The best night EVER!

•August 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The last week has been a whirlwind of excitement for me. I generally lead a fairly placid life, filled with knitting, sewing, playdates with the children, trips to the yarn shop, pottering about the garden and general domesticity. We don’t go out much, as we like to be together as a family and the children are still young, so late nights are a rare occurrence for them. We’ve never been away from them for more than an afternoon or the duration of a Harry Potter movie (our annual date for the last few years – what will we do now?!). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I happened to see a tweet from someone I follow regarding a chance to win tickets to see Sarah McLachlan in concert. Now, I can’t begin to tell you how much I love her music and how long I have wanted to see her. Actually, I can. I started listening to her music in about 1993, after my brother gave me her ‘Fumbling Towards Ecstasy’ CD. I was living in the UK at the time and no one there had heard of her. Well, they have now! I am the kind of person that will listen to the same CD repeatedly – over and over and over again. I know that’s redundant, but I had to reinforce the point of how much I listened to her! I’m not the freaky, stalking and hanging-out in her neighbourhood kind of fan, nor do I attempt to know everything about her life, but I do love her music, her style, her artwork and her hair! She was totally different to what my friends were listening to, but it suited me completely. So, you can see I’ve been keen for a good few years. I moved back to Canada in 2002 and was certain I would get chance to see her – eventually! Well, Miss604 hosted a ticket giveaway to the Gala Opening Night of MusicFest Vancouver, so I commented on the blog post and was completely blown away when I received an email to say that I had won 2 tickets!!! Sarah McLachlan performing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, gala opening night, party dress recommended. Does it get any better?!

With the help of my incredible mother, we organized a hotel room for the night for us, as the concert was on the mainland and we live on Vancouver Island. No way of getting back the same day, so we would have to stay over. That meant leaving the children for the first time. I knew they would be in great hands and that they would love to have a sleepover with Grandma, but was more worried about me! However, I’m trying to relax and back off a bit and knew it would be good for all of us. We walked on the ferry, stayed at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and picked up our tickets at the Orpheum Theatre just before the show. We were quite worried that something wouldn’t work out, but it all did, beautifully! We had wonderful seats, the theatre was stunning and the performances were amazing. Totally, completely amazing. Brian took great delight in watching the excitement on my face. It was truly a dream come true.

Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

Orpheum Theatre

Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan

What more can I say? She was fantastic!

Summer fun

•July 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Summer is rolling along nicely for us. The weather has finally picked up, but it is definitely not the brightest summer we’ve ever known. Actually, the temperature right now is pretty much perfect for me. My hands and feet aren’t cold and I’m not wilting – perfect balance! We don’t get the vast expanse of blue sky that Mum loves so much about the Prairies – because we have SO many more trees! – but it truly is the most appealing and soul-lifting experience to lay on the grass and see nothing but blue.

Mum has been away in Saskatchewan for just over a week, visiting my brother and we miss her dearly. Hopefully, she will be home later today, so we are heading out to get some groceries for her, mow the lawn, open the windows etc. This is the third year in a row that she has driven the 1600 km. Quite a drive for anyone.

Last night I finished making a patchwork picnic blanket for the girls, using a bunch of 6.5″ squares I had cut out to use up some scrap fabric. I had pondered making some patchwork scarves, but never did. This is much more useful, especially now that I can knit scarves and it looks like there will be no shortage of them around here! There was no real plan for the blanket, but I did put the pieces in bands of colour. I used an old duvet that we had stashed away for the batting and some striped outdoor fabric for the back. I am not a quilter by any stretch of the imagination, so there is nothing fancy at all about this. Just a good use of fabric scraps and a bright and colourful thing to lay on while we are in the garden reading Famous Five Mysteries.

Patchwork Picnic Blanket

Patchwork Picnic Blanket

I have been doing a fair bit of knitting, but have so many projects on the go at the moment that there isn’t much to show. I am making lace scarves for my mother in law and sister in law, using 2 of the skeins I got from KnitPicks. Baby alpaca and silk seems a pretty luxurious combination for a yarn, don’t you think? I’m doing one with the seafoam pattern and the other is “stripe with twisted bar”, both from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Awesome book. Will buy it when I can justify spending yet more money on my new hobby! It would be so easy to totally lose control when faced with such a vast array of beautiful yarns, appealing patterns, great books and neat gadgets and tools. I try to restrain myself, just a little!

Anyway, here are a couple of the things I have finished recently:

"Asking for Roses" shawl by Amy Swenson

"Asking for Roses" shawl by Amy Swenson

For this, I used Madeline Tosh Toshlight in Smokestack, a gorgeous blue merino. The pattern is really lovely, although I did have to rip out the lace panel and start again, as there was a small error in the pattern and I had also made a mistake. Easier to start from the beginning than to unpick rows of lace knitting. Should pay more attention next time, then I might have noticed my initial error. Still, it was a relatively quick knit and a useful learning experience. I will make it again, eventually! I would like to make something bigger next time.

Cloud Bolero for Pip

Cloud Bolero for Pip

Cloud Bolero (back)

Cloud Bolero (back)

This is the Cloud Bolero by Ysolda Teague. Free download through Ravelry. Easy peasy to knit and super quick when using chunky yarn. So much faster that knitting with laceweight yarn, but I did feel rather ham-fisted using big needles again! She loves it, thank goodness, as she often asks for something, then won’t wear it. Don’t get me started on that one! I am making another for Milly, this time in DK weight and on slightly smaller needles in order to make it smaller, so it fits a 4 year old instead of a 7 year old. I’m using Berroco Vintage DK for Milly’s.

We have come to the conclusion that we are not inclined to camp in a tent. Realistically, it just isn’t something we fancy doing. Brian has never done it and my back is still precarious, so I’m really not enamoured with the idea of roughing it at all! After much pondering, we have decided to consider a fifth wheel, which means getting a bigger truck to tow it. The idea is that we can go away for the weekend, pretty much on a whim. We are not great adventurers, but it would be nice for us all to get away from time to time and not always be thinking of what needs to be done around the house and garden. The Island is fantastic for camping of any sort, so there will be no end of places to go. We know what we are like and know that if it is a question of paying for hotels, we just won’t go anywhere! So, we spent some of yesterday looking at and sitting in some very North American trucks. Not sure what they’ll be like to drive, as we haven’t done that yet. The fifth wheel will wait until next year and we’ll spend the next few months saving up and deciding what features we really want. Of course both the truck and the fifth wheel will be used, so it is a matter of figuring out what the options are and keeping an eye out for the right thing. We are all really, really excited about the idea of going away, camping, having campfires, roasting marshmallows and playing games together, as well as exploring our beautiful island.

Brian’s Mum and Dad arrive in a few weeks, so we’ll spend weekends getting ready for them. We might even manage to have a garage sale so that there is space in the spare room for them to sleep!

I hear stirring, so had better get on with making a pot of tea for the troops!

Stash building

•July 10, 2011 • 1 Comment

The first full week of the summer holidays has been busy with playdates, relaxing, pottering about the garden, appointments, planning and some knitting. Mum and I finally plucked up the courage – correction -  plucked up the courage to place an online order with a company outside of Canada. Having heard takes of unexpected customs and brokerage fees, I have been reluctant to do it thus far, but KnitPicks seemed to have a straightforward way of dealing with that, a decent shipping rate and lovely, well-priced yarn, so I decided to try it. We both ordered a selection; me, mostly lace weight, Mum went for sock yarn. It was an exciting day when we got home from playing and the box was on the doorstep!

Yarn order from KnitPicks

Yarn order from KnitPicks

Now I just have to decide what to do with it all, stop doing housework completely and show the children how to make their own dinner!

Guess what? More knitting!

•July 4, 2011 • 2 Comments

June was a busy month, with Pip’s birthday, guests from England, school field trips and end of year activities. It was all fun, but I’m glad it is over and the summer holidays are here! DH is in a new job, so has no holiday which means we won’t be going anywhere, but having a local job means we have the time and energy for day trips. The girls are old enough now to make travelling a little easier. Unfortunately, they both get car sick if they try to read or colour in the car, so that might make things a little trickier! We are planning to go to a few places around the Island at weekends, but during the week the girls and I have grand plans with Grandma. We will, of course, be making the most of the leisure time and not rushing around too much. As much as I love to be productive and ‘get things done’, I have grown to believe in the value of not scheduling. The girls are both quite happy to be home, so there isn’t as much pressure to always have activities and playdates to go to as some parents experience. We will, however, be exploring some of the many parks this fabulous town has to offer, going on nature hikes, playing at the beach, taking photographs, bike riding, going to the water park and have also written a list of places the girls are interested in visiting. They have chosen the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, Rathtrevor, Coombs, Barton & Leier Gallery and the Fossil Tour through the Courtenay and Comox Museum.

Despite the busy sound of all that, I am planning to do a lot of knitting! My back issue means I can’t do the stuff I would normally do – gardening – so enforced leisure translates into knitting for me! I am so excited about what I have been making. I was determined to make myself a cardigan and I have done it! It was a real challenge, although perhaps more of a confidence issue than anything else. I finished the cardigan yesterday and just have to go find some buttons to add to it. It is a shortish cardigan, with lace details and negative ease (meaning it doesn’t meet in the middle across my torso, though it will button at the top. I was a bit concerned yesterday that I had underestimated the size of my bust, but I can live with that.

Dark teal cardigan with lace detail

Mt first cardigan

dark teal cardigan with lace detail, back view

Moch cardi - back

Lace detail on Moch cardi

Lace detail on Moch cardi

I have also been working on a lace scarf, using some beautiful lace yarn from Malabrigo. I fell in love with the colours of this yarn and the soft feel. I really wasn’t sure I had chosen the right project for it, but in the end it turned out beautifully, especially with the addition of the beads. Lynette, from Mad About Ewe suggested the addition to highlight the curves of the Feather and Fan pattern and she was right. They really did add a lovely touch.

Feather and fan scarf using dark purple and pink lace yarn from Malabrigo

Feather and fan scarf, Malabrigo lace

Feather and fan lace scarf with bead detailing

Feather and fan lace scarf with bead detailing

 

I still have to work on the Abrazo shawl, but don’t have the focus for the tiny little beads at the moment. It definitely requires my full attention and am too tired to do it right now. I am trying to decided that to cast on next. I have some lovely silk/flax/polyester called Pollyanna from Infiknit, in a soft cream colour and have a long list of potentials to consider. I have some other beautiful yarns to work with, but need to make something light, now that summer seems to have finally arrived!

Super hero cape

•June 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pip is going to a birthday party tomorrow for one of the boys in her class. As usual, I’ve left it to the night before to make the gift, but at least it was an easy one. After consultation with Philippa, we opted for a super hero cape, as they have been very popular gifts this year. Thank goodness! We rarely go out and buy a gift, preferring the handmade, one of a kind option – while we can. I’m sure a time will come when I can’t think of what to make or no longer have the inclination – or the kids put their foot down!

Reversible/lined super hero cape in black with red stars

Reversible/lined super hero cape

Lined/reversible super hero cape in black with red stars

Lined/reversible super hero cape

Our Harry Potter-themed birthday party

•June 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I might have mentioned once or twice in passing that we are quite fond of Harry Potter, both the books and the films. Even the children, young as they are, have been exposed, though always under close supervision, to the first three. Philippa is an avid reader and is making her way through the first book and discovering how much more there is to the story. They are both fascinated by the wizarding world and so we decided that a Harry Potter party for Philippa’s 7th would be perfect for both of them. We kept it a surprise until the week before, to keep the excitement in check. We scaled back the numbers this year and Philippa thought long and hard about who she wanted to have at her party. Not always as easy thing to do, but she handled it all very well.

As for the party, I have a lot of ideas and I revel in the details, but I am also thrifty, resourceful and aware of my limitations! In cake-making especially, my execution falls far short of the vision in my head! Still, we’ll get to that in a minute. The invitations were created by Brian, using a great background image of Hogwarts, a Harry Potter-style font and the Gryffindor colours. We included a password on the invitation – Sherbet Lemons. As the guests arrived, they saw this:

Platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

We had to recreate the platform the day after the party, as I forgot to take a picture. The two panels of brick-patterned wallpaper should meet up in the middle and the children walked through to get onto platform 9 3/4, just like in the book. Well, as much like the book as I could manage! Once past this, they reached the garden gate to be greeted by the Portrait of the Fat Lady, or in our case, the two Portraits, as both girls wanted to make one! Grandma, Pip and Milly stood at the other side of the gate and took turns to ask the password to allow entrance to the grounds.

Portrait of the Fat Lady, as drawn by the 7 and 4 year olds

Portrait of the Fat Lady

The Quidditch Pitch was probably the first thing they saw, but once everyone had arrived, we sorted them into houses in the Great Hall. We chose Gryffindor, naturally, and Ravenclaw, so the banners on the Hall and on the Quidditch goals are in the colours for those houses. Made by me, surprise, surprise. Brian constructed the Quidditch goals using hula hoops, plastic pipes and black tape. We did have to add more tape as the sun heated up and softened it, but it all worked brilliantly. We decided brooms were just too dangerous, and we had 5 players per side, a soft red Quaffle and no Bludgers.

DIY Quidditch pitch using plastic pipe and hula hoops

Quidditch pitch

The Great Hall, Hogwarts, aka gazebo in the garden

The Great Hall, Hogwarts

Milly and the sorting hat

Milly and the sorting hat

In the morning, Philippa had received her Hogwarts letter, which she thought was pretty cool. She was also given a hand knit Gryffindor scarf and a cape in Gryffindor colours, so she was all set!

As for refreshments, we made pumpkin pasties, cheesy biscuits in the shape of a flying car, licorice wands, pumpkin juice (actually assorted orange-coloured fruit juices), munchies in a cauldron and for the cake I did Tom Riddle’s diary, complete with a basilisk fang! The idea was great, but, as I said, my execution didn’t quite live up to the image in my head! Still, Pip understood and was happy with it.

The game a Quidditch was a blast, even though most of the children knew little about HP. I was dressed up as Professor McGonagall, as I am apparently too old to be Hermione. Mum was Madam Hooch and together we refereed, kept score and did the announcing for the match. Using a Golden Snitch which I knit using gold and silver yarn (pattern available at Knitted Toy Box), two of the Dads ran around the garden and had to be caught. I shouted myself hoarse, Gryffindor won the coveted (Dollarama) Cup and everyone had a great time.

Golden Snitch, knit using gold and silver yarn

Golden Snitch

The little goodie bags contained a vial of bubbles, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Sherbet Lemons and a Golden Snitch, lovingly and very patiently knit for each child by my utterly fantastic mother.

Hand knit snitches for the goodie bags

Snitches

All in all, the party was a hit. I’ll be keeping all the decorations I made and I’m pretty sure we’ll be having another one in the future.

Seven years on

•June 5, 2011 • 2 Comments

I’m always amazed at how fast the years seem to pass by. Days and weeks sometimes go slowly, but when you sit back and consider, the years are whizzing by. How else can seven years have gone by since our baby was born? I have always known that I wanted children. All my life. However, I also knew I didn’t want them until I was at least 25, had finished university, had a good job, married and settled somewhere. I had no idea when, where or who until the day I met Brian. I had already made my decision to return to Canada to be near my family, having been essentially on my own for over 8 years. Wow, see, how did all those years pass by so fast?! Anyway, the night I met Brian, the plans shifted somewhat. To cut a long story short, we have been together ever since and moved to Canada 18 months later, married 2 weeks after that, bought a house a year later and had Philippa 10 months after that.

The excitement and anticipation of our first child was immense, of course. All the grandparents were around and eagerly awaiting her arrival. The day began much like today – sun shining, blue skies and a deer pacing the fence line, trying to find a way in so it could feast on our garden. I was 5 days past my expected due date, but if anyone suspected that I might be in labour, they never mentioned it to me! 12.15 was the time I realized something might be happening. Philippa was delivered by emergency C-section at 2.42. I’ll spare you all the details, suffice to say nothing went as planned or imagined or hoped and the poor thing was very sick indeed.

our baby daughter, sick in the special care unit

Philippa in the special care unit

She had dislocated hips, low Apgar score, meconium aspiration, seizures. They gave us a worst case scenario that she might not survive the week or that she might be brain damaged, but she is definitely a fighter and has gone from those scary early days, to this:

our daughter on her 7th birthday, opening gifts

Philippa, opening gifts on her 7th birthday

Our daughter opening gifts at her birthday party

Philippa's 7th birthday party

She is an amazing, spirited, passionate and very clever girl with a wise head on her shoulders. She delights us every day with her humour, creative talents and affection.

I love my girl.

 
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