Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy, and In Love.

THERE'S a post title for you...

And it's all come to me in just two days.

Why so happy, you might ask?

Well, I've discovered music from my distant past that I thought was lost to me forever.

When I was a deeply unhappy and disgruntled early highschool student, I used to spend Friday nights alone doing homework in my bedroom.

(Yes, I was THAT POPULAR in grade 9.  We won't elaborate, and no, we will NEVER share photographs.)

One thing that I always looked forward to was the ten o'clock program on a London, Ontario radio station, when they would play an entire album of newly released music, with no breaks, and no commercials.

One night, they played music that literally stopped me in my tracks.  It was an album of flute music that I had never heard before...  a mix of pop and the most extraordinarily innovative "jazzed-up" classical technique.

I had discovered the great Steve Kujala, and his album "Fresh Flute".

It was some of the most joyous, imaginative sound I had ever heard.

During the first song, I frantically rummaged around in my desk drawers until I found a blank cassette tape, and snapped it into my "boom box". (God, remember THOSE??!)

I confess.  I pirated a copy of that album that night-- minus the first song, of course.

And I played it over and over again...  through those long, lonely nights of homework and studying...  I played and listened until that tape finally warped, then snapped altogether.

These were the days long before CDs appeared on the scene...  and it was all but impossible to get my hands on a vinyl copy of the music, small towns being what they were, and specialty record stores being scarce.  NEVER MIND even bothering to look for it in our local Woolco department store...  At the time, if it wasn't Beethoven's 5th (souped up to sound like disco), ACDC, or Chicago (those were the days when Peter Cetera was King of the Monster Ballad), you weren't going to find it in MY hometown.

Time passed, and I cheered up a bit...  I found some friends, cut my hair, and fell into the theatre.

But I've never forgotten that music, and how much it meant to me.

Over the years, I've looked it up-- first, through our subscription to the Columbia Record Club, and then on the brand-new "inter-web": on Youtube and on Itunes.  To no avail.

Until last week, that is.

Last week, as my eldest daughter stood in front of a music stand in her room, diligently practicing her university audition pieces over and over and over again... I decided to give it another try.

And JOY...  There he was:

Through this Youtube video, I finally clapped ears-- 
and for the first time, EYES-- on Steve Kujala.

Better yet??

Through a private seller in Australia (God Bless Amazon!!!) I found the lone copy of the "Fresh Flute" album-- on CD!!-- left on the planet.

I can't even begin to tell you the emotion I felt yesterday, when I fetched it from my mailbox, and slid it into my computer.  I hadn't heard these sounds since I was a sad, tired and lonesome fourteen-year-old.  THIS was the music that made a difference.

"This music has so much positive energy that it's impossible to be in a bad mood after listening to it.  It is overflowing with beautiful melodies," writes Bob James, on the very first page of the liner notes.

And writes Mr. Kujala himself:

"...all of the songs express my true inner feelings on the positive and uplifting virtues of life.  While living in this turbulent world of ours, I have found joy in the privacy of my musical thoughts.  I hope that by sharing them with you, this joy will be yours, too!"

Oh, it was...  It was.  And now, it is, some thirty years later.

Thanks, Steve...  I feel like a kid again.



Now, for the IN LOVE part.

Today, I bought a pair of THESE:

THESE, my knitterly friends, are ADDI TURBO SOCK ROCKETS.

They are the "Cadillac", if you will, of the sock-knitting universe.

They are expensive.

And, they are WORTH EVERY PENNY.

Go hence, knitters, and purchase a pair. 

 Then, get yourself a heavenly sock yarn.

I chose this:

Heritage Silk Paints by Cascade
85% Merino Superwash Wool, with 15% Mullberry Silk


Colour 9812. 
( I call it "Sherlock", but that's probably because of my current appreciation
 for the work of  Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch.)

Now, the next thing you need to do, is go to, my friends.  Because that is the place where you will find a series of excellent tutorial videos that will teach you the Magic Loop method of knitting socks:

Bye-bye, DPNs...  there's a "new guy" in town.

And he's currently rocking my socks.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


They made me a "cake" in the sand centre today.


Is why I LOVE teaching Kindergarten.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

An Early Christmas Card.

I woke up this morning to a message from one of my dearest friends.

We met fortuitously nearly a decade ago, when I noticed a car bearing British Columbia licence plates parked on the road outside our school.  Who, I wondered, was this newcomer?  I had lived in BC for five years, myself, before my first child was born.  With my tiny Wee Three tucked firmly in one arm, I leaned up against the vehicle to wait and see who this addition to our community might be.

I finally saw her strolling up the path, with her own little girl in tow.  The four of us blinked at each other for a moment, and I swear, it was one of those rare times when you feel as though you've known someone for a lifetime.  We "recognized" each other, without ever having met before, and quickly fell in step with a friendship so firm, I couldn't imagine being any closer if we were actually sisters.  Together, we've faced life's greatest joys, and ruts so deep and dark, it didn't seem as though we'd ever be able to pull each other out.  But, for the past nine-and-a-half years, we've been a team.  And that has made ALL the difference.

Amazingly, even another cross-country move hasn't altered the relationship.  We may not be able to car pool our kids anymore, and our Thursday afternoon knit-alongs have had to become far less frequent.  But, we can still exchange a flurry of text messages, and schedule marathon telephone calls (sometimes firmly locked in our closets, to deter interruptions from various progeny).  Whenever we DO arrange to clap eyes on each other, it's as though no time has passed-- we just carry on right from where we left off.

That's pretty special.

She "gets" me, and likes who I am, warts and all.

She and her kids are my chosen family.

It's true that the long-distance thing can be a bit of a wrench, though.  There are absolutely times when I wish she was closer, that I could just nip 'round the block, plop my behind down in one of her cozy living room chairs, to knit and chat till our fingers fall off.  I don't think we've ever run out of things to say to one another-- but we're also comfortable spending entire afternoons together in near silence.

Today's message made me laugh till my sides ached.  But it also tugged at my heartstrings:

Imagine if you will...

I sat this morning in Francesco's, a quaint little cafe, sipping on a hazlenut latte, just passing the time knitting whilst waiting for Miss M. to finish up her art class next door.

When suddenly o'er top the faint bluesy acoustic guitar Christmas music, I heard the barista loud and clear, in his best Bing Crosby, from the back room singing:

"It's beginning to look a lot like bullsh*t..."

I kid you not.

And oh, how I wished you were with me.

Missing you so,


I miss you, too, my dear.  I miss you, too.

* * * * * 

SHE KNOWS exactly how I feel about "that kind" of Christmas music-- and the commercialized wind-up towards Christmas in general.

She also knows that for the past few months, I've been searching high and low for some of the finest musical selections (and some of the silliest, too, don't worry!) of the season.

Last year's Musical Advent Calendar was a celebration of five years of good music, and I took the opportunity to post encore performances of my most favourite selections.

This year, there may be a few familiar tunes, but I'm making every effort to ensure that most days, you will be hearing something new, unique and wonderful.  Something that will lift your heart, soothe your spirit, and prepare you for the days ahead... 

DEFINITELY not what you'll be hearing over the loudspeakers in your local mall.  Thank goodness.

As of December 1, and continuing on until Christmas Day, drop by for a reprieve from the ordinary!  Grab a cup of something hot, put your feet up, and turn up the volume.

It's nearly Christmastime!

Random stitches.

It's cold outside, people, and winter will be here before we know it, whether we like it or not.

I've been busy whipping up a few things in an attempt to keep my progeny warm and toasty over the next few months!

I started with Child Number One, who is now seventeen.  (I KNOW.  I can't believe it either.  But she must be, because I rarely clap eyes on her unless she's riding shotgun in the Loser Cruiser while I'm driving her somewhere.  Usually, she's ensconced in her bedroom doing homework most of the night.  She streels through my room at about 1 AM, whispering remembrances of the unholy hour she needs to be driven to school for band in the morning, on her way to use the "good" shower in my ensuite bathroom.  There should be a "Hinterland's Who's Who" television vignette featuring The Teenaged Night Owl.  Now THAT would be a helpful public service announcement.)

Most seventeen-year-olds are extremely particular about the clothes they wear-- even here in the Great White North, where style would not seem to matter as much as the NUMBER OF LAYERS you put on your body before braving the elements.  Child Number One has an elegant style of her own, it is definitely true.  But she cares considerably less about the importance of outdoor-warmth than I, her long-suffering mother, do.  Hence, when it came time to purchase her a new winter coat, I knew that unless I kidnapped her from her bedroom, or lured her into the Loser Cruiser with the (false) promise of a trip to Dairy Queen, I would NEVER get her to the mall to try on, much less purchase, a parka.

The benefit of having a seventeen-year-old who is particularly studious is that she checks her emails quite frequently.  So, in order to preserve my own sanity, I perused the Land's End online catalogue, forwarded her snapshots of my top five choices, and indicated the one that I would be most likely to purchase for her.  Most importantly, I also gave her a TIME LIMIT:  if no preference was indicated within several days, an order would automatically go in for the biggest, fluffiest ankle-length version, complete with fake-fur-trimmed hood.  

Needless to say, I had an answer fairly quickly...  and I was able to begin knitting accessories to go with the coat even before I received an order confirmation.  (Victory in the Clothing Department is fuel for productivity, that's for sure.)

The hat?  Is "Who?", by Sara Aramoso-- and it's brilliant.  A quick and easy knit, it's a miracle of cable stitches that form a ringlet of tiny owls all around the wearer's head.  I've made several in a blue-and-grey shade of Pacific Colour Wave.  It's a beautiful superwash merino wool that is soft enough not to feel "picky" around the wearer's forehead.  The colours blend together so nicely as it knits up, I've chosen two more shades to make hats for Child Number Two and Wee Three, as well:  one blue-and-green, and one orangey-red (which is slightly weird, for owls...  but at least I'll never lose that kid in a snowstorm.)  I've added two little sequins for the eyes of one of the owls, and hope that the girlies remember to wear them just a little to the right or left of centre...  We'll see.  

The scarf was a simple choice-- and not a scarf at all.  The Gaptastic Cowl is all the rage right now, the pattern being inspired by an overpriced machine-made article of clothing available for sale at a certain clothing store.  Ahem.   The yarn is another Cascade superwash merino in a chunky weight, made in Peru-- it feels divine, and drapes so nicely when knit up on slightly larger needles (I used a 9 mm, when the ball band called for a 6 mm).  It's knit in the round on an odd number of stitches, so that the seed stitch pattern forms automatically, thus alleviating the need to keep track of rows-- I just kept on knitting mindlessly 'till the two skeins were used up.  Child Number One can wrap it twice, if she wants a more casual look when her jacket is undone, or (the more likely scenario) three times if it's DAMNED cold, and she wants something snuggled up to her chin!

At this point in the year, all of my girls are still wearing fingerless gloves.  I don't quite understand it, being the type of person whose fingers are the very FIRST body part to succumb to cold and threaten to drop off as soon as fall arrives.  I am a mitten-and-glove kind of girl-- preferably ones that stretch right up to my elbows.  No matter how hard I try to look stylish in them, I always find myself curling my hands up into balls inside the palms of my fingerless gloves, in order to stay warm enough during dreaded yard duties.  However, half-mittens are better than no mittens at all, and keep the mother-and-child relations from boiling over every morning.   I dutifully crank out at least three pairs of the fingerless kind every year, as soon as I feel a nip in the air.  Maine Morning Mitts is a divine pattern, in a simple K2, P1 rib, which makes the material almost a double-thickness.  I had some Noro Keuryon kicking around from a previous project, and so made my first pair out of that.  I then found a skein of Cascade "Jewel", a Peruvian highland kettle-dyed wool, in the silkiest deep, dark purple.  Gorgeous.  The older girls are still fighting over those ones.  The last pair will have to be for Wee Three:  it's an outrageous self-patterning yarn named "Sunshine", in Splash by King Cole.  (Needless to say, they're going to go perfectly with her bright orange hat.)  I'll need slightly smaller needles for that pair, but they'll knit up well to fit her smaller hands.

And as an aside...  The Maine Morning Mitts pattern was written by the wonderful and prolific Clara Parkes, whose latest book "The Yarn Whisperer:  My Unexpected Life in Knitting" is now available for sale, and has become on of my favourite reads of the year.  It would make a fantastic Christmas gift for any knitterly friends you may have...  or better yet, pop one under the tree for yourself!

There is one other "little" article that I'm making every effort to set aside a certain number of minutes per day to work on.  After many years of dedicated work in our district school board, Child Number One's favourite music teacher and his wife are expecting their first baby, who is set to appear on the scene sometime in early December.  It was this amazing teacher who changed my daughter's life by handing her a flute and showing her how to play, more years ago than I care to remember.  He is the type of educator who looks past the "student" and take a sincere interest in the child.  He started with a timid, self-conscious little girl, and has brought her along and encouraged her to become an extremely talented, confident young woman.  I am more grateful to him than I could ever express in words... and it is for this reason than I am tackling a very special pattern.  It's called "The Heart Blanket"...  and if I didn't "heart" this little baby so much, I confess that I'd probably be tempted to attack this half-completed project with garden shears, and then run over the whole mess, needles and all, with a steam-roller.  I don't know why the pattern eludes me...  I've even written the chart out explicitly in words, IN ENGLISH, and copied it onto a spread-sheet.  Every time I finish a row, I grab a pencil and dutifully check in another box...  to no avail.  With every single repeat, I've had to tink out AT LEAST two or three rows, to figure out where the hell I went wrong.  Which is frustrating, to say the least.  

Confession (and slight worry):  I think it might be bad karma to swear this much when lovingly creating a gift for a newborn.  


There are, of course, many, many other projects on-the-go in my arsenal.  I was under the illusion that I had my "UFO" habit under control (and by UFO, I mean "Un-Finished Object").  Last summer, during the worst of the July heatwave, I retreated into the air-conditioning of my sewing room and spent a good week or two combing through the stash.  I spent hours sorting and thinking and desperately trying to be "realistic" about my Habit...  Eventually, projects that were driving me mad (but that I was too stubborn to give up on) were ripped out, the yarn steamed and re-wound, and each collection of skeins secured in enormous zip-loc bags for future consideration.  However, to my dismay I realized that all my efforts had been (mostly) in vain by some point in late September.  It was then that I deemed it necessary to weed all my "summer" knitting projects out of the myriad bags and containers that I have placed round the house, in order to make more room for the "fall/winter" projects.  

I had unwittingly done it again.  And now there's a whole new pile-up of crazy tossed into wicker baskets in my basement, waiting patiently to be sorted.  

Will it ever end?

I doubt it.

(Actually...  I hope not.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


In memoriam
Sir John Tavener

So many people hold the death of a significant person in their lives to be a "turning point";  a moment in time from which all others are measured.

I don't mean to sound trite when I confess that that person for me is Diana, Princess of Wales.  I am "of that age", after all.  Most certainly, as a young girl, she was The One whom I held up as the ideal perfection.  I followed her carefully staged romance, engagement and marriage, besotted by the "fairytale".  Her clothes, her hair... the style of her was of constant fascination to me.

As I grew older, of course, the cracks in her public persona most certainly began to show.  She was far from perfect-- just like the rest of us.  With such a troubled background, minimal education, and the inexplicable lack of support and compassion from those placed around her, she could not possibly have been expected to survive.

Her death shook me to the core.  But it is a few moments of the hauntingly beautiful funeral service that will be forever burned in my brain, for as long as I live:

The finality of that closed box, 
draped in scarlet, gold and blue, in the cavernous Abbey.  

A circlet of white rosebuds; the gut-wrenching sight 
of the card inscribed: 


Two small boys, one with his head buried in his hands.

And the sacred lullaby by Sir John Tavener,
lifting a soul to heaven.  

"The important thing about music is not what one writes down...  It is what is left out.
One should move towards silence."
--Sir John Tavener

Song For Athene (Cleobury) by Tavener on Grooveshark

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