Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Easy holiday knitting.

In case you are looking for a fast, easy project for the holidays, here is a great pattern from I hope this is the link. It's called Tudora, and you can locate it through the scarves section in the Archive menu.

It's a wonderful alternative to a big scarf and in addition to sitting easily inside the collar of a coat, it is cozy to wear with a tee or a sweater that doesn't already have a turtle neck. Between this and the fingerless mitts, I am not anticipating a single chill this winter (ha ha).

I knit 6 of them for different people and used a lot of great yarn that I didn't have enough of for much else. I had fun picking buttons for each one and I did manage to get all my ends woven in and all of them wrapped and ready for giving.

My son, who chuckled at them until he tried one on, has now decided that he wouldn't mind one - plus a pair of fingerless gloves too - so you just never know.

I'm sure your yarn stash has something wonderful in it. So print yourself out the pattern and watch how quickly it goes. Knitty is a regular destination for me - there's never a lack of patterns for things I covet.

Happy knitting.


Happy Holidays

Well, here it is nearly noon December 24th and I am sitting in my office wondering why I am here.

However, carols are playing on CBC, and phones aren't ringing - only 3 of us in today - so it's quite peaceful and a great time to do a seasons greeting post.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, love and laughter. And I hope that 2009 is a healthy, happy year for all of us. On a global scale, things aren't that great at the moment. Let's wish for a speedy recovery that gets us all back on track.

My plans are to spend tonight with my husband, son, daughter (plus her beau and his daughter), my mother and sister in law. We will drink eggnog and listen to more carols. A few friends and neighbours are expected to stop by for a cup of cheer.

Tomorrow will be the traditional brunch of mock souffle (which the kids will not allow me to change), opening gifts, nibbling goodies throughout the afternoon and then the turkey feast.

Boxing Day my siblings get together at my sister's in Oakville. Since the death of our parents so many years ago, Nancy has been the matriarch and keeps us all on track. She has non-family friends for the day as well, so it's a fun, boisterous time with up to 40 folks there. She is much braver than I to do this every year.

Then on the 27th, we will head up to the cottage for a while - not returning until the 1st. Both kids will come for part of the time, so we won't be lonely. A few others will be at their cottages for the holidays, so we will toast the New Year with whomever is there.

With so much snow, we'll cross country ski and snow shoe I'm sure. But I'm bringing "Marley and Me" which I hope to read before going to see the movie. And I'll bring along a hooking project or two. So, my days will be filled with all the things I wish for you.

Thanks for visiting throughout this past year. I've enjoyed getting to know so many of my visitors. And this blog has become a part of my weekly rhythm.

Before we know it, it will be 2009 and a whole new year of hooking and knitting and blogging and sharing.

Hugs to everyone.

See you next year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A special Christmas surprise.

Imagine my shock when I saw a Canada Post truck on a Sunday! And then - it stopped at my driveway!! And left a box on our stoop!!!

A box from Deanne Fitzpatrick that contained
• an amazing little mat that is a likeness of me (in case you couldn’t tell – sorry for the bad pic, but my digital camera chose last night to die and this is a phone pic)
• a handmade soapstone hook that feels unbelievable in my hand
• a Christmas card and lots of other newsy bits.

You may be wondering why I should be so lucky as to receive this amazing gift from this talented lady, so let me tell you the story.

When I attended the symposium in Amherst, Deanne was quite taken with one of my homemade sweaters – so, after mulling it over in my head, and knowing that her knitting prowess is limited to scarves, I offered to knit her one. If she provided the yarn, I would provide the sweater. It was a relatively easy pattern – so I knew it wasn’t a crazy thing to offer. She offered to pay me to do so, but I figured we could come up with a better barter than $$.

Before I finished the knitting and sent the sweater to her, she emailed with an idea. She wanted to hook a little mat of me wearing the sweater. (See, I told you there would be something better than $$ - way better.). I was thrilled.

And that was what was inside the box delivered on a Sunday by Canada Post.

I love the mat. It is bright and cheery and makes me smile. I love my sparkly hair!!! I love that she hooked the little sweater in yarn - so appropriate. There’s something so personal about this – so much better than any other trade I could have imagined. And, as Deanne wrote in her diary a while ago, it was such an easy trade. No effort at all to make it happen. I think it was just meant to be.

I will have to take a better picture when my camera is either repaired or replaced, so you can truly appreciate how wonderful it is. But I just couldn’t wait to share it.

Tonight as I am wrapping all my gifts – many of them hand made – I will feel proud to give them, because I have been reminded (in the absolutely best way) about just how great it is to receive something that was made just for you.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I "heart" my BFF Jennifer

See the heart on my Pandora bracelet?

It came in the mail from Jennifer (Fish Eye Rugs) yesterday and this is a picture of it on my bracelet this morning. I don't know if she wanted me to open it or not, but I did. (Sorry about the fuzziness of the picture - I took it with my phone.)

I sent a charm to her this week too, a snowman for her new bracelet (which in light of her recent posts seems very appropriate). Where mine is nearly full, hers is just beginning, so I will have lots of opps to send her more for whatever reason I choose. I think I only have three spots left on mine. I may have to start another.

In our cards that we sent to one another, we came right out and said how much we loved having one another as a friend. When was the last time you did that? I know that I don't feel compelled to do it often enough, but my relationship with Jenn is based on mutual love of so many things that mutual love of one another's friendship is just part of the deal.

She articulated it much better in her card than I did. But we do both love so many of the same things. We love hookinig. And knitting. And blogging. And Pandora bracelets and the Stephanie Seymour book series and the movie Twilight.

In the short time I have known her, Jenn and I just continue to discover more and more things we have in common. And somehow, from the very first correspondence with her, my instincts told me that this would be the case. Despite our age difference, which I will not elaborate on, we are (I believe) soul mates, which is probably much better than being BFFs - sorry Paris.

I was thinking this morning that a few years ago, my relationship with her would have been restricted to long distance phone calls, occasional cards in the mail and visits a few times a year at hooking-related events.

But thanks to the wonderful world of internet, we talk nearly every day. We send each other pictures. We follow one another's blog posts and we are connected so well that when we get together, we are already up to date on one another's lives.

Lucky for me, she still comes to Toronto to have her hair cut, so if our schedules permit, I know that I will get to see her pretty regularly. And that makes me very happy.

So thanks Jenn. For my heart and for being my friend. You really are the best.

And to the rest of you - if you haven't told someone special that you love having them for a friend - do it. There's nothing that can make someone feel more appreciated than that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two more signs done.

I know I showed the Fitzgerald sign in progress. It is now finished and being delivered tonite, when we visit for our cup of Christmas cheer. I put a hanging pocket on the back, so they have the option of putting it on a piece of furniture or hanging it.

The Garlands are cottage neighbours who have become great friends over the years. The husband, Richard, is the fellow who is helping me with my rustic footstools. He is very handy and has a workshop full of tools. I'll be visiting there a lot in the spring, I'm sure.

Sylvie, who is the Mrs. in the Garland household, really admires my hooked pieces and noticed the Davis sign that sits on the blue piece in the entry hall. I decided to surprise her with a sign for their cottage this Christmas. Her kitchen has the green that is in the plaid in this sign. And I think there are a number of other places she can use it.

I have one more sign to finish. It is whipped and waiting for pressing and a label. Then the Christmas hooking projects are done. And I can get back to the projects that got set aside for these. Two that need attention over the holidays, since they must be finished in January.

There's always something waiting. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Dude, where's my car.

We went to the cottage this weekend and couldn’t believe the amount of snow!
I think there is as much already as there was at the end of February last year – and it’s not even Christmas yet.

When we arrived on Friday night, it was -21 degrees – BRRR. Definitely one of those nights where having our new furnace is a wonderful thing. I think back to the nights that we went to bed in our down coats and hats after putting on a wood fire – and I don’t miss them!!

Luckily, the weather had warmed considerably by Saturday morning, and then the snow began to fall AGAIN. I went to town to run Santa-type errands and while I was out about another 5” fell. Rick had the task of getting the snow off the front deck. Because it is between the two sides of the cottage, it really drifts there in the wind, so in some spots it was over 2’ deep.

In a normal winter in Parry Sound, when there is this much snow, the lake is frozen and we can don our skis and go for a long, easy trek. Not this time of year - it's way too early. There are lots of huge open spots where the hot springs come up through the cover of snow. But someone said that they had seen a snowmobiler out on a small lake. I really don’t get the death wish that seems to overtake some sledders. We’ll wait till there is a good 8” of ice before we venture out.

While we slept on Saturday night, another 10” fell. It really does look spectacular there, and as long as you have nowhere to go, you can sit all day and admire it. Since we did need to come back to the big bad city, we were happy that our friend Peter (our Cottage Keeper) came with his trusty snowblower and cleaned out the driveway. There’s only so much shovelling we 50+ folks can do in one weekend.

By the time we left yesterday, it was +6 and raining. What a change in less than 48 hours. And when we got back to Toronto, nearly all the snow was gone. I think I much prefer it up north anyway, so if anyone asks for my vote, I say that all snow goes to Barrie and further north. For those of you reading, who are not familiar with these landmarks, that is about 100 km north of Toronto – the cottage is another 125 km north of that.

Those folks can use the snow for tourism and such. I’m happy to let them have it all, along with all our snow removal equipment, if they can just figure out a way to get Mother Nature to heed that demarcation line.

In the meantime, it did put me in the mood. Sitting at the kitchen table, looking out the window at this view. Christmas carols playing in the background. It was positively serene and I feel ready for the festivities to begin.

And, joy of joys, the car started first try. And got out of the driveway without a single skid.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wicked Little Sweater.

"Wicked" is the actual name of the pattern. It's one I found on Ravelry and paid to download. I like short sleeve sweaters, since they keep your back and front warm, but aren't too hot for indoors. Sort of like sticking your feet out from under the blankets.

This style is great with a t-shirt underneath, like I'm wearing today, but also looks cute without and with the neckline a little further off the shoulders. It has a little kangaroo pocket in front, which is always a good thing.

Since it is my colour scheme with blue, black and grey, it goes with most of my wardrobe. I wasn't too sure about the little fleck of light in it, but I think I like it. It looked much greener before it got knit in - now it just looks offwhite, which I figure is my hair colour LOL.

I must confess to not doing a gauge swatch first, and therefore knitting it twice - didn't that just happen to me a month ago???? I really have to heed that Golden Rule and do a swatch every time (except perhaps for scarves). I always tell everyone else to do one.

All in all, now that it's done, I am very happy. And I will definitely do this pattern again. It was quick to knit - even twice. I have most of a ball left over so may do fingerless gloves to match. I've decided they are perfect for my office when my hands are cold but I need my fingers for keyboarding.....just in case you were wondering what fingerless mitts would be good for.

On to the doggie sweater and the rest of of the Christmas goodies. So far, I'm on track to get everything done.

Will post more pics as I get things finished.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Magical Celebration.

This past weekend, Rick and I were treated to a weekend in Niagara on the Lake. It was a gift from my company to celebrate my 10th anniversary here. Everything was planned from the B&B we stayed in to Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and lots in between.

Getting there was the hardest part of the weekend, slogging through Friday afternoon traffic. It’s incredible to do a quick calculation in your head of the number of cars around you. Four lanes, the 68 kilometer trek, and solid cars the whole way. In fact, from Oakville to Burlington, we never went faster than 20 kph. So, we were very happy to exit the highway and make our way through Virgil and into NOTL.

Our B&B was a Georgian style home and we had the deluxe accommodation. The host and hostess, a Scottish couple named Kate and Bobby, made us feel welcome immediately and fed us the two most sumptuous breakfasts I have ever eaten. They are lifelong B&B owners and their expertise showed in their home and their hospitality. Our suite was appointed to a "t", with the perfect mix of seasonal and historic touches - plus all the modern conveniences. The house was conveniently located a block from the main street, so it was easy to come back for a rest between outings.

Friday night there was a Candlelit Stroll scheduled for 6:00. In fact, things didn’t really happen till almost 7, so those of us who are extremely punctual had very cold toes and fingers by the time things were ready to roll. However, watching the crowd and drinking in the twinkling town was a delightful way to pass the time. Eventually the MC for the evening introduced the Minister of Justice, the Lord Mayor and several other dignitaries and the lighting of the candles began.

Starting at the front of the gathering, each person turned to the person behind them and lit their candle while wishing them a Merry Christmas. Eventually, nearly 1,000 candles were lit and people began singing their way down the main street, entertained by a local choir and drum core band in full uniform.

Proceeds from the candle sales are used to support a local teen who is challenged with health issues. This year the funds were going to help retrain the companion dog of a teenager named Beth who has very special needs due to a disease whose name I can't recall and wouldn't be able to spell even if I could.

Those in attendance came from all over - the US side of the river, locals, folks from Burlington, Hamilton, Toronto, and much further afield. There were kids in sleds, lots of dogs in cozy sweaters and people bundled against the cold. We were told that this was about 3x the usual turnout, since previous years have had rain, dangerously high winds and other feats of Mother Nature that really put a damper on attendance. We were happy to be part of this larger throng.

Shops were open for the evening, allowing strollers to warm up. Every store, as every other building in town, was resplendent in Christmas finery and I certainly found myself catching the spirit. It was easy to pick up a few little gifts here and there. Some were things I’m sure I could find at home, but many were unique to the town.

Saturday, we had tickets for the Seasonal House Tour. Several historical houses were open to the public and each one had been decorated for the season by one of the businesses in town. We got to see inside some of the cottages and other historical buildings from the early 1800's. The turnout was incredible and there were line ups at nearly every place on the tour. As we walked along the residential streets, a few blocks from the main street, we realized that without the tour beckoning us, we would never have discovered all the quaint houses that fill the town. So many of them were B&Bs, nearly every one had a plaque with a name and date. And each and every house was decorated for the season.

Inside the houses, I found many delightful floral arrangements and tried to make mental notes of the clever way things were put together, since taking pictures is not permitted. Suffice to say that clove oranges and other fruit featured in many arrangements, as they would have in days of yore. One house even had pineapples (cut vertically with half on each side of the garden gate) on their garlands. I hope I can recreate some of these in years to come.

Lots of walking, shopping and gawking filled the day until it was time for high tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel. What a sumptuous affair. China and silver, crisp linen napkins. Everything that constitutes high tea, including a 3-tier server with sandwiches, scones and sweets. We somehow managed to devour them all. Between the giant breakfasts at the B&B and the tea, traditional meal time was out the window on this weekend. And I was very happy for all the walking.

No visit to NOTL would be complete without a pint at the Angel pub, so after more walking and shopping, we stopped in on our way back to our room. The Angel has long been a favourite, since it is family friendly and we took the kids there when they were much smaller. Low ceilings, friendly staff and Stella on tap made our brief stay very pleasant.

Once back in our room (called the Ernest Hemingway suite), we lit a fire and watched a charming Scottish film before tucking in to our King size 4-poster. And what a sleep after all that walking, shopping and eating. One more big breakfast on Sunday and we headed back to our real lives, inspired to put up our tree and adorn the house for the season.

I loved every minute of the weekend. I think the last time I had such a special time was in Charleston many years ago. It’s wonderful to move out of your normal rhythm and experience something new. When someone organizes a special weekend, you get to do things you might not otherwise choose. And in this instance, it was indeed a magical time.

Thanks Mike and Cyndy for a great celebration.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More than pretty pictures.

Yesterday, a new visitor left a comment on my blog about my work and the recycling that I am doing in my projects. It was a nice little note, and I followed the link back to her blog. I have added her link to my blog list - Hours and Times.

She is a photographer who has beautiful images on her blog and for sale on Etsy, and I liked reading her entries. She recently relocated to Montreal after leaving what she called the "work and sleep, work and sleep" existince she found herself living. She has a crisp writing style and definite opinions on our recent political situation here in Canada.

I think politics is like sex and religion. I usually only talk about those topics to people that I know extremely well, since they are able to put it into the context of who I am as a person - the topic doesn't define me.

I respect people who are verbal about their opinions, but I think it defines or changes the way people think of you, especially if they don't know you. And it puts you in an immediate position of having to defend your "politics". These days, that is not an easy task. Sentiments are running high all around the world as we struggle globally to regain our balance.

The only thing I can be sure of is that the "way things were" is not the "way they will be". No amount of looking back to the good old days can bring them back. It's not the same place anymore and everything is changing so quickly, it's hard to determine the best course of action. I'm grateful that I am not a politician - I can't imagine even wanting the job. No matter who does what - there will always be opposition. So I vote with my conscience and try to believe that the best will be.

My kids are inheriting this mess we have created and I certainly want better than this for them. I want them to find jobs that are fulfilling. I want them to own a home if they want one. I want them to be free to express themselves politically.

I have a feeling that as we move forward, everyone's political opinions, inlcuding theirs and mine, will become a bigger part of our identities.

And that's as political a post as you will read on this blog.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cottage vs City Hooking

We went to the cottage this weekend and this is what I worked on. It's a commissioned sign for a family who visited us there this summer. I always feel this is the perfect visual for cottage hooking - Hudson Bay blanket et al - in fact it was my Rugged Moose sign which prompted the order.

I hooked for a couple of hours on Saturday and then again early Sunday morning. As I sat there hooking on Sunday morning, I realized how different my hooking experience is there than it is at home. As a "cottage hooker", since my studio is not finished and won't be for a while, I hook in the living room. I hook in the quiet, watching the view out the window over the deck (a view which is never unattractive). I sip my coffee and ponder, which is very different from at home.

As a "city hooker", I generally hook in the evenings - after dinner and clean up are done. I tend to hook in the basement family room, with a load of laundry going. And I hook with the TV on. Usually something that is relatively mindless, so I can hook and look at the same time.

I think if I had one to choose just one way to hook, the "cottage hooker" would win. The quieter hooking inspires different thoughts than TV-on hooking. I guess not having the distraction allows me to focus more on the project. So I think about the wool, the project, the recipient. It is definitely much more "mindful" hooking.

For example, as I was working on the border of this sign, I started to remember where the white wool came from - "as is" from King Textiles near my office. And I thought about all the other projects it has been used in. It's been sky in a couple of projects - and it's been background in many. I don't remember how much of this wool I originally purchased, but there is still a chunk of it left in my stash. So, it will grace a few more pieces before it is gone.

The lettering in this sign is made up of two old sports jackets that I got at Goodwill. And it has been lettering in many pieces - including the Rugged Moose sign. I'm sure I could trace it to many more projects, and the browns keep changing, but they all go together. Same with the black backgrounds - always a mix from whatever is on hand, with one plaid moving forward into the next piece.

The green is from an old blanket mixed with some green from a jacket. The red is an old skirt. And the yellow is a combination of some wool that I dyed and a woman's jacket that felt like cashmere. I really love the way this border frames the lettering.

The sign will be delivered on December 10th when we will get together with the Fitzgeralds for our annual Festive Cocktails. They really fell in love with all the hooked pieces at the cottage when they visited this summer and were originally going to order 5 signs for all their family gifts. Thank goodness the order was scaled back to just this one, since I have many other Christmas projects left to do before the big day.

So the "city hooker" will be busy on the frame with the TV on until Christmas - making little gifts for lots of folk. Then, from December 27 to New Year's DAy, the "cottage hooker" will get to ponder again.

Knitting in Paradise

Every year when we come to Barbados, I pack a knitting project or two. Usually socks to knit on the plane and something to take to the ...