Tuesday, December 18, 2007


A ways back, in October, we started talking about getting together for a party. You know you're busy when five couples have to start in October is wrestle down a date for a get together "sometime" before Christmas. But, when we decide to get something done, we get'er done.
Ann and Charlie hosted this fine soirée complete with turkey, mashed potatoes and (my favourite) stuffing! We also brought other dishes to augement this wonderful meal. But the fun really got going once the cake was brought out.

Cake? you say. Birthday cake. What could be better than hijacking a Christmas party to morph it into a surprise birthday party for a man whose birthday is just a little too close to Christmas? Well, Charlie, we heard your lament and we delivered.
This is Charlie just as Barb has pounced. He had that hat on before he even knew what hit him.
And then I made him exchange the pointy hat for this birthday hat.
This picture debunks a commonly held myth that man will not cry unless his dog or his truck dies, or he is hit with a hammer (by a menopausal spouse). He will deny it, but I think there was a touch of mist in his eyes.
This captures exactly how satisfying it was to have sprung the suprise without Charlie getting a whiff of it before hand despite so many knowing and so much going on behind the scenes.
A collection was taken for Charlie's new Par-tay Piggy Bank.
And a mysterious gift was left at the front door. It was touch and go as to whether it would fit through the door. It cleared the frame by a quarter of an inch.
Yes, it says "Fragil-ay" doesn't it. It was a Christmas Story done only like Anne and Jessica could have done it! They love you, man.
At this point, you could cut the tension with a knife. I, having never see the movie, had no idea what was going on. So I waited.
It was worth it.
Like a good, red-blooded male, Charlie was quick to check out the "hardware".
Congratulations Anne! You deserve a Home Depot membership for life. You know your way around that store. Not only did she and Jessica procure all the components of this masterpiece, Anne put that sucker together and ...
It works beautifully. Really, it's hard to tell which one has more glow on!
Then we set the party into festive celebration gear with sequin covered sparkley hats. I think we look like Pilgrims! And we're all still a bit sparkly!

Thanks so much, Charlie for being such a good sport.

Thanks to Anne for putting on such a wonderful spread. I could eat that stuffing every day.

And thanks to all participating delinquents who really made that party shocking, surprising and fun!

Hmm, who's birthday is next?

Barley Shaker Christmas

This post is a little behind the times, but that's how it goes at this time of year. It is also VERY picture heavy, so John and Barb, go make some coffee.

On December 9th in the lovely hamlet of Middleville, Ontario, the local committe decked the hall and The Barley Shakers put on a smashing Christmas concert. We had a good turn out and the audience did a good job on all the carols.

I was really amazed at how fast the evening flew by and could hardly believe it when it was over. Here are some of the highlights. And thanks to Barb for taking some excellent pictures. You are now digital camera ready!

There was no knitting or rocking chair this year, but I can't say that I sat still for a minute. Luckily, this year there was no 3 week spell of laryngitis either.

Someone asked me if Laura had a concertina for all occasions, since this one is definitely festive!

Despite what it looks like in this photo, no hats or noses were impaled by fiddle bows and Bob doesn't really look that devilish in the flesh!

Our fearless leader, the Grand Pooh-bah told us stories of Christmases past.

Here our paparazzi photographer infiltrated the stage to get right in the thick of it all. I believe no injuries were sustained on the part of the photographer despite the flying fiddle bows.

It was Bruce's birthday!

And Barb's too.

During the break, Joan and her husband cut a rug.

Carleton Place's Citizen of the Year showed off his most festive vest.

We wondered if Joan and Liz were at the same party as this next bunch...

(I believe they were discussing back pain.)

See look, impish yes, devilish not so much. (Someday I'll figure out how to use the Red-Eye reduction feature on my camera).

Gavin was there with his bells on!

Bruce was making his exit to the stage...left!

John brought the house down with his fantastic rendition of Christmas in Killarney.

And after a round of door prizes, we finished the evening with We Wish You A Merry Christmas!

What an excellent night it was. Can't wait for next year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Johanne's Fiddling Mitts

Knitters of the world, this post is for you. I give you a FREE PATTERN for a quick holiday knit. Fingerless mitts for the musician in your life (or anyone else who would like to have warm hands and free fingers.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine came up to me and asked if I would knit her a pair of these. The conditions were the following:
They had to be snug on her hands. As luck would have it, our hands are the same size (small) so this was not a problem.

They had to be warm.

They had to be burgundy. Or another suitably rich colour.

And they had to be beautiful enough to make the other fiddlers jealous.

You be the judge of that.

Johanne’s Fiddle Mitts

Pattern by: Jennifer Hoy
© All 9 Muses

These mitts are inspired by cold practice halls. Music warms the soul, but it takes time and effort. While waiting for the sweet strains to reach your hands, these mitts will allow you to keep your fingers on the strings without dropping your instrument!

These are lovely, stretchy mitts.

Size: Women’s small. To make larger mitts, go up in your needle size or switch to chunky yarn.

Finished Measurements: 7 inch hand circumference

Patons Décor Burgundy
*My model is allergic to wool. If you wish to use 100% wool, pick your favourite worsted weight.

Needles: 3.75 mm

· Safety pin or stitch holder for thumb stitches
· Tapestry needle

Gauge: 6 sts/inch in stocking stitch

m1L by lifting loop between the stitches from the front, knit into the back of loop
m2R by lifting loop between the stitches from the back, knit into the front of the loop

Pattern sts: These mitts use a pattern with a 4 row repeat.
Row 1: k2, p2
(repeat to end of round)
Row 2: k1, mk 1*, k1, p2 (repeat to end of round)
Row 3: k3, p2 (repeat to end of round)
Row 4: sl 1, k2, psso, p2 (repeat to end of round)

*mk1 by inserting your needle from back to front in the ladder of the row below and knit into the back of the needle.


Cast on 36 sts. Being careful not to twist the stitches, join work and k2, p2 until work measures 4 inches.

Start pattern
Row 1: k2, p2 (repeat to end of round)
Row 2: k1, mk1, k1, p2 (repeat to end of round)
Row 3: k3, p2 (repeat to end of round)
Row 4: sl 1, k2, psso, p2 (repeat to end of round)

Start Thumb Gusset. This thumb gusset is knit in between the first purl sts. While continuing pattern, start the thumb on the next row like this…

Row 5: k2, p1, m1R, *p1, k2, p2 (repeat from * to end of round)
Row 6: k1, mk1, k1, p1, k3 p1, *k1, mk1, k1, p2 (repeat from * to end of round)
Row 7: k3, p1, m1R, k3, m1L, *k3, p2 (repeat from * to end of round)
Row 8: sl1, k2, psso, p1, k5, p1, * sl1, k2, psso, p2 (repeat from * to end of round)

Continue doing this until there are 9 sts in between the first purl sts of the round.

Next row: sl1, k2, psso, p1, slip 9 sts for thumb onto a safety pin, cast on 5 sts, p1, * sl1, k2, psso, p2 (repeat from * to end of round)

Continue pattern sts until the mitt measures 7 inches
K2, p2 for ½ inch
Cast off in rib.

Thumb: Transfer 9 stitches from the pin onto two needles. Pick up and knit 5 sts along the top of the thumb.

Knit 5 rounds.

Cast off. Weave in the ends and darn up the holes at the base of the thumb (I can’t be the only one who gets these!) and play on!

Now, this is my first published pattern. If you find errors, let me know in the comments.

This pattern is for personal use only. I will post the pdf in the side bar. Just as soon as I figure out how.

My Bread Recipe

I was asked by a friend at work to share my bread machine recipe for multigrain bread. This recipe is based loosely on the Black and Decker whole wheat recipe. But as with everything else, I've tweaked it a bit.

My bread machine makes bread with 3 cups of flour or a mix of grains that = about that much.

Place ingredients in the bread machine in this order:

1 1/3 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp powdered milk
1 1/2 salt
1 tbsp honey or molasses or maple syrup
2 tbsp butter or margerine
1 cup white flour (all purpose or best for bread)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
A mixture (of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), millet, spelt flour, sunflower seeds, almond slices, quinoa, oats, wheat germ, flax seeds or any other grains you like) that makes up another 1 cup of fibre. I use a few tbsps of each.
1 tsp yeast (bread machine yeast)

Now, sometimes this recipe makes really heavy bread that resembles nothing more than a cannon ball. You can feed those to the animals or eat them with stew or soup! The white flour usually takes care of the cannon ball. Make sure your yeast is fresh.

Cook in the bread machine on the Whole Wheat or longest setting. In four hours, you have wicked bread. Or something to stop intruders from stealing your things.


Thursday, December 6, 2007


Blessings, that is. I have had many, many blessings to count this week.

  1. My children are healthy, beautiful specimens, for the most part. This week Fiona has had a fever and general malaise, but Tuesday night, her fever broke and we finally started to get more sleep. I am blessed that this does not happen more often.
  2. My children are (sometimes) thoughtful and helpful. While I was cuddling Fiona in her sickness, Calla went to and fro helpfully and quite selflessly gathering things: tissues, toys, blankies, drinks. And she played quietly on her own so that her sister could have the Momma time she needed. Thank you Calla.
  3. My car is going to be fixed. Some of you may not have known, but I was hit by a young lady in a hurry to get to school to write and exam. There was some damage done to my passenger rear quarter panel and the estimate was making me seriously worried that they would just write off my most excellent chariot. Insurance just called. It’s covered and my rates will stay just where they are. It was completely the fault of the other drive. Whew! I am also blessed that I did not have to write an exam after getting in a fender bender.
  4. My Christmas knitting is underway and progressing. Not only am I enjoying the endeavour (remember this as it gets closer to Christmas and the shine comes off and I start to cry because I’ve bitten off more than I can chew), but I am designing things that will appear as patterns available for free on this blog. Knitters, take note.
  5. Not only am I getting to it with the Christmas knitting, the flood gates of inspiration seem to have sprung open and I am getting ideas from every corner of my mind for all sorts of things—writing, knitting, music, gifts, house renovating, etc. Now my prayer is that I maintain the energy to act on them!
  6. The Bell Sympatico gods smiled benevolently upon me yesterday. Previously, I had been cursing and swearing because Bell is a monopolistic monster and my current modem would not think of conversing with another company’s wireless router. I threatened to pull my accounts and leave Bell for good, but the technical support merely scoffed at this thought and put the phone down on his desk. He didn’t hang the damned thing up! And then he walked away. And then, because it is not enough that they could not fix the problem of a router that I could not use, they emailed me a Customer Satisfaction Survey! So after trying to figure out if anyone had a better deal and whether or not I could manage to save all of my saved emails (and there are a few of them as you might guess), I called their marketing department (another level of Dante’s Hell) and actually received help. For $2 more a month, I may have a wireless modem. Soon, I shall roam about my house surfing at will. I am blessed for my tenacity and my flexibility and most of all, that no one else heard me tear a strip off the *$(##**ing tech support manager. Eating crow is easier to do with words.
  7. Although very few of you knew I was doing this yesterday, I went in for my very first routine mammogram. Guys, you will not get this, but every woman fears this unconditionally. My blessing here is that despite horror stories of bricks and hydraulic presses, of humiliation and degradation, of cold equipment and uncaring technicians with cold hands and cold hearts, I escaped unscathed, unhurt and with all the dignity I usually muster intact. I am blessed to have had such a caring and encouraging technician. I am blessed that I had the mental fortitude to go without caffeine for 3 weeks before I went (3 coffees in 3 weeks folks). There were those who said they didn’t see how that would help and frankly I don’t know that it did, but the results were pain-free testing. Frankly I’d have run with the bulls naked if someone told me it would help. I am also blessed with a well-rounded sense of humour to deal with the very fashionable paper bolero jacket and dental floss belt that they gave me to prance around in before and after your exam.
  8. And lastly, I am blessed to have such a wonderful group of people who care about me and make me laugh. I would not be who I am without my friends and family. Thank you for all the support you give me.
Edited to include:

9. You folks are scarcely going to believe this: When I got home, I had a letter from the government (rarely a good thing). Remember back in October I had to pull together a whole load of information together for the tax department to audit my childcare expenses. Well, I got notice today: I filed everything correctly and no adjustments were needed in my taxes. That's a relief!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Honeymoon is Over

Remember last week I wrote a lovely little treatise on the magic of the first snow. I wrote of the ethereal quality and the way it coats everything, making it look clean and fresh. How the light glints off every flake and the hushed silence that fills the air with anticipation.

Well my dears, the only anticipation filling my air is that which comes before the Snow Plough. It looms large, like some mythical dichotomous beast. At once hoped for so that I may haul my sad carcass from bed and actually get to work (at 60 km/h) and dreaded as I know, a cleared road means a blocked in laneway.

This morning, there was a thick carpet of the White Hell covering the entire world (or so it seems to me). I had not heard the plough and hoped briefly that I might not have to dig myself out—that I could just glide over top of the foot of snow Mother Nature had blessed us with and slide out onto the street and swim up to the corner where surely I’d find a cleared road.
Ha-ha! T’was not to be. The plough had been by as I slept. And there were a couple of feet of snow at the road. But I was well warmed up by the time I got to it having had to clear a path TO the road first.

The only things I am thankful for this fine day in December are my snow scoop, “light and fluffy” snow (which still weighs a ton) and Ibuprofin. Tonight when I return home to likely have to do it all over again, I will be thankful for Rum. (Must remember to pick up a bottle on the way home.)

Bruce, wonderful man that he is, has offered to come and help dig me out tonight. I’m hoping that it won’t be another avalanche like this morning as he’s going to head home afterwards to dig himself out when he gets there.

I bet you want to know the ironic thing here (because there’s always some ironic thing going on: I have a snow blower. It is a huge beast that lives in my barn. It belches black smoke and flame and not so much throws the snow as it evaporates it, but none of this matters much. I haven’t the slightest idea how to 1) turn it on or 2) run it so that it doesn’t hit my car or the house for that matter. Yes, sometimes I am a silly woman.

Anyone know I good small engine repair guy who makes house calls?
Oh, I’d have attached a picture to this post but the background to my blog is white anyway. Just imagine that’s what it looks like outside…because it does. Everywhere I look.