Monthly Archives: October 2012

National Novel Writing Month

I’m doing something crazy in November. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

When I was in grade 10, I crossed the finish line with a fantasy novel that had something to do with the balance of the world, death and life, and good and evil. I haven’t looked at those 50 000 words since, don’t even know if I still have them somewhere.

In my second year of university, I tried again. This time, I only made it to about 15 000 words as my story waned and remained unrescued. The going got tough and I gave up.

This time around is different. This time around, I have the full support of an amazing husband. This time around, I also have a full-time job that could have the potential to get busier than ever before in November.

More concerning though, I’m a different person than I was when I was in high school, and even than I was 5 years ago as a university student. My writing is different. The way I view the world is different. The way I view the role of words in the world is different.

I have no idea if I can write a novel that stays true to what I believe a novel should be that is still gripping and entertaining and enough to keep me focused for the whole month.

I guess we’ll find out.

This is exactly what I’m doing: 30 days. 50 000 words. 1 finished novel.

NaNoWriMo!

(Anyone else? Do you think I’m absolutely mad for attempting this?)

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A Little Big Change

This morning, all those along the east coast of the USA are firmly in my thoughts! I hope everyone in Hurricane Sandy’s path is staying safe and dry.

I wasn’t fully satisfied with my living room. I never seem to be fully satisfied with the arrangement of my home. I’ve rearranged everything probably around 10 times in the past. One of my coworkers finds this tendency endlessly amusing. Honestly, I don’t mind being amusing in such a way. Rearranging furniture is fun.

(Perhaps I need to get out more.)

I’m sure you know here this is going. I rearranged my furniture on the weekend. Again.

Back step. A few weeks ago, when we got our new bed frame, we also got two matching ‘bedside tables’, which, in reality, are two small dressers. They’re the same honey coloured wood, strongly grained, with sleek, modern handles. I don’t love them in the same way I don’t love our bed. They’re strongly built and good quality, but the colour isn’t quite me, isn’t quite us. When they first came off the U-Haul, I hid the dressers away in our dining room and filled the drawers with sheets and craft supplies.

And then, our current living room arrangement started to bug me. The dresser is too small for the TV and the bookcase, large and kind of domineering. Once I realized it just wasn’t working for me, my rearranging gaze fixed on the dressers.

And. Voila.

So. Much. Better.

Surprise, surprise: the honey wood is growing on me. Why is that? Usually I loath all things honey wood. Except that, here, that gorgeous grain seems to stand out even more. Here, they feel more mid-century modern and far less mid-90s than they do when they’re paired with our bed. Even the silver coloured handles don’t bother me here. The TV is the right scale for the two dressers together and the length allows for a more spacious feel in our living room at large.

Like I said. So. Much. Better.

I think even the dogs like the new arrangement.

Even more exciting? Our Christmas cactus has buds!

What do you think of our switcheroo? Do you like honey wood or should I make it over? Paint them white perhaps?

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In the Kitchen: Meatball Soup

To go along with last week’s announcement, I have another: I’m bringing food back to This Dusty House. A few months back, I began This Dusty Kitchen as a place to share and keep a repository of recipes, a place to share adventures in food and health. I started it, and then I allowed it to become a source of guilt as I ordered yet another plastic container of pad Thai or scrounged in my freezer for chicken nuggets and frozen veggies for dinner. I started a food blog and then I stopped cooking. Ironic? No. Expected, maybe. I tried to get in over my head.

Now, as I give myself the permission I guess I needed for myself to expand my blog and explore more topics, it only makes sense to bring it back. If this blog is to be a cohesive glimpse into my life, there’s no reason to fracture it as if food were not a part of the House, but a part of something else. When I make something delicious, I want to share it with all of you.

So, here I am, shutting it down by sharing a soup recipe. Classic. I began the food blog with soup. I bring it back here with soup.

Dutch Meatball Soup

For the meatballs:

1 lb group turkey
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp each salt and pepper

Mix everything together and form into small, bite-sized balls.

For the soup

1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
8 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 cup frozen veggies
1/2 tbsp Montreal chicken spice
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
Meatballs

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until the onion is translucent. Pour in the stock, add the frozen veggies, and bring to a boil. Add the spices.

Carefully drop the meatballs into the boiling water. Add the noodles. Continue to cook until the meatballs are cooked through and the noodles are softened.

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Photo Friday: A Photo Walk

I had never done a ‘photo safari’, or a ‘photo walk’ before. Mostly, other photographers intimidate me. Most people have better equipment (I shoot with a simple Canon Rebel XS, bottom of the line.), a better eye, a natural comfort behind the lens of their camera. Besides that, have you ever visited a photography forum? Photographers on the Internet can be an egotistical, nasty bunch, especially towards beginners and hobbyists. Hence, intimidation.

And yet, I wanted to go anyway. I’ve said before, I want to get better. I love making art through the lens of a camera. What better way to improve than to push myself out of my comfort zone, meet some photographers, and wander the streets of a gorgeous part of my city with them?

Out of my comfort zone I was indeed pushed. Our leader, Dan Milnor, sent us out into the District with a simple assignment: take pictures following a theme that expresses how the place feels.

Huh?

I looked around, felt around. It didn’t take long. The place felt wet. It felt cold.

It also felt incredibly red.

I still stubbornly cling to the manual mode, though I’m not convinced I’m using it to its full potential. My photos don’t have the clarity, the sharpness, that I crave. Is this a failing of my low-end DSLR, or the photographer that’s using it? Is this simply a symptom of my own tendency to be overly hard on myself? Either way, I know I’m not there yet, that I have so much more to learn, so much further to go.

After we’d wandered the cobblestone streets for a while, Dan gathered us together once again and gave us a second assignment. I’ll admit, I nearly packed up my camera, and headed for the nearest cafe for a hot cup of coffee. I had already been pushed out of my comfort zone – shooting in public! – but now, he wanted me to sprint about a mile further out: portraits.

Thank goodness for this pink-hair fellow blogger:

Elycia! Together, we survived, and even enjoyed ourselves, enough to brave the mingling of drinks and appetizers with the whole lot of photographers at Cafe Uno afterwards. My fingers, stiffened from the cold and damp, tingled back to life as I flipped through Blurb book after Blurb book and chatted with photographers about editing software, and cameras, and my Dutch heritage, and blogging.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wish I knew how to get involved with this kind of thing on a regular basis. I wish I could be less shy about shooting in public on a regular basis and evening about making strangers’ – and friends’! – portraits.

And now? It’s time to make a photo book!
Thanks for the amazing afternoon and evening, Blurb!

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Three Things for Thursday

One: Thank You


I have been supported. I have been re-affirmed. I have been encouraged. 
I am so blessed. There is more than one reason for this daily conversation, but one of the main reasons I love blogging is you guys. Thank you for all your kind words on yesterday’s identity-searching post. Thank you for being here and reading this. You mean the world to me.
Two: Sugar-Free, Almost Success

Today marks my first day back on sugar. To jog your memory, last week, I announced a 10 day sugar detox after a particularly sugar-high weekend. I went completely sugar-free, cutting out any and all foods that have sugar as an added ingredient. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit and other foods was ok, but sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup – sorry, everyone; even ‘natural’ sweeteners aren’t good for you. 
Admittedly, it wasn’t a perfect 10 days. I accepted a single piece of bread last Sunday and, at the Blurb event on Tuesday, I went a little nuts for appetizers, little tortilla wraps, meatballs, mini pizza pieces, all most certainly made with added sugar, allowing the indiscretion only because they were all I was going to eat for supper.
10 days later, I’m back down to the weight I’m supposed to be at (I put on approximately 5 pounds in that one crazy weekend – weight that wouldn’t have stuck around anyway – but had been gradually creeping upwards for the past month to begin with) and feeling good. However, I have some thoughts:
  1. I was not as ‘addicted’ to sugar as I thought I was. The first few days were really confusing. I wasn’t limiting my diet in an extreme way or anything, but I thought the first few days should have been harder than they were. I experienced no symptoms of ‘withdrawal’ and experienced very few cravings. I would encourage everyone to try a simple 10 days of cutting out sugar, if only to determine if it’s actually a problem in your diet. It might not be!
  2. Such a restrictive diet is unrealistic for the long term. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? One would think that cutting out added sugar would really only mean cutting out sweets, honey coated granola bars, sugary cereals, sweet baked goods and pastries. Surprise, surprise: it also means cutting out most tomato sauces, almost all breads, peanut butter, salad dressings, dips, etc. etc. There is a lot more sugar in the foods we eat than one might expect.
Three: Socks with Flats

This morning, as I spent the morning scowling at my closet (I had on one outfit, then disappeared back into the bedroom and re-emerged in something completely different. It was one of those moments in which the Husband was left surprised and I jealous of his simplistic wardrobe.), I found myself complaining about flats. Whose bright idea was it to insist that socks and flats don’t belong together? In fact, there seems to be this unwritten rule that women and socks don’t belong together. 
Guys. I like socks. Like, a lot. Socks are some of the most comfortable things in the world. Flats are comfortable, but they’re made far more so by a simple sock.
After I complained about this and rebelliously pulled on a pair of black socks and my grey, sock-covering flats, The Husband sent me a text on his way to work: 
“I just saw a girl wearing flats and socks.”
It made my morning.


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What I’ve been telling people about my blog these days

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll already know that last night, I attended one of the most awesome, worthwhile events I’ve ever been invited to last night. Blurb.ca, my favourite photobook people (even though I’ve never actually gotten around to making my own book), hosted a ‘Photo Safari’ in the Distillery District with Toronto with photographer Dan Milnor (and blogger Elycia, whom I was thrilled to see there and meet for the first time!). The event pushed me out of my comfort zone, into the cold and damp of the Distillery District in the fall, into conversation with photographers more accomplished than me. I came away inspired, intimidated, excited, and maybe a little over-stimulated.

This post isn’t about the photography. I’m saving that for my Photo Friday post. This post is about the conversations I had as the afternoon moved into evening and we all began to share who we are and what we do. This post is about where this blog is going. This post may also be about how happy this blog makes me.

You may have noticed. I’ve come to a crossroads with this blog. The original intent is no longer applicable. A year and a half ago, I had so much to say about this little house. There were so many projects to do, so much pretty to inject into these run-down four walls. There was a basement apartment to talk about, a bathroom renovation, and a new, gorgeous kitchen. There were furniture acquisitions and make-overs to attempt, new skills to teach myself, and a myriad of plans to share.

That hasn’t necessarily changed. There are still projects to do, and big renovations to plan, and I’m not going to stop sharing relentlessly about my inspiration, plans, and projects. But my little house doesn’t always hold my unswaying attention, and these days, my ability to focus on what is contained and what could be contained in these four walls is being challenged. I’ve struggled against it for a while. Over the past month or so, I’ve reached a realization:

It’s ok to change.
It’s ok to let this blog change.
It’s ok to let my voice and my purpose change.

Finally, I’ve begun to admit that This Dusty House needs to change, whether I like it or not. I need to pull it out of a category and focus it instead of the things I love. I need to talk about books more, and afghans, and shoes, and food, and Toronto, and the country, and my dogs, and Pekoe. And photography. And the church. And – why not; let’s got political – women’s issues.

This chair has played so many roles in my house. It’s lived in the living room, the bedroom, the garden, and now, finally, the dining room. Perhaps it’s a little cheesy, but it’s time to allow my writing to become like this chair – a little all over the place.

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A Two-Toned Round-up

I now have 3 dressers to make over. There is, of course, my antique style dresser that I picked up from the local thrift store for $70. Now, there are two matching small dressers that came in the same set as our new bed frame. They’re a pale, honey wood colour, which may be growing on me slightly but is, ultimately, not my style. On top of that, I have two bedside tables from Ikea that I’d like to make over and a side table with a single tiny drawer that could use a pretty coat of paint or a stencil, perhaps.

In other words, I have lots of dressers on which I could put paint. And a few that I think require something. Two-toned has always been an option, but since Jennifer at Rambling Renovators shared a project she did a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thinking more and more about it.

There’s something dramatic about the contrast that celebrates the two possibilities in one. What do you think of the two-toned thing? Do you have any two-toned dressers or do you like your dressers to be all one, uniform colour?

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Monday Musings: A Sunday romp. Through yellow leaves. With dogs.

Leaves become most beautiful when they’re about to die.
– Regina Spektor
Autumn is the most alive of all the seasons. As the cold moves in and the bite of winter threatens, I feel the energy returning after the lethargic, drowsy days of summer. The trees turn, preparing for a long winter of dormancy. How can, winter, such a quiet season not be proceeded by a flurry of preparation?
This is how I prepare:
Long walks through beautiful golden bushes and bright, emerald green fields full of winter wheat.
Long talks with friends and family, encouraging, and pushing them to grow.
Long moments of quiet thought, in which I hope to be pushed to grow myself.
Long snuggles with favourite puppies and and even more favourite babies.
Long afternoons, making warm, comforting meals to share and enjoy.

Our weekend included a family gathering to coo over the most adorable baby in the world, my nephew. The look on his great grandparents’ faces as they scooped him into their strong capable arms was priceless. It was that moment in which I realized how strong those familial bonds can be, even though things are not always smooth, even though stubbornness and changing values can get in the way of truly knowing and understanding each generation. Even though sometimes there’s turmoil, Baby Daniel belongs in this group of people, is loved absolutely by this group of people, is accepted and cherished by this group of people.


Whether you like it or not.

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Photo Friday: I miss you, baby

I miss this face.

It’s been a quiet week. In a way, it’s been kind of like the night before a wedding rehearsal, when everything is in place and a huge sense of change is looming, but there’s nothing you can do anymore, but sit back and tie ribbons on your freshly printed programs. This means I’ve been keeping house – doing dishes provides a wonderful rhythm in which to think – but I haven’t been doing much in the way of projects to share with all of you. That’s what it’s been so quiet around here too, why I’ve become more introspective than usual, and certainly way off topic.
We’ll see what happens next week.
(PS. To dispel all the speculation that I know is swirling around in your heads, The Husband and I are still contentedly happy with our DINK* status and have no plans to change that at the moment. I’m talking professional change, not familial.)
(PPS. I just finished my first full cup of black coffee. I’m halfway to my 10 day goal of no added sugar and it’s going quite well! I talked about my experience shopping sugar-free at the grocery store over on This Dusty Kitchen yesterday.)
(PPPS. Daniel has the cutest cheeks evar.)
* Double Income, No Kids

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Black Coffee

Today, I am drinking black coffee.

I don’t usually drink black coffee. I like my coffee creamy and sweet, but still piping hot. Generally, I’m more of a double-double person, though I’ve been working hard – and successfully! – at turning into a regular person.

(Do they have double-doubles in the States? That’s two cream, two sugar. And regular – one cream, one sugar? Is it a Canadian thing to call our coffees by other names?)

One of my coworkers insists that, if I just start drinking black coffee, every other kind of coffee will seem too sweet, too creamy. So far, I don’t believe him. I am shocked, however, that I’m halfway to the bottom of my cup and I haven’t thrown it out in disgust. So, maybe. Maybe.

Why am I drinking black coffee when I’m truly a double-double girl?

I ate too much candy.

Like.

Way too much candy.

Once a year, I organize a retreat for my youth group. We go to a retreat centre/camp that has all sorts of activities for them, I plan a few deep discussions for the weekend, and the rest of the time, we play games, watch movies and… eat candy. Lots and lots of candy.

The retreat was great! I love spending the weekend with those kids. But, after spending the weekend gorging myself on fuzzy peaches, chocolate rose buds, Mars bars, Skittles, and sour keys, I came home feeling like shit. So, as I finished off a bag of hot lips that I found hidden in my bag while watching The Walking Dead on Sunday night, I presented myself – and my husband – with a challenge.

No sugar. For 10 days.

This doesn’t just encompass candy and chocolate and sugary cereals. It’s everything. So many foods have added sugar and I’m trying to cut out as many of those things as possible. This means I had to forgo to Mandarin and poppyseed salad dressing for my cole slaw on Monday and stick with a balsamic and olive oil mix instead. It means that many breads are out; cereals too.

This won’t be easy. My mother reminded me that these 10 days include a visit with my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and dozens of friends and family members. Food abounds at the events. Sugary foods abound at these events. And yet, I’m going to have to be good.

Wish me luck.

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