Monday, November 30, 2009

The right kind of clutter: a collection of houseplants in a mixture of terra cotta and colour glazed pottery, stacks of books, cushions, warm colours on soft furnishings and walls-not too matchy, favourite items both decorative and useful on display, mismatched hard furnishings (new mixed with antiques and antique/family pieces), bowls of fruit in the kitchen and glass storage jars showing off the colours of staple dry goods such as red lentils, green split peas, black turtle beans and tan chick peas.

For a few months after we moved back into our renovated home I contemplated living in a pared down de-cluttered sort of decor. Everything we owned had been boxed up and stored for nearly two years. I reasoned that if I didn't miss it or had forgotten it existed then I didn't need it. In the end that proved to be somewhat true and I did make very selective choices about what went back into the house, but I need to be surrounded by things I love. I prefer a home to reflect the personality and the life of it's occupants. A the very least I cannot live without books plants and candles. We live on the coast of British Columbia, rocks, seashells and bits of driftwood also make their way in. I don't do tablescapes-I know they look lovely but my husband and son think the coffee table is for spreading papers all over. I have to live realistically.

Most things in our home have a story of some sort and have been personally chosen by my husband and myself. Some of those are inherited things and these all have stories too. One of the best is the occasional table we know as the "Bob is a bum" table. It is a table from my husband's grandmother, it was in the house where his father and uncle grew up and was probably in the hall or foyer. We don't know as my husbands grandmother, uncle and father all passed away over a decade ago. It has a little drawer that is to small to be very useful and it isn't more than two and a half feet tall. A child sitting underneath this table would look up at the little drawer's sides, and a child, probably Uncle Don, once wrote about his older brother. Bob in some sort of fit of pique. In blue ink it says, "Bob is a bum. Don is right when he says Bob is a bum."

In our solid oak dinning table, once belonging to my great grandmother, a marble has been inserted inside some of the support pieces under the table top. It is a round top which can be removed from the pedestal for transport and storage. My great grandmother had four boys who enjoyed playing tricks on her. The story my grandfather told me was that the boys installed the marble so that it was in a hollow space where it could roll freely across the width of the table whenever the table top was removed and turned on its side. The goal was to make their long suffering mother think something was broken. We would never dream of having that marble removed.

The Bob is a bum table is, you guessed it, covered in plants and books. And yes there is a candle there too. The oak dinning table is in my lovely red conservatory like dinning room, surrounded by many potted plants and when not supporting family dinners it is covered in the work of grade five and six students, waiting for me to sort it all out and mark it. Although I want my home to be beautiful, I wouldn't want to live in a show room. Good architecture is important to me, and my home should be invitingly real. The clutter of my life. It's stuff I can live with.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It is almost December and the party season is looming. Two staff parties will be at my house this year, but fortunately I don't have to cook for either one. My husband's staff usually chooses a caterer and my staff likes to do pot luck. Our home is very suitable for large gatherings and I like to stay so home so much I'm quite happy to have the party come to me. I don't like to fuss and am able to relax and enjoy myself so long as I know my house is clean. Here are my must haves for hosting a pot luck or catered Christmas party.

Simple decorations: greenery, branches, the Christmas tree if the even takes place after December tenth.

Clean bathrooms and plenty of extra hand towels. I find that people don't feel comfortable with the smaller guest towels. I put two clean hand towels out and check part way through the evening to see if I need to refresh them. A very simple, large and stable candle with a book of matches so people can get rid of embarrassing smells.

*Soy candles in as many places as I can accommodate them.
* A fire in the fireplace.
*Christmas music and other background music mixed-we all have our own favourites-my husband and I lean towards blues and he is crazy about Cuban music. I'm sure that will get played at some point.
*lots of coasters available for drinks that get put down
*a coffee and tea station
* a nearly empty and clean fridge because these are bring your own booze parties

One year I made tiny, delicate paper snowflakes like the ones in the top picture. With careful packing they lasted a few seasons. I hung them from my son's bedroom ceiling when he was little.

...and speaking of snowflakes, I have to confess I don't understand the trend of decorating in all white and icy blue. If it is cold outside, don't you want your indoor Christmas decor to feel warm and cozy? Some of the photos in the current House and Home magazine features some very icy looking decor. That sure isn't for me.

(photos from Flickr, Canadian House and Home magazine, current issue)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Some more Blaspheming: you know you like it.

These images are from flickr but my son makes a gingerbread house every year that looks similar to this. Then, when it has sat out for a month and is covered in dust, he and my husband eat it.

I don't really like Christmas all that much. I know, I know, it horrifies most people when I say that. It might be the decorating that I dislike most. I used to like it and as a child I loved to decorate the tree, I'm not really sure what changed. Christmas decorations just get in the way and seem messy to me. I like the stuff I have around me, it's there because I like it it, so I don't want to put it away just so I can have Christmas themed things on my mantle and shelves instead. If I don't put things away it is just too cluttered and confusing. I dislike fake greenery but the real stuff gets dried out, the berries turn black and fall off and it all just looks sad after a week. Putting up a tree requires rearranging the furniture in a less desirable configuration than usual and again, after a week or two, when ornaments fall off and are put back on repeatedly, the tree gets a tired and messy look. Lights outside, well those are okay. I kind of like those.

Christmas presents are tricky. I don't think we need to buy gifts for everyone to show our love. I'm not completely against consumerism, it has a place in developing an economy that helps communities to thrive, but Christmas encourages extensive consumption, both in the gifts and the wrappings and packaging. Homemade gifts can be nice, but the key word there is can be. Yes it is the thought that counts but I neither need nor want a pencil holder made from coloured popsicle sticks glued to an empty tomato tin. Crafters sometimes confuse what they like making with what people want or need to receive. Am I shocking you? My point is that even homemade gifts can contribute to waste or unnecessary consumption. Don't purchase those popsicle sticks on my behalf. If I need it, I can afford it. If I want it, I can save up for it. I have started asking family members to donate to charities as a Christmas gift to me.

The family gathered around a festive meal is pleasant, I do admit that. In my situation we are a small family and most of us live in the same town. We have family gatherings all the time, regularly celebrating each others' birthdays with dinners together. My brother's family and my brother-in-law are the only family members who don't live near us. They are on the other side of this vast country and traveling across it is so expensive they cannot afford to join us every year. Christmas, although primarily for me it is a celebration of family, is a gathering of our usual small group, not a time for being with loved ones we hardly ever see. I love them all, but don't need Christmas as an occasion to see them or demonstrate my love.

If you know anything about me, you know by now that I am not participating in a Christian Christmas. There is no celebrating the birth of Jesus, or talk about the true meaning of Christmas in my family. I tell myself, and anyone who asks, that for me Christmas is the celebration of friends and family, of love and support and togetherness. That isn't a lie, but the reason that I am not emotionally attached to Christmas is that I don't need Christmas to celebrate that. I celebrate it every day. So I don't need a gift, the evergreens can stay outdoors where they belong and I really don't want to move my furniture around, please don't make me. I like the New Year much better as something to celebrate, although I haven't been to a New Year's party in, well, years. I don't even stay up to midnight anymore. You're quit fed up with me, I know. But in a world where the Christmas merchandise is in stores right after Remembrance day, if not sooner, the whole theme drags on far too long for me. I'm just sayin....

Here's what I'll be using to decorate with this season.

dried citrus slices, cinnamon sticks, ribbons and evergreen branches in vases with red twigs
I'm on the look out for high quality/realistic faux berry sprays-I'm very picky about these
dark red poinsettias, nuts in the shells, pomegranates and creamy soy candles

I like to decorate around December tenth and everything goes on New Year's day. My husband, who loves Christmas, has accepted this compromise.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Regrets, but Thanks For Your Concern

Around the time I was a few months pregnant I came to realize that I wasn't averse to only having one child. I don't recall my husband and I ever really discussing how many we would have, I think it was a one at a time sort of plan. He is one of four siblings and I am one of two. I'm sure we expected that we would have two children. I don't know what it was exactly that got me thinking about only one; I remember having a cup of tea at my parents' house one day ( they live in the same town as I do) and discussing the subject with my Dad, who is himself an only child. Something in me must have know, must have sensed what my future would hold.

I am a person with limited energy ( and currently have lived ten years with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome) and high expectations of myself. My list of I should as well as the list of I want to is long. My son is fifteen, I had no such diagnosis back then but I knew that I couldn't be the kind of mother I wanted to be, in all honesty the kind of mother I think every mother should be, to more than one. My husband worried about financially supporting children in the lifestyle we wanted in addition to saving for post secondary education. This was a personal decision, based on what kind of parents, what kind of family we wanted to be and what we wanted give to our child, physically, emotionally, materially and what we wanted left over for ourselves.

If we happened to mention o people that we would probably only have one, they smiled indulgently, said I would forget all about the discomforts of pregnancy and soon be ready for another. We didn't mention it much. It has to be said that my pregnancy was not difficult but I would not say that I loved it. The childbirth part did not go well, but I only know that with hindsight really. At the time I had no idea that most women don't push for six hours before the child is pulled from their body with forceps. I'd had no sleep in over forty hours, but the moment I saw my son the adrenaline rushed in and I thought I would never sleep again. Who could sleep when the most beautiful creature you have ever seen is right there beside you, and he smells so good and his fuzzy little head feels so warm and soft under your lips.

The next few weeks were bliss and torture combined. There are war stories to tell that is for certain, but I would do it all again to have this wonderful human being in my life. The memories of the last fifteen years can bring me tears of joy. I miss my baby, my little boy, but the young man now living in our house is a wonderful person of whom I am so proud. He is kind and gentle and funny and smart. He is handsome and athletic. Some day he will make a very loving husband and father if that is in his future. He hopes that it is. He has such a nurturing instinct that he is now wishing he had a little sister. Why a sister? He has two good friends who have little sisters and he has always been intrigued by their relationships. He wants a very little one, no older than eight. He knows this is not really going to happen and that a sister is not like a pet. He and I have talked about it often. He wishes we could adopt and he's willing to share his grandparents, his belongings, his parents, his bathroom and even the guest room, which he has taken over in addition to having his own bedroom. What a thing to long for! Not a playmate, he has those. Not a dog, he isn't that comfortable with dogs. He wants a little sister to look after.

While I was still pregnant I read a book I found in the library that reassured me it was fine to have only one child. Only children have often been stigmatized, much more so than youngest, middle or first-born children. I don't recall the title or the author but she had credentials enough to give me reassurance and she quoted studies that showed only children were no more likely to long for siblings ( and yes they will sometimes long for siblings) than children with siblings were likely to wish they didn't have them. I read about spoiling. A child is spoiled if you give in to demands in order to stop temper tantrums. A child is spoiled if they are in control and you, the parent aren't. There is a difference between spoiling and indulging. Indulging might not do the child any favours in the end, but spoiling results from ineffective parenting and creates an unpleasant child. I knew we were not going to be ineffective parents.

So we raised a child who was loved and adored by a small group of adult relatives. He had not siblings or cousins, and spent most of his time in the company of adults. He knew love and security and has a great relationship with aunts, uncles and grandparents. He is mature and responsible because he talks about life with adults. He was always shy as a young child but made some friends and has three close friends he has known since their days together in pre-school. He is like his mother and grandmother and can be a loner, easily spending time by himself. He loves to do things with his family such as family movie night or family game night. He hangs out in the living room with his parents while listening to his favourite music, rarely shutting himself away in his room as many teens do. I have no regrets, I am proud of the mother I have been and continue to be. It hasn't always been an uneventful ride, and if I know anything about being a parent from watching friends and family I know that I am forever a parent.

Early in my son's life people felt it was their duty to tell me that it was time to have that second child. Never our closest friends and family, they are far to intelligent and much too good to ever be so rude. Still I am amazed at what acquaintances and neighbours believed it was appropriate to say. Perhaps it is unfair to suggest they thought it was appropriate. I might assume that they never thought at all before they spoke. For how were they to know that it wasn't impossible for me to have another child and that I wasn't daily shattered by this reality, barely finding the strength to go on? Regardless, I regularly fielded comments like, "It's time you gave that boy a little brother or sister." Well, Shawna, isn't it time for the next one? Come on." Shocking really, and if I were able to cry at will I would love to have burst into tears and told that that I had suffered bloody miscarriage after miscarriage and that I was so internally damaged I would never have another child. I felt they deserved that, but although I am actually a pretty good actress, I'm not a good liar.

The most astounding lecture came from an acquaintance who is both a teacher like myself and married to a co-worker of my husband. I have forgiven her because she had consumed a few drinks by then, but while she elaborated on her own style of mothering, which quite frankly I did not agree with, she also told me that I would probably be psychologically damaging my child. In her professional opinion she had seen many only children at school, she said, and they were always odd. She went on to explain how they expected adult conversation and wouldn't just go away and play with the other children. And usually the parents are a little odd too, tending to be indulgent and fussy. Believe it or not I just listened and stated only that I disagreed. If I had wanted to criticize her mothering I certainly could have. Sometimes I am surprised at how nice I am.

I am quite confidant that I have proven her theory wrong and that my son is not psychologically damaged. She probably has her own opinions still. People amaze me sometimes, especially with what they say while smiling at you and pretending to be your friend. Actually I'm sure this woman does believe she is my friend. All I can do is shake my head. The neighbours finally figured out that no second child is coming. And I am grateful to have true friends and family surrounding me who never judge or criticize. I am thankful everyday to those dear people who provide love me unconditionally. I may be struggling with my energy level, I certainly don't meet most of my own goals for getting things done in a day, but I always have a heart bursting with love for these people who make my life so wonderful. I have one child at home and nearly thirty when I go to work each day. I love them too, with all the love they deserve and all that I have to give. Criticize my choices if you must, but don't think for a minute that I regret them.
I promised a recipe

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends. It is good to be grateful every day not just on this day of celebrating the bountiful harvest. In my daily practice I find that meditating on some of the many things I have to be grateful for is an appropriate ending to my day.

I am very grateful to Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis for their book, BEcoming Vegetarian and the following recipe they include in it.

African Stew

1 onion, chopped
4 cups veg stock or water
2 cups peeled, diced yams or sweet potatoes
1 cup cooked chick peas
1 cup brown rice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups chopped collards or kale
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tamari or Bragg soy liquid
or chili sauce to taste

In a large pot, sautee onions in 2 tbsp stock for about five minutes. Add remaining stock, vegetables and rice. Add salt and simmer 45 minutes. In a small bowl put peanut butter and a small amount of liquid from the stew. Stir into a smooth paste. Add the peanut butter mixture along with the greens and stir. Cook for five minutes. Stir in lemon juice and remaining seasonings. Makes about 4 servings.

This is one of my very favourites.

A little lightheartedness

and a recipe to follow

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

California here I come (and Oregon too)

Just when you thought I would blaspheme no longer, I'm about to say it, I can't help myself, I hate Disneyland.

Wait-I need drugs-please excuse me while I go to find something that might alleviate the aches in by body and my throbbing head.
I'm back-pardon the digression but that is a scary kitchen downstairs. It's good to retreat to the safety of my bed. A teenaged boy and his pathetic-with-cold mother wander randomly in and out of said kitchen fending for themselves. Wonderful husband, who is so skilled at picking up the pieces, and who has learned after 25 years that men who do dishes get more sex, wonderful husband is out of town doing his union president, socialist thing in a community where great upheaval has just happened due to closing of offices and the usual top-down do as we say management decisions have taken place. He cares so much about people and fairness, that hubby of mine. I'm so proud of him.

Okay, that was a big digression, wasn't it. A little peek into the crazy rambling brain of mine.

Disneyland. Yes, that's right, I can't stand it. I've been twice, which was once too many as far as I'm concerned. The first time was as a child and I probably did kind of enjoy it, although not so much that I thought to myself, I must go back there repeatedly. I've been accused of having no inner child, no joie de vivre, people are truly shocked that someone could not like Disneyland. It's quite simple, really. I don't even have to work at it. I have never liked rides all that much. Some are okay once I get on them, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do that. As a child I found it thrilling to go to Vancouver (the big city nearest my small town) and ride an escalator or two. That got it all out of my system. I don't care much for escalators now because they are to slow. I have places to go people!

Disney is so plastic. And you haven't yet been treated to my feelings about plastic-I loathe plastic. The food is bad, expensive and did I mention that it is bad? Good food is very important to me. And then there are the princesses. I can't stand princesses. What are Disney princesses mostly about? How beautiful am I and where is my prince? Okay, Mulan might be an exception but I didn't see her anywhere the last time I was at Disney. It's not that I object to pretty dresses so much as what these Disney princesses represent about females. Did Snow White have a brain? Did sleeping Beauty have any merits other than looking pretty while she slept? Okay, Whatsername-from Beauty and the Beast, I guess she liked animals, maybe she was okay. Oh and then there is the horrible stereotyping of the south at the Old Time Jamboree or whatever that is called. Nothing at Disney relates to my life experiences or any that I would want to have. It doesn't even come close to my fantasy world.

A couple of years ago my husband and son decided another trip to Disney was needed. Yes, they like Disney and can't figure me out at all. Since it was a road trip I made sure all of the other plans would suit me and I targeted Santa Cruz, California as my main reason for the trip. We spent two days in San Francisco. I loved it there; I could live there I'm sure. It was expensive though, especially since we were paying with the Canadian dollar, and it wasn't our main destination, so the budget was tight. I loved the architecture and the picturesque beauty of the Presidio. I hope to return sometime and see more. I didn't get to try out any vegetarian restaurants but was successful with a Japanese restaurant. I want to go to second hand shops and thrift shops and flea markets. I think I should start a campaign for a direct flight to San Francisco from my local airport.

After San Francisco we drove along the coast to Santa Cruz. It is such a beautiful drive and I am so passionate about the ocean, the rugged coastline, the wild flowers.....I hope to return soon. And don't I just love Santa Cruz! I had originally hoped to stay at a bed and breakfast that advertised vegan home cooking, a relax and hang around our gardens all day attitude and an acceptance of medical marijuana use. Unfortunately they were no longer in business. We stayed at a regular motel which was nice and clean, had a great pool and was in waking distance to everything we wanted. We had three days there whih would be followed by four days in Anaheim where my husband and son would "do Disneyland" and I would not.

Santa Cruz has a beachside amusement park, which was not completely open for the tourist season (this was May) until the following weekend. Still there was enough there to keep my guys occupied while I happily cruised downtown. Oh I was in heaven. There were coffee shops and book stores and dozens of shops selling various funky imported items like colourful scarves, carvings and jewelry. There was a whole foods store (not the chain Whole Foods) where I stocked up on items for my kitchenette in the Anaheim hotel. There was organic cotton and hemp clothing, and best of all, there was a gorgeous little restaurant which served raw foods, vegan/vegetarian foods and delicious juices and smoothies. I wish I could remember the name of it, but I know I could find it if I return to Santa Cruz. I signed up for an e-mail newsletter including recipes but I've never received it. I hope they still exist. I ate every lunch and dinner there for my entire stay. I haven't ventured into any raw food preparation on my own because it seems so fussy, although I did buy a cookbook (uncookbook) there. The raw food I ate at this restaurant was delicious. Oh if I could afford my own raw vegan chef.......

So eventually we arrived in Anaheim. I had convinced my husband that we should stay at the Marriot Suits, a lovely little collection of cottagey four-plexes with sidewalks and gardens connecting it all. I had, after all to spend four days there, not going to Disneyland. Anaheim offers little to do if you are in the Disney neighbourhood and trying to get around on foot. Eventually I ventured into the city proper with my car and located a health food store. Finding organic vegetables was next to impossible, and as I have been lectured by a border guard about how Canadians don't spray nearly enough pesticides on their produce, I was not inclined to buy anything non-organically grown. I was missing Santa Cruz. How different this place, only six hours' drive south, was from where I had just been. The girl in the supermarket had not even heard of Santa Cruz. The mexicans planting palm trees on the boulevards seemed horrified that I spoke to them. I had to drive blocks to find a coffee shop that offered soy milk and all of that effort was because I couldn't find soy milk in the supermarket.

This spring my husband and son are going to return to Disney. A good friend of mine lives in Portland, Oregon and I am going to stay with her. From there, my boys will continue on without me, only the big surprise my husband has for our son is a flight to Disney World in Florida instead of Disney Land. I, on the other hand will scout out thrift and antique shops, Portland's famous vegan mall and have a wonderful time baking vegan muffins for my dear friend and her adorable twin boys. It will be the first time our little family of three has split up like that. It will be the first time my two travel on an airplane for such a distance without me and of course I'm nervous. Planes are safer than cars right? I'm looking forward to my own trip, but will I be able to relax?

All reassurances welcome. Thank you, dear friends.

( I could provide some beautiful photos of our trip but my husband is the real photographer in our family and the photos are all on his computer. I will have to get his photos in my iphoto application pronto)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Monday. A short post today because I'm afflicted with a cold. I write now, sitting up in bed but will soon be lying down again I'm sure. I've slept for a bit so am somewhat bored now.

Do you like movies that are a little different? I'm rather famous in my family for picking odd ones, or perhaps I should say infamous. I love to check out the international section where odd ones with subtitles abound. Recently I watched Luna Papa, a surreal and I must say wackily charming movie set in Tajikistan. A dreamy young girl who wants to be an actress and loves all things to do with acting sets off, with the help of her father and demented older brother, to the city to see a performance of Shakespeare. She arrives too late and wanders alone through the night. In a peculiar scene that has to do with falling down a cliff, (this is where it is most surreal) she has a sexual encounter with an unknown man and becomes pregnant. The story is told by the child that results from this encounter, although we never meet the child. The search for this man, the father of the child is zany one, hilarity mixed with the realities of living in this superstition and tradition, where soldiers and dry dusty landscape mix with poverty and small town lack of privacy. The ending was nearly a happy one, but the chance occurrence of a bull falling from an airplane put an end to that. The conclusion was once again from the land of surreal.

What I enjoyed most about this movie were the colours. In this land so unfamiliar and I confess so uninviting to me, I saw sand and sky in soft creams and beiges, tinged with gold and pink. The nearby water, a lake I think but I'll have to check y atlas, was pale aqua. The people, living in a land of pastel, wore brilliant colours and patterns mixed together that no fashion exert could ever condone and yet to me it was so much more appealing than anything on the runway. Sometimes I want to cry when I walk into clothing store after clothing store offering only neutral colours. I walk out again so fast. If I wore to work what the people of this community ( as represented in this movie) wore I would be considered colour blind perhaps, or at the best very boho. We are so affluent that we think it matters if your clothes are colour coordinated and you tastefully restrict your use of prints. So affluent that clothes can be a hobby. Designers create things that we call art and are elevated to must have but only few can afford status. We go shopping to find the perfect something to go with something else. We own more than one coat and one pair of shoes. I'm not saying this is bad; I love clothes an shoes and bags. It certainly is decadent. Art is decadent. But, I was so struck by the art of the artless. Just as nature throws together colours and textures and patterns and it all belongs, we should learn from this and remember that we are like flowers in the garden of the universe. Colour my friends, colour. Toss it around you, toss it on you, mix it DONT match it. Try it just once.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm tired and aching today, I hope it doesn't mean anything viral. It's another grey november day and I still haven't dug up my dahlia tubers. Next weekend it must be done.

The garden is a little soggy but calendula are still blooming. They are such a hardy plant, usually blooming right through winter here. Their cheerful orange and yellow colours against the jade and emerald greens are so pretty. I haven't got a photo of them. Next weekend it is supposed to be sunny. Or at least not rainy. It might be a good day for taking some photos

Okay, so now you are wondering why I have a photo of an unknown female in tight jeans. The look reminded me so much about what the cool girls looked like in junior high school. I remember them dressed like this at school dances, with their hair carefully curled by their curling iron, mauve eyeshadow and black mascara. They danced carefully, I suspect either out of fear they might sweat or they might look silly. Just a tiny little step to the right and another tiny little step to the left, a careful toss of the head, matching their timing to the slowest possible fractional equivalent of the music's tempo. Some were blondes, some brunettes. Some were gorgeous and some could fake it. Every boy wanted to dance with one of them during Stairway to Heaven. Sometimes the boys wanted to dance with me too. I was so tall that many of them were still only chest height.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Time For a Recipe

Potluck Casserole

1 cup cooked black eyed peas
1 cup cooked pearl barley
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 onion, minced
2 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
salt, pepper and poultry seasoning to taste

I want to re-name poultry seasoning and I suppose I could list the herbs separately, but poultry seasoning is convenient.

Using the margarine and olive oil, saute the onions over medium heat. When onions are translucent add celery and mushrooms and cook a few minutes more.

Black eyed peas don't need to be soaked. Rinse and cook them the day before or use canned ones for convenience. Cook about 30 minutes so they are tender but not mushy.

Cooking barley is similar to cooking rice. Use a 2:1 ratio water to barley and cook until water is absorbed which is usually abut 30 minutes.

Combine the barley, peas, sauteed veggies and the seasonings in a casserole dish. Cover and bake about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This makes a good dish for Thanksgiving meals and it goes well with sauteed greens and sweet potatoes. It is mildly flavoured so spice it up if that is your preference.
Compassion Is Always Beautiful



Living with compassion is the meaning of life. Ask why we are here and there is no answer. Ask what we should do while we are here and it all becomes clear. We should live with compassion.

But what does that mean? Begin with compassion for yourself. You are a human being of many feelings and emotions, susceptible to pain and receptive to joy. Which do you prefer? All human beings are like you in that way. All experience pain and joy. You must love yourself in order to love others, but it isn't always easy to love ourselves. Begin with loving yourself.

Most of us are familiar with the golden rule, do unto others as you would have done unto you. How amazingly simple and yet so profound. Sometimes we think that means treat others the way you would like to be treated and I have sometimes heard it explained that way. It reaches a little more deeply than that, although that is a great explanation for small children. Twenty five years ago, when my husband and I were first together, we had to learn for ourselves how to move from a literal understanding to a more compassionate understanding. This happened quite specifically when either one of us was sick.

My husband and I react quite differently to being ill both physically and in our requirements for care. He rarely gets ill, but when he does it hits him hard and he goes right to bed. Once in bed he sleeps solidly for a day and wants no interruptions. The next day is spent on the couch and some tea or juice is required. Then he is well again. When I am sick it creeps up on me and I start to drag. When I finally do go to bed for some rest the chances are high that I will get hungry and thirsty but not be able to move myself. So what is it that I do when my beloved is sick? I continually wake him up trying to give him food and drink. When I am sick he tucks me in and leaves me there, never checking to see if I need anything. All of this is done with the greatest of love and the best of intentions. We are treating our loved one exactly as we ourselves would like to be treated.

Compassion requires a little more insight. We are doing well up to the point where we recognize that, like ourselves, the other person has needs, is vulnerable to suffering and desirous of joy. The challenge is providing the exact sort of care. Relationships, especially intimate ones are a journey towards this understanding. The simple part, the very essence of our humanity, is that we can look upon other living creatures and see a being, just like ourselves, vulnerable and fragile sometimes, fighting strong at other times. Just like ourselves. What do we want? We want to be loved, accepted, treated kindly, to experience joy and not to suffer. This is what all creatures want. How to deliver it to them may be the more challenging task, but feeling compassion for them starts with this understanding.

This won't work for everyone, but in my daily practice of compassion I take the powerful love I feel for my son and I look at everyone thinking, this is someone's baby. Everyone.

If you are vegan, this compassion extends to all living beings, according them the same rights to joy and freedom from suffering that you would wish to have.

In the spirit of compassion I attempt to be an informed consumer and use health and beauty products that neither test on animals nor use animal ingredients. Here are some of my favourites skin care companies. They are not exorbitantly priced and are becoming increasingly available in mainstream drugstores and grocery stores. If you like to spend more money, products abound.

Kiss My Face
Beauty Without Cruelty - BWC

Peta is always a source of information and their website has information on beauty products. If you are not interested in being bombarded with images of animals suffering in factory farms (something we should not be closing our eyes to) I recommend this website.

(I have this site bookmarked and I've checked, it is still there. This link isn't working although I've double checked in case I've made an error) Let me know if you spot an error. It's a good site.
Compassion is true beauty.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Youth is wasted on the young
-George Bernard Shaw

When I was a child I fell down a lot. I was always running, always in a hurry to get where I was going. Consequently I was usually decorated with bandages, especially on my knees and elbows and lost my toenail more than once due to a stubbed toe acquired while running up concrete steps in flip flops. (A quick aside here: in those days we called them thongs, but I might give you the wrong impression if I say that as a five year old I liked to run around in thongs.) In addition to the running and falling, I managed to fall off a swing while soaring to great heights and knocked my front teeth so loose they were removed by the dentist an hour later. Since I was five at the time and my adult teeth were nowhere near ready to come in, I spent several years with a charming toothless grin. In case you get the impression that I was a daredevil I will confess that a couple of years prior to these incidents I was too terrified to go into my own back yard due to the presence of a large and menacing beach ball.

Why am I telling these character damaging tales of my youth? Well, it seems that all of that early childhood dashing about was quite symbolic of a tendency towards haste that dominated my childhood right through to the infancy of my adulthood. I remember that as far back as eight years old, and perhaps earlier, all I wanted was to be a grown up. Blissfully ignorant of death and taxes I couldn't wait to move forward and shed youth. I pictured myself a strong and independent woman. The fantasies acted out in play provided me with my own funky apartment, a motorcycle and a fantastic career as a writer or veterinarian or singer and occasionally allowed a grateful man to be part of my life.

As much as it is tempting to smile indulgently at this little girl I once was, I am somewhat sad for her. She was so serious. In particular, she took herself too seriously. With a maturity often commented on by adults the poor little thing lived to please them and be accepted by them. All she wanted was to be one of them. The older she got the more trouble she had relating to her peers. The frivolity and immaturity of most teens was embarrassing to be associated with. While the other kids at school dressed in jeans, the girl who scorned childhood dressed like she had a job at an office. "You are quite the rebel." A teacher once said to her.

"oh no I'm not. Rebels dress in jeans. The other kids are the rebels" Rebels are kids, her twisted thinking told her. You are too mature to be a rebel.

Time sped by in the way that time does. Ms Not a Rebel entered her twenties and was dismayed to find out she was an infant in the adult world. Just a kid with no experience in work or in life. For a short time she lived in a small northern community where girls married their high school sweethearts and were matronly wife-mother creatures at the age of twenty five, with three kids, 50 extra pounds they would never lose and a Zellers credit card. To these women our poor Ms Not a Rebel was also Ms Not a Woman. Where did she belong? She was lost and confused.

Somehow she made it to her thirties, that wonderful decade of career building, marriage building and motherhood that kept her so busy there was no time to notice whether or not she was finally an adult. Then she died.

Please understand, dear friend, that is the best thing that could have happened to her. She died but it was not the end; no she was reborn. She had fun and she laughed and sometimes she was really immature, just for fun, just to be silly, and she shared her love and her laughter and all that she knew and all that she didn't know and it was okay. It was good. I'm so glad I met her. She is a great friend and companion. She keeps me from taking myself too seriously. She looks back at her past somewhat wistfully-oh to do it over! But there is time. There is so much time, because she has now. She always has now.


I have always loved this picture and have always loved my bedroom. It was an ineffective punishment for my parents to send me there because I loved it. It was my sanctuary. On the other hand, the real punishment for me was just the fact that they were angry with me.

I have posted photos of different bedrooms, the images from the Canadian House and Home website. Since my own bedroom is still a work in progress, I like to notice what attracts me to these rooms and how I can apply it in my own. Enjoy.
I took this from Sarah's blog, La Maison Boheme. I would love this in my bedroom.

This might be a headboard option for my room. I'm assuming it is bamboo or rattan. (I'm not an expert on how to tell the the difference) I might even convince my husband that it should be painted. (photo by Michael Graydon)
Wow! a concrete wall looks great with russet and brown. This is quite masculine but I love it. (photo by Michael Graydon)
Always attracted to a rustic look. I find the window too bare. It needs some kind of treatment. (photo by Michael Graydon)
Doors as headboard. I've seen a door used horizontally. This would be too tall for my room. (photo by Angus Fergusson)
This looks like Hotel chic to me. This phot caught my eye because I have a dormer nook just like it. My bed faces the dormer and I have an upholstered arm chair for reading in the nook. (photo by Angus McRitchie)
The room I'm most likely to have in a creamy/dreamy palette like this is the bedroom. There was a comment about this photo that it isn't good to have exposed beams in a bedroom because they feel like they are pressing down on you. I never thought of that before but I can see how that could be . (Source: Southern Living)
A rustic look always attracts me. I've always wanted an exposed brick wall. (photographer unknown)
I am really put off by the white accessories but I love the grey blue colour on the wall. ( photo by Angus Fergusson)
A monochrome neutral palette always looks so relaxing but a little bland at the same time. I am thinking about a similar project for a headboard but Painted wood is a sin in my house so I would match the medium pine of my bed and bedside tables. (photo by Stacey Branford)
How surprised I am to discover I like this black and white room. I might not be able to live with it though. Admiring it in a photo is one thing, living with it-well, I 'm sure I wouldn't be able to keep colour from creeping in. (photo by Kim Christie)

You may have noticed by now that I love colour. Not that I don't have my preferences. I have my own likes and dislikes about certain colours and combinations, and sometimes I fall for a neutral colour scheme, but I quite consistently don't care for much white. Sure, I'll contradict myself on that, but even in a pale scheme I prefer cream to stark white or a white and cream mix. My bedroom is a combination of deep rich blue and a creamy colour that is somewhat like pale chamois. It is in the eaves of the house and so the ceiling gives way to sloping walls. The ceiling and the walls are the cream colour and the short walls plus two regular height walls in a nook created by a dormer are blue. My bedding is white and cream mixed. My drapes are very plain, cream/linen coloured cotton. The furniture is medium to dark pine. The floor is natural fir. The window and all of the trim is also natural fir. Slowly I am adding the personal touches and decorating the room. I want to embellish the curtains and add a headboard. I have some of my own art work to hang, featuring bold colours and I have potted geraniums that are currently not in bloom. From the magazine Canadian House and Home, the photos above inspire me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'll get by with a little help from my friends.

A friend has suggested that my blogger name is offensive. Hmm...maybe I wanted to be a bit provocative. When I originally started posting I expected that my only readers would be people I already know and who know me. Those people know me as a warm, gentle, loving. kind, caring, nurturing person. I truly am that; I was raised to be polite and tactful even when someone is insulting me to my face. I'm quite laid back and actually an introverted person, although I like people very much.

I am also known amongst my friends for having strong opinions and no fears about voicing them. While in my younger days I enjoyed a good debate, I usually don't bother with that sort of thing now unless I meet someone else who truly loves the debate also. What I've found is that most people just want to win the debate. They want to convince you they are right and that isn't terribly conducive to friendship. I have fallen into that trap myself and it isn't where I want to be. As my blog name suggests, one topic on which I have strong opinions is in the area of religion.

It may be quite clear to you that I am not religious, and in fact I am not a believer at all. My assumption is that most of you would respond to that with "so what. Who cares" As I said, I originally thought my only readers would be people who already know me. I didn't imagine anyone else would find or be interested in my blog. So, I used a name that refers to the aspect of my personality that is rarely visible but is actually rather significant in defining who I am. I don't believe in god. I am not religious. (In case I have to spell it out for anyone) In some of my experiences that has led people to abandon our friendship; my non-belief was blasphemous and I was spawn of the devil. I'm not kidding-this happened. I thought it was an extreme and thus funny reaction. It became a bit of a joke in my family. Look out for her, she's the devil incarnate.

Of course, I don't believe in the devil either. So, yes I am offensive to some people. It seems to me that the solution is simple. If you don't like who I am don't read my blog or associate with me. I couldn't think of anything else to call myself or any catchy name for my blog, since it is so random. I'm considering collecting suggestions but I don't think I have that many readers anyway. My intention was not to offend but to refer, tongue in cheek, to what some people I know would call my dark side. Which I still think is funny. So, fire suggestions at me or reassure me that you don't care what I call myself. In reference to an earlier post of mine, I'm thinking about calling myself Sweetheart. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And Now the Stuffing

American Thanksgiving is approaching. In Canada we celebrate in October, so the feast has come and gone, turkey leftovers long since used up. In my family I am the only vegan. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law will eat anything, my own mother might try a dish I've made, depending on how unusual it looks and the guys, my son, husband and father never eat anything that I bring to the meal if it is identified as vegan.

Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner are almost identical in our traditional selections with perhaps more selections available at Christmas. Years ago I stopped eating the turkey, now I only eat what I bring myself or perhaps the vegetables. My mother tends to put butter on them, but recently at a family dinner she used margarine instead, just for me. I couldn't tell her that most margarines are not even vegan because they contain whey. My mother thinks I am quite extreme. I am 42 years old and only just becoming immune to any maternal disapproval. I was raised to value politeness over just about anything else. At all costs one must be polite, so it horrifies my mother to see me refuse food other people have offered. "Don't be silly. It's perfectly good and there are people in the world who envy your privileged life, where you can pick and choose what you will eat and turn away good nutritious food.

She misses my point. I am privileged. I have choice and abundance. Because of that I can say no to food sources that are immoral. With access to a variety of foods that provide all of the nutrition we need, we don't need to eat tortured and murdered animals to survive. I'm not advocating that the whole world become vegan because I have yet to see proof that it would be a manageable and sustainable system. Still we aren't feeding everyone a nutritiously balanced and calorically adequate omnivorous diet either. We who are wealthy and privileged compared with most of the world's population have no excuse for eating and using other creatures against their will.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Green and Brown-two colours I love. After a quick troll through flickr commons I found Beautiful photos showcasing green are abundant. My husband, garden labourer extraordinaire, is also a good photographer and he has many beautiful photos that are green. Brown is harder to find. Now I have a mission.

This isn't the best photo-the colours are a little faded.

We've reached the rainy season here on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. My poor garden, which was all torn up for our home renovation two years ago is still somewhat of a mud field, especially at the front. My husband worked really hard to put in our underground sprinkler system and we decided that the upheaval was an opportunity for some re-landscaping. He successfully moved a thirty year old Japanese maple tree and reshaped the mixed borders. I wanted our sloping front garden to have a terraced island bed so he created that too. My lovely husband does the hard labour and I spend the money on plants and decide where they go.

I am constantly battling deer in the garden since we are not fenced. We have two driveways and would have to put gates on them. The main drive is sloped and not suited to swinging gates. There are too many large plants in the way to install sliding ones. Deer have been known to jump an eight foot fence quite easily so it still isn't a guarantee. Oh what to do! The deer are so safe from natural predators here in my hometown that they are multiplying into a large and healthy population. They have even learned how to cross the street at cross walks. I won't be at all surprised the day I see them pushing the button to get a green light. While working on this front garden project, my husband was sometimes kept company by a healthy young buck who would show up for a nap and a snack. While it napped, my husband left it alone but when it began to snack on my plants he tried to shoo it away. It blissfully ignored him so my husband then began to tap it on the backside with his spade. The deer moved slowly, requiring much backside tapping and shooing to get it out of the garden. It returned the next day, of course.

So, here we are in the rainy season and I gaze out the window at the plants and the mud, looking forward to the grass that will go in next spring. There won't be much of it because the garden is designed as grass paths winding around the mixed borders. I like the way green grass compliments the plantings, giving a cooler feel in the heat of summer and a lush abundance to our wet winters. With grey skies for at least five months of the year, I am grateful for the rich greens that surround me. Grass, conifers and broadleaved evergreen shrubs, as well as the few flowers that continue to bloom, all give me the colour I crave. It's a good thing I like the colour brown, because this year I have an abundance of it.
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