Saturday, April 01, 2023

Catching up

Since the day I started this blog, long ago, I have never let it sit so many months without updates...but it felt like I could never quite get enough time to come back and visit. Everyday things I love fell by the wayside over the last few months, and I am only now getting them back.  The first big news is that by the end of February, we finally had our new kitchen.  The one where we had to gut the old kitchen entirely, put in a structural beam, get a lot of plumbing and frozen pipes fixed, etc.  This bread would be unremarkable, except we went many months without homemade bread...everyone in our house is so "used" to having it that going from November until end of February without bread was a long wait.  (Of course now, Passover is almost here too, so no more homemade bread, but at least there is a kitchen to cook and eat in again!)
Literally the moment the cookbooks got taken out of the boxes, we were looking at recipes again, discussing what to make next, and getting excited about future meals again.

When the kitchen was finished, we could move the stained glass from the old house and hang it in the new one. Everyone felt relieved at the move.  We bought this stained glass when our twins were infants, and recently the artist who has helped us with the glass in this "new" old house told us that this window stained glass was likely from the late 1800s or early 1900s, and by the way, many of the types of glass in it were no longer available.  All the more reason to treat it with caution.

Getting through this time with no real kitchen, managing two mortgages (until the old house sold), a part-time job plus my freelance work, and of course, managing our household, twins and dog--has been complicated.  We spent a lot of time outside and I have found access to winter time activities  and exercise like an outdoor rink in walking distance and the (frozen) river trail--have been a great gift.
Walking the dog out on the river trail among art displays, skaters, skiers,'s an amazing opportunity, like having a new provincial park at the end of the block.  When the trail closed, the dog and I were both sad!
I've also been sewing, knitting and spinning when I can fit it in, although not with as much regularity as I managed before.  This winter, we managed to have twins signed up to three extracurricular activities in January and February.  (Chess club, sewing studio and piano lessons) In March, we continued with piano, tried out kick sledding--with and without the dog, and also kids had an intro to racquetball.  Later in April, we're starting again with chess and sewing, but at least there will be fewer snowstorms and -30C evenings to contend with while driving around.

Each bit of renovation that happens is a triumph.  When our contractor brothers opened up this back door area and renovated it, it was like a doorway to the past.  My professor husband has been slowly getting windows fixed one at a time, rehanging the window weights, and we have so far opened up 4 windows and two doorways.  (2 more windows to go, I think.)  Whoever decided to close off windows and doors in a long-ago renovation...maybe in the 1980s or maybe much earlier...really wasn't the brightest bulb.

Here's the re-opened back door area.  Below are two high up windows in our new kitchen...both were blocked off but one of them had actually been left open, behind cupboards and walls, to vent a half-bath for perhaps 40 or more years.  No wonder why the area was cold and the pipes froze in winter!
We also finally have a working dishwasher, which is a huge deal when feeding a family all winter.  We were not surviving on take out or eating out during this time...but we did choose to use paper plates during the kitchen renovation.  It was probably the most paper plates we adults have ever used in our lifetimes.  It was worth it though, there are limits to what one family can manage...even an eco-conscious one.  It's also the first time in 20 some years when we haven't composted at all--because our dog got skunked in September right after we started composting.  So you know, we decided to stop composting until we figured out how NOT to attract skunks to the yard.  If you have tips on that, let me know in the comments!

Knitting continued as kids keep growing and needing new woollies!  This is another version of my "Stripe Freestyle" Sweater- slightly upsized as my kids are now a little bigger than the pattern I published.  The yarn for this one was my handspun Cotswold and silk singles.  I dyed it as well, the yellow was dyed with marigolds and the red came from a nice dye packet.  I wrote about spinning and dyeing this yarn on the blog in 2006.  Some yarns just need time to marinate in the stash!  In this case, I obviously had to give birth to twins first and then wait 11 years.

Here's another fun photo of kids enjoying the art installations this year--this one was taken at the Forks. This sail turned in the wind while you stood on it...but it also served as a much needed windbreak on a very chilly day.

I'm now on to knitting yet another "Stripe Freestyle" sweater for the other kid and the fuschia yarn in the background will likely be a sweater for me, someday.  (It's on hold while I knit more for kids.)  It never fails to surprise me which knitting patterns sell lots of copies and which don't.  The Stripe Freestyle pattern is a slam dunk in my household, but doesn't sell many copies on Ravelry, Payhip or Lovecrafts.  No idea why.  In any event, it's been a mainstay in these twins' wardrobes for years.

 Finally, I'm adding a much overdue photo of the lovely birthday celebration we had back in January- I had a big birthday, in the midst of all of this. We were stressed out and it went by quietly.  However, now that we're "down" to owning only one house, things are somewhat calmer.  Still lots of renovations to go and some ends to tie up, but I'm hoping for warmer weather and more time for writing, designing and playing ahead.  

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Friday, November 25, 2022

No more bandwidth?

You may wonder where I've been.  The answer would be, umm, completely overwhelmed with moving and all it entails!  Also, the “new” house needs quite a bit more work, so we are living in a construction zone.  Not a noisy "disrupt the neighbours" or 24 hour highway construction zone, but the kind that slowly and steadily has now lasted a year and now, in this phase, involves a lot of demolition.  Here is a shot of our kitchen, halfway through being gutted, a couple days ago.  Note the ugly ancient carpet that was found under the island, (why?!) and our dog in the shot, she sticks close by all the time right now.  This stuff is nerve-wracking at times.
Also anxiety producing?  Having freezing pipes, a half demolished kitchen, and a wall without a proper support beam in place.  So, yeah, we're getting a new kitchen that we hadn't bargained without an enormous island.  (Yes, I want a kitchen table in the kitchen.  I'm so retro.)  In the end though, it will be warmer and safer too, so that's a bonus!
Our temporary kitchen is inside of a first floor powder room, which will eventually be a half-bath again.  It was originally part of a servants' staircase and was seriously under-insulated.  This meant the pipes froze there too with some frequency.  We're revisiting that lack of insulation now while we wash dishes.  Glad it is only November and not too cold yet.  It's really good news that this old house was built in a sturdy way in the beginning, it's lived through some badly done renovations in the past, and now we get to help fix it all.
In the midst of all this, I'm juggling some new part-time work, some older freelance commitments, and of course, the care and feeding of my twins, who are very busy being in grade 6. Just today, I started volunteering at my kids'  elementary school with grade 1 kids in the bilingual program, too. It was a fun afternoon. 
So of course, I wasn't busy enough? I signed up for an event!  I am participating again as a designer in the Fasten Off Yarn-a-long.  What's this?  Well, it's a way to buy lots of knitting patterns, on sale, from November 25th until December 8th.  It's also a way to participate in a yarn-along (knitting and crochet) event, even if you can't participate on Ravelry.  My patterns on Payhip and my Ravelry patterns are all on sale for 25% off with the coupon code: FO2022.
There are also games to participate in, a Discord channel, and more.  The good news is that it's a sale with over 100 designers participating!  Lots of exciting designs to explore and enjoy.  Learn more at and have fun!

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Thursday, September 08, 2022

Summer on the move

It turns out that moving twins, a dog, and a household about a mile is a huge undertaking.  About 13 years ago, I documented our move to Canada on this blog, and I wrote a lot about it.  It involved a continent's drive, two bird dogs, a lot of boxes and plants, a moving van, my professor and me.  I've since learned that moves with tweens can be, umm, more complicated than that one.
The short story behind this is that our beautiful old house, featured in many blog posts, got damaged.  This issue continued to cause a lot of friction for us, along with a dead tree hanging over our power lines, increased traffic nearby and a lot of construction around where we were living.  It seemed like we needed to find somewhere else to live.  During the pandemic, this was no small thing.  It took us almost a year to accomplish this.  How we ended up with our "new" old house is a story for another day.  This story is a little about the summer...
It has involved moving things slowly, one at a time.  Here's my Quebec Production wheel, and the two customers who helped me move it from the third floor of one house to the third floor of the other. (Note, I still have two great wheels left to move!)
Meanwhile, my parents visited and my mom helped enormously by hemming curtains with twins. (Both twins went to a sewing camp for part of the summer and were very keen.)  Just beyond this photo were boxes, a refrigerator and a dishwasher, appliances for our as-yet-unrenovated kitchen.  Partly demolished, in fact.
Here's our old house, which is now for sale.  I will really miss things about this house, including the front porch.
However, our new backyard is quiet at night, and I can sit, watch the dog wander the yard, and there's little to no noise or light pollution - and yes, it is right in the middle of the city.  That bright light in the photo is the moon rising.
The inside of the house still looks like this though.  Our furniture was used to stage our old house, but it's being moved to the new house soon.  In the meanwhile...things are a bit hard to put away.  Necessary renovations are still happening as we have one lovely working bathroom (nothing else is functional yet) and a kitchen that needs a lot of work.  Note tiles at the front of this photo.
Despite all this transition, I tried to find space every day to do something fun with kids and dog, too.  This was an amazing art exhibit we 'toured' - it is painted on fences and garage doors in a backlane in Wolseley.  We were able to walk there from our new house.  It was a long walk on a hot day, but well worth it.
There's a lot more to this story, but now, kids are back at school and we adults are still trying to make order out of chaos.  (Sometimes the blog silence is because I am silently screaming in the background?!)

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Thursday, June 30, 2022

New Pattern! Veecardi McStrippit

After a long incubation period, I introduce you to...Veecardi McStrippit, my new design! This textured cardigan pattern is knit in seven pieces and is available in 7 sizes, from 33-53". There is also a Low Vision Accessible version available.  Check it out on RavelryPayhip (both of these sites have a Low Vision option) and coming soon...on Lovecrafts (no Low Vision option there, the platform doesn't support it).

To celebrate this new design and the start of school summer vacation here, I'm also having a sale.  Get 20% off all my designs on Ravelry or Payhip  until July 5th, (ends midnight, CT) with the coupon code:


And now...I'm going to photo bomb the blog just the way Sadie the dog did during this cardigan's photo shoot!  Enjoy!

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Thursday, June 09, 2022

Update from springtime

Dear blog readers, I am not sure how many of you are still out there!  Some friends may still visit?  It's hard to tell --I used to receive lots of comments and make conversation on every post.  Now?  Nothing.  Hard to tell...So here are some updates from my world...
I made an unfortunate knitting project choice back in March.  One of my twins asked for a gray sweater and I agreed to knit it during our most gray, long, wet, puddle filled and flooded time of year.  True, the yarn is Polwarth wool so lovely and soft.  It will make a nice dress sweater. I finished it on one of the first warm days and my kid didn't even want to try it on long enough for fit.  Good news with twins is that if one does not want it, the other likely will...assuming it still fits somebody in the fall.
We also happened to hear about a new I made an "upsized" Worry Bear.  I took the pattern for a small pocket sized bear, which is really supposed to meet specific needs for those with anxiety, sensory issues, autism, dementia, etc. and I knit it on #8(5mm) double pointed needles and I used three strands of sportweight yarn.  Stuffed with wool, it will be perfect for a toddler to carry around or chew on.
The world news has also really gotten me down. I've struggled to keep cheerful. Our province has opened up to crowded events, without masks, despite an increasing rate of COVID deaths and health care cannot keep up. Meanwhile, war and gun violence are happening-completely avoidable deaths that politicians refuse to be mature enough to take prompt action on...people who can resolve conflicts peaceably seem to be in short supply.
When I'm particularly stressed by these things, I "make" a lot more...more sewing, spinning, knitting and cooking.  To my surprise, I discovered I'd cranked out over 900 yards of 2 ply Clun Forest wool  (Western Canadian wool) while processing bad news.  I washed and skeined it, and? - have absolutely nothing planned for it.  So, if you're taking on a big dyeing, weaving, knitting, or other project and could use handspun for it, let me know.  Let's make a deal!
There's also been an uptick in special life events.  Twins turned 11!  Alas, the gelati cakes from the past no longer are made at our favourite shop, but birthdays continue.  Mommy cake came to the rescue....although I truly failed "buttercream 101" in my 'breads and desserts' course in university...I made a big cake, and everyone seemed happy.  Yes, this is true, I took an elective course in breads and desserts at the Cornell hotel school.  Since I already knew how to bake bread, I ended up cranking it out to feed people during our labs and sales rather than getting tips on, say, icing application.  That's ok though, even poor icing skills taste good and satisfy my household!  
Work has been slower, despite the insistence that everyone is bouncing back now. It's kind of discouraging. Some of the markets I used to write for have stopped publishing or changed what they print. In one case, the publication's even been so disorganized or slow to respond that the short deadlines/low pay/weird responses have made it impossible to continue with them. 
In any case, I still had wool to wash this spring, and surprise!  I still know how...even if I wasn't able to write about it for publication. (This was the first of several loads for my household, no way I could do it one garment at a time...)
I'm still here... continuing to pitch publications, I write my column and my knitting designs are still out there on RavelryPayhip and Lovecrafts.  I post a bit more frequently on Instagram here: @yrnspinner.
I'm also celebrating our glorious (and short) spring in Winnipeg.
Last but not least?  I've had a very strange work email snafu...if you've reached out to me via email for work reasons since last October?  I may not have your message!  Last weekend, my account somehow disappeared messages from the last 7 months.  No amount of customer service or 'restore' functions seem to be working. Please do reach out if you need anything!  I'm still here, even after this new challenge.
It's been an important reminder, too.  No matter how hard I'm trying, many things are out of my control.  For instance, due to some infill construction near us, we have this large dead tree hanging over our power lines. It's not on our property, so legally, we can't do a thing about it, though of course, like losing work email in a strange blip, it's out of our control.  We cannot fix this.  So I'm trying hard to tilt my head, look at the blossoms in our yard, and hope for the best. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Some Wednesdays are Thursday, instead

I spent hours this week with this office view, looking at a work in progress but not having time to write up the pattern.  Instead?  A wonderful (unexpected) but brief analysis/editing job about breastfeeding and healthcare.  I also spent many hours on a job on a tight deadline that I pushed myself on--and then, that fell through.  I planned to work on this sweater design and shoot a photo but then my iPad broke! (It fell, a kid accident, unfortunate, no one's fault...) Two trips to the fix-it shop later, the broken charger port is fixed and camera restored.  WHEW! Mistakes happen.

The work I did this week just covered the repair cost.  (Yup, that's what writing/editing pay is like these days)

Kids will get off the bus soon, there's no school tomorrow.  We've got another "special" snow/rain weather event on its way.  Sometimes "work in progress Wednesday" happens on Thursday.  That's life. 

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Housekeeping and hibernation

It seems a little like we've been in an endless loop of very cold days (Think: -30C/-25F, for many days in a row) and then there is a little warm up and a big snowfall.  It's great for the drought Manitoba has had, but it's also been somewhat hard to get through.  I find it hard to exercise when the air is so cold and the sidewalks aren't plowed...and both have been a recurring theme this year.

Some of my hibernation time has been spent on housekeeping.  I realized that some of my older knitting patterns, available for download on, Ravelry and Payhip...were still priced at US$4.  Alas, prices for everything in life have gone up.  So, I spent some time raising those to an even $5.  While the price increase seems small, it may mean the difference between buying a fancy coffee...or not.  When I get back to going out and buying those coffees?  Yes, I think my work is worth that.  So, you can find the Molly Baby Socks, the I'll Pack a Hat (links to Ravelry) and others still around for sale on Payhip and Lovecrafts if you want a quick knit this winter.

The sunlight has been bright and cheering though, which is helpful.  The light in my office has been sort of blinding.  Here's a shot of me, wearing the Lattice Embrace
 sweater as I leaned over my computer.  I've been trying to get back into my work routine...delayed for weeks after a longer than usual school winter break, but I have fewer gigs right now, too. (Thanks Pandemic)  If you've been looking to work with me for writing, editing or design...or even teaching a workshop - don't hesitate to let me know!

I've been doing some spinning (this is Clun Forest wool on the left and Polwarth on the right, waiting for its bath to set the twist...) and taking time to be with my family.  At these very cold temperatures, we're not doing a lot of playing outdoors, so we've come up with some fun new projects inside.

There's been a lot of playing with stuffies and legos and playmobil, listening to audio books, and dreaming of warmer weather and picnics to come.  We've also had the opportunity to buy a Spinolution wheel--the Echo-- second hand, and it's just the right size for a kid to learn to spin on a wheel. I've been doing some lowkey coaching, he already knows how to spin on a spindle, but the hands and feet coordination takes time to learn. It reminded me of how much I loved to teach beginners, pre-pandemic! 

This is most of the February news from here.  Sending you this bit of peaceful domesticity...I can't lie.  I've thought a lot about what peaceful protest looks like-not what we've seen (or the honking heard) in Canada of late- and worrying about the safety of Ukrainians and their democracy.  There is not a lot I can do from here...but we continue to celebrate science, try to take care of each other, and continue making and doing until things finally warm up. We're staying hopeful and looking forward to spring, summer, and those hot weather days outdoors. 

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