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Archive for the ‘Home Life’ Category

Sometimes, when life swirls around you in a crazy blur, isn’t it important to take a moment to think about a few “right now”-type things that make you smile with glee?

1.) This fabulous ring, gift from best friend for my birthday. It’s impossible to have a bad day with a teensy teacup atop your finger, no?

2.) Two fresh and lovely jars of my Auntie Helen’s apricot plum jam (that woman makes the best jam in all the world, seriously). Bread, butter, jam and a slice of cheese? Snack heaven, I tell you. I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it.

3.) A stack of author copies of Farmed Out, ready and waiting to be inscribed for loved ones.

4.) Delicious, end-of-summer meals like grilled eggplant stacks (eggplant, tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and pesto). Okay, so yes, my happy things often revolve around food.

5.) Beautiful wooden bowls made by my dearly departed Grandpa Goerzen, saved from a “ceremonial burning” in my father’s chimea. I can’t believe he was about to burn some of my grandpa’s famous bowls. Said stack has now been distributed amongst me and my sisters!

6.) Gorgeous owl vase from my sister Chay, also a birthday present. Look, his brain grew roses! Seventh happy thing? My fabulous friends and family, who know that giving me perfect gifts like tiny teacup rings and owl vases will make me a happy gal indeed!

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In the midst of end-of-term busy-ness and much freelance work (which is a good thing, I’m not complaining!) last week, I dug out my mum’s good old recipe for homemade playdough, and Keats and I made some. He especially enjoyed dumping the flour into the big bowl and stirring it.

Play Dough Recipe:

1 cup white flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoon cream of tartar (find it in the spice section)
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food colouring

Mix first 4 ingredients in a pan. Add water and mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will soon form a clump.  Remove from stove and knead for 5 minutes–add food colouring during kneading process.

Next time I want to experiment with natural dyes/colorings (boiling onions and cabbage and such – let’s see if I actually do that), but this time I just used regular old food colouring, which Keats found utterly fascinating.

I read somewhere about adding essential oils to it as you’re kneading it, so I did (lavender and mint), but I wish I hadn’t, because that trademark smell of homemade playdough is one of the best things ever. And tasting that salt on your fingers after you’ve played with it? Just awesome.

Needless to say, it was a hit.

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A boy and his fort.

Last week, with just two chairs, cushions and a blanket (which, of course, is all you really need), my husband made Keaton his very first living room fort. And as you can see, young Master Keats is pretty darn proud of it. He brought his prized musk ox stuffy in there (on its side, as you see) and all the pillows off the chairs and couch to make it just right in there. Usually a book or two, as well. Even though he’s only 19 months old, I think it’s still important for him to have his own little place to retreat to. And he seems pretty excited that it’s his very own fort.

I’ve always been interested in the landscape of childhood, and how as children we navigate the spaces around us – how as children we know our homes, classrooms, and neighbourhoods so well, including all the nooks and crannies (that alcove in the front room where you can hide during hide and seek, or the path that you’re convinced is enchanted in your local park). I’m interested in this so much so, in fact, that I based part of my MA thesis on it. And I’m a big believer in secret spaces for children – treehouses, forts, hidden gardens, favourite climbing trees, and the like. In Children’s Experience of Place, Roger Hart wrote that “[t]here may be a basic urge for each of us to surround ourselves with a known, and hence, safe space to which we can retreat in terms of danger or difficulty.”

Even if it’s just to have some autonomy from an adult’s world for a while in their own place, I think all children seek out their own special, secret spaces. When I was a kid my secret spaces were the cherry tree in our yard (one of the best climbing trees I’ve ever found) and my reading nook in my bedroom for which my mum had sewn two enormous pillows to recline on and read my beloved Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books. In our old house there was a long closet in my bedroom (which we, of course, thought was pretty spooky) with a small, mysterious door on one wall of the long closet. I always imagined that behind the door there was a beautiful room that only I knew about. It had high ceilings and wallpaper that had big roses on it, and there was a huge chandelier hanging from the middle of the room. There were big couches and chairs made of plushy red velvet, and delicate little cakes on pretty plates covered in glass. It was my secret room. I never tried to open that door in the closet because I always wanted to keep the dream alive that the beautiful room was actually behind it.

But back to Keaton and his fort. He’s in there right now as I type this, flipping through the new bag of books we just brought home from the library. (Thomas the Take Engine ABC seems to be his favourite.)

I’m glad he’s so excited by his fort.

And usually, if you ask nicely, Keaton will allow you into his special space. Especially cool, fun grandpas.


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Wee Update

It’s currently 1:26am. I just got Keaton back to sleep about 45 minutes ago and now I’m working on a copywriting project. So much for my promise of my earlier bedtime. Does it count that for the two nights before this I went to bed at 11:30 both nights? Well, it’s a start.

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A nice, foamy Snakebite (cider and lager) always helps me with my BGUDs.

My fabulous Nia teacher, Jasjit, wrote about a great idea in her latest newsletter:

to start at the “End.” Enter a state where whatever you’re struggling with is already sorted, handled, completed in the most contented way you could imagine. Sit with this. Sense your body, feel your feelings, imagine the situation, and notice where you are. Breathe it in. And then return to the present moment and choose what to do now, if anything, knowing full well that you’ve already seen the End, it’s good, and everything is leading you there.

Okay, yes, to my often-cynical self this sounds s bit New Age-y cheesy, but seriously, it’s really helped through all this. (That and the aforementioned Snakebites. Do I drink too much? Possibly.)

There’s been some turmoil in my life lately, more specifically in my what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-do-after-maternity-leave life. My wonderful, blissful year of mat leave ends next month, and I had been trying to decide what to do. Ever since I knew I wanted to have kids, I knew that I didn’t want to work full time when they were still very young. Also, working 5 or even 4 days a week, with daycare costs taken into consideration, just doesn’t make much financial sense. It would either be that we were broke with me going back to work (not to mention stressed out and going against our parenting philosophy with putting Keats in daycare a bulk of the time), or ever broker with me trying to freelance and keep Keaton at home with me.

But there’s the small problem of our debt load – my husband and I have such a huge debt to pay off on a tight payment schedule (not to mention the costs of living in the world’s most expensive city!) that if I don’t make a certain chunk of money every month, we’re basically screwed. This left us in a bit of a pickle, to say the least.

So, I wrote up a proposal to my boss at my library job (which I was on mat leave from) to work part-time hours, but for various reasons that I won’t get into, she didn’t go for it nearly the way I’d hoped. To be honest, I really didn’t want to go back to that job anyway, but I thought I’d try the easiest thing first. When my boss didn’t go for my proposal (I won’t even get into all the details around that), my heart sank. I had it all figured out, but then she didn’t go for it. I cried as soon as I left the meeting room, and cried all the way home. On the way home I got a bubble tea, and then I talked with my sister and started to feel better.

Because my library job wasn’t my only option. Something about staying home with a baby for nearly a year had shaken my confidence in the professional realm a little (I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised), but then I started to snap out of it. I thought, “okay, I’ve freelanced before, I have an MA, I’ve got a pretty good resume by this point. I can freelance and/or get another job.” This thought was inspiring, as I’ve been wanting to seriously get back into my freelance writing/marketing business, but hanging over our heads the entire time was the whole money thing. And then, when the stress was really, really setting in, my husband spotted a part-time faculty job posting at a local university. How perfectly serendipitous that it didn’t start until September (so I could spend the summer at home with Keats), and that I had a connection in that university department, so I could find out the inside scoop.

One interview and a 10-minute lecture/demo later, and I found out a week later that I had the job! I’ll be teaching as part of an arts and entertainment management program. I resigned from my library job (I’ll miss the people there, but not really the job itself), and now I’m thrust into something totally new – switching from marketing and communications work to university teaching. Wow. It’s weird to think that for the first time in years, I won’t have to worry about whether the correct logo is on something, or if the latest newspaper ad got in before the deadline. Instead I’ll be teaching 26 first-years about computer applications for arts workplaces. I don’t think that I’ve totally grasped that idea yet. Maybe I’ll worry about that later, after some more summer fun.

So here I am at the “End” – the decision has been made, things have been put in motion, and what I was struggling with is sorted, handled, completed in the most contented way I can imagine. I stil can’t believe how serendipitously well it’s all worked out. After what seems like way too long (a couple months, maybe) of attempting to make Big, Grown-Up Decisions (BGUDs, as Joshua and I call them), they’ve now been made. And I feel so. Much. Better. There will be stress involved with my new direction, of course – money stress, learning curve, taking on a whole different job, etc. etc., but so much better than the stress dropping Keaton off at daycare 4 or 5 days a week and then bitterly dragging myself into work, knowing that the whole time I was going against my principles. Nope, that just wasn’t an option at all.

Hmmm, this is some pretty heavy Friday reading I’ve given you isn’t it? Well anyway, have a happy weekend!

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Yes, so I’ve been away for a while, both from home and from this blog space for quite a few days! Life is a bit tumultuous and in limbo at the moment, and our big family vacation to Posthill Lake (north of Kelowna) could not have come at a better time. From last Friday to last Monday, it was all about eating (lots of it), drinking, visiting, laughing (lots of that, too) and relaxing with my dad and stepmum, my sisters and our boys.

This time away also made me think about two things: one, how very refreshing and mind-clearing it is to be off the telecommunications grid for a few days, and two: how much I learn for my own little patch of lawn/yard/garden/earth.

With no email to check, no cell phone messages to respond to, no TV or DVDs to watch, no internet to surf, no Facebook statuses to update, no Twitter to tweet on, no radio (well, we could have brought one, but we didn’t) and not even an old-fashioned land line, it was nice to see what took technology’s place. (I should add that we were not totally off the grid – we did have running water and electricity… the perfect happy medium!) And that was chatting, and relaxing, and reading, and looking out a the lake, and well, just some quiet and companionable silence. I saw a Coleman ad recently that said: “The Coleman Camping Site: The Original Social Networking Site.” I know it’s an advertising slogan, but it’s true isn’t it? There’s been so much talk about how the more ways we have of communicating, the less we communicate meaningfully.

And there’s something so special, and so unfortunately rare now, about sitting around a fire and talking without someone checking their iPhone, or texting someone, or even jumping up to get the phone. It also made me think about how many moments of my day are spent running to the laptop to finish an email or look up something online. What if I took an “offline” day once or twice per week, and didn’t spend most of my time after Keaton goes to bed catching up on emails? I think I’ll try it!

Being away also made me think about how much, especially with little Keaton getting more active each day, I wish we had an outside space of our own. (It may also be that I’m getting a little stir-crazy in our apartment!) I love our apartment, but I do miss house living where you can just walk out your door and there’s a little piece of earth to call your own. In our heritage building we don’t have a balcony, just a really sketchy fire escape (which we have ventured out onto drunkenly, and also for photo shoots, possibly also drunkenly). There are parks in our ‘hood, of course, and there is a churchyard next to our building, but it’s so public and covered in dog poop, so it’s not much of a substitute. I would love to be able to fling open the door of our home to breathe some outside air, or have a little garden where I can grow herbs and vegetables, and where Keaton can play. Or even where I can just go outside in my pajamas and have a coffee. *sigh* Maybe someday, when Vancouver home prices have calmed down and Joshua and I are less in debt!

In other news, I think the crowns and pennants were a hit with the birthday peeps:

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I feel at my best, my sparkliest, my most alive, my sunniest, my most 100% Christy when…

…I have a creative writing project on the go (such as my latest children’s novel, above – just want to get the #$%@ thing finished, though!)

…I have a nice, juicy book to read (still in the midst of my Marian Keyes kick)

…I have another creative project or two on the go (knitting, sewing, etc.) that I’m not feeling frustrated with (yet)

…I take the time to cook and eat good, nourishing, delicious foods

….I’m acting silly and laughing my head off

…I’m well-rested (totally self-inflicted, but that’s pretty rare these days)

…there are fresh flowers in the house

…my workspace is tidy and organized (it certainly isn’t right now!)

…I’m in the fresh air and can hear the birds singing

…I’m going to Nia class regularly

…I’m dancing in general (even to Cyndi Lauper in the kitchen – I have a firm belief that dance parties can change the world)

…I’m surrounded by close friends and family (and acting silly and laughing our heads off, as above)

…when I have a glass of wine on the go and the promise of more to come (v. important)

Many of these things never actually happen all at once, but I know that I’m at my most optimal state of being when I have the above things going on in my life. If not (and too often I don’t), I become grumpy, tired, grey, and totally unproductive. And that’s not fun for anyone. I decided to make this list to remind myself what I need to keep calm and carry on.

When do you feel at your optimal state of being?

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