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Pickle Me This

December 31, 2011

Harriet's room

It’s an exciting time in any parent’s life when your child moves out of her crib onto the futon that was once your living room couch. It’s like the circle of life for the not-so-upwardly mobile. But it’s gone off without a hitch and, like everything ever in the history of Harriet, was a much bigger deal for us that it was for her. She likes the new bed because she can turn somersaults on it, and is fond of the comforter she received for Christmas from one of her grandmothers. From the other, she received custom bunting spelling out her name (and you can catch a glimpse of it in the first photo). All these new things being the best excuse for a bedroom reorganization, and I’m very happy with the result.

You can click here for a glimpse of how Harriet’s library began, and from the picture on the right, you can tell that we’ve come a long way. And aren’t kids books impossible to get rid of? I am pretty good at pruning my own collection, but with Harriet’s books, every one seems so essential.

February 2, 2011

Slow snow falling deep

My life at the moment offers such a richness of time, for which I am incredibly grateful. We are very rarely in a hurry, Harriet can walk down the street at her own stumbling pace, we can do the grocery shopping in the morning when the store is nearly empty, we get chores out of the way in the week so that weekends are devoted to pleasure, and when I call to make her doctor’s appointment, I’m able to say that pretty much any time is fine. (Except nap-time. Nap-time is sacred. There is never enough time in nap-time, or in the evenings after Harriet goes to bed, and I take care to use every second of this precious free time for writing and reading, and I do. When I’m not looking at photos of people I don’t know on Facebook.)

The best thing about this arrangement is that we can take pleasure in the little things, that there is no such thing as drudgery, because everything has its place. For instance, I clean the house on Friday mornings and don’t worry about my filthy kitchen floor for the rest of the week, and I have somehow come to love this ritual, that I’m not cleaning while I could be doing something better, but that I’m cleaning because it’s what we do then. And when we finish, there will be time for something else. So that I can enjoy the seven seconds in which the sun gleams from my just-mopped floor, and the stove-top is scrubbed (and I just don’t look in the bathtub, which is never, ever scrubbed). To clean my house is satisfying, and to be finished even more so.

I have also become a passionate snow shoveller. Snow shovelling is only such a chore, because it creeps up on you just when you’re late for work, but this is never the case with us. The storm that struck our city last night was not as powerful as predicted, but still, a man skiied by my house this morning, and snow had covered everything. And because Harriet and I were expecting a friend this morning, we went outside to shovel her way up to our door. (We shovel also for the postal service. If you clear it, they will come.) Harriet has a small shovel, and is impressed enough by it and by the snow that she is satisfied to watch me work. And it was the perfect snow to shovel to– there was so much of it, but it was light enough that I could lift big shovel-fulls of it, feel impressive, and not injure my back.

I get so so few opportunities to actually physically labour (which is a good thing. I once did a Habitat for Humanity Build, almost killed myself, and spent most of the build under a tent eating twinkies, and no one minded, because I was very bad at building houses). Which makes it entirely satisfying to work for once, to use my body, my strength, to clear the sidewalks and our driveway, creating mountains at the edges that are taller than Harriet. (A mountain taller than Harriet. I know. Can you imagine such immensity?). To know that snow-clearing is by-lawed as my obligation as a citizen of this city, that we have to work together to keep our sidewalks clear, and how many people fulfil their duty actually as opposed to those who don’t. It makes me hopeful. And to be out there in the fresh-snowed quiet of a Wednesday morning, everybody either gone to work or snow-dayed in bed, the snow still falling and me quite content knowing that I’m doing a job that will never be done.

January 30, 2011

Found Clock

Behold, the clock we found on the curb today and it’s new home on my kitchen wall of interesting and colourful things. Beside, in particular, the souvenir tray from mid-‘sixties Toronto (skyline sans CN tower!) that we found on another curb about six years ago. Below that is a series of photos I took in a British supermarket cereal aisle. Mustn’t neglect the Blackpool tea towel either, or the bunting, the watering can and bucket mobile (which was the only thing of interest I could find at the worst bookshop ever), and you even get a glimpse of my gorgeous Tessa Kiros cookbooks on the right. Anyway, I like the clock. We didn’t have an analog clock before (and yes, they’re really called that. Which I find a bit strange) and I was concerned that Harriet would grow up to be analog clock illiterate. No more. I foresee many conversations about big hands and little hands ahead of us over cereal bowls and teacups.

January 16, 2011

Slow snow falling deep

The view from the kitchen lately

December 13, 2010

Ode to the coffee table

The addition of a Christmas tree to our living room decor means that we once again have a coffee table. Previous to the tree’s arrival, our coffee table (which is an old steamer trunk we found five years ago on Shaw Street) had been pushed against the small book shelf, in order to give us some open space, but more importantly to keep small people from hurling the books to the floor. Now the Christmas tree is performing the latter task, and the coffee table has returned to its rightful home. And it’s so useful! For putting pyramids of books on, and feet on, and coffee cups, and beer bottles, and teapots etc. I think I’d always taken coffee tables for granted before, but I will do such a thing no longer.

October 20, 2010

Bunting!

Clipper Tea marketers, you’ve done it again! I was compelled to buy your tea solely on the basis of its gorgeous packaging, and then you went and made this television advert complete with bunting. Bunting! It even falls down, like the bunting in my kitchen, because masking tape can only ever be so sticky. And I am raising this point now because I want to post a photo of the bunting in my kitchen, which was an idea I stole from my friend Bronwyn, but we both thought it was a good one because India Knight has bunting in her kitchen too. I made my bunting out of origami paper, and it has made the kitchen one of my favourite rooms in our house (rivalled only by the living room, the hallway, Harriet’s room, and my attic loft). Other fantastic objects in this photo include my breadbox, the Blackpool tea towel, a wind chime made out of buckets and watering cans, and the first two of a row of five photos of a British supermarket cereal aisle. In unrelated news, my horrid craft blog has been updated. Click here to answer the question that’s been obsessing everyone: what has Kerry been knitting lately?

August 23, 2010

A Room of One's Own

In March, I spent $130 signing up for ten yoga classes, of which I’ve gone to two, and my pass expires this week. Which is good actually, because then I get to feel less bad about the money that’s gone to waste. I’m not typically a quitter, or one who doesn’t follow through, but when I signed up for yoga class, thinking it would give me a fine escape from the stay-at-home nature of stay-at-home-motherhood, I really had the wrong idea. After a long day alone with a pre-verbal midget, the last thing I need is to be silent in a room of levitating hipsters. It is also distinctly possible that I just picked the wrong yoga studio, but that is another story.

What the story is, however, is that it turned out I didn’t need that much push to get out of the house after all. Yes, indeed, I could probably do with more exercise, but I’ve also joined a fabulous book club, take part in an incredible writers group, and do some work for a charity’s board, and that takes care of quite a few evenings each month. And I enjoy these evenings out so completely, their social nature in particular, because it turns out what I need at the end of the day is company and conversation, but I didn’t know that in March.

Similarly, I have abandoned my garret. Tragic, I know, that the garret is forced to make do without me, and I find myself garret-less. And yes, the garret was a bit bleak, actually being the back of my very strange bedroom closet/storage area, and now it’s packed to the sloped ceiling with newborn baby gear (which, yes, we haven’t gotten rid of. Though it won’t be put back into use for a very long time), but it was a garret, and it had a window, and an outlet, and it was nothing to scoff at, being a room of one’s own. Or at least a corner of an expansive closet of one’s own, which was plenty.

But it turns out that after a day at home alone with a young child, spending an evening alone in the back of a closet is bad for the soul. Or so I imagine, having not bothered to try. For the last year, my office has been a chair in the corner of my living room, by the window with my laptop, with my husband busy at his actual desk on the other side of the room. I miss him when he’s at work, and when he’s home I like to be close to him, even if neither of us are talking and both of us are working on various projects. I’ve contemplated moving back upstairs, but this arrangement seems to be working, and so my desk in the garret sits terribly empty, a magnet for layer upon layer of dust.

One of the best things I own is my A Room of One’s Own tea towel, which was a gift from  my friend Paul. Due to its literary nature, it used to hang in our library, before the library became Harriet’s room. Since then, the tea towel has been homeless, and I’ve wondered where to put it, no longer actually having a room of my own (or rather, now that my room of my own is usually empty. Which would make hanging the tea towel there particularly sad).

Last night I finally hung it up in the living room, on the last bare spot left on our increasingly riotous walls. True, this room isn’t one of my own, but I’ve decided to regard Woolf’s idea as a metaphor. This idea underlined by Rachel Cusk’s suggestion that perhaps the greatness and distinction of women’s writing came from women not having rooms of their own, from their novels being composed amidst the hustle and bustle of family life.

Perhaps she’s right, or maybe that only works for some people, and I’ve no doubt my mind and my location will be changing one of these days, but having the tea towel up again, I feel that I’ve arrived somehow. Or that I’m home again, settled, and that it’s not so much a room of my own that I need as much as simply room.

*I guess this is my how NOT to be alone post. I never claimed to be consistant.

June 14, 2010

I am having an affair

…with this yardsale-purchased breadbox. We have decided to move in together.

May 3, 2010

House Post 1

I just finished reading Megan Daum’s new book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, which I’ll be reviewing later this week. I wanted to read Daum’s book because I adored her collection of essays My Misspent Youth when I read it last year, but also because she was writing about houses– the ones she loved, the ones she’s loathed, the ones that got away. She writes about roommates, renting, renovations and running away. About MLS obsession, unfortunate apartments, and the experience if purchasing a home of her own. I’m obsessed with this stuff, and always have been, and just so you don’t think I’m jumping on the Meghan Daum obsessed with real-estate bandwagon, I offer you the contents of the journal I kept for school in grade 1. Keep in mind that this is most of the entire book, which means that my range of subject matter was awfully limited.

I’ve always loved drawing houses. This is significant because I’ve never much loved drawing anything else, but the basic details of a house were so well within my poor artistic grasp– square windows the t-frames, a door (with maybe a window for a garnish?), obligatory chimney and triangle roof. The possibilities for variation are limitless– curtains, shubbery, smoke in the chimney, shutters, a garage, curving path from the door. I loved illustrations of houses too in the books I read, particularly those of the whole house at work with the fourth wall removed, and you could see the staircases connecting all the floors, and each room fulfilling its own specific purpose, the life going on within it. (For some reason, the most fascinating houses were those in trees– I remember Brambley Hedge, and the Berenstein Bears in particular, and how I could stare at the cross section drawings of these tree houses and actually “play” with them for hours).

Houses in television are so important– I remain obsessed with the exterior shots of houses that always preceded any 1980s/1990s’ sitcom’s return from commercial break. These houses’ interiors too, and the ways in which they didn’t match the outsides, and the rooms we rarely saw (like the Keatons’ elusive dining room), and how the Facts of Life set was as familiar to me as my own living room. How none of these houses ever had actual foyers, and how staircases and such would get moved around between seasons and we just weren’t supposed to notice. Whole TV shows based around domicles– Melrose Place! And houses as extensions of their characters– Casa Walsh, and Dylan’s house (because he lived alone), and Kelly Taylor’s ultra modern nightmare. The layout of the Salingers’ house from Party of Five is indelibly etched upon my mind, and clearly, yes, I spent my teenage years watching terrible television. But still, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at Monica’s apartment from Friends.

But it’s houses in books in particular, which I had to imagine up all by myself. How LM Montgomery wrote about houses– Lantern Hill, Silverbush, Green Gables, Ingleside, New Moon. The English houses– Thornfield Manor, Wuthering Heights, Manderlay, Wildfell Hall. The house Isabel Archer came from in America, with no windows that faced the street, and the Ramsays’ house in To the Lighthouse, Gatsby’s house, Dora Rare’s in The Birth House, Howards End (which was ALL about real estate), Rose’s childhood home in Who Do You Think You Are?, Daisy Stone Goodwill’s house in Ottawa where she raised her family in The Stone Diaries.

Unlike Meghan Daum, however, I don’t own my own home. This is partly because paying a mortgage would necessitate me having a job (heaven forbid), but also because I wouldn’t live in my house anymore. Because I really love my house. Daum writes about the struggle of learning to be at home, to live where are you rather than always looking at where to go next. She thinks ownership is necessary to achieve this, but we’ve managed it without a mortgage. The house is home, and we love it because of and in spite of. The neighbourhood, redolent with blooms at this times of year and trees overhead. The tiles in the kitchen, and the how the sun comes through the kitchen door at lunch time, and how you can only run the washer OR the dryer if you don’t want to blow a fuse, and how the sun comes into the bedroom in late afternoon, and we can see the CN Tower in the winter (though the summer hides it with trees full of leaves), and my wonderful attic bedroom (which makes me sad only because I know every bedroom I ever have after this one will be a disappointment), and the trees and the breeze that keep us cool in the summer, and the huge living room windows, and how Harriet’s door doesn’t shut, and the backwards kitchen taps, and our en-suite that doesn’t have a door, and the deck and our fire escape, and the fireplace, and the wide hallway, the squirrels in the attic and the mice under the floor. I used to think that I wanted to buy a house, but then realized what I really wanted was a new apartment, and after two years in this one, I’ve still got no urge to go.

February 8, 2010

Furnishing a room

Our house is currently in a state of upheaval as we begin the process of moving the baby into her own room. We’ve got a faint hope that it might help her sleep better, and after eight months of enjoying having her close, we want our room back. And no doubt she’ll be joining us there most nights anyway (and yay for reluctant co-sleeping, which is much better than being awake).

Baby will be moving into the spare-room/ office/ library, however, so the books have had to migrate living-room-ward. Which at first I was sad about, that the books would be losing a room of their own, but now having them out in the world again, I realize that I’ve missed them. How little I visited our library, unless I had a reason to, and how nice the spines are just to stare at, and the journeys they could take me on from my seat here in the gliding chair.

And I realize that books have been missing from this room all along. It’s so nice to be back among them. The aesthetic effect of their various colours and heights. How the walls were empty before, and the floor just too wide, and how the built-in shelf beside the fireplace was wasted before now. It’s true, they do– they furnish a room! And joyfully, because televisions don’t, we’re getting rid of ours, so just excuse the focal point in the photo in the meantime.

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