Thursday, March 26, 2009

The flying pine cone

I love this story!

This is the same Josh who took me flying last September...

Hat slippers and sock

My second beret is finally done and I have worn it a couple of times.

It fits perfectly.

The original pattern I drew for this was completely unrealistic, it called for knitting up to four colours of yarn in the same row, and you're only supposed to do two. Which I learned the hard way. So I redrew the pattern with only two colours at a time, except for about three rows where the pink changes to blue near the top, but those rows are fairly short and so not too bad.

Three colours in a single row is barely doable but four is outrageous, as I found out.

I didn't think I would get a chance to wear it this spring because it seemed to be warming up so fast, but we've had a few chilly days so a nice woollen beret is just the ticket!

After a few uses, I had to tighten up the opening, it was starting to slide down over my eyes. I did one row of single crochet inside the brim to tighten it.

I also finished my slippers, finally finished punching holes in the leather so I could lace them onto the knitted slippers.

It took a long time because punching the holes was boring, so I would only do a dozen or so at a time.

The yarn needle in the picture is fantastic, it has a large loop at the tail-end instead of a tiny slot for threading the yarn onto it.

Very handy and easy to use!

I've now started a sock.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Biking the Spit

A couple of weekends ago it was too nice to stay indoors so I decided to bike out the Leslie Spit, just to see it. I could have biked from here to there but thought it might be a little further than I really wanted to go on the first time out on my bike this year, so I put the bike on my bike rack and drove to Cherry Beach and biked from there.

On the Martin Goodman trail from Cherry Beach to the Spit I passed a raccoon sound asleep in the crotch of a tree. He was rolled up into such a tight ball, I couldn't tell which end was the front!

As it turned out, my camera battery was low, so I only took the one photo. This is the view of downtown Toronto from the Spit. The trees across the water are on Toronto Island, between the Spit and Toronto Harbour.

The Spit is an artificial point of land built up from land fill, I don't think it existed when I was a kid growing up in Toronto. And it looks like land fill, great chunks of concrete everywhere, a thin skim of soil over it all. Trees have grown up on it and a lot of wildlife has moved in, thousands of seabirds and at least one beaver family. The trail is nice, but it still really feels like land fill. A semi-wild look to it but something a bit off about it. Also, the smog hanging over Toronto was really clear, I didn't like looking at it. That's what I live in!

At one point I saw this almost perfectly round concrete "boulder" on the roadside, with two human hands carved onto it. Weird. You see odd bits of concrete sculpture here and there from old office buildings.

A small pond had a beaver lodge in its centre, with several girdled trees around the edge; the beavers have been busy. Sitting by the pond were four guys with cameras on tripods and binoculars at the ready, in case the beavers should show up. Out on the water around the Spit, thousands of Goldeneyes and a few swans.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dobby goes to the beach

Tristan and I took Dobby to the beach on Sunday afternoon.

Dobby was delighted to be there, he ran in great bounding circles on the sand from sheer joy. Chased a few seagulls and dug lots of holes. He even found a coconut to play with!

Coconuts washing up on the beach of Lake Ontario?!?

For quite a long time Dobby engaged in mysterious behaviour at the water's edge, apparently digging for something in the water. He even stuck his nose right under the water. Mysterious indeed for a dog that hates the water!

The concrete wall in the water is the breakwater, it protects the shoreline from getting eroded away in storms. It also provides a convenient and safe perch for seagulls.

The lines drawn on the sand of the beach are Tristan's, he was drawing a picture of a werewolf. No, it wouldn't help if I showed a photo of the whole drawing, I only know that it was supposed to be a werewolf because he told me that. When we arrived at the beach, Tristan quickly stripped off his winter coat and shoes and socks, but after a few minutes he had to put them back on again, a little colder than it looked!

The gentleman in the background of this picture is an engineer from Budapest, Hungary. He is in Toronto for three weeks helping to build a 3G network for Telus Communications. He watched Dobby for quite a long time, surreptitiously taking photos when he thought I wasn't looking. Finally he came over to talk to me, asking about Dobby.

He's alone here; he was sitting in his hotel room on Sunday afternoon and he looked at a map of the city and noticed that there was a Budapest Park, so he thought he would come and check it out. I didn't know that was the name of this part of the Toronto lakeshore beach, but after he told me that I saw the sign by the beach,"Budapest Park". He said that Budapest at this time of year is usually a little warmer than Toronto, but they were having a bit of snow now. I told him he is lucky he came this year and not last year, last year at this time there would have been a foot of snow on the ground!

After the beach we were hungry, Tristan remembered that we passed a MacDonald's on the way and he wanted to go there to eat. I told him I was sorry but there was no way I was eating at a MacDonald's. He said that his Mom told him that it was OK to eat there if you only ate a little bit, I again said I was sorry, I wasn't worried about the safety of the food I just really didn't like it. We went to the Stampede Grill for burgers and fries and real lemonade (I watched the woman make it from the lemons in the big basket on the counter) instead.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Phelan's panpank party

Tomorrow is Phelan's third birthday, but we celebrated today with a "panpank party" (pancake party).

It actually was not pancakes but this great recipe Isaac and Gretel have for French Toast: you fill a baking pan the night before with bread and the egg and milk mix you usually use for French Toast, then put the pan in the oven and leave it there overnight. In the morning you turn the oven on to bake it.

Phelan had two little friends from the neighbourhood, Declan and Owen, their parents, his Granne and Aunties, and his own parents and brother Tristan as guests.

Instead of birthday cake there was chocolate birthday cupcakes.

Phelan got lots of presents (including Spiderman underwear!) but the big gift was the Skuut bike, just like the one Declan got on his birthday last year.

Phelan knew exactly what to do with it.

Happy first day of spring!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Above eye level

I took a walk along Queen Street West with my camera a couple of weeks ago, on one of the first really warm days in a while. It went up to 16C, the first jacket-free day of the year!

One of the things that fascinates me about Toronto is the above eye level streetscape, the architectural details of second and third stories of the buildings dating from the mid to late 1800s.

These photos were all taken in the Parkdale area of Queen Street. Click on a photo to see it in more detail.

In one block there is a Franciscan monastery and a convent. Sometimes you see the Franciscan friars on the street, wearing long brown robes with a rope for a belt. One of the friars has an earring. They serve dinner every day to street people. They also used to run the foodbank that I volunteered at last winter, but for various reasons they no longer do that.

I don't know too much about the convent, I've never seen the nuns on the street. Or maybe they don't wear anything special and I just haven't noticed them. The Our Lady of Loretto sign marks the entrance to the convent, which is on the upper two stories of the building.

When I was taking a picture of one building, there was a utility truck parked in front of it with some of the workers taking a break. One of them saw me photographing and waved for the camera.

He shouted for me to take another photo and hammed it up for the camera. Nobody else paid any attention.

I just find these buildings fascinating.

The street level can look quite grungy, especially now that the cigarette butts are emerging from the melted ice and snow. You can't smoke inside the many bars and restaurants, so smokers leave their butts on the sidewalks in front of these establishments.

But you look up and you see amazing details in the brickwork, stained glass windows, towers, cornices and more as far as the eye can see.

These pictures are just from my immediate neighbourhood, they get even better as you head east toward the centre of the city.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Next beret

I finished knitting a second beret and am blocking it now.

It was kind of an odd shape when it first came off the needles so I am hoping the blocking will have the desired effect.

However, it is taking a very long time, it's been wrapped around this plate for two days now and it's still not quite dry!

It's already warm enough to go hatless now, I may have missed my window of opportunity to show it off.

Assuming it fits...

Friday, March 13, 2009

March break

Last Wednesday was the last day of classes in the winter session, I went to weaving and woodcarving, but skipped the tai chi class.

In weaving I was really hoping to finish my sampler project, but it was not to be. I still have a few more inches to weave before I can cut it off the loom and either tie off or braid the fringe. This is a picture of the sampler still on the loom. It's close, but no cigar.

In woodcarving I wasn't even close to finished, I have only barely begun my bas-relief. From the picture you can see that all I have really done is chip away most of the background area. There is lots more to do, including making a plasticine model of the finished product. The other students in the class tell me I could spend years working on this first project. That's OK, I've enjoyed the class and especially enjoy the long leisurely coffee breaks in the middle, in which I sit around with all these 70 and 80 year olds discussing the news. A fun bunch.

One guy has the same name as my Dad, and I think he is around the same age as Dad would be if he were still alive (90!). Briefly we discussed family trees and we are probably not related, or if we are, only distantly. This Ted Mills served in the Navy not the Army during the War, spending time in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. I was very surprised to hear him talking about the War, I would not have put him much past 65 by his looks.

I have re-upped for the spring session classes in weaving and woodcarving, but not in tai chi. Those classes will start on April Fool's Day. Three classes a day was manageable, but only just, so I am happy to cut back to two. Besides, I am not happy with the tai chi class so giving it up is fine by me.

In the tai chi class we were learning the 24-form version of tai chi, a shortened version of the traditional 108-form that is supposed to be easier for beginners to learn. And in the Beginner Tai Chi class, we were only supposed to learn the first 12 forms, or poses. You'd think that in 9 hour and a half classes that wouldn't be too hard.

Our instructor rushed us through the first 12 forms and by class 6 she had us working on the second half of the whole sequence. The trouble was, I still hadn't learned the first 12 forms so moving on to the second 12 (which weren't even supposed to be part of the course) was just confusing and frustrating.

Our instructor told us that getting the breathing in sync with the movements was the most important part of tai chi, so she focussed on teaching the breathing. Again, the problem for me was that I couldn't get the breathing in sync with movements that I didn't know, I spent most of my time and effort looking over my shoulder at what the instructor was doing (because more than half the time she was out of my line of view), and to hell with the breathing. And I still did not get the movements.

If I signed up for tai chi again, I would have no choice but to re-do the beginner level, and while I don't mind that in particular, I was so frustrated at the speed with which she was moving through the whole thing that I could not face signing up for another session of frustration.

We would begin and end each class with a moving meditation in which the instructor asked us to visualize ourselves as trees, with the good energy of Mother Nature flowing up our roots/feet into our trunks/bodies as we breathed in, and then all the bad sickness and negative feelings flowing down as we breathed out. The second last class for me of breathing in good energy and breathing out the bad was the final straw for me, I relished playing hooky on the last day.

No more meditative trees for me!

PS - I gave my first beret to my weaving teacher, who admired it when I wore it in to class last week. She wanted to buy it from me, but for a whole lot of reasons I preferred to give it to her. She is delighted with it! I am working on my second beret.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Family soccer

The snow is melting fast, the weather warming up, time for soccer!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Murals of Dundas West

Dundas Street West runs through the Portuguese neighbourhood of Toronto. Many of the people living here are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Portugal, the Azores and Brazil. The Dundas West BIA (Business Improvement Area) commissioned Jose Ortega, a local artist and businessman, to paint a number of murals along Dundas Street.

The tantalizing tidbit in yesterday's post is one of Ortega's murals, on Dufferin at Dundas. The pic on the right is another view, but still only a portion of the whole mural.

Sorry, it's all I got, we were on the wrong side of the street.

Here is another of Ortega's murals on Sheridan at Dundas, not far from where I live. I took this photo in March last year, when we still had mucho snow on the ground after several major dumps in February. Click on it for a larger view.

For a few more pics of Ortega's Dundas West murals, look here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gender studies

Conversation with Phelan:

Is Phelan a boy?
-- Yes, Phelan is a boy.

Is Dobby a boy?
-- No, Dobby is a dog!

Is your Daddy a boy?
-- No, Daddy is Isaac!

Is Tristan a boy?
-- No, Tristan is a brother!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I wish I could teach Dobby to tell time.

Then I'd say, Go look at the clock, it's not time for your walk yet!

Monday, March 2, 2009

My first beret

Finished my beret around 12.30 Monday morning.

About halfway along (sometime on Sunday afternoon) it was obviously turning out much too small, but I was so tired of ripping it out and starting over again that I decided to just plough on through and get it over with.

Glad I did.

It's pretty, I learned a lot from all the mistakes, the next one will go way faster.

And be bigger ;-)

I haven't quite finished, still have to weave in all the ends, but that is a matter of a few minutes.