Thursday, February 26, 2009

Before & after

Yesterday and today were spent with the babies and the Barbies. These are dolls donated to the thrift store at Mount Seymour United Church. Every so often, I gather a bunch together and get them ready for re-sale.

They're naked because all their clothes get washed and, sometimes, ironed. When I started out, I had not many clothes and had to buy some at garage sales. Now I have overflowing laundry baskets full of clothes for all kinds of dolls. I know I have more clothes than I will ever have dolls to wear them. I try to keep the small things organized in zip-lock bags but somehow my effort is all undone in the first half-hour of work. Reminds me of when I was in the dorm at university. Before going anywhere, we'd try on all the clothes we owned. Some made it back to the closet - most didn't. I have to say that the Barbies are the worst offenders.

I wash every one and some need a lot of scrubbing. It's quite amazing what little girls - and boys - do with and to their dolls. The hair is cleaned, brushed and combed. De-tangler is my best friend, especially with Barbies. Many have their hair cut very short - they usually get a hat of some sort. The babies are the grubbiest but there are frequently 'tattoos' on the Barbies. I even had one this time that had two black eyes. Not bad eye make-up but bruises! Who knows what that kid was thinking about.

Then the costume choosing begins. I have a lot of fancy dresses and that's what the little girls love. We have noticed that moms frequently come in to buy the Barbies as 'loot' bag fillers for birthday parties. I'm sure that some even come back to me. Now, I'm seeing those big-headed Bratz dolls and I don't really enjoy them. Except for one thing: their footwear. Each doll has stumps instead of feet. Just snap on another kind of boot or shoe which are so big that they don't disappear like the tiny Barbie shoes. I can never keep enough of those around. And I have a lot of singletons.

The babies always look so sweet when they've been bathed and dressed. No matter how odd the face or ungainly the stuffed body, each one takes on a personality. They are more interesting than the fashionistas because they seem more real. And the production line moves quickly with them. They take up so much space but don't take a lot of work. Most don't even have hair.

I love my job but I'm glad it's over for a couple of weeks. The pile will be as big again by then. Don't they all look happy to be given another chance to be adopted?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New tricks

It's so much fun to learn new stuff! Like most people, I can be guilty of digging in my heels and trying to maintain the status quo. I do know that I always enjoy jumping out of my comfort zone - after the plunge. And, sometimes, I like it so much I keep on plunging. The cold water always feels warmer that way.

So, here I am, knitting a toe-up sock. Months ago, I downloaded a free pattern from Elann just in case I ever felt like trying. So, Becky's sock has changed. Frogging what I had cast on, I just followed the pattern. No drama; no pain. It's so easy and I think looks very neat. The real test will come at the heel. I've become so addicted to my short-row heels that I kind of made that a barrier to anything new. This pattern has short-row heels, too, so I may just have become a toe-up convert. My 'tried and true' sock pattern was a whole new technique to me 3 years ago. Why stop there?

I don't think Becky will mind and the socks may even fit her better. That's the real test. See? Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book appetite

As I was putting my latest Richard B Wright acquisition on the pile beside the bed, it occurred to me that I like to read my way through a favorite author's total output. Maybe not all at one go, that would be too much. Too rich a diet these days.

When I was a kid, I was enchanted by the Bobbsey twins and I know that I read every book that came my way. Since libraries weren't as easy to access as they are now for kids, I pretty much depended on receiving a new book as a gift. But I had an aunt in the US who sent book gifts now and then and I was able to satisfy my need. As teenagers, my friend Gloria and I had a 'pash' for Rosamond du Jardin books. The poor woman just couldn't write them fast enough for us. We haunted our local library for news that she had produced another and immediately ordered it. I have no idea if we were her only local readers. And we certainly didn't want to be distracted by other authors. We did read many different books but we were always sort of holding back our enthusiasm.

When I was older, I remember reading many books but I don't actually think there were authors that compelled me to read every one of their books. Perhaps I was too busy reading for school. Of course, there are many other things to do when one is a young adult so reading, while always important, wasn't as all-consuming. I do know that I got hooked on reading short story magazines that could probably be called pulp fiction. I devoured Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, and Galaxy SF. Many excellent authors wrote for all these magazines in those days - and probably still do.

Later, I read every Michener I could get my hands on. I read every Clavell and every Catherine Cookson. By now, my delight in characters above all else is becoming clear. I couldn't get enough of books with continuing, interesting characters. Of course, this was the beginning of my love for mysteries where there are often unique, if not eccentric, fictional people. I would start with an author who created a particular world and motor through everything I could find; reading the newest books as they came out. The way that I acquire books now dictates that I can't just make a complete meal of one writer. I can read other books in between those I want to read serially and I enjoy them all. But I'm always on the look out for those writers I've come to appreciate. Mr. Wright is one of them.

Maybe it's like discovering people that you like to be with. You just want to find out more and more and having them go away is very sad. My mother used to tell me that books were my friends. I'm sure she'd like to know how right she really was.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lazy Sunday

An invitation to share a birthday dinner with my son led us to a gentle afternoon adventure.

We collected up our books for trade and headed off to Characters to trade them in. This is a wonderful used book store in Marpole area of Vancouver. We visit about twice a year and always come away with another armful of books to enjoy. The owner took in our trades and we spent an hour happily browsing the shelves for treasures. They also have a good coffee bar if the browse becomes too thirsty.

Then we headed out to Steveston because I wanted to buy that purple sock yarn for Becky. We also wanted to reconnoitre a 'greasy spoon' cafe that had been reviewed in the paper. We'll have to leave The Fisherman's Boot for another day because it's located inside the Harbor Authority and access is restricted on a Sunday. But thinking of food made us a little hungry as we set out down off down the docks. We decided to try the Blue Canoe restaurant which is new to us in Steveston. My calamari were crispy and light and Anne's burger was declared one of the best she'd ever eaten. A lot of seafood on the menu which is what you'd expect in a fishing village. The energetic service was excellent: courteous and professional. With a lovely window seat to watch the boats go by, what better way to enjoy a meal?

But I still didn't have that yarn, so off we went to Wool and Wicker which is one of my favorite yarn shops. Since I was there last, they've opened a new room for social knitting and lessons. This is bigger than the room given to this purpose before and there's room for more yarn to be displayed and more room to browse. I didn't find solid purple but I chose two that had purple in so Becky could choose. You can see which one she chose as I cast on right away so she could see what it would look like.

Then we walked past Steveston Crafts which had clearance yarns in a basket outside. I found the two Summer Cotton yarns (they are slightly different) and then went inside to pay. I fell in love with the blue mix. It looks like fireworks or the Northern Lights. It will be fun to see it knit up.

Now we're ready to head off for the birthday dinner. Since it was still light we took the kids off to the playground - Mom, too. Dinner was from the local Mexican restaurant and was very tasty. Sing 'Happy Birthday', eat some yummy chocolate cake and ice cream and we're ready to drive home. I'm tired from all the walking on my gimpy knee (really slow) but we've had such a lovely day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Very civilized

What could be more genteel than to have a cream tea on a lovely afternoon that felt like spring?

We were lucky enough to share that with the many who came to celebrate Heritage week at Mollie Nye House yesterday. The Heritage Cream tea is an annual event which raises funds to help operate and maintain this historic facility.

Most of the weekdays, the House is managed by the Lynn Valley Seniors Association and hosts various seniors' programs and activities. But it is also a community center and there are a wide variety of activities that take place here.

This Saturday, our Cream tea reflected the heritage of Mollie Nye whose home this was for her entire life. The house was built in 1913 by her father who was granted the land for his military service to Queen and country. That heritage would have been distinctly British. And so, we have tea.

The room was decorated in spring pastels with tiny potted daffodils on every table. An enormous scone with strawberry jam and cream was a delicious treat. There was a pianist playing and lots of tea drinkers chatting. Since the tables were for four, there was always the opportunity to have a chat with someone new.

A quiet and gentle afternoon tea party on a sunny day. Thank you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Interesting article in the newspaper this morning about the actor Isaiah Washington. The real story behind the article is the DNA testing that we can all access to discover our ancestral roots. This seems to be especially important to African-Americans, helping them connect to their African nations of origin. And some, including Washington, have taken the further step of becoming a dual citizen of the US and and their country of origin in Africa.

I've been trying to imagine what that would be like for me. I have done quite a bit of family history research and have a fair idea where most of my DNA would come from. I can trace my ancestors in Canada back to the mid-1700's. They came from Scotland and Germany for reasons mostly of economy. They came willingly, in a way, but I'm sure would rather have stayed in their home countries if it had been possible. However, I can't equate their experience with that of the African victims of the slave trade. Nor do I have the long history of segregation that has formed their experience.

And that probably is responsible for a huge difference in how I think about my ancestry. But I was imagining having scientific proof that I came from a family of crofters in the north of Scotland. I already know that I have roots there but now I could have proof which narrows the focus. Do I immediately feel a great kinship with others still living there? Not really.

And here's why. In those intervening 250 years, there have been many other strands of DNA added to my ancestral mix. I have ancestry from Ireland, Britain, and France, as well as those ancient Scots and Germans. Wouldn't that be the case with an African-American whose ancestors came to America as slaves? Some came long before my many-greats grandparents and so there's even more dilution. How can you fully identify with any country after all that time? Or is it just an emotional thing? And if that's the case why wait for DNA testing? Just pick a country that resonates with your values and goals.

I understand that there is a screening process in some of the African countries when applying for a dual citizenship. But, if high profile (and frequently well-off) Americans are asking to be citizens, who would turn them down? Mr. Washington has brought economic aid into his adopted country. I see a trend here. It's not a bad thing but it is interesting. Having just worked on the issue of fund raising with the seniors' association, this seems like a win-win scheme for all concerned.

I'm guessing that even if I wanted to have a dual citizenship with Scotland it wouldn't be guaranteed. Perhaps if I were to indulge my fiber passion by raising lots of sheep and create many jobs?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The bright side

Since I'm usually a glass half-full kind of person, I'm trying to see my glass with lemonade in it this morning. Tendonitis in my knee is keeping me from tai chi and walking. I'll have to give the knee complete rest for at least a week and then ease slo-owly back in. These are the lemons.

This means I have more for time working on the stepping stones rug which has languished and progressed very slowly. I'm coming to the realization, too, that I will not have enough of the 'stream' wool to make the rug as big as I intended. Some adjustments will be necessary.

I'll be able to finish the pink cardigan for Becky. It's an old Sirdar pattern and I think it's quite feminine yet grown-up. She really wants purple socks but I don't have the yarn right now so I shall finish this for her first. Purple socks are next in the queue.

Or I can just sit and read while I ice the knee. There's a lovely stack of books just waiting to be enjoyed. Right now I'm in the middle of an Ian Rankin mystery. And we all know that I must finish that one first. I didn't use to be a fan but I picked one of the Inspector Rebus books up last year and I've been hooked ever since.

And, of course, there's the ever-present paperwork. Reports and newsletters; agendas and minutes. I can't see that I'll be bored at all with my enforced rest.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday fun

We had all the kids to play with today. Since it was such a nice day, we decided to go to the playground. Our snow is all gone and it never occurred to us that there would be so much there. It's just a few blocks away.

Charlie had his trusty little shovel and tried to clear it all away for us. He changed his mind in favor of the swings when the job proved too big.

Becky tried the teeter-totter and enjoyed the up part. Everyone had a swing, including Katie. She opted for a nap pretty quickly, though, and left the rest of us to enjoy the swings. Unlike her, we didn't have cozy fleece around us and it got cold even while we were having so much fun. So back home for hot chocolate and stories for us.

We left the mother and son who came to the park to practice their softball game. The bases were marked out in the snowfield and they took turns being the pitcher and batter. Running around the bases must have warmed them up because coats had been shed. Son was soon playing in a short-sleeved T-shirt. We really can't wait for spring.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A walk

Not a very long play day but we did have our first walk this year to discover somewhere new. It's been a long time what with snow and more snow. Probably it's really because we've been busy doing too many other things to make time to just explore.

Anyway, we checked out the Pier at the foot of Lonsdale which is where the huge redevelopment of the old shipyards is taking place. The plans are big with a Granville Island-style market and the National Maritime Museum moving in. There's a lot of residential buildings planned but only two building and pre-selling at the moment.

This walkway will eventually be a part of the sea walk all along the North Shore. I think the plan is to link Dundarave to Deep Cove ...maybe even to Horseshoe Bay but I'm not sure of that. Another new piece has been completed from Lonsdale Quay to connect with Harborview park. The Pier is interesting because of the use of old (or old-looking) ship-building tools and sheet metal in their railings and benches.
A little chilly on the waterfront but a really pretty walk.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


All this administrative stuff is definitely giving me serious sock withdrawal. Last night I dreamed of beautiful lacy socks. They were bright green which looked way prettier in my dream than they do in my memory this morning. All the lace was complicated and varied. I doubt I could ever reproduce it. There were many different sections - all done in different lace patterns. I remember that they weren't regular sections and some were very swirly.

But the best part was that I was being tutored in how to knit socks on two circular needles by none other than Cat Bordhi! Since this is a technique I've never tried, I can only take the dream to be an omen of where I should go next in the sock journey.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oh, no!

It went and snowed again! Yesterday was the most glorious day...standing-in-the-sunshine glorious. Then, in the space of an hour or two this morning (after the morning paper was delivered), a fluffy white blanket covered the ground.

I would not care. I really wouldn't. If it weren't the day for our AGM. And a bit of white stuff on the ground means seniors don't move from home. Let's hope we have a quorum.

No picture...we've seen it all before.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The other night I was watching some skateboarders. I can't figure it out. How do they keep the board stuck to their feet when they fly through the air? Add Image

Thursday, February 5, 2009

For real!

Hey! The groundhog thing worked! Snow drops were spotted in Kitsilano this afternoon.

I wanted to get a shovel out and scrape away the foot of glacier on top of our patch. There were a bare spots around a tree and something green had made its way out of the ground. I could tell because the squirrels had chewed on it. Oh, well, I guess it's hard to find salad when the ground is covered in icy snow.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb 2

Can it be a happy Groundhog Day? The skies are cloudy and no sun will get through. I wonder if anyone has a marmot hole here that is observed for signs of shadow-watching. Observed or not, the lack of shadows indicates that we should be free of winter here soon.


Sunday, February 1, 2009


Since it's the first day of the new month it's appropriate to share a couple of firsts. I always enjoy knitting socks but none more than when I don't choose the yarn. So, when I was given some yarn and a request for new socks, I could hardly wait to finish the knitting in hand and cast on.

But, wait...there's a little challenge here. The new yarn is worsted weight and I'm not sure how far it'll go in a pair of socks. So, enter the pattern for my first toe-up socks. And the first time I've used my full set of 5 wooden dp needles. These are very plain socks although I think the coloring in the yarn provides enough texture. It's very interesting when you look up close. Lots of different greens from bright blue-green to a yellow-green.

Of course, as I'm working my mind is whirring. The colors in the yarn made me think of a Chinese screen made from carved jadeite that I'd once seen.

That carving did make me wonder if maybe some kind of surface design wouldn't work well in this yarn. Next time, maybe. The socks are cuddly soft and knit up really quickly. As long as they fit well and feel good, I'll probably make them again.

I remember when I first saw the jadeite piece, it had such a vivid green in it that I was reminded of the dessert that was served at every fancy dinner I went to when I was graduating from high school. All the award dinners were put on by the various service groups and each one had a dinner. Probably they were all in the local hotel but maybe some were catered by the hotel folks. Whatever, the dessert was always vanilla ice-cream covered with a creme de menthe sauce. Very violently green. My father refused to eat it as he didn't hold with eating food that was dyed green. That included green jello and ,of course, no green beer!

So, thanks, Penny, for giving me an opportunity, some firsts and a few memories.


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