Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winter Walk in Britannia

My quest for samples of winter plant life (for my drawing class) led me to Britannia, an old Ottawa neighborhood with lots of trees near the Ottawa River.

Once a community outside the city limits, Britannia has a mix of housing styles.

Many of the older homes look like summer cottages...

... or old farm houses...

But there are some modern ones...

... mixed in...

... as well.

A well-known yacht club is located on the river in Britannia...

But at this time of year most of the boats are shrouded in plastic... and snow!

My hunt for dry winter plant life wasn't too fruitful! Large mounds of soft snow kept me from the more interesting dry leaves and seed pods I could see. (I was afraid to try to get them, afraid of sinking knee deep into the snow.)

But exploring the neighborhood was fun!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter Feasting

It takes a lot to keep cheerful in winter! Looking out at the bleak scenery, I craved a colorful winter feast!

We should have a party, I suggested to Terry.

He looked at me dubiously...

Then quickly agreed to take me to Cora's for brunch!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Almost Spring

It doesn't look like spring...

But it feels like it!

 Daytime temperatures are expected to be above freezing all week.

This has Terry outdoors digging drainage ditches in the snow!

With this early thaw, I wonder what the street will look like by next weekend.

I'm probably being overly hopeful - but I'm getting tired of all this snow!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Blue Lovers' Knot Quilt... Done!

I have been hand quilting this blue Lovers' Knot quilt for a number of weeks. Now that phase is finally done. Time to finally finish up!

The final task of adding borders and binding doesn't look like a lot of work. I always forget how laborious it really is, partly because the quilt is now so large to work with!

Surprisingly, it took me a whole day to attach the two border bands and sew the binding on the quilt. I was glad when it was finally done. But like delivering a baby, the joy of seeing it finally finished makes me forget the hours of labor it entailed!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hard Hearts

The Desert Fathers (and mothers) who lived 1700 years ago in third-century Egypt still have a lot to teach us. Here is one of their sayings:

"Water is by nature soft,
stone on the contrary hard.
But when water drips continually on a stone,
it hollows it out.

So too,
God's Word is delicate and mild,
our heart on the contrary hard.
Yet whoever hears the Word of God frequently and reflects on it,
makes space within his heart, so that it can enter in."

(Lost in Wonder, p. 48)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day Trip Shopping in Gatineau, Quebec

One of the interesting aspects about living in Ottawa is its proximity to the province of Quebec. The city of Gatineau (in Quebec) is right across the river from Ottawa. In many ways, the two cities form the same urban community. Daily rush hour traffic jams on the bridges that cross the river attest to the number of people who live in one province and work in the other. At one time, I taught English in a French language college in Gatineau, so I made the trek several times a week. I enjoyed the drive, leaving only when I found a similar job in my own neighborhood.

Living in Quebec is, for all intents and purposes, no different than living in Ontario!

Many of the restaurants and business are the same.

But at the same time, the provincial laws are different... (Which is why many young people from Ottawa celebrate their 18th birthdays in Quebec - where the legal drinking age is 18, as compared to 19 in Ontario!)

The first thing you notice when going over the river is that the signs are in French only.

Even in the Costco store across the river, most of the books for sale are in French.

I don't go over to Gatineau very often these days, but when I crave a change and can't go far - crossing the river to shop in Quebec gives me the pleasant feeling of being "away."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Painting a Seed Pod

On the first day of class, Kerri Weller, our botanical art instructor informed us that she wanted us to have three completed, framed illustrations by the end of the session! That seemed rather ambitious to me - but we have begun working on these three final "projects"! They were to be samples of: bark, seed pods and "ribbon" art (naturally twisting leaves or grasses that turn to show both sides). I haven't found a sample of ribbon art outdoors yet, but I did pick up a few branches that may work for the bark drawing.

Some of the students have interesting pieces of bark that fell off of trees.

My neighbor Mary has some tall ornamental grasses in her front yard - and from time to time their seed pods emerge from the snow. So she brought me one.

I was working on it during my last art class. After painting it, our instructor, Kerri, showed me how to remove some of the color with an angled brush, to create the tiny white spaces that can be seen between the fronds.

I woke up this morning with the idea of adding a few floating seeds to show that this is a seed pod. The seeds do tend to fall off as I work on them.

Maybe I'll plant these seeds indoors and see if they grow. I'm not sure if these grasses are annuals that re-seed naturally or if their roots are perennial. It's been a long time since I started seedlings indoors!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Life for an Old Quilt

One of the first quilts I ever made was this Irish Chain "quilt-in-a-day" (which for me means quilt-in-a-week!)

I had just learned how to use a rotary cutter, which revolutionized my quilt making! (I mention that detail because a lot of the scraps I am discovering in my scrap bin have been marked for cutting with scissors - I had actually forgotten I did that once!)

The colors of this old quilt were chosen to match a Laura Ashley border on an upstairs bedroom wall.

We used the quilt for many years, but eventually it it showed signs of wear on the binding, and several squares had worn through. The quilting thread was torn all over. What to do?! I still loved its vibrancy. But I didn't want to hand quilt it again.

I removed the binding and mended the holes. Now what?! I thought of machine quilting it - but had never done that before. So I folded it up and put it in my mending basket - where it has sat for years.

A week ago, my quilter friend Jean mentioned the term "organic quilting." So I decided to look it up online. What I discovered was an interesting style of machine quilting - in parallel lines, not necessarily perfectly  straight... ("Organically" straight - straight to the eye and hand doing the quilting!) It didn't look hard, so I decided to give it a try using my old quilt.

Instead of sewing across the whole quilt at half inch intervals, I decided to sew only through the squares of the Irish chain, ending up with a series of 9 parallel machine quilted lines.

Once I started, I couldn't stop! It was a lot of fun seeing the quilt come to life again. And when I put on the binding, I reversed the strips of fabric, tucking the worn part inside. Now it looks almost new!

It's not perfect - but I'm pleased that it's usable again! Now it can go back into the bedroom with the Laura Ashley border - where it belongs!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

African Violet Update

My first African violet plant was a gift that arrived at the hospital when my daughter was born. It has survived - though I'm not sure which one it is now that I have quite a few more.

The biggest collection came from my neighbor Marion who had received a dozen tiny plants of different varieties (with different colored flowers) from another neighbor. But for some reason she no longer wanted to bother with indoor plants, so she offered them to me.

Most thrived and I enjoy their blooms in winter, when the world outdoors is white. But this year - for the first time - they aren't blooming. (These few flowers are a far cry from the abundance of previous years.)

Do I need to fertilize them? I never have before.

Now I'm waiting to see if it makes a difference!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Painting a Cherry

One of the side benefits of painting (and drawing) is that it makes me focus on things I would not normally give much thought to - everyday things, like food.

I love cherries, so a cherry seemed an apt subject for my second effort at a fruit "portrait." Could I capturing its luscious beauty on paper?!

It was a little more difficult because so much depended on different shades of red!

I thought the pits would add an interesting detail as well! I only had two, so I kept moving them around after painting them...

I was pleased with the result - which I affectionately refer to as The Last Man Standing! (But as soon as the painting was done, my cherry "model" didn't stay around for long either!)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Canada's Endangered Penny

My 93-year-old mother is one of the few people I know who loves pennies. If she sees one on the ground, she always picks it up. Then she says -

Find a penny - pick it up,
And all that day you'll have good luck!

For most people, the penny isn't worth that much - so little, in fact, that the Canadian government has decided to do away with the coin.

I agree that a penny can't buy much these days, but I do have a problem with getting rid of a unit of monetary counting that we use. A penny is part of our monetary system, and not having it - in my opinion - is dishonest. The way some stores plan to eliminate this dishonesty is to "round down" - and already I've seen signs at cash registers announcing that that they will be following that policy. But an equal number will probably be "rounding up," I suspect. I mean, I don't expect to go to the postal counter and get two 1-cent stamps for nothing!

So as I grumble and complain (while at the same time bemoaning that my purse is so heavy because change weighs so much) - I wonder if I'll soon be converted into loving the absence of pennies. I mean, Britain used to have a "ha'penny" or half-penny. And they are now doing just fine without it!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Listening To God

Here is a story I read recently that is challenging me to listen to God!

"George Washington Carver... one of our great scientists... often prayed, addressing God as "Mr. Creator." One night he walked out into the woods and prayed, "Mr. Creator, why did you make the universe?" He listened, and this is what he heard: "Little man, that question is too big for you. Try another!" The next night he walked into the woods and prayed, "Mr. Creator, why did you make man [meaning the human race]?" He listened and he heard this: "Little man, that question is still too big for you. Try another!" The third night he went into the woods and prayed, "Mr. Creator, why did you make the peanut?" This is what he heard: "Little man, that question is just your size. You listen and I will teach you." And you may know that George Washington Carver invented some three hundred ways to use the peanut." [Including peanut butter!]

(Sanctuary of the Soul, p. 84)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Favorite Winter Exercise

While others are enjoying winter skiing or skating on the Rideau Canal, I am participating in my favorite winter exercise: QUILTING!

It looks sedentary - but it is a constant round of movement:




And the round continues! Every finished square has had me up and down at least a dozen times. Which is good - because, according to Joyce Meyer's book, Look Good, Feel Great, even small movements like "fidgeting" burn calories.  (Is that why all the hyper-active people I know are thin?!)

I found the Mayo Clinic research on fidgeting on BBC news sites online. And I've been paying attention! All my hours of "sedentary" work at the sewing machine haven't contributed to any winter weight gain. (There may be another factor at play here, too: When I am quilting, I'm usually so engrossed in what I'm doing that I forget to eat!)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Back to My Blue Quilt

I am taking a break from my brown and beige quilt as I decide what to do next: To make it my first machine quilted project? (And risk ruining it!) To put it on my quilting loom and stitch it by hand? To quilt it by hand on my lap? (This is my favorite kind of quilting.)

So, until I decide, it is lying in four large pieces on an upstairs bed.

Time to go back to a quilt I started some months ago. (Hard to believe it was last June, according to this blog post!)

All the while I have been busily piecing my beige and brown quilt, I have been hand quilting another in the evenings - sitting with it on my lap while I listen to CDs.

Now it's time to add some borders and finish it! (My goal is to finish both quilts before spring arrives!)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

I read recently that women no longer like to receive flowers or chocolate for Valentine's Day. I'm not sure why - except for the calories in chocolates.

I must be very traditional: Both roses...

... and chocolates...

... brighten these dreary days of winter!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Families are amazing institutions... because in them we learn to love people who are very different from ourselves!

If we could choose our own parents - how many of us would (at first glance) have chosen our own?! Other people's parents often look decidedly better!

I remember one of my sons (who felt he must have been adopted, he was so different from the rest of us...) constantly lamenting that he wished he had been adopted by Bill Gates. In the Bill Gates mansion, he could have as many computers as he wanted - and they would always be the latest version - unlike in our family where he had to share, and computers were never the latest model...

He wasn't the only one... My daughter - in junior high school - avoided Terry and me on parents' night when parents were invited to meet the teachers and visit the classrooms. I was a bit sad - but I couldn't blame her. I have vivid memories of myself as a teenager - hating to walk down the street with my mother and father. I also have a vivid memory of the shining day when I had come home from university - and I found myself walking down Kelowna's main street with my parents - and it didn't feel bad!

Wow! I've grown up! I remember thinking...

But the "perfect family" fantasy doesn't end with the children... As a parent I have often wished my child were more like... ME?!

(Then - at least - I could always understand them!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Never-Ending Bin of Scraps

My quilting scraps come from a variety of sources - my mother's leftovers, fabric I "inherited" when an aunt downsized, bags of fabric that my neighbor across the street offered me when she decided to give up quilting. Some are left over from sewing projects of my own.

A while back, I sorted through my fabrics (and scraps), separating each color into its own bin. My hope - when I began my most recent quilt - was that I would use up all my brown and beige bits...

My goal: to totally empty this bin of brown / beige scraps. (After all, the bin doesn't look all that big.)

But after finishing the quilt top, I had more!

So I made a few mug rugs.

But I still had more! So I decided to keep going and create some squares for some unplanned future project. Bits of this and that, they are all different.

How many will I get? I wondered when I began...

Half a dozen squares later, my brown / beige bin of fabric still hasn't run out! So I guess I'll just keep going!

The irony of all this - as my daughter commented when I mentioned what I was doing -  is that I never buy brown. Where did all these brown and beige bits of fabric come from?! And why isn't it running out?! (I have absolutely no idea!)