Exercises in Futility

You’d think that when I had time to knit, I’d work on any number of works in progress – B’s sweater that has been languishing since September, or my never ending blanket. But no, instead I cast on something new.


That colour combination looked good in my mind but sort of garish in reality. So I frogged it. Then I knit four inches of a new sock and realized it was too wide and the gauge too loose. Perhaps I need new needles – some yarn tourism is in order.


Summer Days

Yikes, sometimes I have so much to say I have to schedule posts and then a week or two goes by and nothing, nada, zip.

We just got back from vacation, which was lovely. We stayed on a farm, in an old log homestead. I was thankful again, that despite C’s CP, she has been very healthy. She got a fever on Day 6, and if she’d had a shunt, we’d have had to race to a hospital to make sure it wasn’t malfunctioning. Thank goodness, she seemed to just have a virus, and I just dealt with it the way we do with the others. But she was so sad and so much weaker. She couldn’t even tolerate holding her head up in her high chair. Thankfully she’s on the mend and she is back giving her patented Coco smiles.

I knit a lot, but didn’t count on no web service, so I couldn’t access my Ravelry patterns. That means, I just did about 20 more Pop Blanket Squares, but I won’t bore you with pictures. Instead I’ll bore you pictures of the kids.

Coco on Hols



I also read two books. The first was Four Walls of My Freedom, by the mother of a now-adult child with CP. It was a good read – first just because it’s interesting to read the perspective of someone looking back on the early years. With the benefit of hindsight, she questions whether all the more intense therapies or medical treatment was worth it in the long run. The balance between “fixing” and “accepting” is a constant moral dilemma I have. It’s sobering too, as she explains some of the trials they’ve gone through, such as when she thought the doctors were finally understanding the pain her child was in, and instead she was investigated for giving her child too much pain killers. It’s more than a memoir though, as she makes some interesting arguments about the way we value people with disabilities, offering a sort of a primer on some of the philosophical thinking in this area. She discusses controversial figures like Peter Singer, who has argued that infanticide may be warranted in the case of children born with severe disabilities. The prejudice and stigma faced by people with disabilities is very real – perhaps one of the last areas in which it is socially acceptable to make that kind of argument. She proposes a very different approach, based on the thinking of Amartya Sen, which values experiences and relationships as measures of well-being. She works with someone to develop an index of well-being that applies to her family.

I also started, and am mostly through, Andrew Salomon‘s Far From the Tree. At first I was puzzled by this book, which deals with a concept he calls horizontal identity – children who are different from their parents due to deafness, dwarfism, severe disability, or even things like being born of rape. I wasn’t sure what it all had in common, or whether I should be insulted by the idea that having a disabled child was similar to having a child who commits mass murder. Anyway, I put it aside and read it and accepted perhaps we shouldn’t place these experiences in a hierarchy. Each chapter stands alone and simply recounts the experiences of families dealing with these “differences.” He tends to the extreme – his examples on disability were all families of kids with multiple severe disability, and I found his chapter on autism particularly bleak. But he resists easy, pat summaries – discussing the controversial Ashley Treatment with sensitivity and compassion to both sides of the debate. His strength is that he lets the stories speak for themselves, and they in turn speak to the larger human experience. I felt profound empathy for what they were going through, even in stories where parents walked away and said “Sorry, I can’t do this.”

Socks and More

Okay, updates! Once again, been a bit of a while. I had a great January and start to February. J and I took a grown-ups only trip to Los Angeles, which was a ton of fun. It was meant to be a bit of a pre-baby-moon, as they say, and I’m glad we did it. We drove all over the city in a tiny rented Fiat and even saw a few celebrities. I knit my first toe-up socks, with this extremely satisfying toe-up cast-on method. The pattern is Cat Bordhi’s Pussy Willow Stockings from my book Sock Master Class.

Pussy Willow Socks

Then, about 2 weeks ago, after a wonderful shopping trip at the Lego Store, my water broke, around one of the two little twins. I won’t go into the gory details, but it was a slow trickle and took awhile to diagnose, but eventually the doctors were able to confirm it by ultrasound. This kind of preterm, premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) is obviously a potentially big problem at this stage of pregnancy (21 weeks when it happened, 23 weeks now). But there’s not much you can actually do about it except sit and wait and see what happens. So I’m sitting (actually lying down) and waiting and seeing. And attending frequent doctor’s appointments. And resting, and waiting.


I seem to have lost the cable from my camera to my computer, so until the new one arrives off eBay, I only have phone photos… I even bought a SD card/USB thing today to download the pictures, but it’s defective.

I ended up being sick, sadly, for most of the vacation. I’m pretty sure I had strep throat, although they never ended up swabbing me.  A dose of antibiotics finally set me right, but it was excruciating in the meantime.

At least the kids got lots of beach time. M is below, showing off her bloomers, from Heather Ross’ Weekend Sewing book.  Perfect for beach combing…


Or just hanging out…


Also, you know you are a sewing geek when you find yourself staring at historical garments for ages and ages. This jacket was displayed in the lobby of our Savannah hotel. I skip past clothing displays at museums, racing ahead to other parts, but I have a new appreciation for them now.

Historical Garments

Look at the hand sewn buttonholes.


Savannah is a beautiful city. When my camera cord is recovered I will share some photos of it! Aside from a few bits of architecture from the ’70s, the historical district is basically frozen 150 years ago… quite unlike Vancouver, where their idea of heritage preservation is to keep the front facade of a building and stick another skyscraper behind it. I’ve been watching them slowly tear down the old University Club. My understanding was that part of it would be preserved, but as of now, this is all that’s left:


Vacation illness

I hate typing on the iPad. I have a keyboard but I didn’t bring it on this trip. I was thinking if i brought it work would just be that much easier to do – and I do not want to be working. I am not, and don’t even have too many emails to sift through with the Easter holidays and all. But I am sick. I am alternately sweating and freezing and have slept most of the day away. Acetaminophen is not touching the sharp pain in the back of my throat and my head is pounding so much that I don’t even want to watch Netflix.

So here’s hoping that tomorrow is a brighter day, and that I can go back to the beach and watch dolphins swimming in the distance and see my son watch his cousins ‘rescue’ crabs and jellyfish caught on the beach in high tide. (He’s interested but he’d rather not get too close, thankyouverymuch.)

Sewing workshop

Can’t believe that I haven’t blogged since November. It’s not for lack of sewing… in fact I was sewing up a storm in December – pyjamas, toy houses, dolls etc. Just to busy to document them. But no longer. I am back on the wagon.

I was away this weekend at a sewing workshop organized by Heather Ross, who makes the most beautiful and unique fabrics… one of my favourites is her Girls Playing With Horses fabric. Also at the workshop was Liesl Gibson; if you’ve read any of this blog at all, you probably know that in the last year I have more or less taught myself to sew using her Oliver+S patterns. Lotta Jansdotter was also there. She is a real Renaissance woman, and her many oeuvres include fabric design. When the power went out due to massive and destructive windstorm, she calmly taught us how to print our own using just fabric ink, an exact-o blade and an overhead slide. Pretty cool.

Lotta Jansdotter leading a print class

The weekend was momentous for many reasons: first, it was in Palm Springs. Desert heat, after a week of snow, was very much welcome, despite the heavy winds on Saturday. Also, it was my first trip completely alone, without children or spouse since P was born. That means it was the first time in four years and three months that I have had no children with me. That was a license for a lot of secret single behaviour, like eating caramel popcorn in bed while watching Downton Abbey. At 8 a.m. Or hanging in the hot tub with my eyes closed eavesdropping. Or hanging out at gay bars. Oh, and sewing of course. Although actually I did less sewing than I expected. I brought three projects and barely made it through one, but I felt my time was better spent going slowly, and listening to all the lessons taking place around me. I quickly let ago of completing a project and decided just to soak it all in.

I left feeling very inspired, both by the teachers but equally by the other participants I met. It was really fun to be surrounded by creative people. For some it’s a job. For others it’s a hobby. Some were super-experienced, and others were novices. But we were all really passionate about it. By day three I was definitely missing my little creatures, and was ready to come home. But a little “me-time” was pretty phenomenal and I hope to do the workshop again some time.

Seoul Trip

I realised that I haven’t blogged yet about my trip to Seoul. On a slight tangent, I’ve been doing some “life coach” kind of counselling lately, and reading a book called “What Next” to try and figure out what I want to achieve in my job/career/life.

To figure out where you go next you have to know where you’ve been, so part of the process involves reviewing accomplishments and figuring out what you’re really proud of achieving. In thinking about my own recent accomplishments, I’d have to say this trip is right up there. I think it would seem fairly insane to most people to drag a rather routine-oriented 17-month old to a country thousands of miles away, on a 12-hour flight, with a 16-hour time difference, on your own (with a little help from Grandma). But I did, and I had such a marvellous time.


First, travel is always good for me… it gives me perspective. And it makes me happy. It makes me reflective, and it makes me think. It’s so nice to break out of routines – to spend hours in a cafe in Seoul sipping coffee, mulling over a guidebook, and smiling at friendly locals who absolutely adored M. Babies, especially of the Western variety, seem to be a major hit. Every time M fussed in her stroller on the subway, or got stroppy in a restaurant, a dozen arms would rustle through a dozen purses, handing her candy, biscuits or toys.
Where to next Margot?

My impressions of Seoul, because in 7 days impressions are all I can fairly say I got:

People were friendly, helpful: Whenever we looked lost (which was often!) people were happy to offer advice. A woman even paid our subway fare once as she explained how to use the machines. Except the shopgirls in the trendy zone; they were a bit snooty. But that may be universal.
Fashionable: Most women dress beautifully and tastefully. And even Grandma has an LV purse… only she knows if it’s real or not.
Kid-friendly: Not sure about older children, but babies are a hit, and even the snooty salesgirls cooed over her. Although I would caution those of you wary of people touching and photographing their babies to stay far away; that stuff doesn’t bug me, which is good as M was often surrounded by a dozen people taking photos and videos of her, and reaching out to touch her hands and cheeks. I fully expect to see a billboard of her schilling some product if I ever go back.
Under-visited: We saw very few Western tourists, at least in the parts of the city we were in. We did not spend much time near the large US military base, which has more “foreigners.”
Affordable: Sure the flights add up, but I spent almost nothing on food while I was there.
Vibrant: Coffee shops teemed with people, convenience stores were open all night; gorgeous young people tripped over the sidewalks.
Clean: Super, duper clean. And smoggy too. But the stoops, sidewalks, floors, grounds were clean – and when your 17-month old is juuuuust starting to walk, this is something you notice!
Delicious: Korean food at home is only so-so, at least as far as I’ve experienced. But I had loads of wonderful meals. M only ate rice for the most part though.

As for M, she was a trouper. She had been so fussy recently, and tantrumy, I was sort of anxious about it. But turns out 7 days of one-on-one mommy attention makes M into a very happy, content and well-behaved girl, even on severe lack of sleep. She was a wonderful travel buddy and it was really good for us. P seemed to enjoy his special dad-time back at home too.

Why Seoul? A wedding… a very happy one!

So all in all, very nice to break out of the routine – to throw caution/routines and possibly sanity to the wind… it was well worth the risk apparently!

Of course, reunions are nice too.

Selfish Sewing

I guess I kind of burnt out after sewing a bunch at the end of August, and then planning P’s birthday, so I was away from the machine for some time… decided to do a few small, non-ambitious projects to rev the engines again. Also, I decided to do some SELFISH projects – things for moi.

I made a case for my Kindle, which has been bashing around in my purse. It actually held up quite well, but I noticed a small scratch so I decided it was time to cover it.

I also made this pincushion, from Anna Maria Horner’s Seams to Me. Great book, with lots of basics covered, especially around hand-sewing. Great tips on simple stuff like sewing on buttons too – I realised I’ve never done it right, which might explain why so many fall off. This pin cushion was a little odd, only in that it asked for 8 of the side pieces, but I found I only needed seven to go around the diameter of the circle. Not sure if that was the book’s error or mine. My pin cushion is the one “tool” that travels with me from room to room quite often, and now it can hold my seam ripper and thread clippers, and a marking pen too!

Those pins are from Ikea, where I got the most fabulous little sewing kit containing fantastic scissors, thread clippers and a very sturdy little seam ripper for under $20. Great value since a halfway decent pair of scissors often runs about the same. The pins are much nicer than my old ones, whose heads were always falling off.

Anyway, lots to think about… have really been thinking a lot about work, life, children and pondering what my 10 or 12-year plan is. I’m still not sure… some days I want to be a judge, and others I just want to slow life waaaaaay down. I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on that at some point soon, but in the meantime, M and I are planning for our one-week trip to Korea to a wedding! Hopefully I’ll post some photos while there.

Quiet on the Western Front

Quiet on the blog front recently. A few weekends away, a hectic couple of weeks at work, and massive, massive sleep deprivation due to a child who doesn’t fare well with weekends away, not to mention rearranging our whole house due to some completed renovations. Does it sound like I’m making excuses? I am.

In the course of the renovation, we moved the kids’ bedroom. Which means that their old bedroom is now… a sewing space for me! And a guest room-to-be, but also a sewing space. Their closet was already filled with my materials, overflowing really. But the sewing machine had a permanent spot on the kitchen table. So J is very happy to see it in a new home. I also went through all my fabric, saved in various bags, boxes and so on where it would fit, and um. Holy. I have a lot of fabric. I’ve always been vaguely aghast when I’ve seen posts of quilters with shelves of fabric – I’m not a person who likes to accumulate a lot. But I realised, I too could practically fill a bookcase. It’s a sickness really. So I did co-opt the kids old dresser and re-organise all my quilting cottons in here… very exciting. And no more fabric buying until I work through some of this! (Except what I ordered last week… ssshh.)


Oh, and even though I haven’t done too much lately, I signed myself up for a sewing workshop in January. And um, it’s in PALM SPRINGS! That’s right – me… alone for a weekend with a bunch of sewing ladies! Sitting by a pool! Sleeping in! I realise that spending a weekend holed up sewing might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect vacation, but hey, I’m kind of a weirdo. I’ve never been that far from my children, especially the baby, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s nice to do something entirely selfish every now and again.


We took our first family camping trip this weekend. We’ve camped before with P, but not with M. I ambitiously packed swimsuits and shorts, thinking that in the dry desert of the Okanagan it would be hot by May 2-4, but we all ended up spending the whole weekend in long sleeves and pants. It was pretty cold. But we still had a great time and while I was there I kept thinking up bullet points (yes, sometimes I think in bullet points) about why we should do this again and again.

First, camping is democratic. I mean, as vacations go, it’s pretty cheap. Sure there are those who get the expensive RVs and fancy equipment, but all you really need is a tent. So almost anyone can do it – there was a group of university aged guys, lots of families, single folks with dogs. You really meet all kinds of people when you’re camping.

Second, it’s unplugged. Our kids are going to grow up in such a technological world. They won’t know a world without Google, or cell phones, or the immediacy of a text message. That technology can be very distracting at times. And it takes up so much time. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from it all for a few days. Oh okay, I admit, I brought my (new) Kindle. But we were out of cell phone range so it was still sort of unplugged. But there was no pausing to check Facebook, or read blogs. Not that I apologise for those things – but getting away from them makes you realise how much of a time suck they are. I have a new resolution: I’m going to try not to be on Facebook when the kids are awake.

Slow parenting – I mean, it really doesn’t get any slower than camping. I spent the whole weekend without a distraction from them (aside from the occasional ebook.) We talked, cooked together, read, coloured, drew and played. It was three days of quality time. Now I won’t say it was all idyllic, as there were meals to cook (J did them ALL) and babies to get to sleep, or soothe. But it didn’t really matter if it took half an hour to get M down for her nap because hey, we had nothing else to do. And as I stress about whether to register P in swimming lessons again (where he rebels), or if he should take piano, it reminded me. At the end of the day, the most important thing is just spending time together. At age 3 it’s more important than a tap class or a swimming lesson.

Community – I moved around a lot, but I spent much of my childhood in a small village. There were lots of kids, and we all just played at each other’s houses. We went out all day and only had to come back when the street lights came on. Other parents disciplined us as needed, or just kept an eye on us. We don’t have that where we live now, in a city where I only know a few of my neighbours. Maybe we will more when the kids get older. But I got a sneak preview of what that would be like. There were four families all camping pretty close together and P was immediately drawn to them. The minute we saw the kids he said “Hi, my name is P! My name is P! My name is P!” Finally the kids showed some interest in him too and they all just played for three days straight, breaking only for meals and sleep. He’d be over at another camp, or they’d be over with us, digging with trucks, or making beads or riding their bikes up and down the road between the sites. P kept talking about his “friends.” It was wonderful to see that bit of independence in him, and he really enjoyed it too.