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Month: September 2011

Kitchen

Kitchen

The day has finally come, I have a kitchen.  After a lot of planning, waiting, reorganising, ordering, chivvying and lots of hard work on the part of the installers (Stephen and his Dad) the kitchen is in.  We’ve gone for a Mid Century Modern brown tone for all of the cupboards as part of our modern/vintage aesthetic.  I really wasn’t sure if the colour would come out as we have imagined but now it is up I love it.  A lot.

The colour is even better than I imagined it, the lines are crisp and sharp, the storage….oh the storage….

As well as a bajillion cupboards (yes that is a lot) I have a large pantry cupboard with 5 slide out shelves to store all our lovely cooking supplies easily.  Next to it is the fridge freezer so I’m thinking of this as the food storage area.  Next to that is the wall oven, something I’ve wanted for as long as I’ve known about wall ovens.     It doesn’t hurt that Nigella has one.

Right now it is an empty space, but it will be filled with a shiny new wall oven which will not burn or undercook everything that goes in it.  It is also the perfect distance from the island for easy prep and cooking as well as the perfect eye line from the living room to keep an eye on things cooking.  Perfect, oh wait I said that already.

Next to oven is the appliance garage, that is a cupboard on the counter in which to store my blender and food processor so that I can get them out and use them without snapping my back in half.  Those puppies are heavy.

Yes this is indeed a kitchen designed just for me with the way I cook in mind, bliss, bliss, bliss.  Yet again Stephen’s design skills have come to the fore and I have a kitchen that I couldn’t love more.  It also doesn’t hurt that we have a genius carpenter in the family able to sort out any kinks in our grand scheme, making it truly custom and truly a family kitchen.

The bit that I love the most I’m actually not going to show yet.  Until it is fully finished I don’t want to post pics, I only want it seen in it’s fully glory.  But I will gush for a moment if I may.  I am talking, of course, about the island.  8ft by 4 ft it sits in the middle of the house with a picture window straight in front of it.  The induction cooktop sits in the middle with prep areas on either side and there is an overhang where the boys (or guests) can sit and eat, chat, enjoy tea and cakes, while I work away in the kitchen.  The island has 8 large drawers (2 of them could comfortably house the children) into which I will put all my pans, bakeware, cutlery, children…and anything else I can think of.  I really don’t think space is going to be an issue.

Please excuse my hideous bragfest, I know I must seem like Gloaty McGloatyson, but I really am that excited.  After 10 years of dreaming, moving, planning, more dreaming, selling, looking, not finding, nearly finding, crazy people and other moving dream madness; we are finally there.  This will be our 8th address in 7 years and, I hope, will be our address for many years/decades to come.  This last year and a bit has been one of dedicated hard work, real graft and has taken pretty much everything Stephen and I have.  We’ve been immensely lucky to have the help of family and friends along the way but even with that, we are done.

In that process, that focus on getting the work done, clearing the to do list that fills up just moments later, it has been easy to lose sight of what it is we are working for.  We’ve created something that I can hardly believe, a house that is beautiful, unique and ours.  So I won’t lie, when I stood in my kitchen, with the cupboards on the walls and the island in place, I cried.  Not a few sparkly ‘for camera’ tears, but really cried.  I just can’t believe I’m this lucky.

So while we will spend the rest of our natural lives paying our mortgage, will probably be able to ‘retire’ about 6 months after we are dead and will spend every moment working on the land that we have promised to be the loving custodians of, I really don’t think a day will go by when I won’t look at this house, this kitchen, our home and be totally dazzled.

Tea anyone?

PS Yes that is a bit of the island, but not all of it and not in the finished state.  Please focus on the cute child now.   

White Walls

White Walls

I’ve never been a fan of white walls, they always seem institutional and cold to me.  Plus super easy to get dirty, especially with two bouncing boys around.  Nope, white walls have never been my cup of tea.

Until now.

Now these white walls are something else, something a bit special.  These white walls are a canvas on which our family will paint our lives.  We will colour them, hang pictures on them, live between them.  The layers of plaster that I have watched go on, each one bringing our house a little closer to completion, have given me a whole new appreciation of what it is to build a house, to make a home.  Watching rough boards become sharp edges, understanding how much work and effort it takes to create an oh-so-simple white wall.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take these walls for granted, whatever colour they are.

Sunny Autumn

Sunny Autumn

Like so many others we have been enjoying some blissful late summer/early autumn weather these last few weeks.  Blue skies, warm days and stunning colours all around.   I’ve watched our land go full circle, from Autumn browns to monochrome snow, the green and brown of spring and the verdant greens of summer.  Once more we are turning to golds and browns, the colours of my favourite season.  Sometimes I can’t believe the beauty I see around me, my heart is fit to burst in those moments.

The leaves drifting down like snowflakes, gold against the impossible blue, made me laugh.  Sometimes, when the world is just so beautiful, I have to laugh and celebrate it, even just for a moment.

Our land has beckoned us on walks (in between house finishing work), where we explore the changing landscape and collect everything we can get our hands on.  Well some of us collect, some of us carry the collections;  I’ll let you guess who does what.

At home we took time to journal our walk (I have a little pro forma I made up, I type as Huwyl dictates) and Huwyl drew a picture of an Elm leaf that he collected.  He’s exploring different mediums, pencils, crayons and oil pastels for this particular drawing.

Walking, writing, drawing, colouring, spelling, talking, collecting… Autumn is here.  Enjoy.

Floor

Floor

Polished concrete.  When Stephen first suggested it my vision was ‘car park’.  But he won me over (along with groovy pads on google images) and so we decided to go for it.  An eco friendly, low toxicity floor that will last for as long as the house gives it groovy ‘green’ credentials too; as well as the option to function as part of  our heating and cooling systems fo the house.

Plus, it just looks wicked cool.

For anyone interested in the finer details, our floor has been ground, polished and burnished.  This is a heat sealing process that gives a lovely gloss without using a heavy sealer.  After much debate we decided not to colour the concrete, all the colours looked either green or purple, so we stuck with the natural concrete.  I love the way the patches of aggregate come through, the variations in colour and tone and the way it reflects the light.  Right now it is very cool (which will be lovely in the heat of summer) but soon the radiant floor heating will warm it through, giving us a cosy floor to walk on all winter.

Now that we are fully in the swing of September, with the golden sun dipping that bit lower in the sky and setting that bit further west, our house is most often full of light.  As the day ends and twilight replaces sunshine, the floor darkens in colour and seems to shine even more.  In the hallway, where there is very little light, it is dark gray, but in the living room, by the windows, it is a light colour and shines like glass.

Out of the dust, bits of board and plaster, wires and pipes, our home is starting to emerge.  This unique place that is all our own.

Birthday Wishes

Birthday Wishes

Today is my Mum’s birthday, her 60th.

If there are words to describe the feeling inside my heart, they hide from me.  I cannot describe my memories, or the hopes I had for this day.  The joy we should be sharing now.  I can only look at this picture of my beautiful Mama, pregnant with me and glowing.  Her skin was like velvet and she always smelled wonderful.  When she laughed, no one could resist her.  We never wanted to.

Happy birthday Jaqueline Jones, happy birthday Mama bean.  We miss you.

Walls

Walls

This weekend the house has taken a really big jump forward, we have proper, bone fide, plasterboard walls!  I can’t get over the difference this makes to the look of the house.  The pictures below were taken at about 6.15pm which gives you an idea of how much light was coming in and being bounced around by the beautiful white drywall!

Looking at the room boarded out (and noticing that Stephen is over 6ft tall but there is a lot of space above him) makes me realise just how high these rooms are.  I’ve always known that 10ft high would be tall but seeing it is very different.  It really does add to the feeling of space and light in the house, the feeling of airiness I’d always dreamed we might have.

But my favourite thing about the walls is how beautifully they frame the windows and the view.

This is the view I’ll be waking up to full time in just 7 weeks.  When I realise how close we are I feel like I can’t breathe, the longing to be there is so strong.  We are just so close, it is fabulous but unbearable at the same time.  I have to remind myself that the wheel will turn and life will move forward.  One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

This beautiful place became truly ours on December 22nd 2010, in the old calendar that is the beginning of the new year.  This year we will be handing back the keys on our rental house and fully beginning the new chapter in our lives on October 31st, the end of the year begun on the winter solstice.  I don’t think this is a coincidence, these dates are another reminder to me of the rightness of our move, of the feeling of the fates aligning.  As my Dad says, the gods are with us;  I really believe that.

Soon our shelter will be ready, we will be able to snuggle down and hibernate for the winter, but there is still some work to do.  This week the main floor concrete is being polished, stained and burnished, the upstairs drywall is going on and the house will be ‘mudded’.  In addition to all this we’ll be getting an electrical inspection that (if we pass!) will allow us to get electricity onto the land.  We’re also welcoming Stephen’s Mum and Dad who are coming out to help us.  Stephen’s Dad is a phenomenal carpenter and all round building genius so he’ll be building a bathroom vanity, some bookshelves and fitting the kitchen.  Oh and doing some tiling.  Maybe building cubbies too.  And a bench.

There’s work to be done and cakes to be baked, those chaps have got to be bribed somehow.  Expect more pics of progress later this week!

First Grade, First Week

First Grade, First Week

First Grade has begun!  After a year of ‘practice’ we are now really homeschooling.  This week has been a great jumping off point and a tester for the materials I’ve been researching and gathering (with the help of my very knowledgable friend) over these last months.  So far so good!  This week we only worked for 3 days due to the Labour Day weekend, this was the perfect way to ease into our new schedule.  Next week we’ll add history and music to the roster, we’ll be lovely and busy throughout the week.

I’ve really enjoyed getting properly stuck into our school work and have been rewarded with Huwyl’s effort and ability.  Watching him exceed my expectations as he does more pages of a phonics book or takes extra time over a drawing is such a gift.  This confirms to me that we really are on the right path, homeschooling is for us!

Of course we couldn’t really call ourselves homeschoolers without spending at least one afternoon outside in the sunshine.  A walk along one of our favourite trails, on the most glorious autumn afternoon, found me counting my blessings and soaking up my favourite season.  While other children Huwyl’s age were in a classroom working on autumn themed activities, we were outside touching, smelling and living it.

I really don’t think the boys were particularly affected by the significance of this first week but I certainly was.  The energy and excitement of beginning this first ‘proper’ year of school had me giddy.  I know there will be days and weeks ahead where things will be less than perfect but for now and for as long as it lasts, I’m going to count myself lucky to be doing this work that I love, with those I love the most.

Cooking School

Cooking School

I had a bit of a homeschooling revelation over the summer, nothing too major, but it was a useful shift in perception.  I realised that the only things I referred to as ‘school’ were more traditional activities like writing or working-on-spelling.  I also realised that it was likely that I was building a perception in Huwyl’s mind that school is restrictive and boring, pretty much what I was hoping to avoid.

So Cooking School was born.  Alongside Science School, Art School… you see where I’m going with this don’t you?  I started to include all of our activities under the banner of school and, in the process, reminded myself of the need for diversity in our approach and attitude to learning.  With the cooking element specifically I noticed that I do include the boys in cooking but we didn’t do much that was just ‘for them’.  Often the pressure of getting the recipe ‘right’ made me less patient and tolerant than I would like, so I decided to do a cooking task that was just for the boys and focus on process rather than outcome.

I’ve been approaching this activity very much as a lesson, planning in advance who will do what task, thinking about how to expand their skills and confidence, considering the approach and potential difficulties.  Crucially I’ve added the task to my planner so it is official, this helps me take it seriously and get on track as my energy starts to wane later in the afternoon.  I’m not just making a mess with a questionable food product at the end of it, I’m doing Cooking School.

Our textbook for this class is The River Cottage Family Cookbook, this book was written with the express purpose of adult/child cooking teams in mind.  The recipes are varied and there are many pared down classics in there.  The pared down element means that the food is unlikely to rock your palate but that really isn’t the point.  The point is getting the children working in the kitchen, engaged with food and building confidence; all things I want to encourage.  I’ve added a different recipe for each week to my planner which, hopefully, allows me to make sure we have the right supplies and ingredients when Wednesday afternoon rolls around.

When all else fails, whipped cream makes almost anything taste good.

Sheeps

Sheeps

Despite being a holiday weekend we were as busy as usual, mowing, doing chores and checking out sheep.   What’s that?  Pictures of ridiculously cute sheep taken on a rainy day you say?

Why I have just the thing.

If you currently want to tuck a couple of these sheep underneath your coat and make a run for it then you are in good company.  Put it this way, the children should be grateful that it was them strapped into car seats and taken home.

In case you are thinking that we just randomly wander around sheep farms on a Sunday, this was a prearranged visit with Danielle at Riverglen Farm.  She breeds Shetland sheep and we were talking to her about buying a flock either this fall or next summer.  Shetlands are originally from Scotland and, as a primitive breed, they are exceptionally well suited to the Canadian climate and great for hobby farmers.   It was extremely helpful to get a visual on what the sheep need to be safe and happy, though slightly depressing when we had to face up to our complete lack of preparedness.  Next year is all about fencing.

And then we can have some of these.

Of course 50% of our family is already very at home with the fields and livestock, which should make the transition to farm life pretty straightforward.

I’m reasonably sure sheep will be much easier.