Things I made this year

Ah, New Years Eve – a busy day for me always, as I tidy and clean the house, take out the garbage, catch up on laundry, try to get everything as sorted as I can. I like to end as I mean to go on, and that means that the dust bison roaming the living room have to go – lest they haunt me all year long. I do this every year, and although it has never made one whit of a difference, I persist in doing it… feeling like if things are all unsorted as I enter the year, they’ll stay unsorted for the rest.  (I suppose actually, that it does work, and that the level of chaos our housekeeping has for the entire year is really the upgraded version – and that we’d be some sort of horrible episode of an embarrassing tv show otherwise. That alone is enough to keep me cleaning today.)  I’ll tidy up here too, and show you a few of the things I’ve made over the last little while, things I kept on the lowdown, so as not to spoil the surprises of all parties concerned.  I made my mum some slippers after all, those old fashioned ones…
mumslippers 2015-12-31
I’d link to the pattern, but it’s one I’ve carried in my head for about 30 years. I think I’ve made at least 50 pairs over the years. It’s from a Paton’s booklet I had in my teens, and when my Mum slipped them I’m pretty sure it was her 10th or 15th pair. She’s been wearing the French Press ones for a few years, and in my stocking this year was all the buttons from those worn out slippers, returned to me to be recycled into new ones. Typical of my mum, a helpful and not so subtle hint. I think she might prefer those to these old fashioned ones. (Noted, Mum.)
foxhats 2015-12-31
Frankie, Myrie and Luis got Foxy and Wolfie hats – all foxes, for the lot of them. I’m charmed to death by these hats – and I think Luis and Myrie were too.

luishat 2015-12-31 myriehat 2015-12-31

Lots of growling and fierce faces. (It turns out foxes are not as mild an animal as I imagined.) There’s no way to know if Frankie liked his. He didn’t cry when we put it on him, so I’m taking that as a win.

Carlos, Meg, Pato and Old Joe all got socks, You’ve seen all those go by as I finished them – Amanda and my brother Ian got hats…
ianianhatyfaf 2015-12-31
I was especially pleased about Ian’s hat, since it turns out that his dog ate his touque Christmas Morning, so my timing was fabulous. (Thanks Seamus.)  Ken got a fabulous pair of socks… I’d gotten a lovely gift of this Fade to Black yarn from CaterpillarGreen (thank you!) and as soon as I opened the packet, I knew that Ken would love them, and he does.
kensocks 2015-12-31
Besides all that knitting, I made tons of food, lots of cookies, several messes and… Well, here’s something I’m pretty proud of.

I made a knitter.  Blog, meet the newest to join your ranks, my Co-Lead on the Bike Rally Steering Committee this year, Cameron.  Now some time ago, Cameron rescued my knitting. I’d left it behind after a meeting we were at, and he traipsed through the night, found it, and brought it back to me. When he did, he mentioned that he’d like to learn to knit too.  Now, people say that all the time, usually it’s just a reaction to how much I knit – some sort of contagion that passes quickly. With Cameron though, well – he brought it up again a few days later, and a few days after that, he said something like “we still have to choose a time to get together so you can teach me to knit” and I started to think he was serious. I tested the waters by asking him what he thought he’d like to make – and he responded with “What could I make?”  I thought about it for a few minutes, and told him I was confident he could make a hat. A little one. “A hat for your nephew” I suggested. “For Christmas.”  Cameron lit right up with this idea, and a few days later I met him in a pub (it’s a very good place to learn knitting) and after a pint or two, he had it. He worked on a swatch for starters, and when I had a sense of his gauge, and he had a sense of what he was doing, we ripped that bit back, and he cast on for his hat.
camknits 2015-12-31
Cameron knit on for a little bit, and then I taught him how to fix a dropped stitch so there was a chance he could knit without me… and left him to his own devices.  The next day, he dropped me a text mentioning that he was having a little trouble stopping with the knitting. This was my first clue that he might be hooked. The next day he fixed a dropped stitch by himself and sent me several pictures of the process. The text read “I’m so proud!”  This was the second hint.  Fast forward a week or two, and Cameron is getting ready to fly home to his family for Christmas. We meet again, and this time I’ve got in mind that he’s going to finish this hat (or not) without me, far from Toronto, with nobody to help him.  I teach him how to do the colour work part of the hat (aim high!) how to k2tog, how to read his pattern, do magic loop,  i-cord, and talk about how to weave in his ends.  He asks, very charmingly – if he’s going to be allowed to knit on the plane. (Hint three.) That night I phone a few knitting friends and tell them about how even his stitches are. I tell him, but only briefly. I don’t want him over-confident.
camknitplane 2015-12-31
The day after, he does knit on the plane. (Clue four, received) and when he lands, he has the colour work started. He texts me a picture. It’s almost annoyingly perfect.  (Clue five.)

camknitshats 2015-12-31
The next few days pass, leading up to Christmas, and Cameron texts a few questions about the pattern, says he thinks he’s figured out “the loop thing” and starts to sound nervous. “I’m worried about I’ll do with myself when it’s done” he sends, and something in my heart leaps. He’s starting to sound like a knitter. Not someone who’s just knitting a hat, not a one off… but an actual Knitter.  I comfort him as best I can. I remind him he didn’t knit for decades, and he was somehow okay.

On Christmas Morning, the pictures arrive.

camknitdone 2015-12-31 camknitneph 2015-12-31

It’s a hat. It’s a beautifully finished hat, and it fits, and Cameron looks so proud, and his nephew looks so sweet (and like Cameron is making him hold still for a hat picture, which is resonant and funny, and probably the first of many incredibly awkward knitting moments – my phone is full of them) and it’s such a really, really good first project, and I text “Congratulations!” and he texts back “Thanks!  I kinda want to bring it back to Toronto so you can see it and then mail it back, but I guess that would be weird.”

And that’s not weird, not to me, and probably not to you, and that’s almost when I believe I made a knitter. Almost. The deal is sealed a few days later, when out of wool, far from home, and headed for the airport, Cameron sends the following.

“I really am a bit distressed I won’t be knitting on the plane. I have a feeling that airplanes are going to be where I do a lot of this. And steering committee meetings.”

And with that text, I know two things. Cameron is a knitter now, and I totally chose the right person to go to meetings with.

So that’s what I made this year. All those hats, so many socks, several sweaters…. and a Knitter. We are legion. Happy New Year.  See you in 2016.

PS: I’d be an idiot if I didn’t give you a way to show your love to Cameron, and welcome him to the fold. To that end, here’s his bike rally fundraising page, and… in case you’re pleased that I’ve brought him to us… here’s mine.  

PPS: I made sure he took a lot of pictures.  He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll need them for his Ravelry account. 

After All: 5 things

I’m disorganized today, the house all in a tip, disaster everywhere, and I’m working hard to pull it together for New Years. I tried pulling my thoughts together into one cohesive thing – but it wouldn’t go, so Five Things and a few pictures from the last few days it is.

candlesdinner 2015-12-30

1. I heard someone complain the other day that Christmas is so much work for such a fast payoff… that it’s days and days of prep for just one day.  I thought about that, and I tried to sympathize, but really, around here, Christmas goes on, and on and on.  It’s really more of a season for this family. We had almost 20 gatherings of friends and families over the last month, and I like it just that way, I think.

megalex 2015-12-30

amanda 2015-12-30

2. I am very tired.

mefrankie 2015-12-30

3. On Christmas Eve, we celebrated together at Joe’s sister’s place, and then came home, together as a family. The  ladies all spent the night here, sleeping in their old beds, and as parents, we wondered (over a good glass of whiskey after they were all tucked in) if there is ever a time that it stops feeling wonderfully right to have them all under our roof.

kenwhiskey 2015-12-30

joemeg 2015-12-30

4. On Christmas morning, we came downstairs and made coffee, and got the last bits together, and as is our tradition, the ladies waited at the top of the stairs for the green light to come down. They urged Ken and Joe and I to work faster, and giggled like maniacs while we got it all together. Joe walked around like he does every Chistmas morning, saying things like “Oh, it looks like Santa Claus came last night” to further peals of laughter.

samlaptop 2015-12-30 megsocks 2015-12-30

sampuppy 2015-12-30

When we put the music on – that’s their signal, like it always has been, they came tearing down the stairs, and sat where they always do, and said what they always do, and at some point, as they all carried on the way they have for years and years, Joe and Ken and I realized that for all intents and purposes – that morning they were children again. Even though they’re all in their twenties, and Amanda is closer to thirty than she is twenty, it hadn’t occurred to a single one of them to come downstairs and get a coffee before the music played. Not one of them suggested sleeping at their own homes, not one of them said anything like “Hey, I’m a grownup now, this is a little silly.” They all fell right in line. It was…. delightful. I’m sure the year will come when one of them refuses to wait at the top of the stairs, or wants to stay up and have that glass of whiskey with us.. but this was not that year. I love that.

erinmum 2015-12-30 meghank 2015-12-30

5. All handknits were happily received this year but honourable mention goes to Pato, who was so delighted to receive his first pair of hand knit socks that he instagrammed them.

patosocksbetter 2015-12-30

patoinstagram 2015-12-30

There’s a good boy.

How did yours go?

And here it is

Hello Blog, from me to you, on what’s been a slightly hysterical Christmas Eve.  Joe and I have been flat out all day, and the last cookies are baked, the dinner for our gathering tonight is in the oven, we think we have everything wrapped, and with less than an hour to go, we’re still scrambling.

cookies 2015-12-24

With all that looming though, I wanted to take a minute to wish you all well, to tell you that I hope for you all that is lovely over the next day or two, and to say that I didn’t finish my Christmas knitting, and maybe you didn’t either, and that absolutely, it isn’t going to matter in the morning.

table 2015-12-24

Knitting is, I have often said, a container for love. We work hard to make something for someone, pouring our time and energy and love into a tangible thing. When we hand knitting to someone, we’re hoping they’ll hear what we’re really saying, which is “I love you. I think you’re wonderful. I value your happiness, so much so that I’ve spent this time on you. My love is in this.”

ornaments 2015-12-24

It feels good. Even if the other person doesn’t understand that the hat you just gave them is love made firm and real (sometimes they think it’s just a hat) we do, and it’s an amazing trick to be able to do it.  If you didn’t finish though, keep this in mind.

You can just say those things – with words, instead of yarn.  I love you. I think you’re wonderful. I believe you’re worth my time.

Merry Christmas all.  Thanks for sharing this time with me. We’ll catch you on the other side.


I’m sitting here poppets, with a glass of champagne (left over from our Solstice celebration last night) and you can stick a fork in me, because I am done.  Now, I’m not technically done, I’m pretty far from done. There’s knitting left to knit and the wrapping, mercy… I can’t even talk about the wrapping, but this morning I forayed out and made my annual military style strike on the mall, and while I was there, I got done. Let me back up. Last night was the solstice, and it was a thing of beauty. I lit the ice lanterns and every candle in the house, and made a simple supper, and then the knitters came, and we had the grandest time.

candles2 2015-12-22 icelantern 2015-12-22 candleslit 2015-12-22

The whole time, I was filled with the loveliest sense of calm. My friends, the candles, the cozy long night… I woke up this morning fortified, and sure that the season would go off as it should.  I have another finished pair of socks (I’m behind, but at least that’s done)

moredone 2015-12-22

and I did what we always do on the Solstice – I got online and made all our charitable donations for the year. It’s tradition for us, I always feel so lucky and blessed on the Solstice. Lucky to live in such a peaceful and wealthy country, lucky to have a family that’s safe and healthy… lucky to have the resources to make things nice for everyone. it feels right to spread it around on this day.  (This years recipients were The Bike Rally (that’s a link to my page, if you’re feeling a little solstice joy) and Spread the Net, MSF, and Because I am a girl.  I was so heartened by all of this, that I took my little list of things left to do, and left for the mall feeling…. not too bad about it at all.

I hate the mall. It’s everything I dislike about this season all rolled into one, and the crowds get me, and the parking gets me, and the lighting in the place gets me… but it remains the best way to buy 12 unrelated things, and so once a year, I go there, and i shop. I go with a plan, I go with a list, and I go with speed.   I was there, and I’d bought just about everything I needed, and I was hot, and I was crabby, and I was hungry, and I just needed a few more stocking type things for Joe, and I was in The Bay. The Bay is a fine Canadian institution, and not a bad place to try and wrap up loose ends, and that’s what I was trying to do.  I was shopping, but I didn’t know for what, and the whole thing felt like it had fallen apart into a wild jaunt through a commercial nightmare, and it should have been that that was when I went home. I should have looked at myself, looked at my budget, looked at how very much I’d gotten already, and I should have left. Right that minute, but I swear that the air is funny in that place, and I couldn’t think right, and so I was rushing up the escalator towards… I don’t know what (which should have been another clue) and I came off the escalator at a thousand miles an hour, and in front of me was this.

handsup 2015-12-22

You can see the escalator I came up right there, and you can see these mannequins with their arms stuck right out.  See it? Well, I didn’t. i came off the escalator, and the woman right behind me said “Oh CAREFUL” and I didn’t register it was directed at me, and I ran straight into the outstretched hand of the first mannequin. Took it right in the head.  I hit it with all the force of a woman undone by shopping. I ran straight into it, clotheslined myself, reeled backwards, and then fell down. Backwards, like in a movie.

The woman rushed over and asked if I was OK, and then a guy came over and said “Holy (*^%. You really ran into that!” (Thanks buddy. Hadn’t noticed.) I sort of staggered up, and said “I’m ok. I’m ok” and prepared to flee  (I am exactly the sort of person who has extensive experience with embarrassing situations of all types) and snatched up my scattered packages, all while insisting I was fine (with the big handprint of the mannequin on my forehead) and the lady and the guy started handing me my things and saying things like “Oh Wow, that’s going to leave a mark” and just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the guy says “Um, I think you spilled all your….” and I look down, and the bag that had contained ten pairs of panties (complete with lace, in bright colours) has ruptured, and strewn festive ladies undergarments all over the floor.

We picked them up together, and stuffed them into my purse, and I stood there for a minute, looking around to see if I’d dropped anything else. The guy wandered off, the lady asked me one more time if I was quite sure I was all right (I totally was) and in a heartbeat, I realized I was done. Shopping or not, Christmas or not… I was done. I went to the car, and I drove the hell home, and when I got here, I poured myself that glass of champagne.

I’m done, or undone. I’ll deal with whatever that means tomorrow. I’m going to knit now.

Update from Closer to the Edge

This is a fast one, since I’m headed for another round of parties today. (Somehow we are roped into thirteen of them this year. I thought it was twelve, but it turns out to be thirteen, and I’m trying not to think about that. I have been reprising my award winning role as “Joe’s Wife” at many of them, and have only been called Mrs. Dunphy once. The ones today won’t have much knitting at them, but things are coming along anyway, I think.

almostdonesocks 2015-12-18 allthreehats 2015-12-18

I know those pictures look a lot like the last batch, but the astute among you will note that all three hats are done (only one more hat to go!) and that there is the second sock of the pair, and I don’t care how many parties I have to go to today, there’s just no way that the pair isn’t going to be completed today. (I know, I shouldn’t have said that.) That leaves just one more pair of socks, a pair of slippers, and….. well. A sweater. Still, the worlds top knitwear model has agreed to help do the baking and some of the wrapping tomorrow, and I feel like it’s possible that the light I see at the end of the tunnel might not be a train.

Monday – that’s when I’ll know for sure. Hang in there knitters!

Update From The Edge

In the spirit of Christmas around here, things are desperate, and I am recklessly optimistic.  I’ve spent the last few days trying to get a grip, and making list after list for Joe, now that he’s back from a brief business trip. (Great timing that, trying not to think about it.) His bag and pockets are littered with notes to get this or get that, and my desk is full of little notes and the spreadsheet is constantly open. It’s all going to come down to one desperate trip to the mall for me, and a few trips for Joe, and then… then there’s the knitting.

Originally I had a (sort of) little sweater, three pairs of socks four hats and a pair of slippers in the queue, and thanks to a really desperate jag of knitting over the last few days (in the stores, at home, on the subway, at meetings) I have managed to finish two and a bit of the hats (if you can tell what they are, don’t give it away.)

twohatsplus 2015-12-16

A whole pair of big socks (thank all that’s woolly)

socksdone 2015-12-16

and made a good start on the next pair of socks that I’ll carry around with me as I go.

sockktree 2015-12-16

That leaves…one and 4/5 of a hat, the slippers (I should just do those and get them off the list) Just about two pairs of socks (minus that decent start) and the sweater. It all seems not too desperately impossible as long as i don’t think about the shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping or parties… or the date. It’s vitally important that I don’t think about the date. I’m pretty sure I can keep all of these balls in the air as long as I don’t panic early, and I don’t need to know that it might be too late to panic, rather than too soon. I’m just going to keep juggling and knitting and making lists, and hope that it all comes together in the end.

Except for the sweater. That might be crazypants, but it’s just too soon to tell. (Say nothing. I’m a knitter on the edge. This is a time for reassurance.)

How are you doing?


Here I am, out the other side of a really hairy pre-Christmas weekend, and one that went better than it looked like it was going to, considering the state things were in on Thursday afternoon.  The tree got decorated,

joestar 2015-12-14

the groceries got bought, the cookies all baked, and the whole thing would have gone up in flames if I didn’t have three daughters who know how our little corner of the world works, and executed Operation Gingerbread brilliantly. Everyone was arriving at 6, and shortly before that, I was totally in the weeds. Dinner for 25 half done, none of the furniture rearranged, no icing for the cookies… I’d simply run out of time and me to make it all work, and in stepped The Ladies. They were a Christmas party machine. Samantha made the icing, Amanda coloured it with the littles, all while I said things like “Sam – I’m going to need… ” and she’d jump in with “All the forks, Mum, even the ones from the box. I’ll put them on the table.” Or I’d cast about looking wild and say “Meg… if you could…” and there she’d be. “Make the salad? You bet. The apple one?”

cookiesbaked 2015-12-14

Big hands helped little ones do tasks without being asked, coats were spirited away, glasses of wine appeared in hands as though by magic.  Platters of food were carried to trivets (they even knew to put trivets on the table. It was surreal.) Spills of icing were cheerfully cleaned up with an “I got it Mum!” and the wee ones were supervised, amused and delighted by my darling army of daughters.

amandaicing 2015-12-14

When the time came for singing, instruments were snatched up, and they were charming and talented, and robustly sang for the amusement of Luis, Myrie and the others, and it was all the right songs. (Chris and Kosti did well too. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer was an especially big hit.)

musicgirls 2015-12-14

music 2015-12-14

I stood there watching them – all three of them, and I sort of couldn’t believe it. All I could think of was the last two decades of Gingerbread parties, parties where I said things like “Please use your gentle touch with the baby” and “Go practice for your music lesson” and “It’s not that hard to make a salad Megan, please don’t give me that face” or “Cookies are not for throwing” or “Samantha, icing goes on cookies, not walls” or “Go help your grandmother you demon” or “Are you people animals? Get a trivet before you put that hot pot on the table.”  “Amanda, you’re not going out with your friends – tonight is the Gingerbread party, I swear do not make me kill you this close to Christmas – I’ve already bought your damn present.”

decorating 2015-12-14

All those years. All those corrections, all those reminders… all those times I didn’t kill the bloody lot of them and leave them at the edge of the woods in a shallow grave.

frankiegirls 2015-12-14

It all payed off as they waltzed gracefully through the party. At the end of the night, I heard someone say that they didn’t know how I did it, and Amanda said “I know. Mum is a machine.” It made me laugh, because after all these years of doing it FOR them…

This year how I did it WAS them. Thanks Ladies.


I am going to need elves

Knitters, things are bad over here. Try as I might, work the spreadsheet as I do… hours of my life keep evaporating in mountains of regular work, and I am starting to feel like Christmas is a big hairy beast with enormous pointed teeth, bearing down on me from behind.  I can practically feel it’s hot breath on the back of my neck, especially if I stop running for a single moment. I love Christmas, usually. Usually by this time of year (let’s not discuss the date. I’m already a little woozy) I have things sort of in hand.  This year?

treeup 2015-12-09

I like to get the tree up early – not early by some standards, but certainly in the first week of December. This December found Joe and I desperately comparing schedules, looking for the 90 minutes that we both had free to walk to the tree place, choose a tree, carry it back through the street, wrestle it into the house, move furniture around and then have the 20 minute conversation about whether or not it is straight in the stand, and what side is best. It took until this morning to find that time… and we had to get up a little earlier to make it happen, and we spent a lot less time on the task than we usually do, but by wool, we have a tree.  It is naked, it is possibly not straight, I have no idea if this is its best side, and the lights are still in the box (though we did collect the boxes from the basement.

ornaments 2015-12-09

Half knit items litter the house, the expected knit-rumpus happened this past weekend, but was not nearly enough, nothing is wrapped (holy cats someone better buy wrapping paper) the shopping list is completely out of control, and sometime between right now and Friday night, I need to seriously get a Christmas going on over here. A conversation happened a few weeks ago – where we all talked about how hard the parents are working right now, how busy we are – how much we all have on our plates….and we decided to only do the things we love this year. To let go of expectations, let go of traditions that nobody really cares about… we asked ourselves what really matters to us this time of year.

It turns out that the answer was that we want to be together, we want to see family and friends, we want to sing carols and make music, and we want to decorate gingerbread. We all agree that it’s not really Christmas without that, so, a few things got cancelled, a few others got moved around, and Friday night we’ll all gather for our traditional gingerbread party.  That means that we have just a little over 48 hours to go from zero (well, not technically zero, I do have a naked tree) to a house full of people, dinner for more than 20, a few hundred gingerbread cookies baked and ready for decorating, and (at least) five colours of royal icing made, put in piping bags, and ready for little (and big) hands to decorate them.  So far, I have… well. A naked tree and I’m leaving here in a few hours for another two bike rally meetings – though at least I can knit through those.

socksnot 2015-12-09

I have decided, after careful consideration, and establishing the minimums that must be a accomplished, that tomorrow morning I will get up, make a very large pot of coffee, delegate everything possible…. and then warp the time-space continuum.

It’s going to be fine. I think. Right?

Capping the year

This is, I think, the second to last time I’ll be in an airport this year.  I’m just about to embark on my last trip – and I can’t tell you how lovely the feeling is. I’ve got no plans for this weekend beyond work, and I’ve put a million tons of yarn into my suitcase, and I’m planning a wild knit-a-thon.

sockstart 2015-12-04

As I typed that, it occurred to me that only knitters would accept that “wild” and “knit-a-thon” are words that absolutely belong together in a sentence, but there’s a lot about knitters we can’t describe to the non-knitting and have them believe us. In two minutes I’m posting this, and then I’m picking up that larval sock and letting the yarn rumpus begin. We’ll see where that gets me by Monday.

Update: gained

1. At the meeting(s) last night, Cameron returned my knitting.

camfoundit 2015-12-02

(Observation: People with long arms take better selfies.)

2. I finished the sweater, including a little button run, to get the perfect little accents for the wee thing.

littlesweaterdone 2015-12-02

Pattern: Baby and Child Sophisticate, size 18months. (Wee Frankie is only 5 months old, but a little chunky.) Yarn: 1.2 skeins of Longmeadow Farm merino, colour “Brick and Mortar”.

detailsweater 2015-12-02

I have wild and happy feelings about a whole sweater being done, even if it is tiny.

3. I finally broke and went to the store. This is the pile that must be knit by Christmas.

thehaul 2015-12-02

It’s a sweater, four hats, a (sort of) little sweater, three pairs of socks and (not pictured) slippers.

4. I’m so screwed.

5. Not as screwed as I’d be without #1.