Crafty Valentine’s Day Ideas!

Ok kids, you’ve got less than a week to make a few bobbles of love to share (along with smooches and dark chocolate of course). These are a few rather fun ideas I’ve come across in blogland. I hope they’ll help inspire you, too
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Learn to make a cute (and easy) heart-shaped pom-poms at Zakka Life. I think these are an adorable way to decorate a little gift using some scrappy yarn, or would make a great little valentine in their own right!

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Check out Molly’s Sketchbook over at the Pearl Bee to make these adorable fabric window valentine’s. I still have a few I need to make…

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Also found at Purl Bee, these Sewn Paper Valentines. This tute will have you making you own beautiful valentines in no time at all! I think there is something so cool about sewing paper with the sewing machine…I feel like someone is going to come and scold me or something. I also totally admit to having a nerd crush on Molly and I want to be as clever as she is some day!

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I know not everyone has the inclination or the supplies to sew. No problemo, amigos! How about a no-sew garland? This is a great idea and it looks like fun – and it’s an opportunity to use a hot glue gun which is always fun, really. Visit Fiona at Scraps in Progress to see how!

Stay tuned for a “Sunday Dinners” post tomorrow featuring a recipe for “Divine Lemon Scones” (no those weren’t dinner, but they could have been) and more “food court”esque Chinese food.

Also, I know I’m behind on emails, comments, etc. Fear not, I still love you, just need a little catching up time! :)

Happy New Year : A wine, an update & WoYoPracMo

Bonne Année! Happy New Year!

I know, it’s already the 3rd, but we’ve only just returned from our little holiday. We had a wonderful time celebrating with family, but it’s always nice to be home, isn’t it?

I’m a very goal-driven individual, and usually the thought of embarking on the adventure of a New Year inspires me. There’s a “clean slate” feeling that comes with each new “year diary” I purchase : yet to be filled pages of dates where I’ll be noting and scheduling everything. As I fill in the pages with birthdays and anniversaries (lest they be forgotten), I find myself thinking about the things I’d like to achieve during the coming year, as well as taking stock of all that I did the previous year.

January 1st also usually means calculating my yearly running mileage and training information. It’s fun to compare my averages, the long runs and speed work, and see how I’ve improved. I just can’t bring myself to do it, at least I haven’t yet. Being out the last 7+ weeks of 2008 hit me pretty hard (as you know and are probably sick of reading about!) and I feel so frustrated not knowing when I’ll be able to get back to training, which goes back to me being a goal-driven person. I can’t schedule a new race or set any goals for myself as I’m dwelling in the purgatory of the injured reserve. Alas.

There is some good news on the “My Left Foot” front, however. I can now go up and down stairs. Very exciting stuff indeed. For the past four days I’ve seen a real improvement, and hope that with PT beginning on Monday I’ll be running (maybe) sooner than later. I’d hoped to be running by my birthday, the 9th, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

The exciting news is that I was able to try a little yoga, and it was ok! I knew WoYoPracMo (World Yoga Practice Month) was coming up, and I’d planned on participating pre-foot breakage.

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I managed a 10 minute practice on the 1st, and worked up to 25 minutes yesterday! How exhilarating it felt to be moving for the first time since November 12th! If you’re not familiar with WoYoPracMo, you can find out anything and everything with a Google search, or just click on the above logo. Yoga Mum created this specific community last year (I got in just after January) and it’s a wonderful resource. There’s also a supportive community of yoginis & yogis to help you stay motivated if you’re thinking about giving WoYoPracMo a try. I’m really excited that I can participate, even if I’m rather shy of my usual 45min to 1 1/2 hour practice. Some yoga is better than no yoga at all!

And now for the resolutions! I know many find that the idea of a New Year’s resolution is foolish, even hypocritical : why not change when we feel we need to? Why wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar to take action? Me, I like resolutions. I like to think of them more as goals to be cultivated and nurtured throughout the year. I’ve managed to make many positive changes thanks to deciding to cultivate a new habit on January 1st.

When I was 13, I decided to write my Grandfather once a week so I’d be sure he received some happy mail. Poor man probably grew tired of reading the same adolescent drivel, going on about dance, school, and of course boys, but with a few exceptions I continued writing him (in addition to calling of course!) until he died in 1996.

Another successful resolution was to stop biting, playing with and otherwise disfiguring my fingernails, resolution January 1995. My mum still laughs when she sees my now mostly-taken care of hands as she remembers the way they looked when I was young.

I feel a bit disappointed in myself, because I don’t really have a resolution for this year. I have many things I want to accomplish, but I can’t pinpoint one thing I want to change. I guess the list is too long! I’d like to be a better person : a better wife and mother, a better vegan and teacher…laudable, but vague. This is the first year that I don’t have something concrete, and it’s a little strange. I’m giving myself a little more time, because I’m sure something will come to me!

W.I.P. Wednesday : It’s Time For Holiday Decorations (à la pâte à sel) & Gifts

After our fun with modeling the pâte à sel we decided to make holiday decorations for our tree. We have a tiny little “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” that I picked up near the garbage bin just before Christmas when I was pregnant for Guppy. The little tree was in its cardboard box, and it looked as if it had been opened maybe once. I figured it was too good to be true, but the tree was inside, and in perfect condition (albeit tiny). I don’t think it’s a good idea to buy a plastic/synthetic tree, but a freebie on the side of the road, destined for a landfill, well, I call it a “rescue”!

Every holiday we’ve spent together married we’ve acquired a decoration here or there. Then, last year I decided that we should be making new decorations each year, a bit like making a memory of each holiday. This was my “crafty awakening”, and the first time I had the desire to make something with meaning for myself or my family. Hannah had some cute cupcake ornaments she’d made and I decided to make some, too. Six polyester felt cupcakes later, I started feeling like I was maybe enjoying this crafty thing.

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This year we opted to make salt dough ornaments, and we were sure to make enough to give as gifts as well. Perhaps a bit vieux jeu or old fashioned for some of you hip kids out there, but we had a wonderful afternoon painting together. I know I’ll enjoy comparing Guppy’s painting skills – and interest in different shapes and mediums – from year to year. (Note the dino, made with the cutter from Libby – thanks again Libby!).

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You could do so much to decorate these – gluing glitter or sequence would be great fun I think. We used some old (and a bit skanky) finger paints (though we used brushes) and once they were dry I have them a coat of mod podge. The paint got all crinkly and antique looking which I really liked.

Homemade Holiday Decorations

2 1/2 cups AP flour (you may need to add a little more, mix & see)
1/2 cup salt
3/4 cup hot tap water (you may need to add a little more, mix & see)
2 tsp vegetable oil

Cut your decorations using cookie cutters or whatever you like, then lay them on baking sheets and in the oven they go for around 40 minutes or until they’re hard, at about 100°c.

In more crafty W.I.P. endeavours, I made a few more stockings as gifts for my brother-in-law and his wife. We’re spending Christmas and New Year’s with them at their home near Toulouse. They are muy groovy, and I wanted to make them something special.

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The fun part of this project is that my sis-in-law gave me the beautiful Christmas plaid tissue last February when we came for a little visit. I didn’t yet have a sewing machine, but I told her that I was doing some hand sewing and I was hoping to score a machine in the near future. She gave me a few odds and ends from her stash, and I love that I was able to make her a gift using what she gave me. How “full circle” and all that. And they’re not at all wrinkly from our 6-hour car ride…

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I’m wishing you all a most fabulous 2009! I hope you’re able to spend some wonderful moments with the people you love and make some beautiful memories of your own. I’ll see you next year!

Vegan MoFo Day 26 – Halloween Treats, BBQ Treats, Blondie Treats! (No tricks, kids).

BOO!

Are these not the cutest ever? Originating with the Celts around 2000 years ago, Halloween has remained a mostly anglo-saxon holiday, moving to some of the various colonised countries with the colonizers. Despite various marketing attempts, it is not really celebrated in France. In Paris and in some more anglophone cities you can find stores selling decorations and goodies, but they are more and more the exception and not the rule. Imagine my joy when walking in front of my favorite little chocolaterie with Guppy the other day…the front window was decorated with Halloween treats galore! The ghosts and pumpkins really caught my eye, and when we walked in and I told the owner how I loved the window display she offered right away, “You know, I’m pretty sure the ghosts and pumpkins are dairy-free!” She then swiftly went in the back to consult her notes and confirmed with glee, “They are made with an almond paste, but it’s no dairy.” Yeah. Ok lady, twist my arm.

I’ve decided to dedicate Vegan MoFo to trying yet untried recipes in my (small) collection of cookbooks. I came across the “BBQ Seitan and Crispy Coleslaw Sandwich” in VCON and thought, hey, I can swing this, I even have tempeh in the fridge! Yes, that’s right, I said tempeh. We’ve been eating a great deal of seitan around here lately, so I decided that this sandwich would be just as yummy with tempeh, and by golly it was! (Says the Shellyfish channeling a 1950’s teen). I never buy vegan mayo, so I just sort of fudged the dressing for the slaw with plain soy yogurt (which I usually do for slaw dressing and it’s just fine), but I did make the “Backyard BBQ Sauce” from VCON. My stand-by sauce is the BBQ from New Farm, so I felt a little guilty, but it was worth the infidelity because this sauce was rather scrummy. I just put the pre-fried tempeh in a baking dish with the BBQ sauce for about half an hour. Ding. We piled the sandwich goodness on some fresh baguette and dinner was served!

These beauties are the “Butterscotch Blondies” from Ricki’s soon-to-be-published Sweet Freedom. They are some of the best blondies I’ve ever tasted – decadent, rich…

All this Sweet Freedom deliciousness is really spoiling me! Luckily I’m a bit of a distance runner, otherwise I would have to make some new pants! Ricki, you are a recipe-writing genius.

Back in the U.S.S…A! & La fête de la Bastille

Holy portion sizes, Batman! I’m back in the land where everything is bigger, newer, brighter & shiner! I am extremely thrilled to spend time with my family, so excited to eat pinto beans, green chilies, or blue corn chips whenever I want to, and to catch Sesame Street on PBS with the Guppy! I haven’t been on North American soil in two years (and to be honest, last time I was here it was for a sad/urgent reason and I didn’t really do any “observing”) and it’s surprising how much things have changed (and yet, have stayed the same). Logically, the longer I live away, the more I find myself feeling like an observer and not at all like a participant, though it is rather strange to get the feeling I’m more of a foreigner “visiting” than an expat “returning” home. So silly all these games of the mind!

I promise I’ll be putting together a little post showcasing the newish or striking things I’ve noticed since I’ve been here (holy inflation, Batkids!). I’m also giving some thought to my future post highlighting the differences between the eating habits of the French and the North Americans. I’m actually in Southern Michigan, which is not “home” for me, but home is where your family is, and that’s where most of my peeps are this summer. I’ll be heading north soon, and will hopefully get to spend at least a day in one of my very favourite countries, Canada. There has been some first rate food and lots of fun so far on my visit, so I’ll need to get my poop in a group and get some photos of all that excitement on the blog post-haste!

Copyright © 2008 AFP

Il faut pas oublier l’égalité! Don’t forget equality!

It’s July 14th and that means it’s the French National Holiday! Tearing down the prisons of economic hierarchy and gettin’ giggy with the people – right on. I’m sorry I missed being home for the fireworks & fun, but I caught this little news story online, featuring one of my favourite French Feminist groups, La Barbe, who denounces the omnipresence of males in positions of power in government, and it made me smile. These women commemorated the holiday by placing beards on the statues of the monument at la place de la République (dear to my heart because I lived just near by). This isn’t the first time they’ve done this:

Isn’t it funny that our phallocentric societies fawn over the workings of men, yet the monuments to their grandure always seem to be graced by the feminine form. Grrr… we still have so much work to do, even when on vacation!

Mothers…

NB: I know that yesterday was Mother’s Day in North America, not today (don’t worry, Mum got her card on the right day!).

The idea of Mother’s Day is a rather complex one for me to actually write about, because it brings up many feelings and emotions rather difficult to articulate in the short space of a blog entry. I also couldn’t even contemplate the holiday without having zillions of images of my grams whizzing about my head and through my heart. This made me rather melancholy and waxing nostalgic, because, well, she’s gone and I miss her so, so much. Thus, I decided I would not blog about M day, having wished my mumma a happy day via telephone. Curiously, however, as day turned to evening, I found myself rummaging around for pictures of my mum, and specifically trying to find pictures of my grams with my mum, and becoming increasingly frustrated because the pictures I was looking for were not to be found.

Forgoing sadness, I opted to share a little mumma-love on the blogosphere, because I love my mumma to pieces, and really, moms rule, and IMum on left, Grams on Right, moi in the middle don’t think that I understood just how intense and complicated the job description was, until I myself became a mom. The above picture is of ma maman with Grams (her mom), on her right, and our Auntie Lorraine on her left. I’m fairly sure that the baby with all that hair is my sister Tam, latter half of the groovy 70s.

Here on the right is my still slim & sassy mum after her third kiddo (3 more to follow…). My Grams is on the far right with my Uncle who would kill me if he saw this but doesn’t read my blog, my sis Tam on Mum’s lap, and yours truly in the middle trying not to open my present until Dad has snapped the pic.

I love this picture, taken during my mum’s recent visit. The Guppy is blurry because she was cracking up laughing, not because she was being tickled, I think we were being silly, a hobby around here. I value the picture’s eloquence, so telling with the juxtaposition of the wild frenzy of love from the Guppy and the calm, loving smile of her Pamma.

The mother/daughter relationship is such an interesting one, often mirroring each other from one generation to the next. My contemplating a blog entry gave me pause to reflect on the similarities between Grams and Mum, and it didn’t take me long to find my answer : unconditional love and support. I announced I was becoming vegetarian at 16, mum bought more fresh fruit and veggies. When I got my nose pierced way back when I knew everything in 1990, my mom was less-than-thrilled, though she held her tongue. In tiny-town rural-ville, I blended about as well as Ziggy Stardust at a Rotary Club luncheon. A visiting Grams said without hesitation she’d pierce her nose, too, if it would help calm down the parents- and she was serious. When the first tattoo followed a month later, she swore she would also get a tattoo to show her solidarity if need be. Now that I see the dynamic between my own daughter and my mom, I can see the same sort of complicity between them, and while piercings and tattoos are rather passé, I am sure that whatever challenges the Guppy brings my way, her Pamma will be there to help balance things out.

Now that I’m the Mumma around here, I frequently find myself filled with doubt concerning my parenting: am I a good mom? Could I be doing this better? What would Xena do in this situation? (kidding). The crushing feelings of self-doubt are often harder than the actual mom-duty, and I know that both my mother, and hers, delt with it. To all you ladies out there (because biological mother or not, we women are the mothers to our students, neighbors, sisters, brothers, etc.) I hope you had a great day. My Mother’s Day is in 2 weeks…

The Bunny!

I woke up and wanted to hurry to get out for my run, when I heard squeals of joy emanating from the living room…

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The Guppy knew that today was “Bunny Day”, and she was up and in the living room standing before her basket, repeating excitedly, “Mumma, Mumma, look!”

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How exciting! Baby felt bunnies hatching from vegan chocolate eggs!

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Madame & Monsieur Lapin (Monsieur is easily recognizable by his little French moustache and pink attire…because male-folk do wear pink!) were my first attempts at sewing with a machine (more on that another day…). I followed the free Wee Bunny pattern from Wee Wonderfuls. Monsieur Rabbit was my first attempt (er, pas terrible or not-so-great as we say in French), but Madame Rabbit is much cooler (and looks darn good for just having a brood of felt bunnies!). The little felt bunnies are from the cutest book in the world which I want to blog about when I get the time so I won’t steal the thunder from a future post.

The Bdefilles.jpgunny of Spring didn’t forget me, as I found this beautiful book in my basket and cannot wait to start a billion projects…

Back From Five Freezing Days In The South of France

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This is one of my favorite paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, the French painter who took the name of the beautiful city of Toulouse as his pseudonym (he was not in fact from Toulouse, but Albi, a gorgeous medieval city about 60k from where I was – Saint-Sulpice – very near Toulouse). This really hasn’t much to do with our trip, but since we were near Toulouse, and we went to Toulouse often during our visit…er…ok, anyway…

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Spring has most definitely spring down there, there were blossoms and flowers and buds galore…but with the exception of my daily runs and literally running to the car or to the house to escape the hail and pelting rain, we didn’t really get to be part of the beauty outdoors. You can see my brush with the elements here.

The beauty we did get to enjoy was inside the toasty-warm walls of my in-laws home. We had such a wonderful time- especially the Guppy who was so excited to have other people around from the moment she woke up (we don’t get to see much of our families & extended families so this was a very special treat).

My in-laws have a beautiful home and they had a roaring fire going at all times keeping the house feeling very cosy and homey, and they were so great about my vegan dietary considerations. During their visit to our house during the holidays I had cooked up a vegan storm, wielding whisk and spatula to make satisfying meals for omnivores (and to charm the in-laws of course!). So it was only natural that they suggest I help cook up some dinners- because creating healthful, varied, vegan meals takes some planning and experience, and if you’re not used to it, well, it may seem a bit daunting.

The really big hit dish of our vacation was this fabulous recipe for orange chicken-style tofu. I have seen this recipe floating about all over the blogosphere, and it has lots of variations, but this is a great “base” recipe that you can easily expand on. For example I use way more orange juice – at least a cup – which means that you need to add more corn starch or arrowroot to compensate for the added liquid. I also usually add at least 1 red and 1 orange pepper, an entire sweet onion, and chunked pineapple.

My super-sweet 19-year-old nephew proved to be a wiz in the kitchen! He not only helped me make the orange-tofu, but he was also my main helper when rolling the 49 spring rolls for our final dinner there (my fingers were all puckery when I was done!). He was also amazing with the Guppy who just fell in love with him. He was so great with her, very intuitive for such a young guy, knowing if she needed a juice box or some applesauce, etc., and had no problem letting her jump on his bed or “hang out” with him while he was playing guitar (he even played on demand for her…)

It was also so fun to hang with my sister-in-law, L. She is so handy and crafty- a real inspiration with so many great ideas for various projects. She graciously donated a skein of yarn and some needles and showed me a great pattern for a skull-cappy-chuky thing, which I need to make time to finish. Plus she gave me various huge fabric scraps to amuse myself with.

Now if only we could find jobs down there…we’d pack up and move in a flash!