I am [modern] woman; Watch me cook

Sarah in Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn garden - by Amy Eaton

Housewife has become a dirty word for my generation. It hearkens back to another time, when gender equality was virtually nonexistent.

But now, even in this fairly gender-equal era, I want to stay at home. I want to work from home, cook, clean, garden, decorate. I want to be a “housewife”.

Sure, I was raised conservatively, and yes, my mother was a homemaker (less offensive but still sounds outdated) for most of my life. Yes, I always wondered if she would have preferred to have a career besides being a mother to six, if given the choice. She didn’t.

The best parts of my week generally always have to do with cooking something well, trying a new recipe, planting and harvesting vegetables, feeling a sense of accomplishment after cleaning the house or doing laundry.

The hardest parts of my week are trying to cram everything into evenings and weekends: extracurricular work, special cleaning projects, ongoing laundry and dishes, meal planning and prep, exercise, dog-walking, quality time with my man, not to speak of time with friends and family, and, of course, keeping up with pop culture as everyone is expected to do.

For some (many?) women, being a career professional is no doubt a life stage they are happy with and settled into. Proud of, even.

But I’m in the camp that would like the chance to check emails on the porch with coffee; to have the time to grow a big vegetable garden, and to preserve the extras; to clean the house and do the grocery shopping and walk the dog and make dinner before my man gets home, so we can enjoy our evening together; to just pop into the kitchen to make a fresh lunch; to start dinner more than 20 minutes before I want to eat it.

Is this my middle-class privileged pipe dream? Maybe so, but I haven’t given up on it yet.

~~~

Photo by Amy Eaton of Winsome and Whimsy Photography. Taken at Almonte Riverside Boutique Inn, Almonte, Ontario.

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I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

keep calm and graduate

Seven more months…

(PS When you type “I think I can” three times in a row at 2:00 am, it looks quite silly).

 

Thirty-One Times Grateful

31

My birthday was last week, and, as ever, I greeted the day with excitement and joy, and not a little gratitude.

I am sometimes sarcastic and sometimes philosophical, but this occasion called for a simple stock-taking of all the reasons having another birthday is a great thing.

1. I live in a free country (no, let’s not get into the flaws of democracy and capitalism today).

2. I am part of a family. Two, actually!

3. I am physically healthy.

4. I have traveled beyond my country and beyond my continent, and explored cultures different from my own.

5. Traveling outside of my comfort zone has taught me to appreciate and respect other cultures and customs.

6. It has also taught me to love my own.

7. I will rarely, if ever, be expected to compromise my beliefs and values.

8. I feel safe most of the time.

9. I have found my soul mate.

10. I am able to educate myself in whichever career I choose.

11. Though I know the American Dream is a fallacy, I feel capable of being all I can be, if I choose to work for it.

12. I don’t have money or rich relatives, and though my finances often threaten to give me ulcers, I somehow know it will all be alright in the end, if I have my man, my people, and my wits about me.

13. I have a roof over my head, old and crooked as it might be.

14. I am intelligent enough to be capable of many things.

15. I have access to libraries full of great knowledge and history.

16. I have a job. Being employed is easily taken for granted, until you’re unemployed and struggling to find income. Be grateful!

17. I have had many champions and mentors, and am fortunate enough to have continuing relationships with them.

18. I have a home where I can host family and friends and exercise my gift of hospitality.

19. I own not one, but two vehicles, one of which was a birthday surprise that will continue to delight me for years to come.

20. I live in a time where technology allows me to stay in touch with friends and family far and wide. Perhaps the same technology is making us all lonelier, but I treasure its ability to connect me to others.

21. It might be limited, but I have access to all the clean water I need.

22. I am able to grow my own food, even in the city.

23. Pastry. That’s all.

24. I live in a beautiful part of the world: rolling hills, great lakes with lovely beaches, delicate and subtle flowers in the spring, fertile soil for gardens and crops, reds and golds of changing leaves in the fall, forests with walking trails, rivers, ponds…

25. I am blessed with many wonderful friends. You know who you are. Thank you for being in my life!

26. Nieces. I love ADORE those girls! I can’t get enough of them. I wouldn’t mind a nephew, too… someday.

27. Blogging. Even though it means I have all but completely neglected proper journalling, I really enjoy these electronic snippets!

28. I am grateful for the abundance of good food available to me. By “good” I mean both delicious and of excellent quality.

29. This one is purely frivolous, but I appreciate the way my complexion suits many different hair colours. I’ve enjoyed being a blonde, a redhead, a brunette, and several shades between.

30. Despite how frustrating the ignorance of some people can be, there is a part of me that knows it takes all kinds to make a world, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have to meet so many of them.

31. Lastly, you. I am honoured to be read by a dedicated few and occasionally by many strangers. To all of you: thanks for making this endeavor worthwhile!

Worthy Distractions

My Herb Garden

My new herb garden

Things have been quiet on the personal blog front for a while. My apologies.

First, there were final papers. Four due in five days. Let’s just say I lived on coffee, three hours of sleep per night and was very grateful to get two extensions.

Then, there was exams. Oh, and losing my wallet. I may have said it before and I definitely will say it again: DON’T EVER CARRY ALL YOUR CARDS WITH YOU! Lesson learned.

iris

There’s something about fragrant perennial flowers greeting you at a new home…

One buck and doe, two days, and a shopping trip later, I started the mad marathon of packing. That took most of a week.

Then there was moving and cleaning and painting and cleaning and unpacking and cleaning and building a patio table and cleaning…

Then my summer course started, I officially began my internship with the Ruralist, I did more running around to replace my cards and pick up my OSAP, I handed around a bunch of resumes (anyone have decent connections to a casual to fine eatery in London that could use a server with several years’ experience?), met some of my mitZine crew (I’m the Web Editor for next year, yay!), met with my co-Ruralistas Erin and Erin, worked in Bayfield for a couple days, interviewed an original rock star, Andy Kim (performing in Bayfield June 16th)… phew! I’m sure I’m not even done that list.

Kinda like I’m not done painting the house. Or unpacking. Or fixing up the yard (so what if we have a bad habit of biting off more than we can chew? eventually things turn out awesomely!).

patio furniture

The table and bench that took up a week of our time… more than we thought we could chew, but look how beautiful they are! (They match some chairs we got on Kijiji…)

I guess I say all that to say this blog isn’t the only thing that hasn’t really gotten done lately. I’m still settling into my life’s new rhythm: the city, the boyfriend, the summer, the internship, the extra side projects.

These days, I’m getting up earlier to try to keep pace with Johnathan, but I still get to midnight and feel like I haven’t accomplished all I wanted to in a day. Sadly, this blog has suffered for it. Forgive me?

Bittersweet Transition: Why I WON’T Miss Huron County

(not to be confused with yesterday’s post: “Why I Will Miss Huron County“)

Parliament Hill

Me hanging with some of Canada's most famous ladies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

Last night I wrote about the reasons I will miss Huron County, my home since I was five. But this transition to the city truly is a bittersweet one. Yes, there are many things I will miss about Huron County, and the family and friends I leave behind are at the top of that list.

Still, there are some very enticing things about the city that contribute the “sweet” part. For one, you can go to the grocery store or the bank or Wal-Mart and expect to see no one you know. Yes, there really is something beautiful in total anonymity sometimes!

Then there is the much wider variety of stores and goods. I will be able to shop at a farmer’s market all year round! Or have my pick of several health food stores and specialty markets. So many furniture stores and antique shops and clothing stores and thrift stores!

I have access to a trail that goes clear across the city, and I can use it to run or walk or bike on. I no longer have to worry about getting run over by cars on the country road (not that that was ever a major problem). I can actually use my bike to get places and leave the car at home for an entire day!

Finally, I might actually use the membership I’ve been paying for at the gym at school, because I can go at times when I’m not already carting a bag with books and meals for an entire day.

In the winter and late at night, I will have more activity options than bowling, house parties, and Tim Horton’s. Imagine that, rural-ites! Tons of bars and restaurants and shows and galleries, more than I will likely ever get to see or experience.

Street meat!

The BF and I enjoying street meat in Ottawa a couple summers ago. Yes, I gained weight that trip.

I will always have a wide variety of movies to see without having to drive over an hour to get to the city. I never felt like I suffered for being from a town that screened only one or two movies, but it is still pretty cool that a wider variety will be more convenient for me.

Then there are the regular hours of stores and libraries. This is one of the most frustrating things about small town life for me. There are places that aren’t open the same hours from day to day or week to week, or have different winter hours, and it’s annoying. Yes, I get it. I know that business dies at certain times of the day or season, but still. There are few things more irritating than when you make a special trip for something only to find that the place is only open 10-3 today and it’s 4:15.

While it’s true that none of these things are as powerful as that smell I talked about at the end of yesterday’s post, they are all reasons to be excited about moving to the city.

Like I said, bittersweet.

 

Adventures in Apartment-Hunting

search tools

The implements of our search.

Johnathan and I have been actively looking for a place to live in London for two weeks now. Honestly, house/apartment-hunting could be a part-time job!

Each day, we spend a couple of hours, together and apart, searching Kijiji for new or updated ads offering places for rent. We have made many phone calls and sent many emails and spent a lot of time driving around looking for “For Rent” signs.

Being the people of discriminating taste that we are, we have a pretty well-defined idea of what we’re looking for:

  • Preferably an apartment in a house or duplex, not an “apartment building”, pretty definitely not a high-rise. They’re not “homey” enough.
  • Parking for at least two cars, if not three. We each have old cars that we’d like to have on the road in the summer. One set of vintage wheels apiece, plus one car for longer distances equals three cars. We know that’s a lot for renters to ask, but there it is.
  • A dishwasher. I have lived without one for most of my life, and as much as I hate doing dishes, I can live with it more easily than John can. To save our sanity, a dishwasher is pretty high up on our list.
  • It has to be located so that John can easily get out of the city to work (his work is about 20 minutes past the outskirts of the far southeast corner of the city). That means we’re not looking at anything that’s not in the southeast, regardless of whether it would be awesome. Driving more than 30 minutes to work and to school is about as much as we’re willing to do. Ideally, I would be able to catch a bus to school, which adds another location dimension to our search.
  • We have a limit to how much we are willing to pay, even if a place is freaking amazing. We both have school debt, after all, and we don’t want to be renters forever. AKA we want to save money. But we want to live in a nice place. These desires don’t always mesh.
  • At least two bedrooms. Some people can live in studio lofts or one-bedroom places and not lose their sanity or their patience with each other, but we are not those people. Plus, I want an office that I can hide all of my schoolwork and creative junk in.
  • Character preferred. This goes back to our issue with the apartment buildings: they tend to be pretty “cookie-cutter”, without imagination or individuality. This is not a requirement, but it is a preference for sure. You know you would love to live in a place that didn’t look like every other place you’ve ever lived!
  • Laundry. For more than four years now, I have had to take my laundry to a different town to wash! For whatever dumb reason, my apartment doesn’t have laundry facilities, and the crossroads I live in is so tiny it doesn’t even have a gas station or convenience store, let alone a laundrymat (WordPress is telling me that spelling is wrong, but “laundromat” doesn’t seem quite right, either). I would love to be able to wash my clothes from the inside of my own house! But again, it’s not a deal breaker for me.
  • Access to outside space. (This list is getting long, right?) We would really love to be able to sit outside on summer evenings, to barbecue, perhaps to plant a thing or two. Things that are not always possible in apartment buildings.
  • Landlords that aren’t idiots. Very simple.

If you got through that list, you’re a true fan. Either that or very curious.

It is one thing to have a well-formed idea of what you’re looking for, and another thing entirely to actually find it.

So far, we have been through six places, and tonight we add another. Three of them were absolute crap: stale smoke filling the hallways, stained carpets, holes in the walls, sketchy neighbourhoods, the reek of cat pee, shoddy renovations, or a lack of renovations… You get the picture. Blech. These ones were places that we looked at on Kijiji and looked nice enough to view in person. Be warned: don’t believe everything you see on Kijiji! Sometimes pictures lie.

apartment-hunting

We can identify...

 

Three have been nice. One was really cool, but much smaller than we thought. So small that a queen-size bed would not make it up the stairs to the bedroom. So small that the lovely spiral staircase was barely wide enough for our hips. Eek.

Another was a house in the perfect area, with the perfect amount of space and storage, a yard, parking, a dishwasher, renovated kitchen and bathroom, nice landlord… perfect! After making a decidedly intense effort to see the place and fill out the application in record time, and make sure the landlord knew of our interest, he gave it to someone else. Major letdown (and all you HIMYM fans saluted the worthy officer Letdown).

The other night, we saw a place that came close: lots of storage, 2 bedrooms, renovated bathroom and bedrooms, gas fireplace, new floors, parking for 2 cars, friendly landlords… but not a renovated kitchen. No dishwasher. No good outdoor space.

And still, we continue the search. We’re practically Kijiji experts now. We know how to refine our searches. We know what Kijiji needs to do to improve its service (the ability to search by location!!). We can skim the list of ads and know which ones to click on and which ones to avoid (anything with “students!” in it).

I can’t wait until we are done the hunt: it’s exhausting, and gets fairly discouraging at times!

I have to believe that the perfect place is out there, and we only have to find it. I hope that happens soon.

I made it to Day 7! (and the breakfast smoothie that made today possible)

Status report: I feel energetic, I feel nourished, I think my taste buds are changing, and I am doing things with food that otherwise I never would have.

Today is day 7 of the super-strict diet I have embarked on for 30 days.

After posting my introduction to the diet last week, and using the term “Paleo” to describe the diet, I have realized just how significant the differences are between Paleo and what I’m doing.

For instance, people on the Paleo diet can have (fresh, raw, etc.) dairy. They can have (raw) honey and other “natural sweeteners” like agave syrup and stevia. They can eat legumes (peanuts and all peanut products, kidney beans, peas, etc.). They can have soy products.

It’s okay for them to “Paleo-ify” recipes like breads and desserts, using almond or coconut flours and natural sweeteners.

They. can have CHOCOLATE!!

Super-dark chocolate, but still.

I can’t have or do any of those things. For 30 days.

The first couple of days were okay. I was kind of excited to get going, and so I bought a pile of fruit and vegetables.

By the end of Day Two, I think I made a rookie mistake in not eating enough. Either that or I caught a bug of some kind. I stayed up too late working on something, without nourishing myself. By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted and felt sick.

Day Three was the worst. I woke up feeling sick. I got the sweats and actually threw up. Unpleasant. I didn’t feel like eating but I made myself eat some raw almonds and took my usual Reductionist Americano with me on my way to spend the day with two of my nieces.

I have a deal with my nieces that, instead of presents on their birthday, I take them for a “date”. I was already a month late for Jaida’s date, so I didn’t want to reschedule. (Zuriel just had her birthday, and the girls decided they wanted to go together on their date. Hence nieces.)

It wasn’t until after lunch (for me, boiled eggs & clementines) that I started to feel more like myself. That night, I made myself a big salad (with homemade balsamic vinaigrette), and then felt like I needed the day to be over. At 8:00 pm.

I rarely go to sleep in the same calendar day as I wake up. Clearly, something was wrong.

The next day, things remained a little off… but that was the end of it.

Today, day 7, I feel great! I have lots of energy, and I feel like I could go for a run at any time! I also regret not doing the Jackknife ab workout on the Wii Fit today…

Not to make this the longest post ever, but yesterday, I ran out of the eggs that I had been counting on to feed me at breakfast-time every day. So today, my first day of school after Reading Week, I had to get creative. Much Internet-researching and friend-asking later, I realized just how simple it was: coconut milk, almond butter, and berries, all blended together in a lovely healthy, filling shake.

That baby got me from 7:30 to 1:30 without needing anything else to eat!

That smoothie deserves a medal.

Can’t wait til tomorrow morning!

A healthy breakfast smoothie

A healthy breakfast smoothie

Coconut milk

Coconut milk - pretty much any kind will do

smoothie in a cup

almond butter

Almond Butter - my new protein genie!

Death of an Idealist

University changes people.

Or, at $7,000 per year for tuition, it had freaking well better!

I remember when I was a naive teenager in youth group, talking about former members of the group that had gone to university, and thinking that that was where they lost their faith.

At the time, I was active in my church. All of my friends were from church. All of my family, immediate and extended, went to church. It was a pervasive aspect of my life, and I didn’t foresee anything different for myself.

In my past life (before university, before my mom died), I had another blog that I called MuSiNgS, where I talked about faith-based topics. One such post in 2007 discussed an idea I took from a book called Velvet Elvis, written by Rob Bell, a controversial figure in the North American church. At the beginning of his book (okay, I’ve only read the beginning), he introduces two conceptions of faith: springs and bricks.

This is from my MuSiNgS post in 2007:

Rob starts the first chapter, titled Movement One: Jump, by comparing faith to the image of a trampoline, then goes on to parallel the necessary springs with the statements people make about their beliefs. Springs are the doctrines that, when working together with other springs, hold up the mat we jump on, or the structure of our faith. In order to make that trampoline work, the springs should stretch and flex, expand and retract according to how the trampoline is being used. Likewise should our doctrines, the truths that give depth and content to our faith.

By comparison, Rob points out that there are those whose faith more closely resembles a wall of bricks that are laid on top of each other. If one gets knocked loose, several more tumble. Brickians aren’t comfortable with questions being asked of their faith, because they haven’t been introduced to the trampoline. They aren’t familiar with the flexing of the springs. Rob cites the case of one Brickian who was adamant that, “if you deny that God created the world in six literal twenty-four-hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross.” Pull out one brick, the whole wall collapses.

When I was in youth group looking upwards at the people who had gone off to university, I was a Brickian. I couldn’t be flexible. Brickians are afraid of change, of new ideas, of anything that will challenge their worldview. I was afraid that my wall would fall down. I didn’t see that there was a trampoline on the other side of it. I probably would have been afraid of the trampoline if I had seen it.

Since those days, my bricks have slowly been falling down, one after the other, and sometimes two or three at a time. I have crossed lines I never would have dreamed possible for me. I have been introduced to the trampoline, and while I know that I am not pushing that trampoline to its limits, it is sometimes hard for me to remember those left behind behind their own brick walls, that may never discover the springs of a flexible faith. trampoline

Brickians are idealists. They have to be.

~~~

This year in university, I feel like I’m finally getting down to what really matters, things that are world-defining, like democracy and racism. I’m learning that there is very little place for idealism in the real world. Things are very rarely black and white, if ever. There are very few things that you can really know for sure.

Yes, I believe faith can help you be sure about some things. But it can help you hide from others. It can encourage ignorance and complacency. It doesn’t have to. But it can. For me, it did.

What I am learning about the world, my world, is knocking down the rest of those bricks. It’s opening up my mind. It’s causing me to re-assess those issues that I had been too scared to consider before, those things that I had deemed too controversial or too sacred to open up.

It’s a good thing. I may be losing my idealism, which I had thought a good thing, but I am not losing my optimism. Yet, anyway.

I am losing a tendency to hide behind crumbling pillars erected by fearful people, and gaining an ability to see critically. I’m not there yet… but I have another year and a half of university, and then hopefully many more years of life to continue to learn.

To continue to let idealism die, in exchange for wisdom.

 

Countdown Calendar

On March 1st, my man went to Thailand. Alone. With a backpack. For three months.

Since we met, we had virtually been in constant contact via text message, and the longest we had been apart was for a week this past January.

When Johnathan told me about his plan to go away, I knew he had to. I also knew I’d miss him like crazy. But I have already done a lot of traveling and I understood that he simply had to go and see the world. He needed to have his chance.

After long months of planning, he left two weeks ago tomorrow. He’s been to Bangkok and Kuala Lampur and has seen some amazing things, with so much left to see and do!

Meanwhile, my life goes on as usual. Well, yeah, I’m seeing some people I normally don’t get the time to, and staying up way too late and “reading” books on tape, but I didn’t realize the degree to which I haven’t been on my own in almost a year and a half. My apartment is so empty without Johnathan laying on the couch telling me to get back to my studying!

I’m lonely. Perhaps it’s especially hard considering how much grief I’ve gone through over the past few years. So, I’m in a bit of a distraction mission, filling my days and weeks to the brim.

But when I come home and everything’s so quiet and no one “sees” me quite the same way he does, I needed something tangible, something fun to mark the time.

So I made a countdown calendar and hung it on the wall of my bedroom, and now I look forward to crossing off the days and weighing my accomplishment of getting through three months alone.

I can do it!

 

“LOVE YOUR MAMA”

The A&W sign was referring to the Mama Burger, of course, but I thought it appropriate that I would see this message in lights today, January 13th, the day when I remember just how much I still (and always will) love my Mama.

Three years ago this morning, my amazing mother left this world for a better one. At least, that’s what I believe. Mom would never have expected me to stand outside in the middle of winter to take a moment of silence in her memory, but it has become a little ritual I treasure.

It was a not-so-snowy day in January, 2008, that my siblings and I trekked out to the end of the rock breakwater at the Cove in Goderich to have a private memorial together before the funeral. We each held a flower, which we took turns tossing into the open lake. It was beautiful and nostalgic. We read some meaningful prayers and poems, and took lots of pictures. For me, it was the beginning of an annual tradition.

One year later, on the coldest day of the year, my siblings and I gathered for dinner, then trekked out to the Maitland Bridge, under which flowed the only open water we could find. What a difference a year makes! Once again, we spoke a little, then dropped cut flowers into the river, where they would be carried into the lake.

Last year, only a few of us managed to get together. This time, we wrote little notes to Mom, put them inside plastic containers, and attempted to break the ice to get them into the lake, but wound up mostly just shattering our containers and scattering our notes. Still, we remembered our mama, who left us too young. There were flowers then, too.

Today, I’m the only sibling “in” Goderich, and I didn’t make any plans ahead of time that I could invite my siblings to, so it was only my boyfriend Johnathan and I. We walked out on the pier, my hand holding tightly to 6 stems of yellow mums, and Johnathan’s hand holding tight to mine.

We broke the think layer of ice with a nearby rock, and then stood back to ponder. And cry. And sob. Then I dropped the 6 stems one by one, imagining that they represented each of my mother’s children, and Johnathan held me and we cried some more.

It’s amazing to have a partner that loves you so much he will stand with you on a freezing winter day out in the cold and hold you as you sob, and even cry with you, for a person he never met.

I don’t think my mother ever had that kind of love on earth, and I ache to think that she didn’t get to meet Johnathan or see how well I am loved.

Still, I learned today that she was satisfied with her life when she came to the end of it, at peace with how she was leaving her family and her friends.

I also learned today that she accepted the otherworldly task of embracing and taking care of a friend’s baby who had died at birth, once they were in “the great beyond” together. I know she has plenty of babies to embrace in Heaven, and now also her father and brother Dean.

I wish she could hug me, though…