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!

life inspired: we were here

we walked these streets like kings

For round three of “what inspired me lately” I bring you the song We Were Here. We Were Here is by a Swiss pop duo called Boy and I can’t tell you anything else about them because I haven’t made it past this song yet.

I heard this song on the radio recently and have had it on repeat ever since (ok, not literally :p but I have listened to it lots of times). It totally captured me, although maybe for different reasons than the artist intended. Or maybe not, who knows. In the song, the speaker describes how her presence, her roots in a city change the landscape in a way that lasted far beyond her stay. I don’t know the artist’s motivation behind the lyrics but for me it resonates with my current mandate to rise to the challenge of urban living.

I love that it’s a song about the city- it’s not about frolicking through the fields, exploring the woods, or planting crops. The language is distinctly urban and it has become my Vancouver Song.

Lyrics:

We walked these streets like kings, our faces in the wind

and everywhere we were, we made the city sing

we sang “forever young”, we had our fingers crossed

and when the city sleeps, it dreams of us

yeah, it still does

oh, love, it changes shapes, it glows in many shades

we won’t be gone as long as our echoes resonate

we need no photographs; the past’s not only past

i find us everywhere and that’s how the magic lasts

cause everywhere we’ve been, we have been leaving traces

and they won’t ever disappear

we were here, we were here, we were really here

and the rains get rough but time can’t wash us off

we won’t ever disappear

we were here, we were here, we were really here

it’s only little things; footmarks and fingerprints, a treasure hunt through town

it’s full of evidence, our monuments are all around

everything’s on the move; the paint is wet, all colours new

but if you look carefully, you’ll see us shining through

 

As a young renting family, the question of how to put down roots comes up a LOT in conversations with our friends who, like us, #donthaveamillion. So many have made community here and would like to stay but can’t quite envision growing their family in a basement suite. It might work right now, but what about in a year from now? Five years? Ten years? The picket fence ideal is diminishing and a long hard look at our priorities is in order. In a time of rising rents and reno-victions, can we really make this work?

For me and mine, our living situation is quite stable but we still feel the vacuum sucking our peers away and there are lots of unknowns in our future. What we DO know is that where God has placed us, He has prepared good works for us. We may never own a piece of Vancouver real-estate but the whole city is our oyster. We won’t hold back from investing in a place that may or may not pay financial returns in the form of an appreciating land asset. Whatever lies in the future, wherever we end up, we can always look back on these days and say that we were really here.

I know the connection between this song and those thoughts might seem like a stretch but in the muddy puddle of my inner workings, the Vancouver Question is something I carry pretty close to the surface. It doesn’t take much more than a pebble or a song on the radio to bring it all forth.

I also think this song might be about when we visit a restaurant as a family. Because everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been leaving traces…

 

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?

life inspired: the secret garden

“when you see a bit of earth you want,” he said with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive”

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A week or so ago I mentioned that I want to start posting about things that have inspired me lately. When I look around me (in real life or on the internet) I am often overwhelmed by things that are difficult and messy; sometimes a look at something lovely is just what the doctor ordered.

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So for my second batch of creative inspiration, I bring you “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson.

If you’re feeling nostalgic or looking for some loveliness to herald in the spring, I recommend revisiting this childhood gem (or consider reading it for the first time). It is sweet and pleasant and the perfect inspiration if you’re looking to tackle a daunting project. As you follow young Mary Lennox’s journey of bringing a neglected, nearly-dead garden back to life you might find yourself longing for your own patch of chaos to bring into order which, if you have little kids, probably won’t be too hard to find :).

slow progress

just keep swimming just keep swimming

just keep swimming swimming swimming

what do we do? we swim swim swim.

dory

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Its seems to me that my life, creatively speaking and otherwise, adheres to the seasons. Fall is productive and winter is… less so.

As a stay-at-home mom, I find that having some sort of side-project gives me more focus and helps me to be more efficient with my regular tasks. So to get out of my winter funk I’ve been trying to put myself to work but it’s starting to feel like a make work operation. Maybe because it’s a make work operation…

Do you ever feel like you’re just spinning your tires? I do. I feel that way RIGHT NOW as I am trying to find some words to go with these nice pictures.

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One of my slow progress projects is that I’m trying to crochet up a super chunky ultra cozy cardigan. I haven’t seen a pattern quite like what I’m looking for so I’ve been trying to make one up myself. But it is quite difficult! And slow!

I bought 12 balls of Red Heart Grande yarn on sale back in December and then had to find the right size hook for ultimate drape, which didn’t arrive until the beginning of February. Mini crochet lesson: Upsizing your hook is a good way to achieve a more drapey fabric.

The yarn is very chunky and works up quite quickly, which is good because I have ripped out my work several times. I’m nervous that there will be some vital mistake that I won’t notice until the cardigan is finished- which is exactly what happened the last time I tried to make a cardigan. I had just sewn on the buttons and was trying my completed cardigan on for the first time when I realized that the side with the buttons was 4 inches longer than the side without buttons. That mistake is probably why I usually don’t attempt anything much bigger than a tea cozy so you could say this cardigan is an important step for me. Process is progress?

Keep swimming, friends.