Sunday, October 31, 2010

amazing women at every turn.

Women are the real architects of society.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

This past week has reminded me once again, that I am surrounded by kick ass women - near and far.  

First there is Cherie Kollee, a friend of a friend, and the creative force behind Girlybaby. After seeing a picture of a Cinderella costume she made on her facebook page, I asked her if she had any left. She offered to make a custom pink princess costume for Cameron (one week before Halloween I might add).  She even had it ready in time for Cameron to wear to daycare on Friday.  I squealed with delight when I saw it - truly the definition of pink perfection.  Someone commented that they thought Cameron was dressed up as "Pretty" for Halloween.  I have to agree.

There is also my friend Alana, who is a public school music and art teacher, single mom, sings in 2 bands, and teaches harp privately.  She agreed, without even a second thought, to illustrate the children's book I wrote for my latest Woman of Wonder mission.  Cameron and I visited her in Kitchener yesterday and she drew ten illustrations in 90 minutes.  Incredible.  I can't wait to get this project up for everyone to see - her work is beautiful.
Cameron is tired of pictures.  Enough Mommy!!

This morning Cameron and I went to my friend Jennifer's, aka, The Party Mama, Halloween Party.  Jennifer is also a teacher, but has taken a few years "off" to get to spend more time with her children while they are wee.  And by "off", I mean she is still supply teaching and running a business.  Her Halloween party filled up in the first day after being announced.  There were 100 kids there.

Her mom, Denise (The Party Mama's Mama) was also at the party.  Denise is always ready with a smile and is always at Jenn's events supporting her with whatever needs to get done.
Also at the party was Kate McIntosh, a photographer with a million pounds of patience! She had these kids posing and smiling like it was their favourite thing in the world.  And when the sun moved and she had to haul her set across the park for better lighting?  No big deal - all in a day's work.
Of course, my favourite still-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman, Cameron, inspires me every day with her smiles and laughs and the funny things that come out of her mouth.  She makes my heart hurt (in a good way).
Being a princess is hard work, yo.
There are so many more amazing women in my life that I haven't mentioned here (my mom, and Jennifer, to name a few). They have been such great supporters of me, and are always here for me to lean on. Okay - off to finish that book, grocery shop, and of course, quilt. The night is young!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

gum drops quilt update.

The Gum Drops baby quilt that I started earlier this week is almost complete.  I finished piecing the top last night.  As you can see, it's a fairly small quilt (40" x 40").  Cameron is very excited and is encouraging me to keep going and finish it up so she can have it to sleep with asap.
The last step, of course, is to make the quilt sandwich and quilt the darn thing (my least favourite part).  Good thing it's small!  I managed to squeak into the Oakville Sewing Centre right before they closed shop last night to pick out the backing material.  It is one of the six in the picture below.  Can you guess which one I chose?  You'll have to wait until I finish the project to know for sure!  
Stay tuned - I have a feeling this one will be done in the next few days (heaven help me).

how to be a cool mom (by making your kids a wall chalkboard).

A few weeks ago, I found out that Max adores writing on a chalkboard. This tool is used a lot in his ABA therapy. It was suggested that we get an easel for him to use at home. I'm all for providing Max with the tools he needs, but really? We have no room for yet another toy, easel or not. So what to do? 

Turn one of our walls into a magnetic chalkboard.

What? You didn't know you could do this? 
Yeah, me neither.  Here's how you do it.

Steps 1 & 2:
Note: I recommend selecting a contained space because then you can explain that it's only okay to use chalk on this area alone - not the entire house.

Step 3:

Steps 4, 5, and 6:
Note: I bought 2 cans of paint at Home Depot - one was a magnetic primer, the other was a chalkboard paint.  Since the area was so small, I applied it with a brush instead of a roller.

Step 7 (8 coats later!) :
Note: It's really, really hard to wait for 3 days before you can test it out, but after putting so much time into it, you really don't want to screw it up, so try to be patient!

Step 8:

Step 9:

Step 10:
Note: I added the border (bought at any decent office supply store) to help provide a visual separation between the chalkboard and the wall).  We'll see if this helps Max and Cameron keep their chalk where it's supposed to be!

Step 11:
Note: I got the kids dustless chalk.  It's a Crayola product.  I have only found white dustless chalk so far, but there is multi-coloured dustless chalk out there somewhere - I just have to track it down!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

be awesome.

Today was a full day.  I often think those are the best kind (as my friend Jennifer says "the secret to life is keeping busy").

We decked the kids out in orange and black for school and daycare (I think that was a theme or something today?).  Max was non-plussed, Cameron was pleased with her black pants with silver stars on them (and who can blame her? We should all have black pants with silver stars on them).

I spent the day in Toronto at the Blissdom Canada conference.  I didn't have specific expectations for this conference, only the hope that it would be less overwhelming than BlogHer and that it would get my creative juices flowing again.  It certainly made good on both of those wishes.

The highlight came early, and that was the musical guest, Tanya Davis.  You may already be familiar with her work (her youtube video "How To Be Alone" is almost at 2 million views).  She performed a few songs from her soon to be released album "Clocks And Hearts Keep Going".   Tanya is quirky and funny and eloquent - the kind of person I look at and think "I wish I could express myself like she does".  I also had the pleasure of eating lunch with her.  She asked me if I was a Leo.  I have no idea why.

These conferences are alway a trip for me.  Incredible writers, funny and smart women, people who get me, who don't tilt their head quizzically when I say I have a blog.  They are my people and even if I walk into a room of folks I don't know, I am at home.  The most important lesson from today was not a new one, but an excellent reminder.  Be awesome.  Create awesome and compelling content.  Stand behind it.  Don't settle for anything less.  And to quote one of my favourite bloggers, you don't need to write your blog trying to figure out what the twist to your story is.  You are the twist, and that is enough.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

my own personal popeye.

Max really likes fruits and vegetables.  He likes them so much, that he would choose and apple or tomato over a cookie.  Many children with Autism have really quirky eating habits where due to sensory issues, they will only eat one or two items - like oatmeal, or bagels, so we consider ourselves lucky.  Yesterday Max took his love for veggies to a whole new level and ate half of a jumbo container of fresh spinach.  Spinach.  

All I can say is:
I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam that I yam
And I got a lotta muscle and I only gots one eye
And I'll never hurt nobodys and I'll never tell a lie 
Top to me bottom and me bottom to me top 
That's the way it is 'til the day that I drop, what am I?
I yam what I yam. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

a quilt for cammy.

My next quilting project was going to be a tree skirt kit I bought last May at Regalitos Quilting.  I figure if I get started on the Christmas stuff now, I might actually get it done by the time the big guy in the red suit starts wandering around our house looking for our non-existent chimney. 

Cameron, had other ideas.  She discovered this fun Gum Drops baby quilt I ordered from Quiltology in my quilting stash.  She brought it over to me, peered up into my face and said "Mommy make quilt for Cammy?".  Dear lord.  Add to that she had a runny nose and a raspy little voice and I just melted.  I promised her that it would be the very next quilt I made.  She smiled and said "I love you mommy" and then I gave her the keys to my car. 

The quilt pattern is one from Blue Underground Studios.  You should check out their site if you dig modern quilt designs as they have very reasonable prices and patterns that will blow your quilt loving mind.  I really need to get a job where I get paid to stay home and quilt and blog about it...hmmm...

Stay tuned to see how this quilt turns out.  It should come together fairly quickly (the baby version of it is 1/4 the size of the original pattern). 

fat kid flash back.

My birth-father and me at a 5km race.
This morning, after I dropped Max off at school, I drove past the Grade 6 Girl's gym class who were out running cross country on a route around the school neighbourhood.  Seeing them brought me back to my days at Unionville Public School, running around Toogood Pond for my Grade 6 gym class. I despised gym with all my heart. 

And then I saw her. 

She was walking by herself, huffing and puffing, her much-too-big-for-her gym shirt hanging almost to her knees.  Girls jogged in small groups ahead of her, laughing at each other's jokes.  Girls walked in small groups behind her, completely absorbed in what was clearly important gossip.  She could have been me.  Talk about a fat kid flash back. 

I was a chunky kid. I wore glasses. I had buck teeth. My face broke out. Insult to injury? I was smart too. As you can imagine, I was not popular. Not at all.  I wore baggy clothes to try to hide my body, thinking that if I wore something ill fitting, it would bring less attention to the fact that I was not skinny like the cool girls.  Grade 6 girls are mean jerks when they travel in packs.  That was true when I was a kid, and it's true to this day. 

It was on one of those "runs" for Canada Fitness testing, where we had to do laps around pylons on the field behind the school that I decided if I had to run alone, it would be because I was at the front of the class and none of the other girls could keep up with me.  At least then I could hold my head high and not feel like the class loser who nobody wanted to be seen with.  

From that day forward, no matter how much my legs were burning, my lungs felt like they were going to explode, or how red my face got, I made sure to be the first girl to clock in. I remember the shocked look on my gym teacher, Mrs. Manley's face, the first time I rounded the corner of the pond and appeared on the school field, with no other girl even in sight.  She nodded curtly at me, and I thought to myself "yeah, that's right, I may be fat but I can still hustle".  That was the day I became a runner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

mental health monday: uncle.

It turns out, you can’t do it all. At least, I can’t.

This past week, Scott and I decided to make some changes. Changes for the better. We have a lot of balls in the air right now, and unfortunately, we have been letting some of the most important ones drop. Kids, therapy schedule, school consults, doctor’s appointments, full time job, eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep…can you guess what has been falling by the wayside? You got it – eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep have been the bottom of the totem pole for far too long. Ironically, they are the very things we need to be doing consistently to be making sure we have the energy to get all the other stuff done. But how? There are only so many hours in the day, only so many days in a week. Something has got to give, and it probably shouldn’t be my sanity.

Long story short, I am reducing my hours at work from full-time to 75%. This, of course, means a pay cut, which is less than ideal. But, I can’t see any other way (besides paying someone to come in and take care of the kids, manage Max’s therapy, cook, and exercise for me). That last one is very attractive though…anyway, paying someone to do all that would be more expensive than the pay cut and would actually do zilch for my mental health, which is definitely waning right now.

For some reason, I feel like a bit of a failure for not being able to do it all. If I just worked a little harder, gave myself a bigger kick in the ass, and had a better attitude, I could make it all work. But, then again, all but one of the families I know who have a young child with Autism have a setup where the mom stays at home full time. And even then, it’s still a lot to keep everything in order and make sure that everyone’s needs are being met. Just this morning Scott and I debated who would stay home with Cam because she is still under the weather. Neither of us could, so we opted to take her to daycare and play the wait-and-see game (as in wait and see how long it takes for the daycare to call us to come and get her).

Here’s hoping a slightly lighter load will help make things better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

competing for the "god of cake" title.

Turns out my kids love cake. Like, love it love it.  I suspected this would be the case when I picked it at Whole Foods today.  [non-sequitur: have you noticed that many of the people who shop at Whole Foods are pompous assholes, or is it just me?  Oh yeah, I made the table cloth in this picture.]
Back to the cake.  It started out as a Halloween cake.  I needed a birthday cake - a chocolate one.  And not one of those dairy-gluten free chocolate cakes.  A real dog damn chocolate cake.  The only real deal chocolate cakes to be found at Whole Foods was one with a big jack-o-lantern cookie on it and icing bats.  [non sequitur: while the customers at Whole Foods are in general, ass-hats, the staff are quite helpful and friendly.]
[non sequitur in photo format: this picture is funny, eh?]
So I says to the guy, "guy, can you ummm...un-Halloween this cake for me?" As in, take all that Halloween crap off the top and turn it into a birthday cake please?  And he, because he is a baker and has the most awesome job in the world, said, "sure thing sweet cheeks.  Come back in 5 minutes".  [quasi non sequitur: he didn't really call me sweet cheeks, but he seemed like the kind of guy who would, under different circumstances, like if he was a bartender and I just ordered a vodka tonic and told him to make it a double.]  I wandered around picking up an over-priced salad, some chicken ravioli, blueberry muffins, fresh bread, and then when I realized I was actually going to have to PAY for all this stuff, I figured I better stop putting overpriced-yet-oh-so-tasty items in my cart and go check on the cake.
He showed me the cake and I was all "dude, that's wicked!" and he was all "yeah, well, you know, I'm good like that".  I gingerly put the cake box in my cart and went to the cashier and paid, making some super lame joke about how I had offered to bring salad and a dessert and then totally not bothered to make either the salad or the dessert, and the cashier gave me this look that said "who are you kidding lady, this salad and cake are way better than anything you could ever make".  And I couldn't even be mad at her for thinking that because a) I have no proof and b) she's totally right.
[non sequitur in photo format #2: damn I love this kid.]
Max is currently high on sugar and rummaging in our kitchen for more sugar.  I think he might have beat Cameron out for the "god of cake" title.  [non sequitur: I'm painting a chalkboard on our kitchen wall while I wait for him to go to sleep.  It needs 3+ coats and each coat takes 30+ minutes to dry.  I have a feeling I'll get this project done before he conks out.]  Good night and good luck.

how to make a jelly roll quilt in one week.

Hot off the sewing machine! Here it is a fait a compli! I am really pleased with how this moda jelly roll (origins by basic grey) combined with  the "Braided Links" pattern from the "Jelly Roll Quilts and More" by Kimberly Einmo turned out.

If you are interested in checking out the process from beginning to end, go to:
part 1: getting started
part 2: piecing the top

I decided to leave the border off to give the quilt a more modern/urban look.  I stuck to straight line/stitch in the ditch quilting (my free motion quilting needs some work).  I used a hand dyed variegated 35 wt. 3 ply 100% long staple cotton thread called "Bumble Bees" by Valdani.  I like how the traditional log cabin style pattern is made modern with the hip fabric.  You would never guess that this combination of colours and patterns would work, but it really does pop.  That's actually one of the things I love about jelly rolls (besides the reduced cutting/prep time) - the colour selection often pushes you outside of your comfort zone and keeps things interesting.

Linda (my quilting mentor at The Oakville Centre) encouraged me to go with my bold selection for the backing.  This is a flannel, which is the type of fabric I use on the majority of my quilts (comfy for the recipient of your quilt but be warned that flannel doesn't glide through your machine as well as cotton does).  I used a bright orange on the back of my crazy quilt and I smile every time I look at it.  My suggestion to quilters - be brave!! Don't go safe and boring, it's such a fun surprise for someone to flip your quilt over and see something they weren't expecting.
If you're wondering how the heck I finished this quilt in a week (on top of a full-time job and having 2 young children), I broke it down like this:

Saturday night: cutting
Sunday: piecing blocks
Monday: complete top
Tuesday: put quilt sandwich together
Wednesday & Thursday: quilt, quilt, and quilt some more
Friday: sew binding on
Saturday morning: hand stitch binding

I'm off to deliver my quilt to Linda at the Oakville Sewing Centre (she's going to put it on display - what an honour!).

Friday, October 22, 2010

birthdays and chemo.

My mother-in-law turns 59 next week.

She will also, if all goes according to plan, be start treatment for the lung cancer that was discovered in July. We won’t go into the back story on why it has taken this long to get treatment started; all I’m going to say is welcome to Canadian healthcare.

I want to bake her cake, and make her favourite meal. Shower her with lovely gifts and have a big to-do for her. That’s what I want. But that’s not what she wants. She doesn’t want us to make a big deal for her birthday. From the way she talks about it, I think she would prefer if we just ignored it and pretended it was just like any other day.

I get it. How is she supposed to celebrate knowing this could be her last birthday? How do you smile and eat cake and ice cream and oo and ah over gifts when you are facing your own mortality? I don’t know the answer to that. All I know how to do is to keep living. One day at a time, keep on keepin’ on. And today, my mother-in-law is alive, and I want to celebrate that. I want her to know how much we all love her, and how important she is to us.

It’s a constant balancing act. Respecting her wishes, while working to help her stay positive. It feels like she is trying to pull away and shut us out. How do I keep my arms wrapped around her and my foot jammed in the door at the same time, without making her resent me? She doesn’t get to push us all away. She doesn’t get to shut us out. I’ll respect her wishes ‘til the cows come home, but she’s stuck with us, we’re her family.  Maybe I should just make her a cake and decorate the top with "fuck cancer".  It's probably a more honest sentiment than "happy birthday nana".

been thinking...

This week has been a struggle for me (hard to believe I know, with all the quilting I should be feeling like a million bucks!).  The reality is that I feel myself starting to sink, and it's scary because I really don't have time to let my depression get the best of me.  Sure, there are many things I could feel sad and overwhelmed about, but there are so many more that are exciting and new that should have me on cloud 9.  I've been thinking that a mini-roadtrip is in order, and I'm tentatively planning to get away by myself in November if I can swing it. 

Change of subject - I get the most wonderful, supportive emails from my friends.  This past week my friend Becky (who I went to college with in Iowa) emailed me this:

been thinking...

as i drive from work each day to pick up my little girl, my perfect little angel of a 2-year-old, i dread trying to come up with yet more ways to entertain her. what will she want for dinner tonight? how many books will i have to read? will she let me go pee without being angry i won't let her sit in my lap?

and, i find myself thinking each day, in amongst the dread, of you, katrina. of your strength. of your courage. i mean, my daughter is perfect. she's as freaking perfect as any 2-year-old has ever been. she rarely complains; she's brilliant; she's beautiful. she's utterly perfect. and it's still so hard.

i honestly don't know how you can raise two children, let alone an adorable little boy like max. his autism is something that i don't know that i'd be able to handle, and i just wanted to tell you that i'm proud of you. you're showing the world your strength. you're showing all of us your determination driven by a mother's love. you have in you a drive that not only gets you through each day with the challenges of autism, but a drive that helps those of us who watch you do it.

so, thank you. for being the mom - hell, the woman - i'm not sure i'd have the strength to be. good job, kat. love you.


Thank you Becky.  I needed to hear that today.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

live blog: Grey's Anatomy Season 7, Episode 5

tune in at 9pm EST for the live blog!! Join in on the fun :-)

cam's daycare pictures.

Cam's school pictures came home yesterday.  How do I pick just one?  She really should be in the dictionary under "imp".  Also, she should be the president of the "good thing she's cute" club while she's at it.  Thank goodness they got that friggin' pacifier out of her mouth! 

A few nights ago, Scott was getting Cameron into her pajamas, and when he zipped up the front he must have nipped her belly or something, because she let out a scream that would make you think she had been mortally wounded.  Upon further examination, she had barely a scratch on her tummy and was just fine.  Not so in her mind.  She yelled "daddy go away! you hurt me! I don't like you anymore!".  Wow. 

Having been told to go away, Scott followed her instructions and came downstairs to eat dinner with me.  She continued to moan and groan upstairs muttering things like "you hurted me daddy! I don't like you! my tummy has an ow-ey!".  We sat at the dinner table smirking at each other over our pasta, trying not to laugh at how indignant she was.  Finally she came downstairs and stood in the hallway glaring at us.  With one last salvo she had us in hysterics "daddy, I don't like you! mommy I don't like you either! I don't like either of you!!!".  I almost fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard.  Cam, ever the entertainer, also had a hard time staying mad because she is always trying to get a laugh out anyone who will listen and she didn't understand that this time, the joke was at her expense.  I swear this girl is 2 going on 13. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

junior kindergarten update.

For all of the constructive criticism I have doled out about Max starting jk, I also think it is important to balance it out with props to the new members of Team Max.  We had a rough start with junior kindergarten.  Max struggled and let his unhappiness be known by throwing tantrums, biting his EA (several times) and being completely non-compliant.  His teachers were beside themselves trying to figure out a way to get Max settled down and to have him be a part of the classroom.  I felt their frustration.  I felt Max's confusion, and I said a little prayer every morning that "this would be the day that Max clicks with them". 

During the first week of October, something finally fell into place.  Max started smiling when we pulled into the school parking lot.  He trotted to his classroom, his grin spreading from ear to ear when he saw his EA.  I started getting reports back that he had peed in the toilet (progress from holding his urine all morning until he got to blueballoon).  They figured out a way to get him to take his jacket off (the Autism team provided him with a pressure vest - which he loves).  He willingly changed his shoes.  The principal called me one morning to say that he went into Max's room to observe and Max was sitting at a table with some of his classmates and his EA working on counting problems.  We all started to relax.

This past Monday was picture day.  We have never had any success at getting official school pictures of Max at his daycares.  I told his EA not to worry if Max wasn't into having his picture taken, we wouldn't be upset and it just wasn't worth it for everyone to get stressed out about it.  Turns out I needn't have worried, because not only did Max sit for the group photo of his class, he gave the photographer 5 terrific poses to choose from for his individual photo!  I really can't wait to see the pictures.  Milestones come at the most surprising times.

When I dropped Max off this morning, I wanted to get a picture of him smiling.  He immediately went and stood behind his EA, hugging her legs and peering around her to see if I was still there.  He was giggling because she was saying "where's Max? peak-a-boo!" but the minute he saw I was trying to take a picture he got a very serious look on his face.  His EA leaned in and whispered "quiiiiiiiiet" to him in a silly voice and he beamed at her and gave me the smile I was looking for.  I told her "that's wonderful! You already have your own games with Max!".  She smiled back at me, and I could tell that she's starting to fall for him.  It was only a matter of time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tmi tuesday: like a virgin.

My parents will be pleased to know that I arrived at college with my virginity intact. Not that this is something to be proud of or to wave over my head as some sort of moral standard, but you know, I like to over share. At some point between my first day of college and the birth of my first child, I clearly lost my virginity.

When I look at this picture, I feel a whole bunch of emotions. Mostly sad (and not because I was still as pure as the driven snow). I look really happy in this picture. I’ve always been good at turning on the smile for a photo op. The truth is, that even back then I was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. Studying music made me hypercritical of myself. Nothing I ever produced was good enough, for me anyway. I also got incredibly nervous whenever I had to perform. That probably should have made some bells and whistles go off somewhere, but I had decided I wanted to study music. Music was the only thing I found challenging at that point in my young life. In my mind, it was clearly the thing I should be attempting to conquer. Yeah, in retrospect it makes no sense to me either.

I want to take that young woman by the shoulders and shake her and say:
  • You are awesome.
  • You are beautiful.
  • You are smart.
  • You are going to do important things in your life.
  • You should probably be studying carpentry – you would enjoy it a lot more than music.

  • Your roommate (the one with the big boobs and the fake smile) is a jerk, don’t pay any attention to her.
  • Don’t fall for that cute guy just because he’s an incredible musician – he doesn’t like girls and he doesn’t know it yet and he’s going to give you a complex.
  • You should pay more attention to that Jewish guy who is quirky and quiet – he’s going to turn out to be an incredible man.
  • One day you are going to be tight with that guy who keeps sleeping with all your friends – so, don’t hate the player.
  • The young women you are friends with now will still matter to you in 15+ years. Even the one who chased you down the street because she thought you were trying to steal her man!
one last thing...
  • Don’t spend so much time self-obsessing and feeling bad.
  • Run more and don't eat so much dairy queen (you're lactose intolerant dummy).
  • Get on some medication to help you feel better.
  • Enjoy getting to make music everyday and don’t take it for granted.
  • What’s with the plaid shirt?

Of course, even if there had been someone to say all of that to me, (and I’m guessing there was and they did) I would have ignored their words of wisdom. Because that is what being young and foolish and needing to fall on your own ass is all about, right?  Damn I was a cute kid.

quilting up a storm with my moda jelly roll.

My sewing machine hasn’t seen a lot of love from me lately. The last time I used it was back in May when I took the machine quilting class at the Oakville Sewing Centre (shame on me for not practicing and probably forgetting all the good stuff I learned). I can tell that was the last time because my quilting foot was still attached to my machine!  I’ve been working away on my now belated birthday quilt for Jennifer, but that involves hand quilting, which goes sloooooooooowly (painfully so). I clearly needed to sit down and plow through some chain piecing. Cut, pin, sew, iron, cut, pin, sew, iron…the process is very repetitive and I find it completely relaxing.

The hamster running laps in my head has been busy and this leads to lots and lots of quilting.  The pattern I'm using - "Braided Links" from the "Jelly Roll Quilts & More" by Kimberly Einmo is a really good one for me to be working on as it's in my wheel house from a skill perspective, so I'm not stressed about having to figure anything new out. 
This is what the blocks look like before the quilt is assembled
My mind gets quiet.
Everything that was bouncing in my brain settles down.
Things make sense.
All is calm (for a few hours).
I love the way the blocks come together - the darks and lights really work!
The feel of the modern textiles under my fingers, admiring how the beautiful fabrics complement each other as the blocks grow, it’s a form of meditation. I suspect only another quilter would understand. At the end of an evening of quilting, I find that the things that were troubling me before don’t seem so big. My body is tired and ready to sleep. My soul is happy to see the beautiful art I have created from nothing.
I sense a few weeks of heavy quilting are in front of me.  Here is the completed quilt top using the moda jelly roll origins by basic grey. Back to the Oakville Sewing Centre tonight to pick up backing fabric and binding.  This may be the fastest quilt I've ever completed to date!  Hopefully  Kimberly Einmo will stop back to see how her pattern turned out!
This reminds me of flying over Iowa - a landscape of farmer's fields.

Monday, October 18, 2010

where’s #@%$ing manual when you need it?

On principle, I don’t read manuals. That drives a few people in my life crazy (namely Scott). I figure that I am smart enough to sort out stuff on my own. Plus it’s totally faster to dive right in, you with me? Plug it in, turn it on and start pressing buttons. Unpack it, get your screwdriver and start assembling. Get the water boiling, start cutting vegetables and toss in some olive oil and garlic.  I actually prefer it if the instructions are in Swedish or Japanese with a few diagrams sprinkled in for effect. That way I have reference point but I have no choice but to go it alone.

Turns out, sometimes you should read the manual.

Picture it – me, sitting at my sewing machine yesterday. Limited time to get my quilting done and there I am cursing at my poor Janome. Blargh! The thread tension isn’t right! WTF?? I started scrambling around, turning knobs, pulling levers and sewing practice sample upon sample trying to get my machine to produce nice even stitches. Every adjustment I made seem to make things worse. No good.

I finally gave up and went searching for the manual that I recalled came with this machine…over ten years ago.  Of course, it was nowhere to be found. That’s okay – that’s why we have the internet, right? Wrong-zo. My mad google-ninja skillz were unable to turn up the blessed manual – mainly because Janome is doing some sort of website overhaul that has made all of their manuals unavailable (not helpful!). I couldn’t even find an answer to my basic question about thread tension “trouble shooting for Janome 5124 d├ęcor excel II”. Long story short, I wasted a bunch of time looking for the manual and the one time I could have benefited from reading it I could not find a copy of it to save my life.

I got up from the table, went and folded some laundry and came back 15 minutes later. I stared at my machine, begging it to tell me how to get this thread tension thing sorted out, and then the sky opened up and a ray of light hit the stitch selector and I saw that with all my messing around with the settings I had moved it to some wacky stitch and that was the reason everything was screwed up. Once I got it back to straight stitches all was right with the world.

And I did it all without the manual. I doubt the manual would have helped anyway.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

moda jelly roll origins by basic grey.

Beautiful day, kids playing happily outside = me sneaking out to make a quick visit to the Oakville Sewing Centre to pick up the latest Quilts & More magazine.  Of course, I never manage to leave with only a magazine (that would be just about impossible).  As I flipped through the selection of Fall magazines a new jelly roll caught my eye.  Blacks! Yellows! Greens! Browns! and Creams! and oh no...this jelly roll was calling out to me "Katrina, Katrina, you know you want me, you know you can't leave me here in this store all my lonesome".  And who am I to deny such a request?
Linda, the lovely owner of the Oakville Sewing Centre came over to say hello and noticed I had my eye on the display of new Fall fabrics.  "Do you have a sample made up of this yet?" I asked, trying to sound casual.  "No," Linda said, "do you want to sew one up for me?".  Oh yes! Of course! And from there we agreed on a pattern and I walked out of the store with a new jelly roll, some thread, and a new pattern book, all without spending a cent.  That's the first time I've ever left a fabric store without taking my credit card out.  I do, however, have to get moving on getting this quilt completed to make good on my end of the bargain.
We picked out a simple log cabin pattern called "Braided Links" from the "Jelly Roll Quilts & More" by Kimberly Einmo (pictured above) because time is of the essence and the fabric is so beautiful it really doesn't need anything complex, it stands on its own.

I'm always blown away by how much fabric comes packed into a jelly roll.  The best thing about jelly rolls, aside from the fact that all of your colours are matched up for you, is that you have very little cutting to do.  (Please excuse the mess of cords and stuff on the floor - I didn't realize I'd be staging a photo shoot until after I had all of the fabric laid out.)  But you get the idea anyway.

Tonight, cutting and pinning and maybe some sewing.  I'll be sure to post updates on how it goes!!

shadows and light.

Most days I wish my brain would just shut up.  For just a minute.  Scott calls me the Queen of Non-Sequiturs and it's true.  I blip from one idea to another and then back again. Good luck keeping up or even understanding what in dog's name is going on in my head that I can go from talking about social media to complaining about being too tired to make turkey soup and isn't Cameron funny when she acts like a little parrot and boy, it would be really nice to get some new boots this winter.

I should get a t-shirt.  One that says "Queen of Non-Sequiturs...hey, do you know where my keys are and can you pick up waffles on the way home and oh yeah, Max's favourite therapist is on her honeymoon".

And I so, so, wish I was kidding about all this, but I'm not.  Even as I write this I'm thinking about watching the next episode of America's Next Top Model online and why doesn't anyone comment on my Grey's Anatomy live blogs - am I wasting my time? And is that turkey soup going to take all night to cool so I can refrigerate it or should I set my alarm to wake up at 3am to check and see, I'd hate for all that yummy soup to go to

Yeah, shut up brain.

But as I assess my "high" and "low" for the day, I have a few things that compete for the "high" which, you know, is the sign of a pretty solid day (wonderful and supportive email from a girlfriend from college and someone I respect asking me to do some cool social media type stuff).  And the "low", well, I suppose if the worst things that happened were that I had to watch Tinker Bell for the 149th time and I think I'm getting a new zit, I'm doing okay.

I'm working on a new website my spare time (that's a joke...get it?).  It's a review site for toys that children with Autism may dig (based on my control group of "1" being Max).  It's not ready yet, but I think it's a neat project and is something that people who are racking their brains for what the heck to get their kid or their friend's kid or their grandkid who has Autism will find useful.  Yay for being useful!

Time for America's Next Top Model...or maybe I should read that girl with the dragon tattoo book...turkey soup...zit...I need to sew like 4 quilts...I wonder what I would look like as a brunette?

Friday, October 15, 2010

'member when?

swcc choir, circa 1994
I was digging through all of the photos that I have been tagged in on facebook the other day and when I stumbled upon this one I almost snorted coffee through my nose.  I think I was aware my friend Jeremy had posted it, but I blocked it out because, well, look at me.

Can you find me?  Look harder.  Front row, third from the left.  No, that's not Arial, but thanks for that.  I have no idea why I thought dying my hair red would be a good idea.  Man am I glad I didn't get stuck with one of those red dresses. My hair colour was bad enough as it was.

Also, it turns out that red is almost impossible to get out of your hair when you want to go back to blonde.  When I tried to get it bleached out my hair turned pink (right before a voice recital too).  I ended up having to get it all cut off, which led to years and years of trying to grow it out and is the reason I now refuse to have bangs.

But back to the trip down memory lane.  I'm friends with most of these people on facebook - all but 8 in fact (and one of these 8 has sadly passed away - RIP Erin Lindsay).  It's strange to think that most of these fresh faces are now married, with kids, own homes, drive cars where you can't see the road whizzing by under your feet, and no longer consider it acceptable to call mountain dew and licorice breakfast.  It's fun to reminisce but wow am I glad those days (and that hair!) are behind me.

applying for an autism service dog.

Check out Max in his new winter coat from Grandma!
Over the past month, I've been working on filling out an application for an autism service dog from National Service Dogs.  The paperwork is quite extensive (as it should be considering the commitment you need to be willing to make should you be given a service dog).  As part of the application you need to fill out a 12 page form, have your doctor provide a medical history, include a personal reference letter, a picture of your child and directions to your home.  I've been beating myself up for taking so long to get this application submitted, but phew - that IS a lot of stuff to pull together so maybe I'll cut myself some slack!

The wait to get a dog, should your application be approved, is over three years.  For once I don't mind the wait as I think that Max will be better able to handle the responsibility of having a dog when he's a bit older.  A few of our friends who have children with Autism have also applied for dogs, so it will be interesting to see how everything works for them before we welcome a service dog into our home.

A service dog is very different than a family pet.  National Service Dogs has proven that a properly trained autism service dog can:
  • increase safety levels and alleviate the bolting behaviours
  • common in children with autism by acting as an anchor when tethered to the child
  • improve a child's socialization and behavior skills
  • create freedoms for the child and family members to go out of the house safely and confidently
  • expand a child's capabilities to experience more of life and to grow
  • calm children thereby giving them an increased attention span and a greater aptitude for learning
Max really likes animals - especially big dogs that are calm and allow him to sit and pet them.  I'm really hoping that our application is approved - this is one more thing we can do to help Max be happy and safe.  Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

live blog: Grey's Anatomy Season 7, Episode 4

Check back at 9pm EST for the live blog! Join in on the fun!

if i were a bird.

yeah, I know, my poetry skillz could use some work.
I saw my hot doc on Tuesday. He’s still hot. He also has a terrific sense of humour because he is completely okay with me writing blog posts about him. I think he secretly likes the attention.

Lately my appointments have been longer and more often (and not just because he's good looking). With everything going on in my life, I am pretty tightly wound, and we agreed that it would be a good thing for me to checking in on a more regular basis. He looked at my skin (looking much better thanks to the magic potions he prescribed at my last visit) and we chatted about my meds. We have been working at finding the right balance for over 8 months and I think we finally have it. What a relief. It’s been a tough slog but I feel so much better than I did at the beginning of the year.

I think the trick to sorting it all out is that I am comfortable being candid with him about how I am feeling.  I told him yesterday that when I think of myself, I imagine a hummingbird.  Their wings move so fast they appear like they aren't moving at all.  I have been told that on the surface I look calm and collected.  I am always surprised that I manage to pull off looking composed, because on the inside, my brain is whirring a mile a minute and my heart is beating out of my chest.  Well, not always, but often enough that I ask myself if everyone feels this way or if is just me? 

I may be a hummingbird right now, but I aspire to be a swallow, soaring high in the sky.  What type of bird would you describe yourself as?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

women of wonder: my second mission - life drawing.

It's week 2 of the WonderBra Rediscover Your Wonder project.  This week's theme is "rediscover your beauty".  My mission?:

Beautiful Bodies: Take a life drawing class and contemplate the things that define you as a woman.

I was very nervous about this mission – way more nervous than I was about rock climbing (which I'm doing again with Jen this Saturday!). I even got a pre-lesson from my friend Alana.  I think that rock climbing is something you do, and very different than expressing yourself through something creative like art, which is more of a representation of who you are. While drawing is most certainly a skill, you are creating something that wasn’t there before. It’s personal, it can be judged, it’s an extension of you. For the second week in a row, I was throwing myself head first into a completely unfamiliar environment – one that I knew nothing about. I imagined that there would be a group of talented artists who would know the minute I entered the studio that I didn’t belong, and I wasn’t one of them – an “artist”.
Well, you know what Oscar Wilde said about assumptions…yeah, that. Turns out it wasn’t that way at all. I got to the Visual Arts Brampton Creative Studios about 15 minutes early (eager beaver) and nobody was there. Hmmm…hope I didn’t get the time wrong? I sat on the stairs to wait, pad and pencils in hand, novice art student that I was. I few minutes later a young woman walked into the foyer, saw my pad and sat down on the stairs next to me. I asked her if she was there for the class and she said “I’m the model”. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but we chatted for a bit and I told her about the Rediscover Your Wonder project and she was really into it. The studio finally opened up and we went in. There were only 4 people there to draw, so there was a lot of choice as to where to sit in the studio. Everyone was friendly, and the vibe was very relaxed.

When the model came out, she got up on the platform area, disrobed and posed. She held each pose for 2 minutes – she did 10 of these short poses. Then she did three 10 minute poses. I was blown away by how natural it all was. She was so comfortable in her skin, and I was so focused on trying to create respectable lines and shapes that I actually forgot that there was a nude model in front of me. She became just someone I was drawing. Interestingly enough, later on she said that she is at the point now that she thinks of herself as the banana and the orange in a fruit arrangement when she is posing.

This model, she had a beautiful body to draw. Curves and hips and breasts and a tummy – her body told a story. She was so confident too, and she made me realize that it isn’t the shape of your body that matters at all, it’s if you yourself believe that you are beautiful and own it.  She was kind enough to let me interview her during her break, which you will see in this week's video:

Oooo! Also - new sexy underwear from WonderBra (a girl could get used to this!).  Look! See!
And, I figured since this week is all about rediscovering your beauty, I would share a (very tame) picture of me modeling my new underwear.  Hey, if Devon can pose nude for 2.5 hours, I can pose in a picture of a bra that is the equivalent of a bikini top!  Enjoy ;-)
Check out to see what the other Women of Wonder are up to!