Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thrifting ... Canadian Finds

Another week and we're into April already, and I'm still waiting for the weather to improve just a bit to drag out the patio furniture.  The snow is all but gone from this area near Lake Ontario now, but my yard isn't all that inviting yet ... and it's just not warm enough to sit out there comfortably ...

Inside, the house plants are doing fairly well.  I don't normally have a lot of house plants, but I'm glad they've been around this winter.  I'm really pleased with my little green shamrock.  I asked at our local nursery what's the best thing for a shamrock since mine is surviving, but it's not thriving.  She told me they like bright light, but not direct sunlight, liquid plant fertilizer, cool temperatures and to water it by placing it in a pot of water and let the plant draw up what it needs.  I was already providing everything but the bottom watering system, and within a week my little shamrock had filled out really well.  The centre of the plant was very sparse, but now there are lots of new leaves filling in that area.
This week I decided to drop into our thrift store for a little browsing again.  There've been a couple of things I've been looking for.  One being a small night table for my daughter's bedroom when she comes home from university town (she took most of her bedroom furniture with her).  I was happy to find a perfect little table and will show it once I get it cleaned up a bit.
Since I was already in the thrift store, I of course toured around to see what else I could spy.  I found this big beauty of a tea pot right away ...
My parents had this exact tea pot when I was growing up.  I think it must've got broken not long before they moved their house (maybe it got broken during the move, I don't know).  It's nothing fancy, and the only writing on the bottom is "Canada", but it's just so familiar to me, that I picked it up off the shelf with a sort of reverence.  It could easily have been their very own tea pot, and I really, really like it.  More and more I'm noticing that I have a lot of brown in my décor.  I keep picking up brown dishes and now another brown tea pot.  I also have to admit that I officially do have a tea pot collection.  But I swear, this is where it's going to stop.  I don't have many ... four brown tea pots and one stainless steel, but I don't have the desire to have any more than that (and I honestly use them all).
Now this little mug is only a couple of inches high, and it has a little story.  My mother's grandfather was a potter, and his family also owned a tile company in Hamilton.  They made clay tiles and even supplied a famous house in Hamilton (Dundurn Castle) with sewer tiles.  I have a couple of pieces made by my great grandfather which are very special to me.  I believe my mother grew up with a fondness for pottery because of her close association with her grandfather. 
This little mug was made by a company called "Blue Mountain Pottery" from Collingwood.  There used to be a potter's store in Dundas where I lived when I was very young called "Dundas Pottery".  My mother, being very fond of pottery, used to take us kids into the store and we were allowed to choose something from the "seconds" shelf (pieces that had small imperfections and were cheaper), and they carried Blue Mountain pottery.  This is the mug that I chose many years ago.  Not much good for anything, but it was cute.  Blue Mountain Pottery is apparently now defunct, but you see this stuff everywhere here.  Because it's so common, I've always thought it was kind of tacky looking.  But in clearing out my parents' home, I came across a couple of nice pieces that I brought home with me ... a vase and another mug.
"BMP" Blue Mountain Pottery
I notice that the thrift store is under the impression this stuff is a collector's item, and maybe it is, so they price it a little higher than the other china.  Anyway, I found this stylish little jug in the thrift store which I will use as a bud vase ...
The glaze used on this pottery is always the same.  Apparently, the original potters developed this glaze as it reminded them of the colours in Blue Mountain.  Surprisingly, there are some Blue Mountain pottery pieces at the Royal Ontario Museum in the Canadian display with a write up about the pottery.  So now, without even trying, I have a collection of Blue Mountain pottery too.  I don't see myself expanding this collection as it really only holds sentimental interest to me ... I still feel it's sort of tacky.
I also found a nice wicker basket, and I have a problem with letting these nice baskets remain on the shelf ...
... and it came in handy for carrying all the stuff home with me that day (in the rain).  Now it's holding my latest knitting project.
The project is only in the planning stages.  I'm not sure if I'll even finish it (or frankly, start it!), and usually I don't like to say "I'm going to make [this]" because I feel rotten if I don't complete it.  I'm going to attempt to make a man's vest for my dad.  I'm already off to a bad start.  The pattern is old, from the 60s, and it calls for "double knit" yarn(?).  I tried a swatch with "worsted" weight, and have already gone down five needle sizes and knitted five swatches trying to get the gauge right.  The swatch is still too large and I'm quickly getting discouraged.  I'm at a size 2 needle now, but I am not going to knit worsted on these teeny tiny needles.  So no promises.  I might try it with a lighter weight yarn, but I've already bought two skeins of yarn to experiment with, and really don't want to waste money on a third.  Sometimes I still hate knitting.
Well, that's it for me.  I hope you've all had a nice weekend.  Happy Mother's Day to my British friends!!  We "celebrate" ours in May. 
Thanks for stopping by!

Hoping for more of this soon!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sold ... One Canoe

Off she goes!
Well, after one day of advertising, we sold our dear canoe last week.
Off she goes with a new owner and a new chapter in her life.  We had many happy summers together on the water with that canoe.  Most of it spent in Algonquin Park and Charleston Lake.  Although we've not done any back country camping, we've taken our canoe through many of the lakes and rivers that border Hwy 60 through Algonquin.  We've seen a lot of beautiful scenery and wildlife from it ... kids and dog packed along with us.

We've had this canoe since our kids were small, and ordered it special with cherry wood to please my woodworking husband, and with a middle seat to please our daughter.  She's never been very happy in the canoe, so the additional seat allowed her to sit in comfort and read a book while we all paddled along.  It helped.  One memorable canoe ride was when she was about 3 years old (we were renting canoes then).  We stopped at an island to explore, but then my daughter refused to get back in the canoe, and I have an adorable photo of her standing high on a smooth rocky hill just screaming her little heart out in anger for the rest of the wilderness to hear ... and I'm sure they did hear. 
My son took to the canoe much better, and has always enjoyed being out on the water for a little adventure or just fishing.  He bought his own kayak a couple of years ago and enjoys the independence of his own boat.  But he does get tired after a long day when he's the sole "power".  We'll occasionally take pity on him and tow him a little ways. 
My son & Cody in his kayak, Alqonquin
My son was sad to see the canoe go ... he used to say that we had to keep it for when he had a family and he would be able to use it again.  Unfortunately, we just don't have room for extra canoes, but I do like his sentimentality, and I'm glad that he has lots of happy memories with this big ol' boat. 
Barron Canyon, Charleston Lake, Oxtongue River (me)
Our next canoe is already on order and we plan to pick it up in May.  It's being delivered to the store just outside Algonquin Park, so depending on how bad the blackflies are, we may take it for a paddle that day.  We'll at the very least pop it into Oxtongue River beside the store to check it out.  I can't wait!  Our old canoe weighed 65 lbs. and was 17 feet long.  Our new canoe is 35 lbs. / 15 feet.  The convenience of the smaller, lighter canoe will open up new routes for us.  My husband has flat out refused to go on any long portages with the 17' canoe, and I'll admit it's no fun lugging this size through the woods on a rough trail.  I'll soon be perusing my canoe routes map to see where we can go this summer ;)
Rock Lake (our last paddle)
One place we'd love to visit is the north end of Opeongo Lake. 

Costello Creek off Opeongo Lake, Algonquin Park

Opeongo is a huge Lake which we've paddled on many times, but because of it's size, you just can't canoe all the way up the lake in one day and expect to be back to your start point by nightfall.  There is a convenient day outing arranged through the park that will take you and your canoe up to the north end by water taxi.  There you have options of continuing with a guide or go it alone, but this particular spot is a haven for moose!  So you can take the canoe from that point and see the moose and enjoy a picnic and then meet the taxi to take you back at the end of the day.   We've always wanted to try this, and perhaps we'll do it this summer, who knows. 
New adventures await us with our new canoe, so we're not too sad to say goodbye to our old Swift.  The guy that bought our canoe camps in Quetico Park each summer.  Quetico is a place I've always wanted to go, but it's a fair distance from us.  Over 12 hours of driving apparently.  It used to be all backcountry camping, but they've opened up about 100 campsites for "car" camping now.  There are over 2,000 interior campsites in comparison.  It sounds beautiful, and I'd love to see it one day.

On the weekend my husband repaired the end of my paddle.  He gave me this cherry paddle years ago, but it's getting a bit damaged on the end from me digging it into rocks as we come ashore.  A bit of sanding and a lot of varnish, and it should be good to go.  I expect we'll be shopping for a new paddle this summer with a protective edge on it though, and I'll just use my cherry paddle for "deep water" paddling. 

Charleston Lake
Well I could go on about canoes & camping, but I'm sure you've all read enough.  It's another beautiful day, but the temperatures are having a hard time keeping above 0, and most mornings it's still around -12C.  Our robins have returned however, and I'm very excited about that!  They're even finding some slow-moving worms in our frozen ground.  Yum ;)

Charleston Lake
Anyway, I hope everyone's week is going well.  My daughter came home for an unexpected visit over the weekend which was nice.  She's now back in university town and won't be able to nip home until after her exams next month.  Although the winter dragged on this year, I can't believe we're now heading into April and she'll be home for the summer months.  Of course I'm just thinking "summer?!" ... "where's spring?!".   I'll have to check to see if there's anything pushing up through the ground in the way of flowers soon.
Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I hope you're all wearing your Irish green today!  I know I have my green on ... easy enough for me since green is my favourite colour :)

March Break is now over and done and my son has been sent off to school with no skip in his step.  He really enjoyed his week off, and so did I!  We rounded out the week with a bit of fish tank shopping for him.  He picked up another Bala shark (he has one already, but thought he might like a buddy), and a few more tetras and swordtail fish.  They've all settled in well.

We visited the McMichael art gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario on Saturday.  My husband was able to come with us for that visit.  The McMichael gallery holds numerous Group of Seven paintings, which I just love.  I've always admired their paintings, particularly Tom Thomson's, and my parents used to take us to this same gallery when I was young.  Many of the paintings are of scenes in Algonquin Park, which is our favourite camping destination.  To see these paintings is to feel the essence of northern Ontario.  I was rather struck with the realization that so many of these paintings were done in the winter (or maybe spring), with lots of snow on the ground.  It makes you wonder how chilled they must've been after a day of painting out in the cold ... sitting still for hours with a paint brush in your hand can hardly keep you warm for long.  If you visit the east side of Algonquin Park at Achray campground you can visit a cabin that Tom Thomson stayed in during he trips to the park.  Also you can see the view where he painted "The Jack Pine" ... which actual pine was chopped down for fire wood just a while ago.  We've visited these places and also the cairn erected in his memory on Canoe Lake where he drowned. 

The Jack Pine by Tom Thomson
Cairn on Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park (my photo)
There are other painters' works in the galIery as well.  another of my favourite painters is Emily Carr from BC.  Such dramatic work, and both her paintings and the paintings of the Group of Seven still look bright and vibrant today.  Some of the Group of Seven paintings are over 100 years old, and they still hold a very modern appeal to me.   I picked up a couple of books written by Emily Carr as I enjoyed her written comments accompanying her paintings as well. 
There is a special exhibit on now of East Coast artists, including paintings, photographs and carvings.  It was quite good and I particularly enjoyed Mary Pratt's paintings.  Her written comments that accompanied the paintings were very humorous and she's probably quite a character in real life.  She paints from photographs she has taken herself.  When she was a young mother she would see a still life in her home that she wanted to paint, but felt she never had time to stop everything and paint it just as she saw it with respect to lighting etc.  She was raising four children at the time so she was a busy lady!  Finally, she started taking photos of the things she saw and then would work on the painting from the photo when she had time.  This way she didn't lose "the moment" and was able to capture it on her canvas.  I'm so glad that she found this way to work around her domestic life because she really is an extraordinary artist.  Her paintings are described as still-life realist, and apart from the actual painting, I found her subject matter so compelling.  She's painted such ordinary objects, but with great attention to the lighting details and has a real gift for painting glass and liquid ... everything just sparkles.  I really enjoyed her part of the show.  She did some life paintings as well, and there was a particular painting of her daughter in her wedding dress that I thought was sort of heartbreaking.  The look on her daughter's face is just so anxious, and you have to wonder if it reflected how the daughter was feeling about her upcoming marriage.  Anyway, if you ever get a chance to see Mary Pratt's work, it's well worth viewing.  Her paintings are at the McMichael gallery until April 27. 

Source  This is one of her paintings of "Jelly Shelf"
and she talks about the beauty of the clear jelly as it sits on the counter in the sunshine.
You can see more of her paintings if you click here
I have no photos of my own to share of these works as cameras were not allowed. 
It was a nice day out.  Apparently, the winter weather is going to break this week, and we'll be heading into above 0C regularly.  Today was again down to -18C this morning, but I hope it warms up a bit when the sun has a chance to warm things up! 
And speaking of Algonquin ... we've put our beloved Swift Algonquin 17 canoe up for sale yesterday :(  I'm very sad to see it go as we've paddled many happy waterways in this big baby.  Our kids were just tiny tots when we first bought it.  But now that it's only my husband and I in the canoe, we've decided to go with a smaller, lighter version which has been ordered from Swift last month.  I'll miss our beauty though ... all 65 lbs of her (won't miss her weight).
Thanks for stopping by!
My Shamrocks :)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Break

This week is March Break for school kids here in Ontario.  It's also referred to as "Spring Break" on the calendars, and on Monday and Tuesday we had some beautiful spring weather. 
I took my son and a friend to the Metro Toronto Zoo on Monday, and I was quite comfortable in a spring coat (with a wooly scarf & gloves!) the entire day.  The sun shone down on us as we navigated the heaps of snow everywhere and admired the new animals at the zoo. 
The polar bears had a new baby named Humphrey, and on Monday he was exactly 4 months old (about the size of a golden retriever).  I didn't want to have the heavy camera around my neck all day, so I don't have any photos of him ... trust me, he was adorable and very playful!  Here's a nice shot of his dad from last March ...

This year there were large ice flows on the top of their deep pool of water, and the male & female bears were soaking wet from a recent swim, but they didn't enter the water while we were admiring them.
There were also two visiting giant pandas, but they were quite mucky looking and not as impressive as I'd hoped.  One was outside (and a bit cleaner from the snow), but the indoor panda was a dark dirty yellow which was rather sad to witness.
My favourite part of the zoo is the Arctic exhibit, which opened last year.  There are polar bears, arctic wolves, arctic fox, snowy owls and reindeer.

Arctic fox ... also taken last March

It was a great day outside and also in the numerous pavilions for the warmer climate critters.
Yesterday my son and I decided to head into Toronto to visit the Royal Ontario Museum.  We've been there lots of times with my family and with my brother and his two rambunctious boys, but it was really nice to go with just my own son this time.  He wanted to visit the entire museum ... and I think we were pretty close to that goal by the end of the day.  We had such a wonderful time together, and he is a real delight to discuss everything we saw.  The dinosaur exhibit is really amazing and we spent a long while in there.
There are a few windows in the museum where you can check what's happening outside ... and yesterday we were suffering through yet another blizzard (I know).  I had originally planned to drive into town far enough to just take the subway directly to the ROM, but when they predicted 10cm of snow, we took the GO train instead ($$).  Unfortunately, the GO train had rescheduled their trains (ie. "reduced" their trains) because of the storm, so we were packed into a train of commuters where there was standing room only.  So after walking on concrete floors the entire day, we were forced to stand for the hour's ride back home while all the commuters who had been sitting on their bums at their desks all day rode in relative comfort.  There was a foot of snow on the van when we got back into town, so I was glad for the ease of the train.  So another fun day of the March Break. 
This morning it is bitterly cold again ...

... yep, that's right ... -20C (not sure what the wind chill makes it, but it's really windy out there)
And there's snow thick everywhere again ...
We are promised warmer weather I think tomorrow or at least by Saturday.  I'm really disappointed with this snowstorm.  My backyard on Tuesday was almost bare of snow and I could see grass!!  My patio had completely cleared of snow too, and I was "this" close to pulling out a patio chair to sit out there in the sunshine.  I tossed the birdseed out for the birds, but I haven't seen them yet.  Maybe even our little winter birds have given up.

I know a lot of us had this same disappointing weather, but I'm sure it's the last big snow we'll have this year!!  Perhaps we need to hold a candlelight vigil to entice Spring to our area again., eh?!
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Shamrocks & Heather

First off I'd like to say thank you for all of your very kind comments on my last post.  Your comments and suggestions have all helped me feel better about things going on here.  I hope for things to improve somewhere down the line, one way or another.  My blog is actually one place where I can find a little escape from the everyday, and I've enjoyed so much the friendships I have made here since starting this blog.  If I have to take a step back from keeping up with everyone's blogs, I'll do that, but I won't be gone for good.  Anyway, thanks again, you're all such good friends ... and now onto something else ...
The shamrock holiday will soon be upon us, and it'll be time to wear green and claim some Irish heritage back in our family trees ... I know I'm part Irish, how about you?!  Last year I picked up a pretty little shamrock plant from our local nursery just prior to St. Patrick's Day.  My mom used to have a large planting of shamrocks in her greenhouse.  The greenhouse was right up against the side of the house, and she planted them right in the ground along the wall of the house.  They were so cute, and I hope the people that bought that house are enjoying them still.

The shamrock I bought last year was green-leafed with white flowers. 
This year they had this beautiful purple-leafed variety with soft pink flowers.

The flowers are fairly small and delicate, but my little shamrock from last year has been flowering non-stop all winter, and it's nice to see them when not much else is happening with the plants.  I also like the way the leaves close up at nighttime, or if you touch them.  It makes the plant seem even more "alive" and personal ;)
And while my husband and I were browsing around the somewhat empty nursery, I saw this pretty little pot of heather. 
I know a lot of you in the UK are quite familiar with heather, and I have seen the heather in the highlands of Scotland myself when I attended my brother's wedding there years ago.  But we don't have heather growing here in Canada, and I was struck by this bright little plant, so it came home with me.  I hope it will survive outside, but I don't think it will survive our winters.  Does anyone here in Ontario have any experience with growing heather outside?  I'd appreciate any advice there.
Cody thought it smelled "wild" and was happily checking it out ...
So even though there's still enough snow out there to look like winter ... these little plants will help to brighten our kitchen nook and make it feel like spring.
As you can see, the plants are starting to take up a good portion of our nook!
My pets were enjoying the sunshine pouring in the front window today ...
I picked up this candle holder at the thrift store last weekend ... big enough to hold a votive candle.  Unfortunately, if the candle is left burning too long, it melts all over the inside :[  I really like the butterfly pattern and will keep it on my kitchen table to light during our dinners.
Well, we just back home after having a nice dinner out, just the four of us, and then dropping my daughter back in university town.  I don't think we'll be seeing her again until exams are finished in April ... I think Cody and I are going to miss her the most.  
When we walked out of the restaurant, it was snowing ... that nasty sleet-like snow ... and earlier today I was going to tell you all how spring temperatures are slowly arriving and it was actually plus ... plus(!) 2C earlier this week!  There really has been lots of melting snow with the sunshine and warmer temperatures this week though, so I really do think Spring has peeked around the corner and hopefully will stay for good now.
I hope you all had a good weekend, and thanks for stopping by!
Wendy x

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Climbing Out of a Slump

I've been feeling really low this past month.  Partly it's this long winter, and then there's other "stuff" going on.  It's all put me in a bit of a slump and I've not felt happy vibes for a while.  I was seriously considering calling it quits with the blog, but couldn't make up my mind.  I was afraid if I ended this, I'd regret it a bit further down the road, so I just sat back for a bit and haven't really been into it much ... either posting or visiting.  I've started making the rounds this week, however, and have been to visit most of you, but not all.  I realized I've missed the connection with everyone, and although I don't seem to have a lot to share these days, I've decided to continue the blog for now. 
My blog feed has always been messed up, and I cannot "unfollow" a blog if I choose (even though I've been through all the proper steps ... at the final question "are you sure you want to stop following this blog" I click "yes", but nothing ever happens and I'm still following every blog).  Because of this glitch, my blog feed is full of blogs I am no longer interested in, so instead of relying on that I just go down my list of favourite blogs on my sidebar and click on your blogs there.  I guess my point is it's a slow way to do it rather than just check into the feed and see what's new, but I have no choice.  And I hate this slow process, it seems to take me forever to visit everyone.

Anyway ... boring stuff. 
Our days had dropped back into the sub temperatures these past two weeks (-20C), but today at last we had a reprieve, and it's hovering just below 0C again (at least I see drips coming off the roof!).  This is the type of weather for the maple sap to start to run.  Cold nights and warm days.  How I loved helping my parents with this springtime ritual even up until a few years ago when they still had their country property.  All the grandkids would help in some way too, and it was a guaranteed week of sitting in the woods before the vat of boiling syrup in front of the fire.  I wrote a post about that here if you're interested in a little extra reading.  Now I rarely visit a maple sugar bush unless my nephews come for a visit from BC, but they won't be coming this year. 

The dog is getting his walks, but it's been a struggle, and now we have to deal with heaps of salt tossed on the roads (why?!).  The Town hardly put any salt on the roads all through the tough part of winter, but now they're just pouring it down thick.  Poor pup gallantly limps along until he can take the stinging pain no more and stops with paws up.  By the time we got home today, he was just a sloppy mess from the road salt and the mucky snow.  March tends to be a messy month don't you find?  So into the laundry tub he went ... he just fits ... and a good soapy bath ensued.  Then he raced upstairs and tore around the house for a good five minutes just because he felt so good.  I lay his mat in the sunshine and he warmed up and dried off fairly well.

I've been working on bits of knitting, and have made up some little mittens to go with some baby hats I've knit.  These will all be heading off to LILY once I get the mittens done.  I picked up some variegated yarn (Lion Brand) and really like how the brown/pink/white combo works up.  The baby mitts look so cute in this colour too.

There was also this blue/green combo which worked up in a very boyish looking hat ...
... so I made one mitten to go with it ... yep, ran out of yarn and I'll have to get some more.  This is the first mitten I have knit in the round, and although it looks okay, I was a bit lost when I had to cast on a couple of stitches above the thumb.  I have trouble reading knitting instructions even now.  After the little blip there, the number of stitches was off for the rest of the top, and I was glad to be done with it.  The worst part about mittens is, if you have trouble with the pattern, you still have to suffer through the making of another one.  Hopefully the second mitt will work up easier.
I had a ball of "oatmeal" yarn too, so I tried that with the blue/green.  I knit one round blue/green, then one round oatmeal.  I love how it turned out.  I would like to have a scarf made up this way.  I have a book that has a scarf knit in the round using this same technique, and that's why I tried it here.  It gives it a very rustic look, don't you think?  If I made a scarf this way I would get some 100% wool rather than the acrylic (although the acrylic is quite soft, and this is what LILY requests, I prefer the natural fibres myself).
Then I made another headband using the brown/pink/white one row, and the oatmeal for every alternate row.  I didn't like the look of it as much as with the blue/green.  There was too much white in the variegated yarn already, so the oatmeal didn't show up as well.  It just made the whole thing look rather muddy.  I made this for my daughter who told me the headband I made earlier kept sliding down off her head ... this one is made in the same way, but I cast on 104 stitches instead.
And then I had a few scraps of pure wool from my Mom's stash and my own stash, so I whipped up another tea cozy.  This is for my two-cup tea pot ..

It goes nicely with my one-cup tea pot.  I have a few of these cute brown tea pots :)

And that's it.  I'll knit up a few squares to send off to LILY too, and that will all go out sometime this month.  I usually just send squares, but I noticed other people were also sending hats, so I decided to do something a little different. 
Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you're all having a great week,

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