Making A Mess In The Kitchen

Baking deliciousness. Used under CC-0 License

I am a messy cook and an even messier baker.  Regardless of what I’m baking flour and spices seem to end up everywhere.  And I mean everywhere. We’re talking flour all over the counter, floor, human beings in the near vicinity, and occasionally the cat.  Thankfully Andrew has grown accustomed to this and just shakes his head at the disaster I’m creating and hopefully knowing that it will get cleaned up eventually.

Cooking dinner and baking are things I enjoy however I found they had fallen off my plate with my former commute and trying to keep afloat with everything else. Since moving to ‘the new house’ I’ve gotten back into cooking and baking a lot more.  I’ve baked way more in the past month than I have in the previous year.  I’ve made muffins, loaves, cookies and found my way back to gluten free baking.  I’ve also managed to do a lot more cooking of dinner.  Eating tasty food I’ve made always makes me happy and healthy food makes by body feel a heck of a lot better. One of the neat things about this increased kitchen time is that I’ve been able to share my joy of cooking with Little Miss.

In the past month or so she has become the resident lettuce ripper for salads, the designated stirrer of all the things, and the one who dumps ingredients into bowls for me.  I love the idea of bonding over cooking and reinforcing the idea of healthy eating and where food comes from by spending time in the kitchen together.  She asks a ton of questions and I often find myself explaining how a recipe works or what a new ingredient is.  I could blame the kitchen mess on her but more often than not it is still me that’s causing flour to go everywhere or spilling things. Messes are part of life, and are definitely part of my cooking, and I think the mess is truly worth all the associated cleanup.

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The Bushplane Revisited: A Parent’s Perspective

One of the plane's Little Miss loved climbing in and out of.

One of the plane’s Little Miss loved climbing in and out of.

Cross-posted from Krista’s public history blog.

I’ve written a few times in the past about visiting the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (locally known as the Bushplane Museum) for non-heritage events, namely for musical performances and a community craft show.  In both cases the admission to the Bushplane was either free or the proceeds when to the performing artist.  Those events were an example of a heritage space renting out their space to generate revenue.

A couple of weekends ago my family and I visited the Bushplane Museum during their regular operating hours as part of their “Family Fun Day.”  In addition to their regular attractions the day included half price admission and a range of additional activities such as a magic show, crafts, community tables, and special guests from the popular kids show Paw Patrol.  Basically it was a day designed to bring more people through the door.  Given the fact that at numerous points throughout the day there was lineup to get in, I think they were definitely successful in that regard.

This visit also marked the first time I visited the Bushplane with a child. My daughter wasn’t terribly interested in all the extra things that were going on as part of the day, but she loved the planes and some of the interactive exhibit pieces in the museum.  The Bushplane has a number of planes that are accessible to visitors and my daughter loved climbing in and out of them, sitting in them, and asking lots of questions about how things worked.  One of the nice things about her enthusiasm around the planes was that it meant it gave me some time to read description labels, check out some of the digital interpretation, and generally just take in the museum.

I’m still adjusting to how your experiences at museum and heritage site visits change when you’re accompanied by a child.  I am also becoming increasing appreciative of museums that do a good job of integrating child appropriate exhibits or special child focused programming into their services.  Having dedicated space for children or children friendly interpretation can be a huge selling point when families are deciding where to visit.  Sometimes this can be hugely elaborate programming but other times simply having colouring station or a touch/feel artifact section can go a long way.

What are some of your favourite examples of family friendly museum programming?

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And Then There Were Chickens

Chickens!

Chickens!

One of the unexpected parts of our move from Oslicken Acres into the Soo was the acquisition of a small group of chickens.  The family we bought the house from had a small group of chickens they were keeping in their backyard.  Rather than moving the chickens in the middle of winter they asked us if we would be interested in having them.

When Andrew presented me with the idea of having chickens I was not all that enthusiastic.  I was thinking of all of the stress associated with moving and having one more thing to look after during the move. I’m also the kind of person who wants to learn a lot about an animal before getting one and I knew virtually nothing about chickens.  Enter Google and book purchases to help us up our chicken game.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite...don't tell the other chickens.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite…don’t tell the other chickens.

Despite my initial reluctance I’m really enjoying having our small group of seven chickens.  They are surprisingly friendly – though I am the one that feeds them so that

might be part of their friendliness.  And yes there is a little bit of extra work associated with keeping but hem I’m getting a whole lot of joy out of visiting them every morning and evening.  Plus they make tasty eggs!

I do realize that given the cost of their feed, bedding, and the time required to take care of them we aren’t really saving money on eggs.  But I think the enjoyment factor is

a pretty key reason to keep them.  It’s also teaching Little Miss about caring for animals and where her food comes from which I think is a really important life lesson.  We moved from the country to the city and became chicken owners in the process – a little backwards but definitely fun.

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Getting Back Onto the Yoga Mat

YogaBIn November during our trip south for a destination wedding a reconnected with my love for yoga by joining in some morning classes on the beach.  These were fairly laid back classes geared to all fitness levels but they reminded me of how much I use to enjoy doing yoga.

In January I participated in #yogarevolution a free 31-day program created by Yoga With Adriene.  Essentially it was 31 days of yoga videos on YouTube that I could do at home whenever it fit into my schedule.  I doubled up on the practice occasionally to make up for the odd missed day but I really enjoyed spending some time on the mat on a regular basis.  I liked the videos because they were a good mix of physical intensity, mindfulness, and occasionally had bits of quirky humor.  I’ve added them into the mix in addition to my gym schedule and they have been a great way to relax in the evening.

To keep up with the positive practice fostered in January I’ve started another yoga calendar that includes suggested videos for every day in February.  So far so good.  One of the fun bonuses of engaging in this practice at home has been experiencing yoga with a two year old. Little Miss loves the idea of pulling out ‘Mommy’s Mat’, doing stretches, and just being silly during yoga.  Her flexibility puts the flexibility of an adult to shame and it’s ton of fun to see her experimenting with yoga poses.

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Listening: Wooden Overcoats

WoodenOvercoatsMy commute may have ended with our move but my podcast listening has continued.  I’m currently loving the Wooden Overcoats podcast. This comedic drama is set in “Piffling Vale” a small town on a island in the British Channel.  The podcast revolves around the owners/operators of the Funn Funeral business.  The premise of the show is that Rudyard Funn’s family funeral business is put into jeopardy when a new undertaker, Eric Chapman, opens across the square.  Chapman is charming, the village loves him, and he quickly surpasses Funn Funeral’s as the go to funeral home. For the first time ever Funn Funerals has competition and it does not go well.  Antics, plotting, and escapades follow.

For me, this podcast feels a lot like if Fawlty Towers had of been centered around a funeral home.  It’s great British comedy with a range of odd ball characters and small town charm.  An agnostic wavering minister, a candy shop owner who becomes a police officer, and a lighthouse keeper who writes erotica just a few of the imaginative supporting cast.  Personally, I love Antigone Funn’s character – a mortician that skulks around in the basement, stands in dark shadows and has a wicked sense of humor.

I highly recommend taking a listen if you’re in need of a laugh and have a fondness for British humour.

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Packing Up and Headed Out

Overstuffed-LuggageRemember back in August when I wrote about my commute, community, and making connections? As might have been evident by that post Andrew and I had been talking for awhile about what possibilities might work best for our family.  After a lot of discussion (and more than one pro/con list) we decided to start looking at houses in the Soo…initially just to see what was out there.  In mid-October we put an offer in on a house and after what seemed like an eternity we found out in late November that it had been accepted and that the owners had removed their conditions on the offer.  We’re moving at the end of this month.

This has meant a few things – lots of packing has been going on in our current house, we’ve been looking at daycare options for Little Miss, and thinking about how our schedules will change with the move.  It’s definitely going to take some getting used to but I am relishing in the idea that I’m going to have two additional hours a day that were previously spent in a car.  I’m hoping this means we get to spend more time together as a family, that I won’t be as exhausted after the work/drive, and that we can explore new routines.  I’m also excited about exploring a new public library, finding new trails to hike and bike in the summer, and new places to walk.  I’m also hoping to cook more (I think Andrew is hoping for that one as well).

This was the first time I’d actually looked at houses – despite being over 30 I’d never bought a house on my own or looked for one.  It was an interesting experience.  We looked at around ten houses and that experience helped clarify for us our priorities and must haves.  The house we ended up picking still has a bit of a rural feel to it despite being within city limits, it has a decent sized lot with outdoor space, and is going to give us a bit more breathing room inside the house.  Adventures and new challenges are coming and even though the actual moving part is still a bit daunting I’m looking forward to starting something new.

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Northern Ontario Beer: Swingbridge

swingbridge_can1Andrew and I recently tried Swingbridge, a beer crafted by the Manitoulin Brewing Company. I love the fact that this is a Northern Ontario made beer and is semi-local to our area. So far it looks like Swingbeer is the only beer brewed by the Manitoulin Brewing Company but based on the taste of this one I hope they venture into other offerings.

Swingbridge is a blonde ale and poured a hazy yellow colour with a small amount of white head that stuck around for awhile. This had a maltier edge to it that then most blonde ales which was a nice surprise.  The malt is well balanced with hops that have enough flavour to be noticeable while still being subtle enough to be enjoyable. Smooth drinking, well balanced, and full of flavour this one was a huge win in the local beer category.

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Listening – The Hilarious World of Depression

hilarous-world-depression_tile@2When I first saw the title of “The Hilarious World of Depression” podcast I thought hmmm depression as comedy?  Well not really.  It’s more of a podcast about depression which features comedians.  There are definitely funny moments.  But there are also heart wrenching and potentially triggering discussions about personal experiences with mental illness, substance abuse, self-worth, and suicide.

The podcast is hosted by John Moe and created in partnership with the Make It Okay campaign.  Each episode features John Moe talking with a comedian about their professional practice and their mental health past.  It’s funny but filled with serious and real moments.  As the opening blurb for the podcast says, “Depression is a vicious cycle of solitude and stigma that leaves people miserable and sometimes dead. Frankly, we’re not going to put up with that anymore. The Hilarious World of Depression is…a chance to gain some insight, have a few laughs, and realize that people with depression are not alone and that together, we can all feel a bit better.”

It’s worth a listen but I would definitely put a trigger warning on this podcast and make sure you’re in a good head space when listening.

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2016 in Fiction

BooksReading is my happy place.  In past years I haven’t really taken stock of my reading or reflected on how I felt about what I read.  Inspired by  Allana Mayer’s post, “My year in fiction” I’ve deiced to take a look back at some of what I’ve read in 2016.  According to my Goodreads account, which I try to keep updated with all of the books I read, I tackled 101 books in 2016.  That seems like a huge number – but some of that was non-fiction I read as professional development and that number also includes a handful of audio books.

Part way through 2016 I took a fairly serious look at my reading habits and tried to shift them a bit.  I love fantasy books but I realized I had fallen into a bit of a rut and many of the books I was reading were written by white males and contained very little character diversity.  As a result I decided to actively seek out queer lit and books written by women.  I was somewhat successful in that endeavor but it’s something I want to continue with in 2017.  I would also like to continue to read more books written by Indigenous folks and POC.

The Brandon Sanderson Obsession

Prior to making a decision to read more widely I began 2016 by rereading some of favourite fantasy books – namely the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.  This is hands down one of my favourite fantasy series and contains some of the best female fantasy main characters I’ve read.  In 2016 I also read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, a fun young adult romp that features librarians trying to take over the world.  I also read Sanderson’s Way of Kings and Words of Radiance which are part of The Stormlight Archive series.  These books are more traditional epic fantasy, but I love their magic systems – use of archives and the mixture of political and personal that permeates these books.  I also ventured into Sanderson’s Reckoner’s series by reading Steelheart, Mitosis, and Firefight.  This series is superhero fiction based around the idea of what if there were a bunch of people with super powers who were essentially evil and it was up to regular folks to fight back.  These were really quick reads for me – and fairly light, albeit with a fair bit of violence and action.  I concluded by 2016 Sanderson kick by reading The Alloy of Law which is the fourth book in the Mistborn world – though it’s set many years later and with a different cast of characters it was still pretty great. Much more of a steampunk Western feel than the other books.   Basically I’m still working my way through the immense amount of writing by Sanderson and still loving most of it.

Charlotte E. English and Kristine Kathryn Rusch

These two great female authors were hold overs from much of what I read in 2015.  Both English and Rusch write SFF and their work has been frequently featured in bundles on Storybundle.  In January I read Miss Landon & Aubranel by English which was a historical fiction with a bit of fantasy in the mix and felt a bit like Jane Eyre in it’s writing style.   I also read Traitors by Rusch which unlike most of the other books by Rusch that I’ve picked up this one was more fantasy than Sci-fi weighted.  I loved the world building in this one however I still think I prefer some of Rusch’s more traditional SF fare.

All the Torchwood

Torchwood novels, BBC audios, Big Finish audios – you name it and I’ve probably sampled it this year.  I went on a bit of a binge on this front that fell outside the idea of diverse reading.  I blame the fact that Doctor Who wasn’t on air this year and I was going through a bit of a withdrawal.   I also read John Barrowman’s two autobiographical style books and the Hallow Earth trilogy Barrow man wrote with Carole E. Barrowman.  I still have a few of the Big Finish Tochwood audios to finish but I’m saving them for the long drive to Southern Ontario at the end of this week.

Doctor Who Reading

Similar to my Torchwood binge I discovered the world of Doctor Who novels and audios.  There are substantially more of these than there are of the Torchwood variety so I’ve really only scratched the surface on this front so far.  I listened to Dark  Horizons a eleventh doctor novel by Jenny Colgan (yay female writer!) that is a delightful romp with Matt Smith’s Doctor involving Vikings and aliens. I also read The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter, The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner (yay another female writer!), Touched by An Angel by Jonathan Morris, Human Nature by Paul Cornell, and Shada by Gareth Roberts, based on the screenplays by Douglas Adams. Of that batch I particularly enjoyed the revamp of Adams’ original screenplays and Rayner’s eleventh Doctor story.

I also listened to a few Big Finish Doctor Who audios this year.  Namely, the Eleventh Doctor and Donna audios which I would highly recommend.  Catherine Tate and David Tennant do a wonderful job making these stories come alive. I also listened to the Destiny of the Doctor audio series which was also good.

Elizabeth Bear

So much love for her writing.  Strong female characters, subverted gender norms, queer relationships, and wonderful SFF storytelling.  I loved her book Karen Memory which has a steampunk feel to it and her Jacob’s Ladder series and the Jenny Casey series.  The Jenny Casey series in particular has a raw, gritty feel that I loved.  And one of the main characters is a Francophone Canadian which is downright rare in SFF.  I highly recommend any of Bear’s writing if you’re interested in reading challenging and diverse SFF.

Uncanny Magazine

I have so much love for this publication.  Edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas this magazine brings together diverse voices, moving stories, and just plain good quality fiction and prose.  Each issue contains challenging writing, inspiring fiction, and thoughtful essays. I’ve religiously downloaded each new issue in 2016 and devoured them with delight.  I also really enjoy the Uncanny Magazine podcast which includes creator interviews and fiction being read aloud.

Queer Voices

I’ve been actively trying to read books that are by queer and marginalized voices or contain well written queer characters.  I’ve also been struggling to find books that represent queer characters as part of a larger story, beyond just a coming out work.  That’s one of the reasons why I love so much of the writing done by Elizabeth Bear and so many of the stories in Uncanny Magazine.  In both cases queer characters are often written as matter of the fact, as part of life, and part of the fabric of the world.  That representation is so important to me and is something I’ve struggled to find.  This year I read Funny Boy by Shyam Selvaduri, Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides, In One Person by John Irving, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, City of Night by John Rechy, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson, and The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham.  I probably enjoyed Middlesex and City of Night the best.  But I’ve also been really wanting to read a book with a strong bisxual, pansexual, 2spirit, asexual, or non-binary character.  And I have yet to come across a book that fits that bill.  The nearest I’ve come yet is Elizabeth Bear’s writing which subverts gender and relationship norms in a SFF setting.  If anyone has any recommendations in this category feel free to share.

Basically I read a lot and I’m really trying to change my reading habits to discover new authors and new ways of thinking.  There are bunch of other odds and ends I read in 2016 but didn’t cover in this post.  I also didn’t talk about any of the non-fiction I read this year as I hope to write a separate post covering that topic.  What’s on your fiction reading list for 2017?

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Beer of the Month: Pie Eyed Pumpkin Ale

Another pumpkin beer. This one was by Nickel Brook Brewing Company (Burlington, Ont.) which I’ve tried a couple of beers from previously.  I haven’t been thrilled with their beer in the past – kind of a good but not great selection of beer.  Similarly, I have yet to find a pumpkin flavoured beer that is great.  I love pumpkin but that love doesn’t seem to transfer into pumpkin beer.

The “Pie Eyed Pumpkin Ale” fell about middle of the road in terms of pumpkin beer.  It poured a hazy copper colour with minimal head and smelt fairly strongly of spice.  The taste was predominately spice (cinnamon, all spice, cardamon) with a little bit of malt.  The spice wasn’t crazy strong but the balance didn’t quite do it for me.  It wasn’t really the flavour mix I associate with pumpkin and felt more like just a bottle of spices tossed together.  It was good but not really pumpkin at all.

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