Organizing

As I discussed in this post on my living area, I have a chest of drawers that I use for storage. When I first moved in, I just threw everything into the drawers and they were pretty messy and completely unorganized. I took the time last week to go through each drawer and organize the mess. The drawers are new-to-me and have become an integral part of keeping my wee basement apartment orderly.

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The top drawer is what I call my “junk drawer” filled with maps and other assorted stuff (my drill, paint, twine, etc.). I purchased small baskets to organize the chaos. Now I have a place to corral the junk of my life.

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The next drawer is kind of a continuation of the first. Here I have my composting bags for the green bin, post-it-notes, a random bag of flax seeds, bookends, a platter, and placemats.

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The third drawer down gets plenty of use. Here I store my mason jar lids, storage containers, and things like my can opener, peeler, and other kitchen goods that usually go in drawers.

Things got shifted around from the third and fourth drawers so I didn’t have a clear before snap.

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The fourth and fifth drawers are behind the cat scratching post I have (see first image at the top), so I tried to store the things I use the least in these two bottom drawers, since I have to move the post each time to get at this stuff (not a lot of work to do, but I could imagine it getting old pretty fast).

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The fifth drawer didn’t change at all from when I first moved in, it has my baking pans which also happens to be the heaviest of the drawers, so it made sense keeping that the bottom drawer as it was.

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Slowing Down – Listening to the Radio

My Mom was a huge fan of CBC radio. Growing up, we lived in northern British Columbia and the CBC connected us with other Canadians and the world. While I didn’t really actively listen to the various programs, my Mom always had it on and so it was a part of growing up. But I do remember loving Mr. Canoehead, a character that was a regular and popular feature of one of the weekly radio programs. With an aluminum canoe fused to his head through a freak accident with lightening, Mr. Canoehead is the quintessential Canadian superhero (slightly aloof, self-deprecating, and polite). The character was so popular that he was made into a television character on the CBC show 4 on the Floor, where his tag line was “Mr. Canoehead, Canada’s Greatest Alumnus Crime Fighter.” But I am off topic . . .

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As a pre-teen, I would stay up late on Sunday’s to listen to the 1930s radio show The Shadow. This radio drama, which began in the 1930s, was rebroadcast by CBC in the 1980s. Listening to this mystery-drama seemed grown-up since none of my other friends listen to it. I enjoyed the suspense and having to imagine what the characters looked like.

There is something slow about listening to the radio. You have to pay attention and engage with the words that flow out of the speakers. I don’t have a television, so I tend to get my news through social media or the radio. I prefer listening to the news since I don’t get distracted by the visuals and the plethora of commercials.

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For my birthday I was given a gift certificate for Amazon. I have been sitting on that gift for a few months now. Since moving, I have begun to listen more often to the radio. At first I was using either my phone or computer to stream CBC radio 1 live. This works but I have been wanting to get a proper radio for sometime. So last month I splurged and treated myself to a Sangean radio. Simple in its design, this radio is just what I wanted with its retro look and wood finish. I didn’t want bells and whistles or any digital features. Listening to the radio just got that more pleasurable.

Sending Snail-Mail

I enjoy sending mail. I know this may be a bit out-dated in our digital age where it is easy to send an email or text, but in my opinion it isn’t the same. There is something lovely about the materiality of choosing (or making) a card, putting pen to paper, and taking the time to post the letter or card. I enjoy each step and I think I come by this naturally since my grandmother also enjoyed sending cards.

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When my sister started having children I wanted to include them in my life and share my interests. I have been sending my nieces and nephew postcards since they were babies. I began with the idea I would send them images from museums or galleries I visited, to share in my love of art. But as the kids get older I have expanded what I send to them. Unfortunately, my sister didn’t keep the postcards from the beginning but a few years ago I got each of the kids a binder that they could put the postcards (see below, thanks Steve for the snaps). Whenever I go up to visit we like to pull the binder out and read the different cards and I get a chance to hear the answers to the questions I posed them on the back (I like to ask them about what is on the front of the postcard). The postcards have become a part of our shared history and I cherish our interactions with them.

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Besides my postcards to my nieces and nephew, my main push for sending snail-mail is at Christmas. In good years (when I have the time),  I enjoy making my own cards, but other years I have to buy my cards. Last year, I painted a wee postcard as way of a thank-you to the Gowing’s (see below) to go with another painting I made for them years ago (I  slipped this into the outgoing Christmas card).

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One other form of snail-mail, that I cannot skip is the old-fashioned thank-you note or card. I lived in South Korea for two years and while I was there I taught English. In May, there is a holiday where students bring gifts to their teachers. For each of the gifts I received, I sent thank-you cards back to the parents in both English and Hangul (my teaching partner translated my English into Hangul for those parents who couldn’t read English). This small gesture was kindly received and the following year I swear my gifts were more generous (I tend to think this was due to the cards and not my teaching). Growing up we were never required to send thank-you notes and I can’t remember why I thought this was something that I should do but it felt good. In my experience it is hard to say thank you in a meaningful way and for me sending a card is a tangible way to do so.

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I keep a stash of thank-you cards on hand and collect birthday cards when I come across really striking ones (I have a soft spot for letterpress). My stash also includes tons of postcards as those are easy to collect. As well, I keep stamps on hand so I can easily pop off a letter any time of the day. My address book is also an important aspect in this whole process. I use a Moleskin address book, which I organize alphabetically by first name since people get married more often than they tend to change their first names. I write the name in pen and the address in pencil to make it easier to change addresses. Easy peasy – although at Christmas time I tend to send out a slew of emails to my more nomadic friends to check to see if I have their most recent address because nothing is worse than a returned piece of mail.

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Sending snail-mail is another aspect of my attempt to slow down and engage with those I love. Nothing beats getting a letter in the mail.

Things – A Wee Herb Garden

On Tuesday, I bought a planter with herbs. Our summer has been super sunny and hot here in Toronto and that has been great for urban gardeners with access to water. The planter, which has basil, rosemary, parsley, and chives, was over grown and the first day I harvested the basil and made pesto (which I forgot to photograph). The image below shows the basil (top) after it was cut back.

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As you can see the chives were looking a bit droopy, so I harvested them as well.

If, you know me well, you know that I love to freeze stuff. Grated cheese, soups, homemade pizza sauce, baked beans, all of these things get thrown into the freezer. So, I thought why not the chives as well?

First, I cut the whole lot of the chives down to about two inches from the soil.

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After I washed the chive cuttings and picked out the dried up or dead looking strands, I used a pair of scissors to cut them into small bite-sized sections. Next, I placed the cut sections on a baking pan (and found more bits to pick out) before throwing the pan in the freezer.

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After a couple hours the chives were completely frozen, so I removed the “frozen fresh” chives from the pan and put them in a small mason jar where I’ll keep them (in the freezer) till needed. I’ll be able to add them to a variety of recipes that call for fresh chives. And, especially with the summer we’ve been having, the chives will grow back in time to harvest at least once or twice more before winter.

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There you can see the bounty that is growing in my freezer. Grated mozzarella cheese, pesto, and the chives.

Things – Games in the Park

 

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Another thing I like to do in the summer is take games night outside. Games such as Bananagrams works well out-of-doors (see above). While there might be minor hiccups with playing board games outside (wind can be a hassle), the benefits are certainly worth any possible issues. For example, the picnic table was a bit of an obstacle (tiles kept falling down the slots) but I ran home and got a large scarf to cover the picnic table and we were able to play without anymore issues.

Other games I like to take outside:

Dutch Blitz

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But really, the options are endless. Combine with a picnic and now your summer is really hitting its stride. What board games do you like to play? Do you ever take games night outside, I’d love to know.

 

Things – Picnics

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Summer is all about picnics. When I lived in Australia I came to truly understand the joy of eating al fresco. You don’t need much, a blanket, some food and something to drink, and throw in some friends and you have the making of a great meal and a nice time.

So, what makes good picnic fare? Simplicity, I say. No need to go overboard. Cheese, baguette, olives, avocado, nuts, fruit, and lemonade. Done. Use the lids of Tupperware as plates, pack cutlery, bring a cup, and voila, you don’t have to throw away anything (I tend to go with the pack in, pack out mentality).

 

Picnic facts from living abroad:

In South Korea you can order take out to be delivered practically anywhere.  I’ve seen pizza delivered to picnickers in a downtown Seoul park. How does one even place that order. “Please deliver the food to the third tree down from the bench, by the entrance.”

In Sydney, Australia picknickers will put up wee fences, staking out their area in a large picnic area when there are large events going on.

When having a picnic, Australians also know how to protect their wine glasses from tipping over. You can buy wine glass holders that are staked into the ground (genius, really) and hold the stemmed glass upright, away from accidental knocks.

In Paris, I you can picnic pretty much anywhere. My favourite was on the Pont des Arts bridge.

 

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But, the best picnics are those where it is a potluck kind of situation. Invite a bunch of friends, find a piece of grass, preferably with a bit of shade, and bring out the food and share in the joys of eating with friends outside while we still can. Summer is way too short in Canada.

Things – Homemade Lemonade

While I get this blog going I want to start some regular features, including Things to be posted on Fridays. This will be an assortment of . . . well . . . things that interest me and that I want to share.

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To start it off let’s talk lemons. With their bright colour, amazing smell, and tart taste what’s not to love about lemons? To me this citrus fruit equals summer. Why, because I love to drink lemonade during those hot summer days where nothing else quite quenches my thirst. I thought I would share my recipe with you.

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I usually buy a bag of lemons and juice them all at once. I have a hand-me-down electric juicer that makes this task a bit easier. When I am done juicing, I pour the lemon juice into a mason jar and store that in the fridge where it will keep for about a week.  The only other ingredient you need is a sweetener of your choice. I tend to go with maple syrup, but you could also use honey, sugar, or a simple syrup.

Single serving (all measurements are approximate)

3 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Water to fill the large glass of your choice

Optional: Ice

Large pitcher (all measurements are approximate)

1 cup of lemon juice

1/3 cup of maple syrup

Water to fill the pitcher of your choice

Optional: Ice

*As you can see there are no fast rules about making lemonade. You might prefer it more tart or more sweet, just experiment and have fun with this delicious taste of summer. I have made variations of lemonade using a homemade mint simple syrup and have even added different fruit to the mix for a very tasty raspberry lemonade.

Planning

I love this part of moving, when you get to pre-plan and try and decide what is going to go where. After viewing the apartment in May I drew this wee sketch from memory and I have been working from it as I try to plan where things will go.
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It is decidedly a rough sketch and I can’t be sure that it is the exact layout but it gives me something to work with.

There are only three windows in the apartment: (1) in the entrance to the apartment in the kitchen area, (2) in the living room area on the bottom right where the lines are by the measurement 87 (not the measurement of the window, unfortunately), and (3) in the bathroom. I plan to use the wall on the bottom of the drawing for my Ikea Ivar shelving unit to house all of my books. I have a wall mounted table that I want to use for eating, although I am bringing my desk with me (we’ll see what happens). Currently my bed does not have legs but for this place I plan on getting legs for it so I can utilize the storage potential underneath the bed. There are two closets and a bit of storage in the utilities area but not much more so I’ll be finding creative ways to store bits and bobs. I can’t wait to show you actual pictures of the place. I didn’t take any when I viewed the place and wasn’t quick enough to take screen shots of the online listing for the place.

Back in Toronto

I have lived in Toronto several times over the course of my life, each time was connected to school. This will be the first time I have lived in the city sans school and I am really looking forward to creating a life here.

I have made a list of things I want to do over the course of the summer:

-go to Toronto Island (I have never been)

-explore the Don Valley River trails (I have been walking in the Yellow Creek ravine and loving it)

-go to Shakespeare in the Park

-start volunteering (still deciding where, I’ll keep you posted)

-check out the different Farmers’ Markets in Toronto, starting with Withrow Farmers’ Market since it is in my new neighbourhood

-reconnect with friends

-find a knit night to join (I miss the knit night at Knit 1 Chicago)

-have all the picnics here, here, and perhaps here

For now, I want to get settled and get serious, serious about finding some full-time work in the field.

She, also known as She-Beast

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Five years ago, I was house sitting for a friend of mine and a stray cat came wandering into their yard. I fed the beat-up, mangy wee little thing but couldn’t do much more for it because my friend had cats and I was worried that the stray might be carrying diseases or fleas. I left food and water and the next day the cat was still in the yard. Needless to say, the stray stuck around. I didn’t want to get attached so I called her She. Long story short, I ended up fostering She for a period of time but ultimately ended up adopting her. I had toxoplasmosis as a child and I really shouldn’t have cats but as a friend told me, pets have a way of choosing their owners. The name stuck.2012-08-29 14.46.44_2

(Photo credit for the first image: Dawn Walker http://www.dw-squared.ca)