Hours five, six, and seven

The hours between 5 and 8 o’clock in the morning are a study in extremes around here. At 5, the house is wrapped in stillness. Nothing is stirring, not even the birds, and certainly not the teenagers, nor The Man We Call Dad.

By 6 o’clock (and certainly by 6:30 at the lastest), at least one of the teenagers has come to life, often in a frantic flurry of clothes finding and breakfast making and schoolbook packing. The birds have unpiled themselves from their funny little sleeping pile (they sleep together in one tiny birdhouse, all piled atop one another in a cuddly heap). The moment a human sets foot on the main floor, the birds start calling out their hellos, making sure you’ve noticed that they, too, are awake and hungry for breakfast.


By 8 o’clock, with the birds fed and content, and both kids out the door, I find myself settling in at my desk to begin my day’s work in a house gone quiet once more.

It feels different though, the 8 a.m. silence. Unlike the utter stillness of the world a few short hours earlier, 8 a.m. hums with movement as the world outside intrudes with its determination to seize the day. At 8 a.m., you can hear the washing machine churning away in the corner, the animals outside socializing as they visit our feeders, the kids waiting for the schoolbus, and the adults roaring off to work in their cars.

You can also smell the sausages and maple syrup from breakfast, and the remnants of autumn in the crisp smell of leaves and cold air that wafted in when the door was opened.

The 8 o’clock house may be quiet, but it is anything but still.

Likewise, the 8-hour-old stocking has undergone a radical change. What started as a single element has now become merely part of a larger whole sitting on the arm of the couch in the morning sunlight.


A small hand lies ready to hold the gingerbread cookie tightly in its grasp…


A bearded face is taking shape…


And an apron is slowly aquiring some embroidered elements before it takes its final place somewhere above the boots.



The gingerbread man with all his embroidery took shape so very slowly. By comparison, the past few hours of work on the stocking have been a veritable explosion of activity not unlike that I see most weekday mornings around here. Yet now, with so many pieces cut and waiting for embellishment before being attached to the stocking itself, there’s a new kind of pause taking shape as I sit and embroider and bead and fuss. Progress will feel slow again until these pieces have been fancied up, though like the 8 a.m. house, there’s definitely a feeling of movement in the quiet.



Making Art

While this year’s Maker Faire did not have as many artists as I would have wished for, there were some notable talents sharing their passion for their work. In some cases, the work is done entirely by hand. In others, it is done by machine. Either way, the end results are absolutely spectacular.

Jesse of Third-Son works with laser-cut wood and the designs he produces are just delightful. He had the cutest little plant pokes shaped like castle turrets and ice cream-topped towers, perfect in every detail. Naturally, I was so captivated with his work that I completely forgot to take photographs.

Luckily, I did make a small purchase of wood coasters so I can show you those, and he has photos on his website so you can see why I was so entranced (along with a shop in case you want to join me in owning some of the wonderfulness he creates).


There was also a wonderful metal worker, Tick Tock Tom, who made the most striking sculptures out of found bits. Some were robotic, like this little guy.


Others were anatomic, and completely kinetic, like a functioning set of steel lungs and this wonderfully drippy heart that recirculated it’s life’s blood around and around.


But by far the thing that captivated my heart were the masks.


Made of leather and fabric, embroidered and embellished, and glittering with gold, they were the most beautiful things at the Faire. I just can’t get enough of them and keep going back to look at the photos I took, if only to make my heart sigh in happiness.


My sister was in love with the rooster and I do have to admit his magnificence. As for me, my heart was stolen by this guy:



For the past few years, we have ventured out to this little thing called the Ottawa Mini-Maker Faire. This year, sadly, they announced there wasn’t going to be a Mini-Maker Faire.

Instead, Canada held its first official fully-fledged Maker Faire last weekend, right here in Ottawa, and we were so excited to go.

The Maker Faire was held in the beautiful, historic Aberdeen Pavillion at Landsdown.

And it was, to be perfectly truthful, a little disappointing.

In previous years, we have easily spent 3 or 4 hours exploring and watching and listening and trying and doing while we were there. This year, though, we were there less than 2 hours before we had seen and tried everything that enticed us and we were ready to go, and that included spending 20 minutes talking to the delightfully patient gentleman from ParLUGment about the best way to custom paint Lego minifigs.


There was a surprising lack of artists and crafters, and very few exhibitors blurring the lines between art, science, and engineering. There was quite a lot of hands-on exploration for very young children, but little to fascinate those 9 to 12.  The aisles were a little ragged and hard to navigate, and no one had thought out how, exactly, to make sure there was enough room for more than a few people to be able to stop and watch a demo without being overwhelmed by the noise and visuals coming frmo the booth next door, or behind. Backdrops might have helped, I suspect, making the fair more like Artist’s Alley at ComicCon and less like a jumbled row of table after table crowded round with people.


There were plenty of people with 3D printers, but not a one of them excited me. Most were showing off boring little models of their favourite TV and video game characters. Not one had something truly innovative or even terribly beautiful or emminently useful. I’ve seen so much gorgeous art and innovative inventions being 3D printed online, it was sad to see little other than character models printed out.

All in all, it was a fun time, just not as impressive as I was hoping for. There were some fabulous displays of creativity and wonder, including an absolutely mezmerizing kaleidescope


A precisely milled R2D2 builder

makerr2 makerr2bits

And a fascinating melding of sandcastle building, real-time 3D mapping, and sound that let you change the sound being produced by sculpting sand mixed with baby oil into shapes of various heights.


The sand box was being continually scanned by a mapping machine that projected various colours on to the sand based on the sand’s height map, and then produced a sound pattern whose frequencies were based on the measurements it had just scanned. It was very cool.

But the Lego…Oh, the Lego! ParLUGment is Ottawa’s adult Lego enthusiasts club and they are fantastic. There was a wide variety of creations ranging from minifig scaled operating rooms to a full-scale Tesla charging station with all it’s swoopy curves (an impressive feat considering it was made entirely from rectangular blocks). But by far my favourite was the Star Wars-themed mechanized marble run that stretched about 3 metres long.






All in all, the Maker Faire was quite enjoyable and we will go again next year. Hopefully they’ll have learned a lot from this year’s experience and will have worked out some of the kinks.


A new stocking has begun

Very recently, I discovered that yet another big-name publishing house is not actually paying its writers, despite being quite a profitable venture. (If you want to read more about it, go here.)

As someone who writes professionally and has for years, and as someone who makes things as a hobby and sometimes for pay, I find myself baffled by the idea that anyone would give their talents away for free — or worse, at a cost to themselves — so that someone else can profit from it.

Don’t get me wrong; if you want to volunteer your time or donate your goods or services, go for it. But don’t do it “for the exposure” because that’s just a fancy way certain companies have of saying “let me exploit you so I can make money.” Make sure you’re doing it for your own reasons and that you have realistic expectations of what you’re going to get out of it. (Hint: getting “exposure” usually means you’re getting taken advantage of and in the end only serves to devalue the work we all do. Please don’t do anything just for the exposure.)

Part of the problem, though, is that in this age of instant gratification where anything you want to buy is a click away on Amazon, books are an instant download within seconds of seeing a review, and seasonal foods are available year round regardless of their proper season or country of origin, many people don’t understand just how very long it takes for things to happen.

Apples are a fall fruit, not a spring one, and it takes years to establish a tree thoroughly enough that it will give you a generous bounty of them. Raspberries bloom fast and furious, then give you an abundance of fruit for a few short weeks before they’re finished for the year and yes, you really do have to wait 11 more months before there will be new ones. A carrot really does take the entire summer to grow big enough to eat. And a Christmas stocking — at least, the way I do them — really does take hours and hours and hours of work before it’s finished.

Every so often, someone will ask me if I would make them a stocking, and even offering to pay for my materials, not understanding that the stocking they so admire and want to have for themselves not only uses $40 worth of materials, it took me 80 hours to finish.

Family members get stockings. Nieces and nephews get stockings. Dear friends who really should be family get stockings.

Random people on Facebook who admire my stockings and want one for themselves? Not unless they’re willing to pay for my time as well as my materials, which they inevitably aren’t.

And then they often get grumpy about it.

I don’t mind them changing their mind and not commissioning a stocking when they find out the price tag has three digits in it, not two. I don’t even mind them questioning why, exactly, I charge so much for such a thing when they can buy simpler ones much cheaper at Walmart.

But I do mind when they get grumpy about it and start saying nasty things about people who have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they can charge hundreds of dollars for what amounts to something a monkey could do.

To them, I ask: When was the last time you gave away 80 hours of work for free?

Not free, they tell me, being willing to pay for the materials and maybe a few dollars extra.

Yes, free, I tell them, knowing that even if they double their initial offer and pay me a whole $40 on top of the cost of materials, that still works out to an hourly wage of about fifty cents an hour, or a grand total of $4 for an 8-hour day’s worth of labour, 10 days in a row.

No, thank you.

Every so often, there’s someone who gets it. Someone who understands that what they’re paying for is one of a kind, crafted by hand, thoughtfully and mindfully and with an abundance of passion. I love those people. I strive to be one of those people when I visit craft fairs and art shows. Even if it means I can’t even begin to be able to afford all the things I want, it ensures that the people who are making the things I so admire will be able to continue to make a living making.

And just maybe, some day, we will realize the folly of devaluing ourselves for a little “exposure,” and treasure once more the art and skill that goes into whatever it is that we choose to do.

In the meantime, I have a new stocking to make for a sweet little nephew who is adored beyond measure. I’m four hours in to the process, and here’s what those four hours look like:





Some days…

Some days, you just can’t face the idea of cooking another dinner. I mean really, who needs to eat every single day?

Oh, right.

Me. I get positively ogre-ish when I don’t eat regularly.

As well as the short-ish people who live here with me.

And The Man We Call Dad.

And the birds. And the fish.

Okay, fine, I suppose I’ll have to admit it: Feeding the hoardes of hungry creatures around here is a never-ending task that absolutely must happen every single day. But there aren’t any rules about how that has to happen, or who has to do the cooking, or how often we’re allowed to do takeout.

In all fairness, I usually enjoy the process of feeding my family. From choosing menus and playing with ingredients to pushing back from the table with a satisfied sigh… it makes my heart happy.


But not lately.

I’ve just been so tired of late. The dragons on the beach have been throwing lots of pebbles my way and it has been taking more energy than I have to cope with the daily drudgery of housecleaning and cooking after a full day’s work.

And when I’m tired and not in the mood to cook, and hungry teenagers come whining about how there’s nothing to eat in the fridge because it’s full of vegetables and fruit from the CSA box and nothing else (except the baked pasta with a deliciously browned mozarella top, or the leftover ham, or cheese in three varieties, or salad fixings, or carrots from our garden with 19 different sauces to dip them in, or leftover pancakes, or bacon and eggs, or any of 100 things in the pantry… because of course none of that counts for much when you’re truly starving), well, I get a little grumpy.

So this weekend, instead of caring for others, I chose to practice some self-care and delegate at least one daily chore to others.

Friday, Wild Wings took care of dinner, bringing us pounds of wings in a wide variety of flavours along with french fries, chippers, and one special order of fries with bacon, cheese, and sour cream on them.

But that wasn’t the fun part. This:


This was the fun part. A couple of hands of gin followed by a laughter-filled round of Cheat (also known as Bullshit in settings where fewer manners are required) had us all laughing within minutes. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t mind at all that the kitchen forgot our appetizer and got not one but two of our meals wrong. It was annoying, sure, but we were all too busy laughing and cheating and laughing some more to care much. Besides, our server was fantastic and they comped the appetizer to boot.

There’s nothing like a truly great bout of laughter shared with loved ones to take the grump right out of a mother at dinner time.

And because my pebble is still heavier than I can easily cope with right now, Saturday night (also known as Halloween) was takeout pizza and Sunday The Man We Call Dad fired up the BBQ and made the most delicious steak and chicken dinner with roasted cheesy-bacon potatoes and green beans with crumbled bacon and bread fresh from the bakery down the road.

It sure is yummy when someone else does the cooking.

A little bit of colour…

When it comes to making things from yarn, there is one thing I think all knitters and crocheters will agree on: sewing in the ends is a horrible, terrible, tedious job.

Oh, there’s nothing difficult about it, really. It’s just boring.

This is why I tend to work in single colours, or in lovely variegated and self-patterning yarns that don’t require more than 2 ends to be fastened down at the end of the project. It’s also why I tend to avoid projects made up of blocks, even the sew-together-as-you-go kind, as they inevitably require 72 blocks. Which means there will be 144 ends to weave in. Which usually results in much cursing.

And which totally does not explain the presence of this bit of colourfulness on my rocking chair at the moment:

puddle of colour

I blame it on Lion Brand.

The this in question is the Fireworks Hexagon Picnic Blanket by Lion Brand, and it is an absolutely wonderful jumble of bright colours and fun hexagons. As an added bonus, it’s a join-as-you-go afghan, which means there’s no sewing together to do at the end.

You just make a hexagon…


Join it to its neighbours…


And voila!

Except for the six hundred ends to weave in at the end.

You think I’m kidding? Try this on for size…


The blanket is made up of 60 hexagons. Each hexagon is made up of 5 colours. Each colour has a tail of yarn at the start, and another at the end. Last time I checked, 60 x 5 x 2 = 600.

The pattern oh so sweetly suggests “To reduce the number of ends to weave in, work over the ends of the old color when working the next rnd.”

The problem is, with granny square blocks, even hexagonal ones, there isn’t a whole lot of space to work over the ends. At best, you’ve secured the tail with six double crochets worked in a chain 2 space. Fine for a decorative doily, I suppose, but absolutely insufficient for a blanket that is going to be used and loved and tossed in a wagon and thrown on the grown and rolled up in like a burrito. (What. Don’t you always roll up in your handmade blankets like a burrito?)

For blankets that are destined for a lot of active loving, you absolutely must have secure ends or you’ll wind up with a holey blanket. And sometimes even when you do have secure ends, you still wind up with a holey blanket, because, well, that’s what blankets do.

So while I’m dutifully crocheting over ends when I can, the further I get into this project, the less I can deny it: There are a lot of ends waiting to be woven in when I’m done.

My Hot Cocoa is a featured item!

I have news! I logged in to Ravelry this morning, looking for a bit of inspiration for a new blanket to crochet, and I think I’ve found the perfect one. But that’s not my news. Upon logging in, I discovered that I had a message waiting, asking if I would give permission for my Hot Cocoa blanket to be featured on the pattern’s main page on Ravelry. I’m so flattered!


It’s such a little thing, really. It’s just someone saying “Great job following the pattern, can we show off your work as an example of how to do our pattern right?” But it’s nice to be recognized, especially for a hobby I enjoy so much. You can see it here on Ravelry.