biased

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 Today I’m joining Ginny’s lovely yarn along, sharing a little bit about what I’m reading and knitting right now.

While I’m still plodding along with Wade Davis’ The Wayfinders, I am really excited to be also reading Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants with the boys. We first read this book with our son, Sam, when he was about five or six (now just shy of ten) and Eric and I have re-read it with him a couple more times before reading it again now with all three younger boys snuggled up together.

Needless to say, Odd and the Frost Giants is a family favourite that tells the tale of a unfortunate Norse boy, Odd, who chances to meet the gods Odin, Thor and Loki, who, as it happens, have been banished from their realm of Asgard and trapped in Midgard in animal form. Odd helps the gods return to their rightful place and form in Asgard thus saving the world from destruction by the frightful Frost Giants at the same time. This book is a wonderful adventure story that highlights the saving graces of hope, determination, courage and compassion. I love this book (as I do all of Neil Gaiman’s books) and I’m so happy to be reading it once again. A great book for boys, especially (but not exclusively).

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As for knitting, you can see that I’m still avoiding my weaving-in task (I’m giving myself a week to do this before I need to mail it out to my eldest).  Besides, weaving-in isn’t technically knitting now is it?

Instead, I’ve cast on a hat meant for Tim (below) with the Peace Fleece yarn I brought home with me from our last trip in Vermont (it begged and pleaded to come with me, I swear). This pattern is inspired by the Skyping Beanie (free on Ravelry). It’s a simple pattern that I’ve adjusted to be knit in worsted-weight and sized for a child’s head though I fear it might be better sized for a youth’s or adult’s head. Sigh, oh well, Tim hinted that it was a bit scratchy anyway (must be the mohair content).

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My only hesitation in raving about this yarn (because it is really quite beautiful) is that it still has lots of active twist in it, or, at least this skein does. This active twist has resulted in the hat biasing to the left – a result likely compounded by the fact that I’m knitting in the round, continental style, to boot. I don’t know if you can see the biasing in the photo with Tim but you can certainly see how unbalanced the yarn is in the photo beneath it – see how it twists back onto itself?  Frankly, it’s kind of annoying to manage while you’re knitting.

Who knows? Perhaps it is just this one skein. In any case, I’m about to find out because I have two more skeins waiting in the wings. Also, as you can see, I couldn’t resist ordering a new project bag from Fringe Association. As if I need another (!) but I seem to have a weakness for all things lunar related. I must say, I am really pleased with my first experience ordering from Karen; I love how quickly it shipped, how neatly and smartly it was packed and, most importantly, I love the bag. Just thought I’d share that with you.

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What about you? What are you reading? Knitting? I’d love to know.

Happy Wednesday to you, wishing you a wonderful day!

quick change

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In the span of about 36 hours last week, I went from summer sandals and shorts to full on fall boots, socks and pants. It was a bit of a shock, but a happy one as far as I’m concerned (just don’t tell my neighbours I said that, okay?).DSC_0339

We had a big, blustery fall-kind-of-storm and I couldn’t resist getting outside to feel the fresh, cool air on my face. I thought maybe you would like to join me…

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On my walk, I thought about calling this post An Ode to Red, but then, there were just too many other colours calling my name, too, like yellow, for one.

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I caught a red squirrel working on a little walnut collection, can you spot them? My squirrel friend declined my invitation to be photographed, I think he was a little miffed by my attention to his stash. Red squirrels can be like that.

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I was quite surprised to find so very many leaves already on the ground… a conversation for another day, I think…

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Now, there’s no denying the stunning beauty of red maple leaves, but if you’ve ever had the privilege of walking through a fall forest of yellow hued maples just after it’s rained…well, let’s just say it’s a sight you will not soon forget. Maybe someday I can show you.

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I found some wild grapes growing near the sidewalk leading home so I took a bunch (sorry birdies) in hopes I could convince the kids to pull some sour faces for me (they didn’t bite).

Now that fall seems to be really here, or at least looming large, I’m in hat-knitting mode, mostly for my boys. This Shwook Hat (did you know there’s going to be a fun KAL soon?) by Hazel Tindall, absorbed most of my attention last week though I admit my attention has started to drift now that I’ve got all this weaving-in waiting for me – which is why I usually try to do it as go…

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It’s not that I dislike weaving-in ends but, I think I get hung up on the fact that it’s just not knitting. Any suggestions to make this process a little sweeter? Podcasts? Music? Television series ? (I just finished watching Endeavour for the second time, LOVE it) What about you, do you enjoy the process of weaving-in? I’d love to hear about it, either way.

Wishing you a wonderful start to you week!

after the weekend

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Feeling happy (and brave, hence the selfie) waking up this morning to find it cold enough to wear one of my favourite alpaca/silk scarves -(it’s like wearing a thousand kisses around your neck).*

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Walking about the house trying to figure out where to start, wondering a little how it could get so messy so fast.

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Then I remembered it’s probably because I spent so much time knitting this** and going on Secret Beach treasure hunts, that I ignored the laundry-folding and mess-making, happy to curl up in peace with my wool or find sanctuary with the boys down by the water.

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At least there are a few areas of beauty and order left in the house, maybe I’ll start there and move outward… slowly… one basket of laundry at a time, listening to this favourite song of mine while sending big virtual hugs to a special birthday girl today.

Wishing you a wonderful start to your week, I hope you have a great day easing back into work.

* It’s Ginkgo Crescent, a pattern I first saw on Viffla’s lovely (and fun) blog, also on Ravelry here.

** It’s Little Arrowhead Shawl by Pam Allen, a great quick knit and stashbuster!

food for thought Friday

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Saying goodbye to my eldest this week and sending him off to follow his own adventures has me thinking a lot about change, about how much I resist it and about I how I might learn to embrace it and possibly –  maybe – even encourage it. Change is hard and for me, quite honestly, terrifying at the best of times, especially when life seems to be sailing smoothly and happily enough. Why mess with a good thing? I say.

Well, the best I can come up with is that change is always an opportunity to further define who we are. Change is a chance to say: I am the sort of person who chooses to follow the light, the bright side – if you will, no matter how sad or scared I might also feel inside, too. Change is what makes life interesting, it’s what makes the shadows dance their dappled dance on the wall and in this way, makes something plain and static come to life. Change makes life beautiful and gives it strength of character.

However, change is also a time when I feel a little lost, not sure of who I will become and a feeling a little shaky, too, about who I have been. So, when I came across this gem of a poem over at Shawna’s blog, Calm Things, earlier this week, I couldn’t help but feel grounded again, reminded how to best move forward. I wanted to share this poem with all of you here, just in case you aren’t a regular visitor over at Calm Things – though I would like to highly encourage you to join Shawna and take a recent virtual trip to Banff National Park with her. Oh, those Canadian Rocky Mountains!

Here’s the poem:

Hokusai Says

by Roger Keyes

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it’s interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,

every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive -
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

Wonderful don’t you think? You might remember that Hokusai is likely most famous for this painting, The Great Wave at Kanagawa, which also seems rather appropriate for today’s post. Of course, I would want my eldest to remember this poem, too, as well as these words from his sappy mama: Live well, be safe (study hard), be happy and know that you are loved.

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Wishing you a wonderful first weekend in September! Thanks for reading.

 

a return to routine

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In the past, September has always felt more like the start of a new year than the 1st of January. However, this year feels a little different, it feels more like I’m returning to my old familiar routine than starting a new one. While this feeling lacks the shiver of excitement associated with starting something fresh, I must say, the comfort I’m feeling about getting back into my usual routine with the boys back at school is quite wonderful in its own way, too. I won’t get into all the mishmash of emotions I feel due to my boys returning to school, especially about the one who is flying far, far away from home to do just that. I’m sure many of you understand those feelings quite well (or can at least appreciate them).

Of course, regardless of summer holiday or back to school times, thankfully some things, like knitting and reading (I’m joining Ginny’s Yarn Along today), are a constant “ritual” in my daily routine. These days I’ve been working away on my little projects (and my yarn stash, too, bonus!), still loving the sense of productivity that comes with making lots of projects in a short amount of time.

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It seems I’m on a bit of a hand-warmer kick, they are so fun to make. Knitting these Noro stripes made making this pair all the more so and I couldn’t resist adding to the stripy  goodness by pairing them up with a striped Rowan fabric project bag. I can’t decide which side of the hand warmers  I prefer, the inside or outside, as I like the woven look of the purled stripes. What do you think? In any case, I hope my friend will have as much fun kicking about in them as I had in making them.

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Presently on my needles is a lovely handwarmer pattern by Leila Raabe, Nalu, while on the bed stand is the Wayfinders, by Wade Davis. The subtitle of this book, Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, sums up this collection of Massey Lectures better than I ever possibly could. Reading, and re-reading, the first lecture in this book, I find Davis offers a fascinating perspective and argument for the value of and need for present day anthropological studies of both ancient and modern cultures. So far, a favourite passage from early in the book inspires me to care and investigate more about our shrinking cultural world.

Together the myriad of cultures make up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelops the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life that we know as the biosphere. You might think of this social web of life as an “ethnosphere“, a term perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs, ideas and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. It is the product of our dreams, the embodiment of hopes, the symbol of all we are and all that we, as wildly inquisitive and astonishingly adaptive species, have created.”

Compelling, don’t you think? I will admit this is not an easy read for me (did I mention I’ve had to re-read it several times?) but I find the topic so interesting (dare I say necessary) that I’m determined to make my way through it and learn it, no matter many times I have to go back to page one!

What about you? What’s on your needles today? Reading much? I’d love to hear about it!

Wishing you a wonderful day, can you believe it’s Wednesday already?!

food for thought Friday

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost

End of summer days, shadows growing longer, a hint of autumn in the air. These days are all bittersweet for me and I find myself trying to drag them out and savour them completely. At the same time, I’m making every effort to embrace this new season that stands before me, a season I love so very much. This weekend I hope to spend lots of time out of doors, letting these last days of summer work their magic, trying to soak up these last dregs of summer sun and all the family-at-home love – enough, I hope, to keep me warm all winter long.

What about you? What will you be doing in the coming days?

Wishing you a wonderful Labour Day weekend ahead, safe travels to those who are travelling, and time well spent with those you love best. See you in September!

on a roll*

* I hope you will forgive the following onslaught of photos, I’m sure there is enough material here for several posts. However, this upcoming week is my very last week of summer 2014 with all my four boys at home and I hope to spend as little of it in front of my computer screen (somehow, I just know you understand). 

Have you ever noticed that you never quite appreciate how tough certain times of our lives are until suddenly you realize that everything just feels easier?

Without wanting to jinx anything, because there will always be tough times ahead, I have noticed these past few weeks I’ve been feeling so much better and much more energetic than I was earlier in the summer when my iron levels were super low. I can tell this because I have been on a bit of a crafting roll lately which is only possible because I have 1., either the energy to organize and lead a group craft activity with a bunch of crazy monkeys without it turning into a total disaster or, 2., I have the energy to stay up past 8pm to work on my knitting projects when all the kids are sleeping. I feel so lucky that a daily iron pill (and a few lifestyle changes, like consuming less caffeine, ironically) can make such a huge difference in the quality my life.

Anyway, I suppose it all starts with this, my Green Leaves shawl. This was a really fun knit, not boring at all, which is always my fear when starting a large project. I find blocking is always an exciting event, don’t you?

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Since we’re in a bit of a heat wave these days, I’m afraid this shawl is going to stay folded up for a little bit longer.

Then I spent a whole day (and well into the night) making a slew of these project bags, thanks to my dear husband who allowed me to be an invisible presence at home. Honestly, I felt like that day was a great big holiday, it was so nice getting re-acquainted with my sewing machine.

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I really love these bags and have been lucky enough to both give and receive them. They are perfect for knit-walking, my newest favourite outdoor activity. I am excited to be sending some of these out into the world in the upcoming weeks. If you are interested you can make your own by downloading the (free!) pattern here. I’ve made a few modifications to the pattern and I’m happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments section.

I’ve also put some time aside (yes, I do actually schedule my knitting – crazy, I know) so I can knit some smaller projects to send out to my far away friends before I start my Christmas knitting for my family and close-to-home friends. This time has been a real gift to me, a time when I’m able reflect how lucky I am to have such wonderful and generous friends. I hope these small handmade things will make the physical distance between us feel a little less “far away”.

At present, I am finishing up a pair of mittens for my beautiful friend Vibeke, to whom I bragged that I was good at keeping things a surprise and then quickly proved that I am, in fact, horrible at it! Maybe it’s because I love knitting mittens so much. I wonder, do you love knitting mittens, too?

In any case, here is another sneak peek at them. I hope to finish the thumb today, fingers crossed!

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Then there were these handwarmers, made especially for a certain blue-loving friend  I know. I do hope she will like them.

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While I was quite happy with the pattern I made (which I’m happy to share if you’re interested) without the button band, I felt these buttons by sheppardhandmade were just too perfect for this yarn not to add. I LOVE Laura’s buttons, I have more I hope to share about her work soon in another post as I was lucky enough to meet her and all her beautiful pottery at a recent fibre festival I attended.

Anyway, for the next month or so, I am looking forward to having fun making more small projects like these. An added bonus to these quick projects: they make you feel like a crafting superstar since they all make up rather quickly (with the exception of those stranded mittens, to be fair) and before you know it, you’ve made a whole pile of handmade goodness. What a nice feeling after devoting the better part of a summer to one project alone.

Then, lastly, I spent one of the few sunny days last week with ALL four of my boys having fun with trying our hands at indigo dyeing. We made a t-shirt for each member of the family and the boys had so much fun watching the fabric magically change from yellow to blue as the dye oxidized. Moments like these really make my mama heart swell with happiness and pride.

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What about you? What have your recent weeks been full of? Are you on a crafting roll, too? Whatever it is, I always love to hear what you are up to.

Wishing you a very happy Monday and a wonderful week ahead, thanks so much for stopping by!

food for thought friday

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“How right it is to love flowers and the greenery of pines and ivy and hawthorn hedges; they have been with us from the very beginning.”

- Vincent Van Gogh

How true! Nature has been a constant companion from our very first days here. The feeling of well-being, the feeling of all the weight being lifted from our shoulders that comes from spending time out in the fields and forests or by the the rivers, lakes and oceans reminds me of that same sense of peace and relief that I get when I come home after a bad day or trip away.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead, full of peace and love wether you’re out in nature or nestled up snug at home! …though I suppose with a picnic lunch outdoors or a bouquet of flowers on the table at home, you could have the best of both worlds… personally, I like the sound of a picnic… how about you?

p.s. I thought you might like a little sneak peek at my finished(!) Leaves of Grass Shawl:

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p.p.s I’m also thrilled my Instagram photo of a recent sewing project made it to the Skinny laMinx blog!!! You can see it, along with some other lovely photos here.

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wondering… beneath the red pines

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This weekend my family and I spent a day at Red Pine Camp visiting with my sister-in-law and her family. This camp is situated on Golden Lake, Ontario, amid a stand of red pines.

I wasn’t here long before I started wondering, have you ever noticed how beautiful the bark of a red pine is?

Red pine bark makes me think of an impossible watercolour impasto. I just love all the watery shades of grey, taupe and rose. I took this photo, below, as a reference for future Fairisle knitting inspiration.
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Besides my lovely extended family and all the wonderful trees, we also enjoyed the company of the local fauna.

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Oh, the chipmunks! Don’t you just love chipmunks? I wonder what it is about them? I would never let their bushy-tailed cousin, the squirrel, get this close to me (or my children). And yet, there’s something about these little stripey fellows that melt my heart and want to draw them close.

In any case, these resident chipmunks might be some of the best fed rodents around (I admit my kids fed them too, despite my mixed feelings about it). I have a feeling, too, that beneath each camp cabin hides a treasure trove of seeds and nuts stowed away for the colder months. I like to imagine them happily feasting long after all of us humans have gone back home (until next summer).

And then there was also this little critter that I almost stepped on. I’m so glad I was looking down, she was camouflaged so well with the grass below that I had to look twice to make sure she wasn’t a bit of grass seed.

I wonder what it is about human nature that desires physical contact with cute, fuzzy things?

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Watching Tim watching the caterpillar inch its way through the grass, I felt so proud and reassured that despite all their exposure to today’s technology, they still show a deep interest and desire for connection with the natural world around them. I suppose it is moments like these, seeing my children’s own sense of wonder come alive, when I feel the most hopeful for their future.

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
- Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Now I wonder about you… Have you had any exciting encounters out in nature recently? Do you see things in nature that inspire you in your craft or art? Have you read that tremendous book by Rachel Carson? Might I suggest you do?

Happy Monday! Wishing you a wonderful start to your week.