Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Much-Maligned February

Dwellers in northern climates have given February a bad name. We start grumbling shortly after New Year's—it's so cold, it's so dark, I'm tired of snow gear, I'm tired of shovelling snow, when will it be spring?

Not me! February is the month I perk up. Our little planet tilts toward the sun just enough for a magical change of light. February skies are an intense blue, the snow crisp and deep. Goodbye pale winter sun, hello serotonin!

February marks fresh starts at our house. After Christmas is packed away, it feels good to clean house, purge house, reorganize, make new exercise and home school goals.

I kicked off February with some chalk board paint and laid some love on my pantry. I'd never used chalkboard spray paint before, but I have good things to report. You really only need one coat, it really gets in the cracks. I  painted some labels (the ordinary paper kind) to use on food storage bins. See above. They look deceptively like I'm an organized pantry person and they're aesthetically pleasing too.

new cultures started: kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar
Will and I started cross-country skiing every day. We have several kilometres of nice trail in the vacant property behind us. There have been days when twenty minutes of solitude in cold air was my only  link to sanity. But I always come away grateful for the beautiful, if snowy, home we've chosen.

The boys were skiing begrudgingly until Will cut a new trail and invited them to ski with him. Suddenly skiing was cool. 

One of my most cherished memories of this winter is turning around on my skis and seeing a whole line of goats following me up the trail, followed by dogs, followed by cat. 

And that brings me to the freshest, newest, and most wonderful news: another little person is among us! 22 weeks today and feeling (mostly) fabulous.

We are all rooting for a girl of course, but we have to wait for the ultrasound to tell us.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Candle making is surprisingly difficult. I had a dickens of a time getting all that sticky beeswax out of the mold....I froze it, whacked it, used unmolding oil....I had to remelt and start over so many times that in the end I decided that dipping was the way to go.

They turned out lumpy but kind of adorable.

I also had a beeswax candle burst into flame in the oven. I was melting it slowly on a cookie sheet in the wood-stove oven when someone came and loaded up the fire. I came downstairs to see flames shooting out of the oven door. For the first time in my life, as they say in the novels, I knew what fear was. I actually wept from fear as I envisioned a river of flaming wax flowing out of the oven door, over the wooden floor and throughout the wooden house, engulfing us in fiery death. I saw the whole woodstove plummeting through the floor and exploding before I could even throw my children out the upstairs windows.

Of course none of these terrible things happened. A useful fact to remember in case you accidentally set fire to a beeswax candle: it burns up quite fast and more-or-less in one place. The worst thing that happened was I had to clean the oven.

While I was busy incinerating candles, Mr. Mischief took the whole upstairs apart.

Not our finest hour, and I think I'm done with candle making for a while. Till next Christmas.

Friday, January 23, 2015


We made soap. It started as an idea for fun and frugal Christmas presents, but there's no going back for me, I'm hooked.

The recipe came from the internet, but the real lore came from my good friend Jen of Two Trees Soap who gave me a full, chaotic, hilarious day-long soap-making tutorial in exchange for some negligible housework which I still haven't delivered...yep, she's a generous girl! The tutorial was invaluable as Jen has been making soap her whole life. She proved that making soap is about as complicated as making cookies, and yet the product is beyond beautiful. Jen comes from a soapy family: sister Anna sells gorgeous soap online at Roots Soap Co. and brother Evagrius is making soap in this unlikely corner of Italy, apparently. 

I used the essential oils I had on hand and botanicals from my kitchen: lavender and oatmeal, anise and ground cloves. I also made my first goof. Apparently clove essential oil melts your soap! However, I used such a tiny amount and mixed it with such panicky quickness that no harm was done.

My soap is a standard blend of coconut oil, tallow (rendered beef fat), and olive oil. I melted it together on the woodstove, then slowly drizzled a carefully-measured water and lye mixture while stirring. This second part happened at night as I didn't want my kids anywhere near the lye. But the boys helped me cut and mold the warm, fragrant soap by hand, a tactile pleasure indeed! 

I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Yuletide Crafting

It's the most wonderful time of the year! House explosion!

Now that gifts have been given I'm free to expose the chaos and fun of yuletide crafting.

In order they are: as-yet-not-ironed tweed aviator hat with bear ears. A tobacco pouch for papa's Christmas pipe tobacco (the boys tell me I've made quite a few of these over the years. What?) Christmas gnomes for Christmas stockings.

Hugh's gnome is also in league with the tooth fairy, since we've discovered that the traditional under-the-pillow method doesn't work. He left a message, carefully printed and adorably misspelled: Tooth Fairy where are you? My tooth has been under my pillow for weeks. I need some money.

(Aw shucks, tooth fairy, you're breaking my heart!)

So Hugh's gnome took the precious little tooth under his care, and Hugh has been well compensated for his patience.

Monday, December 1, 2014


There's a little bit of exciting construction going on. Will knocked down the roof of the dilapidated outbuilding which we variously called the Future Study, the Summer Kitchen, and the Garbage Shed. There were two afternoons of very exciting demolition with a chainsaw and a crowbar. As soon as it was down the boys fell on it with small crowbars and carried all the pieces up to the bonfire....hundreds of trips. I turned a blind eye to the rusty nails sticking out of everything and refused to think about it.

Then Will cut a large car-sized doorway in the front, and now he is in the process of raising a second story, with some timely and much appreciated help from his brother Jon. (Anybody needing a skilled arborist? Jon is starting a business in Peterborough, ON. Trinity Tree Care. Check it out.)

One of the aspects of Will's fatherhood that I most appreciate and love to watch in action is his love of physical work and the quiet companionship this gives the boys. No coercion, no bribery, no "hey dad, look at me!" I'm always amazed at how much work Will gets out of his sons without having to say a word about it. It's just a thing they do. As someone with no work ethic myself, just a frenzied compulsion to PUSH ON when I need to get something done, steady hard work leaves me in awe. 

Meanwhile, indoors, things are getting cozy...I'm arranging and rearranging surfaces to adapt to the new Christmas crafting that is taking over the house. I'm dying to show it off, but I fear that most of my readers are also recipients of these top secret projects....

So I'll just wish you a bright and beautiful Advent!