Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of Year and a Frank Look at Resolutions

Each new year's eve I try to write a little summary of how the last 12 months have gone and set some goals for the next year. I've had years focused on health, or getting out of debt, or pursuing creative passions. I've focused on things I felt needed improving. But I feel a little different this year, more contemplative and less ambitious. I think this year I'd rather just focus on the blessings I've received, the things in my life I value, and the gratitude I feel. I don't especially feel the need to improve, set goals, and strive toward new year's resolutions. I think...maybe...what I'm feeling is contentment. I guess gratitude leads you to that.

I've been blessed this year to survive financially in spite of my husband yet again losing his job, and I've been blessed to feel totally supportive of his not going back to work fulltime this time. I want to see him relax and enjoy a well-deserved rest. I think I've finally figured out what he figured out many years ago -- that my sense of fulfillment is tied to seeing others be fulfilled. And if I can see him develop his piping program or pursue his hobbies and develop his interests, I will find that personally fulfilling. I am overwhelmed with love when I think of his years of dedication, support, sacrifice, and hard work, and I want to make this next year smoother for him.

I've been blessed with loving children who are more or less independent and making their way in the world. I've seen them pursue interests and develop themselves and reach out feelers into their lives, and it's exciting to see. I've been blessed with huggable, squeezable, darling grandchildren who lift my heart with their smiles.

I've been blessed with the animals in my life, their devotion and unconditional love and loyalty. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Brio running full tilt toward me with ears flapping and a grin on his face, as if I'm the best person on the planet, and his joy gravitates around me.

I've been blessed to have had situations over the past year that have encouraged me to learn and grow and stretch. I've taken on teaching a class of teenagers and -- despite trepidation -- grown to genuinely love and care about them. Such a neat group of people! I've taken up weaving and needlepoint and found creative outlets that give me joy. I've got scope for the imagination. And I've learned that my writing, while enjoyable, is not my identity or even (dare I say it) my passion. It's a good thing to learn, because then I can allocate the time it deserves but not obsess about it. I've learned it's okay for me and my interests to change with time.

I've been blessed with the spirit and a deeper conviction of how Christ's atonement applies to me and my life. As I've taught these young people, the principles I'm teaching them have entered more deeply into my own heart. I think it was Seneca who said you learn by teaching, and that's so true. I'm grateful for what teaching has brought me.

I've been blessed to deepen friendships with two people at church whom I didn't know very well before, but who have turned out to be delightful, fun, and generous friends. I'm grateful to still have my job in a time when many have lost theirs, and even though it isn't a joyful thing for me, at least I can tolerate it and it puts food on the table, so I'm glad for that. I've tried to rethink how I perceive my job. Instead of just thinking of it as sitting in a cubicle wiggling my fingers over a keyboard and pushing paper around, I've tried to see how it is actually an act of service for the ten people I support -- people I genuinely like -- and seeing it that way makes it more bearable.

I'm grateful to live in a place that allows me to pursue my religion and education and personal goals, that supports me with the basic necessities of life, and promotes equality and compassion. I live in a generally compassionate society. And it's got the added plus that it's beautiful here, a landscape that sings to me. I'm grateful this country let me in and that I feel at home here. I'm grateful God created such a lovely planet and lets us participate in part of that creation. I'm grateful for the knowledge of how to grow food and the gift of a bit of land to do it on.

I hope to carry this gratitude and awareness of my blessings into 2018 and look forward to the treasures this new year will bring. And I wish my readers (all two of you) blessings in 2018 too.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Almost Lost my Mind

Went on a short trip for a few days near Lake Huron and was sorely tempted to buy a bed-and-breakfast for sale... Beautiful area. Here are a few shots from the trip. This is the B&B...

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Away for a while

I'm going on a brief get-away for a few days with no internet access. Just hubby, dogs, needlepoint, and a bit of writing to do. So you won't hear from me until Saturday. Best wishes, everyone, and stay warm!  Kristen

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Posted in 2012, revisited in 2017

December 23 or Why Christmas Adam Comes Before Christmas Eve

Goodness knows the Bible women
get the limelight at Christmas time.
Elizabeth and Mary,
and even the innkeeper's wife...
"All is bright 'round yon virgin,"
"Mary pondered it in her heart..."

But Joseph's in the back of the scene,
anonymous figure with a staff
standing behind the donkey.
We don't acknowledge enough
the sacrifices he made,
the doubtful heart he stilled,
the tender courage he displayed.

The best crèche I ever witnessed,
Mary was sacked out cold
on the hay - exhausted new mother -
and Joseph was cradling the child.

We don't think about the years
that followed that Christmas night --
the arduous escape to Egypt,
life-saving visions in the night,
leading his family to the temple,
Joseph working the wood in his hands
while the young Jesus watched and learned.

There couldn't have been a Saviour
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lifted upon the cross,
risen from the tomb,
without a Father first.

- Kristen

Friday, 22 December 2017

White Christmas and Band-Aids

This year it will be a white Christmas. After an unseasonably warm and green autumn, the white stuff started last night, and now it's being followed by a frosting of freezing rain. I am snug at home today, off work for the holidays, and have cozy plans for music, needlepoint, and some general housecleaning. And shovelling.

All of this will be hindered, however, by a slight injury I got yesterday. I always keep Brio on the extendable leash when I let him out at 4 a.m., because if he's free to run off-leash in the backyard, he always barks, and I didn't want the neighbours getting an earful at that hour. But yesterday when I was bringing him back in, some furry gray critter (rabbit? cat?) dashed across the patio, and Brio of course bounded after him with a growl. And like an idiot, instead of using the button on the leash to stop the line from going out, I grabbed the cord with my free hand. And it kept zipping out at high speed and gave me a wonderful "rope burn" around my ring finger. Wow, did that hurt! I hurried into the house to turn on the light and inspect the wound, expecting to see bone and blood. Instead, it was a neat furrow ploughed across the joint of the finger, and there wasn't any blood because the zipping cord sort of cauterized it. I nearly passed out from pain and sheer squeamishness, though. Four Band-Aids later, I'm okay, but my sticking-out ring finger keeps hitting the Caps Lock key as I type. And I'm wondering how I'm going to shovel snow with one hand. You don't realize how much you use a particular bit of your body until you injure it.

The critter got away, by the way, whatever it was.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The End of an Era

Thirty-five years ago, I began playing the bagpipes. It wasn't the easiest challenge I've ever undertaken, but it was enjoyable and brought me a lot of adventure, happiness, and friendship over the years. I worked hard to get them. I've played our clan tune on the hillside overlooking my ancestral home in Scotland. I've played in a Welsh pub. I was the first female piper in the history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. I've trudged around Highland Games hauling twenty pounds of kilt and equipment for the last thirty-five summers. I've learned from Ian MacDonald and Michael Grey and Bob Worrall, legends in the piping world. I've played with the Toronto Police and, more recently, St. Andrews Pipes and Drums. But the most important thing bagpipes have done for me is to lead me to my husband, at band practice, thirty-one years ago. (I confess I also like watching the reactions when I tell people I play this unique instrument. Everything from fascination to horror.)

I am no longer able to play because of health issues and busy-ness and - let's face it - general exhaustion, and I quit the band a couple of years ago. And this week, as a final admission that I'll not be taking it up again, I sold my pipes to another female student in the band. They're good for her, the right size and weight, and I hope she gets many years of joy out of them. It feels weird letting them go, but also right. A new generation of players is moving up the ranks, and that's how it should be. And I admit a small part of me is gleeful that I no longer have to struggle with 8 yards of wool in a Port-a-Potty at the Games.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Low-Carb Diet

I lost 25 pounds last year just by cutting out sugar and most pasta and rice. (I can't cut it out entirely...What would be the point of life without pasta, after all?) The doctor would like to see me lose another 30, so I'm back on the diet again this year, along with my supportive hubby. I know it can be done, because I've done well with it before, but I suspect Christmas is not the right time to begin such an endeavour. I can't walk past a colleague's desk at work without being confronted with raspberry dark chocolate, caramels, fudge, doughnuts... It's a failure waiting to happen. I've told myself I will allow some occasional eggnog, which is my favourite thing on the planet, and this is the only time of year you can get it. But I think I'll be able to resist most everything else.

My wonderful husband has been making intriguing meals with spaghetti squash and bean sprouts and coconut milk and a host of other things that sound unlikely but that turn out magical in his hands. They're healthy and delicious and give me hope and determination. And if I'm good and stick to this, I'll double my wardrobe, because there's a lot in that closet that I almost fit into and can wear once again in the near future. That's incentive, too. I'm always motivated if I can save a dollar.

The other key to the diet is to keep my hands busy. We like to watch movies in the evenings, and it's a dangerous time with regard to snacking. But if I'm tangled up in knitting or crocheting, I'm less likely to reach for something sticky. I'll try to focus on other projects instead of lying about on the couch reading, too, because that's a dangerous snack time. And I'll keep up the yoga and -- gulp -- dog walking (in spite of the arctic weather). I'll pace myself reasonably and realistically, but hopefully by this time next year I'll be a lesser woman.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


They're having a bake sale at work to raise money for a charity, and I was voluntold to bring cookies for it. This weekend was fairly busy with baby shower, weaving guild meeting, etc. and I wondered if maybe I could cheat and get store-bought cookies to take to the bake sale instead. After all, I hadn't offered to do this, it was being put upon me. And the first thing I ever had published was an article called "You Won't Go to Hell for Using a Cake Mix." And my naturopath gave me strong instructions to say no more often. So who would know? Could I pull it off?

So I confess I went out Saturday and bought some decent-looking chocolate chip cookies, with the vague idea of not saying anything to anyone at work and letting them assume I'd made them without coming right out and saying I did. Yes, I'm that evil.

And then I remembered that our donations to the bake sale were supposed to have a full ingredient list with them, in case of allergies, etc. So I looked at the ingredient list of the chocolate chip cookies. Modified palm oil, soy lecithin, cocoa butter, inverted sugar, natural flavour... Who was I kidding? No one would believe I had soy lecithin in my kitchen cupboard.

So I sent hubby out at 10:00 last night to buy sugar (which I generally try not to keep in the house), and at 6:00 this morning I made 5 dozen peanut butter cookies. Now I can take an honest tray to the bake sale and my conscience is clear again. Except now I have a tub of chocolate chip cookies on top of the fridge which, after reading the ingredients, no one will really feel like eating.

Serves me right.

Maybe I can put them on a tray and give them as homemade Christmas cookies to the neighbours...

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


At work they have a machine that dispenses steaming hot water, and they stock various herbal teas for the staff. I make myself a peppermint tea, put my nose in the mug, cup my hands around it, and am transported back to Grandpa's mint farm. A bit of heaven in the cubicle.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The only reason I'd ever get a cell phone...

I am one of the last remaining people on the planet without a mobile phone. I am of that vanishing breed who carries two quarters with me to use the pay phone in emergencies (and yes, they do still exist). I don't want the bother and expense and annoyance of a phone, I don't want to have to figure out apps and plans, and I don't want to have others be able to track me or my preferences at every moment. Most of all, I don't want my boss to be able to reach me at three in the morning (and she would, too!). So up until now I've avoided the whole thing.

There's only one good thing about mobile phones that might make me change my mind someday. They have incredible cameras on them. There have been many times I've wished I had a camera to hand, and the ability to capture intricate details. Today, coming home, the sky was awash in the most amazing clouds, thin and furrowed like a plowed field, with the bright glow of the sunset just starting, and I wished I could snap a picture of it before it faded. So lovely! My regular digital camera wouldn't have captured it, I know, and it's too bulky to carry around with me. So, yeah, maybe one day I concede I may get a phone. But I'd turn off all the apps and bleeps and connections and just use the camera part.

At some point I won't be able to buy movie tickets or get into the subway station without a phone. The world is just trending that way. That's okay with me. The day I can no longer function without it is the day I resign from everything and retire to a cottage by a lake somewhere, and if advertisers and government officials can't find me, oh well.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Shoes vs Bare Feet

So there's an argument going on on Facebook right now about the science behind why going barefoot is good for you. I don't follow all the "positive ions and engaging all the bones" talk, but I do have an opinion. I don't know the science behind it, if there is any. I just know that I feel better when I'm barefoot. Whether indoors or outdoors, I feel free and younger and healthier when I don't have shoes on. And if I have to wear them, I prefer sandals every time.

I remember in high school taking my shoes and socks off to walk home from school. I remember walking around the neighbourhood as a kid in my bare feet. I still run out to the garbage cans or to get the mail in bare feet in the dead of winter. I wander my garden barefoot (watching for thistles. My weeding isn't up to snuff). I love the feel of connection with the ground, the scent of earth, the touch of skin to soil.

I've heard that soil has organisms in it that contribute anti-depression qualities somehow, and this transfers to you through your skin. Whether that's true or not, I know I feel better when my hands are in dirt and my feet are directly on the ground. When winter drags on, I crave getting my hands back in the garden. I've been known to stick my head in a bag of damp potting soil just to breathe in the smell of it when winter has lasted too long. I just close the curtains first to the neighbours don't think I've lost it all together...

I have pots of green beans growing in my dining room right now, along with rosemary and a lemon tree. I harvest a mere trickle of beans, but the food isn't the point. It's the smell of wet soil, of green growing things, in the winter that I glean from them. It's a tonic and a promise, a bit of bright hope that spring will come again.

Monday, 20 November 2017

An interesting immigration story

We're doing some work to the house, and my husband hired a local handyman named Frank to do the high-on-a-rickety-ladder part. As Frank worked, he and my husband chatted, and he told my husband the story of how his family ended up in Canada. I found it so interesting, I thought I'd write it down here.

Frank's family was British, and moved to the American colonies just around the time of the Revolutionary War. In 1780, the town was collecting gunpowder from all the citizens with the idea of shooting off fireworks and cannons, etc. to celebrate the 4th of July. But Frank's family remained loyal to the crown and refused to donate any powder. The townspeople aimed all the cannons at Frank's family's house, but still they refused. And decided that Canada might be a safer place for Loyalists. And that's how they ended up coming to Canada.

Isn't that a fun bit of history? It's neat to me that the family has passed this story down through the generations.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

And Lo, it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished

Thank you to Thoreau for the title...

I can't believe it has been a week since my last post, and a week since the Royal Fair. I feel as if time has slipped by me when I wasn't looking. I haven't done much of anything in the seven days since. Hemmed some towels. Went to work. Watched TV. How did the days get past me?

One of my bosses explained it to me this way: when you are six years old, summer seems endless because it's, like, 16% of your life. So in relation to how long you've lived, it's really quite a chunk of time. But when you're 50, summer is only 2% of your life, so in relation it feels like it zips by. Or something like that, anyway. I have never been good at math.

The concept rings true, however accurate it is. Summer has fled and here we are, digging out the boots I swear I just put away last week. Frost has killed the nasturtiums, I can smell someone's wood stove when I'm out walking the dogs, and we had our first dusting of snow the other day. Thoughts turn to hardy stews and egg nog. Mmm, egg nog. God's way of apologizing for winter. For that season where you struggle into five layers to walk to the bus stop, struggle out of them once you get into the overheated bus, struggle back into them when you reach the subway system and walk through those cold tile halls, struggle out of them once you reach the overheated train, struggle into them to walk from train to office, then struggle out of them again when you reach your airless cubicle... Just to repeat the process in reverse at the end of the day. I wish someone would invent an inflatable suit that you just dial up or down without having to put on or remove anything.

But before you know it, it will be spring again, the layers will be cast aside, and I'll be sketching garden plans and trying to find my secaturs and knee pads. And as I emerge back into sunlight, blinking dazedly and feeling like a displaced mushroom, I'll be wondering how I managed to reach this age already without knowing how to sharpen a lawnmower.

I saw an ad for a t-shirt today; it said "Irony: the opposite of wrinkly." I'm thinking I might buy one. Goodness knows I'm wrinkly already. I could use some irony in my life.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Kissed by a Cow

I went with a friend to the Royal Agricultural Fair in Toronto today. It's my favourite autumn activity -- rows and rows of interesting vendors, Superdogs, a petting farm (where I always marvel at the soft, dainty muzzles of the alpaca, goats, and sheep), the thrill of Percherons and Clydesdales, the perky little Hackney ponies, sharp-hipped cows, and a million other things to see. I ate a potato pancake with lox and sour cream for lunch, managed to resist the maple cotton candy, and debated for a while before giving in to my first taste of poutine. (After almost 30 years in Canada, I figured it was time to try it.)

At one booth, which was selling sprouting supplies, the saleswoman put down her sprouts, picked up her Celtic harp, and sang for us, which was magical. I loved wandering along touching alpaca sweaters (made from, not made for) and admiring carved wooden bowls and beautiful oil paintings. Talked myself out of buying fuzzy slippers and darling knitted hats for the grandkids (a bit pricey). Enjoyed the Frisbee stunts of the Superdogs. The furry Angora rabbits. The soft-as-marshmallow stuffed animals. The colourful John Deere-themed quilts. Too much to mention!

I go every year, but it's as if it's all new and fresh to me every time I go. That smell of hay and manure makes me nostalgic, and that velvety touch of the cow's nose as it eats from my hand so gently still melts my heart every time.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Mindfulness in Daily Life

I don't do much on social media, but I do belong to one group (now a closed group) on Facebook that's all about finding beauty in the earth and promoting handcrafting and rural skills. After being bombarded all day with scary, depressing, and hysterical news, this Facebook group is such an oasis of peace. The contrast is stunning -- people building each other up, supporting and cheering for each other, people posting beautiful scenery they've come across in their rambles through forest and moor. They show the shepherds' crooks they've carved or the pottery they've made or the wool they've spun. They announce the birth of piglets and the rescue of burros. They encourage each other through illness, loss, and house moves. They teach each other foraging skills and offer accommodation to anyone passing through their part of the world. They share recipes and suggestions to minimize waste and support the planet. It's just a genuinely kind, friendly, compassionate group, without an unkind word, and I'm really pleased to have stumbled across them, a peaceful place to take time out from a chaotic and angry world.

I've discovered something else from this group that I didn't expect to find, too. Since others are posting photos of beautiful spots they've discovered on the planet, I find myself watching for beauty I can share as I walk the dog or go about my day. I'm alert to loveliness in a way I wasn't quite before, with the added incentive to share it with someone else. It changes my outlook. It expands my awareness. I look for handmade crafts and tools that I may have overlooked before. I see the beauty hidden in a fallen tree or a paw print on stone.

I'm grateful to the person who started up this group, and I'm grateful for the men and women spread across the globe, from Europe to Mongolia to Australia to the Northwest Territories, who contribute to this group. They are such a refreshing change and give me hope for the world.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Weaving Update

I've finished my second set of tea towels. I miscalculated somehow, so the last towel ended up just over half the length it was supposed to we'll pretend it was meant to be a face cloth all along!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Overheard on the Subway

On the subway home today, I was struck by the sight of two older women talking together. They had such interesting faces, such animated expressions, and I thought to myself, "I bet they've lived interesting lives." And I admit I sidled over and shamelessly eavesdropped (which really isn't hard to do on a crowded subway. I mean, no one has a private conversation on the subway, right?) Anyway, I was right. In the space of a few minutes I learned one was on her way to the airport for an international flight, and the other was an artist who had something to do with organizing concerts. And she knew a fantastic violinist in Kyrgyzstan (I think she said) who was asked by the president of the country to set up a music school, and when the violinist said she didn't even have a decent instrument of her own, he bought her a Stradivarius. And the lady on the subway whipped out her phone and played a video of this violinist playing an achingly beautiful piece in concert. She told her friend about cornering a couple of political bigwigs and insisting they organize a concert featuring this violinist, and the concert is indeed happening.

By the time we reached my stop, I had gleaned leads on about five topics that would be worth writing about. There were so many magazine articles I could draw from their minds, maybe even a biography or two. I was tempted to turn to them and say, "Please let me interview you!" But I didn't have any business cards on me, and the only paper I had to write my contact info on was an old receipt. And then I got an attack of shyness and chickened out altogether and ended up not interacting with them at all, but got off at my stop and thought about them on the bus home.

Lost opportunity, probably. Terribly bad manners for eavesdropping? Undoubtedly. But what an interesting ride home that was! I wonder what other intriguing people were on that train car.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Tucking the garden into bed for the winter

This week I planted the garlic and pulled out the remainders of the cabbage and peppers, cut down the asparagus ferns, and piled six inches of straw over everything. I left the kale, which is still producing, and I let the cherry tomatoes remain standing to act as a sort of retaining wall until the straw is damp enough that it won't blow too easily into the pool.

I love spreading straw. That dusty smell isn't quite the same scent as hay, but it's close enough to send me straight back to childhood and Grandpa's farm and my horse Shadow. That hollow sound horses make when they chew oats. The damp-wood smell of Grandma and Grandpa's back porch. The particular squeak and slam of the back door. The crunchy sound of boots on gravel. The fascinating view of gravel speeding by underfoot as I peered through the hole in the floor of Grandpa's pick-up. Good memories.

I wonder sometimes if my farmer grandfather is watching me from beyond as I dig potatoes and dry mint and play mini-farm in my backyard. I feel him nearby as I harvest my own wheat and oats, hoe carrots, and pick zucchini. I picture him grinning as I dig up my four sugar beets. (They were an experiment, okay? I just wanted to see if I could grow them.) I am grateful every day for my heritage and that my parents passed on to me the love of land.

I took my grandkids to the park the other day, and as we walked we took notice of the birds, ducks, squirrels, chipmunks, and even a garter snake wriggling like a bootlace on the path. My granddaughter sighed and said, "I love nature. I would never hurt it."

Mission accomplished.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I've forgotten how to wear shoes

My last pair of shoes wore out completely some time ago, so I have spent all summer in sandals. It has been heavenly, I have to say, and so convenient to just slip them on and go. But the cold weather is descending, the leaves are starting to fall, and even I know that it isn't fashionable to wear socks with sandals, so this week I broke down and bought another pair of tennis shoes.

And they're awkward. I mean, I know they're the right fit and they're comfortable. But I guess I have a rolling-out gait, because now that there's actually support in my soles, I feel like I'm rolling in. I stub them on things. The soles scrape the ground because I'm not used to picking my feet up that far, as I walk. My feet don't bend right. It's weird. It's like learning to wear shoes for the first time.

It's funny how quickly we can become undomesticated.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

My "Happy Spot"

My cousin challenged us to post something positive on Facebook this week, so I posted a photo I took many years ago of Swasey Basin in Utah:

I went backpacking here with a group of young women from church and the Bishopric. My dad was a member of the Bishopric at the time, so I got to spend a week hiking with him. The lake water was fresh off the glacier and freezing to swim in. Burke Peterson built us an amazing hot shower out of a milk jug and a tiny machined showerhead. He also managed to contrive pineapple upside-down cake over the fire, in a dutch oven. The stars were astounding. The campfire smoke always seemed to follow me no matter where I sat. And at one point the Bishopric lost their minds, rolling boulders downhill and whooping it up like ten-year-olds.

Above and around all of those fun memories is the beauty itself, permeating everything. Mountains have always called to me. There's something about their particular beauty that I find glorious, and the only fault I can find with where I currently live is that it isn't mountainous. When I go home to Utah, I go into my parents' backyard and greet Mount Timpanogos as if it were a family member, long unseen. I've missed you. How have you been? I wish I could take you home with me.

I've been to a lot of lovely places, from the smooth rolling green of Wales to the caramel beach of Makaha, Oahu and the curling white waves and rugged rocks of Lake Superior, but nothing touches my heart the way Utah's mountains do.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Spinning Wool on the High Seas

My 5-year-old granddaughter Rowyn was visiting yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner, and the first thing she saw when she came into the living room was my spinning wheel.

"What's that?" she asked. I explained to her that it made yarn.

She insisted I show her how it worked, so I showed her how to lightly pump the foot pedal (it's not entirely put together yet, but the wheel spins). Rowyn demanded a chair and spent a while getting the rhythm of the pedal down. The adults carried on with their conversation. And then 2-year-old Eoghann wanted a turn at the wheel, and a small scuffle broke out.

Eventually the young folk were convinced to take turns, but Eoghann had no interest in the pedal. He just wanted to spin the wheel with his hands, which is a perfectly sensible activity for a toddler, but incensed Rowyn. It wasn't right.

But then five minutes later, when it was her turn again, she tried spinning the large wheel with her hands too, and it proved more fun. The pedal was abandoned, and soon she was gripping the wheel as if she were piloting a tall-mast ship and declaring, "Look, I'm a pirate!" She went from demure 18th-century spinning maiden to Blackbeard in about thirty seconds.

I wonder how many bored young girls over the centuries, quietly spinning wool at their mothers' hearths, pretended they were actually pirates and sailed away from their task across the raging sea.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Counting my blessings

It's Thanksgiving here in Canada, a bit ahead of the U.S. because theoretically our harvest is about six weeks earlier. (Though this year, the extended warm weather has also extended our harvest. I'm still picking green peppers.)

I have much to be thankful for -- all the usual things like home and family and pretty good health and the gospel and good food. This week I've also found I'm hyper-aware of smaller little blessings -- the beauty of the full moon rising behind ragged clouds. The snuggle of my dog against the back of my legs as I lie on the couch. The enjoyment of a good book and gratitude that there's someone out there writing them. The discovery that the $5 Wal-Mart reading glasses work exactly as well as my expensive prescription glasses, meaning I won't have to buy new Rx ones for ages. The happiness of a friend just dropping by the house to say hello and scoop some cherry tomatoes and feeling she's welcome to do that. The ability to Skype with my grandkids to read bedtime stories together (one of the few times I appreciate technology). The generosity of my weaving teacher, who spends so much of her time helping me. The selfless kindness and compassion of my husband, who indulges me beyond all reason. Above all, I'm grateful for the opportunity Christ gives us to start over and try again and keep progressing. Fresh beginnings. Hope and comfort in a challenging world.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Backyard Chickens in Toronto

Of course, the instant I say I'm ready to let go of owning animals, Toronto agrees to a pilot project allowing backyard chickens in some parts of the city. This is something I've campaigned for in Mississauga, and it would be great if it works out. Other cities around us allow them, but if Toronto falls in line, Mississauga will have little footing to stand on. If I could raise a source of protein like eggs, I could almost entirely provide all our food from the backyard. The exceptions would be things like salt and olive oil...

Sunday, 1 October 2017

New Puppy and Old Dogs

My son has a new puppy, an adorable mixed breed with a face that melts your heart. As soon as I saw a photo, I felt that old tug -- memories of that new-puppy smell, the cuddles, the face-washings, the fun of selecting a breed, the expansive feeling of embarking on a new adventure with a new friend.

And then I remembered the crate training, the middle-of-the-night whinings, the vet bills, the chewed furniture and stained carpets. It's definitely as much work as having a new human baby, the first little while. I've gone through it with a lot of dogs in my lifetime. I look at Maple curled in his basket like an apostrophe, Brio flopped on the couch with his legs dangling over the edge like a spider plant, and even though my heart swells with love and memories, I think I can say with confidence that these pets will be my last ones. They hold a special spot in my life; Brio is especially irreplaceable, I'm not sure why. But he's the best dog I've ever had, and there's nothing I enjoy more than when he settles his head on my lap with a sigh. But I'm getting tired. I'm reaching a stage in my life where my motherhood responsibilities are waning, and I want to be free to travel at the drop of a hat without worrying about kennels and sitters. (And my long-suffering husband is allergic to Brio but has been heroic about it. He needs a well-deserved break from histamines.) So by the time my life fully reaches that empty-nest stage, the dogs will be gone, and I think I will be ready to let pet-ownership go.

It will be a weird adjustment, not having a dog around. I've had pets all my life, and other than brief intervals between losing one and getting another, I've always had a dog. I believe all kids, all people, should have animals in their lives. They enhance it in ways I can't define; their love is different from humans'. And I am different because of them.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Farmer's Market

Went to the Farmer's Market this morning, fully intending to buy only green beans, since the rabbits got all of mine this year. But the leeks were bewitching long wands and the beets made my mouth water, thinking of pickles, and I ended up spending a bit more than planned.

What is it about beautiful abundance that makes you want to throw your budget out the window? I don't eat a lot of eggplant, but there were five or six varieties, all of them fantastic colours, and it was all I could do not to buy a bucketful of them. Bins of romano beans my fingers itched to crack open. Piles of peppers like jewels. Peaches you could smell from across the parking lot. Strange mushroom fungus thingies that looked like something scraped off a tree (likely were) and no idea how to cook them. Pumpkins the size of small children. Grapes and blueberries and...well.

I escaped with just one grocery bagful, but all the way home I regretted not buying those chubby purple and lavender eggplants. And the buckets of yellow and orange and red peppers.

Might have to go back next Saturday.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Seed Catalogs Already!

I'm still harvesting cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, cabbage, and kale out of my garden, and today I got the first ad for a new seed catalog. I'm pretty sure it's unusually early -- normally they arrive just as I start craving them in February -- but still I'm ravenous to look. The beautiful heirloom vegetables, the many beans I've never heard of, the tempting Chinese greens, the okra shaped like torpedoes, the poppies that look like peonies...

Every year I tell myself it's time to scale back, to stick to the basics that I know we'll eat. And every year I find myself pawing over the luscious photos and imagining myself selling Chinese greens to the Toronto Asian community and drooling over the plump tomatoes that never do turn out like their pictures. I want to try them all. Brilliant indigo-blue dry beans! Orange watermelon! Purple green beans! Football-sized Jicama! How can we content ourselves with the paltry, limp offerings at the grocery store? Nothing at Food Basics makes me want to rub it against my cheek with pleasure the way these heirlooms do.

It's not even October yet, and I've started plotting for next year.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

It was a five-pudding cup night

I have no excuse other than it was one of the worst days I've ever had at work in 23 years of working there. Just frantic and pressured and having to produce meticulous work while meeting deadlines and getting bawled out by colleagues and trying to deal with it all while nursing a broken tooth...well, anyway, I reached my limit. I came home last night, made supper for everyone else (I couldn't eat it because of my tooth), showered, and flopped on the couch to watch Murdoch's Mysteries and eat five pudding cups in a row. Yup. Total loss of control and utter decadence and I loved every spoonful. (Except for the two that were sugar-free. They weren't so great.) Went to bed at 9 p.m. and accomplished nothing else, not so much as a Sudoku.

Would rather live under a bridge than go back to work this morning, but at least it's a half day -- dentist appointment this afternoon. Then life will go back to normal. When you don't feel well, everything defeats you. When you feel great physically, you can handle anything.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Lost in Space

More and more often lately I see my Shih Tzu Maple fall into what I can only call trances. He's padding along, doing his thing, and then he stops and just stares at nothing and stands stock still for five or ten minutes. Just stands, as if engrossed in whatever's going on in his head. I don't know if it's because he's getting elderly and having a "senior's moment" or if he's seeing something I can't or if he's just momentarily forgotten what he was doing and has to re-calibrate. I read a book once (sorry I can't recall the author) who said that when one of those senior's moments hits you and you can't remember what you were meant to be doing or where you are, you should just let the engine idle, enjoy the view, and eventually what you're meant to remember will come back to you.

I think that's what she said. I can't remember.

I have a private theory that Zen meditation would work well with dementia patients. After all, it's about being fully in the moment, and when you can't remember your past, the present is all you have, really. I'm going to leave instructions that when/if dementia claims me, someone guide me daily through meditation. I think it would be very calming. People get frightened when they don't recall names and faces and history. I'm sure it's frustrating for them. But with meditation, you're not meant to be remembering. You're just in the now.

Maybe that's what my little dog is doing, just being in the now. When he looks like he's lost in space, staring at nothing, maybe he's just meditating.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Kindness of Strangers

A friend heard someone was throwing out an Ashford spinning wheel and rescued it and gave it to me. It's in lovely condition other than the nylon bearings, which I can replace. It's great to me that someone would see something like that and think of me. This is the second time I've been given a free spinning wheel. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

I belong to a Facebook group called Close to the Earth, an eclectic group from all over the world of farmers, crofters, spinners, artists, blacksmiths, and others. I posted a photo of the wheel and described the broken part, and immediately got back some great replies on how to fix it cheaply and easily. And lots of encouragement that leads me to think someday I may have to take up spinning wool. Meanwhile, I'm going to use it for winding the bobbins for my weaving shuttle. Which works out perfectly, because I don't have a bobbin winder and have been doing it by hand. I'm also thinking of attaching one of those dynamos you affix to the bicycle wheel to power your headlamp. I could create my own light while pedaling.

I love having hobbies that don't require electricity. That make me learn and stretch. That open up whole new horizons for me. That don't cost me anything...but give so much back in return.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


The maple tree on the corner is always the first to go crimson every fall, and this year it's an amazing deep red. I find my head filled with that piano piece "Autumn Leaves" as I shuffle through the crackling fallen leaves...

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Bill and Katherine Hunter's Joke

A man went on vacation to Hawaii and left his cat in his neighbour's care. After a week, he phoned the neighbour to see how things were going. The neighbour said, "I'm sorry to tell you your cat died."

"Well, don't say it so abruptly like that!" the man said. "That's no way to break the news. You need to do it gently. First tell me the cat got loose. Then a day later tell me the cat was hurt. Then a day later tell me the cat died!"

A week or so later, the man thought he'd been too harsh so he phoned his neighbour again. "How are things?" he asked.

"Well," the neighbour said. "I'm sorry to tell you your mother got loose."

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Time is flying

It seems I just sat down to write on this blog, but I look at the date and realize it's been nearly a week! Where did the time go? I know this is a busy time of year, but still, I should at least be aware of days passing.

I'm weaving a new set of tea towels, trying to write another book (though the plot is currently elusive, but thankfully I got an extension on the deadline), putting the vegetable garden to bed, coping with the introduction of a new computer program at work (ick), teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, doing small renovations on the house...well, you get the picture. And yet the only thing I really feel like doing is lying on the couch with a novel and a bowl of popcorn, with my dogs curled on my feet.

We went for a drive yesterday out toward Lake Huron, and I was both happy and alarmed at how colourful the maple trees are turning. Autumn is upon us. There is a sense of time running out.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Autumn on its way and the harvest is almost done

Taking stock of the garden this fall, I fear it hasn't been a wildly successful harvest. The weather has been weird, with fluctuating temperatures, and admittedly I have ignored the weeds this year. Got tons of cherry tomatoes and zucchini, and quite a few white cucumbers, but only a handful of peppers, three spaghetti squash, one (!) melon, about five green beans, and no peas or cooking beans at all, thanks to the rabbits. The asparagus did well as always and so did the rhubarb, but the cauliflower failed to form heads, the spinach never surfaced, the cabbages were all the size of tennis balls, the broccoli hasn't done much all summer, and even the kale was half-hearted and ended up buggy. The green onions shot up to four inches tall and then stayed there. The beets didn't even get large enough to eat their greens, much less their roots. We got maybe five raspberries and a cup of blackberries. And the lettuce saw the rabbits coming and bolted straight away before I could pick a leaf. It's a good thing I'm not truly reliant on the garden to sustain us.

That said, I'm sitting here eating lovely lavender cookies with homegrown lavender, and that's the really important thing. I can't complain.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Starting my fall project

Starting some more tea towels. It's been nice having a hobby I can do when the weather doesn't permit gardening. There's a meditative element to weaving that I like, though I'm not very adept at it yet. And I like the fact that the whole process is electricity-free.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Black Donnellys

In my book Desperate Measures, I referred to the massacre of the Black Donnellys in 1880. Today I happened to be in Lucan for a wedding and went walking in the cemetery beside the church. And found the Donnelly family's headstone. (This is the more recent one. The older one was vandalized and removed years ago.) I hadn't realized they'd also recently lost two sons, prior to the massacre. There were little offerings people have left on the stone---pencils, coins, a weathered doll.

I found Lucan a lovely place, but with a soft sort of melancholy about it. If I hadn't known the story of this family, maybe I wouldn't have felt that. I sat for a while on a bench under a tree in the cemetery and knitted and soaked in the peacefulness of the place. Rolling green fields. Beautiful stone and Victorian houses. A light breeze. Perfect sunlight. And the distant howling of dogs as my husband warmed up his bagpipes outside the church.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Eclipse at Riverwood Conservancy

That was a fun afternoon! The eclipse itself was interesting -- the dimming of the sunlight's intensity, the noticeable drop in the temperature -- and to my surprise, the social aspect of it was just as fun. There weren't enough glasses for everyone, so we shared ours with seven other people, all of them from other countries. It was great to get to meet some neighbours, and it was encouraging to see a traffic jam caused by science lovers. We parked far away and walked into the park to avoid the worst of the crush. People were sprawled out with blankets and bags of chips, and everywhere people were chatting and sharing. Such a nice thing to experience. A reminder that we're all just tiny lives, sharing a tiny speck in space together, so we need to get along.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Balm for the Soul

There's so much out there on the internet right now about hate and counter-hate. I've tried to stay out of it, avoiding some of the more heated discussions, but it's still there at the periphery of everything, and it's pretty disheartening. So imagine how soothing it was when I went onto Facebook this morning and found a video someone had shared of "rush hour" in North Yorkshire --- a herd of sheep trotting happily through main street as they were moved from one pasture to another. People turned out to watch as if it were a parade. Now and then a ewe would give a little skip as if she were an excited schoolgirl on her way to a picnic. I could feel the serenity of it, and a little sigh in my head that said, "Simple joys." Made my day.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Hermit for Hire

In 1810 this ad appeared in the newspaper:

"A young man, who wishes to retire from the world and live as a hermit in some convenient spot in England is willing to engage with any nobleman or gentleman who may be desirous of having one. Any letter directed to S. Laurence (post paid), to be left at Mr. Ottons, no. 6 Coleman Lane, Plymouth, mentioning what gratuity will be given, and all other particulars, will be duly attended." [quoted in A Pelican in the Wilderness, Isabel Colegate,  p. 187]

That's it! The career I've been searching for! Completely suited to my temperament. All I need to do is find a patron willing to put me up in a cottage at the bottom of the garden and pay for my upkeep. In return, I will wander among the flowerbeds, recite pleasant poetry for visitors, and look generally picturesque.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A Walk on the Wild Side

I stepped outside my door this morning and within fifty feet of the house I had encountered a skunk, three rabbits, and a cat (who was obviously not doing his job regarding the rabbits). Needless to say, I sang all the rest of the way to the bus terminal, to alert any other skunks that I was coming. Now that it's dark in the mornings, skunk encounters are more likely.

I like it when wild animals find my yard a friendly place. I love that birds love my fountain and hedges. I like watching the raccoon in the maple tree watch me (and I haven't seen any evidence that he's getting into the garden or composters). And, now that I think of it, it's also kind of cool that domesticated animals seem happy here too. It's nice to think that Brio likes my company, that when he has the choice of many places to be, he prefers lying with his head in my lap. There's something cozy and also flattering about that.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Autumn is on its way and I'm not ready for it

The maples are starting to turn crimson and the spaghetti squash is yellowing. I can almost, but not quite, feel that crisp cool in the air that signals fall. I've spent the last two evenings cleaning kale seeds I've harvested from the garden. (Those babies can really shoot across the room -- they explode like mini torpedoes). Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get out there before they started popping all over the garden, so next spring will be kale city. I can think of worse things.

The stores already have Halloween decorations up, and the back-to-school ads are playing. There's a mad scramble to get things done before winter. I'm not bottling as much as I wanted to, and I'm thinking I'll just rent a rototiller this year to speed up the putting-the-garden-to-bed routine. I'm using the chop-and-drop method in regard to weeds. And I'm not going to plant the fall crop of lettuce and spinach. As I recall, it didn't do much last year before frost hit.

I am back at work after 3 weeks away, and it's like jumping into the deep end of the pool with lead shoes on. I know at some point I'll come back up for air. When I do, it will probably be snowing.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Bestseller List

I forgot to mention! The Song of Copper Creek was #10 on the bestseller list at Deseret Book when I went for the signing on July 29. That feels great! A good turnout for the signings. It's always fun to meet new people who stop to chat about my books. And thanks, as always, to my family for their great support!

Home Again!

I'm back, emerging from 95-degree (Fahrenheit) dry heat in Utah into cool, windy, rainy weather in Toronto. That sudden change, and the abrupt move from one side of the country to another in only 4 hours, is a bit disorienting. I used to have to switch planes in Chicago or somewhere, so the travel was longer and gradual, but now it's a non-stop flight to Salt Lake City. (Which is marvelous, don't get me wrong. But it makes the two cities seem closer together, which feels weird. I mean, I can get to Tobermory or Prescott in four hours too, and those are in Ontario.) The garden is overrun with weeds,  and my husband has harvested a bunch of zucchini all lined up on the counter, even though when I left there were only blossoms. I've missed the blackberry harvest, which was apparently spectacular. I'm hopefully in time for peaches and pears.

Anyway, it was a wonderful trip. Lots of family, food, friends, and fun. Long walks. Great classes on BYU-Idaho's beautiful campus. Board games. Knitting marathons. Mochi ice cream. Reconnecting with people I hadn't seen in ages. The thrill of not being the lone alto at church. Stunning Provo City Center Temple. A Hungarian wedding reception complete with dancing and whip demonstrations. The fun of hearing my parents' disembodied voices coming out of the yew hedge (pruning session. Long story). The bizarreness of having total strangers jogging past on the street greet me with "good morning" -- even the teenagers. Watching a big bearded man on a Harley lead the children's Primary parade. And two nights in lovely Park City watching movies and contending with cantankerous electrical outages. In short, a really great trip!

I am not going to think about returning to my cubicle on Tuesday. I'm going to spend the long weekend weeding the yard and stringing my loom and clinging to the joyful feeling of having been home.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Heading to Utah

Tomorrow I am going to be flying home for a couple of weeks and I won't have access to internet while I'm there, most likely, so I'm just letting you all know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth -- I'll be in touch when I get back. Heading out to see family and do a couple of book signings and go to BYU-Rexburg Education Week. Woohoo!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Feeling Better

I was reading Susanna Kearsley's author website this morning, and she mentions that you can't please everyone, so ultimately you have to be true to your characters and what you're trying to do and write for yourself. Which tells me she has had not-so-great reviews too, in the past. It makes me feel much better, because if an utterly fantastic writer like Susanna Kearsley can get a bad review, then I can certainly expect them too.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Reviews

Well, the first reviews are starting to come in for The Song of Copper Creek, and once again there's a range of opinions that takes me from euphoria to despair to giddy heights again. You never can take them too seriously, because I always find that what one person loves the next person hates. The very element that delights one reviewer makes the other roll her eyes. One says she was drawn in instantly and couldn't put the book down, and another says it was slow-moving and she walked away from it for a few days before returning to it. One liked that it wasn't a romance and one was disappointed it wasn't. One loved the descriptions of day-to-day life and one didn't. And one whined that this book wasn't like another of mine that she'd enjoyed. But I make a point of never writing the same thing twice. I don't read all the same type of book, so why would I write them all the same? So a wide range of opinions. What do you do?

You write whatever you want to, I guess. You sure can't please everyone, so you may as well please yourself.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Butter Tart Day

I take it back. Today is the best day... This is how I spent my morning...

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Update on the Garden

I communicate with a group of homesteaders and farmers on Facebook, most of whom are in Great Britain or France, and we share photos and stories about our gardens from time to time. They seem to be a month ahead over there in their season. They're harvesting zucchini already, which mine here are barely starting to flower. We've had a cool, wet spring without much sun.

The rabbits got my beans and peas, going down the rows carefully nipping the heads off each plant, but the kale is doing fine. They seem to leave that alone. The tomatoes are forming fruit but the greenery is spindly this year. One cucumber has germinated (or survived the rabbits, anyway). The yellow summer squash didn't come up at all. The spaghetti squash that went crazy last year is struggling this year. The spinach didn't germinate. The peppers haven't budged sicne I planted them out (I think the soil is too acidic for them). The blackberries and raspberries are doing great but the blueberry bushes both died. The asparagus has gone to fern. And the beets and onions are still mere wisps. I'm not sure what's going on this year, but it's not going to be a great harvest.

At the end of this season, I'll churn everything under and leave it in situ to decompose instead of putting it in the composter. Then I'll get some bales of straw and cover it over for the winter and hope for a better result next year. Seems weird to even be thinking yet of the end of the season. It seems like summer just barely got under way.

Friday, 7 July 2017

In Which Maple Nearly Loses his Head

I came home from work early yesterday, and my husband had Maple out in the yard so he didn't hear me come in. I opened the back door and came outside, and Maple came scampering to me, wriggling with joy. I bent down and he practically leaped into my arms and turned his face toward mine. And I thought "Wow, I'm about to be licked for the first time by this dog!" But then Maple caught himself, pulled back, and regained his customary composure. I set him down and off he went without a backward glance. But for a moment there, he let his feelings slip through.

He's always been an undemonstrative dog. I don't know if all shih tzus are like that or only Maple. He's always been aloof and disliked petting and fussing over him. That's part of the reason I got Brio, to give me those cuddles and affection Maple lacked. (And Brio gives it out in spades.) Maple turns his face away from you and pretends you aren't there, refuses to come when called---for a while I wondered if he was deaf, but he seems to have no trouble hearing the plastic wrap coming off the cheese two rooms away---and in general acts more like a cat. Or a squirrel, all skittish if you try to pick him up. He's always been treated gently and kindly, but I guess it's just his nature.

But for one brief moment yesterday, he forgot himself. And it was lovely.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Book Giveaway on

I'm giving away five free copies of my newest novel, The Song of Copper Creek. Go to to enter. Open only to the U.S. and Canada right now.  Thanks!  K

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Take Me With You, Peter Mansbridge

Yesterday was the big birthday bash for Canada, and also the final hosting of The National with Peter Mansbridge. After a long and successful career, he is retiring, and we got to see him yesterday without a tie, relaxed and happy on Parliament Hill. His familiar voice means news to me, and it will be weird hearing someone else's voice instead.

People at work are beginning to retire too, and when I think of the 15 years lying ahead of me until I can retire, it seems unbearable. A day at a time it's fine and I'm content and I like the people I work with. It's an interesting topic. I might go stir-crazy if I were home all day every day, since I'm so used to bustling about. But fifteen years when taken all in a lump seems like eternity. I will be too feeble to do anything or go anywhere by then. I won't have the eyesight or memory left to read a novel. I won't be able to bend over to weed a vegetable patch, or have the manual dexterity to thread my loom. By then my dogs will be dead and I won't be able to walk around the block anyway. I won't even be able to content myself with baking biscotti all day, because I'll have lost my teeth by then...

Oh, I know I'm being overly dramatic. Sixty-five is the new fifty and all of that. I've seen people well into their 80s still dancing and doing tai chi, and if I'm good about diet and exercise, there's no reason why I can't be one of them. But it seems like such a distance away. By the time I retire I will have been in a cubicle the size of my dining table for 44 years.

Where's that spoon? I'm tunneling out.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Spinning Wheel Parts

Today hubby and I drove to St Marys to drop some antique spinning wheel parts off with Reed Needles, a very interesting fellow who repairs wheels, as well as being a clock maker. It looked like a fascinating workshop to explore. Here was a man who had turned his passion into a living, and had carved out a quiet, peaceful spot in which to work. The room was small but filled with light and the smell of wood shavings, and I could have lingered all day if we hadn't been in a hurry to get back for a piping engagement this afternoon. I admire people who find ways to follow their hearts and who create with their hands, who keep old traditions and arts alive. I want to be able to live in a small village, with everything I need within walking distance and nowhere to go, no traffic to battle, no urgent schedule to keep. I want to be able to make a living with the work of my hands.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Letting Go

I've never been good at letting go of things -- old dreams, old friends, old habits. But I agree with the Buddhist attitude toward material things and remind myself that I'm going to be letting go of all of this stuff at some point anyway, unless I can take a U-Haul into the next life (and imagine what the fee would be for that!). So I'm currently trying to downsize a bit and I've set myself the goal of letting go of one material possession a day. I have to either discard or donate one item.

I'm primarily focusing on books right now, because that's my biggest area of hoarding. I run my finger lightly along the shelf (shelves. Oodles of them.) And I pause here and there and a) try to remember what the book was about, and b) remember whether I liked it. Surely I must have, if I've kept it all these years. Some of them are dear favourites which I won't part with until someone pries them from my cold dead hands. But some of them, though they gave me great enjoyment, are probably not going to be re-read and couldn't be called my favourites. So one by one I've been slipping them into the book exchange shelf at work for others to enjoy.

Some are in perfectly new condition and I could probably sell them on eBay and recover some of the cost. But I fear if I held onto them long enough to run the auction and package them up and then have to walk them down to the post office, I will chicken out entirely and end up keeping them. Better to let go quickly, without prolonging it. Because---contrary to Buddhist philosophy---I really am attached to some of these. Not just the words within them, but the actual feel and look and scent of them.

Other than books, there's really not a lot else to downsize. I've been pretty frugal over the years. But books are my passion. Choosing from among them is like trying to choose which child to let leave the home.

Maybe, like the children, the books will come back again...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Baling Hay

My sister loaded her barn with hay yesterday, and even just hearing about it secondhand brought back instant memories. There's nothing so delicious as the smell of fresh-cut hay. I'm immediately six years old again and playing at Grandpa's farm. The chickens with their rusty-gate sound. The rooster that sounded as if he'd been cut off mid-yodel. The snuffling of pigs. The light filtering through the gaps in the barn wall, highlighting the dust motes (I used to think those little swirling specks were the sunbeams, and I'd stir them up with my hand to watch their patterns. And wonder why Jesus wanted me to be one of those. My friend Shirley used to yell the last syllable, and for the longest time I thought they were called sun-beeps). The hollow thunk of my feet on the back steps. The cavernous crunch of horses chewing. The heat and baked dust of the barnyard. The feel of the old tractor's wooden-knobbed steering wheel. Playing drums on the seed spreader. The hidden little pockets of play space behind the barn and in the old camper and even on the silage mound. And over it all, that magical scent of hay.

Grandpa's farm is gone now, paved over and buried under new houses. Even the street names don't reflect the fact that such a wonderful place existed there. It seems like one of them, at least, should have honoured what went before. I am so happy that my sister's children will get to form those kinds of memories for themselves on their new farm. Their experience will be different in some ways but the same in others, and binding it all together (with baling twine!) will be that golden, dusty scent of hay.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

New Book Coming Out - The Song of Copper Creek

My latest book is coming out in July. For a sneak preview, you can check it out on my website:

New book on my website

I'm happy with this one. It's more on the serious side than my other books, and some of the characters from Desperate Measures make a reappearance. Covenant did a great job on the cover!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

50th Birthday

So I thought I'd write something profound for my 50th birthday, something about the great experiences I've had, the lessons I've learned, the wisdom I've accumulated. But I woke up feeling basically as clueless as when I went to bed last night, with no great wisdom to impart, so I guess achieving half a century doesn't really change much. I'm your average plump, graying 50-year-old, who still feels 14 inside.

I spent the morning unburdening myself of paper (i.e. cleaning out my filing cabinet), then took myself for cajun chicken and buttermilk biscuits (I did warn you yesterday). Then I walked to Valu Village and tripled my wardrobe -- four pairs of pants, three shirts, and a skirt -- for $66. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. And then the cashier asked me if I wanted the Seniors' discount. Yep. How's that for a kick in the chops? Today of all days, you have to ask me that? Luckily my first response was to laugh  out loud, which tells me I think I'm okay with this aging thing after all.

Trundled home again, threw out old clothes which were too threadbare to even recycle (I have a rule about tossing old things if I buy new ones), and fell asleep for a while on the couch reading a book. I'll spend this evening quilting and watching an old movie and accomplishing nothing much else. So it's a perfect day. No cubicle, no boss, no deadlines, no commute. Just a rainy afternoon and my puppies curled warmly beside me on the couch. Lovely.

Monday, 5 June 2017

I'm pulling a Mrs. Morgan

When I was 18, my sister and I went to Britain and travelled around, staying with a few acquaintances, and one of these was Mrs. Morgan. She told us she had recently gotten £20 in the mail that she hadn't expected. So when she went to the store, she decided to indulge in a little extra treat, because she had that £20 windfall. Then she went to the next shop, and she told herself she could afford to splurge a little there, because she had that £20 windfall. And so on at the next shop, and the next. By the time she got home, she had spent that twenty pounds several times over.

Today I was out for a walk at lunch and decided, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm going to just treat myself a little." So I bought a slice of cherry cheesecake and ate it on the bench in the park. I don't do that kind of thing often, and it was lovely. And then I thought, "I'm going to be home alone tomorrow, everyone will be gone to work, and I'll want a little celebration on my own for my birthday." So I bought some tapioca pudding (my favourite) to eat tomorrow... And then I thought maybe I'd make a special dinner for myself, because it's my birthday... And well. It was Mrs. Morgan all over again. By the time the birthday is past, I fear I will likely have celebrated it several times over!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Taking a Stand

Turned on Facebook this morning and found the announcement that a bunch of U.S. cities are honouring the Paris agreement on climate change no matter what the federal decision is. I am proud of these mayors for their commitment and their backbone. You have to do what is right, no matter what anyone else is doing. You have to draw your line in the sand somewhere, and it was encouraging to me to see that these mayors are doing so.

And then I saw President Trump's tweet about not agreeing to anything that doesn't support the U.S.'s interest. And I'm wondering how saving the planet isn't in the U.S.'s interest. Where does he propose the U.S. go when the world becomes uninhabitable? How does he expect the country to carry on functioning when the resources and systems of the earth collapse? The U.S. is part of the larger world ecosystem. Baffled that he doesn't understand that what is good for all is good for the one. Puzzled that he thinks economics and finance are the only things worth protecting.

It comes back to the Buddhist philosophy that we are all one. If I look after your interests, it is simultaneously looking after mine. Like the old saying says, if you carry someone across the river, you get across it yourself. We are to love our neighbours -- not "as much as" ourselves but as ourselves. They are us. There is no us and them. The other citizens of the earth---including the animals---are us. We humans are part of the ecosystem we are trying to protect.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Shoe on the other foot

Usually it's Brio comforting me when I'm sick. This time it's Brio's turn to to feel unwell, and I have to say, there's nothing quite so tugging-at-the-heartstrings as a sick puppy. He spent last night curled on a blanket on the couch, his nose buried against my leg, and now and then he would roll his eyes up to look at me so pathetically, ears drooping. Poor little delicate muffin! I'm sure it's just something he's eaten -- he's always nosing around the yard -- and he'll be fine in a day or two. But it brought home to me once again how much I love this dog and how comforting he has been to me over the past four years.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Talented Artists

Well, my concept of what a quilt is has altered. There were some traditional, beautifully pieced quilts at the Quilt Show, and I'm in awe of someone who could imagine such beauty and then actually pull it off. But there were also fibre arts there that I had never seen before and couldn't have imagined. Three-dimensional portraits. Needle-felted landscapes. "Starry Starry Night" recreated in dyed dryer lint (not kidding). Thread painting. Needlework like I've never seen before. And one woman created the most amazing, detailed pictures that looked like photographs -- forests and waterfalls and rivers -- out of thousands of tiny, intricately-cut pieces of fabric, layer upon layer.

I walked through all the venues and displays with my mouth hanging open and knew myself to be among masters. I marvelled that someone could put together a quilt (that would have taken me three lifetimes to create) and then donated it to the auction to raise money for Mennonite relief. And there were dozens of them donated. I especially enjoyed the display in the Mennonite church, where they had spread the quilts out over the pews, and it felt like a giant slumber party.

Two quilts were special favourites of mine -- one was a zany, cheerful montage of brightly-coloured houses representing Newfoundland, and one was done mostly in whites, with a snowy owl and the quilted outline of a Native-art bird in the moon overhead. Almost haunting in its beauty.

The friend I went with is an amazing quilter herself, and she went home with lots of ideas for new projects and the contact info of two women she wants to take classes from. While I was viewing everything as if it were in a museum, she was viewing it all as inspiration she could take home and act upon.

We also checked out a pottery display, weaving display, and an antique shop or two, and stopped for lunch in a little place where we sat in a garden while the Hungarian owner fired up our meals on an outdoor grill (hamburger for her, sausage on a bun with sauerkraut for me). We toured a little "pioneer" type museum and admired their herb garden. (I love the smell of old wood and dust and stone you get in old houses.) We stopped for cookies and tea in the basement of a church, where they served the tiny cookies on little serving trays cleverly made from saucers glued on top of upside-down tea cups. And my friend bought four slabs of pine she's going to take home and turn into some sort of Christmas project.

I look at cloth and fibre differently now that the world of weaving is opening up to me. I understand and have new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into the kinds of projects we saw this week. I enjoy talking with the artists, and find kindred spirits all around me, eager to talk about their passions. We met such interesting, talented, and accomplished women! And I include my friend in that group.

A delightful day out.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Back on line! And off to the St. Jacobs Quilt Show

Hi again! I'm back from a lovely few days of gardening, soaking in the sun, reading, writing, eating too much, and more gardening. The vegetable patch is in, the lawn in mowed, the rain is falling, and I'm off to spend today at the quilt show with a friend.

Sometimes I go to these shows and come away with all sorts of ideas for things I want to make. Sometimes I feel as if I'm in a museum and these pretty things I'm seeing are meant to simply be enjoyed and not meant to be replicated at home. I'm hoping today will be the latter -- I've already got three projects on the go at home!

I remain fascinated by the ability to take two-dimensional cloth or yarn and turn it into something three dimensional and functional as well as beautiful. I admire people who can understand and manipulate colour (I find I have a hard time telling if things match or complement each other). But I have a passion for colour myself even if I'm not good at it.

Something about quilts connects you to your ancestors, to the strong and capable women who came before you (though nowadays many men also quilt). Those pioneer skills weren't honed just to make blankets to keep families warm. They demonstrate the creativity and imagination of their creators. Quilts can tell histories.

And now that I'm weaving, I have a new appreciation for the fabric itself. I love the idea that I can create cloth without electricity, from sheep to blanket. I can create cloth that will wrap infants, hug the shoulders of a bride, get trampled underfoot as a rug, and beautify homes. It's an awesome thing and a responsibility, when you stop to think of it.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Off Grid for the Week

I am off work for the next week and will be away from Internet access, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. Thought I'd better let you know so you don't worry I've fallen off the face of the planet. Just rejuvenating.  Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, 14 May 2017


And dandelions. Lots of dandelions. Can't forget to mention those.

I actually like them. I don't know why people don't. Great swaths of cheerful yellow, like buttercups. Followed by swaths of fuzzy white.

Well, and then bare spikes that just bend over instead of cut when I mow over them. Not so pretty then.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Explosions of Colour

Overnight, the earth has woken up and put on its finery. All at once there are lilacs, crabapple trees, trillium, wild columbine, tulips, flowering almond, and grape hyacinth, all vying for attention. To go from the blah grays and browns of winter to the shrieking pink of blossom time is almost staggering. I keep having to stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk to just look and look. I can't drink it in deeply enough.

Spring blossom time and autumn harvest time are the times I feel the most blessed. What abundance! What generosity! What a wonderful earth we live on!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Silent Retreat

I have had laryngitis since Saturday. Not a squeak. My husband says it's a dream come true.

But it's difficult to rest my voice, as instructed, when I have to work in an office full of people. So yesterday I finally put a sign on my cubicle and pinned one to my shirt that says "In silence. Namaste" and pretending I was on silent retreat.

A couple of interesting results came from this. First was the realization that I can, in fact, just drop out of spoken interaction and do a silent "retreat" any time I want to. Why not? It counts as a religious thing, and people in Toronto are hyper-sensitive around religious things. You don't have to explain it or apologize for it; you just declare it. No one questions it. People actually go out of their way to help you do it. Secondly, it's amazing how much you hear when you stop talking. I had no idea I talk so much. It's an embarrassing realization. And thirdly, all day long, if I really had to whisper something to someone, they would whisper back to me. It worked at home with my son, too. I got a kick out of reminding them that I'm the one who has to whisper; they don't! But a soft answer does indeed turn away wrath---or at least, turn down the volume of all concerned. It's an interesting phenomenon.

I also find it interesting that, as I searched for Hindi silence signs on the Internet, I found the phrase "In silence." Not "Being silent" or "On silent retreat," but "In silence." As if it's a room you enter, or a pond you swim in. And it does end up feeling a bit like that, after you've tried to be silent an entire day. A sort of cocooning bubble forms around you, a hushed sphere that others sense (maybe that's why they whisper too). It's a peaceful, empowering place. And I look forward to entering it again today.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Too Old to Pretend

At 5:30 this morning, on my way to the bus station, I saw two racoons. One stayed in the trees, but the other dashed across an open area and took cover – impossibly – in a dead-end surrounded by chain link fence. I stopped to try to see where it had gone, because the only hiding place I could see was the ventilation system of the Community Centre swimming pool. (Someone’s not going to be happy.)

As I stood there, I caught the scent of chlorine from the pool, and immediately I was transported back to childhood and the wonderful summers spent at the three pools on the local university campus. The indoor pool where you had to wear their issued swimsuits made of some black stretchy material that sagged when it got wet. The outdoor pool at Helaman Halls where you could always smell a barbecue going somewhere. And the one at Deseret Towers, where they played the radio. I’ll always remember swimming to “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you…” (which, when you consider that double negative, isn’t actually a very complimentary song!).

My cousin Janice and I would commandeer a set of the pool concrete steps and pretend it was a reef and we were mermaids (back before mer-ism was fashionable). Somehow, without really even discussing it, we formed a make-believe world in high detail, and each assumed (correctly) that the other saw what we imagined.

When I was probably 6 or 7, I once sat before the open doors of a living room cabinet, where my parents kept LPs, and pretended that it was a kitchen. I spent hours “cooking” and entertaining guests, lost in play. But when I went back to it days later, I couldn’t seem to recapture the magic. No matter how I tried to recreate it, the cabinet remained boringly a cabinet. Even at that age, I feared I was “growing up” and losing the ability to imagine. I knew someday I’d be too old to pretend. I realized that imagination wasn’t real.

I was wrong, of course. As a writer, I’ve learned that you never get too old to pretend. That’s all fiction writers do. We enter imagined worlds and take dictation from what happens around us. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but sometimes that imagined world is more real to me than my real life. My characters become my friends or alter-egos. I look at the street and see it as it was in 1880, and I'm startled by the passing of motorcycles. Bits of imagination trickle over into my real world, and I find myself using words from past centuries, like “forsooth” and “alas” and “hence.” I carry on conversations with people who aren’t there (and yes, I know they aren’t there, but that’s irrelevant).

I suspect all writers are a little bit mad.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Foraging on the Way Home

As I was walking home from the bus today, I saw an elderly man out in the brush, collecting dandelion greens. When he noticed me observing him, he straightened and looked a bit embarrassed. If I hadn't had laryngitis, I would have gone over and told him that there were other edibles at his feet that he was missing -- burdock root, plantain, lamb's quarters, garlic mustard, violet, purslane...

If there was a sudden famine, I think I could support us at least for a while on weeds. I just hope we're never hungry enough to put my skills to the test.

Traffic to my Blog

Wow, yesterday there was a spike in visitors to this blog. 215 in one day, primarily from Russia and China. I'm curious why and who. I'd love to hear from new readers, if you want to leave a comment or send a message! I know 215 isn't high for some bloggers, but it is for me. I'm left wondering "What did I say?" - Kristen

Monday, 8 May 2017

The verdict is in

The local restorer of antique spinning wheels told me it would take $350-400 to get the spinning wheel back into original condition, so I am thinking it will become an interesting piece of folk art on the wall. Or go for parts. It's a sad end for a lovely -- I guess you'd call it a machine, or maybe an instrument -- and I am sorry to see someone's heritage be abandoned. But realistically, it isn't my heritage or me abandoning it... So I guess I can live with that.

I went to a weaving and spinning conference on Saturday and wandered through the juried show and the vendors' hall. Bought some more supplies to weave some more towels. One vendor had big bowls of various types of wool, cotton and silk set out, and people were encouraged to run their hands through them to feel the differences in the fibres. I have to say, alpaca and yak are my absolute favourites. So soft! I wanted to curl up in the bowl like a kitten. I am a tactile sort of person, always wanting to touch the golden patina of old wood, fabrics, yarns, even the vegetables at the market. Not only was it allowed to touch these fibres, it was encouraged. I love that.

But I have to say, gone are the days when every household had a carder and spinning wheel. You have to be very serious about the hobby if you want to get into it these days. A drum carder alone was over $700. I stood there open-mouthed, flashing back to my teens and carding wool with two wire dog brushes. Sheesh!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Restoring an antique spinning wheel

A friend (the wife of the fellow who gave me the loom) has given me an antique spinning wheel that apparently came with great-grandma on the boat from Sweden. It's in rough shape and is missing a couple of small parts, and I think even if I manage to restore it, it will only ever be for display and not usable. The name stamp is N. AES HJULBACK (umlaut over the last A) but I can't find anything about that name on the Internet. It likely dates from the mid-19th century.

I've sent an email to a local man who might be able to help (he restores these things), but I'm torn---do I really want to spend money to fix it? Do I really want to take up another hobby? Could I convince my little sister to raise an alpaca on her farm and mail me the wool? How can I not fix it up? Someone loved it once.

Or then again, maybe someone hated the thing and wished she could have left it behind in Sweden. We'll never know. Am I going to have a grand-daughter one day who will get starry-eyed over my old Brother sewing machine and imagine Grandma lovingly sewing with it? When in reality I detest sewing and only touch it when I have to?

Did Grandma haul this thing to the new world because she couldn't bear to part with it or because she had no choice if she wanted to wear clothes?

Friday, 5 May 2017


Stayed home sick again today. Spent the day lying on the couch reading about climate change and sustainability. Which might not be the thing to read right now, with the week of constant rain we're having... The garden soil is slowly turning to pudding. I'm sure the beets, onions, peas, lettuce, kale, and spinach I've already planted are rotting instead of germinating. My son came home and went directly into the shower to hang all his clothes up to dry, he was so drenched. Brio paces from window to door to couch, wanting to go out, but when I let him out into the backyard, he dashes back inside again within twenty seconds.

The news on TV is all about the flooding going on in various places in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. And the book I'm reading talks about human migration caused by climate change. I'm starting to feel glad we never bought lake-front property. All the food storage in the world doesn't help you if it's five feet under water. I must remember that if we ever go to buy land. At the same time, there is likelihood of future water scarcity, so the land would have to have some sort of dependable river or lake on it... But maybe the house should be on stilts. The way it's looking outside, stilts are definitely a good idea.

Perfect weather, however, for curling up and watching the DVD of Les Mis.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

My Immune System has Other Ideas

Well, after that burst of energy, I'm flat on the couch. Spent the night with fever and chills and the suspicion I'm catching a humdinger of a cold. I took today off and will sip hot lemon water and onion soup and try to get on my feet again in time for a big meeting at work tomorrow. And I have a weaving event on Saturday I don't want to miss. And I'm supposed to sing in front of 200 people in church on Sunday as part of a quartet. And...well, I just don't have time to be sick.

In dealing with Fibromyalgia, which is an auto-immune thing, I've always been focused on the pain and haven't given much thought to the fact that my immune system is compromised. But I keep catching every bug out there (likely doesn't help riding the crowded subway every day) and I've had Pink Eye four times or so this year. I feel the need to curl up in a cocoon and stay away from all exposure to people for a month or two to let my system settle. I need one of those bubbles out in the wilderness. I've been trying to eat healthier and get better sleep. How else does one build up the immune system?

Please don't tell me the answer is exercise. It's always the answer. Bleh.

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Typical Morning

I got up this morning feeling rested after a productive and happy weekend. Got ready for work, let the dogs out, had breakfast, packed my lunch, did a load of laundry, did a batch of dishes, checked my emails and Facebook, took out the garbage, meditated for 15 minutes, and did some light yoga stretches. And was out the door by 5:15 a.m.

It felt great. But there’s something so wrong about it!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Kindred Spirits

So I just realized it's been a week already since my last post. Good grief, where did the time go? I haven't even put away the gardening gloves yet from last Saturday. Sheesh.

This week I made two great connections, one with a cousin I haven't seen since childhood and one with a friend I haven't seen since high school. My cousin and I have chatted on Facebook from time to time, but this week a deeper connection came when we found out we both have Fibromyalgia. Suddenly there was someone else in the universe who knew exactly how I feel! I am sorry to hear she has the same dilemmas, but it was also comforting to know she still manages to carry on, raising her kids and having a good life. So now we can support each other on rough days. You know, those days when it's a burden to tie your own shoes and your earrings feel too heavy.

My friend I managed to connect with through a lucky chance encounter with her nephew here in Canada. She still lives in Utah, and the emails have been flying back and forth since we got back in touch. Thirty-two years to catch up on! Hard to believe. We were once inseparable. She's the one who fed me cornbread and turned a bad day into a good one, which I've blogged about before. So great to hear about her life, her family, her ambitions. She's still the same fun and energetic person and it's great to find her again.

For most of my adult life, I haven't really felt the need to have friends. I'm busy with work and hobbies and family and church, and I'm quite content on my own. My husband has been the greatest friend, always there. But now and then I feel the lack of sisters up here, and realize I need some female companionship to round out my life. I had a good friend Tracey Firth who died too young over a year ago. There are people I love but they're just as busy as I am, so we rarely connect. And I have acquaintances from church and work, but it's not like we really get together or anything outside of those venues. It's primarily people I've stayed in touch with over the Internet who fill the friendship role for me. Now I have this newly re-found friend to enrich my life. So grateful for technology at moments like this!

So lots to catch up on, thirty-two years to summarize...and yet no words are really needed at all. That's the best kind of friend!