Sunday, November 13, 2022

Fridays are special...

I have always loved Fridays. When I was teaching, it was the end of the week of a commitment to a job that gave you enough money to enjoy a few days off at the end of that week. Friday was the beginning of the weekend - time off to catch up. Yes, there was cleaning and shopping and a host of other commitments to do, but there were still a few hours left to call your own.

OK, these days, although I still work full time, I work irregular hours. Send me an e-mail at 9:00pm on a Saturday night about an order that you need for a class on Thursday morning in Nova Scotia and I will go into my office on Sunday, sort out what is needed. Prepare the order for shipping and send it "super" priority to arrive at your rural route on Wednesday!! I love my job!!

But I digress, I was talking about Fridays...or maybe I was talking about this particular Friday. Today was Friday, November 11. It's a day I never forget. On Thursday, November 10, my daughter asked me if I would like to go to a Remembrance Day service. I was somewhat lost for words.

Although my father served with the RCAF, as a radar technician during the second world war, my family never really "celebrated" Remembrance Day. My father hated uniforms, formality, protocol and so we were spared the bitterly cold hour or two it took to stand at a war memorial on Remembrance Day.

Now, here was my daughter, who was adopted from country that was never involved in any of the world wars, asking me to attend a service I have never attended in the past. God works in mysterious ways. Of course, this was something I had to do. If you want the next generation to remember, you have to not only show interest, you have to also show up!


She picked the service at Fort York. We left at 9:30 for a 10:30 start. My son drove. I'll spare you the problems with the GPS. I would have got us there 20 minutes earlier, but the next generation does not read maps nor do they listen to an aging navigator.

Fortunately, there was time to spare, the rain held off and the "poppy" watching was a diversion while we waited for the ceremonies to begin. The service was tasteful, meaningful and fully attended. I am a better person for the effort I made, driven only by my daughter, who attended every Remembrance Day service for the three years she was at university in Halifax, where the entire city turns out!

This Friday was also special in that we were celebrating my daughter's birthday. Yes, a little early, but it was her day off. So after the Remembrance Day service, I rushed to Metro to pick up ingredients for Spring Rolls that my son was making as an appetizer before our order in meal of Thai dishes. Then a quick hop to Jules for some delectable French pastries as dessert.

It was a very special Friday, even though most Friday's are special in themselves for a host of reason's, this one took the cake!!

Have a special day!


Friday, November 04, 2022

How sweet is this...

 ....I have finally finished the memory quilts (more like accent throws) for the twin beds in the "large" room - everything is relative. I am now working on a quilt for my daughter's room. The needlework keeps me busy; I don't have to watch the assault to everyone's intelligence on Netflix et al...and I get to have moments of pure joy!.


For my daughter's quilt, I'm using her girl guide badges as a "jumping off" point. However, I am taking liberties - my middle name - as I interpret the badges. For example, she has one hostess badge - a teacup. I have created 3 squares dedicated to teacups - well, I used to collect them.


I also turned the baker's badge which depicted an orange loaf of bread - really! - into a cupcake. When was the last time you had a slice of orange bread and wished it had been a cupcake?


Last night I worked on her sport's badge. Sports, especially swimming, is what my daughter does full time, as a program coordinator at the Y. The girl guide badge showed crossed tennis rackets. Yes, she plays tennis, but her recreational sport of choice is baseball. This is the sport she played regularly and discussed, with her father, endlessly.


Here is the finished patch. The moment of pure joy happened when I needed a "baseball." I ran through my inventory of beads - nothing was large enough. I went on to buttons. Compared to fabric and yarn, I have a very modest supply of buttons. However, I did have a button from a blouse I bought years ago (maybe 50) that had supplied 2 covered buttons in case you needed them. Well, last night, Nov 3, 2022, I needed one of those buttons. Because they were covered in fabric, I was able to make a red running stitch along both sides of the button to emulate the stitching on a baseball. There is a reason for all of this madness, this hoarding of stuff!! It is finally to apply 6 or 8 running stitches to a button, to create a baseball and a eureka moment!

My only regret is that I didn't use a piece of blue silk from my husband's tie to make the baseball bat. Well, joy is not necessarily perfection.

I'll leave you to figure out the significance of the numbers.

Have a perfect day!


Thursday, November 03, 2022

My Stuff....

 ...... My writing partner has given the next challenge - "My Stuff." It couldn't come at a better time. The change of seasons always makes me re-examine "my stuff." This would be the bits and bobs, flotsam and jetsam of a life spent grappling with the creative process.

I know creativity takes many routes, all with their own specific equipment. Yes, I have paint brushes for oils and now paint brushes for water colour and since I don't use acrylic, I am spared the space for those brushes as well. Who knew there could be so many varied bits of camel hair affixed to a piece of wood?

But, these creative sticks and their respective tubes of colour are not really "my" stuff. Nor is the calligraphy ink, the pens, the writing paper etc...etc... When I die, just bury me in a corner of Deserres. 

I merely dabble in drawing and painting. However, I drown in fabric and yarn! Last year, I had to clear out a corner of the basement. I reorganized "my stuff" into 16 cloth bins in both the living room and dining room. This "stuff" would be the works in progress, as well as, their raw materials. I had already stored most of my finished work in various drawers upstairs and of course there are the closets.

It was then that I realized my creativity is not only varied, it is also cyclical. For the most part I write. I make notes in journals, I write this weblog, I write letters to friends...enemies and I have written a novel, which will begin it's second draft soon.

When I get tired of writing, I knit (or crochet.) I still move my hands, but my mind can rest on the return rows or in the successive loops of a double crochet. I'm not sure where I got the gene for writing, but I know I inherited the ability to knit and dance from my mother's biological mother (my mother was adopted). These are not necessarily related talents, however, they are both very rhythmical activities. Fortunately, a few CDs will provide me with enough music to satisfy my urge to dance. However, I need yarn to knit and crochet. This is where the "stuff" accumulates. I have stashes of yarn. I ran a yarn business for 25 years. I have discarded more hand knit sweaters (for various reasons) than I have in my finished collection and I have enough balls and skeins of yarn to knit them all over again. Yarn could be the "stuff" that not only fills up my physical space, but also clogs my mental capacities. It toys with my sanity and keeps me from seeing the reality of life - more yarn does not equal more money for basic needs. I have to force myself to remember - you can't eat merino unless it's roasted

However, before I was a yarn junkie, I was a fabric junkie, as was my mother. OK, she did knit and crochet, but her real obsession was sewing. She sewed all my clothes until I was old enough to sew for myself. From then on, I sewed almost everything I wore until I was 30, when I finally had the money to buy ready-made clothes in a real clothing store. This fact, however, did not stop me from buying fabric. I made gifts for friends, sewed for my children and ultimately bought more fabric than I had the ideas (or sense) for.

As a result, over the years, I have probably given away more fabric than yarn. I realize, though, that this clearing out of "stuff" doesn't solve the problem of "too much stuff." It simply creates a vacuum, which needs to be filled, with newer "stuff." And, of course, I never throw out everything. I still have, in my stash, a length of red plaid silk, which my mother's friend, Anne, sent to her from Thailand, when Anne and her husband were stationed there during the war. Now, I must find something to do with it, as it will never be appreciated by the next generation. The bolt stops here!

I don't sew clothes as much anymore. I tend to use my fabric stash for embroidered projects. I have in one of those cloth bins, I mentioned earlier, 24 boxes of my mother's embroidery floss. I am making a valiant effort to use it up!! In fact, I have just started my third memory quilt. It's an accent throw for my daughter's Queen-sized bed, based on her Girl Guide badges. Below is her hostess badge and my quilt interpretation.



She is an achiever and her awards are many - this may take a while. Alas, here I am working with other people's "stuff," as well as my own. There is no end to the madness. The collecting for and the execution of the creative process is rarely balanced. There is always a lot more of the collecting than there is of the executed product. That being said, I have lost count of the number of lace patterns I have on Ravelry and of course I have bins (note the plural) of scarves and shawls that I can't throw out.

What I rarely collect are kitchen gadgets, even though I love to cook. But I did buy a freezer this year - to collect food, I suppose. I guess we can deceive ourselves. 

I can, however, dispense with an awkward plant and I've have stopped rooting cuttings from the house plants I have. Oh ya, I forget to mention gardening. I have dozens of plants both indoor and outdoor. Fortunately, I can leave the culling of that "stuff" to nature.

Maybe this is why I write. I have to clear a path through all this physical debris to get some sort of form and order in my mind. Writing is about structure, channeling our emotions, our thoughts our wildest dreams into precise words and clear sentences. Something tells me though I cannot do this all the time. Every once in a while I have to do this...


...or this.




...with "my stuff."

Have  a creative day!

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

Home on the range

The fourth word in our memory writing challenge is "stove." I have a fascination with stoves. I once wrote a post about an Aga range. I have always wanted to own an Aga. The first memory I have of a stove that came close to an Aga was when my parents bought a cottage (it was our year-round home) on Lake Ontario. It came equipped with an old wood burning, cast iron stove.

I remember my mother once baked a cherry pie in its oven with cherries that came from a tree in our garden. It was a magical. About ten years ago, I baked a cherry pie with cherries from the tree in my garden. I used my electric stove. It was fun, but it wasn't magical.

Another memory I have of these cast iron beauties is when I was eight years old. We stayed on a farm for the summer that had a big old black stove. In winter it heated the entire house. I marvelled at the clever engineering which took the heat from the stove through huge pipes that travelled up the walls and through the ceiling. A pipe went into every room carrying the hot air to the bedrooms upstairs.

Getting the fire to light and keeping it lit was always tricky. However, once lit, the stove cooked several meals at a time, boiled water for laundry and simmered vats of clotted cream (in Devon) on its back ledge.

Here was a workhorse, the heat and heart of a home. In summer these stoves were moved - not sure how they did this - to a back kitchen, often called the summer kitchen. The pipes were detached and heat from the stove presumably stayed away from the house.

My best memories of family are tied to stoves. My grandmother had a gas stove with an eye level oven. She cooked lavish German meals on it, including desserts, Angel Food cake and Bread Pudding, to name a few. When we bought our house years ago, I inherited a stove with an oven large enough to cook two huge turkeys at the same time. I should never have replaced it.

I would love to have an outdoor brick oven and I may buy a smoker next year, if I can find one I like. I am fascinated with large hearths and huge pots suspended over them. I once had an old pot belly stove that came with a large pot for baked beans. I could go on....but you get the idea.

I'll never forget a cooking class I took years ago. A woman asked, if she could replace her stove - oven and all - with a microwave. I gasped! Where would all your memories come from?

Have an amazing day!


Monday, September 26, 2022

Do you mind giving me that recipe...

 .......Well, of course I don't mind. However, I have made a few changes, in fact, quite a few changes, so I should begin at the beginning.

We have a book of Chinese recipes from a celebrity chef of many years ago - Stephen Yan. I'm sure he has many books out, however, this one is entitled "Wok With Yan - Television Cookbook" The copyright is 1982.

There are hundreds of recipes in the book and we manage to use 1!! OK 2 because the recipe underneath sounded good and I happened to have pineapple. This recipe, however, was difficult with hard to find ingredients, so I married it to the one above, tweaked the liquid to include pineapple juice and Voila - life is much simpler.

However, I can't just give you the ingredients. First you have to understand Yan's code for the ingredients.

1. Gourmet powder = MSG (never use it)

2. Wonder powder = tapioca powder. I just use cornstarch.

3. Chinese cooking wine = anything alcoholic in the fridge.

Secondly you have to learn the cooking method's he uses.

1. STIR FRY

Heat wok on high heat. I use the hottest setting and never change it. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a swirling motion. I use Canola. 

Then add the whole dried chili peppers. (I add all 4 and count them as I add them to plates, so people will know to look out for the peppers and NOT eat them. I did by mistake once and almost died of an attack of fiery mouth and throat.) I stir the peppers for a minute or two and then add the chopped garlic and ginger. Yan adds chopped scallions here, but I prefer to add then at the end, if I happen to have them. Next I add the meat. In this case, although the recipe is called Chili Pork, I use 1 or 2 chicken breasts chopped and marinated.

I stir fry until the chicken is almost cooked. Then I add the vegetables. Although there is a list of vegetables that Yan uses for this recipe, I use whatever I have on hand - mushrooms, broccoli, sweet peppers, corn cut off the cob, pineapple chunks, spinach, arugula, shredded cabbage...the list goes on. In fact I have never used bamboo shoots. I have, however, used all of the above in any combination. I stir the veg around a bit, add 4 tablespoons of water and put the lid on the wok until the first wisps of steam emerge from the lid.

At this point, I remove the lid and add the sauce, stirring until the sauce thickens. (I actually double the sauce ingredients, except for the tobasco and omit the sugar.) When the sauce has thickened, I remove the wok from the heat; add its contents to a serving bowl and ladle over rice. It is delicious!!

There are other cooking methods in the cookbook, but this recipe just calls for his stir fry method and since I have never used any other recipe from the book, I have not tweaked his other methods. End of story! 

However, before you start the stir fry, you need to marinate the meat in 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cooking wine and a drop or two of sesame oil, if you have it.

Here is my well-seasoned wok!


Here is a picture of the recipe from the book. Forty years of use has left it a little splattered - a testament to it's deliciousness.


Here is a clearer translation:

Ingredients:

12oz of pork tenderloin, diced. I use whatever amount of meat I have.

4 dried chili peppers - possibly optional, because I often forget to put them in. Make sure the seeds don't leak from the pods.

1/4c of bamboo shoots - your choice. I have never used them.

1/4c carrots - blanched and diced - I use them, if I am low on veg.

2 green onions - I often don't have these in.

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp minced ginger ( I freeze mine - skin on and grate from frozen.)

1/2c of roasted, unsalted peanuts - I often forget these. However, if I remember, I'll add whatever nuts I have and they are usually salted and/or roasted. I add them with the sauce.

Sauce: 

I usually double it, except for the Tobasco. Spell check keeps giving me tobacco...hmmm.

1+1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar - I omit this. I'm usually dieting.

1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine - or whatever.

a few drops of sesame oil - if you have it.

1 teaspoon Tobasco

1/4c water or chicken stock

1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the fruited pork, I use the above sauce and add pineapple juice topped up with fruit juice for the water.

Enjoy!!


Friday, September 16, 2022

Dance your heart out!!

This was the response from a friend of mine, when I said that I was taking a folk dancing class this Fall.

Well, I went to my first class today and I am in awe!! This is a class that has been together for 30 years. It has been taught by the same instructor, Olga, for all those years. There is obviously something very enduring about folk dance - trends come and go, but the truly memorable lives on.

There are 30 of us in the class. Most of the participants have been there for years - maybe even 30!! They were most welcoming - thrilled to be able to pass their love of folk dancing onto others. These are the gems of life that are often overlooked.

We danced four circle dances from eastern Europe - Olga's specialty is eastern European dances, which she has taught to Japanese dancers on several trips to Japan. This is a subsection of society that I have somehow missed. 

I won't bore you with the details of the dances except to say that there were four circle dances one each from Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia and Thrace.

I also found out that there was an International Folk Dance Association. Where have you been all my life!!

A quick Google search revealed many folk dancing groups in Toronto. I would love to do the one's associated with Ireland and Scotland, however they are mostly offered in the evening and I rarely go out at night.

So I guess I will dance my heart out on Friday mornings from 10:00-12:00 after a quick 15 minute walk from home. (OK, 30 minutes at a leisurely pace - but I was late.)

Where in the world can you find this type of international entertainment, walking distance?

It may ease my need to travel....for the moment.

Have an amazing day!!


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Thickness of Ply....

The word for our third memory challenge is "ply." It's a simple 3 letter word with a depth of meaning, no pun intended. "Ply," as a noun, means "layering." As a verb it is often defined as "pushing on," layering ones efforts repeatedly to achieve an end.

I have dealt with ply in an industrial sense for years. As a reseller of yarns, I had to know how many plys were in a strand of yarn and what was the thickness of each sub-ply which made up the final strand of yarn. It's a language unto itself. I would have to able to say that I needed 10s/2/4, which meant that I needed my yarn plied with 4 strands of yarn that was actually 2 plied strands of a 10 spun yarn. This would be the organic cotton that I ordered from the mills in both the US and Peru, years ago.

For my lace weight yarn, I could easily order 18/2, which would be 2 plied stands of a single yarn spun to the international thickness of 18. There are standard measurements for this.

I once visited a plier in Brampton, ON. The owner had inherited the business from his family, who supplied cotton yarns for weavers. He would buy single strands of a two-ply yarn. It always had to be two ply because that's how you deal with the bias. Two yarns plied together have opposing tensions, which, when joined, "settle" the yarn into a single relaxed strand. These strands are then plied to other similar strands to make - 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.....etc thicknesses (of plies). His facility was amazing. If you have ever had to untangle yarn, think of miles of yarn from huge cones being guided through eyes and pulleys to eventually be joined together in the required ply and wound onto smaller more manageable cones. The machinery might have taken up the space of 1/4 of an acre. God forbid that it should ever knot.

This was my business side of "ply."



My personal use of ply has to do with my embroidery. I am using my mother's embroidery thread, which was bought in production quantities, for hand smocking about 80 years ago. This yarn has names, such as, Clark's, Corticelli, Anchor. All the skeins are 6 ply 100% cotton and yes, I can take apart one of the plys and it has two strands of the finest yarn, I could ever imagine, plied together. I usually divide the thread I am using into 3 strands from the original 6. If I need a thinner thread then I use 2 strands. I have yet to use a single 2-ply strand. But I am planning to embroider over drawings. I can see using a single strand for eyes and their respective creases - life's layering.

Here "ply" is so much a part of Art. I add to my mother's colour palette, which has dwindled over the years, embroidery floss from DMC. I marvel at the extensive colour choices, the subtle nuances of shades and the variegated dyes, for those who don't create their own shading.

I have often said that I deal in the microcosm, the small under the microscope facets of life. Well yarn in its finest ply is right up there with the minutae of daily living. And to think that this obsession is supported in the mainstream by corporations that supply us with yarns plied in the colours and gauges of our wildest dreams. The needle arts have not died, they have been subdivided into plies of the finest threads to be used to weave, embroider, knit, crochet.....etc. the stories of our lives.

Not any particular isolated memory, more of a compilation of small moments, plied together to make a memoir.

Actually I will add here a personal note about my mother's embroidery thread. Each colour came in it's own box and each box held about 24 skeins. At one time there were almost 100 of these boxes stored in two large crates. They followed us everywhere. My father was in Real Estate and we moved house often. The yarn always came with us. When my mother died, somehow my sister inherited the boxes. I'm not sure why they didn't come to me, but my sister claimed everything she thought she could sell.

One day she sent me an email. She said that she had put the embroidery floss up on Kijiji and no one wanted it. Would I like it? I would love it! I couldn't imagine it falling into the hands of someone who, yes, might appreciate it, but not know of its history, its personal importance. That individual would not have sat for hours beside my mother watching her set up the bodices of dresses on her small makeshift embroidery frame. They would not have watched her gather the fabric into tiny accordions and stitch those pleats together in chevrons of back stitch or embroider small flowers in between the main designs. They would not have remembered the brilliant orange, red and pink broadcloths cut and sewn into Peter Pan collars and small puffed sleeves to finish the dresses. They would not have seen the look of peace on my mother's face. She was in another world when she smocked. I like to remember my mother this way. In fact, one of the boxes of thread had a half used skein of blue floss. The end was secured in a professional knot. I think that the last person to touch this skein was my mother. I'm keeping it that way.

The picture? Some plied beauty.

Have a many faceted day


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Height and the usefulness of ladders....

 The word for our second memory challenge is "ladder." Here's how I remembered it.

Given that my father was a silver medalist in Canadian diving, height had very little effect on him. Placing a ladder on the apex of a bungalow's roof so he could climb up and fix the orientation of our TV antenna was simply what he did to save money and improve reception.

One day, however, it was a little windy and I guess the weather had unnerved him. He asked me to stabilize the ladder, while he climbed up, yet again, to tweak the antenna. 

"You just straddle the roof of the house and hold the base of the ladder, while I climb up," he said.

Now let's put this in perspective. I was 12 years old, about 4'5" tall and 95lbs. My father was 42 years old,  5'7" in height and about 200 or more pounds. There was no way that I could prevent that ladder from toppling over in a sudden gust of wind. But, that day, I had become my father's keeper.

How he managed to get both of us onto the roof, pull up the ladder and then position it against the antenna was a feat in itself.

He climbed on the first rung. I inched forward to grab the sides of the ladder. He climber higher. I held my breath. Ladders shift with weight. I gripped the struts tighter hoping to anchor the ladder to the roof of the house with my fragile limbs. I couldn't fail. I had to keep him from falling to his death. The ladder shifted. I pulled tighter. How long does it take to adjust a wire or two? How long would I live with the guilt of his death. The wind blew up. I closed my eyes. I clenched my hands tighter around the base of the ladder. My knuckles were white. Surely this would be his Armageddon. Do all electrical engineers die by twisting the wires of Fate? 

Finally, the ladder shifted slightly with his decent. It was over. I was free and he was saved, for now anyway from a premature death. In fact, he went on to live another 62 years. His next house had an antenna with a built in ladder secured to the ground not the roof. I often think he had a Guardian Angel - Evel Knievel comes to mind.

At the time I never questioned his sanity in choosing me as his safety net. After all, I was the eldest, my mother's balance wasn't great, or she had more sense and the neighbour's had given up on him years ago.

In fact, this ladder incident was just one in a series of chores I was asked to do. Fortunately the other tasks were more mundane. I could jockey the car out of a snowbank while he pushed from behind. I was 13 or 14 without a license. This is second only to popping the clutch to start a car with a dead battery, while he pushed the car downhill, to get her rolling. Again I had no license. I could hold the solder while he used a blow torch in a tricky plumbing maneuver. This was easy I had done it before when I was 8 or 9. The list goes on. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer. No, I should have been an engineer.

Have a grounded day.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sands of time...

My writing partner and I have reconnected and we have decided to write in a slightly different vein. Rather than simply giving each other words, as a challenge, we have decided to give each other "memory" suggestions. Yes, they may still be words, but they have to be connected to personal memories - definitely a challenge for me, as I tend to lock "things" away, avoiding the personal - so here I am baring my soul!!

Our first writing for this challenge will be on the memory of "sand." 

Well, my first recollections of sand are of a sandbox my grandfather made for me in our teeny-tiny backyard on Gladstone Ave. in Toronto. My grandparents owned an attached house that was 17' wide, so yes, everything physical was either very small or overstuffed and out of proportion. However, to a child, as long as there was love, harmony and a place to play, it was a perfect world.

My best memories of sand are also of summer. I vaguely remember a trip to Lake Erie, when I was very young. I remember losing a small wooden boat in the waves. Why there was not an adult there to retrieve it, is still a mystery. There were also more mysteries buried in sand, when my parents bought a small cottage on Lake Ontario in an area called Fairport Beach. This was not a holiday house, for us. It was meant to be our year round home, until the realities set in. There was -

1. No potable water. We had to fetch buckets of drinking water from our neighbour's well.

2. No flush toilet.

3. No bath and only one sink, which was in the kitchen.

4. My parents didn't own a car and the bus to anywhere was a two mile walk.

Although our indoor arrangements were limited, our outdoor amenities were amazing. I remember the long stretches of sandy beach, the endless sky meeting the boundless water, the piles of pebbles, the masses of driftwood, and the small pools of a million tiny minnows. This was nature's wealth to share with those who saw her riches. The beach itself was a playground of a different sort. There were just a few of us - my sister and I, the five Morrises, and the three Menarys, ranging in age from about three to eight. We climbed the cliffs, waded into the frigid waters of the lake, built homes of driftwood and lit small fires in the sand to smoke "punk" - small bits of driftwood that looked like cigarette butts - pretending to be adults. In fact there never seemed to be an adult around. Fathers were at work and mothers were at home. We roamed like the free spirits we were. 

However, not all was as idyllic as it seemed. On the steep headland that dropped down to the beach were pockets of clay. A clever trick the older kids played on the younger ones was to lead them across the cliff to a slippery patch of clay and let them struggle there, screaming for help. I remember it was terrifying. There was no foot hold and the drop to the rocky shore was at least 10 feet. Even if you managed to hang on to a weed or two the older kids would push you back onto the clay. My sister and I must have screamed so loudly that someone ran to get our mother. The others took off leaving us there looking like helpless prey. Fortunately, my mother, with a great deal of effort, was able to drag us off the clay and onto the rocks. She was not pleased. We, of course, were blamed for not being smart enough to stay out of trouble.

There was another nasty trick I remember, an older boy playing once or twice, as well. He was a fat-faced bully with squinting eyes and yellow teeth who would purposely start an argument with you near the edge of the cliff. He would inch forward accusing you of stealing or calling him names. Your natural instinct was to step back from his imposing figure. In the heat of the argument it was easy to lose your orientation and step back too far only to fall off the cliff. I think it was the sand that saved me. Yes, when I came home crying, I was punished for being stupid enough to put myself at risk. My mother's heart was made of rock not sand.

We didn't last long by the lake. I went back to live with my grandparents, when I started school and my parents moved with my sister to a small flat in Toronto, renting out the cottage to another young family. We traded the sandy shores of the beach for the concrete streets of the city, exchanging a wild and dangerous freedom for the confines of verandas, sidewalks and sandboxes. In my mind, I know that this safety was better, however, in my heart, I still yearned for the freedom of the timeless days, the endless reaches of the lake and the eternal stretches of sand with their breathtaking challenges.

Have a timeless day.




Sunday, July 24, 2022

My Kingdom for a Mermaid's Purse

 I know a little dramatic, but here's how I got there.

I'm in the process of trying to find ways of both appreciating and preserving artwork that I have done, my kids have done, and others, close to us, have done.


For the artwork in fabric, I have begun doing a series of quilts, as a way of preserving and appreciating some lovely pieces. This is a square from a quilt for a twin bed. Well, of course there will be two quilts, because they are for twin beds and have to be matching. Each quilt has 28 squares of appliqu├ęd and embroidered pieces of needlework that I felt had to be saved. These pieces would be crocheted doilies from my grandmother, a collection of silk and linen handkerchiefs from my mother and a "crazy silk" wall hanging I did years ago and never liked. I know the kids will just throw out the individual items as soon as I'm gone. In fact, they may still throw out the quilts, as well, but the guilt will be greater! 

Each square is joined to the next with a strip of fabric which in turn is embroidered. 


Here is one of the almost finished quilts. I have the other one close to being finished, as well, and I have hand stitched the fabric edging to the first one. I now have to piece together a backing for both quilts, embroider the edgings and secure the backing to the front with some quilting - evening activity for the "stuff" I do during the day.

...but I digress. I was talking about a Mermaid's Purse...we're close.....I don't do much gardening in July - it's either too hot, or I've given up, so I "putter" around adding something here, re-arranging something there...the list goes on. The other day I mounted several pencil sketches I did years ago. Yes, I actually found them in one of the 25 or so half finished sketch books scattered throughout the house. I also found sketches my eldest did when he was young - more ideas for quilts now that I know how to transfer pictures to cloth.


This isn't one of the sketches, but it's close enough. The framed ones are also of shells. This is where I needed help. I had two framed sketches, but needed a third for balance. I decided that I would do a new sketch, but it had to be of shells or similar beach finds. Well, we had kept a few treasures from our various trips to the sea and I was able to locate an almost intact Sand Dollar, a very small and totally intact Star Fish, but I needed a Mermaid's Purse (embryo case for a shark). We used to have about a dozen, but I guess I threw them out over the years. Suddenly, the idea of a beach trip started to materialize.

No, I couldn't justify spending a lot of money to go to the beach to collect a few shark cases. It was at this point that my daughter came home from work and asked how my day was going. I moaned about having thrown out all of our Mermaid's Purses and how I happened to need one right now!

My kids, for all I complain about their messy rooms, their tardiness in doing chores or their flagrant waste of food, time and/or money, are still very magical people. My daughter came downstairs a few minutes later with one almost intact Mermaid's Purse. This only happens in movies or in fairy tales, but it's what makes life precious.


I'm toying with the final arrangement for the sketch. I may show some of the crumbling edge of the Sand Dollar or the other side of the Mermaid's Purse, with its missing "arms" - a composition, perhaps, that comes closer to a statement on life itself. There will always be a missing tendril or two, some crumbling around the edges, beside one or two perfect accomplishments, all preserved in the treasures we decide to keep from the detritus of our lives.

Have a accomplished day!


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

I have lost count...

 ...which is better than losing face or maybe even Faith. I don't know if there are parameters for things like - too much snow, too much grey, too much idle time, too much dark.... the list goes on. In fact, I have lost count of the number of - 

1. Waves of this pandemic. I hear there is another to come, now would that be 5, 6 or 7?

2. OK, I haven't lost count of the masks, only about 5 or 6 that have been used. Maybe one for each wave. Yes, we are told to "ride them out", but we (I) are (am) not surfers and really no one wants to catch one of these waves.

3. The number of hours that should be daylight, which are not because the clouds are so thick they smother the sun and my soul.

4. The number of snowflakes that have fallen after the start of Spring. Yes, I know it can snow in May. Do I get clear passage to heaven for my penance of enduring more Canadian winters than I care to count - there's that word again.

5. The number of squares of an afghan I am crocheting - yes there are probably about 50 or more, but there is always one or two less than I think there should be. If I were paranoid, I would think that someone was stealing my granny squares. Yes, I have lost count of the number of times I think I have lost my mind.


6. The number of left-over meals you can make from one $12.00 chicken on sale at Metro. Maybe 5 or 6, if you count the lunches. If I did the math, that would be about $2.00 per meal. Then again one ham and cheese sandwich with coffee from Jules is a $12.00 lunch. Time to stop counting the calories and/or the pennies.

7. The number of times I check my e-mail for some enlightenment. I could count the spam, but that would be too depressing.

8. The number of plants in my house. I bought a few to ease the boredom of the lockdowns. However, they grow and breed and now I have so many that I have lost count....


9. The number of snowdrops in the garden that have come up through the leaves that have not been raked, because of the number of days that have been below zero.

10. The number of sighs breathed in an hour to fill the time waiting for something to happen, to count, to be an accomplishment, to be rapture!!

The pictures? Things that count.

Have an awesome day

Friday, February 25, 2022

Oceans of Snow

The Winter of 2022 might just go down as the Winter from Hell. Well maybe I shouldn't say Hell, because it's warm there (or so I am told, I've never actually been) and should, as a result, melt everything. This Winter is definitely right up there with the Winter of 1970-71 where I distinctly remember a country road with snowbanks so high they met at the top and created a tunnel, even for the snow plow - wow!


My mother would say it wasn't anything like the Winter of 1944 (I wouldn't know), when the milkman couldn't get his horse-drawn cart up Gladstone Ave. to deliver milk to my grandmother's house because she fostered babies (5 at a time) from the Infant's Home and they needed that milk!! Hence (love that word) the milkman walked half a fairly long city block, with at least six quarts of milk through knee-high drifts to make sure these babies were fed. They don't make them like this anymore!


So, here we are with white caps on an ocean of snow. Drifts like the breakers of a moody sea swell and swirl, eddy and heave with the wind and the changing light. They are pretty, if you don't have to navigate them. The view from the upper deck is just fine.

The pictures? I know a little repetitious - go figure.

Have a precious day.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Everything NOT in its place.....

 It used to be that you could go into a store and buy what you needed. You could go back to that store and buy the same thing again or its add-ons, as needed. Not anymore! Here's my story.

I'm reorganizing the house. I do it every few years. It clears out the cobwebs and gets rid of the 'junk.' Well, most of it anyway. This time, I am re-doing the basement, as a room for my son, who will then relinquish his room upstairs, which will ultimately become a guest room.


However, in order to do this, I had to first move out all the debris from the basement's previous tenant, my eldest, who's been in Calgary now for 5 years. Fortunately I was able to ship the more memorable of his stuffed animals to him. I threw out the others in my last purge, saying they were too moldy to keep. Did I mention that he'll be 40 this year. There were, though, the other 'keepsakes' - old ninja turtles, scaly rubber dinosaurs, CDs, tapes...TAPES? we don't even own a tape player.


I decided that I could move my yarn, fabric, felting fibre, needlework books, partially finished knitting projects, etc. into the main part of the house, if I could find tasteful storage units. They had to be a certain height - nothing from Ikea worked this time and they had to be a certain length. Well, after several days on Google, I located an organizer with six 12" x 12" cubbies that each held a decorative 11.5" x 11.5" cloth cube for storage at Lowes. I ordered and was shipped the unit with lime green inserts. I built it and loved it. I loved it so much that I wanted another one. Well, Lowes only stocked six sectioned organizers. Unfortunately, another six cubbies would be too long. I needed a unit of four cubbies. In fact two two-unit ones would be even better. They were, however, only available from Amazon. I ordered and was shipped the two pieces. However, Amazon didn't have lime green inserts. I had to go back to Lowes for those. I guess I must have bought the last four in lime green, because when I went back for more there was only hot pink left. Rona, however, had the lime green and some dark blue inserts which I needed for another six-sectioned unit which I ordered from Lowes (again) for the dining room. Whew! that was a challenge.

Now I was thinking of adding another two 2-unit sets to the one in the dining room. I'm still thinking about it.

There is something amazing about being organized.

Have an orderly day



Friday, February 04, 2022

On a Dark Art....

My apologies to anyone who has had a family member, close friend, anyone, die by suicide. I have had two encounters, so I have experienced, though never understood, the reality.

Anyway, I am one of those people who survive through dark humour. It may be my Irish legacy; it may be just an aberrant characteristic.  In any event, this post was born out of a lunch with a writing friend of mine, bear with me.

We often exchange books, ideas, small gifts, lots of creative exercises, what can I say - a kindred spirit. Well, my friend arrived with a gift of a book about the creative inspiration and how artists manage to achieve their prodigious volume of work through their particular source of inspiration. Believe me, this was a research project of massive proportions. Anyway, one of the artist's listed on the cover was Sylvia Plath. I mentioned that she died by turning on the gas in her small flat in London. It was at a time when the gas that was used in Britain was particularly lethal.  At one point Britain changed to a non-lethal gas and the suicides in Britain were halved.


It begs the question, if you were really serious, couldn't you find another way to end it all? This was the gist of our discussion. Could we position a character in a book contemplating suicide and go through the scenarios?

Anyway, I need to get through this winter. I emailed another friend in my dark humour circle and she responded with this Dorothy Parker poem.

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

That's it. I am pressing on. I have finished my book and have begun my weeks, maybe months of editing. Be prepared for other posts of dark humour. It has been known to snow in May. I'm pretty suicidal in a cold April. If I don't answer the phone in May call the authorities.

The picture? Death by snow.

Have an interesting day!


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Praise the chord.......

 If anything is going to save us from destruction, from total annihilation, or maybe just from ourselves, it won't be religion, it won't, for heavens sakes, be war. No, it will be neither of these. It will be music. "Praise the chord and hold the ammunition."

There have been innumerable studies done lately on the curative power of music. The one I particularly love is a study of the effect of dancing on people suffering from Parkinson's disease. In fact, one neurologist decided to break down the components of dancing to try and isolate which element might be the most effective. Was it the movement, the social interaction or the music? I'll vote for all three, with an emphasis on music.


Another study has shown that those suffering from dementia can bring back blocks of memory simply by listening to music.

Singing is a joyous activity. I have to believe that's why it's so much a part of religious services - "Nearer My God To Thee," comes to mind. A waltz always makes me want to dance. Even the saddest of songs has the power to connect us to the human experience.

I play a little piano, OK, it's a regular piano all 88 keys, but I don't play it as often, as I would like. I'm planning to take this to the next level soon.

I look for music wherever I can find it. I especially look for it in non-musical venues. I signed out a book from the library on Saturday. I would like to point out that it was -15C and I walked about a km to renew my library card. It begs the question, How can people transfer millions in funds through a network of banks and never have to leave home? However, I have to trudge through the ice and snow on a bitterly cold January day to have my library card renewed in person. It took the librarian a second to zap his trusty scanner and voila I was again a member of the faithful. There is no justice in this world - just ice!



The book I signed out was "That Old Country Music" by Kevin Barry. The reviews said that his writing was very lyrical. I wanted to hear the music in his prose.

I listen to a lot of old folk songs. There is a certain genuineness in the music and the lyrics. Sadly, so much of today's music is manufactured. As an aside, I remember telling a young woman, I had met, whose name was Mavis that there was a beautiful folk song that begins with the line, "I heard the Mavis singing his love song to the morn." She said that she didn't know it, but her parents who were old "folkies" not old "fogies" might know it. Here it is, whether your name is Mavis or not - Mary of Argyle.

Our writing word for our writing exchange is "music." This is my contribution.

I really must take more pictures that are musical.

Have a tuneful day.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Easy does it....

 Our writing word for today is "ease." I am fixated with people who can do "things" with incredible ease. You know the casually dressed person who manages to have every item in their wardrobe matching. They wear a scarf with, what can I say, ease. It drapes perfectly, slants to a jaunty angle and moves gracefully with the body.

Cut to my scratchy scarf with an unbecoming knot that usually ends up looking more like a noose than a fashion statement.

Then there is the hostess who entertains with ease. Her table is elegantly set, the meal is ready, dirty dishes are done and she is dressed to the nines. I gave up on this paradigm years ago. I opted for dinner as theatre. In fact a particular type of theatre called "Kitchen Sink Drama." My costume is an apron over jeans. Guests have to watch me cook their meal, while I pour wine and talk too much. I have been known to make "poulet a la bonne femme" - chicken with mushrooms, forgetting the mushrooms.

I envy skiers who gracefully parallel down slopes like poetry in motion and skaters who effortlessly glide over ice in semi flight. Even those who shovel walks can make the chore seem like a winter outing. I'm lucky, if I can prevent myself from falling over, as I navigate ruts of frozen slush on the sidewalk.

No, ease in costume, entertaining, athletics has never been a strong point. What I feel I can do with ease, though, is write. I write letters to the powers that be, especially when I'm angry. I write this on-line diary to remind myself of the ironies of life and how easily I coped with them, or not, as the case may be. I have been known to write a love letter or two and I am now writing a novel, sometimes with ease and sometimes with a lot of re-writing, until the language flows with ease.


Here's a small extract on the rare Irish beauty. I'm not sure it's there yet, but it may be close.

“I am told they are a legacy from a time when the Irish were ravaged by invaders. The Saxons with their pale, blue eyes attacked Eire from the north, while the dark, haired Spaniards infiltrated from the south. The progeny bred during these wild and wicked times were often born with lustrous black hair and seductive blue eyes,”  Fiona said in her best English.


The pictures? I also take pictures, garden and knit with ease.


Have an easy day!







Saturday, January 01, 2022

What doesn't kill us....makes us go mad....

I can't believe I haven't written since late September. Well, on the other hand, maybe I can. I have had to face certain significant challenges between late September and late December. I will start at the end and work backwards - always the cart before the horse - I need to rein things in.  :)

1. Christmas turkey. I always buy a frozen turkey and let it thaw in the fridge for a few days before it needs to be cooked for the three days of the year we eat turkey - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seemed easier in the past. There was always a frozen turkey somewhere between nine and fourteen pounds that was, just that, a turkey, though ironically the brand was somehow called Flamingo. I could quite easily bypass turkeys that were: a) butter enhanced (read, shot through with chemicals), b) pre-seasoned (read again, shot through with chemicals, c) pre-stuffed (read, packed with chemicals), d) cook from frozen - for those who never plan ahead I guess. Now, I did pause at the ones that had missing parts. I felt a little sorry for them. Finally, three stores later I did find some perfectly unadulterated turkeys that would have been fine had they not been thawing for a day or two already. I would have to come back and buy whatever was left a little closer to the time. Yes, I could have bought a frozen organic turkey for $89.00 hmmmm - not today.

2. Before turkey buying, we have tree trimming. We actually buy our Christmas tree at the beginning of December and keep it outside until a week or so before Christmas. The tree isn't any fresher or better shaped - who could tell anyway, they are always wrapped in netting, but it is one less pressure to have with all the other pressures around the holiday season. I always envision trimming the tree, as a quiet party with family, after dinner - add some Carols, a little wine, some cookies....the list goes on. In reality it is usually me on a nondescript afternoon rushing to get it done before dinner. Well, this year the tree was quite "fluffy." It took all the coloured lights we had and then some. What should have been completed in an afternoon was now into its second day. Twenty-four hours later, I went to Home Depot for more lights - SOLD OUT. I panicked. Next stop Canadian Tire - they need to hire the buyer from Home Depot - these guys will be selling lights into July. I was overwhelmed! I could buy strings of lights by the number - 50 lights, 100, 150, 200, 250. I could buy indoor lights, outdoor lights, indoor-outdoor lights, big lights, small lights, teeny tiny miniature lights. Really how many multipurpose, multi-sized lights did I need? I followed a customer, who had snagged a salesperson and bought what she bought or at least close to it. Since she had bought the last box of 100 lights, I had to buy 150.

3. It's one thing to buy an extra set of lights, it's another thing to have them "match" your other strings of lights that you have had for the last 10 or 20 years. Clearly someone had missed the boat on the built in obsolescence of Christmas lights. 

Snide remarks aside, this is how it went:

    a) Plugged in new lights and added them to the bottom of the tree - too long
    b) Realized that all the lights had to be taken off the tree and the new set had to go on first.
    c) Added new set only to realize that it just had a "male" end to it - go figure.
    d) Had to remove and restring the remaining lights on the tree to get the correct "sex" connections.
          Porn is everywhere.
    e) Finally plugged in the lights only to find that the middle strand had three small lights on a row that
          were out.
    f) Pulled out the middle bulb of three. The entire string died, sigh. Found a new bulb. It didn't fit.
          Tried to replace 
the old bulb only to lose it somewhere in the tree.
    g) Disconnected the middle strand and rearranged the strings of lights once again.
    h) Forgot to mention that the new set of lights on the top half of the tree twinkle, the rest don't.

Next post - the furnace, which apparently does have built in obsolescence.

Have a happy New Year.