Thursday, January 31, 2013


I first introduced this quilt back in 2010. It was just a twinkle in my eye then. Well, maybe not even a twinkle. Maybe more of a glint of fear.  I had no idea how I would quilt it and so it languished in a box in the cupboard. I don't mean that I had no idea what design to quilt. I mean I had no idea HOW to quilt it. Hand quilting was out. As well, my machine predates the walking foot so straight lines marching to and fro seemed unlikely. Free motion quilting was just beginning to be detected on my radar though, and as I began to see the light,  I started to work my way down, down, like an archaeologist, down to projects begun in 2010. 
At last, this month, I unearthed number five and shook it out, unfurling it to the light of day. I discovered that it didn't really lay as smoothly as it should even after wielding the iron with some authority. I also had some misgivings about my sandwiching and basting as the project got underway. 
I refused to allow these details to stand in the way of progress. 
It quilted up lickety split and as flat as a pancake.
I still feel a bit giddy with relief.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


We had BLTC's for lunch. I didn't have enough B to really do justice to the sandwich so I added some slices of leftover cold C. It worked perfectly.
Aren't abbreviations everywhere?
The pace of communicating seems to have been dialed up a notch. How's that for mixed metaphors.
I once knew a man whose speech was liberally sprinkled with abbreviations. I never had a clue what he was saying. I had to stop him for interpretation so many times that it would have been faster for him climb a hill and send me the message by semaphore.
Still, with texting and tweeting destined to increase and morph at will, abbrev. will continue to proliferate. It really is the development of another language before our eyes.
Thank goodness there will always be interpreters to nudge us along,  to keep us in the know.
Apparently lol is as passe as groovy, eclipsed by icons ever speedier.
Good to know.

too tight

I worked on a quilt yesterday.
Did you notice that little slip? That word choice so inadvertent? Work and hobbies don't readily spring to mind in the same sentence. Now relaxation and hobbies, or exhilaration and hobbies, that seems more like it.
A lot of leisure pursuits have their element of labour and even angst though.
Think of hiking, sweat dripping off of your nose as black flies gnaw you to the bone. Still, the view, the crisp mountain air, the exhilaration..... it compels us into our boots and out the door.
Think of carving; The whittled knuckles and the slivers. But the wooden bird, satin smooth and richly burnished, it takes one by the hand.
Think of painting; The water pooling, colors muddy; the angst. Still, light and shadow call.
And of course quilting.
I'm venturing into the newness of free-motion quilting.
I'm riding a learning curve and I have been holding on too tight.
I clenched every muscle yesterday as I steered about my quilt surface, free-motion quilting.
I hobbled away wracked with crick and cramp and pang.
When I returned with a feeling of grim resignation to continue, the strangest thing happened.
I no longer felt tense.
I wasn't in a complete body clench.
Something had changed.
I had found my rythym.
I quilted on as loosey goosey as you please. The leaves flowed in an undulating pattern.
It was exhilarating.

a series

Why does morning break and night fall, and for that matter, why does dawn crack? It lends such a dangerous air to daily life. Humpty Dumpty comes to mind. He fell and cracked poor fellow. He couldn't be put back together, not with the help of all the King's horses and all the King's men. I suppose that is true of passing time, of each day as it becomes yesterday. But thankfully, it isn't damaged goods. Just the opposite really. Each day is a complete story with a beginning and a middle and an end, and it is part of a chapter..... and a whole book... in a series.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


"You never know what may cause them. The sight of the Atlantic Ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. ... You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next."     
Beyond Words by Frederick Buechner [62]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

high and lofty

Photo albums are full of mysteries. Of course some are pretty easy to solve. There are always clues. This is a rare photo of my father holding me. Don't you think my hair came from his side of the family?
My age is a mystery but the garden holds the key to solving this one.
What do you think?
Those plants look past their prime don't they. They speak of summer spent.
There is a double clue in my lack of sweater.
The day is somehow warm, but mosquito free at the same time.
I'm guessing that the picture was taken then, in September after an early frost.
Do I look eight or nine months old to you?
My father looks quite proud of his fifth and final,
and I, of my high and lofty perch.

snapshot of the past

This picture truly is a snapshot of the past, a wide and varied past.
Note how the wicker chair, so sixties in its sensibilities, shares the space with the overstuffed chair of the forties. The T.V. tray is a fifties acquisition and the philodendron meandering up the wall has likely seen each decade march by in succession. Why was there always a plant toiling towards the light?
Of course, all of that is just background; the stage and set.
The players are the blithe and bonnie group of children;
all five of us plus the guest appearance of a tiny sober cousin.
My two oldest sisters are resplendent in their ubiquitous matching dresses. Still, I note that my mother has wisely sewn in unique details on each.
My brother is clad in the boys uniform of the time; striped and short sleeved.
We little girls, with our matching hairstyles seem intent on other things than preserving our image for posterity. There are those dolls you know. They are clearly someone else's babies from a decade or two past, but they have maintained their charm as all dolls do.
I love our dresses. They would be perfectly at home now in 2013 I think.
The past and present always exist together, whether in our photo album or our memory.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

just like her

It's 1949 and my sisters stand in a snowbank as usual. It is Blue River after all.
They are already wearing dresses that have something about them, a common denominator even if it is just the plaidness of them.
They will grow ever more matching as the years unfold.
The Diapered One is clearly thrilled with snow.
It is new and entertaining and wet;
Just like her.


My older sisters are nestled in the grass; little fledglings. My oldest sister's hair is as straight as straw and about the same color. The other has gentle waves richly brown. Both are clad in homegrown beauty; a pin tucked, buttoned dress and sturdy overalls covered by a bulky hand knit.
I'm surprised that the second born is sporting bangs. We others all had the same swept and clipped to the side style.
I'm glad a doll made it into the photo. Do you think it was a 'he'? I wonder what his name was. I wonder too whose fingers fashioned him; my grandmother or my mother and if he had a wardrobe.
The light in this picture is so perfect. It would make a wonderful watercolor painting.
Two little girls as sweet as a summer morning.
Homegrown beauty.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

marmalade sky

The sun is setting. A beautiful marmalade sky glistens beyond the darkening trees.

Friday, January 18, 2013

gingerbread bears

My aunt made felt gingerbread men and suddenly had an inspiration.
Why not add ears and a snout. A bearish snout.
She confided that the idea had come from bears my mother made once upon a time. I thought there was a familiar something about that face. It took a few tries she admitted. The nose seemed to point too up or too down but at last she got it just right.
If you kind of squint, you can still see the remnant of gingerbread about the edges, but a clever Christmas bear, festive and vested made his debut for the holidays.
He has a sister too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

cracked up to be

The last few days before Christmas found me feeling restless and at loose ends. I had been especially busy mid-month and now found that without projects to focus on, I was entirely unfocused. I realized then, that I am happiest when I have 'things' to do, that when my hands are busy, my mind is somehow free. Very strange.
I came up with some last minute sewing projects and my free moments were instantly spoken for.  I felt useful and happy as I sewed and snipped and pressed.
Just before Christmas, I fell under the spell of this years flu/cold. Turning to my sewing machine for comfort, I began to sew a little pair of slippers but my sewing machine seemed suddenly out of sorts. It ground its gears and clanked to an ominous stop.
I was immediately stricken with angst.
I was sorry that I hadn't been faithful in having my machine serviced. My dear old friend. Thirty-five years is a long time to love something.
What if it couldn't be repaired..
I was sorry that I couldn't sew now.
Sorry the holidays would mean a longer wait for the repairman.
Sorry that I was coming down with the flu.
Sorry for myself too I guess.
I tried to picture life without my Pfaff and succumbed to tears.
What a pitiful state.

The New Year included a trip to the repair shop and a few days waiting for The Call.
It came at last.
Sweet relief.
My Pfaff lives on and so do I thankfully.
Love is not without its hazards and happy endings really are what they're cracked up to be.


Tiny slippers for my tiny granddaughter from tiny snippets of fabric left after making her quilt.

the whole village

A small village reposes on my living room shelf. They remind me of fish bowl ceramics or maybe those German gingerbread cookies you get at deli's, so thinly glazed. I have no idea where they came from now, perhaps my sister found them in one of her thrifting forays. I do love them though. I'd like to live in the little house with the red roof just a few steps away from a whole village.


I love enamel ware. I have tried to restrict myself to white with black trim but it is no use. The siren call is irresistible.
These cups really belong to my daughter though. She confided that she had always wished for enamel ware cups for camping. I resolved to make my daughter's wish come true.
How amazing that on my very next trip to the thrift shop, I found a trio of cups.
My daughter was pregnant at the time with our third grandchild. How delightfully inclusive then, to tote home three little cups.


I don't believe we had a tree skirt when I was a child. The sweeping branches of the Christmas tree rustled atop brightly wrapped packages. No one thought it strange to see the foot of the tree nailed into a two by four stand or wedged into the CN bucket, coal packed tightly around the trunk.
It was all about the lights and angel hair. The blown glass balls as delicate as birds eggs twisted and turned and the bubble lights percolated amongst the branches.
Somewhere along the line though, the tree skirt began its steady but sure evolution. Perhaps a quilt or cable knit afghan was wrapped warmly about the base at first. Maybe the poncho craze in the sixties or the handcraft blitz of the seventies was behind it all. I know by the eighties, trees wore skirts and that was all there was to it.
This year, my daughter wished for a tree skirt and I seized the moment.
I trolled google images for inspiration. I scrolled past the round and lacy, past the red and green wedges, past the appliqued snowmen and flocked ruffles. A hexagon shaped tree skirt suddenly glimmered like a ray of hope. Here it was. 
I had been looking for just the right project for my dad's plaid shirts. Something Christmas was perfect, infused with sentiment as the season is.
I cut triangles from several shirts and stitched a hexagon. I backed it with flannel and quilted it with holly leaves and swirls. Then I took a deep breath and cut into the centre and removed a saucer sized circle of quilt. I bound the edges, bias on the curve and straight for the rest and viola, there it was. I didn't add ties because it lays perfectly closed all by itself. And more importantly, who wants to lay flat on the floor with their arms around the tree base and branches up their nose whilst tying a bow by braille.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

still feel the same

My sister is carefully crouching in the sandbox and probably emerged some time later as neat as a pin. I've abandoned frivolous concerns and have settled in up to my knees.
I am noticing that my sister is clad in coordinating separates. I on the other hand, am dressed like a small bohemian in a striped top and flowered shift, a trend that peaked in my teens.
I can see that my pail is full and I am tamping it down. I hope there wasn't a frog in it. The little boy next door and I would often find frogs and pack them around and bury them in random places like sandboxes. It was all in the interest of science. We would find frogs pressed into the mud, soundly sleeping in the early spring and pry them from their comfortable beds. Their lethargy alarmed us and we were sure they were very sick, that their lives were in our hands, which of course was all too true. As we packed them 'round and passed them from hot little hand to hot little hand, the drowsy, cold blooded frogs revived. What a miracle cure. I imagine that the odd, chilled little victim  tenderly buried in warm sand, experienced the same restorative cure that many winter vacationers crave.

P.S. I still feel the same way about sand, and about stripes and flowers, but not about frogs.

Monday, January 14, 2013

saying cheese

I am the little girl on the right, clutching her elbow. I'm sure to have been following orders regarding the proper placement of hands in a photo but veered off course a bit. Note how my older sister has grasped the subtlety.
I'm glad to see that my socks match. I recall a nurse on the steps of the outpost hospital in Blue River coaxing my oldest sister and I to stop while she took our picture, and my teenage sister's angst over my socks, one blue and one red.
Those little matching dresses are so much a part of my growing up memories. There was always an element of sameness about them. I probably remember them because I wore all of them twice, first my own little frock and then my sisters as I stretched for the light.
I can very dimly recall this photo being taken. There were visitors off to the right that my older sister was unable to ignore, but I just gripped my elbow and honed in on the camera lens.

Friday, January 11, 2013

heading off beyond

Grandma and Grandpa- The Sequel.
Oh this photo, this photo!!
I wanted to crop it, to bring them closer to you, but I just couldn't leave a single bit out. There are so many clues, so many  stories.
The photo is taken on the prairies where they lived and went to college.
See how flat it is and the farm buildings in the distance.
After their marriage they moved to the mountains of B.C.
It is winter, perhaps the winter they married.
They are dressed very festively and it could even be their wedding day.
Her hat and coat scream the 1920's.
My grandmother always looks so independent in photos and this is no different.
Grandpa is leaning slightly towards her. Body language never lies.
I am noticing the distinctive way grandma had of placing her feet. A bit Mary Poppins I think. Nothing giddy and foolish about her, sensible right down to her toes.
My favorite thing of all about this photo, is the road heading off beyond them.
And they are standing right at its very beginning.

looks like love

This laughing couple are my grandparents. I'm not sure what grandpa was doing with his hair but I'm glad he changed barbers.
I do like the flower in his lapel though. Pretty dandy.
And she has a little cluster of flowers at her throat too. Looks like love to me.
Grandpa always had a dear, thin look in suits; so wistfully charming.
And, I love my grandma's jacket. I wonder what color it was. Perhaps she made it while she was at Olds. She was very clever with a needle and could draft patterns out of thin air.
I imagine that this was taken in the early twenties, they were married on Christmas Day, 1923.
He had traveled far from his beginnings in Norway. He was drawn to my grandmother. She surrounded him with the comfort of love and the joy of comradeship.
No wonder they look so happy.
I'd love to know what the photographer said though, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

to conversation

My mother measures the severity of winter storms by the number of deck boards wet with rain. Today was a seven board storm.
The wind blew the rain sideways and kept the windows streaked; washed by icy streams and waves.
It shouldn't have been a surprise when the power went out with a thunk.
In days of yore, in our Walnut Grove days, the power was linked so closely to the rising wind, that power outages were accepted as part of a natural chain of events. I had a bin of candles and flashlights always at the ready.
We've grown lax here, and so the rising wind failed to alert me to impending darkness.
For a shocking moment, life seemed to grind to a halt.
I regretted not starting supper earlier.
I regretted that the kettle was cold and empty.
Tea would be good.
A nice cup of tea.
Steaming hot tea.
We consoled ourselves by snacking on a handful of tiny mandarins, sweetly cold.
We discussed the changes we would make to our house if money were hurled against our windows like the rain......
I considered cedar shingles, silvered by the weather as siding.
My husband knocked out a wall and moved cupboards.
We pondered insulation and fireplaces.
The room took on a cozy glow of pleasant conversation.
With a beep and whirr, the power was on.
I sprinted to the kitchen and turned on the kettle.
Supper preparations began in a flurry.
My husband began to reset clocks and computers.
I savored my hot supper and my steaming cup of tea but the unexpected darkness was a treat too; a catalyst to conversation.

wee friends

A little thank you card.... tiny clasped hands, small hats, wee friends.

joy of a toy

The week of Christmas coincided with a cold. (or collided)  A sinister cold that left we limp and gasping.
One evening, a friend swooped in and gaily presented me with brightly colored envelopes and a bag of rustling Christmas cheer.
Out of the depths of a reindeer bag, I pulled a gift from her mother.
A Christmas present for me.
Puzzle blocks.
Vintage happiness complete with a tiny wooden wagon for storage.
I found myself arranging and rearranging the blocks, my head bent in concentration.
I made first one picture and then another.
I flipped and turned and admired.
Oh the joy of a toy at Christmas.

like magic

I love painting water color cards. They are such perfectly bite sized projects. And I love painting birds. Just a few dabs and their shape appears like magic.

earning a star

I broke a tooth flossing.
Now how does that saying go about an old horse and its teeth?
Never mind. My dentist kindly assured me that it had absolutely nothing to do with my age although he did have to back pedal abit when he started in about old fillings.
As I sat limply in the chair listening to the drill and concentrating on breathing around mouth guards, I reminded myself of the joy of rewards. I have a hard and fast rule that a visit to the dentist is worthy of a reward for being a brave girl. My mother may have started this when I was six or seven but it seems a tradition worth maintaining don't you think?
It wasn't long at all until I staggered from the dentist chair and steered my car to the nearest thrift shop. A brief wander and my spirits rebounded wonderfully.
There is always the thrill of the hunt at a thrift store, the possibility of uncovering a treasure and sure enough, a chip carved ornament was there like a gift amongst the clutter.
A little reward, like earning a star.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

dear familiar face

My sister once wore the crown of only child and only grandchild. How fortunate that great grandmother Minerva was visiting from afar while little Cheryl was such royalty. It made a four generation photo possible.
I never knew my great grandmother Minerva, and I have no memory of my mother looking so sweetly young, nor of my sister as a baby but my grandmother looks delightfully familiar to me.
My eye goes instantly to her as I gaze at the foursome. She smiles warmly at the camera and I can almost feel that summer sun on my face too. 
It seems strange to me that I am now a grandmother myself;
That I could sit in the center, flanked on either side by my aged mother and my sweetly young daughter with her daughters on her knee;
That some generation hence, I will be a face, that dear familiar face.

a haven

Old photos are full of clues and this one is no different.
It tells a story about my mother more than sixty years ago.
Snow has piled up above the fence but she has taken her armful of children outdoors for a photo op with visiting Auntie Fran.
Snow was the backdrop of so many family pictures in Blue River.
My big sisters are the little girls wearing matching dresses and sensible boots. Their tights are cable knit, thick and warm.
My brother is clad in woolen leggings and cozy long sleeves. 
Clearly, here was a mother whose children were more than well cared for, they were enjoyed; so  beautifully robed for winter.
The women hover for that brief photographic moment, the children happily perched upon their laps.
My sister is clasping a pump handle.
The pump was not a yard ornament. It meant that my mother had no indoor plumbing, no washer, no flush toilet or sink with hot and cold water, no large deep bathtub.
Caring for three young children without running water was a make work project.
More work projects beckon within.
In the window sill are silver cans, saved and filled with green plant slips. A window garden.
Just beyond, a box of canning jars stand waiting.
Family life, hard work in any era, is full of rewards.
It provides the opportunity to create a backdrop for memory;
the opportunity to create beauty and comfort.
A haven from the cold.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

like a bandit

The plate of Christmas cookies on the kitchen counter proved an irresistible temptation. 
My daughter noticed a cookie in her child's hand.
"I sneaked it..... like a bandit," my little granddaughter confessed.

still my mother

"Do you know what building we are in?' my mother asks.
"It's our home Mom," I gently say. "It's our home here in Aldergrove."
We speak of winter weather then and Christmas recently enjoyed, although she has no memory of it.
"I wonder how my mother is doing," my mother muses. "Do you know where she is now?"
Her mother, my grandmother, has been gone for twenty years. She would be one hundred and fourteen this year if she were still living.
A few minutes later, she asks again about her mother, our previous conversation wiped from her memory. She wonders aloud about her father, gone for fifty years, and my father, gone for two.
There are tears as grief is revisited.
We recall with thankfulness together my father's life well lived.
This is one of her 'bad' days. I can almost tell by looking at her face whether she is having a good or bad day with memory.
She is living in the moment now, unable to either remember or think ahead.
It is surprising to me how well one can live with both memory and anticipation stripped away.
The dailiness of life then becomes a boon.
There are still gifts, still lessons passed along.
She is still my mother.

the love of both

This picture was taken in the early fifties. I am guessing this because my brother was born in 1950 and he looks about three or four don't you think?
I'm sorry at times like this that I am last born and missed out on the plethora of early pictures that first born children enjoy.
Childhood photos of me are as scarce as hen's teeth.
Still, I treasure these moments captured of my older siblings.
I do remember those dolls. They were made out of a tan oilcloth with painted hair and features. My brother's hobby horse was probably cut from the same cloth, no pun intended.
It is possible that my grandmother was the toymaker. There is something about them that reminds me of her. I just can't put my finger on it.
There is a magic about handmade toys.
When children play with them, when they are scooped into waiting arms, they take on a life of their own. They reflect back the charm and liveliness of children.
They become infused with joy;
Infused with the love of both the toymaker and the child.
Perhaps that's it.

beginning anew

Have I told you before that I love New Years?
It is such a profound holiday.
It contains much of the wisdom of life in a condensed form.
New Years says-
That there is value in looking back with thankfulness.
That dreaming and planning are essentials of life.
That endings and beginnings are interwoven.
That I can begin anew, with a fresh page and a full pen.
Happy New Year!