Thursday, October 1

What will you do with all your free time?

This year, the kids are both at school full time, and I'm figuring out the new routine.

Everyday after I drop them off, I come upstairs to the office, and take care of my "administrative duties": fill out school forms, research products (my miele hermes vacuum bag coughed up debris again, killing the motor, I want to know why this keeps happening), shop online for the perfect Halloween costumes (race car driver and minion), print out recipes (focus on anti-inflammatory foods), book appointments with contractors and doctors, look at hundreds of bathrooms on pinterest, and update our calendar with book fairs, art shows, class schedules, and pizza lunches.

For the rest of the day, I might read, workout, walk somewhere, buy groceries, comb my hair, open all of the windows and close them again, sniff things to find out where that smell is coming from and blast the stink with vinegar or baking soda, collect half empty cups (mostly mine) and do dishes, change garbage bags, fold laundry, windex fingerprints, water plants, mow the ratty clover, put away toys, wash floors, cook, meet a friend or thrift for books.

I would like to do more than play secretary, keep house and feed my family. The amount of energy I could pour into home and kids is limitless. The plan is to siphon some off, and use it beyond our circle of four people, without anyone noticing. Things will hold together, even if I spend time at class, lectures, volunteering or free events.

I've booked a continuing education class at University of Toronto and enrolled in a follow up drawing class (which starts today!). I want to take a million classes. I've considered applying for a degree program, and decided that the time, stress, and scheduling conflicts are not worth a second diploma. If I had a second career in mind, I would use school as a stepping stone. Since the plan is to raise two kids, self study and hobby classes are best. I don't see this as a lessor than. I can guide my learning better than an institution, while avoiding frustration that would interfere with being the family backbone.

I'm looking for opportunities to volunteer in Toronto. I've searched the listings on but haven't connected with anything. I don't have a sense for how the volunteer market works (common positions, where people are most needed) or where I fit in. Selfishly, my goal is to enjoy the time I spend helping out. I'm interested in environmental causes - perhaps cleaning up or planting. Two organizations that caught my eye are and I would volunteer to rake leaves (shovel sidewalks) for seniors, if such a cause existed. I put my name forward to help at my children's school.

So that's what I'm doing, what I want to be doing, and what I am doing about it. Another mom mentioned on the playground how the transition to all kids at school is a "difficult time for women". I'm in full agreement, although I think we would both substitute a weaker word than difficult*. Possible synonyms: crucial, formidable, effortful. From the moment I told my former employer I was stepping out of the workforce, I've expected this day, but never made a plan. Now a month in, I'm still grasping for the right answer. I want to establish a routine now that lasts until the children take their independence, at which time I can dive deeper into whatever not-for-profit cause, hobby, or learning path.       

*calling it "difficult" invites comparison with other, recognizably more difficult situations. It's a turning point, navigated blindly, but it isn't a problem. Self reflection helps, but thinking thinking thinking without doing is a trap. Jump in, if you can afford to, and maybe you will learn something along the way.

Wednesday, September 23

Last to know

Vonnegut and Zinsser, authors I've stayed up late into the night with, both urged me to read E.B. White. From Vonnegut,
"White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced. You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say."1
and Zinsser,
"White was the writer who had most influenced me. His was the style—seemingly casual but urbane and wise—that I had long taken as my own model."2
I've read Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, of course, but was oblivious to White's acclaimed non-fiction work. I wasn't even sure I had the right guy.

I picked up a copy of "E.B. White Writings From the New Yorker 1925-1976" from the Toronto library. A blue hardcover book with 159 short pieces of writing. White wrote about life, current events, window displays, nature, whatever was on his mind. He wrote in a way that was fun for the reader, and made you care. Immediately, I realized, this is what blogs could be (realized I was doing it all wrong.)  I've heard blog advice about branding (confuses me), finding your voice (write until you start to sound like yourself), content calendars (tell your future self what they should say), inspiration (stealing ideas), and Didion. Six years I've spent tapping on my keyboard, and only now uncover the main point of the blog/personal essay: be interesting!

Give me more essays.

I didn't know that the "personal essay" existed. High school never hinted that the essay could break loose from the five paragraph structure. I avoid articles in magazines with large blocks of text and no pictures. If I accidentally read something interesting, I would call it nonfiction a fluke and turn back to novels and short stories. Now that my blind spot has been revealed I have work to do. I put "The Best American Essays", by Joyce Carol Oates & Robery Atwan, on hold at the Library. The library has only two copies of the book, and there are 15 holds placed. While I am waiting I have second book, "Essays of E.B.White" to finish, and the free essays available here.
Here is a taste of the writing that got me to come back, a line or two from pieces in the blue book:3
Dressing Up: "One of the male sparrows in Turtle Bay garden made a wonderful discovery at quarter past nine the other morning..." 4/20/46

Dismal: "The most startling news in the paper on February 13 was the weather forecast. It was "Rainy and dismal.". When we read the word "dismal" in the Times, we knew that the era of pure science was drawing to a close and the day of philosophical science was at hand. (Probably in the nick of time.)" 2/25/50

Unwritten: "Sometimes we regret our failure to write about things that really interest us. The reason we fail is probably that to write about them would prove embarrassing. The things that interested us during the last week, for example, and that we were unable or unwilling to write about (things that stand out clear as pictures in our head) were: ..."4/26/30

Seeing things: "The new reptile hall was officially opened a few days ago in the Museum of Natural History and we visited it amidst a group of youngsters who kept crying "Good night!" and their mothers who kept murmuring "Mercy!" The place is like that." 2/18/28

Tadpoles and Telephones: "There was a large bowl of tadpoles in the window of the Telephone Building as we came wandering along, lonely as a cloud. We stopped of course - we stop for anything in windows, particularly tadpoles." 6/2/28

Split Personalities: "The voices of radio and television are the voices of quick-change artists; they move rapidly from selling to telling and back to selling again. They are losing their sharpness because they have divided their allegiance." 2/19/55

Making Do: "A female friend of ours recently moved into a small apartment so full of defects as to be really quite charming." 8/11/45

Walking to Work: "From our home in the cinder belt to this Forty-third Street pent-up house where we work is a distance of some nine blocks - in a southwesterly direction. It has sometimes occurred to us that we take an unconscionably long time walking it, the time ranging from fifteen minutes to two hours and a half. Three-quarters of an hour is about par." 2/13/37

1. Source: How to Write With Style by Kurt Vonnegut  
2. Source: The American "Visions and Revisions",Writing On Writing Well and keeping it up-to-date for 35 years By William Zinsser March 1, 2009
3. Source: Writings from the New Yorker 1925-1976, E.B. White, Edited by Rebecca M. Dale. 

Tuesday, August 18

What ever happened to...

Take a look at my front yard! It is overrun with crab grass, wild flowers, broad leaf weeds, dandelions, and many more of the wrong kind of weed. It's impossible to keep the clover alive.

It's green, and pretty in a way. If only it looked the same as the first summer it was planted:

It's over. 

I will mow it bi-weekly to keep it short, and eventually rip it up and try something new. 

RIP clover.

ps. I've written about how great it looked initiallycrab grass taking overmuddy in the spring,  accidentally adding dwarf seedsa source for seeds, and my denial that the yard was doomed.

pps Changed the post title from "Clover yard looks awful" to "What ever happened to..." because I am a softy

Thursday, June 11


Forget anything I've said or even thought about pillows. Now that I have pillows-I-love, I love pillows! I found ten bright, cheery, incredibly preppy pillows for the outdoor sectional at Indigo.

Here's the scoop:
- citron, blue and orange
- indoor pillows with down inserts (we bring them inside when not in use)
- 50% off right now, between $19.95 - $27cdn

I thought I wanted bohemian/southern Californian deck accessories: a sectional that stepped out of the urban outfitters look-book, or even better, a deck that was styled by Morgan Satterfield. I pictured loads of kilims in many sizes, with rugs and brass and hanging plants. Still, I was reluctant to buy ten or more kilim pillows because as soon as I do, someone will sound a gong and declare them dead. Also, kilims are scratchy.

Next, I would like to cover the seats with something that isn't white. White does not mix with kids. Bad idea. Even Sunbrella fabric, with two incredibly filthy little boys, is not good. Sure you can wash it, but it gets dirty again within 30 minutes, and some stains do not lift*. I am on the hunt for a reasonably-priced chartreuse overdyed rug or two, or killer blue shibori cloths. Both would lend that boho vibe. (I know I can mix boho and preppy, because I searched on pinterest and it is a thing)

If you have used indoor pillows outside before, please raise your hand!

ps. Not sponsored
pps. The 16x16 sunbrella pillows that came with the sectional are not comfy, and squirrels ate half of them. 
ppps. One of my river birch behind the deck doesn't get as much light as the other. We had the large maples trimmed (just this morning) to allow more light to filter in.   
pppps. Indigo has everything in these colours, tea towels, dishes, throws...etc...and check out Anthropologie's Lemlem collection, too. Pretty close, but not.

*Knowing all this, I still buy white pillows!

Sunday, May 24

The Getaway Car

Ann Patchett, "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage".

The big library close to our house has four racks of books near the entrance, to tempt you, or encourage you to explore. I give them a glance to see what I'm missing. What's this? Shouldn't I know Ann Patchett? Ombre - and look at the back cover! Who poses for a cover photo swamped by a thousand books?! I think I've found my new favorite person!

The second short story in the book, "The Getaway Car, A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life" is the best thing I've read this year. I had to hurry up and finish so I could push it onto three* people I know who have to read it too (three is a lot - I really don't know that many people). She tells you how she accomplished success as a writer (spoiler: hard work). She talks about the doubt involved in taking an idea out of her head and turning it into words. She explains why she doesn't believe in writers' block. Plus, she clears this up for me: why books from our teen years stay with us, and now, books that are equally impressive, are forgotten a month later. "I think that what influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open." 

Read this if you want to write, if you want to create, or nourish any hobby outside of your day job.  Consider it an assignment, one I know you'll enjoy!

ps. Bel Canto next
pps. I can't find a decent link to the essay. It was published standalone in 2011, but is no longer available on Amazon, you might have to get the book. 
ppps. if you ever day dreamed about writing a novel, this essay is for YOU! YOU! YOU!

The Getaway Car Quotes:

*make that four

Saturday, April 25

New print, new watercolour

My first win from MaxSold - a cheap thrill!!

I love the red figure print by J.Joel. I know his work from, and this is his best!  I like the implied youth, androgyny and the colour mix.  The silver tee sparkles, and the same sheen is present in the mat.

The water colour landscape was a bonus. I can't make out the artist's name, which is something like Celia d. There's a white rectangular sticker on the back with "$12.00" and "243" written in a shaky hand, perhaps this owner bought it second hand themselves?  The frame backing is old, and has been opened and re-taped with masking tape that lost its stick. I peeked inside and at the bottom corner on the back of the water colour is another price, $2.85. It's like finding an old treasure. I think, for now, I will place it on the living room bookshelves.

Have you used MaxSold before? There was beautiful art listed this week out of Hamilton - but we already had the day planned out and couldn't sneak away from the city.

ps. I should be cooking right now! I want to make a tofu and black bean scramble this morning. ttfn!

Tuesday, April 14

Rummage Sale

Here's what I bought at a church rummage sale last weekend:
  • potato masher
  • two cutting boards
  • ladle
  • Kensuke Wakeshima* print "Sunrise Valley" 
  • (Russian?) countryside painting
What can I say, but: needed it, didn't need them but will use them, needed it, loved it and loved it! The print was $50. I already tossed out the frame and I will re-framed in white. The painting was $5. The biggest score was the potato masher - only twenty five cents, yo!!!

*Kensuke Wakeshima's art was part of the summer 2014 exhibition, titled: “Artists from Postwar Japan Days of Struggle in New York, 1960s–1970”  I came across very little biographical information online. 

ps. to the people in line, the ones who jeered at the CHURCH VOLUNTEERS when they didn't open the doors on time, I am judging you.

Friday, April 10

I would love to tell you about what I am reading!

Are you kidding, this is my favorite question of all time/these days.

Yesterday, I started reading two books, James Baldwin's "Go tell it on the Mountain" and Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals".

I am working my way through Kurt Vonnegut's works. I wanted to read them all back-to-back-to-back, until I realized he published three billion books. I've read twelve:
Cat's Cradle 
Breakfast of Champions 
The Sirens of Titan
Mother Night 
Welcome to the Monkey House 
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Slapstick or Lonesome No More! 
Hocus Pocus
Deadeye Dick

I rated "Slaughthouse Five" (one of my favorite novels of all time), "Welcome to the Monkey House" and "Mother Night" five out of five stars (on Goodreads). The only book I didn't get into was "God Bless You, Mr Rosewater" (It was ok). I appreciate Vonnegut's wit. He sees through society's bull crap. Watch him express his opinions on Youtube - you will be hooked! BUT, I needed to step away for a while when his stories started to tangle together (overlapping characters and themes), and I developed my very own old-man-chip-on-my-shoulder. He is part of the reason I dropped the Internet. (Kids these days, jeesh!)  So, I read Douglas Adam's "Watership Down" to cleanse my palate - who doesn't love little bunny stories (five stars, fantastic book!).

After her Celine Ad came out, I read a few Joan Didion books. I started with "Blue Nights" (not for me), then "A Year of Magical Thinking" (Who is this b*tch?). Then I wanted to see for myself how she earned legend status and checked "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" out of the library. Ah, ok, I gave it four stars. I fell in love with her essay, "Goodbye to all that", and I am not surprised to hear they are making it into a movie. I read the "White Album" too, and then had my fill. 

Instead of reading Didion, I switched to her list of recommended books. I gave Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" a second reading (loved it again), and two days ago finished Orwell's "Down and Out in London and Paris". The James Baldwin I am currently reading is on that list.

Otherwise, you will find me reading about food, catching up on Time's List of Top 150 English Language novels of the Twentieth Century (I've read 76/150), reading books I should have read by now (Sherlock Holmes, for example), and reading what friends have recommended: "Paradise Elsewhere" by Kathy Page was haunting, and I put "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty on hold at the library, I bought a used copy of "Rebecca's Tale" I am excited to read.

You can find me on Goodreads. I don't write up reviews of the books I've read, I only rate them.

Thanks for asking "Betty" (is that you, mom?!)

Monday, April 6


Moose blanket, $19.97 from  I love it! The moose silhouette is very Charles Patcher, no? 

We are waiting for the contractor to let us know when they can start the cottage reno. The guys plan to stay for a week and do everything at once. They say maybe this spring, but I think the fall is more likely. We are ready when they are!

In the meantime, I loaded up the place with new things and vintage things and old things from home. I want it stuffed with blankets, art, beach towels, baskets, books and rugs. Originally, I dug a minimalist decor, since there would be less to take care of and clean. A year later, things are settling in boho and twee.

Sunday, March 29

His and hers

In the master bedroom, his & hers dressers, instead of one long dresser.

When we transferred the furniture into the new room, we placed our existing dresser on this wall. It looked too small. I was nervous to try twin tall dressers because I couldn't find examples online. Well, here you go, Pinterest*. It works! Maybe I will pin this to kick things off.

*now worth $11billion? What!?

ps. I IG'd the dressers ages and ages ago, wanted to get it up on the blog
pps. My big idea over the bed is done! but I just can't share it online. I don't have a thick enough skin. I might change my mind.