Clara enjoys music a lot. She hums her own melodies around the house, and requests music be played from our laptops. On the road, we can barely back out of the driveway before demands are issued forth from the backseat for music to be played in the car. At bedtime, she insists “Clara crib, Da-da ting!”
For the past several months, I’ve been singing to Clara at bedtime—the expectation is now fully established: milk, singing, hug, sleep.
I struggled at first with what to sing to her. Our church is contemporary, and the songs are singable, but they’re rhythmic and often quite upbeat—not always what I’m looking for for tired-me and to provide a calming environment for a two-year-old I would like to sleep. I have fond memories of being sung hymns as a child myself, and my parents still have a stack of the (now very well worn) red hymnals which they sang to us out of for many years.
I appreciate that our church takes a contemporary approach to music; the leadership does a fantastic job with it, and I think it retains its sacredness despite being more accessible and modern-sounding. At the same time, I’ve always appreciated the rich words and more contemplative feel of my favourite hymns, and bemoaned that I don’t have the weekly opportunity to sing them over and over and learn the words by heart the way I wish I could.
Of course, the only barrier to singing hymns to Clara was having the words, so I finally made up a double-sided songsheet, jammed with eight favourites, in three columns, 11pt type. Then, after months of using just the first page, I finished up selecting another eight and created a second double-sided sheet. Because the lyrics and music of hymns are of course in the public domain, I’m pleased to share this online:
It’s probably not a group-suitable songsheet in this form, as there’s no numbering or really any organization at all—compactness and simplicity are the goals. But I hope that it may be useful, perhaps to others in a similar position.Filed under: Reflections | 1 Comment »
At Christmas, we received a copy of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Just reading the opening pages, I could tell that I really liked Bittman’s philosophy about vegetarian cooking and meal construction. Although a heavy tome, Bittman’s approach is very empowering and accessible—to me, it’s in many ways the opposite of a book like Moosewood, which I find overwhelming.
I’ve probably only made a handful of the actual recipes from Bittman, but I feel that it’s impacted a lot how I make and think about our meals, especially the following points:
- Abandon the notion of an “entree” and “sides”. Trying to come up with a vegetarian entree has one reaching for substitute meals, like vegetarian chili, vegetarian lasagne, etc. There are some great veggie entrees out there like quiche, but instead of thinking this way, imagine a veggie meal as several items presented on equal footing. This way, your bean salad can simply complement the other items at the table, rather than needing to be main dish.
- It’s okay to serve some or even most of a meal out of the fridge. Some of these meal components can be more time consuming to make, so make lots, chuck it in the fridge (or even freezer), and serve it several times.
- Vegetarianism is not an all-or-nothing deal. Bittman himself is “vegetarian before 6pm”, and whether your concern about animal products is health, ethical issues, sustainability, or a combination, even a partial reduction makes a difference.
For last little while, I’ve been using weekend meals as an opportunity to put some of these ideas into practice. We’ve had tubs of hummus and mayonnaise in the fridge, Tara’s made garlic-scape pesto, and I’ve served home-baked rolls, salads out of the garden, pesto pasta dishes, and a variety of market veggies (especially beets, in various configurations). The picture up there was this evening’s dinner on the barbecue, including locally-made sweet chili sausages from the market, zucchini, and a small stir-fry with peas from the garden. This was served with rice from the stovetop.
In garden news, we’ve had lots of peas, and some of the tomato plants are now taller than their 4′ stakes. The lettuce and spinach is pretty much done, and I’ll be sad to see it go: I’ve eaten a ton of the lettuce on my sandwiches at work. It’s so convenient to be able to just grab and wash a few leaves in the morning, with stressing about not eating up a whole head of it fast enough.
Anyhow, I’m excited for these to ripen:
Filed under: Food and Recipes, Reflections | 1 Comment »
Most of our readers saw the article in the local paper–the journalist was very sympathetic, but bylaw enforcement did ultimately insist on my little garden being moved off the boulevard strip. In the wake of moving it, though, I was delighted by the number of people who stopped by with compliments, to express regrets, and to say that they had so enjoyed checking on the progress as they walked by on the sidewalk.
I really did just pick the location based on sunlight, but it was fascinating to observe how disarming that spot was. It was a magnet for people to approach and ask me about it, and being on pseudo public property I think almost leant it a community feel.
Anyhow, everything is moved up the yard to a new location in front of the house, and the peas are in bloom:
We’ve been starting to harvest lettuce and spinach as well, having had several very nice fresh salads:
And the tomato plants are coming along swimmingly:
I’ve been pulling suckers and tying them to their stakes, and there are even a few blossoms coming in, so we should have the first tomatos before too much longer!Filed under: General | Leave a comment »
So we went to Saskatoon for a week, to visit my sister and brother-in-law. It was a really lovely time—wonderful to relax and visit, outside the hustle and bustle of Christmas or other big family gatherings.
It was also neat coming home and seeing what a week had done to Ontario, to the garden, and to the indoor seedlings (which a friendly kindly agreed to come by and water a few times). Our whole street had been bare trees, which were laden down with brilliant green upon our return.
Curiously, the wooden frame I constructed had gone missing. There was no other damage or signs of vandalism—it appears that a passerby saw it at the curb, misunderstood the purpose, and helped himself to what he believed to be garbage. Clara and I immediately set to work building a replacement, this time putting shallow stakes in the ground to make clear the intention that it be fixed. It was a simple matter to re-enclose the dirt, dirt which you can see actually included the beginnings of sprouting spinach, lettuce, and snow peas, all of which I had put in the ground before we left.
The seedlings had also done very well in our absence, all looking very lively and healthy in their cereal box accommodations. Cucumbers in the foreground, tomatoes in the background:
Here’s everything successfully transplanted on May 14-15th:
And here we are a week later, with some stakes up for the tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers, as well as wire mesh to deter rabbits, and an adorable sign to deter potential vandals:
What’s been learned so far?
- I should have started my tomato plants at least two weeks sooner, and probably waited another week or two to transplant them. They look quite stunted now compared to how they were when they went in, and nothing like the lovely ones I bought from Fertile Ground Farm to supplement.
- I should have put the spinach and snow pea seeds in the ground even earlier, probably by several weeks. I didn’t realise until I did more reading that they’re not only both frost tolerant, they don’t handle the summer heat well—we’ll have to wait and see if they even have enough time to mature to harvest before the summer gets them. Depending on the harvest size this year, I might try doing multiple seedings to stage the harvest across a longer period.
- I should have put the peas and spinach through the middle of the garden (or intermingled) instead of on edges. If I’d done that, then it would have been more possible for the mature tomato and pepper plants to grow into the freed-up space, rather than… well, I don’t really have a plan for what will go in those spots once the peas and spinach are done.
- I’ve had at least two instances of Random Plant Death, where with little or no warning, a plant just wilts over dead. I’m sure there is a logical explanation for this, or advance signs which missed, but it was definitely a surprise to see one of my cucumber plants healthy one day and flat on the ground the next.
Anyhow, overall it’s been a really fun and encouraging project. I’m excited to see what gets produced this year, and also to be seeing what to change for next year.Filed under: General | 2 Comments »
When we moved last fall, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was try growing some vegetables at the new house. So a few weeks ago, Clara and I stopped by our local garden store and picked up a bunch of seed packets and a bag of seedling soil.
That weekend, I started tomato and pepper seedlings in egg cartons. I tied them down to a piece of spare wood, and suspended them from string in our front window—where they’d get lots of sun, but not be accessible to the little one. Within a few days, the tomato plants had started coming up:
The following weekend, I also started some basil and cucumber plants, in a similar manner. Last week, the tomato plants were starting to look a little droopy and discoloured—seems like they were probably outgrowing the egg cups, but may also have been over-watered. In any case, before we left on vacation, I transplanted everything to more spacious accommodations:
I also put together my garden box, where this stuff is getting moved to. The soil mix suggested by the square foot gardening method is equal parts compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. I had hoped that my backyard compost would be ready in time for this, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, so I ended up purchasing composted manure from the garden store. They also had peat moss, and were able to order in the 4 cubic foot bag of vermiculite I required.
It’s too bad about all the plastic packaging involved here. If you have a pickup truck, there are some garden stores which will dump bulk soil components directly into the truck bed. Our store doesn’t do that, and it wouldn’t have been an option anyway with the little Yaris.
In the future, I might try to go more natural, perhaps trying to use more of the existing soil, but given all the other unknowns in this project, I wanted to maximize my chances of success by keeping it simple and eliminating unknowns.
I ended up deciding to place the box on the boulevard strip right by the curb. I think this is technically municipal property, so I’m prepared to move it if necessary, though there were others in our old neighbourhood who did exactly this. In any case, it’s where the best sun is, so I’m going to stick it out as long as possible. Our landlord is very easy-going about this project, and obviously I’ve agreed to repair the grass once I’m done (or we move, whichever comes first).
This is not strictly square-foot. Because I’m doing tomatoes and peas, which will need something to climb, I think it’s more reasonable for those at least to be row-style.
I’m not certain my seedlings will work out. A friend has graciously agreed to water them while we are away—if they end up looking good when we’re back, they’ll go in the ground; otherwise, I’ll purchase new ones from Little City Farm.Filed under: House, Projects | 1 Comment »
My bike’s had a flat since November. It was the end of riding season anyway, so I’d been letting it rest in the garage, figuring I would take care of it when the weather was favourable again.
Well, the weather is now favourable, and I’ve taken care of it. But the longer story is fun too.
I bought my road bike in Ottawa when I was there on co-op, summer of 2009. I’ve changed a couple flats, replaced a broken pedal, had the rear rack on and off a few times, but never really done any serious work on it. I bought it second hand, but it was from someone who really cared about it—he gave me two spare tires and a bottle of red nail polish for touching up the paint. It’s a handsome machine; it deserves better than to just be driven into the ground.
So I’ve been feeling for a while that an overhaul was in order.
Whenever I’d inquired about this at normal bike shops, I got a lot of vagueness and uncertainty about costs, especially when it became clear the scope of work I had in mind. What could be done for $100? $200? What would it take to get all the bearings changed, the joints cleaned out and lubricated, the cassette fully degreased, a new chain, etc? Maybe it was just the ones I went to, but it felt like everyone wanted to get the bike apart first, and then hold it hostage while they talked me into a bunch of overpriced replacement parts.
So it languished.
Then in January, I discovered Recycle Cycles in downtown Kitchener. I’d never heard of this concept before, but Recycle Cycles is a community bike shop—a well-stocked, supervised shop where anyone can go—for free—to work on a bike. They have all the special single-purpose tools needed to get a modern bike apart, and smart, knowledgeable volunteers on duty to help out with the task. I was walked through taking apart, cleaning, and rebuilding my entire drivetrain. At their suggestion, I bought a new chain and chainring from MEC and some replacement bearings online, and installed them myself.
All of this occurred over four Saturday mornings during which Clara and I went there—the timing dovetailed nicely with some sewing projects Tara needed focused time to work on. C and I were able to take the city bus there and back, and had a great time hanging out together. Clara definitely has her moments of acting out, being impatient, silly, etc, but she also recognizes when she’s being extended an unusually adult privilege, and behaves accordingly—sitting nicely on the bus, walking close on the sidewalk, and being patient while I was working.
So, the community bike shop is a thing, and there are many worldwide built on the same model as Recycle Cycles. Some sustain themselves by charging a membership fee or an hourly rate. Recycle Cycles does neither; it depends on volunteers and donors (of which I am only a very minimal one for now, limited more by means than desire).
My experience with Recycle has renewed my excitement for the Region and all of the awesome stuff which goes on here. It’s been a neat experience rediscovering my University town after graduating and leaving the bubble of school to settle more permanently. The awesome community projects going on here give me hope for the enormously ambitious Central Transit Corridor, that it is not attempting to create transit-centered communities from whole cloth, but is channeling and nurturing an already present community energy.Filed under: Community, Projects | 3 Comments »
Clara received the Disney Little People Princess Castle as a Christmas gift. She’s really enjoyed it—she’s the perfect age to understand that the different buttons around it make different sounds. Despite that we have Cinderella, Snow White, and all seven dwarves, she knows that Snow White and Cinderella are the ones who trigger special sounds when pressed on the pedestal. Not only that, but she presses them repeatedly, cycling through spoken slogans to find the little songs, which have come to be her preference.
It’s really adorable.
It was also really loud: the toy being played with in the living room could be clearly heard through the entire house. For ourselves, and other parents in the position of having a noisy electronic toy, a number of options exist:
1. Disable all electronic behaviours by removing batteries (the “nuclear option”).
2. Disable audio by disconnecting speaker (for toys with lights, motion, etc).
3. Muffle audio by adding tape, foam, or some other physical barrier to the speaker.
4. Attenuate the audio by modifying electronic circuit.
Of course, for me, it had to be that last option. Some months ago, I had performed a similar modification on a noisy activity table, so I was pretty confident I’d be following the same basic path. Here’s the bottom of the castle with the screws removed:
Here’s the main circuit board. Whatever the brains of it are, they’re potted under that black blob—the only external components are a few capacitors, so that’s everything in there—the logic, the memory, and the amplifier:
Unfortunately, I had assumed the speaker would be an 8 ohm one, but it was clearly marked as being 32 ohm. Both are standard impedance values for speakers, but I think of 32 as being more typical for headphones. Anyhow, the idea of the modification is to add two extra resistors like so:
The resistance in parallel with the speaker (6.8 ohms) is about 1/5 of the value of the speaker itself. Whatever current flows through the overall system, 4/5ths of it will go through my new bypass resistor, and only 1/5 of it will go through the speaker itself. The series resistance (27 ohms) is there to maintain the overall resistance of about 32 ohms—it’s best not to stress the amplifier with a load drastically different from what it was designed for.
I hadn’t wanted to open up the castle twice, so the resistors I specially ordered for this were assuming it would be an 8 ohm load. When it turned out to be 32, I had to improvise with some junk drawer stuff, which made the whole thing a bit messier than I was hoping for:
The castle now plays its sounds clearly to those in its immediate vicinity, but no longer beyond. Success!Filed under: Projects | Leave a comment »
As of two and a half weeks ago, excepting a handful of accidents and sleep time, Clara (19 months old) has been completely dry.
We’ve been doing Elimination Communication or Early Potty Training with Clara since she was about 6 or 8 months old. I’d been initially skeptical, but had met and heard about people who’d had much success. Clara also seemed very receptive when we first started (and had never been keen on having a wet diaper). And since we were using cloth, the benefit of changing less diapers was highly appealing. So we went for it.
The basic principle is that infants have the instinct to not soil themselves from birth. Eventually, they override this instinct and learn to go in their diaper. The idea behind E.C. or early potty training is to not override this instinct, to instead encourage it, and to teach your child what you ultimately want to teach them: to go in the toilet.
We took a halfway approach. We definitely took Clara to the toilet and encouraged her to go, but she still spent all of her time in diapers. We would often forget or just not bother, depending on the circumstances. There have been brief periods over the past several months where I’ve put Clara in training pants and tried to get her going on the potty more consistently, but it’s always been halfhearted.
Over the past few weeks, though, I’d become increasingly convinced that Clara was in fact trained, I just had yet to put in the necessary effort to take her often enough.
There were several factors that prompted the decision to finally go hardcore the week before Christmas.
- With Christmas vacation coming up and the inevitable travel, I thought that Clara being trained would be far easier than trying to manage her cloth diapers in a house not our own.
- I was so sick of changing poopy diapers. So, so sick.
- Clara had a rash that kept almost healing and then becoming exacerbated in a vicious cycle that seemed to last for months. It was almost certainly much less than that, but I knew that dryness would be the ultimate cure.
- I was finally ready to slavishly watch the clock and risk the potential accidents.
And so I headed to one of the only baby shops in town that carried underwear small enough for her tiny frame and began.
The first day saw two training pants, three pairs of underwear and one pair of pants wetted.
But the day after saw only one pair of underwear wetted (though we had her in a diaper all morning).
The next day, she was dry from when she woke up until the next morning. We even ran a quick errand with her in underwear.
The next day, we made it through a morning playgroup without any accidents.
And everyday since has been a running tally, like the “n days since” signs you see parodied in TV shows and about the internet.
There was one day with two accidents, the first day Mike was home with Clara. The accidents he experienced were similar to the ones I experienced on our first day: being aware, but not yet knowing what signalled a need outside of the by-the-clock potty schedule. The third accident was when we left her with others without reminding them to take her. The next two were due to Christmas morning excitement, and the last because she was too busy and excited playing with a friend she hadn’t seen in awhile to have the patience for it.
But outside of that, Clara has been “trained” for 15 days. She even made it through all of our holiday travel.
As I said above, I’m almost certain she’s been trained for a lot longer. We’ve just needed to establish the trust back and forth: that she’ll hold it until she’s on the potty, and that we’ll take her often enough that she won’t have to hold it for very long.Filed under: Clara, Reflections | 5 Comments »