Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On making space for makers ...

The world seems to be going faster and faster every day. This should come as a surprise to no one. We, as a society, are obsessed with process improvement and efficiency. We are consumers before anything else. This is great, it makes for convenient and affordable access to goods and services, and generally makes our lives easy to a fault. The question this leaves me with is, does this leave space for those who chose to slow down? Is there still space available for the high quality, hand made, and unique?

I come from a family of makers. I have memories of dolls and sweaters from my great grandmother, my grandma sewing my aunt's wedding dress, my mother working from home while she stayed with us as children doing custom alterations for clothes, and knitting both by hand and with a knitting machine. There is an entire cedar chest at my parent's farm that is full of smocked dresses and hand knits and beautiful items waiting to be worn by the next generation, and the thought of that fills me with pride. In times where others sit idle, socks and hats and sweaters fall off the needles of my mother and now myself.

In the last year, I have noticed a significant shift about how I feel about being a creator of things. I have finally gotten over the sting of, "You knit? People really still do that?" and "Why would I want to pay $40 for yarn for a hat when I can buy one from Walmart for $8?" I have come to a place where I have stopped buying the $3 a ball acrylic yarn of my youth, and am willing to spend $35 on a ball of sock yarn because I know that this will bring me more joy to work with, and will produce a product that I'm proud of. I'm finally at a place where I understand the technical aspects of knitting well enough to produce what I envision, and I have produced a few patterns that have sold a few copies. I am finally at a place where I can proudly say, "Yes, I am knitting. You could too, if you would like to learn!"

This also means, that where I can, I like to support small vendors, others who have taken the time to build their skills and produce products that are unique, that have been held in hands, that are more expensive and worth every penny. It means that I hold it dear to my heart that as a maker of things, I should create space and a market for other makers of things. This is a shift for me, because although I've always appreciated a handmade item, I also am quite budget driven, and so, too many of my items come from big box stores, because that's what I have been able to afford.

The challenge this presents, is that I need to get used to a life that is less consumer driven. It means I need to take the time to knit the sweaters I really want instead of buying a $20 sweater that will last a few months and be ruined. It means that I need to learn to care for handmade items properly. It means that I may own fewer items, but they will be higher quality. It means I will spend more time mending what I already have rather than replacing it.

Is this to say that I'll stop shopping at big box stores all together? Probably not. That isn't realistic in this day and age.  What is does mean is this: When given the option to choose, I need to slow down, to chose quality over quantity and to support and to make space for the makers, because they are my people.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

All things old are new again...

The year 2016 brought a lot of change to my world, in a lot of planned and completely unexpected ways. In January I heard from my landlord's son, that his mother who lived upstairs and owned the house was no longer in a position to live on her own and they would be putting the house on the market in February. They offered me the opportunity to stay in the home through the sale process and potentially stay with the new landlord, or to move prior to listing. I had been thinking about purchasing a home for some time, and as such, I took this opportunity to start my house hunt.

I had one realtor who had formerly been a friend, and as they say, you shouldn't do business with friends. It went poorly, and I was disappointed with the options she was presenting me, and as such I changed to a realtor recommended by the home inspector that looked at the first house that I was serious about. I saw several homes with him, and while he was a delight to work with, he didn't have the relationships in the area I was shopping that were required to overcome the bidding wars that were occurring, and so I got another referral from my aunt and found my third and final realtor, Bob Anderson.

We looked at several homes, we bid on more than a few, and through the entire process I appreciated his transparency, his openness and his willingness to work hard until we found exactly what I wanted and found it in my price range.

On July 22, 2016 I became a homeowner. I bought a great 3 bedroom condo townhouse in North Oshawa, that came complete with a long term tenant and the lowest condo fees in Durham region.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents and friends for the incredible support that they gave and continue to give through this process, with everything from advice, to a little financial help, to physically showing up and helping me unpack or lay new flooring in the basement. I have a better relationship with them now then I have had in the last decade, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

The house has started to take shape, but with home ownership comes a place to really call my own and to set up for sewing, knitting, and now even spinning.

As a housewarming gift I was blessed with an antique wheel from my Aunti Deb. I had the unique opportunity to have a wheel-smith view some photos of it and tell me a little about the history of the wheel. It is cobbled together from Canadian pieces built in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries on the East Coast. It has ignited my passion for stretching the useful life of all items, and for the slow process of crafting rather than purchasing goods, and it sits on display in my living room as a constant reminder to take the time to slow down and create something beautiful. If that isn't a recipe for a happy life, I'm not sure what is.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Overnight Black Bean Soup with a Kick!

In 2016, I'm going to make an effort to do a great deal more cooking at home and committing to trying new recipes with simple and delicious ingredients. 

Here's the first recipe I whipped up in the slow cooker:

Overnight Black Bean Soup with a Kick - 12 x 1 Cup Servings 
This recipe is a healthy, low cost version of black bean soup with a little bit of a kick, taking the boring and making it delicious. Leftovers are freezable, with no loss of flavour or texture. 

Ingredients:

1 Piece of Pork Belly - Approx 2" square
1 Bell Pepper (Red / Orange / Yellow) - Diced
1 Onion - Diced
3 Cups Dried Black Beans 
1 Tbsp Chipotle Paste
1 - 3 Tsp Ground Cumin - To taste
4 Cloves Garlic - Minced 
8-9 Cups Water
2 Chicken Bullion Cubes

Optional Toppings:
Sour cream
Coriander
Cheese 
Salsa


Directions:

  1. Dice Pork Belly into 1 cm cubes, cook in frying pan until translucent. 
  2. Add diced onions and peppers to frying pan, and cook until pork is crispy and onions and peppers are caramelized. 
  3. Pour contents of pan into crock pot, add dried black beans, chipotle paste, ground cumin, garlic, water and chicken bullion cubes. 
  4. Turn slow cooker to low, and head to bed. Let the soup cook for 8-10 hours until the beans are tender to your liking. 
  5. If broth in soup is too thin, use an immersion blender or potato masher to liquefy some of the beans and thicken the soup. 
  6. Serve with optional toppings as desired. 
Weight Watchers Smart Points: 6 before optional toppings
Approximate cost per serving: $0.69

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Everything is blissfully normal

I've had the blog for six years now. 

I haven't written much of anything in the last three years.

I had stopped writing because I felt so lost that I couldn't string 500 words together anymore. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to say, but I found myself without voice. So here I am, six years from my first post, reopening the blog.

I've taken down all the old posts, because they all felt too much like a piece of my past. I woke up every day and knew less and less about that girl. I couldn't identify with her anymore. I'm not sure I ever could.

I'm 30. I have been for a little while now, actually. Nothing strange or startling there. Eventually we all wake up and arrive here, God willing.

My world and my life felt like they were constantly shifting since I was 20, and I was forever trying to get my feet under me, only to succeed and then have it slip away again. I felt like I was failing, and I was unable to shake it. I was living the cliche "one step forward and two back" life. It was amazing, and adventurous, fun and awful, challenging and a bit of a slog through it if we're being honest.

So, what has me here again, ready to put pen to paper (so to speak)? 

I have a good job with a great company. I've been a Registered Insurance Broker for a little over two years now. It's in an industry that I never really expected to be in, and that I unexpectedly excel in. As it turns out, insurance is interesting and technical and lets me deal with people and help them make good decisions. 

I have a company that pays for my education, and is willing to invest in me so that I can grow in the future. I somehow, without really noticing, am 80% of the way through a Chartered Insurance Professional designation. 

I'm not making millions, but I'm finally making ends meet and am able to look towards the future. Money doesn't buy happiness, but there are no words to describe the relief it is to be able to pay rent, and afford a car and save for the future and still by groceries and keep my cell phone turned on. It is funny how it suddenly happens, that you shift from having to make choices that no one wants to make, to having options. It happens a little at a time, and then all at once.

I have finally surrounded myself with people who support and love me as I am, as my quilting, knitting, cooking, exercising, not exercising, eating well, eating whatever I want, having a dog who sheds everywhere, driving a car that sometimes has too many empty diet coke cans, not watching TV much or keeping up with current events at all completely nerdy and imperfect self.

Life on the family front is pretty great. We still have our challenges, and I'm sure we always will. You don't have three living generations of strong willed, opinionated, smart, slightly crazy people roaming this earth without a little friction. 

I keep finding, more and more, that although it isn't perfect, life feels like it is getting better. It feels like the difference between a quick fix and a slow and proper mending. There is a sense of calm in my world now, that there really is no explanation for, except this: Things are finally good.

And now, in this moment, I am finally ready to live an extraordinary life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The things we don't talk about


As women we don't talk about a lot of things in our life. We dig deep, declare our broad shoulders, and cover up the things that we don't want the world to see. We discuss things that are only considered civilized, appropriate and polite, and this is our downfall.

I grew up in a family where there were things you just didn't discuss, such as money, religion and politics, but also a lot of things that maybe we should have talked about. I sometimes wonder if I would be a different person if we had talked about sex, about sexuality, about relationships with men, with food and body image. The amount of conscious effort that it takes for me to not focus solely on these things in day to day life is absolutely exhausting.

Please don't get me wrong. This isn't a pity party for myself, but for a society of women who hold it together despite the internal monologue that must be going through their heads. It can't be just me.

I know that some of us were raised with great body images, a healthy relationship with food, an understanding of relationships and sex and all of that, but I would be willing to place money on the fact that those are few and far between. I would bet that the greater majority of us appear to be solid as a rock, but that underneath all of that is a little girl, cowering in the corner and wondering what will become of us.

Behind all the professionalism that everyone sees, there is a girl who worries every day about ever calorie of food that crosses her lips to the point that in her twenties she develops a severe eating disorder, with no regard for the fact that the typical eating disorder appears in the teen years, because she feels so out of control. She feels like a failure every day that the scale climbs, or stays the same. She measures her worth by the size of her jeans.

Behind the soccer mom who is taking amazing care of her children, and holding the family together is a woman who is scared every day that she won't be able to satisfy her husband, and so she goes way beyond her comfort in bed with him, just to keep him from going somewhere else. She doesn't know that she has the right to say no when something makes her uncomfortable. She pretends that she loves it, just because she loves him, and when he goes to sleep, she has a shower to wash the dirty feeling off her.

Behind the lawyer in her power suit who takes command of the room as she enters is a woman who is showing a little cleavage to "keep the old boys in line" because no one ever told her that she doesn't have to use her body to get attention, and that attention doesn't equate to respect. She laughs and flirts and seems to love her job, but she goes home every night and works out for 3 hours because she is terrified that if she loses her looks, she's lost in this job and that she'll never move forward.

Now, I'm the first to admit that we can only blame how we were raised for our problems until a certain age. At some point, we become accountable as adults for our actions, however we, as women, do ourselves a great disservice by burying these issues. We don't talk about them with our best girlfriends, our mothers, or our daughters. We take a deep breath, put on a big smile, and take on the world with our best face forward.

I'm of the belief that if we talked about these things, if we knew we were all facing them, it would help us all to find greater peace. Maybe we wouldn't make the same mistakes the next time around. Perhaps we could help each other to be stronger, more confident, to know our limits and to feel better about ourselves in general. Maybe by knowing on a personal level that our sisters, mothers, daughters and friends face the same thing it would help us to all feel a little better and stop hurting ourselves, and subjecting ourselves to unnecessary hurt because we think that we're alone.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More from the East Coast of Canada

Well, I have been on this road trip of the East Coast for 8 days now and I thought I would give you the highlights.

Thus far we have seen:

Riviere-Du-Loup, PQ - We missed the show here because of car trouble :(

Grand Falls, NB - Stopped here at a Walmart to pick up some groceries and get our bearings.

Plaster Rock, NB - Rocked out and had a great night in a hotel here. The owners were amazing and breakfast was great. I highly reccomend checking out this tiny town, and we hear that Pond Hockey is all the rage here in the winter thanks to Don Cherry.

St. John, NB - Great show here at a bar called Cougar's Lounge. It was a tiny venue, and The DGB stopped in for an open mic night. We enjoyed $23 Gallon Pitchers and the guys ended up rocking out on a stage in a park at 4:00 a.m. until the police showed up. They were super nice about it and we went back to the van and laughed until the sun was starting to show.

Black Beach, NB - Tiny little beach in the middle of nowhere, on the Bay of Fundy. Played some football on the beach and ate some lunch. The locals thought we were crazy and the water was freezing but it was a great time!

Blacks Harbour, NB - Dropped into a random bar on our day off, where the boys did an impromtu performance and sold a stack of CDs, and we drank a lot of rounds of free shots. We were going to leave and the bartender thought we needed drinks for the road, but of course she can't sell them to us, so she gave us a case out of her car! We ended up sitting in the harbour watching the tide with a guy from Halifax, and he crashed in the van at the end of the night with us.

Fredericton, NB
- Had a great time here. The show was an open mic again at the Capitol. We ended up staying at Catherine's house (yup, we just met her) She looked after us well though. Gave us a place to crash and an amazing breakfast. We basically <3 her. :D Miramachi, NB - The DGB played a show at O'Donoghues, which is a 175 year old bar in the Irish Capital of Canada. It was a very cool and the panfried fish and chips was absolutely amazing. I turned in for an early night because I'm a party pooper like that sometimes. I was exhausted, but woke up refreshed for our next day in Moncton.


Parlee Beach, NB - Stopped in for a dip in the ocean. Probably the most beautiful beach I have ever seen and we enjoyed the shallows before venturing out for a proper swim. The boys played football in the ocean again while we all dodged the jellyfish. I didn't even know we had these in Canada but they were plentiful and very cool to look at.

Moncton, NB - had a great time in Moncton. The boys did a show there and it was fantastic as always. Interesting characters and invites to crash, but we decided that we were safest in the van with the door locked.

St. George, NB - Stopped in to see Jamie's family where we'll be staying for the next couple of days. They're about the sweetest people you'd ever want to meet and have beds and burgers ready for us upon our return.

St. Andrews, NB - the boys are currently playing a set at The Red Herring and I'm writing this. Sounds great, and I'm thinking that we're going to have to come here for some dinner tomorrow too. $7.99 lobster dinner just haulled in off a boat is too good to pass up I think.


Clearly, that's a lot of travelling for 8 days! Not only have we seen these places, but everywhere in between because the guys I'm travelling with have tour dates for their band booked in no particular order all over New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and then back to Quebec!

The cool thing about this trip is that we're not doing the Mapquest and go directions. We are actually using maps and atlases to find our way, picking out random destinations along the way and attempting to stick towards the coastline whenever possible. As four kids from the interior of Canada, any occasion to breath in salt air is a good excuse.

The people out here truly are as hospitable and welcoming as you hear. I could hardly believe it. The guys are being absolutely fantastic about me tagging along with them and it's been a hell of an amazing vacation for me, and about as cheap as a vacation could come.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the road again

Well... I'm at it again. I've jumped into another crazy adventure without thinking it through and have found myself touring the east coast of Canada with a friend's band.

So, in the past few days I've seen Grand Falls, Plaster Rock, St. John, Blacks Beach, Black Harbour and Fredericton. It's been absolutely beautiful and the randomness has been astounding. We've had car troubles, bar troubles, and just about every other type of troubles you could think of but it has been fantastic overall.

I'm really enjoying the whole experience, and we're here until June 28th so I expect to see a fair bit more of the country. The one thing I can tell you about it, after being here is that we don't appreciate what we have. Specifically, I don't appreciate what I have. The world is beautiful, Canada especially. Some of the sights I have seen make me ashamed that I went to the UK rather than exploring more of Canada.

The other side of this is that I can understand why people say you can find peace out here. There is an overwhelming stillness to the world when you're standing on the beach watching the tide.

Gotta go -- the band has a show in a few minutes. I'll write more later but I hope that you can find peace like that which I've felt in the past few days.