Crocheted Skulls, a new obsession

Red Merino/Silk Shawl 2 by A Dash of Noir
Red Merino/Silk Shawl 2, a photo by A Dash of Noir on Flickr.

Perhaps that title is a little misleading.

Yes, I have been crocheting many, many skulls., but said skulls are parts of crocheted shawls that are all similar patterns. So, yes, lots of them, but not much variety I’m afraid.


I have been spending time looking up ideas for adding skulls to various patterns: scarves, bags, blankets. My Ravelry list of favourites is ridiculously long. The projects will come, eventually. Right now I’m in my collector (of patterns)/obsessive (about one single pattern) phase. It changes on a regular basis but this skull shawl obsession seems to have more staying power than most things that capture my attention.


Calgary Stampede Part 2: Tanks, Helicopters and Handguns!

So, if you have read my previous blog post, you know that I recently visited the Calgary Stampede for the first time.  Although it wouldn’t have been my first destination choice had I been on my own, I had a blast and am so happy that Sarah convinced me to check it out!

Not only did it include cattle, horses, surfing, a Native village and deep-fried Oreos, but the Canadian Department of National Defense also had a large presence with a huge contingent of soldiers and equipment on site throughout the week.

I have never held or shot a gun. As a child, I was never overly interested in war and weapons.  Still not overly gun friendly, but it was fun to pretend for a while!

So, as we wandered around Stampede and noticed all the vehicles and weapons on site, Sarah and I decided to check them out!  We seemed to be two of only a handful of adults interested in actually checking out the tanks and the helicopter…most were on site taking pictures of their children…so yeah, we stood out a bit. But we had fun and that was the point!

The first tank we came across was

The two tanks we came across were Light Infantry Vehicles…I believe this one was an LAV III Chassis

This tank was open for people to check out…but it was a climb-up-and-on whereas the other one was a jump-up-and-sit-in-the-back. We waited to approach the second one for a closer look.


In between tanks, there was a torpedo….

With a saddle on it!

Which made me think, “You could probably put a saddle on *anything* and have it displayed at the Stampede!”

I’ll just leave that there. Otherwise, such thoughts take us to strange places.

Back to the torpedo, that was saddled and still armed, according to a soldier on site….Of course, we had to ride it! Had to! There was just no choice in the matter.

The second tank was the one we got to sit in. I have never been up close to a live tank before…the ones I’ve stood next to have always been monuments of some kind 😉

This was the tank we actually got to sit in!

Even so, we couldn’t bring ourselves to be serious!

Does this headset make my ears look big?

A pic of the Hornet sign for B 🙂

And the actual Hornet! …Well, okay, just the front of it.

As mentioned, I have no experience with guns. Even toy guns weren’t my thing as child.

Now, caps, I LOVED caps!  We’d buy rolls of them and set them off with rocks! *grin* Never actually used a cap gun!

Anyway, also among the Dept of Defense set up was a handgun simulator.  There were police nearby to explain how to use the guns and how to aim with them. The man who helped us was awesome. He explained the guns in detail and warned us of the kick back.  He also said that handguns with real ammunition would have 12x the kick back that we experienced.  I can’t imagine how that must feel.  I had a hard enough time with the simulation!

Not only was the guy helpful, but he took some bad-ass pictures of Sarah and I with guns!

Somehow I’m betting cops don’t wink at their targets as they aim!

Sadly the day was too bright to know how accurate we were…

Next up, a helicopter!  I had never been in one of those either!

So we beat back the kids and asked if we could sit in it!

Sarah about to ask for permission to climb aboard!

Getting a short tutorial…

“Hey Sarah! Look what I can do!” Once you learn to handle the gun, you point it at your friend of course!

…And then your friend targets you back!

I think Sarah was enjoying the aiming a bit too much! 😉

A total natural!

So, in the end, still not a gun fan, but having a chance to check out a tank and helicopter up close was pretty cool!

And overall, the Stampede is a lot of fun!  Sure, there are crowds to deal with but there is a little bit of everything for everyone and you definitely won’t be bored!

Meet Jelly & Toast!

Anyone who knows me, has met my cats.  They greet me at the door, sleep on me, snuggle when I’m watching a movie, vomit on the only two carpets in the apartment consistently, howl at 2am and otherwise drive me absolutely batty…and I love them to bits!


…otherwise known as Sir Toast of the Purrfect Ears (also Toaster, Toaster-strudel and Toasterkins, among others)

Sir Toast of the Purrfect Ears

Toast was given to me as a kitten during my first month of college in 1997.  I had just moved away from home for the first time; had my own apartment and wanted an animal to keep me company. One of my classmates had a litter of kittens at her house and one night, she appeared at my door with this tiny, little black and white kitten in her hands.

He was absolutely perfect and it was fitting to have this new kitten join me as I started my new independent “adult” life.

Toast has been with me since then.  He has been the one constant in my life throughout my years in college, my move from one province to another, through relationships, break-ups, sickness, despondency, ecstatic moments….the ups, downs, ins, outs….he has been there…That’s my Toast.

At first, I had trouble naming him.  We went through a few names, some of which I have forgotten.  I do recall considering Café and Jive as possible names for him though.  Jive came about one day as he went tearing across the livingroom and I noticed that his rear end seemed to consistently try to race ahead of his face.  It was hilarious and utterly cute…looked like a weird little cat-dance.  But none of the names stuck.

One night, I was cleaning the apartment and had lit some candles, one of which was in a large concrete holder at floor level.  My little kitten was hypnotized by the candle flame and it was, of course, during a moment when my arms were full that he decided to investigate the smell of fire.  He sniffed the candle so closely that the tips of his whiskers burnt.  Overall, he was unharmed but I almost dropped the speakers I was carrying in the ensuing panic.

Once I had ascertained that my cat was fine, aside from melty whiskers, I shook my head and said, “You are so burnt.  Absolutely toasted.” …or something to that effect.  Whatever it was I said…it led me to “Toast”, which initially sounded odd but has become so ingrained in my vernacular over the years that I’m surprised I don’t hear it as a name more often.

Toast is a big dork…I say that lovingly of course as they say pets are like their owners. *wink*  Ever since the candle incident, a couple of his whiskers have maintained slight curlicues at their tips, which just adds to his whole persona.

In addition to all of  that, he tends to have a stunned look on his face like this:


or this….

He makes me laugh and keeps me company.  I love my Toaster to bits and pieces!


…otherwise known as Jellybelly, Jellykins, and Jilly 

I adopted Jelly in 2007 from a veterinarian clinic near my work. At that time, she was a skinny little thing who had just given birth and then had to deal with spaying and declawing.

I saw her kittens first.  They were in the cages at the front of the clinic…all black with yellow eyes and absolutely adorable.  The catch was that I was looking for a companion for Toast, who was 10 years old at the time, and a kitten just wouldn’t do.  I commented to one of the nurses that I was actually looking for an adult cat rather than a kitten and that perhaps I would try the Toronto Humane Society.  The conversation led to the nurse getting permission to take me to the back and introduce me to the 2-year-old (her age was a guess as she had been dropped off while pregnant, anonymously) mother of the kittens up front.

There she was, a little skinny, with taped paws, and absolutely starving for affection.  I fell in love instantly and spent the next few weeks visiting her everyday during my lunch hour. I put an old sweater in the cage with her so she’d recognize my scent and brought her home on Christmas eve.

Jelly, pre-Jelly, at the veterinarian's


Loving the cuddles

There is no other way to put it…Jelly is an affection-slut.  Any cuddles, pets, scratches, scritches are going to HER and screw this Toast guy who keeps getting in the way!  The fastest way to have Jelly show herself is to start petting and/or just talking to Toast.  She’ll appear in seconds, anxious for any loving that she has missed.

Jelly has some weird quirks.

Aside from the need for affection…at ALL times…she likes to lick plastic bags. More than once I have woken up in the middle of the night to a light plastic *crinkle crinkle* as she satisfies her fetish with a rogue grocery bag that has been left out.  Such a little weirdo.

And any time I catch her doing something odd or strange or simply bad-cat, I get this look:

"I didn't do it."


And what do you say to that?  Really, all you can do is smile and shake your head muttering something like “So bad, yet so freakin adorable!” *pat pat* Which always results in more snuggles…

Lovely article re Canada’s National Parks

This morning B sent me a link to an article published by The Guardian.  It revived my desire to see more of our lovely country and contains some trivia about our parks that I didn’t know.

Canada’s National Parks: from Hollywood beauties to beautiful beasts – in pictures | Travel |

The pictures are awesome!  And some of the trivia includes such things as:

1. Canada has the world’s oldest National Parks system…100 years old presently!

2. Jasper National Park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

3. Saskatchewan is home to Canada’s only protected pelican nesting site.

We live in a beautiful country!  I want to see it all!

Discovering the Red Hill Creek Trail – Hardest Cycling Trail yet!

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this trail but that’s mainly because I spent most of my time attempting to *not* let it kick my ass! 🙂  Instead, I’ve linked to a few shots I found online.  Next time I bike this route, however, I will definitely take the time to get a few shots.

The Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail was becoming legendary in my world and I was starting to think that perhaps it was the ultimate, invisible trail, the final challenge for a cyclist before moving on to Cyclist Nirvana.  Turns out it was simply a level up, way up.

A couple of weeks ago, I biked up the escarpment via the Hamilton Rail Trail.  It ended at Albion Falls and according to everything I had read online and the maps I had considered before leaving the house, the Red Hill trail was supposed to begin pretty much where the Rail Trail ended.  I spent almost an hour pedaling around up there, asking people for directions and consulting my handy-dandy Google maps satellite view, which was a big tease, showing me how close the trail actually was, but not showing me how to get there!

Eventually, I backtracked and headed home the way I’d headed out.

Last Sunday however, a friend suggested we take a different route which would allow us to jump onto the Red Hill trail at the mid-point.  Not invisible after all.  We found it and initially went north towards the beach and Beach Blvd where we discovered an incredibly wavy Lake Ontario. Just prior to the arriving at the beach, there is a new bridge that crosses over the QEW highway.  It’s quite lovely and has areas to stop and enjoy the scenery.  I couldn’t find an actual picture anywhere, but this artist’s rendering is very similar to what has been constructed.

After enjoying the beach for a bit, I suggested we follow the Red Hill south to its end near Albion Falls. That way, I’d know where to find it next time I made my way up there.

Click here for a map of the path we took.

First off, I have to say…if you’re cycling, follow the path south to Albion (up the escarpment) rather than north down the escarpment.  Some of the hills were so steep that, walking up on the balls of my feet, my calves screaming at me, I could barely push my bike to their crest. Cycling up was a challenge that I would definitely do again!  Cycling down…not so much, thanks. 😉

The other challenge was the gravel.  From where we joined the trail at Lawrence to the beach, the path was mainly gravel.  There was a *lot* of it in spots, to the point that my mountain bike had trouble getting through.  I think the gravel may have been recent, which would explain why it was so loose but regardless, going down hills and around sharp turns required much braking on my part.  At one point, we actually came upon a woman who had skidded out going around a turn.  She was okay but commented on the crappy gravel surface.

When we started on the path, I admit I was quite nervous.  I had never biked on such terrain, usually sticking to paved surfaces or hard packed earth.  We cycled for three hours and by the end, I was loving it!  Tackling such trail surfaces allowed me to get to know my bicycle that much better and I’m looking forward to cycling the same route again!  With pictures next time! 🙂

The Ebb and Flow of Creativity

Throughout my school years, I wrote.

I started writing stories when I was 9 years old and I still have the yellowing lined paper, covered in pencil scribblings to prove it.

A collection of stories I wrote when I was 9-12 years old

I started my stories by making a cover page with pencil crayons, writing two and three pages of narrative in pencil and finalizing each “book” with a staple in the top left corner.

It’s interesting to look at the evolution of my story writing.  I began so basic, with a page of narrative…just writing, no divisions or sections or chapters. But in White Beauty (seen above), my narrative included chapters and illustrations for the first time.  I can only assume that was due to exposure to other books and novels, as I was quite an avid reader as a child.

The development of Chapters!


Eventually I evolved and started adding illustrations…still in pencil…fairly stick-figurish in style but illustrations nonetheless.

One of my first illustrations!

Illustration from a later story "The Spell"

This preceded the evolution of a dedication, a table of contents, plus a back cover with a synopsis of the story.

Table of Contents

First dedication

Finally, as I reached grade 7, I created an actual typewritten manuscript in place of pencil scratch.  Throughout my years in junior high school, I had an old-fashioned typewriter, complete with carriage and a spool of ink ribbon.  It lived in a hard case, similar to a small suitcase and to this day, I wish I had kept it.

I still have my manuscripts, typed during my tumultuous junior high school years, covered in liquid paper with smudged letters proving my impatience and inability to wait for the white fluid to dry.

With high school came the electric typewriter.  I remember that one of the biggest differences, aside from how *easy* the keys were to press, was that my new typewriter had a built-in correction ribbon!  To erase a letter, all I had to do was push a button!  This typewriter I do still have tucked away, but the classic typewriter that started off my love of writing had much more character and dare I say charisma than the electric.

Similar to the electric typewriter I had in high school

I continued to write throughout high school and into college.  Typing, scribbling, pen, pencil…sometimes in bound books of notepaper, sometimes on the backs of envelopes.

The one constant piece of writing, that began when I was twelve, is my  journal writing.  I have kept journals ever since grade seven and have a number of books filled from cover to cover with musings, poetry, sparks of understanding and deep black wells of young adult drama.  I am quite proud of the fact that my journal writing has never ceased.  Sometimes there are months between entries and other times I write every day for weeks, sometimes two and three times a day.  The pace varies, but the action continues.

Unfortunately, the sad part to all of this is that the journal writing is *all* that has continued.  The desire to write poetry and novels has been dormant for years.  Every so often, I have the urge to put pen to paper and a vague plot line or character description drips from my pen, but more often than not, I simply live with the urge to write.  The ever-present itch reminding me that once, stories streamed out of me in violent waves and the inspiration seemed never-ending but that for the longest time now, that ability has remained dormant and unreachable.

Recently, a very wise friend  and I were chatting over coffee.  I was bemoaning the lack of creativity and telling her how I seemed to get a wave of inspiration when I spent time with friends who are also writers, only to lose it after a few days without their company.  She could relate and we agreed that forcing myself to write was the first step.

Various books I’ve read on writing say just that and I have to agree.  Write.  Write anything.  Write about how you can’t seem to write anything.  Just put the pen to paper.

I have been doing that, with some success…which makes me incredibly happy!

The other thought that we discussed over coffee was that, to a certain extent, not writing is a choice.  Somewhere along the way, I made that choice.  I may not know that I did.  I can’t pinpoint the day it happened.  But at some point, some time…a little voice told me “you’re done, you can’t write anymore” and I believed it.  I have inadvertently believed that fallacy for quite some time now.

No more.

I am putting a pen to paper again; writing random scenes, dialogue, plot points.  They aren’t in any order, and sometimes the characters change gender depending on the idea I’m running with in the moment, but at this point, my pen is channeling my words onto paper and that is a victory!

I don’t know where my writing will take me.  On a tour of my life, allowing new personal growth of understanding of my world, or perhaps outside of my little world, giving me a glimpse of all that which is bigger than me.  Who knows?  Who cares!

I’m filling up notebooks with thoughts, scenes, characters, words and, at this point,  that is the most important thing!

Silkscreening Fun on Queen St West

I recently spent a whole Sunday at a silkscreen workshop in Toronto.  A friend and I were given an awesome 2-for-1 coupon for the workshop, held at Peach Berzerk in Toronto.  I highly recommend the workshop…and I also highly recommend doing it with a friend!  Much more fun that way! 🙂

I’ve always wanted to know how to silkscreen but never had the opportunity.  The women running the workshop were awesome; very energetic and willing to help out, answering any and all questions, no matter how inane some of them were.   They were incredibly knowledgeable about silk-screening and you could tell they had run the workshop many times before.  Their props, their explanations…everything was crazy clear and easy to understand.  I felt comfortable, as though I was learning along with a group of friends rather than strangers.

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