where creativity and practicality collide

don’t quit your daydream

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I am a “creative type” in a role of practicalities, or so it seems. The at-hand tasks of what we will eat and wear are my mission and while I love to embrace the slow life, sometimes I get bogged down by the never-ending tasks. I don’t want to worry about vaccinations and dentist appointments, I want to dream up projects and sketch them in my Big Book. I don’t want to wash the dishes again, I want to strum my ukulele. I don’t want to put away the laundry, I want to frolic through a meadow with daisies in my hair singing “The Hills are Aliiiiive”. I’m just kidding about that one. Most of my creative ventures don’t involve me leaving the couch.

As a creative type, I spent a good portion of my life thinking I was hopelessly disorganized. I took a personality test in early adulthood, the result being “disorganized dreamer” (INFP). It seemed quite accurate at the time- I was always losing important papers and forgetting deadlines, and my room was a mess. However, when I became a mom and home-maker I quickly realized that a little bit of order was in order. Being organized has been my constant study and now I’m obsessed. I LOVE order. I love minimalistic, uncluttered spaces (not my own space, of course). My whole self breathes a sigh of relief in the absence of mess.

Daily, I do battle against my own bad habits and the wake of three chaos-makers (aka my children) and little by little I have been learning new tricks and habits to maintain a sense of order. Now I am proud to classify myself as an organized person, relatively speaking. Not perfect, not tidy, but on the right trajectory.

Learning to be more organized is one of the many gifts motherhood has given to me.

But what about the creative side of me? What of my inner Molly Maker? She is a messy creature; her stuff is everywhere. Shall I push her aside in the name of a peaceful, well-run house?  Shall I wait for a more opportune time, when the kids are older and more self-sufficient?

May it never be.  Motherhood needs lots of creativity and creativity is an important part of my self-care. To break from utilitarianism and celebrate beauty, or even to make the useful beautiful, is a joy-giving, life-breathing endeavor that I will always try to integrate into my ordinary life.

More on that later…

Thanks for reading!

hearty pumpkin spice cookies

Before I restocked my white flour, I experimented a little bit more and tried to make a “healthy” cookie using pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats and honey instead of sugar. I think these offended my children’s sensibilities of what a cookie is meant to be, but I quite liked them. Here is the recipe:

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3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

3/4 sunflower seeds

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBSP pumpkin spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup honey

1 egg

2 oats

Preheat oven to 325 and move a pan to the top rack.

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In a blender (magic bullet, coffee grinder, food processor) grind the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to a flour like consistency. Mix together with the baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice. I just put the lid on the magic bullet and shook it up.

In a mixing bowl, blend together honey, room temperature butter and egg, then add the dry ingredients and the oats. The dough will be quite moist.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop the dough onto the pan using a small ice-cream scoop. I like to make my cookies quite tiny. Cook for 10-12 minutes on the top rack of the oven until golden brown. They will look a little moist on top. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 5 minutes, they’re tired.

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The texture of the cookies is halfway between a cookie and a muffin. They’re a little bit spicy from the pumpkin spice and a little bit chewy from the honey and a nice little afternoon treat if you’re trying to avoid real treats.

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Enjoy!

Try my other flour-less  cookie recipe here.

saturday is a state of mind

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Ah, Saturday. We’ve waited for you all week.

Nineteen years of school and post-secondary education have deeply engrained into my soul the concept that Saturday is a break from the regular duties of life. It is a day of limitless options when one is free to do anything; be it nothing or everything.

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Saturdays used to be a day to catch up: catch up on sleep, catch up on work, catch up on yard work, catch up on socialising. But as a parent of preschoolers, I have found that Saturday is more or less the same as all the other days. The morning hits as hard as it does during the week. The kids wake up at their usual time and they still want breakfast immediately. There are still noses to wipe, diapers to change, toast to make, peanut butter to spread. This has been a shock to my system to which I am slowly adjusting.

Sometimes it is necessary to take a break, to rest AWAY from the kids, but I’m also beginning to see that if I want to make rest a regular rhythm, I have to learn how to rest WITH my kids. I don’t know what that looks like. Maybe throwing away the to-do list and taking the time to play; just being present. But to be totally present is difficult for me when my mind is moving in 10 different directions most of the time, often feeling the pull of something else I need or want to be doing.

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Child’s play can be tiring for a couch potato like me. It’s challenging for me to level up to the children’s pace for an extended length of time. They seem to operate in perpetual motion and slow motion all at once and it leaves me dizzy. But I think somewhere in my children’s carefree existence and lack of agenda lies the secret of the Saturday State of Mind. They don’t know what time it is and they have no choice but to trust that their needs will be met. The fact that they are well-cared for leaves them free to enjoy life because someone Bigger is taking care of things.

So how can I rest when I am that someone bigger for my kids?

Because there’s someone even Bigger than me caring for us all; Christ is the presence of peace. The yoke of Jesus is easy and His burden is light. It’s the Sunday School answer and I know it’s true but I can’t say that I’ve fully understood it yet.

But I’m OK with being in progress, which is a pretty good place to start.

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Happy Saturday. Take it easy today, ok?

tear-down town

We recently had the pleasure of watching our neighbour’s house being demolished.

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It has been a long process. The tenants were renovicted back in November and for a while, I doubted if the owners really would tear it down because nothing seemed to be happening. Prior tenants had been evicted in the past on the premise of a sale or renovation but no visible changes to the house were made and then new tenants were brought in for presumably higher rental prices. I raged “They’ve done it again!!” to anyone who would listen feeling that the owners I’ve never met embody everything that is wrong with Vancouver’s housing and rental system.

But my judgement was hasty. This time they were as good as their word and it became evident that they were dismantling the house from the inside out. First, an asbestos inspector came in a subtly marked car followed by a large group of men with cigarettes and McDonald’s coffee who seemed to be on a long coffee break taking turns doing work inside. Every other day there was a miscellany of people (official or unofficial – I couldn’t say) circling the property salvaging what could be salvaged. Then there was the shirtless de-roofer who offered to hire my four-year-old to rip shingles off the roof because “It’s impossible to find good help these days!”

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Eventually, the progress became undeniable from the pile of debris covering every inch of the back yard. After looking at the wreckage for a couple weeks and imagining what might be hiding beneath it, we were quite relieved to see the CAT truck arrive to finish the job.

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Finally, in the early hours of the first sunny day in months, the excavator began his task.

We had friends visiting from out of town so we all (4 toddlers and 4 adults) lined up on the back porch steps to watch and then removed ourselves to watch from inside after we started wondering what might be floating in the air. It was quite a thing to behold. Seeing that he had an audience, the operator put on quite a show for us, toppling the chimney in one fell swoop and sprinkling what was left in the water heater over the fragmented back-half of the house.

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After two days of crashing and crushing, moving and digging, lifting, crunching, scooping all that remained was a modest-sized lot of dirt worth 1.4 million dollars (approximate) and two abandoned bicycles mercifully spared from the metal beast.

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It was a bittersweet experience for me. In days past, I had ill-advisedly allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to live in the cute little house next to my parents’ which was admittedly run-down but still full of personality and potential. It had the most amazing covered patio with a working outdoor fireplace and there were these adorable little alcoves beside the front stairs where our kids could have played. But alas, it was not meant to be. Gone are the days of the quaint fixer-upper starter home (in Vancouver, at least).

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But I’m not bitter. I hope I don’t sound bitter. It was sad, but also quite satisfying to see that flight of fancy totally crushed and cleared. Sometimes it’s nice to see in black and white what is and isn’t an option. And really, who wants life to turn out exactly as imagined anyways?

the three-step reset

Some days at home are longer than others. When I start to feel like I’m caught in an infinite loop of dishes and dumped toys, I try to catch a second wind by doing a three-step reset.

Step 1: Turn on some soul-nourishing music

Here’s what I’m listening to these days.

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I’m in a bit of a United Pursuit rut, but I don’t mind. Will Reagan and his pals have a way of writing exactly what I’m feeling in a way that encourages me to look UP at God instead of IN to my mind wilderness.

Step 2: Light some candles

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For a quick home makeover, I like to clear the rubbish from my piano or mantlepiece. These are the pretty spots in our house that unfortunately get covered in all manner of things that we are trying to keep away from the kids. When I want to feel a bit better about the state of things (home-wise), I reclaim these spots and give them a baby-wipe dusting. Once clear, I light some candles and let them flicker me through the afternoon slump.

Step 3: Boil the kettle

When in doubt, boil the kettle like Mary-Joe; it’s sure to come in handy. What you do with the hot water is entirely up to you but I recommend a cuppa Joe for an afternoon coffee-break, Swedish style :p

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To recap:

  1. Turn on some soul-nourishing music
  2. Light some candles
  3. Boil the kettle

 

 

oaty almond cookies

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I’m in a bit of baking spree right now. I recently flipped through “Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break” at the public library which describes the Swedish custom of taking the time to enjoy your coffee along with a snack or baked treat (basically the best tradition ever). Since then I have felt quite justified, nay compelled in my desire to have a cookie with my coffee because, you know, its part of my culture.

I wanted to make cookies yesterday but I found that I was out of white flour so I was inspired to concoct the following recipe using ground oats and almonds instead. The result was surprisingly delicious (although I’m not sure how far wrong you can go when butter and sugar are involved). Here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups slivered almonds  (3/4 cup to be ground into flour, 3/4 cup to be added into the dough later)

2 3/4 cup oats (3/4 cup to be ground into “flour”, 2 cups to be added to the dough later)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup butter (room temperature)

3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

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Preheat oven to 350 and move a rack to the top spot.

Start by grinding 3/4 cups slivered almonds and 3/4 cup of oats together in a food processor (I used a magic bullet but I imagine any blender will do) until you reach a flour-like consistency. Mix in the baking powder and salt with the almond-oat mixture.

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In a mid-sized bowl, mix together the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla. Add your dry ingredients, the final two cups of oats, and the slivered almonds. Use a small ice-cream scooper to scoop round balls of dough (about an inch and a half in diameter) on a baking sheet. I recommend using parchment paper as the cookies are quite thin and it will be easier to remove them from the pan later.

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Place the baking sheet on the very top rack as the bottoms of the cookies can burn quite easily. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Take them out when the bottom is brown but the top still looks a bit soft and then let them sit in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing them.

The result should be crispy, chewy, almondy, yummy cookies. Enjoy!

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thoughts from the cave

Many fall down, 

  few return to the sunlit lands.

C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair

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Greetings, friendly readers! Are you guys into the introvert/extrovert conversation? I’m pretty into it but I don’t like to admit it. On the one hand, it seems silly to try and categorize all people so diametrically but, on the other hand, it’s quite fun to talk about.

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For me, it’s a sliding scale. As a mom of three needy humans, I crave alone time more than anything. Sometimes I fantasize about going to an office job; I dream of dressing up in pleated slacks and a button down shirt and sitting at a computer doing data entry in a quiet cubicle with the occasional water-cooler conversation. I also find that the more time alone I have, the more time alone I think I need. My me-time void is bottomless.

In our house, we call it “the cave”. The cave is a metaphorical place that I go when I am alone (or sometimes when I am with other people :p); a cavern of treasures and tunnels. The more time I spend alone, the deeper I descend. I write lists, I plan various projects, I write, I make, I pretend to ignore the outside world. My cave is safe and cozy, the world outside is a troublesome inconvenience. I spelunk further in, further down, until one day I happen to look up. I look up, I look around, and I realize that I am in a dark cave all alone.

What was once a den of delight is suddenly a cage of gloom and I panic. I’m all alone! I have no friends! To which someone usually gently but firmly reminds me, “Actually you do have friends. You just need to call them every once in a while.” And following the light of this undeniable logic, I brush away the cobwebs from around me and slowly claw my way once more to the sunlit lands. There to remain until my next spelunk.

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Have you noticed that introverts love talking about being introverted? Which is funny because I would think of extroverts as being external processors. In the last few years, it has become quite popular to extol the virtues of the quiet and introspective among us which is great because they tend to need a bit of drawing out. But let’s not forget about the invaluable extrovert. I come from a social family and I think it’s safe to say that I am married to one of the most extroverted people in the world and I am daily thankful for them. They pull me out of my cave and help me to see the world through a more outward perspective.

Because I love being alone but I am not immune to loneliness. I like making new friends, I find people pleasant, I love small talk (but hate phone calls). What does that make me? An outgoing introvert? An ambivert? An introspective extrovert? An in-N-outrovert?  A french fry?

What do you think? Should introverts be left to their own resources or is it good to come out of the cave every once in a while?