Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On the sex life of the Holly

Most gardeners know that Ilex or holly needs a partner - another holly tree or bush, to have them both produce those gorgeous red berries so popular in winter, when everything else is bland and grey.

Several years ago, a horrific ice storm took one of our holly bushes, not to mention many limbs from our maple tree and a few other arboreal casualties. OK, the maple is self pollinating, and I made sure that the fruit trees, I planted, were as well. However, the hollies weren't.  I wasn't sure which holly had died. Yes, it was the one on the right, but was that the male or the female or as they are known at the garden centre - the prince or the princess.



Every spring when a few blossom would appear on a couple of twigs, I promised myself that I would find time to take a cutting to the garden centre and find out if my bush was either male or female. I needed to know whether to buy a prince or a princess to replace the one lost. Time, of course, was never found and the mystery of the sexual identity of my holly bush was never solved, even though, I was sure it was female, because of the blossoms.

This year to everyone's surprise, we have red berries on the mystery bush!! Eureka, a transgendered holly or at least, a bi-sexual one.

I never cease to marvel at the inventiveness of nature. It makes its own rules and is never swayed by mores imposed upon it. It changes, as needed, to accommodate the situation and it gives us pleasure in the most infinitesimal ways.

Holly, by the way, is sacred to the fairies and is said to protect man from evil. It is an ancient plant with mystical powers. Well, it magically transformed itself in our garden. Please share any holly stories you may have.

The picture - a holly sprig from the sacred bush. We place a piece of holly at everyone's place setting on Christmas day. I prefer it to tinsel. The picture doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea!!

Have a jolly, holly day!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Amo, Amas, Amat...

...I love, you love, he/she loves....Well, it is that time of year, when everything else fades in the magic of lights, music, family, friends and good cheer.

I couldn't resist posting, on another knitters thread, this link to a site that lists the conjugation of the latin verb, amare - to love, in all its many tenses - intense. Here it is -

http://latindictionary.wikidot.com/verb:amare

Just in case you needed a bit more of that love or another variation, be it - conditional, subjunctive, pluperfect or yes, future perfect :)

I always marvel at the fact that some languages have very few or no tenses at all, for their verbs. They live, for the most part, in the eternal present. On the other hand the English language has one of the most complicated, dare I say twisted, network of verb structures known to man.

It must have something to do with the angst of the English. Or as Macbeth said -

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly;



Well, maybe not that quickly, when you consider all the time taken to ponder the nuances of what's to be done. Would the deed or event, be done imperfectly, never quite finishing or would it be done so completely that it would be considered pluperfect, a sort of uber perfect. Then again, would it be done conditionally or horror of horrors, subjunctively - whatever that may entail!!


No wonder the Brits are often considered a somewhat sedentary culture. Yes, they have produced prodigious writers and scholars, but they aren't really know for their actions - very little, beyond a few wars, actually "got done" over there. However, a lot got pondered!!

But I digress. Let's get back to the Love - amore, amores, which is a masculine noun - surprise, surprise and the ablative plural is amoribus - it is also the dative plural. So it begs the question did all love really start with a date on a bus?

I'll leave you to ponder that. The picture? Just cooking up a bit of silliness for the holiday :)





Monday, December 19, 2016

Behold......

.....The Ugly Christmas Sweater!! Please, let me explain!!



Sometime in mid-November, my youngest was telling us about a planned Christmas party at his work. There was to be a "Secret Santa" gift exchange and an "Ugly Christmas Sweater" contest. He loved the concept of the ugly Christmas Sweater!! (In my heart, I wept - how did beautiful Fair Isle motifs, in red and green come to this, sigh!)

Nicholas (Yes, named after St. Nicholas) also loves clothes, in all their finery. He has taste, I might add, and the ugly Christmas sweater is the antithesis of this taste. He mentioned the "ugly Christmas sweater" last year, as well. To him it's a clothing joke and he wanted to have one, just for the fun of it!! This year, he started describing, what he considered ugly - "I just want to put a mess of something right in the middle of the sweater!!"



I rose to the occasion. Yes, there are things in knitting that some consider ugly - chunky acrylic yarn comes to mind. I knew I had inherited some chunky acrylic from my mother's stash, and it was actually in red and green - what could be more perfect. Clearly someone else had started and then abandoned an ugly Christmas something, a long time ago.

On 8mm needles the project would be quick. It would not only feed my need to design "costume," but it would also be a challenge, to make something "ugly" in an amazing way, if you know what I mean!!





Together, we decided on a Christmas tree in the centre of the sweater, which could be decorated with jingle bells and flashing lights - I love song and dance!! Somehow ugly was starting to be a lot of fun!!


I found the yarn, which was still bright and cheery and I also found my 8mm circular needles. A quick read of the yarn label gave me the gauge and a measurement from an old sweater gave me the width. I cast on in red. After the first skein, something didn't look right - It was way too big. I am a loose knitter, but really.


I ripped it out and started again. This time I had done front and back and grafted the shoulders together. Nicholas tried it on - too small. Ugh. The journey was becoming ugly as well. However, this time I had gone too far. I wasn't ripping it out again, so I decided to cut a steek from the underarm to the bottom of the ribbing on both sides of the sweater and insert two green panels. It worked - sort of. I attached the panels with red saddle stitching to make them look, as though they were an intended aspect of the design - more lies that knitters tell themselves!!

The sweater finally fit in the body, but it was now too short. Well, it might have always been too short, but I hadn't noticed, in my horror of its being too small in the first place.

I could add some tabs that tapered and held a jingle bell, maybe. No, not fancy enough. Finally I picked up the bottom edge and knit another band of ribbing, this time in green and added tabs of red with gold jingle bells attached. Ugly is starting to come together!!


I added epaulets in green at the shoulders to give the side panels a little more presence and I decorated the epaulets, giving them a little more presence, because of the highly decorated ribbing. It never fails. Somehow you can't just add a little something here and there - you have to add a lot of everything everywhere to make it all work!!

Several trips to the dollar store netted lots of tiny, gaudy Christmas decorations and my husband found some flashing lights at another dollar store near his work. I love family projects.

I knit a Christmas tree in garter stitch, sewed on a dozen or so decorations and stitched the tree to the front of the sweater. The battery for the flashing lights could be slipped into the bottom of the tree and activated later. I've got my fingers crossed that the battery actually works and the lights will flash!!



Finally an "Ugly Christmas Sweater" tastefully executed such that all the mistakes were incorporated into the design, ;) the design works, the sweater fits and my out of pocket expenses were less than $10.00. My son will now go to his Christmas party as a cross between one of Santa's elves, the nutcracker and maybe the little drummer boy.

I'll let you know if he wins!!

Have a Merry Christmas!!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Canadian - eh?

Or maybe that's ech! Nothing makes me feel more Canadian than a blizzard that starts about 3:00pm on a workday afternoon - just early enough to coat the roads with a slick of ice, before it's time to even think of getting home.



This is when a thirty minute commute turns into a three hour gut wrencher through blinding white outs in a crawl of cars, trucks, and buses. Not to mention the pedestrians, if you can even see them camouflaged in black and white or worse, white and white.



This time I was the pedestrian and I was walking faster than the cars were travelling, even though I was battling the wind in my face, which blinded the eyes, but didn't, fortunately, freeze the lashes - we are ever thankful for small mercies!!

Blizzards are the dark side of a white winter, sigh!!