Sunday, December 29, 2019

Beauty, Piece by Piece

We are all important parts of a much larger system, pieces of the universe’s puzzle that would not be complete without us.
Russell Eric Dobda, American author of How to Spin the World Around

To ensure that I took a real break of few tasks and fewer thoughts over the holidays, I bought myself a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle as a Christmas present. It took a long time to search through Amazon’s selections to find this year’s puzzle but finally the “Tapestry Cat” jumped out because it reminded me of my quilted cat.

Alas, this year I couldn’t match the standard set in 2017 when I spent three days in my pyjamas — but I did make an admirable effort. This year it took four days to complete the puzzle and I only abandoned the PJs on two mornings due to outside commitments for which it’s best to dress. ;-)

Although I think of jigsaw puzzles as relaxing it is daunting to face a box full of jumbled pieces. Being a jigsaw novice, I lack any strategic approach to solving puzzles. There’s probably a “right way” to quickly complete the picture but I simply enjoy the journey that slowly reveals the whole picture, piece by piece, often being surprised by details I hadn’t noticed. The creativity and cunning (there are tricks) of the jigsaw artists amaze me.

Already I have eyed the puzzle I want for Boxing Day 2020 in my quest to maintain a restful tradition.

I hope all my kind readers enjoyed a safe and restful holiday.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Warmth

Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.
Washington Irving, American author (1783–1859)

As the hearth burned warm, so did our hearts as family gathered to celebrate Christmas with gift-giving and a wonderful meal. Full of turkey and dressing, the eyelids are drooping; it is now time to sleep.

Wishing all my dear readers hearts filled with the warmth of Christmas all the year through!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Time for Tea and Friends

Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
Henry Van Dyke Jr., American author and clergyman (1852–1933) in Music and Other Poems

Along with our pot of Buckingham Palace Garden Party tea, the server presented an hourglass timer. Its purpose may have been to ensure a proper steep for the tea leaves, but its presence on the table created a stillness. While its purpose may have been to mark time, it also seemed to slow time. We friends chatted contentedly over our (numerous) cups of tea without any sense of time.

As Van Dyke wisely understood, when you are with those you love, time does not exist. And I treasure time spent with friends.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Twinkle's Joy

Lessons from a Christmas tree:
  • Be a light in the darkness.
  • We all fall over sometimes.
  • You can never wear too much glitter.
  • Bring joy to others.
  • Sparkle & twinkle as often as possible.
  • It’s ok to be a little tilted.
Jane Lee Logan, author of Tangled Twinkle

My wee Christmas tree is out of its box — finally. Although still bereft of ornaments, its twinkle brings me joy. Comfort comes from simple pleasures.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Life with a Little Spice

Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.
William Cowper (1731–1800), English poet, in "The Timepiece" (1785)

A lot of people are still very afraid of spice. A lot of them don’t know how to use the full potential of spice. I hope to make them more comfortable using spice and able to add it to their cooking.
Maneet Chauhan, Indian American chef

Perhaps a little unusually, a large bowl of dried hot peppers resides in our office kitchen. The sight of it brings a smile as it reminds me of a family story. Following my grandfather’s return home from military service in Italy in WWII, he and my grandmother would visit their neighbourhood hostelry and slip the hot pepper shaker from the table into her purse to take home with them. Apparently, they were not afraid of a little spice. ;-)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Little Santa in Us All

Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows.
Edwin Osgood Grover, American publisher and educator (1870–1965)

My office is participating in the Shoebox Project for Women this holiday season. We wrap shoeboxes and fill them with quality items valued at about $50 (“that would make any woman feel beautiful, confident and special”), and then the boxes are gifted to women impacted by homelessness.

This weekend Mom and I had fun selecting gifts for the unknown woman. It could well be someone I pass on the street as I walk to work. To the warm scarf, hat and pretty thermal socks we added a wreath broach, a box of chocolates (no nuts), cough drops, body lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and lip gloss. My office desk was a jolly mess as I had fun wrapping it all up today.

I hope the unknown woman who opens the box feels a little comfort, a little joy and a little loved this Christmas.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Fabric Ode to the Beautiful Cat

Beloved Bastet
mistress of happiness and bounty,
twin of the sun god,
slay the evil that afflicts our minds
as you slay the serpent Apep.
With your graceful stealth
anticipate the moves of all who perpetrate cruelties
and stay their hands against the children of light.
Grant us the joy of song and dance,
and ever watch over us
in the lonely places in which we must walk.
Ode to Bastet

Six months ago I drove for an hour through torrential rains to take a class in collage quilting. The last hand stitches completed the binding today and both Cat and I are quite pleased with ourselves.

My starting point was a pattern by Laura Heine. While Laura’s examples of the Purrfect Cat are whimsically colourful, my quilt was to be an homage to Cat (a.k.a. Hobs) so I brought only black and white fabrics to class. From one, instructor Nancy cut out the large medallion and set it on Cat’s shoulder. Immediately, the unassuming outline captured Cat’s mystical character and I was hooked on this painterly form of quilting. Later the powerful, shielded eyes and notched ear distinguished this feline from all others.

While the cat image came together in a few days, the background took me a long time to work out. I wanted my Egyptian cat in context. Her divine nature made it clear that she should be placed on a pedestal – in this case, a Pharaonic column capital. Taking inspiration from Australian quilter Jenny Bowker, I placed Cat and her pedestal inside the columned hall of an imaginary Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Bastet. Finding the right fabrics to shade the columns resulted in my fabric stash growing exponentially. I loved the colour palette of the “Solstice” line of Stonehenge fabrics that came out this year. The hieroglyphs read “Beautiful Cat”.

Once the image was complete, the Caledonia quilter took over with her long arm machine. Helen’s quilting work is an art piece in itself. We discussed some designs and then she made it her own. Mom had the great idea to set regal cats upon nebet baskets, replacing the usual cobra. Thus, appropriately, Cat is the mistress of abundant offerings. The serekh hieroglyph that represented the niched façade of Pharaonic palaces encircles the quilt’s border to signify that Cat is in her realm. Helen's work is amazing!

I couldn’t be happier with the result. Now my fabric ode to beloved Cat has pride of place in the entry of my wee abode. My beautiful cat.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Delusions of Childhood

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousand of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!
Charles Dickens in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836)

The department store’s Christmas windows set a smile as they carried me back to the delusions of my childish days. Jolly snowpeople making snow angels as the made-to-order snow filled freight cars in the background brought a smile to young and old. This ‘delusional’ moment of childish joy was worth the detour from the usual journey home to The Hudson’s Bay Company store.

Having made my way back to my quiet abode my only regret is that, try as I might, I couldn’t budge any of the handsome soldiers guarding the windows off their mounts to carry one home to SIL.

I am all in favour of reviving delusions of childhood. In fact, I plan to make a snow angel at the very next opportunity – which might be this weekend. Stay tuned. ;-)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

On Ice

It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.
John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist, in Winter Sunshine (1875)

My first foray onto ice and I didn’t make a spectacle of myself – relief!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sew Day

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus, French Algerian philosopher, and Nobel-prize author (1913–1960)

One of the familial expressions that guided my upbringing is “Discretion is the better part of valour.” I wondered about its origins today as I wrote to cancel a meeting due to an ice storm that’s hitting the city. With icy streets, it’s best to be sensibly safe than imprudently perilous. Google revealed that Shakespeare’s coward Falstaff is the first to use the expression in Henry IV, Part I. In fact, he says “The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.” While Shakespeare may have intended the expression to be tongue-in-cheek, I am very happy to be sitting in my rocking chair looking out the glacial windows.

An email arrived later in the morning from one of our favourite quilt shops to alert customers that it has closed today due to the icy roads and freezing rain. They urged, “Make it a SEW day!” I heartily approve the resolution as I continue to be warmed by the sight of the 350 “fabric hugs” created by the St. John ‘Sew & Sews’ for shut-ins and others needing comfort. The sanctuary overflowed with their display before being distributed to seniors homes, a hospice and children’s aid society. Their care and concern for others uplifts my heart.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

You should be dancing, yeah

Life is like a disco ball . . .
No matter how the music changes, you just keep dancing.

Greeted by a giant disco ball how could patrons to the annual fundraising gala not know that an entertaining evening was in store?? Movers and shakers filled the spaces, and some of them even danced. Big band sounds, swing dancing and melodious female blues delighted almost as much as the free-flowing prosecco. A good time was had by all.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Display Candy

Christmas is like candy: it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever. 
Richelle E. Goodrich, American novelist and poet in Smile Anyway 

Our gift shop sparkled with new window displays this evening. The twinkle lighting and curlicue stencils create an enticingly lovely presence along the sidewalk, looking very much like a sugary confection. Such cheery displays are visual candy for these old eyes.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Nostalgic for Christmas Catalogues

May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas eve.

The Christmas catalogue on Mom and Dad’s kitchen table filled me with the warmth of nostalgia. I fondly remember hours spent leafing through the Eaton’s catalogue, folding page corners as markers and making my wish list for Santa. 

A very similar gleeful sensation filled me five decades later as I eyed the Embossing Rolling Pins that “let you press detailed, seamless designs into rolled-out sheets of dough, embossing deeply so that pattern stays crisply defined, even after baking.” Can you say, “new toy”? ;-)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Sweet Joy

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
Khalil Gibran, Lebanese-American writer and poet (1883-1931)

Santa’s cookie elf has hung up her apron, stashed her cap, and thrown her striped socks in the wash. Collapsed on the sofa with a whiskey in hand, she is happily content that another successful Cookie Walk is complete.

Every permutation of butter, sugar and flour seemed to be present on the bountiful tables.

The financials have yet to be calculated, but the sugar-fueled enthusiasm of our patrons certainly indicates our success. The cookie elf team beamed throughout the day, reflecting back the joy on the faces of our customers.

We’ll be back again next year! Stay tuned!

Ho ho ho! :-)

Friday, November 22, 2019

Being Best

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.
St. Jerome, biblical scholar regarded as the most learned of the Latin Fathers (c. 347–419)

I was tickled to read the subtitle of our church bazaar sign when Mom and I arrived to set up the Cookie Walk tables. Based on customer reviews, the Melrose Cookie Walk is indeed ‘the best’ in town. Yet while revelling in a moment of gleeful pride, the responsibility of maintaining our ‘gold star’ status percolated through my mind. And so the oven was fired up again tonight to produce a few last batches of heavenly sugar to add to the bounty of tomorrow’s table.

Fingers crossed that we host another great event – and remain "the best".

Stay tuned. :-)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Building Bridges

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.
Joseph Fort Newton, American Baptist minister (1880–1950)

Following a thought-provoking and heartrending three-day symposium examining artistic responses to the migration crisis, my key learning is the imperative to make human-to-human connections to dispel fear and build empathy.

I was filled with pride for the organization I work for in bringing together Pulitzer Prize photographs, the newly released film Hearts and Bones, journalists, dancers, writers, Indigenous activists, political scientists and front-line humanitarians to share experiences and ideas for strengthening the connectedness of humanity. Connectedness will stand strong against those who empower themselves by enflaming fear and building walls. As Portuguese statesman, Antonio Guterres has warned, “As a global community, we face a choice. Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?”

My experience this week leads me to seek out connections and to build my own small bridge.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Family to the Rescue

Family is a life jacket in the stormy sea of life.
J.K. Rowling, British authors, screenwriter, producer (1965–)

My nephew is a hero. He rescued three souls adrift last night. A stranger, a work friend and myself were stranded just outside of Toronto after an auto-vs-train accident brought commuter traffic to a halt. Facing an uncertain and lengthy wait, a phone call to Bro led to the one-man cavalry setting out in a Jeep to rescue his aunt. While J fought his way through Friday night traffic, the three of us abandoned the inert train and took refuge in the nearby Fair Grounds Organic Coffee shop. The stranger bought us treats and the hero got us home. To quote the hero, "That's what families are for." :-)

Friday, November 15, 2019

In Praise of Chianti

Good Chianti, that aged, majestic and proud wine, enlivens my heart, and frees it painlessly from all fatigue and sadness.
Francesco Redi, Italian physician, naturalist, biologist and poet (1626–1697)

After days of monitoring the newsfeeds of the flooding in Venice, a colleague and I toasted the life-affirming, soul-inspiring qualities of Italy. We shared our travel memories as we shared a lovely Chianti.   

Good wine, good food and good conversation definitely combine to dissolve the fatigue and sadness weighing on the heart. There are challenges, but life is good.

Cin cin!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Breathing in a Mid-November Sunrise

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different.
J.B. Priestly, English novelist, playwright and broadcaster (1894–1984)

How precious it was to drink in the beautiful sunrise with my morning coffee prior to leaving the warmth of my wee abode for the train. It won’t be long before darkness settles upon my morning commute, so I breathed in the view and gave thanks for daylight savings time.

And I do love how snow seems to quieten the world. All seemed reverently hushed as I made my way to the station. There seemed to be fewer cars passing and my own usual brisk pace slowed out of caution for slippery ice. The quietening felt good.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Lest We Forget

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below. 

Col. John McCrae, Canadian poet, physician and WWI soldier, In Flanders Fields (1872-1918) 

My boss gifted me with a beautiful poppy broach made by an Indigenous artist of red and black beads, porcupine quills and leather.

You might notice that the edging of the poppy includes one bead, different from the others. As the artist, Marissa Magneson, wrote: This is a spirit bead. Spirit beads are intentionally placed to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, but it is important to embrace these imperfections as they make us human.”

I will treasure this broach and honour its many meanings.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Timing is Everything

Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.
Hesiod, Greek poet (living around 700 BC)

 Mom certainly timed things right. We were at the garage at 8am for her annual appointment to put on snow tires. The blizzard started before 8:15am.

While the snow mounts in the streets, I am sitting cozy in my wool socks and sweater with a quilt over my legs. A hot toddy is keeping the tummy warm and cheeks rosy.

In the moment I can say, “Bring on the snow!” Timing is everything.

Wishing everyone warmth on this wintery night.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Vineyard Treasures

Every season hath its pleasure;
Spring may boast her flowery prime,
Yet the vineyard's ruby treasuries
Brighten Autumn's sob'rer time.
Thomas Moore, Irish author and composer (and son of a Roman Catholic wine merchant) (1779-1852)

"Corkie" joined the Three Winos on our annual fall tour of local vineyards for the Wrapped Up in the Valley event. The skies were grey and the wind was cold but the ruby treasures of our local vintners warmed our souls.

Twenty Valley's "Wrapped Up in the Valley" passport to great wines and food pairings marks the beginning of the holiday celebrations. I'd opine that this is a fine way to begin a season of cheer.

Once again, the pairings rank superb: mouthwatering and highly complimentary to their vintners' showcase.

"Corkie" (aptly named by my wordsmith S-I-L) has been a bit of bear to create but I am happy with the result. After all is done, he brings a smile. The mom of the soon-to-be-born vintage is a treasure at one of our favourite wineries, hence the inspiration for the fabrics.

The quilting reflects love for child and love of the vineyard's treasures.

May all our souls be warmed by love!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year – New Post

The meaning of life is to find your gift.
The purpose of life is to give it away.
David S. Viscott, American psychiatrist and author (1938–1996)

As the first day of the new year draws to a close, I am sipping some of the leftover bubbly – still effervescent thanks to the ol’ spoon in the hole trick. Surprisingly, I am also still effervescent given that I did see the clock tick over from 2018 to 2019. I have not done this in a good many years. While other late night revelers may have been watching the ball drop in Times Square or the fireworks from the London Eye, I was very happily sewing with my glass of Back 10 Cellars Smit*ten at my right elbow.

It has been a very sewy holiday and I have been very content. I set out a few weeks ago to make a comforting lap quilt for a dear lady who is grieving and found myself comforted by its colours and the lines of the Beatitudes worked into its reverse side. Those verses move me at my core and I have fond memories of visits to the beautiful mount on the north shore of Lake Kinnerat so the quilt was a joy to create.

Just in time for Christmas day, I finished a set of fleece-lined shoe bags for S-I-L. Once Dad helped me figure out how to make the grommets, the bags came together gorgeously. Sorry, no photo, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

The next project had me hand sewing the binding of a quilt for my aunt. The fabric reminded me of her lovely gardens and I hope the bright bouquet will be cheery during our gray days of winter. The piece work had been completed a few months ago and then Helen Huburt worked the beautiful quilted pattern using her longarm machine. She finished in time for Christmas so I just needed to finish the edging, which is metres long and requires small stitches to maintain the quilt’s integrity through washings. I never would have thought that I would take so much comfort from working with needle and thread. Yet there I was, sitting in my rocking chair, contently sewing. It’s quite an old-fashioned image and I found myself thinking of and connecting with all the women in my matrilineal ancestry who also took comfort in handiwork.

Last up is a very modern-looking pillow. This is what I was quilting last night and finished today. The design freely evolved as I worked. Thankfully, I like it. ;-)

The unicorn marks the last of the 2018 Christmas presents. It has been a wonderful holiday, full of family, comfort and joy.

I wish all my dear readers a new year full of such comfort and joy, fine friendship and good health.

Onwards into 2019!
(hopefully with more blog posts than in 2018)