Friday, March 30, 2012

For the Birds

As promised here is a little playlist to accompany the lovely birdsong that is bringing spring on the wind.  Spring is taking its time with us this year, teasing us with some sunshine here and there but bringing rains and winds that stir the juices regardless.  I hope this means a long and hot summer to come.

Cicadas & Gulls - Feist
Big Bird in a Small Cage - Patrick Watson
Sweet Bird - Joni Mitchell
Norwegian Wood (This Bird has Flown) - The Beatles
Given to Fly - Pearl Jam
Black Crow - Joni Mitchell
Emperor Penguin - The Tragically Hip
Flightless Bird, American Mouth - Iron & Wine
The Birds on the Bridge - The Deep Dark Woods
Blackbird - The Beatles
Bird Guhl - Antony & the Johnsons
Song to a Seagull - Joni Mitchell
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
And Your Bird Can Sing - The Beatles
The Littlest Birds - The Be Good Tanyas

You may have noticed several Joni songs, she sings about birds a lot.  As do The Beatles but you can't deny the classics.  Feel free to add your favorites in the comments and get out and enjoy the birds.  I plan on doing a bit more to honour them this spring, I'll be back with more on that soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book of the Month: Simple Food

My travels through food literature and cookbooks continue.  Each month I try and see what's out there and refine my skills in the kitchen.  One thing that I am learning as I follow recipes, and read introductions and learn more and more about cooking and baking is that all cookbooks are not created equally.  Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution is an exceptional cookbook.  It is straightforward and doesn't ask for complexity right away.  Instead you can follow each step as if you weren't trained in cooking...because we haven't all been.  I certainly love the detail she goes into when explaining how to melt the chocolate for her Chocolate Cake, how to add the chocolate to the batter, when to mix in warm water and to have room temperature everything!  Following her recipe step by step made lovely looking and tasting cupcakes for Elliott's birthday party.  I also read her directions for Frittata and made Herb butter which she recommended rolling and storing in the freezer for a quick addition to fish coming out of the oven.  This book is going into my personal cookbook library as a reference for so many important dishes and skill sets. Waters is a Slow Food enthusiast, owner of Chez Panisse and a food activist championing the cause for clean, fresh and sustainable food systems.  If you are learning to cook or want to expand your repertoire this is a must on your kitchen's cookbook shelf. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring birthday

Despite the fact that I was reminded that Elliott is in fact a Winter baby since he was born before the Equinox,  his birth's proximity to the date still makes him my Spring baby.  And here are some celebration pictures from a day of cupcakes, lunch and Peter Rabbit.

Just like his brother before him E took a mid-party nap.  There were several of us big kids that would have loved to have a nap too.

The nap was helpful in that it gave him lots of energy for cake eating.  Cupcakes are so cute for the first taste since they fit nicely in the hand.

So my spring baby is now 1.  I want to thank everyone who helped us with the party and who came to celebrate.  It means so much to be surrounded by love from near and far on these special days.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Elliott's eleven

Well here we are, my baby is one today.  All the celebration part will be shared later on as the party is tomorrow.  Today is about his eleventh month which held some big stuff for such a little guy.  On the day he turned eleven months we were at Emergency getting an x-ray and prodding and poking to find out what was making him so ill.  We did get some answers and he was on the mend soon after.
The big news of the month was taking his first steps and by today becoming a walker!  He will still crawl sometimes but is using walking as his primary transport method.  I love the pride in his face, along with the joyful smile when he walks toward me.  Priceless.

This will be the last of E's months updates and I feel lucky that my little guy will be able to look back on these posts someday to see his first year's progress.  It has literally flown by and I marvel at the pace that humans grow even though it is slow compared to many other mammals.
Eventually I'll post his birth story as well.  All in good time.  For now I must get back to food prep, and sharing the day with my two sons who are growing up right before my eyes at such a crazy pace.
Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

around here

 Our days are very full right now.  Party planning, new classes, time change adjustments, sleepovers, there are lots of things to do and of course not enough hours to do them all.  Somehow I've found time to read and rest somewhat, in a fashion I suppose.  I think I may be learning how to go into the moments in the last weeks.  I have a sense that even though I'm in part of the rough that the lovely is still shimmering through here and there and it is worth watching and breathing in.  The balance of light approaches and this time always puts me in a space that feels like being suspended; peaking over the hill at the possibilities, mapping them out to be sure there is time while at the same time letting the rooted feeling of day to day get into the marrow and mark its stamp on me.  When this time of year rolls around it always gives me such a feeling of hope and pause.  Just be.  And then soon enough things shift again.  Despite the strangeness of it I think it is as close to the idea of perfection as I've ever come.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Limiting the limitless

A little rant of sorts has been drifting through my tired brain these last few weeks.  It was sparked by a dawning in my mind of an idea that isn't shared much in the crafty mama blogs that I read.  Searching for inspiration in blogland is not hard.  There are tons of smart and accomplished people out there doing what seems like it all.  Urban homesteading or moving to the farm, entrepreneurs, professionals, creative women making time to take classes or read and learn skills for making the everyday less consumerist and more handmade.
I am so inspired by this, often it lights a fire in this dreamer's soul and I accomplish things and have the courage to try.  And even if I don't try those specific ideas the fact that someone else is makes me glad and gives me a sense of accomplishment for the things I do make my own.
And that is what I wanted to share today.  How have I made the choices to "do" or "admire".  What criteria I have considered and why I think that limitations are really important, especially for mamas today.
Just to put some background on myself before I begin to list my limits: I'm neither a Type A personality nor a perfectionist.  I think motivation is often highly affected by these things.  Feeling compelled to "do it all" is more typical of those traits.  I have lots of laid-back, "good enough" in me.  That is both a blessing and a curse.  But knowing that about yourself can help you to set and not overreach your own limits.  Where do you fall in the spectrum in between master of all trades and master of none?
So setting the scene with me not being a master of all trades type I have chosen to work and become as proficient as possible at skills that resonate strongly with me:

Gardening.  Each year I plant.  I water, weed and tend.  I have had some success and lots of failure here.  There is little that I would pass on in terms of advice because I consider myself a novice at best.
My goal is to one day have a vegetable garden and hopefully a space that I could tend with Permaculture principals in mind.  For now I have a small front bed and my balcony.  I love flowers, herbs, fostering space for bees, birds and butterflies, and producing some food for the family.  I do not aspire to produce all or even most of our food, the level of skill, time and space that I would need for that is beyond my scope and desire.  An example of how I have set my gardening limit is by planting some edibles and flowers together, building on past success while still experimenting as well.  This year I'll plant more snap peas (which were our biggest success last year) a cucumber that does well in containers, have our first rhubarb harvest, and I hope to plant a raspberry bush in our front plot as well.  I'm going to give tomatoes a go again, despite two years of failure but I will research the variety better than I did before.
What I won't do or don't aspire to do is have chickens or bees of my own.  I support the efforts of those that do.  I think it is wonderful really.  But I don't want to care for any other beings right now.  And in the case of bees, chickens or anything other than a dog or maybe a turtle, I'm out.  I told Ky he could have a dog when he's ten.  By then he'll at least be able to care for it and the boys will be older and I'll feel more able to care for something that will have such dependence on us.

Food.  Glorious food.  Food culture, food politics, food accessibility.  Feeding us is a huge part of my life right now and will continue to be for many years to come.   Since I have committed to eating whole foods, organic and local as much as possible I feel learning to cook them to the best of my ability is important.  Not only cooking is high on my list, preserving food is also crucial to our style of nourishment.  So canning, freezing, and fermenting fall into this category.  That being said I'm sticking to learning about bread and meal prep as well as baking.  I won't be making mead, kombucha, or beer.  The main issue here being storage of large buckets, bottles and again the time involved.  Cheese and yogurt are possibilities in the future but more out of fun than providing for all or our dietary needs.  I also won't be making our soap, most cleaning products or many herbal remedies.  My reasoning here is that there are many local options for me to support others in these endeavors.  And again I don't want to store the supplies needed to make these things nor try to fit the tasks into our schedule.  Dave and I do have hobbies we share but he is not the ultimate do-it-yourself type guy.  We won't be spending our Saturday nights making soap though I applaud those that do and understand their motivations.

In the creative department I sew and embroider.  Those are my art, my future plan of personal and professional  fulfillment.  They are areas that this non-perfectionist most needs to perfect if that makes sense. Building a technical skill base to make the ideas in my head manifest into pieces for other to see.  That being said I don't knit or crochet.  I don't do pottery, professional photography, or cross-stich.  I want to be really good at sewing, quilting and working in fabric.  Bringing knitting onto the scene would divide my attention.  That doesn't mean that I'll never knit, there may be lots of time for learning it in the future but for now I'm refraining from yarn.

In the interest of keeping this long post from going into overdrive I'll list the other areas that I put my time into (or plan to in the future).  I am enjoying how these things are revealing themselves to me as time progresses.  I'm sure the list will change, expand or contract depending on circumstances and you know, life as it unfolds.

Reading :: blogs, poetry, fiction and non-fiction
Writing my blog
Outdoors :: hiking, camping, travel, environmental protection
Feminism :: woman's issues, politics and democratic rights, maternal health

Thanks for sticking with me here. I'm wrapping up I promise.  What this all means is that in the limitless world before me whether on the internet or not I have to stop my dreamer self from creating a world that is impossible to sustain.  I'd love to do everything well.  Most of the things I listed above that I don't/won't do are not for lack of interest but are more about prioritizing.  The wonderful women that I read about who pursue these skills are admirable and most likely have their own lists whether they are conscious ones or not.  We all prioritize and some things inevitably don't make the list.  And that is good.  They can always be tried later or celebrated through another means.  Let's avoid burn-out, feeling like we are not stacking up to those around us or comparisons.  For those that seem to do it all I am sure that they are not.  No one does.  We are all just doing our best to fulfill our dreams and master what is really dear to our hearts.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When it rains...

we go for a walk anyway.  At least that's what I decided today.  This week was a bit quieter for us and mama was starting to go stir crazy.  So despite the cold, wet and downright soggy conditions outside our door we loaded up with chips & some cheese, did some errands and headed to the trail. 

We had many companions on our journey on this dreary day: ducks, seagulls, pigeons, hardcore joggers, another mama with a sleeping stroller babe, some ladies with umbrellas, strange, hovering insects that looked like winter mosquitoes (!?!) and my favorites (other than the boys) lovely birds singing happily away. 
Rain, heck they love the stuff.  It was all happy birdsong out on the marsh by the lake today.  And something in their songs lifted my heart out of the marshy lowlands and into a rejuvenated spirit of it's good to be alive.  The cold does that to me.  It's something about the promise of warmth later that makes me enjoy the chill.

And then there is the beauty of nature.  The colours of spring emerging out of the west coast winter gray. 

Yellows and vibrant peachy pinks are in this spring, nature has a jump on the fashion trends.   And as for the birds I am making them a playlist.  Please leave a comment with your favorite bird song if one comes to mind and I'll share the playlist when I finish it off.  Have a great weekend.