Friday, 29 June 2007

I Married Him For His Talent

Clearly there are vast reserves of untapped talent in this man:

Yesterday was his first adventure with a glue gun. Enough said.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

It is very very hot today. Thank goodness for shade and fresh farmer's market cherries....

And I had my first Etsy order yesterday! Off it went this morning, along with a little something extra as a thank-you for being first :-)

The green tablecloth is a recent thrift find, one that shows so much care....

There is a long list of home projects that I want to finish that got sidetracked by my craft-fair-fun. Also, I think it would be wise to accumulate some more inventory (or am I making excuses to go get more fabric? ha!) so I don't have to rush when I get into a fair, and also so I can be prepared to submit for juried fairs, something I haven't done yet. Just finding my rhythm, I no more craft fairs for a while, I think.....

My favourite conversation of the day, between Safiya and Mr. S.:

"you have some chocolate icecream too, Babo!"
"no thanks, honey, I'll have some later."
"but Babo, you like chocolate."
"and you like icecream."
"then you would like to have chocolate icecream!"

Would have worked on me :-)

Monday, 25 June 2007

Notes on a Weekend

The weekend was actually the opposite of what I was just talking about. It was fun, and we knew it was basically just one of those days, not an everyday kind of thing, so it was cool all 'round. Saturday morning started out with Mr. S. taking part in a stationary bike team marathon, the Race for Dignity, for Dignitas International, a very straightforward and effective AIDS aid group. It was a full 2 hours on the bike, with Safiya sitting on the handlebars for a while, during which she pointed out to me "See, Mama, on this bike I don't need my helmet!" Very exciting times, that Saturday morning.

Then off to the mini crafternoon tea at Nathalie-Roze where I once again I met some of the lovely people from the Toronto Craft Chat, amongst others. Lots of different items and all the tables were very individual. Kim Kutner, who was at the T.O. craft chat, was there. She has a great journal/blog and a lovely aesthetic. We commiserated a bit about craft and raising kids, and I couldn't resist picking up a little calender she had illustrated, which I see she also has listed in her Etsy shop. Krissy Ross of rat girl (that's the best link I could find, she doesn't seem to have a website), was really helpful with some information/feedback about working the One of a Kind show, something I've been thinking about. And her jewelry is really fabulous! I love the mixed tape necklace!

Then off to my great friend Tim's 40th birthday party. And in honour of his friendship, which I hold very dear, I am posting the following link as an painful admission of an addiction that he especially will enjoy seeing made public, I think... Go Fug Yourself. And that's all I'm going to say about that, except Happy Birthday, Tim!

On Sunday it was back to home, back to sifting through the basement stuff, the previous unfinished-ness of which has had, of course, an effect on everything else in the house. This is what our main floor bookshelf looked like before the basement was finished (prepare yourselves):

In our defense, this is probably the worst it's ever been! My sewing machine is nearby, so there was always various half-finished projects stuffed in there, and as it also follows a main traffic route; it was a catch-all, really. Until I saw this post over at magpie & cake. I.....couldn'

You know that feeling when some closet or room finally gets organised and clean and every once in a while (o.k., every 10 minutes for the first little bit...) you just have to go, open the door, and say "ahhhhh" and smile? Living with the bookshelf like this is like that, except it's not hidden. It's really so much easier on the eyes, and it's still just as easy to find a book. The weird thing is that all the books fit just right....

And last but not least, I found some time to do the long overdue shop update! I'm happy to say the play capes are listed and yes, I would love to ship outside of Canada, just let me know because I'm trying to figure out the inner workings of posting shipping details on Etsy.


Friday, 22 June 2007

Staying In on Solstice Day

Yesterday during the day Safiya and I stayed in to listen to the wind, to lounge under the lilac trees and watch the laundry fly in the breeze, to read books and snuggle with faces in the shade, toes in the sun...

Both Mr. S. and I are homebodies at heart, and I think Safiya has inherited this. She very often responds to news about going anywhere with "but I want to stay home!". We're lucky because this has made downshifting easier and comfortable for us, although sometimes the temptation to do something does raise its harried head. But we moved to this house to live in it, presumably....something that I think is forgotten in our culture. (Why are laundry rooms always tiny with no windows?) Our homes are for living, and that includes living with our children.

At lot of the time it is not we who have built our homes, and maybe this doesn't sit well. Finding a place that feels comfortable is worth its weight in gold, and very often people will spend as much decorating over problems without really trying to figure out what is it about the bones of the place that makes them fill ill at ease. More stuff doesn't fix it, and so they get other stuff.....And the decorating magazines, much like the fashion magazines, make us feel inadequate and offer up more stuff as the solution.

Or we end up shuttling our children around all day, trying to keep them entertained, escaping from our four walls (although living in Canada, I get cold-weather-cabin-fever just as bad as anybody in the middle of January). What are we escaping from? If we are out, does that make us more useful? Maybe we simulate going to work, because that is what is valued in our society. Must stay busy, must get things done. And we drag our children along or warehouse them for the day...

When we lived in the condo, I felt in my bones what was wrong (and it wasn't anything we could change!). The seventh floor, sun only from the west, and walking out to the desert of downtown with no respite was not right for a downtown mama with a farmgirl heart (and a geek alter-ego, I might add, although that's not part of the story now, is it?). I started reading Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language, and it really hit...home. The idea that place and people are integral to eachother is very dear to my heart. We were lucky to find this place, this home, even with its imperfections and trials.

If only for sitting under the lilac trees on a summer solstice day....

Hope these words find you in a place you love....

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Not Quite the Right Tools (Or, Making Do)

The streamer was simple-ish. First I sewed about 30 cm long, 2" wide (yes, I know that's two different measuring systems, but there you are) strips together into one long strip about 7 feet long. Then I looked at it and thought "hem each of the two long sides or make a tube and turn it inside out?" Not liking the prospects of making such long tiny hems in such close quarters (fabric-wise, I mean) I thought how hard can the tube thing be? (She said, having never done it before.)

If I had thought ahead (ha!) I would have jabbed myself in the shoulder preferably with something memorably pointy and said "and what are you going to turn such a long tube inside-out with?" The question only arose after I'd already sewn the tube. I dunno, a chopstick? What? They make tube-turner-inside-out-thingys, I know, but not having one of those I opted for the ever handy safety pin, which did the job.....took about 45 minutes, but it did the job.....

The unexpected pleasure of the whole thing was making the handle, which started out as a plain stick but then I felt like a negligent parent giving my child a ribbon attached to a stick, which thought occurred at exactly the same time as I was lopping it off its branch with our exacto-knife. Hmmmm. A couple minutes later the bark was gone, add some sandpaper, a little olive oil, and I had a proper handle....and a whole lot of pride :-)

Look at all those words for just a little streamer.....but look how much fun was had.....

I love that she just has to jump up and down as she waves the streamer around. And I love that she only eats her ice cream if it's melted, or otherwise it's too cold.....

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

What Once Was Lost Now is Found

So way back in the fall, when our water main broke in the basement and we immediately ripped up the laminate floor and then noticed something funky with the basement walls and a "test" for mould turned into ripping out everything....kind of carefully, the stuff being stored down there got hastily moved about three thousand times, a lot being disposed of after exposure to drywall dust possibly laden with (oh-the-horror-seriously) mould spores from a badly finished basement with improperly built walls that had harboured this stuff for who knows how long.

Please still come for's gone now, I promise! See?

In the kerfuffle (Safiya's new favourite word), many things just disappeared and after a lot of searching I thought that I had lost two of my favourite fabrics, fabulous hand printed silks from Peach Berserk, fabrics that ages ago I had specifically bought for this house and for Safiya. Today I was cleaning the last of the mess up and upon opening a small unassuming cardboard box there they were, stuffed uncomplaining at the bottom, smiling cheerfully at me, saying "don't worry, we're still here!"

Tomorrow is Summer Solstice, and to celebrate both it and my fabric happiness, I think I'll make a little something for Safiya tonight, maybe a silk streamer like this one at Nova Naturals. And somehow make an offering up to those wonderful fabric gods and goddesses :-)

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

And Then There Were None

o.k., so three posts in one day and then none - the blogging break has been filled with cleaning/rearranging the basement, lazy afternoons in the backyard, some craft, and some green hunting.

Green hunting? So, inspired by many (especially the 100-Mile-Diet and No Impact Man and also by the spirit of the Riot for Austerity), I've been re-examining where the food in our household comes from. There are many thoughts going on behind this process. To start with, I grew up on a farm (a conventional-"peanut-butter-is-more-toxic-than-pesticides"-one....tree fruit and grapes, by the way and no it's not, by the way) and so my memories are of the morning-to-midnight-peach-fuzz-itch-humid-need-to-shower farming but also of my parents fighting NAFTA and the politics of food, and also of the growing realisation as I got older that farming wasn't anything like what most people thought it was and it was more complicated than even that. Unfortunately, let's just say the farmers and the greens were not friends and there was a (not-so-much) healthy contempt for environmentalists (picture eye-rolling here) and also a blank-stare no comprehension from the other end that a farmer might actually want to make a living farming. The dialogue just wasn't there between the communities, and there sure weren't many people visibly living the great AND. The world-views were so entrenched. Fortunately, I think (and hope) that it's changing. Maybe. This article is a pretty good indicator of where we're at in Ontario, I think.

Anyhoo, back to our table and green hunting. We like organic. We like local. We love organic and local, which is very very hard to find. The events leading up to this process and quasi-experiment are as follows:

One: A couple of weeks ago a neighbour was grilling corn-on-the-cob on the BBQ and when I said how good it smelled, her comment was "Well, 'tis the season".....except it wasn't. Not in Ontario anyway. We won't get fresh corn-on-the-cob for a while around these parts.

Two: A delicious meal at Treadwell where my Mom and I were debating about what kind of dipping oil were we using for our bread? Was it walnut? No....more like hazelnut? Upon asking the server we were utterly astonished to discover that it was canola oil. Oh, so that's what it really tastes like!

Three: At the (local-and-organic-farmers-only-yay!) farmers' market when I commented at the nice quality of the sweet potatoes, especially since they were from storage, how excited the vendor was that someone knew about storing root crops, his comment being that most people think they just come like that in the spring and how hard it was to convince people that they were just as good......

Four: A trip to a local grain and bean provider/mill to pick up buckwheat hulls for beanbags (I am now the proud owner of a 45 Kg (99 lb) bag of buckwheat hulls - that's the smallest they had - ha! that's a lot of beanbags!) and a lengthy discussion with the people there about how nobody in Ontario grows organic dried beans (I still don't understand - I mean, we can grow beans here, what gives? This is very frustrating for a vegetarian! They were lovely and very encouraging people, by the way, they wanted to give me dried beans, they just had none to give.)

Five: The person at the other end of the phone line from The Big Carrot who said that they couldn't possibly go to the trouble of labelling their bulk goods (flour, nuts, dried beans, etc.) with country of origin (like they do for fresh produce) because they couldn't be expected to cater (cater!) to every small group of people with special requests. (I'm seriously thinking about writing to the papers about that one!)

Six: Thinking "what can I use that's locally grown on my skin? Beeswax - check. Essential oils and herbs - check. Olive oil? - no check." So, how about something else? Besides which, I don't bake with dairy, so finding a locally grown fat is kind of important! After a little reading, sunflower oil sounded good. We grow sunflowers, right? can shelves full of stuff at the stores seem so bare? No Ontario-grown oil of any sort, anywhere.

I'm still trying, though :-)

Oh, and don't get me wrong. This is a process. I ate chocolate today :-) and take-out :-) (Locally grown and organic take-out? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!)

But, how ecstatic was I to find Merrylynd Organics? Organic local flour! (And Red Fife, too!)

Next up, nuts....not me, the ones on the trees!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Three Posts in One Day: In Which a Girl is Very Pleased....

No pictures because the light's been wrong, but just a note to say....

I'm so pleased.

The basement is fantastic in it's own basement-y way (painted white brick walls, chocolate brown painted cement floor), and I can't wait to move things down there.

Neither can Mr. S. whose exact words, I believe, were:

"I'm unplugging the sewing machine and there will be no sewing until all your (ahem) stuff is in the basement." (o.k., maybe not his exact words)

Sweeter words were never spoken....

A Pleasant Afternoon

The craft fair on Saturday went splendidly. Well, not really a craft fair (just me and two other people had tables :-)... It was much smaller than the Leslieville Tree Festival, and the focus was different (kids, games, awesome tunes, and BBQ); it was a great community fundraiser! There were lots of people and things moved off my table, so a good experience all around. Another quilt went to a new home, about which I feel bittersweetly...I'm sure other people feel this pang when their work goes to other people, I'm not sure I'll get used to it...

Pleased to have found a way to display the capes so that people can see what they actually are...(it's a lamp :-)

And while there I kept busy in-between making a new caterpillar family and their leaf home, but I'm not so sure about them.....

They kind of remind me of those little creatures from Star Wars: the traders that end up with C-3PO and R3-D2 - those ones with the glowing eyes? Hmmmmm may have to re-think these little guys.....

The Land of Bread and Honey

There are days when I feel so privileged. For many reasons, but mostly to be a part of this wonderful girl's life. Safiya started the day in the sun, playing with clothespins, wearing one of Mr. S.'s ties; a tangible reminder of him - she still protests every morning when he goes to work....

Sitting on the picnic table, kicking her feet in the sun, watching her shadow dance...

Returning from the farmers' market, shelling peas and just talking, talking...

What a beautiful day...I hope you also found beauty in yours...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


This weekend Mr. S. is going to do a renovation marathon and fix up the basement. This involves a lot of work. The "before" picture is non-existent; it's just too horrific (think 100 year old brick foundation walls with garish green paint peeling off...lovely....). The end result will be a craft space of my very own. I love him very much....

While he is slaving away, the babe and I will head down to the grandparents' in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a long-ish visit to keep away from paint fumes and such (a low VOC waterproofing paint is an oxymoron, but we did the best we could).

In-between all this I have another craft fair on Saturday - yay! It's the St. Albans Boys' and Girls' Club Annual Street Jam. Which is why my hands have been busy making more of these:

Fabric ready for beanbags! Making these is fun, simply to watch people wonder what they are as they weigh them in hand. The simple tactile pleasure always provokes a smile.

The only thing I regret is missing the TTC Knit-a-Long. What fun! I hope Toronto is overrun with knitters celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day! Maybe I'll bring my needles to the fair :-)

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Caution: Math Talk Ahead (But if You Run Away You'll Miss All the Beautiful Pictures!)

The rhythm of craft seems to be peculiarly suited to mathematics, and in saying so, I'm kind of making an admission....I'm a bit of a math geek (it was one of my majors) - Ack! Don't run away! I'm not a true gets it math geek (is that better?). Those people who understand it like language I really respect, but I'm just a cool-isn't-that-a-neat-outcome kind of geek, and since having Safiya that portion of my brain has been poked into a back corner by some fierce Mama stuff, so it's been a while.

Until the Toronto Craft Chat, when Becky (who runs the Good Catch Craft Fair) mentioned she'd been crocheting hyperbolic space. I was soooo excited (inner geek just tore open the doors and embarrassed me.....), because last year Whip-up had a post on math and craft, and the connections between the two had been percolating in my brain for a while. Now, I haven't tried to crochet hyperbolic space yet (!), but I was thinking of starting with a small quilt, maybe using the Fibonacci sequence or depicting fractals, although it would take me a lifetime to be able to quilt like Rose Rushbrooke, whose fractal quilts are incredible works of art:

"Skating on Thin Ice"


For me, the beauty of mathematics is far better expressed and easier to understand when it's tangible, when I can hold it in my hand, which rarely happens. (To understand genetics, I used to make little DNA and RNA sequences out of playdough to understand replication and stuff. Staring at it on the page was not my forte.) Also, we are all programmed to recognise patterns, to try to make sense of the chaotic, and often it seems what pleases our brains pleases our eyes.

However, what's even more fascinating is when mathematics is art. So often in our culture it's regarded as merely a tool, a way to get more important stuff done, and the gracefulness of the mathematical language that many researchers and professors feel is lost to us. One of my previous (excellent) math professors Bill Ralph actually creates beautiful artwork generated by his algorithms:

I love that he describes his work as a process "much like creating a sculpture from a pile of leaves by blowing on them...Each piece is like a little window into an exotic mathematical universe that has never been seen before."

There are little bits and pieces of this around, people synthesizing, even just little things, like a potholder reflecting Leibniz's Theorem. Like another cool quilter who I met at the Toronto Craft Chat, Johanna Masko, whose beautiful work I think reflects her curiosity, as she says, about "organised randomness" and her ability to think around, through, and on top of, the box:

Maybe many of our reactions to mathematics or any other field about which we cringe is due in a large part to the manner in which we were taught. And the false idea that fields come in nice neat little boxes labelled "mathematics" or "science" or "quantity-surveying" (or "craft" for that matter) that the administrators hand us. Rejecting this is what I call believing in the great AND. Stuff always escapes its box and then gets into shenanigans with another box, and that's when the cool, unexpected sh*$ happens. But you know, other people have said and can say things like this much more eloquently than I...

Sir Ken Robinson speaks about creativity and how schools kill it.

His talk should be required "reading" in all of our schools....

Light in Hand

Living in a city as wonderfully diverse as Toronto, I've been anticipating this thrift-moment for a long, long, time. I've wished for it, dreamt about it, my heart has skipped a beat before...only to be disappointed, but it's finally happened.

Silk. Metres and metres of silk saris. I couldn't resist - I bought all three (they were $15 each, but well, I couldn't pass them up now, could I?).

The details are from the richly worked ends....

Each one has been lovingly cared for, with careful mending and reinforcement in a couple of places at the back, but they are not fragile by any means. I shiver to even think of cutting into them, but...maybe paired with linen? Could I do something with wool felt? Maybe line a coat for Safiya...ambitious, but how lovely! I called my Mom up with the news...

"you should see them in the light, it's so beautiful....I'll post pictures, but of course they're more gorgeous in person" At which Mr. S. interjects from the other room - "in person, in person? you people are crazy!"

Maybe a little....crazy with loooove :-)