Friday, February 23, 2018

February musings

That pretty much sums up this winter. And apparently summer in places like New Zealand where my farmer friends are cleaning up the damage from Cyclone Gita.

Looked outside and found this:

It is our rain barrel. In winter? you ask. Well, there is a little problem with a roof line on our house. We've had some sunny days, making the snow melt on the roof and drip onto the concrete pad in front of the garage ... which then freezes into a sheet of glare ice. So the barrel is there to catch the drips. Then it freezes and eventually does what ice does in a restricted container.

The problem is on both sides of the - what do you call this architectural feature? - the piece that juts out. You can see icicles on the left side, but it drips into the bushes so not as much of a problem.

Remember the wiener roast we had in the fire pit shortly after New Year's Day? Buried again. No toasty fires in the immediate future. So we concentrate on indoor activities.

I had a large amount of baby alpaca yarn calling out for attention, so I put the spinning wheel aside and commenced work on a pair of shawls/scarves (can be worn many ways). They are light as a feather but oh so cosy and warm.

This is the second one, washed and laid out to be soft blocked (as opposed to pulled into shape with T-pins on a blocking board). I was just too lazy to bother with pinning, and it works for me.

Detail of the crochet work:

And of course, curling. Our club held the 19th Annual Tuff Spiel last weekend. It's a one-on-one competition, and lest you think that's boring, I assure you that it is the ultimate curler's game. If you've watch curling on the TV lately, you've seen four people teams, with a skip calling the shots and sweepers assisting the rocks as they travel.

There is none of that in this game.

No skip, no sweepers. Players can come no closer to the house (the rings) than that little flag you see on the right side of this photo below. There is an umpire who only moves rocks that are out of play for various reasons and to mark the points on the scoreboard. Don is watching as Nancy makes her last shot of this end. 

It's a difficult game, physically and mentally, but that's what makes it so darned much fun!

The Husband and I went to Kelowna one day, ostensibly to pick up some things at the Asian grocery store we like and have sushi at the restaurant beside it, but mostly to enjoy a sunshine day which happened to also be my birthday.

Coming home, the clouds started to move in, creating lovely light and shadow contrasts on the hills. This is Kalamalka Lake with Vernon in the far distance, orchards at the bottom right in the Oyama district.

No so much snow closer to the lakes and 250m lower in elevation than us. The lakes don't freeze because they are so deep - inland fiords, if you will. Kal is 142m (466 ft) at its maximum depth. Okanagan Lake, just west of it, is 232m (761 ft) max. This is an interesting little factoid blog about the lake.

If all else fails to cheer me up on a dull winter day (today, for example), watching the quail as they move around our yard (this time, coming back from picking sand off the bottom of my car) is always entertaining.

Friday, February 9, 2018


The youngest grandson is showing a strong preference for using his left hand.

No surprise there. His mother, The Daughter, was adamantly a leftie from the moment she began using her hands. Her brother was ambivalent and would use whichever hand in which you placed a pencil or utensil. But not her.

My mother was one of those unfortunates who was forced to use her right hand in school. She had exquisite penmanship using her right hand, and also did hand sewing with her right hand. Sports were funny, though: pitched a fast ball left but batted right, golfed left but curled right.

My mom's father was a leftie in all things, especially when shooting pool and curling. I don't think I ever saw him write anything; he was an immigrant who was an avid reader in English but a reluctant writer.

The Husband is a sometimes-leftie, mostly when it comes to hockey and baseball. There are lefties lurking in his family tree as well.

So unfortunate that there has been such a long bias, in western culture at least, against lefties. We almost all have two arms with a hand at the end of each. If we expect equality in all other matters where there are two of something (two sexes = 50% female and 50% male), why wouldn't it be natural to expect that 50% of people would have a dominant left hand preference and 50% a right.

(I just read that only 10% of the population is left handed. Is that true, or did the rest of them just give up?)

In fact, why is it the 'right' hand, with the connotation being 'right' as 'correct'?

I've watched my girl struggle for years to find scissors that fit her hands, work with tools that are backwards, find a place to sit at a dinner table so that she doesn't elbow her neighbour.

At least the little leftie has a mom who's watching his back. In this case, it truly does take one to know one.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Wherein We Survive The Plague: Flu Diaries

Several days have passed since the last post. Days filled with the sounds of coughing and sneezing and moaning. The Husband continues his battle with the flu.

I last wrote that he was feeling better. False alarm. This is a nasty persistent bug that has exhausted him. And so life continues on a quiet path for now.

Just as well, considering the weather. Yes.

Overnight accumulation on the tonneau.

There is a 1780 m mountain behind that curtain of snowfall.

And I am in the last throes of a sinus cold. In view of my constant exposure to Mr. Hack-and-Spray, I consider myself lucky to get off so lightly.

It has, however, impeded my efforts to write coherently - not a good situation for paid work - and my comprehension of time. Can you imagine my surprise and dismay at realizing today is the 28th of January? Somehow I lost a week and am now staring down the barrel at several deadlines. Yikes.

On the days when writing was simply beyond the abilities of my tired brain, I turned to the spinning wheel for solace. A large amount of silk arrived in the mail and I succumbed to temptation. It was so newly-dyed by the lovely Diane at The Silk Weaving Studio in Vancouver that it was still slightly damp. I spread it out in the sunshine to fully dry and admire the sheen.

At the time, I was working on some silk yardage I completed last winter, having found a pattern that worked with the amount of yarn I had available.

Loving this shawl. Light as a feather, soft as a baby's cheek, yet oh so warm.

I already have a plan for this yarn, spent hours online looking for the pattern.

Just so you know that my whole life isn't tied up with writing, yarn and snow, I thought I'd share something else. I work part time as a life drawing model, and have a regular gig with a college animation program in Kelowna. Much different work than what I do with other life drawing classes. Lots of motion, short poses, physicality. I particularly liked this set of sketches based on 1 minute poses:

This is why I started going to Tai Chi classes!

"While you have a future do not live too much in contemplation of your past: unless you are content to walk backward the mirror is a poor guide." Ambrose Bierce (my new fav)

Friday, January 19, 2018


What more is there to say?

When the world looks like this:

Alternating snow and sleet
you do this:

and try not to let The Husband's flu virus overwhelm the world.

He was indeed very sick for about six days, but on the seventh he rose to declare that he might, just might, want to continue living.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

First Weiner Roast of the Year

The Husband has a seemingly insatiable appetite for hotdogs, especially cooked over an open fire.

Me, not so much.

However, if that's what is on tap for supper, and if it is a nice day to be outside, I'll go for one. Just one. With sauerkraut, mustard and chipotle sauce.

Of course, at this time of year the first step is to liberate the fire pit from snow. It was drier snow when The Husband cleared the path and area around the pit. I'd burned spoiled boxes and other debris the day before (Saturday), so the pit itself was mostly snow-free.

The Youngest Grandson and his mom were over earlier in the afternoon, when the fire was built, and he enjoyed not only a walkable path (his legs are still very short) but packed snow to climb on and *mmm!* clean snow to eat.

It isn't a meal without merit. We do provide proper rehydration. And yes, that label says Wayne Gretsky. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Although the morning hadn't been promising, the wind died down for a bit, and it was +2C outside, perfect conditions. Well, a little more sunshine would have been nice, but we'll take what we get and be happy for it.

See. All the condiments.

It's said that you should start as you intend to continue, or more accurately, 

“Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”

Charles Haddon SpurgeonAll of Grace

This is a very good start to the new year.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Early January 2018

It's winter here. Of course. Lots of snow. Very cold for this region, and extremely cold over the past two weeks elsewhere in the country.

This is the time of year when I hunker down with the spinning wheel, find something to watch on Netflix, and shut the door on the world.

Well, there is also visiting, writing, curling and... drinking? Occasionally. But mostly spinning these past few weeks.

I love the juxtaposition of ancient craft and modern technology in this photo:

It seems to sum up a great deal of my life.

I'm spinning the second of two Bombyx silk dyed rovings I bought in Vancouver last fall.

It's hard to take photos that show the true colours in this fibre - I have an adequate but not professional camera, not-so-great lighting, and then there's the sheen of the silk that defies the entire photography process.

Natural light on the window sill seems to provide some accuracy in the colours.

When I spin rovings, I pull them apart into manageable lengths, and then further fan them out, so that the 'draw' onto the bobbin is as consistent as possible.

And when two bobbins have enough single ply of about equal amount, they are plied together to make a two-ply yarn.

The purpose of the wheel is to twist the fibre strands together, the singles in one direction and the plied yarns back against each other in the opposite direction. It's difficult (impossible, for me at least) to get the twist perfectly even. So when the plied yarns are finished and removed from the bobbin in a skein, it tends to twist upon itself.

No matter the fibre, I always take the next step, which is steaming the skein over a boiling kettle of water. It relaxes the overspun spots, 'sets' the twist and generally relaxes everything.

And this is what a calm, relaxed skein looks like. Never mind the colour - these were taken in the kitchen under bright lights.

My rough count is around 1400m of two-ply yarn (which is 2800m of spun singles) from 78g of fibre, so about 18m per gram. Not bad. My wedding ring puts the size into perspective.

Yes, there was also Christmas and New Year's recently past. Christmas was a somewhat boisterous affair at our house involving local family and friends, and included three youngsters under the age of 5, a couple of crokinole boards, food and beverages, liberally mixed with good humour.

It's never too early to learn to play crokinole!

Hoping you had a joyous holiday season, and that 2018 brings you health, happiness and love.

Currently reading "Solomon Gursky Was Here" by Mordecai Richler

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Mid-December Report

It's snowing tonight. Big fluffy elephant-sized flakes. Winter solstice is fast approaching.

So what are we doing these days?


You may notice that there are a lot of books in this corner of the house: on the end table, the ottoman, the window ledge (two piles), the floor. You can't see the ones on The Husband's end table to the left of the photo, nor the pile (or two) ... well, let's just say that there is a lot of reading going on.


The Husband has decided that this is the winter to finally finish the second bedroom in the basement. It was always framed-in but the studs were covered with fabric. There are only three walls to do in here, and then the hanging ceiling. The outside wall has been framed out past the concrete foundation and insulated (the styrofoam insulation is at and below ground level) and he's started installing the drywall.

There's one more room to finish when this one's done - my sewing/weaving room. There is no window in that area as the wall is completely underground, or mostly - you can see where the styrofoam insulation follows the ground level. The yellow fibreglass insulation is what's also behind the pink batt in the first photo.

The Husband mounting drywall onto the studs. You can see the wall he finished a few years ago, all tongue-and-groove pine. When the walls are all done, he'll install the ceiling tiles.


Meanwhile, it's that time of the year. What time is that? you ask. Why, time to decorate the ficus tree. Isn't that what all of you do in late December?

The ficus loves this house and despite repeated trimmings, threatens to overtake the house on a regular basis. We're expecting a houseful of company for Christmas dinner so decided to forego installing a fir tree in the interests of better traffic flow.

Every year I squawk about decorating a tree, and every year I'm glad I did. I unpack the box of ornaments and memories flood over me: from childhood, from our children's childhoods, of places and people and so much love.

The moccasins that Marilyn made 30 years ago, recalling both a dear friend and a life made in the north; they remind me of our Kookum who taught me how to make moosehide moccasins and how to do beadwork, who made our children's first footwear - Cree wrap-up moccasins. 

These are tiny - about 4 cm long.

Another Marilyn ornament - baby Jesus in a walnut shell.

An angel made from corn husk, one of a fleet of angels that live throughout this house.

A tiny stocking The Son made in kindergarten or Grade One, 25 years ago.

A really tiny stocking, about 2 cm long, whose origins are lost.

One of the many antique glass ornaments.

And another.

Two more that bring back memories of my childhood Christmases. I remember glass balls with the concave centres, somewhat larger than these (or maybe I was just littler and they looked bigger); I'd gaze into the reflected centres and see magic.

John's angel. Our friend and riding buddy who died far too young. He smoked too much, had appalling dietary habits and was a left-brained neurotic, but he was our friend and we miss him.

One of two tiny Egyptian glass perfume bottles my Aunt brought home from a trip through that region.

A tiny knitted mitten, 4 cm long, origins unknown-forgotten, but still cherished.

A letter pouch that's been on every tree for 35 years. From who?


Cookies. Oodles and oodles of cookies. Whipped shortbread. Sugar cookies. Pinwheels. Haystacks. Butterscotch crunch.

"Who will eat them all?" asks The Husband.

Who indeed.


Working on a new roving of silk.

I'm hopelessly addicted to spinning silk. Winter is the time for silk, alpaca, cotton, angora - the fine fibres. Summer is when I spin wool, when the heat of the day softens the lanolin and makes the fibre work better.

In the winter, my hands are not so rough from garden work, so the fine fibres move easier through my fingers.

Whatever. I truly don't need an excuse to spend hours working with silk.

Have you found something enjoyable to make the winter days go by?