Project 365

I’ve been going through my Project 365 Flickr set, trying to get everything in order because my year is over.  It has been over for weeks now, but I’m just today uploading the last of the pictures, overwhelmed at the end by the flurry of activity and the blizzard of photos I’d taken.  I’ve gone through the entire set and located more than 15 days without pictures, but I can only remember forgetting to take photos on about 3 days, so I must have 1) not uploaded photos for those days, or 2) uploaded them but not sent them into the set, or 3) I really did forget to take a picture far more often than memory accounts for.

You can’t come to the end of a project like this without reflecting upon it.  It was wonderful in all the ways I’d hoped: prodding me to document the little moments, helping me become a better visual storyteller, and motivating me to be bolder in pulling out the camera.  It was hard in all the ways I’d expected, too: feeling like I was trapped some days with only blandness to document, or worrying that a photo showed a side of our lives or our house that I wasn’t feeling like sharing.

Going through all of them for housekeeping purposes revealed patterns in our lives and in the things I’m drawn to capture with my lens.

There were self-portraits

Project 365: self-portraits

and adventures

Project 365: adventures

and food

Project 365: food

and light and shadow

Project 365: light and shadow

and creativity

Project 365: creating

and learning
Project 365: learning

In the end, it is the little moments, easily forgotten, that make me most glad that I undertook this year-long documentation of our days.  Looking back through the photos I am sometimes startled by moments I’d cherished at the time but that were pushed out of my thoughts by the momentum of living.

Project 365: little things

I’m incredibly glad that I did Project 365 and will certainly be doing it again. This year, though, I need a bit of a break from daily obligation. I still want a creative focus on photography and I’m working on setting up another project, this time a collaborative one, and am really excited by the parameters that we’re creating. Hopefully I’ll be announcing it soon.


Dreamer, keep dreaming

We knew we would be moving here at about the same time that we knew we would be a homeschooling family.  I had a clear vision, a prescient waking dream: we would walk to a fabulous tea shop that was a gleaming gem of a local treasure, pull out our various books, and settle in for a good read after ordering scones and tea as the white-haired ladies out for a chat with their friends looked on with admiring and approving nods.

First, the tea shop burned to the ground.

Then I came to accept the temperament of my son, which was such that even read alouds had to be accomplished while he was in the bath for his wiggly, kinetic, driven mode of interacting with all of reality made bookish moments rare and the prospect of  alteration seemed laughably distant. Perhaps his wife would read to him on the couch.

Then came years of struggle with Sandra and reading, to be followed by years of struggling with her eyes in eye therapy.

And, to put a cherry on the whipped cream on this layered sundae of doom, Matthias was also diagnosed with eye difficulties.




The tea shop may be a charred memory, the scones sadly nonexistent, the date may be years later than I could have imagined, but the moment, was nonetheless real. Unbelievably warm weather tempted us outside for a walk, I offered Rainer’s library as a destination for our group silent reading time (a new addition to our days this January), and the moment opened before me. What a brilliant thing that Project 365 has taught me to wander with my camera in my pocket.

Putting Pen to Paper

Haven't Drawn

Aside from a few ATCs, I haven’t drawn since we got back.  I have sat down with my sketchbook a few times, but couldn’t.  Just couldn’t.  There was no spark.  The four walls and the items contained therein seemed to me more like a dull banality, a constriction of the part of me questing for inspiration, rather than a source of that inspiration.  Already trying to process being here in Manitoba rather than in Europe, I couldn’t handle that feeling.  Who wants to feel that way about their surroundings? Their home?

I discovered on the trip that architecture really is my muse. Sketching the everyday around me wasn’t inspiring once we weren’t out and about, sitting in cafes with views, staying in places whose very structure was different and interesting to my eye.  I toyed with the idea of sketching from photos, but felt a need to have a greater space between then and now.  I was mourning the change back to home even as I reveled in being home.

The lack of art in my life struck me forcibly as I listened to the latest episode of Craftypod.  A wonderful episode about a woman who has found oodles of inspiration in drawing what she buys.  You can see her over at Obsessive Consumption.  Suddenly I realized it wasn’t just weeks since I had made art, it was months. And in that moment, what I had previously accepted now saddened me.


Drawing again. Documenting again. I think I may be finding an overlap between the documenting of our lives that I do as part of Project 365 and my sketchbook.  I’ve got an urge to try a daily drawing series in January and February, just common things like soup cans and mittens and books.  My word of the year for 2008, “Adventure”, is already giving way to a new word that resonates for me: “Home”.  We have promised the kids we won’t go far from home this year, and have many projects to inspire us in the house and the garden.  2009:Home.  Sketching around our home, documenting – and thereby really truly seeing – the small things that make up the texture of our home, sounds alluring.  Sounds like an adventure on the small scale.

Peppermint Delights

Sugarplums sparkling in the silver light of a cloudy afternoon.  Sugarplums are so easy and so healthy.  We only discovered them a few years ago, but they’re now something I look forward to most eagerly. The richness of the dried fruits, nuts, and cinnamon play off the brightness of the orange zest.  The only sugar you add is what is rolled onto the outside.

Peppermint Cookies

As promised, the recipe.  It’s a heavily modified recipe built from 3 different sources.

Peppermint Crunch Cookies

  • 1/2 c butter, softened
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp peppermint extract
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda

Beat butter and sugar til fluffy beat in egg and peppermint.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry indredients. Add to the butter mixture in two batches. Divide in half and shape into two rolls about 3 cm thick.  Chill for half an hour at least.  When firm, cut with a sharp knife in 5mm slices.  Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 9 min, til firm to the touch and just barely golden.

Hard Glaze

  • 1/3 c meringue powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3-4 c icing sugar
  • 1/3-1/2 c cold water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • green food colouring

Combine dry ingredients. Add 1/3 c water and vanilla and beat on low speed. It will seem hard and lumpy, but keep going. Add water 1 TB at a time til it’s the consistency of corn syrup.

Once cookies are cool, pour glaze into a small bowl. Dip the cookies into the glaze and place glaze side up on waxed paper. You may need to spread it with a knife to smooth the surface.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes before the glaze hardens – don’t try to glaze all the cookies and then do the sprinkling.

These can be frozen.  When storing, make sure there’s a layer of waxed paper between the layers of cookies to keep them pretty. Depending on the size of your rolls, a single batch will make more than 75 of these sweet morsels.

Stash Yarn Club

I printed off the patterns, sorted out the yarns, and packaged up my Stash Yarn Club bags the other day.  8 + 4 bonus bags.  On the first day of each month Rainer will ‘deliver’ a bag from the box and some months, when I’m being super productive, I’ll ask for a bonus delivery.  Or I’ll use the bonus bags for the fall months if they’re left then.

The 8 monthly ones are a mix of Christmas gifts for 2009, socks, and mittens and hats I want to have knitted up before next fall. It’s a pleasant way to knit up some things I know I want to get to.  And anything that adds brightness and sparkle to a task should be heartily embraced, don’t you think?

I’m charmed by my own enjoyment of this.  January first has a whole playful cast in my thoughts now.


May your week be filled with delights and delighted faces.

A Chance to Reflect


Yesterday I was invited to give a presentation about my 101 Things in 1001 Days project at a Fair Trade shop. It was a little nerve wracking, for though I give presentations weekly, they are about breastfeeding or losing weight and this was about me.  In the days leading up to it, my thoughts kept turning to the project, trying to sort out what to say. It’s a big list and a process of months – how was I to boil it down to its essence?

I came to realize, a sudden flash of phrasing hitting me as I was driving there and prompting me to scribble in my car before I paid the meter, that the project is an opportunity to reflect on the gap between our lives and our interests and ideals.  We all have that gap, though of varying widths.  Making the list is an exercise in discovering that gap:  What makes us passionate?  What calls to us?  What makes us wish for more time?  What ideals inspire us?   Are those things present in our lives?

Looking over my list of goals I couldn’t see a common theme.  They’re divided into categories, after all, and that fact alone made them seem like neighbours, not a unified entity.  But I came to see that they, almost to a one, are about connection.  Connecting me to others in the community, connecting me to my own strength, connecting me to the creative impulse, connecting me to the power of stepping outside a mass-manufactured life, connecting me to the Earth.

I used to feel fragmented – a wearer of so many hats, a woman with so many interests. Speaking yesterday crystalized for me the fact that the more I pursue this list, the more I feel connected within myself. The more I allow my passions and my ideals to fill my life, the more integrated I become.

Thanks to the necessity of focusing on the list again, I’ve managed to complete three of the goals in the last 24 hours.  I wrote two of the letters that were on my list and I finally finished the list – adding the last goals to it.  I’m very excited by the one idea in particular – it’s an embroidery project based on one of my ink drawings from Europe.  I’m very interested to see how the process of adding texture to the currently two dimensional lines will change it.  And I am also looking forward to the chance to revisit that moment of drawing in a focused way.  The trip was incredible and I am still trying to come to grips with it.

Quotes and a Question

No matter what somersaults my mind turned, I couldn’t separate these two quotes today. They are far apart in my quotes journal, but neighbours in my mind.


“No matter how much I try to be plain, people don’t accept me, so I might as well be fabulous.” Austin Scarlett

“We wouldn’t worry so much about what people think of us if we only knew how seldom they did.” Mark Twain

Is it time to stop editing a facet of yourself? Is there something to set free?


Everyday Moments

Small things easily overlooked, small moments easily forgotten, I want to hold you in my hands.  Stay with me.


“The only way to traverse your creative path incorrectly is not to traverse it at all.” Jill Badonsky


“This then is the first duty of the educator: to stir up life but leave it free to develop.” Montessori


“The best portion of a good man’s life; his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” William Wordsworth

Reading Release


And a tight knot releases.

There have been multiple happenings around here, little points all leaving ripples of reasurance.  When I started to homeschool, I had visions of children reading to each other, of them reading for pleasure, of them reading to follow ideas because they had questions.  I had plans to visit the local tea shop every other week, the three of us pulling out our various novels and slowly eating scones as the waitresses and customers looked on.  I had no idea that vision problems were going to delay those happenings for half a decade.  I had, in fact, stopped having those visions, stopped hoping for miracles or breakthroughs.  I was so focused on the trudging I learned not to dream of flying.

Yet in the past few weeks there have been a steady trickle of moments coming to my attention: Sandra flipping through a bird guide trying to piece together a food web…Tias angry at her for advancing a video game screen too quickly and sharply uttering, “Hey, I was still reading!”…Sandra reading to him in the evenings just before they fall asleep…Sandra reading “Journey to the River Sea” after I am finished our family read aloud and then hearing myself utter those magical words, “Don’t read too late, ok?”…Sandra reading over my shoulder when I’m looking at something interesting.

They’re mostly Sandra moments as you can see.  Tias is still working on his eye therapy and his moments have more to do with a desire to get certain information and being willing to read to get it.  Sandra, on the other hand, is reading.  Sometimes a bit wobbly still, certainly, but she’s reading.

As a mother, as a reader, as a homeschooling parent who has been brave enough to say, “Yes, I will take on this sole responsibility,” knots of tension are releasing.  They’re falling away, leaving a softness in their wake.


“Real education is a marathon – not a sprint.” Steve Lambert

“The close observer soon discovers that the teacher’s task is not to implant facts but to place the subject to be learned in front of the learner and, through sympathy, emotion, imagination, and patience, to awaken in the learner the restless drive for answers and insights which enlarge the personal life and give it meaning.” Nathan Pusey

“Do not take counsel of your fears.” George Patton

“Charlotte Mason says that ‘education is the science of relations.’ The trick is not how well we make the ‘subjects’ relate to each other but rather how well a child relates to the subjects.” Karen Andreola

Light and Poems

Blue light

The sun had risen but the light came from behind the banks of clouds. With a fresh snowfall, the world was suffused with a blue energy that softened and slowed the whole landscape of the city.

After I walked the dog and shoveled the walks, I entered the house to the welcome smell of ripe bananas warmed in the porridge and eggs frying on the stove. Knowing each morning as I head out with Nori that upon our return I’ll have breakfast waiting for me fills me with gratitude even as I don mittens and wrap a shawl around my head.

Today seemed just right for an altered homeschooling approach. I read fairy tales and snow poems to the kids instead of other tasks. Heroism, sacrifice, word play, they all added to the feeling of connection between us as we sat at the table.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

from “Velvet Shoes” by Elinor Wylie in “Favorite Poems Old and New” selected by Helen Ferris – our favourite poetry anthology by far

I’ve made the list of Handmade Holiday gift ideas into a permanent page. It’s tab is hidden by the search box above, but the pages are also accessible to the right in the sidebar. Here’s a direct link: Handmade Gifts. I’ve been updating it as I find things. Particularly noteworthy are two additions at the bottom, one a link to over 100 ideas for the ‘craft-impaired’, the other this year’s astonishingly inspiring list of handmade gift tutorials at the Sew Mama Sew blog.