This past holiday weekend, Meaghan, Reg, Jamie, Henry and I drove up to Cape Breton Island to stay in a cabin. It has been a dream of mine to see the Cabot Trail in the snow but have always thought it not practical because of the unpredictable nature of the weather at this time of year. But, we did it!! And after a little bit of a stressful drive over one of the snowy mountain roads, it was a piece of cake 😉
In short, the weather was perfect. Storm upon storm battered us last week but now the weather has mellowed considerably with around 0 temperatures and a steady dusting of snow over the several feet that has previously fallen. The drive through valleys dotted with farms and old barns, cattle and horses in the snow . We met very few cars but would come across dozens parked along the side of the road for tobogganing down the ideal hill. Dreaming about one day owning a little piece of land on this beautiful Island.
When we finally reached our airbnb, nestled at the bottom of the mountains in Cheticamp (just before the entrance to the National Park) there were a few *hiccups* before we could settle in (a broken water heater, our car stuck in the snow, a drive to the owners barn to use the washroom and another instance of our car stuck in the snow….. just a WEE bit of chaos). We decided to drive to the National Park while we waited for the water heater to be fixed. It was M A G I C! The sun was setting, the mountains covered in snow and the ocean had a greenish/grey tint with the sleeping sky.
Once we made it to our cabin with the freedom of being able to use the washroom, we cooked and Jamie went with the owner to get us a huge glass jug of fresh mountain water. They drove into the National Park in total darkness. It was delicious and we drank the whole thing with our sauna trips.
Our stay was filled with tea, walking up the mountain behind the cabin, reading plays aloud, sitting by the woodstove, knitting, a sauna and sleeping E A R L Y! We were without service and the internet and I just wish I could live like that forever. It’s strange, I felt compelled to use the internet when I came home and was overwhelmed with sadness. I just need to be aware of my use and start by cutting it down.
Meaghan also finished a beautiful Olwyn lopi sweater for our Etsy shop, it will be available this weekend! We photographed it in the woods behind the house and very excited about the outcome!
My heart yearns for a deeper connection to this place. I feel very, very lucky that we can drive there and it’s just our neighbouring island but I feel the need to know the trees, streams, rocks in the old hardwood forests. I feel like they speak to me and I, in my meager way, speak back to them. I hope.
On Saturday, I wrote about my peaceful mornings. Filled with tea, knitting, scents and animals. Winter is so unpredictable in Eastern Canada that I feel like we see the moon more than the sun.
And then there are winter storm mornings that stay for days and nights. There is something about blizzards and winter storms that I find really exciting (as long as you can stay home – there is nothing exciting about having to go out in a storm). I can probably partly attribute this feeling to my childhood and snowdays. However, now as an adult, I love the energy of the storm and my very legitimate excuse to just knit all day by the fire! I started the body of my latest Lopapeysa which I am either going to name “Celtic Garden” or “Folklore” because of the pattern I have in mind for the yoke. If you’re curious about our last 2 days staying in doors while harsh wind and snow drove at us, please continue on!
M O N D A Y
On Monday morning we awaited a blizzard – impending sense of wild, lashing doom that rips across the province. I definitely received a not so peaceful omen during the early hours of Monday. When I woke to bring Henry outside, I could just hear the wind was beginning to pick up. I walked downstairs and in the dark I could see something not right sitting on the kitchen floor with cats padding about. Lovely! A very inverted mouse, thank you so much Petey. We always know that Petey is responsible for the crime – he just sits and watches too when I clean up his work. Afterwards, I took Henry outside in the wind and the misty rain while a small murder of crows flew directly over us, swaying in the wind, caw – cawing.
I decided to just sit, knit and drink tea and fill the house with some warming, calming scents. I sat by the window to watch – but nothing happened really until around noon. The wind and snow began to pick up. The chickens were out during the morning but we closed them back in around noon when the storm really was upon us.
Our main task during storms is to make sure we are prepared if the power goes out, that the animals are taken care of and that the house is heated. The previous evening we made a double batch of chili so food would not be a problem. I collected all of our candles to make sure we could turn darkness into light (luckily it never went out!). But otherwise, I spent most of the day knitting!
When I slept, the house shook. I imagined the roof tearing off and somehow fell asleep after that thought. How calming?
Basket full of knits ❤
T U E S D A Y
The province was shut down yesterday. The blizzard statement was lifted around noon or so. We were greeted by very large snow drifts throughout the yard. Shoveling to be done in the chicken run (it had about a 3 foot drift which was preventing us from even opening the door to it) and the front walk way – no where near as exciting as the previous day.
Since the power stayed on, our only real challenge was shoveling, etc and dealing with the stress that can accompany staying in doors for too long.
I still had a lot of time to knit. I have put away the shawl that I have been working on and have been knitting a new lopapeysa for the shop. I made huge progress this past week since the weather has been a bit mad. Finishing both sleeves and making very good progress during the blizzard. I decided to make a little border of thistles along the bottom of the sweater. When it’s complete, I will make a post just about this particular sweater 🙂 But for now, I will just share the progress photographs ❤
For Valentines Day, Jamie and I hopped in the car when our driveway had been plowed at around 4 30 and drove very, very slowly to town for the sole reason to pick up pizza. Usually we make our own, but time was of the essence! We had pizza by the fire and watched a murder mystery show with all the animals. It was perfect.
Today, My body is aching from shoveling (in a good way). I have been so off-kilter from my regular schedule since last Friday (we had a storm as well) and since Jamie has been home due to the storm that I hope to grasp some sense of normalcy today. There are orders to be packaged up and shipped out, a lot of laundry and general cleaning up, a dog that can actually walk down the street rather than jumping in the snow.
I hope you enjoyed seeing my progress over the storm and a couple of photographs. I didn’t manage to take too many of the storm because it was basically impossible. I couldn’t really go outside and from the window it just looked like a white blur. The weather is around 0 today, and the landscape is a host of white, grey and black (until of course you look a little closer).
I hope everyone on the East Coast of Canada/United States stayed safe and indoors and enjoyed time as much as we did ❤
P.S. I will soon have the most awkward vlog! I bought some ‘equipment’ (I don’t know why I put that in single quotation..) and although I have much planned for the next couple of weeks, I will try to squeeze a video in there (how hard can it be….right? :|)
The moon is out. Four beams of light that form a perfect cross (or X) illuminate the sky. I often think about the people of the past, how incredibly impressive and important symbols in the sky would have been for them. Right now, I am warm and safe sitting with mounds of blankets before a window with the full moon and a cross. I wanted to write about my morning rituals (or attempts at morning rituals) but am honestly in awe of the sight of the moon at the moment. And while I was distracted by the brightest light in a dim sky, I looked to the East and the horizon is orange, so time to dive right into the ritual!
I wake. Not always at the same time, although I am working on that. This morning it was 6 am. Winter mornings are quite different than the rest of the year. They are darker and colder for one and require a lot of warmth for a joyous beginning. Fire starting, thick wool socks, hot teas and oatmeal and warming scents (I basically just told you everything!).
B U T F I R S T …..
S A D L Y N O T C O F F E E
I was once a coffee drinker – I struggled with coffee. I loved coffee. I loved the ritual of making it, the smell (most of all) and I had a conflicted relationship with the taste and the way it made me feel. I finally decided to stop completely and have honestly found a quiet peace in my day that I never had before. I think I ultimately was experiencing caffeine overdose, from ONE small cup of coffee. I could not focus, I would be productive in a frenzied kind of way for maybe an hour and then I felt like just a wreck. I could drink a cup at 9 am and not sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. The last time I drank it was Christmas and that was just because it was Christmas.
It was never this bad when I drank it everyday, but I slowly started to eliminate it everyday and that’s when it really, really started and that was when I decided the best thing for me would be to simply stop drinking it. So many benefits, the biggest in my mind was obviously my health and well being but also, the money saved! Jamie is still a big coffee drinker but his work provides it so I still get to smell it on the weekends 😉
E M B R A C I N G T E A
In the mornings, I drink peppermint tea steeped with a green tea bag for that little caffeine kick and added health benefit. I love peppermint tea, it’s my absolute favourite tea (peppermint and ginger) and find it very cleansing first thing in the morning. I often have a smaller cup of Earl Grey later in the morning, but first thing I really enjoy a cleansing large cup of herbal and green tea. I know we’ve been told for years the benefits of green tea, but peppermint tea is incredibly good for you as well! I know it sounds like the most basic of teas but it’s a digestive aid, full of antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is even known to improve alertness and memory! It’s awesome and so easy to grow!\
A F F I R M A T I O N S
Something I am trying to do (although I don’t always remember) is ‘bless’ my water or tea. I essentially pray or send positive affirmations over my drink and then by drinking it, am taking those positive directly in my body. The affirmations can be anything from having a good day to confidence, to security and protection, to creativity. I find that it really, really helps.
During this time, I’m with the cats and have the diffuser going (currently ylang ylang for mood and frankincense for focus). I often take this time to knit a little bit and just collect myself before the sun makes his grand appearance (which now is around 7 30). Depending on how cold it is, there is usually a pressing matter that needs to be attended to. Starting a fire. I am always SO grateful when Jamie does this first thing.
B R E A K F A S T & C H I C K E N S
Eating breakfast is another struggle of mine that I have only recently begun to conquer all thanks to something a wee bit weird… Our chickens! I never felt like eating in the morning and waited until lunch ( completely aware of the damage this was doing to my day) or I would just snack on something really small. But since we have had chickens, especially since November when the temperatures began to dip below 0, I have been making them hot oatmeal. I would make it for them first thing in the morning thinking “wow this is sooo good for them… they are going to have a great day!” and realizing… WHY am I not doing that for myself? So I essentially started making a batch for me at the same time as the chickens. The chickens get a little bit of a more rustic version. I actually gave them the end of our beets the other day with oats and that made them very happy.
I usually eat before I go out to let the chickens out and feed them. Since it’s been so cold, I have been giving them hot water in the morning too with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. I hope to make a post about keeping chickens in a very cold climate, probably later this month!
K E E P I N G H Y D R A T E D
Once the chickens have been fed, it’s time to start thinking about what needs to be done for the day. I usually make a to do list the prior evening. Today, it is Saturday so I am making a blog post (yay!). Regardless, after breakfast and tea, I have a large mason jar of water with a little bit of apple cider vinegar to drink throughout the duration of the whole morning.
We made a large batch of apple cider vinegar this past fall so I feel very happy using our own. It’s also SO easy to make and I highly recommend making it yourself if you are interested (especially if you have access to an apple tree… even a rogue apple tree that you have observed while walking past has many rotting – not used – apples lying about it). Apple Cider Vinegar is extremely beneficial for your ~g u t~ which is the master of your overall health.
L A S T L Y
Henry girl (our dogg) and I go out for a walk. This is the key really for me to have a good, productive day. Walking, without headphones, early in the morning. We often try to get out at around 8 am. Since it’s the weekend, we will probably drive out to a trail somewhere later in the day but on weekdays when I’m working from home and Jamie is at work in town, we just walk the country roads around our home. I kind of consider the morning over when we get back. It’s therapeutic even though I often have to force myself to get out, especially lately. The wind and cold has been biting.
Rituals! Simple rituals! I am a creature of the home – a true cancerian – and need the stability of a solid morning ritual even if it’s just tea and breakfast and scents floating through the house. This morning, I have some basic house and animal chores to do before I think I work on a drawing I had planned. I give myself the freedom of not having a schedule on the weekends.
The sun is rising! Peaking over the barn at the top of the hill by our house. Two cats are with me probably wondering why their food dishes are empty. Pangur jumps to where my attention is directed, to the window, to the knitting basket. I can hear Henry moving around upstairs ready to get up on this lazy, cold Saturday.
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend! **stay warm if you’re in a cold part of the world! That is what we will be doing today (for the most part).
Pangur with the sun
Pangur with the knitting basket this morning
**P S . I am thinking of starting a video blog – something very dull to most I am sure, but just to do little videos on what I’m working on etc, it would essentially be me just sitting there talking because I have NO knowledge of editing videos or anything. Would love any feedback on this idea! **
It is SO cold here on the Island. With the wind chill, it is -29 C! I’m currently sitting in the studio with the wind raging against this West facing (drafty) window. I’m wearing an angora rabbit wool sweater I found at the thrift store with a sheep’s wool over that. On the stove, rice and squash water is simmering away so the chickens can have a warm meal before I close them up in their coop for the rest of the day. I even tried to take Henry for a walk but it was brutal, we walked until she did her business and then we ran back to the house! My nose is chapped and I’m smothered in my calendula salve, such is life in a cold climate.
But for now, I am content with rosemary and frankincense in my diffuser, the music of Hildegard von Bingen floating throughout the house and a cup of black tea. Petey’s made himself comfortable on my lap so I’m stuck here now!
I wanted to share with you my creative process of making listings for our knit items for our etsy shop! We have many new items knit by myself, Meaghan and our Mom. I am responsible for doing the photography, making the listings and shipping the items out so have the freedom to show you the process ❤
To welcome February and celebrate the turning of the wheel, we have 16 new items in the shop! One Icelandic Sweater that I finished in January, 13 pairs of freshly knit fingerless mittens, a pair of soft double knit snowflake mittens in brown and ivory and lastly a decorative fairisle scarf.
Once this work is complete, Jamie and I take Henry out to the beach or the woods and do some photography for the items. This weekend, the forecast is calling for absurdly cold temperatures for exposed fingers. We might be having a stay in weekend with the exception of getting wood from the wood pile and checking on the hens.
Below are a few pictures I took of the indoor process. I hope you enjoy!
This month was strange in a sense. I feel like the whole world is in chaos and I am merely turned to the fringes – looking to the stars, the moon and the earth. Withdrawing further and further. I’ve always felt that the best form of protest is to rely on yourself and your close community and environment for the necessities in life. This month, I focused on making for the shop, exploring, visiting my family in Nova Scotia and working on a few new things.
M A K I N G
Our seasons have such different impacts on my creative or making world. Each one, I swear, it will be my most productive, most fulfilling season. As soon as Autumn approaches, winter will be the month that I learn that new skill, knit something totally new and time consuming. I imagine myself stuck up in my studio (spare bedroom 😉 and painting blindly, on a diet of tea and well more tea. SO absorbed that I forget to eat. Of course… it never exactly turns out this way :p
Calendula & Lavender Soap
We use the cold soap making process, which includes binding a lye solution* with a fat or oil. The result is, if you ask me – pure magic (or chemistry). When these two meet, saponification (I thought the word soaponification when my mom was teaching me 😉 occurs. The lye and oil mixtures bind together (after a great deal of stirring – we actually use a hand blender) and form the wonderful substance we know to be soap 😀 I think of it being a little like cheese since it must cure for a couple of months before you can actually use it.
My knowledge is limited (I never was very good at chemistry) but I understand the recipe and that it is a really liberating way to live your life. I feel like I am doing something productive AND feel so good using this soap. The recipe we make makes about 36-40 bars.
In this batch – we added the calendula infused oil, dried calendula petals, dried lavender and lavender essential oil. You can really add anything you want. Once, we added cinnamon. My next batch, I want to use ground coffee grinds for after working in the garden. All of it organically grown and dried at home.
My Dad is a wizard when it comes to making. This visit, I worked with him to carve 2 spoons from an old apple tree that fell during a storm. I sadly didn’t take many pictures of the process but they turned out beautifully and I’m so happy with them! I still have to go out to the store to buy some Tung Oil to seal them up, but for now behold what you can do with wood!
One day, I became obsessed with the idea of carving my own spoons for making my herbal tea mixtures. I often find myself just pouring right from the mason jar into my tea filter or I even just put my hands right in there (don’t ask why I didn’t use a spoon I already have..). I wanted to make a spoon to deepen and enhance that connection with the herbs that I drink. I feel like the plants that I grow and dry myself deserve a little extra attention when I’m making a nourishing infusion.
Again, I would like to make a post about the carving process. During one of the wild storms we had in November, one of our old apple trees fell so I am excited about having access to this beautiful hard wood!
I have been drinking a squash smoothie every morning. January I successfully did not have a single cup of coffee and replaced it with green tea and strangely you may think… squash. It’s so delicious though! I have been blending pureed squash from the garden with frozen banana, almond milk, pure maple syrup, nuts and some spices. Look at how beautiful squash is….
K N I T T I N G
This month, I completed a Lopi Sweater for the Etsy shop, 8-10 pairs of Fingerless mittens for the shop and started to knit my rowan tweed aran Stole. I have a lot of work to do preparing the listings for all the new knits and will make a blog post about these while I am making the listings. So much to do this week, eep!
I posted a couple pictures of the stole up on Instagram, but here it is again! I wanted it to look a little bit like a baby blanket. Something pretty but practical. I live in a stole my mom made for me many years ago. I relate to Holden in Catcher in the Rye, my big cozy stole/shawl is his cap. My protector in the form of a sheep’s wool and just a little bit of magic. I will write more about this shawl when I finish in February.
B O O K S & R E A D I N G
Most of you won’t know, but I have a Masters Degree in Library Science. I love to read which is what led me down the path to become a librarian. I enjoy librarianship however, a sequence of events began to point me in another direction. I have accepted it and now embrace a making / artist / homesteading life. A childhood dream that I definitely never thought would be possible!
House of Splendid Isolation by Edna O’Brien (1994)
Okay, so I actually read this in December, but I will include it anyway >.< I am someone who is easily swayed by cover images or titles. The title conveys everything I love in books. An eerily haunted feeling of living somewhere beyond the norm. I could only guess it would have someone looking back at their past, of a life perhaps when the house was full of life. Anyway! it actually did have this very element, but it was so run on and all over the place. I wasn’t even clear who characters were or what was going on. I read chapters while not being clear on literally anything! Sadly, the past recollection was a fail for me. However the present was very interesting. It tells the story of a notorious IRA volunteer who takes refuge in an old manor house and holds the elderly woman (the only remaining resident) “hostage.”
Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (first preformed in 1956)
My grandfather was a theater actor and left us with many classic plays. My favourite that he was in and left us with, is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. I’m determined when I go home, to read at least one of the plays there. This month, I chose the classic Eugene O’Neill play.
A semi-autobiographical play set in a single day of the Tyrone’s family life while they reside at their summer home in sea-side Connecticut. It was very, very good and I suggest it for anyone who loves literature or playwrights.
The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (1960)
I have NO idea how I ended up reading this book. It was on my Goodreads “to reads” list and I randomly came across it while I was at the library and remembered the name. I’m not sure how it ended up on my list. Anyway, it was a very heartwarming story (such a contrast to the former) about the relationships of a group of unexpected misfits in Victorian England. I really enjoyed it.
I’m currently reading Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and a graphic novel about Tetris. Desperately need to go to the library! This week, I will take out a couple of new books.
N A T U R E & E X P L O R I N G
Since I went to Nova Scotia for 2 weeks, I spent a lot of time outdoors. More than normal for this time of year since the weather was so mild and pleasant. Usually, I cross-country ski when I’m out there but this year was strange. We didn’t have enough snow to ski so I was walking in the woods. Since it was so nice out, I had several fires with the trees, having tea and just sitting watching the smoke and listening to the wind.
An old friend of mine and I drove out one day to Tor Bay Provincial Park and up around Cape George. It is so beautiful, the ocean is so powerful and Nova Scotia just always takes me breath away. When Jamie came out to the house, we also drove out to Tor Bay. It’s a special, special beach with rocks that look like beached whales and white sand.
A R T
February will bring more art… this is what I tell myself. I will be locked away working fervently ; )
T U R N of the W H E E L
Today is Imbolc, The first of February. The beginning of spring in Ireland and the half way mark here in Canada 😉 We have a lot planned for the month with visits and hiking. I have a lot to do with our etsy shop that I hope to have ready by the weekend. Thank you so much for taking the time, even if it’s just to look through the photos (I know a lot of writing can be daunting and annoying sometime).
*lye (sodium hydroxide) is VERY caustic so its’s very important to have supplies that are strictly for soap making and wear protective gear. It’s also important to keep any pets away from the area that you work and have a window open for air flow! Once you get over the ‘scary’ aspect of lye, you will enter the very exciting world of making your own soap and no longer relying on the harsh soaps of the divorced from nature world!