Friday, June 29, 2018

Last day of school & Gratitude

A friend recently gave me this knitting project bag.  It's got funny things on it like:
"Mother: [noun]-One person who does the work of twenty. For free."
"The joys of motherhood are experienced when kids go to bed."

I'm extremely glad that I had my twins, and I love them a lot.  However-- I'm also pretty sad that grade 1 is over as of lunch time today!  During the summer, we have some summer camp time, and a lot of "hang out with Mommy" time.  It means I have to work at night, on weekends, or whenever I can fit it blog posts may be fewer, and well, I get fewer breaks to do grown-up things like work.  (Maybe it's surprising, but I love working and being by myself and miss it terribly when I'm on full time mom duty.)

Yesterday was a taste of things to come.  We had a day off (right before the end of school) and we got hair cuts, went to the pediatrician for a check-up, brought Sadie the dog to a play date with a trainer and picked her up again, walked to the bakery together (and boys purchased bread/treats on their own), had meals and snacks, played in our front yard wading pool... and ran one other errand.  Yes, we had take-out for dinner.  I could do no more!

The errand: I picked up my engagement ring and wedding ring from the jeweler's.  Yesterday was our 20th wedding anniversary.  In honor of this, I had my rings resized so I could wear them consistently again.  Twin pregnancy and Lyme disease/post-Lyme means my knuckles swell...and getting the rings on and off had become really a trial.  So, I reconfirmed things with the Professor this way.  The jeweler said "Here they are again, like brand new!"  But I didn't want brand new.  I wanted older, a bit worn, and still fitting.  Oh well.  No one's fault that my knuckles got swollen.  I need to be grateful for what I've got!

In order to counteract this's a link to my latest article,which just came out today:

Do you have a gratitude list?

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Faster by the day

 There's an old phrase floating around that says something like:
Spinning on a spinning wheel is faster by the hour.  Spindling is faster by the day.  This has gone through my head repeatedly since having kids.  While I was gluing knitting needles and shooting other photos, I hung up some yarn to dry on my (dirty) porch.  First, I hung up an experiment I'd done.

Last summer, I bought some Clun Forest roving from Custom Woollen Mills in Alberta.  It is a down breed, bouncy, and hard to felt.  Perfect for boy mitts.  I spun it up in two ways.  One was a slightly over twisted chunky single ply.  The other, which took much longer, was a skinny single that I plied into a 2 ply.  It's well balanced and the skein looks much nicer.  I will continue onward with this experiment and knit both into mitts.  My best guess is that even though the 2 ply looks nicer and would perhaps last longer, the chunky single will save a lot of time.  My boys don't often lose their mitts, but they do insist on growing, so they outgrow them, but not before they get dirty repeatedly, felted, and well-worn.  Sometimes the end game is about efficiency and not perfection.

The second batch of yarn was ALL spindle spun.  I spun and plied it all on the spindle.  Much of it was spun and plied right on the same porch, as I watched kids.  I have no idea how long I spent on this.  I recently dug around in my spinning basket, noticed a had a lot of odd single balls of spindle spun yarn, and plied them.  That added up and amounted to a lot of yarn!

I have no idea what these skeins will be one day.  What matters here is volume- I was actually productive during those hours on the porch. The kids' wheelbarrow (well-used in 'weeding' play) caught their drips as they dried.

 I often feel stymied by the number of interruptions, illnesses, and other details I's not a professional 40 hour work week or lifestyle.  However, I recently applied to something and realized that I'd had 60 articles published in the last year.  Sixty!  (some were reprints, but that is ok) So, just like that water dripping, a little at a time does add up after a while!  So...spin on!  (or write on?!)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Making knitting needles

When I went with my family and friends to that Arts Center in Alexandra, VA in May (the one that does art with recycled materials)  I scored something unusual.  They had a jar of unfinished knitting needles in rare woods in all sorts of sizes.  This used to be someone's business, I think she was turning knitting needles on a lathe in ebony, rosewood, etc. but then she retired...and donated her leftovers.  I got 2 sets of straight needles at $3 a piece.  I could have bought a ton, but in truth, I don't really need more needles.  I do use size #6 and 7 (4 mm and 4.5mm) pretty often though.  None of the needles were marked, and none had ends yet.  So, I eyeballed, bought two, and flew home to Winnipeg.
I have a weird collection of beads in many sizes.  I always thought I might get into beading, although honestly, it has never been my thing.  I've made beaded yarns, knitted beads into garments, and in the end, I find it a bit too fiddly and the end result was too girly for my personal taste.  However, I just happened to have some wooden beads...that would work well on these needles.

I did this in a low tech way.  I grabbed some of my kids' glue, some newspaper, and set things up on the front porch.  I didn't measure or get overly particular about details.  I put glue inside the beads, slid them onto the ends of the needles, and left it to dry.

Once dry, the needles look good to go.  I have knit on straight or double pointed needles without anything on the end, and while I can manage it in a pinch, I like a firm cap on the end so stitches don't fall off when I race off to chase a dog or kid.  These will fit the bill.  If for some reason the glue does not stick, I have more wooden beads and I can use fancier glue later.  I started with easily accessible non-toxic glue from the kids' art shelf.

If you are handy, you can easily sharpen dowels and make knitting needles.  I have also knit with pencils in a pinch.  Sometimes you need to knit and supplies aren't close at hand.  If you're not into sharpening dowels, consider visiting some thrift shops and secondhand stores to get needles affordably.  This is how I built up my big collection of needles when I first got married and moved away from my mom's stash of needles.  This also helps you learn to knit with a variety of needles.  I learned not to be overly picky about wood/metal/plastic but to enjoy knitting with tools that were well-loved by those knitters who came before me.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Prioritizing Play

This article, which I wrote a long time ago, just went live on the CBC:

Prioritizing play: Splash pads, parks and wading pools are vital infrastructure, Joanne Seiff writes

..and my kids are playing with enormous balls in the front yard as I post this on a Sunday afternoon.  It's been a strange time to work on editing this piece for publication.

Here's to hoping all kids, everywhere, (regardless of immigration status, which of course, they do not control) can have safe, loving opportunities to play, with hugs and kisses from loved ones after a tumble or when resting and taking a break.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

stash additions

I promised a look at the lucky finds I brought home from our trip.  It took a stellar day with gorgeous sunshine and an hour to shoot all the photos I wanted, but it was worth it.  Sometimes just touching fine yarns, imagining the potential in things--it can be inspiring and hopeful.  Here are more images from the photo shoot.
Here are the odd balls of Brooklyn Tweed and Kidsilk Haze I picked up--all yarns someone did not use, donated, and I got for $5US a ball.  Can you imagine colorwork or fuzzy mitts?  I can!
It will be so hard to decide if the blue balls, knit together, will be gorgeous on their own, or if I should use that rose colored tweed to offset the blue and save the mohair for some other purpose.  (mohair is warm but does kind of go up your nose when it is cold, nose drippy weather and wearing mitts...)
A friend was at a yarn shop that was going out of business.  She specializes in art quilting but said she could not stop touching this Alpaca/silk yarn and had to buy me what was left.  I got it in a package sent to my parents' house.  Wow! Just touching it is a tonic for what ails you.  No idea what this will be, something delicate, obviously.  I will need to put into my stash to "marinate" until the right project comes to me.
Last but not least, I got these skeins of Quince & Co. Puffin.  I was delighted by this.  My twins mostly like sweaters knit from DK-to Aran weight yarns, but I could see this becoming a bulky weight version of Stripe Freestyle.  It would be a fast knit and I need to get going, because my guys are growing and need sweaters for next fall.  (It's Winnipeg.  Winter is always coming.)
In the meanwhile, here's an "outtake" of what things looked like as I moved yarn around on my porch.  Sadie was taking a rest (note the squeaky ball) in the shade while I took photos. Even more photos to come soon in another post!  Stay tuned.

PS: Please join me in wishing the Professor a very happy 45th birthday today!  Here's to many more!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Garden alert

 The last few days, our weather has been sparkling.  Sunny, dry, gorgeous days with highs around 25C (77F) which I've heard some folks calling "hot!"  (I tried not to snort with laughter, but hey, when I lived in the South, I would have killed some days for a low temperature of 25C/77F!)  Every night the temperature drops, we turn on the fans in the windows, and we need blankets at night.  It's all good.

The front walk way is covered in chalk.  (That is an underwater ocean scene and two dinosaurs, by the way.  What, you can't see it?!)

The flowers we planted a couple weeks ago are going bonkers.  This is because it doesn't get dark now until after 10:30 or so, and it is dawn just a few hours later.  Ahh, the longest days of the year are one is sleeping enough either. :)

Our beans, peas, squash and cucumber plants are growing, as are the nasturtium seeds I put in.

Last year, one hot day, I made the whole family wander down a few blocks to visit our neighbour Audrey, who has an award-winning garden.  She had invited us to dig up some of her lovage, which was growing so much it was taking over the back lane.  She'd already given me an enormous number of stalks for soup one day as I walked by!  So, we dug up some and planted it.  Nothing seemed to happen, in fact, the stuff above ground seemed to die back.  This past week, we were weeding and trying to find Sadie's brown squeaky ball (the weeds were tall...) and WOW!  We found the lovage coming up nice and strong!  Two separate clumps.  I'm thrilled.  I've circled it here for those of you who couldn't, uhh, see it in the picture.  We are not topnotch in the weeding department...

In the corner of the front yard, the professor planted a mock orange plant a while back.  The professor takes the long view.  For several years, I kept asking what this weedy thing was and whether we should pull it out.  This year, it got enormous.  And it smells--well, it smells like somebody's surrounding you with a magic fragrant (but not stinky) perfume.  It is gorgeous.  It's also right near the bus stop, so hopefully others smell it too while they are waiting there.

Each year, the professor also uses some bags of garden soil as temporary gardening space.  He puts them in a part of the garden that gets good sun but has been invaded with a very stinky invasive weed.  The bags (and black plastic) kill the weed, while we continue to use the sunshine to grow tomatoes.  He uses the soil from the year before to fill in holes left in the grassy corner boulevard by the snow plows each winter.

We have some very good looking tomato plants this year, and one of the twins is already looking every day to see if there are tomatoes to eat.  He doesn't care if they are red or not. My mom, who visits in the summer, is convinced that we are bad at gardening because she never sees any of these cherry tomatoes we plant!  (There is a reason for that, and it isn't because we are that bad at gardening.  It's because we are good at raising her grandchildren to eat garden produce!)

All these shots happened when I went outside to take photos of the new yarn I got a few weeks ago, to play ball with Sadie, and to do a couple other projects.  I'll show you those photos in another post.  For now, I thought you might enjoy a little sunny green break.  I sure do!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Making-the napkin efforts

You may remember that over the years, I've knitted a fair number of napkins.  There's been WipeWaves & Stars, and even, simply, the knitted napkins.  All of these work, and they are washable, and some of the bright colors even appeal to my kids.  You can also get some of these patterns here on
However, there's worry about them.  The Professor thinks he will ruin them in the wash (he hasn't) and that he can't dry them. (he can.)  Since they aren't dried in a dryer, they are rough, and that can hurt when cleaning up faces covered in jam, ice cream, or yogurt.  (Ouch, according to a survey of two twins.)
So, I looked at the leftover remnants I'd chosen for knitted tunic pockets, a while back.  I ripped the remnant into 6 napkins.  Two full size, and four cocktail/luncheon size, if you're curious.  And, I eyeballed the hems, folded the fabric over twice, and went to town on my ancient Kenmore sewing machine.  Today?  The table has new, bright, shiny napkins on it.  If my Professor reads this:
Yes, you can wash them.
Yes, you can dry them in the dryer.
Please use them, instead of the tattered old ones. :) 

Here, Sadie demonstrates what the napkins are for.  Note location of napkin, it is good at catching drooling while one dozes off.

After I removed the napkins, Sadie was awake and somewhat put out...but I finally got a great photo of her.  I did have a bigger image of her all stretched out.  She is one long tall drink of water!  However, that photo showed how dusty the area all around my Canadian Production Spinning Wheel is.  Ahem.  This is why one crops photos...and chooses the one with the least dust showing...Guess I need to, uh, dust, and spin on it again someday soon!

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Monday, June 04, 2018

Mid-career science funding

While we were playing outside in the sunshine at a birthday party for seven year olds over the weekend...This CBC article launched:

Why doesn't Canada support mid-career discovery-based scientists?

And yes, if you were curious, I wrote this while getting us ready for the big international trip.  Then I worked on editing it with a great CBC editor while we packed and unpacked, and I got 40 some cupcakes baked and iced, and I put together the boys' birthday party. It all happens at the same time around here.

In a quiet moment, I finally captured Sadie, our new dog, playing ball with her squeaky toy.  She is a blur of motion and it can be hard to catch a photo.  So here's a little video instead, I hope it works! (oops, it didn't work!)  If you have a moment, watch  Here is a still shot or two, just for the joy in playing and her enthusiasm!  It's great to have a big young dog around sometimes...if only to remind us to enjoy squeaky balls and play time.

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