About Me

My name is Christine. I'm a visual artist, musician, traditional storyteller, DV survivor, and have been a fulltime caregiver for an individual living with various diagnoses. After my marriage, I learned how to play various instruments, started exploring various means of creative expression, worked with at-risk teens/families, volunteered with the local crisis lines, participated in starting up a family resource center, completed my BA, furthered my studies towards becoming an art therapist, managed homes for adults living with disabilities, and facilitated therapeutic music/art sessions. I was doing everything I could so my children and I could have a brighter life, present and future. My physical health, however, continued to show evidence of too many chronic stressors over many decades. This blog is about my journey in discovering peace and better health by meeting life in the most basic and, in my opinion, the most rewarding of ways - by focusing on the riches of simplicity. If you're a new visitor to my blog, you might be interested in starting here: Finding the Riches.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I'm grateful to be living in a country with such a culturally-rich national radio station. CBC radio has, as on so many other occasions, been providing the background to our Christmas Eve day. And on this day, what could be better amidst playing with my grand-daughter, making fudge, and cutting out paper snowflakes than the likes of Handel's Messiah, Stuart McLean and the Vinylettes, and the perfect blend of traditional and not-so-traditional songs of the season? Thank-you, CBC, for being part of the tapestry of our lives.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making Holiday Memories

Simple living brings with it many gifts, the greatest being a natural continuum of appreciation.

As we distance ourselves from consumeristic trappings, the more our mind and soul are free to breathe, to see good, to create, to participate in our existence.

Each year I grow further away from the consumerism that polluted my life when my children were small. Each year I am aware of a greater degree of inner peace.

How are we celebrating the holidays? My son and I are purposefully doing one special thing each day in addition to our usual family time:

Paper snowflakes, nature photography walk, making fudge, picking up a "new" board game at the thrift shop then settling in for an afternoon of playing and popcorn, playing music at local residential homes/shelter/seniors' homes, repainting canvases, an afternoon of sketching memories from family life, a "kitchen experiments" day, learning to knit, a minimizing day of clearing out items that could be better used elsewhere, felting, a "downtown" photography day, making a cookie train, and a movie evening which was a gift from a friend. We did the movie evening last night and saw "Hugo" - an interesting film highlighting the works of Georges Méliès. ***My son has reminded me that we'd also decided that we'll be making a special treat in the kitchen every day!

We're aiming to go for a walk every day. We usually put any food cuttings/scraps into our  small compost bag on our deck but during the winter we put some out in our yard every day for the squirrel and birds. We've been watching the History of Canada on vhs tapes we found at the thrift shop - they have so much information that we're looking forward to watching bits of them frequently throughout the holidays. My grand-daughters will be stopping by to spend part of a day here and there, when I'm sure much teadollspuzzlesstories-
windowwatchingwaterplayingsnacking will take place. We're going to play Christmas lp's, now that I finally found an affordale record player ($15 at our thrift shop!), including one that's the same as one I had when I was a child. On Christmas morning, we're looking forward to enjoying a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, and mandarins before my son opens his stocking. At some point we'll walk over to one of the local residential homes for adults living with disabilities and we'll share some music. We haven't decided yet whether to have our Christmas dinner around noon or later in the day. We're also considering picking up some ice skates at the thrift shop and trying to stay upright on the local outdoor rink across the road from our house.

No malls, no shopping stresses. We're giving a few small gifts - some purchased at a couple of local shops within walking distance from our home, a few purchased online, and a few homemade.

A simple, peaceful Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Treats

Gluten-free, Casein-free

I was reminded this morning that there are folks looking for quick and easy gfcf holiday recipes. At our house, quick and easy is a favourite when it comes to treats. I've done quite a bit of experimenting with food to find what works for my son's needs as well as our finances. Here are some of our favourite sweets....

Melt bakers chocolate with a bit of natural honey to taste (I usually do 2 squares of chocolate and a dollop of honey that just covers the tip of a regular wooden spoon then add as needed. Don't overdo the honey though or you'll just end up with chocolate-honey soup. Add enough honey to "just" sweeten the chocolate)

 Drop by spoonful onto waxed or parchment paper and enjoy! These can be eaten as is OR wait til they're cool enough to roll into balls then dip them in chocolate and roll in hemp seed, coconut, crushed gfcf cereal, crushed nuts, cinnamon, or whatever else your heart desires.

Chocolate Cereal Drops
Melt whatever you usually use for melting chocolate. Because we're very careful with our shekels and have become used to eating few sweets, we can afford to purchase a nice bar of fair trade, high cocao, cane sugar chocolate for these. For the cereal, we use gfcf puffed millet or gfcf puffed rice (both of which we've been able to find on sale for 99cents a bag so stocked up). Gently stir cereal into melted chocolate and drop by spoonful. Try not to eat them all before they've set.

Potato Candy

Potato candy is very simple to make - and if you've never made it before, it's also an interesting process to observe. This has been a tradition in our family for generations.

Ingredients: Mashed potato, icing sugar, optional peanut butter, optional peppermint extract

Although the bulk of the food preparation in our home is gfcf, I do not purchase gfcf store products. I view them as being in the same category as any other boxed/ prepared/processed food. We have, however, occasionally received gfcf icing sugar from our food bank. I've also recently learned that icing sugar is just sugar and cornstarch blended together, so will be experimenting in the new year with cane sugar and gfcf cornstarch. All in all, we generally don't use sugar or icing sugar. Potato candy, however, requires the latter.

I use about 2 heaping tablespoons of mashed potato, then slowly continue sprinkling in icing sugar til I have a firm dough. This sounds simple enough, and it is, but if you're new to the world of potato candy, you'll likely be surprised or possibly even concerned when you first start adding the icing sugar and realize you have what looks to be a liquid mess in your bowl. What's happening is that the sugar is breaking down the starch in the potato. Bravely carry on.

Once the dough is ready, sprinkle some icing sugar onto waxed or parchment paper and place the dough onto the paper. Knead, adding more icing sugar as necessary. Once you think the dough is firm enough, roll it out into a rectangle, spread with peanut butter (or other nut butter), roll it up as you would for a jellyroll. Some folks then wrap the roll in waxed or parchment paper and refrigerate then slice. I just let mine sit for a bit on the table before cutting it into deliciously lovely little slices.

**Alternative 1: I usually put a couple of drops of peppermint extract into the palm of my hand then gently rub my hands together then knead the dough. If I forget, then I just gently rub my peppermint hands over the finished roll before slicing. The roll is good without the peppermint as well.

**Alternative 2: Instead of rolling dough out into a rectangle, just form small balls. These can be eaten as is or dipped in chocolate.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Felting and Fulling/Waulking

Silk, Bamboo, and Merino fibres felted with Manitoba Shetland and fulled

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Lake Winnipeg"
My first attempt at wet-felting a picture.
I'll be spending more time rolling this piece this afternoon.

It's been an interesting journey to wool. I'd been talking with a friend about how much I disliked using toxic products for paintings, particularly the varnish that provides the wonderful finish that I and my clients appreciate. I started investigating other options at our local paint shop. There are some eco-paints out there, some that may or may not contain arsenic and/or other not-so-desireables, but the price point is such that I'd have to change and severely limit my present process. Additionally, I couldn't find a responsibly-supportive varnish alternative. What started out as a wonderfully pleasant, soul-feeding experience of abstract expressionism was now becoming a cerebrally-bathed exercise. While all this way going on, I was continuing my weekly wanderings through our local thrift shop and realizing there were certain items that seemed to have a semi-permanent life on the shelves - doilies, bags of raw wool for quilts, pillowcases, etc. Every time I wandered by these items, my brain went into upcycling mode until one day I bought a bag of wool and went home to research. I was surprised to learn that wool has all those lovely benefits mentioned in a previos post, and was thrilled to think that I could become skilled at making pieces with such a natural and easily-sourced material. I've been looking into where I can find locally-produced roving, asking experienced felters about the likelihood of being able to use the thrift shop wool (my previous post tells the story of difficulties I've had with felting it), and building skills through researching online and trying my hand at felting something small every day. I'm hoping to be able to find a local alpaca farm that cleans and cards from its own alpacas. In the meantime, I'm also experimenting with basic felting/fulling of premade wool items. It feels so enriching to be working with wool.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Felting Soap, Roasting Chestnuts, Making Tutus

A few weeks ago during one of my frequent trips to our local thrift shop, I realized that there are often bags of batted wool (for using inside homemade blankets/quilts) sitting up on one of the shelves. Knowing that wool has all sorts of lovely benefits (anti-fungal, mildew-resistant, naturally warm, highly flame resistant http://www.duofiberworks.com/journal/2010/12/30/super-non-scientific-fire-testing-felted-wool.html, etc.), I bought one of the bags, brought it home, and starting researching wool projects online. I soon stumbled across a myriad of information about felting and fulling wool, and decided that felting soap would be a good introductory lesson.  I won't include the "how to" on this blog, since there is already so much information available online and mine would just be repetitive. My first two attempts at wet felting look like more or less like tiny, woolly sheep bodies without any evidence of the wool felting to/over the soap bar. I sought out some help from folks at a wool shop. Yes, I'd used a textured mat. Yes, I'd used hot water. After a few more minutes of discussion, I left with some of the shop's roving. My third attempt showed some evidence of felting but was horrendously bulky. The blue/pink bar below was my fourth attempt - still learning!

And, using less wool and using a nylon produce bag, I finally figured it out! The photos below show both sides of the successfully-felted bars of soap. As you can see, the bar in the middle is larger/bulkier than the others.
I tried again with the thrift shop wool but to no avail. Lesson learned - figure out some other creative use for the wool bats.

We came upon some chestnuts at a local store a couple of weeks ago and bought a few to try them out. Having never actually eaten them before (other than their cousins, canned water chestnuts), I read a couple of websites then soaked the nuts, sliced an "X" across their flat sides, and put them onto a pan and into the oven at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. I  was less than enthused at first, but popped them back into the oven for another 5 or 6 minutes and tried them again. The added time produced a nuttier/starchier, sweeter flavour.
They didn't stay in the basket very long.

With two little granddaughters, I decided fairy skirts would be a suitable gift for each one. When I went over to the fabric store to price them out, I realized I'd be spending close to $40. per skirt to get the fullness I wanted. Hmmm, back to the drawing board. When I went to the thrift shop later that day, I was happy to discover some mosquito netting for $8! As you can see, this one isn't quite finished yet (the netting has taken more cutting time than I'd anticipated), but is turning out quite nicely.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

December 6, 1989

In Memory....

~Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
~Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
~Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
~Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
~Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
~Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
~Maryse Laganière (born 1964), staff member of École Polytechnique
~Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
~Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
~Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
~Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
~Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
~Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student