Woolly Times

Building the House of Woolly Thyme June 26 2017

Hello Blog followers!  It’s been a while. Quite a while. But, hey. Let’s be friends again. Or not. Let’s be acquaintances that run into each other once in a blue moon. Deal?  I could never be committed to blogging because sitting at my computer for more than 5 minutes at a time is difficult for me.  However, Instagram is where I like to hang out, where punctuation and full sentences are optional.  So, be sure to follow us there.

There have been a few changes on this site since my last post, which was an inexcusably long time ago. While Woolly Thyme Press is still a big part of our site and business, we have opened this space up to showcase some of the other aspects of our creative life. Yes, we wrote, illustrated and published a children’s book, but we have always loved to dabble (which translates to become completely obsessed and stay up all night doing) in other crafts and artistic areas.

Travis and I are makers. He builds, designs, and renovates homes each and every day. But, in addition to creating unique and beautiful living spaces, he also makes toys for our children and teaches them how to draw and tie knots and build forts. My background is scientific and technical, but I’ve always loved creative writing, knitting, sewing, handwork and making a fierce effort to DIY cute, fun and sometimes completely needless items for my kids.  We felt that this love of general makery that we share with one another and our children should also be shared in this space.

So, House of Woolly Thyme was born.

 

HOWT encompasses all of our current creative loves and obsessions (our Instagram feed is saturated with the handwoven wall hangings at the moment!) and we hope that you enjoy following our journey to live a fulfilling and creative life with our three daughters in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Check out the Woolly Thyme Shop for new handmade items for your family and home as well as our children’s book, or contact us for information on weaving workshops, weaving and knitting commissions, and author readings.

See you soon.  Maybe?! 


Life in a Little House - The Write Space is My Right Place April 07 2016

Over six years ago, Travis and I moved into a little house with our two little girls.  It was a sweet home with good bones and a warm vibe in a gorgeous Unesco heritage town where two harbours anchor a hilly grid of colourful blocks like a box of fresh crayolas.  Lunenburg is dotted all over with charming homes and inns, galleries, museums, unique boutiques, coffee shops and hourly postcard worthy vignettes. Lunenburgers (new arrivals and settler’s descendants alike) all seem to possess a craft or creative talent, whether it provides them with a means of living or simply a productive passing of time. If you can’t find your creative mojo here in Lunenburg, you should consider calling off the search because living here is beyond inspirational.

Bit by bit, we have been changing this little home. With creativity and resourcefulness (some may call that a tiny budget!), we have been tearing down and building up and changing, adding and subtracting and colouring. I say “bit by bit” because we have been doing this as our little girls grew and we added two more square feet (another baby girl) to the dusting of dolls and drywall plaster.  Our convenient average family of four became a logistically trickier family of five and along with that came more beds, more bicycles, more snowsuits, bigger shoes and greater needs in a still little house.  We have shifted the home to suit our needs, or rather, our childrens’ needs.  Walls have come down and closets have been built up, play spaces created and workshops converted and each one of these little additions or take aways becomes my new favourite space, even if it isn’t technically my space.

My newest favourite space in our home is this cozy cubby, nestled perfectly between customized his and hers closets in our master bedroom. It is a place just for me, a peaceful space to sit, think, write, plan, color, read, or simply drink coffee completely untethered. Sometimes I use it as my own timeout space, which is fitting since its creation started with a tantrum.  


It was one those days.  My girls couldn’t stop bickering, the laundry was mounting, the dishes were piled, cooking supper was a nightmare, and I had not even gone to the bathroom once without interruption.  I felt like Miss Hannigan from one of my favourite movies Annie.  I was dripping in little girls. Out of nowhere I threw a mommy tantrum. It was a minor meltdown, but obviously a successful one.

I cried, "I just want a little space, somewhere that's mine, only mine.  I want a place where nobody can throw their Lego or their dirty laundry. I want somewhere to write." 

And that night after bedtime, Travis cobbled a beautiful, perfectly pointed writing table from bits and bobs in his workshop.  The next day he picked up a quart of paint for the wall, and the day after that I made some curtains. I gathered some of my favourite little things laying around the house and BOOM!  My Write Space was born.

I love this little nook.  It is a retreat and it is filled with things made by our own hands, given to us by family and friends, or treasures scooped up from local yard sales.

Admittedly, my literary masterpiece has not come pouring out yet, but it will.  And for now, this little space is free from clutter, free from Lego, free from tutus and tapshoes, free from laundry and any other remnants of my mom life.  It's my space, my write space, my creative workshop.  It's all mine.


At some point, we will move on from our little lovely house. My space will become another’s space, and that person will make it just right too.  I envision it as a meditation space, or a reading nook with a big comfy chair and a side table filled with Giller prize winning novels, or perhaps it will return to its original glory with an armless rocker for breastfeeding a newborn just like it did when we first moved here.  If these walls could talk, they'd tell many stories. Maybe I will create them myself, right here.


The Book Club Beard May 07 2015

Last week, the Bozzy kids got themselves into some deep ... books.  What did you think that I was going to say?  It is a book club.

We were surrounded by books – wall to wall, floor to ceiling ... books, books, books, and more books. 

We usurped the South Shore Public Library here in Lunenburg and got lost in the labyrinth of books in the space. Our bozzies can get pretty comfortable at the library.  Most of them participated in the Storytime program as babies and some still attend the programs offered by the library for school children throughout the year.  We filled the space snugly and got right at home.  Dare I admit this – we are a big, loud, energetic bunch of booklovers. We could get "at home" anywhere!

Being a big, loud, energetic bunch of booklovers in the library, we thought it would be a smart idea to give the kids some mandalas to color as they arrived.  Mandala simply means circle in Sanskrit.  They are symbols with simple geometric designs or very complicated artistic patterns that combine the benefits of meditation and art therapy.  Did my plan work?  Meh.  But the colors were pretty, and it was far more acceptable than a hefty dose of Benadryl.

We then gathered for a special story from one of our Bozzy mamas, the sweet and soft-spoken Beth Ann Knowles.  Beth Ann, you may recall from my last post, has an alter ego, The Winter Beard, who is a wonderful writer of many genres.  The Winter Beard knows how to swear and roll out rhymes for testicle like nobody's business.  She has created an online presence with weekly artistic projects that run the gamut from diy reupholstering, to poetry, songs, short stories and videos, and she has a notebook (albeit electronic) filled with children’s stories just waiting for massive publication.  I am waiting for The Winter Beard indie-alt-rap-experimental album, personally.  Believe me, she could pull it off.  Her writing is fun and witty and hilariously self-deprecating, but also deep and beautiful.  If you have not paid a visit to The Winter Beard, I would strongly advise that you do, but only after you finish reading this post.

Beth Ann read The Monster Under My Couch to the children, a story about a little girl who has a bone to pick with the monster living under the couch that keeps stealing all of her family's belongings.  She devises a plan to trick that monster and in doing so, overcomes her own monster fears.  After her story, Beth Ann talked with the kids about fears and other scary imaginings concocted by our minds.

Even this monster on the armchair.

The children were eager to share their own fears and learn some techniques to ease those terrible thoughts. One coping mechanism was a deep breathing exercise and another was creating a happy board.  Beth Ann showed the kids how to make a happy board - a collage of things that make you feel good from magazine cutouts and paper.

The kids flipped through their magazines and started working, cutting and gluing as they crafted a smorgasbord of happy images.  

My daughter Norah proudly shared her board - a plethora of typical happy things such as babies, tropical vacation resorts, happy children, flowers, money-loving monkeys and (see front and center) a toilet.  Yes.  A toilet. With a puppy sitting on it.  That's my girl.  Who is not happy on a toilet, right?

After the kids wrapped up their calm collaging, we shared two more books about fears and getting past them - Scaredy Squirrel At The Beach by Melanie Watt and Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully.

The bozzy buddies had another fun week together.  Hopefully, they have taken some of their newfound meditation skills home with them for the monsters living under their beds, in their closets, or in that salad that they are just too terrified to eat.  Hopefully, the moms and dads poured themselves a happy glass or simply gave themselves a calming stamp on the hand, like this wee bozzy.

The Bozzy Book Club thanks the Lunenburg library for sharing their space with us and especially Barbara, Barbara, and Janet for tolerating our enthusiasm.  Thank you to Beth Ann for sharing one of her stories with the kids.  We can't wait for the next one.  And now that you have finished reading this post, head on over to see how she copes with her fear of renovating - by setting her poetic pen to paper (or tips to keys) in this week's post,  I Think, I Fuel, I Fume, I Write.

 


Ho Ho Hoppity Lo February 12 2015

On February 4th, the Bozzy Book Club was summoned once again to a snow smothered Boscawen Inn. The kids toddled in wearing full snowsuits with faces barely visible apart from their rosy cheeks and noses pushing through hats and hoods.  Coffee was brewing for the grown up Bozzies, buntings were hung in an intentionally unintentional manner, a guitar was waiting in the corner for a player, and the kids cozied into their now familiar spots at book club.

On the heels of a snow day, the kids were excited to gather for stories, songs, and a flurry of birthdays that were just waiting for a celebration.  Their parents seemed equally happy to escape the endless cycle of shovelling and binge TV watching.  The snow banks were high and the icicles decorating the windows were longer than them, but the BBC kids were warm inside and ready to rock.  And by rock, I don’t mean Judy’s attempt at a punked out version of You are My Sunshine.  We actually had a rock star in the house.  One of the Bozzy neighbors (and the husband of our own Kate the Great Madlibist) is Bryan Potvin (www.bryanpotvin.com) from the well known Canadian rock band The Northern Pikes.  Bryan is a wonderful musician and songwriter whose musical career has taken him all over the world.  But on this cold, wintry day he came to play for a discerning audience of Bozzies and they loved it!  It was not quite the paparazzi worthy image of a party crashing rock star in a hotel.  He brought his acoustic guitar to a Victorian inn and kept it intact.

When the kids settled into their circle, Kate (www.katelum.com) warmed them up with a jazzy narrative and dance to stretch out their limbs and open their imaginations for story time.  

She then pulled out a new story, A House for Mr. Ping, which has been heard by few audiences ... so far.  It is a sweet tale about a man named Mr. Ping who arrives in a new town with the idea that if he finds the perfect house, he will make many friends.  His ideal home is a spectacular house with sparkly paint and a fancy roof.  His search doesn’t end with a glittery abode, but he does find happiness in an unexpected home.  The story is filled with friendship, grilled cheese sandwiches, a ukulele and an upbeat rendition of the story’s feature song, Ho Hoppity Lo which was written and arranged by Kate and Bryan.  This sing-a-long definitely upped the cool factor for the BBC with a hip Sesame Street cameo vibe.  It also upped the moods of the seasonally affected parents who joined in. 

The home theme was carried into our Bozzy craft.  The kids had a blast with a self directed art adventure in home design that involved cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, whatever supplies were on hand and very little parental persuasion.  

    

They proudly placed their “perfect” homes on the neighborhood mat.  It was a motley but happy community and the children could see that a perfect home is made up of love, creativity, and a lot of glue!

From this we went back to circle time for another home related book, The Mitten by Jan Brett.  In this Ukrainian folktale, a pile of woodland creatures make a home in Nicki’s handknit snow-white mitten.  The animals all squeeze in, creating an odd coexistence until a bear’s sneeze projects them all, leaving only a stretched out mitten for the boy.  It is a beautifully illustrated book, and Judy read it in her usual kid centric style.

The afternoon ended as all afternoons should – with cake. These three Bozzy kids share three birthdays in three days and did not seem to mind sharing a couple of cakes, a load of candles, and a lot of birthday joy with one another.  What a wonderful afternoon at the BBC it was.

  

The next Bozzy Book Club date is February 25th.  We are very happy to welcome Kate Inglis (www.kateinglis.com) to our club.  Kate is a children’s author and photographer who has also made her home on the South Shore.  She will be reading from her highly anticipated monster poetry book, If I Were A Zombie (set for release by Nimbus Publishing in the fall).  I am looking forward to this as well as an evening of sipping wine in front of Pinterest in search of the perfect monster craft for our BBC kids.


Dead Men Tell No Tales January 18 2015

A word of caution - this post contains excessive use of pirate lingo.  Pirate glossary follows. 

If dead men tell no tales, then the Bozzy Book Club pirates spared us because I am thrilled to share our fun and wacky adventures at this week's book club with you. We walked the plank and narrowly escaped a trip to Davy Jones' locker for it was, after all, PIRATE'S TREASURE WEEK at the BBC.

Snow crystals glistened in the crisp winter sun as I walked into the Boscawen for another BBC meeting. It was contemplative, warm and inspiring at the Bozzy headquarters.  So much so that my littlest scallywag decided it was a suitable setting for perfecting the art of crayon ear balancing. Would you look at that concentration and skill?


And then the quiet dissipated as the rapscallions trickled in two by two. They each found their perch at the craft tables and created treasure maps while they waited for the club to convene.

  

 

Once we had all hands on deck and this gentle pirate climbed on board, we set sail. If pirates looked like this five centuries ago, their tales would be a sweet and gentle marriage between Jane Austen and Johnny Depp.


Judy, the Pied Piper of the Bozzy Team, caroused the kids with a raucous, though oddly endearing, rendition of A Pirate Went to Sea, Sea, Sea. And well, sink me! The transformation of Judy into Fluffbucket Patch Beard (her pirate name) before our very eyes was incredible. Sweet, loveable, beautiful Judy with a smile that goes on for days became a scoundrel with the quick flip of a switch.  The kids were smitten, and with absolute reckless abandon Judy forgot that anyone else was present, or that cameras were in the room, to give them a good time. Shiver me timbers, I was a bit scared.


As the more subdued landlubber of the team I had a hard act to follow, but I did give the kids something they all wanted - their very own pirate names.  

 

We had Squidlips Eddie Three Gates, Mad Patch Bart, Dead Man Creeper Sparrow, Bucko John O'Malley, Freebooter John Beard, and Captain Patch Kidd among us, to name just a few.  It took no time at all for them to shed their sweet spirits and embody their pirate personas. 

Kate, or Scallywag Patch Barnacle, made a gangway and created a pirate themed Mad Lib with the kids once again that is undoubtedly becoming the highlight of our book club. The children love to watch their story unfold and are empowered by their contributions to the silly tales that they make with Kate. These stories are funny, wildly nonsensical, and absolutely perfect for kids. They deserve to be heard and we hope to share them in a compilation of Tales of the Bozzy Book Club.

We then moved into our book of the week reading. I pulled out my well worn copy of Oak Island - A Tale of Two Treasures written by (ahem) myself and illustrated by my husband Travis Hiltz. The kids were attentive and observant, except that little crayon ear balancing matey Stinky Head Bart creeping mischievously behind me as I read.  They recognized the treasure chests depicted all over the Oak Island images and grasped the meaning of the tale - that the island itself is the treasure. 

Judy then brought the buccaneers in for another shanty - Going on a Treasure Hunt. This woman was made for entertaining children and the familiarity of the song made a great interactive activity. It also proved to be the perfect segue into the book club finale - A Lunenburg Treasure Hunt. The kids were given clues that led to Lunenburg landmarks and ended at the Boscawen where we had hidden a sweet treasure treat.


The kids had a rip roaring time and Judy, Kate, and I were pleased to have satisfied them once again. When I got home I was filled with pirate angst and Arghhhs.  I just had to splice the main brace with a clap o' thunder to bring me down!

If you would like to check out this week's Bozzy Book Club book, you can find Oak Island - A Tale of Two Treasures right here.  Just hit the Catalog tab above and keep on clicking.  

Our next Bozzy Book Club gathering will be held on February 4th at the Boscawen Inn. Kate Lum-Potvin, the Queen of the Bozzy Mad Lib, will be sharing another engaging story with the kids about Mr. Ping and his search for the perfect home in his new town. Kate will be joined by her husband, musician Bryan Potvin, for a lively duet of Mr. Ping's favourite song Ho Hoppity Lo.  I am really excited for this one!

Thank you to all of the pirates and parents of pirates that joined us this week at the BBC.  
Thank you to the wonderful pirate wranglers that derailed Stinky Head Bart's attempts to sink the ship.  
And thank you to Jessika (www.ohmyhandmade.com) for capturing some of the afternoon's shenanigans on her phone when my camera was out of reach.


Pirate glossary (www.pirateglossary.com):

Dead Men Tell No Tales - the reason why pirates leave no survivors.

Davy Jones' Locker - to die at sea, referring to Davy Jones who was said to sink every ship that he took over.

Scallywag - a villainous or mischievous person.

Rapscallion - a mischievous person.

Sink me! - an expression of surprise.

Shiver me timbers! - an expression of surprise or strong emotion.

Landlubber - a person unfamiliar with the sea. 

Gangway - an interjection used to clear a passage through a crowded area.

Buccaneers - heavy drinking, cruel pirates.

Splice the Main Brace - to have a drink or perhaps several drinks.

Clap o' Thunder - a strong alcoholic drink.


The BBC (of Lunenburg) December 15 2014

It was a cold and drizzly December day in Lunenburg.   The doors of the majestic Victorian mansion burst open as a flood of wiggly fish drowned the reception room.  They were hypnotized, if only for a short period, by the enchanting song of the BBC mermaid!

Well, the fish were really kids.  And it wasn’t quite THE BBC; it was the Bozzy Book Club launch.  And the enchanting mermaid was actually celebrated children’s author Kate Lum.

Almost two weeks ago, a fun collaboration between Woolly Thyme Press, the Boscawen Inn (www.boscawen.ca), and Kate Lum (www.katelum.com) was born in our community.  The Bozzy Book Club is a series of book readings for children aged 3 to 9 that fosters storytelling and story making.  Judy (owner of the Boscawen Inn), Kate and I saw the need for parents in the area to engage their kids on the early dismissal days which spring upon South Shore parents every second Wednesday.  This is a recent change in the school schedule and has left many of us with that sinking question – what can we do with our kids that is fun, affordable, and does not involve a long drive?  To answer that question, we are opening the Inn’s doors to local children and parents as a platform to share the stories created by the people of Lunenburg County.  This is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn the art of storytelling from the many creative minds on the South Shore in a fun atmosphere.

 

Why Bozzy?  According to the online Urban Dictionary, a Bozzy is defined as a person who has mastered reading a book while scootering, or any other pointlessly difficult multi tasked activity.  That sounds fitting to me.  And Bozzy because these lucky children get to club it up at the Boscawen Inn.  The ever gracious and generous owners of the Inn, Judy and John Rawdon, host the most elegant affairs, from romantic destination weddings to corporate functions and artist retreats.  They also invite the merry band of misfits in our community to less formal gatherings such as community clothing swaps, Christmas cookie exchanges and house concerts.  Now, twice a month, it will be inundated with a couple of dozen children for the BBC of Lunenburg.

Our first club meeting went off with a bang.  I don’t recall if there was actual thunder, but it was a great day for ducks and puddle jumpers.  When the doors opened, 21 energetic kids and 1 sleepy newborn poured inside. 

 

Kate warmed up the kids with some stretching to get the silly wigglies out of their systems before she read her charming and hilarious “almost bedtime story” - What! Cried Granny

What!  is about an energetic little boy who sleeps at his granny’s house, though granny’s efforts prove to be futile as Patrick resists sleep with some pretty crazy antics.  The Bozzy kids joined Kate and uproariously read while parents nodded knowingly to her story in a café setting.  She followed this with a comical madlib excercise that the kids thoroughly enjoyed creating.  Kate was poised and engaging and grabbed this group’s attention with what seemed to be little effort and no sweat.  Following Kate’s circle time, the children drew portraits of a granny - their granny or any granny.  The resulting illustrations were imaginative and inspiring.  The kids had a hoot creating bee-hived grannies, monster grannies, even robotic grannies.  Just check out these works of art.

  

 

If you missed our club meeting, I would recommend that you check out Kate’s book.  You can find it at: http://www.amazon.ca/What-Cried-Granny-Almost-Bedtime/dp/0613496477/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418608520&sr=8-1&keywords=what%21+cried+granny

If you want your kid to become a Bozzy, we cannot promise that he or she will be successfully reading a book while scootering because that is just not safe.  But, we will aim to have fun. 

You can contact us at reservations@boscawen.ca to reserve one of the few remaining spaces.  Our next meeting will be in the new year on January 14th.  I will be reading Oak Island – A Tale of Two Treasures and we are planning some swashbuckling crafts for the Bozzy pirates. 

 

The Bozzy Book Club Lowdown:
What: Author readings, musical guest appearances, crafts and games, all revolving around the book of the day’s theme.
Where:  Boscawen Inn (150 Cumberland St. Lunenburg)
When:  January 14, February 4 and 25, March 11 and 25, April 15 and 29, May 13 and 27
Time: 1:30 to 2:30
Membership Cost: $10/child for all 10 sessions
 

 

 

 


The Joy of Reading (and Christmas too) December 03 2014

This past weekend was very busy for families and businesses in Lunenburg.  The town was buzzing with Christmas events that included tree and schooner lightings, craft fairs, carolling, local shop sales and celebrations, the annual Santa Claus parade and a pervasive yuletide feeling throughout the streets.  There was so much happening that it was a challenge to fit it all in – a great feeling for a small community. 

We were honoured to play a small part in this weekend when we were asked by the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic (http://fisheriesmuseum.novascotia.ca) to give a reading and signing of our Oak Island children’s book.  The fisheries museum plays an integral role in our family’s calendar of fun.  We visit dozens of times a year and often find ourselves in the museum’s aquarium or at the Tidal Touch Tank on what-do-we-do-today? days.   If you are in Lunenburg, the Fisheries Museum is a must see for the young and old.

    

Our evening began with friends and sweet children snuggled around us as we read in the museum’s kids corner.  It was a treat to read to this adorable and attentive group of children and interesting to observe them as they arrived and scooped up books to read to themselves. 

   

From there we stepped outside of the museum with our hot cider to join in a countdown to the lighting of the fishing vessels.  We then danced to live music on the wharf and even tried roasted chestnuts, provided by the Grand Banker Bar and Grill (www.grandbanker.com), for the very first time.  It was a fantastic way to begin the season.

Thank you to the fisheries museum, to those who joined us at the museum on this very chilly night and to our good friend and talented local photographer Madeleine Kendall for photographing the event (www.madeleinekendall.com).