Monday, February 29, 2016

Like a Baby

I enjoyed watching the Elizabeth Zimmermann Knitting lessons on DVD that I borrowed from the library. She is very entertaining!

She gave instructions for making Fair Isle style hats using two colors of yarn at the same time...

I didn't need to buy yarn for the project. My stash upstairs included a few balls of Icelandic yarn I got a few Christmases ago.

So I tried my hand at it.

I'm no expert - but I'm enjoying the challenge. It takes me an evening (or half a day) to complete one hat.

I also enjoyed Elizabeth Zimmermann's instructions on how to wash wool garments:  

Gently, in warm water - like a baby!

I''ll remember that!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Second Lenten Study

I'm constantly picking up books, reading a few pages or even a chapter, then leaving them - unfinished - for weeks or months on end. (Which is why I prefer buying books rather than borrowing them from the library...)

Sometimes I borrow a library book, wondering if I should buy it. Would I read it through?  Would I read it a second time? Or would it sit on my bedside table for months?

One book that I started reading recently is An Altar in the World. I had come across quotes from it in different places.  

Maybe I should try reading it before buying it, I thought. Maybe there is a copy in the public library...

Fortunately, there was. I'm enjoying this book more than I enjoyed another by the same author - Learning to Walk in the Dark. I purchased that book and read it very slowly. Knowing I have to return this one in several weeks is adding a sense of urgency, so I read some every day. An Altar in the World has become my second Lenten book, for thought and reflection...

Here is a passage that jumped out at me, perhaps because my mother's nursing home is part of my daily life: Deep suffering makes theologians of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely compare with the questions we ask while we are in the hospital. This goes for those stuck in the waiting room as well as for those in actual beds... To spend one night in real pain is to discover depths of reality that are roped off while everything is going fine...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Ups and Downs of Winter

It has been an interesting week, weather-wise...

Monday and Tuesday were perfect for walking. I even left my winter boots at home on Tuesday, walking in my hiking shoes instead.

Then another snow storm came - snow and freezing rain for several days!

Now roads and sidewalks in our neighborhood are icy again! (And for the fourth time this winter, we can't get our mail. Our mail-box is frozen shut!)

I remember a conversation I had with an African student a few years ago.

Canadians always talk about the weather, he commented.

It's a safe, uncontroversial topic - and the weather is always changing,  I replied. What do you talk about in Africa?

Politics! The weather is always the same, but the political situation is always changing!

I think I'd rather have changeable weather - and no political revolutions! I said, and we both smiled. (So I guess I shouldn't complain!)

Friday, February 26, 2016

What We Notice...

This is a sweater I could see myself wearing, I commented to my daughter. I like its boxy style.

Yes, I could see you in it, my daughter replied. Women with white hair always look good in crisp white shirts...

I noticed the sweater - she noticed the white hair and the shirt...

(Hmmm. Maybe it's time for me to invest in a crisp white shirt.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lenten Practice I Can Identify With!

Lent traditionally is a time to give up some pleasure for 40 days. I have friends who often give up chocolate or desserts. I've never felt the urge to do that - not that it wouldn't be a good idea.

But recently on Facebook, I saw a "sacrificial" Lenten practice that did "call my name": Getting rid of something I no longer need - every day for 40 days.

It has been interesting to see how my eye daily picks out something to get rid of. It's actually fun taking it downstairs and putting it into a designated box in the basement. At the end of Lent, I plan to take the box to one of our neighborhood "nearly new" shops.

I'll probably never miss the things that are gone! I no longer need them - yet they may still be useful to someone else!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Knitting Inspiration

One of the knitting books that has inspired me this winter is one I picked up at the library - on double knitting.

In double-knitting, you knit with two colors at the same time, each side of the double knit article being a different color...

I took a class in double-knitting a few years ago, but never knew what to make using this technique.

In this sweater jacket, the inside and outside have opposite background and design colors.

The knitting comes out quite tight; it isn't all that stretchy, so I would have to make sure I make the size just perfect. But it can be used with beautiful results.

I could see myself wearing this jacket...

I particularly like the contrasts in this coat made in beige and black...

I should probably think of doing a simple pattern - like these hearts - in an afghan, perhaps.

Another idea I loved was this afghan made by creating graphs of children's art projects. I have quite a few of those!

Here is one side...

Here is the other...

They have to be transferred to graph paper and the graph needs to be carefully followed... a careful kind of knitting I may not be patient enough to undertake.

But I love it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Interesting Art

On a recent visit to Toronto, I saw two interesting pieces of art...

This one, in a downtown Jack Astor's restaurant, speaks for itself.

And the second one... was painted by a monkey! His name is Pockets Warhol, and he's been painting for a while. Actually, I think he throws paint at the canvas and smears it with his fingers. Maybe even his tail... Not sure if he uses a brush!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fair Isle Hat

Watching the knitting lessons on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop DVD inspired me to try knitting a "fair isle" style hat.

Several Christmases ago I received these three balls of fine yarn from Iceland. (My son and daughter-in-law went to Iceland for their honeymoon.)

What to make with three balls of different colors? A scarf, perhaps - but I don't use scarves very often.

Or a fair isle hat. It's much more attractive than stripes.

I found a picture on Pinterest that looked relatively easy to copy.

A few hours later - it was done!

Here is the link to the Pinterest picture.

Another link from the designer's website (above) leads to the free pattern instructions available through the knitting website Ravelry.

I didn't follow the pattern exactly, as the original hat is made of five colors of yarn, not three - as mine is.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Some Thoughts on Work

You'd think that in retirement, all thoughts of "work" would be gone... But they're not!

During my working years, I often wondered whether I had found my vocation or "calling." As a teacher - I found limited opportunity for creativity. The curriculum controlled much of what was done in the classroom. Each cycle of educational "reforms" imposed its own regimen. So I looked forward to retirement, to the freedom of spending my time any way I wanted.

Now that I'm retired, I'm always looking for interesting and meaningful things to do, activities that satisfy my desire for creativity, and also help those around me.

Thankfully, I also discovered Benedictine thought, which values work and creativity.

I recently started reading a book entitled Friend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of Work, which talks of work as a "calling."We are "called" by our interests and talents.

Here are a few of the author's comments that struck a chord, as I look back on my working days and now on my life in retirement...
  • Jobs that ask too little of us are as dehumanizing as jobs that ask too much. Exhaustion and boredom at work are not opposites, but are different ways of signaling that the human being is undervalued on the job... 
  • Each of us has a particular 'work' that only we can do... we dare not allow our work or the work of our employees to be trivialized, for each is meant to contribute to the ongoing work of creation.
  • As created human beings, we are made for purposeful activity.
I remember one of my friends telling me how her father had dreaded retirement. When he reached mandatory retirement age and was forced to retire at age 65, he told his family: Now my life is over.

His wife encouraged him to think about spending winters in Florida. But on their first trip south, he had a heart attack and died...

We all need to feel our lives are meaningful... even in retirement!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Our (Modern) Public Library

I have been borrowing a lot of books (and DVDs) from the library this winter.

Recently returning a book, I noticed that the library now had an automated book return system. When I put my book through the return slot, it lands, not in a box, but on the conveyor belt, where it is carried away to be processed.

Watching in amazement, I was reminded how libraries had changed since I first started using the Red Deer (Alberta) Public Library, when I was a child. Back then a librarian manually stamped cards kept in paper pockets at the back of books. Now bar codes on books are "read" by this machine!
And on another machine that I use when I check my books out.

One thing hasn't changed, though. People are still needed to put books back on the shelves!

(I'm glad there are physical books to read in the library and that it is a physical place to visit. Will we one day have virtual libraries only, with only e-books to download and read?!)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fabric Art Display

Our local library building houses a theater, city offices and an art gallery.

Check out the exhibit in the gallery, Terry told me when I exited the library. I think you'll find it interesting.

I wandered over and discovered an exhibit of fabric art: tie-dyed cotton fabric with organza pictures quilted onto it.


(Another art form that looks interesting to try sometime!)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

February Snow Storm

Two days ago we had our largest snow fall of the season - nearly 50 centimeters or 20 inches fell in one day.

In the midst of the storm, Terry and I trudged to the public library so that I could pick up two books I had on hold. One hold was on the verge of expiring, so I didn't want to take any chances.

This photograph was taken from a pedestrian bridge over a normally busy road.

Fortunately, we were able to walk part of the way through the nearby college, where tunnels and pedestrian bridges lead from one building to another, so about half of the walk was done indoors!

The library was surprisingly busy. We weren't the only ones enjoying this warm winter oasis of plants and light.

Terry later used the snowblower to clear our driveway, but more snow fell overnight.

So there was still more shoveling to be done yesterday morning.

Dare we hope that this was the last major snowfall of the season?!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Knitting Goal

My knitting goal this winter is to finally learn to make garments that fit perfectly... (My daughter would tell me that I simply need to pay attention to gauge - to the number of stitches per inch.)

Gauge is stressed by Elizabeth Zimmermann, as well, in her books and videos. I've been watching a number of lessons taped decades ago, now available on DVD that I borrowed from the library.

Though I've been knitting since I was a teenager, each lesson teaches me something new.

Watching her "Knitting Workshop" made me want to buy a copy of the book that accompanies it.

Initially I planned to purchase it from the online store that was once her mail-order yarn business in Wisconsin. But they were going to charge me an exorbitant amount for surface mail postage and handling - US$40! - more than the US$37 cost of two books! (I had added a second book to the order.) At our current, unfavorable exchange rage, that would have been a total of $108 in Canadian funds!

I ended up buying it (much cheaper) on Amazon! (Even online shopping, you need to shop around!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Growing Veggies in Winter

I've been hearing a lot about the high cost of fresh veggies this winter...

Perhaps it's time to pull out my bean-sprouter and grow some fresh sprouts. I haven't done it in years.

The sprouter has 5 parts: a cover, three plastic trays with holes in them that drain into the tray below, plus a bottom tray (to catch the water). I filled the three top trays with half a teaspoon of different seeds in each: alfalfa, Daikon radish, and an "ancient Eastern blend." (I bought these years ago - I hope they still work!)

Every day, I pour a cup of water into the top tray - and watch it trickle down into the others. Then I empty the water out of the bottom tray. The seeds need to stay damp, but daily rinsing keeps them from getting moldy.

Hopefully, in a few days, I'll have fresh sprouts to add to a sandwich or to a bowl of soup!

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Nest: A Miracle of Nature

The weather has been very cold for the past few days, for the first time this winter (according to Terry, who notices these things). And they say it's always coldest just before sunrise, before the sun begins to warm things up again.

Yesterday I was awake well before dawn. In fact, I was sitting - warm cup of coffee in hand - as the sky in the east began to lighten.

Suddenly I noticed this little nest in a neighbor's tree, probably built by a squirrel, whose family is no doubt now still snuggled up inside keeping warm.

How amazing that such a flimsy squirrel-made contraption of leaves and squirrel saliva(?) could keep them alive and warm as overnight temperatures plummeted!

The temperature outside was cold (any way you looked at it)!

Here it is in Fahrenheit.

That little nest sitting near the edge of the branch is a true miracle of nature!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Looking on the SUNNY Side!

This weekend we are experiencing our first really cold weather of the winter.

(On really cold days, ice forms inside our windows...)

But - looking on the sunny side... (and it usually is sunny on really cold days...)

Winter is probably half over. We may not get any more really cold weather this year!!

(Or am I being unduly optimistic?!)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

First Saturday in Lent...

Is it Lent already?!

Easter will be early this year... I hope spring will be early too!

This year, I plan to do another study based on the writings of Henri Nouwen. I did one last December in Advent - and enjoyed it a lot.

It's always interesting to see life - and its struggles - through someone else's eyes!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Indoor Lawn Bowling

The pottery studio I work in houses a sports complex, run by the city.

One day recently, I saw a group in the corridor setting up for an indoor lawn-bowling game.

I knew they had an outdoor lawn bowling field...

Do you do this to keep in shape for summer lawn bowling? I asked one participant...

Yes and no, she replied. Some of us do bowl outdoors in the summer. But others of us can't tolerate the sun, so we bowl indoors all year long.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pottery Update

I started doing pottery again about a month ago, after a six-month break.

I go twice a week - once to do hand-building, once to use the wheel. It gets me out of the house in winter... and it's a lot of fun! (Playing in mud, as some potters laughingly call it, is one hobby Terry doesn't want me doing at home!)

In case you're wondering about all the plastic, wet clay and freshly-made objects have to be wrapped in plastic, to prevent quick drying. Or else they'll crack.

In the few weeks I've been back, I've made some bowls... (I wanted to carve this one to look like a grove of small trees...)

I'm using brown clay again, for a change. Last year I used white.
I've made a few animals, like this little squirrel...

(Here's a side view...) He started out as a rabbit, but I thought he looked more squirrel-like, so I added a bushy tail!)

I've glazed a few pots that I made last spring. (They've been sitting in a box in our basement...) Here they are in the glazing room before being dipped in glaze...

Here they are, glazed, fresh out of the kiln.

I enjoy adding texture to my pottery pieces.

I also glazed some bowls I molded during last spring's rhubarb season, when I pressed a rhubarb leaf into wet clay to make these imprints and designs.

Working with clay is full of surprises. One never knows what will turn out and what won't.