Wednesday, July 27, 2016

from afar

I have been celebrating from afar.

Back in 2014, I wrote about Hillary Clinton's visit to Winnipeg.  At the time, it seemed amazing to me how quick the reporting and the name-calling became inappropriate.  Somehow, if a well-respected, well-known man visits and his speech demands a high speaking fee, it is not always news.

Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, the rhetorical race to the bottom has been speedy, with lots of horrible, inappropriate, undignified things being said... but now, I think it is safe and ok to say that I am thrilled that a woman has gotten the Democratic party's nomination for president.

It's been a quiet month around here, lots of medical appointments and things to take care of, but I woke up this morning and I still wanted a little something.  A celebration.

Yesterday, we celebrated at home because the Professor helped host the twins' summer camp for the day.  They had a visit to the biology department, the greenhouse, the museum, and to sit in a real life university auditorium and hear their daddy talk about his work with bugs.  The boys were thrilled.   Their dad was pleased.  We ate dessert on a weeknight--ice cream and sorbet--and celebrated.  (And yes, my boys play with their Bug Finger Puppets...and your kids can, too!  Download a pattern on sale and get knitting your own dragonfly!)

So, I wore Gigadistal with a dress I'd made and new leggings with flowers on them!  I went out to lunch with a friend who is an amazingly capable person (and mom of five kids...).  I wrote like crazy and I am hopeful that at least one and maybe two new articles will come out soon.  I am trying to make the most of my work time, because camp ends on Friday!  Full-court press twin summer activities begin right afterwards....and we'll be playing soccer, going to the wading pool, trying out our bike training wheels and generally having fun outside, I hope.  Have I mixed my sports metaphors enough for now?  (klutzy writer here, SO not a sports-fan...)

So I am ending July with a celebratory flash sale on Ravelry.  Get 20% off all my Ravelry designs until the end of July with this coupon code:

I hope your meadows are full of Doug the Dragonfly and not Manny the Mosquito.  Maybe at night you will see Luna the moth?

And all the time, we can celebrate that the first woman has earned the US presidential nomination.  No matter your politics, it is a super first for equality and equal representation under law.  It's about time.

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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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