Two and a half weeks ago Matt was diagnosed with an ocular melanoma–a tumor in his right eye.

Today, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for many things.

Holding hands in the hospital after surgery

I’m thankful for Matt’s worrywart tendencies that made him notice his peripheral vision was blurry. I’m thankful that he didn’t listen to me when I said, “You’re trying to look at an impossibly sharp angle. Of course it’s blurry. There’s nothing wrong.” I’m thankful that his parents happened to be at the optometrist and made him an appointment for the next afternoon.

The optometrist, who diagnosed a detached retina, took the situation seriously and referred him immediately to an emergency eye clinic at a local hospital. As the optometrist predicted that Matt would likely have surgery that night, he came home to get me, so that I could drive us to the hospital.

I’m grateful for the ophthalmologist who saw us, even though we arrived quite late after his shift had ended. Expecting to hear “detached retina” and “surgery” and hearing instead “tumor” and “melanoma” is still a blurry moment.

The ophthalmologist referred us to Princess Margaret Hospital, one of the leading cancer centres in Canada and experts in this type of eye tumor. Five days after Matt’s appointment with the optometrist, we were being seen by specialist after specialist at Princess Margaret.

I’m thankful that Princess Margaret is within driving distance of the farm. I’m thankful that the staff is so amazing and their processes make everything so easy. I’m thankful for Canada’s healthcare that gives us access to all of this. By the time we left the hospital we had a confirmed diagnosis, a treatment plan and a surgery scheduled in just two days.

Matt had a surgery that involved placing a small disc in his eye called a plaque. The radiologist described the plaque as like a bottle cap filled with radiation. It is placed over the tumour and stitched in place. The plaque stayed in his eye for six days and was removed on Wednesday in a second surgery.

Wearing an eye patch and oxygen mask after surgery

I’m grateful for medical science that has come up with this treatment that is usually very successful and that allows Matt to keep his eye. I’m grateful that in most cases this type of tumor doesn’t spread (although we’re going through tests to try to make sure this is the case).

I’m thankful that Matt’s recovery has been smooth and we have family and friends supporting us both. I’m thankful that I’m now working at home for myself so I can easily juggle things to be where I need to be. I’m thankful that Matt and I have the relationship where we can get through this together with generosity, kindness, sympathy, openness, fear and humour for each other.

I’m sharing this situation because I want to remember this moment in our lives. I want to articulate gratefulness and thankfulness.

I also want to encourage everyone to go and get your annual check ups. Dentist, doctor, optometrist–it doesn’t matter how you feel. Go to the doctor. Matt has never had problems with his vision. Has never had glasses. It seemed like there was no reason for him to go to the eye doctor.

Most of the time, nothing is wrong. Great. Check that box. You did your annual check up. But maybe sometimes there is something wrong. And they notice it and you get great treatment and your life goes back to normal.

And that’s one final wish I will add this Thanksgiving, if it’s not asking too much. Amongst all of this gratitude, I will be very thankful if this treatment works, the tumor fades and my husband and I move on in health.

I’m going to be taking the rest of this week off from the blog. I’ll be back with more posts next week.


How to make a light box for tracing

Hand up if you’ve ever found yourself standing at a window, trying to hold two pieces of paper steady while you traced a pattern. My hand’s definitely up. It’s awkward, right? For crafters, tracing is an important part of a lot of projects.

A light box is a handy tool that makes tracing much, much easier. Sarah in Illinois is sharing how she made a light box for her quilting mother. 

I hinted a few posts back that I was not making good progress on my “one project a month.” If you remember, my three projects for the second quarter of the year were

  1. Light box for my mom
  2. Grill lighting
  3. The garden

Starting from the bottom, the garden is doing well. Very well. Plants are growing, we’ve picked some veggies, had some setbacks, but overall it’s doing very well. I decided to write a separate post on the garden, so I will just say I am very happy with the progress so far.

The grill lighting is on hold. When we hung the decorative string lights on our awning this year we decided that they give off enough light to make sure our hamburgers aren’t burnt. And since we are not sure what we want in permanent lighting we decided to do more research before we make the money and time commitment. So not done, but on hold.

As for the light box, I can say it is done.

So what is a light box? Basically, it is box with a transparent top and a light source inside.

When you put a print and a blank piece of paper on top of the box, the light shines through and makes it easy to trace the original print. This is great for crafters wanting to copy patterns. In this case, my mom wanted one for making quilts.

I started by cutting 45 degree angles for the 4 sides of the box.

Then I got to play around with the router. Honestly, I had not used our router before. It is kind of Steve’s toy, but using some practice boards it was fairly easy to get the hang of. The reason for the router was to cut a groove in the sides of the box for the transparent top to sit in.

I also used the router to curve the edges of the boards to give it a nicer look.

So this was the point where I would have started assembling the pieces. Except I came home and found that Blitz had put his mark on two of the pieces, quite literally.

It aggravated me of course, but who could I blame but the person who left them where a 10 month old pup could reach them? In case that wasn’t clear, that person is me.

So after redoing half of my work I began putting the sides together. Simply put, it is like building a frame for a picture.

The finished dimensions are 13 inches by 15.25 inches with the “window” area being 12.5 inches by almost 14.75 inches. Obviously I didn’t work by any plans, I just wanted to make sure it was large enough to use a standard 8.5 by 11 piece of paper for tracing.

I pre-drilled my nail holes and put three sides together.

It was at this point that I put the first coat of white paint on all of the pieces. It has been extremely humid here which is not the best weather for paint to dry. I got several scratches and finger prints on the pieces that had to be touched up once I was done handling everything.

I slid the “window” into the channels that I routed and attached the fourth side.

For the window I used a piece of plexiglass that I cut with a razor blade and snapped to break. To hide the inside of the box and to dull the brightness of the intense lights that I chose, I sprayed the plexiglass with a frosted paint.

It was at this point that I turned the box over and installed the light source. I chose this LED tape at our local home improvement store. I wanted LED so that heat did not build up inside the box.

This tape is 6.5 feet long but came with instructions on how to cut it to the correct fit. I used both the adhesive back and the small mounting brackets that came with the tape. I cut a small hole near the bottom to run the cord out of.

I was pleasantly surprised that the light tape came with a switch so that it will be easy for Mom to turn on and off as needed.

And finally I screwed the back to the box. I chose to use screws so that I can remove the back if I ever need to make any adjustments or repairs.

I am happy with the results and can’t wait to give it to Mom for her to try out.

That light box looks great, Sarah. It’s super professional with the routed channel for the plexiglass and the LED strip. I’m sure your Mom will appreciate it. Maybe you’ll get a new quilt out of it. 🙂

My Grandma’s vintage knitting patterns

I really hoped to have an office update for you today, but it was not to be. Soooooo many boxes. So much unpacking. So much fabric and wool. I’m making progress, but it’s a little overwhelming to figure out how best to organize it all.

However, one thing that is unpacked and organized is all of my grandmother’s knitting patterns. In my last update, I promised you a peak at some of these, so that’s what I’m giving you today.

This collection is so special to me. My grandmother taught me to knit as a child, but I didn’t really make anything wearable until I was a teenager. She talked me through my first mitts, sweater, lace, cables and gave me the confidence to tackle pretty much anything. Now, I’ve taught a few other people to knit and have even started a knitting group at work.

Inheriting her patterns means a lot to me, and I’m working to take good care of them. Some of the oldest patterns date to the 1930s, I think. On the tattered bottom left corner of this book is “Canada 1936.” I’m choosing to read this as a date.

Vintage knitting patterns from the 1930s

Her patterns span the years, ages and styles. Not all have stood the test of time, but I’m not getting rid of any of them.

Vintage knitting patterns

There’s lots of clothing (she knit for all of her 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grands–we have two more greats and one great-great now), and there are other things as well like afghans or these lace patterns.

Vintage lace knitting patterns

These Mary Maxim patterns are a particular treasure. Grandma knit the sheep and sailboat sweaters for my cousins, and then they were handed down to my sisters, brother and me. My Mom eventually passed them on to my cousin’s kids.

Mary Maxim is a Canadian company started in the 1950s. Their patterned jackets–often featuring Canadian wildlife–are some of their signature designs. Check out that beaver and maple leaf jacket. Doesn’t get more Canada than that.

Mary Maxim knitting patterns

These Mary Maxim mitts are another Grandma signature. In our family, we had the birds when we were growing up, and then when my sister was a teen she convinced my Grandma to knit her a pair of crocodiles.

Mary Maxim crocodile and bird mitts

I’ve knit these a bunch of times in all sizes, even including a tiny thumbless Crocodilly for my nephew #3 when he was very wee–and apparently freaked out by Auntie and her camera.

Knitted crocodile hat and mitts

The other highlight for me is this Beatrix Potter knitting book. I remember when my Grandmother got this as a Christmas gift. In fact, the card from my Aunt is still tucked inside the front cover.

Beatrix Potter knitting patterns

The patterns in this book are all interpretations of Beatrix Potter’s stories and characters. Some are vedy, vedy British and a bit dated. Benjamin Bunny tams anyone?

Benjamin Button knitting outfits

But the graphs and the characters are timeless. I think this Jeremy Fisher with his dangling legs is super cute.

Jeremy Fisher sweater

My sister is about to add another great-grandbaby to the family in a month of so. I’m enjoying going through the patterns and picking out something for my new niece–and giving her a memento of her Great-Grandma.

Vintage blue leaf dishes

Blue leaf serving dishes

I love pretty dishes and special serving pieces. I do my best to pull them out regularly and not leave them shut up in a cupboard.

This set of blue leaf dishes is particularly special to me. They came–kind of–from my grandmother.

Blue leaf serving dishes

I say kind of because only one piece–the one in the centre–actually belonged to my grandmother.

My grandmother entertained regularly, but I only remember seeing her use the blue dish once. It is made up of four leaf bowls, one round bowl and a pair of leaf salt and pepper shakers. They all fit together and sit on a lazy Susan.

Blue leaf serving dishes

Blue leaf serving dishes

Despite only seeing it once, it made an impression on me. I love the colour and the form of the leaves and the way it all joins together.

When I was in university I went to an auction and all of a sudden a familiar looking blue leaf dish was on the block. It was three leaves joined together with a little handle. I bought it (probably for less than $20) and excitedly showed it to my grandmother.

My Grandma was a very organized, very practical woman. When she died, items throughout her house were labelled with the names of who should inherit them. My name was on the blue dishes and their lazy Susan.

A few years later, I found another dish at a flea market. This one was a pair of leaves with a little handle. I hesitated, but eventually made my way back to the vendor and bought the dish (again for less than $20).

I’m so glad I did because I haven’t seen one since. There’s not a maker’s name on the underside, though they’re obviously all made by the same manufacturer. My grandmother’s set has her name on a fabric sticker on the bottom of each piece, a throwback to when she would take the dishes to church suppers.

Blue leaf serving dishes

I love that I’ve been able to amass a little set on my own. And I love putting them to use. They are perfect for Mexican night, when each dish is filled with its own ingredient. Set on the lazy Susan in the middle of the table, the big piece spins around so people can build their own tacos without having to constantly pass bowls around the table.

The double leaf dish holds fried onions and peppers, while the trio holds salsa, sour cream and guacamole (or as my MIL called it when we had them in to dinner, Guatemala. Sorry, Audrey. It was too funny not to share.)

Blue leaf serving dishes

Blue leaf serving dishes

We’re making our own memories with these dishes. Even though only one of them officially belonged to my Grandma, they all make me think of her and feel more good memories.

Who else loves dishware? Do you have any sets that you’ve collected over time? Or do you have any special pieces you’ve inherited?

Vintage bar cart end table

Vintage bar cart used as an end table in the living room

I made a change in the living room the other weekend.

I switched out a small end table for my grandmother’s vintage bar cart. I’ve envisioned using this cart as an end table for as long as I’ve had it, and I love how it looks in the living room.

The top tray is the perfect height for a lamp, and the shelves give us more space for the phone, answering machine (we’re still old-school here in the country), some storage and display, and even some room left over for a drink and a snack.

Plus the brass, glass and wood is pretty.

Vintage bar cart used as an end table in the living room

Bar carts have become so popular. I think the reason is in part because they are such versatile furniture.

In my grandmother’s house, this cart lived in a corner of the dining room and held her silver tea set. As much as my grandmother enjoyed an adult beverage now and then, this cart was known as a tea cart.

When it came to our (first) house, it served the same purpose, sitting in our dining room and holding my silver tea set.

It did that for awhile here at the farm too. But I knew it could do more.

Vintage wood and brass tea cart

When we added the third part of our new-to-us china cabinet to the dining room, the tea cart got a chance to try something new and moved in to the living room.

It will be here for at least awhile. But I’m also envisioning it in a bedroom as a night table. So much potential…

Do you have a bar cart at your house? How do you use it? Are you a fan of bar carts? Have you ever heard of a tea cart?

In Flanders Fields



I’m thinking today of my grandpa and other veterans.

I’m not sure how familiar people are with this poem. Here in Canada, it’s a fixture of Remembrance Day.

It was written during the First World War by Canadian John McCrae, who was born very near our farm. In part because of this poem, “the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Britain, France, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth countries” (Source)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Particularly this week, I am thankful to be Canadian. I’m also grateful to the people like my grandfather who took a stand to defend people who needed help and preserve freedom.

Thrifting with the in-laws

A few months ago (yes, I’ve been holding out on you guys), Matt and I went out to dinner with his family. The restaurant just happened to be next to a Value Village, so there was a family thrifting excursion after dinner.

After a little while in the store, Matt and I exchanged a look. His said, “I didn’t find anything. You ready to go?”

Mine said, “Nope. Absolutely not. I found something I’m quite excited about. You have to come over here right now.”

After years of searching I had found the cabinet that I wanted for my office. My office is our last untouched room–in fact it’s still full of boxes that have been in there since moving day. The cabinet is my trigger to paint the walls, unpack the boxes and finish this space in the way I’ve been imagining for years. So I was not leaving the store without this cabinet–no matter that I was surrounded by my in-laws.

In fact, the in-laws were a bonus. My father-in-law was our chauffeur for the night and his truck was just what we needed to transport the cabinet. My sister-in-law stood guard over the cabinet while I went to the cashier to pay. And my mother-in-law found my father-in-law and told him to bring the truck.

Ahhh, family.

Want to see what had me so excited? (In a very poorly lit picture?)

Vintage china cabinet

I have big plans for this cabinet. I think it’s going to be great. I’ll share some of my plans next week.

Do you go shopping as a family? Is there any furniture you’re hunting for?

A Mother’s Day wish

One day visiting my grandmother, I was in the guest bedroom when I noticed a photo on the dresser. I asked, “Where did you get this black and white photo of me? And where are my bangs?”

She said, “That’s not you. That’s your mother.”

My Mom and me

Browsing old photo albums, I’m occasionally shocked by how much my Mom and I look alike.

I’ve gotten a lot more than just my looks from my mother, and I’ve been thinking about that a bit as we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend.

No barriers

My mother went to college at the end of the 1960s. She shared the story of walking into her marketing class, and the instructor greeting her with, “Typing’s down the hall, honey.” My Mom didn’t let that stop her. She earned her diploma and started her career–and never learned to type. Seriously, you should watch her write an email.

My Mom was also an avid sewer. Some of her biggest projects were her own wedding dress and several prom dresses for both herself and her daughters. She taught me how to sew, but she also taught me that I can sew, cook, push the lawnmower, work in the garden, paint a room, refinish furniture, speak my mind, manage my money and choose my own path.

Homemade wedding dress


My Mom enjoyed her career, but when she became pregnant with me, she quit her job and became a stay-at-home-mom. She and my Dad decided it was important to her to be present in that way for their kids. Even though I was there, I look back now with a completely different perspective on the situation. I cannot imagine how my Mom held it together as well as she did when she was always on duty for four kids. The experience of having my Mom always there is a really, really formative part of my identity. And she’s still always there.

My family

With my Mom


My parents are truly partners, and that has had a huge influence on my own marriage. They view each other as equals and appreciate each other. My Mom handled a lot of the financials and did whatever was needed for my Dad’s business. My Dad valued how she took care of the house and us kids. Although there were lots of “Mom said no. Let’s go ask Dad” moments, when it came down to it, Mom and Dad were always on the same page. They problem-solve together, share the same values and put their kids first.

My family

My Dad is sick, and my Mom has taken on pretty much everything to do with the house, their lives and his care. So far, I’ve not seen anything my Mom won’t do for him. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept how much she’s taken on and how little help she’ll accept, but it’s definitely given me new understanding of “for better and for worse.”

Mom and Dad

The biggest thing I got from my Mom is to be true to myself. She may not always understand my decisions, but she’s always on my side.

However, being true to yourself is an area where I sometimes don’t feel like my Mom has given herself the same opportunity that she gave her children. I hope that she has more opportunities to sew, to garden, to fix up the house, to spend time enjoying her children and grandchildren–to do the things that give her joy. That’s my Mother’s Day wish for my Mom.

Odds and sods

Photo collage

Ahhh. A three-day weekend. What a nice treat in the middle of winter. Matt’s working on his goal of not leaving the property all weekend. And I’m taking it easy with a quick list of the odds and sods that have been happening recently.

  • I got to watch my 22-month old nephew “play soccer.” Lesson learned: there’s no way to get a clear picture of a toddler playing soccer.
  • Temperatures have been hovering around the -20ºC mark. And that’s just the temperature. The windchill makes it extra frigid.
  • I braved Ikea on Saturday. Thanks to the temperature, a lot of people opted to hibernate instead of shop, so it wasn’t the usual madhouse. I came out–in less than a hour!–with all of the hardware for the guest room curtains, two new pillows for our bed (finally upgraded to king size pillows to match the king size mattress), and my usual–a handful of picture frames.
  • Due to the temperature, Bax is having many quick outings rather than any long hikes. We’re supplementing with indoor fetch and tag. Our girl Ralph doesn’t seem to notice the cold. Matt picked burrs out of her tail, so we know she’s venturing outside the barn. A cat we’ve not seen before was hanging out in the barn a few mornings ago, so someone’s obviously feeling the cold.
  • The non-feline family members are focusing on indoor sports including painting a few items for the guest room, baking a fudgy cake for Valentine’s Day, napping fireside, watching some TV and movies (this one, this one and this one were interesting. I was really keen on this one, but I ended up falling asleep on the couch.)
  • My brother and I are sharing custody of my Dad’s router. After a bit of fiddling, I remembered how to use it and made some good progress on an art project for the basement. Adam, you can have the router back now.

And of course there’s been a bit of romance in there–Valentine’s Day! And some more family time yet to come–Family Day!

How was your weekend? What did you get up to?