The Canning Kitchen

The Canning Kitchen coverI love it when bloggers experience success especially when it’s a blogger I’ve been following for some time. Seeing them on TV or their books in print, make me excited for them . . .mostly because I know that it probably took years of building a relationship with readers and juggling many plates while trying to deliver the best content. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fellow Canadian bloggers, in particular Savvy Storytellers.

When I saw that Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag, a go-to for quick and easy family friendly recipes, had published a book, I wanted to share it with you.

The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a must-have companion to the bountiful summer harvest season. I have wanted to try my hand at dill pickles and this book covers the classics but it also inspires with new recipes like for Salted Caramel Pear Butter.

Canning isn’t just for grandma anymore!  Give it a try and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

To order your copy of The Canning Kitchen click here.

How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

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How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

Coffee

Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

Cocktails

Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

Tablecloth

Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

How to Transfer a Photograph Onto Wood: Easy DIY Tutorial

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Ever since catching a few photo transfer craft projects online, it’s been on my to do list.  I love natural materials so I focused on transfers to wood blocks. In the spirit of discovery for photography month here at 4 Mothers, I’ve just my first batch delighted to report that I think this is a keeper!  It’s easy (easy enough to do with patient children), takes few materials (fewer than I saw listed in other online tutorials), and makes a memorable and inexpensive keepsake or gift. You do know that Father’s Day is around the corner, right?

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What you’ll need:

– a block of unfinished wood (from the dollar store, or scrap from the hardware store)

– a photograph printed from a laser printer onto regular copy paper (note: the photo will end up being a mirror image unless you flip it on your computer before you print it.)

– Mod Podge or gel medium

– a sponge brush (or paint brush, which I used)

That’s it!  I went to the art store because I couldn’t find my jar of Mod Podge, and was all ready to buy that and a gel medium. The beautiful thing about art and craft stores is that the people there actually practice these things, and the young salesperson told me that Mod Podge and gel medium basically do the same thing. This fellow earned instant credibility as he had done transferred lots of photos in his time, including onto wood. Loved walking out of the store with just one product and more cash in my wallet.

What You’ll Do

1.  Cut the printed photograph to fit the wood to your liking.

2.  Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the picture side of the printed photograph.  Be gentle here, especially if using a paintbrush rather than a sponge brush. I thought I was but my brush took off a corner of the picture.

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3.  Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the wood’s surface where you want the photo displayed.

4.  Place the photograph picture side down onto the Mod Podged wood, so that the two Mod Podged surfaces meet.

5.  Smooth out the photograph with a flat sided tool (I used my rewards card from the art store, naturally).

6.  Let dry completely (2 to 3 hours).  (The art guy dries his for 24 hours “to be safe” but I like to walk wild, and just a few hours worked out over here.)

7.  Cover photo paper with a wet rag for a few minutes.

8.  Rub the white of the paper off the wooden block.  You’ll do this with a rag or your fingers by gently massaging the paper in different directions. The key word here is gentle; if you’re even a bit rigorous, you will rub the photograph off too and expose the wood underneath.  The goal is to remove the white surface of the paper while leaving the printed surface intact.  I think a bit of exposure of the wood is okay since the overall look is pretty rustic (I left mine alone), but you could also fill in the spaces with a grey marker as needed.

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You’ll probably need to repeat steps 7 and 8, going through the rubbing process more than once.  I thought I was done the first time and was surprised at how cloudy the photo was after it dried, so I had to get back to it.  Do it as many times as you need to until you’re satisfied with the image.

9. Once you’re finished removing all the white paper and the photo is dry, apply a layer or two of Mod Podge to the surface to seal the deal.  (It’s a sealant as well as a glue.)

That’s it!  This is one of those rare craft tutorials that is actually easier than it looks.  Hands on time was much less than an hour, and it’s pretty satisfying work. My son watched with pleasure as I transferred a photo of his first sleepover – this would be an easy sell for crafting with patient kids, and I think it would make a lovely gift from a child to anyone.

You can use any type of wood you like, as long as it’s unfinished so the photograph will stick (some people use sandpaper for extra grit; I didn’t need it), but I used a nice thick block that can easily stand up on its own.

Finally, the glory of this DIY project is that it’s both fun and forgiving. The goal of paper on wood is not to reflect perfection (for the birds, as they say) but beauty, through the people and images you find it in.

How To Take Timeless Family Portraits

BethAnneJones-10_EYears ago I hired a photographer to capture my family. The boys were ages 4, 3 and 1 and I was desperate to hang onto their cuteness . . . and populate a very barren, very large wall.

Family portraits run the gamut from the cheap(er) and cheerful to investment photography. Since I wanted these prints to be enlarged and framed, it was important to me to have a professional whose artistic eye and professionalism I admired. I splurged and hired a high-end photographer who took beautiful photos of my family and years later I still cherish them. These photos are classic in part due to her creative genius but also her guidance on how to create lasting, timeless portraits.

Thinking of capitalizing on the warmer weather and lush greenery, and taking family pictures this summer? Before you do, heed some this advice I compiled by asking photographers for their best tips on creating classic photos.

Research!

Take the time to research a photographer. When you’ve narrowed it down, be sure to set a meeting and go through their portfolio. Ask lots of question about their process. Do they prefer to do staged photos or candid? What equipment do they use? How are the photos presented? Are the prints colour corrected and photoshopped as necessary?

Price is something that is best discussed up front. Is there a sitting fee in addition to the proofs? How many proofs are provided? Are photos ordered in packages or a la carte? Know what you plan to do with the photos. This will help to determine the dimensions and overall cost.

Location! Location! Location!

Researching the location is just about as important as the photographer. You’ll want to choose somewhere that is comfortable and maybe even familiar to your family. If walker-bound grandma is going to be in the shoot maybe hiking along a bramble path isn’t the best fit. If wearing stilettos in your photo is a must, a cobble stone street may be great for posed shots but not as natural for candid shots of you chasing around after your toddler.

It’s also worth noting the natural light. Know what time the sunlight is soft as opposed to beating down. Squinty eyes, sweat stains, and shadows don’t make for the best photos. Neither does the dog parade or all you-can-eat rib festival encroaching on your frame. If choosing a public place, ensure there are no events scheduled on the day that might conflict with your plans. Also, permits are required for many locations. A good photographer will know this, but it’s worth checking into so you’re not disappointed.

What To Wear!

imgres-1This is where things can get tricky.   Remember the 80s? Perms and frosted lipstick were the beachy waves and smoky eye of today. Hair and make-up should be simple and natural or else you may find yourself groaning over your look in a few years time.

Clothing can also be a challenge. White can make you look larger and washed out, and black can look severe. Stick with clothing you feel comfortable wearing that reflects your personality but at the same time is not too trendy or flashy and unless you’re being paid to advertise for Gap, keep clothing with logos in the closet.

imgres-1Planning outfits for the entire family is an exercise in patience and good humour. Remember that episode of Modern Family when Claire loses her mind trying to make sure everyone is picture-perfect in their all-white ensembles? You don’t need that stress. Instead, make sure everyone is in the same colour palette but not matchy-matchy. I’ve never understood the appeal of family photos where everyone is wearing jeans and a black top, or khakis and a white-button down. It looks less like a family photo and more like a greeting card from your local Walmart staff.

I love this photo. It pretty much sums up everything not to do if you want to create a timeless photo! Thanks Awkward Family Photosimgres-1.

Be Yourself!

It may sound obvious but be yourself. Take some time with the photographer and take some silly shots to help loosen up or play with your kids with the photographer snapping in the background.

Don’t be afraid of “time and place”.  The night before my family photos my middle son scratched his older brother ALL OVER HIS FACE. It looked liked poor Jack had been locked in a closet with Cujo. He still has the scars to this day. I had a Claire (from Modern Family) moment, and cried to the photographer that the pictures “were ruined” but she calmed my nerves and reminded me that photography is for capturing the now. She graciously photoshopped several of the images but she didn’t do them all, and for that I am actually grateful.

Lastly, speak up! Most photographers shoot with digital so you can preview the shots on-site. If you don’t feel good about the direction of the shoot, you need to say something. Photographers take pictures, they don’t read minds.

 

Creating a Family History Book

age-2569_640A few years ago the show Who Do You Think You Are? debuted on TLC. I tuned in mostly because family history, and not just mine, has always fascinated me. I remember my high school friend telling me stories about her German grandparents and their experience during WW2. I hung on her every word. Another friend shared with me her mother’s first love and how after decades they reconnected and rekindled their romance. When she tells the story, I picture her young mother, ever the Bohemian, with her long, tawny blonde tresses matching her long, tanned legs traipsing the English countryside with her beau. Recently a friend started to tell me about her family’s lengthy Parisian history and I made her stop so I could get myself a hot chocolate and really hunker down and listen to her stories.

I love hearing about where people have come from. The colourful characters that make up a family, the experience that turned the fortune of a family, how generations influence and hold power, consciously or unconsciously . . . I can’t get enough of it.

It didn’t take many episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? for me to fall down the rabbit hole at Ancestry.ca. I spent countless hours clicking through the website and more money than I care to admit on my membership. Every day I discovered something new about my family and the proof was there – a signature on a marriage certificate scrawled by my great-grandmother, a death certificate of baby only few living relatives know about, a census record indicating settlement in the exact neighbourhood my husband spent his childhood.

The information was plentiful and I knew that I wanted to preserve it for my own children. After researching the merits of several Etsy artists and their family trees, I knew that I wanted something more and a book, that I could design, was the best way for me to compile the information I had gathered.

I used the on-line book making website, Blurb, and had great success in creating my book. I am now in the final stages of editing and I feel ambivalent to hit publish. A family’s history is never really told. There are stories that have been buried long ago and stories that have yet to be told.

DIY Gallery Wall and Jewelry Display

While I am not much of a DIYer, I am all about creating a living space that reflects my family and the people and things that we love. Have you heard of man-caves? Well, in this house of 5, I am the sole female. The lone wolf. A man-cave we don’t need but a mom-cave? Yes. That I do need!

My office is a small room in our basement that houses my favourite treasures, mostly books among a few knick-knacks and a beloved chandelier. I have slowly added to the room over the years, taking advice from Nate Berkus to only add things that I love and “tell my story”.

This one wall remained a blank space for years, but I finally decided to take wedding photos of my parents, in-laws, grandparents and grandparent in-laws (is that a term?) and create a gallery wall. The first step was deciding on frames that would fit nicely on the wall in a cluster of six. I am what some may call a traditionalist, and others may call boring, so black frames won out.

I then visited Blacks with the original photos, a few more than 60 years old, and spent some time with one of their photo technicians. They helped me to digitally restore and resize the photos. Their expertise proved invaluable and regardless of how tech savvy you may be, ask them for input. No need to DIY it all.

I would like to preface this by saying that a gallery wall is a lot harder to hang than it looks. First off, it involves math. A lot of it. And measuring. A lot of it. I can hold my own when it comes to math, but I wanted to limit the number of holes made in the wall. Needless to say the adage “measure twice, cut once” was running through my mind while I wielded my hammer.

My thorough research suggested that I tape off the gallery before actually hammering in the nails, and this worked out well for me. I was able to rearrange the photos and modify the spacing to my liking without puncturing the wall. Overall, I am happy with my handiwork (one is slightly off, but I can obsessed about that another day) but more so, this DIY project fills my space with people I love, and tells quite the story.

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Next up on my DIY project list was to arranging my collection of costume jewelry.

My pretty necklaces and chunky bracelets were stored away in boxes and drawers, not allowing for admiration or ready-to-wear. My favourite style blogger and interior designer, Erin Gates, provided inspiration with this picture from her recent best seller.

imgres-1Here’s my take. Thank you, Erin for showing us that it’s okay to have fun with our girly accessories!

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

I sourced a collection of inexpensive display vessels from Home Sense. The trays were less than $30, the cake stand was $6.99, the butter dish $6.99 and the small vase $3.99. The mug was from my kitchen.

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I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them "the treasure men".  I like that.

I have two of these guys flanking the display. My youngest calls them “the treasure men”. I like that.

DIY Kids’ Birthday Parties: Looking for Inspiration

We are about to embark on Silly Season: that time of year when my little chickens hatched, one after the other, in April, May and June.  Three months of birthday planning and parties are ahead of me, and I am already behind!

I really enjoy hosting the kids’ parties at home.  Beth-Anne recently posted this list of tips from Alyson Schafer to our facebook page (via The Mabelhood) about hosting a party for kids at home.  It’s got lots of sound advice, and I especially liked how Schafer spelled out present etiquette: decide ahead of time if you will open presents at the party or after.  If you open them during the party, make sure the birthday child thanks each guest individually; if you open them after the party, make sure the birthday child sends a thank you note acknowledging the gift.  I like my kids to open the gifts after the guests have gone home, and I’m glad to know that it calls for an extra thank-you.

In the past, we’ve had parties at which we put on plays, parties with a fencing instructor, and, of course, sleepovers that featured very little sleep.  Beth-Anne has hosted a fabulous Ninja Party, and Carol has written about a horrible birthday party and the perils of trying to make everybody happy.

As I cast about for ideas for this year’s crop of parties, I keep coming back to the loot bags for inspiration.  I love putting loot bags together, and I usually find a book that works with the theme of the party: knights, magic, fairy tales.  My kids make bookmarks with a drawing and a note of thanks, and that goes into the book with each guest’s name printed at the top.  Add a sweet treat, bundle it up, and you’re done!

This year I’m putting the cart before the horse and looking at books that have inspired me recently and that could give me a theme:

charlieCharlie’s Dirt Day

written by Andrew Larsen

illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli

We could get the kids to paint flower pots, fill them with dirt and a plant and send them home with a good read and a green thumb.  Between the painting of the pot and the planting of the plant, there could be the kind of birthday chaos that is best enjoyed with a short shelf life.

lifeLife Doesn’t Frighten Me

by Maya Angelou

Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

We’ve been twice to see the Basquiat exhibit at the AGO.  Both times, Littlest and Middlest got busy getting their art on.  The first time they sketched, the second time they sculpted, getting inspiration from the art on the walls.  We could do an art activity and get the kids to create their own signature motif, like Basquiat’s crown.

 

birdsOur Woodland Birds

written and illustrated by Matt Sewell

I can’t get enough of Matt Sewell’s bird illustrations.  They are an amazing balance of being entirely his own style while being reliable enough representations to help you identify the bird.  Littlest and I sat down yesterday to paint, a luxury afforded by the slowly tapering end of hockey season, and he painted an homage to Matt Sewell.  We could give the kids sketch books and pencils and make bird art.

 

gavin's bird

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Jennifer Flores on DIY

jenniferWe are thrilled to have as our guest today Jennifer Flores.  Blogging since 2007, Jennifer is the writer behind Rambling Renovators, a chronicle of the renovations, DIY adventures, creative projects, and home life she shares with her husband and daughter at their home in Toronto. Offline, Jennifer focuses on bringing the blogging community and lifestyle brands together as the Founder and driving force behind BlogPodium, Canada’s Conference for Lifestyle and Design Bloggers.

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I’ve always been a DIYer. From the time I would make clothes for my dolls to now when I make felt food for my daughter’s play kitchen, I’ve always found joy in doing and making things myself. But in this world of Pinterest and Instagram where your feeds are filled with picture-perfect projects from seemingly over-achieving women, that joy can be short-lived.

Where we once derived pleasure from the simple act of learning a skill and using it to create something uniquely ours, nowadays the pleasure might not come until after our home-baked meal/Christmas craft/upcycled thrift store find generates likes and repins from dozens of strangers. And I think that’s when doing it yourself becomes a don’t. Social media has really allowed us to expand our ideas of what’s possible. I’ve been inspired by countless projects on Pinterest. I’ve dusted off the sewing machine, wielded the glue gun, and mastered the miter saw because others have done it so why can’t I? And that’s a good thing! It should be good enough. But still.

There is that feedback loop now that didn’t exist before. The need not only to do the thing but to share it as well. Increasingly, Doing It Yourself does not necessarily mean Doing It For Yourself. As a blogger, I’m well aware of the currency a clever and well-executed DIY brings: comments, page views, re-pins. Even in offline life, there is satisfaction in saying “Oh this? I made it myself”. When you start to seek that external acceptance though, you set standards that might be impossible to meet.

Then there’s the idea that DIY is somehow a step backwards, a regression to times when there was an expectation for a woman to be domestic. When did DIY become a four-letter word? To me, DIY is a choice and in some ways, an inevitability. If I’ve been given the skills and natural talents to be able to craft and create things, shouldn’t I do just that? My inability to throw a football is just as strong as my ability to throw a stylish fete. Neither of these define me as more or less of a person. It just is. I think DIY is just another facet of one’s personality, expressed in physical form. Just like we all have a singer and a painter inside of each of us (albeit at different levels of ability), we all have a DIYer inside us. And when one chooses to express that ability, online or offline, I think it’s a very beautiful thing.

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The Magic and the Mystery of Making Things

alafoss-lopi-1231I make and craft and create to discover the magic and the mystery in things.  Pickles?  I can make those!  Handknit sweater?  That, too!  A felted handbag?  I learned how to do it one summer seven years ago.  Lip balm?  I made some this year!

What all of these things have in common is not necessity or having to make do or any kind of motive of need or fashion.  Nor is crafting a particular passion.  I can go for months without taking up a new project.

What they have in common is that I wanted to unravel the mystery of something that struck me as beautiful and rare.  I loved making lip balm with my boys not only because it was a great idea for Valentine’s favours, but mostly because it took all of the mystery out of something I use several times a day.  I had been paying an outrageous $40 per tube of lip treatment because after many, many tries, it was the only one that worked.  Learning how to make my own, made cosmetics something totally accessible, and I could control the quality and the contents.  That was a powerful feeling.

I have known how to knit since I was a child, and my mother, bless her patience, helped along many a hobbled project when I was little.  Most of them I abandoned.  In elementary school, I think I may have completed a knitted bear, and perhaps a blanket to go with it, and in high school I made myself one simple summer sweater, but I was not a star knitter by any stretch of the imagination.  My mother was.  She knitted, crocheted and sewed the most beautiful and intricate things.  She always had a project on the go.  When I got to university, and my mother was an ocean away, I happened to see some gorgeous Icelandic wool on sale in a bin in big department store, of all places.  It came in a cellophane package, with about ten balls of wool for the main colour of the sweater and one ball each of the secondary colours.  There was a pattern for a chunky fairisle sweater, and it looked so wonderful for the Montreal winter that was already hinting at its severity.  (I had moved from Egypt.  I was not at all used to Canadian winter.)

I love the internet! This is not the pattern I used 25 years ago, but that's the model, complete with her white headband.

I love the internet! This is not the pattern I used 25 years ago, but that’s the model, complete with her white headband.

At first, I just looked at it longingly, feeling that it was something so far out of my reach, and then I thought, “No, I have what I need to be able to make that.”  I bought the wool and the needles, and I set out to make it.

The only problem was that in all the knitting I had done, my mother had always cast on the stitches for me.  I had never done that alone.  I didn’t have any choice but to go it alone this time, so I taught myself how to cast on simply by closing my eyes and remembering the motions of my mother’s hands as she did it.  There was a trick and a rhythm, and after a few false starts I found them.  I was amazed at the time to have been able to draw that out of my memory.  Muscle memory by proxy.

Making that sweater was so much more than just arming myself for a cold winter.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment in moving myself from beginner to intermediate knitter, and my joy at succeeding at the project was immense.  I wore that sweater for years with great pride.  I made two more, all with the same sense of joy, and with increasing confidence and willingness to improvise with colour and pattern.  It was also contagious: several other women in my dorm went off and bought the same kit, and we’d sit and knit together, avoiding term papers and the drama of the wider world for just that little while.  Making our own sweaters gave us a common purpose and a space apart from the world that worked so hard to define us.

The moment of remembering my mother’s hands casting on my stitches is a touchstone for me.  I think of it often and fondly as a minor miracle of memory and motion and chance.  How many times would I have actually witnessed her casting on stitches?  How carefully was I watching?  I often wonder if or what motions of my hands my own kids will remember years hence.  We don’t plan these moments, but in some way, shape or form, I hope that there will come a time when they are trying something and can close their eyes and see me doing it.

At Issue: Does DIY DYI (Do You In)?

For our At Issue discussion this week, we are looking at the pleasures and perils of doing it yourself.  We will be discussing the debate of whether DIY culture is enriching and helps people to be independent from the marketplace or whether it creates (yet another) sphere in which we are measured against impossible ideals or whether new domesticity amounts to nothing more than a regression to the domestic sphere.

Are you more drawn to Pinterest Fails than Pinterest-worthy pics?  Are you a master or a menace with a power drill?  Do you aspire to be magazine-worthy with your projects and décor, or are you content to either farm out the work or not do it at all?

Join us this week as we discuss our own takes on whether DIY is Doing You In.

jenniferWe are thrilled to welcome as our guest this month Jennifer Flores.  You may know Jennifer already from her amazing design blog, Rambling Renovators.  The blog chronicles Jennifer’s and her husband’s adventures in renovating their 1950s Toronto home.  She keeps it real, and keeps it gorgeous!  Take a tour of her house, and you will see what I mean.  We got to meet Jen in person through a blogging conference that she organizes, Blog Podium.  We have attended for two consecutive years, and we always learn so much from the presenters and other conference-goers.

In the mean time, for a great discussion of the many facets of this debate, check out this review of Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity Ann Friedman summarizes wonderfully the push and pull of feminism, the workplace and the new cult of domesticity.