Monday, May 31, 2010

Weekend Gardener

One of my first impressions of living at the lake full time would be that weekends would disappear. Life would become one long weekend. So far, that hasn't happened. And I think it won't ever - because other people still have weekends - like our kids. Matt was here for this weekend and it's been great having each of our two kids on our own for their first visit to the new cottage "home".

Also, while I am still doing "work work", some things still need weekends - like gardening. It's amazing how many hooker/bloggers are also gardeners. I was inspired by many of my blogger friends who shared pictures of their horticultural works of art, so I am too.

With this warm weather, it's incredible how far ahead everything is here. And it makes me feel even further behind. I have a special perennial garden on the road side of the cottage that is mostly visible from inside the cottage (see, I still call it "cottage" - gotta get over that.) I call it my secret garden. Here's a picture so you can see how huge these plants are. This perspective doesn't show height - those  centre ones are already over five feet - normally this early they would be less than half this size.

On the lake side, there is a garden that has been evolving for the 18 years we have been coming here. Since the trees have gotten so much larger, the light has changed and the plants along with it.  Plants that thrived when the big pine was small have now disappeared. But it's still a wonderful place to spend hours weeding and tending, and this is the view from the deck.

Since I am an "accidental gardener" it is always a work in progress and I need to add, move and reinvent on a continual basis. But it's such good therapy. And besides, how would the bugs get their pound of flesh if I didn't spend time out there?

This year we also had to figure out what to do with our planters from the city. Because we were only here on weekends before, and not able to water regularly, we didn't bother with planters on the deck. I didn't want to re-create what we did there, so I came up with a new scheme for here. A little red-white-red idea evolved and we have three rectangular planters and one square one that share this planting.

And my son insisted on some herbs, so we did one pot of the usual suspects and the empty- looking one has green onion bulbs inside. These are definitely an experiment - since we've not done bulbs before. I've already used some of the basil in a salad and this should be a wonderful resource. The rosemary plant was so huge when we bought it that I anticipate having to trim it for Christmas.

I spent a couple of hours fighting with some grass in the black-eyed susan garden closest to the water, but will wait until the bruising subsides before I share any pictures. Anyone who doesn't think that gardening is a great workout should pull out grass for two hours. Yikes.

So here's to keeping weekends - a special time to spend doing things that you can't get to during the week, like gardening. And for having your loved ones visiting and helping you get those things done.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Background Lesson.

This past weekend, I received a request to write an article for our "Ask a Teacher". I decided to write about backgrounds, which everyone knows can make or break a piece.

Ironically, I was working on this little name sign and using a wonderful piece of wool from Christine Little's dye book 'SkyBluePink with a Green Smell'. The intent was to create a Monet type garden around the letters and do some proddy flowers in the corners. But, wasn't working as a background behind the lettering - for all the reasons I wrote in my article.

The wool had too much of the same colour as the lettering - and even when I put in a dark line next to the lettering, the background wool was just too busy. I realized that this was not only a background lesson, but also a spot dye lesson. With a strong spot dye, you need to use it sparingly and in the right place. I realized that it would be much better behind the leaves in the outside border.

So I ripped out both backgrounds and switched them. It's amazing how quickly you can undo several hours of hooking, isn't it? But the moment I put a few strands into their new positions, I knew I had made the right decision.

Here's the before.

And here's the after.

Quite the difference, isn't it?

I am much, much happier with the result. The lettering is so visible and the little splash of Monet garden behind the leaves is perfect!

I will keep these pictures as a demonstration to go with my Background article in the future.
They really are worth a thousand words, that's for sure.

And a lesson well learned. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Look at me Hook.

Well, as this picture will demonstrate, I am over my hooking moratorium. In fact, I think I will coin a new phrase and category for me that is (no offence to anyone with the real disorder) ADHD - attention deficit hooking disorder.

Since I have picked up my hook again, I have been completely scattered. Like a starving woman at a buffet, I run from project to project, unable to focus on one thing. Truth be told, a few of the items in the picture were time sensitive. The item "under" my frame has a June 30th finish date - it's my secret stocking for the RHF challenge to be revealed at Circle of Friends.

The piece on the frame is a name sign for a new cottage baby "Ava". What's not in the picture is the sign I hooked and already gave to her new baby cousin Jakob. I forgot to take a picture before giving it to his parents. I will get them to send me one.

Under the frame and next to the mystery stocking is the beginning of my first-of-four Matrix pillows I am making following Jennifer's Amazing Matrix instructions. I am off to a really good start and will get back to that later today.

What's so amazing about this picture is that I seem to have my hooking mojo back. I'm adjusting to my new hook and my new life here at Salmon Lake. My days have gotten a rhythm that is a good mix of work and play and a lot of variety. I sort of do what I want, when I want, which will take some getting used to.

My daughter was here for the weekend, so the days changed to do what she wanted. Lots of physical stuff which was good for me. First kayak paddle. First paddleboat ride. And for Laura and her Dad, the traditional May 24th dip. Not for me!!!

So as we roll into our fourth week, I am starting to feel more of a full-time connection. As the cottagers all roared out last night for the trek home, and we sat and listened to the quiet, we felt good about our decision. We will have a few months of enjoying this. Maybe not so much in November.

But thankfully, hooking is a-seasonal, so I can continue my ADHD habit for as long as I like.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week Two.

Well, my first not-unpacking week was a busy, productive one - filled with things I needed to do and things I wanted to do. Good balance.

On the needed to do side, here are my studio stairs, which have been stained (2 coats) and varathaned (2 coats). If you have never stained anything, let me tell you it is quite an experience. First of all, the grain in the wood emerges as if it has lain dormant the entire time until you release it. No two boards are the same, so it's exciting to see what the next one is going to look like. (As I was staining, I was trying to think of anything else that changes so drastically with a simple step, and I kept coming back to roast vegetables versus raw - not sure why.)

Staining is also therapeutic because your mind is free to wander. I guess it's a bit like hooking that way. You get lost in it - the rhythm of the brush strokes is kind of like pulling loops. So I don't find it tedious work.  The prospect of staining the entire studio is a bit daunting, but I plan on letting the wood age for a year first anyway, so I don't have to burn that bridge just yet.

Anyway, the second picture is my favourite board, because it definitely looked like two eyes staring back at me - in a good way. Since our home is log and pine, there is a LOT of wood and I must confess to having favourite boards here and there, in just about every room.

On the wanted to do side, I am happy to report that after 5 weeks of no hooking, I'm baaacccckkk! And it feels wonderful. Not only did I get two things on my frame, but also went to a hook in at RUG in Barrie on Saturday, so got to see lots of folks. It was great.

I also picked up a new hook to work on my Matrix Mat pillows that I have started - if you haven't heard about the Amazing Matrix Mats, go to Jennifer Manuel's blog and you can see for yourself. Because they are hooked on a #8 on rug warp, I found that none of my hooks was really doing a good job of pulling loops, so I invested in a wonderful new one that is perfect! It will take some getting used to, since my tension is very different with this hook, but I'm sure it will become more even in time.

That was not my only purchase - I more than made up for missing the Annual. A purse pattern and handles from Jen, some rug warp and patterns and birthday gifts for my sister - the book and some wool so she can start on a Matrix Mat. Hopefully, I will have pictures to share of my first pillow in a while. (The other project I have started is a big secret until after the reveal at Circle of Friends, a gathering in July, but hopefully I can show it after that.)

The sun emerged yesterday and we managed to find a couple of hours in the middle of it when the blackflies and mosquitoes were at bay and got a bit of yard work done. So, as this new day begins with the sun reflected on a mirror-calm lake, I'm sure I will cobble together a day of this and that, which is a nice start to week three.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Welcome to my Studio

Well, after a whirlwind week of unpacking at Olympian speed, the house is pretty much set up.
It's amazing how well everything from the city integrated here. We basically upgraded everything and each room looks much better than before. Including my wonderful, cozy new studio space.

I knew that the collection of leftover  pine pieces from the rest of the house would work well down here - I just didn't know how well. I love them all and they do manage to house nearly all my hooking gear. Although I still need to put my rugs on display, things are pretty much in place. And the room seemed to grow to fit the furniture. I took some pictures last night (after a wonderful Mothers' Day - our first reverse trip to Toronto to spend the day with the kids).

Here's what it looks like at this point:

Lots of dressing up still to be done, and my friend Elaine assures me that I will move everything a few times before deciding it's in the perfect place, but the boxes are all unpacked and the wool is on display.

That's my student table with the cups full of colour pencils. It will also be my 'everything else' table, including sewing, designing, etc. And it's special because it was my very first woodworking project. It's fitting that it ended up down here.

That first shot also shows a giant, ancient TV that is hooked up for DVD and VHS, so hooking to a movie is a possibility - although I'm really enjoying the sounds of CBC 2 coming from the stereo unit inside the chimney cupboard.

The drop leaf table with the cutters on it can also serve as additional space for people to sit, should I ever have that many people in here at one time.

The wire cube shelves are perfect for the wool. This dedicated wall allows me to have even more than I do now - and that's after buying everything there was at the local Canadian Tire.
I'll have to look for another box in Barrie on Saturday after R.U.G., since my yarn is all still in bins in the furnace room.

The pie safe holds most of my shoeboxes of worms, although more had to go on the bottom shelf of the wire cubes. They may have to be re-located so they can all be together.

And the bottom picture shows my little "real work" station, with my wonderful new imac. Since I am technically on payroll at G+D until the end of June, I will be spending quality time here doing paying work for the next while. And since I can gaze out the window at the lake for inspiration, that won't be so bad.

The plan is to put up curtain rods with clips around the room to display the rugs, rather than putting holds in my beautiful pine walls. This wonderful idea is Elaine's and it's the perfect way to not only change the rugs on a whim, but to also display student work for critique. I have many, many curtain rods left over from the days when we had them dividing rooms in the cottage, so as soon as I can get to them in the back of the furnace room, I'll put them up.

First job is the stain and varnish the incredible stairs that the carpenter built. We were expecting "contractor" stairs that were going to be carpeted. Instead, he built the same beautiful, pegged stairs that are everywhere else in the cottage. Much too nice to be covered up.

Oh, by the way, that pole in the centre - unfortunately, it is a support post that couldn't be moved, but it will soon be boxed in - using the same 8" pine boards that are on the wall.

So, still much to be done, but I couldn't wait to share.

And now that the lion's share of settling in is done, I will actually be able to pull some loops this week - the first in over a month. And I'll be able to do it in my new, amazing studio.

Monday, May 3, 2010

We're here!!!

This is my first official post as a full-time resident of 319 Salmon Lake Road. Wow!

The move went without incident on Friday and took much less time than I anticipated. I'll tell you, nothing  says "you're moving" like a 30-foot van in your driveway. Four chipper fellows arrived a half-hour early (always a good sign) and went about their business like a well-oiled machine.

Once we were loaded, Rick came ahead with the truck. I stayed behind to do the final clean, with help from my daughter. It was a pretty emotional day. Our son came after his night shift to say a final farewell. I think he may have been the saddest, although Laura's emotions are always closest to the surface, so it's a toss-up. This is the only home they know. After one final,  teary walk through a very echoey house, I too said my good-bye's and wished the house a long and happy life with its new owners.

And then the trek to the "new" home. By the time I was near Horseshoe Valley, I felt my shoulders relax, and enjoyed the rest of the drive. The mover-bees did a speedy unload and then left us with all our old things in new places and a sea of boxes.

We have quite a job ahead of us. I started on the kitchen at 7 a.m. yesterday and by 4 p.m. had it under control. The thing about moving into your "cottage" and making it your "home" means that you have duplicates of everything. So for every incoming item, there is something outgoing. Sort of like two moves in one. We are filling boxes for the Salvation Army at almost the same rate as we are emptying the ones we brought.

My new studio space is awesome! I was really hoping to see it before it was totally filled with stuff, but that was not meant to be. In fact, not only is all the furniture that is supposed to be in there, in there. Everything that didn't have a specific place is also in there. So with all the furniture and boxes, it looks more like a warehouse than a studio.

But the bones are beautiful. It's not exactly as the contractor and I discussed, but it is a bit cozier and still has lots of space. And I hope to get at least the perimeter set up this week, with the furniture in place. I will have one long wall that will be a hodgepodge of the pine chests and sideboards that didn't have a designated place. Antique file cabinets and tables too, so it will be fun to figure out the function for each one.

But alas, the studio will have to wait until the principal rooms are done. And I don't mind, since I can hook elsewhere in the meantime, provided I can find my "rug hooking box" that has my frame and hooks, etc.

In the meantime, I took this picture of a little piece of art called "Moosecapades" to show you at least some of my new pine walls. He's sitting on a shelf that was built out over the concrete block and goes all around the room. It will be the perfect display place for all my many "moosies".

I figure since it took us a good month to get everything packed, I shouldn't expect it to be much faster to unpack. Although I think I'm even more motivated to get things set up than I was to pack them.

And since I'm at least semi-retired and don't have to head back to the city unless I want to, I have all the time in the world to do it. And I'm very happy to be here.


Cozy Evvie is Complete - well at least the hooking part.

Here she is. She is all hooked. She has the "best saying ever" on her shirt - printed on fabric, since it was way too small to h...