Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Now with Even More Dyeing and Spinning!

Yes my dears, you heard right.

A second natural dyeing and spinning workshop is being added! The first one, being held from July 1st - 4th, filled quickly and there seems to be enough interest to organize a second workshop, same as the first in schedule and content, for the following weekend.

Here are some particulars:

Dates: Arrival for out-of-towners on Friday evening, July 8th. Welcoming reception at Full Tilt. Natural dyeing (and a little acid dyeing if there is time) on Saturday, July 9th. Film night on the 9th! Spinning on a spindle and the wheel on Sunday, July 10th. Farewell breakfast (and morning yoga) on the 11th.

Accommodations: There are several options available very close by, none costing more that $50/night.

Fees: The workshop fee is $150. This includes all materials (although people are welcome to bring their own yarn or fleece to dye if they prefer), vegetarian lunch and two snacks daily, plus morning yoga (suitable for beginners).

If you are interested or have questions, please email me at thehousemuseum(at)gmail.com. We will need a minimum enrollment of eight people to run the second workshop.

PS. In case you were wondering, the yarn pictured is spun from a BFL fleece handpainted by Lori at Capristrano Fiber Arts. It was spun on my second best friend, my Ashford Traveler, sport weight, a bit more than 400 yds.

Monday, May 23, 2011

This Week

This week, I will be up at Mt. Tremper in sesshin.

Sesshin, sesshin
You never come out the way you went in.

It is precious time and I am very lucky to be able to claim it. Thank you to my family and friends who make it possible. I am very grateful.

See you next week!

* completely taken from the old rhyme that is well-known to those who grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

PS. If you think taking time away from the rest of the flow of your life to sit zazen in an intensive way is crazy or selfish or, perhaps, something you might like to try, check out this article in the Spring 2011 issue of Buddhadharma.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Wee Gem

A wee Little Gem arrived yesterday just as I was running out the door.

No really. It's name is Little Gem. It is a traveling spinning wheel that fits in a bag that is about the size of medium portfolio. It weighs less than ten pounds. It uses the same flyers and bobbins as my Suzie Pro.

Isn't it just so cute? It was love at first sight. But I barely had time to try it out, so today...

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, "Three wheels! She really is getting a little greedy."

You might be right about that except that I have a master plan. The Master Plan is to sell my Ashford Traveller (a misnomer!) after the dyeing and spinning workshop in July. Then I will have two Majacraft wheels with interchangeable parts, including one that I can carry anywhere.

Perhaps now you are saying to yourself, "Oh sure, your husband gave you that Ashford as a gift and now you are selling it. A hostile gesture?"

No, you would be wrong there. I created my Master Plan not long after putting together the workshop idea, before we decided to separate and with the full knowledge and support of Dan. He still gets credit for giving me the gift that began my full-fledged sprint down the rabbit hole of spinning. That honour can never be sold off.

So, if anyone is interested in a lightly used wheel with eight bobbins, please get in touch. It will be available after July 4th.

Perhaps now you are saying to yourself, "Ok, you are not selling off reminders of a relationship past, but isn't this just a bit of retail therapy? You know, consuming to make yourself feel better in tough times?"

No, no, no. The wheel is a smart business move.

This is retail therapy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Being There

It was only a matter of time.

Yesterday morning, I took my life in my hands and tried to photograph the experience of Being the BQE at 5:20 am. Check it out.

David knows the reason that I am driving the BQE at that hour is to get to the Zen center for morning zazen. What do you think - is he making fun of me? We can only hope. Meanwhile, drivers take note: this photograph reveals that I was driving below the speed limit. Truly, I was the only one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

1000 Birds

Christy over at UrbanMuser posted this video this morning and I want to share it here. Such a beautiful project! She was lucky enough to actually acquire two of the little birds. The rest of us will just have to admire the genuine care and love that went into each one. And maybe wipe a tear or two from our eyes...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Small Kindnesses

I daresay that few would criticize me if I said that my search for the best gluten free desserts is over.

That Dan's transition to a gluten free lifestyle has been an unparalleled success is unquestioned. That he is extremely annoying about it, also goes unquestioned. That it is no longer my responsibility to soften the blow by making just-as-good-as treats, likewise, should go unquestioned. That I am a nice person who enjoys a challenge, also un-q. So I made brownies.

The above is a sample. I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Brownie Mix (ok, not much of a challenge). So good, you would voluntarily eat them even if your life includes gluten.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Mash-Up! Includes Knitting Content!

Are you sick of 'em yet? Here is another ikebana arrangement. I rather like this one because it consists almost entirely of plants I would consider weeds from our little front patch.

I don't even know that the object is (the tall vertical leafy piece) - it was a branch off a weed tree growing next to the large London Plane tree that offers us shade in the summer in front of the house. Then I re-used the hosta leaves because they were still as fresh as when I cut them last week. Who knew hostas would be so hardy as cut leaves? Also some vine that I don't the name of either. The subject is a piece of azalea. We have three in our front patch - this one always blooms last because it stands in the shadow of the aforementioned London Plane tree. Such a gorgeous colour!

What the what? Yes, His Holiness was visiting the George W. Bush Presidential Center this week. I stole this jpeg from their website but I am not even going to link to it. So there! Clearly I am not as open-hearted as HHDL. I am posting it because I had an argument with some right wing Born Again Christians this morning about the use of torture. (They were for it, btw). And when I think of right wing, Born Again torturer, I think of George W. Bush!

But how can I send you off to the weekend with that terrible thought? It just ain't right. So...how about this?

Thanks for the pointer, Lela!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mission Three-Quarters Accomplished

Back in the late summer of 2009, Lucy decided to knit herself a sweater as a project to work on as we set off on the first part of our trans-Canadian, Knitting Sprawl adventure. She picked out some bright pink Patons merino wool at Leisure World in Corner Brook (how I love that store's name!) and decided to knit a series of rectangles rather than follow any set pattern. I wholeheartedly endorsed her freewheeling style and she knit her way across five provinces.

Lucy quickly knit both sleeves and the front piece. Then, like many a knitter before her, she got a little stuck. She got a little sick of the yarn and a little weary of all that stockinette stitch. Yes, today's youth experience life so fast. I was in my 20s before I got bored with my knitting, yet Lucy was barely ten and already she was saying things like, "I think I will just cast on for a hat instead" and "I'm only setting this aside while I make some doll clothes". Alright, I have never actually said that last one.

She deftly ignored all pleas that she was nearly done and that, because she knits so fast, she could finished it in a couple of days. Nope. Once down, that baby was staying down. But it bugged me. I hated seeing it cluttering up our knitting basket aka The Mountain. Please make no mention that my own half-finished projects have been making The Mountain what it is for years now. Let's stay focused on Lucy and her sweater, if you don't mind.

Finally, I asked her if I could finish it for her. She agreed. The pieces she had knit, however, told another story. Lucy had grown. Significantly. When you start a sweater at age ten and finish it two years later, there are bound to be sizing issues.

So, I added a piece here and a border there and voila!

Lucy's sweater - 75% her, 25% me, 100% fabulous.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Working the Edge

Increasingly I view my yoga practice as a way of working with fear. Sometimes the fear is so undeniably in my face - if I lean forward this far, will I fall on my face? I have lots of those fears and I could probably go through the Primary Series and list my fears for each asana. Ok, not every single one - some of them I actually love and look forward to greeting again and again each day. For others, I have just a subtle hesitation. Then there are others that I am dreading before I even step on the mat (hello Uttitha Hasta Padangustanasana!).

As I have been working on bhuja pidasana, I have noticed my fear shift from lowering down to the mat after crossing the ankles in front of the arms - this now seems relatively easy and fluid - to the lifting back up. I have fallen on my face enough times to be slightly afraid each time. Yet, I am hitting it correctly, which is to say that I don't land on my face or my bottom, more and more. Not everyday, not even every other day, but it is coming.

What also is coming is just noticing how the fear manifests so that I recognize it as fear - breath gets harsher, jaw is tight, forehead is drawn down (if that makes sense), I get a tingle in my stomach. Ah-ha! Ease the breath, relax the face, and soften the gaze (I love that bit of instruction). Stomach relaxes, concentration increases, asana happens or doesn't happen.

Still here.

Our lovely spirea in full bloom.

PS. The links are to really lovely videos of those asana being done to their fullest potential. My version is definitely a sweatier, smellier, more red-faced version completely unsuited for youtube.

Monday, May 09, 2011


Yesterday morning around 7:30 am, Lucy came groggily downstairs to wish me a happy Mother's Day. She had set her alarm the night before so she would be able to see me before I went to the Zen center for Sunday service. And she presented me with a chocolate bar.

Finnian, being of perhaps a more practical nature, left a card and his gift of a chocolate bar on the dining room table the night before, secure in the knowledge that I would see it in the morning without his needing to get out of bed.

Very sweet.

Before the service began, a handful of women - mothers - came in. We all laughed at the idea that our Mother's Day treat was to get away from the very children who conferred this title upon us. We laughed but we all agreed, it was a treat.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Here is my mom, pictured with one of the best gifts she ever gave me. The sweater is pretty nice too.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Ikebana Fun #3

Elementary Ikebana, Style D (horizontal)

I had a request to write more about what I am doing. I will try my best considering that 90% of it is intuition. The spirea branch is the "object", which should be 1.5X the total of the diameter + height of the vase (approximately - no rulers are used!). The lily is the "subject", which should be around 1/3 of the object in height, or in the case of horizontal, length. One consideration with a flowering subject is the "face" of the flower and choosing an angle that best accentuates it. There also are rules about the placement and angle of the subject in relation to the object. The hosta leaves are filler. Everything is lined up or otherwise placed in the kenzan (flower frog) so as to make it look "natural". The funny part about ikebana is that it is totally contrived with an aim to look natural.

Why does it sometimes work and sometimes not? I honestly have no idea except that you know it when you see it. When I was taking the workshop, the teacher would come and ever so slightly move one element and the whole thing would change in a significant way. Since I have no one checking my work, as it were, I have no idea if my arrangements are acceptable or not. But I am having a great time and thoroughly enjoying looking at them as they change each day and, ultimately, fade away.

ETA - I added some white carnations below the lily because it looked too bare. This was an improvement...but why? I don't know.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

News Update

To spare you any further cryptic postings on turbulence and forgiveness, I want to share some news about what is happening in my life. My husband, Dan, and I are splitting up. I have absolutely no intention of going over any of the details of it here, but I felt like something needed to be said. Also if it means that people will just know and I don't have to actually tell everyone, then so much the better. It is kind of a conversation killer.

Twenty six years and two children later, the process of pulling apart our relationship is complicated and, at times, painful. I hope it isn't too cliched to also say that it also contains a lot of possibility and potential for the future. I suspect that good things lay in store for all of us as we enter our new lives, separate but still very connected.

So that's what is happening.

Now back to my usual poetic musings about art, wool, Newfoundland, Zen, homeschooling, yoga, and...maybe it is time to narrow the focus of this blog.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Step #2

When I was growing up, all the women in my house were using needles. I have always had a fascination with the needle, the magic power of the needle. The needle is used to repair the damage. It’s a claim to forgiveness. Louise Bourgeois

This quote leaped out at me recently. It is from the wonderful Louise Bourgeois who I came thisclose to meeting once. For years and years, she hosted a salon in her house in Chelsea for any artist who wanted to come and bring examples of their work to share. Barb Hunt was in town and we went together. Alas, it was near the end of her life and she was sleeping and no one wished to wake her up. The salon went on despite her absence - we were all there after all - and was hosted instead by two curators, who had good things to say and made me very glad I went. But still. But still, I did see the inside of her house, and if you know Louise Bourgeois' work, then that is saying something.

Forgiveness sounds nice but what does it really look like when one gives up the claim to being the injured party? And what if the person who caused thing that asks for forgiveness never acknowledges the need to be forgiven? Where is forgiveness then?

These thoughts crowd my mind as I pick up my needle.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It's All Relative

Although the NY Times couldn't be bothered to even mention it, Canada held an election yesterday. Among many, there were high hopes that Steven Harper and his Conservative government would finally get the boot. The NDP (New Democratic Party), which falls to the left of the Liberal Party, was experiencing a surge of enthusiasm, especially among younger voters.

Alas, it wasn't to be. Harper is still in with an even larger majority. In the past, when my fellow Canadians would complain about the Conservatives, it was hard not to roll my eyes a little. Most Conservatives are closer to American Democrats in ideology than the fire-breathing, evolution-denying, free market-worshipping wingnuts, I mean crazies, I mean people who go around calling themselves conservative south of the border. But Steven Harper is really a conservative Conservative. His record on women's issues and supporting the arts are especially terrible, but I think it is fair to say that his record on nearly everything is exactly not where Canada should be headed. It is fair to say that if you agree with me about things, that is.

The bright spot is that the NDP did do amazingly well, if not well enough, and they now hold the title of opposition party. I trust that they will fulfill that position as vigorously as is needed. Also, the youth vote did go their way, whch is very hopeful for the future. So, while things did not go as I wished they would, there are some rays of hope that Canada won't fall off the deep end, like some countries I could mention.

I have heard some of my Canadian friends say things like, "it is time to leave the country". Without doubting that it hurts to discover that your countrymen don't share your ideas about where things need to go, it is still just a little, teensy bit hard not to roll my eyes. Believe me, Canada, you still have a loooooong way to go. Your neighbor to the south is in such a deep state of delusional madness that, even with Steven Harper (and his hair) at the helm, you are still a breath of cool, clear Canadian air.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Before We Rejoice

Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002
by Marvin Bell

The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs,
the inky blue that invades a blackened eye,
the eyeball that bulges like a radish,
that incarnadine only blood can create.
They asked the young taxi driver questions
he could not answer, and they beat his legs
until he could no longer kneel on their command.
They chained him by the wrists to the ceiling.
They may have admired the human form then,
stretched out, for the soldiers were also athletes
trained to shout in unison and be buddies.
By the time his legs had stiffened, a blood clot
was already tracing a vein into his heart.
They said he was dead when they cut him down,
but he was dead the day they arrested him.
Are they feeding the prisoners gravel now?
To make them skillful orators as they confess?
Here stands Demosthenes in the military court,
unable to form the words “my country.” What
shall we do, we who are at war but are asked
to pretend we are not? Do we need another
naive apologist to crown us with clich├ęs
that would turn the grass brown above a grave?
They called the carcass Mr. Dilawar. They
believed he was innocent. Their orders were
to step on the necks of the prisoners, to
break their will, to make them say something
in a sleep-deprived delirium of fractures,
rising to the occasion, or, like Mr. Dilawar,
leaving his few possessions and his body.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Ikebana Fun #2

On Thursday evening some friends stopped over and one of them brought a bouquet of lovely spring flowers - carnations and lilies. I knew they had potential!

Another Style A. Style A means vertical. I find it more challenging than some of the more horizontal arrangements but this is what the flowers said, so I did it. I added some spirea and azalea from our garden. The background (besides the bowls of keys and loose change) is a hooked mat made by Shawn of islandsweet. She doesn't make these anymore, having caught the spinning bug big time, so it is even more precious to me. I think it makes a lovely counterpoint to the ikebana.

All this flower arranging has inspired me to finally maintain some fresh flowers on my little home altar - something I could never be bothered to do before. Finally complete!