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And Then I Visioned a Cool Bookshelf

Went over to my neighbour’s a week ago for a visit – caught up on how things are going with them since the big fire. Stalwart family, so they’re all “chin up” and “no worries”. Hamish was out at the farm puttering away in the woodshop that was spared from the flames AND the nasty smoke (the house has to be gutted and rebuilt from the studs up due to the wretched stench). As we walked through the shop I asked him if he’d find me a piece of wood with a ‘live edge’ and plane it for me… you know, about yay long for a bookshelf that I’d like to add to the bedroom. Sure, no problem! And just like that, the first project of the New Year was born!

I had already bought 2 wrought iron brackets a year or so ago after I’d done a thorough search of Pinterest’s DIY shelf ideas. Many of the shelving configurations that I liked were a combination of rustic wood and iron. Here’s the one I settled on, thinking it would be important to incorporate my mom’s antique trunk which sits against that wall:


I like the wood to iron ratio, but not having a source for the iron rails, I started looking for wrought iron brackets that were promising. I found one pair and set them aside … oh about a year ago… and they sat in the same spot by the trunk until shortly after I walked over and talked to Hamish last week.

With the promise of a long piece of rustic wood for the bottom shelf, I decided to get the first brackets up. I was thinking that the long shelf will be low, and then I can put another one up and off to the side a bit … and maybe another one directly above it. I don’t know. Anyway, put up the brackets without TOO MUCH swearing…and they are ALMOST LEVEL…! (I have now determined that my metre stick is warped, so that’s going to be my excuse if things roll off of it.)

img_3388Picked up the piece of wood from Hamish a few days after my initial inquiry – it’s a beauty!! Nice and thick and organic. The brackets seem to hold it …
Like how I entered the brackets cleverly on either side of the trunk? I know. So clever.

After I applied a bit of stain to the top edge (that Hamish so lovingly planed to a smooth finish), I wondered if I might like the flip side better, so I stained it too. WOAH!! So nice! How to decide which side will be up? I still have to apply some polyurethane and do some sanding between coats, but the staining is a start!


So that’s stage 1, sans polyurethane. Pretty decent start, I figure! I used that photo to make a sketch of what I want the rest to look like … what do you think? Suggestions?


Biscuits and Jam

When you have a cold day, a warm fire and a book to read, all you really need to top it off is a few biscuits with jam.

I found a new recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits this past summer when I was experimenting with Bourbon (you have to read the post – lol). They turned out marvellously, so the recipe has usurped the baking powder biscuit recipe from Grandma Mack. (Sweet Jesus, don’t tell anyone in the family…) You do have to have a little foresight though, so that you can pop 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter into the freezer. I’m also not sure that the oven REALLY has to be at 475 degrees … 425 works just fine, thank you very much. If I go to 475 my oven will think it’s self cleaning and bad things might happen like they did the last time.

The ingredients are really basic. Today I planned to use lemon juice to sour the milk so I decided to grate the rind into the batter and then chop up some dried cranberries to go in the biscuits. Sadly this will mean that the kids won’t like them. AW DAMN.

Oh and for the love of Jesus, add some salt! Why it’s not in the recipe I’ll never know.

I use these super nifty cutters from Lee Valley. I bought them for myself during the Christmas online ordering season, as a reward for getting through all of the crazy shit at school. I think I deserved them. And only $20! What a deal.

Couldn’t help but slather them with a little more melted butter and sprinkle on some demerara sugar.

With a banana-peach smoothie and some home made peach jam on the side, they’re the perfect snack!




Reading Again

It’s hard to be a reader AND a knitter. You can’t do them at the same time. And once you really get into a knitting project – or a book – you just can’t put it down. On the other hand, knitting is social, so you can knit when visiting with people and it’s not seen as rude. Reading is very solitary.

And so my reading has fallen by the wayside.

As I said in an earlier post, I’ve decided to take on a reading challenge for 2017. I’m doing it on Goodreads so that I can keep track of the books I’ve read so far this year, and also cue up books that I’m interested in reading. After some pondering I’ve decided to use the framework mentioned in Hannah’s blog – the 26 book challenge, that is.

I can place my first read of the year as “a book published in the last year” or “a book you can read in a day”. It was short but excellent: Joseph Boyden’s Wenjack.


It’s particularly interesting right now due to the controversy surrounding Boyden’s questionable claim to be First Nations. Today I listened to an interview on CBC radio’s The Current with Wab Kinew, Lee Maracle and Kim TallBear. There was good discussion about identity and what it means to be ‘of a Nation’. It was impressed upon listeners the importance of being ‘invited in’ to a community and not assuming that if you want to be a member you are automatically a member.

At some point in the interview Wab Kinew suggested that a reader would not have the same experience with Wenjack had they known that it was written by a person who is not First Nations.

I think that they are relevant because I think that the way a reader approaches a Joseph Boyden novel is influenced by how they understand his identity. Like, I think they would probably pick up a copy of Wenjack and look at it differently if they think that he’s non-Native versus when they assume that he was Indigenous.

Now that’s interesting! I wonder if the same scrutiny is given to all writers when they are writing about cultures or events that they did not experience first hand. Do readers approach Anil’s Ghost differently than The English Patient because Michael Ondaatje is Sri Lankan and Anil’s Ghost was set in Sri Lanka? I don’t think so. I believe that writers who do their research are able to shine a light on various cultures with remarkable accuracy. I think that Wab Kinew and other First Nations are pissed off that Boyden appropriated the voice of a culture for his own gain. But I don’t think that makes him a bad writer.

My second book of the year will likely fall into the category of “a book with someone’s name in the title”. It’s Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver – given to me almost 3 years ago for my birthday. I’ve just cracked it, but it’s an excellent read so far.


Any suggestions for my book challenge? Some categories are tricky … such as ‘a book translated from another language’, ‘a self published book’. EGADS.

Up for a Challenge – or Two

Yes well, it’s the time of year for challenges isn’t it? I have decided to take on two challenges. Both of them are things I know that I need to do, and I would be a better person if I did them! Of course will take up my time and I don’t have a lot of extra time! So, we shall see…

First. Revolution: 31 days of yoga  Yep. I am committed to doing yoga with Adriene every day for the month of January. I’ve done 4 days and I love it so far!

I got to know Adriene last year through my brother Ian. He’d been doing a variety of yoga classes on her YouTube channel and loved them, so I tried them out. Did them a lot in the summer, then things got busy and it fell by the wayside, as things often do. I highly recommend her videos – she’s playful and peaceful at the same time … plus her classes flow well. And she’s not irritating. Well… she talks a lot but that’s ok with me.

I think I can do this challenge before bed each night. Right after my glass of wine. Or maybe before…

My second challenge is a bit more playful. I saw it on my Facebook feed.

Annie is considering doing it with me, but isn’t sure about finding an author younger than her (15). lol

I’ve decided to start with a book I got for Christmas… but can’t decide on the best category for it … a book that will improve a specific area of my life? My ability to act like a kid and have a deep connection to stuffies?

Seriously, it’s the ONLY book I got for Christmas… how much does that suck? Anyway, I guess that’s not the way it’s supposed to be done – read a book that I want and then map it to the list. I suppose I’m to search for a book based on the list …

Alas, I’m not convinced of this challenge.

What challenges are you taking on? Dana, over at is onto the #cook90 challenge led by @epicurious. Now that’s a shitload of work if you ask me… Surely there are some more reasonable challenges out there!

Rainy Day = Soup

We’re supposed to be skiing today, but no dice. Best to make some soup and enjoy the day de-Christmasing the house and puttering about.

This is a simple soup with very basic ingredients. You start with the typical onion and garlic combo – chop up small and saute with whatever oil makes you happy. I chose olive oil today. Toss in a pound or so of ground beef and let it cook a bit.


I don’t know about you, but there’s something awesome about the smell of garlic and onion working away in a pan. Sooooo great!!




Once the meat is browned, toss in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for an hour or so, till the barley is soft.

Enjoy it with a slab of fresh bread and your fav cheese. YUM!!

Hamburger Soup

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 or more garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 28 oz can tomatoes, whole (but smoosh them up when you put them in the pot)

1 box beef stock (4 cups) or equivalent (home made stock, OXO beef cubes in water, consommé)

1 can tomato soup

4 carrots, chopped fine

3 sticks celery, chopped fine

1/2 cup barley

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp thyme

salt, pepper – maybe some parsley if you like that

Just Go Knit A Sock

I finished off a pair of fingerless mitts the other day – the second of this pattern that I’ve knit this month. Made a pair in ivory and gifted them to Deborah for Christmas (seems to be a tradition now). I just HAD to have a pair for myself since they fit SO well and are quick off the needles. So I picked up another ball of Berroco in a wine colour (which is somewhat questionable. Why do I do that?? Now I need to have some type of scarf with that hue in it).

The pattern is by Blue Sky Fibres called One Cable Mitts (not the most original, granted) … I got it with my ball of Berroco Peruvia 9100 Quick Blanco at Happenstance Books & Yarns in Lakefield. Love that little store. (Note: if you’re going to make this pattern with the Quick Blanco, I recommend 4.5 mm needles rather than 5.5 as listed in the pattern.)

After I wrote in my journal about the mitts (I try to record the projects that I’ve done / am doing as a bit of a motivator, but mostly as a record since my memory appears to be crap), I  reached for the wool closest to me at the time.. a lovely Zauberball that was in my Christmas stocking! OMG I just love knitting with this stuff – although it sometimes has trouble feeding out at the beginning (which irritates me to no end).

My “go to” sock recipe is from the Yarn Harlot‘s classic Knitting Rules!, which has saved my life on more than one occasion. She’s not only hilarious but brilliant, and a knitting phenom … so in my mind she is Godly. If you don’t have this book, you need to buy it. If not for yourself, but for a young / new knitter who you care about deeply. And you need to read her blog. Just do it.

I’m at the point now that I have a war-torn copy of pages 4 and 5 “Step-by-step Cheat Sheet for Socks” in my knitting sack with scribbles all around it (e.g., “64 st 2.25 mm Alex” and “striped socks for Janice 56 st”). I even copied the rules for turning the heel in my iPhone just in case I forget to pack the pattern. Why use any other recipe?? It would be stupid.

When I write in my journal I USUALLY record the needle sizes, number of stitches and the type of wool that I’ve used … (it’s just a given that they are all knit with the Harlot’s pattern). Trouble with all of my ‘mad’ notes is that they are not actually all that organized.

When I started knitting these ones the other day, I just glanced at the scribbles on the copied page “64 st 2.25 mm Alex” and “striped socks for Janice 56 st”, merged these notes together because I’M AN IDIOT, and cast on 56 stitches with 2.25mm needles and went for it. I thought as I went, “geez, these seem small, but whatever, must be right, since it wrote it on there”. Well DUH, that was for striped socks … and they were knit with a fucking massive yarn compared to the Zauberball, you dough head, and who knows what the hell yarn I was using for Alex!!

So NOW, I decide I should go back into my journal. You know, see if I could POSSIBLY be right. I made a pair of socks for Deborah for Christmas last year – using a Zauberball, no less, but do you think I wrote down what sized needles I used for that? How many stitches? NO. Why? Because I’m a dumbass. Kept looking. Went back to another entry WITH A ZAUBERBALL, and sure enough, 2.5mm needles, cast on 64 stitches. Great.



So now I’m frogging it out and starting over. No, I am NOT asking Liam if he wants a pair of socks. NOPE. I will frog and start again. It’s punishment for not listening to myself…

Big enough to fit … no one. 


A Day at the Lake

It’s a lovely thing to come to the lake in the winter. We drive as far in as we can then strap on our snowshoes and hike in a couple of kilometers to the Bell camp. This year we didn’t trust the lake so we went by road, dragging a couple of sleds behind us. The girls went ahead, helter skelter, dropping various things off of their sleds with nary a look behind them. Funny how they didn’t notice. By the time Paul and Liam and I got there, we were laden with bags that had fallen by the wayside. Next year, bungie cords.

The lake is dead quiet. Surreal in the lack of wind and waves and birds and children hooting as they get dragged behind a boat.

We hike in the woods when the ice seems too thin for comfort. We wander around our friends’ cottages. There are snow fights and icicle finds. We are overdressed but grateful for it all.


Inside, it’s so cozy. We all have our books (paper or otherwise) and some have a project – a puzzle, sudoku or a pair of socks to work on. Charades.

Of course lots of great food – and baking is a sure bet with me in the cabin! I get to create all sorts of yummy things – cinnamon buns and cookies and tea biscuits. For dessert tonight is a banana cake. I forgot the ingredients for the topping so I have had to improvise with ice cream bowls, marshmallows, chocolate and pecans. Result? YUM!

All in all, a glorious time at the lake.


Photo cred @carolbell268

A jumble of goodness.

At the dinner table we always share a “highlight of the day”. This December we’ve had so many highlights. Here are a few:

Oyster Bay Chardonnay from NZ and Sanders caramels from Costco.

Perfect pairing.



I solicited the help of a wee kindie to assist in making a sample piece of artwork for our craft day next Friday. She was all painted up and gleeful to be in the P office on the rolling chair. I just love the positive energy of the little ones. “I can do it missakenzie!” when I was about to squirt some paint into a tray, and afterwards, shrieking “the soap is green!” when washing the green paint off of her hands. Joyful moments.


So proud.

A follow-up a call from the receptionist at my Endodontist. She told me that she worked something out. What? What do you mean? Well, I wanted to do something, so I … let me just work this out … instead of $2505.00 per tooth… it will be $1791.00. Um … what?? Why would you do that?

“I just wanted to do something.”

I have no idea if how she managed to do it. How she might have approached her boss and explained our situation – with Bree not able to be on my medical plan and the Healthy Smiles program not covering repairs on root canals. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.


My staff coming together time and again to make school an awesome place for the kids – so much evidence of their efforts in December! Happy kids performing at our outdoor Christmas Concert, kids participating in a full day of creative crafting, sledding sessions on the hill, the creation of gorgeous center pieces, spirit days, secret Santa … the list goes on and on. For me it all comes down to my staff. They are willing to pull together and go the extra mile for the kids. And it shows.

Each year our good friends Michael and Deborah invite us over to decorate Christmas cookies and share a meal. They make a point of inviting different families to participate each year. This year they invited the Syrian family that they’ve been sponsoring. It was a lovely afternoon and I was grateful that my children had the opportunity to connect with Nour and Hashem and their children.

Our future.


My brother is home from his work gig in the U.K. It was the first time in eons that all three of us were together for Christmas. So special!


Crap Day for the Neighbours … and a Cake

Today Paul called to tell me that our neighbour’s place was on fire – he was jumping in his truck to go over. I grabbed my hat and coat and boots and booked it out the door.

First barn ignited.

When I was 18 I witnessed a cottage burning down, and not long after there was a huge fire at the Camp I worked at. The 2 events traumatized me at the time and instilled in me a healthy fear of fire. The fire today brought it all back. The sight, sound, heat, smell. The panic, the emotion.

After I woke up my next door neighbours, I ran across the road to see what I could do to help. Not much of course. I bawled a bit. I talked to each member of the family, let them know that they should come over for shelter, food, tea. Brought two of them to my place and found them clothes – one had a towel wrapped around his waist and another was in undies and a T-shirt. Eventually Em and her 4 month old settled in for the day.  Paul made a big stew and I got busy baking up a cake and a pan of brownies. People came and went through the day. It was an action packed day.

And of course today being Sunday … “traditional family dinner”… I was in charge of dessert. The plan was to make a lemon chiffon cake for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Here were the various stages.

It’s a rich, moist, light cake. Has a total of 14 eggs in it, and quite a bit of fresh lemon juice and butter. Whipped cream in the frosting and of course white chocolate grated on top. It’s a beauty!! Happy birthday Lou!

Here’s to a better day for my neighbours tomorrow.


photo credit for featured image: Harrison Perkins @HaPerkins

Gifts of Wine

A week or so ago a friend posted a photo on her feed that compelled me to investigate. So glad I did! My 6 bottles of Lost Inhibitions arrived this morning.

How great are they? I plan to give them as gifts – to my potty mouth friends. They come from a winery in British Columbia called Church and State.

You can’t get this line of their wine in the LCBO but you can get a few others – Cabernet Sauvignon for example. On their website you can join one of their wine clubs or buy bottles individually and have them shipped. I should probably try some of their more serious wines in my next shipment. This purchase was definitely motivated by the desire for fun Christmas presents.