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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


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......

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. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

LIfe in the Slow Lane (part 2)

Our first turtles were foster children.  Their names were Chili and ...... somethingorother.  When Paula brought them to the house, I was more than a bit repulsed by their reptilian looking faces and skin. I thought they looked unfriendly.... just waiting for an opportunity to do something nasty. They didn't think much better of me, and, upon release onto the main floor of the house, promptly galomped into the space beneath the upstairs landing, burrowing under the kids' toys that were stored there.  Paula informed me that they would only eat and defecate in water, so I'd need to put them in the bathtub every other day for a few hours to feed and take a dump. They liked broccoli and other veggies, and an occasional bit of lean beef. Absolutely no hamburger.  Unlike the boys, I wasn't disappointed that they didn't leave the toy storage for the next 24 hours.  Every now and then we'd hear something moving in there, so we knew where they were.  If things were quiet for too long, I'd feel a guilty mix of fear that they were dead - crushed beneath the heaps of toys and dress-up paraphernalia - and relief that that they might be dead. The boys, then about 6 and 9, were sternly warned that they could NOT, under any circumstances, go in there. Only toys that were in plain sight, and fully accessible from the doorway were allowed.  This might be a good time to mention that this 'room' was about 3 feet high - only accessible in the upright position by a child of less than that height.  All others must stoop or crawl within.  

The turtles didn't, contrary to my shamefaced hopes,  die in there overnight. They were just fine the next afternoon, if the rustling, rattling and thumping of trains and fireman's hats and building blocks was an indicator.  With a knot in my stomach I crawled in to dig them out, for their first swim in our bathtub.  Fearful of losing a finger to the dangerous looking beaks on the front end, I picked them up as close to the other end as possible, and carried them up the stairs to a tub of tepid water, where they were unceremoniously dumped, along with a handful of chopped broccoli and lettuce.  They were no more comfortable with me, and kept heads and appendages - even tails! neatly tucked inside their shells until they hit the water. Then a miracle happened. The clumsy, awkward creatures transformed into graceful beings, fluid of movement and regal of bearing. They stretched their necks, with heads uplifted, to the surface, paddling confidently with outstretched legs and feet. For the first time since we'd met, they seemed something other than malevolent.  

The lettuce was a bust, but they nibbled away at the broccoli with what might have been satisfaction. Or it might have been disgust....  I was just learning to read turtle body language.  I'd been concerned about a place for them to get out of the water.... to breathe or something..... but Paula's instructions assured me that these were marine, and not land turtles. They were quite happy and able to float for long periods at the water's surface if they needed to catch their breath.  They didn't need to make landfall.  When evening came, and one of the boys needed a bath, we drained and disinfected the tub, rinsed the turtles and returned them downstairs.  The whole thing was not nearly as disgusting as I'd expected. The mess was minimal.  The worst part of it was keeping the last of the broccoli bits and the rejected lettuce from going down the drain. It's astonishing how quickly a determined turtle can disappear.  As soon as they were set back on the main floor, they went strait for the deepest, darkest corner of the under-landing toy heap. They seemed to like to be together.    

As the days went on, we became so accustomed to the occasional odd sounds of turtles moving beneath the toy stash that we no longer heard it.  This became a secret family joke - a source of private entertainment. A visiting friend might freeze suddenly in mid-sentence, listen intently to stealthy sounds coming from the corner, then whisper, "what was that?" We'd reply, by now quite nonchalantly, "Turtle."  It was crucial, for best results, to keep a straight face, and play this completely deadpan.  There are no indigenous turtles in northern Alberta. be continued

The photo is of another, unrelated turtle, adopted by my granddaughter, in memory of the turtles Grandma had when she was smaller.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life in the slow lane (part 1)

It was accidental. Amphibians are too much like reptiles to be attractive. They're not cuddly, and how do you take them for a walk?

So it was only friendship speaking when I agreed to care for those turtles. Mississippi Red-eared sliders. You know, the cute little things not much bigger than a dollar coin. You could find them in any Woolworth's pet department a few decades ago. And those little plastic 'ponds' with the green plastic palm tree they lived in. I bought a pair of them with my allowance when I was 8 or 10. Sadly, I had no idea how to care for them, and got no parental guidance, so their lives were short and miserable.

But this tale is about some other turtles. These  particular turtles- the ones friendship compelled me to foster - were no tiny scrabbling hatchlings. These were 10 or 15.... Maybe even 20 years old. They'd been the fortunate infants to go to a home with some knowledge and expertise. They were about the size of a soup bowl, and, I was told, house trained. That's right. Not only that, they were free range turtles.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


5:30 a.m.  Still wide awake. Hardly a blink all night
Insomnia is the inability to obtain an adequate amount or quality of sleep. The difficulty can be in falling asleep, remaining asleep, or both. People with insomnia do not feel refreshed when they wake up. Insomnia is a common symptom affecting millions of people that may be caused by many conditions, diseases, or circumstances.

define "adequate amount"

People who have insomnia do not start the day refreshed from a good night's sleep. They are tired. They may have difficulty falling asleep, and commonly lie in bed tossing and turning for hours. Or the individual may go to sleep without a problem but wakes in the early hours of the morning and is either unable to go back to sleep, or drifts into a restless unsatisfying sleep. This is a common symptom in the elderly and in those suffering from depression. Sometimes sleep patterns are reversed and the individual has difficulty staying awake during the day and takes frequent naps. The sleep at night is fitful and frequently interrupted.

Transient insomnia is often caused by a temporary situation in a person's life, such as an argument with a loved one, a brief medical illness, or jet lag. When the situation is resolved or the precipitating factor disappears, the condition goes away, usually without medical treatment.
Chronic insomnia usually has different causes, and there may be more than one. These include:
  • A medical condition or its treatment, including sleep apnea
  • Use of substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
  • Psychiatric conditions such as mood or anxiety disorders
  • Stress, such as sadness caused by the loss of a loved one or a job
  • Disturbed sleep cycles caused by a change in work shift
  • Sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring
  • Periodic jerky leg movements (nocturnal myoclonus), which happen just as the individual is falling asleep
  • Repeated nightmares or panic attacks during sleep.
None of the above seem to apply.

there's no space under my bed; it's built from the floor up.... so there can't be a rhino there....       

can there?  

no one else is home this weekend, so I can putter without disturbing anyone.... do the dishes..... pack up some things I'll want to take to the B&B tomorrow (no, wait - that's today) ... play my harp or read a bit.... get the monthly bookkeeping done

Or I can sit very still in the dark, with only the electric fireplace's warm comforting glow, and listen. To the night sounds of the city. To my dog sighing in his sleep. To my neighbor as he gets ready for work. He's a baker, so he was up softly thumping about not long ago, having his shower, perhaps looking for a lost sock? He quietly ate his lonely early morning breakfast. Then, stumping discreetly out the door he followed his nose to a spotless kitchen somewhere in the ebon stillness of the city. There he'll conceive yeasty, sweet, sticky delights. The magic of rising dough,  gestating, growing in the belly of the bakery until birth, warm and steaming into a world salivating with expectancy, just in time for the rest of the world to want breakfast. He'll tidy up and come home then, as the day shift has lunch, to finish his day as carefully and quietly as he began it. 

I'm sure I'll sleep well tomorrow.... that is - tonight.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jelly Roll

They call it a jelly roll quilt.  Not because it's edible, or made from anything remotely edible, but because pre-cut strips of coordinated fabric are sold rolled up like this, and they look a bit like a jelly roll.  
Now, I'm not much for buying things in 'kits'. Mostly because I'm so cheap I squeak when I walk, but also because it seems to me that a big part of the creative process is 'pulling it all together'. I don't want someone else telling me what my work should look like... it's just not.... well, creative.  

But I did need to make a quilt for one of the rooms in my future B&B, and I didn't want to spend forever on it.  It needed to nice, but not a work of art. It needed to use materials I have, no purchases allowed. I do have a bit of fabric stashed away from a former life.... well, actually, a lot of fabric..... ok, let's be honest - quite a lot. So I surfed a bit for ideas, and came across the jelly roll.  I got out my calculator, and figured out how much 'strippage' would be needed for the bed in question, and went looking for fabric. 

It seems kind of wasteful to me (there's that cheap squeakiness again) to cut perfectly good yardage into pieces, then sew them all together again to make more yardage.  I think a quilt should be made, as much as possible, from  bits and pieces, ends left over from other projects, recycled, salvaged, not very useful bits.  My quilt would be just that. The trendy jelly roll is made up of strips of new fabric, all the same weave and weight, cut across the grain, so all strips are the same length.  Mine ranged from a few inches to 3 or 4 feel long, from cotton flannel to cotton velvet, satin to tweed, stripes and florals and plaids.  I sorted through my bits and decided on a masculine-ish somewhat muted palette, with a few coordinating florals to soften the look.  Some of the reds and whites were a bit harsh for what I wanted, so I separated them, boiled up a box of orange pekoe teabags and threw the whole mess in the washing machine. Then filled the washer up with hot water, gave it a good stir and added the fabric.  I twisted the teabags into a short length of white-on-white cotton to get a darker, blotchy pattern behind the printed one, and threw that in too, The result was gentler reds and 'antique' whites. I was especially pleased with the blotchy one.  

Then I dusted off my rotary cutter and cutting mat, and spent a week one day, cutting strips.  When I'd cut it all up, I gave it a good stir to mix up the colors, then I began laying one atop the other, in no particular order, the only criteria being that no two of the same fabric should be together, until I had enough to make a roll.  This step wasn't crucial, but it tidied up my workspace, and made sure the colors were well mixed.  
 Then I started to sew.  One strip after the other, end for end, for ever and ever amen, until it was one continuous strip. 
Here's where it gets groovy.  When you have reached the end of one long strip about a brazillian miles long (or 1.6 brazillion kilometers or something like that, if you're in Canada) you find the other end. If you're cleverer than me, you thought of this when you started and tied the beginning end to something so it couldn't get away. You then sew them together, lengthwise, to get a new strip twice as wide, and only a half brazillion miles long (.8 brazillion in Canada) When you get close to the end, you'll be reminded that it's not 2 strips, but one, and you'll cut the strip in order for it all to lay flat, and finish sewing. 
 Join the end of this wider strip with its beginning, and sew again, to make it 4 strips wide, cutting at the   far end again, to lay it flat and finish the seam.
 Then do it all again, to make it 8 strips wide, again to make it 16 wide, 
and one more time for a finished product, in this case, of 32 strips wide.  
And this is what it looks like so far, sprawled on my couch taking a nap. 

If you're cleverer than me, you'll have a quilt top approximately the size you'd originally calculated for. If you're no more clever than me, you won't.  If you're LUCKY, as I was, you'll have a finished product that is actually twice as long as desired, and you now have enough for two quilts.  

After hours of staring blearily at the ragged, fraying underside of the thing, I never like the look of it at this stage. This is when I wonder if it's worth all the trouble of putting the batting and underside on.  Happily, the finished product almost always pleases me.  Not that it can't be done, but it takes a special kind of gift to make a seriously ugly quilt.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doodle of the day

Paper 53 doodle of the day

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Canadian Eh?

a friend posted this on facebook recently... not new, but i thought i'd share. I added the pictures  :0)

The Official Canadian Temperature Conversion Chart

50° Fahrenheit (10° C)
· Californians shiver uncontrollably.
· Canadians plant gardens.
35° Fahrenheit (1.6° C)
· Italian Cars won't start
· Canadians drive with the windows down
32° Fahrenheit (0° C)
· American water freezes
· Canadian water gets thicker.
0° Fahrenheit (-17.9° C)
· New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
· Canadians have the last cookout of the season.
-60° Fahrenheit (-51° C)
· Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.                                                                           
· Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.
this is what they look like, frozen solid 
-109.9° Fahrenheit (-78.5° C)
· Carbon dioxide freezes makes dry ice.
· Canadians pull down their earflaps.

-173° Fahrenheit (-114° C)
· Ethyl alcohol freezes.
· Canadians get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg
-459.67° Fahrenheit (-273.15° C)
· Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
· Canadians start saying "cold, eh?"
-500° Fahrenheit (-295° C)
· Hell freezes over.

· The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup

no image available

so, a toast to winter in Canada
and, incidentally, that's why why there are so many great dinosaur digs here.... they couldn't take the cold

Friday, January 4, 2013


from Stuart McLean's 
The Vinyl Cafe' Notebooks
I like winter, so I am always excited to see it come. I like to ski and to skate, and on a good night, I even like to shovel snow. There is a lot to enjoy in winter - fires and hot chocolate to name a few others - but ever winter, by this time, no matter how happy i was at the beginning, I begin to wonder if maybe the fires and the hot chocolate are the best part of it, if the best part of being cold is getting warm.  

There have been Marches in my life when I have wondered if I am solar-powered. By the  beginning of every March, I always feel like I need more sun than I have been getting.  And although I enjoy winter, I would be lying if  I didn't tell you there have been Februarys when I have wondered if I wouldn't have been happier as a bear, so I could hibernate. Now there's a bit of genetic modification that someone should take a close look at. Do we really need to clone sheep?

If a geneticist truly wanted to make a contribution, she should take a look at hibernation.  I you were watching late-night television, and someone come on and offered a hibernating gene for three easy payments of - well, I am betting she could just about name her price - I for one would be reaching for my cheque-book.  Imagine a day in November, when it has been raining since dawn. It is now four-thirty in the afternoon, and getting dark, and you are standing in the kitchen looking at a wet dog, when someone comes on the television and says, Would you like to go to bed for three months? I'm reaching for my pyjamas, calling the kids into the bedroom and telling them this: i am going to slow my heart down to about a beat a minute, and there is nothing in the world you are going to be able to do to stir me. I am not going to wake up until April, and when I do, I am going to be cranky, and hungry, so you better be careful.  

I don't care what the kids do.  The kids can stay up if they want.  That's what they always want to do anyway.  They can do science experiments on me as far as I care. They can stick my hand in a bucket of warm water to see what happens; makes no matter, I am just going to keep on snoring.  

How much would I pay for that gene?  I don't know, but I know I'd be buying.  

I think my plan would be to get up just in time for the playoffs, which is pretty much how it works anyway.