Friday, 22 February 2019

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business...

Do you have any unfinished projects in your life? Have you knit a sweater that needs just one more sleeve? Do you have a bag of quilt blocks all cut out that has been in your hope chest for several decades? HOPE Chest. Hope it will finish itself? How about that tub full of 99 granny squares crying out to be bound together and thrown in a colourful heap over your couch? Or those socks that have a nice long leg, but just have not made it around the corner—you haven’t turned the heel.

Just one more sleeve...

There’s probably a name for the person who starts projects but doesn’t finish them. Procrastinator? And there’s probably another name for the person who accepts other people’s unfinished projects. Sucker? Barb???

Other People's Projects
Several years ago, my sister Kathy set out to make a pair of socks for one of our favourite relatives on the occasion of his 50th birthday. She got off to a good start, but our John turned 65 last October and he still doesn’t have the socks. 

Still no Socks

We joked about it for a few years, then Kathy got serious.
“Barb, why don’t you finish those socks for John? You knit all the time, anyway. They’re almost done. I just can’t turn the heel." 
Right. Turning the heel. Not my favourite thing in the world to do, but how could I say no? I owe her for electricity, the beachfront and teasing her mercilessly in childhood.
“Sure, I’ll finish the socks. No problem.”

Turning the Heel

As soon as I took possession of the aging socks, their completion became urgent in Kathy’s eyes. Every time she phoned, she would ask, “Barb, have you finished John’s socks, yet?”

Knitting 911

“No, I haven’t.”
“Why not?! What’s taking so long?!”
“Well, you had them for 13 years and you didn’t finish them. Don’t rush me!”

Emotional Knitting

Finally, I finished one sock. It looked like it would fit a troll. Misshapen, too long in the leg, too wide in the foot. 

Fit for a Troll

John, a trim man, looks nothing like a troll. He’s a hard worker with a tractor, 6 grandchildren and slender feet. He deserves socks that fit.

Next phone call from my taskmaster:
“Barb, did you finish John’s socks?”
“I finished one. It looks terrible.”
“It doesn’t matter what it looks like, Barb. Just finish the other one.  Get it done!”

Troll Sock and a Half

The outcome of sock number one is discouraging. I have no incentive to go on and no ambition to rip it out and start again. Instead of re-fashioning the Troll Socks, I’ve spent the winter sitting on the couch watching reruns of The Closer. These two activities are not unrelated. Deputy-Chief Brenda Leigh Johnston is famous for her talent in CLOSING cases. She tidies up loose ends and unfinished business for the LAPD. She would have John’s socks finished in an hour! I wonder if she knits. 

Deputy-Chief Brenda Leigh Johnston

Alas, the socks rest in a sad, ripped bag in my living room, ugly and unfinished. John, a non-troll man with cold feet, continues to age. He’s coming up on 66. Is there anyone out there who will take on this Unfinished Business? Susan????

Unfinished Business

...Until Next Time...

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Northumberland Literary Mitten-Naming and Rhubarb Pie Society

One Sunday in January...

Having knit and named several hundred pairs of mittens over the course of my 54-year knitting career, I find myself struggling at times to find the perfect name for every new pair of mittens without repeating myself. In an effort to maintain the highest level of creativity, I sometimes reach out for help. Over the years I have built a reliable crew of Mitten-Namers who never let me down. Thus, the recent Sunday meeting of the Northumberland Literary Mitten-Naming and Rhubarb Pie Society.


As you may have concluded from the title of this party, I had more than Mitten-Naming on the agenda. The “literary” part was me trying to purge hundreds of books I have amassed over the years. I will admit, I am influenced by the recent Marie Kondo craze. So, in Marie Kondo fashion, I acknowledged all the joy the books had given me, spread them out on the table and told my Mitten-Namers they could not leave the house without at least ONE book. The threat worked. Nobody left empty-handed!

Marie Kondo Book Purge

The rhubarb pie was simply a hook to draw in the labour force and to reward them for their hard work. Borrowing from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society gave me a bit of a charge---as I mentioned, my originality is on a dwindle. But the pie was good…so was the wine, cheese, grapes, baguette, pate, tarts, bubbly water. No doubt about it, food, and even more so, wine, fuels creativity! 

Rhubarb Pie Society

My mitten-naming team of seven inspired women was tasked with suggesting a name for each of the 35 pairs of nameless mittens I had made over the past few weeks. They buckled down to work with careful thought and deliberation. After an hour of fondling mittens and sipping wine, we were ready for the group-sharing session at which we heard all 245 proposed names. I must say they were imaginative and varied. Some names were immediately obvious, and others needed to be explained. Throb, for example. Oops, I Spilled my Merlot, fell into the more literal camp. I appointed myself the Grand Judge and undertook the final selection process a few days later. It’s not easy being a Grand Judge, but I managed to select 35 perfect mitten names from the bank of 245.

And the results you’ve all been waiting for:

Adult Mittens
1. Odessa Knight
2. Layered Slate and Sediment
3. Reckless
4. Bird Tracks in the Mud
5. Ruby Tuesday
6. Checkers
7. Hitchhiker
8. Hot Lips Houlihan
9. On the Moors
10. Moody Blues
11. Pep Rally
12.Tiger in your Tank
13. Glitter on Tundra
14. Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Icing
15. Ovaltine Cozies

Kids’ Mittens

1. Caramel Kisses
2. Easter Egg Blue
3. Peppermint Pretzels
4. Little Red Peppers
5. Baby Blue Bird
6. String Me Along
7. Kindergarten Classic
8. Woven Static
9. Sarah Sunshine
10. Cautionary Tale

1. Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
2. Red Velvet Cupcake
3. Caterpillars
4. Waltzing Matilda
5. Raspberry Fool
6. Winter Whispers
7. Blue Jean Baby
8. Sherbet Parfait
9. Crystal Cornflower
10. Fit for a Princess

Periwinkle Pleasure with a Twist

Vanilla Tickle

Now, I’m Quittin’ the Mittens! I made 31 pairs in January, and I’m tired of it! Nothing but hats for February.

…Until Next Time…

Monday, 31 December 2018

Barb's Book Levee 2018

The New Year's Eve Blog---a reflection of accomplishments of the year past and goals for the year coming. 

Here it Comes...

Ain’t gonna happen. I peeked back at my previous December blogs, looking for inspiration...and cheating, sort of. They are mostly about the 52 books I read, fulfilling my personal challenge of reading one book a week. This year, I am sorry to report, I didn’t reach that goal, unless you count Each Peach Pear Plum, The Cremation of Sam McGee and In November, which are all picture books averaging 28 pages each.

My Personal Favourite



They are good books, though.  I recommend. In academic circles, they are more highly-acclaimed than the next two, which I selected based on their titles rather than literary merit. Just remember, you can’t tell a book by its cover…or its title. 

Great Title
(You Must Admit)

Emma Connection

I heartily recommend my top four picks from my 2018 list. Be prepared to have your heart broken, sharpen your empathy, speculate on the future, and revisit the past. 


Love and Empathy

The Future

Progress: Past and Present

Take a look at some of the titles our bookclub has chosen for 2019:


I hereby release myself from the One Book a Week Challenge. No more padding the numbers with picture books and low-brow Harlequins. Quality, not quantity, will be my challenge for 2019. Join me!

...Until Next Time...

Books Read in 2018

  • Women Talking by Miriam Toews
  • The Wisdom of Beauty by Stephen May
  • Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt
  • For the Love of Emma by Lucy Gordon
  • Ina of Grand Manan by Ina Small and Ernie Mutimer
  • The Perfect Circle by Pascale Quiviger
  • No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein
  • Barkskins by Annie Proulx
  • Summer of the Horse by Donna Kane
  • The Secret Place by Tana French
  • If You Can Talk, You Can Write by Joel Saltzman
  • The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
  • The Juggler's Children by Carolyn Abraham
  • Miss Nackawic Meets Midlife by Colleen Landry
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  • Ernest Hemingway: A Writer's Life by Catherine Reef
  • Every 15 Minutes by Lisa Scottoline
  • No Ordinary Man by Suzanne Brockmann
  • Entry Island by Peter May
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Stay Close by Harlan Coben
  • Promise Me by Harlan Coben
  • A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey
  • Carter's Point Memories by The Lennan Family
  • Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves
  • Long Lost by Harlan Coben
  • Pilgrims by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Wycliffe and The House of Fear by W.J. Burley
  • The Road to Lichfield by Penelope Lively
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
  • The Seagull by Ann Cleeves
  • Why Write! by Mark Edmundson
  • The Narcissist You Know by Joseph Burgo
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
  • Headliner by Susan White
  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
  • Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • $10,000,000 Marriage Proposal by James Patterson and Hilary Lifton
  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Tuscan Tycoon's Pregnant Housekeeper by Christina Hollis
  • A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam
  • The Break by Katherena Vermette
  • A Skein of Yarns by J.K. Chapman
  • The Inviting Life by Laura Calder
  • Glass Houses by Louise Penny
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Friday, 30 November 2018

A Feast of Fascinating Facts

"What did you learn in school today?" Remember asking that question around the family supper table? And remember your kids answering, “Nothing.” Can you really get through the day without learning something new? 

Supper Table: Share Your Day!

Perhaps rewiring my brain last month with my Gratitude Journal has made me more receptive to fascinating facts I did not know or had forgotten. Allow me to share some with you.

Did you?

Did you know that Otters hold hands when they sleep? I learned that from my crossword puzzle. According to further research, they hang on to each other in sleep so they won’t drift out to sea.

Otters Holding Hands

Did you know there is a company on Prince Edward Island called Fellow Earthlings that makes hand-made designer sunglasses which are featured on fashion runways in New York City and sported by the likes of Katy Perry, Kat Von D, Justin Trudeau and Lady GaGa? I learned that from my new favourite TV show, Land and Sea. 
Kat Von D
in her Fellow Earthling Sunglassses

Justin in his PEI Shades

Did you know that The Great Miramichi Fire of 1825, mentioned in the novel Barkskins by Annie Proulx …
  • ranks as one of the three largest forest fires recorded in North America
  • destroyed 1/3 of the houses in Fredericton which is 108 miles from Miramichi
  • took the lives of about 160 people in and around Newcastle (now part of the city of Miramichi)
  • forced many humans and animals to take refuge in the river to escape the blaze
  • consumed almost 16,000 square kilometres (about 1/5) of NB forests
  • is thought to be started by humans and exacerbated by unusually hot, dry weather in the summer and fall of 1825  
The Great Miramichi Fire

Did you know that Handel’s Messiah, a 240-page oratorio, was composed in just 24 days in 1741? And did you know that King George 11 stood for the Hallelujah chorus at the 1743 London premiere, beginning the tradition of standing that continues to this day? I learned this from a CBC radio interview. 


Did you know the term “woke person” refers to someone who is aware of issues concerning social and racial justice? I learned this from my daughters who were discussing an 8-year-old child who boycotted Nestle candy on Halloween because of  that company’s exploitation in Africa. A woke child.

Woke Children

Did you know The Beaver Moon is the full moon in November, so named because November is a good time to trap beavers? November's full moon is also known as The Frost Moon. In fact, there is a special name for the full moon in every month, such as March’s Worm Moon, August’s Sturgeon Moon and December’s Long Night’s Moon. I learned this from my friend Jill and Hey Google.

Beaver Moon

Did you know that the Swedish practice of Death-Cleaning or “döstädningis gaining popularity throughout the world? I first learned about this concept while catching up on my Observers. The idea is to declutter, put things in order, make your home neat and tidy as your “time to leave the planet” approaches. In her book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, author Marareta Magnusson suggests that it is rewarding to spend time with meaningful objects one last time, then dispose of them. Although death is a subject we tend to avoid, your loved ones will thank you for practicing “döstädning.

"One day Son, all this will be yours."

Did you know that the French word for river, fleuve, refers to a river that flows into the ocean while a “rivière” does not flow into the ocean? So, our mighty St. John River/Wolastoq is a fleuve, and the Nashwaak is a “rivière”. I learned that on the wharf in Gagetown at a St. John River Society meeting.

Fleuve St. Jean/Wolastoq

Did you know that surnames did not really exist until after the Norman Conquest in 1066? I came across that nugget while reading the book, The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abramson. Surnames developed based on a person’s occupation, or where they lived, or their father’s first name, or even their appearance or disposition. For example, my surname, Fullerton, derived from Fowler---a person who cares for fowl, and “tun”, meaning settlement. My room-mate’s surname, Mathieson, derives from “son of Matthew." 

"Light in Darkness"
Fowl Tender

"Do and Hope"
Son of Matthew

Did you know that a professor of surgery in England is concerned that medical students are losing hand dexterity due to increased screen time and decreased craft skills such as cutting and sewing? I learned that on my news screen. Obviously, knitting should be a required course in med school, imho.

Cutting and Sewing in the OR

So, what did YOU learn today???

...Until Next Time...