Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Winter Garden

The sun is finally out again, after several weeks of cloudy (but warmer) weather.

The sunny weather is cheerful - even if temperatures outside drop without cloud cover.

Outside I notice my only "flower" that "blooms" in the snow - the tough Sedum that bloomed in the fall and still stands erect in the snow.

My indoor plants aren't in bloom, but they still comfort me with their green presence during this barren winter season.

They remind me that life goes on - even in winter.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Another "Baby Surprise Jacket"

Knitting is very addictive for me. Unlike quilting - which I also enjoy - knitting doesn't require a lot of work space. I can sit in my most comfortable chair and knit!

I love to see the progression of shapes and colors...

Discovering more of my mother's yarn scraps that would make a soft children's sweater, I started my second "baby surprise jacket."

These colors remind me of spring and Easter.

Unlike knitting my first jacket, this time I have a sense of where the colors will go when the sweater is complete.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Playing Scrabble Again

In her retirement, my mother enjoyed playing Scrabble. When she first moved to Ottawa and lived on her own in an apartment, she looked forward to her regular game time with friends in her building. Her game was well used...

I recently came across it - together with her old score sheets... She was playing with two neighbors, Myriam and Helen.

I recently suggested that Terry and I start to play Scrabble for something to do these dark winter evenings - to keep our minds active. So we have!

I don't know how long this interest will last - but we've noticed that the words on the game board are getting a little longer every time we play. So maybe we're making progress!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sketching App

After watching an online demo of someone sketching on their Ipad, I searched for a free sketching app.

There were several in the Apple store. I chose one and downloaded it.

It was fun to play around on it, trying out the various "tools."

(This particular app also has coloring books, for those who are into that hobby.)

Like any art, it will take a while to master it!

I wonder if I'll have the patience to persist.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Back to Pottery Again!

January to April have become my pottery "season."

I'm back in the studio doing pottery two afternoons a week - once on the wheel, the other doing hand-building.

I was glad to see that I hadn't forgotten how to use the wheel - though it did take time to get back into the rhythm of it again!

So far I haven't ruined anything I started... These are the first small bowls I'm sending to the kiln.

My goal this year? To learn and improve. And hopefully to create some larger pieces.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Five Sweaters... So Far

I used to knit a lot of sweaters, but after the invention of fleece, I stopped. Fleece fabric is just as warm.

But this year I got back into knitting - starting with a short-sleeved vest, a kit I purchased online from Mary Maxim.

There was quite a bit of yarn left over, so I continued on making a smaller pullover vest... that turned out a little small!!

Then I discovered some French part-mohair yarn and knit myself a sweater.

That went quickly - as mohair does - so I tried another!

My most recent was a "baby surprise jacket" - a pattern designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann...

So I've done five sweaters so far this winter!! And I may even keep going and knit one or two more!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Winter Cycling

Ottawa has lots of bike paths and cycling enthusiasts...

But I'm always surprised to see people cycling in the snow!

There may be winter snow tires for bikes... But how safe can they be?!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Surprise Jacket Done!

My first baby surprise jacket is finally finished!

It was a surprise to see how it turned out... I used three partial balls of yarn.

The soft white yarn that I was saving for the top ended up at the bottom. That was a surprise!

Now with the buttons on, it finally looks finished.

(I say "my first" surprise jacket ... because I'm already thinking about making another!)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Having an MRI

The province of Ontario is carrying on a very large longitudinal health study. Years ago, when I was still working, I volunteered to be part of it. Every few years I am invited to participate in voluntary health testing. I usually agree. I mean, why not?! If they find some issue before it becomes a big health problem, it's win-win for me.

A few months ago, I was invited to have a voluntary MRI to test for heart health, thyroid, and other problems. I've never had an MRI before, so this was a new adventure for me!

The hardest thing was having to lie still for so long - about 50 minutes.

I found counting helped distract me from thinking about moving my fingers or scratching my nose. The magnetic machine produces sounds most of the time, sometimes a series of short beeps. At other times a long blare. I'd count the number of beeps and the length of each blare. This silly technique distracted me from the boredom of having to lie still for such a long time. It relaxed me as well, helping time pass more quickly.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My New Sunday Read

I'm looking forward to reading this book on the history of Sunday... of taking a day of rest.

I first encountered the title in a sermon on the Sabbath by Barbara Brown Taylor, so I ordered the book.

My only disappointment - as I look at the cute cover - is that there are no more illustrations throughout the book! I was hoping for an entertaining read...

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Mall Walking

Now that ice and snow cover the streets, Terry and I are inclined to head to shopping centers for some "mall walking."

We recently wandered through the Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa and marveled at the indoor architecture.

This skylight competes with the one at the national gallery!

Here is the view from another floor down...

Lots of indoor walking possibilities here!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Preparing to Be Surprised!

My "baby surprise jacket" is progressing... The name suggests that the shape that is being knit as one follows instructions will surprisingly turn into a baby sweater - knit all in one piece.

I have been knitting along, anticipating that the front will look more or less like this...

But the sweater takes a new turn as I switch to white yarn, having run out of the green. I'm now wondering if I have unknowingly been knitting the sweater upside down! What I thought was the front may now turn out to be the sleeves!

As I near the end, I'm a little confused... I'm also preparing to be surprised!

Made of three different types of yarn from my mother's "stash," the jacket may look nicer than I thought at first...

I'll be delighted if it ends up being a useful garment for my granddaughter or some other child.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Memories of Crossing Paths...

When I was 21 and first living in Israel, Jerusalem was a divided city, half in Jordan, half in Israel.

Christians in Israel were allowed to cross over to the Jordanian side at Easter and Christmas... In the spring of 1967, a few months before the "Six Day War," I decided to try.

I remember standing in a long queue of people at Mandelbaum Gate, the Jerusalem border crossing between Jordan to Israel. In front of me stood a very pregnant woman with two large suitcases. I kept waiting for someone to join her to help her with her heavy bags. Eventually I realized that no one was coming and she was alone.

We began to chat, as one does when standing in a lineup for hours on end. I told her that I was going over by myself for the first time. I didn't even know where I would spend the night.

She was also by herself, she told me. Why not join her at Christ Church Hospice, where she was planning to stay? When I commented on her two large suitcases, she told me that they were almost empty. She had brought them to fill with purchases and treats like Cadbury chocolate bars that were unavailable in Israel...

Over the course of Easter weekend, I learned that she was a British writer - Christian - married to a Jewish Israeli artist. They lived on a Kibbutz. She was expecting her second child. When I heard her name, I was totally in awe... Lynn Reid Banks, author of the L-Shaped Room, a popular novel that had been made into a film which I had seen.

I spent the weekend with her, as she introduced me to the old city of Jerusalem. We even ended up driving to the archaeological ruin at Jerash, as guests of a Canadian clergyman...

Coming across a photo that reminded me of those ruins turned my thoughts recently to that weekend in 1967. I wonder what she is doing now... I googled her name.

I discovered that her husband, a sculptor, died this past year, at the age of 89. His most famous sculpture is found in a church in London...

She is now 87, and well-known as an author of children's books...

(Among her online photos, I came across this one that most resembles her around the time that our paths crossed...)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Knitting My First "Baby Surprise" Jacket

Last year I discovered the wise knitting advice of Elizabeth Zimmermann, a woman of my mother's generation who is credited with popularizing knitting in North America when I was a child. A grandmotherly knitwear designer, she hosted a televised series on knitting in the early days of television. Last winter I borrowed the series on DVD from my public library. Her enthusiasm for knitting is infectious!

I ended up buying several of her knitting books on Amazon, but didn't get beyond her instructions for knitting winter hats.

Her most famous design is the "Baby Surprise" jacket, which doesn't look at all like a sweater while it is being knit.

I decided to try one recently, using some of my mother's old yarn...

I'm halfway done, I think... After casting off for quite a few rows, I'm now increasing again...

This diagram shows the end result. As I study it now, I wonder: Am I knitting it upside down? Which part of the shape will be the two sleeves?! When do I make the button holes at the bottom left and right?

I'll definitely be surprised if a shape like this turns out to be a sweater knit all in one piece!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ginger Tea

My daughter recently mentioned that she often makes "tea" by pouring boiling water over a few chunks of ginger root, then letting it steep.

I decided to try ginger root tea as well. I first used her steeping method, but then - following an online recipe - I boiled some ginger for about 10 minutes.

I drank some as is. The rest I let cool.

The "ginger tea" on its own was a little strong for my taste... I prefer mixing it half and half with herbal or regular tea.

Ginger is thought to improve health... I remember students from Saudi Arabia telling me that they drank ginger tea when they had colds.

This article in the Times of India summarizes 8 health benefits of drinking ginger tea. Curing colds isn't one of them, but boosting immunity is.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Menu Memories

A few days ago, I was going through papers and I came across...

... "menus" created by my three children when they were 10 or 12 - and I was feeling overwhelmed at work.

Arriving home at 5, the last thing I wanted to do was make supper.

The idea came to me that they could each be responsible for making supper one night a week. I remember discussing what their favorite suppers were. Pizza was definitely one - I don't see it in these menus, but I recall them assembling pizzas as well.

The menus were simple - easy to prepare. Each week, one child responsible for choosing one of these cards, so that we had some variety in what we ate. It was my responsibility to make sure the required food was in the fridge or freezer: frozen fish sticks and French fries, a package of  tortellini and a jar of spaghetti sauce, or whatever...

On their assigned day, they assembled the meal and set the table. I was always around, in case help was needed.

I don't think any of my children - except my daughter, who enjoyed baking - learned to cook from scratch. But I hope it gave them confidence in the kitchen.

And, as I recall, it was a big help to me - just knowing that for three nights a week, supper wasn't entirely my responsibility!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pain and Suffering

I have never given much thought to the difference between pain and suffering. My physical pains have been few, relatively speaking. My emotional suffering has also been limited to the normal ups and downs of life, situations that, I have come to believe, make a person strong.

In my work as a teacher, I occasionally met students who were "suffering," though I didn't always recognize it - like one teenage boy who pulled out a knife to cut himself in my English class.

"Miss, ... has a knife!" a fellow student shouted out. I stopped mid-sentence. In my mid-20's, I had never encountered a situation like this before.

Annoyed that someone was interrupting the flow of my carefully crafted lesson, I walked over to the young man's desk and demanded: "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to kill myself," he replied.

"Not in my class, you're not," I said firmly. "Put that knife away."

To my amazement, he did.

As soon as the class was over, I marched over to the office - and a guidance counselor quickly came in to talk to the young man and help him with his problems. To my knowledge, his threat to kill himself never recurred.

Unlike teachers, priests are often called in to deal with pain and suffering. It is a regular part of their job. So it's not surprising that former parish priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, comments on it in her book, An Altar in the World. Here is what she says: I learned that there is a difference between pain and suffering... Pain originates in the body... You can find the place that hurts and press it, eliciting a howl...

Suffering, on the other hand, happens in the mind. The mind decides what pain means and whether it is deserved. The mind notices who comes to visit and who does not. The mind remembers how good things used to be and are not likely to be again...

Her conclusion? Suffering is often worse than pain.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

To Fix? Or to Toss?!

My favorite cookbook is my Fanny Farmer cookbook, 11th edition. (Each edition is a little different.)

I bought my first copy, a paperback edition, when I was a university student. Once, to lighten my load when I was moving, I gave that copy to a friend, thinking I'd be able to buy another...

That's when I discovered that each edition was a little different!

I eventually found the book I wanted on Ebay, and even ordered a second, so that I'd have a backup if the first one disintegrated... which it finally has!

Now my question is: to try to salvage this one by having it coil bound? Or to toss it and rely solely on my other copy - which is still in reasonably good shape?!

I'll have to think about that for a while!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Memories of Winter Fun

I looked out my west-facing window... to see a group of neighborhood children sledding down the berm at the edge of the college, while their mothers looked on.

I had forgotten that it doesn't take a high hill to have sledding fun!

When our children were young, Terry used to pile up snow to create sliding hills beside the ditch, and next to our back deck.

I may hate to walk on icy roads, but for children, winter is a lot of fun!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Architectural Art

I love pen and ink drawings. (But I can't seem to find time to practice doing them myself!)

Recently I came across these architectural pen and ink drawings on Instagram...

They were drawn by one of my daughter's friends.

(I think she was practicing one a day over her Christmas vacation.)

I also discovered a whole artistic community out there - on Instagram - who are fascinated by architectural art!

 I have all the needed supplies... Maybe this is the inspiration I need to try it myself.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Danger Overhead!

Most houses in our neighborhood are well insulated, so few icicles hang from their roofs.

In older parts of town this is not the case!

I was amazed to see cars parked under icicles!

Couldn't a falling one shatter a windshield or dent a roof?!

Walkers need to be careful as well... We're so busy looking at ice on the ground that we forget there are dangers overhead!