Monday, February 28, 2011


Over the weekend, a case of strep throat had me down for the count for the better part of two days (Friday and Saturday).  Mike stepped up to the plate (last sports metaphor, I promise) and was on his own with the two boys for most of that time.

Saturday afternoon found me nestled under blankets, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in.  Through the fog that was my mental awareness, I hear Mike's voice:  "The world does not revolve around you."  I smiled.  Silly man.

Later that evening, I called him on the statement and he giggled.  He couldn't help it.  Every time he tried to do something, someone needed something, right at that moment.  "You do know that the world revolves around you when you are five and six, right?"  "Yeah, it used to revolve around me.  Feel free to use that line whenever you want."

Fast forward to today.  The weather allowed us to pretend that spring had actually arrived on the last day of February.  It hasn't but we took advantage of the spring-like weather and Quinn, I mean, Jabba and I went for a walk.  Jabba?  Yep, Jabba and Princess Leia went for a walk.  See, I know who my day revolves around and today, one of those little suns wanted to be called Jabba the Hut.  At the moment, their world revolves around Star Wars and Lego.

Hmm, if the boys are my sun, what does that make Mike?  The rings to my Saturn?  It is Saturn with the rings, right?

P.S.  Just to clarify, I was Princess Leia.  He says we have the same hair.  We don't.  But I am tempted to give it a try someday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Name is Tara . . .

and it's been 30 minutes since I made my last batch of soap.

I have become quite obsessed with this whole soap making thing.  I spend a lot of time reading about soap, thinking about soap and, much to my husband's chagrin, talking about soap.  As a trained chemist, I am fascinated by the chemical reaction that occurs, turning lye and oils into soap with lots of natural glycerin.  And the little girl in me absolutely loves mixing things together.  It brings back memories of sneaking into the bathroom and playing with my mother's stuff:  her shampoo, her make-up, just pouring and mixing.  (Sorry, mom.  But you knew I did that.  Remember the time you caught me pouring your good make-up out the second floor window?  I don't know why I did that but I loved watching things pour out of bottles.)  However, I like to think my concoctions now are much more beautiful.  

 Good old unscented soap and lavender oatmeal soap.

Top to bottom:  lemon poppyseed, orange cinnamon spice and orange chocolate.  Not an orange chocolate bar.  Orange chocolate soap with real baking chocolate and cocoa powder.  That one is for my mom.  She loves orange cream chocolates and I think she deserves such a decadent soap even though she won't share her orange chocolates with me.

It has now been 45 minutes and I am already planning my next batch of soap.  Coffee soap, I think.  Or maybe beer soap.

If you run into me out and about, I'll try not to talk about soap but I can't make any promises.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding Our Balance

Slip the feet in.  Pull tight on the laces.  Then stand.  Smiles of excitement at this new way of walking.   A few words of caution spoken as one little boy looked ready to run.  Or dance.

Once all are laced up, we head to the ice.  For three of us, it will be the first time on ice in twenty years.  For two of us, it will be the first time on ice.  Before heading to the ice, I received some words of advice from a kind stranger: "Just find your balance."  We were worried how we could support two little boys first learning when we hadn't skated ourselves in so long but she was right.  We found our balance.  And with the balance came memories of skating with friends as a young child, of skating on an outdoor rink at nighttime under strings of lights as a teenager and of skating on a marsh with friends as a young woman in university.

While finding our balance, I realized that skating is rarely something done by oneself.  We skate with family, friends and the others on the ice who we may not know but we are all skating.  When a little boy falls causing a chain reaction with two other little girls, looks questioning your ability to control your child are not received. Rather laughter is shared as little ones who are also laughing are gently picked up off the ice.  See, it's like one big skating party.  And we question why it has taken so long for us to get back on the ice.

And the two boys?  They are well on their way to finding their balance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

5 Years Today

It's a special day for us.  Five years ago today this little man graced us with his presence in the world.  There is so much I want to say about him but I honestly don't know where to start.  I can tell you that he is one of the sweetest little beings I have ever had the pleasure to know.  He is a boy's boy yet in such a gentle way that girls seem to be quite taken by him.  So yes, he is gentle but please take my advice:  Do not challenge him to a wrestling match.  He is not one to back down to a challenge.

His ever-present smile is infectious; his antics hilarious.

He and his older could not be more different but they are the best of friends.  I feel privileged to be able to watch their friendship grow.  They cheer each other on with each new challenge they face.  I have to admit to times when I have actually been slightly jealous at the comfort level they have with each other.

His entry into this world was a sudden one.  He waited for nothing and continues to face physical challenges head-first without hesitation.  We fear the day when we can no longer stop him from going down the hill on his scooter for, you see, there is a creek at the bottom of the hill but this doesn't seem to phase him.  However, with this attitude, he will do things I could never bring myself to do.

Happy 5th Birthday, Quinnie Bear!

I wish I could but I can't take credit for the awesome photos.  They are courtesy of my good friend Kelly.  Thanks again, Kelly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Embracing the Mis-Stitches

One of the things that I appreciate about handmade items is that they are not always perfect.  They are beautiful but not necessarily without faults.  It`s just the nature of handmade and I have embraced that philosophy when it comes to my knitting.

One example I can think of is the blanket I knit for Mike as a Christmas gift two years ago.   It was my first and only blanket, so far anyways.  You see, Mike has what I call a man cave in the basement.   Once the boys are in bed, he disappears downstairs to the basement.  I join him later in the evening.  Before two years ago, I would find him wrapped in any old ratty blanket he could find, complaining of the cold.  Well, it is a basement.   So being a knitter, I saw my chance to make something for him that I thought he would actually use.  I chose manly colours and I began to knit.  (For those knitters out there, I knit it entirely in seed stitch.  Great looking stitch but a pain in the arse to knit.)  Since it was going to be a surprise, I only worked on it when I didn`t think he would see it.  I stayed up late some nights, probably not late for some but late for me.  And well, I may have fallen asleep once while knitting.  The strange thing  though is that I kept on knitting and for a 3 inch by 1 inch section in the middle of the blanket, I knit when I should have purled and purled when I should have knit.  Oops.  Even funnier is that I didn`t notice my goof until a couple of nights later.  Well, I wasn`t about to frog the several inches that I had added to the length of the blanket since then.  Somehow I had fixed my mistake, again probably in my sleep, so I left it as is and kept knitting.  I embraced the mis-stitches and they became part of the story behind the blanket.

The rest of the story behind the blanket is that Mike was completely surprised even though he had caught me working on it a couple of times close to the end.  When asked if he had any idea, his response is that he thought I was knitting a sweater for myself.  Apparently, people, I am the size of a small beluga whale.  He was actually doubly surprised.  This part of the story is a little bit mean but I`ll tell you anyways because it`s also kind of funny.  The blanket was huge.  My mother and I put the blanket in a old cardboard box that a DVD player had come in.  We giggled as we did this because we both knew Mike wanted a new DVD player and he just might think he was getting one when he saw the box.  Yes, I admit it, this went through our heads and we giggled in anticipation.  And yes, judging by the look on his face as I pushed the box towards him, he was thinking exactly that.  Oh, the poor man.  I think we laughed.  Okay, we laughed.  In our defense, we had been drinking champagne and orange juice and the look on his face as he opened the box and pulled out this huge knitted blanket was pretty funny.  Confusion, sheer confusion.  Anyways, in the end, he loves his blanket and I can find him wrapped up in it every cold winter night, sometimes even in spring and fall.

Once I began selling my hand knit items on Etsy, I had to stop embracing the mis-stitches.  I could not with a clear conscience sell an item in which I had made a mistake.  The item was as near to perfect as I could make it.  I balanced this by sometimes making socks in which the stripes didn`t match.  So much in life already has to match, sometimes you just need to rebel vicariously through your socks.

Since taking a step back from my Etsy shop, I have begun embracing the mis-stitches again.  It began Friday night while I was knitting a pair of socks for myself.  I was tired.  (Note to self:  Perhaps I shouldn`t knit when tired.)  I noticed that I had messed up the pattern.  I fixed my mistake to the point that I could continue but I left a little mistake, a little gaff.  Just a little reminder of the night when I decided to start knitting for the fun of it again.

If you have made it to the end of this post, thanks for bearing with me.  I really had not meant for it to be this long.  I think it`s the glass of red wine talking.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sprinkled with Hearts

Here's wishing that there were bites of sweetness (and sips of red wine, if appropriate) scattered throughtout your day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Yoga of Knitting

Lately, i've been feeling the need to make a change.

Over a year ago, I opened a shop on Etsy out of a need to do something that was just for me, not as a mother or a provider but as a maker.  Since I loved knitting, it seemed like a natural choice, a good fit with my life at the moment.  But lately, my attitude toward knitting has changed.

In addition to allowing me to make something unique either for myself or someone special, knitting has been a way for me to relax and unwind at the end of a long day, sometimes even in the middle of a long day.  Knitting has been the woolly equivalent of a relaxing child's pose in yoga.  I'm there, I'm present in the moment and I'm happy.  Recently, however, knitting has lost its "yoga-ness" for me.     When I knit, it is for the shop.  When I think of knitting, I'm trying to think of what I can knit that people (buyers) might like.  I'm not enjoying the moment but rather thinking of how long it will take to complete the item in my hand.  I rarely knit for myself or others anymore and when I do, I feel guilty.  Guilty?!  I have actually told my boys that I cannot knit something they have asked for at the moment because I don't have time.  That's right.  Someone whom I would give up everything for has asked for a hand knit item and I said no.  Something had to change.

So I'm taking a step back from my shop.  I'm not saying good-bye to it.  I'm just taking a little break, going on a retreat of sorts.

The above yarn was a birthday gift from a good friend who insisted I knit something for myself.  So last night, I started a pair of socks . . . for myself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gentle Facial Scrub

Just a quick pop in to wish everyone a happy, relaxing weekend and to share my recipe for the gentle facial scrub I mentioned in my last post.  A couple of people showed some interest so I thought I would share it.  Okay, here's the ingredients list:

1/2 cup finely ground oats
1/8 cup liquid glycerin soap
1/4 cup liquid vegetable glycerin
1 tbsp. sweet almond oil (sunflower oil would also work)
1 tsp finely ground almonds
1/4 tsp grapefruit seed extract (natural preservative)
1/4 tsp vitamin E oil
few drops of lavender

Really, the gathering of the ingredients is the most time consuming step.  After that, you just mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, add the essential oil and blend.  Spoon into a jar.  When you first make this, the mixture is kind of runny.  Don't worry.  Just wait a day or two.  The mixture will thicken to quite a nice consistency.  To use it, I just wet my face, scoop out a little bit of the scrub and smooth it over my face.  That's it.

The scrub can be made without the grapefruit seed extract.  It will just have a shorter shelf-life.  With the grapefruit seed extract, the shelf-life is 1-2 months.  I like to use this each night so this amount will definitely be used before it expires.  

And because I like to include a photo, here's some lip balm that I made this afternoon.  Did I mention I have become slightly obsessed with this whole business?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ignoring the Song of the Siren

Inspiration does not always strike at the most opportune moments.

 I had been mulling something over for a while but wasn't sure where, if anywhere, it was going.  I don't even know if I can call it mulling.  It was just there, floating around inside my head.  Then, while taking a shower this morning, a couple of ideas collided and I felt inspired/motivated.  Jumped out of the shower, got dressed, quickly ensured the boys were half-heartedly getting dressed themselves and then ran downstairs.  When I should have been getting breakfast ready, I was working on something entirely unrelated to breakfast.  I knew I only had a couple of minutes so i worked quickly, getting a rough idea of where this project was headed.  Then I started thinking about how I could fit this into the day.  A minute here, a couple of minutes there, maybe this evening.  And then something kind of unheard of happened.

I focused.  I focused on the day itself, on the projects to which I had already made a commitment.  Then I put the crochet hook and felt acorns on the table and I walked upstairs to the kitchen.  That idea will still be there in a few months.  It's not going anywhere.  I realized if I chose to follow the idea at this moment, like the siren's song, it would lead me to no good.  I would like to think I'm stronger than Odysseus' men and stronger than Odysseus himself.  I certainly don't need to tie myself to the mast of a ship.  I can just come back another time, a time when I can give the idea the time it needs.

Instead I'm going to focus on my latest obsession -- handmade beauty products.  Yep, more puttering.  This time I'm working on an all natural facial scrub.

Admittedly, it doesn't look very appetizing but it does feel awfully nice on the skin.

So you see, I closed my ears to one siren's song while dancing right into the arms of another.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Over Coffee

Over coffee this weekend I have . . .

wished that I could make my little man's cough disappear.  Without fail, Keegan develops a cough, a horrible, gut-wrenching cough, every time he gets a head cold.

wandered the mall with a good friend while nibbling on chocolate.  Okay, maybe "nibbling" makes it sound much more lady-like than it actually was.  I had eaten both of my chocolates before she even pulled her second one out of the bag.

read a good book.

did a little research about how to make more homemade beauty products.   I think I've developed a great recipe for lip balm and am anxiously awaiting the lip balm tubes I've ordered.  I have also been planning my next batch of soap which will happen later this week.

watched snowflakes.

thought about my afternoon pot of tea.  As much as I love a good mug of coffee in the morning, I also love a good cup of tea, especially since rediscovering loose leaf tea, thanks in part to Amy.

I wanted to draw this morning but I didn't know what to draw.  So I drew my mug of coffee.  I wanted to write this morning but I didn't know what to write.  So I thought about the mug of coffee I was drawing and its predecessors of the weekend, of what I had been doing or thinking while drinking those cups of coffee.  Who knew I could be so productive while drinking coffee?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Knock Knock

Today 40 came knocking at my door.  Last week, I would have refused to answer.  Heck, yesterday I would have refused to answer the door.  Then I woke up this morning and it was a beautiful morning.  I metaphorically swung that door open and invited 40 in for a cup of coffee.  We sat, we chatted.  I like her.  Besides, I know that 27 will drop in every now and then to say hi.  Heck, I am reminded of her every time I see my rear in the mirror (which isn't that afternoon).  Not that I still have my 27 year old rear end but I do still have the tattoo of a crescent moon on my butt.  Yes, that's right, a moon on my rear.  Unfortunately, I did not realize the irony of this until after the tattoo was done.

I raise my glass to you forty.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Puttering in the Kitchen

I have been puttering in the kitchen.  Not baking, unfortunately.  A non-functioning stove has made that impossible and the lack of baked goods in the house has become noticeable.  So no cookies.  But I have been mixing up some concoctions.  I guess it all began about 10 years ago when I thought it would be fun to make my own lip balm.  It was.  A lot of fun.  I then moved onto facial scrubs and masks.  Still fun but the experimentation stopped there.  As much as I was intrigued by the idea of making my own lotions and soap, I was intimidated by the ingredient lists.  And lye.  For some reason, lye scared the, well, it scared me.  Along came full-time employment, then children and I didn't have quite so much time to play in the kitchen.

Fast forward to about 2 months ago.  Having not used regular commercial brand deodorants in about 10 years, I decided to try making my own.  And it works.  It's actually really good.  And yes, I know that by declaring this, I am declaring my hippy-dippiness but as my parents and husband will tell you, I've never been afraid to embrace my hippy-dippiness.  Following on the footsteps of the deodorant, I made an oatmeal facial cleanser.

Now here comes the big leap.  My oldest son has always had dry skin.  So dry that he scratches it raw.  This winter seems to have been particularly harsh on his skin.  This past weekend, I whipped up a batch of lanolin lotion.

It's thick, smooth and creamy.  Very moisturizing.  And perhaps best of all?  The boys will actually use it.

So I've made lotion.  Can I make soap?  Heck yes, I can.  Encouraged by Renee's awesome video tutorial, I gathered my supplies a couple of weeks ago, waiting for the opportune afternoon.  Monday afternoon arrived.  Weighing out the lye on my scale, I was taken back to life B.C. (before children) when I studied chemistry and biology at university and then worked in an aquatic toxicology lab.  The end result of a couple of hours of puttering?

28 bars of olive oil soap.  No scent this time because I wanted to keep my financial investment to a minimum until i knew I could do this soap making thing.  I do predict scented soap in my future.  And the lye thing?  Not such a big deal.  I kept the back door opened during the process.  It was cold and a few snowflakes may have come in but a small price to pay for handmade soap.  Perhaps I shouldn't have told Mike I had the kitchen door open.  He gets a little fidgety at the thought of open doors and windows when the furnace is running.  I have to remember to keep him in a blissfully ignorant state.

Now I just have to wait 4 weeks while the soap cures.  It's going to be a long wait.  During that time, I'll be planning my next round of kitchen puttering.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011