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My new children’s book, the aforementioned Farmed Out, is released today! Yippee, hooray! You can order it online through Chapters or Amazon, or ask for it at your favourite bookstore. Stay tuned for news of a book launch in October…

Sorry about the weird spacing of the photos. I can’t quite seem to fix it. 

So what do you do when you’re feeling a little stressed, overwhelmed, unbalanced and generally out of sorts? Well, you plan a spontaneous stateside road trip with your husband and almost-two-year-old, of course! We headed down the I-5 on Saturday morning and then gorgeous Chuckanut Drive in Washington State, and were in Birch Bay in time for breakfast, featuring the slowest. service. ever. And slightly watery eggs benedict served by a wacky waitress. All very entertaining.

We drove over to darling Whidbey Island, the site of many a dad-and-daughter motorcycle trip back when my sisters and I were kids. We stopped off at the Captain Whidbey Inn, and it was just as I remembered it in 1983.

And of course Keaton just wanted to go to the “BEACH!” and play with “WOCKS”!

 

Which he did, on several occasions, this photo being in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Why enjoy beautiful food in a lovely little cafe (Knead & Feed) when you know there is a pebbly beach just down the stairs outside?

After a ferry ride back to the mainland, complete with entertaining stencilled cupboards, we went to two small town destinations that many of us know so well from the small screen: North Bend, where Twin Peaks was filmed back in the late 80s/early 90s, and where my husband Joshua also spent four formative years of his childhood life. How about that, eh? If I had known during all those early teenaged years while I obsessively watched Twin Peaks that my future husband was growing up in the very town that it was filmed…

Damn fine coffee.

And humungous portions. My god. This Veggie Mixer kept us going for three whole meals!

Keaton played in the playground of Josh’s old elementary school, North Bend Elementary.

And then Roslyn, home to my favourite TV show of all time, Northern Exposure, which I have mentioned more than a few times on this here blog. Is it possible to be starstruck by a town? Because I was. Seriously, it’s still just like it was in the show. As Josh said, that’s probably written into any possible development plan for the town that it can’t change. But really, check these photos out. Isn’t that Dr. Fleischman’s battered blue truck?

After exploring the town for a while we took Keats to the local playground, and I just keep smiling hugely to myself, thinking, “We’re at the playground. But not just any playground. A playground in Roslyn. Wow.” Yes, I know, ridiculous fan girl.

Then we visited the troll under the bridge in Fremont, Seattle, and had some yummy lunch at the Silence.Heart.Nest Cafe.

After all that excitement, it was time for some kickin’ back with Winnie the Pooh. Mixed into all this was one nice hotel, one sketchy one and one so-so one in North Seattle (yikes!), lots of grease on food action, a failed trip to the zoo, a flat tire, and much noticing of American accents/dialects.

Road trips are AWESOME. And now I am going to eat nothing but steamed vegetables and fish for two weeks. Erp.

P.S. Okay, so I know it’s been forever since my last post. Almost three months, to be somewhat exact. My lack of posts, not unsurprisingly, is directly tied to my three-month-long bout of writer’s block which now, thankfully, seems to have ended. Actually, it was writer’s block, but then I decided to just go with that, and turn it into a brief vacation from writing. But I’m ready to get back at it. Let’s see how it goes.

P.P.S. That was a long P.S.

Of course if you make a list of your favourite things, you’re going to keep thinking of even more things you love after you hit “publish.” Here are a few more that came to me in a flash of “oh, of course, I love that, too!”:

high tea
Eureka moments
moccasins
airplanes
post-apocalyptic/dystopic themes and stories
homeopathy
treehouses
the military alphabet
midwifery
things with feathers

So, I’ve been experiencing some writer’s block lately. I have what I feel are some great ideas for three different books I want to write, but I keep getting stuck. Fortunately, there are loads of great writing blogs out there with lots of fabulous and reassuring posts on breaking through blocks – like Laini Taylor’s post today and Libba Bray’s recent post – but I had an idea beyond my usual freewriting-solves-everything trick. I remembered something that I read (I think it was on the wonderful Pipedreaming children’s lit review blog), that if you put all of your favourite things into your book, you can’t really go wrong. Well, I guess you could – I could just turn into an unfocused mishmash of all your beloved influences and things – but I was inspired by the idea to create a list of, well, my favourite things, of course. This isn’t a place for my favourite movies or my favourite bands or my favourite books. It might be aspects of those things, but really, it’s all about the details of life. I guess it’s like my personalized version of that book about 10,000 things that make you happy. But that’s coo.

So here we go:

artichokes

scarves
morning coffee
wacky old ladies
kitchen dance parties
dance parties of any kind, really
shoulders
deciduous forests
makeovers/before & afters
springtime
having a favourite part in a song (as in “Oooh, I love this part! Listen, wait for it..,” like the bass solo in Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ or Cyndi Lauper’s long note at the end of ‘Money Changes Everything’)
home canned peaches
midnight
crackling fires
pomp and circumstance; ritual and ceremony
baseball
French braids

antique shops
sci-fi boys
Olympic women’s gymnastics
British things
sing-alongs
Twix bars
the English language
Mennonite culture and history
crushes
secret hiding places
Strongbow cider
fresh new school supplies
Archie comics
costumes
Vienna
sleepovers
Christmas
school stories
Dutch light
the landscape of childhood
Tilt-A-Whirls
country drives
daydreams
bags/totes/purses
lip balm
punctuation
Converse sneakers
scented felts
pastries
furry friends
drollery
grand, ramshackle old houses (with tower bedrooms)
farmers markets
dangly earrings

banana splits and pretty much any dessert featuring bananas
pubs
laughing uproariously
faeries and magic
antique roses
dinner parties
spunky heroines a la Pippy Longstocking, Harriet the Spy and Jodie Foster in Freaky Friday
autumn
used bookstores
sticker books
red velvet stage curtains
naps
the library
ribbed tights
the coffee-and-cookies smell of church basements
putting up photos in your high school locker
national anthems

Before I published this, I left this draft post open on my desktop for a couple of days, just to let all the favourite things come to me. It’s a fun thing to do – I’d recommend it. I also found it to be a reminder, in this crazy, fast-moving world of ours, to enjoy the details of the everyday. Will it help lift my writer’s block? I’ll keep you posted.

And so I just have to ask – what are some of your favourite things?

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.

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.


Binge Crafting

Okay, so needless to say I’ve been away for a while. A long while. More than six weeks, in fact.

While I’ve been away, and life has carried on, a few notable things have happened that I would like to share with you. In the last few weeks I’ve:

– Started another baby quilt, for my new nephew Kieren. In my last post I was still embroidering the patches. In the meantime I ordered a charm pack (oh, I do love a charm pack!) of Moda Hideaway fabric, which is covered in clocks and alpine-looking motifs, perfect for a little part-Swiss boy. The other night I put on Woody Allen’s Alice (oh William Hurt, my love for you has not waned) and sewed the whole quilt top together. So it’s almost done…

– Witnessed the birth of my aforementioned new nephew. A beautiful home birth. It was amazing, and transformative, and very moving. Keaton was totally freaked out by the whole thing and bawled all night, but that’s another story.

– Had some major thoughts about my creative process. When it comes to crafting, writing, or anything else in the creative realm, I am a binger. I’m not the type of person to sew a few stitches one day and a few the next, or write a page or two a day, slowly working toward my goal. That’s not me, even though I sometimes beat myself up for not working on my projects more consistently. Nope, I’m a work-on-something-for-many-hours-late-into-the-night-for-three-days-straight and then put it away for a while type of person. So, bingeing it is, if that’s the way I get sh*t done!

– Realized that I should probably tame my potty mouth in front of Keaton, now that he’s parroting everything I say.

– Gotten very stuck with both the creative writing projects I’ve been working on. But now slightly less stuck with one of them, which may in turn lead to some binge-writing. Fingers crossed.

– Been working with a web designer on a new website for my freelance copywriting/consulting business, Creative Cat Communications. It’s still under construction, but stay tuned for a link.

As I write this, a huge flash of lightning and a big clap of thunder boomed just outside my kitchen window. I think I shall go cuddle up under the covers with Josh and listen to the rain pouring down outside. Ahhhh.

Life is good.