Thursday, December 21, 2006

old textiles

Linen hand towels, two of the patterns here are the only ones left of many others, which were well-used and worn out.

I have to think my love of handmade textiles, whether woven, knitted, crocheted, etc. must come from my mother's family. I had always known, I suppose, that my mother's sisters and aunt helped her prepare quite a set of linens when she announced she was marrying my father: hand towels and tea towels of linen, sheets and pillowcases of heavy cotton. If memory serves me right, I think even our bath towels were linen -- no terrycloth for us!

Crocheted edging and embroidered monogram on cotton bedsheet.

Only recently did I realize that spinning and weaving were skills that were fairly widespread not so long ago. About a year ago, I was proudly showing my father my first attempts at spinning and suddenly he was recalling comments his own mother might have made about such examples of spinning, critical comments that my father quickly tried to take back. She, of course, could spin as a matter of necessity. I reassured him that I've been told by expert spinners that my spinning resembles the expensive lumpy/bumpy stuff they sell as "novelty" yarn, an effect my expert spinning friends assure me they cannot now produce although they might wish to....So, I spin on happily in a beginner's ignorance!

My parents carried on a rather clandestine courtship and got married precipitously just before my father had to leave for South Africa. He had already been enrolled as a student in a college there and left Finland immediately following the wedding. My mother stayed behind in Finland to break the news to her family (it was a bit of a shock to them, to say the least) and of course, to enlist the aid of her sisters in preparing a trousseau. My mother says she asked each of her sisters for a set of sheets with crocheted edging and she did the monograms herself. Then she and my great-aunt Elli got busy weaving towels and rugs.

Being my mother's favorite crocheted edging pattern, these sheets were 'saved' for extra special guests and thus escaped the fate of the rest of the sheets.

My mother is a social creature, but she was determined to weave a rag rug on a loom that had been set up in one of the outbuildings on the family farm. However, she told me she was so painfully bored there, weaving all alone, that she interrupted her weaving many times to go up to the house where there would have been some company, somebody to talk to, coffee and pulla.

It took nearly a year before my mother was able to settle affairs in Finland and join my father in South Africa. Those linens travelled with her to South Africa, to Ethiopia, back to Finland, and finally to Canada.

I remember many of these items -- including the rug which actually did get finished -- but unfortunately very few of them remain. It makes me sad when I realize that I grew up with these treasures, taking them completely for granted, even as I loved the texture of the stiffly ironed cotton sheets and pillows, the pretty trims and the "fancy-writing" monograms. They always smelled of sunshine because they were dried outside on the line after being laundered.

These days, with only one or two of these sheets left, my mother has been in the habit of using them only for special guests. Isn't that nice? I was a 'special guest' at my parents' house last week, and indeed I felt very special and loved!

When I left Vancouver this time and my mother offered them, I gladly tucked a few of the towels and sheets into my suitcase (I have a terrible pack-rat habit which should not be fed with such nostalgia-laden items!!)

In 1976, when I visited Finland, I got my first opportunity to try my hand at weaving. My Aunt Martta had a large loom set up in a room just off the big farmhouse tupa (kitchen). I'm not even sure what she was working on, but I sat up on the bench and tried to slide the shuttle across...only to have my helpful cousin point out everything I was doing wrong. He was right, of course, loops left on the selvage edges, etc. I don't doubt that he really could have done better than I was doing!

I wonder how many modern brides have sheets with handcrocheted trims and monograms, or linen towels they themselves, a sister or an aunt, might have made at home for the trousseau. Even that word, trousseau, is a rather old-fashioned word, isn't it?

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NORAD tracks Santa

That's right. Since 1957, NORAD has tracked Santa's journey around the world every Christmas Eve, as he travels from the North Pole to bring presents to kiddoes like this Gramma's granddaughter!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

my story

There are some stories that I hesitate to share. People who know me may find that is a funny statement, because I tend to talk about just about anything that occurs to me, even here on this "public" blog. But that's the way of stories. Not every story gets told as easily as others. Some stories are too painful, others too tender.

This story is so sweet and new that I'm afraid it's too new and fragile to share. But here goes.

I told my son my story today, or alluded to it, and then started to talk about something else, without even realizing it. However, my son was more intuitive than usual today and wouldn't let me get away with that.

You didn't think I'd notice you segued away real quickly to another topic. You were pretty smooth, Mom. Don't you want to talk about him?

Gee! Who knew sons could be like that?

So, I fessed up. I met a wonderful man who really makes me happy. So, here I am, in a long-distance relationship; he's an American, I'm a Canadian...

Again, my son stopped me:

Don't allow all the worries about the future prevent you from enjoying this moment right now, he scolded. Is it exciting? Is it fun? I know I told you all sorts of reasons to be careful when you told me you were going to meet him, but I know from experience that I have often messed up a good moment for myself by thinking only of all the potential problems.

This is funny, I thought to myself. My son's reactions to the very idea of a man in my life have varied from overly protective to neutral to disdain to disgust in the past -- never enthusiasm for me and my happiness.

He asked me some questions and I told him some of the things my man has said to me. Those are the kind of things a good guy says, my son tried to explain... (isn't he cute? I mean I know this is a good guy and all, already)

My son went into a brief summary of his difficult journey over the last year or so and his New Year's resolutions. In a few sentences, my son neatly ticked off the issues in his life he had resolved, the new goals he has and the wisdom he has gained as a result, wisdom that he felt I had to know now.

Don't you just love it when your kids grow up and can give you the benefit of their wisdom? And don't think for a minute that I'm saying that with any sense of irony. I'm saying it out of appreciation for the gift it is, grateful to be able to share my happiness and enjoy the benefit of the support and perspectives of adult children who care about me and are happy for me!

It's at times like this that I am amazed and humbled at the loving, wise, generous, brave and strong children I somehow brought into this world. Plus, I have a wonderful, loving man in my life as well! Who knew I could be so damned happy!

Monday, December 18, 2006

more from Vancouver

pieris and heather


New Zealand flax

Friday, December 15, 2006

from Vancouver

yuccas with ? (the little evergreen tree)behind them, dogwoods and kerria in the background

You'll have to pardon me if I'm mistaken in naming some of the plants here. And if you are able to enlighten me, please help me out! Having lived in zone 6 and colder for most of my adult life, I'm amazed at the range of plants that are not familiar to me!

On this visit to Vancouver, the perpetually green hedges drew me in. But what are they? Laurel, leylandii, thuya, hornbeam..? The local varieties of hedging plants I'm most accustomed in Ontario to are cedar, privet, yew and boxwood, although any number of other plants are used and would be hardy. My Dad (who failed to be the huge source of knowledge I remember from my childhood ;) ) didn't know either. To locals, they are ubiquitous and probably very, very ordinary. (I'm reminded of Thomas Hobbs, a Vancouver area garden writer who encourages the use outrageous colour in the garden in two books, Jewel Box Garden and Shocking Beauty -- a quest, it seemed to me, for the most extraordinary and obscure plants one could lay their hands on -- great fun maybe, but out of the reach of most of us. On a previous visit to Vanvouver, I was able to visit Southlands Nursery that Hobbs runs, and found it is chock full of gorgeous plants and design ideas and I readily admit I lusted after everything!)

Another couple of things that I found ubiquitous were English ivy and dead nettle (Lamium), which have both perhaps achieved the status of "pest" long ago. But I couldn't help enjoying them, carpeting the ground and draped high into the trees that surround the golf course a little east of my parents' home. I was able to do my run through those trees on soft paths surfaced with very finely chipped bark.



ornamental kale and pansies
(text edited Dec 19, 2006)


Some piers lead to nowhere in particular. And that's the whole point.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

along the Fraser River

(note: some additional comments and editing done Dec 14)

Walking along the North Arm of the Fraser River, we were taking advantage of some sunny moments today, snatched between rain storms with damaging winds. Although it is such a busy river, full of human enterprises of all kinds, as you can see from the pictures of the rafts of logs, it has it's peaceful aspects, as well: ducks napping on floating logs near the shore, the symmetry of piers reflected in the water, trees and lawns and plantings along its banks, and paths for runners, walkers and their dogs...

Yesterday was a rainy day and a lot of damage was done by the winds to trees in many locations in the Vancouver area. While I have never actually been to Vancouver without having rain as well, I don't think it has rained sideways quite as much on any previous trip...An errand downtown took us to Denman & Georgia, just east of Stanley Park, where police were blocking the entrance to the Lions Gate Bridge Road. The reason, we found out, was the large number of branches and trees that had been knocked down throughout the park by the winds overnight.

On a residential street close to my parents' home, a large monkey puzzle tree is green only at the very top. Damage from the recent freak cold and snow (out of the normal experience of weather in Vancouver)? I was relieved to see, on another street, a smaller monkey puzzle tree, still green and thriving.


My Dad, in Vancouver, admiring the orange berries of the pyracantha.

Thanks to Sisah, I now know this to be Viburnum davidii

more attractive berries we saw along our walk down to the banks of the North Arm of the Fraser River in Vancouver

a photo I took before I came out here to Vancouver: berries of the bittersweet vine at my home

Monday, December 11, 2006

nature-deficit disorder

I'm reading a marvelous book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. It may seem like a startling concept, that the absence of nature in the lives of our children can be linked to the trends we observe in today's children, the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Louv brings together many telling anecdotes and much relevant research to demonstrate just how distanced we and our kids are becoming from the natural world. As a prescription for a saner world, Louv's book might be very helpful and I wish every parent, educator and health care professional could read it. Maybe developers, city planners, and politicians at every level, etc. should too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

local traffic!

if I move, they move... Posted by Picasa

Happening to glance out one of the many windows in this house (a feature I love), I noticed this large flock of turkeys just beyond the cedar rail fence behind the house. Can you see them? C'est rigolo, n'est-ce pas? Posted by Picasa

happy sunshine

A steady drip of water is coming off the point of a large icicle hanging from the eaves trough right outside my office window. Sunshine is streaming in. Through the trees across the cornfield, I can seen the lake beyond, the blinding reflection of the sun glaring off the surface of the water.

I'm getting ready to go to Vancouver for a week to visit my folks.

Naturally, I will take my camera and will, as usual, be distracted by gardens wherever I go. I'm also really looking forward to walking along the banks of the north arm of the Fraser River with my Dad.

While I'm gone, I will try to keep in touch and post a picture or two whenever I can.

rose scented geranium ( Pelargonium x asperum) in the background, an unnamed red geranium Ann left with me, and the foliage of fuchsia in the foreground Posted by Picasa

the geraniums bloom on in the sunny laundry room window Posted by Picasa

I'll pretend that this arrangement is intentional, in preparation for the Holiday Season. Perhaps when I return from Vancouver, I'll throw in some greenery and big red bows... Posted by Picasa

my little spark of emerald and gold in the snow Posted by Picasa

A hydrangea in the snow Posted by Picasa

Morning sunshine viewed out the dining room window. Posted by Picasa

The view out my office window. Posted by Picasa

There's the fallen butternut tree (it might also be one of the hickories, as I can't distinguish between them), neatly cleared out of the laneway by my landlords. There's something about the repeated pattern of the stacked logs, a certain symmetry, that I find very pleasing! Posted by Picasa

Canadian weather

Is it winter yet? Posted by Picasa