Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lucky Dog

Lucky Dog Branded
Lucky Dog. By Amaranth Road Studio. November 2011.

My most recent needle felting project is a commission for a friend  who said she wanted a puppy and gave me free reign beyond that. I'm very happy with the results and I present Lucky the Dog!

Lucky is 4 inches high and made of Corriedale wool roving. He is very firmly felted with glass eyes and metal button jointed arms. His legs are not jointed so as to provide a firm base for standing. The project took about 8 hours to complete.

Lucky Dog 7

Lucky Dog 4

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Knits for My Baby

Baby Blanket
Geometric Baby Blanket. Pattern from Amaranth Road Studio. 2011

Knitting for my baby is meditation for their future. I conjure a world that is warm and soft as merino yarn flies through my fingers, creating a web of garter stitch and deep intention. This Geometric Baby Blanket took me four months to knit. A flash in knitting time where projects have a tendency to stretch out for years. But with the baby due in early February time is short if I want to greet my newborn with gifts of wooly clothing.

Baby Blanket 3

The pattern for this blanket was designed with a baby's visual development in mind. The starkly contrasting colours begin as a bit of a blur, but the baby eventually learns to distinguish between them. I just liked the optical illusion of a swirling, hypnotic tunnel. It's not your typical lacy baby blanket, and I found that appealing.

In addition to the blanket I managed to whip off a baby hat in a single day during a trip to a family cabin. Spud and Chloe's Apple Hat (size 0-6 months) was an amazingly quick and fun project. The yarn colours are awesome and I love the wool/cotton blend of Spud and Chloe Sweater yarn. I have enough left over to make another hat so I may need to find another baby requiring an apple hat. I also maintain that apple hats are complete gender neutral!

Apple hat This will probably not be the end of the baby knitting. The projects are so small and irresistible that I expect I'll become addicted.

Green Apple Hat. Pattern by Spud and Chloe. Amaranth Road Studio. 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Recommended Reading: Toast by Nigel Slater

 I just finished reading Nigel Slater's memoir Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger. This is a story of growing up told through food--each memory tied to a meal, a candy, a tin of fruit, something served or something withheld. It is about the awkwardness of youth, about growing up, about sexual experience, and about  the flavours and smells that permeate life and knot together the physical and emotional worlds of a teenage boy.

Slater's recollections of the food that held together the narrative of his life are astounding in their detail and I began to think about my own gastronomic existence. I didn't believe I could possibly summon up memories of the things I ate as a child, but it seems that the aromas and textures are there, just below the surface.

If I were to tell my life in food I would start with animal pancakes. My father used a plastic medicine syringe to create pancakes in the shape of dogs, cats, even our names spelled out in batter. I would move from there to dinners at the round table in my childhood home, with benches instead of chairs. For some reason my memories are mostly of mid-winter dinners when it was dark by 5:00. There would be cheese bunnies--hot dog buns covered in cheese, bacon, and ketchup--or maybe Tuna Mornay which came in a box but tasted like heaven. At some point the recipe changed and Tuna Mornay was never the same again. It disappeared from the menu. Sometimes there were prime rib dinners with yorkshire puddings served by candlelight.

Summer had its own foods--raspberry swirl cookies bought at the Kingsville bakery, purple people eater ice cream, grape coloured with candy flowers in it, roadside peaches, bacon and tomato sandwiches made from Guido's homegrown beefsteak tomatoes, Baba's canned dill pickles, peaches, and applesauce and watermelon that she would cut up into bite sized chunks and tirelessly remove the seeds from.

For holidays there are arrays of famous foods that cannot be replaced for fear of retribution--Baba's perogies, city chicken, great trays of cabbage rolls, borscht, and beets with horseradish. There's dad's famous pistachio bundt cake, mom's famous ribbon jello, an aunt's famous broccoli casserole, an uncle's famous apple pie, the best kielbasa from a Toronto butcher, hulvah pieces so sweet your teeth hurt, and a Terry's chocolate orange in the toe of your stocking.

The deeper I dig, the more food related memories I find. The nourishment and abuse of my body through food is inseparable from the events of my life--Devonshire chicken so delicious we would fight to lick the pan and burn our mouths on the first bites every time, Friday night pizza after my orchestra rehearsals, milk dyed with food colouring after swimming lessons, mom's occasional bags of salted pistachios and endless supply of sunflower seeds, dad's prosciutto and olives that we all turned our noses up at thinking they smelled like dirty feet, Boursin cheese, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich--100% processed ingredients: white wonder bread, Kraft singles, and tons of butter, Christmas morning cranberry muffins, the paska that my mom and I made at Easter, lonely nights during the first year of my Masters degree where I would hide in my room watching Sex in the City on DVD and scarfing whole boxes of Corn Bran cereal to fill up the empty ache in my stomach that had nothing to do with physical hunger. These aren't just memories of calories consumed but memories of bonds forged, personalities developed, and traditions cemented.

For anyone who has an interest in food, whether it be sweets or the finest french cuisine, I definitely recommend Slater's memoir. It calls to the heart as well as the stomach and may dredge up memories of your own childhood meals prepared with love or just a sense of drudgery and duty. There is nothing more basic than the need to eat and nothing more complex than the pursuit of nourishment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Featured Art: Frost Tree

Frost Tree, originally uploaded by kayla coo.

I wore my winter coat this morning. There's no doubt that winter is descending on the west coast. The recent time change brought the darkness and now we're getting the wind, the rain, and the cold. We're supposed to have a particularly chilly winter which I hope will mean more sun than usual. Today we're having an uncharacteristically bright day for mid-November in Vancouver.

With winter on my mind I wanted to showcase this beautiful piece of needle felting and embroidery by Michala Gyetvai ( I love this winter landscape for its marriage of opposites--the warmth of wool and cozy embroidery juxtaposed against the twinkling frostiness of the scene. It certainly reminds me of how beautiful winter can be even in its desolation.