a referral or two and maybe some more lab tests.   It's been a...time.

I also wrote a CBC piece that got little notice...but recently, another writer linked to it and used it as a jumping off place.  I'm not linking to that second reference, because the writer maybe misunderstood what I wrote, or why I wrote it.  There's no need to give someone publicity for misrepresenting me. I was upset, because there were some assumptions in that response that are wrong...and I wrote this person a note.  That's all for now.  I got no response, and maybe I never will.  Oh well.

Before twins, I felt deeply troubled by or sidelined by negative comments, by inappropriate or unkind words about my work, or even hate mail or threatening phone calls I received as a result of my writing.  These days, while I try to listen and understand that feedback, I read it, maybe learn something, and move on.  I even sometimes have to report it to the cops, and then?  I'm done.  My work is important to me, but it's only part of who I am...and even when I don't feel good or have a lot of work, the 'show' at home must go on.

This week, camp started.  I've made 14 or so jars of strawberry jam, 3 loaves of bread, and cooked a few meals.  I've packed elaborate snacks and lunches for 5 year olds going to the big kid "traveling day camp" for the first time.  I've written some, sent out some emails, done some work.  Today, one of my twins had another appointment...and it took the Professor more than half his work day to deal with it.

I had a physio (physical therapy) appointment at the same time.  In Canada, you can sometimes have acupuncture as part of the appointment.  For a little while after the treatment today, I felt as though someone had taken off a very heavy burden.  I felt better, without the soreness I've felt for weeks.  It was an unexpected gift.

I'm very grateful for all the help I've had lately.  We've enjoyed big adventures despite the medical stuff (new big boy twin beds!  new bikes with training wheels!  the wading last!).  I hope to do more...everything.  Soon.  Until then, let's sit on this virtual porch, play a bit, and visit.  Please...drop me a line to say hey.  My boys can't wait to do a lemonade stand, too.  :)    

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gigadistal is live! and on sale!

Gigadistal is now live!  A new pattern!  Hurray!'s on sale for 50% off. It's $2.50 US until June 28th at midnight.  There's no coupon needed--please take advantage of the sale.

This is a great stashbuster.  I used two yarns: a silk boucle and a dk weight Merino...and knit myself a great transitional piece for all that Manitoba weather we have here. :)  Here are some details about my project...but yours will likely look different, and that is great.

In June, we celebrate three family birthdays and our anniversary.  We've also had one abbreviated trip to the Rockies, one mom at home alone with twins and 2 dogs, 3 medical appointments and one ambulance/emergency room visit so far this month.

 (Everyone is ok now.  We're good...just medically active.  I promise.  It's a story for another time.)

So, I needed a little pick-me-up.  We had a photo shoot.  I had helpers.

Please come check it out! 

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

in process

 The last few weeks have been a blur.  We've had an amazing, sunshine-filled three day weekend, which was such a crazy comparison to last year's Victoria Day.  Last year, it rained, sleeted and snowed--I remember clearly because we shot the photos for the Riverbend Garden Hat  during a cloudy moment without rain and both my twins were freezing!

We've been busy with grilling and eating outside, tricycle riding, a trip to the zoo to see the dinosaur exhibit (very fun, but also a little scary) and other good weather excitements.

I'm slowly working on another design--here are some blurry, 'in process' shots.  Stay tuned!

I've also been writing regularly for the local Jewish Post & News, but have found it hard to post those articles here.  Here's one of my recent columns--but you have to scroll down to page 21 to find it!

The other thing is a bit more daunting and less sunny, as we are dealing with a whole new round of medical appointments and check-ups.  Nobody is dying, nothing life-threatening, but I have been spending a lot of time trying to figure out "the system" to address everybody in the family's needs lately.  Whole days seem to drift by and I haven't even gotten to my computer to write, or to knit at all, or...much of anything.  It's hard to be zen about this time sink but I know that these issues are important.  (and twins are much more likely to have health or developmental concerns, it's par for the course.)

In order to cheer myself along, I'm running a sale.  I love it when I know my sale has allowed someone else to afford a pattern, jump into knitting or learning a new thing --all for the price of a cup of fancy coffee... and of course, the small amount I earn allows for extras at our house.  (Extras might include...a gift for the Professor's birthday in June, a chance to have take-out for dinner, or even an extra sack of beans for the Winnipeg Harvest bin... all things that make me feel better about spending my time on the phone dealing with referrals..)

So, I'll let you in on the sale:
I have a 20% off sale going on for all my Ravelry patterns, including my eBook: Three Ply, until June 1st. (ends at midnight, CT)  The coupon code is:
This sale is to support the Canada KAL, which features Canadian designs and designers.  Learn more here, in the designed in Canada forum on Rav.
Thanks so much for visiting the blog and checking out my work!
 (and stay tuned for a new design--a quick project on the needles never hurts morale either!)

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

fixing the province?

Here's my latest CBC piece...
It's on how the new Manitoba government can think about making change on the province's big issues:
How will the PCs fix Manitoba's long-standing problems? 

Several folks have asked, so here's a quick note about the fires in Canada:
It has been very dry on the prairies.  We are in no danger in Winnipeg, (just a preventative fire ban) but there are a lot of scary fires far to the west of us in Alberta (Fort McMurray has been in the international news, I'm sure) and there is a fire along the Manitoba/Ontario border far to the east of us.  For now, I am glad to say that today, it's raining lightly here, which is a good thing...

If it is windy, we do get some smoke in the air and haze when there are fires, even if they are hundreds of miles/kilometers away.  For now though, it's nothing to worry about here, so please extend your worries and prayers, if you do that, to the folks who have already been evacuated and maybe lost everything.  Please think of Alberta and do your very best rain dance, please, wherever you live!  Thanks.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Undertow: a hat for strong currents

You may have guessed that I went on a little trip with my family.  My kids had a (long) school vacation for Passover, so we went to see relatives in Virginia.  It was a big adventure, complete with lots of time with grandparents, family, and friends, and many wonderful excitements:

-Metro rides (DC subway)
-a couple of trips to Ayers Variety & Hardware, an old-fashioned store where you can buy real toys for $5 and under that make for ecstatic little boys.  (a slinky, a toy goat, a plastic box turtle, a toy train...and stickers)
-a trip to West Virginia, to my parents' vacation place, to see real animals like deer, a box turtle, a huge wild turkey....and lots of bugs
-A trip to the farm where I used to volunteer and work: (to see turkeys, geese, sheep, a cow, pigs...etc.) 
-The Smithsonian Natural History Museum
-a carousel
and more.

All on the positive side of the list, including my twins, who wowed all the grown ups at two Passover seders with their firm grasp on what was going on, how it should be done, and why.  (they were astounding.  They have good preschool teachers, that is for sure!)

You may be wondering why I have all these photos here of me wearing a woolly hat.  On the "not so positive" side of the rained nearly the entire time we were in Virginia.  This was good, in a way, to show two little prairie boys what a good spring soaking rain can do.  It was green, it was lush, and there were loads of flowers.  It was also cold and wet.  We had our rain coats, but I longed for a hat. (not packed, alas)

We also had the opportunity to pass along world's longest and crummiest head cold.  It laid the Professor low for 2-3 days at the start of the trip, and I am still trying to get over it.  We also had one unfortunate incident on an airplane due to preschooler motion sickness that required a full change of clothing, right down to the underwear...but these things happen... I digress. Now that I am back's sunny and dry here in Winnipeg, with a high of 31C (high 80sF and beyond) today.

Most people don't launch a woolly hat knitting pattern in springtime, I know.  What can I say?  I like to beat the rush?!  Actually though, if you live in a cooler climate, early mornings and late nights can still be nippy, particularly if you are by the water, or at a sports event, or, like me, just walking the dogs.  Here is a quick to knit burst of lush Merino sweetness (or not Merino, if you choose something else!) and it is sized to fit everybody from preschoolers to an XL Men's size.  Good for a whole crowd of chilly folk.

Undertow: a hat for strong currents

Or, maybe it is good in the not-so-cold climates too.  Next time I go way South, on two airplanes, with a passel of kids and a Professor?  I might just find space for this hat.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On Being Present....

Here is the link to my latest CBC piece!  I heard from my mom that she sees tons of people she knows in the grocery store, and that's why it takes her forever to get the shopping done....but since I have moved so much, I only rarely see people I know.  Here's what happened recently:

See?  It's worth it sometimes to smile at someone at the store.  No telling who you will meet.

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