Monday, February 28, 2011

My Reversible Quilt... Is Done!

I have been working on this reversible quilt all winter...

(And I have been blogging about its progress along the way...)

When I finished the reversible squares, I didn't know what design to create with them...

I finally decided on this one.

I focused on the yellow side. So my biggest surprise is....

How much I love the (unplanned) blue one!

That's what I love about quilting: No matter how much I plan, the end result is always a SURPRISE!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisdom in the Night

I often wake up earlier than I want to... at 2 or 3 am. For some reason, I can't get back to sleep... so many thoughts are churning in my head.

So after half an hour or so, I get up and reluctantly start my day.

I like to read a psalm in the morning, and this one is a particular favorite, as it speaks of being awake in the night... (Did the writer also suffer from insomnia?!)

The Lord Himself is my inheritance, my prize...
my food and drink, my highest joy!

He guards all that is mine.
He sees that I am given pleasant brooks and meadows as my share!
What a wonderful inheritance!
I will bless the Lord who counsels me.
He gives me wisdom in the night.
He tells me what to do.

I am always thinking of the Lord;
and because He is so near, I never need to stumble or to fall.

(Psalm 15, verses 5 to 8)

I like it because it reminds me that - no matter what problem is keeping me awake - God will give me wisdom to do the right thing.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do I Need a Miracle? Or a Solution?

Sometimes I'm faced with a problem that I pray about - and nothing seems to happen. So I pray some more...

For the past five years, I have been praying for an end to my type 2 diabetes... And of course I have been trying to eat more healthily, too. There are encouraging times when my blood sugar levels stabilize, or even go down to a healthier level. And then, out of the blue (it seems), they increase again, inexplicably... And I wonder why I bother trying so hard - if in spite of all my efforts, I'm moving backwards, not forwards!

Then a few weeks or months later I find out that my body has been fighting an infection (such an abscessed tooth), causing my glucose levels to increase.

But in the meantime, I've allowed myself to fall back to the unhealthy eating habits that contributed to my problem in the first place!

This cycle has been going on for nearly six years now... Effort, progress, discouragement, defeat, renewed effort... An in the meantime, I have been praying for a miracle: I want the problem to go away! But it hasn't!


It recently occurred to me that a miracle would not teach me what I need to know... and practice: The principles of healthy eating... Years of not eating enough vegetables - and having too many high-carb energy boosts have given me bad habits... and high blood sugar.

I would love for the problem to evaporate... so that I could go back to eating the food I love! (In other words, I want a miracle, so that I can resume my bad eating habits!)

Hmmmm... I wonder if that's why my miracle hasn't happened!

Friday, February 25, 2011

What to Do With Indoor Trees?

Indoor trees are lovely, but they take up a lot of room. I used to have a lemon tree (which I grew from a seed), but it never bloomed, and its branches were sharp. Not the kind of plant I wanted indoors. Eventually I took it to work. When spring arrived, I offered it to a co-worker who was looking for a potted tree for her patio.

I prefer growing flowers to trees... but occasionally I see a small potted tree I can't resist...

This palm tree was cute and tiny when I first saw it at an Ikea store. (So I bought it!) I transplanted it into this pot - which it shares with an aloe vera plant... and something else I don't remember planting. It's a nice size now... but it will grow...

Another tree in my upstairs hall was about a foot (or 30 centimeters) tall when I got it from a fellow teacher a dozen years ago. I admired it sitting on the window ledge by her desk, so she offered it to me. She didn't want to take it home for the summer... Now it is approaching the ceiling, and I'm wondering what to do with it... (I think it's called a dracaena.)

You can always trim it
, my friend Vera suggested.

She should know! Her house is full of trees. Every summer she moves them outside to her patio. Then in fall, they all come in again. Most rooms in her house have at lease one potted tree...

Like this bedroom...

(I wonder what it feels like, waking up to see branches hanging over the bed!)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goals... And More Goals

My last years of teaching were stressful: My mother needed more help. At the same time, I was teaching new courses that demanded a lot of marking (my least favorite part of teaching). Sitting with my mother in doctors' waiting rooms, I would often be busy grading essays... No time to waste!

Summer vacation was the only time the school pressure eased, giving me time to reflect...

One summer, towards the end of August, on the verge of returning to work, I wrote down what I really wished I could do... my deepest desires:

1. I want to live a peaceful, joyful, inspired life, full of the joy of creativity.
2. I don't want to be stressed.
3. I want to have enough money for all my needs.
4. I want to see my children regularly, be part of their lives and rejoice in their successes.
5. I want a happy marriage.
6. I want to quilt, write, garden, and be happy.

A few days ago, I came across my list again... Reading it, I smiled.

Half a dozen years later, I am living the dream...

Why then am I still a little restless...? What do I now want?

New goals!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Simple Knit Pin Cushion

I have never knit a pin cushion, but when a friend passed on several patterns, I was intrigued to try. This one (from would be an easy first project for new knitters wanting to practice the basic garter stitch - while actually making something.

The pin cushion is made of three strips of knitting - all 10 stitches wide, but each a little longer than the previous one: the first is two and a half inches long; the second, four inches; and the third, six inches.

After casting off, sew the strips into circles or loops, fold them in half, and fit them over each other.

They probably would stay in place without any additional sewing, but I decided to "tack" them together with a few stitches at the bottom.

The project took less than 2 hours...

Here's my new knit pin cushion!

Thanks, Mary!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Does It Really Mean?

"Lifelong learning" was a common buzzword when I was teaching adults. It meant adults continuing to study and learn new things - for work or for pleasure - long after formal education had ended.

So I was intrigued when a student in my University of Ottawa ESL class, told me she worked in the "lifelong learning" department of a school board in Japan.

What kind of classes do adults take in Japan? I asked her.

She seemed puzzled by my question.

Well, here adults study computers, foreign languages or hobbies in non-credit classes - that's lifelong learning in Canada, I explained.

Oh, we don't have that in Japan,
she replied. "Lifelong learning" is only for children.

But lifelong means all your life, not just when you are a child... I tried to explain.

But she just looked at me blankly and said: It doesn't mean that in Japan.

We too, in English, borrow expressions from other cultures, then subtly change their meaning to suit our culture. "It takes a village to raise a child" is one such expression. We take it to mean, I suppose, that a child learns in many places, not just at home. But in Africa, where the expression originates, my understanding is that a child is expected to respectfully take correction from any adult, not only parents or family members.

Back home, if I see a child doing something wrong, I go over and tell him or her not to, one African student told me. I do that even if I don't know the child. But here in Canada, adults don't talk to children they don't know. Parents get angry if I go over and talk to their child. It's very confusing.

(I guess it's easier to borrow expressions from other cultures than to modify our cultural habits!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mid-Winter Reprieve

I know it's too early to think about spring, no matter what the shopping malls show us...

But last week was milder (10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Warm air and puddles made me wonder if spring had arrived!

The ice-packed road in front of our house started to melt...

(Hmmm... Groundhog Day in Ottawa indicated the end of winter, though in Pennsylvania, several hundred miles to our south, the sign - sunny weather - indicated the opposite... Was our Groundhog right?! Was winter really over?!!)

Eventually the road did clear... Amazing! Now I can go walking again!

Today we're back to cool weather [sigh], but the road is still clear. I won't have walk indoors - where shopping temptations abound!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Leave Margins in Your Life...

Sometimes I hear a comment that is exactly what I need to hear..

I heard one today: Fit margins in your life...

In my mind I see a page of student handwriting, all crammed together...

I don't want to waste paper, the student tells me...

But I can't read it - it's too crowded, I tell the student.

Can the same be true of life? Can I be so busy that the purpose of all my activity is lost...?

What do I want to focus on at this stage of my life? I ask myself. Am I accomplishing any of my goals? How do I really want to be spending my time?

I need margins of time to pause and reflect, to keep me on course ... and help me enjoy the journey!

Thoughtful living: a delicate balance.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winterlude Displays

An interesting exhibit at this year's Winterlude festival is this Mongolian tent...

... with its cheerful hand-painted door.

Its wooden frame is visible from the inside, covered with what appears to be several layers of fabric.

It's very spacious - but I'm glad I don't have to spend winters inside a one-room dwelling, no matter how warm it may be! (That wrought-iron stove beside the table heats this windowless home.)

Nearby stands the Canadian equivalent - a native Canadian tee pee, together with authentic pelts and snow shoes.

Seeing all this makes me appreciate my warm, cozy dwelling! (And marvel that people survived winter before our modern, insulated homes existed!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

What Do We Do With Our Mistakes?

Why don't quilters ever talk about mistakes they make? (Or perhaps I'm the only one who makes them...)

This question, posed by a quilter/blogger made me reflect on how I deal with errors (in quilting and in life...)

First of all, I make quilting mistakes all the time, sometimes through carelessness. At other times, trying to cut corners...

My current quilt project is a good example...

Oops! Something is out of alignment! Maybe I need to pin this (and if that doesn't work, baste it...)

So I ripped open the seam, pinned it, and resewed it, learning from my error.

There! It's still not perfect, but I can live with it...

Occasionally I leave a mistake in - assuming that nobody will notice it. But if it bothers me, I have learned that - in the long run - I will be happier if I take the time to correct it... Though sometimes I have to put it aside for a day or two before I can face the task of undoing.

(A lot of errors are made when I'm tired...)

If I were to assess how much "redoing" I have to do - it's probably less than 5% in quilting. A lot more in knitting (perhaps 10%), where my biggest problem is making something the right size... So I usually have to decide whether to give the knit item away or tear it apart and make it smaller (or larger).

I'm not a perfectionist. Years ago, I heard a motto that I like: Good enough is good enough. It was the motto of a church where they were encouraging people to participate more, regardless of skill level. They weren't looking for perfection - but rather, shared participation.

So I try. Fear of making a mistake would make me reluctant to try anything! And when I do make a mistake, if it bothers me, I correct it. If it doesn't, I leave it alone... It doesn't have to be perfect! (When my children roll up in a quilt to watch TV, they don't care if the stitches are even. They like it because it keeps them warm!)

So to answer the question why quilters don't blog more about their mistakes...

If they're like me, they want to forget them and move on (hoping nobody else will notice!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Passion for Bread

I used to make bread, especially sweet rolls - which our family enjoyed in the form of cinnamon buns for Sunday breakfast. I still have vivid memories of giving each child a handful of dough to sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar, cocoa powder... and shape into whatever shape he or she desired. My favorite recipe made about a hundred rolls... (But that was back in the day when there were five of us at home to eat them.)

(For anyone interested, here's the recipe on someone else's blog, the same one I used to make... It's wonderful!)

I haven't made bread in ages... But that may all change! This video, which I first saw on the Simply Breakfast blog ... is an inspiration...

And I'm intrigued with the idea that bread has a different flavor when it rises for a long time (eight hours in a cool place rather than two hours in a warm environment).

Now I want to give it a try... (Enthusiasm is contagious!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Warm Winter Breakfast

This winter I have become a fan of a new kind of cooked cereal (my invention): oat bran - spiced up with a dash of cinnamon.

  • Simmer 1/3 cup of the oat bran in 1 cup of water.
  • Toss in a handful of raisins
  • Add a dash of cinnamon
  • Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until thickened

  • Sprinkle with brown sugar
  • Add milk


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Go! You Go!"

Reflecting on a recent blog post, which showed how confusion can occur if even one word is misunderstood, I recalled an incident that happened once in class when I was teaching English to immigrants.

At break time, a young student approached me and said: I have a problem. I don't understand why people tell me to go at the store.

They tell you to leave?

Yes, he replied.

I was puzzled.

Did you do something wrong? Did you touch something you weren't supposed to?

No, he replied. I just buy my stuff. I pay for it. And then the cashier tells me to go.

Is he angry?

No, he's smiling. He gives me my change and says: "Go. You go."

I suddenly recognized the intonation in his words...

Oh! The cashier isn't saying "Go, you go." He's saying: "There you go!"

There you go? What does that mean?

There you go? It means: I'm finished. You can go now!

The student smiled, relieved that he wasn't being asked to leave the store!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Apple Muffins or Apple Loaf

Nothing warms the heart like good food!

I don't often find recipes full of "healthy" ingredients. But this one for Apple Streusel Muffins already calls for whole wheat flour and oat bran so I don''t usually make any changes. It comes from the 1991 edition of Lighthearted Everyday Cooking by Anne Lindsay. (I notice that the most recent edition has a different cover.)

Here's the recipe:

1. Mix together:
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

2. Add: 1 1/4 cup of chopped chopped apple.

3. Mix together:
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil

4. Stir liquids into dry ingredients.

5. Pour into muffin tins or loaf pan (or both)

6. Combine:
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
Then sprinkle this topping over muffin or loaf batter

7. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until done. (If I am making a loaf, I sometimes lower the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake it a little longer.)


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winterlude Ice Sculptures

Winterlude spans 3 weekends - so we had a second chance to head downtown to check out the festivities.

This time we visited the ice sculpture park.

There were intricate creations...

... as well as practical ice-items... like chairs!

An ice sculptor, demonstrating his craft with a chainsaw, explained that ice used for sculptures needs to be very strong. It comes, packed in cardboard boxes, from a Toronto company that sends ice around the world. Made from distilled water, this ice is frozen slowly, over a period of three days, the water in constant motion to eliminate bubbles.

Even making ice strong enough for sculpting is an art!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feeding the Birds (or Squirrels?)

This bird feeder used to be attached with a suction cup to our living room window. For years we enjoyed watching birds - and occasionally squirrels - hang on it, snack on seeds.

That all changed in the year 2000 - the year of our major renovation... We removed the feeder, and it has been collecting dust ever since. This winter I have put it up again. I recently hung it on a backyard branch where it is visible from more windows.

As it blows in the wind, slightly covered in snow, I wonder if any birds will discover it. Are the sunflower seeds too large for small birds to eat? Will the cunning squirrels find a way to get into it?

Watching to see what happens is part of bird feeding fun!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Celebrating Winter

Winterlude, Ottawa's winter festival is here again.

Ice-sculptured reminders dot downtown sidewalks.

Walking through the market area, Terry and I noticed an outdoor barbecue outside one of our favorite restaurants...

(We were tempted but we didn't stop!)

There was outdoor shopping.

The market was busy.

After (indoor) croissants and lattes, we wandered past the national gallery.

The day was winter-warm (not to be confused with summer-warm), in spite of the snow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Pin Cushions

You can never have too many pin cushions!

After posting a blog on a few I use, I came across another one that belongs to my mother.

I think it was hand-made in Israel. It has the same basic pattern on both sides.

I may try to make one myself... It looks simple enough. It appears to be a square, but there are actually 17 stitches across, and 15 up and down.

The sides are joined with more cross-stitching.

I also found a round crocheted pouch my daughter used to use years ago. It's barely big enough to hold bus tickets and a few coins.I kept it because I loved the colors.

Now, I think I'll transform it into a pincushion by adding stuffing and sewing the opening shut...

There! Now I have another one!