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:



Friday’s Little Thing

When watching historical reenactments…

The very best place to be…

…is right smack in the middle of it.

That’s our B, oh so casually watching the reenactments at Fort George , not from the sidelines like everyone else. As the soldiers started forming up, she marched herself right over to the very best viewing spot she could find.

As for me? I keep wondering why on earth I settled for photos taken from the sidelines when I could have joined her.

:: Friday’s Little Thing is a moment in time I wish to remember. Please feel free to join me in sharing your own moments and link to them in the comments. I would love to see them! ::

One Proud Mama

Saturday, we will be celebrating B’s birthday with a gaggle of children and beloved family members. We will be playing, we will be laughing, we will be decorating cupcakes, we will be eating burgers fresh off the grill (and plenty of potato chips, too, after Wednesday’s chip-buying orgy of awesomeness).

We are not opening birthday gifts. That’s right. There is absolutely no gift opening orgy going on here. If all goes as planned, not one child will arrive with a gift in hand, and B will not tear into a stack of gifts with glee, and we will not try desperately to remember who gave her what in order to write out thank you cards that will inevitably go astray and probably not get delivered until sometime next February.

It is a gift-free birthday party, and I couldn’t be more proud.

A few years ago, I started blogging about a dear friend and neighbour who was busy teaching her children to change the world. Before I had the privilege of watching Sharon and her daughters change the world together, I would have told you that teaching children to change the world involves a lot of talking and explaining and forcing them to do things they don’t want to do.

It doesn’t. Helping Sharon with Catherine’s Pretty Ponytails and watching my kids get involved and help out and raise money and donate their own hair (and mine!) taught me that it doesn’t take talking to teach kids to change the world.

It turns out that you teach your kids to change the world by changing the world with your kids.

Last Christmas, one of my favourite bloggers/authors, Jen Yates over at CakeWrecks, decided that instead of gifts, she and her husband would donate to a different charity every day. Then they invited everyone who reads the blog to donate at least a dollar to each of their chosen charities, too. Charity:Water was their first charity, and we donated.

Fast forward a few months: Jen posted about the amazing results of everyone’s donations to Charity:Water, and the kids were astonished at how much CakeWrecks and their readers had been able to do. They read the post several times. They watched Charity:Water’s thank you video several times. They watched the video at the Charity:Water website several times.

And then B announced that she didn’t want any birthday gifts this year. Not one. She wanted everyone to take the money they would have spent on gifts for her and donate it to Charity:Water instead.

So that is what we are doing.

She has set a goal of $150, which she feels is attainable if each of her invitees donates $9 or more in honour of her 9th birthday, and which will allow Charity:Water to help 7 people gain access to fresh, clean, potable water. Personally, I think we can do better than that. I think we can do a whole lot better than that.

And I’m asking for your help. Help me teach my kids that they have the power to change the world.

We have set up a campaign web page on the Charity:Water website where you can make an online donation directly to Charity:Water in honour of B’s 9th birthday. Will you help her reach her target goal? Will you help me show her that not only can she reach her goal, she can surpass it?

Will you help me teach my kids to change the world by changing the world with my kids?

To make a donation directly to Charity:Water in honour of B’s 9th birthday, go to

TAST progress… and a little pride, too.

I regularly lecture to my kids. Every mother does, I think. The lectures don’t last long most of the time — some are barely more than a second. They are meant to teach, but often annoy, these lectures of mine. And I have always suspected that my lectures, long and short, and roundly ignored. If you saw the rolled eyes and heard the huffs and puffs and sighs, you would understand why I think so.

And yet, every so often, a child will surprise me by quoting back to me the very substance of a lecture given eons ago.

Take the last few weeks of TAST work, for example.

My darling B has not been happy with the TAST challenge. She has been struggling with it every week, bemoaning crooked stitches and imperfect results. She is, in truth, her own harshest critic, holding herself to an exacting standard that would defeat even the most experienced of stitchers, nevermind one who is only 8 years old. I am delighted with her progress, with her learning, and her success, though she doesn’t see it that way.

“You’re my Mom, you have to like it,” she tells me.

(When did we acquire our own resident cynic?)

And so I remind her that Rome wasn’t built in a day, skills aren’t mastered the first time we try them, the end-product isn’t as important as the effort, and other such mini-lectures.

“But yours is perfect!” she often whines, at which point The Big Lecture comes out. You know the one. The one where I remind her that I am 40 and she is 8, and I have had a zillion years or so of stitching to her meager 3 or 4, and that I had just as much trouble when I first learned new stitches, and that I still do struggle with learning new skills, every single day. But with every attempt, you get a little bit better, so just keep trying.

It’s a lovely lecture.

To which she — naturally — rolls her eyes and sighs and stomps away.

For a while, I wondered if I should just stop lecturing. If I should give up on this idea of doing TASTwith her and just do it myself, and let her come along for the ride or not, as she pleased.

And so I stopped asking her to try it. What’s more, with the events of the last couple of weeks, I didn’t have the energy to stitch, and so I didn’t, either. Until she said to me, what’s this week’s stitch, Mama? and I realized that I had no idea.

I was busy with other things, and tired in both body and spirit, so I merely called up the website and left her to it, figuring she wouldn’t get far without me stitching beside her.

An hour later, she ran off to play with a friend and I tripped over a mess on the floor that, in my tired and cranky state, made me utter a bad word or three before I realized what I was looking at.

It was the running stitch.

My darling girl had taken it upon herself to learn the stitch from the small sample Sharon B provided on the Pin Tangle website. I felt rather proud of B, seeing what she had accomplished without me.

When she came back inside, I asked her to tell me all about her work, and so she did.

And it turns out, she wasn’t listening to my lectures at all. But she had been very carefully watching me.

She started out with a piece of white felt to be her backing fabric, to which she would attach all the colours of the landscape that she could see in her imagination. I learned to use a backing fabric when I started my crazy quilting journey last fall. I don’t remember specifically telling her about it, but I must have at some point, because the next words out of her mouth were these:

“Just like you do for your crazy quilt squares.”

She then explained that she had used a pencil to plan out her pieces and make notes as to what she wants where “just like you do with that funny purple marker that erases.”

And she used her fairy scissors that we bought together at the fabric store to cut the felt, but the leopard scissors to cut the threads, because you should always use fabric scissors for fabric and paper scissors for paper so that you don’t dull the fabric scissors, so she figured thread, which is neither fabric nor paper, deserved its own scissors, too.

Thus prepared, she used a running stitch to anchor down the various elements of her landscape, and then she made the word Mom, but when Mom didn’t contrast enough with the background, she added a square of blue behind it so it would draw the eye, because “if you want someone to notice something, you need to make it pop.”

And why, exactly, did Mom need to be noticed?

Well, because it was a gift. For me. Since I had been too busy to work on my own landscape block lately, she decided to work on one for me.

A few days later, B was looking for a bird. Not just any bird, but one she could put in a paper lunch sack and bring to school as part of a book report. They had to collect 4 items to represent characters or events in the book they read and then present them to the class, and she needed a bird.

There are some beautiful handsewn birds all over Pinterest and Etsy, and I’ve pinned quite a few of them as things I would like to make when I have a moment. When I looked at her sweet face, stressed by the need to find a bird she could bring to school, I knew what we had to do.

We had to sew. Together. And make a bird.

Together, we cut out two sides for our bird, and then a panel to make the bottom. We cut out little wings, and a decorative bit for the middle of the wing, and then we set to stitching. We started with buttonhole stitch, since she was comfortable with it, and then I taught her chain stitch, which was one of the TAST stitches that we skipped. We worked together, passing the felt pieces back and forth, me stitching a bit to show her how, her doing a few then getting frustrated, me taking it back to demonstrate once more, and finally, success, and she would finish it off.

We worked for about half an hour, and then C from next door came calling. To my surprise, B invited her to come embroider with us. C looked somewhat skeptical, but she figured she could come at watch, at least.

Of course, B wouldn’t let her.

“Here’s some fabric. Do you know how to thread a needle? I’ll do it for you. What colour do you want?” and so on, until a few moments later, C was sitting there, needle and thread in hand, unsure what to do.

“Teach her the running stitch, Mom!” I was told, and so I did. And then the lazy daisy, and then a straight stitch, and then — because C wanted to sew a rose — how to do a spider web stitch rose.

B was full of advice and suggestions and commiseration when the thread slipped out of the needle. She was full of encouragement, too. But what really caught my attention was the lectures.

Yup, lectures.

“It takes a bit of practice before you get the hang of it, you know. Keep going, you’re doing great, and you’ll get better the more you do it.”


“It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look perfect. It’s your first time trying, after all!”

And, most hilariously of all:

“Don’t forget, I’ve been doing this for years. You’ve only just started.”

It seems she hasn’t been ignoring my lectures after all.

A while later, I’m not sure how long since we were, after all, busy sewing and not paying attention to the clock, C’s brother came to fetch her. Off she went, leaving her work behind with a disgusted frown. No, she did not want to take it home. It was terrible, after all.

My daughter, who only days before had expressed exactly the same sentiment, carefully picked up the little flower garden C had been working on and handed it tenderly to C’s brother.

“She’s going to want it later,” she told him with a sage nod.

Afterwards, as we poked stuffing into the little felt bird and B carefully whip-stitched the final edges together, I asked her about that moment upstairs. About why, when faced with C’s absolute rejection and a refusal to take the sewing home, B had persisted enough to insist C’s brother take it home and show it to their mother.

“She’s going to be so proud of it. She just doesn’t know it yet.”


From the archives: Two Minutes…

I posted this video last year for Remembrance Day, and on this day a year later, I can find no better way to express my thoughts. So without further ado, I give you last year’s post anew.

Today, we are observing two minutes of silence here in our nation’s capital. This morning, we will be downtown at the War Memorial watching the pipe band march in with our veterans, and our Governor General speak, and wreaths being laid. We will observe two minutes of silence in between gun salutes to remember those who have given so much of themselves to keep us safe and sound here at home. We go today to remember that war injures more than just the body; kills more than just our corporeal form. We go today not just to remember Canada’s fallen in battle, but also to remember those who didn’t fall until long after they got home; those who bore the scars of their injuries deep within their souls until finally the life that was left to them was too much to bear, and so they didn’t. And we go today to thank all those Canadians who are still serving their country, both at home and abroad, regular force and reservists, who shout loud and clear every day that Canada and her people is a cause worth fighting for.

When it is done, we will lay our poppies among many on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before making our way home. It seems like such a little thing to do. Terry Kelly says it well:

What will you be doing today?

Nature overhead

If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you know that we have a serious love affair going on with the natural world around us. We love the garden, both floral and vegetable. We love the bog in all its ancient glory. We love birds, both domestic and wild. We love the woods and the ravine behind us. And we love the sky — that glorious, ever-changing, ever the same sky that is so easy to overlook from day-to-day and yet is such a huge presence in all our lives, no matter where in the world we find ourselves.

Blue sky in the woods

There is something magical and awe-inspiring about the sky. Bigger than anything else around us and so far out of our reach, it feels like an ocean overhead. When I was little, I used to imagine the sky was a sort of ocean encircling the earth. In my dreams, I would float up into the air until I could reach out and dip my fingers in its liquid lightness, pulling them out dripping with clouds and that clear, cornflower blue that only the sky has. Temperature thusly tested, I would flip myself around until the sky was the ocean at my feet and the world had become my moon and I would swim and swim and swim amidst the clouds and stars and birds.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that the sky is just a cushion of air surrounding our world. Sometimes opaque with moisture buildup, other times so clear you could see the entire universe, it was not, as I had once imagined, an upside-down ocean with nothing but air between me and it. Rather, I was but a small mote standing on the ocean floor, staring up from the depths of my oxygen- and nitrogen-rich pool and marveling at the clouds that studded its middle depths and the stars that lie so very far beyond its uppermost reaches.

The sky is dizzying by times. When the wind blows hard and the clouds race each other across the sky almost faster than your eyes can track them, it’s enough to make your head spin. Other times, when you lie on your back in the grass and watch the gentle drift of the towering cumulus, your perspective shifts and just that suddenly you become aware that it is the earth on which you lie that is moving, not the universe, and you clutch at the grass in a vain attempt to not fall off this spinning ball of mud, vertigo having taken over for just a minute.

Most of the time, the sky is simply something vaguely overhead. We notice if it is blue or grey, cloudy or clear, dark or bright. It is our clearest indicator of the weather. It is the simplest method of tracking the time. It just is, blue and bright and impossibly high overhead.

The other night, while walking home from the library (not the same night the wheels fell off our cart for those of you who like to know these things), the sky caught fire.

Caught fire? you ask — an entirely reasonable question. And for once, all I can say is, yes, it really did catch fire. The flames had no heat, nor where they destructive, but fire it was, and we stopped and stared in awe. As we were nearly home, we hurried up a little so I could grab the camera. This is what I saw.

To the east, we saw twilight tinged with pink:

But to the west… oh, that glorious, fiery west!

A fire in the sky, the clouds burning brightly for just a moment before the sun sank below the horizon. Had you seen a painting of such a thing, you’d have thought it the mad imaginings of a science fiction writer. But no, no fiction, this sky of ours. Beautiful, ever-changing, and just when we think we know its habits better than anything else we could know in 40 years of living on this planet, full of surprises.

I love the sky.