Post #1973: A new fiddle for me


I have to admit that I feel.somewhat ridiculous about the fact that two days ago Brian and I had a big discussion about budgeting and getting focused on paying down the big cabin debts…. And then yesterday I went out and purchased a new violin on a layaway plan. But there it is. That’s exactly what I did.

I’ve been pondering a new instrument for a long time with various motivations. At first I wanted to get a cheap instrument for taking camping, then I liked the idea of five-string, then I wanted to upgrade and get another classic violin like my Stainer copy, but an older/higher quality version, and then I was confronted by the fact that I need to be able to plug in at shows and I really dislike most of the attachable pickups on the market (and mini-mics aren’t an option because they cause feedback on my vocal mic).

I had read about these Gage Realist 5-string Violins on the Internet and listened to all the audio reviews of them – liking what I heard about and from these instruments. It’s one of the only electric-acoustics on the market at a non-custom price which was also attractive to me since I wasn’t prepared to spend more an a couple thousand dollars. Because I am taking the week off work to complete my term paper (very close to done!) and Brian took yesterday to hang out with me – we decided to go down to Long and McQuade and check out the Realist 5-string that they had in stock. Needless to say, I didn’t just try it out – but decided instead to purchase it on a lay-away plan (Brian offered up a decent downpayment towards it). I was far too attracted to the hassle-free pick-up with phantom power and the ability to get by without a pre-amp – to just walk away from the thing once I picked it up!

The amplified sound on this instrument is great, but as it’s a new wood instrument, I expect the acoustic sound to get somewhat better with regular playing over the next few weeks. Unplayed violins always sound a bit “crunchy” to me, attributed to the tightness of a wooden body that hasn’t had much resonance. If I had a stereo with a big speaker, I would simply put the instrument on top of it for a week or two to loosen it up, but given the fact that I don’t have much of a stereo setup, I’ve got to play the life into the thing. Still and all, this violin has a really resonant, almost reverberant sound – and the extra low string (which gives it the range of the viola) is pretty fabulous. Unlike my lifetime violin (I’ve been playing my Stainer copy for 30 years), the low range on the Gage is really rich. Also unlike my lifetime violin, this instrument is full-sized and it’s got a significantly wider neck and body (my Stainer is a 7/8 and those violins are known for their slender build). So it’s going to take some regular playing to get used to and build up the musculature in my shoulders for a bulkier instrument. Since there is a 30-day return policy, I’m aiming to play as much as possible between now and early January to ensure that it is the right sound and feel for me. But so far, so good – I’m pretty excited about its tone quality and feel already.

I’ve got a gig in two weeks time and my goal is to play this on stage – so I’ve got a lot of playing to do between now and then! (not to mention three sets of song lyrics to memorize – yikes!)

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Post #1972: In which I work on my creative learning process.


I spent my weekend in a creative process workshop which was the last event of the 2014 Maiwa Textile Symposium this year.  The class, taught by the fabulous Natalie Grambow, was an exploration of various techniques for stimulating creativity, and a small dip into some specifics such as colour-theory, design elements, surface design (stamp, block and mono printing), photo transfer, and collage. Although the class finished on Sunday (with the creation of the book cover pictured last in this series of photos), I took some of my monoprinted fabric that was leftover from the class last night to do a final piece in my block shape which I felt was the culminating piece in some ways (it was what I would have done for the cover had I had more time).

As someone who has never indulged in much *art* process outside of basic textile/basic quilt work – I found a freedom in working with all new materials that was a lot of fun – pastels, paints, printing blocks, lino cuts – because I had no expectation of having to be a certain way about the work. As you can see from the photos below, I carried a colour and a shape theme throughout the three days (which arose from exercises that Natalie had us do) which was helpful in that I didn’t have to think up a new *thing* each time – I could simply take the form/colour and work with it in a different medium.

I really have an affinity for mixed media textile work – and all the pieces I have envisioned thus far are of that variety. Taking the weekend class was a great introduction to some of the ways in which I might work – as well as materials to incorporate – but it was also a reminder to slow down on the pieces I *want* to make for the time being, and just enjoy learning about how different things work together (or not).

This was my first Maiwa Textile Symposium workshop but I am certain it will not be my last. As I finish my degree this spring, I look forward to signing up for more symposium classes next fall.

(Click on any of the below photos for a larger view)


Post #1971: Many handmade things

Over the last few months I have made many things but haven’t been showing them off here. These include:

Boxy zip bag #2

A cosmetic zip-bag for my step-daughter’s birthday present (coming up)


Sashiko handstitched placemats for our table.

Boxy zip pouch #1.

A “test” boxy zip pouch which worked out well enough for me to use.

Carry-all made for a friend's birthday.

A carry-all made for a friend’s birthday.


Patchwork potholders.

Lace table runner - crochet - worked all summer long.

A crochet lace table runner which I worked on from May until July.

I have come to realize that despite the lack of perfection in everything I make – it all gets a lot of use and over time I grow to love the small oddities of the items that grace our lives in this house.

Post #1970: The violence I have suffered.

I cannot count the number of quasi-violent encounters in my life (they are numerous but require too much explanation) and so the below list is not as long as it could be, but if I reflect on just the very overt cases of violence I come up with the following (in no particular order):

  • sexually assaulted twice in my 19th year by the same person
  • mugged at knife point in a bank machine enclosure at eight in the morning (on my way to work) by a drug sick man who needed some quick cash
  • had my apartment broken into while taking out garbage – when I turned back towards my building there was a man in my window, masturbating and watching me (I moved out weeks later, as I could not encounter anyone in the hallway without startling after that)
  • numerous instances of holes in walls, doors torn of hinges, or broken furniture in various relationships
  • a boyfriend (who only lasted a few months) who broke into screaming/terrifying rages whenever I tried to assert my own needs (such as whether I wanted to live with him or not)
  • more than one boyfriend who had sex with me against my stated interests, or in ways that I had expressly said no to (there are two who stand out in mind as particularly egregious in this regard)
  • grabbed during an argument so hard that bruises were left on my upper arm that did not fade for a week
  • childhood punishments which involved spanking or hitting, and verbal/emotional abuse

I don’t think about these things very often, you know, and I certainly don’t walk around with a catalogue of abuse at my fingertips – but during today’s morning meditation I could not stop thinking about it. Could not stop thinking about all the conversations that have been floating around the Canadian mediasphere in the last week and how strange my responses are to allegations of abuse, even as someone who can so readily come up with such a list. (All the perpetrators in my list are/were men – that as much as I have had other kinds of shitty encounters with women, none of them have taken on the character of violence such as I have listed above.)  And even though I know that there are some men who do a lot of violence in the world – far more men than women – I still find myself judging women (silently, inside myself) for coming forward, for not being tough enough, or for being too sensitive.

I wonder why they feel the need to speak out when I have got on with my life just fine, thank-you very much. Or else I think, well that’s just the way it is, and there isn’t anything you can do about the past. Sometimes I think that somehow it must be all about me and about my choices so it must be all about other women and their choices. But looking at this list helps me recognize just how much violence was a part of all my formative years into early adulthood, and in that context, it seems ludicrous to interpret as solely about me and my choices. In fact, one might look at this list as something to get a little bit angry about, rather than be ashamed of. And if that’s the case, then I might be able to get angry alongside all the other women who are talking about abuse and sexual violence right now instead of trying to downplay the amount of violence that is actually happening – right now and all the time and in particular to young women!

It is true that I pretty much characterize the above experiences as having helped me to get strong, determine my priorities, and plot a life course that included self-sufficiency at its core – but that’s just a way to turn lemons into lemonade, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure I could have developed a lot of the inner strengths I now possess without having had someone break into my apartment to masturbate.

But even so, looking at the list and recognizing that I should be angry about it, and thus angry that the whole damned human enterprise is so fucked, still so misogynist, still subjugating the rights of women at every turn – I am actually more exhausted by it than anything. Because it’s so tedious, so banal, so everyday – and because I’ve long since left it behind – I feel like all I can muster is a shrug before I turn my back on it again. I’m sure I’m not the only woman in Canada who feels just this way right now and is saying nothing as a result – I’m sure that the voices we are hearing are really the minority – not that women who have been abused are in the minority, but that those who have been *and* also speak out are.

Which means that most of the women we know are walking around with stories like this. Stories they don’t tell. Maybe not a list as long as mine – or maybe a much longer list. It’s terrifying really, how much we accept this as the status quo. How much we accept that for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our girlfriends – because it’s so exhausting that we just turn our attention to other things rather than fight back.

But that’s exactly what I do, and will keep doing – while at the same time trying to build the positive pole that my life has become – full of good and amazing people (women and men) whom I love and spend much time with.

My life these days truly is one of privilege and without the violence that characterized so much of my younger life – I have the privilege that has afforded me the construction of a life in which I am cocooned in a home that I own, dictating the conditions of my employment, reliant on myself and my relationships so that I do not have to step outside to where it is dangerous very often. It’s not that I live in fear of the outside world – but I am cautious when in large groups of strangers, I do not like to be downtown on weekends among the unpredictable drunks, I am always aware who is walking behind me at night and whether the doors to the house are locked when I am by myself. As much as I am weary, I am also all too aware that it is not about me, this violence. That it is everywhere and is unpredictable in all but its gender.

This is no call to arms, but a pledge to myself and to other women: I will publicly acknowledge my own history of violence so that I can acknowledge yours. I will be compassionate to myself in the telling of my own stories so that I can hear yours with the same compassion. I will not blame myself for the violence done to my mind and body, just as I will not blame you when you speak out to friends or to the media. I will not simply “leave the past behind,” so that you are left standing alone. And finally, I will not accept violence as the status quo for any group of people in any society. 

And to everyone who’s reading this: thanks for listening. I needed to get that out there. xo

Post #1969: The Soup Project

Just because I’ve posted here now two days in a row, don’t think I’m making a habit of writing here everyday or anything. It’ll be at least another few months before I have anything approximating time for writing (but the completion of my graduate studies is only six months away now!)

As I mentioned yesterday, the news lately has been a real bummer to me – so I have decided instead to do a combination dinner/canning project that involves 8 weeks of soups. I love soup! But because it can be ingredient and time-heavy, it’s not a go-to for a quick after-work dinner in our house. So my plan for the next 8 weeks is on one of my days off (Sat, Sun or soon – Mondays!) I will make a large pot of soup for dinner and either 1) pressure can half of it for future eating, or 2) make a pressure-canning version of the same, or a different pressure-canned soup stock that can be used at future meals. The reason that I am not simply making soup and then pressure-canning the recipes directly is because pressure-canning itself does a lot of the cooking and there are many soup versions that go into the cans “raw” and are cooked in the process. Also, pressure-canned soups cannot contains grain-starches or dairy – which means that one is often making a “base” to be added to when it is opened and reheated later.

I canvassed my Internet friends yesterday and got some ideas – and here are the recipes I’ve chosen to go along with those ideas:

Week One (November 2): Turkey Rice Soup and Canned Chicken Stock

Contrary to my starting pitch, this first week is aimed at getting rid of some turkey soup stock that has been in my freezer since last Christmas. Yes, it’s still edible, but it has to go – so I’m going to pick up some turkey legs and boil them up to get some soup meat happening and otherwise add some rice and veggies and cook it up. I’ll use this week to put the extra effort into pressure canning a big batch of chicken stock.

Week Two (November 9): White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Because there is lots of kale in the garden right now, a soup with beans, chorizo and kale seems particularly appropriate so I’ve chosen this recipe to pull it off. I plan to double it and pressure can half. A bit of an experiment, but the worst thing that can happen is the beans will be mushy which doesn’t matter so much in soup.

Week Three (November 16): Chicken-Bacon Corn Chowder & Chicken Corn Chowder Base

This is a two recipe week with mostly the same ingredients. Bacon isn’t a great thing to use in pressure canning because high-fat items can go rancid – and I found a canning recipe that essentially cooks the soup in the jar. I like the idea of not twice cooking the chicken. Stovetop Recipe. Pressure Canning Recipe.

Week Four (November 23): Red Lentil Soup and Beef Stock

These items are totally unrelated to each other, but I’m in need of some beef stock on my shelf for the upcoming entertaining season (gravies and so forth) so I figured I should get that in here while I can. Red Lentil soup on the other hand, is one of my favourite foods. This is the lentil soup recipe and I do plan to double and can. As for the beef stock this recipe looks like a good one.

Week Five (November 30): Really the best chili I have ever made

I made this No-Bullshit Chili Recipe with some moose meat that a friend gave us after his hunting trip last month and it is probably the best chili I have ever made or tasted. One batch makes a lot, so I plan to make this one again and can half of it (or more) for easy winter heat-ups. Also, use whatever meat you want!

Week Six (December 7): Potato-Leek Soup & Potato Leek Soup Base

This Julia Child recipe was recommended to me and it looks fabulous, but is full of dairy so no good for pressure canning. On the other hand, this recipe is meant for pressure canning, and when later-served can have dairy added into it for extra depth. I’m trying both in week six.

Week Seven (December 14): Vegetable-Beef Soup two ways

In this week I will try two new recipes. Here is the stovetop version by Williams-Sonoma, and here is the canned version by Canning Homemade! which cooks in the jar.

Week Eight (December 21) – Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

For the final week I’m only making one recipe, will double and then pressure can half of it. This Roasted Root Vegetable Soup by The View From Great Island looks like a fabulous cap to 8 weeks of eating and canning!

By the end of it all – if I really get through all the weeks, this plan will provide for about 16 meals (considering leftovers) and 30 jars for the pantry to be used at different junctures through the next year!

Post #1968: Canada is making me unhappy, so….. Soup!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause I am downhearted about the Canadian news in the last week – the shooting, the scandal, the tawdriness of the responses to both – I’m setting up a new little project for myself this morning. One that involves nutritious, healing food – and canning! For the months of November and December, I am aiming to make one batch of soup per week – which will be one of our weekly dinners – but additionally, I plan to make enough so that a few jars can be pressure-canned for future eating also. This fundamentally means the soups have to be free of grain starches (flour, barley, rice) and dairy – but pressure canning does allow me to use meat ingredients. I also have a hankering to make some fresh batches of stock and to pressure can those also as it’s much more convenient than freezing (we are running out of freezer space in our house).

I am currently using my social network and the NY Times Recipe Box to compile my list of upcoming soup projects – and will post here when I have determined and idea/theme and recipe for each week. We’ll see how far I get with this – but as it meets two needs – immediate dinner satisfaction and food preserving for dinners/lunches in the future – I feel like it’s something I can do for the next several weeks. Also, I made an absolutely, incredible chili recently, and will include that in one of my upcoming weeks as a thing to can so I can share the recipe.

Stay tuned people! I’m about to use a food project to get happy…… (I loves me a project!)… and I’ll share the process and results with you!




Post #1967: Adams River Sockeye


September was a bit crazy on the work front, but I’m making up for it this week by working on the banks of the Adams River this week – taking pictures and video of the spawning sockeye and the activities at the festival for our web and social media presence. It’s one of the few perks I get – and it’s a pretty decent one.

Post #1966: Taking myself seriously enough to make art.


After years of indulging in craft, I feel like I am ready to make art – though the distinction has always been a problematic one for me because I recognize how it’s used to minimize the artwork of women, of indigenous people, of “folklorists” from various ethnicities and so forth. So what I mean really is that I feel a growing curiosity about taking all the skills I have learned in the process of making beautiful but utilitarian objects (bedding, clothing, linens & home decor objects) – and turning them towards a different type of inquiry. Taking myself seriously is part of this process. At the moment that means engaging in ideas about textile arts, looking at textile and other found objects differently, and thinking of the narratives that most interest me (family, words and language, tactile histories). It also means setting intention to find the time for  textile “sketches” and technique work in the nooks of  my days, given the absence of large blocks of time/energy available at the moment. I feel like I am at one of those junctures where I can see all that I have done up until now as the jumping off point for the next thing I want to explore.

Post #1965: How the weeks flow by.


Last weekend was a road trip that included a visit to the cabin and a funeral. This week has been a litany of communications products, lectures, and small snatches of time for handwork – I’ve finished a cowl and started a sweater. I look forward to a weekend of small errands, friends, philosophy and music – though mostly what I want is to sleep in and catch up with Brian. I feel good today, as though I’ve been pushing through all week and finally come to a slow down. A rolling stop, as it were.

I’m going to a lecture tonight on using stitching as illustration. It all feels pretty good right now.

Post #1964: The hands and the heart are always connected.

Whenever I experience stress or confusion in my life, I crave comforting words from my partner, sleep, and then craft – in that order. Locking myself in the sewing room to either start a new project or reorganize old ones has the same effect. The point is to be alone and imagining the making of the new. This weekend I did both – reorganized my sewing room, and made a new skirt. (That was followed by making a second skirt last night, which I am wearing at work today.)

The picture on this post is of a quilt that I made for some friends who got married this summer. Whenever I give a quilt I think of it as giving someone a hug that doesn’t end. For what else is it to wrap oneself in the hard work and time of another – than a multi-faceted embrace?

Sitting down at the sewing machine is often daunting, sometimes frustrating – but almost always I am rewarded by the small accomplishment found in the work of the hands.