Thursday, 22 May 2008

A Sweater for Big Brother

“I don’t like it. I won’t wear it Mommy”. After spending untold hours patiently and lovingly knitting this dear little sweater for Chi-Chi, these are the first words to come from those sweet lips. Not exactly music to my ears! Like most three year olds, a little convincing and bribery was all that was required to get Chi-Chi to slip on his new threads. Now that he’s got it on and is being praised for being so darn cute, he rather likes it.

Like brother Muffy, Chi-Chi was recently presented with a new addition to his spring wardrobe. An adorable little sweater hand-knit by the Wool Fairy herself. Once again, I tried my hand at dyeing wool and I’m quite tickled with the results. While Muffy’s vibrant green and blue sweater is well suited to his spirited personality, the warm, earthy tones of Chi-Chi’s are an appropriate match for this loving, sensitive and contemplative little guy. Of course, he’s full of spunk and sunshine as well, he’s just a little more subdued. Once again, I used the Easy Peasy Sweater pattern from Little Turtle Knits. I love the cuffs on the sleeves as they provide ample room for future growth, extending the wear life of the sweater.

The sweater knitting process turned out to be a bit of an educational experience for Chi-Chi. One of his favorite reads these days is Licorice and the Brown Sweater by Nova Scotia author Thelma Morris-Fogarty. This endearing tale tells the story of how one little sheep learns what happens to his wool once it is sheared. Though originally afraid to be sheared, he’s pleased to see his beautiful brown wool created into a special sweater for a dear friend. Although we don’t raise sheep (yet), Chi-Chi was with me when I purchased the wool from Gaspereau Valley Fibres. He was thrilled to pet the friendly resident sheep Willie during his visit. He watched me dye his wool and sat by my side during my knitting sessions.

Chi-Chi’s not the only one who learned a valuable lesson during this project. Mommy learned likely one of the most important rules in knitting - make sure you have enough wool to complete a project before diving in. Sure enough, to my dismay and horror, I ran out of yarn well before completion! This can create quite the dilemma, particularly when working with a hand-dyed one of kind skein. There was no recipe to follow as the dyeing process was extremely experimental! I had two options. Pull it out and start over with a different yarn or try to replicate my “one of a kind” dye job. I opted for the latter and the results were actually surprisingly good. Though not a perfect match, I achieved a fairly flawless transition to the new wool. I then did a quick over dye job to help blend everything in.

Chi-Chi and Muffy are quite the pair in these little sweaters!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Feasting on Fiddleheads

Although I'm currently considered a "Bluenoser" based on my place of residence, I originally hail from the North shore of New Brunswick. To be specific, I grew up in the sleepy little village of Tide Head. At first glance, the community of Tide Head appears rather ordinary, however, it just happens to be the self-proclaimed fiddlehead capital of the world! Growing up, a sure sign of spring in our household was a hearty serving of fiddleheads on our dinner plates.

For those who are scratching their heads as to why we crazy New Brunswickers would choose to chomp on something that sounds like a musical instrument, let me enlighten you. Fiddleheads are the uncoiled greens of the ostrich fern. They are abundant in many parts of the world, but are mainly harvested in Northeastern Canada and the US. This delicacy is picked in early spring, when the tender green shoots are peeking out of the earth just an inch or two.

My parents, who just moved to Nova Scotia over a year ago, were pleased and relieved to find a fresh supply of fiddleheads at the local farmers market. Though available in Nova Scotia, they don’t seem to be as abundant or widely enjoyed as in our hometown. “Fiddleheading”, as it is known, is part of the culture in Northern New Brunswick. I have clear childhood memories of venturing to our family’s “secret spot” each spring to fill our buckets for dinner. My mother would blanch and freeze our crop so we could enjoy our greens throughout the year.

What’s so great about fiddleheads one might ask? Firstly, they are delicious. Boiled and topped with a generous pat of butter, these tender, mouth-watering greens are delectable. Chi-Chi was introduced to fiddleheads at a very young age and he is hooked. He gobbles them up and asks for seconds. Dear little Muffy is another story. He is currently being convinced that it would be worthwhile to just try a bite! As a mommy, I’m glad to report that fiddleheads also happen to be a nutritional powerhouse. They are chock full of vitamins and minerals.

Not surprisingly, the Wool Fairy sought inspiration in the arrival of the fiddleheads this season. She whipped up a few tasty greens for Chi-Chi and Muffy’s play kitchen. Strangely enough, Muffy won’t stop chomping on the wool variety. Perhaps he’ll come around soon on the real thing! He won’t be disappointed!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Buying Local at the Bookstore

No doubt, over the last year, many of us started exercising increased care and consideration when choosing toys for our little ones. My family’s toy box has certainly experienced a metamorphosis. Its contents consist primarily of handmade items created by yours truly. When purchasing toys, I attempt to stick to items made as close to home as possible. My reasons for this approach are varied ranging from safety, quality and aesthetic considerations to environmental and social concerns.

Recently, my focus has shifted from the toy box to the bookshelf. Have you ever taken a moment to read the fine print in your kiddies’ books? “Printed in China” appears time and time again. It seems that books, like most other consumer goods, make a long trek from the other side of the world before reaching store shelves. Practically speaking, it would be impossible for me to limit my library acquisitions to items printed in North America. My passionate love of books prevents me from setting such harsh restrictions! It is, however, worthwhile and rewarding to explore the numerous children’s titles available from our very talented local authors. Most often, these books are printed and published in Canada, something that just seems to make a lot more sense!

A new family favorite, which I recently picked up at The Box of Delights in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is Bounce and Beans and Burn by Shannon Murray, illustrated by Doretta Groenendyk. Murray is from our neighbouring Maritime province, the beautiful Prince Edward Island. Groenendyk lives just a hop, skip and a jump from my parents in the Annapolis Valley. In fact, I’ve been admiring her whimsical, folksy artwork for the past couple of years at local galleries. What a treat to have some of them so beautifully presented in one of our cherished bedtime tales.

This is a fun, magical tale of a little boy with “Bounce and Beans and Burn” and a wonderfully vivid imagination. Chi-Chi seemed to connect with the main character almost immediately. Perhaps he feels a sense of kinship with our friend Sam in the book. My experience has been that books written by local authors tend to strike a chord with my children. Most often, the subject matter hits home with them as the stories include familiar landmarks, characters and concepts.

I’m looking forward to stocking Chi-Chi and Muffy’s summer reading list with more “local products” over the months ahead!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Adventures in Doll Making

As my adventures in doll making continue, I’m proud to introduce my latest labour of love, “JJ”. She’s a little doll destined to become friends with one very special little girl.

I must admit, JJ is quite a cutie pie! I’m simply in love with her hair. It’s no wonder as she has quite a decadent set of tresses. I used an entire 4 oz skein of silky soft baby alpaca boucle to create those bouncy pigtails she’s sporting. Everyone who picks her up is immediately drawn to her gorgeous set of locks. It’s actually quite therapeutic to run your fingers through it. I can envision her special friend spending hours fingering, styling, braiding and admiring her beautiful hair. JJ’s wardrobe consists of a snuggly little sweater I knitted using hand-dyed wool from the Fleece Artist, as well as an adorable sundress in a fun, flowery batik print. I’ve mentioned time and time again, I’m not much of a seamstress. My dear mother kindly offered to assist with JJ’s dress. She skillfully and patiently hand and machine stitched that sweet little dress for JJ. Thanks Mom!

As my good friend Nurtured Mom can attest too, doll making is a tad addictive. It’s so fascinating to witness the transformation of one's raw materials (cotton interlock, clean, carded fleece, natural yarns) into a unique little character with a personality of his or her own. The blank generic stares of store bought dolls simply do not compare!

I’ve grown quite attached to JJ over the past month. I know the time is near to bid farewell as she will soon be meeting her dear little friend. My hope is that she’ll provide her new friend with both comfort and companionship over the years to come.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

If You Feed Them They Will Come

Most mornings, as I peer out my kitchen window in a groggy, sleep-deprived state, I swear I’m gazing at a bustling barnyard at feeding time. A menagerie of feathered friends scratch and peck as they gobble up their breakfast. Bunnies galore nibble away on fresh green leaves of sweet clover. Hoofed creatures meander across the lawn. Perhaps I’m simply stuck in a state of reverie. As a young girl, I dreamed of living on a farm, complete with a rambling farmhouse, lofty barn and field full of grazing ponies.

A closer glance reveals that my barnyard friends are not a domestic variety, but rather wild creatures who seem to have found a welcome haven on Seaside Farms II. Ring-necked pheasant, black ducks, snowshoe hares and white-tailed deer are the “regulars” most mornings. They all appear quite pleased and satisfied with the hearty serving of cracked corn Chi-Chi and Muffy dish up each day. They certainly keep coming back for more!

Although I genuinely appreciate and enjoy the presence of these visitors, I marvel most at the fascination and interest displayed by my little ones. Muffy in particular is captivated with feathered creatures. Sammy Seagull and the family of ducks are his favorites. Chi-Chi never ceases to amaze me with his keen and observant eye. At the age of three, he enthusiastically flips through the pages of his nature book, identifying the animals he spots.

It pleases me that my children are provided with a constant stream of educational entertainment right outside our dining room window. Who needs a TV? We’ve locked our dial on the 24 hour nature channel!!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Muffy's New Spring Sweater

While the Wool Fairy's dear husband was off galavanting to exotic corners of the Earth, she had plenty of "free time" to fill in the evenings. With a steaming cup of tea as her faithful companion, she put in a fair number of hours, knitting up a storm. Muffy's new spring sweater is the result of her efforts and it is quite simply adorable!

It was both exciting and rewarding to witness the transformation of my hand-dyed skein into a unique and special piece of clothing for my little Muffy. The bright, playful colors are a perfect fit for Muffy, who is a bundle of bubbling energy and enthusiasm. I simply melted inside as I watched Muffy prance around the yard in his little sweater like a new spring lamb. I simply cringed as I observed him rolling around in the mud with it like a little piggy! I'll have to get over that I suppose!

I purchased this "Easy Peasy Sweater" pattern on line from Little Turtle Knits ( This is a great beginner project as it is knitted in one piece and it's all done in garter stitch. I've got another skein set aside, ready and waiting to be knitted into a warm earth-toned sweater for Chi-Chi.

I'm still dumbfounded that a few simple bottles of food coloring that I picked up at the Bulk Barn could produce such a rich, vibrant color scheme. I must admit, I'm not keen on finding culinary uses for my set of food dyes. It's actually frightening to think this potent stuff is deemed "safe" to ingest. Although I'm a true fan of bright colors, I think I'll pass on a rainbow inside my intestinal tract!