The picture at the head of this post is what it looks like when I am cooking, baking, and watching CNN at the same time (I am mesmerized by CNN’s magic wall, and I can’t believe the commentators have been at it since Tuesday – it’s insane). Here’s hoping there is an answer to the question today as we close out a week of anxiety for so many people – though I’m not sure I’m less anxious knowing that 49% of people who live right next door voted for fascism.
Food: This week was pretty average on the food front – Brian was away for work so the meal plan included leftovers, pressure canned beans, yams, and veggie burgers (comfort food). Last night, however, I made a lamb stew with miso/ginger flavours and it knocked us out of the park. I adapted it from another recipe so I could make it in the Instant Pot and plan to share it here once I type it up. Definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten in ages.
One thing I’ve been digging lately is the air fryer we bought in October. While I’m not sure it can really be called a fryer (more like a countertop convection oven), I’ve used it almost every day for something. We got one with a rotisserie basket which turns out is fantastic for roasting vegetables, and making french fries. Yesterday I used it with just the light on (no heat) to rise my sourdough starter more quickly than it would on the cold countertop. As we have a propane stove/oven, I am all for reducing the amount we heat up the whole oven for jobs that can be handled by a smaller device. With just two people to feed most of the time, we don’t need an oven that can cook a whole turkey, we just want to do a few veggies on the side or make some quick oven fries – an air fryer can do that with a fraction of the energy use.
Textiles: I mentioned my desire for bodysuits last week and this week I made my first Rowan bodysuit which I am totally in love with (wearing as we speak). The Rowan can be made as a shirt or a bodysuit, has three necklines and three sleeve choices – so it’s really a great pattern if you like a form-fitting tee. But beware that your fabric has enough stretch! In one iteration I made with 100% cotton, the tee was so tight because I hadn’t factored the stretch requirements in when pulling the fabric out of my stash.
Speaking of t-shirts, the other thing I’ve done this week is made four everyday shirts with 3/4 length sleeves in different colours since I needed something more than t-shirts and tank tops in the wardrobe as we move towards winter.
Besides the obsessive making of shirts, nothing else got done in the studio this week.
Work: Work has continued to be very work-y except now I’m also starting to panic about deadlines in March that can’t possibly be met. I did start a new project manager reporting to me this week, which means I have help in sorting out the mess that is to come. I also met some major milestones on the competitive process I am running (which in the federal government is as bureaucratic as you can imagine it is) – so that continues with the goal of getting it wrapped up by xmas. I am now hiring for a total of nine positions, some of which have staff in them in “term” positions and some which are vacant – that is a crazy amount of paperwork to come….
Fitness: It’s been happening but without any real inspiration. I’ve run a couple of times, I’ve worked out at the gym on schedule – though I haven’t been getting much yoga in. Right now I am in the mode of just showing up which is the key to long-term success. I’ve also been thinking about a shift in mindset I read about earlier this week which is to stop thinking about exercise as something I “do” but think of myself as “someone who exercises” (being vs. doing). Apparently that is one of the differences between people who stick with it over a lifetime and people who don’t – and I would love it if my brain would just make that shift so I could dispense with the resistance I feel when it’s time to go to the gym. I’m always glad to be there and to get through a hard workout, but getting there is such an effort some days!
Notable: This week I started growing mushrooms in my studio shower stall. As mentioned in last week’s post, I bought kits for Oyster and Reishi mushrooms from Grow Mushrooms Canada (who are located really close by, in Sayward BC) and set them up with humidity covers in the shower. It’s an ideal spot as it never gets used, has good drainage, and gets lots of indirect (but no direct) natural light. At the moment there is not much to look at (set up is pictured below), but I will share more if I actually get some growth happening in there.
It’s really blowy here as I write, and I expect some visitors later today. We don’t have a ton of people coming through due to Covid, but when we do we’re fortunate to have enough space for separate bathrooms to use and some distancing while sharing the same space. I expect a lot of outdoor visiting tomorrow as we have some other friends coming to look at a house for sale on the island, so we’ll be setting up the propane fire ring and sandwiches outside!
This week feels in-between because we just had a provincial election on Saturday (with a favourable outcome from my perspective) but we are still waiting for the big scary election down south on Tuesday. Also, virus numbers continue to climb which makes every activity feel like a big question. But even so, over here at Birdsong, working from home, my schedule continues pretty much as it always does: work, gym/walk, dinner, studio. Yesterday I threw in a trip to the grocery store just to make things really exciting.
Food: As you can see from the above stack of books, I am thinking a lot about food-related things right now as is my autumn habit. I just got the Koji book on top and I plan to experiment with both koji and indoor mushroom growing a part of my late fall/winter fun. In addition to learning all about miso, I plan to grow oyster mushrooms and a reishi mushroom (from a kit) in the guest room that is largely going unused these days. Both of these projects have a potential to turn into inedible mould so we’ll see how it goes.
Last weekend I went for the last mushroom forage of the season with my friend Jenn (who is obsessed which was great encouragement to hunt), and found a few lobster mushrooms and some huge white chanterelles. The lobsters are now dehydrated, and the chanterelles were turned into risotto which I paired with some salmon fillets with a bit of coulis made from evergreen huckleberries that I pocketed in the same foraging session.
Textiles: This week I threw away the blouse I was working on. Just threw it in the garbage! Not only was the fabric turning out to be something I wouldn’t wear (a vintage rayon that was a bit too scratchy and floral for my liking), but I made a couple of major errors, and the fact of it on my sewing project pile was blocking me from starting anything else. I almost never garbage things I’m sewing without finishing them (even if I don’t wear something it can go to thrift) but this was becoming a misery to work on.
Once that was out of the way I pulled out some wide-wale corduroy that I’ve had in the stash for two years and made myself a new York Pinafore which I finished last night and am wearing today. I’ve made the York previously, in a stiff denim. I still wear it, but it’s a bit big for me now and I needed something a bit closer to my size. I decided to go with the kangaroo pocket in front, even though I wasn’t sure if it would be flattering or not, and I’m really happy I did! Between that and the corduroy, this feels like a make right out of my seventies childhood.
Work: Work has been very work-y this week. I screened fifty resumes for two different job application streams, filled out the requisite reports, had a bunch of meetings, and am now finishing up work writing the tests for the job competition. There is nothing exciting about any of this, but I was very productive!
Fitness: This week was solid on the fitness front except the part where I made myself so dehydrated on Tuesday (between running 4.25 km and walking 7 km) that I felt like I was coming down with the flu on Wednesday. I also think I might be running up against my B12 deficiency again because I’ve been fighting insane exhaustion and brain fog some days. More water and supplements for me! This week I’ve run three times (4.7 km, 4.25 km, 4.5 km); I’m hoping that this weekend I can push myself to 5 km but we’ll see. On the weight-lifting front, I’m still in a maintenance phase which I think I’ll stay in for the next few weeks – I’m feeling strong but I have to really re-set my brain in order to start pushing upwards again.
Notable: I got new glasses this week! Mine were more than two years old, and scratched all to hell – so I got myself an eye exam early in the month and ordered some glasses last week. This was my first time ordering from Clearly.ca which I decided on because my prescription for progressive lenses is so expensive (two years ago I paid just over $600 at my local eyewear shop) – I figured even saving $50 would be worth it. As it is, my new eyewear came in at $500 so I saved at least $100. Now that my prescription is in the system, I can easily order prescription sunglasses when it comes to be the season. I hate to admit how much I buy everything (that I can’t get secondhand) online these days, but given that I live on a small island with limited retail and no selection, and the virus (which makes me nervous to shop in the larger community close by), that’s where I’m at.
The province announced new health orders yesterday, limits on gatherings indoors specifically, and I realized that we really are back in this thing. It’s not as though I would have many people into my home these days in any case, but the formalizing of that into a mandatory order changes the weight of things. At the same time, the weather has suddenly gotten very cold and although it is just October it feels very wintery which I wasn’t ready for. While things are always quiet on these islands by this time of year, it’s feeling exceptionally so with no weekly open mic, no restaurants to pop into for some socializing, no impromptu gatherings of friends. At least we live in a place with a lot of outdoors and a few of our friends have covered firepits, so chats around a fire, long walks in the woods, and the occasional bright day kayak are all possible realms of social interaction as we head into these darker months.
My intention/word for 2020 was “rooted” by which I meant grounding down in the place where I live and really making my focus here instead of elsewhere. When I chose that word back in December, I had no idea how bound by place, very specifically my home and neighbourhood, I would be in 2020.
On the plus side, all this quietude is good for re-finding time to sew and weave. Last night I did some winding of warp chain which is always a meditative way to spend an hour in the studio. I’m winding on my longest warp ever (13 metres) for these Jane Stafford tea towels. I never buy weaving kits, but I was taken by these and I’m curious about weaving off thirteen different patterns from a single warp so I’m going to put these towels in the small loom and they will be my winter project.
As for the bigger loom I bought not so long ago, I’m waiting for a piece of equipment that will make it easier to warp on a sectional beam (the AVL warping wheel). If that doesn’t show up soon though I think I’ll just put a warp for a bathmat on it so I can play around some more. I have been threading white and black beads on the treadle cords, and the next step is to find 10 long knitting needles at the thrift store. These are used for something known as the Vavstuga tie-up system and I’ve found this system does make tying up a countermarch loom much easier. (Tying up is the process by which you attach the food pedals (treadles) to the shafts (the part that holds the threads in place and moves up and down) to produce the shed (the opening that passes the shuttle through in weaving cloth).
Given the need to settle in for awhile longer, I’m glad to have projects to focus on in addition to some household organizing I want to get done over the next couple of months. I can’t say I feel “inspired” exactly. Resolved might more accurately describe my mood. Not feeling negative, just a bit flat as I look out onto the grey horizon that I know will be my primary view for sometime to come.
First week back after holidays, and it has been wall-to-wall things over here at Birdsong. Brian was on the mainland all week so that left me to start wrangling things back into shape. Suddenly it’s Friday!
Food: For the first time in at least two years (probably longer) I did a meal plan for the week. Because it’s just the two of us, I had fallen into the “why bother” with meal planning – but wow, I forgot how well that works even if it’s just me kicking around here.
The benefits of meal-planning for me are threefold: I actually try new recipes, I have the ingredients on hand, and I build my plan around the pantry and freezer stock that we already have so I use stuff up. I’ve been using the app AnyList for awhile, and it’s the best tool I’ve found for meal planning and shopping. You can import recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists from those plans – it’s really facilitated some fantastic meals this week (including Miso-Glazed Black Cod with Saffron Rice, a fantastic tuna melt, a farro salad, stuffed acorn squash and a thai-quinoa bowl). We have a temporary roommate who I’ve been cooking for and he has declared me the winner of dinner this week. It’s been pretty great.
The picture above is from a fish filleting session yesterday after my friend Jenn picked up fish for her and I at the government wharf on Wednesday night. We have been buying from Island Wild, who I highly recommend if you want to support a local fishing family on Vancouver Island. Buying whole fish is by far the least expensive way to get it in your freezer, and the skills needed to do the filleting are all on youtube. Since the pandemic, and the bottom falling out of the restaurant industry, we are seeing more fish in our local communities and I am grateful for that return to being able to eat from our ecosystem.
Textiles: Got nothing here this week, other than a tiny bit of work on a top I’m making. I have been obsessed, however, with the idea of making a bodysuit or two – so I’ve downloaded and printed the Rowan pattern (snaps at the crotch – so smart) which looks like a pretty quick make. I’m going to finish the top this weekend and then it’s time for some serious sewing. My fall and winter wardrobe is lacking at the moment. I seem to have a lot of workout clothes (ie: t-shirts) and nothing else.
Work: Returned to work after holidays. Hated it for one whole day, then relaxed and I’m back in the swing of things. Yesterday I held my first union meeting since the start of the pandemic, over MS Teams – it was a bit epic but I got through it and people showed up! I have a huge amount of stuff to get through between now and the winter holidays – a big staffing process, setting up a new project, onboarding a new person on my team – but I’m getting recognition for my work, and my leadership is supportive, these are things that make a difference after years of poor leadership and no acknowledgement.
Fitness: I have been really on track with my goals this week. Since Sunday I’ve been for three runs, had two weight lifting sessions (third one today), and done a couple of at-home yoga classes. I’ve instituted 30 minute fitness breaks into my work day at 9 am – noon in Ottawa when all my colleagues break for lunch and 3 hours into my work day. That’s when I either go for a run around the neighbourhood or put on an online yoga class (I’ve been into Glo Yoga lately after years of Yoga with Adriene. I love her but I wanted more variety of instructors.) I am in a maintenance phase with weight training which means I get to lift at levels that are enjoyable for awhile; it feels good to be back at the gym.
Notable: The biggest thing this week is that I’m getting my car back today! It’s been at the dealership for 5 months due to a defect in the battery, and because it’s an electric car, that is tantamount to replacing a whole engine. The battery took months to get here for reasons that are not clear to anyone involved in the process on my end – but it’s done! And I’m going to Nanaimo this morning to pick it up. I hate to be so attached to a physical object, but I *love* my car and I’m so happy to be getting it back. (Pictured below the day I brought it home in May 2019).
Over the years of writing this blog (seventeen or so now), I have come to realize that its main value to me is as a record of my life, a place to store recipes and reflections, sewing projects and fitness plans so I can dip back into them later on. I have tried this in various paper formats over the years, but the only place where I’ve consistently (albeit irregularly) documented my life, is here.
I have a desire to return to this space more regularly, and I do like the diary this blog represents. Motivated by that, I am trying something new in the form of a weekly check-in – a simple prompt about what’s happening in different parts of my life that I might want to return to later. This approach is inspired by a friend of mine who publishes a paper creative journal which has a weekly check-in that explores creative elements in one’s life. I kept up with those journals for close to a year before petering out on them. I would like to return to that format here and see how it sticks.
I was going to wait to start this until a normal week (we’re just finishing up two weeks of holidays spent mostly at our rural cabin), or January for the beginning of the year feel – but that is too much of a *thing* somehow – so I’m just going for it now:
Food: Autumn makes me recipe-crazy, but because we’ve been away from home mostly all I can do is plan. In particular I’ve been researching fish recipes because just before coming away I bought an 11 pound halibut, 2 black cod and 2 yelloweye rockfish (red snapper) from our community supported fishery and packaged them into the freezer. I have another halibut coming shortly after arriving home – so it’s going to be a winter of fish eating (in addition to venison, pork and lamb which our freezer is stuffed with at the moment).
We did get real appliances at the cabin just in time to make Thanksgiving dinner with our cabin partners last Saturday – something we have been planning to do since we bought this property seven years ago.
Textiles: I brought a knitting project along with me on the trip, but really haven’t made much headway because it’s miles of stockinette and I’m bored. Along the way I picked up some materials from Aster and Vine, (out of Rossland, BC) and crocheted a basket which was quick and fun – and gives me something to put my knit project in when I’m not working on it.
Work: Today marks the end of two weeks of desperately-needed holidays from work which we spent in the interior of BC, mostly at our cabin. I have a mountain of work awaiting my return to the “office” some of which includes a big hiring process that I somehow became responsible for as well as shepherding a web project to its end. I’m not looking forward to any of it but at least I’m employed doing something I’m good at. These are things to be grateful for in these unsettled economic times.
Fitness: We brought a few weights to the cabin so we could do some strength training but what’s been more interesting to me on this trip is my desire to run around the lake every other day. I’m not a runner, but my fitness overall has improved so much in the last year that I find myself *able* to run without dying and I’m intrigued by that. The first three runs around the lake, I took a shortcut through the trails for a 3.75 run. On my last run (yesterday), I went all the way around on the road for a full 4 km in under 30 minutes (27 min for the 3.75 km, 29 min for the 4 km). This is the longest continuous running I have done in years and I’m proud of getting back to a fitness level where I can do it. Maybe I’ll even fit a couple runs a week into my regular workout schedule this winter.
Notable: The photo at the head of this post is from last week’s journey into the East Kootenays where we encountered (among other things) the headwaters of the Columbia River which are right outside Canal Flats, BC (on the way to Invermere from Cranbrook). Neither of us had been up that way before and were struck by the beauty of the countryside, especially in the bright fall skies. I found it moving to stand at the head of one of the greatest rivers on the west coast, one fraught with history and environmental damage, one that has given so much life to the Pacific Northwest.
As I post this, we are returning to our home on Gabriola Island after watching fall turn towards winter in the interior. It’s been a beautiful time in which I truly managed to take a break from work and union responsibilities, sleep in and read a bunch of books, as well as get some work done for a non-profit I volunteer for (more on that soon).