Rhinebeck: All the Everythings

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the eighth decade of the last century, shepherds in Duchess County, NY, gathered at the local fairgrounds to buy and sell ewes, with an eye towards enhancing their breeding lines.

two sheeps

“Food? No food, Ok, we get that, sure. How about snacks? Cheerios? What’s your skirt made of, that might be tasty…”

Three decades later, herds and flocks of wool folk of all shapes, sizes, and colours descend upon the lovely town of Rhinebeck each October to attend the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, affectionately known to fiber folk as simply “Rhinebeck”. For a few short days, shepherds and sheepdogs, fleece folk and meat folk, knitters and crocheters, spinners, weavers and basket makers all come together to celebrate the joys of Things Sheep and Things Wool.

Lotsa peeps in da barn

All The People and some of All the Things.

This year, on Saturday alone, the fairgrounds hosted somewhere around 43,000 people, breaking all prior attendance records across sheep and wool festivals from sea to shining sea, as far north as Alberta and as far south as México.


Can you tell that it is lunchtime?

I was Attendee #43,001; and I freely admit that I and 43,000 of my closest friends had a truly grand time.

Peeps in da barn 2

A slightly less busy moment in the vendor barns.

Writing about my festival experiences has always been a bit of a puzzle for me. How on earth do I write about two days which contain a month’s worth of meeting old friends and new; of petting hundreds of skeins of yarn, each one more beautiful than the last; of gazing into the wide eyes belonging to creatures whose coats make fingers sing and bodies warm? The sheer volume of sensory input offered up at Rhinebeck is enough to dazzle even the most jaded of bloggers, the most savvy of yarn and fiber shoppers.

Goatie 1

Everywhere you look, there is colour: The trees! The vendor booths! All those amazing hand-knit sweaters, all the artistry of handwoven cloth and handspun yarn, all the hours of work and the buckets-full of creative energy resulting in shawls, stoles, capes, ponchos, pullovers, socks, leggings, mittens, Hats!, dresses, skirts, tops, cardigans, and handmade coats whose hems left small trails through the crunchy carpet of fallen leaves that Mom Nature had laid out to welcome us.

Trees of colour

More than once, I found myself standing still, a river of colorfully dressed fiber folk breaking into twin streams on either side of me, as I gaped at the sheer OhMyBob of it all.


If you are on Ravelry and post in the forums, chances are good that you have a “home forum”. This year, as we did last year, members of my home forum designated a picnic table as a meet-up location; various people volunteered to “woman the picnic table” and act as texting contacts, so that we could easily find each other.

Picnic table 1

Several times throughout the weekend, I wandered over to be surrounded by the friends who live in my computer. Long-promised hugs were finally traded, adventures shared, bags of goodies opened to gloat over purchases with old friends one has only just met.

Nao at table    Georg is not a vikingRachel dawn    Marcy laughed

I think that our meetup table must have been a little bit like the place just inside the Pearly Gates, where we joyfully recognize the loved ones we have never seen.

Maggie and woolizard

I have more Rhinebeck Stories to tell, but those will wait for another day.

I'm a goat. I'm hungry. But then, I am a goat. I am always hungry.

I’m a goat. I’m hungry. But then, I am a goat. I am always hungry.

It was truly a delight to be amongst my Tribe: All of them, thumbs, waggy-tails, horns and all.

Casey, Ultimate Frisbee Champ

Casey, Ultimate Frisbee Champ

One small Chispa for now… Back Then…I wrote about my Top Ten Reasons to Attend A Wool Festival, back in 2010 when I was KD Sandi, Founding Editor of Knitting Daily.

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Joy comes after

It’s been really tough coming  up with something to write about after that last post.

buddy new sock

I didn’t want to just go on with knitting progress reports and gushing over this new fibre or that new spindle; that seemed too disrespectful. This being, this dog, lived for the moment when my key turned in the lock, shoving a very wet nose through the gap as soon as possible, unable to contain his joy at seeing me even one more nanosecond. A love like that? Surely it is worth more than a single page on the internet, more than one short mention and then goodbye?

Buddy pawprint 1

Of course it is; but then, any spirit that touches us and loves with abandon is worth a tome of internet pages and then more again than that. And in the case of a heart that loved and was loved dearly, it makes no sense at all to talk about its worth. Yet, I find myself, along with so many of those who have lost a beloved animal companion, wanting to say, “This life mattered!” in the face of a society that wants us to move on after a week, a month, of grieving a human beloved, let alone an animal beloved. We live in a culture that barely admits it is even acceptable to grieve (for more than a day or so, perhaps) for a cat, a dog, a bird who was as much a part of the family as any human. And as anyone who has ever had a pet knows, animals love us in a way no human ever could. Not more. Not better. Just…different.

For us, the loss of Buddy is the loss of a cherished family member, a devoted spirit, one that cannot be grieved in a single blog post. We talk about “Before Buddy” and “After Buddy” now: “Before”, we had a playful, bouncy, not-terribly-bright-but-very-perceptive dog who never strayed more than a few feet from my side, the clicking of paws on hardwood just part of the music of my day. Buds.The Budster. Bud-Buds. BuddyDude.

Buddy ready for a belly rub

Now it is After. Now, After, we are a House Without its Dog.

In a House Without its Dog, bananas are just two bites too big for a person to eat alone.

Without a dog, a human cannot effectively work in the garden. Who is there to point out the hidden holes in the fence that the stray cats uses? Who is there to sniff every cut branch, every pulled weed, every picked flower, in order to  approve its removal? Who will roll just as joyously on snow as on grass, creating angels with three limbs (missing a wing, perhaps?) instead of four? Who will chomp at the BUGS that fly past so they don’t get all creepy-crawly on me?

Who will help keep the hardwood floors shiny and free of stray bits of food?

Who will get so excited at the word “Walk” that we must right then have an impromptu dance of celebration at the mere thought of a stroll around the block?

And who will fling themselves down the sidewalk the minute they see me, black ears flying and flag tail nearly spinning in circles from sheer joy?

Sheer joy, because at the end of the brief gallop down the sidewalk, waits the one most-special-est person in that dog’s whole world: Me.

I notice that the word that keeps showing up over and over when I talk about Buddy is “joy”. He was, indeed, our joy.

As with any loss, we are remembering Buddy: we tell stories, we laugh, we tear up, we cry. Remember the time Buddy got his lead so wound around the bird feeder stake that he couldn’t even move his head–he just looked up at us with those big brown eyes, tail slowly wagging: “Mom, can you come get me out of this? I’m sorry I’m stepping on your flowers.” Remember when? Remember when…?

I didn’t mean for this to be a maudlin post. Looking back at other losses, I realize that each time one of my animals has died, I have written a story, a post, a chapter, about that be-whiskered soul and how he or she changed my life, comforted my saddened and discouraged heart, and challenged me to love, to give, to see the world in ways that made my own soul the better for every tail wag, every purr, every kiss on every furry head.

I was a cat person before I met Buddy. Budster was our first ever dog. We had no clue even how much to walk him, how to play with him, where to put his food bowl and even how to talk to him. He taught us, of course, over the years. He taught us the way of the Pack, just as our cats have taught us the way of the Tribe. We learned how to live with a dog–a very special dog–and now, I suppose, we are learning how to grieve a dog, a most beloved member of our pack.

At first, I was going to skip the Chispas, and just  let the above stand on its own. But Buddy would have hated us to give up our playtime because we thought we had to be all serious and grownup and stuff. Thus, I give you Chispas.

Do we need a little lightness of heart right about now? Yes, methinks we do. Go forth and grin like a fool.

Mother Nature, bless her heart, can be quite creative at times. And sometimes, you just really want to ask her what she was thinking at the time.

(I seem to be on a theme here.) We hear a lot of stories about heroic dogs saving lives and getting Presidential Medals of Honour (well, maybe not really), but what about heroic cats? Eight Heroic Cats.

Parents, don’t let your kids become hardened criminals. Tell them to leave their clocks at home. (Honestly.)

Like many of us, I have a love/hate relationship with my web browser, with any web browser, in fact. I am a Mac Girl, and I tend to like Chrome for some reason. You know how you can install little add-ons that do useful or fun things? Here are two of my favourites:

  1. One Tab: I like to open links as I come to them in posts, emails, blogs; I like to open each of these links in a new tab, collecting tab after tab after tab until my poor computer just stops and begs for mercy. One Tab takes all those tabs and puts them on a single web page of links, closing the actual tabs without losing your place, and without having your computer lose its mind. Brilliant.
  2. Flickr Tab: Warning: This one can be addictive and cause smiling to occur. Each time you open a new tab, instead of a blank window, Flickr shows you a random  utterly  gorgeous  photo. And yes, there are kitten photos, and dog photos, and llama photos included. And even an owl.

Finally, a video that seems chosen especially for us by Buddy himself:

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RIP Buddy Wiseheart

So much love, my three-legged companion;
So brave, so joyful, so much happy devotion,
You were truly much more than
This woman’s best friend.

Buddy “Dog Star” Wiseheart
Fall 2004/Winter 2005  -to-  August 25, 2015

buddy watching squirrel

We loved you.
You loved us more.
(We’re sorry the cats wouldn’t let you herd them.)

mom that was tasty

mom, that banana was soooo tasty!

buddy smile 2

Best Dog Smile Ever

Festive Buddy

Festive Buddy

hanging in the hood

Hangin’ in the Wiseheart ‘Hood

 Your Story

Born: Louisiana, USA – Fall 2004/Winter 2005

buddy face window

Survived: Hurricane Katrina – Landfall, August 25, 2005

Before the amputation

Before the amputation

Adopted: Loveland Humane Society, Loveland, CO – March, 2006

me and buddy

So happy together…

Moved with his family: Milton, Ontario, Canada – August, 2009

buddy driver

Moved with his family: Bolton, Ontario, Canada – June, 2010

buddy helps 2

“The three-legged star of Nancy Street”

buddy scarf

Moved with his family: Orangeville, Ontario, Canada – July, 2015

buddy curled up

Relocated to Heaven – August 25, 2015

buddy rolling

Much beloved, he gave us so much more than we could ever give him
his devotion to us was whole-hearted;
his joy in life was
His gift to us and
our gift from God

In our hearts always and forever:
Buddy, we love you and are so grateful you chose us
to share your life, your home, your heart
We could not have asked for better.
Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again…
We miss you already.

With all our love,
(save us a place on the grass!)

Your moms, Sandi & Melody;
your faithful tribe of cats: Dusty, Zoé, and Tim;
and beloved Rainbow Tribe members
Sparrow (RIP August 2009) and Amber (RIP 2008)

Buddy’s Web Page: His Story

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Progress Report: All the Things

We are The People of the Box these days.

We unpack, and the pile does not get any smaller. We unpack yet again, and still the mountain looms large, even when the basement door is closed.

We are Doomed.

I am curious. Are some of you sending your basement/garage boxen to us? That is truly generous of you, but really. Thanks. We’re good here.

House Musings

I wanted to put up a birdfeeder, since my Mom taught me that a birdfeeder was an absolute necessity in order to get in good with the neighboring critters. (One wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of a house finch, I’m told.)

birdhouse backyard

See? Cheerful little bird café, on its own little wrought-iron fancy pole.

Guess what I learned.

Squirrels like birdseed VERY much.

squirrel eating

Buddy does not like squirrels on his property.

buddy watching squirrel

Buddy is powerless to do anything about this…and for now, so am I.


I did learn one thing, however.

birdhouse moved

I moved the birdhouse far away from Things Squirrels Could Climb On.

Silly me.

The next morning, I caught sight of one little black scamp shimmying up that pole as bold as brass.

I don’t have a photo for that one. I was too busy running outside and waving my arms and hollering. 

Once I scared away the squirrel, the crows were delighted to accept my hospitality.

No photo here, either. Same reason. Too busy hollering.

I don’t want the CROWS to eat the suet and seed, I want the charming little chickadees and momma cardinal who live in the trees to be my guests.

I’ve read the experts. I know squirrels are going to be my persistent and ever-lasting enemy. But crows? Really?

I am girding my loins.

Found in Sandi’s Garden

first rose

This is the Very First Rose.

Meaning, when we moved in, it was a stick, and we weren’t sure what it wanted to be. However, it was in a place of honour in the main flowerbed, so we watered it and weeded and hoped it wanted to be something awesome.

One day, there it was. One perfect yellow rose.

I know there’s something nibbling on it. I don’t know what that is, but I have the Internet, I will conquer that foe just as I have conquered certain Weedly Things lately.

And then, yesterday, there was this:


I was open-mouthed with joy when I saw this lovely bloom. The bush it is on is center-stage in the flowerbed, so I figured it would be something special.

There are dozens of buds on that bush.

I am so grateful for the glory of the garden today.

It’s Sunday, I have to go get dressed, so no Chispas this morning. But I couldn’t resist sharing a bit of my morning garden with you all today.

And now, here comes the sunrise over my east-facing garden beds…

peace this day,

P.S. Book Recommendation: If you have not yet discovered Anne Bishop‘s work, you have a treat awaiting you. I read the trilogy starting with Written in Red first, and wow. (Warning: the books are trigger-heavy if you have any cutting in your history.) Now, I have started the Tir Alainn series, beginning with The Pillars of the World. Stay-up-all-night warnings apply. (And wait! There’s more! A third series, The Black Jewels, is supposed to be equally excellent.)

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in which wiseheart still knits

It’s true. Fortunately, I have proof:

Zoë the cat is Not Amused

Zoë the cat is Not Amused

Hm. Not the best model, perhaps; she does tend to have An Attitude.

Plus, methinks she is getting ready to shred that lovely yarn to pieces.

Jen worked hard to dye that yarn.

Shredded yarn would make Jen VERY unhappy. I love Jen and want Jen to be happy. Therefore….perhaps I ought to rethink.

How about this one?

Shambala sm

That’s our rocking horse, Shambayla. She is rather easy-going, and seems quite happy to be wearing the bottom skirt section of the Mirabor Cardi, my latest project.

Designer: Hilary Smith Callis, AKA The Yarniad.

Yarn: Holiday Yarns Super Sheep DK, 100% superwash merino, in one of my favourite colours, Persephone.

Here’s the general idea of what it might look like when it grows up:

Mirabor Cardi

Pretty, simple, extremely useful, and comfortable. What more could one ask from a pattern? (Thank you, O Yarniad!)

What else are you knitting, O Sandi of Pacaville?

Believe it or not, for about two months in June and July, that was the only knitting project I was working on. Moving house and back problems put a tiny cramp in my crafting life. At some point in the endless parade of Boxen and Cheap Tape Rollers, I realized that I was just not going to be able to wrangle more than one project until things settled down a bit. I had to Make A Choice. (OH THE DRAMAZ!)

Thus, as I went from room to room packing everything, I tossed any on-the-loose project bags, WIPs, or UFO’s into a largish cardboard box. (Those wee green aliens in their cute little UFO’s, manohman! They grumble and chitter and complain so MUCH I almost put a cat in there with them to make them behave.)

Tim getting ready to do battle with the wee green aliens and their UFO's

Tim getting ready to do battle with the wee green aliens and their UFO’s

The box, despite being large, needed a bit of creative arranging before it would close. I will note that I had taken out all the needles, leaving neat lifelines woven through the stitches (I am not as stupid as I used to be, thank heavens), along with little notes such as Addi Lace, size U.S. 3/3.25 mm, 36″.  However, before I taped the box shut, I sorted through its contents until I found that elusive Thing every knitter yearns to find: The Perfect On-The-Go Project.

P.S. Really, WordPress? Really? You will not let me type “3.25mm” without adding a conversion equivalent to every instance? I shall so be hunting down this little “feature” and turning it off….

In Search Of…

(Anyone else remember this fun TV series narrated in part by Spock, er, I mean, Leonard Nimoy, LLAP?)

People’s individual requirements for The Perfect OTG Project differ, of course, but there are commonalities:

  1. The majority of the knitting itself much be utterly and completely mindless.
  2. One ought to be able to get thorough large swaths of the knitting without having to refer to charts, written instructions, or elaborate forms of Keeping Track of Where One Is.
  3. A small fancy stitch pattern, with a short repeat and an easily memorable rhythm, may be tolerable and even desirable, just to keep one from falling asleep.
  4. Preferably, one ought not to have to use fourteen 5″ double-pointed glove needles and six different colours in one row to get the job done.
  5. Project must fit into a standard project bag which can then be easily shoved into purse, day bag, beach tote, or glove compartment.

Many knitters choose socks as their go-to about-town knitting project. I decided against socks, for the simple reasons that (a) I feared more than one needle would be a disaster just asking to happen; (b) I strongly dislike the one-needle magic loop method of knitting socks; and (c) I had just ripped out all my sock UFOs in order to safely store all my lovely wood dpns for the move. (Don’t worry, there weren’t any earth-shatteringly gorgeous pre-socks in there, I promise.)

As one does, I decided none of my present projects were Worthy, and so I cast on for a completely new project, the red Mirabor cardi.

The silly part of this story is…

I wrote this entire post two weeks ago. I pressed Draft instead of Publish, got distracted, and didn’t realize until a week or so later that it wasn’t up on the blog. Know what the Big Clue was? Absolutely no comments whatsoever. None.

That is sooooo not like you folks ;)


  • Is it happy where you are? This guy developed a way to measure the happiness/unhappiness of a particular location-based on the last 100 Tweets sent from within a 1 mile radius. Right now, for me here at home, the Happy Index is zero. Does this mean no one within a mile of me ever Tweets? Or so seldom as to be negligible? Interesting.
  • I almost feel guilty for sending you to this uh, kinda sorta gender-stereotypical website. Almost. Well, OK, no. I don’t feel one bit guilty about sending you there. It’s just too damn funny. (P.S. Could someone who knows artwork better than I tell me if these are real artworks or Photoshop magic? Wait, no. I want them to be real, so please don’t spoil my Happy Place. Thank you.
  • Oh, no. Turns out that particular blogger/essayist has a whole series of Art Commentaries. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, anyone? (Warning: Most of this could be considered offensive to at least five people within a mile of you. Tweet about your outrage and influence your town’s Happy Score!)
  • Because everyone deserves a list of photos of the 30 Cutest Baby Animals As of Today Anyway. Yes, I could have spread these out over 30 posts, but why wait? Besides, this is major smiley food, here, my friends. Enjoy.

 Someday, I might just publish a version of a post using all the Official Spelling and  Grammar Check suggestions instead of whatever I myself had written. Hilarious.

More pictures next time, promise. When one is working on only one knitting project, one can only take so many photos before insanity sets in. (Too late?)

peace and laughter,

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Live from Orangeville, Ontario!

Hello, there. Me again.

At physio, in Unicorn Pose

At physio, in Unicorn Pose. I don’t know what it says about me that the only recent photo I can come up with is me with a needle sticking out of my brain.

I’ve been working on a post for you for the past few weeks—struggling with it, editing and re-editing, really taking it to the mat to show who’s boss.

I finally got the darn thing done, complete with photos. I decided to make a cup of coffee before final review and posting. Went off, ground my beans, performed my usual French press ritual of brown smooth goodness, and then, warm mug in hand, toddled back to my computer.

I sat down, and discovered that a very interesting thing had occurred while I was off French-Pressing: my labour-of-love post had become BORING. Boring. All that writing, and editing, and yet more editing had just edited the life right out of that post.

Let’s begin afresh, shall we?

Welcome to Wiseheart Cottage!

Wiseheart Cottage 2015Yep, we’re homeowners now. Or rather, mortgage owners, to be precise.

We love this house. It has a serenity about it, and when you are inside it, or wandering around the garden, the place has an odd calming effect on both Melody and I.

It looks huge. I keep thinking, what about conspicuous consumption? What about living simply, walking lightly upon the earth? What about the PROPERTY TAXES?!

Nevermind all that for now, I suppose: It’s ours. We shall have plenty of time to ponder the philosophical ramifications of all that lovely money we handed over a few weeks back; meanwhile, we hope that the house will not be a solitary hermitage, but rather a place to celebrate all that is good with family and friends.

The house claimed us about fifteen minutes after we first entered the front door, about the time we g0t to the back of the house and saw this:

M_kitchen 2
By the time Melody was looking out the kitchen window, we had our realtor already on the phone to the seller’s agent putting in an official offer.

The back of the house is one big open room.

M_breakfast rm 2If you stand in the breakfast area there and turn around, this is what you see:

M_family rm 2 There is, of course, more: upstairs, downstairs, bathrooms, the whole thing. But I will save photos of those for later, because now it is time for a new game I’ve come up with for you.

Friend or Foe: Name That Plant

I have never, ever, EVER, had a garden in my entire life. The previous co-owner of this house had a really good pair of gardening shears and knew how to use them. Upon seeing the lovely flowering plants all ’round, the lush bushes, the charming trees, my first thought was, “Please, God, do not let me kill any of this, at least not in the first year.”

In other words, I do not know Plant Friend from Plant Foe. I have been weeding a little bit each day, and here’s my weeding strategy: If it spreads out like a starfish low to the ground and looks a bit prickly, it is a FOE and it must GO. If it is a tiny cluster of Random Plantness that looks kind of nervous and out of place, as though it realizes it does not bear a familial resemblance to anything nearby, AND if it has no flowers, buds, fruit, or other redeeming qualities, then my logic says FOE and it, too, must GO. (I often pray whilst dragging these sorts out of the ground that I am not destroying some rare herb whose seeds not only can cure cancer, but can banish diarrhea forever, change the hearts of public nose-pickers, and knock sense into politicians of our choosing. With my luck, the rare herb would be the last speciman of its kind, and there’d I’d be, making Zee Wondur Plantz extinct.)

This is where you come in. I have several Growing Things whom I am fairly certain are Unwelcome Guests in my garden, but I’m not certain enough to go in with my purple gardening gloves and completely decimate them, using their roots to floss my teeth…oh, wow, Sandi, waaaayy out of hand, here, girlfriend. Just breathe and stop right there, there’s a good girl.

This post’s mystery plant is here:

Weed or Wonder?

Weed or Wonder?

And that, my friends, is probably enough for now.

We have so much to catch up on: what I am spinning for this year’s Tour de Fleece, what I am attempting to knit, despite 7 rip-out sessions, a quilt or two to show off, and the fleeces that came with me to the new house.

Till then, just two Chispas for your entertainment and inspiration:

  • I hope this allays your fears. It also may bring to an end the careers of thousands of young adult dystopian end-of-the world authors. Sorry about that. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.
  • Read this. And then, because you will be powerless to resist, go ahead and read the entire thing from the beginning. Go ahead. We’ll wait. There’s no shame here, not really. Especially since I’ve read the entire series TWICE.

much love and hope,


What news heareth thee, pray tell?

Today is the first day since early November that I have been able to walk outside in short sleeves, no sweater or coat needed. It’s in the mid-forties Farenheit, but to most of the GTA, it feels as though Spring might actually happen.

To help move things along a little, I pieced together a brightly coloured block, and I mean eye-searingly bright.

Very Bright Quilt Square

Eventually, there will be other squares in similar colourways, and someday, there may even be a Quilt. Meanwhile, Melody and I are girding our loins for our next big adventure: We are thinking of buying a house.

Melody and I still want to go back to the States, but her job hunt hasn’t merited any cakes and wine this year. 

Add that to the fact that we finally have been granted Permanent Resident (PR) status in Canada, AND the fact that our landlords have chosen not to renew our lease (last day is June 30) so that they can sell the house, and well, there’s an invitation to Adventure if ever I heard one.

For the curious: PR status means we can stay in Canada indefinitely, with all the benefits other Canadians have—except, of course, that we cannot vote. We have to live in Canada 3 out of every 4 years (I think I’ve got that right), and we are eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship in about two years. 

I write that, and inside I’m shocked a bit: Wait a minute. We moved here temporarily. The Canadian Job Adventure was only supposed to last 2 years, max, and then we’d be on our way back home where we belong.

And now we’re permanent residents? Now we could be Canadian citizens in three years or so? What the hell happened?

Life happened, as usual. Blink your eyes, and Pow! Bang! Shazam! Life has showered you with magic arrows, all labelled “Surprise!”.

And this time, the final magic arrow said, “time to move house, you wacky kids!”

So we are going to our bank, and then seeing a mortgage broker (good to compare) and while Melody gets jerked around by deals with the traditional Toronto Universities’ Winter Strike, I have been glued to websites, scrolling through the “Properties for Sale” listings, looking for something we might be able to both tolerate and afford. (I am also looking at rentals, just in case.) We’re first-time buyers, and I have a little notebook full of advice from current homeowners: get your own inspector, shop for mortgages, research the neighbourhood, time the commute, find the grocery store, and so on. It’s pretty daunting, and we’re taking this at a slower pace than we’d like, simply because we are learning.

It is no wonder I am obsessed by House Quilts.