Socialising again…

It’s weird folks, we’re getting social again. Like people in houses, groups outside, sharing food. SHARING FOOD. My favourite thing. My charism. My life’s work. I’ve missed it so much, and today I got to get back to it, and get my small humans in on it. We participated in a local Bake Off for the village harvest fête. We had friends over for dinner. It was great, it was exciting, it was exhausting.

Seriously though, I’m grateful for the days of prep-for-an-event-baking, the good-but-exhausting social days and the quiet-because-we-overdid-it recovery days*. They’ve always been our family rhythm before, and I’m glad that I remember how that goes. A house full of mostly introverted humans who nonetheless love their friends and love to party isn’t the most straightforward boat to steer, but it’s the one we’re in and we’re happy it’s sailing again.

Now when do we get to go back to the panic-pack-for-a-trip-tomorrow days, followed by the all-day-on-trains days and the walked-who-knows-how-many-miles-around-a-new-city days? Because I miss those too.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

*This will be tomorrow. We will hide at home and maybe go to a playground during school hours. Maybe just watch Fantasia 2000. Hopefully sleep in past 7am.

The hope in bright pink elbow pads

I will admit to having been dismissive of the Olympics (and other major sports competitions) in recent years. If you know me irl you may even have heard me say that these displays of nationalism and machismo had reached their expiration date. Honestly, a large part of me still feels that way. The humility and brilliance of a Southgate doesn’t quite match up to the disgusting behaviour of countless “fans” thrashing Wembley and spewing racist nonsense online.

That said, Sirrocco went to football camp, mostly because he was enthralled with watching England (and sheltered from the attendant news stories) and loved it. And tonight, I passed by the kitchen window to see a man zip past on a skateboard, his tween daughter shouting at him to give her back her board. He did, and held her hand and showed her how to get herself moving. She fell, she laughed, she got back up, dusted off her bright pink elbow pads and tried again.

And that, that might just make it worth it.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.

p.s. If you haven’t watched the Women’s skateboarding, do it. It’s the most wholesome, encouraging, hopeful thing on the telly these days.

Happy Easter!

Lent has been very lent-y again this year, hasn’t it. But here we are, Easter Monday, and we woke up to snow and daffodils. It’s a good image really. Hope springs eternal, and Spring brings hope, over and again each year. They look a bit sad in this picture, but they were just keeping their heads down, protecting themselves from a harsh night, and when the sun hit them later in the morning, the snow melted and they lifted their heads right up, sunny flowers on a sunny day. I’m feeling like life has been throwing quite a bit of unexpected spring snow, so doing my best to cherish and shine on those sunny days where it all melts – knowing that both of these are phases, that it can’t be sunny all the time, and that I’ll make it through the snow storms, the winter, the bad day, and shine.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate.

Ordinary Time

It doesn’t feel like a good name for this particular period… until you realise that Ordinary doesn’t mean “Usual” but rather “Counted” – like ordinal numbers. And we’re definitely counting, weeks of lockdown, months since our last date, numbers of cases, deaths, vaccines, counting all the time, trying to get some sort of grip, some sort of rational framework on these very unusual times. So much of the past year has felt “Lenty” we’ve made sacrifices and waited and mourned. But actual Lent is different, it’s a time outside of time, outside of the regular count of days. So maybe for Lent we can give up counting the uncountable, trying to rationalise the unreasonable, not as a way to ignore or trivialise our problems, but rather as a way to step outside of them and into calm reflection instead of frantic counting.

We’ll see if I can follow my own advice… In the meantime, I need to make a giant pile of crêpes. I won’t count them though. Have a lovely delicious Mardi Gras and a blessed Lent.

Love,
Bellicerence&Chocolate

Snow days and memories

content warning: toddler has super gross accident, gets better

A year ago today I spent the day in the hospital with Chinook. I had a lovely day of sewing panned and then, while I was getting dressed, a scream. Kyle went down, and he screamed. He never screams. My baby had caught his finger in a fire door and the tip was hanging by a thread. I didn’t vomit. But it was close. Thankfully all the years of First Aid training I did as a lifeguard have stuck and I bandaged it up in place nicely. (The nurses at the hospital complimented me). We struggled to find a taxi, we don’t have a car, couldn’t wait for a bus and our neighbours were out. My phone kept dropping the call, but in the end we got there. By then of course, babies being resilient little things, he was feeling happy and playful, it didn’t look very urgent. We waited for hours before anyone even looked at us. The kindly nurse looked at the happy baby with the bandaged finger and his freaked out looking Mom and started removing the wrappings while making soothing sounds. Blood flooded out, Chinook screamed and screamed, the nurse’s eyes were like saucers. We got rolled to A&E in a desk chair, dripping blood along the floor. The surgeon was young, pretty, competent, but not hopeful. He’ll probably lose the tip. They wrapped it up again, we waited some more, in a private room this time, at least. The x-ray was done, it didn’t look too bad. The plastic surgeon was young, handsome, competent and a bit pushy. He got us into surgery that day. I think Chinook worked his charm – loudly playing with a car and running around, then watching intently as his finger was unwrapped again (it was finally bleeding less now). The bad news was, at this age they didn’t do local anaesthesia, he’d be going under. He was 20 months old. I was scared. We called his siblings and they wished him good luck, then we waited. I’m glad Kyle had remembered to stuff snacks in my bag. Chinook did not want to put on the gas mask, and he did not fall for the distractions. This did not help my state of mind. The surgeon was confident, she smiled – this was before masks all day everyday. I told her I sew and that this was not the kind of sewing I expected today. She laughed. I trusted these people. It would be fine. I am glad the nurse walked me back to our room though, I had no idea how we’d gotten to the operating room. It was probably the longest hour of my life. My brother, who is a nurse, texted back and forth with me for a bit. I was reading Little Women, it helped. I drank water. A nurse came to fetch me, “He’s waiting for you!”. And there he was, my beautiful baby boy, snuggling the beautiful, wonderful nurse. She laughed and said what a darling he was and he was mad when I picked him up. I don’t blame him. We ate some food, he had a nap, the nurses changed shift and our discharge papers got lost somewhere, so we waited some more. Somehow we managed to call a taxi, we got home and I told the driver about our day. He talked about his kids. We got home. We were so tired. Most of our plans for the next month had to be adapted to our convalescing, yet still super high energy toddler. We had several nurses come around to check on him. Kyle found and installed door guards to prevent this happening again. We registered with the GP, which it turns out is much easier than in Canada. He never got his 3 month call back appointment, because by then the pandemic was in full swing, but he’s barely got a scar left.

Today was a much better day. It snowed. Nice powdery snow for kicking up in the air and making snow angels and finding rabbit and squirrel tracks in. And apparently, 3 years ago, it was also snowing. So how’s this for a then and now?

Oh, and what I said about looking for signs of Spring last week? It snowed then too… But didn’t stick around.

Is it snowing where you are? Any toddler mischief? All the best in any case…

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

February 1st

It’s 5:30 pm, soup is simmering, Sirrocco is making meatballs and singing while the little ones play with homemade playdough. It’s the eve of Candlemas, the feast of St. Brigid, half way between the solstice and the Equinox, and the days actually do seem to be getting longer finally. There’s still a glimmer on the horizon as I sit down to write.

It’s getting very strange to look back on the last year and how different things are now. We haven’t seen any of our extended family since last February. Even with our wandering lifestyle that’s a long time. Lent is just around the corner and I’m already tired from the sacrifices of the last year. January is always a long dark month. This past month was no exception. Lockdown fatigue, the weight of grief, the increasingly hostile environment towards home education in the UK, not to mention deadlines at work for Kyle, have collaborated to form a particularly potent cocktail of exhaustion. And so, what’s there to do? This weekend we counted birds in our garden, reorganised the living room furniture and tended the garden. I ordered some new books and took a long bath.

Tomorrow we will celebrate longer days and hope for the future by looking for shoots and bulbs peeking out, decorating candles and putting some daffodils on the table. We’ll read about the contradiction that is the Holy Child who brings Joy to all, but whose life and suffering will pierce his Mother’s heart. Our calendar image shows an old woman sweeping away the last of last year’s leaves in the pouring rain, I found it an odd image at first, for the first peeking of Spring, but I like it, there’s work to do, dead leaves to sweep, snow to melt, cleansing rains to come before the rising of the sun.

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell. Bless every fireside, every wall and door. Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof. Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy. Bless every foot that walks its portals through. May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

Spiritual Motherhood

It’s a fun little quirk of Catholic spirituality that I am very attached to – and which gets misrepresented. As women, we are called to be Mothers*. No, not like that. Your worth doesn’t depend on birthing. Don’t you let anyone tell you otherwise. We are called to mother, spiritually.**

So, what does that mean? In many ways, it’s just a beautiful way of thinking of, and honouring, the people who my (many, wonderful) secular humanist friends would describe as “good humans”. It’s acknowledging the divine spark that is alive in people who do for others without expecting a reward or a return. To me it’s a piece of theology that is like a flower, full of beauty, scent and seeds, ephemeral and yet eternal as each one generates so many more.

Who, then, is a “Spiritual Mother”? She is all the women out there, performing works of mercy, be they spiritual or corporal, for people to whom no blood or law is binding them, no law but love for their neighbour. She is a woman who blesses those around her by her presence, her kindness, her generosity. She’s not perfect of course, none of us are, but she is wonderful. She is my sister, a cloistered nun, praying for the world as so many of us are fretting about the state of it. She is my own mother, consoling and counselling my friends and my brother’s friends when they cannot turn to their own mothers. She is my childless friends spending their Saturday afternoon playing Lego and drinking tea with my children so that I can have some time with Kyle. She is my friends with children and busy lives unhesitatingly accepting to care for my children while I birth their siblings. She is the friend, who seeing me on the edge of tears in her kitchen grabs a teapot in one hand, a bottle of wine in the other, and asks which I need first. She is my neighbour, dropping off outgrown clothes at my door, or handing them over a pew after mass. She is a teenage girl, biking across town to make sandwiches and go to the park with my children while I rest. She is an elderly friend, proudly hanging a small girl’s drawing in her window “so that everyone can see how lovely it is”. She is my daughter, dropping off flowers on people’s doorsteps, because she’s “pretty sure they will like that”.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate


* Right, so this is also true of men, and fatherhood, but lets focus on the women for this one time, mmmk?
** I would love to go on about Maiden-Mother-Crone triads and concepts and all that excellent stuff, but this is not the time, and if you read on, you’ll see the other two pop up.

p.s. Trying something new. Old school blogging. Spewing random thoughts into the ethernet. Let’s see where the journey takes us.

Roggen Weizen Brot und Glük

— Apparently I forgot to hit publish on this one. But bread. And while I’m less anxious and sleeping better, it’s still weird times and difficult times and bread is a big part of it. I’m thankful for that and for the fact that I can get flour much easier now than in March/April. There’s a nice rye and seed bread rising in my kitchen as I write these words. —

April 2nd 2020

I have so many thoughts right now. Many of them thankful, many of them anxious, my sleep has been troubled by teething toddlers and distressing dreams, I’m suffering from craft paralysis and delighting at the birds we see on our one daily walk. This is by all definitions, a weird time. That said, it’s all I will say about it, because talking about bread is more interesting and infinitely less stressful. 

BREAD! My goodness I love bread. And with a week to Holy Thursday it seems fitting to talk about bread. Now, I realize that several hashtags have cropped up in the last few weeks #coronabaking #quarantinebaking #pandemicbakes etc. and that countless people have been trying their hand (and patience) at making sourdough. But I am here to tell you that like a proper indie kid (yup, that’s what hipsters were before they were cool) that I started my sourdough before going into lockdown, mmmk?* Having had the privilege to wander about a good little chunk of Europe in my time** I would like to extol the virtues of a few of my favourite breads, ever.

Chapter 1 – Deutschland
German bread is the first bread that made me stop in my tracks and wonder how on earth I had survived without it. I’d had rye bread before, but not like this. Every kind was unique, magical and completely surprising. Dense, serious bread. Amazing for sandwiches if you cut it thin, but so good mostly I just wanted it thickly sliced with loads of butter. Bread so full of seeds you couldn’t tell how it stayed together. Bread with mysterious crazylongcompositenames and among them, a humble loaf stood out: roggenweizenbrot, cracked at the top, dusted in toasted flour, moist, hearty, but not over the top. Also, this one time in Munich, I found the most beautiful bread in the entire world.

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Marigold and rose petals, and pistachios and roggenweizenbrot.

Chapter 2  – England
Yeah, I know. But seriously, thick white toast with butter and strawberry jam (or marmalade) in good company, with strong tea has a special charm. And I’m not sure what it is exactly but the white bread here seems to lack the strange chemical aftertaste of it’s North American counterparts.

Chapter 3 – Nederland
No comment.***

Chapter 4 – France
Now, of course everyone knows about baguette and how the French are obsessed with bread, etc. And so, I don’t know why I didn’t think that it could be completely mind blowing. I guess Germany had my heart and so I figured that was that? Boy, was I wrong. France is wonderful and charming and ridiculously amusing to me in ways that it can perhaps only be to a non-French francophone, I’m not sure I could live there… but I want to imagine doing so. From the baguettes (which come in varying defined degrees of doneness) and the ficelles (as sandwiches or “au chocolat”) all the way to the incredible, amazing presumably 3kg or so giant loaves of fig and hazelnut “pain de campagne” baked until the crust is just on the edge of burning to a crisp and sold by the weight of the chunk that the baker saws off with aggressive skill… c’est tout bon. But the absolute delight of our foray into the Boulangerie (because the patisserie is a whole other story) is a seasonal delight – pain de poires. Bread dough, not brioche, presumably mixed pretty wet and wrapped around half a sliced pear, baked until it’s one beautiful carb and caramel compound that is really the only thing I want to eat – other than a nice piece of cheese.

 

Baby Chinook in the sling, ficelle au chocolat in the pocket, Mistral and Lac de Gérardmer in the background.

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

_______________________________________________

*Let’s face it, I’m an INFP and probably an Enneagram 4 too. This stuff is really important to me. I am annoyed at other people doing things I like, even without the increased difficulty in sourcing flour.

** You know, like, pre-March2020.

***Fries Suikerbrood doesn’t count as real bread. But it is pretty magical.

Over it All(s) – they’re dungarees!

Sometimes when you find something you like, you want that one thing and then you have it and you’re done and you’re happy. I feel this way about my slowcooker, my one volume edition of The Lord of the Rings, my husband… you get the point. But some things, some special things, are more like children than husbands and you just feel like maybe one more would be even better! Biscuits, shoes, books by Randall Munroe or Bill Bryson all fall in this latter category. This pattern though, might transcend that. It’s not “maybe one more” I just want one in every fabric. And judging by how fast Chinook gets his clothes dirty, that might be necessary.

Introducing the one and only Overitalls pattern by Made by Jack’s Mum. I’ve made a few…

First these, in a lovely French Terry, with the bodice lining from the last bits of a thrifted men’s t-shirt that I used this summer, to make some matching tees for the boys.

Then this lovely pair, reversible, because I figured it would be best to make the garment usable beyond the festive season, and those stripes are just lush. Candy canes from The Sweet Mercerie and Stripes from Caboodles Textiles.

After that, I was on a bit of a roll, so these happened. (Non-reversible as I didn’t have very much of that light blue.)

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And, well, after THAT, I decided that the cute but elaborate Ottobre overalls I had been planning for his Christmas gift just wouldn’t get done in time, and besides, why mess with perfection… so I made one more reversible pair.* With a matching tiny pointy hat, because nothing is cuter than a baby in a tiny pointy hat… (And Christmas was lovely and full of mom-made clothes, and Lego, thank you for asking.)

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At this point, the boy really has as many overalls as he needs… and more will just mean more laundry. So… you’d think I would stop, yes?

No. There’s a doll pattern. We have dolls. Mistral and Lilli-Lou are very pleased with their matching outfits.

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And of course, there’s a little niece to sew for. I changed up the buttons a tiny bit here and added extra long cuffs, because Little Miss Cousin is a tall thin one and I wanted these to be adjustable. (These are the size 1 but can extend to the same height as the size 2 pairs I’ve been making for Chinook.)

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Ok, but now. NOW, you’re done, right?

Naaaaah. Mistral has called dibs on a piece of pink textured Ponte and requested a pair of her own. With pockets, please and thank you. Should we take bets on whether Sirocco decides to jump on the bandwagon after that? I wouldn’t put it past him…

Love,
Belligerence&Chocolate

* The other side is bright blue to match the cuffs, and apparently I don’t have better pictures, so I might update this when I remember to take those… or not?