A little green

Marlowe’s birthday is fast approaching, and her party dress is coming along nicely.  I’m done the skirt, just turning a little picot hem at the bottom – because you know. The idea wasn’t quite frilly enough. 

I have all the cabbage roses knit for around the neck, and I placed them around the other day and thought it was good, but not great – something wasn’t quite right, and the other day I realized what it needs.  Leaves – I immediately imagined pale green leaves under the pink roses on the white bodice, and scoured the stash.  An hour later I’d trashed the stash room and come up with several things that were totally unacceptable, although I did spend another two hours pretending they were acceptable before I finally admitted that this little dress was way too perfect to start compromising now.  I spent another hour cruising the internet looking for the perfect green to order, before I realized it wouldn’t get here in time anyway, and that I didn’t really want a whole skein.  I was stumped.

I called a friend and bemoaned the lack of a perfect pale green, and she said something like "It’s too bad you couldn’t dye the white silk yourself… " and a little bell went off.  Why couldn’t I? Silk is easy to dye, and so I decided to give it a shot.   I got a pot, and some food dye and vinegar and my big pyrex measuring cup, and then I thought about what I know about dyeing (which isn’t much, I’ll tell you that right now) and I skeined up a little of the white silk – just enough to do the leaves.  I have lots left – so if it didn’t work, I thought I could give it a few tries. 

First, I mixed up the dye.  The green was a little too green on its own, so in went a little yellow. 

Then I remembered that you’re supposed to soak the yarn.  I don’t know why you soak the yarn exactly, I think it’s got something to do with the dye going on evenly… so I was sure to do it. I usually don’t break a rule until I know why it exists.  (Usually. There have been some spectacular exceptions.)

Next, very carefully and strategically, I violently backhanded the entire pyrex container of dye into the backsplash, counter, floor and cutting board, while reaching for my coffee, and spent 25 minutes cleaning it up. Then I mixed up the dyes again. 

I feel sure you can skip that step.

I put about half of my colouring and some more water and a glug of vinegar into a pot on the stove.  I know you’re not supposed to use any pots or utensils for dyeing that you will use for food, but since this was food dye I felt pretty good about skipping that rule.  I brought it up to heat, squeezed the water out of my mini-skein, and plunked it in.  I gave it a little stir, then left it there – with the water just below a simmer, until the dye was exhausted and the water was clear.  (For the record, I think that’s the first time I’ve exhausted a dyebath.  I’m usually exhausted before it is.)

At that point I thought it was dark enough (if it had been too light I would have dumped in the rest of the dye) took out the  yarn, and hung it to dry.

Perfect. Just exactly the green I was hoping for, and my favourite way to solve a problem. Quickly, with found objects, and for free.  It’s like getting a Scrabble triple word score, only with yarn. 

In Which All is Revealed

This weekend was jam packed with interesting things, but I’ve been dying to tell you about something for weeks and weeks, and now that it’s over, I can reveal it all, which is a relief, because carrying this secret inside of me since August 10th, when I hauled off and sent a crazy email, has been killing me. 

Katie and Carlos got married on Friday.

From the moment they announced their wedding, I knew I wanted us to give them an unconventional gift.  They’ve been together a while, and they have a house and a baby – and somehow I didn’t feel right about giving them housewares or something.  Once, a couple of years ago, Katie had told me that this certain song was "their song." Now, that stuff changes, and maybe it wasn’t still their song now,  no way to really know…but I did at least know that she liked it, and thought it was romantic. 

Add that piece of knowledge together with the fact that this is a very musical family, and my idea seemed totally doable.  I sent an email to everybody in the family – and a plan was hatched.  Since then, there’s been people practicing all over, people helping Nana Carol keep a secret (she’s our loose cannon) and other people bugging other people to get on board.  (That would have been me. The idea could only work if I had total buy in from everybody.)

We were going to do a Wedding Flashmob.  Like all big ideas, this one had the potential to be absolutely fabulous, or nothing short of a trainwreck.  We practiced, sent around a million secret emails, rehearsed desperately Thursday night,

(I’m pretty sure Sam looks that shocked because Kamilah has just suggested she add a harmony part. She did.  You can see them get it in this video.)

and then Friday came. We arrived at the venue for the wedding, practicing all the way, with instruments stashed in all the cars. 

In my purse were lyrics for everyone at the wedding with instructions in both Spanish and English (Carlos’ family is all from Spain) and sheet music for everyone playing an instrument.  The plan was huge.

Katie and Carlos had a lovely ceremony, really, really beautiful –

and then all the guests went downstairs to the garden for cocktails… everyone except for our little crack team.  They ran to the cars, collected all the instruments (two ukuleles, four guitars, a tenor guitar, a violin and seven shakers and maracas) and ran them into the reception hall, and stashed them under the appropriate tables.  (There was also a brief rehearsal by the side of Queen street.) 

The guests came back up from cocktails, and my daughter Amanda,  Sisters-in-law Robyn and Kelly,  Katie’s best friend Lexa and I ran all over the place pretending to be chatting with guests all the while secretly distributing shakers, maracas and lyric sheets.

Dinner started, and there was a lovely speech by Kelly and Carlos’ brother Jorge, and then a really nice one by Nana Carol and Old Joe, and then what seemed to be a very well received speech by Carlos’ parents (it was in Spanish so I’m not sure what they said, but they seemed charming.)  Kate and Carlos cut the cake, and all the while, the family sat with instruments clenched between their knees, waiting impatiently for the right moment – desperate to get it done. 

Finally I got up to make my speech, and I explained that it was a super musical family, and how Joe and I got songs at our wedding, and Chris and Robyn got songs at their wedding, and that I wished that I could give them a song, but I’m not a good singer.  Then I said I figured out how I could do it.    With that, Katie’s brother Chris pulled his guitar out, and began the intro.  I said "All I need is a little help" and walked back to my table.
With that, Amanda, Megan, Samantha, Savannah and Kamilah (all the nieces) stood up, and Sam and Kamilah started to play the ukulele along with Chris’s guitar, and they sang the first verse. 

At the beginning of the second verse,  my brother-in-law Ben got up with his guitar, and Joe stood up with the tenor guitar… and Katie’s best friends and her sister Kelly and sister-in-law Robyn, started singing along.

At the next verse, Alex (a good friend of Carlos) pulled out his guitar, and Kosti (Savannah’s boyfriend) rose with another one… and the whole Dunphy side of the family rose and added their voices. 

The next verse, all of the Fernandez family rose –  Amanda pulled out her violin and everybody with a shaker started shaking.  On the next verse, all the remaining guests came up, and the full scope of our cunning was revealed.  We all sang along, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of something like that – but there’s something powerful about collective effort that’s just as fun for the people doing it as it is for the people they’re doing it for. 

We have a video here of what it looked like as it was going down – it’s a little dark, but I think you can totally see what we were up to. 

It was a great day – and I can’t tell you how awesome this family is that they would get behind something this crazy… and I think Kate and Carlos loved it- and I’ll just say it. 

It was way better than getting them towels.

Katie and Carlos, this family really loves you.

Down Day

I should have seen it coming.  In retrospect, I asked for it. There’s just no way that you can walk around talking about how much you’re going to get done, and how great it’s going to be to get back to an amazing and solid schedule, and not get smacked around a little.  I don’t know why destiny can’t just have my to-do list burst into flames, or maybe make me itchy all over when I start to write it?  What, I ask you, would be wrong with just a simple swarm of termites welling up from nowhere and eating my list, leaving only tatters arranged in the shape of the words "nice try"?

My back has been a little sore for a few weeks.  I had that one terrible episode a few years ago – which was really my first experience with back pain, and I was really eager to not repeat it, so I’ve been stretching, resting…it’s been keeping it at bay, but with the wedding this week (Katie and Carlos are getting hitched tomorrow!) things have gotten a little out of hand, and maybe I overdid it or took down my guard, but day before yesterday it was really hurting, and then yesterday morning I was crippled. Completely crippled.  I thought it was the pain that woke me at 4:30am, but it turns out it was a UTI, and the day- frankly, only got worse.  By about 10am I was a treat to be around. 

By 6pm I was drugged, medicated and resting with a hot pad – and took advantage of my small attention span to knit small things.

A whole pile of tiny little cabbage roses that will go ’round the neckline of Marlowe’s birthday dress.  I’m not done the skirt part yet, but the yarn is so gorgeous that I don’t want to waste an inch, so I’m putting it on hold while I do the roses, then all that’s left will be for the skirt, and I can just go on until there’s not a bit left. 

Rather happily for me, and rather sadly for the mountain of cabbage roses- I feel much better today.  I won’t be going anywhere fast, and I will be renewing my yoga pass first thing next week- and I’m not quite sure if I’ll dance at the wedding, but at least the worst is over. 

Maybe I’ll knit roses today anyway. 


Today I woke up, came downstairs, made coffee (in the bodum, the coffeemaker is broken. I have no idea how we go through so many) and looked around the house with a feeling of satisfaction and expectancy.
Today is the day.  Unofficially, summer ended yesterday, and today we are all back to school, back to work – and for someone like me, happily back to a schedule, and a plan and a system.   Don’t get me wrong –   There’s nothing more that I love than swimming, and the beach, and the woods, and being out in a canoe, or rock hunting with the kids on Christian Island, or hunting for frogs with a four year old friend,  or watching the sunset with my mum. 

There’s nothing I love more than all of those things- except cobbling together dinner out of fresh things, eating outside, cycling, gardening, kissing a schedule goodbye and staying up late. 

It was a great summer, an amazing summer.

Today there’s a sense of the new year.  I know technically it’s in January, but it never feels that way to me. For me, the new year starts now, as everyone settles down.  The leaves are already starting to turn.  Sam’s back to school.  The kitchen is tidy, and nobody is covered in sand.
I’ll miss summer, but I’m ready.