The commercial side of Valentine's Day places an emphasis on flowers (more specifically roses), chocolates and a romantic evening out. But love isn't relegated only to romantic partnerships!
There is the love between family members, especially that unfathomable bond when a parent first holds their newborn baby. There is the love between friends - those longstanding friendships that are reliable, trustworthy and irreplaceable. And of course there is the love between people and their furbabies. It is an unconditional sort of love - comforting, playful, soothing and ultimately heartbreaking as the life of a pet is so short in the grand scheme of things.
And then there is the most challenging love of all....self-love.
We work often to the point of exhaustion. Just one more deadline to meet. Just one more project to get off the ground and then I can take a break.
Is there a parent out there who does not relate to this? You come home from a gruelling day at work. Your feet ache and you forgot to thaw the chicken for tonight's supper. You check your kidlet's schoolbag and discover that the school is having a bake sale/fundraiser/class partiy and you need to whip together something for your wee one to share tomorrow. It should be healthy and take into consideration numerous food allergies. A quick dive into the cupboard is not inspirational. Would chocolate dipped strawberries be a welcome treat for a Grade 2 class?
Social media and instant, constant access to newsfeeds can be overwhelming. World politics have become increasingly nasty. Neverending posts about cruelty to defenseless animals and children, natural disasters, terrorism, and climate change marking the end of days can portray the world as a dark and dismal place. What can we do to facilitate a change?
If you want to make a positive impact, a positive change in the world, you first have to make positive changes in how you take care of yourself.
Nurture your body with real food from your local farms, not chemical-laden fast foods. There's nothing wrong with fast food on occasion but don't rely on it as the backbone for your nutritional needs.
Try to set a consistent sleep schedule - a challenge I know especially when you have children. But do your best as proper sleep habits can affect your emotional wellbeing, mental and metabolic health. It can help to boost your creativity. Lack of sleep can even contribute to Alzheimer's Disease! Get a wool-filled comforter or wool blanket to help regulate your body temperature for a great night's sleep. If you have a memory-foam mattress, use a wool mattress topper to avoid night sweats.
And finally - take some time to feed your soul! You know what works best for you. Is it that early morning cup of coffee before the world (and household) comes to life? Maybe it's coming out for "Ewe Love to Knit Night" - a couple of hours every week to indulge in your hobby and enjoy some laughter with fellow knitters. Perhaps it's a good book and a warm lavender-scented bath at the end of a busy day.
On Valentine's Day, be sure to make time for some self-love. By taking care of ourselves, we will have the physical and mental wellbeing to share love with others. Where there is love, there is no darkness.
The Christmas season has come and gone. No more twinkling lights to brighten the evenings. We’ve moved into January – a new year and a new decade! So many folks start the New Year off with heartfelt resolutions of how they plan to improve their lives, their health, their jobs, their finances. By mid-January, however, the exhilaration and zeal with which we took on these resolutions have perhaps begun to fade. Hitting the gym gets replaced with grabbing the snow shovel as January’s workout. The refrain “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” becomes “Here comes the sun” as we dream about spring blossoms and warmer days. We tend to think of these winter months between January and the end of March as simply an interlude between Christmas and springtime that must be endured. In fact, the third Monday in January has become known as “Blue Monday” – the most depressing day of the year!
As we move into a new decade, it really highlights for me just how quickly time flies! I don’t want to wish 3 months of each year away, dreaming of dashing out the door in flip flops instead of winter boots and all the other gear needed to stay warm and dry. I’ve decided to take a kinder and gentler approach to new year/new decade resolutions.
It started with taking down the Christmas decorations. I always miss the soft glow of the lights on the tree. So this year, when we took down the tree, we replaced the warm atmosphere created by the tree lights with beeswax candles. Not only do we enjoy their beautiful glow, the candles are eco-friendly and sustainable, giving off a lovely honey scent while they purify the air. The negative ions that are released when burning a beeswax candle reduce indoor pollutants such as dust, pollen and even mould! The more energy-efficient we make our homes, the more pollutants build up during the winter months when everything is shut up nice and tight. You may find that burning beeswax candles not only benefits your mental health, they might even reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma. Just be sure that you are using 100% beeswax candles with 100% cotton wicks. (Photo courtesy of Honey Candles. You can find their candles in our Knit Pickers’ studio.)
Every single year, I say I’m going to find a better balance between my work life and my personal time. This can certainly be a bit of a challenge when your workspace is in your home. It’s not an area that can be closed off at the end of the work day… you know - out of sight, out of mind. I walk through the office and workspace each time I move from the living room to the kitchen! The other challenge is that I truly do love to knit and weave! I have learned, however, that as much as I love my work, I do physically need to take a break to avoid back strain (a common problem when warping a loom or spending too much time weaving) and carpal tunnel issues.
My solution? First of all, I’m getting rid of the idea of “work/life balance”. It’s all just life! I’m paying more attention to what my body is telling me. If I need a break from weaving or knitting, I can always enjoy some brisk fresh air, stepping outside to clear the snow off the deck and parking pad. Rather than looking at this as a dreaded winter task, it is what “recess” was when you were a kid – a chance for some physical exercise as well as a mental break! When winter evenings descend, it’s time for another change of pace. Time to put away the work projects, pick up my personal knitting and move into the living room. Feet up, cozy throw to keep me warm, fur baby (or babies) on my lap, candles glowing. It makes me pause and reflect that life really doesn’t get much better than this.
So winter’s interlude – that period of time between Christmas and spring – has now become my own personal Winterlude! Time to enjoy a bit of solitude and the amazing silence of a winter’s night in rural PEI. (Photo by my talented sister Catherine McEachern. Available to purchase in the Knit Pickers studio or on our website.)
Think back to when you were a child. Or look into the eyes of your children or grandchildren as they anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus. Do they think they hear reindeer hooves on the rooftop? Do you leave footprints in freshly fallen snow and exclaim in surprise that Santa found the bucket of carrots left at the back door for the reindeer? I remember one Christmas Eve vividly. I was around 6 years old and was having a time trying to fall asleep. I heard someone in my bedroom. My eyes opened a crack and I spotted a big red mitten reaching for my stocking hung on my bedpost. Did my father don a pair of red mittens that evening? Or maybe I had fallen asleep and had a dream that was oh so real. Either way, that memory is one that fills my heart with Christmas magic.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we are inundated with messages about all of the things we need to do for an ideal Christmas. There are the perfect and thought-filled presents to buy and wrap, Christmas baking and decorating, and get-togethers with co-workers, family and friends. Movies, magazines and social media tell us what we need to do. “Finding the perfect Christmas tree”. “Decorating the perfect Christmas tree”. “Planning the perfect Christmas party”. “Tips for finding the perfect Christmas gifts”. “Hosting the perfect Christmas dinner”. And even “17 handy apps for planning your perfect Christmas”. Sense a common element of perfection here? Rather than a season of peace and tranquility, we can find ourselves overwhelmed with stress trying to reach this pinnacle of perfection!
As time goes by, I find myself less focused on perfection and more on simplicity. Are babies or furry creatures obsessed with the dangly ornaments on the Christmas tree? I think my tree looks very pretty strung with only white lights. The favourite Christmas ornaments can be hung in doorways – out of reach and out of danger. I no longer spend my time chastising fur babies for climbing inside the tree!
As for Christmas baking – my favourite memory is not of perfectly-baked cookies. It is when my nieces and nephews came over to make cookies and decided to decorate the shortbread cookies with grape crush candy cane bits. Melted purple puddles and crunchy faux grape flavoured bits – oh yum! But I loved the look of pride and accomplishment as they took these cookies home!
The best and most memorable Christmas presents need not expensive. They are the ones that are a gift of yourself, of your time, of your attention. One Christmas, I received a new doll from Santa – so exciting! But what made this present even more special were all of the clothes that came with her: a swing coat, a dress with a matching suit jacket, a pair of casual corduroy pants, a sweater and a skirt. Sound extravagant? It was – but it was also a gift of time. My mother made all of these clothes for the doll.
Do I have the concept of a simple, stress-free Christmas perfected? Hardly! But I do find that I am enjoying the season so much more. My wish for you is one of serenity. Take the time to enjoy experiences with your family and friends – visiting a Christmas tree farm, taking a tour of the Christmas lights, skating or snowshoeing followed by a cup of hot cocoa. Put down that cell phone; log off your laptop. Give the gift of your time to not only others but to you too! My favourite time of day over the Christmas season is in the evening, when the work day is done. I enjoy sitting in the living room with the only light coming from candles and the Christmas tree, and almost always with a fur baby in my lap. The epitome of “all is calm, all is bright”.
I wish you joy, peace and love this holiday season.
Turning grey and cold into koselig
September is a month of roadside stands, replete with the harvest of the locals’ plentiful gardens. We celebrate the month-long Fall Flavours Festival. The evenings take on a brisker note and many folks enjoy the warmth of bonfires.
October is a month of change. The leaves on the trees burst into a glorious riot of colour. Even the colour of the water deepens from hues of teal and turquoise to deeper shades of navy and blue violet. October is orange pumpkins, red apples and golden piles of leaves.
Suddenly, November is upon us. The brilliance of summer and the warm hues of autumn disappear into grey November days. The weather takes a dramatic turn to cold wintery winds. The leaves are gone from the trees; the ocean takes on various shades of grey to match the rain clouds; night closes in on us even earlier as we switch back from daylight savings time.
We live in an older farmhouse – built around 1901 I believe. Slowly but surely we have been making improvements: some new windows, a new heating system, added insulation in the attic. There is more work required and it can still be pretty chilly when the weather is wintery. This year I bought a wool mattress pad and a wool comforter for my bed (there is no source of heat in the bedroom with the exception of my fur-beasts). While the woollen bedding is an amazingly wonderful and cozy addition, it makes crawling out of bed in the morning a real challenge. On a grey November day, I want to pull the covers back up over my head and stay in my warm cocoon. (photo – Hobbes enjoying her cocoon of warm woollies)
It seems like November wants us to take a break, to recharge our internal batteries in readiness for the festivities of the holiday season in December. Maybe we should listen more closely to the lessons that nature is trying to teach us! (photo - Dark Hedge by Macscape Photography)
Suddenly, November’s bare branches and grey skies gave me inspiration. What if, instead of dreading the approach of winter, I took advantage of this time? The entire house and studio workspace could become a cozy cocoon. Savour the aromas of freshly baked bread. Enjoy the glow of candlelight. Indulge in comfort foods like chowder. Surrounded by warmth and comfort, it is wonderful to let the creative mind flow and to have the time to dream up new ideas, new patterns. The Danes call this “hygge”. The Norwegians refer to it as “koselig”. You can’t buy koselig – it’s what you create that gives you comfort. (photo -George McMuffin enjoying the hygge simplicity of his box and brown paper)
Another bit of wisdom from the Norwegians is a saying: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” So, when the weather is brisk, don your woolly socks, layer on a woolly sweater, toque, scarf, mitts and head outdoors. Those bracing temperatures are sure to refresh your mind and spirit. When you come back inside, a nice cup of tea or hot cocoa will be just the thing!
Rather than simply enduring wintery weather, approach it with a sense of excitement and enjoyment. Take part in some cold weather activities. I have absolutely no coordination so I won’t be going downhill skiing, but I can certainly strap on my snowshoes! Too nasty to be outside? I can envision some “Netflix and knit” evenings! Or how about inviting your besties over for a retro evening of fondue and board games?
Do grey days and cold weather have an impact on your mood and energy level? I would love to hear what works for you!
5 benefits of daily gratitude
Wondering what to do with turkey leftovers, a couple of slices of pumpkin pie and a few scoops of mashed potatoes? Here in Canada, we celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend. It’s a delightful time when family and friends gather together, celebrate the bounty that is the fall harvest, and express gratitude for their blessings, small and large.
But, rather than consciously giving thanks one day a year, what would happen if we strove to be grateful every single day?
1. “Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more.” – Roy T. Bennett
Envy is the enemy of gratitude. One might think that envy can be a tool to motivate you to strive harder for success. But envy is not a good foundation on which to build. There will always be someone with more of what you think you need to achieve happiness – more money, more time to travel, more business success….Gratitude on the other hand helps boost creativity and productivity – two indispensible tools to achieving your goals.
Our dear little old house is a work in progress, and it is decorated with loads of baskets and boxes for fur babies. Is it perfect? Hardly! A new roof is next on the agenda. But I am grateful for what we have accomplished so far – a new heating system, some new windows, some new insulation and, most importantly, the transformation of a very rough outbuilding into what is now my studio.
2. “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky
Stress seems to be a constant presence in our daily lives. We berate ourselves for our past mistakes; we are irritated by daily annoyances (road rage is a perfect example); and we worry about our future and the future of our families. We cannot change the past – we can only learn the lessons that were taught. Worrying about the future changes nothing. By living in the present moment, we can help to alleviate that worry about tomorrow. Let’s look at a “hot topic” stressor – climate change. Simply worrying about the state of Mother Earth will accomplish nothing. Being grateful for the beauty of nature around us encourages us to make daily small lifestyle changes that will create a healthier earth tomorrow.
3. “Being thankful is not always experienced as a natural state of existence. We must work at it, akin to a type of strength training for the heart.” – Larissa Gomez
Practicing gratitude is as important for your health as a nutritious diet and daily exercise! It can lower your blood pressure, boost your immunity through increased immunoglobulin A, decrease stress which in turn decreases cortisol levels, resulting in decreased inflammation. It can also help you get a better night’s sleep!
Believe me – I am far from perfect at leading a grateful life. There is a highly sarcastic, negative voice in the back of my brain that tries to wheedle its way into my thoughts. When I recognise its sneaky little tentacles starting to creep into my consciousness, I purposefully choose to turn that sarcastic and negative thought into a positive. Not always easy but I do find that unwelcome voice gets quieter every day.
4. “There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy.” — Ralph H. Blum
Yes, I am grateful for the “big ticket” things in my life – health, family, good friends, a job I love. But it is often the very small things, when I pause long enough to take notice, that bring me such a sense of joy and gratitude…two butterflies dancing together in the garden, a chunky little bumblebee that shouldn’t be able to fly but is happily making its way from flower to flower, the beautiful view from the studio windows.
5. “Today I choose to live with gratitude for the love that fills my heart, the peace that rests within my spirit, and the voice of hope that says all things are possible.” – Anonymous
3 Lessons Learned from Hurricane Dorian
Hurricane Dorian hit the Maritime provinces this past weekend. We were very lucky – it was nothing like the strength of the storm that hit the Bahamas and it moved through the region quite quickly. Still, the amount of destruction was quite astounding. There is speculation that tornadoes touched down during the hurricane. There are clear, straight paths of downed trees – not typical of the widespread damage that hurricane winds can cause. Over 80% of the trees in the Cavendish Campground were lost. As I write this, there are still nearly 10,000 homes without electricity, down substantially from the 62,000 homes at the peak of the storm. 73 crews are currently working on restoring power across the Island, including crews from Maritime Electric with assistance from Fortis Ontario and Newfoundland Power. (Photo courtesy of PEI National Park)
Whenever a storm hits, whether it’s Mother Nature or a storm of a more personal nature, there are always lessons to be learned. Here are my top 3!
1. Surviving a Storm is 50% Luck and 50% Preparation
We were very lucky here in Mayfield. We lost a couple of roof shingles and a few spindles from our verandah. Our baby apple tree has a new “tilt” but was not uprooted. We had one leaky window (when the rain was pounding the house horizontally!) but no real harm done. We have no trees near to the house that could topple over and cause damage. I kept telling myself that this dear house has stood the test of time for over a century and surely it will withstand this storm, too.
Boy – did we ever prep for this storm! Our big “Knit Pickers” sign at the front of the property came down on Friday in advance of the hurricane. I sure did not want it flapping about in the height of the storm, perhaps hitting something or someone! We moved our lobster trap parking signs into the shed along with our trash bins, fire pit ring and bbq. We added extra bolts to the shed doors in hopes that the winds would not tear the doors off. Our wooden deck chairs were moved either into the studio or lashed securely to the verandah. As we are on well and septic, when we lose power, we lose water. So we filled all the fur-baby bowls with fresh water and filled the bathtub too so that we could have washing water and water to flush the toilets. We filled 3 thermoses full of coffee, cooked up a roast and a casserole and baked an extra loaf of bread. We recharged batteries, cell phones, computers. We laughed at ourselves, saying that we are so well prepared we won’t lose power! Wrong…..we lost it earlier than I thought we would. We really are counting our blessings as we were only without power for about 54 hours. (Photo courtesy of Brian MacInnis)
Lesson #1 is hope for the best but prepare for the worst. My father always said that you never know what life may bring your way. You may have a vision, a plan for how your life will play out. But life is unpredictable. Career paths and lifestyles may change – by choice or by chance. Stay flexible.
2. People are Inherently Kind
I can’t even begin to recount the number of stories I heard about people helping one another in the aftermath of this storm. Folks inviting you over for a warm drink, a meal, a shower because their power had been restored. Friends near and far checking in to be sure you were ok. Restaurants offering free bowls of chowder. But two stories really made my heart sing.
The crews from Maritime Electric have been working night and day to restore power to homes across the Island. One crew member lost a number of trees on his property but obviously wasn’t able to clean things up as he has been working non-stop. His neighbours all pitched in to clear out the trees and clean up his yard so, when he is finally able to return home, he won’t be facing a huge mess.
As the storm was approaching, campgrounds were closing to ensure that no campers were injured by falling trees. One couple was just at a loss trying to find a place to stay. They eventually came across an airbnb with a vacancy. They were anticipating that the rates might be inflated because visitors were desperate for accommodations. Just the opposite was the case! These operators refused to accept any payment whatsoever. They felt it was an emergency and the right thing to do was to provide shelter.
Lesson #2 is to focus on the good around us. We are constantly bombarded with bad news, breaking news of crimes, unethical behaviour, cruelty. Yes - it is so important to know what is going on and to take a stand against the wrongs in the world. But if we allow the wrongs of the world to blind us to all that is good around us, we begin to believe that there is nothing we can do to effect change and we become cynical.
3. No Storm Lasts Forever
Today is a glorious day on the Island. The sun is shining and there is lovely warmth in the air. I must admit – a day like today was hard to envision at 3 a.m. Sunday morning. The rain was lashing, the winds were howling and the house was vibrating. The ewer and bowl on my nightstand were rattling away and the poor fur babies’ eyes were as round as saucers. Of course, it was as black as black could be – no stars or moon to be seen and no electricity anywhere. Every couple of hours, I would wake up, grab a flashlight and check to be sure that we hadn’t sprung any new leaks. I don’t remember exactly what time I awoke on Sunday morning but it was so silent. A quick scan to make sure that everything was as it should be and then it was off to Cavendish to see if the shop that my sister manages was OK. It was but just a stone’s throw away, huge trees had toppled over bringing down power lines and coming to rest on nearby cottages. It was shocking. And it wasn’t just trees coming down. Corn fields were flattened. Some farms lost 50% of their apples. But the good news is that there was no loss of human life and I have heard no reports of loss of any farm animals. (Photo courtesy of Parks Canada)
Lesson #3 is to appreciate what you have each and every day. We had taken a drive early Monday evening and, as we were returning home, we saw lights on at the resort next door. We were so excited! We get into the house and realise that we still were without power. From that exhilarating hopeful feeling to just wanting to weep – we were never so happy when we heard the hum of the refrigerator about an hour later! We do take for granted all of our modern conveniences until we don’t have them. The same thing holds true for so much in life. The loss of a family member or friend, the loss of a job, the loss of a furry companion. For me, if I take a moment each day to be thankful for something – maybe it’s just the sheer enjoyment of the aroma of freshly mowed grass, laughing at a robin hopping across the yard, or cuddling a fur baby – it makes whatever trials I may have encountered that day much less important.
Growing up, we always had a treasure trunk. If we ever complained about being bored, Mom would have us dive into the trunk and pull out all sorts of goodies – pillow cases and embroidery floss, yarn stash leftovers for spool knitting or some other craft project. We also helped her bake bread. She would set aside a small piece of dough and we would bake our own mini-loaf! We weeded the garden, shelled peas –probably eating more peas than ended up in the bowl. For me, my passion for fibre began in those early days.
When I was 10 years old, we moved “away” to Ottawa. Every summer, my grandmother would come to visit. I remember when she would open up her suitcase and ask me, “What would you like to learn this year?” She had such patience – teaching me all about knitting and tatting. This was our special time together – one on one. I have her tatting shuttle in my craft basket to this day.
She was also an amazing cook. Born in 1901, of course she was skilled at cooking and baking with a wood stove. In fact, she never really trusted the knobs and dials on an electric stove. She would put her arm in the oven and know if it was the right temperature for a loaf of bread. Or she would hold her hand over an element and know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was at the proper heat for creating a sauce or even candy. She knew all about canning and preserving food to see us through the winter.
I wish that I had paid more attention to these skills! While I was drawn to fibre skills, my sister learned to cook and bake by taste and feel. You stirred food until it was the right consistency; you seasoned until it tasted right; a tap with your finger on the top of a cake or a loaf of bread would tell you when it was done. When she moved in with me to attend university in Toronto, she was shocked to see me measuring the water for Kraft Dinner! I thought I was all set with my one frying pan, one sauce pot, one cookie sheet and one 9” square cake pan. What more could you possibly need? Thank heavens, my skills have improved since then…..
These are the memories that I treasure - that bring a smile each time I recall them.
One of the reasons that I so enjoy hosting workshops in the studio during the summer season is that I see these same memories being made with other folks. Parents with their children, grandparents with their grandchildren, siblings enjoying a family vacation, spouses looking for an authentic Island experience, good friends getting together for a well deserved reunion. All taking the time to unplug from technology and reconnect by learning something new together. There is always a lot of laughter, sometimes some competitive spirit – but always fun and a sense of pride and accomplishment. I certainly don’t expect everyone will become master knitters. In fact, I am sure that some folks will leave the knitting lessons behind. But the memories of time spent together will last forever.
So thank-you, Grandma – for sharing your talent with me. I am thrilled to be able to honour your memory by passing along some of these skills to guests from all over the world.
My grandmother, Katherine, as a young girl – top right in photo.
my personal "top 5" keys to success
This past week, many events have all come together to make me stop and ponder my personal definition of success.
In a podcast by Fleece & Harmony where Jennifer and Kim interviewed Janet Ogilvie of Green Gable Alpacas, they discussed their former “corporate” lives and how very different their lives are now in rural PEI. One comment was that visitors to the Island want what we have here – living a simple life and enjoying it. Understanding that we may not always be happy (life always has challenges it throws our way) but we are content.
Boy – can I relate to that! I spent many years “away” – living in Ottawa, Toronto and Saskatoon. I met some wonderful people who I know are true friends to this day. I travelled all across this beautiful country as part of my job and lived my life in suits and heels. There were so many aspects of that life that I enjoyed….but I would often wake up in the morning with fingernail marks in the palms of my hands from having clenched my fists all night long.
I read a recent comment by an American psychiatrist, Dr. Srini Pillay, who wrote that pursuing creative and active pastimes helps make people more successful. We are so often focused on the “must dos” of business life that we forget to take time for ourselves. I know I have to often remind myself that I am in a much better place emotionally, physically and mentally if I take some time to be creative. How can I consider it to be “wasting time” when it does so much good for me?
The last thing that got me really thinking about success was a comment by a “true blue” in Saskatoon. She wrote that I was her “favourite dream chaser” and that I “inspired her to be everything she wanted to be”. That just rocked me back on my heels! And it really started me on a path about the definition of success.
For some people, success means you are happy. Success is seldom based on income alone. It’s more about having a dream, setting goals and having a sense of joy in each step taken to achieve those goals. We have to set our goals on what we desire, not what someone else wants for us. It’s staying true to yourself, to your values.
For me, it is creating a sense of community. I support and promote the wonderful local goodies here on the Island – from food to wool to handcrafted items created by local artisans. I love the community of knitters. I’m always astounded how strangers from all corners of the world can come together for a workshop and, at the end of a couple of hours, are laughing and sharing stories like long lost friends. I love sharing the gift of knitting that my grandmother shared with me.
I was chatting with a couple who live in a very small rural community in Ontario and who love to visit PEI as it feels “like home” to them. We got to having a bit of a laugh when folks ask “But what do you DO here in the winter?” or “You live here all year round?” Yes, many shops and restaurants are closed. Winters can sometimes be daunting.
So what do we do? Get together with friends – to play music, to knit, to volunteer, to participate in community theatre. I personally love the silence of a winter’s evening – no traffic, no horns honking, no tires squealing. I love the first time I hear crickets and frogs singing in the spring, or that aroma of freshly mown grass. The quieter months are when I can let my creative energies flow – new ideas for products, patterns, partnerships.
We concluded that you either get it or you don’t. You either intrinsically get that sense of peace and contentment that life here brings or you don’t – and that’s OK too. If you don’t “get it”, you would not want to live here year-round. You would not be content. And if you are not content, you will never truly be happy. And if you are not content, not happy, then how can you truly be successful?
So – these are my personal “top 5 keys to success”.
1. Follow your dreams.
2. Work towards making them a reality.
3. Live your own authentic life.
4. Take time for creative endeavours that inspire you.
5. Appreciate the small gifts that life gives you every day.
Simple, I know – but it is for me the definition of success.
Yoghurt and Cheese and Soap – Oh My!
Welcome to the third in a series of blogs where I am introducing you to local PEI farmers with whom I have the privilege to collaborate on various projects!
Meet Gabriel and Deidre Mercier, a young couple who, as their military careers were nearing completion, wanted to move to a rural location closer to family and start a family of their own. Gabriel was raised in Quebec where his grandfather, Patrick Mercier, was a master award-winning cheese maker. Deidre grew up on a mixed farm just outside of North Rustico, PEI. Wanting to create their own business, they decided to follow in Patrick Mercier’s footsteps and become cheese makers! Gab took a cheese making course and then apprenticed at a sheep dairy and cheese house in Quebec, learning as much as possible about both cheese making and sheep farming. They moved home to the Doiron farm where Deidre was raised. On February 1, 2015, 108 ewes (all pregnant) and 2 rams arrived and Ferme Isle St Jean was born!
I started collaborating with Ferme Isle St Jean in early spring of 2017 to develop our “Looms, Lambs & Lobster” experience. Guests first visit Knit Pickers PEI where they participate in a 2-hour loom-knitting workshop and they take home a made-in-PEI wooden knitting loom.
Following the workshop, we head over to Ferme Isle St Jean where the guests sample some delicious sheep’s milk cheese and yoghurt and learn a little about farm life. The experience all wraps up with a delicious lobtster salad or lobster sandwich at Captain’s Cove Café in North Rustico.
Ferme Isle St Jean also provides us the milk to create our Ewe Love line of sheep’s milk soap which is made in collaboration with South Shore Soaps! Sheep’s milk is higher in fat and protein than goat’s or cow’s milk, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. What makes the cheese and yoghurt so rich, sweet and creamy is also what make it so wonderful for your skin!
At Ferme Isle St Jean, their focus has always been on creating the highest quality sheep’s milk cheese and yoghurt. To do that, you need high quality milk. That is why they were caring for their own flock of sheep. In 2018, they partnered with a local Amish family. While Ferme Isle St Jean will be raising some lambs on their property, the milking of the sheep will take place on the Amish farm. This will allow Gab and Deidre more time to create and market new cheeses!
Another big change is in the works for Ferme Isle St. Jean. Their goal is to have a full cheese-processing facility right on their farm, including aging rooms for some of their artisanal cheeses. These facilities would also be available for use by other small Island dairy farms. They hope to “help diversify PEI one dairy farm at a time”.
Keep your eyes on this amazing farm with some pretty big dreams and goals!
Check out our earlier blog posts on some of the other farms with whom we work!
Fleece and Harmony/Harmony Meadow Farm
here's a sneak peek into the wonderful world of wool
Welcome to the second in a series of blogs where I am introducing you to my friends – local PEI farmers who work tirelessly caring for their animals, their crops and their land. It is only because of their hard work that I am able to share with you such unique and truly local items!
Meet Kim Doherty-Smith and Jennifer Taran - two sisters who, along with their husbands Ken and Steven, left their big-city corporate jobs on the mainland, bought an old farmhouse and acreage in rural PEI and founded Fleece and Harmony and Harmony Meadow Farm.
Jennifer and Kim talk about a “slower pace of life” here in PEI but, from all that they have achieved in a little more than two years, I would have to say that they’ve been just a little busy! Their mill equipment was installed in January, 2017 and, three months later, I placed my first wool order with them.
I was so impressed with their business philosophy. They pasture-raise their animals and, when these woolly loves enter their “senior” years, they live out their remaining days with the flock, enjoying sunshine and fresh air.
Their wool is untreated and hand-dyed using organic-certified dyes. I carry their “Signature” line of wool – a blend of 60% lambs’ wool and 40% sheep's wool. It is a 3-ply Aran weight wool that has a gauge of approximately 18 stitches and 26 rows to a 10 cm (4”) square when knit in a stockinette stitch on 4.5 mm (US 7) needles. The colours are so vibrant, rich and the wool so lovely to knit with! Every time I get a fresh batch in, I’m inspired to create new patterns to showcase its beauty.
My newest pattern is the “Picot-Edged Fingerless Mittens and Toque” shown in shades of spruce, seafoam and natural. If you’re a novice knitter who wants to learn some new techniques, try our “Brioche Scarf and Mittens with Brioche Cuff” and “Lavender & Lace Fingerless Mittens”. All three patterns were knit with Fleece & Harmony’s Signature yarn and are available to purchase in a downloadable format through our website or Ravelry or in print version at the studio.
They are just wrapping up lambing season on the farm, having delivered 117 lambs!!! There is only 1 more ewe who is expecting. Jennifer and Kim are understandably punchy from lack of sleep. No – I’m not telling tales – they readily admit it in their podcast! Be sure to check it out. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCC4tDjgTkjcsgfL6HSlTRV
Live life luxuriously! Classic simplicity is what I enjoy the most - in clothing design, home decor and in life!