Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

The table is set. The roast and the veggie quiche are in the oven.

It's time to welcome our guests and make some noise!

Best wishes to you and yours.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 12, 2011


I was inspired by Daisy Yellow to make a Chartreuse Journal page. As you can see lots of other colours snuck in but it was still a really fun exercise. I cut up my son's expired health card to use on the page which got me thinking about health.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Decorating

All this talk of getting ready for Christmas makes me realize it's time to start getting out all my white, blue and silver nicknacks. I put out vases of sparkly ornaments, blue and white quilts, tarnished silver trays and jugs, and sometimes even string some lights.

This morning I saw a lovely pinwheel on a blog I was visiting and started to wonder about a Star of David pinwheel. I didn't find a pattern I liked but I did find this beautiful ornament on Etsy. Being kind of crafty I figured I could probably make one myself (sorry bottlejunk).

After a very brief search I came across this excellent tutorial which I only now realize is on How About Orange?, one of my very favourite sites.

It will be no surprise to anyone familiar with my work that I cut some corners. I didn't print the template and I didn't use a craft knife. I figured out that Jessica's pattern transferred perfectly to my little sheets of blue and white origami paper. Using needle nosed scissor I was able to cut three sheets at a time, more or less freehand.  I recommend using glue dots instead of double sided tape if you have them at hand. I put the glue dots on four flaps before constructing each point and my snowflake went together very quickly.

It's the only decoration I have up so far and it's looking very lonely. Time to get busy making more ornaments I guess.

I'd love to know if you decorate for a winter holiday other than Christmas.

Playing Favorites

What are the songs that make you sing?

This month's GPP Street Team Art Journal challenge was to talk about the music on your play list, the songs that get you singing along in the car or the studio.

My answers are all buried in the journalling, along with more personal reflections on memory and what Playing Favorites means to me. Some of the many things I have trouble remembering are boxed to make them stand out. Musical notation including a staff, notes, rests and clefs are scrawled over the top of the journalling in a rainbow of colours.

Some of the music that came to mind was the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Whitney Houston, and just about every Musical and Opera ever written. I'm just as likely to sing and hum along to symphonies and concertos as I am to the Messiah, Stevie Wonder and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Next month I have to challenge myself to work with ephemera and to change my colour palette.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stealing Like An Artist

First off I want to thank Austin Kleon for giving me and all Artists permission to Steal Like an Artist. If you haven't read his manifesto please do, and then come right back.

I am fortunate to have the charming, talented and prolific Mary Elizabeth Kinch (ME) in my small quilt group, affectionately known as the Squeegees.

Every time I see her I am inspired to try whatever handwork she has brought with her. On our most recent visit she promised to schedule a workshop to teach us how to make her felted work basket. She always has great pointers about needles, thimbles and anything else you could possibly want to know about handwork.

ME told us about a Sue Spargo hand embroidery workshop she had just taken. ME says "I am so indebted to her for what I have worked on that piece.  I never would have produced it without her talent and inspiration.  It was her kit for the workshop that I started with.  Below is her blog link for lots of other "droolingly" wonderful examples of stitching delight!  

The link to her webpage is:

The link to her yummy blog is:"

ME was having so much fun playing with layering fabrics and embroidery stitches as we sat chatting around my kitchen table that I immediately started fantasizing about working on my own project.

Photo by ME Kinch all rights reserved
ME was kind enough to send me a picture of her WIP. Isn't it gorgeous?

When I went to my workroom to start pulling fabrics I got sidetracked by an idea for a wallhanging for Eyal's birthday. It ended up incorporating some elements from ME's project: repetition, grid, layering, embellishment.

When I was ready to get back to ME's project I thought of the Jacobean inspired shapes, the layering of fabrics and colours, the touches of robin's egg blue, teal and turquoise. I returned to the stash of interior design fabrics Kate Zeidler gave me and started pulling fabrics, floss and beads.

Where ME hand turn appliqu├ęd each piece of fabric I have attached them with a raw edge machine zigzag. I am teaching myself embroidery as I go along. Turning to Judith Baker Montano's Elegant Stitches for guidance. I'm having fun embellishing each design, choosing which pattern or colour to layer on top, deciding how I feel about each imperfection in execution. Sometimes I love the frayed edges and pull them out a little bit to enhance the look. In other places I snip off the extra bits, preferring a clean edge.

Eyal gave me the ultimate compliment when he saw me working on it for the first time "I hope that's for us. Please don't give it away". He also wants me to use the same idea and colour scheme for a large scale wallhanging.

ME warns me there's no 12 step program for recovering from this but I still thank her for introducing me to this new addiction!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Birthday Breakfast

Sounds of the coffee grinding and percolating, 
Family chattering while they wait
Smells of coffee, croissants 
Tummy grumbling
Elbows on the table
The remains of last night's colourful cake weigh down the counter

Friday, November 25, 2011

Standing in Line at Costco

The folds on the back of her shirt catch the light.
The strings dangle down her back, swaying as she works.
Head turning to and fro, jaws working the wad of gum, a quick smile lights up her face.

Thanks to  and  for the inspiration and encouragement to write a Small Stone.

Standing in Line at the Beer Store

Pink red green silver
Holiday colours entice the happy shoppers to drink a toast
Bundle up the wine bottle
Bag the booze and printed mug
Every eye chooses their own reason to celebrate

Monday, November 21, 2011

Zentangle for Charity

With this Zentangle tile I am dipping my toe into yet another online challenge and supporting The Red Thread Promise at the same time. 

I love contributing to group projects and I'm looking forward to seeing the poster that will be made with all the tiles. To find out how to make your own tile and participate in this project click this button:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Only Connect

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
E.M. Forster

I've been playing with Social Networking for years now. I keep up with the lives of my friends and family on Facebook and find out what's happening in the world as it happens on Twitter. Updates from Artists, gardeners, yoginis and other interesting bloggers are delivered to my inbox daily, and I am approaching my 100th blog post here at

Lately I've been spending more time on the internet. I check regularly to stay absolutely current on all the trending topics. Last week I joined and my personal stock is soaring. Today I'm adding BlogLovin to my profile to make reading the blogs I love even easier. I'm also hoping that more people will add my blog to their reading list.

I couldn't possibly begin to catalogue everything I've learned online. I appreciate the articles people write on Wikipedia, on personal blogs and on news sites. I want to say Thank You to the Tweeters, and Facebookers and Bloggers who keep me informed and entertained. I also thank the commenters and ReTweeters who go out of their way to express interest and appreciation and to help spread the words, photos and videos that are being posted.

I feel very lucky to have only encountered the kind and loving on my journey through the cybersphere. I've heard of the horrible comments that people leave but in my experience people live by "If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all".

Social Networking gives us the opportunity to wed passion with prose as never before. The friendliness and support that I experience online enhance my real life relationships. 

I'd love to connect with you and hear what you have to say about this or any of my other posts.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Preparing to Play with Colouring My Fabric

The one piece of my own printed fabric I've ever used graces the bottom of this Tzedakah Box
Being a process person I need to know the steps involved before I can get anything done. Maybe this is why I love taking classes. I excel at learning the steps as presented by the teacher and quickly working through them. What I may not excel at is continuing to develop the skill I learnt in class once I get home.

 Take the class I took with Pam Woodward on colouring your fabric for example. I loved this class. I love the samples I made and have been loathe to use them in projects for fear of running out. I bought all the materials I thought I would need to keep playing with colour and pattern and texture on fabric once I got home. I labelled an old plastic bin "Fabric Dying Essentials", put all the stuff in the bin, shoved it in the cupboard and proceded to feel guilty about it.

 I can feel guilty about just about anything at the drop of a hat. I felt guilty that I had: not used the skill I learnt in class, not used the materials I went out of my way to purchase, not used my creativity in this way that really spoke to me, and that I had hoarded the fabric samples I had made for fear of using them up.

 Yesterday I had a most enjoyable afternoon at the YHQG Show. I visited with lots of quilting and fabric artist friends. I oohed and ahed over the quilts. I bid on lots of little quilts in the silent auction in support of SKETCH. Most importantly I plied Gunnel Hag with questions about colouring fabric with her Colour Vie (TM) Pigment System. I needed to be reminded about the process, and I needed to figure out what my roadblocks were and why I hadn't been doing it at home. As I spoke to Gunnel I realized/remembered that there are two thing holding me back. I don't have the nice sturdy straight pins that Pam used for our class and I don't have the soft board that you pin your fabric to before you print on it. Gunnel assured me that any pins will do. I'm a quilter, pins I have!! She also showed me how to make my own light and portable board.

I came home and made a board from this stuff I had saved for a rainy day: Piece of styrofoam left over from insulating the house, pieces of batting trimmed of of quilts before I put the binding on, square of cotton ripped from an old sheet, plain old straight pins. Now I'm ready to start playing with colouring my fabric at home. I can't wait!!!

I'd love to hear your comments. What's keeping you from getting on with it? What steps have you missed out that are keeping you from enjoying your artistic process?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Believe, Joy, Create

I love a challenge. I see the challenges posted on blogs all over the web and think That's for me! Sometimes I even follow through. Like this on one:

GPP C56 Believer

I had a blast making the page and thinking through some of the words and colours that speak to me. 


Why do you create? What keeps you from making Art?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Planning a Staycation

As the holidays approach my thoughts turn to how to celebrate them. We love creating traditions for our small family and creating memories that will last a life time.  Usually our holidays revolve around our extended family. Our children are lucky to have loads of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents to spend time with.

Every year Saba and Safta have a First Night of Chanukah party at their house where each family lights a menora and the children get loads of presents from everyone. Not this year. This year we'll have to wish each other a Happy Chanukah by Skype since the grandparents are studying in Tel Aviv for the year.

Every year my sister Judy and her family throw a huge latke party. A stream of hundreds of revelers crowd through her kitchen demanding more and more latkes from my nephew Daniel, the expert latke flipper. Not this year. This year we'll have to make our own latkes since Judy will be vacationing in New Zealand and Australia with my niece Rachael, who will finally be on her way home from her year down under.

Many years we've gone south with Eyal's brother and/or sister and their kids. Other years we have gone to local ski hills and skating rinks with them. Not this year. This year his sister will be in California celebrating the marriage of her husband's Little Brother, and Eyal's brother and his family will be vacationing on the beach in Florida.

I'm sure we'll still get to enjoy a holiday dinner with each of the local relatives before they hit the road, but for the most part we'll be on our own.

What to do?

Sometimes it's nice to have some quiet time at home. Here is a short list of some of what we'll be up to as we hunker down and Roll Up the Sidewalk:

  • Stay in PJs all day
  • Play lots of cards and boardgames
  • Jam on some of the dozen or so instruments we have lying around the house
  • Watch movies on Netflix and at our local theatre
  • Hope for cold weather and snow so we can go toboganning, skiing and skating and come home to make hot chocolate
  • We might even try to get rush seats to the Pantomime or the Nutcracker
  • Spend lots of time together in the kitchen cooking up some of our favorite comfort foods like Blondies and Roasted Root Vegetables

Those are just a few of my ideas. What do you think we should do to make memories and enjoy some quiet time together?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waxing Poetic About Hairdryers

My computer is in the sunny front window of my kitchen. I love to be able to look out at the kindergarteners coming home for lunch after a busy morning at school. Asher the Yorkie sleeps in my lap, waking up only occasionally to bark at a dog being walked by the house.

For the last while however my view has been marred by unsightly candle wax on the panes of glass. As I contemplated getting to work to clean away the wax and write a blog post about it I started trying to remember how long the wax had been there. Perhaps I had put a Chanukah Menorah in this window last year?

When I took out my box of Halloween decorations and wondered where I should put the candlesticks with the orange candles to beckon trick or treaters it all came back to me. Last year, or maybe even the year before, I put the candlesticks in the front window. The constant opening and closing of the front door as I handed out candy caused the candles to sputter, splattering the window with candle wax.

I know I should have cleaned it up when it happened. It would have taken far less time than I've spent worrying about how hard it's going to be and how long it's going to take.  I'm finally ready to tackle this task so here we go:
  1. Clear off the space in front of the window so you'll have lots of room to work. This will be a challenge for me to do because I'm trying to use the computer at the same time and it's right in front of the window. I'll just shift it to the side.
  2. When I Googled "remove candle wax from glass window" I came up with two opposite approaches.The most recommended method is to let the wax harden and then scrape it off carefully with a fresh razor blade, box cutter or paint scraper. Washing the window with warm soapy water when you're finished. On the other hand you can get the wax really hot, wipe it off with a soft cloth or paper towel and then wash the window. Since I have two panes of glass to work with I will now attempt both methods.
  3. Gather your supplies. I'll use an exacto knife for the left side, followed by windex and a soft cloth. For the right side I've grabbed a hairdryer to melt the wax, paper towel to try to soak up the melted wax, and the windex and cloth to finish up. Don't forget to lay out a dish towel to catch the wax scrapings.

Mummy's little helper

The results are in! 

Scraping the window with the exacto knife was messy, time consuming and left an unacceptable amount of residue even after scrubbing with Windex.

Heating the wax with the hairdryer was quick, easy and 100% effective! In fact, it was so easy that I'll be putting the candles back in the window next Halloween and not worrying if they sputter!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Beginning. A very good place to start.

Today I began working on a new design idea. The latest Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto challenge is to make a textile piece on the theme of one of the days of creation. 

Being no biblical scholar my first step was to do a little research on the Seven Days of Creation and the imagery that other Artists have used to express the related themes. The first symbol that called to me was Light. For this project I associate light with the candles for Shabbat, Chanukah and Havdalah. 

Now I'm not silly enough to try to make a fabric candle, but I have been wondering for a while what would be involved in using textiles in candlesticks. My two main concerns are stability and how to separate the flame from the fabric - separating the light from the darkness. Please do let me know if you think of a clever way to separate the fabric from the flame.

If I were to use the First Day of Creation as my inspiration I would be working with this text:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. Genesis 1:1-5

The candlestick would represent the Darkness of Night, the formless void of the earth, separate from the light but offering support to the candle. Would the candlestick be very dark? Would it have the colours of Earth, Water and Wind rising up to meet the Light? The candle would represent the Hope, Warmth and Comfort of Day.

According to the Jewish calendar, not only Jewish holidays begin at nightfall, but every day does. With the lighting of the candle we begin a new day.

Light and Dark, Yin and Yang, the Universal Law of Duality.

If I'm making this for Shabbat I have to make two candlesticks which is a bit of a deal breaker. Cool! I just looked it up and Havdalah means separation. Things are falling into place. I'll make a candle holder for Havdalah, my favorite moment in the week.

If I were to use the Light of the Fourth Day of Creation as my inspiration I would be working with this text: 

And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth." And it was so. God made the two great lights - the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night - and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19

I start to see how I would make two candlesticks. One would be for the day and one for the night but when I think about the Fourth day I start to get overwhelmed by the complexity of the imagery.

The images of Havdalah Candle Holders on Google seem to have a nice low centre of gravity. I'll have to find a way to weigh the holder down or give it a wide base. That gives me a scathingly brilliant idea. I could use a smaller version of my Magen David basket bowl design. This is starting to get exciting!

Havdalah candle holder in honor of the 1st Day of Creation it is!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cleaning the Fridge the ADHD Way

From that widget at the right you will see that I am process oriented. I like to think through the steps of my project as I go through them. I am also a little bit AADHD so I tend to jump from one step to another. Hence my dashing over to the computer to write a blog post about cleaning the refrigerator while I am cleaning the refrigerator. I figure that if I've got my steps in writing next time I can just follow the recipe, and maybe someone else will find my description useful.

Step 1: Empty and load the dishwasher. This will help to clear the counters and the sink and let you know if you have room left in the dishwasher to wash the containers you're going to clean out of the fridge. Run a load of dishes if necessary while you start the next step.

Step 2: Get out your sponges, soap, towels and any other cleaning products you like to use. Wash out the sink and fill it with warm soapy water if you like. I prefer to wash and rinse the shelves under running water but I try to be conscious of not letting the water run too long.

Step 3:  Make a space on your counter large enough to hold everything you've collected in the fridge. If you're like me you'll put a tray on the counter to corral as many of the items as possible. Otherwise the task will expand to fill any available space.

Step 4:  Take everything out of the fridge, and I mean everything that isn't nailed down including shelves and drawers. Keep track of where everything came from so you'll know how to put it together again when it's clean. Put the shelves and other pieces of the fridge into the sink and give them a good scrubbing.  Don't forget to scrub out the inside of the fridge before you start putting everything back.

Step 5:  Put the fridge back together as the pieces are cleaned and dried. This is when you'll be glad you kept track of where everything came from. Just remember it's your fridge. If the configuration doesn't work now is the time to make changes. I just realized as I put my fridge back together that I could put the drinks low enough for my kids to be able to get themselves some milk or OJ by making a taller shelf lower down in the fridge. It takes me a while but I get there.

Step 6:  Go ahead and have a sip of your coffee but don't take a break yet. We still have to deal with all that other stuff that's out on the counter. By the way, I didn't follow my own advice at this point. I sat at the computer and let the dog sleep in my lap and wrote this blog post and tweeted from my @MitziZohar account: 

I'm writing a blog post about cleaning and organizing the fridge, while surfing and tweeting, and cleaning and organizing the fridge. #ADHD

Step 7: Back to work.Now it's time for the 'fun' part. What have you got on the counter? Does it all belong in the fridge? Is there somewhere else you could store your nail polish?Check expiry dates. Open containers and do the sniff test. Look for mould and science experiments.Be ruthless about disposing of anything that's past its best before date, that your family doesn't eat anymore or condiments that you've been keeping around just in case.Empty out containers into your compost bin, green bin or garbage disposal and rinse them out or put them into the dishwasher or recycling bin.

Step 8:  Sort like with like. Our daughter loves Israeli salad so I keep the cucumber, tomatoes, onions and parsley all together so she can make it for herself any time.

In our refrigerator the fruit and veggies go in the crisper and the cheese and meat go in the other drawer. How do you like to organize your refrigerator? Can you tell this is not my favorite step?

Step 9:  Empty the old box of baking soda down the sink, recycle the old box and put a new one in the fridge. Mmmm, now the sink and fridge will both smell fresh.

Yikes! The box says to change it every 30 days. Is that how often I'm supposed to repeat this process? Is that how often you do it? I'm going to start by putting a reminder in my Yahoo calendar for once every three months. I'll let you know if that is too often or not often enough. What's your guess?

How long does this take? No way of knowing because I take so many breaks and do so many things at the same time.

A word to the wise: Take your time. Have fun with it. There are so many reasons to do a great job. For one thing, if your refrigerator is really really clean and organized you'll notice right away if something gets dirty or out of place and you'll fix it. You'll also notice when it's time to get more ketchup, and remember that you don't need yet another bottle of barbecue sauce, if you always keep them in the same place.

The longer your fridge can stay looking terrific the longer it will be until you have to start the process all over again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting the Word Out

Print PageA friend emailed me requesting tips on how too get the word out about her book. It was a timely question since I'm obsessed with Twitter and how to get the word out about Mark's company right now.

 This is part of the email I wrote in response:

- follow everyone you can find who has anything to do with the internet, marketing, parenting, education and any other interest you think coincides with the topic of your book
- follow lots of other successful authors to see how they are marketing themselves and their books, and follow the tactics that you feel comfortable with
- tweet regularly about how your book is doing, quotes from the book, how the book relates to what is happening in today's news and current events.
- link to how people can buy the book or comment on it - when someone follows you DM them to make sure they know about your book

Did I miss anything? What else would you do to get the word out about something you're passionate about?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thinking Out Loud

Print PageI have been enjoying watching the weeds struggle to takeover the asphalt strip between my sidewalk and the street. I dream of the day when the tenacious roots break the stone apart and I am able to pick up the pieces and throw them aside. I wonder "Should I strew wildflower seeds to help the process along? Should I surreptitiously drop spoonfuls of compost as I take my daily walk? Should I encourage (or discourage) my little dog to do his business on this arid strip? This morning I had the idea that with a little help from my neighbours we could beautify this strip of our city. I stopped and chatted with Tony as he planted his Fall Mums. He already had an established strip of grass when he moved into his house but thought my idea was a good one. One neighbour on board, twenty or so to go. Never having indulged in this kind of community activism I'm wondering what it will take to get the ball rolling. So far I have realized that I will need: - the city by-laws - someone knowledgeable about gardening - someone knowledgable about community organization What else am I missing in may plan?

Friday, April 8, 2011


Dearest Mitzi -

Why have you abandoned me? So many memories... shopping together, walks along Bloor street - it's almost spring, and we were going to see the cherry blossoms in High Park together, remember?

And yet, here I am, all alone at the Green Beanery.

Why, Mitzi? Why?

Forever yours,
Your purse.

Dearest Purse,

It's not you, it's me. I just needed less baggage in my life. But the prospect of cherry blossoms and long walks together compels me to race back to you, I will see you soon my dear. Wait for me at the counter at the Green Bean. I shall pick you up later this evening.

Missing you,


P.S. Thanks to the kind barista for being such a gentleman.

When I showed up at the Green Beanery I was delighted to discover that I knew my purse's Ghost Writer from Toronto School of Circus Arts. Thanks Mark!

Print Page

Journal Quilt #1

Today I have been working with the idea of a Journal Quilt. I tore up some 12ish inch squares of the bedsheet I wanted to use up, taped one of the squares to my artist's clip board and started writing on it with a sepia Sharpie. As I journalled about anything and everything that passed through my mind I worried that if I turned this piece of fabric into an artwork people would be able to read and judge these private thoughts. I've always wondered what to do with those morning pages that Julia Cameron exhorts us to write in The Artist's Way. I hate throwing things out without at least trying to find a way to repurpose them, and I hate the idea of someone reading my train of thought jottings. I started to work on obscuring the words by adding layers of writing on top of each other. At the sewing machine I quilted lines through the writing, further obscuring it.

This piece will be donated to my nieces' annual lemon aid stand:

Jaime and Alexandra's 3rd Annual Lemonade and Recycled Art Show

Save the Date!
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Woburn Park
(come rain or come hailstorm)

It will be auctioned off as part of their family's annual fundraising initiative. The proceeds from this year's stand will go towards bringing the opportunity to make Art to at risk youth, and the theme my nieces and sister in law have chosen for the stand is making Art using recycled goods.

Is it finished? Does it need to be bound? Or shall I find some other way of hanging it? I'm even considering using clothespins to attach it to a line like a Buddhist prayer flag. I could let the wind blow my cares right off this little quilt and off into the universe.

Print Page

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time to Quilt

I've finished the machine applique (using a zigzag and decorative thread to attach the motifs to the background fabric) and I've made the quilt sandwich (layering a top, a batting and a backing) and my little quilt is ready for quilting.

Let the terror begin. For some reason I have more or less completely given over the responsibility (and the pleasure) of this step to my professional quilting friends Deb and Sandy for the last few years. Too many broken needles, broken threads, jammed machines, (did I say broken needles?) and creative missteps have led me to mistrust my ability to do this most basic part of the quilting process. I mean, how can I in good conscience call myself a quilter if I don't 'quilt'?

When making something this small, and when making something with an Artistic inspiration, I guess I really don't have a choice but to quilt it myself.

Speaking of choice: How will I quilt it?

Will I echo or outline the flower and vase motifs? Make shadow tulips or continue the journalling with thread play?

It's time to set up the machine for quilting, do a little practising on a mini sandwich and let the playtime begin!

Print Page

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flowers, Process and Commitment

I signed up for quilt guilds to meet people with similar interests and hopefully make a few friends upon my return to Toronto after years on the road, followed by years in the States and those mythical years at home with infants.

Quilters had a (sometimes well-earned) reputation for being inclusive and welcoming. The image of a number of women gathered round a quilting frame comes to mind. Well the guilds I joined were lovely, and I met lots and lots of really nice quilters and learned tons about quilting but I ran head first into my problem with commitment (which I'll get into later).

Through my membership in the York Heritage Quilt Guild I have had the great privilege to join the Squeegees. Squeegees stands for SQGs or Small Quilt Guild. These women have a sense of humour! They're also creative, kind, interesting, knowledgeable and welcoming. The group is also small enough that it involves almost no administration. Everything one could hope for in a quilt guild either large or small.

This little guild of less than a dozen women has been meeting monthly over delicious snacks in one another's homes for years, and I've been part of the group for three or so years now. The Squeegees have lost track of how long it is since they did a group project and there has been much talk about what the next project should be. After taking a look at Twelve by Twelve we were inspired to attempt our own 12 inch blocks on a theme.

Being the first week of Spring we were eager to tackle Flowers as our first challenge.

And now a terrible truth:

I get really enthusiastic.
My head explodes with ideas (which I don't write down).
I say "Let's do it now. Let's have a short deadline. This is going to be so much fun."

And then I forget about my commitment.


Even if it was my idea.

I've started learning to say "No" to things I know I haven't been able to follow through on in the past, like being Board President, and then I feel guilty for not contributing enough to the volunteer run organizations to which I belong, and I quit. Then the phone starts to ring with friends saying "Please come back, we miss your enthusiasm."

Sorry guys, enthusiasm without effort is worthless.

And so I've started working on my Flower Block

I've committed to started by attempting to incorporate some of my latest interests into my design process.

Journalling is a habit I enjoy and am trying to incorporate into my daily practice.

I'm committed to using what I have on hand as much as possible for my projects, so rather than throw out an old bed sheet I've been holding onto it until I could use it.

I cut a square from the sheet, clipped it to a drawing board, grabbed a sepia Prismacolor fine line marker and jotted some words and sketches about flowers.

Next I opened a fabric drawer at random and pulled out a gorgeous faux marbled commercial cotton I've had hanging around for years. It may actually be one of the first fabrics I ever bought.

I cut random shapes out of the fabric and realized that they reminded me of the tulips I have wilting in a vase in my kitchen.

Back upstairs with the sketchbook. This time I drew on paper instead of cotton.

I've started auditioning fabrics right on my journalled background and I'm starting to get excited about this process.

The next question I need to ask myself is:

Why did I feel that I needed to run to the camera and the computer to document my process instead of just staying with the creative flow?

What I need to work on:

Honouring the feeling of excitement I get at a creative challenge, committing to the challenges that excite me, and following through to the bitter end.

Next steps:

Finish laying out the flowers, stems, and leaves and sew down the fabric elements. Figure out how to quilt it, because it's a quilt block, and I'm supposed to be a quilter (but that's for another blog post). Decide if there are any other embellishments to be added and how to bind it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy First Birthday Asher

For all the stress of having an only marginally housebroken Yorkie running our lives, I have to admit that he more than makes up for it with all the joy he brings.

To celebrate his birthday it was time for a nice haircut. Asher has only been to the groomer once and it was a disaster. The groomer was terrified of this little bundle of energy and I couldn't blame her. I vowed that I was going to learn how to do it myself. It would save me some time and money, save him the stress of going to the groomer, and give me the satisfaction of caring for him myself. Piece of cake, right? Unfortunately it is not as easy as I expected it would be. For one thing I've had a bit of a challenge finding pictures of exactly what a puppy cut looks like and advice on how to do it at home.

I'd been experimenting with trimming his coat for the last several months but he was beginning to look pretty unkempt. Today for the first time, he was able to calmly submit to letting me cut his hair, and I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. And one of the great things about having a little dog is that I can easily put him on the counter any time I want to give his cut a touch up.

I sure wish I had taken a before picture. He was a mess!

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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Singer's Quilting Bee

My sister in law believes that if you make your desires known to the universe you will get what you need, and I figure it's worth a try, so here goes:

I want to sing! And I want you to sing with me. I have a vision of an informal group that gets together regularly to make music. We'll read through choral works, Bach cantatas, operas and whatever else strikes our fancy.

What do I need for this to work? Trained musicians, both men and women, who love to sight read and will make time to get together (preferably on a week day) in my home in midtown Toronto. Know anyone who might be interested?

I'm putting on a pot of coffee and keeping my fingers crossed.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finding the Parrots in Every Day Life

My husband and I once went on a disastrous vacation. We didn't do the research, didn't set our expectations and ended up disappointed. Even though the weather was beautiful and we enjoyed each other's company the resort and its' location weren't what we were hoping for. There was no lush vegetation, and no sign of the bird sanctuary we had been promised by the travel brochure.

We found the humour in the situation and told ourselves that we were probably just a few steps from a tropical paradise. On the next street over there would be so many gorgeous birds that parrots would be landing on our shoulder. We would plan our vacation better the next time around. For now we just had to relax and enjoy our time together.

When we moved into our home we were able to sum up the years and years of dreaming about it and our deep satisfaction at finally finding our dream home by telling each other that we had found the parrots. Conversely, when something we had planned does not turn out to our satisfaction we commiserate with each other that we missed the parrots.

This image has come to have deep resonance in our lives. We've learnt that the parrots are there, if we could just find them. Sometimes we need to prepare a little better, to look a little bit longer, to trust our instincts. Most importantly it takes work. It takes work to find the parrots, and it takes work to make the best of a bad situation when you've just ended up on the wrong street.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel Sometimes a book comes along that takes over my imagination and makes it even harder than usual for me to get any work done. A Discovery of Witches: A Novel is such a book. If you love libraries, scientists, academics and suspense, I can heartily recommend this gentle romance.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Mystery Wrapped in An Enigma

My morning just gets better and better. Yesterday morning I had the thrill of hearing the finale of Brahms Second Symphony as I drove to meet my running crew for our 6am run. I can only trust that the uninhibited way in which I turned up the volume, boogied, bellowed and conducted as I drove the last few blocks was not caught by any candid camera. The joy was compounded when I pulled up a youtube clip for the kids to enjoy when I got home.

When I hear this music I am not just overwhelmed by its sheer exuberance and the little surprises which Brahms seems to throw in every few bars. I am also taken back to my Grade 13 music appreciation class. We had the privilege of studying the score in detail with our teacher Mr. Lehman. It was my first real introduction to the pleasures of symphonic music, score study, and music analysis. A second memory is the delight that Tom Allen injected into his introduction of this music back when he had a morning show on the (what I would refer to as) dearly departed CBC. He envisioned classical music listening car and truck drivers across the country blaring on their horns at the moment late in the fourth movement of the symphony when the trombones finally get to play. Magical!

What could top that start to the day, you ask? This morning I returned from taking the kids to school to discover an unexpected package. Did I order this book from Lark Publishing? Far from impossible that I ordered it (and forgot about it) and it just now became available. It falls so precisely into my recent areas of interest: artistic collaboration and small scale Art quilts. Or could it be that Lark Crafts singled me out as a blogger who might be interested in their publication? Also not impossible.

At any rate I will now read and enjoy this lovely book and tell you all about it later. And wait to see what new happiness awaits me tomorrow morning.

Click this link to order it from Amazon at an amazing price. Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Gift of An Experience

For years now we've encouraged our family to give the kids an 'experience' instead of a toy or game when it comes to birthdays and holidays.

For their 10th birthday the twins were lucky enough to be taken to 'The Secret Garden' at The Royal Alex by their Aunt Sharon and their two young cousins. They loved it and are trying to persuade us to take them to an encore performance.

Today they were thrilled to put on their best clothes to attend 'Billy Elliot' at the Canon with their Saba and Safta. Emily has been keeping the secret from Zachary all week that they'll be watching the show from box seats!

We took them to see 'Billy Elliot' in the West End several years ago. Unfortunately, they were too young and too jet lagged to really enjoy it but they have retained vivid memories of the evening. I can't wait to hear their impressions of today's outing.

For past presents they've been taken to musicals, plays, African Lion Safari, restaurants, soccer games, movies and much more.

The experience is enriching for everyone involved. The kids get to spend quality time with relatives they usually only see as part of a group, and get to an event they might not have enjoyed otherwise, and the parents get to spend a little quality time without them. Win win for everyone.

I do sometimes wish somebody was offering me one of these life enriching 'experiences' a little more often.

Guess I'd better start dropping hints about what I'd like for my birthday.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Junkman's Granddaughter

I told myself I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. When people told me I was spoiled I would say that my parents weren't to blame, I spoil myself! My family's life in the nice home I grew up in started as the life of landlords of a rooming house. The big old house was divided into smaller apartments. I think my parents and my eldest brother just occupied what would eventually become our dining room. As the family's fortunes improved rooms stopped being available to boarders and were filled up by our growing family. We had taken over the whole house by the time I came along. All that was left of the boarders were my father's stories of the enormous German Shepherds (or were they St Bernards) who had shared the basement with some long ago tenant.

The luxurious nicknacks I was accustomed to having around the house were purchased at auction houses. My parents weren't presented with any family heirlooms and they didn't register for china when they got married. Still, they managed to accumulate beautiful silver and china, paintings and other treasures in their almost six decades together. My sister's piano was rescued from a fire and refurbished. Treasures that broke were mended by my dad by his seemingly inexhaustible supply of superglue. The cracked and threadbare were pressed into years of service.

The Pomegranate Guild challenged us to create an object to grace the dining table. We were required to incorporate some aspect of family history. How fortunate I am to have one of my mother's silver spoons, now tarnished and worn and coated in glue from some mysterious and long forgotten Mr. Fix It project of my dad's. As I thought about using it I decided it would make an ideal handle for a tea cosy, in honour of my granny who always made me the most delicious sweet milk tea. But a regular quilted tea cosy was too pedestrian for my purpose.

As I walked up the hill after a day of errands I realized with a shock that I had held onto the baby blanket that my grandmother had knitted for me. I had also held on to the anger and frustration that I felt about it having been shrunk in the wash after my mother gave it to my niece. "How could she have given away My Baby Blanket?" I had ranted. "How could anyone have been so careless as to shrink My Baby Blanket" I had raved.

Two and a half decades later I am delighted to think that my beloved niece was swaddled in the same blanket as I was. A blanket that was knit with love by her great grandmother in hopes that she was creating a family heirloom. I chuckle at the thought of whoever washed the poor thing and pulled it out of the dryer several sizes smaller than when it went in. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be the one to have to tell my mother in law what I'd done!

Now the spoon and the blanket will warm my tea. I will remember to hold all of these memories of family and home in my heart and remember that we all can use a little Tea and Sympathy.

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