My shout out to working moms, or moms who work, or pretty much every mom I know.

Freelance writing for a stay-at-home mom is a tough gig, let me tell you.  I’ve tried to keep my pinky-toe in the water for the last several years, and I have been blessed by some really understanding editors who are still eager to receive my work, even when it’s sporadic.  Lately I’ve been pretty busy with multiple assignments again, and I find myself daily having an inner battle of excitement (to be doing what I love) and frustration (because life with little kids doesn’t often go to plan).

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It’s been a good lesson in time management, patience and, above all, honesty with myself.  And here’s the deal – blogging (for me), isn’t really writing.  It’s not hard to punch out a bunch of paragraphs about my life on my own time and without anyone expecting perfection.  Blogging, for me, is a bit self-indulgent. It’s the result of a random spark of inspiration and a child’s coincidental nap time (like right now).

But, writing as a job is really hard work.  It takes constant practice, trial and error, and a rubbery thick skin, to maintain. Hoping to improve one’s writing is all that and an extra shot of dedication, plus having the time and headspace to pitch your stuff and get yourself out there.  Trying to write for the last six weeks has driven me to the edge of my own sanity, and I wasn’t even working on anything very difficult. Of course, my elation at being asked to write a few things was quickly snuffed by a toddler who stopped sleeping, a 5 year-old who was constipated, a husband who had to work longer hours, and a dog with skin allergies. Now nearing the end of this little run, I’m finally breathing again, but am also looking back and wondering if I should keep it up or just get a desk job? Regardless, I know my kids and I need more breaks from each other.  A lot more.

 So while I’m mulling all this over, I’d like to tip my hat to some other moms I know who are trying to do stuff they love while caring for families of (mostly) small children.  We are a long-suffering breed, ha ha, who try to find snip its of time to work when our significant others are home (evenings and weekends) or during those few blessed moments the wee ones are sleeping, in school, at a friends’ house, or with a babysitter.  While I fill that space with writing (or staring blankly at the screen), the ladies mentioned below use their time in other fascinating creative pursuits. (And I’d like to remind you, dear readers, that there are weddings, christenings, birthdays, holidays and all sorts of things coming up that serve as an awesome excuse to patronise one of these good women.  Keep that in mind, and keep reading!)

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Bookends

“Old friends, old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends.”

When I was in college, my summer job was working as an interpreter at a living history farm in Bozeman, Montana.  Looking back, I could not imagine myself landing a better job than this – dressing up as a circa 1900 woman, cooking on a wood stove, talking to visitors, learning how to crochet and embroider and sew on a treadle machine, getting to try a huge array of interesting vegetables from an ever-expanding heritage garden, and, best of all, learning from the bottomless well of knowledge that was our volunteer base.  We had everything from blacksmiths to gardeners, spinners and weavers and musicians, all historians of sorts, all (or mostly) lovely, wise, fascinating people.

Karen at the Tinsley House with our first attempt at cheese making, summer 2001

Karen at the Tinsley House with our attempt at cheese making, Summer 2001

My favourite days on the farm were usually Saturdays, particularly early in the season when it was still a bit chilly.  If it was raining out, the house would be dark (no electricity!) and visitors rarely came down the wooden sidewalk.  Those were the days when I would build up the fire in the wood stove, make a big pot of cowboy coffee, and sit around the table with my boss, Dave Kinsey, and one of my very favourite ladies, Karen James.  I was only a teenager, but they never, ever made me feel small.  We would talk about the farm, Western history, our town, our lives, local politics, and so on.  And, usually, Karen would bring a truly magnificent coffee cake.  We’d sit there, cozy and pleasant, eating piece after piece of this sinfully buttery cake covered in sugary walnuts and cinnamon.  We’d drink gallons of coffee, ignoring the grounds sinking to the bottom of our cups as we topped up and poked the fire.  I know it sounds funny and a little naughty that I loved those peaceful mornings when nobody would come around the house looking for a tour!  But it was those sweet friendships we were forging that I found myself looking forward to all week, and missing when the job was over for another summer.

A few years later, when I was working for Heartland Truly Moving Pictures in downtown Indianapolis, I formed similar bonds with many of the staff.  I still remember when Kevin Swiontek would poke his head in my office nearly every morning with the same single worded question: “Coffee?” He’d usually accompany the query with a gesture of drinking a cup.  I would smile, grab my purse, and join the group that   also usually included my friends Claire Brosman and Kristi Gross as we walked across the street to Nordstrom’s coffee shop.  Somehow, we all needed those few moments of camaraderie at the start of our long days, just a short break to get a breath of fresh air and ask how everyone’s weekends went.  It brought us closer as friends and co-workers.  And if it was a good day, or perhaps a particularly bad day, I would treat myself to Nordstrom’s “old-fashioned” coffee cake, which was the closest confection I’ve ever had, before or since, to Karen’s wonderful cake.  This one was probably factory made, but still buttery, rich, and sweet with nuts and cinnamon.  So the same comfortable association lived on, even in another time and another city. Continue reading

A crazy year gone

As ever, Christmas has gone by in a flash.  Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and before you know it we’ll all be back at work.  For us, we’re enjoying the last few evenings spent by the fire with the tree still decorated, finishing off those last buttery cookies and smidge of Alaskan smoked salmon while starting to make our plans for 2013.

To be totally honest, I’m sort of glad the holidays are coming to a close.  This year has been tough for us, and the last month even moreso.  It will be nice to start with a clean slate.  The baby kicking in my belly is a constant reminder that things are again about to change, and the 3 year-old running around my house half-naked (we’re potty training :)) is evidence that nothing has stayed the same for long, anyway.

In honour of the changing times, here’s a little recap some of my favourite moments and successes of the last 12 months.

Raggedy Ann & Andy print quilt

Raggedy Ann & Andy print quilt and pillow

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Thoughts, Projects and Plans

 It’s been a while since I’ve blogged –  you may have noticed? – but to be perfectly honest, things have been fairly boring in our neck of the woods. :)  I haven’t been feeling 100% for several weeks now, and we’ve just sort of been getting on with the business of living day to day life.  No day trips, no special meals, no pictures even! 

Frank’s “Jack” O. Lantern from a few years back.

But now it is October.  The days have cooled significantly and the nights are darkening earlier.  All my friends in the US seem to be going pumpkin crazy on Pinterest and Facebook while I’m checking the stores daily for the big crates of fresh pumpkins they only bring in right before Halloween.  I didn’t have a garden this year, and I don’t know if pumpkins would have fared well anyway – the ones I grew last year rotted on the vine from all the rain.  So I’m dreaming of all the pumpkiny things I might try in the upcoming weeks.  I saw a recipe last night for pumpkin frozen yogurt made with Greek yogurt – maybe try?

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Old Stuff

Since I don’t have many interesting words to share, I’ll just share some recent pictures of what we’ve been up to.  Sorry for the low quality – they were taken on my phone.

First are some photos taken from the St. Mary’s Church of Ireland graveyard – the church is vacant for many years now but it seems the churchyard is still well kept and there are recent burials there in addition to very old ones.  The site itself is extremely historic in that it’s where Cromwell landed and first began his terrible trail of carnage in Drogheda back in 1649. It’s within eyeshot of Millmount Tower, which is rumored to have been built on ancient burial grounds.  As I said to Frank, if ever you were going to see a ghost in Drogheda, this would be the part of town to haunt!!!

A pool of water and forest of weeds on a neglected headstone in St. Mary’s Church of Ireland graveyard.

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Rites of passage

Saturday: Cream crackers, jelly and 7-up.

I’ve always dreaded the day when I’d have to be the parent of a child with a tummy bug, but I’m happy to report I think we’ve survived the worst and are still smiling. Whew.

Poor little Evelyn has been getting sick – from both ends – since last night.  She is actually taking it quite well, aside from disliking the actual act of getting sick, and has been in great form all day. She’s chatting away at the moment, looking out the window in her bedroom and playing with her stuffed animals .

I know we have been really lucky in this regard, as Evelyn is over two years old and has never really been ill like this before.  But we’ve been doing fine, Frank included!  Lots of laundry, ugh.  But maybe I mind less because my primary concern is to make Evelyn feel better and let her know it’s OK that she’s not feeling well.  She definitely seems a bit embarrassed and grossed out herself.  “Reeeeally yucky!” she keeps saying. Nevertheless, this too is part of life, and we’ve now jumped a small hurdle in a lifetime of many more to come.

 In the meantime…

Sunday:  Frank’s Birthday.

Oops, didn’t really get to finish yesterday. I think I was going to say that in the meantime, Frank and I had to cancel our dinner plans so we could stay home with aforementioned sick child, which was actually OK because we were pretty beat.

Frank’s favourite dessert is Creme Brulee, so I decided to try to make a batch instead of birthday cake.  I was a little worried about it turning out (and I didn’t even get started on it until 7 pm), but I think in general it was a good first attempt. Funny, would you believe this is the first time I’ve ever used a real vanilla pod?  It was actually trickier than I figured – or maybe I just need to get better knives.  And I could only find 2 odd sized ramekins, so we had to make do with tea cups for the other servings.  I also do not own a blowtorch at the moment, so I had to grill the brulee part. Not perfect, actually a little burnt around the edges, but yum. Reminiscent of toasted marshmallows.

Happy Birthday, Frank!

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‘Best View’ Awards

Well, it’s year- end now and I’ve officially gone over 50,000 hits with this little blog of mine (17,000 of which come from the last year)! Woohoo! I know that’s not saying much – a lot of folks get that many hits in a day! But for me, who began this blog in 2008 as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, I’m blown away by that kind of readership. So, thank you!

As an additional thanks to the town in which I live, the lovely, quirky, medieval Drogheda, I’m going to share a list of my favourite shops, restaurants etc. from the village that gave me Frank and brought me here to begin with. So here they are, in no particular order – the “Best View Awards 2011″  from View From an Irish Back Yard. :)

Best Shopping
* These shops got the nod because they’re all doing something a little different than everywhere else in town, and they stand out for the quality, service and tenacity to keep going in a tough economy! I hope you’ll patronize them whenever you can.

1. Rouge Boutique I’ve mentioned them before, but Rouge still remains my favourite dress shop in town. In the last year they’ve been open, they’ve really fine-tuned the designers and products they sell, making sure their items are well-made, unique and reasonably priced. They have also just remodeled the premises, with a beautiful spa downstairs and a bigger clothing shop on the second floor.

Rouge Boutique, Laurence Street

2. The Crafty FoxI did a whole post devoted to this shop last year, but this does not disqualify it from inclusion on my list! I’m still a huge fan of The Crafty Fox.

3. Highlanes Gallery Gift Shop (Louth Craftmark)Things in this shop are a bit more pricey, but it’s because they’re bespoke creations from local artists. I am in love with the pottery here, as well as the fine knitted shawls and scarfs, felted hats and purses and, my favourite, some gorgeous embroidered silk mixed media paintings. Love.

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