Life Lately


Nicky can stand!

I made some quartz crystal tiaras for my friend to sell at a music festival next month, and this week I’ve been working out how to package them. I settled on dyeing some muslin bags black and putting together some labels for them. I’m going to print the labels onto iron-on fabric and iron them onto the bags, which I think will work well. I’m like 90% sure I’m going to keep making these to sell in my shop soon, I just need to figure out the best way to ship them; they need to be protected but the way I was doing it before was really complicated and it actually took longer to pack them up than it did to make them!

How does Gwen’s Garden Grow

At the end of June I was offered a raised garden box for myself & the kids. My neighbourhood had received a grant to build some for people who can’t access any of the community gardens for whatever reason, so it was totally free and even came with all the dirt it needed! I’m notoriously terrible at gardening but I figured WHAT THE HECK and said yes. The garden box was built and left in the part of the yard I’d specified, and over the long weekend Gwen and I went to pick out some plants. We got two tomato plants, a yellow pepper, a green pepper, one pumpkin, a strawberry, a blueberry, sage, parsley and chives. I put Gwen in charge of watering them and she’s very diligent about doing it every day.

We’ve had our garden for two weeks and amazingly, not only have I managed not to kill any, some are even starting to bear fruit! The pumpkin seems like it might not be long for this world, and I have my doubts about the blueberry (which is basically a single twig with some leaves that squirrels have dug up twice, but I dearly want it to live and grow because it is actually a PINK blueberry bush) but everything else is growing and thriving. The tomatoes especially, but the yellow pepper looks like it’s ready to blow up, and the sage and chives are doing well enough to use in meals already.

night & day

At the beginning of July, there was a huge change here at our house, and the difference has been like night and day… because it literally is! After fourteen years Taylor is no longer working nights. This was a change I pushed for, by which I mean I sent him a series of texts with all the awful health problems you incur from working night shifts. He put in a request to switch to days, and we were expecting it to take some time to get approved (we figured they’d need to find a new night person to replace him) but to our surprise the change was effective the very next week. He’s been on days for two weeks now and it’s been really great.

Now instead of being home alone with the kids in the mornings, he’s here so one of us can get up with the kids while the other sleeps in- or even goes for a run! That’s right, I FINALLY got some use out of all the new workout clothes & shoes I bought at the beginning of the year. We’ve been taking turns so I can go running Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and he goes Tuesday and Thursday. It’s also nice that one of us can take the dogs out while the other stays at home with the kids because me trying to get Gwen and Nicky dressed and fed and out to walk the dogs before I start work at 8am was NOT easy!

He’s working 8-4ish, so he usually gets home a little earlier than I would wake him up in the evenings, which means he has more time to spend with the kids then as well, or help with dinner. He no longer has to go to bed early Sunday afternoons before his Monday shift and can spend the whole weekend with us. And of course the best part is that instead of him leaving at 11pm to go to the office all night, he gets to sleep in the bed with me at night (which means he also gets more sleep). We’ve never slept in the bed at night together for more than two weeks in a row for the entire 10 1/2 years we’ve been together, so it’s pretty amazing.

Of course, such a big change coming so suddenly has not been without its upheavals as we get used to our new family schedule. Now instead of Taylor being home during the day to look after the daycare kids in a pinch when we have doctor’s appointments, dance classes, or speech therapy, I have to figure out how to do it by myself. Gwen has ballet class two afternoons a week, a class I chose specifically because it was during naptime so Taylor could easily supervise the sleeping children while I took Gwen alone. Now I have to take her, and Nicky, and the daycare kids with me. It’s not far, about a 15-20 minute walk, but when I have three or four kids under five with me instead of just one… it takes a bit of doing.

However, none of that matters if it means I get to spend time with my husband during NORMAL hours, and for years longer than I would have been able to if he kept working nights. Working nights for so long can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, mental illnesses, early onset dementia and certain cancers, so as I like to remind Taylor, by pushing for this change, I saved his life!

five faves

This is Real Art and I refuse to hear otherwise.

Reading this feels like a punch in the gut.

I know I’ve posted this dress before but it was out of stock for a long time and now that’s it’s available again I’m more obsessed than ever.

I’d love this (in blue!) to add to our collection of cast iron.

This is a great project (and almost fully funded!).

Caring for our Cast Iron

Earlier this year Taylor and I got rid of our old, damaged & unsalvageable stainless steel and non-stick frying pans and replaced them with cast iron. We started a small, 6 1/2″ skillet Taylor got in his Christmas stocking. This little skillet is ideal for making perfect fried eggs (I’ll share my tips’n’tricks for that in another post) but obviously isn’t suitable for cooking a whole meal for the family! So we’ve expanded our collection to include a huge 15″ skillet, a 10″ square grill pan, a pig-shaped bacon press and the real workhorse of the group, a 10″ skillet that I use for EVERYTHING.

There are a lot of opinions on how to properly care for your cast iron. Taylor prefers to scrub the pan with just a little kosher salt and then wipe it out, but since I use the pans to cook foods both sweet and savoury I like to be a little more thorough. I’m just leery of trying to bake a dutch baby in a pan that still has an oniony vibe from last night’s dinner! After some trial and error (by error I don’t mean damaged pans, just needing another scrub) I’ve developed a method that keeps our cast iron clean and well-seasoned while also satisfying my need to scrub everything until it’s sparkling (cast iron never sparkles but when I’m done it does gleam).

You’ll need:
• kosher salt
• mild dish detergent
• cooking oil*
• sponge
• paper towel and/or clean, dry cloth

First, I like to use paper towel to wipe out the excess grease or any loose bits of food still on the pan (if necessary). Next, depending on the size of the pan and how dirty it is I sprinkle about half a tablespoon of kosher salt and squirt about half a teaspoon on dish soap- I uses Mrs Meyers Clean Day- into the pan. With a damp sponge, I scrub the soap & salt all over the inside cooking surface of the pan. Once the pan is scrubbed clean, I rinse it in the hottest water from my tap and dry it immediately all over (inside, outside, the handle, the bottom, and in all the little grooves and crevices of the logo) with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. The last step is rubbing the entire pan all over (again it’s inside, outside, the handle, the bottom, and in all the little grooves and crevices of the logo) with a couple drops of cooking oil. That’s all, and it keeps our pans looking (and cooking) great!

* we use canola oil but you can use one of your own preference; you just want to make sure it has a high smoking point.