Thursday, 23 May 2013

A Treatise on Sisters

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities.  
She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway.  
She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, 
someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. 
 She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink.  Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.  
~Barbara Alpert

I've not always had sisters, but I've always been one - from the very first moment of my life - because I'm a twin.  For four years it was just Paul and me.  And then our brother Mike came along and I was out-numbered.  Happily a few years later Emily joined our family, and then shortly after that Elizabeth.  I finally had sisters!  And god, how they drove me insane.

Me, on the left - Emily and Elizabeth in the middle

I'm seven-and-a-half and nine years older than Emily and Elizabeth.  Now that we're all adults the age difference isn't a problem, but as a child and then a teenager I certainly didn't appreciate them fully.  My brothers had each other to hang out with and Emily and Elizabeth, being so close in age, were pretty much a pair from almost the first instant.  And that left... me - alone at the edge.  
Gardening with Emily
I was always sort of a 'little mommy', changing diapers and watching out for every one.  I helped teach them to read and to ice skate, I cooked dinner for the family (our parents both worked) and helped shepherd the bunch of us when we were out and about. I suppose that's probably common for big sisters of large families.  I took care of my siblings, and I loved them, but my friends were outside of the family - school mates and girls I met through Brownies and Guides.  

We lived in a small rural village, so summers were spent at home - either avoiding my siblings, mediating between them all, or spending my time buried in a book.  I certainly didn't consider my annoying little sisters to be my friends.  

Swimming with Elizabeth
 By the time I was in high school I could almost pretend they didn't exist - except for the amount of noise and laundry they made.  When I was sixteen, Elizabeth was only seven; what in heaven's name could I possibly have had in common with a seven year-old?  We didn't fight, certainly not like we could have, but I seem to remember there being a lot of impatient eye-rolling on my part at that age.

I went away to university at nineteen - my first time away from home - and it was finally then, in a city 350 kilometers from my family - that I realized how lucky I was.

We were a big family, yes and certainly didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love.  It shames me now to think that I didn't realize that until I was practically an adult.  Suddenly these siblings, these sisters weren't so bad.  Every visit home was filled with laughter and chatter and I watched with awe as the little girls I knew grew into beautiful young women.

By that time Christopher had entered my life.  At nineteen I never imagined I'd eventually marry him (I might have daydreamed about it, but I certainly never thought it would happen!).  It was fun to see my little sisters through his eyes - especially since he didn't have any of his own.  He was always at a loss for what to say to two curious, creative, and outspoken girls.  Dating him and becoming part of another family (one SO different from my own) was a real education in just how magical my family really was.
And then, the year before I graduated university, our parents marriage (like so many others) fell apart.  In hindsight it was for the best, but at the time it felt like the world was ending.  Everything the five of us kids had always known was crumbling around us.  Paul and I were twenty-one, Mike eighteen, Emily fourteen, and Elizabeth only twelve.  That was the summer the five of us became a family, one apart from our parents.  The siblings sat down together, just the five of us, and decided that no matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, that we had each other, and that we always, always would.  I made up my mind that if things got really bad that I'd give up school, move home, and take care of my younger siblings - that I'd give them a place to live which was stable and happy.  Luckily, we never got to that point.  We had a few rough years, ones in which we all made a lot of sacrifices, but all of us, including our parents, got through it - somehow.  And on the other side of that life-changing event, I've come to realize we were left a special gift.

Going through that experience together forged something between us which wasn't there before.  I'd always loved my sisters, but now I love them fiercely.  They are phenomenal, amazing, brilliant women - women who I would step in front of a speeding bus for, women who I would move mountains for.  I have other friends, yes - but the relationships I have with them could never come close to the one I have with my sisters.

They represent all the good sides of me - we look a little alike, true, but there's more than that.  We've come through the same difficulties in our lives, from the same place, and when I look at them I see spines forged with steel, resolve strengthened by stubborn determination.  They don't back down, they never shirk.  They laugh loud, and love hard, and they always say what's on their mind.  They make their lives and lives of the people they love a thing of beauty.  They find joy when most think none could exist.  They make the best of what they are given.  They are, truly, the most amazing women I know.

We live far apart now, the three of us (well, all my family actually).  We're scattered to different corners of the globe and you would think that would make us less of friends, but instead it's made us more.  We chat every day.  We send each other photos and videos.  I know I can come to them with my problems or my triumphs and always receive their support.   And when we are fortunate enough to all be in the same room at the same time... it's chaos - sweet, loud, wonderful chaos.

Unless they are beside me, I miss them so badly it makes my throat ache.  My twin brother is getting married this September and that gives us all a reason to be together and I can hardly wait.  I am, quite literally, counting the days until I see them again (it's 127).  But in the meantime we have our online chats, our Facebook updates, emailed photos, and this... a project to work on together, one which I hope reflects who we are as individuals, but more importantly who we are as sisters - and as friends.

Never change Emily and Elizabeth - I'm so proud of you both; proud of who you have grown up to be, and proud of how you have always made me want to be a better person.  I promise I will always take care of you, listen to you, and laugh with you.  I will always love you and nothing, not even stealing my piece of pie at dessert, or trumping me in a hand of euchre, or borrowing my shoes and not giving them back, or swiping the last sip of gin, could ever make me love you less.

xo. Jacqueline

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Yarn dying for dummies.

Last week I had some days off (I know, it seems strange to me as well). I was itching to start a new knitting project. The sun was shining, it was warm, and the neighbourhood was quiet (tourist season hasn't begun yet). I decided that a walk to my Local Yarn Store (Yarn Forward and Sew On) was in order. I didn't know what I wanted or what I wanted to cast on.

The store is packed with colour (what yarn store isn't?) But I settled on some undyed Cascade Heritage Solid sock yarn. It's so soft and bouncy. It's actually one of my favourite yarns. I'm a junky for merino wool. But, I never buy white. Ever. I never knit with it.

Then it hit me. I could dye it! And it's super simple too. Here's my quick guide for dying yarn.

1. Get some undyed yarn (it has to be animal fibre -- wool, alpaca, llama, for example -- for this method to work). Make sure it is still in skein-form (it is also called a hank. It's one of those regional things like soda and pop). Also make sure that the skein has been tied a few times, this makes it easier to wind when it is time to knit with it.

2. Get some white vinegar and food colouring -- both available in any grocery store (it was even in the same aisle at mine).

Easy right?


3. Undo your skein, so it's a big loop. Soak your yarn in COLD water and vinegar for about 20 minutes. I use a 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar ratio. To be honest, I pour in just enough vinegar, so I can smell it. I'm not really good at measuring.

4. In the meantime, prep your dye. I pour a glass of water and add a bunch of food colouring. Remember that the colour will dilute, so if you want a dark colour, add more. The best part of this method is that all these items are food safe. This means that you can use your pots for cooking food after. I know many knitters use acid dyes to dye their yarn. I would love to, but I don't have room for a whole new set of pots. I also cringe at the thought of cooking something totally toxic in my kitchen. If I had the room and money for a dye studio, I would totally have one. But I still live like a student, so I stick to this method. It's easy, and it's safe for pets, kids, and oblivious boyfriends.

5. Once your yarn is saturated with water and your dye is ready, fill a pot with COLD water, add your dye and plop your yarn in. I then push down the yarn with a spoon. I add more vinegar at this point too. Just to be sure that the dye will remain colour fast.

This is a whole bottle of yellow food colouring, with a few drops of neon pink.

6. Throw a lid on the pot and turn the burner on to LOW.

7. Let the mixture warm up. DO NOT BOIL IT! I let mine hang out in the pot for about an hour. Check the water, when it is clear, all the dye has been soaked up. Turn off the heat and let it sit until the yarn is cool.

8. You now need to rinse the yarn. It is vital that the yarn and the rinse water is the SAME TEMPERATURE. I let my yarn cool completely before I rinse (sometimes over night). Once rinsed, let the skein dry. And voila! New yarn!

Here's how mine turned out.

2 new skeins of yarn!

The most important things to remember in yarn dying is that you need to keep things at a consistent temperature or it will felt (that means that it will shrink and turn into a huge mess... ask me how I know!)

Now I have two awesome skeins of yarn and I have no idea what to make with them. Any suggestions???


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

On getting older.

I wasn't really intending to get so serious so quickly, but hear me out.

On the eve of my birthday, I've been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly I've been thinking about getting older, what this means, that it’s beautiful, how many people don’t get to experience aging, and then considering life and how precious it actually is. Our family recently got some news regarding mortality and it was a big wake up call (I won't go into details, as I would like privacy respected) but it's really made me do some thinking. As much as we sort of dread age and getting on in years, how often to people stop and think what a beautiful privilege it is?

Tomorrow I'm only turning 26, but I've been finding more and more fine lines and grey hairs. At first this scared me, it made me feel old and miss my youth, but now I think, actually this is great! I love my life and the people in it. I am not a kid anymore. I don't have to feel like “the youngest child” anymore. I'm not inferior for being younger than my siblings because actually, I don't feel all that young anymore. I am sorting the adult parts of my life out and things I never thought I'd enjoy, I enjoy. Sure I wish I had more money or I saw my family more, but you know what? I have a roof over my head and four siblings and two parents who would move mountains for me, and I would do the same for them. I have a job I actually like and a partner who is my absolute perfect match. These things are worth smiling about. They’re worth creating deeper wrinkles for. This is life; and while we won't always be around, how lucky we are to be here now.  Tomorrow is just another birthday for me, but I hope I am lucky enough in life to have 80 more birthdays, and that someday I'll be an old wrinkled lady with a head of grey hair and a heart full from a lifetime of love. And you know, if I don't make it to 106, then at least I've lived at all.

So, to getting older! To living the life you're given during the timeline you've got. To getting older and wiser and moving further away from the face and body you grew up with. Nothing is constant but change and our bodies and minds are in flux just like the rest of the world. We are not invincible and that is okay.
Just be good, be well, be grateful, and be loved.

- Elizabeth

Self portrait, age 26.

Monday, 13 May 2013


So here it is - the kick off post, the beginning of this blog that we sisters will start together and carry on (we hope) for many years to come! Emily suggested we answer some ice breaking questions about ourselves, so here are my answers! Here goes nothin'! 

1. Name: 
This one’s easy! My name is Elizabeth. My middle name is Magdalena.

2. Do you have any nicknames?
So many nicknames! Wizbuff, Lizbeth, Lillybet, Lilly, Beelzebeth, Lizard Breath (the list goes on)

3. Use 10 words to describe yourself.
Silly, Kind, Family oriented, Reminiscent, Creative, Eager, Hopeless romantic, Foreigner.

4. What do you do for a living?
I’m currently working at the third best museum in the world (Mmmmmhmmmm) the British Museum here in London, England.

5. Favourite colour?
To wear? Probably navy or black. To look at? Probably royal blue or dark teal.

6. Who is your style icon?
I have several; Bjork’s confidence, Jean Seberg’s wardrobe (in Breathless specifically), Dita Von Teese’s make up, Elizabeth Taylor’s eyebrows, Adele’s body, Nigella Lawson's everything.

7. What is the best item in your wardrobe?
My vintage dresses. Two in particular are my absolute favourites. One of them is black with white and orange splodges on it but it’s very fragile and I don’t wear it a lot, and one of them is white with grey dots on it and it’s summery and fantastic and flattering as hell (albeit not in the photo below)

8. If you were trapped on a deserted island what 5 items would you bring?
Matches, survival book, a mirror, my phone with my playlists/recordings on it, sunscreen.

9. If you were trapped in a tiny room for of all eternity, who would you want to be trapped with?
It’s a complete toss up – it’s between my partner James, my sisters Jacq and Emily, and my brother Mike. You guys can fight it out and the last one standing can join me.

10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potatoes, probably. Or cheese. Could I have both? WAIT! Chocolate.

11. What is your comfort food?
Potatoes, and cheese, and chocolate. I do have many comfort foods though, it’s hard to narrow it down.

12. What is your secret talent?
Not many people know I write poetry, but I do and I think it’s pretty legit. I am too legit to quit.

13. What is your not-so-secret talent?
I guess a lot of people know I can take photographs with some degree of skill.

14. What is your favourite movie?
Tough call – Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, probably.

15. What is your favourite book?
What IS my favourite book? Probably something written by my favourite authour Augusten Burroughs.

16. What is your favourite song?
Bjork’s Pagan Poetry, or Simon and Garfunkel’s Kathy’s Song. (Though, it’s ultimately unfair to narrow it down completely!) I could make a very strong case for my newest favuorite - Keaton Henson's You. Go listen to it now, it will make you cry.

17. Who is your hero?
My late grandmother Magdolna. (Emily has written more about her in her section below.)

18. Who is your celebrity crush?
HMMM, well I wouldn’t say no to Andrew Garfield. Or Joseph Gordon Levitt (he was my first celebrity crush many many moons ago as well, despite his long hair!)

19. What is your greatest fear?
Being homeless or going to jail. I don’t foresee either of these happening, but they scare the crap out of me.

20. What do you hope to accomplish before you die?
I want to write at least one book, and I want that book to be published.


1. Name
Jacqueline Ruth

2. Do you have any nicknames?
Jacquie, Jacq, Jax... and sometimes my husband calls me Pickle, which I think is adorable but probably makes everyone else gag.

3. Use 10 words to describe yourself.
Determined. Smart. Geeky (I can admit it!). Big-Hearted. Reliable. Creative. Funny (at least I think so). Goofy. Worried (always)... that's nine... and... uh... Short.

4. What do you do for a living?
I used to work as a merchandiser/window dresser in Fashion retail... until my Etsy business weelittlestitches contemporary cross-stitch took off.  Now I stay at home, design cross-stitch patterns, and stitch for a living.  It's pretty amazing.

5. Favourite colour?
Teal blue - in every shade from dark and dramatic like the ocean before a storm, to light and airy like the colour of a robin's egg.   Unless we're talking about clothing, in which case black.

6. Who is your style icon?
Lately I've been really inspired by the "plus-sized" fashion bloggers out there (although I hate the phrase "plus-sized") - I really love Tanesha from Girl With Curves because her looks are classic and classy, and I like Lilli from Frocks and Frou Frou because she has a great eye for combining vintage and new and always looks adorable.

7. What is the best item in your wardrobe?
My wedding dress... cheesy I know, but true.  My Mom made it for me and the day I wore it (almost eight years ago) it made me feel beautiful and very loved.  Knowing how much work my mother put in to the dress made it so much more special than anything I could have bought off the rack.  It's not something I'll ever wear again I know, but it's the one thing in my closet which really has meaning.

8. If you were trapped on a deserted island what 5 items would you bring?
Sunscreen, a Swiss Army knife, the complete works of Jane Austen (in one book, so that counts as one thing, right?), a magnifying glass to light fires, and fishing gear.

9. If you were trapped in a tiny room for of all eternity, who would you want to be trapped with?
My family and my husband - but not at the same time since he'd probably lose patience with them waaaay before I did.

10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Does coffee count as food?  Yeah?  So then, coffee.  Failing coffee, wine.  Failing either of those, Pad Thai.

 11. What is your comfort food?
Peanut butter on toast.  It's all warm and melty and wonderful.  

12. What is your secret talent?
I'm a super fast reader and typist.  Really, I should do one or both of those for a living.  Typing is my super-power - I'm up to 90+ words per minute.

13. What is your not-so-secret talent?
Most people know me as a cross-stitcher and embroiderer... but I also crochet like a boss, so craftiness is my not-so-secret talent.  Plus I make a mean cup of coffee.

14. What is your favourite movie?
Probably Ferris Bueller's Day Off... it's not exactly life-changing or deep, but it makes me laugh/feel better every time I see it.  It's like the cinematic version of peanut butter on toast for me.

15. What is your favourite book?
Yikes!  I have to pick just one?? That's impossible!
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.  It's one of her lesser-known works and it's my absolute favourite, although I do love the Anne and Emily books too.  I've read it at least once a year, every year since I was 8.  Or Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier - another book I read every year - it's such a wonderful, underrated, and subtle thriller.

16. What is your favourite song?
Shine by David Grey.  I could listen to it on a continuous loop and never get tired of it.

17. Who is your hero?
My husband's grandmother.  Gran was happily married for more than 50 years and battled breast cancer twice.  She was sweet and kind and very warm and welcoming.  She was just this tiny little woman and yet she was the strongest person I ever met.  Even though she passed away a few years ago, I think of her often.  She was a wonderful example of how a person should be.

18. Who is your celebrity crush?
At the moment? LOL... it changes often, but as of right this very second I'd have to say definitely Tom Hardy.  Or Kit Harrington because dear god, that man knows how to rock a beard. 

19. What is your greatest fear?
Rodents.  And failure.  Not that I'm afraid of failing myself so much as I am afraid of letting other people down.

20. What do you hope to accomplish before you die?
I'd like to pay off my mortgage!  LOL.  And like Elizabeth, I'd like to publish a book - whether it be a novel or a craft book.

Emily: (last but not least):

1. Name.
Emily (middle name: Patricia)

2. Do you have any nicknames?
Em, Gemmy, Emilio, Estevez

3. Use 10 words to describe yourself.
Stubborn, silly, creative, patient, cute, weird, smart, geeky, kind, friendly.


4. What do you do for a living?
Like more Arts majors of my generation, I am an Assistant Manager of a women's clothing store.

5. Favorite colour?
What day is it? I change my mind about once a day. I'm really into turquoise right now. And burgundy. And charcoal grey. And plum

6. Who is your style icon?
Adele! She's so curvy, lovely, and fearless!

7. What is the best item in your wardrobe?
On a trip to Budapest, I bought a peasant shirt at the market. It's awesome! I love it so much. It's black with little blue flowers embroidered on it. I've worn it so much it's starting to fall apart.

8. If you were trapped on a deserted island what 5 items would you bring?
4.5mm, 16 inch circular knitting needle. Worsted weight yarn. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. A colouring book. A box of 64 crayons.

9. If you were trapped in a tiny room for all eternity, who would you want to be trapped with?
I know I should say my super awesome boyfriend or my family... but I'm going to say: Nathan Fillion.

10.  If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Potatoes. You can do so much with them. And I freaking love them!

11. What is your comfort food?
Poached eggs on toast.

12. What is your secret talent?
I'm a pretty good writer, I just don't tell people.

13. What is your not-so-secret talent?
Knitting. I'm pretty fly at that.

14. What is your favourite movie?
The Breakfast Club, followed closely by Footloose (the original. There is nothing better than Kevin Bacon dancing out his frustrations in the world's tightest jeans.)

15. What is your favourite book?
Generation X  by Douglas Coupland. Read it now. It will make you grumpy for a while, then it will make you feel much better about life.

16. What is your favourite song?
Oh, that one is tough. Right now: Big Parade by The Lumineers. But the songs I always go back to are: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel. Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens. Taxi by Harry Chapin. Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers.

17.Who is your hero?
My grandmother. She was the strongest and most stubborn person I ever knew. She lived in Europe during both World Wars, the Depression, and the Hungarian Revolution. She then escaped to Canada and lived in extreme poverty for many years. She also helped raised my crazy siblings and I.. coolest lady ever!
This is my Gramma -- with Elizabeth. Circa 1987.
18. Who is your celebrity crush?
I have so many... Patrick Wilson, Steve McQueen, Nathan Fillion, Lena Dunham, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel... just to name a few.

19. What is your greatest fear?
Heights. And ladders. Falling from the height of ladders.

20. What do you want to accomplish before you die?
I'd like to write a book. But I would also like to read all the books on my shelf that I have never read before.