Monday, May 29, 2006


You know, there is nothing like a family. Sometimes they drive you nuts. Sometimes you just love them to pieces. You don't get to choose your family. It just is. From the minute of your birth, until the end of your days. Friends -- yeah, you can choose them. And you can unchoose them if you want. But family is forever.

And there is something else about families, well, my family anyway. We just don't seem to stay in touch very well. I have a sister out west who met my daughter for the first time at my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. The daughter was 12. We don't snail mail very well. We don't even e-mail very well. To make it worse, we don't even telephone each other very well.

Until illness strikes. When my mother was ill, we were talking several times every day. Until we all met at the hospital and spent the last days together there. Then everyone went home and we vowed that we would stay in touch. And we did, for a short time.

And then we slipped into our old patterns of non-communication. Sure, there was the occasional e-mail and the even more rare telephone call. But really? We just didn't communicate.

My sister has had a rough 2006. She spent some time in January in the hospital, culminating in open-chest surgery to relieve the pleurisy. Followed by plenty of follow-up. And she quit smoking!

As part of the follow-up, she went for her (first) annual physical in five years. And they found breast cancer. Fortunately, it appears to be easily resolved with a lumpectomy and radiation. But there is still a spot on her lung as well. Scarey stuff. And she is way out west, a two-day drive from family. I can't be there for her, as much as I want to. So I made this:

The Clapotis that everyone else has made, except that mine is filled with prayers for healing, good health, and love. Lots of love. Lots and lots of love.

The yarn is Sirdar Supersoft Toddler Aran, acrylic and washable. It seems my sister is allergic to wool. Wouldn't it have been awful to have made the shawl in wool, only to have her break out in hives on top of everything else? I wouldn't do that to my sister, even on a bad day. The garden belongs to my neighbour, and it is as beautiful as it appears in the photo. Thanks, neighbour, for the loan.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I will thrum no more, forever

This is a paraphrase of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Here you see my abortive attempt at thrums. This is the ribbing and eight rows of a thrummed mitten. All done perfectly and well. At least I think so, but I've never done this before so what do I know.

In any event, after this terrific endeavour at thrums, it was bedtime. So I slept.

I awoke the next day with pain in my shoulders. Aching, dull pain that wasn't serious enough to take medicines, but enough to make me cranky and irritable. (Children, be quiet! I'm not normally cranky and irritable! Really!!)

At first, I thought it was because I slept on my side at night ... I couldn't figure out why I would suddenly be sore. Did the futon lose all comfort overnight? And here I thought it would be a gradual process. Anyway, I thought about picking up the thrummed mitten again ... and with the first attempt to tear the roving into thrum-sized pieces, my shoulders REALLY hurt. I stopped.

The next day, my shoulders were feeling ... um ... better. After I had spent another night sleeping on my sides. And not thrumming. The second day was even better.

My conclusion? Thrumming is not gonna become my passion. Sorry to all my relatives who were hoping for warm winter woolen, thrummed mitts. Just can't do it. At least I can still knit.

(Was that sound a bunch of heart-felt sighs of relief?)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Last words of a lace knitter

For those of you who have wondered, after extreme research I have finally determined the last spoken words a lace knitter will utter. "Life line? I don't need a life line. " Inevitably, after speaking these words in a voice bursting with confidence, the knitter will realize that something strange has taken possession of her knitting. Instead of 37 stitches between the markers, there will inexplicably be 36. Instead of 9 stitches at the ends of the lace panels, there will be 7 AND 8. In other words, there will be a mess.

Further research has further shown that no matter how painstakingly the knitter tinks back stitch after tiny stitch, it is absolutely impossible to take only one row back. Because the mess that has become the knitting will inexorably slide down the knitting. Especially if the lace-weight wool is fluffy.

So ... one MIGHT ask how this painstaking research was accomplished. If one were truly crazy.
Because, you see, this research smacks plainly of the bitter voice of experience. (I did say bitter, didn't I?)

After days and days of tinking, counting, cursing, drinking, tinking, counting -- well, I am sure you get the picture. I finally have resolved the problems and been able to stop knitting backwards. What you see below is 101 rows of my beautiful, alpaca lace scarf.
Yes, after all this, I still love the project, the yarn and lace.

Have I mentioned that my family swear that I am stark, raving mad?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Baby Overload

I've been knitting diligently on baby sets for the Durham Crisis Pregnancy Centre. I enjoy making baby things because they go so quickly -- even with the teeny, tiny needles and light-weight wool. I also like the feeling that I'm doing something good for the world, by showing the clients of the Centre that someone really does care about them. Will it help? I certainly hope so, but I have no way of knowing.

This week I finished up this little set. I found the leaf-pattern on the sacque yoke and hat to be adorable. Easy to knit too, which was a bonus. The lace pattern in the body of the sacque? Well, let's not talk about it. Easy to do, and yet not. Every row was different, every row required counting, every row threw me a curve. Glad to be done, that's for sure.

The pattern came from Paton's Book No. 111 titled Nursery Styles for 3-12 Months by Beehive. A classic publication, which I believe dates from the 60s. Possibly a bit later, but I'm not certain. All I know is that the little sets are mostly adorable and I'm itching to try another one.

Last week I finished up this little blue set from the McCall's baby book that I use frequently. The picture doesn't do the colour justice as the colour really is a soft baby blue. I've made this set previously (in pink) and originally found the lace pattern frustrating. Actually, it is easier than the pattern shown above. Ten rows, six of which are knit straight across. How much nicer can that be?

Again, this set will be going to the Durham Crisis Pregnancy Centre.

In other news? My sister has announced the impending arrival of Baby #2. I'm so excited! This means that I simply *must* make something for the new baby, as well as big sister Emery. Of course, this also gives me a reason to browse through my (extensive) pattern collection and plan my next projects.

And finally the big news -- in less than 30 days my son will be home from Mexico! Only an eight-hour drive away, instead of multiple days. He has had a grand adventure and enjoyed himself. He lived through home-sickness, language problems, and Montezuma's Revenge.

And thrived. Doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Trillium time in Ontario

Springtime is a lovely time of year. The lake thaws, the geese and ducks come back. We see the occasional loon floating by. We even have a heron that lives near and we see it flying back and forth in its search for food. A couple nights ago Doug saw an otter fishing in the weed bed out beyond our dock. The grass is turning green and we are even getting some new grass in areas seeded last fall. The trees are turning a luscious shade of electric green as the leaves start to form. The cats are going crazy -- they can't wait to get outside in the morning to see what adventures await them.

And what do we people do to celebrate spring? We go mountain biking. Sometimes we even manage to not fall off the bikes. Today was one such day. We did the eastern loop of the conservation area park near us. There are some amazing up-hill climbs, followed by some truly exciting downhill rides. And then there is yet another reason to ride here:

Ooops. Not that! That's me recovering from the killer up-hill.

THIS is the reason to ride at Long Sault Conservation Area. This field of trilliums is hiding way back in the trail system. To access it, one must navigate some truly challenging hills. Both up and down. But once you get here, it is all worth it. Trilliums as far as the eye can see.

The other reason to ride this part of the trails? It's filled with poison ivy later in the year. Doug and I both seem to react amazingly well to it ... so there is only a brief window of opportunity to explore this side of the park.

Today the trilliums were worth every panting effort.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A bicycle possessed

Carrie has decided that she likes mountain biking. This is way cool, because it means that we can all go mountain biking as a family activity.

Normally, this would be a really good thing. But for Carrie, mountain biking is becoming fraught with peril. Do you remember Calvin & Hobbes? Calvin's bicycle was possessed, and pursued him through various comic strips? And then the father went mountain biking and came home rather battered and bruised?

It seems that Carrie's bicycle is closely related to Calvin's. It is possessed. We went biking at Long Sault Conservation Area yesterday. It was a beautiful day -- sunny and warm. Perfect biking weather. We pedaled through the first half of the ride. Things were going well. Carrie had even pedaled up the first (killer) hill without stopping. Life was good.

The next stretch of the trail is referred to as "Joanna's Run" at our house because it is our friend and neighbour Joanna who introduced us to it. There's a challenging but do-able uphill, followed by a long and winding downhill. Twisty and turny. And fast.

Carrie is not a total adrenaline junky. She uses her brakes on the downhills. She tries to be careful. After all, she has gone over the handlebars before. She did not like it.

Yesterday she started down the hill, using her brakes. Going down hill, even with brakes, one tends to generate speed. And with increased speed comes more difficulty making turns. And on one turn, Carrie actually went a little wide. In the process of getting back on the trail ... well, no one really knows what really happened except the bike -- and it's not talking.

When Brandi caught up with her, Carrie was lying on the trail. The bike was doing a victory dance on Carrie's head. Carrie was face down, with her head pointing up the hill. The bicycle had her left foot pinned between the handlebars and the crossbar, and the back wheel (as mentioned previously) was bouncing on her head and shoulders. This part can be proven as there is a definite tire tread on the back shoulder of her shirt.

The good news? (I'm not sure that it really is good news I might add.) The bicycle was not damaged. The bad news? Carrie has a sprained left knee.

But you know what is truly way cool? Carrie wants to go biking again.

And for the record -- we are planning to get some holy water to sprinkle over the bicycle. It can't hurt, right?