Afghans of Love

Just as I carry on the traditions, I have bestowed afghans to all my sisters this year. Each unique in its style and design, no particular pattern in mind, each created as I went along. I even had some projects underway from before I finished my MBA and picked them back up. They seemed to have a new meaning when I picked them up as I had more of purpose for each project and a clear end goal in mind.

Making Sister 3's afghan

Making Sister 3’s afghan

This past one was one of my favourites, and definitely a hard one to give away since I’d like to keep for myself. I can always create another one but I feel it is too perfect to replicate. In addition, I made this afghan with a special purpose of gifting it to my sister. Sister 3 will enjoy this; – well I hope she does. She is quite eclectic in her own way. While I don’t know she would necessarily describe herself as eclectic, she is never fearful to express her own individuality or style, and is not afraid to voice her opinions.

The colours of this afghan do remind me of her; she was bold and would never shy away from voicing her opinion to Mom when all we could do was look on. None of us were as brave as Sister 3 to possibly disagree with Mom. While in the moment Mom may have not liked Sister 3 voicing her opinions, she would later commend her for her strength and willingness to take the other path even if it was the one less traveled.

Sister 3's afghan

Sister 3’s afghan

Sister 3 has a daughter now and she is just like her Mom. They visited last summer and it brought special joy to see how much my niece is like her Mom. I wished our Mom was  around to enjoy and possibly have snicker or two for all Sister 3 is receiving back from her daughter as she gave to Mom with her strong opinions. Mom’s Alzheimer’s was too far along to have enjoyed my young niece transition from child to young adult. She would have loved to hear my niece say to Sister 3, “you’re not wearing THAT are you???”. Hmmmm, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

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I learned to crochet at the age of five from a family friend who was left-handed. My Mom tried to teach me but I had trouble understanding her right-handed technique.

Many girls in the Maritimes grew up crocheting or knitting. I am the only one of five children to have carried on the tradition of my Mom’s beloved pastime outside of her kids; crochet. Crochet to me is love, contentment, comfort, joy, bliss, peaceful and so many other words that do not come to mind!

Since Mom’s passing two years ago, I decided to carry on the crochet traditions my sister’s seemingly loved from Mom. Due to my previous academic commitments of earning my MBA while holding a full-time career, I did not have much free time. That has since changed in the past four weeks with the completion of school and the addition of much more free time. My crochet passion has shifted into high gear and several items have been completed and / or in progress. I especially love making afghans and am particularly fond of a multicoloured granny afghan I recently finished for a baby gift to a friend.

Crochet provides me a stress release and solitude to clear my thoughts, ponder ideas, and relax. I take great comfort in making items I think someone may enjoy and find love in providing a special gift to others.

Today there seems to be less and less traditions being carried on and passed from generations. Perhaps people’s busy lifestyles prevent them from carrying on the family traditions they may have enjoyed as a child. I feel nostalgic when I think of my family’s numerous traditions and those I have adopted in my own life with my “family” of friends as I make my life away from my childhood home.

I was feeling particularly nostalgic today when I learned of the passing of a good friend I came to know during my career. He was only 60 and succumbed to cancer he endured for a very brief time. It made me think what traditions Mike might have carried on throughout his life and maybe hoped his children and grandchild would now carry on to remember him and cherish his legacy. I guess death has an eerie kind of way of making us think of random things like traditions and as I think of the traditions I hope to carry on to honour my Mom and my family, I hope you take time to cherish the traditions you honour in your life.

I share a few photos of the recently completed and gifted items of crochet I have shared with family and friends. Many babies being born to friends this year! Bliss.

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Crocheted Granny Afghan

I started this today following my cable knit baby afghan. I had an abundance of “Pound of Love” pink leftover from the Breast Cancer Pink sale offered by Lion Brand a few years ago. I used much of the yarn to crochet an afghan before the arrival of my newest niece who is now coming up to her 2 birthday!

crocheted granny afghan

crocheted granny afghan

Recently there have been four new baby announcements from friends and family, three of which are girls. I love this pattern as it works up fast and there is something comforting about the stitch.  I had made numerous other afghans in the granny ripple stitch, this is the first project with the granny pattern. It should be complete by end of day today. I have already bought the yarn for another project!

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Cable Knit Baby Afghan

While a crocheter since the age of five, I learned to knit about 15 years ago at a class offered by Michaels in Langley, BC. I loved the knitted sweaters my university roommate’s Mom had made for her and was ambitious to learn to knit like that.

The class at Michaels was offered by a sweet senior who was someone’s adorable grandmother and a life-long knitter. I think she could have knit with her eyes closed. She had many works in progress to show us, the two most memorable an evening bag made of cotton thread with pearlized beads being knit into it and a cable knit blanket. I fell in love with both but the cables seems most complicated and unreachable for my skill set.

During the class, I learned the basic knit stitches and immediately bought a beginner’s

cable knit baby afghan

cable knit baby afghan

book of learn to knit and was on my way. Over the next few months I made an abundance of dish cloths and was quickly bored. I decided to embark on a cabled baby blanket project from the book. While it was not perfect, I quickly learned cables and came to love them. I have since made several cable knit baby Afghans including this latest one. I don’t have anyone’s baby in mind yet to give it to but recently baby announcements from friends and family around me mean this will soon have a home.

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Breathing Space

A few years ago I joined a group of women who used to meet to knit, crochet and talk at Cabin 12. We met once a month, drank coffee and talked about stitching. One evening, a knitter told me how she would always go back to stitching when she had stress in her life or needed some alone time to think things through. I could totally relate and find myself doing the same. I process things in my mind, relax, unwind and work on projects all at the same time. Cabin 12 is only open till midday and a select Friday evenings so the stitching meetups ceased.

The last few weeks have been busy finishing my MBA in school, work and business travel. Several people around me have family members either suffering from or have passed of cancer. While horrible and tragic, the pain and suffering puts so much into perspective for me, and reminds me to be grateful of my blessings in life. It wreathreminds me to take the time to do what I love best, which is crocheting, and take some time to breathe.

I made this wreath, and got the inspiration from a crocheter named Lucy I follow on the blog Attic 24. Her colours, designs and projects are so whimsical and happy. While this wreath is not normally something I would make, it made me happy. I hung it on our front door for all to see and enjoy the colours; hopefully reminding them of their blessings when they see it.

I hope you like it. I am making one for my best friend.

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I’m Happiest Stitching

2014 had many great experiences and memories, notably meeting my youngest’s sister’s daughter, Sawyer, on her 1st birthday in November and starting my MBA in January. It’s been a busy year and I have learned a lot about myself, mostly how far I am able to push myself outside my boundaries and how much I am really capable of when I want something. Balancing school, work, life and everything else in the middle has been a challenge.

Despite the hectic lifestyle, I always come back to stitching. Mostly crochet, but I have completed a few knit projects. I find the time stitching therapeutic and an opportunity to consolidate my thoughts, make my plans, and unwind and relax. Regardless of my workload, I have always found time to stitch and even if I’ve just had a few minutes to do so, I’m able to refocus and get back to the tasks at hand, including multiple pressing deadlines for school. The time I spare for stitching is paramount and I would not be successful without this time to breathe. I hope you find the same joys in something you love and enjoy all life has to offer in 2015. Happy New Year.

sawyer's cables

cabled knit blanket for Sawyer

alex afghan

Crochet granny ripple afghan for my BFF, Alex

purple blue granny ripple

Crochet granny ripple afghan for my husband’s cousin, Firadous

star struck

Star Struck crochet afghan – still in progress


Crochet infant jumper dress – another in pink, for niece, Sawyer

norah and baby blanket

Crochet granny ripple afghan for cuddling with niece Sawyer. Norah my cat was a little jealous.

norah and crochet

Crochet granny ripple afghan for my sister. Norah is cuddling on it.

pink afghan

Crochet afghan for Sawyer, finished product.

My photos are of some of the projects I completed this year or still working through.

Nova Scotia Tartan crocheted afghan

Nova Scotia Tartan crochet afghan – gift for my Dad

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Epicurious 2014

I am a lover of food, both eating and cooking. I take it naturally, my entire family loves food. My mother was an amazing cook but surprisingly let none of her five girls do much of it. I don’t know if it was her “way or the highway” attitude or if she just genuinely loved preparing the meals, but I remember at age 18 in the university dorm knowing very little about cooking. Luckily I relied on Mr. Noodles and Kraft dinner for my nourishment…the novelty quickly wore off.

I think my first real interest in learning to cook came from my worldly travels. I was privileged in 1993 to travel the globe mostly in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. There I was exposed to many food and spices I had never heard of let alone like. In fact I remember being in Istanbul and not eating goat cheese or olives! Now I would think this a fate worst than death for my love of them.

Overtime I would come to marry a Moroccan and learn a great deal from the foods his mother would prepare for the family. I have a genuine love of ethnic foods, spice and more exotic cuisine. My career in hotels has also allowed me the privilege of many, many divine meals from world-class Chefs paired by the sommelier. While my skills are a far cry from theirs, my palate yearns for the flavours I have come to know.

My first basic exposure to skills and technique came from The Joy of Cooking and my love of Julia Child. I first saw Julia on a PBS Saturday morning show and thought she such an exotic creature. Her voice alone drew me and her passion for tasting and eww-ing and ahh-ing over her own meals was mesmerizing. I picked up a used copy of TJOC at a make-shift alley yard sale in the West end of Vancouver for $0.50. The book was tattered and worn, with sentences underlined and corners turned over as reminders of favourite recipes. I would later purchase the 75th anniversary edition with pristine pages and even a page marker.

My style of cooking is definitely traditional with a twist. I take a recipe and make it my own, never following the recipe to the letter. I am quite experimental and know what I love to eat, so I allow my palate to lead the way. Above all I despise food waste and look for ways to maximize all food and leftovers.

My goal for 2014 is to cook more. Eat more and share more of my food. I hope to make more preserves of the bounty of Vancouver Island and even make some wine this year. My husband has also caught the cooking fever and the once could-not-boil-water-guy has actually made a few interesting meals including a Bechamel sauce!

For now, I leave you a photo montage of some of my favourite meals this past year.

Faithfully Epicurious in Victoria, BC

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For Baby Sawyer

This year my youngest sister had a baby. It was probably the one and only great thing that happening in 2013 after the passing of our mother and then the passing of her father in law only days before the baby’s birth. Regardless, we all have found peace and joy in the birth of precious baby girl Sawyer. She is the seventh child of my sisters and officially making me the only sister without children. That’s a whole other blog post sometime :).

In honour of Baby Sawyer’s birth and as a symbol to the crochet art my mother so adored, I made Sawyer a pink afghan. I am the only one of five girls who took up crocheting from my mother and I hope the love, pride and joy of the craft reminds them of the loving gifts Mom made for us in her lifetime. I hope my work will also bring many memories to all who enjoy and love them, and included a note with the gift that read “for cuddling and snuggling with Sawyer”.

It was simple Granny Ripple pattern crocheted in Lion Brand’s yarn appropriately called “Pound of Love” in Cotton Candy Pink.


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For The Love of Yarn

I started crocheting when I was 5, taught by a lively friend of the family, Eunice States. Eunice was known as “the homemaker of all”; – an amazing cook, proprietor of THE best pickled mustard beans and the crochet goddess like none other. She got me started with thick Pentax nylon yarn and a large hook to make a pot holder. Later my Mom would hone my skills to make delicate sugar-starched Christmas ornaments and large afghans.

When I was younger it was “not cool” to crochet. Only old ladies did that. I would sometimes make a pot holder or two, but was not a regular project type of gal. About 15 years ago I decided it would be cool to knit and took a knitting class at Michael’s Craft Store. Someone’s grandma around the age of 80 was teaching there on Saturdays and she could knit circles in her sleep. She showed us a complex knitting project she was working on as our future inspiration that was comprised of a knit evening bag with pearls knit into the design. I could barely hold the knitting needles together but she said by the time I left class I would be knitting pro. I did knit well  when I left the class and made my first sweater. It took me about a year but it was a marvelous work of art!

Around the same time, I picked up the crochet hook again. I started by making an inordinate amount of hats, mittens and wash clothes. There were over a hundred and I donated them to a local women’s shelter. From time to time I knit hats and mittens, and even joined a monthly evening for ladies stitching over coffee or wine. I remember speaking with someone there and we both concurred why we crochet.  It is ‘me-time”. I often pick up a project when there are stresses in my life. Crocheting is a refined solitude all in its own. The comfort of a project to soothe a busy mind or rest a weary soul and at the end, a thoughtful project for someone to enjoy.

Since my mom stopped crocheting due to Alzheimer’s I have felt a sense of pride to keep her joy live on in the family. None of my sisters crochet. I have made some projects for them to enjoy this year including a few for my sister’s newest baby.  The joy of my projects is larger than expected; – the delight of someone’s face when they receive your project is priceless.

One particular project that meant the most to me was the Nova Scotia tartan afghan. I received the yarn kit as a gift from my Aunt Lynn when we were on a family vacation in Gabarus, Nova Scotia in August of 2006. Little did we know it would be Mom’s last vacation to remember. I

Nova Scotia Tartan crocheted afghan

Nova Scotia Tartan crocheted afghan

took the kit home and it sat in the closet as I was not particularly fond of the NS tartan. I crocheted the afghan this year and sent it to my Dad with a note of the story, as a remembrance to him of the vacation and the art Mom so loved.

My Dad loved it and I know my Mom would have been proud to see the finished product of the bag of yarn turned into a keep sake afghan of the last memories we shared together.

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Pass The Quality Street Chocolates

My Mom was the biggest kid of all at Christmas. She started her shopping in summer and began her crafts right after the Christmas of last. She would plan her baking lists in August and was the first to decorate her home. The tree came out of storage faithfully in mid-November and was always the first up in the neighbourhood. Her newest crocheted ornaments would adorn the tree each year, heavy of sugar starch and a story to share of all who visited during the holidays. Mom was the first up on Christmas and some mornings even lingered hours before we were waken for 6:00 a.m.!

Mom’s Christmas traditions included many, the Quality Street chocolates among my favourite, (these originated from Halifax). The moment we saw the first of many purple downloadoctagonal chocolate tins, the excitement flowed. My mom was quite famous for re-taping the so-called “unopened” tins and putting them under the sofa, hidden from all. She selected the shiny purple chocolates which held a hazelnut and caramel centre. My sister would pout when she found they were gone.

Mom’s beloved scotch shortbread was a treasured family recipe for their melt-in-your-mouth buttery, creaminess. Whipped butter and sugar, beaten by hand and pressed with a crinkle-cookie cutter bejeweled with a shiny sugar ball, unmistakably signaled Christmas.

Dad bought her two favourite perfumes and Mom would giggle in surprise when she pulled them from her stocking. Our clothes would linger from her new perfume scent after her tickles, hugs and kisses shortly thereafter.

Christmas signaled family and times spent visiting friends. Food was abundant, hand in hand with storytelling and laughs. Many Christmases our parents struggled to put Christmas in front of us, but that was never evident to us from the joy, happiness and laughter they instilled in every Christmas.

As the grandchildren came along Mom got even more excited about Christmas; – her babies having babies. She even got to see Christmases that included her grandbabies having babies!

I had hoped this Christmas without her would never come and many days this year felt like cancelling Christmas. My Muslim husband pulled Christmas together this year. He did it for me, he did it for her. Mom would be proud of his efforts and she would not want us to cancel Christmas. She would want us each to celebrate Christmas in the ways she had taught us. (I eventually managed a few Christmas surprises she would be proud of that I’ll share after Santa delivers his presents!)

My Dad divided up the crocheted ornaments Mom had for her tree between his five daughters and himself. The detail and work Mom put into these ornaments is unparalleled. 1146479_10152125906911079_1924151738_nI had so many memories of Christmas past with my sisters, with her, with Dad as I placed them on the tree. My husband told me I was smiling as I placed them on the tree.

I did not buy the Quality Street chocolates as my husband won’t eat them and there’s too many for me. I was pleasantly surprised to find them in bulk at The Bulk Barn today and I bought only the ones I like. As I unwrapped each of them, I had so many memories flood back and nothing had changed from when I was 8 years old. I heard my sister complain of the purple ones being absent and Mom’s perfumed hug as she laughed and rocked me on her lap.

Merry Christmas to you Mom, I love you and miss you. Thank you for the Christmas memories.

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