Monday, December 29, 2008

holiday recovery

We made it through Christmas, and only a little worse for wear. The lead up, as little as I have to do with only one half of our family celebrating, wore me out and the morning of Christmas Eve brought on an "official" bout of morning sickness (insert meaning here). That took a few days to recover from and involved me lying on the carpet of my office trying to carry on conversations with co-workers. Not a pretty sight, I'm sure. Luckily my Mom and Dad didn't mind that I sat on their couch for our entire visit. And I had some great knitting magazines and Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Domesticity to help me recover, while Sadie happily played with her uncle. So the Christmas part, as always, was quiet and full of meaningful family time (not to mention mountains of h'orderves and sweets, yummm).

I have yet to photograph Sadie's nightgown or tutu which were the only things I managed to make this Christmas other than the pile of sachets above. When we went to the cottage this summer we visited a lavender farm and I have been a little enchanted with lavender since. So I made little linen sachets with bits of my Shinzi Katoh fabric and happily filled them with lavender, which had to be the most relaxing crafting step ever. I wanted to give the girls at work something handmade, and there were two other friends of mine that I wanted to think about while working on these (I've always felt the true joy of making gifts is the time you spend thinking about the intended person - time slows down and you remember all the best times, and the things you love about them). I miss the scent in our house now that all the sachets have been given, so perhaps it's time to make one for myself.

The last photo is a paper quilt I've been working on a bit and may finish next week. I've been working through Christmas, minus the stat holidays, so I'm taking next week off instead. I hope to relax and sleep enough to get my nausea completely behind me while I catch up on Mad Men and work on some art projects. There's a chance I may be able to exhibit some of my work before the baby is due, and I want to keep the momentum going while the inspiration is fresh. It will be a week of ivory silk and blue embroidery thread, tiny paper squares and dirty phrases.

I can't wait.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

oh baby

The time has come for me to knit baby things. And here's the kicker: I won't have to give them away...they will stay right here. Because it would appear that I am officially knocked up.

Finally I can explain my lack of productivity for about, well, three months. As with Sadie, I have been battling 24 hour nausea. I'm taking Diclectin this time, which really helps, but thankfully I think the nasuea is starting to wear off now that I am 14 weeks along. I am amazed all over again at how much growing a human can wreak havoc on your body, not to mention your brain. Jay isn't so happy that "baby brain" strikes this early.

We are thrilled (with a healthy dose of "freaked out") about the news. Sadie is excited too, although now she wants to know how far away June really is. I can't say the decision came easy - it's been on my mind since Sadie was born, but I just wasn't ready for a very long time. It's crazy how much time has actually passed, and there will be a 5 year gap between Sadie and this expected sibling. But one day we realized that there was no time like the present and like I said, we're pretty thrilled.

Oh baby.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

reading challenge #7

It feels like I haven't had a thorough reading post in a long time. I'm rusty and therefore I may be quite wordy. We'll see.

Miriam Toews is quickly becoming a favourite author of mine, and I have the Canadian Reading Challenge to thank for that. The Flying Troutmans was another enjoyable, intriguing novel and I devoured it. I find that I enjoy Toews' characters most of all - they are quirky and eccentric, yet I always find them realistic and wonderfully self-aware. I almost can't decide which Troutman family member is my favourite, they are all so captivating. On one hand I love Thebes, the 11 year old daughter addicted to her blue terry cloth outfit and able to make larger-than-life novelty cheques with the craft supplies stashed in her knapsack, but I also admire Hattie, the wandering aunt who takes her niece and nephew on a crazy road trip, unconditionally accepting their questionable habits (Thebes lack of bathing for example). The novel's road trip rivels the best of road trips, complete with fascinating small town detours and brief, but memorable characters (I mean, Adam and his casseroles? Perfect!). My heart travelled with the Troutmans through the entire novel, and I just don't know who to pass this book onto next - I think everyone will love it.

And for the first official knitting comparison of the 2nd Canadian Reading Challenge: I think this novel reminds me most of a hat I knit last winter after being inspired by this Flickr photo. Essentially a quirky baby photo led the way, and the hat was easy and quick to knit. Like Thebes, I wanted to be resourceful and use up wool scraps which meant the hat became quite eccentric in colour and the doubling up of purled rows was new to me and created a really fun texture. And to appeal to my inner child, I added a rather large and floppy pom-pom. There was a unique joy to finishing and wearing a hat in a single weekend, and it was somewhat akin to finishing this novel. Both were completely satisfying and made me appreciate youth and colour all over again. Thank you Ms. Toews.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Sadie spent the weekend at her Grampa's, so I broke down and cheated on her. I baked Martha Stewart's Oatmeal Raisin cookies. With butter. And eggs. Oh my, were they good.

Don't get me wrong, vegan baking is pretty yummy and it certainly makes my little girl's life more enjoyable. But the smell of butter baking was something I had completely forgotten. You'd think Jay and I would have taken the opportunity to go out for dinner or do something romantic, but this was our indulgence. Uninterrupted studio time and a plate of warm cookies.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

a good name

There was one more project I decided to finish during my week off, and I admit it had been sitting around for over 3 years. I started the "Sadie" embroidery when she was just a baby. I think part of the hold up was actually knowing what I was going to make, but after finishing the potholders I was eager to use more binding tape. Jay wasn't so keen on the country look of the little quilt, but Sadie was pretty pleased with it. She and I decided together to hang it above her bed and that seemed impetus enough to finally stick her butterflies on the wall (I found them at Polka Dot Kids gave them to her last Christmas). I think it makes a cute little vignette above her bed, and furthers my obsession with combining as many pinks/reds/purples as I can in her room. So far there isn't a single shade that hasn't worked. Seriously.

Now on to holiday gifts - which will have to stay secret until after the giving happens. As it is I'm trying to do some sleuth knitting in Jay's company...though the guy is clever enough to figure it out. Well, maybe.

Friday, November 21, 2008

double dose

Potholders did the trick, not to mention pulling together a pretty yummy soup. I may not be completely free of my thoughts, but it was a relaxing week and I spent a lot of time puttering around in my studio/half-a-bedroom workspace. These potholders were such a snap to finish, I don't know why I waited so long! I remembered reading on Soulemama about using the casing tape tool, and wow, does it ever work. These bound edges were easy and are so much better than how I used to do them. And talk about practical - we have used these potholders every single day since...mainly as mini placements, but hey, that's what practical is.

I have had an intense craving for the vegetarian hot and sour soup that Indochine makes, but being at home, I had no desire to travel close to the office to pick some up. So, I looked around and tried a slightly modifed version of this recipe. At least I have figured out the secret to what makes the Indochine soup special - it's Vietnamese, and not the Chinese version that Google has been showing me in many of my past searches (well, I can't really blame Google, I was just fairly daft about it). I just love that it has tomatoes and pineapple and a clear tamarind-flavoured broth, but I didn't have broccoli at home so I'm missing a bit of green in mine. In the end it was a decent soup, but no where near what Indochine serves. Hmm, I guess I still have the craving, and just talking about it is making me hungry.

Damn it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

momentary block

Today I found my first white (not gray, but completely and utterly white) hair. At 34 maybe I'm lucky to have made it this far without some sign of graying, and I'm not really complaining. There's just something about finding it that has thrown my thoughts into chaos this afternoon. Luckily I'm at home by myself, starting a week of R&R from work, so I can indulge the thoughts as long as I keep busy. (Pause to mention that Jay's alarm clock just went off for no good reason, at 3:59pm. Is that a sign I should stop this post? Wake up? Hmmm.)

The photo above is of a fantastic set of blocks that I was given last year, and it seemed fitting to show it today because my mind is blocking out ideas and philosophies trying to make sense of a pattern or at least a clear direction. Even when these blocks are haphazardly organized, they are stunning to look at because the design, fonts and colours are just sublime. Luckily my ideas and thoughts are all positive and I'm trying my best to keep them that way. It has been a very busy year at work and I've had many responsibilities added to my plate and some days I just wonder if I'm happy with that direction. Most often I will say yes, but there are those moments when I feel nostalgic for the artist I wanted to be, or the designer, the teacher, the something else I may have become if paying off my education and then providing for my family hadn't become my M.O. But as soon as I put those words onto the screen, I feel I need to scream out, I know I am very, very lucky to have a job in a creative field surrounded by people who make going to work a joy.

We're allowed these weak moments, right? Perhaps I'll blame it all on the single white hair falling onto my forehead, and drag myself upstairs to finish some potholders I started about 6 months ago. Completing a project is surely the best medicine I know.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

butterfly magic

I heart Hallowe'en. I also heart taking the day off work to help Sadie with her costume and walk her to JK. Jay and I both walked her there and back, and man, do I ever wish I could do that more often. The fact that it was 19 degrees outside was a nice bonus too.

As for the costume, Sadie changed her mind Hallowe'en morning, so we no longer had to figure out the Cat-Princess-Bunny idea (not that I was against it!). A butterfly was fairly straightforward, and she was game for making her hair into antennae. I used fairly thin gauge wire, and it held her braids up for 9 hours, making it a surefire costume hit. And what a difference one year made - last year Sadie screamed at masks and only visited one house, but at age 4, she wasn't scared of anything and wanted to walk up to every house for her share of candy. We finally convinced her to help us hand out candy which she took very seriously, giving us a break from being alone on the porch.

It was a great night. Did I mention I heart Hallowe'en?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

sewing mishap #635

I've done it again. Even though I used a pattern, I've made a shirt fit for a pregnant woman.

The pattern was easy (Simplicity 2931), and I was really happy with the shirt until Jay caught sight of it. He just laughed and asked why I'm so drawn to puffy, baggy clothes. Sure, empire waists are in, as are gathers and flowing tops, but still, it seems this shirt pushes the limits. In its favour, it is very comfortable and I love the deep chocolate brown of the corduroy (thank you Superbuzzy). But speaking of corduroy, that's probably the main reason why it's too puffy. Oh well. A lightweight cotton or linen would probably turn out better but I think I'll move on to another pattern.

Or stop sewing altogether. Yeah, that's it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

lantern tricks

Last year I announced to Jay that Hallowe'en was the one "holiday" I was going to purposely decorate for. Luckily, he didn't mind the idea and even helped out. And where last year's attempt was a little haphazard, this year is completely different. I heart these Jack-O-Lantern lanterns.

I wish I could take credit for them, but truthfully, I saw similar lanterns in a store window that came with faces already printed on. My trick was to buy plain orange lanterns (a fun trip for Jay, Sadie and me to Chinatown last weekend) and draw our own faces on them. Sadie drew one all by herself and helped out quite a bit filling in the bigger faces. Then I found this string of copper ball lights that my Mom gave me last year, which couldn't have been more perfectly suited. The lanterns just clip on to the top of the copper light, and I spaced the lanterns to leave other lights exposed. At night, the shadows that the copper strips produce add an eerie feeling to the lanterns that they just don't have during the day. Then some orange and black-and-white polka dotted ribbon on the door, and voila, we have a Hallowe'en porch. All that is left is the real Jack-O-Lantern, but he won't make his appearance until Hallowe'en night. I'm loving this "holiday" so much I'm even going to take the day off work.

I mean, someone has to be here to walk the 4 year old Cat-Princess-Bunny to school in her costume.

Monday, October 13, 2008

word pile up

The benefit of starting the Canadian Reading Challenge on time this year is that I don't feel rushed to get through my list. On the flipside, I haven't been very successful posting about reading. I have finished another 3 Canadian novels since I last wrote, but I fear that waiting so long to write about them means I may forget the details that stood out. On top of that, I've fit other books in between, namely books about design and advertising (see the top of the book pile for example) which make my recall even harder.

The Body's Place by Elise Turcotte: This was a swift read. Even though character details were sparse, the tension that the author created was well crafted and it lead to a riveting ending. The story is told through a 15 year old girl, but it is actually the story of the three children in her family. On the outside the family seems typical, living through a dull suburban existence. What is underneath the veneer however, is a broken marriage that impacts each child in totally different ways.

Streak of Luck by Richelle Kosar: I already passed this one on to my mom, forgetting I would want a photo of it. Like The Body's Place, this came in my $5 book bag from Comorant last year at Word on the Street. Another story about a family, told through three female characters (the mother and two daughters). Most of the story is set in Toronto, and so I enjoyed the familiar details of my city. There were moments when I absolutely cringed; the family is perpetually down on their luck, yet I never felt truly sorry for them as it seemed clear it was the parents' decisions that were responsible for their situation. And the ending surprised me, leaving me totally satisfied. Overall, a good read.

Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark: Yes, I loved An Audience of Chairs more, but this novel was a pretty close second. I'm so thankful Ragdoll introduced me to Joan Clark. East coast stories are particularly charming to me, and the main character, Aurora, was another woman I was drawn to. Her story begins when she is found as a baby, floating on an ice floe, suspected to be a Titanic survivor. We watch her grow up, get married, have children and live out her life in her favourite Newfoundland. I loved everything about the story, but it's funny that sometime last year I checked out a few pages while in a bookstore and a passage upset me so much that I really had to talk myself into giving it a chance this year. The passage was about the birth of Aurora's son, and how her 6 year old daughter reacted. The birth had been hard so Aurora was hospitalized for 6 weeks. In that time her daughter's allegiance switched from Aurora to her father, and until the daughter was middle-aged it never once turned back. It hurt my heart to think that a child's love could be so temporary, and that an unforeseen absence could have such a devastating effect (not to mention totally freak me out about the prospect of having a second child while Sadie and I are so close). But clearly I got over it, and it was a wonderful novel. I heart Joan Clark, and highly recommend her to everyone.

So there is my second round-up of book reviews and still no sign of a knitting comparison. It could be due to the fact that every knitting project I take on these days takes me forever, but I still intend to get back into the habit. I just need my knitting mojo back. The leaves are falling, surely that should be enough, right?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

birthday girl

A certain little girl turned 4 yesterday. In one word, wow. I have no idea where those 4 years went, but at the same time I can hardly remember that this person was a baby. She has grown into someone who charms me every day with her sweet and relaxed personality, along with the occasional practical joke. To illustrate her budding humour, here is an example: on the way home one day Sadie told Jay that she had made friends with Tallulah in her JK class. Excited by the name, Jay then told her the story of how our cat Ellie was named Tallulah for a day until we realized it didn't suit her. So, Jay and Sadie get home and Jay tells me that Sadie has a new friend. I ask about it and Sadie tells me her name is Tallulah. Just like Jay I start telling the story of Ellie's name, but Jay says he's already told the story and Sadie gives me an "oh Mommy!". Fast forward an hour and the three of us are sitting around the kitchen table finishing dinner and Jay says to Sadie that he just loves that there's a girl named Tallulah in her class. Sadie looks at him with a knowing smirk and says, "there's no Tallulah in my class". Confused, I look at her and ask "what do you mean?" and she responds, without missing a beat, "I was only joking". We erupted with laughter. She played us - both of us! - for over an hour. We couldn't believe that she actually planned and followed through with a joke. I better be careful with this one, as if watching out for Jay's traps wasn't enough.

So that's my girl. Enchanting, funny and growing up way too fast. Insert the typical Mommy sigh here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

word on the street

Boy, have I ever become a book girl - and Sadie is my little book-girl-in-training. The two of us went to Word on the Street on Sunday and filled our book bag in record time. I think I've figured out a good system - kids books first so that Sadie can read something in the stroller while I find the few publishers with either good deals or just plain good books. My stops of note were: Coach House Books (poetry by RM Vaughan), Anansi (poetry by Ken Babstock and Dear Gabriel) and Insomniac Press (fiction and non-fiction, including a very enlightenting Lover's Tongue).

There is something so fantastic about a book fair at the end of September. On the cusp of Autumn, it's like stocking up on words for the winter. And this year's funny experience? Being interviewed while we sat on the grass and then quoted in this Toronto Star article. I laughed out loud when I read that Sadie and I were considered "two traditionalists". It's a Mommy moment I'll hold on to for, oh, about the rest of my life.

(P.S. Too funny! As I was grabbing the link for the Star article, I found that Quill&Quire's blog used the interview too. Suddenly I feel pegged devoutly anti-Sony Reader!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

kitchen duty

Every year when cheap peppers grace the grocery stores, I consider devoting a day to freezer cooking. Why peppers? Well, I was 8 1/2 months pregnant exactly four years ago, and the only thing I knew was that stockpiling food was a good idea. I purchased this cookbook, and planned a few days of cooking. One of the recipes was for 12 stuffed peppers, and although they weren't great out of the oven they were divine when cooked from frozen (I'll never understand why the difference). So for me peppers = September = a good time to fill the freezer with hearty food.

This fall I have another reason to be practical enough to devote an entire day to cooking. Sadie left her daycare in August and as much as it was time for her to move on, I desperately miss having her close to me during the day. The daycare was across the street from my work, and as soon as I walked out of my building at 6pm, in less than 5 minutes I got to be a Mom (which I have to say, is the best stress-buster of all time). Then Sadie and I would have a leisurely TTC ride home, catching up on our day. Now, everything has changed. Sadie spends her days at JK and with a good friend in the neighbourhood (and I have to note - Sadie loves, loves, loves this new arrangement!) and Jay picks her up because he's closer to home. Work is ridiculously busy, so I don't leave until 6:30 at the earliest and then I carry my work problems home with me on the subway. I walk in the door somewhere closer to 7:30, and have to get dinner ready immediately. Needless to say, this is why I need a freezer full of quick food. I want to spend time playing with Sadie and talking to Jay - not figuring out what to make us all to eat.

A simpler solution would be purchasing meals (frankly, it's not a perfect scenario to sacrifice one whole day of an already too short weekend) but I'm having no luck there. With Jay's poultry allergy, and Sadie's egg/dairy allergies, there is limited choice in Toronto. We live close to Urban Fare, but the one time we tried a casserole Jay had a reaction (even though chicken was not listed). And the vegetarian delivery service we used to love, called Jay's Gourmet, has ceased to exist. So I figure I need to make the food to guarantee that the ingrediants won't force either of my loved ones to use their Epi-pen. Which means I'll be in the kitchen with a whole lot of canned sauce and ground beef, playing Willie Nelson and wearing an apron. Truthfully, it's not so bad, though I realize there are way more cookbooks I could try. Branching beyond ground beef would be a good start if I need to make this a regular habit.

Which it seems like I will. Let's hope the can opener holds up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

pink persistence

Patience is indeed a virtue that knitting forces you to acquire. Case in point: this pink sweater. I originally bought some lovely tweed Garnstudio wool for the Juliet vest. I knit the vest from the top to 3 inches from the bottom before I realized I hated it. So, knowing that the wool was too nice to waste, I patiently unravelled the garment and wound the wool back into balls. Next up, I tried a top-down cardigan for Sadie using 3 yr old sizing from an online pattern. This time, I got 3 inches below the underarm before I thought, "hmm, this seems big, let's see if it fits me". Unfortunately, I was right and it was miles too big for Sadie. For the second time, I unravelled a garment and wound the wool back into balls. On to attempt number three: a top-down raglan sweater for Sadie, using a random number of stitches for the neck (I know, I know...I was getting loopy and obviously making poor decisions). I didn't get nearly as far before I realized it was too big again. Thank goodness the fourth time was a charm.

I can hardly believe how patient knitting has made me. I could really use a dose of patience at work these days, but for now I'll simply marvel at the power knitting has to change behavior. The secret to my fourth attempt was to do a bottom-up raglan, using the sizing from a Debbie Bliss pattern (ultimately, her patterns feel trustworthy). I tried a folded hem, but left the neck and cuffs as a rolled edge. The wool is lovely, but I've been told to wash it a few times for it to really soften up. And Sadie looks so great in this pink - as much as I bought it for myself, I could never have pulled it off. I found a great pair of pink cords for her that are the exact shade, so when the cool weather hits she'll be pretty in pink.

Now that this sweater is finally done - and really, I feel like I've been knitting this for months - I'm trying the Juliet vest again with a dark purple Debbie Bliss Luxury Tweed. My fingers are crossed that it will work this time. So far so good...but I still haven't tried it on. See? I may have learned patience, but I haven't learned from past experience. Or maybe I'm just addicted to unravelling.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

the new world

This week, there was a seismic shift in our family life: Sadie started school. Sure, it's only Junior Kindergarten, but it's still school. And as long as we live in this house, this is the school she will be attending. So, as I walked away from leaving her there on the first day, all I could think about was how she would grow up in that building, and that we wouldn't be there to see any of it. Oh - and I also thought really, really hard about not crying.

In a few short weeks she will be 4. She understands everything I say and her logic astounds me. Like every parent before me, I think her drawing is frameworthy. Case in point, during this profound week she drew a family portrait. Basically all the sizes are accurate, as is the amount of hair we each have, but the most important detail is the glasses she drew on Jay. Glasses! Oh, and that would be a pear shape for me. Of course.

I'll say it each and every year that I don't know how Sadie got to be so grown up. The baby cheeks are gone and the girl is breaking through. Long curls even cover the tell-tale backpack straps on this "first day of school" photo. It's been a seismic shift for sure, and all I can hope for is to keep my balance and a dry eye as we journey along.

Friday, September 05, 2008

tie one on

Three years ago I started this blog mainly because I wanted to join the "Month of Softies" challenge. I'm a student at heart - I thrive on assignments, and so far web challenges have got me making and reading more. angry chicken's "Tie One On" has always been on my radar, but this is the first time I've made an entry. The theme was Gingham Summer, and even though I had plenty of gingham and coordinating fabrics on hand, I ended up making an apron that is very simple bordering on downright plain. As soon as the ribbon went on I just could not add another embellishment. But I really like the hostess style these days, and I'm excited to pass this on to a special someone. Actually, that may be my new approach when I make things - figure out who would like it and give it away. Like I've said a hundred times to myself, our house is just too small and I'm not about to stop making stuff.

And check out the great Flickr gallery for Gingham Summer - this child's version is capital A adorable.

Monday, September 01, 2008

raccoon therapy

This little guy is from my "quick and dirty" category of sewing. I probably spent more time drawing out possible faces than sewing him (the whole bandit-eye-thing is tricky, as it easily veers into panda bear territory) but I feel like it took a while because I spread the short sewing time over...umm...about three months. Back in the spring we had a Mama Raccoon and 5 babies spending their evenings in our backyard, and it's no understatement to say that Jay was freaked out by them. So I thought I would adorable-ize the animals by making a stuffed version for indoors. Ridiculous idea I know, but that's how it started. Or maybe I just needed a new animal to try out.

In the end, Jay is far more fond of this fellow than I am. I don't dislike him, he's just not totally my thing. Generally I make very plain softies, so this guy almost has too much going on for me. Or maybe he just feels...stumpy. I'm not sure. But I won't abandon the idea of raccoons just yet, even though the family of 6 seems to have abandoned us. Perhaps they caught sight of this guy hanging out in their garden and found another tiny house in the city to call their own.

(As an aside - I'm amazed that the raccoon looks like he's out in nature, when truthfully at every edge of this photo are pieces of the city. Our front yard is so small, but if you crop it just right, instant forest!)

Friday, August 29, 2008

summer booklust

Truthfully, I haven't had much success making things this summer, but I cannot say the same for reading. For most of our vacation it was my hobby of choice, and my solitary subway ride home has really been adding up in reading hours. I've even finished another Canadian novel since I took this picture, but for now I'm going to see if I can do a quick recap of the six books above, three of which are part of my Canadian Challenge list.

A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews: Gut-wrenching. The insight into the lives of Manitoba Mennonites was fascinating, and yet so heartbreaking. After reading Toews' memoir for her father, I could see him in this novel's father character and it just added so much more emotion to his fragile existence. The tragedy of being shunned by your own community is hard to fathom, but I rooted for the whole family despite their impossible future.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan: Shocking, even though I never saw it coming. Most of the way through I had a difficult time empathizing with Mamah Cheney, the married woman who left her family to be with Frank Lloyd Wright. Her daughter was under 2 when she left and as much as I tried, I just couldn't get over choosing a man instead of your children. I feel bad even admitting it here, but I just couldn't let the feeling go. Regardless, the novel was a wonderful study of a particular time in history, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The ending knocked me clear off my feet and I can't stop thinking about it. And to know that it's goodness.

Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins: I saw the author on Rogers Television on what must have been a very impressionable night. The next day I decided to pick the novel up as my vacation treat - a brand new hardcover about two creative types dealing with marriage and pregnancy. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The tension was good, even creepy, but in the end I don't know exactly what happened and it left me annoyed. For the time I invested, I wanted to at least understand the ending. I must be losing patience as I age - it was just like the end of Half Nelson, which still bugs me even thoughI enjoyed Ryan Gosling's performance.

The Given by Daphne Marlatt: Long ago someone handed me Ana Historic and I devoured it. I loved that novel, and to this day I rank it as an all-time favourite. So you can imagine my high expectations for The Given. Sadly, my experience wasn't the same. Definitely there were beautiful passages and fragments of thoughts that I savoured, but the story itself wasn't as complete for me and I lost interest quickly. I dog-eared many, many pages - I just think the novel form wasn't right for this story. Does it count if I say the cover is fantastic?

A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart: Oh, Jane Urquhart. I adore everything she has written and this particular novel was spectacular. Also, I read it at the cottage, in Prince Edward County, having no idea that the novel was set inPrince Edward County. Clearly this added another dimension to my experience, but I wouldn't have needed it, the novel was such a pleasure on its own. Her language is so clean and gentle, and I fall into another rhythm when I'm inside one of her stories. The characters fascinated me and the whole notion of landscape informing our essential nature is inspiring.

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson: I chose this mainly because the story synopsis mentioned a 17th century embroidery pattern book, but I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting to. Of all these books, it was the lightest and swiftest, almost like chick-lit for the fibre geek (that's me). I learned historical facts I never knew, travelled from the British Isles to Morocco and enjoyed descriptive passages about fabrics and needlework. It was exotic, authentic, and I know my Mom is going to love it!

Hmm, I just realized that's a lot of girl power - I should sneak a male author or two in soon! And next time I'll try to get back to the knitting comparisons. Six was simply too much to tackle this late at night.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

push pins be gone

Most days involve working, making dinner as soon as I get home around 7pm followed by getting Sadie to bed. At 10pm I get back downstairs with only enough energy to sit and knit in front of one Veronica Mars episode (which we're almost done...what am I going to do?). Considering all this, I'm still a little shocked that I finished this blind. But make no mistake, I had to make a deal with Jay to get a few hours alone on a precious Saturday afternoon to work the miracle. I'm not crazy about dipping into quality Sadie time, but the push pin look had really worn out its' welcome.

Otherwise there's not too much to say about this hard-to-photograph blind: Shinzi Katoh fabric which I still really love, a simple roman blind style, and finally the breakthrough to use white lining to keep the blind as bright as possible (using regular muslin was truly a stumbling block for me). Finally, one check mark on the bloated to-do list.

One small secret though...after all the painting efforts of last year, I'm about 99% certain that I have to repaint the kitchen. The grey feels too dark, and I miss the ivory walls. To-do list, you get bigger every day.

Monday, August 11, 2008

thriftin' in kingston

Unless we want Sadie to own the worst collection of teddy bears ever, our thrifting days with her are numbered. In fact, she may not even like the whole thrifting hobby her parents have, but this summer the stangers-keep-giving-me-teddy-bears-for-just-being-cute habit kept her sufficiently interested.

Over vacation we learned once and for all we're really not beach people (Sadie included). What we do have a strong love for is exploring every junk shop/thrift store/antique stop we stumble upon. I may even proclaim it's the whole reason Jay likes travelling by car, anywhere. Our two weeks in eastern Ontario were thrift-prolific, and the photos above are just a few of the fun things I found.

Even during university Jay and I seperately enjoyed the Sunday antique market in Kingston, and every time we get a chance to visit we find a gem. This time it was the $18 table and chair set for Sadie. Each piece folds (great for packing up into the car) and it was made in Belleville which feels nice and authentic. Sadie loves it, though the GIGANTIC smile she has in the photo may have more to do with the little sequin purse her Gramma found for her. At the market I also found what I consider to be "the perfect bowl". Stamped "Pigeon Forge Pottery, Tennessee" it is a cool oatmeal colour, glazed inside but matte on the outside. And the shape is oh-so-pleasing. Some may say plain, I say perfect.

I also had luck with books and patterns. Does anyone else think the photos in old Beehive pattern books are a day's worth of entertainment? I may not have the courage to try the patterns though, the small type and older references are daunting but the women's cardigan on the cover is pretty cute. It reminds me of the Garnstudio cardigan people have been making, which is on my knitting wish list. And although it doesn't look like much, the small white book, sold to me for a whopping $3, is ominously called "The Wedded Life". It was written by a Philidelphia Reverend in 1886 and its' three chapters are called Marriage, The Husband's Part and The Wife's Part. Even better is that the front page is filled in by hand as a certificate of marriage, dated April 5th, 1898 and signed by witnesses. The book is also full of little newspaper clippings, the very last one being the obituary of the husband listed on page 1. It blows me away, and the language describing This is probably hands-down my favourite find.

See? We're addicted. I couldn't even pass up another wool blanket (I mean it's aqua, how can I resist?) though I'm dragging my feet making wool softies these days. But as an aside, I've almost talked myself into making another run of Bundlies circa 2008, and aqua would be a great colour to work with. So anyway, that's the story of a hopeless thrifter. Thank goodness I married another hopeless thrifter. We just need a way bigger house.

To store all the awful teddy bears, of course.

Monday, August 04, 2008

will knit for books

Wait - that's a little bit misleading. I mean that I will knit for the sake of books, not that I will knit for books as payment., I'd probably do that too. I'm a sucker for books. And knitting.

This "Canadian, eh?" hat is destined as a prize for the 2008/2009 Canadian Reading Challenge. I went all-out Canadian; clearly the colours are homegrown, and I think the stripes feel very "hockey", but I also knit it with Mission Falls 1824 Merino Superwash, a nice soft wool that is made right here in Canada. And I knit it entirely on vacation, at a cottage, and photographed it near a barn. So really, with the exception of not including a maple leaf, I think the Canadian angle is covered.

Size-wise, it works well on children and adults alike, it justs changes the style a bit depending on who wears it. Sadie would be my pick - I am biased of course, but I think she looks terribly cute in it. Well, Jay does too. Basically, I quite like the hat, and hopefully the prize winner will as well. At the very least I can promise it will keep the winner's noggin' toasty warm, in a truly Canadian way.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

vacation days

Oh, what a vacation.

For the past two weeks we stayed at a fairly secluded cottage in Prince Edward County. We had grass to play on, frisbees to throw, books to read and fantastic views to enjoy. Now I'm wading through piles of laundry and tackling an explosion of weeds in the yard, hoping to ease back into real life. Thank goodness for the extra day off tomorrow because I can already feel the back-to-work anxiety creeping in. But I have lots of posting to catch up on, from knitting to reading to thrifting. Cottage vacations are perfect for all these hobbies, not to mention just general relaxing. Throw in a marathon viewing of Veronica Mars, almost-daily blueberry picking and a trip to a lavender farm and that just about covers our vacation story.

Like I said, oh, what a vacation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

wee distractions

You know that moment when you've been knitting, wreaking havoc trying to sew clothes, and looking at a to-do list of sewing for the house? It's precisely the moment when you say to yourself, "wow, I really feel like doing a bit of embroidery". I had that moment on Saturday and suddenly two wool cat rattles appeared.

Truthfully, I do have baby gifts on my to-do list which usually means knitting up a hat. But I've had my eye on this hand dyed embroidery floss I found in Paris and I think part of me has been missing using wool. And making wool softies. Definitely this shape is an easy step back in, but I thought the ears turned out particularly cute and that in itself might push me to fashion arms and legs next time. Though in the world of rattles, if adults could have them, one of these would be my choice. I keep picking up the ivory one and just holding it in my hand. Really, I like the size of it better...and it's mouth line and the fact that there isn't a grosgrain ribbon loop hanging out its' side (that's not my best idea and it leaves the poor peach kitty in gift-giving limbo). Oh, and there are little bells safely tucked inside both, completing the whole rattle picture.

Now I really must get to that home sewing. Shinzi Katoh fabric push-pinned into window moulding and held open with clothes pegs just isn't the look we're going for around here. Five months is kind of the limit.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

baking therapy

When the hot weather hits, I forget all about baking. But yesterday it was argument central around here and when Jay and I were smart enough to stay out of each other's path, Sadie had a suggestion: "let's make muffins Mommy". That girl had the right idea. We put on our aprons, turned up Willie Nelson and tried a new concoction that was essentially a vegan-ized version of an Ina Garten recipe with an extra helping of chocolate. By the time they were ready the bad vibes were history and we all sat outside with our warm treats and shared them with the neighbours. Here's the recipe:

No More Bickering Muffins

1 cup Bran cereal (I used All Bran sticks)
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine (PC Celeb has one)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 very ripe banana
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/c cups flour (wholewheat or all-purpose)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (Loblaws No-Name are the only ones around here)
1 ripe banana, chopped into small chunks

Combine Bran cereal and soy milk and set aside for at least 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream margarine and sugar together, then add the very ripe banana and combine really well. Next add the molasses and vanilla. Finally add the Bran cereal mixture and mix well. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingrediants to the wet in two stages and mix until just combined. Fold in the raisins, chocolate chips and banana chunks. Using an ice cream scoop drop batter into muffin cups. This batch made 15 muffins for me, but I could probably have squeezed the batter into 12 cups. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Especially yummy when eaten warm.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Very serious note to self: When you are a full-time worker, cook, laundry mistress, wife and mother, never, ever think that you can sew without a pattern. What will result is a complete and utter build up of wasted time as you start making a skirt, turn it into a shirt, back into a skirt and then finally a tank top. Curse words will abound and you will have nothing to show for your efforts, turning your blog into a space where you only write about books (which you finish after you've thrown polka-dotted fabric across the room for one last time). This isn't 1991 and if sewing clothes is important, for goodness sake, rely on the structure and predictability of a pattern. And stop making things that make everyone around you think you're pregnant. There's a fine line between fashionable empire waists and a gather or two too much. Patterns are aware of these nuances. Use them.

(But hey, that's a pretty cute bunny in the background. And perhaps the gingham challenge for Tie One On is worth a little effort?)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

the final two

With only 2 days left in the challenge, it's time to post about my final two novels: All Times Have Been Modern by Elisabeth Harvor and Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. Only just this minute have I realized that both authors are named Elizabeth. Huh.

So, All Times Have Been Modern. I took this novel to Paris and finished it there, and I remember closing the book and saying to Ragdoll, "well, I'm done." It wasn't that I didn't entirely enjoy it, but I didn't race through it either and I'm not sure I actually cared about any of the characters. I do think another writer would appreciate it more though; the main character is a writer who eventually takes time for herself to write a novel and struggles with the self-imposed task everyday. She enrolls in college again for writing and begins teaching to make ends meet and that entire lifestyle felt very authentic. The other side of the story is the incredible love affair she has with a younger man. I think what I enjoyed most were the ideas about men and women's relationships that the character had at this point in her life. On discussing the affairs both she and her ex-husband had had she says: "But his affairs were so brief and boring, they were nothing. I fell in love much more often than he did and so I was much more unfaithful than he ever was, in my heart." And a statement that just feels so right: "But he could also want more than sex, he could want what men have always wanted from women: consolation, conversation, to be truly seen by the other person." As I sit here and search my dog-eared pages, I realize that I probably enjoyed it more than I have let on, and I do think I will pick up another of Harvor's novels. She was a great find when all I though I had to choose from was David Adams Richards.

On to Late Nights on Air. This novel I flew through, and boy, was I distraught at the end. I liked Hay's writing style, it seemed to be equally sparse and descriptive, if that makes any sense. The characters were wonderfullyl crafted and I cared about them all. And what is so great - and why I think this challenge is so excellent - is that I really got a feeling for Yellowknife and for the landscape beyond. Before this novel, the emptiness and fear of the tundra was beyond my imagination, but Hay has since brought it to life. And the radio station setting was particularly fun for me - having worked in television for ten years I could relate to the technical details and the personality types. This is a novel I will pass along quickly and with high praise.

Now for my final knitting comparisons: I think All Times Have Been Modern felt like a fitted, slightly embellished sweater, much like the Sahara pattern I finished last year. It was promising at first (it seemed like an easy pattern), and it's not that the pattern got very difficult but there were many knitting stages and a few times I wasn't entirely happy with the finishing details. When it was done I knew it was a great garment, but I still haven't worn it because it is just a little too much for me to wear, although as soon as I dye it black I think it will become a favourite. And Late Nights on Air compares to the black cardigan I knit this year. It was a swift knit, I learned many new things along the way and I've ended up with a cardigan that will last for years and years...and be the perfect thing for a trip to Yellowknife (should that ever happen). And even better is that the pattern has lasting power - I'm about to start another in a different colour because it is just that satisfying. Oh, and since the two novels were both written by Elizabeths, it's fitting that both of these knitting patterns came from the same designer, Wendy Bernard.

So that's it - my first reading challenge finished. It was the perfect strategy for forcing myself to read regularly and learn about new authors. I hope the knitting comparisons weren't too off-the-wall, or the reviews too dull. Hopefully I'll get back to some serious "making" over the summer, but I just might join another challenge (or even this one again - there's no such thing as "too much" Canadian literature!) to keep this reading pace up. And for anyone looking to read more, I highly recommend the Canadian Challenge - it starts all over again on Tuesday! There's even going to be a very Canadian toque knit by yours truly as a prize - it's currently half knit and just waiting to be finished.

Monday, June 23, 2008

new york moment

Suddenly I just want to be at home. I have travelled almost too much in the last month and I'm looking forward to keeping within the city limits for the next while...or at least within arm's reach of my little lady. Last week I flew to New York for a work conference and I'm at the catch-up-on-all-the-laundry phase.

But yes, it was New York. I will never, ever pass up a chance to go there. In the tiny amount of free time I had to myself I finally visited Purl and Purl Patchwork - two adorable little shops that made me smile. Actually it was lucky I had limited time, because without boundaries I may have never left Purl Patchwork. As it was, I found enough to spend my money on and it turns out fabric makes your luggage quite heavy. See very cute selections above. Love, love the hand dyed wool.

My other stop, and one I make on every trip to New York, is the Folk Art Museum. I just love that building, the collections and especially their museum shop. I found gifts for my Mom, Sadie, and a fantastic book for Jay (though I admit, I may take a peek or two at it myself). It's called La Porte, Indiana and is essentially a collection of photographs by one small town photographer, Frank Pease, that were found by Jason Bitner of Found Magazine. They were taken between 1940 and 1960 so the sense of nostalgia is fantastic, but what is so great about the collection is the variety of poses, fashions and expressions. These are regular people sitting for the camera with the sole purpose of being documented. And all in one package. I don't think we'll be shelving it any time soon.

Now back to that laundry. Oh, and the dustbunnies that are larger than our two cats combined. Sigh.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Glass of wine enjoyed. Coquette Lace Tube Top finished.

After such an angsty day, I was pretty surprised to finish and LOVE my Coquette top. With a glass of wine next to me I picked up the project for what felt like the 156th time, and quietly pulled out two inches of ribbing. Then I patiently put all the stitches back on my needles and proceeded to bind off loosely. The ends were woven in and that was it. And as soon as I tried it on, it was like a different garment than the day before.

My one big complaint with the pattern is that I struggled with the lace panel and restarted it 4 times before I figured out the mistake. And just as I did, I realized that the corrections might be on the internet and sure enough they were. Now, it was silly of me to figure out this so late in the game, but honestly - can I not trust the book to be RIGHT? I'm not the most confident knitter, so I was convinced that I kept screwing up the lace instructions, and frankly I don't know how I managed to hold out so long without throwing the whole mess right across the room. But in the end the internet confirmed my suspicions and the only other problem was that I knit it much longer than needed. For that I take all the blame.

The yarn was great - Pima Tencel from Fable. Cascade has a similar yarn and at Romni it was a whole $2 cheaper per ball, but the colour palette just wasn't the same. As soon as I saw this plum-based taupe I figured it was worth the extra expense (and I only needed 4 balls, so it wasn't a terrible cost). And really, the colour is a big reason why I love the finished thing...even if I am a pasty shade of white myself. The addition of the polka-dotted ribbon is also a detail I really like. Truthfully I am addicted to black and white polka-dots, you just can't go wrong with them. And the final mention is that I modified the panel by only doing 4 repeats instead of 5. I had a feeling this would "petite" it a bit, and I think I was right.

Phew. Am I ever glad that silly old angst passed. Next up - finding patience to finish my mushroom skirt. It's pretty close to the being thrown across the room too, but I think I'll give it another go. With wine, of course.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

i never learn

Today I am full of sewing angst. No wait, not just sewing, but knitting angst too. Maybe it's just angst, plain and simple. Yeah, that's probably it.

There is one sewing lesson though that I feel I should have learned about a decade ago. I always try to make skirts and dresses out of cotton that is just too stiff for a nice, flexible hem. This never occurs to me as I try it on while I'm making it, but as soon as I hit the final stage of hemming, suddenly I have a dorky garment on my hands because the hem is stiff and sticks out funny. Why do I get so seduced by heavy cottons? Why don't I just make all clothing out of reliable, wonderful linen?

I even did it on the skirt above for Sadie. At least she is happy to wear it, but the cotton is simply too stiff - even the gathers make me cringe a bit. Regardless, as soon as I finished her skirt, I started making a simple A-line skirt for myself out of some cute mushroom print fabric. I was so excited about it yesterday and then when I tried to fit in hemming it this morning (it's an ear-infected daughter and napping post-reception husband kind of day) it did the disastrous stiff hem thing. Anyone have suggestions? Would a hand sewn hem make all the difference? At this point I could handle the effort - it's much better than not finishing the skirt and wasting the time I have put into it.

Oh, and my Coquette Lace Tube Top is almost 2 inches too long, hence the other angst. Perhaps this just isn't the week to be crafting. Drinking a glass of wine, absolutely.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

fuzzy cupcake

One night, while watching Hustle & Flow, I decided to knit a cupcake. I had no pattern, just an urgent desire to make a soft and ridiculously fuzzy version of the special dessert. Using scraps of wool and a half attentive mind, I finished most of it and settled for believing I would complete the bottom soon. I even went so far as filling the cupcake with stuffing...but then it sat. And sat. And moved a few times when I needed more room on my sewing table. And then sat some more.

Enter Sadie. Being 3 1/2 means looking at everything as potential doll clothes. She spied the unfinished cupcake, yanked the stuffing right out (onto the floor I might add, being 3 1/2 means also being messy) and placed it on dirty Baby Julia's head. And instantly, it was the cutest little hat I ever did see.

So Sadie is officially my WIP Fairy Godmother. Time to leave a few more sad and lonely projects in her path.