Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Tale of the Beautiful Towel

Last weekend, I went to visit a very good friend of mine while she was in Edmonton visiting her sister. It was a busy weekend, but tons of fun, with lots of good laughs, good wine and good times. I joined in on many renditions of the ol' favourite, Old MacDonald sung with great gusto by her almost-two-year-old, did a bit of knitting, and did some good shopping.

It was during one of these shopping trips that I visited my first Anthropologie in West Edmonton Mall.

That's where it happened.

I was browsing through the clothes, most of which would not fit me and I couldn't afford to buy anyway, when I discovered their housewares.

Goodness gracious. I have never seen so many beautiful doorknobs/cupboard knobs/coffee cups/tea towels in one place. Also pricey (this is Mrs. Cheap talking here), but amazingly, almost absurdly, beautiful.

I wandered into the sale section of the store. And there it was.

The most beautiful towel I've ever seen.

I know, it's a towel. What does anyone need beautiful towels for? You get out of the shower, you dry yourself, you look at your pasty tongue in the mirror, and then hang the towel up and forget about it.

I picked it up. I showed it to my friend. She expressed her appreciation of it, too. I looked at the price tag. My cheap-gene triggered. But I could not let go.

I walked around the store with it, hugged against my chest. I found a pretty cup that I really liked, a quarter of the price of the towel. I picked it up and carried it around as well.

And I bought them both.

So, here's the thing: I have a beautifully embroidered towel that I have no intention of ever using to mop water off my body. So... now what?

Yesterday, I took it out of its hallowed packaging and hung it on the banister. Doggie went over and inspected it. He sniffed it, then looked up at me.


"Whaddaya gonna do with dis, mom?"

"Um, I dunno."

"Sniff. Ok. Well, I'm off to chew some rawhide."

I've come up with a plan, though. I'm going to sew over the top edge and make it into a wall-hanging. It'll look great in the spare bedroom, where it's cool and comfy. Then, I can wander in there and admire it on hot summer afternoons. Doggie will join me, and he'll snooze next to me while I daydream.

And no. I don't feel guilty about it. At least, not anymore.

Oh, and the cup - looks great with a chai latte in it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Because I Can

We had a power outage here a few days ago. A big windstorm, a lot of things blowing around, and then, darkness.

After fumbling around a bit to find a flashlight and some candles, we sat on the couch and hung out in the dark. And I got to thinking...

It's really quite a miracle that we can live where we do. In the winter, temperatures go well below freezing, in the summer, it's dry and extremely hot. We get a lot of wind from the west, and during one of those storms, if it's not nailed down, count on your things on the deck getting blown to the next yard!

Let's go back in time, shall we? Say, 150 years? It's a totally different scene. No central heating or air-conditioning, and we'd be lucky to have insulation. We're cooking all of our own meals, making our own entertainment, but only if we weren't working on feeding and clothing ourselves. We might be tending to animals or children. No tv, computer, telephone. At night, we talk to each other, perhaps play a few games, until we go to bed with a heated brick in the bed to keep us warm.

So, what am I getting at here?

For those of us who make things by hand, we do it because we can - we don't have to, but we do. We could easily purchase what we make, but we don't. We do it because we want to have that knowledge of making things. That knowledge isn't always written down. It's saved in our brains, and in our muscles.

My existence here is so dependent on modern luxuries. Would I live here if I didn't have a nice comfy home with climate control and soft furniture? I guess I would if I had to. But the fact that I have time to write this, and not have to boil water for my laundry, wash it by hand and dry it... well, that's miraculous, really.

I guess the thing is, it's really important to me to know that I don't have to depend on modern conveniences to keep me going. I have always been attracted to the world before my time - I read old stories, old books. I like knowing how to cook things over a fire. I like watching survival shows and reading survival guides. I like knowing that, in a pinch, I could be a useful person if I were lost in the wilderness - I could fingerweave a fishing net. I could hand-tie a fishing line and hook. I can husk a coconut with a sharp stake. I can gut a fish.

I'm not trying to be the saviour of antiquated skills. I just do these things because I can. And the majority of people in this world aren't as lucky. To me, having these skills makes me realize just how lucky I am. I have a leisurely life. I may as well make something out of it. It brings me peace. It reminds me that am I alive, and just the same sort of human being as those who don't have what I have. My idleness would be an insult to them.

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.” ~Zen proverb

Make. Do. Be. That's what I say.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Needles are my Therapists

I am not good at admitting my mistakes. Ok, I said it.

There have been lots of them: job-related, life-related, we all have them. All those cringe-worthy dumb things I've done, times when I've churned out bad quality work in times of desperation, exhaustion, or ignorance. Ugh. I hate 'em.

Exhibit A: My past career as a school teacher. I loved the kids. I loved being with them, talking with them, laughing with them. I was just not organized enough to be a good teacher. I'm just not that person who can create the school environment required for school-based learning. I know I never will be. However, when I think of the stupid things I created, or times when I just did things WRONG... well, I blush, get goosebumps, and banish the memory from my head.

It would be nice to just be able to laugh at myself more.

I was thinking about this last night as I ripped out the bottom section of my Featherweight Cardigan for the second time. Sigh.

The first attempt was to add 3 inches of fagot lace around the edge. I'd seen a project on Ravelry that used it, I thought it was really nice. Problem? They used a heavier yarn, and my laceweight just was too much like a fishnet. I could just see it snagging on absolutely everything. I sighed, then I went and did the only logical thing: I ate dinner.

After ripping all of those stitches out and painstakingly putting them back on the needles, I decided I'd do a moss stitch. Row 1: K2, p2 to end. Row 2: Knit the knits, purl the purls. Row 3: Knit the purls, purl the knits. Row 4: Get a coffee and contemplate what this all looks like.

Sigh again.

I do NOT want to give up, because if I put this down, it will become something that I avoid, and eventually shudder at the thought of finishing. I don't want it to become another mistake I can't admit to. I'm just losing momentum... fast.

It probably doesn't help that I've got a bunch of new yarn waiting for me to play with it. But I have to face the ugly truth: Taking short cuts and rushing through it will only make me wince and shudder at the memory of this project. It's a life lesson. I gotta do it.

My needles are my therapists. Good thing they don't charge by the hour.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Just a Good Day

It's Easter, a day of miracles, bunnies, and chocolate. That's a pretty good holiday, if you ask me.

I've been away from my family a lot during these holidays, and while it's something I'm used to, I can't help but miss them on days like this.

Today, hubby and doggie and I went off on a little adventure to Bragg Creek, about 45 minutes south west of Calgary. I didn't feel particularly Easter-y, but why waste a beautiful day moping indoors?

We decided to try the new northern part of the ring road around the city (Stoney Trail) and, much to our delight, it shaved off a good 30 minutes off the drive. Great news for future visits to the mountains!

I've always loved Bragg Creek. It's a little hamlet of shops, trees, and of course, the creek. It's a home for the well-to-do, but it's also a very friendly place with lots of friendly people who like to spend time outdoors. And you can't beat the trails.


We spent part of the day hiking around the creek, me trying to stay upright and doggie trying to stay dirty. I got a good dose of fresh air and exercise. We enjoyed an outdoor picnic (even though it was pretty brisk outside), and then headed down for a gander through the shops. To both hubby's and my delight, there is a new second-hand bookstore there, and I walked away with three books by my favourite vet-author, James Herriot (who I learned about when I read his articles in The Times in the UK before he passed away). Anyone who knows the Yorkshire accent and who loves animals would get a kick out of his books, and they had a big stack of them! I can't wait to go back!

I wish I'd taken a photo of it, but there were lots of motorcycles out in the parking lot of the little shopping centre there. These are the weekend road-warriors... and I bet you could find a good accountant in there!

Best image of the day (in my mind, also not on my camera, because I felt a bit rude asking), were two ladies in their sixties, who strode into the cafe hubby and I were sitting in, with their biker leathers on and their helmets under the arms. Well - if that ain't a role model, then I don't know anyone who is!

On the way home, I pulled out a magazine, a ball of yarn, and a crochet hook and tried to work out how to do short row shaping in crochet. I'm planning on making this, from Family Circle's Easy Crochet:

I've only just got my head around bust darts in knitting, but I think I've figured out how to do it in pattern in crochet: it may involve lots of attachments of new balls of yarn, but I'm going to have a look at Doris Chan's Everyday Crochet first, as she gives a good tutorial there as to how to do it.

Best part of the day? We got home, and decided we'd try to make our own pizza, which I whipped up in about an hour. Anyone who knows me knows that I have lamented for years the fact that my hubby hates melted cheese. This limits our dinners drastically (although, we have obviously not starved, which is proven by the state of my figure).

I pulled out an old pizza dough recipe and got it rising while I made some pizza sauce with crushed tomato, garlic, oregano and basil. I chopped up some farmer's sausage, mushrooms, asparagus and red peppers, and then (gasp) grated up some mozzarella cheese and sprinkled it over. Twenty minutes - and voila, pizza!

And hubby loved it.

I'm telling you, Easter is a day of miracles. And bunnies. And chocolate. Best day ever.