I’m off for a spell and won’t be posting again until later in March. Warm wishes everyone.
Tag Archives: reflections
Heading into this winter, I knew that in my heart of hearts what I most wanted was to get the inside of the house better organized. In the warm months, we absolutely live outside and the house tends to become neglected. On top of that, when we moved into our new home just over two years ago, we left a number of key areas unfinished, and I went into this winter still battling a pervasive sense of chaos in the house. While I totally accept that the chaos will never go entirely, I was sorely in need of even a false sense of organization, particularly when life got even more hectic with homeschooling our youngest.
As seen in previously posted pictures here, what I think of as the back wall of the large, open central room in our home, was never really finished properly. We didn’t put any cabinets for the kitchen on that wall, and a makeshift bookcase and desk at the kitchen end of the room made the space practical if not ‘complete’.
When I became the main teacher of our youngest in November, my little four-shelf bookcase had to give up two shelves’ worth of cookbooks in favour of schoolbooks, and my tiny Victorian desk quickly experienced overwhelm. We made it work, but my desire to create more storage and increase the workspace in that part of the room ramped up hugely. This isn’t the best ‘before’ shot, but you get the idea.
I’ve been known to lunge at the nearest possible solution when feeling pressed: when heavily pregnant with our older boy and trying to quickly furnish our first house I voted to buy the first sofa I sat on and that’s exactly what we did. Over the past two years I had resisted a number of antique dressers and cabinets that would have looked lovely in the space – and been a wonderful way to reuse an old, existing piece of furniture – but done little to lend the much needed organization. The wait has been well worth the short term increase in chaos caused by the necessary removal of my workstation while the new unit has been built and painted over the past two weeks.
It was certainly worth it to see Reggie meeting a new friend (the stuffed lab of our youngest son, which predates our real live lab by a few years).
This dog loved having visitors in the house and seemed to have a lot to say, if only with his eyes, about the whole process.
For a while, the chaos in the kitchen seemed to invite that inevitable companion, even MORE chaos, when youngest son decided to set up shop with half of his Lego collection. I’m oddly proud to say that losing a good chunk of the kitchen island to a world made out of Lego for several days didn’t rattle me too much (and then one day I reached my limit and kindly demanded that the removal process begin).
The painting was done yesterday, and now we’ll have to wait about a week until we can put anything on the painted surfaces. We’re also missing the worktops (wood), haven’t yet decided about tile for the bit of wall below the open shelving, and we’ll have a magnetic board framed above the desk. But none of this has stopped me from setting up shop again at the desk and enjoying this much longed for bit of infrastructure in the heart of our house.
Taking time to live with a gap in the busiest part of our home was such a good idea; when it came time to sketch out what I felt we needed there, it came quickly and almost drew itself. And now we’re almost there. I already feel more organized just looking at what came into being in just a few short days.
My husband reflected recently that many people today, ourselves included, live like kings. We had to agree that in fact we live better than kings, when you consider the cold, drafty castles of the past and everything that went with them. All of which is just one way to consider how fortunate I feel to have all of this.
I was listening to an author being interviewed on the radio today about his new novel, in which he wanted to focus on the chaos of modern life. He referred to the ‘agony of raising children’ in modern life, and this resonated with me. There is so much of modern life that is complex and unnaturally chaotic, and much of it feels unnecessarily so. We most surely do not need all of ‘this’ in order to live good lives, raise our children effectively and yet this is where we have got to in our society at this point in human history. It’s pretty hard to break that down, as this is where we are.
I really didn’t intend to turn philosophical with this post, but it’s hard for me to put this post together without doing so, and the least I can say is that I’m grateful to have the means to alleviate the pressure I feel in my own life.
Some time back I promised to come clean about one of the ‘slow’ habits that I’ve chosen to give up, at least for the time being. Having written about my morning grind and showcased our lovely old manual grinder here, I was actually sad to give it up in favour of the modern, electric model seen next to it in the picture.
In my defence, after choosing to combine working from home with homeschooling one of our children last November and experiencing many days in a row when I just never got to have a cup of coffee, I had to make the leap. So, for now, I look fondly at the old hand grinder when I get up in the morning, but I gratefully reach for its modern counterpart while I try to do three or four other things at the same time.
Just in case we’re losing a lot of our old-school street cred, however, I’d like to point out that our family still elects to manually shovel this driveway. Even with both grown-ups and our 14-year old working at it solidly, it takes quite a long time to clear, especially if the snowfall was particularly big or heavy.
What you don’t see here is the section in front of the gate leading to the road, or the turn around to the right of the house and drive in the picture. In a big snow, my husband thinks we clear between 60 to 100 cubic yards; apparently older son will actually do the math tomorrow. Just in case you actually care!
Previous posts on Keeping it Old School
With the thermometer reading minus 22 this morning, I knew it was going to be a cold walk with Reggie. First up was water and feed for the chickens, whose coop is visible here through a frosty pane of glass in our garage.
It’s pretty cold in that coop, but the chickens don’t seem to mind.
Walking around to the house to place more wild bird seed in the little feeder in the little wood at the back, I came across some animal tracks. We were positively buried in snow for a while here, and after a recent thaw when we lost a lot of the snow, we’re now surrounded by hard packed, crystalline stuff that doesn’t give. Our modern snow shoes, with spiky teeth, are now needed for their grip more than the buoyancy they can give us in deep snow.
Waiting patiently for me outside the chicken coop, Reggie was ready to go and get moving.
He was ready to explore when we got down to the pond.
Everything in the world here seems to be furred in ice crystals, including any plant life hovering on or around the stream leading out of the pond. The water, amazingly, was still running in the stream this morning.
We paused for a few moments to take in the sun as it came higher over the woods and the pond.
It was just as we turned to head home that I noticed our shadows cast so perfectly on the opposite bank of the stream, the angle of the sun just right.
Feeling the cold biting my hands after taking them out of my warm mitts so many times to take pictures, it was time to high tail it back across the field and up the hill to the house, pausing for just one more picture when we crossed the other stream on our way back.
We’ve been wrapped up inside for the rest of the day.
With less time to cook than ever after deciding to introduce homeschooling one of our children to the mix, I have to say that meal preparation is less pleasurable. I can be a decidedly moody cook at the best of times, but I genuinely love putting a meal together when I have time. When I don’t have time, it’s an instant burden; it can even drive me to despair. It’s not a pretty sight when this happens.
The recipe featured here is a no-brainer that I fully expect other time-crunched cooks have intuitively put together before, but it makes it no less pleasing. It’s a very flavourful and healthy meal that is so appealing when in a tailspin because it really, truly just about makes itself.
In the dead of winter, where we now find ourselves, in this part of the world (Eastern Ontario) fresh vegetables are few and far between, especially if you prefer to eat organic, local produce. My root cellar is full of squash, and our coldhouse has some young turnips and greens doing their best to grow slowly in very cold temperatures, but basically I’m at the mercy of what I can find at the supermarket. This is where frozen veggies come in. Far better to get the nutrients preserved in flash frozen vegetables from my own country, than to pick up a sorry, nutrient starved head of broccoli that’s been on the road for far too long from parts unknown.
Two bags of frozen veg inspired this recklessly thrown together meal: one of cauliflower, the other of broccoli. Roasting vegetables is so wonderfully low-effort, but when you make frozen, pre-chopped vegetables your base, low-effort suddenly becomes no-effort.
The method: toss contents of a bag of cauliflower and a bag of broccoli into a roasting pan. Mix together with a generous amount of crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 20 minutes while cooking pasta. Optionally grate cheese (I had Asiago to hand, but Parmesan, Cheddar or a range of other cheese would also work well) to sprinkle on top. I did opt for a cheese topping as a way of building protein into the meal, and flashed it back into the still hot oven for a few minutes to allow it to melt.
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 bag frozen broccoli
2-3 tbs olive oil
Splash lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon (optional, but amps up the lemony flavour)
3-4 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
The result: almost no effort, deeply delicious and pretty darn good for you
If a meal likes this helps to save anyone else’s sanity, it will make taking the time to post this worthwhile. If anyone else has their own five-minute meal to share, please do!
This boy wakes up every morning with his Santa hat on, ready for the day. This morning he was thrilled to see huge, fluffy snowflakes outside the window (this, following days of freezing rain).
Looking outside quietly he suddenly said, “I could watch these all day, but I’m not going to. I might as well go and play!” I need to remember to approach my day this way.
Sometimes, life is just messy and it helps to keep a sense of humour about it. Honestly, it was hard to know what I was thinking. Last year I took on NaBloPoMo as a way to carve out more time for myself and writing. It worked, and it was good for me. This year I took it on, almost without thinking, and I made it halfway but can go no further.
This November may be the busiest and toughest one I’ve had yet, and it doesn’t make sense for me to stick to a schedule of daily posts just for the sake of it. I need to turn my attention back to some fundamentals for a time.
Being brand new at homeschooling is taking a lot of attention, and my day to day work is suffering (or at least I am); I know it will get easier, but right now is the crunch time, as I figure it all out. I trust in figuring it out – getting a feel for things and mastering them (or feeling like I am!) as I do them is how I tend to work best, and I can see it happening already.
I don’t plan to go far or be away for long, but feeling the weight of what I will post about tomorrow become a burden is not good, and entirely against the point of blogging in my book. When I come back, I’ll have more news on our chickens, and winter gardening (if our greenhouse is still going!), and probably a recipe or two, and who knows what else.
I also need to say a big thank you to uberdish and baking bohemian, both of whom have nominated wuppenif for The Sunshine Award (not fair Jen, as I was just about to nominate you!). I will try to get to that soon.
In the meantime, thank you for reading and commenting – you are a terrific bunch of readers and fellow bloggers.
If you’ve been around and reading lately, you’ll have picked up on the fact that I’m feeling my cup is overly full at the moment. I cannot really comfortably complain, we are so fortunate to be in a position where we can decide to homeschool our youngest and take on the extra stress that it will place on our work schedules at home. So don’t catch me complaining, or at least don’t let me try and get away with it.
Interestingly, our older boy is feeling some extra pressure in his own life these days. It’s been a big year starting high school and juggling all of his extracurricular activities, including a job at our local library that has temporarily grown from two to three shifts per week. I was also working at his age, and had other activities and pursuits, but I don’t recall ever feeling quite so busy as he obviously is and feels. We still expect good pitching in at home too, so there isn’t much time for R&R (though his dad and I are good at making sure we get a break together on weekends – we had a movie and Chinese takeout when his little brother was away at camp this past weekend).
Realizing that he can feel the pressure at this tender age is eye opening and helpful, and it makes me all the more grateful that he willingly accompanied me on the jaunt to view our otter/fisher the other morning. He got into the spirit in his own way, choosing to bring along his air rifle. Not to take aim at the poor creature, but to use the sight to improve what he could see of it!
This time last year I wrote a post called Remembering through role play, which was as much – if not more – about brotherly dynamics as a nod to Remembrance Day. This year was a big step forward for our family, as our youngest, until this year only a spectator at Remembrance Day events, carried a flag for the local Scout troupe in the parade that followed our town’s ceremonies. He has seen his big brother take part in this and other public ceremonies for the past five years, and it was very special to see him stepping up for his turn.
In truth, he was a wet rag when it was all over, and in need of hiding away from the world when we brought him home. The previous 24 hours had been spent at his first ever sleep-away camp with the Cubs, and it was a big deal for him. It’s the sort of rite of passage that will be appreciated anew from a distance; right now, he is exhausted from the effort of doing so much that is new, and taking on a new level of responsibility. So very different from his big brother, but thank goodness we understand him (mostly).
Tomorrow we officially start homeschooling this boy; grade four has been a big transition and one that, in the end, we feel hasn’t worked for him. Homeschooling is really something that I believe we have been working towards all along with this boy, and now is the time. I’m both daunted and exhilarated, and very grateful for the very generous homeschoolers in our community with whom we’ve already connected (and family who have vowed to pitch in).
A quite lovely reminder of what today is about can be found on the blog Sailors Small Farm.
My own father was a baby during WWII, but my husband’s father was stationed in North Africa and spent the war servicing Lancaster bombers. Our boys are very fortunate to have a grandfather who returned home largely unscathed (at least outwardly) by the war, and who survived into their early childhood. He left us a few years ago, but Grandad Roy is remembered as an amazingly resourceful man who could fix or make anything with his bare hands and ingenuity.
I remember all too well the elderly man who spent hours upon hours pottering in his workshed at the bottom of the garden, a cigarette pinched between his lips as he concentrated on the workings of something or other, but love to imagine the stories that live on of him as a young man, a person I never knew. Always restless and full of focused energy, Roy was known in wartime for foregoing essential daytime naps under the hot African sun in favour of hunting. I can imagine how popular he must have been, showing up with some fresh meat for a meal, after endless rations of bully beef.
Remembering one individual in this way is, for me, a tremendous reminder of all of the unique and individual lives cut short by war. Lives that might have been.
The clutter levels at home seem to have risen to epic levels, and I’ve reached the point at which I tend to get freaked out. The clutter exists for mostly good reasons, and I’m a firm believer in a life well lived over a house well cleaned, but I have my limits. In truth, I crave a certain order, although I certainly never want to feel that I live in a magazine spread (though I bet it would feel great for a weekend!).
A clean house is the sign of a misspent life. Author Unknown
A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1966
Please don’t feed the dust bunnies. Author Unknown
If I take stock from these pictures, they are good reminders that we are busy doing good and interesting things, but I could not rest this evening until I’d spent a good 90 minutes just blitzing all of the clutter seen in these pictures, taken last evening.
Does anyone else take small comfort from the quotes that I’ve shared here when the clutter threatens sanity and general well-being? Is your threshold for chaos generally low, high or somewhere in the middle? Of all these quotes, I do believe that Ms. Diller’s is the most spot-on (certainly for where I am in my life), and it’s something I remind myself of almost daily. Although I love this closing quote almost as much.
My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you? Erma Bombeck