Storming the Capitol

Last week the kids, my Mum & I went on a little adventure to our nation’s capitol.

I think the last time I was in Ottawa I was in grade 9 or 10 & my parents, sister & I had driven up for a Vintage Clothing sale. To this day I regret not buying that sheep skin coat. It was probably a Lincoln, dyed a deep orange. I was deeply into my Janice Joplin phase then & it reminded me of her. Instead I bought a red silk velvet bias cut dress. I still have that dress.

This visit had a different purpose, my Mum & I are on the hunt for military records for 3 of my relatives. Unfortunately, when we visited the Library & Archives, we were unable to obtain copies, but the staff were super helpful & as I now am the proud owner of an access card for their archives, the next trip should prove more successful.

The kids were alternating between being excited & nervous of the trip as this would be their first real trip complete with sleeping in a hotel and traveling on a train!!! I’m a fan of train travel & really wish train travel were easier in Ontario. So many of the lines have been cancelled over the years that travel anywhere other than the Ontario/Quebec corridor is a challenge.

The kids enjoyed watching the countryside fly by. 027

But the arrival of the snack trolley is what really excited them!

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I had made sure to pack books and a travel board game to keep the kids busy as well as gave them each a blank travel journal along with water colour pencil crayons & some water brushes (these are a brilliant invention!). All of this kept them mostly occupied for the 4+ hour trip.

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We spent a total of 2 full days in Ottawa. The first morning, we set out for Parliament Hill. We passed the Rideau Canal on the walk over.093

We wanted to see the Changing of the Guard, so arrived early and had some time to wander around before things got going.

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As we came across different monuments/statues & the kids asked questions, my Mum was much faster than I at giving them a quick history lesson. The Famous Five & the Persons Case were of particular interest to them.100

And then we started to hear the drone of the bag pipes that signaled the beginning of the Changing of the Guard. Abi was super excited to see two of the pipers were women…she is now asking about bagpipe lessons… 153

After we visited the Archives, which proved a bit of a bust, so we set about doing touristy stuff. We saw the Supreme Court.

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Went to the National Gallery to see the Alex Colville exhibit we had missed at the AGO. Abi was quite taken with the Chagall exhibit too.

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The Canadian Museum of Nature has Animals Inside Out which my Mum (who having been a nurse) greatly enjoyed. The kids were alternately fascinated & skeeved right out.

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Ottawa is a nicely walk-able, and man did we walk! I should have brought my pedometer! The hotel we stayed at is great for families! We booked a two bedroom apartment complete with a kitchen and then took advantage of the Byward Market’s offerings so we didn’t need to eat out all the time. It was also nice to come back to the hotel with two tired kids who would retreat to the 2nd bedroom which had a tv to unwind.

We came across a great shop called Workshop Boutique in our wander of the market. They carry handmade Canadian fashions, housewares, kids stuff etc…basically it was right up my alley!

Then it was time to head back home. After 3 nights, I was very happy to be back in my bed!

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Whole lotta Sweaters

It all started back in October while I was giving the Girl Cave a cleaning & moth check. Things were being sorted, purged & what was staying was updated on my Ravelry stash page and linked to a project in my queue. Organization & efficiency was the name of the game!

I had finished my Not Going to Rhinebeck 2014 sweater…290Pattern: Artichoke French

Yarn: Briar Rose Fibers Abundance

and was looking for a NaKniSweMo project…I came across some Lopi I had picked up during one of my LYS’s February Bulky Yarn Sale. The original plan was to knit myself Odinn, but I decided to make a stab at knitting a sweater for Chris. My first attempt was about 10 years ago…it did not end well and we avoided the Boyfriend Sweater Curse only because we were already married…This time things went considerably smoother…although I think Chris was getting annoyed by my constant requests for him to try the sweater on so I could check fit…. 031I really enjoy knitting Lopapeysa and am partial to the yarn made from Icelandic sheep that is used to knit them. As Christmas was bearing down on us and I had promised my Dad a sweater years earlier, I figured it was a good time to get that done & cast on a second Odinn.

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With the help of my sister, I decided to sort of recreate a ski sweater my Dad had bought when he was 16 and my Mum tossed when I was 16. It was the height of Grunge & I had found its well felted & moth holed remains in the depths of a closet. The Sweater was so very Kurt Cobain! My Mum was horrified that I was wearing it & promptly removed the temptation! Some words may have been exchanged when my Dad discovered it had been tossed.

My sister suggested I try to recreate that long lost sweater. My Dad is quite pleased with his sweater even though he didn’t get it till after Christmas due to my coming down with a Cold of Space & Death. I rarely get sick. but when I do, it really wallops me! He has received at least one compliment about it every time he has worn it!

After knitting the same pattern in a row had me looking for a change…but I still needed a sweater as the weather was unseasonably cold…like below -30C (-22F) with wind chill and I had no intentions of leaving the house unless it was for work, school or food!

Antrorse  popped up  in my feed so I picked my honkin’huge skein of Jill Draper’s Mega Empire  in a nice sunny yellow as I refused to knit anything grey in the depths of a deep freeze!

254I am really happy with this sweater, it has a neat construction & I really loved using Jill’s yarn! She buys the entire shearing from shepherds around her neck of the woods in Hudson Valley, New York. The fleece are processed at a local mill and then Jill dyes them! I really love that she is supporting local shepherds as I remember when we were getting fractions of a cent for our fleece in the 80s. The yarn is a bit rustic at first as the mill doesn’t use chemicals to dissolve the vegetable matter in the fleece and will smell a bit sheepy, but that is the kind of yarn I really enjoy working with and it blooms up so nicely after a soak! I picked up some locally made buttons to use on the yoke.

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After Antrerose it was still freaking cold! I had a bunch of left over lopi from Chris’ sweater & there was just enough that I was able to cast on another sweater…technically it’s a lopapeysa…but not really.

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Scatter is a free pattern via Ravelry. My stitches got a bit tight across the chest, but a stern blocking sorted that out. This sweater is knit a bit tighter than it should, but considering how cold it’s been, it makes for a great base layer.

As I’ve knit roughly a sweater a month since October, I’m taking a bit of a break before I hit burnout and dusting off the loom & pulling out the sewing machine.

 

Stitching memories

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
Elizabeth Zimmermann

On March 20th, at the age of 90 we lost my Granma. She had been ill for some time & due to her dementia she had not been the woman I known for a few years. Although her death wasn’t a shock, it was still sad & she was the woman who had taught me how to knit.

I don’t precisely know when she taught me, but I was under 10 & she more than likely did it to get me to sit down & stop asking so many questions! I was/still am curious to the point of utter aggravation for some people. My parents will often comment on my exhausting them with a constant stream of “Why?” as a child.

My Granma was born in Southern Ontario during the inter-war years. As was typical, girls were taught to knit to both clothe their families & it was simply what you did to keep busy in the evening. She once told me how a teacher had encouraged her to enter her knitting for judging at the annual town fair. She refused as the majority of the knitted items had actually been done by the “entrants” mothers. I believe this teacher had been selected to be a judge that year & he recommended a change to the knitting competition, instead of finished items being entered, the girls would all have to show their knitting skills. Am not sure exactly what was required, but it was a live competition so they may have been judged for their evenness of stitches, ability to execute different stitch designs (cables, moss etc) as well as speed. Either way, my Granma agreed to enter and won First prize!

I honestly don’t know how many jumpers, socks, toques, mittens, slippers, baby sets & blankets she knit in her lifetime, but considering she could bang out a man size sweater in a bit over a week, I would say A LOT! Possibly because both my Dad and sister were preemies and she understood the importance of keeping baby’s head warm, she would knit hats for the preemie ward of her local hospital. To say Granma was prolific would be an understatement! She even knit sweaters for my boyfriends but not until we had been dating for at least a year! Chris still has the one she made for him over 15 years ago, she knit it in blue to bring out his eyes. Possibly THE MOST awesome sweater she knit was the infamous Patons Dragon sweater! I believe she knit it for my cousin…and I have the patten book!

473In July of every year she would have the grandchildren look through her Patons pattern booklets and choose 1 or 2 sweaters which she would knit for us to wear back to school in the fall. My favorite sweater she ever knit for me was my Sherbert Sweater, I was possibly in grade 2 or 3 when she made it for me and I wore almost all the time! I have a vague recollection that she added some length as I grew & replaced the cuffs at least twice! Granma’s Sherbert Sweaters are testament to the practicality of knitting top down raglans sweaters for growing kids.  456 Almost 15 years ago, with the rise of the internet and the knitting blog, my on again/off again interest in knitting was re-ignited & I would visit my Granma for her help in figuring out a pattern or technique. For very practical reasons, she always knit with arcylic & I, having grown up on a sheep farm, on principal would only knit with wool! We often ended up agreeing to disagree over yarn choices!

When I was expecting Abi & Liam she knit each of them a receiving set of a bonnet, booties & sweater and as they got a bit older, each received one of her signature Icelandic style yoke sweaters. These would become some of the last knitting she did as her mind started to go.

455When it came time to plan Granma’s funeral, my Dad & sister thought it would be very fitting if people were able to wear their Grandma sweaters. Instead of the typical photo memory board people usually have, we gathered a display of her knitting. As pieces were laid out, I saw just how much of my Granma’s knitting style has influenced mine and is more than likely responsible for my love of Icelandic Yoke sweaters and preference for top-down seamless raglan sweaters.

471This is just a few of the sweaters she made for her family but as is the case with almost all knitters, Granma showed her love for us by wrapping us in her knitting.

 

 

 

Five long years…

The second week of November is one of my favourite weeks of the year. The insanity of getting kids back to school, 3 birthdays in 6 weeks, Thanksgiving & Halloween are behind us, we’ve had a brief moment to relax & finally settled into a solid routine…and The Royal Winter Fair opens! As the advert says, “for one week, the country comes to the city” & I couldn’t be happier!

The Royal is one of my happy places. As a kid, my parents would take us each year, we would wander around looking at all the animals & displays. I have a vague memory of asking my Dad to trade in our herd of Hereford for some Jersey cows (I thought they were super pretty with those big brown eyes) and to get a few goats…he refused to discuss the possibility of goats, I am of the opinion he has some sort of childhood goat trauma of which we do not speak. At the end of the trip, my sister & I would be treated to a candy apple (can’t remember if my brother got one or not, have vague recollection he didn’t care for them & chose something else) then we would head home.

Now that I have kids, I make a point of taking them every year and they seem to enjoy it as much as I did as a kid, especially as there was a mechanical bull this year…wpid-20131110_122113.jpg

Abi stayed on for 45 seconds before flying off

The kids have finally realized the simple joy that is a peameal sandwich with mustard.

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Liam has taken up my earlier position of asking for livestock. Where I harassed my Dad for cows & goats, Liam wants rabbits! Specifically Flemmish Giants! Can’t say I disagree with him….there was a black Flemmish for sale & I was sorely tempted…

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Abi, on the other hand, is all about the cows & sheep…

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She was quite beside herself when we found the set of triplet lambs!

I was super thrilled to see 9 Sheep to Shawl teams competing this year!

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Building memories, eating tasty food and snapping photos of livestock is not my only reason for going…This is…

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That right there are fleece that have been entered in the Fleece Competition and are auctioned off on the last day of the Fair with the proceeds of the sales going to the 4H club.

It has been 5 long years since I have attended the fleece auction, so I was well due. Chris & the kids left me to my devices & headed home…

Sitting beside Our Denny, with bid cards in hand, things were about to get ugly…good thing the kids left after this photo was taken…

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Our Denny, being of the good sort, appreciates the time & effort that goes into raising a sheep & she came with a plan…a plan that ended with my buying a fleece for $30/lb and another for almost $20/lb… both of these fleece were Shetlands weighing in at no more than 2-3lbs each which is about a sweater quantity. One cannot buy a sweater quantity of pure Shetland Yarn for under $90! Think about that. I remember in the early 1980s when Shepherds were getting fractions of a cent per pound of fleece. We lost a lot of our sheep farms at that time, so if my buying a $90 fleece helps in some small way to support the Shepherds, then I’m totally cool with Our Denny running up the bids on my fleece. Besides the trash talk & stink eye we exchanged each time she did it was hilarious! When I told my Dad about Our Denny bidding up my fleece his response was “Good for her!”

I sent one of my fleece off to Wellington Fibers for processing & the other which is a mixed colour came home with me so I could have another go at processing a fleece myself.

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What on Earth happened to my Summer?!

My last post (as my Mum reminds me) was in late May, I was gearing up for the end of school followed by eight long weeks with my beloved children. It’s almost like I went to bed one night & woke up to discover 4 months had flown by and now I’ve got a whole lot to catch you up on.

The Summer was lovely, we played & adventured around the city and I went on quite the crafting jag.

Annoyed with the current offerings in the clothes stores, I dusted off my sewing machine, made seven dresses for myself and one for Abi.

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I added two more tattoos to my body, due to their placement, I will not post photos, but will link to the inspiration. Since someone always asks, I currently have 10 tattoos, yes I said “currently” because I will more than likely add more over time. No, my tattoos do not signify a mental or moral failing, I just happen to like permanently decorating my body & only a very select few know where & what I have tattooed on me. The majority of the work I have are adapted from Iron Age La Tene culture designs.

This Summer was also filled with music, I have attended more concerts in the past few months than I have been to in the past 10 years. Starting with The Breeders, followed by TREE Fest with The Lowest of the Low & Flogging Molly, then there was RIOT Fest where I watched Iggy Pop flail around on stage. The last concert was Dropkick Murphys with The Mahones. Fellow Mum Leah was my companion for all of them & we had good times! I had forgotten how much I loved seeing bands live, but also discovered I really don’t care for crowds and have even less patience for drunk girls with no sense of personal space. Leah & I tended to leave before someone (not us) was going to get punched (by us, okay me!).

There was a lot of cooking with the kids, we made doughnuts, Onigiri, stained glass eggs and tonnes of other stuff. We had plans to do some preserving, but just never got around to it.

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Knitting also occurred. I knit a lot of shawls and started a sweater, they will have their own post…

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Now we are on to Fall and all the busy-ness of 3 birthdays in 6 weeks, Rhinebeck and getting people back into a groove!

 

 

Because sometimes 2 kids & 2 cats don’t generate enough chaos….

We have added a dog to our home…

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Meet Ms. Nouka. She came to live with us through SOS Dog Rescue this past Saturday night and has very quickly made herself at home and everyone but the cats are super happy with her arrival. The rescue transports dogs from a pound in rural Quebec to Ontario for adoption. Most of their dogs tend to be the larger breeds often found on farms & country properties, so if you’re in the market for a large dog, give them a look.

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Nouka is a 2 year old Sheltie/Basset Hound cross and was very well cared for by her first owner until circumstances changed, leading her to be surrendered. The only hitch we (actually it just the kids & Chris) have encountered is with her being from Quebec, she currently only understands French. Luckily, I speak French, but for ease of everything, we are working on making her bilingual.

Picking up the torch

My Gramma was a knitter, I say was because although she is still alive, she is unable to knit any more. She can still read a pattern or your knitting and tell you what it is you’re doing, but when she tries to do it herself somewhere between her eyes reading the pattern and her hands grasping the needles & yarn things get jumbled and frustration and confusion ensues.

Her preferrred sweater to knit for all her grandchildren and children were Icelandic style yoked sweaters, being of the practical sort, she always used Patons arcylic wool. In her mind she wasn’t going to put all that effort into making a sweater for it to end up ruined the first go round in the laundry! Also having lived through the Depression, she was very dollar conscious and Patons arcylic from either the Eatons or Simpsons department stores were good value for the yardage.

I still have three of the sweaters (and a few other items) she knit me over the years, my sherbet sweater from when I was 7 or 8, the purple shawl collar sweater knit while I was in high school and a brown knee length coat from my early 20s. Each of my children were gifted with one of her yoke sweaters. Liam was the last of the great grand children to get one, I’ve yet to let him wear it…I’m a bit protective of it.

Last April, my cousin Dionne gave birth to a lovely little girl who was named Mea, she is very darling and full of beans as all almost one years olds are. Her uncle (my cousin Sean) was studying abroad and tweeted one day that he was taking a side trip to Reykjavic before returning home. I jokingly replied somethign along the lines somethign about him bringing me back some yarn…he said “sure”. Once I got over the first bit of yarn hoarding glee, I suggeste if he got the yarn, I would knit a sweater like Granma knit each of us for him to give to Mea. A deal was struck. I received the yarn in the summer & got to work on it, then frogged it, then started again, then frogged it…this went on for a bit till November…then I panicked! I settled on Loki, decided to do it as a sweater,  just like Granma made and because I’m still paralyzed with fear by the idea of steeking (it’s one of my resolutions this year to get over that fear). I banged out the sweater in two weeks and was finally to deliver it to Sean to gift to Mea last week.

Since then, I have received 3 emails (one from each aunt & one from Dionne) complimenting me on the sweater and also expressing how happy they were to see that one of the family members was keeping Granma’s tradition alive. That last bit kinda got to me as I realized just how much Granma’s knitting meant to some of us and how many of my memories with my Granma are tied to her knitting and how she accidentally created a knitting tradition in our family. To see that so many of the extended family appreciated and recognized Granma’s hard work (and by extension mine) to keep her family warm & clothed has been exceptionally cool (sorry, can’t think of a better word) and my To Knit for List may have grown! I’ve decided to make it a habit of knitting every new baby to enter the family a yoked sweater like Granma knit for each of us in the hopes of seeing her accidental tradition carried forward.

 

And then we got to the Fair Grounds…

Saturday morning saw the lot of us up and at’em. After some breakie,an incident with the coffee geysering out of the bodum to scorch me and a subsequent shower we were off…

 

 

 

 

 

(Robin on the left, Tonya on the right & I’m the shadow in the middle)

There was a 2 mile long queue to get into the fair grounds. If you look closely at the photo from the previous post, you can just see the line of cars to the right of the intersection way off in the distance…That line of cars was moving surprisingly fast and we were on the fair grounds far sooner than I expected. Parking located, weekend passes purchased, we scatered like buck shot into the barns & stalls! I will make another post about the shopping so this does not become a mammoth post! Suffice it to day trying to do Rhinebeck in one day is overwhelming, I strongly suggest purchasing the weekend pass so you don’t feel like you are under the gun and can wander aimlessely.

         
         After about 5 hours of wandering, we were ready to head back to the house for a bit of a rest before dinner, we made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up provisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were greeted to a nice roaring fire that Robin & Audrey had started as they arrived back at Casa Del Rhinebeck before us.

 

 

 

 

 

Purchases were shown off, dinner reservations were made at Luna 61 and I introduced the beauty of Hendrick’s Gin. As it got close to the time of our reservation, we trundled off on foot to Fab Yarns which was conviently located across the road-ish from the restaurant! It’s a lovely little shop with lovely owners who carry Indigodragonfly and a pink leopard print fun fur carpet bag that may have had me squealing with glee….but I put it down and bought a skein of yarn instead…

Dinner was great, company was beyond wonderful and we found a local hard cider that made us all swoon, and it wasn’t because most of us had a few G&Ts on board and were possibly high on yarn fumes…

Back at the house after dinner we restoked the fire and compared notes on the day. Sunday was a bit of wash, rinse repeat of Saturday but sadly Robin & Audrey left us to return to Pennsylvania and work on Monday morning. Tonya, Emily and I enjoyed some Republican pizza & beer (unsure of the beer’s political alignment) for dinner and spent the rest of the night knitting in front of the fire.

Monday, we packed up, sorted out our travel knitting, made a pit stop in Woodstock for tie dyed shirts & found some amazing sandwiches at a cheese shop and a few bits of yarn bombing, then headed for home.

       

        

We are already planning for next year…

 

Dear Abi:

At some point in the wee hours of this morning, you officially turned seven years old…

Holy Freaking Crap! You’re SEVEN! And are turning into quite the little person! You have a great artistic flair and are regularly entertaining us by choreographing dances to your favourite songs. Soon we will need to buy a second fridge to showcase your drawings.

Your personality has really come into to it’s own. You have announced you will only ever wear skirts & dresses because that is all Denny wears and you want to be like her, I am pleased by this choice of role model as Denny is quite the kick ass chick! Your little observations on how the world works and opinions about situations are both mind boggling and comforting such as your recent comment about never having a DJ boyfriend because they are crazy for the girls and that is just not okay! I do hope you remember that when you get older…

Happy Seventh Birthday Mz. Abigail

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Liam:

Today is your fourth birthday.

I should have taken your super speedy arrival as a sign of what we were in for…your possession of a strong James personality became evident quite early on.

As badly sometimes want to stop your growing up, I am loving watching the seeds of the man you will become being planted. You have your grandfather’s love of all things mechanical as well as his habit of throwing an offending item in frustration then asking someone to pick it up for you. I get a kick out of your insisting on picking out a bouquet for me at the flower shop, this bodes well for your future partners. You are developing a love and appreciation of hand knits, in a few years, as promised I will send you to Denny for a knitting lesson just as I did with your sister.

Tonight, there will be Batman cake, your favourite meal (noodles with red sauce and LOTS of cheese) and we will celebrate your fourth year. Happy Birthday my love.