Sunday, October 17, 2010


A hundred years ago, my great grandmother and great grandfather were working their farm and raising a bumper crop of children. Minerva and R.C. Ray. 
They listened to the radio in the dim light of evening and she would do her hand work almost by touch. Resourcefully and artistically, she created her quilts and clothing, using pieces as small as postage stamps. 
My mother visited her grandparents in June 1943. It was war time and Minerva was sewing quilts for the Red Cross. Using the log cabin pattern, she took strips of dark and light fabric from her scrap bag and sewed them to fabric foundations. Patterns slowly emerged.
Passions have a great power to influence, and to inspire. My mother, finding herself surrounded by the  kaleidoscope of her grandmother's calicoes and cottons, succumbed to the charm of quilting.
Time rolled along and my mother's own grandchildren, an even dozen, grew up. As they married, she presented each with a log cabin quilt. Passion, passed from generation to generation.
A few years ago, she instructed and encouraged me, as I sewed a lap sized version of her foundation pieced log cabin "quilt as you go" pattern. Patiently, proudly.
I'm thankful that my mother instilled in me a love of fabric, with its endlessly varied color and pattern, and for giving value to time spent creating. It has brought such joy to my life.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I have always loved the feeling of crawling into bed at night, and putting my mind on scan and seek. Sometimes though, my thoughts left unchecked are like a pinball machine. Lights flash and sirens sound. Or perhaps, like a minefield. Danger lurking just below the surface. I have found that confronting these nameless dreads is the best strategy. They are often shadows anyway, and can't hold up to the Light.

baker boy

My husband has learned how to bake bread.
He had casually asked if I had plans for the day.
"You want me to teach you how to bake bread, don't  you." I had responded, a light dawning.
Soon we were leaning together over a cookbook, spatula and yeast in hand.
I've baked bread for years, and do it by "feel" now. Still, seeing the ratios of dry to liquid, and the instructions to stir and knead, in black and white, seemed a wise starting point.
My husband, a rather careful and precise man, took to bread making like a duck to water. His first batch of bread rose, and baked into golden, crusty loaves. He baked again today. The house was filled with the fragrance of contentment.
Give a man a loaf of bread and you feed him for a day. Teach him to bake, and can pastry be far behind.

sweet solace

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, oh oh.
Do you remember frantically looking for a place to hide, while "it" counted ruthlessly down?
Ready or not, here I come!

My week felt like a countdown.
I wasn't ready.
I was tagged so hard, I fell to my knees.

While looking back over my day, I had become more and more discouraged.
I turned to the computer for distraction.
Before I knew what was happening, I had entered a labyrinth of blogs.
As I crept along, gazing to the left and right at creative wonders unnumbered, I found my spirits rising.
Winsome, charming, creative people abound.
Sweet solace.
The world IS a wonderful place.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

double trouble

Troubles shared, are troubles halved.
I don't know who did the math on that one, but sometimes, troubles shared are troubles doubled. This was the profound insight my husband and I laughingly stumbled upon while out for an evening wander.
What's yours is mine, and what's mine is yours is a truism of marriage, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And when we signed on the dotted line, it was to spend the rest of our lives "helping." Helping with our prayers, our patience and our presence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

landed immigrants

Californians are in our midst.
Tall and stately giants.
A detour this morning, led me down 88th ave., past a stand of twenty three towering trees.
California Redwoods.
There is something truly magnificent about very old trees. These would be considered Heritage for sure. What a wonderful title for a tree, Heritage. Something passed down through the generations, a birthright, an inheritance.
The Antiques Road Show always talks about provenance. I wish I knew the story behind these trees. In fact, a Heritage Road Show would be fascinating. The stories behind old landmark buildings, great old barns, mansions, and gardens.
Long ago, twenty three little trees travelled north, and were transplanted into the moist, cool Canadian soil. Landed immigrants.

Monday, October 11, 2010

plaid dad

Plaid makes me think of my Dad. His own father hailed from Scotland and he is rightfully very proud of his Celtic heritage. I grew up listening to every Scottish ballad imaginable and Pipes and Drums were the background music of my childhood. A lone piper, a wild and rocky northern seacoast, these are things that stir my heart, and the first notes of Danny Boy can send me scrambling for a Kleenex.
I think there is such a thing as deflected love. I love my Dad, therefore, I love what he loves, and more than that, I love what reminds me of him.
I was amazed to discover plaid dinner napkins at IKEA this afternoon. And they were only 2.99 for a package of 50. Priced to delight a Scottish heart.

joy unclaimed

The leaves may have turned scarlet and the nights frosty, but in my childhood, fall was ushered in by the arrival of the Eaton's and Sears Christmas catalogs.
Our little town had no library, no shopping centre, and no television. The catalogues became all three. They were read from cover to cover like a book, wish lists were imagined and re- imagined, and hours of entertainment were extracted from their pages. Literally. I was probably not the only little girl who grew attached to the pictures of  babies and toddlers modelling clothing. Cut carefully out, they made wonderful paper dolls. Pages of toys and furniture were there for the taking too, and even parents if the need arose. I actually remember the faces of some of the clothing models and watched them age right along with me.
It was a sad day when Eatons discontinued their catalogs and of course, eventually their stores. They were a part of the rich cultural heritage of small town Canada.
We are so bombarded with media today that I'm glad there are still endless dreams left undreamed and unimagined joy yet unclaimed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

T Rex

A fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex stalks my hallway. His teeth are long and jagged. His arms are stretched out as though to clutch the unwary.
We have a large blackboard painted on one wall of our hallway for the entertainment of our grandchildren. Some amazing creatures have appeared and then become extinct, lost in the mist of time and chalk dust.
This T Rex is a particularly fine specimen. I was to have been the creator but my grandson kept giving me artistic advice and was finally forced into starting from scratch to show me what a Tyrannosaurus really looks like.
This dinosaur sketch is everything that art should be; bold, evocative and full of life and movement. It's a wonderful thing to own a great piece of art, and knowing the artist is even better.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the value of rest

"I just got back from a cruise in the Mediterranean," the clerk confided.
"Ohh, mmm," I nodded.
"We went in to Barcelona on a Sunday."
I raised my eyebrows and smiled.
"Everything shuts down on Sundays." he added, his voice incredulous.
"Well," I countered. "God must have known what we need, when He told us to rest on the seventh day."
He nodded emphatically. "It's not religious, it's cultural," he assured me. "The whole country was out by the thousands as families. No shopping, everything was closed, but they were eating a meal with their grandchildren and sipping wine with their friends. What's wrong with us here?" he asked shaking his head sorrowfully.
"I suppose it's what we value, what we see as a priority." I offered.
It's religious and cultural.

watching the time

I don't always wear a watch. This may be why I stood beside my car, my grocery cart laden, and finally thought to check to see how I was doing for time. "Ten thirty," I thought, startled. "How could it be only ten thirty."
Heading into large stores with no windows, can be like heading into a twilight zone. The passing of time is not easily marked. We once headed into the mall on a clear December day and emerged to complete white out conditions as a blizzard systematically shut down every route home.
Well, since it was still early, I thought wearily, I really had no excuse for not taking care of a couple more errands. Into the trunk went the groceries, and back into no man's land I headed. Later, as I turned the key and my car sprang into action, the clock in the dashboard glaringly revealed that time had indeed passed. I looked accusingly at my watch. Its winding pin had popped out of place. My watch, still labouring under the illusion that it was half past ten didn't make eye contact with me.
Time does not stand still, but I don't think it marches steadily onward either. It's one of the measureless mysteries of life, capable of crawling and taking flight, all in the same day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

high ho silver

"Your scissors are toast," the woman stated emphatically. My scissors, my dear Henckel shears, sewing companion for many a year......... toast? Every sewer knows that dropping your "good" scissors is punishable in a court of law. Even cutting paper with them is a federal offense for goodness sakes and they should never, ever be handled by minors.
My scissors have been stored (hidden) and treasured (worn to the bone) although they were probably due for a sharpening when they had the fatal fall.
I'm not sure how long I would have remained in denial if they had not also been my barber shears. My husband began to resemble an orchestra conductor. He couldn't actually flip his hair back, but he had a wild and rakish appearance first thing in the morning. Compassion overcame procrastination. Refusing to accept the truth, I clutched my scissor halves and headed for House of Knives. Ahhhhh, the lifetime Henckel warranty. I had forgotten about that. Repair was a possibility although a trip in the mail would be necessary. They could also be replaced and upgraded to a higher quality steel. The price, paltry, less than postage. The plus, instant gratification and instant barber shears. Partings can give a pang, but I felt I was resting an old workhorse and harnessing up a sharp young steed. High ho silver away.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

live on

Leftovers live on. At my house, they travel to work as hot lunches, or are re-imagined into familiar yet different future suppers. I try to keep them under control though. Teetering stacks of Rubbermaid can crowd out the essentials.
I like to be sure that if a starving stranger staggered into my house, and grazed on the contents of my fridge, they would not be found later, cold and stiff. I used this argument to no avail on my mother growing up. She felt that leftovers of various vintage in her fridge were a type of home invasion protection apparently. I probably throw out perfectly good food as a back lash to such a casual approach to death, by leftovers.
Tonight, my kitchen counter is strewn with Rubbermaid containers. Our friend, is fixing herself a light supper after a late shift. Her nose could be hired out as a detection device at the airport. Just a sniff, and potatoes and broccoli are deemed "safe" for consumption. My motto has always been, When in doubt, throw it out, but our friend is fearless. She laughs in the face of danger, and like my leftovers, lives on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

happy endings

"Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top," I sang, rocking my grinning granddaughter. "When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all." "That's sad, isn't it," my grandson wistfully observed. "A lot of nursery rhymes aren't happy," his mother musingly added.
Jack fell down and broke his crown, Humpty Dumpty couldn't be repaired, three blind mice had their tails chopped off, Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare, and there are a host of other sorry stories. It's never too early to learn about the good news/bad news reality of life. I suppose it helps to balance out all the happy endings of the fairy tales.

Teflon coated heart

This morning, I wished I had a Teflon coated heart. Disappointment and frustration had linked arms, it seemed, and were calling, "red rover, red rover, we call YOU over." I was never very good at that game, and when it applies to all of the interpersonal relationships that are so precious and give such meaning to my life, I have a new rule. I don't have to play that game. Love forgives, and seeks the others best. It is a guardian of the soul. Love is better than Teflon

Sunday, October 3, 2010

not surprised

We had a little pocket of time this afternoon that begged to be filled, so it was off to the zoo. We wandered aimlessly, enjoying the crisp, October air. Monkey screams and screeches clamoured in the distance. The zoo train whistle shrieked. A lion was making a sound, that you feel, as much as you hear; Not a roar, but a deep grunt that resonates. Ughhhh, Ughhhhh. Zoo music.
Pausing in front of the Mara enclosure, we began to read its profile. "They gather in family groups of up to 15 individuals, although, they try to avoid each other," it inexplicably added. "Grumblings, threatening grunts, and screams are sounds they make." I laughed out loud when I read the last line. Gathering a large group of reluctant companions would likely lead to grumblings, threatening grunts, and screams. I'm not surprised at all.

Friday, October 1, 2010

come and gone

It's hard to believe that October has arrived. It seems as though we folded on the dotted line, Spring to Fall and here we are. It's even harder to believe that the first decade of the new millennium has come and gone.

Ten years ago, as 1999 roared up to the finish line, my December birthday arrived as usual. That year, I chose an applique quilt block pattern by Maggie Walker to mark the occasion. It became my Year 2000 project. I figured that there must be 2000 pieces in it, or at least 2000 stitches, and would be a challenge, just as was befitting the occasion. Y2K was all about challenge. I loved the treasure hunt that ensued to find just the right fabric for feather and flower. A leopard print worked perfectly for some of the feathers. The others were assorted spots and dots and swirls. The falling leaf on the bottom edge is covering a snip I made in the quilt edge by mistake. You gotta love applique. I was delighted to find chicken wire print fabric for the backing and binding. When the top was finally finished, I wanted the quilting to be a part of the story, and spider webs seemed like the right choice. They are wonderfully random, and could be stitched to fit the space as needed. I love the sense of distance, and the feeling of being a part of the picture at the same time.
The rooster in the open window symbolizes to me confidence and watchfulness. Qualities to cultivate, as the new millennium picks up speed.