Thursday, December 29, 2011

Homemade Christmas

Mark made some "Zen Blocks"—wooden rocks—for my dad who loves stacking rocks.

Stitched notecards like this one I made earlier.

Mark also made toy chests for the nieces and nephews (and I put their names on them).

Hot Cocoa using this recipe, scaled up. And scented sachets filled with lavender and pineapple-coconut tea (mmm, tropical!). For the tropical scented sachets I used the same upcycled sheet with the spring-floral pattern that I used for the belt on this dress. I still would like to make a vintage-style apron from the rest of it...

Printed notecards following this ingenius tutorial. Using only a styrofoam tray and a pencil, printed on salvaged paper samples. Quite possibly the first time I followed through on making something after pinning it... Almost forgot to spell joy backwards; though it would have been funny to wish people a Christmas full of YOJ.

Friday, December 23, 2011


The Christmas spirit has been late settling into me this year. I feel as though I can't keep up, and have been running out of time with everything. We finally got a tree last weekend, but it sat, undecorated, for nearly a week. And the rest of the house, as yet, remains undecorated. Sigh. It's probably been the lack of snow and strangely mild temperatures (if only my bike tire wasn't flat, I could have ridden through most of December!), and also that this candle I have is on fire at both ends...

But last night was my super-fun and festive work party, and today I woke up to a nice blanket of snow; thin, but enough to hide the brown and green grass and make everything oh-so-pretty. It just doesn't feel like Christmas without snow.

A super-fun scavenger hunt led us around our work-neighbourhood and finally to the Hintonburg Public House. But not without being made to carol for cupcakes, solve an anagram (thankfully the master of anagram-solving was present!), and have a professional photoshoot with Santa, among other things.
Leaving early today and having the immense treat of walking home in the light.

Wishing there were more old stone buildings like this.

Whiskers and soft kitty feet.

A few of my favourites.
Sage words from my tea.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Perfect weekend

A great weekend spent with great friends. Birthday celebrations. A hike among the trees and newly fallen snow (which melted the following day — it was 9º yesterday!). Beautiful lookout over the white fields below. A thrilling owl sighting; this beautiful Barred Owl gazed down on us from his high perch. Silently, curiously looking from one to the next. A steam and a soak at Le Nordik. Relaxing with our books and some Fireside Martinis while Mark prepared a delectable feast of homemade pasta in carbonara sauce, followed by some rousing rounds of Boggle!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stitch sketch

Something I'd been meaning to try for a while: sketching with stitches.

Thinking a lot about drawing lately, and something Monica Tap—one of my art teachers in University—taught us about: mark-making. In the overall goal of getting your idea out there, there are infinite ways of making marks. From the very direct hands-in-medium-transferred-to-surface, to an extension of your body as the tool (say, your hair dipped in paint and flung at a canvas—who would ever do such a thing?!), to increasingly indirect ways (ie. with various implements: pencils, crayons, lipstick, sharpies), to implements that need further media (brushes dipped in paint, feather quill dipped in ink, tree branch dipped in vegetable die), and so on... It clicked something in my brain that needed to be clicked, because I had defaulted to the typical pencils on paper, or paintbrushes on canvas... Through various exercises where default techniques were "banned," I learned to make marks in entirely new ways. So healthy for creativity. And fun!

I've always thought the "wrong" side of stitch-work looks so neat.

And so, since I spend most of my days defaulting to a mouse and a computer screen to make my marks, I thoroughly enjoyed making this hands-on thread drawing, and trying different ways to affect the quality of the "line": single thread vs double thread vs knot, etc. I'm eager to explore the variety of ways of mark making with needle and thread (and also different threads/yarns/ribbons onto different fabrics and materials), I'm getting excited just thinking about it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Snail's pace

Despite dwindling temperatures and daylight hours, I'm trying to squeeze in as many cycling commutes as I can. Normally my threshold is about 4 or 5º C, but I've managed to go as low as 0 (with a windchill of minus 4º) this fall by wearing snowpants, doubling up on the mitts, and wearing a hat under my helmet. But these last few weeks have been incredibly mild for November, and I was able to put away the snowpants for a little longer... But this morning, with a windchill of minus 12, I thought it best to bus it.

It's always sad to tuck the bike in for hibernation and go back to public transit. There's nothing wrong with the bus; it's about the same amount of time, and the route is convenient, but it's expensive! It adds about $52 per month, while biking is refreshingly free. And that's only taking the bus one way, and walking the other. But I miss the pure freedom of biking. Of not having to leave the house at a precise time for fear of missing the bus, of the feeling of movement and the wind in my hair... ah, cycling... 

All cycling-wistfulness aside, I do enjoy walking home — though it takes me twice as long as biking, sigh. The slower pace allows me to take in details that I normally miss: neighbour's gardens, dogs playing in the park, the frost on the morning grass. Now that the clocks have changed and I find myself walking home in the dark, it's comforting to see the soft glow from the houses, and people tucked inside making dinner, reading, watching TV or whatever life snippets I notice as I walk by. 

Plus there's all the old familiar faces on the bus—all the strangers that don't talk to each other, despite having the same morning schedule in common. And oh, there are so many interesting characters on the bus. Though I will miss the familiar faces along my cycling route (like "The Twins"; I didn't realize there were two until I saw them together and realized that my days weren't blurring together, or "Old Toad Man" who looks like he's perpetually grimacing, except when you wave and smile at him and his gruff demeanor dissolves). I wonder what interesting (or uninteresting) character I am in someone else's morning commute?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Carpe diem

This is not the post I wanted to write this week. I wish there was no need for this. But that is how these things work. And I'm not sure what words to write or how to write them, but I hope by writing something, I can begin to understand.

Today I went to the funeral for my friend Lindsay who passed away after a two-year battle with colon cancer. She was 30. I am glad that the last time I saw her she was happy and optimistic. Though thin and clearly unwell, I thought for sure she would beat it. The news of her passing was a shock. But I will always remember her smile and incredibly sunny and cheerful personality. Though we worked together only briefly a few years ago, when I first came to Ottawa, she was one of the kindest people I've ever had the privilege of knowing, and I will miss her.

The ceremony celebrating Lindsay's life was beautiful. Standing room only. In fact, there were so many people, we filled two entire rooms. She may have been surprised to see so many people there, but she shouldn't have been. She was well loved. Family and friends said wonderful things; about how she lived her life to the fullest every day; how kind and loving she was; a friend to everyone.

The officiant spoke of Lindsay's impact on all of our lives, and how a passing so young can be difficult to come to terms with. Spoken by someone else, his words may have sounded like a trite reading of 'daily affirmations.' But with his sincerity his words seemed real, and honest, and I found them immensely comforting. I feel so selfish saying this, but it was just what I needed to hear. This has been just one more untimely passing—of entirely too many this year—to overturn whatever understanding I have of what the heck we're all doing on this planet. When things like this happen, it brings into focus the inanity of so much of what we do and worry about, and brings life to a standstill. Why bother? What's the point? He spoke of this inertia that comes from feeling so uprooted. So what can we do? How can we move forward? We must Carpe Diem. It's the only thing we can do. We have so few days to live, you have to seize them. It's not easy, but we have to try. We can honour those that we have lost by emulating the traits we loved in them so much. He said so many other things, and I wish I could more clearly remember his words, because they were lovely. 

Anyway, thanks for reading. Now go hug your friends, hug your family, hug your pets, and laugh more, dance more, sing more, and definitely: eat more ice cream. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Forest cathedrals in orange and grey

A lovely hike near Meech Lake today. The leaves have all fallen, creating a rich orange carpet, and leaving stoic pillars that blend and blur into an amazing shade of grey. A sort of mauve-green grey. Hard to describe. A colourful, colourless landscape. Delicious.

Quite mild today, unseasonable for mid-November, but I'm not complaining.

There were a noteworthy number of white moths fluttering very close to the ground by the hundreds. Quite pretty. Anyone know what this is about? Seemed like a phenomena like when the Newfoundland capelin roll in (which I've only ready about).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I put a hex on you

I put a hex on the cat.
I put a hex on the other cat.
Hexes here, hexes there, hexes hexes everywhere!

After a rather considerable lapse, I am back (with a vengeance) at the quilt. Over the past two weekends and spare moments in the evenings, I have completed Phase 1: all 750 hexagons and 80 half hexagons have been cut out. Momentous. Truly. It was so exciting to put down the scissors—which have left a permanent dent on my thumb—and start laying out the pieces to see how it will look when it's together. The bright colours make me so happy. I think this is the perfect project to be working on as we head towards winter. This quilt will get me through.

All this tracing and cutting has been so zen, which is hopefully good training for Phase 2: basting all the pieces onto paper backs in preparation for Phase 3: piecing everything together. I've done a few already, and it sure is tedious, but I'm happy to have a quiet task that doesn't involve me sitting in front of a screen...

I'm not sure what prompted the switch in priority, but all I can think of lately is this quilt. This morning I even cut my workout short so I could squeeze in some extra basting before work. I even toyed with bringing some bits to work so I could work on it over my lunch. Whoa. It's crazy-town over here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kitchen Sink Cocoa

I created this recipe concoction after finding my container of hot chocolate empty one day. Too lazy to go to the store and get more I thought what would the pioneers do? and set to work combining a mélange of items—a jumble, if you will—from the cupboards. The basic hot chocolate part was simple enough: cocoa + sugar, but that seemed rather boring, so I started improvising. I ended up with a mugful of never duplicable (pretty sure that's a word!), but alwadys tasty, hot chocolate-esque beverage.

For the purposes of sharing with you, because I thought you might also like it, I made a mugful using measuring spoons, so I could tell you how much of each ingredient to put in. It should be noted that it pained me to do this, because I. don't. measure. You all know that's not how I roll. So, take these measurements with a grain of salt, they're more for appearances. Really, you should look upon this as a list of ingredients of which you can add some/none/all of, omitting freely, and adding whatever strikes your fancy. And you know, if a little Frangelico and/or Irish Cream and/or Zambuca spilled in there, that probably wouldn't be a bad thing. So with that pioneering spirit in mind, I give you: "Kitchen Sink Cocoa":

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's just a jump to the left...

"Ladies, gentlemen, and those that haven't yet made up their minds," clad in sequined bustiers, teddies, tighty whities (and tighty goldies!), garters, fishnets, etc., gathered at the Mayfair Theatre Saturday night for the cult classic: Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was a loud, raucous, and above all, raunchy affair. I had a blast.

Of our group of four, two had experienced the RHPS live before, but two of us hadn't, which made us Virgins (seeing it at home apparently doesn't count!). We timidly joined the eager line—or parade, rather—of Virgins to have a large V painted on our cheeks (face!) in lipstick, and getting some spanks from three of the cast members as we walked across the stage.

As a first-timer, I didn't know the call-backs, or when to throw the various props, but it was so much fun just to listen, watch the incredible live cast (they were amazing!), and be rained upon by water, unbuttered toast, playing cards, and toilet paper. For those who haven't been, you must go! It is so much fun!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We don't know how lucky we are.

For the last five years, up until yesterday, they were refugees. Yesterday, they became Canadian citizens.

Though I had only met them that morning, I could not contain my tears as Mark's two friends and their three children were sworn in. From 39 different countries, each of the 81 new Canadians have had unique and often difficult journeys to get to this point. Now they join a country where they can experience freedoms and rights that simply don't exist in many of their birth countries. I was emotional as Judge Thanh Hai Ngo spoke earnestly of these rights that we often take for granted: the right to vote and hold office, freedom of thought, belief, religion and speech, freedom to live and work anywhere in the country, apply for a passport, and enter and leave the country at will.

It makes me fiercely proud to live in a country with such freedoms, and I passionately welcome new citizens, and firmly believe that Canada's immigration policy is one of many things that makes our country great. 

Of the rights and freedoms we have, the one I try most not to take for granted is our right to vote; it is something I feel very strongly about. As flawed as the system can be ("first-past-the-post" vs "mixed-member-proportional" etc.), you have a choice and a way to have your voice heard. Something a lot of the world does not. It's bittersweet reading of the recent Tunisian election: the first fair election in the history of the country (sweet!), which experienced a 90% turnout in some areas. But it makes the disappointment of our pathetically low turnouts that much more bitter. In the recent provincial election, Ontario broke the record for the lowest turnout since Confederation. Well done, Ontario. Well done. My highschool Politics teacher often repeated the expression "you lose your right to bitch when you choose not to vote." So vote. Exercise your right. Don't take it for granted. And if you don't like the candidates in your area, then run as a candidate. As Gandhi said "be the change you want to see." You have the right.

And, if you have the chance to attend a swearing-in ceremony in the city you live in, I highly recommend it as a way to more fully appreciate what it means to be Canadian, and see what it means for new Canadians who have worked very hard for the honour. It is a humbling and joyful experience.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Hubby's bday hike in the rain and spying a partridge on the trail

Happening upon a studio tour of beautiful paintings and then finding
this awesome quote among the artist's pastels:

To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment,
to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.
 —Thich Nhat Hanh


Getting a surreal glimpse into the Cold War era at the Diefenbunker
and picking up some interesting literature from the time...

Orchard pickin's being inspected by kitty

Midnight garden raid armed with a flashlight and headlamp
to save the tomatoes from the frost

Feeling thankful for family

Blowing bubbles

The last dregs of the vegetable patch

A 35km bike ride around Ottawa on a blustery autumn day