Archive for November, 2012

November 27, 2012


by Decemberbaby

Hi. I’m Sara, and I’m a cycle-a-holic.

I didn’t think it had come this far, but here I am. My knee hurts badly; I know that I shouldn’t bike tomorrow morning, and that makes me feel bereft. I don’t bike every single morning but I don’t take kindly to knowing that it’s off limits for now. The cravings are beginning. Driving the car is, at best, a necessary evil. There’s no joy in it; it just gets me from A to B and back. But cycling… aside from the obvious fitness benefits, it does wonders for my seasonal depression. Also my soul, my wallet, and my general sense of well-being.

Here’s why:

When I’m cycling, I’m close to the ground and there’s nothing between me and the world around me. I sing out “good morning” whenever we pass a pedestrian. We stop to examine the fire hydrants that haven’t been installed yet. We greet the same construction workers and crossing guards every time. Cycling gives me this sense of being part of the city instead of separated from it in a metal-and-glass bubble.

Nature is right beside me all along the road. I see the trees in various stages of autumnal undress, the places where there are more weeds than grass, the wetness of the road after a night of rain. The air feels clean in the morning, especially on the residential streets that make up most of my ride. I can see the sky – not a piece of it through a windshield, but the whole expanse – and I often marvel that even on cloudy days there is usually a clear patch of blue peeking through somewhere.

Throughout my ride, I have many opportunities to make it easier or harder for myself. I can relax and ride slowly if I feel like it, or I can push myself to the limit and set a new time record. I can lean into the turns more, challenging my skill and balance. I’m up against my own limits, and I often astonish myself.

I can chat with my children, point out landmarks, and ruffle their hair at stop signs. I get to watch them wiggle in time to the music from my iPod. When I greet pedestrians with a smile the children and I get to watch wizened old faces and jaded young faces break into a tentative smile or a grin and a surprised laugh. Even the grumpy-looking old man with the tiny dog (practically a fixture in our parking lot at drop-off and pick-up times) looks handsome when he smiles at us.

Even at my fastest, my speed probably tops out at 18 km/h. Fast enough to get where we’re going, and slow enough to not feel harried and rushed. Traffic means very little to me, gliding along residential streets and through pathways where cars can’t travel.

It’s possible to drive a car on autopilot. We’ve all done it, I’m sure, getting somewhere and realizing we have no particular memory about the journey. I’ve never been able to bike on autopilot. Cycling makes me feel connected – to nature, to the city, to the people, to myself and my limits. To God.

To paraphrase the milk commercials of my youth, cycling does a body good… but it does a soul great.


November 24, 2012

Open for Business!

by Decemberbaby

It’s been quiet around here because I’ve been completely immersed in setting up my Etsy shop… and then I was completely immersed in Shabbat.

Finally, those of you who don’t feel crafty enough to make their own toy torah can buy one online… just in time for Chanuka. Right?

Anyhow, come on over and have a look by clicking on the button below or at the top right of this page! I’d love feedback, if you have any to offer. From photography to descriptions to pricing, I’ll take whatever comments you have.

And then maybe I’ll be able to get back to real blogging. You know, about life and stuff.


November 19, 2012

What comes after purging?

by Decemberbaby

Mr. December and I have decided to put a moratorium on buying things (actually, on bringing anything new into the house, consumables being the exception) until all of the clutter has been purged. But decluttering is only the beginning of the battle. Our plan of attack looks like this:

  1. Ruthlessly purge all clutter. We covered this one a couple of posts back.
  2. Fix all the broken things. You know how it is. Once you’ve been living in your house for a few years it’s easy to overlook the cracked tile in the kitchen, the doorknobs that have to be jiggled and lifted at the same time in order to work, the rust on the bathroom light fixture (seriously, who looks up there?). By the time we’ve done this step, everything in our house should be whole and in perfect working order… for about an hour, right before the kids come home from their time with their grandparents.
  3. Thoroughly clean everything. I’m not an exceptional housekeeper, and thus there are many things in my house, from the glass shades on light fixtures to the moldings above the doors to the windows themselves, that have never been properly cleaned. That’s going to change, though. Once the house is clear of the clutter and everything is working properly, we’re going to give it a really good, top-to-bottom clean.

Why are we doing all this? Right now the clutter is not only depressing, it’s costing us money and time. And our house is feeling a bit crowded, but I have a hunch that it’s the clutter that gives that impression. Well, the clutter and the mess. And the stuff that doesn’t work is just aggravating. Those things combine to make living in our house less pleasant than it could be (although we do love our home.) I hope that by really thoroughly organizing our home we’ll discover that it’s a bright, open, welcoming place that we’ll be happy to live in for another five years… or more. And if it’s not… well, our house will be uncluttered, in good repair, and ready to put on the market.

November 18, 2012

Polaroid Pictures… a baby quilt

by Decemberbaby

I’ve finally finished this quilt that I’ve been working on for two months. I’m thrilled with how it turned out, but oy, what a headache it was to make. It just occurred to me that the baby whose quilt this is might not understand why the pictures are surrounded by a white border that’s just a tad thicker on the bottom… do kids even know what a Polaroid picture is these days?

Do you see why it gave me a headache? No? Well, with the exception of two pictures, all of the polaroids are sewn in as part of the quilt – not added on top. Have a closer look:

All the random angles made the whole thing impossible to plan – the placement of the seams was completely improvised. I’m mostly pleased with how it turned out, though.

I chose images that would appeal to both the baby and his parents (his dad is a longtime friend and former roommate of Mr. December.) For the child, vehicles and animals and storybook characters. For the parents, Yoda and Chewbacca, a tie fighter, and a dragon. Oh, and a tent – a nod to the extensive canoe trips we used to take together.

I personally love the dinosaurs, both of which are hamming it up for the camera. My favourite, though, is the hippo.

I’m especially in love with the quilt back. It’s one of those things born of necessity (I didn’t have quite enough blue minky) that turns out really, really cool. I’m thinking I should use this design as a quilt front next time.

See? It’s a giant Polaroid! Do you like it as much as I do?

The back view also gives you a good view of the free-motion quilting I did. I quilted with primary-coloured variegated thread to add some colour and pop to the solid grey. I also chose a bright primary-striped fabric for the binding:

Yup, there’s the binding, the free-motion quilting, Chewbacca, and – yes! – one of my snazzy new labels!

It won’t be hard to say goodbye to this quilt. As much as I love it, it gave me some real grief. It’s a very good thing it’s destined for a good friend of ours; it makes all the effort and frustration feel worthwhile.

ETA: I’m linking this up with Sew Modern Monday.

November 17, 2012

The pit bull eventually lets go.

by Decemberbaby

That is the difference between a pit bull and a hoarder, isn’t it?

The next step in our process towards loving our small home – and continuing to live in it as our children get bigger – is getting rid of stuff. All kinds of stuff. Our basement hallway has become the repository for so much of it that it’s kind of hard to get to the laundry machines without stepping on things. It was hard, at any rate. It’s much easier now.

Today was the third day in a row that I spent an hour purging the basement of its clutter. I got rid of things like the half-empty box of grout, a box of brand new switch plates, and extra hardware pieces from our IKEA kitchen. In theory these things could be useful in the future. Then again, these sorts of things pile up and end up obscuring the things we really do want to use again, like the infant rainsuit that I hadn’t been able to find for two years and ended up replacing with a brand new one. If you take that example and monetize it, subtracting the cost of the grout and switch plates and hardware from the cost of the rainsuit (not to mention all the time I wasted looking for said rainsuit,) the clutter didn’t save me any money or time. In fact, it cost me.

Tonight Mr. December and I culled the stuffed animal collection. We’re getting rid of more than half of our stuffies, and even the number remaining seems excessive to me. It’s physically sickening at times, how many useful things are just idling in our basement – enough to clothe a whole family and provide toys for their children – while other people go without. Why is it so easy to just keep acquiring things we don’t need?

This is cathartic for me, this purge. I’d like to get us down to the necessities that we love and use. I’ve made peace with ruthless purging, accepting that when I needed different clothing sizes for the kids we had plenty of friends willing to lend or just give us their outgrown things. We’re not living in a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s time to accept that thinking as if we might be impoverished at any moment is actually robbing us of a peaceful, relaxing, calming home.

Children definitely complicate this process. For some reason they attract stuff (most of it tiny and plastic) the way a magnet dropped in Parry Sound will attract lots of tiny little pebbles. And the stuff hides everywhere and mates and has babies, until the room that was clutter-free two weeks ago is once again littered with collections of the Brattiest Pet Shop and dinosaurs from The Land Before Time-Warner Productions. I’m left to wonder whether any of the people who speak or write about conquering clutter actually were able to live that way with small children in the house.

It’s a huge pile, and as I remove one layer of stuff another is revealed. Every trash bag that leaves this house (6 so far) and every box of donated stuff (4 and counting) makes me feel lighter, more relaxed, and less stressed. It actually inspires me to get back on the weight-loss wagon, because how better to characterize my recent gain-back of almost everything I’ve lost than to compare it with decluttering my entire basement and then going on a huge shopping spree and filling it back up?

It’s definitely time to start considering food the way I consider a potential purchase. In the meantime, though, at least I get a surge of pleasure every time I head down to the basement.

November 14, 2012

Another gift for another boy who has everything

by Decemberbaby

Doesn’t the title pretty much say it all?

The invitation was for a Lego-themed fourth birthday party. Ostensibly this is a gift for the child, but I also think it’s a neat gift for the mother: she’ll thank me at 2 in the morning when she doesn’t puncture the sole of her foot on a pointy Lego piece. These neat little drawstring bags, made from a tutorial over at Make it and Love it, are perfect for storing all of the tiny little treasures a Lego aficionado can collect. I made a set of four in graduated sizes and various colourful prints.

A birthday wish for the child mother: may your child actually use these bags for good (storing Lego pieces) and not for evil (trapping the pet hamster.)


November 12, 2012

Can’t blog… sewing…

by Decemberbaby

You know, I could keep talking about how I intend to open up an etsy store and sell things I sew (and patterns for people to sew things, like the Toy Torah) from now until eternity. I could plan, and buy fabrics, and think, and plan some more. And then I could never quite manage to get started.

So instead of the above process, I’ve decided to do the only thing that will force me to move ahead: I’ve made a public declaration of intent to sell stuff, and now I have a few customers asking me for fabric options and pricing. Eek!

I’m not abandoning NaBloPoMo; I just might not post too many serious and substantial posts in the next week or so. I have things to sew and patterns to digitize. But I promise I’ll keep you posted!

Enough about me. How about you? How do you help yourself to stop thinking and start doing?

November 10, 2012

Whee! Fun! Ow!

by Decemberbaby

Tonight I took Mr. December on a date… to a trampoline club. Just Bounce has a drop-in class on Fridays and Saturday evenings, which is just my style – high fun, low commitment.

It was a blast. I discovered that I’m actually quite flexible (Mr. December is slightly less so) and coordinated. Could my mother have been right about the lifelong benefits of early ballet training? In just under an hour I mastered the tuck jump, straddle jump, pike jump, seat drop, and doggie drop, and then my crowning achievement – a seat drop coming back up to a half turn. It was awesome. *I* was awesome.

Sadly, awesomeness comes at a price. I think I might have given myself whiplash. I landed too far forward on a doggie drop and my upper back and neck did a bit of a crazy, well, whip-lash type movement. I’m typing this with the thermophore wrapped around my neck. I think I’ll take a muscle relaxant before I go to sleep. Ow.

Know what? I’d still recommend trampolining. It’s fun. It’s a great workout, even for those of us who routinely bike 15k with a 100 pound bike and 50-80 pounds of kids in under 30 minutes. I can see how I’d be way stronger overall if I did this on a regular basis. Maybe I should… as soon as my neck and shoulders stop hurting.

November 8, 2012

Bloggus Interruptus

by Decemberbaby

I’m sewing and thinking and blogging, not necessarily all at once. And I can’t wait to tell you that I’ve just articulated one of my most successful life strategies: if you can’t be the best at something, be the only one at something. That’s how I came in second in my age class in the 2000 (I think) Kingston Half-Triathlon (there were two of us.) Anyhow, I’m about to tell you about how I used this same strategy when I became a violist and got to travel to Vienna with –


Mr. December is standing in the doorway to my workshop and pointing to the stairs. I sew another seam.


We’ve been trying to get to bed on time, but we’re both terrible at it. Tonight he’s being the bad cop. Sometimes I am, and sometimes –


Um, I guess I’d better sign off now. Do you have a bedtime? Early or late? Is it easy or hard for you to discipline yourself to get to bed on time?