Monday, January 31, 2011

January Update, February Goals

I didn't go for a run after work today, even though I planned to. I had a long meeting, then some other small frustrations. I stayed a little late. I didn't get to half of my to-do list.

I came home and cuddled with Boyfriend a bit. We watched kitten videos on youtube. Then, feeling somewhat restored, I made the best spaghetti sauce I have ever made. I'm kind of a novice with sauces, so this may not rock your world, but it was pretty good, so I'll include the recipe below.

What's my point? If I'd forced myself to run today I would have met my goal of 15 runs in January. I accepted that today it wasn't in the stars, and moved on. The whole reason I'm doing these month-by-month resolutions is so that I have 12 chances to pick myself up and start all over again.

So, here's the January results:

1. Run 15 times. Nope. See above. But I ran 14 times, which is pretty good. I like the technique of getting my shoes on and running for 5 minutes. There was only once I did that and actually stopped after 5 minutes. All the other times I kept going.

2. Stick to January's budget: Yes! I think. I actually managed to lose the lovely budget I typed up for myself, but the bills were all paid, spending was tracked, and there's leftovers. So I passed this one.

3. Fold the laundry right out of the dryer. Um.....

Not exactly.

This was a total fail. The only load I got folded and put away the day I washed it was a load of towels. The first load of clothes I folded and left in the basket for two weeks. The above load I completely abandoned. But! In my defense, we watched the episode of "I, Claudius" where Caligula was assassinated on the anniversary of the event. That would not have been possible if I were folding laundry.


4. Study French. Sort of! The first two classes were canceled due to weather and the instructor's illness. So I've only been to one class so far. But I've practiced. Je m'appelle Emily.

So, not really a stellar start to the month, but not a bad one either. I'll call it a pass.


New goals for February:

1. Run 14 times. It's the same number of runs as January, but with fewer days it's a bigger challenge.

1(a) In keeping with fitness, Boyfriend and I have started the 100 pushups challenge ( so, I resolve to keep that up.

2. Stick to the February budget. Much tighter than January (I'm going on a trip this spring!) and I've got a few birthday presents to buy. We'll see.

3. Fold the GD laundry. Roman emperors be damned.

4. Study French, for real this time.

Wish me luck!

Kind of a rough but not really a bad day spaghetti sauce

Olive oil
3 small onions
2 cloves garlic
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 can (750ml) pureed tomatoes
t1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.

Heat olive oil in large, deep skillet. Slice onions and brown them in the oil. Add garlic, cook for a couple of minutes, add red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes and the vinegar. Simmer about 20 minutes or so.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Women's Work

Have I told you about the exhibit?

I probably have, it’s all I talked about for several months last fall. But then, maybe I didn’t. I don’t like to talk about work in this space. I don’t feel it’s appropriate.

Anyway, last fall I had the privilege to work on an exhibit. It was a photographic website on the daily lives of women in rural Newfoundland prior to confederation.

It was a lot more work than I expected, but not nearly the kind of work that the women I was representing had done.

Do you know what’s involved in “making fish”? I do now. This is what women would do with the fish that the men brought in before it could be sold. It had to be washed, salted and dried many times over. We are talking literal tons of fish here. Washed, salted, and spread out to dry. Many times. I know I’m repeating myself here, but it’s important. One thing that had never occurred to me about this process: if there was any sign of rain, the fish had to be brought in before it happened, then spread out again after.

In case you’re not familiar with Newfoundland weather, this is the part where a chill goes down your spine.

Basically, this would be all day, six days a week, of backbreaking labour. Labour that had to be performed perfectly, as it was the backbone of the family finances.

But that’s not all!

During the fishing season, the family would eat five meals a day. The first breakfast around 4am, as the men had to be on the water by dawn. Then a second breakfast a few hours later. The largest meal of the day was at midday, then at 5 there would be a light supper, followed by lunch before bed. All of these were cooked and served by the women of the family. Newfoundland families from this time often had 8 or more children, which was helpful for the hands with work, but made for more mouths to feed, not to mention more laundry.

But let’s just stick with the feeding for now. In the communities this exhibit examines, there were few stores. Women could buy flour, oats, tea, tobacco and molasses, but often not a whole lot else. (Especially if the fishing was poor). Women baked bread and prepared all meals from scratch. The majority of their ingredients they had to provide for themselves as well.

Most houses had a vegetable patch, but gardening is hard in Newfoundland. In most areas the topsoil is very thin, and what there is is highly acidic. Also, there can be frosts in June and September, so the growing season is very short. Women would lay out caplin to rot in the sun and fertilize the soil. The vegetables that were grown in these patches would be the only ones their families would get. The berries picked up from the barrens the only fruit.

One thing that sticks with me from my research is an oral interview that was done with an elderly woman years ago. She had been born in the late 1890s and had been interviewed in the early 80s. She was describing her housework and said, “When I had a spell, I’d do some weeding.” What she meant, was that she weeded as a break from work.

Personally, I consider weeding to be work.

I won’t even get into the cleaning, the laundry, the knitting and sewing, childrearing, teaching, healing, etc.

My point is that women worked hard. They have for millennia, all over the globe. I’m sure in the world now there are women who have similar lifestyles.

I work 40 hours a week in an ergonomic chair in a climate controlled environment, where I have full benefits and rights and have never encountered any kind of discrimination, then I come home to my 21st century partner, electric stove and washing machine, and do pretty much whatever I feel like. Because I can.

But I do bake bread. And I grow vegetables. I cook dinner. I crochet blankets. I don’t have to do these things, but I choose to. Whenever I push my fists into warm dough, I know that my grandmothers did this, and their grandmothers. So on and again for a thousand years, on this side of the ocean and the other.

I don’t have to do these things, but a little ache in my shoulders and some slightly sore feet remind me of where I’ve come from. They give me a sense of connection and continuity with the past. And remind me to be grateful for all the advantages I have now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


For various reasons, I didn't go ahead with a planned post for my favourite albums of the year, but I just couldn't let 2010 slip away completely without mentioning this one. It's amazing. Brilliant. Thrilling, even. I listened to it nearly every day since I got it last spring. I listened to it while I worked, I listened to it while I cooked and cleaned. I listened to it when I walked to meet my best friend on her wedding day. I listened to it while I prepared for my New Year's guests. I listened to it this morning while I nursed my hangover. This album will forever be 2010 to me.

Onwards to 2011. I was thinking long and hard about my new years resolutions. I love resolutions. The word sounds so strong and stalwart, and opportunities to improve myself, to challenge myself are always exciting. I'm not great at keeping New Year's resolutions, however. 12 months is a long time, and it's hard to predict how your needs will change.

So this year, I resolve to make monthly resolutions. The first of every month I'll start with a few resolutions for the month ahead. I'll take stock of how I did the month previous and what I need in the month to come.

So, without further ado:

January Resolutions

1. Run 15 times. 2010 was not a good year for my fitness. I kept a half-hearted workout routine going, but I was no where near competition. I pretty much embarrassed myself at the one race I ran. Then, a few months ago I realized that my sporadic running (along with a few other factors) had resulted in an injury. My physiotherapist had me stop running entirely for a couple of months, and it sucked. It also strengthened my resolve. Now that I have his ok, I need to make running a part of my lifestyle again. But I'm out of shape and not sure how well I can do. So instead of setting a goal for distance or time, I'm just going to commit to pulling on my running shoes half the days of the month.

2. Stick to the January Budget: Like I said above, 12 months is a long time. As it's impossible to predict what my needs will be that far in advance, I'm going to do month by month budgets.

3. Have the house as clean on February 1st. as it was today. Boyfriend and I get pretty slack with the cleaning, honestly. Yesterday we scrubbed from top to bottom, and it looks fantastic. Except for some dirty dishes it was nearly as clean today. I'm going to try to do that again.

3.(a) Fold my laundry and put it away. I have a terrible tendency to leave my clean laundry heaped in a basket unfolded, and just haul things out as needed. It's not a good system. In January, I'm going to try to stop that.

4. Study French. I don't know French, at all. Can you believe it? It's so embarrassing. I took French until 9th grade, but due to lax teachers I didn't learn much. I opted out in Highschool, and in University I studied Latin and German instead. I start French classes on January 13th, and I'm going to make a real go of it this time.

There are my four for January. Wish me luck, I'll let you know how it goes.