Friday, September 30, 2011

Crochet Connections

Crochet is a winter pastime (and passion!) for me. Now that summer is here, I have been focusing on gardening, and haven't given much thought to yarn. But recently I came across a picture of a colorful crocheted afghan online - so I clicked on it - which led me to more and more crocheting and knitting links!

I felt as if I had won a lottery! So much inspiration!

So for any avid crocheters (or knitters) who may be reading this... let me share!

(I'll be perusing these when the first snow falls... But I noticed that warm summer weather doesn't stop some from crocheting and knitting!)

Here are a few links...

Friendship Afghan Project

Dayna's Crochet

Sissie's Crochet Place (with links on the right to dozens - if not hundreds - of photos of afghans, for anyone needing inspiration!)

Blissfully Domestic

LinkOne Sheepish Girl

The Jolly Bee

And in my online browsing, I also encountered a free pattern website:

Crochet Pattern Central also had an article on crochet - which included patterns for some easy, attractive projects.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chess, Anyone?

I often see chess sets I like. But unfortunately, I'm not a good player...

This one, in particular, caught my eye...

It looks like two medieval armies facing off!

The facial details are amazing!

Now to watch it in action... in a game of chess!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is COFFEE ... Making a Come Back?

Is coffee making a come back? Or has it always been popular...?

My father liked a good cup of (very weak) coffee. He was annoyed when the price of a cup in a restaurant (in the 1960s) jumped from 5 cents to a quarter. (I wonder what he'd say at coffee shop prices today?!)

I read somewhere how one of the owners of a big coffee chain had the idea: Let's charge a lot for a cup of coffee... and people will think it's something special - and will come.

He proved right!

I have been reading how, in the 1600s, coffee houses were springing up in London, England, as places where professionals would meet to relax and talk. Edward Rutherfurd's book, London: the Novel tells how "there seemed to be a new [coffee house] every month. Open all day, serving hot chocolate and coffee - which was always drunk black, though usually with sugar - the coffee houses of the city... were more gentlemanly places than the old taverns."

How similar to Montreal and Toronto today!

On a recent visit to Montreal, our friend Randall introduced us to one of his favorite coffee shops - Brulerie St. Denis - where they roast their own coffee beans.

There were dozens of types of coffee available - 20 types of decaffinated coffee alone!

We finally made our choices - and enjoyed our coffee... with dessert of course!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quilt Inspiration

Inspiration can come at the most unlikely times, in the most unlikely places!

I was sitting in a hospital waiting area... when my eyes caught sight of a wall hanging - squares and rectangles made of random scraps of fabric.

What a wonderful way to use up some of the fabric I have left over from various quilting projects... But I didn't have a pencil... or my camera.

I stared at the quilt, trying to remember the pattern... Then my name was called.

Can I borrow a pen for a minute? I asked the medical receptionist. I just saw a quilt I really like hanging in the waiting room, and I want to jot down the pattern.

So while she asked me questions, I sketched...

The following day, I returned with a camera, and (careful to avoid the heads of waiting people) managed to quickly snap the picture above.

Stay tuned for further developments... probably sometime this coming winter - when I am stuck indoors and my "quilting season" begins.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Signs of Summer's End

The leaves on the fence - wild grapes and Virginia creeper - are beginning to turn color, a sign of summer's end.

A few flowers are still blooming in our yard, adding dashes of color here and there...

The most impressive - the lovely Autumn Joy sedum does bring autumn joy!

The tiny tea roses (that were a Christmas gift to my mother) continue to bud and flower.

The black-eyed Susan's (or is it brown-eyed Susans?) brighten up the flower beds...

Even the hostas look fine! (Eventually their leaves will dry up, too.)

The garden look subdued - but still beautiful! I still stop and gaze outdoors whenever I walk by a window, my eyes drawn to the splashes of colors here and there!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Count Your Blessings!

I was not feeling thankful when my son called...
 say that he had broken his nose playing soccer and was in the emergency room waiting to see a doctor.

(Bending down to do a header - hitting the ball with his head - he had accidentally been kicked in the face.)

Will this change his appearance? Will he have breathing or sinus problems? I wondered.

But later - when he called again to say that... Yes, his nose was broken...

...but the doctor had said that he had been kicked in the right place:

Any higher, and he would have had a concussion...

Any lower, and he would have lost some teeth...

At that point, I was truly thankful!

(I guess all thankfulness begins with a sense of perspective.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Extra Effort (Sometimes) Required!

My thought for today:

Some things in life aren't easy...

But that doesn't mean they aren't worth...


Friday, September 23, 2011

Operation Wasps Nest!

Every few years we discover a wasps' nest where we really don't want it. One summer, a grey ball of a nest suddenly appeared next to our side door - a little too close for comfort.

This year's annoying nest is just under the shingles on our west-facing roof - the side often blown by the wind, so the shingles may be a bit loose.

Terry immediately sprang into action - borrowing a neighbor's ladder, then covering himself - to avoid getting stung.

My job was to hold the ladder steady. Fortunately I had help from a few stakes Terry hammered into the ground. I'm not sure I would have been able to do much if the ladder had suddenly lurched sideways.

Should I try to catch Terry if that happens? (Or simply get out of the way?) I wondered... But I didn't ask! (No point making him nervous.)

So he sprayed - a thick foamy wasp-killer.

But the next day, we could still see wasps going in and out.

So we plan to try it again... and (if necessary) again...!

Update: After several unsuccessful attempts - we have finally called in an exterminator!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Learning About Caravaggio

I was planning my studies at UBC, checking the calendar... (as the list of courses is - strangely - called.)

Journalism (my first choice) was not offered at the time, so I was looking for a program that interested me. I remember turning to my mother and excitedly saying: I think I've found the subject I'd like to study! Art History!

Absolutely not
! she replied. Art History is for rich people who don't have to earn a living.

So I chose more mundane subjects: English, French, History, Geography and Creative Writing... (And I was unhappy!)

Now I'm not saying I'd have been happier had I studied Art History - but sometimes I wonder where following my heart would have led me! (And I wonder - as a parent - if I ever steered my children away from following their dreams.)

All this to say that I still don't know much about art history! But I did learn a little recently when I attended an exhibit of paintings by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, a 16th century Italian painter.

Rome was going through a time of urban renewal (perhaps not unlike much of our world today), and Caravaggio earned his living painting what his patrons requested - to decorate their homes and churches. His realistic portrayals of Biblical stories were shocking. His paintings contrasted darkness and light. He also painted fast - directly onto the canvas, without preliminary sketches. He seemed to manage pretty well financially - though his life was marked by anger and violence: he tore up paintings that people criticized, squandered his earnings on heavy drinking and was known for brawling... He died at the age of 37.

But what I found interesting was a comment I came across - that the violence he displayed now is recognized as a symptom of lead poisoning - perhaps caused by the lead in his paints.

How sad! His profession poisoned him!

(And I was left wondering if any there are any toxins in our modern world that are unknowingly molding who we are...)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Patchwork" Bookcase

The bookcase on the cover of Elle Decor Magazine (September 2011) caught my eye. It looked vaguely familiar...


After a few minutes' thought, I realized that it reminded me of...

 own black bookcase (and lamp) in my little study, and...

... a patchwork quilt design I love - alternating squares of horizontal and vertical stripes.

Perhaps it's time to dust and reorganize my bookcase... If I move more books into horizontal piles - can I create the same (fun) "patchwork" effect?!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mid-September at Maplelawn Garden

I recently went back to the historic Maplelawn Flower Garden in Ottawa to see what was blooming there in mid-September.

I had been there in early August and published a post at that time.

Which flowers are now blooming? I wondered...

Do they have some of the same flowers I have in my garden?

There were a few...

But there were others I didn't recognize...

My goal is to have a perennial garden in constant bloom from spring to late autumn, though not as large as this one!

Maplelawn Garden does have a stone wall enclosing it, creating a less windy micro-climate than my wind-blown yard...

But it is interesting to see what grows well in my zone 5 area!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Anniversary Surprise

We may not have friends in HIGH places - but we have them in IMPORTANT places: i.e. restaurants!

This delicious dessert sampler was prepared for our anniversary at Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.

Thank you, Paul!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Squirrel Planting Trees

There was a sudden knock on the window.

I turned to see... a squirrel sitting on the sill, a large horse chestnut in his mouth.

What does he want?

He turned, again banging the window, looking for a way through the glass. Eventually he left...

In my "war" with tree-planting squirrels, I've won my first battle!

I wonder why he thinks he can plant a tree indoors...

Maybe my indoor tree - as he would see it through the window - is luring him in! The squirrels and me (all of us gardeners, in our own way!)... All of us trying to define and re-define what gardening territory is ours!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Looking Back... in Montreal

Every September my mind goes back to Montreal where Terry and I were married... one rainy September Saturday quite a few years ago...

Last September we drove from Ottawa to Montreal for a few days and were there for our anniversary...

So of course we had to visit the church where we were married... It now serves as a soup kitchen as well as a church.

The hall where we had our wedding reception burned down a few years ago...

But the chapel looked much the same...

We had our wedding pictures taken here, on the lawn beside the church.

Then, of course, we had to go back to see our first home - the middle apartment in this old triplex.

Oh no! They changed the stairs! The entry had a curving staircase when we lived here. It was the only one on the block. Now the staircase looks just like the others!

But the old convent across the street (now a university residence) looks much the same.

I guess some changes are inevitable, after all these years. But it was - and still is - a peaceful neighborhood right in the middle of downtown.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Going Back

One of the reasons we went to the Gaspe this summer was for Terry to revisit (if possible) a childhood vacation spot...

The cottage his grandparents stayed in when his grandfather, Don Hutchins, was chauffeur for Mrs. Molson, the matriarch of the Molson family.

Terry remembers his parents driving there with their three young boys to stay with "Nan" and "Gramps" and enjoy the beach.

The house was at the bottom of a hill opposite a rocky beach
, he remembered, as we drove back and forth along a stretch of beach, hunting for the location.

My grandfather had to climb stairs behind the cottage to go up to the Molson home,
Terry recalled. I once helped him haul ice up those stairs - big chunks of ice - to put in the Molson's ice box, back in the day before they had a refrigerator.

Both houses may be long gone, I cautioned...

Finally we asked, and discovered the cottage there... much as he had remembered it - though painted a different color.

Then we were invited to a neighboring house on the hill... with its lovely gardens...

Much had changed in 50 years: The properties had been sold to new owners...

(You hold on to memories, but life moves on.)