Monday, December 31, 2018

My "Courage Teachers"

I came across an interesting comment in a foreword to Brenda Ueland's book, If  You Want to Write.

Andrei Codrescu writes that, as a writing instructor: Brenda Ueland is one of those beings Allen Ginsburg calls "Courage Teachers" ... There is no higher teacher. Brenda Ueland is a believer, and her faith is contagious. The thing that she believes in is ... the power that comes from paying complete attention to one's circumstances... It's simple, but still secret, because it takes Courage.

I like the term, Courage Teacher - not necessarily for the reason Codrescu states - but because excellent teachers always empower their students to believe in themselves, whether they are learning to write, paint... or whatever.

The term Courage Teacher brought to mind those writing instructors I have never personally met, but whose books gave me courage to persevere in writing...

First, Natalie Goldberg in all her writing books, notably Writing Down the Bones.

Later, Anne Lamott in her book on writing entitled, Bird by Bird...

And of course, the wonderfully empowering book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way.

These three women have been "courage teachers" to me.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Blue "Shirt" Quilt - Quilted

A few weeks ago, I started on a blue quilt made from shirt factory scraps...

I managed to finish it and machine quilt it before Christmas...

I love the tranquil colors!

Not sure what fabric to use for the binding... But that's a problem I'll leave for the new year!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

An Interesting Biography

One of the writers I appreciate is Phyllis Tickle, author of the Divine Hours prayer book series...

I saw her in person in Toronto a few years back, when I attended a weekend conference that she led - about a year before she died of cancer.

She was so different than I had imagined that I was really taken aback!

Who is this person, really? I wondered... Definitely not quiet and reflective, as I had imagined her to be! So I began to read more of her autobiographical books...

I still can't say I've reconciled my impression of the person I heard speak with the  author of these prayer books. I have, however, discovered some interesting stories of her life.

Born in the southern USA 10-15 years before I was born, her life was very different than mine...

When she was a teenager, for example, her mother and aunt compiled a list of 13 young men in her community that she was permitted to date! The amazing thing - to me - was that this outspoken, free-thinker that I saw in later life actually complied! And she ended up marrying one of them!

(A dozen years later - when I was a teenager - I would have laughed if my mother had suggested something like this to me!! In fact, I can't even imagine it...)

Had times changed so drastically in a decade? Or was Canada simply a freer place to grow up than the American South?

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Terry Test

Terry is a quality control expert! Whenever he goes shopping with our daughter, she has him check the clothing she wants to purchase for possible buttons missing and seams coming apart.

But finding perfection does take time!

Recently he was buying a snow shovel... After 10 minutes of browsing around the store, I wandered over to where he had been looking at them for 10 minutes.

He was still there, checking each one for bent metal or broken plastic...

You should put your personal rating or seal of approval on each one you check, I told him. The Terry test! 

People would know that they are buying an item that has been examined carefully - they'd probably even be willing to pay extra for it! 

Of course, he ignored me... He was busy focusing on the task at hand!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Ninety Years...

This month marks 90 years since my mother and her family immigrated to Canada.

According to the account my mother and her brother Erhardt wrote (in the early 1980's), which was later published in the Alberta history book, South Edmonton Saga, they left their farm in Kremnanke, Ukraine on November 13, 1928, and boarded a train for Moscow. At Riga, they boarded a ship for Southampton, and from there took another ship to Canada.

Here is a picture of the family as they looked at that time.

They arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on December 8, 1928 and boarded a train that crossed Canada, arriving in Edmonton on December 13, 1928.

My mother, bottom left, was 9. Her sister Lydia, 11. Her older brother Erhardt, 14. Her younger brother, Ted, was 4.

In January the older three started attending Mill Creek School, where they all learned to read and write English.

The family considered themselves very fortunate, as on January 1, 1929, less than a month after they immigrated to Canada, the Russian government prohibited further emigration from Russia.

They left so much sadness behind, but coming to a new (colder) country with a strange language was a challenge, too.

I remember my grandfather telling us that they traveled from Saint John to Winnipeg by train, the train was so crowded with immigrants that some had to be in animal cars.

(Thinking about that now, I wonder: Why didn't I ask him for details like, Was it cold in the animal cars? It was, after all, winter...) In Winnipeg a large number of immigrants got off - those who had been sponsored by the Mennonite Central Committee. So the last few days on the train, finally sitting in passenger cars, were more comfortable. My grandmother got everyone cleaned up before arriving in Edmonton, where they had friends.

I remember her telling me that when they got off the train, everything was so different... When she couldn't understand anyone speaking English... she just wanted to turn around and go back.

But we didn't have any money, she commented - then added: Thank God we didn't have any money!

All these years later, as I look at these pictures, other questions come to mind: They are all dressed so nicely... Did my grandmother sew all the clothing they wore or was it made by a tailor? Did she even have a sewing machine back then? I'll probably never know.

Stories eventually filtered back to them about those who hadn't been able to get leave Russia - friends, neighbors and relatives.  At least one of my grandfather's sisters ended up in Siberia with her family. Others were killed. Several of my grandfather's brothers ended up immigrating to South America, which is why we have relatives there.

It's hard to imagine what life must have been like in those dark days in Eastern Europe (1928-9). Thankfully, they had managed to get out and come to Canada!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Winter Plan

Now that Christmas is over, but I'm still basking in the quiet of the season - it might be a good time to begin a 12-week creative reflection, based on the book, It's Never Too Late to Begin Again, with its subtitle: Discovering Creativity and Meaning in Midlife and Beyond.

I ordered the book because I felt I needed some winter inspiration. Years ago, I found Julia Cameron's famous book The Artist's Way - with its daily reading, writing ("Morning Pages"), walking - and the weekly "Artist's Date" - stirred up a spark that motivated me to fulfill some of my creative dreams.

This winter, I'm looking for another creative spark! Rather than looking through the window and meditating on the cold, inhospitable snow, I want creative ideas to germinate to give me winter joy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

"Yea, Lord We Greet Thee"

It's Christmas...

As I look at our little tree, part of our Christmas tradition, I am reminded of the beauty and mystery of it all.

"Yea Lord, we greet thee - born this happy morning...
Sing choirs of angels. Sing in exultation...!"

I enjoy waking up early - before anyone else... And drinking my morning coffee in the glow of the tree's light.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Looking Back - 1978 Christmas in Kelowna

I'm sorting through photographs and found this one that dates back to Christmas 1978.

Terry and I were living in Toronto that winter, so we decided to fly to Kelowna to spend a few days with my parents.

Here is a picture of me with my parents. Terry must have taken it.

My mother - born in 1919 - would have been 59 years old. My dad, born in 1910, would have been 68. They both look so young! (And I do, too!)

My mother made two comments that Christmas that I still remember: Terry and I had been married a little over a year at that time. She asked if we were planning to have any children...

The second comment occurred while we were walking outdoors in the snow. Terry and my father were walking on one side of the street and my mother and I were walking on the other - parallel to them.

We had debated which sidewalk looked less slippery... and had disagreed. So we all went to the sidewalk we felt was safer.

He's so stubborn, my mother muttered - referring to Terry. Then she added: Just like your father...

We're all pretty stubborn, each going our own way..., I could have added. (But I didn't!)

I've since learned to appreciate another name for "stubbornness" -  "determination." This I view as a positive trait!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Early Christmas Dinner

In past years, Terry and I have driven south to Upper Canada Village to enjoy the lights - and an early Christmas dinner.

We can never have too much turkey!

This year, however, we stayed closer to home, joining our neighbors Earl and Mary at the Miller's Oven, a cafe run by senior citizen volunteers in Manotick.

The food was delicious... The grande finale, a perennial favorite - lemon pie!

(Hopefully, they'll do it again in six months - when they serve "Christmas in July"!)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Home-Made Gifts

A friend of ours often gives hand-made gifts - sweaters, quilts, and so on... (I'm not sure how she finds the time.)

When our daughter was born, she received a lovely hand-knit dress from this friend...

Occasionally I manage to make a few gifts, but not often.

This year (inspired by my neighbor Mary's book) I made Christmas stockings for my daughter's two cats...

They weren't as elegant as the ones in the book - in fact, they're pretty "rustic" - but I was in a rush and I got them done!

And the cats seemed to enjoy them - or at least the bell attached to this one!

I also managed to make a pillow for my granddaughter.

She can put her head on flowers...

... or on a group of cats!

(Each side of the pillowcase is made of different fabric.)

It's fun to make things for people (or pets) who enjoy them!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Gourmet Doughnuts

Our son recently introduced us to a gourmet doughnut shop that he frequents...

The treats all looked so good, we didn't know which to choose!

(Not the kind of place I should be shopping!)

But we did buy - and share - half a dozen.

The Christmas season has so many food temptations, I really don't need to add doughnuts to my diet right now...

Maybe after Christmas - some dull, snowy day...

You should lead a food tour of your favorite local spots, I tell my son...

In the meantime, he takes us to restaurants and cafes he discovers and likes!

(He's one of my main sources of what's happening in Ottawa!)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Quilting Decision Needed

I've been working on this quilt top for a number of weeks now - trying to use up fabric scraps.

My dilemma is whether to make the quilt wider or not... The length is fine, but it's the width I'm wondering about. It's currently the size of the top of a double bed.

After working on it for so long, I'm getting tired of this stage of the process. I'm really ready to start quilting it...

(But I don't want to later regret not making it a bit wider...)

I'll have to think about this a bit...!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Brief Respite from Snow

Here in Ottawa, we have a lot of snow on the ground - though the weather is slated to warm up next weekend, so Terry is optimistically hoping that it will all melt!

I'm not as optimistic!

But last weekend, we decided to leave our snowy city and head south to where there was no snow... We left just as freezing drizzle began to fall...

We didn't have to drive far. One hour south of Ottawa, Brockville, Ontario had no snow!

Then we continued west to Toronto, where we only saw a few snow patches here and there, but the sidewalks were bare...

Then on to Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo, in south-western Ontario, where I could walk in my shoes with no fear of falling...

Eventually we returned to Ottawa - where we were welcomed by piles of snow!

Don't go outside if you don't have to, my son who lives here told me. It's cold - and slippery!

I might make a monthly trip to Toronto by train, if they continue to have safe walking surfaces. I told Terry. You wouldn't have to come, if you didn't want to. I could take the train. If I can't go to Hawaii for the winter, I could at least head for Toronto where I could still walk outdoors!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Adidas Memories

My father loved his adidas jogging pants and matching shirts. He had two pairs of them - one in maroon and one in blue.

A remnant of the blue pants is still around our house... in the form of a duster. But my daughter still wears the matching shirt.

I recently saw this pair of adidas jogging pants in a store. They are not all that different from the ones my father wore 40 years ago! Seeing them did jog my memory!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hunting for Non-Slip Winter Boots

In my adult life, I can remember falling five times on ice in winter. The winter before my first child was born, I slipped on ice downtown. It was embarrassing: I suddenly "sat" down, thankful that my well-padded winter coat provided a soft landing. I noticed worried looks from pedestrians nearby. I reassured them that I was okay, all the while hoping the baby was, too...

Though I can remember falling five times, only twice have I injured myself seriously enough to see a doctor. Once I had a cracked tailbone, another time a fractured wrist. I was a lot younger then, so neither of these proved that serious. Nothing can be done for a cracked tailbone, but I did wear a wrist cast for six weeks after the fracture.

Last winter, I again "sat down" on the ice near our house en route to the mailbox at the end of the street. I didn't hurt myself, fortunately, but I did begin to pay attention to places where the road slopes down towards the ditch. I'm not that young anymore and I've been told I have osteopenia.

I mention these embarrassing details to underscore that I'm not good on ice, and that I'm a little concerned about falling again. To try to prevent this from happening, I've decided to buy the BEST non-slip boots on the market - for those days when ice may be lurking under the snow. I've gone online and discovered that very few women's boots are made with non-slip soles - though a lot of men's boots are. (No surprise there!) I've also discovered that boot soles are rated for anti-slip properties, with 1, 2 or 3 snowflakes, 1 being the best.
The best anti-slip soles, according to a consumer report I read online, are the Sperry Powder Valley Vibron Arctic Grip, which scored 9 out of 10 on a test commissioned by the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Next (at 8 out of 10) was Green Diamond anti-slip technology. I'm not sure which companies sell boots with these soles, but I'm heading out to hunt!

I found the Sperry boots without much difficulty - and managed to find them on sale. I didn't notice any snowflake rating...

I hope they are all they're cracked up to be: I notice that the description states that they are good on "wet ice." I'm not sure what that means. I hope they work when the ice is dry, as well as wet.

Another concern: The consumer report on non-slip boots - which I've linked to above - is two years old... I wonder if things have changed much since then. There should be annual updates on safe sole technology. Falls can affect us all.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunrise and Sunset Time

I often exchange messages with my daughter early in the morning while we are drinking coffee in our homes which are about 500 kilometers apart. She lives 500 kilometers southwest of here...

It's darker than that here, she told me recently, when I sent her a picture of the 7:30 am sky I was looking at... I checked and, sure enough, sunrise in Ottawa is currently 7:36 am while sunrise in Guelph is 7:47... 11 minutes later. Sunset in Ottawa is at 4:20 pm these short days of winter, while in Guelph the sun currently sets at 4:45 pm.

I never thought about it before... We're in the same time zone, but I guess even 500 kilometers does make a difference in sunrise and sunset times!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Enlarging an Afghan

I knit this afghan several months ago - but it was a little small.

I decided to crochet a border around it - to enlarge it a bit...

I did a little at a time, stopping if I felt any wrist pain. After several weeks it was done...

A few inches added to each side make a difference: It's now 4 to 5 inches longer and wider.

Hopefully, with use, it will also stretch.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Buckets of Water

Not one - but two - days this week, residents on our street were warned that the water could be turned off anytime from 8 am to 4 pm while a pipe was being repaired.

Terry and I immediately prepared buckets and pots of water - in case we needed them... and complained a bit about the "inconvenience" - though we concluded that losing water for a few hours was easier to deal with than losing electricity!

(To make up for the inconvenience, we decided to go to a restaurant for lunch!)

(How spoiled we are!!)
The buckets of water sitting in the hall jolted my memory - taking me back to my childhood years in Hay Lakes and Kingman, Alberta, when the only water we had at home had been pumped daily outdoors, then brought into the house... My mother heated the water on the stove for bathing, laundry and, of course, cooking.

Being reminded of this daily chore of bringing in water - a normal part of life for my parents and forefathers before them - was a reality check! What was I complaining about?!!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Back to Quilting

It's amazing how much fabric a bag of quilting scraps can make. I recently pulled out some shirt scraps my neighbor across the street gave me years ago.

Remnants from a shirt factory, they are various colors, shapes and sizes.

I focused on the blue-toned ones, leaving the beige- and red-toned for later use.

I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with them, but I had a few ideas, inspiration from quilts I saw on Pinterest.

I cut the scraps into 5 1/2 inch squares and strips 2 1/2 inches wide. Then I took the remaining smaller pieces and cut them into strips 2 inches wide. Anything smaller than 2 inches was thrown away.

It was tedious work, but I tried to to do several dozen a day.

When I had quite a few ready, I started to sew them together...

I'm still working on it.

This is the fabric of narrower strips... It's about a meter square right now, and I'm still adding to it.

This is the fabric made of squares and strips. I have sewn four pairs of rows together, and I'd like to make it three times that width.

I'm not sure exactly what either of these pieces will end up being. But it's fun to watch ideas evolve.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Guelph Farmers Market

My daughter shops weekly at the Guelph Farmers Market - a cozy place where baked goods, crafts, prepared foods as well as fresh fruit and vegetables are sold.

It's an easy walk from her house... so we left the car at home.

Several vendors sell local honey and wax products.

The apples looked good!

I can see why she likes to shop here.

Unlike the Carp Farmers market that we often shop at, this one is open all year long.