Friday, November 19, 2010

Tiny Shroud

Earlier this week, I finished the Tiny Shroud that I started several months ago. It is a ministry at my church; volunteers knit shrouds and bonnets which are donated to hospitals for stillborn babies.

As I finished the pieces, I prayed that Avery, Trinity and Langston would be there in heaven to welcome the baby that gets wrapped in this shroud.

If you are interested in doing something similar in your area, here are the instructions.


1 Ball Fine 3 Ply Baby Wool
1 Pair 3 1/4 mm Knitting Needles

Cast on 82 stitches.
Knit 16 rows.
Row 17: Knit 11, Purl 60, Knit 11
Row 18: Knit across row.
Repeat Rows 17 & 18 to measure 19'' from beginning.
Knit 16 Rows.
Cast off.
Block. Should be approximately 12'' x 20''.

Cast on 48 stitches.
Rows 1-6: Knit 1 Purl 1, repeat across row.
Knit 1 row;
Purl 1 row for 10 rows.
Row 17: Knit 6 Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 6 stitches.
Row 18: Knit across row.
Row 19: Knit 5, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 5 stitches.
Row 20: Knit across row.
Row 21: Knit 4, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 4 stitches.
Row 22: Knit across row.
Row 23: Knit 3, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 3 stitches.
Row 24: Knit across row.
Row 25: Knit 2, Purl 2 together across row, Knit last 2 stitches.
Row 26 : Knit across row.
Break wool.
Draw yarn end through remaining stitches and pull tight.
Weave in ends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Proud of my roots

I was born in Hong Kong. I moved here with my family when I was 5 years old.

I remember kids making fun of me for being an immigrant. In my efforts to fit in, my worst fear was being called a FOB (fresh off the boat). After all, "fobby" people smelled like mothballs, dressed funny, and ate weird stuff. Speaking Chinese and going to Chinese school was for losers. They sneered at me in their best imitation of a Hong Kong accent.

(Oddly, the worst offenders were the Canadian-born Chinese kids. Somehow, having no ties to their heritage gave them an extra notch of coolness.)

I don't remember being ashamed of my ethnicity, but I certainly wasn't proud.

The funny thing is that the same people now post pictures and talk all about their world travels, showing off what cool places they've seen. One of the top destinations? Hong Kong.

Of course, I now realize that those kids were just completely insecure and intolerant of anything that was different. But oh, how I wish I had known back then.

I mean, how could you not be proud to call this your birthplace?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked: Cocoa Cookies

I found these cocoa cookies one evening when I had an urge for cookies, but found myself low on baking ingredients. I didn't love them at first because they seemed like a poor man's drier, less sweet, and Nutella-less version of the Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies I had made before, but they've since really grown on me. (I would have made the thumbprint cookies but I didn't have icing sugar or enough eggs.) They have a nice light cocoa flavour, but a satisfyingly heavy texture. They go great with a cup of tea or coffee.
I admit: I thumbprinted in them in case they needed the Nutella
From The Boston Globe

  • 3 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • Extra sugar (for sprinkling)
  1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar gradually, beating until smooth. Add the vanilla and eggs, one by one, beating until thoroughly blended.
  4. With the mixer set on low speed, beat in the flour mixture. You'll have to finish mixing with your hands; the batter is quite stiff.
  5. Spoon rounded tablespoons of batter into your palms and roll into 1-inch balls. Set on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Press down with the tines of a fork, once in each direction, to create a crisscross pattern. Continue until all the cookies are shaped and marked.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly brown. While they are hot, sprinkle the tops with extra sugar. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There is good in the world

The past couple of days have been a bit of a daze for me. A friend of mine (from The Knot) lost her triplets after going into preterm labour at twenty weeks over the weekend.

We are all devastated. Most of us on The Knot/The Nest haven't even met each other in person, but we've grown so close over the past couple of years that we all feel the loss as keenly as if it was one of our best friends.

But what happened next is amazing. Our group of "Internet strangers" pulled together to raise almost $600 (with more to come) towards a small token of comfort and gift card for the couple, and a donation to March of Dimes in memory and honour of Avery, Trinity and Langston.

In the face of tragedy, I am reminded that there is still good in the world. God is with us in our deepest hour; if you ever need a reminder, just look at the faces of the people around you.

"Unity" by TheMidnightOrange on Etsy
Rest in peace, little ones.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cat-related business: cat calls

For a creature with a walnut-sized brain, Sherlock is quite adept at communicating with us. When he first moved in, he was pretty quiet, but as he's settled in, he's become a lot more vocal. I've also gotten pretty good at translating:

Mmmmah! = Good morning!

Mmrh = Run away! (Because mommy is a pretend monster)

Miao? MIAO! Mmmiaaooooowwwwwooo! = Let me out! I know you're leaving and I want to come... (This is when he is the most vocal)

(High-pitched whimper) Miao? = Pleeease let me out?

MrrOW = Come play with me!

Prrrrrrr = Mmm, dinner... OR Mmm, snuggles:
What a life!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An honour

Last night, I got to have one of my coolest performing experiences to date.

I was asked to sing with the Windago Chorus, headed by my friend Elaine, in two mini-concerts as part of the Soundstreams Project. Last night was the first of the two performances. The event was a Q&A chat with Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, and we performed his pieces Gamelan, and Felix's Girls (excerpts).
Photo from Soundstreams

When I first looked at the music, I thought: Not really my cup of tea... but a little musical exposure never hurt anyone.

Gamelan is a piece inspired by the traditional Indonesian musical ensemble of the same name. Here's a Youtube video of the piece, though not by my choir. Cool stuff, right?

Felix's Girls is a compilation of nine pieces set to nine short poems by Henry Felix, with whom Mr. Schafer was personally acquainted. As he introduced the piece, he explained that Mr. Felix was a German Jew (though the introduction in the score says Polish) who escaped the Nazis by walking, by night, from Germany to Greece. The poems each describe a different girl, with the author's great sense of humour.

It is certainly nerve-wracking to perform a piece for its composer! You can only hope that you got his vision right and do him proud.

Gamelan went pretty well. Most of us were nervous about that one because of the irregular rhythms and competing lines from other parts. Also, the composer was very specific about assigning certain syllables to certain notes, so we couldn't just fake it. But we got through it.

We were more relaxed about Felix's Girls. They were fairly easy, straightforward pieces - so we thought.

Mr. Schafer practically jumped off his chair when we finished the performance. "You have to MOVE when you perform these!" He encouraged us to perform Jou-Jou (a poem of nonsense lines like "Everytime I hear a crocodile sneezing in the Nile, I shall remember you, Jou-Jou" with a background of nonsense syllables) again. "This girl is completely crazy," he explained. "You need to let go and be just as nutty as her. And gentlemen, you're just wondering how the heck you got yourself spending an evening with this crazy girl."

So we did. And suddenly the music came ALIVE!

I feel so privileged to have had that experience, and I will never forget it. I hope to be able to bring that kind of life to all of my future performances, even if the composer isn't watching.

The second Soundstreams performance will be this Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM, in the Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall. We will be performing Gamelan and Felix's Girls, along with Arvo Pärt's Summa.