bread and other things...
Recently I did something that I never thought I'd get right on the first try. I made bread! For years I've enjoyed homemade bread from friends who are braver than I in the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen in general kind of intimidates me, and I'm generally more than hesitant to try new things in it, especially when it comes to temperamental things like bread. I'm cool with muffins and scones, but after hearing about all the rocks that have come out of other people's ovens I've shied away. That's until this recipe appeared in my world. Actually what appeared is more than one recipe, but whole bundle of them on my mom's new food blog. She says she's doing it just for us kids and friends of the family, but I thought I'd share the secret one time here. My mom is famous for her muffins, and biscotti (which are both already on the blog), but everything she makes is AMAZING, so don't hesitate if you see something that looks good. Trust me, it is. Make it. This bread recipe was a breeze and it might be the best bread I've ever eaten...and I made it. Miracles.
Here's the link, tell me if you make anything :) fiorellafamilyfavourites.weebly.com
Silk and Storms
This winter has felt especially long, I think because we are getting to know a new city, so we're not yet aware of all the inside activities that are available, nor do we have many friends (to visit). So, we've been spending a lot of time inside our apartment. At the end of one especially stormy week (we must have spent 3 full days inside) I was determined to get out of the house, and I thought it might be fun to entertain Sam with fabric in the wind. I think I had more fun playing with the silk than he did watching me.
Our NYC Poosaster
any situation where poo goes up, out and everywhere (literal or figurative)
synonyms: shitstorm, calamity, misadventure, catastrophe (you get it)
It’s been six months since Danny, Sam and I moved to New York City from Montreal and I finally feel ready to tell our story, or rather our poosaster. Danny and I invented that word (at least I think we did) during one of our multiple baby blowout experiences, which literally deals with poo going up, out and everywhere. In this context it replaces the more popular, ‘shitstorm’, and believe me that comparison is well warranted. Let me preface by saying Danny and I were clueless as to what New York City was like, let alone what it would be like for two small-town folk like ourselves to live there. To be honest I don’t even think it occurred to us that we wouldn’t like it. We saw it as an excellent adventure in the 'most amazing city in the world.'
We were a little anxious leading up to the move...
To give a little more context as to where we were emotionally I think it’s important to note that 1) we are first-time parents, which naturally means we are in a constant state of fear/wonderment/sleep deprivation, which equals emotional basket-case sometimes. 2) although we have visitors come from BC once and awhile we don’t have any family out east, so it feels pretty lonely a lot of the time. I never imagined raising my kids away from my hometown. Sometimes it makes me sad that Sam won’t know that place deeply until later in his life. And, 3) Just before moving to NYC we were confronted by Montreal’s infamous International Moving Day - a ridiculous tradition where everyone in the city moves ON THE SAME DAY, July 1st (I am not kidding). This means that almost all leases in Montreal expire on that day and often getting your landlord to agree to let you move on any other month is a major pain-in-the-ass. So, three months before our lease ended (the designated lease renewal time) we received threats from our landlord’s family and were faced with having to leave a month before we wanted, and this all when Sam was only three weeks old. So, out of pure exhaustion we eventually gave in and agreed to move out our Montreal apartment a month before we were legally allowed to enter the United States to live. We thought of going to BC for that month but instead we cat-sat for some friends in Montreal and lived in their house, which was lucky but also involved us not having any of our possessions for that time, as well as the rather arduous process of having to constantly find places for our cat to live in the meantime - she moved three times that month (poor kitty). So, the month before the biggest move of our life, to another country with our new son, we were feeling pretty anxious and displaced.
Apartment hunting in New York City is the pits...
Thirty days before the big move we took the Amtrak down to New York City to apartment shop for just under a week. We had two connections down there to make, one was my dear friend Katie who put us up for four nights in her apartment in east Harlem and even gave us her bedroom (Sam would roll over for the first time there), and the other was a friend-of-a-friend in Bushwick Brooklyn who was a broker, and would help us find an apartment. We didn’t know that he would be the only way we were going to get even close to finding an apartment in five days’ time. In fact, in the first 24 hours of being in NYC we learned that we had three main things riding against us, 1) we did not have American credit, so landlords could not see our good credit history 2) we did not have social security numbers so landlords risked us dropping out of a lease with no consequence (ie. they couldn’t ever bring us to American court) and 3) we did not have an American guarantor (someone who says they’ll be legally obliged to pay our rent if we can’t). Our Canadian one did not count. If we had just one of these things our rate of success in finding an apartment would have greatly increased. But we did not, so our broker was not confident he could find us a place. After hearing that news we felt pretty discouraged.
Our broker was based in Bushwick, Brooklyn so he really tried to sell us on that area, which was hard at first. I was particularly turned off by the lack of nice playgrounds for Sam (they looked like gloomy jail yards) and the general lack of green space (I know it’s NYC, what did I expect?) On our first day we were actually able to view an apartment, which was unexpected and exciting - until we saw it. This apartment was rough, I mean a major fixer-upper, and really dirty with signs of mice and bugs. But it had some good points, it was large with high ceilings and had a lot of sunlight. I remember walking up through one side of the apartment, while Danny went through the other, and recall some forced optimism urging me to think, ‘we could make this work’. Moments later Danny and I met eyes and I could tell he was really unimpressed. It was then that I realized how I really felt, I wanted to run out of that place. I knew New York City apartments on a budget were rundown but this place was a dump. It was not a place I could call home. Shockingly, our broker seemed to think that was as good as it got for places in our price range.
We wanted to persevere and see what else was out there. So, on day two of our apartment search, in the hopes that our broker was just being fatalistic, we ventured out to other ‘affordable’ parts of Brooklyn and attempted to contact other brokers. That’s when reality hit, it was just as our broker had predicted: we could not get another broker to talk to us let alone show us an apartment. Furthermore, all of these neighbourhoods seemed to be a lot more city-like than I ever imagined they could be in Brooklyn; jammed packed sidewalks, always an emergency vehicle going by, and just generally noisy, and super dirty. We officially felt like a country bumpkins in the big city, and we were freaked out - were we really moving here? We were beside ourselves. Don’t forget, we were doing this all on transit with a five-month-old baby in the peak of NYC summer heat.
Suddenly Bushwick was looking very attractive, with it’s rugged industrial feel, artistic community (there is beautiful graffiti everywhere) and best of all, quiet small-town feel compared to places like Flatbush. So, back to Bushwick we went to our broker who we hoped would find a landlord who thought we seemed like nice, trustworthy foreigners. We were there for another day and still not one landlord would consider us, so with our days running out we bit the bullet and applied for the dumpy apartment, the only one we would view all week. In our final days in NYC, as we awaited a decision from the landlord of that scary apartment, we considered the fact that if we did not get it we could not move to New York and would instead go home. The sad thing was we no longer knew where home was: we were in the process of saying good-bye to Montreal, and it had been years since we considered what we would do (work-wise) if we were to move back to British Columbia. The last two days of that visit felt dark; we talked a lot about giving up on New York and where we would go if we did. Our introduction to New York City had us really scared. We truly felt that even if we did move we wouldn't last the whole five years in the Big Apple, so we wondered if we really wanted the apartment. Finally, on the day before our train back to Montreal we got an unexpected ‘yes’ from the landlord and we decided to sign the lease. The eleven hour train ride back to Montreal the next day felt especially long as we wondered if we were doing the right thing.
For the next three weeks there was a lot of back and forth between the us and the broker regarding home improvements to our Bushwick abode. We sunk a chunk of our savings into making it, what we thought, would be livable.
The big move to the Big Apple...
The weeks leading up to the move were made easier by the fact that we had already packed and stored all of our belongings in preparation for house-sitting. Then getting to New York from Montreal was easy, especially for me since I arrived with Sam by air five days after Danny had driven a U-HAUL full of our stuff down to Brooklyn. Danny and I spoke a lot in the days that he spent there preparing the apartment, and he warned me multiple times that the renos didn’t do much for the overall feel of the apartment (we had the floors pulled up and the walls and ceilings washed and painted). Also, the deep clean that we ordered didn’t happen, so Danny and his friends were working their butts off. When I arrived I was in shock, even after improvements it was worse than I remembered: the walls were heavily textured in a very hodge-podge way and some holes at eye level had been filled with expanding foam. The kitchen cupboards were small and dingy, and the floors were no better than the four layers of vinyl and linoleum that we had had pulled up. The worst part was that the steam heaters were very dirty and had mold behind them, and many of the outlet and heater holes were gaping, dirty and moldy. We became more and more concerned about the mold that we were finding and decided we would get it professionally tested for toxicity.
In that first week we became more familiar with our neighbourhood; there was a music festival on our street as well as a false alarm about an rumoured impromptu concert that Jay Z, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake were going to do on rooftop across from my new favourite cafe, which made for a fun day as hundreds of New Yorkers gathered and waited.
Then the mold inspector came. He told us it was bad. Even before we got the test results back he told us that we should not stay in the apartment longer than two more weeks. We couldn’t believe that we were back at square one. After all we had been through, and knowing how hard it would be to find another apartment before the first of the month (it was one week away), we wondered if we had made the wrong decision coming. That was the most anxious week yet. On the bright side we had wonderful support from my sister-in-law who came from BC that week to help (what a doll) . We sent emergency emails to everyone we knew in NYC hoping to find a lead on an apartment, and even called Craigslist ads that offered rooms-for-rent, and also considered temporarily moving in with some friends.
One of the emergency emails we sent was to (our now friend) Shana who we met via email months prior via CUNY. She had offered us her apartment for rent in Jersey City, but our attempts at contacting her during our apartment hunt were unsuccessful. We wondered if it was still available. Believe it or not, she had just moved back into it since she could not find tenants! Luckily she was willing to try to find a room-for-rent for herself in order to rent us the apartment (an amazing gesture!) In three days' time all of her leads fell through and with only a couple more days before we would be homeless we were able to view another apartment in her building and, since it was amazing, apply for it. The day before we would move back to Canada we got the ‘okay’ to move in, and the next day we moved for the third time in two months.
We've made a home...
Today we are in Jersey City, New Jersey. Our home is a large, renovated one-bedroom with lots of sunlight, and no mold. We live in a residential neighbourhood right next to Lincoln Park (sister to Central Park and Prospect Park) and it contains the nicest playground I’ve ever seen. Best of all, we are a mere 50 minute commute to NYC, which pretty much makes it the perfect location; close enough to the action, but not in it. We have required this entire past six-months to settle in (including a brief retreat to BC and a multi-family vacation to Hawaii) and are finally feeling (mostly) recovered from our beginnings here in the USA. We are still a little culture-shocked, but these days we are feeling a lot lighter-in-spirit (ie. less traumatized). We have actually grown very fond of Jersey City. Sam and I attend playgroups, I joined a knitting group and Danny is really enjoying school. I go into New York regularly to attend exhibitions and visit museums, and last week I attended my first NYC Handweavers Guild meeting (I was in heaven). So, to wrap up this long-winded yarn, I am elated to be able to finally say that we are now happily living in the Garden State, especially since spring is now showing its signs of arrival.
this apartment ended up being a bust due to violence in the neighbourhood, including a drug related shooting outside our apartment. We moved for a third and final time into a different area in Jersey City where we found a great apartment and community. It was worth the wait :)
The pictures below will expand and show captions if you click them.
Thanks for taking the time to read about this crazy journey we're on,
Peaceful mornings on a mango farm
We just went for a wonderful trip to Hawaii where my brother got married. He and his wife live in the north shore of Oahu where they own an organic mango farm, Paomoho Organics. Because of the five-hour time difference we were always up in the wee hours of the morning, sometimes awaking right after the rest of the house had gone to bed. My brother hosted 16 friends and family in his home that week!
Mornings were my fave, when we'd wake up in the dark and try be quite for the sleeping bodies around us. Inevitably my mom woke up minutes later to spend precious morning time with Sam. As soon as the sun came up we'd go out to the farm for a walk and then feed the ducks and chickens.
La boite à médiation variable
For five days in mid-July jennadawn and I participated as artists in Peristyle Nomade's la boite à médiation variable. We participated as members of our artist collective, SCRATCH, but sadly our third member, Lauren Osmond, couldn't join us this time 'round. In the past the three of us had planted a natural dye garden in Articule's garden and later gave a natural dyeing workshop there.
For this event we proposed that people see our act of sharing knowledge (plant dyeing knowledge) as a performative art installation. We spent five days in Parc Mederic Martin in Montreal, mostly staying close to our little dye hut (as seen above). It was three days preparing natural dyes and fabric to be dyed and the last two dyeing cotton, linens and silks with marigold, onion skins, brazilwood, logwood, lavendar, pomegranate, tumeric and more. Of course I had to have an indigo vat as well, especially since it was my only chance to have one this summer. On day two we also held a fun natural dyeing and printing workshop. As part of our mandate to share we offered a pamphlet with natural dyeing directions to anyone passing through and of course to anyone who inquired about the purpose of our being at the park.
There are some some pictures via the Peristyle Nomade facebook page. Today we hosted dinner. In the first picture below you can see me making crepes like a mad-woman :)
Below are more photos by LePetitRusse
Help save the Textile Arts program
My former school, Capilano University, has threatened to discontinue a number of programs due to lack of funding, since the government scaled back funding for many post secondary institutions (wtf?!). One of those programs is my beloved Textile Arts Program. I am angry, sad and appalled to say the least. The Textile Arts program changed my life course for the better in so many ways, and I know that is true for many other alumni. It is such a valuable program. There is no other program in North America (and perhaps the world) that offers such a rigorous and meaningful education in this field.
It wasn't until my time in the Textile Arts program at Capilano University that I knew what my vocation was; to work in the field of textiles as an artist and educator. The program instilled in me an appreciation for handwork, shared knowledge and community, as well as a new appreciation for all aspects of history in the context of textiles. The faculty are some of the most interesting and inspiring people I've met, and all put forth a curriculum that is both extremely challenging and fulfilling. Future students would be hard-pressed to find a better education in this field.
In the past weeks, since the university announced the cuts on April 24th, there has been an uproar by students, faculty and the wider community. Letters are being written and all the artwork on campus was shrouded in black or damaged. That was apparently not enough. We bought some time when the board granted the university a few more weeks to fundraise, but we need to convince the liberals to fund these programs again, and the president of the university to create a more creative budget strategy (or to resign).
///Sadly the Textile Art Department is no longer. Nor are any of the studio art programs at Capilano University\\\
To get up to date on the issue here are some links, and there is an online petition HERE.
A facebook page has been started:
and a web site gives additional information
Board delays Capilano University cuts
Union plans CapU cuts injunction Move aims to delay May 14 board decision
Programs fall under the axe at Capilano U
Programs cut as Capilano University faces $1.3M shortfall
Capilano University puts course cuts on hold
Court injunction sought to delay cuts at Capilano University
Students need to fight for university funding
Capilano University plans program cuts to balance budget
Writing letters helps, so here is a list of contacts and their emails. Write away!
Capilano University President, Kris Bulcroft:
North Vancouver Seymour Mla- Jane Thornthwaite – BC Liberal Party
North Vancouver Lonsdale Mla - Naomi Yamamoto – BC Liberal Party
West Vancouver Capilano Mla - Ralph Sultan – BC Liberal Party
West Vancouver Garibaldi Mla - Joan Mcintyre – BC Liberal Party
Minister of Education: Honourable Don Mcrae
Here is a copy of a letter sent from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design Faculty Association President to Dr. Kris Bulcroft:
I just got back from the most relaxing time with family in BC. We had decided that this was the best time for me to go and introduce Sam to the Fam since it was a good opportunity to give Danny some alone time in Montreal to complete his thesis. As I write he is applying the finishing touches before he sends it off tonight. Go Danny!
The past three weeks in BC were magical. I spent a lot of quality time with my mom, great-aunt Franca and uncle John who all helped tremendously with all things Sam. I mostly appreciated the fact that they made sure that he had a well fed and rested mama. I even ventured to continue our cloth diaper regimen, which wouldn't have been possible without Franca's help in the laundry department. Franca is my 'artist aunt' who is super talented in the fibre arts. She creates art dolls, amazing vintage jewelry re-makes and has an impressive collection of hand-made quilts in her repertoire. One of her santos art dolls (a bride) is currently being featured in Art Doll Quarterly in the Summer 2013 issue. Yay Franca! It was so nice staying with her and John in beautiful Davis Bay, where I discovered the best coffee shop on the Sunshine Coast, Straight Coffee. I couldn't believe my ears when they offered my latte in cow, coconut, soy or almond milk. Amazing! And the food is so delicious.
Off my needles...
I finished my lovely Strathcona scarf while I was on the coast and finally gave it to Franca (a few months later than planned). It's knit with a double strand of Brassard lace yarn; one grey wool, one white cotton.
Visit to Maiwa...
One place that I must always go when I visit BC is Maiwa, my fave store of all time. They recently received a shipment ofvintage kantha quilts and I just had to see them in person. Each one is original and hand-stitched, and they're only $150.00! If only didn't live on a student budget. I was lucky to leave with a lovely natural-dyed, hand-printed linen tunic, thanks to my generous mom-in-law :)
As awesome as it was I'm glad to be back in Montreal with the hubby, where it is breezy and 28 degrees :)
Lately I've been thinking a lot about this city I'll be departing from soon, and how wonderfully it has treated me. One aspect of Montreal that has left an impression on me from day one is the metro system. Each metro station has artwork either incorporated into the architecture or placed within the space (depending on when it was built. Newer stations incorporated the artwork into the design). I love how every station has a personality of it's own, unlike some other cities where the designs are streamlined to be almost identical at each stop (ahem - Vancouver).
When I first moved here for art school, my first Fibres project was an homage to marginalized populations in the city with the use of a metro station as my main tool. It was actually my first time using the rubbing technique that I became so fond of. Sadly I never photographed the project, partly because it is actually illegal to photograph Montreal's metro system. This is unfortunate because not only was I unable to complete my art piece, but it means that I cannot take the time to take meaningful photos of this great space before I move away. I tried once and got stopped by metro police. I also had a metro operator jump out of the car and scold me while I was making this stop-motion video (which meant I could complete my vision of it - arg!).
This brings me to a new project which I'm calling Interdit, which translates to Forbidden or Prohibited. The photos (and perhaps video and audio) I'll share are not necessarily finished artworks. As per usual I just want to share the process.
PS here is a detail photo of one metro station over at CDR
My mom has been visiting from BC for the past week which means I've been actually getting sleep and eating marvelously. Mom's cooking is the best: think italian meals daily, fresh baked goods and an excuse to visit all the necessary Montreal food stops; poutine, smoked meat, chocolatines, bagels etc...
We've also been doing some gallery hopping. Concordia's Fibres Student Association's yearly show at Galerie Diagonale was a treat...and I'm allowed to take photos, which is a plus.
Juried by Emily Jan, Emily Hermant and Susan Surette, Monstrocities includes ten fibres students' work, all which speak to the connection between materials and the body. I've included photos of some of my faves.
Today we also visited DHC ART where Thomas Demand is currently exhibiting his show, Animations. He uses paper, photography and animation to recreate real scenes that he has witnessed in person or in video, and are often politically charged. It is eery how real they look. If you are not in Montreal and unable to see this show I highly recommend watching this video about his work.
samuel david vallee
Introducing my lovely little man, Samuel David Vallee, born March 1st, 7lbs 4oz, 19.25 inches long. Danny and I are happier than we ever imagined we could be
I've been teaching an after-school program to grade 3's and 4's since last October and it has been so much fun. We see each other every Thursday and they have only one hour to to learn a technique and make a project. The things they make in that time are really impressive. I'll be sad to be saying good-bye to these girls when I go on maternity leave soon.
These photos are from the embroidery class and the felting classes. Some other techniques we've covered are natural dyeing, shibori, eco-printing, finger knitting, weaving, basketry and block printing.
moving, shifting, changing
In days of late life has been really exciting. I am blessed in so many ways, and feel so very thankful every day. To begin with, I am 36 weeks pregnant and loving every moment. In one week I will be full-term and baby could arrive any day!! As I write, the wee one has hiccups :) which he/she gets at least 3 times a day since week 32. I feel really lucky to be healthily pregnant, since I had spinal surgery nine years ago and have ever-since wondered if my back issues would return severely, or complicate my pregnancy in some way. I really sympathize with Melissa at Sweet Fiber Yarns, who is going through a very similar experience to me when I was her age. The good news is, it does get better, the pain does go away, AND a normal pregnancy is totally still an option.
So, there's that news and then there's this: Not only am I going to give birth to my first child soon, but I am also going to be moving to New York City for five years in September! This is brand new news for Danny and I, since he just received acceptance into a PhD program two days ago. This is huge and exciting and, I'm not going to lie, a little daunting, but we are lovers of adventures. When Danny and I moved to Montreal in 2010 we planned to stay for 2 years while I finished my BFA in Fibres, and then go right back to BC. In that time we have fallen in love with Montreal, and the many friends we've made here, and even considered living here permanently, or at least for another few years. It's a hard decision to move back to BC where everything is twice as expensive and the wages are the same. Also in our time here, Danny entered into a Masters program at McGill (Education and Counselling Psychology) and found his calling. I've never seen him more engrossed in his work and loving every stressful moment. So, as you can imagine, this lead him to apply to PhD programs, and lo and behold he got into his dream program, Urban Education at CUNY. So, off we will go in September with our new little family (including the cat). I'm thrilled to say the least. One thing that excites me is the possibility of doing an MFA there in a few years (a girl can dream).
All of these changes have lead me to wonder what will become of this blog here on VY. I feel like a bit of a fraud blogging from so far away and for so many years. I never imagined that I would be away from BC for so long. So I'm thinking of merging my personal,workshops and this VY blog to be one entity. I'm sure this won't happen for a bit, since once the babe arrives blogging will be the last thing on my mind, but these are thoughts I'm having. Any feedback from fellow bloggers and readers would be much appreciated :)
Yesterday I wore my lasted FO to the baby shower, below are some better photos. It's called the Artemis Cowl and I knit it in Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage. In true knitterly style, I broke my own rule about not adding to my stash when I laid eyes on this gorgeous colourway, Candlewick. I love a good golden yellow. Some notes on the pattern: I cast on 10 less stitches and did 4 rows of garter stitch instead of the slip stitch boarder. For binding off I tried something different and did 2-stitch short rows before binding off each pair, in an attempt get a picot look. I really like the eyelets that resulted from the short rows. Has anyone done this kind of bind-off before? Does it have a name?
I'm still knitting my Strathcona. Knitting lace with dull needles has made this project lag on for much longer than I wanted. I've also cast on a bunch of other projects, which is not my style at all, and learned that many WIP's does not work for me.
To solve my dull needle problem I've considered purchasing some interchangeable needles, since buying needles one pair at a time gets expensive. Also, I'm more convinced than ever that interchangeables are a great investment after learning about the magic loop method, for knitting small circumferences with long circular needles, over at Jane Richmond's website. It blew my mind a little. With that said, I really don't know which ones to buy. So if you have a preference I'd love to here your comments.
Last month my friends, jenna and Lauren, and I put on a natural-printing workshop at the artist-run center, Articule. All the participants unwrapped their bundles at home, so we don't have the finished silk scarf photos, but I have these ones. I love how every stage of this technique is beautiful.
more natural dye print samples...
As with many textile techniques, this natural printing process that I'm developing has proven to be very time consuming. All the more reason to love it, I say.
I'm pretty excited to be in a place to say that. When I started the textiles program at Capilano University four years ago I was very production minded. I wanted to find a way to make multiples of things in the most efficient way. That's also linked to the fact that I saw myself developing a product line of some sort. So, that's not to say I wouldn't want efficiency to be a factor if I do have a product based textile business one day. Today I'm just happy to be able enjoy the process of natural dyeing and printing and celebrate its richness.