Friday, April 29, 2011

Annabel, by Kathleen Winter


I've been wanting to blog about this book since finishing it, and should have written my thoughts down immediately, as I'm now into a completely different book called Eaarth, by Bill McKibbon (also worth blogging about in a welcome-to-the-present-and-happening-nightmare-of-climate-change way).

Unlike Eaarth, Annabel is fiction, and an entirely different book, though the situation it describes could easily represent another kind of nightmare. That it doesn't tells a great deal about the author's sensibility. Imagine giving birth to a baby with ambiguous genitalia: the child is both a boy and a girl. There are a variety of directions in which a writer could take this idea. Kathleen Winter doesn't go anywhere expected, yet the story she tells has the familiarity of truth about it.

Set in a tiny town in Labrador, in a landscape that is brutal and stark and wild, Winter writes about this child as if he were as natural and normal as any other. He is loved, in all the complicated and heart-breakingly ordinary ways, by his parents. But he is also different. His difference depends on who is looking at him, and on what he means to the other person -- what he represents. To his mother, he is partly the daughter she did not let live (in the sense that her child's femaleness was denied from birth onward). To his father, he is a child that must be trained the right way, to become a man, no matter the pain and consequences; his father sees that choosing a stable identity will protect the child from harm. To the neighbour who attended his birth, and knows his body's secret, the boy is just as much a girl, and she quietly nurtures the girl-side of the child.

His body is a secret to everyone but these three, including to the child himself, until he is a teenager, and he is raised as a boy; but Winter delicately draws him so that we understand that he is both. He is not one or the other. He is himself.

The book made me reflect not only on gender, and how gendered our world is -- the way there are clothes and colours and toys and emotions and expectations for boys and different clothes and colours and toys and emotions and expectations for girls -- but it also made me reflect on individuality, and the preciousness and potential of each and every life.

Roles are rigid. Individuals are not. What potential any of us have if we are loved. How the self longs to flower in the light of love.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

More on Chatelaine.com

Here's a link to my second blog for Chatelaine.com on the triathlon challenge: note that the illustration is a stock photo, unrelated to me and my post-four-children body.

It's a pile of questions today. One that I know may never get answered is about balance. Just ask me about the past two hours.

I am spending my non-writing day with the kids cramming in way too many domestic tasks. Here's what I did between 1 and 3: arrived home with load of groceries, unloaded groceries, fed children, got bread (already in second rise on the counter) into hot oven, made yogurt, made supper in crockpot and rice in the oven, supervised two art projects, showed Fooey how to use CD player. Still haven't eaten lunch. And laundry and dishes are crying to be done, too.

Siiiiiigh.

But I try to squeeze this stuff in wherever it will fit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

News!

I've got a new writing gig: blogging twice a week about my triathlon challenge for Chatelaine.com. Today's the first day. Let me know what you think!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Week in Suppers: 7

Monday supper. Bailey's food pick-up! Hurray! And thumbs up all around. Buns, cheese, ham, salad greens, a sheep's milk cheese spread. Lemon loaf for dessert. This was a good end to a day that included standing by, dripping wet in my swimsuit, whilst my youngest wept his dear heart out in the pool. When we got to the showers, 15 minutes later, there was no water. None. Lovely to get home to a non-grumpy husband. He had decided to change his attitude about the Bailey's pick-up, to "think like Carrie" and check for every item on the list, and not to be in a hurry. He did not have to go back to pick up even one forgotten item. Yay!

Tuesday supper. Coconut sweet potato soup. Very very gingery and spicy and delicious. Recipe on the blog, here. I skipped out on supper and went to yoga instead. I was surprised, on returning home, to discover that the soup had been popular with almost everyone. It had a good bite to it. Of course, there was bread on the side, just in case. We attempted to carpool to soccer, and AppleApple was ferried there by another parent, but when I went to pick the girls up, it turned out that the other child had left already with her dad. (Maybe I should have arrived early, too??). It was so cold that AppleApple was quite literally frozen. She had to cry as her toes thawed out on the drive home. I held them in one hand while I drove, and that seemed to help. And of course, we stopped for a hot chocolate, just for her. None of the other kids complained. They understood. It was 2 degrees and raining. I kid you not. Those soccer kids are tough. When I asked, "Are you crying because it's just too hard?" She said, "No, I'm crying because my toes hurt." And awhile later, she mused that though she loves soccer, she would draw the line at losing her toes for soccer. Kev ended the day with his last hockey game of the season. Now he will add a second night of soccer to compensate.

Wednesday supper. This is not a photo of Wednesday's supper. This is a photo of the little kids playing and reading while the noodles boil for Wednesday's supper. Beef stew with potatoes and yams, in the crockpot. The flavours were exotic and, frankly, delicious, but not one of the kids ate more than a small, token bowl. The spices included: cloves, cinnamon stick, whole pepper corns, and fennel seed. Kevin and I enjoyed the leftovers for a few days. It was a full writing day for me, and I worked hard on a new project, which I plan to announce tomorrow, if all goes well. I left the writing cone of silence to head directly to music lessons with a load of children, and then Kevin had a soccer coaching clinic from 6-9. That meant supper alone with the kids, and bedtime too. My brother Karl came over after supper for guitar and drum lessons, and he kindly drove Albus to his piano lessons, and then Albus walked home (it was still light out at 8pm). That eased my evening a great deal. I was in my pajamas as soon as the kids were, though. Four early mornings in a row this week.

Thursday supper. More pasta. Leftover exotic beef dish. Leftover soup. Green salad. Yum. Oh, and also super-easy. The kids loved it too. I had such a sweet morning. I swam early, I napped early, I took the kids to a friend's house to play, I got a massage on my painful shoulder (one of my friends is a massage therapist!!), I went straight from the blissed-out massage (in the middle of the living-room floor, surrounded by curious children) to a chiro appointment, and the shoulder pain eased significantly following that one-two punch. Then the kids and I nipped into the grocery store, but we were running late by that point, and did not make it home in time to meet with the a potential porch contractor. Oh well. The afternoon went from there: playdates and happy home-walkers and relaxed supper prep and mealtime, and then Kevin and I went to our last kundalini class of the session together. I am sad that it's our last, but alas, soccer season has its demands. The class celebrated with champagne and brownies and fruit. I will miss it!

Friday supper. This is not a photo of Friday's supper. Or even of Friday (I forgot; I spent a large portion of the day writing, with Kevin home for the holiday, then I dashed to yoga, then the kids went for a sleepover at their grandma's, all except the littlest, whom we picked up before bedtime). So this is a photo of the next morning, when it was just two parents and one giddy-at-his-fortune three-year-old. For supper on Friday night, Kevin and I went to Ye's all by ourselves, and super-early, because we were soooooo hungry and that's what we felt like doing. Ye's = all-you-can-eat sushi. Then we caught up on tv shows. Happy day. (But we didn't tell the kids where we'd eaten because we knew they'd be jealous; luckily they do not read this blog; to my knowledge, that is).

Saturday supper. This is not a photo of Saturday's supper (striking out again!). This is photo of the paska that I started on Saturday, then let rise when we went to pick up the kids from grandma's, then let rise again when we went to our first Easter meal of the weekend: ham, scalloped potatoes, corn, etc., and none of it cooked by me. Perfect. I stuffed the oven with loaves of paska and baked them all upon getting home. The recipe made rather more than I'd anticipated. Yum. Dessert and school lunches taken care of for weeks to come.

Sunday supper. This is not exactly a photo of Sunday's supper; but it stands in as a good representation. This is one of my finished loaves of paska, frosted with sprinkles, whoopee! My first attempt at paska was several years ago, and it was a big-time refuse-to-rise hard-as-a-puck fail. My second attempt, this weekend, was far better: a doughy, sweet, citrus-flavoured bready cakey treat. I took a round loaf to our second Easter gathering, which was more of a lunch meal: paella, scallops, steak, salmon, potato salad, and none of it cooked by me. Perfect. We were still stuffed at suppertime, so we made a batch of popcorn, cut up some apples, and served paska for dessert. And ate everything in the living-room in front of a movie. And thus ended our Easter. (Though the kids are still working hard on the candy; and we plan to have devilled eggs, perhaps for supper tomorrow night).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ups, Downs; Downs, Ups

The week has gone by in a blur. I've had less energy, yet have stuck to the basic routines. And here we are, arrived at a holiday. Kevin is home from work. So I am working. Yes, I am upstairs in the playroom/office typing away on a new project that I plan to reveal next week when it goes live. Stayed tuned.

This week has seen its ups and downs. And downs and ups.

One item that started up, then plummeted down, (thankfully not literally), was our porch, which we hope to rebuild this summer. It's been steadily decaying due to water damage, and might make it one more year before falling off the front of our house--might. So we've been saving our pennies and gathering quotes from contractors and builders. And in the midst of this planning, my friend N offered an exciting suggestion: while we're rebuilding the porch, could a tiny home office be built, too? There is a perfect place for it: we have a door that leads off the dining-room onto the side porch, and both door and side-porch are currently underused; wasted access, and wasted space. Would it be possible to create an insulated room right there? I have to confess that I was/am hugely excited, giddy almost, to be entertaining the idea of having a home office -- a real writing space, a room of my own. I could imagine it in perfect detail: spare and functional, with white painted wood, tall windows, a wall of bookshelves, and a desk. Simple. Perfect.

My feelings were/are almost covetous. Drooling. Dreaming.

Well, here's the down. We got our first quote for the job and it was double our budget. And we thought our budget was pretty generous. Did I mention that the quote was just for rebuilding the porch? Nothing to do with adding on said fantasy writing room? We're not quite back to square one, because quotes can vary wildly; but my home office bubble is suffering serious deflation. And you know, maybe it isn't my time, yet. I need to earn entry into the perfect writing space. I need to sell more books, more words. (Words for sale! Words for sale!).

Speaking of words for sale, I had a pleasant chat with my agent yesterday. And I have news! My second book, THE JULIET STORIES, will be published earlier than originally anticipated: look for it in stores this coming March (in Canada, that is). Which means that there is exciting work ahead, also sooner than anticipated: editing the manuscript on a micro rather than a macro level; discussing cover design; meeting the kind people at House of Anansi; and planning publicity for the book. Yikes! Yowza! Woot!

But enough of ups into downs and downs into ups. Time to stop typing, stop working, and let this space revert back to a playroom for most of the rest of the weekend. It is a holiday, after all.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Week in Suppers: 6

Monday supper. Grilled sausages (breakfast, because that's all we had left in the freezer). Mashed potato casserole (lots of cheese). Squash and beets cooked whole in the crockpot. Swim lessons were cancelled, so I had more time than expected after school to prepare supper. Not that it mattered. I'd made the casserole the night before and popped it into the fridge. It needed about twenty minutes in the oven. Most of us liked it. I would make it again, as a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes. Anyone out there have ideas for leftover potatoes? I'm stuck in a cottage pie/shepherd's pie/casserole groove. I mashed the squash with a touch of maple syrup, and butter; always good. That was the last "keeper" squash and it was a bit soft at the top. The beets were so far gone I wasn't sure they could be ressurected, but they steamed up nicely, and despite a slight overall rubberiness, when sliced and salted, they were sweet and tasty. But I'm tired of beets. And no one else will eat them. Kevin had soccer. I swam in the morning. In between, the kids had school, and CJ stayed for the "lunch bunch" at his nursery school, giving me an extra half hour to work. Or to nap, as the case may be. Then we went shoe shopping (for him) and clothes shopping (for me). It felt very car-based and suburban. Especially when I filled up the truck with gas. Good grief!

Tuesday supper. Curried carrot soup. Quinoa. Squash and egg casserole (big-time 70s recipe). On the soup, which should have been good: the curry flavours needed to be stronger. A friend sent the suggestion when I complained about the blandness of last batch of carrot soup (thank God, this batch marked the end of our carrot invasion). She suggested grating in fresh ginger at the very end to add an extra pop. But I cooked everything together and was far too conservative with my spice amounts. I froze the leftovers for a quick meal another time: will bump up the spices upon reheating. I would call this meal not a flop, exactly, but tinged with disappointment; nobody but Kevin and me ate the squash casserole, which was almost dessert-like and delicious, but decidedly unattractive. I napped early, almost immediately after getting home from spin class, and had lots of energy all day, enough to make it to yoga before supper. AppleApple had an outdoor soccer practice, so Kevin had the unenviable job of packing up CJ, and driving to pick up Fooey (on a playdate), then AppleApple (on a playdate), then Albus (on a playdate), and then racing to the soccer field. We ended up eating supper together, minus AppleApple, whom I picked up after supper. She'd eaten a bunch of snacks on the way there, but was famished enough to have a helping of squash casserole. CJ insisted on riding along to the soccer field, but I made him promise to listen to the federal leaders' debate on the way. It put him to sleep (gah!), but somehow we managed to transfer him from truck to bed, and then to fool him into thinking it was very very late at night when he woke restlessly around 8pm. He must have been tired. He slept for a full 12 hours. The rest of the family stayed up watching the whole debate, and talking about what we'd heard. Then Kevin went to hockey.

Wednesday supper. Crockpot lentil soup: the harira recipe on this blog, over rice. Nice. Could have used a side veg, but I had nothing convenient on hand. This was an oddball day. CJ stayed for lunch bunch again, and my friend J picked him up, and I got to go for a massage instead! Woot! It was my gift to myself post-race. I also met with my brother in the morning to talk about cookbooks. I was floating the idea--the underdeveloped notion, more like it--of making a cookbook loosely based on this "week in suppers" theme. Talking to him (he works for a company that publishes a lot of cookbooks) put it into perspective. The work involved would be staggering. It might not be the best use of my time. Unless I do it slowly, over time, gradually gathering recipes and photos until I have enough material to justify putting a book together--and then arranging for recipe testing, etc. Fiction-writing is a better use of my time: that's what it confirmed for me. Other nice things happened today: I went for a morning run with my friend N; I ran a quick errand uptown all by myself; I ate a spinach and feta pastry for lunch; my friend M took the little girls to their music class so I didn't have to leave the house; and Kevin came home early so I could go to yoga. I took Albus to his piano lesson and read Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, a book I liked so much--loved might be the word for it--that I think I will blog about it soon.

Thursday supper. Beans and rice, with quesedillas and red cabbage salad. This entire week had flop written all over it. I don't know how I managed it, since beans are my specialty, but somehow, when suppertime arrived, these were still hard in the pot and required a full hour of extra cooking time. So I fired up the cast-iron skillet and made a pile of quesedillas using corn tortillas (like a Latin American grilled cheese sandwich). Albus ate about six. AppleApple was at a birthday party, from which Kevin picked her up early to go to another soccer practice. The little kids played outside, and no one complained (too much) about being hungry. We ate late, when the beans finally softened. I forgot to take a photo. Instead, here's AppleApple from another afternoon this week: yay! We have new space to play, now: it's called Outside! (Or we did last week, before it decided to snow again). And we have big plans for backyard improvements (though I think we'll pass on the water slide from Albus's bedroom window down to a trampoline, as was brainstormed during Saturday night's supper). Kevin and I had kundalini yoga, and then I put on my dancing shoes, and drove to nearby Guelph with two friends to go dancing. My siblings' band was playing a show. Here's a link to their latest video. If you ever get a chance to see Kidstreet play live, go go go! They throw down an instant dance party. That was a late night, especially considering my day had started at 5:15--to go swimming. But that's okay. I told Kevin just before I ran the half that this coming week would be my party week.

Friday supper. Finally, success!!! I made miso soup and pad thai. Both were fabulous. The pad thai recipe was different from the usual ones involving ketchup: the sauce was 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and a whole lot of sugar. I had some frozen cilantro that I added to the mix. The miso soup is so good and so simple that I made it again for the kids' lunch the next day: it's basically instant soup, if you have the ingredients on hand (miso paste, seaweed, and tofu). I was thrilled to have made a meal that everyone loved. AppleApple was at a playdate after school and arrived home toward the end of the meal. My late night/early morning combo (plus a morning run) caught up with me around 7pm, so Kevin did the dishes while I crashed out on the couch for about an hour and a half (!!!). Woke in time to tuck kids in, then we flopped and watched tv: Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock, and we tried out Modern Family, which I liked more than I'd expected to. Albus tried to stay up too. "What are you up to?" I asked him, when I discovered him hanging around the kitchen past his bedtime. "I'm observing," he said.

Saturday supper. Take-out Indian from our favourite spot in town: Masala Bay! Kevin worked today, and I was tired. I managed to bake bread and granola, and to take the kids to the little park in a rainstorm, and to arrange transport for AppleApple, who has both Singer's Theatre in the morning, and soccer practice in the afternoon (I asked her yesterday, picking her up from her FOURTH practice of the week, whether she feels she's doing too much, to which she replied, "No!!!" She loves soccer. She likes being busy. She had difficulty imagining that a parent could push a child to do something the child wouldn't want to do, anyway.) I had zero inspiration for supper. What a treat to order food that would have taken me an inordinate amount of effort to prepare. Samosas, pakoras, nan, black lentils in cream and butter, a fiery eggplant dish, butter chicken, chicken in chili and coriander. We feasted. We stayed at the table for over an hour, talking and laughing. CJ is still a bit young to participate fully, and he does end up interrupting and yelling sometimes, or dropping his fork to get attention, but I am otherwise relishing the stage that our family is at, and how much pleasure we get just from spending time together around the table. That evening Kevin and I got to party some more, to celebrate my friend J's graduation from midwifery school. More dancing, and free drinks. Another late night.

Sunday supper. Leftovers and scrambled eggs. There were enough Indian leftovers for an entire second supper, to which AppleApple added scrambled eggs made-to-order. I've been giving the older kids more freedom in the kitchen, and they spent a lot of time last week making tea (after getting permission to use the stove). AppleApple was keen to learn how to make scrambled eggs, envisioning herself rising early to cook herself breakfast (which would be, frankly, awesome). It was a fairly tricky process, but by the end, she made a batch without anyone watching over her shoulder. The gas stove makes it feel more dangerous, but it's time for the kids to find real independence in the kitchen. And it's time for me to ease up and let them. (On a side note: CJ agreed to be three this week: because he wanted to take a turn at cooking, and I told him that it starts when you turn four. "And you're still two, so that's a long way to go." He considered his options briefly, and told me, "I'm three now.") We've noticed some improvements in responsibility, and I think it's more to do with my own expectations than with their initiative (or lack thereof). Tidying the house yesterday was so much easier with everyone responsible for their own spaces, and helping out overall: they helped because they were expected to help, and they got that. But I'm a bit of a control freak in the kitchen (just ask Kevin), so I'm reminding myself to back off and make space for everyone else to help out here, too. No exercise yesterday or today. Yup, it was a party week. We ended the day with homework completed, piano practiced, and a planning meeting over a pot of tea: always a good entry into the new week ahead.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Up Up Up

Today marks the launch of a debut collection of stories: Up Up Up, by Julie Booker. It also marks the first time I've "blurbed" for a book. You can go to bookstores (in Canada), pick up this brightly titled book, and turn it over to the back cover where you will find these words:

"Up Up Up is perfectly titled: a debut collection that positively bubbles with life, humour, and surprise. In these swift and sparkling stories -- confections of unexpected density --Booker's voice never fails to illuminate the bright side of the dark side. Booker's radiant charm is in her seeming artlesness: dialogue that leaps from page to ear, flawed characters who try and try again, and -- listen, you can almost hear it -- the joyful hum of boundless curiosity."

And then you'll see my name. Woot! (Why is woot a word? I don't know, but I like it).

I had not heard of Julie Booker--this is her first book--before reading these stories, and it was a delight to put my stamp of approval on them. So go get the book and get reading! Twenty short stories make for excellent just-before-bed fare.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Post-Race Musings


The race brought up some unexpected and deep emotions. It was inspiring. It was healing. It gave me a new perspective on myself. It brought up thoughts like: if I can imagine doing it, I can set myself on a path to be able to do it. This is going to sound like typical motivational gobbledeygook, but it made me ask: what are the barriers I've erected in my own mind that are preventing me from doing the things that I want to do--that are preventing me from even imagining and glimpsing the things that I want to do? It's too easy to say, oh, that would be hard, that would be impossible, I don't have the time.Yes, it's been hard to train myself into a different and more athletically capable body. But it hasn't been that hard. It certainly hasn't been impossible. The time is now.

My larger thoughts are still amorphous and vague. But my most concrete thought is this: I already have the skills to do great/good/helpful things. I don't need to retrain and gain a new skill set. I'm a writer. It's what I do. Being a writer is similar in a lot of ways to being a runner. It's an individual journey. But even the individual, within the larger collective of a race, or a running group, or a yoga class, has the opportunity to affect the larger community--either negatively, neutrally, or positively. Think of the good energy you can receive when you practice with a committed group of yogis. It is so much bigger and more inspiring than practicing on your own--but your own practice is important too, and you need to build it and strengthen it in order to give back to the others around you.

So. I'm thinking of my writing in those terms. I'm thinking: where can my writing be of use? Where can I find homes for it? Where is it needed? How do I want to change the world? Small changes, big changes, radical changes, subtle changes? And how can I use what I've already got to push for those changes?

:::

Also, I think one of the stumbling blocks to change is knowing that one will be changed--but not knowing how. That can be scary. For example, I did not know, when I started the triathlon project, that I would want to run long distances, too. The idea of running a half-marathon, let alone a full marathon, never occurred to me. I also couldn't have predicted or guessed that the training would turn me into someone for whom 5:15am is a happy hour of the day. I like rising early. I love my naps. I can't undo figuring that out, even though it means sacrificing a lot of late nights in order to enjoy the early mornings.

And change is slow. That's the other factor I continue to keep in mind. Patience. Slowly, slowly, the accretion of work and discipline, and the unexpected, will change you. Being curious, exploring along the way, testing things out, being willing to drop things that aren't helpful or are blocking the way, accepting opportunities that arise, being spontaneous: these all make the slow and steady journey interesting. The goals, the end-points, those markers are going to change along the way, too. How fascinating is that?

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Week in Suppers: 5

Monday supper. Carrot soup with potatoes, vegetarian version (I had run out of frozen chicken stock). It lacked the oomph without the stock flavours to balance it out. Passable. Cooked in the crockpot. Pureed just before setting it on the table. Swim lessons after school. The kids are enjoying it more than they'd expected. Fooey's class was in the deep end, in the same lane where I swim in the mornings. I ducked out after supper to meet my siblings for a beer. Half a beer, and a ginger ale, in my case; spin class early tomorrow morning.

Tuesday supper. Cottage pie with lentils and ground beef. I had to use up leftover mashed potatoes from Sunday's supper, ergo, another cottage pie, this time bulked up with lentils. And of course carrots. We still have an overload despite yesterday's carrot soup. Apple-Apple has soccer practice, outside, fairly early, so we are eating early on Tuesdays. Kevin is still playing hockey, too, but at least that's post-kids'-bedtime. If they get to bed on time.

Wednesday supper. A frozen container of leftover chili, reheated in the crockpot all day, along with some frozen corn (the last from last summer; I am positive this time), and some frozen spinach. Baked rice on the side. I ate a bit with the family, post-music-lessons, then raced off to hit a yoga class. Feeling very achy. Decided at yoga to take it easy for the next two days, to prepare for the half-marathon. The kids also had drum and guitar lessons while I was out, and Kevin took Albus to his piano lesson, before skedaddling to soccer practice. I came home from yoga and scarfed down these leftovers. Tasty.

Thursday supper. Green pasta. Carb loading in advance of Saturday's run. Also, everyone likes this meal and it's super-easy. AppleApple had more another soccer practice, and Kevin went to kundalini yoga alone. I went to bed with a book.

Friday supper. Kusherie. An Egyptian feast. Lentils and rice steamed together. Cumin-spiced tomato sauce. Served on a bed of macaroni. Topped with fried onions. Can we all say "Hurray!" and "Yum!" But Fooey thought it looked disgusting. There was a long drawn-out scene (the word "disgusting" is forbidden at the table). Sigh. It had been a PD day, and I'd been home alone with the kids all day. All I wanted was to enjoy a feast, clean up, get the kids to bed, and go to sleep in preparation for tomorrow's early rise.

Saturday supper. This is not a photo of Saturday's supper (we had leftovers; after the race, I did nothing but nap, write, and float around feeling amazing and not in the least in the cooking mood). This is a photo of the snacks brought by my poetry book club, who met here on Saturday evening. There was an absolute feast of snackeries. There was even cake.

Sunday supper. This is not a photo of Sunday's supper (we had a BBQ, Albus-directed: hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad, with an inexplicable giant bowl of mashed potatoes, too). This is a photo of Friday's indoor picnic with the kids. It was really fun. Hummus on tortilla wraps, veggies, boiled eggs, apples, and homemade green bean dill pickles.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Crossing the Finish Line, this morning

Before. I was smiling, but feeling pretty anxious to get going.

After. Best feeling ever (well, right up there). It was a beautiful day for a run on country roads. Sunshine, breeze, birds chirping. I almost burst into tears at the beauty of it about three kilometres on. And I'm pretty sure I grinned the whole way. There were moments when it got hard, such as around 18k when I realized that I could probably finish in under two hours if I could keep up my pace. The last two hills took guts and slowed me down, and the final sprint to the finish could have been a bit more sprint-like, but it was pure joy to cross the finish line, to see my family waving and shouting, and hear my name on the loudspeaker, and see the time. My new personal best (okay, my only possible personal best), first half-marathon: 1:55. Yah. I'd do that again.

(If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details, visit my triathlon-training blog).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quick Updates

He agreed to turn three. Briefly. On Monday evening, he was talked into being a big boy by his big brother, who regaled him with the many advantages thereof. In the morning, he held to the new age, telling me, in a whisper, that he was three. But when I asked him for a photo holding up three fingers he balked, frowned, and regressed. Not three, he decided. Still two.

Are the expectations too heavy, the demands of being three? I kind of get it, actually. It is scary to get older, to be asked to do more, to be given new responsibilities, to age.

:::

As many of you know, I will be running my first half-marathon (that's 21.5k) on Saturday. If you are interested in sponsoring me, here's the info. Wish me luck. I'm starting to feel just a little bit nervous. Trying to keep this thought in my mind, as my focus: whatever time I get, as long as I finish the race, it will be my personal best.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Week in Suppers: 4

Monday supper. Bailey's pick-up, so it's a smorgasbord of local food. I always order with this supper in mind: bread, buns, pretzels, cheese curds, sandwich meat, greens, and today there were tomatoes, too. For dessert: butter tarts with pecans. Kevin did the pick-up and used the rejigged new/used stroller, which apparently runs quite well now. I took four kids to swim lessons, so we figured it came out even, especially because I'm still getting into the pool with CJ. Here's hoping he makes the transition (our second attempt at the transition lessons).

Tuesday supper. Black beans, hamburger, rice, taco shells, tortillas, guacamole, green salad, cheese, crema, hot sauce. And of course birthday cake for dessert. All the kids got the day off school, and we had lunch at the gelato shop uptown. I made one of my standard "meals for a crowd": set up the food buffet-style, with options for everyone. Kevin made the cake, with help from Fooey and Albus.

Wednesday supper. Coconut sweet potato soup in the crockpot. Wow, this was good. Well, I thought so, and Kevin did too, and AppleApple heartily agreed, and Albus gave it a ho-hum but edible rating. The two youngest refused. I'd make this again.

Coconut Sweet Potato Soup (crockpot version)
Peel and chop three or four large sweet potatoes and two apples and put into the crockpot. Carrots could be substituted or added (we have an excess of carrots right now). Add 10 cups of chicken stock, or veggie stock, or water. Add one can of coconut milk. In a small amount of olive oil, saute 2 large onions, chopped, and 2 tbsp ginger root, along with 1 tbsp of mild curry powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Scrape into the crockpot. Simmer on low all day. Blend with an immersion blender, adding a couple of stalks of cilantro (I used frozen; optional). The juice of one lemon or lime can be stirred in just before serving (also optional).

Thursday supper. Pasta with red sauce, and salad. This is my quiet day. I had some friends over in the morning and the little kids played and played. Albus went to a friend's house after school, and AppleApple walked home with a friend. Kevin and I finished off the day with a kundalini yoga class. It's always stressful getting everything done and peeling off a crying CJ from my leg, but once I'm in that calm, dark studio space, it feels entirely worth it.

Friday supper. A crockpot recipe called "Mexican beans and rice." It didn't strike me as being very Mexican, however. "Mexican," more like it. Basically, it was a black bean vegetarian chili with some leftover rice stirred in. Passable, but forgettable. Skating is now over, so the big kids walked home from school together (well, almost; Albus walked AppleApple most of the way, then ran back to his friends' house to play, which he hadn't okayed with me. We're working on this independence thing. I was happy he was playing with friends, and AppleApple did pass along the plan to me, but the rule is that he needs to call upon arrival anywhere. A rule he has yet to put into practice. "You should just call me," he says; which, of course, I do.) AppleApple had her last goalie camp of the session, and Albus had his last soccer skills, so we ate early and quickly. I enjoyed reading with the little ones, got them tucked in early, and met the babysitter secretively at the door. With all the peeling off of CJ I'm having to do lately, I wasn't too keen to leave him with a new sitter; but decided instead, whether or not it was ethical, to let him drift off to sleep believing his mama to be somewhere nearby, ready if he needed me. But in reality, I was headed out for another kundalini class, and then on to a birthday party with Kevin. It all worked out. Home shortly after midnight.

Saturday supper. We ate at a friends' house, so I did not have to cook even one thing today. Kevin made the birthday cake that we took along. These are banana bran muffins, which I made on Sunday, in a baking binge of epic proportion. Saturday was a wonderful day off. I went for a morning run, and then a yoga class. We had a few drinks with dinner, and then I went out again to meet up with friends after the kids were in bed. I was pretty tired by the end of it all, and was summoned home just after midnight due to an hysterical CJ, who had woken and was not happy to discover it was merely daddy on-call. Glad that happened tonight, and not last night. Yeesh.

Banana Bran Muffins (makes 24)
In a large bowl, soak 2 cups of wheat bran in the following mixture: 2 eggs, beaten, 2 cups of milk, and 1/2 cup of honey. Let sit for 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour (whole wheat is fine), 2 tbsp baking powder, and 1 tsp salt. Add 1 cup of mashed banana to the wet mixture (approximately 2 bananas). Gently combine the wet and the dry, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Muffins do not respond well to over-mixing. Err on the side of under-mixing. Spoon into greased muffin tins, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Sunday supper. Fooey's meal choice: she wanted to make an "Albus Special," which is mashed potatoes and gravy and meat all mixed together on a plate. We compromised, not having a hunk of meat on hand, and Fooey made the potatoes, Kevin grilled sausages and a piece of steak, and I made a mushroom gravy that was delectable, if not exactly child-friendly. I spent the day baking. I simply couldn't help myself. I made waffles (with extras to freeze), baked bread and pitas, and those yummy banana bran muffins, and a batch of chocolate chip cookie bars from my own recipe on this blog, which felt just a little over the top even to me. All good. But not quite a day of rest. Or, I guess, my version thereof.

Mushroom Gravy (makes a little over a cup; double the recipe if you want more)
Saute in 4 tbsp of butter, one chopped onion, one clove of garlic, and several chopped celery stalks. Add and saute 3-4 cups of chopped mushrooms, and 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp thyme, pepper to taste. When the veggies are soft, add 4 tbsp flour and cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until the raw taste is gone. Add 1 tsp tamari sauce (optional), and 3 tbsp white wine (highly recommended). Cook off the alcohol, then add 1 cup of milk, and simmer gently, stirring often, as the sauce thickens. More milk could be added in 1/4 cup amounts if the sauce is too thick.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spring Project

A few weeks ago: note the child's expression of concentration and concern (it was visible in all the photos I took).

Earlier this afternoon: practice at the empty lot across the street. CJ's birthday gift: a balance bike!

Right now: she can ride her two-wheeler! She just showed me her "trick," which was to cycle independently all the way around the apartment building next door (which Kevin running along beside, just in case).

:::

In other news, CJ got to blow out more candles last night when we celebrated his birthday along with his best friend's birthday (they are about two weeks apart in age). But even an excess of candle-blowing and cake cannot change our boy's mind: "I'm still two."

Friday, April 1, 2011

Many Parts


There's a picture in my head made up of words in the shape of a clock, or a circle. The words are ones I associate with myself, with who I am. This is the post I planned to write awhile ago, and it has been marinating ever since. I keep thinking the ideas will come together more coherently, but instead it remains the same as it was when I first came across the thought: a circular list of words. Some are big--bigger than I am--and apply only in a theoretical sense. I haven't accomplished enough to claim some of them, but they're not end-point words; rather, they're associative, hopeful.

Writer. Mother. Chef. Photographer. Doula. Athlete. Friend. Partner. Family-member. Musician. Designer. Organizer.

I could add in a word related to doing laundry and dishes, but I don't want to. I choose not to.

These words represent the ways that I use my time. Everything I've listed gives me pleasure or is something I want to pursue further.

(Which is why the chores get left off the list; yes, I use my time to do a lot of chores, but they're not essential to who I am. Or are they? Probably they are. Probably they've taught me all kinds of good things about patience and persistence and the necessity and and meditative nature of routine. But I'd still let someone else take over the bulk of them, at least half the time, without blinking an eye.)

Thinking about these words gives me a way to consider what I'm doing, and what I would like to be doing. Which words are more ascendant within me right now? Or this week? Or this year? Or long-term? I have a lot of energy, now that I'm sleeping through the night, and when I set my mind to a task or a goal, I home in on it with laser-beam eyeballs and a focus that frightens me just a little bit sometimes. My question right now, having sent off my manuscript, and balancing on the cusp of who-knows-what, is where should I direct this focus? I am filled with ideas, and long-term plans and plots, but everything scatters like dust without concrete goals. Without placement.

The portrait project is a good example of something that has drifted, that, finished, feels a bit purposeless. I like a solid goal. I appreciated the challenge of taking a portrait every day, and appreciated everything I learned over the year. But. There it ends, a series of photographs, some quite lovely, some I'm happy never to see again, without any kind of summing up, without a home. What, I wonder, was the meaning of that? Could it add up to something other than the disconnected list that it is?

::::

In other news, my eye woes are mending. Not altogether healed, but improved. In fact, as soon as the gigantic pustules started shrinking--and even while they remained quite large and ugly-looking--I discovered an instant upswing in my confidence. The confidence was (and may very well still be) entirely out of proportion to the size of the pustules; the confidence relates, quite simply, to how bad it was before. Simple comparison. As long as it is better than it was, I am flying, I'm on top of the world, brimming with confidence. Plus, I have peripheral vision again, which is handy and quite useful.