Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For the Love of Violet

If the (invented, admittedly, by me) word lanaphilia means "the love of wool", then I need to invent a new word. Synthetophobia  is the abhorrence of acrylic, and all yarns not derived from animal or plant fibre. I HATE acrylic. I know, it's a strong word, and I do not use it carelessly here. Sure, acrylic is cheap. It washes and dries without care, lasts for a million years without wearing, feels really soft, and is unappealing to moths.

These acrylo-virtues do not override several facts: the colours suck. It pills when you wash it. It makes you sweat, without really keeping you warm (unlike wool, that wonder fibre, which keeps you warm even when wet). And perhaps worst of all: it SQUEAKS when you knit with it. I LOATHE the squeak of acrylic as it grunts gracelessly across my needles.

I learned to knit with acrylic, way back in its glory days: the mid-eighties. Back in those days, before the internet, before fancy local yarn stores, before Knit Picks, Wool Time, Yarn Forward, before even Walmart*, my mom would take me "downtown" (which is being generous: my hometown has a population of 1100), to "Daphne's"...our version of a local yarn/fabric/general craft supply store. I remember going there with my mom before I even started school. They'd sit me up in this half-tube that ran along the side of the cutting table; this was a place to lay the bolt of cloth. I marvelled to see it again when I was an adult; that my ass could fit in that little space is a wonder to me now. But I digress.

Daphne sold acrylic yarn. All of my first projects were made with some version of Patons yarn. I still have the first fair isle sweater I knit (when I was 12!); the yoke pattern was of little boys and girls (resembling paper dolls) holding hands, with green fir trees for colour. It's a nice gender-neutral grey. My kids could wear it! I'm still proud of the accomplishment, proud of the determined little girl I was, learning to knit and purl, increase and decrease, do ribbing and even real raglan sleeves. But it's acrylic.

 When I was introduced to wool, my world changed. You could say I am a yarn snob, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The way I see it, if it's worth making, it's worth the best wool you can afford.

Enter Violet. The child who thinks a bug is biting her every time she feels an itch. If I put a pea under her mattress (or 20 mattresses), she'd feel it. You know the kind...sock seams, shirt tags, and bunchy elastic waists drive her crazy. After several flat refusals to where anything woolish, I made her a sweet cardigan out of Cotton Fleece, a lovely, very soft cotton-merino blend. Here she is, modelling the cardigan, after I'd wrestled her into it:
She loves it! You just can't tell because she's screaming so loudly.

This is the last time she wore it. Next I tried to knit her a vest, the Cobblestone-Inspired "Pebble". I casually suggested she tried it on (lest I scare her off with my intense desire for her to wear SOMETHING knitted); nope, no can do, mommy.

Everytime she sees me knitting, she asks what I'm making. She always follows my reply with "For meeeee?" So I've finally surrendered to what this girl needs.

She needs a mama-made sweater. In acrylic. I'm 4 inches into the back (colours chosen by her), and hating every minute of it. I hate the colour. I hate the yarn (which, incidentally, cost me $9...for the whole sweater). The pattern is cute. And I hope she'll love it so much that I'll have to peel it off her at night, coax her to pass it on to Margot when she outgrows it, and promise to save it for her babies. Even if it isn't wool. And even if my descendents think I was just some tacky acrylic-knitting granny, with no sense of the value of natural materials.

Because if she doesn't, she's not getting another damned knitted thing from me, ever.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Black and White Wednesday: Another Installment of "Say Yes".

Around the time we were expecting daddy to get home, we went outside on this foggy late afternoon; it had rained all day and it was our first foray outdoors. Jude found an inviting puddle and soon had his hands clenched around balls of mud. I said, "Get muddy, Jude!". The girls were drawn away from their own outdoor pursuits by his glee, and soon stripped down to the waist to join in the messy fun.

Jumping in mud puddles in late September? Yes!

My favourite of all the photos taken this day: Margot, ever chasing after
her longer-legged, fleeter-of feet siblings.

And the race back to the deepest puddle.

Daddy's car is spotted, so Jude moves Margot out of harm's way.


The bravest of daddies flinch not at the threat of mud on
their work pants; the wisest know that these hugs are precious,
and fleeting...

Please pop by Natural Suburbia to see more Black and White Wonders!

The Happiness Project: A Little Cheese

Ask, my child, and you shall receive.

There comes a moment in every toddler's life, where the spoken word gains power. Mere crying doesn't cut it anymore. Some of the words that tumble from our toddler's mouth these days are: "Home", "Happy", "Cow" (which means, perplexingly, cat), "Apple", "Help me", "Noooo", "See?", "Sit here", "Daddy here!", and a whole range of animal sounds from her favourite book: Animal Sounds (copyright 1981).

She can communicate most of her basic needs and joys with these few words, and is learning new ones every day. The word that brings the most glee (aside from "Moooommmmmy" at 5:30 a.m., of course), is this one:






Margot proves that there are some accessories that will never fail you: yellow rubber boots, thrifted sweaters, pigtails, and of course, a cheesy grin.

Pop over to the The Happiness Project for more reasons to smile!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chuckle at Yourself

You'll notice that my blog description mentions the word "humour". Sometimes I have to remind myself to have a sense of humour. Like now, when I wanted to change my sunflower header to something more "fall-like", and found this photo I took of Miss Vee running after the flock a few days ago. And it didn't quite fit in the way I wanted it to. And I know I could fix it if I fiddled around a bit, but I'm just too dang tired.

It's also important to have a sense of humour when your kids are naughty. I'm not talking about slapping and biting (these DON'T make me laugh), but about things like playing with dials. Jude is old enough to understand what we tell him, but not quite old enough to actually do what we tell him. We've recently decided that something else he's old enough for is bathing on his own. The tub was getting a bit crowded with three souls in it, clamouring for elbow room, swim goggles, the Spiderman figure, and that coveted spot near the tap.

(Violet's haircut a year ago is a whole other blog post).

So last night he played downstairs while I bathed the girls. He hopped in after them ( the same water? Yes...hey, the water was still warm! And we're on a well! Just another thing to add to his list of mom-induced-offenses-to-his-dignity. At least he'll have lots to talk about when he's in therapy in 20 years...)

Well, I noticed that I was feeling a bit warm. So I took off my sweater. Even in a tank top, I was sweating, just reading stories to the girls. I checked the thermostat. Remember in "This is Spinal Tap" when they turn the dial to 11? That's where our thermostat dial was. The temperature was pushing 25 degrees Celsius, working its way to 30, and while that is a lovely temperature in late Spring, it was quite uncomfortable in our house in September. I reminded Jude firmly to keep his hands off the thermostat.

This morning, Robin poured milk on his cereal, took a bite, and exclaimed, "The milk is warm!" Following my spidey senses, I checked the dial inside the fridge. Yep. It was turned down to zero. Sigh. Now I'm trying to think about what other dials he may have tampered with...and what the consequences might be if I don't fnd them soon...

One more thing that gives me a giggle: I was mentioning to my hubby that I needed to get back into doing some tutorials in this space, but just don't have the time. So I wanted to share the one "craft" I did manage this week:
Simple and sweet!

If you, like me, work outside the home more than is reasonable for someone with small kids, you just might like this one. Here's how it's done: trace or free-hand a leaf on to felt. The orange one is deluxe 100% wool felt, and the green and red ones are crappy cheapo felt I got at Fabricland. It doesn't really matter for this craft! Cut two of each leaf, to get a double layer of felt. Sew around the edges. Sew some veins if you wish. I used pink thread for all of these, because it's all I could find. While I was trimming ends, Violet crept under the table and leaned with all her weight on my pedal...the sudden WHIRRRRRR! of the sewing machine caused me to reflexively kick my legs out. I kicked Violet. She cried. I apologized. Now I'm laughing so hard remembering, and you all must think I'm a bit undone.

Ahem. Back to the leaves. They're pretty, quick, and a lovely addition to our Autumn Nature Table. I have some other leaf-inspired thoughts swirling around in my brain. Whether or not they'll come to fruition remains to be seen. I'll share if they get past the idea phase.

Just some random thoughts about the many reasons to LAUGH when you're a parent.

PS Last week I had 104 followers. Last night I had 103. Now I have 104 again. Is someone out there trying to make up their mind? Or did someone find that our relationship had lost that special something, and was trying to break it to me gently? This makes me giggle. Please come back, lost follower! I promise I'll try to post more crafts! How does one de-follow a blog, anyway? And more importantly, why? Did you try one of my recipes and your husband hated it? Did you knit a hat from my pattern and hate the way it looked on you? Would someone please tell me to STOP, already??

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Men at Work

Fall came upon us suddenly, it seems, and once again it's time to bring the wood in. Last year, my husband and a few of his buddies worked at bringing the wood from the barn (with the purchase of our house came 3 years' worth of split wood, which was a blessing when our kids were so small!). I prepared a beautiful harvest meal of squash soup, beer-and-cheddar bread, pickles, and pie.

This year, those friends have small babies to tend to, so my love's busy bringing it in day by day.  We've somehow stumbled into traditional roles when it comes to the work that needs doing around here (which means that, like my pioneering foremothers, I do the gardening, sewing, cooking, shopping, preserving, knitting, chicken tending, housework, appointment-keeping, and teach part-time, and he cuts the grass, takes the garbage to the dump, and brings in the wood, while working full-time). It's never really balanced, is it? I'm working on passing some of "my" jobs on to him, which I find challenging, control-freak that I am. But that's material for another post.

I took this one from the hayloft.

Gorgeous big barn where our wood is stored.

Barefoot in the woodshed...that's my girl!

There's nothing quite like watching your man do "manly work", is there, especially when it speaks of warmth and security for the coming winter?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summer Scrapbook: Take Two

After a ridiculously busy day of attempting to corral 19 3-5 year olds into some semblance of order (I think I'll rename my class "The Three-Ring Circus"), I so look forward to this day at home with my little ones. I think we may just play and cuddle.

To those of you that may think "Oh, lucky her...what about housework?", I am presently combatting a tendency to overload my life with "to-dos"...this has been an ongoing struggle. I am on the verge of complete exhaustion and it is taking a lot of effort to remind myself that burning out in order to "do it all" means that I can't take care of my family at all. So I'm declaring this a No-Housework-Zone...just for today.

Before we look forward to the beautiful season that is upon on us now, I want to meander back through some of my favourite summer moments...
Saying "yes" when the kids asked to have picnic-dinners;

Violet's forays into nature photography, whilst picking raspberries;
these boots, that dress, those elbow dimples;

one mysterious, tiny egg;

the essential accessories of "The Nutbrown Maid": bare shoulders and beaded necklace;

the ever-present, generous love and help of my mother;


Violet's criss-cross-backed tan;

this boy learning to swim underwater, and the many sandy adventures he had;

And this...after celebrating Violet's birthday in the potting shed, Jude went outside. We were listening to Afia Walking-Tree, and he started to dance, watching his reflection in the glass. The background noises are the girls in the shed with me, as I surreptitiously filmed his dance.
This is a child who climbs, jumps, swordfights, who has never taken dance or yoga classes...and who apparently has a natural sense of grace, symmetry, balance, and a mysterious depth to his movement that left us awestruck. The quick, sudden movements add a comic element, as he wards off the early summer insects.

Happy Autumn-Days to all...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Summer Scrapbook

I had a lovely blog post written at 5:30 this morning, the only time I could fit it in. My pictures aren't loading and I'm frustrated about that, as they are the few I could scrounge, since I am still without a camera. It was a reflection on the summer, and a looking forward to the many tasks and joys of Autumn, in honour of today's Equinox. I'll try again tomorrow if the opportunity arises.

For now I am going to drink my coffee ALONE, and do nothing but that. I won't read, knit, prepare breakfast, wash dishes, iron work clothes, or feed the cats while I do it. Today is my first day with my whole class of Kindergartens! We're learning about the colour red, the number 1, and the letter S. We'll also practise taking off and putting on our shoes, zipping zippers, and sitting cross-legged. They're so little. They're so sweet. It all begins today! I'm preparing myself to be busier than I already am; admittedly, I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around that concept. I've been reflecting on "to-do" lists, and wonder if yours is as long as mine. Sometimes I feel like I'm that waiter in a cartoon, with plates piled to the ceiling, bobbing and dodging this way and that to prevent them from crashing...and along comes the maitre d' with just one more plate. You know how it's all going to end, but still you hold onto a small hope that the waiter can manage...

Hope yours is a beautiful one. I'll post here when I find the time. For now, I'm going to drink coffee.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fibre Arts Friday: Autumn Nature Table Swap!

I have been blessed with an amazing group of like-minded friends. Every year, we have an Advent swap, where we make enough items collectively for our children to open one gift on each day leading up to Christmas. This has become such an anticipated tradition, that this year we decided to create items for an Autumn Nature Table Swap!

Late in the summer, I found a pattern for tiny knitted acorns here at Pea Soup. They're quick to make, and very satisfying!

For details of our swap afternoon, visit Twig and Toadstool! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Livingroom Re-Do

In a fit of energy, one 13-hour burst, I painted our livingroom this past weekend. I can hear your envious thoughts: she is truly a super mom! She knits and sews AND singlehandedly paints her livingroom with her three kids around? Wow! I could never do that!

Let's be honest here. None of us is Super Mom. And all of us are. We're having a party this weekend, and I decided it was time to paint the livingroom that has sat untouched for 2 years, overrun with children and their messes (and wall scribbles), walls bare of pictures, bookshelves stuffed with any crap I found lying around. My dear husband entertained the kids in the attic (a picnic? in the attic? FUN!), made a fire outside for them to roast marshmallows, and sustained me with tea when the sky got dark and I couldn't move my arm anymore.

It was a daunting task, certainly not one for the faint-of-heart. But, having laboured and birthed three times, I face jobs like this with a "Pfft...I can do this!" attitude. It was exhausting, but it was worth it.

The playroom/front corner BEFORE:


The livingroom/back corner BEFORE:


We're now considering getting rid of the TV all together, as I find it doesn't fit in this newly freshened space. It feels like a place for knitting, reading, conversing, cuddling, listening to books on tape and music, and cozying up for the coming winter. It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it. Now, I just need a few months' rest, and I can tackle my kitchen!

The colour is Benjamin Moore's "Cedar Green"...if you're a local friend, I have an extra, unopened gallon up for sale (best offer!). It's high-quality paint, and does not require priming!

Please visit my sister's blog to read a loving tribute to our mother on her 65th birthday...see if you can pick me out in that photo from the 80s!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

David's Barber Shop

We live about a 7-minute's drive from "town", for us, is a little village on a river, population 1300 (at last count). When Violet needs a haircut, she goes to the same hairdresser that cuts my hair.

When Jude and Daddy need haircuts, they go to the BARBER SHOP.

There is a distinct difference between the two. No modern, cleverly-packaged gels/pastes/taffies/humectants-for-hair at David's barber shop. There's not even a sign outside; just a striped pole, and a "Come In, We're Open" sign in the window.

 No, on his shelves, you will find the classic jar of electric blue "Barbicide" (isn't that what it's called when you murder your barber?), and mysterious, decidely MALE hair products.
This could possibly be the last haven of masculine tradition...a place where there are hair products "specially formulated for men". I admit, I always feel like I'm invading an sacred male sanctum, and I love the glimpse I get of what the world would look like if men really did rule (at least, in a decorative sense): there's a "Newfie clock" that runs backwards, a dust-covered duck in mid-flight (tastefully taxidermied), a wooden sailboat, and wildlife posters, all mounted on lovely wood-panelled walls.

David's father and grandfather were barbers in this same shop, just off the bridge. Old razors, clippers, and leather barber chairs stand in testimony of his right to wield scissors like an artist. And he is an artist. He's about ready to retire, but has no son to take over the shop.

When we walk in, he's always just standing there, as if he was just waiting for us to arrive, even though we never make an appointment. We never have to wait. He watches the logging trucks and tourists roll past his window. Jude may be his youngest client. The other men I've seen in the shop usually wear ducktails or that hairstyle where it's parted horizontally at the back and combed, perplexingly, forward.

"Removes loose dandruff, grooms the hair, improves appearance".

Jude always pays David himself (cash only), and says, "Thanks for the haircut". My boy walks out of that shop looking like a boy from anytime...1850, 1900, parted on the side, combed over to the side, as handsome and proud as you please.

I love our barber shop. It makes me happy.

Visit for more links to things that make people happy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Lounging Baby Fairy thinks, "Is there anyone as adorable as me?"

Thank you all for your comments and compliments on the Baby Fairy! The winning comment was by Emmanuelle Louise:

Happy 100th follower! Your blog, creativity and wisdom are a gift to all of readers. The fairy is beautiful. I'm sad I won't get to see your products at the show, but am so proud that you said no. It's the hardest thing, yet when we learn to say no, we empower ourselves to feel in control and at peace with our lives. Way to go!

Send me an email, Em, so I can get your address! And congratulations!

The comment number was 5, selected by the Random Number Generator at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Say Yes

Somedays I want to get lots of stuff done in my house. Often, my kids have other plans. We had a cold and rainy day at home this week, and I found myself surrendering to the silly, and getting creative about kid fun. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you could try one of the following:
Carry a kitten inside your nightgown kangaroo-style.

Teach your kids about the spectrum of colour while surreptitiously
organising your knitting basket.

Inadvertently create building materials that will occupy your
5-year old's imagination for an hour.

Just lay yourself down on a bed and let them jump on you.

Or, clean your toilet and explain why you have to do it to your
3-year old who always wants to know: WHY?

This weekend, why not welcome creative fun into your home? Say yes to silly. Just. Say. Yes.

(Oh, and enter my giveaway...a reminder to comment on the actual post, not this one, to be included in the draw!)