Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Confession: I'm a chocoholic. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa, ... You get the picture. So, now picture this:

Diamond Yarn's Galway Irish Knitting Worsted in Colour 2295. OK, so the rich cocoa colour doesn't really come out in this photo taken in the late afternoon sunlight. My goal is to finish this project by Easter. It'll be way better than anything chocolate the Easter Bunny might bring.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seen From Both Sides

Yesterday, I drove to Prescott, Ontario, crossed the St. Lawrence over the Thousand Islands, and went on to Canton, New York to see a dermatologist.

St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
We have a shortage of dermatologists here in Kingston and there is a six-month wait to see one. Since we kept our U.S.-based private health insurance when Bill left the World Bank, we still have access to specialists on the other side of the border. It gives "cross-border shopping" a whole new meaning.
Now, some may regard this as a failure of the Canadian (really Ontario in this case) healthcare system and a triumph of the U.S. one. But wait...You don't have to do much reading to realize that both systems are a failure. Access to healthcare is a basic human right and really, it's time for both Canadians and Americans to get off their ideological high horses and realize, as the Brits and French already have, that the answer is some blend of public/private healthcare. Even the head of the Canadian Medical Association is advocating the same.
And here's the thing. When you've lived in both countries, you tend to lose some of the ideological baggage. You start being able to see things a little more objectively. Not perfectly--none of us has that level of clarity. But with some understanding of what each side's concerns are and what solutions might exist.
History shows us how things can change. Check out this sign just a few blocks from my front door.

This astounded my kids, who grew up learning history from the American point of view. Imagine how much more astounded they were to learn that one of the founders of Saint John, New Brunswick, where Bill grew up, was none other than the infamous Benedict Arnold.  Fortunately, it's all in the distant past now and Canadians and Americans are able to see things in perspective and benefit from being each others' closest trading partner. If only we could go back a decade and all leave our passports at home!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Getting It Down in Writing

Knitting is so much more fun than writing patterns. That's my excuse for being so slow about getting what I've knitted into pattern format. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what format works best for writing patterns. My preference is for patterns written in Elizabeth Zimmerman's "general recipe" style. I would rather be told to "centre the stitch pattern in the back and front sections" than be given explicit instructions about how many stitches to knit before starting at point "X" on a graph. For one thing, detailed instructions increase the odds of pattern-writing errors. However, even EZ was forced to acknowledge that many knitters want a "blind followers" version.
I do my best thinking when I'm out walking, so while I was pondering all of this today, I wandered off east from my front door toward RMC (the Royal Military College). Since I usually strike west, that in itself was an indication that I was in the mood to think in fresh ways.

View from the Lasalle Causeway over to RMC
Cannons at the ready

The Wolfe Island ferry was coming in as I walked down Ontario Street, and I stopped at the bottom of my street to admire the bulbs coming up in the garden of the Frontenac Club Inn.

View from the garden gate on King St. E.
 I'm working on writing up the pattern for my new crossover cardi (still unnamed) and I'm wondering how knitters would feel about a pattern with a little less detail than is customary, but still a little more than the rough outline frequently offered by EZ. Something more than a general recipe, but with some room left for a little thinking and planning by the knitter. After all, knitting is supposed to be a creative activity, right?

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Gorgeous, sunny March weather. Went to St. James this morning with our friends Ann and Steve from Ottawa, who were here for Steve's birthday. Their daughter, Leslie, who is studying engineering here at Queen's, came with them. After church, we drove up to Westport for a little shopping. I bought some nice pieces at "Chris Reynolds", a fave clothing store. Then, after some butter tarts, we watched the locals engage in the sport of "waterskipping". What is that you ask? It involves riding a snowmobile over the thawing lake at breakneck speed, then taking off over bits of open water and landing (hopefully) on the ice on the other side of the gap. Considering the fragile nature of the ice at this time of year, the weight of a snowmobile, and the temperature of the water, it seems like a death-defying act. These photos give some idea of what it's all about.

 On our way up to Westport, we passed a lake with a throng of people gathered at the edge and some poor guy up to his neck in the water being hauled out by a rope. At the time, we couldn't figure out what it was all about. Once we'd seen what was going on at Westport, we knew. I suppose his expensive machine was somewhere underneath him at the bottom of the lake. The price of a few thrills, I guess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Death and Taxes

Worked most of the morning on assembling tax documents for our accountants. Yuck! Then, rewarded myself by finishing "Shooting Elvis", the Stuart Pawson murder mystery novel I've been reading. I love his character, DI Priest. Then, walked downtown, via the lakefront, to the hardware store. Down by the shore, the view is changing; that's open water out there. Yay!

Almost no snow left, as this view of Murney Tower shows. (Kingston has four martello towers, left over from its days as an important British colonial defensive location. They were meant to protect us from the rebellious Americans across the water.)

Enjoyed the waterfront for a few minutes, whilst imagining how pleasant it would be to live right on the lake. Tried unsuccessfully to convince myself that I'd hate the constant wind.

Noticed that the maple syrup vendors have appeared at the market, as the ice in the skating rink in the background slowly melts.

Our relatively new garbage bin has developed a hole in the lid where a little black stopper used to be. A resourceful customer at the the hardware store said she had filled a similar hole with a rubber drain plug, so my mission this evening is to see whether this will work for us. Bought a plug and some glue. It's a constant battle to stay one step ahead of our manic squirrels.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Isabel celebrated her 19th birthday last Saturday. She had asked for a pair of Shirl's Mittlets (see post from last week) and here they are.

What a lovely pattern. I think I must make some for myself before next winter. Speaking of the seasons, yesterday the sun came out and I took my first walk of the year WITHOUT BOOTS. Such a feeling of lightness! Flocks of geese have been flying over almost non-stop for the last 24 hours. They're surprisingly noisy. And I heard and saw my first redwing blackbird of 2011, so I'm sure spring is finally here. Hurray!

Monday, March 14, 2011


Bill is teaching this semester at Trent University, in Peterborough, about 2 hours from here. He's teaching micro- and macro-economics and between his workload and the weather, he's spending most of his time there. (We decided last December that he would rent a place in Peterborough at least until the end of March.) So, I'm left here in Kingston without a car most of the time.
How's it working out? Quite frankly, maybe better than if I had a car!  First, I don't have to clean snow and ice off the car and I don't have to rush to clear out our parking area when it snows. Second, I'm getting lots of exercise walking everywhere, and third, I'm spending a lot less money since it takes a little more effort to get places.
I've almost always lived in an urban village setting. I grew up in New Edinburgh, Ottawa. In our Washington, DC years, we lived in Chevy Chase, DC. These are both older, close-in neighbourhoods, with historic homes, sidewalks, mature trees, and lots of local amenities such as shops, restaurants, etc. Places where you can leave your car at home and do your business on foot. The trade-off is that we've had to have smaller houses than we would be able to afford in the 'burbs.We decided to settle here in Sydenham Ward in Kingston precisely because it offers the same pedestrian lifestye we're used to.

Where can I get in 10 minutes of walking from my front door? Here, in no particular order, is a short list:
1. the supermarket (a Metro store, to be precise),    
2. a Natural Foods store (Tara Foods),
3. Old Farm Fine Foods (local, organic farm produce),
4. Pan Chancho Bakery,   
5. Wolfe Island Bakery,
6. Starbucks (not one, not two, but three!!!),
7. a pharmacy (Shoppers Drug Mart),
8. a butcher shop (the Block and Cleaver),
9. a hardware store (Vandervoorts)--also carries sailing gear, in case you're into things nautical,
10. three book stores (Indigo Books, Novel Idea, and Berry and Peterson),
11. Gwyn Griffin, a shop that sells WOOL and WINE (what a combo!),
12. a games store that also sells WOOL and beading supplies (the Minotaur), and offers a Sunday afternoon knitting group,
13. many clothing stores, ranging from the Gap to Gracie's (a fave) to Chris Reynolds (sophisticated),
14. several jewellery shops (Modern Primitive can be counted on for inexpensive but lovely gifts),
15. a flower shop with great garden paraphernalia (Trugs),
16. an Anglican Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Cathedral (St. Mary's), and many other churches,
17. a movie theatre (the Empire), and a theatre for stage and concert productions (the Grand),
18. at least four inns (the Hochelaga, the Rosemount, the Belvedere, the Frontenac Club to name some),
19. Queen's University,
20. some big hotels (a Sheraton, a Marriott, a Radisson),
21. two hospitals (the Hotel Dieu and Kingston General),
22. City Hall, with its skating rink in winter and market square in other seasons,
23. Frontenac County Courthouse,
24. a huge park,
25. Lake Ontario (can be seen from my front doorstep, although not from inside the house),
26. more restaurants than I can count, including the locally famous Chez Piggy and our favourite Le Chien Noir,
27. a yacht club,
28. a public library (complete with coffee shop and extra-large video collection), and
much, much more. 

St. George's Cathedral on King St.E., Kingston, ON
 Where can you get to in 10 minutes without a car?

Sunday, March 13, 2011


The weather this March is gross, just gross. Rain, sleet, flurries, no sunshine for days. It's true that there's probably more grass than snow out there at this point, and a few brave shoots are poking through the semi-frozen mud, but it's still cold and the lack of sunshine is getting us all down. To cheer ourselves up, we went for walk along the lakefront this afternoon, where we encountered this.

It's some sort of Queen's University charity event involving swimming in the little bit of water you can see at the shore. When we came along, a girl in a bikini was just towelling off. Gives me heart failure just thinking about it.
Further along, we noticed the early stages of the spring breakup.

See the cracks in the ice? It won't be long before there's open water. What I really noticed was how quiet it all was. When the lake is open, the surf pounds in and there's constant movement and noise. Today there was almost no wind (the wind turbines out on Wolfe Island in the background were almost motionless) and an eerie stillness.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Handwork

A couple of months ago I had my purse stolen (a stupid story I won't get into). The problem wasn't that I lost my cards ( fortunately, only my Canadian set, not my American ones) since they were easily replaced. The real tragedy was that I lost my 2-year-old alpaca silk handknitted gloves. Big sigh! It's taken me a while, but I've finally replaced them with a new pair of merino gloves. 

 "Strata" gloves from Robin Melanson's "Knitting New Mittens and Gloves" in Mission Falls 136 Superwash Merino.
It's been a week of knitting for hands. Isabel, who will turn 19 next Saturday, has requested a pair of "Shirl's Mittlets". Here they are so far.

We went shopping in the stash and she chose Knitpicks Gloss (merino and silk fingering weight) in "bordeaux". I think she's going to like them a lot.