Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So long, 2008!

I know there's been some days in 2008 that I'd rather not experience again but not many. There was a lot to celebrate, too. New babies, new houses, new jobs. We were both healthy, and wiser, if not wealthier.

Today, I'm blocking my last knitted item for the year. It's time to think about the New Year project. For many years now, I have made it my personal tradition to clear up the old year's knitting projects by December 31. Then I spend some time thinking about what I'd like to start. Of course, I usually start today but I count it as Jan 1. It will probably be some new socks. I have a design idea in my head and this is a perfect time to try it out. Nothing else on the horizon that needs to be made.

I will also probably draw out some coasters to hook. I won't start a new rug because I still have the quilt blocks to finish. If I put it away, I'll just be creating a UFO. Not something I can live with anymore. Bad enough I have to live with the UFO's that exist from before I started making the effort LOL

I have just finished the last book for 2008: The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. When the book fell into my hands a few weeks ago, I read the jacket notes and thought "sounds interesting but probably a bit of a pot-boiler." Just shows that you shouldn't judge a book by it's dust jacket, either. It has turned out to be an outstanding read. I polished it off in 2 days - excellent characters and a gripping story line. It's set in northern Ontario with dual time lines: depression through WW2 and late 50's and 60's ending in the present. Four stars.

Which brings me to my last rant for the year: did any one else see the results of a little survey commissioned by Canadian Heritage? I was appalled by the weekly hours spent reading books for leisure or interest. So shocked that I can't really believe the numbers. Apparently, the weekly average for the university-educated is less than one hour per day. For retirees, just over an hour per day. So, who is buying all those books? When do they read them? Was this an off week for all the readers?

Apparently, about 22% of the books we read are by Canadian authors. And I think that was the real point of the survey. Now since it was a grant-giving body which commissioned the study, I'm not sure the results don't suit those government types. " See? Readers don't care about Canadian authors so why bother throwing money to them? " Or, could there be genuine concern? Hard to know but it's also hard not to think this was a self-serving survey. Of course, I don't think surveys are useful anyway. There are so many ways to crunch the numbers that you can prove any case you want from one. Merely interesting.

That's it. Last words for the year: may you have just enough challenge in 2009 to keep life interesting and may you have just enough of everything else to be materially satisfied.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cool gifts

I found some pretty neat surprises under the tree for me this year. There was a delightful old book from the 50's: The Houses in Between by Howard Spring. I have no idea what it's about but I know i will enjoy reading it. One DS took his time in a used book store and found treasures for everyone.

I received some money to make a micro-loan to an entrepreneur in the developing world. If I make a wise investment, I am repaid and I can reinvest. Go to if you're interested in this idea.

There were no knitting tools, gadgets or yarn but there was a renewal for Knitter's magazine which will fire my imagination for another year. Even though there is so much on various web sites, it's always a pleasure to have something to hold in your hand. Besides, what would I do with all that empty space if all my books, patterns and ideas were on the computer?

The most fun, though, was my package of Barbie stickers. That just made me smile. I know I'll find ways to use them.

Best gift of all was having the kids here for Christmas Eve. I think the spontaneity of the event just pushed us out of our comfortable rut. Having to be flexible and change plans at the last minute is so exciting. Not when you think about it in advance and make contingency plans but when you are truly surprised into change.

So, New Year's thought ( no resolutions!): keeping plans to a minimum is challenging but can create more joy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Drip, drip, drip

What a pleasant sound the melting snow makes. Not that it won't take ages to actually disappear but it's a start.

Since I'm kind of tired of talking about the weather, I'll move on. The rug I was going to have finished by Christmas is still waiting. I think I'm going to take apart the basting of the squares since it's not holding as well as I had expected. Usually, when I add a piece of burlap, I do a fair bit of zig-zag stitching. I was a little lazy - and in a hurry - so I didn't do as much as I should have. And it's hard to hook around the stitching so I was trying to solve a lot of problems at once. Haste really does make waste.

And today was the first day since the 24th that I've actually picked up the knitting needles to finish the little hat I was working on. Just too busy with parties, people and that which will not be mentioned again. I have an order for more socks since my niece really liked the Diamond Lace pair I made for her. And maybe some more mitts since they seemed quite popular. I also have an enthusiastic request for a cable 'sweater' tea cozy. So, pretty busy needles for the next few days.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

This is our big day. No, not for shopping. We have the whole family coming to eat, drink and, definitely, be merry. There's always lots of food, chatter, laughter and kids scooting around the grown-up legs.

We hope that everyone will be able to get here. But the snow has begun to fall - again! The weather predicted is rain mixed with snow but this is awful darn snow-like. I think we'll be shovelling - again!

I also wanted to give a back story to the Santa stocking photo yesterday. The kids didn't have their Christmas stockings with them so each one whipped off a sock for Santa. Mom had remembered to bring the special cookies Becky had baked for Santa...he seems to have enjoyed them. Maybe Santa felt bad for eating them, because he left a heart cookie for each stocking.

Happy shopping to all who are venturing out to help our economy.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The snow is now over 60 cm here. It was over my knees as I tried to shake some snow off the shrubs yesterday.

Last night we had some unexpected Christmas Eve visitors. DS & DIL with three grandkids couldn't get to their intended destination and so came to this inn. It's not roomy but we found space for everyone. The stockings had to be hung for Santa. And he seems to have safely landed his sleigh on the deck because this is what we found this morning.

Many parts of N Van lost power last night due to the weight of the snow on tree branches. Not for long but enough to put us all on alert. We have our one and only back up plan - look to the right. It may require some prep work. Of course, we hope the power stays on. And it's very nice to have kids on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

I think I'm smiling...we're having a blast building our snow knitter. She's not actually in the act at the moment but you can see the results of her work. The flowers are a hopeful touch from Anne.

Andrea and I started by shovelling the driveway and sidewalks; then decided we needed to have some fun. The snow is pretty wet now and compacts well. Very nice for sculpting the huge pile of snow that we created.

Merry white Christmas !

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cool photos

We got him! Well, actually Anne did. She's been stalking the suet feeder with the camera in hopes that the downy woodpecker would come back.

And the others are two shots of the stained glass which hangs behind the garage window. There were some lovely frost flowers and she took a close-up.

Just don't think about the implications of frost flowers on the inside of a window.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Looks like Christmas, doesn't it? This was taken early this morning after our night of the Big Storm. The snow just didn't quit all night. But today is clear and cold so that makes it quite pretty.

The birds are not so happy, though. We had a number of bush tits clustered on the suet this morning. And the jay came for his peanuts. A woodpecker came by for suet, too, but we couldn't get a good photo. He was hiding behind the container.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Favorite DPN's

In May 2004, I bought my first bamboo needles in a LYS on the island of Maui. I had brought some knitting with me on the cruise but I'd almost finished and I knew that we still had several days before home. So, I decided to find a store and buy some yarn. Ooh... there was this fabulous rainbow-dyed sock yarn. And another with shades of blue. But, sadly, I had no sock needles. So, I splurged and bought the bamboo. That was one of the best buying decisions I ever made.

These needles have become my favorite and I knit almost all my socks with them. Then, last night, I was sliding them into the case and I noticed that they were much darker than the new set that I found a couple of months ago. I wondered how many pairs of socks it took to get that patina.

Now, most people would just guess-timate. But, I don't have to. About 5 years ago (long before Ravelry) I started keeping a log of every item I crafted. So, knitting, quilting, hooking, sewing - whatever. I think this was a way of justifying my retirement existence LOL But the habit stuck and I know exactly how many pairs of socks. On these needles I have knit 87 pairs of socks - 16 for kids - and one pair of mittens. Whew!

Now, the challenge is: how many pairs of socks is the life of a bamboo needle good for? I'm glad to have found the other set because I can make 5-needle socks if I want (hardly ever). My venerable set did have 5 needles but it got caught in something and broke. That started my quest for a WIP container so that I wouldn't run the risk of breaking others.

So, with care, I think I could knit on these needles for a long time to come. I think the points will probably give out at some time as they do show signs of use. But the wood is hard and I may have hundreds of socks left in them. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Common cold

Poor Anne. She's battling her second cold this winter. In the hopes that rest will make her better, she's cuddled up with a stack of magazines.

These aren't just any magazines. All our saved cooking ideas of the last 10 years are here. So, ripping and sorting are what's going on. Recipes are inspected and mostly rejected. If kept, then there's a category pile. The plan is to cull about 95% of the recipes. These are the ones that look so good on paper. And you're going to make them some day. And they'll be delicious. But when you think about that delicious recipe that you once saw...where the heck is it? By the time you thumb through a zillion pages...well, you just don't do that, do you? And it's so much easier to just go to the internet.

So, what's the point of keeping them all? Enter our intrepid recipe editor with a plan and a bunch of time. I'll report on the success of her mission later...and of course, the health of the patient.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The snow hasn't stopped all day. It's still cold and so it's not the wet nasty stuff that we usually have which makes great snowballs and snowmen but gets your mittens all wet.

Anne played with the camera and the birds this afternoon. It took a lot of shots of chickadee butts to get these.

I love the junco with the chickadee (it's the butt, of course) on the feeder. Juncos are not very comfortable feeding like this but the snow is too deep for them to find the seeds that the finches kindly fling about.

Chickadees at the feeder and trying to find something good in the snow. A hungry purple finch dives into the feeder. These are our snow birds!

Monday, December 15, 2008


The heron came back this afternoon. The light was fading fast and I don't think I got a decent photo.

He looked quite bewildered as he stood on the neighbor's pond. In this very cold weather, the water has frozen over quite solidly. The poor heron just stood there on the ice taking careful steps all the while peering down through the ice at whatever is in the pond.

I braved the cold outside to get a better photo but as soon as I got the camera in place, there was a noise from inside the neighbor's house and he flew away with great flaps of his wings. So beautiful.

Together at last

I know it doesn't look very together and the squares weren't connected in the photo. But I needed to figure out what kind of sashing and border to put on the rug. So, I laid the blocks out and took a lot of pictures with different fabrics. This gold and navy combination seemed best.

So, now, I've basted together the burlap (and two linen) borders of each block and cut the strips. I started hooking the gold last night but it's going to take a while. This is definitely going to be the hard part. This rug is a bit larger (44 x 30 in) than most that I do. I would still like to have this done before Christmas but I may be over-optimistic.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh, no! Snow!

Baby, it's cold outside! It's not very much but it does make everything look a bit prettier. I grabbed the camera for a few garden pictures. The gray squirrel found a peanut on the deck.

From the top: winter jasmine; a primula, and a helleborine orchid seed stalk. At the bottom is an echinacea seed head. I just love the super close-up on this camera. No, really.

We'll enjoy the 'snow' day and do some Christmas baking. Maybe even get the Christmas decorations out. Snow kind of puts me in that festive mood. I'm about ready to go out and get a real Christmas tree. No, wait. Where the heck would it go? And what about the scent allergies?
But the idea of a lovely fir with that outdoorsy smell is tempting. I think I'll make gingerbread men instead.

Friday, December 12, 2008

'tis the season

It always gets really busy about now. We've tried to get down to basics but there are still lots of things to do. So what's keeping us busy?

The Big Event this week was our seniors' Christmas lunch. Anne had the fun of pulling it all together and we're pleased to say it was a great success. The room was happy, the food was delicious and the helpers were plentiful. Of course, the best part was the music. The senior vocal ensemble from Argyle was fabulous! Just the right thing to get us all in the Christmas spirit.

And, since we were feeling so Christmas-sy, we took yesterday to help Santa's elves. Our early gift to DIL was a day for her to shop without the little ones. We had a good time watching them in the mall's adventure jungle with nets and tunnels and lots of slides. After we had a bit of lunch we window-shopped on our way back to the climbing stuff. Like her Grammy, Becky likes to look at the bling. And Charlie liked the big trucks. He didn't know they were remote controlled and we didn't demonstate. Just looking was good enough for both of them.

And here's the other thing that's been keeping me busy. This is two wool tweeds. The turquoise is a blue plaid which was over-dyed with yellow-green. The gold is an Irish tweed which is soft and buttery feeling and has a gray/green herringbone design. I like how fresh and clean the colors are against the white.

I'm determined to have the whole rug put together before Christmas. So, maybe there'll be no other blocks for this one. Ideas for the future.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Here's the wool yarn that was dyed the other day. My intent was to get a turquoise color for the over-dyed wool fabrics that I was doing. This was just a 'throw it in the pot because there's room' kind of thing and I didn't have any particular color need.
When I mixed up the dye solution it seemed way too green so I threw in a bit of blue. (Like most recipes, I only use them as a basis for my own experiments.) This is the result and the photo color is pretty true. I've rewound and weighed - there's 172 g in this skein. I hope that's enough for the mitts I have in mind.
Stay tuned.

Oh, yeah, in the end I didn't use the wool fabric that I had dyed. One was too plain and the other had too much orange in the tweed which didn't seem to change much when over-dyed. It'll go somewhere else but not these quilt blocks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

One down

And one to go. Or maybe a couple more squares. There's so many blocks to choose from and I dream about others as I hooked this one. Since they're not very time-consuming, I'm thinking that maybe a bigger rug would be fun. I have to join the squares up anyway so it's just a little more work at the end.

I've been renaming this square. Since the moon looks a little pizza-ish I thought it should be "That's Amore" LOL The fabric is a pale yellow fairisle sweater with oranges, reds, greens and grays in the pattern. I thought it worked really well with the brights in the other blocks.

And I do like the night sky. I spot dyed a white wool scarf with a deep blue and a dark fuschia. It was layered and the dyes spooned over the top layer so they soaked through. This gives me a continuum of shading to choose from when filling in the background. Quite a bit left so I'm sure it'll turn up somewhere else. It's so nice to hook this fabric, too.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Woolly find

Look what we found at the thrift store! This is all wool and there's 2200 grams of it. Each of the 'balls' is quite elongated - about 15 inches - and wound with a center pull. I've never seen yarn wound like this before. I did have to do a wool content test because the yarn seemed a bit hard and I just wasn't sure what it was. And there are several different shades of white here. Some are kind of off the white scale altogether.

Because I'm getting out the dye pots today for some rug wool, I thought I'd see how this yarn takes dye and whether that process will soften the yarn a bit. So I skeined one of the balls - about 100 yards - and I can play with it to see what it does. If it softens up significantly, then I'll probably make some fingerless mitts as a gift. Here's hoping for change.

The other thing I'll be testing, soon, is how well it felts. I sure wish my hands could produce things as fast as my mind. I have a number of felted projects sitting in the back of my imagination. Along with all the rug designs, a few quilt ideas and not so many, sewing projects. Oh, well, one step at a time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

No risk

Oh, we Canadians are a cautious bunch. It could have been so exciting to see what cooperation in Parliament would look like. I'm very tired of such adversarial government. I'm very tired of being lied to and manipulated.

But mostly, I'm profoundly disappointed with the decision to prorogue.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Getting started

I can't wait to get going on this challenge. I've drawn out the quilt blocks that i want to use and just have to assemble the wools that I want. I think these blocks will work well with what's already been done and I can blend the colors pretty well.

I've chosen Next Door Neighbors because the swap creates new neighbors in the hooking world. And because triangles are my favorite shape. I think I can incorporate some creams, turquoise and green into this one.

The other is Moon Over the Mountain. I have always wanted to hook this one and it would have been part of the swap rug for sure. I'm thinking that the moon could be a big old harvest moon in oranges, yellows and golds. I can hook dark purples and blues into the sky and dark greens and blues into the mountain.
This is gonna be fun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm ba-a-ack

Too bad it's such a foggy morning. The blue heron is back for a bite of breakfast. This beautiful bird stalked and devoured two tasty treats before flying away into the mist.

The zoom lens is a mystery no longer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sampler rug

I've been waiting and waiting...

Way back in the year I started hooking 12 inch squares based on quilt blocks. These were for a swap and I thought it seemed like a really good idea. There were about 30 participants - the possibilities and combinations, endless. Well, that was then, as they say.

In the end, only 3 people actually submitted squares to swap. Since I submitted four blocks, I got two of my own back and two new ones and they're really nice. Opening the package on a rainy day and seeing the cheerful orange and golds, really perked up an otherwise gray day. I love the bear's paw pattern (I submitted one, too) and it's nice to get one back. If you look closely at the orange star, you'll see that it has some yellow-orange as well as dark orange...reminds me of candy corn.

Now I have the great fun - and challenge - of finding colors and other blocks to hook which will make this into a rug. That was my aim all along and I'm really looking forward to playing with my stash and looking up quilt blocks.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yesterday while I was sitting at my desk, I looked out the window and saw a big gray/brown shape on the peak of our neighbor's roof. It was a great blue heron! I grabbed the camera - quick!

Sadly, I haven't used the zoom feature at all (new camera, remember?) and only managed to get a limited magnification. If you enlarge the photo, the bird is quite visible.

The heron seemed to be eyeing the neighbor's pond below. I don't know if they actually have put any fish in it. Around here, fish don't last in ponds as the herons cruise over looking for such easy pickings. Even tadpoles are endangered. I've never seen a heron here before, though. A nice surprise. I hope it comes back so I can get a better photo. I'll practice with the zoom so I'm ready next time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I sort of noticed yesterday that the house felt cold but we like it on the cool side. Our kids think the house is like the high Arctic LOL But we do have our limits and this morning the thermostat didn't seem to be showing any change from the night-time setting.

Not worried yet, we investigated and found the pilot light out. After trying to relight it a couple of times, we realised that it was probably this little doo-hickey that seems to crap out every three years or so. It's not a big thing and it will be fixed on Monday.

In the meantime, we have warm sweaters and socks, a space heater and a fireplace. How bad can things be?

Plastic Barbies

I've been catching up on getting the donated Barbies and babies ready for resale at the thrift shop. They've been stacked up in a corner of the sewing room for weeks waiting for me to have time for them. This is about half of what I got done over two days which was about 30 Barbies, 5 babies and a half dozen little ponies. It can take me up to half an hour to fix up a doll depending on the state of the hair. They do get their hair in some pretty bad tangles although many baby dolls are bald which makes things really fast. While I get the hair smooth, I think about the personality of this doll - based on her hair, mainly. Then I figure out what clothes to put on her and then I search for shoes. The last step is to seal them up to keep them nice for the store.

Everything is a search, really. I start off with the clothes all sorted into various zip-lock bags but things get into a mess pretty fast as I rummage through the bag, pull out and discard various outfits. Or I find one part of an outfit and can't find the rest. Soon I am rooting through a jumble. It must have been pretty bad yesterday because I found myself dreaming of a big Barbie dressing room with all the clothes on little hangers. And all the shoes and accessories lined up neatly on shelves.

I have all the re-organising to do today since I just stuffed all the little bags into bigger boxes. That closet is still looking pretty good this morning. Just saying.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fair play?

So, Vanoc has bowed to pressure exerted by reporter Peter Lee and all those school kids. What nonsense! I'm sure Vanoc had this marketing scheme planned all along. Hold back one mascot - the cutest and probably most locally relevant - and create a buzz around it. Was Lee in on it or was he just used like the kids?

Funny thing, that Mukmuk was freed from his cyber-jail just as the Christmas retail season ramps up. Or am I being too cynical? Or maybe I should just stand back and applaud the clever marketing minds at work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Littlest DGD

Remember that little pattern book that I bought at the craft sale? I did manage to find something that I'd not seen in my other old pattern books. These cute little Mary Jane slippers are for Katie who has many pairs of little socks but these are a bit different.

They are about 3 inches long and made from the pink/gray yarn that I liked so much. Wow! It has really given me good value: a pair of adult socks, a blended kid's pair and now these. But that's all there is...I used it all up. Totally.

I'm not sure I really like the colored yarn for these slippers now that it's made up. I think that if I make them again - and they are really easy - I will make them quite plain. The pattern has a little contrast trim thing on the toe. It was too busy with the patterned yarn but plain would probably look very nice. There's always something to learn.

See it?

The family resemblance, that is. These socks are the result of blending yarns and might be kissin' cousins. I used a multi-gray blended with a blue/gray/orange. Both are cotton and wool blend yarns and so they work a bit better together. The difference between these and the 'Skybluepink' socks is that these yarns are self-striping. It sort of works with the colors but I'm not entirely happy with the result. The other big problem is that I can't control where the colors are. These are remnants and I can't just wind off a bit and start where I want. I did try to get two sort-of-orange toes. So, while each sock is OK on its own, they don't really work as a pair. Fortunately, they will grace a two-year-old's feet and he'll not notice it that much. If I were doing another pair of socks with blended yarn then I would stick to those with random coloring. It's all learning.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Here is 'Bass Lines'...all done, at last. Believe it or not, this is the best picture I can get today. I may try again tomorrow. The flash washed it out and when I didn't use the flash all I got was this. When I did a close-up I got a better color so I'm posting that photo, too. The rug is about 32 x 22 and I bound it with gray wool.

It seemed to take a long time to get to the binding which actually goes pretty quick once I start. I wonder what it is about finishing that I don't like? It's not just rugs...I hate doing up hems and sewing on buttons, too. And sewing up a knitted garment is such a chore. I'm a little better disciplined now than I used to be. I kind of force myself to finish one rug before I can start another. Designing new ones doesn't count, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


We worked at a craft sale today, making coffee to revive hard-working volunteers as well as customers.

There were lots of beautiful knitted things: beautiful afghans, neck warmers, scarves and slippers to keep everyone cozy. Crafty sewn dolls and ornaments for Christmas were lined up ready for sale. There was lots and lots of home baking, too. So much work, so many hours. It was nice to see so many folks coming in to buy these items. It's so validating when someone buys that baby sweater or box of cookies you've put so much love and skill into making.

I found a knitting book for myself. I know, just what I needed LOL But it was such a sweet little book. An old Patons & Baldwin that I'd never seen with baby knits. I've probably seen a lot of the patterns but not this book. It's quite small and has red card covers and some lovely little drawings. I'll find something in it to knit, I know.

I also found some buffalo yarn in a light raspberry pink color. I'm collecting buffalo yarn for a felted project that I have in my mind. So far, I have white, three shades of gray, charcoal and the pink. Maybe I'll get started after Christmas...I always need a completely new New Years' project.

And, of course, we bought our share of baked goodies. Peanut butter and chocolate tarts. Ginger spice biscotti. Some almond bark with cranberries. Yes, there's still some left...tomorrow's another day.

Friday, November 21, 2008


More experimenting with blending yarns. Here's another little sock - probably for Charlie. There's a lot of white in parts of the blue/orange yarn which gives it a vaguely Scandinavian look to me. I doubt I'll be able to match each sock exactly.

This technique seems to work better when there are shorter random color lengths otherwise it just ends up looking striped. I also think the cotton yarns give a softer blending than the strong colors in wool sock yarns. But maybe I just haven't tried the right combination. There's lots to choose from.


I took advantage of a break in the rain to play with the camera. I wanted to see what kind of close-ups I could get of the garden in winter. Here's what I found.

From the top: a lily of the valley berry, tiny toadstools, a cluster of beautyberries and a rose hip.

Right: new growth on a winter jasmine Below: a primula whose color makes me smile


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