Thursday, April 24, 2008

Check it out!

This is my very first attempt to create my own crochet pattern, folks. History in the making, right here on this blog :) Actually, I've made stuff up before, but I've never tried to write the pattern down so that other people could try to make it. So, without any further ado, here it is - the newly designed...

Little Starbursts Dishcloth

Hook size: 5.0 mm
Yarn: Worsted Weight Cotton
Gauge: Finished main body = approx. 18 cm x 18 cm

Ch: chain
Ss: slip stitch
Sc: single crochet
Dc: double crochet
YO: yarn over

Special Stitches:
Starburst: Draw up a loop in same stitch previously worked in. (Draw up a loop in next stitch) 2 times. YO and draw through all 4 loops on hook.

Main Body

To begin, ch 26.

Row 1: Sc in second ch from hook. Work starburst stitch. *Ch 1. Work starburst stitch.* repeat from * to * across. Sc in same ch.

Row 2-24: Ch 1. Turn. Sc in top of sc. Work starburst stitch. *Ch 1. Work starburst stitch.* repeat from * to * across. Sc in same sc.


Round 1: Ch 4 (counts as first dc and ch 1). Do not turn. Dc in same sc. Ch 1. *Skip next row. Dc in next row. Ch 1.* Repeat from * to * 10 times. Dc, ch 1, dc in first unused loop of foundation chain. Ch1. +Skip next stitch. Dc in next stitch. Ch 1.+ Repeat from + to + 10 times. Dc, ch 1, dc in last chain. Ch 1. Repeat from * to * 11 times. Dc, ch 1, dc in first sc. Ch 1. Repeat from + to + 11 times. Join with ss to top of first dc.

Round 2: Ch 1. +Sc in same dc. 3sc in next ch 1 space. Sc in next dc. Work starburst stitch. *Ch. 1. Work starburst stitch.* Repeat from * to * 11 times.+ Repeat from + to + around. Join with ss to first sc.

Round 3: Ch 1. +Sc in same stitch and in next sc. 3 sc in next sc. Sc in next 2 sc. Work starburst stitch. *Ch 1. Work starburst stitch.* Repeat from * to * 11 times.+ Repeat from + to + around. Join with ss to first sc. Finish off.

(Please feel free to use this pattern to make dishcloths for yourself, to give as gifts or for charity. However, I ask that you not make dishcloths from this pattern in order to sell them without contacting me first.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The End of an Era

I have mixed feelings about change. I know it's inevitable, and that most times it's the result of circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes I'm okay with that. In fact, I revel in it, rejoicing in the opportunities it presents for growth and exploration. Other times, like today, I'm not such a big fan.

You may remember, loyal blog readers, that back in January we were getting ready for the arrival of Cousin P, who has been living with us as she studied to become a makeup artist. Well, time has flown by and last night Cousin P left to go home. The apartment now feels kind of empty. She's been gone less than a day and I miss her already - though she did leave something for us to remember her by:

This is Judy, the head on which Cousin P practiced all of her hair styling homework (currently sans hairstyle). It comes with a clamp, which you can use to attach it to various level surfaces. Tres creepy, non?

Seriously, though, it was so much fun having Cousin P stay with us. I've learned a lot about the world of makeup artistry that I didn't know before, mainly from watching various TV programs with her and listening to such comments as: "She's wearing a wig" or "His nose is actually huge - look, you can see where they've shaded the edges to make it look smaller." Did you know that they put a darker patch on the underside of Jay Leno's chin to make it look less pronounced? Or that in many of those workout machine infomercials, the ripped abs and pecs are basically painted on, and the sweat is actually an oily makeup product? I will never watch TV the same way again!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And the Winner is...

Sherrie G! I know you said not to put your name in the draw, since you are currently suffering from a surfeit of soap, but it didn't seem fair not to include you in the contest - switching to sandals is one of my favourite things about spring too!

So, instead of a bar of soap I'll be sending you a surprise...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Beautiful Day

What a glorious day! The sun is shining, the sky is blue and there's a delicious breeze blowing through the appartment. I woke up this morning and knew we had to go for a walk, and that's just what we did! We walked down to the local health food store and picked up some lavendar, peppermint and rosemary essential oils. Tomorrow is soap-making day! Then on the way home, TC wanted to stop in at the Goodwill store and look at the books, so he went ahead to do that while I bought some plump asparagus and fresh Ontario tomatoes from a little corner fruit & veggie store. I would have gone with him, but he takes a while to peruse the books, and I find that most second-hand stores set off my allergies so I can't be in them for too long. When I did catch up with him, though, I found us a few wine glasses. By that time he had found 2 books - one a Steinbeck collection and the other a Jane Austen memoir. Both are now airing out on the sunporch.

It was such a beautifully long walk, and we were starting to get a little hungry when we smelled barbeque! Just ahead of us, at Marcket Fine Foods, they had set one up out in front of the store and were selling gourmet mini-hamburgers for $2. We had to stop and have one each - they were soooo good! Then we popped into the McDonald's two stores down and got a milkshake, which we drank the rest of the way home.

Have I mentioned that I love Saturdays? And springtime? And walking with someone I love? And walking with someone I love on a Saturday in springtime? It just doesn't get any better!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Signs of Spring Contest

I would have to say that spring is definitely my favourite time of year. Ever since I was a kid walking to and from the bus stop I have loved watching the world gradually wake up from its winter slumber, peeking out in new places every day.

The first sign is always the little tiny bumps that start to form on the branches of trees and bushes, which slowly become tight little brown buds. Then they begin to take on a slightly greenish hue, and all of a sudden, when nobody is looking, the brand new baby leaves break free and give the trees a misty green shimmer.

Then you hear a sound that you'd missed all winter long but didn't realize it. The birds have returned, with their early morning chorus welcoming the new day. They're busy courting and building their nests, as are the squirrels, who you now see running up and down the power lines, and leaping from tree to tree.

If you look closely you can see that things are also stirring on the ground below. Little green spears start poking their heads though the earth, usually in someone's garden. They grow larger and larger, and soon they are no longer spears. They have become two leaves surrounding a stem with a faintly coloured bulge on the end - sometimes purple, sometimes white or yellow or orange, and sometimes a combination of colours. The crocuses have arrived! And before you know it they've opened up and are creating pockets of vibrant colour everywhere you look.

Then you start to notice that the grass is no longer the dry winter brown that it has been since the snow melted. Every day it becomes a little greener, as the fresh new shoots push their way up to the sun, replacing the remnants of last year's lawn until there's nothing left but bright green grass and maybe a dandelion or two.

Of course spring, like every other season, has its downsides. The melting snow and April showers can create a seemingly endless supply of mud, and the ants and spiders (and other creepy-crawlies) that have lain dormant all winter wake up and rediscover the paths into your house. And while I am not a big fan of these particular developments, they are also signs of spring's arrival, so I welcome them as well.

It's such an exciting time of year! Neighbours sit out on their porches and visit, the kids start playing road hockey, people put away their winter coats and boots and start walking everywhere in their bright spring clothes, the corner stores start putting a plethora of fresh flowers and fruit out on the sidewalk - I just love it!

And I don't believe I'm the only one, so in honour of spring I'm going to have a little contest. All you need to do is post a comment telling me your favourite thing about spring, and on Sunday I will put all the names in a hat (or bowl, or something) and pick one lucky person to receive a bar from my next batch of homemade soap (which is going to be a refreshing rosemary-mint).

Happy spring!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Crocheting craziness...

I went on a bit of a crocheting frenzy while I was vegging out on the couch with my cold this week...

Isn't this a cute bathmat?

And I love the colours of this dishtowel - so fresh and springy!

And a pile of dishclothes of all different shapes and sizes - though all the same colour :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Вы говорите на русском языке?

I have never wanted to speak another language as badly as I did this morning on the way to work. Just as the streetcar started leaving the subway station, a lady came up to me and started speaking to me in a language I couldn't understand. She repeated herself several times, and then looked at me and said, "Russia?" I shook my head and apologized, telling her that I didn't speak Russian. Do I look Russian? Why, on a streetcar full of people, did she single me out as the person most likely to speak Russian?

Anyway, this poor woman didn't speak any English, except to say "I don't speak English," and was trying to get to a particular intersection. She was obviously lost, and was starting to get rather upset (worried upset, not angry upset). After trying to talk to me, she just kept turning to someone else and saying the name of the intersection, and everyone on the streetcar did their best to communicate to her where she needed to go, but she couldn't understand. The streetcar driver even made an announcement asking if anyone on the streetcar could speak Russian, but no one could. The project then became communicating to the woman that the streetcar driver had radioed ahead to the next subway station and arranged to have a translater meet her there, but as soon as we stopped, she rushed off.

I wish I hadn't been on my way to work, or that I didn't have to be there by a certain time. Then I could have tried to escort this lady to her destination, but it just wasn't possible today. I did learn something while watching this scene play out, though: the people in Toronto are incredibly helpful when given the opportunity to be. They just seem unfriendly because of the city-shell that they've had to develop in order to live in such close proximity to so many people. If you can get past that shell, which can be as easy as making the effort to speak to someone, they're just as friendly and willing to help as any Maritimer I know.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hello Ottawa!

It's true - our mystery trip was to our nation's capital. But before I begin telling you all about the trip, let me first offer an explanation to all the people that we know who live in that fair city about why we didn't visit you. After the craziness that was our life until recently, TC and I really felt the need to get away somewhere for a weekend, just the two of us, so that we could reconnect. The only problem was that we know so many people in Ottawa, if we told them we were coming we'd end up spending the entire weekend visiting. So we decided that this trip was going to be just for us, and we'd do all of our visiting next time. I hope you understand.

Okay, on to the trip! We stayed at a wonderful B&B called McGee's Inn (I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone). It was a snowy, cold, wet day when we arrived, but that didn't stop us from going out and exploring the Byward Market - a very touristy area, with lots of interesting shops and restaurants. My favourite? The Tea Store - a wonderful little shop full of every kind of tea imaginable, stored in glass jars that lined one entire wall. I did very well, I think, coming out of the store with only 2 kinds of tea. The first is a bracing organic Assam black tea, and the second a soothing lavendar-mint herbal blend.

On Saturday (an absolutely gorgeous spring day) we went on a tour of the Parliament building, which is where all of the pictures in my last post came from. TC's favourite? The parliamentary library (that's a statue of Queen Victoria in the middle).

Then we walked across a bridge into Quebec and visited the Museum of Civilization - which is a bit of a misnomer. It really should have been called the Museum of Canadian Civilization. Walking through it was kind of like walking through a Canadian history textbook. Unfortunately, I started coming down with a cold on Saturday, so we didn't really do a whole lot else because I had to take things kind of slow, but we had a great time anyway.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Any guesses???

We're back from our mystery trip, and we had a fabulous time! Do these pictures look familiar to anyone?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Night at the Opera

I was feeling pretty down yesterday, but TC had just the right pick-me-up in mind when I got home from work. Through his connections at Massey, he was able to get us tickets to the dress rehearsal for the Canadian Opera Company's production of Eugene Onegin. It was exactly what I needed! The music was lovely, and I loved the stage design. It's an opera by Tchaikovsky, and was sung in Russian with English surtitles showing above the stage.

For a full synopsis, check this out, but here's the short version:

"In a deeply emotional letter, the young Tatyana declares her love to the proud Onegin, who rejects her. After killing his friend Lensky in a duel, Onegin travels the world to try and escape his regret. When he meets Tatyana years later, he realizes he loves her, but it is too late. Tatyana is now married and even though she still loves Onegin, it is her turn to reject him."

Had this been written today, I'm sure Tatyana would have left her husband and gone with Onegin and been lauded for doing so. I appreciated the way she was held up as a heroine for doing what she knew to be right, even though it was difficult. Ultimately, her integrity was more important to her than satisfying her emotional desires.
(**NB: These pictures were taken on the night that we were there! I have borrowed them from the COC website, which you can find here.)

Overheard on the streetcar...

"Go ahead, try it - there's, like, no sugar."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, it says right on the front."
"That's wierd, cause it usually has sugar."
"No - see, it says right on it: 'No sodium.'"
"Sodium and sugar are the same thing."
"No they're not - sodium is, like, salt or something, isn't it?"
"Oh, well there's still no sugar or anything in it - it's organic."
"Organic doesn't mean no sugar."
"But it means it's supposed to be healthy, right?"
"Yeah, but it only means they didn't add any chemicals and stuff. It still has sugar."

Is anyone else somewhat disturbed by this conversation?