With Christmas Day and a few quiet days after the company has gone home behind us, we are now gearing up (or perhaps down) for New Year’s Eve. I have never much liked New Year’s Eve, or rather the celebrations that go with the evening. I have always found that by the time New Year’s Eve comes along I cannot bear the thought of getting dressed up in clothes, that feel tighter than they had a week previous and mingling amongst another spread of festive food and drink. Instead I long to pass a quiet evening away in front of a fire trying to pretend that the end of a season I look forward to is not passing away.  This year as I prepare to host friends and family on New Year’s Day I am wondering why it is I don’t like to join in on the festivities on December 31st.

Perhaps it is because I have always set the holiday season up as a battleground in my mind.  When I say battle I am referring to the war raging inside of my head as I struggle with deciding what holiday food and treats to indulge in and which I should abstain from, in order to not gain weight, (or in other words, change my appearance) It has taken me a long time to realize that the holiday season need not be thought of as the enemy.  This year I found that I was able to indulge without the usual guilt and shame which usually results after eating some of my Mom’s delicious baking or indulging in several nights of cocktails and wine.  I am not positive what changed this year but I bet it has something to do with a change in perspective that comes with age or perhaps maturity. In a Wayne Dyer book I was reading recently, I think perhaps I found part of the answer to this change in attitude.

The chapter was adressing an issue about who we think we are.  The author posed a question to the reader; ‘who are you?’  For many of us, including me, our first response is a physical description of ourselves.  In my case big, tall and blonde would be in the first sentence of my description, no doubt. After that I would probably include statements about my work, my various roles in  my family, my hobbies, etc. but most of my description of myself would in fact be about the physical me.  But does that really answer the question?  Dyer asks the reader to consider all the physical bodies that we have occupied up to this moment.

Initially we were all in bodies  usually somewhere between 5-10lbs.  Who were we then?  Very soon after we began to occupy a toddler body which did not include the original cells that we had in our baby body.  From there we moved through a child’s body, a pre-adolescent body, adolescent, teen, young adult, adult, parent and perhaps grandparent’s body.  The body that I now occupy is still able to do many of the things these other bodies did but I am not those bodies.

The point is, that if I choose to focus so much on my body and what it used to be last year, 5, 10 or even more years ago, who do I think I am?  It seems obvious that if I obsess and try to hang onto the body that I had when I was thinner, younger or fitter then I must  believe that I am simply my body.  But I know that is not true, the “I” that I am, is the  ‘presence’  that exists in me no matter what body I am occupying.  I am still the same I, that I was when I was young only in in a body that is different than the previous ones I occupied.  What I am realizing is that “I” am still me no matter what shape or age body I happen to be dwelling in at the moment so why would I spend another moment being so self-conscious of my physical appearance?

If I choose to reject or hate the body I am in and place too much emphasis on the physical me is that just my way of avoiding acknowledging the real ‘I’? Phew, this is complicated stuff but I think I am beginning to understand how unimportant my physical appearance really is.  Sure it is a way for people to recognize me easily and for me to be able to identify with the process of growing and aging but short of that it really is ‘just a vehicle for my soul.’ So, somedays I ride around in an SUV and some days I am a luxury sedan and others I am a pick up truck, but whatever the  vehicle, it is still the real ‘me’ riding around inside.

So, back to the ill feelings I have about New Year’s Eve.  Perhaps, I can stop focussing on the food and drink being the enemy because it changes my body and how I feel about it, and take a new look at this.  I am going to think of the   holiday season  more like a long road trip, and that by New Year’s Eve I am ready to get out of the car and just enjoy not moving for an evening. I am going to allow myself time to reflect on the piece of  journey that has been completed while looking forward to what is to come.

It’s Simple

a simple Christmas

a simple Christmas

Recently I read a book I found in the public library titled, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too.  I have my favourite sections in libraries and I find that when I stand in front of the shelves and scan, a certain book will almost  jump off the shelf and into my hands.  I always find the right title for the questions or issues I am wrestling with at the time.  This book was no exception and I found great wisdom and pleasure as I devoured the chapters written by Tammy Strobel.

At this time of year I find it easy to start worrying and wondering whether or not my ‘gift giving performance’ will be adequate for those who receive. This book helped me to return to my ‘simplification’ roots and remember what is important to me and how I want to live, despite the contradictions I exhibit from time to time. So before I head off to my loom, sewing machine and knitting needles I felt it necessary to review just how it is I want to live and what message I want to send out to my family and friends about who I am.

Firstly, this book caused me to rethink what ‘normal’ is for me.  I have rented several houses in the last five years and so first off, my idea of normal housing has changed drastically since leaving our large 2 story, 4 bedroom family home. I have been forced to ask myself several times, what do I need in a house and just how much am I willing to work to pay for it?  It turns out that although I am not ready to simply to the level that the author of the book did, I am able to live in a house that is not brand new, that does not have several rooms and is not turned out with the latest in everything from trash compactors, temperature controlled multi-head showers and heated floors. I have discovered that a functional kitchen is a must, a clean bathroom with a shower(no tub necessary), a large open space to relax, create and socialize and a cozy bedroom with my comfy bed and my favourite pillow and duvet will suffice. Those are my needs but of course I still have wants.  Just how much I am willing to work to pay for those wants is not clear to me yet.  All I know is that for the most part the luxury of time is outweighing the drive for me to jump on the full-time, 40+ hour work week in order to service unnecessary debt at this time.

Having said that, the next thing that I  I need to address is debt.  It is so easy and tempting in today’s instant gratification society to join in with purchasing on credit.  I don’t just mean purchasing the latest fashions, housewares and furniture either.  I used credit to purchase a Master degree. The time seemed right for me to pursue another level of education, to further my career and satisfy my need to achieve.  Although I do not regret earning the degree I can say I really am not enjoying servicing and trying to pay off the debt accrued in order to achieve my goal.  Perhaps if I had planned and saved for this I would feel less pressure and more satisfaction?

I also need to decide what kind of debt I am willing to take on in order to purchase a home soon. We have come to a point where we feel we are wasting our money paying rent for someone else to pay off their home but at the same time, all the other costs that go with owning a house will surely add to the pressure and stress I feel to work more and play less.  A possible solution might be to take the time to focus and change my attitude about going to work.  I enjoy my work and so perhaps when I leave the house everyday to go to work I could take the time to be grateful for the fact that I have had the privilege of higher education and the opportunity to find satisfying work because of that.

As I enjoy my time at home right now as opposed to going out to work, another thing this book caused me to think about is the many purchases made in order to go to work.  Purchases such as a car, gas, insurance, a varied wardrobe for each season, convenience items purchased on impulse because I was tired, and all the little trinkets and bells and whistles I buy because I see that someone else has them at work and thinkI need them too. Add to that the purchases made to cover up my feelings of loneliness, inadequacy or exhaustion and I soon notice that going to work has many costs.

Another concept this book discussed was the conflict we struggle with concerning money and experience.  I have asked myself several times what I would choose if I were given the opportunity to earn more money verses time to nurture relationships and experience new things.  There is no doubt in my mind that I would choose experience and relationships every time, so why is it that I still fall into the trap of fretting about not having enough money to buy things that I don’t need but might want?  Perhaps my resolve is not that strong yet and the stress of debt and lack of time have to get even more real.  I hope not.

This brings me back to my gift giving at Christmas.  I can honestly say that I have not been in one store Christmas shopping and have not purchased any ‘Christmas items’ except for two rolls of wrapping paper,which turned out to be cellophane and left me wondering why I didn’t use the roll of craft paper I have and dress it up with yarn, stamps and ribbons I have as well?  My only explanation is ‘the consumerism bug’ must have caught me. I still must have a little of the Christmas flu, because today, as I am wanting to fret that my homemade gifts will not satisfy the wants of those I am giving to, I need to ask myself a few questions.

Do I want to go in debt to have the temporary rush of joining the hustle and bustle in the stores in order to purchase things people do not really need, or do I want to spend my time making things and enjoying the creative experience and looking forward to the satisfaction and joy I and others may experience because I chose not to fall into the consumerist mentality of the holiday? Clearly, the latter.

Do I want to worry that my friends and family will think less of me because I chose not to spend money I didn’t have,  in order to measure up to the societal norms or, do I want to model for them an example of a person who has the courage of their convictions and is able to live them out and feel secure about that?  Again, I would want the latter to be true of me.

When I ask myself, what experience or relationship or community building experience could be worth more than the thrill of a purchase and the opportunity to give a gift I don’t have the money for, here is what I think. Spending the evenings knitting by the fire and chatting with my partner about where we want to hike and how we want to live or what we want to make for dinner the next night is worth far more than the expensive sweater I would like to buy for him for Christmas.  Or when I imagine how much fun it will be to bake up my children’s favourite treats and wrap them up for them to have all to themselves I forget about going online and purchasing a great coat or pair of boots they might have said they would like. When I think of all the stress I feel to buy gifts that people want that cost far too much money it causes me to pause and filter out all the noise in order to hear what I really want to do at Christmas.



I want to spend time building up the relationships in my family.  I want to accept others for who they are and help them complete  their journey.  I want to choose to spend time with my Mom and Dad, my partner, my children, my extended family and friends and get to know them and understand them better.  Most of all, I want to be true to myself and feel good about the way I choose to live, whether it is ‘normal’ or not.  I want to rest in the knowledge that I am constantly growing to be the person I am meant to be and honouring others to do the same.  Finally, I want to always put time and experience before material wealth and know that those around me understand just how special and precious they are to me.

Lunch on a winter afternoon.

Winter Vegetable SaladYesterday in the midst of baking, weaving and preparing for the holidays I found myself at a loss about what to have for lunch.  I wanted something healthy but I didn’t want to take much time out of my day to prepare.  My pantry was a little sparse as I had not been shopping since I got back from a weekend away.

When I looked in the fridge I found some spinach, a couple of carrots from my friends garden, beets from the same friend and not much else.  I opened the cupboards and walked into the pantry and came out with some raisins, a few dried cranberries and some seeds.  I thought, greens, fruit, seeds, vegetables, hmmm, what kind of healthy mix could I make of this?

I knew it would have to be some sort of salad as I did not want to be cooking anything, so I chopped some spinach, grated some beets and carrots and tossed them in a  bowl.  Next, I threw in raisins, cranberries and a few sunflower seeds.  When I tossed this it still looked a little sad.  I went back to the fridge and spied some feta cheese, then I opened the freezer and rummaged around.  I came up with a bag of chopped kale that I had stored in the fall when my friend’s garden was abounding with with the curly greens. I took a handful of frozen kale and some feta cheese, added them to the mix, tossed and was then satisfied with my creation.

Next I thought about flavours that might give this hearty winter salad a bit of a ‘pick me up.’ Another perusal through my cupboards and I came up with a mixture of olive oil, avocado oil, 2 kinds of vinegar, a bit of maple syrup for sweetness and some mayo and mustard to emulsify the mix and add tart and sweet flavours.   The result was delicious and we liked it so much for lunch that I replicated this salad to serve with roast chicken that evening.

So, if it’s a dull winter day and you need a good healthy  lunch or dinner salad, I suggest you play with these ingredients and make your own version of a winter salad.  Take liberties with this recipe and try to use what you find in your own fridge and pantry.  I think you will find it satisfying to know that you can eat in season and have adequate nutrition, along with fantastic flavours and textures . I have named this salad, Winter Vegetable Salad.

a healthy toss of vegetables, fruit, seeds and cheese

a healthy toss of vegetables, fruit, seeds and cheese

A good Loaf

Swedish Caraway Rye Bread

Swedish Caraway Rye Bread

Last Thursday night we had chicken for dinner.  I knew we were leaving really early in the morning to go away for the weekend and so I saved some of the chicken breast for sandwiches for the road trip.  I decided that I had time to whip up a loaf of really good bread and so as I thought about what kind of bread to make Swedish Rye bread came to mind.

It’s ironic that I would want that kind of bread though because as a child I hated caraway seeds and my recipe had caraway seeds in it. Funny how our tastes change as we get older.  I now love caraway, fennel, anise, ginger and olives; all of which I detested when I was younger. Anyway, I got out my recipe and got the bread mixed and rising as I made preparations for our weekend.

Much to my dismay, when it was getting time to get to bed the bread had still not completed its second rise and I needed to get to bed.  In true, ‘I can do everything’ style I decided that I would let it rise overnight and just pop it in the oven at 5:00am when I got up if it was still good.  Needless to say, it didn’t turn out to be quite that simple.  We got up to a snowstorm and needed to get on the road earlier so although the bread had risen nicely overnight I did not have time to bake it.  Now what?

I decided I had nothing to lose by freezing the risen, unbaked loaf.  If I got home and it had fallen in the freezer or would not bake properly I would throw it out but I was just not ready to give up so easily Friday morning.  It was a long road trip and I pined for my hearty rye bread with hints of caraway and juicy chicken breast atop it.  But it was not to be.  I substituted nut, seeds, raisins and a morsel of dark chocolate, somehow just not the same.

I was anxious to check the freezer when I got home last night and as soon as I got in the door I ran to the kitchen to check and see how the loaf had fared in the freezer.  It looked great but it was now a solid ice brick.  Hmm, what to do. I removed it from the freezer and after an hour when I realized this was not going to be a project I could complete that night I decided to put it in a warm place and leave it again overnight.  As it thawed it had lost some of its rise and so I really thought it would be garbage in the morning.

This morning I got up at 6:00 and hurried down the hall to check and see what had happened overnight.  To my surprise there was a beautifully risen loaf again.  I quickly preheated the oven and put the loaf in to bake.  It smelled glorious as wafts of  yeasty rye aroma spread throughout the house. When I removed the loaf from the oven I was hopeful.

After the loaf had cooled in the pan awhile I tipped the pan as usual onto a cooling rack.  Nothing.  Oh well, maybe it just needed a good whack onto the counter.  After a noisy bit of banging and dropping of the pan eventually I realized the loaf was stuck to the bottom of the pan. Shoot.  Upon further inspection and trying to pry it out with a knife I decided to just leave it cool in the pan and wrote it off as a flop.

About a half an hour later I had built up my resolve and I tried the prying method again and the loaf popped out nicely.  I still thought it was probably just a hard rye brick but when I sliced into it I was met with a dense, brown slice.  Still wary I put a little walnut oil on the slice and bit into it.  Divine, just like I remember my Mom’s bread when  I hated it so much, only now it brought me comfort and memories of how creative and adventurous a cook my Mom was, in spite our unwillingness to be open minded in our tastes.

As I anticipate the coming home of my children for Christmas I think about their tastes and the favourite baked treats and meals that say Christmas to them.  I think of the things I love and feel so smug about that they turn their noses up at.  This Christmas I think I will stick to their favourites and indulge my adventurous, creative spirit in the kitchen after I finish making a selection of goodies they love and will be anticipating.

I am including the recipe for Swedish Rye Bread here for those of you who like a good hearty loaf and the taste of Caraway.

What is a Gift?

So it’s December and of course I find myself focussed on gifts.  As I prepare for Christmas I find myself pondering, ‘what is a gift?’  Is it something that I choose because I think it is special and would like to give it, or is it the opposite; something that I think the receiver will appreciate but not necessarily something I would like to give?

One of the reasons I find myself wondering about this is because I am making my gifts this year and get such pleasure from it.  As I am weaving, knitting or sewing and listening to Christmas music I feel as if what I am doing has meaning.  I will get a great deal of joy packaging up these gifts  that I make myself, but I have to wonder…..will the receiver feel the same way?

There are certain people I know will love what I give them because they appreciate the creativity and time that goes into such a gift but then there are those that I wonder.  Will they take care of this gift properly?  Do I want to give this kind of gift to someone who does not appreciate handmade things and the time and effort that goes into them, or would just as soon have a similar item from a big box store for a fraction of the cost?

But then I jump to another side of the discussion and think, is it up to me to determine who will appreciate what I give them or is that the responsibility of the receiver? Do I give a gift with good intent and leave the rest of the equation to the receiver?  What about my ethics?  Do they come into this? Should they?

For instance, I prefer to support local business when I can, I try not to purchase things that I do not need and I do not like to support business that does not treat workers fairly or that gets their merchandise from places where workers are taken advantage of and treated inhumanely.  But what if one of the people you want to give a gift to do not share that same ethic and really want an item from such a place?

I am inclined to think that I should use the same purchasing ethics  that I follow the rest of the year even if  I am buying or making a gift. That means that I will use natural fibres when I create pieces on my loom and knit, I will not be rushing out to join in the hustle of Christmas commercialism and I will give what I think is ethical and meaningful. No brand name clothes from the big box stores, no trendy decorations made from plastic that will be discarded in a short time and add to the problem of what to do with all this plastic, no technology or gadgets and no buying anything just for the sake of giving a gift.

Now that I think about this more intentionally, this is perhaps a dilemma that does not even need to be discussed. I am looking forward to seeing my children, spending time with them, my parents, relatives and friends.

The real gift for me is time.  Time with my parents and to appreciate that I am so blessed that they have remained a big part of my children’s life and are healthy and well. Time to share days snowshoeing and skiing and quiet nights chatting and visiting with my partner as we take time off work to slow down and celebrate Christmas together for the first time. Time to realize that time itself is the real gift that we neglect to give each other most often.

So I think I will continue to create and craft away because actually it is a gift I am giving myself, time with myself and my loom, my kitchen, my knitting needles and my creative spirit that has been neglected in the last few years and is now being recognized for what it is; a gift.

Keeping It Simple

danish pebernodder cookies

danish pebernodder cookies

This week I am busy weaving, knitting and baking. I am trying to keep dinners simple with very little preparation.  Saturday night we hosted friends for dinner so I served Short Ribs.  This allowed us to work and play all day at activities of our choice without having to be in the kitchen all day for dinner preparations.  We enjoyed a wonderful evening with our friends while dining on my version of Pumpkin Soup, Salad, Braised Short Ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, and Flan which my girlfriend brought.

Sunday was a very easy dinner because there were leftovers so we got to hike Rosewall Creek for hours and then enjoy the rest of the day working around the house and then enjoy the leftovers.  I made risotto with some of the juice  I strained off the ribs and added a little more red wine and asiago cheese. I was also able to make some Danish Christmas Cookies in between knitting and watching a movie Sunday night.

Last night I was  again  able to call on the leftovers to provide me with the beginnings of a wonderful meal.   With the remaining risotto and some of the wine sauce I saved, I was able to make a delicious Kale and Vegetable Soup.  I used fresh kale, carrots and turnips from my friend’s garden, some celery, chicken meat that I had in the freezer and the leftover risotto to produce a rich, hearty soup.  It was the perfect meal for a cold December night.

loom all ready for production

loom all ready for production

Because meals have been simple I have been able to finish a few knitting projects and yesterday I made a warp for my loom as well as a mock warp so that I don’t have to waste any precious mohair.  Last night we were able to spend the evening giving my loom a much need clean-up and overhaul.  I now have a loom in tip top shape without squeaks, loose parts or dust and dirt covering it.

That being said it is time for me to get to work producing more gifts.


dreamy mohair warp

dreamy mohair warp