We're Not in Kansas

Today T returned home from his trip to Toronto. The T's are back together again! As we were relaxing and catching up the television flashed a warning for severe thunder storms and funnel clouds heading towards our area. Being warned almost every other day about severe storms, we made nothing of it until the sun suddenly disappeared and the hail began.

It stopped as suddenly as it started, leaving the tree down the street split in two and marble sized hail everywhere.Our street turned into a river of ice.The patio furniture barely survived.Luckily there was no tornado and no one was hurt but some small plants. I had never seen anything like it and I think the next time we hear the words "funnel clouds" and "severe t-storm" we'll take it more seriously.

Year of the Frog

Amphibians could be the next dinosaurs! I didn't know that. My friend, Isa, owns the Bloomin' Bog just north of London, and she is campaigning to save amphibians along with this organization called Amphibian Ark. On the weekend, we went out to walk around the bog, and El took pictures (luring her with the camera is the only way to get her in the car to come along these days). The chalk drawing is courtesy of yet another knitter, the blogless Alana. I was so impressed that I poked El and forced her to photograph it too.
Tadpoles! Kat was brave enough to hold two up for El. They're so cute.
I like this picture of Jenny holding a slimy frog. There's a photo contest and a colouring contest that the girls are eager to enter. I think El has a couple other frog pictures, but this is definitely a contender!
B's been hard at work colouring, and she's pretty confident that she's got a winner. No pressure on the other little frog lovers!
Sorry, turtles. It's just not your year. But you're cute too.
Frogs matter. Jump in!

Disparu dans la Nuit

In a rare moment of frivolty, I purchased a fish. I've never owned a fish before. They poop a lot. Didn't know that. The girls named him Charlie after their favourite youtube video. If you thought me a horribly lax parent before, there will be no doubt in your mind after watching this. I am not exactly sure why I feel that I should be censoring more of their viewing. In my defense, they have inherited their father's humour. It's unicorns. I didn't get it, but the more I hear them repeating all the lines, the more I seem to giggle. Please don't judge us. The 2nd video is even funnier. El took a tonne of pictures on the weekend. B loves to ham it up for her.
I picked up those oil pastels for some Kandinsky-inspired art. I lost B at only one square or circle - whatever that is. I think it's awesome. Next time I will try to smear the circles together a bit more. I forgot to look back at the inspiration picture before I went ahead. I still like it though.
And rather than finish a pair of socks, I started the Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery with my Handmaiden Mini Maiden merino and silk wool. I love the feel of this yarn, and I am starting to get a hang of the 24-row pattern despite my incessant whining about the double yarn-overs and ssk's.

Must go. B says she can't see the fish. I kind of forgot we had a cat when I was out impulse shopping. I'm sure it's nothing.



A Woman's Work...

...is never done. That's what I feel like this week. With T gone to Toronto to visit friends and folks, I've been keeping myself occupied by tidying up the house (it was very needed), laundering everything I could get my hands on (oooh, stain removal!), experimenting with baking, and get this, recycling. Gasp! Taking out the recycling and the garbage are T's jobs but since he's out of town for ten days I couldn't possibly leave the garbage until his return. So I gathered up our piles of refuse and out to the bins at the back of the house I went. On my second round of paper and plastics I noticed a lilac tree that had blossomed just behind the garage next to the recycling bins. I had never noticed it before and the blooms smelled so lovely. The smell of lilacs always reminds me of my childhood growing up in Fredericton, NB. Anyway, back into the house I went to get scissors, elated over this discovery.Earlier in the day I decided to try baking cakes in jars. Yes, sounds weird but I'm actually a little late in the game. I came across the idea on Delicious Days and then Angry Chicken made some and they were so cute I kept coming back to them. I finally picked up some half pint canning jars at the super market and whipped up a batch of lemon sour cream pound cake and banana chocolate chip jar cakes.I was a little nervous about the whole canning thing, having never preserved anything before, but I made sure that everything was sterilized and amazingly the jars sealed right up. All they need now are some cute labels. I will keep these ones around and taste test them at different intervals. A possible wedding favour idea?

I am off to finally do some relaxing after this busy long weekend (oh yes, happy Memorial Day!). I have a new knitting project started but that will have to wait until next time. Bye for now!

Our Newest Addition

This wee kangaroo is very life-like and somewhat repelling, but I couldn't resist picking it up for B last weekend at Heidi's yard sale. I am assuming that the fur is real kangaroo fur. B absolutely loves the kanga, and it now holds a very special spot by her bed. I keep noticing how it is looking back at me. Ew.
I finished another cowl with an orange skein of Misti Alpaca Chunky that I bought at The Knit Cafe in Toronto. I whipped this puppy up while watching PS I Love You. Not a fantastic movie, but watchable I suppose. The girls want to go see the new Narnia movie - I need to find a good time to take them. I forgot to show you the Billie alpaca! Isn't it lovely?

It's time to get into my pjs and settle in with a cup of tea and some mint chocolate ice cream. I have my sock knitting, and I plan to get comfy for some good Thursday night tv-watching. Cheers!


Sea Legs

Outside on the balcony of the Sapphire Princess and the waters of the Pacific are calm. Inside however, there was swimming, eating, golfing, eating, a wedding, and oh, did I mention eating?

The cruise from LA to Vancouver was my sister and her now husband's idea. They wanted to have their wedding somewhere different and somewhere everyone could enjoy and have fun. I think my favorite part of the whole vacation was being with my family. T and I had great fun hanging out and swimming with my nieces and nephew and trying new things with my parents (late night comedy shows and line dancing, oh my!). For most of us, this was our first time cruising. For anyone who has ever gone on a cruise, you know that when you get back on solid ground you'll still feel the boat moving beneath you. My first night home I swear the bed was still rocking in the waves. It's all worth it when you have a 24 hour buffet and room service though!

Now it's time to diet and get back to the usual routine. The closest I got to crafting anything was marveling over my niece's felt ball that she made at kid's club on the cruise. I should have gone with her...but I was lounging by the pool with a huge plate of food.

Remember to Renew Battlestar Galactica

She might look a little strange, but she had plenty of motive. She planned to fit in with the alpacas by wearing a cream wool cardy with her toque and mittens, and Erica Bear wore her furry jacket. I can't think of anyone who was as excited as B to visit the alpaca farm on Monday. This kid could hardly contain it! She was dressed like this for two hours before we left.

- Hey, alpacas! I'm over here! I'm your alpaca pal! Yoo-hoo!
- Wha?
Here's an alpaca waiting in line to be sheared. It was a bit brutal watching a group of people strapping the alpacas to the table for shearing and having to hold down the poor animal. I had to explain it to the littlest that it didn't hurt the alpaca, but the alpaca was a bit frightened nevertheless.

We even got to tour the processing mill and touch a lot of alpaca. B was right when she compared it with a fluffy cloud. This stuff didn't weigh a thing, and it was so-o-o-o soft. Of course I came home with two hanks of chunky alpaca from an creamy-coloured alpaca named Billie. I plan on making myself some Billie mittens for next winter.

I'm off to bed. I'm getting to be old. 9 p.m. is getting past my bedtime.

Sock'n'Roll Momma

The next sock I have started is a plain stockinette (I am determined to knit in stockinette!) with my Black Lamb superwash merino/nylon sock yarn in a stripey red and white. They will be my candy cane socks or Canada Day socks! I love how they are knitting up. It’s nearly time to start the heel.

J and I treated ourselves to bicycles yesterday – my bike from our years living beneath the poverty level was stolen years ago. The price of gas has really sparked the environmental activist in me. It wouldn’t hurt to lose a few pounds either. I don’t know what it’s like in other parts of the world, but here in London, a city with a population of 350,000; it’s rare to see a person out walking or riding a bike. I blame a lot of it on the space between all points of travel. However, J and I both work in the downtown area, and it takes us about an hour to walk the distance between our house and our workplaces. He tends to walk and take the bus more than I do because I do a lot of the dropping off and picking up of children. Neither of us minds walking or taking the bus when we’re alone, but neither of us want to be held up by the short legs of a 5-year old or an unenergetic 12-year old unless the walk is meant to be taken at our leisure.

So my next step is to get a couple of helmets, so I can begin to ride the bike to work. I can’t believe how expensive this ordeal has become. We’ve dropped a load on two adult bikes, a bike rack, two locks, and lights. Two helmets will set us back another $60 at least. I know, I know – you can’t put a price on your life. And I have to keep reminding myself that $60 has become three-quarters of a tank of gas that doesn’t last even a week! Yes, our vehicle is a shameless gas guzzler. Ugh.

How did my excitement so quickly turn into dread? It’s too much thinking. It’ll all pass once I get home and ride my bike through the neighbourhood at a breakneck speed with my hair whipping up in the air. Yes, that’s the ticket. Happiness is riding a bicycle up and down little tiny streets covered with great big canopies of green leaves and the smell of lilac bushes blooming in May.

When I was at the Knitters Frolic last month, I bought some raffle tickets, and lo and behold, I won a gift certificate to a yarn shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was in the mail last night! What a treat! And speaking of more birthday treats, I nearly forgot to blog about these little cakes of 100% llama laceweight in my favourite shade of gold! Kat, my knitting chauffeur, went to Americo in Toronto, and I guess she figured I didn’t quite get enough for my birthday. The yarn Gods are looking over me! I think Kat would agree when I think that maybe I should put my gift certificate towards a yarn winder. Sheesh!

I am loving the inspiration from the Crafty Crow lately even though I haven’t had the time to put some of it to practice, but today I happened upon this project, and I think while I am out buying bicycle helmets, I will pick up a set of oil pastels at Michaels. This art is completely my speed and will appeal to the littlest as well as the oldest.


Happy Mums Day

My mum is in Spain today, so I had to give her the Monkey socks a week early, and I was thrilled that she was very pleased with them. They fit! I hope that she is having the time of her life. I can think of no one who deserves it more. I mean, the lady had to put up with me for twenty years in her home, and she is still putting up with my antics over a decade later. She's nothing short of a saint.

Happy Mothers Day!


Mix & Match

I'm finished two socks with my Fleece Artist Basic Merino Sock yarn, but they're not quite a pair. I knit up the first sock in plain stockinette because I was impatient and was lazy, and I ended up very disappointed with it because it simply did not highlight the transitions in the semi-solid gold colourway. I loved this yarn, and it deserved a pattern. I wasn't particularly yearning for a lace pattern after having just finished a pair of monkeys. I love the monkeys, but I wanted to have a knitting project that was brain-numbing easy and a cinch to throw down when I was busy chatting or cooking or sumpin' sumpin'.

So Kat suggested knitting a second sock in a pattern that was worthy of the Fleece Artist, and if I really liked it, I could frog the first and knit it to match the second. Well I love it, but I am feeling lazy again, and would it be absolutely horrible if they just didn't match??? I have so many balls of sock yarn begging to be knit up, and I can live with these. Could you?


Excuse the Rant

I woke up this morning to an email from a friend that the front page of our local newspaper was splashed with news of a single mom of 4 children being fired for giving a baby a timbit. For the Americans out there, a timbit is merely a donut hole that costs a whole 16 cents. I was elated that Tim Hortons was being called out for their unethical human resources practices. I was unfortunate enough to work at several, all owned by the same owner, and in my experience, this was nothing. I worked like a dog for six years without a sick day or vacation day. 44 hours a day, five days a week for six years. At any other job, this would seem tremendous. Do you want to know the pay-off? J and I lived hand to mouth. We would argue whether we would spend our last $2 until pay day on bread or a litre of milk. We could not afford a car or a house of our own. I rode a bike to work across the city for at least six months of the year when there wasn't snow on the ground. We walked everywhere. El was just a little tot, but she had the most muscley slim little legs for her age. And I was miserable. We were miserable. We couldn't get ahead no matter what. And we tried. I get a huge lump in my throat just thinking about it.

I knew everything about working at Tim's. I started out in customer service during the week and cake decorating on the weekends, and I eventually was able to decorate cakes full-time. And then I took over the inventory counting and all the ordering. Then I was supervising and putting together the bank deposits. I became an assistant manager, and soon I was interviewing and hiring and training. If the baker called in sick, I made do with what I was able to do. I was put on salary, and I began to work over 60 hours a week for no more money than before. The raises I did get were a quarter here, a nickel there. I hit the $10/hour mark after five years. Whoopee! If you divided that by the hours I put in then it was really less than the student working at the counter. I can't even begin to describe the stress that came with this job.

One day I was working the drive-thru window all by myself because we were short staff as always, and another manager walked up to me and asked me point blank if I hated her. I noted that it was not a good time to talk, but added that "Yes, indeed, I did hate her." You have to understand that these fast-food jobs do something to you mentally and physically. There was no respect and after six years of trying to climb the ladder, I had finally realized that there was nothing at the top. I was still some dumb-ass behind the counter that people would yell at if there wasn't a flippin' chocolate-glazed donut on the shelf at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. I had did everything right and nice, and I was a good little worker, but I had nothing. And I had become ugly and mean and spiteful. I couldn't put on a lousy smile for my own five-year old. I say this all the time, but you have to believe me - if someone had given me a gun, I would have started shooting my co-workers, customers, everyone in my sight. Of course, I put up with all of it because I had a small child who depended on me to feed her and cloth her and keep a roof over her head. And she's absolutely brilliant, but I knew that the last thing I wanted her to remember was that I had been a schmuck being kicked around like dirt. So the manager told a higher manager that if she didn't get rid of me, she would leave. Without a single offence in my personnel file, I was given six weeks notice - one for every year I had served, but only because this is the bare minimum of our provincial employment standards. The real kick in the butt was that I was ordered to work the next six weeks regardless. Any misconduct in the slightest would have me fired immediately without severance. Severance that I had to work off. I couldn't even look for another job because I would be working.

Needless to say, today I don't step into a Tim Hortons lightly. It makes me sad to think of all the other mothers working their behinds off to live beneath the poverty level. And don't get me wrong - only positive things came out of my own dismissal. I think often about sending that manager a thank-you note. I went to college and graduated at the top of my class on the President's Honour Roll. I got a truly meaningful job at an excellent organization complete with benefits, and I am ashamed to admit that I work with a third of the effort and energy for three times the pay and benefits above that . I will soon have four weeks of vacation, and when I or one of the girls is sick, I call in. I am surrounded by the most wonderful people, and I enjoy myself - most of the time. We have a car. We own a house. We added a second child into the mix. And I smile. And I appreciate all of it more because of Tim Hortons. But a front page smear on them makes me feel validated. I want to give that girl the biggest hug for being brave enough to out them. I want to shake her hand and tell her how proud I am. Today, she is my hero. I hope that people see the truth. I hope that more people slaving away behind those counters can stand up and see that they are better than they think they are.

Sadly I checked the paper once again when I got home from work today, and the Tim Hortons corporation has offered her a job back - in another store in an effort to make them look good and the monkey managers bad. Just as she was to make her escape, they have lured her back in to slowly kill what's left of her.

That's just what has been on my mind today. I think I'll go finish a sock, bake my third batch of oatmeal raisin cookies this week, and hug the girls a little tighter and whisper in their ears how the sky is the limit and to settle for nothing less.

Light Reading

Spring is finally here, which is great, don't get me wrong. It's been a tough winter and I am as happy as the next guy to see green grass, however, that means seasonal allergies for me. I've been trying to ration my stash of imported Canadian Claritin and luckily I'll be able to stock up on more when T and I are back in Vancouver next week. My sister is getting married on a cruise that leaves Los Angeles on Wednesday and sails into Vancouver on Saturday. I am looking forward to relaxing and hanging out with my family and eating, oh the eating!

And speaking of eating, I made this cake for one of T's classes. It's the last week of spring semester at the U of M and this book was made in honour of a Comperative Literature professor.
So lots of "caking" lately and not so much knitting. Hopefully after our little cruise vacation I will return fresh and full of crafting inspiration!

Talking and Walking

Today, the girls and I walked downtown to Museum London to be Sunday Artists with our friends, Emily and Sophie. It was messy, very hairy, and lots of fun. I didn't take any pictures of that portion of our day simply because there were a ton of signs posted at the museum outlawing cameras and bags and jackets and everything else I happened to be toting. I brought D.I.Y. Kids along with me to inspire our art, and El and I decided to go with a graffiti picture. I am lousy at graffiti, and El seems to be a professional. How can it be so hard you ask? Try it. Grab some paper and make it look like graffiti. I think it was because there were too many people watching.
This was our walk home. Single file. It's how we walk. Single file. We also like to say 'dandelion'. Really slow and dramatically. Dan . . dee . . . Li . . . on. And we giggle a lot. And then we called each other dandy. These two are hilariously random. The word 'random' makes them giggle too.
When you're five, you need to take lots of breaks from walking, but when you're twelve, you just want to get home.
Salt & Pepper Shakers from Emily. In addition to these little gems, she also gave me some Sunday tea and brown Kandis tea sugar from The Tea Haus. I am drinking a hot cup right now. This is how all Sundays should be spent.
As if that wasn't enough, we popped into the market while downtown, and we sat with my knitting peeps for a minute while the little ones ate cookies, and sweet Shelaine gifted me these pretty stitchmarkers. She could not have possibly known that I was trying to root around for a silly stitchmarker early this morning to no avail.

Off to knit and polish off another weekend. Cheers!


Purely Elemental

I rushed home after work to find this exquisitely put-together birthday gift from T.

I desperately want to be Amanda Soule when I grow up, and when The Creative Family came out on April 1, T gently reminded me that my birthday was coming and it would pay to be patient. So I waited, and I was rewarded in spades. Check this out - Denyse Schmidt mix & match stationery, two balls of Garnstudio Silke-Tweed in delicious gold, Plymouth Yarn Rockin' Sox in red and brown, Lana Grossa Meilenweit stripey sock yarn, Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose body cream, and what I am guessing is the prettiest red Target reusable bag in a zipper pouch with a BIRD on it! It's like she totally gets me. I'm not going to cry.
Just the other day, the littlest and I were snuggling and sharing how we had once again spent our day apart, and we were talking about friends, and I mentioned T, and she looked up at me very seriously and asked me if I missed her, and I nodded with a lump in my throat and blinking back tears.
It's not every day you meet someone who shares the same interests and is equally passionate about creating and reminds you to stay real and gets your silliness and off sense of humour. If it wasn't for T, I'd still be knitting garter-stitch novelty yarn scarves for pre-pubescent girls. I wouldn't be blogging or wanting to be like Soule Mama. I'd definitely be strangling my loved ones, and ridiculously throwing everything out of perspective. I believe I asked her last week if I was schizophrenic for thinking I was schizophrenic, and she talked me down from the roof and calmly replied that I was neither. Having her for a friend is gift enough for me! Thank you, T, for the presents, the constant inspiration, and your undying belief in me. How do you do it???

Enough of my blabbering, look what I've been working on -

I am using one hank of very pale pink of Romni Wools angora silk, and the pattern is from Alchemy Yarns of Transformation called Slanted Eyelet Scarf. The angora silk is super soft, light, and warm. It drapes prettily and will make a perfect gift for someone. I have a few people in mind, and it all depends on how quickly I can churn them out who will get this one. The pattern is extremely simple with only two rows. I have three hanks of this yarn, and I am very tempted to order more - maybe later, as it looks like I have a great deal of sock knitting to do in the meantime. And it looks like the dryer is on the fritz again, so maybe I should be saving up some cash. Fritz would be a very good boy's name. Growing up in Woodstock, there was a little shack that sold the best french fries and hot dogs, that's if you're into hot dogs, and it was called Fritzie's. This is how my mind works. Where was I? Oh yeah, flowers.

Flowers from my garden . . .