Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reflections

Bush Babe challenged her readers to find some "reflections in your world" so of course, not being able to resist a challenge, I went off to rummage about in my files to look. Here's what I came up with.

A leaf in my garden...
The bumper on our boat...
The local pond in the fall...

The ferry mirror, on the way to the cottage...

A duck in Sackville's Waterfowl park...

Two ducks near my house one very foggy morning...


My husband gassing up the car. Well, it's one way he gasses up the car...

Don't forget, I have to choose 3 photos for my camera club, so if you haven't weighed in on my WINTER theme entries, please have a look at the post below this one and leave a comment.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Photo Competition

Okay, so my local camera club is having another competition. I never win nor do I even place, so entering is not about that. It's just fun to take part and learn from the critiques, and even examine the photos on a big screen as opposed to a laptop. My only goal is not to humiliate myself and I haven't, with the exception of a really bad slide show that made me look like a total doofus. (The slide show was not exactly my fault although I was warned that the program I used would degrade the slide quality significantly which one couldn't fully appreciate until it was on a giant 20 foot screen. Oh, quelle horreur. I wanted to slide under my chair but I knew I wouldn't fit, rendering further humiliation....) Mostly I just slip by in the middle of the pack, and never has 'average' been so desirable.

Oh, hang on a tick. I just remembered the first time I submitted something in the nature competition which is technically supposed to include all plants and all animals, and all correctly identified, sometimes using the Latin name and showing the animal in its natural environment. I later learned it's heavy on the animals, mostly birds. Rare birds. Snapped by photographers who travel great distances, get up before dawn and wait for hours, nay days in specially constructed blinds, in order to get one perfect shot. I did not know this. I submitted 3 photos.

I was horrified when the slide show began and the first photo was of two warring hippos, water arching above their open mouths, then the second slide was of a graceful leopard on the savannah, the sun artfully lighting its lithe body, then another was of a rare bird (correctly identified in Latin) gently alighting on a branch, each feather exquisitely outlined. Then came my contributions.

I had one photo I called "weed with water drops" and the second was "pine buds" then my piece de resistance, "red squirrel." These were followed by someone's photo of a cheetah mother and three babies that looked like it came out of National Geographic and on and on in that vein. Still, I remain committed.

Mostly I submit photos because my friend Brenda guilts me into it encourages my participation and, I suppose, is a born optimist.

I usually run my short list past her because I value her opinion as a photographer and it's hard to judge one's own photographs and really see what works, but I don't want to keep pestering her. Plus she reads my blog so if she wants to jump in and comment, she will, and if not, she can find someone else to sit with at the meetings.

This is what the website says about the judging:

The first score is awarded for the application of image making skills such as: appropriate exposure, focus, sharpness, depth-of-field, and composition. The second score addresses the actual content or value of the image; some may prefer to think of this simply as impact. For theme competitions the score measures how well the judges think that the image interprets the theme.

So with that in mind, I'm going to post my short list for the next competition.

The theme is WINTER. I need to choose 3 photos. Tell me in the comments section which 3 are your favourites and I'll be eternally grateful. Well, maybe not eternally, but definitely for a few days, maybe even a week.

One:
Two:
Three:
Four:
Five:
Six:
Seven:
Eight:
I know there are two with the red doors, but they're cropped differently.

So, which three would you choose?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeping the devil at bay...

...by keeping the hands...not idle. Or something like that.

New knitting strategy. (I typed in "stragedy" at first, and realized that's a good word for "when one's knitting game plan goes horribly wrong." It's a stragedy.)

Or a knit-mare.

Or a castastrophe.

Or a calamknitty.

In order to stop wanton yarn wastage of my good stuff like the chunky baby alpaca (which is only shorn from the baby alpaca once, hence the rather steep price. After that, it's shorn from the tired mangy old mama alpaca who isn't as soft and bouncy as she was in her early years, which is hardly her fault owing to the copious amount of child-rearing she had to do. But I digress...) I am experimenting with teensy cotton squares that I can then put to practical purpose.

I decided to try a simple cotton dishcloth. This would allow me to practice and work on technique. And I like having something to do when watching TV. So I popped in to this funky little yarn shop called ARIADNE after my dental appointment yesterday and bought a bright little Granny Apple Green ball of cotton yarn, just to try it.


One relaxed evening of garter stitches later and mission accomplished. Never has one been so proud of a simple knit square.

Squarish... But now I think it's so pretty, I don't want to use it to wipe up goop from the kitchen counter, thus defeating its purpose. Gah.

You have my permission to hang me with my own scarf should I progress to acrylic Kleenex box covers.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More yarns

Know what this is?

I'll give you a hint. It goes around and around and it produces this:

Speaking of which, this just arrived in the mail in time for my next project. A project that has yet to be determined. But I saw this and had to have it. Resistance is futile when it comes to fibres.

Doesn't it remind you of a beach at dusk? The colour is officially called "Twilight" and it's the same Slubby Blue Leicester yarn from Fleece Artists I used for my last scarf.

So I'm thinking, in order to support my habit, I'm going to have to use this. (Boris can't figure out why it's outside. He's confused. But then he spied a piece of wool hanging down and jumped on it. Once. Then he got tired. He's not a very active cat anymore. If he were a piece of furniture, he'd be a Lazy Boy. Or a chaise longue. Or an overstuffed ottoman. Or a bean bag chair.)

I learned how to use it some many years ago. Then I stopped because I had umpteen children in five years. Then the umpteens grew up and needed me less (unless they want me to make them lasagna or one of my soups or they need a button sewn on) so I might take up spinning again, since yarn that someone else has spun and dyed is very expensive. My time is cheap. Bargain basement cheap.

It is a lovely little piece of equipment, innit? Don't look at the dust. Actually, that's not dust, that's patina. This spinning wheel is elderly (the date carved into the end is 1891) but it still works really well.

One might even call it the Jack Rabbit Johanssen of spinning wheels.

My sister bought this (below) for me at an auction last weekend (here's a photo she took with her phone.)

Who needs a niddy noddy when you can have your own weasel?

As in pop goes the.

It is used to gather spun yarn into skeins.

Now I have to hie myself to Toronto to pick it up. I don't mind. Staying with my sister is like staying at a fine hotel.

Make up the spare bed and throw in a batch of cookies woman 'cause I'm a comin' to pick up my weasel.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear

A new project.


I'm a sucker for chunky baby alpaca. It's a grassy green with a hint of sunny yellow. No, I don't long for spring? Who me?

After several rocky starts which involved pulling it out and starting over (and over and over) I decided not to do knit 2, purl 2, and do knit 4 purl 4 instead. For some reason, that's easier for my brain to handle. But now it's starting to ripple and look at bit too sweatery for a scarf. I think the ribs are too fat. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard that....)

Maybe I should go back to knit 2 purl 2. Arg. Maybe Youngest, the resident expert, will chime in here. Thoughts? Is this going to work for a scarf?


In other news, I'm headed for a colonoscopy consult tomorrow. I plan on making a case for why he does not need to go spelunking in my colon. Fie, I say. Who cares what the studies say?

I don't want him to go to there.

Wish me luck. Specialists aren't known for their willingness to barter or negotiate terms.

We're also expecting torrential rain. Gee, maybe I could throw in a root canal while I'm at it.

At least I have this Laughology lecture to look forward to. It guarantees "you'll laugh your ass off, literally."

If that's true, then my colonoscopy will definitely be moot.

Friday, January 22, 2010

8 is more than enough

I was 'tagged' by Bush Babe to list 8 sets of 8 things about me. I don't usually do these sorts of lists (they hurt my brain) but I will, for BB and Debby, even though I suspect it's not all that interesting to anyone.

Here goes.

8 lots of 8 things about A Novel Woman:

8 TV shows I watch
1. Amazing Race (hopelessly addicted)
2. American Idol (I hate it when they make fun of people but love the competition part)
3. Glee (my current, absolute favourite show)
4. Antiques Roadshow (totally, hopelessly addicted to the British version)
5. The Office (love the British version and the American one. Apples and oranges.)
6. Mad Men (ooh, baby, it doesn't get better than this. No wait. Glee does.)
7. Oprah (Habit. While I make dinner. My first child & her show were born the same time.)
8. Masterpiece Theatre (Go Little Dorrit!)

May I say for the record how much I miss ER? I also miss Upstairs/Downstairs. And The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And I Love Lucy. What? They're classics.

8 favorite places to eat and drink
1. Screened-in porch at the cottage (my absolute favourite place, bar none)
2. My husband's cousin's cottage down the road - there is always "deck dancing" after dinner
3. La Belle Province (sounds fancy, but it's hotdogs and poutine)
4. La Poilane bakery in Paris - best apple tart I've ever tasted
5. Saint Hubert BBQ chicken (What? I like their chicken)
6. Restaurant Decca 77 (if we want fancy or, say, before a John Mayer concert)
7. Duke's Restaurant and Barefoot Bar in Honolulu (oh, be still my heart)
8. Pret a Manger in London, UK (the best fast food restaurants on the planet and if I had a magic teletransporter that could take me anywhere instantly, I'd eat there every day. Beam me up.)

8 things I look forward to:
1. Watching my children find their places in the world.
2. Grandchildren (just not yet).
3. Traveling with my husband to Italy ( it's our 25th anniversary this year, so who knows?)
4. Going to Vegas with my sisters someday.
5. Publishing a book and holding it in my hands.
6. Feeling comfortable in my own skin.
7. Spring at the cottage and the ice going out on the lake.
8. Guinness and pizza on Friday nights. I'm a simple woman with simple needs.

8 things I love about winter:
1. A cozy spot by the fire in our family room.
2. Catching up on reading.
3. The way the afternoon light bounces off the snow and lights up the house.
4. No worries about squirrels, flooded basements or wolf spiders.
5. I bake and cook more often so the house smells gooood.
6. Sweaters. They cover a lot of sins, baby.
7. I write more during the winter.
8. Carbs. They get me through. (See: sweaters)

8 things on my wish list:
1. Buy a flat in London (Honest. It's on the top of my list)
2. Go to India, Italy, Thailand, France, Australia (not necessarily in that order)
3. Get rid of all the clutter in my house and Keep It Out
4. To see my husband enjoy more free time. He so deserves it.
5. A big red pickup truck
6. Drive alone across Canada, from sea to sea
7. To walk or cycle from Land's End to John O'Groats
8. Take a whisky tour across Scotland (maybe as I do #7)

(World peace is a given, okay?)

8 things I am passionate about
1. Good food, organic and GMO-free
2. Ethics, whether it's farming or politics or fair trade or friendships
3. The written word
4. Photography
5. Anything crafted by hand (well, maybe not crocheted Kleenex holders)
6. Movies (I love movies)
7. Traveling
8. Living life to the fullest, guilt-free and without apologies

8 things I have learned from the past
1. Self-reliance is the first step on the path to finding happiness with another person.
2. If your gut says something ain't right, it ain't right.
3. Don't gossip. If someone shares gossip with you, they will eventually gossip about you.
4. There are two sides to every coin and every story.
5. Home has nothing to do with where you live, but who you live with.
6. There are no good squirrels.
7. Believe in truth, and practice it every day.
8. Always root for the underdogs. They never disappoint.

8 things I want/need (this is tough, because I don't really need or want anything, but since you're making me list something, I guess I'll go with....)

1. Glenmorangie Lasanta (want)
2. Chunky baby alpaca yarn, creamy white (want)
3. A new light bulb for my sewing machine (need)
4. An antique, functional yarn winder or "weasel" (Yutha, are you listening?)
5. A grand piano (dream on McDuff)
6. New dishes. My willow patterned ones have chips and dings all over them.
7. A clutter-free house (double dream on)
8. My own trained falcon with a taste for squirrels (want, need, must have)

8 people I want to tag

I won't tag anyone else, but if someone WANTS to do it, leave a link in the comments.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Your But Is Too Big

No, not that kind of butt.


I mean the kind of "but" that slows you down and prevents you from reaching your full potential.

To all those writers out there who need a bit of inspiration, get off your butts and check out Nathan Branford's guest blogger Jon Gibb and what he has to say about Writers' Buts.

Antiques Roadshow

I love watching Antiques Roadshow, particularly the British edition. The people who bring in their family treasures are always so low-key. I saw this a few nights ago. It doesn't get better than this.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/video/2008/may/06/bbc.hd




And fellow writers and readers will appreciate this find:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In case you wondered what an angora rabbit looks like and were afraid to ask


This, my friends, is an angora rabbit. We all have days when we feel like this, no? They are raised for their fine angora coats and to give other rabbits a fit of the giggles.

The lady who hosted those spinning lessons I told you about kept these rabbits in her garage, right beside the stone grinder she used to grind her own wheat into flour which she used in her bread that (oh yes, I do not lie) she Baked Every Day.

Back to the rabbits...

Despite their cute and fluffy appearance, her wascally wabbits were wild and wooly in the truest sense. They struggled and bit her like rabid vampires when she brushed them. In all fairness to the bunny, wouldn't you if you looked like this and someone tried to brush you? But she seemed to think it was worth the effort and I had to sort of agree after I fondled one of her lacy scarves made of an angora/silk mix. What was that? Silk, I hear you say. Why, wherever did she get raw silk to spin?

Yes, the same woman who raised the hairy bunnies and ground her own wheat berries also raised silk worms in her basement.

Here is a silk worm. Not nearly as cuddly as the bunny, but these don't bite and scratch.

You do, however, have to get past the ick factor. I don't mind. I'll take worms over rabbits any day. We had a rabbit as a pet when the kids were young which we dubbed The Killer Bunny. If you're familiar with Monty Python skits, you'll know what I'm talking about. We were assured by the pet store guy that it was a male and very cuddly but it turned out to be high strung and totally irrational and unpredictable in its behavior. I wouldn't have thought there could be so much energy in such a tiny, furry little body, but this rabbit scared the bejeezus out of me.

There was no way anyone could even stroke it, let alone hold it. (An aside: I just asked Eldest in the other room, "What was the name of our bunny?" and she said, "You mean Killer Bunny? The Monty Python Bunny? Did it even have a name?")

In order to change its cage, I had to lock myself with the rabbit in a closed room. I dressed in a long, thick winter coat, and my husband's leather work gloves as Bunny had a tendency to leap from the ground, bite a leg and retreat. Did you read that? It could, and did, Leap From The Ground and bite our legs.

The last straw for me (like biting my leg wasn't enough) was when I gently picked it up to put it back in its cage, and it screamed in a pitch so high and unearthly that all the hairs on my body stood on end. It was like receiving an electric shock. I didn't think rabbits could even made that sound. The kids' science teacher offered to take it, and shortly thereafter, the "boy" bunny gave birth to a bunch of baby bunnies, which explained the crazy behavior according to the eejit clerk at the pet store. Anyway, the Mommy Bunny, post-natal, calmed right down and lived happily ever after, and I said goodbye to rabbits forever, unless they come in the form of hassenpfeffer.

So back to the silkworms. These are the cocoons from which the silk is unraveled and spun.

Cool silkworm factoids:

Fact: The only thing silk worms eat is mulberry leaves. Fact: My next door neighbour has two mulberry bushes in her front yard. Food for thought. And for silk worms.

Fact: Unlike spiders, the silk comes out of the silkworm's mouth, and the silk is actually hardened saliva. Fact: That fashionable silk blouse is made of worm spit.

Fact: The silkworm moves its head in a figure 8 patterns as it produces the silk. Fact: Not 7, and never 9 or 2.

Fact: Each silk worm cocoon, about 2 inches long, produces one unbroken strand of silk about a mile long. Fact: This is about how long my weekly grocery bags would be if you lined them up, end to end.

Fact: It takes 1,000 cocoons to produce about 4 ounces of raw silk. Fact: This is enough for one shirt. No seriously. It's enough for one shirt. And it takes 2,000 for one dress.

Right now I can drive to the wool shop down the road and just pick up some silk worms someone else raised. But I'm thinking there might be room in my house for a few.

How hard could it be? It's got to be easier than goats or llamas or little bunny rabbits.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spinning yarns. It's what I do...

...in one form or another, it would seem. And when I need to take a break from writing, to clear my head or, paradoxically, to fill it up again with imagined plots and characters, I look to two things - a walk in the woods with my ever-present Budster, or a hobby that incorporates some sort of repetitive action like quilting or needlepoint or knitting. If any of you have spent any time in Montreal in January, you know it means I'm more likely to choose the latter. I prefer doing the background bits of a project because there's no thinking or following a pattern involved, so it allows my imagination the freedom it needs to run rampant and perform the mental equivalent of jumping up and down on the bed. (Isn't 'rampant' a great word? Makes me think of rumpus room.)

I've been emailing a couple of friends who share my fibre addiction, and we've been comparing notes and tips on where to buy wool. That's the thing with yarn or fabric or any sort of textile based hobby - it's like heroin. Yarn heroin. Yaroin. You convince yourself you're just going to try it, you know just to see what it's like, just the once, because all the other cool soccer moms kids are doing it. Sure enough, after the first hit scarf, you're hooked like a rug.

One of my yarn buddies said she'd like to take up spinning (with roving, not those exercise bikes <shudder>) and I'm reminded of the brief time I joined a spinners and weavers guild to learn how to spin wool.

I purchased my wheel around 20 years ago in a Prince Edward Island antique store, and it has mostly served as a decorative item ever since (and let me just add, it's a son of a gun to dust. Yes, I dust. Occasionally. In years with the number nine in them.) This was way back when we'd drive across the country on vacation with our three young kids in the back of the van armed with crackers, juice and Raffi tapes. (Tangent Alert: I could recite this whole song in a heartbeat, and so could my grown children. It brings me right back to that battered old van.):




Anyway, after dickering and haggling over this spinning wheel with one Dave Jardine for hours, (a whole other story, ending with grins and handshakes all round, and Dave treating me and my husband for lunch) I wanted to learn how to use it and so I joined this guild with that goal in mind. Little did I know that this group consisted mainly of robust German women with strong opinions on everything from spinning wool to raising children (a lot of discipline for both, as I recall.) Some of them were delightfully warm and kind, while others were absolute tyrants. As a woman with a more liberal, laissez-faire attitude in general I was a poor fit but I persevered because all of them were very talented.

Honestly, I believe most of these women really meant well, but unlike the pound cakes and cookies, their advice was sometimes delivered not on a silver plate but with a ball-peen hammer to the side of the head. An innocent remark would bring enlightenment in the form of a swift rebuke. I remember asking one of them about angora. "Are you schtupid? It comes from rabbits, not goats. Goats make mohair." Schtupid?! Oh no, she di'hint. But resistance was futile. I learned to stay silent and observe like Elmer Fudd advised.

The clincher for me was when one of them decided my spinning wheel was "too dirty" from the 100+ years accumulation of lanolin on the inside of the wheel. She went rummaging around the host's kitchen looking for rags, then returned and put her FOOT on the fragile structure and started pulling on it. She was met with resistance, both the creaking wood and my weak protests that perhaps it might break, but she kept twisting and grunted through her clenched teeth, "Yah, it might, and then you'll have to find a good vood-vorker to carve you a new one because they don't make these anymore, but at least it vill be clean." Two other members finally, literally, pulled the woman off, and I decided that was enough spinning guild for me. Relaxing, it was not.

But who knows? I could take it up again, this time on my own, maybe with YouTube as my guide, and I could be spinning circles around you before you can say angora goat. I mean, rabbit.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti




It's hard to think of anything else today. We have a huge Haitian population here in Montreal, the largest in the country. Michaƫlle Jean, Canada's eloquent and polished Governor General was born in Port-au-Prince, and it was really difficult to watch her struggle to retain her composure during a press conference when she spoke of her many family members there. There are thousands of Canadians working and volunteering in Haiti, people like Sgt. Mark Gallagher from New Brunswick who is working as a mentor for local police and Doug Coates of Ottawa, acting commissioner of a UN mission, both of whom are missing as well as countless other RCMP officers and doctors and volunteers. Some reports say every single building in the capital of Port-au-Prince has been damaged or destroyed.

There is very little potable water for the survivors. There is not enough equipment to find people who are trapped, medical supplies are already used up, and time is running out.

It's hard to know what to do besides making a cash donation. The federal government will match Canadians' donations dollar for dollar. We've chosen the Canadian Red Cross.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has put together a guide HOW CANADIANS CAN HELP and it lists reputable charities and ways to avoid scams.

I can't even turn on the faucet for a glass of water without thinking of the people in Haiti.

Go HERE for a list of links to Canadian organizations who provide financial assistance to Haiti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Finished!

From this:
to this:Warm, soft, heavy, woolen goodness around my neck. It makes me want to jump around like Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY after he figures out how to make fire. Now I need another project. I'm bereft of the tactile pleasure that comes with a knitting project on the go.

Youngest, what hast thou wrought?! Thou hast created a yarn monster....

I have ordered more yarn, this time in rich blues.

Oy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wheaten Bread or Irish Soda Bread

I promised to post a recipe for a non-yeast quick bread and this is one of my favourites. It's really easy to make, and it goes well with soup or stew. It's delicious the next day with butter and jam. It freezes well, too.

My original recipe, which was handed down from my grandmother, called for lard. I don't use lard, so I substituted butter. And I boosted the whole wheat flour/white flour ratio to give it added fibre. And I cut the salt in half.

So basically, this is now my recipe. But I do give a nod to my Nana.

It is idiot proof. Honest.

2 1/2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (I use organic, stone ground)
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cold butter
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients in a big bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter.

(I suppose you could put it in a food processor, but I like to work on my upper arms so I cut it in by hand. It's my way of incorporating aerobics into my daily routine. Then I eat fresh hot bread with butter. Yes, I see the irony.)

Once the butter is the size of tiny peas, add the buttermilk and mix lightly. Turn the whole thing onto a heavily floured board and knead it lightly, about 10 times. Form it into a big ball and place it on a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet, or if you don't have parchment just grease a cookie sheet.

Make a cross on top of the dough with a sharp knife, almost to the bottom of the bread. This is important. It won't taste the same without the cross. Honest.

Bake at 350F for one hour or until brown and it sounds hollow when tapped. When it has cooled a bit and if you live with a) a lot of men, or b) teenagers, then carve a big chunk and hide it so you'll have a piece for your breakfast the next day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

To My Mother-In-Law, on her birthday


My mother-in-law turns 80 today. We celebrated last night with dinner at a restaurant in Old Montreal. We were snug and cosy within its thick stone walls and heavy beams and soft lights. The building was used as a stable almost 300 years ago by the Sisters of Charity or Grey Nuns, and is situated near the original Huron settlement of Hochelaga, discovered by explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535 and Samuel Champlain in 1641. I sat quietly, steeped in the history of this place, and looked out onto the courtyard filled with snow and twinkling lights, happy and blessed to be surrounded by the large family I married into 25 years ago.

We sat with as many family members as could make it. Some were away at university, and some live out of town, but most of us live within a few minutes of each other and so we came together last night to celebrate this incredible mother of five. Her ten grandchildren refer to each other collectively as The Cousins. Whenever an event is planned, the first question is always, "Are The Cousins going to be there?" They grew up together, played sports together, vacationed and double-dated and laughed and cried together. As their parents, we shared advice and babysitting and recipes and seats on the sidelines of soccer or hockey games. Through the ups and downs of life, we've been there for each other.

And so we wanted to celebrate the matriarch of this wonderful family, and with my husband's permission, here is what he read to his mother at dinner last night.

Dear Mother on Your Birthday,

So often the important things go unsaid. That is to say, we take for granted our thoughts and feelings and assume we are understood by those who are near and dear to us. Tonight, we want to collectively say to you Mother, on your 80th birthday, that we love you.

We have all held you dearly in our hearts each and every day, and we carry the best of you with us. By this I mean that those minutes, hours, days, months and years of care, advice, love and affection did not go wasted or unappreciated.

Your gift of unconditional love and support allowed us to enter forth into the world with joy, optimisim, kindness, affection for others, confidence and a sense of well-being, You have a successful marriage with a good man who loves you, and who was a good moral guide for us. I feel blessed by the experiences of my youth with my brothers, sister and my parents. I attribute my success in life to my family experiences. Thank you.

When I look at the table today, I see the fruit of your endeavors in the world of parenting. I see successful people and many budding successes, your grandchildren, with the youthful energy we all once had. I commend you on your most successful achievement, your family, which is your legacy.

All of us, your children, have had our challenges through out lives. Sometimes there have been tough days. We all have a sense though that we always have each other to count on. When the going gets tough, the family gets going. We all love and respect each other and will continue to alway care for, and help each other. This commitment comes from our own deep inner knowledge that we are safe, and have intrinsic value, and are loved no matter what.

This inner strength has allowed us to be attractive to others. Those of us who have chosen to marry have found love and life partnership to be very fulfilling and joyous. You have won the hearts of our spouses as well.

I also see that we have been able to pass this legacy on to our next generation which has learned through our closeness that family is important. The cousins are a band of brothers and sisters always meant to help and care for each other. They do so each and every day.

At age 80, you may wish to take stock of your life or consider the weight of your achievement in your days here on God's good green earth. What is the impact you have had, what is left behind? If the measure of success in this life is to be measured in the human capital of love, you are a very wealthy woman indeed. We can all assure you that we hold you only in the highest esteem and with love in our hearts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Well, looky looky what I did last night


Well, you can look but don't look too close. Yes, the Great Canadian Scarf is moving along at breakneck speed. I like the way the colours are snaking along like big fat stripes. It's hard to see from this photo which doesn't do justice to the rich rust and plum and rosie reds snuggling up to the soft indigo and heather. I'll try to photograph it in natural light. It's very, very soft and heavy, despite the (intentional, I assure you, more or less) holes.

I knit last night while watching TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. So many great moments in that movie, no? Of course the court scene is a standout with Atticus's Atticuses' Atticus' ATTICA ATTICA ATTICA!! Scout's Dad's closing arguments, or Scout walking through the woods dressed as a ham, or the scene early on where the lynch mob is turned away by a little girl's innocence. But the scene with Boo Radley hiding behind the door, and little Scout saying "Hey Boo" and the way he looks as her, with such love and tenderness. Then she holds his hand and walks him over to see her brother and says "You can pet him if you like."

And in other news, I made corn bread for the first time today.

It were good, it were. And easy peasy to make.

Why did I wait so long to try this? You don't need "my" recipe. It was on the Quaker Corn Meal box.



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I fought the yarn and the...yarn won.


KNOT
!

I will not admit defeat, certainly not at the hands of...well, my own hands.

New tactic. Switch to bigger knitting needles. Size 12mm actually, about the size of fence posts. My rationale for doing so is simple. Genius, actually.

One, it will knit up much quicker.

Two, I don't need my reading glasses to see it.

Three, it looks lacy and kind of rustic, which works due to the nature of this particular wool. I mean, it's near impossible to get uniform rows because this Leicester wool is spun to a thin bit of string here and a fat slub there (here a slub, there a slub, everywhere a slub slub) so why not go for a deliberately uneven look. It's like the new hairstyles we're seeing out of Hollywood - they're not messy, they're "tousled". My scarf is the new tousled.

Well, several rows have knit up quicker than the extra pounds on my hips after Christmas, so I'm pretty happy about that.

Never give up, never surrender!

What do you think? I'm kind of digging it.

Knitting is NOT the boss of me

Haven't given up yet. No ball of wool is going to order me around, no sir. You guys are so supportive and kind and have offered some really helpful suggestions so I don't want to let you down. So if I can find the knitting needles out of the snowbank in the back yard, I will keep knitting, I promise!

I was unable to sleep last night for some reason, and I never have problems sleeping, but I was wide awake until 2:30 a.m. I thought hey, a bit of knitting is probably the best soporific around (having no chamomile tea or drugs or the latest copy of Dentists 'R Us magazine to lull me into unconsciousness.)

While Fred the Beta Fish looked on, I tried yet again.

The more rows I lashed onto my needles (with my clever new knit one row purl one row technique) the more it started curling up onto my hands like a Keswick gal's bangs on prom night. I thought it was because I was pulling the wool too tight. One of the reasons knitting never worked out for me in the past was my tension. I'd have those stitches pulled so tight there was no way for a needle to pass under them. My fingers cramped up and I'd hunch over and sweat and I'm sure it looked like I was torturing some poor animal to death in my hands. Maybe it was the tension that was the problem!

I told Youngest about the difficulty I was having with my new knit one row purl one row method, and this is what she wrote back:

One row purl/ one row knit it a stocking stitch!! It will curl up if it's a scarf! No no no mummy!!! You need me. I will guide you through when I come home in February. Don't let that beautiful yarn go to waste!!!

She was right of course. This is what it looked like after just half a dozen rows.

Perfect if I want a gnarly wool sheath to decorate my curling iron, but definitely not scarf material. I pulled the latest rows out AGAIN.

Always look on the bright side. I can now say with assurance that I am an expert in casting on.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New hobby? Or exercise in frustration?

I learned how to knit when I was eight. My grandmother taught me. This was a woman who could knit so fast her needles were a blur, and she could watch TV or carry on a conversation without even looking down at whatever project she was working on. She churned out mitts and hats and sweaters like no one's biznit. Remember those funny little hats with pointy ears that we tied under our chins? They were a 50s staple.

Sure, we were warm but the price to pay was being beaten to a pulp on the way to school by kids who didn't have nice grandmothers who knit.

My mother also knit beautifully, and I was always a crafty kid (in more ways than one) so it seemed a natural progression that I too would knit. After all, it was in my DNA. I made a few projects - a crooked, gnarly scarf that looked more like a pennant owing to my tendency to drop a stitch per row, a potholder if the pot in question was the size of a shot glass, but I gave it up in favour of other cooler crafts like macrame, and dating boys. Years later I took up quilting and other hobbies but never went back to knitting.

Now Youngest, away at university last fall and inexplicably with excess time on her hands, somehow taught herself to knit using YouTube. She made the most awesome gifts this past Christmas. For her brother, she found a "chubby baby alpaca" (the wool, not the alpaca, although it may have been obese for all I know) to make a scarf so heavy and soft it was like holding a newborn. Everyone who picked it up ended up fondling it. Check out the gorgeous wool hat she made for me (it's actually more of a burgundy colour than shows up here.)

It fits me perfectly and is soft and warm and heavy and fits perfectly on my giant head (I'd like to think it's because of my giant brain, but we seem to be blessed with giant heads in our family and having met some of my relatives, I can say with some confidence it is not always our giant brains which accounts for our giant heads....)

So now Youngest has taught me how to knit again and this is the wool I'm going to try to wrestle into a simple scarf. It's hand-dyed "Slubby Blue" from Leicester sheep. Oh yeah, only the best for this wool wrangler.

Good idea in theory. In practice, not so much. Last night, as we stood waiting for the train to take Youngest back to school, she showed me how to "cast on" which was accomplished, then we did the old "knit two purl two" in order to get rows of ribbing. Okaaaaay. After hunching myself into a dither and stiffening my shoulders to the point I couldn't move my left arm, all the while with Youngest directing me to go left no no, right, no around no no back yesss there you've got it (she is a great teacher and has more patience and understanding than I could ever hope for) I got about three rows in and declared myself taught. Ta da. I'd just go home and keep doing exactly what she taught me. How hard could it be? (Whenever I say those words, and I say them often, I always regret it....)

I tried to keep it going this morning. I somehow picked up an extra stitch. Then I lost TWO stitches in the next row. Having no idea how to correct it, I just undid the whole thing and started over. Except I forgot how to cast on. Over to YouTube, which showed me an entirely different way of doing it. No matter. The trick was to just DO it.

I ended up doing and undoing the first few rows THREE times.

Now I'm looking for a book on crochet.

Wish me luck. I think when I said knitting was in my DNA, what that really meant was Do Not Attempt.

Gah.

I wonder if Youngest could instruct me on Skype?