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 fa├žade 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.