Saturday, January 28, 2023


 Aren't these socks beautiful? 

They all have mates, of course, but I thought fanning out the different colours of wool/mohair blend would make a nice picture. 

These socks were all knit with yarn from Stoddart Family Farm, which no longer produces yarn of any kind. And that's sad because it is the nicest hefty yarn I know... Sylvia was so amazing at hand-dying, and boy does the yarn from the goats and sheep on her farm, and the one next door, make luxurious socks. It is a delight to wear anything I make with it. I am very, very grateful I overbuy everything I fall in love with, just in case, because I still have a stash of it and have many more Sylvia socks in my future.


These socks have something else in common, too. They all have a problem like this:

sigh. Mostly on the heel, as here, but sometimes on the toe.  Even torn up, the stitches still look so pretty to me. Ethereal, no less.

But you can't walk around in a sock like that. It's time for me to get darning! 

Meanwhile, we had a big storm this week and when I looked out, all I could see was rain slapping the windows and our plants bearing up as best they could.

At the start

In the middle when I started to worry
about power outages...

And a day or two later

I think there's a lesson to be learned there... stuff happens that's less than ideal, and it's hard to take, but then circumstances come along, like sun and wind, and change things up so you can carry on after all. Still, when it comes to the socks, I don't think wind is gonna cut it. It's gotta be me.

Somewhat related but not really, I am just so excited about this plant I am looking for any excuse to show you: I got an amaryllis for Christmas and while the blooms were astonishing and lovely, the foliage stuff that's going on now is fabulous!

I mean, so vibrant and unexpected. Even the shade of green is thrilling.

(and yes, our dining table is pretty much a plant parade ground these days. I need to find other horizontal surfaces that want a green friend.)

I know I'm supposed to do something with this bulb so it blooms again next year, and I do intend to ask the friend who gave it to me how she manages that part. But if it means sticking it in a dark cold space right now and not getting to look at these strong green shapes every day, I'm not up for it.


Hope you have something wonderful going on to make up for the hole-y socks in life! And I hope I see you here again next week.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Pens seeking paper

Hello again and welcome to my stationery shop:

It's a lot, isn't it. You're looking at watercolour pencilcrayons, many many Gelly Roll pens (original and metallic), Micron pens in more colours than black, Kakuno fountain pens, Zebra mildliners, and quite a few Uniball Signo pens in various nib sizes. And of course, Tombow dual brush markers. If I feel the need to write in gold ink, I have three shades. It's classic Hugs-style overkill - curated, yes, but plentiful, just like my yarn stash. I guess everybody has their weaknesses.

Something I've learned about myself is that I very much enjoy making marks on paper. It doesn't even matter if they're aesthetically pleasing, though it's nice when that happens. I just enjoy the process, the way other people are passionate about making Alfredo sauce. So last year, when I treated myself to the first new Filofax planner I'd had in twenty-plus years, it was inevitable I would go down the planner rabbit hole. A dedicated place to write things down and then look at them later? Yes please.

Fear not: I am holding a tight reign on my enthusiasm today. I just thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures. And if you are interested in more detail, most of what I mention today is set up with a link.

Here's my go-to, the 'on my desk, everyday planner' where I keep my to-do lists. 


It's a pocket-sized Filofax Holborn in blue (click the link for a better picture, sorry about the terrible lighting here) and it was my Christmas present, a real indulgence. I love it so much for so many reasons, including its tidy side pockets which are the perfect size for some mini Kitta washi tapes, which I am constantly using to tape lists or notes onto a divider, or to cover up some garbled writing I don't want to be annoyed by later.

As with most Filofaxes I've bought lately, the bar code sticker on the front page proved impossible to take off without leaving a big mess, so I taped a tiny piece of scribble over and feel happy whenever I open the planner and find it. Seeing it here though, I wonder if I can't do a better job colour-matching the front page to the planner. Hmmm.

The Holborn has small (though not the smallest) binder rings, which means you have to be selective about what you keep in it. I wanted to do a better job of menu planning this year to free my afternoons from staring into the pantry instead of writing, and I wanted a planner for this purpose which would lie flat on the desk the minute I opened it. So, I treated myself to a second pocket-sized Filofax, an Original, in black. Also a set of Filofax pocket-sized dividers in 'Moonlight', and a special Tombow pen to warm the grey column headings of my otherwise beloved Peanuts Planner Company downloadable inserts - the colour is called Asparagus, which I think is a hoot.

The plants I doodled with a white Signo broad-tip pen onto black card stock are not there for pretty, but to reduce the risk of vertigo from the stripes on this particular divider. I mean - wow, that is some serious striping. 

Otherwise I love these dividers so much, I just bought a second set to go into the Filofax pocket-sized Malden I found in black, hugely discounted for about a day on Amazon. 


I do not need another planner, as indicated when I couldn't instantly think of what to use it for (not to worry, I will!) but everybody who likes Filofax planners seems to talk about their love of Maldens and I was curious. Now that I have one, I would say it has two downsides balancing out the soft leather, many pockets, and large binder rings: it is too floppy to write in easily while standing, and the zipper on the inside flap is exposed, and presses a mark into whatever pages you have in the front. 

My solutions: write while sitting down, and make a page from heavy watercolour paper to take the hit, then affix a decorative image to the right of the ding to draw away the eye and suggest the page is there on purpose, for being lovely. There are worse things to see when you open a planner. Once I had the image for the protector sheet all set I made another coordinating one, to cover the inevitable Sticky.


side note: I read a tip from a graphic designer about using up whatever watercolour paint might be left over from the day's work to mark on scraps of watercolour paper, for drawing on later. I cannot believe how much this small step elevates a nothing doodle into something that looks almost professional. 

So to tally up: I am currently using a household-task Filofax and a personal-use Filofax, both of which live out on my desk and are fantastic for quick reference. And then there is my work planner, which is a personal sized Filofax Original in black.

This is a dashboard I bought last year on Etsy, and recently I bought a new Tombow marker specifically to match it (Saddle Brown!) I cannot tell you what a difference it makes when the front pages of your planner are all tidy and coordinated, regardless of how much you have going on. 

I recently read somebody's thoughts on the 'This is your year" slogan, which came down to it being pressure to achieve your wildest dreams before the end of December. I am glad not to see it that way. For me, it's a reminder that this planner's contents reflect the year I am setting up for myself, as opposed to work I do for other people. This is *my* year. Opening this planner is like opening the door to my quiet, well-organized office. It's so restful.

Which brings us to my other Christmas present, which I chose on a whim thinking it was an inexpensive thing to have some fun with (spoiler alert: the add-on costs make it MUCH more expensive than a nice Filofax.) I was drawn in by the flowers bursting forth all over the front. It made me feel happy, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it is, in fact, a Happy Planner:

The book alongside it is full of stickers I will be using next week, which is where the expense comes in. Even if you are not a person who needs a ton of embellishment in your planners, there is something about this system that just works (and works on people like me who can't buy one pen and get on with it.)

Happy Planner stickers are designed to fit the columns on the planners' pages perfectly, and they fall into a few general categories: bordered boxes, checklists, attractive borders for the page, and motivational messaging. The last few weeks have taught me the value of a motivational message on a sticker, as opposed to one I handwrite myself. I can recognize my writing and my brain immediately downgrades it to a suggestion with flexibility. When it's in print, the message has authority, and I listen. 

Though the dividers are heavily decorated, these planners look very plain and sad when you open them to the weekly view...


...unlike a Filofax, where the proportionally smaller pages are bordered by the beautiful colour of the planner itself. And this is by design, because the idea here is to be creative and customize the boxes for your personal needs. Boy, do those vary! Some people want nothing but their appointments, and others decorate their pages so much there's no room to write a thing. Some organize their future lives in their Happy Planner, and some use it as a memory keeper for past events. 

I wasn't sure how I'd use mine, given that I already have so many Filofaxes, but as it turns out, at least for now while I draft out a new novel project, it's a hybrid creative journal/daily schedule. And it is working for me. When I'm stuck, I let myself open the planner for a treat and admire the week as I've mapped it out so far. Sometimes I will doodle in some words and images to sum up how things are going, or even, yes, put in a relevant sticker.

Clearly I have a lot of pens available to me, ahem, so I have been changing up the colour scheme to reflect what I might need to be looking at, depending on the work I have lined up. Last week I paired pale purple stickers with a gold Gelly Roll pen, and the week before I used a blue and green washi tape with cute animals on it which happens to match my Asparagus Tombow. This coming week, it's going to be my Saddle Brown Tombow with dark green stickers from The Happy Planner and some washi stickers I picked up from Hanji Gifts, a local shop selling gorgeous Korean office supplies. (I am so buying more washi tape from them, after popping over there to get that link for you, sigh.)

Here's what I ended up with, after tidying all that away. Next week I will be writing, after three weeks of plotting and scheming and outlining and being sidetracked, and I know I will want to see dark cosy colours whenever I need a break from the screen. 

As I fill it in during the coming days, it will look a lot more intentional than the random placements you see here, but since I'm showing it to you, I'll try to explain. 

I find it helps me to set off the top section of each weekday with a border, separating my home/family responsibilities from my creative work. I didn't have any washi tape to suit what I had in mind for this week, so I drew one with my Tombow marker. Then I couldn't get a wide or straight enough line from it, so I decided to make lemonade and do a faux wood grain border, which it turns out I like enough to do again some time. I also didn't love the extra content printed on the boxes I used to anchor the top left and bottom right corners, so I put another sticker over them. 

The landscape pictures are there to nudge me into a helpful state of mind - one for the beginning of the week when I'm setting up to be super productive, one for Thursday when I get the longest run of uninterrupted work hours and will probably be questioning whether or not I have the skill to write this novel I have in mind. (I am pretty sure I do, but if I don't, I will have by the time I'm finished the first few revisions.)

I added a snail on Wednesday because I know I'll need to forgive myself by then for not doing as much as I'd hoped... or, possibly, I'll have written far more than I'd planned and will need a reminder to slow down and rest my eyes a little. Probably it'll be forgiveness, but either way I get to look at a cute snail so I am calling it a win.

I planted a few narrow motivational messages through the week, not only because I will need them, but because they allow me to set my note-taking breaks apart from each other. Last week, for example, I vented to myself about a problem I was having and ended my note with, "arg, maybe I should give up." and then I looked at what I'd written a few days before, immediately below those words. It read, "Don't give up!" I know my future self a little too well, apparently. So even though it was only me telling me to do something, I kept going. And within a few hours I pulled off what I hadn't thought was possible. That much cheerier message went into the space below the Don't Give Up message and gave me a rare opportunity to feel smug. The power of pen on paper!

The vertical sticker on the top right is actually a place to put tick marks on a checklist - kind of a clever way to present those, and the Happy Planner sticker packs are full of them. I will use it over the course of the week to build a weekend to-do list, which will include writing next week's Hug. 

And when I've posted it, I hope you'll pop back to read it, even though it turns out I didn't do a good job restraining myself about planners.

Have a great few days in the meantime, and I'll see you then!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

At long last hat

 Finally, I can show you a picture of the hat I'm still knitting:


not because it's finished (it's very much not)

and not because it snowed here (though that certainly did make a nice contrast and reminded me why I really should get this small accessory done and blocked.)

It's because I remembered to take one! and then several more. Here's one that illustrates how wrinkled a hat can get if it sits neglected in a cloth bag for too long.

I've adapted one of my own patterns for this project - the Hatcowl - because of all my designs it seems to be the one most flattering on my particular head. And I'm using some Viola sock yarn I bought probably ten years ago, because I finally accepted I was never, ever going to use it for socks. Not that Viola sock yarn doesn't knit up nicely for use in that way, but this particular colourway is so delicious I wanted to use it on something more visible, which would need less washing. 

You'd think this combination of motives would have me knitting up this simple pattern in no time, instead of three or four years, wouldn't you? Ah, but there is another factor:

When I cast on, all I had in the correct size in my arsenal of knitting needles was this very pointy lace-tip circular set. And you know what, I'm really not a lace tip girl. Or at least, my fingertips are not. Probably I should knit with thimbles on. 

Meanwhile, we are back to genuinely wintery weather and it would be very nice to have a new hat to wear.

I'm not sure if we'll manage it this week, because of the snow that's masking icy patches, but I've been getting out for regular walks with a high-school friend who drives into Toronto for appointments nearby, and has a gap long enough to allow it if the weather also permits. Here's a creek we crossed a few days ago:

It was very grey weather, my favourite for walking. I love the way those trees cross each other over the water, though one of them looks as though it's about to fall in altogether.

Here's the same creek, from another spot.


It strikes me that what I like about these two photographs - the quiet tones and rich textures - are much like what I like about my Viola hat yarn. Harmonious and varied both at the same time.

Harmonious and varied sounds like a perfect sort of day, doesn't it? I hope the next few of yours fit that description and that we see each other again here next weekend. In the meantime, I will try to brave those pointy needles and get more of my hat finished. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

This is not a hat

I know I promised a hat this time but there was an inverse relationship between my week and my knitting fingers - one got busy and the others did not. However! I thought you'd enjoy a look at what's growing in our garden this fine January day.

That's right, it's our old friend lichen.

Also some lovely evergreen Sweet Woodruff and another plant I can't remember the name of. Note the moss between the bricks I used to eke out our supply of cement slabs. 


The slabs were here when we moved in, and they were in this approximate location, making a big patio at the back of the house. The rest of the yard was overgrown to the point there was only enough light to grow grass in the very middle of what was left of the property. Boy, that was a long time ago. We've been through possibly a literal ton of iterations since.

Let's not forget our many paths. I set out all of them and though there's one low point where I really need to lift bricks and scatter in some more sand on this particular run - you can just see it in the distance at the top of the frame - I can't say I'm highly motivated. I love the way this looks as it is. 


At this time of year, I even love all our pots tidily tucked to one side waiting for us to put something new into them next year.

My most favourite thing, in all seasons, is the mossy rocks under our cedar.

Apparently it's bad to pile rocks under a tree like this, as it hurts the roots, but they've been here a few years and the tree seems to be holding up okay. And I don't know where else to put the rocks. For me, they are a moss garden. For our local squirrel companions, they are cover for many buried nuts. We used to plant flowers in this bed but now we just treat it as nut storage and enjoy watching the squirrels not digging up our plants.

We watch the squirrels all day long from inside, but when I was out taking these pictures I took time to admire the view from our mini arbor area. 

The columns supporting the frame were from our original porch and this is how we decided to repurpose them, when the porch replacing it proved to be a different height. There's so much shade in summer in the cosy nook under this structure.

Speaking of cosy nooks, I've been hanging out a lot today at my downstairs desk, writing longhand with my entry-level fountain pen (a Pilot Kakuno) and trying to work out the plot details for my next project. I often write the beginning of something without an outline, but I find I need to work out details pretty early on to avoid drifting off into directions that don't make any sense. And oh my goodness... writing with a good fountain pen on clean smooth paper, what a delight! Something about that tactile experience makes thinking so much easier. 

Hope you've had something pleasant to do today! And I hope I get knitting time soon because I really do want to show you that hat. The yarn is knitting up so beautifully and I'm loving it so much.


Take care till I see you again, hopefully next weekend!