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!