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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Quilts!

Blink
February already?
.... most easily distinguishable by its lovely increase in daylight, and depressing decrease in daily temperatures.  But I want to talk about something more pleasant than the weather.  
With all of the space at Miramichi house, I finally have a sewing area that can STAY a sewing area.  Which means sewing happens on a semi-regular basis.  

Here are my latest accomplishments: 
a quillow for youngest son;
 Colors in the outdoor shot are not very true, for some reason, so imagine the colors of the folded quillow above, in the full - spread out image below.   


This one is a baby quilt for the newborn son of one of my daughter's employees. color also not great.... very washed - out, as it's actually quite bright.   

And lastly, a baby quilt for the grand-boy of my dear friends Margaret and Gerard, who posed for me with it before we sent it off to Saskatchewan.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas is a-comin'

In keeping with my promise to myself that I will spend a great deal of time doing creative things, I've been surfing Pinterest, collecting ideas for paintings, Christmas gifts, home decor and renovations, gluten free recipes, and much more.  In my pintravels I came across a number of posts showing ceramic items decorated with Sharpie permanent markers. I like things to be practical AND beautiful, so the idea of decorating dinnerware with something so accessible and easy to use as office supplies was hard to resist.  I've been experimenting with this, and after hitting the local Goodwill for some white mugs, & Staples for a mixed pack of Sharpies, a couple of items for seasonal gift exchanges have resulted.

The ridges in this mug at first posed a challenge.  Then I noticed that some sticker letters I had left over from some some other project fit rather nicely between the ridges.  There weren't a lot of letters left to choose from, but one 'H', and one 'O' were all I needed.  I traced them over and over, alternately, with a black pen, then colored them in, alternately, with red and green.  Added a few golden bells and silver snowflakes, let everything dry and 'cure' for 24 hours, then 'fired' the mug for 30 minutes in my oven. I gave it a good rub as I washed it to be sure the color would stay put.  It then went into a gift bag with some gourmet coffee, hot chocolate, home made gingerbread cookies and candy.
This one was for a gift exchange @ the library where I work part time. I drew the name of a lady who had recently lost her husband to cancer.  My first thought when I saw I had got her name, was that what I wish for her, more than anything, is joy.  The needful letters were on the aforementioned sticker letter gleanings, so I stuck them randomly in 3 places around the mug.  Then I began to doodle - a circle around the word, another, larger circle outside that.... hmmm .... could be a flower..... and this is what grew from the first seeds.  The photo was taken late at night in poor light, with a flash, so the colors are not as vivid as the original item, but it's a fair representation. It went, wrapped in tissue paper with 'joy' printed all over it,  in a gift bag.  I dumped a package of Werther's toffee and one of chocolate almonds over top, tucked a few packages of gourmet hot chocolate around it all, and tied a bright ribbon bow on the bag's handle. 

Also found at Goodwill, a mess of little festive boxes and tins for home made cookies and truffles. The first batch of gingerbread is iced and ready for packaging. I found this best of all gingerbread recipes, which calls for fresh ginger and fresh lemon, in Canadian Living Magazine nearly 40 years ago and it's become a family seasonal mainstay. 

It's beginning to feel like Christmas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blink

Summertime, and the livin' is easy.... 
perhaps, but northerners tend to go into high speed during the short season of warmth.  The garden, even it it's small, takes high priority - it won't be there to enjoy for much longer now. Already the days are noticeably shorter, and the nights so much longer, darker, and cooler.
Spring and summer are the best time to open windows and get painting done - it won't be long before the windows are all closed against the cold wind.  Three of the four rooms at Miramichi House are now repainted, with new area rugs, arm chairs and writing desks.

Summer is also the favored time for weddings.  These 'quillows' are now happily residing in the home of my niece and her husband.  For those who haven't come across them before, quillows are small   quilts that fold up into a self-pocket, becoming......

Pillows!
So much easier to wash than a throw cushion, and so cozy to cuddle up under to watch a movie or read a book.  

This one is a baby quilt, for the newborn son of a young man I've known since he was just a lad.... he's now my carpenter at Miramichi House - he's just completed the stairs to the attic... more on that another time.

And there's the landscaping yet to do, dog walking that never loses its urgency,  visitation of elders in hospital, wedding gigs and preparations for the looming long dark. 
It's all just a blur, really.
....and there are 5 turtles who've been put on hold....  Back soon to write the last installment of their story.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane (part 5)

Life with 4 turtles wasn't much different from life with 2 turtles.  The new guys, came without names.  When we asked what their names were, their former keeper looked at us like we'd grown shells of our own.  So we called them Darlin'- about 8" of shell and timid femininity and Hunka - slightly smaller in diameter - after Elvis Presley's 'Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love. We were told he was a male. His shell was very distinctively differently shaped from that of Darlin', with squarer shoulders and a deeper carapace. They  had spent all of their 20 + years in a tank, so were not immediately comfortable with being free range turtles.

They did immediately discover the under-stairs turtle cave, and unanimously agreed that it was home base.  Turtles don't appear to be territorial - there were no turf wars, and we often found all four of them in a heap together under Superman's cape or a crinoline. Both of the new turtles were bigger than Chili and Somethingorother.... perhaps turtles respect their elders, or don't mess with someone bigger than them... or perhaps they were glad for the company. At first the only indicator that the turtle population had doubled was an increase in things that go bump in the night.

And then there were five..... That summer there was an unexpected addition to the family.  The local Animal Control Officer was the leader of the boys' Scout Pack, and was an old friend to our pets.  He called up with a request for us to foster an injured Mississippi Red Eared Slider that had been found wandering the streets of Peace River, an hour's drive from us.  This unfortunate lady proved to be bigger still, than any of the others. Akela speculated that she may be as much as 30 years old. She had some cuts to her legs and shell (he thought it looked like a dog had attacked her), and a dislocated joint on one of her hind legs.  We gave her a special diet high in vitamins, and lots of time in the tub. She seemed to make a full recovery.  She was also the most sociable of our turtles, seeming to enjoy the company of homo sapiens, when the others merely tolerated us, if they noticed us at all.  We thought that, considering her mature age and apparent health (aside from the recent injuries) and her obvious familiarity with human society, someone must be attached to her, and wanting her back. As notices and advertisements had been posted about her, we felt certain it wouldn't be long before someone came to claim her. As the months drew on, and no one claimed her, we succumbed to our fond feelings for her and began to consider her a permanent part of the family.  We dubbed her 'Sweetie'.  

With 5 turtles in the family, it seemed only right that they should have their own room - at least for the summer.  Next to the greenhouse we dug a hole for a pond, lined it with vinyl, added some stones for basking, plantings for shade, and and built a low fence around it. It was quite picturesque, and most satisfying to see them paddling in the water or soaking in the sun.... once they got over their agoraphobia.  We hardly saw them for the first week or 2 they spent outside. Turtles are wizards at hiding.  And devious.  Just when I was getting less anxious at seeing no turtles in the pen, and ceased to hunt every one of them down in the pen every time I went outside, some primal memory kicked and and they started to dig.  Under the fence. 

The summer was one of repeated crises, as we recovered escaped turtles all over the yard, almost daily.  They spent nights in the house, so never had a long time to plan and implement an escape, but, now fearlessly accustomed to the out-of-doors, they were determined to explore.  We learned to keep an eye on them while they were out, meanwhile wracking our brains for new, harmless ways to barricade them in.  Rocks didn't work, even if we buried them.   They just dug under or around or between them.   Once, when they all got out and scattered in different directions, Hunka almost made the Great Escape. After gathering up the other 4, we searched the neighborhood all day for him, with no sighting. By dark we had given up on him, and gone to bed heartbroken. Breakfast was a morose affair, the only conversation being worried comments on all of the terrible things that could have happened to him.  We were nearly resigned to life without him when a neighbor showed up with him in a box in in his car trunk the next afternoon.  He'd found Hunka in the middle of the road, a block away, heading south. The boys were deliriously happy to see him.  He was indifferent as usual.  We speculated that his choice of travel direction might be an indicator of an early winter.  

By autumn, as it got too cool for them outside, all 5 turtles were once again emptying the bookshelves, or basking in the sunspot on the living room floor.  This was, incidentally, the space I used for violin lessons.   My students soon learned that the thumping under the stairs wasn't the dragon (she lived in the furnace room, and was responsible for heating the house... loudly), but one or more of the turtles redecorating its living space. Frequently someone, usually Sweetie, would wander out during a lesson, particularly if the sun was bright.  These moments were the highlight of music lessons.  One memorable day, my young virtuoso and I were engrossed a new and challenging composition. We didn't notice the arrival of Hunka.  Not at first.  Before long, it was impossible to ignore him. He made his way to the base of the music stand, still unnoticed, until the stand began to move, having wedged its legs on his shoulders.  Mum and I were proud beyond words, of the determined young musician who continued to play from the moving score, following it across the room as Hunka made his oblivious way to the bookshelf for his favorite read.  The show must go on!

With Autumn also came the completion of friend Paula's home renovations, and the day for Chili and Somethingorother to move to their new digs.  Lucky turtles - radiant floors, and more than twice the square footage we had to offer.  They were moving to the Ritz.  

We hunkered down, as the first snows fell, with no premonition of the hardships an exceptionally bitter,  cold, and long winter would bring for our beloved turtles.  


Monday, March 25, 2013

Don't make me beg

Please, spring, hurry back. We're nearly frozen solid, and we miss you terribly.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane (part 4)

As spring abdicated and summer took the throne, there were turtle races in the garden (Chili always won; Somethingorother was content to enjoy the scenery from a stationary viewpoint) and lawn sprinkler parties. Bigger and better water guns were tested, with the alltime favorite the Super Soaker - water artillery equivalent of a bazooka.  The house rule has always been 'Never shoot at anyone who is unarmed' so the turtles were safe, as they refused to bear arms. Armor didn't count.  As promised, they weren't interested in food served a la Tera firma. The garden vegetables were safe from turtle molestation.  The abandoned fledgling Bluejay the next door neighbors were raising was quite a different story. He developed a taste for fresh peas and enjoyed hanging out in the garden with the kids, who taught him haw to dig for earthworms, and where to find the peas... But that's, well, as I said, another story.

On an early morning walk one day, I was fascinated with the hordes of grasshoppers scattering in small clicking explosions in every direction with each step I took through the grass. One startled me by dropping into the big, baggy pocket of my sweater. I was trying to shake it out of my pocket when it occurred to me to wonder if the turtles would eat it. So I left it in the pocket and added a few more and kept them live in my pocket as I walked home. There were dead grasshoppers along the edge of the road as well... Victims, I supposed, of the windshields, radiators and tires of passing vehicles. I picked up a few of these too.

Back home, I rounded up the turtles and poured them a bath. Once they were paddling elegantly in the water, I dropped a live grasshopper in with them. It took a few minutes for them to notice it. In fact, the grasshopper had rowed itself across the water's surface to cling to the side of the tub several times, where I retrieved and returned it to the water, before a turtle deigned to take an interest. Somethingorother paddled lazily over and prodded it. This got the grasshopper pretty excited, which, in turn, made things more interesting to the turtle, who tried a nibble, liked what he tasted, and finished the hapless insect off. The second grasshopper didn't make it to the edge of the tub. The third  was nearly snapped out of my hand. I dropped a dead one in, with no response. Chili, oblivious to the feast at the next table, munched broccoli. He eventually caught on, after a few grasshopper feedings, when I didn't put the broccoli in until after the grasshoppers were gone.   "No veggies till you finish your bugs," I told him.    

From then on, there was always a small lidded container in the baggy pocket during my morning walks. In no time I was a grasshopper catching wizard, an extremely popular skill with small children. I was good at frogs too, though I never tried to feed them to the turtles. I like frogs, and we weren't overrun with them. Feeding grasshoppers to turtles was my small contribution to sustainable agriculture in my little corner of the world. Organic, even. They were a pestilence that year, and farmers were fearing for their crops.  

On my return home one morning, with a poor catch, I noticed a lot of very big ants on the sidewalk outside the house.  Not wanting to return empty handed, I tucked a few of these into my jar.  Some variety in their diet might be welcomed by the turtles.   The ants rowed across the surface of the water most satisfactorily, and the turtles were ready for them.  After a couple of weeks of fresh grasshoppers, they were skilled hunters.  Chili was the first to bag an ant.  And spit it out immediately and urgently with a look of pained disgust.  Somethingorother did the same.  Not only would they not eat the ants, they wouldn't eat the broccoli I gave them later that day.  Nothing.  They weren't touching a thing, thank you very much.  The next feeding day we were back to grasshoppers, after a cautious few nibbles. When I mentioned this to a scientist friend, he said, "of course they wouldn't eat ants.  They're full of oxalic acid.  They must taste terrible." I guess they'd never heard of sour candy.  

There was a lovely shallow, slow moving finger of the nearby river, behind an island, with a bit of tree-bordered meadow where there was a modest provincial campsite. We often took the canoe there on hot summer days to paddle, swim, and roast wieners round the campfire. This particular year, we happened to be there when the minnows had recently hatched out. They, like the grasshoppers, were everywhere. My boys were certain the turtles would enjoy a meal of fresh fish, so they devoured the contents of the pickle jar, rinsed it in the river, and scooped up a few minnows. I suspect the attraction of eating far too may dill pickles was as strong as that of a fresh fish dinner for pets. Uncharacteristically, they were eager to go home early that night.

The tub was duly filled, turtles deposited, and minnows released. To no effect at all. The minnows swum hither and yon unmolested. If it didn't sit on the surface of the water it was a neighbor, apparently - certainly not food. We left them together overnight with the bathroom light on, just in case it took a while for the minnows to get the turtles' attention, and went to bed. In the morning all but one of the minnows was dead, bright red inflammation around their gills evidence of a painful death by chlorine burn. Human logic is a strange thing. We were ok with giving them a violent death at the hands of a predator, but painful asphyxiation by chlorine poisoning felt like brutal murder. And, as with the dead grasshoppers, the turtles had no interest in dead meat. We gave the deceased minnows a respectful burial in the garden, then dumped the buttons out of an old fishbowl and ensconced the lonely minnow in it. His gills were burned too, but he was a survivor. We were, of course, careful after this to always dechlorinate his water. On our next trip to the river his gills had lost their painful, inflamed look and he  was released into the wild.

By this time we were not only accustomed to our personable amphibian guests, but quite fond of them. They, in turn were comfortable with us, ranging freely over the main floor of the house. Though they could be found in some odd places at times, especially if clothes were left on the floor, the toy storage under the stairs remained their premiere hideaway.  Gone were fears of turtle attack; the kids rummaged about under there freely now, but with consideration, always aware someone lived there now.

Friend Paula's new (to her) home was now nearly ready for habitation, and she would be moving in soon.  I mentioned to the mother of a violin student that we were going to miss the turtles when they went home.  She beamed and asked if I wanted some of my own.  It seems a friend of hers had two turtles her son had raised from babies. The lad was now finished university and getting married, so the turtles were nearly 20 years old. The new wife had made it clear that turtles the size of dinner plates - even if they were kept in a tank - were not part of the deal, so Mum was afraid she'd be stuck with the things.  After a phone call we were formally introduced, and only a few days later we had 4 free range turtles.  I thought my boys would die of excitement.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life in the Slow Lane (part 3)

As the days grew longer and the sun stronger, in quiet moments Chili and Somethingorother could be found basking in the spill of sunshine on the wood floor  of the living room.  There was a large, south facing window there.  The spring sunshine was warm and glorious. The first time I encountered this, I thought they were having some desperately horrible fit.  There they were, side by side in the centre of a pool of sunlight, with necks stretched out longer than seemed possible, front legs stretched equally impossibly long, with claws pointing towards their tails, and hind legs dangling straight behind.  





I'd never seen so much turtle outside of a shell. Those long, limp, skinny limbs looked unnatural, and their eyes were shut. They looked like they were unconscious. How, I wondered in mortal anguish, do you resuscitate a turtle? But they spared me that - they heard me coming, in my panicked rush to save them from whatever horrors they were suffering, peeled sleepy eyelids back and lazily lifted their heads off the floor to turn stupified gazes on me.  By  now I had some experience with turtle body language. The closest description of the expressions on their faces is 'drunken stupor'. They looked totally stoned, man.  And that's how they spent sunny afternoons, if the house was quiet and there were no human obstacles to avoid. Stoned on sunlight. 

On one afternoon, after a sleepless night, I lay down on the couch in the living room, which faced the sunny south window and had free access from all sides.  I dozed off comfortably in the warm sunshine. Some time later I was awakened by a strange shuffling and thumping.  As I looked about me, gathering my wits, Chili came into view around the foot of the couch, at a brisk turtle trot.  He hurried along the length of it, and took the corner by my head, around to the back of the couch, where the sounds continued until he came around the corner at my feet again.  He was doing laps around the couch!  Meanwhile Somethingorother lay with his chin on the floor marinating in the heat of the sunbeam, grinning stupidly, ignoring the action.  I didn't count the laps, but this went on for 15 or 20 minutes before Chili joined his partner in the sun.  Chili did this periodically, when he thought no one was watching, but his buddy had no interest in marathon training. Who'da thunk a turtle would be into fitness?

They both had a fondness for books and magazines.  As I shared their biblio love, there were a good many bookshelves holding a good many books about the place.  When the mood took one of them, he would amble over to a shelf of choice, and proceed to check a few books out of the library.  He'd do this by wedging himself between one edge of the shelf and the book nearest it, sometimes sideways, almost as if he were inserting himself in there like a book.  Then he'd work himself between the book and the shelf until he had his head between the back of the bookshelf and the open-able end of the book. He'd turn a corner in there somehow, working his head behind all of the books all along the bottom shelf, moving sideways with one set of legs down, and the other up, until he'd checked them all out and had them displayed for his reading convenience on the floor.  When there was no longer resistance from any books, he'd wobble down onto his belly and sit on the bottom shelf of the book case, surveying the literary selection spread out before him.  It was pretty amazing how much the two of them could read in an afternoon.