Sunday, 28 December 2014

Doll Dishes and Milkstools

Doll Dishes and Milkstools
Last December at a get-together with one of my social groups, a friend proposed a challenge to the 4 of us for next Christmas.  She proposed that instead of buying each other Christmas gifts, we should make them and spend no more than $5.00 on each gift.  Now here we are at the next year.  The annual  gift exchange is tomorrow and I am excited to see how we all did with that challenge.

Possible Resource

The $5.00 challenge got me thinking about making things.  As you can see by my knitting obsession, I do make quite a few things, and I made many gifts this year.  My reflections took me back to the first thing I remember making….a cupboard for my sister’s doll dishes.  I still have that Doll Dish Cupboard and I have dragged it around throughout my life for about 50 years.  It must hold meaning for me.  In the house where we now live, it has gone from basement to garage, to inner basement, to garage, to camp, to garage, to basement.  You get the picture.  Well, since I have been having these nostalgic flashbacks, I have gone to the basement, dug it out and washed it off.  It deserves a place of honour in my Knitting Studio, obviously.  I must have hung on to it for some reason?  I will be able to use it to hold yarn, or doll dishes, or turnip tags, or expired flashlight batteries, or something.    It already holds memories.
 The Doll Dishes Cupboard
       When my room-mate Tom walked into the kitchen, he looked at the cupboard mournfully and said, "It seems so sad.  And lonely."  How can a cupboard be sad and lonely, I thought.  Decrepit, for sure, but it is 50 years old. 

 This Doll Dish Cupboard started out as a crate that held grapes.  My father would have dragged it home from Atlantic Wholesalers or Willett Fruits upon making delivery of our rhubarb or turnips or cabbage or squash or potatoes.  He would have seen some use for that wooden crate, although I bet doll dishes was not his first thought.  He would have seen it as useful to hold tools or ropes or chains or a motor or something.  He may have even brought home some half-rotten grapes in the crate. 
Wooden Grape Crate

     I can imagine the conversation between my father and me about that crate.

                “Barb, that crate would make a great little cupboard for doll dishes.”
                  “Yeah,” I would answer, assessing it with my 6 or 7 or 8 year-old eyes.
                “You should make one for your little sister.” 
       Kathy, my little Doll Dish Sister, was about 4 or 5 or 6 years old, and the definite favourite.   Did I buy into the cupboard idea because I wanted to make something, or because I was a nice big sister???  You can guess the answer.

Doll Dishes

      My father would have gone into a brief description as to how a cedar shingle was exactly the right size to work as shelves and that I could paint it afterward with some left-over turquoise paint.  And then, he helped me build it.  Or should I say assemble it.  A real cabinet-maker would not use the word build. 
Cedar Shingles
 Leftover Turquoise Paint

     As I look at it now, the assembly of the cupboard would have been pretty simple.  A wooden crate, 2 cedar shingles and turquoise paint.  I don’t remember every detail about building that little gem with my father, but I remember parts of it.  I do remember being in the garage with hammer and nails and my father.  A saw would have been required to cut the guides that held the cedar shingles that became removable shelves in that cupboard. 
Cedar Shingle Shelf Removed
I remember building one other item with my father in the garage….a 2-legged milkstool.  In my early years as milkmaid, I was too little (or awkward) to balance on a one-legged milkstool which was standard issue, so, rather than be excused from milking duties, my father helped me to build my own little milkstool.  I remember my Great Uncle Frank being in the garage when I was trying to nail the 3 pieces of board together.  “Hit the nail on the head, Barb. The wood’s all right.” 
The One-Legged Milkstool
                My little milkstool was so crude and so cute, built with dirty old used lumber, and lots of bent nails where I missed with the hammer.  After I graduated to the one-legged milkstool, my rustic little artefact hung around the barn, wedged into a corner awaiting repurposing.  I wish I still had that milkstool;  I could use it in my knitting studio as a footstool.  Alas, it went up in flames when our barn burned when I was 12.
Did building that cupboard and milkstool start me on the road to making things? I still get the best charge out of making something from nothing---repurposing.  Like my mitten tree.....
The Mitten Tree
or using scraps of yarn.... 
Bottled Scraps of Yarn
to make mittens. 
Mittens Made from Scraps of Yarn
      I know part of my inspiration is simply genetic cheapness but I wonder if part of it is genetic creativity or innovation.  My father built things out of necessity and cheapness.  There is some satisfaction in both. 
No one would ever call my father a doting parent, but building that cupboard and milkstool with him nurtured creativity and confidence in a 6 or 7 or 8 year-old child.  The best thing a child should be allowed to make is mistakes. 
In the Knitting Studio

Until Next Time....

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Travels with my Daughters

      My hairdresser has relocated to Denver, Colorado.  Desperately in need of a haircut, and shockingly wealthy, I decided to fly out for a trim.  Advancing in age as I am, I thought it best to recruit a Personal Travel Assistant.

Julia (Personal Travel Assistant) & Emma (Hairdresser)
      Once I got my hair looked after, I rushed downtown to have a manicure.  The 2 little grade two students I tutor in reading have been quite vocal in their opinion of my fingernails which are stained from time to time by beets or blueberries or gardening.  Using my disgraceful fingernails to “chunk” words into syllables, or to point out the “short a” sound in a word or a repeated “blend”, my little tutees often react to my reading instruction with, “You need to cut your nails.”  Or “Your nails are dirty.”  So when I told them I would be away for a couple of weeks, and that I would get a manicure in their honour, they were ready with lots of advice.  “Get pink.”   “Get a puppy sticker on one.”  “Get an Ilsa sticker.”  They were quite excited by the prospect of my manicured hands.  They didn’t mention blends, or short a sounds, or chunking. 
Pink Manicure

     During my 7 day hair appointment in Denver, my hairdresser took my travel assistant and me on several outings.  In Golden, a town west of Denver, we climbed a narrow, winding mountain road to Lookout Mountain as Emma shared her fear of heights with us in the looming dusk. 

The Road to Lookout Mountain
     Another day we travelled to Boulder, a university town northwest of Denver with a wide variety of restaurants, irresistible shops, and a pedestrian-only street filled with buskers, musicians, kids and dogs. 
Boulder, Colorado

     The three of us took an overnight trip to Colorado S prings which is about 70 miles south of Denver.  The driving hazard on the highway going south was tumbleweeds….

 Tumbleweed on the Highway

and the driving hazard on our return trip was a snowstorm.  You know what they say about variety and the spice of life.  I did a lot of knitting in the backseat that day. 
 Snowstorm on the Highway

      While in Colorado Springs, we took a tram to Pike’s Peak, a "fourteener", which are mountains with an elevation greater than 14, 000 feet.  It was a beautiful summer day at the bottom in the quaint town of Manitou, and freezing cold at the top of Pike’s Peak. 
Tram to Pike's Peak
     The next day we visited Garden of the Gods, a well-known park featuring unique geological formations. 
 Garden of the Gods

      Emma and Jarrett live in a residential area of Denver called Sloan's Lake. 

Emma's and Jarrett's House
     Sloan’s Lake, for which the neighbourhood is named, is a mere two blocks from their house and has a linear park around its 2.6 mile perimeter.  It has its share of Canada Geese. 
Canada Geese on Sloan's Lake
     I will admit that I have a hard time keeping up with my daughters in the energy department so we spent some time with Law and Order SVU and The Gilmore Girls.  
My Friends at the 16th Precinct
The Gilmore Girls:  Rory and Lorelai
     Of course, there is no TV watching without knitting.  I managed to complete 6 pairs of mittens on my travels.  Although I used US allusions in naming my mitts, I unfortunately failed to use the US landscape as backgrounds to my photos.  These ones would have looked great at The Grand Canyon....
Colorado Sunset
Canadian SnowFlake; SnowBall; Canadian SnowFlurry; Winter Warmer; Canadian SnowFlake
     Julia and I left Denver in a snowstorm to fly to Las Vegas.  In the line up for security at the airport, I saw a sign that said, “Persons over the age of 75 do not have to remove their shoes.”  When I got to the security personnel, she looked at me and said, “You don’t have to take your shoes off.”  Okay, I was relieved that I did not have to bend over BUT, had that drive to the airport through the blizzard aged me THAT much???
Airport Security
     The short flight to Las Vegas took us over some pretty amazing scenery.  I now understand what people mean when I ask “Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?” and they say, enthusiastically,  “No, but I’ve flown over it.”   When I asked the steward on the plane if that was the Grand Canyon below us, he looked out the window and said, “I don’t know.  Could be.”   Really?
Grand Canyon from the Air
     We flew back into summer in Las Vegas.   Summer and a whole lot more that I cannot quite put words to. 
 The Strip:  Las Vegas
      We stayed at The Luxor….a pyramid with King Tut and the gang. 
The Luxor
      The next morning at 6:30 we boarded a bus for our day tour to the Grand Canyon.  Our first stop was at The Hoover Dam, one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world. 
Julia at The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam

      As we were driving, Julia decided to list all the states she has visited in her life which totalled about 10.  Then we challenged ourselves to list all 50 states.  We exceeded expectations and came up with 51!
     When we stopped in a small town for lunch before reaching the Grand Canyon, Julia and I were seated with a father and son from Florida.  Ken was a retired principal and Brock was an IT techy at Disney.  What a perfect match!!  When I told Ken that Julia and I had spent part of the trip listing the 50 states, he said, “If you were able to do that, you did much better than most Americans could do.” 
The United States of America
     We reached Grand Canyon National Park in mid-afternoon and stayed until sunset.  It was spectacular, awe-inspiring and amazing.  The colors were stunning and changed with the light even during the short time we were there.  It is hard to put words to this natural wonder so I’m not going to try.  I have heard people say that they cried when they first saw The Grand Canyon.  I can understand that. 

Grand Canyon: South Rim
  That is not me in this picture.
     While some of the path along the rim is fenced, much of it is not.  I will admit I felt uneasy walking there and watching my 23-year-old baby venturing closer and closer to the unprotected edge.  When I met a young father pushing a baby in a stroller and allowing his toddler to walk independently on the path, I was almost nauseous.  I just had to take a breath and look away. 

Path at Grand Canyon
     We spent the next day in Las Vegas.  We had agreed to visit the casinos.  Since neither of us knew anything about gambling, we signed up to take lessons in BlackJack.  When the teacher did not show up, we found an empty blackjack table and the dealer gave us instructions.  In 10 minutes we had each won $40.00!!  At that point I wanted to take the money and run.  Julia protested.  “No, Mom, I really like this gambling.  Let’s do some more.”  Considering my relationship with money, I was anxious to move on.  With just a little bit of force, I convinced Julia to leave the casino.  
 Casino at The Luxor

     We hit The Strip which offers a wealth of opportunity for people-watching and sight-seeing.  Julia, still infected by the gambling bug, found a slot machine to play on the strip.  When she lost $1.50, her gambling addiction was cured. 

Slot Machine

      When I booked the red-eye from Las Vegas to Toronto, I assumed we would sleep the flight away and awake fully refreshed in Toronto after flying through 3 time zones.  Of course, neither of us slept a wink.  As I was parting ways with my Personal Travel Assistant in Toronto, I thanked her for her undivided attention.  “No problem, Mom,” she chirped.  “It’s sort of like nannying.”

 My "Model" Children, Emma and Julia.
Thanks for the great trip, Girls!!
Until Next Time......







Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Warm Woolley Challenge

The Children's Line 
      A couple of years ago, I made and donated 20 pairs of children’s mittens to a daycare in the South End of Saint John.  Diane Melanson, a non-knitting neighbour here in Fredericton, heard about my mitten project and wanted to participate in some way.  She offered to donate yarn to my Mitten Project, and this summer 20 skeins of beautiful Briggs and Little yarn were delivered to my door to be made into mittens for cold little hands.  That’s a lot of mittens! 

Future Mittens

      I have been working away at the stash and I have quite a few pairs completed.   And they all have names. 
Kids' Mitts 2014

      I am running out of my inherited Turnip Tags which I have been using as labels. 


      So my Little Brother Noel and I have made some new labels.  Hand-painted, don’t you know. 

Stormy Weather and Lime Time

Lime Rickey; Caution; Raspberry Sherbet; Smoke Rings
      I would happily share the yarn and the joy of knitting if you would like to get involved in my Mitten Project.  Just let me know, and I will deliver the yarn within a reasonable distance and pick up the finished product for distribution.  You can name them and photograph them if you like, or you could leave that to my naming/photography department. 
Baby Paws
Baby Pinksters

Loose Ends

      I posted this “challenge” on FaceBook, hoping to snag some knitters who would be willing to join me in knitting for charity.  Of my 404 Facebook friends, I got two and a half bites.  Thank you Susan L. and Marie S.!!  My cousin Susan W. also offered to knit but Halifax was beyond my delivery radius.  Tom, my Advisor-in-General and knitting intern, suggested I need to glam up my appeal. 
Advisor-in General and Knitting Intern
      He thought I could make it more like the wildly successful Ice Bucket Challenge.
Ice Bucket

      Thus the Warm Woolly Challenge.  Doesn't that does sound more appealing than ice?   I know, the Ice Bucket Challenge takes about 6 minutes to complete---preparing, executing, filming, uploading.  

Ice Bucket Challenge

      And it takes me about 6 hours to complete a pair of mittens.  BUT, that is six hours of pleasure, of therapy, of creativity, of tactile delight.  Six hours in front of Law and Order, Criminal Minds, Heartland, The Vicar of Dibley, Last Tango in Halifax,  Inspector Lewis, Miss Marple.  Miss Marple even knits and drinks tea from fine china so you would not be alone.  And although it is a worthy cause, what pleasure is there in dumping a bucket of ice over your body? 


Miss Marple
     And how many hours of warmth and coziness will a child get out of the mittens you may have named after 5 Piggies???
(from left to right)This Little Piggy Went to Market; This Little Piggy Stayed Home; This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef; This Little Piggy Had None; and This Little Piggy went Whee, Whee, Whee, All the Way Home
      I realize not all of my FaceBook friends know how to knit mittens, in fact, many do not know how to knit.  So it all comes down to education!  I have a few years of experience in that field, so this week I am starting knitting lessons with 2 of my former high school students who are keen to learn to knit.  And I am keen to spread the joy.  You know that famous quotation about teaching a man to fish? 
      Give a man a pair of mittens and his hands are warm for the winter.  Teach a man to knit, and his hands are warm for a lifetime.
Cary Grant Learning to Knit
       One day soon my knitting students, Brittney and Haley,  will be making mittens for cold little hands.

Mittens for Cold Little Hands
     Get mitten-inspired Ravelry Mitten Patterns .   Looking forward to hearing from you!

.....Until next time.....