Put a ring on it

Oh, little man, it's ok! You can be a single lady!


Flash! A-aaahhh!

That's a Flash Gordon reference, for all of you too young to remember the 1980s. Here's Flash, one of the two geldings that my eventer friend is graciously allowing me to ride. In this video, trainer Leslie is aboard. Doesn't Flash have some serious dressage potential?

I'm off to my eventer friend's barn this weekend to get the lay of the land, and I hope to be back in the saddle starting next week. I need to talk to my friend about whether she minds me blogging about her horses. I'm hopeful that she'll be ok with it.

Riding Bikes

Ducky couldn't wait to ride her new birthday bicycle. She wanted to ride up and down our street, but HB said no. Our street is too steep and definitely not the best place to get used to a new bike.

So on the Saturday after her birthday HB loaded three bicycles and one tricycle into the car. I drove down to our local park while HB and Dragon braved the steep hills and rode their mountain bikes.

Once at the park the girls went crazy riding their bikes. Ducky showed us that she had no problems riding her new bike. She was able to steer and brake with great control .... most of the time.But this was the real surprise and the greatest achievement of the day was Mousie's first ride with no training wheels. She is riding what used to be Ducky's bike (which was actually Possum's first two-wheeler which she was given for her 5th birthday) and she balanced with no trouble at all! HB gave her a push-off the first few times, and then I showed her how to get the pedals in the right place so she could start all by herself. She was a bit wobbly at times, but by the time we left the park she had truly mastered the art of riding with no training wheels!Teddy happily took possession of the two-wheeler with training wheels - formerly known as Mousie's bike. She had a good time, except when the training wheels left the back tyre stranded in a hollow, and no matter how hard she pedaled she just could not get going without a push.And here's Kitcat on her trike, inherited from Teddy. It looks like she will be needing some new wheels soon ... this tricycle is a bit small for her already! Oh well, we have quite a few old spare bicycles waiting for a new owner.I am very proud of my two big girls riding their big bikes.
6th March 2010


I was doing a bit of tidying up tonight, and while deleting old draft blog posts I came across this one. I wrote it two years ago, on April 22, 2008, but never posted it. I don't recall why - it seemed finished enough. Whatever my reason, come April 23, I didn't want to share it anymore.

The story is of something that happened to me when I was 34, and 6. It still amazes me, the clarity and sharpness of the vision I got that day: reading this post brought it all back.

I hope you like it.

Charlotte started Girl Guides in September. The meetings are held at a local elementary school - the oldest in the city. It's the school I went to for Grade One and the first half of Grade Two, before we transferred a few catchments over.

The first week I took Charlotte to her meeting, I spent the hour roaming around the halls, trying to remember exactly which classroom was Mrs. Flynn's (Grade One) and which was Ms. Decourbe's (Grade Two). It was fun to see the gym again, with the national anthem posted in French and English, above the ancient stage where we put on plays in which we starred as rainclouds, and animals, and maybe shrubbery. My memories of this school were vague, mostly pleasant, and involved things like the smell of the hallways and the height of the water fountains (pretty short).

In the following months I mostly spent the Guide hours sitting on a chair in the hallway, knitting. A month or so ago, I decided to use that time to run, taking advantage of the once-weekly guaranteed free hour to get some exercise in. One night I finished my run at the school, and walked around the outside for the remaining ten minutes, doing some stretching.

I wandered around the outside wall of the gymnasium. I turned a random corner, stepped up into "the covered area" and found myself face to face with one of my most powerful memories.

I was six years old. It was the first day of Grade One at a new school. I didn't know anyone there, except my brother who was a year ahead of me. In Kindergarten, they had had only one recess, during which you you ate your snack and played outside. So when the bell rang at my first recess in Grade One, I took my red nylon packsack outside to the covered area and looked for somewhere to sit. I spotted a door across from me, with an unoccupied concrete step underneath it. Clutching my bag, I made my way over to it through knots of playing students, almost all of them older than me. I opened my packsack, took out my lunch and ate it, trying not to catch anyone's eye, or stand out in any way.

I was finishing the last thing and putting all the waxed paper back in, when my brother ran over, breathless, holding a ball of some description. Several big boys trailed behind him. He said, "Shannon, it's only recess - you don't eat your lunch until next break."

He ran off again and I sat there frozen, hot embarrassment flushing my cheeks, almost immobilised with anxiety. What would I do at lunch? I had nothing left to eat. I looked around furtively and realised I was, in fact, the only kid who had brought her packsack outside. I tried to wad it up so no one would see it and realise my mistake, and carried it back inside when the bell rang.

I don't have any other memories from that day. I don't in fact know what happened at lunch, when I had no more food left.

When I came around the corner of that school a few weeks ago and my eyes fell on that step, I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I felt the anxiety again just the way I did twenty-eight years ago, even as my 34 year old self marvelled that it could be so - that a little doorway with a little concrete step could make me feel this way - bring it all back.

I stood there on the faded hopscotch, getting the memories back one by one.

Then, just around the corner must be the place where....yes, that's where I stepped on a nail and hopped all the way back to the office with it protruding out of both top and bottom of my foot.

And around that other way must be those big doors and the ramp where we played 'prison'. Yes, there they are...and the window - that's Ms Decourbe's classroom, it must be. I remember standing there looking down at them outside when I was kept in at noon to finish work.

I walked slowly around to all these places, surrounded by little children in bell-bottoms and bowl cuts, some whose names I could remember and some whose names I couldn't. I went back to the covered area and leaned against a railing, looked at the concrete step. There I was, little blonde child with a firm grip on her packsack, nervous, feeling more lonely than I ever had before.

All that fear made me cry. I don't remember whether I cried at six, but I cried at thirty four. It made me remember everything that has gone in between then and now. It made me think of all the things I never dreamed would happen...things I never thought to fear while I was worrying about having already eaten all my lunch. And I wanted to say to her how sorry I was for the way I made her life turn out.

I went back there last night. While Charlotte was in the gym with 17 other little Guides singing "Day is Done", I was in the covered area, photographing this place which is almost unchanged from the way it was in 1979. I know it looks empty to you, but to me it's a busy scene, full of kids I was having to constantly step around while shooting - kids who bumped me, ruined my focus, and ran off calling a careless, carefree Sorry, breathlessly.

WEEK 7!!

This week I lost 2 lbs for a total of 32 pounds lost!
My hubby lost 5 lbs for a total of 37 pounds lost!

Things I've Noted:
1. When I start to lose energy it can happen fast - so that's when I know I need to eat again quick!
2. Lack of sleep makes me get tired faster in between meals! I need my sleep!
3. My husband doesn't really snore so much anymore! (The nights are so much quieter)

I am feeling Good! I was talking to a friend this week who previously ran a 10K event last year. She asked me if I wanted to run it with her next year. I thought to myself "You know, I totally could do that!" I will have lost all my weight before then and I could train... why not??

[I am NOT a runner and have never liked running but I like the idea of having a goal to work towards. You see, I've been so big, I haven't even RUN or JOGGED in YEARS!! It's so hard on my knees and huge flapping tummy, not to mention that I've just not been in any kind of shape to do it.]

But as of right now, I'm over 30 pounds lighter and still losing... so I feel excited about having a goal like that. And I would love to run an event with a friend!!! I even asked my hubby and kids if they wanted to have a goal to run it with me. (no big responses yet... :)

We went to the tulip festival yesterday. We didn't get tired walking around but we did need to take our small meal break and drink lots of water. Oh, but it was beautiful! Here we are looking out over part of the flower field.
Overall, we are having many positive changes in our lives. We are enjoying life more than just surviving it... even though we still have some huge trials.

My Mantra for this week: Remember the JOY in the JOURNEY!

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara

On our day tour of Connemara, we stopped at Kylemore Abbey for lunch. It's the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. Since 1920 there has been a community of nuns there. The castle itself was completed in 1871.

Even out of season, the abbey's Victorian walled garden is amazing. It covers 8.5 acres.

Here I am by the lake in front of the abbey, wearing my new Irish wool scarf. It was windy and chilly, but not bad.

Also on the grounds of the abbey is a neo-gothic church, completed in 1881.

The nuns run a girls' boarding school, and those girls must have to be pretty darn creative to find any trouble at all. The abbey is halfway between the middle of nowhere and the edge of nowhere.

Starting gate practice

Teaching babies what the starting gate is all about. These jockeys really earn their money.

Photosynthesis: A (Partial) Day in Pictures

Despite the chillier temperatures today, we spent the entire day outside.  In the morning, we went to the Arboretum, where we looked for two geocaches (for those of you looking for ways to motivate little people to go hiking, this is definitely a winner!) and marveled at the daffodils and forsythia.  I also found these delicate white flowers; I'm not sure what they are, but they were irresistibly fluttering in the breeze.  And in the afternoon, we went to our local park.  In between, while Ian was napping, I went for a run, and then took a ride to Stockton, feeling like I wanted to take more pictures, and like I wanted to visit the farmers' market.

I love Prallsville Mills.  The  complex, built in the late 1800s on the same footprint as the early 1700s grist mill, is now a center for arts and community programs, which can be rented out for events.  Oddly enough, Steve and I were considering having our wedding reception here, long ago, before we had any idea that we'd ever move to the area.  Today, they were having an art show, and there were some forsythia in the window.  It seemed so simple and quaint, but so elegant at the same time.

The Farmer's Market was fairly quiet today; the vendors I talked to speculated that it was because of the weather.  Even though it was cold, everyone wanted to be outdoors in the sun.  There were hydrangeas at the door today, in preparation for Easter.

There was a new vendor today, selling nuts and dried fruits.  I didn't catch her name, but she had some tasty charoset for sampling.  I bought some cashew and cacao nib clusters from her, no sugar added!  (Coconut nectar was the sweetener and glue.)

The Milk House was selling some beautiful greens and hydroponic organic lettuces.   Though I didn't buy any today, I couldn't resist photographing them.  They also had some purple potatoes, which the vendor kindly cut open so that everyone could appreciate their stunning color. The vendor kindly cut open so that everyone could appreciate their stunning color.  I was also admiring the mushrooms, having eaten an amazing salad while I was in Philadelphia this weekend, of spinach and sauteed mushrooms and goat cheese.

Spring is definitely coming, and with it the promise of regular installments of fresh local produce.  I'm so looking forward to it.  And in the meantime, dream of fresh chopped salads like this one, that we ate for dinner tonight.  The first chopped salad I ever ate was in Los Angeles, oddly enough, at a chain restaurant; I can still remember how fresh it tasted, how the flavors all mingled together, and how it practically leapt into my mouth.  The wonderful thing about chopped salads is that you can put pretty much anything in them (even beans or chick peas), and kids tend to like them because everything is bite-sized, and colorful, and fits well into mini whole wheat pita pockets. 

Chopped Salad

Red bell pepper
2 ripe tomatoes
2-3 carrots
2-3 stalks of celery
head of romaine lettuce
mozzarella cheese

Chop everything into small pieces, and grate the mozzarella.  Toss together in a large bowl with oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

Another Injury

Mousie has a broken wrist. She fell off the monkey bars at school. She says she had some help with the 'falling' part. Apparently she wasn't moving along quickly enough so Teddy pushed her. The injury wasn't serious enough for the school to call me, and when Mousie came home last Tuesday she only mentioned that she had hurt her arm. When she was occupied doing everyday chores such as dressing, washing, eating ... she seemed to be using her arm normally so I didn't worry too much.

The next afternoon, as I waited outside Teddy's classroom for the 3 o'clock bell to ring, I saw Mousie being escorted across the quadrangle by her teacher. He explained that Mousie had fallen again, this time while playing soccer, and was very distressed about the pain in her arm. He suspected a greenstick fracture and suggested I take her to the doctor.

So once again I spent a while watching Mousie go about her usual after school activities, but this time I did notice that she was favouring her right arm at times. She seemed to be able perform fine motor actions, such as buttoning her top or picking up pencils, without any difficulty. It was the weight-bearing movements which were bothering her, like hauling herself up the ladder to her bunk or picking up her school bag with her right hand. There wasn't any swelling and she did not seem to suffer any great discomfort when I handled her arm, but I though it would be better to call the surgery anyway.

I was able to make a doctor's appointment for the next morning, and after assessing her the doctor sent Mousie for an x-ray. The x-ray showed that she had a buckle fracture of the distal radius. This required a half cast. Since we were not able to get an appointment for the cast until the next afternoon, Mousie had to wear an elastic bandage. Here she is the car, on the way to get her cast, pointing quite cheerfully at her bandage.And here she is with her half cast, bandage and sling. Mousie was very pleased to have a cast ... for about 3 hours. Ever since then she has complained very regularly about the discomfort, and has frequently berated Teddy for setting in motion the series of events which brought this to pass.

Mousie has to put up with the cast for 3 weeks, and I am hoping the complaining tapers off a bit a lot as she becomes more accustomed to wearing it.


I vaguely recall reading a blogger who was talking about "Vestuary"...I think it's a sort of knitalong where you are meant to knit a vest in the month of February.

And I realised, I actually did Vestuary without meaning to.

I cast on Dad's vest on the 23 of January, actually, but I did finish it in the month of February - on Groundhog Day, to be precise.

I've been promising pictures, but as Dad was at home recovering from surgery, an opportunity didn't really present itself until the other day when he walked over to my house for a piece of cake, and Lo and Behold - he was wearing his vest.

Piccy time!

Yes - I am Shan, son of Ham. (Well, okay, 'daughter'.) There was no one on the other end of that phone.

The picture is a bit out of focus - it's because Dad wouldn't stand still but insisted on goofing off...see photo #1, above. (Love you Dad.)

British School Slipover
: Cheryl Oberle, from Interweave Press' Folk Vests
Yarn: 3.5 skeins Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Peat Mix
Yarn Source: Needle & Arts Centre
Needle: 4.0mm Clover bamboo circular
Tension: 20 sts/4"
Cast on: January 23, 2010
Bound off: February 2, 2010
Size: 45" chest
Modifications: None.

Crocuses and Carrots

I don't know about you, but I am ready for spring.  I remember, growing up, embarrassed, watching my mother touch the trees and croon to them, thinking that she was certifiable.  And wouldn't you know it, just the other day, coming back from a run, I found myself inexplicably drawn to a budding branch, some mottled tree bark, a patch of purple crocuses.  I had to touch them.  It was like I needed a physical connection with the life force that was surging through the natural world, starting over.
When I came home today, I found this in the garden in front of our house.  Though I didn't run my fingers over the delicate petals this time, I immediately ran in and grabbed the camera.  Hooray for light, and new life!

The students were back from Spring Break this week, and my Intro to the Thesis class dove right into syntoptical reading and concept mapping.  Or rather, I threw syntoptical reading and concept mapping at my class, and they struggled admirably with my vague direction.  Of course, I brought cupcakes.  But these contained an important lesson for them today, about failure, and moving forward, and changing plans.  All important considerations for naively optimistic youth about to embark on a major project with no predetermined path or certain goal.  All important considerations for a baker.  Or someone trying to get pregnant.  Actually, for just about anyone.

Behold, the carrot.  Lowly root vegetable.  Amazing how adaptable and accommodating they are, isn't it?  They are happy as a side dish, as a main course, as breakfast, as snack, as dessert.  I had a few left over from a curried chopped vegetable salad from the White Dog Cookbook (which I unfortunately did not photograph; it's such a cheerful dish, full of bright and bold colors) that I'd made earlier in the week, and I wanted to use them before I left for my conference tomorrow.

The first time I made this recipe, a few months ago, I'd attempted mini-cupcakes.  I was making them for a special event, and there were going to be a lot of people, so I thought bite sized might work better.  Much to my dismay, they sank; I opened the oven to discover little concave carrot cake hollows, which I later filled with frosting, treating them like tart shells, and telling myself that frosting hides a multitude of errors.  Luckily, the people I was serving them to have low standards, and were appreciative nonetheless.  I was convinced that doing them as standard-sized cupcakes would solve the problem, and set about mixing batter late last night.

When the timer buzzed and I opened the oven door, though, my heart sank.  Concave tart shells, again.
I mixed up the cream cheese frosting, and did what I did last time: piled the frosting on, starting as filling and ending up as a topping.   When I got to class today, I told the students that the cupcakes were an experiment.  That they tasted pretty good (Steve had done quality control for me), but that they didn't come out as I'd planned.  But that I had a deadline (our class meeting), and so I cleaned them up as best I could, and knew that I'd be going back to the kitchen to try again next week.

I reminded them that they, too, would have weeks of partially (or fully) failed experiments next year.  And that they'd probably have to show some results to their advisor that they were not entirely proud of, even having tidied it up as best they could.  But that they should feel confident about heading back to the kitchen to try again, having learned something in the process.  That maybe they'd have to change the way they were collecting data, or doing the analysis, or maybe they'd have to toss out the recipe entirely and start over, but that they'd be better for it.  That it's OK to re-tool, to change plans, to be flexible.  And that maybe the best results are sometimes the unexpected ones, the ones you're not even trying to get.  That failure doesn't really mean failure.

I think they thought I was a little crazy.  They peeled the wrappers off and ate.  As for me, well ... I'm not posting the recipe today.  Though they are lovely to look at, especially in the spring sunshine, I'm going back to the kitchen on this one.


For gardeners having a hard time finding seeds...

Seed Saving!

In these times of troubled environmental issues...many of us are going back to the ways of our grandparents as much as possible.  We have grown up in an era where we have believed much of what we are told...Doctors told us we HAD to have anti-biotics for many of our ailments...I was actually 11 years old before recieving my first dose of penicillan for a severe case of tonsilitis..By the time my second son was born..he received his first dose at less than a month old.  We are told all of the values of things like "miracle grow" and "round up"..but it is hard to find the down sides..even in the fine print. Ways are being lost...and some things once lost are very difficult to recover again!  For instance..I raise chickens..you buy feed at the feed store correct? But it IS possible to grow your own feed..or at least enough to supplament your feed store ration!!

As I have stated before..Many sweeping changes begin with one small change..I am fond of saying that mine started with quilting and going back to using waxed paped to wrap sandwiches instead of plastic baggies.  Since I started those two practices..I have made many more changes...This next one is going back to gardening..I used to grow almost all our own veggies and do all my own canning..I am going back to that again..or as much as I can.  I was never one to pay attention to whether or not seeds were treated or untreated..whether they were hybrid tomatoe plants I bought or not..Recently I read and article on something called mangle beets..These beets apparently grow very large and woody..and are not very appetizing..so went ( for the most part) the way of the DoDo..HOwever..They make EXCELLENT stock feed!! Back in the day before most animals were fed on grain and corn ( animals like cattle should never be fed corn!!!) Stock was winter fed on a combination of hay and root stock..such as carrots..turnips and beets..these mangle beets have a nick name..
FODDER beets..why? Because they grow large and woody and animals..INCLUDING chickens..LOVE them!!! I decided to grow some this year..to supplement my chickens winter grain feed...But I found a dilema...where to find them????
You see..because they are no longer POPULAR with home canners and stores and market sellers...the seeds are not in demand..I had to send to SASKATCHEWN for my seeds!!  So I have decided...I am going to start saving seeds when ever possible..but much to my chagrin..It has eluded me as to HOW to collect and save seeds.  So I have found a wonderful website that tells you how!! Until last year I was not aware that saving seeds from a HYBRID plant..( isn't that a NICE name for genetic modification?) may result in a totally different plant!! So If I buy plants from the market that I cannot start on my own..I read the tag  to make sure they are NOT hybrids!!
Here is the websit for saving seeds!
I truly hope this blogs helps others back to the path of simplicity!~



My chicken coop

The Coop
Last Spring my husband built me a chicken coop for my laying hens...The construction for laying hens..is somewhat important because they have to live in it all winter..and they also need to be kept safe from predators such as raccoons, skunks and coyotes.  This coop is NOT insulated..but that will change before this coming winter...here is a step by step pictorial of how it was built..and other than the 2x4s.. and chicken wire..this coop was biult entirely out of recycled materials!! So although it is going under the "chicken raising Ideas" label..it could also go under waste not want not!!

My husband first dug 4 post holes and planted the yard posts 2 feet deep..then built the floor joists.

Then he laid the first layer of floor boards..we debated as to whether or not we should put a layer of TIN roofing under the floor board to discourage things like rats and squirrels and weasels..but we just laid two layers instead.

Then the plywood layer went down...

The front and back walls went up..the front wall has a nice big window facing east to get the morning sun!

The door..

The Inside..The 2x3s on the left were meant to hold the nesting boxes...but ended up being roosts..we used old milk crates for nesting boxes..which you will see if you look at the pictures of the building of the heat lamp in this section of the blog.

Done!  As you can see there are two little sliding doors on the front near the door..this is to allow the chickens into their yard during the day...as the sun sets..they will naturally go inside to "roost" and then you can close those doors to keep them safe inside.  By the big door you can see a window..this is something we had on hand..rather than screen..we tacked chicken wire up on the inside..this way in hot weather we can leave the window open for extra ventilation.

My husband is putting up the chicken wire..there is a locking door into their yard in case I need to get in there..and I often use it to toss them vegatable kitchen scraps..If you look carefully at the bottom of the fence you will see tin..this tin is cut in 18 inch high strips and is BURIED 12 inches UNDER the ground along with the chicken wire!! This is very important...CHickens bathe by coating themselves in dirt then shaking it off..its called "dusting" and they can dig a hole right under the fence..not to mention burrowing predators like weasels...your laying hens are an investment..they need to be protected.

A Final layer of chicken wire is run accross the top of the yard and nailed in place..this discourages raccoons..although the chickens are safe inside at night..should the raccoons get into that yard...it would not be difficult for them to get inside one of those push up doors after that..so we make it as difficult as possible..so they will look elswhere for a meal.

These are my Barred Plymouth Rocks..they are a good dual purpose bird..on the floor is a shredded news print..only because its summer..in the winter I use STRAW...NOT HAY.

Hope you found this informative.

13th Birthday

Dragon had a very happy 13th Birthday last weekend. He had been wanting a new bike for quite a while, but the exact model he would have liked was way out of our budget. HB found this one 2nd-hand, and even then Dragon had to pledge some of his birthday money towards it's payment. Despite the high price-tag I have been reliably informed that Dragon got it for a huge bargain. He is well pleased.Even though each sister gave Dragon a traditional hug and kiss when they presented him with his gift, they all attacked him with a group hug before he even got started opening presents. I think Teddy nearly strangled him, so violent was the force of her affection. Dragon already had his 'big' (bike) birthday gift but he found there was another large parcel waiting for him that morning. I like to call it the 'game cube' but Possum told me people will think it's a digital game console. So to explain briefly, it's a heavy cube-like object with a chess/draughts board on top and several drawers down the side. Each drawer has the playing board of a different game such as backgammon, chinese checkers etc ... along with all the necessary playing pieces. Dragon thought it was pretty 'cool' or 'sick' or 'rad' or something like that.Dragon's 13th birthday very obligingly fell on a Saturday.

HB's boss very obligingly gave them the weekend off (for a change!)

The weather was extremely obliging - more like mid summer than autumn.

So we went to the coast for what will probably be our last swim until late September or early October. Dragon enjoyed the water.Even the traffic was obliging. It must have been the best run down the mountain we've ever had - and back up later that afternoon too!

The water was warm, the wind was light and the swell was just the right height to make little waves for the girls to ride with their boogie boards. Dragon would have preferred larger surf but he seemed content with teasing and playing with his sisters.

HB managed to get these action shots of Dragon performing running twist-jumps from the grassy bank to the sandy beach a couple feet below. He certainly managed to 'get some in air' few of them!And here is the now-traditional scrapblog of Dragon's birthday photos. Use the arrows rather than the 'play' button - and click on the word 'scrapblog' if you'd like to view it in a larger format.

Happy 13th Birthday to our one and only son - we love you so much and are very proud of the young man you are becoming.