Friday, February 26, 2010

Loads of Books

What I found for Tuesday evening, in the dearth of books, was the TV! I watched TV from just after 6 p.m. when we like to catch the Calgary weather forecast, until 10 p.m. This is unprecedented! And it was possible only because Jim had a Library Board meeting to go to. I considered going along, but it would have meant spending two hours in the library, and then waiting in the hallway until his meeting was finished, and that was not too appealing. As it turned out, he didn't get home until quarter to ten, so I was happy to have stayed home. What did I watch? HGTV and the channel that had "The Little Couple", maybe the Health Network? They also carried "19 and counting." Shows that Jim would never watch, and he definitely holds the "clicker." My usual quota of TV watching stretches to cover about 1/2 hour of news per day. When he switches from local news to CNN I go upstairs and read.

On Wednesday the library called that two of the books I had ordered came in, so Wednesday evening I stopped by to pick them up. There were tables and tables of books for sale, for whatever donation you care to make, so I loaded up my tote bag with these six books. There were more that appealed to me, but with the ones ordered, and one new Elizabeth Berg book that I spotted my tote was full.

One of the "ordered in" books was a Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls, which I finished this afternoon. I enjoy her writing, and think she does a pretty good job of research. She generally chooses to write about some specific issue in our society, but does it in the form of a pretty readable novel.

The other "ordered in" book is one that I learned about from Elaine Adair, who writes at This is a good quilting blog that I've gotten lots of inspiration from. Elaine blogged about "The end of overeating" by Dr. David A. Kessler. I'm four chapters into it, and finding it quite interesting. For anyone who struggles to keep their weight at the right range, and that includes me, I'd recommend this book. When I've finished reading it, I'll let you know his recommendations.

One other book I ordered in lately was "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel. This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2009. It's hefty: 650 pages. It deals with Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VII, Ann Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas More. After reading it, I wondered what actually made it a prize winner.

Mantel definitely brought these characters to life, but there were many confusions to sort out. Most confusing of all was the fact that she rarely observed the "rules" of antecedents. It was only at page 60 that I finally twigged to the fact that "he" almost always referred to Thomas Cromwell, regardless of who was named previous to that pronoun. Sometimes after reading a half page or more I realized that she was not referring now to last mentioned, but to Cromwell. And yet other times, she hadn't switched subjects. I found this really annoying, a major flaw that made the reader hunt back through the text to decipher who was actually being referred to.

And for someone, like myself, not deeply knowledgeable about that history there were many allusions that were impossible to decipher. One of those involves the title, Wolf Hall, which was the home of the Seymours (Jane and her family). Wolf Hall had no place in the novel, except for one brief reference, until the last sentence. Immediately after the execution (beheading by axe) of Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell is planning a trip for King Henry, and says, outlining the destinations to his aide, " '...and what I think is, Rafe, we shall visit the Seymours.' He writes it down. Early September. Five days. Wolf Hall." Those are the last sentences in this huge novel. Well, sorry, but it just seems capricious to me to call all 650 pages "Wolf Hall" when the book is not about Wolf Hall.

So I wondered, what did I miss?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reading Matters

I am completely out of library books, which for me is a desperate situation! I finished the last one on Sunday, and our library is closed on Mondays. Today M. and I went shopping in the city and had a great time, but I still don't have a book to read.

Monday I went downstairs to Jim's study and found a good book: The First Easter, by Paul Maier. It was written in the 70's and is a good look at the facts and background of the gospels' passion week account. It's a good book to start your day with, but just not what I want to be reading the last hour of the day.
A friend had loaned me some books, and I tried one by Maeve Binchy, but she is just not an author that I enjoy. Things were getting desperate last night, so I finally went into my sewing room and picked up the first issues of Threads. I have, of those early issues, #4 (April, May, 1986), #8, #9, #11, and then my subscription started with #18, and I have almost every one up to #131, when I let my subscription run out, because our local library subscribed, and I can read it there. There are a few issues missing, issues that were loaned out and not returned.

I had actually considered letting it go for some time, because of the way the content changed. Those early issues were just amazing!!! In #4 there are articles on basket-making, sewing with silk, mastering the art of hand applique, producing yards of stable, open weave fabric, anti- and pro-fashion discussions, and hand-painted silk screening. Their range of thread-related articles was just breath-taking. I devoured each issue when it arrived.

Then in the summer of 1995, when our two youngest got married within 3 weeks of each other, meaning I was making a quilt, a wedding dress, and a maid of honor dress, Threads announced that it was henceforth going to be strictly for sewers. I felt as if a good friend had passed away! I love to sew, but that's not the complete story, is it?

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed my reading last night. Now I have to find something for tonight!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Visitor

This past weekend we had a visitor we've
never before seen in our yard. This lovely, very round, hen pheasant came foraging in our raised garden beds. There's been enough melting in the last few days that some of the straw protecting the strawberries has been uncovered. She trotted right over to an exposed patch and dug in. Now and then she scratched vigorously, the straw flying out behind her. Then she found more of interest to peck at in the under layers.

Very soon she had company.
Four magpies came to see if they could have
a share. But ms. pheasant was having none
of that. The bravest of the magpies (and
they are nothing if not pushy!) came
hopping up, trying to get close enough to
grab a few bites. She faced him down.
He tried again, hopping in closer, until she charged him. He must have realized that she meant business, because he gave up and retreated to a nearby patch of exposed straw.

I was quite surprised that the four magpies
didn't try to "gang up" on the one pheasant.
They could have easily persuaded her away
by taking advantage of their numbers.

So often you see smaller birds pursuing a larger bird, "blitzing" it and making it retreat. These magpies were almost as large as the pheasant, but they didn't push her around.

On the other hand, maybe they weren't all that interested in whatever it was that she found in the straw to nibble on.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thinking Spring

It was snowing today, but look what arrived in the mail! Though we operate a garden centre we do not sell seeds. We did for several years, but there was just not enough demand, as they are available in so many stores in town. Our supplier just didn't find it worthwhile to set up the display. So this winter I sent an order to the Ontario Seed Company.

Last summer we had a very small garden, because we were leaving for holidays on August 11, and would be away when most veggies ripened. As a result, this winter we are buying our veggies. We still have some asparagus in the freezer, since that comes early in the summer. But we're completely out of our own corn, peas, beans, broad beans, spinach, kale; all those good things that we usually have lots of. We do have our own potatoes, carrots, and a few apples yet. We actually never run out of potatoes, as they are so easy to grow, and we have a good storage area for them.

I'm so looking forward to having lots of fresh veggies again. We don't bother growing any of the cabbagy things: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, because they'd be overcome by worms. There is a lot of canola grown nearby, so there are tons of cabbage moths. They come by the hundreds to drink from the puddles when we water the garden.

I've spent most of my time since New Year's doing the necessary--for the ensemble concert, for the art display in the library, for the music during church services, not to mention all the mending and catching up I've done. Monday evening I finished transposing the first viola part for the Faure Requiem into treble clef so that we can use violins, being short of viola players. That was a major project because each note, each dynamic mark, etc. had to be individually entered. To enter the indication for a down bow took 9 clicks. But eventually all the movements were finished. And I thought it was time for a reward. And my choice is:
this lovely wall hanging from a kit that I bought last spring when our quilting group went on a shop hop. It's from Country Creations, designed by Lorraine Stangness. I've made other designs of hers, and found the kits to be well laid out. Her instructions are clear.

One of the projects that I did from a kit of hers was my Flower Garden jacket. Another was the Serengeti wall hanging that I made for my friend M., who grew up in Africa.

Lorraine likes bright colours and for this particular kit chose all batiks. I got this far in just a few hours yesterday and this morning. When it's complete I'll show you how it turned out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Built-in Sprouts

On December 20 we visited friends who grow tomatoes and cucumbers commercially. Sometime before that they had removed the last of a tomato crop from their greenhouse, and that involved picking and storing 2 tons of green tomatoes. Nell had made sauces, soups, and canned tomatoes until she had her fill, so she generously gave us a big box full of slightly ripened tomatoes.

When we got home I put them, carefully separated, in a box on the floor of the spare bedroom, where, in the cool semi-darkness they ripened one by one. We are now eating the last four of that good sized boxful. When I cut two up for our dinner salad this noon, I found the seeds inside the tomatoes had begun to sprout, so we had "built-in sprouts" in our salad today.

We've had an amazing amount of fog the last two weeks, and because it's been quite cold also (-18C overnight), when the sun comes out in the morning, scenes of incredible beauty are revealed. This photo doesn't do justice since you don't see all the sparkling diamonds dusted over everything.
This is just outside our backdoor, looking down toward the vegetable garden. The tent-like structures are made of chicken wire, spread over the strawberry beds to keep the deer and robins out in season.

Twice this week a farmer's wife has mentioned to me the "well-known" weather fact that if you have fog, three months later on the same date of the month you will have rain. Now, I've never kept track to prove the point, but if it is true, we should have lots of rain in May. That would be a TREAT! as our soil moisture was practically nonexistent last fall. We are in GREAT need of moisture, so bring on the fog!

I finally went back to the Thursday quilting group yesterday, after missing the meetings since December. It was just lovely to be welcomed back and hear that I'd been missed.

But it was a good thing I took off these last six weeks, as my two "public service" involvements just about finished me off! There were hassles about the Alberta Landscapes Photo Display, and our little string ensemble almost didn't make it to the concert. There were string players who said they wouldn't come; there were string players who said they would and then didn't; there was one solo string player who disappeared from rehearsals and caused me lots of worry; and finally, on Friday before the Saturday concert, I got a phone call from the other soloist in the Corelli Concerto: She was absolutely stranded in the Washington, DC airport by the first of their two ginormous storms and wouldn't be back in Alberta until Monday. What to do? Our "concertmistress" took over the solo part with one day's notice, and that left just one first violin player. We had prepared barely an hour's worth of music, so we just couldn't leave out any one of the four pieces. Somehow or other, things came together. We all made a concerted effort, and the music was very well received. We played on concert on Saturday, and another one on Sunday afternoon. The weather cooperated and we had good roads for our travels.

I'm really thankful it went so well, but have my doubts about the future of the ensemble. We have only two first violins, two seconds, one viola, two cellos. That's really less than a bare minimum, and two of the violin players are students who will graduate in June and move away. We'll just have to see what next fall brings.

At quilting yesterday I was finishing a wall quilt that I started last summer. But when I was ready to apply the binding I found I didn't have it with me.

This morning, because I had to find the material in the "stash" closet, I got involved in some reorganization. I was so happy to see this mess all cleaned up again, that I left the door open for most of the day to admire how nice it looked. That's pretty much my whole fabric stash there in the 5 white containers and the two cardboard boxes. It's really almost all left overs from previous projects, plus a few pieces of material that I bought and then didn't use. I have to chuckle when I think of how this compares with Gypsy Quilter, who published a picture this week of a huge stack of bins of material.

But there are some bits here and there besides in these boxes. The little stack on the floor in the corner of the closet has projects on the go (or UFO's). And I do have two drawers under the cutting table that have leftovers that can still be used to make things. No wonder I haven't been buying much material this year! Oh, well, except for those Christmas tree skirts I made in December.

On the 22nd of this month I will have been blogging for a year. I'm wondering if I should do like so many others and offer a chance to win a table topper?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Most Interesting Knitting Project

My cousin Joan emailed today reminding me that she's waiting to hear about my Most Interesting Knitting Project. So here we are Joan. This, by the way, happened in 1994. Shocking how little grey hair I had then!

Dear Son #1 is an rock and ice climber, and he got me started on the most interesting knitting project I've ever done. He brought me a magazine with a large full colour picture of a mountain in Patagonia and asked, "Can you knit this into a sweater?"

How to go from a magazine photo to a sweater? What an interesting challenge!!! Here's how I did it: First step: create a black and white copy of the picture and divide it into a grid. Then cut, out of heavy paper, a full size
pattern (from a pattern for a sweatshirt in his size). Divide this paper pattern into a grid of the same number of vertical and horizontal divisions. On the paper pattern the blocks were 6" wide and 4" high. Draw the design on the paper pattern, according to the grid on the black and white copy.

That left a question: when in the 6" x 4" rectangle do I change colours? The answer to that was to create a gridded 6" x 4" rectangle on clear plastic, divided up according to number of stitches per 4 inches, and number of rows of knitting per 6 inches. By laying this plastic grid over the full size paper pattern I could see exactly where the colours changed.

So I started knitting. It was absolutely fascinating!!! I was knitting on it all day. And all the next day, etc. And then I got into trouble. I woke up at night with pain in my hands and arms. Running hot water over them and massaging them helped. But after another hour I was up again with the same problem.
Because of being up most of the night, I was too tired to do anything but knit the next day, and the next. Well, you can guess what was happening--I gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome by over-obsessing on this knitting project.

This may not look like a picture of a mountain, but if you're a climber, you might recognize it. #1 was walking down a street in Banff wearing this sweater when another climber saw him, pointed at the sweater and said, "Cerro Torre!" That's the name of the mountain pictured here.
So all in all I thought it was a success.

I did run the picture completely around the body of the sweater. This is a view of the back. I know, it doesn't look much like mountains, but believe me, that's what the magazine photo showed.

This reminds me of the sweater I had knit for him just a few months earlier. Someone had given me this yarn, and I didn't know the fiber content, but it made a lovely, soft and bouncy knit. The sweater fit #1 just great, and he took it along when he went to France for a few weeks.

While in France he washed the sweater in a laundromat, and when he came home again he modeled it for me:

We sure had a good laugh over it. And then we tossed it in the trash. Couldn't see how it could be saved.

As far as I know that's the only sweater that met that fate.

Following the acquisition of carpal tunnel syndrome, I left off knitting for a whole year. When I picked it up again I knit one or two rows and put it down for a while, and just gradually got back to being able to knit for longer periods of time. Even now when I begin knitting in the morning I find my left hand going numb quite soon. So I put the project down, read a bit, and when my hand feels better, pick it up again. It doesn't seem to bother me later on in the day.