30 January 2011

off my bookshelf Jan 2011

In 2011 I decided that I wanted to read more. I already read a lot but over the past few years much of what I have been reading has been decided by university professors rather than by myself. So for 2011 I decided that I wanted to read a minimum of 52 books, at least one per week. In order to help me keep track of what I have been reading I have decided to post a monthly log of my progress. So, here is what has been off my bookshelf this month...

I love Jane Austen. I decided that I would like to read all six of her novels back to back this year. I am just finishing Emma. If I had to choose a place and time where I could have been born this would have been it, late 18th - early 19th century England. As a teen I was very nearly obsessed with all things English. I am definately an Anglophile. While most blogs I look at seem to have a fascination with France and all things vintage French (and I do love these things as well); my heart really is in England...

Continuing with the English theme... Monarchy gives a great general overview of the British monarchy (obviously) from the Tudors to the Windsors. It's a good easy read...as is Bryson's book. Bryson decides to travel through England by public transit and describes some of the changes that have taken place since his first trip in the 70s. While I enjoyed this book I did get a little upset by some of the descriptions of the "americanization" that is happening in some places (such as replacing small quaint high street shops with outside of town malls). When I finished it I had to switch back to Austen to replenish my pastoral, romantic notions.

I usually like to read more than one book at a time, just to satisfy my many moods. So while I love getting my British fix, sometimes I need a change...

I also love food writing or as Anthony Bourdain calls it: food porn. I love reading Anthony Bourdain and I hadn't read this one yet (I have previously read Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw). I don't know why I love reading Bourdain I guess it is because he is very informal, direct and he doesn't try to be politically correct; I love that. (While I personally love reading his works I would give a warning to anyone sensitive to swearing and/or people saying what they think and I don't really think any subject is taboo with Bourdain).

I got this for Christmas and have been reading it from cover to cover...

My boys recieved some "ologies" for Christmas and we have been reading through them this month.
My eight year old REALLY loves them, especially Monsterology. We have had to have a few discussions about how they are just stories as they are written like old scientific journals...very cool.

I have also been reading these with my eight year old. He is studying the Canadian Provinces in school for Social Studies and was learning about food that is produced in different regions...I thought it would be a good time to introduce him to reading cook books...and he actually enjoyed them. I am determined to have all my children in love with good food and knowing what to do with it before they leave home.

and as I mentioned in the original "off my bookshelf" last April...I have a bit of a magazine fetish. These are a few of my favourites. I have collected a large stack of the British Edition of Country Living magazine and I often encourage my husband to take a look at them so he can visualize what I would like my life to look like...

What have you been reading this month?

25 January 2011

stepping forward

This month I am trying something new.

My three oldest kids are taking skiing lessons and I have decided to join them.

Until now I have never learned to ski and I have lived near ski hills most of my life.

I have been trying to overcome a bad habit of mine.

As long as I can remember if I haven't been able to do something well I have not wanted to do it. Hence, I have never participated in sports (other than in school when I had to or else take an F in P.E. which was unacceptable to me). Until recently I never did anything artistic. In fact I didn't do much of anything.

I don't know how to swim.

I don't know how to ride a bike.

I don't know how to play a musical instrument.

I don't know how to ski.

I don't know how to sing.

I don't know how to skate.

When I was in grade one my class went ice skating. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to get on the ice and do a sit spin and of course I couldn't wait to wear one of those really cute little skating costumes with the little twirly skirt...which of course I did not get to wear and when I stepped onto the ice for the first time... I immediately fell. I was mortified. Particularly when my teacher brought me a little cage to hold onto so I could at least stand. That was the moment I realized how inadequate I was. That was when I realized that I could not do everything I thought I could. I never skated again.

Yes, this has been one of my greatest weaknesses. And I do realize how ridiculous it sounds. But, I have always had a strong desire to be perfect...to live a perfect life. For a long time I tried to avoid living the life I wanted because I knew that the reality would not live up to my expectations. Instead I ended up living a life that was pretty boring. I did do some things, but I was generally not satisfied with the outcomes and I was still too afraid to try anything that required skill. I learned how to cook out of necessity when I got married and I discovered that I was pretty good at it. So, I continued to practice and got annoyed with myself whenever things didn't turn out perfectly.

Around the time I turned thirty I decided that I needed to change. There were so many things that I would have liked to have done in my youth that I didn't do. I did not want to waste my life. So I started to do things. I took a few painting classes and discovered that I really enjoyed painting and was so happy when my paintings were recognizable. They actually looked like something...people actually hung them on their walls!!! I was a little embarrassed still as I could notice all the mistakes, but they were better than I thought they would be.

I went back to school. I no longer felt like a failure to still be in school when I was over thirty. ( I always thought I'd have a PhD by then). I am taking longer than the average student. But I love it.

I few years ago I finally realized that I didn't need perfection. I could be happy with progress. Improvement was something to be proud of. I didn't need to be top of the class (or somewhere just slightly above average which previously was okay with me as long as I hadn't put in any effort. Above average with no effort was just as okay as perfection with little effort).

I no longer wanted to be content with who I was. I wanted to be happy about the person I was becoming.

And so this week as I conquered the kiddie run up at the ski hill I was almost giddy with happiness...

Happy because I was finally learning to ski and that I had learned to snow plow and because on my first attempt I fell but I got up and tried again and by the end of the day I had figured out how to stay standing, moving and even turning and I was excited about my progress!

Externally as well as internally.

I am so happy that I have figured out that the way to true happiness and finding joy is to keep moving forward...

even if I am only taking baby steps.

21 January 2011

snow days

The snow is coming down heavily today...

The hubby has gone to work...

I am thinking about Nova Scotia and the winters we had there...

In winter most of the cute shops close down as everyone settles in for the winter. Any snow fall often results in school closures and/or road closures...on a heavy snowfall even the big box stores would close...but not here...out west we are a little tougher (or crazier)...we've taken long journeys through the rockies in weather much worse than any I saw in two years in Nova Scotia where my husband was once stuck in a road block for nearly fourteen hours with many others after the main highway was closed due to a few inches of snow.

Annoying at times...but also very peaceful. It was so nice to have an excuse to stay home and cuddle up with a good book and the family and read the day away...

so today...I am going to pretend I am in Nova Scotia and take a snow day...I'll just pretend my hubby is safe in his studio until he gets home from work...maybe it will snow all week-end! And just this once we can all pretend that we are back in Nova Scotia...we'll just ignore the strange looks we get when we tell people we took a "snow week-end"...do you think they will understand?

20 January 2011

vintage kitchens

I love vintage kitchenware...I really love it. The older the better.

I especially love the pieces that were given to me by family members. My mother has passed on a few pieces that she has received from other relatives and my granny gave me some of hers before she passed away. They always help me think of those who used the pieces before I did.

One piece that I have always loved and love to use is an old colander; it reminds me of my granny. I remember it always being in her kitchen and I watched her using it many times.

It is definately well worn...but I love it.

I know that granny had it for as long as I can remember but I never knew where or when she got it.

Recently I was looking through some old photos of our first trip across Canada a few years ago.

While travelling from Regina, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Manitoba we decided to leave the trans-Canada Hwy. and take a detour. We travelled north to drive through a little town named Veregin...

Veregin is a very small town (if you can call it even that). I think it has a population of approximately 100 people. But, it is important to me because in 1911 my granny was born there. I have always wanted to see where she was born and so we decided this was our chance.

The town was almost deserted...there was really nothing to see until we drove up to the Doukhobor village museum site.

The prayer house and landscaping were beautiful...there was so much history to see and so much to learn...unfortunately, it was closed. Due to lack of funding, volunteers and interest the site is rarely open. I was a little disappointed (I always hate to see history being ignored because that usually leads to it being lost which I think is really sad) but the groundskeeper told us we were welcome to look in the windows and picnic on the lawn, which we did and enjoyed our afternoon very much.

The old grain elevator stood majestically watching over the site.

As I sat, I thought about my great-grandparents and what there lives must have been like. They left Russia in 1899 with their families and friends after suffering much hardship and persecution under Tsarist rule. With the help of Leo Tolstoy and Queen Victoria they came to Canda, settled in the Saskatchewan prairies and made new lives. Veregin is where those new lives began. I was sitting in the village where they lived, started their family and where my granny was born. It was a wonderful experience that I am so happy to have had.

I took many pictures as I wandered around the village and tried to take interior shots as I looked through the windows.

 I never really looked at the photos after I took them. But, just recently I sat down with my kids to teach them a little more about our family history and I noticed something that I hadn't noticed before...

There on the counter was my colander...exactly the same.

I think I now love it even more.

10 January 2011

following my own path

Can you believe it is almost two weeks into the New Year?

I've been thinking a lot this year (so far) about where I want to go and what I want to do.

I think it is important to keep re-evaluating to make sure that the path I am on is heading in the direction that I want to go.

I really want to keep learning and going forward. I read a quote once (unfortunately I can't remember who said it) that went something like this...if we keep doing what we have always done we'll keep getting what we have always gotten. Something like that anyway. If I want to see new results I have to keep trying to do new things.

I am really excited about all the possibilities and opportunities this year holds for me and my family.

Over the past decade, most years I have had no idea where I would be at the end of the year which I think is kind of odd for somebody my age. The excitement and wonder of discovery is something that is often experienced during the late teens and early twenties.

I bought my first house just after my 22nd birthday and worked for most of my twenties at a good job with benefits. I didn't explore much...I focused on "responsibility". It's not that I am not responsible now; in fact, I am sure that I am much more responsible and cautious on a day to day basis than I used to be. But, I am much more open to experiences and trying new things. I am less afraid to try and less embarrassed by failure.

 I want to live my life...not a life that others have imagined for me. My life may not be conventional in many ways but I am enjoying the adventure. Although it may look at times like I am failing at what I am attempting to do I do experience more successes than failures and I know if I continue on my path I will arrive at the destination that I have envisioned.

 I agree with Thomas Edison. "Many of life's failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up". I think that this is an important quote to remember. Keep going....success may be just around the corner.

05 January 2011

gratitude on a snowy morning

It is a grey, snowy morning here in the Okanagan...

and the kids and I are cozied up in our little cottage for the morning....
(I think the afternoon will be spent tobagganing)

Since it is so cold and snowy, I thought it would be a perfect morning for some apple spice muffins to warm us up...

Like many people at this time of year we are a little short on cash and while we are awaiting the first paycheck of the year I just thought I would mention how grateful I am that I have learned how to cook!

even with little in the fridge I was still able to make a yummy breakfast of apple spice muffins (using apples that I chopped up and froze in the fall) and delicious canned fruit from this summer...

I am grateful that I love to be in the kitchen (I always feel so sorry for those who view cooking as a chore) and my husband is grateful that when he sees nothing to eat and "no food" in the house that I am able to put something on the table that is just as good if not better than what we would eat if we had money to spare.

I really do love eating in season and in Canada without the aid of greenhouses the only thing that is in season right now is food that was stored up for winter during the great harvests of summer and fall...and so during this time of instant gratification and endless supermarkets...I am very thankful to have a closet full of summer canning and a freezer full of chopped fruit and the side of grass fed beef we purchased in the fall...life is good!

04 January 2011

finding joy

Yesterday morning my family and I took a walk down to the creek. My sons had been the day before with my hubby and they were eager to show me how "cool" the ice was.

My oldest son was fascinated with all the different forms the ice took. All the boys were very excited about the holes in the ice where you could look down and see the water flowing underneath.

Walking with them gave me the opportunity to explore more extreme close-ups with my camera and also another opportunity to once again learn from my boys to enjoy the little things in life.

Things that would have once seemed boring are now interesting to me as I see the world through their eyes.

We were able to lie on the ice and get VERY close to the different forms the ice took on. I was able to place the camera through the holes in the ice so we could see what it looked like underneath.

Why is it that as adults we tend to loose the fascination and excitement that we once held as children?

I have found that my happiest moments have been when I tag along and try to experience life like a child with curiosity, surprise, and a constant search for discovery. As an adult I seem to be able to grasp those (although I have a little harder time getting rid of the worry and fear that they seem to lack).

I did have a small fear of slipping and falling or breaking through the ice which I need to get rid of. What I would like to do this year is to live life more like a child.

I want to lose my fear of the unknown and just enjoy what I can see. When I really start paying attention and focusing on what is in front of me I realize that I can see a lot more than I initially thought.

I want to learn something new every day and to appreciate all the small beauties that I have around me.

As I watch my boys I try to recall being this way as a child and I can't. I remember being asked how old I felt when I was about 19 and I answered 35. I think I was born 35. When I turned 35 I suddenly felt old and realized that I had missed out on something.

It was a little depressing until I read a quote by Pablo Picasso. He said,

"It takes a long time to become young".

And for me I think this is true. As I thought of some of my goals for this year I realized that this is what I really want to do this year...I want to work on becoming young.

Maybe there is eternal youth after all...maybe it is a state of mind...joy.

01 January 2011

Happy New Year

Finally - access...
I have been experiencing technical difficulties. Our wireless internet (or more often lack of it) has been a bit of a challenge during our small house experiment.

Here is what I have learned so far...

1. Families need less space than they think is necessary
2. small spaces do create togetherness (which is most often a good thing)
3. Lack of space encourages creativity (particularly in finding things to do)
4. I have a lot of excess stuff and I really do love a lot of that excess stuff and I would like to see it and not have it boxed up.
5. Bedrooms do not need to be large
6. 11 year old girls do not enjoy sharing a room with three little brothers, but it can be done.
7. It is not the size of the house that matters but how well it is organized.
8. Not having a telephone is usually a good thing.
9. I need a bigger kitchen.
10. a small house helps us to get outside more often (which is a good thing)

Living here has really helped us in deciding what our wants and needs are.

I have discovered that we could comfortably live in a three bedroom home...my boys are all okay with sharing a room. I do need a larger kitchen (mine is 5 x 10 including cupboard, fridge and stove space); we need space for plenty of bookshelves to house our large library  and we need a large well lit studio space. In our family, most of our time is spent doing art projects, making things in the kitchen or reading. I also would like some sort of seating for each member of our family (we currently have a single love seat which is a little small for a family of six).

But, I have discovered that I do not need a large house. One larger than 600 square feet would be more comfortable but we could probably live very comfortably in a house of 1200 square feet if it was organized to suit our lifestyle.

I think that is what I really have learned: houses are not built to suit individual families.

Why do houses all seem to follow the same pattern when families are all so different?  For us we need a well organized kitchen large enough for six people to work in (this does not mean extra large, just well organized with space for six to stand in). We need a studio and a library. We are okay with one bathroom (so far - I haven't hit the teen years yet...although I did live through my teen years with one bathroom and survived). I also would like a small dining room. No kitchen nook or breakfast area in the kitchen. I like a formal dining room strictly for eating in. The library can function as a living/family room as well.

What we want and what we need are so often two different things...

Getting what we want doesn't necessarily make us happy. I learned that this year. I can be just as happy in 600 square feet as I can in 3000.

I think this year I will try to focus on what I need which is probably very different from what you need. That is the other thing I have learned. We are all different, we all have different needs. What is best for me and my family would most likely be different from what is best for you and yours.

I think learning to recognize that and focus on my family and not on what everyone else is doing or what everyone else expects of me is what is really important.

I would like to take time every morning to think for a few moments:
~ to think of my blessings and be grateful for them
~ to think of what will make me happy today and than act on that thought